Sunday, 30 March 2014

My friend just escaped rape last night in New Delhi, India


I received a disturbing phone call early this morning from a friend of mine who is also a fellow lawyer about her ordeal last night. She had just narrowly escaped from being raped by two Indian men near the massive New Delhi train station where she is supposed to take the 10.25 pm train to Jodhpur for a weeklong holiday that will end at Agra follow up with another week of excursions to Himachal Pradesh province, where British Raj once hold court every summer.
Earlier this year, during our meeting in Singapore, she asked if I am interested to visit India in March/April, semi-backpacking style with train as the main public transport, taking advantage of the nice spring weather as Delhi and its surroundings can be a boiling cauldron during summer. Both of us are fervent travellers who shun tour groups.  
I rejected it because March and April will be a two busy months with a few overseas assignment, besides that I’d had a plan to visit Thailand with Pooh. Determined, she will go alone despite reading about several rape cases that happened in India that gained international notoriety as well as pickpockets and other travelling hazards.  To be fair, crime happened everywhere and we can’t just cite India.
As she was navigating her way to the terminal after getting off the iconic yellow and green three wheel taxi near New Delhi train station, she was dragged by two men into a dark corner despite throngs of passersby. I’m not going describe in details what happened after that but she was lucky to escape by the skin of her teeth. She then proceeded to lodge a police report to have the policeman telling her that rape is a common thing in India and it is often hard to caught and charge the culprit. 
What, it is common? Yes, it is and UN’s Human Right’s Chief calls rape in India as a “national problem” as reported by The Economist. I’m suddenly reminded of the cover of Lonely Planet’s 8th edition of Myanmar published in 2002 with the print of “Should you go? See Inside for details” at the bottom and the conversation I had with friends back then about this tag. That was when Myanmar was still an international pariah, hermit kingdom without human rights and Daw Suu Kyi was still under house detention. Will “beware of rape” be the warning line about India being printed on the cover of the next edition of Lonely Planet and other travel publications? 
From this incident, I’ll think twice and again before I travel alone in India. Ladies, no matter how gutsy you are, think twice too.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Happy Birthday to Jessica aka Little Ben



Dearest Little Ben,


Wishes you a great Birthday with many great returns of the day! May your days be always happy, such as like on the day when we took this picture in Quanzhou, China, trying to do a mischief of climbing into the garden, using the shortcut. 


With best wishes from: Similodon, proailurus and all in the filidae family

Friday, 28 March 2014

So, Malaysian government works on “ass ‘u’ n ‘me’” - assume?


Throughout the whole MH 370 tragedy, nothing boils me more than the remark by Malaysia’s Deputy Defense Minister in Parliament that he assumed that the plane made a turn back upon instruction from control tower in a lousy attempt to cover up for the RMAF on why it did not intercept the plane when detected on military radar.
Therefore, can we now assume that everything in Malaysia, even matters of vital importance such as defense, foreign affairs, education and finance works on the basis of “I assume” by the very people sitting on top?
Can I assume that the Prime Minister is working on assumption based on data collected that MH 370 meets its end at Southern Indian Ocean without even debris being verified to date? Why can’t the Prime Minister make his announcement after at least something tangible have been retrieved or can I assume that he is worried the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot or Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will steal the limelight from him?  
Can I assume that the Prime Minister assume that the family members will be fine with his announcement that doesn’t make much difference whether he made it or not? Can I assume too that Najib is receiving a gag order from someone from taking answers from reporters about MH370, thus his job is now to be a newsreader when an international crisis is at full blown. I believe that if this is going to happen in China, even the usually reclusive Chinese Premier will be taking questions from the media.
Can I assume too that MAS officials assume it will be fine to send a SMS with lousily drafted English and Mandarin to family members? Can I assume that MAS officials assume that family members will soon forgive and forget their incompetencies and start to have faith to fly MAS again? Can I assume that MAS CEO has forgotten that he will give details on the 4 standby passengers that board the plane, which he promised will be given the very next day after his press conference? Or he assumes that we all have forgotten on his promise?  Can I assume that he purposely hide the content of the cargo when asked by the reporters? So, from tonnes of mangosteens to lithium batteries, can I assume there are more than those mentioned?
It is also precisely this “I assume” and “tidak apa” attitude that is making the Chinese in Beijing going amok and family members from all over the world crazy. From the beginning of the incident till now, the perception given to the world is that everything is working on “I assume”, otherwise the search for the plane would not have started at South China Sea for days before moving to South Indian Ocean. Can I now assume too that it won’t be long that the search party will move to Antarctica? Even the truth is that Malaysia and MAS never hide anything; people will forever assume that there is a hidden truth.
Well known Malaysian business tycoon, Datuk Tan Chin Nam, in his book Never Say I Assume, published in 1996 by MPH Publishing wrote that: Never say I assume. You make an “ass” out of “u” and “me” with assume. Perhaps, the Prime Minister should take a cue from Uncle Chin Nam’s advice. I am sure Datuk Tan Chin Nam, a close friend of Tun Razak will not mind to give Najib his two cents worth.
There are 1001 “I assume” lists that one can make out of the people responsible in governing Malaysia and the incidents that happened, including can I assume that the intruders at Lahat Datu were at first assumed to be tourists visiting Malaysia?
If this mentality alongside with the “couldn’t be bothered” attitude does not change, it will forever be “ass u and me” and tidak apa lah…..

