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ADV: The Year 2020 According to PEMANDU

ADV: The Year 2020 According to PEMANDU

Now, let’s get the obvious out of the day.

This blog entry is sponsored and paid for by PEMANDU, the Performance Management And Delivery Unit, an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia. Although sponsored and tagged with an “ADV”, all opinion expressed in this entry is of my own.

I recognize some people who read this blog may be supportive of the government of the day, and some may support the opposition. Let me just say that this blog entry endorses neither. This entry is simply a collection of thoughts of what Malaysia was like before, what direction our country is moving into and what our country will become in the year 2020.

As citizens of Malaysia, we sometimes can be very critical of our own country. Yes, we love the food, the shopping, the culture and the low costs of living in Malaysia. But the biggest gripe in our country by far, is our low income.

I know this first-hand.

7 years ago, when I moved back from Perth to Kuching, I took a HUGE salary pay cut of up to 70%. In fact, my salary was so low, I was earning salary lower than a bus driver from China working in Singapore.

It didn’t used to be like this before.

Between the 1960s and 80s, Malaysia was a strong developing country on par with countries like Singapore and Japan.

My late father often told me the story of Singapore rise to prominence.

30 years ago, Singapore was just a fishing village no richer than Malaysia. Now, they are leaps and bounds ahead of us in income, to the point that Singapore now has the most number of millionaires per capita and the third richest country in the world.

Meanwhile, an IT Manager in Kuching is earning less than a fresh graduate in Australia.

How did we slip so bad? I think you know, I know.

But is it too late to make amends? Is it too late to become a high-income nation? Is it too late for Malaysia achieve developed country status by year 2020 as Mahathir envisioned?

Well, PEMANDU didn’t seem to think so. Which is why the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) is envisioned.

Yes, we hear about the ETP a lot. But what exactly is ETP?

Simply put, it is a series of projects initiated by PEMANDU that are designed to create jobs, improve quality of life and raise the overall income of Malaysian citizens.

Some projects are well-publicized, and we knew about them already.

The Klang Valley MRT.

The Iskandar Johor region, together with its EduCity, LegoLand and Pinewood Iskandar Studios development.

Building of pedestrian friendly footpaths throughout KL City.

Some other projects, we either don’t know a lot about, or are still work in progress.

Such as…

Improving the regional distribution network for Malaysia’s electronics industry.

Phasing out the incandescent bulbs in place for LED.

The building of a high speed railway linking Penang and KL to Singapore in 90 minutes.

And of course, there are many, many more such projects being carried out right now as part of the ETP.

Like it or not, our lives will be impacted by these projects. The way we live, work and play will all change.

So, what are we gonna be like in Year 2020?

To answer that question, the team behind PEMANDU created an online personality test, so
we can experience for ourselves what things would be like in the future.

For example, if I own a house in the future.

And I fill it up with an air-conditioning, an energy-efficient fridge and a hybrid car.

I would be scoring some good rebates and be exempted from paying import duty on my hybrid car.

Or, if I need to get around KL.

I can save money and avoid the traffic jams by taking the trains.

Even the heavily polluted Klang River will be transformed into a vibrant waterfront.

At the end of the test, I’m told I’m an "Early Burt".

I find this most amusing. Possible career paths: Famous viral video blogger.

Watch out, PSY.

Wanna know your results? Try out for yourselves at


29 things I did when I was 29.


1. Received 5 stalks of roses.

Then got blindfolded, bundled into my own apartment and had the most romantic 29th birthday dinner intricately planned by my girlfriend. 🙂


2. Began my adventure fleshing out my bare apartment.

Buying an apartment is only part of the cost. A huge part of the expenses is fleshing it out with bits and pieces of furniture.

I’m proud to say that the first piece of "furniture" I got was actually a super-comfy large-sized bean bag sponsored by Doof!


