My Travels – Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia

So in 2015 alone, my tush has been in 10 different countries. Funny thing is, every year, I think I’m only going to be in one or maybe two. Life just keeps on surprising me indeed! There’s no point in planning in my case, I just need to go with the flow.

In this post, I’ll post about the first three countries I was in this year, and continue in other posts.  Part 2 I’ll post on Monday, December 7, and Part 3 on Tuesday, December 8.

1. Singapore:

10818283_10155088315455646_2329088070445085057_o.jpgSo, 2015 began for me at the border between Malaysia and Singapore, where my friends and I rang in the New Year as we were crossing over into Singapore, admiring the firework display from the bus. It was my second time in Singapore, so this time, I tried to do things I didn’t do the last time.

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Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

The first time I was here in 2010, my friend and I went to Sentosa Island, Universal Studios, the botanical garden – a must see by the way, and then the rest of the time, we hung out eating and shopping. We had high tea at Raffles Hotel, had dinner mostly at Clarke Quay, and window shopped at Orchard Road.

 

Sounds very not Asian, right? That’s because Singapore, while it’s in Asia, is one of the financial capitals of Asia so it has a booming economy, which is evident in the country. It’s actually considered an English speaking country – a fact I learned when I was there. Most people think Singapore is only a city of skyscrapers, but there’s more to Singapore than that. If you get out of the financial district area, you’ll start seeing more ‘authentic Asia’ so to speak (or what we foreigners would presume to be “Asian”.

My trip, this time around, was more of a cultural trip, which was great. We walked through Chinatown with it’s old Singaporean architecture houses, Little India with it’s aroma of exotic spices and burning incents, and checked out Haji Lane where the Central Mosque (I always like visiting the Central Mosque everywhere I travel) is… and then once we did that, we spent the rest of our days there shopping and stuffing our faces. Of course, we hung out at Marina Bay and had a bite at Clarke Quay and Riverside.

2. Malaysia:

Ahh, Malaysia. So I lived and worked in Malaysia until mid March, when my contract ended. And while I was working there, I had the opportunity to visit 9 of the 13 states there. Malaysia is such a lovely country indeed. From the white sandy beaches, the jungles, the waterfalls, the animals, the people, the cultures, the food, and the colours – you can’t possibly get enough. I was happy to call it home the 9 months I lived there.

 

One of the most memorable experiences I had in Malaysia was when I was in Borneo, Sabah to be more exact, and my friend and I went on this sunset river cruise. We began our afternoon with high tea, followed by seeing proboscis monkeys in the jungle, and then dinner… and ended off the evening being mesmerized by millions of fireflies lighting up the night sky. Time just stood still. They were everywhere, and from time to time, we’d even catch them with our hands. I could stay there for hours on end.

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A cheeky macaque

And the monkeys in Malaysia, they’re everywhere – literally. Macaques, baboons, you name it. You’ll be jungle trekking and whoomp there it is. If you’re not careful, they’ll attack you. My friend Gloria and I were nearly jumped at Telaga Tujuh Waterfall in Langkawi by a pack of macaques. As cute as they are, when they want something, watch out! The Crips and the Bloods have noting on them.

 

What is there to do in Malaysia? Plenty. If you love adventure, nature, learning about different cultures, water activities – then this place is definitely for you. I urge you though, if you aren’t already, try to get PADI certified so that you can go scuba diving there. Worse case scenario, it’s also a snorkeling heaven!

Well, there’s much I can say about Malaysia, but I’ll stop it here and reserve that for a post on it’s own.

3. Cambodia:

Now this was an interesting trip. For the first time ever, I decided to just buy a plane ticket and just go without making any prior plans. The only thing I did was book a place to stay for the first night. Another first is how light I traveled. For the first time, I traveled with my bag only weighing 5 KG. And this trip would last for a little over 2 weeks. And a third first – I’d be staying in hostels. My friends always make fun of me and call me the three star or more traveller as I would only stay in a hotel with a minimum of three stars when I travelled (Except if it’s like an ecolodge or cabin, etc). But living in Malaysia, I’ve learned to let my standards down a bit and realized that hostels aren’t that bad after all. In fact, some where even better than the hotels I’ve stayed at!!!

