Friday, 31 August 2007

Crazy Exodus Jam

The sibs and I decided to head home last night after work for the long weekend. As with all long weekends, the exodus usually starts on Friday nights with most city folk heading out to their hometowns or holiday destinations. So we were prepared for some traffic congestion of some sort. What we weren't prepared for, however, was a terrible crawl that inched all the way down to the toll booth on the highway. It took us a total of an hour just to crawl 10km!
The odd thing was, after we cleared the toll booth, the roads suddenly cleared and we were able to merrily speed all the way down! This was quite odd as usually there will be little congested stretches in the usual parts of the highway where the road narrows.
So where did everyone and all the cars disappear to?!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Expensive Holidays

I've been getting restless again. The deep blue sea and the beach or simply jetting off on a holiday is calling out to me. I always get this restlessness every now and then. It's a very expensive form of relaxation though!

I guess I've become spoilt now to a certain extent. After having done my rounds of really crappy hotels and luxury hotels, I find that luxury hotels make a holiday feel so much more like a holiday. At least you feel happy when you come back to your room as opposed to feeling dreary or disgusted by the bathroom.

Looks like I'm going to have to start setting aside a whole lot more for my holiday fund now :P

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Hawaiian Homes

I’ve always wanted to visit Hawaii ever since I first read about it in an encyclopedia as a child. There was just something about the beautiful tropical island that captivated my attention. However some of my friends who had been there before said that they found it really expensive to get there and even more expensive to stay, especially on the more popular beaches.

So I was thrilled to come across a great vacation rentals site which were promoting very affordable Hawaii vacation rentals. They had options ranging from beachfront hotels to romantic villas and cosy bed and breakfasts tucked away from the beach for some privacy. Some of their best deals included Maui vacation rentals which worked out really affordable, considering that Maui was one of the most popular beaches tourists usually flocked to.

With great vacation sites like this, I can be ready to hop onto a plane to Hawaii anytime the ticket price is right!

Travel Shopping

I usually try to buy little gifts for the family when I’m traveling. On my recent trip to the UK, I didn’t have time to get anything so Heathrow Airport was my last resort. I managed to find something for sis quite easily but had quite a hard time looking for something for bro. In the end, I found some rather nice cufflinks that were going on sale. I hope he likes them!

Cheap Montreal Hotels

I used to study a Canadian matriculation programme when I was a student and had some lecturers from Montreal. They used to always tell us about how lovely the city was and how affordable the Montreal hotels were compared to the other cities in Canada. According to them, one of the best times to visit was fall when the maple leaves have started changing their colour and the weather has started to cool down. Recently I read too of a blogger’s trip to Montreal started to get terribly bitten by the traveler’s bug again!

I did some online research together with the great tips from the blogger and found that while Last minute hotels for tourists worked out pretty affordable, the airline tickets were a bit expensive heading out there for me. However, if you’re a traveler planning a trip to Montreal, don’t forget to check ratestogo before you book your accommodation. They have fantastic rates on their hotels which range from 2 star all the way to 4 star accommodation. There’s something there for everyone’s budget and rooms a night can be as cheap as CAD50! They have hotels all over Montreal to choose from and most of their hotels are smack in the city centre which would suit a tourist perfectly. Don’t go to Montreal without first checking them out!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Review First

Do you review products or services before you buy? If you haven’t, it’s time you started doing so as some products, especially health products, may come with lots of outrageous claims which are simply an advertising gimmick. Some unscrupulous companies even go as far as including false trials or test results for their products simply to encourage people to buy them. So how do you know if what you read or wish to buy is genuine? Always check the reviews and ratings on a good reliable site such as It has rankings and honest reviews on every kind of product whether you are looking for something to cure your menopause induced hot flashes or cellulite cream.

