Ending The Year 2014 On A Positive Note!

2014 najib golf

(Not everyone can be the PM – very, very hard at “work” overseas in 2014. Some had said that there is nothing wrong for a leader to take a break. Well, that is correct but not when the country is seeing one of the worst floods around. The big mamma still on holiday, its so seems – no one had seen her wading through the high water in downtown Kota Bahru. Image source)

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Reckless Livina Drivers

This has to be one of the coolest thing I have ever seen on a highway (second to the time me and my friends “caught” a couple having sex whilst still on the slow lane of the highway but let me keep that for another time).

First, the photos – after all, “seeing is believing”, right? (photos taken on Saturday morning, towards North)

(All Whites! At first, we thought it was a new way of delivering new vehicles to their customers – some beautifully modified told us it was not. By the way, 3 Idiots are seen at the top – putting themselves and other road users at great danger)

(Whites Knights meet All Blacks – before we got bored with the whites, they caught with another part of the convoy which was made of all black colored Livinas. Somehow the blacks “behaved” themselves on the highway, keeping to the left lane of the highway)

(Blacks and whites were not the only color that we saw – further up, there was others colors too)

Kudos to the organizers – as I made to understand, it was organized with the participants from the Northern, Central and Southern regions. And it is not easy to get the over-zealous drivers in toe and keep the convoy formation in line. It was interesting to watch the various “colors” in a long straight line and plenty of things to chat during the night once we have reached our destinations.

But here is the sickening part of an otherwise brilliant stroke of organization – those Livina drivers, in their eagerness to keep in line with their same color comrades, completely ignored the rest of the road users.

(This was a very close call at 110 km/h! Ya, you indicate to cut in but you don’t bother to see whether there was enough gap to cut in. You simply cut in to join your friends on the left lane. I dreaded the thought when the 3 lane highway gets down to only 2 lanes and there is more of the heavy vehicles on the left lane)

(King of the road? By holding the sweeper position on the middle lane, you hog 2 lanes leaving the rest of the highway users to use the fast lane to cut the whole convoy)

They cut in very closely and most of the times, leaves very little room for maneuvering and overtaking. With 20 or so cars in a convoy hogging the left lane and occasionally the middle lane (when overtaking trucks and slower moving vehicles), these drivers drove as if the highway belonged to them and no one else. There was the fast lane but it was not easy to make the overtaking move especially when you have BMWs and Mercedes coming down screaming  at your rear of your car within seconds.

After a while, I had enough of driving rather dangerously next to the group, I decided to speed up and leave the group as far away as possible (they caught up when I made a “pit-stop” at the R&R but I managed to fly through before they managed to regroup and cause headache to others).

Cool but reckless at certain areas…

Kojak Time 2

It is T plus 3 days

(The look from my son’s clean shaven head as I hovered over it to take this snapshot of him doing some English exercise)

It was a good trip up North and I kind of felt “renewed” after a complete shave of the head (ha, I am thinking like Captain Jean Luc Picard too). The only downside of having a bare head is that it gets too cold up there in a fully air conditioned room.

Plenty to write and photos of the experience and the trip – that post should be up here in the next few days, so please bear with me as I clear my outstanding chores. Plus, I have a fight to pick with some reckless Livina drivers.

Damn, it is cold!

To be continued…

Childhood Memories Part 17

Read the rest of the series here

(The start of our journey on the trains, the old train station – Image source: http://spwise.wordpress.com)

These days when I go back to my in-law’s house in Taiping for a well deserved rest, we usually take the North South Highway and it takes us about 3 hours to reach. But there was a time in the late 70s and early 80s when we used travel to Taiping by train during the festivals (very rare Deepavali celebrations in Taiping) or when someone had kicked the bucket or when someone very close was getting married.

Back then, we did not have any cars – so travelling by road to Taiping was off the question. In fact, it was very, very rare that even if someone kicked the bucket or there is a marriage, all of us will go. It was expensive to hire a car too. So, the best choice if we have decided to go as one family would be to go by train (still remember Express Rakyat and Express Senandung Malam?). Of course, we could have taken the bus but my Dad loved trains and he made sure that he made enough (usually working throughout the night) to take the whole family by train. Besides, my Dad being a lorry driver back then did not really liked the idea of taking bus at night and travelling on dangerous trunk roads.

