Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bombay - Mumbai - Bombay

After 2 years of doing the 9am drive to the office and the 8pm back home from the office trip, I finally got a chance to take a vacation for myself. It was a tough decision to make because there were so many places in the world that I haven’t been to yet (my family wasn’t big on family vacations) and was really looking forward to my vacation. After much consideration, Mumbai was my destination. Besides having family in India and despite having travelled there thousands of times, I’ve never been to Mumbai and with all the hype about Bollywood and all, I just had to head out there. My vacation begun on August 27th and lasted till August 31st 2008. This is my journey in Mumbai.

Day 1 – August 27th 2008
I landed in Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai at 12:45am – delayed by an hour. The flight was okay and I had a great seat. It was raining heavily when we landed. The airport was surprisingly beautiful and clean so we can forget about all the stereotypes about India. On my first night, I was dragged to this really cool bar called Blue Frog and this was where I met Arjun Charanjin – Director of MARS India.

Day 2 – August 27th 2008
This day I would like to call “Story from Amchi Mumbai (My Mumbai)”.
My day started with a wonderful breakfast but it was the lunch that got my day really started. I headed to a place called Mahesh Lunchroom. This is a specialty seafood restaurant in Mumbai (previous name Bombay) and the food was really good. The one dish that was strongly recommended was the “Mumbai Duck” which is only available in Mumbai. It’s a chicken dish deep fried with Indian herbs and spices.
* The wonderful chutney & onions they serve with every meal
After lunch, I headed to a retail store called “FebIndia”. A perfect place to buy souvenirs for all family members and friends. This outlet specializes in modern and traditional Indian outfits. All the outfits are made of vegetable prints – simply means that all the designs and patterns of the clothes are made of vegetable dye. I bought so many clothes for family and friends that I was afraid that I had to buy a new luggage to fit all these in.
When the whole shopping was over, it was time to grab dinner and drinks. I was meeting some friends from Diageo India to savor some Johnnie Walker. We met in a place called The Sports Bar in Phoenix Mills at Lower Parel Road in downtowm Mumbai. We started the evening off with some light snacks – stuffed Mushrooms, chicken wings and nacho’s. With all that, we had Smirnoff Green Apple and Johnnie Walker Black Label as our choice of beverage. What I found really interesting is that, just like Malaysia, India has its own favorite sport that is cricket. Everyone at the bar had their eyes glued to the TV screens watching the cricket match between India and Pakistan – a historical rivalry dating back to the 18th century. Anyway, the night ended around 3am with many of course barely remembering a single thing but we were responsible as none of us drove. My friend’s driver drove me home safe and sound.

* The 2 Johnnie Walker boys with the Carlsberg girl

* Happy Hour in India means - Buy 1 Get a Bigger One FREE!!

Day 3 – August 28th 2008
This was the day when everything started only after 2pm. as I nursed a bad hang over from 10am till about lunch. I was treated to really good home cooked traditional Indian food (it seems that this vacation is really all about eating) and it was the best food I’d ever had after my mom’s cooking of course. For dinner, my friend took me to a really cool place called Masala Mantar on Lokandwala District. The place is so secluded that if you weren’t from Mumbai or know someone from there, you won’t find it. The main entrance leads you to a flight of stairs which leads you to a reception area where we were greeted by a pleasant gentleman who led us to our table. The décor of the place was unique with a lot of greenery. I had my first Indian Masala Mojito which was made out the usual Mojito ingredient plus sugarcane. Yum! Yum! That’s all I can say. Another buzzing night. The food was a Punjabi delicacy which was very rich in gravy and spices.
* This is the world-class Masala Mojito

* I just had to take this pic - JOHNNIE WALKER baby!

Day 4 – August 29th 2008
This was the most productive day for me. My friend dragged me out to venture Mumbai. I call this adventure – The Journey Into South Mumbai – aka The Town. The journey took about 2 hours from Juhu Beach but it was indeed an interesting drive. Thank GOD that none of us were driving and we were really thankful for the existence of the driver who managed the roads really well. Like the saying goes, “If you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere in the world.”
I saw the first Porsche showroom in Mumbai and it had 4 Cayanne S parked on the outside. I also spotted the only Bentley on the road and it was bright red so it was hard to miss. It was driven by some old guy – so unfair.
* Porsche baby!!!!

