Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Winter Food Discovery

My past trips to Europe have been pleasant and memorable. Most of my visits were during the summer season, hence I tried mostly their summer delicacies.

This time around, I am here in France and Switzerland for a winter adventure. Let me share to you some interesting stuff I have tried so far...

My mother-in-law prepared some "winter" salad like: betterave (red-looking jelly-like salad which was yummy); endives (whitish yellowish salad that grows only in winter).

During my stay with hubby's aunt, she made some gratin de carde (which is another vegetable that grows only in winter).

Now let's move to the highlights of my gastronomic experience.

RACLETTE -- My yummy first raclette experience! It's a Swiss/French type of cooking which uses a special cooker to warm the cheese, which after it's melted, you put on top of potatoes. We ate it with some dried meat, small pickled onions and cornichon (green small things which I have never eaten in Asia). It was fun to cook while eating, something like a little shabu-shabu experience but European style with lots and lots of cheese. A highly recommended gastronomic experience if you do spend winter in Europe. It was memorable for me and I do hope to have more of this in the winters to come. I took a photo of our dinner at chez Claudette !!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raclette

FONDUE -- We had some serious cheese indulgence during our visit in Geneva. We had a good time at the restaurant Edelweiss, which had a nice chalet ambience and traditional Swiss live music. Hubby's aunt, who used to work in Geneva informed us that this restaurant is always full, and one needs to make reservations to ensure a seat. We started with some dried meat with Girolle cheese. Then followed by the hot cheese fondue, which was very nice for winter. We dipped the crusty bread into the melted cheese while sipping some Swiss White Wine (which were not white in color). A must try when in Geneva. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fondue

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Au revoir Kuala Lumpur!

On my way to my Christmas holiday! Bye bye KL... and hello Europe!

About to start my holiday journey ... a very long flight to France.

Took the flight from KL to Singapore. Stop. Dinner in Singapore airport. Then a flight from Singapore to Paris. It was a pleasant surprise to see that SQ had new planes flying to Paris. The in-flight entertainment was better than before. The dinner was superb (very tasty steak) and you can see that the quality of the blankets were wow! And by the way ... I was just in economy flight. I would highly recommend Singapore Airlines to anyone who has extra money to spare (since it's pricier than other airlines) ... it's really worth it!

CDG Paris Airport.... cold, very cold. It was -3 degrees outside. My poor body was not built for winter season, so let's see how I will survive my first ever winter Christmas!

Hubby met me at the airport... We had a quick baguette lunch at Paul .. yummy! Incidentally, Paul will be opening shop soon in Kuala Lumpur. We are definitely waiting for that.. and probably the other French expats too!

We took a flight from Paris to Marseille. And then my in-laws picked us up from the airport.

We're off to our Christmas holiday in South of France!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Penang Trip Again...

Just last week I went off to Penang for a business day trip... flew out of KLIA (KL International Airport) at 7:30am and came back through the 10pm flight out from Penang... which means by the time I got home, it was almost past midnight. And yes, I was dead tired. Day trips are tiring!

A few days after that trip, I had to take another one and this time... I stayed overnight. It was a tiring day full of meetings and training... but with a pleasant ending. We wrapped up the evening with a good dinner at Kampachi (Equatorial Hotel). The japanese food was great! After our late dinner, I checked into the G Hotel (at 11pm already!) The G Hotel is quite new (as I was informed) so I decided to go for it. The design is quite modern in design. It's not your traditional hotel. The place was clean and the breakfast service staff were quite friendly. I wasn't surprised that the waiter's good service is because he is Filipino :)

I think I paid a little below RM300- per room per night with breakfast. Not bad... especially since I got a room with a great view of the sea!

For business trips, G Hotel is a good choice. New, straight-forward and hip. But if you go to Penang for a vacation... I would highly suggest that you stay in Batu Feringghi. It has more of a holiday feel, nearby the sea and the beach. Our last trip was Nov 2007, and we stayed at the boutique hotel called Lone Pine. Good choice and value for money. I think it was around RM280- for 2 people with breakfast. They serve nice bread (which you can toast over charcoal fire, one of the speciality of Penang, if I am not mistaken. Topped with butter and kaya toast, the bread is really tasty!)

Penang reminds me of Cebu, Philippines. Should you one day get to go to Cebu (there are direct flights to Cebu-Singapore; while for KL it will be KL-Manila-Cebu via Cebu Pacific), the must stay place is Shangri-la Mactan. Good for honeymooners. Or even families with kids. You will surely, and I mean SURELY enjoy your stay there!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pinoy's Itinerary: 4-day KL Visit

Recently I had the chance to have some Pinoy guests over to visit me in KL. They are Chinese-Filipinos armed with serious shopping plans.

So in that 4-day short visit, I suggested the itinerary, which turned our pretty well! They went home happily and satisfied with the maximized shopping, sight seeing and food tasting in Malaysia!

The group flew into KL through Cebu Pacific. Unfortunately, they experienced a very bad flight delay on their way to Malaysia (from Manila). But still, they were in high spirits when they arrived. Instead on landing at 1am in LCCT (Low Cost Terminal where Cebu Pacific lands), they ended up touching down around 4am.

On their 1st day in Malaysia: The Curve, Ikea, 1 Utama (barely enough time at 1 Utama since we reached there quite late and shops started closing after we had dinner). Pretty good shopping, but nothing major yet....

2nd day : shopping at Suria KLCC, tour at the Petronas Twin Towers Sky Bridge, and dinner at Pavilion

3rd day: whole day shopping at 1 Utama. Major shopping bags! Then dinner and slight shopping at Sri Hartamas Shopping Center

4th day: a short walk at the park at TTDI, lunch and major shopping at Mid Valley Megamall and The Gardens

They flew out that evening (actually the next day but 1am)... so the 4th day meant having dinner at home before they took the cab at 1030pm, to reach airport at 1130pm.

Overall, they had a good stay. It was practically a tightly packed schedule. And they really enjoyed seeing the beautiful decors in the shopping malls.

So should you one day have a Pinoy or any nationality guest with major shopping plans... you can follow that schedule! :)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Where to Eat: My Reco to Expats

Malaysia is one of those blessed countries with a vast selection of food. It's a happy place for food lovers... like me!

I am sure that people have different views and criteria for food. Price. Taste. Freshness. Style.

Whatever I state here is merely my own opinion. I feel that there are places where newly-arrived expats must visit. It's based on our experience, our trials (and errors). Feel free to check them out (and maybe comment). This topic popped up today only because a had a good chat about FOOD and WHERE TO EAT with a new colleague of mine who just moved from U.S.

  • Dimsum lovers must try Xiao Long Bao - go to any branch of Dragon-I (The Curve, 1 Utama, etc) Pricing is average. Good recommended place for foreigners who want Chinese food yet affordable.
  • Pasta lovers must try the Duck Confit of Delicious (Bangsar Village 2, 1 Utama)
  • Good salad is hard to find in KL! Must go to Delicious (again)
  • Mouth-watering desserts -- must visit Delicious (yes, again!) By the way, pricing is above average at this place... which explains the good food!
  • For local flavor : Nasi Lemak, Yummy Beef Rendang and the killer dessert Bubur Cha Cha please, please visit Madam Kwan (KLCC, Bangsar, Pavilion) Pricing is above average.
  • A nice get-together for friends to dine and have drinks (all in one place) is La Bodega at Jalan Telawi Bangsar (I cannot count how many times I have been there. It's a great place for 1st impressions to my foreign guests) Definitely the pricing is above average.
  • Yummy pancakes -- I just love, love pancakes & crepes -- do not forget to visit Paddington House of Pancakes at The Curve / 1 Utama / Sri Hartamas Shopping Center
  • Authentic Japanese Food - Raku Zen at Sri Hartamas Shopping Center or KL. You get good quality Japanese with pricing that is above average only (can compare to hotel-quality Jap food, but less pricey than hotels)
  • Really authentic Indian food, dine outdoors under the trees, use your hands to eat on banana leaf! The place is called Raju at Section 5, Petaling Jaya (warning: do not attempt to go there if you just moved to KL recently, I doubt you will know how to drive there!)
  • Bread: to those who are bread lovers like us ... I am sure you will not settle on just buying Gardenia! Some note-worthy bakeries to buy bread from are :
    • The Bakery - owned by French people, located at Sri Hartamas / Ampang. They also serve food at the Sri Hartamas branch (bakery-cafe type of place)
    • Provence Bakery: small, small bakery inside the grocery Citi Super in Sri Hartamas Shopping Center; they have friendly staff, freshly baked bread all the time. Love therir french baguette
    • Sun Moulin: great selection!!! Freshly made too! Even have nicely packed fresh sandwiches; I went to KLCC and 1 Utama branch
I am sure there are still many places we have not discovered. Places we have yet to visit and yet to taste. I will update in the future. But for now, I just wanted to share a few basics which hopefully someone out there might appreciate :)

Bon appetit !!!

