Sunday, 29 January 2012

War against vandalism by money lenders (loan sharks)

Can you see anything except numbers ? This picture is taken at Kota Damansara, circa January 2012.  
I had travelled quite a fair bit around peninsular Malaysia after coming back from Melbourne three weeks ago. I have been up north and south plus travel back to my hometown. And I noticed something that is of terrible eyesore and this happened everywhere around Malaysia with the worse being in Klang Valley.
I have to make it clear that I am not against those who are in money lending business as long they are legal but I am against the way they (some of them are legal while majority are illegal money lenders) advertise their business which is considered vandalism against public and private properties.
You can see the stickers bearing their service and mobile numbers everywhere. The main targets were lampposts, traffic lights, sign boards, road signs, notice boards set up by municipal councils and many more. Some went off board even to stick it on private properties especially the grills of shops. Even the trees are not spared.
Money from tree. This picture is taken at Persiaran Surian, Petaling Jaya, circa January 2012.

Those with higher budget will put up banners on trees and lamp posts. And I even a row of their advertisement the size of a poster along the monorail pillars along Jalan Tun Razak. I am wondering why the authority is not taking action against them?
We want to be a top tourist destination and imagine what will tourist think when they see all these? If nothing is being done to stop this problem, then we are no different compare to other backward countries. Well, I don’t even remember seeing something like this when I toured African nations and our poorer Southeast Asian neighbours. If you see even one sticker like this in Singapore, then I will say you are having illusion.

Having pointed out the problem, I would like to suggest that the government set up a special task force to stop this problem. The government should assign personnel to list down the mobile numbers listed on the banners, stickers and posters and then ban the numbers immediately and also ban the people who own the numbers from registering a new mobile number in future. On top of that, government should also impose a hefty fine to the owners of the mobile numbers listed as they had committed vandalism and the money should be used to clean up the damage they had done by their stickers, banners and posters.
Local councils should also change the road signs and sign boards damaged by the stickers. Have anyone ever counted the amount of damage they have done to road signs and signboards put up by local councils in monetary terms? In Selangor where Pakatan Rakyat rules, the damage is the worst and there were no initiatives at all by their local councils to replace the damaged road signs and sign boards full of stickers by money lenders and also to remove the banners from the trees and lampposts. They lied that when BN were in power, BN did not do anything to the people. It is them who are not doing anything.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ang Pow: Does the amount matter?

Ang Pows (red packets) are a must to every Chinese during Chinese New Year, weddings, birthdays and many other occasions. The origin of it is unclear but in Malaysia and Singapore, the tradition of giving red packets were also practiced by other race albeit a bit different like green packets instead of red for Malays.  
During Chinese New Year, red packets are usually given by those who are already married to parents, siblings who are not married, nieces and nephews, children of friends or someone younger than you. These days, they were also given to your favourite waitress at the restaurant, the policemen who drop by your house when you light firecrackers or the security guard at your housing estate.
The amount is just a significant of your sincerity but of course you don’t put amount associated with four or seven as they are considered unlucky. However, these days, I notice people care more about the amount in the red packet rather than receiving one.
Uncles and aunties who give one with big amount are good ones who those who give less are said to be stingy or not good. There are also parents who judge which children are better by the amount of money in the red packets they received.
Just recently, I heard a complaint from a staff at a restaurant saying that customer A only give us 10 bucks while customer B gave 50 bucks so next time we will reserve a seat for him even when the restaurant is full. What the heck is this? The society seems to have gone very materialistic and money minded in the wrong way.
Another thing I disapprove of very much is when you attend a wedding dinner, the amount in your red packet is being recorded or the red packet that you gave is written by the receiver that it comes from who so that they can know who gave how much. What is the point? Can you ask for more if you know if say, someone only gave 20 bucks to attend your wedding dinner? People will usually give according to their wish and their ability and we should respect that.
So, is amount really that matters? I would like to hear your view.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Make shark fin illegal globally

I am moved by Wong Chun Wai’s decision that he will no longer consume shark fin soup. The Group Chief Editor of The Star wrote that in his On the Beat column on Sunday 22nd January. I applaud his decision and I hope that more people will join in to stop eating shark fin.
I used to be a fond lover of shark fin soup but I like the crab based gravy rather than the fin. I don’t find it anything special or nice to eat about the fins. It is tasteless and if overcooked, it is like chewing rubber bands in your mouth.

