All posts by Ben Morais

About Ben Morais

Benedict Morais was at the helm of the Malaysian office of the world’s largest and leading professional body of management accountants, CIMA for a decade as the Divisional Director, CIMA Malaysia Division from 1990 until 2000. After undertaking a regional role subsequent to this for a period of two years, he then was appointed Special Adviser to ACCA Malaysia and then ACCA Asean for six years. As a leader and mentor to many, across the various organisations he has worked in and partnered with, Benedict knows first-hand what it takes to manage and lead. Consequent to his rich teaching and educational background in the early years of his career, Benedict has always been involved in educating and training people in a number of disciplines. He has lectured, counselled and conducted programmes for corporations, colleges as well as non-profit organisations for the last thirty years. These programmes were focused on his core skills and experience and include business writing, effective public speaking, public relations, effective communications and management. He has conducted guest lectures at the Malaysian Institute of Management, the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN) and the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR). Benedict was also one of three trainers who helped to prepare senior government officers to handle their PR and liaison duties during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 1998. Benedict founded BMV Consultancy in 2006 to focus on providing consultancy and training services in the areas he is passionate about - business writing, effective public speaking, public relations, effective communications and management. He has run training programmes both in Malaysia and the South East Asia region for the likes of the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM), the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA),the Sabah Foundation, Kreston International, Kiwanis International, CIMA UK and CIMA Australia, the Penang Indian Entrepreneurs (PIE), the Nurses Association of Malaysia as well as Hello Cambodia and the Cambodian Institute of Professional Development to name a few. Qualified as a college trained teacher from St Joseph’s Training College in Penang, Benedict also holds a CAM Diploma in Public Relations by the Communications, Advertising & Marketing (CAM) Education Foundation, London and a Certificate in Applied Research and Educational Development Project Planning from INNOTECH, Manila. A Past President of the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia, he was also appointed Adviser to the School of Mass Communications, ITM in 1985 and served in the same capacity to the School of Foundation Studies, University Utara Malaysia in 1989. Benedict was also appointed in 2003 Adjunct Faculty at the Faculty of Accountancy & Management, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) for two 3 year terms. He was previously a training manager with a multinational corporation, a registrar with a group of UK correspondence colleges and a research and evaluation officer with the Ministry of Education, Malaysia.

Choosing to Raise the Bar

Reflections on Continuous Self Development

On Sunday, 17 September 2017, the active La Salle Secondary School Brickfields ( Kuala Lumpur ) Alumni body hosted a dignified book launch at the Royal Lake Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The title of the book that was launched is ‘ Choosing to Raise the Bar – Reflections on Continuous Self Development.

Education Should be a Life-Long Process

The book is based on about 25 of my relevant blog postings that have appeared in https://benmorais.wordpress.com as well as in my LinkedIn Pulse. The blog postings touch on issues of personal development which I firmly believe should be a life-long process. After all, isn’t there a well known saying that goes like this: ‘From the womb to the tomb ‘ or if you prefer ‘From the cradle to the grave’?

About 80 individuals attended the lively event. Half of them were old boys of La Salle Brickfields Secondary School. Many of them were in their late fifties to mid-sixties but nevertheless, the fire, the joy and the thrill of being true blue La Sallians still burned strongly in these amazing men.

The others came from the Institute of Public Relations Malaysia (IPRM), Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur, CIMA, ACCA, Malaysian Association of Social Workers (MASW), Befrienders Kuala Lumpur, Project Management Institute (PMI) Malaysia Chapter etc.

Panel of Distinguished Speakers

The following individuals spoke briefly before the launch:

  • Mr JD Lovrenciear, executive director, Business Ethics Institute Malaysia and an accredited PR practitioner;
  • Mr Jeffrey Cheah, former chairman, Education & Training Committee, CIMA Malaysia and a chartered management accountant;
  • Mr Ngau Wing Fatt, president, Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur and a chartered certified accountant; and
  • Mr Jaya Sarathy, an eloquent and humourous retired senior manager from the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. Mr Jaya Sarathy, an old boy also served as the emcee for the event.

The guest of honour is an academic and an old boy, Professor Dr Bernie Renaldo Wong, a chartered physicist from the University of Malaya.

Excerpts from the Foreword

The foreword was written by Mr Denis Armstrong, a former supervisor at La Salle Brickfields Secondary School and later, company quality manager, for the Ericsson group of companies in Malaysia. Mr Armstrong is best remembered by the many athletes he trained as a truly legendary and successful athletics coach. He has also earned an enviable reputation as a no-nonsense disciplinarian.

This is what Mr Denis Armstrong had to say in his foreword:

‘This compilation shines the spotlight on the subject of personal development and its various elements. The range of topics is comprehensive and impressive. This is not another collection of tiresome, gimmicky clichés and taglines written by some armchair consultant that we come across so often. Each theme in this compilation is anchored to first-hand observations and insights honed over more than three decades of experience in Ben’s many-faceted career’.

What Some Others Have To Say

Raymund Jagan: Here is an excerpt:

‘With the rise of technology-driven societies and relationships profoundly influenced by the compulsion to connect mindlessly rather than communicate meaningfully, there is a need to remind us of the rich values, skills and knowledge base of what makes us human. Benedict’s musings do just that – a reservoir of insights on ethical conduct, purposeful communication and living a value based life’.

Raymund is a seasoned counsellor, trainer and council member, Malaysian Association of Social Workers.

JD Lovrenciear had this to say: 

‘Having walked through life with him as my first master in public relations, my long years of association with Benedict assures me that this book is not only timely but indeed will be a blessing that readers can count on’.

JD, as he is popularly known, is an accredited PR practitioner and a prolific writer on a wide range of issues that matter. He is, currently, executive director of the Business Ethics Institute Malaysia.

Brenda Lee Tang (all the way from Trinidad and Tobago) had this to say :

‘I have been a colleague of Benedict Morais and can say with absolute certainty that he has been the perfect coach, friend, guide and mentor to many, including me. He has an extensive and enviable background as a high school teacher, lecturer and also as an educator. This background enables him to speak on a wide range of topics due to his professional competence and wide range of soft skills’.

Brenda is a chartered certified accountant and a former head of ACCA Caribbean.

