December 31, 2009

I want to live longer

My 2009 new year’s resolution (RESOLUTIONS) was about making changes. And so I changed, to a healthier lifestyle. I did that because I love life and I want to live longer. So for my 2010 new year’s resolution (and future resolutions to come), I resolve to continue living a more healthy life, for as long as possible.

Everyone wants to live longer. Like most people, I want to see my children grow up, have grand children or even great grand children. And that is just one part of it. There are also many other things I hope I will live long enough to see and experience … I mean realistically. I think there are many great things and events that are going to unfold. They are definitely NOT worth dying for (you know what I mean).

Wouldn't it be great to witness human set foot on the moon again? Maybe even a human journey to Mars. It will be great to see this tremendous achievement of mankind’s exploration into space. You will never know, we may find proofs of extra-terrestrial life for I believe we are not alone in this vast universe.

I would love to see the “string theory” being proven by brilliant mathematicians and physicists to explain the complex universe we are in and maybe see the discovery of a new force ... anti-gravity maybe? It will be a great breakthrough for the medical world when scientists find a cure for cancer, AIDS as well as other deadly diseases and use all these advancements of medical science to reduce the suffering of the unfortunates. I hope all these will happen before my time is up.

I hope that during my lifetime, archaeologists and scientists will open the tomb of Shi Huang Ti (China’s First Emperor) and I also hope they will discover the tombs of Cleopatra & Mark Anthony, Genghis Khan, and that of Alexander The Great. That will give us invaluable historical insight of the various great ancient civilisations.

Soon some athletes will set a record of 100 meters sprint below 9.5 seconds (or even lower). And with dedication and hard work, our very own badminton players may even get an Olympic gold medal (and we will get a public holiday). Isn’t all that great to live for? There are just so many great things to look forward to and I really don’t want to miss them.

I am sure, like me, you too have many things and events you would love to see before your time is up. Who knows, maybe a Malaysian Chinese as Prime Minister of Malaysia … possible?

To that, I wish you a Happy New Year and a healthy and long life.


December 17, 2009

A house or a home?

When my old man was still alive, I asked him to come to stay with me every now and then. Most of the time he declines the offer and even when he agrees to come to stay with me, it will only be for a day or so and then he wants to go home. Not that he don’t like me, it just that he is most happy to be at his small little flat which he called home. Even though my siblings and I can afford better houses and wanted him to come stay with us, he said to us … “This is your house but it is not my home”. And he will quote a popular Cantonese saying “loong chorng putt kup kau tau”. It basically means that you can give him the dragon’s (emperor’s) bed but it is no match to his dog's kennel. To my old man, it is not about the house, it is all about the home.

Those who are old enough will probably remember “SINGER”, a very popular household brand many years ago. If you do, I am sure you will also remember its tagline and its advertising jingle. I can still sing out loud the popular jingle …“SINGER, has a way to make your house a home”. It is a simple phrase but have a very strong meaning about house and home. And this is what I want to talk about here …what is a house and what is a home?

A house is bought, a home is made. A house is built by the hands, a home is built by the heart. A house is made of walls and beams, a home is made with love and dreams. A house is where you stay, a home is where you live. A house is your body, a home is your soul. And strangely, we leave our house to look for our needs, only to return home to find it.

I have a house. You can say I have a very nice house. But that is exactly what it is … a house. It is a home? Yes, it is my home and after so many years, it is still in the making. You know what? It will take my lifetime to do it. By the words of SINGER’s popular tagline, I am always making my house a home. I am doing it bit by bit, day by day because like my old man, I love to go home. I feel most happy to be at my home.

For the rich it can be a multi-storeyed bungalow or a luxury condominium. For others, it may be a cheap low-cost apartment. The question is …“Is it an expensive house you bought to show off or is it a home that you have made for you and your loved ones?

So whatever it is, a big luxurious bungalow or a small low-cost apartment, ask yourself this, when you step into your house, do you find a home?


December 01, 2009

It takes more than good looks to look good

Many years ago, when I was studying Advertising in college, I helped a good friend start a modelling and grooming agency. He asked me to suggest a tagline for his agency that emphasize the services he offered. The agency's business is all about making people look good. So, I cracked my head for a few days and came up with the line …“It takes more than good looks to look good”. I was quite pleased with this line and thought I will probably go on to become a great copywriter. Well, it didn’t happen. Anyway, I am sure I was not the first one who thought of this line.

So, “good look” and “look good” … these two phrases, simple as they are but unfortunately many people are mistaken. Some people are naturally blessed with good look but they don’t automatically look good. Then there are others who tend to “accessorise” themselves and think it will make them look good. Very often we hear them say: “I will look good in this” or “That will makes me look good”. And usually they spend a lot of money on things they think will make them look good.

Let me say this, whether they have an expensive makeover, dress in designers’ clothes, wear a Rolex or drive a Mercedes, maybe it will just give them the good look. To look good, it takes more, a lot more beyond the expensive accessories.

I used to attend many so called “glamour” events and have personally organised quite a number of them during my years in the corporate world. Many local celebrities, popular personalities and well to do socialites were always invited for public relations purposes. In almost every event, you will find a few, who, as good as they look in the glittering designers’ clothes and expensive accessories, the way they behave were utterly disappointing. I am not going to talk about how these people behaved but what I can say is that they personify the words “It takes more than good look to look good”.

So, if you asked me what is “good look” and what is “look good”, I will put it this way … “good look” is what you see and “look good” is what other people see.

