Saturday, February 28, 2009

Broke one get one free

Our luggage was damaged during our last trip. KLM issued us a document to get it repaired in a shop in Nantes. With the nice weather, we decided to go yesterday. The shop was right in front of the Galerie LaFayette. Surprisingly, we had to pay from our pocket first for a new luggage and then get reimbursed. The shop has to make an estimation of what our old luggage is worth in order to give us an equivalent one. Without even looking whether the luggage could be repaired, the shop seller told us to choose something worth 90€.

Actually the new bag was having a 30% discount but the shop owner wanted to charge us and eventually KLM the original price. We didn't let it happen. We insisted that they wrote down the price after discount.

When I had a close look, the price tag of my old luggage bought in Malaysia was still there. And it cost me RM119, around 26€. So the same bag in Malaysia costs around 3.5 times more in France.

This makes me curious, what other Malaysia products are worth in France. Frozen roti canai is something we can find in some Asian grocery stores. One piece costs 0.50€ or around RM2.25.

Unfortunately we won't be able to eat any roti canai at 0.50€ a piece in any restaurant in France. That was why hubby was happily enjoying his roti telur bawang (egg+onion) or dosai with different kind of curry sauce at RM1 many morning when he was in Malaysia.

Our rice cooker was broken and I had wanted to buy one in Malaysia. With the space concern I eventually gave up. Yesterday I went to the Asian shop and I regretted immediately that I didn't buy it back home. A crappy rice cooker here costs 37€ = RM166,5. With this price I can buy a fancy big one there.

After thinking about it, all these make sense. It is not surprising that a product will be sold at 3 or 4 times more when it enters France. Beside the transportation cost, it needs to add on to all kind of social taxes (unemployment, retirement, medical care, education...). At the end of the day, the French enjoy many social protections, but they lose on purchasing power, and most importantly, the dynamic of their economy. A French who wants to set up a company will have to bear 3 or 4 times costs or risks more compare to a Malaysian. A friend (Chinese) is opening a shop here and he is asked to pay all bunch of taxes/guarantee fees before even selling an item. With the high cost, less people will want to set up their own company, and eventually less job creation. The balance of social protectionism and economic dynamism has been a challenge to this country.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Crossing over to Thailand: Day light corruption

It was Chinese New Year so a lot of Malaysians crossed over to Thailand through the North border. We were heading to Hatyai on a family trip. We stayed one night in Butterworth and had to walk up at 4am in order to arrive early at the border.

Well, we arrived around 8am and still hit the huge crowd. It took us around 2 hours to pass through. We were told to put RM1 with the passport and custom form. It was written no where that we need to pay a fee, but these officers just happily accepted it. On the way back Fabien discovered that other people were not paying RM1 so we asked all of our family members to withdraw it from the passport. Amazingly, the officer asked for it and some of my family had to pay.

The worst part was the day light corruption incurred in front of our eyes. Some people managed to pay like RM50 through the back door and they jumped queue and enjoyed the fast processing service.

Finally we arrived in Hatyai, even Ronald McDonald has the praying gesture in this Buddhist country.

We laughed so hard seeing this sign. Thailand grows and exports it's durian but most of the hotels here ban it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The mini karaoke room in Kota Kinabalu

We found this mini karaoke rooms in Kota Kinabalu. Each song costs only RM0.50 and you pay by token. People can choose the songs from a song list then enter the room and put the code in the machine. Usually people have to book a karaoke room and sing the whole night but with system you can just sing one or two songs and pay a small price. I had the urge to sing a song inside but we were in rush so we had to go.

It actually works well as most of the rooms were occupied when we were there. Gosh I wish they have this in France.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No pissing please

I have observed one strange phenomenon about some French men: they pee easily in public.

I see them everywhere. On the way to work, men pee on the side of the highway and everyone passing by can see him. While discussing with friends outside a restaurant, a man pees beside us. The worst is when coming out of night club, men pee everywhere and some street just smell urine. What amazes me is that, these men don't care if people can see them. They don't give a damn if a woman is beside them. They have no shame.

