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Bentong is A Marvelous Eco Tourism Destination

This municipality is an underappreciated gem of a place for healthy living

One of the largest states in Peninsula Malaysia is Pahang. Kuantan is its capital city and Pekan is its royal town. However, the municipality of Bentong, in Western Pahang is well worth a visit. This town has a population of around 114,500 residents ( 2010 ) and is only a mere 80 kilometres or so from Petaling Jaya. It takes just an hour and half to drive to Bentong from Petaling Jaya in a very leisurely manner and on a Saturday morning.

Why Bother to Visit Bentong?

There are many reasons to visit Bentong.

  1. Some Malaysians claim that Bentong grows the finest ( and most potent ) ginger in Malaysia. I believe this claim is correct. You can buy ginger from other places in and out of Malaysia but none can match that of Bentong’s. It is also more costly because it much sought after.
  2. Jimmy’s Durian Orchard is the most famous durian place in all of Bentong. It is well worth a visit for Musang King durian lovers.
  3. Bentong is close to the Main Range of mountains in Malaysia … nearby is the famous Berjaya Hills and its resorts for the well heeled as well as the world famous Genting Highlands. The GH and its many resorts / hotels and casinos do cater for different categories of customers. Also relatively nearby is Fraser’s Hill.

Fresh Air Lung Washing Destination

A few years ago, Bentong became the first Fresh Air Lung Washing destination in the country. This is purely because of its excellent location and its proximity to the mountains. This confluence results in some of the freshest air in the country compared to heavily polluted cities like Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, George Town and Johor Baru in the country.

As you leave the superhighway and enter Bentong, now a municipality, you notice almost immediately a huge, elegant and well designed signage against a refreshing green background across the river proclaiming for all to see in clear white the words BENTONG.

This is a good introduction to the municipality. It is also relatively easy to drive around and finding a parking space is a breeze. There is absolutely no inconsiderate double parking in Bentong which is a deadly and inconvenient curse in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.

Spectacular Chamang Waterfall

Chamang waterfall

We took a chance to visit yet another waterfall or so we thought. But we were most pleasantly surprised to find this gem of a waterfall hidden away amongst the beautiful, rustic countryside outside of Bentong.

It was only about a half hour’s drive from Bentong with clear signs pointing the way, all the way. Congrats to the municipal authorities for this clear direction to the site.

Our drive to the place passed very rural settings with pristine jungles on both sides of the well maintained federal roads. We also passed signs indicating Orang Asli settlements along the way.

We soon came to a fork on the road leading to a guard post manned by two young men. We had to pay a small entrance fee plus a parking fee ( there are two designated parking lots at the waterfall ) amounting to a grand total of RM9.00.

The Awe Inspiring Spectacle of a Waterfall

After we had parked our car, we were greeted by the splendid and awe inspiring sight of Chamang Waterfall. And what an imposing and spectacular sight it is.

At the very top of the waterfall, we could see a huge amount of water being pushed forward by nature with an accompanying roar to the rocks way below. From the rocks below, the water cascades gently down to the stream at the bottom.

Here we noticed small children with their parents in tow playing around in the water. There were also individuals, young and old alike who walked down the steps to the stream below. But I should add that this presents some risks and there are signs around warning that there could be sudden gushes of water etc. I also noticed at least one crude BBQ stand and I am assuming that there are others too in the vicinity.

A Few Facilities at the Site

At the entrance where the second car park is located, we noticed a few recently built buildings. One is proudly stated to be a Public Relations building. But it was closed on probably the busiest day of the week – Saturday. Go figure the wisdom of that decision. Next to it are cubicles for showers and close by are toilets for both men and women. Both the shower cubicles and the toilets could do with better management and upkeep.

A Café Will Be a Good Idea

My wife and I stayed around for about 45 minutes before we decided to move on. Had there been a small café selling hot and cold drinks and snacks at the site, we might have stayed for a longer visit to better enjoy the spectacle of a wonderful waterfall.

We remember visiting an almost similar site once in a place not far from picturesque Dubronik, in Croatia.  There a small but fast flowing river with icy waters from a nearby mountain ran beside a lovely café where we had stopped for a while to gaze at this natural wonder. As we sat in this café, we were served glasses of red or white wine and also tiny Croatian ham sandwiches. That allowed us to enjoy the moment to its maximum.

It may be a good idea also to build a small motel / hotel in the vicinity to attract more visitors.

Nothing to Shout About at Bentong Walk

Bentong Walk

This Bentong Walk only materialises every Saturday from 5.00 to 10 pm. It is an initiative by the local business people to attract visitors from the surrounding areas to this BW right in the centre of the town.

While the initiative is laudable, it lacked the energy, variety and oomph to make it a real attraction. We went to the BW at about 6.00 pm and spent more than an hour walking about the place and trying to find some unusual stalls. No such luck.

The BW is more like a Pasar Malam ( Night Market ). Two whole streets were closed to vehicular traffic. There are numerous stalls manned by men and women and their families. Items on sale at BW included footwear, children’s clothes, jeans, shorts and curio items.

There are also a number of stalls selling soft drinks and local dishes. We had a young coconut water drink which was delicious for that humid evening and then we also tried some local carrot cake. Although the carrot cake was wok fried by a Bangladeshi under the supervision of his Chinese employer, it lacked salt and that truly authentic taste.

However, I must commend the local people for coming up with this weekly happening. I am sure that over time, it will get to be better and more interesting.

Outdoor Activities for the Young, the Bold & the Brave

For those who are into rugged and thrilling outdoor activities, there are certainly enough of these in and around Bentong.

  1. Sailing down the river in a rubber tyre / tube is an activity that is organised for visitors;
  2. For those who are into archery, this too can be experienced at Bilut Extreme Park;
  3. For the ultimate thrill seekers, the Bilut Extreme Park has a large area to enjoy a fun and unique ride in an ATV ( all terrain vehicle ). In doing so, one can also appreciate the natural wonderland of untamed rain forest in Pahang. We had expressed some interest in this activity but were advised against it ( because of our age !) by the operators of the park.

Kechara Forest Retreat

While on our drive to Chamang Waterfall and as we passed the rural settings, we came around a bend in the road and by chance happened to see a modern gate post and chapel right smack in the countryside. We were intrigued.

