Monday, May 23, 2005

Still In JB

The wedding function is not until tomorrow. We have a free day today. I got up very early and went for my morning exercise. After breakfast we visited my sister. The house has been readied for tomorrow’s occasion. Tents will be put up on the road in front of the house at night so as to have the least hindrance to traffic. There was nothing much for us to do then as most are ready. So we took leave and headed for the public swimming pool complex where two of my brothers have offices in the complex and a sister runs an office-cum-services and convenience shop. My brothers also operate a car-wash in the complex. There are quite a lot of economic activities going on there. With proper planning, maintenance, advertisement, etc., the place should flourish. We stayed there for quite a while and then went home for lunch.

A little after lunchtime we went to the Johore Specialist Centre to visit Ram’s grandniece that had the previous night given birth to her first baby, a boy. Delivery was done by her own father and Ram’s nephew, a gynecologist at the hospital, and this is his first grandchild. He must be very proud to be able to deliver his own grandson. The baby’s paternal grandparents arrived just after we arrived at the hospital. This is their first grandchild too; hence there was excitement all round. The baby’s father happens to be working in Melaka Refinery having joined after I have left. He is now involved in a new co-generation project for the refinery. So we have common conversation pieces to share.

Later we headed back to my youngest sister’s house. There were odds and ends to be done and all helped to get them done, but they were mostly ladies’ work. Ram helped wherever she could. Most of my brothers and sisters were there that night. There were a lot of joking, bantering and fun type exchanges between siblings and we were like bringing the roof down!! There was free flow of drinks and laksa, a favourite local spaghetti dish that is popular amongst us. We ended up going home in the wee hours!!

The next morning I went for my morning walk and exercise as usual. There were more people exercising this morning as it was a Saturday. You can see all sorts of styles. Some running, some jogging, some playing badminton, some doing aerobics. I also see one or two walking backwards!! After breakfast we got ready to go to my sister’s house.

All the preparations made for the wedding reception and its execution went on well. The function was from noon till 5.00pm. The only snag was it rained the whole afternoon. But that did not dampen spirits and we met many of our kinfolks and friends who came from all over. It was nice meeting them all at once. It is usually only at weddings and funerals that we can get a chance to meet up with everybody all at the same time. We shared whatever news amongst ourselves in the short meetings we had, but it was fun and pleasant all the same.

The next morning we left JB very early for home. This was because Sita and family were in PJ and were returning to Kerteh in the afternoon. They could not join us in JB for the wedding reception. It was a very pleasant early morning drive that Sunday. There were very few cars on the road and we were home in about three hours, no traffic rules broken!! We had quite a few hours playing with baby Najla, who is able to sit up now. Tessa came home too. Sita and family left for Kerteh at about 4.00pm. Suddenly the house became very quiet ………… again………………..!!

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Wedding In JB

My youngest sister held a wedding reception for his eldest son in her house in JB. This is to welcome the bridegroom to the family after the wedding ceremony in the East Coast state. All of us were looking forward to the occasion, not so much for the wedding as the solemnization ceremony had been over a couple of weeks earlier, but for the opportunity to meet and catch up with friends and kinfolks of near and far. It is usually at weddings that we get to meet them all at one go, those living in KL and PJ inclusive.

The reception was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. We had no other commitment the few days prior; hence we took our time to go down to JB. We left PJ on Wednesday and stopped overnight in our PD house. We have not been there for quite a while now and we thought that this is a good occasion as any to check it out. The house was ok. We need not put in much effort to clean it this time. I like it here very much as it is in a sparsely developed part of the outskirts of PD, with very wide open grounds and by the seaside too. We go for morning and evening walks either to the seaside or just around and by the marina within our housing complex. We also go swimming in the pool or use the sauna sometimes.

The next morning we took a slow drive to Melaka via the coastal road. It was nostalgic. We went around the Refinery located at Tangga Batu some 30 kilometers before reaching Melaka town, and looking at it brings back memories of the hard work, the tough negotiations and the problem-sorting in starting up of the refinery in its early project development, construction and commissioning stage. I was involved in this refinery project from greenfields to its start up. Going on from Tangga Batu, we continued on the coastal road to the town. There have been quite a lot of changes and I found it rather confusing as the road systems have changed. Many streets have been made one way streets and that threw my bearings haywire.

It was almost lunchtime when we arrived in the town of Melaka and I was going round and round looking for that favourite restaurant I used to patronize but could not find it. I settled for another restaurant that is equally as good and I later found out that the first restaurant I was looking for had moved to another location because of some development work in the area.

We moved on after lunch to the town of Muar and stopped to buy some local delicacy that we called ‘kuih jepun’, made from wheat flour with red bean paste fillings. Its one of my favourites and have been buying them from the same vendor, one or two generations removed now I guess, since my younger days. The kuih is still made the same way, same size, same taste but the price is now four times what it was when I was a small boy!! We went around the town a bit and then moved on towards Batu Pahat.

Before reaching Batu Pahat we stopped at a village off the main road, to visit our former live-in house help when our children were small. She has her own family of four grown up children now, the eldest had just got married and the youngest one is now in college. We have a small plot of land planted with fruit trees near her place that she helps to take care. After catching up on the family news and chit chats, we moved on to Batu Pahat. Took a drive through the town and noticed that the town has also changed quite a bit since the last time we visited, which was more than ten years ago. From Batu Pahat we drove through to JB.

