Monday, December 24, 2007

WHAT'S ANEW WITH THE AUTOMOBILE ON THE ROAD?

With the long weekend due to the Aidil Adha holiday and the Christmas Day public holiday, I had time to spend some brief moments in the home library and incidentally came across an old book bought on 25 March 1961. The 320 page hard cover book Odhams Motor Manual (How Your Car Works and How to Service It) published by Odhams Press Limited London in 1960 was bought in Singapore on one of our transit break in the city during travels between Kuala Lumpur and Bandar Brunei. The brief note on the front inside cover indicated it cost Malayan Ringgit nine only. My long practice in noting down the date, place, cost and reason or incident of the day on the front inside cover of books purchased helped to remind me re moments of purchase while now perhaps granting me to arrange the books purchased in chronological order. It would invariably indicate what year I missed adding a literary collection. One thing I know, I would not miss buying one on my birthday. Interestingly that would highlight where I was on each year’s birthday.

Service Manual

The Odham’s book in question reminded me of the reasons for its purchase. I must have searched high and low for the copy in the Singapore bookshop to find the edition. I needed to know about motor car and its workings after having passed the driving test and acquired a driving license earlier on. Added to that there was a second hand Ford Prefect and later replaced by a Ford Consul at home in Brunei where I was working. The author’s opening forward “The life of a motor car is not indefinite, but with proper and systematic service and maintenance it can be prolonged considerably. Also the risks and delays on the road due to breakdown are minimized” was conclusive to want us to care about the car, thus this requirement to know briefly if not concretely its workings. This could be also be a start at DIY.

Similar weekend interest and indulgence amongst friends in auto-mechanics made the pursuit challenging. More than anything else the antique and classic models of cars produced in the 1950’s or earlier were a far cry from current models of the millennium. They needed care otherwise you may be stranded for minor hiccups i.e. block carburetor, dirty plugs, overheating or weak battery. Most weekends besides cleaning and washing the cars, our hands would be blackened, tarnished by black oil or grease. It was good healthy practice while adding bits of know-how.

Of course modern cars do not give such shortcomings, at least not regularly. The owners and drivers need not fear for any breakdown. Even if there is there will be quick assistance. Automobile Association Malaysia or car insurance companies would be at hand to provide towing and other services to members and owners just upon receiving telephone calls. House calls are also available. A new car with regular servicing would not easily fail its owner even after five years or more on the road. The fear would be only when there is an accident which regretfully takes place far too often. Be as it may, car owners and licensed drivers of yesteryears are categorically I would vouch to say more knowledgeable regarding the motorcar and its workings than current owners. I have come across drivers and owners who are flabbergasted when faced with using the jacks or changing tires not to mention making a ‘jump-start’ or recognizing either a ‘front or rear wheel’ driven vehicles. It would be a disaster if the vehicle is towed away without recognizing the former or the latter and more so when it is moved when in reality it had to have all the four wheels on a long truck.

Less I transgressed it is my intention to look at current vehicle models and the strength of the advertisements in relation to their specifications to wow the purchasers and the motorists at large. If before we had only saloons and opened tourer, now there are many versions to tempt the buyers. The discerning motorists have a hard choice with MPV (multi purpose vehicle), SUV (sports utility vehicle), Coupe, SAV ( Sports Activity Vehicle), Hatchback, Station Wagon, Pickup, Four Wheeled Drive etc offered for whatever reasons they want besides all the new fangled accessories, luxuries and technologies.

Now what do contemporary cars offer that were sorely absent in the cars of the earlier periods? In general all models have an engine (for motive power), transmission system (to drive the wheels), chassis or framework (to carry the engine, body, transmission, road wheels etc) and the body to accommodate driver and passengers. Modern development in the industry goes for efficient and competitive design giving the best of the best. Of course at a steep price for those who can afford. If half a century ago Britain captured the motor trade, now its frilling industry has been overtaken by Japan, Korea, Germany, France and even Malaysia. Vehicles from these countries flood the market and the latest models presented with pomp and glamour at annual international motor shows.

Motor Car Models Through the Years

Besides the two old Ford models, I had the pleasure of owning and driving a Hillman Minx 1725cc, a Wolseley 1500cc Mk 1, a Datsun SSS, a Volkswagen 1200cc, and yet another Ford, a ‘Cortina’ 2000cc. They were the earlier models before I had the pleasure of driving a 240 Volvo and much later the automatic models of Citroen, Volvo S80 and LXMode MPV Estima. All the earlier models were bought secondhand, including the classic Wolseley which I drove while studying in Canberra Australia. It would be a grand car had I brought it back to Malaysia. Perhaps it was fitting that the earlier exposure at DIY auto- repair helped me in no small way to care and maintain the vehicles at the minimum cost and selling them off at no big loss and especially where yearly test and checks are necessary before the car can be allowed to be on the road.

The Best Keeps Getting Better

What do the new models offer? Safety, Speed, Economy, Luxury, Beauty, Comfort, Driving Pleasure and Entertainment make up the list.

Prestige for people who wants it come with high cost and branded names. Perhaps a limousine for a name replacing the ordinary car is another feature. Each and every of the above characteristics built into the car provided accessories, technologies, safety features and systems that make one model better or more efficient than the other. Thus we read of such details as ‘cruise control with brake function’ , ‘adaptive headlights’, climate comfort laminated glass’, ‘navigation system professional’, ‘front and side airbags’, ’xenon lights’ on board computer’ etc.

You have only to be present at any showroom when a new model is displayed to observe the motorists reaction and behavior. Almost all will stare into the cockpit, jump into the comfortable driver’s seat holding on to the steering wheel and observe the spread of meters on the dashboard and imagining themselves driving a Formula One version model. They test the comfort seats and peep at the large rear booth, sports rim and the spectacular paintwork. They look casually at the neat engine. Not many will bother about the brake and anti theft system or safety features provided. Most are comfortable and please with the semblance of being in the cockpit of an airplane. That is the main criteria. If taken for a test drive, no robust handling, no test braking or a ride to test the shock absorbers as though it is a family car meant for the tarmac road only.

