Wednesday, October 31, 2007

My Ghost Story

"Why, a spirit is such a little, little thing, that I have heard man, who was a great scholar, say that he'll dance ye a hornpipe upon the point of a needle."

The Drummer, Act 1, Scene 1,
by Joseph Addison

The above quote refers to this ontological argument, of course.

The thing about teenage boys who aren't kept under the strictest of adult supervision is that they tend to go out in the wee hours of the morning just because they can. Never mind how utterly pointless these nighttime adventures are. Never mind if there is school in the morrow. Never mind if there is exam in the school in the morrow. Teen boys are indestructible that way.

Me neighbour/kindergarten mate/primary schoolmate/secondary schoolmate/multiple tuition mate/serial bicycle adventure mate, Khim Hai, and I are just two such indestructible teens.

As the legend goes, it was 3 am when Khim Hai tapped the sliding glass door of my grandmother's house and I, predictably, was still awake though I can scarcely remember now what I could be doing at that hour so unearthly (I'll wager it wasn't homework).

"Hey, Kok," said my indestructible teen friend who was wearing his characteristic emo glasses. "Jom, mamak."

"Hold a minute," I said to him, and went to conclude whatever I was doing (which, I still maintain, wasn't homework) and in no time at all, I was pedaling on my ol' mountain bike1 alongside Khim Hai's acid green BMX - I'll concede that I was never as cool as him. I didn't wear emo specs, for one thing. Our destination that night was Jiki, a 24-hours foodcourt which frankly, was not a mamak at all. It just happen to be the nearest eatery still open at that crazy hour for indestructible teens like us.

Our regular cycling route takes us through a village and then a housing estate which bordered St. David's High School and it was nothing more than a narrow asphalt lane on which no two cars can be driven abreast2. Said lane was also incredibly badly lit and there were parts of it that were pitch black, but we have used it so often that we instinctively knew just how far the ditches bordering it were. There was a fork in the road which would swing us eerily close to a Malay graveyard, but never quite reaching it.

The next landmark was an abandoned bungalow which was partially concealed by great trees growing around and over it, making it appear sinister even in daylight in that shady copse. One of its room upstairs had its window smashed and there were colourful, life-size Disney cartoon characters painted meretriciously on its walls. In the dark of night, they looked like silhouettes of vaguely humanoid and monstrously deformed apparitions staring balefully with unseen eyes down on us as we cycled past.

Not that any of that fazed ol' indestructible Khim Hai and I. We would be too busy talking and laughing to notice.

After that came the darkest, creepiest stretch of our ride. For the sake of narration, I'll give it a name; The Tunnel. The road swerving through the Tunnel had massive, ancient trees on one side and their verdant, far-reaching branches loomed over the road, giving an illusion of twilight at all times of the day. At night, they blot out the moon and stars. We did so try to avoid looking up into those leafy boughs - I mean, what if we see a face up there amongst the vegetation? That would blow our wits to smithereens. We'd never be the same again. We'd be gibbering and drooling all day long, and have to be fed through a tube. I heard tube-fed food don't taste very good.

And like all good tunnels, there was a light at the end of it - a lamp post belching forth oodles and oodles of orange warmth in the cold of night. The catch: it stood right in front of a Japanese cemetery.

Yes, Japanese. And as everybody already know, Japanese are OMGSOEVIL!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The Japanese cemetery.

Every time we used this road, we had to cycle under that orange lamp and past just a few feet away from the white gates of the cemetery. Of course, it had always been uneventful, and we were our usual boisterous, loud and indestructible selves when we rode by it that night.

Then something weird happened.

The lamp post went off with a low pop just as we were reaching it, washing us over with a curtain of inky blackness. It was as if a pillow was clapped onto our faces. We could have imagined it but the temperature seemed to have dropped a few notches from kinda-pleasant-breezy to freaking-creepy-breezy. We stopped talking that instant. We stopped breathing - we just daren't. We just stared straight ahead at far off lights in the distant and pedaled solemnly past. As soon as we had the lamp post and cemetery at our backs, the orange light suddenly came to life again with a distinctive electric buzz in the air. That was our cue. Both of us just started speeding - pedaling so furiously we thought our hearts were going to beat right out of our mouths till we reach all the way to Jiki.

We didn't talk much about it when we were there, though. We left quite a bit of our indestructibleness behind in that scamper for our lives and souls.

Then something weirder happened.

On our way back past the same lamp post and, yes, the same Japanese cemetery - the exact same thing occured!

I couldn't sleep after I got home. I don't know if this qualifies as a real ghost story but hell, it's certainly the second scariest night of my life. And the tale has the virtue of being completely true, by the way.

Oh, but we still use that same road after that. The spooky incident happened once more, and then never again.

What sort of stupid, pigheaded, indestructible teens were we if we have given up, really?

Happy All Hallow's Eve.

k0k s3n w4i

1 ... which I have christened 'Nicole'. It sounded so cool to say, "I was riding Nicole all night long yesterday."
2 I still use it when I drive to Jusco though. There's a trick to it.

Socks and Little Booties

"We are here on earth to do good for others. What the others are here for, I don't know."

W. H. Auden, Anglo-American poet

You remember Socks, don't you? Socks, the Incredible Supine Bitch;

Her default pose in an older picture 3 months ago.

Socks loves her tummy rubs so much that she would flip over every single time I walk by (I can't help wishing that I have that same power over supermodels and beach babes, though). But in the past few weeks, I realised that Socks is getting ridiculously rotund. I mean, she can't even lie on her back anymore;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I gave her a little shove with the sole of my sandals and she flopped right over like a bloated sack of wet cement. Seriously, she had been a really greedy bitch and I have caught her stealing Fifi's food from her many times (by growling at Fifi till she freaks out and drops whatever she's holding in her mouth). I have to shoo Socks away and close the gates to the stairs leading up to my room on her every time I wanted to give Fifi a bone or biscuit. She's just so tiresome sometimes.