November 17, 2009


“If you wanna make the world a better place,
take a look at yourself and make a change”

The above are two lines from one of Michael Jackson’s many great songs called “Man in the mirror” and how true these words are. Many people want changes, for the better of course. But the problem is, selfishly they are always hoping that other people would change to suit or adapt them. I have seen too many people who talked about changing for the better but all they actually wanted is other people changing to make things easier for them. These people don’t want to commit themselves to making a little personal sacrifice or taking themselves out of their comfort zone.

Some blame it on circumstances or situation that does not allow them to make the change. A classic example of this are those who can’t quit smoking will say “You see, I am always around people who smoke, so it is very difficult for me to quit smoking unless all those around me don’t smoke”. I know this very well because I used to be a heavy smoker and have used these exact words before. Well it is not true.

Then there are those who instead of changing their bad habits, they try to “justify” it. They always find ways to “balance it” and make it seems OK. For example, people who consume a lot of alcohol will always say that they are taking supplements for their liver. You will hear them say “You know, every day I take supplement pills for my liver. So it’s OK for me”.

And those who don’t really exercise and feel guilty about it, they will go join a gym or purchase a set of exercise equipment for home use. It probably makes them feel less guilty and provide some consolation in the beginning. But then how many have the discipline to follow a regular exercise routine? After a while the only exercise they will get is flashing the gym membership card to show off and cleaning the dust collected by the fancy equipment at home. Come on … if you really want to exercise, you don’t need an expensive gym membership or some state-of-the-art equipment. Just get out of the house and take a walk for an hour or so a day, that is good enough. But strangely no one seems to be able to find time for that.

My 2009 new year’s resolution (RESOLUTIONS) was about making changes. The year is coming to an end soon and there will be new resolutions. But I am proud to say this year I have made some significant changes to my lifestyle, my behaviour as well as my views on a variety of things happening around me. I am not going to bore you with the specifics but the one thing I noticed is that once I started making the changes, I can see the people around me changing as well and slowly things automatically became easier, smoother and better in a greater aspect for all involved.

If you want to change and make things better, really, like the words of the song above, “take a look at yourself and make a change”. Change is all about making self sacrifice, starting with ourselves with strict discipline and full commitment to what we really want to change. Once you start to change yourself, I guarantee you that the people around you will be influenced to change as well whether consciously and subconsciously. And all will be better for everyone involved.

November 04, 2009

Happiness in advance

Every time when someone ask me what I do for a living now, I simply say “I am just taking things at my own pace”. Nine out of ten replies I got were “Wah ! Ng sai low ar? “ (which means “Wow ! No need to work huh?” in Cantonese). Some sounded serious, some were sarcastic and others jokingly said. Anyway, most of them mistaken that I have retired for good.

Look, I am still working and I don’t intend to retire for now. It is just that I am working at my own pace. Simply put, I am doing things which give me more time to spend with my family, my friends and time to take care of my own well being and interest. Of course I earn a lot less now than I used to but I am happy to live within whatever I make. With some passive income from some small investments here and there, I have no complains about my present lifestyle. Like all, I have worked for some years, slogged to settle the house mortgage and other financial commitments. And with that done, I stopped chasing for more. Now, with whatever I can accumulate, I try to make it a point that I am going to like whatever that is coming with what I can afford. That way, I have found my happiness in advance.

I am sure not all will agree with me. We all have our own things to put in our basket of happiness. Status, wealth, power, materials … many convinced themselves that these are important things in the basket of happiness. They chased after them and keep chasing until they become very addictive to the fame, fortunes, influences and possessions that were dangled in front them together with the very tempting vices that are hard to resist. Very sad to see that in the mad chase, there are people who don’t want to stop and are prepared to go for it at all cost. Then there are many who don’t know when to stop. So when to stop? If people were to ask me when to stop, my answer will be, when it starts to affect your health, your family or your loved ones, it is already too late.

It is important to know when to stop and that is all up to you. How much is enough for you, what you like and what makes you happy is your decision. But if you have already decided that you are going to like and be happy with whatever that is coming with what you can afford, then like me, you have found your happiness in advance.

October 23, 2009

Klang Gate Ridge

I never get bored trekking the Klang Gate Ridge. Apart from getting a good exercise from trekking along the ridge, one is also rewarded with the great view and feel of the nature, especially on a cool clear morning.

( The east side of the Klang Gate Ridge as seen along MRR2)

My friends and I have trekked the few sections of Klang Gate Ridge from east to west and vice versa many times. Every now and then we take different routes to ascend and descend the ridge. This enables us to really explore many parts of the ridge. Plenty of flora and faunas, unique rocks surfaces, insects, the Klang Gate Dam and its beautiful lake.

(On one side you see the hustle and bustle of KL city and on the other side is the serene Klang Gate Dam and its beautiful lake)
Last month, 4 of us (CK Lim, ML Lim, Edry Wong and I) trekked the ridge again. We ascended the ridge from the main water pipes area and decided to check out if there is a way to cross the ravine after the last ropes. The normal trek route will be climbing cliff face at the last rope area and trek at the top section until the ravine. Trekkers can’t cross the ravine and that will be the end. But our idea was not to climb up the cliff face at the last rope area but instead look for a way to bypass it at the base and trekked downwards to cross the ravine and head all the way out to the private orchard near the Rapid Bus Depot. There is no existing trail here so CK Lim and ML Lim decided to explore ahead while Edry Wong and I stayed back just in case as it was quite dangerous trekking through the edge of the cliff side of the ridge.

