Monday, May 26, 2008

Journeys of Happiness

It has been quite some time, perhaps more than a year, that I thought I shallshare my views on the many issues facing us - global, regional, national andlocal- covering economic, social, politic, environment, education etc. on the blog.However, I was concerned that I might not be able to post the messages on aregular basis. I am glad that today, inspired by the article in the Star on bloggingI have decided to plunge into it.I have given the title of the blog 'Journeys of Happiness' as I have found thatone's life is made up of little journeys - working inthe offices, time with the family,regular exercises, walking in the parks, tilling in the garden, meeting friendsand discussing current issues, making new acquaintances, having healthy meals,listening to the music, watching good programmes on the TV, dancing, reading,having adequate rest, travelling etc. - done in the right spirit and proper way, willbring joy and happiness. After all, achieving happiness is what I live for.As early as the Greek Renaissance, Aristotle pointed out that men live to behappy. The Chinese philosopher, Lin Yutang, in his book 'The Importance of Living'described with humour how to achieve happiness through many artistic waysof doing things - the art of sitting down, the art of smoking, the art of sleeping etc.A more recent writer, Edward de Bono, known for his lateral thinking concepts,in his book 'The Happiness Purpose' indicated that the overriding pupose of livingis happiness. In this book, he provided his recipes for reaching there.It is through this blog that I hope we can share our journeys towards attaining happiness.with humour the many little The lateral thinker, Edward de Bono,

Keeping Fit and Healthy

Keeping fit and healthy is a critical formula in being happy. A simple headache or backache will not make one fully oneself to perform the daily challenging chores that one has to perform as an employee, a husband, a father, a driver, chairman at meetings and the many roles that we have to perform. Recognising the importance of being healthy and fit, I have, over the years got involved in one exercise or another and tried to follow a reasonable diet.In the secondary school, my exercises were mainly playing such games as football, table-tennis and hockey. In the colleges, besides the three games I played rugby and tennis. At the initial phase of my working career I rotated squash and jogging and much later picked up golf. However, squash fizzled out as partners interested in the game are few and getting someone with the same standard is not easy to get. So squash was out of the regular exercise regime. I regard golf as a social game but have no strong interest in it as I find the game needs partners to play, it is time consuming as playing an 18-hole game, would need at least four-and-half to five hours and on top of it, getting exposed to too much of the sun. It is also expensive.Jogging remains the key exercise that I continued to do at this ripe age. I find jogging a very convenient way of working one's muscle. No partner and elaborate and expensive equipments are needed. One needs a T-shirt, running shorts, a good pair of shoes and then proceed jogging on the playing fields, town parks, roads in housing schemes, recreational forests, beaches etc. I started swimming early. Being an island boy, frolicking in the water was a natural thing and the swimming was with the head jutting above water and the strokes was clumsy. It was not until the mid-forties that I learnt the proper way of swimming with head under water and only putting it up when air is needed and gracefully put the strokes and the body glides through the water. I subsequently became a strong swimmer and swam long distances whenever I am in a pool.Some time in 1996 I came with a crazy idea to participate in a triathlon when my age was approaching sixty. I had to pick up cycling to fulfil the tri-games requirement. My strategy in participating in a triathlon was to ensure that I continue doing my exercises in a regular manner and it was a challenge. I participated at the Sabah International Triathlon in 1997 and completed the Race made up of swimming 1.5 km, cycling 40 km and running 10 km in just about four hours. Since then my weekly exercise regime is made up of running around six km(on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday), swimming for 30 laps in an Olympic sized pool of 50 m length (Saturday) and cycling for around 24 km on Sunday. Monday and Thursday are my fasting days to clean up my alimentary system where from around about 4.00 am till sunset (7.20pm) I abstain from food and liquids.This exercise schedule has kept me in good healthand happy.


Achieving Happiness
The question as to what I live for cropped up in me at a young age. It was perhaps drivenby my humble beginnings, being born in a Kampung in a remote Island (Langkawi in the 1950s, with poor transportation accessibility was considered remote) and going through difficult financial circumstances during the school days in a big family. I thought I lived to contribute to society. My interest in agriculture was largely motivated by a desire to be equipped with the necessary skills to assist the rural community where poverty was prevalent and daily activities revolved around cultivating the soil, tending the fruit trees, tapping rubber, planting paddy, feeding the few chickens and goats. That was the dream of a fourteen or fifteen year old boy, who then studied very hard to succeed and aimed to pursue his studies at the then College of Agriculture, upon graduation, to get a government job and work in the rural areas to uplift the economic status of the people. A very noble ambition and dream.

It was the scouts that sowed the seed of happiness in me. I joined the scouts at the age of fourteen and was active for more than three years, taking part in various activities like camping, cooking, swimming, trekking etc and rose up in the hierarchy to the level of Bushman Tong. All involvements and actions of a scout are guided by the Scout’s Promise and Laws which provide the fundamental ingredients for fulfilling, meaningful and enjoyable living. A Scout, through the Laws, is taught to be trustworthy, loyal, friendly and considerate, a brother to all despite their race, religion and status, courageous, kind to animals, cheerful, thrifty, clean in thought, word and deed. Happy Living has to start with the basic – decent and honest living, love for your fellow men and nature and helping people. Scouting also implanted in me my love for the outdoors and nature.