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Margaritae Sorori


In memory of the lost souls on board MH 370

Margaritae Sorori by William Ernest Henley

A late lark twitters from the quiet skies:
And from the west
Where the sun, his day's work ended,
Lingers as in content,
There falls on the old, gray city
An influence luminous and serene,
A shining peace.
The smoke ascends
In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires
Shine and are changed. In the valley
Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun,
Closing his benediction,
Sinks, and the darkening air
Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night--
Night with her train of stars
And her great gift of sleep.

So be my passing!
My task accomplish'd and the long day done,
My wages taken, and in my heart
Some late lark singing,
Let me be gather'd to the quiet west,
The sundown splendid and serene.

Monday, 24 March 2014

劳劳亭 (Pavilion of Labour)


劳劳亭    李白者

天下伤心处,

劳劳送客亭。

春风之别苦,

不遣柳条青。


献给在MH370上乘客及工作人员的家人和朋友。 这首李白的诗意思表达了送别的痛苦。可是他也借此联想出第三和四句来表达春风也知道说送别苦,不肯让柳树发出嫩枝, 也就是不想让离别发生。

The above poem, Lao Lao Pavilion is by the famous Tang Dynasty Poet, Li Bai about separation. In this poem’s third and fourth line, he wrote that the wind that blows during spring knew that separation is a very painful thing and it too, doesn’t want to see separation take place.
This poem is in dedication to the family members and friends of those on board MH 370. May their soul rest in peace. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

清明


清明时节雨纷纷,
路上行人欲断魂。

借问酒家何处有?

牧童遥指杏花村。

This was the second Tang poems that I memorized when I first started to learn Chinese. Qing Ming (清明) or tomb sweeping day is around the corner and each time around this season, we will see raining days around the globe. I just find this poem by Du Mu (杜牧) amazing as it is simple yet it relates to our environment and it was written almost one thousand years ago.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The climb to reach Wat Saphan Hin in Sukhothai


I am sharing this story to give a little motivation to family members and friends of those on board MH 370 as well as fellow Malaysians that for as long as we have faith and determination, we will always reach the target. And there will always be divine intervention up there to push us towards it.

Day one in Sukhothai Historical Park: after checking into the hotel, Pooh and I scan through the map helpfully provided by the hotel with highlights of “must see” temples or “wat” among the hundreds that scattered around this area. We’d planned it in the way that we will cover the temples inside the city wall; follow up with the four highlighted ones outside the city wall. Then, the next day we will go to Si Satchanalai Historical Park about 60km away and leave our third day’s plan with an open option.
The view from the bottom. 
As we started out late, after a nap and long lunch at Sivanna Restaurant which I considered the best in town, we didn’t get to visit the four temples in our plan on day one so it was rescheduled to day two. Upon coming back from Si Satchanalai Historical Park on day two, we headed straight to Wat Sri Chum, which contains a massive seated Buddha figure peering through an opening in its enclosure which was impressive.

