Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Comments on the Biography of Syed Mokhtar Albukhary

           It is an inspiring and fascinating story of a towering Malay in a recently published biography of Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary (TSSM) written by Premilla Mohanlall and published by pVm communications sdn bhd. What is fascinating is the fact that TSSM was born from a poor family, had only secondary education but inspite of the early handicaps has fought the odds to be one of the richest man in the country.  The inspiring things about Tan Sri are many - live simply, always close and guided by his mother, contributes so much to charitable activities, loyal to the people who assisted him, does things with his heart and sharing the fundamentals of success.
    TSSM was born 61 years ago last September 2012 in Kedah. At the age of nine he left his family to join his maternal uncle to live in Johor Bahru and had his early education there. He returned to join his parents and continued his secondary school. However he did not sit for his Senior Cambridge examination as he was not able to pay the necessary exam fee.  Leaving school he decided to assist his father in the livestock business which prospered initially but the prevalent foot and mouth disease subsequently not only destryed the cattle industry also killed his business. TSSM has his first exposure to business. He embarked in a related business, this time selling meat but this also failed. He decided to take a break and enrolled to do accountancy in an institution in Kuala Lumpur.
   He started a transport business and then in rice trade with two Chinese partners and property development.  With the implementation of the New Economic Policy after the May 13 incident. TSSM business acumen, coupled with the assistance of a few Government officials, he bidded for many contracts which he succeeded such as food supplies, shoes and uniforms for the armed forces, allocation of shares etc under the various companies that he established.  Because of his business success he subsequently became close to the then Prime Minster, YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed.  He then get involved in a bigger corporate world, first bidding and successfully purchased the Government-linked Company, Malaysian Mining Corporation Bhd and then salvaging an ailing one, Permodalan Nasional (PERNAS) and subsequently the DRB-HICOM.  With all these corporations the businesses of TSSM cover plantations, food, oils and gas, property development, banking, education, automobile manufacturing in the country. His business empire has spread its wing to the Middle-East with propery development projects in Saudi Arabia..
    His successes were not without challenges. His early livestock and meat trading businesses failed. He lost millions having lost the Bakun and double rail projects as a result of flip-flop decisions of the then Govt, on these projects.
    TSSM has paid back his good fortune to the country and the Muslim world and through his Albukhary Foudation he has contributed towards the establishment of education centres; provision of scholarships; helping the old, the infirm, single mothers, the handicapped, orphans and students.  He has been identied as one of the top philantropists in the world.
    Among his words of wisdom and philosophies of success:
          'My mother made many sacrifices for our family. and I will always appreciate that.
           She also set a good example as a fine Muslim, something that I try to follow. Till
           this day I turn to her for advice, and she never fails me'
           'I am not shy when it comes to asking for help from people. I tend to keep in touch
            with those who have helped me, and today, some of them are employed by my companies'.
           'As a trader it is important not to be just a delivery boy. The govt made it clear, esp
           when awarding central contracts to bumiputras.  These contracts required us to pack
            our products and encouraged us to become involved in manufacturing. I took the
            cue, and started to set up factories'.
           'The 1985 recession taught me one important lesson: never take anything beyond one's
            financial capacity'.
           'Whenever I do charity, my heart moves. It is not about corporate social responsibility.
            It is about caring, something that comes from the heart.  My wish is that people with
            money will help those less fortunate so that the world is more just and fair to all'.
           'I am a fighter, with strong will to survive.  I lost countless nights of sleep, but I did
            lose sight of my responsibility to safeguard bumiputra assets and protect the interests
            of my staff'.
            'My approach is simple.  When I want to do something, I do first and talk later'.
            'When in the Arab world, your name and reputation is important. It will lead to
             people in power. Money comes later.  I was comfortable with this'.
            'There is this realisation, KEINSAFAN, that I am just another human being who
             has been given so much. I thank Allah Subhanah Wataala for His blessings, and
             pray I never be caught up by greed'.
            'We must always remember the seed we come from, and be humble when blessed
             and share good fortune.  Otherwise, we are likely to break and fall'.
            'The values that have shaped Syed Mokhtar: a respect for hard work and
            discipline, compassion for the unfortunate, and an insatiable appetite to
            grow and prosper the business'.
            'The New Economi Policy (NEP) was created for all races in Malaysia.  It is there
             for every Malaysian to take advantage of.  The NEP is about distributing the nation's
             wealth more fairly........Malaysia's richest men today, in some way or other,
             trace their wealth to the NEP and political patronage, among them are Robert Kuok,     
             Ananda Krishnan, Lim Goh Tong, William Cheng, Jeffrey Cheah, Lim Kim Yew,
             Yeoh Tiong Lay, Francis Yeoh and Vincent Tan'.      