I try to understand why I don't see this phenomenon in Malaysia. Men I know would go to highway rest area, hide behind a tree or go somewhere no one can see. They do it discretely.

What I can say is, the rest area on a highway in France is quite far from one to another. Maybe these French men just couldn't hold it for too long so they just let it out in front of everyone. It is not so easy to hide behind a bush as the vegetation here is very different and there is no place to hide during winter. Outside night club, these men had just drunk too much beer and they don't want to pay to enter a public toilet. But, why can't they just walk away and do their business where no one can see them?

My carpooler once told me that a man was peeing on the side of a highway and he opened the car door so the upcoming traffic couldn't see him. However, the car door couldn't hide him from the other side. This carpooler just turned his head when he passed by his car, and managed to see his butt. How awful is that! arggg.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wii and hubby

After being beaten by his 4 years old niece on Wii bowling, hubby decided to buy a Wii which he had been eyeing since Christmas last year. He has been hooked to his new toy so far and hopefully can revenge the next time he sees this niece again. :-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

We are back

We got back on a sunny day in Nantes. Despite the nice weather my body needs time to adjust to the cold and the three layer clothes ritual again. Funny it was never a problem for me to adapt to the hot weather in Malaysia.

I slept throughout most of the trip back. Since I don't really care about the in flight entertainment I didn't feel frustrated without the personal screen with movies and games. On the contrary, hubby was complaining during the whole flight back with KLM as the flight attendance kept forgetting to serve him with meals and drinks. As a conclusion we will try to avoid KLM as much as possible.

Of course we brought back a lot of things including food and clothes. In fact I have reduced the quantity of things I wanted to bring back but my family had given us a lot of homemade cookies.

We even got a 1978 old tea from our neighbor as a souvenir.

There was an episode that really broke my heart when we were going to the airport. There was only one car and the kids were rushing into the car as they were excited to go to the airport. Eventually, with 3 kids and 5 adults my father was left out of the car as there was no space available. He got angry and disappointed and walked inside the house. I got stuck in the car and quickly asked Fabien to follow him. Under my sisters persuasion he finally came back and we had to asked two kids to get out of the car. Finally he went with us to the airport. My parents were sad but after hearing that we are coming back next year, they managed to control their emotion. Well, now we need to make sure we can make the trip home again next year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Last day in Malaysia

Time flies and it leaves us 5 hours before flying back to France.

The packing is in the process. We had a hard time fitting everything in the suitcases we brought so we have to borrow one more from my mother.

The main luggages are overweight so we pray the crew tonight is lenient enough to let it go.

We were unable to put all these 100 plus in the suitcase. :-(

We were unable to find durian after several attemps but today we managed to find it in a night market. So we got a last minute treat to my favorite fruit.

We heard that it is snowing in Paris. Hopefully our flight from Amsterdam to Paris will not be delayed. Please pray for us!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm holding a gun

I have never thought that one day I would hold and fire a gun. I did it this time in the Klang Shooting Association. It was quite scary and I missed the target completely.

On the other hand, hubby was doing quite well. Under the guidance of my neighbor, he quickly enhanced his skill and managed to score well within several tries.

Most of the bullets stayed within the black area (7-10 points).

10 out of his 11 bullets hit the target. His master said he has the potential.

Anyway, it was quite an unusual experience and I don't think I want to do it again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We made it to Mount Kinabalu!

It was tough but we made it! I would have never made it without the support from hubby and an Australian girl we met there. The view was simply fascinating.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The vegetarian Vs meatarian

We are having our food tour in Malaysia and guess what, me and hubby have the totally opposite preference.

I prefer vegetable dishes.

And hubby is all about curries and meats.

Anyway, we are off to Mount Kinabalu for 6 days. Once we get back the tour to Malaysia will be soon over. :-(

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The 9th day of Chinese New Year

As descendant from the Fujian region, the Hokkien in Malaysia celebrate the 9th day of the Chinese New Year. Some people pray with fruits and flowers but some do pray with roasted pork, duck, chicken, crab, and shrimp. Since there are many Hokkien families on the street where my family lives, the 9th day of CNY was celebrated with big drinking and roasted pork eating party.