Now that she's oh-ho-ho-bese, I find it an excellent opportunity for me to practice some hard-learned doctor skillz on her. Okay, I know I'm still only in my second year in med school and I have not attended a single Surgery lecture yet - but any old quack with a scalpel can perform lipoplasty. Worse case scenario; I poke a hole in her spleen or create a fat embolus that bobs all the way to her lungs and kill her. But those are risks I'm willing to take.

So here's the rough schematic diagram for the procedure with the postulated outcome.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Yeah. I'm sure it will ooze right out.

Oh, there isn't a vacuum cleaner lying around so I can't like, make a small incision, stick it in and suck it out like what they do for them big, shiny Hollywood royalties - but the basis of good doctoring is improvisation, I think. Just like how I use ice to substitute anaesthetics. Brill, ain't it?

Anyway, the operation was a rip-roaring success...

...except for one teensy, little hitch.
The bits of fatty tissues we recovered from the patient's abdomen are... err... extremely bizarre in shape, colour and consistency.

They also squirm a lot and make real cutesy yelping and whiny noises;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Patient in recovery bay.

This will redefine our perception on fat and flab! I mean, you won't diet and exercise these little fatheads to their doom now that you know they are alive and quite literally kicking, right? Liposuction will be made illegal. Before you know it, everyone will want to be tubby and grow their own litter of downy cellulites. This is the dawning of a whole new era, ladies and gentlemen! Fat will be the new fab! Watch out for my name in all the major medical journals - I'll be mailing my research papers as soon as I locate an envelope.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
"Mama?" *Kiss*

Life is amazing, isn't it?

Particularly new ones.


k0k s3n w4i 

Monday, October 29, 2007

Malaysian Punctuality is an Oxymoron

"Unfaithfulness in the keeping of an appointment is an act of clear dishonesty. You may as well borrow a person's money as his time."

Horace Mann, American education reformer and abolitionist

Walking the long, dark mile to the Sky Lounge wasn't a very smart thing to do, particularly since it was raining rather profusely and I had to tote a bottle of vodka along - which was the birthday present from my part. I was told by Shaki to be there by 7.00 pm to be in time to shout 'Surprise!' with the rest - who was all told to be there before 7.30 pm (latest). The guests were... Malaysians.

Predictably, I was the only person not ludicrously late. The. One. And. Only. And I walked. With those gangly things called legs. The second earliest people to make it arrived half an hour later, at the time when the 'Surprise!' bit supposed to happen - and everyone else arrived after 7.30 pm. What did they expect to do, really? Come in after ol' Kok greet the birthday girl with a bottle of Smirnoff in one hand and no cake in the other in an empty bar? You guys should have seen some of the SMS's I exchanged with Shaki during that time I was Guest Singular. Classic hilarious. Shaki actually freaked out a bit.

Anyway, seeing that it wasn't planned by me, and the birthday girl was Shaki's girlfriend and not mine, I don't really give a hoot if the surprise didn't work out at all. The thing I could never wrap my head around is how can people have the nerve to be so late? I mean, I'd be appalled to find myself arriving a couple of minutes past the appointed hour - only to find that I'd still be attendee number one. There are so many dinner dates in which I find myself present with impeccable promptitude, and watching people arriving half an hour - even an hour late - and the only excuse I am ever offered, on the rare occasion anyone actually think they owe me one, is, 'Malaysian mah'. In those times, I found myself dangerously close to shouting back; 'Then what the fuck am I? German?'

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The empty Sky Lounge bar. Fucking knew it.

The problem is no one thinks that being late is anything wrong at all - because everyone else is doing it. It's cool. It's fucking high fashion (if I hear the cliché 'fashionably late' one more time I'll beat that person who say it to death with a grandfather clock). Nobody wants to wait for the laggers and so, they choose to lag themselves. What about those people who honour the appointment - people who tried their best to arrive on time so no-fucking-body have to wait for them? I always try to make it at least 10 minutes early every time because I think that letting anyone wait for me is just plain selfish - any conscientious human with an intact brain can work that out. But no, bloody selfish pricks ain't got no conscience.

Of course, I know that nothing I say here is going change anyone's shit attitude. Fuck, I'm just one early guy. Just let me fucking wait till my balls fall out. I mean, I'm the selfish one here for arriving on time and then bitching about it when everyone else is late, right? Damn, that's so fucking inconsiderate of me.

Nah, I wasn't angry yesterday at the birthday party. That comes from learning to expect these things. Oh, and no offence intended to anybody in particular. My beef is with the general 'I'm Malaysian so I don't need to be punctual or apologize when I'm late' attitude. Am I the only one who finds it ridiculous and ill-bred? I wonder where I was when I was younger and they were giving out those free social-conscience-removal surgeries.

Oh yeah, learning basic courtesy from Enid Blyton kiddie classics.

Haha, moron,
k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Saw You

"I’ve had all that I can take
I'm not about to break
Cause I’m happy now
Are you happy now?"

Are You Happy Now (2003) by Michelle Branch

There is a person you don't want to see - someone you try not to think about at any time of the day. You suppress the thoughts and you suppress the emotions, and you sweep them all under a rug. And soon, a noticeable lump forms under that rug, pregnant with all the thoughts and all the emotions you try to ignore, but still you pretend not to see. When people point that out to you, saying "Hey, there's a lump under your rug," you reply, saying "What lump?" and change the subject. You continue to subconsciously press these feelings down, and you let that lump grew to abominable proportions. You don't care because you can't see them. There's only the rug and that's that. And one day, when you finally meet that person you don't want to see on the streets, or at a party, or in a cafe - or wherever that chance venue happens to be - you are pleasantly surprised to find that you aren't reacting to it. There's no upwelling of regret, sadness, disappointment or rage whatsoever. You feel glad. You feel lightened. You feel as if a ridiculously weighty burden have been lifted off your shoulders and for the first time in months, you straighten your back and take a liberating breath which inflates your insides which have shriveled up over all those time you spent being miserable.

