Six Years

six yearsAuthor: Harlen Coben

Yes, I have started reading again and back to reviewing books. Have no been reading much – and since I discovered this new e-book website which offers quite a good deal, I started using my Sony reader.

One of the books I started on was this – Six Years by Harlen Coben.

Coben is good, and I found the plot to this thoroughly engaging! I think I finished the book in less than a week, but this is also due to the fact that I brought it along on my business trip. It sure kept me occupied during those long plane rides!

Six Years tells of Professor Jake Fisher’s pining for his one and only love – the one whom he met during a short retreat in an elusive place. A seemingly carefree artist, she was just the perfect person for him and they clicked well.

However, things went a bit confusing for him. She got married all of a sudden to her ex, and made him promise not to contact them at all.

And he kept his promise. He got on with his life and stopped all contact. For six years.

Until an obituary for the husband came up – and when Jake went to pay his last respects, everything seemed to be a lie. Being a stubborn person he is, Jake was determined to sought out the truth, even to the extend of killing a human being and risk being killed.

The whole book centred on just a few days (at most a week or so) of Jake’s search for truth, and there were of course points where it got a bit too descriptive and draggy. I skipped some paragraphs of these descriptives (at least it wasn’t pages!) and started again on those bits where the story picks up again.

I had wished they were a tiny lil bit more during the last few pages where the truth was revealed – yes, the whole story did kind of led us readers believe something else was happening when in fact there is the twist to the story.

But hey, I think this is how better writers do their stuff – not in your face kind of revelation, but a more subtle, aha, kind.

Yes, a page turner. A mystery. a who-dun-it, twist at the end kind of books which I usually will go for.

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Inna!

A very nice colleague from the UK visited KL recently (actually, she is an ex-colleague: she resigned about 1/2 year ago and decided to backpack around the world) and I had the chance to take her around KL. Since both Inna and her boyfriend are backpackers, they are on an extremely tight budget and thus, driving them around to see some spots were the least I could do.

Obligatory visit to the Twin Towers:

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Let’s see: we covered Dataran Merdeka and the flagpole, Lake Gardens, National Monument, KL Tower and Petronas Twin Towers. Not too bad since we started off only around 3pm.

My boss Jeffery took them around again the next day to places like Royal Selangor, Batu Caves and some other places which I could not remember.

Of course, we also fed them with lots of good Malaysian food.

Inna and Steve at the office with another colleague, Su May:

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They will be going around for a month or so, and thus, I really hope they’d enjoy themselves here. There was a slight mishap where Inna’s bag was snatched the second day she was here. Come to think of it, the first warning I had for her was to be careful with her sling bag when we met up.

Thankfully, she was ok, just some bruises and her passport was safe in the hostel.

It was quite an embarrassment, too, when they exclaimed that they have travelled to countries and small towns in China, Cambodia, India and Nepal and yet when they thought that KL is most civilised and safe, this happened.

Sorry Inna, I have to apologise on behalf of Malaysia.

We are really nice people actually!

Tai Chi Zero

TaiChiHero If I need  use just only one word to describe this movie, it would be — surprisingly good. Okay, okay, two words.

I had three TGV movie vouchers which is expiring on the day I went for the movie itself and with no interesting movies to watch, my parents and I chose this. Honestly, this isn’t something I would pay to watch – dialogue is in Mandarin, don’t know the cast (except for Shu Qi, Angelababy and Tony Leung – and all three are notorious for some other types of ‘adult’ movies)

The movie is the first part of two, starring a newbie who is also a wushu champion in real-life. Branded as a ‘steampunk action comedy’, Tai Chi Zero has various kung fu actions, video game elements and steampunk genre.

The storyline is quite predictable actually, with a country bumpkin setting out in search of a clan known for their kung fu skills. When country bumpkin finally found them, the clan refuses to teach him, reason being the skills are only passed on to family members. In the meantime, the village is attacked by the British, led by a ‘traitor’ cum ex-villager who studied engineering overseas but looked down by everyone else.

Of course, in the midst of the fighting and protecting the village, our kind-hearted country bumpkin gets seriously injured. Every one else was shocked to discover that this outsider had somehow managed to learn some bits of their Chen-style kung fu (thanks to his photographic memory) and demands him to be killed.

Unwilling to see the poor boy die, the Grandmaster suggests that his daughter marry the boy, thus making him family.

The show ended abruptly at this point, making viewers hungry for more – so will kind-hearted country bumpkin boy turn into a kung-fu legend?

