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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Driving in Malaysia for Expats (and how to get around)

Humming to the music and enjoying the wide roads of Malaysia, I was driving and on my way to yoga class. Then I realized how well-settled I am ... imagine enjoying driving without all that nervousness (which I had in the beginning).

After 4 months of living in Malaysia, me and my husband finally adjusted to driving on the "right side". Where we came from (Manila and France), people drive on the left side of the car. I remember my first thought: it is impossible! Well, after a few weeks of driving, believe me, you will get the hang of it! The power of the human brain is wonderful -- you can actually program it to learn new things (especially if you are forced to).

I really never thought I will get this good, I am even driving like the "locals" now (swerving from time to time, ha ha). I also learned to look twice before swerving because there are motorbikes that will come out of nowhere from time to time. So be careful!

To help out my possible readers out there, I want to share how we began our journey and reached our enjoying-driving-around-KL status.

The first week after our arrival, we lived in a hotel. But that was short-term, because we have already arranged for accomodation in Damansara Perdana. After our stuff were shipped from Singapore to our new home, we unpacked and tried to settle in. Part of that settling-in will mean you need to figure out how to get around. Where to do grocery? How will hubby get to work? Am I stuck here at home? How will we ever get around this place???

Since our bank accounts were not yet opened, no money can be transferred, and we have no checkbooks. Which means, you cannot buy a car -- yet. The next best thing to do is to RENT A CAR. The most important things to remember when renting: rent from a credible company but not the "too credible" ones because that will cost you too much! It took me 2 hours to research (online and the handy yellow pages) and called every credible looking car rental company I could find. The prices range from RM2,000 per month or more, depending on the type of car you rent. My suggestion, rent it for a month, like us. Try to get the hang of driving. One month can pass by so quickly, and you get a better rate if you rent for a month.

Afer calls and calls, the cheapest rental you can find will be a Malaysian car called Proton. They have a suite of models, and the cheapest is the Proton Wira. It's a sedan, which served us well. I have no regrets nor complaints, it was a good car to us for 1 month. The average price of that 1 month rental for Proton Wira was around RM2,200. I called and called, some offered at RM2,000. And would you believe, I finally found one who rented to me at RM1,400! I was ecstatic (the charm worked over the phone!). That's probably the best price anyone can ever get for 1 month. So after we closed the deal, he sent the car over thru his driver. They took a credit card imprint (which was of course my Philippines HSBC Visa card, as we didn't have any Malaysian credit card yet). That imprint is for security purposes only (in case you run off with the car or something like that). We had to pay the RM1,400 in cash upon delivery of the car to our house. And then, we were off to our driving experience!

It was both exciting and tense driving for the first time. Roads that look alien to you. Signs will confuse you. Drivers may even honk at you if you slow down at all to figure out where you are! Do not worry. That is all part of the birth pains. But to ease the pain, I suggest you go visit the nearest bookstore and buy yourself a KL STREET DIRECTORY which cost RM45.00. That thick book map saved us from getting lost. If you have the budget, you can opt for a GPS system which will cost you around RM2,000.

After 1 month is up, the guy called my husband. They were so nice, and even picked up the car from my husband's office. They tore up my credit card imprinted receipt and didn't charge us for anything.

While we were enjoying our drive around KL with our Proton Wira, we were already shopping around for cars. Some friends have warned me about buying local cars like Proton (like quality of windows, engine, etc). Prices are definitely more attractive for the local cars as the imported ones are highly taxed. Imagine ... my Honda CRV back in Manila is the same price as a Honda City here in Malaysia. Talk about big difference!

Since me and hubby agreed reliability is important, we opted for Honda. The nice agent we talked to came to visit us at our house to discuss options. And he escorted us to the Honda in KL. The whole purchasing a car went smoothly, only because we did our pre-work ... we had our HSBC account opened already by the time we were buying the car. So we had an account to wire transfer money to, and issue a check to Honda.

The transaction was all taken cared of in that Honda office. The lady from EON bank happened to be there in Honda, so she talked to us about the car loan options and steps. Even the lady who was selling the car tint was there, so she arranged for the tint to be installed even before the car will be released to us. Suggest you get car tint because it is so hot in Malaysia! At least try to protect yourself from too much sun. Though Malaysia has rules against dark car tint. Back in Manila I could get tint so dark you cannot see who is inside. Here, they allow you tint to a certain degree, as long as you can see the person inside. Oh well, nothing much to argue there. I just want tint in my car to have some privacy and some kind of protection from heat.