(The view of Klang Gate Ridge from the top and its unique vegetation along the trail)
About 45 minutes later, we received a call from ML Lim saying that they have made it to the other side of the ravine safely but it is very difficult for them to make it back to where we were. They have to proceed all the way through until they reach the orchard situated at the other side of the ravine. So Edry and I have to trek out back to the main water pipes area to collect our car and head over to the orchard to pick up CK Lim and ML Lim.

After picking them up and listening to what CK Lim and ML Lim said about the trail, we figure that it is not advisable for amateur trekkers to try this trail. There are just too many dangerous spots along the way.

Klang Gate Ridge is a very nice and popular place to trek. Many have trekked this ridge and it is still attracting a lot of trekkers both seasoned trekkers and amateurs. While it is fairly safe in most areas but there are also a few dangerous spots along the ridge. There were numerous accidents reported. Some trekkers were killed and some lucky ones were saved. Carelessness is one of the main culprits of these accidents. Respect the nature, be careful and you will enjoy trekking along this beautiful ridge.

October 05, 2009

Destination : Yogyakarta 28SEP2009


Day 1 @ Yogyakarta : Love at first sight

Finally on the 28th SEP 2009, 2 months after we made our bookings, we were all set to fly “The World’s Best Low-Cost Airline” (Airasia) to visit the famous Borobudur Temple in Yogyakarta and of course to check out other interesting places as well.

Both CK Lim and I have agreed that while in Yogyakarta, we will do the “Anthony Boudain” style travelling. That means savouring local street food and delicacies, visiting local markets and of course checking out other nooks and crannies of Yogyakarta.
Upon boarding our plane, I struck a conversation with a Malaysian student studying in Yogyakarta. She is studying Vet Science in the University Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta and from the whole conversation lasting about 2 hours, I was able to obtain a lot of valuable information about Yogyakarta.

Very soon we landed at Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta or Yogya as the locals passionately call it at about 5pm local time (Yogya is one hour behind Malaysia). Not wanting to take the transport offered by touts at the airport, we walked to the streets outside of the airport vicinity and caught a taxi to our hotel. We paid IDR 40,000 which is about RM12, quite a cheap ride on a Nissan Sentra “taksi” (taxi) to the hotel which is about 8km away. If we have taken the transport from the touts at the airport, it would have cost us IDR 100,000.

At the first glance of the busy hustle and bustle of the people and the various activities as we were travelling from the airport to our hotel, I know I am going to love this place.

Along the way to the hotel we chatted with the taxi driver named Eli, who quickly offered to be our driver cum guide for IDR 500,000 (RM200) a day, all inclusive. So the deal was fixed that he will pick us up the next morning at the hotel.
We reached Cakra Kusuma Hotel in about 20 minutes and checked into a standard but clean room. Quite a reasonable and decent room for the RM80 we paid per night. Immediately after taking a quick shower, CK Lim and I set out to check the streets around our hotel. It was almost 6pm and the sky was already dark in this part of the world. We walked the street in front of the hotel called Jalan Kaliurang (one of the main streets in Yogya) looking for dinner. First we came across a stall selling “es jus buah” (iced fruit juice) and that was a good refresher before dinner. An avocado and a mango juice for only IDR 7,000 (about RM2.80) … really cheap fresh food juices.

Then we came to a “warung” (small restaurant) offering a local food called “bakso” ... noodles with several meat (beef) balls in beef stock. Quite tasty. There are various sauces to add and “cabai” (chilli) to spice it up if you are game for it.

We continue walking south of Jalan Kaliurang and saw on the roadside a “nasi padang” stall with mats on the floor meant for people to sit and have their food. I found out that these stalls are called “lesehan”. You find them everywhere along the streets in Yogya. The food looked absolutely delicious. We asked the lady at the stall and she tried explaining to us the range of food at the stall. Lucky for us, their language is very similar to our Bahasa Malaysia. Plenty of choices for one to mix … very much like our “nasi kandar” … chicken, eggs, tahu (bean curd), tempe (local dish), vegetables and a very popular dish called “gudeg” (jackfruit cooked with local sugar called “gula java”).

We decided to “bungkus” (packed) this tasty looking “nasi padang” and consume it at the comfort of our hotel room. Once back in the hotel, we ate our ‘nasi padang” with a couple of the local Bintang beers. Yummy yum yum … absolutely delicious and no regrets at all!

We continue the rest of the night at the hotel discussing our itinerary for the next day along with some cool Bintang beers. Borobudur tops the list for the next day.

Day 2 @ Yogyakarta : The magnificent Borobudur

Day 2 saw us waking up early and by 7.00am we were at the hotel’s coffee house having our morning coffee. The hotel served a decent buffet spread of local dishes. Nothing fancy but it did fill up our stomachs. Our taxi arrived at about 8.00am as arranged and we started our 45 minutes journey heading to Magelang, Central Java, where the famous Borobudur is situated.

Along the way, we travelled through rural estates of Yogyakarta and passed many rice fields as well corn, tobacco and various vegetables plantations. Alas, from afar we saw Candi (temple) Borobudur as we were approaching the famous site. Armed with information from research done on the internet, I was all excited to explore this famous Buddhist monument. Paying IDR 120,000 per person inclusive of camera and video fees, we were immediately led to the main entrance of Borobudur. Almost immediately one can feel the majestic presence of this magnificent structure. From the information I gathered, Borobudur was a holy place for Buddhist pilgrimage. Buddhist pilgrims come to this monument and begin their journey of learning at the base of the monument and follow a path circumambulating the monument while ascending to the top through the three levels of Buddhist cosmology.