Lord Baden Powell, founder of the Scouting Movement shared his own philosophy on happiness. In his book “Rovering to Success’ he wrote ‘we were put into this world of wonders and beauty with a special ability to appreciate them, in some cases to have the fun of taking a hand in developing them, and also being able to help other people instead of overreaching them and through it all to enjoy life – that is TO BE HAPPY’. He went on to identify health as the key to happiness. In a letter to the scouts, before he passed away, he noted:

‘I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness doesn’t came from being rich, nor merely from being successful in your career nor by self-indulgence. One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so can enjoy life when you are a man’

As one gropes to understand and discover the meaning and intricacies of living, the education process that one goes through, particularly reading, provides opportunities of learning from past peers and their experiences in the many faceted aspects of life.

It was during my tertiaty education in the United States with the reading materials that I had at my disposal in terms of diversity of subject matter and numbers available in the university libraries, that I was exposed to, among other things, to the philosophy of life – how to live, the purpose of living and factors contributing to success in life.

In my search for the purpose of life it was Lin Yutang, through his book ‘The Importance of Living’ who provided the ingredients for my odyssey for happiness which, according to the author, is what we live for. To achieve happiness one does not require material wealth or expensive activities but simple daily happenings such as lying in bed, sitting in chairs, conversing with friends, having food, being with loved ones at home, tilling the garden, walking in the park, reading and contemplation bring joy and pleasure. He wrote.

‘A happy person is a warm, carefree, unafraid soul ……………… and his happiness covers the enjoyment of self, of home life, of trees, of flowers, of clouds, winding rivers…….. poetry, art, contemplation, friendship, conversation and reading……. enjoyment of food and outing ……… must structure one’s life to achieve greatest happiness’

Happiness starts with the home – the joy of being with the wife, children and grandchildren, the joy of having other family members – brothers, sisters–in law, nephews and nieces, having friends and neighbors dropping by and having conversations.

In an extended family there are some who may not be strong financially while others may require emotional support. It is satisfying to be able to provide assistance to tide them over through both financial and emotional difficulties.

My studies and career have consumed considerable periods of my time and I have not spent as much times as I should with the children particularly during the period of their growing up. However, I am fortunate to have a very devoted wife who fills in the vacuum, taking the children to school and disciplining them when they were naughty. I attribute much of the emotional stability and success of the children to her complete devotion as a housewife and mother. And now, with the grandchildren, she has equally displayed her devotion to them.

I love being in the garden, tending to the landscape plants – the palms, the bougainvillea, the mango, rambutan and jack fruit trees. The joy of sweating out cultivating the soil, raising beds and sowing seeds of lady finger, long bean, brinjal, chillies and observing them growing till harvest time. Consuming ones own vegetables gives tremendous satisfaction – it is a source of joy and happiness.

My involvement with community work started early as early as in school serving as hostel and library prefects. In college, I served in various committees in the many associations that existed. All these experiences taught me many thing – how to conduct meetings, how to arrive at decisions, how to organise events etc. As I started my career, I managed to find time to serve in various community activities related to the Parent Teachers Association, the Social and Sports Clubs, Alumni Associations, the Malaysian Invention and Design Society and the Environmental and Tourism groups. These involvements again bring satisfaction and the feeling that as a member of society I am contributing a little towards making the community a better place to live in. I feel a deep sense of fulfillment engaging in these activities. My participation with environmental groups and volunteerism are my expressions of love and compassion for the people I am associated with and being a part of them.

Edward de Bono, proponent of Lateral Thinking, identified happiness and enjoyment as the main purpose of living. It is not something that will just happen but it has got to be worked at and achieved. Happiness could be achieved through involvement in doing something useful, exciting and fulfilling such as pursuing one’s profession, hobbies, volunteerism, recreation, sports, raising a family , helping people and one thousand and one other options. In pursuing these activities, both the journey and achieving the goals bring joy and happiness.

I had a satisfying and fulfilling career. Based on the highest tertiary education, the doctorate in agricultural sciences, I was employed in a profession in which I had the skills for. I gave my heart to my work and recognition came through the promotions that I received. In the various positions I held I had the opportunity to be exposed through participation at conferences, seminars, trade delegations and educational tours which not only added expertise to my profession but helped build up the friendships and network with people all over the world and harness wisdom in my daily living. My career in the government sector provided me sufficient income to meet my fundamental needs in living – food, clothing, shelter with some extras for my activities of leisure such as singing in the karaoke lounges, dancing in night clubs, entertaining family members and friends at restaurants and to go on holidays a couple of times in a year. The extracurricular activities spiced up, very much, the pleasures of living.

When I retired from the government service friends approached me to offer opportunities to join hands with them in the corporate world. It was an arrangement that was mutually beneficial as I offered my management capability, networking and goodwill to the company and on the other hand, I was provided with the convenience of transportation, office facilities and income and most importantly the freedom to engage in activities that I am passionate about. I chose to indulge in sustainable development and scouting as my missionary work.

