30 December 2008

Up close and personal

One fine Sunday, after so many times postponing this outing, I finally managed to drag my whole family to Kuala Gandah, Pahang. Why this place was so appealing to me? Well apart from getting bored dealing with the hanky-panky of my office mates, Kuala Gandah is a place where The Department of wildlife and National Park established an Elephant conservation Center way back in 1989. This place of which located near Lanchang, can be reached in an hour non-spirited drive from Kay El. But if you want to be in our edition of Guinness book of World records and beat that time, rest assure a ticket by our dedicated 'mat misai' will reached your mailbox in no time. And that was what happened to me. But I don't blame them for shooting me on my back, even though some might consider the act as "dayus" . Like other departments which worshipped the six sigma or kaizen , they have their own KPI (Key Performance Index)and benchmarks to please their bosses . I am sure whoever shot me that day, will get his performance appraisal with a flying color.

The outing was worth the "saman" though. As the program starts at 2 pm each day, you have to be there earlier. I was so amazed by the punctuality of the visitors, which made me wondering how nice if some of our nasi lemak nation can adapt this attitude especially when attending meetings. Even though I am quite agree with some my colleagues who argued that rather than attending a meeting with the intention to just agree with whatever issues that being discussed, might as well having a chat in Yahoo messenger or listening to the sermon of Oprah Winfrey. The next thing you know, your effort can win you a place for a Tokoh Maal Hijrah. We should feel very proud and fortunate as we are living in the Boleh-land, where anything is possible.

Despite a photogenic pose by my two sons, this photo has somehow missed a column in our local tabloids. On the other hand, this place with their excellent environment and facilities can offer a splendid sanctuary for those who want to detox themselves.
A makeshift souvenir shop that was managed by one of the rangers. With such a low overhead, the price of souvenirs was quite reasonable. As usual, I got a personalised fridge magnet as a momenta to top up my collection for a mere RM6.00. My best buy ever.
Everybody was ecstatic for a joyride on these elephants. The ride was not as comfortable as any commercial massage chair that you can find in some shopping malls, but enough to get rid of the itchiness between my legs...I mean my back. On this rare occasion, I almost had cramped-feet since I have to "kangkang" very wide as my ride happened to be a very big adult elephant and I sat exactly on the widest part of this beast.After a hefty meals, the mahouts led the elephants for a bath. Unaware of the next move, the biggest surprise awaited this visitors as this trained elephant showed off with some freak acrobatic skills.
My second son (the handsome one in the forefront) out of the excitement, seemed very confused at the same time. Presumably having done some sacred ritual by pissing in his pant, could not make out between the mammoth beast and the party animals in the background.This skeleton of a deceased elephant was displayed in the information center. Coincidentally, I found many typical resemblances to this artifacts in my workplace. Skeleton walk around in my office compounds is a norm. This also reminded me of the skeleton in the closet that has been passed down from one generation to others. A weary face of the eldest elephant (69 years old) in the sanctuary. I would be retiring in my keropok-lekor state and looking after my durian and rambutan ochards at that age.
Next on the schedule was to visit a Deerland nearby. These diurnal Sambar Deer was legal immigrants from Indonesia (bali to be more precised). Looking at their motto 'peramah dan mesra rakyat", no wonder my family really felt at ease with them.It was good to expose our kids close to the nature at their early stage. Shown here was a hedgehog (remember Sonic the hedgehog?) and a cockatoo (and this one reminded me of that cute chocobos in my favourite final fantasy game) trying to make friend with my family.An open zoo concept in this Deerland is very interesting. You can get this close to the animals and other wild inhabitants like this wild sun bear and fed them. My exhausted entourage but contented at the same time. It was an outing worth a second trip.