So on our return journey past that place, we decided to investigate further. We stopped by the guard post and spoke to the Nepali guard on duty. He told us that this is a Buddhist place for meditation and retreats. We asked him if we could take a look at the place. He telephoned the management of the centre and they readily obliged us.

Courtesy and Kindness in Action

We drove in and soon met the man who was going to show us around. How very gracious of these people because we had made no appointment to see the place. They nevertheless were willing to give us a 30 minute tour and explanation of the place.

According to Pastor Lim, who will soon be ordained a Buddhist monk, the whole place for meditation and retreat was established about five years ago ( 2014 ) and covers over thirty five acres. It was built with the funds provided by generous donors, many of whom feel a deep love for the noble cause.

Peace and Serenity at the Retreat

Kechara retreat centre
Kechara Retreat Centre

As drove up the hilly gradient to meet the pastor, we were amazed by the well kept, skilfully landscaped and beautiful gardens. The whole place with the lush greenery exuded a sense of peace and serenity.

Pastor Lim explained to us that there are a number of branches in Buddhism and then gave us a quick explanation of the Meditation Hall – a truly impressive and conducive place for deep meditation.

Nearby, is a small building meant to serve as accommodation for about twenty attendees. The Resident Abbot / Monk at this peaceful oasis, Kechara Forest Retreat is His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche.

The leaders of Kechara have found and secured, with divine guidance I am guessing, an ideal and conducive place for a retreat and meditation centre. The fact that it is nicely tucked away in a lush forest area somehow exudes an air of peace, quiet and tranquillity.

In an often busy and chaotic world with so many demands on our time, it is refreshing to go to a place like this, once in a while, to renew oneself and get re-charged for life’s continuing challenges.

This was yet another satisfying road trip to discover, marvel and enjoy more of peninsula Malaysia and what the country has to offer.



Remembering Such Individuals on Teacher’s  Day


On 16 May, students, parents and other Malaysians will mark Teacher’s Day. There will be special events held at the district, state and federal level to commemorate this special day. Fine speeches will be made, recognition will be given and plaques will be awarded to a number of teachers. All these activities and events are determined by the education authorities and are carried out at an official level.

Real and Meaningful Recognition 

On a different level altogether,  meaningful and authentic recognition comes easily and sincerely from parents and students of truly unforgettable, inspiring and great teachers. This is the best recognition of all……………………………because it comes from the heart. Satisfied parents and grateful students are ever  ready to acknowledge the role and influence of outstanding teachers. Oftentimes, even for years to come!

The successful students, however, deserve  the praise and credit for their achievements. This is because the teacher’s interaction with the students is limited, in most cases, to one or two years. This might involve teaching them a particular subject with  uncommon competence and flair. Alternatively, it might involve being their committed and demanding athletics coach in secondary school or even being their energetic and enthusiastic Scout Master for a few years. Then these students move on to higher forms and to other educational pursuits or career opportunities.

Role and Influence of Outstanding Teachers

In the case of outstanding teachers, very often their role and influence lingers on for many years. Why you may ask is this so?

Outstanding teachers are invariably role models. A role model, as you may know, is someone who inspires, encourages and motivates us to always bring out the best. In that life long process, we ought to strive to always live up to our fullest potential. A role model is, therefore, someone we greatly admire and someone we aspire to be like.

Do remember that these were formative years for the students. In the case of La Salle Brickfields Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur, for instance many of the students came from families in the lower socio economic strata of society. With the right motivation,  the support of understanding teachers and good neighbours many managed brilliantly to overcome the odds and emerge triumphant. What a great testament to the human spirit of prevailing against the tremendous odds and in the end achieving one ‘s goals in life.

Filling A Void in Their Lives

The teachers who mattered had the good grace and sense to willingly step in and fill that void in their lives. Some of these students lacked: a real father figure that they could look up to; others suffered from a lack of love and warmth in their families; some others came to school each day without breakfast; and some others came from broken families who struggled to make ends meet. The list of social and family problems that these students had to struggle through was quite exhausting.

These teachers made quiet, discrete and strenuous efforts, however, to offer a friendly listening ear, often after school going hours. They listened sympathetically to problems the students faced and offered counseling and advice. Some of these teachers even visited the homes of the students and spent time trying to understand their problems.

They were not always successful in these efforts but these students appreciated their behind the scenes assistance and remained grateful for their teacher’s role nevertheless. That feeling of respect remained with them for years to come. What is truly marvelous is that even after these students attained career, business  and professional success, they remained gracious, grounded and grateful for the kind assistance, care and concern of their teachers.

Teaching as a Job or as a Profession?

Today with the dramatic increase in the number of teachers in Malaysia, there is a nagging and troubling question that begs an honest answer. We will come to that soon enough. According to some estimates, there are nearly 300,000 teachers in Malaysia. That is indeed a huge number .

From stories I have heard from a number of sources, teachers today seem over burdened with a multitude of administrative chores. The number of forms that need to be filled up and submitted to the education department and the ministry is quite daunting.

Teachers also need to attend too many meetings sometimes even during school hours. At other times after school hours and even on weekends. Not just teachers but also headmasters and principals of primary and secondary schools have to attend meetings at district, state and federal level.

The amount of sheer bureaucracy at the various levels is mind boggling to say the least. What takes the cake and has a negative effect on teachers is the emergence and annoying recurrence of Flip Flop policies at the Education Ministry. Think for a moment what effect this sort of policy u-turns have on the teachers!

For Some Individuals It is a Job

Some teachers these days seem uninterested in teaching. They take up that career option because it currently offers a good pay and is a pensionable position.

There are many reports by students and parents of teachers not going to class because: they prefer chatting in the staff room; they have the audacity to ‘ instruct ‘ the principal on what subjects they can teach; some graduate teachers  do not wish to teach in higher forms…………they are easily cowed by the teenagers or they lack confidence in teaching their subject options; there are cases where the principal had to ‘ promote ‘ a non graduate with sufficient competence and ability to teach in a higher form.

So for many  in this group of teachers, the answer to that nagging question is: teaching is a job.

For Other Individuals It is a Profession

These are usually from the older generation who went into teaching as a profession because they wanted to do so. The see it as a profession not because they enjoy the prestige and privileges of being a teacher but because they put their heart and soul into teaching. There is hardly any prestige in being a teacher in Malaysia but I will concede that they do enjoy some long holidays.

