Monday, August 31, 2009

Hari Merdeka

Hari Merdeka is the Malaysian Independence Day. Thanks to Adrian, Lisa, Michael, Nunda and Nesh I got to get a little taste of Malaysia's 52nd. We originally had hoped to watch some fireworks at KLCC ( but the government had decided to dial down the celebrations this year (the official reason given was due to fears of the spread of H1N1) so the fireworks at KLCC were cancelled. Instead we went to one of the local night clubs (The Beach Club) to celebrate with a different type of fireworks. Its been many a year since I had gone clubbing and probably be many a year before I do again, but the most important lesson learned was: stop after the first bottle Vodka.

Like New Year's the celebration started at midnight with a countdown and we had polished off about 3/4 of the Absolut by then. No pain and still relatively steady hands as the picture on the right proves. Then came the second bottle. My own fault. I'm the one who ordered it. Had to have a little sit down around 2am and wait for the worst of it to pass. Vaguely remember a lovely girl asking me why I wasn't dancing. Tried to explain over the din that I couldn't even stand up at that point. Alls well that ends well. The room stopped spinning around 3am and all of us made it home safely none the worse for the wear. Might not have learned much about Malaysian Independence, but did get a reminder why moderation in all things is always a good thing. No worries. I'll forget by the next time the occassion presents itself.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Malaysia--First Impressions

As some of you know I am currently in Malaysia on business. Liking the country and the people, but not liking the working hours. Malaysia is 13 hours ahead of the US and since we are supporting the US on local US time the working hours translate to 10pm-7am Malay time. I've worked the third shift from time to time in the US back in my Dominick's days, but never had to for a prolonged period. Its been 2 weeks and I thought I would adjust a little bit, but thus far no luck. And judging from comments from rest of the people at the office who have been at this for much longer than I you never really do. The hardest part is 3am-5am. No matter what you do or how much and when you slept before getting to the office you are just holding on for dear life. Then around 5am you usually start getting your second wind, but that's not saying much. But enough about me.

I am staying at the Putrajaya Shangri La ( Very nice hotel. Lots of marble and plants. Good food and excellent service. Its on top of a hill affording some great views of the city. And the prices are just so ridiculously low by American standards. Those who know me know I am not much for spending cash on luxuries like room service, but due to the hours sometimes its unavoidable. Best room service (0kay I've never ordered room service before) burger I ever had. And only $9. Also, the first time I started experiencing some cultural differences.

Calling room service:

Me: Hi, I'd like the hamburger and a coke please for room 405.
Room Service: (pause) Sorry. We do not have ham burger. Only beef burger.

Some things are lost in the translation. I almost started explaining that a ham burger is a beef burger, but then thought the better of it. Malaysia is primarily a muslim country so pork is not served in most places. I say primarily muslim since there are sizeable non-muslim minorities, but more on that in a later post should I get to it. It can get pretty complicated.

Putrajaya itself is the center of the government. That's the parliament on the right. The city looks and feels spanking new. That's because it is new. Development started in 1995.
It contains mostly government offices and civil services. Its kind of a strange feeling since on some level I associate Asia and the East with the old and cultural. I expect 2000 year old temples and places that existed long before Western cultures decided that moving from tribal settings to cities would be a good thing, so to see this spanking new city built practically from scratch and considering the wealth that was needed to bring it off is quite something.
I work in Cyberjaya. Another spanking new city. Its about 20 minutes away by cab from the Hotel. Yes, there I go again. The man who wouldn't dream of taking a taxi in the States being a spendthrift. But remember the prices are so low. Its about $6. In Chicago that would be the price for openning that taxi cab door.
The WK office is in the FSBM plaza which is the oldest building in Cyberjaya. Nice enough building, but the best feature is the artificial koi pond out front. Of course I didn't quite know it was a koi pond at first. I only got to see at night during my smoking breaks. And its dark outside. I just figured it was one of those artificial water architectural flourishes that most modern building like to utilize. Imagine my surprise when while walking next to the edge in my nicotine fueled sleep deprived 7am daze one of the fish jumped out of the water. I almost fell in.
The CBJ staff have all been super and very welcoming. Everyone usually goes to "lunch" around 1:30am in group so I am getting a taste of all kinds of different foods. And the food is excellent. And did I mention cheap. You could get a really good solid meal for around $3. YC and Hui Ling also took me out for some really good satay and a Thai restaurant in KL in the off hours. Thanks guys. Everyone.
I took a couple of short trips to Kuala Lumpur, but still don't have a real sense of the place. Will get more opportunities since I still have 4 weeks here. Did visit Petaling Street and Petronas Towers. Hopefully will write up my KL adventures at some later date. Thus far the only bad thing, other than the working hours, is the weather. Its hot and humid. When Aris picked me up at the airport and drove me to the hotel I noted that there doesn't seem to be much pedestrians about. Now I know why. Its just too hot and humid. Walk more than 100 meters and you are drenched in sweat. At least I am.

Next on tap is a weekend at Tioman with some of the guys from the office. And then the big trip to Sipadan from September 1 -8. Details, hopefully, to follow.