Sunday, 30 April 2017

What's 4-ever for?

Where's the 4th floor?
The above photo of an elevator selector buttons was taken at a newly-opened hotel in Bangi, Selangor. We stayed there yesterday as part of our weekend break to attend two wedding receptions.

When I looked at those buttons, the following possibilities come to mind :

1. The building/hotel owner is a very superstitious Chinese man.
2. The hotel owner/operator does not wish to lose business should potential Chinese clients decline to stay on the 4th floor.
3. The building owner obtained advice from a feng-shui master that the numeral 4 should not appear anywhere in the building.

I understand the Chinese culture of avoiding the number 4 as much as possible because in certain dialects, it sounds close to the Chinese word for `death'. But going to such lengths as to replace 4 with 3A on elevator buttons only serve to manifest the superstition to become a norm. Heck, staying in a room at Floor 3A still technically means that you are on the 4th floor.

To what extent would this practice be adopted? Would there actually be a limit?

Would there be no counter number 4 at banks or government service centres?
Things that cost RM4.50 would now be priced at RM3A.50?
Channel 4 on your TV remote control would now be Channel 3A?
No more meetings or appointments would be held at 4.00pm?

I can go on and on... but I'd rather offer a solution. Can the Chinese consider giving their number four another name? Call it something other than `ser' or `sey'. Something that does not sound like death? It would solve the problem. Serious.

There is nothing wrong with the numeral 4. It's all in the mind.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

When we come across the name Philadelphia, we are most likely to identify it as a city in the United States of America. It therefore surprised me a bit to find out that another city had this same name and at a time when the the US was not yet in existence.

Philadelphia was once the name of Amman, the present-day capital of Jordan. That name was in use when the area was under the Ptolemaic Kingdom (ancient Greeks based in Egypt) in the BCE period. I discovered this fact during my visit to Jordan in 2013. It was quite a delightful trip and the one week duration I allocated for the visit was not enough. If you are a history buff, then Jordan would be more of interest to you than the other middle-east countries. I'd say even more interesting than Egypt.

When I got back from the trip, I had planned to write about it in this blog. I only managed to put up an introductory post (here) but then failed keep to my plan. This entry is therefore a much-delayed effort at sharing some of the fascinating aspects of this beautiful country.

So what made me move my butt and decide to post on this subject? A friend of mine is presently enjoying a holiday in Jordan and uploaded some lovely photos on her Facebook page. It made me recall my own time there and caused me to peek again at the hundreds of photographs I took. I guess it is time to share a small selection here. I'll arrange the pictures based on the locations visited. In order not to flood a single post with too many photos, I'll spread them out over a few parts (I'll try my best to keep the promise, this time).


Within the capital itself are quite a number of attractions worth seeing. No doubt the most famous tourist site in Jordan is Petra but it is located some distance away from Amman, around 3 to 4 hours drive to the south. You'll need a full day to really explore the wonders of that Nabatean ruins. We decided to start with a tour of Amman and the following are the few places we manage to visit within a day.

1. Roman Amphitheatre

The old Amman city was built on seven hills. In downtown Amman, carved into the side of one of those hills, the ancient Romans had constructed an amphitheatre that could seat an audience of 6,000 people. Being the engineer that I am, the beautiful geometrical proportions of this theatre impressed me. The Romans surely had very skilled surveyors and craftsmen during their day.

The overall structure is still in reasonable shape. Credit to the Jordanian authorities for keeping it so.

I climbed the steep stairs to the highest level, walked to the centre section and sat down on the stone seating. As I viewed the stage far below, I imagined an ancient play being performed. Enchanting.

View of theatre from street level. The new plaza in front is modern-day construction

Three tiers of seating in semi-circular layout

The middle section of the lowest tier has wider seating area, presumably for VIPs

View from the topmost tier. The stage seems a long way down from here

2. The Citadel

Not far from the amphitheatre at the top of a neighbouring hill is Amman Citadel. The citadel is a fort that was occupied and inhabited by various peoples and cultures in its illustrious history. The structures and buildings that can be seen today come from the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods. It is quite amazing to see the different cultural and religious influences, spanning thousands of years within the same site.

