Penang Bridge Marathon 2007

Last year, at the end of my 42km race, I said to myself, “never ever am I gonna do this again.”
15 months after I spoke those exact words, here I was, preparing myself for my second marathon race in Penang. 🙂

I woke up at 2am on Sunday 24th June, having just napped for four hours.
My head was still bleary from not enough sleep. But it was time. Time to kick ass!
Calmly, I geared up and took the lift down to the lobby, breathing a few deep breaths to keep myself as relaxed as possible. To everyone else, it was obvious that I was nervous as hell.

Timothy and Co were by my hotel ready to give me a lift to USM. The gang had only just finished clubbing at Momo, and they were clearly still high from it.
I was trying to keep myself calm but along the way, these people gave me such uplifting encouragement as “Go Kenny! We’ll cheer for you… in our sleep!”
Such great friends I have.

The roads to USM were closed. By the time we reached our destination it was already 20 minutes till race starts. I thought I could just dump my bag there and just get ready.
But not so fast, cowboy.
From where the road was blocked off to where I was supposed to be, they made us walk another 1km! KNNCCB. I knew I was late so I ran as fast as I could to the registration area. Clearly I wasn’t the only one. Many other participants were already working up a sweat trying to get there before it’s too late. Why they blocked the road so far away, I have no idea.

I was at the starting line literally seconds before the race was supposed to begin. By then I was already panting and sweating profusely. All my calming techniques had obviously failed big time.
3am, the gun went off. And the game began.

From the look of things, it seems as if this Penang Bridge Marathon is going to be easier than the KL one that I did last year. The route is straighter, the temperature is cooler, and apart from the incline going up the long bridge, the path seems a lot flatter, which is a good thing.
With the amount of training I had put in over the past few months, I was feeling confident that I was gonna perform a lot better than I did last year.

It’s only after I started the race that I realised how different this marathon is compared to my previous experience.
Sure, the island weather was cool. But the problem is, it was too cool. So cool in fact, that I was practically running there shivering in my pants.
The combination of sweat on my body and wind blowing against me was too much for the jiggly fats around my waist to handle.

The second thing is that the route was too boringly monotonous.
Imagine getting onto the bridge and you see this.

Twenty minutes later, you look up and you see this.

Forty minutes later, you look up again and IT’S STILL THE SAME DAMN THING!

It’s enough to force any runner to go crazy and jump off the bridge, ending the misery once and for all.
But despite all these unexpected challenges figuring into the race, I though I was doing alright. For most of the initial 15km I was sticking to my goal pace of 6’50” per km.

Soon after I made the U-turn at the Prai toll stations, one of my worst fears came true.
An excruciatingly sharp pain attacked my right calf muscle. It’s the dreaded leg cramp. Maybe it was the cold wind, but I certainly did not expect a cramp to emerge so early into the race.
I tried to mask the pain by rubbing a good amount of analgesic cream onto my calf, but medication can only work so much. It wasn’t long before my left calf muscle began to hurt as well. Immediately I was forced to reduce my pace to a fast walk.

As if getting cramp attacks so early into the race wasn’t bad enough, I had to miss several water stations, simply because they ran out of water. It’s hardly surprising, considering there were some 21,000 participants in the race. The half and quarter marathoners had already snatched up all the drinks before I could even reach them.
So what do you do when you are thirsty like mad and knowing that you still had a long way to go?
You pick up those unfinished drinks other people threw away on the floor, wipe away the dirt and drink from it.
Trust me, when you are dehydrated like that, you just don’t care anymore.

Everything just kept getting worse and worse as I exited the bridge and returned to Penang Island.
I remembered at one point during the race, some pebbles got into my shoes and I tried to remove them. But as soon as I bend my knees, my entire leg tightened and an unbearable cramp took control of my calves.
It was so excruciatingly painful I had to abandon the idea of removing the pebbles and just walk the remaining 18km distance with those damn pebbles in my shoes.

With persistent cramps on my calves, aches on my lower back, nasty pebbles under my feet, that remaining 18km was the toughest I had to endure.
From the Penang Bridge exit, I walked all the way past Queensbay Mall right up to the Seagate Factory, before U-turning back all the way past the Penang Bridge again to the Marine Police building, and then making another U-turn all the way back before I arrive at the crowded USM gates.
The end was near.

