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By: Abdullah Malik

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Sunday, 7-Dec-2008 12:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
South America Trip

The Beatles Club
Midnite adventures
Hey jude...
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Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in December 2008

Buenos Aires 7-9 Dec

My 3rd trip to South America! I was sent there by my office in 2005 and 2006 and now in 2008 I am in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay for the Samba and Tango night classes ! Seriously South America is just like home...hot and dry with lots of tropical fruits to eat and Guarana to replace Tongkat Ali ! In 2005 I visited Argentina, Brazil and Chile and this time around I will be visiting Uruguay instead of Chile and second visit to Argentina and Brazil...

I arrived in Buenos Aires Argentina late afternoon on Sunday 7 December 2008 after about 29 hours of journey. Departed KLIA about 1 am on Sunday and arrived on the same day...at 3.45 pm, how amazing! Took a taxi and put up at the Dazzler Tower Hotel near Florida Street, BA. Dinner at McDonald and slept early!

Monday was a holiday in Argentina so no much activities in the city. A friend Mr Ernesto Fernandez took me to meet a custom made furniture maker, Michael..an Italian and then spent about 1 hour in his office. Talked golf a little bit with Michael and he brought me to the Buenos Aires Golf and Country Club where Tiger Woods and David Duval competed in the World Golf Championship for lunch..I bought a T-shirt to wear and play in Malaysia! We had lunch at the club and ordered Salmon..what else can I eat!
Tuesday...rejuvenated and full of energy and completed six business meetings at the Argentina Chamber of Commerce office for South East Asia. In the evening I met them again at a dinner hosted by me...eat my second Salmon for the day!

Sao Paulo, Belem and Curitiba 10-15 Dec

Early wake up call to catch a flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil and arrive there after 2 hours flight..I felt hungry because I was unable to take the in-flight meal. I purposely let a vacuum in my stomach because I am going to the Brazilian barbeques for dinner! Mr Khairul..the Malaysian Trade Commissioner in Sao Paulo took me to the restaurant and I was having a great time..savouring the Japanese and Brazilian dishes! Brazilian beef grilled meat were the best.

Next morning I took the early morning flight to Belem about 700 km from Sao Paulo where Mr Alex (Brazilian) was waiting at the airport. I took buffet lunch at the riverside restaurant and went straight to the Grand Continental Hotel, the newest hotel in town. Belem is located at the mouth of the Amazon river! When I was here in 2005, it was a quick visit and didn’t see the town.

Belem is the central activity for tropical timber distribution, the reason why I was sent to South America. I visited three woodworking mills and met with several logistics provider in case some procurement contract could be established. There were some night activities in Belem for the braves and the non-sleepy because night activities only start at 12 midnight...until 5 am! I went to see the Brazilian Beatles band...and they were good. I went back to the hotel at 2 am.

After three days in Belem I flew to Sao Paulo again to catch a flight to Curitiba and check-in at the Grand Continental Hotel and in the evening met with Mr Tadeu who will bring me to his factory the next morning. The factory is located 230 km from Curitiba and we drove by car, its the Nissan x-trail equivalent. It was a very nice trip..and the factory visit was really worth it, very well organized operation and manufactured Pine timber for export market.

Montevideo 16-20 Dec

The next day I flew to Sao Paulo again for the connecting flight to Montevideo, Uruguay and it was just a short flight. I spent four days in Montevideo meeting with Government Ministries, Timber Associations and Timber Companies. Uruguay is interested to sell their Eucalyptus timber and this timber is widely used in the production of outdoor furniture.

Montevideo celebrated its 100 years anniversary of it town council and the city was alive day and night with fireworks display and the parade and music everywhere! I stayed at the Four Points Hotel which is located at the central area and very close to shopping areas..at the hotel doorsteps actually! But the great attraction was the Casino...and after a few nights of observations..I concluded that, its true, nobody wins at the casino! When there were 7 or 8 people betting at the roulette table hardly 3 of them got anything back! My friend won RM 600 the first night but lost the other two nights...how much ? He only said more than 2K. Anyway, there was this Korean restaurant near the Casino and every night we eat there because they served very good grilled fish..looked like Trout!
Me and my friends managed to play 2 rounds of golf at the Montevideo Golf Club and the Del Cerro Golf Club...no lady caddies here but tough men who spoke very little English! In Malaysia we have the luxury of choosing lady caddies from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia...and they would go all the way to seduce you and pampered you just to get those extra tips...

