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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

waterfront Labuan

Not too long ago, thanks to my training, I had the fine privilege of getting a flight down to Labuan. Flights down to Labuan are pretty constant, thanks to its reputation as a ‘business’ island. 



MAS gets its 737s to fly down there on a regular basis, several times a day I think, if I’m not mistaken. Seats are a little tight in there, but I guess that’s normal and maybe I feel that way because I haven’t been on an airplane for a long time now.

Anyhow, as Labuan’s a pretty small place, the island’s main hotels are very close to where the airport is. A casual drive, would take less than 10 minutes, five if you race there. My stay would be at Waterfront Labuan. 



As you enter, you get a true feel of the place. Its generally rather quiet, not that much of the hustle and bustle you would expect of a top class hotel in the capital city, which I suppose would be a welcome change for business travellers. The lobby itself is pretty huge although I can’t say they’ve utilised the space well. In my five days there, I don’t think I’ve seen more than 5 people in the lobby at one time. 


Waterfront Labuan Lobby & Reception

Since this is a blog, for the benefit of those reading, I’m going to make this entry in the form of a review. It’ll be split into four sections, (1) accommodation, (2) dining, (3) other facilities and (4) review conclusion. Each section will be evaluated according to three main criteria, facility, service and value.

1. Accommodation
This is the room I was booked into: 



As you can probably see, its a rather decent place, and it really needs to be, seeing that you or your company will have to cough up more than RM 300 per night.  

1A. Facility (3.5/5) 


The beds are generally fine, and you can find an extra pillow in the closet if you need one, there’s only one though.

The coffee table is a generally weird addition to the room. Its because frankly, the coffee table’s a bit too short and hard to reach, pretty much defeating its purpose. 



As with most hotels, as you walk in, the closet’s right there next to the mini-fridge and some tea/coffee making utility. Pleasantly, the closet has five built in hangars. 

 



There’s a small safe within the closet for your use, although I’m not sure what you’re going to store in it, since even a football won’t fit in there. Some people might say it could be used to keep things like documents and passports safe, but people carry them around all the time. Nonetheless, its a facility provided free for guests use.

The mini bar on the other hand, is a tad bit larger than the safe. Its stocked with soft drinks and beer. There’s good space for guests to keep anything they need cold. It was more than enough to house the chocolates I bought from Labuan, so I think it’s not lacking in terms of space. 

 



Now as far as entertainment is concerned, the room has one flat Sony Bravia television, which I thought was pretty good. 



The channels the hotel subscribes to are as follows: 


The television itself was just fine, but its reception for the few Astro channels the hotel subscribes to left a lot to be desired: 



For the normal Malaysian that subscribes to Astro, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to see the above phenomenon in your home if it was raining. The thing is was that it was bright and sunny outside when I saw this screen.

Later on, images would come on and off the screen, and even when it did, the image wasn’t great either with slightly fuzzy lines across the screen.

In house communication is all though the room phone, which for some reason sometimes has some sort of static while you’re listening. Voices aren’t exactly crisp and at times you wonder if you’re listening to a phone conversation or radio communication from a war movie.


The hotel provides free Wi-Fi internet access for all rooms, which I believe is a change from previous policy because the in-room brochures indicate a charging fee for internet access. Its a welcome facility, however, the connection wasn’t great in my room, so I had choppy internet. The funny thing was that the the wireless router was right outside my room.  



Luckily, I brought along my Celcom broadband USB dongle with me and it worked wonders. One thing good about staying within the Waterfront area is that reception for Celcom broadband is excellent. Actually, less than a few hundred metres away from the hotel is a huge billboard that says, ‘This is Celcom Territory’. It really is. Still, that’s a minus point for the Waterfront. How can third party facilities be better than in house? 



Well, the bathroom tells a better story and its just as well since its way more important than if you have or don’t have internet access in your hotel room.

The shower’s decent, the water pressure isn’t very strong, but just nice. Getting hot water’s pretty instant, so another plus point there. However, when showering, I found that water can still leak out onto the bathroom floor if your shower head’s pointed anywhere near the point where the glass door meets the other glass pane. Its not the biggest concern, but some may care about it. The bathroom also has a bathtub, but I can’t say much about that since I didn’t use it. 

