Sunday, August 31, 2008

Vietnam Independence Day

vietnam independence day

Vietnam's flags are all over town. The town is being painted with the brightly coloured red & yellow star... all geared up for their Independence on 2nd September (which apparently they got on 1945, from France).

More of Vietnam to come :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Malaysia Merdeka

malaysia merdeka

"Tanggal 31... bulan 8, '57... Malaysia Merdeka, Malaysia Merdeka"... the song that is synonym to the Merdeka month.

Despite this rather patriotic & joyful song which goes into my head each time this Merdeka month, however, I can feel that the mood this year is quite different.

This year does seem a quiet/ quieter Merdeka for all Malaysians. Maybe we can't compare with last year's 'peak' of all Merdeka celebrations, where the nation's celebrated its 50th birthday... But even comparing it with previous years, this year's Merdeka seem a far cry from the usual.

I remember clearly when in school, Merdeka month is a month that I look forward to every year. I love seeing the flags on the streets. There is an air of joy, a sense of pride and a big dose of happiness.

The flags would cover the streets & its buildings. It felt that the shops were outdoing each other, trying to hang the Malaysian flags (sometimes the state flags too) to get attention of the passerby. Colours of blue, red, yellow & white were everywhere.

I'm wondering if I'm just imagining or is it really true... it could be that I was younger then, and being in school or during the teenage years, everything seem merrier, including Merdeka. Ie. the mood didn't change, but it's just me growing up?

But the more I think, I get the feeling that although growing up do change the outlook somewhat, however, the Merdeka mood really is quite different today.

And my guess is that Malaysians have many things going through their minds today... which are far from the celebrations.

Yes, Malaysia has gone through a lot the past months - just see the daily headlines and we can understand the 'bruises' the country have been facing, what more the people.

Well, one can say that it's not just us in Malaysia, as even our Asean neighbours are facing their internal problems... And even the 'cool-er' North Asian countries or Western counterparts are also having problems, many related to the current economic slowdown.

But, whatever reasons it is, it is with a heavy heart that the nation is not fully rejoicing whilst it goes past beyond 50 (I say not fully because there are still some/ many who look forward to Malaysia's Independence Day).

So while I still strive on my last year's wish for united & supportive Malaysians for all things Malaysia, my this year hope is for us to go back to the very basics of what makes us, Malaysia & Malaysians.

Comparatively, we have come a long long way, despite all the challenges being such a unique nation we are. Truly, it is admirable for a small & very diverse nation like ours.

So, moving forward, it's really for us (everyone including leaders, government, private & the people) to at least continue with the success formula we've been using to move ahead, doing the best we can with full pride & joy.

There are many factors in this success formula, and it may take some time for us to reflect. But, deep down, we will know the answers.

Finally, to all Malaysians, Selamat Hari Merdeka (Happy National Day!)... and I say this with full pride. Malaysia Merdeka... Malaysia Merdeka... !

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My First University Talk

talk at uitm
Students taking a glimpse of the 50+1 Malaysia book after the talk.

This was done today morning in UiTM. I was invited to give a speech to the students from the tourism faculty, with the talk title: Why, What & How To Promote Malaysia.

It was nice to be able to share my experience on the potentials I see in tourism in Malaysia. This I believe can only be shared after seeing & visiting other countries... for it is only when we see what other countries have to offer, we realise our very own unique points.

Though I've done a few other talks on Batik Malaysia & the art of batik, however, this is still a first for me, as it is a wider topic - tourism. And it's my first talk in line with the 50+1 Malaysia book, plus it being held in a university.

After the talk, I was invited for a tour around the Art & Design faculty, and am truly impressed. Really, Malaysia got talents-lah! :)

*The whole event was a memorable experience. The staffs & managing committee involved were professional and made me feel very comfortable.

A heartfelt thank you to the team involved.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Kepiting Asap

A trip would not be the same without tasting the local food, and it's the same in Jakarta nevertheless.

One of the unique Indonesian food I tried is this called Kepiting Asap (smoked crab/ bbq crab).

This was introduced by one of our local Indonesian friend. It was quite a long journey from central Jakarta to West Jakarta (Jakarta Barat).

But I knew he must be bringing us to a good restaurant because the whole area is packed with vehicles! There was a jam in this long street area of restaurants.

kepiting asap, jam
The crawl

kepiting asap, smoke, restaurant
Can you see the smoke - it comes from the restaurant cooking the kepiting!

Along the streets there are a few Kepiting Asap restaurants. But we were invited to go to this one which is the most packed, even from the outside:

kepiting asap, restaurant
The outside of the restaurant

Interestingly, the kitchen is at the front of the restaurant as well - usually beside the entrance.

kepiting asap, live crab
All the live crab waiting to be cooked.

kepiting asap, live crab
The workers arranging the live crabs... with one trying to escape!

