Sunday, 28 December 2008

Salam Tahun Baru

We have now crossed into the new Hijrah year of 1430. Warm wishes to all muslim friends in celebrating the Maal Hijrah. Maksud sebahagian dari doa awal tahun, `... kami mohon kepada Mu agar terpelihara kami sekelian di tahun baru ini daripada tipu daya syaitan-syaitan yang terlaknat juga daripada kuncu-kuncu syaitan dan bala tenteranya.'

It is actually the second time that the 1st of Muharram of the Muslim calendar occur within the same Gregorian year of 2008, as I've noted in my earlier post -> here.

In a few days, we'll meet the New Year of 2009. Let's hope that it is going to be a bright and favourable year for all of us. But please remember, it is not enough for us just to wish for things to get better... we need to make the effort too.

So see you all next year. Take care.

Saturday, 27 December 2008


When I was based in the UAE early last year, I had a Filipina colleague by the name of Christyl Aracan. Chris studied pharmacy in school but decided to do administrative work for us at our Fujairah office.

On my recent visit to UAE, I did not meet Chris because she had returned to Cebu, Philippines to deliver her first baby. She is now a proud mother to baby girl Meeka.

I still keep close touch with Chris through emails and Facebook.

For a light-hearted interlude this long weekend, here's an email she sent me some time ago :

Generic name for Viagra

In Pharmacology, all drugs have two names, a trade name and generic name. For example, the trade name of Tylenol also has a generic name of Acetaminophen. Aleve is also called Naproxen. Amoxil is also called Amoxicillin and Advil is also called Ibuprofen.

The FDA has been looking for a generic name for Viagra. After careful consideration by a team of government experts, it recently announced that it has settled on the generic name of Mycoxafloppin. Also considered were Mycoxafailin, Mydixadrupin, Mydixarizin, Dixafix, and of course, Ibepokin.

Pfizer Corp. announced today that Viagra will soon be available in liquid form, and will be marketed by Pepsi Cola as a power beverage suitable for use as a mixer. It will now be possible for a man to literally pour himself a stiff one. Obviously we can no longer call this a soft drink, and it gives new meaning to the names of "cocktails", "highballs" and just a good old-fashioned "stiff drink". Pepsi will market the new concoction by the name of: MOUNT & DO.

Thought for the day : There is more money being spent on breast implants and Viagra today than on Alzheimer's research. This means that by 2040, there should be a large elderly population with perky boobs and huge erections and absolutely no recollection of what to do with them.

If you don't send this to five old friends right away there will be five fewer people laughing in the world.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Selamat Hari Natal

To friends celebrating Christmas, warm wishes from me on this day of remembrance. Selamat Hari Natal. Have fun, be kind and stay cool.

p/s - I have always wondered why the Malay form of this greeting uses the term `natal'. The word is actually an English term relating to birth... in this case specifically the virgin birth of the prophet Jesus.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

When `mandi' does not mean taking a bath

I had not expected to travel abroad this month but was asked by the boss to handle some issues at one of the company's projects in the Middle East. The previous Sunday saw me and a friend named Hasnul, on an Emirates flight bound for Dubai and we spent the whole of last week in the United Arab Emirates.

The project is located in Fujairah, one of the seven emirates or states in the UAE, the others being Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al-Khaimah and Umm Al-Quwain. The UAE is a federation not unlike Malaysia. Each emirate has its own government and is headed by an Emir or ruler. Although Dubai is perhaps the most well-known of all the states, the capital of the federation is actually Abu Dhabi. The ruler of Abu Dhabi is also the president of UAE.

I was last in the UAE in April of last year, having spent about six months posted there to manage a project. This latest trip was therefore more like a return to a familiar place and meeting old colleagues. Fujairah is located about 130km from Dubai and is the only emirate that has a coastline facing east towards the Gulf of Oman. The other states have coastlines facing the Persian Gulf. The landscape in Fujairah is a stark contrast when compared to Dubai. Most of Fujairah consists of rocky mountains while Dubai is generally sandy desert.

The first day was spent attending a meeting and later evaluating the progress of works at the project site. The following day, I took the opportunity to visit some old colleagues who were stationed at the company's crane barge that was moored in Dibba Port, located to the north of Fujairah town.

Later that evening, we had dinner at a Pakistani restaurant that has become one of our regular makan place. My friends had chicken briyani while I chose to have chicken tikka with naan bread. The weather in the Emirates at the present time is mild with temperatures around the low twenties Celsius. Since the air was cool, we chose to have our dinner at the outside table. At other times of the year, the temperature can be a sweltering 40 degrees, even at night.

Dinner at Zaman's Restaurant in Fujairah

We were able to complete our task earlier than anticipated and managed to bring forward our return date by 4 days. Before flying back, Hasnul recommended that we have dinner at a restaurant in Dubai that serves a delicious rice and meat dish. He has been to the place only once before and could only remember the name of the restaurant and the street on which it is located. But he could not recall the specific area of Dubai where the street is or how exactly to get there.

After asking for general directions from the hotel front desk, we ventured out in the notorious Dubai traffic in search of a makan place that reputedly serves a tasty meal that would become unforgettable. It took us quite a while before we finally found the place. At one point while we were crawling in the jam and circling the streets, I told Hasnul that the food had better be real good for me to endure the terrible congestion. He assured me that it is... and having tested Hasnul's recommendations of other food places before, I never thought of giving up.

Bait Al Mandi Restaurant is located on Al Muraqqabat Street in the Al Rashidiya area of Dubai. It is quite plain-looking and does not have any fancy decor to pull the tourist crowd. The restaurant basically serves a rice dish called `mandi' that comes in three variants : mutton, chicken or fish. Mandi is a traditional dish that originated from Yemen.

Since there were four of us that evening, we selected a combination of mutton and chicken mandi. The dish included a standard serving of fresh vegetable salad, some yoghurt and a homemade tangy chilli-tomato dipping sauce. The mutton meat was tender and so tasty. The chicken was juicy and delicious too. For a mutton lover like me, the meal was really exquisite. It was worth the trouble of wading through the horrible traffic.

Mutton and chicken mandi dish served in a large plate

If I ever do get the chance to visit Dubai again, I'm willing to skip the shopping or sight-seeing just to have another mutton mandi at this place. Unforgettable.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Lama dah tak dengar khabar

It has been more than a week now since I last posted. I'm missing my blogger friends already...

I was on overseas assignment for the whole of last week. Although our overseas branch office has an internet connection, I only had time to check emails. Sorry, tak sempat jenguk blog. I'm now back in KL and will post some updates soon. Hope you guys have been behaving yourselves :-)

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Free hole with the dough

Last week, I dropped by the opening of the latest Big Apple Donuts & Coffee outlet at the new Aeon Jusco Shopping Mall at AU2 Setiawangsa. This outlet is owned by a group of friends who are former colleagues. They have pooled their resources, convinced the bankers and managed to secure the deal to open the 27th Malaysian outlet.

Truth be told, I've never heard of this franchise before... probably because I'm not really a donut fanatic. I have only heard of Dunkin' but have never bought any from them because I think the donuts are overpriced. But this does stop other people from queueing up to buy them.

