Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Erawan Shrine

The story of the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok can be traced back to 1950s…

Construction of Erawan Hotel (now Grand Hyatt Erawan) was halted by a series of disasters: marble destined for the lobby disappeared at sea; workers died under mysterious circumstances, and cost overruns threatened to crush the project. Spirit doctors, desperately summoned for advice, commanded the hotel owners to erect a shrine for the Hindu deity of Maha Brahma. The mishaps ended and word of the miracle spread.

Today, the Erawan shrine hosts a continual circus of devotees bearing incense, flowers and images of the elephant god Erawan, the three-headed mount of Brahma. Supplicants whose prayers have been fulfilled often sponsor performance of Thai dance.

Erawan Shrine is also famous among Chinese, who mistakenly refer to Brahma as ‘Four-faced Buddha’.

Erawan Shrine...

The statue of Maha Brahma...

Devotee praying to the deity...

Dancers performing traditional dance at the request of devotees. I think the devotee in this picture is a tourist from Taiwan...

Offerings, in the form of elephant...

Reference: Carl Parkes, Thailand Handbook

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Canon's strategy for 2008

The huge kanji reads: Attacking!

Canon was number one in total digital camera sales last year, but lost the top spot of the lucrative DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) market to arch rival Nikon. This year, Canon has decided to adopt an offensive strategy.

However, Canon’s latest photographic products, announced on Jan 24, 2008, are somewhat disappointing. I am not optimistic that the company could beat Nikon in the Year of Rat.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market was the highlight of my trip to Thailand in January 2008.

Damnoen Saduak is a town located to the west of Bangkok. The floating market is at its full swing in the morning. Tourists who join package tours usually depart from Bangkok at 7am and reach the town about two hours later. After 9am there are more tourists than locals. Following the advice of my travel guide books, I decided to go to Damnoen one day earlier, on Jan 10, 2008. The next morning, I traveled by boat to the market at 7am, beating the tour buses.

Sunset over the canal, or khlong, as it is known in Thai…

On the way to the floating market…

The floating market…

After taking pictures of this friendly souvenir seller, I flattered her with a Thai word, suay, to which she replied, “Khok khun kha.”

Suggestions to would-be visitors to Damnoen Saduak:

  1. As mentioned earlier, there would be more tourists than locals after 9am. You are advised to stay overnight in the town and visit the market early in the following morning.
  2. If you are going by public transport, take bus no. 78 from Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal.
  3. Nok Noi (Little Bird) Hotel where I stayed is about 20-minutes walk away from the main market. The hotel can also arrange for a boat tour. (I personally went to the market by boat but walked back to the hotel.)
  4. Boat service is also available from the market.
  5. Have your breakfast in the market.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


中文purists (纯正主义者)老爱埋冤说:“中文里有太多英文词汇,它已被污染了!”


  • typhoon
  • ketchup
  • kowtow

似曾相识,对吧? 没错,它门均源自中文。再看看以下几个字:

  • guru (大师,源自梵文)
  • jungle (森林,源自印度文)
  • monsoon (季候,源自阿拉伯文)
  • tsunami (海啸,源自日文)
  • kindergarten (幼稚园,源自德文)
  • hippopotamus (河马,源自拉丁文)
  • kangaroo (袋鼠,源自澳洲原住民语)
  • fjord (源自挪威文,中文是???)


中文的外来词汇少,往往导致我们不能准确的表达意义。举个例子。羚羊有多个种类,英文有以下几个名称:antelope, gazelle, gnu, springbok, impala, kudu, 等等。在中文,我们只能笼统的称它们为羚羊。



Monday, January 21, 2008

Wat Phra Kaeo & Wat Pho

My relatives joined a package tour to Bangkok in 2006. Last year (2007), two of my coursemates also went there with a tour operator. They visited places like Wat Arun, Erawan Shrine (4-faced Buddha), Safari World, Chatuchak Weekend Market as well as Pattaya. Unfortunately, all of them have missed three of the highlights of the City of Angel, namely: The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaeo and Wat Pho.

I arrived at Bangkok on Jan 8, 2008. The Grand Palace was closed from Jan 1 to Jan 10 as the funeral of King’s sister was going on. To compensate foreign tourists, entrance fee for Wat Phra Kaeo was temporarily lifted. (Thais are allowed to enter all three sites for free.) Below are some photos I took in Wat Phra Kaeo and Wat Pho.

Wat Phra Kaeo

Wat Phra Kaeo, or Temple of Emerald Buddha, is the home to one of the most sacred Buddha statues in the Kingdom. As you would expect, it is made of emerald. Photography of the statues is not allowed, but I have taken pictures of the temple architecture…

Shorts and short skirts are not allowed inside the temple, so I had to rent a pair of pants…

Wat Pho

Wat Pho is also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is the home of a huge Buddha image: the Reclining Buddha. Also in the temple complex is the famed School of Traditional Massage…

Saturday, January 19, 2008

See the World

Ask any steward or stewardess of an airline, “Why did you join this industry?” I bet many would reply, “Because I want to see the world!”

No-frills airlines rely on many ingenious methods to cut cost. For example, an aircraft would fly from its “base airport” to a destination and return in shortest possible time, usually less than an hour. That way, not only can it make as many flights as possible in a single day, the airline also avoids paying for accommodation and food expenses of its crews.

But here is the thing that confounds me: If the cabin crews do not even have time to step out of the destination airport, how could they “see the world”???

I can think of two reasons why they join no-frills airlines:

  1. They get discount tickets when off duty.
  2. They use no-frills airlines as a stepping stone for joining first-tier, full service airlines.

