Lots of first time experience for me to start off 2015.
New year celebration and birthday for this year is at the new spot in town, Drift Dining and Bar. And my birthday celebration for the very first time in years are not at my favourite Bar!
This year marked my first time ever visiting my family in Saudi. Which is a very interesting experience and I certainly glad I decided to finally visit them. Riyadh the capital where my family are, is a little bit different than Jeddah, Macca, Medinah, etc. Not many have a chance to come in and visit there. You either need to apply for visa (which normally be rejected within days). You either have to own a working visa in Riyadh, or be a members of UN, or your mom and dad living there, or you have to be married to someone from Riyadh, or you are one of the world leaders. Even my mom’s sister had her visa rejected. Only daughters and sons are allowed.
Everyone thought the ladies have to be fully covered but surprisingly, they are pretty relaxed there in Riyadh. But yes, you still have to be in your ‘abaya’ if you are outside from your compound.
Most of them have drivers. Which make sense as you need to travel from one place to another does take some time. The roads are massive. But the traffic can be pretty bad as well, as everyone owns a car or four. I have my own driver when I was there because mom at work most of the time and dad normally do his own things. The driver instantly become my good friend for the 2 weeks trip.
There’s quite a huge number of foreign workers there. Most of the drivers are Pakistani but of course they are few from Africa as well. Lots of maids are Indonesians and Filipinos covered most of the cafes and restaurants which I think it is very helpful for me, especially. A little bit less of sign languages needed you know.
The cost of living is pretty high there. Which make sense why they get paid in high salary. We never spend less than MYR400 for 3 persons every time we eat out. And some restaurants didn’t even allowed children to dine in because they are that posh. I noticed how much they love sweets and pastries. And yes, countless number of Americans and French dining as well. As for me coming from Malaysia, I started comparing the quality of meals for every price range I could think of. This is normally my daily debate with my parents. Of course it then leads to a fall out hundreds of time but we still love each other the way we are. Just not like the normal family. Haha! In matter of fact, I am amazed with myself being able to live with them under the same roof for 2 weeks! (Standing ovation please). Haha!
Let’s move on to the next story. Malls. If you for once think Midvalley or Pavillion is huge, triple that. Everyday I spent whole day covering different malls. My daily exercise basically walking few kilometres in the malls browsing and shopping. And boy let me tell you, the know how to shop. From the very latest designers to the new and upcoming names, they have it all. The last month latest is today’s 50% on sale. But one thing I can never forget is the group of guys also known as Muttawa will do their rounds in the malls, or in their 4WDs if its outdoor, giving instructions to every stores to close down every time during prayers. They normally closed for 10-15 minutes each time. And for ladies, at the top floor is restricted and guarded as it meant for ladies only. This is where you get to see everyone could show off their designer’s outfit. It’s a fashion parade! I actually enjoyed it. I find it a bit weird but then again it does make sense with all the shopping they have gone through, at least there are places they could just relax and enjoy their purchases. One of the incident I will never forget is queuing up at the cashier counter to pay for my items. Being the first in line, I expect to be served first. But apparently, a guy decided to jump a queue and pushed my items away. And the cashier obviously bound by “men’s first” rules, surprise! Surprise! I can feel my body temperature rises. Palms started sweating. My face burning hotter than the jalapenos. My jaws started clicking. Eyes getting wider with “Are you fucking serious?” written all over my face. “Are you fucking kidding me?” come straight out of my mouth. I stared at him long enough to back him off. Then I turned away facing the culprit who dares to serve someone else first when there is a long queue right behind me. “Why did you do that?” Silence. I told him to get the man’s items done first. “You should be ashamed of yourself”, came right out as he walked away with his items. The cashier said he’s sorry together with a few others behind him. “First come, first served” i mumbled, as I walk away with an obvious ‘What the fuck’ body gestures. Just another day in the mall.
When I first arrived in Riyadh, I’ve noticed a heavy security near the King Abdulaziz National Guard hospital going towards the medical city compound close by to my parent’s place. Mom then told me that King Abdullah admitted for the past couple of weeks. Her team and all the security have been on standby since. My first time in my life witnessing all sort of armour from tank bomber to machine gun just metres away. And this is not for show only. Everyday I have to go through the security checkpoint to go in and out. And on one bright blue sky day with not a single clouds at sight, I’ve decided to snap a couple of photos of heavily armoured fully equipped King Abdullah’s guards. My driver warned me not to but I cant help it. I’m Asian, we love taking photos. Haha! I was lucky with my first capture but caught red handed for the second one. They stopped the car and for the first time I had a gun pointing at me. My driver rushed out of the car trying to explain to them while I stood there pretending not to understand and just continue mumbling in English like a lost tourist. If I have balls, it froze and dropped to the ground at that very moment but i kept myself cool. My driver and my passport saved my life! Where you’re from does make a difference, some time. It was pretty chaotic when the King passed. With all the world leaders flying in to give their last respect, you can only imagined how busy it was during that period.
I even managed to get my driver to arrange a road trip for me. I bet he’s happy i’m gone now. Haha! No more trouble! Have been serving my family for over 20 years now, I know I can trust him. Not much I could tell about the road trip as I have been warned again. Haha! I’ve learned my lesson. Some things are better left unsaid. But surely not to be forgotten.
To be continued..