Ending The Year 2014


najib golf

(Not everyone can be the PM – very, very hard at “work” overseas. Some had said that there is nothing wrong for a leader to take a break. Well, that is correct but not when the country is seeing one of the worst floods around. The big mamma still on holiday, its so seems – no one had seen her wading through the high water in downtown Kota Bahru. Image source)

Before I go further, my deepest condolences to the family and friends on those were abroad the Air Asia Flight QZ8501 – the 3rd tragedy in the year that involves a Malaysian linked airline. I don’t know why Malaysians had to face this – not once or twice but three times in the same year. MH370 is still missing and MH17 just had to be at the wrong place, wrong time and QZ8501 must have met mother of all storms. One just hope that there will be some kind of closure in 2015.

Heartfelt prayers also goes to the flood victims in the East Coast (and also in the West Coast now) that saw one of the worst flooding since 1971. Prepping is no longer a joke – with such flooding is due to be a yearly affair, we need to look at prepping in a wider scope. Management of the rivers and coastal areas would be critical aspect of prepping from the Government. Citizens on the other hand should look into making their homes to be flood-proof or have an alternative place to stay and of course with proper stockpile of food and water. Stories piling up on instances of people running out of food and water and the situation looks hopelessly lost. Nonetheless it is a grave reminder of things to come. The more we put off prepping for such instances in the coming years, the more painful it is going to be. It is a reminder to me too as I have been focusing less on prepping in 2014.

My own 3 weeks break came and went without a blink and I will be soon be traveling again on work assignment. My flight back to Malaysia was scheduled to take off at about 8 plus in the morning and knowing that I need to be in the airport at least 2 hours before boarding and it is about 1 hour plus from the apartment to the airport, I booked a taxi to fetch me from the apartment at about 4 in the morning (that taxi driver came and waited for me since 3.30 am!). With the taxi booked and all luggage packed for the trip back home by 9 pm, I contemplated of taking a short nap. The night was still early and I was sure that I could woke up at 3 am. Just when I was to jump on the bed, I had a dreadful vision – the alarm ringing but I casually switching it off and going to bed, only to wake up at 10 am in the morning. I did not want to miss my flight, so I made a big pot of coffee and watched movie on TV. Good thing I was not feeling that sleepy and hours went off fast. A good shower in the wee morning ensure I was awake as I took the luggage down to the awaiting taxi.

I must have dozed off in the taxi – there was a bump and when I opened my eyes, we were just arriving at the airport. Another long wait for the airport for the check-in and breakfast but at least I was at the airport.

wolf

(Although I was disappointed on missing some of the titles that I saw in the previous year, this should be enough to last me until the next Big Bad Wolf Book sale)

When I came back home, instead of the usual nap I often take whenever I come back from overseas, I had to go off and do some work for the house (haircut however came first before anything else). My kids were excited to see me back, so they hardly allowed me to catch up on my sleep. Then at night, we went to the Big Bad Wolf Book Sales and I spent almost RM300 on books (this time around, my choice of books was less compared to the stack that my son had). It was however worth the trip – RM300 bought us almost 3 boxes of new books.

We came back late and decided against driving off to north in the morning (you see, I had promised my son to take him to the water park in Ipoh for the holidays). We decided to go after lunch which was not so bad as the traffic by then was fine and we did not have to slow down in many areas. The only “funny” thing that happened was my car door automatically unlocks itself and locks again when I press the brakes. By the time, we reached the in-laws house to stay for the holidays, it was already evening and my relatives were coming back from work. We stayed up late again, chit-chatting and watching movie. I was already feeling like zombie when I finally went to the bed (I was given a room of my own) but had a very disruptive sleep because I had to wake up a few times at night going to the bathroom (had too much to drink).

