elb's hovel of thoughts

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Aquaria KLCC

While wandering about KLCC taking pictures and all yesterday, we decided to visit Aquaria ('Merry Water', if you choose to directly translate between various languages). It was a bit of a walk from KLCC Suria, probably around 400 metres? It involved going through a long bright tunnel, follwed by a walk through a carpark. Red flag #1: A carpark? Bad, bad design. You should NEVER allow tourists to go through an underground carpark.

So anyway, we reached a previously unknown (to me, anyway) part of KLCC. It consisted of a small food court, followed by Aquaria itself hidden at the back, with no signboards to point to it being there. *Cough*. That was red flag #2.

Entrance is a princely RM38 per pax, however a Merdeka special rate of RM20 was being levied. We were issued with entrance cards, used on the turnstile pretty much like a Touch N'Go / Oyster card:

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The 'ticket'.

Red flag #3. The opening tank display was completely unlandscaped. All it was was a concrete tank painted blue with fish swimming inside. No rocks, no seaweed, no nothing. Bad omen of things to come, I thought, as another part of my mind struggled to convince myself that at least the place would be as decent as the Petrosains Centre.

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Look at it, even the fish looks like it is crying.

No flash photography allowed. Its time to get prosumer/ SLR cameras, people*. Next to that tank is a big information display, discussing about the theory of evolution and how different species came about and all that:

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The turnstile entrance and that information display behind it.

Stupidity #1: A little kid passing by asked his parents what the display was about. Stupid parent replied after taking the briefest of glances: 'Oh, thats about the various parts of a fish. Come lets go and see fish, this is very boring.' What the hell... you didn't even bother to read even one line, and you come to the conclusion that it is boring and uninformative? On top of that, you misinform your poor little child who obviously will grow up to be more well-read than you are if not for the fact that you are discouraging him. Phhft.

Next comes a display of several reptiles and amphibians. How on earth they made it to the displays beggars belief, except that they are supposedly relatives of fish, if you choose to believe evolution. More like trying to make up for the lack of exhibits.

Now for the fish, this display was actually pretty impressive, and gave me some hopes after the pathetic opening display. It was about the Amazonian rainforest and how some parts would get flooded by up to 9 metres. But what I didn't get was another display talking about Malaysia's rainforest. It had absolutely nothing to do with fish; probably just trying to salvage a little bit of pride after feeling left out.

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The only display that made me think 'Wow!'

Stupidity #2: Next to the 'underwater tree' cylindrical display is another display, containing two gigas fish. You might have seen these fish before at some of the traditional cave temples in Ipoh. A mother was frantically calling out to her son: 'Look boy! Big fish!!! Over there!!!! On top! Can you see it or not??!!? Not there, here!!'. Poor boy. His mother, who has a good chance of being categorized as one of those parents who sends their kids for several hours of tuition everyday, was obviously more excited about the place.

There were a few other displays and all that, with horseshoe crabs, lionfish and the like. Then, for the supposed highlight of it all, a 90 metre long tunnel through a display. Red flag again. The tunnel was so small, you could at the very best fit three men standing side by side along its diameter. One half was a moving conveyer belt not dissimilar to that of a luggage collection point at the airport.

The highlights were the sharks, there was really nothing else worth seeing besides a couple of manta rays.

The typical shark we are familiar with, complete with the cleaner fish so fondly called the 'Bandaraya fish':

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The cleaner fish and shark symbiosis remind me a lot about the little children, they simply love to glue themselves to the glass of the aquariums.

Also, the shark that we dubbed the 'Chinaman shark'. Why? See for yourselves:

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After that, there were some displays of coral reef fishes, like clown fish and seahorses. Here was stupidity #3: While trying to wait for the clown fish to be as still as possible for me to make my shot, a guy in his late 20s came up and exclaimed 'Finding Nemo!'. -_-". Its NOT Finding Nemo, please. Its a clown fish which happened to be called 'Nemo' in the animated feature film 'Finding Nemo'. There are no species of fish called Nemo fish to my knowledge.

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These are clown fish, not Finding Nemo, for goodness sake!!

And at the exit, a final display of a shark's jaws, and then you return your card pass and exit. One would have thought that you would be allowed to keep it at the very least for that price of an otherwise disappointing place. At least it was better than Langkawi's.

Verdict: Do not bother going unless you feel that you have no other choice. Save up and head for the Underwater World at San Diego, California, or that at Australia and be amazed.

