Jelly Fish & Livers

Somehow I had to post the picture of the noodles that I had for lunch last week…it had fish balls, liver and jelly fish. It was a bit sweet despite looking spicy. Don’t forget to try them the next you are around in Bangkok.

How many items you can identify from the photo?

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Working Late Again

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It was Day 13 in Bangkok (read further what I meant by “was”)

I was typing this at…hold on (checking the clock at the office wall)…2.00 in the morning. There are about 10 of us here (including the security guard who looks a bit surprised at the high number of half-asleep Malaysians at this time of the hour), holed up in the office as we are preparing to cut to live the system that is being implemented.

Staying up late at crucial hours of the deployment period is nothing new. In fact, I endured the worst when I was in Ghana – we finish work every day for weeks at 1.00 in the morning and when it came for the cut to live, we were awake for a continuous 48 hours. Staying awake whilst is necessary to ensure that things get done on time and properly, it is no doubt that it also leaves us looking like a zombie once it is done. Luckily in Bangkok, at most of the time, we were able to be in bed by 12.00 am.

Being away from Malaysia only meant one thing during our work at wee hours – we can’t simply take a 10 minutes break from our work and go off to the nearest mamak shop for the good old teh tarik and roti canai (missing the dhal banjir already). Shops are either closed (most of the time because of security issue) or shops don’t sell hot drinks. In Bangkok, I peeked out from the window of our work place at 10th floor and guess what, the roads are jammed pack with cars and people. Yes, at 2.00 in the morning.

Despite that, we opted not to go out – we had water and enough work to sustain ourselves for now. We wish that there would be a short break, for us to sneak out for a beer or two (in absence of teh tarik, beer is the next alternative drink but at 2.00 in the morning, I rather give it a skip).

Fast forward to the current time…it is now Day 18 in Bangkok (just another 2 more days to go before I say goodbye to Thailand)

I could not believe that it has been almost a week since I touched on my blog. It has been a very tiring week or what my Project Manager said, a tiring marathon. The system went live smoothly. There were some hiccups here and there (but again when it has not been so?).

We moved again for the last time to Montien Hotel Bangkok, which was built in 1966. It was an old but expensive looking hotel. It takes about 10 – 15 minutes of fast paced walking from the hotel to reach our work area (and crossing 2 main roads). Guess what? It takes us right through Pat Pong (plenty of night clubs here – use your imaginations, so does Mat Sallehs who are looking for some fun at night, if you know what I mean)
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* Doesn’t this remind you of the movie Titanic? I guess you now have a good idea what I meant by an old looking hotel.

Due to the hectic work, my camera has been lying idle in my bag. I am just too tired to looking for good shots. The great thing about our latest hotel is the breakfast – there are just way too many choices. The bad thing though you have to pay for movies. So, imagine coming back from a hard day’s work, switching on the TV to relax and I find myself watching the news. Not exactly of what I would call great shows for relaxing. Yes, there are others shows like National Geography, MTV and Star World but it has not been my cup of tea. Damn I miss my HBO.
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* No matter what, having a very comfortable bed is certainly a good welcome after a hard day at work. Hmm, I have 2 beds in my room – so I guess I will take turn sleeping in each of the bed.

It is funny to note that as the time to go back draws nearer and nearer, we get busier and busier. Users who have been relaxing in the beginning started to panic and “book” us for discussion and refresher trainings. Some system bugs will decide to show up at these last minutes, causing us to rush for quick fixes and reorganize the operation flow. There will be some talks of extending our stay both from our clients and sometimes by ourselves (ya, it is a crazy idea but sometimes we are too “professional” to leave things hanging half-way)
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* This is unique! How often you get your room key with a small bell? At first, we were excited to see this cute looking thing but once I placed it in my pockets, I realized how heavy this “cute” thing was. Luckily, it did not stay for long in the pockets.

Anyway, another 2 more days in Bangkok and I will be back to KL. Despite the hectic hours, we managed to sneak out for some shopping. Managed to buy a lot of T-shirts this time, they are damn bloody cheap. On the last day in Bangkok, we are planning for another trip to Chatuchak flea market – there is no better way to spend the balance Thai Baht that we have.
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(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: Other Trips)
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Moving Around Bangkok

Day 12 in Bangkok

Ever since we arrived in Bangkok, the only ride we have been using to get around the town is taxi (metered taxi). We also walked a lot and sometimes beyond our expectation (ok, not our but my expectation). Gosh, I think I have not walked that far for a very long time.