In the morning, the weather was great but I had something to do first – go and fix my car central locking. Still remember when it unlocks and locks itself when I was driving? It became worse – I found the car unlock when I went to check on it in the morning. That means if I lock up the car, a few minutes later, it will unlock itself and that is all that was needed for a car jacker to have an easy access to my car. I called the service centre and good thing was they had few cars on service schedule in the morning. The mechanic “managed” to fix it within 30 minutes – loose wiring they said. Happily I took the car out and barely 100 meters from the service centre, the problem started again. I drove back and this time, the mechanic followed me in the car. It was apparent then, that he had not fixed the problem. He took it back to check and this time, it took him almost 2 hours (including replacing the whole central locking mechanism) to get it right. Almost half day had gone by then. I went back and seeing that it was too late to go to water park, I decided on something that I have been holding back for past few days – catching up on my sleep.

rain

(I think this is Kuala Kangsar after our lunch in Chemor – we made a pit stop here because there is a famous bakery here where we wanted to buy bread. Situation was not ideal to bring the kids out for the fun day at the water park)

The next day, when we suppose to go to the water park, it started to rain cats and dogs. The situation looked gloomy. Even my son did not want to go out as the weather was very bad. My father in law however decided that we go for a lunch at one place he knows in Chemor (very near to the water park that we wanted to go). It was raining when we left the house, it was raining when we were on the highway and it was getting even worse when we drove into Chemor town. After parking the car at the back of the a small restaurant (it looked quite old as well) and struggling with the umbrella in the heavy downpour, we managed to get the 2 car load of people in front of the restaurant. We walked in and the atmosphere immediately changed. Inside was very modern and roomier. Lunch was extraordinary with my son ordering spicy crab curry and a good load of crabs to go with it. It was still raining when we left the restaurant and decided to take the old road instead of the highway and drive through the places where my grandmother used to live.

The so-called break from work at my in-laws place ended up with a bang (literally). We head back home on a working day, hoping that the highway would be free (and it was indeed) and the ride would be more pleasant. Nearing KL, things started to slow as we caught with the on-going road works with 2 of the 3 lanes closed. The traffic started to move slower and at some places, it was almost bumper to bumper. It was just after lunch time too and things was getting were warm in the car (despite the air-cond high). That coupled with the crawling traffic started to show its ugly side – I was falling asleep.

Often there was enough space in between for me to recover and stop the car but this time, there was none. Just when I thought of stopping at the next R&R, I must have dozed off as the next thing I realised is that I have bumped into the car in front. For moment, I was blur on what had happened. The driver came out and started looking at his bumper. Fearing the worst, I came out from the car, expecting to confront an angry driver but instead the man looked at me and said that there was no damaged and extended his hands. I shook his hand, said sorry and went back to my car. Rest assured, I stayed wide awake the rest of the journey but I still stopped at the next R&R for a break (and also to check if there is any other hidden damage). Imagine if I had dozed off when the traffic was fast (and me traveling at 110 km/h) and rear-ended a truck instead. I must have done some good karma to walk away from this with nothing more than a word of “sorry” and an handshake.

2014 had not been a very good year but it has not been a very bad one too. I had good times catching up with my primary school mates – some not met for almost 30 plus years recently. Blogging had taken a very back seat this year with me hardly having the time (but not ideas – thanks to travels and good old Malaysian politicians) to blog. I traveled to a new country this year, met good friends there, enjoyed the food & culture and hope to go to another in 2015. Work compounded this year compared in 2013 but that was expected – when one moves up in the organization structure, there will be more responsibilities, tasks and plans.

Happy New Year everyone and I will see you next year!

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Reckless Livina Drivers


This has to be one of the coolest thing I have ever seen on a highway (second to the time me and my friends “caught” a couple having sex whilst still on the slow lane of the highway but let me keep that for another time).

First, the photos – after all, “seeing is believing”, right? (photos taken on Saturday morning, towards North)

(All Whites! At first, we thought it was a new way of delivering new vehicles to their customers – some beautifully modified told us it was not. By the way, 3 Idiots are seen at the top – putting themselves and other road users at great danger)

(Whites Knights meet All Blacks – before we got bored with the whites, they caught with another part of the convoy which was made of all black colored Livinas. Somehow the blacks “behaved” themselves on the highway, keeping to the left lane of the highway)

(Blacks and whites were not the only color that we saw – further up, there was others colors too)

Kudos to the organizers – as I made to understand, it was organized with the participants from the Northern, Central and Southern regions. And it is not easy to get the over-zealous drivers in toe and keep the convoy formation in line. It was interesting to watch the various “colors” in a long straight line and plenty of things to chat during the night once we have reached our destinations.

