Thursday, 30 January 2014

Happy Chinese New Year 恭贺新禧

绿      昌

水      隆

青      好

山      运

九      万

州      马

生      奔

色      腾

Best wishes to all my friends on this occasion of Chinese New Year. May you have a happy, blessed and prosperous year ahead.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Ah Beng: Mission Impossible (阿炳马到功成)

I’ve just watched Ah Beng: Mission Impossible with my parents in the cinema starred by Jack Lim and MY FM deejays as well as some personalities from ASTRO. It is also interesting to note that Namewee made a brief appearance on this movie. To his credit, Namewee has matured a lot and his last movie, Hantu Gangster is a far cry from his previous ones.
This is the 5th year in a row that my family and I support Jack Lim’s movie, starting from its very first Wohoo which I think is still the best of all, despite last year’s disappointing Once Upon A Time and some not so good reviews of Ah Beng: Mission Impossible, .
There are calls from certain unreasonable quarter that was widely circulated on Facebook asking movie goers to boycott the movie because Jack Lim is related to the late Tun Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, the former President of Gerakan, which I think is very unfair to Jack Lim and other actor and actresses in that movie. In return, we should praise Jack for working his way up for being what he is today without lending on the clout of his late uncle.  Let's be rational, we don't boycott a movie just because its leading actor is related to a former Minister and Barisan Nasional!
Comparatively, this movie is a much better one in terms of its story line and film making techniques than Tanda Putera. Kudos should be given to Jack and his team for their productions that are made without financial assistance from the government. Suhaimi Baba was given a huge government grant and other assistance but produced a blunder.
Part comedy, part educational, Ah Beng: Mission Impossible instill the value of honesty, friendship and the importance of family members and it serve as a good reminder to all of us, especially during this holiday season to spend some time to catch up with our friends and relatives, many of whom we have not meet for years.      

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Baron @ Grandpa’s house

Initially, my spoilt rotten precious cat, Baron was chauffeured to my parent’s house for some short stay whenever I am travelling but that short stay has now became permanent stay because of my parent’s reluctance to let him return to KL as he was such a darling to both of them. Not a day passed without some funny antics from Baron that will send much laughter to his grandparents and their visitors. Here are some snapshots of him at grandpa's house: 

Baron's favourite spot to have a bird eye view of the living and dining room. It is also a spot that he will retreat to whenever there are visitors. Once he was caught trying to scratch the wall paper here and almost receive a spank from grandma. 

I'll be right here waiting for you......Baron will always be near to grandpa, beside him whether grandpa is watching movie, reading the papers or sometimes, even attempted to go into the shower with grandpa. 

It is a love hate relationship between Baron and our dog, Boy. It has been made know to them and both agreed that Boy can never step into the house and Baron can never step out of the house. On good days, they will just stare at one another through the few glass doors and long windows at grandpa's house. But there are some days when boy will bark at the sight of Baron and he will know how to run to grandpa or grandma for SOS. Poor Boy, he will get scolded for barking and a reprimand not to bark again at the peril of cane. 

Mealtime, only when the food is freshly out from the container. Otherwise he will rather go hungry. When he is hungry before his normal feeding hour, he will know how to seek the attention of grandma or the maid, lead them to his feeding place and look at them with the eyes that tell you "I am hungry! I want my food now." 

Listening with full attention to grandma chatting on the phone. Eavesdrop grandpa and grandma's conversation is his favorite pastime. Occasionally, grandma will ask him in Hokkien "Baron, how you know what are we talking about?" or grandpa calling him busybody! Duh!! 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

I respect you, you respect me, okay?