3. Won an award for Best Micro-Blog at the Nuffnang Blog Awards 2011. – So much love in 140 characters or less.



4. Started my Invisalign treatment with to straighten my teeth. Last time my teeth looked like this.

And now my teeth looks like this!


Still got about half a year left to go, though.


5. Gave a kiss to this pale ass dummy.

Thank goodness I got a First Aid certificate from the Red Crescent in return.


6. Spent Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend at the upmost luxurious beach resort I have ever stayed at in my whole life.

It’s called Sri Panwa, and it’s located at Cape Panwa in Phuket, Thailand.

To call it a hotel or a resort would be an insult. Sri Panwa is a village and a Hollywood celebrity favourite – Jeremy Renner and Gordon Ramsay all stayed here before. Room rates normally go for USD2,000 a night, but if you buy it through Luxe Nomad, the rates can go to as low as RM800 a night.


7. Won the top prize at an entrepreneur development challenge organized by MillionaireAsia magazine.

The prize was a RM20,000 Lalique trophy and 2 directors box tickets at Liverpool Football Club’s stadium. But the real prize I got was some extremely valuable advice from my mentor Marcus Luer of Total Sports Asia.

When I put his advice into practice, it really enabled my company Level Up Fitness to grow.


8. Made a wish and released a floating lantern into the air.

Thank you, Club Med Phuket!


9. Saw the Taj Mahal.


Seeing Taj Mahal means I have successfully visited half of the New 7 Wonders of the World.


10. Witnessed the cremations at the holy Ganges River of India.

Varanasi is a pain to get to, but it is one the most unique and unusual sightings in the world.

I spent only half a day there. No, it’s not the cleanest cities in the world, but the experience was so much more worth it than the crowds at the Taj Mahal in Agra.


11. Slept in an overnight train in India.

Despite so many horror stories I hear about trains in India, my experience was nothing like it at all. Although it was rather cramped, the train was extremely clean and I felt safe the whole way through.

The local middle-class Indians were quite surprised to see a Chinese face amongst the crowd and attempted to have conversation with me despite the language barrier.


Unfortunately, I smelled like coconut oil for the next 24 hours.


12. Had my first volunteer travel experience.

With my dentists Dr Melissa and Dr Foo, we participated in Operation Smile: Vietnam.

Volunteer Travel is so different but so spiritually fulfilling from all my other travel experiences. We went up to central Vietnam and even travelled to Vinh Long, a tiny village deep in interiors of the Mekong Delta just to give dental treatment to the local kids. There really is no better way to experience a foreign land’s local culture and not just spend money and buy souvenirs, but also give back to the local community.


13. Suffered from frequent bouts of excruciating stomach pains.

Went for an ultrasound scan and discovered I have stones in my gallbladder. The pain persisted for the next 3 months, but I changed my diet to mostly vegetables and water. Eventually the pain stopped (but I think the gallstone is still inside there.)


14. Facing increasing competition in my business!

Before I started Level Up Fitness 3 years ago, there wasn’t much options when it comes to gyms in Kuching. Suddenly, 3 years after I started business, everyone and their doggie wants to run a gym.

Someone told me that to have competition in the business is to have validation that the industry I chose to be in was right. If there were no competition and I was the only player in there, it could only mean that nobody have faith in the industry.

Oh well, bring it on.


15. Became an American Council of Exercise Certified Personal Trainer.

Then trained some of my gym members to run their first half-marathon!


16. In Sri Lanka, climbed a sacred Buddhist / Christian / Hindu / Muslim mountain called Adam’s Peak.

Got a local dog as our guide who followed us from the foot of the mountain all the way up then all the way down.



17. Rode an elephant for the first time.

Got splashed.


18. Stuck my head out of a moving train.

There’s a inexplicable feeling of childlike-glee when you are able to stick your head out a moving train.

I realised I have done a lot of train journeys this year – in India, Sri Lanka, Japan and China.

Nothing comes close to the experience travelling 9 hours by train from Colombo on the west coast of Sri Lanka, to the town of Ella in the mountainous interior. The smiles on the faces of the locals, the ability to access little towns untouched from mass tourism – it all adds flavour to the travel experience.