All throughout the drive, I noticed that the roads have been widened, the winding ones have been straightened, and the surface nice and smooth to drive, and drive at high speed too. It is no wonder then that there has been an increase of accidents on the trunk roads. These trunk roads have side roads and turn offs all along its length, and with vehicles speeding along, other vehicles coming in and out of the side roads and turn offs, a slight error in judgment can be disastrous. Usually the motorcyclists are the one causing most of the misjudgment. Apart from the good roads, there have been new developments, new buildings, replanting of rubber and oil palm estates and various other economic activities. A lot of changes have taken place.

We arrived in JB at dusk and headed straight for Ram’s sister’s house where we usually stay whenever we go down to JB. After dinner and a short rest, we visited my mother. Mum was anxious to know of the medical check ups I went through, especially of the aneurysm problem I have. I explained the details and the monitoring schedule the specialist has set and she appeared relieved hearing it or was she? …………………… I was not!!......................

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, May 19, 2005

More Surprises

The trip to Sydney was one that I had wanted to do long before I retired from active work. I have visited many countries but did not put much effort to visit Sydney or any part of Australia. Not until recently when my friend and former colleague wrote eMails after eMails inviting me to visit. There was also the opportunity, quite by coincidence really, for me to purchase air tickets at travel fair and discounted price offered only on-line. So, conditions were just right for Ram and I to travel to Sydney and off we went.

We were quite surprised to find the place very tourist friendly, the people just as friendly. We were rather apprehensive prior to the trip and after having read in the news previously of how anti-Asians the Australians are and how they look down on non-whites. There was even a political party that sang very loud tunes crying anti-Asian sentiments. But the situation was much different than what we expected. There were no signs of the so called anti-Asian sentiments and everywhere we go we were treated well just the same as everyone else. The place exudes warmth and friendliness. They had very tight screening done on entry and departure at the airport but these were done very professionally. Although I was rather peeved by it I knew that it is their right to protect themselves and we just have to go through it in stride. The pleasures of going through the city amidst the beautiful sceneries, the pleasant atmosphere everywhere we go to, and the friendliness and helpfulness of the people, nullify the discomfort we felt on the strict screening exercise they conducted at the airport.

We had a very enjoyable time and a good holiday. We met up with our friend and they were very good hosts. They took us around and I believe they were also taking this opportunity to visit the various places themselves. They are in their mid 70s but they are still active. I understand that as senior citizens they are well taken care of by the government. They live comfortably and having two daughters with grown up families near them makes it more comfortable for them.

On our return home and upon exiting the arrival hall at the airport we had another surprise. There were many people at the arrival hall waiting for friends and relatives to arrive. Amongst them there was this one man, tall and lanky, full white hair like mine observing me from the distance. I was also sizing him up. I thought he looked very familiar. As I came close to him he called out first. “Kamil” he said and then, turning to Ram called out “Ramlah”. Hearing his voice the memories of my childhood and schooldays came flooding back.

He was my former classmate, study mate, playmate and what have you. We used to bounce thoughts, ideas, plans, school work and so on at each other. Together with a few others we were very close. We do all sorts of pranks and playful things together just like any other teenager of that time. After finishing school he went on to study law and I went to do engineering. He comes from a family of very prominent lawyer brothers, and he was the youngest, hence it was only natural for him to go on and read law. Two of the brothers were in and out of politics and Union activities in Singapore in the 50s and had even been in and out of prison then as political detainees. We met only once, a few years after we started our individual careers and have never met again since. I would put it at more than 30 years since.

It was indeed a pleasant surprise to meet him at the airport. He and a sister were waiting for another sister to arrive from Canada. I recognized both sisters and they too recognized me after some while. My friend was the same playful fellow, except that his movements and speech seems to be rather restricted and I learnt then that he is recovering from his fourth stroke. He had until that day been walking around aided by a walking stick and that day he was trying to go about unaided and is managing it quite well. We exchanged contact numbers and promised to meet up again sometime, happy at the thought that we caught up with each other. I certainly look forward to meeting him again…… soon I hope…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Month Of May Surprises

The month of May has been quite a hectic month so far for us. There were weddings, travels, unpleasant medical surprises both short term and long term, and to make it interesting some pleasant surprises as well.

The unpleasant surprises. We started the month by going to the East Coast of the peninsular for the wedding of my nephew, the eldest son of my youngest sister. The wedding, plans made weeks in advance, went on well except for a change of date for the solemnization ceremony where it was advanced a day ahead by the officer-in-charge that threw everyone’s schedule haywire. Despite that, all went well in the end, the ceremonies I mean. But quite a few things did not go right for many amongst us who went up to the East Coast for the ceremonies.

In recall, a few weeks prior to the wedding, the East Coast state had been in the news daily because of the poor health maintenance condition in the state. There had been a high incidence of typhoid and that there had even been a number of deaths as a result. Although our schedule were thrown out of sync to our original plans we still had some time to go around the city and the outskirts and true to boot, the cleanliness of the place is way below the norm and expectations. Drains were clogged, streets and pavement dirty with rubbish strewn and not properly collected. At rubbish dumps, I noticed that rubbish have been collected but the dump areas were in a mess and improperly maintained, some of these are in the central market, food handling centers and similar locations where there are throngs of public movements all over the city and sub-towns. In these locations there are stalls and shops selling food and I noticed that they were exposed to the elements, to the insects and flies, and other infection causing methods of handling. Cleanliness seems to be the last consideration. I see people patronizing these eating outlets without a care to the lack of cleanliness. I even read in the papers that the local authorities concerned admitted that they lack the ability to maintain health enforcement, for some reasons or other. All sorts of excuses were given for the lack of enforcement, all sorts of accusations were thrown at various quarters, but the facts and proofs are there, staring in everyone’s eyes. Efforts to improve were lacking and if there were any, they were very slow in improving. It appears that they were leaving it to fate to sort out their problem. Cleanliness is part of faith, it is said. The authorities, claiming to be staunch in their faith appears to be doing otherwise. A real letdown really.