To bring a very anti-climatic race to an end, I crossed the finishing line at 6 hours 28 minutes.
A mere 5 minute improvement from my previous marathon time, and a far fetch from the 5 hour goal time I was aiming for. Needless to say, I was utterly disappointed. 🙁

I don’t know what exactly went wrong. Everything in my training seems ok, so why did I bomb out?
Was it because I sprinted and over-exerted myself to the starting line? Did I have not enough carbohydrates before and during the race? Was I not prepared for the cooler weather here and the effect that had on my knees?

Whatever it was, this race goes to prove that no matter how confident I was, no matter how easy the track appeared to be, I should never ever underestimate a marathon race.
The sour grape in me could go on and blame the multitude of external factors for my less-than-satisfactory performance this race: that the road block was placed too far away from the starting line; that there were no isotonic drinks provided until 20km into the race; that my pedometer actually measured 44km for what was supposed to be a 42km race.
But hey, I’m better than that. 😉 I accept my defeat.

They don’t have to rub salt into my wound though.
From the finishing line at USM, I had to walk another 500m to the left baggage counter at another location to pick up my bag. Before the race, I had left my phone and wallet in there for safekeeping. But when I opened up my wallet, the RM30 I left in there was stolen.

BASTARD! That was supposed to be my taxi fare back to the hotel!
What to do? This is Malaysia for ya. Welcome to Visit Malaysia Year 2007, people.
Despite all the bad luck and dodgy organising, I must say I really enjoyed this race. It’s an amazing experience to conquer Malaysia’s Tallest Mountain, then 6 weeks later to go on an conquer Malaysia’s Longest Bridge. Am I a patriotic or what?

They often say, a marathon is not a race against others, but a race against yourself.
As much as I was gutted knowing that I had only improved by 5 minutes this year, I do know that there is always a next time, in a different city, for me to exceed myself once again. Meanwhile, I shall take a well-deserved hiatus from my workout and eat all my favourite unhealthy hawker food before returning to the gym to resume my workout once again.

You’ll never look at the Penang Bridge the same way again after you’ve crossed the beautiful structure twice on foot.
After running 42km, I am so freaking sore than my legs still hurt everytime I bend my knees.
Ever tried walking without bending your knees?
Trust me, it ain’t easy. Especially with Nicole Tan filming and laughing her head off at you.

Don’t laugh. I said don’t laugh!

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Kuching Airport’s Wireless Internet Service

Finally, I flew back home to Kuching last night.

What a fun-filled and exciting trip over the weekend!
I had the best bunch of people to travel with and that makes a whole lotta difference. But more about the Nuffnang gathering, the Penang Bridge marathon and my unexpectedly interesting side trip to Ipoh a bit later. Right now I just feel like resting my legs and taking it easy.

While I was at the Kuching International Airport, I propped up my laptop hoping to go online by leeching off someone’s wireless internet service. Normally at the airport, I’m able to connect to an unsecured access point called “dlink” or “linksys” or one of those boring default names.
So I brought up the list of wireless connections available.

Curiously only one access point was available, and it was from a guy named “Poi Kee Teo”.
At first I was wondering, how come I can manage to detect the wireless connection of this Mr Teo’s house? The airport is so big and secluded, it’s impossible to get anything from even the closest residential house nearby.
And then I realised.

Kuching Airport sure has a funny sense of humour.

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I Have PMS (Pre-Marathon Stress)

I’m in Penang now.

Somehow, Icy who’s also travelling to Penang for the Nuffnang Gathering managed to con me into becoming her bodyguard for the trip.
Our conversation went something like this.
Kenny: “I’m gonna be sleeping in a lot you know? I need all the energy I can get for the race.”
IcyQueenGoddess: “Okay, I’m tagging along with you!”
Kenny: “!?!?!”

It’s less than 6 hours before the gun goes off at the starting line of the Penang International Bridge Marathon, and I am nervous like hell.
I shouldn’t be feeling this way. This is my second marathon race after the one I did last year in KL. I have put in a lot more time and effort training for this one. My weight has gone done, my mileage has gone up. Mentally, I am better prepared for what lies ahead.

I’ve been training longer than this actually. Just didn’t log them down.

But my goal this time round is different. Last year, my aim was to simply cross the finishing line. This year, my target was to finish the 42km in 5 hours time. Realistically speaking, I should be happy with anything below the 5 hr 30 min mark lah.
That is    not a lot for seasoned marathoners who can easily finish 42km in 2hr45mins. But bear in mind that I’m still a pretty heavy guy. Endurance sports like long-distance running isn’t my forte and is gonna push me so out of my comfort zone that I’m sure I’m gonna be feeling it for days, if not weeks, to come.