Anyway, the taxis here are safe and comfortable. Most taxis here are brand new, well maintained Toyota Altis – so if you say that is not comfortable, I give up. Even when the communication between the taxi driver and us can be a bit “sticky”, we have managed to manage it well till now (we have a good record so far – we only got lost once!).

You can only find it in Bangkok – bright orange, brand new Toyota Altis metered Taxi. The rate is reasonable – the only downside is the problem of explaining where you want to go to the driver. You will have tough time explaining.

Being the “aliens” in Bangkok, we stick to the comfort zone of having the taxi picking us up and dropping us down. That is until, we had to use the BTS for the trip to the flea market and immediately it hit us. It was even easier and cheaper to ride in BTS (at some places like our hotel, it is far away from the BTS station, we had no choice but to use the taxis).

There was one time when we had to walk to a foreign currency exchange counter on a Sunday and when we arrived there, we found the counter was closed (it is a Sunday and we ignorantly thought it will be opened). Out of local currencies and desperate to exchange for them for shopping, we walked a few steps to the nearby tourist police booth. The tourist police booth is located by the main road and was handled by at least one policeman who can speak English well. We asked for the direction for nearest exchange counter and the policeman was very helpful in giving us the direction.

All the time when we were at the police booth, we noticed at the corner of our eyes, a Tuk-Tuk (see the photo to see what a Tuk-Tuk would look like) was waiting nearby. The driver kept looking at us and was pressing the accelerators several times, so that we would be aware of his presence (yes, we were aware – I mean it was loud and smoky but we pretended as if we were not aware).

In case you are wondering what is a Tuk-Tuk is, this is it. It is similar to the “Auto” in India but is more colourful. The drivers’ attitudes somehow seemed to be the same.

When we were trying to clarify the direction with the policeman, we were surprised to see the Tuk-Tuk driver who was a minute ago sitting in his Tuk-Tuk, was standing beside us. That gave us a short fright! He said that he knows where the place is and offered to take us to the place. We declined at first, as we wanted to walk instead spending money on the Tuk-Tuk. Further the Tuk-Tuk driver looked rather suspicious. We kept declining the offer but in the end, we agreed when the driver offered to take us and bring us back for only 20 Baht, which was about RM2! Damn cheap indeed. Besides, we took the Tuk-Tuk in front of the police, so if we were kidnapped, we had a very reliable witness.

Halfway the journey to the currency exchange, the driver was giving us other offers – a city tour in his Tuk-Tuk for “cheap-cheap” rate of 20 Baht per hour. It was a good offer but we declined, as we only wanted to exchange money and be on our way to the shopping mall. Besides, we are not sure where the driver will be taking us – the last thing we want is to be brought to a “cut-throat” souvenir shop.

As we keep declining his offers, we noticed that his voice tone and facial expression began to change – from happy, goody-goody face to sour, unhappy face. He began to speed and was pressing the horn at every vehicle that crossed his path. Man, we were in a “runaway” Tuk-Tuk!

The ride – the driver was happy, kept offering his services but we were too afraid and out of time to agree. I did not dare to take his sour, unhappy face on camera. Why take the risk?

We were afraid but being the “macho guy” that I am (ahem), I was not that afraid though – I mean there were 3 of us against him. I ignored one fact though. His hands were on steering wheel, which meant, at the breaking point he could easily swerve the fragile Tuk-Tuk towards a big truck or bus.

Luckily it did not happen. He continuously offered his ride and we continuously declined his offer. We were getting tired and we were doing it before we realized that we have arrived at our drop off point. We quickly got down, thanked him (for bringing us in one piece) and gave him the agreed 20 Baht (no more, no less).

While we walked towards the BTS station, we heard a Tuk-Tuk behind. Damn, we feared the worst – the driver being unhappy with us, was following us? We slowly turned around and saw that it was another Tuk-Tuk and it was being driven to another road. False alarm. We took a deep and relieved breath – the worst is over. We took the BTS and had a great time shopping

Bangkok has another mode of public transport – motorcycle taxi. It is cheap and thus far, the fastest way to get out in the traffic jams. There is only one problem though – look at the picture and tell me. Come on, you know what is the problem right? Ok, I will give you a clue. The clue: The guy in the white shirt is the customer and he is missing something on his head.