Many of us who came to the city for the wedding became infected by this sickening condition. Friends and some locals say avoid drinking iced water. But mum drank only boiled water throughout her stay there and yet she was the worst hit. Although none of us were diagnosed as having contacted typhoid but many of us had very upset tummies that drained out our energies and made us very sick for a couple of days. My mother was even hospitalized for a few days as a result of being infected. No thanks to the inefficient local authorities managing cleanliness. All gratitude to the Almighty that this ordeal for my mother, my wife, family members and I were over in just a couple of days.

Another unpleasant surprise was the discovery that I have aneurysm. What’s that? My children asked. It is the ballooning up of a small section of the aorta supplying blood to my lower limbs just after the kidneys. It was indeed a surprise to me as I have had no symptoms and experienced nothing abnormal to date. The Vascular Surgeon who reviewed my case was very assuring. The condition can be very serious but it is not yet at a stage to trigger emergencies. Phew! that was a relief.

There is a need to monitor the aneurysm condition lest it develops into something critical. The worst that can happen is a rupture at the distended section. (There was a case quite recently of a local corporate figure who died while visiting Australia. He had aneurysm and died due to its rupture). I pray to the Almighty that this will not happen to me. (By coincidence my wife and I were due to leave for Australia in the evening of the appointed day with the Vascular Specialist!!). However, I know that praying is never enough. I will have to do something about it. Something positive. I have firstly to ensure that my blood pressure is within normal range or lower. My body weight has also got to be reduced and I have to watch my diet, cholesterol level, sugar level and many more other conditions common with advancing age. I will have to continue exercising and perhaps increase the efforts. I don’t drink liquor and I don’t smoke. I have for sometime now cut down in caffeine intake, sugary drinks and sweets although I indulge in that bowl of ice-cream or a slice of cake or chocolate, but only once in a rare while now. These I was told are the plus points. My paternal grandfather died at the age of 78 and my maternal grandfather at 80+. My mum, at 85 is still very much active. I told Ram that I aim, with the will of the Almighty, to at least meet these ages if not exceed them and she will have to help me along. I will have to review my lifestyle, think healthy, eat healthy and be as active as possible. I will not let this unpleasant surprise bring me down but I will face it with even greater will to survive.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited.
Petaling Jaya

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Goodbye Sydney Hello PJ

Sydney, Australia May 7 to may 14, 2005

Saturday May 14th 2005. Goodbye Sydney and Hello PJ.

This day we are scheduled to leave Sydney. We continued packing and checked out of the apartment hotel at about 10am. We took the train to the airport. No problems lugging our bags as there are lifts provided at the stations. Our bags are wheeled ones anyway, quite easy to handle. The trip to the airport took about half an hour and we were checked into the flight by about 11am leaving us ample time before the flight at 2pm.

We went through immigration and security checks. The security check was very thorough. I had to remove everything from my pocket, including wristwatch, wallet, pen and also candy that I had with me. I also had to remove my trouser belt. Luckily they did not ask me to remove my trousers as well!! Ram had to remove her shoes!! After all these were removed then only that damned security screen post or pillars were silent when we passed through. Whenever it beeps you will have to remove something. So, to avoid the beep, they ask you to remove everything first. I wonder what they do when someone has metal body inserts of some kind or some purpose, medical for example, that surely will give the beep at the security pillars. All the stuff that were removed were passed through the security screening conveyor machine. I observed that no one was given exemption from this stringent security screening. What were they really afraid of? Was it really necessary to be that stringent? Come to think of it, the strict custom checks at entry on arrival and at security on departure does not auger well to visitors and many were talking bad about it. Or was it shadow play? I was pissed off really and so were many others.

The flight home went without a hitch. It was eight hours of continuous flight and it was tiring but we were well taken care of during the flight. There was a good flow of drinks, water, tit bits of peanuts and biscuits all through the flight apart from the main meals. There was also a very wide selection of video on demand and music on demand plus a good supply of reading materials. MAS have really improved its in-cabin services, much better then what it was just a few years ago. I forgot the hassle I went through at the Australian security in the departure lounge quickly for the pleasure of the services provided by MAS.

On arrival at KLIA we went through immigration and customs without a hitch. It was a breeze going through. Much much nicer compared to what we went through in Australia, the only part, and only that one part, of our travel that has an adverse impression. But still Ram and I felt that in-spite of it, it would be worth another visit in the future, given the opportunity………. and with the will of the Almighty!!

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Sydney, Australia

Friday, May 13, 2005

Last Full Day In Sydney

Sydney, Australia May 7 to May 14, 2005

Friday May 13th 2005. Last full day in Sydney.

Tomorrow will be the day we fly back home. We have today to do or see anything we did not manage to do or see so far, and there were many really. I went for my morning jog around Darling Harbour before breakfast.