A Year After Moving to Malaysia

Yes, Christmas is around the corner. To a Catholic like me, this is "THE HOLIDAY". It's like the most major thing, especially in Manila where majority of the population holds the same religion. One of the jokes I used to share with non-Pinoy people is that whenever the month ends with "-ber" (e.g. OctoBER), to us Filipinos it's as good as almost Christmas. Christmas countdown and music starts playing, business slows down towards the end of the year, and people just get into that giving (and party) mood.

Now, December to me holds many things ... things of the past and things to come.

I remember not too long ago, when we just first arrived in Malaysia -- we were clueless about most things, like really basic things. We had to start from scratch. Where to go, how to drive (on the "right" side, recognize & memorize (painfully) foreign sounding street names, and so on. As December crawled in, I became nostalgic and remembered our situation last year. How things have changed so quickly!

1 year -- yes, 1 year in Malaysia. So, as an expat who has lived in KL for a year, what have I learned? What have I achieved? Discovered? Love? Hate?

Let me sum it up with a few statements.

In the first month, it's all about survival.
Renting a car. Groceries: where to buy and best bargains. Oops, I gotta bag my own groceries! And oops! I gotta push my own grocery cart to the (rented) car! Opening an account. Wiring our money! Apply for Visa / Mastercard. Should I get a local driving license? Which malls are worth going to? Do I need to "tip" at restaurants? Where are the Catholic Churches hidden? Christmas eve : shocking revelation because all the shops were open! (unlike Philippines where everything will be so, so, so closed because it is the most sacred holiday of all) Visiting KLCC.
Number of friends in Malaysia -- very few :(

Several months later ...
Braving the traffic and taking adventures. Got a "Touch and Go" card! Usually hanging out in Bangsar. Having a list of your Top 5 favorite restaurants! Been to gazillion malls -- 1 Utama, Pavilion, Sunway, The Curve, Mid Valley Megamall, The Gardens, Bangsar Village 1 and 2, Sri Hartamas Shopping Center, Low Yat, Sungai Wang, Lot 10, Starhill, Times Square, Centerpoint, etc. Discovering 2 Catholic churches (and know their Mass schedules!) Umm, got 2 police tickets (they call it "summon" here) only because of illegal parking, haha! Talked my way out of a speeding ticket. Tried driving in the SMART tunnel (alone, and I was NOT at all petrified that I don't know where it leads to). Know how to switch lanes easily and avoid those motor bikes! Having a regular place for regular massage, pedicure and haircut! In my wallet : Ikea membership card, Times Bookstore membership card ... you get the picture!
Number of friends :) - it's more than what I expected and the list is still growing!

And of course, it would have not been as colorful if not visiting the sites! In less than a year, we made time for Malacca, Langkawi, Cameron Highlands, Bukit Tinggi (Colemar Tropicale), Sabah, Kuala Selangor, Genting Highlands, Penang, Redang ..... and still so many places to go to!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Deepavali = A Trip to Penang!

One of the great things about living in Malaysia is the number of holidays one can get.

I was complaining (to myself) that I had to work last Nov.1 (which was All Saints Day in Manila) which is always a long holiday that we look forward to. Well, I didn't realize that I should be lighten up about it, since in exchange, I get "new" holidays! My first Ramadan holiday. Next my Deepavali holiday. And of course after those 2 great celebrations, it will be my favorite one -- Christmas! Happily, I discovered there will even be another holiday between now and Christmas, which is Dec 20 (Hari Raya Qurban)! Yehey!

During our long weekend celebrating Deepavali (or in Pinoy ... "nakiki-celebrate!"), me and hubby went to Penang for 3 days. It was a pleasant and scenic 4-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. The highways were well built, which makes the trip easy enough. There were enough gas stations and rest places for short breaks.

Penang reminds me of Cebu. KL is like Manila, and Penang is like Cebu where it is a busy place for business, yet it has its laid back charm.

Walking down near the coast (at Gurney Drive and also beside Fort Cornwallis) was pleasant, coupled with good weather. It was a nice, leisurely stroll... which could be the same for Philippines' Manila Bay walk-way (except I wouldn't feel too safe walking around there).

Food was great... everything tasty and yummy. We were lucky to have borrowed a Penang food guide which pointed the way to a tasty vacation. Our food discoveries included a side-street cafe (very local!) which served bread roasted on top of charcoal fire, a Teochew restaurant that served very different yummy seafood porridge, an Indian restaurant serving roti canai with bananas inside and topped with ice cream with honey, a food stall selling crispy pancakes, and more! Penang is a place for food lovers (like me!) But a special warning to everyone out there: please avoid eating at EDEN. Our experience was so-so... for such so-so food and service, our bill totaled to RM160-- which was definitely not worth it :(

Accommodations were not as pricey as our trip to Langkawi. We stayed at a boutique hotel called Lone Pine, situated near the beaches of Batu Feringgi. It's a charming place, a nice change from the huge commercial hotels that you usually get. You can even try all sorts of water sports, which is easily accessible when you walk out to the beach area. The swimming pool of the hotel was not bad. We enjoyed a lazy morning by the pool after our breakfast... then a few laps in the pool. We were lucky to get sunny weather as it was raining the day we arrived. I think it's rainy season in Malaysia during November time. The hotel is well located, especially if you enjoy shopping at the night market where the streets come alive.

One of the highlights of the trip was the drive up to the enormous Kek Lok Si temple. We wandered around to see the huge statues of Buddha and company. There was even a short electric lift ride to the top floor to see the gigantic statue that they are building on top of the temple. Plus, my hubby got a taste of how to "po-pi" lighting incense and praying to the Buddha.
One thing I noticed is they charged a lot of parking fees. And these are fees you pay to people who are hanging around the curb... some may possibly be legal, while others just taking advantage. Every parking stop we did cost around RM1-3 depending on which area.

We were able to get a relaxing foot massage at this new place which was situated at Nagore Place. It's a newly opened one, which charged us RM50- per person, plus the additional RM10 which we paid to get our private room. The lazy boy couches were very comfortable, with built-in private TV per seat. Plus, they served great tea and hot soup after our massage. I would say it was well worth our money!

After 3 wonderful days, it was time to go back to KL. During our drive back, we stopped by Ipoh to have late lunch before completing our drive home.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Terry Fox Run 2007 in KL

It was only recently when I learned about Terry Fox's life story and what this run was all about.

It started with an email, where our office invited its employees to the Terry Fox Run. When me and my husband searched online, we discovered the heart-warming story about this guy who had cancer, had his leg amputated, and was still able to help make the world a better place. His story is a touching one, and I am sure if you go online, you will find many stories written about his life and what he has done.

When we arrived at the Lake Garden (a beautiful garden at the heart of Kuala Lumpur), where this year's Terry Fox Run Kuala Lumpur was held. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up, with their Terry Fox t-shirts! (Shirts were sold at RM25- each). It was amazing to see so many people, who came with friends and families, to show their support for this good cause. I'm not sure what was the number of people that turned up that day. All I know is that the organizer of this event did a pretty good job at promoting it. They even had t-shirts in all sizes: from toddler sizes all the way to big ones. It was so cute seeing young kids in their tiny tees walking / running with their parents. It also seemed like a blessing as we had great weather that morning run.

Overall, it was a good and memorable experience for me. I would not have discovered his story if I was not living in KL. Will surely look forward to the 2008 run. See you there!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Of Anniversaries and Holidays

Time really flies.

We just celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary last October 27. I cannot believe that days passed so quickly. It has been a beautiful journey so far, and plus the experience of moving to Malaysia which made it all the more special.

I started reflecting on our short time in this country. Looking back when we first began (last December 2006), oh my, we were so clueless. I was scared out of my wits to drive on the right side, plus it didn't help with all that foreign-sounding roads names (Sultan Ismail, Jalan this and Jalan that....). I remember getting so lost during our first drive to KLCC. We knew how to get there, because all signs point to KL and KLCC. But there were no signs showing how to get back to Damansara Perdana! ha ha... it didn't seem so funny then, but now when I look back, I end up smiling!

Just less than a year ago, I was clueless where to go and what to do. Now, not only do I know key places, but I was able to visit some beautiful sites, and I also work at the famous Petronas Twin Towers! I have a job, a life, and new friends. Back then, I didn't think about how bright things could become.

Because of my job, I was able to experience new culture and learn new things. And part of that meant being invited to an Open House. This was our very first experience, and it happened to be on our wedding anniversary date. I was torn if I should accept, or should I just leave that day for me and hubby?

