Friday, February 29, 2008


To some people who can only celebrate birthdays once every four years:

Happy Birthdays!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

TV Adverts and Unsung Heroes

If I'm at home during weekends, I could most likely be found glued to the television. That's the time for me to catch up on news, etc. Commuting leaves me with little time for television during the weekdays. During the short period I have for television, I get easily irritated by unnecessary tv adverts (shampoo, soap etc) even if it was a short one.

So, you could imagine my disgust when local television stations began airing long 'propaganda-like' adverts. Colleagues from office remarked that the adverts are part of preparation for the coming election. As a simple tv viewer, I rather not have those adverts interrupting my tv programmes. Amazingly, I have yet to see or hear the catchy "marilah mengundi" from the election commission (EC). The 'propaganda-like' adverts must have taken over the air time normally enjoyed by the neutral EC's "marilah mengundi".

Still on the topic of election, today is the nomination day. A busy day for most politicians in Malaysia. You'll definitely see them on television. But what about those unsung heroes who were equally if not more busy than the politicians, burning the midnight oil just so everything went well. The the clerks from election commission, reporters, photographers, the telecommunication people, the electricity people etc. The clerks making sure all documents are in order. Reporters and photographers making sure there's news for tomorrow. Telecommunication people making sure the news actually get transmitted through the telecommunication line. The electricity people making sure uninterrupted power supply for all system. Even the general worker who had to prepare the venues. The list goes on. These unsung heroes might never be remembered for their contribution to this important event.

So if you are one of these unsung heroes, Thank you!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I've never celebrated Valentine day. I wonder why people like to glorify the celebration of love on this one day. We should celebrate life, everyday - even with all it short-comings.

Here's some of my reason to celebrate life:
1. I've scale up Great Wall of China
2. I've been to the leaning tower of Pisa
3. I've been to the Colleseum of Rome
4. I've been on some holy lands (suprisingly this include the Vatican City)
5. I've gone snorkelling (I've always wanted to do this since I was a kid)
6. I've gone scuba diving (another dream of mine when I was a kid)
7. I've become a millionaire (even if it meant I had to be in another country)
8. I've spent my first million away (refer to item 7)
9. I've been on a ferries wheel (not a small feat for a 'vertically challenged' people)

and last but definitely not least:
10. I've been in a road accident and survived it! (only had scratches and bruises)

Now I'm off to watch the final Amazing Race Asia Season 2.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Today it hit me, I've been commuting to work for 3 years!

So this morning, on my way to work after 6 days of break (including public holiday and annual leave), I did a mental arithmetic on the time I spent on the road. Just to keep myself alert and awake for the drive to work early in the morning!

It takes me a total of 4 hours to get to and back from the office. I work average of 20 days per month.

Total time spent on the road = 4 hours X 20 days X 12 month X 3 years

Total numbers spent on the road after 3 years? Answer: 2880 hours!

Then a friend asked, how many days is that? Answer: 120 days!

I also calculated the distance I traveled. I could have driven from KL to London and back to KL for at least 5 times!

I thought all the mental arithmetic would keep me awake. But NO! I fell asleep at a red traffic light!

Friday, February 08, 2008

It the year of Golden Rat!

To Chinese friends, Happy Chinese New Year!

No longer a Millionaire

Day 4 - Wednesday 23rd Jan 2008

There were no live music at the coffee house. The music men must have got the day off to celebrate 'Galungan'. The mood was sombre. After breakfast, we packed our bags. And waited for Bambang and Sam. It was uneventful ride. By 11am, we were already at the airport.

Having spend my first million, I was somewhat sad to leave.

'Galungan' and Pants

Day 3 – Tuesday 22nd Jan 2008

The sun was already up by the time we reached the coffee house for breakfast. The omelettes and pancakes had become my favourite breakfast. As the previous day, the hotel had live Balinese music. Only this time, instead of a bamboo xylophone, it was a metal one.

While waiting for the breakfast to settle down, we let our little master played in the Balinese garden. Getting bored, I reluctantly went for some walks. Why was I reluctant? Unlike Italy where I was mostly ignored by the Italians on the streets, the ‘overly’ friendly Balinese men loitering on the side walk alarmed me. They seemed to be at every corner, sitting together, doing nothing, in a group of 3-4 men.