The Roman Amphitheatre and downtown Amman as seen from the Citadel

At the entrance to the Citadel site are plaques displaying the names of the city at different periods of its history

Temple of Hercules, built by Romans in 162 - 166 CE

Temple of Hercules

Temple of Hercules

Temple of Hercules

Ruins of Umayyad dwellings

Domed gateway to Umayyad Palace

Local boys happy to have their picture taken by a tourist

Ruins of a Byzantine church in the foreground

3. Cave of The Seven Sleepers

The story of seven young men and their loyal dog who sought refuge in a cave and fell asleep for hundreds of years, is mentioned in the holy Al-Quran (Surah 18 : Al-kahf, The Cave). The exact location of the cave however, is not stated. Jordanians claim that the cave is in their country, on the outskirts of the capital. They base this claim on the geographical references deduced from the said surah. Whether the miracle event actually happened here or not isn't the main issue for me. The visit made me explore the story further and learn an underlying lesson contained in the surah. This tale has a parallel in Christian tradition.

My earlier post on this topic can be read here -> Cave of 7 Sleepers.

Signboard of the cave location

Entrance to the cave structure, thought to be built in the Byzantine era

We managed to squeeze in this stop just before closing time. As such, I was not able to take as much photos as I would have liked. Okay then... that's it for this post. The next post on this theme shall be about other interesting places outside of Amman, insyaAllah...

Monday, 10 April 2017

Sembilan bulan

I recently saw a quote which I thought was something that hits directly to the heart.

"Home is where mom is."

So very true. For someone who carried you in her belly for nine months, went through the pain of childbirth and raised you to the become a decent human being, no other person in this world deserve more respect and affection than your mother. As a French novelist once wrote, the heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.

My own mother celebrated her 76th birthday last month. She is coping as well as can be, considering her recovery from heart complications two years ago. I visit her as often as I can, which for me, is never enough.

Anyway, I'm putting up this post specifically to share some trivia about the numeral 9 :

a) In a normal non-leap year, the 9th of September is the 252nd day of the year. If we total up those numerals 2 + 5 + 2, we will get 9.

b) Any whole number multiplied by 9, would give an answer whose individual digits when added up result in 9. Example ~ 2 x 9 = 18, 1 + 8 = 9.  Or 32 x 9 = 288, 2 + 8 + 8 = 18, 1 + 8 = 9.   Or 126 x 9 = 1,134, 1 + 1 + 3 + 4 = 9.

c) The sum total of the ten digits in our arabic numerical system,
     0+1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9=45. 4 + 5 = 9.
    Works equally well in subtraction (change all the plus to minus), where we'll get -9.

d) Okay, let's try multiplication. Obviously we can't use zero in the equation, so it becomes,
     1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8x9 = 362,880. Therefore 3 + 6 + 2 + 8 + 8 + 0 = 27. And further on, 2 + 7 = 9.
     And does it work with division as well? I'll let you try that one out yourself.

So why this sudden interest in the number nine. It's just to let you know that this week marks the 9th year that this humble non-money-making blog is in circulation. Since writing the first post on 8 April 2008, I have now published a total of 468* entries. A mixed bag of personal stories, ramblings and sometimes worthless snippets.

Of course, the regularity of posting has somewhat declined over the years, as has the number of comments from readers. But I am not concerned about the figures. I just hope to have the interest and drive to continue writing and hopefully make the 10th anniversary target next year. Let's take it one year at a time.

Thank you to all readers and commenters for the company.

