31 October 2005

selamat hari raya

i went thru the motions at the immigration, waited for 25 minutes for my 4 pieces of check in baggage and got myself an airport taxi home .... i returned after finishing a whole year's tour of duty in bangkok ... another year in my company. this one, not even mentioned, although this is my 5th anniversary with the company on 23 october ...

my luck was good ... i remarked to myself when i saw the empty queue at exit 3 at the klia arrival hall. better still the fact that i am getting one of those newer daewoo taxis, not the dilapilated proton wiras ...

anyway, since i had so many bags, including 1 humongous golf bag, i had to sit in the front passanger seat .. the back seats were all filled with luggage.

immediately, i struck a conversation with the old pakcik who's driving ....

driver : sigh ... another bandar kinrara trip
moz : uh, what's wrong with that ?
driver : nothing, just that i'm not going to make the quota
moz : really, what's the quota ?

and thus we started a conversation.

it turned out that he had been driving airport taxis for the last 6 years, and the month of ramadhan has always been poor, with very few passangers, but this year was doubly bad.

he had been driving since 6 in the morning, and only had 3 trips, and the total fare is not sufficient to cover his rental, maintenance and fuel costs. it appears that you need to make around rm 230 daily to start making profit. and even with my trip at around 8:30 pm, he is just on around rm 160.

we started talking about how expensive the daewoos are to maintain, how the rent and maintenance eats into the profit, and how the darn airport limo company and government doesn't give a damn about the driver's welfare (which they pay on their own ... i think around rm18 is charged daily into a welfare fund).

and he went on to tell me how he won't be able to return to his kampung in besut, terengganu this year because he doesn't have any money, that he only has enough money to get new clothes for his 2 youngest children.

he went on about how expensive it is for him to put his eldest child thru uitm's nursing course, even with government help, which he gets since he is a bumiputra.

i couldn't really do much to console the pakcik, who must be feeling quite bad about missing his family during the raya. i know how it feels, i have been away from the country very often myself, and i miss the family gatherings, the family weddings, the mid autumn festivals and the winter solstices ... but i really feel bad for him. he kept telling me that when he left besut, his daughter was only 1 year old, and now she's 7 - and he feels guilty for missing all her growing up years, but he had to feed his family of 6 children.

he complainted about his ungrateful sons who seem to be spending away his money with reckless abandon.

i shared some of my own experience of hardship in my younger days, though i don't think i come close to him in terms of troubled times experience. i hope it will make him feel better, that we all will go through our share of bad times, and hard work is the only feasible way for us common people to make a better life.

our conversation ended when we reached my home. home sweet home to me, another trip for him to hope to make some money today.

to him, and all the others who won't be able to celebrate raya in their kampung, selamat hari raya, maaf zahir dan batin.

to those who are fortunate enough to be spending time with family, drive safely on your way home, cherish the time with your family, and don't forget to be thankful and grateful for what you have. what you don't have you can get by working hard for it, as long as you dare to dream, the will and good health to pursue your dreams.

29 October 2005

the bow: final blog from bangkok

i'm suddenly becoming nostalgic ... after all, today is my next to last day in bangkok, and after a year, i'm suddenly facing up to the fact that i'm moving on. and i've finally downloaded a song i first heard in college that i've had in my download list on emule the last 4 months ... but it's worth every bit of it ...

while this is not the first time i've spent so much time away from kl ... i did spend 1.5 years in brisbane at university, then 9 months in taipei in my first job, bangkok is probably the first city where i actually develop a strong attachment to ... like a place i can call home away from my dear malaysia.

my first impression of bangkok when i first came around in 1999 was a hectic place with very fast pace of life, strange speaking people and deceiving tuktuk drivers.

those impressions held up in this trip. i did a very hectic job - achieving quite a bit in a pretty short time, but i do realise that the people here can have a very nice lifestyle, with plenty of parties, little tea (or coffee) sessions. the language does sound strange, but i've learnt enough thai since to carry at least the very basic conversation. i sometimes sound like a broken dvd, since my thai vocabulary is still very limited, but i understand enough to not get fooled by tuktuk drivers who are trying to tell me the grand palace is closed and they will take me to another place instead to visit some impressive temples.

