Saturday, December 28, 2013

Langkawi - Dec 2013

We planned a last minute trip to Langkawi and had to pay a pretty penny for accommodation. We stayed at the Holiday Villa Beach Resort & Spa- which wasn't really that great, but was still ok for our needs nevertheless.

We took the cable car ride up on the mountain (we paid a LOT for the express pass!) and really had a great time at the top of the mountain- enjoying the cool air, strong winds and the spectacular view! The kids were singing Hi-5 songs and dancing in the sun; it was really memorable. There wasn't much to eat at the top, so we ordered cup noodles- which was quite fun, as the strong wind threatened to blow the cups away- and the cool weather made eating a hot cup of noodles very satisfying!

We also dined at the famous floating restaurant cum fish farm called Hole in the Wall (we were the only customers that evening)- which was a short boat ride out. We got to feed fishes and even a sting ray at the restaurant/fish farm, which was pretty cool. Coming back in the dark was quite an experience as well- it was definitely a bit scary; and when we got to our car it wouldn't start! Yikes. Fortunately it finally did in the end; otherwise it would have been awful- we were pretty out there in the wilderness of the mangrove forest.

Another highlight was visiting the Underwater World, which is always a great destination for kids!

There was some beach time fun of course- but not quite enough, I reckon. Our helper caught a jellyfish in the bucket- which was really neat! It was so cool to see it up close.

Goodbye Langkawi- we will definitely see you again!

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Work trip to South Africa - Part 3

The next part of the trip involved us attending a Discovery conference in Sun City, which is about 2 hours from Johannesburg. We stayed at Kwa Maritane, situated inside the Pilanesberg National Park. The room I stayed in had quite an interesting layout- I had to descend a small flight of stairs to get to the sleeping area, which made it feel a little like a dungeon.

After we got through all the work stuff- meetings, discussions, it was then time for some fun! We went for 2 game drives- one early in the morning, and another later in the afternoon. It was an incredible experience! It was really fun trying to spot the different animals. We did not manage to see the 'Big Five' (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard)- we did see the first 3 in that list, though, which was great. 

We had a really great guide, and the experience with the lions was truly spectacular. There were FIVE of them, and we got up close and personal as we 'stalked' them, while they sauntered up and down and looked at us (with disdain, I might add). Sitting in an open top jeep with them so close by was slightly nerve-wracking, but we never felt that we were in any kind of danger. The guide did tell us to stay quiet and keep our limbs inside the jeep, which was probably good advice. At one point we saw the female lions' ears prick up, as they looked across the vast open field- and we held our breath, hoping that we might witness a kill. Alas, that was not to be- apparently it is incredibly rare to see a kill on a game drive. All the same, it was a really amazing experience! We had the lions to ourselves for a long time, before our guide had to 'call it in'- i.e. tell the other guides about the lion sighting (for the other park visitors).

We saw lots of other animals- gnu, a majestic giraffe, zebras, rhinos and may more. At one point we nearly missed spotting a few elephants, which were grazing quietly nearby. How could one miss something so big? Strange, but true. Animals in their natural habitat are a lot harder to spot than in the zoo, where there is an enclosure and a signboard to boot! Talk about camouflage...

 Goodbye South Africa! I hope to visit you again someday! :)

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Work trip to South Africa - Part 2

This photo says it all, really. A really eye-opening experience for me. Such an interesting company- with a culture that truly breeds innovation.

The Protea- the national flower of South Africa

Our hosts treated us to a lovely dinner at the fabulously posh Saxon, where BMWs chaffeur guests from the main entrance of the establishment, right up to the front door of the restaurant. I can't recall now how long the drive was, but it was a pretty dark drive, and the whole experience made it all rather mysterious and exclusive. And the food - well.. fine dining, of course! 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Work trip to South Africa - Part 1

I had an incredible privilege to make a trip to South Africa for work. The destination was Johannesburg- not exactly a safe place to visit- but I was travelling with a group of colleagues so it wasn't that scary.

It was an awesome trip. We had incredibly wonderful hosts, and work-wise I learnt so much. I know that we probably saw only the posh/good bits of the city, but hey, I am not complaining. We were in Sandton, the business district, and it was really nice and modern indeed. Nelson Mandela Square was next to the hotel, and on the day trip out to Soweto, we passed by Houghton (where all the rich folks live), and stopped outside Mandela's home for a quick photo. I saw jacaranda trees for the first time- such a lovely shade of purple!

The only time I felt slightly nervous was when we passed through Hillbrow, an inner city residential neighbourhood known for its high levels of population density, unemployment, poverty and crime. People were out everywhere, hanging by their cars and blasting loud music out in the street. Not one single white person was seen in this neighbourhood. The stark difference between the rich and poor was so apparent- especially when you visit Hillbrow after seeing Houghton.

