Monday, June 19, 2017

TO BRIGHTER DAYS AHEAD

For the most part, I love life and I love my life. For the most part, I'm full of enthusiasm, zest, laughter, humour, high spirits, and mirth. 

However, sometimes mere existence feels like such a chore. There are the days (thankfully few and far between) I just don't feel like it.

Waking up is a chore.
Brushing teeth and getting dressed is dreary.
I don't want to do anything.
I don't want to talk ; conversation is mind-numbing.
Even chewing food is tedious. 

I don't want to face the world.

Nothing is wrong. I just don't feel like it. 

But you do it anyway, because that is life - and part and parcel of life is doing stuff you don't want to do.

You get through the bad days to have brighter days ahead. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

SNACK TAIME



I took a tiny bite of this tiny bar, then put the remainder into a little airtight resealable tupperware.

My colleague watched me, fascinated.
" Is it because you don't want to get fat? "

I laughed.

" No, it's so future me will have candy. And future me will thank present me for saving this Snickers mini (albeit half) for future me. "




Monday, May 1, 2017

SEVEN LETTERS & A FUNERAL

I recently paid my respects at a funeral. 

As the the wreath of lilies was placed at the foot of the cross upon closing of prayer, I was reminded that life is fleeting, time is precious, and it is absolutely crucial to convey myself to those who matter.



***

Letter #1
My nearest and dearest friend on earth, I love you so much. We've been best friends for more than a decade - from scribbling on our desks and painting graffiti on walls to climbing over fences (we were naughty kids weren't we?). We've gone through your dad's passing while we still were in high school, my sleeping over at yours whenever I was unhappy, your brother giving us lessons in accounting and economics, lining up timetables in college so we could spend our breaks together, me playing the piano for your sister's wedding, assembling Ikea furniture for your new home. We've been through a lot side by side and I'm looking forward to us growing old together. 

Letter #2
It's incredible how we're so different but get each other so well. When we go to events together, you're always content to hide in the corner while I draw my energy from the life in the room. You comically roll your eyes exasperatedly and turn up your nose at my backpacking tirades and declare that you could never, EVER, understand how or why on earth anyone would want to fly economy rubbing asses with the masses, to live with locals, trek through rolling hills and valleys of paddy terraces, hike an explosive volcano, dive with sharks, stay in a dorm and share a bathroom with a dozen other people. 'Exercise' is one of your major allergies (you would rather spend a weekend at the philharmonic or watching a play) and you can't bear to go outside without a full face of makeup and your heels. Yet it's those polar differences which keeps our dynamics interesting and friendship full of hysterical laughter.

Letter #3
I met you in my previous life as a writer - you were my Chief Editor. You gave it all up to go on to new challenges, I went my way to explore other career paths. We still have our progress reviews, only now our conversations revolve around life and its nuances rather than features, advertorials, headlines, blurbs, and copy. You showed me that there is more to aspire to in life as woman, that your worth goes beyond getting married and making babies. I treasure every moment with you.

Letter #4
My dear cubicle neighbour - you're loyal, trusting, affectionate, funny, good natured, sweet, kind, patient, humble, and the best keeper of secrets. I can't say enough how much I value and treasure our friendship at work. Praise be onto the Cubicle Gods for seating us next to each other. 

Letter #5
You started up a conversation while you were in transit through Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It's almost hilarious to think that somehow through all this time, we've kept in touch and now talk to each other almost daily - what I shopped online, your door and sink which need fixing, the weather today, what we're having for dinner, etc. Hopefully one day we'll catch up - this time in person.

Letter #6
Some time has passed and it's been a while now, but I still treasure what you taught me. You taught me that when two people who care about each other want different things - there is no need for hate or bitterness in going separate ways. You showed me that it is possible for a relationship to end well and beautifully. We're on good terms with each other today and whether you find yourself in London, Melbourne, Sydney, Berlin, Vancouver, or anywhere in the world - I wish you all the happiness and success and abundance in life. 

Letter #7
They say there are no bad experiences - only lessons. Thank you for cheating. Thank you for teaching me strength and dignity, to make the right decision, to cut you off. Thank you for teaching me to value and love myself, to never settle for being a side piece. I know I am worth more and deserve more than that, and I thank you for teaching me to step up and acknowledge it. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

BABY TALK

As I approach the age where people start getting to THAT stage in life, this topic has come up in more than a few conversations. 

