Goodbye 2008

Goodbye 2008. You suck.

As much as I am appreciative of all the wonderful experiences, rare opportunities and fantastic people I’ve met this year, I cannot help but to feel that at times life has been throwing me dilemmas after dilemmas as if to test my patience.
I hadn’t been in such a low state of mind since my father’s passing. That one hit me hard. This one comes pretty close.
I don’t wanna come across as “emo”, because the last thing I want from others is sympathy.

Depression hit me pretty hard several times throughout this year. It is difficult to stay upbeat amidst the demands, the expectations, the threats, the slander, the misconception, the accusations and the general lack of trust I perceived from other people and from myself.
Was I selfish? Or did I care too much for the wrong people? I don’t know. Seems like such an incredibly thin line separating the two.
So many times I felt totally hopeless when it comes to decisions I made with my career, my friends, my relationship. So many times I felt I was put into situations where it’s die die both ways.
Guess this must be what they call the quarter-life crisis.

At least I am doing well on the money side of things.
Despite losing a lot when the financial crisis hit, I saved enough throughout the year to finally be able to build a decent investment portfolio for myself. This is in stark contrast to two years ago when I had the bad habit of spending almost every cent of my salary. I have also learnt a lot about how to run a business, and with those skills I hope to start something of my own in the coming year.

For my new year’s resolution, I wanna:
1. Start a new business.
2. Run a marathon in less than 6 hours.
3. Double my investment portfolio.
4. Get less addicted to e-mails and Facebook.
5. Be happier.

Before the final few hours of 2008 melts away, I just have to say:
To all my true friends who stood by me especially when I needed you the most – thank you.
To all my business associates and acquaintances – for the precious opportunity to work with you, I thank you.
To all my readers whom I’d never met, yet came up to me to say hi, to shake my hand or asked to take photos – I am most humbled and appreciative.
To all the people in my life whose feelings I may have hurt, whose expectations I may not have lived up to, whose promises I may have broken – I am truly very sorry.
To all my haters, fuck you.

Happy new year, people. Hope your 2008 was less crappier than mine.

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Dave’s Pizza Pasta Vino 1Utama Review

(Disclosure: I was commissioned for this write-up, but I paid for the food myself and the following are my honest and independently written review of their menu.)
In the interest of helping Malaysia curb the obesity epidemic, this will be the final food review I’m doing for Emmanuel Stroobant’s Christmas menu.

Dave’s Pizza Pasta Vino is one of the hidden treasures of 1Utama. So hidden in fact that despite going to 1Utama so often, I never even knew it existed.
1Utama to me has always been just The New Wing. I searched high and low for this restaurant, only to realise that it is actually located at The Old Wing, on the ground floor right opposite Burger King and TGI Friday’s.

The restaurant didn’t impress me at first.
Upon entering, I was immediately reminded of other similar informal Italian restaurants like Chili’s or Italiannies. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. But the dimmed lights, cluttered walls, and comfy cushions just seems a bit too common place.
There’s a decent crowd of regulars at the restaurant, but it wasn’t exactly packed too brim. The ambience was still casual and comfortable.
So comfortable in fact, that they even provided us with a baby pillow.

Maybe some kid accidentally left behind her pillow also. I dunno.
In any case, I sat on it too long and so err… it kinda smells like my butt now.
Unlike Chili’s or Italiannies though, the food at Dave’s is very non-halal, which means pig lovers can go hog wild at all the porky galore goodness.

“Welcome! Eat me!”

From a business standpoint, it seems quite silly at first that Dave’s would wanna make their restaurant non-halal. It’s a huge revenue sacrifice when you alienate about 60% of the Malaysian population. Why the heck would anyone wanna do that?
But as soon as I sunk my teeth into the pan-fried pork belly shaving (RM18), immediately I understood why Dave’s decided to go against convention and squeal OINK!

Damn. That was one downright sinfully delicious pork belly!
This is one dish you really gotta try to believe! The texture is great and the aroma even better. The crispy bacon soaked in dripping oil is so tasty that it completely blew me away.

Just as awesome were the button mushrooms stuffed with bacon, cream and mozzarella cheese (RM18.50).
As a true meatlover, I wasn’t expecting much out of this predominantly vegie dish. But as soon as I put it in my mouth, my eyes immediately lit up.

What a fantastic delight. Words do not do justice the orgasmic delight when the overflowing juices of the stuffed mushrooms bukkaked and filled up inside your mouth. These are the best mushrooms I’ve ever had in years!
Two entrees and already we were impressed.
We can’t go to a restaurant with “Pizza” in its name without at least sampling their pizzas, so we got a large pork salami pizza (RM38) to share.

I know this is starting to get old, but…
This pizza kicked ass.
This pizza kicked Pizza Hut’s ass. Multiple times over.
This pizza kicked Pizza Hut’s ass so bad, the customers eating at Pizza Hut could taste Dave’s foot on their pizza toppings.