Acceleration from 0 to 100 in 5 Seconds

No wonder that car owners and drivers care less about understanding their vehicles now. Personally I too don’t bother to open the bonnet and look inside whether the engine oil needs top-up, the radiator requires extra water or the battery needs water too. I don’t look at the fan belt or check the air conditioning system either. The car now requires regular service not every month but after an interval of 15,000 kilometers or more. The battery is absolutely good for a year or more without any bother. Every thing is self regulated. You only need to fill it up with either petrol or diesel. The better the fuel the faster and better for the engine. Turn on the key, switch on the climate control, blast the audio system, kick off the brake system and press on the accelerator and you are moving away at a speed and rpm very much higher than what the Volkswagen or the Ford Prefect would have shown on the audiometer. Acceleration from the block touching 100 could be reach as fast as 5 seconds if you are at the wheel of a BMW 24M Coupe for instance.

For that reason the Odhams book and other likeable booklets plus the motor manuals of the current car in use remain where they are on the racks. Refer to when absolutely necessary.

The final question. Do you still enjoy driving and owning a motor car?

Thirty seven years ago we were driving the VW and the Wolseley Mk 1. Hj Hashim Abd Rahman seen standing next to his VW with his wife Zaiton and daughter Harzita and me with the Wolseley were then at Canberra ACT Australia. We had to keep the cars in good condition as the annual yearly appraisal would determine the road worthiness. Both the cars had airconditioning as well as good heater system. The Wolseley after three years was sold at the same purchasing price. I regreted for not bringing it back to Malaysia as the model was hard to find here. It was manufactured under the same brand/company as Riley and Austin.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

OF OLD AND TREASURED COLLECTIBLES.

I have touched on varied topics in my previous writings but sadly I have missed out on things that have been close to me not recently but ever since I could remember when. These are items or collectible pieces which one can count them as antiques or treasure pieces. For one thing it is hard to find a duplicate of any one of them unless you go searching all over the country or outside. You may be lucky if you could find one through EBay, a popular market place now.

Firstly how do you define an object as antique? It is an item which is at least 100 years old and is collected or desirable for its rarity, condition, utility or some other unique features. Motor vehicles etc due to vigorous use may be designated antiques (in US) if older than 25 years. For purposes of distinctions items may be classified as antique, vintage and collectibles.

No doubt you can scout in the flea markets such as at Rope Walk in Penang or Am Corp Mall Petaling Jaya and come home happy with one two extraordinary pieces but nothing can beat the possessions that have been alongside you since ages. The few things that I have as my collection dates even from the time I was still unborn. These are items kept by the family and luckily continue to be around as family heirloom.

I can remember times during my early primary school days when the silver ware pieces especially one that looks like an Aladdin lamp captured my imagination and I would polish hard till shinning bright dreaming and hopefully expecting a genie to jump out. Frightening yes but who does not want a genie to be around and you can fly off on his magic carpet. Those were the innocent days when movies of course provided candid adventure into the never-never land. Then there was a smaller version of the 'keris' recognized as 'badek' which became my constant companion as I practised targeting it on the soft banana trunk hoping I would be an expert such as the knife thrower that made his appearance in the circus that came to town almost annually.

I always remember the time when my father reprimanded my cousins for breaking the back of one teak lounge chair which he had just imported from Thailand. That incident happened almost sixty years ago. Yet the evidence is there. The old teak chair is still around repaired and a vogue of the then current furniture design of Thailand. Coincidentally in many Bangkok homes and even hotels the same design and quality furniture remain as showcase till now.

Many of us would have old treasured items stocked behind cupboards or lying unknown somewhere in the house especially if you are living in a family home several decades old. They may not be large items like antique furniture but instead such pieces as dinner plates, copper trays, silver spoons, old books, lamp shades, door locks, clocks etc. Not to forget old photographs. Their discovery and acquisition will certainly enhance our knowledge of the family's interest and standing. Even the old house you are living in has a story of its own to tell. The wood, the pillars, doors, floors and windows with their quality and characteristic design plus craftsmanship would tell of the labor and cost to build such homes then. Alas we miss out such observation but instead look to modernity and the conventional design or whatever 'masterpieces' we designated as extraordinary and worth adopting as collection pieces.

The heirlooms given a good scrub, polish and attended to with tender care will be sights to behold when they are up on the shelves or beautifully framed in the living room for you and visitors to adore.

I am happy that many of the items I value and adore are still around kept safely for others to appreciate and realise their authenticity and richness in design. Yet remembering of course those who purchased or had them as practical and usable every day items had the family close to his or her hearts and wanted for them some small luxuries in life.

I can look back and admire with much pride those collectibles which hopefully my family will continue to treasure and some unknowingly may reach the table of Sotheby if they are perfect antiques. Through them I recognised that my grandparents, father and mother who have all departed ( Al Fatihah) had left behind valuable crafts and collectibles which must have also endured their likings and fondness and yet remembering that we would continue to appreciate their intrinsic values and beauty.

More items naturally have been added since.

It will become a process of elimination when the number becomes bigger or the addition of space to accommodate the increased collections. Nevertheless displays and procedures adopted by museums or historical sites may help us in no small way to keep our collections perpetual.

It is without doubt the early attraction and familiarity with old things that have cultivated within oneself the onus to see and admire all things around and appreciate their being and hence their creativity and the people who brought them around. I count myself fortunate having lived and brought up in a family home which until today stands sentinel devoid of the destructive elements of nature and flood. Thus the collectibles being where they were.

Antique shops have yet to emerge in greater numbers, especially in smaller towns and thereby the interest will explode. Currently Malacca and Kuala Lumpur provide the connoisseurs of things they desire to keep for prosperity while indulging in all the intricacies, skills and know how of a rewarding and not necessarily expansive hobby.

