Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bon Voyage 2008

The year has gone by and I don’t usually do this but here is a take at reviewing what a year it has been.


The most exciting part was being able to return to the UK on a one year assignment in Southampton. I have to admit that I first found Southampton too quiet for my liking but slowly grew to love the calmness of this place compared to London where I spent roughly two years living in. As I enjoy doing day excursions, I managed to go to Winchester, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and a handful of towns while staying here.


That’s not all for my travels, I manage to go to Bangkok for a shopping spree, Paris, Dublin and Belfast City with Song Yia on holidays; Sardinia, Barcelona, Budapest, Brussels and Amsterdam on work and Munster, Ghent, Rhineland, Vienna & Luxembourg on a weekend day trip. Now, I am finally settled in Hamburg Germany. All of this did enough to quench my thirst for seeing the world this year. There should be more exciting locations and sites for me to visit next year which you bet that I am more than looking forward to.


From a career perspective, I rolled out a project in Southampton, an old unused factory which is subjected to a lot of physical security control. It was interesting to arrive at the site on weekends and socialize with the security officers sharing their experiences of past breaches and also acts of trying to smuggle products out of the bonded site.


It is sad though that I missed the chance to arrive earlier while it as an operating factory as all that are left now are empty factory floors. Working here was like a weight loss program from having to walk from different buildings. My experience of working on the project while I was in London certainly helped me a lot during this adventure.


I moved on to do a bit of Service Management and also got involved with the same project in Germany which turned out to be very different. This time, a lot of the activities and coordination was handled via the on site team with me being in Malaysia during the big roll out day.


I experienced my first flight cancellation which forced me to spend a night in Heathrow. I am hoping to get a first class upgrade on my next trip. If I spoke too soon, it won’t be long before my next flight cancellation for my return flight from Paris. I got home at about 2.00 in the morning on a flight to Birmingham with having to leave for the London office at 6.00 a.m. What a tiring day it was!


Now, I have my feet grounded in Hamburg, Germany which is going to be my adopted home for next year. I landed feeling energized and recharged for another great adventure and new chapter of my life. I look forward to all the challenges ahead for another rewarding year.


Come to think about it, reviewing the year is fun as it brings back all the good memories and also reminds me of what I have achieved. Perceived


To act consistently like what have been communicated with full visibility on why such decisions have been made and the logics behind the figures and facts.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hunting Down Broadband In Germany

Trying to hunt down a reasonable internet connection to suit my need in a non-english speaking country turned out to be quite challenging.All their websites and brochures are in their native language. (Even more reasons for me to learn German) On the first week of my arrival in Germany, I started the journey looking for the deal that will be suitable.

It is really hard to get a decent connection here as you are expected to sign on a 24 month contract. A very unfriendly deal to most people that are given assignments for under 2 years. Also, I am staying at a service apartment which does not allow you to install your own phone line which prevents you from getting cabled internet.

On the first week, I eyed a deal on O2 for mobile internet. I happily trialed this before in the UK using Vodafone so I am familiar with the technology. The shop that wanted to sell the subscription to me wanted us to be on a 3 month rolling contract with Euro 99.00 upfront fees. We did not sign on with the deal as we did not have the necessary documents. This turned out to work to our advantage later on.

Weeks passed on with the office colleagues trying to hunt down a reasonable deal. The most attractive was still o2 with the most generous unlimited surfing package with a download limit of 10 GB before the quality of service reduces. My mind has been made up on which provider but wasn't too sure with the commitment of a 3 month rolling contract.

Thank god I stumbled upon the same package while I was at Saturn (a large technology mall) for the same deal but at a much better price. It cost me 59 euros for a Hua Wei made, o2 branded surf stick with a month free subscription. The following months will only cost me 25 euros and it works like an prepaid mobile phone.

The speed turned out to be reliable and acceptable although not as fast as a cabled internet.



