Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Day in Miri

The day before the Chinese New Year, a Saturday, we left Bintulu on a planned overnight outing with the kids for Miri. Mini had made reservations at an Apartment Hotel called The Boulevard in Miri. It is a two hours drive to Miri from Bintulu by a new coastal road recently opened to traffic. The old road to Miri will take us about three hours. By old, I mean it is really old. I was told that they had not resurfaced the road for a long time, maybe from whence the proper road was constructed about twenty years ago. Any potholes created by the ‘heavy giants’ of the roads were mostly covered by patchwork.

We left Bintulu at about 10am and were in Miri at noon. The Boulevard is twenty stories high, one of two tall buildings in Miri. (The one on the right in the picture)
Some other buildings are less than ten stories high while most others are of the three or four storied shop houses and office buildings. The first four stories of The Boulevard is dedicated to shopping with a major shopping mall as its anchor tenant and many other small shopping outlets including a few restaurants, a food-court and fast food outlets. We had late lunch at the food court and browsed around the shopping complex after that. Bought tit bits for the kids and their parents and also their grandparents!! Dedek only wanted “Mentos” candy. Mini bought two bars, each bar contains about a dozen candies and Dedek finished more than half of it at one sitting!! I think he was trying to give a message to mummy that he really likes Mentos so that mummy will buy Mentos more often!! …….Hmmmm, kids have strange ways of communicating to (not with) adults huh?!!

Dinner was at a popular seafood restaurant in town. It was very crowded and the crowd was non Chinese. I spotted only one group of Chinese men having dinner and assume that these men were out of town men unable, for some reason or other, to be home with their loved ones for the Chinese New Year. (It is the tradition that the Chinese have ‘big’ reunion dinners with their families on the eve of Chinese New Year). As it was crowded, ‘and maybe the place is Miri’ (no disrespect intended), dinner took quite sometime to come. We had quite a task to keep baby Haadieya entertained meanwhile, and luckily, when she got tired, she just fell asleep on her daddy’s lap!! How convenient!! When the bill came we were quite surprised to find it somehow ‘inflated??’ Taking advantage of the holiday season perhaps? As the children were tired and sleepy we went back to the apartment immediately afterwards and watched TV, something which I rarely do, and fell asleep somewhere between the start of the movie “The Edge playing Anthony Hopkins and the late news that came on at midnight.

I was not awaken by the late news on TV. I was awakened precisely at midnight by the thunderous banging of fire crackers and fireworks that were continuously booming and lighting the sky of Miri with a myriad of colours and hue. It was all over the town and it lasted for a good two hours. We had a good view from our window in the apartment. I thought there is a ban on firing of firecrackers but………? and I cannot imagine how many hungry mouths can be fed by the money they spent to burn the stuff? Other than the fireworks I also noticed some flares being let off into the sky. The next morning, when I went on my morning walk through the mostly deserted streets of Miri, I saw the fronts of many shops and buildings strewn with the burnt out and shreds of red coloured firecracker wrappings!!

The first day of the Chinese New Year was rather quiet in Miri. Not many cars on the road. We had breakfast at one of the restaurants close to the apartment after which we took a drive to see the city (Miri was given city status only recently). One interesting historical display we visited was the oil museum located on top of a hill, the highest point in all of Miri.
The first ‘on-land’ oil drilling rig which is now dubbed ‘The Grand Old Lady’ (see picture - left) is re-erected outside the museum. This was the first ever rig erected sometime in 1910, used to spud oil on land in the Baram district close to Miri. It was all manually done then and oil was found at a depth of about 450ft. On record, oil was found in the Baram district as early as the 1880’s where local inhabitants used to manually dig out the oil seepage and used it as fuel for cooking and other uses. The discovery led to formal studies being conducted in the area and manual digging carried out. (See picture below: Note the 'manual drillers' in colourful dressing!!) The first commercial production only started in 1910 with 83barrels of oil collected per day. More rigs were built and the volume of oil collected daily increased over time. Of course, the production of oil was controlled by the then foreign oil company (The Anglo-Saxon Oil Company) that was given the lease for oil extraction and the locals? ……. I wonder if they get any benefit from the oil. However, all land side oil fields were closed in 1972 and offshore and sea drilling and production of oil continued since then. The grand old lady was preserved and placed on top of the hill known as ‘Canada Hill’. Why Canada Hill, I do not know and I wonder. There must be a story behind this name. The Malaysian Government meanwhile enacted the Petroleum Development Act in 1974, which saw the control of the indigenous oil and gas transferred to the Federal Government and a system of profit sharing, later production sharing and later still cost sharing, with the private oil companies, being implemented, which was more equitable to the country. Look at Miri, Sarawak, Sabah, how little were they developed before the Petroleum Act was enacted, in spite of oil being found in abundance since the late 19th century!!. All proceeds were taken out of the country then!! At least now, with the benefit from the oil and gas accruing to the State and Federal Government, much of the funds were used for development of the state and country, thus benefiting the people. And not just the oil companies!!