26 December 2008

Always look on the bright side of life

I am not sure whether I got too excited by the story of another blogger friends from Penang and Parit, who visited a traditional massage for their muscle pain or the fancy sighboard that made me stop at this traditional establishment. Yes today I spent one hour getting acquantance with Wak Rem, a traditional massage theraphist (sound more sophistaced :) for my stiff limbs, I mean my back and my bottom. I must confess at this time, this is my first time ever having this special traditional treatment for treating my whatever pain I have suffered before. But as people says, there is always the first time.

Thanks to my fascination with golf, two days ago while fine-tuning my swing at my regular driving range nearby, I got this exruciating pain from my lower limb up to my back. The pain in my lower limb was like a love-hate relatioship, something that I can ignore whenever I am in my good mood. But the recent pain in my back was quite bad so as doing the normal simple task becoming so painful.

So after that skillful massage job by Wak Rem, I am feeling better now, even though the pain in the ass is still there. (Now I now how this ass-word has come about). He even gave me some tips on good diet and advice on proper eating habit. As according to him, my problem was actually caused by improper eating habit, so as the "angin" in my body became unbalance. This "angin" in the body has always made me wonder. Does our body really got "angin" or what's on earth is the "angin" doing in our body? Once I threw this question to my friend who is a medical doctor and he explained in terms that made me more confused. Something about our nerve system.

My significant half on the other hands, has some idea on treating and combating my "angin" problem. She introduced me to another weird herbal remedy i.e "untalan" (banjar word for bulat-bulat) which consisted of zingiber (halia) and black pepper corn (lada hitam). A word of caution though, please don't use "gambir sarawak" in the ingrediant as you will have another part of you body limb sfiffer. These "untalan", the size of our thumb was to be consumed with warm water. I have to wait until tommorrow to see if the effect has kicked in or not. I hope the "untalan" will do the job properly and chased the "angin" away. BTW, thank you darling for sharing your ancestral secret with me.

For the time being I still have another one or two more follow-up massage sessions with Wak Rem. Since I have to rest for a while, obviously for my own good sake, I have to withdraw from participating in a golf tournament next week.

Two things I learned from this unsuspecting event:

Golf introduced me to the beauty of Gout and gave me the opportunity for a spa treatment with Wak Rem. And not to mention a secret recipe from my significant half. Always look on the brighter side of our life.

23 December 2008

From Terengganu with love

Terengganu was the only playing ground that I knew for almost 18 years, until my first "hijrah" to Bangi, that was to discover my adulthood (and later my first and only love) in our local alma mater. I love this place so much not because this state has been dubbed as a "Little Kuwait of Malaysia", or her generosity for sharing its oil wealth with the Federal Government, but simply because everything here is simple. or at least it used to be. As much as my native friends will concur with me, this beautiful state with their inhabitants who eats nasi dagang as their breakfast and keropok-lekor as their evening snack has so much adventure and colourful activities to offer for the uniniated and season travellers. Even the local the kampung boy like me will always find something new and interesting thing to do whenever I pay a visit to my hometown.

Among the thing that still bemused me is our native dialect, which sometime will tickle even the hardcore Kuala Berang indigenous. For example one makcik describe a strong monsoon wind that hit her house recently "ambe dengor anging piung..piung..piung atas pale, beghooookkk cabut abis atap rumoh. Debok, mokcik terjun rumoh, mujo dok patoh ghiiok jatuh. kalu tidok mapuh bahang tanoh". (sorry could not find suitable manglish word for the translation, maybe Ganu bloggers like bro madredo1 or skatype can explain the phrase better than me :)

Food is another thing. I love to visit old market place like Kedai Buloh and of course Kedai Payang just to sample some of the traditional delicacies of which only endemic to this part of the world. Last time I went to this place, I introduced "rojok kateh" to my significant half. She loved it very much.

But now, as the state is now has been upgraded one class higher than her neigbours and showered with the status of "bandaraya", I can see the old charm is starting to disappear fast. So much to the modernization, that is the price we have to pay. This has really saddened me. In fact this rapid changes is happening everywhere. It is a matter of time. But we can still preserve the good old charm and nice memory in the form of photographic record and frequent visit to our old and rustic birthplace and walk the memory lane.