The majority of people are adamant about having kids.

( I am still undecided on reproduction. )

***

When posed the question of why they want kids, common responses are 

“ I want kids because babies are cute “ (My response to that - get a dog.)

“ I want kids so I’ll have something to look forward to. “ (Same as above - or find a hobby)

“ I want kids so I’ll have someone to take care of me when I’m old “ (Annuity - perhaps have a look.)

***

What’s a good reason for having kids then?  

I guess you should have kids simply because you want to, and want to raise them with love without expecting anything in return - and not with the intention of them serving as gratification to your boredom, nor the agenda of setting them up as your retirement plan.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MY RIDE SHARING DISASTER : HOW UBER & GRAB RESPONDED

Here is the ordeal in its entirety, the aftermath in the following days, as well as lessons I learned.


Image source: vietnambusiness.tv

*** 

THE INCIDENT

It was a rainy Saturday evening in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. 

UBER 

I opened up the Uber app in my phone and hailed a ride. A driver responded and I confirmed. 

I gave Driver A a call and he informed me he was on his way. I waited more than 30 minutes before he eventually he revealed he didn't know the area / couldn't locate me and asked me to cancel my booking. I replied that if it were the case, he should be the one to cancel. He reverted that if he did so then he would be penalized by Uber ; hence it would be better if the passenger (me) cancelled. I did so and was charged Rm5 because it had been more than 5 minutes since I confirmed the ride. 

After I cancelled the first ride, I hailed another Uber and Driver B responded to my request. I then received a call from him enquiring my destination. When I informed him, the following exchange took place 

Him: Oh.. you want to go there.. but it's not on my way. Can you cancel your ride?
Me: Then why did you respond? In that case, YOU cancel it. 
Him: But I'll get blacklisted by Uber. 
Me: Ugghh, fine.

Following the second failed attempt, I try hailing another Uber - and Driver C responded. However to my frustration, the same scenario repeated itself! 

(In the second and third events, I wasn't charged as I cancelled both in less than 5 minutes. However, the inconvenience of the situation made for an extremely poor customer experience.)

Tired of playing this game with Uber, I then turned to another ride hailing app popular in Southeast Asia.

***

GRAB

I hailed a ride with Grab and a driver responded. I requested to be picked up at the Grab booth at my location - he agreed. 45 minutes later and a flurry of calls and messages, turns out he was circling the area and didn't know where to pick me up from. I informed him to use Waze / Google Maps and provided him the name of the restaurant I was at but he insisted he didn't know and asked me to walk to where he was waiting.

Fed up of waiting and this ridiculous back-and-forth, I reluctantly complied and WALKED IN THE RAIN to find this incompetent driver. Multiple calls and messages more - I managed to locate him! I nearly cried tears of relief and got into the car approximately an hour since I booked the ride. After all the drama, I thought that was the end of this harrowing ordeal and I could finally get going.

However, it was not. I arrived at my destination and was about to get out when he stopped me and presented me with a bill of Rm 15 (on top of the original fare). Turns out he had paused at a reserved parking when he was circling about and was charged - now I had to bear his penalty.

I argued but was exhausted after a night out and just wanted to get this done and over with. I eventually paid up.

***

THE AFTERMATH

In the following week, I shared my experiences with both ride hailing services on social media. This is how the parties involved responded.

UBER

In less than 2 hours, Uber had reached out to me to apologize. That day itself, the following actions were carried out 

- Refund the cost of penalty 
- Refund the cost of the ride
- Extra Uber credits as compensation


GRAB

After the infuriating experience, I rated the driver deservingly and also sent an email to their customer support team. I received an email that stated they 'appreciate bringing to our attention' but nothing further.

This prompted me to take to Facebook - however with still no response in sight I escalated to LinkedIn and also tagged their CEO and Founder. That evening, I received a call from the Grab team apologizing and verbally outlining the following actions. (However, it was only a week later that they were carried out.)

- Refund the cost I was charged for 'VIP Parking'
- Refund the cost of the ride
- Extra Grab credits as compensation 


*** 

LESSONS LEARNT

Speak out

This is also a partial reason as to why I am writing this post - more than a few people are asking me about my experience that evening and how things were resolved. As a consumer, it is our responsibility to deliver feedback in  a clear and coherent manner. This is so companies can take this into consideration to educate their drivers, who can then in turn deliver accordingly to consumers - ultimately providing a positive experience for all.