We would pack our things early and will be waiting for Dad to come back from work. He usually comes in at night and confirms whether we are indeed going to Taiping (this is because he will get his monthly pay on the last minute before Deepavali). My Mom will cook something simple so that we don’t have to waste time if we are confirmed leaving to Taiping that very night. This however has not stopped my Dad to cook something special for the night. “There is plenty of time”; he assures us (and Mom).

After a heavy dinner, we would have packed up and then head to the bus stop with my Dad and Mom carrying most of the luggage. There is no prior ticket bookings or online booking those days so in a way, we were taking some risk. We will rush to the train station and my Dad would queue up to buy the tickets whilst we waited anxiously to put our foot on the train platform. As I recall, all those years, we always been lucky – there is always a ticket for all of us except for one particular year (we had to come home when the tickets were sold out – everyone was so disappointed).

Depending on the amount of cash he has, my Dad sometimes book for us the sleepers – which has comfortable beds. Otherwise, it is the standard economy seat for us until we reach Taiping and in those days, the seats were not exactly comfortable for long journey. For this reason, we usually end up walking about the cabin when our backs started to give indications of pain and stiffness. Sometimes we walk all the way to the luxury class – just to see how the rich people are travelling in comfort. We will get excited and imagine ourselves travelling in one of those luxury classes.

(I still get excited when see a train passing by and the sound of the cabin passing on the track. Image source: http://www.trainweb.org)

My Mom usually packed something for us to eat during our journey – although there is a meal cabin and food sellers usually walk about the train cabins selling food and drinks, we usually opt not to buy them. The reason is simple – we could not afford to spend money on those items (most of the money already been spent on the tickets and for future use once we reached Taiping, sigh). But when we stop over at certain stations and it will take say couple of minutes before the train “takes off”, my Dad would go down and quickly pack some food and drink from the station cafeteria. Of course this is a big risk because the train could move before my Dad comes back with the food, so what he does is that he will inform the KTM officials (the one holding the flag) stationed at the platform that he is going down to buy some food – so he usually makes it back on time.

But there was a close call once.

My Dad went down the platform as we were peering out the window, watching him running towards the shop and after a moment, we lost sight of him (it was not easy to look for people at night). Suddenly the train started to move and my Dad was no where to be seen. Being kids, we started to panic but my Mom remained relax. She said that at the worst case scenario – Dad can always take the next train to Taiping. The train moved and soon it was on cruising speed. We actually thought we had left Dad stranded at the platform when suddenly he walked towards us from another cabin. He had entered the train from another door and the official had noted this before giving the green flag.

(The Taiping train station – it still looks the same even now after all these years – image source: http://www.preetamrai.com)

Travelling by train is very tiring mainly due to the low quality of its seats and also because we are travelling at night, we can’t see much on the outside (nothing to distract us from the boredom in the inside). So, when we are about to reach Taiping, everyone looked very relieved. When we reached Taiping, it will be on wee-hours (as I recall 3 – 4 in the morning) but there will be a lot of people on the train station (which is Malaysia’s first train station) waiting for their trains.

Sometimes one of our relatives will be waiting for us with a bicycle to carry the bags and us, the kids, back to the house. But most of the time, we had to carry the bags ourselves. The good thing is when we reach the relative’s house (despite the wee hours); they will still be awake, waiting for us. So, it is not a big surprise to see the adults to continue to stay up to chit chat until the sun rises on the horizon whilst we kids are swiftly sent to our beds to have a proper sleep.

The return journey back to KL however is smoother and more comfortable – our relatives will book for us the tickets upfront and usually with better seats (and they get angry when Dad tries to pay them back). For the journey back, we get even more food items packed for us kids and because we travel back during the day, we usually end up sitting by the window, watching the scenery and the happenings on the small towns and villages that we pass by.

It has been years since I took train back to Taiping but it is in my future travel plans especially when my son have not experienced a train ride yet…

Dah Maju!

(Taiping as I used to remember)

Whenever I am on overseas projects, one of the key methods of communication that I have with my wife is via IM tools.