I ended up attending with my hubby at the Open House in SS21, which is a beautiful home of the head of our company. It turned out to be a good decision, because me and my hubby were able to experience new dishes! Plus, we were able to meet the family of some of my colleagues.

The beauty of Malaysia's culture lies in its multi-racial status. Here, I learned for the very first time the true meaning (and practice) behind Ramadan. And this coming week, it will be my first Deepavali holiday (I used to get confused about those holidays). We plan to visit another beautiful place in Malaysia this Deepavali. There are so many places yet to be discovered!

Back to my wedding anniversary weekend. So, we had our 1st Open House. Plus our first time to drive to Putrajaya / Cyberjaya. We didn't go to any place in particular, we just drove to see the place. Very quiet and it seemed very deserted! I guess on work week it should look quite lively!

That Sunday, we went to Bukit Tinggi, and found our way to the beautiful Colmar Tropicale. Together with another French family, we drove up from KL, which only took an hour. We arrived in time for lunch at French village. The food was okay, nothing to rave about. Maybe we didn't choose the right place to eat. The place was well maintained, to our surprise. I guess they put to very good use the entrance fees that they collect (RM16- per person) when you drive into Colmar Tropicale. After lunch, we drove to the Japanese garden, which is part of the same group running Colmar. The gardens were beautiful, and we had a good walking exercise. Apart from those, we didn't get to do anything more interesting. Maybe next time we come back, I will arrange for a golf game so that it can be well worth the trip. My advise is for people who are visiting that place, just go for a day trip. I asked opinion of locals and they told me it's not worth staying overnight since it's a short drive anyway.

Overall, our stay in Malaysia has been pleasant. And I look forward to even better days ahead.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hari Raya = Trip Back to Manila

Living in KL means learning new things -- new culture, new holidays. It is the first time that I learned the true meaning of Ramadan and Hari Raya... apart from realizing it's an added holiday which you can get (when I was back in Manila they declare it a holiday but I didn't bother to know why).

Being among Malays at work made me realize the importance of their fasting. And even my single experience of Buka Puasa with a colleague made me appreciate the whole thing even more. It's such a great thing to understand the meaning behind what they are practicing.

The icing on top of the yummy cake is of course the added holiday we got. I was able to fly back to Manila for a 2-nights stay via Cebu Pacific (of course, what else?) Thank God for the Cebe Pacific flights which have made going back home so much more affordable.

The short stay in Manila surely made me realize many things (here I am again with my realizations....)

Yes, I do miss my family. I do miss my pedicure and massages. I missed grocery shopping in Unimart plus my "tiangge" shopping at Virra Mall and Shoppesville. One thing that I don't miss though is driving in Manila. Oh my ... the traffic in Ortigas was even worse than when I left! I wonder when will the government take all these things seriously? They are not putting permanent solutions in place. Plus all that never-ending digging on the road... when will they put a good road in place?

I tried not to complain about my hometown.... but really, the traffic and honking will get to you.

Apart from the heavy traffic, which will only get worse as December Christmas shopping fever comes, everything else was pleasant. I was able to visit the new Serendra strip which was bustling with new shops and restaurants. I had an overdose of sweets at the nice cupcake shop and the Miss Desserts place which served good cheesecakes. My sister showed me her new Serendra unit which was already handed over but going through some renovation before they move it. It seems pretty impressive -- so far one of the best projects in Manila.

I showed my other sister pics of our unit in Malaysia -- both the one where we are living in now and the one we bought. She was quite impressed with the layout and quality. I guess she sees it differently from typical people as she analyzes from the real estate agent point of view.

I still feel that we have made a good investment in KL, and I have good feelings about the years to come. There is potential growth in Malaysia, and as I said before, this is our new home.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Hot Yoga & its benefits

When I started practicing yoga at YogaZone, I saw the Hot Yoga option and thought to myself "yukk, it must stink in there and all that heat, eww!"

Well... depending on who stays beside you, the Hot Yoga experience is great after all!

Calling all ladies (and gents) who aim to trim down in all the right places! Well, I have the solution!

Since I started joining Hot Yoga and Slim Hot classes, I noticed that the results came in faster. An added incentive is also the pinkish skin glow you will get after the class. I sweat more at Hot Yoga classes than when I stay 30 minutes at the treadmill. Plus, I get to work out those "flabs" at places where you usually don't reach with basic gym workouts. Overall, it is the best thing they have invented! I am pretty sure with at least 2x a week of Slim Hot for 1 month (and of course proper meal diet), one can turn flabs into muscles in a snap.

Like what they say, never judge until you have tried it. I gave it a try. Maybe you should, too!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Expat's absolute necessities in KL

Time waits for no one.

As we grow older, we become wiser. And that is what happened to me. Gone are the days when I would splurge mindlessly on silly things which I thought were "necessities" of life. Things like bags, shoes, make-up, and so on. I guess with age, plus my marriage, and moving to another country made me wake up to the real facts of life.

I started to prioritize things I will spend on. The definition of "necessities" have changed, too. The thinking pattern has moved from "ME, ME, ME" to simply "us". Now, there are new considerations which take some wallet share -- such as life insurance, health insurance and retirement.

What makes it complicated for us, unlike others out there, is because we are expats. Which means we are not sure where we will be months or years from now. Possibly, we may still be living here in Malaysia. Or maybe somewhere else in Asia. Or maybe France. Time will tell.

This makes choosing the right company to sign up insurance and retirement with an important consideration. We were able to get a health insurance for expats, which will follow us to any country we go to. It has a vast network and even covers maternity. This is highly important for me, especially since I have this big fear of childbirth. Blame it on the video which the teachers at my high school -- they showed an actual childbirth video and that sure scared the hell out of us (and a reminder that with sex comes risks... and that risk is getting pregnant at the wrong age).

There were many online expat insurance offers. But I'm traditional. I want to talk to a warm body. I have tons of questions. I was lucky enough to meet this chap who is very experienced with things for expats. His advise and time have shown us which health insurance to take, which retirement package to focus on and so on.

What I am driving at is that for expats out there, please take time to consider these things because it is important. It may not seem important NOW, because things are going well and you are living the moment. But one must sit down and think of these things. And should the day come that you do think about it, do consult an expert. That makes the "trial and error" go away, and believe me you don't want to end up with a wrong company or policy plan.

Thought of sharing this tip as I got a call that my health insurance card is ready. Do think about it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Memorable Photos from Redang

Some photos from our trip to Redang Island in Malaysia

My Merdeka Celebration at Redang Island

Merdeka was a big event here in Malaysia, as this country celebrated its 50th anniversary. I remember when I read the papers, even President Arroyo (from the Philippines) flew in to KL to celebrate that special day with fellow Malaysians. Being a foreigner here in
Malaysia, I think it's great the way they have prepared for their Merdeka -- lots of activities in different places, fireworks on Merdeka eve, full multi-media coverage pre-event and during event.

As for me, I had a different way of celebrating it. It was an extended weekend vacation which meant some free "get-away" time to discover the beautiful islands of Malaysia. I booked at
the Laguna Redang for a 3 days, 2 nights package. The price was reasonable, but of course we had to pay extra because of the holiday peak season. We took the Air Asia flight going to Terangganu (so that we can make it there in the morning). Then took the Malaysian Airlines flight coming back to KL.

The trip was a bit "painful and long" because after the 1 hour flight from KL, you will take a bus / car ride to the jetty, then you need to take the 45-minute boat ride. That's not the only disappointment though ... we were in for a big surprise! When we arrived at the resort, there were more than 200 people trying to check-in!!! Apparently, the locals arrived at the jetty earlier than us because they took the bus / their car driving to
Terangganu. Plus, the hotel management is not efficient ... which makes me sad because this is such a beautiful place... but poorly managed.

We were starving by the time we arrived at the resort. And we had to wait for the lunch hall to open at 12 noon. We were given vouchers to enter the premises of the lunch hall ... and same goes for breakfast and dinner. Somehow, this relaxing vacation didn't seem so relaxing at all. Imagine trying to queue up for every meal, having to go through buffet lines with hundreds of people. Kind of sad experience for the meal part.

Now moving to the snorkeling story. They brought us to a snorkeling spot, where later we were joined by a mob of people. My hubby commented that the whole snorkeling area felt like Tesco on a weekend! You can see hundreds of heads bobbing up and down as they struggle to swim to farther areas to avoid the "jam". Luckily, we were entertained by a nice local while he showed us some interesting corals, one-of-a-kind starfish, and other colorful life-forms under the sea. This made the whole snorkeling trip worthwhile.

