Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Free Food - Our Biggest Vice?

In Malaysia, it seems that almost everyone is into food. We love to eat, and we're always on the lookout for grub that is better, tastier and more exotic to satisfy our tastebuds. We head out to the latest restaurants, the newest dessert shops and try out ever-changing flavours of the month. Having said that, good food doesn't always come cheap and so we are also constantly on the look out for cheaper places as well. The Chinese phrase "peng, leng, jeng" (cheap, beautiful, great) sums it up nicely. What could be better than to have great meals without burning a hole in the pocket, right?

Right. But sometimes, I think we take it way too far and start displaying a really ugly habit whenever a type of food comes about - free food. Okay, I know not all of us are like that, but those who are so blatant in their conduct whenever free food is available really make me feel ashamed to be Malaysian at times.

There I was with mom at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in KL to attend Maxis' AGM yesterday. The hotel itself is very nice and posh, and I'm sure it has played host to many important guests, foreign dignitaries and other VIPs. As we walked towards the registration hall we passed the refreshment area where a sumptious lunch buffet was laid out for Maxis guests to enjoy before the meeting started. There was a big spread for the huge number of people there and it was expectedly crowded.

We registered, got our stickers to identify ourselves as shareholders and walked back out to the refreshment area. It was then that I saw all the skills that would put waiters and petty thieves to shame.

Firstly, a lot of them didn't have stickers on them. So, either they stuck it under their clothes, or they weren't there for the event in the first place. If they were there just for a free lunch, they certainly were enthusiastic about it. Moving with such gusto from fried mee hoon, chicken, pastries, cakes, etc. to coffee and tea, you'd think they were on an Amazing Race roadblock challenge trying to beat the other teams. Or maybe just wolfing down the food before it runs out.

Then, there were aunties with such deft hands that they could juggle two plates - filled to the brim with puffs and mini cakes - on a single palm! That's four plates per auntie man...and there were a lot of them. It was amazing seeing them balance all that food while waltzing through the crowded room avoiding collision and spillage. I think waiters in training could learn a thing or two just observing them.

But the one that takes the cake was something my mom pointed out to me. This auntie was taking out a plastic container from her handbag! She was there to get some take-away! I was really shocked that some people would actually do something like that. I know that a lot of people go crazy at buffets or open houses and start hoarding food like there's no tomorrow, but I have never actually seen people bringing their own containers to tah-pau.

It was quite sad to me to notice such a state of things. That the purpose of the event wasn't even about food in the first place, that most of the people there were so kiasu about sampling every morsel - it really makes one wonder why we behave that way. The saddest thing of all for me though, was how it seems to have become an accepted habit and no one seems to think it inappropriate. I mean, you're at a company's AGM ok, not an eating competition.

I can understand that in certain countries people are starving and will fight for anything that remotely looks like food. But we're not poor or hungry, we're educated, we live comfortably and if you can be a shareholder in a company, you can definitely put food on the table easily. Do we really have to bring ourselves down to such a level?

I just hope this habit doesn't result in an image of Malaysians that shows us as foodie freeloading hogs without respect to others. But if that's what we want to project, well, Malaysia definitely boleh-lah.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Petronas Twin Towers Skybridge

Last week, I visited the Petronas twin towers for the first time in my life. They have been standing majestically for a good number of years now and I've always enjoyed looking at them illuminated in the night skyline. However, I have never made the effort to actually visit the skybridge, which is the only place you're allowed to walk around unless you work in one of the offices there.

So when my cousin managed to get tickets I thought "Why not?".

The tickets to the skybridge are free, but you have to go really early to line up for them. There's a limited amount of tickets given out each day, so be kiasu and make a beeline to the counter in the morning. The entrance to the skybridge tour is at the Tower 2 side of the lobby. If you're going by LRT, go to the centre court and make a right. Take the escalator up a floor, go past RHB bank and turn right to arrive.

There are set times for the tour, depending on your ticket. To start things off, there is a video presentation on the design and construction of the towers. We were late, so we missed this part. After that, a guide will take visitors up to the skybridge at level 41. The lift we took had the most LEDs I've ever seen (due to the sheer number of floors) and moves very fast - a zippy 1 floor per second.

Once at the skybridge, you're allowed 10 minutes to wander around, enjoy the view and take pictures. IMHO, 10 minutes is really kiamsiap. But to make up for the kiamsiap-ness, the view is really good and you can see almost the whole of KL.

