The “Tidak Apa” Syndrome


To those who are not familiar with this expression, “tidak apa” may mean many things but for me it is loosely translated as “don’t care attitude”. Instead of saying that it is something unique to this country, I would rather say that it is the sick curse in this country. Some people are simply don’t care on their services, the work they do, the quality of products that they produce and on the impact of their shoddy work and attitude on others.

Let’s focus on the quality of goods – the reason for this post this week.

Quality of goods that we have in this country, generally is acceptable provided we are willing to pay the high price for it. There are several occasions when I had bought certain things, it had turned to be poorly made item. Quality control still lacking – either the manufacturer does not have the right quality control processes in place (are they that ignorant?) or they don’t take the trouble to pay that extra money or effort to produce high quality products. You go to any car workshop and when asked for the quality parts, they will usually quote parts from Japan (and sometimes from the US or Germany) but rarely from Malaysia. Parts from Malaysia is usually for those who want to buy things cheap and willing to compromise on quality, so they say and often there is some truth to it. This is the general state of the impression on Malaysian made goods and its quality although in recent years, quite number of manufacturers (such as Proton with their Preve’ model) and distributors have buck up on the level of quality considerably.

Here’s my case at hand:-

1

(Exhibit No 1 – Nano water filter that is made in or with Korean technology and conforms to international standards and member of a number of water quality associations as displayed on the box. Look at the condition of the sealant at the bottom and it is well made)

2

(Exhibit No 2 – the same nano water filter but distributed by a local company with no information as to where it is made and whether it conforms to any standards and it is not hard to see why. Look at the condition of the filter and you may wonder why this has not been rectified before it is sold to the public – lack of quality is too obvious)

I buy water filters for my portable water filters and I usually buy in a bigger numbers as I usually change the filters on a regular basis. Stocking up water filters is also part of my prepping strategy. The first image at the top is what I expect a good water filter should look like and the second image is a water filter distributed by a local distributor. You can see difference in quality immediately and since lately the hypermarket that I usually go to had stocked up only the locally distributed water filters and stop selling the one I usually buy (I seriously do not know why), for that instance I had no choice but use the local distributor’s filter despite the obvious lack of quality and being sold for the same price as the better quality made ones. At the end, it does not really do the job (and is a health hazard) no thanks to the shoddy quality of the sealant and I replaced it within the same day (and dispose off the water filtered). Money and time wasted – so I made my case with the place where I bought the filters and I was assured that the matter would be brought to the attention of the manufacturer. Whether things will change or not, I am not sure but I would not be buying any items from the same distributor until I see a real improvement of quality. But if this “tidak apa” attitude continues, rest assured that locally made products will be looked with grave suspicion.

And that is not the end of “tidak apa” attitude that I recently encountered.  One good place to see the “tidak apa” attitude at work on a regular basis is on Malaysian roads. It does not take long to see idiots changing lanes without indicating and jumping queues without any care of the rest of the motorists patiently waiting in line for their turn. And there is the mother of “tidak apa” attitude when you see a motorcyclist – not the one riding 250cc and above bikes but rather those 100cc – 150 cc puny bikes. A sudden change of lane, riding without any helmets (or license) and against the traffic by these bikers is nothing new and I have written a number of posts on this.

Just a couple days ago, I saw a black Audi driver (plate number WJJ ****) on the fast lane of the highway just after Seremban and was blocking an ambulance on its path. The weather was bad and despite the ambulance blaring siren and strobe lights (a clear cut sign of emergency), the idiot behind the wheels of the black Audi simply drove on the same lane as if he owed the road. Breaking the law and endangering the patient in the ambulance seemed to be last thing in the Audi driver’s mind. I just hope that one day when his loved ones (or himself) is in the ambulance, he will know how precious time is and the need for the ambulance to have its way without an idiot with a “tidak apa” attitude blocking its way.

Then the next day when we went to one of the fast food restaurant (which should have a better customer service than this), we were rudely reminded that despite that the restaurant is part of a global franchise and carries a well known brand, it is at the end of the day is manned by Malaysians with the usual “tidak apa” attitude. We went on a “working day” and before the normal lunch time so naturally the restaurant was not full but we had to wait for our tables to be cleared (it was only cleared when we came over). We ordered our food and we managed to get most of it but not the forks and spoons. We had to call one of the staff twice to remind on this and only then we got the utensils (whilst our food was getting cold). We did not get all of the food that we ordered so once again we need to remind the staff. Then I guessed that the staff do not understand English – which explains the blur look when I asked for the forks and spoons. And we were not the only one faced this problem. When I went to counter to pay, one of the customer was complaining very loudly and remarked that she had not seen service this bad in such restaurant. Instead of apologizing or assuring the customer that they will look into the quality of service, the lady behind the counter (the manager seems to be missing despite the loud voice of the customer) kept quiet and maintain her “tidak apa” look, making customer (and me) irritated even more.

