Monday 30 December 2013

A Favourite Photograph: Pink Jellyfish

To close the year, here is my favourite picture (among thousands I have taken) in my last post of 2013. The picture was taken in an aquarium while travelling in a neighbouring country some years ago. Pretty pink jellyfish in bright blue waters ... beautiful and surreal.

Jellyfish notes:
1. Jellyfish is more than 90% water. Most of their umbrella mass is a gelatinous material (the jelly) called mesoglea, which is surrounded by two layers of cells and forms the umbrella (top surface). The subumbrella (bottom surface) of the body is known as the bell - Socialphy
2. Jellyfish are found in every ocean, from the surface to the deep sea. A few jellyfish inhabit fresh water. Large, often colourful, jellyfish are common in coastal zones worldwide. Jellyfish have roamed the seas for at least 500 million years, and possibly 700 million years or more, making them the oldest multi-organ animal - Wikipedia.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry X'mas 2013 & Happy New Year 2014

Wishing all who celebrate it, a Merry Christmas 2013, and everyone wherever you are, a Happy New Year 2014.

Note: The very 'Christmassy' Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) above, I bought at a garden centre a couple of years ago and tried to grow it in my garden. Unfortunately it did not thrive. I understand that to produce the beautiful colourful bracts, the plant has to be in about 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness! Definitely a plant for the short days and long nights of winter.

Saturday 21 December 2013

SA Garden Catalogue: Euphorbia Lactea & E. Trigona

I started growing Euphorbia lactea and E. trigona when I got some cuttings from my sister CY's garden. I thought they were cacti that do not need too much watering, and so very easy to maintain. (Kira malas nak siram pokok-lah!). But later I found out that they are really not cacti after all.

These Euphorbia may look a lot like cacti, but are not because these plants bleed white latex rather than water. This shrub has a profusion of crowded vertical shoots bearing tiny leaves at the growing tips. The leaves are usually shed early leaving behind persistant thorns. In Euphorbia lactea 'Cristata' the stems are expanded into combs. They love to grow in full sun and propagation is by cuttings. Their origin is probably India for E. lactea and West Africa for E. trigona.

(Pic E. Lactea 'Cristata')
Although these Euphorbia have small flowers, I have yet to see any in my garden. I have seen the yellow flowers on big specimens of the E. lactea grown on the ground at some gardens. I grow mine in containers to curtail their growth, maybe at the expense of flowers?

Weather-wise, December is still a very wet month. Most plants are doing well, but some like the Frangipani, have very 'unhealthy' looking leaves. I have done as much pruning as possible.

Note: With about 2000 species, Euphorbia is perhaps the biggest genus of flowering plants. Another species I have in the garden is Euphorbia milii (see my post SA Garden Catalogue: Crown of Thorns, 16 February 2013).

Sunday 15 December 2013

Tomatoes: Vegetable or Fruit?

Tomatoes are my favourite food (fruit? vegetable?), and I try to ensure I have them in my fridge always. After all, they are touted as the 'happy' food, and a super food to boot!

The best thing to do with tomatoes is to eat them raw, especially in salads. So easy to prepare - just slice them up and mix with lettuce and cucumber. Add whatever else takes your fancy and dress with just salt and pepper or add any fancy thingamagic dressing you like - French, Thousand island, etc. Comprende?

My earliest memory of tomatoes was in Alor Star in the early 50s. A neighbour's young daughter used to pilfer this fruit from the vegetable seller that plied his ware in the railway neighbourhood we lived in. No wonder this girl had pretty pink cheeks. Its from all those tomatoes she stole ate!

Although I do not grow tomatoes in my garden now because they are so cheap anyway in the markets, I did grow one tree in a container in my kitchen at Chorlton-cum-Hardy in the late 70s. It did produce some small fruits, hardly enough to make a decent bowl of salad. So that put paid to my ever growing tomatoes again.

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Retro: Raya Open House at Janda Baik (2008)

TKC 64-70 girls with the host at Janda Baik (2008)

Venison on the spit (CNB 2008)
Every year without fail, a friend Rod, who lives in Janda Baik, Pahang never fails to have an open house do at her property there, especially during the aidil fitri celebrations.

Nestled among gentle hills of virgin forests and cultivated orchards, we look forward to the occasion here to meet up with friends from our boarding school days.

