Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Vulnerable Human Race

The World Health Organization has raised the alert rating of the swine flu pandemic from 3 to 5 to indicate the severity of the global spread of this deadly disease. The red flagging of the alert is a warning to the governments of the world that every preventive and precautionary actions must be taken to contain its transmission as well as protect front line personnel from becoming infected when they are exposed to possible swine flu victims. Whether the virus will pick up speed and cause more harm is left to be seen but the message today is better to be safe than sorry. It reflect how vulnerable we humans are to this deadly viral infection.

This is how the swine flu viruses are created and transmitted. It appear that we as carriers of the human flu help in developing the A(H1N1) strain of the swine flu virus which come back to infect us in manner we are unable to fight effectively without being immunized. Infection is via airborne particles which makes the spread fast and effective unless we quickly identify and quarantine the affected patients. Since the symptoms of the swine flu are very similar to normal flu, some people may not see doctors to verify if they are indeed down with swine flu. By the time they are diagnosed they could have cross infected many people, especially their family members and friends.

We may pride ourselves as the most intelligent of all creations but we are more vulnerable than the humble cows, or pigs. Our bodies lack the sophisticated defense mechanism to trap and contain new viruses, we need vaccines to trigger production of antibodies to identify and battle the new intruders. Much like the antivirus software that needs to regularly update its signature file, we too need to continually keep track of our enemies in order to survive. The environment we live in is very hostile. Daily we are exposed to new virus types. Some we overcome, and stay well; others we succumb and fall sick. We rest, we see our doctors for treatment and generally get better. Sometimes our body is unable to win and this will result in our death. The fear of the swine flu pandemic is that many people will have no defense against it and will eventually die. Unless the health authorities and the immigration offices coordinate their efforts and successfully track and monitor the movements of infected people and stop the swine flu from mutating into a more devasting form.

Maid in Heaven

No, it wasn’t a typo error but a wish of all employers of domestic maids. Maids come in all shapes and sizes, capabilities, looks and attitudes. Foreign maids come in drove to Malaysia and other more developed countries looking for work to feed their families at home or accelerate their savings to buy a house or a piece of land, or provide a better future for their children back home. Their ultimate goal is enhancing their lives and here in Malaysia we give them the opportunity to do so, but we made unreasonable demands sometimes, like working without days off or expecting them to be a maid of all trade. Perhaps we have an attitude problem too! In the coming years laws may be introduced to give due respect and responsibilities to maids but the problem is the termination and replacement process if the relationship is disenchanted by poor work performance, discipline and attitude.

Unlike employing local maids where the process of face-to-face interviews are possible getting foreign maids is riskier. Based on just a sheet of paper and a photograph shown by the maid agency, the prospective employer has to make up her mind if the candidate is suitable. For all you know, the information given in the biodata may be concocted to impress. We decide based on incomplete information and perhaps unreasonable expectations, all because of flawed recruitment process. Sometimes we ourselves are to be blamed, because we recruit based on looks and age, and even their originating hometowns, seldom on the maid's preferred working environment e.g. we take a maid to look after the elderly when she prefers to look after young children. Until a better way is found, like ‘live’ interviews via video-conferencing or even videoclipping via YouTube, it is nearly impossible to be satisfied with the selection. Perhaps this explains why many maids are returned, escaped or even punished for not fulfilling the wishes and demands of their employers. In a sense, both employers and maids are unfairly penalized all because of defective selection procedures. But this will not stop desperate families from seeking help through the agencies. Some of them recycle maids rejected by other employers which is illegal but on short term some families would dare take the risk. The larger issue of employing maids is that we have become dependent, or that our very own family members and relatives are not available to help. Even so, we still need maids because they are workhorses that we have come to depend so much on.

Getting local helps are almost impossible if you want them to be live-ins. Most locals prefer working in offices or factories rather than in private homes. There is an unwritten stigma associated with working for families: such jobs belong to foreigners that locals find below their station to even consider! But this may change if one day unemployment rates in Malaysia indeed skyrocket from our uncompetitive manufacturing costs and then what? Locals may really have to become domestic maids or look for jobs outside of the country, which may include working as maids for Singaporeans, Taiwanese or Australians. God forbid that we should come to this!

But hiring foreign maids also bring about a bundle of social problems that we don’t want to deal with. All we want is that they discharge their work diligently and honestly. But maids will attract attentions from males, both locals and foreign workers. They have unfulfilled social, emotional and physical needs. Providing a family environment for them, accepting them as a family members sometimes don’t work when they miss their own communities. A partial solution is to give the maids a biennial sabbatical to visit their families. In this ideal scenario we can expect the maid to return after a month’s break but sometimes they just decide otherwise which will put the employers in a big dilemma. This may include children pining for the maid who have built a very strong bonding to them.

We are at fault if we give our maids the role of surrogate moms and teach the children to listen to them. The danger is they learn different values from the maids. If the maids are matured and responsible they redirect the kids back to their parents but more often than not, either in their ignorance or through their manipulative ways they ‘take control’ of the children, and sometimes, even the husbands! Wives are always wary of their maids’ movements and attire around the house, and their husbands!

While most maids will do their work normally, you do have some who are mentally and emotionally disturbed. They bring along deviant thinking such as dislike for young children who they abuse in private, even sexually, placing charms in drinks that may include adding their urines or underwear washings and mixing their laundry washings on common dryers. Other instances of maids causing troubles include stealing food, bringing their boyfriends home when the employer is away, becoming pregnant, or even leaving doors open for burglars to enter to plunder. Some will disappear after the event with or without their passports.

On the other side of the coin are cases of maid abuses. Some employers just cannot get along with their maids, even if they do their work normally. Perhaps there is no chemistry, or the employer has abusive tendency to anyone. Local laws provide for protection and compensation for such abuses.

Bringing home a maid is not as simple as buying groceries. We all agree that we will be bringing home a stranger of unknown personality, skills and risks. Nowadays, many families, including mine, choose to consider a maid as a last resort. Maybe we are overly cautious or maybe we have read and heard of too much negative news about bad maids. Even my mother prefers local helper than a foreign maid since she cannot handle the potential problems that may arise. For us, I think as long as we can physically manage our chores and provide quality childcare to our grand daughter, we will put the maid recruitment to another time, or at least until a good arrangement comes along. For now we like the idea of a day maid who comes in from 9 till 6 or 7pm to help out in every possible ways. I think the crux of the matter is to have someone else at home minus the responsibility of providing nightly accommodation or bringing her anywhere we go. I believe maids will like the idea of having their private lives in the evening too.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The World is Getting Smaller

I recall the lyrics of the song captioned I heard some 45 years ago. It goes this way:

Chorus:
Dum Diddly-Hi-Dee Dum Diddly-Aye, where can you hide away?
Dum Diddly-Hi-Dee Dum Diddly-Aye, where can you hide away?

The world is getting smaller, the population grows,
Where, Oh where can sweethearts go when they want to be alone?
Out to the park we went walking to a quiet spot by the lake,
We found some kids playing cowboy there and they wouldn't go away -
So no romance that day

Chorus

We thought that we had the answer - a drive-in movie we planned
But the only place we could find to park was next to the pizza stand -
And that's a busy stand....

Chorus

The world is getting smaller, the population grows,
Where, Oh where can sweethearts go when they want to steal a kiss?
To Lovers' Lane we went driving, when we parked, what did I find?
My own kid sister was in the car that was parked by next to mine -
And love withered down the line......