After breakfast we went out to an area north of the city. After a short walk Ram did not feel too well and decided to return to the apartment. I left her to rest in the apartment and went for Friday prayers held in a hall within walking distance from the apartment. I got directions to this hall from one of the guys manning one of the many Sydney Convenience Stores. Almost all of the Sydney Convenience Stores are run by Muslims and they are everywhere in the city. The hall was full and there were about 300 people praying in one session. Apparently they hold two prayer sessions to accommodate the big crowd and this location is one of a number of locations in the city centre where Friday prayers are held. That tells on the number of Muslims in the city.

In the afternoon I went out alone in the city and explored parts of the city that we have not yet seen and returned by 5pm. After dinner, Ram felt much better. We went out and got some souvenirs to take home and was back in the apartment by 9pm. We started packing our bags to get ready for our trip back home.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Sydney, Australia

Thursday, May 12, 2005

A Trip to The Mountains - Blue Mountains

Sydney, Australia May 7 to May 14, 2005

Thursday May 12th 2005. A trip to the Mountains.

We took a very early train to Blacktown, a major town before reaching Rooty Hill to meet our friends who will be going together with us to the mountains. We were in Blacktown by 8.00am and our friends were there waiting for us. We continued by train to a town called Katoomba, the starting point for a tour of the Blue Mountains, a tourist attraction.

There is a tourist explorer bus, hop on and hop off, that goes around the blue mountains and stops at the various attractions. We took that bus and got off at some of the attractions. We were not so lucky though as the weather was not that good. It was very misty with vision limited to about 100 meters only. So there was not much to see. We went along anyway since we were there already. No choice.

Our first stop was at the Scenic World station. This is where the cable car station and the hill railway station are located. It would have been nice to ride in one of these rides but since it was very misty and vision is limited there was no point in taking the rides. We would not be able to see anything. We just browsed around at the souvenir shops and waited for the next explorer bus to continue.

We went next to the Echo Point, which is at almost the peak of the mountain, and during fine weather the scene to the valley below would have been nice to see but with the mist…………… !! We just saw white coloured mist or were they clouds? drifting by below us. We hanged around here and waited for the next explorer bus to continue.

Our next stop was at Leura Town, a small town in the mountains with three streets of shops and commercial area and residential houses, mostly holiday houses, within the vicinity. I was told that many of the houses are let out as holiday accommodations and are very high in demand. We had lunch in this town at one of the Delis. The food was good, salads very fresh and crunchy and our appetite well whetted!! After lunch we walked around the three streets in town, enjoyed the mountain air and breeze while waiting for the next explorer bus to take us back to Katoomba town, from where we took the train back to the city. Our friends got off at Blacktown while we continued on our way back to the city. The journey from Katoomba town to the city took a little longer than two hours and we fell asleep part of the way.

We had some rest and an early dinner in the apartment. We walked to the shopping mall nearby but discovered that most of the shops were closing. So we just took a stroll and returned to the apartment by about 10pm.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Sydney, Australia

See the not seen with the mist!! Posted by Hello

One more of wife and wife Posted by Hello

Part of Blue Mountains Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A Trip by Ferry Across the Harbour

Sydney, Australia May 7 to May 14, 2005

Wednesday May 11th 2005. A trip by Ferry across the harbour

Our friends from Rooty Hill came down to the City in the morning. Together we took the ferry to go to Manly, a beach town across the Sydney harbour. It was past the peak travel hours (morning rush hour) then hence the ferry was not crowded but still there were many people on the ferry. It takes about half an hour to cross over. The sight of the city and the countryside from the ferry were just beautiful.

In Manly we took a stroll by the beach and also the town. Just as anywhere in a tourist town, Manly has many souvenir shops, supermarkets, travel agents and restaurants. We stopped at one of the restaurants facing the Pacific Ocean for lunch. The soft sea breeze, cool weather and the walk made us hungry. We continued walking around the town after lunch and then caught the ferry back to the city.

On arriving the city our friends returned to Rooty Hill while we continued our tour by taking the Bondi Explorer which took us around that part of the city not covered by the Sydney Explorer that we took two days ago. This tour took us around some of the classy residential areas that we saw from the harbour cruise that we took two days ago. We could see the houses up close now and most them are really big, some palatial. The driver of the explorer said that most of the houses would cost anything above 20 million Australian Dollars. Wow!!

We got off the Explorer bus at Bondi beach and took a stroll at the beach. There were many surfers in the sea trying to ride the waves, most of them unsuccessful, and there were also many sunbathers. Hello! Sunbathing at a temperature of about 15o C? We were using pullovers to keep warm and here were the sun-worshippers in the tiniest of bikinis some topless even…. I think we stood out like a sore thumb fully and heavily clothed against the scantily dressed beach people. There were of course others heavily clothed like us at the beach but the numbers are small. I think these beach people purposely brave the cold to flaunt their ‘assets’ in public.

We caught the next bus back to the city and went back to the hotel for an early dinner in our apartment and later went out again to catch the night cruise around the harbour. The cruise takes about one and a half hours around the harbour and to view the city and the other areas at night were just magnificent, with the lights of the city and their reflections in the water. Viewing the Sydney Opera House from the sea at night against the backdrop of the city lights were just as magnificent, a very beautiful sight indeed.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Sydney, Australia

Opera House and Sydney Bridge Ferry Background Posted by Hello

Wife and Wife at Ferry Terminal Posted by Hello

Manly Wharf Entrance Posted by Hello

Opera House - Night Cruise scene Posted by Hello

Sydney Bridge - Night Cruise Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

To the Outskirts and Suburbs

Sydney, Australia May 7 to may 14, 2005

Tuesday, May 10th 2005. To the Outskirts and Suburbs

I made that call to my friend and former colleague yesterday. He lives in Rooty Hill, a suburb about one hour out by train from Sydney City Center. He was out when I called. The daughter was the one who answered the call and she said that the parents have been waiting for our call. Indeed, when I called again later, he was excited, and we arranged to meet in Rooty Hill train station in the morning.

