underage smoking

Yeah, I’m talking about tobacco! I was watching this expose on cigarettes in an episode of VICE on HBO and realized that the place they’re talking about (Indonesia) could very well be in Malaysia! I’ve actually spent a couple of years in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and the trade in illegal cigarettes there is really bad.

It’s causing a lot of young kids to smoke…just like in the documentary, children as young as 6 years old are starting to smoke on a daily basis and no one stops them coz illegal cigarettes are not regulated! A lot of these cigarettes are sold by vendors with no operating licence anyway so they don’t care who they sell to.

kids smoking

Small children can afford the price of these illegal cigarettes since they’re so cheap compared to the premium legal brands. This causes health problems as well as social problems. The Ministry of Health’s Dr. Chong has also talked in length about the danger of kretek (clove) cigarettes in this New Straits Times article.

The predominant brand there at the time is JOHN (RM 2.50) but there are others like GG, Manchester, Canyon, Luffman etc. It’s usually sold by immigrants and those cigarettes tastes nasty. I was in a facility at the time and this was all that they could get.

I think I did more damage to my lungs in that time than ever before. These illegal cigarettes are not made to the exact specifications of the premium legal brands like Marlboro, Dunhill etc and some of them, I hear, are scraps of tobacco and other detritus just packaged together and sold as is – caveat emptor!

Any pack of cigarettes that is sold below RM 7 is illegal. That is the minimum price set by the government and crime syndicates brings in these illegal cigarettes for sale via various points around Malaysia. I know that Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is a large distribution center and this leads to a lot of illegal activity, gangs, and the revenue from this funds a huge criminal enterprise and there’s an article on NST that ties the illegal cigarette trade as a smokescreen for gangs.

Crime syndicates nowadays rely on a lot of revenue streams and besides the classic triad of prostitution, drugs and racketeering, the “lower risk high reward” items are still illegal alcohol and cigarettes (besides gambling) which can really bring a lot of harm to society. I come from a small town with a large gang problem (which was helped somewhat with the original Operasi Cantas Kenyalang) so I know first hand what crime syndicates will do to a town.

I’ve never the urge to purchase illegal cigarettes as they taste foul but I know some people do it coz of cost concerns. However, there’s a nationwide crackdown on illegal cigarettes now and not just retailers, but consumers i.e. YOU can go to jail if you’re caught buying illegal cigarettes.

smoking cartoon

Don’t support criminal enterprises – just like I never buy illegal lottery tickets (there’s the risk of not getting returns) I don’t ever buy illegal cigarette brands like JOHN, GG, Manchester, Canyon, Luffman etc. It’s not just coz they taste bad but smokers can be jailed up to 2 years and/or fined RM 10,000 if caught in possession of illegal cigarettes.

…and that’s no joke!

glenfiddich solera reserve

Glenfiddich is one of the most common single malt Scotch whisky there is out there. I believe I read somewhere that every 1 in 3 bottles of single malt sold is a Glenfiddich. However, just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it automatically isn’t good.

I *struggled* to choke that sentence out. I’m a huge Macallan fan, quite loyal to it since it was my very first single malt Scotch and I had it at a very special time.

glenfiddich 15 solera reserve gift box

Glenfiddich Solera Reserve can be had for around RM 245 – 285. There’s this promotional gift box that comes with a 700 ml bottle, a 30 ml miniature and a tumbler. The 15 year old is generally accepted to be a benchmark of sorts and has one of the best price-performance ratios. I first had it in 2006 and wrote about the Glenfiddich Solera Reserve which I got to celebrate a pay raise.

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whisky durian

Oh, I nearly forgot this photo.

trollface

british mulled wine

I’ve never tried British mulled wine before and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. It seems rather hard to find, despite it being winter when I was there but I finally managed to track it down.

mulled wine

Mulled wine is red wine with spices like cinnamon added and served warm. It comes out of a pot – the glass of wine is filled by ladling the hot mulled wine into it.

mullet wine

The taste is quite extraordinary – the warm drink makes it perfect for sipping and the sugar and cinnamon tones makes it very palatable indeed…even for non-drinkers. It’s awesomeness in a glass during the cold days of winter! :)

oktoberfest arch

O’ zapft is!

oktoberfest band

The legendary festival in Munich, which is a celebration of the amber fluid in Bavaria, Germany is originally not about beer at all. The first Oktoberfest was a sombre (I think la, I wasn’t there since I wasn’t born yet) affair to commemorate the union of two royalty whose names are now relegated to the annals of Wikipedia (and historians).