Things I’m bringing with me to the race:
– adidas ClimaLite tank top and running shorts: To wick away sweat from my body when running.
– iPod nano with armband: Loaded with my favourite chill house music.
– PowerBar Gels: Easy to digest carbohydrates when I need them.

Agel OHM: Reader Kenneth Lim sent these to me complimentary, and they work like magic. The energy boost is incredible.
– Digital camera: Even when I’m running a marathon, blogging is on the back of my mind.

– Analgesic cream, plaster, gastric pills: For on the spot treatment of annoyances.
– Waist pouch: To put all these things in.
– Petroleum jelly: To lube myself up to reduce chaffing. And yes, I shaved. There.

– Running cap: To combat sunlight.
– adidas Supernova Control 2007: aka the best running shoes I have ever worn.

Thanks for the T-shirt, Eddie!

Things I look forward to:
– The exhiliration and energy of the crowd at the starting line.
– Keeping my target pace consistently at 6:50 per km.
– The hypnotic trance I get into midway through the race.
– Watching girls in short shorts.
– The indescribable feeling when I cross the finishing line.

Things I fear:
– 1km of uphill climb in the middle of the bridge.
– Cramps. I had a severe case last year at the 30km mark that basically forced me to walk for the remaining 12km.
– Bad weather. The forecast for Sunday according to Yahoo! Weather is “Scattered Thunderstorms”. So not looking forward to that. Just a few days ago, Penang was the target of a freak storm that blew off boats. Surely you won’t wanna see headlines that scream “Kuching Marathoner Blown Off The Penang Bridge” tomorrow on the newspapers.

This past few months I have put up with much sacrifices, much time away from friends and family, much time I could have spent doing something else.
I could only train so much, but finally this is all coming to an end.
And I’m here to claim my reward!

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Save Our Endangered Restaurants

It’s always sad to see your favourite eateries close down.

Some of my favourite restaurants in the past had closed down simply because business wasn’t good enough.
Even when I had the chance to dine at those restaurants, I didn’t see many customers around. It’s almost as if I was the only person in the whole of Kuching who appreciates their good food. Everyone else just prefers to eat at the same old few places.
Among the unfortunate casualties were Mambo King at Travillion and A-ha at Ban Hock (now renamed De Crimson, also known as the place where they serve potato wages)

I reckon that’s a bloody shame really. Because good food should be celebrated, not avoided!
There are plenty of restaurants out there in the same scenario. One thing I noticed is that their chef never fails to churn out good food, but somehow they can’t seem to put enough asses on their chairs.
One ass from me ain’t gonna be enough to keep them afloat.

I love these restaurants and I wanna be eating their good food from them for a long time. But judging by the emptiness of their tables everytime I go there, it’s a matter of time before they’re in danger of closing down.
Unless we act now. FAST!
Which is why for my own selfish reasons, I’m gonna shamelessly plug these restaurants here.

Apologies in advance if I incorrectly assumed that these restaurants aren’t doing well, since the only thing I could based that claim on is my personal observation. 🙂
But nonetheless, presents to you, Kuching’s Top 4 Most Under-Rated and Unappreciated Eateries.

1. Bella Italia at RH Plaza BDC

With the exception of maybe Restaurant Beccari at Merdeka Palace, there seems to be a notable absence of goodItalian food in Kuching.
That is, until I stumbled across Bella Italia secretly stashed away at the backlot of RH Plaza BDC.

Apparently they’ve been around for a while but god knows why I had only just discovered them recently.
I came here twice and on both occasions, we were the only customers there. Maybe it’s their quiet location, but this cosy little restaurant is so devoid of customers it’s Italian tragedy. I am dumbstruck as to why because everything they did here is almost perfect.

Their risotto is delicious, their marinara soup is super-tasty and their pasta rivals the best in KL. At RM15 to RM20 for mains, price-wise they are also quite reasonable.

And I am absolutely head over heels in love with their bruschetta bread.

2. Pizza Junction at Jalan Song

I walked into this restaurant one afternoon and their bored staff jolted up from their seats like they’ve just seen their first customer since The Stone Age.
It’s a pity to see such a nice restaurant so empty and bare.

Pizza Junction is a local homegrown fast-food chain restaurant similar to Pizza Hut. But unlike the international franchise, Pizza Junction serves darn good pizzas at prices much lower than the Hut‘s offerings.
As a comparison, RM21 gets you only one regular pizza at the Hut, but you can get that plus two soups and drinks at the Junction. They even have some dessert pizzas with a local twist, like the Banana Kaya Delight.