Monday, August 27, 2012

Living Beyond 100 Years

   Living a long, healthy and active life is something that is cherished by senior citizens.  The average life of Malaysians has over the years increased with women having a longer avearge life at 76 and men at 72.  However, reports have indicated that more and more seniors are achieving an age in excess of 100 (see The Star 26/8/2012 above) .  The oldest person in the world is known to have reached the age of 122 years. The communities that are said to have a large proportion of very old people are in Okinawa, Japan and the Hunza Valley in Pakistan. Living to a ripe old age is one thing but the overriding consideration is the state of health, mobility and contribution of very old people.  I recollected a case where a friend of mine in Sabah posted a photo of his dad celebrating his 91st birthday.  I congratulated him and told him that he has the gene for long life. He rebutted back and said 'what for?'.  That got me thinking. Yes my friend in some way is correct.  What if a person has a long life but he is sickly, bedridden, immobile, need to be cared for.  He could be a burden to his children, strain his financial resources, cause emotional stress.  However if one lives a healthy, active life, he can continue to contribute to his family, his community and a role model to young generations.
   2.  My healthy, active and producive formula for long life has been guided by the many books and articles that I have read on longevity. Among them are:
         i. The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity by Daniel Reid. Simon& Schuster, London. 1989
         ii.The New Anti-Aging Revolution by Dr R. Goldman&Dr R. Klatz. Advantage Quest,
             Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. 2007.
         iii. Long Life Prescriptions by Sari Harrar and Debra Gordon. Reader's Digest. 2008
         iv. How A Man Stays Young by The Editors of Men's Health Magazine. Rodale Press.1993.

   3.  Basically as the above report indicates, genetic factor play an important influence in achieving long life. Other important factors include regular proper exercises; appropriate food and nutrition; active involevement in community work; close relationship with family and friends; spirituality; interesting hobbies such as gardening; reading and writing; pleasure trips; active sex life; listening to music; life filled with LOVE, KINDNESS and COMPASSION.       

Important Lessons for the Young Generation

    I was attracted by the column 'Your 10 Questions' which appeared in The Star dated Aug. 25, 2012 featuring Tan Chade-Meng, author of the book 'Search Inside Yourself.  In responding to the questions from readers of the newspaper, Tan shared insights on a few aspects related to HAPPINESS, a topic close to my heart.  Tan confessed that his childhood and youth periods were unhappy and on attaining the age of an adult, 21, a transformation within came with his study and practice of Mindfulness Meditation, which train through his heart and mind, to attain peace of mind and happiness.  Tan is a Buddhist and when posed with the question whether the religion has a big impact on him, his response was that it was SPIRITUALITY i.e looking within oneself and by looking within, the look is extended beyond self, that has a big influence on him.  Religion, to Tan, is the belief in one or more gods and that not all people are religious but everybody can be spiritual.
   He acknowledged that KINDNESS is a sustainable source of happinees and he listed the following three important lessons that the young generations should take note of:
             a.  be HEALTHY by learning to how to take care of your body,
             b.  be HAPPY by learning how to take care of the mind,
             c.  be COMPASSIONATE by learning how to take care of others
   Touching about LOVE and its importance to successful living, he quoted Warren Buffet
             'Basically when you get to my age, you'll measure your success
              in life by how many of the people you want to love do actually
              love you. If you get to my age in life and nobody think well of
              you, I don't care how big your bank balance is, your life is a

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Friendship Journey to Iran: April 25 to May 5, 2008