The same “tidak apa” attitude is probably what causes the blatant waste of public funds as reported in the AG’s report on almost yearly basis. No one seemed to care that the money that they waste does not even belongs to them and the fact that they are expected to be responsible for the expenditures does not move them for the better. To make things even worse, the Government maintains the same “tidak apa” gesture towards the wrongdoers – remember the Home Minister supporting the lost at sea comment? By not whacking the wrongdoers, they actually condones the waste of public funds and corrupt way of doing business.

And speaking about the ‘tidak apa” attitude at Government level, it’s high time we relook into the “dump the dumb politicians” call. The next general election may be years away but it does not mean that we can close one eye (and ears) whenever an idiot takes the center stage and makes a fool of this nation & its people (never mind if he makes a fool of himself outside his official stature). After all, if a politician can come out and say that the recent increase of the price of sugar due to *cough* motherly concern on the people’s health and sex drive and not because failure to control expenses or because some one had screwed up the sugar import deal, something is not right (even for a die hard pejuang bangsa dan agama). But that is fine in a way – we don’t expect politicians to change their skin overnight (maybe except when elections are around the corner when they turn Santa Claus left right and center) and in Malaysia in particular, expecting them to be charged & punished for wrongdoings but we cannot continue with our own “tidak apa” attitude too. For start, for those who have not register yourself to vote (and probably don’t care which clown runs the country), try do something about it – go and register yourself to vote and then exercise the right to vote someone more credible. The country belongs to all and each one of us have a great responsibility one way or another in making sure it does not goes down the drain.

Think about it for a second…

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Art of Reading Part 2


Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.  ~Charles W. Eliot

Read Part 1 here

BBWB2

(The scene at the BBWB book sale at 2 am in the morning – there was enough crowd to keep things lively in the convention centre but it was not so crowded to have us fighting through to get our books. In other words, it was just perfect. I hope that BBWB will do their 63 hours marathon on yearly basis)

Firstly before I proceed further, I would like to say many thanks to the people at the Big Bad Wolf Books for taking the trouble, time and resources to organise the world’s largest book sale, year in, year out. We went for the sale last year and we had best of the time picking the good books, cheap. You cannot get 75%-95% discount anywhere else – I have just checked one book at one of the local book stores – it was going for almost RM90 at the book store but was only going for RM15 at BBWB (that is enough savings to take the whole family out for a good dinner and I am only taking about one book here).

This year, the sale is held at Mines Convention Centre (the sale is still on until 23rd December) and the folks at BBWB went one notch up with their 63 hours marathon (God bless them!) which made it a whole lot easier to go and buy good books without the need to fight the crowd at the queue and parking lot. We went again this year and thanks to the 63 hours marathon, our time at BBWB started at about 11 pm Friday night (there was some traffic jam towards the Mines CC, no thanks to queue jumpers but once we entered the parking lot, it was a breeze – way too many empty parking lots) and ended about 2 am Saturday morning (p.s. what’s up with some parents dragging bringing their kids to the place at 2 am? Shouldn’t the kids be in bed by now, sigh?). I got a box full of books that should last me for a couple of months. And we have one whole year to save up for the next BBWB sales next year.

Secondly, I am happy that my son is also picking up the same reading habits that I have. Instead of watching TV all day long, he would instead go to his room (where he has his own collections of science comic books and history books) and bury himself with reading a book (and ask plenty of questions once done). And I bought 2 books for him this year from BBWB and certainly, it was not enough for him (he already done reading half a book within a couple of days) so I am expecting another visit to book store in the coming months.

Over the weekend, I went to my brother-in-law’s house for a visit and I caught him as he was leaving the house to buy breakfast for the family. I decided to join him and whilst the old aunty under a makeshift stall was packing hot thosai and nasi lemak, we decided to have our coffee and chat. I told him about my book purchases at BBWB and he remarked that whilst he liked to read, he does not have the time to read as he was too busy with work. The reason that he gave for not reading somehow hit me and was in my thoughts for rest of the day, more so when I take up a book to read at least once a day. Then a couple days ago, I was chatting with my buddy at work and he remarked the same thing – he was too busy to have the time to read a book.