That's all for now! Till next time, take care!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Weekend In Berlin

The fact that I am in Germany will only mean that it will be just a matter of time before I make a return trip to the capital Berlin. It came much sooner than I thought it would as a result of a Christmas Run with the Berlin Hash group. If you are unaware, I got involved into hashing because of Song Yia and did it for the first time in Hamburg.
We took a car on Saturday morning and after about 3 hours drive, there we were. The run brought us through the Charlottenburg Castle where we made a stop for “Gluhwein� in the Christmas Market. Here are some pictures of me completely under dress for the weather and run.

Charlottenburg Castle

Charlottenburg Castle

 Charlottenburg Castle Christmas Market

The Gluhwein Stop At Charlottenburg Castle Christmas Market

Thanks to a dear friend, we stayed over in Hilton which is strategically located in the city center. It was just a stone throw away from “Unten der Linden� (Under The Lime Trees), the main shopping street. We stumbled across another Christmas Market at “Gendarmenmarkt�. This is the first time I have ever had to pay entrance fee to enter one. It did turn out to act a crowd control mechanism which meant smoother flow of human traffic between the stalls.

Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt

Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt

“Unten Der Linden� with Christmas Lights

“Unten Der Linden� with Christmas Lights

After the market, we continued on with some sightseeing and passed through locations that I was at about roughly 3 years ago. (Sweet Memories.....)

The day after, we woke up early to carry on with some more voyaging. Here are some pictures taken at typical tourist spots.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial

There was also a modern area that I seem to have missed previously

Postdamer Platz

Postdamer Platz

I will end this post with a picture of Santa and a Snowman to give this blog it’s festive mood.

Lego Santa Claus and A Snowman

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2 Weeks In Hamburg

It has been two weeks now in Hamburg. It has been a fun affair with a handful of Malaysian colleagues in the office. This is very handy for group outings.


Since arriving, I have witness snow on the way to work in the morning. Experienced and drank Gluhwein in the German Christmas Market. I am sure this city has more to offer in due time.


I will be off to Berlin in a couple of hours time to join the Hash group there. This will be an additional experience and I have not been back to Berlin in ages.


Well, here are a few recent pics of my time in Hamburg. Enjoy!


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Snowing On The Way To Work


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In The Office Courtyard


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In The Christmas Market at Rathaus


Hamburger Dom 3

The Hamburger Dom Near St Pauli (A Fun Fair)
Hamburger Dom 2

Being Cheeky In Front Of A Horror House at Dom

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Ego Has Landed In Hamburg

I landed in the not so unfamiliar grounds of Hamburg. I was fortunate to have been here a couple of time before due to a variety of work related reasons. It is however different now as it will be my adopted home for the next 12 months at least.

I am living in a service apartment about 20 minutes walk to the office which I treat as my daily exercise routine. It is heavily dependent on the weather as the journey took a bit longer when it snowed. I did take pictures of the eventful day.

Well, I have not set up my internet access at my apartment at the moment which will explain the irregular blog posts you will be seeing in the next couple of days. What I will do is to prepare the blog posts well in advance at my personal time and post it whenever I have got a chance.

As for the plans later today, a bunch of us will be crashing the Germany Christmas Market near the Town Hall. They had a similar one in Southampton before I left which was somewhat a teaser for my move to Hamburg. Going in a group of foreigners, you can bet we will be trigger happy with our cameras but I am not sure how the quality will turn out to be with the weather. I will upload some and you be the judge.

That’s all for now and till my next post. Take care!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Less Than A Week To Hamburg

It is just under a week now before I relocate to Hamburg to work. The journey on getting the necessary paper was long enough and I am glad that it is now over. I am actually looking forward on moving there as it will be a good change. It will be my first time living for an extended period of time in a non english speaking country and the arrangement is for me to be there for a year.

I am glad that there is a handful of fellow Malaysians already based there and also Song Yia. It will help me a lot in getting used to the culture. Germany is famous for their beer and also sausages which I love. It is also the season for their Christmas markets which I am looking forward to.

Back in Southampton, I have started cancelling all my utility bills and all prepared for my onwards journey. You never know how much stuff you have got until you start packing. I am also glued in front of the computer as I will not be having my internet connection when I am there. Depending on how things turn out, I might sign up for a proper broadband connection as I heard the wireless network within the apartment is quite poor.