Range of Topics

The range of topics is both wide and comprehensive. They are divided into five sections in the book:

  • Values, Beliefs, Ethics;
  • Communication;
  • Self Leadership;
  • Work and Life; and
  • A Lasting Legacy.

Some of the topics in the book (in no fixed order) are:

  • Practising Common Courtesies;
  • Repugnant Habit of Making Rude, Personal Remarks;
  • The Alluring Grace of Social Intelligence;
  • Implications of Devaluing Your Words;
  • Aggressive Language in Speech and Writing;
  • The Art of Engaging in Conversation;
  • Expressing Gratitude;
  • Too Lazy to Really Think;
  • Hold High the Torch of Responsibility;
  • Seamstress on A Laudable Mission;
  • The Many Joys of Serving in a Voluntary Capacity;
  • Importance of Striking the Right Work–Life Balance; and
  • Leave with Dignity and Decorum.

Quotes at the Start of Each Section

There are relevant quotes placed at the start of each section to prepare the readers for what lies ahead. For instance, at the start of the first section, the quote is: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

At the start of the second section, the quote is: “The art of communication is the language of leadership” – James Hughes.

For the third section, the quote is: “The lion who breaks the enemy’s ranks is a minor hero compared to the lion who overcomes himself” – Rumi.

In the fourth section, the quote is: “If I had to embrace a definition of success, it would be that success is making the best choices we can………….and accepting them” – Sheryl Sandberg.

And finally, in the last section, which gives us the inspiring stories of three remarkable men, the quote is: “Some people arrive and make such a beautiful impact on your life, you can barely remember what life was like without them” – Anna Taylor.

All these quotes are meant to make the readers think deeply before proceeding to read the articles in the section.

Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Fade Away

There is a well known saying about old soldiers. I cannot remember who said it but the following quote is quite meaningful: ‘ Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Fade Away ‘.

I recall the dashing actor, Gregory Peck, playing General Douglas MacArthur in a movie about the great general giving a farewell speech at his alma mater West Point, the famous US military academy. He used this saying in his closing remarks with telling effect.

Likewise, when I was asked by a guest at the book launch why I had decided to write and publish the book at this stage in my life, I calmly responded, in a measured manner, by saying: I would like to think that Old Teachers Never Die, They Just Re-invent Themselves!

 

 

 

Note: The book is available for sale at MYR$30 + shipping/handling.  For more info on this book (as well as the other books I’ve written) and for placing orders, please visit the Books page.

Advertisements

Penang at the Climate Crossroads

Blissfully Unconcerned or Just Plain Naïve?

My wife and I recently drove up to George Town, all the way from Petaling Jaya, to attend a forum titled, ‘Penang At The Climate Crossroads’. It was a timely, informative and interesting event co-hosted by Areca Books, a leading niche publisher in Malaysia and the Penang Institute.

The Penang Institute was founded in 1997 and it was initially known by another name. After a rebranding exercise, it is now known to key stakeholders and others as the Penang Institute. It has established itself as one of the country’s leading think tanks. It is funded by the Penang State Government.

Serving as an Intellectual Hub

Its principal aim is to secure Penang’s reputation as an intellectual hub. Another equally important aim is to serve as the cultural capital of Malaysia. As many are already aware, George Town’s attractive street food has already rocketed the city, state and country to worldwide fame and acclaim.

Relatively Indifferent to Global Warming

Incidents of climate change related disasters and issues connected with global warming have been reported with increasing frequency for a number of years. In addition, Malaysia is a signatory to the Paris Agreement.

But what in reality is happening here on the ground at the individual level, at the city level, at the state level and also nationwide?

According to a Merdeka Centre Survey carried out in December 2016, 81% of the respondents seemed unconcerned! Now that is something to be really concerned about.

Lip Service as Opposed to Real Action

Governments throughout the world are often seemingly ready to act on this matter on paper only, often give the right sort of speeches but are much too slow and tied to vested commercial interests to take immediate and concrete steps to address this worrying phenomenon.

Even one leading superpower, in a show of petulance and total disregard for the facts associated with climate change, recently opted out of the Paris Accord!

Are we too, here in Malaysia, going to fiddle around and act in a nonchalant manner while Rome burns? Failure to act sensibly and in a timely manner as well as with great resolve brings with it dire consequences for our children, grandchildren and mankind in general.

Asia and the World at Climate Crossroads

As Gurmit Singh, the author of ‘Memoirs of a Malaysian Eco-Activist‘ stated quite vehemently at the forum, it is not just Penang that is at the Climate Crossroads  – Malaysia, Asia and the world are also at the Climate Crossroads. Gurmit is a pioneering Malaysian environmentalist and human rights activist.

Gurmit founded two NGOs – EPSM and CETDEM – and represented Malaysia at various international environmental seminars, conferences and forums for many years. He was conferred the Langkawi Environmental Award in 1993.

Sombre Scenarios Presented

Another speaker at the forum, Dr Kam Suan Pheng, who holds a doctorate from Cornell University, has been an academic at Universiti Sains Malaysia as well as a scientist at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and the WorldFish Centre.

In her presentation, she outlined three sombre scenarios.  There is a general consensus that these are as follows: Virtually Certain to Happen; Very Likely to Happen; and Likely to Happen.

She touched in passing on diminishing snow, ice and permafrost. As far as Coastal and Ocean events are concerned, she mentioned the rise in sea levels; storms and tidal surges and ocean acidification.

Two Pathways Await Us

A third panellist, Clare Westwood, holds an MBA. Clare has extensive experience in the areas of food, agriculture, biosafety, food sovereignty and climate change resilience mainly through working with NGOs serving poor rural communities across Asia. She too shared her thoughts on this topic.

We could choose to adopt a Life and Hope approach and in that sensible spirit act with a greater sense of purpose and immediacy.

In her presentation, Clare gave actual examples of the feedback she received from these rural respondents all over Asia to this important matter. While they may not have had much schooling in life, they understand the grim realities of living through these regular climatic disasters.

Clare reminded the audience that there are actually two stark Future Pathways awaiting us. The world is in a climatic crisis and we had better believe it.