We left Miri in the afternoon and had a very easy drive back to Bintulu, taking slightly less than two hours for the trip using the new road. We left Bintulu to return to Petaling Jaya on Monday 30th. There were only 20 passengers on board the flight back to KL from Bintulu. Most people were still in their respective family homes enjoying the holiday. The exodus back to their respective homes starts today and already there are 19 road deaths by this evening? Road deaths due to accidents have, like clockwork, increased this holiday season compared to the same season last year……. I wonder what more need to be done to make drivers and all road users realise that lives are precious and road safety should be on top of their head all the time!! But then, Malaysian drivers forget road safety once they are behind the steering wheel or on their motor bikes…….. what a waste……..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Friday, January 27, 2006

Rice - To Eat or Not To Eat?

A week ago I posted an article I received from a friend on rice and its effects to human if taken in excess. I agree with most of the statements in the article but that is when you take rice in excess.

I wonder how early man discovered how to eat rice. Who taught the early man to prepare rice, or for that matter other grains to make them edible, as eating them in their raw form will definitely put the early man off as they are tasteless. The early man may have seen birds and other animals eating the rice and other grains in their raw form and hence try to find ways to eat them. But who taught the early man to remove the husk from the grains, to boil it and so on. Who taught the early man to add bacteria culture to the powder form of the grains and then convert it into bread? Is it a revelation from the Almighty? I have been taught that the Almighty taught man what he did not know, hence these may have been based on revealed knowledge. Discovery of the knowledge may come in different ways as only He can reveal. One can perhaps do research, spend all the efforts to study intricacies of things but without His revelation the discovery may just come to naught. Therefore I believe that if the revelation had indeed happened, than eating the rice is also meant for men. So I do not agree to the statement that rice is not meant for human consumption, or man were not meant to eat rice.

I also believe that if we follow the teachings of our religion, and I believe other religions teach the same, to do things in moderation, we will not fall into any harm. Our body system should be able to handle it. It is only when we submit to excesses that our body system fail to cope thus inviting all the ailments. Many ailments that are happening to man nowadays are results of excesses and failure of the body system to cope. Therefore, take rice or any other food for that matter in moderation.

I like rice, other grains as well, and food derived from them, like breads, capati’s, puttumayam (stringhoppers?), and what have you. The Japanese are known to have long lives and their staple food is rice. They take rice in various forms, throughout the day but each meal they take only one small bowl of it. The farmers, working in the fields tend take more rice at each meal, but they burn the sugar (from the rice) away when they work in the fields. Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle should not eat like the farmers do!! Eat less or in moderation and you will be alright. But then how much is “in moderation” ?

Puttumayam? I like it. I have been eating it occasionally since I was small. I have not eaten stringhoppers or puttumayam for a long while. A few days before coming to Bintulu, a puttumayam vendor on a motorcycle passed by the house in the early morning. I bought some and the vendor gave some grated coconut and brown sugar to go with it. This is the usual way I eat puttumayam. Some people take it with curry or with chilli-spiced gravy, but for me the only way to enjoy it is with grated coconut and brown sugar as taking it with curry is no different than taking grained rice with curry. I will mix them together and eat just like that, dry. I had the opportunity once to see how puttumayam was made. The powdered rice was in dough form. There was a brass cup with two handles at the top and tiny holes at the bottom of the cup. There was another cup with identical handles but with no holes at the bottom that fits snugly into the first cup. Dough was placed at half level in the first cup. The second cup was then placed over the dough in the first cup and the two cups were ‘squeezed’ together by their handles allowing the dough to come out in ‘strings’ through the tiny holes. The ‘squeezing’ was done over a wicker tray placed over a boiling pot of water with the stringhoppers shaped into circular palm-sized pieces. Steaming the puttumayam takes only a short while. Perhaps the dough had been partly cooked first before it was squeezed into stringhoppers. Now, how did this method of preparing the rice become possible? Somebody must have done the experiment(s) at some point in time in the past and I am sure not without Divine Revelation. I am glad that food has evolved over time to what we have today. If not, we would be eating just roasted food, or worse still raw food that the cavemen ate…….. hmmmm I wonder…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited

Monday, January 23, 2006

Old and New

Thinking of old times are what almost everyone does, sometimes. Some would reminisce while others would reevaluate and yet others would use the experience for the better. Me? I do reminisce and I also use the experience for the better where applicable although at this late stage of my life there is not much I can do for the better. However I do share my experiences with others wherever possible, either in writings, or giving talks or just chatting amongst groups of people especially the younger ones. I believe that whatever experience we go through, whether positive or negative, they are learning points for us. (Yesterday is the basis of what you do today and plan for tomorrow. At the end of each day, evaluate and then find ways to do better).

When I reminisce, I sometimes go back a long time, half a century or more even. And when I do that I sometime wonder how time has evolved many things in our life and how, certain happenings and events influenced these evolvements. Things could be different now if that certain event did not happen then.

I am in Bintulu now. When I drive, or when I am in the car with son Shaffik driving, I would wonder at how, in the space of 20-25 years the face of the town have changed. Overall the town has grown, from a fishing town with a population of only about 6,000 people (that was how small the town was) to a bustling town of several hundred thousand people. My comparison is based on the time when I first set foot in Bintulu in the early 80s to the current. The evolvement has a lot to do with the discovery of oil and gas offshore, and the decision of the ‘powers that be’ for the oil and gas installations be located in Bintulu. What criteria was used to choose Bintulu as the right location I am not sure, but the contour of the coastline and the surrounding areas do appear ideal to start a new industrial town. Hence Bintulu has been transformed from a very small fishing village (not a town even!!) into a bustling oil and gas industrial town.