A house divided itself cannot stand - Abraham Lincoln

The situation out there beyond the fence of our house seems like an anarchic and insane Malaysia where everything and anything can be politicalized with no end in sight. First, the never ending issue of inflation and craziness in the spike of cost of living, then Bibles and then the exclusiveness and divide over the word “Allah”, after that comes the kangkung and mother of all kangkung, protests and more protests, May 13 threat replay and encore after encore, and now, open selling of pork in Penang. What else is about to come tomorrow? Another tit for tat which calls for ban of opens selling of beef because it is sensitive to Hindus and Buddhists?
Instead of enjoying the historically cool temperatures around Malaysia, everyone suddenly felt that the atmosphere is hotter than usual with so many happenings in sight that can spark off riot at any moment. In the morning market, at hypermarket, at any you name it market; everyone is talking about kangkung, Muslim-Christian dispute, the economy, exchange rate, inflation, May 13 and all bleak future of Malaysia that one can imagine of.
I was taken aback when I heard a group conversation at the tea house that if things are not under control, we may head towards the direction of Thailand with its never ending street protests. At another conversation, people lament that it is as if the general election is coming soon and politics related postings and comments are spiking up again in the social media. And today, swine are suddenly the “hot” topic in town, drawing me back to the late 90s when Nipah virus hit the country.
Talking about the 90s, the good 90s when I was in school before my Auckland days, everything in Malaysia seems to be heading to the right direction with Vision 2020, excellent race relations despite the economy crisis of 97 and the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim and everyone are very proud to say “I am a Malaysian”.
During the puasa month, we, the non-Muslim head to the canteen as usual while our Muslim schoolmates head to their surau. There was no such thing as “canteen in the changing room with toilet stench” or “Selamat berbuka puasa with Bak Kuh Teh” stupidity. It was a non-issue for our Muslim friends to wish us “Merry Christmas” and “Gong Xi Fa Cai”. Never for once we ever read or hear any teacher blurt out “Cina dan India pendatang”.
We were taught of all the good moral values in school, about respecting other race and religion, about tolerance, about nation building and patriotism and many more. The mass media were so much different, it was all about instilling the positive values to us. Throughout my schooling years, I read Utusan Malaysia daily and its sub publication – Massa, weekly. There was no nonsense like “Apa lagi Cina Mahu?” or the likes of Perkasa.
Did some unknown cosmic creature slowly sucking away all the rationality and civility that we learn in school and society from us without our knowledge and is causing some people to go rouge, bringing the society down with them?
Enough is enough. Can we let all these insanity and stupidity stop? Can we tell fellow Malaysians of different race and religion with sincerity that "I respect you and you respect me, okay?" and to borrow the Malay peribahasa (idiom) that is recently made famous by the brother of the Prime Minister – “sesat di hujung jalan, balik ke pangkal jalan” (When one has lost one’s way, one should return to the beginning), let us return to beginning.

Let us return to the glorious days of Malaysia, the days when we respect one another as fellow Malaysian regardless of race and religion, tolerate each other’s practices, celebrate each other’s festivities and the days when we are so proud to be Malaysian. If our leaders fail to lead us to the right path; we can lead ourselves.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The right pu erh tea to invest

Just did my annual tea shopping for my own consumption, investment as well as Chinese New Year gift for friends. Was told by the trusted tea shop owner that the price of a particular tea will triple after Chinese New Year, and it is the right time to invest in some now. This honest owner has been giving me tips about which tea that its price will soar for the past few years and thus far he is right, helping me to make some money to cover my teapots and tea buying spree.
2006 Da Yi batch number 8582
This year he recommended the 2006 green pu erh from the Da Yi (大益七子饼茶) production batch number 8582. The market rate currently is running at about RM 300 per piece.
2004 Da Yi batch number 7542
Last year he recommended the tea, also from Da Yi, a 2004 tea with production batch number 7542 for RM 180 per piece which I bought some for investment. By mid-year, he called to ask if I want to sell some for RM 480 which I did and from the profit, I bought a purple clay teapot by Master Shao Liping ( 邵立平), a well-known master in Yixing, China who is the direct descendent of the legendary Master Shao Daheng (邵大亨). Since Shao Daheng, the family has been making purple clay teapots for 6 generations.

Serious investors and tea connoisseurs are well aware that the tea produced by Da Yi command the best price in the market because of its quality and great taste. Friends who are interested in the 2006 Da Yi batch number 8582 can email me for more details.