Big Apple outlets are bright and visible. Their kitchen can be clearly seen by the customers... you can see the dough being mixed, the donut being moulded, baked and then being arranged in rows, ready for the dipping and topping process in an uncountable number of flavours. Well, actually I'm exaggerating here... of course it's not uncountable, but if you see the whole donut range on display, you'll have a hard time choosing. And they come in an array of creative names... Alien, Duren-duren, Rolling Stone and Pink Panther, among others. No prizes for guessing which one is a favourite pick of the girls.

The display counter that makes you become spoilt for choice

I picked out a box of 12 pieces but because it was an opening day promo, I paid only for six. The donuts were brought home for my kids and their cousins to consume. To enable all of us to share the flavours, each donut was cut into quarters. Except for yours truly who, being the boss, got to eat the whole Cheesy donut for himself.

My choice of 12 pieces. No Pink Panther because it was sold out.

And so now... to the all important question, how was the taste? Not bad, I would say. You don't have to ask the kids... the whole box was eaten up in a jiffy.

I am confident that this business venture of my friends will do well. I've known them to be dedicated, hardworking and honest. To Azah, Azlina and Azman of the Big Apple Donuts & Coffee 27th outlet, my wishes for your continued success.

I now have a place that I can hang out for donuts and coffee, in the company of good friends.

Take the path less ordinary

In my Regular Reads blogroll is a blog managed by a group of dedicated individuals who call themselves Outskirt Outreach. This group promotes nature conservation and organizes treks into our beautiful rainforest, especially within the Kinta Valley. They also help out the Orang Asli communities by various means such as collecting used children's clothes from urban donors for distribution to the Orang Asli families.

Their latest post makes a mention of a certain `old' guy whom they have described as a `prolific' blogger. The post can be read -> here.

Err... Casey my friend, I need to correct you here. Putting up a blog post every three or four days hardly qualifies as prolific... heheheh. Thanks for the mention, anyway. I certainly wish that I'll be able to join you guys on a jungle expedition one day.

If any of my KL-based readers are hopping over to Double-O's blog, do check out their latest Kuala Lumpur Integrated Rail Map. It has all the train lines (LRT, Monorail, KTM, Kommuter and ERL) neatly and colourfully laid out. Reminds me of the London Underground Subway. Cool.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The view from the hillside

The front page of today's The Star newspaper has the photograph of some residents of Medan Damansara protesting about a hillslope development near their homes. In light of the disaster that happened at Bukit Antarabangsa on Saturday, the protesters want the project to be stopped. The Prime Minister has already announced that all hillside developments to be halted. I've read that in Penang, the authorities have issued such directives to developers.

At the risk of stating the obvious, haven't we heard all this before? It is not our typical Malaysian culture to react (or over-react, as the case may be) only after disaster has befallen us? Have we forgotten Highland Towers? Did we also forget that last year a landslide at Kg. Pasir Ulu Kelang buried a squatter settlement?

Our former Prime Minister coined the famous phrase `Melayu mudah lupa'. I would suggest that we modify the phrase to `Orang Malaysia mudah lupa'. Because, I can guarantee you, a few years on, the Bukit Antarabangsa landslide will just become another historical event. The hillside developments will continue and we will never learn our lesson.

Erecting buildings or structures on hillsides or slopes, in itself, should not be a problem. The world is not flat and we cannot totally avoid construction on hills or mountain sides. Countries like Japan, that has more mountainous regions than flat ones, have been building houses, highways and bridges on slopes for years. There are always engineering solutions to slope construction problems but if we fail to observe the rules and take short-cut measures, then disasters will happen. I believe we already have the necessary regulations and legislations relating to hillside construction. There is also no shortage of geotechnical engineers or soil experts in Malaysia either. So why do we continue to experience such misfortune? I guess there is no need for me to answer this one, you guys probably know the answer already.

Hillside houses and condominiums are built (and will continue to be built) because there is a demand. The main draw of such dwellings is the breathtaking view. I was in Penang last week and while driving on the Batu Ferringhi road, I can see many upmarket condos being built on the steep hillside. I can bet you, the view of the sea from one of the high-altitude units is `worth a million bucks'.

Misty view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline as seen from Bukit Antarabangsa

When my family and I travel to KL, we usually put up at my brother-in-law's place at Bukit Antarabangsa. Indeed we were there on Saturday when the landslide occured. Early that morning, my wife received a phone call from another relative telling us of the event and worrying if we were trapped. We quickly had a look outside to determine where exactly the slope failure had occurred. Thankfully, the access road to my brother-in-law's house was not affected.

Unfortunately, those living on the upper reaches of Bukit Antarabangsa were trapped and had no way out. All of them were later asked to vacate their homes because the electricity supply had been cut off. Because there was no vehicular access, they had to trudge out on foot through wet and slippery uphill tracks created by the rescue authorities.

I personally know three persons who had to make that trek. One is a former colleague, another is an old schoolmate and the third is my own cousin. The sad thing was that my cousin's wife just gave birth a few weeks ago (masih dalam hari lagi, kata orang Melayu). Mother and baby had to be assisted out of the area.

I feel very sad for all those who had to endure the hardship and my condolences to the victims. And for the tragedy to happen close to Hari Raya Korban... May Allah grant all of you patience to face this trial and sacrifice.

Update @ 21:15 Hours :

For a first hand account of the incident, read Dr. Rafick's blog entry -> here.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Selamat Hari Raya Aidiladha

My wishes to Muslim friends on this holy season of Aidiladha or more commonly known as Hari Raya Haji. Hoping that all of us would learn the true meaning of sacrifice.

Image from the e-zakat website.

Day trip to Pulau Pinang

We left KL on Tuesday afternoon and headed out for Butterworth on the mainland side of Pulau Pinang. I had a project meeting the next morning at Penang Port. We were caught in a traffic jam at the Kepong area of the MRR2 and reached Butterworth around 9pm.

I was a regular traveler to Butterworth a few years back, having been involved in the earlier phase of our company's project for Penang Port. Aside from the arduous driving, I liked coming up to Penang because it has many good makan places. After checking-in that night, we went for dinner at my favourite char kway teow stall in Seberang Jaya. The price is only RM3.50 a plate for the large portion.

After the project meeting the next morning, I had a choice of either going to the famous Kepala Batas ikan bakar stall for lunch or trying out something else on the island-side. I decided to take the ferry across to the island because there was another project site that I wanted to visit.

Ferry terminal on Penang side

Church Street Pier

View of the marina with the clock tower in the background

We had lunch of mutton briyani at Restoran Hameediyah at Lebuh Campbell... delicious. After lunch, I took the opportunity to drive over to the floating mosque at Tanjung Bunga for prayers.

The mosque is built on piles above a sandy beach to give that floating impression during high tide. It was a bright sunny day and there was a glorious view of the sea with the mainland in the background.

Small fishing boats viewed from the mosque

On the way back, we stopped by the Seri Tanjung Pinang development at Tg. Tokong, just to have a look at how the area has progressed since we were last there. Our company was involved in the reclamation works that began in 2003. The developer (part of the E & O Group) has completed the construction of a few phases of upmarket residences and is presently building a waterfront service apartment complex. The houses are beautifully designed and comes with prices to match. Way out of my league, I'm afraid.