BBWB1

(War, history and general knowledge – the themes of my books that I bought at BBWB book sale this year. I also read ebooks and surf the net for knowledge but somehow nothing beats holding a book in your hands and lay down some where comfortable to read. One thing is for sure, I need to buy another book cabinet by early next year. The current book cabinet is so packed with books and there is only enough space to squeeze another 1-2 books)

Frankly speaking, this is highly understandable as it all depends on one’s interests, available time and priorities. It is the same thing here with me. There are about thousand things (such as doing a blog post on daily basis) that I don’t do because I don’t have time for it. I wished I had 25 hours in a day. However I do think that we need to make an effort to pick a book (it can be on any subject) and read something (even if it is only 1-2 pages and not the whole book) at least once a week (especially when you don’t have much choice other than watching TV). After all, the benefit of reading a book is obvious and cannot be dismissed.

INews India reports “10 benefits of reading” and it does make a lot sense:-

  • Reading is an active mental process
  • Reading improves your vocabulary
  • Gives you a glimpse into other cultures and places of the world
  • Improves concentration and focus
  • Builds self-esteem (the more you read, the more knowledgeable you become. With more knowledge comes more confidence. More confidence builds self-esteem. So it’s a chain reaction)
  • Improves memory
  • Improves your discipline
  • Improves creativity
  • You always have something to talk about
  • Reduces boredom

Life Dev adds further the benefits of reading:-

  • Enhanced Smarts
  • Reading reduces stress
  • Greater tranquillity
  • Improved analytical thinking
  • Increased vocabulary
  • Improved memory
  • Improved writing skills
  • Helps prioritize goals

My son reads something once a day (on Sundays, he reads the newspaper) and it is the same thing with me but there’s a catch to it. Both of us do not have time to complete one whole book in a day (my son still has to do his school work). I am not sure about my son – he has more time compared to me and he can finish one whole book if he wants to but as for me, my target have always been to finish at least one page per day (if I miss reading for the day, I will try to cover back the next day by reading more pages). Just one page to focus at a time and it does not take that long for me to complete reading that one page (especially it has plenty of images).

Back to the conversation that I had with my brother-in-law over coffee, I remarked that he can start with one page or half page if he does not have the time. And I highlighted the beneficial side of reading, something that made sense to him too. Other than it being a good way to gain knowledge and building up of vocabularies (a must for bloggers), it is one of the best way to get mental exercise. Sometimes we are watching too much TV and it does not simulate the mind in the same way a book does and in healthier way too. After reading a passage in a book (or magazine), I would stop for a moment and imagine how that story that I just read would have been in real (even it is a fiction – my version of The Lord of the Rings was far more exciting than Peter Jackson’s version). For me, that is a good mental exercise and a superb stress buster.

Think about it…1 page is not that hard to cover, does it?

P.s. since Christmas is around the corner, why don’t you give away books as Christmas gifts?

Thunderstorm Heroes


Last Sunday was a tiring day….

(Don’t be an idiot and remain unnoticed to other motorists by not switching on the headlights. Image source: http://carcountrycreditcruncher.wordpress.com)

Saturday was hectic but it was almost a free day on Sunday, so we decided on the next thing to a good workout in a gym – shopping. We had our own reasons – my wife wanting to buy some cheap clothes for work (she intended to “capitalize” on cheap bargains during the on-going Christmas sales), me wanting to buy a bigger ext HDD (I am running out of HDD space fast) and my son, just wanting to go somewhere outside the house.

It was almost 6 hours of shopping & dining before we decided to call it and headed home. We walked a lot – you know how tough it is for the women to be satisfied with the choices available, right? At end of the day, my wife was somewhat happy with her purchase although it took some time for her to finalize the “final 3 T-shirts for work”, myself getting what I wanted (and more) and my son somehow unhappy for walking a lot for the day and not buying any toys at the end of the day (I tried to entertain his request but the chaos at the toys section, with Christmas around the corner, made us think twice of venturing into the place).

We were tired (but not hungry – we had a lot to eat – perhaps due to stress of shopping) and were felt relieved when we finally walked toward the parking lot. I noticed that most of the “in-coming cars” was wet and we could hear thunder in the distant horizon. I somehow knew that it is going to be a very wet journey home. However, it being a Sunday, I did not expect a lot of traffic on the road and expected a smooth ride back home.