With the famous purple clay teapot makers in Yixing. Master Shao is second from the left. 

P/S: Knowledge of the batch number is also important if one is serious about collecting and investing in a good pu erh. 

2015's guide to investing in Chinese tea: Investing in Chinese Tea

Friday, 24 January 2014

This is how Malaysian driver invite accident

I spotted the head of this child out of the window while her mother or driver is busy driving and talking on the phone without hands free kit at Penchala Link. From the Penchala Link toll to Persiaran Surian, the head is out most of the time, giving me ample opportunity to take a few pictures while the lady on the wheel is continues her chit chat. Without seat belt and an unconcerned mother or father about child’s safety while driving, this is a common sight in Malaysia. Only when accidents do happen that they lament the loss of their beloved.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Annual “yee sang” dinner with Shanish

Happily tossing the "yee sang" with Chef Wong.

Despite our busy schedule, my best friend Shanish and I will meet, without fail, each year before Chinese New Year for dinner and the special “yee sang” tossing at the Shanghai Restaurant at J.W. Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur. It is also a dinner to celebrate our years of friendship that was formed in this restaurant where she used to be the Assistant Restaurant Manager. 

We've known each other for 10 good years! 

The best "yee sang" in town, only available at Shanghai Restaurant. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is banned but ......

Officially, “The Wolf of Wall Street” joined the list of many other films that is officially banned in Malaysia even though it is produced by the company that is co-owned by Riza Aziz, the stepson of our Prime Minister which means Malaysians can’t watch it in the cinemas or buy the original version of the film in the form of legal DVD.

My two books by Belfort. 

But being in this land of Endless Possibilities, the pirated DVD of that film is available at outlets selling pirated DVDs since beginning of last week. Aha…and the plus point is, it is the crisp clear version without censor – the drugs, the four letter words and sex. Lots, lots of them! The film has a record 569 F-word !

Besides, one can also download the film from the many sites over the net allow you to download any movie for free, the famous one being Therefore, those who are keen to watch this much talked about film be it is success at Box Office or the political part of it because you know the son of who and who that is behind it do not need to search high and low to watch this interesting movie that starred Leonardo DiCaprio.
It is based on the true account of Jordon Belfort and adopted from his two books that was published in 2007 and 2009 respectively - The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street. And if one still want to watch it on silver screen, cinemas in Singapore are screening this movie now but it is rated R21 – suitable for adults aged 21 and above.
Perhaps, it is also time for our archaic Censorship Department to undergo a total revamp to catch up with the reality of high speed internet and flatter world. It is in god-speed need to relook at its standard of operation and the way a film is being edited. More than often, we heard movie goers lament about the “good job” of the Censorship Department in creating a new film out of the original with all the cuts that are more than necessary. A new category should also be introduced for certain films, in the example of R21 in Singapore for “The Wolf of Wall Street”.  
In most instances, when a film is being banned, you and I and probably except the authority know that we can easily get hold of the pirated DVDs. You and I also know that banning a film is a loss of revenue via direct and indirect taxation to the government except, again the authority itself.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Heartiest Congratulations to Y.B. Dato’ Dr. Leong Yong Kong

Our heartiest congratulations to Y.B. Dato’ Dr. Leong Yong Kong, the state assemblyman for Gurun, Kedah on being conferred the award of Dato' Setia di-Raja Kedah (D.S.D.K.) which carries the title of Dato’ in conjunction with the 86th birthday of the Sultan of Kedah, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzan Shah today.

With best wishes from members of MCA’s New Movement

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Lee Khai Loon is from PKR, stupid!