I tried their fusili pasta which was decent, but it was their Chicken Delight Pizza absolutely rocks my socks.
Personally I think Pizza Junction tastes a lot better than Pizza Hut. But do try it out and support our local brand.

3. Korean Da Om BBQ House at Jalan Song

Quite possibly, the best authentic Korean restaurant in town.

Here’s the deal. You order one main course and they’ll give you 3 side dish for free. The great thing about Da Om’s side dish is, when you finish them you can ask for a refill an unlimited amount of times.
So technically speaking, you can go to Da Om with ten friends, then you just order one main course and let your ten friends eat the side dish until full.
Just don’t tell them you learn this trick from one hor! 😛

My only complaint with Da Om is that all their spicy dishes are really, really, REALLY spicy! Those stuff should come with titanium metal to reinforce your tongue, because they are so damn spicy it’s not funny.
Seriously, their kimchee is so freaking hot, I think they made it out of a mixture of chilli padi and gunpowder.

My recommendation is to stay safe and stick to the non-spicy dishes.
My favourites here are the Korean marinated beef served with fresh lettuce, Bi Bim Bap (Korean Fried Rice) and the Sam Gye Theng (Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup).

Some say there are better Korean restaurants out there in Kuching, but I disagree.
I say, Da Om is Da Bomb!

4. Sin Chiew Chicken Rice at Point One, Travilion Mall

Actually this chicken rice stall is quite popular already. The only reason I put it on my ‘endangered’ list is because… it is too cheap!
It’s so cheap I wonder how they could even make a profit.

Sin Chiew is good, although I won’t say it is the best-tasting chicken rice in Kuching.
I insist that title still goes to Good Thumb (ex-Big Mouth). But the problem with Good Thumb is that their portion is so pathetic, you have to buy two meals to fill up your stomach. Another good chicken rice place in Kuching is Ah Suan, but they can be expensive and parking around that area is a bitch.

That’s why I think Sin Chiew has the best value chicken rice in Kuching. I asked for one plate of chicken rice with a portion of boob meat, one vegie dish, minus the soup and the grand total comes up to just RM4!
How can I not love this place!?
On top of that, Ah Ming the boss is a nice polite guy who will smile and greet at you when you come, and say bye-bye when you leave.

Yes, I know they smile and greet you too at Coffee Bean. But that one you have to pay 10% service charge for it.

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License To Touch

Thanks for all the feedback on my previous entry, guys.

I say keep your hands to yourself, period. No questions asked. It’s indisputable – it’s wrong on so many levels to even touch anyone, be it a girl or a boy, anywhere other than the hand the first time you meet.

Posted by: Anonymous

I think it should be strictly hands off during a first meeting… but it kinda depends. When I was in Australia, it was kinda acceptable that the Aussies were touchy. You’d think to yourself: Ahhh. They’re just being friendly… they’re like that with everyone! Back in Malaysia however, it’s more like… EEE! What is this guy up to arr?
Not sure if this is an example of blatant double standards or just a cultural difference! 😀

Posted by: spirit3d

It just doesn’t feel right to be touched by someone at the first meeting. Not anyplace, let alone the small of your back, even the friendly-shoulder-hugging is a no-no. But I am an Asian, and being brought up in a conservative family too. So maybe u can hug Western girls at your first meeting (heck, you can even bed some of them), or Asian girl brought up Western style.
However, if you do that to me, I’ll be extra careful to avoid you the next time we’re in the same place.

Posted by: fei

Looks like there’s a lot of conservative people in Malaysia!
Perhaps it is because I tend to mix with the younger and more “liberal” crowd in Kuching, but light-touching or hugging among friends and friends of friends in a social atmosphere is definitely very common around here.

I do hope people here can lighten up a bit though. Asian or not, I reckon the world could do with a bit more friendly physical touches. Imagine how boring life is gonna be if you go out to a PARTY with the intention to meet new people, but then you have to keep your hands strictly to yourself the entire time!
It is gonna be so boring, you might as well go attend a business meeting.
Then there are also some who brought up the “looks” argument.

I don’t mind. IF he is cute enough.

Posted by: Party-Ann

As long as you’re handsome, everything will be fine! =D

Posted by: Alex

If the guy is handsome, then a physical touch is okay; if the guy is some ugly shit, pls stay away! Hahaha…

Posted by: Mil

The answer to Kenny’s anxiety is – obviously, girls will only let GOOD-LOOKING guys (though not all the time) touch them when they first meet. I’m not trying to offend, but with looks like KENNY SIA a bit fat a bit chi kor pek face, i will feel so GROSS OUT and think that he’s a hamsup man and likes to take advantage of girls.

