Sunday, November 30, 2008

Morgan's Wedding

Yesterday we attended Morgan's wedding service and tea serving ceremony in Petaling Jaya. Morgan is the first nephew on my wife's side who is married so we went to support the events. The morning weather was nice and cooling as we drove to St Paul Church, Petaling for the blessing service at 11am. This was my first visit to this Anglican church and I am quite impressed by everything. Maha and Wye Yew, Morgan's parents were resplendent and smart and the preacher Rev. Fred David gave a warming and caring sermon. Morgan's sister, Maria played the piano while cousins Sarah and Esther provided songs to enliven the occasion. Following the service we had a simple buffet lunch at the church's hospitality hall before we adjourned to Kong Wah (my brother-in-law) house to await the tea serving ceremony.

Tea serving is a Chinese tradition to both welcome in the bride (in this case, Por Lin) as well as for the couple to acknowledge the various family members on both parents sides of the groom. The ceremony include the giving of cash gifts and momentos to the wedded couple. Another tradition that was invoked was the presenting of a full roast pig by the groom side to the bride's parents who, after removing the mid section, returned the head and rear sections to the groom side.

Below are a few pictures of the wedding events. Tonight a formal wedding dinner will be held at the Banker's Club, Kuala Lumpur. A similar event will be held a week later in Ipoh that we will be attending.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Pearl of Seremban 2

Seremban 2 is a new township carved out of virgin rubber lands on the opposite side of the North South Highway from the original Seremban town. It is developed by RB Land (now IJM Land) and is the equivalent to Subang Jaya in Klang Valley. But unlike Subang Jaya whose lake is in a shamble, and at one time nearly taken over for commercial development, Seremban 2 has a pristine and much sort after City Park that is ideal for family outings, walks, children recreation and social meetings. Inside the park is a man made lake with many fishes that visitors are encouraged to feed at fixed hours. As a family we enjoy going to City Park for walks and fish feedings.

This morning Wai Har and I decided to take advantage of the fresh air and coolness to walk in the park. We spent 25 mins walking briskly before returning home to rest, bath and prepare to leave for Petaling Jaya to attend Morgan's wedding service in church. Below are some pictures of the Park which is well patronized by people of all ages, races and backgrounds. They were taken one evening when the park was packed with people. I am proud of City Park and would bring visitors there.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Welcome Visitors!

I set up this blog not to gain heavy traffic. However, I am happy to be getting an average of 5-8 visitors a day from all over the world. Although nearly 80% are from within Malaysia (I've set my own browsers to be ignored in the metering) I am thrilled that the other 20% came from all over the world. Whoever you are let me welcome you to my personal reflections and sharing. Please follow my blogs if you wish, or leave a comment after your reading. This tells me that I have real people enjoying my blogs. Take care!

HDL Cholesterol and Exercising

2 posts ago I made reference to this correlation and I am exploring this by checking out what the Wikipedia has to say. I am interested because my doctors said my HDL is borderline eventhough I am not at risk.

High-density lipoproteins (HDL) is one of the 5 major groups of lipoproteins (chylomicrons, VLDL, IDL, LDL, HDL) which enable lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides to be transported within the water based blood stream. In healthy individuals, about thirty percent of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL.

It is hypothesized that HDL can remove cholesterol from atheroma within arteries and transport it back to the liver for excretion or re-utilization—which is the main reason why HDL-bound cholesterol is sometimes called "good cholesterol", or HDL-C. A high level of HDL-C seems to protect against cardiovascular diseases, and low HDL cholesterol levels (less than 40 mg/dL) increase the risk for heart disease. When measuring cholesterol, any contained in HDL particles is considered as protection to the body's cardiovascular health, in contrast to "bad" LDL cholesterol.

Raising HDL

Pharmacological therapy to increase the level of HDL cholesterol includes use of fibrates and niacin. Consumption of pharmacologic doses of niacin can increase HDL levels by 10–30%, and it is the most powerful agent currently available to increase HDL-cholesterol. A randomized clinical trial demonstrated that such treatments can significantly reduce atherosclerosis progression and cardiovascular events. However, niacin products sold as "no-flush", i.e. not having side effects such as "niacin flush", do not contain free nicotinic acid and are therefore ineffective at raising HDL, while products sold as "sustained release" may contain free nicotinic acid, but "some brands are hepatotoxic"; therefore the recommended form of niacin for raising HDL is the cheapest, immediate release preparation.

In contrast, while the use of statins is effective against high levels of LDL cholesterol, it has little or no effect in raising HDL cholesterol.
Torcetrapib, a promising new drug developed by Pfizer to raise HDL by inhibition of cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP), was terminated after a greater percentage of patients treated with torcetrapib-Lipitor combination died compared with patients treated with Lipitor alone. Merck is currently researching a similar molecule called anacetrapib.

Diet and Lifestyle
Certain changes in lifestyle can have a positive impact on raising HDL levels:

Aerobic exercise
Weight loss
Smoking cessation
Removing trans fatty acids from the diet
One drink of alcohol a day or less yields higher HDL-C levels, more so in women than men. HDL transports cholesterol to the liver and cholesterol is known to have a protective effect on the cell membrane. It is likely that this reflects the liver's need for more cholesterol to protect itself from the alcohol.
Adding soluble fiber to diet
Using supplements such as omega 3 fish oil
Limiting intake of dietary fat to 30–35% of total calories.

My comments:
1. I am on statins drug that help lower my LDL cholesterol but that, as mentioned above, has no effect on raising my HDL.
2. I hardly exercise so this is one area I definitely need to look into.
3. I am marginally obese and should watch my diet as I tend to snack.
4. Thankfully I don't smoke and drink very occasionally. Actually I ought to drink a little more regularly to raise my HDL-C!
5. I have begun drinking veggie juice and take fresh fruits quite regularly.
6. My daily supplement include 2 tabs of wild salmon fish oil rich in omega-3.
7. I have no control over my daily fat intake; in fact I enjoy eating freely but not excessively.

Overal Rating:
I think I stand a good chance of raising my HDL-C if I attend to the shortcomings commented. My next blood test is on 10 months so I have time to work up my good cholesterol.

Developing a Viable Routine

Despite the fact the I keep a daily journal and religiously top up our pills boxes for daily consumption on weekends I have not been able to develop and follow a sustainable daily routine that include some exercises and time for self development and family. Somehow the computer always take priority over everything, including reading my daily papers, and the Bible, a passion I lost many years ago that I now long to rediscover and apply. The year is swiftly coming to an end in just a month's time and I really want to draft a viable routine to live by. Here is my proposition, for the record, so I will hold myself accountable in future years.

Morning Session
1. Light exercise e.g. walking, cycling machine, gardening
2. Read newspapers
3. Internet access - emails, blogs, news

Evening Session
1. Television/Family time
2. Internet access - emails, blogs, news
3. Financial management
4. Bible meditation

Italicized activities are what I need to give some priorities. I will revisit this issue in 3 months time to assess the level of discipline I have achieved or otherwise.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

10 Commandments for the Over 50s?

Today I received a forwarded email listing the Ten Commandments for those over 50. Here is the list with my comments following.

Ten Commandments for Those Over Fifty Years Old
1. Focus on enjoying people, not on indulging in or accumulating material things.
2. Plan to spend whatever you have saved.
You deserve to enjoy it and the few healthy years you have left. Travel if you can afford it. Don't leave anything for your children or loved ones to quarrel about. By leaving anything, you may even cause more trouble when you are gone.

