Sunday, June 23, 2013

the first week's observances and food

i'm here in kuala lumpur on business, so most of my waking hours have been in meetings and day-to-day business.  so, i'll focus on the hours outside of work.

i've gone out to lunch every day.  my co-workers always ask me if i miss western food or if i want to eat western food.  i quickly say no.  i want to try pretty much anything that is not western.

the first day we ate a place called dragon-i.  it was chinese.  i was explaining to my team about the east side cafe where i grew up (orhpan annie's now) and how my family always ate mandarin chicken.  of course they didn't understand what mandarin chicken is ... so i said it was a lot like sweet and sour chicken.  then they understood.  they ordered for me at dragon-i.  we ate something very similar to sweet and sour chicken.  we also ate a kailan bowl as well as a roasted duck plate.  a lot of places here will bring the food in bowls and then everyone serves themselves the food on the plate.  i loved the chicken, the kailan and the duck - it was really delicious.  and of course we had dim-sum - always so tasty.

oh - chopsticks ... i was a bit nervous about the chopsticks, but i didn't want to be the wimpy american who couldn't eat with chopsticks.  so i did my best.  my team told me that if i could pick up a roasted nut, then i was good.  i was able to pick up the roasted nut quite easily.  i'm proud to say that i've not once requested silverware when there were chopsticks to be used :-)

the second day was a team builder day.  so my team along with a sister team went out for lunch at a very nice restaurant located in the hotel at which i'm staying.  it was a dim-sum spread with rice and salads.  the conversation was really nice and we all got to know each other very well.  for desert, they ordered me some durian pancake.  durian is a local fruit - they call it the king of fruits.  but apparently it has a very strong smell to it.  i had heard rumors from my boss and other people to not try the durian.  but i tried the durian pancake anyway.  to me it tasted like a strong onion with a hint of mango.  they all gave me strange looks when i told them it tasted and smelled like an onion.

after lunch, we did some team-building exercises: building legos, marshmellow tower and chinese pictionary.  it was a lot of fun.

after work on the second day, i went for an hour-long walk around the central park.  the walk was very nice and had spectacular views of the twin towers.  one thing i thought was quite odd was seeing someone take a picture of a woman who was dressed in a full-body burqa - i mean, what's the point of taking a picture if you don't know who you're taking a picture of?

the third day's lunch was with my team's old team lead as well as the team's current team lead.  she took us to this chinese place - i had some noodle dish and really enjoyed it.

then on the fourth day - friday - we all went to an indian restaurant.  it was very delicious - we ate some fried cauliflower, shark meat and then some spicy lamb.  the lamb was good, but too spicy for me.  i ended up sweating for 10 minutes!  there was also some flat bread to eat along with the meal.

yesterday was saturday - i was going to go to batu caves, but my ride fell through, so i stayed in the hotel catching up on my chess tactics.  i couldn't go outside because of the very thick haze and smoke from all the fires in indonesia.  i ate a full dinner on saturday at the hotel.  i had hainanese chicken, cheese sticks and pistachio cheesecake.

then today - sunday - i went with a friend and her family to visit the genting highlands.  we were going to go to malacca, but the smoke and haze is even worse down south.  so we went up into the mountains.  the road was steep and curvy.  our first stop was at the chin swee temple.  i really enjoyed walking around the temple and reading of the many levels of hell.  we even walked up the pagoda half way before we decided we had enough climbing.  after the temple, we headed on up to the top of the hill.  when we got there, we walked around a bit, ate some brunch, then walked around some more and then decided we'd see enough.  after that, we drove back down the hill a way to a mushroom farm.  seeing how the chinese grow mushrooms was quite interesting.  after that, we drove back down into the haze to visit batu caves.  we climbed the 300 or so steps and walked around the massive limestone cave.  it was pretty amazing.  i liked the chinese temple better mainly because it was cleaner.  batu caves was quite dirty.  after batu caves, we went to central market and did some shopping.  i got some gifts for my kids and wife.  and then they drove me back to the hotel - i was very tired.

besides seeing all the neat attractions, i also really enjoyed hanging out with and talking to my friend and her family.  she has two kids the same age as my two youngest.  they treated me very nicely and even called me uncle.  the youngest taught me a complex version of rock, paper, scissors.  what made it so extremely difficult to win was the ever-changing rules.  as soon as i would win, he would come up with a new weapon to play.  he is a smart kid and it was very memorable playing chage ... that's charge without the 'r'.

and that was the first week in kl.

i have four more days here and then i fly back to houston.  i miss my wife and kids.

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