Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oktoberfest at Shamrock, KK Waterfront

I have been just terribly busy with my new apartment. Busy and broke more like. Stretching out my dollars just to make it a great place to live. Actually, I plan to rent it out. But I'm putting so much of work and money into it because I put the idea in my head that this is going to be my storehouse for my coming landed house that I'm going to eventually build for a family!

Social life is down the hill too because I've been locking myself inside the house to avoid spending so much after work, but really, nothing like the idea of drinks and friends like Oktoberfest could repel me :)

Kim was coming with a bunch of friends so naturally we would invite Chris as well. I was told that there would be games, drinks, singing and dancing, the usual -- and I was so glad that I met Danny, and Eddie there whom were the first few people I've known when I first came to KK through work. Great catchup!

I was really notorious to Chris though (as usual), pushing him to join all the competitions to win for us just because he's white. So he had participated in the chicken dance (but of course) and other competitions as well, but I think he kept all the prizes to himself......  Kim doesn't usually drink but that night she was drinking stout like water o.O We were on the lookout for Kim, because she had been calling out the balloons "umbrellas" after that......... o.O Love them both with all of my heart.

Some of the pictures from the night :)

Till next year! 

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Yangon, 19th Street

I asked (he's probably one of my favorite writer out there online) where is THE best place to stay in Yangon. I told him I had only 4 days to play around with, so I was hoping I could stay in an area with the most action. He replied, '19th Street is your best bet'. I had never known about the 19th Street prior to his suggestion even after all the Googling I had done about Yangon. So I was like, 'um, thank you, but let me Google Map it'. In the midst of it all, while I was looking high and low for accommodation taking his advice to heart about 19th Street (it was a tad difficult because most of the guesthouses and lodges were either not visible or not available online) I found Ocean Pearl where I eventually spend my nights at.

So I settled with Ocean Pearl and went -- HMPH 19th Street must be another place to be! And listed it in my very free itinerary. I checked with the hostel's staff how far was 19th Street to Bo Ta Taong Road and according to him it's a 30 minutes walk or more, so he recommended me to take the cab. At that time, it was already 5pm and it was getting dark so I figured 'sure, let's try the cab' and it was a cool ride I must say. The staff cut off some dollars for me, and true enough I did fancy paying off a thrilling ride of continuous honks, double lanes, gridlock 5 ways, jerking brakes all and more in our unbelted seats. All too familiar with Manila :)

He stopped me at a random corner, of a busy street and I was like, okay - I'm guessing I'm supposed to follow my instincts on this one which exactly entails the 19th Street. But it doesn't take an instinct to a go to a place like 19th Street! People flocking through in all directions, like they knew where exactly which stall exactly had the things they had in mind to go to, I followed a young lady with her swinging umbrella, too difficult to identify the tourists here, you could count them by the fingers. Left the lady, followed a young couple into another corner, hah -- after about 10 minutes of twisting and turning my steps and I think basically making circles, I think I finally stepped onto the 19th Street, and that's when I know exactly why Phil had suggested the street.

A long stretch of food, textiles, shoes, home deco, alleys after alleys of bars and pubs, and restaurants and small hotels (if you know what I'm sayin'). There were people everywhere from all walks of life, and even a lot more tourists (by more I mean a few more). Everything was packed in one street! So yes, come to think about it, I wasn't sure why 19th Street was especially difficult to be found online, so I've decided to write about it and get people to get more involved in the economy there :)

Unfortunately, I took too little photos from the street, I was pre-occupied with walking around, and was so fascinated with everything they have to offer, I forgot about snapping some photos -____________-"

Yes, I took 3 photos of 19th Street. THREE. Fml

I reached Sule pagoda after much walking around after dinner :)  It's always a rare sight to be stumbled upon the Pagodas! Too lovely of a sight.

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Oktoberfest Malaysia in Kota Kinabalu

Hey KK Folks,

Oktoberfest finally reached our KK shores! (I think it has been since forever though).

Oktoberfest initially started as a wedding celebration in 1810 to commemorate the union between Crown Prince Ludwig (who later became King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen at Theresienwiese (translated as Therese's meadow / field) – it is for this reason that Oktoberfest is referred to by Germans as ‘die Wiesn’ or ‘the field'. I remember seeing the reenactment of the wedding ceremony somewhere on some paper, it was quite cute! 

