Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wedding in A Neighbours House

It is a season of weddings, this period being end of year school holiday period. There is a wedding today, two doors away up the street from our house. Being close neighbours we thought we should pop over and render any help in the wedding preparations. We did pop over yesterday to help but found that they were doing more than ok as there were many of their close relatives in the house doing various chores to get the preparations going. We would only be in their way disrupting them rather than helping!!

The main event is today. I was told they had sent out about one thousand invitations and to cater to the expected large crowd a series of 10m x 10m tent was erected on the road in front of the house (they had obtained approval from the proper local authorities to do this) thus closing part of the road. There are alternatives for the neighbours to get in and out of their houses though. However, in order not to disrupt life of immediate neighbour(s)the number of tents had to be reduced to occupy only the road section immediately in front of the house and not blocking entrance to the other house(s). This is so as not to block the ins and outs of the neighbour(s). It was just too bad that my house is two doors away. I would have gladly offered and volunteered the portion in front of my house for them to erect more tents, including taking up my driveway. Even if I had to park my cars away from the house I would. Anyway, I left my gate wide open throughout the occassion to help ease traffic movements at my end of the road.

We were at the wedding early and noticed that there was a big crowd during lunchtime and people just had to quickly eat and vacate to allow others to take over the vacated seats. If there had been more tents, more seats could be set and how more conducive it would have been for all the guests...... We had the opportunity to meet up with other neighbours and friends and moved around to chat here and there, standing of course. It was a pleasant afternoon nevertheless.

All was over by 4.00 in the evening. The table and chairs were cleared and the road reopened for small traffic to go through. The tents I assume will be removed tomorrow. We hope we had been good neighbours amongst other good neighbours who were helpful, in whatever small way we could support to this particular wedding neighbour of ours. In the end I could not see or understand what the fuss on being able to move in and out of the house was all about. Good neighbours would not fret over little things like that. Good and friendly neighbours would be more accommodating and more symphatetic, the norm being this is my day and tomorrow may be yours. Ah well........ living in society have its norm and non-norm occasion or situation and this situation in my neighbourhood triggers questionable thoughts over human behaviours...... Maybe some think they are more human than others ..... superior human perhaps?

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Friday, December 19, 2008

A New Mall In Midst Of A Mixed Society

Some thirty years ago a small fishing village in the east coast of the peninsular, with only about five thousand people most of whom living from hand to mouth, began to be transformed into a large industrial complex stretching over miles and miles of the landscape. New manufacturing plants were built one after another and over these years more than thirty large oil and gas installations were built. The population increased in tandem with these development.

I was indirectly part of these development and I was able to see the transformation of this and other areas of the oil and gas development. Most of all I was happy to see the direct and indirect gains and advantages derived by the community and the people around. From fishermen they became shopkeepers, industrial workers, engineering contractors, material suppliers and a varied vocation that can be gained with the development of the oil and gas industry.

My youngest, Sita and her husband, Fahrul, subsequently became part of this transformation when they worked and lived amongst the community in this east coast area (until recently when they moved to the UK). I could see, during my many visits to this part of the east coast the extensive transformation of the area. The increase in population demanded increased services and those wise enough to venture gained from the many opportunities available. However I was quite surprised that the service development was inadequate for the demand. Purchasing power in the area had been high and yet the services provided were inadequate such that there were heavy outflow of people from the area to the next big town during weekends and off days. Only very recently a shopping mall was built, funded by the oil & gas giant, to serve the community in the area, and began business operations a couple of weeks ago.

A few days ago I was to be in the area overnight for some work. I went alone as Ram had a doctors' appointment and had to stay back. My work commitment was only for half a day and in the morning that ended at just before lunch. I thought this was an opportunity for me to check out this new shopping mall that many had hyped up for so long and perhaps have lunch at the same place if they have food outlets as expected for shopping malls of this type.

It was still lunch time when I was at the mall and there were many families there, this being school holiday period. The parking lot was about three quarter full and the people patronising the mall appear to be those of the middle income earner types. I checked out the food court first and true enough, just like any other shopping mall in other parts of the country the food court was with varied food outlets serving different types and varieties of food. I checked out the pricing of food and true to the practice of other shopping malls the prices were somewhat higher than other local outlets. It was, as usual, a little difficult for me to decide what to eat given the wide variety of food available at the many outlets and I finally decided on nasi kukus or 'steamed rice' set, a popular food serving in the east coast comprising of steamed rice, deep fried chicken, anchovies and tofu cubes fried in chili paste with peanuts and onions, some pickled cucumber and onions and other condiments. I decided on this set as it looked very inviting. So my expectation was quite high or was it because I was already hungry then?

I sat at one of the corner seats available, most seats were taken up by families and people with little children, many running around and noisy, that a corner seat was more conducive for quiet dining. It was also a conducive corner to observe the going ons around me. I dug into the food and ppphhhhtttttt! it was a disappointment... or was my standard too high? But then I was not comparing the food with similar food from my favourite outlet in another town in the east coast which I regularly patronise and which is always crowded with patrons. I was just trying its taste which was rather flat or tasteless. I had to pay something like a 30% premium over the price I used to pay at this favourite outlet and yet the food was nowhere near my favourite. Anyway, I just happened to choose the wrong outlet I thought and the other outlets would serve better tasting food perhaps. No capacity to try any of them this time around. Perhaps there will be other occasions for it.