We left the island by way of the Penang Bridge and was caught in the evening traffic snarl. It took us almost an hour to cross over to the mainland. I have no doubt that the second bridge planned for Penang is desperately needed.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

A dry start to December

While the whole of the country is experiencing the rainy season that has brought on great distress in the form of floods and landslides, it is somewhat a dry start for me in this month of December in terms of blog posts.

It's not that I've run out of stories to tell but the last week was awfully busy. I haven't much time to log on to Blogger and respond to comments to my previous post. Sorry guys about that... will try to catch up on your comments this weekend. I wasn't able to drop by other friend's blogs either.

The last week was spent working from my company's head office in Kuala Lumpur and it would remain so for the next two weeks. I drove to Butterworth midweek to attend a project meeting. Yesterday evening I attended the wedding dinner of the eldest daughter of the boss. In between, I squeezed some time to drop by the opening of the latest Big Apple donuts outlet being run by some close friends at the new Aeon Jusco shopping mall in Keramat AU2.

I'll post about those events once I've downloaded some pics from my digicam. Thank you for your patience.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Of creed, colour and a clamp

I'll start off with the clamp first.

It is now the school holiday season here in Malaysia. During this time, Muslim parents who have young sons are planning for the `rites of passage' ritual for their boys. It is circumcision time... an anxious time of their life for the young boys. Sometimes the parents, especially the moms, are filled with anxiety and worries too.

The process of circumcision has changed a lot. The trade of the traditional Tok Mudim is dying away as most parents nowadays send their sons to private clinics. Doctors can even now offer their young patients the option of using circumcision clamps as opposed to the standard` snip and stitch' method. The clamp is a device that helps simplify the process because there is no need for sutures or dressings. The cut also tend to heal faster.

I've read some negative reviews about this particular method but having chosen this option for my youngest son's circumcision a few years ago, I can attest to its advantages. The clamp method is now widely used in Malaysia and some other developing countries. Not many people know that this device, commercially known as the Tara Klamp, was invented by a Malaysian doctor.

We'll come back to this subject a little later. I want to touch now on the subject of creed and colour.

Creed and colour relates to religion and race. In Malaysia, these two issues are so intertwined in the fabric of society and hardly a day pass by without something about race or religion being discussed in the mainstream media. The last few weeks have been no exception. I'm of course, talking about the decision of the National Fatwa Council regarding yoga.

Many blogs have touched on this issue and I do not wish to delve too deep into the merits of the decision itself. I just wish to share my observations based on what has been reported in the papers and the views and opinions of other bloggers. So here goes, in simple point form :

1. The National Fatwa Council cannot issue a fatwa or edict that is enforceable nationwide. Jurisdiction on Islam is a state matter.

2. The practice of yoga is not haram as long as it is not accompanied by mantras or chants that equates with the divinity of Allah swt.

3. The announcement by the council is a case of poor planning and foresight. Otherwise the Prime Minister and some Sultans would not have seen fit to publicly give their views on the matter.

4. The announcement has caused over-reactive response from both supporters and detractors. The response has come from non-Muslim individuals and communities too.

I do not think that this is the end of the story yet. I believe the Council could have handled this issue in a much better manner. While I appreciate their intent in issuing the directive (primarily that the Muslims who perform yoga do not become deviated in their faith - terpesong dari aqidah), they could have adopted a more thoughtful approach. The Gazer of Navels has an excellent example of how it could've been done -> here.

As I've said, many non-Muslim groups and bloggers have entered the discussion on this directive. This has prompted some Muslim groups to react by saying that `This is none of your business!'. Many Muslims are even chiding other fellow Muslims for questioning the ruling.

In my view, when it comes to issues like this, we Muslims cannot prevent non-Muslims from airing their opinions. Malaysians are not an exclusive society of this or that race only. What ever happens to one race could affect another... it's just a question of degree. We cannot fault our non-Muslim friends from showing their concern. What's important is the way this concern is raised... again we are back to the question of approach.

Similarly, Muslims cannot hold on to the position of exclusivity. By shutting out discussion, we are hindering the process of understanding. If we wish to attract other people to our religion or at least to understand it better, we should be encouraging interaction rather than building walls. We have to recognise that opinions and efforts of individual non-Muslims have their merits too.

Which now brings me back to the story of the humble circumcision clamp. After sending their sons to be circumcised using the clamp method, not many Muslim parents realise that the inventor of this device is a non-Muslim doctor. Dr Gurchran Singh won the Gold Award for his invention at the Geneva Exhibition in 1996.

Dr Gurchran donated thousands of his clamps to the young boys of Acheh in the aftermath of the tsunami. It's simplicity of use meant that the clamp was ideally suited to the non-hospital environments available in Acheh. This story of the good doctor helping out our neighbours in need was recorded by the Discovery Channel. Something that all Malaysians can be proud of.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Ramai Lari

The following pic was taken at the pump of a Petronas petrol station on Pasir Gudang Highway. Times must be so tough that people are willing to cheat even when filling up petrol.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

You can't fool me twice

It was raining that night as I left the office at around 9.00pm. The traveling time from my office at Taman Setiawangsa to my house at Taman Melawati was only around 15 minutes.

I reached the roundabout that connected Keramat AU3 to the MRR and stopped at the traffic lights. From out of the car window I saw a man holding an umbrella walking towards me. He reached the driver's side of the car and tapped gently on the window. I rolled down the window but only a quarter of the way, just enough for me to see the man's face and hear what he has to say.

The man was perhaps in his late fifties and neatly dressed. He initially greeted me in Malay and then proceeded to tell me that his car broke down and he has run out of money to call for a tow-truck. He asked if I could help him by giving some cash.

The sceptic in me immediately doubted this story and I could've queried him on details. But he looked a decent enough old man and standing there in the rain made him look even more pitiful. As if to convince me further, he offered to take note of my address and send me back the money. This last part he spoke in fluent English.

I was already tired from a long day's work and was eager to get home. I therefore gave him the benefit of doubt and handed over some cash. No need to send it back, I said. He thanked me profusely and the appreciation in his eyes seemed genuine enough.

It did cross my mind that the man could be a trickster and that I've just been conned. On the other hand, I pictured myself in his situation... facing some misfortune somewhere and honestly hoping for a stranger's help. Is it not a kind thing to help a fellow human being in trouble?

In situations like these, I have a simple rule... if I do not wish to help by giving money, then just decline... no need to ask any questions. Otherwise, just hand out the cash and hope that I've done the right thing. If the guy is not telling the truth, then so be it. In such cases, I believe the money was not meant to be mine in the first place. Bukan hak saya tapi hak orang lain. This way, it helps keep my conscience clear... and more importantly, it makes me feel less a fool.

The above incident happened around 3 years ago when I was based in Kuala Lumpur. Fast forward to the present... last week to be exact.

I was again in Kuala Lumpur and on my way to visit a friend whose daughter had undergone surgery (see previous post). It was around 8.00 pm and the earlier heavy rain had slowed to a drizzle. I stopped at the traffic lights at the turn-off from MRR to Jalan Ampang, near Ampang Point.