Malaysiakini reported that about 600 people, including state Umno leaders and allies such as Perkasa, attended a rally held in front of the Sunway Carnival Mall this afternoon to protest Machang Bubuk State Assemblyman Lee Khai Loon’s recent kangkung-theme flash mob that deemed a ridicule to the Prime Minister.
However, it is interesting to note that the whole protest rally is more about bashing the DAP rather than Lee Khai Loon and it gave the impression that Lee is from the DAP. Banners carrying words such as ‘Insulting the PM is akin to insulting Malays’, ‘Penang Malays survive by eating kangkung’, ‘ABCD - Asal Bukan Cina DAP’ and ‘DAP is the enemy of Islam’ were held by these protestors. Of all, the most striking thing of all is a banner in blood red that screamed ‘Kerana mulut Pemimpin DAP, 13 May 1969 Terjadi….Mau lagi kaa?”
And here we have Kepala Batas MP, Reezal Merican asking the DAP leaders not to “hide behind” Lee and another UMNO leader, Permatang Pauh Umno chief Mohd Zaidi Mohd Said said they chose Sunway Carnival Mall as the finishing point for the protest as that is where DAP usually organise its activities. The protestors mentioned nothing of the fact that Lee Khai Loon is from PKR and not the DAP.
I guess the protestors forget to check the background of Lee and they assume that any Chinese assemblyman in Penang must be from DAP. Check your facts before firing any solvo, dear UMNO and Perkasa leaders. Don’t make yourself, your party and the Barisan Nasional looks like a fool and became a laughing stock. We lose badly during GE12 and GE13 not because of Chinese Tsunami but because the people are sick of loose cannon leaders like you all.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Illegal abortion and abortion pills are easily available in Malaysia

I was having lunch with friends yesterday when the topic of an acquaintance who is currently fighting for her life due to excessive bleeding from an illegal abortion that went wrong was brought up. We were told that she was 8 weeks pregnant when she went to a clinic in Petaling Jaya that is well known to be willing to perform illegal abortion without much fuss.
Later on, I made a call to my doctor friend to understand more about illegal abortions in Malaysia, especially Klang Valley. Initially my friend thought that I am pregnant and she was horrified that I need an abortion. No…no…..I explain to her that I am not. I was given about 15 minutes of lecture about the sins of abortion from Buddhism’s context before she shared what she knew about the illegal clinics and abortion pills.
Abortion pills are easily available in clinics. They are also easily available online, as easy as buying a book from Google “abortion pill”, you will be lead to sites that sell Mifepristone and Misoprostol, the two types of abortion pill available. Mifepristone drug is available under the trade names: Mifeprex, RU 486 and Mifegyn. Abortion pills, containing the active substance Misoprostol, come on the regional pharmaceutical markets under the trade names: Misotrol, Снещеусб Prostokos, Cyprostol, Arthrotec, Mibetec and Oxaprost.
They are available from as low as US$ 199.00 online, per kit which consists of 1 tablet of Mifepristone 200 mg and 4 tablets of Misoprostol (Each containing Misoprostol - 200 mcg). Delivery to Malaysia usually takes about 2 weeks. However, buying the abortion pill online is not the favorable option due to the wait for delivery and the urgency of getting rid of the fetus as soon as possible. Besides, they are only effective to interrupt or terminate an unplanned pregnancy within the first two months. Therefore, the clinic will stock them up by purchasing online and later sell it at about RM 1500.00 per kit.
If the pregnancy is more than 8 weeks, there are clinics around Petaling Jaya, Setapak, Cheras, Bangsar, Tingkat Tung Shin and more that will perform the abortion via vacuum aspiration. There are many GP that are willing to give the address of the clinic that perform illegal abortion or where to buy the abortion pill. 

If one refuse, just hop to another clinic and it won't be hard to get. The price for an illegal abortion via vacuum aspiration range from RM 2000 – RM 4000 depending on how many weeks old the fetus is. These clinics and doctors will not be responsible if anything goes wrong during the procedure.
Penal code 213 (1989 Amendment) made abortion illegal but many are still risking it, going against the law to get rid of the unwanted pregnancy. If the statistic is available (which I doubt), I am curious to know how many people died each year from illegal abortion that went wrong? Have we ever read or heard of doctor or gynecologist that we charged in court for performing illegal abortion? I am wondering too, how can abortion pills easily slip through and get into the country? In all, what is the standard of procedure for our enforcement officers from the Health Ministry to the Customs Office upon receiving a piece of information from a whistle blower?