Today, while driving in town, I noticed that the street directions have been changed, overnight, to one way streets. They were two-way yesterday. Yet another evolvement for the sake of easing the traffic woes in the town. That sets me to thinking of what it was more than twenty years ago. I could lie down in the middle of the street then and I will not be run over!! One can recognize every car in town and differentiate them from newcomers arriving from out of town. There was only one gas station located near the jetty then that depended upon boats to bring in their replenishment gas supplies and these supplies came about once a week. When the boat came in to replenish supplies for the gas station, all the cars in the town will be in queue to fill up their tanks and almost all will have additional drums or ‘jerry cans’ to keep for spare. Similarly with food supplies!! Most came by boat. Seafood was ‘dirt’ cheap but agricultural produce were exorbitantly priced!! The shanty shacks that they call ‘market’ were next to the gas station sharing the same jetty!!

The town has changed so much.
There are no more wooden shops in town and not many of the wooden houses and buildings left. They have progressed into two, three and four storied concrete buildings. Roads have been widened and more parking lots built.
Certain times in the day traffic can get very bad in the town. Hopefully with the one-way street design, the chaotic traffic flow can be eased somewhat. The town too has spread from its original concentration around the so called airport and its runway to four pockets of commercial areas each about three to five miles apart with housing estates in between. I think the town planners are doing the right job of spreading the commercial areas interspersing them with residential houses and estates while keeping the industrial area concentrated at some twenty kilometers away and that is provided for by proper port facilities. One can see very large tankers and bulk carriers, capable of carrying perhaps 200,000 tons of oil or the equivalent volume amount of gas, docking there to load, and almost equally large bulk and container carriers docking at the port to discharge their cargoes.

Bintulu could have been different if oil and gas was not found off its shores, or if the ‘powers that be’ had decided to beach the oil and gas to a different town or area away from Bintulu. Bintulu can be considered a newly developed town when compared to the original oil town of Sarawak, which is Miri. Now Miri, recently declared a city, concentrates on oil and its products while Bintulu concentrates mostly on gas and its products. Spin-off industries are also coming up, adding to the industrial development of the area.

There are a lot more of Bintulu and Sarawak that I can write about but I will have to gather my thoughts and reminisce further before I can transfer them into words on my laptop screen. I am thankful though that I was allowed the opportunity to contribute to the growth of the town and its industrial development, and during the course of it learn new things, make new friends, established new family ties even, through my son. But let me have some time to write more on this. Meanwhile, I will just continue to ponder and wonder which direction Bintulu will move on to next………

MKI Ramblings Unlimited

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Rice - Is it good for you?

A friend sent me the following article. Interesting. All the reasons for avoiding rice and rice products. But........ do read on and decide for yourself!!

==== RICE =====

The human body was never meant to consume rice! You see, our genes have hardly changed in more than 30,000 years. However, our food choices and lifestyle have changed dramatically. The caveman would hardly recognize our food or way of life.

Caveman food was never cooked as fire was not yet tamed. Thus, he ate only those foods that you can eat without treatment with or by fire. He ate fruits, vegetables, fish (sushi anyone?), eggs, nuts and meat. Yes, even meat. You can even eat meat raw if you were starving in the forest. You have the necessary enzymes to digest meat.

However, rice, like wheat and corn, cannot be eaten raw. It must be cooked. Even if you were starving in the desert, you cannot eat rice in the raw form. This is because we do not have the system of enzymes to break rice down. You were never meant to eat rice. To make matters worse, you not only eat rice, but also make it the bulk of your food. In some parts of Asia, rice forms up to 85% of the plate.

Even if you take rice, keep it to a minimum. Remember, it is only for your tongue - not your body. Actually, rice and other grains like wheat and corn are actually worse than sugar. There are many reasons:

Rice becomes sugar - lots of it. This is a fact that no nutritionist can deny: rice is chemically no different from sugar. One bowl of cooked rice is the caloric equal of 10 teaspoons of sugar. This does not matter whether it is white, brown or herbal rice. Brown rice is richer in fiber, some B vitamins and minerals but it is still the caloric equal of 10 teaspoons of sugar. To get the same 10 teaspoons of sugar, you need to consume lots of kangkong (watercress) - 10 bowls of it.

Rice is digested to become sugar. Rice cannot be digested before it is thoroughly cooked.
However, when thoroughly cooked, it becomes sugar and spikes circulating blood sugar
within half an hour - almost as quickly as it would if you took a sugar candy.

Rice is very low in the "rainbow of anti-oxidants". This complete anti-oxidant rainbow is necessary for the effective and safe utilisation of sugar. Fruits come with a sugar called fructose. However, they are not empty calories as the fruit is packed with a whole host of other nutrients that help its proper assimilation and digestion.

Rice has no fibre. The fibre of the kangkong fills you up long before your blood sugar spikes. This is because the fibre bulks and fills up your stomach. Since white rice has no fibre, you end up eating lots of "calorie dense" food before you get filled up. Brown rice has more fibre but still the same amount of sugar.

Rice is tasteless - Sugar is sweet. There is only so much that you can eat at one sitting. How many teaspoons of sugar can you eat before you feel like throwing up? Could you imagine eating 10 teaspoons of sugar in one sitting?

