Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Whirlwind Tour of America

My wife and I have just returned from our almost month-long tour across the United States of America, including a side visit to the Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada. I have been to the States a couple of times before, but my visits were mainly business-related and, therefore, I did not have the opportunity to explore beyond city precincts. Saw Hwa had visited the West Coast before, but that was also many years ago.

This was indeed a whirlwind tour; by the time we ended at Los Angeles, we had forgotten the names of many of the places we visited! In the wake of the trade war between China and the United States, I was a little apprehensive before we embarked on the journey, especially so when we had signed up with Cosmos, where we knew most of our fellow travelers would be Caucasians. And we thought Donald Trump’s rhetoric might also create some degree of hostility from his countrymen towards yellow-skinned fellows like me. Our fears proved to be unnecessary. The people we ran into were generally very nice. One lady even offered her travel card to purchase subway tickets in one of the New York stations, when she saw we were hesitant about how to go about getting them from the machine. Safe for an incident, though!

The incident came from an unexpected quarter.

That was in New York and before we began our tour. We were on a hop-on-and-hop-off bus when a Caucasian lady, together with her partner, apparently a little clumsy, lost her seating priority to some Asian women. When she began to complain to the tour guide about “the f**king Asians”, I shouted at her, right in front of all the tourists there, "You racist, watch your language!". I gave her a nasty stare. She and her partner, to my satisfaction, remained quiet after that. 

Indeed, America is declining. The country as a whole looks tired. Of course, the monuments in Washington DC, the iconic architectural works in New York and Chicago, the national parks, and great mansions in California remain awe-inspiring. But they are falling behind in areas of infrastructure. The subway in New York is a case in point. Homelessness in San Francisco is particularly too glaring to miss. Even our tour coach is lacking in many respects. And surprise, surprise, even though Cosmos is a member of the global tour group, it is not as good - in terms of equipment and organisation - as its sibling Globus in Europe, which we have traveled with before.  

Central Park, Manhattan

No longer welcoming!
Niagara Falls

Washington DC

Grand Canyon
Somewhere in Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park
Where is Donald Trump?
Another National Park
With fellow travelers from the UK at Hollywood: Maria and David

Yet another...

Yet another
Feeding squirrel at Pebble Beach

Admiring Pebble Beach Golf Course
A new Genting in Las Vegas

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Jakarta's "New" International Airport

When I was helping Singapore’s IMC Pan Asia Alliance to develop its palm oil business in Indonesia, I had to travel to the country often. I even stationed myself in Jakarta for a couple of months. We were facilitated with an apartment near our office at Kuningan, one of the up-market precincts in Jakarta. Jakarta’s international airport was not great, but adequate. The traffic to and fro could be nightmarish, though. It could take hours.

I didn’t know their new international airport was ready when I flew in a couple of weeks ago. It is actually not a new airport but a new terminal arising out of organic needs. 

The distance from the gate to the Immigration hall seems endless. Fortunately, being amongst the first to disembark - thanks to my B class ticket - I was offered a ride in one of the carriages stationed halfway along the route.

Everything is confusing once you step out! 

Traffic was quite chaotic. On seeing some vehicles bearing top hotels’ logos, I asked if there was one from Grand Hyatt. Yes, but the fare was totally exorbitant. I decided to book a limo at Blue Bird’s booth. The receptionists were very courteous, but the system seemed silly. Those who came after me got driven off first. They apologized and smiled a lot but were quite clueless.

I didn’t realise that the new terminal is such a beast until I checked in to fly back the next day!

The terminal is massive. I dare say not much thought has been put in to design the terminal.

It is totally LINEAR.

I had no issues with the check-in arrangements. But one must walk past many many shops, kiosks and eateries before one reaches the Immigration hall. And after clearing Immigration, another long journey begins. I flew MAS and it offers its B class passengers to use a lounge which is located at almost one end of the terminal. The linearity was shocking; all the gates are on one side. From one end to the other, the new terminal must be more than a kilometer long.