After lunch I decided to spend some time browsing around. There were designer outlets and varied product outlets within the mall. Outlets for the 'yuppies' are also available. The main anchor tenant, a hypermarket was not open that day or perhaps not ready to open yet and I assume once this outlet opens the crowd will be much bigger. Well and good for the community. They need not, now onwards, travel all the way into the next town, some 200 kilometers away, for the weekends.

So, this part of the east coast is slowly transforming into a modern area. A little too slow though, but slowly making life more interesting for the local inhabitants and increasing the quality of life of the people. A far cry from the fishing village origin. Going around the area one can definitely see who and how some has ridden on the opportunities spread infront of them and who had missed out on these opportunities. One have just to look around........

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the blink

We are now in Bintulu and have been here for almost a week. The day after we arrived my laptop went on the blink. Windows started dumping and refused to log on and said that one of the system files was not functioning. I had to send it for rehab...

Got the rehabilitated laptop back from the shop yesterday and fired it up.... started ok and I began configuring the programmes that I ausually apply. However midway it started to dump what I was doing and I had to restart. Looks like the problem is not completely solved. So for important stuff that I do on the computer I use the home computer that Shaffik has in the house. It is a little slow compared to the laptop but better than nothing and better than losing my work half way when it starts to dump. I will have to send the laptop back for another rehab...

Using the home computer has its downside because the kids use them too, hence its on shared time usage. I get to use it in the mornings though when the two boys are in school but the little girl is beginning to intrude too. All of us used to say that she is still too small to use the computer and she relented. The brothers keep saying, "Wait until you are big enough, then you can use the computer!!"

Yesterday, I switched on the computer and while waiting for it to log on etc etc. (It's slow remember) I went to the toilet. When I came out I saw the little girl on the computer and she said, "See, I told you Tok Bah..... I am big already" Somehow she managed to open up the picture files and was viewing her brother's school 'Ikhtifal" function (end of year certificate presentation) photographs. I asked where is your brother's picture and she could scroll to show them. So, she proved that she is big enough to use the computer. Imagine the rush to use it when the brothers come home from school.... and further limiting time for me to use it in the mornings.....

MKI Ramblings Unlimited

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My Watch Went Kaboom

Not too long ago Ram and Sita bought me a watch, not a wrist-watch but the one that you hold in your palm and flip open the cover to see the watch face/time and has an attached chain that you can anchor the other end to your clothing. I usually flop the watch into my shirt pocket and anchor the chain to one of the shirt button holes. Originally it was quite a bother for me to see the time as I have to pull the watch out of the pocket, sometimes it gets stuck or entangled with my cell-phone which I normally place in the same pocket and had almost given up using it. It was much easier to see the time using a wrist-watch. However, over time, I got the knack of doing it and was quite easy really. So, I use the watch often now.
I brought the watch with me on my recent trip to Bintulu and Kuching. The three kids were of course all over me, each trying to hold and touch the watch as soon as I arrived in the house in Bintulu. Haadieya was the first one to it as usual and tugged on the attached chain but gave up when she did not get to detach it from my shirt. That was the end. She did not pursue with the watch after that. Babang and Dedek however continued being fascinated by the watch, especially Dedek who relentlessly asked questions after questions on the watch. I wondered why he continued to be fascinated and I found out why a few days later when we were in Kuching.
Fahrul and Sita called us when we were in Kuching and we had the conversation over the speaker-phone of my cellular, so that we can all chat with them all at the same time. Najla talked with us for just a while as, according to Sita, she was eating then (that’s code for being uninterested and crappy!!). They were getting ready to go to a Raya gathering in one of their colleagues house in Milford Haven. Apparently the wife of PETRONAS’ President and her two children were in Milford Haven for two days and they decided to hold the impromptu pot-luck gathering.
The conversation between Dedek and Sita went this way:
Dedek: Tante Ta, where did you buy Tok Bah’s watch?
Tante Ta: Yes Dedek, Tante Ta buy what?
Dedek: Tok Bah’s watch, the one that has got a chain on it and you can open the cover…..
(Ah-ha I thought, he is up to something here!!)
Tante Ta: Oh that white watch. I bought it in UKay. Why?
Dedek: I like it.
Tante Ta: Oh Okay…. It’s nice isn’t it?
Dedek: Yes very nice. I don’t have a watch Tante Ta! (Ahhh here it comes!!)
Tante Ta: Oh! What happened to your watch?
Dedek: It is broken already….
Tante Ta: Why? What happened to it?
Dedek: It was Babang. He said that the watch was waterproof but it went kaboom with water!!
Tante Ta: Oh oh! Ok we will see what we can do about it later…
Dedek: Thank you Tante Ta
Ha! Knowing this little guy he will claim the watch later….
Tok Bah: Dedek, Babang said that the watch was waterproof, so you have to test it in water?
Dedek: Giving me that cheeky smile, “but it’s waterproof!!” Interpret: not my fault but wrong information on the watch and of course Babang should know better!! Ha ha!
Babang was not around in our room then so he did not hear this conversation, other wise there would be pandemonium again ha ha!
Children children, never a dull moment with them and you never know what’s to come he he he!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kuching Revisited

We are now in Kuching. We have been staying at the Hilton over the weekend together with Shaffik and his family. We took Air Asia from Bintulu on Friday and will be flying out back to Bintulu this evening.

