Thursday, March 30, 2006

PMS: Work permit...

I'm always an advocate of 'Doing the right thing'. This includes applying for work permits when you go to a foreign country for employment.

But this is just stupid because...


... while I am Malaysian, on Malaysian soil, working with Malaysian contractors, and building a power plant for my own country ~ Malaysia!

Fine... so there is the East-West Malaysian issue going on, hence the permit to limit West Malaysians, i.e.: ME, working here.

*I am from Kuala Lumpur (West - Peninsula), in Kota Kinabalu (East - Borneo island).

From what I gather, East Malaysians feel that the West is out here to take their resources, and out to stop the progress of their people... yadi yadi yada. It's understandable that the Easties are pissed, because some of the key businesses over here are apparently, dominated by Westies. But this is still SO stupid... Pretty Much Senseless (PMS)!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Food: Crazy about coconuts

Over the weekend, Elton – an old classmate from university who is a local, lead the way to explore some of the culinary delights that Kota Kinabalu had to offer.

Being a nature-ish + beach-ish + chilled out-kinda resort town that Kota Kinabalu is, they naturally have a lot of coconuts.

*Think Hawaii

One of the places we stopped at, were simply wooden shacks by the main road that served up coconut. Apart from your normal young coconut, they served two other varieties – Burnt Coconut (Kelapa Bakar) and Coconut with Pudding (Kelapa Puding).

Burnt coconut is basically a skinned coconut that is put on coal and burnt on the outside. When served, its contents are hot, and the coconut flesh peals off simply with a scrape of the spoon. Taste-wise, it’s almost like baked coconut, yet retaining the moist and smooth texture of fresh coconut.

A bit of a history lesson here… Word has it, in the days when forests were burnt to clear land, someone decided to try out some of the coconuts burnt along the way. He/she found that it was good and hence, burnt coconut came about.

*Kelapa Bakar = RM4.00 (USD$1.10)

Kelapa Puding, literally meaning “coconut with pudding”, is a pudding filled coconut. Contents are served cold. Puding Kelapa on the other hand, is simply plain old coconut pudding served in a cup. They serve that too, but why go for the (*Yawn) boring stuff, when you can experience the novelty of having it served in a coconut.

*Kelapa Puding = RM3.00 (USD$0.80)

Honestly, the two coconuts would have made a complete meal. One cooked, and one dessert. Try them when you visit Kota Kinabalu. These road-side stalls are found mostly in the outskirts of the city center.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

@ Work: Turbine is here

Alright, it's been awhile so I thought I really should update...

Since the last post on Sunday, work has been on over-drive for the last few days. This is predominantly due to the fact that our turbine and generators have arrived.

Think you can grab one of these babies, throw 'em on a truck, grab a crane and throw them on the ground? Not really... It took us about 6 days for both machines, from when they arrived at the port 15km away, to when they finally got set down onto their foundations.

Stay tuned until after the busy period. ;)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Music: Space...

Over the weekend on Sunday, I made it to Skyline SIB church in Kota Kinabalu, prior to running of abruptly at the end to go to work. Singing the song Amazing Grace (John Newton, 1779) just absolutely touched me in a way I have not felt for a long time. Especially when we got to the chorus "...T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far... and Grace will lead us home".

*I got teary eyed, but who cares!

Feeling inspired and all, I decided to pick up the guitar to do a wee rendition of the song, but came out with this instead... Have a listen to ~ Space.

*It's far from Amazing Grace... I know.

Don't ask me how it happened, but at least I tried right?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Food: Healthy weekend

Embarking on a quest to rid myself of unhealthy elements in my diet, I decided on Martabak for dinner last night.

What the Sabahan version of Martabak really is, is a batter of schmushed egg, onion and vegetable mix, wrapped in a thin flour dough skin. The package is then is deep fried to a crisp gold brown on the outside, and served with chili sauce.

*Deep-frying kills germs. Must be healthy... right?

God bless Sabah... the Martabak cost me only RM1.50 (USD$0.40). Other things I had for dinner last night include:
  • Cendol, containing coconut milk high in cholesterol and packed with sugar ~ RM1.50 (USD$0.40).
  • Deep fried banana ~ RM0.50 for 4 pieces (USD$0.15).
Stay healthy people, and take me as your best role model!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

People: Uncle Voon

Since arriving in Malaysia, I messaged a few of my closer friends to do the obligatory "Hi I'm back, call me sometime" message.

Having messaged Felix ~ a friend from church back in KL, he knew I was in his hometown of Kota Kinabalu. He then gave his dad a call to help me out, especially on finding accommodation and settling in.

So we met up tonight.

Apart from showing me around KK, and buying me dinner (Thanks Uncle Voon!), he also helped me work out a great deal at a phone shop for a "new purchase". More on that later.

