Here’s the “full” interview with the Chief Minister of Penang!
Here’s the “full” interview with the Chief Minister of Penang!
So I awoke and got out of bed the next morning only to find that my room mate, Cindy, was not sleeping in the bed next to mine. Won’t get into too much detail here but turns out that she had gotten a mite tipsy after downing 2 beers and got a little loud the night before, demanding food and promptly falling asleep elsewhere before she could even eat it. Nothing scandalous happened though, alright?
Anyways, JD & Jack were awake already that morning despite going to bed around 3 A.M. The original plan was that we were to go for a nice Penang-style breakfast before the interview with the CM. (Oh yes! We got to interview the guy! More on that later!) Unfortunately, due to the untimely little incident with the radiator overheating to maximum levels, things didn’t go according to plan. In fact, quite a LOT of things didn’t go according to plan during this trip…
Thankfully, JD knew a mechanic friend who he trusted enough to fix the problem with the car. Timing was crucial because we needed to get to Komtar for the interview on time by noon. Plus I had to do my hair (hello! Interview with CM lah and some more it’s supposed to be aired on Star Online so must look at least halfway decent, mah!). So JD decided to get everyone to check out of their rooms ASAP. Unfortunately, one of our crew members needed a little longer (an hour to be exact) to get ready – because after all, she IS the Malaysian Dreamgirl, heheh. (Just teasing, Cindy!).
So after the rest of us checked out, we (JD, Jack, Jerry and I) headed straight to Kelawai Road Shell station where we left the faulty Sorento with his friend, Ah Kang. So next time you want to go and get your car fixed, Ah Kang can give you good discount. Beeeesssst price, some more!
With one car down, everybody had no choice but to cram into the “gorgeous” Sorento and headed to Komtar where I had just enough time to go and have a wash and blow – for RM20!!! – at the nearest salon where I had to explain to the lady that no, I’m not Chinese… no, I’m not mixed.. no, I’m not from Penang… no, I don’t want the special hair serum scalp treatment package….
Meantime, Jerry went to pick up Tim & Cindy while JD and Jack went out for brunch. According to JD, the food was terrible. So next time you’re in Penang, you might want to avoid the kopitiam located at the underpass of Komtar where the outstation buses are. Just a word to the wise.
Once we finally managed to gather everyone together, we crossed over to the MPPP office located inside Komtar itself. Unfortunately, our Star videographer wasn’t there yet.
Apparently there was some form of miscommunication – our original interview was slotted for 3pm. And then it was changed to 12pm. The thing is, the videographer was not informed of the new schedule. Poor guy had to rush over immediately (but by the time he arrived, we were already halfway through our interview). Once all that was finally sorted out, we all got our passes to head up to the 28th floor – the Chief Minister’s office…
(Ok, from here on, JD takes over the storytelling…)
We were greeted by a Mr. Ong and were promptly ushered into the Penang CM’s board room which was just like the man and his policies … no frills, thrifty and clean (too clean if you ask me … and that raises my suspicions that he might be a spy for KAOS … but that’s a different story… just kidding!).
Anyway, the Honorable Tuan Lim Guan Eng appears from his chambers not long after we had set up our equipment. He was all we had expected him to be … humble, straightforward, confident and polite – all that just from the first handshake and ‘hullos’.
We soon got comfy and started ‘grilling’ Penang’s current man-in-charge on his day-to-day life which he responded with “Busy! Busy! Busy!” and then moved on to “paradigm shift” and “CAT government”. All that just from our first question “So what’s a day in the life of the CM?”. This goes to show that you can take the man out of politics but never the politics out of the man.
Due to time constraints, we weren’t able to fully explore (and dig up some dirt on) the CM’s personal life. When he was informed of his day’s busy schedule, he seemed disappointed that he couldn’t divulge as much info as he had wanted to and actually suggested that Dilly & I come along with him and continue the interview in the car! Unfortunately, his schedule was WAYYYYYY too packed for an excursion of that sort as he was to be with 98.8 in minutes, we weren’t equipped (takde portable video recorder) and we weren’t about to drag our tireless videographer along. Dude rushed over from Bayan Lepas for this interview, man!
