Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Wangs of Shanghai Lu Yu Teashop


With Uncle & Aunty Wang and Nancy at their shop.
Most of the time when people talk about the Chinese from mainland China, it is always with stereotype that they are not too honest, husband snatcher, gold digger (for single woman), rude, cheaters, crooks and many more. However, each time when I heard of this, I will go all the way out to defend my Chinese compatriots from mainland, saying that the unhappy experiences they have with them were just some isolated incidents and I myself actually know of a lot of nice people in China. Afterall, China is a huge country with huge population; surely there are some unscrupulous people around and they themselves are the victims too of these unscrupulous people too.

Not too long ago, I called Aunty Wang in Shanghai informing her that I am going to be in Shanghai soon. With excitement, Aunty Wang asked for my flight details so that their daughter Nancy can meet me at the airport and Uncle Wang can prepare some light itineraries for visits to scenic places around Shanghai. At the same time, Aunty Wang told me not waste any money to stay in a hotel; I am always welcome to stay at their home. Not too long later, I received a text message from Nancy saying that she can still accompany me to go around Shanghai and nearby cities despite her pregnancy and asked which places of interest that I would like to visit this time.
I came to know the Wangs some years back while walking back to my hotel on a chilly spring night. They own a shop selling Chinese tea and Yixing teapots by the name of Lu Yu at Shaanxi South Road. That fateful night, as I was walking past, I saw a teapot on display that I like instantly and I stepped into their shop to enquire about it. Upon seeing me, Aunty Wang immediately asked Uncle Wang to prepare some hot tea and said me; “Please have some hot tea, it is very cold out there” with a very motherly tone. After exchanging pleasantries, I bought the teapot and off I went, promising them I will return the next day as it is already late at night. The rest is history.
Ever since then, the Wangs will be my host each time I am in Shanghai, regardless I am there for work or leisure. I’ll stay with them, explore the city with Nancy, and tag along with Aunty Wang to Shiliupumatou (where most the best Shanghainese tailors are based) to have my cheongsam made. Aunty Wang is good at bargaining the price. Uncle Wang, with deep knowledge for Chinese tea and Yixing teapots will share with me his experiences on how to pick up a good pot and how to brew a good pot of pu erh. More than often, he will also help me to source some teapots from certain makers that I am looking for. During her free time, Aunty Wang will bring out some of their old collections of aged pu erhs to share with me. Of all, they just made me feel very much at home whenever I am in Shanghai. I am thankful for their kind treatment and always look forward to meet them again.

P/S: Aside from them, I am also thankful to Maggie Cui in Beijing that always made my Beijing trip interesting.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

中秋节快乐 Happy Mid Autumn Festival

A poem by Su Dongbo that most of us will remember during the mid-Autumn festival: 


水调歌头         苏轼


明月几时有,把酒问青天。

不知天上宫阙,今夕是何年?

我欲乘风归去,又恐琼楼玉宇,

高处不胜寒。

起舞弄清影,何似在人间!

转朱阁,低绮户,照无眠。

不应有恨,何事长向别时圆?

人有悲欢离合,月有阴晴圆缺,

此事古难全。

但愿人长久,千里共婵娟。


Happy Mid-Autumn Festival !

Monday, 16 September 2013

To meet Karl Marx, Chin Peng went ?

Alas, another chapter of the Malayan Communist Party is closed today with the death of its former Secretary General, Chin Peng @ Ong Boon Hua in Bangkok. Fearsome, controversial and headlines creator when he was alive, his death created the same amount of contentious questions as his life.


It is interesting to note that he died on the 50th anniversary of the founding of Malaysia, on Lee Kuan Yew’s 90th birthday and ten years after the publications of his biography “My Side of History”. However, what is even more interesting to note is that his relatives will perform religious rites for him on Friday, as reported by the media and is this is accordance to his wish?
Whatever the answer will be, the communist ideology does not survive beyond him, for a communist does not believe in the existence of religion. Or Tunku Abdul Rahman was wrong to assert that once a communist, always a communist? Could Chin Peng had abandoned his believe in communism in his twilight years?
Another notable clue that created this question is that Chin Peng was spotted in pictures wearing a silver Rolex watch during interviews which made him looked more like a typical Chinese businessman rather than a communist.  Rolex was once condemned as the choice of the capitalist roaders during the heydays of communism.
Off to meet Karl Marx he went or elsewhere? Will just let the historians to justify this. Be it good or bad, the life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living, as said by Cicero. 