Sustainable development activities have taken me far through experiencing environmental education programmes with school children through School Nature Clubs, meeting the Coordinators of the Clubs made up of school teachers who serve as advisors, judging sustainable schools and a sustainable city as part of evolving the nation towards sustainability - another voluntary journey that brings joy to my life.

The continuous intellectual exercises through reading both the soft copy on the internet and the hard copies of books, further widens the scope of the sources of happiness. These cover such areas as environment, health, politics, economics, spirituality, religion, etc and gives insights into new challenging areas to get involved in which continue to add new experiences to one’s life.

My health consciousness came early in my life. It started with the sports and games programmes in school as a compulsory extracurricular requirement. In college, I have participated actively in sports out of sheer love. I participated in table tennis, rugby, soccer, hockey and sepak takraw. In college, team sports were suitable as the members were there to participate, but as I started my career sporting activities revolved around a smaller number of players and I was into squash and jogging. I had a stint at golf but somehow found the game too time consuming, relatively expensive, exclusive and elitist with too much unnecessary exposure to the hot sun. Since my participation in the triathlon in 1997 until today, my weekly exercise regime is made up of three days of jogging, one day of swimming and one day of cycling with two days of rest which is devoted to fasting i.e. on Monday and Thursday. The exercises and the fasting and my own diet formula has provided me the good health, the stamina and energy and the vitality and enthusiasm for the many activities and programmes that I have my hands on.

Good health is one of the key ingredients to one’s ability to cherish every minute of one’s life. It does not take much for one to have a bad day – a simple headache or a backache will be enough to make one feel bad. So, if good health is such a critical thing in one’s life to be able to enjoy life with the family, the office, contribute to social work, one has to build a philosophy and discipline to undertake exercises in a regular and sustained manner. Many individuals that I know believe in the need for regular exercises, proper diet for good health but have not the philosophy and discipline to sustain the effort.

The spirituality in me was again sparked by the scouting movement. The scout promise and laws taught me to help people at all times, to be considerate, to believe in the brotherhood of men irrespective of religious beliefs and race, to be friendly to nature, clean in thought word and deed. The inner peace that one gets through spiritual acts of goodness, kindness, compassion and caring is fundamental in achieving happiness. The spiritual process evolves over the period of time. As one goes through life experiences and recognizes the negative consequences of material wealth, greed, cruelty, hatred, inconsideration, intolerance and unforgiving, one discards over a period of time one after another these negative elements and builds up virtuous spiritual values.

In the Malaysian context where we live in a society comprised of different ethnic groups professing different religious beliefs and cultural pratices, the spirit of racial tolerance and understanding are important for the social well being of the nation. I have been able to interact, mix and hold discussions with individuals who may be Chinese, Indian, Kadazanduan, Dayak, Iban or Eurasian. I have also not pitted with the followers of the different religion. I believe in the congruency of the teaching of the various religions which basically teach their adherents about the universal values of kindness, compassion, tolerance and love with no hang ups. I feel at ease with the individuals I came in contact with – a beautiful and happy feeling indeed.

I started to write this book in January 2006 though the skeleton of its contents was structured earlier. I was not sure what was going to happen to me over the period of writing it. Will I continue to be happy – the state of condition I was in when I started planning and continue to be in as I progress in writing it ? As I approach the end of writing the last chapter and my age advances to seventy I continue to be exuberant in my odyssey for happiness. I continue to be guided by George Bernard Shaw in my untireless effort in sustainable development, community activities and realization of worthy aspirations, with his inspirational words.

‘This is the true joy in life – that being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. That being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clock of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations’ .

Yes, I want to be thoroughly used up before I die. For the harder I continue to contribute to the company I am serving, the family, the community, the country, for sustainable development, for the scout movement, for other worthy goals, the more I feel I am living a fulfilling life. Good health provides the enthusiasm for all these activities. I enjoy the simple pleasures of singing, dancing, nature walks, conversing and interacting with colleagues, gardening, bird watching, camping, fishing, scuba diving, rafting……. the list is unending as there are so many new things I wish to experience. New experiences and challenges always add joy to life.

Lin Yutang further commented that ‘the highest ideal of Chinese culture has always been a man with a sense of detachment towards life based on a sense of wise disenchantment. From this detachment comes high mindedness, which enables one to go through life with tolerant irony and escape the temptations of fame and wealth and achievement, and eventually makes him take what comes. And from this detachment arises also his sense of freedom, his love for vagabondage and his pride and nonchalance. It is with this sense of freedom and nonchalance that one eventually arrives at the keen and intense joy of living’.

It was added satisfaction when the new experiences and challenges through copious notes are translated into files and publications that are shared with the many groups that I am associated with and participated with in the multi pronged events and activities that I delve in.

In all humility, as my age approaches seventy, I have attained the goal of life that I have set out for - to be extraordinarily happy and in good health with a sharp mind, a life filled with meaning and joy, remaining highly productive, leading an exciting life while learning and enjoying new experiences, living with love, compassion and beauty, building friendship with people all over the world while helping in my small way, to make Malaysia and this planet a better place to live in.


Robert Baden – Powell. Scouting for Boys, Brownsea Singapore 2004.