Morever, eating shark fin don't bring you any health benefit neither nor it has a meaning like "yee sang" that will bring you prosperity. We just kill innocent creature just to show off to guests that we can afford expensive food. What is the point ?
I had made the decision not to consume shark fin long time ago after watching a documentary on how cruel the sharks were slaughtered just for their fins. These days, I will still ask for my favourite shark fin gravy with crab meat but I will ask the chef to exclude the fins. When I have dinners or lunches to attend and if the menu consists of shark fin soup, I will just take the gravy but leave the fins alone. Well, I can't tell my host not to include shark fin soup in the menu.
According to Wong’s article, 70 million sharks were slaughtered a year for their fins and they are in peril of extinction.  Well, if global initiative is not taken, very soon we will only see sharks in pictures and museums.
I know my call will be unpopular to certain groups but I would like to ask the Malaysian government to take the lead in banning shark fin altogether in this country. Just make shark fins illegal as it is of drugs. Not only that, the government need to have strict enforcement or else the ban is useless as people will turn into smuggled fins. Public education is also important.
The effort of one country or certain groups and individuals are not enough. How much can we achieve? From my point of view, the United Nations should come into the picture as well to protect the sharks and made shark fin illegal globally.
We can always substitute real fins with artificial fins. They taste the same. Act before it is too late.

Monday, 23 January 2012

First day of Chinese New Year

Gong xi ! Gong xi ! 恭喜 恭喜

I started my first day of the year of dragon at 12 midnight sharp with prayers and lighting of firecrackers. I prayed for a prosperous year ahead and also for me to stay healthy throughout the year. We had our reunion dinner in my in-law’s house prior to that followed by exchange of ang pows ( red packets).
I miss the reunion dinner in my grandma’s house and my favourite food such as “pig stomach in pepper soup” and “bak kian” ( fried mince meat mixed with prawns and vegetables ). These two are the must have dishes during reunion dinner and it is a very northern Peninsular Malaysia Hokkien dish. I don’t get to eat those in my in-law’s place.
After morning visitations to an uncle’s house, we proceed back to my hometown in the afternoon. With my cat Baron staying in KL, we have to arrange for his food and drinks as we will be away for 5 days. Not only that, we can’t be away for too long for fear that he will go hungry. He is a very spoilt cat and he likes his food to be fresh else he rather go hungry. So we have to arrange our schedule according to him.
I slept all the way from KL till almost reach home and hubby told me that the traffic is heavy on the North South Highway. Upon arrival, I received a huge ang pow from mom and dad. It is said that children who are already married will no longer receive ang pow from parents but I know dad love me the most.
The highlight of the day is the open house at home tonight. Friends and relatives came batch by batch. I only meet some of them once a year. More ang pows were exchanged (hmm...just a year ago I was the one receiving ang pow and now I am the one giving). We also catch up on what’s going on and of course you can’t expect gossips not being exchanged as well.   
I was asked to light two huge fireworks that my dad procured from his friend. This year I don’t even see policemen on motorbikes around my housing area. Well, again, why not legalise fireworks again in this country? As I am writing this blog, my surrounding is so noisy with sounds of fireworks coming from all directions. So, what’s the difference with the ban and without the ban as people are lighting it like it is legal. Only one difference: lost of government revenue!
Tomorrow will be full of visitation to temples and relatives plus some gambling in between.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Welcome the dragon 新年快乐

A pair of dragons at the entrance of JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur, circa 2012. 
祝您 恭喜发财,步步高升,心想事成,身体健康 万事如意。

Happy Chinese New Year to all my dear friends and relatives from all corners of the globe. Wish you have a great and prosperous year of dragon. May great wealth comes to you, your entire wish comes true and most important of all, wish you healthy throughout the year.  

Saturday, 21 January 2012

江山永固,祖国长春 Getting Ready for Chinese New Year

YH and I woke up early today to go to the market to get the things needed for prayers for Chinese New Year. We bought pineapple ( ong lai in Hokkien means “luck comes”), pamelo ( luk yao in Cantonese which means properity), “huat kuih” ( a kind of kuih that also means prosperity) and also chrysanthemum flower. Those, together with “nien gao” and mandarin oranges are for offerings to the Goddess of Mercy in my house on the first day of the New Year. The offerings with all the good meanings are supposed to bring us luck and prosperity for the whole year according to Chinese tradition.
 A few days ago I received “a hill of gold” from my office. One of the feng shui master in town (not Joey Yap) apparently told one of the senior partner in my firm to give all the partners a hill of gold for prosperity and to bring good business to the firm. The gold hill is made of joss paper and it is about 3 feet high. We are supposed to place in our house for the whole year!!

Then yesterday I went to a master famous for his calligraphy to write a couplet for Chinese New Year for me to stick on my main door. I decided for something different from the normal couplet like 五福临门,金玉满堂,富贵荣华,恭喜发财,年年有鱼 and bla bla bla because I think I already have lots of prosperity and luck symbols at home. I decided to go for something to be shared with everyone -  江山永固,祖国长春。It means my country's empire to be forever stable and in good position and forever spring for my home country (forever spring also means forever prosperity).
So I hope that my country will be prosperous throughout the year of Dragon and the prosperity to be enjoyed by all Malaysians.