The moral of the story is:
1. Never go to Laguna Redang on peak season -- especially on a holiday
2. Make sure that you get the meal upgrade -- which is additional RM80 per person. I only found out about this too late. If I opted for upgrade, I didn't have to queue up and eat with the "crowd"
3. Make sure you take snacks with you during the travel going to Laguna Redang

Overall, if you do go on off-peak, it could be a pleasant experience. Sand quality can compare against the world-famous Boracay of the Philippines. I used to go to Boracay every year. The sand quality there is superb. Redang is one of the rare beaches I have visited which could compare against my favorite Boracay. So if you are looking for good sand quality and clear waters, maybe the trip to Redang will be worth it -- see it for yourself!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Painting and Some Ratatouille

Another completed painting, done from the comfort of my home. I managed to finish, after the emotional roller coaster! Sometimes my paintings have to go through "stages" before it ends in its actual look. Hubby knows all about it, since he is constantly my critic (I always ask his opinion). He's seen it progress-- from a blank canvas, to a burst of colors...then my disappointment. Some attempt to improve it. Then transforming it to another concept. Art is a bit like our life-- we think it's going okay, only to discover transformations along the way, which ends up being better than we thought! Which brings me to the analogy of living in Malaysia. I thought I was "doomed" when we had to move to Malaysia. Instead, I found a place where I can call home.

It has been 8 months living in Malaysia. So far, so good. I think we just 8 months, one can develop quickly his sense of direction and driving on the "other" side of the car.

I paid a visit to the Embassy of The Philippines this week, to get some papers processed. Apparently, if one plans to purchase property in the Philippines through someone else (like my mom), I had to get a Special Power of Attorney signed by a witness -- the consul of the Philippine Embassy here in KL. I paid around RM96.00 for it. It was a hassle-free process, and I would say one will not have to wait too long. My tip: from the moment you call the embassy, or even enter the premises of the embassy, start speaking Tagalog! It definitely helps in the rapport. It took only 2 working days to get my paper signed.


Have you watched Ratatouille? We watched it at the Curve in Cineleisure. It was entertaining. And of course, it got me curious... I wonder how Ratatouille taste like? Since hubby is French, I requested a taste test! He got on the internet and downloaded the recipe. While I was completing the painting above, he was sweet enough to cook it -- and it did look somewhat like the one in the movie! Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of it. It tasted -- yummy! It's composed of all vegetables (no meat). Hmm, maybe after this movie, restaurants in Paris will quickly add this to their menu, as more and more tourists will be ordering it. Do try!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Painting, Some Donuts & Clean-up Day

We all work Monday to Friday's. That's how my life was in Manila. And that's how it is also now in KL. So since I was away last weekend (in Kota Kinabalu), the maid didn't get to come and clean our place. She comes to visit on Saturdays to do cleaning. The rates for Filipina part time cleaning are around RM 10-15 per hour. It takes about 5-6 hours for her to clean up my place, which has 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and a well-sized kitchen. That means my whole Saturday morning is tied up. It was a good time for me to tidy up my stuff too... which were all around the place! I managed to finally clean up the stuff from my luggage (since my U.S. trip), and my overnight bag (from KK trip).

While waiting for her to finish cleaning, I decided to start on another painting. It's still drying now, so I dare not take a photo yet... not sure if it's good enough though. Usually after you paint, leave it a day or two for the colors to settle. You will be surprised how the colors change, quite different from the way it was when you just finished it.

A painting I am quite proud of is the one I recently created, living in Kuala Lumpur. I took inspiration from flowers I have seen... and did an abstract rendition of it. Now, the large painting hangs proudly in our living room. I am sometimes still amazed I did that! Maybe I got lucky.

After a long day locked up at home, me and hubby decided to go out at 9pm. We went to do a quick viewing of the stuff on sale at Ikea. They are open until 11pm, so we had enough time. We didn't see anything interesting, so we walked across the street to the Curve to visit our favorite donut place.

Speaking about donuts, well, in Manila they already have Krispy Kreme. Since Malaysia does not have that popular U.S. donut brand, we are fortunate enough to have Big Apple Donuts! You will find it near Friday's and Eden. As well as beside the newly opened The Apartment (which I gave my quick review in the past blog entries). They have great donuts at good prices... you won't believe their price is even lower than Dunkin' Donuts! The quality is quite good. Something I would settle for which is close to the Krispy Kreme experience. Be sure to try their glazed donut, which to me is the best one. Don't get too tempted with the other flavors (though they do have quite an interesting variety!). Stick to the glazed one, believe me... it's the best choice. I have introduced this donut to a number of friends, and they all loved it. Maybe you should try it too! So far, I think Big Apple Donuts only have one branch. Maybe they'll open one somewhere soon (I hope near my office!)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My Paintings: the cheerful expressionist

I recently found time to finish some new abstract paintings, which are actually meant for an interior designer friend. I'm quite eager to see if these will compliment her latest project.

It takes time to complete a painting, and also one will need inspiration. Thinking back about my trips to France, where you find inspiration and beauty all around! I completed almost 10 paintings during my 1 month vacation there... sadly I didn't bring them back, since we had too much stuff in our luggages already. But it's nice to reminisce.

It's my first time to create blue abstract paintings... now that I think of it. My only blue-inspired creation was the Mykonos painting, which I made after a beautiful week spent in Greece.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Trip to Kota Kinabalu

Living in Malaysia means being able to enjoy its beautiful resorts. This time, the adventure trip was 2.5 hours of Air Asia flight to reach the destination: Sabah. We stayed at the Nexus Resort Karambrunai, which is in Kota Kinabalu. It was beautiful.

The resort is a big one, which included a golf course, swimming pools, low rise accommodation which provided your private outdoor sitting area to enjoy the great weather. In one of the evenings, we enjoyed dancing away with the in-house band and singing in their KTV lounge. The resort also had a nice spa, small grocery (in case you need to buy food, water, etc). Food in the hotel was generally okay. One will always get service with a smile. The staff were courteous and helpful.

The beach located within the vicinity of the hotel itself is not white sand, but still good quality light brown sand. No rocks. Sand quality was not bad at all. The waters of the beach at Karambrunai reminded me of my trip to Siargao in the Philippines, because it had strong currents and waves. It was amazing to see non-stop waves which were higher than usual. And jumping into those waves was fun, but dangerous at some point.

Going into the highlight of the trip: white water rafting at Kiulu River. It was a blast! The drive from Nexus hotel to the river side was about 45 minutes. The river ride was around 1-1.5 hours. It's really a must-try when you are there! We went in a big group, around 28 people. So that meant we got a good price, and paid only RM150- per person. Which included a BBQ lunch (it was a tasty lunch!), the pick up and return to hotel, and the white water rafting. Plus, we also had a video coverage of our experience! For that price, not only will you experience white water rafting ... you will get to try body rafting too! We jumped out of our raft and slid along with the current! Awesome experience!

For the Pinoys out there, well, I know we have great beaches back in the Philippines. But this Kota Kinabalu is a must visit when in Malaysia!

Back in KL, Back to Eating!

My July U.S. trip was a memorable one. Walking down the famous Rodeo Drive, seeing Hollywood, and fun rides at Universal Studios in Orlando were some of the highlights. Shopping at the outlets in Los Angeles and Orlando meant finding good deals on stuff from Kenneth Cole, Nine West, Gap, Banana Republic, Ralph Lauren and so on!

Food in the U.S. is abundant. And I mean abundant. Everything you order is huge. I guess for my type (Asian, small built, but eats a lot) the usual USA quantity is still too big. Which meant I ended up not finishing most of my orders. When I saw a stall selling drinks and they had a display of their different sizes, I was amazed with their definition of "LARGE". It was H-U-G-E!

Despite the 1.5 weeks in the U.S. and the abundance of food, I didn't really gain too much weight. Possibly because of my hectic schedule : attending the meetings and sessions which the company had set up for us; maybe from all the endless walking in the outlet stores; or simply, because I prefer Asian food and I didn't truly enjoy some of their USA specialities.

The first thing I was craving for when I got back to Kuala Lumpur was rice. I had rice for the next few days after being back home. Then I slowly got back to my usual rhythm, which was rice only every other day for lunch.

Me and hubby visited our favorite mall the weekend after my arrival. To our surprise, they have opened a new restaurant called THE APARTMENT at The Curve. Curious, we quickly tried it. The place was bustling with customers that evening. It has 2 floors plus an outside seating if you want to enjoy fresh air while dining. Ambiance is nice. Price is a bit on the high side. Their drinks list quite interesting (we had the soda which had some peach flavoring, which was quite refreshing). Food was okay. I had the duck while hubby tried the steak. Nothing too fabulous. Service was a bit slow, despite the many waiters walking around the place. I guess I have to cut them some slack, maybe they are still on a soft launch, where they are still adjusting to the pace. The chocolate cake dessert took quite long before it came, but it was worth the wait. It came with Vanilla ice cream, though quantity of ice cream was small. I took some photos of our dinner that evening....