Perhaps no-frills airlines need to work harder to retain their staffs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Legendary Khaosan Road

I think I must be of a rare breed. Most travelers to Thailand start and end their trips in Bangkok. Malaysians typically visit Southern Thailand or Bangkok. For me, I traveled to Northern Thailand in November 2002 and again in January 2007, bypassing Bangkok altogether. I live and work in a big city, so I prefer to escape to smaller towns when I am on vacation.

Finally, I decided to give City of Angel a try. On Jan 8, 2008, I touched down at Suvarnabhumi Airport. (Pronounced "Suvarnabhum"!) My first stop: the legendary Khaosan Road.

Khaosan Road is the heaven of backpackers. Here you will find accommodations at rock bottom price. My own room - with fan but no air-con, TV, phone and attached bathroom - cost just 150 Bath! (I did hope that the room had a window.)

Khaosan Road also appears in Leonardo diCaprio’s movie – The Beach. It’s in Khaosan the character played by diCaprio discovered a map which led him to a beach paradise.

Here you go, Khaosan Road

In Khaosan Road, you will see more tourists than locals…

Fancy a Bob Marley hairstyle? You can have it done here…

Street vendors…

Waitresses of a bar and a tourist…

P/S For my other posts and photos of Thailand, click on the label THAILAND below.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sins of Recycling – II

In one of my older posts, Sins of Recycling, I wrote that recycling might not be as green as many thought. An article, Where’s That Trash Going (IT14, The Star, December 4, 2007) provides more insight:


While there are no precise figures, activists estimate that 50% to 80% of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronics collected for recycling in the United States each year ends up overseas.

Workers in countries such as China, India and Nigeria then use hammers, gas burners and their bare hands to extract metals, glass and other recyclables, exposing themselves and the environment to a cocktail of toxic chemicals.

“It is being recycled, but it’s being recycled in the most horrific way you can imagine,” said Jim Puckettt of the Basel Action Network, the Seattle-based environmental group that tipped off Hong Kong authorities.

“We’re preserving our own environment, but contaminating the rest of the world.”


The idea of recycling is noble, but actual implementation proves to be difficult. We should really reduce and reuse before we recycle.

Sunday, January 13, 2008



罗马女神Venus 中文译名一般上是维纳斯。美国网球名将Venus Williams 却被星洲日报写作“薇奴丝”,或许和他是黑奴后代有关。另外,他和妹妹Serena 也被称为“黑珍珠”,星洲日报不忘提醒读者他们的肤色。

或许本地华人不觉这有何不妥。但我曾在美国工作,接触过许多不同种族的人。我已学会了不以有色眼光看待异族人士。星洲日报的用词,在美国会被视为“政治不正确” politically incorrect,我也不能接受。

Monday, January 07, 2008


In the United States, the largest number of immigrants – legal or illegal – comes from Latin America. Known collectively as Hispanics, they surpassed African Americans to become the second largest ethnic groups in the country.

Hispanics typically speak Spanish. There is a growing concern that their refusal to abandon Spanish for English would divide Americans along language lines. Others point out that Hispanics may be more likely to work in the least desirable sectors, given their proficiency of English, or lack of it. I personally observed that majority of the workers in Southern California’s fast food outlets were Mexicans.

But Malaysians and Singaporeans probably would find these worries unwarranted. After all, most of us speak two or three languages. In Malaysia, Malay is the official language but English is the business language. Most minorities speak their mother tongues, e.g. Chinese and Tamil. English is the most widely used language in Singapore but the government encourages its people to study their mother tongues.

I recently spent the New Year’s Eve with my sister and parents in Singapore. My (younger) nephew – at the age of two and a half years – was already bilingual. He spoke Chinese (Mandarin) to my parents but spoke English to me, and he made the switch effortlessly. In addition to these, he could count from 1 to 10 in Malay and Tamil!

There is nothing wrong to be bilingual or trilingual. Just make sure that we start at young age, since our ability to learn another language goes south as we get older.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

What Makes a Good Leader

On the first day of 2008, Malaysians, still in New Year mood, were shocked by a sex scandal involving Health Minister Dr Chua Soi Lek. He was widely criticized for being immoral, having cheated on his wife. He had since resigned.

Then, I received an e-mail from my sister, with the subject “What makes a good leader? Before judging - THINK”. I reproduce part of the e-mail here. Let’s see if we make the right judgment…


It is time to elect a new world leader, and only your vote counts. Here are the facts about the three candidates. Who would you vote for?

Candidate A - Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologist He's had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.

Candidate B - He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in college and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.

Candidate C - He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an occasional beer and never cheated on his wife.

Which of these candidates would be our choice?

Decide first... no peeking, then scroll down for the response.

Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Candidate B is Winston Churchill.

Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.


Another comparison:

Bill Clinton was also involved in a sex scandal, but I would choose him any time over the deeply religious George W. Bush.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My First Chinese Post





Wednesday, January 02, 2008


In my post, Learning Ethics in the Classroom, I mentioned justice as a guideline in making decision when confronting a dilemma. Now I will elaborate on the concept of Justice. This post is based largely on my lecture notes.

According to ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, there are two distinct forms of justice – universal justice and particular justice. Universal justice deals with obeying laws and the relation of virtues to others. Particular justice can be further subdivided into following categories:

  • Distributive justice – distribution of benefits and burdens
  • Compensatory justice – compensating persons for wrongs done on them
  • Retributive justice – punishment of wrongdoers

How are benefits distributed? Some recommended principles are:

  • To each an equal share
  • To each according to individual needs
  • To each according to personal efforts
  • To each according to social contribution
  • To each according to merit

It is worth noting that when it comes to wealth distribution, Malaysian government’s policies are based on the principle of equal share, while Singapore government emphasizes merit of individuals. Neither approach is perfect. This splitting view was essentially the factor that caused the ouster of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965.