.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Pil Seung

Location: Penang, Malaysia

December 26, 2005

Let's count the days

Every year and on every holiday, we will hear the government bull shitting on racial harmony, people working and living together building the country, success belongs to everyone, etc. Here is what we have got today:

PM on the spirit that keeps Malaysians together

KUALA LUMPUR: The tranquillity seen in Malaysia is a result of the people’s hard work and determination to maintain harmony in its multi-racial society, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

“Events around the world in the past one year have proven once again that narrow- mindedness and intolerance only breed great loss and pain for all,” the Prime Minister said in his Christmas message.

Abdullah said he was happy that Malaysians of all faiths continued the tradition of sharing and caring that had been practised in the country all these years.

The nation must learn from history and not let down its guard for even one moment in ensuring that the country’s harmony was kept intact, he added.

In celebrating Christmas, Abdullah said, Malaysians must also spare a thought for the less fortunate and all those facing hardship.

“The generosity and warmth of Malaysians have been well documented and I call upon all Malaysians to display this generosity once again.

“Let us lend a helping hand to those who have to spend this festive season in great adversity,” he said.

The Prime Minister hoped Malaysians would continue to show their spirit of togetherness and continue to celebrate successes and victories, regardless of whether these were big or small.

“I take this opportunity to wish Malaysians of Christian faith a very merry Christmas. May the peace and love that we enjoy reign forever in this blessed land,” he added. – Bernama

After a few days, or a few weeks, or sometimes a few months, you will see stories like "Hispanic entrepreneurs must keep opportunity to themselves", "protect the Eskimos with the quota system", "Siberians must not sell their business license to Germans". You know who exactly who I am referring to.

Maybe Dr. Stephen Covery is right. After talking about "think win-win", "seek to understand then to be understood", and "synergy", then it is time to talk about "sharpen the saw". Time to incite racial hatred and do ethnic cleansing! Sounds like an annual cycle like animal mating.

After the Christmas message from our "work-with-him" prime minister, let's count the number of days before the next message like "create a towering Polynesian race" comes out.

Malaysians have very short memory. For companies major in researching, producing, testing, marketing, selling, or distributing Gingko Biloba, I would recommend Malaysia to be the site of choice for investment. Malaysians should eat more to improve their memory. They seems not to remember that this is the same stupid goverment that has run out of ideas and keep inciting racial hatred years after years. Believe me, you are hearing nice news today, let's wait for the not-so-nice news soon. Akan Datang!

Anyway, Merry Christmas!

December 20, 2005

该死的不死, 不应该去的...

My deepest condolence and sympathy to the family of "one of our friends". This person will be greatly missed.

Back in the year 2000, I lost a friend as well. This friend was just sitting next to me in the office. We used to work on projects together, used to go out for lunch, used to visit each other's home as well. Suddenly, this person was gone.

So, another friend is gone recently. Let's pray for this person.

Sometimes, certain people who you think deserve to die, is still there wiwi wawa, making havoc, making others' life miserable. Humble and friendly people die early. Arrogant and mean bastard still roaming. Fair?

People who do believe in God look at the positive side and say, "Maybe God has a better plan for those who died early", "God wants them to be with Him".

Kind of a sad day.

December 11, 2005

Shanghai - Hong Kong - Los Angeles

Last night (Saturday) was really an adventure. We walked along the "food" street. I don't have the name of the street with me now, but it is within walking distance from JW Marriott, Shanghai. We ate 生煎包 at 小杨生煎馆. Yummy and cheap street food. We wondered further and had some BBQ oysters, scallops, and mussels. Damn delicious! The owner's wife who is also the waitress can speak fluent non-accented Cantonese. Should have found this place earlier... but no regret, at least I tasted it once.

Started early at 6:00 am on Sunday, going to the airport. If you have the Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club frequent flyer card, you will be able to check-in using the business class lane while you actually have an economy class ticket. Since Dragon Air partners with Cathay Pacific, I tried to ask the ground crew whether I can use the business class lane by showing her my Marco Polo Club card. Shit! She told me, "先生, 对不起, 很多人都有这张卡". Hmm... Dragon Air doesn't recognize Cathay Pacific frequent flyer program. Fine!