* The first 5-star hotel in India - The Taj Mahal Hotel

The destination was deep into town. We drove from Peddar Road into Marine Drive. Peddar Road is a popular street in Mumbai and a popular address in Mumbai. It is also filled with designer boutiques from Gucci to LV. At the end of Peddar Road, is Marine Drive also known as Chowpaty which is a popular hang out spot for middle-class families and it is along the beach front with beach side stalls that sell local delicacy and juices. As we drove down Marine Drive which runs along the coastal road of Mumbai with a beautiful view of the seas, I noticed that the traffic is much organized and the surrounding was really clean – very different from the suburbs.
* Believe people - this is the train station

The first spot we hit was the “Gateway of India” – this was where the British first arrived. It was a breath taking scene as I stood there mesmerized by the gateway. Directly across from the gateway, was the 1st 5star hotel built in India called the Taj Mahal Hotel. It was built by JRD Tata who committed suicide upon discovering that he had built the hotel wrongly – the entrance became the exit and the exit became the entrance. Until today, the hotels exit is used as the entrance but it doesn’t have the grand feel to it as it sits by the side of the road. The hotel houses brands like LV, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dunhill as its house brand retail outlets. The architecture of the building is absolutely amazing and marvelous. The hotels Sea Lounge has a direct view of the Arabian Sea and the Gateway of India and the cost of a small Cappucino there will cost you Rs800 (RM80).

* The view of the beach front from the street. Nice ride!!

From the Taj Mahal Hotel, we walked to Colaba Causeway which is actually a street full of Indian export rejected items – from footwear to handbags to clothes to sunglasses. It was a great place to shop for souvenirs and sort of reminded me of KL’s very own Chinatown except that bargaining here was a lot harder and tougher to win. We then had a beer (yes at 3pm) in this placed call Leopold which is a café style restaurant mainly visited by Europeans and tourist It’s over 100 years old and it’s the only place in town that carries their own brand souvenirs. From there, we headed to Café Mondigar – a beer garden café with Goa style art graffiti on its walls. I didn’t last long in there because they played nothing else but rock music.

* The Taj Mahal Hotel only houses Top International Brands - I wasn't kidding!

* The famous gateway of India - right in front of the Taj Mahal Hotel
* I managed to spot a celebrity :)
* Really cool statue.
Once we were done shopping, we jumped into the car and headed to see the famous train station in downtown called Victoria Terminius (now known as Chatrapati Shivaji Terminium). The building is an old Victorian style well preserved building that still stands grand. This train station is the busiest in the city with everyone passing through it on a daily basis. The next stop was my favorite but before that, we drove through Mumbai’s financial district called Nariman Point. This is where the nation’s financial offices reside and operate out of. After that, we drove through Mallabar Hills and this is where I finally got to see some huge houses and that is because the country’s rich and famous industrialists reside in this neighborhood. My favorite part of my journey is when I was taken in a car ride to see all the Bollywood celebrities’ houses and how they live. I saw the houses of Shahrukh Khan (his house is named Mannat which means “Wishes”), Salman Khan, Aiswarya Rai, Sunjay Dutt, Amitha Bathchan, and John Abraham. These celebrities all live in an area called Bandra. The journey around Mumbai ended around 7pm. We then headed back to freshen up and to start partying again as a reward for doing such a good job being a tourist. We headed back to Blue Frog for a book launch event – it was free flow of Carlsberg so I couldn’t miss that chance. Some more of my Diageo friends joined us and we then headed to one of Mumbai’s exclusive hang out called Olive’s in Bandra. As soon as I walked in, I spotted Karisma Kapoor (another Bollywood star) with her husband and some friends. I use to like her a lot as an actress until that day. A little girl had approached her and asked her for an autograph and her reaction was as though she was so disgusted by that. I mean she’s a little girl – give her a break. Anyway, everyone there looked like celebrities including us. It was a rather early night for us after the 8th Carlsberg. We headed back around 2:30am and went straight to bed after a full day of outdoor activities. * Amitha Batchan's house - his son married Aiswarya Rai