You guys can now celebrate the infamous Oktoberfest with a series of themed parties in Kota Kinabalu ALL MONTH long. Expect evenings of great food from around the world, contests, promotions and activities with, GAB’s selection of their beers including Tiger, Guinness, Heineken and the official Paulaner Oktoberfest Bier, brewed exclusively for this season.

Last year's celebration :D

A special edition Oktoberfest Mug with a limited edition metal lid is available as well :) I won this the first time I attended 2009's Oktoberfest in KL! *lookatmadrunkarfaceomagad

Some friends had asked me about the Oktoberfest, I've got the info - check out the list of places that will be having Oktoberfest, I reckon you can also bar hop :) 

25 October 2013

Lintas Square

· Hello Bar (Club M Pub & Lounge)
· Ballroom Bar
· Crystal Lounge
· Le Face Spaccio Di El Bar & Lounge
· 9 Night Wine Bar
· Hitz Voice

Warisan Square · Oyster Bar
· Hot Rod

KK Waterfront · Bar Tzar
· Novus Karaoke
· Shamrock Irish Bar
· Cock & Bull Bistro
· Step'In Restaurant & Bar

26 October 2013 KK Times Square · Sullys Bar
· Vino Vino Yakitori
· Plutonic
· The Retro Club Bar & Grill
· Mr Ho’s Fine Foods
· FF Sport CafĂ©
· Jarrods & Rawlins

I hope I get to see you guys around :D

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Yangon, Bo Ta Taung and Merchant Road

Myanmar as we all know it, was called Burma once when the British was in power during the 1800s. British's legacy among their language and their trains, was their labour system of transporting workers from China and India into their commonwealth countries that eventually became one if its earlier and bigger races to date. Now Myanmar, the nation is a beautiful "mish mash" of the natives and the visitors from all of its neighbouring countries, the ever so influential Chinese and the Indians of course, as well as the Thais. This is especially frequent and a seamlessly common feature you would be able to recognize thanks to its geographic location, being right smack in the centre of these two giant nations.

What was supposed to be a promise of a new government formation by the Burmese government after its independence, had not become, and the military took charge eventually. It had ousted the "democratic government" and began what was a rather communism way of governance.

And yes, that's where our freedom fighter Ms Aung San Suu Kyi stood hard and stood strong like a brick of wall through all the years and challenges. She had had house arrest, for decades, continuously fighting for freedom and education, like she wasn't made of flesh, that nothing could break her. She stood face front to the military reps, fearless. Part of Myanmar's slow but surely openness now is also thanks to her when her freedom and fight for education has finally been recognised after she had won the election. She's now traveling the world (after decades of house arrest) speaking out to investors, visitors and basically everyone to continuously support Myanmar.

So take this mental picture - of a nation like Myanmar, similar climate with Thailand / India, population of 52.8 million with 676 578 km2 both double the size of Malaysia, located right smack in between of China and India and language transfused on its own dating back when it was still sharing its soil when its neighboring countries (so you would imagine how the language would similarly sound like, or even similarly feels like). They have been recorded to be one of the poorest country in the world, with poor linkage to electricity at some remote areas, high unemployment and governance providence was uncertain and what seemed "not enough". And you would think a country with so much resources would do "okay?" -- not if corruption and massive nonalignment take place. But all I can think of while visiting this kind country, Yangon specifically, was the fact that Yangon, Myanmar is only going to improve. It is only going to improve. People are great, and just tons of things to do.  

I reached Yangon at about 8am in the morning and immediately was smacked with a bit of a culture indigestion. I reached at a very clean and massive Yangon airport to flocks of people waiting for their families and friends and guests outside of the arrival port, and men, in what I had remembered back home as sarong! All of the men were in Sarong! I was grinning when I reached but I had to take photos of this, I told myself. Ok fast forward.

Ocean Pearl Inn had complimentary transfers, so my first hand experience with the people of Burma was too pleasant, everyone speak good English, everyone was friendly and kind. Upon reaching the hostel, I checked into my room and passed out. 