Chorus

Where can you hide away?
Where can you hide away?
Where can you hide away? (fade out)

Then the people were a lot less mobile and they communicated by letters or fixed line phones. Mostly face to face in their neighborhoods. There were no computers, no emails, no mobile phones, no GPRS. News travel slow and to hear of any event within 48 hours of their happening was considered efficient and fast. Yet the songwriter bemoaned the fact that the world had indeed gone smaller then. He felt the lost of privacy as the population grew. Today we are actually physically living in a congested, privacyless and elbow nudging world.

I choose this intro to blog on the sudden surge in the swine flu pandemic that has now gone global, although it started in Mexico, reporting for now 159 victims. At least 7 countries had reported cases, all in Europe and America. Cases in Asia may emerge as investigations proceeds.

We live in a fearful time when diseases can spread like wildfire, all because people are so mobile. I remember 22 years ago when AIDS was reported to be an incurable disease spreaded by human contacts, the world became frenzied over safety and protection from infections. Demand for gloves and face masks soared. I think today this trend will again repeat as people seek to find ways to protect themselves from touching surfaces or inhaling air that may be contaminated.

Coming in the midst of global recession, the swine flu is certainly not helpful in speeding its recovery. Most affected are the airlines and the travel industry that seems to be knocked down repeatedly. It is little wonder that only the fittest will survive.

The healthcare industry will benefit from this scare until it is contained and a cure is found. For now people just want to avoid unnecessary travel, contact and exposure. Perhaps the telecommunication business is rejoicing as more people will talk instead of meet. But for those whose daily routine require being in the presence of strangers in subways, tubes, commuters, open offices, etc, they will have to take extra precautions and monitor their state of health and see their doctors as soon as they feel unwell.

Sigh! A smaller world is not an easy place to live in. When you don't know the health status of your neighbours, or their adventurous lifestyles that expose them to unsafe contacts with vegetations, animals or other humans in faraway places, you just want to keep that hand away and smile a hello instead.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Najib and The Civil Service

In his latest move to transform the government reported HERE, Najib admits that the era of big government has ended. He also admits that the government cannot know everything and that it needs best talents from the private sectors to boost the government's administration.

The civil service was the pride of the nation. To be called a civil servant in the days of the British Administration before 1957 was a privilege because it meant you were an elite group of employees tasked with looking after the welfare of the citizens. The civil servants were the connectivity between the political rulers and the people; they provided the solutions that made the country move and work.

Over the years I noted the civil service performance had deteriorated. It has been exploited by the government to build up their electoral base. Here is a powerful pool of voters who, if well pampered and fed, will ensure a steady supply of votes come every election. Up till about early 1990s, the civil service employees were drawing lower salaries and perks than their counterparts in the private sectors, which trend began to reverse in the succeeding years. Today many younger Malaysians prefer to work for the government because of shorter work week, better pay and more generous perks. As a result the number of government employees has grown to a size that breeds inefficiency and redundancy. This is a case of patronising wrongdoing to self serve one's political survival and has become a thorn in the flesh of the present government in its attempt to prune and trim the bloated public service sectors. The process is bound to create resentment and anger as the government must introduce new performance culture to create a more efficient government. How Najib is going to achieve a more efficient civil service while retaining loyalty is left to be seen but I don't believe in feeding the parasites living on your flesh if you have to get rid of them to survive. The government cannot depend on dwindling oil revenue to pay for a bloated civil service for many years to come.

For a start it is good that Najib admits that the government has grown too big. The expected solution is to trim the workforce which in this time of poor economy is bound to create a resistance. The alternative is to make it more effective, which is to say, make the employees work harder and smarter. The way Najib solves this major headache will either earn him brownie points or a slap comes the next election, but an issue he cannot avoid for long.

Can Najib be Trusted?

This must be the question many politically minded Malaysians are asking these days. Since his appointment as the 6th prime minister 3 weeks ago, Najib Tun Razak has introduced several landmark changes that augurs well for the national economy. He removed the 30% bumiputera participation in some 27 service sectors to boost foreign investments there. Then he allowed foreign law firms to provide Islamic financial services. Next he increased the foreign shareholding limit in insurance and investment bankings to 70%.

He has walked the streets of Petaling, Brickfield and Kampung Kerinchi to be close to the rakyat. Lately he was at downtown Kuala Lumpur to check out the traffic congestions. Are these publicity stunts or is he genuinely interested to resolve the plights of congestions and poverty affecting the ordinary folks?

One thing I noticed is the cooling down of racial and religious tensions. Were these pre-arranged? In fact the High Court in Ipoh recently ruled infant conversion by her Muslim convert father is illegal and compelled the child returned to her Hindu mother. This followed the cabinet decision to force the child to be brought up in the common religion of the couple before one of them converts. It seems the court is following the order of the government which is ridiculous. And the Roman Catholic Church recently won the right to challenge the government over the use of the word 'Allah' outside of Islam. It is inconceivable that these developments are not connected to the wishes of the Najib's administration. Somehow judicial decisions are colored by who is in power and the direction he sets instead of the provision of the laws. And Najib is certainly setting up his position as a leader all Malaysians can trust. But by wagging the judiciary is not the way we can accept.

I really like to accept Najib completely but it is still early in his premiership to be this trusting. Against the amount of trust Malaysians gave Tun Mahathir Mohammad and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, both of whom disappointed us greatly, it is only to be expected that Najib will have a steeper and harder mountain to climb before he gets our total support. I think Malaysians can be forgiving over the Mongolian issue as nothing is proven yet but it will be his words (1Malaysia concept) and his implementations over the next 4 years that will help Malaysian voters decide if Barisan Nasional deserves a new break. In the meantime, Najib and his ministers will continue to battle the digital cyberspace for credibility and acceptance. The Pakatan opposition must continue to check BN at every turn to ensure they do not fall back to their corrupt ways.

Is Your Religion for Sale?

A report HERE caught my attention. It says that while Americans (up to 85%) remain religious, they don't stick to their original religions always. They are likely to change religion as they see fit. Some of the reasons why they move away are:

1. They like the new religion better than the old one, not that they dislike it or hated the folks there.

2. They change location or marry someone else with a different religion they choose to adopt.

3. They click better with the new pastors, or they have issues with the previous ones.

4. Scandals, doctrinal issues, differing viewpoints from the church's.


I think religion has become more than faith; it has become a meeting ground for family and friends. Many people choose one religion over another not so much they believe it more but because the rest of the family and many of their friends go to that church. Religion is becoming a social club and many are not embarassed to admit it. How often we hear of a church member inviting a friend to join her church so as to meet with other friends already there? That is often a good enough reason to say yes, and many do. Faith, or the beliefs that we hold often become secondary. Many religious people hold to the view that so long as one is religious, he will surely go to heaven. Like if you buy a bar of soap to bath, you will be clean irrespective of the brand.

Seriously religion should be taken more seriously. Buying yourself into the wrong religion is as dangerous as picking a wrong bus with an unlicensed driver on the wheel. I am not being critical of any religion but no one should use religion to climb the social ladder or build his career. Religion is first and foremost the reason why you want to trust your spiritual life to. If it doesn't work or you feel it is not right for you then you should search for the one that you believe is right. Only when your spirit are in sync with what that religion preaches to it should you stay in, and not move around. You can try and test but once you decide on what is right you should stay put and grow your faith there.

There are so many religions out there to choose from. Even in Christianity there are so many denominations, and within one denomination so many styles. And each style carry so many variants that it can be tiring to accept one over the other. Ultimately, above the reason of the correct faith to choose, I guess what is most important is you feel good and at home and to have a sense of belonging there. People are natural seekers but being human they tire out too. Seeking spiritual answers is not an easy task but I pray that we all find what our souls long for.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Are You Purposeful?

Reading Rick Warren’s reply to this question from Reader’s Digest:

What’s your advice for someone who wants to live a more meaningful life?

made me think aloud how wasteful most of us had made our lives to be, without realizing that every minute that slipped by unpurposefully is effectively washed down the drain.