Although predictable, I found the choreography highly entertaining (thanks to Sammo Hung) and will definitely catch the sequel!

Hotel Atlet Century Park, Jakarta

I stayed in this hotel mid 2011, I think, and it is only now that I had the chance time to review it. I chose Atlet Century Park  because one, it was recommended by British Council Jakarta, two, it’s my first visit to the city and I want to play safe and three, it is the cheapest option available on BC’s list!

It was not disappointing, I must say, but rather adequate for this first time visitor. The hotel was right smack in the middle of the Central Business District and it is easy to get every where. Check-in was a long wait – first, there were quite a number of people queuing and secondly, I was early and thus had to sit at the coffee house for 1/2 hour before I was given a room. This surprises me a bit since most hotels let me check in early. Maybe they were full. So, anyway. The hotel was quite packed, and I found that it was quite popular with Malaysians.

Rooms 

The room was quite large and the bed clean and comfy. There were plenty of space for me to move around (which is not important to me, honestly). No thin mattresses, stains or strange smells, which is good. One thing I don’t really fancy about hotel rooms are their wooden flooring. I reckon that this saves them trouble of cleaning and vacuuming carpets, but the whole wood look makes it look cheap. However, I kind of feel more at ease walking around barefoot on these flooring compared to a carpeted room.

Furnitures and fixtures

Both the seating and work area of the room are also ‘designed’ to complement the wooden look and feel. Thus, no comfy couches or high backed chairs, but rather some simple furniture. Likewise the TV – but this does not bother me much since I am not always in the room. The work table is excruciatingly small and thus, makes it difficult for business travellers (like me, ahem) to work. Plus, if you place some food on the table, it makes it even more difficult to work.

Their mini bar was empty, if I am not mistaken – another surprise – but it didn’t bother me as well because I don’t usually take anything from the mini bar. Sometimes, I do wonder who does given the prices.

One thing worth mentioning, however, was the care they had taken to ‘dress-up’ the towels in their bathroom:

Bathroom

Individual face and hand towels are tied with pretty ribbons. The wordings show the name of their hotel. Even the bath towels are tied with ribbons! (See pic below!)

Other than this, the toiletries provided are pretty standard and they also have a hair dryer available (for the girls!). Again worth mentioning, the bathroom is clean, hot water decent and no stains or whatsoever.

Food and other areas

As mentioned, the hotel is located right in the midst of the Central Business District, which makes it easier for those who does not want to eat in the hotel. Senayan Square, a slightly decent shopping centre is just right next to it and thus, you can pop in anytime for some restaurants.

If you’d like to explore further, larger malls are around 10-20 minutes walk away.

Overall

Good – would recommend!

Finally

Yes, finally! I have submitted my dissertation last month. This hard work of mine took almost 6 months to complete, thanks to my hectic job. Fingers crossed, I will pass this and probably by the end of the year, I will finally call myself an MBA graduate. I am really hoping that I would not fail and have to resubmit, else I would be crushed!

Okay, okay… I shouldn’t be thinking negative thoughts now. The popularity of  ‘The Secret’ and ‘Law of Attraction’ state that I have to think positive to attract good vibes, etc. Since there are so many great testimonials out there, there should be some truth in them, ain’t it?

So from now on, let me visualise that I am going to pass this with flying colours. Yes, flying colours! Aim higher and even if you fall, you fall above your acceptable levels.

Life is unpredictable

Yes, it is. Although this phrase is so overused, it has its truth in it.

Our office received news a while ago from our colleagues overseas saying that a Malaysian girl whom we sent over last year had passed away.

Yes. Passed away. Just like that.

We were, of course, shocked. Until today, the news still hasn’t quite settled in. No cause of death has been communicated to us yet, and we are still wondering what happened.

All we knew was that no one, her boyfriend back in Singapore and her close classmates, could contact her for more than 24 hours. Her classmates then knocked on her room door and when they got no response, went to ask security to open the door. And there she was, already stiff.

Very, very sad.

I dread to think how the friend would have felt when she first saw her. I dread to think how the friend could muster the courage to call the deceased’s family to tell them of this news. And I dread to think how her parents would feel.

I also dread to think how her last moments were; what thoughts went through her mind, if she suffered alone in her room. Being someone who has studied overseas before and now travel quite extensively for my work, I shudder at the thought of knowing your time is up and you are in a foreign land, unable to do anything, worrying about leaving your family and friends.