In Britain the BBC has been running an 'Antique Roadshow' for years with the appraisers visiting towns throughout the country to meet collectors who bring their pieces to be judged or appraised. This perpetuate greater interest while adding knowledge and value. If only such a program can be organised in Malaysia. It is transmitted in Australia too. Hopefully this interest catches on and we will preserve our richness while guarding its transmigration.

P.S View below some of my collections and hopefully those who have not been bitten by these exciting bugs will start looking in the crevices and corners of your grandfathers' homes and discover to your greatest delights some 'treasures'. Good luck.
(1) A handmade Thai offering bowl with design motifs very much duplicated in conventional bowls found in markets and shopping malls now. It is estimated that this has been in the family since the Thai period in Kedah much before the 2nd World War.

(2) A heavy iron ball with a hole in the centre. I was told that it is a cannon ball and very much used as a 'tungku' by the women folks. Now what is a 'tungku'? It's any moderately heavy iron piece, heated and wrapped with cloth used to massage especially after delivery. One with a cannon ball piece is understood to be more 'effective'. Will be glad to receive further info.



















(3) This is an Iban 'Parang Panjang' with ornate carvings on its sheath and handle. Known also as parang ilang it is a much treasured piece by the Iban of longhouses fame. I was at Marudi, a small town up river along the Baram from Miri way back in 1961 to witnesse the famous Baram Regatta and fortunately came across this piece. The parang is sharp with several design pieces inlaid.



















(4) " Ketam"a piece of tool which has disappeared. Carpentars now use electronic plane for all their works which previously require labor intensive attention. Other tools used by our carpentars during the last decades or so are now collective items because they reveal the intensity and mode of works.



















(5) Last but not least of course the ever popular 'kopitiam'. As such as many coffee shops have sprouted out lately to cater for the taste of good coffee, nothing I believe can beat the quality of grinded coffee that came out from such machine as our mothers and grand-mothers labor to get the powder after the coffee beans have been roasted. Oh! the good home cooked food.

Monday, December 10, 2007

KEINDAHAN ALAM SEMULA JADI UNTUK SIAPA?( BEAUTY UNSURPASSED FOR WHOM?)

I would like to share these photos and accompanying briefs of things seen and captured on camera on our recent trip to the legendary island of Langkawi in early December 2007. Much as most people thronged the island for the sights of aeronautic and maritime splendor of LIMA show held biennially, we took the opportunity to scour the countryside and discover many happenings and new found knowledge. With that of course comes some uncertain factors.



We realise that there has been quite a number of foreigners who fell for the serene beauty of the island and perhaps mesmerised by its legendary tales and friendly people. Thus many yacht and boat owners have made their temporary haven here. Others set up business in the culinary, spa and other touristic trades. While many locals had made their riches in the early years of the island's growth still many more seems to enjoy the passing of years with blissful quiet and idleness. Sadly too many pieces of landed properties seemed to transfer hands. Even 'Malay Reserves' nonchalantly got to become foreign owners' properties. How it is done and accomplished is no great secret.



Present land owners may continue to reap good Ringgit from the sale but imagine even ten years or less from now, we may see Langkawi just as the nearest populated island south of it. I could still imagine the tranquil sandy and picturesque landscape of Batu Feringgi Malay kampong of Nineteen Fifties, yet shocked and dismayed when RasaSayang one of the earliest hotel chain started the rebuilding of the area. Pantai Canang in Langkawi is a replica of what happened then. Penang story did not of course halt at Batu Feringgi alone. It continues throughout. Tanjung Bunga, Tanjung ToKong, Air Hitam and the far flung Balik Pulau saw demographic changes. It is a worrying and saddening scene for Langkawi too. Incidentally both earned free port status.



Unlike Penang, Langkawi however strongly attracts buyers from overseas. Swiss, Germans,Dutch, French, British, Australians make up the conglomerate of investors and new settlers. Their homes now form the quite landscape of the island. No brick and mortar buildings but instead the rustic Malay wooden houses became their choice. Old homes, remodelled and refurbished now stand amongst the rural and verdant padi fields and rubber land. Their spacious allocation from one and the other is a spark contrast from current compacted Malay homes on the island. Not single but two or three homes on a two or three acre land seems to provide the owner with luxury of space while harboring 'home stay' or 'guests homes' for visitors to Langkawi. Our visit to Ubud in Bali a few years back reminisced similar circumstances.



Our long attempt to secure one piece of landscape for a 'Home in Langkawi' was rewarded when we chanced upon a land broker and the property itself. Alas it was a short-lived piece of contentment. Two days later we were told that the deal was off since the owner had received a down payment from a buyer you know who. This is the sad story. How we wish our own people from the mainland with their extra savings or allocated facilities would grasp upon these chances while attainable and build for themselves and their children or future generation landed property on this holiday island promoted with all the modern and international facilities sparing none. For us we will continue to harbor such dream and hope it materialises soon. We will think of the financial side when we cross the path.



Friends, we seek you to come to Langkawi and find a soft spot here if not for yourselves but for your later generations. The seven generations of 'curse' as we know has been wiped off. There could be only years of progress and development. Now with UNESCO recognition for the island as a GEO park and more things on its trail, would you want to miss a small stake of paradise or see another island in the sun lost again but to new settlers from afar just because they see the unsurpassed beauty it holds and we are blinded by uncertainty and unfocused.


If you feel even a little spark of discomfort for such a predicament, join me in searching and carving our own mark on the island less Mahsuri laments the demise of her own generations from the island from which she had stuck out her guts and ancestors. Hopefully those in authorities too will discover means for a small if not larger preservation while pushing for investment and built-up which eventually benefit others largely.