When we arrived at Rooty Hill our friend and his wife was waiting at the station. We were just as excited as they were for this meeting. It has been quite a long time since we last met, although we communicated by eMail several times since but it was rather rare when we do. So, we were looking forward to this meeting. They have not changed much and were very cheerful. They brought us to meet their son-in-law, who works on 12 hour shifts and was off from work today. They later showed us the other daughter’s house and then proceeded to their own house, an apartment within the town limits of Rooty Hill and just a walking distance to the railway station, shopping mall and all other town facilities.

They brought us to lunch at a local club and later took us to the shopping mall. We met quite a number of elderly folks at the mall. Apparently it is a common practice for the elderly folks, the retirees, to hang out at the shopping mall. It’s a comfortable place to hang out. It is exactly the opposite in Kuala Lumpur. The elderly folks stay at home while the young ones hang out.

We left Rooty Hill a little later in the afternoon. We had dinner in the hotel and retired early.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Sydney, Australia

At Train Station - Rooty Hill Posted by Hello

Monday, May 09, 2005

Shopping Mall, Museum and the Park

Sydney, Australia May 7 to may 14, 2005

Monday May 9th. 2005. Shopping Mall, Museum and the Park.

I got up very early this morning and at the break of dawn I put on my rubber shoes and went jogging. Referring to the map there is a garden called Chinese Garden close to my hotel. I jogged and headed for that direction. There were already other joggers around then. As I went pass this Chinese Garden, I noticed that it is connected to a bigger pedestrian area with shops, restaurants and others along the sides. I continued through and ended up in the Darling Harbour area. Jogging around Darling Harbour once through, from my hotel and back takes about an hour or so. It is definitely a pleasant discovery as I now have a nice place to do an exercise circuit in the mornings.

After a leisurely breakfast we got ready and went out. We walked to the Pitts Street Mall close to our hotel. It was overly crowded with people. It is the main shopping area of Sydney. We came across a small Opal Museum in the mall. They have exhibits showing how opal is mined and what tools they use to extract the opal. There were also displays of the tools used to make jewelry out of the opals.

We continued. We walked through Hyde Park on the way to Sydney Museum. They had a special exhibition of Egyptian artifacts. We did not go to that section as we wanted to view Australian exhibits. We later walked back towards Pitts Street Mall, through Hyde Park, stopped to rest and ‘people-watch’ in the park for a while. There were people walking through the park in full office attire and I noticed some of them walking back later with packets of food/lunch in their hands. Some sit on the benches or on the grass and have their lunch, at the same time feeding the birds. Some others were jogging or doing exercises. Others were just strolling along and yet others, tourists like us, were posing and taking pictures. You can immediately tell they are tourists by the way of dressing, mannerism and the stuff they have in their hands (camera, map or guide books, bottled drinks etc). Just like other cities, New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Tokyo and so on, there are the homeless, the vagabonds, drifters etc. I noticed a few but they are quite scarce here, not like New York or London, where you can find them at almost every street corner and in public places. I found out later that the jobless here gets allowances and subsistence from the state, and that helps them to get by.

We continued. We walked back to the Mall area and had a light meal in one of the underground food-courts. We discovered that the underground shopping mall stretches in all directions and one ended very close to our hotel. I know now that you can move around that part of the city through the underground malls and don’t have to walk on the street level to get around, especially on rainy days. These underground malls in fact connect the railway stations to the shopping complexes. One can get lost down there!!

When we got tired of walking, went back to the hotel for a rest and me, as usual, on this laptop. It gets dark here pretty early in the evening this time of the year. After awhile on the laptop I took a nap and was surprised when I woke up that it was already dark. I thought I have had sleep for a long time but realized that it was only half past five in the evening and I only slept for less than an hour!! Ah well, you do get surprises now and then.

We went out for dinner at an Indian Restaurant in Darling Harbour, and had a table in front and outside facing the harbour. Almost all the tables outside are taken up first before people sit at tables inside the restaurant. It is all the same with the other restaurants in the area. They have quite a selection on the menu but quite pricy, because it is by the harbour? The food was nothing much really!!

We were back in the hotel in less than half an hour after a slow stroll but too slow to work out what we just had, heh heh.


MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Sydney, Australia

Hyde Park also walking distance from Hotel Posted by Hello

Also at Hyde Park Posted by Hello

Dinner at an Indian Restaurant Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Sunday May 8th 2005. Touring Around Sydney City Centre

Sydney, Australia May 7 to may 14, 2005

After breakfast we decided to utilize our Sydney Pass. We caught the Sydney Explorer at a station close to the hotel. We got off at the Sydney Maritime Museum, near Darling Harbour. The Sydney Aquarium and Sydney Convention Centre are also close by. There are also other attractions, like the IMAX 3D Theatre, boardwalk, bridge walk, restaurants, and various shops. The place seems to be very well organized, with modern buildings and facilities, most of the buildings are with glass fa├žade. The are also looks very touristy.