From the corner of my eye, I saw someone approach my car and then gently tapping on the window. I wound down the window and an elderly Malay gentleman greeted me by giving the Salam. He then told the story of how his car had broken down and he has run out of cash. Could I help him by donating some?

It was when the old man spoke in fluent English that I realised he was the same person who asked me for money three years ago...

"I'm on my way to home to Seremban when my car broke down," he said, "and I don't know anybody here in KL. Can you help me please."

What the f@*#! It's the same bloke I `helped' three years ago! By trying to sell the same story, it confirms that he's trying to con me.

I slowly wound up the car window and ignored the conman. He continued to tap on the window and buat muka kesian. The traffic lights changed to green and I drove off.

I wound up the car window not because I was afraid to tell him off, but rather to prevent things from getting ugly. Otherwise I might have reached out, grabbed him by the shirt collar and shout out a few profanities. Not a nice thing to do to a senior citizen.

As I drove away, the incident of three years ago played again in my mind. What are the chances of the same conman trying to play the same trick twice on the same person, three years apart? Not very likely, right? As the English saying goes... Fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me.

Here's something else for you to ponder... If the conman works for about two hours that night, he could probably try to pull the trick on about 20 drivers. If we assume a 50% success rate and each kind-hearted driver coughs out RM10, then the trickster would end up with RM100. Not bad for a day's taking based solely on selling a sob story.

And so, my friends... if your are driving in the Keramat AU, Ampang or maybe even the Melawati areas and a stranger comes up to you pleading for help because his car broke down, you know what to do.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Mending a deformed backbone

Earlier this week I received news that the teenage daughter of a very close friend had undergone major surgery to correct her abnormally curved spine. I was in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday morning for a project meeting and later took the opportunity to visit my friend and his daughter at their home in Shah Alam.

Mariah Raihanah bt. Khushairi is 18 years old. Her backbone has an abnormal lateral (sideways) curvature to the right. The medical term for this condition is scoliosis. It's the first time that I've heard of the term so I looked it up on the internet to learn more.

Scoliosis is more likely to occur in girls than boys. The specific cause of this condition is not known. The spine curves either to the left or right. In some cases, it curves both ways, giving the backbone an S-shape. The degree of curvature is called the Cobb angle and anything above 40 degrees is considered severe. Non-severe curvatures can be corrected using a brace, especially if the condition is detected at a young age. Severe cases can only be rectified by surgery.

Scoliosis is not caused by bad posture, sporting injuries or lifting heavy loads. The condition does not actually cause much pain but if left untreated, may cause complications to other internal organs in future.

Raihan's spine was curved at 48 degrees. She underwent a 5-hour surgery at Damansara Specialist Hospital three weeks ago. Alhamdulillah, the operation was successfully done and she is now recuperating at home.

Khushairi showed me the X-ray images of his daughter's backbone taken before and after the surgery. The `before' image shows a curve in the lower or lumbar region of the backbone. The `after' image shows the affected vertebrae straightened with a short metal rod about 8" long and held in place by five screws. The operation also involved taking a piece of bone from her rib cage, crushing it to a paste that's later used as a filler in between the vertebrae to encourage fusion and therefore restraining the curvature from progressing further.

I cannot but imagine how complicated the procedure must have been and the pain and discomfort that Raihan is going through. But she seemed cheerful enough and very positive when I talked to her.

My wishes to Raihan for speedy recovery. You sure are a brave girl, my child.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Autumn in the land of the rising sun

I was browsing through the pictures posted by my sister-in-law in her Facebook profile recently. She posted some beautiful photos of the autumn season in Epping Forest, located north-east of London.

When I was a student in the UK, of the four seasons, I loved autumn the most. Apart from the colourful sight of the falling leaves, this particular season always give me a calm and relaxed feeling.

I managed to experience this season again when I was selected to attend a course in Japan in 1990, courtesy of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The course started in late August and ended in December. The training was held at JICA's International Centre in Kitakyushu and was made up of only eight participants from different countries.

The overall course was very well structured, with a combination of site/factory visits in addition to classroom lectures. We were also provided with optional classes to study the Japanese language. Towards the middle of November, there was a one-week break in studies followed by a guided tour cum factory visits to the capital of Tokyo. The official schedule was for the whole class to travel by train from Kitakyushu to Tokyo and put up at one of JICA's training centres in the capital. Since there were some free days before the official Tokyo trip, me and three other coursemates (Tino from Argentina, Malou from Philippines and Wipa from Thailand) decided to seek permission if we could travel ahead and meet up with the rest of the class in Tokyo at the designated time. Our intention was to go for some sightseeing on our own.

The first time we forwarded our request, our course coordinator Mr. Manabe, was very reluctant to give permission. He didn't actually turn us down but since the Japanese find it difficult to say a flat-out `No', Mr. Manabe was giving this and that reasons why we should not venture out on our own.

When word got back that our request was not likely to get approval, my friend Tino was a bit cheesed off and was about to blow his top (Among Tino's words - Who do they think we are?! Kids that have to follow their every rule?!). I managed to calm him down by saying that I'll try to negotiate with Mr. Manabe in person.

I arranged for a suitable time to see our course coordinator and explained to him our intentions and hear his concerns. I told him that we wanted to visit the cities of Osaka and Kyoto because we've heard so much about them. Our training here was sponsored by JICA and it was highly unlikely that any of us would be able to come to Japan again on our own. We wanted to see as much of Japan as we can before flying home. Mr. Manabe understood my reasoning but he was worried that we could get lost in Osaka or Kyoto. Osaka is a huge city, second only to Tokyo.

I helped put his mind at ease by saying that my basic Japanese (gained from those optional language classes) has been passable so far. I could count quite well, so asking about train/taxi fares or prices of items is not a problem. Asking for directions should also not be difficult because the Japanese are very helpful people. I probably clinched the deal by adding that Japan is the safest country that I've been to. I can walk alone at night without the fear of getting mugged.

At the end of my pitch, Manabe-san looked at me and smiled. Okay, he said, but let us help you book the hotels at Osaka and Kyoto so that you don't get sent to the expensive ones.

And so, at this time of the year in 1990, me and three friends went traveling on our own to visit Osaka, Kyoto and a few other places around those cities. We took the so-called bullet train (Shinkansen) from Kokura Station in Kitakyushu to Shin-Osaka. I can't recall how fast the train went.... but it was very fast!

It was my idea to visit Osaka because I very much wanted to visit Osaka Castle, having been much influenced by watching the telemovie, Shogun (Richard Chamberlain acted the leading role). The castle is located over a large sprawling park right in the middle of the city. Walking through the castle park reminded me of scenes from the many samurai movies that I watched over the years.

Osaka Castle Park

After Osaka, we made a stop at the town of Nara before heading to Kyoto. My Thai friend Wipa, wanted so much to see this place because she read about a beautiful buddhist Golden Temple. I cannot describe the beauty of the Japanese gardens and parks in Nara. As it was autumn, the changing colour of the leaves on the trees was breathtaking. We spent a whole afternoon sightseeing in Nara before taking an evening train to Kyoto.

A very young yours truly and coursemate Wipa Hirunsurong in Nara

Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan. It is a very historical city with many gardens and old Japanese architecture. If you want to have a feel of the old Japan, then Kyoto is the place to be.