But here is the sickening part of an otherwise brilliant stroke of organization – those Livina drivers, in their eagerness to keep in line with their same color comrades, completely ignored the rest of the road users.

(This was a very close call at 110 km/h! Ya, you indicate to cut in but you don’t bother to see whether there was enough gap to cut in. You simply cut in to join your friends on the left lane. I dreaded the thought when the 3 lane highway gets down to only 2 lanes and there is more of the heavy vehicles on the left lane)

(King of the road? By holding the sweeper position on the middle lane, you hog 2 lanes leaving the rest of the highway users to use the fast lane to cut the whole convoy)

They cut in very closely and most of the times, leaves very little room for maneuvering and overtaking. With 20 or so cars in a convoy hogging the left lane and occasionally the middle lane (when overtaking trucks and slower moving vehicles), these drivers drove as if the highway belonged to them and no one else. There was the fast lane but it was not easy to make the overtaking move especially when you have BMWs and Mercedes coming down screaming  at your rear of your car within seconds.

After a while, I had enough of driving rather dangerously next to the group, I decided to speed up and leave the group as far away as possible (they caught up when I made a “pit-stop” at the R&R but I managed to fly through before they managed to regroup and cause headache to others).

Cool but reckless at certain areas…

Kojak Time 2


It is T plus 3 days

(The look from my son’s clean shaven head as I hovered over it to take this snapshot of him doing some English exercise)

It was a good trip up North and I kind of felt “renewed” after a complete shave of the head (ha, I am thinking like Captain Jean Luc Picard too). The only downside of having a bare head is that it gets too cold up there in a fully air conditioned room.

Plenty to write and photos of the experience and the trip – that post should be up here in the next few days, so please bear with me as I clear my outstanding chores. Plus, I have a fight to pick with some reckless Livina drivers.

Damn, it is cold!

To be continued…

Childhood Memories Part 17


Read the rest of the series here

(The start of our journey on the trains, the old train station – Image source: http://spwise.wordpress.com)

These days when I go back to my in-law’s house in Taiping for a well deserved rest, we usually take the North South Highway and it takes us about 3 hours to reach. But there was a time in the late 70s and early 80s when we used travel to Taiping by train during the festivals (very rare Deepavali celebrations in Taiping) or when someone had kicked the bucket or when someone very close was getting married.

Back then, we did not have any cars – so travelling by road to Taiping was off the question. In fact, it was very, very rare that even if someone kicked the bucket or there is a marriage, all of us will go. It was expensive to hire a car too. So, the best choice if we have decided to go as one family would be to go by train (still remember Express Rakyat and Express Senandung Malam?). Of course, we could have taken the bus but my Dad loved trains and he made sure that he made enough (usually working throughout the night) to take the whole family by train. Besides, my Dad being a lorry driver back then did not really liked the idea of taking bus at night and travelling on dangerous trunk roads.

We would pack our things early and will be waiting for Dad to come back from work. He usually comes in at night and confirms whether we are indeed going to Taiping (this is because he will get his monthly pay on the last minute before Deepavali). My Mom will cook something simple so that we don’t have to waste time if we are confirmed leaving to Taiping that very night. This however has not stopped my Dad to cook something special for the night. “There is plenty of time”; he assures us (and Mom).

After a heavy dinner, we would have packed up and then head to the bus stop with my Dad and Mom carrying most of the luggage. There is no prior ticket bookings or online booking those days so in a way, we were taking some risk. We will rush to the train station and my Dad would queue up to buy the tickets whilst we waited anxiously to put our foot on the train platform. As I recall, all those years, we always been lucky – there is always a ticket for all of us except for one particular year (we had to come home when the tickets were sold out – everyone was so disappointed).

