Archives for category: Imperfect Malaysia

Last weekend, we took our little girl to Avillion Village Resort in PD for a small vacation, tag-alongs to my hubby’s offsite partners’ summit in this supposedly beautiful place – a fact that’s hard to swallow when you know PD houses an oil refinery or two.

We took the highway there as we started late in the evening last Friday, reaching the hotel at about 9pm. Having lowered my expectations, thanks to my hubby’s pre-emptive measures, I was taken aback by how beautiful the place really was. The chalet we got was a scenic hut right in the middle of the sea with an open-air shower, a kinky four-poster bed and what my hubby calls a ‘love-nest’, a window day-bed that overlooks the ocean and right outside the lush gardens of spices and some plants I have not seen since I was a kid (eg bunga tahi ayam). Indeed, how little faith we had in our own tourist spots. In truth, Avillion was one of the most rustic/luxurious places I had ever stayed in. Or maybe I’m just a country bumpkin!

Avillion, which friends have said is over-priced and rundown, is probably the best seaside hotel this side of the coast and not as badly maintained as some would have you believe – altho they could do something about the sand flies there. With two super sized pools, one with a water slide that did not look at all water-park wannabe, and waters that lap gently at some Roman-themed terracotta stairs that go up to the poolside restaurant, the landscaping is commendable (unlike A Famosa, its watery neighbour not so far away, which is your ‘typical’ Malaysian holiday spot).

And while Avillion may really be targeted towards the desperately holiday-seeking couple (Mat Salleh or otherwise) who cannot get away for more than a romantic weekend, the kids are not forgotten as well, because Avillion IS also a family resort. As far as childish pursuits are concerned, you have your petting zoo of mostly feathered friends and a rabbit or two, greyish sand dunes that’s almost attractive if not for the oil-slick you can feel in the water, and ntm the lovely walks one can take on a windy evening between the lush flora – if you don’t mind the occasional gentle shower.

One of the best things I enjoyed during our weekend there was dining in the “Red Onion”, a round open-air banquet hall in a platform right at the end of one of the piers looking out into the open ocean. Lucky for us, there was an orange sunset to accompany us that evening, and there’s really something therapeutic about hearing the sounds and smelling the smells of the ocean – even if it’s covered with grease!

I told Lokes that we should get out to the beach more often – sans the oil. I suggested Cherating next and he concurred. And I hope I don’t have to wait to a point where ANY seaside resort will do!

On Sunday afternoon, we said farewell to lovely Avillion and took the coastal road to Malacca to have its supposedly famous chicken rice balls and durian chendol, which I was actually more excited about than Avillion before I saw the place. I thoroughly enjoyed our ride there, showing Raeven all manner of Malaysian country life, such as miserable-looking thin cows crossing the road (she called them ‘moomoo’s), rubber trees, palm plantations, small towns where life seemed to stand still (even more so on a Sunday afternoon) and of course, the ocean. Lokes even drove us to a strip of sand he used to spend much of his adolescence in, the Blue Lagoon, which has, obviously, seen better days. Dirty and crammed with weekenders, Blue Lagoon is most definitely not as romantic as it sounds. Still, I was shocked at how little I knew of my own country’s “places of interest” because I NEVER knew we had a Blue Lagoon!

Unfortunately, our relaxing little road trip took a turn for the worse in Malacca, food-wise. While I love nyonya cuisine, what we went there for (the CRB and the durian chendol) were utter disappointments.

The chicken rice balls turned out to be just salty chicken with overcooked rice shaped into balls, and the durian chendol part was just bizarre. After purchasing our coupons at the “smaller” Tan Kim Hock store, we were asked to go next door to a dingy, strange-smelling place where only two customers were seated, having their bowls of chendol. Since it was self-service, we were asked to go to a small little darkened window at a counter where a hand came out for our coupons. THe window was slammed shut and a big no-entry sign reminded us not to poke around on the door. Within minutes, the window opened and out came two styrofoam bowls and our durian chendol: ice, chendol, santan, beans and a smidgeon of durian flavouring. And it was RM3 a bowl. Suffice to say, Lokes and I were pretty disappointed as I had skipped most of the chicken rice balls for durian chendol, which sounded really nice.

On our way home, we passed by the ‘big’ Tan Kim Hock, where buses and tourists seemed satisfied enough with their cincaluk and satay fish purchases – and of course, what looked like large, bountiful, delicious-looking bowls of durian chendol. Lokes asked if I wanted another. One bowl of powdered Santan chendol was enough for me.

I wished that we had time to take the coastal road home but it was already 4pm and we had to hurry home. Raeven was already quite tired and a nice, relaxing evening at home was very tempting. A holiday from our holiday.

So the next time YOU want to go to PD and MAlacca, try Avillion, but skip the durian chendol or CRB in Malacca!

I was reading a report in TheStar.com.my today of how the govt is encouraging more non-Malays to join the police force today and it says here that “Those intending to join the police force as constables need not have a credit in the SPM Bahasa Melayu paper under a move to encourage more non-Malays to join the force….but will be given three years to obtain the credit, failing which they have to resign.”