Robert Baden – Powell. Rovering to Success – a guide for young manhood. Herbert Jenkins Ltd. 1922.

Lin Yutang. The Importance of Living – a Lyrical Philosophy. Heinemann Asia Singapore. 1938.

Edward de Bono. The Happiness Purpose. Penquin Books, London. 1977.

HH Dalai Lama & H.C. Cutler. The Art of Happiness – a Handbook for Living. Coronet Books. 1998.

Bertrand Russell. The Conquest of Happiness. W.W. Norton & Co. New York. 1996.

Karma Ura & Karma Galay. Gross National Happiness and Development. The Centre for Bhutan Studies; Bhutan. 2004.

Friday, May 23, 2008


It was a unique and memorable experience when I participated with 38 other cyclists from eight countries to bike from Seoul to Beijing from October 12 to 19 of 2003 to promote peace through tourism.

The Event, officially designated ‘Peace through Tourism: 2003 Seoul Beijing Bicycle Tour’ was organized by Japan Airlines in collaboration with Korean Bicycle Association, PABLE and travel agents in China, Harijin Travel and Shanyang Overseas International Travel Service, in conjunction with the 15th General Assembly of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) held in Beijing starting from October 20.

This bicycle tour is in its third year – the first being a ride from Seoul to Osaka in 2001 and the second was a ride from Beijing to HuhHot in Inner Mongolia in 2002.

According to Kazuaki Saiga, Vice President (Industry Relations), Japan Airlines Co. Ltd and Chairman of the Organising Committee, the Event was first mooted to promote sustainable tourism, bringing people from the regions of China, Japan and Korea and other cyclists from other countries to visit the many attractive tourism destinations along the cycling routes and experience mixing together in the spirit of tourism, sports and peace.

Saiga himself is a keen cyclist having picked up the sport when he was posted as a General Manager of Japan Airlines in Milan, Italy from 1981 to 1985 where he bought a Campaniolo and Guelchiotti bicycles.

The international participants represented Korea (12 participants), Japan (10), China (7), USA (5), Thailand (2), Canada (1), England (1), Malaysia (1).

The youngest amongst the cyclists was Choo Jae Ho, 16 who is a student from Korea and the oldest at 75 is Masayuki Hatano a retired civil engineer from Sacramento, California. Many were in the 40 to 50 age group.

Masayuki Hatano, known to the participants as Mas, has been riding since he was 63, largely motivated by an intense desire to keep healthy and ‘be active to keep alive’. He rides five days a week covering 70 to 80km on each ride. He is also active with voluntary work with the Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Jae Ho, the baby in the group became interested in cycling through his mother who is a member of PABLE. PABLE is the acronym for ‘Promotion Association of Bicyling for a new Life Environment’.

PABLE as co-sponsor of the event sent in the largest number of participants – 12, and eight of them are middle aged ladies. Established in 1993 to promote environmental protection, the Organisation has a membership of 8000 largely made up of ladies.
‘ Members have organized biking tours to Netherlands, France, United Kingdom, New Zealand’ – quipped Mrs. Yong Hye Choi a business woman with interest in restaurants and property development. She also rode in the bicycle tour.

Many participants are professionals - David Loutzenheiser is a transportation planner from Boston, Andrew Chandler who is 43 years old is in marketing in Sacramento California, Tachibana Mayumi,from Japan, is an art designer. A teacher, an engineer, a few in the corporate sector and some housewives were also among the participants.

I was invited to represent Malaysia by Asian Overland Service Tours & Travel. I was not too sure of my credentials why Anthony Wong, the Managing Director of the company has nominated my name. He is aware that I am active in a nature conservation organization , Malaysian Nature Society, a biking enthusiast and continue to be involved in the corporate sector serving as director on a few boards of companies.

I had some difficulties in getting a visa to China as the Chinese Counsellor office insisted that I could only participated with the Event if I obtained an invitation from the Organisers from China. The letter from Japan Airlines was inadequate for this purpose. I was also concerned that urgent corporate matters might force me not to go.

It was a relief when I finally boarded the Malaysian Airlines plane, MH66, which departed very early on Sunday morning (October 12) for Seoul. We landed at Incheon – Seoul International Airport at 0840 hr, a six and half hour flight. Monitoring the panel in the plane which provides the record of the flight details, Incheon is only one meter above sea level, located on Geongjongdo Island which is connected to the mainland by an expressway. It appeared to have been built on reclaimed land. It was an entirely different scenery from what I experienced during my first visit to Korea in the mid 1990s. Then I landed at Kimpo Airport. I made my first trip to the country when I accompanied a trade mission to market Malaysian cocoa beans to the chocolate manufacturers.

In Seoul, participants from overseas were accommodated at the Olympic Parktel, a hotel located within the Olympic Park. The Park was crowded with young people who were participating at the International Cyber Games. I shared a room with an American and Canadian.

We woke up early on Monday morning (October 13). It was raining and the morning temperature was a chilling 17C. After a simple brief opening ceremony we departed from Olympic Park winding ourselves through the southern part of Seoul city towards Han River. The cyclists were led by the police escort followed by bikers carrying the flags of the host countries – China, Japan and Korea accompanied by 40 cyclists who are members of PABLE. The cyclists from each country carried three small flags – the respective national flag, flag of the WTO and Japan Airlines flag, which were tied to a small aluminium rod fixed to the rear of the bike. It was a colourful scene.