And the local products are expensive! A modest box of Indonesia’s very popular “thousand-layered” cake costs something like USD20!

One thing, Indonesians are generally very patient; they don’t seem to complain.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Dr Leon Comber, A Living Legend

My late eldest brother Yew Seng often talked about his boss Leon Comber when he was alive. They were both in Heinemann Singapore, Comber the managing director, and my late brother, the general manager there. And it was from him that I learned that author Han Su-yin was one-time Comber’s wife. I also came across a preface written by him in one of the books about the ambush of General Henry Gurney at Frasers Hill.

One day two years ago or so Saw Hwa and were invited by Barry Clarke, who is the CEO of Routledge Asia, to his home for dinner. There we were introduced to two other guests: Comber and his friend Lee Su Ying. Comber was very generous with his knowledge; that evening I came to realise that he was an extraordinary man.

Despite his age and condition, he would make it a point whenever possible to attend the talks that we held at The HEAD Foundation. His direct involvement as a colonial officer before, during and after World War II and the Malayan Emergency of 1948-60 fascinated me. He was kind enough to accept a lunch invitation to answer whatever my fellow directors had wanted to know about some of the legendary figures during these periods of our history. His first-hand knowledge was truly awesome. I believe being a senior Special Branch officer then, he must have known the secrets of everyone. (Robert Kuok also mentioned him in his memoir.)

During World War II, he serves as a British officer in the Indian Army. He was among those who landed at Morib and witnessed the surrender of the Japanese forces. After the war, he became the head of the Special Branch in Johor. Comber saw the writing on the wall when he was summoned and be dressed down by the British High Commissioner to Malaya Field Marshal Gerald Templer about the writing of Han Su-yin, whom he married in 1952. (They divorced in 1958.) He left for a very distinguished publishing career after that.

Comber speaks fluent Cantonese. He is now a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asia Studies (ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute).

A couple of months ago, after hearing that he had been hospitalised in Melbourne, I visited him. He is now being looked after in an aged care home there. I paid him a visit and learning that he loved Chinese food, I arranged to take him out to share a meal at a restaurant nearby a week later.

Dr Comber was born in 1921, which makes him 98 today. Although a little hard on walking, his memory is still superb.

Below are his publications. The last two titles were written when he was 96. At his age, he still wants to publish more. He puts all of us to shame!

·        Chinese Ancestor Worship in Malaya (1954).
·        Chinese Temples in Singapore (1958).
·        Chinese Secret Societies in Malaya: A Survey of the Triad Society from 1800 to 1900 (1959).
·        Favourite Chinese Stories (1967; 1975; 1988).
·        The Strange Cases of Magistrate Pao: Chinese Tales of Crime and Detection. Translated from the Chinese and Retold by Leon Comber [with] Illustrations by Lo Koon-chiu (1970; 1972; 2010).
·        The Golden Treasure Box: Favourite Stories From the Orient (1979).
·        Malaya's Secret Police 1945-1960: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency (2008).
·        The Triads: Chinese Secret Societies in 1950s Malaya and Singapore (2009).
·        Through the Bamboo Window: Chinese Life and Culture in 1950s Malaya and Singapore (2009).
·        Singapore Correspondent: Political Dispatches from Singapore, 1958-1962 (2012).
·        Templer and the Road to Malaysian independence: The Man and His Time (2015).
·        Dalley and the Malayan Security Service, 1945-48: MI5 vs. MSS (2018).

Monday, June 24, 2019

Do Not Spit

 This picture was taken by my son-in-law who together with my daughter Monica visited Melbourne Law School recently. I hope you can read the line on the paper pasted on the wall.

Apparently, this was put up by the school’s administrators for obvious reasons. Melbourne Law School is one of the most prestigious law school in the world. Monica is an alumnus. It is now a professional graduate school, meaning, you must have an undergraduate degree to enroll.

Why did I say, “for obvious reasons”? If you visit the school now, you see Chinese students everywhere. Old habits die hard, spitting seems to be as natural as having to go to the loo.