The offerings and the hill of gold at home, circa 2012.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes 阿炳心想事成

The past few days have been hectic for me with lunches and dinners with friends and clients till I don't have the time to blog.  Mandarin oranges and gifts were exchanged and “yee sang” were tossed. I lost count on the number of “yee sang” that I had tossed so far. Another thing is Eu Yan Sang’s hamper must be having a brisk sale because I had received numerous of them.
However, today I still find time to join thousands of Malaysians that throng the cinema to watch Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes directed by Jack Lim, a famous My FM deejay and acted by all My FM deejays and others. It is a very good movie that attained international standards. I am so proud that it is made in Malaysia, directed by a Malaysian and the storyline is by Jack Lim himself.
Nasi Lemak 2.0 by Namewee is of no match to this movie. That movie sucks. I can't even help myself to finish watching the movie. I left after three quarter of the movie. Another movie: Petaling Street Warriors that he was involved in also sucks. I suggest Namewee to learn more about filming before he decides to film another movie. Don’t tarnish the Malaysian film making industry with his lousy films.
Ah Beng The Movie: Three Wishes consists of funny and sad scenes. I was actually laughing and crying at the same time. It teaches us family values, humility, the importance of helping one another and friendship. The story line also consists of how Ah Beng and his friends react and do many things to help another friend “Salted Fish” Lian when she was diagnosed with leukemia.
The scenes evoked my memory of PC when she was diagnosed with brain cancer, of how friends help and react to her sickness and later how we all felt so helpless during her last days. Anyway, Chinese New Year is around the corner and it should be time for happiness. She wouldn’t want to see us sad too.
I would recommend friends to go to the cinema to watch the movie. Don’t buy pirated DVD. Well done to Jack Lim and his team. 祝您心想事成.May all your wishes come true .

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Allowing firecrackers but with conditions

I can’t remember the exact year the government of Malaysia bans firecrackers during Chinese New year and other celebrations. If my memory is right, that year should be 1994. The decision back then was because firecrackers caused many injuries and fire.
As lighting the “ang powh” or red firecrackers was the tradition of the Chinese to ward off bad sprit for the year and also to bring prosperity, I remember the then president of MCA Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik asked the Chinese community to substitute it with the sound of the red firecrackers from the music. What a idea!  These red firecrackers also always accompany the lion dance and the red carpet of papers they created after said is said to bring “ong” or good luck and prosperity to the family or the place.
Well, since then when can still get our supply of firecrackers but via the illegal way. Understandably, it is also more expensive. Someone will still smuggle them from China and distribute it to the whole country. We never face any shortage of supply every year since the ban. Now, firecrackers is no longer is Chinese affair because during Hari Raya and Deepavali, we will see or hear them being played.
Lighting of "ang powh" infront of my hometown house, circa 2011.

Although it is illegal, but my family will still lit the firecrackers on the first day of the Chinese New Year to accompany the lion dance. The police will patrol all the house areas and kampung in my hometown but usually they won’t fine anyone for lighting a firecracker. As if this is the Malaysian way and understanding between the people and the police, they will go away after getting their red packets.

As the year pass, the type of firecrackers also improved into different kind with greater sound and effect like those we see being displayed by shopping malls during New Year celebration. We can usually buy them illegally starting from RM 350. A friend who sells this illegally told me that he made good money every year amounting to 5 figures. (Gosh, I also want to sell!! Joking!)
Instead of losing custom revenues to illegal smuggling and also revenue from sales tax, the government should allow firecrackers to be sold again during Chinese New Year and other festive seasons. Firecrackers will not go away in this country. By hook or crook, people will find way to get them. Of course the legalising of firecrackers have to come with conditions such as it can only be lit at open space like a field to avoid fire and can only be sold to adults to avoid injuries among kids. The seller must also obtain a license to sell them to make sure those they sell are of good quality. There are many more conditions that the government can apply.
I was in China during Chinese New Year in 2010 and 2011. I had a good time there playing with fireworks and firecrackers and of course it is under some sort of control. Perhaps we can learn from China about this.
Politically, this will also give political mileage to BN for it is sure that the Chinese community will welcome this move. Not only that, other races will also be happy about it.It may be late to implement this for the year of Dragon but we can always start from somewhere.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Robert Kuok versus Malaysia