These teachers are willing and often carry out extra tasks and services for their students because that is in their DNA as bona fide teachers of the highest calibre and calling. They are active in coordinating and supervising extra mural activities with skill, competence and joy. They even undertake extra tasks willingly not because they were asked to but because they felt that these tasks needed to be done. These are teachers who lead the way and show by their impressive example, again and again, what it means to be a real teacher.

Other Inspiring Individuals Who Also ‘ Taught ‘

In the not so recent past, there were other inspiring individuals who by their heroic and unconventional actions taught us some valuable lessons. These individuals were not teachers by profession.

President Nelson Mandela

This was a black, South African, clear thinking lawyer who fought courageously and with dogged determination for independence from the while supremacists who had imposed a cruel and inhumane system called apartheid in his native land. He was treated harshly by the authorities in power at that time, and thrown into jail and even subjected to solitary confinement. But he did not break and remained steadfast to his principles beliefs.

Finally when the white rulers saw the writing on the wall and decided to give in, he showed the world his magnanimity and his big heart. He told his people and his party  the African National Congress (ANC) that there was no place in his rainbow nation for revenge.

Instead, he worked tirelessly to build a united nation……………………….with blacks and whites as equal partners. Most important of all, he publicly forgave his enemies. President Mandela then went on to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal to ease the  challenging process of nation building.

Mohandas Gandhi

He too was a western educated lawyer who took up the cause for India’s freedom from British rule. In the process and as a sign of the rejection of some western values, he discarded his elegant suits and ties and opted instead for a simple loincloth covering.

His many independence movement related actions like the Non Violence Resistance Movement really stumped the British government. Even in the face of many provocative acts and brutal assaults, he firmly advised his army of followers not to retaliate. His followers, in the millions, adhered to his advice and took the beatings in their stride. Gandhi also initiated a Civil Disobedience Movement which had a huge effect in de-moralising the colonial power.The British had never seen such determination and firm resolve before. They appeared flabbergasted and before long they realised that the sun was indeed going down on the mighty British Empire.

And probably the greatest tribute to Mohandas Gandhi was paid by Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This heroic and charismatic civil rights leader in the United States of America chose to adopt Gandhi’s novel approach in his fight in the sixties for de-segregation and equal rights in his country. Like Gandhi, despite the brutality he and his followers suffered and courageously endured for years, he and his movement finally succeeded.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

This was a small sized, frail Albanian nun of a Catholic order who made a tremendous impression not just in India also throughout the world. Mother Teresa showed the world that when  one has true compassion, empathy and love in one’s heart no task is too menial or too dirty to shoulder. And she did this repeatedly over the years.

What did Mother Teresa and her order of nuns do? They willingly took in the very poor, the sick, the unwashed and the disheveled individuals  from the grimy streets and hovels of Calcutta and gave them a measure of love and care. They cleaned them up, bathed them and nursed their wounds. For those who were terminally ill, the nuns gave them a measure of dignity, relief from pain and care that they had not known.

Her outstanding work made  head lines in  India and even around the world. Dignitaries, members of royalty, film stars and even Princess Diana made  efforts to meet and get to know her. And when she died years later, the Indian government gave her a state funeral………………………….an honour normally reserved for heads of state. Such was her stature and fame.

A Candle Continues to Give Out Light till the End

Through their inspiring actions and lives lived with such clarity of purpose, President Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi and Mother Teresa taught us some valuable lessons. What are these lessons?

Forgiveness is the right and noble thing to do. Yes, it is often difficult to forgive but one needs to do it in order to liberate us from the bondage of negative and soul destroying thoughts. Non violence and civil disobedience will triumph in the end. And care, compassion and love for our fellow human beings in full measure is the ultimate, non judgemental acts of a great but humble person.

I wish my former colleagues at La Salle Brickfields and teachers everywhere a Happy Teacher’s Day. As a friend and colleague once remarked to me: Once a teacher, always a teacher! I agree with him on that score but that only applies to those who take the profession seriously.

Please continue to give out your light, even after your retirement and in the process make this a better world for those who come after you.




On a Saturday afternoon on 27 April 2019, I attended a book launch at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Indian Cultural Centre in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. The event was also attended by about seventy other like minded Malaysians from all walks of life. The book that was being launched is titled Beyond The Sea and its title in Tamil is Kadalakku Appaal

H.E. Shri Mridul Kumar, the High Commissioner of India to Malaysia was given the honour to officially launch the book. The book was written by P Singaram. As a young man of eighteen, he had gone from Madurai in India to Medan in Sumatra, Indonesia to work. While in Medan, he often traveled to the port of Penang.

In Penang, Singaram spent a lot of time in the Penang Library. It was here also that he read the following books by famous writers like Hemingway, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Chekov and Dostoyevsky. He was impressed and inspired by  these writers and found much solace being in the library and being able to read these novels.

One Great Tamil Novel of Penang (Sunil S Amirth )

P Singaram ( 1920 – 1997 ) is considered one of the foremost Tamil novelists of the modern period. This coveted status was achieved despite the fact that he authored only two novels. Both novels were set in South East Asia.

In his lengthy foreword, Sunil S Amirth, Chair of South Asian Studies, Harvard University had this to say inter alia: ‘ Capturing the textures, the tensions and the everyday language of Penang’s social life in Tamil prose is Singaram’s singular achievement ‘. This is high praise indeed.

Recognition and Publication Came Late

Singaram wrote his first book, Beyond The Sea in 1950 and his second book, ‘ A Boat in a Storm ‘ in 1962. Its title in Tamil is Puyalile Oru Thoni in 1962. He faced many challenges in finding publishers and his novels remained unpublished till 1972!

His work according to Sunil S Amirth stands out in part because there have been relatively few Tamil works of literature that have depicted life in the port cities of South East Asia. This is despite the intensive and long standing presence of Tamil communities in every one of them. That is why Sunil S Amirth says authoritatively: You have before you the one great Tamil novel of Penang.

The novel is set in the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Malaya and especially Penang and revolves around a Chettiar community in Penang. As you read the novel, one gets to understand the deep seated culture and forces at play in the Chettiar community and the high respect and authority accorded to the chief money lender.