I am writing this blog at the study table in my hotel room, which faces the famous river that cuts the city into the northern and the southern halves. There is a huge, multi-pillared, circular building, with umbrella-like roof in final stages of construction coming up across the river from the Hilton. It has now blocked a major view of the distant horizon. I was told that this will be the new court house. It stands next to the old Fort which has now been dwarfed and look quite insignificant, as though it has seen its glorious days as a historical landmark of sorts. Little boats ferrying pedestrians across the river still ply from various points along the esplanade and the residential areas across. Other large buildings in Kuching North (the hotel stands in Kuching South) mostly government administrative buildings can still be seen. Most significant of them are the dome and main pillar of a mosque standing magnificently amongst the other buildings and the luscious greens surrounding them. A beautiful view indeed if not for this humongous court house! There is another mosque in the south standing by the river. This was the original town mosque which was a landmark for the old Kuching city.

It is still Shawal and we made several Hari Raya visits to relatives and friends in Kuching. We visited Ram's niece and family and also Mini's cousin and family. Ram's niece and husband have retired and their children have all grown up and are on their own. Mini's cousin are still bringing up young children. It had been quite a while since we last met them and it was pleasant to have met them again.

One friend we visited was a former colleague of mine during my working days in Bintulu. He has since risen up the corporate ladder to be the Chairman of the states economic development corporation, while at the same time being an elected representative to the state legislative council. I took a chance and sent him a sms message on his handphone that I was in Kuching with the family. He immediately called me and asked how long I would be in Kuching and then allocated time for me to visit him in his house. It was a very pleasant meeting for us indeed. He has not changed much even though it had been more than twenty years since we were together, still lively and sprightly and full of jokes as before. He lives in a big house, gated and with security personnel guarding it. He came out to the gate to receive us when we arrived and appeared excited to see both of us (in all the excitement I noticed that he was barefooted!). He remembered Shaffik too. We talked about old times, about how others amongst us then are getting on now and of course interspersed with current local political and world economic scenarios. He, being in the government sector and privy to some of the latest info gave us some insights into the current scenarios, some of which were quite surprising and eyebrow raising to me, a laymen and without access to the real information. It was a short visit as it was slotted in between his tight schedule but we promised to get together again in the near future and I hope it will be in my house in PJ then.

Kuching city used to be limited to the water front and near the river with the commercial centre on the south side and the residential areas on the north side. Now it has two mayors, one for the north and one for the south. Shopping activities used to be centred along the water front but now, as one drives out of the city centre one should be able to see tall buildings coming up, large shopping complexes, commercial buildings, office buildings, apartment and condominiums sprouting up everywhere. We visited one of the shopping complexes yesterday. It was large, much like the ones one see in big cities and the day being a Sunday just as crowded with people.

The weather now looks good, and from the window the esplanade at the water front beckons to me for a walk. So, I shall walk the pavement for a while, to as far as my leg can withstand it supported by my walking stick of course. I shall write again, by the grace of the Almighty.....

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Kuching, sarawak

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Oh oh .... It has been 3 weeks?

It has been 3 weeks since my last posting. Alot have happened in the three weeks with the significant ones being the family gathering on the third Shawal, and the passing of son Shaffik's father-in-law, who succumbed to the big 'C'. He had a mild stroke and was taken to hospital. Once one is in hospital all kinds of tests will be conducted and one of the tests done on him indicated that he had the big C of his lungs. It was very fast indeed. Only 10 days and he succumbed. It was mentioned that he went peacefully though and not before he had moved his bowels and emptied his bladder, had a light meal, a few spoonful, and then all realised that he had 'gone'. So, he had cleansed himself before answering 'the call to return' they said.

I was in the East Coast, in Kuala Terengganu, attending to my commitments at my former place of work when I received the sad news from son Shaffik. Ram and I managed to get a flight out to Bintulu but could not be in time for the funeral. Anyway, our presence are usually required for the family that's left behind since the one that is gone is gone. So it was never too late then.

Our presence in Bintulu was, I think, most looked forward to by our three grand children, especially the little one, the 3 year old Haadieya who was most excited of all when we arrived. From then on it had been Tok Bah this and Tok Bah that and Tok Mi this and Tok Mi that.... demanding our attention always. She is especially fascinated by my mustache and beard, playing with them while seated on my lap!! We will be over each other, all four of us, i.e 3 genuine kids and one much overgrown and overaged kid in bed when waking up in the mornings, throwing the bed and beddings a mess, all to the annoyance of Tok Mi ha ha, but leaving me without a care in the world for that precious, cherishable moments.

Babang or Hifzhan, the eldest, is always serious and disciplined but would lighten up in my presence. Dedek or Haziq on the other hand is ever the playful one and come up with surprising statements and comments now and then. The little one of course is the attention grabber. One day we were in the car and Dedek was playing with the car air-cond rear blower fan control switch, turning it up and down successively:

Tok Bah: Dedek what are you doing?
Dedek: I am testing the aircond?
Tok bah: No no no, you will only spoil the blower playing with the switch that way
dedek: But babang asked me to do it
Babang: Noooooo
Tok bah: So dedek, if babang ask you to jump out of the car will you jump out?
Dedek: No! But when I ask Babang to pee in his pants he did!!
Babang: Dedekkkkk (on top of his voice) and they were on each other with Dedek giggling away.....