We emulate what the ancient Buddhist pilgrims did, going from one level to the next until the very top. Although we don’t understand any of the stories told by the carvings on the walls but we can definitely appreciate how well all those carvings were done and how brilliantly the monument was constructed by the people more than 1,200 years ago. We spent almost 2 hours at this site and left this magnificent monument feeling amazed.
With our main itinerary achieved, we set off for more adventurous outings. Our driver told us that if we hit the gas, we may be able to arrive at a fishing village called Parangtritis in time to see the fishermen coming back with their loads of fresh seafood. It will be seafood for lunch today. Wasting no time we immediately set off. Again we drove through rural villages and plantations and just more than an hour later we reached the fishing village.

We arrived late and the fishermen have already hauled up their fishes to the nearby market. So we went straight to the market and fresh seafood are abundant everywhere. The price? You won’t believe it. A kilogram of squids, a kilo of prawns and 3 big yellow tails cost us IDR 70,000 (about RM28). We were immediately approached by a local lady offering to cook the seafood for us at her “warung” nearby. Our lunch was confirmed and in no time the seafood was cooked as fresh as you can get it … squids in chilli sauce, “bakar” (grilled) yellow tails and sweet sour prawns with rice and coconut juice to go. That only cost us another IDR 20,000 (RM8). Even though quite simply cooked it was one of the best seafood lunches I had in recent years.

After lunch we head back to Yogya town. Kraton is next on our itinerary. It is the Sultan’s Palace built in the late 18th century. The whole palace sits on a very large piece of land in the centre of Yogya town. The current Sultan of Yogyakarta still lived in this palace so only a small section is opened to the public. Not much to be explored here, just some historical facts about the royal family and some traditional Javanese architecture of the palace.

We spent some time around this place and also check out the nearby streets. Found a street stall selling “es campur gula java” something like our ABC but a lot tastier with coconut milk, fruits, jelly and “gula java” (a local brown sugar).

By the time we leave Kraton, it was already getting dark and we were feeling the muscle strain. So we call it a day and went back to the hotel. After shower we roamed the streets for dinner. Living up to our commitment of “Anthony Boudain” style travelling, we ended up at one of the many “lesehan” where the locals gather along Jalan Kaliurang. Looking at what the locals ordered and checking out the menu, I decided to go for “nasi goreng” local style and CK Lim didn’t mind “nasi padang” again. The food here wasn’t as “happening” as we expected but it did satisfy our empty stomachs. And after dinner we decided to call it an early night.

Day 3 @ Yogyakarta : One very beautiful owl

On the 3rd day we planned to travel the nooks and crannies of Yogya town. And from what we saw the last two days, the best way of seeking out Yogya town is by “becak” (trishaw) and the “kereta kuda” (horse cart). So from the hotel, we took a “becak” ride to the famous Jalan Malioboro … a must see place we were told.

This is a very long street with all the stuffs for tourists … t-shirts, batiks, carvings, souvenirs, hand-made crafts, leather goods, local candies, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it is time to buy some souvenirs for family and friends back home. We spent some time in Jalan Malioboro and after walking from one end to another and making sure that we have enough souvenirs to make everyone happy, it was time to move on to somewhere else.

The next mode of transport will be the “kereta kuda” (horse carts) and one can find many of these horse carts along the street. We found one with a good looking horse and negotiated with the “pak cik” (uncle) to take us around Yogya town for the rest of the day. It will cost us IDR 200,000 (RM80) but we are more than happy to jump on immediately. We were told that our four-legged friend is called Wijhi and she is one of 5 horses in “pak cik’s” stable. We leave it up to “pak cik” and his hard working Wijhi to take us sight-seeing … anywhere and everywhere in Yogya town. Moving along the nooks and crannies of Yogya town provided us with an insight of the everyday lives of the local people. Also from the conversation we had with “pak cik”, we had a better understanding of Yogyakarta and its people.

Weaving through the streets of Yogya town, we came across a street with rows of shops and stalls selling birds …. all sorts of birds as well as other exotic animals like snakes, bats, owls, eagles, colourful frogs, geckos, tortoises, turtles and a wide range of pet fishes. I have never seen so many exotic of animals in one place before apart from our Zoo Negara. I was particularly attracted to a very beautiful baby owl and made enquiries on how to get this bird back to Malaysia. Unfortunately, exotic animals are not allowed to be imported to Malaysia unless you have a special permit. I would love to have that owl for a pet.

We left the “bird street” looking for other places to explore. Then “pak cik” offered to take us to his village to have a look at his 5 horses. We thought that is a good idea and headed straight to his home. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the village and we went straight to the “pak cik’s” house.

There we saw the horses and one young mare was just 4 days old. We stayed for a while and played with the horses. Then headed out to town again and it was getting dark. So we called it a day and took a “becak” straight back to the hotel. Along the way we stop to have dinner at one of the roadside stalls. After a long full day, we were quite exhausted but very satisfied to have seen the most of Yogya town in one day. We slept early knowing that we have just half a day tomorrow in Yogya before flying back to Malaysia.
Day 4 @ Yogyakarta : I will be back !
The last day at Yogya saw us getting up early to check out one of the local morning markets near our hotel. We decided have a light breakfast at the hotel leaving some space in our stomach to accommodate what the market has to offer. We tried some local cakes and candies and were quite pleased with the taste albeit a little too sweet.