Whenever I see a Tuk-Tuk these days, I recall the little incident where we were taken in a short terror ride (ya, I spicing up the experience but does it sound good to read?). For now, we shall stick to safe and comfortable taxi.

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The visit to flea market in Chatuchak

A visit to Bangkok is not complete without a trip to the famous flea market in Chatuchak. So, when we had the day off on last Sunday, our immediate plan was to go to Chatuchak. We took the taxi to Silom Road, made a short trip to Bangkok Bank’s Foreign Currency counter (opened 7 days a week) to exchange for some Thai Bahts and walked to the nearest BTS station at Sala Daeng.

Our ride to the flea market – the super efficient Bangkok Transit System (BTS). It only cost us 35 Baht for a single 10 minutes ride from the Sala Daeng station to Mo Chit station. Announcements and signboards were all made in both Thai and English, so communication was not a problem.

The trip to Chatuchak requires us to change train at the Siam station. We reached the last BTS station at Mo Chit and as we are reaching the station, we could see the flea market next to the station. We need not to look far or walk far to reach the market.

Chatuchak flea market is huge! At quick look at the map would ease our search and also lessen our walks too. So use it well. In case you missed the map the first time, you need not worry, the maps are placed at various strategic places and there are plenty of Tourist Police & the market staff to direct you to the right way.

An advice from a local when shopping at Chatuchak – “When you like something and want to buy it, you negotiated and buy it immediately. Don’t make the mistake of going to other shops to check out the prices because you will not be find the first shop so easily”. It is a sound advice indeed. We ignored the advice and guess what? It took us almost 40 minutes to find back the first shop and that too because we remembered that it was located somewhere near the main entrance.

The inside of the market is crowded but clean and easy to walk about. The traders are friendly and easy to talk to (most talk simple English). All prices are negotiable – some up to 50% or more if you know how.

Sometimes, it is tough to buy things for home especially when so many “buyable” things surround you. After some time, I ended buying…ok, I better not mention what I bought but it is something that I can tuck away in my luggage (need to keep it a secret from my wife until I get back home).

There is plenty of Thai Silk on sale with reasonable prices. I did not buy one because it is not something that we can wear back home (besides if it does not fit, it will not be near to exchange).

Some things are large like wood-carvings or pictures. Others are delicate like ceramic or glass items. Need not worry about how you are going to bring it back home. Among the shops, you will find DHL, UPS and other courier services to address the issue. You buy it; bring to the DHL counter, pay for the cost and you are done. When you get back home, the courier would have arrived.

Fancy yourself as “John Rambo” and like to be seen, all day, in army fatigues? The flea market has it all – from shops selling army fatigues, army bags and commando headgears to even making specialized army “dog tags”. Cool!

The flea market has everything and we did not check out all the shops – we were too tired. The sky was dark but luckily it did not rain.

All the walk and negotiating for the goods is only going to make you hungry and thirsty. No fear on that in Chatuchak. There are plenty of shops selling food and drinks – catering for both local and western dishes. A can of Pepsi cost 15 Baht though. By the way, the above are not fried insects (sorry to disappoint you, Yvy)

The day was tiring – we returned to our hotel rooms by 3.00 pm – tired, weary but felt fulfilled. Chatuchak is the place to be if you are looking for great bargain.

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Sweet Bangkok Taxi

Day 8 in BangkokYou may have heard of Hanzel & Gretel story but have you ever wondered that a house made of sweets & candies can come in other forms too?

We saw one in Bangkok. We finished work late, dropped by KFC along the busy Silom Street (Bangkok’s equivalent to New York’s Wall Street) to “tapau” our dinner and flagged down a cab for the ride back to our hotel. The taxi was a bit old unlike our previous rides with Altis and Vios.