19. Stuck religiously to my marathon training routine, even throughout all my travels.

I packed my running shoes whenever I go. Some of my training runs took me off the beaten tracks. My running shoes have brought me to places I would never have gone myself and meet people I would never have met otherwise. My most memorable run was through a poor tiny Indian village hidden from the riches of the Taj Mahal.

My girlfriend never understood why I enjoyed running in foreign lands so much until I took her for a run through a tea plantation in Sri Lanka.

Halfway through our run, she was tickled with glee as half of dozen of curious village kids followed her behind, all screaming "HELLO! HELLO!"

I say, don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track when you travel. The enrichment of the soul far outweighs the fear of getting lost or getting mobbed.


20. In Sri Lanka, rode the most crowded local bus I have ever boarded in my life!

I was literally hanging off the side of the sardine-packed bus with one foot in the bus, another inches off the moving road.


21. Signed the papers to open two more outlets of Level Up Fitness!

After three years, it’s time to expand the business.


22. Definitely my biggest source of pride this year.

Ran my sixth full 42km marathon. This time I did it in Gold Coast, Australia and achieved my new personal best of 5 hours 28 mins!

That’s like a full one hour off the first time I did my marathon. My 4 months of religious marathon training has definitely paid off.


23. Dived the Great Barrier Reef.



24. Lost my Australian Permanent Residency.



25. Did an authentic Japanese homestay at a place called Hirayu Onsen, high up in the Japanese Alps.

Using Google Translate, I managed to make my reservation with the homeowner and completed the stay without being able to speak a word of Japanese.

And what a lovely experience it was! We ate the yummiest pieces of Wagyu Beef (called Hida Beef), bathed in an outdoor onsen, and even took the home owner’s dog out for a walk.

Highly recommended!


26. Went hiking in a place high up in the Japanese mountains called Kamikochi.

Saw the most beautiful autumn colours in the nature.


27. Became a calendar model.

Unfortunately it’s not for Men’s Health, but for the Sarawak SPCA to raise funds for an animal shelter.


28. Survived one week in China without getting cheated from the locals.

Considered an achievement because everytime I travel to China, I get cheated by everyone from taxi drivers to market merchants to money changers.

29. Lost 12kg of weight!

No secrets. No shortcuts. Just blood, sweat, tears and no fried food.


Today, I turned 30 years old.

Klipsch Image X7i and S4i Rugged Earphones Review (For The Average Folks)

How the heck do I end up reviewing earphones?

As it turns out, fate has its own funny way figuring into my life.

First things first – let’s put it all out there. I am probably not the best qualified person to review audio products.

I am not an audiophile. I am not a musician. The only thing I am is an average person who believes that music plays a very, very big part of my life.

There are two things that I do more than the average person on the streets.

First, I travel a lot.

Friends tell me that I treat the Airbus like a bus. When you’re stuck in a confined space for at least 2 hours each way, pretty much the only entertainment option you’re stuck with is your iPhone and the music that comes out through it.

Secondly, I do a lot of fitness stuff.

Weights, cardio, running, cycling, marathons. When you’re pounding the pavement every second day, one hour at a time, the quality of music being pumped into your ears plays a very important role in determining whether you’re gonna hit that personal best or not.

So with my qualifications out of the way, let’s get onto how I ended up with this unit.

Many, many years ago, when I got my first iPod, I was dissatisfied with the standard earphones that came with the music player. I bought my first high-end earphones – the SHURE E3C – that serves me pretty well for several years, but costs me something pretty close to the RM1,000 mark.

The SHURE came to its death when I decapitated it one day after I accidentally kiap it between my doors. Saddened at my loss, I went to my trusted earphone supplier Jaben, who introduced me to their hottest seller at the time – the Klipsch Image S4.

Despite costing only RM359, I was amazed that the Klipsch S4 performs on par with many high-end pairs costing many times as much.