We could choose to adopt a Life and Hope approach and in that sensible spirit act with a greater sense of purpose and immediacy. Alternatively, we could choose to disregard the reality and the seriousness of the situation and act with the sense that there is only Death and Destruction that awaits us from our folly and foolishness.

Book Launch by Dato Dr. Anwar Fazal

Prior to the forum, the audience heard Dato Dr. Anwar Fazal introduce Gurmit Singh in glowing terms. He also lauded Gurmit’s vast contribution, as a concerned citizen, to the growing environmental awareness issues in Malaysia. The guest speaker also mentioned that for all his efforts Gurmit was often referred to as a ‘thorn in the flesh’ of the government.

Dato Dr. Anwar Fazal himself has been an outstanding consumer awareness advocate and he once headed the International Organisation of Consumer Unions ( IOCU ) which has its world headquarters in Penang. Dato Dr. Anwar is also the recipient of the Right Livelihood Award.

Dato Dr. Anwar then took the opportunity to launch Gurmit’s book, ‘Memoirs of a Malaysian Eco-Activist’ and remarked that he hoped many would buy and read the book. The book is published by Areca Books of Penang.

You Can Depend On The Brand

On a different note, I cannot end this sharing without giving my faithful steed a well- deserved plug. At the start of this article, I mentioned that we drove up to Penang and then back again to Petaling Jaya. This was a round trip that covered about 1000 km in all, including driving about town in both Ipoh and George Town.

I enjoyed the drive in my reliable, well built and sturdy 16-year old Toyota Camry 2.2. It is an exceptionally well-maintained vehicle that has attractive alloy wheels shod with low profile radial tyres. It gave us a wonderfully safe and comfortable drive. It is also the car we use for our out-station driving adventures from time to time. Only when you can depend on the brand, does one undertake these driving expeditions.

There are also three other options that we could have chosen. We could have made the journey to Penang by bus, by KTM’s Electric Train Service ( ETS) or by air.

We have heard many good reports about the ETS. The journey by bus, however, is fraught with danger because many of the drivers are sometimes not as professional as they should be. I have witnessed many bus drivers driving erratically and speeding recklessly. Since we did not have any time constraints, we chose to drive at a leisurely pace and made sure we stopped for comfort breaks along the way. We look forward to yet another driving adventure in the not too distant future.

Phuket Continues to Pulsate

excitement, entertainment and leisure activities

My wife and I recently returned after a refreshing four day break in good old Phuket, Thailand. This was, for the record, our seventh visit to that tropical isle. Why do we keep returning to this gem of an island?

The reasons are many and varied. For one, it is just over an hour’s flight time from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. If you book early, the air fares are very reasonable compared to flying to Kuching ( over two hours flying time ) or to Kota Kinabalu ( about three hours flying time).

There is a wide variety of hotel accommodation to cater for every budget in this island. There is an equally wide choice of food available throughout the island and that too at reasonable rates.

Types of Accommodation

These range from five-star hotel or luxury resorts to four-star, three-star, two-star hotels and even hostel accommodations. The hostel accommodations too, believe it or not, have their own category depending on your budget. So this is a big draw for the tourists, especially those on a shoe string budget.

Quite a number of the five-star luxury hotels and resorts are at well-known beaches like Patong, Kamala, Karon, Bang Tao, Khao Lak and Kata to name a few. These are truly lovely white sandy beaches that seem to stretch for miles on end.

The Thai front desk personnel at hotels are fully aware that they are often the first contact for most visitors. They together with a few other nationalities, mainly from the Philippines, do an amazing job and are good ambassadors for Thailand.

For the sake of variety on this trip to Phuket, we chose to spend two nights at a three and half star hotel (Holiday Inn Express) and then another two nights at a five-star hotel (Swissotel Resort). Both are located within the Patong Beach neighbourhood.

Restaurants and Bars on the Island

There is a wide range of good restaurants, bars and eateries on the island. The average ones are the restaurants near the popular tourist spots on the island. These are the ones catering mainly to tourists on a budget and they seem to have a member of staff whose sole job is to ‘ guide ‘ tourists to their restaurants.

These places are usually non-air conditioned and they rely on fans to cool the patrons. The menus at these places have coloured photographs on what is on offer, dishes wise. So there is no communication problem as such. The prices here are also quite reasonable.

A Range of Quality Restaurants

Then again, for those more discerning and who are prepared to pay a little more, there is a wide range of decent, up market restaurants. We discovered a few of these. One had a pretty misleading name – The Coffee Club with about four outlets all over Phuket.

This chain of restaurants was able to offer a combination of Thai as well as western dishes. The quality of the food, the presentation and the attention to service was pretty impressive. You could also get different types of coffee beverages here. We dined at three of these outlets during the four days on the island.

Another almost fine dining style of restaurant is Le Siam at the upmarket JungCeylon Shopping Centre within the Patong Beach neighbourhood. The food and dining experience at Le Siam was wonderful and we also enjoyed the attention to service.

For those seeking more exciting, lively, albeit noisy outlets, there is a Hooters place near the Swissotel Resort in Patong. Quite close by to this place and almost next door is Phuket’s own Hard Rock Café. Both these establishments seemed to enjoy brisk business whenever we passed by on our way to other places.

Microbrewery and Restaurant

The impressive JungCeylon Shopping Centre also boasts a microbrewery cum restaurant nearby as well as inviting open air café style pubs and a Japanese Sushi outlet, all close by. There is also a really good spa in the shopping centre with a range of massage options, facials, manicure and pedicure treatments.

The typical bar scene in Phuket is not my cup of tea, so to speak, and so I did not venture into any of these pubs. From the outside, they did not appeal to me. Some appeared a bit grubby. Some others were much too noisy and crowded. Others seemed to have bored, young girls in short skirts or tiny shorts and t shirts that promoted a brand of Thai beer, cajoling those walking past to come in for a drink.

What was noteworthy, however, was the attractive price of a cold beer (Singha or Chang) at 80 Bhat during Happy Hours! In a tourist type restaurant, the beer costs 130 Bhat!

Leisure Activities Galore

There are a whole range of leisure activities on offer if one is so inclined. These include the very popular elephant trekking, a visit to a crocodile farm, zip lining, water sports of all types, day long boat trips to nearby islands like Phi Phi and James Bond islands etc.

