Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shopping Streets - Kiyomizuzaka & Sannenzaka

Kyoto, Japan.

In eastern Kyoto, when you visit the Kiyomizu Temple (a World Heritage site not to be missed !), you will definitely pass these 2 shopping streets. These are the 2 stone paved streets that lead up to the temple compound and has been the only way for worshipers and tourists alike for past 400 years.

These streets have been around since the temple was founded and have houses lining both sides that are still typically japanese shophouses. Most are wooden and in keeping with the traditional outlook of the whole area. Thank God for that.

And this is what makes the place unique. You seemed to have been transported back in time and actually expect or hope to see samurais round the corner! Japanese residents in yukatas and Maikos in kominos still occasionally trod through cobblestone pavements. You know you are in Japan and you imagine "This is what Japan should be like!"

Although catering mainly to the tourists, these streets provide a unique glimpse into the Japanese way of life. Souvenirs are not the usual tacky shopping mall stuff (though it's also there) but you get offerings of many traditional Japanese goods like handmade parasols, fans, pottery & kyoto dolls. And this makes the world of difference to other shopping streets, even of those in japan.

One thing you must sample are the various types of Japanese cookies, yatsuhashi. These are all prepared in the traditional manner and are the usual omiyagi (gifts) which the Japanese themselves give to their friends and colleagues to mark their visit to that place.

Searching through the narrow alleyways and side streets along the steep incline will also reward you with unique japanese inns, cafes, and horrors, vending machines shops. Luckily, these ugly symbols of Japanese life are not so obvious here!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ROTFLOL ! It's the funniest thing I've read in a long time.
What made it more incredible was that it was stated by the country's Home Minister during their Parliament session. Yup, it's official.
Here's how it was reported in the local press....

Friday October 17, 2008
Policemen beat a retreat

KUALA LUMPUR: A police beat base located in the Chow Kit area of downtown Kuala Lumpur has been shut down because the “presence of criminals could make it unsafe for police officers". Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said the beat base was located in a dirty area where police faced the possibility of being exposed to contagious diseases. The presence of criminals also posed a threat to the safety of police officers.

He said this in a written reply to Dr Lo’ Lo’ Mohamad Ghazali (PAS - Titiwangsa).
Dr Lo’ Lo’ had asked why the beat base along Jalan Haji Taib was closed considering that vice activities were high in the area. She also wanted to know what kind of action had been taken by the police to curb vice activities in the Chow Kit area. Syed Hamid said police were in the midst of finding a new location for the beat base.

In an immediate response City Chief Police Officer Deputy Comm Datuk Mohd Sabtu Osman said the beat base was not shut down but had been relocated to bigger premises near Jalan Raja Bot. “We moved there to provide better service as we have increased our manpower and need more space,” he said. Dr Lo’ Lo’s question was the 30th in the Order Paper and hence did not get a mention in the House during the daily one-hour Question Time.

However, Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli (PAS - Kuala Krai) managed to raise the matter when he interjected during Azmin Ali’s (PKR - Gombak) speech during the debate on Budget 2009.
Dr Mohd Hatta said that if the police themselves felt unsafe in a beat base, it would be even worse for the public. “Maybe it would be better to put the beat base in the army barracks.”
Dr Mohd Hatta then managed to raise the issue again during his own debate on Budget 2009 saying that Syed Hamid’s response was irrational and hoped he would clarify his written answer as this was not the kind of police the people wanted.
“The police are there to make a place safe. If they themselves are scared and run away, how can we hope for others to want to be there?” he asked. Dr Mohd Hatta said if the place was dirty, it was up to the police to organise gotong-royong activities to clean it up. He added the only kind of contagious disease in the area was sexually transmitted, adding that getting infected was a matter of choice.

Copyright _ 1995-2008 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D) Managed by I.Star

The cops gotta move out because the place seems to be infested with not only with unsavoury elements but also contagious diseases. Notwithstanding, the natural fear of criminals, maybe the cops have been too fraternizing with the locals in the red-light district??? Well, guess it's all in the kampong spirit of gotong-royong*.

*gotong-royong=malay language, for community self-help programs

Thursday, October 16, 2008

How to get a free resort stay in Phuket, Thailand

.Pristine sand beach at Phuket

Seriously, there is a way to get a free 3D2N stay at a 5 star resort at Phuket, Thailand. What's more, it's nothing less than the renowned Laguna Resorts at Phuket! The Laguna resort complex comprise 6 major resorts including the Banyan Tree, Dusit Laguna, Sheraton Grande, Allamanda Resort and Laguna Beach Resort.

The only catch is that you got to sit through a presentation on the Laguna Holiday Club scheme while you are already at one of the associated Laguna resorts. Yes, that scary word... Timeshare!

I first heard about this when I was in Phuket in 2005, exactly 6 months after the devastating tsunami. Rates were understandably at rock bottom. I had a suite for only S$350 at the Dusit Laguna and this included the Silkair return flight! The Dusit Laguna resort was in the direct line of fire by the tsunami but by then it had been substantially repaired, though there were still signs of the devastation in that area, but that's another story...

Dusit Laguna Resort after the tsunami 2005

Anyway, how do you get that free stay?
This is how:
whenever you stay at a Laguna associated resort anywhere, you will receive a welcome call from the Holiday Club inviting you to a presentation of their timeshare scheme. This high pressure, albeit, no obligations talk lasts 2 hours but you will be rewarded for your time with an offer of a substantial lunch or dinner, or a US$100 shopping voucher, or a 3D2N stay at one of the Laguna Resorts in Phuket.

It was on the day of my departure and as I had time to spare, I agreed to listen to their talk. Truthfully, they were nice, professional, persistent but not too overbearing. In the end, I opted for the free lunch, as I was already in Phuket and had no thoughts of returning anytime soon.

So if ever you are at the Angsana Spa Resort or the Banyan Tree in Bintan, just attend the Holiday Club presentation and you will get a free 3D2N stay at a Laguna Phuket resort. You just need to make your own way there.

By the way, this is not a paid blurb for the holiday club scheme, ha ha, but I wouldn't mind another free stay at Phuket though. Click on the link here and drool.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Freezing Beer in an instant

What has this to do with a travel blog???
Well, actually nothing but these are some tips you pick up when you travel around, and end up at foreign watering holes with nothing better to do.

This is a method on how you can freeze beer instantly. Any beer will do but I am using the clear bottled Corona so that you can see the actual freezing process happen in front of your eyes. It's not a trick.


What to do when you are not travelling II

If you had seen my attempt at the coke trick in my earlier posting, just wanted to say that the illusion was done correctly except that the videography wasn't too good then.
But you won't believe the comments I received from doubting Thomases!
Anyway, here's another attempt and i hope you can see it better this time. Enjoy.