Monday, March 30, 2009

Messages From Nowhere - Roaming Services in Asia

Just before dusk, Secunderabad, India.

ONE OF THE MORE AMUSING things that I enjoy during my solitary journeys all over Asia is receiving "roaming welcomes" and reminders upon entry into a country, which is a very welcome occurrence. This signifies that my lifeline back home is working – and it makes me feel safe; I have an avenue to make calls and receive messages. During these travels, I have succeeded in collecting some of these messages. Some are introductory messages. Others are useless text ads! Whenever I cross a land border, my next concern after having to deal with the immigration would be that particular anonymous roaming message, reassuring me that I am still within the realm of the civilized world – and within reach from my country.

In this special post, are some of these roaming messages from the different countries in Asia. Some are as banal as invitations to discounted shops; others are information on
where wifi services are available; of which restaurants and bars are having special events for tourists. In India, movement out of and into the different states - in trains or buses - are precisely demarcated by these roaming messages. It’s like arriving into a different country altogether. Crossing the border from Phnom Penh to Vietnam also has specific roaming activation. Just 5 to 10 minutes after your bus leaves the border, you get a roaming salutation. Even the communication airwaves are aware of borders – and I find this very interesting! Borders crossing the airwaves!

Snoozin Putrajaya!

In India, these messages will provide address and contact numbers of the local Philippine Embassy, if in case you would need the services of your Embassy. In Indonesia, they provide you with a local number that you can temporarily use as your own while roaming in, say, Jakarta.

I am particularly glad to post this, as it would decongest my phone’s inbox, and for some reason, someone out there may be able to use the information provided herewith. Enjoy your ruminations - and safe travels to everyone!

Scurrying around, watching over - this is the Eye in the Sky.

Boat family, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

DTAC - Welcome to Thailand! Stay with DTAC, a member of AMI allianceto enjoy caller ID, GPRS, MMS, as you do at home. Call 1678 for assistance and 112 for emergency.

DiGi - DiGi welcomes you to Malaysia, we wish you a pleasant stay!

MAXIS - Welcome to Malaysia. Maxis hopes you will have a pleasant stay. If you need a taxi, please dial *8294 or key in *TAXI and press

818 XL - XL provides you an automatic local number - +6281908514174 -free incoming call to this number, allow you to accept calls and MMS endlessly. Info: +622157959818

INDOSAT - Enjoy your stay in Indonesia with Indosat network and get a special tariff to call your fellow roamers in Indonesia by dialing #0

Change of hands, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.


Philippines basically shares roaming charges between 2 major networks: Smart Communications and Globe Lines. Like the other countries, your roaming will alternately switch every half day or so between these 2 major companies.

SMART - For seamless SMS service, please ensure your SMSC address is +639180000101. To check, just go to your phone settings and select message center no.

BANGALINK - Dear Smart roamer. call 2727 to get travel related information, anew feature of Yellow Pages Directory Service. Thank you for using Bangalink. number - +8801911304122

WARID - Dear Smart subscriber, Warid welcomes you to Bangladesh. Stay connected with Warid to experience the best networdk at the most affordable call charges.

WARID - Dial 786 or +8801678600786 for updated currency rate. Thank you for roaming with Warid.

WARID - Dear subscriber, For any emergency, please dial the Philippine Embassy at 029891590. Thank you for roaming with Warid.

WARID - Dear Smart roamer, Stay in Warid network (BGD 07) and enjoy 10% discountat our nominated restaurants and shops. You will receive SMS upon your usage.

GRAMEEN Phone - Dial 2007 for your updated currency exchange rate. Dial 2222 for news update. For any assistance, dial 121.

GRAMEEN Phone - Dear Smart subscriber, Grameen Phone welcomes you to Bangladesh. the number of the Philippine Embassy in Dhaka is 02-9881578. For any assistance, dial 121 - 880170000123

AKTELWSMS - Use AKTEL Virtual Local Number (VLN) to call within Bangladesh @the lowest rates. Please call +8801819232477 to register. Experience the best networkof Bangladesh.

DiGi - For more travel info, contact Tourism Malaysia @ 1300885050. Stay with DiGi for the hottest IDD and roam rates in town.

Hyderabad spires. Haha!

VODAFONE: (In Tagalog) Welcome sa HK! Enjoy Smart Tone - Vodafone quality GSM DualBand network! Local calls: itawag lang ang (just call the) HK phone no. Para sa (For) IDD: press (+)(country code)(area code)(

THAILAND - Bangkok
AIS - Welcome, Globe subscriber. You are entitled to a 20% discount at southeast asia's largest shopping center Centralworld. (Thanks to Carlo G for this entry.)

Fragment of a skyline, Shah Alam, Malaysia.