My conclusion is that it's a place worth checking out. But not on my favorite list. The one that still tops the chart for me here in Malaysia would be DELICIOUS at Bangsar or 1 Utama. I simply love their food and dessert!

Other top favorites in this side of town: Dragon-i and Paddington House of Pancakes.

Back to Malaysia means back to good food. And back to more food adventures. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday the 13th - July 2007

Unlike others, I do not regard this day as unlucky. Today, I'm flying off to the U.S. and I hope to come back with lots of goodies.

My work requires me to go attend a big event in Orlando. Before me and my friends fly off for that event, we have a side-track trip to L.A.

Can't wait to get a glimpse of Hollywood. And maybe a Hollywood movie star!

Anyway, will update this post when I get back to Malaysia.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Female Essentials

One of the downside of moving to a new country is losing your sense of security when it comes to female essentials. To be more specific, I mean "essentials" like the usual salon you visit where the hairdresser knows your style (whether you are the adventurous type or the kind where you get a similar cut over 10 years). Another regular thing I miss back home is the overly great service of my manicurist / pedicurist. If ever you are in Manila, do look for CANS (California Nails) where they have a vast list of nail and waxing service. They do great french tips, which I usually opt for. Service is great. Quality is good. I try to get my usual girl who does my nails without having to ask what shade I want, since I visit her once every 2 weeks. Now that I am in Malaysia, I did a trial in different nail salons. After months of staying here, I found a good one which I frequent. The place i called "Strip" which is located in Bangsar. Prices are higher than back home, but I was able to get the quality I missed. Enough said.

For months now I have not gone back home. I thought I could take a trip and go visit family, as well as my regular hair salon. The dilemma was since I am not going back home... where do I go for my haircut?

After reading several blog and chat sites (Malaysian inputs), I was able to narrow down the search. With a little bit more research -- like asking friends and interviewing even my friend's friends, I was satisfied with my data gathering. Last week, I headed off to Peek-a-Boo in TTDI. It took some time to look for the place, but I did get there... which explains why I now sport a new style : fringe cut!

I walked in that Friday afternoon without an appointment. And they were nice enough to accommodate. I looked for a specific guy called Shawn, whose popularity spans across chat sites as well as friends' recommendations. He was a nice guy. And talented. Despite all that expertise though, I was quite shocked with my cut. My new bangs gave me a different look. I always wanted to try fringe cut. Now I have it. Now I have to live with it. It took me at least 1 day to get over the shock. My husband didn't recognize me initially when he peeked into the Starbucks glass window as he searched for me at the rendezvous point. That definitely says a lot about my cut.

Surprisingly, for that nice salon plus good service, and famous hairstylist, it didn't cost as much as I thought it would. I paid RM65- for the cut.

Moving from beauty essentials to your body essential, let's talk about massages. This is one of the things I truly enjoy. With all the stress surrounding our lifestyle, one must take a break from time to time. I tried a couple of places as well -- from body massages to foot therapy massages. I enjoy Aromatherapy the most, since I go for light massages. The nice thing about Malaysia is that it is NOT short of these places. Massages can be found in many places. Low end to high end. RM36 all the way to RM200++ it just depends where you go. They even offer "pre paid" plans like Manila where you purchase in advance and get a discount. I once got a massage package from YogaZone (yes, the place where I practice my yoga). The service is quite ok and the price is affordable. I have yet to discover other places and find my "regular".

For friends who came from the other side of the world (USA/ Europe), they view Malaysia's vast services as simply heavenly. Compared to the prices there, one can enjoy at a higher frequency, as well as enjoy higher quality of service at a lower price. It's funny because I remember a fellow expat friend telling me that back in UK, she had to "DIY" (do it yourself) facials since hr experience was after spending a fortune she didn't get the service she expected. She resorted to just doing it herself and save some money at the same time. "DIY" is not so common for Asians (or maybe for people like me, ha ha). I mean it's fun once in a while. But when the work piles up and I have free time, I would rather pay someone to do it for me. That way I get to enjoy what I worked hard for.

Overall, for femmes who have already or will move out here to Malaysia -- do not fret. You will surely find the service you need. You just gotta know where to look!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pleasant Experiences in Malaysia

Over the past months of not working, I started updating my blog more often. Simply, I wanted to share what's going on with me (apart from all that free time). It's so nice to know that there are some people reading my updates... but more than that, I am so happy that it was able to help a few people! One of my foreign readers (a Vietnamese-Australian couple) had plans of coming to Malaysia but not sure where to stay. They wrote to me. I introduced my friend Ailene (the real estate agent) who brought them around to show potential places. This week, my friend contacted me to share with me that she found them a home! Unbelievable! I never thought such a blog can end up helping others. I am so happy about that. All this happened over a span of few months. Something I didn't expect at all.

Talking about living in Malaysia, I applaud the Malaysian Government for coming up with that Malaysia My Second Home program. It seems to be attracting a lot of foreigners, especially those who have retired. I don't have the full guidelines of the program but I browsed thru it in the different Expat magazines available here in Malaysia. Though the government have been "tweaking" the rules and regulations around this program, in the end, the people who have availed of it seems happy and content. They always mention that they had to go through some processes and difficult steps, but in the end they found it all worthwhile. Retiring in Asia is surely more attractive for people from the west, as this part of the world offers good service, happy smiles and great weather. Not to mention cheaper cost of living = better lifestyle!


This week, little me had to take a trip to the US embassy in KL. And you know what? It was a pleasant experience. I say pleasant, mainly because I heard so many horror stories when I was back in Manila. People used to get up at 4a.m. so that they can arrive at the US Embassy by 5a.m to queue up. They line up to apply for a visa, and sometimes it does not even guarantee you can be served that day... only because the line is so ultra long! Those were the days back then. I guess they improved the system now, especially with technology on our side.

For my US visa application, I just had to go online and fill up the documents electronically. Then you can even set your appointment online, which was so convenient. When I got to the embassy for my interview, the lines were not too impossibly long, because they have regulated based on the interview schedules online. Inside, everything was at an orderly manner. Everyone got seats. And the people from the embassy who were interviewing and processing the papers were all smiles & pleasant. To top off my good experience, the visa got approved after my 5 minutes interview... and I could pick up my passport with the visa stamped the next day! In Manila, it took weeks before you can get your passport back. Here, it took just 1 working day! Wow. Talk about efficiency. This is probably the fastest turnaround time for a visa release in my whole life experience. And I would know ... because my passports are loaded with all kinds of visa.

Apart from my pleasant experience, I overheard another American who had an equally great one. She was visiting Asia and her passport got finished off by all the visa and stamping from her travels. She tried her luck to see if she can get a new passport from Kuala Lumpur, while staying here on vacation. She went online, and wrote an email. She got an immediate response saying something like "no problem just come over to the embassy". So, she did. And you know what? The embassy was able to issue her a new passport faster than if she was going to get it from USA! She definitely walked away happy and content. Kudos to the US Embassy here in Kuala Lumpur!


For the Chinese citizens out there, and I mean Chinese -- like People's Republic of China kind of Chinese -- well, just to share some information since you might not get this from the web. For people who need to renew their passports, the embassy takes 3 weeks before they can issue you a new one. They have to send back the passports to Hong Kong and it gets sent back here in Kuala Lumpur. I had to go through that long period because after happily obtaining my employment pass, well, they sort of finished off all my remaining pages. So for people out there looking forward to their employment pass, be ready to spare at least 3-4 pages!


The staff in the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur were mostly nice and friendly. I had a pleasant experience too. They even had a stationed photographer at the corner, should you need to take a photo for your passport renewal. The photo came in a CD, which you can submit to the embassy to create your new passport. Technology has definitely come a long way, and it enriches our life experiences. Kudos as well to the Chinese embassy here in Malaysia! The only downside: I couldn't find someone to email my inquiry to. And it took like a million years to even talk to someone on the phone, since the lines were always on hold (operator not answering). Well to those planning for anything at all (visa application / passport renewal), just proceed to the embassy in the morning (9am to 11 am only). It's probably easier than trying to reach someone on the phone. That's from my point of view.


It's been a crazy week for me at work. So many things to absorb. So many meetings. Exciting yet overwhelming. I kind of miss the "not-so-desperate-housewife" days when I could attend 2-3 yoga classes a day. When I would have 3 hour lunches with friends. When I didn't have a schedule to follow. When I didn't wake up so early. When I could visit the art shops to view paintings. When I had time to finish paintings. When I had the energy to play golf. When I had time to do window shopping.

Now, the days seem to be short. And the weekends even shorter. No wonder I always say life is short!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Finally -- Back to Work Life!

As you may have noticed I haven't had time to update lately. It's because working in KL has been a bit "hectic" especially during my first 3 weeks.