 
Shower gel, shampoo, body lotion, body soap, cotton buds and shower cap are all provided.

Other amenities are also available, but at a cost: 


1B. Service (3/5)
As with all hotels, guests have the option of putting up the door sign that will let the cleaners know if the room needs to be done up or left alone. If used or missing, the cleaners will replenish the toiletries mentioned earlier, laundry bags and also the mineral water bottles that are also free of charge for guests use. The cleaner I met was generally nice, so I’ll give Waterfront a plus point on that.

1C. Value (2.5/5)
Before I get into my valuation of the room as a whole, here’s how the management charges for it, I’m not sure if the rates are changed, but the in-room brochure shows: 



Frankly, after reviewing some of the in-room facilities, I’m not sure even RM 300 would be a fair rate for a single room, let alone RM 390.

For that kind of rate, in-room facilities should be top notch, and the poor television reception and internet connectivity discredit the hotel. I guess it would also be interesting to mention that for rooms with a charge of RM 390 per night, I find it rather stingy of the hotel not to provide simple things like bedroom slippers without charge.

However, one thing the Waterfront Labuan has going for it is that the rooms are pretty big, which in the end has the bigger say on the going rate I suppose.

2. Dining
2A. Facility (3/5) 


It’s a little chilly when you walk in, which made me regret walking in for breakfast in a jersey-type shirt the other day. The Spinnaker is also probably the first restaurant in a four star rated hotel I’ve seen that uses plastic place mats. It looks nice really, but when you feel it, you do wonder if the four star rating really is fair for the Waterfront.

Other than that though, I have no complaints about the place. Its well lit, furniture very decent and comfortable enough.

2B. Service (4/5)
The waiters are quite pleasant, and there’re none of those stereotypical waiter types that act all uppity and whatnot.  

I ordered room service twice when I didn’t want to leave the room, and my food came within 30 minutes on both occasions.  

2C. Value (2/5)
First thing’s first, breakfast is free all the time throughout your stay. However, I was on my own, I wouldn’t know how many coupons the hotel would allocate for families staying there.

As you’d probably guess, breakfast is served buffet style. The variety isn’t large, but it gets by. There’s a selection of Malaysian or continental foods for breakfast. There’re also fruits and plenty of tea and coffee.

I wouldn’t know about lunch, but I’ve had dinner over at the in-house restaurant named the Spinnaker. You can order a la carte, or pick a semi-buffet option (Mondays & Tuesdays), where you order one main course, but its free flowing as far as appetizers and dessert is concerned. 

Lamb Chop 

Chicken Supreme

One thing I have to say about the food, is that its mediocre at best. The food is edible, but frankly nothing I’ve tried has justified any of the high menu prices. While everyone accepts hotel food is expensive, mediocre meals at premium prices are not acceptable.

3. Other Facilities
3A. Facility
There’s a swimming pool and a small gym within the premises. The gym has some basic weight lifting equipment and one or two treadmills, but that’s about it. The swimming pool on the other hand is actually quite spacious, and there’re a couple of hoops so you can play water netball if you like.

Just opposite the reception in the lobby is the business centre, which is basically the hotel’s cyber cafe with printing facilities. 



The facility has a total of four computer and one printer. The good news is that there are no fees for using the computers or its internet access, but there are charges for printing.  

Their PCs boast some good basic productivity tools. The first would be OpenOffice.org 3.3, which is probably the best free alternative to Microsoft Office applications. They also have Adobe Reader X, media player classic and HD VDeck. HD VDeck is probably the most unique of the lot because the software allows you to record your voice. While I doubt anybody would record a statement at the facility, its a good option to have.

Finally, upon request, there are shuttles to transport guests to the airport from the hotel. No charge is levied for this service which is great. If guests call for a taxi, you’d expect RM 12.00 to be take from their pockets just like that.