(because I had to stay awake in the airport overnight, too worried I would overslept and miss my flight) 

I woke up after 1pm after hours of catching up on sleep. Yangon was 1.5hours behind, so there was some minor jetlag. Day 1 was basically, on foot around Yangon. I had decided to walk on Merchant Road and Bo Ta Taung road (the area where I stayed) which was maybe about a couple of hours stretch of interesting food, beers and hang outs for the locals.

I had no itinerary for the day since I just reached, so I walked around and slowly take it all in :)

My lunch

Some people had asked me, Why Yangon? Before I answered something what most people would, like WHY NOT YANGON? I actually think it's because, of the pagodas and the fusion between the Indian and the Chinese. Having 89% of the Burmese are Buddhists, that means you'd see tons of pagodas and monasteries around Burma and Yangon.

Some folks prefer Bagan because of it's crazy beautiful temples, monasteries and pagodas and trust me, none of those sights are something you have ever seen before back home.

My days were blessed with sunny days, after my lunch and about 2 hours of walking around, I decided to head into an Indian cafe. If you see right across the table I was sitting at the cafe I was at, there was a Hindu temple, stood beautiful and glorious. I chuckled to myself, now this is something I wouldn't usually see back home as well. I took sips of my Cappuccino (oh my God, they make such good coffees, nevermind they've only got 5 items on their menu, coffee is always one of them!!) and my Indian Rasgula :)

Minutes after I took this shot, I reached my place and saw people swarming around looking out at my hostel like something terrible had happened. My first guess was someone had jumped off from the building (I had no better judgement that time, I'm sorry) but then a few minutes after that I hear siren going off, and saw a massive red truck (I'm guessing firefighter) zooming through Bo Ta Taung road and eventually stopped right infront of me. Seconds later, some dude with a video camera and another guy with a green book that writes "Life" on it rushed towards the red truck's driver and started talking, they replied to one another really fast. Media, I thought.

 I was looking for someone to answer me what the commotion was all about, asked a dude, and apparently there was an electric short circuit at the block next to my block and it blacked out the whole road! o.O

Then I remembered the photo again...

Damn, somehow something somewhere will be short-circuited I figured.

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

KYAT vs USD in Myanmar [Updated]

I know Yangon is a fairly sensitive destination now (maybe since forever) but, I insisted on pursuing with the visit myself, regardless. I left Yangon on the 13th, and found out that a homemade bomb had been planted in one of the rooms at Traders Hotel that very same day I left. I wasn't staying there, but I passed by the hotel quite a few times while I was walking around). So yes, I am devastated. Just when I thought I could help Yangon one way or another, small or big, this happened. One American lady was injured, and her family is unhurt. At this moment, visitors have been issued a warning, so please keep aware at all times. Don't be a douche, don't step on people's tail. I know sometimes, some people are just at the wrong time at a wrong place, so I hope you always ask for mercy and ask for blessings for your journey.

Before I left for Myanmar, I had been reading so much about the country, I was pretty certain that I was prepared for all it has to offer. I had my USDs packed up neatly on all corners of my bagpack. But nothing answers all your questions except for being there for yourself and going through the streets.

Day 1, upon checking into my hostel (which was Ocean Pearl Inn), I used up my USDs and paid for all the nights I was staying. Okay that was peasy. I went out to check out some of the cafes and restaurants, and realised they accepted both Kyats (pronouced JIAT) and USDs so I figured, this is great! After my third or fourth purchases, the Burmese would prompt me whether I would like to pay in USDs or in Kyats. Okay this is still great... except that then, I was beginning to wonder why would they ask me so?

Before flying in, my initial plan was to improve their Kyat Dollars, after all it's their original currency. If USD is still highly requested worldwide, then it would have improved the USD instead (not that they didn't needed the help, they still do what with all the issues regarding their debt now) but since I was visiting Myanmar, their priorities came first (yes it took me this long of a reasoning to change to which currency while I was queuing up at the money changer counter).

BUT -- everyone else online told me that everyone there is using USD. Even my hostel was requesting 25USD/ night. Soooooo evenetually I changed all my money in Malaysia to USD.

Had I known, I could have requested to pay in Kyat, I would have. Hah.