3. Live in the here and now, not in the yesterdays and tomorrows. It is only today that you can handle. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not even happen.
4. Enjoy your grandchildren (if blessed with any) but don't be their full time baby sitter. You have no moral obligation to take care of them. Don't have any guilt about refusing to baby sit anyone's kids, including your own grandkids. Your parental obligation is to your children. After you have raised them into responsible adults, your duties of child-rearing babysitting are finished. Let your children raise their own off-springs.
5. Accept physical weakness, sickness and other physical pains. It is a part of the aging process. Enjoy whatever your health can allow.
6. Enjoy what you are and what you have right now. Stop working hard for what you do not have. If you don't have them, it's probably too late.
7. Enjoy your life with your spouse, children, grandchildren and friends. People, who truly love you, love you for yourself, not for what you have. Anyone who loves you for what you have will just give you misery.
8. Forgive and accept forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others. Enjoy peace of mind and peace of soul.
9. Befriend death. It's a natural part of the life cycle. Don't be afraid of it. Death is the beginning of a new and better life. So, prepare yourself not for death but for a new life with the Almighty.
10. Be at peace with your Creator. For ... He is all you have after you leave this life. .............

Commandment 1
We need to be balanced in our senior life. There are not enough people for you to enjoy but we can certainly enjoy the Internet, the movies, playing shares, buying properties, etc

Commandment 2
Spend whatever we have saved? That is if we know we have x years left to live and we have y ringgit so we know how much to spend in an average year. And we also know how much to set aside for medical bills, that is if we know when we are going to have cancer, heart attack or stroke. The 'commandment' is ridiculous. It should have been rephrased as 'Do not hoard your savings for your children but rather spend them as much as you can as a reward of your diligence in building up your family'. Personally I cannot try to spend off as much of my savings even if I like to, and have a fortune to spend, because I am basically a saver than a spender. My children will be happy to hear this for they will inherit my wealth because of my frugal living.

Commandment 3
Live here and now. I take this to means live for today, forget the past and leave tomorrow to itself as it will become today soon. Unfortunately I need my past as much as I need my future to keep me happy for today. That is why I blog this because I treasure what has gone by and am reliving much of it today because I find it precious. Yes, I live for today as it comes and plan as much as I can for tomorrow. If we do not plan then there is no fun in living, is there?

Commandment 4
Enjoy your grandchildren (if you have) but do not become full time babysitters. The writer probably is an independent modern thinking person who believe in a very compartmentalized role for each generation. You are a parent only once so don't try too hard to be the same to your grandchildren, I think this is the message given. Unfortunately I disagree (and my wife DEFINITELY disagree) to this 'commandment' simply because we consider looking after our grandchildren (as we are physically able to take care of them, otherwise in a supervisory role) a social responsibility and a loving response to our children. In giving to them we are preparing ourselves to be taken cared of by them in our very old age. I think this is a fair response. In short, grandparents who choose to dissociate themselves from the lives of their grandchildren may not find them as close as they ought to. Most certainly I would not like our role to be fulltime like 24/7. Our physically condition and health will most certainly deny us this ability. Furthermore we deserve free time and rest for ourselves. So I can only partially agree to this commandment.

Commandment 5
Amen to this. We must accept that nothing last forever. Our bodies deteriorate with time so our minds must accept this and have the perseverance and tolerance to bear with the pain and inconveniences that our ageing bodies force upon us.

Commandment 6
I agree with this thinking. I am disappointed that some people continue to struggle with their visions to achieve something great at an age when they ought to settle down and begin to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Maybe they have unfulfilled dreams or do not have enought 'fruits' to enjoy since they have many commitments to meet.

Commandment 7
Agreed completely.

Commandment 8
Absolutely. In our old age we must clean out any past miseries and put our emotional and spiritual health in order. I would not want to leave this world feeling I have unresolved matters with my family and friends.

Commandment 9
The best commandment of all. Only if we believe that there is life after death, and work towards a better life after death, can we deal with death as a door of opportunity, not a window of fear. In this regards I am glad I believe in Jesus Christ as the Saviour of my life.

Commandmant 10
I have always wanted to see my God smile upon me when I die, and to close my eyes and go into His peace and joy. While I may leave my family behind I know that my soul will go into a new land where I have no physically sufferings and where my life will be perfect and free from any sins and temptations.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Healthy Regime

I am not writing about my lifestyle which is still very sedentary and I ought to be spending more time outdoor walking and doing light workouts. It seems it help build up the HDL Cholesterol as no other ways can. I am writing about my privilege of being cared for by a responsible lecturer, an associate professor of the International Medical University, Seremban Campus, attached to the Family Medicine Unit who lectures medical students and provide patient care training to them. I am a 'guinea pig' who, every 4 months or so, on my followup visit, gets my medical history quizzed by a year 3 medical student who will then present it to the lecturer in the presence of his fellow classmates. His presentation will be critiqued so that he and the rest of the students will learn how to write better case reports and be better doctors when they graduate.

This morning I reported myself diligently at 10am to the clinic but my actual session with the lecturer and the students was delayed until 11.30am. It is funny that every 4 months I would be repeating myself to a different medical student of my medical history but I know that I am doing it for the good of helping these students acquire a good practical traning. Who knows, one of them may one day be diagnosing my ailments!

The arrangement began in October 2005 when I was approached by a medical students if I would accept an invitation to join the program. I accepted without hesitation for 2 reasons: I will be helping and I will be under preferential care. In both I am not disappointed. So far the medications prescribed for my health conditions have worked well. I am paying literally nothing. The consultation costs RM5 per visit. The drugs and any tests ordered come free. Previously, when I was treated at private clinics I had to pay quite a sum.

Overall I am happy with this win-win arrangement.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another Television Appearance?

When RTM2 suggested an interview for their Kugapai Harapan TV magazine for people with disabilities my first impression was that there will be no voice or video recordings, just photography. Turns out I was wrong. I had prepared answers in Bahasa Malaysia to their questions that I plan to read out. This morning when the filming crew came I was 'dismayed' that it will again be a video recording much like the one done by RTM1 for their Fitrah Kasih program that was broadcasted earlier this month.

I wasn't nervous (not at my age!) but I resigned to doing the best I can in expressing myself in a language I can carry but not very proficiently. The interviewer made the 10 minutes session easy for me and I rated my 'performance' this time somewhat better than the RTM1's interview. Whether this is true or not I will have to wait for the actual TV broadcast which is not confirmed as yet but should be sometimes around March next year.

I don't yearn for such publicities but for the sake of promoting the work of PBSNS I guess I have to do what is best.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Unusual but Welcome Quietness

We awoke to a fresh new morning without anyone else at home but the two of us. Something retired people ought to have regularly as it is our due for spending more than half our lives building up our careers, saving for the family and our future, and positioning ourselves for a stable and relaxing retirement. The grandchildren are not with us. Victoria is back in PJ and Ling is spending a weekday with mommy, a gift to Po po for working so hard and to rest a bit.

Today we shall spend the time catching up on things we need to do, such as going to the banks, seeing doctors, marketing, etc. It is not an exactly free day without a thing to do. I would not want my life to be like this though. Even in retirement I'd like to be doing work to pass time and I am thankful to have the ability to move about, think clearly. My eyesight though is deteriorating somewhat with astigmatism worsening. I accept such ageing signs with grace but pray that I shall not be a victim of serious diseases like cancer or stroke.

How do I describe a relaxing a casual day? Perhaps the picture above says it all.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Fishes Asked, 'Where's Me Food?'

We play this game with Victoria each time we hurry her to get ready to go to the City Park to feed the fishes. Today we are sending her back to PJ to be with her parents. She doesn't want to leave as our home is sort of holiday to her where we treat her like a princess. Perhaps she remembers the 2+ years she spent growing up with us. We are guilty of spoiling her but we thought since a person is only a child once in her lifetime let's not deprive her that happy recall.

Victoria wasn't feeling particularly well this past week. Her cough and flu did not ameliorate inspite of the medication she has been taking since a week ago. Perhaps her physical condition is weak so she need more healthy food, cleaner environment and a happier spirit. We want to participate in her recovery. And be inside her happy memories.