The side walks were surprisingly ‘deserted’. Balinese, being prominently Hindus, have mostly left for their hometown. It was the eve of what most Malaysians call ‘Thaipusam’. Balinese call this Hindu celebration as “Galungan”. In Malaysia, Thaipusam is synonym with kavadi and body piercing. I don’t think they perform such thing. But Balinese do offer something to their Hindu god, one is the daily offering (like the bowl I saw in the Taxi), and a specially weaver palm leaves that they hang at their door.

My first stop was to buy a hat. If you plan on doing serious walking in any Southeast Asian countries, it is best to have a good hat with you, along with a bottle of water. A towel to wipe your sweats is optional. The heat and humidity could get to you. I bought the hat from the first touristy shop I found. Looking very touristy, with ‘Bali’ embroidered on the hat, I continued walking.

I somehow found my way to ‘Pasar Adat Kuta’ (Traditional Kuta Market). The wooden-brick shopping complex housed a lot of small shops. There were mostly selling clothes. There’s a few shop selling woodcarving. I didn’t see much of Europeans in the area.

Around noon, after dropping off some things in the hotel room, we headed for lunch. To the disappointment of my little master, we didn’t stop at his favourite fast food restaurant. We continued walking to the “Nasi Padang” restaurant. He refused to eat anything at the shop. The best thing on the menu was the orange juice. It was sweet and at the same time a little bit sour. After the long walk in the hot sun, I couldn’t resist a refill! After the great lunch, we obliged our little master and went to the fast food restaurant.

Then I continued walking. I found Hindu temple facing the beach of Kuta. There were a few Balinese men doing some preparation for ‘Galungan’. Even though they were all wearing sarong, with knife at their waist, they did not look ‘feminine’ at all! In fact they look every inch like a traditional Balinese warriors but in modern setting. Another thing to point out is the statue in front of the temple wear checked sarong. Actually all the statues around Bali wear sarong!

It didn’t take long for me to realize that it’s too hot to be strolling on the beach of Kuta. So I decided to take refuge in the shadows of small lanes sandwiched between nearby buildings. I thought the little lanes would take me to dubious places. I was mistaken. The little lanes led me to a lane barely big enough for a car to pass by. The lane has a very dubious name – Jalan Poppies 1. But I found no dubious activities, other that lot’s of small cottage like hotels. It could be due to my decent appearance, no one came to me to sell any poppies.

Without realizing it, the walks has taken up my whole day. I returned to the hotel. A short rest and an instant noodle later, I was refreshed. We took a cab to a ‘spa’. I was told by dear friends who went Bali a few years back that for the full body spa thingy would required you to stripe. So I opted for foot massage. I thought it would be like the one I had in China – massaging only the foot. But no, the petite Balinese lady asked to take off my pants and wear their disposable underwear.

Wearing robes, I followed her to the corridor. There’s a pail of water with flower. “Cool!”, I thought to myself - still thinking that I would be getting a foot massage similar to the one in China. The lady washed my feet. Then she told me to go into a room and lie down on the massage bed. I was baffled. Wasn’t she suppose to massage my feet! Yes she did that, but more. She massaged the whole legs. From foot up to my thigh. For each legs! The massage was great. Her movement was graceful. It was as if she was dancing to the Balinese music that filled the room.

My little master insisted that we rode the horse cart back to the hotel. And so we did. He was all smile as he had been wanting to go for the ride ever since the first time we saw the horse cart on the first day. 15 minutes later we reached the hotel.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Fight between Good and Evil

Day 2 – Monday 21st Jan 2008

The day started early. We had a heavy continental breakfast at the hotel. I particularly enjoyed the omelette and the pancakes. Breakfast was accompanied by Balinese music. I’m not sure what the instrument is called, but it is sort of a bamboo xylophone.

By 8.30 am we were already at the hotel lobby waiting for our chartered car. On the previous day, the ‘Nasi Padang’ restaurant owner gave his contact number. I gave him a call before I went to bed and asked him to arrange for a car. For the first time, we met our driver, Sam, and his ‘co-pilot’, Bambang. Both of them not native Balinese. Bambang is from Java, and Sam from Lombok.