Recently I had tea with my personal doctor, Dr Chan and his husband Jeffrey Chan. Just as we sat down, knowing that I am into politics, he immediately told me to check out an article about world famous tycoon Robert Kuok versus the Malaysian government. We had always discussed politics together although we may not share the same view sometimes.
So I read the article that he mentioned and I would like to share it with friends on this blog. There are some truth and some misinformation in the article but I would let you to make your own decision on the content of the article.
My two cent worth:
Every Prime Minister since Tun Abdul Razak maintained a very good relationship with Tan Sri Robert Kuok. His views and investments were very much treasured by the Malaysian government. Even Tun Dr Mahathir seek his counsel related to China and it was also through him that the Malaysia government managed to brokered a peace deal with the Malaysia Communist Party. The relationship between them was so good that whenever Tun Mahathir visit China, he will stay at Kuok’s hotel.
Well, so what went wrong and when and where? Perhaps we should direct this to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the pro cronies Prime Minister who do not even know what he is doing. It was during his time that Kuok was asked to sell his sugar interests in Malaysia to Abdullah’s cronies.
We also see that it was also during Abdullah’s administration that Kuok started to move his Malaysian assets overseas and stop making investment in Malaysia. What happened between Abdullah and Kuok we do not know but one thing for sure is that Abdullah must have given the impression to Kuok that Malaysia is not a place for investment.
It is wrong for the article to blame the current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib. What Najib needs to do now is to win back the heart and trust of Kuok for the betterment of Malaysia. We are a resource rich country and there are many things that he can invest in. Abduallah should come out to clarify this (well, if he is still mentally fit).
Sugar King vs Malaysia
Recently, the government offended Robert Kuok, as a result, the Malaysian economy suffered a great blow! After the official Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Malaysia , the Najib government now really understands Robert Kuok's influence on China !
In order to benefit their cronies, they arm twisted to swallow up Robert Kuok’s sugar empire. The cronies get richer by 10’s of billions, but it caused a national loss of more than 200 billion! Those who have insider info can only curse: PKHKC it!
Malaysia's Sugar King was forced to leave Malaysia, but became the world’s sugar king! He bought the world's largest sugar mills in Australia, invested USD10 billion, it is the world's largest sugar cane sugar refining industry, living up to the name of the world’s sugar king.
On the other hand, the Malaysia government benefited cronies at the expense of national interests. For those who have insider info, Kuok offered immense help to the Malaysian government in the past few decades, he has done everything possible; but what the government did was like what you will get when you turn over a pig stomach: faeces. In other words, Najib Government was UNGRATEFUL!
In "Confidential" news about the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Malaysia recently.... it hit a snag with Najib.
Prior to Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Malaysia , Najib and his cabinet on more than one occasion, hinted that he hoped China will double the amount of palm oil with Malaysia .
We all know that China is the largest consumer of palm oil from Malaysia . Rapid economic rise in the recent years, China became the largest palm oil market for Malaysia, but Malaysia has also strong competition from Indonesia , trying to sell palm oil at lower prices to China and India, diluting the Malaysian market share. This is most worrying for Najib.
Najib hoped to sign new palm oil trading contracts with Premier Wen Jiabao, hopng to more than double the average 10 million tonnes monthly export to China . But Wen Jiabao came to a Malaysia, he told Najib: 'impossible'. It was an utter disappointment.
Najib knows the Chinese market demand. Even to import one million tonnes of palm oil daily, is not a problem. So, where is the problem?
The problem is... Sugar king Kuok did not agree!
Why was Sugar king Kuok able to influence China's decision to buy Malaysian palm oil?
Who has the monopoly of Chinese national oil market? China national oil market leader is "Arowana" cooking oil, accounting for nearly 40%! The Arowana cooking oil boss is Robert Kuok!
Think about it, if Premier Wen Jiabao on behalf of the Chinese government buys Malaysian palm oil, who is going to refine it into cooking oil? Of course, it is the privatized enterprises! With 40% market share, if Arowana cooking oil company refuses the supply, how is the Chinese government going to utilize the supply?
Najib was insensible from the start, and did not know Kuok had such huge influence in China . He had helped cronies, forcing Robert Kuok to give up the Malaysian sugar king throne, and didn’t expect to have such quick retribution