After his final words for our video cameras, Lim Guan Eng thanked us and promptly rushed off (apologising as he did so) for his other interview scheduled for that same afternoon with our (Chinese) sister station, 98.8. Gathering up our equipment and moving over to the waiting room of “Pejabat Ketua Menteri”, we were greeted with an amazing view. 28 floors up, you get a pretty awesome view of the sea, the Penang Bridge and mainland Penang. Sometimes I wonder why I decided to leave this Pearl of the Orient.
Having sorted out our official duties, the Red FM team decided to have a proper Penang lunch (we’ve been making do with McDonald’s for awhile much to Dilly’s disappointment) and do some major sight seeing. Penang’s changed quite a bit in the 3-ish years I’ve been gone. First things first though … the call of the wild-tummy was too much to overlook and we found our way at Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling (near Campbell Street) for some good old-fashioned-arse-burning nasi kandar aka nasi ganja.
Let’s see if my memory is as strong as I claim it to be – I had curried sotong, veggie (kobis), fried egg and kuah campur ‘banjir’; Dilly had fish curry, fried chicken and kobis; Cindy had curried sotong and a myriad of other things … so much so that you couldn’t find the rice; Jack had chicken curry and veggie; Tim and Jerry just had ‘sambal ayam’ (sweet chili chicken) but no rice – probably trying to watch their ever growing waistlines. Thank goodness for the cooling Lychee drink … we must’ve ordered like a ton of ‘em!
Having soothed the savage beast i.e. our raging tummies, we decided to check out some touristy spots for some kick-assed photo opps. So off we headed up to the land of beautiful beaches – Batu Ferringgi.
It was a long and winding drive up and with the air-conditioning on full-blast, the girls soon drifted off to a much deserved nap. Since Jerry (who was driving), Tim and myself all formerly lived in Penang, it was an interesting ride up as we reminisced about ‘the good old days’. What surprised us all was the high number of new housing developments in that area. One wonders how Penangites who decide to live up in Tanjung Bungah/Batu Ferringgi will travel to work daily. It’s already congested on the road to the city now! Tim’s suggestion for a monorail line that runs right around the island too might not be a bad idea – he should submit this idea to our new friend Guan Eng (who just happens to be the state’s CM).
Back to our journey up to ‘tourist land’ aka Batu Ferringgi. We had driven all the way up past Miami Beach (which was hit hard by the 2004 tsunami) when we decided that it’d be a better idea to stop over at Parkroyal Hotel (for a much needed toilet break) and also have some fun at the beach.
Apparently, unbeknownst to all of us in the car, Jerry was in need of some No. 2 type relief. So off we headed to the little boys’ room (for Tim, Jerry and me) and the little girls’ room (for Cindy and Dilly).
Oh how I wish I could put in some sound effects here cos words will not be able to fully describe the sheer velocity and decibel count of a certain someone’s No. 2. Long story short, it’s an experience that I’m never gonna let Jerry forget … PFHHHH !!!
With our bladders drained and someone’s stomach content slowly oozing its way to sea, we headed to the beautiful beach at Parkroyal Hotel. It was a hive of activity with sunbathers lapping up the rays, water sports aficionados on jet skis and parasails; and kids building sandcastles. It was the perfect setting for a crazy photoshoot that Tim decided to do. Here’s some of the pics that he got !
After getting all nice and sticky in the humid heat at the beach (and also checkin’ out some snake show at some kid’s birthday party at the gardens next to the pool), we headed back down towards Gurney Plaza mall since Dilly needed to get a pair of jeans while Jack and I needed to pick up the now-repaired Sorento from Kelawei Road (which was a 5 minute drive from the mall). It was nice to just be able to have a walkabout the mall and not worry about schedules and meetings and interviews and concentrate on chilling out. Gurney Plaza is THE place to be around this area so you can imagine the number of people who frequent this mall. Good news for the guys as we had time to ‘cuci mata’ … Penang chicks boleh tahan.