However, when we entered the taxi, things started to “brighten” up. The dashboard was full of sweets and it even extended up to the door sides. The driver was jovial enough to talk about his little work of art. It was indeed to see – in fact, we felt that it should be even portrayed as a tourist attraction.
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* How will you feel when you are sitting facing a sea of sweets? It is rather difficult to concentrate on the road – you rather will be checking out how many flavors are there on the dashboard
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* There is even sweets for the back passengers in case you are seen enough of the sweets and decided enough is enough and you want to take sweets instead. We did not take up the offer though.
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Malaysia Boleh! – Wherever you are

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Day 5 in Bangkok

Working on an overseas assignment can be very tiring and challenging. There is a feeling to get the work done professionally and expediently. After all reputations are on the line – personal, company or country.

But sometimes, we see something that is Malaysian in nature in a foreign country…whether it is about seeing a Proton Wira in Africa or seeing another Malaysian speaking the Bahasa Kebangsaan in Middle-East, our spirits are up and running. We forget the tiredness and strive to achieve the best. After all, we want to show case the best that Malaysians can do.
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So, when we saw a Kedai Mesra Petronas in Bangkok, it left us a bit homesick and made us proud at the same time. I almost wanted to tell the taxi drive that we are in the Formula One business! Proud indeed or maybe because I just miss home and family (although it is just 5 days in Bangkok, haha)
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A city full of Toyotas

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Day 2 in Bangkok

One strong advice for those who want to venture out from the hotel room in Bangkok – make sure you keep the address of the hotel written in Thai. You will never know that will come in handy when talking to a taxi driver.

We learned the hard way though. It is not easy to get the taxi to drive us back to the correct hotel especially if the driver does not know how to speak English. We had the full address of the hotel and still the driver had a hard time understanding the location. He could not speak English and the only English that he can speak is “I no no English”. Luckily my colleague had the sound mind of taking the name card of the hotel (which was written in Thai and had a location map on the map). We were saved!
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* Driving back to the hotel with a very confused taxi driver – luckily a small thought of having the address in Thai saved the day. The number 39 that you see is the taxi charges which by the way only moves when the car moves (unlike in Malaysia where the meter is moving even when the taxi is caught in a traffic).

Our working area was right in the city center, so we had a slow crawl in the traffic from our hotel. Despite that, we were moving in comfort – our taxi was a sparkling new Toyota Altis. Moving in comfort yes but not at ease. The driver was speeding and had some close calls. Changing lane-using indicators was almost non-existence here. Any motorbike that was slowing him down was at a risk of being mown over by him. It was not an isolated case – other drivers (taxi or private) were doing the same too. Perhaps this is the way to move in the heavy and notorious traffic in Bangkok. Every taxi is a Toyotas model ranging from the old Corolla to Camry. I have yet to see any other model for taxi – at times, you only can see Toyotas as the eyes can see.
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* We had our lunch at the McDonalds (we had to rush for lunch and fast food was the answer). As we walked back, this statue of an elephant caught my eyes – it stood still in the hustle bustle of the traffic. So calming and so serene.

Walking in the city center is safe – the crowd is there, so do the police and plenty of security guards. The street peddlers were busy too – the sale of the day was roses and heart-shaped toys. Food peddlers were plenty but we did not have the courage (yet) to taste the food.
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* Does this look the same to you? It could have been a scene in downtown KL
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The Departure, The Arrival

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Day 1 in Bangkok

You know you can never be ready whenever leaving for an overseas assignment. It always happens to me – documents to be printed at the last minute, last minute meetings, last minute rush to the bank, last minute rush to exchange the foreign currency and other last minute etc. Despite that, there is always a feeling that I have missed something.

For the flight to Bangkok, I tried to get a window side seat but you know what, I was late. The flight was full (in fact overbooked and there were people who were on waiting list at the airport) and the best seat (if you can call it “best”) that I got was the middle seat in a row of four.
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* My ride to Bangkok – MAS Airbus. It was little crammed and its in-house entertainment system was nothing to shout about (there was none) but there was proper meal served and the service was good

The flight was great (despite of my uncomfortable seating) except for a short time when there was terrible turbulence when approaching Bangkok. They had to even cancel the serving of hot drinks in the name of safety. We don’t want anyone spilling a hot cup of coffee on his or her pants don’t we? We ended up having orange juice to go down with our meals. My “Mat Salleh” neighbors were gentlemen enough – they were either sleeping or was reading a really thick novel. I can’t say the same for my Thai neighbor – he took off his shoe and was sleeping away with his socks in clear view. Although it was rude but I did not complain though – the socks were clean and were not smelly (unlike some Malaysian who I know).
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* The culprit caught on camera – some people can be oblivious to the sensibility of others

Glancing around the plane for photo shots, I realized that most of them who were sitting at the window side were sleeping. What a waste of location! I quietly put away my camera when we hit more turbulence. Vibrations are the last things that my camera needs. A piece of advise for MAS – it will be calmer for the passengers if a fast paced Mexican music was not played during heavy turbulence. The more I was listening to it, the more I felt like I was in an action movie with terrorist flying to crash the plane (Die Hard 4?).

