Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top 10 things Malaysia has Given Me

September 16th is Malaysia Day and is not to be confused with Merdeka Day (Aug 31st). Merdeka Day celebrates Malaya's independence from British rule in 1957. Malaysia Day acknowledges the merging of Sarawak and Sabah with Malaya, becoming Malaysia.

People here may go on holidays either in or out of the country, particularly if it coincides with a school holiday week. Or, people flock to the nearest shopping mall to spend the day, and money, on discounts!

Today I decided to spend some time thinking what Malaysia has given me and why I'm so thankful to be living here. So here is my 

Top 10 things Malaysia has Given Me:

1. A beautiful wife and family
Horne family photo in Kuantan, May 2014
First and foremost, the reason why this Englishman is here in Malaysia today, is my beautiful wife. After meeting my Malaysian beauty on the island of Borneo, we soon engaged and married a year later. In addition to being the woman I love, she is a great help to my cause as a local Malaysian.

2. 4 sisters-in-law
My wife with her 4 sisters at home in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Get that! Not only has Malaysia given me a gorgeous wife, but the family extends to four fantastic sisters-in-law (though I hate the 'in-law' part. I refer to them as simply 'sisters'). How lucky can one guy be?

3. A family company
Our company logo
Malaysia has given us our own family company. We registered Horne Learning Services through Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia (SSM, or Malaysia Companies Commission), and in no time we had our own business. We are able to work from home, giving us the pleasure of being with and raising our children simultaneously. Our website can be found at HLS English Classes Kuantan

4. Long-term visa with permission to work

The Kuantan, Pahang Immigration has over the years relaxed its policies and has allowed me to receive a 4-year visa with permission to work. This is a huge blessing for me which I am ever grateful for. Long gone are the days where I had to go to Singapore every 3 months to get a new stamp in my passport.

5. A love of hotels
Meeting the Chief Minister of Pahang at Vistana Hotel Kuantan in February 2014
Through my blog and living in Kuantan, I have developed quite a love of hotels, which has seen us stay inside most of the notable hotels in Kuantan, and some of the smaller ones. We have often stayed there for free in exchange for positive blog reviews, while also taking the opportunity of combining our English classes with the hotel industry. We have gained many new friends in hotels in Kuantan and KL which has enhanced our lives dramatically.

6. An appreciation of health
In my hospital bed with dehydration and food poisoning at HTAA Kuantan
Malaysia has given me a more vivid awareness and appreciation of my health. Coming down with food poisoning has taught me to be extra careful what I eat and making sure it's clean and safe before consumption. Severe dehydration has alerted me to the need for drinking PLENTY of water and electrolytes, and also taking rehydration salts from time to time. Living in this hot and humid climate has created a much greater importance to looking after my health. Coupled with my long-overdue dentist appointments to correct a number of problems at extremely low prices, Malaysia has definitely brought about an improved sense of good health.

7. A new outlook on life
with friends in Ipoh, Malaysia, May 2004
Malaysia has reinvigorated me. It has given me a whole new outlook on life. It is a combination of living a different culture, adapting to a new climate, appreciating the appearance of the sun every single day, interacting with really friendly people, serving others and experiencing new opportunities. Thank you for these wonderful things, Malaysia!

8. Nasi Lemak
A gorgeous helping of nasi lemak
Mmmm, nasi lemak. The greatest food ever! Malaysia boleh!

9. Beautiful beaches
Teluk Chempedak beach, Kuantan
Malaysia has given me a beautiful beach just 15 minutes drive down the road. Teluk Chempedak beach is the most popular place in Kuantan. I love going there and walking across the bridge through monkey territory to the next beach. What a luxury this is!

10. Astro
Astro is the Malaysian equivalent of Sky TV in England. Man, I get to watch more BPL football in Malaysia than I ever did in England. There are 14 channels dedicated to sports, with additional channels on top of that for special sporting events (ie. FIFA World Cup, Olympics etc). Malaysia has spoilt me!

Monday, August 25, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

I was nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and here's what happened! Enjoy!

Doing Business - Our Relationship with the Hotel Industry - Part 3

Once we had become part of the Vistana family, we were able to do some business with the hotel. This took on two forms: teaching English to the hotel staff, and proofreading hotel documents.

As YTL Hotels were not keen on paying us money for our services, we engaged in an exchange of services instead. I would proofread hotel SOPs (Standard & Procedures), calculate how much I would charge based on our proofreading charges, then arrange with Wayne how many nights stay at the hotel that price would represent.

I taught two batches of Vistana Hotel staff English lessons, which comprised around 8-10 total months. In return we negotiated to have use of a function room for a full day, 4 times that year. We organised English Workshops for our students with a small price to attend, and held 3 sessions per day. That made a total of 12 sessions that year with a maximum of 20 students per session. So we were able to make a nice return.

English Workshop at Vistana Hotel Kuantan in March 2012

We have also done, and continue to do, proofreading jobs for The Majestic Hotel, getting free stays in return each time. It certainly makes our KL trips even more splendid!

The grand Majestic Hotel has become a second home for us

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Part of the Family - Our Relationship with the Hotel Industry - Part 2

In the previous post, Treated like a King, I discussed how we first met Wayne Lee, the then-Vistana Hotel Kuantan manager.

Soon after meeting him, we became quickly integrated into the Vistana family and treated with the utmost love and attention that a close-knit family naturally provides. I sometimes wonder about the whys and hows we were extended so many privileges, it was almost too good to be true.

The girls enjoying one of our many stays at Vistana Hotel Kuantan

We were grateful indeed for invitations to stay at Vistana Hotel free of charge; I posted a detailed and highly complimentary write-up on this blog each time we were afforded such generosity by the management.

Wayne even took us behind the scenes one time, showing us all the back alleys in the basement where all the real action that keeps the hotel running, takes place. This included a very interesting, if not humid and stuffy, tour and explanation of the laundry room, washing machines, and chemicals used in cleaning. That post can be found here: Vistana behind the scenes

Of course, I didn't expect free food and stays to last forever, even though I was giving the hotel more publicity on the internet through my blog and facebook pages. Wayne was transferred to another YTL property and a new manager, Sharon, came in for her second spell in charge at Vistana Hotel Kuantan. I really didn't feel comfortable with asking Sharon if we could stay for a night, or if we could sit down in the Coffee House and have a lunch on the house. She didn't know us. But over the years we have become good friends with Sharon as well, and we still receive all the emails and invitations to events at the hotel, including this year's Rebranding Launch Event.

Nowadays, I have no problem paying for a room like any other person would have to. However, we remain extremely thankful for the times when things came free. We still have options to enjoy free stays at hotels, on a services exchange kind of basis, as will be explained in Part 3!


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