And so begun my love story with all things Klipsch. Instantly, I was converted into a happy customer, taking them around the world with me, including the entire 42km course of my Seoul International Marathon last year.

The only thing that sucked about the Klipsch Image S4 was its flimsy little cable that seem to tangle way too easily.

A little over a year after I bought them, my music starts to break when those cables finally gave up on me. Thankfully, the Klipsch S4 came with an exceptional TWO YEAR warranty.

I took them back to Jaben in Singapore, who then re-directed me to Klipsch’s regional distributor Tat Chuan Acoustics at The Adelphi building. And that was when I was introduced to their ridiculously superb warranty policy.

Rather than repairing my existing earphones as most would assume, Tat Chuan offered to replace my Klipsch earphones with a completely brand new boxed unit!

I took the opportunity to upgrade to a Klipsch Reference S4i, which I still love and use until today. But really, Tat Chuan’s replacement policy was THAT simple! No questions asked, and I was in and out literally in mere minutes.

Fast forward to last week.

Not knowing that I am already an existing Klipsch customer, Tat Chuan e-mailed me out of the blue to ask if I would like to review their newly released earphones.

At this point, even if they were to ask me to dance around naked with Klipsch earphones wrapped around my body, I would gladly do so.

Much to the relief of humanity at large, their request was much milder than that.

I was given review units of their first ceramic earphones – the Klipsch Image X7i, as well as the new Rugged version of their best-selling Klipsch Image S4i for a test drive.

The Klipsch Image S4i Rugged looks as if it was built exactly for my kinda lifestyle.

With a weather-proof design and rubberised coating from the gold-plated plug all the way to the those oval eartips, this set of earphones look as if they’re ready for a boxing match.

The reinforced cables is a welcome improvement over the original. Apart from being more durable, they are also less likely to tangle up.

Although not necessary, the S4i Rugged comes with an oversized 3-button inline remote control for easy control of the iPhone or iPod during exercise. Some may find this a convenience, although I’m sure there will be others who find it a weighty annoyance.

The tiny little hole behind is the multi-directional microphone – useful for answering phone calls from your mom asking if you’re coming home for dinner while you’re halfway gasping for air.

Though not made for the swimming pool, the S4i Rugged is touted to withstand extreme outdoor activities. Sweaty ear canals popping those ear buds out during exercise should be the least of your concerns.

In any case, the S4i Rugged comes bundled with 4 different sized buds to suit all kinds of ears from humans and Yoda.

As usual, noise-isolation is excellent. Not a single baby cry was heard on my flight from Singapore to Kuching.

Elsewhere, the original Klipsch Image S4’s aluminium tin can carrying case is now replaced with a nylon zipper case.

I would have preferred it came with a carabineer hook, but that’s of tiny concern. At least the earphones come now with a choice of red, yellow, orange or blue instead of just black or white.

Sound quality-wise, there are no surprises. The S4i Rugged sounds exactly the same as the original S4. They are after all, made using the same internal organs.

For users of el-cheapo earphones, the sound quality is gonna be immediately noticeable when you switch to using a Klipsch S4i. The extra ruggedness is just a bonus for the active ones among us.

Though some may find the sound on the low-end a bit too emphasized, runners would definitely appreciate the S4i’s punchy bass response when matching their running pace to the music’s bpm.

At the premium end of the spectrum, is the Klipsch Image X7i – the company’s first ceramic earphones.

Price-wise, the X7i are cost nearly twice as much as the S4i Rugged and are designed to compete directly against SHURE and Beats by Dr Dre’s premium end of the price spectrum.

Honestly speaking, when I tried out the X7i at the Tat Chuan showroom, I was a tad unimpressed. Playing from my iPhone, Coldplay sounded a little "broken"  and the ear buds kept falling out of my ear canals annoyingly.

I thought they couldn’t justify charging that much for what they say is a premium set of earphones, but I took the review unit back home for a spin anyway.