Kuok was forced to leave Malaysia, his heart is of course very unhappy. People of Malaysia must know, during the early days of Malaysia , we did not have aviation professionals, the BN government requested Kuok's father to help set up Malayan Airways.
1970 Malaysian maritime shipping industry was also a vacuum, the Malaysian government sent representatives to Hong Kong to personally plead Kuok’s help. For national development, Kuok put aside the Group's businesses, came back to Malaysia to assist the Government to establish a national maritime shipping industry. This later transformed into MALAYSIA INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING CORPORATION, referred to as MISC.
Robert Kuok was a big help when Malaysia repeatedly faced economic difficulties. Even in MCA Tan Koon Swan’s case, it was Robert Kuok who paid the bail! Malaysia ’s successive governments, from BN to the National Front, owed Robert Kuok a hell of a lot. But the Malaysian Government was ungrateful, using the strong arm twisting excuses to forcefully take over Kuok’s empire. Is this not ungrateful?
When Deng Xiaoping made a comeback in the 70s, and announced China's reform and needed most help from overseas Chinese entrepreneurs; Robert was first to take action to help Deng. Among the other entrepreneurs of Chinese economic miracle are Henry Fok and Li Ka-shing Hong Kong . Malaysian entrepreneur Robert Kuok was the first to respond to Deng Xiaoping in Beijing and built China 's first five-star hotels, Shangri-La!
With over 30 years of deep relationship with the Chinese government and leadership, Kuok has great influence. Najib failed to recognise this. This is why the quote at the start of this post : “For the interests of their cronies, they arm twisted to take over Kuok’s Sugar Empire, cronies got rich by the 10s of billions, but it caused a national loss of more than 200 billions!”
Kuok's sugar empire was eaten by the fat vampire's family abruptly. Imagine, a world renowned international trade business personality, what humiliation he received in return for his single-minded help all this while for his own country and government? And Najib would never think that the consequences of offending the Sugar King will be so very serious.
Right after Sugar King left Malaysia , he immediately announced the acquisition of Australia 's biggest sugar factory. This is the world supplier of raw material for sugar manufacturing. Of course, this includes supplying to the family of the fat vampire woman’s sugar factory in Perlis.
Early this year, Kuok announced plans to invest USD 10 billion in Indonesia for development of the world's largest sugar cane growing areas, as well as advanced refinery. The world economy was facing a downturn, the Malaysian government travelled around the world to solicit investment. How much was Malaysia ’s foreign investment? Kuok’s single investment in Indonesia is equivalent to as USD10 billion dollars! Don’t you want to screw the couple: PKHKC!?
At the moment, Kuok’s take towards China ’s palm oil contract with Malaysia was to remain with the agreed terms. There won’t be any increase. Indonesia has more palm oil than Malaysia . It is cheaper too. Now that Kuok had invested so much money in Indonesia , the Government of Indonesia would have treated him as their God of Wealth. Certainly, open to negotiate anything with him. Moreover, Indonesia has been eyeing to take over the China palm oil supply contract from Malaysia .
The CONSOLATION China gave in return for not increasing the purchase of palm oil was buying frozen durian. Do the Chinese people have the habit of eating durian it? How much time and effort is needed to market frozen durian from Malaysia ? Thai durian may not sell well in China , let alone Malaysia frozen durian?
Business is business, who would supply millions of dollars’ worth of frozen durian into a brand new market with no durian eating habits? Should the Chinese people become non-receptive of it, how do we deal with return goods? A total loss with capital. Is this how to do business?
Earlier this year, when the news hit the papers that Kuok made an announcement to invest USD 10 billion in Indonesia, many criticized Kuok for being unpatriotic, preferring to take so much money into Indonesia instead of Malaysian. What CRAP! You arm-twisted him to take over his empire, forcing the man to leave Malaysia in hurt & humiliation; now that the man ignores the Malaysian market, and you criticize him? Have you guys got balls for brains?
For him to bring his huge investment to Australia & Indonesia instead of Malaysia , who is to be blamed?
Incidentally, Kuok is not just Chinas’ hotelier, king of cooking oil, the world’s sugar King; he is also the patent owner of the Coca-cola soft drink brand in the Chinese market. Kuok is involved in a diversity of businesses in China . He created many job opportunities for China . The Chinese central government and leaders have great respect for him as an entrepreneur. When the man speaks, the weight it carries can be far-reaching.