4. Review Conclusion

4A. Facility (3/5)
The infrastructure is all there, but management and utilisation of facilities can be improved. Just about everything in the rooms are in
good shape, so there’s not much to complain about. Guests won’t get the feel of a pampered experience during their stay,  but one of some good decent rest.

4B. Service (3/5)
The staff at reception are well informed and restaurant staff are courteous, which are big plus points.

4C. Value (2.5/5)
As highlighted before, there are several shortcomings with regards to in-room facilities, dining and so forth. High room rates need to be justified with exceptional service and facilities and the current situation does not give a strong argument for it.

Whatever it is, the Waterfront will always be a decent place to stay. One just has to realise that other than the bed and shower, not too much else should be expected of it. 
 

Friday, October 21, 2011

the Timeline

As time would have it, my birthday just passed recently and since it was kind of a landmark occasion for me, so I began to reminisce on my life story so far. Lately, I’ve written a few blog entries about how things have seemed so surreal to me, about how fast time has gone by and all that. It got me thinking, picturing it like a timeline you sometimes see in history books and all that.

Age 3-8
Looking back at where I was just ten years ago, I didn’t think I’d be blogging away in the comfort of a hotel room I’m staying on business. Back then I was just a kid in the small town of Miri, happy to be with my family in what is probably one of the nicer places to live in Malaysia. I was a happy kid then, and I have good memories of the childhood friends I had, even the older ones that I constantly annoyed. Its amazing to see how these older guys are all married now, with careers, living out their own lives.

Age 9-11
Of all places, I’d move on from Miri to be in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was a country virtually unknown to most Malaysians at the time. Malaysians probably only remembered it as a strange south east asian country that their national football team would encounter during the Tiger Cup (currrently known as the AFF Suzuki Cup). I’ll probably remember it most for the awesome friend spring rolls and the generally shorter people, although I think they’re getting taller now, hahah.

It would be there where I’d meet people from Europe, Australia and other parts of the world thanks to international school. I remember being good friends with Sebastien Ferriere, who I recently discovered is an Oxford graduate! I was really grateful for people like him and Alastair Duly (a very lively fellow) back then. They were amongst a number of people that made me feel at home in a largely western community, not to mention I had bully problems too. Also, thanks to Sebastien’s mother, I’d discover the wonders of quiche, which my mother makes wonderfully too now, hahahahah.

Age 12-18
Coming back to Malaysia was a burden for me, not that I had no love for my home nation; but having not spoken or written any Bahasa Malaysia for many years had its toll. The timing couldn’t have been more ‘perfect’, as I had returned just in time to sit for the all important UPSR examinations in less than a years time. It was genuinely a rough time for me and I really thank God for bringing me through in miraculous fashion. With all subjects, including math and science being in Bahasa Malaysia, one can only wonder how a non-speaker like me would not only be able to pass all subjects but obtain a 4 A’s and 1 B result!

Still, it would be a challenge in secondary school, because the command of Bahasa Malaysia required there would be at a whole new level that I wasn’t yet prepared for. Again, thankfully, God really provided all the right people around me that would eventually make me used to studying in Bahasa Malaysia. I just had the right connections to the right tuition teachers at the right time and three years down the line, I’d get through PMR pretty well too.

Of course, secondary school or high school isn’t really all about studies. We all know, that’s where we grow up a little more and things like friends and peer pressure get more real. I didn’t have a lot of friends then, and I cannot even name more than 5 people I’d call to hang out if I wanted to. I’ve probably mentioned the names Wei Yang and Alex before and I kind of stuck of them because they were real people, not the ones with high school popularity agendas.

Secondary school became a real chore for me, and a very tough place to be, especially after those two moved out. I can safely say that the best year I had in secondary school was in form three. Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t mind blotting out form 4 and 5 from my memory if I could. I got distracted from my studies and it literally went down the drain. Khye Shin and I regrouped later on in form 5, but by then it was a little late for a dramatic comeback like the ones you see in football every now and then.

