Wednesday, December 30, 2009


If I am asked how many nephews and nieces do I have, I will need to scribble the names before I can give the number. And it is no guarantee that I will be correct. That's me and they called me "ayah chik".

Likewise, I cannot readily give an answer how many grand-nephews and grand-nieces that this "tok chik" have at the last count.

But this blog is not about the extended family of my late father and mother. It is about the much-awaited wedding of the last of my sister's (Ramlah) son - Shamsul Adzmir bin Hamzah. This "goat smile" sums it all.

Adzmir has every reason to smile. He scored a perfect 10. There was NO REPEAT for the akad. I was one of the two witnesses. However, his vocal chord somehow cannot strike a high pitch, tapi tak sumbang! And there was no "male sweat" trickling down his forehead. Lucky too that my hearing was still perfect. I suspected he was practising the akad throughout the night before and through the entire 3 hour journey to the bride's house in Felda Sg Klemah, somewhere in Gemas.

I suspect too that his 3 married brothers coached him. Yes, Adzmir has no sister. There is no Jane in the family, all Tarzans! The only lady in the house is their mother, my sister Ramlah.

Ramlah is a retired teacher. Now in her mid-60s, she proudly declares that throughout her teaching career, she DID NOT TAKE A SINGLE DAY OF MEDICAL LEAVE! Hei, I am proud of you sis (err...a little bit ashame of myself la). She also used to be the fastest 100m runner in Kelantan in her school days.

So back to the akad ceremony, it was performed in the mosque in this Felda scheme. The bride's father gave away his daughter. Contrary to his son-in-law to be, the father required several coaching from the Imam while Adzmir was quietly rehearsing the akad.

Again back to the ceremony, there is always the adat "membatalkan air sembahyang" and Adzmir was pretty amateurish in his attempt to put on the gelang on his wife, Siti Sarah. Obviously there was no trial run for this part of the program. Obviously they bear the brunt of the jokes from the family members and the smiles on their faces say it all.

The akad over, our entourage was brought to a house to wait the bersanding ceremony. We feasted on heaps of rambutan, freshly plucked from the trees in the compound. You can get this only in a kampong wedding.

This is a special occasion. We have the entire sibling together under one roof and we took the opportunity to have our family photo taken.

And there are nine of us, with only 2 boys. Considering my brother and I were grossly outnumbered, we were lucky we did not become "lembut". The oldest, Zainab is seated. The rest are positioned chronologically from left to right - Ramlah, Kamariah, Ramli, Zainun, Rahimah, Rahimi (Mahmood), Rohana and Rokiah.
But I prefer this pose!
Fun time over, it was then the procession for the bersanding. The usual sound of traditional music followed the procession
and in no time they were comfortably seated on the dais

and we were soon feasted and it was time to let the newly weds to be on their own. The following day in Seremban, it will be the "menyambut menantu" for my sister. Another day, another reception.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Several months ago, my late friend Anwar Batcha phoned me up why I was not updating my blog for nearly a month. It was followed soon after by an email from my respected elder. He was wondering whether I was not well that caused my silence. Alhamdulillah, I am okay. It is just the lazy bones that often stifles enthusiasm. Just like bears in winter, it is the hibernating season.

I do have two other updates in my draft before I would call it curtains down for the trip my wife and I took to Dublin. Returning from Venice, we had planned a 2-day outing to Cliffs of Moher, two days before our departure for home.

Located about 260kms from Dublin, on the western coast of Ireland, we decided to take an easy drive there.

Renting a car was the best option. It accords flexibility of travel and unregulated stops - just like touring on my bicycle, except that the speed is multiplied many folds.

We booked a night at a Travelodge in Limerick, a town roughly 60kms from the cliffs.

Limerick is the 3rd largest city of Ireland. Records states that it started as a viking settlement, with the Shanon River being the major waterways of the wandering vikings.

Entering Limerick city, we were greeted with a huge crowd of Irish in their familiar green colored t-shirts and jerseys leaving the stadium. They were the supporters of their rugby team. There was no rowdiness, so we further assume the local team must have defeated the visitors.