There are plenty to fruits and vegetables at the market … some strange looking ones but mostly are familiar fruits and vegetables we can find in Malaysia. The difference is the prize is really cheap. A kilo of avocado is about IDR 5,000 (about RM2). In Malaysia you probably have to pay RM15 per kilo for the same fruit. We try to buy as much as we can carry back home.

We left the market and went to a local travel and tour agency to check out a hiking trip to the popular Gunung Merapi, an active volcano south of Yogyakarta. Before coming to Yogyakarta, we have heard of the mountain from hiking enthusiasts who have hiked up this mountain. We gathered a lot of information on Gunung Merapi for us to plan our next trip to Yogyakarta to hike up this mountain.

By noon we checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the airport. We had a quick lunch at the airport before flying back to Malaysia. We flew home with very fond memories of Yogyakarta and a lot of photos to show.

While writing this, I am already thinking of the hiking trip up to Gunung Merapi. Yogyakarta … I will be back !

September 22, 2009

A long lost friend found !

I must say Facebook is one wonderful online social networking tool. Thanks to Facebook, I managed to find one long lost friend of mine called Philip Waldron in the United Kingdom. Couple of months ago I searched Facebook and must have got at least 50 Philip Waldrons from all over the world. Looking at those who uploaded their photos and other information, I crossed out almost half of the list because they were not who I was searching for. Then I was left with a list of those with the same name but without a photo and did not provide much information. So, I patiently wrote to each of them and ask if they are the same Philip Waldron that used to work in Malaysia in the 1980s and kept my finger crossed.

That was in early July this year. The month went by quietly and come August I received a few messages from people of the same name telling me that they are not the same Philip Waldron I was looking for. I thought August would go by without any good news but then lo and behold right towards the end of August, I received a message from my long lost friend, Philip Waldron. I was so glad. And after a few more emails, we established contact again.

You see, I met Phil (how I called him) when I was employed by a company called SGB Asia (M) Sdn. Bhd. SGB stands for Scaffolding Great Britain if I remember it correctly. He was my boss. I was just a young lacky back in the early 80s and when I was employed by SGB, it was a very good kick-start of my working life. It was also a “big thing” then being able to join a “gwai low” company (“gwai low” means western or foreign in Cantonese). Now we call these companies Multi-National Corporations (MNCs). Not many people, especially those like me with only “O” Level qualifications managed to get a chance to work in these “foreign companies” like SGB. I made my dad the happiest man in the world when he found out that I got a job with a “gwai low” company. And every time when talks to a relative or friend he will tell them “You know, my son works in “gwai low” company”. He was so proud.

I was really glad that I joined SGB and was placed under the guidance of Phil. I remember our office was in Plaza Sungei Wang, one of the happening buildings in KL back then. It was consider a posh place for an office. I worked under Phil mainly assisting him in designing and drawing various formworks for the construction industry. It was Phil who unselfishly taught me all about bending moments of steel, timbers and other support materials. I also learned about concrete weight and pressure, how to calculate and design various formworks for constructing slabs, columns, walls and beams. The construction industry boomed in the 80s and SGB expanded. We then moved into a bigger office in Wisma MPI (I am not sure it is still called Wisma MPI) in Jalan Raja Chulan.

Then another “big thing” happened. With the recommendation and support from Phil, I was given the opportunity to go overseas on an assignment. I was sent to Hong Kong to assist in one of the very famous projects back in those days … the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building (today it is just called HSBC). It was a “big big thing” for me. Again not many people get the opportunity to be sent overseas to work and with all expenses paid by the company plus other special allowances. I was envied by all my friends. It was the first “real" overseas trip for me because before that I have only been to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Thailand.

After completing the overseas assignment, I came back to Malaysia and continue to work with Phil. We were involved in a lot of projects both big and small all over Malaysia. Now when I looked at some of those bridges and buildings in the country, I can proudly tell my kids that I was one of the people involved in building them. And after a couple of decades, I still see one of the scaffolding systems called “Cuplock” being used today in many construction sites.

Unfortunately in the 1986, we were hit hard by recession and the construction industry suffered the worst impact. It was this reason alone that SGB decided to cease operation in this part of the world and started to recall all its expatriates. Phil left Malaysia and went back to UK. I remember he gave me a pair of Rayban sunglasses as a farewell gift. I stayed with SGB until it finally closed down all its operations in Malaysia. I was one of the last to leave the company.

I went on to work in advertising and marketing. But I owe it all to Phil Waldron who taught me the ABCs of formwork and construction that provided me with a good start on my working career. After almost 25 years, I may have forgotten a lot of (if not all) the technicalities of formwork and construction but I will not forget the name Philip Waldron. Like I always quote … “If you have not found someone that you will not forget, then you are not worth remembering”.

A photo of (a very young) me and Philip Waldron

September 16, 2009

The Star's article on trekking

The following article was published by The Star on 31st August 2009. Many thanks to the writer Mr Sam Cheong, for giving this good exposure to the trekking/hiking sport in Malaysia.

Monday August 31, 2009

Great walks and views within an hour of KL’s city centre

AS I recall, Broga was a small town at the border of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. Prior to my first visit to this town 17 years ago, I had never even heard of it until I was sent there to cover news on escaped convicts from the Kajang prison.