Rick advised:

‘Love God and other people with all you’ve got! Living a purpose-driven life means making an intentional shift from self-centred thinking to other-centred thinking. Ask yourself, ‘What should be the contribution of my life?’ By knowing your combination of gifts, abilities, and experiences, you’ll see where you can make a difference.’

We make purposeful decisions everyday whether we realize it or not. We decide what we want to do, where we want to go, what we want to eat, what we want to buy, who we want to meet, what we want to do in our jobs, how we want to advance our career ladders. But note that these are self centred, we are engrossed in how to get more for ourselves. This is not wrong in itself but when we are over-consumed in that focus then it is a lopsided emphasis on how we live.

In a plane, the passenger load must be evenly spread over the length and width to produce a safer flight. So must be our life’s flight, to be balanced to serve not just self but also others. We start off by equipping with knowledge and skills and then applying them to serve our best interest. Somewhere along that life line we need to step out and have a reality check if we had become overly selfish.

I believe that God did not create each one of us to only look after ourselves. God made us a community of unequals so that we may understand the need to share what we’ve got with those who don’t have. It is this leveling of haves and needs that make this world a better place. By being a piece of this global jigsaw we determine our very purpose on earth. Finding our place and be a part of the total picture.

I feel excited to have found my place but whether it is a perfect fit I am leaving it to God to trim the bad edges. What I feel good is to be able to give back what I was given years ago. My parents gave me an education, my bosses gave me jobs, my wife gave me family stability and God gave me direction and purpose. I stand at this moment in time not to relish my successes but to be a state of thankful joy that at least in certain areas of my life I had been purposeful. I hope that you will also make a difference using your gifts, abilities and experience to help those who need you.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Successful Homecoming Ended

3 weeks passed just like a snap of the fingers. As I blog this Julian and Winnie are on the flight out of KLIA enroute back to the States after a 3 weeks successful homecoming holiday. The entire family had a dinner at the Regent Restaurant just 5 hours ago and while waiting at the airport for both of them to check in both Victoria and Ling had a fun time frolicking about the foyer of the departure hall. As a grandfather I pride myself watching my 2 grand-daughters enjoying their company. I am sure as they grow older they will have more fun together, and including William as he comes into his own. Now our wishes are to see Julian and Winnie set family soon.

My complaint these days has been my enlarged girth, for I have been over-eating and not doing enough exercising. I just feel a sense of poorer physical fitness, no thanks to my lower backache that still plaque me now and them. Notwithstanding this I need to start walking and controlling my food intake to bring down my weight and girth.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back from 3 Weeks Break

Admittedly it is hard to get back to the old rhythm of going back to work after a long break, but I need to try. Last night I decided I have more than enough errands to run and that I must get off my butt to attend to them and get into my office or else people might think I have fully retired!

It was satisfying to attend to 7 separate errands within 3 hours, all well planned, before I head to my favorite laksa shop in Senawang for my lunch before driving to my office. It was the first time I drove in the new Camry and the security guard was checking who was behind the wheel before opening the gate. After attending to the paperworks on my desk I began to get into my routine again.

Being on holiday is great but truthfully I don't relish the tidying up process. You know, unpacking and rearranging, cleaning up and putting things back to the old order, and of course getting back my old leisurely life. Another aspect of holiday is that I tend to over-eat and put on weight that I now must shed. Honestly I don't want my life to be mostly holidaying as it will be too stressful and unhealthy. I prefer relaxation and enjoying the fruits of my labor. But if you plan my holiday and drive me around, I may change my mind...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Exposing Ling to Unfamiliar Places

Ling is just 19 months and when we decided to bring her along to Genting and Pangkor we were a little worrisome how she will adapt to new environments, especially when her parents are not with her. But Ling sailed though with flying colors! We were truly proud of her resilience although she took some time to adjust to new places and new people she meet. That is a natural defence instinct I guess.


She enjoyed Genting from the start as it was cooling and spacious but was a little fretful in the car since she found time soooo boring although the ride was pretty short. At the buffet dinner she was her happy self, wanting to eat the adult food and not drink her milk. Initially we were hesitant to let her eat stuffs we normally don't eat back home but slowly we let her try a little of those food that are less spicy, oily, sweet or fried. We observed for any signs of allergies but she came out with top marks.



Ling was a little reserved in Ipoh and Sitiawan in the homes of her great grandparents. Perhaps the space was less spacious or she needed time to get close to older people. She cried more and clung on to Wai Har, her po po who became her security blanket in unfamiliar situations. But when we came to Pangkor she opened her confidence and became a playful and mischievious little girl we adore.





Over the days we noticed she picked up several words to communicate with us. She learned to say, 'Don't Want', 'There', 'Kar' and 'Meh Meh' to indicate her desires. She discovered the joy of chilled milk! Wai Har had placed her feeding bottle inside the mini-fridge in our resort room for her to consume later but Ling discovered it and drank heartily. From that point on she opened the fridge door regularly to look for chilled milk or water to drink. And she avoided sucking from the teat but prefer drinking straw. Our little grand-daughter has discovered adult ways of taking food.

On the buffet table she'd go for the yogurt, papaya, jelly, muffins, noodle and steamed bun.

She did not get a chance to dip in the kiddy pool as we forgot to bring her swimwear but she was introduced to the waves splashing up her feet and got the thrill of seeing sand on her crox. We picked up seashells for her to remember her first trip to the beach.

I suppose Ling will get to enjoy the sea more often when her parents bring her there later. The first time she was sick, this time she was not adequated prepared but the next I am sure she will get the play with more water, her favorite pastime in the bathroom at home.

The Genting and Pangkor Escapade

On April 13 I drove up to Genting Highlands with Julian and Winnie, my wife Wai Har and grand-daughter Ling for a free one-night stay at the Awana Genting as part of the 6 days trip up north to visit Julian's grandparents and ending with a holiday in Pangkor Island.


The drive to Awana took just 90 minutes from Seremban which was a surprise as I had budgeted 2 hours. Perhaps the traffic along the middle ring road was not as jammed as it was usually. We arrived Awana at 3pm but it took awhile to checked into our rooms because the chambermaids were still cleaning them. Exasperated after more than half hour I approached the receptionist and was given 2 other rooms that were ready for occupation on the 13th floor. Maybe some guests avoided staying on it due to superstition but we did not care.

The rooms overlooked the swimming pool and the park that provided horse riding and a bird cage. Otherwise Awana being a golf resort do not have other playgrounds or adult recreations except a fish pond and internet kiosk that did not seem to work. As it started to rain around 5.30pm we rested in our rooms 13557 and 13558 till dinner time and ate buffet dinner at the Rajawali coffee house next to the reception. In the past 2 occasions when we came here to have a getaway we ate at the Rajawali too and the food choice and quality were decent to pretty good.

We decided to bunk in early to catch up on our much needed rest that was overdued even after the Bali returning weekend.

The weather was excellent the next morning and we decided to walk to the park, take some pictures and returned to our rooms to pack up and check out at noon. The resort gave us complimentary ride tickets on the Genting Skyway, the cable cars up to the Highlands. The nearby Awana Skyway was closed for maintenance and the Genting Skyway station downhill was not well signed so I nearly missed the junction. It was well signed for drivers driving up but not for those going down. As a note, when you descend and come to the roundabout you should swing back uphill to see the entrance to the Skyway station on the left.

The intention was to check out the Outdoor Theme Park but as a heavy downpour suddenly appeared around 1.30pm we decided to take a slow walk back to the Skyway station, stopping at Lao De Fan for mixed rice lunch. We were disturbed by the inconsideration of 2 guests who smoked in the non-smoking zone when a section devoted to smokers was provided nearby, but we decided not to apprehend them as it would be a vain attempt anyway.