Everyone was waiting in line for flight check-in, while an "escort service provider" was saying good bye to her client. The angmo was going back to US. I think the angmo paid for her service for a few months. "Babe, this is my last time touching you. Your skin is so smooth. I will miss you... blah blah blah... Kiss! I love you... Hope all the business discussion will go through well... blah blah blah..."

After going through health inspection, custom, and immigration, I found myself was on my way back to Hong Kong again. After checking in for the next flight, I went to the Cathay Pacific Lounge. I am not going to blog about what I did there. I met Deannie Yip Tak Han (葉德嫻). We were waiting in line to use some facilities. She was behind me. I looked back and we exchanged smiles. She is a cheerful lady.

Time goes by and finally it is time to board the plane to Los Angeles. After sometime on the plane and had dinner, lights were off. Many people were sleeping while I tried to do some exercise, and this is also the best time to use the lavatory. Talked to the cabin crew leader (she was in purple uniform) and found out that she is a Malaysian. Chatted for quite a while before I walked back to my seat. By the way, she is 15 years my senior...

I used to have pretty bad impression on Cathay Pacific air stewardess. My last trip on Cathay Pacific was back in December 2000. After that, I tried all means to avoid this lousy airline. However, this trip was pretty much lived up to expectation.

Before you realize, it is time for you to adjust your watch. You have landed at Los Angeles International Airport. The local time is blah blah blah...

December 09, 2005

What did you do in a foreign place?

What makes a foreign place foreign? Most people will tell you in one word. Yes, the "culture". You know that culture is a very general word. Some people are adventurous enough to experience to be a local. Some might want a controlled environment.

In a foreign place, the language is different, or at least, the accent is different. Some people can pick up the local accent in a short time. They can even imitate the accent as well. The way people joke and laugh at something is different from yours. When you try to crack a joke, you will be surprised that the local people look at you with wide open eyes. They just don't get it. The reverse is true too.

While in Shanghai, I asked a counterpart on how do local poeople recognize us as foreigners? Well, pretty simple, he told me. The locals usually don't turn on the heater at home. Some turn on the heater for certain rooms only. Therefore, they wear many "layers" of clothes. Foreigners usually stay in the hotel where the heater is always turn on to comfortable level, to a level you can do without a shirt. When foreigners go out, they will wear very little. Maybe, just a T-shirt and a jacket. That's all. So, it is really easy to distinguish foreigners.

Anyway, in a foreign place, it will be great to find out what the locals do. Shanghai is relatively safe. You can go out to the street alone at night and my impression is that it is as safe as Singapore. For certain cultures, "eating is a favourite pastime". The Chinese like to eat. We "roamed around to find food" every night while we were there.

On Monday night, we managed to find a Muslim restaurant. It was great and cheap. The next day was a little lazy. We walked around a found a Hong Kong style "tea shop" (港式茶餐厅) and we had good food there as well. The price was really reasonable. We worked a little late on Wednesday and ended up going for dinner at about 9 pm. We saw a Mexican food restaurant after a few hunder meters walk. The environment was really nice, the service is excellent. You won't believe it because Mexican restaurants that I went to before in United States are different. Not forgetting to mention about the food, it was superb.

After 3 nights of great food, Thursday was a really busy day, and at the end of they day, I found out that I was the last person to leave the company. So, I ended up eating alone at a Japanese restaurant near the office. It is actually located within the same building. A good dinner but unfortunately, I had to drink sake (Japanese rice wine) alone.

We disappeared from the company a little early on Friday. We went to do some sightseeing and not to forget buying souvenirs. It is important to buy something for the people in the office back home. Edible or not, you must buy something as "buah tangan" (in the Malay language). Japanese say "omiyage", they know this well. Friday dinner was interesting. The locals took us to a up-class Chinese restaurant serving local cuisine. We paid for dinner as a gesture of appreciation since they took us around. The food was "so-so" only.