Then you leave that street, that party, or that cafe congratulating yourself on having rid yourself of a terrible, protracted, self-imposed sentence of wretchedness. You're fucking pleased with yourself, and there's that shit-eating grin on your face that shows. You have forgiven yourself, and you're a newer man than before you ran into that person you most not want to run into.

Then, a prickly hotness pushes behind your eyeballs, and you blink once. A single drop of warmth run down your cheek to your smiling lips. You taste salt, and the wet trail that warmth left behind on your face feels cold against the evening breeze. You wipe that away with the back of your hand, feeling at once shocked and disbelieving. "This is not how I'm feeling," you say to yourself indignantly, but still you cry some more.

Something inside is hurting real bad, and you're not sure why.

Still smiling,
k0k s3n w4i

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What You Missed This Saturday Morning

"Today is the first day of the rest
Of our lives"

Church on Sunday (2000) by Green Day

My favourite song from their album; Warning.

I woke up at 6.30 am this morning to the upbeat Soulchild remixed version of 19-2000 by the Gorillaz, which has been my alarm tune for the past couple of weeks or more now. That always left me singing the line "Get the cool! Get the cool shoeshine!" over and over again every morning on my walk to the lecture hall, and if you have strolled close enough, you would have overheard me. Or if you happened to walk by my house when I was in the shower, you would have heard me too.

It's Saturday, the day all sane people stay in bed till noon hiding their heads under their pillows - but I'm not very sane, am I? At least, I hope not. Sanity is for squares and accountants and people who throw juice cartons out of the fridge when they are empty. I aim to keep up a degree of eccentricity. It helps me make sense of the random... err... everything-ness that my everyday life throws at me. Look, it's just one of those things that sound stupid in words.

I got up that early because I wanted to start on my new jogging trail, the one our batch's footie team uses which involved a long, rocky uphill path to the End Point. After putting on my jogging shorts and debating whether I should go in cognito in my black woolen ski hat (I decided not to finally), I headed out of my moldy room and into the morning outdoors.

And it was some morning.

I just stood there on the terrace of No. 5, first floor and gawked at the incredible sunrise that greeted me there. I was stunned well and good for a full minute, drinking the early light which weren't strong enough just yet to warm my face. The cold of the night still lingered in the air, quite unwilling to go away without a last stand against the impending day. Puffs of sleepy cloud hung in the blue and golden sky, all wearing silver linings on the hems of their still dusky coats.

I reentered my room and rummaged for my camera. Discovering it under a pile of unfolded clothes which I was pretty certain to be somewhat clean, I climbed up to the second floor of my house and out onto the balcony where I hoped to get a better view.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Good morning, Manipal.

My upsy-daisy, top o' the morning mood was chafed when I realised that this was it - this perch of mine so close to terra firma, so low, so obstructed was what I had to be contented with. I was peeved at the overhanging boughs and leaves, and the looming figures of ugly, angular buildings which marred my horizon, hiding it behind their obnoxious eminences. Most of all, I felt angry at my own impotence to swat them all out of my way with a wave of my hand.

So I ran.

I ran down out of my house, into the courtyard and onto the craggy gravel lane outside. I ran past the hostels and across the basketball court where the locals play cricket in the evening. I ran till the lecture hall complex inched into view and I ran towards it, passing the hundreds of motorcycles parked monotonously on both sides of the road. I ran as fast as I could without a single moment of slack in pace. I ran till I reached the fire escape at the side of it and climbed up the stairwell, leaping three steps at a time as quickly as I dared to. I ran through the door I knew would be unlocked at the very top and out onto the open roof, the highest point in town accessible to me, where the sky stretched lazily and endlessly in every direction.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Hi sky.

I ran because I didn't want the sunrise to end before I get there.

My lungs were burning and I was gasping instead of breathing. There simply wasn't enough air for me and no matter how hard I tried to draw it in, it only came thinly - like lukewarm watered down soup through a capillary tube. I was convinced that my heart was trying to smash its way out of my ribcage, and I could feel its erratic protest beating a tattoo against the inner surface of my eardrums.

I staggered to the edge of the roof. I held up my camera, which was clutched in my hand all through my mad sprint, and took as many pictures as I could before I slumped into a heap at where I stood. My knees simply gave way and the cramps crept into my calves. For a whole 15 minutes, I couldn't stand up as the familiar agony squeezed my gastrocnemii in its vise. What a way to reboot my jogging routine after months of phlegm. With a suicidal bang. Very smart. With an IQ above 125, you'd think I knew better.

When I was finally upright again, a wave of dizziness seized control of my head and almost floored me for the second time but I managed to grab the railing before I did. Several crows standing nearby was eyeing me hopefully, probably thinking I was going to expire in a sec or two. To be honest, I really felt like expiring. I have never felt thirstier in my life, and the back of my throat felt as if it was covered in a crust of dust. Squinting, I looked blearily at the show I came to watch.

Was it worth it?

Hell yeah.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
And the Sun, he riseth in the East.

My only regret was that I have no one to enjoy it with.

Made it,
k0k s3n w4i

Friday, October 26, 2007

Have A Rose

"He who lives only to benefit himself confers on the world a benefit when he dies."


Yesterday, when I came back from my afternoon lecture bouts, I noticed for the first time that the anonymous bushes growing on the lawn of Acharya Compound have broken out in delightful blossoms of coy pink and risqué red.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
A pink and white hybrid rose.

Of all the blooms, none was bolder, brighter and redder than this one;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Classic red.

I singled this particular one out because I was surprised that such a big, pretty rose could be borne by such a runt of a rose bush. The shrub it grew from is a pathetic little thing that stood alone in the middle of the sea of grass, far away from all the other rose plants which stayed far away from it as if it had some incurable, infectious plant disease. It looked as if it couldn't bear even a single sickly petal, but it did so anyway - and its single blossom, in my opinion, far outstripped all the others.

Yes, it made only one rose. But it poured all its heart out making that one.

I am no botanist, but hey - anyone can enjoy a pretty flower. Yeap, anyone. And everyone should be able to do so.