Our first stop was to see Barong Dance. Before you actually see the dance, I highly recommend you to read the ‘synopsis’ provided at the entrance. Otherwise, all the characters and acts would just be a puzzle. To add to the confusion, the whole play are in Balinese dialect. Roughly, Barong Dance or play is about the fight between good and evil. Barong itself is a mystical animal that represent the good. Another character to note is the Rangda. Rangda represents the evil. Both have their own followers.

If you look closely, throughout the play, there’s two type of Rangda – one with the white hair, and another with black hair. White haired Rangda is the evil spirit that managed to redeem itself before it was killed (hence, went to heaven). Unfortunately, like real life, evil lives on. One of Rangda followers took over her place. The whole dance symbolise the continuous fight between good and evil in life.

Next stop, Nusa Dua for some water sport activities. My dear friends who went to Bali earlier did parasailing. Being ‘vertically challenged’, parasailing is definitely out of my list! That left me with snorkelling, and scuba diving. After some persuasion, I finally agreed to go for a scuba diving!

The diving instructor spoke fluent English, so I had no trouble understanding him. I learned some basic sign language. I also learned how to equalize my ear pressure, and what to do if water seeped into my mask. Then we went to the open sea in a wooden boat.

In the boat, he prepped me up. He helped me with the mask. He put flippers on my feet. He fastened a belt with some weigh stone around my waist. I thought we would wear the tank on the boat, but no. The instructor jumped into the sea with the tanks. Then, with flippers on my feet, weigh stone around my waist, I followed him into the open sea.

Oh God! What I’m I getting my self into?

I don’t swim well. I only know how to swim to save my life. Jumping into the open sea? With weigh stone around my waist? I must have been out of my mind!

The instructor caught me before I went under. After sort of ‘manhandling’ me, he finally managed to strapped the tank on me. I soon discovered that the straps have some kind of inflatable device. So, I didn’t have to put any effort to float myself (and the heavy tank!)

I bit the mouthpiece and tried to breathe. Then I realized, my breathing was short and frequent. And doing so with a mouthpiece was a bit tiring. I force myself to take long deep breath! After a while, I found my rhythm. The instructor deflated the straps and we began to descend slowly into the sea. Every metre or so, we stopped to pressurize our ears.

There were many colourful fishes all shape and sizes. Unfortunately with my myopic eyes, beyond my arm length, I could only see colours. The instructor led me to a huge coral that looked very much like a brain. The instructor asked me to hold on to it with one hand. He gave me a packet of bread. Before long, I was swarmed with fishes wanting to get a bite.

Before I knew it, we had to surface. It was a great experience.

Next on the list was water sport for my little master. This thing called “Big Marble”. The operators insisted that it was safe and involved no dip in the water but I beg to differ. It might be fun for adults, but I don’t recommend it for small kids. They put you in a rubber float, and you held on to it as a speedboat dragged it. I was in the speed boat. When the boat made sharp turn, I felt as if I could be ‘thrown’ out of the boat!

After the adrenalin rush, we headed to Penyu Island to calm our nerve. It was some sort of turtle sanctuary. The guy also have some owls, snakes, and a few other animal. The guide told my little master to climb on one of the big turtle. My little master, being his compassionate self, refused the offer. He did, however, took the offer to hold a snake. We quench our thirst at a small stall on the island then headed back to mainland.

Bambang and Sam already waiting at the jetty. We went for lunch and then proceed to a batik factory. I had learned batik painting during my art and craft class eons ago. There’s a slight different. In my class eons ago, we would mount the cloth on a frame. Then we would draw wax onto it (also call ‘menchanting’). In the factory, they simply held the cloth in their hands! By then, my little master was already tired and fast asleep in the car.

We made another stop at Celuk. This village specialize in silverworks. I stayed in the car with my little master. I’m not much of a shopper anyway. Bambang and Sam offered to take us to another village that specialized in woodcarving. We had to decline. We were quite tired. So we headed back to the hotel.

Later, we walked to the beachfront McD for dinner. We all went to bed early.