Sunday, February 19, 2012

Non-backpacker in the hostel: the PODs experience

I thought I was too old for hostels until I planned my first few days in Kuala Lumpur and looked at what was left in my ATM account. I can't be a real backpacker anymore like I was five years ago--my scoliosis makes it challenging--but I don't mind sharing toilets and showers if they're clean. So I looked for hostels in addition to budget hotels near KL Sentral, where I can easily catch a bus to work.

PODs Backpackers on Jalan Thambillay won me over because of the low rate and the excellent recommendations online. Located in the Brickfields area (the other Little India), it's a mix of sights and smells. There is a Chinese temple, Old Town White Coffee, small hotels, and blind massage places on the same street. It's quite reassuring when you see several blind people walking in your area unaided.

The office building that houses PODs is small and nondescript. But when you enter PODs with its signature green color, the mood changes to chilled out, international and funky. On the Sunday afternoon when I checked in, there were people doing yoga on Platform 2 & 3/4, a stage for small events.

Like all other guests, I was given my keys, pillow and sheets. I would leave my shoes on the rack whenever I came in. The rooms are clean, with artsy handpainted accents in the rooms and platforms instead of a bed frame. The showers are built from corrugated roofing materials.

The included breakfast is simple: self-service toast with peanut butter or jam, and hardboiled eggs. By self-service, that means washing up after you've had tea. Quiet time is from 11pm to 7am but it's quiet pretty much all day except that I was close to the showers and I could hear the gush of water.

I didn't catch R2B2 (wheelies) tours, but the PODs staff are helpful and recommend activities according to your interests. There's also free wi-fi.

Although I didn't hang out long enough to make many friends and I was thrilled about the long-term room I found, I was actually sad to leave PODs. I think I'll pop in on one of their events every first Friday of the month.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Social media on my mind

With my Indonesian colleague Ari on our second day in the office. Shot by my seatmate Irvin for her February photo-a-day challenge.

Fail of the day (with [me approaching Chris when he meant to call Ari but called me instead] a close second):

Him: Water is important.
Me: Whaaa---?!? Where did that come from
Him: I said I will copy you and bring my own tumbler. Water is important.
Me: Ah. I thought you said you will copy me and be on Tumblr. T-U-M-B-L-R. You know, because I blog.

I can now safely say that I can make myself laugh.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kuala Lumpur Heritage Walk

Pasar Seni

Pasar Seni


Central Market or Pasar Seni was once a wet market. These days it's an airconditioned arts and crafts market. The free walking tour of old Kuala Lumpur for those wishing to go off the beaten path is offered by Be Tourist starting from the Central Market Annexe.






The walk is offered daily at 1030am. Only 10 persons per tour. Come early to avoid disappointment.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

These two-meter tall bears must look familiar if you've been to Berlin, where the bear is the city's symbol. But these ones have also been to different countries, representing different countries on behalf of tolerance.

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL
United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL
The Philippine bear is a bird! Design by Pierre F. Patricio, sponsored by the Philippine Embassy in Berlin

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL
Guess who?

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

United Buddy Bears @ Pavilion KL

Each bear was designed by an artist. The bears have been in KL since December and will leave tomorrow. Let's wish them a safe and successful trip. More information on them here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Keep left

The first thing that struck me when I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia two days ago was that it is impressively humid. It makes you think about showering three times a day. It also rains twice a day. You need to be dressed for sun, rain, hot and cold (airconditioned indoors).

Does the city feel like Manila?  When I first visited KL three and a half years ago, my impression was that KL is a cleaner, greener, more beautiful version of Manila. (Check out the August and September 2008 archives.) Sad to say, but that impression has not changed. It even depressed me a little on my first day here. I have been a little emotional since the PDOS (pre-departure orientation seminar) at POEA last Thursday, but I feel much better now although I think it would still be easy to make me cry.

Since I had already gone to the tourist spots and had used the LRT and Monorail before, I don't feel so lost and tourist-y. I wish the LRT, MRT and buses in Manila had the integrated card as they do here. And that train stations would also have electric fans. But then from the looks of it, these are just fantasies.

Just one thing that I have to rewire: keep left. Being a former British colony that still drives on the right hand side, Malaysia might be mistaken for a place with the same habits when it comes to escalators and stairs. I've become so used to staying on the right that I have to remember to keep left unless passing (overtaking). But I'm not sweating the small stuff.

I will blog more regularly again on mama's request. More stories soon.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bagong salta

Let's do this.

In a few days I will officially be an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). "Expat" doesn't cut it; bagong bayani (new hero) I ain't. It's a purely personal challenge I am posing to myself. That said, two weeks of paperwork have given me more respect for the millions of OFWs abroad. There is nothing easy about leaving the country to give your family a better life.