I accompanied the founder of IMC Holdings Tan Sri Frank Tsao to visit one of the richest men in Malaysia in his hotel at Putrajaya. When we arrived, the traffic in front of the hotel was a little unruly. This tycoon, whom I happened to know since the early 1980s, when he was still up and coming, was well known for his hands-on approach. He immediately took control of the situation. He personally directed the flows to give our car a smooth. After this was done, he let go a spit right on the spot without any second thought. I must say I was taken aback.

He passed away recently, and on reflecting over this incident, I think I have reached a different understanding. He was not being crude or uncultured. I believe he was just expressing a sense of satisfaction with this act.

But that’s not the societal norm.

I remember I was a culprit of this form of crudeness or casualness as well. I was dining in a restaurant in Japan with a more worldly and refined colleague. I dropped some food on the floor and didn’t think much of it. He bent over and have it picked up. What else could I say. But from that day onwards, I would clean up everything I dirtied or messed up, including the stuff after a visit to fast foods or hawkers’ corners.

I had also never given any thought to hygiene when I shared meal with friends. We swam the dishes with our chopsticks.  It was just our “culture” of sharing. Nobody complained or bothered to enlighten us. It was not until I was dining with some acquaintances in Hong Kong in the 1990s when one politely facilitated me to use the pair of common chopsticks that was placed there then I realized his intention. Now whenever I have an opportunity, I would always try to bring this food sharing practice – as subtly as I can – to friends. Some did pick up instantly, but many remained oblivious no matter how hard I tried.

Back to the Melbourne Law School incident. My son-in-law was brought up in the old-fashioned way. Chinese Indonesians are more “Confucian” than most of us in traditions. He told me that when they were going into the lift, no Chinese students there bothered to give way to the elderly, let alone guests like him and Monica. Don’t the kindergartens and junior schools in China teach such basic Confucian or “li” or manners? And these are not peasants; they are studying in a highly regarded graduate law school!

My son-in-law’s anecdote reminds me of an incident I had in Greece during my recent tour with my wife there. In Athens, we had some on-your-own time. We decided to try the city’s metro. The train was pretty packed when it pulled up. We stepped in notwithstanding. On seeing me with a walking cane, an elderly gentleman immediately stood up to offer me his seat. How could I take up his offer? He needed it more than I! I politely declined but thank him, nonetheless. No sooner, several others also offer theirs. I accepted one of the younger passengers’ offer. That’s a civilized behaviour! And it has no correlation to the ancientness of one’s civilizational claim. This is just my opinion, though.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Melbourne, the most livable city in the world?

The Economist has consistently rated Melbourne as the most livable city in the world, so have a few other newspapers and lifestyle magazines. Is it for real?

In many respects, it is very livable. The CBD has many beautiful parks. It is quite easy to navigate in the city; the streets are in rectangular grid. (First timers can be intimidated by many of its hook turns, though.) Local motorists generally exhibit a very high standard of road etiquette. Many are happy to give way. People are quite helpful. You are even offered help unsolicited if you appear lost at the street junctions.
The new "cathedrals" and their stunning "stained glass" claddings!
Most of its suburbs are also clean and orderly. Zoning and building heights are strictly controlled; you don’t see outlandish houses or commercial buildings. They usually have their own shopping precincts. Comprehensive shopping and hardware malls are within easy reach.

Melbourne also have some of the best universities in Australia. The University of Melbourne ranks among the top 30 or in the world. Monash is equally world-class. Many of its private schools are highly coveted by parents both local as well as overseas.

Melbourne is also well-known for its restaurants and coffee culture. The popularity of Victorian wines has also spread beyond Australia.

Even though Tullamarine Airport (Melbourne's main gateway airport) is not connected by trains to the city, it is one of the most efficient airports I have come across. There is no long taxing way to the gates, in-and-out is pretty swift. But be aware, Immigration and Quarantine can be difficult if you have issues with your visas or the food you are bringing in.

I am indeed happy to live in Australia, even though Winter can be a little too cold for someone who hails from the tropics like me.