Posted by: easy peasy

Call it superficial, but it’s true.

Studio photo courtesy of Alvin Leong Photography

If you have looks as unfortunate as mine, girls are not exactly gonna be very receptive to you touching them at all. Even a friendly gesture of touching at the back momentarily is gonna be taken as something sleazy, no matter how genuine you want it to be.
But if you look like DAVID BECKHAM, then suddenly it becomes a wholeeeee different story.

Then you don’t have to touch them at all, THEY WILL TOUCH YOU.

Sad lah. It seems like the only way people can ever accept my friendly gesture without misunderstanding is if:
(a) I’m good-looking; or
(b) I’m macho; or
(c) I’m Caucasian; or
(d) All of the above.
Or maybe I should just turn into David Beckham.

So, can I touch now?

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Touched For The Very First Time

During the last Rainforest World Music Festival, I got to know this girl Jo.

Jo and I eventually ended up becoming pretty close friends. It’s been many months since then, but we still meet up whenever we can.
During one of our “mindless soul-baring sessions” not long ago, Jo told me something I didn’t realise that happened on the night we first met.

At the beach. (No, this is not her.)

To paint the picture here, we were at the beach where a small group of revellers who attended the music festival were congregating.
There was an open fire, drums beating, people dancing. It was a relaxed atmosphere and everyone was just out there chilling out, having fun.

A common friend of ours spotted Jo and introduced us to each other. It was the first time I’ve met her, so I did the normal thing by making a small talk and socialising.
But while I was doing that, my hand was unwittingly placed behind Jo’s back.
No, I’m not grabbing her arse or anything. Just comfortably placed on the small of her back while she yelled into my ears, because hey, there were drums there and it was loud!

It wasn’t until months after that incident that Jo told me she was actually feeling uncomfortable that I was physically touching her that night.
Seeing as how I was a total stranger and it was only the first time we met, she thought it was kinda inappropriate. And when she revealed that to me, I felt like crap! There was nothing malicious at all about that hand behind her back, but I felt bad because I was making her feel uncomfortable.
Suddenly, I felt like a sexual molester!

I mean, I thought it should be ok that I was touching her, because everyone that night was in a relaxed social mood after all. We’re at a music festival! And after she was introduced to me by our friend, I wanna get to know her better. As a friend.
But then again, she could be right. It was only the first time I met her and I shouldn’t assume that she’s ok with physical contact. Like me placing my hand on the small of her back for the whole conversation. Everybody has different boundaries when it comes to physical contact and just because I think it’s ok doesn’t mean she’ll be fine with it. I can understand that.
But then again! I don’t know lah. No one has ever told me what is right or what is wrong also. How am I supposed to know when to touch or when not to touch, right?

What exactly is the protocol when it comes to guys touching girls?
I think I’m terribly confused because I was brought up in a strict family and a conservative Chinese school; then suddenly I was thrown into a more open Western society in Australia where I was introduced to the world of hugging, cheek-kissing and stroking.
Then suddenly I was thrown back into Kuching where one half of society are brought up with conservative Eastern values, and the other half are brought with the more affectionate Western style of socialising. Now I’m getting all confused when to initiate physical contact and when to keep my hands to myself.

Of course, people would be tempted to say “Just keep your hands to yourself lah! Stay on the safe side.” But… I don’t think that’s a normal thing for people to do!
Sure, there are cases where I choose to be on the conservative sides. In a professional environment at work or when I’m meeting some respected figures, a handshake is usually the most I would go. But in a social environment like in a club, a party or a music fest where we’re out to get to know new people, I think we should be able to do more than that, right?

I think we human beings are like pet animals. Guys or girls, we like to be stroked and touched and played with sometimes. Sounds kinda wrong, but it’s true.
It’s a form of bonding. I am always closer to friends I have hugged or touched, compared to female friends with whom the only form of physical contact I had with was a handshake.
But then some human beings are like tigers. We can touch, but if we’re not careful we will kena bitten by them.

Lots of inappropriate touching here.

Are girls nowadays that uncomfortable of being touched by a guy they met for the first time?
Or am I just too scary?

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Jakarta’s Nightlife

As soon as the sun goes down on Friday night, I hopped on a Lam Jiao taxi to check out Jakarta’s famed nightlife.