70年代大马海上航运业也真空,是大马政府亲自派代表去香港邀请郭鹤年帮忙,郭鹤年为了国家发展,将自己的集团业务暂时放下,回来大马协助政府设立国家海上航运业,这才有了后来的MALAYSIA INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING COPERATION,简称MISC
顺便跟大家报告一下:郭鹤年不但是中国的酒店大王,食油大王,世界糖王,他还是coca cola汽水品牌在中国市场的专利权拥有者。他在中国涉及的业务极多而且多元化。为中国制造许多就业机会的商机,是中国中央政府领导人非常敬重的一位企业家。他讲一句话,份量绝对不会比一些外国领导人低。他也是直到目前为止,唯一一位从来不接受大马皇室授勋的大马大企业家。很多人写他的时候,理所当然地称他《丹斯里郭鹤年》,事实上他并没有这些勋衔,也不稀罕。他不是丹斯里,也不是拿督。

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Goddess of Mercy Temple in Singapore

YH and I were away to Singapore over the weekend with the primary objective of going to the Goddess of Mercy Temple located at Waterloo Road and of course, to catch up with my good friends. Well, I should add – to eat all my favourite food in Singapore such as Ng Ah Sio’s Bak Kut Teh and Muthu’s Curry.
The Goddess of Mercy Temple at Waterloo Road, Singapore. 
The Goddess of Mercy Temple is a very popular temple with throngs of devotees of people going there for prayers and to seek her divine on matters that need predictions or solutions. It is said that the divination is very accurate. I first went to the temple in 2006. Since then I will go to the temple to pray each time when I am in Singapore without a miss. I will also seek the Goddess of Mercy’s guidance each time I am facing some matters that I can’t decide on or about my future and her divination is always accurate.
To seek the divination, first, you have to take the divination sticks stacked in the bamboo container and a pair of kidney-shaped red wooden blocks from the counter. Then you kneel down infront of the Goddess of Mercy and tell her your story in detail and what you need to know from her. After saying that, you shake the bamboo container until one of the sticks had fallen on the ground. You pick it up and then you asked if that stick is the Goddess of Mercy’s wish by throwing the kidney-shaped wooden blocks up in the air. If one wooden block is facing up and the other is facing down, then that bamboo is the right one. If not, you have to do the process all over again until you get the right one. So you wake up and go towards the caretaker of the temple and ask for your divination paper based on the number written on the divination stick. For the temple at Waterloo Road, the divination on the paper is written in Chinese and English.
Religion is a very strict affair in my family and we are Buddhist. Since Buddhist does not take beef just as Muslims do not take pork, I don’t take beef or any other red meat except lamb. Even then, we hardly take lamb at home. I remember when I was in my second year in university; my friend’s family invited me to their house for BBQ lamb dinner. It was rude to decline but I wasn’t really sure if I can take lamb so I called my mother all the way from New Zealand just to ask her if I can take lamb.
We also observed all the temple festivals especially the birthday of the Goddess of Mercy and the God of the City (sheng kong in Hokkien). When I was small, I will always follow my mother and grandmother to the temples. Most of the time, they will go to the temple of the God of the City if they need the guidance for certain decisions such as buying a property, going for medical treatment, arranging a marriage for my cousin and even to decide if I should further my study in New Zealand or England. The divination said that I will do well in New Zealand so off I went there.  
You will fall off your chair when I tell you that before I decide to tie the knot with YH, I actually went to the temple for the Goddess of Mercy’s guidance. It was written on the red paper that it is a workable marriage. Well, probably if I would have got another divination, maybe I will still be single today. I am also very sure that my mother had done the same at the God of the City temple in my hometown to see if YH is suitable for me.
A close friend, Lee Fong who is also a lawyer by profession,  is also a strong believer in the Goddess of Mercy’s divination. I also know of certain lawyers in my law firm will consult the Goddess of Mercy before they accept certain case.
This round, I asked the Goddess of Mercy about something that I wanted to do in the near future. I will share this when the time is right.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Declaring assets

The Penang state government strikes a political mileage in the move to declare the assets of the Chief Minister and his Exco members. It is unprecedented in Malaysia’s history. But to be more transparent, they should also declare the assets of their spouse.

Now eyes are not only on other Pakatan Rakyat states to do so but also the federal government. I hope Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib will emulate this kind of transparency. With that, then we will have less hassle when issues like cows and condos pop up and who know what other issues that will come up that will effect Barisan Nasional.
I am not a YB nor holding any positions in the government but many years ago I was accused that I received a huge sum of money for moving from DAP to MCA. Honestly, I got nothing. For the information of my accusers, what I have now came from my hard work in the private sector after I was no longer active in politics.
All my friends knew that I am frugal person except for a few things that interests me such a books, comfortable cars, antiques, Chinese purple clay tea pots and food. To them, I am a weird person because I only have two handbags, one which I used for office and the other for social functions. They are LV handbags and I’ve used them for 6 years. The are even more puzzled when they saw my shoe rack.
I bought Bally shoes because they are durable and I only have 4 pairs which is for different usages and I had worn them for at least 4 years. The last I bought a pair for myself was when I joined the law firm in 2008. I am even more frugal when it comes to clothes. To me, it is all about durability so I choose Burberry for casual wear, Brook Brothers for office wear and tailor made Chinese dress and cheongsam for social functions. All the clothes in my wardrobe are at least 3 years old. Some may feel I am weird for a female but why change when they are still wearable?

Thursday, 12 January 2012

My Japan Story Part 4: Western Honshu and the awkwardness of Onsen

Takayama is a little peaceful town that visitors used as a base to scale the Japanese Alps during winter. It is also famous for its onsens ( Japanese word for hot spring). My friend and I decided to try out the onsen, so off we went to one in the Takayama. I can’t remember its name.

