Monday, August 27, 2007

Gemstone of The South

Do you know "Johor" originated from the Arabic word Jauhar,'gem/precious stone'?

I arrived in Johor Bahru KTM Station at about 6am on Saturday morning. The train left KL Sentral at 10:00pm the night before. It was my first "proper" trip to Johor Bahru or JB.

Before this, JB was just a transit place en route to neighbouring Singapore. It will be my first "proper" run in JB as well.

At 6am, JB is already buzzing with activities - Honking cars and swarms of people are making beelines to the causeway as seen in the picture above. The picture was taken from City Square Shopping Mall opposite the JB KTM Station.

I had roti bom and a glass of Milo ais for breakfast at the shop opposite the train station. I walked around Jalan Wong Ah Fook and Jalan Tun Abdul Razak to familiarize myself with the city. I got plenty of time before meeting up with Sim at City Square at 9:30am. He helped me to register the Unity Run. Too bad he was too busy to join me.

After collecting the T-shirt from Sim, I went off to explore JB on foot. The weather was sunny with plenty of clouds. It was breezy too, so it was quite pleasant to walk. Before that, I went to many hotels around town trying to get myself a copy of JB map. Most of them were out of JB map! Unbelieveable considering this year is Visit Malaysia Year.

I finally got one from Compact Hotel, it was a photocopied JB map.OK-lah. Better than nothing!

First stop. Sultan Ibrahim Building.

Sultan Ibrahim Building is Johor's state secretariat building wihch houses the Menteri Besar's (Chief Minister) office and State Assembly hall. It pearched majestically on top of Timbalan Hill. The building was constructed between 1936 and 1939. Its architecture combines colonial and Malay architecture with Islamic tower making it a beautiful landmark in Johor Bahru.

Bathing Tigers....

And basking crocodile....

Those two monuments are found along the strait areas. The tigers belong to the Johor State Coat of Arms in the fountain in front of the Johor High Court.

Not sure what does the croc signify. It was located opposite an abandoned shopping mall - JB Waterfront.

I love this building! All white and stately. It is part of the Royal Abu Bakar Museum/ Palace.

In the early 1990s, Johor's present ruler, His Majesty Sultan Iskandar, decided that members of the public should be given the opportunity to view the Royal Family's collection in a proper museum setting. His Majesty consented for the Grand Palace to be converted into a museum but concurrently it still serves the traditional royal and state ceremonial functions.

I decided not to go into the museum as I was short of time. Next time then.

I walked toward the Johor Tourism (JOTIC) office building to get some brochures on Johor. Too bad! It was closed! Not sure why! Probably the people in JOTIC went holiday in other states or countries. (Insert snigger here!)

They should open the info counter on weekends to serve tourists. Hey people! It's Visit Malaysia Year!

What more disappointing was there were ZERO brochures on Johor Bahru on the self- helped brochures display. And they wonder why people go to Singapore and not Johor for holiday!...

I continued walking to Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque on top of Kechil Hill. There is a tiny zoo next to the mosque. I saw some caged birds and sad looking deers from outside. I decided not to go in and went straight to the mosque compound.

I went around the mosque taking pictures. Non-muslims are not allowed into the mosque. It can accommodate 3,000 people at once.

According to info board, the marble was bought from Italy, the main pulpit was from Turkey and the receptacle for ashes was from China. Wowow! Highly imported stuff here.

I bought an ice-cream cone here from the street peddler here. Nice one on a hot sunny day!

By the time, I was done with the mosque, my tummy was starting to growl. Time for lunch already! I took a Triton Bus to Stulang Laut for the famous Mee Rebus. It bus ride cost me RM1.00.

Stulang is a suburb in JB. It is located about 5 km from JB City Centre and divided by 2 main road : Jalan Stulang Darat and Jalan Stulang Laut.

I stepped down from the bus in front of the Malaysia Open University building. Located on the ground floor of this building is a restaurant that serves the world famous Stulang Laut Mee Rebus! (One of the reason that I made this trip!)

Is the picture enough to make you drool? Heheh!

Mee rebus is a yellow noodle dish which consists of Mee (a spaghetti-like mixture of flour, salt and egg) and is served with a tangy, spicy brown sauce. Usually crumbs, green chilli slices, spring onion and boiled egg are added.

I ordered the special version. So, on top of the cornflake-like crumbs, two prawns and some deep fried oyster mushroom were added!

