Sunday, December 27, 2009


I have always wanted a daughter to be the eldest child and a daughter even if I have only one. God surely did listen to me as a daughter I got. Boys are wonderful and I have two elder brothers who have always watched out for me. My eldest brother was one naughty boy and my mum had to deal with skipping school, running away to the army (and then he showed up one morning after pranking a discharge), motor bikes and late nights. My second brother was the opposite - good grades, always helping around the house and a reliable man of the house when my dad was transferred to another state for work.
I have nightmares just looking at the pictures!
It must be the hormonal surge!
This is the curiosity surge - too young for hormonal!
Give me a costume and I will play the part.
Nooo... please...
The zoom function really works
I don't know what to say about this one except ALAMAK (Malaysian expletive)!
Creative creatures
To mothers with sons - I salute you all cos I think it is a tougher job than having girls but correct me if I am wrong.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


There are 7 star hotels like the Burj Al Arab Hotel - designed to reflect a sail billowing in the wind. An architectural feat of glass and steel. I like these 2 hotels better where there is a bit of personality and OK, they do not look as grand, but don't you think they have more character?The first one, I present the Tianzi Hotel....
Tianzi Hotel (Son of the Heaven/Emperor Hotel) in China. The 3 statues represent what every Chinese is taught as soon as they can understand - Fu, Lu and Shou; Gods of Happiness, Prosperity and Longevity. Fu on the right holds a scroll and Shou with the high forehead (left) carries a peach which represents long life.
These Gods are built up to 10 stories high and have been listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the World's Biggest Image Hotel in 2001. The peach in Shou's hand is actually a suite with the two holes as windows.
The Hotel does provide the basic recreational activities like tennis court, massage and sauna, and entertaiment Karaoke and night club. The website exists but most links are still probably under construction as when I tried to find more information, the pages were blank.
Acknowledgment to David Eaves who broke the story and the link to his article is:

Image credit:
The word "Ren" in Mandarin means people. A hotel cum sports cum conference centre in the shape of the word has been proposed for the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. It lookd good and will represent the vitality of the Chinese people, but will it materialised?

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Apparently a lot, if you have been stuck with an unusual one. One day when Martian Girl was 7, she came back from school and announced excitedly," Mummy, the new girl who is sitting next to me is called Beat Rice." I have heard of unusual Chinese names before but "Beat Rice" takes the cake (sorry for the poor pun). "OK, write it down for me," and she wrote "Beatrice." Now, Beatrice is a lovely name and I think one of Queen Elizabeth's grand daughters is so named. But in Asia, it is a rare name and the kids prounced it as they understood the English language - Beat-rice.
Note the director of Mulan is Jingle Ma
All this got me thinking of my friends who have unusual names. A girl in school was called Diana Soh. Soh is a common surname for the Chinese, but put Diana as the first name and she was mad every time we called her -"Dinosaur." And kids are cruel and we were, cos we called her that for 5 years.

At Uni, I chose to do Science. Met a senior called Atomic Leow. He was brillant and doing his PhD. So after getting to know him quite well, I asked THE question, "Is your father a scientist?" "No, but he wanted my brothers and I to be scientists." "Haa..." said I, "what are your brothers' names. "Nuclear and Hydrogen." Look, I never got to meet Nuclear and Hydrogen and I could have ben tricked but he was dead serious.

Then on a roll call for new students a few years ago, I shouted "Khor Chicken." There was a hugh roar of laughter, it should have been pronounced Khor Chi Ken." But when you have 50 names to register, my brain registered Chicken. Khor Chi Ken completed his Science Degree and is now a singer. During a lecture without my glasses on, I called out "Superman." It should have been "Supraman," a Malay name.

And we have parents that give cute names to their kids cos they themselves have not grown up. A male friend was super cool and added another e to his name. What should have been Lee was spelt Leee. But did he have to call his daughter "Tinkerbell?" The girl next to me in college had her name "Little Flower" on her room door. It was a blessing she was little and cute.

Of course we have parents who name the kids after the months they were born in - April, May and June are fine. But January and Julai (a male friend in college) are unusual. January Low is a beautiful Malaysian Chinese girl who is an accomplished Indian classical dancer.