P/S: Going off to meet Karl Marx was Chairman Mao’s favourite reference to death which he used frequently to gauge others’ response to his death.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Rome wasn't built in a day but a city of "firsts"


I stumbled upon this infographic about Rome. Interesting ! So, can Malaysia, the place with Endless Possibilities, achieve the same in years to come with regards to developing our nation ? 



Source: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/7Qx9fJ/:ApPQzpWj:h4m6ux!_/www.history.com/interactives/ancient-rome/





























Thursday, 12 September 2013

Look for Restoran Luen Fong in Tg Tualang


How this quaint little town became the destination for freshwater prawns is little known but as far as I can remember, when I was growing up in the 80s, my grandfather would always love to drive me and my grandmother to this place for seafood treat on most weekends en route to or from Ipoh.

Nestled between Batu Gajah, Kampar and Kampung Gajah in the center of Kinta Valley, Tanjung Tualang, which was a byproduct of the zenith of the tin mining days, boasts of having 15 seafood restaurants, which specializes in freshwater prawns and they operates from noon till late night. An interesting thing to note in this town is the standard way the restaurant operators decorate their premise - tanks containing freshwater prawns and fishes at the entrance and photos of celebrities and VIPs on the walls.
The main street of Tg Tualang
Having to choose which among the 15 is the most delicious can be quite a challenge for outsiders. However, locals would point to Luen Fong as the best among equals. Personally, I’ve tasted a few and indeed, Luen Fong’s the best. Most important of all, it never fails in its consistency of deliciousness and at a very reasonable price.


Enjoying our plate of prawns, with Kar Lyn. 

Recommendations:

1. Dry fried freshwater prawns
2. Steam freshwater prawns with white rice wine
3. Steam "soon hock" fish or Ikan Hantu in Malay
4. Oyster omelette
5. Cuttlefish in satay sauce
6. Steam tofu with mince meat topping
7. Stir fried frog with ginger and spring onion
8. "Kam heong" crab



Wednesday, 11 September 2013

RM 5 million in two A4 boxes from Tiong King Sing

Can we fill two A4 boxes with RM 5 million, RM 2.5 million in 25 packets in each box? I am very curious about how this can be done? How big will a packet be, to contain RM 100 thousand, assuming that it is 1000 pieces of RM100 note? And why a donation to MCA is not being banked into MCA’s account, instead it has to be given to the party’s vice president in two A4 boxes? It sounded very much like a scene from Ripley’s Believe it or not!

Like any Joe public, I am curious when I read about the witnesses’ testimony in court with regards to Tiong King Sing’s suit against former Transport Minister and MCA President, Ong Tee Keat for a refund of RM 10 million that was initially said to be on loan to him but subsequently changed to donation to MCA. As the matter is still pending in court, I’ll let the court to decide whether such loan or donation did take place and whether Ong or MCA should refund the donation or loan. And, 23rd September will be an interesting day as Ong will take stand in court.

However, to feed to curiosity of the members of the public, can Tiong, the Barisan Nasional MP for Bintulu, for the sake of the public’s interest and for the sake of Barisan Nasional, please instruct his personal assistant Azman Abdul Rahman to demonstrate to us on how he fill two A4 boxes with RM 5 million like what he did back in 2008? Otherwise, the public court’s opinion towards Tiong and Basisan Nasional are not too favorable for him and the ruling coalition that is fighting hard to regain public support.  


P/S: Having experience with handling huge amount of money, I personally do not believe that an A4 box can contain RM2.5 million. 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Should we have this at Dataran Merdeka?




Each year, when our National Day is around the corner, it is a norm to read in the news that Malaysians are not patriotic enough by not flying the national flag, not showing enthusiasm towards our National Day, not decorating the entire building with Jalur Gemilang as compared to flags associated with political parties, not this, not that and plenty of other not.  

