Woke up at 6.30 in the morning the following day. I was half-awake when Kumar finally
arrived at God knows what time. Seemed that his flight, which was scheduled at 11 was delayed for a couple of hours due to engine failure. Engine failure? Man, that's scary.
Hit the showers where hot water never felt better in the world. Went to breakfast downstairs at the hotel. We were scheduled to have breakfast here every day for the duration of the trip. It was served buffet style. The eggs were nice and hot but the pancakes sucked big time. Macam lempeng keras
. My Tok Chik makes better lempeng
Assembled at the lobby at 8.30am to go for our half-day tour of London. They hired a minivan where we were accompanied by a local English tourist guide named....entah forgot her name
. No sign of the Japanese tour guide who greeted us yesterday.
It was a typical tour. I guess in one way, that's why I hate guided tours. They're soooo fast? It's like you're rushing to go everywhere.
Okay, guys...we need to be moving on now.
One more shot!
So it was kinda like a whirlwind affair. One minute you're at the Big Ben, next minute we're cruising past the Tower Bridge. But the thing I kinda enjoyed is the information given by the guide. At least this Seremban boy learned something.
And we were lucky to get the chance to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. And the place was filled with tourists, mostly Japanese. One thing I noticed is that young hip Japanese loves to come here (London, not Buckin
gham Palace). They're all over the place. But Buckingham Palace being the tourist spot that it is, was mostly occupied with older Japs and their families.
One thing that caught my eye were the pillars around the palace with names of countries on them. One in particular had 'Malay States' written on them. I asked the guide why they had these pillars and she told me it was donated by the Commonwealth countries to show respect for the Queen. Each one was written with the donor country's name on it. There was Australia, Canada and the such. So since it wrote Malay Sta
tes, I could only assume this was manufactured during the pre-Merdeka days. Wahh...the buggers ploughed this country for its tin and rubber and sent this piece of rock to England? No wonder the Malayans got mad.
From Buckingham, we made our way to Baker Street for lunch. It was at this place called The Globe where once again I had fish while the others chowed down more red bloody meat. 4 days to go. 4 days to go
Baker Street is home to the great Sherlock Holmes and his statue stood tall just across the street from The Globe. And also situated across the street, a few buildings away is Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. This was our program for the afternoon. I wasn't really keen to go to Madame Tussaud's but since this was on Toyota, ahhhh what the heck. When you think about it, we're just visiting a museum full of mannequins, wax or not. But that doesn't mean I didn't have fun because it was snapping pictures all the way. From the cool du
des of Pulp Fiction to Saddam Hussein to the great Muhammad Ali you got almost every icon covered. Oh yeah even Hitler.
In all honesty, I had a blast at Madame Tussaud's. The Aardman Animation show at the end really topped it off. I had loads of fun getting pics with celebrities I know I'll never meet. Great fun.
Dinner that night was at Mawar Restaurant, a famous Malaysian eatery at Edgware Road. There were lots of Malaysians here, probably here to cure the craving for your basic nasi berlauk
. Finally, some meat for me! It's as if I've been away for so long already whereas it's just two days without meat. Me big carnivore! Need red meat! We had some nice sambal sotong and cucur udang
for starters. Cucur udang
in London man! How cool is that?
After filling up ourselves with our basic Malaysian needs, made our way back to the hotel. Even though it's been a long day, but heck I'm on vacation man! I can sleep all day all night when I come home. The thing I love about our hotel is its close proximity to Oxford Street. I like to refer to it as 'belakang Debenhams aje
When we took the van to the hotel, I kinda studied the route and thought that the hotel was quite a walk from the Oxford Street shops. But upon close inspection, it felt far because the streets were mostly one-way for traffic. When you're walking, it's hardly 5 minutes away. And that
really got me going.
It was the Christmas shopping season and we were damn lucky to be there. Even though cheap sales starts after Christmas, the
shops were open for longer hours this time of the season. And the people? It was hustle and bustle all along the street. There were people everywhere. Even Malaysians. Let me re quote: especially Malaysians because so far every place I've been to there's a Malaysian around as well. Kg. Baru London ke ni?
Since it was only the second night, spent the evening crawling the shops along the street: Selfridges, M&S, Debenhams and countless others I can hardly recall here. By 10, the shops were closing and my eyes were failing so went back to recharge for another busy day tomorrow.
Remember the list of 101 thing to do in London? A quick recap of the day:
1. Visit the Big Ben.
2. Photograph the Thames River.
11. Visit the Buckingham Palace.
12. Experience the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
13. Hike up the geometric staircase at a St. Paul's Cathedral tour. setengah markah for this one coz I didn't make it into the Cathedral, but I stil went there...kira lah kira lahh..