If anything, the X7i certainly possess that air of sophistication. When knocked against each other, the ceramic cans produce a satisfying "click". Laser-etched logo its sleek surface completes its sexy look.

The 3-button in-line remote feels a little lighter here. Flat cables reminded me somewhat of Dr Dre earphones, but otherwise proves to be sufficiently durable and tangle-free.

The box came with a soft-carrying case, clip, airplane adapter and FIVE differently sized ear tips.

That’s convenient. I simply swapped out the default ear tips on the X7i with a pair of double-flanged ones that fit me, press play on Sebastian Ingrosso’s Lose My Mind and WHOA MOMMA!

It was like being transported from my desk chair to a live concert. Without the screaming fans. And the jostling. And the sweat. And the body odour.

Every deep bass, every crisp treble was reproduced perfectly. The music sounded unbelievably life-like and AMAZING.

How did something that sounded so bad in the showroom turned out so mindblowingly awesome on my computer?

My guess is that the X7i is so good at picking up tiny musical details that if the music source I played was crap, that crap became multiplied many folds through the X7i. That was exactly the case with the MP3s on my iPhone.

When playing lossless music on my computer and listening through the Klipsch X7i, the music was so real I literally had goosebumps on my skin.

Available now, the Klipsch Image S4i Rugged and X7i costs RM469 and RM829 respectively!

ADV: Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Singapore

I’ve always wondered how the word “hospitality” come about.

The word “hospitality” is clearly derived from the word “hospital”, yet for some reason it is the hotel industry that seems to use that word more than hospitals.

When you think of the word “hospitality”, you think of a night at a nice intimate luxury hotel, where your every whims and fancy are being taken care of.

We’re talking soft comfortable beds with high thread counts, breakfast in bed, powerful hot showers, and a little space for privacy when you need it.

But when you think of the word “hospitals”, more often than not it is the complete opposite loh!

You think of stressful doctors in white jackets, crowded patient wards, family members sleeping on the floor, overworked nurses in scrubs.

You think of tears, fear, pain.

And death.

Isn’t it ironic that two words that sounded so similar can conjure up such completely different images in our heads?

Which is why when I received the media invitation to attend the sleepover at Parkway Group’s new Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Novena, Singapore, honestly I had similar doubts in my mind.

Having spent many cold and lonely nights at the hospital with my father in his final days, spending a night over at a hospital is no where near the top of the list of things I look forward to.

‘Cos seriously, how nice can a spending a night at a hospital possibly be?

This is the same question Dr Lee Hong Huei, CEO of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital asked himself when he embarked on this grand project to design this new hospital.

What can a hospital do to make going to the hospital, not really like going to the hospital? And the first thing he did was throw out the conventional rule book on hospital designs, and start from absolute scratch.

It begins with a few questions.

What if hospitals are designed like hotels?


What if hospital food actually tastes good?


What if long queues in hospitals can be made a thing of the past?


What if we can heal people without hurting the Earth?

After 23 months of construction, Singapore’s first private hospital in more than 30 years opened on the 1st July 2012.

Just how closely does Parkway’s newest hospital resemble a hotel?

As I found out, it starts right at the lobby.

No glassed up counter. No plastic waiting chairs.

Just a clean reception counter with a front desk receptionist ready to point me to the right direction.

Suddenly, staying overnight in a hospital doesn’t sound so bad.

But it gets better.

None of the staff we met while we’re there were wearing those stereotypical white coats. They figured psychologically, some patients may have a fear of hospital for that reason. So as part of their uniform, staff at Mount Elizabeth Novena actually required to wear business suits.

I was escorted to my room on the 11th floor of the hospital where a line of nurses was there ready to greet me.

My room was a Deluxe Room. As is all the case with all the patient rooms throughout this hospital, it has a single bed in there – which means I did not have to share the room with anybody.

From the design, it’s difficult to tell that I was actually in a hospital. The only thing that reminded me I was in a hospital, was the bed with lots of buttons on them.