The visit to Soweto was very educational- giving us a glimpse of the history of the struggle against apartheid. The name 'Soweto' is an abbreviation for South Western Townships, and it began as a product of segregationist planning.

The stained glass windows inside the Regina Mundi Church- 
can you see the image of Nelson Mandela?

We had dinner at the Sakhumzi restaurant on the famous Vilakazi Street- which is the only street in the world to have once had two Nobel Prize winners as residents- Nelson Mandela and Reverend Desmond Tutu. Dining at the restaurant was a pretty interesting experience. We saw posh cars being driven up and down the road (in fact I think they went down the road and then came back up)- the owners had their car windows down, loud music blasting away; some with wine glass in hand as they drove! That was a rather strange display of wealth....

More to come in the next post! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dining in the Dark

I managed to get a good deal for this on LivingSocial, so hubby and I tried it out. It was a really unique experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who is keen on trying something different. This is not about the food at all.

Until I tried this, I did not understand how a room could be so dark, for a sustained period of time. We dined there for about an hour, if I recall correctly, and our eyes never 'adjusted'- so we were well and truly 'blind'. Our blind guide walked us to our table (we formed a train holding on to each other's shoulders), and showed us how to figure out where everything was on the table. He showed us how to run our fingers alongside the table edge, to pick up our drink.

Without our sense of sight, we experienced first hand how our sense of taste and smell tried to compensate. Every flavour and texture felt like it had been enhanced, and it was fun trying to guess what it was that we were eating. Some of it felt so familiar, but yet I couldn't recall what it was. Was that salmon? Or duck? Surely one could tell them apart, I thought. But it wasn't so easy after all!

Another thing we learnt was this - your fork or spoon doesn't find it's way to your mouth so easily when you can't see. Strange, but true. And what if you dropped some morsels of food on the table, or on the edge of the plate? I used my bare fingers a lot that night - had to do a lot of feeling around.

An interesting experience indeed!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Trip to Ipoh - Aug 2013

We made a trip to Ipoh and the highlight was a visit to Lost World of Tambun. It was the fasting month, so there was not much of a crowd, which was nice. I underestimated the mosquitoes though - should have been better prepared for that.

The hot springs were so much fun! Very relaxing indeed.

Definitely a place we can re-visit with the kids!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

'Integration' takes on a whole new meaning for me...

Looking back now, this was probably the reason why I stopped blogging. I simply had no time. 2013 was a challenging year work-wise, but I learnt so much from this acquisition and integration process.

With the benefit of hindsight (and having survived it) - would I have opted NOT to experience it? Certainly not- even with the really long nights and early morning meetings that we had to convene when we 'flicked the switch' and not everything worked properly. My experience in that 6-9 months was truly invaluable. Not many people get to do something like this in their careers.

Still, would I want to do something like this again? Probably not. Haha!

Check out this link if you're interested in the details.

Here's a great photo that we took on the big day- June 17, 2013. It was truly an amazing team that pulled this off - Stronger Together!!

Thank you God, for sustaining and blessing me; and for all the support and understanding I received from the hubby and my parents. Praise Him indeed!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Penang Trip - April 2013

We made a trip to Penang to coincide with our little boy's 4th birthday, and we had a really great time! We didn't get to eat much authentic Penang street fare- but we did get to do some touristy stuff like checking out the street art and going to see Kek Lok Si. We stayed at the Golden Sands Resort- which was really family friendly- I loved the shaded paddling pool, The hotel surprised us with a complimentary birthday cake- delivered to our room, so that was a nice touch. :)

Right after we checked in, we watched a snake charmer in action; he was kind of scary to watch. I couldn't bring myself to touch the snake's skin in the end; I tried, but couldn't! :p

We had dinner with my dear secondary school friend who has been living in Penang for quite some time now, and met her little girl for the first time. Dinner was at a yummy seafood restaurant near our hotel, with a lovely view of the beach. 

Our trip to Kek Lok Si was quite interesting as well- there is a new bronze statue and a (really) short funicular railway 'ride'. One sad thing though- the turtle pond looked awfully dilapidated. I wanted to let the kids have the same experience I had feeding the turtles- they still had fun I think- but it was dreadful seeing the condition that the turtles were living in. :(

Goodbye Penang- we will surely see you again!


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Getting back to blogging? It is now June 2015...

It is now June 2015 as I write this (the time stamp for this blog entry has been backdated to March 2013 so that the rest of my posts will come in a sequence).

It's been 2 years since I posted anything on this blog! Time flies.

Anything that I write after this will be written from memory (and probably a very hazy one at that). I hope I succeed- wish me luck!

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Our New Family Car

We thought about getting a 7-seater MPV for quite a long time. Being my usual self, I researched the subject matter in depth through online reviews, road tests reports, car forums, you tube videos, showrooms visits, test drives and detailed comparisons of all the MPVs that I was interested in.