A garden in Kyoto

After exploring Kyoto for a day (hardly enough, I assure you), we took another bullet train to the busy city of Tokyo. The highlight of this train journey was when we reached an area near the foot of Mt. Fuji. The train track passed an area about 20 to 30 km from the mountain and the view of this dormant volcano from our train window was awesome. The mountain is near conical in shape with its peak covered with the white of snow. Having previously seen this mountain only on postcards or pictures, the first-hand view was something else. If not for the plans to visit Tokyo, I would've made a stop right there and spent more time exploring the towns at the foot of this famous Japanese landmark.

We reached Tokyo a few days earlier than when the other half of our class was scheduled to arrive. We had planned it that way because we wanted the opportunity to tour the city on our own. We visited so many interesting places : Shinjuku, Akihabara, Tokyo Disneyland.... but those stories are for another day.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

True colours

Two weeks back, blogger-friend Versedanggerik posted in her blog about a wedding event that she helped plan and organize. The post contained photos of the event and some pics of the blog owner looking gorgeous in a red dress. This prompted me to comment that she reminded me of the Chris De Burgh song `Lady In Red'.

A few days later, by coincidence, I came across an article on MSN News titled - When Men See Red, They See Hot. The opening paragraphs are as follows :

The popular ballad "Lady in Red" is poised to take on a whole new meaning: a study published Tuesday showed that the color red makes men see women as hotter or, more scientifically put, more attractive.

Researchers from the University of Rochester in New York conducted five psychological experiments to demonstrate that the color red makes men feel more amorous toward women.

In the experiments, groups of young men looked briefly at a picture of a moderately attractive woman printed on a red background, and the same woman then on a white, grey or green background. They also looked at a woman in red clothing, and the same one in blue clothing.

The men found the lady with a red background more attractive, both physically and sexually.

The full article can be read at this link -> When Men See Red . One of the conclusions of the study is : Men act like animals when in the sexual realm.

Youtube video credit to itweb

According to some researchers, you can tell the personality of person from the choice of his/her favourite colours. One such test was devised by Dr. Max Luscher in 1947. You can try an online modified (and unofficial) version at this website ->

I've tried the test.... a few times, at different intervals. I find the results a bit perplexing... while I agree with the primary finding, other conclusions are way off the mark. As an example, the test reported that for My Actual Problem - Disappointment and the fear that there is no point in formulating fresh goals have led to anxiety, and he is distressed by the lack of any close and understanding relationship or adequate appreciation.

Hey, I'm not suffering from any anxiety... I'm cool! And unless I'm really in self-denial, I have my fair share of close and understanding relationships. Thank you very much.

Well, anyway... I actually do not have any specific favourite colour. I like different colours at different times and different situations. I like light blue shirts for office wear but my T-shirts are mostly dark or black. I prefer my car in light tones but my furniture in dark.

If I really have to choose a favourite colour, then it would probably be grey. Why grey? Hmm... maybe because life situations are not always in pure black and white. There are plenty areas of grey. Grey is a smoky colour and symbolizes haziness, non-solidity and uncertainty.

That is why among my favourite words are : maybe... probably... perhaps. You see these words quite a lot in my writing.

Does my choice of grey as a favorite colour make me an `unsure' person? Hmmm... maybe, I guess :-)

So what is your favourite colour?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The best husband

I've been meaning to post something else today but at the special request of regular reader Hanitha, here's another interlude (credit to kyra_ayu @

Suami Terbaik

Sekumpulan lelaki berada di bilik persalinan di salah sebuah kelab eklusif lagi mewah di pusat bandar, setelah keluar dari gym. Tiba-tiba kedengaran deringan handphone di penjuru bilik tersebut. Seorang lelaki menjawap panggilan itu dan terjadilah perbualan seperti berikut :

"Abang, nie sayang nie."
"Emmm... "
"Abang masih ada di kelab lagi ke?"
“Sayang sekarang nie berada di shopping complex dua block dari kelab abang tu. Sayang ada nampak kain sutera terbaru. Cantik bang. Boleh ke sayang beli?"
"Berapa harganya?"
"Cuma RM1,500.00 aje.."
"Okay, belilah kalau memang awak dah suka sangat."
"Ahhh thanks bang. Dan tadi sebelum datang sini sayang ada singgah di Cycle & Carriage dan tengok Mercedes model terbaru 2008. Sayang suka kat satu model tu. Dan sayang dah bincang dengan jurujualnya dan dia setuju nak bagi good price . . lagipun elok juga kita tukarkan dengan BMW yang kita beli tahun lepas tu. "
"Berapa harga yang dia bagi?"
"Cuma RM280,000 ..."
"Okay, tapi pastikan harga tu dah on the road."
"Great! Before we hang up, ada satu perkara lagi..."
"Abang jangan terkejut pulak, sayang dah semak akaun bank abang dan.... pagi tadi sayang singgah di pejabat ejen hartanah dan sayang dapat tau rumah yang kita tengok tahun lepas tu... sekarang nie untuk dijual. Abang ingat tak? Rumah yang ada swimming pool bentuk love tu, ada taman orkid kat belakang, berhadapan dengan pantai tu. . cantik kan bang. . "
"Berapa harga yang mereka minta?"
"Cuma RM740,000... Okay kan bang? Sayang tengok dalam akaun kita, boleh cover harga tu. . ."
"Eloklah kalau macam tu, confirm cepat sebelum orang lain beli, tapi cuba dapatkan harga RM700,000. Okay?"
"Okay, abang sayang, terima kasih bang, kita jumpa malam nanti ye!! I love you !!!"
"Bye... I love you too..."

Lelaki itu berhenti bercakap, menutup flap handphone . . sambil mengangkat tangan yang memegang handphone tu dan bertanya pada yang ada dalam bilik tersebut :


Sunday, 9 November 2008

Hitting the century mark

This is my 100th post! For today, I thought I'd just spend some time looking back at how this blog has come along. A nice way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon...

I'm borrowing some ideas from blogger-friend Versedanggerik in this write-up. Boleh kan Verse?

Actually, my first foray in blogging started much earlier, some time around 2001. But it was short-lived... in fact, it had a single opening post (me ranting about my job, the typical overwork and underpaid stuff). The weblog didn't survive because the laptop I was using had to be returned when I left the company. Blogging at home was out of the question because broadband connection for the general public was non-existent back then. Accessing the Internet on a dial-up connection is a real test of patience.

This particular blog came to existence in April this year. The first post was made on 8 April 2008. Seven months down the line, we reach the 100th mark. That works out to an average of just over 14 posts per month. Kira okay la tu...

While it has never been about quantity, I was nonetheless concerned about actually having worthwhile things to write about and share with other citizens of blogosphere. So far, the ideas have been coming in quite regularly... it's always the effort of typing it all out on the laptop that's holding things back. No doubt, some of my posts are just fillers or what I call `interludes' but generally, what I've written are from my own personal experience.