Do note, however, that recently a few of these activities have been on the receiving end of some valid criticism. For instance, there have been comments about the torture inflicted on elephants by their mahouts to carry out these daily activities.

In addition, for some of these sea-going activities, there are safety concerns. Many boat operators do not supply life jackets to the passengers! Activities like zip lining need to be properly and professionally managed for obvious reasons.

There have been casualties in the recent past. Tourists and travellers need to be fully aware of these risks.

Simon Cabaret Show 

This is an impressive and enjoyable one hour show put on in a typical Las Vegas style concert venue by the organisers. The venue is comfortable, modern and air conditioned and the parties concerned have gone to great lengths to ensure that the whole event is handled in a truly appropriate manner.

Whole families could be seen enjoying the spectacular show. Great credit is to be given to the attractive ‘ lady boys ‘ of Thailand for including aspects reflective of the region in their spellbinding show. The costumes too are really fabulous and the music was really lovely. This is one classy show suitable for all ages because it is performed with taste and style.

Other Interesting Aspects

In no fixed order, these are some interesting aspects that I noticed in Phuket during this visit.

  1. Alcoholic drinks are very reasonably priced in Phuket and in the rest of Thailand.
  2. There is, however, a very sensible ruling in place in Phuket. In an effort to curb rowdy, obnoxious, anti social behaviour and brawls, no establishment is allowed to serve alcoholic drinks before 11 am. The outlets observe this ruling.  I salute the Thai authorities on this wise move.
  3. All taxi fares within the Patong Beach region are at a fixed rate of 200 Bhat. This is regardless of whether you hail a regular taxi or a tuk tuk which also has a sign proclaiming it to be a taxi! Most of the taxi drivers observe this ruling but there are a few rascals around.
  4. One needs to use the seat belts in taxis or the individual concerned will be fined 1000 Bhat for the offence by the local traffic police. We were reminded about this by the taxi drivers on each occasion. Good move too.
  5. In the past Australians, Germans, Brits and Russians used to be the major visitors. On this visit, people from the PRC seem to be around in huge numbers. They are all over the island and you know of their presence when they begin to converse, often quite loudly!
  6. Motor cyclists here ride their bikes sensibly. They use the bikes as a means of affordable transport. They do not race around the streets of Patong recklessly endangering the lives and limbs of pedestrians.
  7. Phuket does not seem to have a ‘ snatch theft ‘ problem in the city. The traders and workers in this area are ever so mindful of the negative impact this will surely have on the tourist trade. So visitors, on the whole, do feel fairly safe while holidaying on the island.

Benign and Gracious Attitude of Thai Society

The Thais, as a society, are to be commended for exhibiting a benign, understanding and gracious attitude towards their fellow countrymen and women who are working in the hospitality, entertainment and tourism industries.

They do not adopt a sanctimonious, judgemental attitude towards those who are forced by circumstance and socio- economic difficulties to work in lowly, poor paying jobs.

These jobs include the following: doormen, cleaners, waiters, security guards, massage therapists, manicurists and even those in the oldest profession in the world. They treat these individuals with dignity, courtesy and kindness. How very refreshing to note.

 

Drive and Discover Kuala Kubu Bahru

An Idyllic and Picturesque Small Town in Malaysia 

There is on Malaysian TV a popular travel programme titled, Ride and Seek, featuring a young, slim, vivacious American female motorcyclist and her thrills, occasional spills and adventures in a few South East Asian countries. It is quite an interesting and fun programme, especially for armchair travellers.

I would like to think and actually suggest that one can have almost as much fun and excitement if one were to make the effort to take a leisurely drive and discover the many, sometimes quaint, small towns in Malaysia. My wife and I have been doing so on an almost monthly basis for over four years now. It has been real fun and often times an eye opener of sorts.

Others Control Your Free Time

After completing high school or college/university, an individual usually enters the job market. He joins a local company or a multinational in the private sector, enters government or quasi – government service or alternatively gets a job with an NGO.

In all these cases, the company or government in many respects, ‘controls‘ your available time. You have the usual nine to five job or so you think. This is because it is never nine to five these days! Terrible traffic jams getting to work and back home again is the new normal in big cities.

On top of that because of the mobile phone, impatient bosses are prone to call you at all hours of the day. This again is another new normal because you are on the company’s payroll and you are considered the company’s man. And finally, if you are lucky you get about a fortnight’s leave on an annual basis, plus the usual public holidays.

In Retirement, You Make Your Own Plans

In retirement, however, some individuals who do not seriously plan for that phase in their lives are left rudderless and lost! These individuals while away their time with too much TV watching or occasionally meeting old friends and colleagues at a coffee shop to chat and recall the past.

There seems to be a lack of clear purpose in their lives and they are still expecting others to plan for them. Dream on! They forget that their children have their own lives to lead, demanding jobs to deal with, families to bring up and all the other activities that go with that process.

Some get unnecessarily and unfairly tied down being guardians ( or some sort of maids ) for their grandchildren the whole day. This is a needless imposition when it should be time for them to be free to pursue their own interests because they have earned that right.

Drive and Discover Small Towns in Malaysia

Over the last four years or so, we have visited a number of small towns in peninsular Malaysia. From Banting, Morib and Kuala Selangor in Selangor to Gopeng, Lumut, Pangkor and Taiping in Perak to Alor Star and Kulim in Kedah and to Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam in Penang there is so much to see and discover. There are still so many towns to drive to, see, marvel and discover.

Kuala Kubu Bahru (KKB) is Most Interesting

Recently, we went on a day long driving expedition to KKB as the locals refer to their town. Where exactly is KKB? It is the town that you have to pass if you wish to go up to Fraser’s Hill. It is about an hour and half drive from Kuala Lumpur if you take the North South Expressway. You make the turn off after noticing the Tanjong Malim and KKB sign post on the expressway.

It was, I understand, the first properly designed town in Malaysia by an English town planner named Charles Read.

As you drive into KKB, you will marvel at the lush greenery on both sides of the federal road. The traffic is pretty light and soon you will enter the town of KKB. It was, I understand, the first properly designed town in Malaysia by an English town planner named Charles Read.