Its trains are perhaps the most archaic in the First World. The same type of trains has been there for decades. Much of the service is above-ground. They cause havoc during peak hours at crossings. I took this picture a couple of days ago. We had to wait for three slow trains to pass. Previous governments, be it Liberal or Labor, just did not have the will power to eliminate these bottlenecks. Fortunately, it now has a premier that is prepared to do the difficult things. But Aussies being Aussies, there will always be objections – just because your view is affected by the proposed elevated crossing, or some frivolous reasons that you feel like championing. He bulldozes them through, nonetheless.

Patiently waiting for three slow trains to pass...
The trains themselves are not impressive in looks and comfort. The stations are the Wild-west type. And the fares are not cheap. It is a couple of times Singapore’s.

The trams have always been touted as an iconic feature of Melbourne. I think otherwise. They are monstrously inefficient, except during peak hours. They are huge and heavy and unlike their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere, they are designed to run at the outer part of roads. When one reaches a pick-up point, every vehicle behind it must mandatorily stopped to allow passengers to have safe passage. They build up long queues. It can be very frustrating if you follow one.

Hopefully the premier's Change momentum can sustain.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Revisiting Greece

When my wife suggested that we signed up for a tour of Greece, I gladly agreed.

I have been to Greece, that was about 25 years ago, when I was stationed in Athens for about a month to help Genting bid for a casino licence. It decided to abort the pursuit; instead it went ahead to acquire two ships which led to the launching of The Star Cruises.

It was a fourteen day tour – first half by coach of Greece “mainland” and the other, by cruise of a number of islands, including a stopover in Turkey’s Kusadasi port, some Anatolia ruins of which my wife and I have visited before – when we did our Turkey tour some years ago.

We used a long way to go to Athens – by British Airways from Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow and Heathrow to Athens. It was a long journey. There are other airlines flying to Athens by shorter routes, but none offers Premium Economy class, which I need because of the condition of my injured left foot. Business Class was simply too expensive for us to consider.

The airport is pretty modern and efficient; I couldn’t remember how it looked 25 years ago. The people were quite friendly.

The tour was operated by Globus, which we signed up through Flight Centre in Melbourne. Organisation was superb. The tour director in the first leg was an elderly but elegant lady. We had a good teacher; she has an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Greece. Little did I realise that Greek civilization was that sophisticated. I was especially impressed by what I saw in the artefacts during the Mycenaean Age (1600-1100 BCE). From what I saw, the civilization might actually be more advanced than China’s Shang which spanned around the same time (16th Century to 1046 BCE). No wonder, they were able to produce Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, not to mention great scientists like Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes and Hippocrates, and staged the first Olympics.

The revisit to Kusadasi’s Ephesus ruins reinforces my thoughts about Greeks and Greece. Kusadasi is a beach resort on Turkey’s western Aegean coast. The whole of Turkey was actually part of the Greek civilization. But the Byzantine Empire lost it to the Ottomans. Under the Ottoman onslaught, the whole Greece could have turned Islamic if not for Greeks’ fierce patriotism and their strong devotion to Orthodox Christianity. I see that the Greeks are generally a little laid-back in the way they go about their lives. I remember an experience with taxis during my last visit to Athens; none would want to pick up fares during lunch time. That’s siesta time for them! You can even notice the difference between the Greeks and the Turks in tourist sites. There isn’t much on offer in Greek spots, but on the Kusadasi stop, the Turks spare no efforts in emptying tourists of their dollars. One is spoilt for choice there.

Many parts of downtown Athens are still very un-First World. Unemployment is said to be 25%. Our cruise’s tour guide is a holder of a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. Many university graduates can only find employment in supermarkets and paid something like 3 to 4 Euros an hour. And unlike the malls and supermarkets you see in our part of the world, theirs are generally sparingly stocked.  

he monasteries
Mykonos, Santorini and Milos, Oia & Thira
Greek versus Turks
Celestyl Crystal Crew 

Synonymous with Athens
The sophistication of Greek Civilization....