*All my pictures were taken at ISO speed 1600 and quite often with maximum aperture size, because of poor lighting conditions. Even then, a low shutter speed was only managed, resulting in blurriness which was made the already grainy pictures worse.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Nightmare Call

A few days ago, a friend suddenly called*:

Friend: Eh, you know what? My old boss called me up earlier
Me: Mmmmm?
F: Yea, he asked me to go back to work. The chibai demanded that I turn up for work. 'Friend, I know where you stay, don't make me go there with the police and make things difficult for you'
M: LOL. He loves you!
F: Knnccbmch. I don't have to turn up for it, right?
M: You did tell them you were resigning, didn't you?
F: Well errr, I informed the company verbally two weeks before I quit my job.
M: -_-. Verbally? Not in black and white?
F: Errr, nope. But the boss asked us several times when we were going to quit exactly. And it has been a month and a half since I have last showed up for work, so I am considered to have quit, right?
M: Still, if you have something on paper its solid. Where's your company already ah?
F: Its called *beep*. Nearby Baywatch (some open air concept restautant/ pub in PJ). You know what, that company used to have like 30 people working in the *beep* department, now they have zero!
M: Ehhh... maybe that's why he got so desperate already! Nobody wants to work for him... but if you're desperate for workers, you bloody offer them a higher pay than before! Like you know, dangle a big juicy carrot in front.
But this, its like taking a skinny malnourished carrot and slapping the donkey around its face and stabbing the donkey with the carrot!
F: Exactly! What a loser man. No wonder everyone quit. Eh... what do I do ah?
M: Well, go and make a police report. At least you have half your ass covered.(which F did the next day).

From a later conversation:

F: I made the police report. The police inspector was shaking his head and went 'Who does this fella think he is? Head of the police force? And also, that wanker called up another of my friends (who also worked at that place). That idiot shouted 'NOOOOOO!!!' when asked about pay.
M: What the hell? Free labour?
F: That fella claims to know a lot of ah long (aka illegal moneylenders known for being very, errr, industrious and creative to reclaim their money)
M: Hahahaahaa... he turn them on you? Maybe instead he owes them plenty of money and is shitting in his pants, so that's why he needs to try to resort to all these bully tactics!
F: Exactly... stupid bugger taking advantage and trying to exploit fresh graduates.. no wonder nobody ever stays there for long.
M: Aiya, leave the fella alone la. God will know how to deal with him.

*Note: Actual conversations, both over the phone and over mamak sessions compressed into one.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Slow updates

Sorry for the lack of posts the past few weeks people. I am very busy, for the following reasons:

1) Spending time with family
2) Catching up with old friends
3) Meeting new friends every few days
4) American pool!
5) Yumcha sessions
6) I bought an Nvidia 6800GT card, and I'm taking advantage of my holidays to play some games I've missed out on!

But errr, I'll try my best to post once a week! :)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Petaling Street & Counterfeit Goods

I went to Petaling Street (PS) aka Chinatown a few days ago for the first time in years. Actually, I can't even remember visiting that place, so let's just assume that its the first time I've gone. We parked at Central Market. To get to PS from CM, one has to cross the mainroad and walk down the block or so to the street.

So we waited patiently by the side of the road until the cars stopped and the green man came on. As we were walking halfway, a fucking motorcycle zoomed past barely 3 metres in front of us. FUCKER!!!!! We were caught aback but quickly recovered and didn't hesitate to lift our hands in the air and give the middle finger salute. I hope that asshole saw it. If we had known he was coming we'd have run a bit and pushed him off his bike as he passed. Fuck you Malaysians who cut the red light without making sure nobody is crossing. May your vehicles crumple and crash and burn and your insurance be declared void.

Bah. Angst aside, we quickly reached PS. Holy cow, I didn't know it was covered! Yes people, I have not been to PS for that long. No pictures available. Dodgy area, see. But its not like most of you (Malaysians) haven't been there, unlike me.

For the uninitiated, the layout is roughly like a cross. The 'head' (or shorter part) of the cross is filled with mostly DVD peddlars and some fruit sellers. The 'arms' of the cross are filled with food stalls and fruits. The 'rear' of the cross is where the action takes place - where bootleg and counterfeit haute couture stuff is sold openly, with tourists haggling over RM100 fake Prada, Dior, Fendi etc etc stuff (please cue eyeroll), plenty of sports shoes, fake watches, and cheap perfume that lasts no longer than your breath mint.

It was interesting observing the tourists as they walked around, examining the goods, talking in their own languages and accents as the peddlars called out increasingly decreasing prices to lure them back as they walked away, disinterested (or perhaps feigning it). I mean hello, RM50 for a bloody Gucci bag is dirt cheap okay, counterfeit or not.