(* Coincidentally, 4 + 6 + 8 = 18, 1 + 8 = 9. I'm dreaming of nines this week :-)

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

One local destination a month - Part 3 : Lumut, Perak

Of all the states in Malaysia, I believe Perak is the one with the most peculiar place-names. By peculiar, I do not mean that they are strange or odd-sounding, but rather the names of normal everyday objects or nouns that somehow evolved to become the name of a place. This in itself is not abnormal (many places are named after the physical characteristics of the location, e.g. Kuala Lumpur, the muddy river mouth) but when you see the examples I'm about to give, you would perhaps understand what I mean.

The following examples and their literal translation :

1. Parit - drain or canal
2. Papan - wooden plank or board
3. Pusing - turn or rotate
4. Lumut - moss
5. Larut - multiple meanings i. dissolve in water, ii. late or extended
6. Matang - mature or ripe
7. Dinding - wall
8. Tambun - fat (a person) or pile (of earth, for example)
9. Mambang Di Awan - ghostly spirit in the clouds

There are of course, a number of other examples but I guess you get my point. Even the name of the state itself means silver, an error of description from ancient days for another mineral that is abundant in the state, i.e. tin. For its sheer freakishness and with no other comparable equivalent elsewhere in Malaysia, I'll give my vote to last place-name in the above list.

On 25 March last week, we were in Lumut to attend a wedding reception. After the reception, we booked into a budget hotel in Seri Manjung, the Ritz Garden Hotel. I have never stayed at this hotel before. I chose it after reading some guest reviews in Google Maps and I'm pleased to say that most of the reviews are accurate. I am satisfied with my stay there and I rate the place as value for money.

Later in the evening, we went to the small town of Lumut and took a leisurely walk along the jetty waterfront. This is where you board the ferry if you wish to visit the nearby Pangkor Island. It was a bright and lively place. There are a few roadside stalls selling snacks, drinks and souvenirs. Many people are taking a stroll or simply sitting on benches to admire the view of a glorious sunset. I guess we were there on a lucky day because the weather was nice and the orange-yellow sky was stunning. I lost count of how many shots I took on my phone-camera.

After the last light of the day finally disappeared, we went for dinner at the Horizon Garden Restaurant. Apparently this place is affiliated to another restaurant in Kuantan with the same name. I've patronised the Kuantan outlet a few times and I liked it. I therefore decided to give this branch a try and again I'm pleased to say that the food they serve are quite delicious. While the price may be on the upper range for some, I consider it reasonable because of the comfortable seating and satisfactory service.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we made another visit to Lumut town before making the long drive back to Johor Bahru. I had discovered on Google Maps that there is an old de-commissioned navy frigate which has been converted into a museum. This ship was not there when I last dropped by Lumut about ten years ago. I was very eager to take a step on this old vessel.

Alas, when we reached there that morning, Rahmat Maritime Museum is closed. The ship is moored there alright, but the gate at the front of the jetty walkway was locked. I had a look at the opening hours stated on the signboard. We were not early. So how come?

A stall-owner at the waterfront then told us that the place has been closed for nearly a year. Closed for what? It couldn't be for maintenance works because I see no activity on board. To me, the proper thing to do was to put up a `closure' sign of some sort at the front gate so that long distance travellers like me would at least know something. As it turned out, this was the only disappointment I had in our trip to Perak.

With this part of the itinerary cancelled, we made a short stop at Hasil Laut Jamilah, a store selling dried seafood products from Pangkor, namely anchovies (ikan bilis) and salted fish. I know that there are a few grades of anchovies but before that day, I didn't know that one of the highest grade is called ikan bilis mata biru. Really? I thought `blue eyes' is exclusive to Frank Sinatra... but what do I know about fish..

Fishing in the sunset at Lumut Waterfront. Visited 24 March 2017

No wind, just glorious evening sky

Nice view to end the day

KD Rahmat. A ship museum. Good idea but poor implementation

Good range of products at reasonable prices and very friendly owners

Mata biru, the best bilis that money can buy