With Kamariah and our host, Dr Aziz
Dr Aziz and his lovely wife 
With Idris Abdul and Dr Zain
Photo of (from left) an Iranian friend, Dr Zain, Sdra Ali, Sdra Mohd Nor, Dr Azia
On a marshland, birdwatching trip
1.   Intoduction:  The Iranian connection was through a Ph D student at UPM who was under the supervision of  a Food Science professor whose husband, Mohd Noor,  is a friend.  I was introduced to the father of the student, Dr Abd Aziz Naghavand, who was formerly a lecturer at a University in Iran.  Dr Aziz , after retirement, is a businessman, explo- ring  possibilities of trading in palm oil. He invited us to visit Iran,  to look at the prospects of trading products from Iran that could be imported into Malaysia.  With this background we decided to visit the country on the dates.  The group was made up of five people – Sdra Mohd Nor Abdul, Sdra Dr. Zain, Sdra Ali, Kamariah (my wife) and I.  
2.   During the 8 days of the trip the following places of interest were visited.
      2.1    Tehran.  The capital is a sprawling big metropolis with a population of 14 million.  The traffic is chaotic with drivers not caring a hoot for road courtesy and traffic rules. We stayed at one of the apartment type accommodation with cooking facilities, in the centre of the city.
      2.2  Tehran Bazaar. It is a huge trading centre, with stalls selling practically everything under the sun – shoes, cloths, garments, handicrafts, all kinds of kitchen condiments and spices, books, cigarettes, nuts such as macademia and groundnuts and of course carpets, carpets  etc etc.  Within its compound, there are mosques and banks.  It is said that the traders in the bazaar, who are wealthy, wield considerable political influence and were key people involved in many of the political happenings such as the overthrow of Mossadegh.
       2.3  National Museum of Iran. The museum houses exhibits of its long and rich history. Iran existed as early as the 7th century BC when the first Persian Empire was established by the Achaemenids, who, among its well-known leaders was Cyrus 11.  Zoroastrianism, praying to the fire, was the religious belief. The second Persian Empire, known as the Sassanian Period, started in 224 AD by Ardeshir 1 and focussed its governance in developing small industries and encouraging trade.  The defeat of the Sassanians at the hands of  the Arabs saw the spread of Islam in Iran and the establishment the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphas.  The third Persian Empire existed from 1334 t0 1722 known as the Safavid Period. The Pahlavi dynasty started in 1921 with Shah Reza, who ousted the Qajar’s rule,  declaring himself the first shah of the Pahlavi line.  During the Pahlavi reign Iran went through a very turbulent period  with political and economic intriques. Shah Reza was removed and replaced by his son, Mohammed Reza.  He too made many unpopular actions such as being very pro-America and held a lavish celebration for the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire.  He too was ousted by an Islamic Revolution in 1979 that installed Ayatollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader.
      2.4  The Holy Shrine of Imam Khomeini. The mausoleum is situated on the highway to Qom with its landmark four towers.  Imam Khomeini who passed away in 1989, was buried here and the burial was attended by an estimated 10 million people – considered the biggest ever crowd at a burial. The shrine is tucked in one one corner of a large empty hall .  The visit to the mausoleum was followed by stop at the nearby cemetery, Behesht-eZahra, the main resting place for the Iranians  who died in the Iran-Irag War (1980-1889).
       2.5  Noshahr and Chalus.  We visited this twin towns on the Caspian sea early in the trip. We were arranged to have a courtesy call on ayatollah, a local religious leader, followed by a briefing on the status of the town by an official of the town.
      2.6  Masuleh. We drove from Noshahr to Rasht and then through the mist shrouded valley to millennium old village of Masuleh.  It is stuck surrounded by mountains around it.  Its attraction is the unique irregular rows of houses stacked up, with the roof of one level forming the pathway for the level above.  It was at this remote village in Iran that the children, on being told that we are from Malaysia, responded “ Yes Dr Mahathir”.  Such was how our ex PM popular and known to the world particularly among the Muslims.
      2.7  Qom and Esfahan. We took the tourist bus to Esfahan and Qom is on the route.  Qom is Iran’s second holiest city after Mashhad and the home of  the Hzrat-e Masumeh shrine.  It has many madrasahs where Shiite scholars and students from all over the world come to study.  Esfahan is well-known for its beautiful Persian architectural masterpieces of buildings, mosques, bazaars and bridges. Among them that we saw during the two days there were Imam Square, the Imam Mosque and  Bazaar-e Bozorg.  The Imam Square is considered the second biggest  square after Tiananmen in the world. We saw many Iranian families sitting on the ground in the Square in the evening.  The Imam Mosque built from blue designed mosaic tiles was the creation of Shah Abbas 1.  Initial work on its construction began in 1611 and completed in 1929
General Observations. Iran has a long history with one of the earlier civilizations of the world.  To do justice to the country a few more visits need to be made to cover the western, central, eastern and the Persian Gulf parts. Tehran can serve as a base to visit the central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and  Armenia.  However, its main drawback to tourists is the absence of entertainmen

