Friday, June 27, 2008

So He Said

Rakyat diminta tabah tangani krisis harga minyak, says Najib. I say, who are you to know how tough it is? Ministers and all these government officials, they have drivers and their fuel is paid for (using the taxpayers' money no less!) and they have allowance for almost every single damn thing. Do you know that they can claim for their donations as well? Yeah, most of them are not so philanthropic after all. But even if they have to pay for their own fuel, would it dent their coffers?

Some of these ministers, like Najib, have they really felt the pinch of the hoi polloi? He comes from a Malaysian political blue blood family, I'm sure he has lived a very sheltered life. Don't go around telling us to be strong, when I doubt you can handle it were you to be put in our shoes Mr. Deputy Prime Minister sir.

Use public transportation instead, they tell us. Why don't you, I say. Some people drive because they have to. Look at the state of our public transportation, the trains have a very limited reach and capacity (read Monorail, Putra), some are not even reliable (read Komuter). The buses, I can't comment since I only take the trains. How about people who live in Rawang and working in Damansara, which train can they take then?

Seriously, they should do something like 'Bulan Menteri Naik LRT', and we'll see how it goes. No, no special treatment - no beefy bodyguards pushing us poor commuters aside, no SB holding us back while Mr Minister boards the train and sits comfortably, preferably with no one else sitting in the next few seats in his radius (national security, the rakyat will understand). Let them sweat it like us, push and shove your way to a nook to stand quietly without having someone's elbow in your face. Or they can try the Komuter, sweating in the mornings while waiting for the train is not fun at all. Or get caught in the rain while waiting for it, that's not fun too.

Don't tell us to be strong in this situation, for you know nothing about how it is to be one of us. We are not in this together, no pretenses anymore please.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Chasing Waterfalls

It's great how we can still have fun as though we were still schoolkids. We had one of these major camping session at Lata Kekabu back in 1997, and it coulda been enjoyable if not for the overzealous wardens who won't let us in the water for more than 5 minutes at a time. Some of us had to go to another session in Form 5, in Ulu Chepor then, due to the 'honour' of being in the batch's top 40 after an exam. From behind. I didn't go though, I missed the list by about 10 names or something, but that was old history. I made some grounds since then. I have, honest!

I helped to organize a getaway at Sg Gabai for the guys last Saturday, we've been talking about it for a while now anyway. The last time we went, it was almost a year ago. Funny that it didn't feel that long when I think of it, time has a funny quality about it.

Anyway, I went earlier a few guys since of them had to leave early. We arrived there, managed to secure the same spot as last year and set up the picnic rug and our stuff while trying to catch our breaths. Climbing up that many stairs is not easy I tell you, especially for us out of shape folks. In the next half an hour or so, the rest arrived. We then set up the BBQ and start stuffing our faces with the piles of food available. We made it a pot luck BBQ, so everyone had to bring something. 14 guys, almost everyone brought their own share, and the result was an abundance of food (which was a marked improvement from last year's when all we had to eat was a piece of chicken each and several morsels of fish, the reason why I asked everyone to bring something was to avoid a repeat =P)

After much eating, it's time to hit the waterfall baby! We took up possession of the main 'pool' area, though interrupted from time to time from rempits sliding down from the upper levels of the waterfall. I was actually glad one of them cracked his head open on the rock there since it ended their general rowdiness, how bad of me (heh heh heh). The water was freezing cold, but the hard current turned the waterfall into some sort of massage apparatus. Try it, OSIM can't beat that ever!

Then of course, we got hungry again. We proceeded to resume eating. Then we weather started to turn moody and it started to rain. We barely had time to pack when the heavens opened up and it poured out onto us. We ran over to the covered area for a while, to wait out the rain. When it subsided, we went to finish packing up and left.

I had great fun, we ate, we drank, we joked and we laughed heartily. Again, great company is a must for a great time. Too bad a few of the guys can't make it, or else it would've been even more smashing. We were already talking about next year's plan while we were there (Sg Congkak next time, point taken!), and I'm already looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Di Bawah Bulan Purnama

Okay I know I've been posting this kinda story for a few times already, but can't help it that I'm a horror story buff, can I? Anyway, a friend of mine related this story quite a while ago and it came to mind again while I was talking to my brother about old songs.

This friend of mine, let's call her N. She was schooling at a boarding school back then, and you know that every boarding school must have ghosties and ghoulies. It's a prerequisite or something, but we'll leave the discussion for later.

One night, she felt the call of nature in the wee hours. Too sleepy to bother about waking up friends to accompany her, she just went ahead to do her business.

N loves to sing, so she sang while she was in the toilet as well. Prolly to quell her own fears, or just to while away the time. Well, she sang this old song:

"Dibawah bulan purnama, dipagar bintang beribu..."