Another occassion we were on the road again and the three kids were in the car. We played the spelling game, and naturally the two boys tried to outdo each other. But the little girl, not being able to spell, wanted to get into the act as well. So Dedek gave the little sister words to spell:

Dedek: OK Haadieya, spell hand
Haadieya: C T U.....
Babang: Wrongggggg
Haadieya: Yes C T M.... hand
Dedek: Correct Haadieya. See babang, Haadieya has not gone to school yet and she already can spell.....

See, you will not have a dull moment with the kids around. I forget everything else in this world with them around....

The family gathering on the third day of Shawal saw a whole day event that catered for all ages in the family. Details and pictures can be found at the following site You are welcomed to visit.... Happy reading...

MKI ramblings unlimited
Petaling jaya

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tomorrow is the day we bid goodbye to Ramadhan and come dusk welcome Syawal. To some it is a sad farewell and to others a happy ending. Sad if all that one desired was not fulfilled and happy if otherwise. Ramadhan is the month one seeks His bounty which can be more than one can imagine if only one care to seek. Therefore woe be it when one slackens in total supplications to Him in Ramadhan. One may not get a chance to meet the next Ramadhan.....

The times we spent in the east Coast of the Peninsula was a bit too much for the both of us. Since coming back we have been a little under the weather, and with the loads of things we had to do in and out of the house, which was in a real mess not having been attended to for a long while, health started taking its toll on us. Despite the health setback, we had to attend to the chores, poor health notwithstanding, lest the mess continues into the festive period! So it was, head heavy and body aching, both of us continued to do what was necessary to spruce up the house. We were thankful though that son Shaffik and family came back on Sunday and hence we had additional help to do the necessary, and with the grandchildren around, full of their pranks and antics, all the aches and pains in our bodies melted away somehow...

We had planned to cook our usual sweetmeat for the festive day and we had purchased 2 kilos of good meat for it. I spent the afternoon today preparing the meat, pounding to soften it and cooking it. I think staying infront of the fire and stirring the big pot for a good two hours did some good for my throbbing head and aches in the body although standing for two hours was not any good for my knees. The throbbing in the head disappeared but the pain in the knees took over. Huh! one setback to another, ha ha. Age do play games with you. Anyway, a good rest afterwards was all I needed to recover from the knee aches.

It was announced that Syawal will start on Wednesday, hence we have another day of Ramadhan. I hope we can make full use of this last day to catch up before Ramadhan leaves us. I submit to the Almighty and I seek his guidance always....

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling jaya

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nights Full of Blessings

It is now the last segment of Ramadhan and it was said that the last ten days and nights are full of Almighty's blessings which are bestowed in multiple bounty if only we care to seek. One night of the last ten nights, especially, holds something special for the ummah. No one knows which night of the ten but there has been many speculations, postulations, deductions and guesswork even, on which night it falls. To me it is only ten nights and one should not fret over which night it is but concentrate all efforts to submit to Him in all of the ten nights. If one can, one should submit wholly and sincerely to Him all of the Ramadhan nights. What are we if not for His blessings.

Ram and I have spent the last three weeks away from home. We have been staying in a hotel in the middle of Kuala Terengganu town and located very close to the town mosque, which conveniently served our purpose. This particular hotel was my 'second' home of sorts even at the time I was still in service and working in Kuala Terengganu some ten years ago. So, to return and stay in the hotel after all these years was like homecoming for Ram and me.

The mosque holds the regular and the additional Ramadhan prayer sessions, just like any other mosques in the country. For these last ten nights they hold prayer sessions starting at 3.30am. Meals for the breaking of fast and for the beginning of fast are also served to the congregation. So what more can one ask for. Some people practically spends their nights in the mosque. I guess they go home at sunrise to catch up on sleep!

Ram and I try to join in all the prayer sessions as much as we can and also joined the congregation for the breaking of fast twice. A third time we did was when the Prime Minister visited the mosque to break fast with the people. Of course, he made a political speech before the breaking of fast but I noticed that people who attended were not concentrating on his speech but were more interested in arranging the food on the table for the breaking of fast. Other days we break fast on our own either in the hotel restaurants or in our rooms as appropriate. Because of my work commitment I sometime return late to the hotel with little time to prepare for the mosque but but we try to make sure that we join the congregation for all the prayer sessions. Better miss out on the food than miss out on the congregational prayers.

We will be returning home tomorrow and need not return to Terengganu for a while yet. Hence we will be spending the final segment of Ramadhan at home and at our local mosque. I expect the house to be a mess and will need some sprucing up. So there will be alot of work to do when we return home. I only hope I can find time to catch up and update my postings here. I seek His guidance always.....

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Kuala Terengganu

Saturday, September 20, 2008

See The Bigger Family

For all those who have been following my blog and followed stories I posted on my bigger family, of how we get together and formed a movement to further the dreams of my late father and my mum, here is an opportunity to get a closer look at this bigger family or go to the link Warisan TCC here. It is in Malay though but there are pictures of members of the family there. Thanks to brother Joe who, I am sure, spends alot of time moderating the blog, the family worldwide can get in touch in a single blog platform. So, happy viewing.

I am still commuting weekly to the East Coast of the peninsular and addressing the higher demands on my time leaving me little time to do anything else, and less so to post my thoughts in this blog. And this month being Ramadhan, the need to spend time more advantageously is even greater and I seek guidance from the Almighty to enable me to apportion the time available appropriately. Apologies if the postings here gets too infrequent. I will make efforts to do more, with His blessings.....