This is of course cheaper than calling her thousand of miles away – certain countries’ telephone charges can be astronomical.

There is no way to waste on the ‘internet time’ as we could be communicating on one end whilst downloading or googling on some issues on the other. Of course, if we need to talk to each other, there is always the option of Skype, Google Talk, etc.

This was an interesting conversation that I had with my wife after she had return from her home town in Taiping couple days ago:-

My wife: I met my friend from Australia who was here in Malaysia for holidays (referring to her school mate who had migrated to Australia several years ago and came back to her parent’s house for holidays)

My wife: Since I had the time, I went to see her in her house which is near Tesco

Me: Oh I see…what time you went today? (I was thinking my wife went to the Tesco in Puchong)

My wife: I went to the Tesco in Taiping lah

Me: Oh ya…I dah lupa Taiping dah maju…now got Tesco also…ahahahahahah

My wife: ……..(silent)…

Sometimes I do forget that Taiping like many small towns all over Malaysia are no longer considered small towns – now they have shopping malls, hypermarkets (in case of Taiping – three of them), cineplexes and some days, traffic jams that can challenge traffic jams in KL.

Gone the days when one can head over to small towns, away from the hustle and bustle of the city for some relaxation and cheap food.

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Taiping – a town where time stood still

Viva Up North

Last week, we decided on a drive up North and we took the Viva instead.

Drive

The Viva passed several important ‘thresholds’

Firstly, it was my wife’s first experience driving on the North South Highway – she now realise why driving on highways can be very tiring and taxing. She managed to clock in new experience of overtaking heavy vehicles on highway although initially there were plenty of ‘comments’ from me on her style of driving. After a while, I noticed she was able to handle the driving well and thus, I went to sleep until I was woken up for my turn for driving.

Secondly, fresh from its first 1,000 kilometres service, we managed to bring the Viva to speed exceeding the usual highway speed (that is with me in the pilot seat of course) but anything more than 110 kilometres, the car demonstrates some instability especially when overtaking huge trucks (it could be due to the height of the car). Alignment was a bit out, understandably as the car was driven over a lot of pot-holes in the first few weeks, but the car was able to handle well during the corners.

Thirdly, Viva’s boot can accommodate 2 large luggage bags and have more space for several smaller bags despite the “smallish look” from the outside. The rear passenger side also have enough space on the floor for more bags but we did not come to that extent – the boot was more than enough for a family of 2 adults and 1 kid.

We spent about RM80 for petrol for the journey, clocking almost 600 kilometres. That workout about mileage of 19 kilometres per litre – a better fuel consumption compared to my beaten up Proton which gives about mileage of 12 kilometres per litre for same distance.

Having my wife as the first driver and me as the backup driver helps to relieve tiredness driving on the highway – with both of us taking turns, we arrived at our destination fresh and less sleepy. With my wife now more skilled in driving, she was able to drive for shopping and relatives house without the need for me to drive. The car was able carry 4 adults and 1 kid rather comfortably for short distances but the suspension is rather soft – we passed several humps on the road and we can hear some ‘scrapping’ sound from the bottom of the car. The side skirting of the car took some beating at certain part of the kampung road near my in-law’s house.

The drive back to KL was uneventful and we really did not have the chance the test the car on wet roads. The bypass in Ipoh was a welcome sight – we did not have to stop for toll plazas like the last time.

Almost Haircut

(Image source: http://www.joelapompe.net)

We were back in Taiping for the holidays and true to my philosophy “Taiping is a rest area”, I did not venture out from the house for the last 3 days we were there.

It was perfect staying in my in-law’s house – there were good programs on Astro, a comfortable bedroom to take short naps (with no one to question), laptop for games & movies and of course, delicious home cooked food. Further it rained “cats and dogs” in the afternoon onwards. My son found plenty of things to do at home, so he was happy “locked up” in the house as well.

As for my wife, since she has been staying there for many years, somehow she got bored staying in the house. She had laid out a long list of things to do outside the house – shopping, visits to family and friends and go out for lunch / dinner.

One of the “important” things for her to do is to have haircut at her Chinese friend’s hair saloon. The thing is we reached Taiping on Saturday but until Sunday evening; my wife was still undecided whether to go for the haircut. “Later” she said but not contemplating the fact that the shop may close early or there may be many customers. We passed by the shop several times but each time, my wife decided to put off her visit to the hair saloon until the last minute.