Buenos Aires 20-21 Dec

The next stop was Buenos Aires, Argentina while waiting for the flight home and I spent whatever Pesos and Real at Florida Street ! Of course we went to the Casino again..in BA the Casino is a converted ship and as usual everybody lost money!
Time to go home and prepare for the 29 hours journey! Departing 21 Dec and arrived KLIA 23 Dec !

Wednesday, 8-Oct-2008 00:20 Email | Share | | Bookmark
New Delhi, India

me and Shamani
Indian food !
look at the LOD TV !
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In October 2008, I was in New Delhi for a few days following a delegation from Malaysia attending the Asian Global Shipping Conference. We stayed at the Le Meridien Hotel, New Delhi for about RM 950 per night. All good hotels are very expensive for security reason!

I visited the Babu Markets where the textiles and Sari's were sold. I am not really into this textile thing but they said all those textiles sold in Dubai originated from India, so buying in India was very much cheaper than Dubai. I ended up buying half a dozen materials for my wife...

My friends visited the Taj Mahal and Agra but I opted for a visit to the Asian Tour Hero Honda Indian Open at the Delhi Golf Club. I have to catch a flight home that evening. I followed our Malaysian golfers Airil Rizman and Iain Steel for a few holes before switching to Jyoti Randawa and Chapchai Nirat for a few more holes. I went back to the hotel at 3 pm to rest before going to the airport.

Saturday, 16-Aug-2008 12:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Temerloh, my home town

Fish from the river
Manggis - mangosteen
Durian Tawar, my home village

Once a month, I drove from KL to Temerloh, Pahang to visit my father. He used to be an active guy but age is catching up with him. Now he can hardly see beyond 5 feet and I have to speak louder when engaged in a conversation with him. Born in 1918, he is amongst the very few in my village to live beyond 90 years. My last trip was last week and I was in time to pick-up some rambutans and manggis and went fishing with my younger brother who also lived in KL. We managed to catch some fish and river prawns by casting net in Sungai Pahang. As it was raining quite frequently in Temerloh, the water level was quite high and the water was very muddy and yellowish, so I guess fish and prawn can’t see too well either ! My office mates and my neighbours will have some free rambutans and manggis this week…Selamat berpuasa!

Sunday, 17-Feb-2008 09:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Phnom Penh (Feb 17-20 and March 16-20 2008)

Asia Hotel - popular with Asians
Holiday Inn - popular with Malaysian
Central Market
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Cambodia, Phnom Penh (17-20 Feb 2008) & (16-20 March 2008)

Work took me to Cambodia in February and March 2008. Both times from KLIA using Malaysian Airlines and flight time was 1 hour 50 minutes. I was impressed with the new airport, much better than Vientiane and Yangon airports and perhaps similar in size and facilities to Saigon airport. The airport is managed by a French company. So welcome to Khmer country…

The taxi charged USD 9 for one way trip to the hotel, most drivers do not give you back the change when you give them USD 10, that USD 1 can give you a glass of Teh Tarik at Mamak Corner. We arrived at Asia Hotel in 20 minutes. A standard room is USD 25 and bigger rooms at USD 40 per night. At the ground floor of Asia Hotel there is a Malaysian operated KFC just opened in March 2008. I moved hotel the next day as the hotel was too noisy at night. I stayed at Asia Palace Hotel, new and clean and just across the road, 50 meters away. Malaysia Airlines office is just a stone throw away.

During the next two days in Phnom Penh, met a lot of Malaysian friends who were working in Phnom Penh. There were people in packaging business, food and beverages, oil and gas, timber, investment and tax consultants.

During my March trip, I stayed a Holiday Villa Hotel at Movivong Boulevard, it is the main road in Phnom Penh. I have a nice 6th floor room overlooking the Mekong river and Tonle Sap. Business meetings and industry visit took almost 2 days and I have a bit of time to explore Phnom Penh.