We rode for quite some time along the Han River, ending our ride at Yeouido Park covering a distance of 25km in one and a half hours. The second part of the biking took place at the later part of the day, covering nine km over a hilly terrain to reach Jeongdeungsa Temple. We visited two sites on the first day of the tour – Agibong Observatory and Kangwhayun Museum.

The Observatory at Agibong was built in 1988 and named after a youth, Agi, in a Korean legendary love story. The Observatory is located on the southern side of the Han River overlooking a community in North Korea. A few sites on the Demilitarized zones – Imgingak Park, Dorasan Station, Dora Observatory – are popular tourist destinations to get some glimpses of life in North Korea.

The Kangwhayun Museum houses artifacts and exhibits on the early history of Korea from prehistoric time up to the Goryeo and Joseon periods. It also exhibited pictures of the dolmens, which were tombs chieftains of the tribal society in the Bronze Age.

We stayed for the night in several rooms, allocated to us, built as part of the Jeongdeungsa Buddhist Temple complex. According to the chief monk who welcomed us, the temple is the second oldest in Korea founded during the reign of King Sosurin of Goguryeo period by the priest named Ado.

We were awakened at 06 00 hrs on the second day (Tuesday Oct. 14) of the ride. After a vegetarian menu breakfast, we walked down the steep hill with our bicycles. With a big group, any effort to ride down this hill would be dangerous. We left the town of Kangwhagun for the port city of Incheon. We were riding in the country side with paddy fields on both sides of the road, averaging around 17 km per hour. We covered 54 km arriving at this bustling port at around 13 00 hrs. After checking in our luggage and bicycles, the ferry departed from Huadong/Incheon Ferry Terminal for Dalian. It was a 17 hour journey in the Yellow Sea. We arrived at 0830 hrs Dalian time (an hour later than Incheon). The Ferry ride provided the opportunity for the participants to be interacting and exchanging news over the whole range of topics from health, politics and economics.

Dalian is a sprawling city with a population of 5.7 million. It was first built by the Russian thus its name which, in Russian, means a distant city. The second phase of its development was undertaken by the Manchurians and the third phase by the Chinese. We had a brief tour of the city stopping at the Tiger Beach Park. Dalian’s economy is driven by heavy industries such as ship building but the planners are pushing for tourism taking advantage of its many natural attractions - the sea, the forests, the islands and beaches.

After a heavy lunch at the Restaurant located in the Dalian TV Tower Complex, it was difficult to get started to ride again. From the village of Pico, we cycled in relatively flat region for 47km, passing through many farms with paddy, maize and fruit orchards. Farmers were seen selling their fruits - persimmon, pears, apples and cherries – by the roadside. We were scheduled to bike for a distance of 76 km but as dusk set in, we had to stop. We were accommodated at a Zuanghe Hotel that night..

We started early (0745 hrs) on the fourth day of the tour (Thursday Oct. 16) meandering our way through the early morning traffic of Zuanghe on the coastal road heading for Dandong. Traffic was especially heavy and on this route I observed drivers have little regards for others using the road. We were riding through a farming community, passing horse carts, small villages with people waving at us as we passed by. The main agricultural activities appeared to be rice and maize farming with fruits orchards. The livestock industry is also important. We covered 70km of ride that day. It was the longest distance I have cycled in a single ride – a record of some sort to me. We arrived in Dandong at around 1330 hrs. It was on this stretch of route that the front tyre of my bike punctured but it was repaired in a few minutes by the technical support group. Tyre puncture was the most frequent problem among the cyclists during the tour.

The afternoon tour took us to Yalu River and Tiger Hill, the eastern most point of the Great Wall of China. The Yalu River is the border between China and North Korea. A bridge, bombed by the Americans, remains as a reminder of the Korean War in 1950s. Adjacent to it is another bridge, that spans the river, which serves as one of the communicating land links between China and North Korea. The boat cruise took us close to the shores of North Korea to have a little glimpse of life there.

I was fascinated to visit the eastern most section of the Great wall of China, one of the great wonders of the world . I had the opportunity to see the Beijing section in my earlier visits to China.

We were hosted to dinner by the Deputy Mayor of Dandong, who, in her brief speech, indicated that the Liaoning Provincial Government, plans to develop the golden triangle area made up of the cities of Dalian, Dandong and Shenyang, as a tourism destination. In my view, Liaoning Province has a great potential to attract visitors as it has many attributes that will draw visitors. The Liaoning Tourism Brochures listed many places of interest, among them are historical sites – The Great Wall, landmarks of the earlier imperial dynasties – Qin, Han, Liao, Ming – Shenyang Imperial Palace; the seas – Yellow and Bohai Seas with the many coastal islands; mountains, caves and unique geological formations; special festival organized on an annual basis – Dalian International Fashion Festival, Dalian Acacia Festival. Fushan Mt. Qian International Festival, Fushu Manchu Folk Customs Festival, Jinzhou Folk Culture Tourist Festival. We stayed at Yalu River Hotel.