The reviews are done by people who have actually tried and used them so they’re completely honestly rated. Some good products which have been rated top include Provillus for hair loss problems and Nicotine Cure for people trying to quit smoking. Read the ranking and reviews on each product to learn more about it before you buy it or test it. is a fantastic site and one that people should definitely consult before trying any product or spending money on a new product.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Open-Air Furniture

Do you like looking at home furniture? I do! And often when I travel I like looking out to see how different the home furniture and prices can be overseas. Once when I was in West Africa, I saw people selling furniture by the side of the road without proper shelter! Just like that, on the sand! It was truly amazing as they were not selling small stuff but big ones like wardrobes, beds and big tables! That’s why I love travel. It’s truly an eye-opener!

Quit or Not?

Sometimes work really gets to me. That’s when I start thinking of how I could work for myself from home without having to put up with a lot of stress from bosses and other colleagues. A friend of mine actually took the plunge, quit her job and started her own home based business making pretty little jewelry for sale online. She decided to do it after seeing how successful such businesses were on her last trip to the US. I admire her courage but for someone who needs financial security, I’m not sure if I dare do the same right now.

Wedding Bands

I had a really interesting conversation with a friend the other day about wedding and engagement rings. It started off when I mentioned how wedding bands often looked plain compared to the fancier diamond engagement rings and he said it was because you were meant to wear it with you all the time. He was also kind enough to teach me how to choose diamond rings as he had done extensive research while shopping for his wife’s engagement ring. I never knew there were so many more other factors to consider besides the 4Cs! He said that one of the most beautiful diamonds are also found in Russia, besides the more popular South Africa, which was something new to me indeed! Now I’ll know if someone gives me a fake or tiny diamond! :P

Visit Vermont

When I was little, I used to read about how much fun kids used to have in Vermont during winter tapping for maple syrup and making delicious syrup angels in the snow. Somehow little things like these tend to stick in my mind and I knew I’ll have to visit Vermont someday. Recently a friend returned from there and she showed me photos of the most beautiful Vermont bed and breakfast accommodation. They were charming little cottages with lovely country furniture catering to people who wanted a change from cold and impersonal hotels. She told me their breakfasts every morning were so good that she put on weight staying there despite all the walking! Perhaps it’s time I start planning a trip there too!

Friday, 24 August 2007

Visa-ed with nowhere to go

I was asked to bring my passport to work on Monday so it could be sent for visa processing at two different embassies. It's almost been a week and my passport is still not back which worries me a little not to mention the pain at having pages wasted simply for many visas, of which most of them are single-entry visas. One of them was a Chinese visa and I'm slowly accumulating their visas by the bucketloads because all we could apply for was the single and double entry ones which get used up even when you stop there for a transit beyond 6 hours!

I was then told that there's no need for me to travel in these next two weeks after all. So now I'm all visa-ed, several pages less with nowhere to go. It's a pain sometimes!

And if China wants a smooth transition for their Olympics next year, they really should do away with their visa requirements. Otherwise the queues at the airport will be crazy!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Travel Again

I just heard that my boss will be traveling on Sunday again on a pretty long trip across two different countries. I haven't been asked to go nor has my flight itinerary been prepared so there isn't any real instruction for me to go yet. Hopefully I wouldn't have to travel with them as it will mean me missing my Merdeka public holiday on August 31 and my long weekend! Yet, as tiring as it is, it is sometimes quite fun to be in a foreign country, especially when I have little snippets of time to run out to explore the place!

Well, I'll just wait and see I guess.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Adventure Weekend

I had an adventure weekend last weekend with caving, flying fox and white water rafting! We did it in Gopeng, Perak and it was a truly amazing experience, especially since I'm really unfit and hardly exercise!

The caving was scary at some points as we had to use ropes to pull ourselves up the wall or chains to help us come down. I was really terrified initially and the guide had to talk me down the wall when we were coming down. It involved having to feel for footholds with your feet while leaning back so you can "walk" your feet down the wall! All these in semi-darkness!