It was pouring when we hit the road but it was alright until we reached Puchong IOI Mall area when the traffic was practically not moving. It was crawling – I suspected major accident upfront – after all, it was raining heavily and visibility was quite bad. As we moved up front, we saw the problem. Two of the three lanes of the highway were flooded, forcing all the three lanes to squeeze into a single lane. But once we passed this place, it was back to normal Sunday drive.

(Who is more visible in this photo? Image source: http://www.driveandstayalive.com)

As we were stuck in the traffic jam, we were able to see around us and observe how the other motorists were coping with the unexpected Sunday evening traffic jam in heavy rain and with very poor visibility and with a touch of uncertainty on what is causing this traffic jam. And one of thing that stood up quite “prominently” during the traffic jam is the part where concerned motorists switching on the car headlights so that they can warn others of them and them to others in that low visibility ride.

Interestingly there are 3-4 “dungus” with white / silver colored cars who think since it is still not night, did not opt to switch on the headlights. Perhaps the cheap bastards think that they can prolong the lifeline of their car headlights by switching on only when it absolutely needed. They continued to ride-on in the heavy rain without any lights switched on. There were (as predicted) 1-2 who panicked and switched on their hazard lights but then again, at least those idiots who switch on their hazard lights fared slightly better than those who don’t switch on anything. At least we know where these idiots are flying through in the heavy rain.

Thankfully the traffic was bad, so we did not have any “heroes” who are also speeding in the heavy downpour, low visibility conditions (to make things more “interesting”, throw in an idiot who is driving without any lights at the front). It is amazing on how some people put their fate (and theirs and others life) on their ABS-less, no traction control whatsoever, locally made cheap, tin can cars. It is “ok” if they are not aware of the effect known as aquaplaning but there is no doubt that the road is damn slippery. There is no doubt that when they slam their brakes, it is going to take a longer distance for their vehicles to come to a complete stop. There is no doubt that when this happens, we are going to have serious injuries all over the place.

Well, that is uncivilized Malaysian driver for you – always thinking on their backside when driving on the road.

Read Also

How to drive like Schumacher in the Rain?

Heavy Rain and Road Spray

Chennai Trip – Part 4


Read:-

Prologue
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

What happens if you are in Chennai and have just enough time to do one thing, what do you do?

The answer is shopping!

Well…err…no, it is not true if because you ask me, I would have a very tough time between sleeping and eating. Why waste all the energy on shopping? But since my wife and her sister were in town, we had no choice but to opt for shopping instead. It was time for the ladies.

Despite planning to leave to T.Nagar (the heart of saree shopping) early in the morning, we ended leaving the apartment late in the afternoon – at the start of the peak hours (it was a working day and we preparing to go when office workers would be returning home). Timing was certainly not good but we were in India and seem to be affected by Indian time as well.

To make things slightly more “complicated”, my brother-in-law decided to dress up in more western style – short pants, bright socks and sports shoe. Looking at him at the apartment entrance reminded me of a joke by good buddy, Alex – the joke of the Chinaman going to Indian banana leaf restaurant and price of all dishes goes up with immediate effect (the joke came after we realised the price goes up at our favourite banana leaf restaurant when our Chinese friends join in. The joke stuck with us whenever we go to any banana leaf restaurant).

(The clue that tells the locals that we are foreigners here, making us an easy target for hiked up fares and price)

The auto price to travel from the apartment to T.Nagar was about Rs80 but the auto driver seeing my brother-in-law dressing up quoted Rs200! And there were 5 of us meaning we needed to take 2 autos – easy Rs400 burn. When we tried to argue with the auto driver, the normal excuse given was traffic jam and that some roads are now made into one way street (meaning they need to take a longer route) but all that was just a sorry excuse to squeeze money from us. We tried several other autos but the price was still high.

We then managed to stop one auto driver who wiling to take all 5 of us in one auto (he said if you guys can squeeze in, he has no problem) and he quote Rs150. It was a done deal since even with Rs80; it would have cost us Rs160 for 2 autos. We somehow managed to squeeze in which instantly became roadside entertainment to the locals – 4 grown-ups and 1 excited kid trying to squeeze into the small passenger compartment. We were holding to our dear life as the auto driver started to take several short cuts to beat the peak hours and reach T.Nagar in 20 minutes time.

T.Nagar was something like our Bukit Bintang or the Petaling Street. It was one of the MAIN shopping areas in Chennai and virtually surrounded by saree and jewellery shops. Our target was the saree shops and there is plenty of good names around – Sri Kumaran, Potties, Nallis, Saravana Stores, etc (a branch can be found in Little India, Klang or Penang, Malaysia).

