Saturday, 30 May 2015

Even toilet rolls are not cheap



A close friend who visits my house frequently would never cease to complain that there isn’t any toilet paper in the three bathrooms of my house whenever she pays a visit. And each time, I have to tell her that the rolls are available in the kitchen as well as the store room. It is the same mantra that I repeat again and again to all visitors to my house that toilet rolls and tissue papers are not available in the bathroom.

Over the years, I have lost count of the amount of time I told the maids that in all their zest and hard work to keep the bathrooms spotlessly clean; please do not wet the toilet rolls. However, such a simple instruction somehow never seems to register in their mind, leaving me with soiled toilet rolls that I would either have to dry under the sun or throw away. Thus, the best option is to keep the toilet rolls out of the toilets altogether!

I’m not being petty about toilet rolls but I do not agree with the wastage. Apart from that, we, human have taken toilet rolls for granted resulting in rampant wastage. It simply doesn’t cross the mind of many people that toilet rolls are not cheap at all. In the era of inflation insanity post GST, my favorite brand of toilet paper now costs RM 21.19 for a packet of ten rolls at TESCO.  Err...actually, the same toilet rolls costs cheaper in Singapore after conversion to Ringgit. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Famous SS 2 durian stalls demolished by MBPJ


Demolition of SS2 durian stalls.
At around 8.30 pm on 28th May 2015, MBPJ enforcement officers arrived in a few trucks to demolish the famous row of durian stalls at SS2 Petaling Jaya. I happened to be having dinner nearby with a friend when the enforcement officers were busy taking away tables, tents, racks and of course, durians from the stalls that have been operating there for as long as everyone can remember.

What was left after demolition. 
I remember the stalls to be around since the late 90s while my friend attested that they have been around since 2000. Anyone living in Klang Valley who craves for durians will know this is the place to go, even when during off season as durians from Thailand will be imported.  These stalls are so famous that they are in the radar of my foreign visitors who love durians.  In short, SS2 and durians are synonymous.

After dinner, I drove past and I saw a foreign worker handling out cards. Out of curiosity, my friend wind down the window, the worker handed her a business card and pointed to a new direction where they have moved to set up shop right after the demolition. We didn’t bother to check out the new location but from the direction given, we know it is now located on the same row as Restaurant Green View at Jalan 19/3, which is a short distance away. We are unsure if they will be moving back to the old location or to another new location. However, durian lovers can always call Durian Wai at 012 234 5619 or 018 234 5619 to check it out as printed on the business card.

The business card passed to passerby. 
I can’t be certain if they are operating by the roadside of Jalan SS2/24 legally or illegally for years but if they are illegal, why does it take ages before MBPJ sprang into action? In view that these stalls are an icon so synonymous with the king of fruits, I hope that MBPJ and the durian stall operators will work out a solution to ensure that these stalls remains in SS2 within the jurisdiction of law (if they are deemed illegal). 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Crappy parking meters in Selangor!!

This kind of crappy machines under the charge of Selangor are all over Klang Valley! 
Can I assume that district, town or city councilors appointed by the Pakatan Rakyat government in Selangor are all the super busy policy wonks that never have time to get to the field to inspect on everything that is under their charge is working in good order? Or can I assume that even if they do, they all have problems with their eyesight thus, many things missed their attention? Or can I just assume that they too, are no difference from their predecessor from Barisan Nasional, whom they like blame for being incompetence?

Isn’t this group of so call “new era” councilors, appointed from the strict selection process as said by the Pakatan Rakyat government are supposed to be different to ensure that all problems, be it big or small, that is related to the district, city or town, will be solved with first world efficiency? However, the reality is far too different from what was promised. After being in power since 2008, it is as if nothing ever changes at all, even though change, world class infrastructure and speedy efficiency are their promise to the people.  

Let’s leave aside long standing problems such as cleanliness, pot holes, rubbish collection and drainage; I am in deep dismay to find that even the parking meters under the care of Selangor state government in the Klang Valley are in such a sorry state. It is as if the council workers and decision makers expect that every driver who parks their car in public car parks know how to handle the machines like handling something familiar at home or they have the ability to decipher the instructions and the function of the buttons.  

Or am I the only stupid one that doesn’t know how to pay at the museum piece parking machine in Selangor?  Oh well, my friends assured me, I am not alone. Sometimes they take up to ten minutes to study the machine, look for slots to insert the coins and key in their car plates before a ticket is printed! 

If I am not the only one, then what kind of job are all the world class councilors in Selangor are doing? 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Marking the first anniversary of daddy’s departure

Twelve months ago, on this date, calculated based on the Chinese calendar, daddy left us for a better place. Living in a heavily ritualized family based on the Confucian tradition and Buddhism, the past twelve months have been full of activities which mainly involve prayers and offerings every one or two months for daddy as well as my ancestors.

Food, food and food! 
Today is no difference either. A monk was engaged to move daddy’s temporary tablet to join that of my ancestors’ at the main altar. Cooked food, mainly consists of daddy’s favorite dishes were prepared days in advance. The folding of joss papers to resemble silver and gold ingots as well as lotus flowers took place a few weeks ago. Last minute shopping of other offerings such as clothes and shoes was done yesterday. Fresh fruits and other delicacies were purchased this morning.Friends and relatives brought their offerings of food and joss papers too. All done to commemorate the first year of daddy's departure from human realm.

Yann busy marking the territories to ensure all offerings are received. 
At around 9.30 in the morning, relatives from near and far gathered to pray for daddy, headed by the monk doing his chanting. When all was over, we gathered for a reunion lunch. Jokingly, I think, with the amount of joss papers that we burn for daddy on each occasion of prayer, the happiest person is the owner of the joss paper shop. I can see and feel that the mood of every family members turn more jovial with each passing prayers and days but I know, the day for a complete healing from the sudden loss will never come.

It took an hour for this little mountain of joss papers to burn. 
As George Elliot said and I quote – the dead are never dead until we have forgotten them or as according to the great Roman orator, Cicero, the life if the is placed in the memory of the living. Daddy will be forever around in our memories and will never be forgotten till the end of the day. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Bonsai and feng shui’s relation

I have been cultivating the bonsai trees personally for almost a year now. It is now one of my hobby besides collecting Yixing purple clay teapots, travelling and reading. In this past one year, the number of trees in my collection has grown tremendously too – from miniature trees to big trees, in various shapes and from various type of trees. And now my friends are wondering that bonsai trees must be good for feng shui and that is why they are so expensive. Knowing that I am a firm believer in feng shui only affirmed my friend’s believe that feng shui and bonsai must be related.

A cascading Juniperus chinensis with sharimiki
First of all, not everything that I like to do is feng shui related or it must be good for feng shui. Tea drinking and reading are never written in any feng shui book that they are good for feng shui. But, doing those activities at the auspicious sections of the house depending on the flying stars of the year will definitely be beneficial just the same as avoiding activities at sectors that are in conflict with the “Tai sui”, Five Yellow and Three Killings. Flying stars changes every year, which means that an auspicious room for this year may be inauspicious for next year. Therefore, it is important too, to invest in a Tong Shu(通胜)before Lap Chun (立春) to know which the auspicious sectors of the house are or which sector that should be left uninterrupted.

Second, there is a common misunderstanding that something that is expensive must be good and something that is cheap isn’t that good. There are good and bad from expensive and inexpensive items. Drugs are expensive but does that mean it is good? Chrysanthemum tea is cheap it is very nice to drink, its fragrant superb and beneficial for health, especially in reducing body heat. In recent years, feng shui have gone into mass market commercialization thus indirectly giving people the misconception that something related to good feng shui must be expensive for they bring luck and fortune.

To me, bonsai is an art and they are for pleasure. In June 2014, Sotheby’s Hong Kong showcased 16 bonsai trees ranging from the late 18th century to current for the price of RM8000.00 to RM333, 000.00. There is no exact price that you pay for an art because beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. If you do not like Picasso, you will think that it is crazy to pay a hundred of million dollars for one of his painting.
Informal upright Juniperus chinensis
Finally, there is no mention in any feng shui books about bonsai trees though they have been cultivated for thousands of years in China and they are so beloved by the imperial family, mandarins and the literati. This leave an open space for practitioners to interpret the trees based on their whim and logic with metaphysic. Some feng shui practitioners said they have no correlation with feng shui while others argues that bonsai symbolizes stunting growth energy thus they should be avoided. Or some agrees that although they do not represent normal tree that is supposed to be bringing growth energy, it is fine to have them as long as they are not located in the wealth sector of the garden so you wealth is not stunted! Duh!!

A cascading boxus sinicica 
So, what do I believe? I don’t believe its correlation with feng shui at all! I’m more interested in the logic of healthy trees, regardless they are bonsai or bamboo or lotus and to do pruning constantly so they do not overgrow to become mini jungle or create clutter that block the smooth flow of energy around the house. 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The magnolia wall 辛夷坞

The magnolia at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore.
Each time when I visit Gardens by The Bay in Singapore, there is a particular section situated by the riverside next to the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest dotted with magnolia trees that I would always love to take a stroll for sentimental reasons.  At those moments, two kaleidoscopes of different recollections of the past will emerge – the first is that of the magnolia trees that used to circle around the fence of my primary school and the second is a poem by Tang Dynasty’s poet, Wang Wei's 辛夷坞 or loosely translated as “The magnolia wall”.

In local Malay folklore, as told by my Malay friends during those primary school days, magnolia trees are said to be trees that spirits love because of the fragrance that it emits. Young and innocent as we were, we believed that the magnolia trees around our school are the place that spirits like to gather after sunset and before sunrise. Sometimes, schoolmates will play prank that someone saw a white shadow by which tree and it will scare all of us to the extent that we dare not venture out of the classroom alone even to go to the washroom.

I can still remember of a mathematics teacher who likes to dictate that whoever that didn’t do the homework will get the punishment of standing by the magnolia tree for half an hour. So scared we were of the magnolia tree that we will forsake other homework just to ensure that by hook of crook, we will finish up the mountain load of homework that she dispense. Thinking back, how silly it was to believe that such a beautiful tree in full bloom will do us any harm. Alas, those were the days. The last time I pass by my primary school, I do not recall seeing any of the beautiful magnolia trees anymore.

Magnolia trees made a came back to my life during my Auckland days. At the time, I was taking Chinese lessons with Professor Teng. His garden was full of beautiful magnolia trees and the bloom during spring was a spectacular view. I told him of the Malay folklore; in return, he told me Wang Wei’s Magnolia Wall, the story behind the poem and how, for centuries, the Chinese have a great admiration for magnolia. Thus, it changed my fear of magnolia trees to that of an appreciation for its beauty.

Hereby are Wang Wei’s Magnolia Wall and my translation to English

辛夷坞  王维者 (701-761AD) 

木末芙蓉花,山中发红萼.
涧户寂无人,纷纷开且落.

Deep in the mountain,
The branches of the magnolia tree blossoms in red.
Though there is no human passing by,
Yet, they still bloom and wither as usual.

In this poem, the message that Wang Wei wishes to express is that we, the mortals, are like the blossoming of a flower. It doesn’t matter what others may say, as long as we know we did to our best.  As in the prime of life, the flower blossoms, and as at the end of life, the flower withers, thus we should live like the splendor of the summer flower and depart like the tranquility of the autumn leaf. Ultimately, the essence of magnolia is that of calmness, transcendence and at ease with oneself. Isn't that should be the essence of the mortal as well? 


Monday, 18 May 2015

Truth about GST caused suicide in Teluk Intan

The Chinese Press headline that caught the nation's attention. 
Since the publication by China Press on 11th May 2015 with the headline of “GST Too Troublesome, Hardware Shop Owner Close Shop and Commit Suicide” which was subsequently picked up by Malaysiakini, Free Malaysia Today and gaining rounds on social media, I have been receiving plenty of enquiries with regards to this matter because it happened in my hometown – Teluk Intan.

I felt obliged to tell the truth that Teluk Intan people know with regards to this suicide because the media only reports half-truth or what it chooses to portray about the GST and its impact on the livelihood of the people. Yes, the impact of the GST to the people is worse than being told and it is indeed adding more stress to the people’s pocket as well as many other complications. It doesn’t help that we are receiving contradicting messages from politicians and we do not see prices of certain things going down as said earlier. In return, everything seems to be going up and even the mamak stalls includes GST in the bill!

GST is not the main cause of why the 65 year old Tan Huo Ming, the owner of Syarikat Mee Lee, a hardware shop in Teluk Intan committed suicide on Mother’s Day. Syarikat Mee Lee is located at the corner of Jalan Raja and Jalan Wah Keng Joo where most of the hardware shops in Teluk Intan are located.

In actual fact, Tan have been having family problems with frequent fights with his wife and some financial trouble even before the implementation of GST. After the implementation of GST, the round of arguments with his wife includes the hardship of weak sales (a problem that all retailers face in the month of April and still counting).

On Saturday, the day before he commit suicide by drinking pesticide and later cutting his wrist, Tan had had an argument with his wife on which he was told to close his shop on Monday if he is so unhappy with everything. Over here, the report that Tan had closed his shop is not true. As of writing this blog, his shop is still in operation. It was mentioned by his friends that even before the implementation of GST, he have been threatening to commit suicide each time he have argument with his wife and family members over financial difficulties and the threats have been going on for a while. Thus, GST is just another “item” that is added to his complaints but it is not the actual cause as reported otherwise by the media.

There were other talks that Tan have been disturbed by evil spirits, affected by bad feng shui and many more but I would regard those talks as inconsequential without anything to prove. Tan is still alive and receiving treatment in hospital. He is not dead as presumed by many people after reading this sensation news from the media. Some irresponsible people even mention that GST will cause more suicide as people are squeezed and I am deeply saddened by this.  I know GST is the most hated thing in town now, and I admit, I am pissed off too because even GST exempted items are more expensive than before, but to point finger that GST is the main cause of a man taking his life is not an ethical thing to do.

Sigh, at this age of GST insanity, I wonder, what is still sane. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The risk of buying Yixing purple clay teapots online

I am always honored that my friend James will often ask for my opinions regarding Yixing purple clay teapots before and after buying one. He would show me a picture of a particular shape of teapot that he wishes to own, asked if I do have one, and if I do own it, I will gladly snap a few pictures and send it to him. He would then ask if I can sell mine to him despite knowing the answer is a firm NO. James is always very persistent in asking this question and I have a great admiration for him in this aspect.

I would then tell him that I will look around KL for the teapot that he is looking for, otherwise my next advice will be that for him to be patient or wait till my next Yixing trip. From my experience, collecting teapots can’t be done on impulse and most of the time; it takes patience and luck to find a good pot. During my last December’s trip to Shanghai and Yixing, I’d helped him to purchase two pots. The other person that James would often seek advice from is Shirley, who used to work in a tea shop in Subang Jaya but have since moved back to Kuching.

To date, James has been collecting teapots for about half a year. It also amazes me and a few cognoscenti’ friends of mine that James jump from collecting new and inexpensive teapots to starting to collect old pots in such a short span of time. It is not an easy feat to collect old pots because fakes are aplenty and the real ones don’t come cheap. Ten years ago, when I started collecting them, all good pots that are made of pure purple clay from Yixing and from famous masters cost between RM50 to RM10,000 with the exception of extreme famous masters like Gu Jingzhou, Zhu Kexin, Jian Rong and a few more. However, they price have since gone to the extreme starting from 2010 due to the fact that the rich in China are starting to collect them too as well as depleting pure purple clays from the mines around Yixing.

Not too long ago, James began to purchase teapots and Chinese tea online. Purchasing teapot online is not something that serious collectors will ever do. It is also a mantra that was told and retold to me many times by the boss of Legend of Tea, Mr. Ng, who is very generous in sharing all the stories of how fakes are made in Yixing. From Uncle Wang of Lu Yu Teashop in Shanghai, I learn of how to spot between real and fakes as well as the techniques used to make a teapot from different era. From my personal opinion, Yixing purple clay teapots are something that needs to be touched, seen and feel while holding them and not from pictures unless you are purchasing one from someone you trust.

There are genuine sellers online but the risk is always there. Of the three pots that James purchased online, one is confirmed to be a fake old pot while the other spurs debate among my cognoscenti’ friends but I am glad that the seller has tentatively agreed to refund him. Out of curiosity, I asked James to send me the link where he found his pots. To my surprise or actually not a surprise, I found a familiar name that is so synonymous with selling fake old pots and teacups and he is even banned from entering certain tea shops!
The old pot.
2015 edition but marketed as old. 
A few days ago, another person that James got to know through an e-commerce site tried to sell him a teapot that he said is from the 70s with the engraving of Koh Chuan Huat Tea Merchant for RM800. As James is keen to get a similar pot, I asked my friends who have similar pot and showed them the picture that James sent to me. A friend then pointed to me that those produced in the 70s comes with yellow engraving while the one with white which was shown to James is a 2015 production and currently on sale at Tea City in Bukit Bintang with the price tag of 2 for RM 1100.

Living in Kuching is quite a disadvantage for James when it comes to collecting cheap and good purple clay teapots as well as tea. Bluntly, I told James to stop buying online with all the risk of fakes. Instead of taking the risk and having the nagging feeling of whether the teapot is genuine or fake, he should just come to Kuala Lumpur, get to know the nice owners of reputable tea shops and shop to his heart’s content.  

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Mummy, Happy Mother’s Day!

Our happy moments together.
Wishes mummy dearest stay healthy, young, beautiful and happy forever! I love you mom. Words just can't describe how fortunate and blessed Yann, Yong and I are to have a wonderful mummy like you. Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

A melancholy night

I've just arrived home this afternoon from a relaxing trip to Melaka with my friends from Melbourne. The cozy atmosphere of Majestic Melaka, the delicious cuisine, the pleasant drive and all the the laughter and jokes added more fun to this trip. In the evening, mom arrived in Kuala Lumpur to celebrate Mother’s Day with Yann, Yong and myself, and we’d started the first round of our many meals to celebrate this special day with steamboat dinner, to be followed with fine dining tomorrow night and Sunday’s brunch.

Everything seems to be blissful but I had a hard time falling asleep and I know I’m in a melancholy mood because this is the first year that we are celebrating it without daddy dearest. Next month, we will mark a year since daddy’s sudden departure.

Nevertheless, there are still many questions of “what if” that is lingering in my mind and to borrow a line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” – if I can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run……….

With deep regret, I am still searching for the minute.I’m not inflicting miserable time for myself. I thought I've moved on but sometimes, I just can’t lie to myself that I've recovered from the sudden loss and to sweep my melancholy moments under the many thick silky Turkish carpets at home. 

Since small, I never regard forgiveness is a reasonable act but an act that need deep convictions, courage and perhaps, mystical. It is easy to utter let bygones be bygones but when the images of the people that you know played a role in the many decisions before D-Day kept appearing, only God know why forgiving is mystical. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Danny Law Heng Kiang, what is your son’s success story?


How true is this? 
My heartiest congratulations to YB Danny Law Heng Kiang, the DAP’s Penang State EXCO for Tourism Development for having an illustrious and successful son, who are young and handsome as well. When I saw the pictures of Danny Law’s successful son, Nigel Law, that is making rounds in the social media, the first thing that came into my mind is that of Penang’s another famous son, Jho Low.
The girl in red is his sister! 
While Jho Low is well known for partying with the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan like there is no tomorrow, with bottles of Moet & Chandon champagnes in full view, Nigel Law is not too far behind either. It is circulating in the social media that 100 bottles of this fine Moet & Chandon champagnes were corked open in Providence, a famous clubbing place in downtown Kuala Lumpur to celebrate Danny Law Heng Kiang’s son’s birthday party. However, I can’t be certain of these 100 bottles of Moet & Chandon but Nigel Law’s Instagram account confirmed it that he had an early birthday celebration in Providence with accompanying pictures of him and sexy women and models and of course, the Moet bottles.
Danny Law's illustrious family ! 
Out of curiosity, I also check on Nigel Law’s Facebook. I found out that he either own or co-own Blonde & Brunette Malaysia, a high society hair saloon in Gurney Paragon, which was officiated by his proud father, Danny Law in 2013. More to this, also from Nigel Law’s Facebook is his picture of holidaying and staying in luxury hotels, dining at famous restaurants in Europe and many more pictures of him partying, always with a glass on hand. Ah…since watches worn by politicians are the talk of town recently, I’ve spotted Nigel Law wearing a Rolex Submariner. And one picture from his Facebook account that I’m not too sure if it is him driving a Bentley but the watch on the driver’s left wrist and the one Nigel Law wore when holidaying in Siem Reap in December last year is identical.
Wow....congrats YB Danny! 
Oh well, don’t get me wrong, I am not a sour grape and I am not jealous of Nigel Law’s success. In actual fact, I am amazed yet curious!  I’ve had plenty of holidaying around the world, dining in Michelin stars restaurants, dozing off in the luxurious hotels, cruise ships, trains to suits on plane. I am very blessed that I am dining in J.W. Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur almost every week and the Sous Chef Wong Wing Yuk took personal care for my diet. I’m humbled to be chauffeured around by Azman in my Rolls Royce and other cars. I’m comfortable with my collection of Patek Philippe watches. While I can account for how my source of current comfort and luxury comes from, and how hard I work for my current lifestyle, like other fellow Malaysians, we are curious about Nigel Law’s success.
Is it the same watch with the one above?
The DAP always preach that their government is one that is managing well the public fund, against the abuse of power, clean and without corruption, against dishing out favors for family members and etc etc. There must be some magic here that I believe their form of government is being passed on to their leaders’ to manage their family affairs too, so surplus can be gained and can be splurged later on, because I remember that Danny Law Heng Kiang started his career as a bank officer before winning the Batu Lanchang state seat in 1999. He lost in 2004 but won in 2008 and became a state EXCO member.
Everything is possible when......
So, Danny, can you share with us your son, Nigel’s success story? His success story is amazing considering that when I knew you during my DAP’s days, you were just driving a Proton Wira and live in a medium cost apartment in Greenlane. You were so jealous of me, a young girl at the age of 22, returning from NZ with a double degree, driving a brand new Camry and living in Gurney Drive and I thankful to daddy and grandfather, who were successful businessmen of their time. You can say my success is because of my daddy, and I would say, I am forever thankful to daddy.
From Nigel Law's Facebook.
I remember that once, you even asked me to lower my profile because there are many jealous chaps out there. Then there was once, long after I’ve left DAP that you mentioned that you are still jealous of me and my success. I guess you might have forgotten that you said this to a journalist with and another comrade of yours. I’m myself, I am the master of my own money, and I have nothing to hide, so how can you ask me to be pretentious? Isn’t it your son has shown that hard earned money must be spent for certain comfort and luxury in life, which is very typical of Gen X and Y that your illustrious son and I belong to?

First Malaysian there to splurge 300 plus swiss france per night! 
Aiyaa Danny Law, instead of being jealous of me, you ought to share your son’s Nigel Law’s success story so that fellow Malaysians can learn from Nigel the right way to get rich quick without any association with the corrupted Barisan Nasional that your party always accuses of. I think he can organize workshops and talks too, on how to be super rich before the age of 30 without the influence of dad. It is good money these days to conduct talks and I am sure people will start queuing up from Jelutong to Johor Bahru to get an entrance ticket due to Nigel’s extraordinary story. Or what about including the talk on how to get rich in Visit Penang programs that are run by your department, plus some special promotions when get a hairdo in Blonde & Brunette? Blonde & Brunette don’t charge RM1200 just to dye the hair, do they? Or they charge even more considering the high rental at Gurney Paragon?  

Or Danny Law, are you going to say, the world has got the wrong identity of your son? The Nigel Law’s pictures circulating on the social media are not your son but a doctored picture by Barisan Nasional’s spinning doctors? But I don’t think the pictures are doctored. It is indeed your son! Maybe you’ve forgotten that I’ve met Nigel during your CNY open house. Ah…now I remembered that you mention that Nigel Law Hun Chuen was born in 1989!  

So, Danny Law, the respected State EXCO from the “clean government” of Penang,  is it a deal to share with fellow Malaysian Nigel Law’s success story? Your party always preaches for transparency, didn’t they?

Monday, 4 May 2015

My other favorite and nostalgic food

Err...I actually ate half the fish before taking this picture. 
This dish, pan fried mackerel fish stuffed with minced chili, lemon grass and shallot is one of my favorite food since childhood. In my family, we just refer to this dish as the chili fish or in Hokkien, my native dialect, “han chio hu”. “Han chio” for chili and “hu” is fish. A mere mention of “han chio hu” will send me and my cousins salivating and reminiscence about the days when grandmother’s kitchen at grandfather’s shop was still in operation.

A cook was hired to cook for the big family and we were allowed to request for the dishes that we fancy by telling grandma who will then make sure that the ingredients were prepared. Thus, it was very common that my cousins coming back from Kuala Lumpur will request a week or two in advance for our favorite dishes such as this one, pig stomach soup with pepper, “bak kian” (fried minced meat, prawn with other minced vegetables carefully folded with a layer of oily pig skin) and “chap chai” (sourly soup made from leftover dishes) to be prepared during their stay.

Alas, those were the days when grandpa was still around and grandma was still in robust health. When grandpa’s old shop close for good, cooking became decentralized. For a long time, we didn’t see these dishes anymore except “bak kian” during Chinese New Year when we will have reunion dinner with grandma. Mom will avoid cooking all these dishes because they require tedious preparations. Mom is not a good cook. Daddy used to say that her talent is at investment and managing the family business instead of the kitchen.

It wasn’t until the arrival of our maid that we get to taste all these dishes again. Our maid, who had previous experience working for a Hokkien family in Penang before working for us know more about cooking these dishes than mom. Today, upon waking up at around 11pm, I am just so glad to know the maid cooked this dish for my brunch. I ate the whole fish without even a tiny bit of flesh and the delicious minced chili left. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

The Indochina Revenge

I’ve lost count of the number of time I frequent the toilet and the amount of time spent sitting on the toilet bowl due to diarrhea after I came back from Cambodia. In fact, each time when I return from Indochina – namely Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, I’ll be having the same agony the moment I touch down in Malaysia. However, I never experience any form of discomfort when I am there, thus, in a way, I am very thankful.

It is fun and rewarding but comes with a price to pay - diarrhea!  
This has been going on for years, since my first trip to Vietnam in 2007. Then, there was a time when I have to visit Vietnam and Laos frequently for work and upon return, it is a sure thing to happen till my personal assistant will automatically include a few days of medical leave to my schedule. It will be a miracle if it didn’t happen. The same problem haunts my colleagues too and due to this, we will joke among each other that being sent to Indochina is a form of “bully”, “punishment” and even “banishment” by the seniors towards the juniors.

Knowing that hygiene is way out of civilization in these countries, I’ve been very careful with the food and water that I consume, no matter how tempting the aroma of some snacks from the roadside. For some time, we thought that it is the water that is the cause of the problem but even after spending a huge amount on water from the French Alps just for brushing the teeth, I still found myself in trouble.

Finally, today, I have a partial answer to my problem. My doctor attributes this to Strongyloides stercoralisis (S. stercoralisis), a human parasitic roundworm that lives in tunnels in the mucosa of the small intestine.   S. stercoralisis can be found in areas with tropical and subtropical climates and has a very high prevalence in societies where fecal contamination of soil or water is common. This roundworm is not something new; it was first described in the 19th century in French soldiers returning home with severe diarrhea from expeditions in Indochina.

S. stercoralisis penetrates the human body through the skin. They are more commonly transmittable through textiles than treated water. This explains why even the bottled water from the Alps didn’t help at all. As to why S. stercoralisis only cause diarrhea upon reaching home environment is still something that need to be studied. I still consider this as something very strange even after knowing of the existence of S. stercoralisis and I call this whole diarrhea mystery “The Indonchina Revenge”. It is a price to pay for enjoying the gigantic temples of Cambodia, scenic Laos and whimsical Vietnam. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Hilarious Labor Day message from my boss

Early this morning, the ringing tone of my office messaging apps woke me up from my sweet slumber. With it comes a hilarious message from our dear boss whom with the nickname of pharaoh for he is well known to be having the cameo role in driving us (the slaves) to constantly work hard and smart to success and fame. Whereas in ancient time, pharaohs drives the slaves to build pyramids and monuments, the modern day pharaoh drives us hard to collects awards and recognition from prestigious publications/institutions related to our practice.

Mr. Pharaoh who loves the sarong and pagoda T-shirt as much as Brioni and Hermes, in his usual acerbic yet hilarious way wrote this:

Dear colleagues,

Greetings from a very sunny and beautiful location (for you to guess where). I hope you enjoy the long weekend and the extended leaves that you’ve applied with reasons such as avoiding the traffic, flight tickets availability and many more creative reasons after an extremely busy start in 2015. I hope that you have all the fun of vacationing, shopping, sleeping and indulging yourself with all the delicious cuisine to your heart’s content because when the holiday ends, you’ll need to toil harder, but do not worry, our office is not yet a gulag.

Happy Labor Day and Wesak Day and Long Weekend Day!

With warm regards,
Boss a.k.a pharaoh the slave driver


Duh!! Our dear pharaoh …oh pharaoh, it is so nice of you to think of us even during your holiday at the mysterious sunny and beautiful place. Aha..you must be in the middle of the desert to get more inspirations from the pyramids and your favorite Spinx!  Happy Labor Day !