The touchdown in Bangkok International Airport was smooth. The hiring of the taxi from the airport to our (yes, there are 3 of us here) hotel was even smoother (assisted by 2 very helpful staff at the taxi counter). We just went to the taxi counter immediately after the customs, told them where we want to go, paid about 800 Baht for 3 of us and almost immediately a taxi in the form of a Toyota Camry was waiting for us. We would be staying in different hotels during our stay here in Bangkok. The hotel rooms are fully booked during this season so we had no choice but to hop around (great because then we won’t be bored with one hotel food).
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* Our ride to the hotel – comfortable, safe and reasonably cheap. The taxi driver was one the kindest guy I ever met.

The first was at Riverfront Residence, which was facing the great river of the Chao Praya (in case it rings a bell, read your Geography books). I was given a one-bedroom apartment, which has a small kitchen (complete with utilities), living area and an attached bedroom & wardrobe.
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* The view from my room – the river is partially hidden but I can still see the boats plying up and down the river

We did not dare to venture out much on the first night – language was a big problem here in Bangkok. Very few people speak English – if there is one, it broken English. So we ended up having dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was even great because it was nearer to the river (we can even see the people on the boats). The food was great but the price was not – it was a bit pricey but with a great view, it was somehow worth it.

So much so for our first day in Bangkok – It was time to hit the bed for a better day tomorrow
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* The bedroom – inviting and soothing to weary travelers

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A Thai Affair

(Mind having your feet massaged by professionals? Picture source: www.irishhealth.com/)

Thai = Mother (in Tamil)
Thailand = Mother Land (secret code used by my friends whenever they are going for a trip up North)

It was a lazy Saturday morning when I decided to go and catch a movie with my wife. So, after my son had slept, we quickly drove to IOI Mall to catch the latest Tamil Movie. What we saw was a bit shocking – the queue for the movie ticket was very long. So, we changed our mind and decided to go to Sunway Pyramid. The ticket for the movie that we wanted to see was sold out but we managed to get a ticket for the movie “The Legend of Zorro” (entertaining but not exactly “War of the World” material)Anyway, after we had watched the movie and as we were coming down the escalator at 2nd floor, we caught sight of a shop specializing in Thai Massage. The price looked attractive: RM35 for 40 minutes of massage of feet and shoulder (RM65 for 60 minutes if you want the full package – whole body massage).

As my wife has been complaining about the “pain” in her feet, I decided to use the opportunity to get her feet massaged by the “professionals”. Frankly speaking, I don’t mind massaging her feet but when I do that, I feel so lazy to just continue. A little bit “picit” here & there and that’s all I do for a massage.

I opted out from having a massage myself because I felt just fine (or maybe I did not want to fork out another RM35 for massage that I can do it myself at home). However after seeing how well the person massaged my wife’s legs, I regretted of not joining my wife for the massage because I could see that it worked for her. As the session takes 40 minutes to complete and there was no place to sit, by the time the session ended, the pain in my legs was killing me.

I checked on the art of reflexology over the net and some of the facts seem interesting:-1. Reflexology is defined as a natural healing art, based on the principle that there are reflexes in the feet and hands which correspond to every part of the body. By stimulating and applying pressure to the feet or hands, it is increasing circulation and promoting specific bodily and muscular functions

2. The 1996 China Reflexology Symposium Report has found foot reflexology to be 93.63% effective in treating 63 disorders (among others: Back Pain, Migraine, Infertility, Arthritis, Sleep disorders, Hormonal imbalances, Sports injuries, Digestive disorders, Stress-related conditions)

I asked my wife on how she was feeling when it was over and she felt better, the usual pain in leg was gone (for now). As we were leaving the place, I looked back and saw a queue at the shop.

It seems like a lot of people wanted Thai massage without the need to go to Thailand.