This morning she reminded us that we have the bread crumbs to feed the fishes. We hurriedly prepare her and drove to City Park, have a simple and relaxing picnic under the clear skies and windy environment of pork porridge for her before we proceeded to a gazebo nearby to chuck the crumbs into the gaping mouths of the carps and some tortoise awaiting their belated breakfast.

Mission accomplished we went back to get ready for the PJ trip around lunchtime. The past week for Victoria has been a happy one where we saw her blossoming and showing her cheeky and confident self. I always believe in this: we should always help another person to develop his or full potential through encouragement, love and opportunities. Below are pictures of the City Park lake, the picnic and Victoria in Po Po's arm feeding the fishes.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Victoria's Park aka Baby City Park

When Victoria was staying with us (until January 2008) we sometimes bring her to a playground near our house that was quite secluded and under utilized. We nicknamed the place Victoria's Park since she seemed to be the only kid visiting it.

This morning I felt I should bring her there again as it has been almost a year since she last visited. On the drive she commented it is a baby City Park. City Park is a much bigger public park a little further away that we often bring her to let her feed the carps in the man-made lake. Prior to any such visit we would save and dice up bread crumbs and let Victoria throw over the bridge into the gaping mouths of the hungry fishes below. Some times the fishes won't come up so I would explain that they were already full with too much food thrown down earlier by other park visitors.

I asked why baby City Park? She replied, "Because there is no fish there" which is true. When we got there the sun was quite high so I allowed her a spin on the swing, the slides and the see saw until she herself volunteered to end the visit, saying it was hot.

My baby Victoria has certainly grown up and know how to converse intelligently on most subjects. Today's trip was an opportunity for gung gung (maternal grandpa) to bond with her. Here's a pix of Victoria on the see saw.

Ling is Finally Walking

My grand daughter no. 2 finally decided that it is time to get upright. She has been a great crawler for several months and had refused to plant her feet on the floor when she was a year old. Thereafter she allow herself the rare thrills of trying to stand up and then collapsing back to her crawling position. In the past month she began crawling a little more clumsily so I remarked that she will soon begin to stand up and toddle a bit. Sure enought some 2 weeks ago she achieved the crowning success and she snickered and clapped her hands as if in self praise. We were of cause very supportive and encouraged her to do some more. But she disappointed us as in not granting us an encore. The frequency of standing up on her own and staying up for several seconds increased and soon she began to walked a few steps on her own, fall, got up, tried again, fall and tried again.

Ling is a very persistent and 'never-say-die' sort of baby. It can be a great trait or it can be troublesome especially when she becomes stubborn. Recently she allowed us to shod the slippers handed down by her cousin sister Victoria and she stumbled about happily with one of us on standby in case she fall or hurt herself. Lately she took upon herself to climb up a stool to get to the sofa set or bed. For the next few months we have to be very watchful as she can be injury prone. Here's a pix of Ling happily fumbling wearing her slippers. Well, we tried getting her to wear the birthday shoes we bought but she sort of told us, "I am not ready yet". When she is we will bring her to the City Park nearby for her first walkabout outdoor.

A Handful Experience

Over the past few days the house has been a tussle ground for our two grandchildren ages 3+ and 1+ who vie for the attention of their grandma (po po) who had brought them up since birth. There is no comparison when it comes to the energy levels of kids and the elderlies (we consider ourselves in this category since we had just entered the 60s). I was of course caught in the 'crossfire' since without a maid I had to stand in to take over one when both decided to zoom in on my dear wife. Sometimes she has to carry both or decide which one to give preference to. Helping out is not the issue. It is that I find it very tiring, especially with my back condition, to be stressed by keeping up with their never-ending movements. Every second we can get away to go to the rest room or do dish wash or other chores is precious!

At such tender age, children already possess possessiveness traits. I guess it is inborn, a survival instinct to hold on to what is good for them. We hold no preference as both are dear to us so it has been quite a handful experience. I am sure parents dealing with sibling rivalry in the same situation will face a test of patience and physical endurance. Having a maid will not necessarily solve the problem since this is essentially an attention-seeking problem that only the parent involved can resolve.

In times like this it feels good not to be the one parent (or grandparent) that the child favors. But it is of course unfair to him/her not to be helped out.

Note: above picture for illustration only.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Good Ol' See Saw

I spotted this picture from the Internet and it reminded me of my adolescent years when I'd enjoy see sawing with a friend. It was such great fun especially when we bump each other up and down.

I am too old to be playing on this but when I go to the park near my house with my grand daughter she'd run toward one of the see saws and got up. Either my wife or myself would sit on the other end to help her ride the see saw. Being heavier we could not sit down completely on the plank. It was a joy to see the little girl enjoy the ride as I did so many years ago.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Juicing for Health and Vitality

Since we discovered the benefits of juicing 2 months ago we have been making juice regularly to drink. We have a National MJ-68M Juicer that is very handy in making a few glass of tasty juice in a matter of minutes.

In the beginning we would buy carrots, cucumber, green capsicum, small bitter gourds, celery, pineapple and green apple to juice in whatever combination we like. Occasionally I would add in a slice of ginger root. For additional taste we also squeeze fresh orange juice and add in. Initially I would make the juice real concentrated but eventually discovered it actually taste better when diluted with a quarter its volume with drinking water. With or without ice the juice taste refreshingly nice.

I don't quite like too much capsicum, bitter gourd or cucumber as they change the flavors somewhat. My favorite combination is green apple with celery and carrot. In season I love to add some pineapple as well.

Believe it or not, since I started drinking a glass of juice almost daily either in the morning before food or after dinner I feel my bowel moves more regularly and my tummy more trimmed. More importantly the general feeling of more vitality. I am not particular about the science of efficient absorption of the juice or its impact on the digestive process. I just love the positive vibes juicing gives me.

Go juice up some fruit and veggie and enjoy a more enriching life. To the elderly this is a really great option since the intake of fibre, minerals, vitamins and carbohydrates in the juice is not only easier but also faster. Great for those with weak or few teeth.

After each round of juicing I would clean up and throw away the discarded skin and pulp as fertilizers. Seriously there is no reason why some of them, especially celery and apple pulps cannot be 'recycled' into our food as they add more fibre to aid our digestion process.

Grandchildren Visit

Year end school holiday has begun. It was a good time for Victoria who was enrolled in a playschool in Petaling Jaya to come visit us. Poor Victoria, since she was diagnosed with severe allery to dust mites, wheat flour, eggs, seafood, chicken meat, milk and some other common food, her diet became restrictive and we have to be careful in what we put before her. Happily she loves tosai which is OK so this morning I made a special trip out to buy a packet for her. Here she is enjoying her tosai with dhall.

The Trees Got Cut Too!

The two mango trees outside the gates were growing too big and tall and created obstructions of sight as well as crowding the overhead electric cables. Today was just as good as any time to call in a contractor with a lorry to saw away the excess branches and prune off twigs that overhang and obstruct traffic.

The smaller mango tree was removed completely as the soil cannot sustain two fruit trees so close to one another. The job lasted 2 hours and cost me RM180. Because there were red ant nests on the trees, the job was made harder so the money was well spent. Here's how the tree looks like after it was trimmed.

A Necessary Service

What you see are 2 days old garbage and garden refuse from my house. Some could be from a neighbor's I can't tell. What I feel reassured is the waste remover to my area has been very regular in coming on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to clean up to rubbish we bag and put inside the refuse bin. Early in the morning about 7.30 - 8.00am, a worker would come by to take out the rubbish and combine the bags from a few nearby houses in one spot. An hour or so later a truck will come by with another team of workers who pick and throw the bags into the collection bin.

Victoria, my first grandchild, used to be very excited when the big blue truck rumble by. Now that she is older that excitement is lost. She has gone to other things, like watching the grasscutters mow and trim the grass.