B (the deceased) was supposed to graduate this summer (May/June). She was doing her Masters and had planned for her boyfriend to join her for a Europe trip after she finishes. She was supposed to go home to her family, whom, I presume, would be expecting their daughter graduating with a Masters, getting a good job, settling down.

And suddenly, wham, you get a call to say your daughter has passed away – thousands of kilometres away. You can’t see her, you don’t know what happened. You are not even sure how to bring her back to Malaysia, how much it costs.

B’s family is not well to do and they had to (allegedly) borrow some cash to enable the brother to fly over  to get her home. Her parents stayed back, presumably to save costs. They wanted very much to bring her body back for burial, but they knew it was going to be expensive. Thus, the decision was to cremate her.

Fortunately, our University was compassionate. We offered to pay for all repatriation expenses, including B’s brother’s accommodation while he is there. Although the offer was made to them, the family decided that B should be cremated. While we respect their wishes, I cannot help but imagine how would the parents feel – not being able to even see their daughter’s body – just ashes.

B was a Buddhist and being a Buddhist myself as well (although not so devout) thoughts came in. Buddhists believe in life after death, we believe that souls still live on, reincarnation happens, etc. And if B has passed away in another country, I can’t help but imagine if her soul could ‘come home’. I dread how her parents must worry if their daughter’s soul could ‘come home’ to Malaysia and not ‘lost’ overseas.

Buddhist chantings during a wake helps calms the deceased’s soul and aid her in ‘crossing over’. Buddhist monks were engaged overseas for B – it was somewhat surprising that they can find one – thank goodness.

Another wake would be held for her once she is back home, and hopefully, although she passed away miles away, B would RIP. Condolences to her family and close friends as well.

V Hotel Lavender

Another post on budget hotels. This time it’s V Hotel in Singapore. I stayed at the hotel in May 2011 (yes, very outdated post!) and it kind of exceeded my expectations. It is not one of those ‘famed’ budget hotels in Geylang, but a proper hotel, without those additional services you don’t need at a fraction of the cost. No concierge services, no bell boy, you have to drag your luggage to your room yourselves (yes, there’s a lift) and no room service.

V Hotel is not exactly a super hotel with fantastic services, but one of the few popular ones sprouting in Singapore. According to the taxi drivers, these hotels are ever popular and they find it easier to pick up passengers from V Hotel (and the likes) compared to the 4-and 5-stars ones now since tourists are cutting back and looking for value for money.

The location of the hotel was superb – although not within the city centre, the MRT station (Lavender station) was just 3 minutes walk away. Check-in was quick and pleasant, although there were loads of tourists around. You will be required to pay in full for the entire duration of your stay upon check-in (ie, you can’t cancel nights or whatsoever). A word of warning here – please make sure that you pay in full when you check in. Yours truly had a staff who forgot to ask me to pay and it was 1.30am in the morning when I got a call asking me to go down and make payment (I arrived late in the evening)

Rooms

The bedding, sheets and pillows are very comfortable and clean, comparable to those in five-star hotels. Obviously, you cannot expect them to give you an option of the type of pillows you want. Internet connection is available for an additional fee. The room is very small though, with barely enough space for you to walk and drag your luggage at the same time.

Furniture and fixtures

The writing table is very small, yes, but you can’t expect much really since this is considered a no frills hotel. Unlike Tune Hotels, though, TV and air-conditioning is included. Tea and coffee making facilities and house-keeping is also included. Although the furnishing are minimal, they do not look cheap, but rather, have a classy look. It may be because of the colour, but then again, the overall feel and touch of them were alright. The chair was a bit heavy though and I’d hate to drag it on the wooden flooring – it’ll probably do damage over time!

Bathroom

Their bathroom, like the room itself, is extremely small. Otherwise it is clean. Basic toiletries are included, together with towels. There is a shower stall, which is also small with barely enough space for me even to extend my arms! So, those of you who are errr… slightly larger in size, you may want to take this into consideration.

Food and other areas

There is plenty of food around the hotel – a food court with regular, value for money fares like chicken rice and noodles. The plus point is that V Hotel is, as mentioned, smack right beside a MRT station. Wherever you want to head to, jump on to the MRT – takes you anywhere!

There is a food court located right next to the hotel, besides a small number of individual shops. The food court serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is adequate, selection wise. For those who would like to explore further, Bugis Junction (shopping) is just one MRT stop away and yes, you can walk if you want to. Other than food, you can’t find much shopping in the surrounding area, unfortunately.

Overall

Good! It’s value for money, and will come back here especially on personal visits!