Unless some prick come along and picked it for himself. Or herself - if it happens to be a chick prick. Prick-ism knows no gender.

And guess what? Some first-class prick did do just that. Today when I came back from the 2 o'clock Pathology lecture, I was pissed to find that that beautiful rose was no longer where I found it. That kinda ruined the rest of the day for me. Maybe it was some cheapskate didn't wanna shell out the bucks to buy roses for his girlfriend, or just some
bimbo who wanted to "beyootify" her fucking room. Right now, I bet the rose is dying slowly in a glass of Manipal's ultra-chlorinated tap water, half forgotten by the fucking selfish prick who wanted it all for him or herself. Way to go, prick.

If you ever see a pretty flower growing by the roadside or in a community garden, please don't pick it. It's not yours. Leave it be so everyone can enjoy it too.

Don't be a prick.

This is a community service announcement by,
k0k s3n w4i

Diamond Bay Stopover

"When one realizes that his life is worthless he either commits suicide or travels."

Edward Dahlberg, American novelist and essayist

And the prodigal son returneth. The evening on the 4th day of the Great Penang Road Trip.

Yesterday, I ran into someone twice - someone I won't want to meet even once all year long if I can help it. Later that night in a dream, I live in the same house as him.

Not that that has anything to do with today's post.

Anyway, how many of you can immediately identify this landmark below on sight and tell me where in the world it's found?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
And yeap, it's leaning a little to the left. Hint: t'aint Pisa.

This Chinese pagoda-ish monument was built is 1885 by a then well-known contractor, Mr. Leong Choon Cheong along with another Ceylonese contractor whose name is lost to obscurity.

The purpose of its construction is to store water for the local inhabitants in case of droughts and fires, and it also serves as a public timepiece and for the descendants of those townsmen of yore to brag to out-of-towners about about how they have this cool tower that leans while the rest of us have boring, perfectly perpendicular ones. It's funny how bad architectural planning always ended up being a thing of pride for the natives.

I'll concede that the clock tower was indeed an impressive sight, standing alone in the middle of a vast town square and bordered in all directions by rows of charming, pre-war shophouses. I heard that it was leaning because of an underground stream that runs beneath the foundation but I have no assurance of that story's aunthenticity. It was well worth the detour from my North-South Highway route to swing by this town just to see this, in my opinion. Too bad it was already closed for the day when I got there.

Now, try to guess how many floors it has. Answer at bottom of post.

Oh yeah, for the rest of you that didn't know where this is - it's Teluk Intan, Perak, and that was the Leaning Tower of Teluk Intan. Since 1582, it was in this quaint little town that the rulers of Perak held court before Kuala Kangsar became the Bandar Di-Raja in 1877. Historically, Teluk Intan is the home to the Raja Muda of Perak - if you still remember that complex, pain-in-the-ass throne ascension system the state employed which we had to memorise back in our secondary school years. Aside that, here was also where Dato' Maharajalela, Raja Abdullah and other Malay chieftains met to plot J.W.W. Birch's pawnage.

The town was formerly known as Teluk Anson or Anson Bay, in honour of a British Officer and last Lieutenant-Governor of Penang, Major-General Sir Archibald Edward Harbord Anson who drew the plan of the modern township in 1882). Before that, it was known as Teluk Mak Intan, after a female Mandailing trader. These days, the Chinese community of Malaysia still refer to this place as "Ngon-Sun" (Cantonese) or "Ahn-Sun" (Mandarin) - corruptions of the town's colonial name.

All of the above - including the tower - weren't the reasons why I stopped by here.

My motivations was this;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Yeah. This. The shop. Not Sze Yin.

Ngon-Sun's famous Heong Peng! It roughly translates to "fragrant biscuit" in English.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Oodles and oodles of "Heong Peng".

Imagine a powdery, golden-brown bun with sesame seeds dotting its crispy surface - and even before you chow down on it, you can already detect a hint of coy sweetness nestled in its hidden core. Imagine taking a bite and the outer shell broke with a satisfying crunch, showering snowy, white flakes in all over your hands and lips (you'll need a broom after you're done, trust me). Suddenly, the crispy confection gave way to something soft - a sticky, syrupy concoction that is at once sweet and deliciously savoury - and the famed fragrance, imprisoned inside the bun, exploded brazenly on your tongue and palate. Imagine looking at where you bit and finding in delight that there is more of that incredible, gooey, deep-amber goodness from where it comes from... OMGOMGOMG O-M-G

Oh, I said imagine 'cos I don't have any pictures of them. I bought two big packets to bring back to Malacca and before I had a chance of photographing one, I have scoffed the lot.

Of course, the awesome Heong Peng wasn't the real reason I came to Teluk Intan.

This was;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Old school indeed.

This is purportedly the most famous shop in town that produces the specialty cuisine Ngon-Sun Chee Cheong Fun. Inn Shan's Dad have been so kind as to have already bought some for us and had it ready at his house but I insisted on seeing the chee cheong fun mill for myself anyway.

You'll notice in the picture that there aren't any tables there. That's because you are only allowed to have the chee cheong fun to go. It's either take-away or go-away.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Where are the Oompa-Loompas?

Anyway, if you're familiar with the delicacy, you'll know that it's basically a rice noodle roll (with the term 'noodle' defined in its utmost looseness here). It's prepared from a viscous white mixture of rice flour and water poured over a cloth draped over a specialised, flat-panned steamer. After the batter solidifies, the resulting fluffy white rice cake is scraped from the cloth and rolled. Fillings ranges from prawns, pork and vegetables, and they are added to the rice batter in the steamer if so desired. The dish can be served with a variety of sauces - whichever tickles your fancy. It's an admirably customizable cuisine.

When I was younger, I always ta pow a packet every night from the food court near my house and I have watched the cooking process nigh a thousand times. No matter how many times I've seen and eaten it elsewhere, I would never have expected this;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
What the fuck is this?