One typical property ownership of a none Malaysian who has ventured to make the island his retiring home. The government through tourism has encouraged ' your home in Malaysia' concept




Vast stretches of open padi field skirted with rubber trees and roads once patched with marble remained true right to the moment. The cleared patch will soon see another home on its site. Areas around Makam Mahsuri is now hot property.













A pair of horn bills came calling just outside the verandah of our apartment at Chogam Villa near Kuah . This fruit tree 'Pokok Sukon' has always been a halting place for the duo. Only in Langkawi can you be awarded by such spectacle and see eagles sweeping in for their baits. Added to that fishing buffs and sailors would love the sea.













The owner of another house on the island nestled amidst open padi field has built this 'wakaf' or pavilion aside the 'sawah' and enjoys cool breeze day and night.



A search and adaptation of Malay domestic and traditional architecture with all its intricate carvings plus choice of quality timber seems to form the hallmarks of the new homes in Langkawi. Interior decoration too is a departure from the modern and contemporary always hinging to choice of ' seni ukiran kayu tradisi' or Malay traditional wood carvings. It certainly helps to promote the love and continuity of Malay traditional homes.




This article articulates for a stronger and definite ownership of land in Langkawi by the Bumiputras and not too ready to succumb to the escalating price of per foot square. Much as others have the right to own properties on the island and build their homes and thankfully adhering to Malay traditions we must ascertain that we continue to reap the harvest of investment and development in Langkawi. Langkawi will accelerate, continue to leap and bound. We need to be around. Regretfully we do not wish to hear the often familiar announcement " Itu hak Tok aku dahulu.Kami biasa tinggal disana dahulu".


It will be delightful and energatic to hear instead "Ini pondok kami. Kami dibesar disini dahulu. Sila masuk. Terima kasih kerana sudi menjenguk. Kami cintakan Langkawi. Saudara tak mahukah bermaustatin disini?"

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Don't They Know How To Ask 'PLEASE'

They are many things that I see which as far as possible I refrain from complaining or speaking out realising that such incidences may disappear or correct themselves in due time. But this case seems to continue and not ebb as hoped. One thing it is the usage of hand phone. True it is useful and a communication item bringing people closer , guaranteeing security and lots of other advantages.Yet it has its limitation and restrictions. Sadly no one seems to understand these aspects or just doesn't care. So far maybe at hospitals, mosques, petrol stations and on board aeroplanes where restrictions are spelt out. Again no one seems to care. They went on dialing and speaking without any care for the world. Two recent separate incidents at two petrol stations may hopefully scare people from using their phones near such places. Generally people hardly shy or avoid from doing what are directed even at such security or religious places. Breaking the peace of worshippers at mosques or religious places with the ringing of the phones added with all manner of sound or music is sacrosanct and next to ill respect and inconsideration.
Nevertheless it is the practice of 'charging' the phone's battery that sicken me. No one stops you from charging your phone at the appropriate places. You need to do that since no one has come out with a hand phone that is 'nonchargeable' just like the modern car batteries, Do that at your own home, office etc i.e places that belong to you. Surely not at any odd places as soon as you notice a plug point, innocently and gladly plug in your connection or charger without a thought of who own the property. On one occasion we had almost a busload of tertiary education students at home. It was good to welcome them for a short stay or rest. The hordes found the plug points at home for their continuing chats. That was the first thing they do. As guests we believe there are many other firsts to be be done. Certainly we were dumb founded. When more than a dozen at a time began to do that it was annoying and surprising. Not that we suffered from loss of much Ringgit and Sen but the decency to politely request permission before usage was not there. Maybe it has become so rudiments as turning the water tap or switching on the electricity. They are free and necessary. Therefore no excuse for requesting permission. So now you see all manner of man doing that at airports, offices, hospitals and homes which surely are not their own properties. Is this 'stealing' or 'poaching' for a lighter term? Imagine the power being 'stolen' throughout the country when more and more people adopt such attitude.
What should we do or what can we do? As parents we can tell our children the folly of doing such things. Teachers too should inculcate the right training. Hopefully this trend will correct itself. Otherwise it may spread to other practices as well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A MOST KEPT SECRET: SHANGRILA IN THE CITY ( continue)

More picturesque photographs of the 'treasure throve'. .............................................



We are sure most visitors who find their way to the Shangrila only 16 kilometers outside Kuala Lumpur will be excited and happy. We are glad that we made our way to FRIM.


Thank you to all that assisted. We record our special thanks to Dr Abdul Rasip Ab Ghani and members of his staff. Anak Arshad Architect being consultant for Frim's new project at Perlis i.e 'Cadangan Peningkatan Kemudahan Pelancongan Pusat Rekreasi dan Pendidikan Alam Flora Kebun Jati Perlis Indera Kayangan' had an excellent insight of FRIM's approach and direction.



















a.We were paractising our catwalking on the narrow one foot path high above ground level and near the trees' canopies.















b.Hugh timber trunk. Strong ropes are latched to this 'Surian Batu' ( Chukrasia tabularis) which formed the hanging canopy walk. Another top quality hard wood chosen as achor is 'Merbau'



c.This clump of bamboo 'Dendrocalamus giganteus' originally grows in Mynnmar. The highest it has grown to, measured 36 meter high. This accordingly is found at Peradiniya Sri Langka. We are told it belongs to the family of 'graminae' ( grass)

This giant at Frim is a sight to behold by itself. Imagine if some people were to find this species on the eve of Aidilfitri.

d.Another view of the city in the distance from atop the Canopy Walkway. Don't forget to bring along your binoculars when you come here. That I regreted. Then again we never expected to see and be confronted by what transpired. Even KLCC could be seen clearly.





e. Perhaps the 'top hit' of our visit was to discover a river, its tributaries and estuary in the sky. We saw clump of trees growing straight in one part of FRIM's forest reserve.
We sat down. We looked up into the sky. Lo and behold. We saw what is registered in the two photos above. The 'Kapur' tree canopies provide spaces in between their formations and the movements as the branches sway with the wind is nature's magic. See it alive. No photos can do justice.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A MOST KEPT SECRET: SHANGRILA IN THE CITY



An Observation Tower within a tree provides a scenic view of the Institute's ground while displaying a clump of straight parallel growing tall trees around it.