Alright, now back to Cambodia. So yes, one of the things I’ve learned was that there was Genocide in Cambodia in the 70s. I never heard about it until I landed in Phnom Penh and was looking at what there was to do in the city. My goodness, it was truly a heart wrenching experience when my newly found hostel friends and I went to the prison where many Cambodians were being tortured, and then later to the killing fields where many of them lost their lives to the brutal Khmer Rouge Party. Phnom Penh was a somber visit. Outside of that, they have a lovely riverside where we walked and stopped by a couple of places along the way, visiting the Buddhist Temple and the Royal Palace – admiring their architecture, and the Central Market.

 

After two days of being in Phnom Penh, I caught the night bus and made my way to Siem Reap to go visit the ruins of Angkor. A piece of advice to those planning to go there: If you want to only go for a day (they have 1 and 3 day passes), the best way to do it is to go just before sunset (around 5 pm) when the temples are about to close to buy a ticket for the following day. They let you enter to watch the sunset. So this way, you get both the sunrise view and sunset view of Angkor Wat. ☺

So of course, I spent two days visiting the Temples of Angkor with the same friends I met in Phnom Penh as well as another one we picked up at the hostel in Siem Reap. Walking around the different temples, you just can’t help but admire the craftsmanship. It’s truly remarkable how they were able to build that in the 12th century. The temples are quite impressive as are the carvings.

I also visited the Muslim village there in Siem Reap. While the majority of Cambodians are Buddhist, there are about 250 Muslim families living in Siem Reap, most in that area. It was nice to be able to find Halal food and be greeted with the familiar, “Assalaamu `alaikum”.

What else is there to do? They have amazing markets there that you cannot miss, including the night market. Great food, and perfect for buying all those touristy stuff you’re friends and family will love.  And, they’re cheap!

 

My Thoughts From 2014

So for my post for today, I thought I’d share some of my reflections from this year.  I took a quick scareflectionsn of my Facebook timeline, and here are some of my statuses from this year:

Change is inevitable and the only thing constant in life. It takes courage and willingness to dance to its fine tune. May all the changes in our lives be a vehicle for growth and bring us closer to our purposes…

Life is precious, delicate and unpredictable. Make the most of your health and time.

Love. Love one another as though tomorrow is not promised

If someone loves you, uplifts you, and shows genuine care for your wellbeing, keep them close and appreciate them.

Not being strong is not being weak, but human. It’s okay to depend on and accept help from others. We all need shoulders to lean on from time to time.

Not everyone is intuitive, nor a mind reader. People won’t know the needs you won’t show. Stop expecting, and let people know what you need or how they can be there for you.

Patience is a virtue. Things may get rough, but truly, when you’re patient, doors start opening and things eventually work out.

When you feel overwhelmed, focus on those who are worse off than you and start counting your blessings. Gratitude will get you far.

Live. Live your life so that you have no regrets. Say what you want to say and do what you want to do. Time won’t always be on your side.

Sometimes, in trying to help others, we think of what it is we would like and try to give that to those we want to help out… but often times, it’s best just to be present and to listen… it means more than anything you may give.

There’s nothing like good friendship that expands over years, even when time and distance drifts you apart.

Promises/agreements are meant to be fulfilled. If you don’t plan on fulfilling them, don’t make them. Respect your words

Life is full of opportunities. We just have to seize them when they’re available, pursue them when they’re not, and say yes when it comes knocking on our doors.

When everyone has a paradigm shift from an ‘us vs them’ mentality to an ‘us and we’ mentality, then and only then will the world be a better place. But so long as we focus on our appeared differences, we’re always going to have problems…

Everyone on Facebook is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Never assume that just because someone has lively status updates and uploads captivating pictures that their life is a bowl of cherries – perfect and all. It may be that this person is going through a hellish time but they chose to compartmentalize their life so their life is not tainted by the stress in their life. In reality, their life is just like yours: Life – a roller coaster ride with both good and bad times. No one life is perfect – we all have our battles and struggles. A person shouldn’t have to air their dirty laundry in order for others to understand they are also going through rough times. Be happy for others, remember that EVERYONE is fighting a battle, live your life and more importantly, smile more often.  Life is too short to be upset.

How to Survive ‘Assholes’ at Work

A-holes

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A couple of weeks ago, I had this long discussion with a good friend and former colleague of mine about what we’ve learned about working at our various places in our lives – you know, the bad ones that just make you irk thinking of them – the office politics that just make your head spin (from gossip, to rivalry, envy, power plays and struggles, etc.) and the sheer ignorance, stupidity at times, and lack of professionalism.