Yeap, that's the famous Ngon-Sun Chee Cheong Fun. And no, it wasn't burnt or anything. Those dark brown pocks on the usually pure white noodle rolls were bits of sengkuang (or pickled chinese turnip or yam bean) and dried shrimp steamed into the mix. As a further 'fuck you' to conventions, it's served with slices of sour pickled green chili instead of a sauce.

It's awesome.


Forgive my enthusiasm. That usually happen when I discover a new mix of flavours I didn't think is possible. Maybe it's just the novelty of it but I attacked and finished two whole packets on my own, and would have gone on to my third if I haven't decided (in spite of the protests from my stomach and the other organs staffing my gut) to save it for my aunt in KL, whose house I was going to put up a night in later. Gallant is I, indeed.

Sze Yin and I said goodbye to Inn Shan and left Teluk Intan for KL late in the evening. I dropped Sze Yin at her house in Subang and I, in turn, headed to my aunt's place in Bandar Sri Damansara. And they all live happily ever after. The end.

P.S. The answer is 3 (not counting the water tank at the top). Neat optical illusion, right? Tell me honestly now; how many of you got it right?

Is relieved that it's finally all wrapped up,
k0k s3n w4i

Other posts in my Great Penang Road Trip series:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Spark of Childhood

"The children of Holland take pleasure in making, What the children of England take pleasure in breaking."

Old nursery proverb

The path I walk every morning to Pangal for breakfast isn't the easiest route one can take. In more ways than one, it's an epic pedestrian adventure. It takes me to the center of the university town of Manipal, a roundabout with a tasteless fountain in its middle. The centerpiece of the fountain is a scrap-metal reject; a stainless steel globe which feeble jets of water douse day and night - especially during the monsoon season, when water is available in copious and expendable quantity (however, I am happy to report that on certain summer days when conservation of H2O is priority one, we are spared the pathetic sight). Manipal University's earthy, bronze 'M' is emblazoned across the globe, a gentle reminder to the town that the medical institute is the sheriff around these parts. This entire ensemble - the roundabout, the fountain, and the insult to world aesthetic sensibility - is known by all as the Tiger Circle.

The peril of traversing the Circle lies in the asphalt - or rather, in the sorry lack of it. Orange, muddy water encircled the fountain pool like a moat, sequestered by the many potholes in the road. In fact, the potholes were so vast and numerous that I find it more accurate to describe the whole roundabout as a giant doughnut-shaped pothole which happened to have bits of road floating in it. When vehicles go on oceanic cruises in the waterlogged craters, their wheels often displace large amounts of the muddy shlop - and the disgusting fluid in turn, having lost their home, would invariably take up residence in my shoes and trouser legs if I happen to be in firing range.

Surviving that in a satisfactorily dry state, I will have to contend with the road divider as I cross the road. It's nothing more than a strip of soil bordered by crumbling curbstones running in between the lanes which suffered an overgrowth of all sorts of botanical lepers. It looked most assuredly harmless but ha! Do not be lulled into a false sense of security. Just when you least expect it, a ripe cow pat will ambush you as you tramp through the weed. Let me just make this clear to you; Stepping into a cow pat is a vastly different experience from stepping into dog turd (I should know as I've experienced the tragedy twice). It's similar to the sensation you get when you're ascending a staircase in the dark and you took one step too many at the top. You gasp in horror in that millisecond you realise you are stepping air. Same brief, horrible, sinking feeling. Only with a cow pat, it's also squelchy and stinky - and you get that sick sucking noise when you pull your foot out of deep shit.

The third and last tribulation (or fourth, really, since I consider having to look at the god-ugly fountain as a traumatic trial) is the horde of smelly, flea-ridden beggar kids that loiter on the sidewalk outside Pangal. They would tug on the hem of your shirt or lab coat with their grubby little hands, hoping to disgust a coupla' of rupees out of you to make them stop. If you're skint, you just have to wade past them with the most forbidding expression you can muster on your face. I find that a diversionary tactic I have devised to be most serviceable - just toss a one rupee coin over your shoulder and while the little Indian Oliver Twists scrambled for the loot, you run like hell. Just be reminded that no matter what you do, don't hit them with an umbrella (if you happen to have one in your employ) because believe me, they will bite in retaliation - and I have the scars to prove it1.

Yes, it's a difficult route to walk, but hey - it's the only one. Sometimes, we don't get to make choices.

Anyway, forget everything I've written above this line. They are usually what happen when I write without paying attention to what I'm typing.

What I meant to tell you in this post is about a boy I saw at Pangal.

I just finished my customary breakfast of upma and chai, and I have set my plate and cutleries aside. This boy - he looked no older than 13 - who was wearing the peach-coloured uniform of Pangal's waiters, leant in beside me to gather them up. I spotted, in that short moment, a flash of colours nestled in the crook of his right elbow. It was a decal - a temp tattoo we typically find in the wrappers of those 10 cents apiece chewing gum we bought in our days of frivolous youthfulness and state-sanctioned idiocy. Just add spittle, slap it on and five minutes later, you got a flippin' cool tat that make you da gangsta of the playground

The one the serving boy had on was already half rubbed off and I could no longer tell if it used to be a flower, a beetle or a cartoon hero. But there's no mistaking it - it was a decal.

That happened so fast that I couldn't get my camera out to take a picture of him with his arm extended. Anyway, I looked in my photo folders to see if I got any old photos of the coffee shop with the boy accidentally included in it and this was the only one I found;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
I took this last week as I walked past the kitchen and forgot all about it till now.

You know, with some of these kids on the streets begging for change, and not having the chance to go to school - and some, having to work for their life and bread before they are barely of age, we tend to think them older and more worldly than they really are.

We must not forget that they are children.

k0k s3n w4i

1 Okay, okay - that's bullshit. My genral stance towards the pipsqueak panhandlers is to pay the runtiest ones. And I only cough up to every second one I meet. Considering their population in Manipal, that's the most I can afford anyway.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

And A Merry Lonely Day to You Too

"I am as one who is left alone at a banquet, the lights dead and the flowers faded."

The Last Days of Pompeii, Chapter IV
by Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton

At about half past six in the evening, one of the waiters at Dollops would walk around carrying a censer spewing forth a fog of odorous white vapor which I supposed, have virtues in smoking mosquitoes out of the establishment. Diners don't usually start coming here before seven to avoid being gassed. Not me though. That's the time I usually arrive. I timed it so.

The strength of the incense they employ in their daily chemical warfare against the little bloodsuckers is offensive to my sensorium. It made my eyes water and I had to squint when I stepped into the shop - though I consider the disruption of sight to be of no great consequence. There simply wasn't much to see. The place was a phantasmagoric world of swirling smoke and shifting silhouettes of tables and their chairs, malformed and misshapen. The typically harsh beams from the lights hanging overhead were paradoxically sedate and mellow, and if ever beams of light could be described as "drunk", they are those found in Dollops at half past six in the evening. Sometimes if the angle wills, the wonky path of the besotted rays would be dissected by a ceiling fan and I would be treated to a stroboscopic headache. The scent however, though aggravated my sense of smell, could easily be acclimatised to. In fact sometimes, it can almost be pleasant, depending on how willing I am at that present moment to forgive its odour. I am a creature of mood and seasons.

I was willing to suffer all this for that most delicate of atmosphere - one of solitude. One of absence of forced conversations and hokey smiles, of loneliness with just the company of the sound of my thoughts. Here and there, the few other patrons who braved the smoke like I did were seated in their little isolated isles - some alone like me while some are lovers wrapped up in their tiny universes of whispered nothings, quite as distant as the rest of us. There was a presence of solemnity that hangs in the acrid mist pervading the badly lighted restaurant that demanded silence and offered same in return. People sitting in plain sight were a million miles way. Nobody noticed one another. Nobody cared.

Breathing in deep and letting the dizzying scent of the smoke fill my chest, I remembered why I was alone - am alone. It's just one of the things you can get used to, much like that incense they burn at Dollops.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
And then it clears.

Sometimes, you can even get addicted to it.

k0k s3n w4i

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Semolina and Less Besides

"Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but they can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake."

Author unknown

Unknown, or simply just not famous enough for people to bother remembering.

I have recently discovered a wondrous form of Indian breakfast and it goes by the name of upma, the etymology of which roughly translates to "salt-and-flour". The flour in consideration here is wheat rava, which is better known in geographical governances in which English is the prevailing and preferred means of conversation by a more melodious name; semolina. Semolina is the gritty, coarse particles of wheat left after the finer flour has been extracted. Because it is made from durum wheat and not the softer wheat that goes into bread, it is digested more slowly and has a low glycemic index, which is jolly good news for people wanting to go blitzkrieg on their weight and blood sugar (i.e. me).

Here's a picture of an upma from the eatery, Pangal - where I've been visiting every morning at 8.30 am for the past four days;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I imagine that it comes in this shape because they are probably prepared in a big pot and and servings are made with an ice-cream scoop or spatula of some sort. Try to get to Pangal (or wherever you prefer to breakfast) as early as you can to get it hot and steaming. Since it's already prepared and sitting somewhere, you get it seconds right after you order. Fast food, indeed.

With a mindful economy of words, upma can be described simply as a savoury semolina pudding (and thus, almost dessert) and it can be easily compared to the Chinese dim sum dish, Lo Mai Gai (which contains glutinous rice filled with chicken, Chinese mushrooms, Chinese sausage and sometimes dried shrimp) - available in most, if not all, Chinese teahouses worldwide with usually minor variations in the recipe. Only, upma is less glutinous and is typically a vegan dish though Shaki said that it kicks ass with ikan bilis/anchovies.

Let's see how long it takes for me to tire of it. Oh, and if you don't already know, semolina is an anagram for "is no meal".


"Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us."

Peter De Vries, American editor and novelist

Now here's something startling (at least to me). I went back to Malaysia at the end of August weighing about 75 kilograms, and returned to Manipal 3 weeks ago at a whooping 82 kilograms of what that smart-ass Shaki referred to as "lemak berkrim".

Hold that number in your mind for a bit, okay?

On top of my previous resolution (made in last March) of not taking any elevators at all to any floor in any building, I've decided to up the ante by abstaining from riding an auto rickshaw to any place of any distance within a mile - nearly 2 kilometres - of my house (this includes turning down any offers of riding pillion on a motorcycle1). I have broken neither agendas of my regimental manifesto yet.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
An auto-rickshaw AKA fat-saver trike.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The elevator to my lecture hall - Raj got stuck in it last block and those blokes were rescuing him.

Starting concurrently with my upma streak, I have devised a whole new diet and a buck-saver plan for myself. You can skip the details in the list and go straight to the summary in bold letters if you aren't much of a reader.
  • I started out having two upmas every morning in the first two days but I have since reduced it to just a single helping, usually with a glass of chai or coffee. It comes to about 13 rupees in total per meal (about one ringgit). It sure beat my old breakfast of oily counterfeit nasi lemak which costs 20 rupees per packet.
  • I have also cut out lunch entirely.
  • For dinner, I usually go to that roadside shop, Your Choice right outside of Acharya Compund. Their standard portion is enough-rice-to-feed-a-starving-African-village, two chicken dishes, a side of boiled cabbage and a teeny bowl of soup for 35 rupees (approximately 3 ringgits). I simply halved it - taking only half the amount of rice or less, with a single chicken dish at the price of 25 rupees.
  • About twice a week, I had a regular thin-crust Domino's pizza pie all to myself for supper (usually a couple of hours after dinner) with a 500 ml bottle of Coke. That's been totally scratched too - at more than 300 rupees every time I dial for pizza, I'm not sorry to see that go.
  • The rest of my spending cash goes into all manners of junk food - Lay's potato crisps, Senor Pepito's nacho chips, Cadbury chocolate bars, Minute Maid pulpy orange juice - which would typically cost me roughly 70 rupees a day (6 ringgit). I have decided to completely slice off that disgusting portion of my daily caloric gorge-fest out of my life.
  • On top of all that, I have also taken up brushing my teeth at lunch time and after dinner to discourage binging.
So in short, I'm starving myself. I'm eating less than a quarter of my previous daily calorie intake, and spending less than one-fifth of what I used to splurge on edibles. I feel hungry at all times of the day now but thankfully, I have valiantly remained immovable (metaphorically speaking) from my stance. Of course, all this isn't without torment inhumane masochism sufferance of the nine rings of Hell OMFG, I'M FUCKING DYING OF HUNGER HERE!!! hardship. Several times a night, I found myself walking halfway to the convenience store to buy snacks before I could stop and drag myself back to my room. Not to mention all those miss calls I made to Domino's. I bet those pizza boys must be real mystified by this mysterious hang-upper that rings them at 8 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm nightly.