Rampage rants which go " F&$%!! all ride hailing services you all SOBs never taking a ride again MotherF*#@ers! " are of no help to anyone.

Be graceful 

As with any other regular company, ride hailing service do the best they can to screen and educate their employees. However some parties may still be misaligned at times. What you can do is to deliver feedback and let them take necessary action.  

Being a regular user of ride hailing services, I must say that the majority of drivers I've encountered have a sense of ownership and responsibility to do their job well and deliver a smooth and pleasant experience as possible. There may be a few who are the exception to this, but as a whole I find that ride hailing services provide a valuable service to the public and I will continue to use them.





Monday, March 13, 2017

MARKETEER MUSINGS

Every day, we are bombarded with messages to influence our decision-making process and actions. 

Though they may seem trivially innocuous to the layman on the street, here are some of the things I see from a marketeer's perspective.

***  

Outdoor Advertising


Image from outoftownblog.com

Tuktuks are essentially a cart attached to a motorbike - a common form of cheap and effective transportation in Southeast Asia (no tuk tuks in Kuala Lumpur though).

Over the past few years on my usual jaunts around the region, I've observed it is getting more and more common for brands to advertise on tuktuks.


Image from yp.com 


Image from phnompenhpost.com


Image from yp.com

When I see this as a marketeer, thoughts which immediately resonate are

  • Who do I go through to activate this campaign - is there some sort of tuk tuk union / association whom I can liaise with to roll out on the ground and pass activation materials? 
  • How much does this advertising cost? How much of it goes to the tuk tuk drivers? I'd hope that they benefit in some manner from working with me.
  • Who am I talking to - who is my customer demographic? What is their income range / household income, where they live, what are their lifestyle preferences.
  • What sort of brands would be a good fit for this manner of advertising? I'd think this suits brands who are in the budget to midrange segment ; I can't see Chanel, Panerai, or Maserati jumping on board tuk tuk advertising train.

*** 

Online Advertising

Searching for 'food delivery' on Google brings a plethora of results to the surface.

What a regular person sees 

" Generic result, generic result, etc etc... Hmm, what should I eat? "




What a marketeer sees and thinks :



" Paid ad, paid ad, paid ad, etc " 

  • How much did they bid to get that ranking? 
  • What is their cost per impression? (Impression = number of times the ad is shown when the particular keyword is searched)
  • What is their cost per click? 
  • What is their click through rate? (Click through rate = [number of people who clicked on the ad] VS [number of people who saw the ad] x 100)
  • Is their service / product up to par? 
  • What would be their site / result ranking if they weren't paying for advertising?





" Not ad, not ad, etc "

  • Unpaid 
  • Authentic ranking 
  • Likely to have lots of current traffic on this site
  • Pretty high up on the first page, which means a lot of people are searching for this specific keyword
  • They probably provide quality service / products


*** 

Anyway, these are just some of my daily musings as a marketeer and I merely wanted to pen them down. 


Thursday, February 23, 2017

SOLO TRAVEL: PHUKET ON A BUDGET


The waters are warm and aquamarine blue, the sunsets are gorgeous, diving is amazing, cost of things are cheap, and it's only an hour and a half away.


I'll always go back to Thailand. 

***
Most people turn up their nose at Phuket in distaste, picturing a place ruined by rampant overdevelopment and swarming hordes of tourists.

It is true that the main stretch of and around Bangla road is awfully crass, glaringly loud, disgustingly over-sexed, and in your face (ping-pong show, anyone?)

However, Phuket is a large island and there is so much else to do - diving, trekking, shopping, nightlife, eating, island-hopping, and the list goes on. 

Just a mere 15-20 minute ride away from rowdy, dirty Bangla road will take you to the idyllic beaches of Karon and Kata - or if you really feel like getting away from everyone and everything, Panwa and Surin. 

In the Andaman sea surrounding Phuket, manta rays and whale sharks lazily glide around. The harsh cliffs and dense foliage of hundreds of uninhabited islands with beautiful pristine beaches are perfect for daytripping, sunbathing, and snorkelling. 