After a week in Shanghai, we learned to go around with a map, walking, taking taxis, and using the MRTs. Learned some local accents and terms (vocabularies). While blogging about things happened after office hours, the main job was kind of out of the picture. Anyway, the main job was completed successfully. Work hard and play hard, of course.

December 04, 2005

Sunday Shanghai

Being a stranger to this city of 20 million population, we woke up to our excitement on Sunday morning. Our de facto team lead, who was an excellent guy, told us that eating the xiao long bao (小籠包) was definitely something that we should not miss at all. So we headed to a place called Yu Yuan (豫园), and there is where the infamous Nanxiang Mantou Dian (南翔馒头店) is situated. We were told that this shop is the birth place of xiao long bao. On the ground floor, people is lining up in a long queue for xiao long bao to "take away". Next to it, there was a group of people in their 60's or 70's performing Chinese opera singing. Quite a "matching" environment next to the serene man-made lake with a number of geese.

We proceeded to the first floor and was told that it was full. Naturally, we continue to climbed up to the 2nd floor. We couldn't find any empty table. So, we ended up sharing table with another 2 couples who were already sharing the table. Thinking of trying out everything, we ordered the "breakfast set" that cost each of us 50 yuan. Not bad at all, both the price and the taste. When we told people later, we learned that each floor charges a different "price structure" with the highest floor commanding a premium price. Interesting.

Xiao long bao by itself is interesting as well. It is actually a dumpling made to shape like a bao. The skin is something like thick wanton skin with smooth texture. Eating it is interesting as well. Since soup is also wrapped together, you can't just eat it like you eat normal dim sum. Put the xiao long bao on the spoon, eat of the "nipple", and suck out the soup. Only then you eat the xia long bao. You have to try it yourself!

After our stomachs were full, it was time to walk around for sightseeing. However, it just fascinated me that some people were not interested to see the yu yuan itself. I heard there is a Dragon Wall, and other interesting stuffs as well. When it comes to the Cheng Huang Miao (城隍庙), again there were people who said "What? You need to pay money to pray?". Hey, come on. This is not actually a place for praying. This temple is something like a "museum". We walked and walked and walked. I tried the bing tang hu lu (冰糖葫芦) from the street. OK, now I know the taste of it. The one with hawthorn fruit is the original version. There are also bing tang hu lu made from strawberries, peach, and even kiwi.

After this, the exploration of Shanghai was a torture to me. Being in a "semi-sick" condition, walking around the town was not really a conscious activity. I followed our great leader in every moves. First of all, I was not having a good rest the night before. I didn't have any fever or running nose. However, when it came to sneezing, my whole body ached. Kind of funny.

My idea of sightseeing is to visit historical places and tourist spots. There is a garden when once the Japanese put up a notice board that "Chinese and dogs are not allowed". Places like this are worth the visit. There are some people whom, in my opinion, should stay in the hotel room. These are people who go from one shopping mall to another looking for Adidas and Nike shoes, and Nine West handbag.

I am not saying that those are fake goods. In a country where there are so many counterfeit goods, go and grab some. Not visiting all the shopping complexes one after another. After finding out that the price was outrageous, these people sweared "kiong kan lar...", "chibai, kui ka lan anekuan", "pukimak", "ho lang kan", "kannineh...", and other mantras as well. Beh tahan... but I have to follow the group.

The Sunday morning in Shanghai is unusually quiet. This is due to the fact that people "go all out" on Saturday night. So, people are sleeping through the nice morning to regain the vital energy.

Lunch was nice. Had Sichuan style dishes at the 翘江南 restaurant inside the Times Square. Yes, the Times Square where they shot the Shoalin Soccer movie. This was one of the best moment where there were good food and you don't have to walk like shit from buildings to buildings without doing anything "productive".