i love bangkok for the mix of things that seem unlikely ... the traditional thai values, like the friendly wai, surviving in the megapolis amongst the sky-scrapers. the humbling traffic jams that cap the pace of life. the great food you can get in a small family restaurant next to a klong, at a price you thought was impossible.

in my little more than a year's stay in bangkok, i've grown so fond of this place i'm telling people bangkok is my second home. i know i will return time and again, if not to bangkok, then to some other part of thailand. i know the place by heart. i am more familiar with some places in bangkok and the surrounding areas bettter than some locals do.

i'm so glad i got this assignment, i'm so glad i came, i'm so glad God had in this plans to have me here to see the things i saw, do the things i did and know the people i call friends.


you can always tell my mood by the songs i keep repeating on my ipod mini. i've always had this thing where if i find i song i like, i'll repeat it incessantly, like no other songs existed. through my life there had been some number of songs that had this effect on me ...

during my younger days, when all the family had was a battery operated radio and pirated music means cassette tapes from pasar malam, michael jackson's beat it kept looping. i was, of course, in primary school.

and then i graduated to more mature stuff, new kids on the block. i still cringe those days when i kept playing step by step over and over. how was that possible in me ? this was in my secondary school days. i didn't have much interest in music and looping songs over and over since i still subxisted on the battery operated radio.

then college came, and i discovered the walkman. i had an aiwa walkman ... it was the pride of my possessions in tar college. and of course, then, i discovered canto pop. can't avoid cantopop when you're surrounded by chinese schooled people. it was such a culture shock to me.

the song was already a classic by then, but i discovered jacky cheung very late ... and kept repeating the wait till my heart is broken. and other jacky cheung classics. today, he is still my preferred chinese artist, but i think cantopop is in decline, and now is the time for taiwanese pop star.

the next big star to capture my imagination was david tao, in this breakout album, also called david tao. this was long before anyone else in malaysia even knew he existed, when i worked in taiwan. his song, i love you was recorded onto a cassette over and over and played in my car while i drive. my ex girlfriend actually once told me to burn that cassette, that she was sick of it.

i also had such craze with songs like enter sandman, metallica's claim to fame; michael and victor's zhang xing; jay zhou's ke ai nu ren (cute girl); leo ku's oi yu chen;

lately, i've fell in love with 2 thai songs. doobadoo's mai chai poo chai (not a man), a charleston big band, swing style song with a very upbeat tune to it. it appears to be a very humorous song, but i don't know enough thai to fully comprehend it ... sounds like a song about how a girl can't make the first move because she's a woman, not a man ...

and bird thongchai mcintyre's oh la nor .. my love, the latest craze in thailand. it's a very upbeat song with a great dance track and a music video featuring 5 top thai models/actresses. what's not to like about that?


i'm suffering from thai food withdrawal symptom. any real good thai restaurants in the puchong / cheras / damansara area ? i mean thai restaurant serving real thai food. not the watered down, localised thai stuff? appreaciate any suggestions.

27 October 2005

favorite thai memory #2: friends

you won't be able to convince me that there are rude thais .... the people are simply polite to a tee.

and once you learn to mingle with them, and know how to strike a conversation with the thais, then you have a verey good time.

thais are simply friendly, no question.

see if you can spot my real good friends amongst these pictures ...

to all my team members, be they from my own company or be they from the customer, the lessons i learn from each one of you makes me a richer person, wealthier by the experience of knowing you.

for you thai friends, you can be assured that if you find me in thailand, i'll definately look you up. if you find yourself in malaysia, the least in can do for you is to return the hospitality and show my how beautiful my own country is. i'll look forward to seeing you folks ...
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26 October 2005

memories of thailand #1: ayutthaya

one of my favorite places in thailand is the ancient capital city of ayutthaya.

located some 80 kms from the present day capital, bangkok, ayutthaya recalls the glorious days of the thai kingdom. it has an air of dignity and glory, although all that is left today are mainly ruins of temples and palaces.

sacked my an invading burmese army after a long siege, when ayutthaya was recaptured, it was too badly destroyed for rebuilding, and the thai king taksin moved the capital down to thonburi, across the river from present day bangkok.

the king after king taksin, king rama I, moved the capital to bangkok.