AIRTEL - Airtel wishes you a pleasant stay in Uttar Pradesh (UP). For assistance, kindly call 9935012345. Your Philippine Embassy number in Uttar Pradesh is 0222024792.

VODAFONE - Hello. Have a pleasant stay . The customer care number of Airtel Rajasthan is 919829012345 and the Vodafone Care no. in Kolkata is +919830098300. Happy to help.

VODAFONE - Hello. Have a pleasant stay. Vodafone Care in Rajasthan is +919828098280, in Kolkata is +919830098300. Stay connected to Vodafone to access emails, surf the internet, use GPRS and MMS service on your Blackberry, data Cards or GPRS enabled devises. Happy to help.

Bag peddler in Secunderabad.

AIRTEL - Airtel wishes you a pleasant stay. For assistance, call 9829012345. Your Philippine Embassy number is +911126889091.

AIRTEL - In Rajasthan, stay only on Airtel! Make calls or use data on Airtel/Oasis Network and take back home a beautiful RAJASTHANI MEMENTO for your loved ones. T&C Apply.

As my train was getting near Delhi:
AIRTEL - Airtel Rajasthan wishes you a pleasant journey! Looking forward to your next visit

IDEA - IDEA slashes its roaming rates! Now enjoy local outgoing and incoming calls at 1 rupee/min and STD at 1.50 rupees/minute while roaming. Be in touch with your loved ones when away from home. Happy roaming! IDEA Rajasthan Helpline is +919887012345.

VODAFONE - Hello. Have a pleasant stay. Customer care of IDEA Gujarat is 919824012345; in Kolkata is +919830098300. Stay connected to Vodafone to access emails, surf the internet, , use GPRS and MMS services on your Blackberry, data Cards and GPRS enabled devices. happy to help.

VODAFONE - Hello! Welcome to Gujarat! the Philippine Embassy can be reached at +911124101120, 26889091. Access your voice mail and other services just like you do at home. for any assistance, call +919825098250 ande we'll be happy to help.

As usual, a very friendly child at the Golconda Fort near Hyderabad.

VODAFONE - Hello. You are roaming on Vodafone Rajasthan. Enjoy reduced callrates on all networks except Airtel: Local: Rs1.00, STD:Rs1.50, Incoming: Rs1.00, Outward.


Texting in India is an expensive preoccupation. It will cost you about 3.45 rupees (almost PhP3.50) per text message. Moreover, the person you shall be texting will also be charged a certain fee, thus affecting a double billing. Since per-call rate is just in the vicinity of 1.50 rupees, then "calling" is more cost-efficient than texting.

A boat house, Mekong River, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

VODAFONE - Hello! You are roaming on Vodafone Delhi. Enjoy reduced call rates on Vodafone Delhi. Enjoy reduced phone rates on allnetworks except Airtel. local: Rs 1.00, STD: Rs 1.50, incoming; Rs 1.00, Outgoing SMS: 3,45. Call rates on Airtel networks: Local: Rs 1.40, STD: Rs 2.40, Incoming: Rs 1.75, Outgoing SMS: 3.45. For details visit (some text missing - ang haba kasi - hehe).

Bright "billboards" in Hyderabad, south india, Andhra Pradesh.

INDIA - MAHARASHTRA (where Mumbai is)
VODAFONE - Hello! You are roaming on Vodafone Maharashtra. Enjoy reduced call rates on all networks except Airtel.

Train bound for Klang, Malaysia. If you're going to Shah Alam, this is also the same train to take.


MAXIS - Welcome to Malaysia. Maxis hopes you will have a plesant stay. if you need a taxi, please dial *8294 or key in *TAXI and press .

For some reason, I wasn't able to save my Lao roaming messages, but their service was good. There were less messages floating around during my month-long stay, most probably coz there's not a lot of telecom companies competing.

Damsen Park, Saigon, Vietnam


With the prodding of my friend, an Indian doctor I met and crossed the border with from Bangladesh to India's Haridashpur border, I purchased an Indian SIM Card. To do this, you need a passport photo and an application form. This whole process is a well documented procedure and will take about an hour to complete (you have to come back for your sim card). Once you have it, you can refill or recharge (they use those terms instead of reload).