Then she heard someone else sang those lines outside her cubicle, albeit with a slower tempo and softer voice. Maybe she was sleepy, but her first thoughts was that it must be one of her friends playing a prank on her.

So when she was finished, she went out and seeked that friend. Turned out she was fast asleep, as was everyone else. Sekian.

I know, this is a very cliche-d story, but what got me was the choice of song. What an apt choice of song to sing while you're alone in the middle of the night. Listen to this song, and imagine it being sung in a slower tempo, not upbeat like it's supposed to, and with a softer voice. Then maybe, just maybe, you'll find it hard to listen to this song the same way again.

Di Bawah Bulan Purnama
- R. Azmi & Rokiah Wanda

Di bawah bulan purnama
Dipagar bintang beribu
Hatiku terasa ria
Kekanda di samping daku

Di bawah bulan purnama
Di waktu malam yang sunyi
Sungguh terasa nikmatnya
Dibuai cinta berahi

Kanda muda remaja
Pujaan di hati dinda
Tempat dinda bermanja
Menghibur hati nan lara

Dinda rangkaian nyawa
Penyuluh di hati beta
Tempat kanda bercanda
Hilangkan segala duka

Adinda tetap setia
Di hati tidak berubah
Tidak dua tidak tiga
Kandalah cahaya mata

Demi kanda berjanji
Bulan bintang bersaksi
Namun hati tetap cinta
Dinda adalah juwita

P/S: Don't know the song? Here's a remake.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

You Got Me There, Fate!

I was going through my online banking account the other day when I noticed I had about RM2000 to spare. My dream ultrawide angle lens suddenly seemed close to becoming a reality!

Then I went home and checked my mail (the paper type, remember those?) and sorted out the bills. Lo and behold, I have to pay a notch over RM2100 for all the bills combined plus the loans repayment and miscellaneous fees. So today I paid off everything (besides the maintenance fee, which I'll have to pay at the management office on Saturday) and the bank account is as lean as usual again.

Life is cruel like that, giving you hope for a while before yanking it away. I'm sure I can hear Fate laughing his ass off somewhere up there, bummer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

WTF?! (Revisited)

Excuse my knee-jerk reaction yesterday. Now that I've read through the whole plan and done some calculations, I don't see it affecting me much. So fuel rises up to RM2.70 per litre, but the government is giving us people with cars less than 2000 cc RM625 to cover the subsidy. if you calculate RM625 for 800 litres, it amounts to RM0.78 per litre. Which is exactly the amount of increase. 800 litres might not sound like much, but that amounts to about 66.67 litres a month. Currently I'm using about 78 litres per month on average, translates to RM150 with the old price. With the current price it's RM211. That's a hike of RM61 per month, or RM732 per annum. Minus the subsidy, I'll lose about RM107. Not good, but not disastrous either. BTW, if you're reading this again you'll notice I changed the calculations, since what I calculated before was so wrong my primary school maths teacher will be squirming if he knew abt it =P

But I still think they should have handled this differently. They should've sent out the rebates first, before hiking up the price. That way, people can do the calculations beforehand, and of course will feel a lot happier with cold hard cash in their hands. So, when are we going to get the RM625 Pak Lah?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Lawatan Sambil Belajar

I have been meaning to write about my trip to Cambodia ever since I came back, but last week was just too busy for me to sneak some time to blog. Things are just going to get more busy, so I might just as well blog now.

People kept asking me, why Cambodia? Read on if you have the time and you might find a reason for you to go too. I'll do it chronologically, so here goes:

Tuesday - Left home, hitched a ride with The Journo (TJ) and HR-holic (HR). Then waited at the KL sentral's foodcourt for The Programmer (TP), Grammar Plugin (GP) and Orang Kapal (OK). It was GP's idea to take the last bus to LCCT and not risk missing the 1st bus instead (which is at 3.30am). In the end only 5 of us took the 10pm bus since GP can't make in time and will take the 1st bus later instead. So we brand him Judas, aka Izrin Iscariot (bukan nama sebenar). We planned to just lounge at McD for a few hours before looking for a corner to sleep. But our luck was rotten, McD closed down from 12am to 3am for some routine maintenance. So we headed towards the foodcourt and ate and chatted until we got bored. Then we all headed to the surau and slept until 4am.

Wednesday - Checked in and boarded the plane. 2 hours later we arrived in Siem Reap. Mr Proeun (we had problems pronouncing it, OK simply called him Mr Prawn) was there to meet us at the airport and take us back to Mahogany, where we'll be staying. Put down our bags and soon were back in the van heading towards the Angkor Wat complex.

