Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Friends are Da Bomb!

Guess what people! This is a story of gross negligence! I am trying to get to KLIA this Thursday, trying to either reserve a taxi/limo. So of course, I turn to the Internet the best way to speedily dig out information. Not accurate information, mind you but at least information!

So I went to How To Get To Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) which sounds so simple and accurate. I get very happy when I find out that I can take a bus from Hentian Duta to KLIA and back (return journey) for only RM34!!!! I am ecstatic seeing as I will be paying NTD1000 for 1 airport transfer in Taiwan.

But smart Errolyn thought, hmmm, I wonder if they still do this – so smart Errolyn decides to call the numbers that are so efficiently displayed in the page. I call Hentian Duta Head Office TWICE and the nice woman on the other end told me “Nombor ini tidak dalam perkhidmatan. The number you have called is not in service.” Well duh!!!!! Of course it’s not in service, it’s only the listed number for the Hentian Duta Head Office! What could I have been expecting??

So, one down, another one to go – Errolyn calls the KLIA Bus Branch and this time a genuine woman answered and told me they have stopped the Hentian Duta bus service and the only way I could get to KLIA was to take the KLIA Express from KL Sentral.

The website above seems to be a non-governmental website which offers travel packages and information about Malaysia as a premier tourist destination for 2007. It’s endorsed by Tourism Malaysia.

I love my country, and I want my country and fellow countrymen in the service industry to improve. If you have a website that proclaims to offer information and services, please ensure that updated information and services are available! The next step is for Tourism Malaysia to add to their To Do List to check the sites that they do indeed endorse, because there is nothing as embarrassing as having old or worse! wrong information being touted by irresponsible service providers who then emblazon a giant sign that says ‘Endorsed by Tourism Malaysia’.

Lessons learnt : (you know you’ve been a ‘Corporate’ too long when you use phrases like ‘Lessons Learnt’ without falling over and laughing)

*Never trust everything you read until you check it out
*You can get to KLIA via KLIA Express (37 mins), KLIA Transit (much longer cos the train’s like the metro/subway/underground/LRT/MRT that stops everywhere), family/friend, normal taxi (which probably costs a bomb), KLIA Limo (very reliable, seems to be honest unscary men)
*You need to spend a lot of money to get to KLIA
*When you have friends like Liz - who'll give you a lift to the airport, it's great!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just Once in a Lifetime.....Just Once!

Hmmm, 2 months now is it – the lapse between blogs. Well, with handling some migration work, getting frustrated with Thai Airways and planning for my China - Tibet trip, I AM guilty of neglecting me blog.

It’s ironic that in my daily life, I plan almost every detail down to the T (now, that’s an exaggeration, the important details are planned down to the T) but it’s a wonder I cannot plan great holiday trip. And I mean great as in long time, covering wide expanses and many logistical nightmares kinda trip.

If not for Lisa, I wouldn’t have gone and driven around New Zealand and wouldn’t have gone on this China and Tibet trip too. Ok, I know Tibet is China but I say China-Tibet trip cos I went to ChengDu, China and Tibet, China so I have to remember it as such!

I was in charge of booking my own air ticket to China and already was getting all frustrated and stressed out when I realized that my CHEAP Thai Airways booking had 2 wait-listed legs of the 4 leg journey!!!! Nobody told me that! – I blame the girl entirely! Where is Customer Service when you expect it? And where you expect it!

Anyway, got on MAS and I wonder about their winning all sorts of awards – hmmmmmm…..something dodgy going on there. I have no compliments for them at all! From their hotline to their actual service on the plane – the pilots were good though! ;) But their postcard designs have not changed in 10 years!

So, anyway, I went to ChengDu (Sichuan Province – right smack in the middle of China) and met my friend who is working there, stayed for 3 days, visited:

1. Giant Buddha at Leshan (If you don’t know what I am talking about, watch the Cantonese movie starring Aaron Kwok and Cheng E-Kin Storm and Wind….or *(&^$*^&)
This was a couple of hours out of ChengDu and I went with 2 other friends, a wonderful funny girl and a cute arrogant guy. The Buddha was fantastic (you’ll be hearing a lot about Buddhism!!!!) and we just walked and walked and walked. There were Cave Tombs there as well. It’s like a park you have to pay an entrance fee for with temples and tombs and traditional fishing village and of course the Buddha.