The most desired man to the "God" of the time

Engineering beyond imagination

Venue of the First Olympics

One of the mountain-top monasteries... Awe inspiring...
Beautiful beyond words...

Where Venus was unearthed

How vines are grown there

Greek's once upon a time...

Elvis was even loved during those days!

Romantic Turks...

The pathetic parts of Athens today...

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A phenomenon on Corruption...

Why many of our countrymen are so tolerant about corruption?

Everyone knows corruption is a crime. And everyone knows Najib Razak, our former prime minister, is now on trial for charges involving not millions, but billions, of Ringgit. Notwithstanding, he is still the boss-ku to many of his die-hard supporters and admirers. You can understand if these people are not the well-educated or read type, since any figure beyond 3-zeroes is largely beyond their grasps. But to my utter surprise, I see some of my acquaintances in Facebook still think Najib is a victim of slander. These people are senior professionals and well-placed in society, albeit some in retirement now.

I started to think hard…

To Chinese, corruption is a serious crime. It doesn’t mean the Chinese societies are free of corruption. Chinese history is full of stories of corrupt officials and how they met eventually had to pay for their crimes. But corruption is viewed quite differently by Chinese. Corruption involving public money is as bad as robbery. It carries capital punishment in China. The phenomenon you see in Malaysia will not happen. Once you are caught, everyone will treat you like a leper. Nobody is going to help you, no matter how high you once were. And you live with the consequences. But punishment is only a part of the whole cause-and-effect (因果) “ecosystem”. The shame is not on you alone; it cascades down for generations – your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren.  That’s where Confucianism ethics differ from other cultural norms. Not only you suffer, your offspring too!

We even had a minister who said corruption is not a crime until you got caught. This speaks volumes of the attitude towards corruption in Malaysia. When a policeman or a uniformed officer received a gratification, he might actually believe that he was doing the corrupting party a favour, lest the latter would have to be charged for some offences. When millions ended up in a minister or a top government official’s personal account, no actual misery was felt. The “losers” are usually not individuals, but the country or the economy as a whole. But the taker does not feel it when he takes. If the plundering was true, does Najib Razak feel any remorse? After all, some had actually benefited from his “philanthropy”. No wonder!

New IGP at the helm

I suppose most Malaysians would agree that the country's police force, as a whole, is not too bad. Basic law and order is upheld and enforced. But many would agree that few of its previous IGPs were held in high esteem by the public. The Police reputation was virtually destroyed by the recent few holders of the office.

It now has a new leader: Abdul Hamid Bador. Having read stories of his uprightness, we are all hoping that this new IGP will transform the Police force. Immediately upon assuming office, he rallied his top brass to consent to the formation of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC). It is an obvious decision that any IGP would have to make if he wanted his officers to be respected by the public, yet his predecessor Mohamad Fuzi Harun was quite blind to it.

Sure, many on-the-take would be shivering in their pants. However, if the Commission will use this to make the police to look forward instead of fearing that the past would catch up with them, then this is an opportunity to make a lasting cultural change.

Yes, police officers, especially the junior ones, are not able to live decently with the pay that they are getting. Numbers must go down and quality and productivity up. A portion of all compound fines should be shared with the force, but done in the most transparent manner. (The police can legitimately collect billions out of our errant motorists who blatantly flout traffic rules: speeding, using emergency lanes to gain advantage, double- or triple-parking, etc. Strictly enforcement of traffic rules will also help usher in a set of new driving etiquette or culture, which is sorely needed in this country.)

Weak leaders are consumed by status quo. Great leadership transforms. I am sure IGP Abdul Hamid Bador can do it! 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Modern Slave Masters

For the past decade or so, we have been sucked in by a catch phrase “Share Economy” – first with Uber in more affluent West, followed by Grab in Singapore and Malaysia, and what have you in China and Indonesia, then we have on-line food delivery start=ups like Food Panda, Roo, etc existence of which are now being threatened by Grab Food and Uber Food, etc. We also had bike sharing providers in Singapore, China and many other countries. I was living in Singapore when the bike sharing rushed in. It is nice to ride a bike in Amsterdam. But in Singapore where the weather is so humid. They soon folded up. You don’t need to be a top analyst to see that the concept was not going to work in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur or Jakarta or Bangkok!