Over the weekend I had lunch with a high school friend that I never knew was here. I heard about it a month ago and bumped into him by coincidence in a local Malaysian restaurant. It was nice to catch up and talk about old school friends and life back in Penang. We concur on missing the mamak stalls the most as it is the most convenient way to get a wide variety of food.

That's all my random musings for the time being.

Cheers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Yearbook Yourself!

If you have not visit Yearbookyourself.com, why not try it now. It is a photo generator website that transforms the picture you have uploaded and turn it into a typical yearbook photo. Well, not in Malaysia at least but what we commonly see in the heavily American influenced media world (movies and etc).

After uploading your picture, it generates it to several versions by the year. I selected the above because the alignment and tone fits the best. This is a very viral tool as I have seen many peers creating their own yearbook picture and making it their profile picture.

Well, that's all for now. Have fun!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alesha Dixon - The Boy Does Nothing

This is the tune that I am hooked on to for the moment. It is from the ex-member of Mis-Teeq (So.. So.. So.. Scandalous) and the champion of UK's Strictly Come Dancing in 2007.



This is her first solo UK top 10 and hope her debut UK album will have much success.

That's all for now and hopes it gives a good start to your week.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spooks

I wonder what it is like to see yourself on screen. Well, thanks to BBC click for highlighting the website of BBC Three's series Spooks. It is called facespooks.co.uk and allows you to star in your own mini episode of Spooks. When the presenter said it was weird to see an image of herself in the computer generated episode, I felt the same way.

The website uses good web technology and manage to reproduce a fairly good quality computer resemblence of me after I uploaded a picture of mine. Well, enough said, try streaming the episode below. (It states that the video will only last for 3 months, so if you see nothing, your time is probably up!)



If you have enjoyed it, why not head to the site and create your own while you still can.

That's all and enjoy what is left of your weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Free Love Test Download

It has been ages since I compiled the last application for distribution. Something I learn in those timeframe is that one successful application being distributed can be a good viral source of traffic.

Well, here you go with the Love Test. It is purely a javascript that I got online which I compiled into a custom exe file. What it does is to compare any two names or random texts populated in those fields and produces a percentage. The higher the better of course :)



It is purely some maths formula in the background with lack of any scientific research but it can sure be entertaining.

Click Here To Download It Now For Free!

Have fun and I am planning to compile all the applications that I have produced within a page on my blog. As usual, I have not distributed this on other sites but will eventually plan to do so.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama Fever

It is barely a week since Obama created waves and beat the odds to become the first black American President. Well, this has trigger celebrations from all over the world from Africa to Ireland. As a tribute to him, I am making a compilation of the greatest viral videos in the honour of President Barrack Obama.

Obama Girl created quite a hype and in return made herself popular.



I past Moneygall in Ireland during my week getaway there when the guide announce Barrack's roots to Ireland. Here is a parody with regards to his origins.



Yes We Can - A nice tune made from his speeches. I believe it was produced by Will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas. This is the ultimate celebrity endorsement.



Hardy Drew and The Nancy Boys, an Irish band even made a record "Theres no one as Irish as Barack Obama". It is quite a catchy tune to celebrate.



Well done to Barrack Obama and he is living proof that one can indeed provoke change. Yes We Can!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Brussels Belgium

Oh well, oh well. What do I have to say about the capital of europe after a day of self guided excursion. Well, it ain't that bad after my first impression and experience with the cab driver. As usual. I am lucky to be here on assignment and what would be better than to extend personally for a sightseeing trip.


The weather was raining heavily in the morning but cleared up just as about I was to shower and head for breakfast. It remained gloomy the rest of the day but not one drop of rain. Good for walking around but not soo good for the pictures. However, after this weekend's voyage, I have decided to get a new camera with wide screen lens and also possibly considering an slr. Will save up for that!


Atomium


I took the metro to Heysel where the Atomium was. It is a must see. An all day ticket costs only 4.50 euros and the network system is fairly simple to grasps.