Strong ropes strung from tree to tree high above the undergrowth constitute the Canopy Walkway. We were assured that the 'bridge in the sky' is checked and maintained every week to assure safety.



This is a view of the tree tops seen from above as you catwalk along the Canopy Walkway.Yes you are advised to put your steps forward one by one, moving like a light footed model less a rough momentum would shake the bridge while allowing 10-15 foot space between walkers.

FOREST RESEARCH INSTITUTE OF MALAYSIA AT KEPONG SELANGOR

We have been in the city umpteen times but never ventured outside its territorial borders for a much longer period than half a day. Except for Sungai Buluh for its flower and plant nurseries, Kuala Selangor for the ‘klip-klip’ sanctuary or Ulu Langat for the last vestige of Malay kampong community nearest the city and of course Putrajaya, our outings had been confined to the Golden Triangle and the likes of IKEA, KLCC, SUNWAY etc.

It came as a complete surprise but certainly rewarding and exciting to the point of impinging our childhood adventure days when we visited FRIM at Kepong Selangor for the first time. Had it not been for a meeting at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia on a particular Tuesday morning in conjunction with FRIM itself, perhaps we would not have discovered the treasure behind its close doors. Literally the Institute’s gate is never closed but strangely not many acknowledged the richness and attractions within the compound of the 1528 hectares site of regenerated and secondary forest holding hundreds of plant species. Its nearness to Kuala Lumpur city centre is an asset yet a paradox because it is most unexpected. Imagine Cameron Highland being that proximity to the metropolis of Kuala Lumpur.

Being at FRIM Kepong is like being in Kuala Lumpur and its suburbs in 1946 or earlier when the virgin forest still surrounded the city excepting for pockets of tin mining zones. You can imagine how much has changed since just looking at Selayang, Sungai Buluh, Batu Caves and Gombak. That is one exciting aspect for just being there. Of course there are more to be discovered.

We woke up in the early morning at the chirping of birds just outside the glass windows of the Institute’s Guest House. Upon prior arrangement you may book to stay at the six-room Guest House. Breakfast and other meals are available at the Cafeteria on the site. There is also a quaint Malay Tea House where you can sip herbal tea while recovering from walking the various nature trails. Provision for a large group to camp on site or stay in dormitories is available on arrangement. The Institute’s Museum and Library can also be on your visit list. We would recommend that you are on site quite early in the morning to reap full benefits.

FRIM’s par excellence would of course be its Canopy Walkway. The members of our team that came to visit obviously had no inclination of what they would get there. They had not expected a rigorous climb and walk up the steps to the highest point where the Canopy Walkway was built. In all you would have to allow for two hours to get and to return to base. By their attires they were ready for a Board Meeting much less climb hill. Still all persisted and reached the top rewarded by a panoramic view of the forest and all its inhabitants if you care to observe. The Canopy Walkway had existed since 1992. The Walkway system spans 200 meters and 30 meters above ground level, higher than most tall trees in the area. No descriptions will do justice to the beauty and panorama you will view as you catwalk along the narrow path of the Canopy Walkway. The pictures attached will hopefully spurt you to rush straight away to this magical abode with your loved one and the kids.

For the young ones cool mountain streams, camping sites and nature’s richness and wide open space await them. The Forest Research Institute Malaysia at Kepong Selangor set up for research and scientific study of flora and fauna has awaited visitors ever since. Yet we come to discover its existence and the treasures within only five days ago.

Will you take the steps to move towards this Shangrila? Don't wait too long.



Shamsul our FRIM guide was the exceptional man dressed for the hike and adventure into the rainforest. The two ladies assisted. Shamsul's two young sons however helped to make brave and determined men out of some of the group members.






FRIM's recreation area and picnic ground for the family with a waterfall nearby is worth visiting rather than spending hours at the shopping malls in the city. You will certainly get fresh air.


A discovery within the ground. It would make a decorative item alright.

(More pictures following .............)

Friday, November 23, 2007

PRECISIONS IN WORDS; CALAMATIES OTHERWISE

It was extraordinary that two words became the center-point at the recently concluded UMNO General Assembly held at Kuala Lumpur. They are colloquial and I have yet to leaf through the dictionary to see if they appear in it. Not many in the assembly would appreciate their intrinsic meaning.

Dato Najib Abdul Razak in his opening remark chose one word to describe the presiding Acting Chairman of the august assembly. Aptly or otherwise he chose the term ‘kelolo’ descriptive of a person’s character. It drew a raucous applause from the floor albeit I would like to believe that only a small majority realized its meaning and implication.

Then it was the turn of the President to deliver his speech. Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also the Prime Minister of Malaysia chose to add another word best describing the character of the Acting Chairman who in the past assemblies had been the spokesman of Kedah and whose witty, humorous innuendoes and speeches always added spice and yet kept the assembly awake. The President adding another dimension to what his deputy had said earlier remarked that
“….. our Acting Chairman is not only ‘kelolo’ but also ‘loglaq’ ”,
a more deafening agreement from the floor orchestrated. Both the President and his deputy had highlighted their opening remarks though briefly on the Presiding Chairman who since the first day of the Assembly had added humor or sarcasm as one would choose to apprehend, yet drawing applause and laughter.

I would like to consider heavily on the terminologies used and define their appropriateness especially at such an assembly and whether decorum and righteousness go alongside the earlier speeches and sideline remarks, especially when feminism, sex and human anatomy came to the fore.

Not that there should be a hue and cry over it all but it puts us on the alert at being appropriate or humorous where necessary and appreciative of other people’s feelings and backgrounds when we presides, be it a meeting of any size. It would be a catastrophe if such a leveling earmarked a Yang Di Pertua or the Speaker of Parliament.