In short, this pizza totally kicked ass.
What I like the most about the pizza is the taste of slightly-burnt cheese on the crispy crust outside. Very yummy! Other than the restaurants in 5-star hotels, not too often have I seen gourmet pizzas done to that perfection.
The only thing I hate about the salami pizza is the ba jiao (star anise, I think) they added to the pizza topping. Who the heck put ba jiao on pizzas man? Please, leave that foul-tasting herb in bakuteh, and not on my pizzas.

Three hits in a row and we wondered when Dave’s would go wrong. Unfortunately, they did with the chicken parmegiana (RM40).
There was chicken, cheese and mashed potatoes, but ultimately there was nothing out of the ordinary. It was the only dish we didn’t actually finish.

The mixed seafood platter (RM41) we had was above average though. For RM41, we got an assortment of prawns, mussels, fish, calamari and clams all baked with cheese and served over truffle sauce.
Quite a sweet deal for indecisive people like us who can’t make up their mind.

But the best deal in the house has gotta be the Guinness lamb shank (RM41).
For RM41, I got a humungous portion of a lamb shank and, like every other main course item on the Guinness Christmas menu, comes a free pint of Guinness Draught on the house.
The beer costs about RM20 at Dave’s, so essentially I’m only paying 21 bucks the lamb shank.

Nowhere in KL, Kuching or some say Batam can you get a lamb shank at a restaurant for just 21 bucks.
And it’s pretty good lamb shank too!
The Guinness tenderized the meat so well it falls off the bone and melts in my mouth. When accompanied with mashed potato on sweet stout-enhanced gravy, the end result was a lamb shank so flavoursome I can’t wait to wash down with a pint of cold black beer. It was such a satisfying dish.

The aftermath of the lamb shank

One thing I must also commend on was the service at Dave’s. It was most definitely a good 4 and half out of 5 stars.
Service was prompt without being hectic, friendly without being pushy, attentive without being annoying. If you ask the waiters any basic question, they know their stuff. The best part is that it’s easy to get their attention because they are always nearby.
It was very unlike my experience in other restaurants, where the waiters always seems too busy talking to each other, or too lazy to move around as if they were acting in a movie called “The Day The Waiters Stood Still.”

My collection of miniature Guinness pint glasses

I know I sound like some fanboy raving through this review, but there is no false advertising here! If you like places like Chili’s, TGI Friday’s or Italiannies, you’ll love Dave’s at 1Utama. The food is good and the prices even better.
The only false advertising you’re gonna get is in their Kid’s Menu.

Nemo as Fish & Chips? Damn, that’s cruel!

Seriously though, I say the Guinness Christmas menu promotion is one of those things too good to miss out own. It only runs till 31st December and only at selected outlets around Klang Valley. They are really worth trying. If you’re wary, I have already given my verdict on which dish to order and which ones to avoid at Delaney’s, Jarrod & Rawlins @ Ampwalk Mall, Michelangelo’s @ Solaris and Dave’s. KY have also written reviews for Cafe Chulo, Ronnie Q, Gypsy Wine & Bar, SevenAteNine and The Magnificent Fish & Chips.

Kenny Sia after eating at Dave’s

Anyway opportunities like these don’t come very often, where you get to sample dishes created by a celebrity chef at prices so reasonable, especially when you take into account the free beer they throw in with every main course. 🙂

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This Christmas, I’m Spending It Alone

It’s been a month since we’ve ended our relationship.

We broke up on the 27th November 2008. Of all time and places we could possibly had to end the relationship, we did it over my birthday dinner.
How ironic that in a blog entry I published earlier, I wrote that although we’re constantly breaking and patching up, that “we’re still going stronger than ever.”
Even more ironic was the day after, when her friend texted me to ask “if he can have her”.

Of course, it’s not like I didn’t see it coming. Our personalities were too different to begin with.
She’s a Scorpio. I’m a Sagittarius.
She’s 22. I’m 26.
She sleeps at 7am. I wake up at 7am.
She eats laksa, pastries and fried chicken wings. I eat sushi, salad and sandwiches.
She stays indoors. I stay curious about what the outside world has to offer.
She thinks I treat my friends too well. I think I treated her heaps better.
She prefers staying within her comfort zone. I am constantly thinking up new adventures and ideas on what to do.
She is a student with no fixed schedule. I find my free time so hard to come by that even which movie I watch, I’d choose carefully.

It was not that we didn’t try to make things work. I tried. We both tried.
For a long time, we were meeting up five times a week, spending time with each other. Me going home to my bed at 2 – 3am, waking up 4 hours later in time for work. I thought the longer we spend time together, the better we’d understand each other. We had our moments of happiness.

Looking back, I’m not sure if we understood each other better, but we certainly argued very often. We’ve virtually argued from the day we got together to they day we broke up. We argued so often that there was not even a single month where we had complete peace and quiet.
It would’ve been fine if we argued over new things each time. At least that would’ve still kept things interesting. But to argue and fight and explain the same topics over and over again each time is just way too frustrating for any human being to handle. It was like the sadistic version of Groundhog Day.
A relationship that needed so much work shouldn’t even be called “a relationship”. It’s a miracle how we even lasted so long. Two years to be precise. Considering how different we are, I am surprised it even went past the third month.
But as the old saying goes, easier to move a mountain than to change a person.