It is important to remember which state you bought your SIM from. As I moved from one state to another, I had to keep reloading my Indian SIM. Everytime I do, I had to inform them of the origin of my sim (the state from where I bought my sim) - which was Kolkata, the main city of Uttar Pradesh state. Now here's the problem: it turns out that this Indian SIM cannot receive any text message from Manila, so i used it basically to call people within India and back home in the Philippines. The international text messaging wasn't working at all! I had to tediously switch back to my Philippine SIM every so often to retrieve messages. I should have brought a separate phone with me for my Philippine SIM, and another for my Indian SIM. Validity of an Indian SIM is 1 year. Another annoying feature of Indian SIM cards is the way they would ring several times in a day. Thinking it would be a friend or family who's calling, I'd take the call only to listen to a Hindi song! This resulted to a greatly diminished load - because of spam calls and messages! Indian telecoms are notorious for these piranha services! And how does one really avoid it? What if it was an emergency call from a friend of family?


Since each purchase of an Indian SIM is duly registered with the authorities, criminal use of such phones is easier to follow. This was what the Philippine government wanted to implement a few years back but it smacked of inter-agency abuse, with the government policing your intimate moments. Looking back, this registry didn't help the Indian authorities stop the horrific Mumbai terror attacks. However, they were able to trace the Indian guy who sold the Indian SIM used by the terrorist! Kawawang tindero (poor sim vendor)!


Now here is one country whose political shenanigans don't encourage roaming services. If you consider your phone as your lifeline to your family and friends back home - to your country of origin, then consider it cut off for the duration of your stay in Myanmar (Burma). You will be on your own. Internet cafes have sprouted in Yangon and Mandalay, so emails can be sent although connectivity and speed are still allegedly sketchy. Most mail services are blocked but I'd usually use log in through the wap addresses - not the usual log ins. These days, tourists are allowed to purchase a Myanmar sim card worth $20 which can be used for calls (outward and incoming). However, texting I believe isn't possible at the moment.

CuChi Tunnels, Tay Ninh, Vietnam

Friday, March 27, 2009

Unsung Heroes and the National Monument - Kuala Lumpur

A ten-ringgit taxi faretook me from the Petaling area (Chinatown) to the winding streets and lush greenery of Jalan Parlimen, in southwest Kuala Lumpur. Though it was a relatively short ride, I got the feeling it was taking me farther away from the bustling metropolis. I basked in the warm but gentle balm of the morning sun as visions of a very clean city slide past before me.

What initially greeted me was a
sculpture park at the foot of the hill – which we shall feature in the next few days. The aforementioned park even had a Philippine entry, though run-down and falling to pieces. It is easy to see why this whole southwest area is a personal favorite. The throng of backpackers that congest Jalan Alor and Bukit Bintang seem unaware of the existence of this part of the city, thus I was practically left to wander the area.

After enjoying the sculpture park, I leisurely trotted up the flight of steps that lead to the hill, a sprawling memento of Malaysian patriotism and courage.


Tugu Negara – more popularly called “National Monument” – commemorates the unsung heroes of the country during its struggle against the Japanese colonizers during World War II and the
Malayan Emergency, which stretched for more than a decade (1948-1960). Situated southwest of Kuala Lumpur, the bronze monument depicts soldiers hoisting the Malaysian Flag - the Jalur Gemilang, symbolizing the courage and sacrifice of those who fought for freedom!


The present structure is just one of several incarnations that seek to honor the Malay heroes. This latest structure was constructed and designed by Austrian sculptor
Felix de Weldon, the same one responsible for the famed USMC War Memorial in Virginia, United States. Granite based and standing 49.21 feet tall (15 meters), the bronze sculpture bears inscriptions in English with Roman script as well as Malay-Jawi script – “"Dedicated to the heroic fighters in the cause of peace and freedom, May the blessing of Allah be upon them".

Every day at dusk, a soldier raises the national flag and lowers it at dawn.

Getting In and Out: On Taxis and the Pests

I shall suggest that any visit to the
National Monument should be done early in the day. I find this time of day of certain advantage in dealing with the pesky taxi drivers. They easily agree to a fixed 10-ringgit rate if you ask early in the day. My brother recently visited the area this March – upon my prodding, of course, and as per his penchant to oversleep; he got to the park well close to midday. Result: he had to exasperatingly skip 6 taxis who wouldn’t agree on a 10-ringgit fare ($2.80 or PhP133.60) from Bukit Nintang to Jalan Parlimen. After spending 30 minutes haggling, he finally agreed to a 20-ringgit fare ($5.53 or PhP267.15).

Getting out is even trickier. Of course you have to spend a good part of the day walking around, checking out the other adjoining areas: the Lake Gardens, the Bird Park, the Putterfly Park, the Hibiscus Garden, the Orchid Park, the Police Museum, etc. Your possible departure would be from
the Bird Park or the Orchid Garden. Unless you prefer to take my route and brave a strenuous walk through winding by-ways of the Lake Gardens until you find KL Sentral, then you have to take another taxi out. These drivers will only agree to take you to the nearby KL Sentral (again- ridiculous)!