row 1, l-r (1 & 2) wat yai chai mongkon built to commemorate a victory over burma, (3-5) wat phra si sanphet the former royal temple. the chedis here are duplicated in the present day grand palace's wat phra keow.

row 2, l-r (1) wat phra si sanphet (2-4) wat mahathat the largest ruins visited, home to the famous buddha head in the bodhi tree root, possibly the most photographed antique in thailand (5) wat chai wattanaram an angkor styled temple, a curiousity in an area filled with ayutthaya / sukhothai styled temples, simply the best of the historical ruins in terms of atmosphere

row 3, l-r (1-3) bang pa in palace a former summer retreat favored by the late king rama v, a complex of palaces and buildings of various types, one reason why i hope to be a royal family member ... (4) wat yai chai mongkon's famous reclining buddha (5) king naresuan monument dedicated to he who liberated ayutthaya by winning a cock fight (no kidding)

row 4, l-r (1) elephant ride, ayutthaya (2) wat na pramane here's the oldest buddha statue in thailand in a working temple, the 1600 years old buddha was brought in from sri langka (3 & 5) wat chai wattanaram (4) the central chedi (phukao thong) a thai chedi built on a burmese base

row 5, l-r (1) sai mai, the sweet snack made of flour pancakes (like roti biasa) with sweet, colored candy, an ayutthaya must taste (2) the traditional thai house converted into a restaurant that all 3 of my different hosts coincidentally took me to for lunch in ayutthaya ... it must be really good (3) wat panan cheong a giant buddha in a 800 years old temple (4) more elephant rides (5) tuks tuks in ayutthaya are very different from the ones in bangkok
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24 October 2005

last week working in thailand

i'm posting this with very mixed feeling .... this will be the last week i spend working in thailand. after this, who knows?

here's what i'll miss really really really much about being in thailand, working, vacationing and all that action here ....

  • the friendliness of the people. it's amazing how much a smile can do to the weary soul, more so from total strangers. even bargaining sessions are pleasant, and best results come from being friendly and having a sense of humor. isn't that how it should be?
  • the bangkok sky train and underground ... they have served me extremely well. i'll miss the days when i can use public transport and be relatively reliable in predicting when i'll reach my destination. it's back to the dreaded drive when i'm back in kl.
  • the cultural heritage that is preserved. it's amazing to see girls with shocking pink hair having a prayer in a thai temple. and how they have embraced western culture while keeping their own undiminished. i wish i can do that better with my own culture.
  • the food. while i don't think i have the stomach for all the spices in some of the thai food, i generally had a good food time in thailand. my favorites include tom kha gai, tom yum goong, pad thai goong, hor muk, som tum, tod man goong. you will see that i really enjoy mildly spicy stuff .. nothing with the kee mao stuff.
  • songkran - the sheer exuberence of this country-wide water fight celebrating the thai new year is really a nation wide party. in the height of summer, when the weather is so unbearably hot, a water fight is god-sent. plus, you get to see lots of girls in wet tee shirts.
  • thai temples. i know this is a little strange, but those who know me will agree that i'm really nuts about some of the temples in thailand. once the center of community activities, today, they are religious schools and pillars of the buddhist faith in thailand. plus, some of these places have so much culture and history in them. i absolutely love wat phra keow and wat po in bangkok.
  • the up-country visits. in thailand, up-country simply means out of bangkok. i've had numerous little trips over my weekends here to places that are simply amazing. river markets, temples, beaches, islands, mountains, animal reserves ... you name it. thanks dee, nuclear, surin, goong, kai and the others for your generous time and hospitality.
  • the pubs and partying. i'm not a party animal, i stay at home when i can. but i'm still very impressed with the pubs down in bangkok. of course, dee's pub i spent a lot of time in, but the places in khao san, thonglor and near ram intra areas are great.
  • my friends .... while i leave with a heavy baggage, thanks to all the shopping, i'm equally heavy in the heart. my friends, dee, nuclear, goong, surin, p' nung ... thanks for the generous hospitality, the time, the patience and the unconditional acceptance of me as a friend. how can words express my gratitude and friendship. i'm already missing you guys already ...

i have some work to finish tonight, but i'll put up my favorite memories of bangkok in my next post soon.