Even then, the bed linen was one with a high thread count, and really, really comfortable to sleep in!

I made a mental note to play with the hospital bed later.

Right from the bed, I can look out through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The windows cleverly positioned to let plenty of natural light to come through.

There’s a sofa, convertible into a sofa bed in case patients have loved ones who would like to stay over to take care of them. Right under the sofa are 2 HUGE drawers which the nurses say are “very useful for putting away your shopping bags”

Well, we’re in Singapore after all!

Then there’s the TV – which is not just any ordinary TV but a SMART TV.

Apart from the usual 361 TV channels (dunno how many TV channels Singapore has now), the TV is also where the patient can surf the web, browse through Facebook and Twitter…

Or even playing Angry Birds.

‘cos nothing says “Get Well Soon” better than smashing a bunch of feathers into the wall.

There’s a minibar with complimentary healthy drinks, ie. no beer.

Finally, there’s a bathroom, which is unlike any hospital bathrooms I have ever seen before.

Dr Lee said that majority of falls in hospitals resulted from patients going to the bathroom. As part of the safety features that prevent falls, all rooms are designed such that patients take the fewest steps possible from the bed to the bathroom.

And what a kickass bathroom it is.

We’re talking powerful overhead showers, amenities from luxury UK brand ABAHNA and my personal favourite – a Japanese-style electronic toilet seat that heats your butt up when you sit on it and spray water to your butthole when you’re done making your chocolate cake!

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, check this out.

The controls for the electronic toilet seat…

… can be taken out!


What purpose it serves, I have absolutely no idea. The only possible reason I could think of is when you wanna prank on an unsuspecting friend sitting on the toilet bowl.


I later found out that the Deluxe Room I was in was just one of the 4 types of patient rooms available at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.

Top of the line are the ultra-exclusive 3 Regal Suites truly fit for a King.

Royalty do fall sick too, and when they do, they normally go to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore to receive treatment.

Each suites comes with it’s own pantry, dining area,  living room, 2 separate bedrooms, full butler service and of course – a cool price tag of S$12,888 a night!

Even if you get a heart attack when you receive your bill, don’t worry!

The doctors at Mt Elizabeth all very good one.

Suddenly, the term “getting hospitalized” don’t sound so bad anymore.

After leaving my bags where I’ll be spending the night, we were ushered out for a tour of the hospital facilities. When we visited, the hospital has yet to open up to the public, so we can actually wander throughout the hallways.

Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital boasts many medical advancements – some of which are the first of its kind in Singapore or Asia.

Everything, from the service hallways hidden from the public, to therapeutic lavender scents, to the multitude of paperless check-in counters located throughout different sections of the hospitals, are designed for complete patient privacy and to reduce waiting time to as little as possible.

The Accidents & Emergency Department opens 24 hours and is equipped with everything from a standard day ward to a full-featured ICU room.

Mentally-ill ICU patient not included.


Operating theatres are all equipped with shadow-free LED light required by surgeons to carry out procedures to surgical precision.

Mount Elizabeth Novena is the first private hospital in Singapore to utilize a hybrid operating theatre.

With traditional operating theatres, if a surgeon performs a minimally-invasive keyhole surgery on a patient’s hear, had something gone complicated, the doctor had to unhook everything and move him to another operating theatre to do an open heart surgery.

There’s lots of valuable time lost in this transition, which in a medical situation could mean lost lives.

In this hybrid operating theatre, everything can be done at the same place.

The CT Scan rooms have soothing pictures mounted on the ceilings to calm patients.

I actually told Mount Elizabeth Novena that if I were the patient lying down on the machine, looking up at picture makes it seem like I was being buried alive…

Well, they promised me they would change the picture eventually.

The pride and joy of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital is Asia’s first Biograph mMR.

The mMR combines Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) in a single machine.