We were naive to think that people were just like us, all coming from a similar paradigm of mutual respect, sharing the same viewing lens where you treat everyone how you’d want to be treated. Indeed, we were in la la land, singing and dancing away with the birds with an ear to ear smile on our faces until we came across a-holes** who thought they could bully and demean others by subjugating their subordinates to condescending remarks, abuse, dishonesty and erratic dealings.  And the not-so-obvious ones with their passive aggressiveness, who played your friend, putting on an innocent puppy-eyed display meanwhile sabotaging you and character-assassinating you every chance they got. The harsh reality then just smacked us on our faces and every bubble of wishful thinking and benefit of the doubt dissipated because these a-holes didn’t share the same virtues of mutual respect and honesty that we did. So then, our work life became one of those before and after moments. We were now informed people and decided – never again! As the good ole saying goes, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

It was quite an interesting, entertaining, and enlightening discussion indeed. So I figured, why not write up a list here and share it with you all, hoping perhaps, that you could learn a thing or two, protecting yourself from being abused, fooled, or taken advantage of by an a-hole.

First, there are two things you need to always keep in mind:

  1. Work is a battlefield – work politics never stop, it’s everywhere – unfortunately. :(;(
  2. You’re manager, ya, that one… he/she is most likely a narcissist. Statistics hold that most managers are more likely to have many aspects of narcissism in them. Bummer – I know.

Now, knowing the above, here’s a list of things you may want to follow to maintain your sanity:

  1. Never, ever EVER show your employer what you’re fully capable of doing. Unless of course, you’re working with the owner, and they’ll appreciate it. If not, what most likely happens, what you’ve done is now added to your list of tasks, and guess what? No bonuses or pay raises come your way, cause you’re now seen as the office *cough*  ‘hoe’.
  2. Complete the tasks that are part of your job description (you know, the ones outlined under job responsibilities and duties), and that’s about it. If you do anything more, you risk getting yourself at the receiving end of professional envy from fellow coworkers (totally not cool), or worse yet, your superiors think you’re stepping on their toes and trying to outsmart or outshine them. Just don’t do it. If you’re like me and it gives you pleasure to help out, offer your coworkers rides, pay for their coffee, etc. – don’t do their work!
  3. Don’t tell your employers how they can improve the company. You’re not the HR manager, and they’ll most likely only see you as a complainer, or someone trying to climb that ladder. If you insist on being a ‘fixer’, then you’ll have to concoct a plan where you make them think that it’s their idea. You just won’t get any credit. Joy! 🙂
  4. Avoid work politics like the plague. When your colleagues are complaining about the employers, don’t join in, nor sit there and listen. Try to change the topic or just smile, make an excuse and leave. Just because people are spilling their guts in this huddle, doesn’t mean that one of them won’t approach your employers and spill the beans, even if they made worse remarks than you or others. Stay above it all.
  5. Be the office ‘bitch’. Now listen carefully… You’re either going to be the office bitch, or the one that’s constantly being bitch-slapped. You decide which one you’re going to be. So, if you decide on being the former, be a straight arrow. Speak up and let your employers know when you have a problem (diplomatically and when appropriate of course), let people know when their stepping over your lines and boundaries, and don’t take no BS from anyone. You’re an employee not a slave.
  6. Document Stuff. You know those annoying people who send out complaints to your manager CCing you without even contacting you first and stuff? You gotta be prepared to combat them – mortally. Be proactive and make sure you have everything well documented, in writing. If you were given oral instructions, send them a quick email after the conversation confirming what you just discussed, being sure to include the time and date. If it makes you feel any better, make them think  you just want to make sure you understood correctly. Why? Unfortunately, some people come from a scarcity mentality where they think they have to play games like this and outshine others in order to succeed. They seem to think opportunities are scarce and that there’s not enough for everyone. Just don’t let them get ahead at your expense.
  7. Smile and continue being your natural friendly self, be assertive, pleasant, and professional, and most importantly, get your work done.

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*     This is a repost from a post on my blog on August 28, 2013.

**  I don’t usually use profanity, but some words carry more of a meaning; you’d have to read Robert Sutton’s “No Asshole Rule” and Sherry Argov’s “Why men Marry Bitches’ books to understand.