After spending sometime at the Darling Harbour area, we caught the Sydney Explorer and got off at an area called the Rocks. In contrast to Darling Harbour the buildings here are old buildings. However, the buildings may be old but they are properly maintained and are very pleasing to see. As it was Sunday, part of the road was closed for traders to set up their stalls and sell all sorts of stuff. We took time to browse around and bought some souvenir items to take home. From here we walked slowly by the harbourside, along the Rocks and proceeded to the adjacent area called Circular Quay where ferries plying across the river, harbour cruise ships and other water services begin from. We walked along the promenade and noticed many street performers, jugglers, statue dancers and others, doing their stuff and hoping to fill up their kitty. Across the wharf stands the unmistakingly familiar Sydney Opera House, standing majestically out of the bay. From a distance the building, with its vertical cupped-leaves or some called them ship sail, designed by a Dutch Architect, appear to be rising out of the sea. It is a massive structure and it seems the builders took 14 years to complete it.

We spent some time browsing in the area, had lunch of fish and chips (what else, and isn’t it common food in any touristy wharf or harbour anywhere in the world?) while waiting for the scheduled Sydney Harbour cruise.

The cruise took two and a half hours and passes through the Sydney Bay, crosses to the north side and passed by many suburban beaches and beach housing areas. When crossing over to the north side, the ship passed by the entrance of the bay which opens to the Pacific Ocean. They say that there are sharks in the area but I did not get to see any. One of the beaches that we passed by was a nudist beach and yes, it was. Although we were quite a distance from the beach, it was distinctly clear that they were nude men and women. Some of them even waved to the cruise ship, using their hands of course heh heh. As we went along we could see many beachfront houses of all shapes and designs. There were also marinas with all sorts of pleasure boats of all sizes. It was a beautiful sight to see. This cruise is a narrative one, so along the way descriptions of the area and some history of the place were narrated. It was very informative.

After the cruise we took the train and returned to the hotel for a short rest and got out later to continue browsing around circular quay. This time we went up close to the Sydney Opera House. It is a huge complex, and to walk around the building will take one more than half an hour. We then continue to take a stroll along the boardwalk near the wharf. We thought of taking the ferry across to a place called Manly, but they had cancelled the ferry, due to some technical problems, and provided buses instead, so we dropped the idea of crossing over. We instead walked through to the Rocks area to see the place at night. It is interesting to see the shops, restaurants, cafes and bars and compare them during the day and night. In the daytime the crowd is usually better behaved than at night.

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Sydney, Australia

My Darling at Darling Harbour Posted by Hello

One of the Attractions in Darling Harbour Posted by Hello

Where to go? Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Off to Sydney

Sydney, Australia May 7 to may 14, 2005

Friday May 6th and Saturday May 7th , 2005 – Off to Sydney

A medical check up with Dr. Zainal, the Vascular Specialist, following the findings of the CT Scan two days ago, went ok. I had an early morning appointment and was done by 9.30am. “Come back in six months time”, he said. That meant I am ok for the time being, I guess. My scheduled appointment with my regular doctor at the University Hospital in the afternoon also went ok and I got to replenish the same medications. At the same time I got additional medication for my cough which had been lingering on for the past three weeks or so. I was done here by 3.00pm. So, we were clear in our minds that it is ok for us to proceed on our Sydney trip. Continued with packing our clothes and got ourselves ready to go.

Tessa had gone to Pasir Gudang, Johore for her work . So we left home by cab for the airport at 6.30pm for our flight that was scheduled for 8.40pm. All ok with checking-in for the flight, immigration, the flight itself and the immigration and customs inspection on arrival in Sydney Airport. We arrived in Sydney at 6.40am Sydney time, two hours ahead of KL time.

We were warned by others, before we made this trip, not to bring any foodstuff, raw or not, and that customs in Australia is always very strict. Indeed they were. They were really very thorough in their inspection. They went through every luggage and bag and asked many questions. Since we had declared the medicines we brought along, the Officer that attended to us, although asked many questions, just cursorily went through our luggage, but every piece of luggage nevertheless, and we were off in just a short while. We were done by 7.15am. It is still too early to get into the city or to the hotel as check-in time at the hotel is 2.00pm. We decided to while away some time at the airport.

I checked out the facilities at the airport, the flight departure area, tourist information booths, money changer and changed some cash. I also checked out a prayer room made available to the public, that’s convenient. At the tourist information counter I confirmed most of those information gathered through the internet. I decided to purchase the 3day Sydney Pass ticket which includes the train ride into the city from the airport. We had breakfast at one of the airport cafes and then caught the 9.00 am train into the city.

Using the city map as a guide we stopped at the station nearest to the Apartment Hotel and walked slowly to the hotel, luggage and all. It was not a hassle as our luggage bags are wheeled and this day being a Saturday, the streets were empty that time of the morning. We got to the hotel ok, and checked in. Our room was already available then so we do not have to wait until 2.00pm. Our one room apartment was very comfortable and the facilities made available in the room are indeed as described in the internet when we made our reservations. After washing up and catch up on sleep I decided to scout around the vicinity of the hotel. There were a number of convenience stores nearby in all directions and not too far away is Chinatown, a food court with shops selling a wide variety of food from various parts of the world and I found shops selling foods that are suitable to us. There is also a wet market, a ‘flea’ market called Paddy Market, and various shopping complexes and supermarkets, all within walking distance from the hotel. I bought some food, fruits, bread, salads and laundry stuff. We had lunch/dinner and rested the rest of the day.


MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Sydney, Australia

Shopping Mall close to our Hotel Posted by Hello

Sydney, Australia - The Plan

Sydney, Australia May 7 to may 14, 2005

Sometime in February 2005, we read an advertisement that there will be a travel fair by Malaysian Airlines on 19th. February. Oh oh, that was the day we were to fly out into Bintulu. However, going on-line on arrival in Bintulu, I found that I can make bookings on-line all the same. I did, and this time Sydney was my targeted destination. I have always wanted to go there but never had the opportunity. Furthermore, a former colleague and a close family friend, who is now resident in Sydney, had several times invited us to visit Sydney. I thought it is now a good time to visit Sydney. I managed to get a much reduced fare for Ram and I through the travel fair. Apparently MAS only accepts cash bookings on-line and that was very convenient.

For accommodation I went on line again and browsed for a reasonably priced accommodation. There were quite a few to choose from and I chose the one that was close, walking distance if possible to the train station, to shopping malls, to the main attractions, etc. I picked an Apartment Hotel that was offering a fully furnished one-room apartment at a weekly rate of AU$ 935.00. “That is a very good deal”, many who are familiar with Sydney said. The apartment offers a fully furnished kitchen including a microwave oven, a dishwasher, a washing machine and dryer, iron and ironing board. Very convenient indeed for us.

I then went into the chat-rooms and travel forums, to get tips on Sydney, to gather information from other travelers who have had experiences, good or bad, traveling in Sydney. There were many useful tips gathered through this chat-rooms and forums. With these I started making plans of what to do and see when I do arrive in Sydney later.

I also checked the websites of the train service, the bus service and so on. I found them to be very informative and were indeed very traveler friendly. There was something that keeps cropping up on this transportation thingy. Even the advice given in chat-rooms and forums are often repeated on them. That is, there are offer tickets that one can purchase and save on transport costs. There is the day tripper ticket where one can use any of the rail transportation (limited stations), ferry service, and bus service at a discounted rate. Another offer is the Sydney Pass, for 3, 5 or 7 days ticket that one can use on any of the train services (limited stations), the bus services, the ferry services, the hop on hop off Sydney Explorer tourist bus, the hop on hop off Bondi explorer tourist bus, the river cruises, morning cruise and or afternoon cruise and or night cruise. The combined cost of these tickets would be at about a 50% discount of the individual tickets added together.

I checked out where the markets are, the malls, parks, museums, convenient stores and so on and formed some sort of plan for my stay in Sydney. It may just be a hit and miss plan, but a plan nevertheless. I would know what to expect and what to look forward to. I would know where to go to and be prepared. Or am I ???.............

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

A Series of Medical Check Ups

As I mentioned in my previous post we had to return to PJ from the East Coast even though we were not too well to travel. We had a series of medical check ups scheduled for the 4th, 5th and 6th which we just could not give a miss, especially for the one on the 4th. Hence we proceeded with the trip back even though I was not too well to drive. But we thought there are rest areas every 40 kilometers or so, or every 15 to 20 minutes of driving on the highway, which would be convenient for us to stop and for me to do the necessary ‘job’ if I have to. Praise be to the Almighty for the protection he provided us when we made the journey back to PJ. We only need to stop twice to rest and we arrived home none too worse for it.

As planned, we went early to attend the scheduled full medical check at the designated location. This check up is a membership type annual check where they do full screening of one’s condition. From these screening tests done you will know your condition and if need be seek further professional advice on any specific condition found. A couple of years ago we joined a health club that promotes healthy living and provides facilities for them. The main attraction is the annual medical screenings and check-ups, apart from the use of the various health facilities provided, the gymnasiums and fitness centers, swimming pools and similar facilities, health and wellness talks, brochures and fliers and so on. So, the check-up on the 4th is one of the annual screening check-ups.

Wednesday, 4th May 2005. There were not many members scheduled for check up today, so it was quite a leisurely morning for us while we go through the various phases of the checks, starting with the complete urine and blood tests and followed by others like ECG, hearings, eyes, bone mass etc. One test that was done this year is the CT Scan. I have not gone through the scan before and the doctors there say that it not necessary to do the scan annually. Even three yearly would be too often but it is good to have it done just to see the conditions. I agreed and had the scan done.

All the above tests took us until about lunch time. We were given a choice of local or Japanese lunch. We chose Japanese. After lunch we had a session with the doctor who went through the results of the test in detail and provided advice on what to do, what to eat or to avoid, and in general how to take care of our health. However, the scan that I went through indicated something that is not so good. There is aneurysm, the doctor called it ‘infrarenal abdominal aortic aneurysm’ or swelling on the lower aorta at the abdominal region. The swelling is about 5.7 cm in length. The doctor advised me to seek further professional help from a specialist and prepared a referral letter. Meanwhile I made a phone call to Ram’s niece, who is a doctor, to help identify a specialist for me to see. She identified a Vascular Specialist and made an appointment for me to see the specialist two days later.