However, it soon grew to become the beer festival we all know and love today! =D

oktoberfest tattoo

Oktoberfest was relatively obscure except to the ones who had more exposure but in recent years it has come to Malaysia and in a big way too!

It is not just about beer (although that is a main and important part of Oktoberfest) but the celebration of life! It has been a custom that Oktoberfest starts with a 12 gun salute and the tapping of the first beer keg to be presented to the Mayor.

oktoberfest us

Oktoberfest is all about entertainment, beer and more beer and I’m glad to see that happen in Malaysia now (so I don’t have to travel all the way to Germany to experience it).

I went to Souled Out for the first Oktoberfest celebration by GAB in Malaysia and it is a celebration that I’m proud to be part of – faithful to the Oktoberfest experience in Munich.

The best thing about Oktoberfest in Malaysia is that they have Paulaner! =D

oktoberfest paulaner

If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 6 years, Paulaner is the #1 German wheat beer in Malaysia and it’s all imported in all the way from…MUNICH!

Yes, the birthplace of Oktoberfest! It’s also one of the official beers of Oktoberfest.

oktoberfest german food

I’ve had Paulaner a number of times during Oktoberfest and the best part about it is the taste. If you’re a beer connoisseur, you’ll appreciate this brew – it’s not meant for the mainstream drinkers, but the more premium and discerning consumers.

oktoberfest food

The Oktoberfest event that I went to also had Munich inspired food which is always a good thing. Gotta line your stomach lest you become a bierleichen. There were sausages, pretzels and German food on offer – perfect to recreate the Oktoberfest experience.

I’m glad I managed to drink a real Munich produced beer during Oktoberfest in Malaysia.

oktoberfest jestina

Paulaner is an ale so if you’re a common Joe lager drinking person, it’s an acquired taste. I love ales since I’ve been studying abroad since I was 15 so I can appreciate a good one. Beer aficionados take note, Paulaner is going to be the next big thing!

oktoberfest girls

That’s the highest accolade I give to a beer. :)

bia hoi ha noi

Bia Hoi is a unique cultural experience in Vietnam that I thoroughly enjoyed. Fresh draft beer is delivered daily to bia hois and stored in a HUGE container. It’s served by the glass and each glass only costs VND 6,000 (RM 0.90). It’s icy cold and has a low alcohol content (reported to be around 3%), which makes it perfect for prolonged drinking sessions.

bia hoi draft beer

I was lucky to find an real bia hoi where all the locals in the Old Quarter go to just a street down from the place I was staying at. The best thing about the place is that they’re not used to foreigners – I got a lot of puzzled looks when I sat down and people started asking me where I was from.

bia hoi fresh beer

One other interesting aspect is that office workers would drop by during lunch and grab a quick glass of beer before departing again. I think this has something to do with the American occupation and the cultural vestiges left after that but I’m no sociologist so take this with a pinch of salt.

bia hoi ambience

Anyway, they were very surprised at the amount of beer that I can drink and on the second visit on my first day, the owner sat down with me and bought me a beer. This is a friendship that would last throughout the trip, sometimes I just sat down and he waved my money away. He was interested in me and I guess they don’t get a lot of tourists coz he was asking me a lot of questions.

bia hoi owner

He also had two peculiar traits – a fondness of working ladies (which he claims he can get for VND 30,000 but I never verified since I didn’t take him up on his offer) and an equal enthusiasm for photos (he kept wanting me to take photos of him) but he’s a really nice guy. He actually saved me from being pick pocketed – someone on a bike pulled up and discreetly opened by my backpack and he shouted at the dude in Vietnamese before I realized what happened.

bia hoi cigarette

Bia hois in Vietnam is places where the locals congregate to drink and shoot the shit. I managed to meet a lot of the locals there – from dodgy people of dubious career paths to real deal old communists complete with Viet Cong tattoos.

I also learned a method of smoking which is like the Tim Tam Slam. Basically you dip the filter of your cigarette into the glass of cold beer and suck up the amber fluid through the other side. I was surprised that it would light at all but it did and the end result was a cigarette that tastes cold and you get a sip of beer with every puff.

