Saturday, 25 April 2015

Finally, I step foot on Prasat Preah Vihear

One of the many Gopuras of Prasat Preah Vihear
When the topic of Angkorian temples were brought up, the majestic Angkor Wat, the surreal Bayon and huge trees of Ta Prohm will overshadow all other smaller temples, including the dramatically situated Prasat Preah Vihear. If not for its declaration by UNESCO as a world heritage site and the subsequent fight between Thailand and Cambodia in 2009 over the area border claim surrounding this temple, including this temple itself by Thailand, Prasat Preah Vihear will not be known to the world.
Along the unpaved way up to the main entrance.
I’ve read of this temple since its award as a world heritage site but it didn’t have the pull for me to visit it until I visited Prasat Phanom Rung last year. During my visit to Prasat Phanom Rung, I’ve heard much about Prasat Preah Vihear from the locals. They reminiscent that it was once open to visitors crossing from Thailand because of the difficult and unsafe conditions to reach the temple via Cambodia. It is important to note that the area surrounding Prasat Preah Vihear on the Cambodian side are full of land mines, thanks to the Khemer Rouge.

Thailand or Cambodia?
Since then, I’ve made a mental note that if I ever make it to Cambodia again, I’ll attempt to visit this place which is not easy even by today’s standard. Besides that, it is an extremely costly and risky affair. The threat of land mines at remote area of Cambodia is something that will send the shiver down the spine of many people. However, when there is a will, there is a way! I finally made it to Prasat Preah Vihear today.

You can see many men in uniform all over the place.
There is no public transport to get from anywhere in Cambodia to the base of this temple which is perched atop the Dangkrek Mountains. From Siem Reap, my friend and I arranged for a private car to take us to Kor Muy, where we have to change to a 4WD for the final 5km up the temple access road. For the transportation alone, we paid USD 165 but the entrance to the temple is free. To reach the main gate of the temple, we have to hike for another 20 minutes under the hot sun. If you are looking for tree shades, you’ll be disappointed but there are plenty of men in uniform mingling around, their AK47 in plain view.
The layout is typical Angkorian temple.
According to the Lonely Planet, there is supposed to be a Monumental Stairway that leads down to the Thai border but we did not notice any. After passing through the first Gopura (pavilions), we kept hiking to the next Gopura until we reaches the end of the temple which is a big pile of rubble, waiting for restoration. Sign boards are non-existent at this temple.  You either rely on Lonely Planet or a local guide or you can try to decipher your own the buildings as most Angkor Temples are built with the same design and layout, dedicated to the Hindu deity, Shiva. There aren’t much carvings or statues for appreciation either. Sad to say, it is just another simple Angkorian temple but located on a hill, yet rich with history as a pilgrimage site.

After spending about 2 hours at this temple, I head back to the waiting 4WD and the drive back to Siem Reap, all done within the day. There aren’t any interesting temples or places of interest along the way and there is no absolute need for an overnight trip as recommended by some. On the way back, and even as of writing this piece, I kept asking myself, is it worth visiting Prasat Preah Vihear and all the huh hah associated with the trip all the way up the temple? My answer is no. But being me, I know I won’t be satisfied till I see the place for myself. This place is so much overrated, that is all I can conclude.

An overrated place that you won't go a second time, 
More ruins that badly need restoration.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The appopriate gift poser and headache

For the past few days, I have been pacing up and down my garden checking at every pot of bonsai like a curious cat looking for a hidden prized rat. Not satisfied with my own judgment, I even went over to Uncle Hooi’s house this afternoon to consult the master himself. You will now be asking, what is the big deal here, Jadryn?

Oh well, it all started with a very kind and respected friend asking for a simple favor of helping her to hand deliver something to Singapore. When I went to her house to pick up the item, I found out that we share many common likings besides tea. However, there is one thing that is missing and it is bonsai! My friend then went out to tell me her likings for bonsai but she doesn’t have any experience in cultivating one. Besides that, she is not really a person with green fingers. I promised to look for a suitable plant for her as a gift and it is now the time to make good my promise.

First of all, I have to decide which type of tree that is suitable for her environment. Although juniperus chinesis is the most suitable gift for this respected friend, it is very hard to take care of the tree. Too or too little water, it turns yellow. Too much or too little sunlight, the tree will grow “candles” and before long, the whole tree became something else. Besides, my friend would prefer the plant to be placed indoor most of the time for her viewing pleasure.