(One of the many saree shops in the area – after the time passes, the crowd just get bigger and bigger)

Shopping for sarees was not exactly our cup of tea for the guys – so me and the big boss decided to sit down near one of the “more deserted” counters and see the busy shoppers doing their shopping. It was not Deepavali but it was still hell at the saree shops – the crowd at the entrance hardly moved and too hands was scrambling for the one piece of good saree on the table. The staff behind counters looked like some forced labourer from some Nazi concentration camp – extremely tired but can do nothing. I have seen them taking down several rolls of sarees but the potential customer takes one look and decides to try at another place and the staff have to tidy up the place again within seconds before attending to another customer. There was no time to stop and look patiently at the sarees – the crowd keep pushing you to the side. Thankfully the places where we went for shopping, there was space for us to stand aside and choose the better selection (too many to choose from).

(Inside Chennai’s Pottis – the crowd is less at places where sarees are sold at high price)

Me and my son just stood aside and watched the crowd and there was an interesting mix of it. There were people from the work, stopping by to buy clothes for work and family, people from outstation coming in with a large crowd just to buy clothes for some important function, tourists trying their hands on the local fashion and of course, Malaysians digging in for good, cheap stuff.

When we are inside the shops, we hardly kept watch of the time and the sound that was emanating from our empty stomachs. Only once we had decided to call it a day, we had realised that it was dark on the outside (but there was no let down in the number of the crowd shopping) and we were very hungry. It was time to look for a good, clean restaurant (or here in Chennai, they call it hotels) to have our late night dinner. My brother-in-law, who took charge as the “team leader”, asked around and many fingers pointed to a dark, deserted looking alley.

I did not like the looks of it but we decided to walk towards the alley, hoping for the best. We walked a couple of pace when we noticed a nice restaurant. The locals know the best. We walked in – the interior was dim but the service was top-class. The food was reasonably priced but perhaps due to the dimness of the interior lights, level cleanliness looked questionable.

To be continued in Part 5…

Bazaar Time


I first learned about bazaars when I watched the Travel series on the Discovery Channel and I first experienced a real bazaar when I was in Bangkok couple of years ago. Basically it was a modernised flea market and much updated for foreign tourists. Not exactly a traditional kind of bazaar that one was looking for.

(Tightly packed shops on the left and right but the items on sales not necessarily old and ancient)

But we heard that there is a traditional bazaar in the Iran and it is just a metro-travel away, we decided to check it out on one of the weekends. The nearest metro station was almost a kilometre walk away from our house. So one fine cold morning, we got dressed in thick clothes, packed water and camera and started to walk to towards the nearest metro station.

The thing about the general rule about photographing in Iran is that you can take photo if it is expressly allowed so. I have lost count of the times when we were asked not to take photographs (very politely and with a smile) by the authorities. So photography becomes the exception rather than the general rule (a far cry compared to Malaysia where we loved to be photographed).

So, since we do not want to run into any problems, we usually opt out from photographing anything and everything that we see (missing a lot of unique photo opportunities) and we only do it if it is safe to do so or we have gotten the necessary permission. So, photographing the inside of the metro station was out of the question but we were highly impressed with the metro system in Iran here.

(Metro ticket – fast and efficient)

At first, the layout of the station is simple and easy even for foreigners like us. We went to the ticket counter, mentioned the station that we wanted to go (to get the station name, we just googled the metro’s website and the names are laid out clearly in English), mention whether we wanted a one way or two way ticket, paid the cash, get the ticket, swipe it over the electronic gate and walk on to the platform.

Iranian metro trains are super efficient – there are plenty of cabins and trains arrives and departs on time. Most of the time, the cabins are full but when we went on that particular date, we found enough space to stand at one corner (or perhaps we were foreigners and the locals were kind enough to squeeze some space for us). After almost 6 stations, we arrived at the station that we wanted to go.

As we walk out from the metro station which is located underground, we can feel the strong cold breeze flushing in from the outside. We walked out and make a couple of turns, we arrived at the bazaar.

(The entrance to the bazaar – nothing strange from the outside. Note the crowd at the entrance)

There is one main entrance at the bazaar and there a big different it makes when one moves from the outside to the inside. On the outside, it is covered by a rather modern building but in the inside, one is transformed to an old looking bazaar. The walkway moves from the outside and moves along a huge tunnel. On the left and the right of the walkway, there is nothing but shops. The bazaar as whole is huge and somehow divided into different area of produce – carpets on one side, lamps on another side, electrical goods and souvenirs and so on.