42. Check out the wax sculptures at the Madame Tussaud's museum.
50. Set your sights on the beautiful architecture at Westminster Abbey.
62. See where the Mayor of London lives: City Hall.This weird looking thing is City Hall.
8 and a half points for the first day. Not bad eh?
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Destination Emirates Day One: Touchdown Heathrow
20 December 2006.
I think I waited a lifetime for that time and date. I am one who believes in destiny. And should destiny still be on my side, I will be on that plane heading for Heathrow Airport for my inaugural EPL match.
And made it I did. Woke up early that morning (who wouldn't?). Could hardly sleep the night before thinking of the endless lists I brought along for the journey: Things to bring, stuffs to buy, souvenirs for who and of course, Virgin's 101 list of things to do in London
(thanks Mooke). I'll list down what I managed to do there. Not 101 of course, but heck at least I tried :P
Okay, so I'm a list-freak. But that by no means makes me an organised person. I love preparing for a vacation. I'd crawl the Web, ask around and make lots of lists. It just gets me going, even if it's a trip to Brunei (yawnn)
But Heathrow was no Brunei, which explained me being the first one there at 7.30am in KLIA. We were supposed to meet up at Mickey D's before we checked-in. First person I met there was Shaun. Nice fella. Big Liverpool fan and I mean BIG. We already met at the Live Viewing Party and chit chatted about the contest and the Star article which yours truly was interviewed on. Now the whole of Malaya knows my job.
Second to arrive was Chin and then, Kumar. Chin is the guy from Toyota who will be accompanying us on the trip. Basically he planned the whole trip so it was good, really good to see him. Kumar was one of the winners and a veteran of big football matches. He's won prizes to Euro 2000, World Cup 2002, Old Trafford twice (who wants to go to Old Trafford twice??) and Malaysia Cup Final. I made up the part about the Malaysia Cup by the way.
Kumar's a Liverpool fan too. And last but not least, we have David from Penang who got on the morning flight from Bayan Lepas that morning itself. I don't know which team David actually supports though, but I guess it must be a team with a full trophy cabinet :P
Things didn't start well for some of us though, as Kumar forgot....yeap forgot
his passport when we wanted to check-in. I guess people have second chances so he was given a later flight at 11am. Not much of a difference, but it wasn't to be later on.
Hopped on board flight MHforgothenumber
with empty seats everywhere. We also learned that there was another set of winners from the service center contest which will be joining us on the trip. There was Firdaus and his wife, Aida and Punithan and his dad. Accompanying them was well-reserved Mr. Peter. So all in all there was 10 of us making the trip to the Emirates.
I was lucky to have a great bunch of travelling mates for this long trip. Vin Diesel-lookalike Firdaus is a fun guy. You can talk to him about anything. Puni is a very, very talkative guy. He
can talk to you about anything. I didn't get his dad's name, but I just called him Sir or Uncle depending on the situation.
The inflight entertainment FYI who wants to know
, was aplenty. But 10+ hours into the flight, you kinda get bored of seeing Jim Carrey's Mask or watching Office jokes.*Things I learned on the plane: The Office (US version) is a company based in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Where my dad studied. Another famous movie that's based in Scranton is the bowling epic, Kingpin. That's all thanks.
We reached Heathrow at around 4.00 pm local time and my first view of England is well...errr nothing. The fog was so thick you can hardly see the tip of the wing. We later learned that all BA domestic flights were cancelled that day due to the fogs. Am I bringing some bad luck here or something?
Got off the plane only to notice this petite Chinese girl making her way out as well. It's Rufina Tan! She won the Asian Games gold for sailing? laser? optimist? something with sails lahh
Quickly congratulated her for the superb performance in Qatar. Learned that the sailing team is on their way to Argentina for a tourney, transit via Heathrow. OMG, she's like barely 15 and making round the world trips? Life is soooo....alaaa u know lah.
Little did I know then that meeting her was one of the many lucky breaks that I'll get on this trip. We were greeted at the airport by another petite girl in the form of our Japanese tour guide. Why Japanese? In London? Seems that she's working with the Japanese tour company that organised our visit here. Toyota? Japanese? See the connection? Okay.
I didn't get her name but she's cute nonetheless. Took us on a minivan to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Oxford Circus. The place was nice and cosy. Well you couldn't expect much from a hotel room that side of London. Small, but still sleep-able. But I'm not here in London to sleep, am I?
Dinner was at 6 at this place called the Farmhouse. It seemed that Toyota was generous enough to feed us as well here, 3 times a day. It was a nice, small restaurant which served the salmon nicely. I could have been hungry but still I enjoyed it. They served ice-cream for dessert which was okay if you were in sweating-hot KL. This was after dark with -1 on the thermometer outside. Add to that the kampung kid from Seremban who's not even used to his air-conditioned room at work and you got me shaking like an old vibrator. It was bloody cold I tell ya.
