Thursday, 30 June 2016

Double exit

Last week, the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union, not by an overwhelming majority, but by simple advantage of 52% against 48%. This means that a very significant number had chosen to remain. Indeed over the few days after the referendum results, social media was abuzz with so-called claims that many have regretted the exit choice.

Brexit does not affect me directly, so I cannot claim to have a keen interest in the subject or have good knowledge of the implications. Nonetheless, having stayed in the UK for a number of years, I do have fond memories of the country. If I am there now and have a right to vote, I would have chosen to leave.

But who would have thought that Brexit would be an ominous sign for another departure a few days later. England was knocked out of the Euro 2016 football tournament by minnows Iceland.

I have not watched any of the group matches over the past few weeks. A bit strange for me actually, to have minimal interest in the current tournament. Especially since my favourite EPL team Liverpool, has 12 players in the different Euro squads, joint top club with Juventus of Italy. Somehow, the interest has waned compared to previous years. I have stopped being a supporter of England many years ago. In the previous World Cup, I cheered for Holland. But Holland failed to qualify for Euro 2016 so this time around I guess I'll cheer for Wales.

The Wales vs Northern Ireland match was the first one I watched live on Astro. I am rooting for Wales because I studied at Wrexham in North Wales for a short while. Before that, I had not known that the Welsh speak an entirely different language from English. In their language, their country is known as Cymru. It is a pity that I had not taken the opportunity to learn more of the Welsh language and culture while I was there.

I do hope that Wales beat Belgium in the next game and progress to the semi-finals. The chances may be slim but we can always dream. Give me hope, Joe Allen...

Monday, 6 June 2016

The Nine States

The newest addition to our extended family of the Hj Mohd Amin clan is a sweet lass, Nur Diyana Zainal Abidin, who married our nephew, Ridzuan Zaid in March this year. Diyana hails from the neighbouring state of Negeri Sembilan. Literally, the name translates to Nine States but perhaps is more appropriately mentioned as nine districts or provinces.

I am surprised to find out that modern Negeri Sembilan has 7 (and not 9) districts. The original 9 districts were :

1. Jelai
2. Jelebu
3. Johol
4. Kelang (now a district in Selangor)
5. Naning (now part of Melaka)
6. Rembau
7. Segamat (now in Johor) / Pasir Besar (now in Tampin, a town that straddles the NS - Melaka border)
8. Sungai Ujong
9. Alu Panah (now divided between Jelebu and Pahang state)

Diyana's hometown is called Batu Kikir which is in the district of Jempol. As you can see, the present-day Jempol is not one of the original 9 districts.

Anyway, to get to Batu Kikir from Johor Bahru, we took the North-South Highway and exited at Senawang interchange. From there we took the road heading towards Kuala Pilah. I had been to Kuala Pilah twice before, the last trip more than 25 years ago to attend the wedding of a close friend at his hometown of Seri Menanti.

It was an interesting drive on the road to Kuala Pilah. Once past the area known as Bukit Putus, you can see many stalls by the roadside selling smoked duck (itek salai). This is quite unique because duck is not commonly consumed by Malays. Outside of Negeri Sembilan, you would be hard-pressed to look for halal duck meat.

The royal town of Seri Menanti in Kuala Pilah district is an interesting place to visit because of the old palace or Istana Lama. However, on the day we were there, the palace was closed for renovations. From what I read in Trip Advisor, the renovations had been ongoing for a fairly long time, causing much inconvenience to tourists. A sad thing, really.

Another little known fact is that the source of the Muar River (the length of which is mostly located in Johor state) is in Kuala Pilah. I took a detour off the main road to explore the upper reaches of this famous Johor river. As I passed one of the isolated villages, I saw a young boy probably still in his early teens, riding on an awesome looking motorbike which had the shape of an extended custom-made chopper. I was too slow in getting my camera out and hence missed out on an opportunity for capturing a classic scene.

Ok then, that's enough of a write-up on the 9 States for now.

Best wishes to my muslim friends and readers in this holy fasting month. Ramadhan kareem...

Batu Kikir, a town made famous in a local pop song, sung in the Nismilan dialect
Istana Lama Seri Menanti
Sungai Muar in Kuala Pilah

Too late to capture a side view of this kid on a chopper
Smoked duck which was later cooked into rendang itek