I don’t believe the promoters had suffered much. Where did their money came from? OPM, or other people’s money. I am sure most of them had helped themselves with huge salaries and benefits. There is a great deal of musical-chair mentality and gambling appetite in venture capitalists’ mind with their deep war chests, money in the first place is also not theirs. If you erased the halo from a saint’s picture, would he look very different from his compatriots of his era? Recently a senior analyst in an international investment bank was caught not knowing the ABCs of Economics and another wannabe from one of our local stock broking firms was literally was uttering rubbish in The Sun. Ah, the world is full of emperors who do not know they are going around without clothes!

The world is an unfair place to live in. However, I see that people in Grab Food or Uber Food are becoming the modern-day slave masters. My heart sank each time I saw one of their drivers weaving in and out of the chaotic traffic we have in the Klang Valley. They had to work their butts out, not to mention having to endure high humidity or thunderstorms and the high chances of meeting accidents; yet a big percentage of their fees go to the company. They only have two fairly short windows during a day to earn their living.

Uber and Grab et al are talking about raking in (or hundreds of) billions when they go public. They should spare a thought to these motorcyclists who help me to create the mirage.

I couldn’t help admiring the nobility of Sunway Group’s Jeffrey Cheah. Sure, he wants his businesses to make him good money. There is one exception: His education arm. He could have it floated and enjoy the hundreds of millions (or even billions) from the market value this business of his can command in the local bourse. But he is steadfastly sticking to his principle. He is a man with a strong sense of social responsibility.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A Great Outcome?

Firefly flight from Subang aborts landing at Seletar Airport

I am a subscriber of Singapore Straits Times and a regular user of Firefly. When this headline came out in its on-line edition yesterday, I naturally took an interest and read it.

Apparently, because of bad weather, the pilots decided to play safe and divert the aircraft to land at Senai Airport. I understand the landing approach is from the southern Johor. It reminds me of Kai Tak when the plane is directly over Pasir Gudang. You could almost touch the roofs of the buildings there! 

I couldn’t help extending it to my chat groups, though not without a little comment: Thanks to our Anthony Loke…

Firefly used to fly from Subang Airport to Changi Airport until a couple of months ago, when Singapore decided to ask it to land at Seletar Airport instead. I welcome the move, since it is a point-to-point service. All hell broke loose when the Harapan came into power. Sovereignty became the primary concern. The management of Firefly, which was all ready to accept Singapore’s decision, found itself in a limbo. All its services to Singapore had to be suspended. The profit contribution from them came to a complete halt. (Firefly charges quite exorbitantly for these routes, especially the Subang-Singapore leg.) Since I stay in Saujana Resort, catching a flight from KLIA to-fro Singapore became a dreadful routine. Many a time it takes almost two hours just to reach home. To add insult to injury, many a time coupon taxis are also not available, even though I was happy to pay the premium fare.

Being a Malaysian, it is only incumbent that I should support our government’s decision. But in my mind, we were simply not very ready. Yes, we all know the Singapore government people can be a very kneah-su (afraid to lose) lot, but they certainly do their homework before they talk or act. At least two incidents instantly flashed through my mind when this sovereignty issue surfaced: (a) MH370; wasn’t it picked up by our radar before it went missing? (b) Someone was hit when a flight landed at Subang in the wee hours of one morning recently? Can we manage things well ourselves? We sure can, but our easy-going and somewhat complacent nature must go in these things.

So, when Firefly resumed its service to Singapore, albeit via Seletar now, I became one of its earliest customers, even though it only flew two flights a day. (I see that it has returned to full service now.) I now only need two hours, besides the flying time, to reach my Singapore destination from my Subang home. And people operating Subang must visit Seletar to see for themselves how they run the airport there.

