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".