The laments of our politicians have been going on for years and finally, this year, we have something different – singing of national anthem in the cinema before the showing of a movie for a few days before and after our National Day and again on Malaysia Day. In this land of Endless Possibilities, even that was politicized and debated whether it is a form of BN indoctrination and does it does its purpose to instill patriotism in Malaysians.

As I was scribbling out my plans for my next Shanghai and Beijing trip, I suddenly thought of the daily flag raising ceremony with full military honour at Tiananmen Square in Beijing and a passing remark by a former professor of mine that the Chinese government is very good in ways to instill patriotism among the Chinese. The flag raising ceremony, which started since May 1st 1991, differs in time everyday and for convenience; there is even an online timetable for it. The event itself is a crowd puller and everyone will sing the national anthem with full enthusiasm.

Should we be having the same ceremony at Dataran Merdeka? 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Tanda Putera – A movie that certainly won’t create racial hatred and here is why




History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon - Napoleon Bonaparte

Its debut on the silver screen was delayed a few times. During the election, it was the talk of the campaign. Politicians claimed that the movie will spur racial hatred while others claim it is the government’s propaganda. Some historians questioned the truth about the May 13 incident. Still photos from the movie before editing were distributed and mocked on social media. The movie’s director hit back, asking for critics to watch the movie before giving their comment. Well, that was all about Tanda Putera, the most controversial movie of recent time.


The movie would not have created the excitement in me to watch it had it not for all the publicity that it created, despite the call to boycott it. To start with, I invited my driver, Azman, to go for the movie with me. The reason being so is because Azman has been through May 13 and he is of different race; and I wanted to get his view. I invited him rather than others because I know his view will be neutral for he is apolitical and a trustworthy man who speaks his mind.

After an hour and 45 minutes in the cinema, we came out of the cinema asking each other, what is the actual theme of the movie? Is it about May 13, about the communist threat, about Tun Dr Ismail or to glorify Tun Razak or actually DAP bashing movie? To us, it seems like a lousy unconnected mixture of all above. Is it a documentary, a historical re-creation or creative fictional play? We were left confused. At the end, we settled for creative fictional play with some historical similarities that cannot be taken as fact.
It is stated that the main objective of the movie is to honour and glorify the true achievements of the late Tun Razak. However, we do not think the movie achieved its objective. Of course we do feel sad at the scenes showing the last days of Tun Razak in London.
Or if the movie is to portray that the Chinese are the instigators of the riot, I do not think it shows so. However, it is bias on the director’s side to link DAP and the communists together and portrayed as if the both act together to start the riot and subsequent killings of security personnel.
And that the movie will create racial hatred as claimed by certain politicians, both Azman and I do not think so too. We were lost after watching the movie, not knowing what the director want us to know about the whole film. We walked out of the theatre laughing at the shoddy way it was made and the director disability to translate historical interpretation into production, rather than with an urge of feelings that some scores need to be settled with another race.
Therefore, despite the call for to boycott the movie, I would suggest that fellow Malaysians go to the cinema to watch the movie and access it on our own. It is better to watch it with our own eyes rather than to listen to how the politicians choose to portray it to us, depending on which side of the divide they are from. 

History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon, as said by Napoleon but the Malaysians will find it hard to agree upon the history of May 13. 

Up close and personal with a gangster, the BBC interview


Ah Hing, at Old China Cafe. I was there to translate his interview.

In 2005, upon the request from Jonathan Kent from BBC, who is my personal friend, I helped to arrange an interview with a triad society member in Kuala Lumpur. When the interview was published by BBC, it created brouhaha in the Malaysian press with the police and our politicians denying that triads exists in Malaysia and that Jonathan’s article was aimed at tarnishing the image of Malaysia.
Jonathan and his wife Carol has since moved back to UK with their son while Ah Hing, the “taiko” and I lost touch for many years since. The last I heard is that Ah Hing has settled down too with a family and despite all that he did, he is a very filial son to his mother. In that article, the Jesse Lau from MCA, a pseudonym that Jonathan used is actually me. My neighbor in Auckland, the former triad society big brother from the famous 24K gang in Hong Kong has passed away too.
Fast forward today, I read with amusement The Star’s interview with a few gangsters which was published yesterday. And this time around, nobody is to deny that triad society exists in Malaysia and they are much more venomous than what was described by Ah Hing.

Johathan's article:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4264324.stm