And to save the BEST for LAST and this is true, in fact ALL the names above are TRUE. I worked at the Institute for Medical Research many years ago. The IMR had a lot of staff of Malay ethnic origin, and the Malays, sometimes for endearement, tag the prefix "Si -" before the first name especially for pets, Si-Puteh (White) for cats; Si-Kancil (mousedeer); Si-Belang (stripes) for tigers; Si-Comel (cute).

Well, my cute soft spoken friend has a lovely name - Phyllis. And the guys endearingly called her Si-Phyllis.

Imagine being called Syphilis by the guys at work!!!

Have any of you got an UNUSUAL NAME to share?

Thursday, December 10, 2009


This is a story I got off the internet, it has not been verified. I think it might be true as dogs are intelligent and resourceful. These are the commuting dogs in Moscow who take the underground trains to the streets in the city centre every morning. Reason: they get off at selected stations in the city areas where food scraps are plentiful. In the evenings, they board the public transport to return to their suburbs for a good night sleep.

Observers noticed that they even work in groups helping each other. They "recognise" their stops by gauging the time taken between stops. They are clever enough to select the quieter carriages in the front and end of the trains. I presume they have not been fined for not possessing tickets as it would be difficult to ask a dog where it is getting off.
There is even a theory put forward for this unusual phenomenon. Dr Poiarkov of the Moscow Ecology and Evolution Institute states that the industrial complexes in the city used by the dogs as homes, were moved to the suburbs after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990s. Thus, the dogs moved together to the suburbs . But, as more food is found in the city, the dogs adapted by taking the trains to the city every day and returning home in the evenings.
I hope this tired doggy does not miss its stop Thanks and acknowledgement to the author(s) who posted photos and text of "The commuting dogs of Moscow" in the internet.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


During the months between November and January, the North East Monsoon blows into the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia. The Monsoon crosses the South China Sea and brings almost continuous thunderstorms. Strong winds, rough seas and heavy rains are just going to worsen the floods. A family in Kuantan looking out into their frontyard where the flood waters have not receded Secondary school girls walk on school benches to get to classes. School still goes on as the major examinations are held in November. Note the teacher keeping a eye on the grils as they move along.
Store owners stacking their goods. Note the bags of supplies and goods tied to the ceiling of their shop.
Floods or not, it's time to take a break and just watch television The 13 year old boy is missing and rescuers have been wading in the waters looking for him "Bomba" (fire brigade) on duty during the night
Mr Ismail Wan Chick, 46, leading his cow to a drier area
There are a total of 2,205 evacuees in flood relief centres (schools that serve as shelters now that it is the school holidays) Azhar Osman, 47 saving his chickens after his home was flooded by overflowing waters from Sungei Pahang (Pahang river).
Secondary school girls wading in flood waters to school
Nur Ain Syafika Riduan revises for her examination while Samihah Mohamad Afandi makes a phone call home to her dad to update him on the flood situation in their school. These girls attend school that is far away from their homes, thus they live in a dormitory near their school. Poor girls, their dormitory was flooded and they had to be evacuated to another school.
All pictures on this post were photographed from Star - The people's paper