We waited for the rain to subside before taking a cable car down at 3.30pm to drive back to Ipoh to see Julian's grandfather. The Batang Kali route we took exited at Tanjung Malim although I had hoped it would exit to the highway much earlier but the road signs were again poorly located. Tonight we were feted to a dinner at Mun Cheong by Maria, Julian's cousin sister.

Rained fell incessantly the next morning (April 15) right until noon. We had a late breakfast on the famous Ipoh Chee Cheong Fun that Julian loves. Later in the afternoon I drove back to Sitiawan to meet up with my mother, Julian's Ah Ma. After a night with her we began our Pangkor holiday from April 16 to 19.

We boarded the 1.45pm ferry ride to the Pangkor Island Beach Resort private jetty. It was a smooth 25 minutes ride in calm waters. Check in at the resort reception was super quick since we had made reservations a few weeks ago. Unfortunately CK and Christine could not join us for the planned holiday. We stayed at the Pacific Wing in rooms 464 and 465 which were adjoined by a common door that Ling loved to move through to disturb her uncle and auntie whom she is now becoming more buddy after the initial few days of scrutiny.

Unlike Bali where there are many places to sightsee, Pangkor is more limiting so we decided to swim more in the resort's Pacific Pool with its standard 3.9 ft depth. As the resort faces west we have the chance to watch the sunset. The first evening's sunset was not spectacular, much like Bali's which fizzled out in its dwindling minutes. But on our second evening both Julian and I were able to capture the fiercer moments before the ball of fire dipped down the horizon. I guess this sight made up for what we did not see in Tanah Lot, Uluwatu or Jimbaran in Bali.

On the second day we decided to take a 2 hours island tour using a private taxi that charges RM50 for a party of 4. We had lunch in Pangkor town and bought some dried seafood. The experiences were disappointing as Pangkor cannot compare with Bali in every aspect. However, the buffet breakfasts and dinners we ate at the resorts's Hornbill restaurant were of good quality but below Cendana's standard at Le Meridien in Bali. Still it is not fair to compare two resorts of different rankings. But Pangkor Island Beach Resort boast of a clean private beach, hornbill birds and a peacock and several peahen that roam the grounds.

We left Pangkor at noon and made our next stop at the Jame's Cendol Stall located in front of the Hindu Temple next to the Store supermarket in Sitiawan. If you want to taste a great bowl of mouth watering cendol, you must not miss Jame's which opens daily from 11.30am (except when it rains lah!)

Throughout our travel we were really glad that rain did not spoil the fun when we were outdoor. We got back safely to Seremban at 6.20pm on April 18.

Judges Should Stay Out of Politics

Here's a very troubling article written by a retired Court of Appeal judge, Mr. NH Chan, that I extract from Malaysiakini. Mr Chan had written of how erroneous judgment can cause the downfall of a government just because they played politics and not stay within the role they are expected to, which is to interprete the court cases in strict accordance with what the Constitutions provided.

Perak crisis: Judges have let Najib down
NH Chan Apr 18, 09 10:43am

The Federal Court decision that Perak speaker V Sivakumar did not have the right to suspend BN Menteri Besar Zambry Abd Kadir and his six cabinet members is a perverse judgment.

It is perverse because it is a decision that was made in blatant defiance of Article 72 (1) of the Federal Constitution which says, "The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court".

The judges of the Federal Court have failed the people and the government of this country when they chose to ignore the law of the Constitution of Malaysia. In other words, the judges have refused to do justice according to law.

Incidentally, ultra vires does not mean "outside the law". It means "outside one's jurisdiction, beyond the scope of one's power or authority".

And we may ask, who is the Federal Court to say what is beyond the jurisdiction of the speaker when the supreme law of the country says that "the validity of any proceedngs in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court".

Don't these judges realise that they have actually done a disservice to the government of the day? Perhaps they have never heard of the Taff Vale case.

In 1900, the English House of Lords, which is the highest court in the land just as our Federal Court is the highest court in this country, handed down an outrageous decision which was unpopular to the common people of England.

Voters threw out gov’t after judges erred

The judges of the House of Lords by their judgment had unwittingly done a great disservice to the Conservative government of the day because in the general election of 1906, it was toppled by a landslide.

The case which was the cause of the fall of the Conservative government was Taff Vale Rly Co v Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants.

It is best that I let Lord Denning take up the story from his book ‘Landmarks in the Law’:

“There was the great Taff Vale case. To understand it, you must know that the trade unions were virtually friendly societies. The members paid their subscriptions into a fund, out of which benefits could be paid to members if they were ill or out of employment.

“Now in the Taff Vale case, the railwaymen's union called a strike at the railway station at Cardiff. The men left work and set up peaceful pickets so as to persuade others not to go to work. The trains could not run, and the company lost money. The railway were advised to bring an action against the union itself, seeking an injunction and damages. The Court of Appeal threw out the action.

“But the House of Lords, in a startling judgment, overruled the Court of Appeal. They issued an interlocutory injunction against the trade union itself, restraining it from setting up the pickets, and said that the railway company could recover damages which could be enforced against trade union funds.

“Later, at the trial itself, the damages were assessed at £23,000 and that sum was paid out of the funds of the trade union. £23,000 in 1900. What would that be now?

“In the eyes of trade unions, that was an outrageous decision. It meant that the railway company could take all the funds subscribed by the members so as to meet the damages. It meant that, in future, a trade union could never call a strike, else it would be in peril of losing all its funds. It meant virtually the end of trade unions. As GM Trevelyan says in his History: 'It struck at the very heart of trade union action'.

“That case had immense political consequences. At the general election of 1906, there came into being a new political party. It was the Labour party. They ran a host of candidates themselves. They pledged complete immunity for trade unions. Many of the Liberal candidates gave the same pledge.

“The result of the general election was like an earthquake. Liberals had 397 seats. The new Labour party had 50 seats. The Conservatives only 157. It was a sweeping victory for the trade unions.

“Parliament immediately passed the Trade Disputes Act 1906. It is probably the most important Act ever put into the Statute Book. It reversed all the judicial decisions against trade unions. The Taff Vale case was overruled. No trade union could thereafter be sued for damages for any wrongs done by its members. Its funds were unassailable."

I think the message of the Taff Vale case to our judges of the Federal Court should be clear enough. The electorate may decide, just as the voters did in 1906 England to throw out the Conservative government, to use the power of their vote to unseat the BN government in the next general election because they do not trust the judges.

What if speaker ignore court decision?

Poor Najib Abdul Razak, our new prime minister, it is the judges who have let him down. Unfortunately it would be the prime minister who has to carry the baby, but not the irresponsible judges who did all the damage by not administering justice according to law.

The law, in the present context, is the Federal Constitution, in particular, Article 72 which states:
(1) The validity of any proceedings in the Legislative Assembly of any State shall not be questioned in any court.

(2) No person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him when taking part in proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of any State or of any committee thereof.

(3) No person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything published by or under the authority of the Legislative Assembly of any State.

Suppose Sivakumar were to ignore the declarative decree of the Federal Court, what then?

Clause (2) of Article 72 of the Federal Constitution says that "No person shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him when taking part in proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of any State or of any committee thereof'.

The Federal Court can say anything they like but the speaker is not liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him when taking part in proceedings of the legislative assembly.

The order of the Federal Court seems to me to be a ‘brutum fulmen’, which in Latin means "ineffectual thunderbolt” - an action which is loud but ineffective.

