Saturday, May 30, 2009

Penang island

View facing Wawasan Open University ... photo taken from 17th Floor of Royal Hotel, Penang

This is the kentucky Fried Chicken outlet next to Hotel Royal ... converted old bungalow

View from Air Asia (flight AK5358) landing from west of Penang island ... the houses must be some village

There has always been this nagging feeling to find out why Penang islanders always feel that they are the "real" Penagites and the Seberang Prai people are just mainlanders?

Originally Penang was part of Kedah - and the great British guys who came that way negotiated and got it ceded to the British East India Company purportedly to provide protection to Kedah. Then came a character called Francis Light who raised the Union Jack (just like any other British place) ... and probably brought a gang of Indian sepoys too.

The settlement (township) was called Georgetown to honour King George (how else could Francis Light be in the good books of the Queen?). Then came the fine day when the Siamese army invaded Kedah ... and Francis Light naturally just watched and wondered!!

So the Sultan of Kedah wanted to take the island back. Man ... how can that be?? Now of course the British started their "taici techniques" and instead agreed to pay a royalty provided the Sultan gives away a portion of mainland ... Aha! There comes Seberang Prai (then called Province Wellesley)

Apparently the Penang government still pays a honorarium of RM18,000 per year to the Sultan of Kedah!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Alor Setar, Kedah

Sunrise in the east as Air Asia's new Airbus A320 glides through the sky!

I had been to most towns (I mean capital of States) in Malaysia. Alor Setar was among the later ones visited around 1993. It has changed wuite abit since and I had made several trips after that. My latest trip was in may 2008.

Alor Setar airport ... renewed brand image!

River and surrounding houses

More of Alor Setar from the air ... as we land into the airport

The food in Alor Setar probably has not changed much ... at least since Mahathir's era!! I had a great nasi lemak under a tree in 1993 but then amazingly my memory did not serve me well to find that old tree!

During this 2008 trip, it was a quick meeting and off to Penang. So the only chance was to taste the tea in the airport and some nasi champur in town.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Malacca the historic city

Today I am in Melaka ... the historic city where I worked on the submarine pipeline to Pulau besar in 1993. My friend Md Din asked about the "age" of Melaka's history. The chart here probably answers his question ... Parameswara seem to have been born in 1344 and probably came to Melaka circa 1400.
The subsequent sultanate list is shown in the below chart.
I have been to Melaka many times since then and have seen Melaka change slowly. The usual spot like the A Famosa has been the same probably since the Portughese era!!
And the Dutch Square is more or lessthe same except for more "becas" (trishaws) in the area.
But this time I saw the "new Melaka" with its splendid river bank and completely redone tourist area. The river is so clean with no floating debris and the water is kept at high level without tidal effects by having a "gate" at the river mouth.
The beautiful river bank
River bank #2
River bank at night
I must say that our dear Ali Rustam (the Chief Minister) has done a great job in this. We kept talking of tourism and also the UN World Heritage City status ... but really these are the kind of efforts that really show our committment.

By the way, a few things has not changed. The wonderful kuih shop at Ujong Pasir called Perhentian Kuih Ujong Pasir (just after the olf police station and before the Portughese settlement area)
Perhentian Kuih Ujong Pasir

We had a range of cakes (kuih) and some great juices. All was wonderful and the price was unimaginably reasonable!! Never miss this place if you are in Melaka.

There is also the asam pedas ikan pari in Tengkera which has been there for ages and the same taste still prevails. Opens so early (maybe at 6.30am) and closes once the fish finishes! And that can be as early as 11am!!
So, the charm of Melaka is ever vibrant. But complaints? The hotel prices!! That has skyroketted ... we had a surprise to know that the good names (like Equtorial and Holiday Inn) were going for above RM250! Found a few more reasonable rates at Grand Continental, Bayview and Orchid Hotel ... all ranging RM150 plus levels.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coming to terms with Kuala Lumpur in 1985

On my arrival to KL on 15th July 1985, I took SriJaya Bus No. 40 from Klang Bus Stand to University Malaya. After that I hardly travelled except for coming into university and returning to my grand-uncle's house in Old Klang Road.