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Long Overdue

It has been more than two months since my last posting. Much have happened since. Ram and I have been spending time away from home more than being at home and mostly in the east coast of the peninsular. I have alot of commitments to attend to, mostly facilitating the technical training of new employees and the training scheme is for one year. So, it looks like Ram and I will be commuting to the east coast more often now and for about one year. This may be extended if there ius an extension of the scheme beyond the initial one year plan. Ah well, it keeps us occupied though.

This commitment takes us away from the regular activities we were used to, like attending to the community services near our home, attending to the activities and classes at our favourite charitable foundation, attending to the Retirees Fraternity for which I am the secretary and others. We manage time, however, to visit mum in the south and to attend to weddings and major family gatherings. This is essential and is one way of maintaining and preserving family and social contacts and camaraderie.

My brother's mother-in-law, staying with him and family in Melaka, passed away while we were in the east coast. She was 80 years old and had been quite sickly at the time. We could not attend her funeral, but we had the opportunity of meeting her a few months ago. She was very frail and had then asked us to offer special prayers for her. Now that she is already gone then only we realised that she was indeed asking us to pray for her. We made an effort to visit my brother and family as soon as we could get away from the east coast.

We also held a simple gathering of nephews and nieces, Ram's sdie, in our house recently, to offer special 'thanksgiving' for various happenings amongst family members and to seek the Almighty's blessings for our well being. There was a good turnout of Ram's family members including her two sisters who came up from JB to be with us for the occassion. A birthday of one of Ram's grand-nieces was also celebrated that night, complete with cake-cutting. There was alot of family banter and I think everyone had fun. Too bad Shaffik and Sita could not join us for the occassion, being too far away.

My family grouping, TCC, held a meeting recently to plan activities for the upcoming annual gathering of family members. Although I am the Chairman, my schedule was too tight that I could not attend. It is quite a distance to travel from the east coast to the south and it is a one day travel one way!! Instead of postponing the meet everyone agreed that the meeting should go on without me and another senior family member took the chair for that meeting. Praised be to the Almighty that the meeting went well and that specific action plans were set in place and in motion.

I hope I can still find time to post here as regularly as possible. I will try ... I will try.... with the blessing of the Almighty....

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Roman Bath Near The Circus!

After visiting the Stone and Wood ceremonial structures, and after a short picnic in a park nearby, we went on to Bath, another city in the Southwest, about almost an hour away to the east, from where we were. The city was very hilly and the buildings mostly old and typical of English designs. We started off with visiting a park and observed several hot air balloons taking off nearby. It was exciting for Najla especially to see the balloons from up close. She commented that the balloons got fire burning and asked why. I think she could not comprehend why fire was needed for the balloon to fly. She nodded and said ‘yeah’ when I explained but she had that blank look! The park must be close to the University as we noticed many students ‘doing their own thing’ in the park.

A short distance away from the park was the Circus. No no! not the animals and trapeze type, but the housing and living quarters’ type. Yes, it was the typically English four storied apartments (including basement), in three blocks built in a circle, hence the name ‘the circus’, surrounding a small park in the centre with large trees in a circle as well. A road runs around the circus, in front of the apartments, with three entry and exit points, one of them leading to the city centre about half a mile away. Najla was running around the little park and played with the kiddy stuff there. She was enjoying herself. It was then almost 8.00pm but it was still light and bright as sunset nowadays is about 9.30pm.

We walked about the town area, quite busy with people out partying and enjoying the good weather, most in restaurants and cafes sitting outside in the open. We went looking for the historical, public ‘Roman Bath’ but found it closed. So we had no chance to see the exhibits in the building but went around the outside of the main building and the pump house nearby. According to the brochures the bath is not in use now and is only displayed as a tourist attraction. It would have been interesting to see the exhibits…. If one need to take a bath? There is a bath and spa outlet close by that charges £25/- for the full works, whatever that was……

We later asked around and located the town mosque, performed our obligations and then had dinner that we bought from a suitable fast food outlet in the town centre in one of the parks close by. People were walking through the small park with some walking their dogs. There was one particular man who walked along close to where we were sitting with his dog unleashed. Najla was especially nervous and apprehensive seeing the dog coming by. But when the dog just passed by she commented, “luckily I have cut my finger nails”. Apparently Sita had coaxed her to cut her long finger nails by ‘conning her’ that long finger nails invite worms to live underneath the nails and that dogs like to lick little childrens’ fingers that have worms in their finger nails. Phew! What a relief it was for Najla heh heh!