I weighed myself today right before dinner and I am down to 73 kilograms. 9 kilograms in 3 weeks! I have even started using belts again! I think I'll go celebrate with a jumbo bag of chips and a can of Coke...

NO!... Must not... return... to the... dark... side...

I only need to cut another 0.3 point from my Body Mass Index to achieve normalcy. Soon, I can finally shake off the yoke of being labeled as overweight and enter the fraternity of normalcy, where I rightly belong, naturally. Back when I was in Lower Secondary, I was one of the skinniest boys in the school! Have I grown or what? Damn, as soon as I get my running shoes repaired and washed by next weekend, I'm starting my old jogging regime again.

Though admittedly it could be a little extreme, the documentary Super Size Me made some very, very loud points about gluttony and overeating. Suddenly, my excuse that I'm not overweight but simply undertall isn't good enough anymore.

I got scared out of my pants, literally.

P.S. Incidentally, Dumbledore - as I've rightly suspected all this time - is gay. Rowling said so herself. We'll see how many little boys now aspire to be homosexual when they grow up. The holier-than-thou parents who have sought to get the Harry Potter books banned from school library shelves are going to foam at the mouth. I'll bet two bucks that she out Dumby just to piss these anal maters and paters off. I'm waiting for the drama and LOLs to ensue.

P.P.S. A crow flew over my head cawing what sounded suspiciously like my surname over and over again. Think that might be something?

Bringing sexy back,
k0k s3n w4i

1 Also because I don't wanna die. There's this autopsy I watched where some Indian bloke bit the dust by simply slipping and falling off his bike - he hit nothing and nothing hit him. He just fell and got pawned by the asphalt.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Semi Solid, but Mostly Fluid

"Ah, you're early for the next class."

Dr Vinod C. Nayak to Joon Keat,
when he came in 15 minutes late
for a General Toxicology lecture

The title of this post does not refer to the consistency of my faeces, no matter what you might have heard.

The last you will hear of Penang from me, I promise. Afternoon of Day 4.

Some animals are naturally cute...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Please, don't eat me.

...while some animals look like an uncircumcised penis.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Right after our far-side-of-Penang sojourn, we voted on visiting one last tourist attraction of the island before we leave for keeps. The place in question is reputed to be one of the oldest temple in the whole state of Pulau Pinang. I present to you the Cheng Shui Giam, or Temple of the Azure Cloud - more popularly known by the locals, tourists and cheesy, colour-saturated Visit Penang brochures as the Snake Temple;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Oh er. Huh?

... which was closed to visitors due to some restoration project that was going on.

Considering that we got lost in the industrial district of Bayan Lepas for a whole half-an-hour after a series of weird turns which we rightly should have known better than to take, reaching and finding that the joint was closed nearly made me want to bite a snake. The only part of it that was open was a side shrine and a booth where visitors can pose in a picture with one of the scaly critters (the species of which I have neglected to note because I was so bloody disappointed over the whole affair) in exchange for some legal tender. Where were the oodles and oodles of incense-pacified deadly pit vipers that are said to litter the place? Where was the Snake Pool? Where was the souvenir stand selling "I Heart Snake Temple" T-shirts and "Snake Temple Rocks!" novelty badges?1 Oh, I'm so pissed of that I won't even tell you about the history of the temple. Go and google it yourself.

The only other thing that was not off-limits to us was some sort of snake exhibition, and seeing that there was absofuckinglutely nothing else for us to do, we paid the admission fee and trooped right in.

The "exhibition" was a depressing little courtyard with terrariums built into the walls - which was what we expected really. The reptile section of the Butterfly Farm in Malacca is actually many times bigger - and they don't even specialise in ophidians!2 Also expected was the associated boredom one gets from seeing glass cases after glass cases of serpents - they aren't the liveliest creatures in the animal kingdom, y'know.

The only one we saw moving was this cute little mauve-and-lemon albino-something snake;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
ALL snakes should have pastel coloured scales, in my opinion. Makes them look so awfully cuddly.

The rest of them just sits on their big, fat scaly ass waiting for their second meal of the year;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Stunt-roach dares!

Besides snakes, there are also a variety of terrapins and rabbits (pictures at the start of this post) left to roam freely in the courtyard. I bet Monty above is just waiting for one of the dumber bunnies to hop close enough to his cage for him to go Godzilla on it.

On a more serious note, I felt that the exhibition was poorly operated and the snakes were quite badly taken care of by whoever's running the place. I think that is evident from this picture of a viper with some sort of rot or blister that burst out from under its scales;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Viper vith vart.

And frothing at the mouth is never good news, no matter what sort of animal you are;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Rabid serpent.

Snakes however, do not get rabies and the closest snakey disease I managed to find out about which involves frothing at the mouth is pneumonia - a result of too much humidity.

Whenever I see any snakes in the past, great or tiny - whether they are coiled and asleep in a display case or draped calmly around a handler's hand or neck - they have always given me an impression of great poise with their cold, calculating, unblinking eyes, and their long, sinuous bodies of liquid perfection. They are hunters, molded so tightly into their predatory specialties over countless years of evolution that they no longer even need legs.

In short, they are fucking awesome.

Seeing these wretched specimens in that knockoff snake carny just made me feel sorry for them. Some local animal rights activists ought to take a look into this.