It also helped that the weather was bright and sunny (and hot!), giving us clear skies.

After the skybridge tour, we then went up higher (71st is I've remember correctly) and the view was even better. Looking below, the people looked like ants crawling around some concrete jungle. Everything at ground level looked so small. Made me feel very big, hehe.

Up close, the size and height of the buildings are quite impressive too. The architecture is nice as well. If you have the time, just go up and have a look.

Heck, it's free anyway...don't want ah? :)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

StarCraft II !!!

Man oh man this is exciting. Blizzard has announced the sequel to Starcraft! Check it out:

I think the video looks awesome. Personally, I think StarCraft is the most balanced RTS game compared to other titles in the market. It also has a very engaging storyline and each race is so unique without being overly powerful, giving plenty of room for creative gameplay and tactics. It may have been around for quite some time, but it is an absolute classic and is still being played by gamers around the world.

I remember pulling all-nighters during the weekend when I was in university - not for studying, but for playing StarCraft until the wee hours of the morning with my housemates! We would start after dinner, blasting each other's armies and trying to outwit one another the whole night. Sometimes we would even play till the sun came up. One housemate even stayed up sometimes while we were asleep to practice to be the best...he was THAT hooked. Needless to say, it was THE game to play during those days.

And now Blizzard's announced the 2nd installment of the saga. From the in-game footage, I think it will not dissappoint fans worldwide.

It looks so beautiful.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Khoo Kongsi

Recently I traveled up to Penang to meet up with friends I haven't met for more than 2 years. It was a great trip, full of catching up and lots of talking over a cup of coffee and famous Penang grub. While I was there, I decided to check out places I've never visited before.

Most of us have been to the Kek Lok Si temple, Bukit Bendera, the famous hawker streets and other landmarks. But I wonder how many of us have actually been to the Khoo Kongsi?

The Khoo Kongsi is one of the most famous Chinese clan associations in Penang. And they have this really beautiful clan house/compound to hang out in. Just like how us modern 'intellectuals' hover around mamaks to discuss everything from the state of our politics to the state of our mental health due to job stress, the forefathers from days of yore used to meet to discuss things, help each other out and try to make life better for all. Well, for all the Khoos la.

The place is excellently restored to its former glory and the colours, especially the gold, absolutely stands out. The entire building is filled with intricate carvings on wood, metal and stone. From the roof, the high beams, the pillars, the walls and the windows, right down to the leading staircase, these carvings are so detailed and creative. It's amazing how people from the olden times can produce such sophisticated works of art without modern technology. It must've taken a LOT of dedication and perserverence.

According to the Khoo Kongsi website, the restoration works cost in excess of RM 4.2 million! The Khoos must be very rich people. That is a serious amount of money. Can eat Penang char kuey teow until you die. But I must say, all that money has been well spent.

The only two things I felt that more money should have been spent on are:

1. Tour guides/audiophones and information boards. It would have been much nicer if there were guided tours of the association compound and the tour guide could explain the history, the culture and provide interesting facts about the place (like a trap door we saw, but didn't know where it led to). Most museums or places of interest overseas have audiophones too, like a handset that u bring around. These have pre-recorded information that you can listen to while you're wandering around. Sadly, I have yet to see facilities like that in Malaysia. More placards around the place would've been a nice touch too. We only saw information about the statues and deco at the exit, which I think is too late.

2. Many more road signs leading to the area. After spending more than 4.2 million on restoring the building, I find it really baffling that they didn't spend that little bit more to tell people how to get there. I didn't see any signpost or direction arrow throughout the town until we had reached building! Plus, it doesn't help that the Khoo Kongsi is deep inside a crowded area of shophouses and terrace lots - not a place your typical tourist would stumble upon. In fact, we only found the entrance by chance after wandering the streets. We could have easily passed it by and not know it.

I quote this from the Khoo Kongsi website:
"Surprisingly, famous as it is, its location appears to be unknown to many Penangites."

Oih hello! No signboard, how to go??? Duh.

But if you do manage to locate it, do go in and take your time to stroll around. Enjoy the architecture, colours and step back in time for a while. It's worth every cent of the RM 5 entry fee.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Banking Bonkers, blehh....

I've decided to not keep complaining about local banks...stress isn't good for the heart and life's too short to be bothered by such nonsense... :-)