Rice is always the main part of the meal – While sugar may fill your dessert or sweeten your coffee, it will never be the main part of any meal. You could eat maybe two to three teaspoons of sugar at one meal. However, you could easily eat the equal value of two to three bowls (20 - 30 teaspoons) of sugar in one meal.

I am always amused when I see someone eat sometimes five bowls of rice (equals 50 teaspoons of sugar) and then ask for tea tarik kurang manis! (tea with less sugar!!)

There is no real "built in" mechanism for us to prevent overeating of rice. How much kangkong can you eat? How much fried chicken can you eat? How much steamed fish can you eat? Think about that! In one seating, you cannot take lots of chicken, fish or cucumber, but you can take lots of rice. Eating rice causes you to eat more salt.

As rice is tasteless, you tend to consume more salt - another villain when it comes to high blood pressure. You tend to take more curry that has salt to help flavor rice. We also tend to consume more ketchup and soy sauce which are also rich in salt.

Eating rice causes you to drink less water. The more rice you eat, the less water you will drink as there is no mechanism to prevent the overeating of rice. Rice, wheat and corn come hidden in our daily food. As rice is tasteless, it tends to end up in other foods that
substitute rice like rice flour, noodles and bread. We tend to eat the hidden forms which still get digested into sugar. Rice, even when cooked, is difficult to digest.

Can't eat raw rice? Try eating rice half cooked. Contrary to popular belief, rice is very difficult to digest. It is "heavy stuff". If you have problems with digestion, try skipping rice for a few days. You will be amazed at how the problem will just go away.

Rice prevents the absorption of several vitamins and minerals. Rice when taken in bulk will reduce the absorption of vital nutrients like zinc, iron and the B vitamins.

Are you a rice addict? Going riceless may not be easy but you can go rice-less. Eating less rice could be lot easier than you think. Here are some strategies that you can pursue in your quest to eat less rice:

Eat less rice - Cut your rice by half. Barry Sears, author of the Zone Diet, advises "eating rice like spice". Instead, increase your fruits and vegetables. Take more lean meats and fish. You can even take more eggs and nuts.

Have "riceless" meals. Take no rice or wheat at say, breakfast. Go for eggs instead.

Go on "riceless" days - Go "western" once a week.

Take no rice and breads for one day every week. That can't be too difficult. Appreciate the richness of your food. Go for taste, colors and smells. Make eating a culinary delight. Enjoy your food in the original flavors.

Avoid the salt shaker or ketchup. You will automatically eat less rice.

Eat your fruit dessert before (Yes! No printing error) your meals. The fibre rich fruits will "bulk up" in your stomach. Thus, you will eat less rice and more fruits.

=== END ===

Any wonder now why population with diabetes is increasing worldwide.........??

MKI Ramblings Unlimited

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Kids and Bintulu Town

A conversation between a 4 years old boy and his Mummy:

Dedek: Mummy, today is Friday, so tomowoo Dedek no school?
Mummy: Yes, tomorrow is Saturday, and no school for you on Saturday and Sunday.
Dedek: Mummy, please tell Kakak (babysitter) no bekfirst for Dedek tomowoo.
Mummy: Why? Dedek don’t want to eat?
Dedek: Noh! Dedek want to eat roti chanai, (showing 3 fingers indicating he wants three pieces of roti chanai and I wrote about his love for the roti chanai in an earlier posting).
Mummy: Ok, we can go for the roti chanai tomorrow.

The next morning he was up bright and early, in anticipation of course. No hassle for the sitter to give him his bath and dress him up (when on normal days he will fret and gives the sitter a hard time to prepare him for school!!). When we reached the breakfast shop, he told his mother that he wants three roti chanai. But the mother asked, “which one you want? Plain roti chanai or roti chanai with egg”. He replied that he wants the roti chanai with egg and his mother said egg roti chanai is big, (one piece is usually filling even for an adult!!) so take one first and if not enough you can ask for some more. He smiled and replied ok. Ah ha! I thought, this little fellow has his scheme of things in his mind!! And true enough, when he finished his first egg roti chanai he asked for some more and this time he wanted roti chanai with cheese!!

Meanwhile, all of us were eating our breakfast and chatting while this little boy waited for his cheese roti chanai. He had finished his drink and yet the second order had not come. After a while he thumped his fist on the table several times. A little while later he thumped the table using his elbow. He was clearly annoyed that his second roti chanai did not come, and he usually shows his annoyance by thumping his fist or elbow. I think he had lost his mood in eating by the time the roti chanai came, hence we had it packed for take away. However it was not difficult to appease him as his mood changed as soon as we got into the car to go to the market. He ate the roti chanai in the car. Smart fellow!!

The Bintulu Market
This same little boy does not like to go into the wet market. It is “dirty and shmelly yak” he will always say. So I stayed in the car in the parking lot to be with him while everyone else goes into the market. Recently both he and his elder brother were in the habit of repeating everything that we said to them, even when we asked them to stop repeating they will still be at it and laughed at us. When we asked them questions they will repeat the questions and do not give the answers. It can be annoying. I had the opportunity to give him the same treatment when we were alone in the car. I thought I will use this reverse psychology on him. I repeated everything that he said, in his imitable child slang even. He was laughing away at me and asked me why I repeat after him and I kept on repeating him. Then he thumped his first fist thump at the seat back rest. I continued and he thumped his elbow this time. I asked him if he is angry and he replied noh noh Tok Bah, and that too I repeated him. I continued doing this all the time we were waiting for the others to return from the market. Finally when he asked me why I repeat after him I replied that I will stop if you stop doing the same to others. He agreed. Haa Ha, I managed a truce with a 4 year old!! He was even on my side reprimanding his elder brother not to repeat everything I said.