Monday, July 30, 2012

Friendship Journey to Hanoi, Vietnam


  After visiting Ho Chi Minh City earlier there was a strong  pull to visit the northern part of Vietnam.  A visit to Hanoi was planned.  The Air Asia package to the City made the planning of the visit easier.  Accompanied by Kamariah, my wife, we departed by Air Asia flight AK 762 at 3.30 pm on Nov 17, 2006 for Hanoi.  It was a generally smooth flight in Airbus 320 taking 3 hrs and 15 mts to get to Hanoi from Kuala Lumpur.  We stayed at Rose Hotel.  The trip was a short one – only two days and we visited the following places:

a.     Halong Bay.  The visit to HB was scheduled on the second day of the trip (Nov 18)gIt was a a three-and-half hours drive from Hanoi to Halong Bay. We took a ship to cruise among the many islands which form the 1969 islands of the Halong Bay Archipelago situated in the Bay of Tonkin.  The islands are estimated to exist for 250 to 280 million years ago, made up of either limestone and schist  geology.  As usually common in this geological rock,  there are  many unique and beautiful formations in the many caves and grottoes. We visited one of the big caves with spectacular stalactites and stalagmites.  The marine ecosystem of the Archipelago is rich in biodiversity registering 450 sp of shellfish and 200 sp of fish. The many islands with myriads of rock formation  and the rich biodiversity make the Archipelago unique and a tourist attraction.  It has been declared a UNESCO World  Heritage site in 2000.

b.     Hanoi got its name from two words: Ha – river, Noi – interior.  The city came into existence in 208 BC, initially under Chinese influence. It has a long history of Chinese and French colonialism.  Accordingly its city landscape provides a unique architecture of beautiful colonial villas, buildings and large trees.  The 18 lakes found in the city add to its attractive ambience.  We went on the city tour on the third day of the visit and the following paragraphs  provide brief background information on the places of interest we visited.

c.     Van Miew-Quoc Tu Giam.  This tourism attraction consists of  the Temple of Literature and the first university in Vietnam.  It was built in 1070 in honour of Confucius.  The University was first opened to serve the royal family and later admitted talented students. Thousand of scholars had gone through its door and the achievements of its students are inscribed on stele erected.

d.     Kim Lien Pagoda. The pagoda is located on the bank of West Lake. It was built in 1631 and the special attraction of the structure is the intricate architecture of its gate.

e.     Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum.  The Mausoleum and Museum was built in 1990 and opened on the birthday anniversary of President Ho Chi Minh,  May 19.  The main hall of the Museum contains exhibits that occurred during President’s life and important events that happened in the rest of the world.

f.       Museum of Ethnoloy.  The museum houses exhibits which depict all aspects of life -  culture, custom and religious practices of the 54 ethnic groups living in Vietnam.                      

Sunday, July 29, 2012



1.       It was the fact that Myanmar was kept out of the news due to the restriction and closed door policy of the military junta  which called itself ‘The State Peace and Development Council’ that attracted me to visit Myanmar.  The military government of the country was criticised for not practicing  democracy and having kept its well-known political activist, Daw Aung Sau Kyi, under house arrest and restricted her movement.  Myanmar is a member of ASEAN. In my planning to visit Myanmar I contacted an old MARDI friend, Dr Larry Wong, who visited the country regularly, because of his involvement in in the purchase rice when he was serving BERNAS (Beras National).  Subsequently, he established a company trading products from Myanmar. He introduced me to some contacts in Yangon and provided suggestion as to the hotel to stay in Yangon..