All that shopping and walking got us hungry and since we were at Gurney Drive, it was chow time. So off we headed to the most overrated makan spot in Penang for some laksa (Dilly had mentioned that if she didn’t get her laksa, her foot would be up my ass), pasembur/rojak, ‘muar chee’ (which is a Penang sweet & sticky treat), deep fried chicken skin (MUAHAHAHA … my cholesterol level is over the roof) and ABC.
The hawker area of Gurney Drive has changed quite a fair bit – it’s cleaner and the stalls don’t have their familiar signboards anymore. They’ve all been given their own little standardized stall … which made it a nightmare for me to find the good stalls. Unfortunately, I could NOT find ‘The’ stall and I settled for stall #79 and instructed the stall owners that I wanted 6 bowls of laksa with everything. It wasn’t till the laksa arrived that I understood what ‘everything’ meant – laksa noodles, fish balls, a hard boiled egg and some lousy diluted laksa ‘kuah’. Had dinner been laksa only, I would’ve been in sooooo much trouble. Thank God the rest of the grub weren’t half bad. Still, Dilly wasn’t satisfied and I could half feel her boot up my soft cheeks.
With our tummies filled and our funny bones activated thanks to yours truly (Cindy causing quite a number of heads turning to look in our direction with her cackling and Dilly collapsing to the ground on one knee in a fit of giggles), we headed back to the mall to get the cars and head back to Tim’s hotel (where our bags were). Midway there though, Tim (who was in the other Sorento) calls me up and says to make a detour to … SWATOW LANE !!!! Nirvana of Penang hawker food (for us at least).
So here’s what we stuffed in our faces this time!
Penang assam laksa – fishy excellence
ABC – ice cold excellence
Rojak – fruity excellence
Banana pancake – banana-ee excellence
After significant overeating (and laughing again), the gang jumped back into their respective Red Sorentos and headed over to Traders Hotel where Dilly and I left our luggage in Tim’s room (which had thankfully been visited by the housekeeping crew). It was a welcome respite to be able to use the bathroom in the comfort of Tim’s room as we had been using public restrooms the entire day. Dilly showered, I wiped myself down with some clean wet towels (basically mandi kerbau la) while the rest of the crew were all slouched over some sofa or on the bed.
While we were there recuperating, Tim hooked up his laptop to the power supply and we transferred the contents of the many camera memory cards we had into the hard drive. From the pics we saw, one could say we had an awesomely fun day. A fun but tiring one. It was getting close to 9:30pm and I gathered up my troops (Dilly and Jack) for the long trek home leaving behind Jerry, Cindy and Tim. Tim would stay on for a few more days as he had business to settle in Penang but for Jerry and Cindy, it’d be time they’d use to unwind and probably catch a little shut-eye before they drove South bound. I wanted to get back to KL ASAP as I had plans on Sunday with my brother at the F1 circuit in Sepang for the Japan GT races so tired as I was, I decided to drive home.
It was a rather uninteresting drive back with me at the wheel most of the way from Penang till slightly after Ipoh (while Jack slept) and from then on, Jack took over while I caught forty winks. Thank goodness for Dilly who was an absolute trooper for staying awake and keeping Jack and myself company while we drove.
All in all … it was an amazing trip to Penang for all of us for varying reasons. For me, it was sorta like a trip home as I had spent 6 years there and it was nice seeing the changes and all-too familiar haunts. For Dilly, it was all about the food (as usual) and the sights. For Jack … well, you’d have to ask him yourself cos he’s a kinda quiet guy who’ll only say anything or laugh at my wisecracks when they’re directed at Cindy. While in Penang, I found myself saying “Why did I leave Penang … this place is awesome … the beaches, the food, the party places” … but I gotta say, the moment we saw the Petronas Twin Towers in the distance from the NKVE, we all felt the same thing … it’s great to be home.