Gazetted a Garden City

In 1883, as a result of vast tin mining activities in the surrounding areas and coupled with a heavy downpour, the existing dam in the area burst and flooded the town. In the ensuing tragedy, 35 people died and over 1500 residents were affected.

The British rebuilt the town but this time around sited it on a hillock a few kilometres away. Charles Read, the government town planner was given the task to design a modern, liveable city.

Charles had the idea to turn this into a garden city and went about it with enthusiasm. Much later, there was justice when his dream was realised as the government in the 1980s formally gazetted KKB as a Garden City… the first of its kind in Malaysia.

Neat, Compact and Well Ordered Place

The town which is situated between two tributaries of the Selangor River gives the first-timer an impression of being neat, clean, compact and well ordered. The town appears well maintained with adequate parking lots ( no parking charges ), and well kept stately trees add a touch of class to this charming town.

On a clear day, we could see the lovely, surrounding mountain range from the town centre. We could see four hills in the background, each of a different blue/green hue silhouetted against the blue/grey sky. Sometimes, one needs to stop for a while and gaze at this phenomenon to appreciate nature’s unspoiled splendour.

Other Interesting Sights to Behold

1.Sun Sun Nam Cheong Eatery

Many of the shop houses in the town centre were built nearly 100 years ago. We entered a pretty famous shop house named Sun Sun Nam Cheong Eatery, ( quite a mouth full ) for a light lunch.  Before ordering our drinks and lunch, we looked over the place.

The shop house appeared to be well built, properly maintained and clean. It has a very high ceiling of solid timber beams and there is a fairly steep staircase at the back leading to the second floor. It is the living quarters for the family that runs that establishment.

The speciality here is Hailam noodles. The late accomplished, award winning writer and journalist, Rehman Rashid, who had retired to KKB for its peace and quiet and also to write, used to frequent this place for both his breakfast and lunch on a daily basis.

He also used to order scrambled eggs with butter and kaya toast together with Hainanese coffee. His regular lunch order without fail was for nasi goreng ( fried rice ). Rehman’s books are also on sale here. The owners’ have a fondness for the writer and remember him well. This place is in Jalan Mat Kilau.

2.Teng Wun Bakery & Confectionery

This place, also in the town centre, and a street in front of Sun Sun Cheong Nam is quite famous for its kaya puffs, butter cakes and cup cakes. On first impression, it seems quite cramped and cluttered.

But it does offer good value for its limited range of products and is well supported by the town’s inhabitants. This place is in Jalan Dato Muda Jaafar. The owners have been in business for close to forty years.

3.Sungai Selangor Dam

This dam is certainly worth a visit and if possible bring along a well-stocked picnic basket and some drinks. There are park benches nearby and a shaded rest area too.

The first impression on entering the area where the dam is sited is one of peace, serenity and tranquillity. It is quite a beautiful sight to take in. On looking closer, we noticed the huge dam which incidentally has a storage capacity of 235 million cubic metres.

It is situated a mere 6 km from KKB.

4.St Paul’s Catholic Church

There is also a small Catholic church here named St Paul’s Church. This church was consecrated by the late Archbishop Dominic Vendargon in the fifties. It is a thriving community with close knit parishioners. One of my old friends is the chairman of the Parish Council.

Some Other Activities in KKB

For those individuals keen on a round of golf, there is the Kuala Kubu Bahru Golf and Country Club nearby.

For those into extreme sports, KKB is the place to go for White Water Rafting. Please check out those companies that will be prepared to take you on these expeditions. One needs to be careful and go with an experienced guide/instructor.

Final thoughts

I can now better appreciate why some individuals and expats like to relocate to charming towns like KKB, Port Dickson and even Taiping when they retire. One needs to change gears, slow down and smell the roses occasionally. This is the ideal time to do all that.

I understand that a Canadian couple of Indian ethnic origin is building a retirement home in KKB. This place catering for vegetarians will be an ideal location for such a community of seniors.

No traffic jams, adequate parking in town, better weather ( cooler with so much greenery all over ) all make for ideal living conditions. Throw in better mannered, helpful, courteous and friendly residents and you will have your own shangri la  here in Malaysia. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Rose to the Living is Better Than…

need to make time for relatives, friends and colleagues

One of the saddest things that occurs when individuals grow old is the loneliness that engulfs them much of the time. This loneliness can be attributed, in part, to some or all of their children and grandchildren living overseas or in other cities far from home.

There is an 82-year-old widow living all alone in Petaling Jaya and her three adult children have chosen to live in the United Kingdom. She struggles with the chores and issues of daily living. For instance, she has to drive to the nearby market which is fairly congested on most days, twice a week, go up the steep ramp to park her car in a parking bay, and then walk down the steps to the wet market.

Challenge of Living Alone for Senior Individuals

What makes it all the more difficult for her is that once the marketing is over, she finds it difficult to get help to carry the goods up two flights of steps.  At one time, she was able to get a foreign worker ( a stall assistant ) to assist her. This is not always possible these days.

Are the adult children of this widow unaware of her predicament? This is not likely the case. They have grown up to be selfish and indifferent. Filial piety has been unceremoniously jettisoned.

Another cause of such loneliness is that relatives, former colleagues and friends do not seem to have time for these senior citizens. They are far too busy leading hectic lives and are often saddled with multiple responsibilities that drain their energy and focus.

Loneliness for Senior Citizens is a Huge Problem

One senior citizen, George now in his 87th year, confided to me recently that most of his good friends and former colleagues have passed on. He feels their absence profoundly. He is in relatively good health although he has some breathing difficulties from time to time because he used to be a heavy smoker for years.

He is also careful with his food intake because he suffers from some recurring problems with his digestive system. He was, however, pleased to inform me that he has enjoyed getting his regular pension payments for more years than he had actually served the government. Well, that is thanks in part to advances in modern medicine.

Financially Secure but Loneliness still Sucks

There are also some senior citizens who are deeply regretting the choices they made whilst they were young, healthy and in an exciting career pathway or business situation. They chose to focus far too much on their jobs or businesses to the extent that they had literally no time for the family. They were enjoying their career progression, their business successes and their golf outings far too much to bother about their family.