Depending on the amount of cash he has, my Dad sometimes book for us the sleepers – which has comfortable beds. Otherwise, it is the standard economy seat for us until we reach Taiping and in those days, the seats were not exactly comfortable for long journey. For this reason, we usually end up walking about the cabin when our backs started to give indications of pain and stiffness. Sometimes we walk all the way to the luxury class – just to see how the rich people are travelling in comfort. We will get excited and imagine ourselves travelling in one of those luxury classes.

(I still get excited when see a train passing by and the sound of the cabin passing on the track. Image source: http://www.trainweb.org)

My Mom usually packed something for us to eat during our journey – although there is a meal cabin and food sellers usually walk about the train cabins selling food and drinks, we usually opt not to buy them. The reason is simple – we could not afford to spend money on those items (most of the money already been spent on the tickets and for future use once we reached Taiping, sigh). But when we stop over at certain stations and it will take say couple of minutes before the train “takes off”, my Dad would go down and quickly pack some food and drink from the station cafeteria. Of course this is a big risk because the train could move before my Dad comes back with the food, so what he does is that he will inform the KTM officials (the one holding the flag) stationed at the platform that he is going down to buy some food – so he usually makes it back on time.

But there was a close call once.

My Dad went down the platform as we were peering out the window, watching him running towards the shop and after a moment, we lost sight of him (it was not easy to look for people at night). Suddenly the train started to move and my Dad was no where to be seen. Being kids, we started to panic but my Mom remained relax. She said that at the worst case scenario – Dad can always take the next train to Taiping. The train moved and soon it was on cruising speed. We actually thought we had left Dad stranded at the platform when suddenly he walked towards us from another cabin. He had entered the train from another door and the official had noted this before giving the green flag.

(The Taiping train station – it still looks the same even now after all these years – image source: http://www.preetamrai.com)

Travelling by train is very tiring mainly due to the low quality of its seats and also because we are travelling at night, we can’t see much on the outside (nothing to distract us from the boredom in the inside). So, when we are about to reach Taiping, everyone looked very relieved. When we reached Taiping, it will be on wee-hours (as I recall 3 – 4 in the morning) but there will be a lot of people on the train station (which is Malaysia’s first train station) waiting for their trains.

Sometimes one of our relatives will be waiting for us with a bicycle to carry the bags and us, the kids, back to the house. But most of the time, we had to carry the bags ourselves. The good thing is when we reach the relative’s house (despite the wee hours); they will still be awake, waiting for us. So, it is not a big surprise to see the adults to continue to stay up to chit chat until the sun rises on the horizon whilst we kids are swiftly sent to our beds to have a proper sleep.

The return journey back to KL however is smoother and more comfortable – our relatives will book for us the tickets upfront and usually with better seats (and they get angry when Dad tries to pay them back). For the journey back, we get even more food items packed for us kids and because we travel back during the day, we usually end up sitting by the window, watching the scenery and the happenings on the small towns and villages that we pass by.

It has been years since I took train back to Taiping but it is in my future travel plans especially when my son have not experienced a train ride yet…

Dah Maju!


(Taiping as I used to remember)

Whenever I am on overseas projects, one of the key methods of communication that I have with my wife is via IM tools.

This is of course cheaper than calling her thousand of miles away – certain countries’ telephone charges can be astronomical.

There is no way to waste on the ‘internet time’ as we could be communicating on one end whilst downloading or googling on some issues on the other. Of course, if we need to talk to each other, there is always the option of Skype, Google Talk, etc.