NH CHAN is a former Court of Appeal judge famous for his ‘All is not well in the House of Denmark’ comment regarding judicial corruption. He was then referring to High Court’s commercial division which was located in Wisma Denmark, Kuala Lumpur. The quote is based on Shakespeare’s ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’. He now lives in Ipoh.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

2009 Bali Holiday

Background
This holiday was planned as part of Julian and Winnie’s second homecoming itinerary. None of us have been to Bali and we were all awed by the romance this island projects so we decide to give it our maybe once-in-a-lifetime holiday. Plus both Julian and Winnie are sea loving people. To fit into their itinerary and the flight availability I made bookings to have the 4D/3N holiday from April 6 to April 9. Below is a summary of our daily events.

April 6
Today is coincidentally my 61st birthday. Like last year when we went to Bangkok on Wai Har’s birthday, this time it is my turn.

Flight MH853 to Denpasar, Bali, is scheduled to fly at 3.20pm. I could not get an earlier flight as the seats were all taken up. Obviously the recession climate failed to dampen interest in nearby holiday travels, or that Malaysians are still not as badly hit as to withdraw from enjoying themselves.

It is just as well that we fly later than earlier so we can have a leisurely startup. This morning we have had a lovely beef noodle breakfast at the wet market so we decided to have our lunch at the airport. At noon Ah Fook our regular taxi driver picked us up for KLIA. The taxi fare is now RM70 up from RM60 to 65 last year before the fuel hike in June. We had MacDonald’s lunch before heading towards the departure lounge in the main terminal.

Our flight was delayed to 3.45pm due to very heavy rain. I was a little concern about the slippery runway but the Boeing 737-800 taxied and lifted off the runway without any mishap. The plane was just quarter full so we had a good service on board. The meal served about 5pm consisted sate beef with fried rice, custard and ferroro rocher. I enjoyed it together with red wine. I told myself that I ought to have a great birthday!

At 6.20pm we landed at Ngurah Rai Airport which is the sunset time and Winnie applied for her visa on arrival which cost her USD10. We were met with stacks of travel brochures on display racks and money changers before clearing immigration. The officer attending us, when we appeared as a family rather than individually, said this was not allowed in Bali but lamented that Indonesia treat Malaysians better than we treat Indonesians. I joked that he should bring this up to our new prime minister, Najib Tun Razak.

As arranged, Kadek our private tour guide met us outside the arrival hall with a placard bearing my name. He drove us in the Suzuki APV van to Warung Made in Seminyak on the way to the hotel in Tanah Lot for our dinner. Warung Made is a famous restaurant serving international and Indonesian cuisines. As I had wanted to try authentic Balinese food I went straight for the nasi campur special and sate babi while Julian and Winnie went for the nasi goring seafood. As we had a recent meal on board, Wai Har shared my food which was quite a large portion. The total bill came to 192,000 IDR or about RM60. I was disappointed with the lack of choice and the commonness of the food but the nasi campur was distinctively different from our Malaysian offering.

We got to Le Meridien Nirwana Golf and Spa Resort (LM) at 9pm after a leisurely 35 minutes drive on mostly narrow, windy and sometimes bumpy country roads. Kadek in his Balinese sarong was friendly, smiling and talkative and I asked lots of questions on our first encounter. He was polite and courteous, even declining the dinner with us at Made. Kadek remembered to bring me some lilighundi seeds to plant. Lilighundi leaves supposedly repels mosquitoes so the shrubs should be planted in the vicinity of the houses.

LM was secured with guards at the entry point and I was told that this practice became a requirement after the 2002 bombing at Kuta when over 200 tourists died in the attack by terrorists. The resort was huge and I came to this initial conclusion when we took a long, maybe 10 minutes walk, accompanied by a guest relations officer, to our rooms at 370 and 371. After showering we checked the king sized bed at 11pm. We felt like staying in a 6 star resort and looked set to enjoy our stay in Bali.

April 7
Today we have planned a relaxing day at the resort. Last night I had told Kadek to pick us up only tomorrow morning. Both Wai Har and I awoke at 6.15am to a clear Balinese sky that is lighting up. From our balcony we could not see the sun yet but the birds were chirping and the Indian Ocean roared against the beach just 300 metres away and without our sight. We sat and chatted on the balcony wooden chairs. I wore the Nada Chair back support belt Julian gave me to support my lower back which still aches a little. I need to nurse it especially early in the morning so I don’t twitch it and then ruin my holiday. The weather appeared good and the atmosphere at the resort is almost idyllic. We plan to let time take care of itself and not stick to any program. While rummaging my camera bag I discovered my sunglass missing, which probably happened either in the plane or at the airport when I took out my camera to take pictures. Ah well, I seldom wear my sunglass anyway!

After our leisurely buffet breakfast at the Cendana Restaurant using Julian’s Starwood points we rested a bit before taking a dip at the 3.9 feet deep resort pool which overlooks the beach and the Tanah Lot temple perched on a rocky outcrop separate from the mainland. Before I changed into my trunk I walked about the adjacent golf course and took several scenic pictures and videoclips. These pictures sure make beautiful wallpapers. The beach was unswimmable because of very strong ocean currents and its stony volcanic sands.

We skipped proper lunch as our breakfast was rather late so we opted to order pizzas to eat on the poolside. I like the head and shoulder massage under the waterfall as well as the Jacuzzi pool nearby. Time seems to stop.

Julian and Winnie had their Balinese massage at 2.30pm while Wai Har and I opted to rest in our room instead. At 5.15pm we met other guests at the pool side to be taken by one of the resort staff for a guided tour to the Tanah Lot temple to watch the famed sunset. We walked on a track through the golf course and saw the temple and many people already gathered nearby. The tide was low and some people actually crossed the sea into the temple area. We passed through several stalls selling food and souvenirs before reaching the shore next to the temple, joining the hundred over visitors comprising tourists and locals who came to pray and gave their food offerings to the gods of the ocean. At 6pm the sunset was fierce but it whimpered off at 6.20pm, the actual time we all expected the ball of fire to sink into the horizon. Instead we saw just a pink glow and a sun hidden by the clouds. I was disappointed but consoled myself that I will get another chance tomorrow at Jimbaran or Uluwatu.

We came back at 7pm and took our dinner at the Cendana again since we do not like the Italian food at the Nautilus. When we returned to our room at 9pm we were surprised to see a chocolate cake cling-wrapped on a plate with our 36th anniversary wish from Julian* and Winnie. They were really thoughtful and kind to want to celebrate it with us on this holiday although I plan to celebrate it on 12th April itself. We each had a slice of the cake and then commented that we were right not to order 4 dinner shares but only 3 since the cake would fill us up.

We all slept 10.30pm to prepare for the full day tour tomorrow.

* later Julian let me know that the cake was complimentary from the resort as part of their goodwill gestures to their guests. I think little acts like this endear their guests to make return visits.

Back in Malaysia, today saw the 3 by-elections at Bukit Gantang, Bukit Selambau and Batang Ai. CK kept me posted of the results by smsing me tonight about 8.30pm. PRK won both Bukits but lost the Batang to BN. Tonight I found the screen of my Samsung handphone showing lines, maybe it is failing on me after over 3 years of use. or just not used to being used oversea??

April 8
We were up again at 6.15am. As it will be a full day out I decided to wear my lumbar brace to breakfast and during the tour. The weather was again bright and sunny. From the balcony I watched caddies helping apply top soil on the green. At 8am we had our buffet breakfast at Cendana again. Kadek met us at the lobby at 9am and drove us Nusa Dua, a place built by the late President Suharto. The access road is the only highway on the island. Nusa Dua is where many 5 stars resorts are located. Kadek took us to the public beach there, later took us to Tanjung Benoa to watch watersports such as water skiing and paragliding. We did not go to the Turtle Island nearby as I thought it was not worth it.