And as a result, the family grew apart from that individual. To his credit, James did support the family financially. He gave his wife, a golf widow, a generous monthly allowance and he paid for his children’s education up to university level. He also provided them with many creature comforts and holidays.

But he did not bother or care to cultivate their love and affection. The wife who was ignored and forgotten then developed her own circle of friends and took to gambling in a serious way.

Now the Family Have No Time for Him

Now in his mid-seventies, with few sincere friends and not in the best of health, he has tried belatedly to get close to his wife but has met with little success. He has also tried to reach out to his children, all grown up and successful. They have remained courteous and respectful but distant in terms of any emotional bonding.

In a not so strange twist of fate, they now do not seem to have time for him.

He has sadly confessed to some close friends how he wished he could turn the clock back and make amends.

Cultivating Friendships is a Two-Way Process

Some individuals who pretend to be friends with you easily forget that cultivating friendship is a two-way process. Both parties must want that friendship and both parties must be prepared to invest in that relationship for it to grow, prosper and bloom.

If only one party is making all the effort and the other is only reaping the benefits of that friendship, then that so called friendship will not last long.

I know of one so-called friend who consistently invites me to visit him at his home but never makes the effort to reciprocate. He always trots out the same, silly excuse for not visiting me………….he has no car!

This person is financially well off, assets and cash wise, and can easily afford a car but chooses to sponge on others for lifts and transport all the time. He pretends to be a pauper because he does not want to spend money on a bus, LRT or taxi. He is, however, prepared to burden someone else with the chore of providing him with a lift.

He only telephones me when he needs something done or to give me some news. I certainly do not consider him a friend but a mere acquaintance.

La Sallians Show the Way

Old boys of La Salle schools throughout Malaysia show the way in this regard. These venerable institutions like St Xavier’s in Penang, St Francis in Malacca, St Michael’s in Ipoh, St George’s in Taiping, St John’s in KL and St Paul’s in Seremban have very active old boys’ associations. Even smaller La Salle schools like La Salle Brickfields Secondary School in Kuala Lumpur, for instance, are no laggards in this matter.

Increasingly, these old boys make strenuous and regular efforts to stay in touch with their classmates and schoolmates. What is even more remarkable is that often they invite their former teachers to join in the dinner meetings and gatherings.

These old boys, now in their sixties and La Sallians to the core, cherish their carefree, school going days and the camaraderie that they used to enjoy in that halcyon period. What is the secret to this phenomenon?

It must surely be the unique ethos, traditions and culture of these La Sallian institutions. Many have ‘ graduated ‘ from being mere classmates and schoolmates to being firm friends by choice. These old boys meet at least three or four times each year to renew, sustain and nourish their friendship. That alone speaks volumes about what it means to be a true friend. Staying in regular touch is one sure way to show that you care.

A Rose to the Living is Better than……

I would like to share with you a nugget of distilled wisdom from Nixon Waterman. A senior citizen I know very well used to often mention this meaningful quote when she was talking about relatives and friends who have forgotten about visiting her.

She used to lament: What is the point of coming for my funeral or sending a beautiful wreath when I am gone?

Don’t they know that:

‘A Rose to the Living is more
than sumptuous wreaths to the dead
A Rose to the Living is more
if graciously given before
the hungry spirit is fled’

That brief quote says it all and that too quite poignantly.

Let us all, collectively and with determination, make an effort to invest in relationships, visit friends especially senior citizens and others living alone. Let us strive to bring comfort, joy and solace to these individuals who are going through a difficult journey.

 

The Eurasian Community’s Contribution to Malaysia

Enriching the Cosmopolitan Nature and Fabric of the Country

The Eurasian community in Malaysia is tiny by comparison to the other races. A Eurasian is someone of mixed Asian and European ancestry. The Malays form the majority with over 60 percent, the Chinese now make up about 25 percent and the Indians about 8 percent. There are close to 30,000 Eurasians in the country which has a population of about 30 million.

Types of Eurasians

Even though they are a tiny community, there are a number of divisions within this community. Some much prefer to position themselves as Portuguese Eurasians and are proud of their roots. Many of these older Portuguese Eurasians speak Kristang at home and with their relatives. Closer home, my wife’s late mother, a Portuguese Eurasian used to converse with ease in Kristang with her sisters, brothers and children. My wife too still retains that ability to speak this language.

Descriptions over the Ages

Initially, when the Malays first saw the Portuguese soldiers, sailors and administrative officials, they called them, ‘Benggali Puteh’. I will leave it to you to make an educated guess as to how this came about.

Some of these Portuguese officials married local women and their offspring were called Nasrani. This was a clear reference to the people of Nazareth because of their Catholic faith. Much later and still in use is the local Bahasa Malaysia term ‘ Serani’ meaning Eurasian.

Dutch Burghers

Other Eurasians were known as Dutch Burghers and still others were once known as Anglo-Indians. Dutch Burghers are actually of mixed Dutch, Portuguese and Sri Lankan descent.  Some of these Eurasians are trying, to some extent, to maintain links and association with Holland. I do know that some individuals and their families meet for social events with Dutch Embassy officials in Malaysia. This is most understandable because it is an intrinsic human desire to trace and thereafter appreciate your roots, especially as you grow older!

Anglo-Indians

These individuals first came to then Malaya from India during the British colonial period. They were at that time known as Anglo-Indians. Today, most of these people are simply classified as Eurasians. The descriptions Dutch Burgher and Anglo-Indian are not in vogue these days.

500th Anniversary of the Coming of the Portuguese to Malacca

The Portuguese Eurasians celebrated in a grand manner the 500th Anniversary of the coming of the Portuguese to Malacca from 26 to 29 October 2011. The celebrations were held in Malacca and drew many attendees from Singapore, Australia and all over Malaysia.

The Portuguese Eurasian community in Malacca has an elected leader. He is known as the Regedor.  Regedor actually refers to the settlement headman. He has an administrative role as well as a role as a cultural leader.

The Portuguese Eurasians at that time in the settlement were mostly fishermen eking out a living. It was a tough, risky and demanding job but they somehow managed to survive and carry on. This was, in part, due to their strong faith as Catholics.