The driving experience going to work has been okay -- meaning compared to Manila, I would say driving here is more pleasant. I am sure my fellow Pinoy friends who are living here in Malaysia will agree.

After a series of days paying a fortune for my parking fees, my colleagues showed me where to park so that I pay only RM7.00 per day. Wonderful! And I don't even need to cross the street or walk outdoors.

Food is not a problem, especially since I work somewhere near the mall. Food is everywhere! My past 3 weeks experience were a bit erratic... from a cheap meal like RM5.00 which was not bad... all the way to a meal where we had to pay RM107- each person! In fairness, the expensive meal was with wine and fine suckling pig ... so I guess it was worth the experience.

As for adopting to Malaysia -- in the work sense... I find the people here quite nice. Maybe I was lucky to be working with such a good group. Some people have shared their horror stories about working in a new country & environment. Quite scary. I hope that things will be smooth sailing in terms of working with people around here.

Most of the Chinese in Malaysia speak Cantonese and Mandarin. Some can speak fookien. Sometimes I regret not focusing more on my past Mandarin Chinese classes, which I had for more than 10 years back in Manila! Oh well... there is always time to pick up on that.


This year, I wasn't able to get the chance to go back to France for a summer visit. I miss seeing the beautiful flowers and experiencing the nice weather in South of France. For those people who want to visit Europe, I really recommend visiting during the months of JUNE-AUGUST, which to me are the best months.


Indian food is starting to grow on me. I never thought I would say that one day. I seem to enjoy those Roti Canai that they sell (everywhere in Malaysia). Plus the chicken cooked with lots and lots of spices (not spicy). They have a range of interesting dishes that suits my taste (since i cannot stand spicy stuff). With the months of living in Malaysia, my "spicy tolerance" actually has gone up, and from time to time, I try some local mild spicy things (which makes the dish exciting).

All this talk about food makes me remember my favorite restaurants. Me and hubby used to have places which we frequently visit in Manila, Paris, and Singapore. Well, now that we are here, we have discovered some places which we have grown to love.

Dragon-I : this is a nice Chinese restaurant chain which serves very good xiao long bao and la mian noodles. It's always a safe choice for us when we are looking for good food, reasonable price and when we are very hungry! They have a number of branches all over.

Delicious: it is really delicious there! I have been to their 2 branches. One in Bangsar Village and the other in 1 Utama. I simply love their duck confit pasta and lemongrass tea. Their desserts are heavenly! Usually, you will find a queue as this is a popular place. But be ready to spend more than usual. My estimate is roughly RM50- per person every visit.

Shanghai 10 : once again, a place to get your fix of xiao long bao (steamed dumplings with soup inside). I simply love that dish. This restaurant has a branch in Bangsar. Another in Avenue K which is near KLCC.

La Bodega : every expat's favorite! The tapas are great! Especially try the gambas in olive oil and garlic, the lamb cutlets, the goat's cheese with honey. Those are our regular orders, and always served with free bread. You will find it in Bangsar. I know they have other branches, but I tend to stick to the one at the streets of Bangsar where parking is always a challenge.

Paddington House of Pancakes: for your breakfast and pancake cravings. Do not forget to try the dollar pancakes that are served with various fruits. Simply heavenly!

Well that's all for now. Until next time....

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Working & Driving in KL

After months of contemplating about going back to the working world, I finally found a job which matched my skills and experience. The whole interview process took almost 2 or 3 weeks. After all things were settled and they want to "seal the deal", I bravely drove for the 1st time to KLCC. I still remember that early April when I took all my courage to drive... and that time, I was barely 3 months driving in Malaysia.

Despite signing last April (1st week), I only started working this week. Why you ask? Let's just say it's the process here in Malaysia -- it took almost 2 months to secure a work permit for me.

I have been staying in Malaysia with a dependent pass (based on husband's employment pass). Now that I am working, they had to cancel my current dependent pass, issue a single entry visa with the stamp journey performed, and lastly a page where they issued my working permit. All those stamp and permits totally finished my passport pages. Just great... time to go visit the embassy and get myself a new passport.

My trip to the Embassy of China was a pleasant one. The staff were helpful and nice. The only downside: it takes 3 weeks to process a new passport because they will have to send the old one (and other documents) to Hong Kong for processing.

On another note, just to share with you the horrendous parking fees I have paid the past days. I parked inside Suria KLCC.

1st day: I arrived really too early for work (around 8am) and had dinner in KLCC (left 9pm). My parking fee total was RM29.00 !!!

2nd day: I arrived a little before 8:30am and left around 6:40pm. My parking fee was RM22.

Plus on day 2, I learned a lesson: always keep small notes (like RM1's and RM10's) as this will be handy when you pay at the parking machine. They did not accept my RM50- bill. I learned the hard way -- and had to take a trip to Cold Storage and buy bread, just to break down my large RM50 bill.

Today, my 3rd day, I learned I can park at the KLCC convention center at a cheaper rate. It will be a longer walk, but imagine saving at least half of what I have paid! Well, will surely try to figure out my way there... and will use all that "parking fee savings" to just buy a pair of comfy shoes to walk to the parking!

Security is pretty tight inside Tower 1 and 2 of KLCC. One cannot wear shorts or slippers, else the guards won't let you go up the office (even on weekends).

The bright side is because you are inside a huge shopping mall, you have lots of choices for lunch. Food is relatively cheap ... I spend at least RM10 for lunch (if you eat at the food court of Suria KLCC). My lunch is even cheaper than my parking fee!

Well, having such a prestigious address for work has its up's and down's. One thing for sure, whether this turns out to be a short or long stint, having had the experience to work inside the iconic Petronas Twin Towers is definitely a thing to remember.


Driving to KLCC didn't seem as bad (as people have warned me). I was pleasantly surprised that the traffic is not as bad as in Manila. Though we will need to wait and see, because apparently the reason for enjoying such a "good traffic situation" is due to the school holidays in Malaysia. Many parents took the time off to spend it with their kids, which means less cars on the road heading to KL.

I honestly think that the traffic situation will not be worse than Manila traffic. Don't even get me started on Manila driving ... sigh, it is a gloomy scenario. That is why they say Filipinos are one of the best drivers in the world... while driving, we need to watch out for potholes, for the jeepneys & buses stopping anywhere, for the other aggressive drivers who never even took driving lessons; need to watch out for motorbikes and swerving cars; many pedestrians walking around the road which is meant for cars... All that, plus people love to text (SMS) while driving!


After 4-5 months of driving in Malaysia, I am quite comfortable already with some areas, as well as driving on the "wrong" side of the road. France and Philippines have the driver side on the left. Malaysia driver side is on the right. Funny, I still make a mistake sometimes and end up going to the passenger seat, thinking that is the driver side. Old habits are hard to break.

One pleasant thing though is there is less "honking" around. Because of the bad traffic situation in Manila, I used my "horns" to "beep beep" all the time. Yes, I mean all the time. It is hard to imagine a full day of driving without honking at someone. But in KL, well, with the wider roads (and no dark tint), you tend to not honk at all. That's a good new habit!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pictures of Langkawi 2007

After a long overdue, I have finally uploaded my pics to our new computer (loaded with Vista & got a good deal for it at SenQ with 12 months 0% interest).

As I said before and will say again, all Filipinos out there (like me) have quite high standards when it comes to beaches... only bec we were blessed with such pristine beaches like Boracay and Palawan (to name a few).

So when I went off to Langkawi, I held on to my high standards and expectations. I was surprised with what I discovered. Langkawi held a special charm, with nice beaches, many water sports to offer (including our yacht trip), many places to see & visit. Plus the place is not short of beautiful hotels -- so many to choose from, just depending on how much you are willing to spend. There's a place for every traveller, whether on a budget or on a honeymoon splurge.

Me and hubby truly enjoyed our stay. We will surely go back to Langkawi one day.

Enough words. This entry is dedicated for pics....

Can you see the passing airplane in the background? (see pic above)
This pic was taken from Pelangi Beach Resort. We enjoyed our stay in that hotel.

The pic below was taken when we took the cable car high up the mountains of Langkawi. It has a huge suspended bridge on top for tourists to enjoy the breath-taking view.

Hubby enjoying the cool breeze from the top of Langkawi!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Long Weekend...Off to Langkawi!

One of the things I love about Malaysia is the number of holidays they have. With the coronation of the new king, plus Labor Day and Wesak Day, this allowed hubby to have some vacation days so we jet-set off to the famed Langkawi for a long weekend. We stayed at Langkawi from April 28 to May 1, 2007.

When I compared prices for our flights to Langkawi, I was surprised to find out that Malaysian Airlines had good rates compared to Air Asia. What's even better is that MAS provided instant confirmation (meaning their website was working better than AirAsia when I was trying to book) so we took MAS to Langakawi. There were no problems encountered in our flight going and coming back. (For 2 pax, our flight KL-Langkawi-KL was RM1,100 in total).

