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August 3, 2006 - Around the World in 6 Days: My Trip to Malaysia

I couldn't sleep much on the planes so I spent a lot of my time watching the tracking screen. Watched a couple on demand tv shows (The Office, The Simpsons, etc.) and movies (Scary Movie 4, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind), but I kept flipping back to this.

My flight out of Newark was supposed to leave 11:50pm on Thursday night. But because of delays, we didn't get out until nearly 1am on Friday. So I was up the entire night. But it was a good flight. We were on a 777 aircraft.

I flew KLM ROyal Dutch Airlines for all four legs of my journey. Great airline though the tickets were shade under $9k!! I did fly Business Class though, which is the way to fly if you're going overseas and it's in the budget. The business class lounge was pretty sweet too. Serve yourself, all you can drink. Oh yeah...

All the announcements and screens like this started in Dutch (I think...) It's nice having my own private screen. It had a bunch of built in games and I became a master at Yahtzee. There was also an online trivia game and I had the highest score in the plane. I was also the only one who apparently played.

I had about an 4 hours to kill during my layover in Amsterdam, so I wanted to push myself to get out and see the city in case I never make it back. So I went through immigration, got a new stamp in my passport, stashed my bag in a locker, got some Euros from an ATM, called Jen to say I arrived and got a roundtrip ticket for the train. The train is about 15 minutes from the Airport to here- Centraal Station, right in the heart of the city.

The city is beautiful. Very European (obviously). As expected, there was the unmistakable aroma of weed permeating the streets. There are "coffeeshops" that legally sell pot all over the place.

The streets were packed with people. While walking around I was offered to buy cocaine, ecstasy and sex (with only the latter being legal). It was a little weird, but it still seemed like a very safe city.

Have I mentioned the live sex shows yet? Hey, why not... It truly makes you realize how different of a culture it is in Europe vs. the US.

It's awesome how all the houses are right on the water like that. But back to the nudity and stuff- so there was even this guy who, in mid-day, yelled across the street to someone and exposed his junk to the world. You don't see that everyday.

The streets go all over the place and they get pretty narrow in some of the smaller ones. Especially with all the people walking around. But it's a lot to take in. It was actually funny walking down and then having one of the "hoers" motion over to me. Some were downright NASTY though others could have been models. I'm sure there's a sliding price scale on that commodity... ;) The thing that got me too though was that there were so many families with little kids walking around, seeing these scantily clad women in the windows. I guess for Europeans, it really is second nature.

Nice perspective shot. Didn't even buy anything there with the Euros I got from the ATM aside from my train ticket. I just got raped on the exchange rate. So when I got to Malaysia, I convered my Euros to Malaysian Ringitt instead of my precious greenbacks. But off course I got raped again. Ridiculous. And to make matters even worse- I never got around to exchanging my Malaysian money before I left there so I tried to do it at my bank in New Jersey and they said they do exchange foreign currency, but not with Malaysian banks! So if any of y'all are going to that part of the world, I got about $90 worth of Malaysian money.

Here's the Church- Odenkirk I believe. Really, really old. And right in the middle of the RLD (Red light district). And I believe I discovered why it's call the red light district... All the girls are in these little windows, almost like storefronts, and they are illuminated by red flourescent lights. So this is how it works (from obervation, of course!)- the guys walk through the streets, see all the girls in the windows, pick one they want, open the door next to their window, and the curtain on her window goes down and they get down to business. Time passes. Guy comes out, the curtain comes back up and she's re-open for business...

The train station again. Beautiful structure. When you see a city like Amsterdam, you realize how blah some of our cities in the US are in terms of aethetics.

Yet another shot. It was weird being on the train with all the Scottish guys wearing kilts. Guess I'm just not used to seeing that.

The Heineken building.

This is on the train ride back to the airport. These two girls sat next to me and were dropping cheese fries on me. At least 3. I think they offered me some, but they clearly weren't speaking English and the only word I picked up was "potato". It is very weird when people around you are talking and laughing and you have no idea what the heck they're saying. Reminded me of the Seinfeld episode with Elaine and the Asian manicurists that are always laughing at her until she brings George's dad who speaks Korean to translate.

The largest plane prior to this trip I had been in was a 777. This was my first time in a good ol' 747. The thing is gigantic. Seeing the staircases in the plane when I boarded was weird. I sat pretty much all the way up front in the bottom level. Must've been right beneath the pilots. This was taken from the depature gate at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. That airport is pretty amazing, by the way. It's very large with a lot of shops. It even has a casino. And a Van Gogh art museum.

On my trip back, I was sitting next to a ~7 year old Dutch girl. Her Dad said some stuff to her in Dutch as he buckled her up, looked at me and said he told her to be nice to me. After he left, the flight attendants came around with the trays of water, OJ or Champagne (I chose the later 3 of the 4 legs). I said to the girl, "I will find you Dad and switch with him so you can sit together." She looked at me like I had 5 heads then turned away. Ignorant me, assuming everyone speaks English! I did end up offering up my seat though.

The 747 was older than the 777, so didn't have all the same bells and whistles but it was still a decent ride. It was a good 12 hour trip from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Taken from my seat in business class. I seriously must have been the only one who couldn't sleep. By the time I arrived in Malaysia, I was up for about 24 hours and my internal clock was all messed up.