Ultimately, we are two different people, with drastically different lifestyles, different ideals, different philosophies, different aims in life.
The stress of being in the relationship overtook the happiness of being in one. The breakdown in communication and seemingly neverending fights and arguments prevailed.
Then came the realisation that after two years of dating each other, we still never really understood each other, still never seek compromise in our differences, and still feeling unjustified over the things one did for the other.

The day after the break up, I saw the losing of our quantum of solace. Not the James Bond movie. But the quantum of solace – tiniest amount of hope we could have for each other. Without which, there is no more hope, no more romance, nothing left.
When presented with an opportunity to salvage the relationship, I chose to let it slide. Better to disappoint now than to disappoint later, I figured.

For what it’s worth, I did actually love her. Still care for her.
But we were not happy for such a long time.
I guess I’m just not the type of person who is suitable to be in a relationship with anyone at this point in time. There are still so many things I want to do, so many goals I want to achieve, so many places I want to travel to before I settle down. Maintaining a relationship wouldn’t be at the top of my list, and it’s unfair to ask anyone to put up with that.
Perhaps when I’ve done all that I wanna do, without restrictions, only then will I re-examine my priorities.

It feels weird being single again.
Having been in the dating game for 8 years almost consecutively, I kinda forgot how to be single.
Instead of rushing out of the house to meet her at 9pm, I found myself scratching my head wondering what to do with my free time. Instead of appearing offline on MSN, I found myself chatting and catching up with old friends again, some of whom I haven’t spoken to for months. Finally I have time to do my own things and get the wheels rolling on the many ideas I have in mind, but never had time to put into action.
The flipside I guess, is that this Christmas, I’ll be spending it alone.
And then there’s still New Year’s Day, Chinese New Year’s and Valentine’s Day yet to come.

Ahhhh shucks.

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Michelangelo’s Solaris Review

(Disclosure: I was commissioned for this write-up, but I paid for the food myself and the following are my honest and independently written review of their menu.)
So I brought the two Malaysian Dreamgirls Cindy and Cheesie to hunt for food in Solaris, Mont Kiara last weekend.

Solaris is nice place to chillout. It is KL’s latest party and dining central. I’m guessing it caters mostly towards those rich yuppy types living in Mont Kiara. But I think a poser like me from Kuching is welcome too.
The crown jewel of the area is SohoKL, a whole new row of cool bars and posh restaurants nice enough to impress a date without breaking your wallet or have her call you “kiam”.

We headed to Michelangelo’s for Italian food.
Contrary to popular belief, the owner of the restaurant is not, I repeat NOT, Michelangelo.
The great Italian painter has been dead for over 400 years and he didn’t suddenly just come alive and open a restaurant in KL.

What Michelangelo’s is, however, a pleasant Italian restaurant that sits somewhere between casual and fine-dining.
Their Solaris restaurant is also another one of those outlets doing the Guinness Christmas menu I’ve been reviewing. The promotion they run is pretty much the same.

For every main course ordered, they’ll serve you a free pint of Guinness Draught right away, RM12 discount off three pints on your next visit, and a free miniature pint glass thrown in to boot.
So you can “yam seng” with me if you’re not a big drinker like Cheesie.

There are four different Christmas-themed miniature glass. I got the one with Rudolph on it and reckoned it was real cute.
(Oh I just found out also that you can get these mini pint glasses from some pubs in Kuching as well, like Rain in Chonglin Park.)
Compared to Delaney’s and Jarrod & Rawlins Ampwalk that I’ve already blogged about, this one seem to have more choices on their Christmas menu.

There’s a total of five Guinness-infused dishes to choose from, and each of them comes with a complimentary pint of black beer on the house.

How many dishes did two under-40kg freelance models and one obese marathoner order at a restaurant?
A) One.
B) One for each. Three in total.
C) Everything on the Christmas menu.

The answer is C. We actually ordered every single item on the Christmas menu.
Goodbye my post-marathon weight loss.
And because neither girl are big drinkers, I ended up finishing most of the free beer too.

But that’s okay. I ain’t complaining. 😉

The first dish we ordered was the quail stuffed with foie gras (RM65.90)
This is an original recipe created by Emmanuel Stroobant, executed perfectly by Michelangelo’s. The foie gras was marinated with Guinness and shoved up the hole in the quail.
Cheesie described it as “eating a bird and then accidentally biting into the liver.”

The girls didn’t enjoy the sweet sauce that went with the dish but personally I loved it. I thought it went down extremely well with the beer.
My only quip is that the portion size was too little for me to fully appreciate such an exquisite dish. I know it’s the economy crisis now, but they should’ve used a bigger bird instead.

The second dish was lobster with squid ink pasta (RM69.90)
To be honest, I don’t know how they could possibly screw this dish up. I love lobsters and I’m a big fan of squid ink pasta.

Put them both together and somehow they bombed it. It didn’t help that the lobster meat they used were disappointingly flaky and the pasta were as bland as TV3 newsreaders. Considering I paid RM69.90, I think they could’ve put more effort into making the dish right.
Luckily the next dish came and save the day.

It’s the Guinness Stout marinated cod fish (RM55.90).

Trust me, the cod is good!
This is the best dish of the night.
It’s obvious that they served us a very fresh fish. The cod fish married the sauce wonderfully and the meat so awesomely tender, smooth and juicy that it literally just melted inside my mouth. Very the super delicious.

Fish lover or not, I highly recommend this Guinness marinated cod fish. I had to stop myself from taking too much of it in one go, otherwise I might get tipsy and start raping Christmas tree inside the restaurant.

The delicious streak continued with Michelangelo’s Angelo’s style braised chicken leg (RM39.90).
It is a variation of the dish Emmanuel Stroobant taught me how to make from the workshop I attended earlier.
This one is not bad for chicken lovers.

I didn’t like that the sourness of the pickled cucumber overwhelm the natural flavour of the marinated chicken, so it’s better to leave the cucumber out when savouring this dish. Otherwise, it’s excellent. The herb risotto in particular was cooked to perfection.

The final dish of the night was the braised beef short ribs with Guinness (RM39.90).
Perhaps it was an overdose of main courses, but tender as the meat was, after a while everything started to taste the same to me. Cindy loved it though, and she polished up the entire serving leaving nothing but bones.

Michelangelo’s have some hits and misses with their Christmas menu, but overall we had a fantastic dinner. Portion sizes in general are smaller than say Jarrod & Rawlins. But I think Michelangelo’s have purposely done it that way to fill you up without overstuffing you.
Else the three of us could not possibly have finished five main course dishes in one sitting.

All in all, Michelangelo’s (the restaurant) is a great place to go to if you wanna have dinner while staring at the large sized replica of Michelangelo’s (the painter) Creation of Adam hanging on the wall.
Coincidentally, I happen to saw the original painting of the Creation of Adam when I was at the Vatican City earlier this year. It’s a beautiful painting, and I can understand why it was hailed as one of the greatest masterpieces from the Renaissance times.
Creation of Adam describes a scene from the Book of Genesis.

On the sixth day, God created man.
Except at Michaelangelo’s restaurant, God left out one, tiny, little detail.

He accidentally made Adam, into Eve.

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My Health Report

I find going through medical check-ups a funny thing.

It is like having a stranger ask you “Hi! How are you doing?” Except they actually lift your shirt up, put the stethoscope to your chest and really check how well you are actually doing.
It’s a habit of mine to go for a medical checkup once every two years. I take it very seriously in my case because of my family’s history of cancer. I’m not particularly worried about anything, but early detection is best form of defence, so better safe than sorry.

My previous blood test was two years ago.
The result came back confirming that I’m pretty much healthy, except my liver had too much protein. Whatever that means.

Two years have passed and I’m still feeling quite alright.
I’ve taken care of myself well this year. I don’t smoke, haven’t got drunk at all this year and spent a lotta time exercising and eating the right food. If I’m not healthy, someone better gimme a darn good explanation.

I went to BP Diagnostic Centre again for my medical checkup, but this time at their Cheras branch. Apparently the BP in Cheras are heaps bigger than the one in Kuching, and they also have different definitions when it comes to their “comprehensive package”.
In their Kuching branch, their comprehensive package is just a blood and urine test that costs RM270 and comes in a report only 4 pages long.
In Cheras, their comprehensive package costs a whooping RM1,000. But it includes not just the blood and urine test, but a range of physical tests along with all the bells and whistles and Christmas trees.

Just kidding about the Christmas tree. That one you have to ask from Santa.
But the comprehensive package was very comprehensive alright. So darn comprehensive that the entire procedure took almost THREE bloody hours to complete. No pun intended.
It was strangely fun though.

First they sucked my blood.

Next they took my urine, and placed it into a container labelled STERILE.
Meaning the container is sterile. Not me.
I’m not sterile.

Then they put me on a super-canggih electronic scale and measured my height and weight.
I am 165.5cm tall and weighed 83.3kg. According to the nurse, my BMI reading is 30.4, which meas I am officially classifed as OBESE.
Bloody hell.
After that’s done, she brought my obese ass into the waiting room. There I found something interesting.

Among the stack of magazines there, I found a copy of FHM with Miss Malaysia 2005 Chermaine Poo on the cover looking sexy.
What dangerous object to put in a blood testing clinic.
Later people get high blood pressure how?

My first physical test was a hearing test.
I was led into this sound-proof room and asked to put on these huge pair of headphones.
Then my mouth went “du-buk-chi du-buk-chi du-buk-chi” while my hand did the spinning gesture like a DJ.
But then the nurse told me to be more serious, so immediately I kept quiet and went through the tests with her.

Next, I was led to this other room where there’s this bizzare contraption for me to insert my head.
A camera inside took close-up photos of my skin and it showed up on the nurse’s computer screen.

I was shown how much wrinkles, pimples and black spots I have on my face. The nurse also attempted to sell me some face care products, which I politely turned down. After all I still got heaps of L’Oreal freebies after my embarrassing experience as a CLEO Bachelor last time. Hehe.
Those tests were okay, but it was the next test got me a little scared.

It was an ULTRASOUND test.
Apparently it’s an important part of the test because the doctor will check for unusual lumps, size or shape on my internal machinery without going through X-rays.
I was introduced to a Dr Wee, who asked me to lie on the bed and lift my shirt up. He then rubbed this KY jelly-like lubricant all over my stomach and put his scanner onto it.

Suddenly I feel like a pregnant lady.
It would be really weird if the doctor scanned my stomach and this image came up on screen.

WAH. Confirm I run away from the lab immediately. KY Jelly on my stomach and all.
Thankfully nothing like that happened. But the tests did get weirder and weirder.
Blame me for choosing the comprehensive test, because the doctor didn’t just scan my stomach, he had to scan other parts of my body as well.
And that included my kidney, my liver, my bladder, my prostate and my… testicles.

It was the most awkward thing I ever had to do.
For about 5 minutes, my naked hairy balls were staring at the doctor while he did his job.
To him, it’s probably nothing. The doctor probably said hello to few hundreds of different shapes and sizes of testicles everyday.
But there I was, lying on the bed with my pants down to my knees, embarrassed, freezing like hell because the air-cond was blowing directly towards my KY jelly-covered coconuts.
And all I could think about at the time was don’tgetanerection don’tgetanerection don’tgetanerection !

Luckily I didn’t get an erection.
Thankfully the rest of the tests were pretty straightforward. I had to put my feet into a machine to test my bone for osteoporosis and blow into this gadget that measures my lung capacity.
There was also this interesting physical test which involves me running on a threadmill that goes faster and faster while strapped on to a heart-rate monitor.

I felt like I was in one of those superhero movies like The Incredible Hulk really.
Except in my case all I could see was my Incredible Bulk.

I did the tests way back in October. After three weeks, I finally got my test results from BP.
The good news is, I’m still healthy overall.
The bad news is, my report card has got HEAPS more red marks this time round.

In short:

  • My red blood counts are too low
  • My cholestrol levels are too high
  • I seem to have contracted some sorta stomach bacteria called H Pylori.

Nothing that a few vitamins and antibiotics can’t fix.

And I really have to cut down on those butter sotongs to push my cholestrol levels back down.

The next ten pages consists of my physical test results and various images from the ultrasound scan. It was interesting, although I can’t really tell what is what.
The only thing I managed to identify was the ultrasound scan of my balls. Because I know what they look like.

They are really as big as coconuts.

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Singapore Marathon 2008

I THOUGHT I should’ve learnt by now.

“How well you prepare for the marathon is as important as how fast you run it.” I know.
The Singapore Marathon was the third full 42km marathon I competed in.
The first one I did was in Kuala Lumpur. My preparation was bad. I began training only 2 weeks before the race, and I completed it in 6 hours 30 minutes.
The second marathon I did was in Penang. My preparation was also bad. I remember sleeping only 2 hours the night before and suffered a bad cramp very early into the race. My finishing time was 6 hours 25 minutes. A slight improvement.

Compared to the first two, my preparation leading up to race day was considered not bad lah.
I had begun training like four months before the race. Somemore I trained like crazy.
People in Kuching are so used to seeing this fat boy running by the side of the road sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late in the evening, no matter if it’s rain or shine.
Bloody hell, I stuck to my training plan so closely that I even packed my running shoes in my luggage and forgot to pack my underwear.
The only thing setback I faced this year was my workload in the office which has increased tremendously. My sleeping pattern had gone completely out of whack. Still, I always made the conscious effort to dedicate some hours for my run.

Four months of heavy training and it has finally come down to this.
I woke up at 3:30am on Sunday, ate some multigrain bread and bananas before making my way down to the Esplanade. Once again, I checked through all my essentials I had in my bag. Shoes – checked. Vaseline – checked. Energy gels – checked.
As I boarded on the bus going towards Esplanade, I put on my earphones and took out my iPod.

Only to see this.

I had done everything right up to this point. EVERYTHING. And with 50 minutes left till the race starts, my iPod ran out of juice!?
Why am I so stupid I accidentally left it playing overnight!

The door on Singaporean buses has a cock

Shit lah. I needed my iPod to run. Without my iPod, I dunno what the hell I’m gonna do.
No iPod didn’t just mean no music.
No iPod also means no pedometer, no clock, no motivation towards the latter part of the race when I definitely would need something to take the pain off my mind.
I specifically loaded up Kanye West’s Stronger for that purpose, and bloody hell I’m gonna lose that too.

I was pretty much left with two choice: (1) Take a cab back to my guesthouse and miss out on the start of the race, or (2) Run without an iPod.

I chose to (2) Run without an iPod. God help me.
How the heck I’m gonna keep myself mentally entertained for the next 6 hours is gonna be fun. NOT. *Borat accent*

As I got to the Esplanade, I faced another challenge.

The Singapore Marathon is the biggest race I have ever took part in. There were 50,000 runners competing in various categories, with 15,000 alone doing the full 42km marathon.
It was so dark and there were so many people that I couldn’t even see where the starting point is.
It didn’t help that there are so many ERP gantries in Singapore. And ALL of them look like the damn starting point!