Related post: It is the Hippocratic Oath or Hypocrites's Oath? 

P/S: I was informed by a few sources that a clinic in Bangsar, located at Jalan Travers near to the police station offer abortion service for years. Didn't the authority know about this illegal activity taking place ?  

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Kangkung-gate article

For those who have problem accessing the BBC article about the kangkung-gate fiasco, here it goes:

#BBCtrending: Be careful what you say about spinach

Malaysia's prime minister is being widely lampooned on social media for a comment he made about the price of kangkung, or water spinach.
Food is a faux pas minefield for politicians, especially when it's perceived as being used in a get-down-with-the-people kind of way - think of British Prime Minister David Cameron's pasty moment or Chancellor George Osborne's "posh burger" tweet. The almost inevitable response seems to be ridicule. That's where the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak finds himself right now. With the government under fire because of price hikes in basics like fuel and electricity, he chose to push back by highlighting a reduction in the cost of the leafy green vegetable kangkung.
Kangkung - also known as water spinach, morning glory and Chinese spinach - is widely eaten in Malaysia, and is cooked as a stir-fry with a little garlic or chilli paste. But it's cheap, grows wild alongside streams, paddy fields and drains, and is not considered a staple. Moments after a video of the prime minister was posted making the comments, the sarcasm and jokes began to trend on social media in Malaysia. There have been hundreds of thousands of tweets, a Facebook page set up - with 10,000 followers already - a YouTube re-mix of his comments, the lyrics to popular and traditional folk songs have been re-worked, and "Keep calm and eat kangkung" T-shirts have been made and rushed to market.
"Kangkung-gate", as it's been dubbed by some, has hit a nerve because many people are struggling with the rising cost of living, and are resentful of what they regard as corruption, and lavish spending by the government. Unsurprisingly many opposition politicians - including Anwar Ibrahim - have seized on the opportunity to join in the collective fun-poking. The story has been so big on social media that many have complained of their timelines being clogged up. "This kangkung obsession is fast becoming a laughing stalk," tweeted comedian Kuah Jenhan. "Lettuce get to the root of the problem. We have mushroom for improvement."

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Ang pow tales (红包阿红包)

Ang pow envelopes prepared by my firm for staffs and clients.

Giving out the red packet or ang pow as it is commonly known is a traditional Chinese affair that dates back to the Qin Dynasty to ward off evil spirit and to symbolize prosperity and good luck on occasions such as celebrating the Chinese New Year, birthday, wedding and full moon of a child. Ang pow is usually given to the elderly and the younger ones by those who are married and custom dictate that married ones no longer receive any, but this is very much depending on the custom and tradition of each family.

In my family, regardless of one is married or single, we still receive ang pow from my grandmother and my parents. Yann, Yong and myself always look forward to the ang pow by daddy dearest which he will distribute after reunion dinner instead of the first day of Chinese New Year. Before receiving it, we will always hint to him jokingly that the amount should be more than the previous year due to inflation and the weakening of the ringgit much to the laughter of my mother who will remark “give them Indonesian rupiah instead and all will be millionaires”.

Actually, it is not the amount in the ang pow that is important but a gesture of love, a wishing of prosperity and a token of gratitude. However, as our world gets more materialistic, all those are no longer in the mind of the receiver and sometimes, the giver. Why do I mention the giver? That is because some giver belongs to the group of stingy and calculative people who do not take into consideration the amount of hard work or time that the receiver had forked out or in the instance of wedding dinner, whether the amount is considered too low beyond reasonable. I understand that there is no fixed guideline or “a must amount” when giving out ang pow but the giver much not act unreasonably too.

