From Borneo and Around

This blog is all about Borneo (and sometimes elswere) as I experience it. It's about places, people, fauna, food ... and anything I find pleasantly worth sharing in words and pictures.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


20th April


Standing next to my hand luggage on the shuttle bus that carries passengers from the Fly Dubai aircraft to the airport terminal, stranger amongst strangers in a totally foreign land, in need some sort of emotional belonging, and I suddenly want to do like everyone else; so I turn on my Black Berry. The instant messaging alert brings a sense of familiarity. I open my first message since Kuala Lumpur: “Welcome to Doha!” signed T.P.                                                         There is one more message about having a nice stay in Qatar and reassuring me that the Malaysian embassy is here to assist me. Nice touch although should I come to find myself in a bit of a pickle, I’d have to call the French for help “Au secours!”  As I put away my hand phone, I give no further thought to any embassy whatsoever; after all there is not a single cloud in the sky and it’s probably going to be this way until I leave in a week’s time.

As I am about to officially enter Qatar through the immigration counter, I remember TP’s last email which was meant to prepare me every step of the way:


A bus will take you from the plane to the arrival hall. At the arrival hall, go to the immigration counter (hopefully not long queue but be a bit kiasu and get to the queue as soon as you can).

At the immigration counter, they will take QR 100 from you for visa on arrival - only credit cards hope OK.

Once you clear immigration, take your bag and then head towards the exit where they will scan your bag (please don't bring any alcohol, pork ...a total no-no). Once scan is clear, you head towards the exit.

Come out from the arrival hall, turn left, you will see a string of blue Karwa taxis - hop into one and ask them to take you to Edzan Towers .  It should cost you about 40 riyals. I think you can change money at the airport...USD exchange rate is fixed here. It is 1USD=QR3.65

At Ezdan, I'll leave a note at the reception saying that you are coming and ask them to give you an extra key. You can then chill and relax in the room @ use the pool, etc. Just make sure the reception registers you - he/she will ask you to sign a form and fill in your details and take a copy of your passport. Your bed is actually ready waiting for you.....
On this, can you send me your passport number and full name as per passport so that they don't make any mistakes and to hopefully speed up the process.

Towels, etc all ready in the bathroom - in advance...please do make yourself at home. I'll try to stock up the fridge - anything you fancy? Eg coke light or normal? 7-up? etc...

After’s just down to us to paint Doha RED...ha ha… how does that sound?

See you real soon !
Outside the terminal, I hardly have to wait for my ride. It’s just as well, at almost nine o’clock in the morning, the sun is already unforgiving. Karwa taxis are operated by the Qatari government and they all use a meter. My driver seems rather temperamental; then again I am quick to realise that everyone else seems to be driving fast and furious and I notice something else too: the cars here are all mighty big, most of them are Toyota four wheel drive and models which I have never seen in Sarawak.
On my left, just as we leave the airport zone, I notice a gigantic poster on a billboard advertising a residential project that looks like dream world bathed by the ever blue Arabian Gulf. 

Hardly enough time for a sigh of envy and my driver informs me “Al Corniche!” The Cornice or waterfront runs all the way around the bay of Doha which is not only the capital of the country but also the main port. I understand that we are now on the old Doha side and that the splendid grand avenue we’re on will take us to the opposite side of the bay, where all the sky scrapers are and to Edzan Towers.

Although my arrival at Edzan has been expected, the receptionist looks rather concerned with my very personal style of negotiating the rotating doors while dragging two small cabin cases and carrying my back-pack over my left shoulder. I am too jet-lagged to notice the conventional glass door next to the not-so “merry-go-round” I am caught into. Still, I make it to his desk on my own two legs. Here in Doha of all places I’d hate to give the impression that I am under the influence of alcohol. I don’t know if he is impressed with my balancing act but the man is very polite, with this sort of politeness that makes one feel comfortable right away, despite having made a fool of oneself. I hand him my passport of which he quickly makes a photocopy then he steps out from behind his counter to take me to the thirteenth floor (mum would cross herself three times).                 When I finally close the apartment door; I count twenty three hours since I left home. T.P is at work and won’t be back for another few hours, yet and thanks to my obliging gentleman escort, I feel like a first class guest.


T.P’s flat has a large living cum sleeping area, a reasonably sized kitchen, a TV nook and two bathrooms. Huge bay windows overlook the bay passed a few towers. As T.P promised, my bed is ready and there is a note waiting for me:

When you read this note, it will mean that you are at the start of your Doha experience and “Alhamdulillah” as they say here.

Sorry, my apartment’s slightly messy and I have not quite stocked up the fridge. Nevertheless, please make yourself at HOME. This is your bed, i.e. where this note was. Give yourself a tour and enjoy the view when you are in the living room.

If you fancy a swim @ a run on the treadmill, head off to the 4th floor  that’s the recreational floor. If you decide to stay in, I have movies in the cupboard below the TV – take your pick. Feel free to switch on the lap-top. Internet speed isn’t 8MB but doable. Have set up an “account” for you – Annie’s the name.
Tuesdays are cleaning days  great if you could let the cleaners in BUT if you’re going to take and eye shut, no worries, just leave the “PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB” sign outside on the door handle. Wld be good if you could pop up by K-Mart / any of the restaurants for lunch unless you don’t mind some left over curry and if you make yourself some rice, they go quite well.

Just in case you could not change $$ @ the airport, please feel free to use the QR200 here  Interest free J

Looking forward to seeing you."

I always like to unpack my bags and hand my clothes as soon as I reach destination and as soon as I get back home too. This done, I pick a choice of comfortable clothing and aim for the spare bathroom. Taking a shower feels like a blessing.            Back in the bedroom, I pick T.P’s letter again. I think she is an amazingly thoughtful friend and I guess she would be a most talented planner in the hospitality industry.                         
I am in no mood for lunch at a restaurant and I decide to skip the curry. Whether I blame it on tiredness or on the many meals served during the flights, the fact is that I am simply not hungry. Right now, I feel torn between the urge to spread myself across the mattress and give the attractive pillow a big hug and the will to stay awake to let the cleaners in rather than letting them use their pass and find me passed out on my bed. I decide to wait.

12:30 knock, knock! “House-keeping!”
I let two Indian looking young men walk in. One looks as if he is in charge; only he talks (a lot!) while his colleague doesn’t (at all!).
The chatty fellow’s name is Aruna; he is from Sri Lanka. He tells me that he’s been working as a cleaner at Edzan Towers for one year and nine months. He cleans 19 rooms (some are suites) every day, for which he earns 900 Qatari Rial (QR) every month, out of which he needs QR200 for food, QR100 to use his mobile phone to call home and another QR500 to send to his Mum and sister back in Sri Lanka. He goes on to explain that he has no dad and that he is the sole bread earner to sustain the three of them. He doesn’t like working in Qatar and he is planning to quit in August to go back home where there are lots of temples and flowers.  The Doctor (T.P) and I must go and visit him and his family he says. I met him only minutes ago but he says I’m really nice, like the Doctor.  “But I’m only going back for a holiday” he goes on telling me.  Then he explains: “The Doctor’s friend who stayed here before said I can work in a hotel in Malaysia; I’ll earn more there too.”
The two young men are leaving, one without a word and Aruna full of encouragement so that the Doctor and I visit him in his village. “Everything will be free!” and seals his final words with a powerful hand-shake.
Pillow, oh Pillow, am I the sleepiest girl in the world? Here I come!
View from Edzan Towers' Poolside

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