This dish lives up to its reputation. I saw the guy on the next table ordered two plates of mee rebus! The mee is lovely. Smooth in texture and soaked with mouth watering gravy. I love the fried mushroom. It is crispy and very tasty! All these were washed down with two glasses of ice tea. I was really thristy after walking all morning!

This restaurant also serves otak-otak, another famous dish from Johor. Basically, it is grilled fish paste wrapped in coconut leaves. They will put a few otak-otak on your table and you only pay what you have consume.

The restaurant is overlooking the sea. Nice view. I enjoyed myself chomping down the otak-otak while resting my tired feet. Lovely!

I stumbled upon this chocolate place called The Chocolate Gallery near the mee rebus restaurant. I always have a soft spot for chocolates. I went in for awhile and walked out with a bunch of expensive chocolate. I really shouldn't but....

Hailed a cab back to town (RM4) and caught Ratatouille at 3:00pm in the Cathay Cineplaxes in City Square. Loved the movie, hated the stupid woman who could shut her fat mouth, sitting next to me.

I checked into Zen Zeng hotel (15 mins walk from City Square Mall) about 5:00pm.

I was lucky. It rained cats, dogs and kuda kepang (hobby horse which is always associated with Johor) once I got into my room.

Sim had told me earlier not to venture into the city after dark due to the high crime rate in JB...But I gotta eat! There were not many nice eateries near the hotel. The hotel restaurant looked kinda sad. The rain had stopped. So, I took the chances. I dressed up like like a normal "ah pek" (slang for Chinese old man) would. Heheh! Shorts, t-shirt and slippers. Also, kept a small amount of money in the wallet and leave the rest hidden in the hotel room. I walked around Jalan Wong Ah Fook again. This time, I went to the nicely lit Indiam temple. (see above). Not sure what its name as it was beautiful at dusk. There were bells chiming into prayer hall. I supposed some sort of ceremony was going on.

I explored Meldrum Walk. There was a row of stalls that lined the backlane of shoplots. On one side were the Chinese stalls, serving fried noodles, chicken rice and other Chinese food while the other side was more "Malay" - nasi campur, mee rebus, bakso, etc.

I plonked myself down on a plastic stool underneath the umbrella in front of Ali Sup Kambing (Mutton Soup) stall. Ordered a bowl of Sup Campur - Mixed soup.

The soup was thick and spicy. It came with a plate of bread, to soak up the soup. It was a nice steaming meal to warm up the body especially after the rain just now.

Since I ordered the mixed soup, it came with mutton bits and also the internal organs like stomach and intestines. The mutton was tender. I'm not really sure know how to describe the innards but they were kinda chewy.

Quoting Emile, Remy's brother in Ratatouille "You know, once you muscle your way past the gag reflex, all kinds of possibilities open up". Heheh!

Actually, innards are not that bad, they are kinda tasty with the spicy soup. I cleaned up every drop of the soup with the bread!

I took a leisurely stroll back to the hotel, enjoying the sight and sounds of JB at night. Seen here is a medicine man at Meldrum Walk. The two cages on the lower right were filled with snakes. Not sure why, but I was not keen to find out.

So, my conclusion is JB is quite safe at night. But do execise pre-caution. Not venture into the backlanes and do not flash your wealth etc. You know, common sense. There are police van stationed near the Indian temple.

It was a wonderful evening. Simple dinner. Simple pleasure of life.

I woke up about 5:00am getting ready for the race. After a light breakfast of Japanese pancake and milo, I asked the hotel to call a cab.

The taxi driver probably was wondering what was this stupid fool gonna do at Danga Bay at 6:00am on a Sunday morning.

What? Unity Run 2007

Where? Danga Bay, Johor, Malaysia

When? Sunday, August 27, 2007 (7:00am but started at 7:30am)

How far? 5km

Who? Organised by Junior Chamber International Johor Bahru

St John Ambulance Pageant! Heheh! Notice how they lined up according heights?

I arrived at Danga Bay after a 15 minutes taxi ride. Cost me RM13 inclusive or after midnight surcharge. The organiser was still scrambling around like lipas kudung (injured cockroach) at the start point. They have not even packed the goodies bags!