The onsen is a communal bathing place usually divided into sections for male and female. Everyone that went it there will usually be naked and this posed a problem for the three of us. In our culture, being naked infront of another person is a taboo. None of us want to see the other naked. We came up with various ideas like taking turns to go in and etc. At the locker, we were so hesitating to take off our clothes.
I remember we were given a piece of cloth for us to scrub ourselves. I even joked that the cloth is not enough to cover any part except to cover the eyes. After about 25 minutes in the locker, the temptation of soaking ourselves inside the hot water was so great that we just took off our clothes and we in. We had a very good time in there and actually it is addictive.
 Bird eye view of Shirakawa village.

The next day we went to Shirakawa, a little village famous for houses build with grass roofs. We climbed up a little hill to have a bird eye view of the whole village and it was picturesque. Memories of childhood cartoons came in mind just as when I visited Europe and its charming houses. In Shirakawa, while waiting for the bus to take us back to Takayama, we went to an onsen again. This time, no more shyness among us because the feeling of it was so good. Throughout the visit, we enjoyed many more onsens.
Mt Fuji without its snow capped top.

Visit to Japan will not be complete without visit to the majestic Mount Fuji and it needs no further introduction. We were at the foot of Mt Fuji for one night, putting up at a very nice Ryokan at Kawaguchi. As it was summer when we were there, the snow on top of Mt Fuji melted. It was a bad sight and the photos that we took, when we show it to friends, they asked “is this Mt Fuji”. I hope on my next visit, I will get a nice one.
From there we went on to Tokyo. One of the places we went to in Tokyo was the Yasakuni Shrine. I just wanted to see for myself the world famous shrine and what is in it. I thought it must be a grand thing but I was disappointed. It was just a normal shrine except that it enshrined those who died during WW II and 9 class A war criminals. It is just a symbolical place. Whoever leader that choose to visit the place, just let them be. It is also something of the past.
Finally, I am going to write about Nikko. It is said that Nikko is Japan and Japan is Nikko. The place has many Buddhist shrines and nice onsens but the most popular place in Nikko is the shrine of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the man who united feudal Japan. The cedar trees lining up to the shrine was opulent while the sprawling complex is so big and its buildings so majestic. It is a must visit place when you are in Japan. But what I like most in Nikko is the Shinkyo Bridge spanning the Daiya River.
Next, Hokkaido.
Shinkyo Bridge.

My Japan Story Part 3: Places that I went in Western Honshu

Nara, near to Kyoto was the next place I love most after Kyoto. We went to Nara on a day trip. The deer roaming around the street around the city was a sight that I can’t forget. They were said to be the messengers of gods.
Todai-ji temple is another great place that everyone should visit. In the temple is a huge statue of Buddha and behind the Buddha is a small hole bored into a large wooden pillar. A popular belief holds that if you can squeeze the hold you will attain Nirvana. My friends and I squeezed ourselves through the hole and it was a hard task. We need the other person to pull us out from the other end. Either we attain Nirvana or not, I was not sure but it was fun. Till today, when I look at the photos of us being pulled out, I can’t help laughing.
I was being pulled out by my friend Mavis from the hole.
The next memorable place that I went was Hemeiji Castle, the grandest of Japan’s 12 remaining feudal castles. My memory of that place somehow waned but I remember the labourious climb up to the top of the castle for a great view of Himeiji city.
The famous torii but we went at the wrong time.

The floating torii at Miyajima Island is another great landmark of Japan. It is one of the three places (Nihon Sankei) in Japan that one have to visit. The others are the sand bar at Amanohashidate and Matshushima Bay. However, when we were there, it was low tide and the torii was not floating. I made a mental note that when I go the next time, I will make sure I capture the floating torii so often we see in posters and pictures. And I will also visit Amanohashidate and Matshushima Bay. We miss it the last round.

The famous building in Hiroshima. I wore navy blue and black that day as a mark of respect to those that died on that fateful day in 1945.

Hiroshima needs no further introduction. My heart was aching as I walked around the famous A Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Park. Whoever that has been to its Peace Memorial Museum will sure come out from out with a heavy heart and will condemn the use of nuclear war, not only nuclear war but any kind of war. I always thank my blessings that I am currently living in peaceful places be it I am in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur or Melbourne where I spent most of my time. We did not spend a long time in that sad city. Life has to move on.
We also went to Okayama, Kurashiki – the Japanese version of Zhou Zhuang in China as well as Kobe. My two friends who took beef told me that they had never eaten such a nice beef before this and the price was dear too. I only watched them as I do not take beef.
My next blog will be about my trip to central Honshu.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