Having a breather: Shiek enjoying a break at the second peak.

This is a place surrounded by a series of rugged hills and the Broga town centre is located in a valley. Being a dead end, there are no more settlements beyond the town square. But if you ask around, this place has an interesting past.

Some said the town is haunted by its inhabitants who were massacred by the Imperial Japanese Army in World War Two.

And judging by its obscure location, it is not surprising why this legend lives on. Folklore and myths aside, Broga offers plenty for city dwellers who want a quick getaway.

I recently hooked up with an old friend, Shiek Eng Meng, who told me that there is an interesting trail called Bukit Lalang. “The reward is a scenic view of the Broga valley and a glimpse of Semenyih. You have to see it to believe it,” he said.

Shiek, who also runs a blog on his adventures, added that the location is only an hour’s drive from Subang Jaya.

Two more peaks to go: Michelle enjoying the view at a staging area on the way up.

I checked out his photographs and found that the hill in question was indeed a good location for a weekend hike. And since we live in Subang Jaya, I corresponded with him to arrange a trip there. He said the best days to hike are on Saturdays.

“If you go there on Sundays, the hill is full of hikers,” he said.

The drive from Subang Jaya to Broga took us about 45 minutes. To get there, we used the LDP and SILK highways.

Since I haven’t been to this part of Selangor for a long time, much has changed.

Our destination was the Nottingham University campus and when we passed Semenyih, we made a left turn about 2km away from the town centre.

On top of the world: The writer’s pooches waiting for their turn to descend to the trail head.

By the time we reached the campus area, my dogs were already restless. We pulled over to let them stretch and proceeded to a palm oil plantation.

“Sam, this is the trail head. It takes about an hour to ascend to the peak. First, we will hike through an oil palm plot. As we progress, you will see some tertiary forest. The hike will get a bit tough at this stage,” Shiek said.

My dogs, Sir Naughty and Dame Queenie, were equipped with their specially-made backpacks and a trekking leash.

And since this was unknown territory for me, I came prepared with plenty of water, a pair of hiking boots and a trekking pole.

This minimises injury on the trail especially during a descent from steep terrain. Michelle. my wife, was handling Dame Queenie, our two-year-old female Siberian Husky while I hiked with Sir Naughty, the older dog.

Halfway through the hike, we found an obstacle which was easily cleared by the dogs. But another one ahead proved to be taxing for Dame Queenie.

Our female pooch had to be lifted across a ditch. Our next staging point was a boulder resting on a steep slope. By the time I got there with my pooch, I was drenched in sweat.

I could feel my knees aching and my dog seemed to be panting heavily. Nevertheless, we slowly pushed to the last stage which was an easy walk to the first peak.

Shiek, who is in great shape, was already waiting at the clearing. There, we were greeted by a group of hikers who went there to catch the sunrise.

We spent about 15-minutes there before proceeding to another peak. The Broga hill is like a dragon’s back. There is a series of three peaks and the last one is heavily wooded.

And the view up here is spectacular. We were lucky that it didn’t rain and the weather was excellent for a hike. After we reached the second peak, Michelle and I took turns to give the dogs their drink of water.

Many of the hikers there took turns to snap photographs with our Huskies. After spending about an hour at the peak, Shiek signalled that it was time to leave.

The hike to the trail head took almost an hour. After we concluded our hike, Shiek told me that other than the hills, Broga has a rabbit farm for visitors.

“There is also good food here. There are some restaurants that you can check out on your follow-up visits. And Broga is also the place to be during fruit season,” he said.

Soon after we loaded up the dogs in our car, we parted ways. To sum it up, the hike was excellent and it cost us nothing to carry out such an activity. From Subang Jaya, our petrol cost no more than RM25 on the return trip and the toll was roughly about RM5.60.

For all you Internet savvy day trippers, there are plenty of resources on the Broga hill on blogs and personal websites.

Meanwhile the Lat, Long grid reference for GPS users are: Lat 02 56 830, Long 101 54 050 for the hill peak, while the trail head is located at: Lat 02 56 304, Long 101 54 071. Good luck and happy hiking!


September 01, 2009

Do you believe in ghost?

“Do you believe in ghost? … my schoolmate asked me while we were having our break at the school’s tuckshop when I was in 3rd year primary school. Honestly, my English vocabulary at that time wasn’t that great and I have absolutely no idea what ghost means. But not wanting to “lose face” and admit that I don’t know what he is talking about, I answered almost straight away: “Of course, I have three in my house”. From that day onwards, I noticed that he kept avoiding me. I only knew why some days later when I found out the meaning of ghost and that I actually scared the wits out of him. He really thought I lived with three ghosts.

So why am I talking about ghost? Well, it is the time of the year … the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, when the Chinese observe the Ghost Festival on the 14th day of this month (which falls on the 2nd of September). It is the day when the gates of hell will be opened and the beings of the netherworld will roam the streets for the night. If you have noticed, most channels on TV are already showing ghost movies and scary strange stories. I thought I might as well ride on the same band wagon and share my thoughts on these unearthly beings.

So do I believe in ghosts? I can’t say so. I believe there is something out there, whether one calls it a ghost, a soul, a spirit or whatever you want to call it. You may not necessary see them but sometimes you can feel them, smell them and sense that there are around. I believe there is something because I have actually experienced it once.