Customers are given the option to choose their live food fresh from the aquariums.

kepiting asap, live baby shark
One of the workers trying to catch the live baby shark.

kepiting asap, weigh baby shark
Next, to weigh the chosen catch of the day.

And while there, customers can peek into the open kitchen.

kepiting asap, kitchen
Just look at the asap! (smoke)

Well, the final thing is to have the food... a short wait and the food is being served.

First, the 'side dishes'.

The bbq baby shark.

kepiting asap, sotong, squid
The sotong (squid)

kepiting asap, prawns
The big prawns

We also had kangkung, and with rice.

And the big catch of the day...

kepiting asap, kepiting asap banana leaf
The kepiting all wrapped up in banana leaf

kepiting asap, crab
The cooked bbq crab

But really the best of the best is the kepiting telur (crab with eggs)! Delicious!

kepiting asap, crab with eggs
The main dish the restaurant is most famous for.

I found the food a lil overcooked, but nevertheless, delicious with strong & rich ingredients. Lucky me to have tried this Indonesian food thanks to our Indonesian friend! :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pacific Place

Like many visitors to Jakarta city, visiting the malls is a must. And I got a chance to visit one of its newest mall, Pacific Place.

This is quite a high end mall... and just like the other malls in the capital city of Indonesia, it is huge as well.

pacific place shopping
See the number of stories!

As it is rather new, not all of the shops are opened yet. But even then, the current outlets are already quite many - with big luxury brands, some of which are brands from even Malaysia & Singapore.

I wasn't really here for shopping actually, but nevertheless, managed to be awed by the mall.

I especially like the higher levels where the restaurants are. This is because, they really take effort in making the place a themed area (more like a theme park), and not simply just dining per say.

pacific place restaurants
People can dine in style

The water element is used quite a bit here. Interestingly its ceiling is painted in light blue for its blue sky feel. Yes, its artificial, but it gives a joyous feel to a shopping & dining experience here.

pacific place restaurants dining
The shopping centre is big enough even for a boat!

There is also the high end food court like, serving local delicacies, where customer are given cards to place orders & pay only at exit.

pacific place restaurant
The high end foodcourt is like in a cafe on the street huh

pacific place, restaurants, food
Host of stalls serving local food in this clean & neat restaurant

pacific place, restaurant food
Amongst the many local Indonesian food

The food was quite unique - to a visitor especially. But even my local Indonesian friend mentioned that the food here is not bad.

I guess the rest of the mall is about the same as many other luxurious malls around Asia, except for these 2 things I saw:

pacific place cd shop
Small CD shop at the middle of the mall's corridor

I say this is unique because hardly do I see CD shops these small. And for a 'shop' to be in the middle of the corridor. I guess this is partly due to the shrinking CD industry as well.

And before I went off, I saw this at the entrance:

pacific place event
A large group of performers in 60s outfits

My Indonesian affiliate mentioned that "Indonesians are 'brave' (dare to show their talents/ skills), and are not shy in doing anything... which a foreigner might find it a lil 'crazy'".

Though for me, it gave a good feeling seeing the group, all quite confident despite wearing a different eras clothes & with big weird hairdos.

In all, going to the Pacific Plaza shopping centre has been another eye opener to this grand city... that yes, this city is quite 'rich' actually.

Truly, this would be a good recommendation for the shopping enthusiasts! (& business too) :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Grand Indonesia

I've mentioned how awed I am with Indonesia... especially right here in Jakarta. The perception I get is that this city is grand indeed.

Their shopping centres here are huge & luxurious!

And to make its mark, there is this mega shopping mall right in the heart of Jakarta, with a name that says it all - Grand Indonesia!

Despite the many malls all over Jakarta, all of which are rather huge & grand themselves, but this mall makes it presence felt even from afar.

grand indonesia
This is just part of the big mall

And if the outside exudes its physical size, inside this shopping centre exudes luxury and comfort.

There are simply so many levels of shopping, with every level/ segment catering to a different different theme.

grand indonesia, shopping
The mall's East & West wing have a full range of items!

Walking at every corner gives a different experience. There are the more family oriented corners with fully packed restaurants, the upper range segment with a great full rows of big restaurants, and the fashion district.

grand indonesia, music instruments
A full big part of the mall catering just to music instruments.

grand indonesia, fashion district
The fashion district

Each segment has a different feel, mainly due to the decorations, which makes some parts of the mall very theme park like.

grand indonesia, decorations
The big masks all over one corner of the shopping centre

One will know when entering the restaurant areas, as you can see the decorations lit up accordingly.

grand indonesia, chinese restaurants
The are for the Chinese restaurants

There is also the lounge for the tired legs.

grand indonesia, lounge
Just look at the number of rest chairs it offers

One part that I like most about this mall is its cinema (multiplex). This multiplex area is quite ahead of its time... and really a rest area for people to chill out and not just to watch movies.

grand indonesia, multiplex
They actually take the effort to make entering the multiplex & buying tickets even an experience

grand indonesia, multiplex, rest area
See how lush to wait for your movie

The cafe beside it really adds to this 'glamour' feel with its high ceilings, beautiful modern interior & high windows for a good view of Jakarta city. It gives a feeling like being in a huge tower.

grand indonesia, multiplex modern cafe
The modern cafe

grand indonesia, jakarta
What a way to chill out, before/ after your movie.