2.       I left with my wife on Saturday April 8, 2006, at 10.00 am in Flight MH 740 of Malaysian Airlines arriving at Yangon International Airport 2 hr 40 minutes later, approximately the same flight time from Kuala Lumpur to  Kota  Kinabalu.  The time difference is one-an-half hours with Yangon registering a later time.  On approaching Yangon the general ground appearance seemed dry and brownish grass cover.  The surrounding area of the airport appeared full of activities particularly construction work. It appeared that the airport was undergoing renovation work. We checked in at Grand Plaza Park Royal at a room rate of US$72 per night. The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Bogyoke Market or Scott Market, a popular shopping centre for gemstones for tourists.

3.       Among the places of interests that we visited  during the four day stay were as follows:

3.1   Shwe Dangon Pagoda ( shwe –gold,  Dangon  is old name for Yangon).  The main stupa of the pagoda is coated with gold, thus its name.  It has four main prayer  halls situated to the north, south, east and west of the main stupa with many altars located throughout the compound of the Pagoda.  Being a Sunday the Pagoda was full of pilgrims and tourists. Many young boys in groups were in processions with monks, family members and elders  in the initiation ceremonies for monkhood. 

3.2   National Museum at Kau Dau Gyi Lake.  It is a four floor building.  The first floor is devoted to the development of the Burmese language through the periods of Pagan (11 to 13th century), Inwa (14th to 16th century) and Taungnga (16th to 17th century); the second floor – culture of the people;  the third floor displayed the the various tribes in Myanmar and works of art of the artists; the 4th topmost floor display images of Buddha.

3.3   National Races Village.  There are more than 135 tribes that make up the population of Myanmar.  Among them are the Zaiwar, Rawang, Lauwar, Lisu, Mai Thai, Tam Khon Ti, Tai Lon, Tai Lam, Tai Long, Kajan, Bwe, Sakaw Kayin. West Vokayin, Talipiwar, Mawneypwar, Mopwar, Kayin Pligu, Phalau Chin, Khmee, Mro, Khamer, Thak, Intha, Paoh, Lishaw,and Yin Kyar.  We visited to see exhibits and the culture displayed in the Bauyow Village, Rakhine Village, Hto Kekhanthew Temple, Kayai Village, Mon Village, Shan Village and Kayan Village.

3.4   Bogyoke Aung San Market.  This is the main shopping centre for tourists in Yangon.  Many gemstones stores are found in the area and a few of the sales people can communicate in Malay. Among the gemstones that are displayed were jades, amethysts, aquamarine, topaz, sapphires.

3.5   Silom Thai Village.  This was the location for traditional massage and Thai cuisines.

3.6   Wet Market.  Cashew nuts and dried shrimps were comparatively cheap.

4.        General Observations.  People are skinny and thin.  People still do a lot of  walking.  Cars, motor cycles or even bicycles are few. Buses were old with dents and scratches. Betel chewing was widespread and many carrying special trays with the  betel leaves and the condiments plying their sales of betel.     

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mencari Kebahagian (In Search of Happiness)


1. At last the book is out - the translated Bahasa Malaysia (BM) version. The original text is in English and entitled 'In Search of Happiness'. The publishers felt that the BM version might have a better market in the Malay speaking world and suggested that the text be translated. It was assigned to someone that I myself have not met though I was happy with the translation. Nevertheless, the English version will be published and scheduled for January 2009.
  2. 'Mencari Kebahagian' (MK) is autobiography which details my early education at the Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star; had a memorable three years at the College of Agriculture where the author confessed that he learned a lot of things in life besides agriculture, and finally completed the post-graduate studies at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA where I obtained the M.S and subsequently, the Ph.D from North Carolina State University. I shared my experiences in managing two agriculturally-related institutions - the Malaysian Agricultural & Development Institute (MARDI) and the Malaysian Cocoa Board. My travels to around 40 countries brought me to some of the exotic places in the world, among them - Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Copenhagen in Denmark, Lake District England, Berlin Germany, Madrid Spain, Rome Italy, Athens Greece, Istanbul Turkey, Isfahan Iran, Katmandu Nepal, Kashmir and Agra India, Yangon Myanmar, Chiang Mai Thailand, Bunekan Island Manado Indonesia, Beijing China, Siem Reap Cambodia and Tasman Park in New Zealand. My involvement in voluntary activities such as sustainable development, creativity, innovation, eco-tourism and social work is discussed. In Chapter 14 I share my experiences in keeping constantly in good health which are a combination of regular exercises constituted of jogging, cycling and swimming on one side and a balanced diet comprising among others, herbs and fruits.
  3. The book took two years to complete. I started it in January 2006 and by September 2007 the draft was completed. I approached my alma mater UPM (The Publications Unit) to consider publishing it. The Unit sat on it for three months and I decided to approach a new publisher, Utusan Publications & Distributors Sdn. Bhd, which quickly got it published. It was an exalted feeling to see the copies fresh from the printing press.
  4. MK is my fourth book. The titles of the other three books are as follows:a. Strategies in the Development of the Malaysian Cocoa Industry, b. INDUSTRI KOKO MALAYSIA - Himpunan Ucapan Ketua Pengarah 1989 - 1995, c. Adventure Journeys in Sabah.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Friendship Journey to Yokyakarta: January 20 to 23, 2009

The three young backpackers who participated in the trip

Ladies selling traditional cakes at the market

On the way to Borobodur

At the summit of the Borobudur

Friendship Journey to Yokyakarta from January 23 to 27, 2009

  1. 1.  Introduction

       1.1 After visiting Angkor Wat in Siem Reap Cambodia the pull to visit Yokyakarta was great as here lies another great religious monument , the Borobudur. I recollect having visited the city quite some few years (April 1986) back when a I led a delegation of researchers from the Malaysian Agricultural Research Institute to familiarize with agricultural development on the island of Jawa. We started the educational journey from Jakarta, then proceeded to Bogor, Puntjak, Bandung, Yokyakarta, Surabaya, Malang, Banyuwangi and the Island of Bali. The only aspect of the visit to Yokyakarta that I remembered was dinner cultural show in an open air theatre. The schedule of the visit was tight and there was hardly time for sightseeing.

       1.2 I made inquiries with with my regular travelling mates as to who would be free to join on the journey. Initially Dato’ Dr. Mohd Nor Ismail agreed and the package booking (airfare + hotel accommotion) was made about two months before the scheduled date of travel. The package price was RM 1 500. Rahim A. Rahman decided to join later. Finally the delegation was a three member group.

        1.3 Checked the internet (en Wikipedia) on the city. According to this digital publication the city has an area of 32.5 sq km. The tourist attractions include Borobudur, Prambanan, Universiti Gadjah Mada,  Kraton Ngayogyakarta, Djalan Malioboro. From other source of information, for entertainment outlets, among the night clubs listed are Hugo’s, Embassy, Republic, Caesar CafĂ© & Lounge.

        1.4 We departed at 2.00 pm by Air Asia flight. It was a two-hour flight and with a one hour lost of time we landed at Yokyakarta Airport around 5 pm local time (WIT –West Indonesian Time). The Airport was small and congested. It took almost an hour for immigration and baggage clearance. We were shuttled to …. Sakthi Hotel, one-half an hour ride from the Airport.

    2.  Programme of Activities and Places Visited

        2.1 On Saturday January 24, 2009, on the advice of our guide we decided to visit Borobudur and go on a city tour of Yokyakarta. The city tour covered the visit to the Kraton and Taman Sari. On Sunday January 25, the itinerary include the visit to Solo and the complex of temples of Prambanan. On Monday January 26 we headed for the beach and the small home industries around the city. Finally on the last day (Jan 27), with the flight schedule late in the afternoon, I visited the heart of Yokya – Jalan Malioboro-which is considered the main tourist area.

       2.2 Borobudur – it was Borobudur that enticed me to visit Yokya. I was excited to have a glimpse of it. There were many visitors on the day we visited it and the entrance fee for foreigners was Rp 175 000. Situated 42 km from the city the Buddhist temple was built in the 8 th and 9th century during the Sailendra Kingdom. Its foundation is estimated to have an area of 123 sq m.with the original height of 33 m.However it has reduced to 31.5 m caused by soil subsidence and tremors of the earthquake. It was said to have been constructed from 1 600 000 blocks of volcanic stones. It has ten levels – a courtyard, 6 main rectangular terraces and three round terraces. It is in the walls of these terraces that inscriptions of the life of Gautama Buddha and how he obtained enlightenment were made. The temple underwent a massive restoration work by UNESCO between 1973 and 1983.

