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

Interlude

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.