One thing I like about Bintulu market is the abundantly available local fruits and vegetables of many different types and cheap too, compared to prices in Kuala Lumpur or Petaling Jaya. Sea food is also much cheaper here. So, you can imagine how Ram will just pick her fancy at the market!! However these cheap products are are limited to local produce and catch. Anything imported, even from West Malaysia, will be exorbitantly priced!! Therefore, we reserve our favourite ‘taste-bud quenchers’ until our return to West Malaysia.

The market place is in two separate buildings, one of which houses the wet catches and produce that are predominantly sold by Chinese traders while the other houses ethnic produce that are predominantly sold by the local ethnic Iban and Malay traders. The buildings are quite identical in design, quite modern, and a far cry from the shanty shacks that the market was, on the same site, some twenty years ago when I was working in Bintulu. In those days, one goes to the market, buy whatever is required and then get away from the place quickly. The cramped, dirty surroundings, and ‘shmelly’ too will throw one off quickly. The wet market used to be a wooden planked building that juts out on stilts over the river edge adjoining the jetty, where boats anchor to discharge their catches. Now, the place is on solid ground, of concrete, spacious, and one can browse around before deciding to make one’s purchase. Of course, this convenience comes with a price as prices of the produce are higher. You can however, still get cheaper agricultural produce from some of the roadside peddlers who sell their backyard produce. These peddlers have low overheads and do not pay rents or license, hence are able to sell cheaper than the market.

Close to the market are jetties where ferries and passenger boats or river taxis pick up passengers to cross the river or go upstream to the hinterland. There are not many of these river taxis now compared to twenty years ago. Proper roads have been built over the last twenty years leading to the villages upstream the river. Hence demand for the river taxis dwindle while road taxis keep multiplying in number causing traffic jams in Bintulu town now. Those days, getting parking spaces in the town was easy but not now. I guess that is what progress is all about. I wonder what Bintulu will look like twenty years from now…… I wonder and ponder…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited

River Taxi


A River Taxi across the river Posted by Picasa

Bintulu Town


Part of Bintulu Town at Riverfront Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Week One and Two January '06

Three of us, Tessa Ram and I were in JB for the Eid’l Adha celebration and spent 3 nights with Ram’s sisters Siti and Shidah. Tessa drove us in her Honda Jazz. We returned to PJ in the afternoon of Eid’l Adha. While in JB, I had some discussions with my brothers and sisters, mum in the lead discussion as usual, on some aspects of investments we plan to make for our family group funds. As a result, some of us have to do some more work in order to proceed. It is part of our responsibilities anyway, and me, being the eldest and by default, I have to take the lead in the exercise. I do hope I will continue getting the support of my siblings and their families.

As planned, Ram and I left for Bintulu on Friday 13th. We flew Air Asia, the budget airline with a tagline “Now Everyone Can Fly” which we had booked about six weeks
ago and the air fare costs us only a quarter of the normal Senior Citizen air fare on board the national airline. It is a no frills airline but they do sell food and other stuff on board and at reasonable prices too. There is some service after all, albeit ‘paid’ service, but then again, isn’t the service provided by other airlines paid too?.

We arrived in Bintulu on time and on arrival at Shaffik’s house, the two boys were eagerly waiting for us, not so much in meeting us but more of excitement to see what we have for them in our bags. They were very helpful, understandably, rolling our bags into the house and eagerly hugging and kissing us, ahem! But 11 months old Baby Haadieya however kept her distance from us initially. She kept eyeing us from a distance, and would crawl away if we try to get near her. We spent the rest of the afternoon coaxing her before she could comfortably sit in our lap!! By evening, we’ve won her. She will readily expect us to carry her!!

The two boys could not wait for us to open our bags. Haziq came and asked me if I have the keys to open the locked bags. I said yes but there is nothing inside the bag except Tok Bah’s and Tok Mi’s clothes. “No toys for us?”, he asked. I pretended
not to know and asked what toys? “Toys for us to play”, he said. “Oh, I forgot if I had put any toy inside my bag for you”, I replied. “Ok, easy, open your bag and we see” he said, with the seriousness of a 4 year old in anticipation. Babang, his 5 year old elder brother just stood by quietly and smiled all the time, perhaps seeing through my pretence, ha ha!! After opening the bags both of them were excited over their toys and noisy as usual. The little sister appeared lost in all the commotion that she did not pay any attention to the toy we brought for her and it ended up in the hands of Haziq who, although excited over toys of his age is equally comfortable with toys of a one year old!! Babang kept reminding him saying, “Dedek, that is not your toy. That toy is only for baby. Dedek is no more a baby!!” But Dedek like this toy, he replied… hmmmmm….. that was that, no argument……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited

Baby Haadieya


Yekkk! This is tough, taste like plastic!! Posted by Picasa

Haadieya Hasya


Hmmm this one taste better!! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Drive to PJ and The 'MINI'

We have no rush to return to Petaling Jaya. We took a leisurely drive on Saturday to return home. We made a short detour to Melaka to visit my younger brother and his family, the main purpose being to collect a document concerning Tessa’s little ‘mini’ car that my brother uses. He had his briefcase stolen and inside, amongst other things and documents, was the ownership card of the mini. Hence Tessa will have to obtain a replacement ownership card from the transport authority and for that she will need that document, a police report of the stolen briefcase, from my brother. It has been quite some time too since the last time I visited Melaka.

