Monday, March 31, 2008


A couple of years ago, I worked briefly, on a contract basis, in California. (I wasn’t a low wage worker!) I realized that Americans, unlike people in this region, did not dry their laundry under the sun. Instead, they relied on clothes dryers. (The only exception I came across took place in a forest monastery which generated electricity from solar panels.) That year, the failed "energy deregulation" brought electricity outages in California.

I couldn’t understand why Americans, or at least Californians, did not use clotheslines. After all, the Golden State was sunny for most of the year, and it only rained in the winter. On the other hand, people in Southeast Asia who dry their clothes under the sun have to worry about late afternoon downpour.

It wasn’t until last year before I knew the reason. American homeowners are concerned that clothesline – not exactly something aesthetic – could cause depreciation of their properties.

However, an environmentalist named Alexander Lee is advocating the use of clothesline to replace the clothes dryer. He lists many reasons for doing so:

  • Save money – more than $100/year on electric bill for most households.
  • Conserve energy and the environment.
  • Clothes and sheets smell better.
  • Clothes last longer. Where do you think lint comes from?
  • It is physical activity which you can do in or outside.
  • Sunlight bleaches and disinfects.
  • Indoor racks can humidify in dry winter weather.
  • Clothes dryer fires account for about 15,600 structure fires, 15 deaths, and 400 injuries annually. The yearly national fire loss for clothes dryer fires in structure is estimated at $99 million.

(Source: Project Laundry List)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Imperialism - history revisited

This may sound very unpatriotic. As students, we learned that the British exploited the wealth of Malaysia when they ruled this country. That Malays were impoverished because they were neglected by the colonial governments. That racial polarity in this country was a result of their Divide and Conquer strategy. After independence, the government renamed many streets as if to erase our “painful memory”. Now I am suggesting that British rule of Malaysia is not all bad. This is absolutely absurd. Or is it?

Chris Pattern, the last governor of Hong Kong, said that even though the Britons wrestled the colony from China by force, they nonetheless put in effort to govern and develop it. He was certainly right to some extent. Hong Kong prospered under British rule. Ironically, the Pearl of the Orient lost its luster after it was reverted to China in 1997. I believe many Hong Kongers prefer British governors to the Beijing-approved Tung Chee Hwa.

Many years ago, when I read Jules Verne’s classic, Around the World in 80 Days, I learned of an ancient tradition in India whereby a widow would jump onto her husband’s cremation pyre. The British colonial government banned this practice. Unfortunately, it has made a comeback in recent decades.

It has been more than half a century since the independence of Malaysia. Perhaps we can be more open-minded now. This is not to glorify imperialism, but to be truthful to our history and to be fair to the British. There is no denying that the British rule had many shortcomings, but they have been discussed in great length in our textbooks. Now I would just highlight a few areas where I think Malaysia has gained from its colonial past.


If we had not been ruled by the Europeans, the country we call Malaysia probably would not exist. Prior to the arrivals of Britons, the Malay kingdoms on the Peninsula were not united. Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu were vassal states of Siam. On the Borneo Island, Sarawak was part of Brunei, while Sabah was under the influence of the Sulu Sultanate. A united Malaya in 1957, and later Malaysia in 1963, is a product of British Empire.


We are told again and again that British exploited the wealth of this country. Let’s face it: they boost efficiency of tin mining by introducing dredge to this country. They also brought rubber trees from Brazil, some of the earliest were planted in my hometown of Kuala Kangsar, Perak.


The colonial government built schools for locals. One of the most famous, also located in my hometown, was the Malay College. It is worth noting that Chinese had to raise fund to build their schools.


Without imperialism I probably would not be writing this post. The British were responsible for bringing Chinese and Indians to this country.


British introduced Common Law to Malaysia, and instilled the concept of rule of law. Prior to this, Malays lived by following Adat (customs) and Islamic law. One may argue that Malaysia’s judiciary system was established by the colonial rulers.


Before they left, the British replaced the absolute monarchies with constitutional ones. Today Malaysia is a democratic nation – though with many flaws.


English was the official language before independence. Today it remains widely spoken. Our proficiency in the lingua franca of the world gives us tremendous advantage in the 21st century.


In short, we did gain from British rule. Of course this doesn’t mean Britain should continue to rule this country after 1957. Just like a grown up person who leaves the parents to start his/her own family, Malaysia should eventually become independent – and we did.

By understanding our history better, we can leave our unnecessary hatred against Westerners behind. More importantly, we have always blamed our problems on the European colonizers. We should now start to look within – 50 years after independence.