I went early, on Friday morning, 6th May, for the appointment with the Vascular Specialist in KL. He took a long look at the various CT scan films, did a physical check on me and advised me not to worry about it. Don’t all the doctors say that to their patients? Anyway, he explained that the aneurysm is small and could have developed over a long period of time or could have just happened recently. He would wait to see if there is any further development later before deciding if there is a need for physical intrusion for which the risk could be much higher than the effect of the aneurysm itself. The worst that can happen is that the swelling ruptures and an immediate operation to correct it become necessary then. Otherwise it is better to leave it as it is and see if there is any further or adverse development. I am to see him immediately if I develop any pain in the stomach region or numbness in the legs. He scheduled me for a review in six months time and do an ultrasound check then to reassess the condition. That indeed was a relief to me. I hope and pray that the aneurysm is just a passing discovery and does not develop to a worsening condition and that I can get on with my life as normal as can be, with the blessings and allowance of the Almighty.

The other scheduled appointments we had were those regular and periodic ones for Ram and me to get our prescriptions and continual medication. Those went without much ado and we got our prescriptions alright.

Having gone through all the test and check ups, and were assured that everything is ok for the moment, we were happy then to proceed with our plans. We were scheduled to leave for Sydney at 8.20pm that night. We started packing and got ready for the trip.

MKI Ramblings UnlimitedPetaling Jaya

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

TO THE EAST COAST

My youngest sister’s eldest son is getting married. He met a girl at his working place and decided to get married. She comes from the North Eastern state of Kelantan. We were quite surprised that he is getting married so soon and we asked how come? He agreed but was not sure himself how it could happen so fast. His younger sister explained that he once asked permission from the girl’s mother to befriend the daughter. The mother gave permission provided he makes a proper commitment. She does not want her daughter to be made just a friend. So, not wanting to lose her, he decided to commit and the whole process of recognition, agreements, exchange of gifts and finally marriage were set into motion. Then came the wedding solemnization ceremony and the wedding reception. Dates were set for these and close relatives began planning a trip to the East coast for the wedding, my wife and I included. The plan was for the solemnization ceremony be held in mid-morning, Sunday at a mosque near the girls house followed immediately after with a reception in the girl’s house. So most of us made plans to be there the day before and return after the reception on the wedding day. That would give us some time, on the day we arrive, to do some errands and meet up with old friends. But it was not to be. The plan was modified and coupled with the circumstances of the period our plans to run errands and meet up with friends could not take place.

I have had flu and a slight cough two days before leaving PJ for the trip to the East Coast. We had driven to Sita’s house three days before the wedding and planned to stay overnight in Sita’s house, one night in my sister’s house in Kuala Terengganu and then proceed to Kota Bahru, Kelantan and stay a night there. On the day we left for Sita’s house we received a message from my brother-in-law, that the Officer-in-charge for the marriage solemnization ceremony has to bring forward the solemnization to a day earlier and immediately following the mid-day prayers. That change had thrown many peoples’ schedule haywire. My mother, flying from Johore Bahru to Kuala Lumpur and then catch a flight to Kota Bahru had to give the marriage solemnization ceremony a miss. Her flight from Kuala Lumpur was scheduled to leave at 3pm the same day and it was too late to change to an earlier flight. My sister and family, the bridegroom, his parents and his siblings, and my wife and I, had to leave Kuala Terengganu early in the morning. We left in a convoy of three cars and made it to the mosque about an hour before the mid-day prayers.

The mosque was undergoing renovations and is partially closed. There were still quite a lot of work going on and it was very dusty. This very dusty condition is not conducive for Ram, especially to her eyes. We decided to go away from the mosque and stayed away until it was time for the mid-day prayers. The solemnization ceremony went on without a hitch but the officer-in-charge left immediately after the ceremony, apparently to another function. He could not even wait to join us for lunch at the bride’s house. After lunch we had to await the arrival of my mum. The arrival of the Prime Minister in Kota Bahru that afternoon, his routine visit to the state in an attempt to gather increased support of the people, had many routes to the airport closed. This only delayed the arrival of my mum. We finally get to meet her at about 5.30 in the evening.

Another adverse and very serious condition in Kota Bahru then was the typhoid epidemic. We had to be careful of the stuff we eat or drink. We watched and made sure that we eat only cooked food and boiled water. In spite of that Ram showed signs of being affected or infected as early as the next morning, just before we attend the wedding reception. However her condition the next day worsened. She had to go the toilet several times. I thought I was alright as I did not feel anything on Monday but I thought wrong. I came down with flu, my cough got worse and I was purging and vomiting the next day. I slept most of the day.

We have to be back in KL by Tuesday evening as both Ram and I have a full medical check up on Wednesday, followed by other check ups on Thursday and Friday. So we braved it out and drove back to KL. Sita and Fahrul offered to drive us back to KL but we declined. Sita would have to take leave from work if she sent us to KL. I was feeling a little better anyway, while Ram was much better. We left at about 6pm and I had to go to the toilet only once while on the journey back to KL. Later I found out that many others in our group who attended the wedding had the same problems of purging and vomiting. It appeared to be a delayed effect as most got the symptoms one or two days after the wedding. Even the bridegroom was not spared. Mum was the worse hit. She had to be hospitalized and stayed there for three nights.

All those affected are ok by now. It was a very bad experience but we can blame no one. Ok ok, maybe the local council is to be blamed for allowing the epidemic to happen, for allowing the typhoid germs to flourish, for not having proper vector control, proper health monitoring and control, failing in their duties to the public. BUT WE, we were aware of all these, we knew of the epidemic and yet we took the risk. It’s a risk we had to take for the sake of my nephew who was getting married, for the sake of my sister and her family. We went there, and we went with our eyes ‘wide closed’……..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya