Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My New PC

In the era of iPhone and iPad, writing about PC seems to be anti-climax. PCs are not sexy; they are commodities; they don’t capture our imagination… Nonetheless, most of us still need a PC. So, bear with me…

I bought a new Dell laptop recently. This is my third laptop. My first one set me back some RM7,000; the second one cost about RM3,700. The new Dell notebook costs slightly less than RM2,200, inclusive of genuine Microsoft Office.

As you are probably aware, PCs have become cheaper over the years. At the same time, we also have more ‘objects of desire’. We want iPhone, iPad, digital camera, 42” 3D LED TV, hi-fi set… I see people – the same groups of people – discussing these gadgets all the time, and can’t help but wonder, “Are Malaysians so rich!??”

Back to my new Dell… I initially set aside RM3,000 for a new PC. I could have bought a better laptop, but ultimately decided against it. The reason: our world will come to an end in 2012!

Just kidding lah… The reason is that USB 3.0 will become main stream in 2012. I didn’t want to buy a more expensive PC, which would become obsolete in 18 months anyway. I can now spend the money saved on other gadgets.


The new Dell has a chrome back cover, which looks great. Unfortunately, any stains are easily discernable. This computer even has a multi-touch touchpad. My main gripe is Windows 7, which isn’t as easy to use as XP.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Java Trip (XII)

Eating in Java

If you want to save money, the rule of thumb is: avoid tourist-oriented restaurants. Of course, if you are in tour group, you may have no choice. During my Kawah Ijen tour, we had lunch in a restaurant in Pantai Pasir Puteh. Nasi goreng (fried rice) and watermelon juice cost me 40,000 Rp. Compare this to the other meals I had in Java…

Note: Despite the pictures posted in here, I don’t consider myself a meat-lover.

My dinner in Probolinggo (Oct 27) consisted of ayam penyet (chicken), steamed rice and fruit juice. Total price: 20,000 Rp. The ayam penyet tasted better than the franchised variant in Malaysia…

I had mie pangsit (noodle) and bakso on my first day in Malang. I couldn’t believe how cheap they were – each of them cost Rp3,500. I suspect ‘bak’ was derived from Hokkien (Southern Fujianese) and means ‘meat’…

On my second day in Malang, I had my lunch in Ikan Bakar 52. Despite its name, this resto served more than just grilled fish. I ordered ayam taliwang (chicken), tofu and steamed rice. They came to a total of 27,600 Rp…

Before my return flight to Malaysia, I had my dinner in Surabaya Airport. I ordered rawon, a type of meat soup. I don’t remember its unit price, but together with steamed rice and drink, they came to a total of 46,000 Rp…

Street food vendor in Probolinggo…

Mobile bakso stall in Malang…

Bakso must be the national street food of Indonesia. Even President Obama publicly said that the Indonesian food was tasty…

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It’s Festive Season again

Santa Girl wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Bonus pic – four-eyed beauty…

More picture on my Flickr.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010






Saturday, December 18, 2010

Java Trip (XI)

Chinese Indonesians

Chinese Indonesians have been systematically discriminated since the eras of Sukarno and Suharto. During the 1998 riots, many Chinese Indonesians were killed, and women raped. Situation may have slightly improved in the last few years: learning of Chinese language is now allowed; Chinese New Year has been made a public holiday; former President Abdurrahman Wahid even publicly admitted his Chinese root.

The desire to know more about Chinese Indonesians was what prompted me to visit the ‘Chinatown’ of Surabaya. To my disappointment, few of them still lived there…

A few days later, when I was in Malang, I learned from my Lonely Planet that there was a Chinese temple. I made the effort to visit it.

In Eng An Kiong Temple (永安宮), I finally came face-to-face with Chinese Indonesians. Unfortunately, I was too shy to communicate with them. (They probably thought I was one of them.) The temple was more than just a place of worship – I saw teenagers practicing table tennis in the compound.

Actually, majority of Chinese Indonesians were Christians, but I didn’t know which churches they go to. (In any case, churchgoers were more likely to tell me the story of Yesus rather than their own stories.)