Brussels Expo


Their Brussels Expo was just opposite Atomium and is as equally grand.


The Grand Place


Back at the city center. The tourist information center was full and I could not get a map from them, so I rely on the map I got off the hotel reception.


Manneken Pis


Also, the oldest yet youthful resident of belgium, Manneken-Pis is a must see which is a stone throw away from the Grand Place which is the main square.


St Michels Cathedral


Saint Michael is the patron saint of Brussels. This is the grand cathedral of the Saint.


Royal Palace


The Royal Palace did not particularly stand out and look a bit blend.


The Court Of Justice


Their Court of Justice


Belgium Parliament


The Parliament


Rue Neuve


Rue Neuve - A shopping heaven. I bought my jumper here after forgetting to pack it in my bag.


Brussels Park


Parc De Bruxelles


The Cinquantenaire Arch


The Cinquantenaire Arch


As you probally could tell, my skill of being trigger happy with me taking pictures of myself is slowly improving I hope. Well, I don't enjoy travelling but myself but can leave with it on such occassions.


As a summary, the capital of Europe and the land famous for beers and waffles will be a nice stop when you are in Europe. If I may, I would recommend doing "Benelux" together.


That's all for now. I am aiming for Copenhagen next as a personal weekend getaway.


Benny Ong

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Luxembourg City

I decided to venture to the city of Luxembourg which happens to be the capital of the country of the same name. My journey began with taking a 3 hour train from brussels midi station to the central station in luxembourg. The ticket costs Euro 37.20.


This little gem in europe is often overlook by tourists and I am glad I set foot here. The old city which is listed as a unesco heritage site certainly deserved the listing. The grand bridge, old walls and valley blends in well to create a good mix that I have not seen anywhere else.


I camera whore shamelessly as I was travelling alone. I was a bit reluctant at first for this day trip but figured I better do it while I have the opportunity. Here are some of the results of me snapping away.


Palace Of The Grand Dukes


Palace of The Grand Dukes - I was lucky enough to view the quick changing of guards. First time I ever see a lady on duty.



Williams Square


William Square - This is where the tourist office was. A good place to pick up your free tourist map. The train station has one though.


Adolphe Bridge


Adolphe Bridge


Viaduct


Viaduct


Petrusse Valley


Petrusse Valley - You will need to take a stroll here to appreciate the greatness and scales of the viaduct and the bridge.


Grund


Grund


Constitution Square


Constitution square


Clairefontaine Square


Clairefontaine Square


Casino Luxembourg - Forum of Contemporary Art


Casino Luxembourg - Forum of Contemporary Art


Luxembourg Central Station


The Central Train Station


I also did took the wrong bus which brought me to the financial district and also their major shopping mall, Auchan. Despite Luxembourg having developed a reputation with its rain, the day was well although there were times I thought the weather would turn for the
worse. Lucky me.


Well, I would highly recommend a day trip here as its beauty goes beyond what I can describe in words (I have limited vocabulary)


Benny Ong

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Farewell Amsterdam

In a couple of hours I will be in the car with my colleague on a 3 hour ride back to Brussels where I will be spending my weekend at before heading back to lovely Southampton.

In Amsterdam, I was fortunate to be staying around the Red Light District where I take my evening strolls after dinner. I guess the call girls are either really busy with good business or decided not to parade themselves during weekdays. The weather was a bit chilly as well but comfortable for walking if you are well dressed.

However, it is still an experience to be walking pass coffee shops and smelling people smoking grass openly.

Well, it won't be long till I head the road and we will be stopping for a bite along the highway at McDonalds probably.

That's a quick update. Till then... tata..

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Capital Of Europe

Here I find myself in a hotel room in Brussels typing away. I was here when I was very young thanks to my parents but could hardly recall anything. The first thing I will do when I return to Malaysia is to look through piles and piles of photos to locate one that could hopefully refresh my mind.