Areca Books Amazing Contribution

It takes courage, determination and an abiding love for your cause that makes you want to do the extraordinary. Areca Books  based in Penang  specialises in publishing and selling books on cultural heritage, social history, visual arts, environment and architecture of South East Asia.

Kudos to Khoo Salma Nasution and her co-founders at Areca Books for taking on this challenging task which is often a lonely and thankless battle. For more on what they have to offer, you can contact them at


A True Professional to the Last

The English version of this book would not have seen the light of day without the expert assistance and translation of R. Karthigesu ( 1940 – 2016 ). A former professor of Mass Communication at University Science Malaysia (USM), he was also a broadcaster with an illustrious career in Radio Television Malaysia. He is also an award winning author and he wrote five novels, five short stories and two collections of literary essays in Tamil. What was admirable about his feat was that he undertook this challenging task while battling a serious illness. He accepted the task and finished it as his final contribution to the literary world.


I enjoyed reading the book and especially about a time in the recent past before we gained our independence as a nation in 1957. It is indeed a pity that both P Singaram and R Kathigesu did not live to see the event take place. However, what is certain is that their hard work, struggles, writings and legacy lives on.

Memorable Reunion of Former La Salle Brickfields Secondary School Kuala Lumpur Teachers

Memories Are Made Of These Incredible Moments

I recently organised a long-awaited reunion of a few former teachers from La Salle Secondary School, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. The luncheon event was held in the Bunga Raya Chinese Restaurant at the Royal Lake Club on Monday, 25 March 2019.

Why were only a few invited?

There are a few reasons for this.  LSB is a small school but with a mighty big heart. A number of its former teachers have since migrated to Australia. They include Mr. Low Kim Seng, Mr Eric Koh, Mrs Theresa Oh and Mrs Suan Fredericks. Mr Lucas Wong could not join us as he was in Malacca on that day and Mrs Thana Ponnudurai is now based in Vienna, Austria. She returns to Malaysia regularly.

A few are un-contactable. These include Mrs Breda Tay, Ms Cheah Beng Sim and Mrs Teng Chan Kam. And some teachers unfortunately have left us much too soon. These include Mr. Yeong Hin Hong, Mrs Mary Nathan, Mr Vivian Sequerah and Mrs Low Peng Lum.

Those Who Attended the Luncheon Reunion

Sitting left to right are:
Mrs Diana Yeoh, Mrs Amarjeet Mahendran, Mrs Goh Khek Siew and Mrs K.T. Tan
Standing behind the ladies are:
Benedict Morais and Mr Denis Armstrong

The former teachers who graced this event were: Mrs Goh Khek Siew, Mrs Diana Yeoh, Mrs Amarjeet Mahendran, Mrs K T Tan, Mr Denis Armstrong and Benedict Morais.

These individuals could probably be considered the Last of the Mohicans from that incredible era. Their combined ages total almost five centuries! The oldest teacher present is ninety years and the youngest is seventy three.

Qualities of a Great Teacher

Here are what I consider to be some of the qualities of a great teacher. He or she has deep knowledge and an abiding passion for the subject. He or she has superior preparation and organisation skills.

That teacher is also able to make the subject matter more interesting and relevant for the students. But much more than that, that teacher has the uncanny ability and the desire to build a caring relationship with his/her students.

Impact of These Teachers on the Students

I could give you a brief overview of what these teachers meant to their students.

These are their frank comments.

Mrs Amarjeet Mahendran: “  She made the lessons in art fascinating and very interesting “ – Jeffrey Felix ( Alabama, USA ) musician and well known glass artist. His glass art masterpieces are exhibited in many American art galleries and museums.

Mrs Diana Yeoh: “ She was the reason why I chose to major in Mathematics at the University of Malaya “ – A Sikh former student ( Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ) who submitted a letter to the editor  of The Star newspaper a few years ago. Many remember with much gratitude her dedication by giving free tuition in school on Saturdays to those who were weak in that subject.

Mrs Goh Khek Siew: “ She taught us Mathematics in a simple, easy to understand manner “ – A Chinese former student from ( Singapore ) at a reunion in Kuala Lumpur some years ago.

Mr. Denis Armstrong: “ He was everything one could look for in a good mentor and an athletics coach. He groomed us to be sound professionals and made training under him a rewarding and memorable experience “ – Vinay Chandran ( Muscat, Oman ) former champion schoolboy sprinter and now a successful Landscape Architect.

Mrs K T Tan: “ A gentle, kind lady who made the geography lessons come alive………………much like NatGeo “ – Frederick  Nathan,  a Tengku Abdul Rahman (TAR) College graduate from ( Seremban,  Negri Sembilan )

Benedict Morais: “ I  can still remember the huge task you carried on your shoulders for the yearly class trip to Malacca “ – Thiagarajan K Rengasamy ( Kuala Lumpur ) Veterinarian. Although my option during teacher training was history, I never got to teach history at La Salle Brickfields. The yearly trips to Malacca therefore afforded me the opportunity to teach history in that historic city.

All these views were gathered during the regular reunions in Kuala Lumpur as well as from email communication over the years.

Kirby and Brinsford Lodge

It is important to realise that during that era ( late fifties and sixties ) there was an acute shortage of qualified teachers. The government of the day then embarked on a novel idea. They sent some of the best and brightest candidates to the United Kingdom for a two year teacher training programme.

Initially, they sent these carefully selected candidates to the Kirby Teacher Training Centre. Later on, they sent other candidates to the Brinsford Lodge Teacher Training Centre. The first group of candidates to these teacher training centres travelled by ship on a leisurely 21 day long journey to the UK.  Those were the days well before low cost travel became a reality and when life moved at a relatively slower pace!

Candidates who came later, flew on the iconic British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) planes from the small Sungei Besi Airport in almost the centre of Kuala Lumpur! They took off in the morning, made two much needed re-fuelling stops in Karachi, Pakistan and in Bahrain, Middle East before finally landing in London the next morning – a 24 hour marathon flying odyssey.

Former students will be glad to learn that Mrs Diana Yeoh is a Kirby trained teacher while Mrs Amarjeet Mahendran and the late Mr Yeong Hin Hong are Brinsford Lodge trained teachers.

Normal Class and St Joseph’s Training College, Penang

Mr. Vivian Sequerah and Mr Denis Armstrong were Normal Class trained teachers.