Anyway, here are some highlights :

First commenter - Saudara Mutalib Saifudin on 1st May 2008.
First blogroll link-back - The fiesty Fie The Elf.
First blogging award received - The talented Emila Yusof.
First Facebook friend also on Blogger - Nurie, living life in Riyadh.
First award citation - On 08.09.08 by Patricia, who lives in an English Cottage.
First fellow blogger I met in person - Versedanggerik, in Kuantan on 14 August 2008.

My most sincere apologies to other regular friends and occasional visitors whom I've failed to mention. There are so many of you... I am so honoured by the visits, comments and link-backs.

I reproduce here, part of what I posted previously as a response to the nomination from Pat :

I created this blog primarily as an avenue to sharpen my writing and story-telling skills. It's a very modest journal on personal experiences mostly. It also gives me the chance to meet other writers in blogosphere. Along the way, I get to be friends with readers, commenters and other fellow bloggers... and this is a good thing. Thanks to all of you for dropping by and having something to say about what I write. Most appreciated. I truly hope that we'll be able to meet in real life, one day.

I'll end this post with something that I hope would make you smile today. Remember last week when it was announced that a fatwa was going to be issued about yoga? Well... this one is about a fatwa too.



Haram menikahi gadis satu kampung. JAKIM telah mengeluarkan fatwa baru. Setelah diadakan perbincangan dan diskusi di antara para pemimpin, JAKIM dan ahli ulama' memberikan fatwa pada tanggal 3 Oktober tahun 2008 :


Fatwa JAKIM ini telah menimbulkan perdebatan dan bantahan yang sangat sengit antara yang pro dan kontra. Bahkan banyak pihak yang menyatakan bahawa JAKIM telah mengambil keputusan yang tidak munasabah dan terburu-buru. Wartawan Berita Harian telah meminta pegawai kanan JAKIM untuk memberi ulasan yang mendalam sebab-sebab JAKIM mengeluarkan fatwa sedemikian. Inilah isi wawancara tersebut:

Wartawan: Bagaimana JAKIM boleh mengeluarkan fatwa haram untuk menikahi gadis sekampung?

Pegawai Kanan : Bagaimana tidak haram, sedangkan menikahi empat orang wanita sahaja sudah berat, apalagi satu kampung... ... ... .!!!

Hehehehehe... jgn marah ah... nanti kena jual, saya gurau je ... :-)

Have a good week everybody!

Friday, 7 November 2008


Congratulations to Barack Obama on being elected as the 44th President of the United States of America. It took more than 200 years for Americans to effect a seemingly impossible change, but change they did. I hope that we Malaysians need not wait that long.

In the mean time, I leave you with this bit of trivia about Americans that would probably apply to us too...

Sporting Preference of the Workforce

In the United States, a research was carried out to determine the sporting preferences of the workforce.

The sport of choice of the general workers and unskilled employees is basketball. The sport of choice of the technicians and supervisors is bowling. The professionals and executives prefer baseball.

The sport of choice of the top managers and CEOs is of course, golf.

The conclusion of the research is :
The higher you are in the management heirarchy, the smaller your balls.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

School hours in Malaysia

Just a short post on serious stuff for today.

My youngest son is in the first year of secondary school. He's in the afternoon session. Occasionally, when it is convenient, I would pick him up from school on the way back from work.

Last week, while waiting for my son outside the school gates, I overheard a conversation between a parent and a schoolbus driver, lamenting about how late the school ends. The afternoon session finishes at 6.45pm and given the early sunset time these days, most kids get home after dark. For schoolchildren taking public transport or the schoolbuses, they reach home at around 8pm to 9pm. Ideally, I heard the parent say, kids should be safely at home by sundown. As it is now, this is not quite possible for those in the afternoon session. If you consider our children in Sabah, where the sun sets earlier than in Peninsular, they are even more unfortunate.

I tend to agree with this comment. Schools should finish at around 5 or 5.30pm for the day, so that the children don't have to spend the maghrib hours still on the buses. For this to happen, Malaysia need to implement a single-session system. To achieve this means building more schools.

If I were the Minister of Education, this is something I would aim to do, apart from making teaching an attractive profession by improving the incentives and benefits. Don't tell me our country doesn't have the money. Just today, the government announced a RM7 billion economic stimulus package.

It's never too expensive to invest in our young and future generation.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Streets of London

As some of you may have noticed, I've recently updated my blogroll to include newly found friends in blogosphere. One of these is Kak Teh, whose Choc-a-Bloc Blog, has a large and loyal following. I'm one of those who regularly visits her blog but have never left any comment until last week.

Kak Teh is considered a veteran blogger, having kept a weblog since December 2004. She resides in London and her posts about life in that city and the UK in general are very interesting.

I've stayed in London before, as a student of course, but only for a short period of six months. But what a memorable six months it was. It was supposed to be the first year of my A-levels but I practically didn't study anything during that period. Not a good example, you might say, but that's just me... no need to hide it.

I first arrived in London sometime in January of 1980. Bloody freezing cold. I was part of a large group of students sent to the UK before our MCE results were out. While most of the students were sent to established colleges all over the UK (where other Malaysian students have studied before), a group of 13 including yours truly, were enrolled at a private college in Greenwich, London for the first time. The Malaysian Students Department (MSD) was sort of testing to see if this college was up to the mark. As I mentioned earlier, there wasn't much studying done, and after a few months, we reported back to MSD and asked to be transferred to a better college for the next term.

Upon arriving in London, this group of 13 naive boys were first housed in an old boarding house called Blackheath Hall in the south-eastern suburb of the city. Although the hall had central heating, it was still drab and dreary. The walk from the hall to our college was about 20 minutes, past open public fields. The stay at Blackheath was temporary, only for about 2 weeks, if I recall correctly. In that period, we were tasked to find permanent accomodation on our own. Since there were no Malaysian seniors at the college, you can imagine how difficult it was because we had no-one we could refer to for advice. Nonetheless, we were told by other foreign students to search the advertisements in the evening papers.

After Blackheath, I stayed at two different places in an area called New Cross. It was a bit far from college but the rent was cheap and we had many other foreign students as neighbours. The daily journey from rented flat to college was a single bus ride for about half-an-hour. While the particular college we went to was nothing to brag about, the sub-district of Greenwich is actually a beautiful and historical place. There are many places of interests within walking distance of each other but the most memorable one that I went to was the Royal Observatory. This is the origin of the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian or Zero Longitude that divides the globe into east and west.

Gabriel on the right is standing in the west, Khairul in the middle straddles Zero longitude while Silla is standing in the east. Pic taken at Greenwich Royal observatory in 1980.

The GMT has now been replaced by the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), but to me Malaysia is and will always be +8 hours GMT.

The financial allowance that we got from MSD at that time was not particularly lavish, especially if you consider the relatively high cost of living in the city of London. Most weekends were therefore spent at home or at most, browsing around the shopping areas of south-eastern districts such as Lewisham and Brockley. Occasionally, we would take the bus or underground train to go to central London. The first stop would of course be the Malaysian Hall at Bryanston Square near Marble Arch for the subsidised lunch at only 50 pence. After lunch, we would walk the length of the famous shopping road of Oxford Street, not actually buying anything. Some years back, I read that Malaysian Hall was going to close down because the lease was up. I wonder if it's still there.