       2.3 Prambanan - this complex of 237 temples was built at around the same time as the Borobudur, in the reign of the Hindu Sanjaya dynasty. They are considered the sanctuaries of the Hindu God, Siwa. The statue of Siwa is located in the central part of the complex with smaller statues of Vishnu and Brahma.
  2.   2.4  Karaton - this is the palace of the Sultans of Yogya.  It is walled and inhabited by more than 25 000 people. It was built in the period of 1755-1756.  A large part of it is used as a museum and holds an extensive exhibits which include gifts from the monarchs of Europe and heirlooms of the royal family.
  3.   2.5 Taman Sari - this was the pleasure complex of the Sultan 
   3. The city - Yogyakarta. It is regarded as the artistic and intellectual heritage of Indonesia with the kraton serving as the hub of traditional life. It was established by Sultan Mataram, Sultan Hamengkubuwono in 1755 - 56. To the Indonesians Yogya is a symbol of resistance to colonial rule and became the capital of the Republic from 1946 until its independence in 1949. Jln Malioboro is the main road and centre of tourist attraction, with many souvenir shops and stalls. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Friendship Journey to Cambodia: July 12 to 15, 2012

Signing the Visitors' Book at the Embassy of Malaysia in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Wearing the mask as we moved around Phnom Penh as it gets dusty on a hot sunny day.  The 'tut-tut' is a popular and convenient form of transportation in Phnom Penh

With HE  Datuk Pengiran Hj Mohd Hussein, the Malaysian Ambassador to Cambodia and Mr Marith

Two hostesses at a seafood restaurant at a small port at the Gulf of Som, some 65 km from Sihanoukville