But the problem here in the bazaar which becomes self evident is that it is not so friendly to foreign tourists – no sign boards in English, photographers is looked rather suspiciously and there was no indication whatsoever as to where the bathrooms is!. My friend actually had to go one of the carpet shops to use the bathrooms (we had to walk along some deserted lanes to reach this shop – we were expecting to be jumped by a gang of bandits, waiting for the unexpected foreigners at the corner of the alley but luckily it ended as nothing but our wildest imagination) .

(The tunnel and the crowd and somewhere in between “speedy” Gonzales! Noticed the many strange look as I was taking this shot)

Compared to “bazaar” in Bangkok, there are more people here in the Bazaar here and everyone seems to be on the move to somewhere. If we stop to snap some photos or to look at the produce sold in the shops, we find ourselves being pushed around by this large human traffic. If that is not enough, we also have to confront the goods handlers who busy with sending the goods from the outside and to the shops. We almost got run over by these goods handlers on a number of times and thankfully we were quick enough to move out from the way in time. With an uneven walkway (seems to be made from big rough tiles), the act of avoiding “speedy” Gonzales on goods carts makes it even more tricky.

(We loved the interior decorations on the wall and ceiling. The clock reminded of the clock that we used to see in the old train stations)

One of the things that we noticed immediately when we are in the inside of the bazaar is the architecture – something on the wall and ceiling spelt ancient architecture and history. And we managed to find some quiet spot where there was less people to allow us to snap some photos on a more leisurely pace.

We must have walked about in the bazaar for almost an hour (we managed to buy some things in the process) before realising that we were both hungry and tired. We walked out, only to be greeted by small children begging and people trying to sell small items – we decided to have our lunch at one of the nearest “sandwich” (what else?) shop. The good thing was the “chief” waiter spoke some English which made it easier to confirm and order our lunch (the menu was all in local language).

By the time we came back home tired, it was almost time for dinner time.

Trip to Brunei – Part 3


It is said that 97% of Brunei’s income comes from the oil & gas industry

It is therefore is not a big surprise that there seems to be a lack of tourism spots and opportunity in the city. Having said, it does not mean Brunei is not trying to promote its tourism sector, something that they will need when the oil runs out one day. There are plenty of tour guides and operators available in the phone directory but the problem is there is not much for one who wishes to venture out on their own. One would hardly see taxis around and during my stay in Brunei; I think I only saw probably 2 empty cabs.

mall

Shopping was one attractive and we went to “The Mall” which supposes to be one of the largest shopping mall in the city. Admittedly the size of the “biggest” mall in town is far smaller than some of the “smaller” one we have back in Malaysia. Within couple of minutes, I have walked the whole mall and found something was lacking. There were plenty of shops to meet almost everyone’s desire but as a tourist, a cheap souvenir shop was lacking. There were supermarkets and food malls for the local but then again, we have the same thing back at home.

mall2

Feeling somehow disappointed, I came out and decided to go for a drink in one of the cafes along the walkway. In a normal situation, I would have ordered a cold beer and a small bowl of crunchy nuts and sat at strategic angle to watch beautiful girls walking by. But here in Brunei, that was something impossible. Brunei was an “alcohol free” country although drinking alcohol is permissible in private. I end up ordering iced coffee and a muffin. This was sad indeed but at least I got the angle to watch beautiful girls walking by.

palace

We drove around town and most of them were government buildings that looked more interesting. We reached the main gate of the Sultan of Brunei’s palace but we did not get far. The gates were locked and the palace was “hidden” from sight by trees. If I had stayed longer till Hari Raya, I could have gone into the palace during their open house and probably shook my hands with one of the richest man around. But I did not have the time and therefore had to content with a snap shot of the gates of the palace. Besides, the guards at the main gate were getting suspicious and started to focus on me.

empire

Hotels are plenty and come in various prices, qualities and locations. The cream of all would probably be The Empire Hotel & Country Club, a short distant away from the city centre. It seems to have almost everything and it is next to the sea. I liked the main area with its huge pillars and high ceilings and marble floors. It was almost like I was walking in the Sultan’s palace but without much restrictions and protocols.

At end of the day, we went out looking for souvenirs – something that loudly says “I wuz in Brunei”. We found one small shop with a lot of souvenirs for tourists but many of things there was way too expensive, at least for budget travellers like me. A simple key chain costs about RM7 and the same thing cost less than RM1 back in Malaysia (I got 2 for RM1 once)

The visit to flea market in Chatuchak


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: Other Trips)