Just to give you an idea of car prices, these were the prices when I was scouting for a car (see below). All cars prices are "automatic transmission". In Asia, most people drive automatic cars (which was a different case for my French hubby who used to drive a manual transmission).
Honda City : RM 77,252
Honda Civic: RM110,003
Honda Accord: RM132,335
Honda CRV: RM135,187

Suggest you check out the Honda Malaysia website for updated prices.

The transaction we had was complete with the insurance and 2 years maintenance. Yes, that means for the price you pay, your 2 years worth of tune-up and change oil are FREE! That's the good thing which is different from Manila. We had our first 1,000km check up done already. You can go to any Honda shop to have your servicing done.

In case you are interested, the agent who can probably serve you well (if you want to buy Honda), you can call Andrew Tan at 016-2927323. He gave us very, very good service.


On another note, before you come to Malaysia, I suggest you do like we did -- we applied for an International Driving license in our country of residence. That way, when you get here, you can rent a car and drive immediately. I read recently in an article in Epxat Magazine KL, a British guy was caught and given a ticket as he was driving with his British license, thinking that it is valid here. The only thing valid is the international driving license. Other than that, you can go line up and pay for a local Malaysian driver's license.


Still on the driving topic, parking fees will vary where you go. If you go to KLCC, which is the heart of the city, do not be surprised to find that you will need to pay around RM20.00 for a day's parking. While opposite that, if you go to the Curve (shopping mall at Mutiara Damansara), you only pay RM1.00 even if you park the whole day. So it really depends where you go or where you work.


For the faint-hearted who will not dare to drive immediately (like me, haha)... there is an option! While my husband drove to work and I was stuck at home, I realized I am not really "stuck" and have a way-out of this! You can always call a cab. The taxi fare are quite reasonable here. Do not attempt to ride the bus, as I think you will surely get lost and waste a lot of time. Instead, there are many taxi operators you can call. The initial flag-down price (the minute you enter the cab) is RM2.50. The meter seems to be running based on minutes and kilometers. But I promise you will not find it that expensive.. and it's even more convenient (esp for newcomers). I mean, I know I want to go to KLCC, but I don't know the way ... so call a cab, tell them you want to go KLCC and voila! Taxi from my home to KLCC is about RM20.00.

If you hail a cab from outside, your meter starts at RM2.50. But if you "call a cab" via the phone, they impose a RM2.00 surcharge bec the cab actually goes to your area to pick you up. So when my mom came for a 1-month visit, we wanted to shop in all the malls... and as we discovered to the must-see places, we were able to get around thanks to the taxi availability. From time to time you will find rude drivers who do not want to flag down the meter, and instead will want to just charge you a standard price (usually a rip-off). Unless it's a really important matter, you can always find another cab. The world is a fair place. There are good cab drivers, and there are bad-lazy ones. Don't be scared off by the bad ones. I usually had a good chat with the drivers. So the whole taxi-phase was a pleasant one.


I guess the next thing that might be in your mind is how much will your expenses be for petrol/ unleaded gas for your car. Well, just to give you an idea, a full tank on a 1.5 liter car will cost you roughly RM65.00. Quite cheap compared to prices my hubby used to pay in France. So gas is not that expensive.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday and Indian Food

It was a warm Easter day here in Malaysia, as Catholics flocked to churches to hear mass. Naturally, being a Manila-born Catholic, it is a must to attend mass on this special day. Me and hubby attended for the 1st time at the St. Francis Xavier Church at PJ (Petaling Jaya). It was a nice, big church with lots of Chinese-Malaysians. In the past few months' stay in Malaysia, I discovered that it's harder to find a Catholic church than to find a golf course. I guess growing up in Manila, I knew where the churches are, or simply there was an abundance of them in the Philippines (being a Catholic country).

After mass, we drove to a nearby Indian restaurant at Jalan Chantek. It's
called Raju
Restaurant. It's a rustic place with many trees and outdoor tables. The waiters are all attentive (but of course the Indian way). It's quite different from all the restaurants I usually frequent (like in malls, with air-conditioning and tiled floors). It seems that this restaurant is popular among the locals, as it is hidden away from the main street, yet there were many customers! Some came in their BMW's and you find many well dressed ladies in the house.