Planning ahead always has its benefits. I did my Langkawi research at the start of April, and was able to compare prices, read reviews & the must-do things in the island. I booked our stay at Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa through langkawi-resorts.com (they use Asia Web Direct to secure the booking). In the past, I usually use AsiaRooms.com for all my hotel bookings, but when I compared prices, I got a better deal at the site I used (which included free breakfast).

When we arrived at the hotel and saw our room, we were quite happy with the choice we made. I know there are many hotels, ranging from RM200/night up to RM1,700/night. We spent roughly RM1,870.00 for 3 nights stay with breakfast. Not cheap, yet not overly expensive. If only we had more time, we would have loved to stay longer. After our 4-days trip in Langkawi, we realized it is definitely not enough to see the beautiful sites of the island.

To find out "what-to-do" when we get to the island, I browsed through a number of sites. One can easily find different sites offering tours, activities, cruise, and more. I tried checking the prices, comparing and trying to book online ... but my tip to those out there : NO NEED to rush into booking and paying ahead unless you are going during the peak season. When you arrive at the Langkawi Airport, there are many, many tour operators who can offer services -- and all at the same price! The beauty of Langkawi is there controlled tourism. I think foreigners will appreciate the fact that all taxi fares are standard (meaning taxi fare from airport to Pelangi is RM16- whichever cab you take). No cabbie will try to con you out of paying more. Also, the tour operators offer almost the same prices, so you can actually just choose the best one who can give good service.

One of the best part of our trip was due to the research I made on the internet... we took a day cruise via the Stardust yacht. The cost is roughly RM300 per person, and it was definitely worth every ringgit! Lunch and all-day drinks were included in the fee, so we were not short of water, wine, Coke and beer. They only take a max of 20 person on board. That day, we were only 13 people, coming from different countries. It was nice meeting those nice people and spending the day together. There was a European family who lived in Egypt but moved to KL recently. An elderly German couple from Northern Europe. 2 girls from Germany but they are living in Singapore now. Hmm, now that I think of it, I was the only Chinese on board! We also had 2 Malaysians : the captain and his side-kick called "Jack Sparrow". They surely provided great service all day. I would recommend this day trip as part of one's Langkawi getaway.

On the last day of our stay, we checked out from the hotel and left our bags with the concierge. We took a cab to the Cable Car (RM22- from Pelangi to Cable Car). The view was breathtaking. It is a MUST SEE MUST GO to place!!! They charge Rm25- per adult and it was super worth it! I cannot believe they built such a high cable car, and with a beautiful hanging bridge at the top. You can see a great view of the island and it will definitely take your breath away. We almost forgot about that cable car activity because we enjoyed the beach, thr cruise and hanging around the hotel... but please, take time to go to that cable car bec it is worth your time!

Well, actually we almost forgot about it only because we didn't have enough time. Like I mentioned, 4 days is not enough. We actually took an afternoon off to visit a friend who was staying at Four Seasons hotel. Oh my, if I thought our Pelangi accomodation was "nice and great", the rooms and facilities of Four Seasons truly deserve a "WOW! OH MY GOD!" For couples or families whose purpose of going to Langkawi is to have peace and quiet, not going anywhere else (not even the cable car nor cruise), then it's worth it to stay at the Four Seasons. You get to maximize your stay for the beauty you pay for. But for others who want to roam around Langkawi and check out the activities the island can offer, well, maybe it's better to save those Ringgits and just stay in a less extravagant hotel.

Food is not a problem. Depending on where you go, it can be pricey! We experimented with different restaurants. One common thing about all of them -- they have great fresh juices! Me and hubby enjoyed fresh apple, pineapple, and honeydew for all 4 days! A quick run-down of some the restaurants we triedR:
1. Coco beach restaurant - the first meal we took after landing in the island. This is a very pricey place, yet the ambience is not all that great. They boast of their beautiful sunset (which we didn't get to see) but overall, I the food didn't strike us as "great or yummy". So maybe you guys can skip this place. We spent almost RM180-- (or more if I'm not mistaken) because of the seafood we ordered.
2. Rasa Restaurant - a short walk from our hotel and we stumbled upon this local restaurant which had a lot of customers. Sadly, we discovered this place only on our last dinner. I would highly recommend to people. Cheap food, great taste, good juices, friendly waiters. I cannot remember the exact price but we paid below RM60- and we were very, very surprised. Our typical meal in Langkawi always averaged from RM100-Rm190 per meal for 2 persons, so we were pleasantly surprised to see our bill!
3. Beach Garden Restaurant - walking distance from Pelangi, take the beach route. As you walk on the beach at night, you will discover a lighted area with tables and chairs outdoor. Hubby had a nice kebab meal for RM55- and it was a huge platter. Luckily I just ordered soup that evening because I wasn't hungry, so I helped him finish the food. I would say this is a good place which you can check out.
4. There was a local restaurant at the Cable Car place which boasted they had the best chicken curry in town. I think it was called Rasa also, but it's not the same as the one I mentioned earlier. The serving was small. The roti was ugly. I would recommend you to pass and just find another restaurant to go to if you are in the cable car area!

Overall, it was a super, super holiday. 4 days of beautiful island fun. I am sure we will head back to Langkawi one day. I never thought that island would hold such many surprises!

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Most Important Thing when considering where to live in Malaysia

As you arrive in a new country like Malaysia, you have many questions in your mind. Not just questions, but many things to attend to. Firstly, you will consider where you should live. You probably contacted severa real estate agents already, who can help you narrow down the search -- with considerations like accessibility to your work, environment & surroundings, and others.

Of course, price is also a factor (especially if your company will not cover for your rental expense). My only tip, before jumping into any "good deal", is to consider SAFETY.

The place may be ideal. It looks good. Price is right. You're near MRT / taxi / bus stand, or maybe near a grocery / mall. But the most important thing to ask : HOW SAFE IS IT at that area?

Don't just ask the agent -- he / she will always try to close the deal, so most likely he/she will say it's quite safe. Maybe you should do your own digging -- ask neighbors, friends, and locals.

For the newcomers, maybe consider a gated community (for a semi-detached / bungalow) or possible a condo. Security is important. You need to look at the quality of security guards in your "future" home. Sometimes, these agency hire people who don't even speak English. How can they serve you / help you if they don't even understand BASIC ENGLISH???

In the months that I have lived here, I have heard of many stories of robberies happening in homes. And these are not "news" stories. These are stories from people around ... meaning almost first-hand information. What prompted me to write this now is because I heard of another robbery-at-home story.

It seems home burglary is quite common around here. And mind you, they do not attack homes that are "empty" (meaning owner is travelling / out of country). They attack even when you are at home sleeping. One story I heard is a couple of guys came into the bungalow house and tied up all the French people (husband, wife, kids and maid). Another story they stole a few items while the owner is asleep.

One of the Filipina maids shared a theory -- a lot of the theft are done by Indonesians/Pakistanis ... and a few cases trailed that they had "an insider" (meaning if you hire a Indonesian maid, she is part of the plot). Indonesian maids are far cheaper than hiring Filipino maids. So please beware when choosing your live-in domestic helper.

Maybe for single or small families, it is best to live in a condo or low rise community. At least you have "safety in numbers". But it is still not a 100% assurance.

So again, when choosing your home here in Malaysia, go beyond the price, size and accessibility. Make sure you give some time to consider the safety factor.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Our Weekend - After settling down

A little more than 4 months have passed since me and my husband settled into KL, and so far, so good! With some of the basic things figured out, we can now move into other things "to do" in Malaysia.

I used to play golf when I was back in Manila. Not that I am a good golfer, just plain (very average) player who simply enjoys the green, the scent of mornings and being there with nature all around. The driving range can also help take out some stress, and can teach you a thing or two about patience & discipline. But I haven't taken up golf for a while now, with all the things happening in my life the past year. I often heard about how "great" it is in Malaysia for golfers... the golf stuff are cheap and the fees for playing/driving range are reasonable.

When I first introduced golf to hubby (while he was living in Singapore), he was immediately captured by this sport -- and wanted to buy a golf set. I think that is the immediate response in mind when you enjoy your first few driving range experience ... you want your own set! I stopped him from that impulsive purchase (we were in Suntec City in Singapore). With the green fees and having no car in that country, I know in my mind he will almost never, ever use that golf set.

Fast forward to 2007 and already settled in Malaysia, we drove around that weekend, simply to look for the Kelana Jaya LRT station. We wanted to know where that stop is, thinking it was near his Uptown office, maybe he could drop me off that station when I start working so I can be on my way to the heart of KL. To our discovery, it's not that near to Damansara Uptown. Scratch that idea.

