Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crazy taxi!

Have you ever taken a cab in Malaysia? Then you know that it can be a hassle at times! So far I've been in all sorts of  taxis: the slowest ones taking time to stop for a quick chat with a friend as well as the smelly ones whose putrid odor seems to come from a corpse in the booth and even the F1 version running over walkways, burning red traffic lights and using the emergency lane to overtake or skip jams! Believe me, taxis in Malaysia are by far the worst I've ever seen!  Some of them refuse to take you to some places, won't follow the meter or will even drop you off on the way to take someone else to the airport for a higher fee! Sometimes you even have to show them the way! So let me share with you the common tricks to make your journey as smooth as possible.

First of all, you need to convince the driver to take you where you want to go; mentioning any commonly jammed destination like jalan Ampang during rush hours will automatically trigger the ejection seat! The trick here is to lure the driver with a not-so-famous place near your destination without mentioning the following trigger words: bukit bintang, pudu and ampang. Then you need to get the driver to use the meter. Many people have tried to design their own technic from a fixed look straight into the eyes of the driver to a threatening call to the JPJ office. None has really succeeded. The taxi driver is a hardened bargainer who will not hesitate to pretend that there are traffic jams on Tun Razak at 4 in the morning to increase the fare. My own trick: just ask them if they are following the meter. If not, just wait for the next one. Calling a radio cab is also very successful if you don't mind waking up the grumpy operator, waiting for a bit and paying the 2 extra ringgits!

Then you have to make your way through all the pitfalls the driver will lay on your road to get some more money out of your pocket. From the good guy telling you that he is always following the meter even if it means that his 4-year-old little girl won't have enough food to eat at the end of the month unless people give tips before waiting for a full-of-hope minute before handing back your change to the one trying to bargain a top-up on the way, you will have to stay firm! On weekend's nights some cab drivers will try to enforce the midnight charge while it's not even past 11.30pm, assuming you're already too drunk to figure out! Speaking of what midnight 50% charge doesn't mean double price for the mathematically impaired of yours: Rm20 + 50% charge = Rm30 and not Rm40 as funny as it may seems to cab drivers. Pay attention to the meter itself as well if you've been lucky enough to get the driver to turn it on: sometimes it runs faster than the green horse depicted on the screen! A small number from 1 to 4 is written on a corner: 1 for normal fares to 4 for extra charges normally reserved for airport pick-ups or additional passengers!

Off course you can still find many honest drivers! The government is trying as well to cope with this problem and increase the starting charge. But if like me you're tired of arguing: call a radio cab or take for the bus 11!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Who's the boss?

 "Hi boss! How are you today boss? Taxi boss?"... from the security guard to the food stall cashier, everybody seems to think that you are the boss in town! Or hum, one of the many bosses at least! Do Malaysians like having bosses that much? I'm not sure but so far I haven't seen anyone calling their real boss this way! Believe me or not but in my country, your boss is probably the person you dislike the most after your mother-in-law. He is the one making you stay overtime, dragging your salary increment or canceling your holidays at the last minute! Calling someone "boss" would even be seen as a sarcastic insult! Something like: "Who do you think your are? The boss or what?"

But here in Malaysia, bosses are so common that we don't know what to do with them anymore! It's like playing a role game! I'm your boss today but tomorrow you will be mine! I'm not sure if it's a left over of  the colonial era, a mark of respect to flatter your ego or a salesman trick to get something out of you but this bossmania is quite contagious! The symptoms are showing when you start calling people "boss" yourself! It's extremely tempting while trying to get a bargaining in Chinatown for example! It's like recognizing that the seller is the one with the power and asking him for pity: "cheaper lah, boss!"

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Malaysia, truly Asia?!

There is only one place in the world where all the colors and flavors of Asia come together: Malaysia! But for the best and for the worst this exciting diversity of cultures and traditions is also the essence of the unique Malaysian way of life! This lifestyle is made of a myriad of beliefs borrowed here and there but often hidden behind closed doors or between lines!

So let me show you and try to explain all these Malaysian singularities, quirks and idiosyncrasies; from durian blurbs to motorcycle-riding bag snatchers and executive health spas let me share my 3-year experience as an expat in Malaysia and show you all the funny little things I have come across and which make it such an exceptional destination! Let's wait no longer to start the journey! Enjoy lah!