Entrance feenone

Visiting Hours
7AM to 6PM

This cenotaph is one of the first of the National Monuments situated at the back of the present structure, where the Park Tugu Negara entrance is.

Back entrance of the Tugu Negara - the Park!

The steps from the hilly side entrance leading to the front of the monument facing Jalan Parlimen.

If you prefer nature's flora, a bit of the sun, and vast open spaces in your visits, instead of the concrete jungle, then the Eye in the Sky strongly recommends that you visit the National Monument and its adjoining area!

Please visit here for more photos:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Images From the Hill - KL National Monument : An Introduction

Here are chosen images that explain why KL’s National Monument is among my favorite places in the city. Words become less of a requisite when images convey an opulent will-o’-the-wisp. And this is the Eye in the Sky.

Hmmm... where do I start?

Entrance fee - zero

Full Feature, Text and Photos on my visit to the National Monument aka Tugu Negara:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

KL Lake Gardens and Finding KL Sentral

“91.6 hectares of undulating greenery.”

This is the lush Lake Gardens, which is built around an artificial lake. This is also Kuala Lumpur’s most popular park, although there were just a few souls walking about during my visit. The park - locally called Taman Tasik Perdana - dates back to the 1880s.

It is easier to start your way from the National Monument, cross
Jalan Parlimen, then stroll through Jalan Cinderwasih. As I’ve earlier mentioned, you have to be a little cautious from a good number of wild monkeys lingering along Cinderwasih.

My visit to the Lake Gardens was a literal “passing along”. I was looking for a taxi that could take me back to Berjaya Times Square, but every single taxi refused unless my destination was KL Sentral – KL’s central hub of trains and transport. For Pete’s sake, I was thinking, I am taking a taxi so I can directly go where I wanted to go - NOT to be taken to a train station! The idea was just plain ridiculous to me! But you know how greedy taxi drivers are, regardless of whether you’re in NYC, Berlin, Manila or London. As I have said before, taxi drivers are the bane of metropolitan existence. They are wolves! Nuf said!

So – I walked! And walked! I saw a couple of museums, the Planetarium. The sun was up but it was an acceptable day so far! I saw a concrete structure by the road side where I sat for about 15 minutes, watching the few cars pass by! I didn’t exactly know where I was. But my mind was working over time.
Matigas ang ulo ko eh! And I refused to take a taxi that will only take me to the KL Sentral which, as far as I know, was nearby!

Why not walk my way towards KL Sentral ?

I finally saw someone. I asked!
“Can you please tell me how to find KL Sentral?” He was a tall Malaysian, looking bored and waiting for something. I was instructed to jump over a wall through an area of greenery. A park, maybe? Though there were doubts in my mind, I found the resolve to do as I was told. Heck! There’s always a place for a little adventure! The instruction was, “Go through the walls, then walk through the waving path. Pass through a lake, then you will find a tunnel. Walk through the tunnel, then you will see skyscrapers. Follow that path. That’s where KL Sentral is.”

A minute later, I was jumping at walls. Walking by my lonesome, on a deserted place, sent shivers down my spine. Not a moment later, I encountered a jogger! I peeped through the shrubs and what welcomed me was the
wide expanse of a placid lake. Wow! From a distance, there was a solo fountain spurting a gush! A guy was canoeing around it! Birds of paradise rose by the lake side, and I felt like a peeping tom standing behind the bush!

It was beautiful!

I looked behind me, until I saw a
dark tunnel. I carefully checked what was under that dark tavern. It was really a short walk through a kaleidoscope of colors, but it somehow felt a bit of a risk. Oh well. I was internalizing my karate chops, and my hawk’s vision was on alert!
Phooey! I walked through the tunnel, until I found myself at the other end of it, and I saw wonderfully coiffed grounds. Some 50 meters or so, stood tall humongous buildings. I looked around and I was alone. I walked further and crossed a busy highway, skipped some road blocks, until I reached the concrete jungle that’s the KL Sentral! Wow! Isn’t this amazing? And I’m strictly on rhetorics!

Nothing less tha idyllic...

On photo, this secluded tunnel doesn't look menacing at all! It's different though when you are on your own!

A pond welcomes you from the tunnel... and an unoccupied building!

Fast Facts:

The Lake Gardens is open daily, free of charge, from 9 AM to 6 PM, although I’d suggest taking necessary precautions in secluded areas just to be on the safe side. From Bukit Bintang or KLCC-Petronas Towers, you can take a taxi – agree on a price first – and peg it at 15 ringgit, although during peak season (summer), most taxi drivers would ask for 20 ringgit one way, which is ridiculous! Haggle hard!

Walk around this solitary bench, and head to the highway, then through the busy street...

This is the Eye in the Sky.