This family prayed with fruits and vegetables.

This family prayed with different kind of meat dishes.

Paper house waiting to be burnt to the ancestor.

Roasted pork.

Hubby preparing the fire cracker with the kids.

Fire cracker

This year, beside fire cracker, the residents also prepared the Kung Ming lantern.

When the lantern has filled with enough air, it flew onto the sky.

Flying high onto the sky.

Once the prayer is done, the drinking party started with roasted pork and duck. Hubby happily joined in the party and managed to chat with different people from the street.

Yam Sheng!!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

No Eiffel Tower Cognac this time

Every time I go back to Malaysia I got a request to bring home this Eiffel Tower XO. Since Malaysians Chinese love Cognac and the Eiffel Tower is well known in the world, it becomes an elegant present to friends and families especially during Chinese New Year.

I usually buy this in the CDG Airport and bring it with me as a cabin luggage. Due to the new regulations about the limited liquid that we can bring on to the cabin, I consulted with the flight attendance before buying it. Unfortunately, I was told that since the flight was going to Amsterdam, the flight from Paris is considered a domestic flight so that we would need to go through security check in again and thus the Eiffel Tower risk being confiscated. The stewardess encouraged me to buy alcohol in Amsterdam instead. That means we were going to get a windmill XO instead of an Eiffel Tower XO.

But why is the airport put on this signboard saying that everything we buy in this zone is authorized to bring into the cabin? Isn't it miss leading?

Sadly, we had no Eiffel Tower nor windmill this time as our flight got delayed and once we arrived at Amsterdam we had to rush to catch our connecting flight.

What a messy and disappointing experience!

The unpleasant experience flying with KLM

We were taking KLM Airlines to Malaysia and the whole trip was a mess. We were supposed to travel from Paris to Amsterdam then from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The Airlines were very unorganized. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport 6 hours in advance before checking in. There were 3 flights going to Amsterdam within these 6 hours. We managed to check in our luggages immediately so the airlines knew we had arrived. 1 hour before the departure, we were called and informed that our flight to Amsterdam got delayed due to the bad weather thus there was a high chance we would miss our connecting flight to KL and had to spend one night in Amsterdam. The crew told us that we were the only two from this flight traveling to KL and he had no information at all whether this connecting flight would be delayed. Basically, they couldn't contact each other even thought they belong to the same Airlines! All they could advise was hoping that the flight would wait for us, there was no other solution that they could think of. We were very disappointed at that time as there were many things organized once we arrived in Malaysia. It also meant that I could miss the family reunion lunch.

From our flying experiences, the airlines could had:
1. Arranged us to take the earlier flight knowing that we have only 1 hour connecting time in Amsterdam and that the weather was bad. The worst thing was on the screen all flights were marked as to depart on time. We didn't even know the flight would be delayed if the airlines didn't inform us.
2. Gotten in touch with the crew from our connecting flight to know what would be the arrangement knowing that we would be late.
3. Told us which gate we would arrive and which gate our connecting flight depart so that we could rush as fast as we can once arrive.

Not only they didn't do that, they kept telling us that they had no information for us and they could do nothing. Eventually, we left Paris without knowing whether we could make it to KL or we need to spend one night in Amsterdam. I was worried for the whole flight. On top of that, we discovered that there were at least 3 more couples traveling to KL. This enhanced the chance that the flight would wait for us. Luckily, once arrived, there was a flight attendance holding a signboard with our flight number. We were instructed to rush to a gate which was situated at the other end of the airport. Once entered the flight, we were greeted with many unsatisfactory glances as we were making the whole flight waiting for us. It was a very unpleasant experience flying with KLM and it again confirmed a lower quality of customer services with the European flight companies.

Finally arrived in KL after 24h of traveling (bus+train+flights).