My Japan Story Part 2: I fall in love with Kyoto and the Japanese

We arrived at Kansai Airport and took a connecting train to Kyoto, about 45 minutes away. We stayed in Kyoto for many days and used it as a base to travel around the Kansai and the Western Honshu region. I love Kyoto very much. The city is peaceful, unlike the buzzling Tokyo and Osaka. It is so pretty that President Roosevelt who had been to Kyoto ordered the American army not to bomb the city. So today, Kyoto is one of the best preserved city in Japan.
It is full of beautiful parks such as the Maruyama Goen, Tokyo’s most famous sakura viewing site. It is also one of the sites that the Memoir of Geisha was filmed. Nearby is the is Yasaka Shrine, once used to be the place for up and coming Geishas came to pray in hope of looking for a good patron. The famous Gion district is not far away.
     At Ryoan-ji Temple.

Zen gardens and temples are also aplenty in Kyoto.  I went to quite a few but those that worth mention are Kiyomizu-dera, Nanzen-ji temple,Kinkaku-ji and my favourite Ryoan-ji temple. It is famous for its rock garden with 15 stones and composition of white gravel to create an impression of sea and islands. Many consider that to be the ultimate expression of Zen Buddhism. I created my mini rock garden like the one in Ryoan-ji when I came back. Sometimes need some peaceful moment to reflect on something, I will just look at my mini rock garden.
There is a very nice oyster bar at Niisiki Market and we came across it by accident. The oysters were half baked and the aroma can still make me salivating now. Somewhere near to Kiyomizu Dera, there is a stone paved street called “Sannenzaka” and it is said that if you fall down there, you will have bad luck for three years.

At the steps of Inari Fushimi.

Another interesting place that we went was Inari Fushimi in southern Kyoto famous for its torii gates. In the Memoir of Geisha, the young Sayuri ran up the steps along the tori gates upon knowing that Mameha would be her teacher.

Candid shot by my friend. So tired after the two hours walk along the Philosopher's Walk.

During the sakura season, walking along the Philosopher’s Walk would be nice but the day we walked the path, it was raining but that did not deter us from admiring the place and the temples and parks along it. We started from Ginkaku-ji Temple and ends at Nanzenji-Temple. By the time we reached there, I was soaked wet and tired. It is worth it. For more pictures of my Japan, please see them at my Facebook.
From the moment I step out from the airport, my impression about the Japanese changed. They are polite, courteous and helpful. Even though they do not understand English, they tried their best to answer our questions. There was even an incident in Kyoto, when we first arrived; we asked a man for the location of the Ryokan that we wanted to go. Guess what? He walked us to the place, about 20 minutes away.
Another incident, we asked a lady for the location of a restaurant. She gave us the direction and we walked to the way that she said. Halfway through, she was running from the back and told us that she gave us the wrong direction and guided us to the right one. Never for once that when we had asked for help that we were turned down during our 27 days stay there.Throughout my travel around the world, I never met such nice people.
How can the ancestors of such a nice people kill millions, forced countless of ladies to be comfort woman during WW II and still refuse to admit their mistakes? I was puzzled till today.

My Japan Story Part 1: My hatred for Japan & Japanese

Many people, mostly the older generation who had been through WW II will still remember the cruelty of the Japanese. Not only that, these group of people, including the younger generation, especially from China still hate the Japanese for what they did. Every year, 13th December is marked with somber ceremony in Nanjing where the worst massacre of the Chinese took place. It is the Chinese version of Holocaust.

At the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum.

I never like Japan ever since I heard from my grandparents about their cruel treatment to the Chinese in China and to the people everywhere they conquered included Malaysia. I was very young at that time but I read as many book as I could about Japan and World War II. Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking is one of my favourite and I will read it over and over again.
I hate their cowardice for not admitting what they did during the war and until today, their cruelty. German can admit their mistake but why not Japan? I would not visit Japan even though opportunities exist during my university days. In New Zealand, I never mix with Japanese and view them with skepticism. I went to the extent that I do not to use Japanese goods whenever possible. Go to Japanese restaurant for a meal? Don’t ask me about it.  
In summer 2007, I was persuaded by my friend to visit Japan. I hesitated for a while. My parents and my younger brother had been there for the sakura that same year and told many wonderful stories about the people and the place. Then, I thought, why not? How long will we be there, I asked her. She replied that we will be there for 27 days and explained in details the places that we are visiting and I agreed with it.
No harm to go and see the country and the people that were once blood thirsty. There must also be something in them that that they build their country from the ashes of WW II to become the world second largest economy (before being overtaken by China). I insisted that we must go to Yaskuni temple. What is so special about it besides the memorial templates of some General died so many decades ago? So, off we went to Japan.
Main hall of Yasakuni Shrine where memorials of WW 2 criminals are placed.