For sea food enthusiast, a must go place is the Tonle Bassac Restaurant where you pay USD 12 per person and enjoy yourself to a full-fledged seafood galore of fish, crabs, prawns, cuttlefish, shells, dim sums, soups, noodles, sushi and salads etc. It was so good that I ate two large prawns and 3 crabs (all grilled) plus the desserts. On the last day, I invited some friends to go there again….Compare to Malaysia, Crabs are RM 32 per kg in Kuching and in KL probably double that...

A visit to Phnom Penh is not complete if you don’t go to Killing Fields!!
Killing Fields of Cheung Ek is situated 15 kilometers south-west of Phnom Penh and made famous by the film of the same name "Killing Field". it was a place where more than 17,000 civilians were killed and buried in mass graves; many of them transported here after detention and torture in Toul Sleng. This place is a chilling reminder of the brutalities of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. In the center of the area is a 17 story glass stupa which houses 8,000 skulls exhumed from mass graves. Entrance Fee is USD 2 per person. See my photos…

I also visited the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, cost USD 6 per entry. Familiar exhibits of royal costumes and ornamentals , more of the same thing if you have frequently visited royal museums elsewhere. It was nice to take photos of golden colored buildings, no activities or performance prepared for tourists.

I was having quite a difficult time looking for Muslim food in February but not any more as I uncovered more muslim cambodian restaurants. Go to Malaysian Restaurant at Street 130 Phsarkandal District and a Cambodia Muslim Restaurant just across the road. Two other restaurants are located opposite Holiday Villa Hotel, the Malaya Café at #20Eo Street 130 and Mamak Corner at No. 17 Street 144 Sangkat Phsar Thmei 1. Malaya Café serves daily buffet for USD 3.50 per person, nice food combo…even served Patin masak lemak and asam pedas !! Ulam and sambal belacan and udang petai…likewise Mamak Corner served you teh tarik and roti telor for USD 3 only. Holiday Villa Hotel provides you with buffet lunch at USD 10 per person…

Nothing to buy for me in Phnom Penh, I am not into jade, stones, emeralds, gems, sapphire etc. just a simple Cambodia T-shirts to bring home. By the way, I visited the Central Market (Psah Thmei). This unique, art-deco building is a Phnom Penh landmark. Inside is a dazzling display of jewels and gold. Electronic goods, stationery, secondhand clothes and flowers are also in ample supply. (Phsar Thmei means ‘New Market’, but ‘Central Market’ has caught on in English.).

The other popular market is the Russian Market (Psah Toul Tom Poung). This market is of far less architectural interest but has a larger and more varied selection of souvenirs, curios and silks than the Central Market. Like the Central Market, it has a good selection of silver, gold and jewels, but also carries huge selection of curios, silks, carvings, etc. The Russian Market offers the largest selection of bootlegged VCDs, DVDs and CDs of all of the traditional markets. Most of the CD vendors are located on the south side near the southeast corner of the market. It’s also a good place to buy fabric for business and casual cloths to take to the tailor.

Bye Khmer country….

Thursday, 17-Jan-2008 12:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Saigon holidays

Outside the hotel
night scene
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17 January 2008 Saigon, Vietnam

I travel by car from Selayang to KLIA via Sg Buluh toll and highway. Me and wife left the house at 0630hrs and reached KLIA covered parking building at 0715 and parked at level 3, ideally should park at level 2 where the connecting bridge to main terminal was located. Went to check-in at Counter C and got seat 8E and 8F. Went to the Airport lounge (Enrich Card) for a quick snack and boarded the plane on time. For this trip I used my ENRICH points to travel and debited 50,000 points for the trip and paid RM 786 for airport tax and administration for 2 persons.