The transparent masjid, Masjid Kristal as part and parcel of Taman Tamaddun Islam. The masjid is situated not far from the infamous Losong, of which you can find Keropok Losong. But now I find keropok Losong is a bit on the salty side. Not to my liking at all.

Sandy beaches and its panoramic coastal lines are always my favourite stopover and regular picnic spots whenever I travel back to Terengganu. This one was in Kemasek.
My kids like to collect shell like this one that scattered with abundant along the sandy beaches.
Local fish produce like this "sata" is gastronomically irresistable. This particular one was mixed with crab meat, something out of ordinary. I was told by little sister (Cendawanintim), we can only find this variety only in Ramadhan Bazaar near Panji Alam. Life in Terengganu can be as colorful as this drinks.
Traditional marketplace with varieties of choices.
Masjid Tengku Tengah Zaharah or popularly known as Masjid Terapung situated not very far from my kampung. My favourite keropok 007 can be found nearby.

20 December 2008

Here we go again

I am not in the mood to write or type much these past few days because my fingers felt numb from typing numerous reports that need to be submitted before the end of this year. Mind you, apart from copious amount of time spending on the meeting rooms, we have so many reports to write and type, and at the end of the day you can't even distinguish between you finger and your son's fish finger. To make the matter worst for me, the canteen, a popular hang-out place among the gossip-mongers and eavesdroppers, was almost empty. Even though it was a good news to me, as I can talk freely and without any fear of any story spinners around, but I need a break and a place to chill out.

Luckily my eldest son has to go to Kuala Kangsar for his school team debate camp. It was a good excuse for me to visit this royal place again and sample their local delicacies. Kuala kangsar is a quiet and beautiful place which boasts a reputation for politician-wannabe breeding ground. The infamous Malay College of which their student will miss their prime adulthood and become old in no time- thus the word Old Boys so synonymous to them, stood proudly in this town. I, however became so convinced, especially after reading a book on "Confessions of an Old Boys", that my son will someday become a successful figure if he rub his shoulder regularly with the sons of dignitaries and royalties who go to the same college.

I can't imagine how many people who walked this corridor before is also walking in the corridor of power nowadays.
A row of shops that sell nice traditional crafts. The price is very reasonable here. The shops also sell clay pots or "labu sayong" here. If you drink the water from this "labu sayong", the taste, the smell, the freshness reminded me of the water I used to drink from "tempayan kampung" during my childhood.
A trip to this place will usually give me a good opportunity to spend some time at their small but interesting marketplace near the riverbank. You can go to a small village accross the river by taking a boat ride from this jetty.
Before - "ikan sebarau or ikan air laju", the owner of a restaurant along the river told me. This delicacy is always my top menu whenever I visit this place. With "air asam" and some "ulam" to tickle my taste bud, now I am salivating!
The aftermath - this is what left after a sumptous feast- a fossil.This fish however could not be found at Kuala Kangsar for a very good reason. This is "ikan terubuk masin Sarawak" of which I did not get by fishing in any river, but through blogging. Seriously. The taste is phenomenal. Blogging is quite fishy after all, and its kinda paid off. Thanks mates.
I was told by my son that laksa Pak Ngah is very popular here. The texture and the taste is a bit different from other laksa that we used to consume from other part of the country.

A nice bowl of cendol by Hj. Mustafa is a must after all those sinful indulgence. My eldest son staring at the rapid flow of Sungai Kangsar, trying to figure out what a great future lay ahead for him. The question is, to be or not to be.

16 December 2008

A visit to Sue's summer garden

Unlike the vigorous and vibrant color of floras in our tropic regions, their flowering siblings in the temperate regions only share this colorful and invigorating nature when spring and summer come. This was the only time when I can feel and see everything come into live. Apart from my disliking to the boring, dull and blistering cold weather of the winter, spring or summer was my favorite time to visit those places for that very obvious reason. Winter for me was something nauseating, like to be forced to listen to meaningless speech by ministers during an opening ceremony of some official events.