However, there was much dissatisfaction within the community at a particular period in time not too long ago and many turned to an opposition party for support and assistance.  The Portuguese Eurasians felt that their interests and welfare were being neglected.

Facility to Invest

The Malaysian government recognised this trend. In an effort to make amends, the government belatedly recognised this tiny community as worthy of special attention and granted them the privilege of investing in a fund meant for only bumiputras. Bumiputra means son of the soil.

All Portuguese Eurasians could apply to invest in this fund if he or she could provide proof of ancestry. For this, the individual concerned had to obtain a certain form from the regedor, fill it up and then get the regedor’s confirmation of his / her eligibility. Many Eurasians did take advantage of this facility.

What Has Been the Eurasian Community’s Contribution to Malaysia

Although the Eurasians are a tiny community, they have and continue to make a significant contribution to the nation in a number of fields.

Sports

The Shepherdson brothers, the legendary Mike and his younger brother Christie, both double internationals in hockey and cricket, and Olympians to boot, have had a chequered career in these two sports. Other members of the family were also great sportsmen.

You may also remember Olympians like Lawrence Van Huizen, his son Stephen, Brian Sta Maria and Colin Sta Maria and Kevin Nunis all from that venerable St Paul’s Institution in Seremban.

These are just those individuals that come to mind. There are many other Eurasians who have made a similar contribution.

Culture

1.There is that well known Kristang former teacher and prolific writer from Malacca, Joan Marbeck now living in Singapore. Kristang is a Creole language. Food for thought: more than 90 per cent of Portuguese words come from Greek and Latin. A similar local language also exists in the Special Administrative Region (SAR) Macau where the Portuguese once ruled.

Joan has published many books especially on Kristang. Two of her books are titled: Ungua Adanza ( An Inheritance ) 1995 and Linggu Mai ( Mother Tongue ) 2004. What is amazing is that Portugal only ruled in Malacca for 130 years but left such a rich legacy. I understand that academics from Portugal and Brazil visit Malacca from time to time to research on these matters.

2.Joan’s sister, Celine is also a well known former teacher, hotel manager and now a renowned Kristang chef. Celine has given many cooking demonstrations and classes in Malaysia and Singapore. Celine has also been invited to give cooking demonstrations in Amsterdam, Holland. She has also, to her credit, published two well-received cookbooks.

3. Music Ambassadors: Here the Eurasians have certainly made a huge contribution. They seem to be musically gifted and there are numerous singers, musicians and bands that come to mind.

From the unforgettable, late Jimmy Boyle, Rudy and George Baum, James Rozells, Katherine Rodrigues, Coleen Read, Bonnie and Homer Jeremiah of Penang to the current sensations, the Zarsardias Brothers, country and western band Os Pombos, Yellow Jackets from Klang and Tres Amigos from Malacca have all made a significant contribution. I am sure that there are many other Eurasians who have left their mark in the music world.

Malacca Portuguese Eurasian Cuisine

There are many of these dishes. They vary from family to family. The main idea here was to make bland European food more delicious and palatable with the infusion of spices. The Malacca Portuguese Eurasians have over the years perfected this to a great degree. One can find a few Malacca Portuguese restaurants both here in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya as well as in Malacca.

These are some of the dishes that come to mind: Easily the most famous and much loved is Curry Debal (Devil Curry). The others, in no fixed order of preference, are: Ambiler, Abarjaw, Pongteh, Prawn and Pineapple Curry, Fish and Mango Curry and Eurasian Chicken Stew.

The Eurasians have also garnered well-earned praise for their expertise in the baking of Sugee cakes. This is usually baked for special occasions like Christmas, weddings, baptisms and even funerals. During the Annual Penang Eurasian Festival, for instance, there is even a Sugee Cake Making Contest. 

Teachers and Administrators

The early Eurasians, during British colonial rule, naturally gravitated towards the teaching profession. They also entered the civil service as administrators. Their fluency and command of the English language and their understanding of English customs and traditions made this a good fit.

Much later, and after Malaya gained independence, the Eurasians were also attracted to the armed forces. Quite a number rose to senior military positions i.e. colonel, brigadier general, first admiral etc.

In addition, there are also a few Eurasians who have made it to the big time, business-wise. These individuals have chosen, quite prudently, to operate under the radar and have remained low key by choice. A few have also left their mark as academics in local and foreign universities.

A Matter Bedevilling the Community

I have attended a few events hosted by Eurasians both here in Kuala Lumpur and even in Penang. What struck me as quite poignant and sad was the way a senior Eurasian leader, in his late seventies, spoke about the recurring lack of unity within the community in Penang a few years ago.

He wondered why this was so and commented that this lack of unity was really holding the community back from achieving its lofty goals. I subsequently spoke to a few Eurasian friends in Penang and inquired if this was really the case. Both of them confirmed the matter. This was re-confirmed by another Eurasian friend in Petaling Jaya.

The Eurasian male and female in Malaysia is generally perceived to be someone who is comfortable in social situations. Eurasians love to sing, enjoy good music and are musically inclined, love to go clubbing, delight in having a drink or two and are generally quite adept on the dance floor. In short, the Eurasian is seen as someone who yearns for a slice of la dolce vita. Isn’t that what we all want?

Santorini is Stunningly Splendid in Every Way

Towering Cliffs, White Washed Buildings and Turquoise Blue Waters

My wife and I embarked on our fifth cruise recently. We chose a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship, the Norwegian Star for the seven-night cruise to the exotic Greek Islands.

How many of us know that Greece has actually 1200 to 6000 islands depending on the minimum size one takes into account? Of this huge number, only about 160 plus islands are inhabited.

We also went on a shore excursion in Kotor, Montenegro at the start of the cruise and another shore excursion in Dubrovnik, Croatia on the last leg of the cruise. ‘Kotor’ in Bahasa Malaysia means dirty. I was, as such, intrigued by the name.

Montenegro is one of the six republics that made up the former Yugoslavia under one of the Non-Aligned Movement’s (NAM) strongman named Tito.

Montenegro Was a Disappointment

Kotor was not dirty but it was drab looking. It was a real waste of time because it took about an hour’s drive to get to our first destination through a bleak and dreary countryside with no redeeming or outstanding features. The ancient city of Budva was a little better and it is kissed by the open Adriatic Sea. It had some interesting buildings.