I predicted that they would start late. AT 7:00am, they were still busy taking group photographs of themselves. Hmmmm......True enough, they started at 7:30am. Thank God, I brought my MP3 player to keep me company. Jordin Sparks new single Tattoo was playing on repeat! It is a nice little ditty!

Before we started the race, Negaraku was played. Of course I sang with gusto. (Insert goosebumps here. I don't know why but I get them everytime I sing Negaraku. I hope it is not an allergic reaction! LOL!)

Someone should teach this auntie the correct was to hold the Jalur Gemilang. She is not to sweep the floor with the flag! It is so disrespectful. She should have slung the rest of the flag over her shoulder, to avoid flag from touching the ground.

The run took us around the Danga Bay area, Malaysia Premier Water Front City whatever that means.

Most of the participants were students. The first km was around some newly completed but yet to be occupied shoplots.

After making a turn, we head to the marina area.

Notice the rollercoaster on the right.

Water front area. That building there is a restaurant offering international fares. We passed by some cafes along the route too.

Another view of the bay. I reckon the sunset should be spectacular here.

Some CHEATERS spotted. Some took short cuts through the amusement park. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Rumah Limas. Traditional looking houses.

500 meters to the end point.

Swaggering towards the Finish Line.

Great pleasure comes in Little Cup! The faithful Milo van was there to dispense out those welcoming sweet satisfying cups of ice cold Milo! Truly a simple pleasure a runner would understand after a race. Agree? :)

No! They did not serve nasi lemak after the run. I hopped over the highway to a restaurant called Singgah Selalu opposite the Festive Mall for breakfast.

Hmmmm.....I could imagine the smell of the fragrant steamed rice and the hot mouth watering sambal as I type!!!

After breakfast, I went back to Festive Mall where another run event was being officiated. The second portion of the Unity Run - The next part was a 5 days 365km relay run from Johor Bahru and ending at Kuala Lumpur on 30th August 2007.

8 runners took part in the event. In the name of unity, there are Malays, Chinese and Indians in the team.

They were flagged off by Johor Puan Wasitah, the director of Youth and Sports Department of Johor. Now, this woman know how to handle her flag! Heheh!

Off they go...la.la.la.la...They sure don't dress up like marathoners to me. Trackbottoms are fine I guess (tutup aurat)....but bermuda pants? You will chaff your balls off by the first 10km. Heheh!

Bye bye! See you in KL!

They are expected to arrive in Putra Jaya this coming Thursday. Too bad I had to work. If not, I would have join them for the last few km run!

For those who are free on Merdeka eve (30 August), why not join them at Menara KBS (Ground Floor, Inner Hall). The pamphlet didn't say but I think it is at Putra Jaya. Reporting time will be 8:00am and start run at 9:00am (Be prepared for some delay. There are VIPs involved. LOL!)

OK, after sending the marathoners off, it was time to celebrate! There was Malay dance. I think it was Zapin, Johor famous dance but I could be wrong.

The Chinese stole the show away with these little cute princesses.

I think they were about 7 or 8 years old. Very nimble. They jumped. They waved. They hopped. They spinned. They even lifted their little legs on the air....

Now don't try that at home. LOL!

To complete the Unity performace, let's have the Indian dance!!!

It was raining when I got out from the Festive Mall after the dance performance. I couldn't wait for the prize presentation ceremony as I have to check out from the hotel. I took a cab back. I was amazed on how easy to get a cab in JB! But then, not all of them are willing to use the meter. (Insert sigh here!)

I saw this guy cycling along the Jalan Tun Abbul Razak. Notice his bicycle is unusually high and loaded with his stuff. Wowow! File this under pictures to send to The Star newspaper Thumbnails. Heheh!

The colourful event T, goodies bag - a bottle of mineral water and 2 cans of STING energy drink.

I received 2 certificates from the run. One from JCI Unity Run and the other from Youth and Sport Ministry - Merdeka Run.

First time in my life I get 2 certs from one run! Heheh!

Guess which certificate is my favourite?.... ;)

Slow runner like can also get Top 100. Possible in Johor. Never in Kuala Lumpur. Heheh!

Overall, Johor indeed is the Gemstone of the South! I hope there will be more runs organised in Johor, especially JB. It would be nice to run and see those beautiful buildings that I covered on my first day in JB.