Normal Class teacher training was developed by St John Baptist De La Salle, the founder of the Christian Brothers teaching order more than 300 years ago. This system of teacher training was adopted by the Malaysian government to fill the need for more teachers. There were only a few teachers’ training colleges at that time in the country.

Mr Lucas Wong and I were trained alongside the La Salle Brothers at St Joseph’s Training College in Pulau Tikus, Penang. This college was accredited as a teacher training college by the Malaysian government. As lay teachers, we supported the noble work of the La Salle Brothers by teaching in the many La Salle schools all over Malaysia.

Lee Iacocca’s Take on Teachers

Some years ago, the celebrated former chairman and chief executive officer of Chrysler Corporation had this to say about what it means to be a teacher.

Lee Iacocca said and I quote: “ In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less “.

In Finland, which has a very fine educational policy in place, this is now the case. Teachers are also very well paid and highly respected in society. Many other countries, however, have yet to see the merits of having a sound educational policy. The sly politicians in these countries, I must concede, religiously only pay lip service to this idea whenever it is expedient.

How Are Teachers Remembered?

Those teachers who are fondly remembered usually have some wonderful qualities that remain embedded in the hearts of their former students. I am referring to the kindness shown to students and to the empathy displayed when students faced problems and issues.

One former student also shared with me that he appreciated his teachers because they knew how to talk to him! These teachers showed care and concern when it mattered most.

These teachers are also remembered for their selfless and dedicated service in carrying out numerous extra mural activities. These extra mural activities were often carried out on the fields after school, in the classrooms or even on Saturday mornings. The teachers who carried out these extra mural activities could not seek reimbursement for the costs that they incurred. They were not on the government payroll at that time.

The La Salle education philosophy stresses on wholesome, all round education for the Last, the Least and the Lost! In La Salle Brickfields, this was the case as most of the students then came from the lower socio economic strata of society.

Their fathers were rank and file policemen from the Police Station and quarters next to the school, rank and file personnel from the Customs Department opposite the school, blue collar workers and clerical staff from Malayan Railways etc. There were also the occasional sons of senior government officers, senior police officers, senior military officers and professionals who chose to attend this La Salle secondary school.

These teachers, on many occasions, willingly paid out of their own pockets for drinks and light refreshments for their students. They also used their own cars to send their teams for soccer matches, athletic meets or badminton games to other venues. In these instances, more than one teacher and more than one car was involved because of the number of students.

Memories Are Made of These Precious Moments

When the teachers met at the club there was a mixture of emotions and reactions. Many were glad to see one another after forty years or so! Mrs Goh could not quite recognise me. She remembered Denis as a discipline master but remarked that he had changed quite a bit.

And so we have indeed but the years have been relatively kind to all of us thus far. In the old days, to have lived three score and ten years was the ultimate goal! These days with the advances made in medicine, individuals are living that much longer while still retaining their mental and physical faculties … by the grace of God.

Mrs Diana Yeoh, I must stress still retains that dignified presence, aura and stature, Mrs Amarjeet Mahendran continues to radiate a positive, age defying glow, positivity and charm, Mrs K T Tan remains as sweet, kind and helpful as ever and Mrs Goh Khek Siew is a good role model for principled-centred living. Mr. Denis Armstrong maintains a healthy lifestyle, has basically one main meal a day, by choice and chooses to eat fish or seafood rather than meat.

Such was the success of that reunion that Mrs Diana Yeoh suggested that we should meet more often, say once in two months. I responded by inviting one of those present to take the lead in that direction.

Incredible Splendour of Spanish Cities

Impressive Architecture, Amazing Sights and Tapas to Die For

In mid November 2018, my wife and I embarked on an 8 day escorted tour of Spain and Portugal with Insight Vacations. Both of us had been to Spain before but those trips were limited to brief visits to Madrid, Toledo and Barcelona.

On this particular trip, the forty fellow travellers were a good mix of Americans, Australians, Filipinos, Singaporeans, Malaysians and Canadians. Among the Canadians and Australians were citizens of Asian origin from Sri Lanka and India. It was also a group that interacted well throughout the trip. We were also lucky to have on board a tour director who was especially competent and knowledgeable.

Spain – At An Iberico Curing Factory

Madrid and its Lovely Parks

We all know that in London there are many well known parks within the city. But how many of us know that there are more parks in Madrid? These are all well designed and spacious parks built for the benefit of the residents of the city. And they are such a delight to be in.

While we were in Madrid, we had the chance to travel along the Gran Via and through the Puerto del Sol. We also had an opportunity to view the Royal Palace from afar and the famous Cibeles Fountain.

It was also great to, once again, be in the incredible and vibrant Plaza Mayor……..the main square in the capital. It used to be the centre of Old Madrid but it is still at the heart of Madrid today. Plaza Mayor attracts many people to its centre and at most times, it is quite a busy place. It has numerous shops, restaurants and the like.

Tapas of All Kinds in Madrid

One can also sample some really incredible tapas in this huge square. The tapas here appear to be fresh, wide in variety and the price is reasonable. You could choose to go to a restaurant, sit at a table and order a few tapas. Or if you choose to be like a local, then you can go to one of those places where you have to stand and eat what you order. There are many of these places in Spain.

You are expected to throw the discarded bits down on the floor and this can look real messy to the uninitiated! But while in Madrid, do like the locals and we did. The culture here is not to stick to just one tapas place but to try a few tapas joints. Visiting a few tapas outlets is similar to bar hopping in some cities.

Toledo Retains Its Many Charms

On this our second visit to quaint Toledo, we were shown another interesting side to the delightful old city. It is important to keep in mind that Toledosituated high above the River Tagus was the Spanish capital during the golden era!

It was during this golden era that Arab, Jewish and Christian cultures flourished side by side through the Middle Ages. What a remarkable feat indeed due to the far – sighted policies of its enlightened Islamic rulers at that time.

It is wonderful to note that the people then had the maturity, intelligence, good sense, social grace and ability to co-exist in a harmonious manner.

As we walked within the city walls and through the narrow cobbled streets and lanes we marveled at the majesty of the whole place. The prize at the end of our walk in Toledo was a chance to view that famous painting of El Greco, ‘ The Burial of the Count of Orgaz ‘ at the Church of Santo Tome. The huge painting was a sight to behold….even if for only a brief moment.