However, the people of Montenegro did not seem friendly to the throngs of people visiting the area. In addition and this is a big point, whilst they desperately want the tourists, they have yet to provide proper and easily accessible clean toilets. This is a major drawback. Many in our group found this absence of proper and accessible toilets a real turn off.

Dubrovnik Is a Beautiful City

A day before we returned to Venice, Italy we made a stopover in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

We had heard rave reviews about Dubrovnik and many commented that it is a beautiful city.  In fact, we know of a couple, friends of ours from Canberra, Australia, who spent four weeks on vacation in Dubrovnik two years ago. They liked the city a lot. And so it was a great relief that all these reviews and commentaries were actually spot on.

Dubrovnik is certainly a beautiful and well laid out city with a charm of its own. We chose to go on the Croatian Riviera and Dubrovnik tour. It turned out to be a great choice. The drive through the picturesque villages was most enjoyable and we got to see cattle and goats grazing in the fields against the backdrop of the beautiful mountains.

Cascading Waters of Ljuta River

The highlight of the tour through the fertile Konavle Valley for us was the stop for a light snack at a restaurant located in an old mill next to the cascading waters of the Ljuta River. The setting was simply ideal and one could see and hear the rush of crystal clean water from the nearby mountain as one contemplated the unbelievably scenic and peaceful surroundings.

The delightful light snack consisted of local specialities such as Croatian smoked ham, cheese, homemade bread and a glass of local wine. The charming waitresses dressed in their colourful national costumes offered us a choice of red or white wine.

Corfu Captivates the Visitor

During our cruise, we had a chance to make three other shore excursions to the following Greek islands: Mykonos, Corfu and Santorini. Of these, Santorini really impressed me a lot.

In Corfu, we chose to go on the Achilleion Palace and Corfu Town tour. We drove through the lovely countryside dotted with lemon and olive trees to reach the charming village of Gastouri where the majestic Achilleion Palace stands. While driving throughout Greece we noticed that the roads are in good condition and well maintained. The palace has beautiful gardens full of exotic flowers surrounding the building.

We also enjoyed our walk from the tree-lined main square to the Old Town. Here we saw historical sites such as the Venetian quarters, the Town Hall and the Church of St. Spyridon, patron saint of Corfu. The shops and sights of the Old Town were quite interesting and my wife did some shopping here. We also had time for a light snack in one of the many breezy cafes.

Santorini: Breathtaking in its Beauty

As we got into the tender from our cruise ship which had anchored some distance from the port and headed out to the island of Santorini, I was struck by its imposing sight. The island has an incredible majesty about it as one approaches.

The island formed as a result of a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago is a sight to behold with its rugged and craggy face. According to experts that volcanic eruption was ten times more powerful than the one from Krakatova, Indonesia in 1883!

The city of 15,000 inhabitants is situated on an island in the Southern Aegean Sea. It certainly has highly acclaimed and dramatic views and stunning sunsets. And to make matters really dramatic, Santorini is perched on the rim of a massive active volcano.

White Washed Buildings & Towering Cliffs

White washed buildings are a regular and most pleasant feature in Greece. If your building/house faces the sea, then you are only allowed to paint your wooden window frames in the colour blue. If your house faces the hillside, then you can paint the window frames in brown. All houses must be white-washed. This decree by a dictator many years ago still remains in force.

Dancing to Zorba the Greek

We had our lunch in a modern, well-built Greek restaurant named Pyrgos Tavern situated in one of the oldest settlements and the highest village on the island. We enjoyed traditional Greek food, music, wine and dances. The food was very good but I thought they should have included lamb, octopus and squid in the buffet menu.

The fun part was the Greek style celebration – OPA! A couple of dances were performed by four Greek lasses in traditional costumes and this was followed by a livelier version of dancing much like in the movie, Zorba the Greek starring Anthony Quinn. This time, a male dancer joined in and he was equal to the task and gave a spirited display of his prowess in this field. Then the lasses and the male dancer approached the diners and invited them on to the dance floor. Soon the place was throbbing to the sounds of good music and lively dancing.

Finally, all present had a smashing time breaking plates with much joy and gusto. I must mention here that throughout our trip to the Greek islands, there was easy availability of clean and well-maintained toilets. For some of them, one has to pay a small fee to use.

Some Interesting Facts about Santorini

Here are some interesting facts about Santorini.

  1. The seas around Santorini are a shimmering turquoise blue. Really beautiful to behold. The only other place where I have seen the seas so beautiful is in the Caribbean island of Barbados.
  2. There are more churches on the island than homes. These small churches were built by grateful sailors in honour of the saints who saved them from a watery grave while at sea.
  3. The export of pumice stones is a big business on the island.
  4. There are more than 100 varieties of grapes on Santorini. The island produces good quality wine and more than 89% is white wine.
  5. There are more donkeys than men on the islands. Donkeys are used to carry goods and the luggage of tourists up the steep, winding slopes and steps all around the islands.

How Did We Get to the Top of the Island?

We travelled up to the mountain top in a comfortable bus driven by a very experienced and capable driver. He needed to be experienced to be able to drive with some degree of sure-footedness up the very narrow winding road. At some points, it was quite scary to look out at the scenes below us but it was not a white-knuckle drive all the way. We enjoyed the breathtaking scenery as the bus slowly snaked its way up the narrow mountain roads.

We had three options for descending from the mountain. One was by slowly trekking down the 500 plus steps to the bottom. The other was to hitch a bumpy and smelly donkey ride down. We all opted for the third option and that was to take the cable car down in just a few minutes. Incidentally, the cable car system was built and donated by a rich and well-established family on the island as its community service contribution.

One Final Thought

If I have the opportunity and the time, I would certainly like to re-visit both Santorini and Dubrovnik. There is so much more to know, experience and enjoy about these two amazing places. One needs to spend at least a week in each place to soak in the atmosphere and explore the hidden nooks and corners of these exotic places. And this time around, I will certainly be a traveller and not a tourist.

#travel #Dubrovnik #Santorini #Corfu #Montenegro