I love the food and dig the sceneries. Hated the bus trip back though due to unscrupulous bus company which rather not tell here. I will however publish it in my virtual tourist site under danger/ warning page later. Do come back for updates.

p/s: A bundle of thanks to Sim for registering and collecting the T-shirt for me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape to Kuala Lumpur

My Sweet Escape Ticket. Woohoo! Yeehoo!

My 2000's NO DOUBT Live in Concert old ticket stub. Brought to you by Salem Cool Planet. I've been a fan for a long long time....

Trivia: On September 28, 2000, No Doubt played in Seoul, Korea, before moving on to Japan, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur, where the tour concluded October 14. Incidently, The Sweet Escape Tour in Kuala Lumpur was also Gwen's last stop for Asia.

I enjoyed myself very much during her No Doubt stint here. Looking forward to a great time this time...ROCK ZONE weh!....

It's nice to see you again, Gwen! Heheh! She's a HOT as ever!

She opened her show with Sweet Escape. Woohoo! Yeehoo! (Insert screaming fans here)

This show had initially caused a brouhaha few weeks ago due to some protests from some moronic students from certain religious group who branded her "indecent" and "obscene". That group also accused her of promoting promiscuity and corrupting the country's youth! What stupid accusations! They should be worrying about making their grades good rather than staging some idiotic protest like this!

Gwen was given a mandate, to cover up or to cancel her concert here.

Being a good sport, Gwen willingly obliged to abide by the Malaysian authorities' guidelines to ensure that her show would not be "offensive to local sensitivities".

Last year, a music promoter was reportedly fined USD$3,200 because a Pussycat Dolls concert was deemed too racy. For goodness sake, the show was at a waterpark! Anything more than a swimsuit is outrageously over-dressed!!!

Runwitme's Pussycat Dolls Concert Pictures

Thank you, Gwen for doing this for your Malaysian fans!

That little speck on the stage is Gwen Stefani! She's all dolled up without showing much of her skin, wearing tight-fitting tops in jackets, and sported leotards under her dresses and mini-skirts.

Apparently her dancers also subjected to the same dress code, wearing those tacky black "leggings" underneath their skirts and kimonos - very much like those back-up dancers in RTM (National TV) would wear. The RTM dancers would have been so proud of Gwen! Heheh!

The Set List:

"The Sweet Escape"

"Rich Girl"

"Yummy"

"4 in the Morning"

"Luxurious"

"Early Winter"

"Wind It Up"

"Danger Zone"

"Hollaback Girl"

"Wonderful Life"

"Now That You Got It" (album version/reggae remix)

"Don't Get It Twisted/Breakin' Up"

"Cool"

"Orange County Girl"

Encore:

"The Real Thing [acoustic]"

"What You Waiting For?"

She's still looking hot covered up!

Gwen got her fans up on their feet with her spunky performance and lively attitude. She's ain't a hollaback girl! She's a pro!

She worked the crowd with sing-a-longs! Yours truly also were seen dancing and waving like a frantic plankton! Heheh!

Suddenly, Gwen did a great escape from the stage. She ran like a madwoman to the back of the stadium much to the crowd's delight! Hmmmmm...I think she must have done some speedwork during her free time! Heheh!

The crowd just went crazy! She sang "Cool" while standing within touching distance with the crowd at the back. (Insert envious stare here! Why didn't she come to the side! Grrrrrr....)

Gwen as seen on the live big screen. Those lucky s.o.b. at the back! Heheh!

"I am practically Malaysian," Stefani told 10,000 screaming fans.

"I just want you to know I am very inspired tonight," she said. "You are a very, very amazing audience."

She said she had a special affinity for Malaysia because her rocker husband Gavin Rossdale had a step mum in Kuala Lumpur.

She then waved a miniature Malaysian flag, and said "TERIMA KASEEEEEEEE". (Insert more screaming crowd here!)

The concert only lasted about 1 hr 20 mins only! But it was one heck of a concert! I dare say she is much better than Christina Aguilera in terms of stage presence and audience rapport.

Runwitme's Christina Aguilera Concert Review

She came out for an encore. Singing "the real thing" with her heart out.

Show finale! Whatcha waiting for, you stoopid ho! Heheh!

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Can you spot the difference in the costume? Left: Oversea. Right: "Conservative" Malaysia! :P

Overall, two thumbs up for Gwen! She rocks my socks off!

What's that guy doing? Heheh!

Bye Bye, Gwen! Love ya!

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