Our other household waste like newspapers and magazines, aluminium cans and glass bottles are set aside and sold to the 'Old Newspaper' man whose lorry would rumble by usually on weekends, preceded by cries of 'Old newspapers! old newspapers!' from a cassette recording played through a speaker over the vehicle. Right now we can still get token money from the sale. In time to come we may have to give them away for free, or even for a small fee, to keep our home neat and uncluttered.

A Belated Lawncut

Just like my hair that require a cut every 45 days or so my garden needs to be maintained as well. So it is with much chagrin when the gardener I called to service my garden did not show up and subsequent calls went unanswered. That's terrible service! It reminded me of my long standing gardener who, after working on my gardens for almost 3 years, quit for no good reason. Was I paying him less? Did I not pay cash immediately after his work was finished? I believe I had been a really good paymaster and an undemanding client. Yet, he chose to drop me and allow this business to be taken by someone else. Maybe he thought he has more than enought clients to be careless in not retaining the good ones.

Yesterday I decided to call a new gardener whom I knew since we moved into our present house 9 years ago but did not use his service all because I had my own lawn mower and wanted to cut the grass myself (my health was better then). It was around 2005 after I felt my spondylosis problem has reach a point that I personally could not upkeep my own garden that I begun looking for a gardener.

Well, this gardener M promised to be at my house at between 8.00 - 8.30am. True to his words, he came with 2 of his men. I like his service. More importantly I like his attitude towards his clients. As a person in the business of manufacturing goods for sale I can understand how terribly important it is to keep your customers happy. Especially in times like global recession customers can leave for the slightest excuse.

My lawn was cut 2 weeks late but it looked pretty neat today. In 45 days time I shall call up M to give my lawn a new cut.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And Victoria Enjoyed Every Moment

Today is the morning after we returned from our Genting 2D1N holiday. It was more for the children but we need to cultivate their relationship more so at this young age than later when they become teens and have their own priorities.

The Awana Genting where we stayed is perfect for families. Each Double Deluxe room has 2 queen size beds that is perfect for a small family. We took 2 adjacent rooms. The resort did not have much recreational grounds as it was built as a golf resort but we had complimentary cable car passes to ride 3.4 km up to Genting Highland's theme parks. It was Victoria's first such ride. Last year when Wai Har and I brought her to the Awana we missed the exit to the cable car station and did not made it to the parks.

We could feel Victoria's exuberance while she was with us. She really enjoyed every moment, include rides on the merry-go-round, train and monorail. Because she has allergy issues we took pain to select safe food for her. Her mom has prepared safe meals for her to eat as well.

School holidays dawn this weekend and we will be seeing Victoria again. Ling at almost 15 months is showing signs of possessiveness. Isn't this a normal development? But Victoria is rather magnanimous about it. As a little girl just 3 years and half she is rather matured, gentle and kind-hearted and we love her to bits.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Time Out with Family

Family provides a safe haven and I am a family man who loves to spend time with each of my children and grandchildren. Tomorrow Wai Har and I will be going for our complimentary one-night stay at the Awana Genting Resort and joining us will be Christine and Stanley and daughter Ling. On the way up we will pick up Victoria to go as well. Last year when we went there we brought Victoria along and we have a nice time there. This time we hope for an even nicer time with 2 grand daughters coming along. Will blog on this again after I come back.

I Am Liturgist Today

A liturgist is a leader in public worship service and I have been one for quite a few years in my church at Wesley Methodist Church Seremban. I still remember how nervous I was when I stepped up the pulpit about 15 years ago to lead. Methodist churches have a set order of worship so a liturgist need only follow that order and all should be fine. Or so it seems.

I have seen how new liturgists fumble, such as forgetting to sing a hymn when it is called for, or making wrong announcements, or showing up his or her inexperience. That is all forgiveable since we need opportunities to improve our deliveries. The hard part is often speaking naturally and praying effectively. Somehow in public worship there is little room for mistakes, especially major mistakes. I remember I used to just pray without preparation and I did it quite well. However, with age comes hesitancy as well as forgetfulness. So I decided to prepare such prayers beforehand and read them on the pulpit.

I am the liturgist today so I had to sleep earlier the night before, get up earlier than usual and be in church 15 minutes earlier to check out the PA system and lead in the pre-service prayer as the pastor is away. The LCD projector or the notebook gave some trouble at the onset so I had to count on my experience to start the worship without the benefit of the use of the overhead projection screen that we have all become used to. Fortunately we have hard copies of the bulletin. Thankfully, mid way through the worship & praise session the LCD display came on and stayed normally throughout the rest of the service.

I do want the church to cultivate new liturgists to create new talents. I always believe that there must be a constant rejuvenation of all positions in work, church, family and social work. Such rejuvenation help develop new leaders and allow the seniors to take a break.

Note: that's not me in the picture!

Friday, November 07, 2008

On Televison for the First Time

I was excited to find myself on national television tonight. It was in relation to the social work I am involved in. I think I was a little nervous and unprepared. Overall I am happy with the television production team who spent more than 2 hours filming and interviewing but picked just 3 minutes of the best clips to air to the whole nation. If you like please check out the PBSNS Blog for the videoclip.

Cased for Neater and Safer Feel

I finally got an electrician to come and encase the exposed power and audio cables that ran behind the settee. Partly to make the place neater and partly to protect them from my grand-daughter, Ling (pix below). At 13+ months she is really active and able to reach at many things. She has been a bundle of joy to us.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

TX400 Scanning Capability

I put the TX400 to scanning test and it came out with flying color, but I had not tested its professional mode that ought to give me better control over the depth and degree of resolution. However, I understand that a scan cannot be 100% that of the original and if the original is faded the scan cannot be an improvement unless the scan picture is edited using software like Adobe Photoshop. Here's a pix of me that my children caught while I was jotting down notes of our Europe holidays in 1999.

You can see more of the scanning quality if you go back to my 1999 UK/Europe Holidays 2 - 12 posts.

A Sunny Morning for a Great Walk

I am not a disciplined person to stay fit through regular walks or exercising on my home fitness machines. Much depend on my mood and my state of physical health, which is not always in good shape. This morning, though, I said to myself that I need to get out because the sun is out and it was a glorious morning! Maybe I felt this way too because Obama won yesterday and the newspaper screamed so loudly that it seems nobody cried over his victory, except maybe the McCain camp.

Perhaps I decided to walk as I feel my hand numbness is returning a little. This symptom was quite bad 4-5 years ago when my cervical spondylosis caused the bone spurs inside my cervical vertebrae to pinch the nerve endings that my right hand and fingers felt numb. That disappeared after I started lying on the backstretcher I bought in August last year. Just a slight tingling this time, nothing irritating but I thought I should attend to it in case it signs to something new developing ...

I walked briskly up a slope to get my heart pumping and then stopped to do some familiar stretching exercises I used to do in around 2003-2004, the qigong style of stretching workouts that had been effective which I laid off due to indiscipline. Well, I think I ought to get back to that healthy routine for my health sake.

Are you a regular fitness worker? If not maybe you should give it some attention, whatever your age.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

My Epson Stylus TX400 Printer Has Arrived!

Here it is, my latest acquisition that replaces the faulty Canon Pixma IP3000 which power unit malfunctioned and is too expensive to be repaired. As a replacement I looked for an upgrade as well (with scanning and copying functions) and found the TX400 to be rich in features that I like. Hopefully it does not fail me when I get to use it over the next few days, especially when I start scanning some old pictures for archiving as well as printing some selected grandchildren's pictures for my album.

Oh, the speaker system next to the printer is the Logitech X-230 which delivers clean yet powerful sound big enough for my 10' x 12' office. In case you ask, the camera I use to take this and my recent holiday pictures is the Canon Powershot A620 7.1 Mega Pixels digital camera. It is no longer in production. Running on 4 x AA rechargeable batteries it served me well under very strenuous conditions and has a good videoing capability.