First up was Preah Khan. It's quite a stroll, about 2-3km to get through the whole temple. Then we went to see Ta Prohm, the famous temple with trees growing on it's walls. I do mean huge huge trees, not the flimsy type we usually see hanging on the walls. But it rained while we were there so had to skip the rest of it.After that we stopped by Elephant's Terrace before heading up Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset. But then, sunset was not due in 3 more hours. Tired feet and exhausted body says go home and sleep. So we obeyed. Sunset? Err...

That night we went out to see the Apsara dance at a huge restaurant. The place has got it's own stage and everything, very proper. But of course, they charge you USD12 for the buffet dinner and show. It would've been alright if most of the food were edible. Since we can only eat fish and veggies, that striked out 70% of the spread. The dance was superb. There's several scenes/acts and the final one was the best. The costume and moves are similar to Makyong and the Thai traditional dance, same roots I guess.

Thursday - Woke up super early to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We left Mahogany at abt 5am (!) to make sure we got a good spot. Other people were there even earlier it seems. We got a good enough spot thankfully, and snapped away while waiting for the sun to rise. After sunrise, we toured the Angkor Wat itself and had breakfast in the inner courtyard. Judas, I mean, GP brought bread and tuna in his bag. Trying to atone I guess, hehe.

Then it's on to Bayon, the temple with many faces of King Jayavarman VII (if I got this wrong, blame it on Kim San, our guide). It's an amazing feat of art, I'd say. As usual, took pics and moved on because we're heading to Banteay Srey which is some way away from Angkor Wat area.

Banteay Srey is a temple for ladies only, and it is made up of pink limestones (sandstones? tak ingat lah) hence the different tone of the stones (compared to grey stones at other temples, it's earthy red here). We left to head back to Ta Prohm to continue where we left off due to rain. Then it's back to Mahogany to shower and catch a nap before a late lunch and shopping spree at Phsa Chas. Had hot fudge at Le Grande Cafe, a French colonial building turned into a nice and cosy cafe. We can't help but laugh when the waiter keep saying 'hot fuck' everytime he confirms our order.

Friday - 4 of us went back to Phsa Chas to shop some more while GP and TJ went to FCC Angkor instead. We had brunch before boarding the Mekong Express Limousine Bus to Phnom Penh. Don't let the name fool you though. It was hot as hell since the a/c wasn't functioning properly. There's a steward cum tour guide on board, but we can't comprehend 90% of what he's saying. Yes it's in English. That's the best bus available btw, so can't really complain. Stopped halfway at Kampong Thom or someplace, for 15 minutes. That's where I got to fulfil my dreams of eating weird stuff in Cambodia. There's a roadside peddler selling crickets, roaches and assorted bugs. So all of us besides HR tried some, and found it to be tasty! so we bought some to snack on the bus. The result, some injured mouth due to the insects' sharp points. My mom squirmed when she saw pics of us munching the damn critters, hehe.

Arrived in Phnom Penh at about 6pm and made our way to the Royal Guesthouse. What I can say is that it's like an oasis. The whole area is very dodgy, yet the guesthouse is surprisingly clean, well lighted, and with all the amenities we required and more. This time we took the rooms in accordance to our respective houses. Sulaiman, in R10 and Idris in R5. Ahmad & Mohd Shah bell sebab tak join. So me, TP and OK in one room and RJ, GP and HR in the other. That night we walked in search of Maybank Cambodia, but it was closed. So HR took quite a bit of stick from us since he's in Maybank. Dinner was at this halal Indian/Bangladeshi joint, and so we had chicken and lamb - what joy! 2 days of fish and veggie was enough for us carnivores.

Saturday - Headed first to Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, then onwards to Choeung Ek Genocide center aka Killing Fields. No fun to see evidence of human cruelty, but it's not as disturbing as our next stop. But first, we dropped by Russian Market for some more shopping and lunch. No, there's nothing Russian about it (no vodka, no matryoshka, no Sharapova), not sure how it got its' name though. After that we visited Tuol Sleng Prison aka S-21, the Khmer Rouge's equivalent to Guantanamo Bay (or ISA for that fact, only much worse, is it?). Tuol Sleng means Strychnine Hill, apt name for the place. Formerly a high school, it was converted into a prison aka interrogation (read: torture) center. I can only take a few pics there before a wave of nausea got to me.

Went back to the guesthouse and showered and rested until dinner time. Dinner was at FCC Phnom Penh, where we celebrated HR's birthday a coupla days in advance. Played cards until FCC closed down and headed back.

Sunday - I stayed back with TJ while the rest went to Central Market to shop some more. I packed and whiled away the morning while waiting time to check out and head for the airport. The flight was delayed for about 30 minutes, but it was smooth sailing all the way home.

For me, the trip was great. I needed the break sorely, and it did not disappoint. Tiring, yes. It was scorching hot over there and I sweat by the bucketloads. But I had a whale of a time. We had the combination of good company and luck to make the trip memorable.

To the guys, let's look forward for Vietnam!