Our next destination was Legian and Kuta. The weather was hot and I felt sleepy and tired. We went to the famous Kuta Beach which is some 1.5 kilometer long and filled with many beach chairs. I looked for something to drink, something local but all I saw were bottled and canned rinks. Maybe tourists don’t trust the hygiene of locally prepared drinks. For lunch Kadek brought us to the Zanzibar (http://www.zanzibarbali.com/) where we had the famous seafood temptation. Invited Kadek to join us which he did and ordered nasi goring. The total bill for the 5 of us was 311,000 IDR (RM98). This is a touristy spot and Kadek has forewarned me of the pricey price but we were not disappointed with the food quality and quantity.

After lunch I said I wanted to rest. Kadek dropped Julian, Winnie and Wai Har on the busy Kuta main road to look around for souvenirs. He drove me to our meeting place about a kilometer away. While waiting Kadek took me to a DVD shop where I bought 5 DVDs and got 2 free for 50,000 IDR (under RM16), one of which was for Kadek. The three of them came back early as they did not find anything to their liking.

Next Kadek rushed us to Uluwatu, the site of the second most famous temple in Bali as well as venue of sunset viewing. It was very jammed and crowded when we got there at 5.30pm, being a temple festival day today with many worshippers coming to pray. The Uluwatu temple is sited up on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean and we were some 1 kilometer away. There were many monkeys about and we were warned not to get close to them as they are likely to snatch stuffs like camera, combs, food and handphones. To go in we had to pay an entrance fee as well as wear a sarong each as we will be on sacred grounds. After snapping as many souvenir pictures as we can, we left for our next destination, the Garuda Wisnu Kencana or GWK to watch the Kecak dance. I was disappointed that the Uluwatu sunset was not spectacular but contended myself to the fact that it is spectacular in my imagination!

On arriving GWK Kadek took us to see the huge 150m tall bronze statue of Wisnu riding on a Garuda (eagle) under construction. It is expected to be completed in 2017. Later we attended the kecak dance in the amphitheatre. Did not like the overly religious ambience as well as the grotesque and evil looking characters in the dance. Later Kadek explained the moral of the story which is how good triumph over evil.

The highlight of the day is the dinner at Jimbaran Bay. This is what Kadek promised. He drove us there and guided us to what to expect. He declined having dinner with us as it is supposed to be a private family event. Kadek said all the stalls are the same, same design, same food, same price, same service. We are to pick our fresh seafood, which will be weighed, tell them how to cook them and then wait on our table on the sandy beach. We had a lovely candlelight dinner facing the bay under a starry sky and near round moon. We drank a coconut each and listened to the songs by a singing band as they approach the guests. Two bands were in attendance. One of them approached us towards the end of our dinner. Later when I paid the food bill it came up to 465,000 IDR (RM146) or about RM37 a head, reasonable considering the ambience we also enjoyed.

Kadek sent us back to LM at 10pm. He brought along 2 branches from the lilighundi tree in his house in case the seeds won't grow. Nice fella. We slept before midnight after bathing.

April 9
This is our last day in Bali. Origionally Kadek is to bring us to Tanah Lot temple but as we already have been there on 7th evening I cancelled it so Kadek comes at 10am instead of 9.30am originally planned. After breakfast at Cendana we checked out at 10am and loaded all our bags into Kadek’s MPV. Although we ate in Cendana four times we enjoyed the food and the environment. This morning the bales were sweetly decorated as tonight is fullmoon and every fullmoon the Hindus celebrate in a big way.

Julian paid nothing for our stay and food consumed. He uses his Starwood points instead. The morning weather was as good as the past 2 days. Kadek took the Kediri route to bring us north to Ubud where he dropped us off at the Pasar Ubud to shop around for things we like. We managed to buy 5 adult and 1 child sarong for 200,000 IDR (RM63). The child sarong is to be Victoria’s birthday gift and it is in her favorite blue.

After Ubud on the way north we stopped by the terraced rice field in Tegallallang. It wasn’t very big like in China we saw. There we were ‘harassed’ by women trying to sell us trinkets and other souvenirs. We were just not interested. The next stop was the highlight of the day, to the village of Batur where we looked at the volcanic Mount Batur, the Lake Batur and the adjacent Gunung Abang. Mount Batur is active, having erupted 3 times in the last 90 years. It is 1717m high, the 3rd highest mountain in Bali after Mount Agung (3142m) and Mount Abang (2153m).

We ate lunch at the popular Grand Puncak Sari. It was a buffet Balinese style meal and we sat on the balcony area overlooking the volcano and lake. It was scenic but very windy. Lunch for the 4 of us cost us 359,000 IDR (RM113) inclusive of 21% service tax. Comparatively it is more expensive than the Jimbaran food but it is the tax that lifted the price this high. Otherwise it would cost just 70,000 IDR each. Kadek again declined lunch with us.

We left Batur downhill towards the airport driving through Perialatan (known for its paintings), Sukamani, Celuk (gold and silver smiths) and Batubulan (stone carvings) where we bought Bali coffee powder from Hardy’s supermarket. It was about 4.30pm and Kadek then drove us to the airport. Inside the departure area I paid Kadek 730,000 IDR and another USD100, making a total of about USD166 for the agreed service he render with tips. Kadek gave us 3 calling cards which we will use to help promote his service. As a tour guide Kadek is honest, reasonable, knowledgeable, punctual, considerate and ever smiling. If you need his service you can contact him at http://www.typicalbali.com/.

We left Bali with fond memories of what we experienced.

Blogging Genting and Pangkor Later

I just returned from a whirlwind drive up north to visit Julian's grandparents and took the chance to also sightsee Genting Highlands and Pangkor Island. I had to blog the details of our recent Bali holiday fist so I shall post on Genting and Pangkor a little later after I catches my breath!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A Good Day to Die

As we worshipped God on Easter morning today and celebrated Christ's resurrection my thoughts went back to the text message I received yesterday that a brother in Christ I am acquainted with had died on Friday evening. After a bout with cancer he succumbed on the same anniversary day that Jesus Christ died, i.e. Good Friday. To the family, nothing can overcome the grief of losing a loved one but the consolation, and the celebration also, is that he died on this 'good' day so that every Good Friday will be an anniversary for them to remember. The family will also rejoice that just as Christ died and was resurrected on the 3rd day, the deceased father/husband too shall be resurrected in Christ one day. If I can choose when to go home to be with my Lord, I'd like to go home on Good Friday too, to be symbolically sharing His deathday.

Just over a week ago, on Palm Sunday, I remembered my late father who died on that joyous day when Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem for the last time before he was arrested and crucified. So each Palm Sunday became his death anniversary even though we also consider April 5 as his real death anniversary.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Doing it out of Love

Yea, God did it out of LOVE. He sent His only Son Jesus Christ to be crucified on the cross at Calvary on Good Friday to open the doorway for the entire humanity to come home to Him. All people sin and all will die in sin. Period. God's holiness cannot mix with sin so a way must be establish to 'neutralise' this sin. The way is Jesus Christ. The process - sacrifice, the ultimate form of obedience. God said that He will accept us IF we accept His son Jesus Christ and live a life of discipleship. God did the sacrifice thing out of LOVE for us all, BUT His act does not stop there. He carried it a step beyond, to show all the believers that they are not believing in a dead God. He raised up Jesus Christ from his death on the 3rd day after He was hung on the cross. Dead but raised by the power of the creator God who has the authority even over death. Tomorrow when Christians all over the world celebrate Easter, it is a reminder to them to keep the faith in this unkind and evil world, that righteousness will be restored in good time. Easter is all about hope and the reassurance that we worship the one and only Living God.