I cannot stress the importance of visiting a bia hoi when you’re in Vietnam. It is where you meet the locals and talk to them. Communication barriers abound but after a few glasses you’ll be using a mixture of gestures and basically speak the same language. smirk

The bia hois are usually adorned with the stools and tables common in the Old Quarter of Hanoi and it’s a great place to hang out before and after you’re done with the day. The fresh beer comes in right in the morning so be sure to catch that batch – it’s a refreshing breakfast to start your day!

bia hoi pipe

I also learned how to smoke their tobacco pipes in the local bia hoi. I was sitting with this bunch of people passing around a communal pipe and one of them offered me the pipe. It’s not like smoking a bong at all – the trick is to inhale and sorta blow out the excess burnt tobacco and inhale again.

bia hoi local pipe

The tobacco pipes is filled with…you guessed it, fresh beer and it’s guaranteed to make your head spin after a couple of hits if you’re not a heavy smoker. Heh!

bia hoi me

If you’ll ask me to name a place where I felt most at home while on vacation in Hanoi, Vietnam – it would be hands down the local bia hoi. No contest.

snake head wine jars

There are a lot of weird and wonderful creatures served with wine as a “tonic” in China. I had the chance to sample snake head wine in Guilin. It costs RMB 30 (which works out to about RM 15) per glass.

snake wine jars

It is not “wine” in the classic sense of the word. There is no fermentation here. The Chinese word “jiu” means alcoholic beverage. These snake heads are actually preserved in some sort of liquid. The snake head is taken out, along with a tablespoon of the liquid inside those jars to produce:

snake wine

Snake head wine!

snake head wine

It’s topped up with the legendary “kao liang jiu” – very high proof alcohol (in excess of 57% alcohol) and downed in a single shot. You’re not supposed to eat the snake head though – I enquired about the reason behind that and it seems that it’s quite poisonous.

This is the first of many snake posts from Guilin. ;)

tragic weekend fun

I went out drinking with Jan, Sam and Shawn on Saturday night after dinner at Bubba Gump. During the course of the night, I consumed enough ethanol to kill a small horse but somehow managed to maintain my sobriety.

tragic weekend absinthe

It was a night of Bloody Mary’s, absinthe, frozen martinis, shooters, Flaming Lamborghinis and various other cocktails and at the end of the session (and after racking up a staggering RM 566.96 bill); Jan got rather inebriated and fell down while puking on my shoes.

The problem is she fell flat on her face into the tarmac outside Telawi Street Bistro.

tragic weekend face

I tried to grab her, but missed and scraped my hand instead. Thus, I bundled her into my car sans seatbelt on the front seat while I drove back.

tragic weekend hand

Thank God, Allah, Buddha, Confucius, Gaia, Sol Invictus et al that I didn’t run into any road blocks that night.

tragic weekend end

I cannot imagine talking my way out of a failed breathalyzer test with a passed out girl in my car. I think it would be a catastrophe of epic proportions if I were stopped by the police. Since I didn’t get apprehended, the damage level has been downgraded to merely tragic. ;)

angela beer

Sharing 5 pints in the afternoon…

angela flaming

…and having a Flaming Lamborghini at night. :)

138

13.8% alcohol. I stared at it in the 24 hour convenience store. I was getting some detergent after a late night at work and thought to myself: “Hmm…I don’t mind getting shitfaced tonight, since it’s a Friday and it’ll be a reward for the long hours I pulled the past two days”. It is the highest proof alcohol I’ve ever seen in a readily available beer – it’s actually “more than 13.8%”.

I opened the can, gulped down a few mouthfuls, grimaced and looked at the label. Made in GuangZhou, China. It tastes like rice wine mixed with beer. It doesn’t even have carbonation! Rice wine in China can be in excess of 40% alcohol with a few renowned brands weighing in at an impressive 70-80%. 95% alcohol is the highest proof alcohol possible in non-laboratory conditions before the ethanol starts to re-dilute itself from the moisture in the atmosphere back to 95%.

I’m talking crap. I drank without eating dinner. Supper beckons.

beer 5l 1

This is the (in)famous Hoegaarden 5 liter glass of beer available at Brussels Beer Café. It’s so huge, it takes no small amount of effort to even lift it. The size and girth of this “glass” is staggering! It holds 5 liters of the good stuff and it made me wonder…

beer 5l 2

…can a person drink (scull) 5 liters of beer?

beer 5l 3

I’ll just preempt you by saying it’s possible, but not recommended. You’ll live to regret it. :p

TGIF people! w00t! It’s been a super long week for me since I’ve been working my ass off. I’m thinking about paying homage to the 5 liters of goodness after work. ;)

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