The afternoon continues with the same routines, surveying prices from one place to another for Adidas shoes. Saw Parkson there. Yes, this is the Malaysian owned Parkson. Finally, we reached the Xiangyang Road (襄阳路) market. This is the place where people are selling designer goods at a cheap price. Of course, they are fakes. However, let's think about it, these things are not necessary fakes. It could be coming out from the same factory. For example, the factory might product 100,000 Samsonite bags and shipped them to US, and the same factory works overtime and makes another 100,000 "illegally" and distributes them to Xiangyang Road market. Most of the customers are lao wai (老外), which means foreigners (referring to Caucasians).

Finally, we took the MRT back to the hotel. Feeling too exhausted, all of us slept through the night without having dinner. The moral of the story? Find the right group. Otherwise, go on your own.

The first Shanghai night

The first impression on Shanghai when I landed was that "Is this China?". The immigration officers are all in blue, not like those in green I have seen last time in Shenzhen. I don't have any idea whether they revamped their uniform color, or this is something unique to Shanghai. Moving closer towards the immigration officer revealed to she is a "policewoman". The word 警察 is clearly written on the shoulder embroidery badge. Wait a minute, I thought police is known as 公安 in China. Again, this could be something unique to Shanghai again or they are trying to be copy cats. Not much difference from their Hong Kong counterparts except they don't speak Cantonese.

After we cleared immigration, we proceeded to take our baggage, and headed towards the custom. Nothing to declare. Next will be something that first timer will be tempted to try. Take the MagLev train from Pudong airport to Longyang station. The one way trip ticket costs 50 yuan (renminbi), which is roughly equivalent to RM 25. I read from the ticket counter that the magnetically levitated train will run at a top speed at 430 km/h during daytime. However, it will only run at 300 km/h in the evening. Well, paying RM 25 to travel at 300 km/h is definitely an "experience" rather than the stupid Malaysia Boleh KLIA Ekspres where you have to pay RM35 for a single trip.

Side track a little. After doing some research on the internet, it again, reinforces my belief that Germans are kind of gifted in the field of technology. They patented the basic maglev system before the World War II.

Reached 明天广场JW万豪酒店 pretty late. After taking a nice shower, we went out for a sumptous dinner, a buffet style BBQ bar. Oh yeah, we accept all major charge cards and credit cards. This fine print is "we don't accept foreign banks issued credit cards". So, we ended up paying by cash. To me, my "rule of buffet" is to try everything, just a little will do. However, some thinks that eating "char siew" repeatedly is cool. Damn it!

We walked along the Nanjing Road all the way to The Bund. Very nice experience. Now I know, this is Shanghai night!

December 03, 2005

夜上海 夜上海

The day started at 5:30 am on the 3rd of December, waking up in excitement. You didn't want to be late for your flight as you were just flying economy class. You didn't have the privilege to keep people waiting for you, and had your name announced a couple of times through the airport public address system. As the saying goes, it is better to be early than sorry.

Equipped with an upgraded frequent flyers card, you were actually being treated like a business class passenger. I was glad to beat the crowd. After a while, it was the time to say good bye to those sending us off. Yes, I said "us". A few of us were on the same mission, going to the same destination.

Before we board the plane, we were actually given the invitation card to use the airline lounge. You know, with your family members with you before boarding, you wanted to be with them as long as possible. So, I didn't bother to use the lounge. After clearing immigration and security, someone who didn't have the invitation to use the lounge was really desperate. We went in, and of course, I had the card, and he didn't. He didn't care much, just stormed in and grabbed a sandwich with the life hand, while opening a can of Coke with the right hand. Seems like this guy didn't had anything to eat for many days. I can't describe the situation in words, just feeling too embarassed to say anything. Someone approached us asked for the card, I gave mine, and I was done. As usual, some people really know how to dance. "Oh, you need a card to come in here ?" "They didn't issue it to me". OK, enough, I am heading to the boarding gate.

Transit at Hong Kong in the afternoon. Not much to see there, not much time for us to do anything. Looked for the gate and sat there. We reached Shanghai Pudong International Airport at almost 6:00 pm. Half a day was gone. The story will continue...