It was a hot and dry day and I was a little tired because of all the driving and climbing for the past few days but Pooh and I were determined to push on. Both of us agree that we would rather cover all the sites we want to visit now, even though it is tiring rather than making a trip back again to cover what we miss. Our next destination are Wat Saphan Hin and Wat Chaetupon.


However, upon reaching the site with the signboard of Wat Saphan Hin, Pooh and I were wondering, where is the temple only to find out that it is located on crest of a hill which required us to climb for about 200m to reach. I looked at Pooh and said “No, I am not climbing. Enough of climbing for me since Guilin two weeks ago, I’ll wait for you in the car if you want to climb.” Pooh decided that she is not climbing too, thus we just took some photos from the foot of the hill.

Are we going to be just satisfied with this picture without getting to the top?
That night, both of us were busy checking our phone and browsing through the Lonely Planet for where to head next as we’d covered our original plan of Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai. Should we go to Mea Sot to cross over to Myanmar for the day? It is worth the drive of 8 hours? Should we go to Ramkheng National Park thinking it may be like the Doi Ithanon National Park near Chiang Mai where we can drive to the top which we did some years ago?  Is it interesting to visit another Historical Park at Kampheng Phet? At the end, we decided to head to the national park.

However, it wasn’t the national park that we thought of so we headed off to Kampheng Phet and visited more ruins. It was still early when we arrived back in Sukhothai. “Pooh, where are we heading?” I asked her. “Should we do Wat Saphan Hin?” I added. 

“Let’s go…..you just have to climb slowly, we will reach the top", she replied. 

The hard way up, treading the pebbles carefully, 
It wasn’t an easy climb for me but once up there, it is rewarding. Thinking back, there were so many ifs that could have just made us gave getting up to Wat Saphan Hin a miss. If we were had decided to head to Mae Sot and Myanmar, if it didn’t require a 4 km hike to get to the top of Ramkheng National Park that we chickened out, if we’d just decided to head back for an afternoon nap….Though it was only a short a few days trip to visit the temples, I learned a great deal of what determination can lead to. For as long as we continue to have faith, we will prevail at the end.
Pooh took this while I was enjoying the view of the plain below with dotted ruins. 
Many thanks to Pooh who’d been a very good friend for the past 8 years, the many journeys to many countries that we’ve did together and the many unthinkable mischievous photographs that we took together especially the one at Chuandixia near Beijing.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

My respect for you sir, Tuan IGP


While the whole nation continue their pray for the passengers and crew of MH 370, the navy continue to comb through the waters of South China Sea and now the Straits of Melaka and families members plus fellow Malaysians waiting with much anguish, many people are still sleeping in their job and having denial dream.
If you read through all the news for the past few days and follow all press conferences held by the officers, the word “deny” or “denied” or its substitute can be calculated as one of the most mentioned word since Saturday. This syndrome of denial is only adding more fuel to the speculations with regards to the missing plane and making Malaysia looks as if we are a pariah country unable to manage a crisis.
However, despite all these, there is one person that I would like to salute and he is the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar. He is the only person from the authority so far, that have not contradicted his own statement even though his statement raise more suspicion on the missing plane.
I like his way of being upfront when he said that: “Nobody who booked the flight did not board the plane... there was only one girl who called to cancel her booking because she mixed up the date”. Yet when it was pointed out that this was a contradiction to the information released by the DCA, he replied: "You take it from me, there was no such thing.”
I just hope that we have more officers up there that can be like Tan Sri Khalid - straight to the point. No more dilly dallying here and there, no more now you see, now you don’t kind of statement, no more Asian, African and finally Iranian twist, no more making Malaysian looks like a group of clowns on international stage. It is time to wake up from slumber and denial syndrome. And all these will reduce the anger and anguish of the family members and fellow Malaysians. 

P/S: Latest update as of 9pm, March 12th, MAS CEO said four standby passengers replace the four scheduled. According to The Star, Boeing 777-200 by MAS has 247 seats for Economy Class and 35 seats for Business Class. With only 227 passengers including the unlucky four, can the flight be full? Why do they need to be on standby?