Speaking of counterfeit goods, it reminds me of a certain S&TC episode where Samantha lost her counterfeit purse at Hugh Hefner's (of Playboy fame) party. She accused another woman of stealing it. When asked for proof that it was hers, she said 'Just open it and you'll see a Made in China tag inside.' Much to her embarassment, the purse the other woman had with her was the real deal. Hehhehehheh.

As expected, almost all the goods were substandard. The leather on the Gucci bags were so obviously cheap (you'd be so fucked if you brought in one of those to an original store and they saw it, or branded a cheapskate wannabe by people who know how to tell the difference). The Prada bag clearly had stitching problems. Hello, if you want to counterfeit the goods, at least do it decently lah.

Once I saw a bag with the classic Burberry tartan motif carried around by a young lady, with a Winnie the Pooh stitched on in one corner. I felt like going up to her and laughing, but never mind. She probably doesn't know a Burberry when she sees one.

Anyway, we couldn't help but notice that the stalls by the roadside almost completely pushed the shops by the side of the road out of the picture. And that half the stalls were being attended to by Malays and Indians. In Chinatown? I mused about this over a dinner of beef noodles, when the idea that the stalls were actually owned by Chinese but other people were hired to tend to the shops. Which makes sense.

I left with a certain sense of disillusionment. I certainly did not expect so much counterfeit stuff, and am even more aware now that easily 90% of the apparent 'wealth' flaunted by most Malaysians in the form of their Dior and LV bags and what not most places I go is mearly bullshit. Not that I wasn't aware of it before, but I'm even more aware of it now.

p.s. To be fair, not all the goods peddled at PS are fake. But too many are.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bowling Memories

The ball glided along its path, diagonally straight at first before correcting itself and swerved inwards, heading for the white pins at the end. Only that it completely missed the pins and ended in the gutter just inches away from the targets

"You might want to try standing a couple of boards further along there," he said.

I adjusted. This time the bowling ball hit roughly around the centre, hitting down a few pins. Holloway just looked on and a gave the briefest of nods - he was (is?) a quiet man whose face didn't show much emotion.

"Try again"

Eventually, he recommended that I should use the helicopter method - heavily favoured by the Asians, rather than the hook method, which I preferred because it looked cooler, slicing through the pins diagonally.

During another coaching session at Pyramid Bowl, I noticed a young girl practicing, donning a waterproof jacket in Malaysian (or was it Selangor?) colours. She was around 16 years old, and she was hooking a 16 pound ball (if memory serves me correct), which was very impressive. (Face it, girls who play bowling casually usually never ever use a ball heavier than 11 pounds). Out of curiosity, I asked Holloway who she was.

"Oh, she's my daughter"

That was over three years ago. Holloway became the national coach a few months after. I saw her face again a couple of days ago, this time on the newspapers. Esther Cheah - she's the new world bowling champion for 2005. Congratulations, and my hats off to her for achieving it. As for me, I gradually grew bored of it when I was abroad, especially when there was no alley within easy access and it got too expensive.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The haze from above?

Here are two shots which I have taken from a Boeing 747-400, flight MH1 from London to KL on the 8th of August at roughly 5.20pm +8GMT. Pictures are from around South Perak/ North Selangor:

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The first seems a bit too smooth to be purely clouds?

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The second is definitely NOT cloud; there was no change in the foreground at all as the plane was moving (if you have travelled in a plane before, you can literally see clouds moving past). Although it does seem like it, but it is due to the reflections.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Business Class - Almost

My luggage was overweight. Or rather, my hand luggage was. They charge around 150 GBP or more for every extra kilo from Lon-KL. Oh dear. I quickly said a quick prayer. The queue to check it was agonizingly slow; they took like 10 minutes to check in each family. Finally it was my turn. The usual procedures bla bla. Just as he was about to give me my ticket, I remembered something.

'Sorry, I forgot to mention, but could I have an aisle seat, please'

He fiddled around with his computer. After a couple of minutes: 'Sir, we have upgraded you to business class. You will receive your upgrade at the gate.' My heart skipped a beat - it has been a few years since I last travelled business, but I did not show any emotion, merely a nod. Its not wise to when you're wearing a suit and supposed to act professional.

Check in completed, I moved off. He noticed the hand luggage and beckoned for me to put it on the machine to be weighed, which I did.

'Its overweight, we need to check it in'. Another nod. I was not charged anything because now, as a business class passenger, I was entitled to extra weight allowance. Otherwise, I would probably have to pay up to 1000GBP extra.