Malaysia's oldest rubber tree - in Kuala Kangsar

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Election - Malaysia, Taiwan, China

选举 - 大马,台湾,中国




Many Chinese Malaysians were happy with the results of general election held recently in the country. They felt that they had managed to “punish” the government with their votes.

Chinese Malaysians also breathed a sigh of relief over the outcome of Taiwan presidential election, in which Ma Ying-jeou defeated the pro-independence candidate Frank Hsieh. Chinese Malaysians generally hope that the island will eventually be united with China.

But they have forgotten that China is a nation without democracy…

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Air Asia X’s passengers stranded

Air Asia, the budget airline of Malaysia, has been notorious for flight delay. But now, its sister company, Air Asia X, rescheduled its flight to an earlier time. Here is the news from The Star (Saturday, March 22, 2008)…


More than 20 passengers were left stranded at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), claiming that the boarding gate for their flight to Brisbane was closed earlier than scheduled.

They claimed that the boarding time for Air Asia X Flight D7-2702 to Gold Coast, Australia, closed at 8.30pm, and the flight took off 10 minutes earlier at 9.40pm.

It is learned that most of the stranded passengers were Australians.

The passengers claimed that airline did not inform them about the re-schedule timing in advance.

One of the stranded passengers, Mark Jason Thomas, 28, who is a local, said no one was allowed to get past the boarding gate after 8.30pm.

He said when they checked with airport personnel, they were told that the flight was re-scheduled earlier by 10 minutes.

Another passenger, Mohd Nasir Mohamad Ashraf, said an Air Asia X official suggested that the passengers wait for the next flight to the Gold Coast on Sunday morning.

He said the airline refused to compensate or arrange any accommodation for the stranded tourists.

Thomas said the passengers had all reconfirmed their tickets earlier.

One of the passengers lodged a report on the incident at the LCCT police station.


Was it right for Air Asia X to re-schedule its flight without informing the passengers in advance? Was it the passengers’ fault for not checking with the airline? What do you think?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Green Consumerism II

In my earlier post, I mentioned how greenhouses cause air pollution. Another blogger, Pandabonium, suggested a few ways to preserve the environment, namely:

Buy local. In season. Organic.

Let’s take a closer look…

Buy local

This is Malaysia, a tropical country. Thou shalt not eat apples, oranges, pears, kiwi fruits etc. as they are not grown locally .

OK, perhaps I can travel to New Zealand if I wish to eat kiwi fruits. But I shall not fly, as air plane pollutes the air. Instead, I must sail with a wave-powered boat.

wave-powered boat

In season

We buy ‘in season’ so that we don’t need to rely on greenhouses. Many years ago my aunt, who lived in the Netherlands, told me that she ate lots of meat in winter when veggies were too expensive. By the time warm days returned, she was completely sick of meat.

Vegetables are out of season in winter, but I can’t imagine not eating them for two or three months. And don’t tell vegetarians to change their lifestyle.

Please help me! I want to save our planet, but are there simpler ways to accomplish this?

P/S To learn more about the wave-powered boat, read Pandabonium's post.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008








Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

How is effectiveness different from efficiency?

In MBA, we often say:

To be efficient is to do the thing right.

To be effective is to do the right thing.

Confused? Here is a real example…

Dell outsourced its call centers from North America to India, where wages were low. In doing so, it successfully cut operating costs. Unfortunately, not all American customers of the PC manufacturer were happy. They complained that the Indians spoke an accent that was hard to comprehend, or that they did not understand the customers who were half-way around the globe so well.

Dell’s decision to outsource the call centers was an efficient one, but it may NOT be very effective.

Indian call center

Friday, March 14, 2008

Green Consumerism

Are you a green consumer? Do you bring your own bag or basket when you shop for groceries? Do you shop at stores that use bio-degradable plastic bags?

Environmentalists encourage us to buy produce grown locally. The logic is that imported produce has to be air-freighted, and cargo planes are air polluters.

Now, suppose that you live in UK. You want to buy roses, and you have two options. You can buy roses that are grown in Netherlands, and imported in boats or trains. Alternatively, you can buy roses that are flown in from Kenya. What is your choice?

Apparently, from the perspective of environmentalism, you should buy Dutch roses. But if we boycott Kenya, we may put flower farmers in the African nation out of jobs. Remember that Kenya is a 3rd world country.

So, tell us your choice…

Dutch rose...

... or Kenyan rose?

OK, here is the reality. According to a study at Cranfield University, the carbon footprint of the Dutch roses turns out to be six times as large because they have to be grown in heated greenhouses.

Green consumerism isn’t always as green as we think…

The Economist, January 19-25, 2008 issue

Related posts:
Sins of Recycling
Sins of Recycling II

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Langkawi in 2009

The hard-line Islamist party of Malaysia, PAS, scored big victories in the general election held recently. It has taken the state of Kedah, and its state commissioner has been sworn in as the new Chief Minister. (Read the news here.)