The Catholic archbishop of Toledo, it is interesting to note, resides in a huge palace built centuries ago.

The Alhambra Palace and Granada

Spain - Summer Palace At The Alhambra
Spain – Summer Palace At The Alhambra


Spain - Summer Palace At The Alhambra 2
Spain – Summer Palace At The Alhambra 2
Spain – Lovely Gardens At The Alhambra Palace

‘There is no pain in life so cruel as to be blind in Granada’ cries the inscription on the wall of the Alhambra Palace. This is a must see sight of monumental importance.

The lengthy, slow tour of the vast grounds where the palace and its adjacent buildings, including the building housing the sultan’s harem are situated is truly breathtaking in its grandeur. The Alhambra Palace is a fantasy of well maintained arabesque gardens, fountains and stone cut like lace. The fine Islamic calligraphy on the buildings too is an amazing work of art.

We also had a chance to view the exotic water gardens of the Generalife, the royal summer residence. The walking tour of this amazing place was a cool 6.3 km in length and we did not even feel it. Such was the beauty and serenity of this place built by the Moors, especially the Berbers.

The Berbers are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa primarily Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya to name a few. Berbers are also known for their distinctive blue eyes, red hair and beard!

Seville, the Cultural Capital of Spain

The immense 15th century Gothic cathedral which incidentally is the final resting place for Christopher Columbus is truly impressive. His tomb is enriched with the spoils of the New World. As walked by the huge wall of the fabulous Alcazar, we could see the La Giralda, the former minaret of the Great Mosque, but now the cathedral bell tower.

Saville is considered the cultural capital of Spain for many reasons. We had another opportunity to watch the fiery passion and precision of a Flamenco show while dining. This show however was a disappointment when we compared it to the one we witnessed in Madrid on a previous visit. We passed by the 18th century Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, a huge bull ring. We had no wish to watch a bull fight. It is a cruel sport – not a sport really but an exercise in needless inhumanity to a magnificent animal. I do wonder how long more this activity will last in Spain.

Many might remember Carmen, an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet as well as The Barber of Seville which has been performed in the West End, Broadway and in numerous theatres around the world. Both are associated with the city of 700,00 inhabitants. A bit of trivia – one of the hottest temperatures recorded in Seville was way back in 1946, when it hit 47 C!

Avila – Entirely Enclosed City

Spain- Impressive Fort In Avila

It was quite a joy to cross the rock strewn hills of Castile in an elegant and comfortable tour coach and arrive at the ancient city of Avila. The city is also famous for a Catholic saint named St. Teresa of Avila.

St Teresa was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, author and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer.

We took a leisurely walk within the ancient city that is still enclosed within its 11th century high, sturdy and solid walls. The walls stand tall, majestic and impregnable and are in very good condition……….. the past centuries have not been able to destroy it or to lessen its impact.  It is really impressive to look at. This wall is a unique occurrence in Europe. Within the walled city are shops, churches, cafes and well ordered streets.

Spain Embraces its Past

Span-Seville oranges growing in the town in Sevilla
Span- Seville oranges growing in the town in Sevilla

A number of nations, especially newly independent nations, like to re-write history to suit their particular narratives. This is a crying shame literally because all it does is that it exposes the inherent insecurity and unfounded fears of its citizens.

By this clumsy attempt to re-write history, they indulge in a kind of fantasy and in the process, fool the gullible people of their lands needlessly. They also like to ‘ create ‘ new heroes where none actually existed!

However, this is not the case with Spain. The people of Spain gladly embrace their rich, chequered past. They readily acknowledge the immense contribution of the Moors ( and the Berbers ) who ruled Spain for hundreds of years. There has been no attempt to re-write history or to whitewash it to suit a particular narrative. This is a mature and welcome approach and speaks well of the Spanish people.

RENDERING IMPRESSIVE ALTRUISTIC SERVICE – Kiwanis Down Syndrome Centres in Malaysia show the way

Malaysia is fortunate to have many citizens who care deeply about the less fortunate and the down trodden. These individuals demonstrate their amazing community spirit in highly inspiring ways and well beyond the norms. Many of these individuals take on mighty responsibilities on a voluntary basis. They do this despite having full time, demanding jobs, family responsibilities and other personal and social commitments. This is indeed admirable and I believe that through these impressive actions these individuals have brought great credit to Malaysia as a country.

Three Top Community Service Clubs

Community service clubs have played a very important role in Malaysia even before we had attained independence as a nation way back in 1957. Back then, the first community service club to make its appearance in Malaya was Rotary International. Later on Lions International made its presence felt. Kiwanis International however only came to Malaysia in 1976.

All three of these American initiated community service clubs offer their members pride of membership, great fellowship and of course excellent opportunities for community service.

Objects of Community Service Clubs

All three community service clubs have very noble objectives. Basically some of these are the following:

i. in giving primacy to the human and spiritual, rather than the material values in life;

ii. in treating other human beings as the individual would like to be treated in all human relationships;

iii. in promoting the adoption and application of higher social, business, and professional standards;

iv. in developing by precept and example a more intelligent, progressive and serviceable citizenship;

v. in providing through the club a practical means to form nourishing friendships, to render altruistic service and to build better communities.

A Needed Service That Captured the Imagination

For the purpose of this sharing, I would like to focus on a particularly noteworthy community service project that seems to have captured the hearts and imagination of members of the Kiwanis Clubs in Malaysia. For the record, there are more than 50 Kiwanis Clubs all over Malaysia with a total membership of over a 1000 members.

These members felt the need for a community service project that could be identified with their clubs nation wide. After much discussion and brainstorming, it was agreed to embark on a Kiwanis Down Syndrome Centre. The idea was mooted by Dr. Neville Fernandez, a past president of the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur and a past District Governor. The Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur started the first Kiwanis Down Syndrome Centre ( KDSC ) in Petaling Jaya. They also established the Kiwanis Down Syndrome Foundation (KDSF) to oversee the centre as well as raise funds to run and maintain a fully functioning centre.