Saturday, 8 March 2014

MH 370 disappearance: Name list of passengers provides the missing link


I was wondering where Malaysian Airlines will fly the next of kin of the passengers from MH 370 bound for Beijing that was reportedly missing since 2.40 am on March 8th whom was asked to assembly at KLIA before being flown to an undisclosed location. Why they need to be so secretive? Then I thought of a well-placed friend of mine and without hesitation, I gave him a call.  As always, he won’t disappoint me.
Friend: Ah! I am so glad you are not on that flight.
Me: So, you, being the expert, tell me, what happened?
Friend: You can rule out bad weather and technical problem. Check out the name list of the passengers and you’ll get the missing link.
Me: Names? For sure I am not looking at all the Chens, the Lis, the Wangs……
Friend: Separatist movement. The whole plane just goes into oblivion. 

Me: Shot down?

Friend: No comment on that.  
After hanging up the phone, I went through the name list provided but I can’t find any clue but with two Ukrainian on board, could the link comes from there? Or could be it related to Xinjiang? I am always bad at making a guess and at performing investigative tasks but I just hope that all the 239 passengers and 12 crews are safe and sound.

This blog was written at about 5pm local time. 


P/S: It is confirmed in the news and by the authority that two passengers board the flight with stolen passport, one Austrian and one Italian. Will there be more people coming out to claim that they are not on board ? (11.15pm)
  

Monday, 3 March 2014

Off the beaten path in Thailand - Prasat Phanom Rung


I chanced upon this jewel of Thailand by accident when I was browsing the website of the Eastern and Oriental Express, a luxury coach that is well known for its Singapore to Bangkok service. Under its Epic Thailand route, one of the excursions mentioned is Phanom Rung.


Stairs leading to the main temple.
Although there is nothing special with the word Phanom Rung, and it is hard to pronounce, somehow, it stuck in my mind and kept coming back. I’ve never felt so strong an attachment to a place that I have not visited. Then there was a magical pull for me to Google this place followed up with a divine push that I must visit this place despite the complicity of visiting this place from Bangkok via public transport. The more I Google about how to get to this place from Bangkok, the more complicated it gets as there so many ways to get there but none direct. Fed up with it, I said to myself “when there is a will, there is a way for me to get to this sacred place”.
After a few months of having Phanom Rung in my mind, the opportunity came. I’m heading to Sukothai in late February and it is possible to make an excursion to Phnom Rung with the limited time that we have. Armed with the latest edition of Lonely Planet and Google Map installed in my iPhone (it is not a helpful tool as most of the towns and landmarks are in Sanskrit writing instead of Roman Alphabet ), we head off to Nang Rong, the gateway to Phanom Rung.
Four and half hours by car away from Bangkok and after a stop for lunch, we reached the entrance to Phanom Rung, the most beautiful and important Khmer period temple in Thailand. Situated on top of an extinct volcano, this temple was built in between 10th to 13th century AD. The name Phnom Rung is derived from ancient Khmer inscription which means “vast mountain”, hence Prasat Phanom Rung, temple of vast mountain dedicated to Lord Shiva.  


With the "naga".
After climbing endless steps of stairs, passing through numerous terraces adorned columns topped with lotus buds and “naga”, a five headed serpent like creature which are believed to link the human with heavenly realm; I finally reached the center of the temple. There, a tower 23 meters tall, adorned with gables and lintels depicting tales from Hindu religious ceremonies and mythological tales.  I almost have the whole temple to myself as it is not a touristy site but this may change with its impending UNESCO World Heritage Site status.  


The main tower.
After spending about an hour exploring the temple and a little rest, I said “thank you” to the mystical power that took me there and left. I’ve never felt an ancient temple ruin so serene and peaceful from my visits to famous ancient Hindu temple ruins in Southeast Asia, from Angkor Wat to Me Son to Prambanan.  


This lintel depicting a reclining Vishnu was stolen and found on display at the Arts Institute of Chicago and returned home in 1988.