Always a fan of the clubs when I’m out travelling, I’ve heard about how Jakarta has the best nightspots in the region. Friends who have partied their nights away in the best of Singapore, KL, Bangkok all returned to say that none of those places beats the nightlife in Jakarta.
I was skeptical, especially since I was under the impression that Indonesia is after all a very religious and conservative country. Oh boy, how wrong was I.
I arrived at my first stop: Blok M.
My eyes nearly popped out when I walked in and saw this.

OMG. This isn’t Indonesia. This is Thailand, man!
I mean, I’ve seen “shows” when I was in Phuket, but even those girls at the supposed “sex-capital of South-East Asia” looks like innocent kindegarten kids compared to what these vixens had to offer.
At least in Thailand, you expected these things to happen. But in INDONESIA?

What kinda pole dance is this?!

What’s even more incredible is that these girls are NOT employed by the bar. Just your average sarong party girls who took a cab to Blok M, putting on these shows to lure rich white men to bring them back to their hotel rooms.

It’s a sad state of affair, really. Everywhere I’ve travelled to in Asia, it’s the same old story. As long as there are old white married men willing to pay, there will be cash-strapped young girls willing to bare.
I guess when you’re all out of money and when push comes to shove, dignity goes out the window.

Another dodgy nightspot I visited was Stadium nightclub.
Stadium was HUGE but very, very dodgy. This place was so dodgy that I spooted lots of dodgy people wearing dodgy sunglasses dodgily as they danced the night away. But it was already so dark inside the club, why were they still wearing sunglasses?!

When I made my way through the dodgy crowd, some dodgy old man tapped me on my shoulder wanting to sell me something dodgy . He spoke to me but I couldn’t understand him because he was speaking Indon, and all I could hear was that prolonged “Rrrrr” sound of his Indonesian accent. “Allo misterrrrr. MISTERRRRRRRRRR!”
Then I turned around and this teenage girl in sunglasses was shaking her head left and right non-stop. I figured she probably meant to tell me not to buy from this guy, so I politely declined the dodgy old man and walked away.
Then when I returned to thank the girl, she was still shaking her head left and right uncontrollably! Why lah, I just want to say thank you, you still shake your head at me!

After that disappointing and dodgy outing on Friday night, the next evening I had better luck when I followed some readers advice and checked out this club called Blowfish.
Blowfish is an upmarket sushi bar by day, but converted into dance club for the rich and idle by night.

I gotta say, I am impressed! This must be the “in” place to go in Jakarta. Blowfish’s Zen-inspired venue was beautifully decorated from top to bottom while the DJ flawlessly spinned out hit after hit.
Not only that, those Indon-Chinese girls in the club were all glammed up damn pretty like that. I swear, I scanned across the room and spotted at least ten Dawn Yang lookalikes in there.

Note: not an actual photo. 😛

I reckon Indon-Chinese girls are really really pretty.
They look different from our average Chinese girls in Malaysia or Singapore that’s for sure. Christien New (who’s half-Indon himself) told me that it’s because most Indonesian-Chinese have a hint of Dutch blood in them. And I have this thing for girls with like 10% of white blood in them.

Sipping my vodka in Blowfish, suddenly I was transformed back to my high-school days in Perth when I was this ugly fat kid having a huge crush on this hot Indon-Chinese girl in school. Despite my many attempts to hook up a conversation with her, I ultimately failed because I could only speak English with her, and her English was half-baked at best.
On our school’s prom night I saw her slow-dancing with another Indon guy, and I was heartbroken.

Suddenly I was jolted back into present day when this cute girl with an angelic face smiled at me from across my table. I don’t know her, but she was probably wondering why I was sitting there alone. So I smiled back.
But then as soon as she opened her mouth and started speaking in that heavy Indonesian accent, I was turned off immediately.
“Misterrrrr seorrrrang peerrrrrrgi clabbing kerrrr, misterrrrrrrrrrrr?”

What a pity.
Face of an angel, mouth of a machine-gun.

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Cultural Learnings of Jakarta for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Malaysia

I didn’t like Jakarta at all when I first touched down at their airport.

Worst. Welcome Sign. Ever.

My flight was delayed; the immigration officer was giving me trouble; and to top it off, I waited nearly 2 hours for a taxi at the airport. There were virtually no taxis operating that day because of a flash flood happening in Jakarta city.
Those opportunistic taxi touts were cheating me by charging double the normal rates. They kept saying “Mai jiet! Mai jiet!” (traffic jam)
The only form of entertainment I got at the airport is the very funny Official Jakarta Shopping Guide brochure.

It is Indonesian Engrish at its best.

