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.
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