Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interview With The Banker

A few months ago I was asked to attend an interview with a local Islamic bank. I was kinda excited at the prospect of going into the Islamic banking space, so I decided to give it my best shot.

So there I was, dressed to the nines with my swanky cufflinks, tailored shirt and matching tie, tailored pants (no pleats, of course) and all the works. I was trying to make a decent first impression, you know.

As I was filling up the forms in the HR waiting area, I started to notice that the other folks who were there for interviews (I know so because they were all filling up the same forms) did not exactly put much thought into what they were wearing. Imagine lots of 'shiny' shirts (kain berkilat, is it rayon? polyester?), ties that clashes with the shirt colour, khaki pants and loafers. I thought hey, I'm gonna be a standout!

That was before I observed the bank's staff as they passed though the waiting area. They were dressed like these guys! I thought oh heck, if the clothes are not gonna help me I'll just impress them with my BS, I mean my CV and my oratory skills instead.

I was called into the room and was met with 3 middle-aged ladies who looked so motherly and a man wearing a jubah and kopiah. Huh? Turned out, he's the hiring manager, and an ustaz at that! My mind starts recalling all the do'a and surah just in case he asked, you never know right?

Well I think I did quite well since one of the moms (she's the Head of Something apparently) said I'm very eloquent and she's quite impressed with the CV too. Then the ustaz just had to come up with a trick question, would I choose a horse or a woman. That's it, no explanation. No prizes for guessing which one did I chose.

At the end, the HR manager said they really liked my personality but was not sure about me fitting in with their bank because I was too confident and smooth and all that jazz. That's the first time I heard anyone said that I'm much too good for something, ever! It's a weird feeling, disappointed yet disgustingly happy too =P And I guess my choosing the sexy blonde over the strong thoroughbred did not help sway the votes either, hehe.

So yeah, I didn't get that job, but they did offered something else which I was not interested in. Come to think of it, it was the best for both parties. I'm guessing we're operating on different frequencies, and I still need my daily dose of lengluis of course.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Siamese Dreams

Yesterday Manao showed me an online news portal depicting Bangkok has been voted as the world's best city. No surprises there, i thought.

Bangkok is my all time favourite city, followed by Hong Kong and Venice in third place. I've been to Bangkok twice now, 5D4N and 6D5N respectively and I still want to return for at least another trip. Or two.

What's so great about Bangkok? Not so sure really. I've stayed at the lively Khao San Road twice now, and it has not failed me with it's cheap yet clean and comfortable hotels (RM25/pax and you get room with A/C and hot shower), cheap and tasty hawker food (pad thai for about RM3, and all the fruit shakes you want for about the same price), various live performances, bars and clubs to spend your nights and also the multitude of nationalities drifting in and out of this backpackers haven. Conversation and friendship struck out of nothing (though more often than not it's over buckets and beers).

And then there's the people. Soft spoken and polite, it makes you feel brash being around these folks. I have always loved the distinct sound of the Thai language, and hearing it spoken (especially by the ladies and their oh-so-soft kha) is music to my ears. We even made friends with a very amiable taxi driver Tom who never charged us extra even when he had to drive across town to pick us up. He even declined our fare after he sent us to Suvarnabhumi. His reason being "we are friends, no need to pay this time". Can you even imagine this happening in KL? Mimpi la brader.

There's also the shopping. Chatuchak is well known, but you should only go there for the small indie brands. Self-designed clothes, and usually not remade once finished, this is where you go to get something unique at a very cheap price. MBK has got the other stuffs and in air-conditioned comfort. A multitude of tailors around town can make good quality shirts, pants and suits for a fraction of what you're gonna pay back home. I made 6 shirts and a pair of pants, all customised to my liking for only RM500, do the maths.

Most Thais I've met are devout Buddhists and they subscribe to the idea that everyone is equal or something like that (from a conversation with a cabbie, so I can't vouch on the facts), hence the accepting gesture towards gays, lesbians, kathoeys and all sorts of people from the human spectrum. I've seen kathoeys that walked past a small shrine stopped and offered a prayer before resuming their walk. Regardless of the religion, I find this beautiful.

Of course there's the infamous Bangkok nightlife which equates to stripclubs and sex shows and whatnot but for me that is just a sideshow. Patpong is not a place you want to spend much time at, seriously. The real nightlife can be had at Ratchada, where the music was out of this world. I am no clubber, but Hollywood is really something else. Give it a go if you're in town.