So, my objective of learning more about Chinese Indonesians was not met. Anyway, I wish them a better future. I pray for them…

A Chinese restaurant:

Eng An Kiong Temple:

Teenagers playing table tennis inside the temple:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

KL International Motor Show 2010

Kuala Lumpur International Motor Show 2010 (KLIMS ’10) was held from Dec 3 to Dec 12. For those who had not been able to visit the fair, here are some pictures for sharing…

One of the star attractions of in KLIMS was Chevrolet Camaro. This is the car which appears in the movie Transformers as Bumblebee:

Many car makers showcased ‘green vehicles’ in the show. One was them was Insight, Honda’s entry level hybrid vehicle:

Mitsubishi, on the other hand, presented the kawaii (cute) iMiev:

Even Proton, Malaysia’s car maker, displayed a few green vehicles. Shown below are an electric vehicle and a charging station:

Perodua, another Malaysian car maker, displayed a concept car code-named Bezza. I was more interested in the beautiful model though...

Some gorgeous booth babes in the show:

One of the most intriguing thing on display was Honda’s unicycle – code-named U3-X. It could move on smooth surface without tumbling:

A hot girl demonstrating the use of U3-X. Do you think the photographers at the background were more interested in the gadget or the girl?

Many photographers who visited KLIMS were disappointed, as they were expecting to see sport cars. Instead, they were presented with green vehicles. I wonder if I were the only Malaysian excited by clean tech. It looks like the Earth Hour observed in this country every year has failed to instill environmentalism among Malaysians.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Java Trip (X)

Malang’s Architecture

Architecture photography has never been my cup of tea. In my trip to Malang, however, I decided to shoot pictures of buildings. I did so specially for one person – Kyh – our budding architect.

Balai Kota – City Hall:

A church:

Jesus is Yesus in Indonesian:

Another church:

A mosque:

Not sure what this building is:

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Question Marks over a Deadly Accident

Three teenagers aged 17-18, were killed in a road accident in Malaysia on Dec 7, 2010. The tragedy took place on a highway at around 3.30am in the morning.

According to witnesses, the driver, who died on the spot, was trying to make an illegal U-turn in the middle of the highway when their car was struck by another vehicle.

A few things crossed my mind when I read the news:

First, why was the driver making a U-turn on a highway? Didn’t he know it was illegal?

Second, the accident took place at 3.30 in the morning. Why were the three teenagers not at home by then?

Third, the driver was only 17 years old; he only got his driving license one month ago. (Other sources say a few months.) Was he too young to drive without adult supervision? His father defended him, saying that the teenager ‘had never had any accident record’.

According to another source, the young driver once threatened to not sit for exam, when the school wanted him to trim his hair. I suspect he was of rebellious type. If he had been driving recklessly, who was to be blamed?

Read the full story here:

Taking illegal U-turn on highway a costly mistake for three friends

17-years old called home to say they would be late

Monday, December 06, 2010

Java Trip (IX)

Malang – the city of Bad Luck

I was bemused by the name of this city in East Java, as malang means ‘bad luck’ in Indonesian.

My initial plan for the Java trip was to return to Surabaya in the fifth day. However, after spending my first day in Surabaya, I changed my mind and decided to go to Malang instead. It turned out that Malang was a nice place to spend a day or two.

No, Malang couldn’t compare to Bromo or Ijen. But if you are running out of Rupiah, you can withdraw money from ATM using your credit card.

If you want to buy souvenirs for your family or friends, Sarinah Department Store near alun alun is a good place to stock up.

If you are fed up with tourist-oriented restaurants which serve lousy food at bloated price, there are some fine eateries in Malang. My pick: Ikan Bakar 52 near Carrefour. (It serves more than just grilled fish.)

Splendid Inn

As a budget traveler, I always tried to be kiamsiap (stingy). Throughout the Java trip, I had been staying in budget hotels. On the final night, I decided to let loose and pamper myself with a better room. Nonetheless, for the sake of Mother Earth, I said ‘no’ to air conditioning. My choice in Malang: Splendid Inn. A fan-cooled room cost 190,000 Rp.


Good room at affordable price; decent breakfast served from 6.00am; strategic location


Rooms need maintenance

Friday, December 03, 2010

Indonesia – the Next Economic Powerhouse?