When I was asked to be seconded for three months to our sister office in the northern part of London, I purposely chose to go there during the summer time. Even though the prospect of contracting the hay fever was quite inevitable during that time of the year, the urge to experience the lively summer atmosphere was even stronger. who would care about hay fever, as I have experienced a more severe fever like dengue fever before. But for the "mat saleh", hay fever is something unspeakable and if one was unlucky enough to contract this illness, and it was summer, it was quit a pain in their ass, as they have only few sunny days to show off all their body tattooing during their annual sunbathing festival.

That time of the year however, I missed again to visit The Royal Botanic Garden of Kew, of which I have missed on several occasions whenever I visited London. It was not because I was so busy spending my time in the laboratories, but no 'kaki' to go along. Traveling alone can be very boring you know. Probably I should stop supporting Arsenal and switch to support Liverpool instead, as their motto "you'll never walk alone" sounds more interesting .
Luckily my quest for a greener adventure was not lost into oblivion after all. Sue and Ian, senior staff to the office, upon hearing my interest, never stop asking me to pay a visit to their house. Their lovely and cosy old-British country house was at the background. Such a good friend and lovely couple. The poppy pod, an early stage before you can start to see the beautiful flower.

The reddish poppy flower (Papaver somniferum) blooming under the bright sun. This plant has done so much proud to me as this plant was one of my subject when I read for my PhD. I was so addicted to this species, I even tried a sandwich bun buttered with poppy seeds. It can tell you it was awesome. Apart from its ornamental purposes, this very pod also contain specialised latex where opium and many other refined opiates like morphine and codeine get their narcotic popularity.
Another beautiful plants that has somehow missed my vocabulary.
A close-up photo of the above plants. This photo (similar to the one I have taken during my earlier visit) has bagged me a third prize in a photography competition run by our local newspaper not so long ago. I got a free camera for this effort.
Another shot of another no-name flower. Just love the subtle lighting on certain part of the flower.I like taking photo close to the ground. With my first digital camera , A Nikon coolpix swivel feature, it was easy to snatch a photo like this. It was however, quite difficult for my old trusty 35mm camera to do this acrobatic action. Somehow, I am still quite attached to my EOS 5.
Ian's classic MG. He also owned and kept several classic vehicles ranging from motorbikes to cars and tractors. As an avid classic vehicle collectors, he refurbished all the vehicles from scratches by himself. I would love to have one of this, but with limited knowledge in mechanical parts, maintaining this classics will drain my time and wallet. My Ultimate Driving Machine is sufficient to satisfy my car-craze at the moment.

14 December 2008

Like father, like son

These two photos were a good reminiscence of my earlier exposure to this world. I was 7 or 8 months old when the photo was taken then, so was my son. The baldy hairdo was probably a tribute to once a popular TV series, "Kojak". My beloved mother told me, she started to feed me with nasi (nasi penyet dalam tempurung kelapa) as early as 2 days old, which probably explained my addiction to all kind of nasi, especially some gastronomic dishes like nasi dagang and nasi kerabu.

Like father (safely snugged in the comfort of my lovely mother's arm)
Like son (the same spot where 25 years ago the above photo was taken, my eldest son seemingly enjoyed with his grandmother, to be crowned the first grandson of Hj. Razak's clan)

mmm....No wonder!

In any two ways relationship especially the long-term one, there is normally a mutual agreement between parties in order for the relationship to work best, as ones would have expected. Normally these agreement comes in the form of silent, unwritten understanding, strongly binding as soon as the couple start to engage in their fist kiss. Occasionally I came across some funny people, funny places or funny office-politicians who really good at making people laugh with their antics. But this parking resit of which I received when I parked my car in Kay El recently was even funnier. The small print that stamped at the bottom of that paper caught my eyes and almost caused me laughing like a hyena. The best part was "..negligence of the management or the employees..". A nice way for saying you are neither a responsible person nor a fan of Mawi. Perhaps the one who runs that parking business watched too much of Nabil's show. Perhaps the motto of whoever owned that place is "to play safe", since the parking lot is just meters away from Lorong Hj. Taib.