We left JB at close to noon and arrived at my brother’s house at just after 2.00pm. We stayed for about two hours, sufficient time to rest before continuing our journey, and had a late lunch of noodles. My brother had to leave for his music practice, he belongs to the state cultural group and plays the keyboard professionally, while we stayed on and chat with the family. From my brothers house we went and visited an uncle of mine, my late father’s youngest brother. He had retired from his job at the Immigration Department about two years ago and had settled down in Melaka. His granddaughter, 15 months old, born four days after Najla, was there and this was the first time that we get to see the girl. She was just like Najla, a little shy, just beginning to form words, and playful. We finally left Melaka after 6.00pm arriving PJ just barely making time for dusk prayers.

I learnt from my brother that amongst the documents he had in the stolen briefcase were his international passport, his birth certificate and those of his two daughters and other documents related to his daughters’ school. He will have a tough time, doing the run around, organizing things to obtain extracts and replacements for the lost documents. I had that bad experience when I lost quite similar documents in 1995. It was January 6th 1995 to be exact, when my house was broken into by five robbers.

The mini car is still in good running condition and my brother uses it to commute to work. It is handy as it is small enough to ‘wiggle’ through traffic and to park in crowded places. This car is already 33 years old!! I bought it, already a used car, sometime in 1988, I think, for Tessa to commute to college. Later Shaffik took over when he went into college. I let my brother use it as a second car when my three children had no use for it but wanted to keep it anyway. It has had makeovers of the engine and body several times. There have been quite a few enthusiasts interested to buy over the car but we are not selling… yet!! Perhaps when we get the right price offer we may sell…… but what is the right price?? …… not a clue…… and I wonder……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

The Mini - Another View

 Posted by Picasa

Singapore Some More

After the people watching at the main shopping street we headed back to Pasir Ris and rested for a while. I noticed that Pasir Ris is a cycling suburb perhaps because of its proximity to the very big park. There were even cycling tracks purposely built alongside the pedestrian walkways. I guess they were built to separate the cyclists from pedestrian but I noticed that pedestrian were nonchalantly walking and some pushing strollers on the cycling track forcing the cyclists to cycle on the pedestrian walkway!! Or was it the cyclist forcing the pedestrian? Ah well……

Later, all of us went out for dinner at a buffet restaurant in a peoples’ complex in Pasir Ris, which was a walking distance from the apartment. This restaurant appeared to be very popular as it was full and prior reservation was needed to secure tables for dinner, that too on a week day.

When we arrived, the place was full. We got a table at one end of the restaurant, away from the constant rush of people taking food that were laid on dispensing stations in the centre of the dining hall. We thought that was nice as we could eat in peace and quiet. But that was not to be, because next to our table was a group of young men who were very noisy and often laugh aloud amongst themselves. Anyway, the good food served lulled my senses and I forget the noisy lot!!

There was a very wide spread and selection of food from starters to main entrees and desserts of a wide variety. There was local, Japanese, Western type of food offered. I started with Japanese, which was quite a natural selection for me and Ram’s nephew guessed it right, moved on to Western and finished off with cold stuff like fresh oysters and other shelled items before dessert. I did not touch rice and salads as those I often take when at home. Whilst taking desert, I was doing something that I naturally and consciously do, that was trying out various options of eating them. I was eating fruit that I dipped in the Japanese wasabe sauce. Ram’s nephew’s eldest daughter thought I was absent mindedly dipping them and commented on it. Ha ha! I caught her attention and surprised her. I assured her that that was natural to me. I like doing that kind of silly stuff!! Sort of adding spice to the food!! It tasted nice, so…. that was that. For drinks, there was a wide selection of cold juices and hot drinks from the standard coffee or tea to cappuccino and chocolate. Ohhhh, I really had my fill. This is always the problem with me….. food…. all my disciplined self melt away when there are good food, more so of the type that I like, and I like many types, and most of them were available in this restaurant. A sensible suggestion after the dinner was to take the longer walk through the park to go home and everyone agreed.

The walk through the park was in deed refreshing. It was breezy and also peaceful. We could see the distant lights of Changi point on one side and Johore Port, across the straits on another. There were also others walking or cycling in the park but mostly couples, not a big group like ours. We were not noisy though.