So I've seen the idyllic countryside during my train ride, and I've also chilled at Pattaya beach side eating various seafood (fresh and cheap!), and rather than distract it actually enforces my affection for Bangkok and Thailand in general. During the first trip, all four of us (Manao, Pyan, JT, myself) fell in love with the city. More recently, Yam and Ben felt the same way while for me and JT it served to reinforce what we already knew. We don't need no survey to tell us what city is ranked first, we already know.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mini Odyssey

For almost a week I was in Bangkok again, savouring the Thanon Khao San lifestyle and enjoying every moment away from my daily reality back home. It's always good to be traveling somewhere, and it's even better when that somewhere is Bangkok aka Krung Thep aka the City of Angels. Pom rak Krung Thep mak mak, ching.

Since it's my second trip up north, I decided to shake things up a bit and travel by the express train from Butterworth to Bangkok which would take 22 hours but I would be ensconced in air conditioned comfort plus considerably comfy berths to sleep in. So last Thursday I hopped on the earliest bus from KL with Yam to get to Butterworth to catch the train. We arrived at around 1pm, and had time for a quick lunch at the bus station before making our way to the adjacent train station to get on the 2.20pm train.

We arrived at the station all eager to hop on the train and sleep the journey off, only to be told bluntly that the train was canceled due to a derailed train the day before. WTF! We got a full refund on the tickets but now have to find an alternative way to Bangkok. After asking the KTM staff for tips, we rushed to catch the 2pm bus heading for Hat Yai. Paid RM38 for the bus ticket and headed north to the border and afterwards Hat Yai in about 4 hours from Butterworth.

The bus conveniently dropped us in front of it's office/travel agent and was immediately crowded by touts telling us to get on their tuk-tuks (in actuality a song thaew) to catch the 6.30pm bus to Bangkok for THB800 I think. After a quick discussion we decided to take a gamble and forego the bus and took a song thaew to the train station (despite the song thaew's driver's protest saying that all trains are off). Turned out, trains were running normally and we managed to secure tickets to Bangkok for only THB 339 (about RM40) but with one catch. We had to ride third class since all other tickets are sold out.With a 'what the hell' shrug, we got ourselves to platform 5 and boarded the 7pm train. It is going to be a 16 hour ride at least, no air-conditioning, no berths, no problem. The seats were reasonably comfortable and since the carriage is not full we secured a 'compartment' each to ourselves.

It's a different travelling experience, the wind blowing in your face as you see the Thai countryside roll by. We went through Songkhla, Phattalung, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and soon I fell into an awkward contorted sleep (which would be continually interrupted by screaming muscles and joints, which requires a change of position).

I woke up very early next morning and was greeted by a breathtaking dawn vista somewhere in Prachuap Khiri Khan. Soon the paddy fields and faraway hills faded and the sea comes into view.

Pretty soon, the more familiar names of Hua Hin and Cha-am comes into view and we are only a few hours away from reaching Hualamphong station in Bangkok. At around noon, we finally pulled to a stop and here we are finally in Bangkok after 30 hours of non-stop travelling from KL.

Truth be told, that's the most fun I've had going to a destination. I was tired, hungry, body aching all over, face probably grimy from 16-17 hours of air blowing on to my face but I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It costs only about RM100, but I get to see breathtaking sights and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Thai countryside. I strongly suggest you try the overland trip, but make sure you get on the journey with an open mind and a strong love for travel. Since the train is actually running the route of Sungai Kolok-Bangkok, you can even try starting your trip from almost the southernmost tip of Thailand (Sungai Kolok or better known as Golok is a Thai town bordering the Kelantan town of Rantau Panjang).

That's it for the first part of my Bangkok trip, will write of the rest of the trip in a later post since I gotta go eat (gosh I miss the pad thai in Khao San!) and you people have more things to do than read about my trip. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 2, 2010


Kalau tengok orang hisap rokok sekarang, teringat zaman sekolah sorok-sorok hisap rokok kat tangga kelas time prep petang (dan malam!), satu batang Surya kawtim 4-5 orang. Bara dah panjang, asap dah panas, bibir dah pedih. Tegar. Balik kelas badan bau asap, mulut rasa cengkih. Nice.

Those were the days eh?