The ride out of Dandong towards Shenyang was at a blistering pace starting at 0800 hrs being led by a police escort vehicle through the busy streets of the city. Just at the outskirt of Dandong 20km away was a steep hill – that was the challenging stretch of road. The Dandong – Fencheng ride was through hilly and mountainous areas and though only 60km, it was the most energy sapping section in the entire tour.

The afternoon tour took us to Mt. Fenghuan region in Benxi to visit the water cave. The cave is a huge aqueous karst formation, estimated at 700 million years old, older than the oldest cave systems in Malaysia, the geological formation of Langkawi. The river that meanders through is large, deep and wide stretching over the length of 2.8km with the average depth of 1.5m and the deepest point reaches seven metres. It is an awesome river course with three gorges and many sharp turns and twists, thus also called ‘Nine Zigzags of Galaxy’ On both sides of the river, there are an estimated 60 unique rock formations with such exotic names as Palace of Fairies, Heavenly Pond, Hanging Tower.

It was dark by the time we reached Shenyang. According to our tour guide, the city has a population of 7.2 million made up of 26 ethnic groups. The Chinese, Manchurians and Koreans are the dominant ones. A river traverses through the city and from the sky, it appears like a blue dragon, a symbol of protection and prosperity for its inhabitants. Among the Chinese, Shenyang is well-known for three things – bicycles, wide roads and many traffic lights at the intersections. Examining the tourist brochures, Shenyang has many attractions – Imperial Palace, Botanical Garden, Doughing Park, Fuling Tomb, Zhaoling Tomb, History Museum. However, we were in a brief transit in the city. After a quick dinner we were transported to the railway station and hurriedly we moved through the thousand of travellers and revelers to board the rail coach to Beijing. The train punctually left Shenyang at 2125 hrs.

The rail appears to be an efficient and well managed transport system in China, if I could assess from this brief experience. The passengers were courteously ushered to their respective coaches with a guard looking after each coach. I shared with five other colleagues in a six bed compartment. The linen is clean and the light provided at the end of the bed was functional. The toilet and the dressing table was regularly cleaned. Sharp at 2200 hrs the light was switched off and surprisingly inspite of the usual noise and sound of the moving train I slept well and was awake fresh. It was at 0730 hrs we arrived at the Beijing Railway Station. It was Saturday (Oct 18) morning.

We checked in the hotel, had breakfast and after freshening up, we were again on the bus by 1100 hrs. It was going to be a cycle free day as the day’s schedule is sightseeing and a short shopping tour. It was bright and sunny as we headed for the Tian An Men Square. Our first destination was the Forbidden City. Though this tour brought me to Beijing for the third time, for some reasons, the visit to this world heritage attraction has eluded me. I therefore looked forward to the visit. The Square was crowded as it was a Saturday and Beijing is celebrating its 850 years of its founding. At the same time the 15th General Assembly of the WTO was being held in the city, with many events being organized in conjunction with the Assembly.

The Forbidden City built over the period 1406 – 1420 is actually the palace of the emperors of the Ming and Ong dynasties in China. The complex palatial structures are divided into the outer court made up of several halls where the emperors held important ceremonies and the inner court were the living quarters are sited. A total of 24 emperors lived in the palace. These ancient buildings portray the intricale early Chinese architecture and are being protected as a world heritage site.

After late lunch and shopping at the Friendship Store we headed to the next attraction – The Ming Tombs. The Tombs are the mausoleums of thirteen emperors located at Changping – Beijing. It was built in the Yongle Ming Dynasty in 1409. The fascinating thing about the mausoleums is the fact that they were constructed deep underground (50m) with the paraphernalia of governance such as marble thrones and other precious possessions buried together.

We were caught in the extremely busy traffic of Beijing heading for our hotel. It was the traditional Beijing duck dinner that night .

We were up early on the last day of the Bicycle tour (Sunday Oct. 19). The Seoul Beijing Bicycle tour group was given a place of honour in the Beijing International Cultural Tourism Festival 2003 parade organized in conjunction with the 15th General Assembly of WTO to promote the 2008 Olympic game and tourism. We were on the parade ground at around 0730 hrs preparing for the final arrangement for the parade made up of cultural performances, school bands, motor vehicle floats depicting the cultural heritage of China. The ceremony started at 0900 hrs with speeches from the mayor of Beijing, an official of the Chinese Ministry of Tourism and the Director General of WTO.

The 1.5km slow ride in the parade was cheered by a huge crowd lining both sides of the broad street, made up of school children in their smart track suit uniforms of various colours. I was touched by the atmosphere at the parade, realising that, in this small world of ours, guided by a simple principle of mutual respect for each other, inspite of the cultural socio-religious differences, we could link our hands of friendship together, assist one another and living sustainably to make this planet of ours such a happy and wonderful place to live in. The many wise words of our beloved former Prime Minister, Tun Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who has retired recently, advocating this approach of living, was an inspiration to my participation in this Bicycle Tour. This bicycle tour was organized to facilitate, in a small way, towards achieving this dream. I feel it has met its desired objective. To me it was a unique and exciting experience – unique in the sense that I have not riden this long distance before; riding in a company seven different nationalities with a range of ages from sixteen to seventy five; traveling in different mode of transportation – bicycles, ferry, truck, bus and train; touring many exotic and beautiful destinations.