Wood carvings by Cambodian carvers in front of the souvenir store

The Mekong River Esplanade, a popular place to tourists

With the Cham Malay Community in Phnom Penh we met in the compound of the mosque 

Children of the Cham Malay families

Friendship Journey to Phnom Penh – July 12 to 15, 2012

1.        I usually like to visit neighbouring ASEAB countries  for a holiday.  ASEAN countries that I have preferenced for include Cambodia,  Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.  The attractions to these destinations include friendly people, reasonably prized food and entertainment, cultural institutions such as museums, nature parks. The journeys I have made to these countries on various occasions are reported in the blog. I have also visited the other ASEAN countries.  At one time when I was still working in the  Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI),my visit to the Philippines was frequent as we were involved in a collaborative research management project with University of the Philippines at Los Banos and rice research link with the International Rice Research Institute.  Among the cities in the Philippines that I have visited include Manila, San Jose, Zamboangga.  I visited Brunei Darussalam a couple of time and of course Singapore.
2.       This is my third trip to Cambodia, the first was to Siem Reap and this is the second trip to Phnom Penh.  It is a pleasure cum business trip.  Though I have communicated to a few friends who were my regular companions on the backpackingtrip, it was Mr Walter Netto from New Zealand, who accompanied me.
3.       I booked the Golden Holiday flight-hotel package at RM 680 per pax for a hotel stay of 3 days on a twin sharing basis. My choice of the hotel was Juliana as it has a swimming pool (an important criteria) claimed to be the biggest in Phnom Penh.
4.       It was an early flight scheduled at 6.45am on Thursday July 12. I left the house at 4.45am. I had to resort the assistance of my son to send me to the airport as the taxi was not available at that early hour of 5.30am.  LCCT was busy even at the early hour.  The KL- Phnom Penh flight took about an hour and forty-five minutes and with a saving of one hour we arrived in Phnom Penh at 7.30am local time. The taxi to the hotel was US$9.  All transactions in Cambodia are in US$. We rested until the lunch appointment at 12.00 oonwith Mr Marith, a businessman.  Mr Marith was introduced to me by a friend and he is closely associated with Malaysian businessmen who have or plan to invest in Cambodia.  He spoke of a massive agricultural projects extending into an area of around 300 000 acres being planned by a Malaysian investor.  He also knows the Malaysian Ambassador well. I have solicited the assistance of Mr Marith to fix an appointment for me to pay a courtesy call on him.  We managed to get an appointment at 2.45pm inspite of the his busy schedule as he is in the midst of participating in the ASEAN Ministerial meeting and other associated meetings.  The Malaysian Embassy that afternoon was quiet as most of the personnels were involved in the ASEAN deliberations.  We were about 15 minutes with the Ambassador, exchanging pleasantries and latest development. Before departure I presented the Ambassador my two books, Adventure Journeys in Sabah and In Search of Happines, for the Embassy’s library. We decided to have an easy first day.  On my return to the hotel I did my regular laps in the pool, following with a two-hour body massage at the hotel health centre.  It was a good massage by a 35 year old plump masseuse who has a liking for  karaoke singing at a fee of US$15.
5.       We were up early on the second day (Friday July 13) as we were scheduled to travel to Sihanoukville. After the breakfast at the hotel the Land Rover vehicle that we rented at US$150,  came by with Mr Ma Soktha, Director of the Department of Forest Plantations and Private Forest Development. Mr Soktha is an associate and business partner of Mr Marith.  We took Highway N4 heading for Sihanoukville and I observed that on both sides of the road there are paddy fields with  cattle grazing the unplanted fields.  Other areas which are vacant are planted with forest species such as Acacia and fruit trees such as longan and mango. As we approached the southern region of Cambodia we observe oil palm being planted.  According to Mr Soktha oil palm yield attains 18 tonnes FFB per ha, which is low compared to that obtained in Malaysia but however, adequate to provide the profit margin for the investment . We stopped for lunch at a small port located around 65 km from Sihanoukville.  After lunch with rain falling we decided to turn back and head back for Phnom Penh.
6.         We decided to tour the city and visit places of interest on the third day (Saturday July 14) of our stay .  We thought the ‘tut-tut’ was a convenient vehicle to travel around the city and through the hotel, rented one. We negotiated and agreed that the rental for a day from 10 am to 4 pm would be US$25.   The first stop was a row of handicrafts shophouses displaying the usual wooden figurines of Buddha and those of the Angkor Wat fame. The second stop was the National Museum. The entrance fee was US$3.  The museum contains an excellent collection of Khmer sculpture.  The highlights of the sculpture were the eight-armed statue of Vishnu and statue of Shiva.  We stopped by the Esplanade by the Mekong River and was heading for Naga Hotel, where the casino is, when we decided to cut short the ‘tut-tut’ trip as Mr Soktha contacted us and invited us for lunch and agreed to take us to visit the Cham Muslim community after that.
7.       Phnom Penh is situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap Rivers.  It is a sprawling city but its population is not known.  The city population went through a tragic history when, during the Khmer Rouge regime in a period of 1975 to 1978 when the people  were forced out to the rural areas to far.Mmany were also tortured and killed.  The tragedies during the Khmer Rouge regime are remembered in the many photos and artifacts kept at the Tuol Sleng Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek .  I visited these Museum and Killing Fields on my previous trip to the city. Cambodia is politically stable under the able leadership of Cambodian People’s Party, headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, with investments coming from South Korea, Thailand, China.  The main foreign exchange earnings are from tourism and the textile industries.
8.       We visited the Cham Muslim community at Km 8. There were 3 big mosques in the area.  The interest in meeting with the Cham Muslim people arose following the International Conference of Malay-Polynesian Ancestral Nations held in Seremban on 5 and 6 July, in the effort to  reconnect and reenergise the common ethnic heriatage of the MP peoples.  We stopped at a mosque that had a group of people chatting.  We introduced ourself with ‘Assalamualaikum’ to the elders in the group, which include the ‘siak’ (caretaker) of the mosque.  We tried to speak in Malay which they appear to understand but find difficult to respond.  We were lucky as one of the elders called his grandson, Nory El, who speak fluent English.  We explained who we are and why we are there. 
9.       The Chams belong to the Austronesian stock, the same ethnic link with the Malay-Polynesian. They has established a kingdom stretching from the present Hue to the south of Vietnam in the 9th and 10th century. However, the kingdom was invaded by the Vietnamese and the Chams  were pushed to the southern and interior part right to present day Cambodia. The Chams are Muslims, estimated to number 400 000 in a population of 15 million in Cambodia, largely living in the provinces of Kompong Thom, Kompong Chhnang, Kompong Speu and Kompot.
10.   We woke up at 4.30 am on the fourth day in Phnom Penh (Sunday July 15). After breakfast we left the hotel at 6.30am for the airport to catch the 8.30 am flight to Kuala Lumpur.
11.   It was a satisfying trip.  We manage to go outside the city, to the rural areas of the country; met the Cham community, able to do my laps in the pool and enjoy the massage.