It was close to midnight by the time we were ready to leave for home in Tenby. We noticed several people staggering along drunk and one particular girl being helped along, hardly able to walk on her own, obviously very drunk. She was whisked away in a car by her friends who were themselves in some level of intoxication. I wondered if the driver was capable enough to drive! We arrived home at close to 3.00am and ever ready for bed. It has been a pleasant outing, something old, something not so old, and something new along the way. What next? We only have a few days left in Tenby and we have no specific plans of how to spend it. For me, I will continue my daily walk as the weather forecast said the sun will be up and the temperatures anywhere between 15 to 22 degrees centrigrade, nice and cool for walks in the country side……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Tenby, Pembrokeshire,

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

About Stones and Wood In Heritage

A fine Saturday, the sun was up and temperatures hovering around 18 degrees centigrade with a cool breeze. This was expected as confirmed by the weather forecast. We went Southwest to Salisbury and Amesbury of the Wiltshire area and then on to Bath. We started off at about noon and headed off to visit the historical site of Stonehenge, the stone structure believed to be from the Neolithic period and used for ceremonial purposes. We have heard of it, read about it and understood that there had been various theories on the existence of the circular stone structure. Whether the stones were constructed for ceremonial purposes or whether they were markers for some religious functions are still debated by historians and there has been no conclusion as to its purpose. It was believed that the stones were brought to the site and constructed in the indicated formation. The origins of the stones were believed to be from Wales and if that were true then a great effort would have been taken to transfer the stones from Wales. Were they brought by sea or were they by land? Why specifically stones from Wales? What was their significance?

It was a three and a half hours drive from Tenby to reach Stonehenge. We went directly to the site passing through small towns in the suburbs of Wiltshire; the towns appeared to be very old with some houses looking very ancient and some appeared to have been built of mud and thatched straw roofs even. The roads we passed through were small, winding two way country roads where extra caution was required and where passing space was limited. This slowed us down somewhat but we carried on anyway. The Stonehenge stone structure was located in an open field and on high ground and was visible from a distance. We noticed it from the distance, an arranged cluster of stones, and the stone structure slowly got clearer and clearer as we got nearer. On arrival we noticed quite a large crowd of visitors, some having arrived in several tourist buses or coaches and the parking lot set aside for visitors and provided by the English Heritage society were quite full. The whole stone structure area was fenced up by a six feet high chain fencing. There was an entrance fee to enter within the fenced enclosure of the Stonehenge but visitors were not allowed to get near the stone structures as they were roped off. So there was not much difference if one had gone into the enclosure or stayed outside of it.

There was nothing much else to see or do at this location. We stayed for about an hour, took some pictures like the tourist we were, before moving on. We checked out one large stone piece close to the fence that looked similar to the ones in the cluster of stones in the main structure. There’s moss growing on it. The stone looked quite ordinary. No way of telling where it came from. Perhaps Archaeologists would be able to tell. I wondered why this sole piece was left there and not brought or placed together with the others in the cluster. There was only about 20 meters left to transport it to the cluster, after having brought it from Wales, if indeed the stones were brought from Wales as claimed by historians.

We moved on from there to another location about 15 minutes drive away where there was another historical, heritage thing that was named, by no coincidence I believe, ‘Woodhenge’. I learned of this when browsing the ‘net’ and since we were in the vicinity and we had the time, it was only natural to check it out. Woodhenge was called such as archaeological excavations done many years ago found wood stumps arranged in several concentric circular formation that was believed to have been used for some ceremonial purpose, much like the intent of Stonehenge. I thought there must have been more than a coincidence that Woodhenge was found not too far away from Stonehenge and whether there had been any relationship intent between the two. The weathered wooden stump had since been replaced by concrete. Looking at the size and shape of the concrete stumps I believe the original wooden stumps were tree trunks cut into pieces of two or three feet height and placed in a circular formation, and maybe used as stools for people to sit on in some ceremonial function. Perhaps they were used for funeral or burial ceremony during the Neolithic period. There was no indication what period they were from and it was just left to our imagination. I could only imagine that it was pre-historic and used as non-religious, ceremonial and cultural function. There was no indication of any religious connection there, so also at Stonehenge. But then again, I may be wrong…….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Tenby, Pembrokeshire,

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Change Of Guards

Our first day in London after returning from Spain was intentionally spent to observe the changing of guards at Buckingham Palace. We were reminded, before leaving home in Mid-May that if ever we were in London we should visit Buckingham Palace, especially during the changing of guards’ ceremony. We left the hotel at 10.00am and took the bus from the front of our hotel to go to St James Park. The guards on duty at the palace were mounted by the army from my country, a special arrangement and honor given to members of the Commonwealth Countries. We went specifically to observe this.

There was already a large crowd in front of the palace. There were people everywhere and all foreigners. Yes, the guards in front of the guard boxes at the palace were in the familiar ceremonial uniform of our army. There were, of course, policemen on foot and mounted on horses on the streets around and along the streets at the front of the palace grounds, and outside of the palace fence, controlling the crowd and also traffic. It was still early then for the changing of guards’ ceremony and we joined the crowd in posing and taking pictures to live up to the name of ‘tourists’ heh heh.

Signs that the ceremony was about to start came at about 11.00am when the first batch of horse riders and foot soldiers in full regalia accompanied by a band marching out from the side entrance of the palace, followed by a second batch a little while later, moving away to some distance from the palace area. Soon after that they marched back into the palace grounds and the change of guards’ ceremony started then. The band meanwhile played several contemporary songs and at the point just before the guards changed the British National anthem was played. The whole ceremony actually took about one hour and the crowd stayed on throughout the ceremony. Some of them commented that the guards do not look Caucasians and Sita proudly mentioned that they were from our country in the East!! I could not clearly see what went on as the crowd was really large and the ceremony took place over the wide area in front of the palace. I did not want to jostle for space amongst the crowd and stood some distance away. I had to strain and try to see through the crowd. Sita and Fahrul however did not move away from their position and managed to inch their way closer and closer to the fence. They managed to get some good pictures. Ram had found herself at the fence and stayed there all through out the ceremony.