After dinner we made our way back to the hotel for some very much needed rest. I hardly slept in the plane, occupying myself with The Family Guy and some sudoku. It's been a long journey and I needed to hit the sack. Kumar was supposed to be my roommate but he's not here yet. Ahhh..he's a big boy. I curled up under the covers and treated myself to some z's.
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Back at three
Actually, I was back on Monday but just thought I'd put things in perspective once I'm home and dry. I'd like to blame jet-lag but that's soooo
The trip? Awesome. Times a thousand. I'm really, really lucky to have had such an experience. And when I look back and think about it, I feel even luckier. Alhamdulillah.
You might want to skip this blog for a couple of days since I'm planning to detail each day of the Emirates trip on a number of entries. Well, not detailed exactly as in what I had for lunch or anything...
Okay, okay I'm lying :P
I guess it's not everyday you get an all-expense
trip to a galaxy far, far away. Add to that, getting a full matchday
hospitality treatment at one of the grandest Premier League stadium around.
Let's not get too ahead of ourselves now. I'll save the juicy parts for later. If you care to know anyway. But in any case, I want to remember this experience for years to come. It'll be my little journal to keep. In cyberspace nonetheless.
So the warning's been given. Don't say I didn't warn you.
And before I forget (I already did anyway), Happy 3rd Anniversary to Mind Blowing. I never thought it'd make it this far. Even the template's still the same.
Three years ago, I started this goofy blog to
please myself. Here's to many more years to come. You've come a long way baby.
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Leave a message and I'll call you back
If you didn't know already, I was one of the winners of the Toyota Football Fever contest. (refer below)
Thanks to all who came for the party. I really, really appreciate it. I'm one lucky son of a gun to have friends like you guys. To Jeg, Kuman, Pullah, Amin, Koyan, Todd, Apai, Jibam, Rauhan (rohan datang beb! siap doa untuk aku lagi!! :P), Affy, Adik Amin, Niza dan kengkawan and of course not forgetting Miss Fiza especially. Thank you! Tima kasih! Arigato! And not forgetting those who wished me the best of luck for the event. Excited and restless would be an understatement to describe my brain at this moment of time.
So I'm off to the land of Mary Poppins and bad teeth. Pray for my safe journey okay. Orang jakun kampung bkt chedang nak melawat negeri omputih la katakannnn....
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Friday, December 08, 2006
Love me do
The universal theme of mankind.
They say love is blind. Love knows no borders. Love kills.
Cinta is love.
And how I loved Cinta.
Local movies was the Flavour of the Week last week when I watched The Red Kebaya and Cinta on back-to-back weekends. You might forgive me for The Red Kebaya but in Cinta, you will be caught surprised.
Before anyone of you give me the eyebrow, Cinta is not your usual Malay soppy romance movie. Even though it has its corny moments, all would be forgotten by the time you leave the cinema.
I went into the cinema not expecting much. Okay, another Malay movie. The promotion was grand. People were talking about it for weeks. Let's see what the fuss is all about. Ho-hum.
And how surprised I was from the first few minutes alone.
Cinta is a great movie. Tough words for a local production. At the hands of Kabir Bhatia..who you ask? You tell me. The first thing I asked when his name appeared in the credits. A short Google on him revealed a guy familiar with the Idaman series and few other local productions. How come I've never heard of this guy before? He's bloody good I tell ya.
Why? Because Cinta is a great watch. This is the second time I'm saying this so that must mean something. It tells the story of 10 strangers in the city of Kuala Lumpur and their lives somehow interweaves and binds through the power of love. There are five main stories and each story is different and unique from each other. Something like Love, Actually. A local version if you want to put it.
But that doesn't spoil the story of Cinta. Set against the backdrop of Kuala Lumpur, it's a joy to watch familiar places like Kg. Abdullah Hukum and Kg. Baru getting the spotlight. Yes, the Two Towers is of course there, but getting a glimpse of the KL rarely seen by others is a delight. One thing I'm sure people will praise about Cinta is its cinematography. Superb. It's like watching a dozen commercials all rolled into one.
With something so pleasing to the eye, the story was also pleasing to the heart. I especially liked the story of Haris (Rashidi Ishak), an architect who's deeply in love with his wife, Airin (Rita Rudaini) and his daughter Liss. My other favourite would be of Cikgu Elyas (played majestically by Rahim Razali) and the makcik kedai
he befriends, Rubiah (Fatimah Abu Bakar).
I won't give away any spoilers but let me just say these two stories were greatly written and that I loved the endings to both of them. Knowing me, you would know that it's not your typical romantic endings.