Truly, the experience here fits in well with what I think the country is promoting - ie. grandness. I must say, they did this with class & style.

And though there are so many malls around, but I think this is one mall every visitor should at least visit to fully experience Jakarta, Indonesia! :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Indonesian Wedding Dress

I have to share this - to show the grandness of all things Indonesian.

indonesian wedding dress

This is the main wedding gown which the bride wore for the church ceremony & the dinner. Can be seen here, the groom is dressed in an all-black suite.

What an awesome mix of traditional & modern! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Indonesian Wedding Dinner

I was indeed looking forward to the dinner after a rather fun & hectic day. At first thought, I would be dressed casual, but as later I had to accompany the bride & bridegroom, hence, I continued wearing the suite for the night as well... that means no dressing down.

At around 5 plus, we were in the ballroom, and there were the last minute preparations. The hotel staff and the events company crew could be seen doing the final touches to make this night the memorable night for the newly wed couple & their families.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, preparations fruits
Staffs getting the fruits ready

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, preparation fruits
All kinds of fruits were brought in - local & imported

Loads of trays of food were brought in - from hot cooked food, to cold dishes like salads.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, trays of food
Trays & trays of food

There was 2 food stations - one in the ballroom & one more in the gardens of the hotel, which is just beside.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, the tent
The tent during the early evening

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, food under tent
The food nicely put under the tent

Truly, this is going to be a grand affair. Even the red carpets were rolled out, with decorations on its sides. This shows that when it comes to doing things, the Indonesians really know what they want & they do it in style!

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, red carpet
Simply grand heh, red carpet & all

But the red carpet is not the highlight, but in fact it is the stage. Just look at the stage which has chairs for the couple, and both parents from each side.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, stage
Does the stage looks a lil familiar - reminds me of Datuk Siti's wedding

And of course, the not to be missed, wedding cake.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, wedding cake
This wedding cake was designed by the bride's mum, who then had the cake company to do it up

*Hint: Don't try cutting the cake as apparently, the cake is all cardboard. The real cakes were already done up and presented in boxes for the family members to bring home & savour.

And besides the cake, the familiar champagne glasses were all stacked up.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, champagne glass
The couple opened & poured 2 champagne bottles to fill the glasses.

And of course, with all decorations in place, the most important is the food. But before that, there is one more important thing - the Live music. And I mean, live.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, entertainers, performers
A 3 member group plus a professional emcee were to entertain guests during dinner.

With such great lengths of preparations, the food must be something grand as well. And it sure was.

The ballroom was converted to a mini buffet style with stalls around the corners serving different cuisines.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, dinner food, keropok & kerepek
The array of keropok & kerepek, plus its many sauces to go with.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, dinner food, kambing guling
There was the kambing guling (mutton). This best-seller was one of the firsts to be finished.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, dinner food, peking duck
The peking duck was quite a hit!

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, dinner food, salmon wrap
Another food which drew the crowd - this interesting salmon wrap.

And finally, the desserts were again a splendour.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, dessert, ice cream toppings
Big bowls of icr cream toppings!

I had to miss this as I was just too full. The ice creams actually went hand in hand with the waffles, which were cooked on the spot.

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, dessert, cake
One of the many cakes.

And finally, remember the hotel staffs trying to arrange & prepare the fruits? Well, this is their hardwork:

Indonesian Wedding Dinner, dessert, fruits
Seriously, even the fruits come in proper & grand arrangements.

The whole night was really a wonderful night. The couples & family members must have been tired though as while the guests were eating, they had to shake all the guests hands for a good 2 hours or so... all this while doing it standing.

And that was not all, as thereafter, there was the photo sessions with different parties of groups, which again took quite a bit of time (maybe 45 minutes to an hour) - yes, that many groups of people.

Finally, it all ended with me doing a video interview with the couple on their relationship (before, present & future). This is for the video crew to document & I guess present to the couple & their families the DVD/ VCD.

I thought this could be rare especially with such scale, but apparently just like the many other Chinese Indonesians weddings.


In all, I learnt a lot from this wedding alone. I now understand how the Indonesians work & how grand they do things, which truly is far bigger than what I've experience back home. And if I thought the mainland Chinese place high importance on 'face', the Indonesians do just as much.

In this age where over back home, weddings seem to be simpler & simpler, the Indonesians show how important these cultural traditions must be upkept, and in all grandour. And truly, I notice that this not only applies in weddings, but in everything else that they do.

Truly, this is quite a grand country :)

More of that to come!