After SPM, I was glad to be out of school, simply because of the last two years that really did hurt. I rushed into college, probably one of the bad decisions I’ve made. I guess I was sucked into the whole excitement of college, I enrolled into the S.A.M programme in Taylors college, where I’d go through pretty much the same thing I did in upper secondary. That would be in addition to my new found addiction for pool, where I’d be almost every other day. Again, my studies suffered and quite frankly when I realised that, I was scared if I’d ever do well in studies to qualify for a decent job.

Age 18-22
Then, I got a pretty big break. After my SPM results came out, I did apply for the PETRONAS sponsorship or more accurately, the convertible loan (which converts into a scholarship only if PETRONAS hires you and you serve them double time you spent being sponsored by them). God really blessed me with the drafting for the interview, and that too was amazing in itself, which I’ll save for another time or you can just ask me about it if you see me.

I got accepted into UTP via the sponsorship, and that was my chance at a restart. I know there’s more than one person who’d credit my status as a Bumiputera and my father being a PETRONAS employee as my credentials for being accepted into the sponsorship rather than God’s blessing, but the simple matter of fact is I know that there other people, also with their fathers being PETRONAS employees, with better SPM results than mine that didn’t even get drafted for the interview. It assures me really, of how good God has been to me even if I don’t deserve half as much.

I have to say, my years in university were a real mix of things. That’s seriously the only way I feel I can accurately describe it. The good and the bad really levelled each other out in terms of time I spent with it. I remember being really angered and disappointed by people who I would’ve have been glad to be around within a short period of time (actually I feel angry just writing about it). I guess the good thing about it was I learned more about dealing with people and not to be naive, although through a very painful way. Sadly, its also dropped my belief in people, even those of the same faith as mine. There’s a lot to love and hate about the people I’ve met there, which I guess is part of the reason I am indifferent about missing out on graduation last weekend.

Yet, I do appreciate the fact that I’ve come out of UTP with more Malay friends, something I feel was sorely lacking before. I’ve got to say, getting to know Farhan and Chee Hong, not to mention Samphors was probably one of the highlights of my last few years there. There are other good people I’ve met along the way of course, but I’m not going to list them all down here. In all of this though, God’s really shown his favour in many things, whether it was studies, lecturers, peers, church and so forth.

Age 22-23
A little like my time after secondary school, although not as extreme, I was quite relieved to leave university, back to KL. However, it wouldn’t minus from the fact that it was also a tense time waiting to see if PETRONAS would want to take me in.

However, during that time, I began to settle back in church here, which was quite an uplifting experience in a sense. That was when I began to realise, I’d entered a whole different league. You know it when you start talking to people between three to eight years older than you.

After many months, it finally happened, I got an offer and Malacca has now become my new place of residence.

Now
A lot has happened since my childhood days in Miri, and obviously there’s plenty that I’ve left out in this ‘life summary’ of mine. In all of this, the good and the bad, I thank God for bringing me to where I am right now.

Although some bad experiences in the past few years have affected the way I am now, I believe I’ll get through them in due time. It’s all part of growing into the person you’re meant to be. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future thanks to geopolitics all over the world, but it also means that the future really is wide open.

While reading through some of the things I’ve written here, I do admit that there are several things I would love to change about my past. However, knowing where I am right now, I don’t think I’d get myself a time machine if I could.

I remember that every now and then if I do a little prayer in the morning, it usually starts off with, “Father God, thank you for another day that I can live in Your mercy and Your grace.”

I’m very grateful that after 23 years, I’m still alive and that I have a role to play in whatever God’s doing on earth and I’ll do my best to play my part, whatever it may be. Thank you God, for 23 years.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

weekend Trio

Its funny, I really didn’t know what I was going to do in KL on the weekend but I turned out to be a pretty good one. It started out pretty slow although I had my favourite fish and chips at Fish & Co. I have to say, I love fish fillet stuffed with cheese. Also, I did watch the newly released Three Musketeers, which wasn’t half bad.

Still, it’d be pretty wasted if I just hung out myself the entire weekend so I got a few guys to come out. It was nice to meet Jon for lunch on Saturday. Kudos to him for coming out although he was a little sick, you have to give props to good friends. What’s kind of cool is we’re both in the same line of work, we had plenty of work conversation to go around.