Once the ceremony was over Fahrul and I had to rush to Kensington Park where the main mosque is located for us to perform our Friday obligations. Ram and Sita decided to go to Knightsbridge meanwhile, and pay a ‘courtesy call’ at Harrods ha ha!! Harrods is another tourist ‘must visit’ destination in London. We met them at Harrods later in the afternoon and then went to Queensway for a late lunch, or were it early dinner? at a ‘Nandos’ outlet which, we were assured, was suitable for us. The patrons here appear to be the younger crowd, a little noisy and some boisterous even. We had a seat at one corner, hence not bothered by the boisterous groups.

After dinner we decided to take a leisurely walk, as it was still light then, around the area and also find the apartment I used to live in some 25 years ago, located on Devonshire Terrace, close to Paddington Station. It was a pleasant walk as traffic was very low in that area then and it was also slowly getting dark. It was past 9.00pm then and time to return to our hotel. Najla was also getting restless and a little cranky.

The Devonshire Terrace Apartment

We checked out of our hotel on Saturday and returned to Tenby. There are no specific plans for the next two weeks we have left in UK but one thing for sure, we will want to see the countryside of Wales. Najla has to go back to her playschool in the mornings, having been away for more than a week. She even said that she wanted to go back to school. I think she missed her school friends already………

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Tenby, Pembrokeshire,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

One More Day In Barcelona, Final Day In España

It was another fine day, sunny and cool in Barcelona. We packed our stuff, checked out of the hotel, and headed for the Olympic Park not too far away from the hotel. The complex is in a large area that included an old fort upon a hill. The main stadium stood at midway up the hill, and there were also other buildings within the complex that were used for various games for the Olympics, I presume. As usual there were tourists all over the place. The open top bus also goes through the complex. There were ample space for parking and Fahrul parked close to the cable car bottom station.

We took the cable car to go up the hill, to the old fort and the garden surrounding it, covered by tall walls at the edge of the hill around the top. All along the walls and at the corners were spaces for guards and lookouts. The guns were mostly trained towards the sea. I guess in the old days this fort was the bastion of the city of Barcelona. From this vantage point we could see the whole of Barcelona, the port area and the sea beyond, the whole city and the surrounding countryside. There was a war or army museum within the building on top of this hill and there were also several old canons, German made Guns and Howitzers, displayed at vantage points around the walls. Why German made I wonder. I am not familiar with the history of the place but I guess the Germans had some role to play in the protection of the city at some point.

Najla apparently was having fun running around and playing. She kept saying she wants to play in the playground. We were not sure if there were any up here and true enough there was none after going around all the corners of the garden. She insisted on playing in the playground all the same while we tried to convince her that there was no children playground anywhere around. Anyway we continued viewing the site and later took the cable car back to the bottom. While in the cable car Najla pointed to a children playground below us but luckily there were no one anywhere around the playground. Even the roads nearby appeared deserted. We convinced her that the playground was closed and she reluctantly relented. Saved some time there!!

From the Olympic Complex we moved on to another part of the city, the Catalonia Plaza and stopped for a while to take more pictures. From here we went on our way back to Madrid as we have to catch a plane back to London the next morning. We took a route through the city of Zarragoza to Madrid, total traveling journey of five hours. As we have plenty of time we decided to stop over in Zarragoza which was about three hours away from barcelona, to perform our obligations to the Almighty and also for dinner.

The city of Zarragoza is not as big as Barcelona and not as busy and the buildings appear modern and comparatively new. The shape and structure of the main building in the city however appear to follow the traditional shapes and designs of old buildings in Spain, with domes and minarets typically adorned with the cross at the top. It does not look like a church and I suspect it is not meant to be one but could possibly be an administrative centre or for some official purpose. The other buildings within the city centre all appear to be modern.

Fahrul parked the car in an open parking lot and we walked around for a while before stopping at a suitable restaurant not too far away from the local mosque/religious centre. It rained for a while that evening while we were having dinner. When the rain stopped we proceeded to perform our obligations to the Almighty at the religious centre. It was then almost 11.00pm and almost time fro us to leave for Madrid and the airport.

We arrived at the airport at about 3.00am. Our flight to London was at 7.30 am and we had some time yet before checking in for our flight. We just rested and caught some sleep in the car, parked at the rental car return plaza, while waiting for time to check in. There was already a long queue when we went into the terminal building to check in at about 5.30am. After checking in we had a simple breakfast of bread and other food stuff we had brought along while on the road, did the necessary freshening up and went into the departure lounge. There was no hassle going through Immigration and security. Our flight was delayed by about half an hour but that was no big deal really. Farewell Madrid and good bye Spain…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
London, England, UK

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Sunny Day And An Outing In Barcelona.

With a map of Barcelona city obtained from the hotel we took a bus to downtown in the late morning. Our hotel apparently was in the industrial area on the outskirts of the city. We had to change bus to go to the city but it was not a hassle at all as the bus was frequent enough. We spent sometime in Catalonia, in the city centre, which was overcrowded with people, majority tourists. The tourist bus, the open topped ones were also crowded. There was a long queue of people to board the buses. Fahrul went to get information from the tourist information centre, where there was also a long queue, and off we went to see some of the sites using the metro.

The park in the centre of Catalonia Plaza was full of people and so also the pedestrian mall leading from this plaza to the next main plaza. It was just like any other touristy city, with its grand hotels, designer shops and outlets, various kinds of restaurants including Mc Donalds, Pizza, Burger King and other fast food outlets.