The flying fox at the mid-point of the cave looked really scary initially but when we were on it, it didn't feel that bad. I think the scariest point was making yourself walk backwards off the edge so it could swing you down!

The best point was of course, the white water rafting! It was tremendous fun although we all got really wet with freezing cold river water! Some of the rapids were really huge and so much fun to shoot over! A wonderful combination of nervousness and exhilaration each time we were poised over the rapid, ready to shoot down!

Will I do it again? You bet I would! ;)

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Blog for Money

When I first started blogging, I used to read about how other bloggers were blogging for money and earning money off their blogs. I’m not technical savvy so I used to wonder how it could be done. That was until I discovered Smorty, a fantastic service where bloggers advertise on blogs and get paid for blogging! It’s a win win situation for both blogger and advertiser as the blogger gets paid for blogging while the advertiser gets the online exposure they’re looking for.

I’ve since signed up with Smorty and I love how easy it is to work with them. All I have to do is to write 150 words with a link and submit for their approval. They approve quickly and pay out quickly too which works really well. It’s a great way to earn a little income on the side and I’m so glad for Smorty! I hope they continue to keep up the good work they’re doing!

Help for Online Merchants

A friend of mine runs a travel centre and sells outdoor gear along the side. I love going to his travel centre as he does fantastic deals on scuba diving trips, beach trips or adventure white water rafting trips. Recently he started introducing online sales with great discounts and it took off in a great way as his sales rocketed. It started getting a bit too much to handle at one point and I told him he should seriously consider getting a good shopping cart software such as Ashop Commerce.

It’s a leading provider of shopping cart software which helps merchants sell online. It provides a complete solution for online merchants through their ecommerce software which allows buyers to shop using a virtual shopping cart through the transactions. It helps the merchant to also keep track of what’s been bought and how those items have been paid for and when so it’ll make his delivery much easier. My friend signed up for Ashop without hesitation and he’s really happy with their service now. In fact, he’s doing so well with online sales with his new shopping cart software that he’s considering doing it full time now!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Online Shopping Rocks!

Do you do a lot of online shopping? I recently started on the online shopping trend as I realized I could get so much nicer stuff and bargains online compared to the stores. Even though I’ve been traveling quite a lot recently, I have found that what I see online is sometimes better than any store in the countries I’ve visited. Also, online shopping gives me access to beautiful clothes such as Velvet clothing which used to be only sold in the US. I was first introduced to this nice brand when my friend brought some back from the US for me. I very quickly fell in love with the trendy yet ultra-comfortable Velvet apparel that looked perfect for day and night use seamlessly. I could wear it to my office and then to dinner without having the hassle of changing.

So I was really thrilled when I found that I could buy Velvet clothes online now at, a great online shopping boutique. It not only has the latest fashions on its online store but shoppers can have access to an online stylist to decide what fashion or design will suit you best. It’s definitely my favourite online store and I’ll recommend it to all my friends!

*This is a sponsored review*

Friday, 17 August 2007

Crappy Beijing Hotel

Travel isn't always about nice luxurious hotels. Sometimes you gotta take the really crappy ones to appreciate the good ones better!

We had an overnight transit in Beijing and decided to do our hotel bookings at the airport when we landed. The girls behind the desk were really quite lifeless when we approached them and for the large part, ignored most of our questions. A colleague previously recommended a better hotel around the airport but we were shocked to be quoted CHY1600 for it which was equivalent to RM800 just for 5-6 hours! The girls at the hotel desk recommended a cheaper one, Guo Men Hotel, which they assured us was a new 3-star hotel about 10 minutes away from the airport. They charged us CHY580 for a room (RM290) and to simply process my payment on my credit card took them ages which got us rather impatient as it was already past midnight.