Today another couple did something out of love. Planned for some time, they invited some 60 plus relatives and friends to the combined birthday celebration of their daughter and son. I am writing of my youngest daughter Irene and her hubby SK who by their gestures give their kids something to remember when they grow up and become knowledgeable of their mom's and dad's great love. It was not simply done but greatly done, not to show off but to etch a great memory. Those of us who came for the birthday party at Shang's Palace in Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur this afternoon were entertained by a clown and Barney the purple dinosaur, Victoria's favorite cartoon character. William slept through the birthday song. Even though she was not in her best form as she was having a little flu, Victoria came for her party and met up with her friends. At just 4, Victoria's maturity is ahead by a year at least.

We all do things in our special ways, some may not be acceptable. Even if our method may not be right all the time, the intention must be noble. The Roman soldiers at the crucifixion may not agree with the method Jesus used to announce the Good News, they nonetheless confess at the cross that He was a righteous man.

It therefore remains an encouragement to all of us, whose good intentions were misunderstood, to not despair when we face rejection. God see through our actions and intentions and the motives we have. He will understand and bless us accordingly.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Beware of Words

Words can be like a balm or a sword. Spoken with love they heal and comfort but used with anger or hatred they can cause irrevocable hurt and damage that take a long time to heal. Long ago we have only spoken words and written words to contend with and in both cases we still have time to think before speaking or mailing out the letter or delivering that note. Today, a click can send out words that cannot be retrieved, or in computerase, unsent.

Which is why it is really important for us whether while emailing, blogging or commenting in blogs or sharing in Face Book or messaging to recheck what we want to say and send and edit them before actually sending out our thoughts. I have often regretted clicking a second too fast. In emailing I set the client to not automatically send so I have time to reconsider.

Expressing oneself digitally on the Internet will create your net identity and personality and your opinions will remain visible for years. Like space debris your words float in the cybersphere even after you are dead and gone. Unlike papers that can be destroyed, electronic words can be archived in so many servers that it is almost impossible to remove all traces. I have had my comments or letters copied and pasted without my authorization in other websites and blogs. While it is flattering it can sometimes be disconcerting to find yourself in websites that you don't with to be associated with.

Over the years I've learned to be careful not to use irresponsible expressions or profanities. They can come back to haunt me. So please be very very careful what you say on your blogs or comment in others. Before clicking 'Send' ask yourself if this is what you want the world to know about you.

Glimpses and Impression of Bali





The Bali I visited is entirely different from the Bali I envisaged. It just goes to show how perception and reality can differ. For years I have heard from friends who went to Bali how idyllic and peaceful life in Bali was, and how they enjoyed the paradise island. But I also heard about the highly religious, specifically Hindu, culture the residents there follow, to the extent that I was forewarned to stay away from idols and practices which are uncomfortable. Seeing pictures of actors dressed up in scary costumes and hearing garbling noises can be quite disconcerting if one is spiritually weak, as if our spirits can be overcome by those we come into contact with. I went to Bali with the feeling that I am not going to be too much into their religious lifestyle nor participate in their worship, but to understand its culture and enjoy its beauty.

To be not visiting Bali which is just 3 hours flight away is almost unforgivable so when I decided to visit it with my family it was one down the list of unvisited places I want to go before I am too old to travel.

The 4 of us were in Bali for 4 days and 3 nights. As soon as I booked my discounted air tickets from MAS at their travel fair in February this year, I started looking for a personal tour guide. I read that such a career is common in Bali so when I googled this description I came up with 5 names but only one impressed me as the one worthy to take our business. His name is Kadek Sustrina and he ran his personal website at http://www.typicalbali.com.

We traveled in the period from April 6 to 9. It was a nice birthday gift to me to be enjoying it with my family. We stayed at the Le Meridien Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort in Tanah Lot. As soon as Julian made the reservation I was a little unsure if we should be staying so far from civilization. Majority of tourists would choose to stay either directly by the beaches in Kuta, Legian or Sanur, or in cultural towns like Ubud or scenic hills like Batur. The unique attraction Le Meridien had to offer is that it is the only resort next to the famed Tanah Lot Temple which is directly visible from the restaurants and golf course. So any pictures taken of the temple from a certain direction must be taken from the grounds of Le Meridien. I was privileged to have taken many of them that I will just share a few here. Feel free to download them if you like them for your wallpapers.

I am no temple visitor but for Bali’s sake I will get within viewing sight of Tanah Lot and Uluwatu, the most famous of the 14,000 temples in the island. You read correctly, there are 14,000 temples throughout the island which include family temples as well. It just show how religious the Balinese Hindus are. Almost everything in their lives revolves around the temples. To them Hinduism come first.

Our visits centre on the claimed spectacular sunsets, romantic Jimbaran Bay, popular Legian and Kuta beaches, cultural Ubud and the volcanic Kintamani and Batur area. The 3 days we were driven around were in great clear but sunny weather, which was great for outdoor photography. Kadek provided excellent and informative narrations to us.

I imagined Bali to have good roads but I found them to be small, narrow and sometimes ill-maintained. But the Balinese are well mannered and helpful to each other. Surprisingly I discovered: no speed limits, no parking (just community collections), one toll at the airport only, no road tax, just the Pertamina petrol stations, very few wide bodied vehicles, more motorcycles than cars. I also discovered the artistic side of Balinese, they are very good in painting, sculpturing, wood carving and crafting gold and silver. Balinese are simple and easy going, polite and hospitable people. On the last day of our stay, I observed Balinese participate in voting for their representatives to the government. It was very peaceful, no canvassing nor vote buying.

Maybe tourists are attracted to Bali because it is timeless. I said to Kadek that in another 20 years Bali will remain as it is today which perhaps was what it was 50 years ago. If you enjoy the beach, outdoor, golfing, relaxation, sun and fun and culture, I think you will not find Bali disappointing. I think millions of tourists have attested to this. Kadek will be a good starting point to help you plan a good itinerary.

Details of this holiday will be posted later.

It's Good to Be Back

Today is Good Friday and it is good to be back from a very memorable Bali holiday last night. I'd like to share my holiday highlights in another post but let me first dwell a little on this significant day in the Christian calendar.

Good Friday stands for a turning point for the followers of Jesus Christ. The person whom they called Lord for 3 years was suddenly a criminal in the eyes of the Jewish priests and the Roman ruler and soldiers. It was criminally wrong to disturb the peace with promoting the truth and upsetting the religious order of the day. Even today people who go round revealing what are true can get on the wrong side of the law so it is naive to think that good laws protect good people. Good laws in the hands of perverted leaders and rulers are often used to suppress and persecute good people. It happened in Jesus's day and is happening even today all over the world.

Persecution cost Jesus's life in exchange for the lives of the whole humanity. This is how God decide to work: Use the death of Jesus Christ to redeem those who believe in Him by absorbing their sins into His death. It is like Jesus's death is a darkhole into which sins are absorbed in exchange for accepting His lordship. Jesus died so that an opportunity is available to every man and woman to confess of their sins and gain their life in Jesus Christ. He died for this supreme purpose, otherwise we will all be condemned to eternal death. On Good Friday He opened the doorway for us to believe and be saved.

Even as it is good for me and my family to be back from Bali, it is also good for you, if you are still not a believer in Jesus Christ, to be back in fellowship with Him. Just confess your sins before Him and ask Him to come into your life and be your Lord. I can assure you that it will be good to be back in the arms of God. Good Friday is a great time to make this decision.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

16 versus 61

Kensington is our favorite place to celebrate birthdays because of its cosy settings and the food above average to good. So when I was given the choice to decide I asked for Kensington of course. However, tonight I did not go for a set dinner as I need to keep my digestive system normalised before our holiday trip tomorrow. Don't want to travel on an angry or upset tummy. Plus I need to save space for a slice of birthday cake.