Friday 20th June 2008
You know, I had it all planned out. Go home, have dinner, get packed, go to bed at 10 and wake up at 6 in the morning in time to get to the office by 7 and head off to Penang. No such thing. Got home, had dinner in front of the TV while watching “The Breakup” and was glued till 1A.M. Just before crashing into bed, I stuffed a few items to wear in the bag and tried to make a mental note of the things I needed to add later on. A couple of hours later, I was aroused from my slumber thanks to the trilling of my handphone alarm which rang promptly at 6. There’s nothing like an ice cold shower to wake you up in the morning, though. And also, just to err on the side of caution, I decided to give JD a call too. You know… just in case. And let me say it’s a good thing I did too. I found out later he’d overslept.
It was still very dark and I was surprised to see how bright and full the moon was. While driving out, I thought to myself, “So this is what going to work at 6:30 in the morning is like.”
I managed to arrive at the office less than 10 minutes before 7am only to find that the others were still not there other than Jack, our intern. So I went upstairs to the office and surprised Will and Audrey (Shaz was down with the shingles) because they were under the impression that I would be on my way already. Yeah. So did I. Soon after, JD arrived and the both of us ended up doing a little talkset with Will to promote our live show in Penang. And then we were off in the Red Sorento.
Had breakfast at the Sungai Buloh R&R at the Kaya Kopitiam while we waited for the other team to catch up (Tim, our Program Manager, Cindy, Malaysian Dreamgirl winner & Marcom Executive and Jerry, Music Executive). Jack & I had the Breakfast Set A which consisted of too-little kaya & butter on a nice thick toast, cold baked beans, a rather salty chicken sausage and 2 eggs sunny side up. JD had for himself Set B which comprised of 2 half-boiled eggs, the same thick toast with kaya (he was disappointed because the kaya wasn’t the nice, thick green kind which he likes). The 2 guys had coffee with milk while I opted for my fave – kopi-o kow.
Finally the other team turned up in the other Sorento and we joined them for a while and then continued our journey soon after. But not without a few snags along the way. While we were pretty ok with gas, the other team not so. In typical RedFM style (drama!), Jerry refused to bow down to the whims of the petrol gods and decided to run along in the Sorento by sheer will-power alone. Of course that didn’t last long. Ended up, JD decided to make a detour to Sungkai / Trolak to look for petrol. Before then, he called up the PLUS to find out where the next Shell station was at. Here’s how the conversation went.
JD : Uh.. hello? Where’s the next station petrol Shell? (yes, his Malay is not so hot. Ironically, his Mat Rempit impressions are pretty spot-on!)
PLUS guy : Stesen yang paling dekat ada kat Tapah
JD : Lagi dekat ada?
PLUS guy : Oh… kena keluar tol plaza lah.
JD : Ok.. kita sekarang dekat tol plaza Sungkai / Trolak.
PLUS guy : Awak sekarang dekat tol plaza Sungkai / Trolak?
JD : Ya. Kita sekarang dekat tol plaza Sungkai / Trolak. Sini ada Shell station ke?
PLUS guy : Mesti Shell ke?
JD : Ya. Mesti Shell.
PLUS guy : Mesti Shell ke? Yang lain tak boleh?
JD : Tak boleh. Mesti Shell. Takpelah. Takpelah!
And that was pretty much how the conversation went. Let me tell you, for me as the passenger, it was painful to hear. Grrrrrr!!
So we passed the toll where JD asked the toll booth girl “Kat sini ada Shell station tak?”. The girl confidently replied “Ada! Belah kanan!” That was good news for sure. So we drove looking for a Shell station… saw a Petronas… a BHP… an Esso.. but no sign of Shell. JD’s BO must’ve been getting to Jack because as we were driving along, he suddenly pointed and went “HAAHH! There’s a Shell!”. It turned out to be a Chinese cemetery. We finally found the elusive petrol station in the little town of Bidor. That toll booth girl was waaaaaaaaaay off.
We all had to go. Badly. So we decided to make our deposits at Sungai Perak R&R. And my word, is it clean, modern and so out of place in the middle of nowhere. We were all so taken aback by the whole look of the place and how amazingly, shockingly clean the public restrooms were that JD had to take a little video of it. They even had sensor activated escalators installed, including ramps for the disabled. See? Boleh pun, Malaysia!