We hopped into the hotel free shuttle and off it trundled towards the hotel. It passed some factory looking places, some small eating shops and finally it turned off the dark road into a side lane which was not even paved! The van and poor us jangled and jolted on that road until it came to a stop in front of the hotel. The hotel had absolutely no design. It was just a grey, square building with windows and looked just like a converted warehouse. The lobby was darkish and filled with huge rosewood-like Chinese furniture. It took us another long time to sort out the check-in, during which I found out that we had been overcharged by the airport booking desk!

We finally got our keys and when we turned to go down the corridor, we discovered it was in near total darkness, save for two tiny lights at either end of the corridor! It was so dark that I couldn't even see where to insert my card. When I asked the girl if this hotel was new she said it had been around for 6 months but the lights were spoilt! The room was also really strange because the lights didn't come in immediately when the card was inserted into the slot. Instead you had to grope your way into pitch black darkness to manually turn on the light switch!

The door didn't have a latch and we didn't feel too safe as there was a lot of sound and walking around outside the room. I decided to take a shower and was shocked to see that there was no shower stall. All there was was a shower head on the wall which meant that the entire bathroom will get wet when you showered! There was some funnily elaborate sink basin with Chinesey pictures but it totally couldn't be used. When I turned on the tap to brush my teeth, the water that came out of it stank of sewage and sulfur! What a terrible experience! We hardly slept that night when we needed it most and my TV was on all night on some Chinese channel!

My colleague and I couldn't wait to leave the next morning and luckily our flight was at 9am so we caught the 6am shuttle to the airport which felt tonnes better than the dinghy hotel. What an experience!

So if anyone were to ask me if I thought Beijing was ready for the 2008 Olympics, my answer would be No...not with hotels and airport desk personnel such as those.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Long Weekend but No Plans

There's a long weekend coming up towards the end of the month. It's the Merdeka or National Day celebrations which means it'll be a crazy weekend as everyone heads out North or South or overseas for a well-deserved break! We haven't had a public holiday in several months already so I'm sure this one will be very much welcomed!

Unfortunately, I don't have any plans for this long weekend. It's a real pity as I'm not one to let a public holiday go without trying to maximise a holiday out of it! But things are a little uncertain where my whereabouts will be so I guess we'll have to wait and see. But darn, what a waste of a holiday!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Shop Till I Drop!

There have been some promises made recently at work to allow me to do a short stint in London for a couple of months. I was pretty excited to hear that as London is one of my favourite cities in the world! It’s a true shopping mecca for shopaholics like me who enjoy peering into high end stores such as Harrods or digging around in second-hand stuff in Portobello. I’ve only ever been to London twice. The first time we went, we were really shocked to see the prices of hotels there. The second time, however, we were smarter and found a nice cheap London Hotel which wasn’t too far from the sights. That way, we did save quite a bit which only meant more shopping!

Hopefully if I’m based there for a while, I’ll have the opportunity to visit other cities in the UK such as Manchester or Birmingham, which I’ve heard, are just as great for shopping. The problem about not having any relatives or friends in those places means I’ll need to look for hotels. However, with lots of great accommodation sites now, finding a nice, reasonably priced and well-reommended Manchester Hotel and Birmingham Hotel wouldn’t be much trouble at all. I don’t mind saving a little on accommodation if it means being able to shop in Manchester, the retail capital of the North West or the popular Bullring in Birmingham. Yippee…shopping galore, here I come!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Air Asiana

I flew Air Asiana to Kazakhstan from Seoul. I used to wonder what this airline was and where it was from whenever I saw it on the Star Alliance list. It turns out that it is actually a Korean private airline which I guess complements Korean Air rather than compete as they provide a lot of flights to Central Asia which few airlines come to.

Their flight was surprisingly very good and comfortable. Their aisles were wider than most airlines I've been in and their seats rather comfortable. Even their food of some seafood dish coated in sauce was tasty, or perhaps I was just really hungry!

I found their stewardesses a lot more pleasant than some MAS stewardesses I've encountered which definitely made the flight a lot more pleasant. I'll be returning via Air Astana so that'll be another new experience!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Coming Home!