One evening, during early spring, my two friends and I, decided to explore the West End area of London. Although called `west', the area is actually located in central London and is famous for its many tourist attractions such as museums, theatres, cinemas, restaurants and nightclubs. In short, it's the entertainment centre of London. We spent the earlier part of the evening strolling the area of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, and later decided to catch a late night movie at one of the cinemas. I can't recall the title of the movie but most probably it was one with an adult rating. After the movie, we walked around trying to find a place to buy fish and chips. It was after finishing the meal sitting on a park bench, that we realised that the buses and trains have stopped for the night. Crap! How were we going to get home? Taking a taxi would be too expensive and we weren't sure we had enough money left anyway.

The only other option was to walk back home. Since I was fairly confident of the route (as traveled by bus earlier in the day), we decided to take the walk although we were not sure how far we actually had to travel. And so that night, three young Malaysian chaps braved the unknown to walk from central London to the south-east district of New Cross. After all these years, I can still retrace the route that we took. From Leicester Square, we walked past The Strand, crossed the River Thames on Waterloo Bridge to get to South Bank, down Waterloo Road to The Elephant & Castle roundabout, down New Kent Road that led to Old Kent Road (also known as the A2), on to New Cross Road before finally turning to Pepys Road where our flat was located.

The route took us through tough working-class neighbourhoods. I re-traced the path we took using Google Earth and measured it at 8.3km. On hindsight, it was probably a crazy thing we did that night.

The path of a night stroll in London, re-traced on a Google Earth image

I haven't had the opportunity to visit London again since I finished university. Sure hope that someday I would be able to do so.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Two Faces, the latest reprint

I was browsing at Popular Bookstore in City Square earlier today and spotted a book that I've been looking for since a few months ago. Dr. Syed Husin Ali's book, Two Faces - Detention Without Trial, has been reprinted by a new publisher and is now available at the bookstores.

The book is a translation of his original Malay work titled `Dua Wajah - Tahanan Tanpa Bicara', that was first published in 1996. It tells the story of Syed Husin's detention under the Internal Security Act for nearly six years. My earlier post relating to this book can be read here -> Punishing those who are threats to society?

To my blogger-friend Michelle Yoon, this latest book would be on its way to New Zealand shortly.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Lessons in life

Earlier today, I read this lovely post about Deepavali from blogger friend Hliza who remembers her schoolmate from younger days by the name of Sumathi. Hliza's story reminded me of my own experience of having a close friend who was not of the same race. I narrated that experience as a comment in Hliza's blog and thought that I could share the story here too.

My best friend when I was in Standard Three of primary school was an Indian boy named Suresh Kumar. One day, Suresh invited me to attend his birthday party at his house after school. When I got back home, I told my mother about it but she did not allow me to go. The reason given was that I need to bring something as a birthday present and we didn't have time to buy any. I told mom that my friend said it was okay if I didn't bring presents but mom wasn't budging.

You can imagine how disheartened I was... and I was sulking the whole afternoon. Later that day, Suresh came over to my house, bringing a small tupperware containing a piece of his birthday cake and some other goodies. He wanted to know why I didn't come. I simply mentioned that I didn't have permission to go. For this simple gesture alone, I will remember Suresh for the rest of my life.

When my father returned from work that evening, he found out about it. He sort of chided my mom for not allowing me to go. The very least, my father said, was that my mom could've bought a box of chocolates for me to bring as a birthday present. It was the first time I remember my father backing me on something.

I suspect the real reason my mother forbade me to go was something entirely different. But I do not blame her for it. It was a typical mother's concern at the time.

Nowadays, when my own sons get invited to the birthday parties of their non-Malay friends, I have no objections at all. A few years back, when we were staying at Taman Melawati in Kuala Lumpur, my youngest son got invited to a birthday party of his Chinese classmate named Nicholas. As we dropped off our son in front of the friend's house, my wife began to remind him about being careful about what to eat at the party. I gently cut her off by saying that she should not worry. I was confident that there wouldn't be any issue about food on two counts... firstly, my son is mature enough to know what he can or cannot eat. Secondly, I was sure that Nicholas' parents, having invited their son's Malay friends, would be wise enough not to serve food that Muslims could not eat.

Race relations is quite a complicated subject in this country of ours, especially in the light of recent events. Despite all the government campaigns and slogans, the oft-repeated buzzwords of `perpaduan' and `muhibbah' may end up being just that... slogans with no real meaning. Why is this so? I think it's because we have a sprinkling of bigots in power... on all sides. It's very difficult to change the opinions of such people and I wouldn't deny them their right to hold on to such opinions. The very least I can do is to make my own children understand and appreciate the diversity of all the various races in Malaysia. If other parents can also make this small but significant effort, then there is hope yet for all of us.

Finally, my thanks to Hliza for sharing her childhood memories that made me remember about mine.

To Suresh Kumar, hope you are keeping well my friend, wherever you are. You're one friend with the heart of gold.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Festival of Lights

Wishing a Happy Deepavali to my Hindu friends in Malaysia and elsewhere. May the future of our country be bright and all its citizens living in peace and harmony.

Pic of Kolam borrowed from

Friday, 24 October 2008

On a lighter note

Terlewat sebulan

Sepasang pengantin baru berkahwin 4 bulan. Pada suatu malam si isteri memeluk leher suami dengan nada manja seraya berkata, "Ayang, period i dah lewat sebulan, tapi i tak boleh nak pastikan lagi sebab kita kena gi check kat doktor."

Si suami yang teramat gembira tu pun berpakat dengan isterinya untuk tidak memberitahu sesiapa pun tentang perkhabaran gumbira ini sehingga ianya benar-benar pasti.

Pada suatu hari, pasangan ini di datangi oleh pegawai dari TNB kerana terdapat tunggakan dalam pembayaran bill elektrik rumah mereka. Pegawai TNB tu pun bertanya "Ini rumah En. Mahpus ker?" "Iya, saya ni isterinya. Ada apa Encik?"

Pegawai TNB tu pun berkata, "Puan, ni dah sebulan lewat, saya dah tak boleh tunggu ni, nanti boss saya marah."

Dengan nada terkejut, si isteri itu pun membalas balik cakap pegawai TNB tu."APA??? Macam mana pulak Encik tahu yang saya ni sebulan lewat???"

Pegawai TNB tu pun dengan selamba menjawab "Alaa puan, ni kan zaman IT, semua tu ada dalam komputer dan kita boleh check Online."

Kata-kata pegawai TNB tu membuatkan si isteri tu lagi terkejut.
"APAAA???? Saya lewat sebulan pun awak semua boleh tahuuu???"

Pegawai TNB tu pun mententeramkan keadaan. "Releks puan, puan ni baru lewat sebulan, ada yg lagi teruk, lewat 5-6 bulan."

Si isteri yang terperanjat beruk dengan kenyataan pegawai tu pun berkata, “Nanti saya bincang dengan suami saya..” Lalu pegawai TNB tu pun beredar dari situ..

Keesokkan harinya, selepas si Mahphus ini diberitahu oleh isterinya, dia pun naik berang dan terus amik cuti dan pergi ke kedai TNB yang berdekatan.