I have a friend who recently lends his car and his driver to a friend for his friend’s wedding.  My poor friend not only do not receive any token of appreciation other than the word “thank you” from his friend, he had to fork out the money for petrol, toll charges and his driver’s overtime. However, much to his horror, his driver only receive a red packet consists of RM 28 for his two day’s service which should include his meal allowance. In this instance, I would say that the giver is inconsiderate because he should understand that RM 28 can’t buy breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days.

Earlier this year, it was reported in the Huffington Post that a reader in Singapore wrote in to share her story of the bride sending a Facebook message expressing her dissatisfaction with the $100 wedding gift she received from the reader. Well, similar incident do not only happen in Singapore to the poor reader. A friend of mine shared her story that she received a call from the bride who is (now) an ex colleague scolding her for giving only RM 300 ang pow during her wedding dinner which was held in a restaurant in KL. The reason given was: “you are so rich, in so much higher position, you should give more! How can you be giving lesser than Mr XX who is in the same position as you?” My friend almost needs a CPR after that phone call.

Another common encounter is receiving an empty packet. Receiving an empty ang pow is considered a very inauspicious thing to the receiver. So, giver, please make sure we do not mistakenly give out empty packets to others. However, there are stingy people that have the habit of giving out empty ang pows to others by giving the reason: “Aiyaa…giving ang pow is not about money, it is the ang pow. Who said ang pow must contain money?”
My philosophical mind always wonder why would people want to make such much fuss when giving out or receiving the ang pow for I am a firm believer in generosity begets generosity.

P/S: I more thrilled of the nice design of the ang pows than its content. 

To read more about ang pow: 

Shanghai Restaurant and Li Yen’s Guest Appreciation Dinner

I would like to thank the management and staffs of Shanghai Restaurant of JW Marriott Hotel and Li Yen of The Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur for inviting me to their inaugural guest appreciation dinner at the banquet hall of the Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur.
Preparing to toss the "yee sang"

The dinner was fabulous, with the combination of the best dishes from Shanghai and Li Yen and the pre-dinner cocktail was unforgettable – the guests were served with the best cuts from a whole roasted pig. It is also an eye opening to see my dear friends – the staffs from Shanghai Restaurant – performing the famous Gangnam Style dance.  

With Chef Leong and Chef Wong, sous chef of Shanghai and Li Yen
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Wilfred, Chef Wong, Alice, U Keong, Yean, Emily and all the staffs of Shanghai Restaurant, current and previous, for making me feel like home at Shanghai Restaurant, for serving me all the delicious food, for remembering my allergies to certain food, for celebrating my life’s events with me and for everything, be it a big or small favour.
Little known, time flies fast and this year mark the 10th year of a continuous excellent service and serving of delicious food by you all. The excellent standard is there, not an easy task to maintain. Well done.  

Monday, 13 January 2014

My very first New Year resolution in life

I have to confess that I do not believe in making New Year resolutions and neither am I the kind that keeps a bucket list of things that I want to do. If I want to do something, I will do it now and the impatient me would not want to waste even a minute in seeing its result or implementation. Besides that, I am in the opinion that once a resolution is made, it is one’s duty to make sure that it is done or one might as well don’t make one at all.
However, I am going to make a New Year resolution for 2014 and I think it is still not too late to start making one now and I am telling myself that I must see it through regardless. The horror of seeing the size of my wardrobe getting bigger is sending a shiver down my spine. No, it is not about me changing my taste in clothing or the change in my shopping pattern. It is still the same – Brooks Brother’s long sleeve shirts for work, Burberry and Brooks Brothers polo T for casual wear, Mandarin collared silk jacket or Qipao for formal occasions and tailored black pants.

The wardrobe is getting bigger because I am in constant need to keep on buying or calling the tailor for larger size of shirts, pants and silk tops or sending the Mandarin collared jackets for alteration. In mid-2013, I was still doing alright with size 12 but when I went for shopping last Saturday, I need an upgrade to size 16! Size 16 is the biggest that Brooks Brothers can offer. Double shiver down my spine! 
I'll be able to wear this again with 15kg off. 
Donate them away so can keep getting new ones? No, that is not the solution. Apart from that, we all know the perils of obesity to health. 