Along the way, from time to time we would do live crosses with Aly back in the KL studio to update her and the listeners at which point we were at in our journey and to invite Penangites to catch us live while we do our show in their neck of the woods.
About an hour or so later from our last stop, we finally crossed the toll to Penang and were at last traveling along the famous Penang Bridge. I think we all felt a little jolt of excitement once we saw the island with its high-rise buildings and hilltops looming in the distance. What was amazing was how you could so clearly see how one side was sunny bright and sunny while on the other end of the island, the clouds were dark and you could see how heavy the rain was. And once we reached Penang itself, the weather went a little crazy. One minute we were cautiously driving in the rain, and as soon as we reached the town, the sun was shining in all its glory. Very surreal.
It was fortunate for us that JD still remembered his way around Penang from all the years he spent there in college and work. We made good time, thanks to him, so much so that we actually had time to go to the hotel (Sunway Hotel), check in our bags, change and go out again just in time to meet up with the other team over at McDonald’s, Green Lane, for our first Red Ryders’ cross in Penang.
The response was actually pretty good and we had a number of participants willingly taking part in the games just to win a few little goodie-bags from us. I don’t know whether it was because they were excited to see us or whether Malaysian Dreamgirl, Cindy, and her short shorts and red patent heels had something to do with it. Whatever it was, it worked.
Here’s the thing. Our first meal in Penang was from McDonald’s. Good grief.
After the crossover, we headed to the hotel for the rest of the members to check in and get ready for the live show.
The studio specially built for the outside live broadcast (OB) was located out front in Komtar. It was a rectangular box with large windows in the front, a door atthe side, a console on the inside with all the necessary equipment, and two air-conditioners which were doing a hell of a job freezing our asses off. Without them, the machines would fail. There was even a fancy light set above the console.
Our engineers were already inside trying to make sure that everything was running smoothly. It was all a little hectic, I have to say. This was nothing like how JD & I would normally run our show because everything was so different, though everything on air had to sound the same. Things were a lot more technical and timing was key. We were no longer masters of our own show – we had to hand it to someone else to run it for us. And I guess that’s why things didn’t run as great as we’d have liked it too – right from the very first talk-set. When it didn’t end smoothly because my “on RedFM” overlapped the RedFM ID, my “AIYAAAAA” was heard across national air-waves when I thought the mics were off. Everyone in the room started waving frantically at me. So for the first two hours, there was one blunder after another. I was not a happy camper. And JD could see it in my face and kept trying to cheer me up.
Helmi, our poor sleep-&-food-deprived engineer, was having a hard time opening his mouth and giving us the countdown before switching on the mics. He also seemed incapable of letting us know in words when they were off again, which meant that everyone was keeping mum and holding their breaths because we were all waiting for the green light from him to tell us “OK!”. He managed what I can only describe as a silent karate chop in the air. Luckily Tim stepped in to give us the proper cue and kept reminding Helmi to yell “10!!….. 5 seconds!!…. MIC!!” when the mics were about to go on and “OK!” when the mics were off. We laugh and tease Helmi about his karate-chop move now but at the time…
Another unfortunate boo-boo was when 2 of the engineers were both giving us 2 different instructions at the same time – without realising it until it was too late. And again, it just had to happen during my talkset. The first engineer was trying to make sure that the KL studio’s transition into our Penang studio was timed perfectly for the next talkset. He yelled “10 seconds!” but soon after that – TOO soon, may I add – Helmi yelled “MIC ON!” and signaled me to talk. I did. The first engineer waved frantically for me to stop talking. And then we all heard my voice echoing in the background along with loads of feedback. “And that was… and that was… and that was…”. As soon as it was ok to talk, I said “Whoa… check out the special effects there!” and acted as if nothing had happened. Of course, my voice belied the expression on my face.