What caught me by surprised the most about Cinta is the way the story is told. It's so different from your normal Malay works. Each scene is a beauty and you'll be touched by the stories told. I personally enjoyed it when Airin reads the notes and drawings Haris made for her. Very cute and very touching, especially his final words to her. How true is that.
And the interaction between Rubiah and Cikgu Elyas is also romantic in its own special way. Love is not about kissing and hugging alone you know.
But Cinta is not entirely perfect. There were times you felt that it had too much of a Western influence with the romantic dinners and the proposal in the train. Like, that's so Notting Hill. (or was it another film where he proposes in front of strangers)
I thought Sharifah Amani was still her Orked self. The happy-go-lucky innocent girl role. She needs to grow out of that role if she wants to be taken seriously in the industry.
But other than that, there's no major complaints about Cinta. Easily the best local movie this year. It's got Best Film FFM written all over it. And dare I say, the best local movie I've seen so far post-P. Ramlee days. Better than Sepet. Maybe not better in terms of content, but better film as a whole.
If you've never watched a local movie at the cinema ever in your life, this movie should be your first. Forget the Proffessor. Forget the Million Dollar Man. Forget Erra Fazira. See for yourself. It's not groundbraking or controversial in any way. It's just enjoyable. The way movies should be. Just a great way to spend your Saturday afternoon.
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Where have all the harimau gone?
The Asian Games is on.
And you know how I love multi-sports events. Especially when it involves Malaysia. But really, outside of Southeast Asia we're just wishing for miracles.
Especially when we have performances like these two monkeys on bikes.
Sure, every Games has its fair share of heroes like Esther Cheah, who delivered our first gold in Doha and Quzandria Nur who rode on despite having an injury to deliver an unexpected silver in the dressage competition.
But when the going gets tough, that's when you get going. And badminton really dissapointed me with the team loss to Korea in the semis. Even Rexy Mainaky, the old enemy turned national coach was dissapointed. So much so that he wanted to resign.
How shameful is that if an outsider can be so dissapointed by our own people's performance. Rexy can easily pocket his fat paycheck and join the countless of other officials in saying, "We had no luck." , "They were the better team." and other lame-ass sorry excuses.
Fact is, I'm tired of all this bullshit. Football, in particular always gives the excuse that the team is still young and developing. Yeah? I heard the same thing too in 1997 when the Youth World Cup was held here. Nine years later, I'm still waiting for that team to develop.
But it's not football and badminton alone. Other sports are guilty as well.
It's so easy to give reasons and excuses for failure. They say the Malaysian public and Press are too demanding. Hell yeah I would be demanding when we spent gajillions of ringgit to train your fat asses.
The Doha Games still has a few days to go. There's still time to improve. I'm hoping at least we'll achieve the 9 gold target given to them. Because trust me, seeing Malaysia in action is always a heartache.
Tonight's the sepak takraw team final. And you can bet that I'll be glued with Hasbullah to hear his crap wisdom. Good luck to Malaysia in Doha. Don't come back if there ain't nine bling blings.
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Monday, December 04, 2006
Come one, come all
Okay, here's the deal.
This is a self-promo. Either you want to read it or not that's totally up to you. But I hope you can spare me some time to bring your attention to something very, very important to me.
If you happen to be free this Saturday night (that's on the 9th, thank you) please make your way to My Home Bistro's in Hartamas for the Toyota Football Fever party. I have absolutely nothing to do with the Japanese auto-maker but I want you to come for the simple reason that I (yes, me) will be among the 8 finalists for the Toyota Football Fever contest. This contest was held over 4 weeks in line with the Toyota Football Fever radio show on Red FM.
The prizes? Get this: Tickets, accomodation and airfare to go see Arsenal play Blackburn at the Emirates Stadium this 24th of December. There will be 4 grand prizes up for grabs. Out of the 8. 4 out of 8 people! Now you see why I'm excited?
It would mean a lot
. A whole lot. If you and your buddies/mates/wives/girlfriends/boyfriends could make your way to My Home Bistro's on Saturday to cheer me on. Even if you don't come to cheer me, just come for the free food and drinks and watch the Manchester derby there. There'll be games, lucky draws and the whole shabang. The first 100 there will receive a goodie bag. So just come for the night out and have fun.
So a quick recap:
Place: My Home Bistro's, Hartamas (refer to map below)
Date: 9th December 2006 (this Saturday)
Time: 7.30 pm till late
(for further details, go to www.toyota.com.my)
This would be a dream come true for me, so those who know me would know how much it means to me. Going to a live EPL watch has been something I've dreamed about for years. So I'll see you there, okay? Datang jangan tak datang oiiii...
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o