Therefore, I am making a resolution that I am going to shed at least 15kg in 2014 and I must see through it. I’ll pick up golf and squash again, observe a strict diet regime, visit the gym frequently and more……….

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

2014 Chinese New Year Couplet(甲午年春联)

The front door of Mental Cultivation Studio

Since time immemorial, couplets written in elegant Chinese brush ink on red paper has been the tradition for families to be pasted on their wall or main door before Chinese New Year. As the saying goes, the couplets are powerful words that symbolize the wishes of the owner for a great and prosperous year ahead. These couplets will only be taken down at the end of the year on a chosen date according to the “Tong Shu” to be replaced with new ones.

For the side door.
Following tradition, each year before Chinese New Year, I’ll usually have couplets written with the best calligraphy that I could muster, usually after much practicing to be pasted on my front door and a new addition this year, my side door. According to the flying star feng shui for 2014, it would be advisable for me to use my side door for the whole year to tap into the good energy of that direction.

Last year, I’ve written 喜看江山如画,展望前程似锦 with its meanings explained here. For this year, my wish is to see that my motherland becomes strong, powerful and prosperous and that every household gets the benefit of it. Therefore, I’ve written 祖国富强一统天,春满乾坤福满门. My another wish is for peace on all corners of the globe, so I wrote 九州一统,八方共和。I hope that my wishes will come true and that every household in this country will see a better year despite the current flows of bad news regarding inflation and belt tightening.

P/S: Special thanks to Cheng Hock for helping me to paste them on the doors on the auspicious day and time as I am away tending to work.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Counterfeit teas are aplenty: Don’t be duped by the packaging

I was in deep slumber this morning when my mom woke me up, all too exciting to show me three pieces of pu-erh tea that she bought from the morning market. She showed me one piece of Hong Thai Chang (鸿泰昌) pu erh with exactly the same packaging as the Hong Thai Changs that I have been keeping and sharing with her for years.

Real and counterfeit Hong Thai Chang, which is which?
After taking a quick look at the piece that she bought, smelled it and I told her it is a counterfeit tea. Unhappily, she murmured something like I am still sleepy so I can’t differentiate the tea and that she’d had a good bargain for she bought those for only RM 18 per piece while I paid many times more. She added that the people at the morning market were buying those teas at great quantity, at the same time lamenting that she’d lost out by only getting the last 3. I went back to sleep after telling her that I’ll check them when I am awake.
In the evening, I took out my piece of Hong Thai Chang and the one that she bought. The moment I opened the rice paper that wrap the tea to check the labeling that is usually pressed together with the tea, it is all too obvious that the 18 bucks Hong Thai Chang is a counterfeit. The original one has a blue labeling while the other one is red. Each pu erh will comes with a inner labeling and it is vital to know the labeling to avoid being cheated. There are books available that can guide novice in this aspect.   

Next, the texture of the tea cake; while the real one is well compressed, the counterfeit one is loosely compressed, leaves that doesn’t look like tea leave at all and branches starting to fall the moment I hold it up.  

The counterfeit pu erh. Note the texture of the cake, the compressing work and the obvious branches.
The original one. 

I explained the differences to my mom and she asked if we can still drink the counterfeit ones. I told her I will not risk my health to try it even for a brew because I do not know what God forbidden leaves are those, what colouring and flavouring has been added to make it presentable as Hong Thai Chang pu erh. After listening to me, my mom learns a good lesson today about how to differentiate between a good grade pu erh and the lower grade and counterfeit pu erhs.
I’ve heard too much and seen too much about counterfeit teas over the years. By merely listening to the way unscrupulous merchants pressed counterfeit teas, it can make ones hair stand. Just can’t imagine if I’m going to drink it.
Therefore, I will always advice people that before you buy a packet or a piece of tea, always look at the texture of the tea, the way it is compressed and if it is loose tea, look at its colour, check out for leaves that look funny and branches. Next, ask if you can taste that particular tea before you buy it. Taste various according to the many types of tea available.
Even in the pu erh family itself, there are so many types and each taste differently. Ask as many questions as you may wish from the salesperson or the owner of the tea shop. If the answer is not satisfactory, look for other shop. Finally, it is always advisable to buy from reputable tea shop but even that, one still have to exercise caution for a shop with many outlets in Malaysia is the talk among the connoisseurs recently for selling counterfeit tea and purple clay teapots as well as other integrity issues.
Tea drinking is suppose for good health but by drinking the wrong “tea”, the damage to health is far more expensive than the penny saved by buying from unknown sources. Cheap pu erh are hard to come by, so, don’t get cheated; you may be given tree leaves compressed as tea leaves.