The last two hours fared a whole lot better. I guess we were all finally getting the hang of it – at the expense of the show, unfortunately. It was a learning experience for all, that’s what I can say. Thankfully, the day went by very quickly because of how chaotic everything was. We even had time to be interviewed by Sue Chern, a reporter from the Star (North) Metro paper. Here’s the article : http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2008/6/21/north/21617101&sec=north
We were also still receiving regular calls and smses from our RedFM listeners and the ones from Penang welcomed us and recommended us places to eat. And again, we had lunch courtesy of McDonald’s. At which point I was wondering when we were going to have real, authentic, straight-from-the-streets Penang food.
Finally, the ordeal was over and it was time for us to pack-up and head over to Gurney Drive for another quick games session with the Red Ryders. While they were outside playing games and giving away prizes to the Penangites, I was in one of the Sorentos lying down in the back seat. I suddenly felt exhausted after the show. I think I used up a lot of energy and emotions during those 4 hours….
At long last, it was time to go out and have some REAL food. So Tim, JD and Jerry deliberated on where to go and it was agreed that we would try the food over at the Pulau Tikus market where our die-hard RedFM listener, Jeffrey, along with his wife Carol and two sons, Cornelius and Jefferson, joined us. So in a nutshell, here’s what we ordered : Mee mamak goreng, ikan bakar (pari-pari!! Finally!), popiah, pat poh ping (iced 8 herb drink. Very nice. Tastes a bit like cincau, only better. Very cooling and refreshing), satay, fried hokkien mee and loh bak.
Stuffed to the brim and feeling not unlike a waddling walrus, I went back to the car with the rest of them and we all made a move back to our respective hotel rooms. JD and the gang made plans to go out again to check out the night life but I decided against going. I was beat and needed sleep. It didn’t help that I had only 5 – 6 hours sleep that whole week. Nevertheless, I offered to do Cindy’s make-up and make her look the model that she is for her night out with the boys. I was out like a light by midnight and woke up the next morning feeling thoroughly refreshed and well-rested and ready for a brand new day.
But here’s what actually happened during the night while I was asleep..
Turns out I wasn’t the only one exhausted. JD & Tim were sleeping till nearly midnight while Jerry & Jack were still awake and wondering what the heck happened to Cindy, JD & Tim. So by the time everyone was gathered together and ready to go, it was well past midnight and they headed out to Upper Penang Road – the apparent hotspot of Penang. It turned out it was a real hot night for them – the temperature of the car shot up, indicating the radiator was overheating. Not wanting to risk being stranded, they drove back to the hotel to go and get the other Sorento. Not exactly the best start for a night out to party. But party they did – with no money. Everyone didn’t have enough cash and by that time, none of the ATMs were accessible. So it was up to Misters Visa and Mastercard to save the day. They went to party at Mois – no, this isn’t a typo, it’s the actual spelling – where they played a weird combination of techno-fied R&B, according to JD. They paid for the entrance cover charges (RM35 each) and got their ice-cold Carlsberg beers. And because it was a hot night, they all had 2 each. Including Cindy. Oh DEAR. Turns out the girl is not one for heavy partying or heavy – you call that heavy?? – drinking. Long story short, she stayed happy, high and LOUD looooooooong after they left the club by 2A.M.
She didn’t want to leave and so Tim & JD had to trick her by promising her supper. They found a place called Green House where, according to the grapevine, they sell really good dim-sum till the wee hours of the morning but unfortunately, the gang couldn’t get out of the car to go there. Cindy was too loud. She repeatedly yelled “I’M NOT DRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNK!!!! I WANNA EAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTT!! I’M OKAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!”. And each time she did, she got louder. I don’t know how that’s possible. I’ll just take their word for it.
So once again, they had to trick her so they told her that they don’t serve food, can only tapau. At first she resisted and insisted that she wanted to go down, so Tim & JD had no choice but to get down and tapau food for her instead. They all drove back to Tim’s place where he was staying at the Trader’s Hotel, and she didn’t last long enough to even eat the food they bought for her. She just keeled over in bed and slept. No wonder la I didn’t see her in the bed next to mine when I woke up the next morning…
TO BE CONTINUED….