A pot of Buxus sinica that is being prepared to be shaped to kengai (cascade) style.
With juniperus chinesis out of the question, I’m left with ulmus parvifolia (Chinese elm) and buxus sinica (Chinese Box) which are considered easier to take care of. However, most of the ulmus parvifolia and buxus sinica in my garden are from Uncle Hooi’s garden, therefore, they are deemed not appropriate to be selected as a gift. Those that are I cultivate myself are still at “infancy” level. Then came my another dilemma, should I give this friend a medium or small tree? Big trees are out of question as they are not easy to be carried in and out of the house.

Then came the question of how big should be the easier to move about tree so that they look nice in proportion to my friend’s house or would a small tree be easier for my friend as a start? Besides, if the small tree dies off, it won’t be much of heartache as they took between 5-8 years to cultivate and shaped compared to 20 years for a medium tree. As of writing this article, I am still undecided! After all, this is going to be a gift for a respected friend who possesses almost everything that money can buy.

Selecting an appropriate gift is always a problem that most of us face unless you know what the receiver want or the interests of the receiver. However, having said that, my colleagues and I never cease to have headache to select the right gift for our boss even though we know the few things that he is fond of, because he is another person that possess everything and we are afraid of buying the same item that he’d bought for himself or someone else bought the same item too. I think we should resort to ask his other half to be our oracle in guiding us to select the gift that he wishes to have for his upcoming birthday. (Boss, I know you’ll be reading this blog, so please don’t tell us you want a real lion from Africa!)

There are three common questions that we will often ask: Will the receiver like this gift? Is it something that the receiver need? Is there something else more appropriate than this? Thus, sometimes, when there aren’t any clues, gift cards from bookstores or departmental stores is the best present to give to a friend on important occasions. However, there goes another problem with gift cards: how much should be the value of the card? To me, giving a gift is not just an easy task of simply selecting something. It is actually an art as I want to give something meaningful that the receiver will appreciate and need.

Friday, 17 April 2015

“If you want to have heart attack, hire a maid”

We’ve heard and read a fair share of maid abuse, vicious maids, stupid maids, lazy maids, runaway maids, wonderful maid, honest maid and the list goes on and on. However, most of the time, we will hear of complaints about maids rather than compliments about them and in my instance, I can sum up the ratio to 8:2 and I’ve long concluded that getting a good maid is all about luck and gamble. You place a huge sum bet in getting a maid but luck determines whether she is good or lousy. 

If you are lucky, you get a maid who is a fast leaner, honest and wonderful that if she ever goes home for holiday or decided to go back for good, you felt that your house collapsed after three days or that you lost a very important family member. However, if you are unlucky, you get a maid that is capable of all sorts of stupidity despite your never ending coaching that you’ll be counting the days to pack her off. A friend of mine who have horrible experience with maids said this to me “If you want to have heart attack, hire a maid!” To a certain extent, I have to agree with her.

Even my own experience said so but my mother is so far very lucky with the super hardworking maid at her house that is capable of almost everything from sewing, pets handling, cooking delicious dishes to gardening on automatic basis whereas the hourly maids that come to my house in KL will never cease to get earful of lectures whenever I am home. I guess they must be praying that ma’am is not at home all the time so they don’t have to work the full two hours, cut corners when wiping the shelves, use bed sheet changing as an excuse to delay the tedious ironing or hearing me giving them sarcastic remarks such as I’ll be able to write their name on the dust accumulated. I just can’t wait for these two maids to end their 2 years contract so that Mr. Leow can send me new maids.

Whenever I chat with Mr. Leow, I’ll never cease the raise the issue that the maids are forgetful and Mr. Leow fully agreed with this. Absent minded maids is the complaint that Mr. Leow received almost on a daily basis. He too, lamented that despite his daily training and lecture, have to concur that the brain of the maids work slower to which I have to agree with very much so does all my friends with maids. However, I will console myself and them by saying that if they are smarter, they won’t be maids!

Couple of days ago, my friend in Singapore was all worked up and in horror when she found out that her maid have been changing her Facebook profile pictures almost every week, including a selfie that the maid took while lying down on her sofa. Since arriving in December, my friend has been complaining nonstop about the stupidity of this maid in doing household chores and that she is almost going bonkers about this maid. When I told my mom about this, she said that this is small matter compared to the maid of her friend who took seminude pictures to post on Facebook. Again, if the maids are smarter, they would have known what to do with privacy settings on Facebook.