It’s a little funny because we didn’t really hang out much in the past, but I guess its kind of cool that way. I guess not knowing someone that well gives plenty of room for conversation. Two hours of talking work and life at the Otak-Otak Place wasn’t a bad way to go, which is quite a decent place to meet up with people by the way.

That was lunch, and dinner was with Felix. I haven’t been to the older part of PJ in an extremely long time, so it was a little nostalgic to pass by some of the places that I last went to as a high school kid. The place we went to was new to me however. The food we had was something I hadn’t had in a while, but it was pretty good. 



Bak Kut Teh, one of my father’s favourites. I never really caught on to it when I was a kid, but nowadays I seem to have a better liking for it. That bowl of ‘porky’ goodness there’s RM 18.00, a good portion for two people. Its pretty reasonable if you ask me.

Felix’s working in music, a real niche in Malaysia if you ask me. I’m not sure if there’re even more than a hundred people around the country that teach kids Garage Band, haha! Like Jon, I haven’t met Felix in a while, so it was good seeing him again. One thing great about hanging with Felix, is that its always a very relaxed time of decent conversation, not to mention he can definitely find good places for food or dessert.

Lastly, someone I hadn’t talked to since I left Hearts, Wai Nyan. He’s probably among some of the few I’ve met who are pretty genuine about themselves from the moment they greet you for the first time. I don’t have that quality, but its great that he does. I got to meet some of the people from Hearts as well, familiar faces like Yvonne Yeo.

It was kind of interesting when we were talking and she mentioned that she missed having one of her friends around on Sundays that had also left Hearts a while back. In a way, that’s probably one of the reasons I came back this weekend. Honestly, there was no one at home, but I still went back anyway.

The truth is, I guess I haven’t adjusted to Malacca as much as I’d like, but I’ll say that it was great to meet a few friendly faces from the past.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

passing Age

I’ve done a little thinking lately and I think the way things have gone the past few months have been so surreal. To an extent, I just can’t believe how fast things have moved along lately. Memories of my time in university or even high school are still as fresh as the ones I have of entering the office every day for the past five months.

For one reason or another, I’ve just had this realisation that there really is no turning back at this point. When you’re still a student, even if you drop out or suffer a fatal illness, you know if you just get back to school, you’ll be able to continue life as you know it should be. Sometimes I feel the reason some students pursue postgraduate studies immediately after completing their degree is because they just don’t feel ready for that turning point just yet. Its as if they want to stay in that place where they know how things should happen.

It can be scary because, the working world is the arena of each person’s livelihood. Money is earned and lost, and the same happens to your self-worth at times. It doesn’t treat every person equally and stories of unfair circumstances tend to make people more and more pessimistic, which eventually affects the environment or the culture of the working world.

Nonetheless, I really thank God for what I have. I’m thankful that I’ve got a job, a place to stay, a car and my family. I won’t say I deserve all or any of those things, but I thank God regardless for his favour on me and my family. My life isn’t all perfect though, but there’s a lot to be thankful for.

Still, it doesn’t blot out the fact that there’s a lot of uncertainty about so many things that are ahead of me. Even though I have a job, changes that happen every so often make me question the future of my career and how it’ll affect my life in the medium to long term. In some ways, I don’t feel ready to be where I am right now, but I just do what I do, because I’m already there.

I think what I’m trying to say here is that playtime for me is over. The ‘go-to-school’ phase of my life has passed and I’m in the ‘real world’ phase now. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about if I can really make it in the real world. For what its worth, I’ve met so many people that are probably more intelligent than me, better than me, so it goes without saying that I may doubt myself sometimes.

I believe its natural to have a fear of the unknown future, where there’re so many possibilities and its all on you to make it happen. That’s when I remind myself not to worry and take life one day at a time. There’re many things beyond my control and that reminds me God is who I need to rely on. I’m trusting God with my future, and it comforts me to know that He’s got me in the palm of his hands. He has never failed me or my family and that gives me great confidence.

The reason I’m writing all this is to remind myself, despite whatever fears I may have, God knows, and He’s got my back all the time.

God, help me to keep the faith, and to never let go.