How do you define the two words? It would be interesting to know your insight. The Malaysian newspapers took both words to mean ‘buffoon’. I would take the first to mean ‘mischievous’ or ‘playful’ and the latter to mean ‘ crude’, ’ill-mannered’ or ‘uncouth’. Again it falls back on the background and nature of your upbringing where such terms are in vogue. I remember and expect a grandmother in Kedah or even Penang to reprimand her grandson for being ‘kelolo’ or ‘loglaq’ for showing an impish and imperfect mannerism. Such reference would perhaps extend only to the juvenile stage surely not much later. I may be wrong to say that the two words are known and familiar to the northern states. With much interchange and relocation many more would have understood what they meant.
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Monday, November 5, 2007

THE CHALLENGES AHEAD COMES 2020

I am wondering how Malaysia will be in 2020. It is just 12 years only from now . Already there are claims and statements that the whole peninsular and the territories in Sabah and Sarawak will be so developed as envisaged by the master plan. With all the corridors of South, North, East and expectantly East Malaysia connected and hundred billions of RM allocated, the agricultural , commercial, educational and technical sectors will see a stupendous growth equalled only by the giant investment that has been promised.



While overjoyed by such concern and forward planning, we are taken aback by the number of foreign and illegal workers in the country. The burning questions that we should be asking are many. Among them: Are Malaysian unable to perform tasks by their own? Why are there millions of Indonesians, Indians, Bangla, Burmese, Thai etc craving for works in the country? Why do our homes need foreign maids? Have we become proud or contented people that we let others do the work for us? What has happened to all the electrical gadgets in the home that are supposed to make works lighter? Only maids can use them now?



I remember back in the late 1950's when I had just returned home after studying in Britain. Families and friends asked: "Who keep the shops running? Who drive the buses and trains? Who clean the roads and collect the garbage? Who manage the schools etc?" Malayans then would not believe that 'Mat Salleh' do all the works themselves. It was unbelievable that Englishmen had to do menial works etc. The belief was that English or Europeans were managers and bosses only. How could they stoop so low? It was impossible to think then that the British had to do all the works themselves just like other people in the world. Only much later the Africans, West Indies, Chinese from British Colonies flocked into Britain and started to be employed and later formed their own businesses.




Probably some people may think of Malaysian being in that position or predicament now. That's why we have foreigners rushing in taking all the jobs in the agricultural, service, manufacturing and domestic sectors. Employers dismiss locals who seek jobs giving all sorts of excuses. Where will our unemployed Malaysian go?



Not to worry. Our saviour is on the way. The 9MP and the various corridors that come with it will alleviate bumiputras and other citizens to world developed status. Come 2020 the whole peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak will take a new image in physical development transforming our cities and kampongs to greater heights. As an example Penang with its inner city development on what is currently a horse racing track will maybe surpassed Dubai's phenomenal growth.





Malaysian will truly be the happiest people on earth Why not? We will have double tracks Kereta Api Tanah Melayu ( if the name stays), Three or four lanes highway and controlled entry into the cities. KL is reported to be discussing the issue now. Many other 'kecanggihan' will come our way. Do you know that the arm forces too are already changing their long used rifles for carbines manufactured in USA. Of course they need them because together with progress comes 'trouble'. 'Up Periscopes" will billow out from the French submarines that guarded our shores. The Russian 'Sukoi' fighters scouting our air space will have a good air view of all things happening.



Bits of news here and there taken with grains of salts enlightened you but surely it is expecting aplenty within 12 short years. Look what we have achieved in the last half century? Miracles? Herculean strength and power much needed for the shorter span? Still we will see.





I GUESS after a despondent or enlightened outlook whatever way you see it, I would prefer to begin November coinciding with the UMNO annual convention by highlighting scenes and treasures discovered in our own backyards right now but frightened at the thought that all that may disappear very soon.





Sadly we miss out or perhaps move around with our eyes shut never realising the beauty and treasures that abound. Probably we have our sights focus on other scenarios or our definition of beauty or things beautiful are clouded by other extremities or guidelines. Perhaps foreign scenes or extraordinaries prioritised our concepts of beauty and grandeur and familiarity breeds contempt.



As I moved around in the countrysides lately I could not help discovering the hidden heritage and simple splendors that exist to marvel and appreciate. Sadly with modernity, extremity of climate change and transient movement of people existing scenarios may change and in the next moment disappear without trace. States or institutions with strong heritage footholds and trusts may hold back disappearances and help preserve our heritage.



Penang a neighboring state to Kedah has rightly started on a massive reclamation of its heritage buildings, investing millions of Ringgit and achieving UNESCO recognition along the way. Kedah went into the "Geo Park" business giving priority to rocks and fossils of Langkawi



Other states and institutions straying behind may lose out and have nothing to be proud of except discovering money and time spent for developments fall short of energy and ending with various 'white elephants'. These are not hard to discover.



Be that as it may these are my discoveries during travelings during the early weeks of November 2007 and recently . I am sure you too have invariably come across hidden beauties but unknowingly dismissed them nonchalantly aside. More traveling will bring to the fore greater treasures.

Picture No 1. A Retreat




















This Malay 'palace' ( It would have been one many decades ago to the eyes of the kampong folks of the area) in the district of Baling remained vacant and abandon by the owner who has moved to better surroundings. The open veranda or 'anjung' with an extension to the main house is characteristic of the Malay home. Observe the ornate design at the frontage and sides. The concrete stair-case has five steps leading to the veranda typical of Malay homes. We will never find stair-cases with even numbers. The concrete footings supporting timber pillars would also have characteristic design of their own. The rich wood obviously of good quality being in a district famous of quality timber assured its lasting and endurance. The yellow plastic letter box is a give-a -away clue that it has recently been vacated.