The Facebook profile picture of her maid that made my friend's blood boiled!  
"Even my maid have a maid!” cried an ex colleague not too long ago. Who is the maid’s maid? It is the Bangladeshi that is hired by the management office of the residential compound where she lives to do maintenance work. In exchange for washing the my friend’s car, trimming of the grass, wiping the windows and other works, the maid return to favor by having sex with him. This arrangement ended when my friend caught the maid and the Bangladeshi at home after being tipped by her neighbor. 

There are more horror yet amusing stories regarding maids that it will take me pages to list them incident by incident that at times, it is better to be doing all the household chores by our own instead of risk having premature death caused by them.Most of the time, we empathize that maids are human beings too, and they have families back home,but, it is their attitude and level of smartness that made us getting mad and make it so hard to assimilate them as part of the family.

On the aspect of smartphones, while we know that Facebook or Whatsapp is a cheap way for them to connect with their family members; we can’t stop thinking of the time that they spend tapping their phone or what other monkey business are they doing instead of doing household chores. How often do they go online, especially when the kids are all at school, parents at work and maid is alone at home? With maids having smart phones, is it a good idea at all?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

All I want in life….and more

Sometimes ago when I was in Lion City, Yong’s good friend Etara Cheong sent me an attachment via Facebook which amuses me very much. Each time when I look at this few simple words, I can’t stop thinking of the books and the luxury of time to read them as fast as I can and the many more things in life that I wish to have.

So let’s start with the attachment from Etara and I’ll do a simple check with pictures that I took from home:

1. Books -  yes, always have them by my beside table. I can't sleep without reading.
2. Books – yes, here are some of them.

3.Comfy chair to read books – yes, this is my favorite rosewood rocking chair to do reading.
4.Books - the more the better as the essayist, poet, playwright, and politician Joseph Addison said and I quote " Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body".

5.Money for books - err...a portion of my monthly salary goes to investing in books till the piggies are complaining that they only get coins!
6. Library full of books – hmm...I still have to work hard for one, but I am happy with my little sanctuary full of books and Chairman Mao statues. 
7. Bookmarks - I collect bookmarks but I use sticky index notes as bookmarks for a very practical  reason. Guess?
8. Books - yes, there are more and they are fighting for more space.
9.A man who reads books – I am still looking for the man so there is no picture to go with this comment.

10. Stacks of books - aren't all that you see are in stacks? 

11. Time to read books – I try to devote as much time as I can. Time is too luxurious that I can't afford to lose even a minute. 
12. Shelves for books – I wish I have the space for more shelves but my little sanctuary can only afford one.
13. Books - I have been buying the same book but in different cover! I think I have temporary amnesia when I am at bookstores. 
14. Tea to drink while I read books – a book and a good pot of tea is a perfect pairing, such as TWG's Silvermoon. 
15. Books - My God! Look at what I did with books - buying the same book from two different bookstores. 
There are more things that I wish to have in life but I am happy and thankful with God’s beautiful arrangements for me thus far in life. I am grateful too, to all of you who come along the way and make this life a wonderful journey. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Confusions over Wesak Day

A statue of Lord Buddha at Mt Sorak, South Korea.
3rd of May or 1st June 2015 is Wesak Day? Why are we having different Wesak Day celebration compared to Singapore and Thailand which will be celebrating Wesak Day on 1st June? 3rd of May is the 15th day of the third lunar month while 1st June is the 15th day of the fourth lunar month, Wesak Day is on 15th day of fourth lunar month, something is wrong? Is it because of the lunar leap month in 2014, thus it is celebrated a month earlier? Who is the best person to ask for clarification? As a Buddhist, which one should we observe?

Those were the questions that dominates most of my discussions with colleagues and friends yesterday after finding out of the differences in the celebration date between Malaysia and Singapore.It was later extended to my discussions with friends who are Buddhists as well as a few phone calls to journalist friends and a Buddhist Association today, for I fear I am missing out the news as I have been away from Malaysia. The answers that I have been receiving only adds to my confusion. They are mentally challenging as well. To make the story short, I was told to follow whichever that is the official version published in the calendar and when I protested that we should be observing Wesak Day on the actual day, I was told that it doesn’t matter which day as long as it is a full moon day and the sincerity in praying! Duh!

Not satisfied with the answer given, I went on to seek help from Google and Wikipedia. However, all I received was even more confusions. In Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, it is on 25th May, which is the 8th day of the fourth lunar month. Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha is celebrating it on 1st June while India is on 4th May.

My philosophical mind just can’t help thinking, to honor it on the right date or it doesn’t matter as long as there is sincerity? 是有心就好,随缘或什么,我无法想通。

P/s: About 30 min after finishing this article, I received an email from my journalist friend with regards to the difference in the date of Wesak Day in Malaysia and Singapore is due to the lunar leap month in 2014. There were two lunar ninth month last year.

Monday, 13 April 2015

From Kit Siang’s mouth about PAS

DAP’s most respected leader, Lim Kit Siang today questioned PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s honesty and honor in the continuous spat between PAS and DAP over a wide range of issues that was once swept under the carpet for the sake of Pakatan Rakyat’s aim to capture Putrajaya. At last, the honest and frank Kit Siang can’t fathom it any more when he openly said that Hadi had reneged on his promises to Pakatan Rakyat leaders and had thrice “arbitrarily and single-handedly” tried to veto or overrule a consensus decision of coalition leaders.
The three issues that raised by Kit Siang are: 
  1.  In 2013 when Hadi authorised PAS candidature to contest in six state assembly seats which had been allotted to Parti Keadilan Rakyat, resulting in three-cornered fights and Pakatan Rakyat defeats.
  2.  In August 2014 when Hadi overruled a Pakatan leadership decision that PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail be appointed as Selangor Menteri Besar. 
  3. Hadi’s reneging on his personal commitment on Feb. 8 that any amendment to Kelantan syariah law and any private member’s Bill for Parliament to enable enforcement of hudud would first be presented to the Pakatan leadership.

The fact is, it is not only Hadi Awang that is the problem in PAS – it is the nature of the party and its leaders with lunatic and fickle minded thinking that made it can’t be trusted at all. In September last year, during the height of the Selangor Menteri Besar crisis, I’ve written that PAS is a party that can’t be trusted at all and I asked for DAP and PKR as well as fellow Malaysians to admit and face the fact that PAS is the party that can never be trusted to be a component party of any coalition as well as in its commitments and promises. 

Better late than never, Kit Siang is having enough of Hadi Awang and PAS's nonsense. "Enough is enough" is DAP and its leader's favorite slogan. Anyone who attend DAP’s ceramah will hear this slogan so often that it isn’t a DAP function if you didn’t hear this call at all. Frankly, these three words are my favorite too, probably a Freudian slip of mind that I once chant these often during my days in DAP. Enough is enough and it is time to end the alliance with PAS, Kit? 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

My unexpected iPhone 6

For a while, my hand have been itching to get an iPhone 6 but I hesitated each time I look my still “quite new” iPhone 5s which Yong bought from the States one year and four months ago. Unexpectedly, a few days ago, lady luck smiled on me and I have this brand new 128 GB iPhone 6 in Singapore. My enormous gratitude to my beloved… know who you are. 😄

Monday, 6 April 2015

Qing Ming at daddy’s grave

Carnival like atmosphere at the memorial park 
On the morning of 5th April, the actual day of Chinese Tomb Sweeping Day or Qing Ming, we left home very early in the morning to beat the morning sun and traffic jam to embark on our first tomb sweeping at daddy’s graveyard. Along the way, it was drizzling, evoking my memory of Du Fu ( 杜甫)'s poem which was written during the Tang Dynasty.



When we reached there, the drizzling stop and  it was carnival like atmosphere at the memorial park with sounds of firecrackers – I actually wonder, since when it is a “tradition” to light firecrackers during tomb sweeping.

Preparing our offerings. 
Upon reaching dad's final resting place, we laid out the food offering that mom and the maid had prepared for days, consists of mainly dad’s favourite food. After that, we took turns to kneel down to pray to dad, each with our on wishing. Then, we waited for dad to finish his meal before burning the offerings of joss papers and other necessities that we had prepared for him.

A layer of flour must be added to surround the josspapers to ensure daddy received all the offerings.

When all done, we head home for another round of prayers, and this time, to my ancestors as well as to daddy. Such are the ways we remember the dead and honour our ancestors. On surface, things look easy but there are many detailed things to be done and observed so that our ancestors are appeased, and they, in return can continue their divine care for the descendants, and to borrow the words of my dear colleague, Roy, put it in a more layman term: we have to take care of the top so that the top can take care of us. 

Another round of prayers and offerings at home. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

The end of dining in the museum

Group photograph with Micheal Tio and two of his staffs with the famous panel inside Chef Chan's as our backdrop.
I’m heading to Singapore again in a couple of days and the usual me will fill my lunches and dinners appointments to the max besides my official work. For years, I’ve been adapting a leisure pace of life by mixing work with a bit of sightseeing and gastronomical indulgent, after Bell’s palsy and protein inflammation raised the red flag of stress.  

Out of a sudden, I have terrible cravings for “Or Ni”, smashed yam steamed with ginko and dried mandarin orange peel, topped with a bit of coconut milk and macademia nuts. Arghh….and I know no place serve this dish nicer than Chef Chan’s Singapore, 神厨三绝 in Chinese. Since I was first being introduced to it by my good friend Peggy in 2006, it is one of my favorite dining places in Singapore alongside Royal China at Raffles Hotel, Jade at Fullerton Hotel and Por Kee Eating House (closed in 2014). I guess, what attracts me most, of Chef Chan’s, besides its delicious food, are the Chinese antiques that adorn the place as well as the thrill of dining in the museum. Chef Chan’s is located at the Singapore National Museum.

Another group photo, with Su Yen, Lee Ying, Li Fong and Mavis, circa 2008. 
I would have to admit that I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this place because of the poor service rendered by some of its waitress. They made you feel unwelcomed you entered, with their icy cold greetings, limited flexibility in exchanging some items on the set menu and when the clock struck 9.30pm, they just can’t wait for you to leave with their expressions. More than often, we have to adjourn to another place for tea and to continue our discussions. Soon,  the pull to dine at Chef Chan’s diminish except for the occasion cravings.

The last straw happened in December 2014 when friends celebrated my birthday there. We were denied a private room for unknown reason even though they knew we were regulars and all rooms were empty that day, and in the past, we’ve always have a room. Finally, after showing a bit of displeasure, we were given one. I’m allergy to noise when I dine, prefer a quiet corner or room where conversations can flow freely and happily without having to shout when conversing. After that day, we made a mental note that we are not going to dine there anymore but I know somehow, we will succumb, with the past forgotten and forgiven.

The memories will lingers on. 
However, it is sad to note that Chef Chan’s at Singapore Museum officially closed its door on the 31st March 2015, when its lease expired and owner, Michael Teo decided to move. The new Chef Chan’s will be located #03-17 APERIA, 12 Kallang Avenue, Singapore, thus, ending the experience of dining in the museum surrounded by objects de art which Chef Chan’s are renowned for. As the Chinese saying goes: 不在于天长地久,只在乎曾经拥有 (it doesn’t matter if it lasts forever as long as I once have it), I cherish the moments that I have had while dining at Chef Chan's at Singapore National Museum.

P/s: I look forward to hear from Micheal soon to announce the re-opening of Chef Chan's, and hopefully, with better waitresses and service. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Tuan IGP, please put your priority right!

A picture speaks a thousand words!
I took this picture in the town of Tapah on a busy Monday morning  when I passed a goldsmith shop that have to do business with deep paranoid about robbery. Curious, I checked out for other goldsmith shops around town and I found that they are operating the same way – with stainless steel gates to serve as protection and only those that deemed genuine customer will be allowed in.  As I drove towards Kampar, I wonder, where else in Malaysia are businesses being conducted in this way?

What does this picture tells you about the state of security in Malaysia?

So, my dear Tan Sri Khalid, the Inspector General of the Police Force, are snatch thieves, gang fights, car thefts and robbery less threatening than the one thing you are so obsessed with now – sedition? 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

GST insanity and sanitary pad

The jury is still out there whether the sanitary pads will be cheaper. 
I am not going to write a long essay on this topic, and I agree that GST is good for the country in the long run but I only have three questions for the policymakers in Malaysia that decide on which are essential and non-essential items that should be GST taxed or not. My first question is this:

Is using the sanitary pad and tampons considered a luxury because the government expects women to go back to the days when recycled cloth or rags were used to collect menstrual blood every month?

If the answer is yes, then it is very unfortunate that in this age of GST insanity and bid to increase the fast depleted government coffer, Malaysian women have to resort to the methods of their ancestors in dealing with menstrual blood or pay the 6% tax. And thus, my second question:

If the answer is no, with the excuse that sanitary pads and tampons are in fact going cheaper, then, why can’t it be even cheaper for another 6% ?

And my final question is:

Why women in Malaysia must be penalized with the extra burden of 6% (and this 6% could be increasing over time) every month from the day of their puberty to the day menopause finally kicks in?

Can Malaysia’s dear Finance Ministers and Deputy Finance Ministers please answer these questions? If you have no answer to these questions, then stop letting the GST insanity takes over and Malaysian women fume over sanitary pads!