Dengan tanpa menghiraukan pegawai-pegawai TNB yang ramai di situ, dia pun memekik seraya berkata, "Apa korang ni, isteri saya sebulan lewat pun nak heboh-heboh ke dalam internet! Awak ni semua yang berkeluarga tak pernah lewat sebulan kerrrr????!! Bisness apa korang buat niii?? Nak kena saman kerr???”

Lalu pegawai yang datang ke rumah si Mahphus ni berdiri dan cuba mententeramkan keadaan. "Sabar encik, sabar encik. Apa susah, kalau cik nak settlekan perkara ni, bayar je..."

Kata-kata pegawai TNB tu membuatkan si Mahphus tambah naik berang.

"APAAA?? nak bayar korang? belahhhh lahh...."

Lalu pegawai TNB tu pun cakap, "Kalau macam tu, kita terpaksa potong encik punya..........."

Si Mahpus mencelah, "Apa??? Potong??? Abih tu isteri saya di rumah nak pakai apaaaaaa???”

Pegawai TNB tu pun cakap, "Nampak gayanye.. ISTERI ENCIK KENA PAKAI LILIN AJERRRLAAAAAAAA"

Note : Got this from my favourite online forum site. Original author unknown.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Fiction, continued...

Headnote : The opening part of this story can be read in the post of 30 September 2008, here -> Part 1.


A Bingo Straight To The Heart (Part 2)

Sheffield, England – Winter of 1990

During our student days, me and my three housemates were Scrabble freaks and we play the game for hours on end almost every Saturday. It was the winter break and I was in the final year of my Accountancy course. Aida is two years my junior, studying Civil Engineering, the only Malaysian girl taking up a technical course out of the twenty Malaysian girls studying in Sheffield at that time.

Aida stayed in a rented flat a few streets away from our house and she and her housemates often join us on our Scrabble sessions. On one particular Saturday afternoon just before Christmas holiday that year, Aida as usual, turned up at our door for a Scrabble session, but this time without her girl friends. Instead she had brought along her classmate, Johari.

“Hi guys!” chirped Aida in her ever-present jovial voice as soon as she stepped into our hallway from the cold outside. “This is my friend, Johari. I hope you all don’t mind me bringing him along. Dee and Ann are away at some friend’s place so I’ve invited Joe to join us.”

It was the first time we were having a male visitor in the house and Mei Lin, my housemate who had opened the door, looked at me for a sign of approval. Aida’s friend had already stepped into the hallway and it would have been very discourteous and awkward to turn him away.

“No problem. Please come on in,” I replied.

“All right!” Aida exclaimed, smiling widely as if she had struck the winning lottery or something. “Joe, this is Kak June, that’s Mei Lin and over there is Anita and Nooraini,” she continues to introduce us.

“Hello,” Joe said. “I hope this is not too much of a trouble. Aida thought that you guys may need an extra hand at the game and has asked me to come along.”

“No trouble!” I said, “You are most welcome to join us.”

I wasn’t sure if I was entirely truthful when I said that at the time.

... to be continued.

Monday, 20 October 2008

The abode of a princess

On Saturday, I attended the wedding of my colleague whose kampung is at Sungai Mati in the district of Muar, Johor. After the wedding, I traveled on the Bukit Gambir - Panchor road to access the North-South highway at Pagoh.

This particular road passes through the rice-planting region of Gersik where the spectacular scenery of Gunung Ledang fills the background. It was already almost dusk when I took the photograph shown below. With the very low level of light and without a tripod, it was difficult to avoid camera shake. I didn't have time to scout around for better angles either. How I wished to have a good dSLR camera in my possession.

Gunung Ledang, also known by the English name of Mount Ophir, is famous for the legend of a beautiful princess whose hand was sought in marriage by the Sultan of Melaka. The princess set seven practically-impossible conditions for the Sultan to fulfil before his marriage proposal can be accepted. One version of the fable has it that the first six conditions were met but the Sultan failed the final one... to provide a bowl of blood from the Sultan's own son.

When I was younger, listening to this story always filled me with awe. Nowadays, I've come to realise that it was meant to teach something... that men can become so stupid and senseless upon being enchanted by the beauty of a woman. The princess set all those impossible conditions because she didn't want to marry the Sultan in the first place. In other words, she was trying to politely decline... but the Melaka ruler just didn't get it. To paraphrase it in Malay, tak kan tak paham-paham lagi.

As I said, there are many versions of this folklore. A very good research piece done by Sabri Zain can be read here -> The Fairy Princess of Gunung Ledang.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

A good makan spot in Mersing, Johor

I mentioned earlier that we spent the second day of Aidilfitri at my wife's kampung. Having had enough of ketupat and rendang for two days, I decided to take the family out for dinner. As it was still the second day of raya, I didn't think that there would be many restaurants open for business yet, but we took a chance of exploring the small town of Mersing anyway.

Surprise, surprise! We found one that was open and what a find it was. The restaurant is called Sally's Place and the tagline on the signboard says that they serve Chinese Muslim food. Sally's Place is quite unique in that it is actually an old Malay kampung house. The original living room and bedrooms in the raised section of the house are now converted to dining areas. The kitchen is located in a front annex on the ground floor. Being still a small-time business, the interior decor is nothing to shout about... but the taste of the food was something else.

Our meal that night was made up of Siakap fish steamedTeochew-style, hot-plate ginger beef, black pepper prawns, mixed vegetable soup and egg foo-yung. The steamed fish was exquisite and the beef was delicious. The prawns were a tad small, both in size and portion but the black pepper taste was actually quite good. If they had served us large-sized prawns (for which I don't mind paying for), it would have been perfect. The soup and eggs were not bad too. We cleared all the dishes, no leftovers.

Steamed Siakap, Teochew-style

Black pepper prawns

The whole meal for four cost me RM67 only. How's that for value for money.

I was told that Sally's Place began operating only recently, about 3 or 4 months ago. I hope they can maintain their taste and I wish them continued success. The restaurant is located about two kilometres from the centre of Mersing town, north after the bridge on the road to Endau. They are open during dinner time only.

I went to the place again the next day to take a photo of the house from the outside. Opposite the house is a tranquil beach facing the North China Sea.

If you happen to be spending a night in Mersing, do drop by Sally's Place for a lovely dinner of Chinese Muslim cuisine.

Old Malay kampung house converted into a restaurant

Mersing Kanan beach with a view of Pulau Setindan

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Malaysians do not love their rivers

Earlier today, I did a survey of Sungai Tebrau, one of the main rivers in the district of Johor Bahru. Despite the numerous campaigns by the government for us to love our rivers, huge amount of rubbish is still dumped into them. The City Council launched a gotong-royong effort to clean up and beautify this river on 10 May this year. Five months down the road, we are back to our old habits.

Seems that many among us still have the so-called third world mentality.

Waterway full of garbage

Floating rubbish on its way to the sea

Downstream view at the fisherman's jetty near Kg. Bakar Batu

At the Jalan Tebrau (Route 3) Bridge

Upstream view next to Pasar Borong Pandan

KTM railway bridge at the upper reaches of the river

Under Permas Jaya Bridge near the river mouth

Majlis Bandaraya Johor Bahru Tebrau River Cleanup Programme. More pics and news of this event can be seen at MBJB's website.