My one time experience with these things was in the early 90s when I was working with an American company. As I remember it, I have to stay back late in the office to finish up the work with my boss. I can’t remember if there was anyone else in the office besides the two of us. We were about to wrap things up when my boss walked pass my cubicle as he was going to the washroom. I was busy packing up things when my boss passed my cubicle again going back to his room. I then notice that there were two fair complexion guys wearing yellowish dothi (Indian clothing) type clothing following him. At a glance, the two guys seem a bit odd but I thought they were his friends and continue to pack up my things getting ready to leave the office. Later my boss came out from his room and asked me if I am ready to leave the office. I said I am ready to go and then I asked him what about his two friends. He was a bit startled and asked me what I was talking about. It was only then it struck me that something was not right. I told him I saw two guys followed him into his room. Immediately we knew there was something strange. Without further conversation, we left the office. I drove straight home. I did not know how I managed to do it with my legs trembling like crazy. It did not get any better until the next day.

So, did I see ghosts? Apparently not, I was told later that the two guys I saw were actually some sort of “soldiers”. They were summoned via a Chinese belief which is widely practised by many business entities to provide certain “services”. There was really nothing to be afraid of. Whatever it is, a ghost, a soul or a spirit, it is up to you to believe. Anyway, I didn’t stay late in the office anymore.

A friend of mine has what we call “yum yeong ngan” in Cantonese (yin and yang eyes). He is able to see these unearthly "things" or "beings". I heard a lot of very strange stories from him. He told me that if you really want to see these unearthly beings, you can. When you are alone, in a hotel room or a cinema toilet or some spooky places, you can sense, feel or smell that something is present. You may even catch a glimpse of it at the corner of your eyes. These beings will always avoid contact with human but if you are curious enough to seek them out, purposely look around and follow their trail, then they won’t avoid you. They will appear. So if you don’t want to see any of these beings, it is better to just ignore it, he advised.

I have heard a lot of ghost stories. If you ask me what is my view, I repeat what I said earlier … call it whatever you want … ghosts, ghouls, spirits, souls, demons or pontianaks, I believe there is something out there. Am I scared of them? Oh YES of course and I will avoid them. But then again I remember what my dad once said: "Why should you be scared of the things from the netherworld? Are they really trying to harm you? You should be more afraid of the living, smiling people of your own world who may be sitting next to you now, already scheming up something sinister".


August 11, 2009

I love Marketing

I used to be a Marketing person. I did not start out as one but it was always in mind to be in Marketing. I started out in advertising and production work. After several years, I made a career change and join an MNC as a Marketing Executive. I stayed in Marketing since the early 90s until I left my previous job as a senior manager. Why Marketing? Maybe you have heard of this popular phrase … “Marketing people are the “rah rah” boys whereas Sales do all the running and Operation gets all the shit.” The rest of the company gets to watch all the “hoo hahs”. Or some may put it this way … Sales people are sitting in the front of the bus getting whatever that are coming straight at them (be it good or bad … mostly bad) whereas Operation people are sitting at the back of the church doing all the boring stuffs and Marketing people are always at the centre of attraction enjoying the limelight. And again, the rest of the company watch all the “hoo hahs”.

So, you see why I love Marketing? Marketing people gets all the good stuffs. And there is more … Marketing people have authority and power. They probably have the largest spending budget in the company. They have in their hands the big A&P dollars to spend and this is why you see so many people running after them … suppliers, agencies, media owners, event managers and a lot of those ABCs (Assistant Balls Carrier).

The question is … “Should Marketing managers alone be given the full authority in deciding the where marketing budget goes to?” Well, good and bad with the Marketing managers having such authority to award contracts, production works, advertising retainers, media buys or sponsorships that is millions of dollars worth. There are good managers who are fair and square in open tenders adhering to proper guidelines and procedures in awarding jobs and contracts to suppliers. Then there are also those to have vested interest in “under-the-table” deals, kickbacks and personal interests in whatever jobs and contracts they gave to their cronies. This abuse is happening everyday in many companies.

I had the opportunity to worked with a Swedish car manufacturer and I must say they do have a very good procedure of monitoring the awarding of contracts, tenders and jobs to suppliers, not just by the Marketing managers but from every department of the company. The procedure involved a few key people who each must provide their approval in an open evaluation and comparison of all key components in A&P contracts, tenders and jobs before the they were finally awarded. Key components involved were cost, quantity, quality, concept, expertise, company’s background, timing, reliability, credibility, testimonials and deliverables. All these were cross-compared and justified accordingly before an approval was given by each key people involved. Apart from that, there was also something called SRM (Suppliers’ Relationship Management) which ensured that all suppliers get an equal share of jobs and amount of contracts were divided accordingly. There was no one single supplier that get a lot more jobs that the others.

As a Marketing manager with the company, I must say it was a bit of a struggle at times going through this procedure but it was certainly a very cost efficient, effective and productive formula to monitor large A&P spend. It provided me with a strong understanding of “check and balance” on spending when I moved on later to join other companies.

It is my personal opinion that there must be some sort of procedure to run “check and balance” on whatever spending by whichever department in a company. To avoid abuse, it cannot be only one manager that holds the authority to decide who gets the contract or tender. Many will agree and many will disagree with me on this. I wonder who will disagree?