2. Mt Emei which was an hour away from Leshan. We got there too late to go up the mountain which, if there are clouds and all that, looks like a slice of heaven. We got there by 5 or 6pm and the cable car up was closed already. I never went back cos am thinking if I take my parents to China in the future, the tours always include Mt Emei anyway so……

3. Dujianyan Irrigation System is an ancient system built by the Emperor of China, showing great understanding, skill and manipulation of nature. In summer, when water levels are different and flow differently, the are certain checks and balances to irrigate farming fields and in winter, to prevent flooding!!!!!!! Expensive though – 90yuan (RM45) to get in but it is huge.

4. Panda Breeding Base – very nice! This is the one near to ChengDu, not the far away one. But you don’t get to touch or take pics WITH the pandas.

Lesson Learnt: In China, bring your student card – gets you in to places at half price!

Then after 3 days in ChengDu, it was off to Tibet. Together with my friend’s friends from the Philippines, all 8 of us flew off to Lhasa. Loved meeting everyone – Ron, Alex, Chrisma, Sharon and Mary Anne!

Tibet is a lot of green, brown, mountains, winding roads, high holy lakes, low holy lakes (although in actual fact there are only 3 Holy Lakes in Tibet), monasteries with monks (from the Red and Yellow Sect), small and large prayer wheels, accessories, tangkas (holy paintings) and ummmmm….., smelly, doorless toilets.

The toilets are slits in the ground which you squat over with no flush system and the complimentary maggots. I, of course, was not looking down for maggots otherwise I would not have gone to the bathroom at all in Tibet, except for the hotels, but my friend was ‘kind’ enough to tell me about them.

I was shocked the first time I saw the doorless toilets. I thought vandals had been in but apparently, you just get down to business, so to speak! Hahahahaha, after some time, it was a breeze. But always remember to bring SCENTED TISSUES with you to China!

Why? Cos in China, people do not flush tissue away and do not throw used ‘anything’s away out of sight. They have an open waste paper basket next to the squatee toilet, and EVERYTHING goes into it. Used, unused, yellow, white, red, brown, EVERYTHING! Use your imagination.

Highlights of Tibet:

1. Sky burials
2. Food (I didn’t like the yak butter milk though)
3. Giant gold stupas
4. Tangka
5. Lakes
6. Weather (16-18 degrees)
7. Natural toilets (just throw caution to the wind, squat behind a rock or a
bush and DO IT!!!!!, careful of the prickly bushes on your behind though!!!!)
8. Private praying session to the Sakyamuni Buddha in a chained up no access area
9. Lake Yamdrok
10. Lake Namcho

Lowlights of Tibet

1. LONG bus rides
2. Giant Cypress Tree in Lingzhi – the ONLY thing in Lingzhi
3. Altitude sickness (which some people, BESIDES me, had – needed oxygen!)
4. Spitting
5. People who have no sense of personal space or manners when roughly pushing you aside
6. Too much of the same thing/scene
7. Lack of coffee. But there is this really cute Summit Café in Lhasa near
where Dunya is that is very Starbucks like. Good to go for some java and mat
salleh friends, and books to exchange (bring 2 for 1)
8. Dunya Restaurant – TERRIBLE management and RUDE Owner. My friend was VERY upset but yes, the servers
speak English. I don't know how much of a Tibetan experience it was - having red wine with your yak burger.....hmmmmm.....

So, after Tibet, I went back to ChengDu for 1 week and had a great time at the ChengDu Wildlife World (safari), EATING (baby lobsters are great – I had to go back for a repeat), Xinjian Mutton Kebabs!

I went too, to Tesco, to buy milk and some ham and bread and snacks for breakfast.

Then there is the great experience of Rang Fang Jie and He Hua Je!!!!!!!!! Ah! Shopping paradise! Clothes, shoes, accessories, household stuff, decorative stuff, baskets, paintings – anything you want, you can find it there for less than RM20! I bought 5 rings, some bracelets and earrings and necklaces. I bought 2 beaded beautiful lamps for RM70 each. The 2 are a must visit – unless you only have time (and by that I mean a minimum of 1 day), then go to He Hua Je. They open at 5am until 4pm.

I had my friend’s driver so it was very easy – just tell him where to go and when to come back and get you.

By the way, if you don’t speak Mandarin, it’s going to be a TAD difficult. I can’t speak it but I can bargain in it so I was pretty ok.

By the way, bargaining in China and Tibet – like Petaling Street but up it a notch or two. And walk away if they don’t give you the price you want – but walk slowly and keep your ears open for them to call you back. If several shops don’t call you back to give you the price you want, you know you’ve got to up it a little!

Have FUN!

P.S. Caught LiT performers in an Accapella show the other night – ‘FANG’TASTIC! Everybody should go – they are very good singers with a bucketload of showmanship!