Picture No 2. The Original Rest House




While traveling on the back roads of Perlis from Kangar to Alor Star via Bongor Kudong we passed through some scenic landscapes; roads fringed with banana palms and mango trees. We stopped a while to marvel at this extraordinary beauty. This would be the true and natural rest house. The lucky padi-planter and his family would definitely have their siestas here while having time to offer his noon and evening prayers too. When the padi ripen he could stand sentinel from here guaranteeing peace of mind. The plot of land has been made ready for the planting of rice and imagine the color and hue surrounding when the padi ripen and the golden field stretches to the horizon.

Picture No. 3 Figuratively Strange but Real



















We observed this at a distance realizing its unique formation when we were at Cameron Highland recently. When I zoomed in I captured this photograph of a figure replicating a man or a human being at prayer or meditating with arms outstretched and the head looking ahead. The greenery and the thick jungle of the Cameron Highlands can do wonders. While enhancing its natural beauty and promoting domestic tourism, supplementing the country with abundant vegetables, flowers, strawberries and tea leaves , it can be a hazard for trackers who lost their way amongst the foliage. The cool mountain atmosphere of the highlands hopefully remain intact even many years later. The figure as captured then may not be there anymore as creepers and other foliage may have designed it into something else. Many historical artifacts and buildings can be claimed by the ravages of nature and disappeared out of sight.Their very discovery later become proud moments for archaeologists, museum and antiquity personnel.



Picture No. 4 Almost gone and Pure Coincident if You Come Across One




























We came across this dead tree trunk with several holes punctured into its side at a FRIM ( Forest Research Institute Malaysia) teak plantation KM 28 Jalan Padang Besar Perlis. Who or what would have made symmetrical holes like that? The lone tree trunk stood out amongst the teak trees at this large FRIM centre. As if an answer to the visitation of several colorful birds to my backyard several months ago, I came to find out their ingenuity and perseverance. Yes I was overjoyed when the chirping of several birds turned out to be a four some woodpeckers playing on the coconut trunk at the back of the house and near the riverside.





It must be many years ago when I last saw a woodpecker. No doubt 'Woody the Woodpecker' in the cartoon strips and film once introduced us to its playful nature. But to see their craftsmanship and realise their resourcefulness in getting their food, caring for their young ones and protecting them among the tree trunk is a discovery indeed. Woodpeckers are almost extinct and my seeing them and discovering their artwork is indeed fortunate.






Many aspects of our nature, beauty and treasures will slowly disappear unless we take measures to preserve and care. So let's do what is possible to guarantee that 2020 will continue to enjoy and share current heritage alongside its eventual growth and development less what we have enjoyed and admired will not be a source of joy and fulfilment to the new generation.





Picture No. 5 One of the four woodpeckers that one fine day came visiting and landed on the coconut trunk at the back of the house. Do you know some of the characteristics of this bird? Click and see http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/woodpeckers.php.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

RECOGNITION FOR A DUTIFUL SON / DAUGHTER

A young parent and ‘blogger’ recently intimated his concern. Says he “…….. Sadly the simple acts and pleasures of parental love are not always appreciated by children. Only when parents are no more around then ……..”

For those of us who had the pleasure or directive to study Shakespeare, ‘soliloquy’ would be a familiar term as many of his characters spoke out in moments of unconsciousness or sleep. Poor us, as students of this English playwright, we had not only to understand the plot but to commit to memory the scripts inclusive the soliloquies less we failed to get excellent marks for literature. Indeed the above expression over the current trends of children showing diminishing concern for their parents and elders is a pertinent issue that seeks a remedy if not a new direction. I believe the young parent had a worrying or unhappy thought of circumstances expanding in the future. So do many others and myself included.

I would like to remember that almost forty years ago, while in Baling Kedah, a friend and an OCPD ( Officer-In -Charge of Police District) told me that he regularly contributed RM50.00 monthly to his father. A frugal amount I thought. Being an Indian and a sticker to filial piety he observed this contribution strictly. When he retired from the force, he had invested at least RM 20,000.00: a tiny sum for the parent who had invested greater wealth than that. Truly he has rewarded and honored them. Question! Can that be true too for us?. Regretfully I failed to follow his example.

Like you, I too have children. As they say colloquially, almost all except one “ sudah lepas” meaning they have moved on and married with family of their own. Already richer by more than a dozen grandchildren, we never ask for such investment. Being wage earner ourselves and now supported by the comfortable pension scheme, what we received have put us on safe pedestal and dependent on the generous hospital scheme if need be.

The question is “Why does it escape siblings from wanting to subscribe where necessary?” No doubt they may hand tokens of appreciations at Hari Raya or other celebrations. A steady contribution or investment would have been a good practice as Mr. Suppiah had done. Five siblings in a family all working and each one contributing even less than what Mr. Suppiah had done would have accumulated a small fortune. For parents who necessarily need care and attention at their late age, the more so they require our love.

If a ‘VW’ or a ‘Proton’ appears in the driveway one fine morning with a hand written note wouldn’t that be a dream? Of course they would do that for their maiden.

Imagine if dad or mum was to see such in front of the home. It is a dream but if it comes through it is a blessing indeed for all. In present context, a life insurance or medical benefit scheme would also be a fine gesture. Other examples abound.

Parents may enter into star ranking private hospitals for medical examination at the expanse of credit card facilities but nothing can replace personal attentions and warmth from the family. Observably we must salute the throng of visitors we see at public hospitals. They come to visit patients at the expense of distance or time even having to trudge on foot. That done because traditionally, they believe in religious and family obligations. Visitation is good for the sick while lending good deeds for the visitor.

I am spurt to delve into this absorbing topic due to a poem picked up from the NST several months back. I quote as below and may we ponder.