What does this mean to business?

The Langkawi Island, off the coast of Kedah, is a popular tourist destination with white sandy beaches and crystal clear sea water...

Now, the ultra-conservative state government controlled by PAS may pass new law to ban beachwear in Langkawi. What you will see, instead, is the burkini

Saturday, March 08, 2008


相信很多华人都喜欢看香港电视剧,尤其是无线 (TVB) 的。但说也奇怪,我最喜欢的香港电视剧中,有两部是丽的电视(亚视前身)的,那就是《大地恩情》和它的续集《金山梦》。


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tune Hotels vs. Backpackers’ Guesthouses

AirAsia is one of the most successful airlines in Asia. This budget airline has transformed the aviation industry in Southeast Asia. No content with his success, AirAsia’s founder Tony Fernandes is venturing into hospitality industry with his Tune Hotels.

Like AirAsia, the Tune Hotels group is run on the “no frills” concept. From what I heard, Tony Fernandez plans to set up Tune Hotels in every city served by AirAsia. This will put them in direct competition with budget guesthouses long favored by backpackers to Southeast Asia. How will they fare? Since I personally am a backpacker and MBA student, I am interested in analyzing the two options we have.



Tune Hotels’ webpage says that the room rate starts “from RM9.99”. That’s cheaper than what backpackers’ guesthouses could offer. So, price-wise, Tune Hotels win, provided that you book your room well in advance. (I am assuming that Tune Hotels have the same pricing policies as AirAsia.)


Well, I said “book well in advance.” If you don't, you may have to pay several times more than the amount advertised. One thing Tony Fernandes hasn’t learned is: backpackers’ don’t like fixed itinerary. We change our plans frequently. That will make booking in advance difficult.


When I visited Bali in 2005, I stayed in guesthouses that were transformed from traditional Balinese houses, and equipped with aesthetic traditional furniture and gardens.

Tune Hotels are likely to have similar, nondescript design everywhere they are built. The staffs are likely to wear the same set of red uniform. Also, since Tune Hotels emphasize (over-emphasize) efficiency and cost-cutting, their employees would have to abide by lots of "standard operating procedures", making them more robot-like.


Guesthouses are usually small. They can be found in metropolis like Bangkok, medium size cities like Chiang Mai, small cities like Chiang Rai and even villages like Mae Salong. Tune Hotels are big, so you are less likely to see one in Chiang Rai. Mae Salong? No way!


AirAsia is big in Malaysia. Tony Fernandes is one of the most famous Malaysian entrepreneurs. Apparently, the Tune Hotels group can leverage the brand power of its sister company. Malaysians who fly with AirAsia have a very good chance of checking in Tune Hotels too.

But wait a minute. Majority of backpackers are Westerners, with a significant number from Japan. The AirAsia/Tune Hotels brand may have little impact on them.


So, how will Tune Hotels fare? I believe they will do well in Malaysia, but more work is needed in Bali, Thailand or Vietnam. For now, I will still choose guesthouses over Tune Hotels.

Employees of Tune Hotels are unlikely to be as friendly as this pretty lady of Shinsane Guesthouse in Mae Salong.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Cameron Highlands vs. Mae Salong

During the Chinese New Year of 2008, I traveled to Cameron Highlands. It reminded me of Mae Salong where I visited in January 2007.

Cameron Highlands of Malaysia and Mae Salong in Northern Thailand share many similarities: both are hill resorts; both are famous for tea production; Cameron Highlands is known for its flowers while Mae Salong is dotted with sakura in late December or January. But there is one aspect they differ significantly: Cameron Highlands is big; Mae Salong remains small, for now.

Cherry blossom in Mae Salong

Cameron Highlands actually consists of several towns. They are, from north to south, Kampung Raja, Kuala Terla, Tringkap, Brinchang, Tanah Rata and Ringlet. Tanah Rata and Ringlet used to be the more developed towns. However, since the opening of a new access road in early 2000s, the other towns to the north are fast catching up. During my trip, I saw lots of constructions going on.

I believe Cameron Highlands is over-developed. Clearing up of forests for development has already caused the mercury to rise. Not to mention the dreaded gridlock during peak tourist season.

Mae Salong, on the other hand, still maintains a small town charm. Now I hope it will not make the same mistake as Cameron Highlands did.

Related posts:

Mae Salong

Wat Santikiri, Mae Salong

Cherry Blossom, Mae Salong

Shinsane Guesthouse, Mae Salong

Hilltribes of Northern Thailand