Other stories about tea drinking:

Investing in pu erh

Is tea drinking and feng shui related ?

The right pairing of cups and pots for different type of tea

Friday, 3 January 2014

Vicissitudes of life

Like flowers that go through different seasons, life is equally the same.

I would like to start the first blog of 2014 by sharing this beautiful poem by Kelsey Wong – Vicissitudes, for reflections of 2013 for it was a year that was full of high ups and lowly downs for most of us, and let us use the vicissitudes in life to our great advantage. 

Daily life may seems mundane, trivial and routine, but if we sum it up after a full year, in fact it contains a multitude of incidents, at once rich, expansive and touching. Politics, history, society, culture, inter-faith, one memories and emotions, desires and secrets - all reverberate there. Daily life is a veritable forest and we can see and feel its vicissitudes with each passing year. 

Vicissitudes by Kelsey Wong 

A year ago,
Life was spinning at a dizzying height,
A swirl, twirl, whirl – unfurling of events all hurled at the girl
Everything was pulsating attention;
each imperatively adamant that they be paid homage
Crises galore, challenges ashore Spread out on a silver platter of a buffet;
“Pick me,” screamed each.
“Me first!” they clamoured
But she knew they’d all have to be waitressed.
Pointless contemplations would only squander away her meagre denominations of time.
“It’s of the essence,” said Mind to Body.
“Be frugal and get to work.”
So off she went churning solutions, and immersed herself in the euphoria of a purposeful existence.

A year ago,
While Mind was busy losing itself in newfound reign over the flurry of engagements.
Young Heart was left to wander unchaperoned and unguarded.
No stern reprimand, no forewarnings of dangers that lay ahead Reckless Heart,
who didn’t know any better.
A greenhorn yet to learn the ways of the world,
Went exploring and discovered newfangled joys of filling the once empty vault.
Allowed visitors in;
welcomed them with a naïve hospitability and vigour.
Till there were one too many guests and Heart could barely cope.
Poor unguided Heart,
left vulnerable and burning with curiosity.
Didn’t see wrong in compromising loyalty.
Surely every child is innately greedy
And likewise Heart, who hadn’t been taught properly.

A year ago,
Heart triggered a system malfunction.
Sent a single flutter and caused much of a racket through a confused Body.
The crossing and uncrossing of legs uncertain.
Folding and unfolding of jittery hands,
Surreptitious glances of darting eyes,
And butterflies dancing in tummies,
Defying Mind’s principles,
The blame it could not take For Mind’s integrity was as large as it was foreign a concept to grapple.

A year ago,
Mind realised its oversight and hurried to check on Heart Remorse;
and anguish flooded it for the damage had been done,
And what a baffling predicament it was.
For it was well beyond Mind’s comprehension and control,
So Mind stood aside; feeling helpless in this stance.
Relented and lent a shoulder to Heart.
Vowing silently never to leave Heart unattended again

A year ago,
Heart was a marionette of Mind no more;
It wielded a cornucopia of strength and power all by itself.
Discovered unknown reserves and depths it never knew existed.
And fought its debutante battle.

A year ago,
Weary Heart triumphed;
doused the damage Proving to Mind its mettle Bearing trophy scars,
it attested itself worthy of bigger things to come And Mind,
who’d always been the protective one,
Silently conceded as it became the student for once and Heart, the teacher