‘If you are ever going to love me
Love me now while I can know
All the sweet and tender feelings
From which the true affections flows

Love me now while I am living
Do not wait until I am gone
And then have it chiseled in marble
Sweet words on ice-cold stone

If you have tender thoughts of me
Why not whisper them to me?
Don’t you know it would make me happy?
And as glad as can be

If you wait until I’m sleeping
Never to waken here again
There will be walls of earth between us
And I won’t hear you then

I won’t need your kind words
When the grass grows over my face
I won’t crave your love and kisses
In my last low resting place

So if you love me, even a little bit
Let me know while I am living
So that I can treasure it."

(Quoted as from Robert Moreno’s The Time is Now)


Marriages outside the extended family and across borders or even nations though exciting and bringing about national and international unity place some encumbrances. Distance, priority and expenditure come into focus while the earlier smaller kampong style wed-locks among village communities guarantee inbreed and non detachment. Both nevertheless seek cooperation and understanding from partners, husbands and wives plus in-laws for the wellbeing of the family and lasting togetherness. Partners must share and give devotions and remembering always the needs for frequent visitations and niceties.

Yet we must forever remember one true obligation as repeatedly cautioned i.e. the dutiful obligation of children to always offer love, affection and prayers to their parents when they deceased. It is the only redemptions from pious children. We are first children while assuming the roles of parents later. Whatever way we look the resposibalities remain intact.

Let’s show our love always. It comes in varied forms and certainly not in small doses.

( Life has shown me the loss of many closest to my heart yet affections redouble resoluteness and continuity)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

CINTA DULU DAN CINTA SEKARANG

AS WE drove home from Kuala Lumpur yesterday, we played the versatile singer's CD on the car radio player and Dato S.M.Salim's rendering of 'CINTA DULU DAN SEKARANG' hit a memory note. It was good music, fresh and lively. More so the wordings or 'senikata' that goes with it help to draw back the curtain of time and focus on present reality. How do we fall in love then? Or perhaps more appropriately how do we express our love then? Any difference from now? Perhaps friends would like to share their thoughts and experience. After all we have gone through that glorious path and its lasting memories linger in our soul waiting to be kindled with a touch of yesteryear's. Ha, Ha. This is my version.

First let me first quote part of the song rendered by S.M Salim.


" Cinta dulu dulu

Cinta malu malu

Cinta dulu dulu

Memang susah hendak bertemu

Bila sudah dapat bertemu

Hendak cakap apa pun tak tahu

Tegak berdiri tersipu sipu

Seram sejuk kaku membisu" ........

Truly as teenagers or secondary school students we desired to make friends and what more with those of the opposite sex. So either through pal-pal clubs or friendly introduction we came to know new friends. Our writing skills improved because we corresponded. The postman became our true friend. We delighted when we saw him approaching. Surely to bring long awaited letters and maybe a photo included. So it took another week or more when the postman returned for moments of 'happiness'. Those who were more friendly and active would have friends even outside the state or overseas. It may be true to say that writing friendly correspondence between friends of either sex improved our expression and confidence. What more we learn to quote from poetry, idioms and well known writers or playwrights. Our letters became expressive. But that was the limit.


Given the opportunity to meet, either at a school gathering, sports field or the movie house what was said by S.M. Salim came true. Imagination grew wild."Oh boy! This is an opportunity to touch and hold hands. Smell fragrance and sweetness or maybe whisper sweet words" When the chance came it was as expressed by the singer. "All froze. Silence and iced". Unable to say anything except stare. In the end maybe a note delivered discreetly upon departure. Still the meeting was heaven sent.


I am sure each and everyone of us has his or her own personal story of early 'courtship' or ' first love'. Those that had experiences decades ago would realize the vast differences now. Surely no more friendly postman to look forward to. No writing pads and correspondence. No more buying stamps at the post office. No need for pan-pal clubs or introduction.


Hand phones, photo images, sms, emails all allow for up-to-date access to friendship and 'getting to know you'. No more 'ais kacang stall' or 'kedai mee abu' etc. It has to be 'Starbucks'. 'MacDonald' or 'KFC'. Kalau kata S.M.Salim mereka tak berani pun pegang tangan dahulu kini peluk pun ta'apa. Then we had our parents breathing on our backs. Even letters can be intercepted or censored. Phone calls. Unheard of in many homes. Strictness was the order of the day. More so: 'Adat resam dan pantang larang dipegang teguh dan diamal sebagai budaya Melayu'. We were a sticker to old order and ethics.

Be it as it may. For sure I feel the use of hand phone. sms etc has contributed in no small way to many present short comings. It permitted for free expressions without hinderance. No check. No censorship. Then again expressions, correspondence, writings, spelling etc. fall short of the best that is required. No way that we return to the old format. Therefore 'Cinta Dulu......." seems to have its goodness and effects. Perhaps more are spent as compared to the snail correspondence of yesteryears. We certainly cannot go back in time .

Only what do we expect in the near future?










Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

PARENTS AND CHILDREN

A collegue writing under 'Seri Kepayang' soliloquized the observable trends of children being distance from their parents and therefore growing unappreciative of their duties and sacrifices. He lamented that ths tendency would weaken the Malay traditional values especially respect and care. Just like Shakespeare who allowed his principal actors to verbelly expressed their thoughts,

SELAMAT HARI RAYA AIDIL FITRI

KEPADA RAKAN DAN KENALAN YANG BERBAHAGIA


SELAMAT HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI


MAAF ZAHIR DAN BATIN


SEMOGA BERBAHAGIA DI HARI RAYA INI DENGAN KELUARGA TERSAYANG


DAN DIPANJANGKAN UMUR AGAR RAMADAN DAN SYAWAL


MENJELMA LAGI UNTUK KITA TAHUN HADAPAN





One Hari Raya years ago we discovered this Triumph 500 cc
motor cycle which was a dream in the early 1950's. It was in perfect condition.
Can you imagine the breeze blowing on your face as you cruise with the throttle opened
and the twin exhausts deafening the atmosphere. Attired as we were, it certainly brought nostalgia of younger days
Wassalam
DARIPADA KELUARGA KOTASTAR