For the opportunity to spend a very unique, exciting and happy seven days experience in Northwest Korea and Northeast China, I wish to express my appreciation to Mr Anthony Wong and George Skadiang, The Group Managing Director and General Manger respectively, of Asian Overland Service Tours & Travel for having the confidence in my cycling power and nominated my participation of this tour to the Organisers. Also many thanks to the national courier, MAS for substantially subsidizing the air fare from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul and the return trip from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur.

Participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Torch Run in Kuala Lumpur

I was a torchbearer at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay held in Kuala Lumpur on Monday April 21, 2008. It was a historic event for the country as it was only the second time that Malaysia was selected to participate in the Torch Relay Event since the modern Olympic Games was enunciated in 1896 – the first was in 1964 for the Tokyo Olympic.

I was one of the six environmentalists selected and sponsored by Coca-Cola to participate in the Relay. Coca-Cola as one of the sponsors of the Games, has been given the honour to select a few torchbearers for the Event and it has focused on environmental criteria to choose its candidates. My nomination was made by the Malaysian Nature Society, the oldest and biggest environmental NGO in the country. The other Coca-Cola Torchbearers included Dato’ Dr. Mikaal Kavanagh, Khadijah Abdul Rahman, Karam Singh Walia, Aznir Abdul Malek and Dr Reza Azmi. According to the news release issued by the Company on April 2, the candidates were selected ‘for their selfless contributions to the environment and making a difference to the community through their commitment to environmental stewardship’.

We were part of a bigger team of torchbearers totaling 80 made up of luminaries in the various sports such as badminton (Cheah Soon Kit, Abd Rashid Sidek, Datuk Punch Gunalan, Mohd Razif Sidek, Mohd Jailani Sidek), soccer (Dato’ Soh Chin Ann), swimming (Lim Keng Liat, Nurul Huda Abdullah), bowling (Shalin Zulkifli), squash (Nicol Ann David), paralympic (Muhamad Salam Sidek, Mohd Raduan Emeari), sports officials (Tunku Tan Sri Imran, Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah, Dato’ Zolkples Embong); social activists (Datuk Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, Datuk Paduka Marina Mahathir) and corporate leaders (Dato’ Tony Fernandez, Tan Sri Azman Hashim).

The Relay started at 2pm at the Dataran Merdeka with the opening ceremony officiated by the Hon. Minister of Youth an Sports, Datuk Sabri Yaacob in the presence of the Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Abdul Hakim Borhan and Vice-President of the Beijing Olympic Games Organizing Committee (BOGOC) Jiang Xiaoyu.

The first torchbearer was Tunku Tan Sri Imran, the President of the Olympic Council of Malaysia who started the Relay at Dataran Merdeka (DM) and five runners covered the DM area. The Relay then proceeded to Jalan Parlimen passing through Padang Merbok, Taman Tasik Perdana, Parliament Building, Museum Negara on the Mahameru Highway, old KTM Administrative Building, National Mosque, Jalan Stadium and finally reaching the first leg of the Relay at the Merdeka Stadium.

I was there at the Stadium having registered my presence at 2.30pm. I was in the second leg on the route and the standing instruction was to report there by 3.00 pm. I met other participants of the Relay and a few who attended the Opening Ceremony informed that there was a large crowd following the Relay and there was even attempt to snatch the torch from the torchbearer. We were actually briefed to expect this during the briefing held on the afternoon of the previous day (Sunday April 20).

The Merdeka Stadium had a carnival atmosphere with a school band performing at the entrance and the drum beating and cheer leading groups doing their acts inside the stadium. A large appreciative crowd had gathered in the stadium to witness five Relay torchbearers running within it.

At the Stadium 34 torchbearers have completed their Relay assignment and the remaining ones were given their numbers according to the location on the route. The Coca-Cola participants were assigned the stretch starting from the Jalan Sultan Ismail - Jalan P. Ramlee intersection, proceeding along Jalan P. Ramlee towards Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I was assigned No. 68.

At around 4.00 pm we boarded the two buses assigned for the torchbearers. Escorted by the police outriders, the entourage meandered through Jalan Stadium, Jalan Hang Jebat passing through Wisma OCM into Jalan Hang Tuah, Jalan Imbi and then Jalan Sultan Ismail

Large crowds lined both sides of the road particularly along Jalan Sultan Ismail. I was waving at them from the bus. I was touched noticing the mingling of the people of different races, nationalities, religion – young and old cheering the Olympic flame, displaying the very spirit of Olympism i.e ‘the blending of sports with culture and education in creating a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational values of good example and respect for universal ethical principles’. The Olympic Games has been organised ‘to place sports at the services of humanity and thereby to promote peace’.

The Relay entourage then snaked into Jalan Raja Chulan from Jalan Sultan Ismail and passing by Istana Hotel and AmBank where a large number of AmBank employees were lining the road in red attire cheering their Chairman, Tan Sri Azman Hashim, who covered this stretch of the route. We proceeded to Jalan Puncak heading for the KL Tower. The Torch was carried to the top of the Tower by Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar, the Malaysian astronaut.