Bullying – After the Fact

ImageWe were there when it happened,
The name-calling, the stalking,
The slandering, the backbiting,
We saw the tears, we felt the pain,
But we remained silent in shame.

While they jeered and made fun of you,
We stood there, smiling and laughing,
We may not have said those words,
But we helped make your life a living hell,

Passively assisting them in your torment,
By being there, we encouraged them,
By remaining silent, we supported them
We were their applause, their shot of adrenalin.

We did not stand up to defend you,
Nor did we turn around and walk away,
We stood cowardly as they continued their teasing.
Ghostly watching as it snowballed, day after day.

There was a terrible pain I couldn’t express.
Because we continued to remain silent,
Standing, watching, and laughing, with a phony grin,
We let it happen because we didn’t have the gall.

We may not have pulled the trigger,
Nor said words to hurt you,
But we contributed to your death,
By being there and remaining silent.

(This goes out to all those people who remain quiet while someone else is being oppressed, bullied or mistreated in any way, whether it’s at home, at school, or in the work place…)

“I’m insecure because I have to think of what I look like everyday.”

Video

I came across this video today and thought I’d share it and my thoughts after watching it. I found the model’s earnest revelations quite interesting. But the one that hit me the most is Cameron Russell’s statement, “I’m insecure because I have to think of what I look like everyday.”

You see, this is why I love my hijab. I don’t have to worry about how I look. I don’t have to worry about being objectified or have people treat me a certain way because of my image.

Alhamdullilah, I never had issues with insecurities with my looks. I LOVE me, I’ve always LOVED me, and I still LOVE me. I really feel that wearing the hijab has given me this strength to not care about what others think of me, especially pertaining to beauty.

I started wearing the hijab when I was 11 years old in Richmond Hill, Ont. No one told me to do it. I just woke up one morning, and put it on, and haven’t gone out without it since. Because of this, I never went through that stage were you’re plastering a whole bunch of make-up on your face as a tween or teen, trying to look more appealing thinking that if I looked better boys would like me or girls would say I was pretty (and then envy me, and then backstab, etc. :p), or spent hours in front of the mirror before I heading out of the house. Why? Because I didn’t care what others thought of me. I thought I was all that and a bag of chips, and I still do. I might not be the pretties girl out there, but alhamdullilah, I’m beautiful I’m not claiming anything here – as I didn’t create me – God did, and I’m happy in my own skin. You can thank him, or my parents for selecting eachother. That’s my legacy. :p

Moreover, because I wore a hijab, I never really did get sleezy guys making cat calls or coming up to me with their sleezy pick up lines. The men who approached me where men of character; men who came up to me right and were respectful, not tryna tap no @$$ or treat me like an object. They were men who understand that you don’t have to put your beauty on display to be someone. They were men who saw through the scarf on my head and the clothes I wore, and saw what was inside – ME. Now that’s real beauty and those are real men.

Islam is a religion of reason and truth

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Islam is a religion of reason and truthI came across this meme today and couldn’t help but think how unfortunately, as an ummah (society), we have retracted from one of the glories of Islam, that Islam is a religion of reason and truth. As Muslims, we are supposed to be a nation of people who think and contemplate.

We are encouraged to seek knowledge, think at a higher level, and always taught to question things and not just to accept them as is without any proofs and reasoning. Allah tells us in Ar- Rum (chapter 30: verse 8): “Do they not reflect within themselves…” and in Al-Anfaal (chapter 8, verse 22): “Verily! The worst of (moving) living creatures with Allah are the deaf and the dumb, those who do not use their reason to understand…

So let us question what we are being taught and told, my dear brothers and sisters in Islam, and seek knowledge. Indeed, knowledge is empowering! For instance, if someone tells you you’re praying the wrong way, ask them for their proof. Don’t just accept it! It doesn’t matter who they are, whether they are our parents or a teacher. More importantly, study and read about why you’re praying and why you pray the way you do. Open the Qur’an, read the hadiths from Sahih Al Bukhaari and Muslim, go to the local mosque and attend the classes there. It’s not just enough to be a Muslim and just do as you see and are told. Understand what it is you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Reflect within yourself! And this doesn’t only apply to aspects of our religion, but everything! That is when you’ll be upon the truth.