When I found Hanna Yeoh singing high praises to Anthony Loke in her Facebook posting for the resumption of the service, I asked myself: Is she doing a Trump victory fun?

Most of our ministers are first timers; they are anxious to prove that they can deliver more than their predecessors. Some, and their political officers, are pretty bright – Tony Pua, Ong Kian Ming, Liew Chin Tong, Theresa Kok, Hannah Yeoh, and Yeo Bee Yin, just to name a few.   Few have serious political baggage, but by virtue of the fact they came from parties which hitherto have not been wholehearted regarded as mainstream, few have the knowledge and network to make them effective in a short span of exposure, despite their good work attitude. There is a huge pool of talents whom they can tap for ideas, knowledge and connections in the country; they should take the initiative to reach out. This huge pool is unlikely to offer themselves if they are not asked – for fear of associating themselves with DAP, which has unfortunately been viewed as anti-establishment before GE14. Now that it is a part of the government, it should rebrand itself somewhat.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


I had a document to be sent to Singapore. There is a Poslaju counter at Tesco in Ara Damansara, which is just across Saujana Resort where my apartment is. I thought it is very convenient for me to use the service.

How much would it cost me?

After putting the envelope on the weighing machine, the man at the counter advised that it would cost me sixty plus ringgit. I can’t remember the exact figure. My immediate reaction to him was: “Gila!-kah?” (Is this madness?). Realizing that he was just doing his job, I felt a little bad with this outburst of mine. Fortunately, it was more of an exclamation than a rebuke.

The half-A4 envelope contained only three sheets of paper. Before the privatization madness, it would probably cost me less than a ringgit to have it posted to Singapore. I was happy to pay some premium for the “laju” (fast) service. But sixty-plus ringgit? Where is the sense of proportions? A rip-off business mentality indeed!

To rub salt into the wound, Poslaju gave me another bout of fits when I reached home.

On my gate, there was a notice from Poslaju advising me to collect a parcel from their head office in Shah Alam, since there was no one at home to receive it. They didn’t even bother to check if there was anyone at home! It is simply common sense for anyone to do it if they want to be in logistics business. Poslaju must be thinking they are different!

Would I use Poslaju if I have alternatives?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Story of Yanxi Palace

I don’t usually watch dramas; there are simply too many episodes in every one of them. I do join my wife in watching the Korean varieties from time to time. South Korea’s drama industry is now a phenomenon. Millions are glued to TV and smartphones day in and day out because of it. Its formula is quite different from the others.

Bollywood’s appeal does not quite go beyond people of South Asian origin or descent. There is plenty of “lovers chasing each other from tree to tree” or “head and body twist-dancing” scenes from start to finish. The Chinese varieties tend to recast historical episodes. You know the story’s outcome, but you watch it to curse the villains who are usually being portrayed to be more evil than the truth. Intrigues that are scripted are often quite shallow or even childish. And the acting, especially on the part of the actresses, is often pretentiously irritating. I always believe what we see shapes the way we behave. And you can see such portrayed behaviours cascading down to Indian and Chinese societies.

There is also much behavioural silliness in Korean dramas. But their story lines are quite gripping. You don’t quite know what will come up next. But the quality of acting, especially by the lead actors or actresses, is certainly higher than that you find in Chinese movies and dramas.

It appears that Chinese movie and drama makers have taken note and are now trying to emulate the Korean. The Story of the Yanxi Palace is a case in point.

But only to a certain point.

Created by Yu Zheng, Story of Yanxi Palace (延禧攻略) apparently has been streamed billions of times by worldwide audiences. No doubt the cast is huge and their costumes stunning, I am the producers still have some way to go before they can be seen to be at par with the Koreans. The scenes are pretty linear, and the intrigues challenge one’s intellectuality. The acting of the female cast is, for want of a better description, still very Chinese actress-like.

I couldn’t go beyond the 7th episode.

I have always been branded a China- and Chinese-basher. But my mission is to help improve Chinese-ness, albeit in a small way.