Rain came and only then she decided to go for the haircut but when she arrived at the shop, she came back immediately – there was 5 customers waiting for their turn and the shop is indeed closing early (by the time it opens, we will be back to KL).

Lesson learned: Don’t put off pressing engagements for too long, especially on the eve of Chinese New Year

Overheard in Taiping

PPP may be sailing in troubled waters in Taiping, so I overheard when I was in Taiping last week. And this is what was told to me:-

It seems Kayveas was supposed to do talk in an Indian highly populated area and he was late for 2 – 3 hours. His wife was there early but had nothing much to say to the crowd who was waiting for Kayveas to voice out some of their concerns. So, while waiting for Kayveas to arrive, the “ball carriers” (term used by the person who was talking to me) started with their praising stunt, much to the irate of the crowd who was cheesed off with the “late” politician.

When finally Kayveas finally arrived, the crowd started to ask questions but Kayveas could not answer them, made worse by one of his answer – “the issue is not in his constituent”. Then someone pointed out how Kayveas able to arrive on time on Chinese populated area, got the crowd even more agitated. By now, the ball carriers were not where to be seen or heard.

This is not hearsay and yes, Hindraf’s influence is quite strong in Taiping. Trouble times for PPP and BN? We will know soon on 8th March.

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The unexpected traffic and KL drivers

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It is always been a sound idea to go for an outstation trip a week or so after a major holidays. The last thing I want to do on a holiday is to waste time and risk myself in heavy traffic jams on the highway. So, when the long break during Chinese New Year came, we were holed up in our house and only made short distance driving

So when I decided to go to Taiping a week after the long break, I had expected an almost traffic free lanes on the highway and I was right. The traffic on the highway was almost sparse and the police checkpoints were, well I would say unattended (there was less cars to be watched anyway).

A clear traffic on the highway meant 2 things – either the mad crowd is back to the cities after a long holiday or is still terrorizing the small towns & villages via extended holiday. So, when I reached Taiping, the traffic was still high which meant the city crowd was still here with an extended holidays. The thought of a pleasant driving in Taiping was diminishing fast.

Picture 1
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It is very (I must stress the word “very” here) rare to find traffic jam in Taiping – last week was an exception. Most cars from KL and Selangor jammed the road. Take note of the car in front of me (WHJ 8033) – the driver demonstrated how a typical KL driver would act on the road (see picture below to see what I mean)

Picture 2
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Idiots come in all shapes and sizes. This lady driver casually parked the car with its backside sticking out to the main lane like a sore thumb and walks off to a shop nearby. The best part was that the area she parked is not really a parking lot but rather it is the lane turning to the left. Only idiots from the Klang Valley can display such act of arrogant parking on the main road and not being bothered with other road users, sigh.

When I noted that as at Saturday night, the traffic was still heavy with cars from the Klang Valley making the bulk of the cars in the town, I knew that it will be a mad rush back to KL on Sunday. My strategy was to leave to KL immediately after breakfast, hoping that the bulk of the crowd to be leaving only after lunch (ya, I was counting on Malaysians’ attitude to do things the last minute and you know what, it works).

Thankfully, the journey back home was pleasant as well although there were more cars on the road compared the day when I traveled to Taiping. Occasionally there was traffic jam when some express buses were trying overtaking several trucks uphill (when they will ever learn?).
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(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: Driving Skills)
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Black Panther! Courting Danger with One in Taiping!

panthers

(Back in Taiping Zoo, I can be standing next to a big “hungry looking” panther – so close that I could easily put my fingers in and touch the animal. I did not try my luck. Good thing was the panthers were behind a cage and the cats have just been fed, phew! Image Source: Wikipedia)

I had been planning to take son to the zoo for some time now.

He is now able to recognise the different types of animals from the TV shows (such as the Big Bird in Sesame Street) and we thought it would be good if he could see the animals in real (as long as he does not ask about Big Bird). The opportunity was there when we travelled back to Taiping for the holidays. We planned to take him to the Taiping Zoo – it will be my 2nd trip to the zoo.

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