At another location where the old temple stood, there were similar types of crowd. Groups led by a guide with a flag or number plate raised guiding the tourists on. The temple itself was being maintained and some refurbishment work going on. There were tower cranes and scaffoldings erected to facilitate work making the sight unsightly!! However that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the tourists present, clicking away on their cameras and videos.

We went to a mosque in the city, a building that was part of a terraced type of building block, performed our obligations to the Almighty, and then looked for a suitable restaurant nearby. One vegetarian outlet we found served some very interesting vegetarian food and sandwiches. One that attracted Ram and I was a combined platter of couscous (I stand corrected for spelling!!), rolled crepe with vegetable fillings, various beans, dhal and several types of dressings with various salad toppings. The platter was very nice and I liked the couscous especially and the rolled crepe with fillings had a unique after taste. For drinks we had a combined fresh juice of carrot, apple, ginger and milk that was truly refreshing. Ram and I thought of just sharing one tall glass but ended ordering another one not because we were still thirsty but for the unique taste the concoction gave to the palate. The concoction was called ‘orgasmic’ and it was that alright, ha ha.

We continued walking around the area after dinner and stopped at the Hard Rock Café where Sita bought some stuff one of her friends requested for. I took the opportunity to rest my leg at the front plaza (I do not have my walking stick with me remember?) after all the walking. We finally headed back to our hotel at about 11.00pm. We lost track of time as it was still light at 9.00pm!!

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Barcelona, Catalunya,

Monday, May 26, 2008

Last Day In Spain Yes? No?

Sunday and we were due to leave for Marrakech on an Easyjet flight scheduled at 6.30 pm. We decided to check out of the Apartment early, bought the day pass of €4.00 which was good for any of the metro or bus trips around the city, for the day, including to and fro the airport, went to the airport to store our luggage and returned to the city. Storage bins at the airport were only €7.00 each for the largest sized ones and we only needed two of them.

In the city we decided to check out areas we have not visited, bought lunch, took more pictures, and returned to the airport by ~ 4.00pm. On checking-in at the Easyjet counter we discovered that we needed a visa to go to Morocco. Jeezzz…., what a disappointment. It takes at least one day to get a visa and if we were to arrange for it we have to wait until Monday. One day gone and with travel day etc. left us with too short a time to spend in Marrakech. So we sat and reviewed our options. We have until early Thursday morning for our return flight to London from Madrid.

We considered various options and decided to rent a car and drive out of Madrid to other cities of Spain. We chose to go to Valencia, a 3 hours drive out of Madrid. We tried to get into the internet at the airport to try and find hotels in Valencia but could not find an internet outlet in the general public areas of the airport. The ones available were in the departure lounges after the security check-in. So we took the gamble and just drove to Valencia and try our luck at a hotel in Valencia or anywhere in the rest areas along the way. The highways we passed through appear to be a little narrow compared to other highways we go through in other countries. When overtaking heavy trucks and other wide vehicles the space for us seemed rather limited. There was not much side table to the highways too. They do have a lot of land and I wondered why they limit the size of their highways. There were no hotels en-route to Valencia but the first one we checked on arrival in Valencia had vacant rooms. It was then 2.00am and we just checked in as we needed the rest.

The next day was spent going around Valencia, but not before assuring a hotel room in Barcelona, our next destination. Fahrul went into one internet café and booked a hotel in Barcelona on-line. Apartment hotels apparently were more expensive in comparison.

The internet cafe was close to the town mosque, where we went to perform our daily obligations to the Almighty, and in the same location were a number of suitable restaurants for us. We had lunch in one of them, a Turkish restaurant with typical Turkish food that proved to be quite a change from the usual kebab and pizzas we were used to during our travels in Spain. The operator was a young Turk who could not speak English but understood what we wanted and was very accomodating. He described how he was going to prepare and serve us and we were happy to agree. It turned out to be a good lunch.

We went to Valencia beach area and then took the tram to the centre of the city. The original walled-city has turned modern but they have preserved some of the old buildings as heritage. New roads built are large three or four lanes ones but the city streets are very narrow with buildings very close to each other. The walled part was actually walls built on the river sides but the river had a long time dried up and parks and playground have taken over. Several bridges, built across the river for easy communications, were dedicated for pedestrians as well as motorized traffic. The main entrance to the city, a gate tower, looked very old. The metallic bars, bolts and nuts, holding the thick wooden bars and thick planks together on the gate, and the wood, still very strong, have wilted at the edges. A bell had also seen better days. This side of the ‘old’ river, beyond the main entrance gate must have been the original old part of the city, and the other side being the new and modernly designed part of the city.

We took the tram back to where we started earlier, close to the beach and where we had parked the car. It was 10pm then and time for us to leave for Barcelona, a 3 hours drive. There were at least seven tolls along the highway to Barcelona and we went through at least a dozen tunnels. Perhaps that was why there were so many tolls, to recoup investments in building the highway through the hills and mountains. It was raining heavily when we arrived in Barcelona and to locate the hotel took some time as the road system around the area were undergoing realignment with several new roads being built that the GPS guiding us was itself confused!! We found the hotel in the end and welcomed the opportunity to properly rest…..

MKI Ramblings Unlimited,
Barcelona, Catalunya,