Obama's Victory Speech in Chicago

I would like to reproduce the entire text of President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech after he accepted the concession of defeat from challenger, Senator John McCain, as an archive for this blog. Barak Obama reminded me of John F Kennedy who's fiery speech drew Americans together to achieve a common goal of restoring the greatness of America. Listen...

OBAMA: Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who’ve been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain.

Obama’s family walks off the stage as he addresses supporters during his election night party at Grant Park in Chicago today.

Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he’s fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Governor Palin for all that they’ve achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton ... and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years ... the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady ... Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia ... I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us the new White House.

And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother’s watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you’ve given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe ... the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best — the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod ... who’s been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics ... you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy ... who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn’t do this just to win an election. And I know you didn’t do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage or pay their doctors’ bills or save enough for their child’s college education.

There’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

OBAMA: There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can’t solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those — to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright:
Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That’s the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we’ve already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the colour of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: When the bombs fell on our harbour and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.
Yes we can.

AUDIENCE: Yes we can.

OBAMA: America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves — if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Obama Wins, Sends Strong Wind of Change Worldwide

Barack Obama won the 44th US presidency as expected on the platform of change. I suppose the Americans were sick and tired of the same old stuff that they wanted a new man, a younger man, a man who can drive the nation forward on the agenda of change. All over the world, the sentiments are the same. Frustrations against the existing political order are mounting and it will not be a surprise if Obama's win will trigger a tremor all over the world as people begin to take control of their countries that they once abandon by trusting politicians and their sweet talk and unproven track records.

Back in my own country I pray that we will not succumb to lackadaisy but be more politically aware of who can or cannot lead our nation. Only by exercising that right can we determine the quality of future leadership.

Today the skies wept around me but it has not dampened my hope that the like of Obama shall bring to this world. I pray that we will begin to see a recovery that we have longed for all these years.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Best of 3 Worlds

I am in quite an enviable position. At my age, many people would have been forced into full retirement, that is, if they have been employed. But I started my own business some 20 years ago and had been fortunate to partner up with a younger man 15 years my junior. I still go to 'work' which is actually more like passing time. I feel sort of guilty but I try to do some useful work though, like sign cheques and make payments, and go to the banks. Maybe this explains how I can find time to blog so regularly.

I go to office about 4 times a week for half day each. I usually do lunch with Christine and spend the rest of the afternoon in my room, before going home about 5.30pm.

Since I am involved in social work as well, I commit my expertise to give it my very best. The next few years will be really exciting and I promise to blog more as new developments come about.

Back home I have Christine's daughter, Grace, and my wife to give me a good homely environment. Ours is a close family and we stay in touch. Christine and Stanley who stays nearby visit in the evenings regularly. We have dinner together on weekends. We stay in touch with Irene and SK and their kids by phone and through occasional visits. And Julian and Winnie stay in touch with us via VOIP (voice over internet protocol) which is telephony via broadband service.

Family, social ministry and work. I indeed have the best of all three worlds. And I thank God for this.

Calling on our 'Graduated' Trainees

This morning I visited our graduated trainees at a supermarket in town to take photos of them for the upcoming television show called 'Fitrah Kasih' slated to go on air this Friday, November 7, 2008 at the RTM1 station. Eversince the 6 of them started work in September they had made ourselves and their parents proud. Plus they have discovered a new meaning and purpose in life, that they can be useful! These trainees were labeled 'learning disabled' but through patient training they have become more competent, streetwise and sociable. I am glad to be involve in this work, and to have a good support team.

Spiralling Cost of Tour Packages

Nowadays when I look at the tour packages advertised I cringed with disbelief. Imagine a 4N to Brisbane/Gold Coast costing over RM4000, which average to over RM1000 per night! Unbelievable! Does that price include a 5 star hotel accommodation? And business class flight? Each time I check a tour package my first criterion is to calculate the cost per night. For Europe or US/Canada holiday it used to be around RM400-500 per night but has now gone to about RM650-700 per night. China holiday was about RM150-200 per night which has gone up a little to RM250-300. Granted that the overall cost of living in these destinations have gone up, but with more people going on holiday the average cost should not have risen so much. It is little wonder that I am very choosy when it comes to spending holiday money. My motto has been and always will be value for the memory I expect to get.

For now I will skip Australia for sure! That RM4000 can take me to a very nice holiday in any Asian cities, or add on a thousand or so I can go Europe for more days! Travel agencies, please take note this huge discrepancies!

With the sharp reduction in crude oil price, and recession looming, the worst thing tour operators can do is ignore the high prices and stick to them. A sure way to have poor responses to their promotions.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mileage Plus from United Airlines

In 2007 when we booked on United Airlines to fly to the States we earned enough miles points to fly within Asean which we must exercise before November 30, that is within this month. It is a tough decision: sometimes taking a free flight for a holiday may be more expensive than taking a packaged holiday that is all-inclusive of flight, accommodation, meals and tours. Redeeming my free miles means I have to look for separate accommodation and local tours on my own, which can add up to be a lot more expensive. Maybe I have no choice but let this benefit lapse.

Do you have the same experience worth sharing?

Travelling Smart

My wife and I have been rather selective whenever we travel on holiday. We would try to get the best value for the money we spent. Therefore we try to book tours when there are ongoing promotions such as during travel fairs.

Secondly, we try to travel when we also plan to visit our children abroad. Basically the tour is secondary to the main purpose of our travel. However, this will only be done when the destination is where our children are. Now that we have just our son in the United States this means we cannot factor in this 2 in 1 concept in our future travels since for the US we have been to the more popular destination such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, New York, Philadelphia and Canadian destinations of Canadian Rockies, Niagara Falls, etc.

Thirdly, we are choosy as to the contents of the package. Since we prefer guided coach tour we study the itinerary in details. Some of the itinerary include many shoppings and visits to temples and museums that do not interest us; our priorities are sightseeing.

Fourthly, we would like to maximum the stay duration. This means we prefer flights that depart early and leave the destination later in the evening.

Fifthly, although full board is nice and convenient, we like a little adventure of some freedom to be on our own and choose our own meals.

Sixthly, we like to travel with foreign groups since we can interact with tourists of other cultures. And I tend to notice the tour guides are more professional. Of course such tours tend to be more pricey but this is what you get, higher cost for better service. Good memories don't come cheap!

Seventhly, we are not a 4 or 5-star treatment tourists since we only spend 6-8 hours a night in hotels. As long as they are clean and neat we will be satisfied. After all, our goals are to enjoy the sights and not to go for premium class beds and rooms.

Eighthly, food should be local and of reasonable standard and hygiene. Food is after all one way to remember our holiday and experience the culture.

Ninthly, group size is preferably small. To us, ideally between 12 - 20. This allow for easier interaction. Plus there is less likelihood of delays after each stop.

I like to read up and document each of my travel. I'm glad Julian has picked up this habit. In fact he writes more detailed than I did. Holiday journals help me keep a true account that I can refer to later. I am glad to share them with you in this blog. Plus I always carry with me my camera and video-camera. Although they may be bulky, especially the older ones in my earlier travels, I enjoy snapping pictures and taking video recordings. In my future travel I may just get a compact camera that I can do both photo and video recordings since memory cards are so cheap now.

One experience on travelling smart is never overpack. Perhaps I tend to overpack from insecurity of underpacking. After so many oversea trips I believe I have learned my lessons. But I shall not forget my passport, credit cards, some cash, medicine and my cameras of course!

Picture Post

I found this picture while surfing the Net and would like to share with you. Obviously the man is using the setting sun to light up his puff and the cameraman has captured the moment rather successfully.