We reached Saigon at 1055 or 0955 local time and waited for our friend Mr Saimon Lim. He called me and arrived after 30 minutes. Saigon is now saturated with cars, MPV and SUV, besides motorbikes, scooters and bicycles. I was in Saigon in 2002, it wasn’t this bad. Saigon has a new airport, very much better from the old one, immigration formalities was swift but luggage came out slow, almost 20 minutes after immigration clearance when the first bag came out. There was a big crowd outside the airport, relatives and friends waiting or bid good-byes to their loved ones. If you are meeting someone, be sure to specify the exact location, use the airport pillar as each pillar has a number, I was at LG 11. Then at last my dear friend Mr. Saimon Lim arrived with our transport and we drove to city center, to a hotel in District 1 near the Van Thenh Market. The Hotel was called Thanh Long Tan Hotel or THANH LONG. T@n Hotel. At 19 - 21- 23 Truong Dinh St., Dist. 1, HCM City, Viet Nam. Tel : (848) 8.248.767. 8. 248.768 - 8.248.769. Fax : (848) 8.298.576 .. http://www.thanhlongtanhotel.com/ the rate was USD 25 including simple breakfast. I paid USD 35 for a larger room, the bathroom was clean and room tiled.

After a quick shower, both of us rushed downstairs as our host Mr Vanh was waiting at a nearby restaurant. Both of us have vegetarian noodle while the others enjoyed the famous Vietnamese beef noodle…Mr Vanh and I have been friends for almost 5 years and this would be my third visit to Saigon city.

Then my wife and I went to the Van Thenh market, very crowded as always and full of tourists looking for handbags, wallets, t-shirts, jeans, shirts, textiles, imitation bags etc.

18 January – Saigon walk,

Today we moved to a more upmarket hotel called the Palace Saigon Hotel, the rate was USD 115++ including buffet breakfast. While the former hotel was more like Petaling Street environment, this hotel feels more like Bukit Bintang area…

Vietnam was famous for its beef-noodle and the noodle franchise shop was called PLO 24, you can find them everywhere. The noodle was served with fresh vegetables. Our host Mr. Vanh (Vietnamese) accompanies us during lunch. The afternoon was spent shopping, at nearby Van Thenh Market. This place is a heaven for shoppers, go for it…bargain and bargain until you get a fair price i.e. in your opinion of course. Shoes, handbags, luggage and textiles were the main attraction. So first outing spent about USD 50 or VND 800,000. Vietnam Silk material were sold at USD 12 for 4 meter piece for the baju kurung. Buying was easy as many shop assistants spoke Bahasa Melayu…the salesgirls called you Sir..Madam baju kurung… cantik…murah etc. Well..one shopping session could last 2-3 hours and walked 1-2 kilometers inside the market. There were so many shops…I was pulled up by a salesgirl when we visited her shop for the third time and she shouted...Aku Cinta Kamu !

Currency in Vietnam is the Dong, the common exchange rate was 1 USD to VND 16,000 and RM 1 to VND 4,000. So USD 100 was VND 1.600 million, in Ringgit USD 100 was RM 330 and VND 1.320 million. So it was better in USD, right?
My wife and I both purchased the local pre-paid phone card at VND 100,000 each or RM 25. Just in case we got lost or separated in the crowded market, then the local line would be handy…mine was called MobiCard SuperSim 64K and valid until May 2008.
For dinner, we have French fries and fish burger and we roamed the Saigon District 1 roads until 11 pm, no problem, very safe to walk at night. The night scenery was beautiful…and plenty of people.

19-20 January 2008

The next two days were the same, sight seeing and shopping. We went to a local Muslim restaurant called Quan An Sulaiman at TK 25/40 Tran Hung Dao, P.Cau Kho District 1 (Tel. 8385332), taxi fare about VND 20,000 (RM 5) from Van Thenh Market. We have Nasi Putih, Tom Yam fish ball, Telur Dadar and Udang Goreng kunyit and fruit juices, all for VND 84,000 or RM 21. Along the main road near the restaurant, was the Thanh Duong Jamiul Islamiah Mosque at 459b Tran Hung District 1, tel. 9203325. My wife bought a Telekung for VND 120,000 or RM 30!

There was another Muslim restaurant, a bit upmarket a bit near Sheraton Hotel called Four Season Restaurant or Restoran Empat Musim located at SO 2 Thi Sach Street in District 1, (Tel. 8257186) at the junction of Dong du and Thi Sach. The lady who served us spoke Malay fluently and suggested Kepala Ikan Asam Pedas. It was tasty, however the price was a bit steep as we paid about VND 484,000 or RM120 for lunch….

All in all, it was a tiring and memorable holiday for us…Saigon is definitely worth a re-visit someday!

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