We returned to JB the next day using the cab again as it was more convenient. The trip this time took us only about 1.5 hours door to door, a far cry from the trip we made into Singapore. There was hardly any queue at both the checkpoints, which was most satisfying to us. A‘lull before the storm’ I guess as it was Friday morning before the long year end weekend. I could imagine the queue building up as the day gets later and later in the evening. To the checkpoint staff its part of their routine to handle big crowds but to people like me, getting caught in such rush and long queues will be more than a little daunting…….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

After Dinner

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Apartment Living

Clothes drying like flags waving!! Posted by Picasa

Sign Stating The Obvious

Ignore.... at your own peril!! Posted by Picasa

The Sign Is Clear

And the sign is ignored!! Posted by Picasa

Bicycles and More Bicycles

Signs of a cycling suburban community Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 02, 2006

Singapore Revisited

Day two in Singapore. In the morning we took a walk in the Pasir Ris park. It was breezy and the weather was conducive, with an overshadowed sun, for a walk. The park is big. I understand that people from other parts of Singapore come to the park as well and it can get pretty crowded over the weekends. There are bicycle tracks with bicycles for rent and various park facilities. It is a properly designed park. There is a long boardwalk meandering over a mangrove swamp within the park. The park is also by the sea, part of which overlooks the Straits of Johore and the Southeast part of the state.

We took the boardwalk. It was nice. The boardwalk itself is designed with benches and overhead roofs at various locations for people to sit and rest. The tide was low, hence we could see various little creatures and crustaceans in mud holes or crawling in the mud, mudskippers dominating. The sounds of birds, insects, crickets and others dominate the quiet morning air and surroundings. I spied a pair of yellow bird with streaks of white and black under their belly perched on a tree not too far away from me but flew away as I approached. I also spied rubbish strewn all over the swamp, paper wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic sheets and bags, fizzy drink cans and a myriad of other staff. I pointed these to Ram and she just shrugged her shoulders, with that ‘Ahh … what’s new’ look on her face. We spent close to two hours walking in the park and it was quite invigorating.

Later in the morning we took the MRT and went to Orchard Road, the main shopping street, and browse around in the shopping outlets. All the outlets were on sale and the throng of people in all the outlets was just overwhelming. Its crowds everywhere. Most of the payment counters have queues of people waiting to pay for their purchases. Ram only bought one or two items she fancied. There was no need for us to buy anything because firstly, we do not need anything new and secondly the discounted prices of most of the items, after currency exchange are still more expensive than back home. So we joined the fun of shopping without buying, but for me it was really people watching, behaviours and antics of some, shoppers as well as salespersons!!

I spied a young couple, well dressed, the man carrying the shopping bags, two or three in each hand, while the young woman picked up a blouse, placed it on her chest, looked at him and then put it back. She picked another, did the same and put it back. Then she moved on to another section of the shop, picked a dress, placed it in front of herself, looked at him and put it back. All the time he has a blank look on his face!! I would put the couple as one who have been married for about two years, still childless, having all the time in the world and the money to shop while having no inkling of what to buy.

I spied a lady, in jeans and blouse, big bag slung on one shoulder, browsing in the children section, picking and selecting children t-shirts and gowns. I thought to myself she cannot be alone. I looked around and yes, I saw an elderly couple nearby with the man pushing a stroller. Ah ha…… you got it. Much like Sita, Ram and me when we went shopping on Christmas day!! The new mum wants to have a free hand at shopping while grandma and grandpa tag along with the baby in tow, only difference was that her baby was still stroller bound, while Najla drives the stroller instead of riding it!! I cannot find anyone else in this family, so I guess the woman’s husband must have found a good excuse for not going shopping with her. Give another two years and the young couple I mentioned earlier will be like this one!!

I spied another couple, the lady well endowed and rounded!! The man follows her around, helped her even, while she does the picking and browsing. Then two young girls came by, not teenaged yet I guess, with one showing a pair of jeans to the man. He appears to give approval and the girls tagged along behind them. I envisage that this is a middle class family, husband the homely type, wife a full time homemaker and children do reasonably well in school.

Then came three ladies of various ages, very well dressed and decked with the so-called ‘generics’ talking in a language distinctly foreign. I cocked my ear to catch what language and deduced that it is Tagalong. They looked Phillipino too. Between them they were carrying a few shopping bags. I put my guess that these ladies are not foreign workers but wives of businessmen whose husband are either at work or playing golf somewhere with their Singapore counterparts.

Ram? She was browsing all the time. There was this section of leather bags in one of the outlets. Bins and bins and racks upon racks of leather bags of all shapes, colours and sizes were laid out for people to choose from. There were perhaps a few thousand leather items. They dedicated two payment counters for this section alone. Ram checked out every bin and browsed all the handbags on racks. I guess there were just too many choices because she ended up walking out of the outlet not buying any!! Or perhaps these leather items were not even ‘generic’. It could have been different if they were real ‘branded’.

I also visited the restroom, not to check it but out of necessity. I spied a reasonably clean restroom and modern facilities but there was a bowl not flushed in spite of auto flush system, tissues and stuff missing the rubbish bins when the bins were not even full. I thought it is because the place is frequented by many shoppers and people of all sorts of nationalities, not just Singaporeans. But then the rubbish bins at the Pasir Ris mall, a suburb, also appeared the same!! One set of recycling bin there also appeared to overflow or was it again stuff missing their targeted bins, I wonder……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

More Shoppers

Recognise the three shoppers? .......evryone else walking but these three are posing heh heh!! Posted by Picasa


In front of a popular outlet. Note the disabled crossing the street in modern convenience Posted by Picasa

M&M Chocolate House Decor.