Damn tulan.
I was starting to worry a bit when so long after the gun went off, I still hadn’t see the starting line. I was so slow to start, the Kenyan runners were already running back the opposite direction BEFORE I even reached the starting line.

Err… sorry a bit hard to see them.

Anyhow, I finally managed to cross the starting line and worked myself up into rhythm.
I’m in the race!

The Singapore marathon starts at the Esplanade, loops around Temasek Tower, back past Suntec City, up to the Golden Mile Complex, then all the way down the entire stretch of East Coast Park before turning back to City Hall.

Even without music playing in my ears, I thought I was doing quite well. I didn’t have my iPod or watch so I can’t tell the time.
Instead, I used the clock on my camera to keep track of my progress.

I ran past the gorgeous Singapore Flyer early in the race. The next time I saw it would be in full daylight, towards the end.
The first 10km, I finished it in 1 hr 17 minutes – just in time for the break of dawn.

No aches in the ankle, no stiches on the sides, no soreness in the muscle. I was running not too fast and not too slow. In fact, I was still on track to finish the race within my target time of 5 hr 30 mins.

Running in Singapore was quite an experience.
There were so many runners and was constantly surrounded by people. Unlike in KL where I was always one of the last few, I never felt alone here.
But having many people sucks also because I kept having to avoid bumping into people. It’s not easy resisting the urge to whack them slow-walking idiots not considerate enough to move to the side and let others overtake.

Everytime we approached a drink station, it’s a total nightmare. Whole bunch of human bodies just swooped in to grabbed all the drinks.
But then I saw something funny. Some runners were actually queuing up to use the loo!
How law-abiding are these Singaporeans! Marathon racing time is way too precious to be spent queuing for toilets. At every other race I’ve been to, people just don’t care and pee behind a tree.
Not like the police gonna run 42km to catch them.

By the time I reached the 21km halfway point, I was clocking in at 2 hr 53 mins. That’s a tad slower than the Borneo Marathon I did a few weeks ago. I needed to pick up my pace.

I was beginning to feel a bit sore in my legs. The volunteers passed me some analgesic gel to rub on my knees, but that only helped temporarily.
To take my mind off the pain, I observed the people around me.

It’s nice to see there were so many people of all ages, races, shapes and sizes doing the marathon.
There were 15,000 of us doing the full marathon. Most of us weren’t expecting to win anything, because we weren’t competing against each other. We’re competing against ourselves.

A majority of runners there are lean and mean.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only fat one doing the full 42km. There were plenty others bigger, fatter and meatier than I am, and they’re all doing the full 42km!

The girls who ran in the marathon were quite good too. And dammit, they’re yummy. Who needs iPods when you got so many girls in short shorts?
When you’re tired, your mind can’t think straight and every girl in short shorts looks pretty.
Even Rafidah Aziz can look like Amber Chia.

I am Amber Chia!

Truth is, I had never seen so many sweet sexy women in pony-tails and mid-riff baring outfits blazing past me. I couldn’t even keep up with them. Whoever thought Singaporean girls are all lazy princessy barbie dolls waiting for the next angmoh to pick them up have obviously got it wrong.
Those girls were really good.
They must’ve got their training from walking through all those shopping malls.

I was happily running along when disaster suddenly struck at the 28km mark.
The first sign of cramp creeped up on my right knee. It was a mild one. I ignored it, hoping it’ll go away eventually.

No such luck. Instead the cramp on my knees spreaded out to my ankles, my calves and thighs. With every step, the pain got worse and worse. I wanted to go on, but I couldn’t.
It was almost like that Christina Aguilera song. My heart is saying let’s go, but my body is saying NO!

I concluded that I have officially “hit the wall”.
It was truly a depressing sight looking at the people around.
By the time I passed 33km, everyone around me was slowing down to a slow lazy crawl. Some were even lying down flat on the side of the road, preferring to forfeit the race even when it’s only less than 10km to go. Nobody had any motivation left in them.

He was so hungry, his ass started eating his shorts

I tried to stay positive despite all these, pushing and limping and trotting along. I overtook whole bunch of people albeit at a much slower speed. My leg muscles begged for mercy and all I wanna do is go home.
With the pain, the cramp and the fatigue overtaking my entire body, my mental willpower was the only thing that kept me going.

I kept on running and running. And somewhere along the side of the road, a supporter smiled at me and held up a sign.
It read:

Almost instantly, tears began flowing down my cheeks. I was so moved that I cried like an idiot for the next 20 minutes, wiping tears off along with my sweat.
Of course, those were merely words of encouragement meant for the marathon runners. But I was touched because it related so well to the situation I am in.
I was extremely depressed after having ended a stressful relationship where my pride was constantly being assaulted. Seeing that sign gave me the self-confidence I needed so much to move on with my life.

I knew I’ve missed my target when by 5 hr 30 mins, I was still at the Singapore F1 race track.
It’s 3km left to go.
As more and more runners fell around the F1 race track like crashed cars, I gritted my teeth, forcing myself to take that one step at the time.

“Go-go! Go-go!” I chanted as I jogged.
I imagined myself as Lewis Hamilton driving a Ferrari. Exept I was probably more like Lewis Hamilton driving a Kancil.