Kiwanis Down Syndrome Centres in Malaysia

The KDSC in Kuala Lumpur was a huge success because it broke new ground as far as community service was concerned. It was and still is well run and it became a great success. Its appeal and the need for more such service soon resulted in the formation of other KDSCs in Malaysia. Todate, there are six KDSCs in Malaysia i.e. in Kuala Lumpur ( the mother KDSC ) Klang, Malacca, Johor Bahru,  Kulai and Ipoh.

One has to remember that these are not simple and easy to carry out community service projects. In the early days, it was often a matter of donating some shoes for needy school children on a yearly basis, providing breakfast for schoolchildren in a socio economically deprived area or presenting garbage bins to schools etc. The KDSCs however, are in a league of their own!

Some of the Programmes at KDSCs

These are some of the programmes carried out at the KDSCs nationwide. They are: Early Intervention Programme; Infant Stimulation Programme; Toddler Programme; Special Education Programme; and Weekly Tuition Programme.

The KDSCs employ over thirty teachers nationwide and cater to nearly three hundred children. When you care to think of what this entails, you will be suitably impressed by the scale and huge responsibilities that these Kiwanis members have gladly and willingly shouldered. It is almost a full time, on-going responsibility.

The parents of these children are ever so grateful to the Kiwanis members in their area for their commitment to the cause. These parents have, in turn, also played a part in the yearly  fund raising efforts.

True Blue Community Service Members

It is community service members like these who are the unsung heroes and heroines in our society and country. They work quietly and with great dedication because they really believe in the cause that they are serving. They do not seek cheap publicity nor do they yearn for honours and awards. This is simply altruistic service at its very best!

Teluk Intan Gladly Reveals Her Attractions

3rd largest town in the state of Perak, Malaysia

Recently I decided to make a long trip up north to Alor Star, Kedah. A former college mate and incidentally a room mate of mine at the small St Joseph’s Training College in Pulau Tikus, Penang had suffered a 2nd heart attack and was admitted to the ICU of the Alor Star General Hospital.

St Joseph’s was then a La Salle college, accredited by the Malaysian government and meant to train those who wished to be fully fledged brothers of the De La Salle teaching order. This highly regarded teaching order was established almost 300 years ago in France.

This college also took in lay individuals who wished to be teachers. After having qualified as teachers these individuals would then support the work and philosophy of the La Salle brothers and serve in La Salle schools all over Malaysia.

A Major Undertaking

This was a major undertaking to travel by car to Alor Star in the northern state of Kedah. Kedah is one of the states in Malaysia that has a common border with Thailand.

In order not to over strain, I embarked on a two point strategy: i. persuade my wife, Patricia to be my companion on this driving odyssey and to share in the driving chores. She did one third of the driving and I undertook the rest; ii. break journey in two places i.e. Teluk Intan and then Taiping both in the state of Perak. A point of interest to note is that Teluk Intan is the 3rd biggest town and Taiping is the 2nd biggest town in Perak.

The First Leg of the Driving Odyssey

We started the drive from Petaling Jaya at 8.00 am and drove at a leisurely pace along the superb Malaysian highway until the turn off to Sungkai. Then we left the tolled highway for federal roads to Teluk Intan. These roads require the driver to be extra alert because these, narrow roads are mainly two lane, winding stretches. Some parts of it are quite good, others not too comfortable because of the pot holes etc.

Care and caution had also to be exercised due to traffic conditions on the federal roads…in addition to motor cyclists, we also had to look out for a number of heavy laden lorries belching smoke, unsteady senior citizen cyclists and occasionally cows crossing the roads. So there you go… never a dull moment. It took me back to the much earlier days of driving in the sixties!

We reached our hotel in Teluk Intan by about 11.00 am after having covered about 160 km

All About Teluk Intan

Teluk Intan was initially known as Teluk Anson. This town of roughly 120,000 inhabitants was named by the British authorities in honour of the last Lieutenant Governor of Penang, Major General Sir Archibald Anson.

In 1982 and during the centenary celebrations of the town, it was renamed as Teluk Intan by the Malaysian government.

Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan

Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan

The Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan is the pride and joy of its inhabitants. And rightly so!  The tower strikes me as a magnificent structure even by today’s standards. It was erected in 1885 by a visionary Chinese builder, Mr. Leong Choon Cheong. Like its   ‘ cousin ‘  in Italy, it too started to tilt barely four years after it was constructed.

The LTTI has a clock at the top which still chimes every 15 minutes. It also has a water tank meant to serve the needs of the population at that time. The tower in those days also served as a beacon to guide ships to Teluk Intan Port.

The tower is now surrounded by a large rectangular courtyard. In the evenings, small children can be seen riding their tricycles with their parents close by keeping a watchful eye. In the mornings and at noon people can be seen walking about the courtyard and admiring this tower. For the record, the grateful town has the main street named after the builder. This is a great honour indeed for the builder and his descendants.

One can also take the stairs up to the 3rd floor of the tower to get a glimpse of the town from that vantage point. Another point of interest is that this tower is slightly less than half the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It is eight stories high.

Teluk Intan’s Unique Chee Cheong Fun

Heard and read a lot about this town’s famous chee cheong fun. While Hong Kong has an international reputation for its chee cheong fun, Teluk Intan too has a claim on a much smaller scale for its version of chee cheong fun.

The Hong Kong version of this dish is usually served with prawns or barbequed pork.

There are many restaurants in Malaysia that serve the Hong Kong version but none really can compare with the high standard Hong Kong version.

The Teluk Intan version however, is served with turnips and dried prawns! There is a tiny shop (  Liew Kee – Ah Lek ) almost hidden behind a bigger restaurant nearby that sells this dish only as a late night supper. Two slices cost RM 6.00 a packet. Most customers buy this dish as a take away because there are only two tables for customers. It is a unique version, quite tasty and well worth the effort trying to find this needle in a haystack.

Other Interesting Attractions

St Anthony’s School

As far as other interesting attractions in Teluk Intan, there are a few worth mentioning. As a La Sallian, I found the St Anthony’s School a beautiful building to look at. The school is set in spacious grounds. It started off a school founded by the Catholic Church but it was later handed over to the La Salle Brothers.

This school has a very strong alumni association and the association is currently headed by a professor of high standing. I took the opportunity to visit the school and dropped by the office where I met the principal. He kindly invited me in for a brief chat when he knew that I was a La Sallian to the core. I took the opportunity to present him with a complimentary copy of my latest publication for the school library: Choosing to Raise the Bar – Reflections on Continuous Self Development.