Humour. I enjoy being funny and humorous even at my age. I happen to believe that longevity and youthfulness are tied to how a person expresses himself and how seriously, or casually he look at the happenings around. Unfortunately I can also be overly seriously over the wrongs I see around me and in my country. Perhaps I am a little activist. Although I don't wear head bands, raise my fist, shout slogans or fast against any unrighteousness, I do write occasionally to the papers or online blogs. My main grievances are traffic mismanagement, bad environmental care, corruptions, intolerance, resource mismanagement and poor leadership at any level.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Next Holiday Destination - Hanoi, Halong Bay?

A few months back a friend suggested we spend time at Halong Bay a few hours off Hanoi and have a romantic night in one of the junks. I am not that romantic but I like the idea of something slow and easy and memorable. I checked out this destination from other blogs and it seems to be a nice place to go. But I am not that adventurous as to explore strange places. I would much like a guided tour. Sapa mountain near the China border north west of Hanoi sounds interesting but thinking of trekking puts me off a little as my legs are not very good. Maybe if the visit is not physically strenuous we will consider as I like the scenery.

My target is first quarter next year, definitely before our daughter Christine conceives again!

250 Posts in 80 Days, Phew!

When I embarked on this blog project I wanted to bring it up to date as fast as I can. This has been my nature and all the materials were from works I've archived for many years, some of which I wrote recently. From now on you will expect to see a slower pace in my blogging here. What will I be writing?

Basically my thoughts and interesting events that take place worthy of putting down. Today I spent many hours selecting pictures from my holidays to attach to the various holiday posts. I am still behind in the 1999 USA/Europe Holiday and that's because I ran out of scanned pictures. Well, my new Epson Stylus TX400 all-in-one printer will be arriving in a few days. I should pick up the unfinished work and add more pictures after I've had some old pictures scanned. The quality should be much better than the older pictures I put up.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Facing Adversities

Recently my mother who is 83, has become increasingly weaker in health. From a person who was active physically (she used to cycle to church, tend to her own vegetable plots, rear rabbits, etc) until about a year ago, her health has taken a turn for the worse. She felt that she has not have much time left. Can we discount the feelings as trivial? Only such a person can truly know the state of affair of his body and spirit.

My mother had never allowed herself to be admitted to a hospital. But some 10 days ago she relented and agreed to go for her giddiness treatment. What we thought to be vertigo turned out to be nothing more than uncontrolled elevated blood pressure that caused her giddiness. A CT scan did not reveal any anomalies in her brain, which was a relief. But her condition has put my mother into a depressive mood as well as a lack of determination to fight her debility. I hope I will not inherit her mental negativism when I am down healthwise, as I will be when I am older.

Facing adversities is something we all go through in life. Whatever they be - financial loss, loss of loved ones, health crises, accidents, etc, adversities bring out our inner strength, or weakness. I admire people who fight every hindrances in their lives. Such will power tend to bring about a greater success of recovery. Giving up without a fight will allow the body, and the spirit, to give up much earlier. It is good we have family and church friends to encourage and comfort. However, the crucial requirement is the person himself. He must want to get well or else nothing good will happen.

I wish my mother will give herself the opportunity to recover. Being bed ridden is not the end of the world. Being in pain is a common experience. What she is going through can be said to be that of self pity and low self esteem. She was once very strong spiritually, she prayed for many people. Today we do not see that strength, it is as if she has waved her white flag even before the battle has begun. I pray that she will make a miraculous recovery quickly.

Back to the Present

All my posts has been about my childhood, schooldays, adolescent years, university life, finding jobs, marrying and setting up my family, and finding my spiritual goal. Now I am at the juncture when I look back to more years in the past but fewer years in the future. I dare say that I have become more matured, wiser and certainly a more stable person. However, many things about me that I thought I could change did not change. I think I have to confess that there are some areas in a person's life that will not change whatever the New Year resolutions were.

For instance, I still have a temper. I am still impatient, and I can be a little reckless but given the luxury of more time to think I have mellowed somewhat. And I also understand myself better. I believe I have leadership skills over and above many people. Without sounding snobbish I think I belong to the top 10% of people with ability to grasp direction and build workable strategies to achieve a particular objective. But I am more of a head person than a hands type. This means I am less an executive but more of a director, which I am in my career. If I am successful it is because I have a good executive team who can work with me and implement my plans.

I am surprisingly multi-gifted which place me in high demand. For the past 20 years I was involved in many positions of work that I found myself over-stretched. I now decided to be selectively engaged in social work ( so I can be productive and effective.

Having reflected so much to my past, I am now satisfied over what I have documented in this blog. However, my attention will now turn to what are right and necessary now and in the future. From now on this blog will show the side of me that can be humorous, angry, visionary, spiritual, affectionate and creative. And my posts will show the sort of person I am.

Happy reading, my friends!

2008 Bangkok Holiday - Impressions

The Suvarnabhumi International Airport is 45-50 minutes from the Prince Hotel. Further into downtown will take longer as the traffic is bad. The airport is very busy and larger than KLIA. Structurally not as beautiful but layout and services better. The airport terminals are more complex but easy to navigate as signage are also in English.
Prince Hotel
On New Petchburi Road, the hotel is of 2-star standard but interior clean and odorless although it is old. Our room has a double and a single bed with TV and fridge. No beverage but a thermos flask of hot water provided. No shampoo or conditioner although soap bars and towels were given. Daily 2 free bottle of mineral waters given. Reception service OK. Occupancy is low. Room rate 1000 THB as this is what we pay for one night extension. Sometimes mistaken as Prince Palace Hotel, a more prestigious hotel. Need to show hotel card to taxi driver so that he does not send us to the wrong hotel.
City (Buildings, Traffic, Lifestyle, etc)
A haphazard city with new and old, rich and poor side by side, like some China cities. Many buildings not well maintained. Shops tend to be small. Many unoccupied. Some vandalized. Traffic snarl is common. Traffic lights change slowly, sometimes the bus has to wait 5-10 minutes before it can inch forward. Drivers do not honk but they drive skillfully, especially taxis and tuk tuks. There are many flyovers and pedestrian bridges. No jaywalkers. People are quite disciplined. Did not see any cyclists but there are motorcyclists who also wear crash helmets in the city but not in the outskirts. School children attend full day classes. Many people I saw from the bus are poor. Pedlars selling flower garlands approach buses and tourists to make a living. Hawker stalls, sewing machinists trade by roadsides in any available space. Police beat bases are found at busy junctions. Police and security guards man busy entrances and junctions, guiding traffic to ensure smooth flows. The Thais love their royal family. All over town and inside buildings I can see portraits of the King and Queen on posters and adorning the walls. They celebrate their birthdays with pomps. Portraits of politicians standing for elections also see on roadsides. Shrines and temples are found in the city. People would stop to worship and move on. Thais are generally religious people and polite. Greetings of ‘savadikak!” and clasped hands are commonly seen. Do you know that Bangkok is very low lying? It is called the Venice of the east. In the city itself there are canals. Because the water tables are high, building works are messy. Generally Thais are not organized in construction works. Many debris and works in progress are strewn about giving an untidy appearance. It is not a very clean city too. With such high traffic volume and jams, carbon monoxide pollution is high, but tuk tusk survived as they are faster and cheaper. Bangkok is well known as a massage city. You can get a massage in hotels, city shops, even parlors ply their trade. Most are legal and genuine. I was disappointed with the signage. Not only are they 99% in Thai they are also quite small in size. To myopic and older people like me it can be hard to discern them. Poor and non-English signs means I did not know the directions of the many places we visited.
Although we did not attempted to try many authentic Thai food we were nonetheless impressed by some of them especially the ones at the cultural show and at the cruise. I simply adore the seafood tomyam. Yum, yum!
It was very warm when we visited. But when it rains it can be rather heavy, as what happened on 19th August night. The Suan Lum Night Bazaar is rather old and poorly maintained. It is the poor cousin of MBK which is higher end and more comfortable, but people like Suan Lum for its uniqueness and bargain prices.
Tour Destinations
The best spots we like were Siam Niramit (very professional and good value for money), Chao Phraya Princess Cruise (good food and romantic with live band. Night cruise more relaxing but harder to see the buildings, day cruise cheaper without meals), Damnoen Saduak Floating Market (rather far from Bangkok, uniquely once a lifetime visit, that’s all). Sriracha Tiger Zoo (good Thai food, circus style tiger show, crocodile show (like Seaworld), pig race (hmmm, that’s it?). Not impressed by snake farm (no interest), all the shopping places except Natural Herb where I think the herbal bag is worth considering and wood carving centre. After I used one during the visit I became less sleepy and more alert. Plus the fragrance help lift my mood. The bag can be used for 2-3 years and can be carried to anywhere where there is a microwave oven. But some people may not like the strong herbal fragrance so be sensitive.
Taxis and Tuk Tuks
Taxis are called Taxi Meter which means they are obliged to use meters. They are wildly painted in brash and bright colors – purplish, green and yellow and blue, representing different companies. When you hail one down (you see a taxi every 10-20 seconds coming your way, so there is no need to pre-book one), tell the driver your destination and ask if he knows. If yes, ask if he uses meter. If yes again, get in. If he shakes his head, politely close the door and wait to hail another taxi. Generally taxis are clean and drivers honest. I encountered both types. Tipping is optional. I don’t tip but willing to leave small change if the driver is a good one and looks honest. Tuk tuks? I’d treat them as an experience only. I should not generalize as I have not ride on many to form an accurate opinion. So far I get the feeling that if they can, they will fleece you. If you are inexperienced, like I was in my first encounter, I was made to go places I did not bargain for. However, I understand why they have to do that – to earn extra as well as to help other businesses with new customers. However, tuk tuks need to be better organized and smarter to keep their customers. They should respect customers wish and negotiate a rate attractive enough for them to accept the ride. After all, the customers are more exposed to accidents and air pollutions! Go ride a tuk tuk to get a first hand experience yourself. Be in Bangkok and not ride a tuk tuk? It is like being in Beijing and not climb the Great Wall!
I am generally disappointed by the higher than expected prices of food and goods in Bangkok. But taxi rates are still OK by my expectations, if the drivers are honest. If possible don’t buy Thai goods and foods except if they are unique and not available back home. This does not means Thai goods and foods are of low quality. In fact they are generally of high standard except where choices are limited. The same goes in other countries.
Air Asia
Still gives me an impression of a guerilla airline. Flights tend to be delayed but actual flights are good. Food service in-flight is OK. Seats are narrow but acceptable for short flights of below 6 hours. My main grouse is still free seating arrangement. This brings out the worst in passengers. Which means people will rush to beat the queue and get the best seats on the plane. They have no courtesy for the elderly or pregnant or families with small children. The Xpress Boarding should be disbanded and numbered seating given. It should not cost Air Asia anything but create an orderly boarding.
Bangkok Again?
Honestly, no. As a person who likes scenery rather than food, shopping, temples and beaches, I’d prefer countries like New Zealand, Canada, Europe and China. Bangkok is a one time visit for me. But it may hold a lot more romanticism for others, especially Westerners.