Day 5 – August 30th 2008
On this day, I didn’t do a single thing. I stayed home and watched Bollywood movies and constantly kept eating – I’m on a holiday. It was raining silly outside so I just didn’t want to deal with the mess. I had some friends come over for some dinner and drinks and catch up session. The buzz hits you faster when you’re at home drinking.
Day 6th – August 31st 2008
This was my last day in Mumbai and it started around 11am. We headed to this restaurant called “The Class” which is an authentic Punjabi and Marwadi (Rajasthan cuisine) vegetarian meal called the “Thali”. It was buffet except that it is served to your table. They charge Rs350 (RM35) per person and it consists of a 9 course meal that you can keep adding as many times as you want. The food was so good that we literally took our time to eat and eat and eat. For the first time in my life, I had lunch for 3 hours straight with breaks in between to digest the food. The dessert was an Indian sweet called Jilabi accompanied with sweet yogurt drink.
We left for the airport around 8pm as a 2 hour check in prior to flight time is required and you never know what may go wrong in India. I said my goodbye’s and headed into the airport. Surprisingly, the airport was very clean and well maintained. I checked in and headed to the boarding gate where I stopped and had 1 last drink in Mumbai in a bar called Bombay Blue Bar and I had to have a Johnnie Walker Black Label.
* The Bombay Blue Bar - classy!!!

* The Bombay Airport - very clean actually.

* The Bombay Airport security - very tough. Security station is behind him :)
My Mumbai trip opened up my eyes to the world we live in. Everyday we complain of what we don’t have and can’t get or what others have that we want but never have we once thought of what we are blessed with and what we should be thankful we already have – good health, good family and good life. There are many people in Indian that are happy with clothes on their back and simple food on their table because it’s rare that they have this.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Home Sweet Home - almost!

My house is coming to together real nice now. I finally made up my mind on the type of toilet bowl to buy :) It wasn't easy but I did it. There are so many things that goes into a house - so many small details that I was completely ignorant to but thanks to my parents and my brother and his wife, it's looking good. Over the weekend, these are the things that I finally purchased after 4 months of walking in and out of shops.
Bathroom sink, wash bidet, instant water heater, vanity mirror, sink shelf, towel rack, sink taps, bath taps, shower rack, bath cups, clothing hooks, etc - this is only 10% of what I need for the house. I have another 90% to go and it's not cheap.
This is what the final outcome of my kitchen is looking like. Nice, simple and clean. Nothing fancy or too complicated. I will most definitely be doing alot of cooking here but it will be for selected people only. :P It's a home you know - not a restaurant. But I can ensure everyone that this home will never have shortage of "BOOZE"!!!!!
All my rooms are fitted with floor-boards to give it the premium and clean look. Plus, it's easier to maintain. I am lazy! Yes! I agree! These floors are really smooth as well. It doesn't cost much either.
The space that once upon a time was a garden, is now a tiled-area. Lets face it - I can barely take care of myself let alone trees and flowers. Although I do have plans to have some water feature or a BBQ set built here but that's in the future and not now.
Since plaster ceiling is a fashion, I just had to get one for myself. Also, it's alot more easier to work on lighting with these ceiling - everything is hidden. The fan is just for deco - which I'm sure will come on only when Malaysia has winter.
And this is my entertainment center. The center will host a 42" TV for everyone's viewing pleasure. I'm sure Xbox would be so real on it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Buka Puasa Session in Souled Out - 12.9.08