What was cool too is...

He reads this blog!

I am flattered.

p.s: For the readers who aren't familiar with Asian salutations, Uncle Gerald Voon isn't really my uncle. "Uncle" and "Aunty" is just how you would address someone much more senior than yourself to show respect. This is similar to the Korean Ajeossi (아저씨) and Ajumma (아줌마) salutations.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

About me: Views from my hotel

Kota Kinabalu does have some spectacular views, since it's on the ocean front and facing the West.

Read "B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L.S.U.N.S.E.T.S"

Just so you know, this is the view from my hotel window out into the South China Sea at dusk. Absolutely magnificent!

I need someone to hug!

Just so you all know, I have put myself up at LeMeridian hotel since my arrival. For now, I have started house hunting, but it seems that an apartment facing the seafront will be inevitable in two weeks. ;)

Will be updating you guys as we go along.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

@ Work: Overwhelming

Okay, it's officially not funny that I've arrived in Kota Kinabalu. There's lots to do, and so little time!

Dear readers, you guys will just have to be patient with sporadic updates for the next two weeks, as I am still trying to set up the job. Drawings, technical issues, getting to know the contractors, procedures... etc. Sorry.

*Oh crap... back to doing some work, and it's 9:23pm!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Announcement: Sudden departure.

Every single day, I dread the day that I would have to leave Korea... the day that I will eventually leave HER behind. D-day was originally set to be 24th of March 2006.

Unbeknownst to me, my boss had other plans. Not knowing what to expect, I called my boss on Tuesday ~ two days after returning from Bangkok, when I got the email that simply said, "Call me. It's urgent." It's ironclad now.

I leave Korea for Malaysia, on the 13th March 2006. I travel to the new job-site the very next day.

Welcome to the life of a field engineer.

My next project will be out in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia for the next 6 to 8 months as a lead engineer for the installation of 2 turbines.

Hopefully I will be updating the blog, and my readers interested in Korean issues will still read on about my Malaysian adventures. Wish me well, and I will try to update once I settle in to the place. Thanks for all the support so far!

Language: Bangkok!

Alright, it wouldn't surprise me if someone told me the Thai phrase for "I need to go eat curry" would be 10,000 syllables. Thai is HARD!

But this sure beats it... Bangkok's full ceremonial name is the longest name of a place, as recorded by the Guinness Book of Records.

When spoken in Thai, it literally translates into:

The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.

(กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลก ภพนพรัตน์ ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์ มหาสถาน อมรพิมาน อวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะ วิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์)


Being curious and all, I asked our tour guide - Mei, to recite the name in Thai. Click on the picture below to see a video of how it's said in full!

20 seconds to recite the whole name of a city ~ now THAT is a mouthful!

p.s: You might need the DivX CODEC for viewing the video.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Travel: What's a Wat?

During my week-long stay in Bangkok, we managed to squeeze in two brief tours of the city. It really would've been better if I'd taken off to explore on my own for days. Being that I was there for a conference (honest!), it really wasn't too bad. At least we got to see some of the Thai cultural icons ~ Wats.

What's a Wat?

In a nutshell, it's a Buddhist temple from the Cambodian, Lao or Thailand region. Click 'HERE' for a more detailed definition.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) was one of the gems we visited on the first of our Chao Phraya River tour. Located on the Western banks/Thonburi area of the city, it consists of a center tower (Khmer style prang), boasting 104m tall, with 4 smaller prangs seeded at its corners. All of the towers are adorned by pieces of Chinese porcelain.

Nothing sits within this temple. This is only a structure, with no rooms or halls for believers to pray in. Although it once housed the infamous Emerald Buddha, the relic has now been moved to Wat Phra Kaew, closer to the Grand Palace.

Noting that Wat Arun is probably one of the most published images of Bangkok, it is also on the back of a 10Baht (USD$0.25) coin.

Wat Pho, or Phra Chetuphon as known by the locals, impressed me the most.

Wat Pho dates back to about 200 years prior to Bangkok being established as the capital of Siam in 1782 by King Rama I. It is by the Grand Palace, housing a 13m (43ft) high and 46 meter (151ft) long sleeping Buddha.

At the temple, handfuls of beads could be offered up as prayers, placing them one by one into the bowls while walking alongside the temple walls.

Wat Traimit in the China Town area was one of the interesting ones. In there, sat a statue of Buddha, made out of 5,500kg (12,000lbs)!

At first glance, the 3m high Buddha image in here looks distinctly average and undeserving of the busloads of tourists that visit every day. What attracts them all however, is the remarkable fact that it's made of 5.5 tonnes of solid gold.