There's the little hint of the sun. I think this was towards the end of the trip. We left Amsterdam at 9pm and arrived into Kuala Lumpur around 3pm the next day but I also lost six hours from time zone shifts.

I had some fantastic meals on the planes. On the first leg, for breakfast, the flight attendant asked (in her strong Dutch accent), "Would you like sweet or savory?" I had never ordered a meal based on adjectives before... She could have simply asked, "Would you like omlelet or pancakes?"

Nice shot of the clouds. Over somewhere in SE Asia I'm sure. We literally flew over everywhere. From Amsterdam, across Germany, Poland, Russia, Pakistan, India, etc.

But back to the food, I seriously had one of the best steaks I have ever had in my life. It was called "Beef Banyul". I think I read that Banyul is some sort of sweet wine. Fantastic.

This was taken from my hotel room. 22nd floor of the Hotel Mandarin. Doesn't get much better than that... But yeah, those are the Petronas Towers. Right next to my hotel. Even taller than the WTC was.

Another good angle. I walked around a bit after I arrived. Everyone speaks English and everyone was very friendly. It's a very industrialized and modern city. Quite the stark contrast to Kathmandu when I was there back in 2000-2001.

This is the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center?)- which is a six floor mall that is really the base of the towers. When I was there on Saturday, it was PACKED with people. Big ethnic mix too- because Malaysia is close to China, India and there are also a fair share of westerners (though I was still very much in the minority).

At night from my window.

The towers were gorgeous at night. They turned the lights off at midnight though.

More towers. A lot of people ask about that little walkway between the towers. It's actually a safety precaution in case something happens in one of the towers, people can vacate to the other using the walkway.

The base all lit up. Random note- when I was in Maryland on vacation, we got one Yankee game on tv all week. In Kuala Lumpur, I got two in four days! Go figure!!

It's amazing how much this city is growing. Must've been like when New York was being built up. This shot was taken from the Microsoft office- which is in the same tower as Accenture.

There's my hotel- The Hotel Mandarin. It's international and there are even ones in NYC and DC.

More of the towers!

Yeah... I didn't use this thing, but it was picture worthy. And no, that's not used to clean fruit...

Taken right outside the hotel. See the cars in the background- there are pretty much no car models that I was familiar with- they were almost all SE Asia brands. Though you do see a few Mercedes.

Flag of Malaysia. I took this a little before I left. I explored a bit on Saturday, worked Sunday and Monday. And Tuesday was the presentation.

That's the communications tower in the back which is even taller than the Petronas Towers, but it's not considered a building though you can go up into it.

Nice perspective shot of the towers.

The mall. Six floors!! With all your favorite western stores- Sunglasses Hut, Victoria's Secret, Nike, Sony, Hugo Boss, etc. And even the foodcourt- KFC (where we went Monday night while we were working), Burger King, Micky D's, etc. Sorry, no Orange Julius.

While on the topic of food... Malay cuisine seems to be a fusion of Indian and Chinese. Both which I like, so I was safe. The team didn't want me to try anything too adventurous though before the meeting for fear of sidelining me to some sort of food disease! Probably why they took me to KFC that one night...

Front of the mall again. Back to the food... At one place we went, the guy next to me ordered a Watermelon Juice. And I asked him, "Did you just order a watermelon juice?" He did and I proceeded to tell him that I always thought that would be a great idea but apparently it's quite common. Of course I had to order one and it was good- exactly as I thought watermelon juice would taste. I'm adventurous, yo!

The Maxis building- big time mobile company in SE Asia. This is where I presented to their CIO. It was a three hour meeting and I was probably on for 45 minutes. It was a great experience and modesty aside, I think I did quite well. Got some nice praises from the Accenture team and some of the Microsoft folks who were presenting with us.

I presented what we built at MCI with respect to the portal. I also presented a bit on SOA (Service Oriented Architectures) and how to determine granularity of web services. So it was a lot of cramming and practicing in the couple days leading up, but it went smoothly.

This is the fountain and park area outside the mall.

I do hate veritical photos, but if there has ever been a shot that deserves one, it's the towers. Click to see the big version as a vertical photo.

Another vertical shot. Bit of a pain, because I actually wrote a C# website code generation application that sets these pages and photos up for me in a matter of seconds. I love it! But anyway, it doesn't handle photos that need to be rotated yet. It's still cool to have a Windows application that I wrote that is fully functional and saves me a TON of time.

On the car ride back to the airport, I had a good conversation with the car driver. When I got out at the end, he helped me with my bags and it was the first time he saw me fully standing and he said, "Wow! You look good! You're like Christopher Reeves!" I'll leave it at that...

Here is gnarled tree by the mall. So on the way back, I went to the KLM lounge at the Kuala Lumpur airport. Free drinks galore, though the vodka was in a non-descript glass thing with a little label that said "Vodka". Better judgement should have prevailed, but I was whacked by that point.

I continued drinking on the plane and sat next to a guy from Great Britain. We talked for about two hours about things like World Cup, Wayne Rooney, Bono and U2, Princess Di, Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods, what Scotish people wear under their kilts (which really is nothing), the upcoming wedding of his daughter, the upcoming birth of my son, etc. It was good to kill time with him. That was definitely the best leg of the trip.