In the true spirit of being Malaysian, all of us crave for some sort of a holiday and a reason to celebrate. While other may laugh at us, we in fact cherish these moment as we are the only country in the world that can say that we are multi-racial.
My friends and I also decided-la to be a bit sakai la. My friends are very busy so it took me 1 week and 17 emails later to get them to meet for Buka Puasa session in Souled Out. Of course, it happened. I called my friend Fanny @ Souled Out to book seating space for me - VIP style of course - masuk only can see our faces and all the food that we were pushing down our throats. Damm hungry man!!
As usual, Guiness is a MUST on the menu! I was sold on the idea that Guiness draft doesn't get you fat unlike the other beers around out there. Cannot afford anymore belly size la - everyone making noise already and making fun wor!
Yen Teng who is our event-based friend (it's not that she doesn't like us but she is just busy - konon-nya la) and she was quite occupied that night with a leng-chai hitting on her. She is now known as YT coz Mr. Leng-Chai aka Alex Sue can't pronounce her name right. Weird and funny lor - Chinaman cannot pronouned Chinese girls name.
Believe it or not - we only ate starters and finger food the whole. What I remember eating was 4 kinds of pizza but managed to get a pic of this one only as the other 3 disappeared even before it touched the table. Quite yummy actually. Think this was the Hawaian Chicken Aloha pizza.
This is spicy sausage - you like sausage!!! It was quite yummy but DAMM spicy man! Imagine - me - Indian and couldn't tahan the spice. But I whacked it anyway.
Harish joined us coz his wife and kid are in Penang so he needed company to eat. Big man now - needs a break also. Cant be always working right!!!! Had a real good catch up with him as well.
Gin May as usual - walked in with heavy perfume, make-up and some sexy top. Now she is a big-time research analyst so she must look extra HOT coz usually all the analyst look damm pariah and geeky so she's trying to change that fact. Good luck girl!
And finally, this is Vanessa Gan - she's quite famous on facebook. In fact I think FB wants to hire her as an ambassador due to her popularity. Believe me - check out her pics mate.
Over all, the night and dinner was pleasant and we all caught up with each other with very minimum drama and minimum work talk.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Night Out with The Shaolin Tiger

I finally met the famous blogger - Shaolin Tiger. I mean, I've met him before when he attended the Smirnoff Flavors launch but that was a very formal and simple introduction but last night was a planned meeting with him to talk about work. Well, when you're working in marketing whisky, best place to meet would be in a bar so it was TTDI Plaza that we ventured to. For a Thursday, the place was heaving with people - dressed in all sort of fashion statement, some were really weird.
Gareth (Shaolin Tiger) and I caught up on some Johnnie Walker matters and I must say it was a very fruitful meeting with him. We also met some really nice people in Tao.

Gareth with a buddy of his that he bumped into while we were in Tao listening to some really good 80's music which then moved onto R&B.
L-R: satheesh, jaye(he's one big dude from North Carolina), Camy and me. These dudes were so funny man. Camy is the manager in Tao and I actually convinced him to remove the Below 42 bottle glorifier and in replacement to put a Johnnie Walker bottle glorifier. The wonders of bonding that gets extended to branding. Jaye is from Charlotte, North Carolina - he was brought down as the resident DJ for Tao and Modesto's. He's one BIG dude man! His arms are the size of 2 of my thighs.
That's Camy trying to act cool as a DJ and Jaye pulling a 50cent! Again, one big dude!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My New House - Before The Magical Touch

So, after 31 years of life (yes! I'm 31 this year and aging gracefully), I finally bought my own house. I was so excited about the house, that I couldn't wait to get it renovated and furnished so that I can move in. So far, its been renovated. Now its furnishing time.
The property is in Kota Kemuning Hill (it's really not that far) and it's nice a really quiet. I envision waking up every morning to the sounds of birds singing. The occassional golf balls hitting the neighbours window could also be a possibility. Oh! Yes! It's on a golf course but my unit doesn't face the course. The property is low rise so it's low density. My block has only 4 units in it with mine on the ground floor.

This is the entrance of my house. The door is fire-proof so I'm safe in my house :)
This is my living room. I could play baseball in here. The build up of my unit is 1800sq ft which is huge for a condo. Lots and lots of parties gonna happen here.
This is my kitchen. Small, cute and compact. But yes, I do cook and so I will use the kitchen frequently.
This is the main bathroom. Will not look like this when I'm done with it.
This is my master bedroom. Also, won't look like this when I'm done with it. The unit has 3 bedrooms and 2 bath. I also have a nice garden which use to have grass but not for long.
My next post, will show the renovated version of my place which I hope will come across as contemporary. If not, what the heck - it's still my home and I love it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Friends Along The Way

I believe that friends are important. But I also believe that friends change - either for the better or for the worse - usually its for the worse though. Sad but true isn't it!
In my life, I've had my share of friendships that went sour but you know what, it's only the first time that's hard - after that, it becomes easy. You really can't avoid it when someone decides to turn their back on you or stop talking to you or decide to stab you on your back or decide that your friendship is worth nothing or they just don't like you anymore or they were influenced by others to stop talking to you or they started living the high life and forget about you or.....the list can go on but you get the point. Sometimes it's your F&%k up that these things happens and sometimes its just plain childish behavior. So many variables but end result is the same. I'm lost a few friends in my life time - some of which was my fault, some of which was their fault and some of which that was instigated by some morons and saw no resolution to it. But I'm not a sour person. Whether we still talk or not - I believe, in some point of my life, these people played a role in my life and for what it's worth, I sincerely appreciate their friendship. I'm not one who keeps grudges but I strongly believe that once there is a friction, the friendship becomes more of a cordial one rather than a "we are close so let's hang out more often" kind of friendship.
Since I've been alive for 30 over years now, it will be hard to salute everyone of my friends so will be selective. If you're not on this blog don't be upset, only means that you're a secret:)