Back in Manila, the only time I tasted Roti Canai was when Banana Leaf Restaurant opened (around year 2003 - from my memory). It became one of my favorite dishes, but can only be found in one restaurant. To my delight, Roti Canai is everywhere in Malaysia -- from small food
stalls to big Indian restaurants. You can even get it at fast food stalls in KLCC. That's probably one of the upside of Malaysia -- the variety of food is wow!

Now back to Raju Restaurant. We ordered 3x Roti Canai, which were tasty. They served 3 kinds of curry sauce and let you get as much sauce as you want! We also tried the fried
chicken, which was cooked differently from the usual fried chicken definition I
had in mind. Of course, the whole "indian experience" will not be complete without eating from a leaf & using our hands to pick up the food. They had a washing counter in place, so you don't have to worry about cleaning you hands before and after meal. For drinks, the
ice lemon tea were freshly brewed so it was good. And we had 2 fresh coconut juice. Our total bill was just RM21.45, which is quite cheap if you are dining for 2 people.

Overall, it was a fun experience sitting under the trees with fresh wind
blowing. A perfect lunch afternoon after an Easter mass.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Opening an account in KL for expats like us is tedious =(

One of the most important things to do when moving to Malaysia is to consider your bank accounts. It was hard going around buying grocery and big Ikea stuff while paying in cash. That means you have to be cash-rich all the time and risk the danger of losing that money in case something happens. So when coming here, consider opening an account soon and getting hold of that all-important credit card!!!

We were lucky we had trips back and forth Manila-Singapore-KL before we actually settled in. So I was able to get some advance work done, which you might want to consider doing.

HSBC is definitely our TOP choice and recommendation. They are professional and indeed things moved on (not quickly) but at least it got processed professionally.

First thing to do: if you have HSBC accounts in your home country, you will need some pre-work.

My hubby had a Premiere HSBC account
& HSBC credit card in France . I had a gold credit card in HSBC Philippines. We both contacted our local HSBC and requested a "letter of introduction". Those letters were sent to the HSBC contact in Malaysia (they have a center where they collect all international correspondence). It is called the International Banking Center. Details below for your reference:

International Banking Centre
Kuala Lumpur Main Office
HSBC Bank (Malaysia) Berhad
No 2, Lebuh Ampang
50100 Kuala Lumpur
00 603 2270 3688

Plus when I was in Manila, I went to HSBC office to have my documents photocopied and stamped as "photocopied from original" which is certified by an officer in HSBC Manila. That means they are assured that my passport, etc papers were real.

You can download all the documents you need to fill up at HSBC Malaysia online. That means fill up the papers needed for CREDIT CARD, as well as opening for a checking / savings account. All those papers filled up, partnered with the stamped "original documents" were mailed to HSBC Malaysia ahead so that our stuff can be processed prior to moving.

We opened our Power Vantage account in HSBC Damansara Heights branch. It was a breeze. All our documents were already there at the branch, simply because we chose that as our branch (you can specify that online). After opening that checking account, we wired some money through our Citibank Singapore to HSBC. Now you have cash in Malaysia!

Overall, it was a good experience with HSBC. Though our credit card came 1 month after (that means when we moved in Dec 18 '06, we got our credit card around Jan 20 '07). So you better plan ahead. We had to purchase some stuff using check (like new sofa set which was around RM3,800-) and also bought a new 37" TV using our Singapore credit card which was more than RM4,000++.

Well, what prompted me to write about this today is because I went to Citibank this morning. I planned to open a simple savings account, because I need a Citibank account for my coming payroll. That's right!!!! My payroll !!! I finally found a job and I will reveal more in the coming days ... because actually they are still processing my employment pass. Would you believe it will take at least (meaning it can be more than) 2 months!!! That means I start working around JUNE 2007. Oh well, time to take that vacation before I start working again. So for the spouse out there who are on dependent pass -- it is NOT impossible to find a job ... you just gotta know where to look.