Here's a little farewell song, courtesy of Amber Davis.


Manila, I hope you'll be a little better when I come home.


Friday, February 10, 2012

The bay

A Sunday morning at the CCP Complex, Pasay City, Philippines.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pieces of home

Less than a week to go before the move. If you know your landmarks, my destination (above) should be easy to guess. [via]

I had over a month to read, paint, play, do the paperwork, and recharge. Whatever happened to the 2012 sabbatical? Don't worry, I'll be productive.

There's no question about it: it's more fun in the Philippines. The next best thing is to bring stuff I won't find elsewhere.


Shirts from SM. Reasonably priced and made in the Philippines. Only Pinoys will grasp "why not chocnut" (~P250) but sparkly Manila (~P350) has universal appeal.


Three reads: Leon Ma. Guerrero's The First Filipino, and Ricky Lee's Para Kay B (P250) and Si Amanpola sa 65 Kabanata (P300). I did consider the newly released Zsazsa Zaturnnah sa Kalakhang Maynila (P500--echos lang--actually P175) but the sensibilities of the new country might not go well with a gay character with a female superhero alter ego. The three books might not exactly be benign either (I will have to read to find out), just not illustrated.

The packing list is changing every day. Edit, edit, edit!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Under the sheets

The reason why the beds at home are soft appears to be a mathematical one. It's amazing to see great inventions in your room.

And if you're still wondering what this is, click here. Worth it, I think, considering how much time we spend sleeping.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

One morning in Makati

[A post to mark my entrance to Twitter. I am hoping to follow users who bring something to the table much more beyond what they had for breakfast. This true story goes against that strategy by going with it, if that makes any sense at all. (None) ]

My brother dropped me off at the carpark at 630am. The clinic would not be open until eight. I had time to kill. After a sandwich and several chapters of a novel later, I claimed my medical results, though not before a reprimand from a woman I mistook for a man (I approached the wrong counter). When I looked at the results—four copies, the original and the actual figures—I was relieved that I was deemed fit for employment. But at the same time I was bothered that the results, at first glance, look impossibly perfect. Is anyone ever that well?

I walked to the embassy. The directions were etched in my mind after looking at Wikimapia the night before. No signage around the building, except for the one that said “renovation”. A guard stuck out his head out of a window and told me to go to the adjacent blue building on the other side. Finding the next blue building too far to be next door, I popped into one that I pronounced green. The guard confirmed that I was in the right building, but too early.

Starbucks was the nearest seating option. I killed half an hour with half a sugar-free iced latte, a newspaper and a society magazine featuring an artist who had been my roommate. She looked lovely, but not exactly the crazy, carefree girl I remember spending a few days with.

At the appointed time, the tiny temporary office of the consular section only had a handful of applicants, something I was not used to. In the past two years, I had been in three other embassies and they were always busy and much bigger. I was fortunate that although the birthday of Prophet Muhammad on Monday is an embassy holiday, the woman at the window was nice enough to give me an earlier claim date for the visa.

It was too early to go home (the earliest shuttle leaves at 3pm), so I went to the mall. The cab driver seemed to think that I wasn't familiar with the Greenbelt area but did not need to be corrected. Looking at shoes and bags, I had to constantly remind myself that my 15 kilos baggage allowance is not nearly enough for clothes. That killed the temptation to spend (even if I only have few shoes and bags...for a woman).

I headed for the salon for a quick trim. The stylist, spying the clinic's name on my envelope, seemed to know it would be a while before I would be back. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into his words. “I love it,” I told him, referring to the haircut, as I handed the tip.

Window shopping. Rack after rack of clothes. Settled on a P100 necklace. I have always wanted an owl to call my own.

The soup was excellent at the Italian place. I must have looked like I was enjoying it because my seatmate asked what I was having and promptly ordered it. She must have been fairly satisfied because she thanked me before she left. As the server set down the pepper mill and the chili oil, I had a moment of nostalgia. When we were only a few buildings apart, my mom and I would have lunch served with the jug of oil with the whole garlic at the bottom. Oh, snap out of it.

One thing struck me about this morning: I was greeted by different people, from guards to cleaners, so many times in the span of a few hours. Greeting people may be part of their jobs, but they don't get so much appreciation or recognition for the services they perform. I felt as if something invisible had revealed itself to me. (That'a supposed to be dramatic? I know it's simple. All of this is.)

I spent the afternoon and evening at another mall doing more mundane things. (Did you hear that one about driver's license renewal?) I did manage to spend half of P6000+ worth of gift certificates. I won't bore you with the details, but will you let me bore you even more (again) without them?