Another upside is the cheap, cheap prices (if you know where to look). I recently spent a week in Phuket. Here is a breakdown of how much it cost me

Accommodation for one week: MYR 104 /  USD 23
Expenses for one week (massages, shopping, food, transportation): MYR 600 / USD 135
Flight both ways (Kuala Lumpur): MYR 190 / USD 43

Grand total (flights, expenses, and accommodation): MYR 894 / USD 201

I've not included diving in my cost as this is a subjective activity (not everyone dives).

Here is my one-week itinerary for Phuket on a budget.

***
Day 1 (4 Feb, Saturday)

Afternoon: Arrive in Phuket. Airport minibus to Patong (180 bht one way). Check in to hostel link HERE (Full Stop Hostel Patong)

Review of hostel - I stayed in the 6-bed dorm at 140 baht per night. Good WiFi, strong air-conditioning, clean showers, and each bed has their own charging sockets and reading light. Quite a distance to the main area (approx. 2km to the markets, restaurants, beach, but best value for money in Phuket). It is up north on the quieter side of Patong, so the plus points are crowd-free beaches and a peaceful sleep.


Evening: Window shopping, dinner, and massage (300 bht at That's Siam Massage Parlour) in Jungceylon Shopping Mall 



Street vendors selling mango sticky rice.



Sunset by the beach, just before it started raining.


Bangla road and the famous ladyboys.

***
Day 2 (5 Feb, Sunday)

Morning til afternoon: Diving in Racha Islands (3900 bht per day)

Evening: Dinner at night market, full body Thai oil massage, sightseeing in Bangla Road.



Pre-dive buffet breakfast on the boat.



Racha Noi island.


Racha Noi.



On the dive deck just before getting into the water. There was a manta ray floating around the vicinity - others in our group spotted it but not me! *cries*

***
Day 3 (6 Feb, Monday)

Morning: Breakfast Thai Red Milk Tea (20 bht) and grilled chicken (60 bht for quarter chicken) 

Afternoon: Public bus to Phuket town (30 bht one way). Walking and sight seeing in Phuket town.

Evening: Dinner and window shopping in Patong



Breakfast before heading out to explore town.



Trying to con me into sharing my meal.


Avoid tuk-tuks or taxis because they're expensive and a ripoff starting at 500 baht. Take the public bus at a maximum rate of 30 baht.

Got to Old Phuket Town and walked about wandering.


Old doorways.



Colourful shophouses.



Street murals.


More interesting street murals.

***
Day 4 (7 Feb, Tuesday)

Morning: Breakfast (same as day 3)

Afternoon: Pickup by Tour East Thailand for Phuket walking and sightseeing tour to Karon and Kata viewpoints, Big Buddha, Wat Chalong, Phuket old town, Cashew Nut Factory, Jewellery Factory (Cost of tour = USD 9 link HERE [Phuket Half Day Tour]) 

Review of tour - very good, excellent value for money. You can request your guide to go to Big Buddha with an add on 300 baht as it is not included in the original itinerary.


Evening: Tom yum in local roadside coffeeshop (100 bht)



Karon viewpoint



Kata viewpoint.



Ornate window frames in Wat Cha Long.



Wat Cha Long.



Big Buddha.

***

Day 5 (8 Feb, Wednesday)

Morning: Breakfast (same as day 3 and 4)

Afternoon: Public bus to Kathu waterfall. Bus dropoff on main road, self-guided trek with Google maps. (Cost of bus = 25 bht one way. Admission to waterfall = free)

Evening: Catch beach sunset, Thai full body oil massage, dinner in Chinatown. 



Entrance of waterfall.


First tier.



Second tier.



Ice cold water.


Ending the day with this glorious sunset.

***
Day 6 (9 Feb, Thursday)

Morning til afternoon: Diving in Phi Phi islands (3900 bht per day)

Evening: Dinner and window shopping in Banzaan Night Market



Saw a leopard shark sleeping in the sand, was a good dive.

***


Day 7 (10 Feb, Friday)

Morning: Breakfast (tom yum in local coffeeshop 100 baht, thai milk tea 20 baht)

Afternoon: Minibus to airport (180 bht)

Evening: Back in KL. 




***

Additional notes:


  • Photos all taken with a Huawei Honor 5C by hostel mates, dive buddies, or whichever random strangers who happen to be standing around (such is the life of a solo traveller).
  • Number of massages had during this trip: 3 Thai full body oil massages (average cost per massage = 250 thb)
  • Shopping on this trip: 3 bikinis, one formal evening dress.