Other than the pockets of these supporters and their vehicles, Limerick remains relatively not busy.

We stopped for a photo shoot at King John's castle. It is one of the numerous castles you can find as you drive on the roads. The cloud was dull grey as one can expect in late autumn approaching winter. On the river bank, the winds dropped the temperature by a few more celcius and staying out could not be a prolong option.

So, a quick photoshoot for the 3 ladies in the entourage. Here is mom and daughter Syakira, hugging close for warmth.

And the two sisters admiring each other on the screen of my EOS camera. Nowadays, I prefer a compact than the heavy DSLR and a comprise on quality has to be expected. The compact suits well for my light travelling on my bicycle tours.

This is the Travelodge Limerick we stayed for the night. I downloaded this picture from the internet as I discovered none of us took a shot of the lodge.

A Travelodge is a cheap option to bed down for the night. It is a no frills hotel and for Euro 40 a night, one gets a room with large size beds adequate for 4 Asians, though maximum allowed is 3. It is very clean with modern facilities. Just across the road is a shopping mall where we got to buy our provisions for dinner.

The following day, we checked out of the hotel very early in the morning, still in darkness. The cliffs of Moher was still a good 60kms away. The car showed a quarter tank and when we passed a petrol kiosk a few kms from the Travelodge, we decided to proceed on and fill up somewhere along the way.

This proved to be a very poor decision. As the fuel needle slowly dipped to the red zone, there was still no sign of a petrol kiosk. We should have known that petrol kiosks are as rare as halal restaurants in Ireland! We were also driving in darkness.

I recalled that during our stay in Dublin, we did not come across any petrol kiosk in the city. I could perhaps be correct to say that Subang Jaya has more cars than a few cities in Ireland combined! Little wonder that working Malaysian students in Dublin can afford to buy a 3 series BMW. Poor demand, hence low price - simple economics. Well not really la!

Back to reality, I was driving cautiously. When we finally came across a petrol kiosk, it was still closed. We drove on to another small town. Same story. We were not even sure whether this other petrol kiosk will even open on Saturday. We waited for a while but decided to check whether there will be another one around. Wishful thinking it was. But a man in a sundry shop which surprisingly opened early said there was another kiosk towards our direction to the Cliffs of Moher. He did not know how far but gave us a "about 10 minutes drive from here" distance. Reminds me of the "sebatang rokok" story of the orang asli back home.

He was right. It was roughly the time he mentioned. Boy, were we happy to see a petrol kiosk? You bet. It was already daybreak. We filled up full. From the kiosk, it was only 10kms to the cliffs. This place is called Liscanor.

We passed a golf club and there were already golfers arriving at the club. If invited to play, I would politely turn the offer down. In the cold, my swing would be too stiff and I would not have a feel of the club in my hand.

I could not avoid but notice the generous speed limit of 100kms/hr on what I would classify as a kampong road. Even stretches of our PLUS highway has speed limit of only 80kms/hr. and of-course that would be the favorite hunting ground of our traffic police.

The road to the Cliffs passed through some farmland

and the famous Liscannor Stone. We did not buy any Liscannor stone as a momento. It would be too heavy for our luggage. Besides, what can we do with a stone!

We were early. We were the only second group of visitors to arrive. We were greeted by this crow and it was not able to provide much information to us! We asked, but the informant just flew away.

This is the entrance to the site. At such an early hour, it was still unmanned. But it was opened so we decided to pay our "exit" fee later instead of entrance fee.The winds blowing from the Pacific Ocean was cold, very cold. I just cannot imagine how Vikings travelled in their ships in such weather in the old days. The blankets we brought came in very handy indeed.

The cliffs are indeed a spectacular view. This was my shot.

Compare it with the shot I shot of the cliff in the souvenir shop! Well, the professional photographer has all the time to take this kind of shot.

There are also adequate protection and signages to deter some crazy tourists from venturing too far.

There is also a lookout castle and we made our way there, all the time taking turns with the blankets for warmth.