Next is going past the security check. I attempted to go through the Fastrack gate, but I was humbly reminded of my economy class existance and had to join the masses. An old Pakistani lady tried to cut my line, but a loud 'excuse me' and a glare put her into place, so much so that when her husband encouraged her to cut in front of me later on [I fucking HATE people like this], she mumbled something to him with the words 'excuse me' clearly heard. Serves her right.

Please note that VAT return claims have changed since the end of last year. If you still hold a student visa valid for a long time more et cetera, you cannot claim back VAT, unless you have proof that you have ended your stay.

An attempt at accessing the Golden Club lounge did not go well either. Thus I busied myself making phone calls and the sort, only bothering to make my way to the gate when the last call was made.

The lady gave my portion of the boarding pass - with no mention of the business class I was supposed to get.

'Excuse me, but I was informed at the check-in that I would get upgraded'
'We're not upgrading anyone, sir'
'We aren't taking on extra people as we originally intended, so we are not upgrading anyone.'

Argh! I was a little annoyed at first, but that quickly changed when I realized that my prayer was answered - for my luggage to be taken care off. So I'm still happy - especially when the customs searched my main luggage for alcohol, but didn't find any (two 75cl bottles were sitting happily in duty free bags), and they were completely uninterested in the four bottles of cologne I had (worth over RM800 - the limit is RM200 worth).

Saying Goodbye

Kayleigh ran off, giggling. Malachi and I were alone, him inside the blue of the Thomas the tank engine tent, with me crouching outside. Suddenly, he was standing straight on his knees.

'Patrick, where are you going?' he asked, his face looking serious. It was only a couple of hours earlier that the pastor had announced to the congregation of my departure, during a family service with all the children present.

Taken aback at his sudden maturity (thinking back, he did that on certain occasions, but I still hadn't gotten used to it), I didn't really think. 'I'm going back home for a few weeks.'

'Home? What?' His face, looking lost and upset, focused away from me. I wanted to punch myself in the face; I certainly did not anticipate that reaction. (Actually, I think that he said more of a 'Home? I don't understand.', but I can't remember.)

'I stay somewhere else.' I patted his head and ruffled his hair a little. 'But I will be coming back for a while, then I'll be moving to London'.

He looked at me, quiet. I was at loss for words. When Kayleigh came running back, shouting for him, I was relieved. He immediately got up and was shouting happily, bouncing up and down. I got up. Its an amazing thing how young children can change moods faster than one can snap his fingers. he did not forget however; when I asked him later if he wanted to take a picture with me, he shook his head and ran off.

Oh well. In a decade, I would be relegated to the furthest recesses of his memory. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if any of kids totally forget who I am by the time they hit their teenage years.

I went around to engage in some quick small talk and for some pictures; I was not supposed to be at the picnic, but be packing instead because I was leaving in a couple of hours! Iona was posing cheekily as usual for the camera and giggled at my contorted expression when she related in full detail how she ate the chocolate eggs I brought.

As Iona's mother said, 'She's too young to understand but she'll feel it in a while', when Iona giggled as she told her that she might never see me again. Samuel was not around.

Eventually though, I had to go. I did not manage to finish clearing my room and sealing my boxes by the time it came to leave for Heathrow. It was still acceptable because my friend was taking over and I would be moving before he comes back. I sure hope my landlord got my letter and cheque on behalf of my friend though; I don't want my belongings to get tossed out.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

I caught an SLR on my SLR!

Yes, I did! And no, its not a picture of an SLR camera taking the picture of an SLR camera. Which can only mean one thing... the McLaren SLR. This beauty of a beast was captured by me, on film, at Brompton. I was walking along Brompton Road, looking around as I crossed some junctions, when I caught what I thought was a Chrysler 412 ME, for some reason. Upon closer look, holy catamoly!

Whilst I was lining up my first shot, the owner and her friend returned. That's right, two ladies turned up. Urgh. Its difficult to be discreet with a SLR camera, hence I had to quickly alter manual settings rather crappily. Not to mention fighting the distraction as the scissors doors came floating up.

The first two pictures were taken with me forgetting to change the colour balance from tungsten - and I did not have the pictures on RAW. However, manipulation of the primary colours on PS restores some of its grey splendour:

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The owner and her pal returning from a hard day's shopping.

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Omg scissors doors! Also note that the exhausts are by the side, a foot or so behind the front wheels

From here I decided to shoot from my hip, a technique I've been trying to practice to snap shots that are discreet/ to prevent yourself from looking like a jakun. The lady driver was pathetic, a Merc behind her stopped to give way to the SLR that was pulling out from the side parking bay. She moved out a foot but hesitated, so the Merc just overtook. Definitely the boyfriend's/ husband's car (as if it wasn't obvious earlier on). I bet the Merc driver had a smug look on his face as he did that, hehheh.