After what seemed like eternity, the end was finally in sight. From 42km, now it’s just 200m left to go.
The crowd was cheering. The music was pumping. A rush of adrenaline took over me as I surged towards the finishing line.
And I crossed at 6 hr 15 min.

YES! I have completed the Singapore International Marathon!
Oh how I love the feeling of crossing the finishing line after 42km. This never gets old. 🙂

I ran 42km and all I got was a medal and this lousy T-shirt!
Just kidding, I still love you adidas.

There were actually heaps of freebies given out to the race finishers. I grabbed my free 100 Plus and nutrition bars, then went straight off to the massage tent.

The masseuses in the massage tent are all volunteers. Their humility warmed my hearts.
Imagine 15,000 marathoners, all smelly and dirty after running 42km getting into your tent, and then you’re tasked with rubbing and kneading their sweaty (and in my case, hairy) legs.
You can’t get anymore humble than that as a human being.

Eventhough the massage hurt so much worse than the marathon!
I was over the moon that I finally completed the marathon in one of my favourite cities in the world.
Of course I’m disappointed that I missed out on my target. But hey, at least I improved my time, eventhough it’s just 10 minutes. Next marathon, I’d do better!
I can’t write a blog entry on my marathon race without at least mentioning Eddie, a friend of who motivated me to compete in my first marathon three years ago. That marathon changed me as a person.
Thank you again, Eddie. 🙂 Next time I’ll heed your advice and not wear new shoes one week before my race!
Eddie has been trying to get me to sign up for his favourite event – the Los Angeles marathon. He even gave me a shirt that says “LA Marathon In Training”.
But I don’t think I’m ready for such a challenge yet!
Personally, I’d wanna first achieve 42km in less than 6 hours before buying myself a ticket to L.A. Perhaps I’ll target to run with Eddie in L.A. in two years time. 2010, my friend! 🙂
Meanwhile, I’m content with getting this for completing the Singapore Marathon.

You can’t appreciate how beautiful this medal is until you’ve done 42km.
To conclude this entry, here’s a video I made from my journey through the Lion City.

For now, I’ll take a long good rest, drink some Guinness, and look out for another city to do my next marathon in 2009.

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Birthday Dinner At Jarrod & Rawlins

(Disclosure: I was commissioned for this food-tasting, but I paid for the food myself and the following are my honest and independently written review on their menu.)
After a birthday dinner at home that went awry, I celebrated my birthday again with a few of my close friends in KL.

Dear friends,
I am getting old. To celebrate the occassion you are cordially invited to come to my birthday dinner cum tasting… errr… I mean, birthday dinner cum FOOD tasting at Jarrod & Rawlins.
The chef will be preparing several Guinness-infused dishes that’s not publicly available yet. There will also be lots of “sausages” and “stuffed pies” to go around, so remember bring along an empty stomach.
P/S. Kenny Sia practices a “No Birthday Gifts Required” policy, so please don’t feel obligated to bring any gifts. Like they say, “it’s the thought that counts”. So as long as you got think, then good enough liaw!

Ahhh… Jarrod & Rawlins.
Sounds like a law firm. Looks like a law firm. But 100% confirm it’s not a law firm.
Instead, Jarrod & Rawlins is a very popular chain of restaurants in KL best known for two things: Wine and PORK.
Ask any KL-ite who loves their pork and they surely would’ve heard of this place.

Jarrod & Rawlins’ Ampwalk Mall outlet

They got five outlets throughout the Klang Valley.
The original one started at Desa Sri Hartamas a year ago. From there, the gastronomic partnership between wine expert Jarrod Check and fine meat lover Denis Rawlins sprouted out four other outlets at Damansara Heights, Ampwalk Mall, 1Utama and Capsquare, with many more to come.

The concept behind Jarrod & Rawlins is not gonna be what everyone is used to. It ain’t your run-of-the-mill restaurant. It’s more like that Britney song. “It’s not a pub… not quite a deli.”
J&R is not quite a restaurant, not quite a deli, not quite a cafe yet not quite a pub. It is a little bit of everything, banged up and mashed together, and somehow just… worked.
Anyway if you’ve been to Mr Ho’s Fine Foods, the concept is similar. Except J&R did a much better job!

In most outlets, they have a separated area for pubs where the ambience is a little more casual and more conducive to watching sports on the big screen while drinking beer freshly poured from the tap.
Every outlet has a deli where you can pick your meat and cheese from the glassed showcase.

There are more sausages than a men’s changing room, and they come in all kinda shapes, sizes and flavours.

You can choose anything you want, and it doesn’t always have to be the biggest sausage. Because you know, it ain’t the size that matters. It’s how you cook it!

You can order the meat straight from the deli and cook them at home yourself. Otherwise, the more popular option is to pay a little extra and have the chef do it for you.
There are tables for those who wanna dine in. In their Damansara Heights outlet, they even have a posh little restaurant area for those who prefer to be part of the discerning crowd and wine and dine on white cloth-covered tables while listening to Kenny G.