2008 Bangkok Holiday

Going for holiday is a form of therapy for us. This time we wanted to concentrate on Asean holidays. Not only are they shorter but also cheaper. We are selective because we do not have the luxury of very long holidays.

On 24th February 2008 I bought a 3D/2N Bangkok Tour package from TravelShoppe in Seremban following a promotion by Air Asia. The package includes a one day full tour of selected popular sites with meals provided. I deemed the duration too short so I added another day and paid another RM100 for hotel room. In hindsight I should have added two days as there are so much more to see in Bangkok. Nonetheless this is our exposure visit so if really worthwhile we may return for another visit.

Bangkok is the first of our Asean holiday, excluding Kuching which I consider a local holiday. I treat it with some apprehension since it is a foreign destination and English may not be widely spoken. I am also feeling less confident being alone in this, preferring group tours from now on, which has its disadvantage of being too rigid in schedule as well as being rushed. With CK giving some useful tips (he has been to Bangkok on working trips) I managed to draw up a practical itinerary.

This holiday was planned to coincide with Wai Har's birthday. She really sacrificed her life to look after Victoria and Grace so a break will be a nice birthday present to her. I hope she enjoys it.

Day 1 - 19th August 2008
Happy Birthday, Wai Har! Stanley and Christine drove us to LCCT to catch the AirAsia flight AK882. Flight AK882 lifted off at 1.55pm into sunny skies. It was an Airbus A320 flight. We got good seats on the 4th row aisle as we were among the first to board after those with express tickets. Earlier while waiting at the crowded departure lounge I bought a chicken curry puff and a can of 100 Plus for RM9.60. In the flight we ordered fried rice with satey for RM9 and a Combo set of Nasi Lemak with Green tea for RM10.

We landed at the Suvarnabhumi Airport at 2.45pm local time (3.45pm M'sian). We only got onto the bus at 4pm and to hotel 4.45pm, when the tour guide Lulu arrived late from another assignment. Our group which came in earlier was waiting for us and another family of an Indian couple and son on our flight. They are Mr & Mrs Thiagarajah. After refreshing ourselves in our room 540 which had one double and single bed we joined the group for dinner at restaurant in the Amarin shopping complex on the busy Sukhumvit Road. Along the way Lulu stopped by the 4 Face Buddha shrine, at which many locals and tourists prayed for protections and prosperity. The dinner was average, not Thai enough for most of us! Even the tomyan tasted mild.

After dinner we were taken to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar upon persuasion by the older ladies in the group who wanted to go shopping. Very heavy rain about 8.30pm Parts of the bazaar were leaking and cockroaches came out of the drains to escape the flood waters. We bought a tee shirt with pant for Victoria for 150 THB after bargaining and a Coke for 25 THB. We had nothing else to buy so when the rain subsided we came back to bus at 8.45pm to rest. We returned to the hotel at 9.30pm. After bath we went to bed as we have a full day ahead tomorrow. Shared a bottle of chicken essence with Wai Har.

Day 2 - 20th August 2008
Today is the provided full tour day. Wake up call is at 6am, breakfast 6.30am and at 7am we left for our tour. First stop was to a temple followed by the Natural Herb Centre where we bought a herb bag for 1300 and a bar of herbal soap for 170. The herbal bag was effective in relieving my fatigue. After that we were driven to the KK Jewelry Centre. We just browsed as we have no intention to buy. Being taken to the herb centre and jewelry centre are part of the tour guide’s requirement to encourage tourists to buy Thai products. After that we went to the Sriracha Tiger Zoo at Sriracha Chonburi some 40km from Pattaya. It was a very hot day.

Upon arrival we a nice and spicy authentic Thai lunch including crocodile satey. After that we watched the tiger show, crocodile show, pig race and visited the scorpion display. On the way back to Bangkok we stopped by the dry seafood market where we bought some tidbits to bring home. I paid Lulu 2400 THB for the Chao Phraya Princess River Cruise tonight. Fortunately we did not make it last night as it rained.

We arrive in Bangkok at 5pm for a quick steamboat dinner that is included in the package. We ate it although there will be another buffet dinner on the cruise as we want to enjoy more Thai food. The steamboat was similar to Johnny’s but not as refined. At 6pm we were driven to the River City Pier 1 where Lulu bought tickets for ourselves, the Thiagarajah family and himself. The rest of the group, some 22 of them opted to shop in the Chinatown area and were told to reassemble at 9.30pm to await us.