I'm finally coming home tomorrow! We were initially a bit worried we might have to extend our trip here till next week to tie up loose ends. Our biggest concern with extending were the flights as the transfers are so difficult back to KL. But thankfully, we've wrapped up what we had to do here and although there's still a lot of work waiting for us back in KL, I can safely say that we're all very glad to get on that plane tomorrow!

Hot, hot Weather!

I left a tropical country to run smack into a boiling summer of 42 degrees! It's summer here in Almaty and the weather has been phenomenal! It feels dry and hot and the sun's really bright but the people here love it. I see them out in their skimpiest sundresses, spaghetti straps and shorts to enjoy these 3 months of warm weather before their harsh winter hits again.
When I'm outside and getting baked by the sun, I cannot even begin to imagine how cold their winters of -10 degrees can be but I guess if I ever have the fortune or misfortune to someday experience it, I'll know...and probably suffer!

Thursday, 9 August 2007


Where?! That was my first reaction was I was told that I had to make a trip here. It's a long way from home with lots of painful and tiring transfers. Smack in the middle of Central Asia, bordered by China on one end, Russia on the other and Siberia right on top, it's a country of extreme weather and beautiful people.
The town I'm in, Almaty, is prettily framed by mountains. I was truly impressed by the infrastructure they had. Huge 4 lane roads and crazy traffic that puts a Malaysian driver to shame! It's organised chaos to the max!
More to come on my trip later!

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Gurney Drive

Gurney Drive is located along the Esplanade on Penang Island. It's a square where all kinds of hawkers converge to sell their wares. While some scoff at it and call it a tourist destination, some locals can still be found enjoying the good food there. Some of the best rojak I've tasted in Penang is found there and great char kuey teow too from a wizened old man who will tell you to wait if you want to eat his kuey teow!

There's a drinks system in place in Gurney Drive. The drinks owners own the tables and chairs surrounding their stalls so while you're free to sit anywhere, you'll need to order the drinks from that stall whom the tables and chairs belong to! The hawkers can be pretty aggressive especially if you wish to opt for no drinks.

It seems like the consumer doesn't have much rights there!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Lorong Selamat, Penang

I've recently read about the so-called famous char kuey teow stall in Penang which was currently being boycotted by everyone. It used to be so famous that people would queue in the hot sun just to indulge in a plate of char kuey teow that would cost RM6, double from the normal ones! During festive seasons, I've heard of people paying up to RM15 for a plate which is utter madness!

The coffee shop nearby where people would sit to eat decided to jump on this cut-throat bandwagon and started imposing rules where people are not allowed to join tables together to accommodate big groups and whoever who does not order a drink from them will be charged a 30 cents cover charge! This ridiculous situation has caused a lot of people to call a boycott on their stall which should be the case. Why should we allow ourselves to be ripped off by unscrupulous hawkers?!

Despite the boycott, I heard that people still queue for it so I guess as long as there's a demand, the hawkers will continue squeezing their customers.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Branded Singapore

It's amazing and a real eye opener to see how different life can be just 5 hours away from KL city and a hop, skip and jump across the Causeway. Singaporeans are so big into brands!

We walked past the Gucci flagship store on Orchard and everytime i peeped into it it was CROWDED! Even at closing hours! In fact when they had locked their doors at closing time, there were still people inside buying bags off the racks, as if they were free! Our Gucci here in Malaysia is never ever crowded! I even saw people strolling out with huge Gucci paper bags the minute the store opened in the morning!

A particular bag I was considering sold out from the time I saw it in the morning to the time I returned at night! sold out in the entire Singapore in less than half a day! Brands like LV and Gucci are so commonplace in Singapore. They're adorning the shoulders and arms of almost every girl there!

Is it their purchasing power or are they just more fashionable and materialistic?'s food for thought indeed!