Dunno whether to laugh or cry at whoever was paid to write this.
“This place is really spoil our eyes!”

I stayed at the pretty reasonably-priced Ibis Acardia Hotel in the Jalan Jaksa area. Jakarta is a huge old city so choosing a hotel location that is central to everywhere could save me a lotta money.
First thing I did in Jakarta? Walk straight outta my hotel for some yummy Indonesian street food!

This is Nasi Goreng Ayam Spesial (special chicken fried rice) next to plate of Ayam Bakar (chargrilled chicken). I’m not a fan of fried rice, but I must admit, those Indonesian fried rice kicks our Malaysian version’s arse anytime.
Nothing says “Welcome to Indonesia” better than a good dose deliciously unhygenic streetside food. It is so unhygenic, they wash their plates simply by dunking them into a bucket of brownish water repeatedly. Guess that adds to the flavour.
No wonder I fell sick lah.

This is Soda Susu (milk soda). Apart from having a really fun name to pronounce, it is also a damn addictive drink.
Essentially just soda mixed with condensed milk, it’s so simple I wonder why Malaysia hasn’t caught up with it over here. I must have like 10 cups of those in Jakarta alone.
Dining by the streetside of Jakarta is a damn interesting experience. The presence of young buskers who roam around asking money adds colour to the scene. I’m not talking about kids who walk around with a stupid guitar asking for money.

These kids are so organised and passionate, they even had a portable drum set going around with them!

One thing I appreciate about Jakarta is their large shopping malls that could rival KL and Singapore’s best at anytime.

Jakarta is doughnut city.
There are doughnut shops inside shopping malls. Along the streets. Inside train stations. Airports. And virtually behind every little nook and corner of Jakarta.
I don’t think there’s another Asian city so donut-crazy before. Homer Simpson would have been proud to move to Jakarta.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. I’ve heard that they are so good that people don’t even call them “Krispy Kreme” anymore.
They call them “KRISPY KREMEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Jakarta is the only city in the whole of South-East Asia to have a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts chain. But the only thing KL and Singapore have are crappy Funkin’ Dunkin’ Donuts. Why ah?
I wasted no time and order a half-dozen of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. With anticipation, I took my first bite into an original glazed doughnut and…

My whole life flashed before me and suddenly everything slowed down to a crawl. This is what I’ve been missing in my whole life!
No wonder people raved about them so much. The trip to a Krispy Kreme store is worth the air tickets to Jakarta alone.

Almost equally as good as Krispy Kreme is a local homegrown doughnut chain store J.Co
I thought I was kiasu enough to bring 4 boxes of Krispy Kreme on my flight back home to my loved ones.
Then I saw one couple carrying almost 20 BOXES of J.Co donuts! Even more kiasu!

But having tasted the offerings from both chains, I still prefer the taste of Krispy Kreme’s doughnuts lah.
What I like about J.Co’s doughnuts is that they have a lot more varieties of flavour, such as green tea and the deliciously crunchy chocolate doughnut.

Gotta love their quirky sense of humour too.

Bandung is a small town 3 hours by train from Jakarta and it is a great place to shop.
The main mode of public transport here is the angkot.

It’s basically a Toyota Econovan modified into a minibus. The fare to any destination along the angkot’s route is filthy cheap at a flat 2,000 rupiah (RM0.80) only.

It’s easy to tell the driver when to stop. All you gotta do is shout out “kiri! kiri!”. In English, that means “to the left! to the left!”.
Someone like Beyonce is really gonna have a lot of trouble travelling around in Bandung.

Most people think of shopping holidays, and they immediately think Hong Kong, or Taiwan, or Singapore, or KL. Not many of us ever really thought of Bandung as a great shopping destination.
I’m telling you, you are really missing out. Bandung is the best kept shopping secret of South East Asia.

Jalan Riau in Bandung has one huge row of factory outlet stores selling designer clothing at ridiculously discounted prices. Authentic Burberry jeans at RM35, anyone? How about a sexy Bebe top for the ladies at just RM42?
Another great product to buy here in Bandung are the brownies. I bought some back home for my family and they absolutely love it.

Anybody wanna taste my Brownies Kukus?

The transportation options around the Jakarta is an eye-opener alright. Aside from the usual buses and taxis, you also have the choice of travelling on motorcycles. Helmets optional.
Otherwise, you can ride on one of these lean mean orange machines known as the Ojek Bajaj.

At less than RM2 for a 5-minute journey, it’s a real bargain.

I can’t help it. But those Bajajs actually reminded me a lot of our sexist bocor Jasin MP.
Slow. Loud. And very, very ugly.