Since moving to Selangor in 2008, I have had the wonderful opportunity to make road trips up to Janda Baik to enjoy the good food and good company amidst the verdant green natural surroundings. While there, we never fail to go around the property admiring the fish ponds, fruit orchards, spice gardens and even an aviary. The crystal clear waters of a river flowing through certainly completes the picture. Oh, and the cool clime (23-27 degrees Celsius during the day) is a bonus.

A torch ginger grove (CNB 2008)

In the garden at Janda Baik with Rohani & Siti Ropiah*

*Al-Fatihah. We all miss our good friend Siti Ropiah who passed away earlier this year.

Monday 9 December 2013

Celebrating a Royal Birthday

The 11th of December is a public holiday in Selangor, to celebrate the official birthday of its Sultan. But various functions are held in the run-up to this date, including one I had the privilege to attend yesterday at the grounds of the Istana Alam Shah in Klang. The function is the Majlis Jamuan Teh DiRaja and I was invited because I have white hair am a civil service pensioner, currently residing in Shah Alam, Selangor. I am all for celebrating life, especially birthdays, royal or otherwise. Thank you for inviting me a second time.

Sultan Sharafuddin meets the pensioners

The orchestra played golden oldies, I like!

Posing in front of the Istana

Guests leaving the function ...

... and posing for lots of pictures in front of the Istana.

Note: All pictures by CNB except the middle one (because its not a selfie, duh!).

Saturday 7 December 2013

Cinderella; the Malay Movie

At the end of last month, while at the Curve, we had a last minute invitation to the premiere of the Malay movie 'Cinderella'. Although we were eating lunch and still slurping our Vietnamese pho noodles then, we decided, why not? I like free romantic movies anyway, and Cinderella, Malay or otherwise, sounds fine with me.

The Director and actors and the paparazzi (CNB 2013)

Before the movie screening, the director Ahmad Idham explained his film which he'd adapted from the Malay television drama of the same name. I do not remember watching this drama. Anyway, this film is about a couple who are forced to marry (because of the usual case of being set up and caught in close proximity) but they do find love with each other. So all's well that ends well, and (Malay) Cinderella gets her prince charming. Oops! I have given away the (expected) ending. My most non-professional review of this movie? Okay-lah! I especially like Fawziah Nawi in her supporting actress role. Note: The movie will be shown in cinemas from 19.12.13

Friday 6 December 2013

Still the Tallest TWIN Towers

Malaysia's most famous landmark is no doubt the Petronas Towers at KLCC, Kuala Lumpur. As superlatives go, this (1,843 ft/452 m) landmark has been superseded by other taller buildings around the globe. Although no longer the tallest (building) anymore, but still, as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammed proudly concedes, and I concur, the tallest TWIN towers in the world.

Here are some rudimentary facts about these 'soaring into the sky rockets' that were built between 1993-1998. The winning design was by Argentinian-born US architect Cesar Pelli (b.1926). The twin towers are 88 storeys each, joined midway by a 'sky bridge', and each has an attached cylindrical tower of 44 storeys. The star-shaped plan of the main towers reflects an Islamic motif. In 2004, this 'high-profile landmark building' won the Aga Khan Architectural Award.

The Twins on a recent misty evening (CNB 2013)

Even if my preference is for old, classical architecture, these very modern towers are quite my favourite buildings to gawk at, whenever I drive through Jalan Ampang. I have taken photos almost every time I pass them by them, in sunshine or at night, and even in the rain. In the evenings, the upper storeys of the buildings shine like diamonds in the sky. From where we live in Ampang, we can just about see the 'diamonds' which, come midnight, are 'switched off' signalling the bewitching hour.

I have been on the 2-level sky-bridge twice before, some years ago while still a Librarian at USM. One visit was with some International Library Conference delegates and another with the Reference Division staff of USM Library. I hope to join the early morning tourist queue to go on the sky-bridge one more time.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

The Bra Shark and Louise the Brartist

Fatal attraction by Louise Low (CNB 2013)

At the YMA II, contemporary artist Louise Low's art installation/sculpture entitled Fatal Attraction, is a narrative 'of abusive males and the lure of love', 'how victims are lured into believing that man is the protective gender of the weak, ... similar to domestic violence where women still believe in their abusive husbands'. It seems a rather creative way to spread awareness about DV; the shark being made mainly of brassieres, with bra straps for teeth.