It’s almost a punishable crime if you go to J&R without ordering the pork bellies, chorizos and dynamite sausages in a platter. These babies are seriously damn addictively good. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
You know the food is good when you have four skinny girls at the table and they’re the first to finish off everything. And then they still asked for more.

For starters, I ordered the Atlantic prawns and avocado (RM18). Honestly though, it wasn’t that good. I’ve had better prawns at seafood restaurants elsewhere. But it’s healthy dish, so no complaints there.

Nicole had the caramelised pear and walnuts on gorgonzola (RM18). Not bad. A nice pure vegeterian dish to warm up her stomach for the humungous meat feast later on.

The salmon carpaccio and aragula salad with Guinness wasabi dressing is deliciously light and fantastic.
It’s from their Christmas menu, available only from their Ampwalk Mall outlet. These are wafer-thin slices that’s cut just enough to tantalise the tastebuds without filling you up too much. The salmon is topped with salad, olive oil, crouton and capers, then glazed all over with Guinness wasabi.
Quite a nice touch on an otherwise boring dish of salmon sashimi.

For the main course, Lainey ordered black cod fish with lemon butter on spinach and potatoes (RM48).
Yee Hou opted for the pork cumberland sausage (RM28).

… which look like this!
KY said it looked like something he made last night. Including the sauce.
Despite how dodgy it looked, it must’ve tasted good. Yee Hou gobbled up everything nothing left to spare.

Ringo went for the grilled king tiger prawns with poached asparagus (RM60).
It’s yummy. But for a portion that small, I won’t say it’s worth the RM60 price tag.
Of course, that dish was just the odd one out. As most J&R regulars would tell you, portions in this restaurant are usually very large.
I had the crispy Guinness pork knuckle for mains. But even when the wait staff had warned me, I had no clue how huge it is until it arrived.

Man, I thought I knew what big was. Everytime I look into my pants, I SEE BIG.
But this!?

There’s tall, grande and venti. And then there’s the Jarrod & Rawlins’ pork knuckles. It was so freaking enormous that I suspected must’ve cut it out from one of Godzilla’s legs
Seriously, I’ve never eaten anything THAT size before. There’s enough meat to give my doctor nightmares, enough crispy pork skin to make my cholestrol level shoots through the roof and enough fat to power a diesel truck.
It is also one of the most sublime pork dishes I have ever had in a long time.

You know they got it right when everytime you cut into the meat, you can hear the beautiful crackling of the crispy skin as it falls away from the bone. Then when you dip it into the sauce and put it in your mouth, you’re in heaven.
The dried serano ham served with the dish ain’t too bad, but it’s the savoury sauce that made it work.

I’m not sure what they put in it there, but we couldn’t stop ourselves from stuffing them down our throats like a pack of hungry wolves.
This dish is part of J&R’s Christmas menu, and I highly recommend it for all self-confessed carnivores out there. If Jarrod & Rawlins is pork lovers’ definition of Heaven, then the crispy Guinness pork knuckles must be their Fountain of Youth.

Because everyone was stuffed to the max, we ordered three different cakes to share: the Macaroon Banana, the Warm French Chocolate and the Apple Cinnamon (RM16 each).
I didn’t even get to try the cakes because they were all gone before I had a spoon of each. Dammit, I’m the birthday boy!

We also had the mixed berries compote with Guinness reduction, vanilla gelato and crushed pistachios from the Christmas menu. Magnificent.

I realised how busy I am lately that I’m begin to lose touch with people that matter to me.
My status on MSN has been on “Appear Offline” mode since like forever. The healthy social life I used to have had all but disappeared. These days, I have been online so infrequently and spending so little time with friends that even simple moments like these, when we gather around the table and talk cock over good food and Guinness Draught that I truly appreciate.

Eventhough it’s just simple birthday dinner, we have our moments to remember by. Like how halfway through our food, JoyceTheFairy interjected everyone and said, “Eh I ask you all har. What’s the meaning of the acronym LMAO?” And we showed her what LMAO is by literally LMAO-ing at her. Such great friends we are.
I’m glad Joyce could join us because I knew how much she loved J&R. She had to come late after running around the whole day doing MIFA. By the time she arrived, she was starving and yet the first thing she ordered is not food, but a creamy pint of Guinness Draught.

That’s what you call RESPECT.

The list of Jarrod & Rawlins outlets can be found here. The pork here is seriously good stuff and if you’re feeling particularly hungry or just wanna spoil yourself, I highly recommend the dynamite sausages and the crispy Guinness pork knuckle from their Christmas menu.

Jarrod & Rawlins’ Christmas menu is only available from their outlet in Ampwalk Mall, Jalan Ampang from now until the end of the year. And just like Delaney’s Irish Pub, every order of the main course comes with a free pint of Guinness Draught, and a voucher for a RM12 discount off three pints of the black beer and a limited edition miniature glass freebie for the next visit.
But of course, good food comes with a price. The total bill for twelve of us came up to this much.

First time ever in my life I footed a dinner bill FOUR DIGITS LONG.
Aiya, it’s my birthday after all. Considering the quality of the food, sizable portions, amount of beer and the good times we had, less than a hundred bucks each for all twelve people is still okay lah! 🙂

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