As we were waiting at the KL Tower car park I noticed dark rain clouds in the sky and pointed these to Karam Singh Walia. Karam Singh expressed hope that the rain would hold until the completion of the Torch Relay. It was not going to be as, soon after (I noted the clock on the bus registered 5.15) it poured. Ponchos were distributed among the participants. When the ceremony at the Tower ended with a participant parachuting down from the top of the Tower, we proceeded down Jalan Puncak.

Dato’ James S. Joseph of Bata was the first runner coming down Jalan Puncak followed by Gerry Jaya Simhan (No. 64), Maya Heng, Rohaya Rozhan and then an reaching the Jalan Sultan Ismail – Jalan P. Ramlee No. 68 was called. I had my poncho on in the heavy rain with the torch in my hand. I came down from the bus to an ankle deep water flowing down the road. A crowd gathered around me wanting to take pictures. I obliged.

As the siren sound came and the runner before me Teo Hong Beng approached, I removed my poncho and moved to the side of the road. One of the organizers with a small equipment squeezed open the gas canister of my torch which released the gas and upon putting it close to the flame of the torch of the previous runner my torch was lighted. Holding the torch in my right hand I started to run. I was escorted on both sides by men in uniform, representing members of the Organising Committee and members of the Malaysian armed forces, by the look of their uniforms, I was waving to the crowd who had remained by the road to cheer, inspite of the downpour.

In the briefing, we were informed that each torchbearer would cover a distance of 100 to 200m. In my estimation I covered 200m and without realizing it, actually ran a distance meant for two. What happened was the torchbearer immediately after me was in a toilet when I passed his spot and in his absence, trodded on to the next participant, Khatijah Abdul Rahman ( No. 70). On lighting her torch, my flame was switched off. I alighted the bus that picked us up, receiving the cheers of the participating colleagues in the vehicle.

The entourage then proceeded to KLCC Tower where we disembarked as the bus clock showed 5.55. It was perfect timing for the Event as the Relay was scheduled to end at 6.00 pm with the Closing Ceremony at the Esplanade of KLCC.

A huge crowd had gathered at the venue of Closing Ceremony and I could hardly squeeze to get in. I noticed a number of participants were leaving as there were hardly any space even to stand. I decided to follow Karam Singh Walia who was also departing. He had a torch in his hand and a large crowd was with him wanting to take photos with him and the torch.

When I took my torch out of the box and started carrying it in my hand a crowd also gathered around, and many wanted to take photos. I obliged. The crowd became larger attracted by the torch and as photographs were being taken, a few in the crowd attempted to snatch the torch. I hold tight to it and then decided for my own safety and not losing this priceless possession of mine. I quickly inserted it back in the box. I called it the day.

The 2008 Beijing Olympic Torch Relay is an essential prelude to the Olympic Games to be held in Beijing in August 2008 as part of the promotion of the Games. The Torch and Flame is one of the greatest symbol of the Olympic ideal which ‘conjures up personal connecting points to the universal values of peace, equality, unity, solidarity, brotherhood/sisterhood, inclusion and participation’. The Flame for the Beijing Olympics was lighted in Olympia, Athens, Greece on March 24. It will be carried in 22 selected cities all over the world on the ‘Journey of Harmony’ and 113 cities and all 31 Provinces in the mainland of China, covering 137,000 km and involving 22,000 torchbearer, stretching for a period of 130 days.

The participation of the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay is a life time memorable experience for me. I am humbled and felt deeply honoured with my selection, as the Event signifies the very spirit that I have lived for towards the fulfillment of ‘the universal values for peace, equality, unity, and brotherhood/sisterhood. In the context of the multiracial society that we lived in and in consonance with the national aspiration to promote unity among the ethnic diversity that constitutes the population, the Olympic spirit has definite relevance to us.

The Torch Run was also significant in that environment is given its due place and individuals who have contributed to environmental causes were given recognition. Thanks to Coca-Cola for having selected this critical issue to the attention of the Malaysians and world audience. I know there are many organisations and individuals who have for many years, doggedly champion, the various environmental related issues such the conservation and protection of our rainforests, wetlands, rivers, marine ecosystems; climate change; management of wastes. They too merit to carry the torch.

The Torch Run has also a special significance as it also involves senior citizens. I am heartened to see senior personalities like Tunku Tan Sri Imran, Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah, Lt. Cdr. (R) Karu Selvaratnam, Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji, Tan Sri Azman Hashim, Dato’ James S. Joseph, Dato’ Mikaail Kavanagh and DYMM Tuanku Azlan Shah who are in their sixties and a few like me who have attained 70, who in their ‘never say die’ spirit agreed to participate. I recollected that on my 70th birthday last February, among the birthday gifts I received was a book on ‘Anti-Ageing Revolution’ which among thing, advocated. ‘To Think young and do young things’ among the ingredients for healthy and enthusiastic living. The Relay Run was definitely a young thing to do and continuously doing exercises and, in addition, with proper diet, ample rest, good family environment I hope to be blessed with a continued healthy and happy living.