Once reaching there, and realising all these different currencies are making me lose track of how much exactly the damages were. And then after some basic mental arithmetic, I decided I was going to change 80% of what money I have when I had reached Yangon to Kyats because, I realised the USD had cost me by a little bit more. I am impressed that the Kyats' value is of dollar to dollar - great stuff. So,

MYR 1 = MMK 307 
MYR 1 = USD 0.315 
Then it means, MMK < USD

I felt noble to have been on track with my initial plan again, eventhough that means I could have also helped improved the particular shop/ restaurant/ hostel's revenue with a USD. I had long term improvement in mind >:]

So if I were you I would recommend you to change most of your money in KYAT while you're still in Malaysia. But you must also know, that not all money changers have Kyats (now this is where it all gets tricky again). There are still some other institutions out there who prefer USDs but you as a consumer, can still request to pay in Kyat. Still estranges me me how you can shift around to pay in which currency.

Tips and Recommendations:
I have experienced first hand, that the Burmese STRICTLY DO NOT ACCEPT "dirty money". By that it means, all your higher USD denominations will be kindly pushed back to you should it had the slightest of wrinkles and smudges. And by slightest, I mean super slightest. I had one of my 100USD pushed back to me, I went awol for a bit but luckily I had other better looking 100USDs. If you had brought just "enough" only, you'd go awol too because ATMs there are fairly limited. So please keep this in mind! Not joking.

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Getting Visa: Myanmar/ Burma

A couple of weeks back I asked some friends online whether they knew about Burma's visa application. No one  answered, naturally I would think either people didn't want to reply or simply didn't know what to reply. I figured the latter was more like it because right after that, I decided to Google it on my own and I landed nowhere (except for the embassy of course), so I'm guessing no one or so few have only traveled to Burma to know that among all the ASEAN countries, only Burma requires a Visa. Both tourist and business visa. Imagine having conferences and seminars at Myamar, going back forth and all to get the visa >.< 

So what does one do when they've bought their cheap fares from AA to Yangon among many? Visa.

They're a few things you must know about getting a visa to anywhere in the world from Malaysia, that most of their offices are only available in Kuala Lumpur. While... I am in Kota Kinabalu.... working... Monday to Saturday.... Imagine that 5 second frustration I had to go through knowing this only weeks before going off. What if the visa application takes forever? What if they don't allow me?

If it wasn't for KinkyBlueFairy's post on Myanmar I had read last year or was it, that I knew visa can be done without me actually doing it! Which means you can actually hire a runner to do all the application etc etc etc, and thankfully, my beautiful sister is studying in KL so I had to ask her to do EVERYTHING for me. She was fine with it, but she has no car and she's staying in Subang, so I knew I needed to sponsor everything, from her cab rides to her meals to of course that application making her life easy when I'm already taking her time.

What you need to know about the visa is that it is valid for 3 months only. So once you obtained your visa, the clock starts ticking. In fact, they even stamp the actual date you need to leave the country too. While other foreign friends have done overstaying their visas in some countries, I'm not sure doing so at what used to be a military governed country is a good idea....... plus it's downright illegal. So you must know that you don't need to make your visa as early as you thought you should, two weeks before travel in at tops can be your best bet.

If you check the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur's website they had mentioned that they are open on Saturdays, but after calling in they're not. Thankfully my sister had no classes on Wednesdays, so it was okay for me to steal her time and for her do it on Wednesdays but for anyone working, you have to figure this out.

  • Normal application : MYR 80 
  • Express application: MYR 110 - MYR 150 (I had a range because mine was MYR 110 but it says otherwise on the website)
Things to bring: 
  • Your actual passport 6 mths validity (they will take this from you at first, and it will be returned) 
  • Photocopies of your passport x 2 
  • Photocopies of your itinerary and/ or boarding passes (return) x 2
  • Two passport photos (the one with white background)

Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur
Contact number: 03 204020
Fax number: 03 381 200
Office hours: 09:00am to 17:00pm (Monday to Friday) 

Alternatively, if you're traveling with your family and friends and don't plan to go through all these hassle or maybe because you're NOT staying in Kuala Lumpur (like me) you can request for visa application via travel agencies. Sometimes that include flight and their services.

Myanmar and Bali respectively are finally on its way, after my first dreadful cancellation on Bali last year I am still allergic to the idea of cancelling my trips [think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts]. That's all folks, I hope this has helped some people out there.

I’ll update from Yangoon! 

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.