So in theory that is all I knew about KL. Then comes a day when we needed to buy some drafting instruments. Our classmate Charles Narasiman (who happened to be a KL born person) gladly said "Come with me and I will bring you to Petaling Street where there is a good shop"

yes, shop was indeed good and we got all the necessary tools. Prices were mind boggling since I have not bought such expensive pens and pencils in my life! They were those special Rotring size 0.3mm gold tip roller ball drafting pen and the like.

After the purchase, then it is game for me to come back to Section 10 PJ where I was staying then. Charles simply says "Go straight, turn right then left and you will see lots of buses" he must have meant "lots of multi coloured multi sized confusing buses" because that is what I saw!! None looked like the Minibus 35 that I needed to go back to Section 10. Now I keep walking and ended up in a place where a "Petaling Jaya" bus became visible.

As expected I boarded the bus and it ended in PJ Old Town ... then it is a long story of finding a connecting bus and returning to section 10 before nightfall.

But that took my fear out of KL buses.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Keretapi Tanah Melayu

"SILA LAPORKAN DIRI DI UNIT PENTADBIRAN AKADEMIK SELEWAT-LEWATNYA 15 JULY 1985 ..." This was the telegram that we received asking me to report to University Malaya on 15 July 1985 for Chemical Engineering.

Off goes dad to buy ok our train tickets from Kluang to Kuala Lumpur for the 14 July. The "Night Mail" that passes Kluang at 10:45pm and arrives KL at 06:15am. It was a very emotional send off by mom who has not had me being away from home for longer than 10 days in a stretch ... "Be careful Thanggamani, eat on time and take care of yourself!" ... She calls me Thanggamani!

The whole looks of the Kluang railway station was rather "foggy" for me though I have been there many times in a better mood. The usual memory of the station is that of our travels to Paloh to grandma's house to celebrate Diwali. But today it is to a land of nowhere. It was a very mixed feeling of missing my home, anxious of my future and afraid of the new challenge.

The distinct smell of diesel can't be neglected. The usually vibrant station now smells of diesel and at 10pm it all works up to create a sombre mood. The single excitement that kept the night alive was the fact that I am admitted into University Malaya, the oldest university of the country.

The train was ontime to kick start my night of many dreams! Town by town it screeched past until Gemas ... a sudden burst of "Karipap, nasi lemak, teh panas, kopi!" (curry puff, nasi lemak, hot tea and coffee) ... old ladies selling snacks to sleepy passengers of the stopping train! The train stops here to split to east coast and another section (ours) to north. Dad did not buy anything, we just slept.

As the train "ooses" out of Gemas, we suddenly saw uncle Ramasamy, one of our fellow "village-mates" who works with dad in the same rubber estate. Oh my, the sudden brilliance in dad's eyes when he saw a familar face! And the "excellent coincidence" that he was also going to KL. That made our day! The least is we had one known soul to guide us out into the KL wilderness.

Slowly the train inches into KL station by 6am. And he I arrived to Kuala Lumpur, the city of dreams.

My travels

I had been a very timid "katak di bawah tempurung" (translation: Frog under the coconut shell!) for most of childhood. The only travel I knew was the daily bus journey to my school and back. Other than that I probably was familiar with the word "Paloh" a "distant town" some 2 hours away by the slow moving train of the 1970s.

We visit Paloh once every year for Diwali celebrations in my grandma's house. Oh yes, sometimes we do go to "Pamol" another "distant location" some 1 hour away by bus. And that is where my uncle was.

So in 1983 when I was selected to attend a seminar in Kuala Lumpur (the Kursus Tatanegara organised by Minstry of Education) ... well, well ... it was a big thing for me! I WAS GOING TO Kuala Lumpur!!

In 1985 I finally entered University of Malaya (which was again in Kuala Lumpur) and that broke my boundaries. And the job with KWH Pipes in 1991 onwards took me on a spin all around Malaysia and beyond.

The travel within Malaysia took me all states and most roads.

Ever since I have travelled to more than 10 countries (not including Singapore! ... for us Johoreans, Singapore is just a neighbourhood modern outpost - NOT a country! We can even walk into Singapore.).

So where have I set my footprints? Hong Kong > Thailand > Brunei > Phillippines > India (several times) > Sri Lanka > Nepal > Indonesia > UK > USA > Australia > Korea > OK lah ... Singapore.

Now is my time to recollect some of the interesting memories and reflect here.