To start off, my BEST FRIEND has always been and will always be my blood brother. Vithal (aka Kumar) is what I am today. Without him, I would not be where I am so I owe him my life at any cost. I won't know where to even begin to describe what he's given up in his life just so that I can have a better life for myself. But thanks GOD after all the stuggles that he's been through, he's coming out pretty well but it wasn't an easy journey for him. We are close - so close that many don't even believe it when we tell them we're brothers.
Next is my man John Collins - all the fame, glory and recognition that I'm getting through Johnnie Walker is thanks to John. He saved me from my "no future" job from an advertising agency where is was very clear that I wasn't gonna move anywhere coz I was stuck with an idiot boss - John realised this and he decided to hire me. Life was uphill from there with many new lessons learned along the way and with much better career prospects for me. He has since left the organization but is still around rocking the country with his consulting firm. We still catch up whenever he's in town. Also, I get the sense that people think I'm hanging out with Robbin Williams - more glory for me!!!
Harish - Harish - Harish - a man with few words but when he speaks, its a riot. Good guy but many take advantage of him. Told him millions of times to put his foot down which he finally did after 4 years of being stepped on. He's doing good now. We had some really good times where we worked before - but of course he was a Director while I was only an executive but he never once made that a known fact. He was one of the people! He's got a kid now so his partying days are scheduled. It's more like, "Eh, if wanna party, tell me 2 weeks before can ah so I can get license!"
Imran - the Australian Muslim boy. Sturggling real estate PR man but he's beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As long as he doesn't run after a chick half way thru the tunnel, he should be fine. Kid can drink - was once known as "Whisky Raja" (King of Whisky) in our previous job. Down to earth, no drama and always up for a good time.
This is Jharna from America. When I first got to America, she was one of the few people that actually took the trouble to make me feel at home. I was alone in the U.S and she without any hesitation took me in as a brother and he family treated me as their own son. I got home cook food and family time with them whenever I need it. We went to the same university so she always same there on campus to make sure things went fine for me. Funny thing is, our relationship started off with her taking the role of an older sister (although she was much younger) and me as the younger brother. After about 6 months, when I was well settled, the tables turned and she was now my younger sister and I was her older brother than she came to for advice and help. I guess, after 6 months, I was more American than she was so it was easier for her to reach up to me for help. Plus, I was the brother that she always wanted coz I opened up her life to world of parties and late nights but it was all clean and decent fun. She's now married to someone who she truly loves. Missed her wedding but am looking forward for her to visit.
This every sense of it - thinking, speaking but not appearance. He rolls in his AC Schnitzer Beemer around town rocking up world class events for top clients. Down to earth and FULL of patience - trust me, this boy has patience. We weren't very closely at the beginning but I guess over the years, alot of common grounds nutured the friendship. A good friend, faithful husband and a great father. Sorry ladies- he's taken! And yes Siew Mun - market spoilt so that there are more girls available for the single men!

This is my BOO. Met her when I first joined the advertising world. Didn't know she was married but it didn't matter coz she's more of a sister than anything else - plus just couldn't picture this girl doing anything nasty (first impression la) but BOY! I was wrong! This girl had the drive to party and be wild - more than a 16 year old. She's one of the boys. Nik is 5ft 2inch (might be wrong but it's around there) but she can be heard and will make sure that she is heard.
And finally, Tanner-Bananan! Leo Burnett did it all. The man around the ladies. Picture speaks a thousand words. Alcoholic partnership, nightclub partnership, karaoke partnership, etc. Boy's from Johor so that means one thing - maniac on the road. Good kid. Good heart. Good liver - for now! He's acquired the taste of Japanese alcohol.

This is the end of part one of my friends. I have alot to talk about but just don't have the energy to type anymore. Maybe next time.