This was an interesting conversation that I had with my wife after she had return from her home town in Taiping couple days ago:-

My wife: I met my friend from Australia who was here in Malaysia for holidays (referring to her school mate who had migrated to Australia several years ago and came back to her parent’s house for holidays)

My wife: Since I had the time, I went to see her in her house which is near Tesco

Me: Oh I see…what time you went today? (I was thinking my wife went to the Tesco in Puchong)

My wife: I went to the Tesco in Taiping lah

Me: Oh ya…I dah lupa Taiping dah maju…now got Tesco also…ahahahahahah

My wife: ……..(silent)…

Sometimes I do forget that Taiping like many small towns all over Malaysia are no longer considered small towns – now they have shopping malls, hypermarkets (in case of Taiping – three of them), cineplexes and some days, traffic jams that can challenge traffic jams in KL.

Gone the days when one can head over to small towns, away from the hustle and bustle of the city for some relaxation and cheap food.

Read Also

Taiping – a town where time stood still

Viva Up North


Last week, we decided on a drive up North and we took the Viva instead.

Drive

The Viva passed several important ‘thresholds’

Firstly, it was my wife’s first experience driving on the North South Highway – she now realise why driving on highways can be very tiring and taxing. She managed to clock in new experience of overtaking heavy vehicles on highway although initially there were plenty of ‘comments’ from me on her style of driving. After a while, I noticed she was able to handle the driving well and thus, I went to sleep until I was woken up for my turn for driving.

Secondly, fresh from its first 1,000 kilometres service, we managed to bring the Viva to speed exceeding the usual highway speed (that is with me in the pilot seat of course) but anything more than 110 kilometres, the car demonstrates some instability especially when overtaking huge trucks (it could be due to the height of the car). Alignment was a bit out, understandably as the car was driven over a lot of pot-holes in the first few weeks, but the car was able to handle well during the corners.

Thirdly, Viva’s boot can accommodate 2 large luggage bags and have more space for several smaller bags despite the “smallish look” from the outside. The rear passenger side also have enough space on the floor for more bags but we did not come to that extent – the boot was more than enough for a family of 2 adults and 1 kid.

We spent about RM80 for petrol for the journey, clocking almost 600 kilometres. That workout about mileage of 19 kilometres per litre – a better fuel consumption compared to my beaten up Proton which gives about mileage of 12 kilometres per litre for same distance.

Having my wife as the first driver and me as the backup driver helps to relieve tiredness driving on the highway – with both of us taking turns, we arrived at our destination fresh and less sleepy. With my wife now more skilled in driving, she was able to drive for shopping and relatives house without the need for me to drive. The car was able carry 4 adults and 1 kid rather comfortably for short distances but the suspension is rather soft – we passed several humps on the road and we can hear some ‘scrapping’ sound from the bottom of the car. The side skirting of the car took some beating at certain part of the kampung road near my in-law’s house.

The drive back to KL was uneventful and we really did not have the chance the test the car on wet roads. The bypass in Ipoh was a welcome sight – we did not have to stop for toll plazas like the last time.

Almost Haircut


(Image source: http://www.joelapompe.net)

We were back in Taiping for the holidays and true to my philosophy “Taiping is a rest area”, I did not venture out from the house for the last 3 days we were there.

It was perfect staying in my in-law’s house – there were good programs on Astro, a comfortable bedroom to take short naps (with no one to question), laptop for games & movies and of course, delicious home cooked food. Further it rained “cats and dogs” in the afternoon onwards. My son found plenty of things to do at home, so he was happy “locked up” in the house as well.

As for my wife, since she has been staying there for many years, somehow she got bored staying in the house. She had laid out a long list of things to do outside the house – shopping, visits to family and friends and go out for lunch / dinner.

One of the “important” things for her to do is to have haircut at her Chinese friend’s hair saloon. The thing is we reached Taiping on Saturday but until Sunday evening; my wife was still undecided whether to go for the haircut. “Later” she said but not contemplating the fact that the shop may close early or there may be many customers. We passed by the shop several times but each time, my wife decided to put off her visit to the hair saloon until the last minute.

Rain came and only then she decided to go for the haircut but when she arrived at the shop, she came back immediately – there was 5 customers waiting for their turn and the shop is indeed closing early (by the time it opens, we will be back to KL).

Lesson learned: Don’t put off pressing engagements for too long, especially on the eve of Chinese New Year