The dressed up facade of one of the outlets. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Southward Bound

We had to attend two weddings of relatives, my side, in Johore Bahru. We will always try to attend these weddings as on these occasions we normally get to meet relatives some of whom we don’t meet for a long time. In deed, at one of the weddings we caught up with a distant relative who used to frequent our house when he was still a student in the early 80’s and have not met him since!!

We took this opportunity to go across to Singapore and spend some time with the family of Ram’s nephew living there. It is also the Christmas and year end holiday/shopping season and most Singapore shopping centers will have sales on. The last time we went to Singapore was maybe about 5 years ago.

There were a number of ways for us to go across the causeway. One was to drive the car, for which we will have to pay toll, car entry surcharge, 24hrs parking fees etc. etc. plus wondering which turn to take every interchange we come across as it has been ages since I drove a car in Singapore. Another was to take the train with exorbitant fares and infrequent service. Yet another was to take the bus but will have to get down twice for immigration checks, once in JB before entering the causeway and the other in Singapore on exiting the causeway. Bus fares are cheap but there is the hassle of getting off the bus and on again into the next bus lugging baggage and belongings through immigration and customs. That thought threw us off that option. We settled for the cab then. There will be no need to get out of the car for immigration checks and if lucky for customs too, which was the case for us this time.

The causeway linking JB with Singapore is only 1.5km long. We left the house in JB at about 10.00am. but only managed to clear immigrations and customs checkpoints at both ends of the causeway at close to 1.00pm. There was a very long queue of vehicles getting across, understandably so, as it was the holiday season. The cab driver told us that this queue was not so bad when compared to certain times where the journey across would take double the time we took, phew!! The journey from the Singapore end of the causeway to the taxi stand in Rochore Road, Singapore took about 20 minutes!! From there we took the MRT (mass rapid transport) train to Pasir Ris where Ram’s nephew lives. We took about 5 hours to travel from door to door, a distance that would not be more than 50 kilometers. Longer than the time it takes us to drive from JB to KL!!

Ram’s nephew was at work when we arrived at their house and only his eldest daughter was at home. Lucky enough, as otherwise we would have to wait for them to return. After a quick wash up, we went out for a late lunch at a restaurant in a shopping mall close to their house after which we went browsing in the mall.

After dinner, a lovely home cooked meal prepared by the eldest daughter, another of Ram’s relative living in the same area came by and took us in her car to her house. This is the first time we visited this relative’s house, the first time I met her too although Ram knows her and have met her many many years ago. Apparently it was also the first time that Ram’s nephew and family have met her. Ram has many relatives on her maternal side, most of them living in Singapore and many of whom Ram have not met for a long time. It will be quite daunting to try and locate all of them. I always get confused when trying to identify who is who amongst the relatives and would always refer to them as the Singapore clan!! How come the family is so big? Ram’s step father, a successful business man in his time had, including Ram’s mother, four wives (that we know of!!), maybe even more!! All the wives have children and grandchildren, and are now in the fourth or fifth generation. Although Ram has no blood relationship with ‘the clan’ as Ram’s mother married her father after the death of her first husband, these family members maintained contacts with Ram’s mother and her children and they were close. Some of them looked us up whenever they come up to KL. So keeping tabs of who is who is really a task for outsiders of the family like me. Ram and I spent the rest of the night talking to her nephew and family of the big Singapore clan, passing on a little bit of family history that we know of to them. I have previously written about this and I thought then that I have something to write about. I think I will have to start somewhere and write, and at the same time try to glean more information from the elders of the family lest the information is lost with them in time. Where do I start?........ hmmmm …… I feel ambitious but I feel lost too in the information maze of the family…….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Pasir Ris Apartments

The cluster of apartments where Ram's nephew lives. Viewed from the MRT Station Posted by Picasa

Tsunami Catastrophy One Year On

My recent post on the tsunami aftermath, in which I questioned the transparency of aid collecting organizations, was posted or questioned a little too soon. On December 25th, 2005, the Malaysian Government released details on how much was raised and how the money was spent.

The details given were:

23,064 Malaysian victims or next of kin received aid
RM51.4 million paid out in death compensation and recovery assistance. Details of how the money was disbursed were given
RM27.5 million still on hold. This amount will only be spent on tsunami victims.

Of the RM78.9 million raised, RM48.5 was by the media. The response by the public was indeed overwhelming, the likes of which had never been seen in the country before. So far aids were given to victims for general repairs to houses, equipments, tools etc, like fishing boats, farming tools and equipments, so that these victims can get on with their lives. 240 temporary and permanent shelters for victims whose houses were demolished were also provided. The authorities are now looking at building permanent homes for the victims.

It was mentioned that not all victims were satisfied with the amount of aid they received, but that was only human. However, knowing that aid was properly disbursed to the victims is itself satisfactory. I can imagine the difficulties faced to determine the genuine victims and to verify them. It must have been quite a task to go through the process and receive ‘brickbats’ in between. But announcing the details of how the collected funds were disbursed is what the general public wanted; transparency in action. I hope whatever small contribution that we as individuals made did go in some way to alleviate the sufferings of the victims. My wish is that those who suffered, no matter how serious, would find comfort in knowing that there are people ever willing to extend a hand to help and with the recent release of the aid collection and disbursement details goes to prove this point. We are only human and it is only human to help another in distress….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya