Friday, 30 September 2016

Online bidding for teapots and tea

Not too long ago, I was asked to join a Facebook based Chinese tea and teapots group - 一马紫砂茶文化 (loosely translated as One Malaysia Purple Clay and Tea Culture) by my tea friends. There are quite a number of other Facebook groups related to Chinese tea and purple clay teapots. Most of the time, this kind of Facebook groups was formed and died a natural death without gaining much following.

However-, 一马紫砂茶文化is now the most talk about Facebook group among tea and teapot enthusiasts. The group allow members to share their collections as well as to sell their products based on direct negotiation or through bidding. Malaysia’s version of e-bay for tea enthusiasts! However, the only setback for this group is that the lingua franca used is Chinese, thus leaving English educated people like my friends Pow Wah, Little Q and myself at the mercy of Google Translate!

I would attribute the success of this group to its reputable participants. Most of the sellers are the who’s who of the tea merchants and collectors from Klang Valley, Penang and Johor. At the same time, the bidders are serious buyers. Thus far, safe to say that all the transactions have gone smoothly with willing buyers and sellers. However, I’ve noticed some pranksters who purposely jack up the price during the bidding.

I have to admit that I am not a fan of online transactions. My close friends and colleagues know that I prefer to speak face to face, have a chat over the phone and spend hours in Kinokuniya Ngee Ann City than to send a long email, message or browse for books online. The empirical side of my brain still need some adjustments to the reality of the 21st century but I am making some baby steps.

My first online purchase or I suppose a bidding took place some 3 weeks ago. Chanoyu Tea Art auctioned a can of old Tie Guan Yin tea through 一马紫砂茶文化. Chanoyu is a reputable shop in Kuala Lumpur and I’ve known them for years. Hence I participated in the auction without worry for defective product. After  participating in a few auctions, I’ve decided to venture out into the unknown when I came across a teapot that I fancy.

The purple clay teapot and cups from Hiew Hin Choong 
On 27th Sept, Hiew Hin Choong posted an auction for an Octagonal shaped purple clay teapot made during the 90s on One Malaysia Purple Clay and Tea Culture. I won the bid via a friend’s Facebook account (many thanks Bridget for helping) as the competition was intense at the last hour before the bidding close. I won’t elaborate further on the techniques of bidding except to recommend interested parties to Sun Tzu’s Art of War and Carl von Clausewitz’s works.

Old tea with old teapot. 
It is very pleasant to deal with Hiew Hin Choong. He is trustworthy and he delivered on what was written. I received the teapot with 8 cups and some old tea today. I look forward to have conduct more purchase with him. Perhaps…this is the catalyst to the baby steps I am taking with regards to e-commerce.

P/s: I am doing a little of advertisement here for Chanoyu and Hiew Hin Choong – not paid of course – that if you are looking for reputable merchants, you can look for them. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

"The Round Moon" by "Bukit Mertajam Boys"

Each year around the mid-Autumn festival, the Chinese radio stations will broadcast songs related to the moon. Besides the popular 月亮代表我的心 (The moon represent my heart) by Theresa Teng and the many versions of 花好月圆 (Beautiful flower, round moon), we will also hear 月亮圆 (The moon is round) by a band called 山脚下男孩 (Bukit Mertajam Boys).

The now dissolved 山脚下男孩 was a popular band in Malaysia in the 90s. The members are from the town of Bukit Mertajam in the state of Penang. Locally, Bukit Mertajam is known as 大山脚 ("tua sua ka" in Hokkien) and instead of pronouncing the full Bukit Mertajam, it is often referred to only as BM. During my secondary school years, songs from this group were often selected for school functions for their “correctness”. The correctness in this aspect referred to no elements of love and romance.

Those days, discipline teachers in the Convent schools are well known for their over protectiveness. More often than not, I often wonder if the high percentage of single woman is due to the doctrines of these Convent teachers…no pun intended, just my own wondering.

Amidst this wondering and memories of yesteryears, I’m glad to share 月亮圆 by山脚下男孩, found on YouTube. (Not the boring king kong years ago MV). By the way, “king kong years ago” is term coined by my super humorous colleague Aloysius to refer to some era long ago.  

Wishes you a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! 但愿人长久 千里共婵...中秋节快乐。 

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Nanyang Tea Remembrance 南洋印记

Friends often ask: What is 南洋印记- Nanyang Yin Ji ? What is its name in English and its history?

First of all, 南洋印记- Nanyang Yin Ji’s English name is “Nanyang Tea Remembrance”. This is the first time that the name "Nanyang Tea Remembrance" is being presented to the public. 

Nanyang Tea Remembrance is founded by Chanoyu Tea Art to promote the history, culture, art and practices related to tea in this region which is also known as Nanyang and the selection of this name is explained beautifully in Chinese by Pin Yeeh, a very talented young poet. He wrote:








------南洋印记           文:斌奕

Pagoda T-Shirt and rice paper packing - a distinctive mark in Nanyang.
Its translation in English by yours truly:

Nanyang Tea Remembrance

In ancient China, the southernmost foreign part of the South Sea is call the Nanyang.

If you grow up in Nanyang, you will definitely find the remembrance of Nanyang from your surrounding and even from your own self.

-This remembrance visible when you speak Mandarin with a dialectic slang.

-This remembrance is visible when you speak English with a local flavour, such as Singlish and  Manglish.  

-This remembrance visible when you speak highly of Malaysia regardless of where you are.

-It is a mark, a remembrance that stays on forever generations before and after you.  

----- This is my identity, my distinctive remembrance. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

AirAsia’s wrong flight plan is just tip of iceberg

AirAsia pilot flies to Melbourne instead of Malaysia after navigation error – The Guardian

Safety report reveals how M'sia-bound plane landed in Melbourne in 2015 – The Star

AirAsia flight to Malaysia landed in Melbourne by mistake – The Australian

Input error caused KL-bound AirAsia flight to land in Melbourne - Malay Mail Online

When one reads the above mind boggling headlines, most will immediately point that such error only happen to budget airlines. In all fairness, such incidents are not uncommon. Full fledged airlines are not spared of such gaffe either and most of the time, they went unreported in the media.

However, before one point the finger and say “ahh….must be the pilots”, think of air traffic controllers too, stretched thin by massive traffic and other challenges.  

To my knowledge, as recent as 25th August 2016, Singapore Airlines flight SQ25 from New York to Frankfurt was diverted to London due to wrong flight plan. The matter is still under investigation.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Stop talking about the eagle, look at the “haram” in Perak

The "prawns" sponsored by Majlis Perbandaran Teluk Intan
Zamri Hashim is a controversial man who is more suitable to live in the caves in Afghanistan than in Malaysia.

Recently, when the Perak deputy mufti Zamri Hashim wrote in a local daily that it was forbidden in Islam to make full-bodied statues of living creatures such as humans or animals and that the huge eagle in Langkawi should be demolished, he had forgotten to check his own backyard.

Taking care of my own backyard first, with all due respect, I would like invite Zamri Hashim and the state mufti, Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria to my hometown, Teluk Intan. They must make a stop at Dataran Udang Galah for dinner, famous for its udang galah bakar.

Don’t worry sir, I am not asking you to eat at some non-halal eatery. By the way, all the operators at Dataran Udang Galah are Muslims. The food is for sure halal but the crowd…err…not so halal because non-Muslims and Muslims fancy going there for delicious huge river prawn and other dishes.

After meal, sir, I would like you to tell the Majlis Perbandaran Teluk Intan that the 4 huge full-bodied prawns at the entrance of Dataran Udang Galah in Teluk Intan is haram and therefore should be demolished. Before you point to the state of Kedah, please look around your own backyard. Please check out other the other big and small towns and villages in Perak. There are many more “haram” statues erected at places so beloved by my Muslim friends. Just in case you are not sure, let me tell you sir, my Muslim friends don’t even give a heck to those statues, let alone having the thought of worshipping it.

P/s: If the eagle in Langkawai should be demolished, so is the National Monument, Tunku Abdul Rahman’s statue in the Parliament and Memorial Tunku Abdul Rahman, the cats in Kuching, the swordfish in Kota Kinabalu, the soldiers statue in Air Itam Penang, the kancil in Melaka and many more.

Or as my friend Emmanuel Joseph said, demolish the Bank Negara too because everyone worship money...haha.

Demolition contractors can look forward to huge profitslah

Saturday, 3 September 2016


A cascading Wrightia Religiousa 
Another pot of my favourite mini Wrightia Religiousa bonsai arrived today. Accompanying this pot of 40 years old tree that the giver flew in from afar is a note:

“Having devoted my life to my work so far, I should reap the harvest and learn how to live the rest of it properly.  It's time now for trees and grass and growing things – Author unknown”.

Ahh….he is making a statement. To which I replied with a popular Chinese proverb:

一寸光阴一寸金, ,寸金难买寸光阴” (Loosely translated as time is equivalent to gold but gold can’t buy back the time passed.)

I choose this proverb to express my thought - if I am to start planting one today, I will be well near 80 years old before I can start seeing such result or I may not get to. I wish I started to do bonsai when I was young but no amount of gold can buy back the time passed. Hence, my deepest gratitude for having in procession a significant number of bonsai trees that are way much older than me. 感恩。

Friday, 2 September 2016

The Nanyang Spirit in a cup

One of the many steps in kung fu brew, 
Kung fu - these two words sounds simple in writing, pronouncing but it carries a deeper meaning than the commonly known martial art. In rich Chinese dictionary of words, kung fu is also associated with skills, perseverance and ways. Besides that, there is also a popular saying that one’s kung fu can only be attained some days later through hard work, perseverance and distinctive skills.

In tea brewing, the kung fu brew is one among the many methods. Once again, simple as it sound but rich in significance, the brewing of the kung fu tea comes with various interconnected step and the story of Chinese ancestors that sailed to the Nanyang, today’s Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. It is the story of destiny, fortune, culture and life, full of ups and downs. Subsequently, the journey arrive at the birth of two nations - Singapore and Malaysia. Connecting all the dots at each historical juncture, we conclude it with one name –The Nanyang Spirit.

The kung fu brew originated from the Chao Shan region in the east of Guangdong Province. It gained huge acceptance and popularity in Nanyang and subsequently from the four sides of this world. Over thousands of miles and hundreds of years, the tradition of the brew remain intact. Besides Chinese descendants, the kung fu brew also gain acceptance from the myriad communities in Nanyang and became part of everyone’s enormous story.

To attain the perfect taste of Nanyang kung fu brew, firstly, one must have the utensils, followed by good quality of tea. Thirdly, tea etiquette. Subsequently, the vital, can’t be missed “skills” when brewing the tea.

What is the meaning of “skills”? It lies in preparing the pot, warming of the cups; gathering the right energy of both. How about the taste? The aroma emitted during the brew must be salivating. Where comes the etiquette? The host and guests exchanging banter; its beauty produce excellent tea.

Alas, in Nanyang, it is hard to explain this segment of the society with its hundreds of years of tradition and spirit in full and wholly. This is the whimsical East after all! Only through experience that one can truly understand, so, please drink a cup of the "Nanyang-nised" kung fu tea. Set your imaginations wide and be inspired by it. The rotating strong after taste that linger in the mouth is the combination of good will and culture from the generations of people living in this Equatorial zone. It is the Nanyang Spirit!

*This article was originally written in Chinese by a friend; modified and translated by yours truly.