A comical and witty disclaimer like that is now a norm if you have not noticed yet. You can see it everywhere even in the blogging community. "you read this blog, but if you have a heart attack you pay the bill". No wonder nowadays there is so much break-up in relationships. especially with the youngster in their fat-track relationship. The popular motto is "you got pregnant and I will find another land for a farming"!

12 December 2008

Achtung Bitte!

At least once in our mortal life, I am sure we have committed some cardinal sin or unforgiven mistakes, by chance or of course by mistake. I am about to confess my biggest mistake in this century, the one that I have done to my loved one, eerrr...I mean my other loved one i.e my bimmer. Recently while happily driving my car out from the office, the indicator on the meter cluster lighted out indicating the petrol level was alarming low, so I stopped to fill her up at one of our favorite petrol pump stations (it become favourite simply because it is the nearest to our house). Nothing fancy, I did the usual thing, paying the attendant, swiping the loyalty card and filling the petrol into the tank. After that, off we go. But hardly a few meter from the petrol station, my loved one start to coughed, jerking and then came to a full stop. Right in the middle of the road. Now what?

This car has never failed me before because I have put so much TLC on her all this while. That should not happen man. I pushed her gently beside the road, check here and there (pretending to be a mechanic just to cover my waterface from the other busy-body passerby), but still I found nothing weird. So I called my regular mechanic, Ah Foo and after following some instruction and a long teleconferencing over the phone, the car still refused to come alive. Our last resort was to call the trusty AAM tow truck (luckily I renewed my membership days before that) and sent the car to his workshop. I have to leave my bimmer overnight at the workshop, because it was almost 11.00 pm by the time we reached there.

left pic: good pump (with cover) ......right pic: filthy pump (naked)

The next day, when I received a call from my mechanic, he cheekily asked me "semalam abang mengelamun ke apa?". It turned out I have filled my car with DIESEL instead of Petrol. Oh no! There goes my RM50 worth of petrol and another RM300 for cleaning and cleansing the tank and replacing the fuel pump. No wonder why so many people stared at me when I fiiled up the tank. I thought I am popular or what, especially when few awek also start to smile at me. Kes perasan lah ni. Now whenever I met my fellow bimmer owners who frequent the same workshop, they will always tease me "Ah Fo cakap ko bagi kereta ko minum Diesel ek?" and I couldn't stop myself from smiling because how "perasan' yours truly can be. Now I have to be really cautious whenever people smile at me, especially at the petrom pump station. Achtung Bitte!

11 December 2008

Hey! what happen to the shoe?

Some of my friends who read my blog keep asking me this question "what did you do with the shoe"? What shoe? Ah yes....that shoe. Actually I am trying very hard not to answer the question, even thought obviously I have the answer. I tried many many times to elude the question, by taking them for a "mengeteh" at a nearby kopitiam or a hefty lunch so that they will feel sleepy after the heavy meal and totally knackered, but they kept asking me this question.

Well, being a nasi-lemak nation, it is not surprising at all that we have so many superstition, taboo, fallacy or myth surrounding our daily life. These superstition have embedded in the culture so deep, it has passed down from generation to generation for us to live in harmony. I am sure one way or another, in carrying out our daily chores, we have our personal preferences or habitual behaviours to every tasks. For example, I remember during my childhood, the children were not encouraged to eat fish head or fish brain, fearing that one would be stupid. Now I know the reason behind it. That is to discourage us from having unproductive lunchtime hours, eating "kari kepala ikan", like the one in Kg. Pandan. Or a girl eating the neck of a chicken will marry an old man and having stiff neck during the wedding. But nowadays I believe chicken neck is not a popular dish after all because many young artists end up marrying ageing Datuks or dignitaries.