Anyone who had undergone MRI or PET procedures before knows how scary entering a tunnel can be. The experience not only screws with your head, harmful radiation from multiple sessions could potentially screw up the body.

The mMR gives a complete picture in just one scan, reducing examination time and any harm it may cause on your body.


By now, everyone in the media contingent was mighty impressed. By the time we were ushered to the hospital’s cafeteria for dinner, any pre-conception about the palatability of hospital food are gone.

Yes, even hospital food – the bane of all overnight hospital patients – are carefully thought out.

As conversations flow that evening with doctors and the CEO, plates of Omega-3 Salmon Salad with Citrus Caviar and Steamed Hong Kong Style “Jade Cod”, came out to entertain our tummies.

If it weren’t for the cafeteria style seating, I would have sworn we were dining in a gourmet restaurant.

I retired to my room that evening with a full stomach and a happy smile on my face.

But of course… since I’m staying in a patient ward and not a hotel room, I could not resist the temptation playing with my hospital bed.


This is Kenny sleeping.


Kenny sleeping high.


Kenny sitting low.


Kenny Sia cannot decide whether to sleep or sit.


Kenny squashed up by the bed.


Kenny on an incline.


Kenny on a decline.






Kenny gone crazy in ICU liaw.

Success Rosmah

“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has called on all Malaysians to support Datuk Lee Chong Wei in his efforts to lift the first Olympics gold medal for the country.

As a show of support, his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor will be flying to London on Saturday night.”


Sometimes I wish I was Najib’s wife too.

My Gallbladder

Today marks 3 months since I last experienced a painful gallstone attack.

Not only did my adherence to a healthy eating keep my gallstone attacks under control, I lost a whopping 11kg in the process.

When I first found out that I had gallstones in my system, every single doctor I met asked me to cut out my gallbladder. They said my gallbladder is a not an important organ and I could live without it.

If I don’t cut it out, I’m gonna continue getting gallstone attacks for the rest of my life.

I may not be the most religious person in the world, but I figured if I don’t need my gallbladder to survive, I wouldn’t have been born with it.

Maybe I should name my gallbladder Gotye.

Now you’re just a gallstone that I used to know!

Club Med Phuket

The first time I stepped into a Club Med was Phuket in 2006.

Back then, I was a young 24-year-old – poor and travelling solo. Due to budgetary constraints, I remembered staying at one of Karon Beach’s many cheap guesthouses surrounded by monstrous high-end luxury resorts.

The largest of these resorts sits right smack on the Karon beach front. I remembered sneaking in past security – just to see how other holidaymakers spent their time. One peek, and immediately knew that it was something different.

It was unlike anything I have ever seen before.

I saw resort staff not only just serving guests – but dancing, playing, drinking together with them. I saw hotel guests wear identical wristbands, as if they all belong to the same tribe, from the same village.

Most significantly, I saw everyone looked so, so happy.

Happiness. Genuine, unadulterated, pure happiness. Such an elusive concept really. But isn’t that what we all seek when we’re on holidays?

There I stood, wide-eyed and stunned by the realization that I was in some kind of a tropical utopia… before a big burly security guard tapped me on my shoulder and chased me away.

Since that incident, I vowed that one day, I would return to Phuket to experience for myself what it’s like to stay in Club Med Phuket.

Fast forward to February 2012, I received an e-mail from Club Med’s office Malaysia. Club Med Phuket had undergone a revamp and was set to unveil its new looks. For the inauguration, they’re inviting media from all over the world to experience it for themselves.

Nothing, except the birth of my first born, would make me miss that opportunity.

I arrived at Club Med Phuket early. The rest of the Malaysian team was delayed ‘cos their flight can’t land due to heavy rain, so I took the opportunity to explore the extensive resort ground – legally this time!

I was pleasantly surprised. Since I last came to Phuket, Club Med has undergone extensive aesthetic improvements in many areas.

From the moment I stepped into the lobby, I was welcomed by antiquated Zen statues, bright Jim Thompson silk cushions and other contemporary Thai elements in their comfortable lobby area.