We had walked into the Galeri Petronas to catch the remains of the YMA II exhibition and were kindly invited to sit in at a Petronita (tea & talk) event - the prize giving ceremony of their "Rethink Pink Photo Contest" and a talk by Louise Low, artist of  'Fatal Attraction' or more popularly, 'The Bra Shark'.

My 'Rethink Pink' selfie. Note the shark in a bra! (CNB 2013)

Louise talked about her art installation, which Lucien de Guise* wrote, was "the star attraction of this exhibition" (YMA II) and "a miracle of the seamstress' art". Louise explained that during her art school days in Australia, she did a similar project, only her lecturer limited it to a shark's head. So now she has achieved her wish of creating a whole shark with about 300 used pre-loved brassieres. The bras she acquired from donors who knew about her project via Facebook ( The bras have also earned her the moniker 'Brartist'.

Louise explains her art to Petronita members (CNB 2013)

With 'brartist' Louise Low Seok Loo (AB 2013)

A & Louise (CNB 2013)
Louise told us that her 'bra shark Fatal Attraction' will travel to Pulau Pinang and another state in the near future. I wondered where it would finally find a home. Not in the (rubbish) skip I hope, but maybe if there are no local eccentric billionaire art lover who will acquire this bra shark, then someone with a major fetish for brassieres (and art) will. Anyway, Louise is currently working on another bra project. Got any nice bras to donate? It will be your contribution to Malaysian art!

* Lucien de Guise. All about new idioms. New Straits Times, 1 December 2013.

29 November 2013

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Young Malaysian Artists New Object(ion) II

Monsters in my closet by Shaliza Juanna Jeffry (CNB 2013)

"YMA II is an exhibition initiated by Galeri Petronas to celebrate young artists. New Objection is a collective effort to create artwork that are free from any form of restrictions, regulations or barriers. ... This annual event is a thematic exhibition which highlights 20 young Malaysian artists who engage in a 'self-referential' relationship with new technologies to discover the 'self' in making contemporary transformation determined by technological developments - new media. ... These artists will exhibit objects resulting from the reflection of cultural and social events that could be considered as contesting with the traditional media ... despite the opinion that defends the new media art as similar to other contemporary art practices." (Galeri Petronas brochure)

Art of War #12 Attack by fire by Azrin Mohd

The above two mix media art installations were my favourites, but the one that fascinated me (and also it seems, our youthful minister KJ who officiated the opening of this 2-month exhibition in October) was 'Fatal Attraction'. Not the gory, 'scary' movie-lah but ... a bra shark! A what shark? (To be continued ... in my next blog post.)

Note: For a professional/expert review, there is a very interesting write-up on this exhibition by Lucien de Guise entitled, 'All about new idioms', in the New Straits Times, 1 December 2013.

Sunday 1 December 2013



panas terakhir
meminjam warna dan watak
pada biji bersihnya,
namun watak dipendam
dalam simpanan peti tua.

sehingga pada titik lahir
bayi mungil matahari
dilepaskan ke tanah masa depannya.

maka serpihan api pun
semarak di rumput hujan.

                 muhammad haji salleh

Dipetik dari: Sebutir zamrud di deru selat; sajak-sajak alam USM
Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, 2006. (Ex Libris CNB 1591)

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Wani Wedded, Bibah Betrothed

A week ago, the family got together in Seberang Perai to celebrate a wedding and a betrothal. My niece Wani was wedded to her beau on the evening of 22 November 2013 at her father's/my brother's house. The next day saw the Majlis Perkahwinan (wedding kenduri/reception) being held in a Dewan in Seberang Jaya. To Wani & Hafiz, our "Felicitations and all the very best for a new life together"!

The newly weds with the bride's family (CNB 2013)

The newly weds with the groom's family (CNB 2013)

The happy couple & extended family at the reception

Wani & hubby pose with B & me 

Wani's sister Bibah's engagement ceremony was held on the morning of 24th November 2013, also at their home. Looks like we have another Majlis Perkahwinan coming up in the new year 2014.

Niece Ina (SR)  & Bibah (CNB 2013)

Pretty pink gifts for the betrothed (CNB 2013)

Moi & Bibah (Bibah's friend 2013)
22-24 November 2013

Saturday 23 November 2013

Kool Krabi

On our approach to Krabi (CNB 2013)

The next 'port of call' on our Andaman Sea cruise was Krabi, landing at Klong Heang or Ao Pra Nang jetty by boat in the morning around 10.00 am. Krabi Province has scenic karst formations near the coast and in the middle of Mae Nam Krabi (Krabi River). Part of the Thai mainland, the province also incorporates more than 150 islands including Ko Phi-Phi Leh, made famous by the Hollywood movie, The Beach.