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It managed to wiggle out. Notice that there is no (noticable?) number plate on front.

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Rear shot as it drove by.

And since I'm so nice, here's a shot of a Ferrari 430 (update: confirmed to be a F430, thanks buttsh4k3r) that I captured just a couple of hours later:

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The latest Ferrari model. Number plate '4'. Hip shot.

P.S. I apologize for marking the pictures heavier than usual. These are rare pictures, in my opinion. If you don't like it, too bad, come take your own.

Supercar Heaven

Whilst taking a walk along the lesser explored areas of Kensington and Knightsbridge and parts of Chelsea, one of the things that always hit home is that supercars are as commonplace as bloody lousy Protons are in Malaysia.

The very first car that I see, walking out of the Knightsbridge underground? A Maybach. Followed by a sports package Modena revving its way down Sloane Street. A Porsche Turbo driven around. Oh wait, there's a Murcielago, and a Bugatti. With two Bentleys behind it. A few minutes later.... omg wait, a Vanquish! A Rolls Royce Phantom!

Okay lah, the elite supercars are not that common. Sorry. But more common than all the sorry cars produced by a certain company, such as their recent so-called 'My First Lotus'.

However, multitudes of the 'lower end' supercars and luxury cars, such as the Boxster, Carrera, Merc SLKs and CLs, BMWs galore (with TONS of M class) and so on mingle with older cars freely can be found in almost every nook and cranny in SW Central London (and the wealthier postcodes).

I mean, where else can you find a mad Porsche driver trying to jump his red light and almost plough into oncoming traffic? And he did it twice, and the suited chap walking nearby give him some choice words and a gesture. Where else can you find two chicks climb into a McLaren SLR after an afternoon of shopping (look out and come back regularly for upcoming posts AND PICTURES of this and other sweet cars, I don't plan to ping them out!)?

Where else can you hear two Porsche Turbos drag racing (albeit temporarily) down a street lined with super designer stores? Where else can you see an Arab stop his spanking new Ferrari 430 with the number plate '4' by the side of the road and talk with (presumably) relatives, pick his child (nephew? niece?) and then drive on, child on lap?

And all almost all this action takes place within a few minutes of my new pad. Mmmmm... time to start a supercar picture collection :)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Real Vincci/ Drinkable Battery Water

While we wandered around town, guess what we saw.

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But wait. This is no place where the shoes sell for RM15 or something. This was a place which dealt with clothing and shoes with most of the price tags START at over RM1000. Which can only mean one thing. Prada. I don't know what other uber designer brands they carried, cause it was closed. But that doesn't matter. Its the REAL Vincci. Malaysia's Vincci can go and fly kites. (Also please note that both Vinccis are almost certainly unrelated with each other especially since PDI, Padini and the rest were nowhere in sight)

Of course, while walking dehydration occurs. What better way to recharge your batteries than with..... battery water.

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How does it taste like? Sorry to inform you that it wasn't overpriced distilled water (it cost NOK 20 something, or RM14 for you), but it tasted more similar to Red Bull.

The (rail)road to Bergen

After Gothenburg, we headed down to Oslo via coach and took the train from Oslo to Bergen. The train ride was absolutely fantastic; it did not let us down one bit as you will see:

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Look at this, we had this whole compartment and two chairs facing another window (one in foreground) to ourselves! It was a journey almost 7 hours long, and we only paid 37 pounds. Yes, 37 pounds. 7 hours. First class. Complimentary (self service) hot drinks. Anyone feeling green yet? :P Sadly it was the only cheap thing that we could find in that country.

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Most of our views were of lakes and hills and the quaint countryside. I could not help to notice that Norway is almost literally New Zealand, but in Europe. Only less green than NZ, and a whole lot more expensive, as you will find out later. Besides that, the fjords are there, the snow is there, etc etc.

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We passed by the train station with the highest distance from sea level in (North?) Europe along the way. It was obviously cold, and it was the peak of summer(!).

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Check out the colour of that river. It got slightly dimmed due to underexposure as the train was moving fast and i had to try to keep the shutter speed acceptable; but some changes in colour balance has restored it to more or less its actual colour.

We arrived at night. Well, not exactly night. It was still bright until around 1am, and it started to get bright again by 2.30am. The sun almost never set (the closest thing to darkness was twilight).