Sunday, December 6, 2009


The simple life of people in Laos, a developing country that only opened to tourism in 1988, offers little stress and tension. This little recreation area under some shady trees is actually a taxi stand. The taxi drivers play board games while waiting for customersDraughts or Checkers, whatever the name of the game? There is no need for expensive branding. The board is a used wooden piece of wood painted over with squares. The pieces are used bottle caps of different colours. The checkered board is also painted permanently on the top of some tables.
Dominos on the side walk. The owner (grey jacket) of the dominos set plays with anyone who wants to make a bet with him. He sits at the same spot from morning till evening to earn a living. I guessed there was some betting involved as there was cash exchange with different people as they squated for a game.
This family has a shelter where they sit and chat while waiting for customers to buy their trinklets and statues
Come lunch time and a simple meal of glutinous rice, salad of local vegetables, soup and a side vegetable/meat dish is shared and enjoyed
One unusual dish is the spare parts - I think they eat every part of the pig and chicken, insides included. The different entrails (liver, kidney, stomach, intestines, tongue and including cubed pieces of solidified blood) are boiled and displayed in large pots. Customers pick the spareparts and they are mixed with noodles and soup for a hot hearty meal. I need to get use to this spare part thingy - it's like something from the TV series "Fear Factor."
But generally, I noticed Laotians eat healthily with lots of leafy local salads accompanying every meal. The salads are not mixed with any creamy sauces like mayonaise or thousand island dressings, rather the greens are eaten with hot chilli paste or just raw chillies. WOW - the little red chillies there are brain busters. One bite and I felt my mouth on fire. They eat glutinous (sticky) rice with every meal but the people are slim. Recollecting my 5 days there, I did not see anyone who was over weight.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Washing, cutting and curling in hair salons can cost RM 120 to RM 400. The expensive ones have a better ambience and they serve you tea but one can do without the extras and save some money. But the hair salons I encoutered in Laos were so simple and reasonable priced, yet the hair dressers got the job done well and to the customers satisfaction. Imagine a hair salon in the wet market besides ladies selling spices, vegetables, baguettes, chickens and motor cycles. The water for washing the hair is stored in large plastic drums. The customers have their hair over hanging make-shift plastic wash basins. The hair dresser uses a scoop (red scoop as seen in the drum) to pour water over. Nothing fancy. The water from the plastic sinks flow through a attached tube straight into the drain.
I found the scenes totally incredible. If someone had asked me to start a hair dressing salon in a market, I would have thought it impossible with a hundred cannots - Where to get the water? Electricity for the hair dryer? Sinks? Inlets and outlets? Basically IMPOSSIBLE.

Yet, these girls have made the IMPOSSIBLE, POSSIBLE with a bit of ingenuity and preserverence. I will admit I have been spoilt with too many conveniences and with that maybe I have also become a little less creative and more lazy. Too comfortable with piped electricity, gas and water arriving at homes with just a flick of a switch or turn of a tap. Visiting Laos has awaken me, made me think about how lucky I am to live in a developed country. To leave my comfort zone and try things that I had in the past thought to be impossible. To take less and give more.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Anyone for a meal of stir-fried grass hoppers with basil leaves
... my friend bought a packet and said it was quite crunchy and tasty
This must be the elixir of life in Laos - wine with cobra

For an even stronger dose - wine with cobra biting another snake
For a triple dose - wine with cobra biting a scorpion and another snake coiled in the bottle
This is nothing after seeing those wine bottles - just boiled chicken and spare parts (also known as entrails in the West) knotted together
There is a vast variety of roots, bark and dried plant parts to "cure" any ailments
All sorts of horns, tusks and bones for good health
Laos offers an incredible source of natural products to "cure" ailments. I am sure they work as the markets are filled with bones, bark, roots and dried fruits. Just name your ailment and you will be sold a concoction of herbs to boil for drinking or to apply to the body. Traditional therapy is a way of life the people accept. I am sure it works, just not scientifically proven as yet.

Friday, November 20, 2009


We were in Laos during the first week of November for a short educational trip. Laos is surrounded by Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Thailand and China. Compared to its neighbours, Laos only recently opened up to tourists in 1988, thus it has maintained its "old" look and remains one of the few Asian countries unspoilt by rapid development and tourist influences. The capital Vientiane can be covered on foot and it was fun to detour into the little quiet roads and observe the people.
We took a ride to Buddha Park, about 40 minutes from Vientiane, a sprawling area with over 200 statues towering us, a place to walk and enjoy the fresh air. The Mekong River meanders at the peripheral and Thailand is just across. One structure towers 3 storeys high in the park and one starts in Hell, climb narrrow steps to Earth before seeing daylight in Heaven. It is not for people afraid of heights and only 4 of us in the group of 9 dared to brave Hell to reach Heaven.
We were in the jaws of Death - HELL
The path to Heaven is littered with challenges and how true as we climed narow steep cement steps higher and higher in darkness
Light at the end of the tunnel and we enter Heaven.
The 40 metre high reclinning Buddha as seen from Heaven
The statue of Buddha with many arms
After having seen Heaven, we still had to come down to Hell and continue with life as before. SIGH, there is really no short cuts to Heaven for us mortals
If in Vientiane, this is a worthy visit.