No matter how much research and comparisons are done, one can conclude that there is no such thing as a perfect car. Each has their own pros and cons and it really depends on the individual's needs, preference and priority.

In this post, I would like to share some of my thoughts and considerations in buying this MPV and to share some photos and features of the MPV. Hopefully it will bounce off some ideas for my friends who are also thinking about getting a MPV soon.

For me, some important considerations are:

1) Safety first - it should have at least 6 or more airbags to protect the family including curtain airbags for the 2nd row seats where the kids will be and with Euro NCAP maximum 5-star rating.

2) The 2nd row must have 3 individual seats - after fixing 2 child car seats, the remaining seat must be able to slide forward to allow passengers to access the 3rd row for our occasional outings with other family members.

3) The seating arrangement should preferably be 2 + 3 + 2 = 7 seats in total.

Other personal preferences are:

1) The gearbox should be at least 6-speed or more. DSG or Dual-Clutch will be a bonus.

2) Preferably the MPV design should not look like a big tissue box on 4 wheels :)

3) The ride and handling of the MPV should be spirited and exciting for the daddy to enjoy the drive rather than just a boring people carrier. Turbo engine is a plus..hee hee :)

4) Moonroof - the kids will love it.

Some of the C-segment and D-segment MPVs available in Malaysia that I like and considered are:

C-segment MPVs:
Peugeot 5008, Mazda 5, Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and Volkswagen Cross Touran.

D-segment MPVs:
Volkswagen Sharan, Ford S-Max and recond Estimas.

Finally, after much considerations, our choice was the "underdog" Ford S-Max. "Underdog" - because not many Malaysians prefer Ford due to their own personal reasons and priorities.

In Europe, Ford S-Max is one of the more popular MPVs and has won some awards such as:

Britain's Best MPV

BC Awards 2012

Auto 1 Of Europe Award

The current batch of S-Max imported by SDAC ( Ford Malaysia S-Max )  has the latest 2.0L Ecoboost Engine with 240PS Hp. This S-Max model was revamped and released in Europe in 2010. It made its way to Malaysia only in 2012.

Here are some photos of our new Ford S-Max!

Introducing the Ford S-Max

The S-Max was designed by Ford for the European market. It is assembled in Genk, Belgium and imported to Malaysia as a CBU car.

The S-Max is the first vehicle in Ford's line-up to feature their Kinetic Design styling. The Kinetic Design scheme includes angular headlights, twin trapezoidal grilles and large wheel arches. It is 4.8m in length with an aerodynamic profile.

Distinctive LED Rear Lights with the Ecoboost emblem. Exclusive to Ford, the award winning 2.0L Ecoboost engine with Turbocharger delivers 240PS of Power with 340Nm of Torque as well as reducing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption by 20%. The 240PS horsepower will put a smile on most daddies' faces.

Ford Ecoboost 2.0L Engine Award

Ford Powershift is a 6-speed Dual Clutch Automatic Transmission with a Manual Mode that allows you to switch gears at the flick of the lever. 

Adaptive Auto Bi-Xenon Headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights and Headlamp Washer. It comes with the "Follow Me Home Lights" feature where the headlights stay on a little longer to illuminate the carpark or your front door for safety. It can be switched off as an option. 

17-inch alloy wheel with 225/50 R17 Goodyear Excellence tyres made in Germany. It comes with a Safety Round Nut to prevent tyres theft.

Fixed Panaromic Moonroof 

Twin Exhaust Pipes

The Puddle Light at the bottom of the side mirrors illuminate the sides of the car to prevent passengers from stepping on unseen hazards as they step out of the car

Power Engine Start/Stop Button with Keyless Entry

Ford Convers+

Ford Convers+ Colour Instrument Cluster Display with built-in connectivity for iPod, MP3 player and USB stick. It comes with Bluetooth connection to Smartphones with Voice Command.

Automatic Headlights with both Front and Rear Fog Lights

"Aircraft like" handbrake design

Air-con grille at B-Pillar for 2nd row passengers

Interior with brushed aluminium finish

Power Seat 8-way Adjust for both driver and front passenger with 4 Memory Position

Self-installed 9-inch HD DVD player to entertain the kids 

Interior View of Steering and Dashboard. 

Some other features of the S-Max are:

1) Safety - 9 Airbags with 5-star Euro NCAP, with ESP, TCS, HLA, ABS, EBD, EBA and PATS.

2) Ford Fold Flat System that allows all the 5 rear seats to be folded flat when needed.

3) Sony Audio System with 9 premium speakers.

4) Other standard features such as Automatic Wiper System with Rain Sensor, Cruise Control, Capless Refueling, Electrochromatic Rear View Mirror, Auto Lowering of side mirror when reversing, ISOFIX for child seats and Power Child Lock.

5) 5-year warranty with 3 years free maintenance.

We hope this MPV will serve our family's needs for a long time! :)