Just as our own dinner was ending, I heard the birthday song played over the restaurant's speakers and then a cake was brought out. Was it for me? No it was too early. It was for a teenage girl next table and her family was celebrating her sweet sixteenth birthday. I turned to her and said, 'Uncle's turn next!' and clapped for her.

A few minutes later the birthday song was played again and I know it was my song. Then it dawn on me that I was celebrating my 61st birthday sharing the same numbers and the candles as the girl next table. It was a happy coincidence.

The restaurant staff obliged us with a group photo which I post here.

My wife apologised saying 'I did not give you any present' but I replied, 'The best present you can give me is your companionship'. I guess for any age gifts matter little than the person you love.

Little Ling loved to be in the centre of attention. Well, she'll get hers come September when she turns two. For now she shares the limelight with grandpa and po po.

Looking Forward to Bali

It had been almost 2 months ago since I decided to go to Bali for a holiday with my wife, son Julian and his wife Winnie who came back for a visit. I've not been to this magical island that I heard of during my childhood days and even now when friends mentioned how nice it is a place to go I felt of the remaining places I'd like to see but haven't this will be one of them.

In February I picked up 4 tickets from MAS which was promoting discounted fares to Bali without any fuel surcharges. Julian helped book rooms in a resort near Tanah Lot. It was far from the main tourist spots but quite private and exclusive. Instead of joining a packaged tour we decided to check out for a private tour guide. I used the Internet to scout for one and was pleased to sign up one (I won't reveal his name here yet) who gave us a customised tour itinerary at a good rate. We expect the total tour cost to be higher than average but feel that we don't want to compromise on a great family holiday by cutting costs.

Our flight into Bali will be tomorrow afternoon arriving 3 hours later around dinner time. I plan to stay off the cyberspace for the 3 days there even if the resort has wifi service. I will blog again when I get back and share on some of the Bali highlights.

Palm Sunday, a Day of Remembrance

Christians round the world celebrate Palm Sunday on a moderate scale as a run up to the more significant Good Friday and Easter Sunday, both of which remind Christians the reason for their hope of eternal salvation. Some may disagree but it is only in Christianity that God is described as a living God because we believe that He indeed is alive. Therefore Christians welcome death, not as a wish to die, but as a doorway to a better life in Heaven with God. Palm Sunday is a day when Jesus Christ was welcomed in Jerusalem by his followers and little children as He rode on the back of a donkey, being greeted with shouts of 'Hosanna'! Jesus knew that His returning to Jerusalem is but the way to being prosecuted and then crucified on the cross.

Palm Sunday was also the day 11 years ago when my father, the late Yeu Wan Chuan, passed on to glory. He was an exemplary dad whom all our family members loved and remember even till today.

This weekend also coincided with the All Souls Day or Ching Ming Day where Chinese visit the graves of their departed family members to carry out annual tomb cleaning and laying of flowers and praying for blessings and protection for the living.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Is this the Real Najib?

At his maiden speech telecast live over national television last night, the new prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak surprised viewers with 3 important announcements: the lifting of the ban on two opposition parties newspapers, the freeing of 13 detainees under the Internal Security Act and a review of the ISA later. Well, I am happy as much as most Malaysians but whether this is the real Najib or not is left to be seen not just in the coming months but years as he trains his skills, principles and his 1Malaysia concept on nation building under his leadership. It is easy to announce reversals of previous government actions but what we look forward to is actual change in how the government apply fair practice towards every Malaysians of all backgrounds. Can he do it? Will he get the support from the new cabinet he will set up later next week? Will UMNO approve of his 1Malaysia concept? Will he be criticised at every turn by his mentor Tun Dr Mahathir?

Maybe we have misjudged him, maybe we have been too harsh, maybe we should give him space and chance to carry out his work. But we do so with caution and vigilance. In truth, Najib must prove that he deserves our support, and vote, because he came up to this position with much suspicion of his background and skills. Be sure that many bloggers will be watching his every move from now on ...

But to be cynical about his announcements, one can suggest that they were made to win the 3 by-elections coming up in 3 days time. Only time will tell if this is true but certainly Pakatan Rakyat is a little worried this time. It is a strategic move by Najib but the voters must still be watchful as not to be too trusting at this stage.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Momentous Day

Much to my disappointment but not without expectation, Najib Tun Razak was sworn in as the 6th prime minister of Malaysia this morning at about 10.15am. At the same ceremony Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Jeanne Abdullah his wife were conferred the Tunship, both events under the watchful eyes of Tun Dr Mahathir who got his wish fulfilled, that he be invited to this momentous event. He may appear pleased that his eventual heir, NTR whom he said was too young to be made his deputy while he was PM, is now the PM but he is unconvinced that NTR has the flair or strength to lift the nation out of the current economic and political crises. He is very much gunning for Muhyiddin Yassin the deputy PM to succeed NTR one day. How much he continue to interfere in the running of the government under NTR as he did under AAB is left to be seen. At least AAB had said that he will not follow TDM's footstep.

Today is personally momentous. Our new 'baby', the Camry 2.4V came home this afternoon. Funny, just as AAB retired and made way for NTR, the older Camry also 'retired' and made way for the 2.4V. I'll post a picture of both cars later.

Update 4/4/09: Pix posted.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Can Najib Tun Razak be the Next PM?

In the past 2 weeks we have seen the momentum being built up to bring him to the place where he is almost certain of inheriting the jewel that his wife Rosmah Mansor once said is fated to be her husband's. Read HERE. That was arrogant and presumptuous on her part. I always believe that nothing is certain until the event happens. And that event is going to be tomorrow when NTR is expected to be sworn in as the 6th prime minister of Malaysia.

Yet there are unresolved issues that made many Malaysians and even foreigners especially businessmen uncomfortable. NTR has been sidestepping the issue of the Mongolian woman (now that Pakatan Rakyat is banned from mentioning her name during the by-election campaign I am sure we bloggers are similarly warned but it does not take an intelligent person to associate) that has dogged him these past year or so. I have to agree with the position of the opposition MPs HERE that the King must determine that the person he agrees to become the new PM must be free from any character blotch and must be a leader of high integrity. Beyond this I have to insist that the King does one other thing, as NTR is not widely accepted as a clean politician. The King must call for a royal commision to ascertain NTR's suitability. In fact, if NTR is so cock sure that he did no wrong he must volunteer to be investigated to clear his name. That would be a first in Malaysian politics!

The advent of blogs allow many articles about his dubious backgrounds to surface, true or otherwise. As such NTR's background must be carefully checked before allowing him to be our leader. My fear is that if he indeed is going up with a criminal baggage he is likely to allow Malaysia to become economically and politically blackmailed by those who have evidence again him.

Unfortunately, the King may not want to upset the sensitive Malay culture of pulling down one of their own kind, especially not in this late hour. But he has the royal authority to insist that until he is satisfied that NTR is really clean, Abdullah Badawi must not resign but stay on as prime minister. In the meantime a royal commission of enquiry be made to satisfy the King and the Parliament that NTR deserves the crown that his wife insisted is his fate. Is the King going to exercise his conscience and constitutional authority or just sweep the matter under the carpet? As a rakyat I believe this is too important an issue to allow the change of power take place as dictated by UMNO. I believe if secret voting is allowed many BN MPs will vote against NTR from becoming the new PM and take side with the 81 opposition MPs.

The next 15 hours will show if the King will think as I'd like him to think and act. Better be safe than sorry.

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