Boats for island hopping at Ao Pra Nang jetty area (CNB 2013) 

Again we toured some parts of Krabi Province on a colourful local bus. Our first stop was in the capital, Krabi town, which sits on the banks of the Krabi River. As tourists, a photo stop at the Khao Khanap Nam was quite compulsory. The town's most prominent landmark and symbolic of Krabi are the two limestone 'pillars' rising over 100 metres from the water and contain caves complete with stalactites and stalagmites.

Our colourful local bus (CNB 2013)

The quintessential tourist pic at Khao Khanap Nam (AB 2013)

At midday, lunch was at a local Muslim restaurant, Rabeab's Kitchen at Suksamran Road. Apart from delicious tom yum, I also loved the Thai laksa, complete with refreshing herbs and vegetables. Halal food is not hard to find in Krabi as half the provincial population are Muslims.

Refreshing herbs and veges for Thai laksa (CNB 2013)

Malaysians love shopping, so after lunch it was shopping at the Outlet Village Krabi at Petchkasem Road. We picked up some superhero tees there, compliments of a gift exchange game the previous night on the ship. Then we were supposed to visit the Marine Fish Rehabilitation Centre, but ... this was overruled and the bus headed back to Khao Khanap Nam because a dictatorial someone wanted to do more shopping there. Sheesh! So A and I just crossed the road to this interesting looking coffee shop/cafe/restaurant to have a cuppa while waiting for the others who bought (made in China) stuff to their hearts' content. The Doi Chaang coffee we had at the Koko Nest was really goood. (And no wonder, as I only discovered later, it is wild Thai civet coffee!)

A at the Koko Nest cafe/restaurant (CNB 2013)

After this we headed back to Ao Nang beach (the longest in Krabi) where we could at least walk on the almost white sand for a while. The beach had been popular with Swedish package tourists but now the Russians have 'invaded' the multitude of shops, restaurants and accomodations along the rather well developed strand. Then for us, it was back to the cruise ship around 6.00 pm to get ready for the gala show and dinner on our last night on board.

At Ao Nang beach (CNB 2013)

12 November 2013

Thursday 21 November 2013

Phuket Island, Pearl of the South

Phuket in the rain (CNB 2013)
While on our Andaman Sea cruise, Ko Phuket or Phuket Island was the (Superstar Libra) ship's first port of call. When we left the ship on a small boat to the island's Patong Beach jetty, it was raining cats and dogs. The Patong Beach area seemed a pretty busy stretch despite the rain, and according to our local guide Samart, most tourists who come here now are Russian (previously it was the Scandinavians). There are no signs of the tsunami disaster which devastated Phuket in 2004. In fact, just two years later Phuket had recovered and the tourists have all come back in droves.

Phuket was originally Bukit (hill) in Malay. This biggest island of Thailand is also a province with income derived from tourism, tin, rubber and cashews. Formerly it was called Ko Thalang and before that Junk Ceylon (English corruption of the Malay 'Tanjung Salang' or Cape Salang). Phuket has a culture all of its own, combining Chinese and Portuguese influences with that of the chao naam or the sea gypsies, an indigenous ocean-going people, and the southern Thais. About 35% of the island's population are Thai Muslims and mosques outnumber Buddhist wat (temples) 38 to 37 (in 2001)*.

Elephant ahoy!
A tour of Phuket island had been arranged for us. By bus we were taken to the Island Safari Adventure Camp where we rode on elephants; always a thrilling experience. We noticed that all the mahouts seem to be Myanmarese and they displayed great control of the elephants (aided by sharp metal hooks which did not look elephant friendly). There were other rides including on bullock carts and 4WDs, but when in Thailand, elephants are the way to go.

Tourists riding in a bullock cart (CNB 2013)

On the south east of the island is Promthep Cape with a panaromic view of the Andaman Sea and the Indian Ocean. This is the southernmost tip of Phuket. There is also an elephant shrine there. While taking photos at the Cape, a very red-haired girl snapped our pictures (on the sly), so in turn I took hers, but with her permission. She may be a chao naam but the language barrier between us provided only uncertainty. Anyway it turned out that she was working at a nearby stall which then processed our pictures and put them in frames. A tourist trap surely, but then parting with your money for a tacky souvenir is really voluntary.