The old Court House

Directly on the road opposite the school sits the small but impressive St Anthony’s Church in very spacious grounds. It reminded me of the past when buildings in Malaya…yes, Malaya were small to reflect the population they served. My wife and I dropped in to say a prayer before moving on to other sights.

Next we went to see and marvel at the sight of the small Old Court House built in the 1880’s. The building has since been handed over to the Malaysian Army. Some minor additions to the building, for sensible reasons, tend to mar the wholesome beauty of this lovely old building.

The Memorial Stone for the Fallen

This is listed as a tourist attraction but it has been placed in a most awkward site. It is situated near a traffic light where it will be most inconvenient for people to walk by because of the traffic.

It should be moved to a place where it will be easy for visitors to see the huge stone which serves as a War Memorial. This is part of our rich history and due recognition should thus be given to afford it a rightful place in the town square.

The huge stone seems to be covered in thick dirt and dust and needs an urgent deep clean to restore it to its rightful state. The moving inscription on the plaque reads: “ At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them “  – 1914 to 1918 and a later addition – 1939 to 1945.

Next Leg of the Driving Adventure

The next leg of the driving adventure from Teluk Intan to Taiping covered a total of almost 200 km. It was good to get off the federal roads and on to the super highway. Although it was a longer drive, it was pleasant with much less traffic on the highway.

A Few Well Known Taiping Sights

The name ‘ Taiping ‘ comes from two Chinese characters.  Tai means great and Ping means peace. How very appropriate indeed. The town has a population of 245,00 as of 2013.

Taiping War Cemetery

After we had checked into our hotel, we wasted no time in discovering a sight that has been much touted. I am referring here to the famous Taiping War Cemetery. This is a heartfelt tribute to the fallen by the British and still maintained by the British.

The cemetery which is sited within the Taiping Lake Gardens is on both sides of one of the roads. On one side are the graves of the fallen British soldiers of the Christian faith. On the opposite side of the road are the graves of Muslim and Gurkha soldiers.

This is a very well maintained grave site and the graves are neatly arranged in some splendid order. In between the graves are small flowering plants which lend a nice, poignant touch. On reading the inscriptions, one realises that these men lost their lives for a great cause at a very tender age… some were only 17 years old! The others were in their early twenties. On the other side, I did not notice any names but a general statement that they were known to God!

The Oldest and the Best Lake Gardens

In my opinion, the Lake Gardens in Taiping covering 160 acres is easily and by far the oldest and the best lake gardens in Malaysia. The sheer size and splendour of the Lake Gardens is a sight to behold. Early in the morning and in the evening, we could see the people of Taiping, youngsters and senior citizens alike, taking full advantage of this tranquil place to exercise, jog or simply walk about the Lake Gardens. One can also go for boat rides and/or rent a bicycle if one is so inclined. It is cherished for its beauty and serenity and is well maintained.

While talking to a resident who was exercising, I learned that the Lake Gardens has what appears to be many lakes! This is not so because it is all one big lake that to the uninitiated looks like many lakes. They are all inter-connected. An interesting fact is that this lake began initially as a tin mine!

The sight of so many majestic old Raintrees all over the lake is just wonderful. There are jogging / walking paths within the Lake Gardens. There are also sidewalks for people to walk or jog along side the roads fronting the Lake Gardens. I also noticed a number of park benches, a few gazebos and at one of the gazebos a photo shoot of a newly married couple was in full swing. The slightly humid weather did not seem to bother the couple.

All Saints Church

We decided to visit this historical site to view an old, quaint, timber church ( 1887 ) with an equally interesting history. It is a small Anglican church with a unique and lovely architecture. The Bell Tower is elegant as is the shingled roof and there are graveyards on both sides of the church. Buried here are the remains of the who’s who of that era in the 1800s.

Adjacent to this Little House of the Prairie type of church with its high ceilings, stained glass windows high above the altar and pipe organ, stands a newly built, small modern church. There is also a big, old two storey building of that era next to this church but within the vast church grounds.

Rustic Charms of Larut Hills

A visit to Taiping will not be complete unless you go on a 4 wheel drive up the Larut Hills. Larut Hills was formerly known as Maxwell Hills. It is a one of a kind, white knuckle, thrilling drive that you need to experience.

Taiping receives the highest rainfall in Malaysia and so you can imagine the wet, wild and muddy challenge of this drive.

There is only one way to go on this drive. You have to go to the base office and book a ride in a Land Rover. There are only a limited number of Land Rovers and also a small pool of trained and capable drivers.

As this service is run by the government, the charge is actually very reasonable. So get there early in the morning to book a ride. We managed to get lucky on our second attempt!

For more details on this unique adventure, please visit my earlier blog post titled: Rustic Charms of Larut Hills.

The Final Leg of the Driving Adventure

The final leg of the driving adventure covered a total of 205 km. It was a fairly easy and pleasant drive partly because it was on a lazy Sunday morning. There was hardly any traffic on the highway to Alor Star.

This town is the capital of the state of Kedah with an estimated population of only 116,00. It is, however not the biggest town in Kedah. That honour goes to the town of Sungei Petani.

Noteworthy Attractions in Alor Star

There are a few noteworthy attractions in Alor Star. Two interesting buildings do stand out. These two buildings have been recently lovingly restored to their former glory. One is the Kedah State Art Gallery also known as Balai Seni Negeri. Work on this lovely building began in 1893 and was only completed years later to serve as the high court building.

The other building i.e. Zahir Mosque is one of the grandest and oldest mosques in Malaysia and was built in 1912. The architectural style is simply breathtaking. Both buildings are next to each other.

There is also Rumah Merdeka which was the home of the first prime minister of Malaysia, YTM Tengku Abdul Rahman Putra. It is a two storey building. There is also a Kedah Padi Museum.

In Good Spirits

We did manage to visit my dear, old friend at the General Hospital in Alor Star. We spent about 30 minutes chatting with him. He seems to be taking his present medical condition in reasonably good spirits. He is hoping to slowly but surely regain his strength. His doctors have advised him to go for a heart bypass operation when he is good and ready.

We returned to Petaling Jaya the next day after making three brief comfort and rest stops along the way.