Nine out of ten Malaysians who read the title of this post would think I am crazy. Indonesia is a poor country plagued by natural disaster, terrorism and racial conflicts. Its men work in Malaysia as construction site workers, and its women as domestic helpers. How can Indonesia ever be an economic powerhouse!??

Well, if you don’t trust me, you should at least take a hint from Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, founder of AirAsia and an idol among many Malaysians. Fernandes told Bloomberg TV in an interview that the airlines’ Indonesia business may surpass its Malaysian unit “in the not-so-distant future”.

His remarks hardly surprised me. Indonesia has a population of 238 million, making it the 4th most populous country in the world. Its GDP is $670 billion. (Malaysia’s is $213 billion.) IMF estimates that Indonesia’s GDP will grow at 6% in 2010 and 2011, a very commendable figure. Indonesia is a large, untapped market, which was why Fernandes was optimistic of it.

Indonesia is also a member of Group of 20 (G20), while Malaysia is not. Some observers have added the island nation into the rank of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China). These five emerging economies are collectively known as BRIIC. A 2008-issue of Newsweek described Indonesia as ‘the new India’. More recently, a Taiwanese magazine (天下雜誌) pointed out that Indonesia, together with Vietnam, are the two bright spots in Asian economy.

So, don’t look down on your Indonesian maid. Ten years from now, we may need to kowtow to Jakarta, much like we kowtow to Beijing now.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Java Trip (VIII)

Kawah Ijen

With the Bromo Sunrise Tour coming to an end at 8.30am, I set sight on my next stop – Kawah Ijen, or Ijen Crater.

The tour operator picked me up at Yoschi Hotel at 10am. There were three other participants – two Belgians and an Australian. Kawah Ijen was pretty far away, and the access road was VERY BAD. We spent that night at a coffee plantation in Sempol.

The following day we woke up at 3.30am, had breakfast at 4am, and check-out from the hotel at 4.30am. At around 5 in the morning we reached the Ijen National Park. From the entrance, we had to walk 3km up the hill.

Before I left for Java, someone had already warned me that the 3km hike to the rim of the crater would be very tough. I did everything I could to reduce the weight of my bag: The 908-page Lonely Planet and one of my two lenses were left in the car; I had eight AA size batteries. The Australian lady happened to need AA batteries, so I happily loaned four to her.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake for not bringing a raincoat or umbrella. It started to rain as we were ready to set out, and I had to look for shelter. The Austrian lady, who had an umbrella, was way ahead of me. I almost wanted to ask her, “Can we share the umbrella?”

It took me more than an hour before I made it to the rim of the crater. My efforts paid off, as I was presented with a view which marveled me. I took picture with great care. The wind was strong. I was concerned that I would be blown off the ground and tumble into the crater.

Kawah Ijen also produced sulfur. Workers transported loads of sulfur from the crater to the foot of the hill. It was a tough job which paid very little. I was told that the workers got 600 Rp for every kilogram they carried.

By the way, I was proud to be the only visitor who was neither Westerner nor Indonesian on that day…

Sulfur collectors:

The sign reads: All visitors strictly forbidden to go down to the crater… (But the sulfur collectors kept persuading us to descend.)

Two baskets of sulfur:

Friday, November 26, 2010

Loy Krathong in Malaysia

Loy (“to float”) Krathong (“a leaf cup”) – the most charming festival in Thailand – honors both Buddhist traditions and the ancient water spirit of Mae Kong Ka, the Mother Waters of the Ganges River. Loy Krathong perhaps dates back to Hindu India, but the present form was developed by the Thais at Sukhothai to honor the rains which had watered the earth and to wash away the sins of the previous year.

Loy Krathong begins with a full-day parade of beauty queens, floral floats, and hundreds of participants dressed in historical costumes. As the sun falls, pilgrims launch thousands of tiny banana-leaf boats, each carrying a single candle, onto the rivers and lakes throughout the kingdom – a wonderful, delicate illusion enhanced by the light of the full moon.

(Carl Parkes, Thailand Handbook)

I didn’t go to Thailand, but a Thai temple in Malaysia, Wat Chetawan, celebrated this festival on Nov 20, 2010. Out of curiosity, I went there for a look. As I had sent my DSLR to Canon for service, all my pictures were taken with Panasonic Lumix…