Travelling by taxis in Indonesia can be quite risky. At the advice of readers, I was told only to travel in those blue “Blue Bird” taxis in Jakarta.
Terrible name. If this were in Kuching, no chance in hell is a taxi called “Blue Bird” is ever gonna last long.
I mean seriously, not a lot of Kuching folks would feel comfortable sitting in some Lam Jiao taxi right!?

“Blue Bird” may be a horrible name for a taxi, but they are the only one with a good safety record around here.
They are so good that some of their competitors had even painted their vehicles blue to confuse people.
Yea, nowadays you can even get pirated Lam Jiao taxis.

I really enjoyed scuba diving at North Jakarta’s Thousand Islands.
The place. Not the salad sauce.
The water is so clear here you could see millions of fish swimming right by the dock.

Saw some weird-looking corals too.

A lot of people in Jakarta live in extreme poverty. Some of these people are so poor they don’t even have a shelter over their head.

To them, their bed is the cold hard floor. Even more amazing is that people around them thinks sleeping in public places is a seemingly normal thing to do.

Unlike in Malaysia, homeless people aren’t just sleeping around in train stations or park benches. They fall asleep just about everywhere in the big city. And there are so many of them.

2,500 Rupiah or RM1, for a 1-hour train journey. Cheap.

I had a taste of poverty when I took an economy train from a town called Bogor back to Jakarta. I realised that in Jakarta, their definition of “Economy” is no where close to Malaysia Airline’s definition of “Economy”.

The economy train I took was so bad and run-down that it didn’t even have a functioning air-conditioner. Every few minutes salesmen shuffles their way through the crowded train, selling everything from fruits and drinks to toys and lightbulbs.

The most amazing thing was that the train doors were left open deliberately, while the train was running at full speed.
Some may say doing so is a safety hazard. Some may say this is a complete disregard of human life, but people here actually appreciate it. They like it ‘cos they can enjoy free “natural air-conditioning” by hanging off the train’s sidebars.

It was truly a sight to behold. During rush hours, you could even see young men sitting on the rooftop. Like it’s a perfectly normal place to sit during a train ride.

KL’s train may be slow and inefficient, but having gotten used to air-conditioned transports in Malaysia and Singapore, I was really quite amazed that there are trains in such a bad condition in Indonesia.
One train I saw was so old, it still had the words “Osaka to Fukuoka” printed on the side.

Chess is a favourite pass time among the street vendors in Jakarta.
You could challenge them for a game, but it’ll cost you 1,000 Rupiah (RM0.38)

Jakarta is a city with many statues and monuments. Like every great leader, Indonesia’s first President Sukarno enjoys building a lot of those bloody things to commemorate his legacy.
The most famous of all is its national landmark – Monas.

This 137m tall structure was commissioned by President Sukarno when he was at the height of his power, but too bad the fella was overthrown before he could finished it. As a result, the Monas was also affectionately known as Sukarno’s Last Erection.
Why do great country leaders always build huge, phallic symbols during their reign? To show off their manhood?
Of course, Sukarno wasn’t the only country leader who erected a big giant penis-like structure for his people. Not wanting to be outdone by our neighbour, Malaysia too, had a great leader who erected something even bigger.

Gotta wonder the hidden meaning behind that structure eh? 😉

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Sexy Back

Maybe it’s those deliciously unhygenic street-side food I had in Jakarta, but I wasn’t feeling too well ever since I returned home yesterday.

My face was pale, my feet were sore and my nose was running a marathon non-stop.
Off I went to visit my foot reflexologist at BDC to help me feel a bit better. But barely 10 minutes into my session, my therapist looked at my condition and suggested that I should try “fire cupping” instead. She said and I quote, that it’s gonna help me “suck the toxins out of my body”. Okayyyy!
That sounds helluva interesting eventhough I didn’t know what the hell “fire cupping” was about. But I was willing to try anyway. So I was led into a private room. She asked me to take off my shirt as she slowly dimmed the lights…
60 minutes and a lot of screaming later, I was left with this.

Oh. My. Gawd.
Tell me I don’t look like I was being raped by a giant freaking octopus!

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Stupid Escalators

Spotted this outside Senayan City Mall – one of the many upmarket shopping centres in Jakarta catered towards the rich tai tais.
Is this even necessary?

C’mon guys, it’s just five steps. FIVE!
Not like we’re asking you to climb Mount Kinabalu, ok?

Apparently in Indonesia, escalators need to wear high heels too.

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