The day started pretty odd as the first taxi I took refused to use his meter and insisted I paid 20 Euros for the journey. I was almost willing to pay him for the journey just to avoid the inconvenience of being left off the road and having to find a taxi by myself. Fortunately, he dropped me off on another taxi stand. Somewhat of an ethical taxi driver, I am puzzled. Maybe his meter was not working or he was a dodgy cab but I will give him the benefit of doubt.

I finally got into a taxi which could not locate the office I was heading to despite giving him the address. There was no GPS navigation system in his taxi and he relied on the A-Z map book. Flipping through countless pages with the meter running conveniently. I called my colleague which spoke to the driver and yet he still wasn't sure where to go to. Eventually, I got where I needed to be. What a first day, I should try taking the metro the next few days and see.

The day in the office progressed slow and it is fairly a quite office. I had some shrimp dish for lunch and found out interesting facts on Belgium. I will be heading to Amsterdam tomorrow on the colleagues car to visit the office there. This will be my fifth time in Amsterdam. The first was when I was very little, secondly was a trip with my sister, the third trip was courtesy of my ex Boss where I ventured further out and another brief trip when I was visiting Rhineland in Germany.

Also, did I mentioned I forgot my jumper! So I had to buy one off H&M today. I have already spotted it a while back and finally found an excuse for it. The weather was actually tolerable but I should prepare for the worse. The hotel that I am staying was a stone throw away from Neuve Street which is somewhat the main shopping stretch.

That's all for now as I have to catch up with some proposals that just came in. It is due for review tomorrow so I better start reading up. This is purely by choice.

Till my next post load of pictures. Take care!

Cheers,

Sunday, November 02, 2008

New UK Entry Point System

If you are a non European Union citizen and wish to work in the UK, requirements have now changed with the introduction of the points and tier system which will put a stop to over 80 routes where a non EU citizen like me can remain in the UK to work.

Here is a video from the Home Office elaborating more on the scheme.



Over the past decade, there has been so many changes to immigration laws for entry into the UK. I suppose this are all as a result to combat abuse and also ensure higher security for the nation. When I first arrive in 2003 as a student, I did not require any VISA and was issued one on arrival. I stayed onto work another year on the SEGS Scheme which is the Science and Engineering Graduate Scheme that seize to exist by now. Later, thanks to the company that I am with now and also my former boss, I am on a work permit which is coming to an end. Wow, that is like 3 types of entry VISA that I had. Hopefully, my good tax records and entries will somehow contribute to the new points scheme as I would really like to return to the UK someday.

I bet this is a normal cycle with immigration laws tightening and eventually when things are better and in control, it might loosen up a bit. I believe this is the governments way to tackle the depression that is hitting our country.

Well, good luck to those applying and enjoy whats left of your weekend!

Cheers,

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Giant Causeway

During my extended visit to Northern Ireland, we decided to visit the origins of the Legend of Finn Mc Cool, The Giant Causeway. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We used the same travel group, Paddywagon Tours.

Giant Causeway

This is the Giant Causeway. I can't explain how amazing it was to be there and you have to be here to experience it yourself.

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge, the wind was blowing very strongly when you are crossing it. The journey up to the bridge was about 1 KM and well worth the walk.

Dunluce Castle

A photo stop at Dunluce Castle.

Walls Of Derry

Walking around the historic walls of Derry. This was our last stop before we head back to Belfast City.

The weather throughout the day was very wet but manageable. I was not drench and it was clear enough to take pictures.

Cheers

Benny Ong

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cliffs of Moher and The Burren

As part of my trip in Ireland, we decided to see one of the most scenic part which was the Cliffs of Moher and unique rock formations at The Burren. We followed the locally operated tour called Paddywagon Tours which also operates a few youth hostels.


They picked us up from the Tourist center and our journey began. It took us a couple of hours to get there from Dublin.


Here are some photos courtesy of my dearest Song Yia's camera.


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The Main Entrance Cleverly Form Part of a Hill


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The wind was very strong yet refreshing.


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No hair gel was strong enough as my hair looked like it was blow dried.


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The Burren are a landscape of uniquely formed rocks believed to have been as a result of the Ice Age ending. Well, it was definately a sight to see and worth a visit if you are in Dublin!