The story behind the image is that in 1957 a large stucco Buddha image was being moved by crane during development of a port. To the horror of all concerned, the crane operator accidentally dropped the image, sending it crashing towards the ground. Instead of smashing however, the stucco covering merely cracked and in the process revealed the solid gold image hidden underneath. It is thought to have been covered like this during the early Ayuthaya or Sukhothai period, apparently to protect the image from the invading Burmese, and remained that way for several hundred years.


Wats are everywhere in Bangkok. Turn every corner, and you'll see a Wat here, there, and everywhere!

Kings continually to built temples in the capital. Probably the last official one being built by the kings, as we were told, was Wat Benchamabophit ~ or Marble Temple. Construction commenced in 1899, under orders of King Chulalongkorn. This is a UNESCO world heritage site, housing 52 Buddha statues, an intricate roof (inside and outside), and is actually still being used by monks for meditation.

I'd like to go on and on about more of the places we visited, and the histories, but I guess that's probably enough about Wats for now.

If you'd like to see more pictures of the trip, not only of temples, do click on my photo album link on the blog's sidebar, or 'HERE'.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Food: Thai and all things glorious

Having been back to Korea for a few days now, I thought it'd be about time I blogged about the trip to Bangkok. Not having any experience with the Thai culture and its culinary offerings, I did what made the most sense... I asked.

Eating Asia is a blog I read regularly, if not on a daily basis. Robyn has certainly done a tremendous job at documenting all foodstuffs that is Asian. Being enthusiastic as she is about food... I got me a 4-page email about things to eat.

The treasure hunt began on the afternoon I arrived, where I ventured down Wireless Road in search of some roast pork and Polo chicken. Instead, I was greeted by wisps of Pandan leaf sweetness, while exploring a little lane ~ Soi Polo (Polo Road), off Wireless. There she was, the little lady on the side of the road throwing bits of dough into boiling sweet water.

She was preparing Bua Loy ~ A dessert with boiled tri-colored dough, served in coconut milk, corn and yam chunks. I suppose the next closest thing, would be the Malaysian/Singaporean Bubur Caca.

*Cost: 18 Baht = USD$0.50

Soi Suan Phlu was my next destination. This is another diplomatic area where embassies, including that of Malaysia, reside. Further down the road, were two rows of shops running alongside the single carriageway road, with markets and places selling all kinds of goods and services. Just in front of the market, was where I found the Khanom Jeen curries that Robyn recommended to me.

Sure... adventurous Vincent definitely went for the fish INNARDS curry (Gaeng Tai Plaa) served with rice noodles and any choice of raw greens, fried fish cakes (Tawtman Plaa), and not so traditional Coke.

As much as I would like to claim to be macho... man was it spicy! But I enjoyed it, being that I have never tasted anything quite like it.

*Cost: 55 Baht = USD$1.40

Topping off the meal with dessert, I bought me a fried banana off the side of the road. What I was impressed with was the fact that the Thais really do pay so much attention to detail, even with the smallest thing such as a fried banana!

It's not any ol' friend banana, as it as encrusted in a layer of what I could only figure out to be yam (??), and fried to golden perfection.

*Cost: 50 Baht = USD$0.15

Life is good like that.

Unfortunately for me, after downing 3 dishes in a span of a mere few hours, I had no capacity for more food hunting. Thus I went in search of other things to see that night.

But that will be a story for tomorrow... :)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Music: Negaraku

Backtracking to the Korean national anthem makeover project... My guess is, efforts to muster up at least 20 comments to re-do Aegukga (愛國歌/애국가) has hit a stump. Come on people, surely we can do better than 15 comments?

Anyway, while waiting on those comments to pile up past the 20-mark, I had 30 minutes last night to record some guitar riffs. So I present to you the one and only...

*Drum roll

Malaysia's ~ NEGARAKU!

(Click 'HERE' to listen.)

I do apologize if I didn't manage to include drum tracks, as well as doing some post editing to remove that background noise... But if you are convinced that this version of Negaraku is half-decent, go now and spread the good word. Forward THIS post, and leave more comments to have Aegukga remade!

Let's get the project going, sometime in April ~ that's when I'd have left Korea for greener pastures. Hopefully then, lawsuits that may follow over Aegukga's copyrights won't be an issue anymore. :P

Monday, March 06, 2006

Stuff: They are serious!

You know that the Koreans are serious about their barbeque... when they've got smart vents of the likes of this:

Use of the vent is two-fold:
  1. Suck up all the smoke from the barbeque
  2. Move air through the burning coal, which drives it hotter.
When not in use, it is folded, stored hanging up top, and out of the way.
Real sorry that I haven't been updating. It's been helluva ride traveling back to Korea yesterday, and catching up on work today. So today's post is something that I wrote some time ago, but never published. Will make sure you guys get a scoop on the Thailand trip tomorrow ~ God willing!

Back to work! *Grumbles...