Wait a minute. I thought this was about encouraging more non-Malays to join the force. Is lowering the BM language requirement encouragement enough? Oh, I have a C in BM. Yay, I can join the police force!

The thing is, the article reports that reasons why, for instance, young Chinese won’t join is because of the low pay and promotional prospects. I quote “Farn said that apart from the low remuneration, the authorities should also find out the real reasons for the poor response from non-Malay youths.”

So is not getting a C in BM one of the real reasons non-Malays are not joining the police force?! Pfff…

As much as I do not want to dislike certain things or people for the sake of disliking, it’s only human to have prejudices. When I was in Singapore working from ’93-94, I learnt the hard way that a majority of the people there did not really like me, simply because I was Malaysian. Of course, first impressions are always shallow. A few months into my stay, my Singaporean friends had learnt to accept that not all Malaysians were lowly peasants trying to make a living in their country (yes, that’s enough reason for them to “look us down”). As much as they would deny it, Singaporeans are human too.

Another thing that I learnt first-hand was that Singaporeans were innately afraid of losing out, and this ‘trait/curse’ was even proudly marketed as an an adjective that’s inherently Singaporean. For instance, if one were to line-up an hour for free coffee, one would be called kiasu, Hokkien for “scared to lose”, a term synomymous with being Singaporean. What seemed strange to me though, was that from experience, kiasuism wasn’t just Singaporean, even before I found out that they had ‘bragging’ rights to it. Malaysians too, would line up an hour for free coffee – a fact again evidenced this morning at Starbucks KL Plaza.

My hubby, a good sort at heart, thought it a good idea as part of his company’s “Customer Partner Experience” initiative to launch a ‘guerilla’-type marketing exercise here at the heart of Bukit Bintang. The effort was actually to ‘surprise’ unsuspecting Starbucks patrons/Microsoft users (direct or indirect) by offering to pay for their beverages. All the customer needed to do was to reveal, when asked, if (s)he did indeed use Microsoft products (a fact some would no doubt shrug of as another sneaky attempt by the world’s richest corporation to garner favour). Even if they did not, the point was to “make their day” – not something people do a lot of these days, especially to strangers. And to this end, Malaysians demonstrated just how Singaporean they could be.

Some guys from Berjaya from the building came down for their usual coffee, and upon discovering this ‘promotion’, called MOST of their colleagues down from the office, DURING working hours (it was about 11am) and some 45 cups of coffee were given out to about 30 people. Yes, some of them even took two, all these young, nice-looking ladies, clothed in duds that suggested that they COULD afford a RM10 grande, a few aunties of course (and aunties are the high priestesses of kiasuism), a few well-dressed men in ties – and the cleaning lady, who had no idea what Microsoft was. I will upload a photo later on as my hubby has the camera. Yup, caught all these kiasu people on camera, some clutching 2-3 frappuccinos – grande, no less. Some of them actually shirked away, not wanting to have their naked avarice frozen in time.

Seeing this, my hubby, crestfallen and angry at the same time, corrected the situation with the barristas and about 5-6 other Berjaya latecomers who thought they could stroll in leisurely for their free coffees, were firmly turned away. An aunty in red, saw red, and unperturbed, she called her manager down to question why she could not get her coffee free. Upon confirming that it was not a Berjaya Employee Appreciation Day at Starbucks, the two left, quite unhappily.

Suffice to say, this display of basic greed was not only shocking, but frankly a little unnerving. These may be the same people who tsk at the “kampung” behaviour of their rural brethren who tarpow food back from weddings. And yet here they are, in the heart of Malaysian civilisation, behaving as though their lives depended on that free frappuccino.

“Free one wor, you dowan ah?”

The next time YOU decry how afraid of losing out Singaporeans are, remember this day. I just hope noone else took pictures.

As mentioned, we took Raeven, my one-year old girl, to Genting Highlands yesterday. It was also a discovery trip for me, as I’d not been up for quite some time, while Lokes went up recently for a business conference at the all-new convention centre in the all-new First World hotel, this gawdawful, gaudy technicolour monstrosity trying desperately, but failing miserably, to emulate Vegas. I did not manage to take any pictures of the screaming facade because my camera was running out of batt and it was pretty misty.

It was shocking to see how quickly this “all-new” “attraction” has fallen to disrepair, appearing somewhat stale and jaded even to the unseasoned traveller. This is the main thing that Malaysian “tourist attractions” fail to immitate – the upkeep. You’d expect someone like Uncle Lim to have the kind of cash needed to keep a place nice and tidy. It was so clear that everything was substandard, from the 2D sterofoam Roman figurines greeting “gamling ghosts” to the mass-produced buffet spread. C’mon, uncle. Money is pouring in. Ease up on the purse-stringslah.

Anyway, my daughter was having the time of her life. We spent most of our time outdoors, took her for (rickety) carousel rides and on the equally precarious-looking “Flying Jumbo”. We pretty much did the whole family-attractions circuit for RM28 per pax (not including Raev). It did not take more than an hour, and the climate was warmer than an average day in our condo. Unless you’re up here to gamble/screw around on your spouse/on a school trip, there’s really no point wasting time and money here. I’d much rather go back home to Ipoh for some makan sessions.

I’ve included some lovely pics of Raev though. Enjoy ;)!