July 14, 2009

Another peak conquered

Many are familiar with the Klang Gate Ridge. As you drive along Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2) passing Melawati, you can see the whole stretch of the ridge. It looks like a back bone of a large fossilised creature. From Google Earth, you can see the whole ridge from a bird eye’s view. One side of the range is facing the hustle bustle side of KL and the other side is facing the serene Klang Gate Dam. What a contrast! One cannot trek from one end on the top of the ridge to the other end because it is split up by deep ravines and valleys. If you look at the whole Klang Gate Ridge, basically you can split it up into 3 sections. On the left is the very popular section (aka Bukit Tabur) where you find a lot of trekkers during weekends. This is the same section where the 2 doctors fell to their death not too long ago.

Then there is what I call the mid section where trekkers access it via the main water pipes that run out from Klang Gate Dam and there is a small river running across. This section is not as popular as the left section but still you find some adventurous trekkers on this part of the ridge.

And lastly, the extreme right section (almost near the National Zoo side), which is the highest of the whole range.

After trekking both the left section and the mid section of the Klang Gate Ridge numerous times, a small group of us decided to tackle the extreme right section. We do not know of anyone who have trekked this section so we did our own recce and found a way to access this section.

So on the morning of July 11, 2009, four of us, myself (EM Shiek), CK Lim, ML Lim and newcomer Edry Wong packed our trekking gears to conquer this highest point of the Klang Gate Ridge. To get there we have to go to the Rapid KL bus depot in Melawati. Beside the bus depot, there is a small road that leads into a new housing development. Currently the land is being cleared. Across this open land there is a private gravel road that leads into an orchard. This private gravel road is about 1.5km long. We can’t drive into this private orchard so we parked our car aside and walked into the orchard.

View of the highest peak of the Klang Gate Ridge from the clearing of a housing development. The gravel road on the right leads to the orchard.

The gravel road that leads to the orchard.

View of the peak from inside of the orchard

We walked into the orchard and met two Indonesian men who were employed by the orchard owner to look after the private 30 acres of land. We brought a carton of eggs for them as a token to allow us to allow to go through the orchard.

We walked pass the orchard and headed into the small forest at the base of the ridge that we intend to trek. Initially we saw a good visible trail most probably left by people working in the orchard. After about 500m, the trail ended. From here we started to cut and clear a new trail to trek up this ridge. It was tough trekking up this ridge. We can’t go straight up. First we have to go thru a valley to the other side of the ridge facing the lake. From there we then move to the right along the side of the ridge slowly ascending as we move. We walked all the way heading towards the National Zoo side. Of course we dropped papers as we trek up so that we can follow the same trail out when we descend.

ML Lim (front) and CK Lim slowly cutting out a trail amongst the thick vegetation

On all fours carefully trekking up the rough terrain
For 3 long hours, we were faced with tough slippery terrain, stubborn bushes, thorny plants, swarms of mosquitoes, troops of ants and various tricky obstacles as we trek our way up the ridge. Finally we managed to cut and clear a trail all the way up to the highest peak of the Klang Gate Ridge. On the very top, the shrubs, bushes and tree branches were quite low. As we move along the top of the ridge, we have to stoop down and walk carefully. View of KL city and the lake were blocked by the overgrown bushes and plants. Only in a few areas on the top of the ridge, one can have a clear view of KL city and the serene lake.

Newcomer Edry Wong making his way like a seasoned trekker

In some areas, we have to use ropes to help us negotiate our way while ascending and descending
Even though we were bruised (by the stubborn bushes and thorns) and bitten (by mosquitoes and insects), we were very happy to make it to the peak. The sense of achievement was absolutely wonderful. Looking at the overgrown vegetation at the top of this section of the ridge, we can say that people have not trek up this peak for a very long time. We were glad to place our footprints on it again.

CK Lim, Edry Wong and ML Lim at the peak

View of the lake from the peak

ML Lim, myself & CK Lim at the peak. The other sections of the ridge are at the back.
We spent about an hour at the peak to savour our achievement and then our stomachs were telling us it is time to descend to look for a good meal. The descent was a lot more dangerous, tricky and tiring as we were all left with very little energy. At a few points of the trail, the terrain was quite steep and slippery. I slipped and suffered a deep gash on my leg. Though a bit painful, I was still able walk without assistance. We followed the paper trail that we created while coming in and finally lo and behold, we made it out safely.

Descended safe and sound albeit tired with bruises and scratches

Edry Wong having a cool fresh shower. The cool water is from a nearby stream.

Absolutely tired and with painful toes, we walked to the hut where the two orchard caretakers stay. They were kind enough to let us shower with the cool fresh water they collected from a nearby stream. After a good cool shower we were like renewed immediately and fully charged again. We rested for a while and then make our way out of the orchard. The two caretakers even asked us to help ourselves to the rambutans that were growing in abundance on the orchard. So, like little school children again, we were running around the rambutan trees in no time. Had a feast and after that we headed out of the orchard looking for food.

We help ourselves to the rambutans in the orchard (with permission of course)
Somehow someone suggested McDonald’s Value Meal and without any hesitation we headed straight to the nearest McDonald in Melawati. It was really a value for money meal as we all took full advantage of the free re-fill of the soft drink. A Big Mac, large fries and a few re-fills of soft drink for just over RM8 (including tax) … what a bargain!

After that we headed home with a full stomach and a good trekking story to tell our friends.

Remember the gash I suffered? Maybe I did not take good care of the wound properly. A day later it was infected and swelled up. Quite painful and I could hardly walk. So, it was time to pay a visit to Dr Lee (my good family’s doctor). An injection and a course of antibiotics solved the problem. I am already up and hopping while writing this with a good feeling knowing that we have trekked the highest peak of the whole Klang Gate Ridge.