So while driving around, we chanced upon a big banner stating "golf set discount". We stopped at the Golf & Fashion store (Taman Bukit Emas) and browsed through their items. The store supervisor (named Downey) is a nice guy. He entertained all my questions and queries, and even gave me tips on what to buy (and what not-to-buy). There were 2nd hand items in his store, and some brand new sets which were sold below the prices of golf shops found in shopping malls. The simple explanation will be they have lower rent compared to golf shops in mals, therefore they can give better prices. It seems also that from his explanation, golf stuff are not taxed in Malaysia -- which makes it affordable. He has customers from Japan and Korea who would come visit the store and would buy 3-4 golf sets to bring back home, since purchasing golf items in those countries will really cost you.

After 30 minutes of chatting and browsing, we settled on a set which is brand new. We paid a little over RM1,000 for it. It's actually a set for my husband. The store supervisor threw in a free golf glove for hubby, which I am quite happy about. Overall, it was good we waited until now to buy his set. I am positive that we will be able to put that set to good use in the days to come.


We bought hubby's golf set on Saturday. After a nice pancake breakfast at Paddington Pancakes in Sri Hartamas Shopping Center (they open at 8am the whole month of April, with a promo on pancakes at RM.80 cents until 9am only), me and hubby decided to put that golf set to good use!

It was quite easy driving to the KGPA golf country club. If you know Eastin Hotel in PJ, well it's very near that place. To our delight, at the driving range, it was just RM10- per bucket, which had 100 balls. Quite reasonable at that price. Now that I experienced driving range in Malaysia, I noticed how great life is in Manila. Why? You go to any driving range in Manila, you park your car. Someone comes to carry your golf set. Then when you are ready to get into action, there's actually a person putting the balls on the right spot for you to drive out into the wide open. After your activity, this person actually takes the irons / clubs you used and clean it. They even clean your shoes. After which they carry the bag back to your car. Of course, you will need to tip the guy for doing all that. Still, it's a cheap price to pay for all that luxury! I miss Manila!

Basically, here in Malaysia (or in KGPA at least) you carry your own golf bag to the driving range. Then you put your own golf balls into position before you drive out. You clean you own set (at home). Maybe if I go to another driving range there will be a different kind of service... will find out soon enough once we get the ball rolling with this golf thing.

Hubby definitely enjoyed our morning at the driving range. We had a quick lunch at Raju (again, ha ha!). Then headed back home. He went out for the 1st time with his mountain bike (which he brought all the way from France), riding around the Damansara Perdana area. While I went off to yoga class.

It was a day full of activities which we quite enjoyed. Weekends in Malaysia are great, and still holds a bag-full of surprises in the days to come.


Saturday night was spent on a food adventure with our friends at One Bangsar. We tried the Vietnamese restaurant along Jalan Ara and was not disappointed with our choice. It was a good dinner with great service. And we had the chance to try different dishes from the 3 regions of Vietnam. From the explanation of the guy who entertained us, they have 3 chefs in the house, with specialty from 3 different reshions of Vietnam. There were dishes with fire-flaming on the side. Cute & tasty appetizers. And strong Vietnamese coffee to end the interesting dinner. Our bill (for 4 person) ended up more than RM200-. Quite reasonable for a fine-dining Vietnamese place which gave us an insight to their dish (other than the Pho / noodle soup that I am used to). The server's name was Tom, and he was very friendly! I think he is a marketing guy by heart, and will surely go places with his kind of customer service.

Cungdinh Vietnam
Address: One Bangsar, Jalan Ara, Bangsar Baru 59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +60 (3) 2283-5088

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Grocery Experience in Malaysia

As of date, I am quite happy to have received comments and emails from people who have found my blog helpful. It seems Malaysia is attracting expats by the numbers, and quickly becoming like its neighboring country: Singapore.

I have always enjoyed doing grocery shopping, even back in Manila when I was still single. Unimart had the widest variety and good prices. I felt comfortable doing my grocery shopping at a place where I can park right outside, have someone push my cartful of groceries and put it backside my CRV. Well, those were the days when I was in Manila.

In Singapore, I continued on with my favorite past-time. But it wasn't as "smooth" as Manila. No car. No one to bring groceries to the car. No one to bring groceries into the house. Simply, you buy the groceries hoping that you have enough arms & hands to carry it to the taxi queue. And after getting of the cab, you will need to carry all of that to the elevator. Then into the condo. The whole grocery exercise = physical exercise.

One thing to note though is the variety of things you can find in Singapore. Whether it's Carrefour or Cold Storage, they carried a lot of imported stuff which will suit almost every expat. Which made the whole grocery thing enjoyable (yet pricey!).

Well, Malaysia is a totally different story -- with upside and downside. Let me elaborate:

- the good thing is cars are more affordable than Singapore, so you can actually put groceries in your trunk and drive home (just like the good old days in Manila, minus the push cart service)
- there is a wide variety of grocery stores to choose from: Carrefour, Cold Storage, Tesco, and other smaller (independent) groceries
- prices are cheaper than Singapore, which means more stuff out of your Ringgit
- groceries will actually put the stuff you buy into the plastic bags (some Singapore groceries will leave you to do you own stuffing-into-bags)
- availability of push carts up to your car, without having to deposit coins into the slot (unlike in Singapore, if you want your coin back, better push it back to the proper area)

- after months of living here, I still couldn't figure out where to buy Arborio Rice (to make risotto). I practically went to all the "expat" places already and cannot find any. When I went to Mr. Ho (specialty shop in Bangsar), I was the lucky customer who heard the phrase "we ran out". Oh well, anyone who knows where I can buy Arborio Rice, please point me to the direction.
- variety is not like Singapore. In short Carrefour Malaysia does not mean same stuff I used to find in Carrefour Singapore. Hubby couldn't find the frozen pastry than you can make into pies. No Arborio Rice. No Pokka Apple Juice.

As you can see, the upside will outweight downside -- which is why I am happy to call Malaysia our home =) So to those moving to KL, I am sure grocery shopping will be one of the upside things in your list, especially those moving from Europe! (sigh, talk about my grocery experience in France: lots of great stuff to buy but expensive when I convert to Asian currency + you have to bag your own things).


One of the first things I asked to my local friends was 'where to buy groceries'. I wanted to learn immediately where is the cheapest place, best deal for this and that, where to go and what to expect. Now, let me share my own personal account of grocery shopping in KL.

To buy basic needs like washing machine soap, fabric conditioner, floor cleaner, liquid dish soap cleaner, bath soap, shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper (and other generic stuff which has brand and consistency in quality) ... you can buy all this at TESCO. That place has the cheapest price (in my investigation!). Parking is free. Lots of people on weekends, so I do my grocery on weekdays. For stuff like Coke-in-cans, cooking oil, baby powder, toothbrush ... you can get it at best price here. It's great to have Tesco near my house (Tesco Mutiara Damansara). Tesco can be a good bargain, but of course it doesn't house the great, great stuff which some expats will be looking for ...

Great stuff like very good meat, very fresh & top quality vegetables, variety of imported olive oil & different type of soy sauce, freshly baked high-quality bread, exotic choices of pasta in different forms & sizes along with imported pasta sauces. Should you be looking for things like that, it is better to go to Cold Storage (many different branches) or Citi Super (in Sri Hartamas Shopping Center). You will find an especially extended variety of imported biscuits and other things in Cold Storage at Bangsar Shopping Center, Citi Super in Sri Hartamas Shopping Center and Cold Storage in KLCC... mostly because those are the places which expats go to.

If you will look closely and compare the prices of basic stuff (like shampoo, soap, etc) from Tesco vs Cold Storage, those items can vary from RM0.50 - RM1.00 per item! So if you buy 50 items (big grocery shopping), you can quickly save almost RM50.00 from shopping at Tesco.

Another choice for very good prices would be Carrefour. I went to Mid-Valley Megamall and their Kepong branch. Mid-valley had more choices, mainly because Kepong is farther away from KLCC. I was able to find our favorite Strawberry syrup (to make a yummy strawbery drink which they always serve as "apperitif" in France). Only Carrefour carries these very French things, so we would sometimes visit. The downside is that Mid-Valley Megamall is super crowded on weekends, hence harder time to do grocery. While Kepong is out of the way (though not that far drive from Damansara Perdana).

I often end up buying the basic stuff at Tesco. Then the "fresh" things at Citi Super / Cold Storage.

Every grocery trip will cost me at least RM150- or more. Unless of course I just drop by to buy one or two things to fill the gap at home (like milk and bread). Overall, based on my estimate, the grocery expenses back home in Manila vs here in Malaysia, the pricing experience is not that far off. Only Singapore and France will go off the charts if I compute against Manila... so for those coming from the Philippines ... fear not! Grocery shopping is quite okay in Malaysia.
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