Some of the superstition, even though at first it seem quite absurd and outrageous but after some conditioning we will get used to it. Personally I have experienced some of this nonsense. In some places, people believed if you are of a difference opinion with your superiors, going against it or saying NO is a big taboo. Like saying no to a motion to upgrade your office, so grand one would have mistaken it for a five star hotel. You will be kicked out from the office before you can open you big mouth again. As usual, this thing has been passed down from a generation to another. No wonder nowadays meetings are more or less a venue for having a long tea break or a chance to meet your old buddies.

The shoe? Being as superstitious as the other nasi-lemak nation, I threw the shoes into the murky river of Paya Jaras. Discreetly, I am so ashamed to admit that I have joined the other uncivilised people in polluting our river in doing the deed. Ampun my mother nature. Now you know the very reason why I am so hesitate to reveal my little secret. I hope Karam Singh Walia was not on duty that day.

10 December 2008

Why so itchy down under?

My last official oversea trip this year was to Sydney, Australia, courtesy from the Government of Malaysia. I have never been to this part of the continent before and I have no idea what to expect. The only clue that I got was from a movie back in 1970s, Mad Max and a little bit and pieces of information from my geography and history lesson back then.

The untold story was, while searching and looking for a land to dump their offenders, the British sailed to the far land, but failed to notice Pulau Jerjak because Sir Francis Light was too high on todi. Instead, they sent Captain J. Cooks to sail down south but stranded on a big island full of kangaroos. So fascinated by these alien creature, they decided to settle down and signed peace treaty with the indigenous and make hip hop music as their national anthem. Didgeridoo however, is still thier favourite past-time activity as a smooking pipe. Of course, you can't find any of this information anywhere in this planet because, that at time Google was still under construction.

My short stint of attachment to the University of Sydney was so occupied with looking down the binoculars and microscopes, which left me little time to stray a bit into unchartered teritorries. With only one day free before departing back home, I switched into my discovery and adventure mode and head down to the city center for a little sight seeing. But as I was travelling alone, which was unavoidable when I travel under the courtesy of the government of Malaysia, and no acquintance to show me around, finding the ways however was not very difficult after all as they all speak "guddaiyyy" english. The weather was quite chilly (may) and this has some shivering impact on me because I did not realise at that time Australia is actually in the southern Hemisphere, not in the Northern part as their cousin, England. Aisehhh...I missed the season by one year thinking I was going there during summer time, with no winter clothing at all. Bloody chilling afternoon causing me to cut short my traveling adventure by half, not to mention numerous time visiting the loo.

My impression on Australia? not as intresting as their cousin, England and the people there are quite "batu", presumably an after effect of too much intoxication with our spicy Asean food. I heard the holes in their sky is getting bigger as well and the UV level will deep fry your ball breakfast.
A jetty where tourists can take a ferry cruises in the river. The 76 years-old Harbour bridge looming in the background.
Their iconic landmark, the Opera House. I did not have the chance to get closer or visit the building itself despite a heavy promotion by locals on the ferry.
Another view of the Opera House from the ferry. The Royal Botanic Garden was on the far right hand-side of the building, atop the hill.

Another small jetty on the other side of the river. This jetty was an access for the tourist to The Taronga Zoo. I just spent my time browsing the souvenir shop, waiting for the next ferry as I dont think it was worth to see the normal zoo animals here of which you can also watch them in our Zoo Negara. But to see the platypus with your own eyes was quite tempting.

Varietis of exotic plants in the Royal Botanic Garden. I did not spent much time strolling the garden as the weather was quite chilling and I was hungry at the same time. I would have sunbathed under the tree :) eating my apples and sandwiches if the weather was fine.

Colourful flowers in the garden, remind me of beautiful lavender in the Scottish highland.

Finally, my close encounter with the indigenous people of Australia. Showing here blowing his didgeridoo. I think that paint on their body has some heating effect as I have goosebump and almost suffered from a frost bite standing there.

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