Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Preparing the house

And guess who gets to do the hard work? I was just the assistant. I don't think mum trusted me enough with her plants.

Mum repotting the money tree I bought two years ago; we also have a new addition to the family - this bonsai looking thing - mum just told me it's a Jade tree/money plant - crassula argentea

The banner on top of the door says Kam Nguk Mun Tong which sort of means that the house will be in abundance of good things; and the word on the door says Fuk which means luck; interior of our apartment; my piano that sits staring at my face everyday

See the fire crackers hanging from the speakers?

Mum's friend gave her a bunch of these flowers - really really pretty. Some kind of a lily.

Granny's Christmas turned New Year tree; Uncle's patio and pussy willow tree (associated with growth and prosperity)

Welcoming the Lunar New Year

With 4 more days left to the first day of the Lunar New Year, everyone is busy preparing their homes for the 15-day Spring Festival celebration. Malls are crowded with all sorts of New Year products - plants, decorations, cookies, specialty food, etc... Asians are typically very family and tradition oriented and very generous, so a lot of people are willing to spend during the festive seasons - even the younger generations can't help but indulge themselves in the New Year preparation frenzy.

One can easily spend a few thousand dollars during this festive season decorating the home, buying kam (oranges/tangerines) and New Year cookies and treats for visitors, giving ang pow (best tradition EVER! ... for children and single adults, that is!), indulging in over the top 8-course dinners, exchanging gifts (typically people will bring kam - a must as it means gold and thus means good fortunes; peanuts, and other food stuffs), etc. But one can also celebrate it the simple way like my family does. Note: no matter how simple, you can never escape the abundance of outgoing cash for ang pows during this 15-day period. This is when I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever for being single. Only married people can give ang pow. Traditionally it is given to children, single adults and the elders, but now it's also given to show one's appreciation to employees and to people who are less fortunate.

This is the first in the past nine years that I'm home early enough to help prepare for Chinese New Year. Mum and I went to Petaling Street, aka Chinatown a week ago to get some decorations just for kicks. We have never really celebrated CNY in a huge way - probably did more when I was a kid, but that's the way it is. When you have children at home, you tend to go all the way out during festive seasons. I remember one year my dad hired a lion dance group to come 'bless' our house. I was so terrified, I cried the whole time. What an idiot. Even have a picture to prove it which I will not post online today. (Jeff L. and Matt Q. - I think you should consider this outfit for Halloween this year. Seriously. I'm sure Lee can come up with some smart mechanical device that could make the lion's head move on its own)

Anyway, in a nutshell, all we did was get some CNY decorations (including red banners with auspicious phrases), New Year plants (like the money tree) and lots of cookies and treats.
We never have to spend days cleaning the house (which is what most people do before the New Year) because - if you think I'm a neat freak, you haven't met my mum. This place is almost always spotless. I cannot understand how I survived growing up under her roof.

So, 4 more days to go and we're almost ready for the New Year! We won't be here for the first 4 days, and are actually not having a family reunion dinner on New Year's eve as we will be in Hong Kong. Sister is busy working in Melbourne so we're missing one in the family this year!

Here are some pictures taken at one of the many shops in Petaling Street that was packed with people buying CNY stuff.

Store front; the two huge dolls on the table are Choy San, aka Prosperity God; huge lanterns and extra large fire crackers with auspicious phrases - we have a pair at home too

More lanterns; banners with auspicious phrases; crackers

Mum buying some banners; These are red packets (ang pows) - I thought it was funny that they even have Doraemon and french fries red packet designs now

Mid Valley mall - there are always tons of booths set up during festive seasons that offer a variety of specialty goods - here we found a jade booth, chinese wood block carving booth, etc...; Lanterns! We bought two!; view from the escalator; This little stall is called Tart Wonderland - we got all sorts of goodies

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Who's the fool?

Following the unfortunate death of the late Dr. Liew Boon Horng (one of the youngest corporate figures in our country) a few weeks ago due to construction safety negligence, our local authorities have been bombarded with letters of complaints, concerns and anger by the public. In this case it is obvious that the developers and government bodies should be held responsible for safety negligence.

Three days after this incident, I could not believe my eyes when I saw the pictured parking lot open for use. This is the construction site of an on going project right next to Mid Valley. There was actually a line of cars turning into the building, or half a building so to speak (by the way, you also have to pay to park here). I have yet seen any complaints of this in the papers - perhaps it's because no tragedy has happened yet, plus this place is a bonus to those who cannot seem to wait another ten minutes to get a spot in real parking lot. So what if someone gets hurt this time? While it is the fault of the developers for opening grounds for danger, is your life not your own responsibility as well?

Chili please!


That sums up my 10-day absence from the internet world. After 4 days of intense food poisoning, I am six pounds lighter and have an appetite again. Well, I better since Chinese New Year is only a week away. How else am I supposed to indulge myself in all the sumptuous food! After two days of not being able to consume any food and a few days of really really bland food, what bliss it is to be able to have nasi lemak, sambal belacan and dried chilis again.

ps: The colour of vomit in the picture is not exaggerated. Trust me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bir, biiru, pi jiu, bia, mek-ju, BEER!

That's beer in Malay, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korean and Hindi (yes, and English as well.)

Public holiday today in accordance with awal muharram celebrated by the Muslims. Went to the nearby mall, which by the way, is not called Mid Valley Megamall for nothing - mega stores, mega sales, mega cinemas, mega crowds and mega traffic congestions. But I live only 5 minutes away from it, so it is still the most convenient place to go.

Anyhow, the point is I was walking by the liquor store and saw the Hennessy Cognac promotion. That made me think of Sara, and she made me think of the FTC group. And when you think of FTC people, you think of good times and...beer. So there. Enjoy, my friends. (Malaysians love beer too, and in most cases they don't pass out after one bottle)

TIGER BEER. The label says RM31.00 for a six pack, approx. US 8.50

JOLLY SHANDY, a product of Carlsberg that got my sister drunk after consuming 2 cans at the age of 6.

For the Hennessys. Heineken and Anchor on the shelves.

All time favourites: Guiness and Carlsberg.

Anglia Shandy. RM 1.80 per can, approx. US0.48. That is crazy cheap. Can't find a website for it but I know it's manufactured under Guiness Anchor Ltd.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sign language

The Malaysian government should stop wasting tax payers' money on parking signs. It seems that people not only fail to understand the universal sign for "No Parking" but are incapable of reading the words printed below it as well. And I guess when you cannot read the words, you put a sticker on them. (sign reads: No parking at all times. RM 300 fine)

This is a daily affair. It is THE most irritating thing about living here. A four lane street turns into one lane because drivers double park AND triple park wherever they like - including places like bus stands, taxi stands, street corners, etc... When you use the honk, you get a death stare. I was driving past a busy street in Bangsar the other day and counted 17 cars that had parked illegally along that one street. I used to be really annoyed with the many parking signs in Santa Monica. You cannot park your car anywhere before reading three signs in front of the spot. However, I have to admit that I would rather comply to that than having to sit in unecessary traffic everyday and having to squeeze between cars every now and then to get thru a street.

There is probably a Freedom of Parking law that I am not aware of in this country. What are the authorities doing? You tell me. Imagine the amount of money the government could be collecting for necessary funding from parking tickets each year. Perhaps it's just easier to increase taxes.

Pasar Malam - Malaysian night market

Pasar malam, malay for night market, is a pretty fun place to go if
you like crowds, cheap bargains and food. There is a pasar malam
going on in town every night of the week depending on where you
live. I live closest to Bangsar so on Saturdays (now held on
Sundays) my sister and I will leave the house at 5 (to avoid the
crowd, although at 5:30, it starts to get a little claustrophobic) and
spend an hour or two roaming the pasar malam there. There are
streets of vendors selling everything from fresh seafood to
clothing to electronic gadgets. You will see people with carts filled
up to the brim with fruits, cakes, clothing and all sorts of knick
knacks along the streets. Also a great place to bump into your
friends who live around the same area. Everyone goes to the
pasar malam! This is an event not to be missed for travelers.

Was there last night with my parents and thought it might be
interesting to show you guys what it's like.

Always a crowd; tables of snacks, biscuits & sweets,
accessories & sunglasses

Fresh flowers. Need an iron? You even get a demontsration.

Nangka (jackfruit) ...yum!; removing nangka

Fresh fruits. Dragon fruit - perhaps the young Brian Pargac can
enlighten us with the story of its origin?

Squid, cuttlefish, etc...; Ikan bilis (anchovies) and fresh seafood

SATAY - this is the real thing. Priced between 40-50sen
per stick, depending on the kind of meat you want, it also
comes with cucumbers, onions, ketupat and peanut gravy

Fatman Steamboat. Steamboat...one of my
favourite meals of all time. Having it at home is
much more fun.

This lady actually smiled for the picture.
She's selling Otak-Otak. Otak in Malay means brains;
Otak-Otak however is fish cake (or BBQ fish according
to the sign)

Veggie dumpling; this man is making some kind of
Chinese bread-like dessert; and the last pic is of a girl
selling a kind of Chinese dumpling called Zhong