At picturesque Promthep Cape (CNB 2013)

Red-haired girl at Promthep Cape (CNB 2013)

After Promthep Cape we went to where all tour buses seem to stop by - this cashew nut factory of Sri Burapha Orchid. I love cashew nut so it was fine with me. Here you get to see how they extract the nut from the cashew seed and process it. The nuts get flavoured in ...  wasabi, bbq, honey, tom yum of course, etc., etc. There was also cashew juice which proved quite a refreshing taste.

Extracting cashew nuts (CNB 2013)

Just before going back to the ship, we returned to the Patong Beach area again to check out the (in)famous Soi Bangla (Bangla Road), Phuket's 'party zone', closed to traffic when the sun sets. There was also quick shopping done at the Jungceylon shopping complex.

One of several bars on Bangla Road (CNB 2013)

Sidewalk tile of the Patong Beach area (CNB 2013)

We left Phuket to get back to the ship around 8.00 pm. Suffice to say, we only got a glimpse of this island life in the very short time we were there.

*Ref: Thailand. 9th ed. (Lonely Planet, 2001) Ex Libris CNB 1299  ** I know, I know ... it is a decade old!
11 November 2013

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Cruising the Andaman Sea

Sailing away from Pulau Pinang (AP 2013)

Recently I went on my very first cruise on a big ship. The 4D/3N trip would start from Pulau Pinang, sail to Phuket and Krabi in Thailand before coming back to PP. The cruise started on a Sunday with a 'check-in' at the PP International Cruise Terminal, so passports must not be forgotten. Boarding started in the afternoon and there was a mandatory safety drill for all.

The mandatory safety drill (CNB 2013)

The ship set sail at 5.00 pm and a 'sail away' party started at the poolside on deck 9, followed by a BBQ dinner party. In the later part of the evening, it was showtime at the Stardust Lounge. But for A and me, it was time to hit the sack, because the very early morning bus trip from KL up to PP and the various activities that followed led to tired bodies. Ahh ... it was quite blissful to be sleeping in a comfy cabin bed in a floating hotel!

Welcome to the cabins on deck 6 (CNB 2013)

The next morning after a sumptuous breakfast, it was "Fun with Pak Nil" at the poolside. Popular presenter Datuk Aznil Hj Nawawi or Pak Nil, played host to about 300 of his fans who'd followed him on the cruise.

At midday, the ship arrived in Phuket, Thailand and we enjoyed a shore excursion of about 7 hours before re-embarking for dinner on board (I will write a post on Phuket in more detail). Later we would celebrate Pak Nil's birthday in a pyjama theme party. Certainly he's a very youthful 51 year old. Here's wishing a very happy birthday, Aznil and many more to come.

With Aznil, host extraordinaire (AB 2013)

Tuesday morning was the start of another shore excursion in Krabi (I will do a post on this later too). We re-embark in the late afternoon and in the evening there was the Gala dinner with the ship's Captain in attendance, at the Four Seasons and Ocean Palace Restaurants. The dinner was preceded by a Gala show - Rasputin, by a Russian troupe. Quite a fantastic performance by very tall dancers, acrobats and contortionists. A farewell party too followed as the next day will see the ship arrive back in PP around midday. I noticed that many of the passengers came with families in tow, some three generations strong. There were also many tourists from India and maybe China/Taiwan.

The first of many poolside parties on deck 9 (CNB 2013)

A pose at one of the numerous parties on board (AB 2013)

The Star Cruise's Superstar Libra is quite a big (10 deck) ship with a capacity for nearly 1,500 passengers and 740 cabins. With the super typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines* earlier, I thought the seas would be rough in the Andaman. But it was really smooth sailing. We were on the sixth deck and slept like logs on all three nights on the ship. On board it was mostly fun with lots of activities that may be enjoyed - there are live shows and bands, KTV, disco, movies, spa, sports activities including swimming, gymnasium, basketball, golf, etc. (plus gambling - is it a sport?) and duty-free shops. There are many (8) food and beverage outlets to cater for all gastronomic needs, including the halal-certified Spices Restaurant. Heck, it is a mini-city afloat. All in all, it was a thoroughly fun trip.

*Our heartfelt condolence to the victims of this disaster. May recovery be fast with the aid of the international community, including generous Malaysians.

10-13 November 2013