In an instant, I was transported from the busy Phuket streets into a place of relaxation and indulgence.

Good job to Club Med for ditching those ubiquitous sleepy dark wooden panels in favour of a more airy and colourful vibe.

I love the juxtaposition between darkness and light, raw and sophistication, eastern and western. I later learnt that this design concepts is repeated many times throughout the 61-acre resort.

Adjacent to the lobby is the main lounge, completely re-designed from ground-up. Gone are the crampy little bar on the side against the wall.

In its place is a HUGE island bar, fashioned into a purple mythical swan-like bird in Thai folklore called the Hong. At night, the clever lighting effect makes it look as if the Hong bird is floating in the air.

The lounge is the centrepiece of the resort, overlooking the pool on one side, and the circus trapeze on the other.

Food at Club Med is always an international gourmet experience. Over 90 new Asian-inspired dishes are introduced along with a new dinner buffet, many of them cooked and plated expertly in front of my eyes.

Now, not only are we spoilt for choice when it comes to food, we too have a choice as to which pavilions to enjoy our meals.

Club Med did well by partitioning the main dining area into five distinct pavilions – each evoking one of five human senses – Tastes, Fragrances, Music, Colors and Material. These themes are developed into order to follow the Thai art of living.

The Fragrances pavilion, would feature deco inspired by droplets of essential oil on sticks, for example – while the Music pavilion would feature lamps and tables fashioned after traditional Thai bells and cymbals respectively.

Parents with small children would be happy to chuck their kids at Club Med Phuket’s dedicated Kid’s Palace. This is where children as young as 4 months to 17 years can have access to facilities and activities specially arranged for.

Extra big kids NOT ALLOWED!

The Kid’s Palace is humungous! Bigger than any other kids club in any other resorts I can remember. They even have super shallow swimming pools for them little babies.

Kids would love it here. I can’t say for sure, ‘cos I don’t have kids!

I’m more of a holiday spa person. When I go on holidays, I make an extra effort to check out their resort spa.

The Club Med Spa in Phuket is operated by luxury French brand Payot. Set in a Zen garden, the revamped Club Med Spa features 12 treatment rooms, 2 Turkish baths and a relaxing Jacuzzi. 

It’s all very nice, and very romantic. They even have private yoga lessons for those who want an extra level of wellness.

Unlike the rest of the resort though, spa treatments are not included in the all-inclusive formula of Club Med. I mean, if massages are free, I’m gonna tie myself to them massage beds 24 freakin’ hours a day!

By now, I have waited a good 6 hours already and the Malaysian team still have yet to arrive!

Good thing my bedroom was ready.

Admittedly, Club Med don’t usually pay much attention to their bedrooms below the Honeymoon Suite level, but I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and spacious my Deluxe Room is.

Plush pillows, soft linens, full minibar and a TV. Why would anyone watch TV in Club Med anyway when there’s so much to do outside?

I had the opportunity to glimpse at their Honeymoon Suite.

It’s obviously a lot bigger. Comes with its own bathtub, four-poster bed, coffee machine, fruit basket and a bottle of Moet. So while the standard rooms are sufficient, those who opt for an extra level of indulgence have a choice too.

The Malaysian team finally made their grand arrival at 8:30pm – a four hour delay!

By then I had already explored almost every corner of the newly renovated Club Med Phuket resort on my own.

This is Ji-San, our assigned Gentle Officer (G.O.) from Club Med Malaysia. I kept teasing her that she’s not a real G.O. because all Club Med G.O.s I know are sunshine and happy and can sing and dance, and Ji-San… can do all those, but not very often!

Anyway, Ji-San assured me that if what I had seen so far was impressive, the next 3 days of my stay at Club Med Phuket is gonna blow my socks off.

Well, I can say for sure that I was not disappointed. My socks were blown eight ways to China.

I will write about those 3 amazing days in Club Med Phuket, next!