Anyway, we left after spending about half an hour in the Snake Temple and headed for open freeway terrain again. To complete the Penang experience, we left the island via one of the longest bridges in the world, and one of our nation's most beloved landmarks;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The Penang Bridge - picture taken from the open window of the passenger seat of my car.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Bye bye, Penang.

It was nice knowing you.

I heart Penang,
k0k s3n w4i

Other posts in my Great Penang Road Trip series:

1 Actually, I just wished that there is a souvenir stand selling "I Heart Snake Temple" T-shirts and "Snake Temple Rocks!" novelty badges. It would be so freaking cool to wear stuff like that.
2 It's a way of saying "snake", without actually saying "snake". Perfect for people who talks with a lisp.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Journey to the Far Side of the Island

"The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see."

Gilbert K. Chesterton, early 20th century English writer

There's 14 pictures in this whole phlog1 post so get your affairs in order now because you're gonna die waiting, biatches.

Early morning of Day 4 of the Great Penang Road Trip.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
A dog and its prints on a small stretch of beach in front the Tropical Spice Garden

On the fourth day of our road trip, we felt decidedly adventurous and blazed onto the road leading to the other side of Penang. The first attraction en route was the Tropical Spice Garden located somewhere between the provinces of Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang. Seeing that the joint weren't open yet (plus the admission fee was a real early morning kicker), we decided to pass it by and trucked on. Paying so much to see an ornamental garden is just stupid. Paying so much and having to wait for it to open would practically make us retards.

Next stop on the list was a Batik Mill where were treated to a free guided tour by one of the kebaya-clad cicerones working for the establishment. The keyword here is 'free'. If you're in Penang, and for some inconceivable reason, you are suddenly overcame by this strange desire to find out how batik cloth is really made, this is the place you should head to.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Drawing with hot wax using a "canting". You can see a bit of our cicerone on the right edge of this picture.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Painting of specialised designs.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Some dude printing batik using the stamp method for repeating patterns. I gotta ask; why the fuck is he wearing a tie-dyed shirt?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Cottage industry in progress.

The tour concluded with our guide bringing us into the shop section of the mill and asked us to look around for anything we might like. While we browse, she stood some distance away giving us a look that said, "You got a free tour, now you owe us and you must buy something extravagantly overpriced from us." Of course, we being both Chinese and Malaysian, sniffed audibly at the substandard quality of their wares and discreetly sidled out of the store, mumbling all the way that it was *wink wink* high time for us to start our journey to Kelantan, where *nudge* better batik is produced.

We continued our south-easterly drive, passing many attractions such as the War Museum (
It was too beautiful a day to be cooped up in a repository of semi-primitive weapons of mass destruction), the Butterfly Farm (we have all been in one before) and some forest reserve (On Penang? No thank you). What we really wanted to do is to find the Tropical Fruit Farm, buy some nutmeg and nutmeg oil - which Penang is justly famous for - and be on our way out of the island. After driving about 15 minutes on a ultra-narrow, super-winding hillside road, we decided to call it quits. I made the most harrowing U-turn of my driving career and started backtracking along our trail...

...till we met a tourist van filled with Caucasian tourists we saw at the Batik Mill zipping past us.

"Tourists heading that way wor. That means that there's something there that is worth seeing, right?" I asked. "Shall we?"

A unanimous decision was quickly reached and I made the second most harrowing U-turn of my driving career. Why didn't I think of following a tour group before? Pure genius. Nutmeg is indeed the mother of improvisation.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Some really out-of-the-way tourist trap.

The tour van did not reach the Tropical Fruit Farm unfortunately, but it did the next best thing; it stopped at a local fruits stall. And yes, we got our nutmegs and nutmeg oil!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Some dog at the fruits stall.

You're reading my blog so you got to bear with some of my quirks. I must insist on photographing every cat, dog, pig, horse, mudskipper and nine-banded armadillo I see on my trips. I'm a zoological-inclined, obsessive-compulsive, serial photographer - it says here on my hospital wrist band.

And here's the farthest point we've reached on the western side of the island;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Air Terjun Titi Kerawang - just a bit further down the road from the fruits stall.

On our way back, we stopped by the Teluk Bahang Dam;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Penang International Dragon Boat Festival is held annually here since 2002. I nearly dislocated my shoulder having a stone-chucking competition with Inn Shan, but my throws didn't even reach the water. The embankment is waaay broader than it looks here in this picture, okay.

My previous desktop wallpaper is a pinup of a butt-naked girl who has the most perfect ass I have ever seen in my life. As unbeliveable as it may sound to you, I finally got tired of it (after 6 months) and got it replaced. Here's my new wallpaper;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Late morning at the Batu Ferringhi beach.

Back when I was in the Second Form, I remember that a teacher - a pervert of a Kemahiran Hidup mentor - once told the class that if we ever want to see nude westerners sunbathe and skinny-dip, we should go to Batu Ferrhingi. My guess is that we were just too early.

This proves once and for all that early birds get no tits.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The Ship steakhouse in Penang at Batu Ferringhi. Now you can dine without worrying about tsunamis.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
No caption needed.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
A floating mosque.

Our Masjid Selat Melaka on the reclaimed Pulau Melaka is way cooler and more picturesque than Penang's - and I have the pictures to prove it. Remind me to do a post covering that some other time, okay? Meanwhile, here's a sneak preview;

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
An awesomer floating mosque.

Sorry that I couldn't spend more time writing this post properly with the usual loving attention to details that I employed in writing most of my previous posts. Truth is, I've vowed to spend more time on my books during the weekdays. Medical school is no pretty walk in the park with flowers edging the pebble lane, you know. Medicine are serious business, and I are serious man.

See you in the weekend, yo.

The island trailblazer,
k0k s3n w4i

Other posts in my Great Penang Road Trip series:

1 Phlog means Photo Blog. It rhymes with 'flog' because it's causes you about the same amount of pain if you read one. This being a travephlog makes it three times as unbearable.