Anyway, back to my account opening at Citibank, which didn't happen. For those on a dependent pass : IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO OPEN AN ACCOUNT without the principal (which is my hubby). And to top it off, for savings account, the locals only need to deposit RM20.00 as maintaining balance. Guess how much is my required maintaining balance (or else you will get penalty charges). Guess?????????

RM 5,000.00 needed to just open a simple savings account in Citibank! Wow... That was nowhere mentioned on their Citibank online Malaysia.

We really need to live with these rules around here. But honestly, despite all that downside and complaints I've had (or if you heard some from others), Malaysia is a nice place to stay. I am loving it everyday ... as I gain new friends, drive to new places and most especially with the anticipation of my new job.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I wonder if anyone is out there?

As I take time to make my entries ... though not everyday, but once in a while, I wonder if anyone is out there reading this at all?

To my delight (today) I received 3 comments, and I am quite happy to know someone is OUT THERE!!!

Well, that made my day... aside from the fact that hubby is flying back tonight! He took the flight from Marseille to Frankfurt. Then Frankfurt to Singapore. Then last flight out from Singapore to KL. I am sure he will be so tired! Especially with the 1-hour travel time from KL airport to our house in Damansara Perdana. In my own experience, even when I took late night flights (and no traffic) it takes at least 1 hour to arrive in the KL airport... such a long way to the airport unlike in Manila or in Singapore. Which kinda makes travelling less appealing when in KL. But if I look at the bright side, so many cheap flights available going to different places ... so that's a good bonus! Will surely try to make time to visit places like beaches in Malaysia or outside (like Bali, etc).

One thing is for sure, no matter where you go, it's hard to beat the fine sands of Boracay and the serenity of Palawan. So I will be carrying my expectations around when I travel and hopefully stumble upon something that can challenge our good beaches in the Philippines.

Home Alone in KL -- not so bad after all!

It's been a week since hubby went to France, and I discovered that's it's not that bad being home alone. Being alone in KL is quite ok as long as you have a car or carry lots of cash (for taxi). One can go places!

Being alone also allowed me to hook up with new and old friends. Remember I found a new friend just by being at the nail salon? Well, she brought me out to dinner (a girls night out Saturday night). Our delicious dinner was at Vicenzo Ristorante Italiano at One Bangsar. I didn't even know that row of beautiful bungalows which were turned into restaurants existed there at Bangsar! The address is 63H Jalan Ara, Bangsar. Very easy to find. Their telephone number is 03-22871686 in case you want to make reservations.

The ambience was cozy Italian, with great staff and a friendly chef. My friend knew the chef so he actually sat down to chat with us while we had our main course. We had Bruschetta Platter for starters, which consist of 4 different flavors. Good for a trial run so you know which flavor is your fancy. Main course was Grigliata D Agnello (grilled lamb) which was very good! After a sumptuous dinner, we had capuccino and chatted at the terrace area beside the gardens of the restaurant.

The chef shared some recipes (which I will try myself soon), and the conversation drifted to talks of truffles -- the most expensive mushroom in the world! And to my surprise, he brought out a bottle to show us how it ACTUALLY looks like! Plus, he cut pieces of the black truffles to let us try it out! Wow... it was fresh truffles, no spices, no cooking. After we ate our share, there was one piece left, so I asked my friend to take a photo momento of our experience.

Our total bill was at RM 170.00 which included the government tax and service charge.

Bruschetta Platter = RM 18
Spaghetini D'Anatra = RM 39
Grigliata D Agnello = RM57
Sole Frizzante 1000ml = RM18 (sparkling water)
Cappucino x 2= RM16

After a good meal and meeting new friends (staff of the restaurant), we went on a drive around KL. That was around 12 midnight already. KL is definitely a "happening" place at that hour. My nice friend toured me around KL-by-night. And after our drive, we stopped at the Asian Heritage Row, where a lot of restaurants and bars are lined up ... very much alive with expats and locals all around.

We had cocktails at Palacio, which is owned by my friend's friend. We were able to have a good conversation at the outdoor part of the restaurant while enjoying music and fresh air. You can see people passing by -- Chinese, Japanese, young white girls in super short-shorts, and all sorts! There are many of choices around, whether you want local food, or just to grab a drink to do people watching.

After our fun night out, I got home at 3am. Officially, it's my 1st night out in KL. And it was definitely an enjoyable experience. I guess being home alone has its perks after all!
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