The pier was very crowded with tourists waiting to join the cruises operated by 3 companies. We waited until 8pm for the last cruise. It was very enjoyable. We sat on table 32 on the lower air-conditioned deck. I got the band singer to sing a Happy Birthday song for Wai Har. Later we went to the upper deck and joined the revelers singing and dancing to some very hot Latin American, Hindi and Punjabi music. Lulu could not help but joined in and pranced around for almost 20 minutes after passing his bag to Wai Har to hold. Later he stopped to look for an amulet that has dropped off. The cruise ended at 10pm and we were surprised the bus did not have the other 22 tour members waiting for us since they were supposed to finish the shopping ahead of us. When the driver drove to pick them up, they were upset for the very long wait and that there were nothing to buy there. We arrived at the hotel past 10.30pm. We asked for 5.30am morning call as we have to be ready by 6.10am for the Floating Market tour. We bathed, drank essence of chicken and slept at 11.30pm.

Day 3 - 21st August 2008
We had a quick breakfast at 6am and 20 minutes later hopped into the mini tourist bus for the Dam Damnoen Saduak Floating Market tour. We were the first to be picked up and the bus drove to 4 other hotels to pick other guests before we leave the city south westward. We arrived there at 8.45am, took a long boat ride to the floating market. We walked about, took photos, ate pork noodles, mango rice, and drank coconut water as it was a hot day. We left at 10.30am for the snake farm on the way back but did not go in to watch the show. Then we visited the wood carving centre till noon. Drank coconut water again! I felt sleepy from the accumulated fatigue.

Later back to the city we were taken to the Gem Gallery that we visited several years ago but we did not want to enter the display hall and Boon the guide put us on another van to send us back to the hotel arriving 2.30pm. Our group was waiting in lounge to be taken to the airport for their return to Malaysia. With just over 2 hours before the cultural show we went for foot massage at hotel’s barber shop costing 250 THB each. We bathed and at 5pm walked out and hailed a taxi to the Siam Niramit Cultural Show. The driver offered a flat 150 THB which I agreed thinking it was close to the metered amount. The location was not as printed on the voucher and I was worried the driver conned us but the new location was correct. We were early, arriving 5.20pm. We walked about, took pictures and at 6pm went for our buffet dinner at the Sawasdee3 hall. The food was great, especially the seafood tomyam that we ate 5 bowls I think.

A7 7.30pm we enter the theatre to wait for the show to begin at 8pm. The organizer was very strict in disallowing photography and videography. We had to leave our equipments at the entrance and claim an ID tag to collect them back after the show. The 80 minutes show was a perfect display of stage props, sound and lighting system, theme, artistry, special effects and coordination. Of the places we visited in this tour, this rank the best for value, better than the cruise. We came back to the hotel in another taxi. The driver is a decent guy, uses the meter and charges us just 77 THB. It could be less because of the jam. As he was from the opposite side of the Prince Hotel, he made an illegal sharp U turn and was afraid that the police saw him doing it. I noted that the step in rate was 35 THB for the first km, increasing by 6 THB every subsequent km, more if there is a jam. We bathed and slept about midnight. Finished the last bottle of chicken essence I brought along.

Day 4 - 22nd August 2008
This is our last day in Bangkok. The main group have all left for home yesterday, no one extend the stay as we did. Some regretted it, like the Huas, a couple we took good chemistry to. Before departing we and the Thiagarajahs exchanged contacts. Lulu offered to take us to the Grand Palace and MBK this morning. I was thinking his offer was not so generous but he wanted to earn tips in the process but I did not reject it as he might be able to show me things I could not discover in such a short period. Fortunately, last night he called to apologize he has a prior engagement this morning. Secretly I was happy to be able to move on our own, at least to explore and learn without being guided so thoroughly.

We woke up refreshed past 7am as we are not constrained by any schedule. Bathed and packed our bags ready to check out. We went down for breakfast at 8.15am. The food was average. Later we checked out and leave our bags with the concierge, then walked out again to take a taxi to the Grand Palace. Unfortunately we were told by a man that it was closed to public until after noon as today is Friday and the Palace and the Emerald Buddha are closed for prayer and reopen after noon. I think it could be true or half truth as he convinced us to take a waiting tuk tuk to go to the nearby Golden Mount Temple before to MBK for just 20 THB. Along the way we were ‘forced’ to visit a gems centre and a tailor shop hoping we will by something to help him earn petrol points or commission. I realized that the cheap fare was to entice us (and other tourists) to be taken to these outlets. This is one way for them to make some sales as otherwise tourists may not even know they exist. We did not buy anything nor get any coupon for the tuk tuk driver who was obviously disappointed. From a happy disposition I could see his disappointment. At MBK Centre we had to leave him outside to go inside to change my 1000 THB note to smaller denominations. I regretted not change to any smaller than 50 THB. When I gave him a 50 RHB note for change, he said no small change. He asked how much I was willing to pay him and when I insisted on the agreed 20 THB he wanted to leave without taking any money from me. I decided that since he did drove us here to MBK I will give him the 50 THB which if I had taken a taxi would cost more. I consider the tuk tuk ride an experience and that the 50 THB is worth paying for that.

Inside MBK Wai Har bought 3 pairs of long pants for 290 THB each and a pair of leather shoes for 690 THB. We ate lunch at the Tops supermarket food outlet and bought some pastries to eat at the airport later. At 1pm we tried to take another tuk tuk back to the hotel which is not far away. This time I was smarter. I asked for the price, the driver said 20 THB and I said no going anywhere. The price shot up to 200 THB. I approached another and he said 150 THB and refused to lower further. From experience I know taxi fare is about 70-80 THB at most and in air-conditioned comfort. Wai Har said forget about tuk tuk so I agreed and we went to the taxi queue at MBK to take a ride home to the hotel. The fare? Just 65 THB. Because the driver was decent I did not taken back the change when I gave him 70 THB.

I think the tuk tuk drivers are plain unrealistic and silly. If there are passengers who insist to go back direct to the hotels, agree and go a rate less than the taxi and the deal will be done. As such they earn nothing.

After freshening up we left at 1.35pm for airport in an old taxi driven by an old Chinese man who is as slow as Beh. He asked for 25 THB to take the highway and I had to explain that this transfer is part of our package. He took the untolled road which is more jammed but we arrived early at 2.25pm at the airport’s Thai Air Asia departure terminal. I did not leave him any tips and he unashamedly asked for it. He said, ‘Aren’t you going to give this ‘Perk Perk’ any tips?’ His request made me feel young as he could not be very much older than me! I gave him 20 THB I had and he left satisfied. I counted only 171 THB left, out of the 8000 THB I bought for this holiday. After checking in and getting our boarding passes (I accidentally asked for aisle seats and was politely informed that it is a free seating flight) we found seats to rest and ate our snacks. The flight was delayed to 5.20pm from 4.55pm scheduled. We had to take a coach to the plane which was parked quite a far distance from the departure lounge. The Boeing 737-300 plane which is rather old, flew off at 5.30pm in fine weather and landed at LCCT at 8.25pm, less than 2 hours. During the flight I used up 150 THB to buy 2 packs of hot and spice Korean noble and a cup of Nescafe. I have just 21 THB in coins, spending 7979 THB for this entire holiday.

At the LCCT I tried to get a taxi back and a Malay man approached me and asked for RM70. I said no. He reduced to RM65 but use the Sendayan way. I said highway and left. Later I found out from a Chinese taxi driver I can buy coupon from a counter INSIDE the arrival hall. I went in, past a No Entry sign, found the counter and paid RM61.10 for a coupon to take us home. The Chinese driver (another one) had a neat and clean Waja, drove confidently and fast via Sendayan and took us back home at 10pm.

We enjoyed this short introductory holiday to Bangkok. As time is not on our side we don't plan to revisit it but will try other destinations. Next spot? Maybe Hanoi, South Korea, Bali? I still harbour going back to Europe again with Eastern Europe especially, visit the Scandinavia, the Canadian sights and New Zealand once more!

This ends a very long journals of all my holidays since 1985. I hope you've enjoyed reading them, though many entires were personal and quite irrelevant to you. In my future holiday blogs I'll try to write with YOU in mind. Cheers!


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