There was really nothing much to do here, except to capture the memories in several poses. So here goes.

and more poses

and yes...the jump

Obviously Shakira has a lot of practise to do before she can perfect the jump. Ila, you better learn it from Mimi fast.

and finally an Abbey Road ala the Beatles...well....not quite there

Monday, November 9, 2009


We had a smooth flight from Beuavais airport in Paris to Treviso airport in Venice. Arriving at dusk, with the grey skies growing darker by the seconds, we were happy with our decision to have an accomodation booked near the airport. Mimi called the caretaker upon arrival. The caretaker's instruction was simple. Look to the right when you exit the airport and you can see the B&B accomodation. Viola! There it was, a three-storey beige-coloured building across the street. No taxis required. We rolled our bags to the apartment.

Fantastic. Apart from our threesome ocupying one room, there was only one other room occupied by a couple. So, the common bathroom posed no problem for us. The kitchenette was stocked with tea and coffee, and a simple breakfast was provided.

We brought some halal meals from Paris for our dinner, unsure of whether we could get some food on arrival. The weather was pleasant and for a change, I do not need a blanket and for once had to use the stand fan provided. We settled in very quickly.
Though waking up early as usual, we were in no hurry. We had a slow breakfast though it was tough to slow down. There were really not much for breakfast to slow us down.

The bus to Venice leaves the airport regularly, timed with the arrivals of the flights from various destinations in Europe. Tickets for the waterbus in Venice were also available at the bus ticket counter. Everything was convenient. The last bus would depart Venice for the airport at 7:30 pm and we would have a full day for sight-seeing and absorbing Venice - a first timer for the 3 of us. The return bus ticket costs Euro 10 each. The waterbus ticket in Venice costs Euro 16 each.

The bus left the airport on time and the journey took about an hour. Crowd was already building up at the main bus station in Venice as buses, taxis, private cars and motorcycles started arriving. Human traffic was everywhere. It would be a crowded day.

For those familiar with Venice, the main tourist destination is Piazzo Saint Marco, Piazzo meaning Square. One could also walk to the square through the maze of the canals which would take more than an hour to do so. The most popular option was to take the waterbus, which we did, which most other tourists did too.

We had our first sight of the gondolas at the waterfront while looking for the waterbus site. We would certainly be seeing more of these later.

The waterbus we took was pretty crowded. There were several stops along the main waterway before reaching Piazza St Marco. I noted that there were no ticket conductors and the purchase of tickets were done in good faith. I wonder whether such service can work back home! Here, I did not notice anyone going for a free ride.

Anyway it was a good feeling to catch the sea breeze as the waterbus makes its way to the various stops. It was also a different sight to see buildings hugging the sea. There was water everywhere (but not a drop to drink) and there were boats plying up and down.

The sights we saw so far was well worth this excursion.

Arriving at St Marco square, we were greeted with hordes of human traffick. We were pretty amazed that after all these years, the Europeans were still visiting Venice.

Piazza St Marco (St Mark's Square) is the central landmark and gathering place for Venice. One can find lots of tourists, photographers and pigeons. There are small alleyways, deisgner brand shops and restaurants.

We were amongst the handful of Asians in the mat salleh crowd.

The pigeons at the square were enjoying the crowd. It would mean a constant supply of food for them.

And Mimi was also enjoying her usual jump

Joining in the joy were also the souvenir stalls. There were plenty of souvenirs for the picking. I refrain from buying the familiar blue-striped t-shirt worn by the gondolier. Back home, I do not want to be mistaken for an escaped convict! And I will then end up using the striped t-shirt as my pyjama top - a rather expensive sleeping option.

There were also paintings and sketches to choose from. We were also careful not to buy for fear of being too "Venice" when we get back home.

Aha...what about the umbrella? Can use it for golf! No. It would be too exhibitive and my golfing buddy may complain for creating distraction.

What about masks? Isn't masks a feature of Venice? Well, it was, decades ago.

Here is the take on masks, copied from an internet site. The pictures are mine though.

"Unlike the vast majority of their counterparts in contemporary European nations, each citizen in Venice enjoyed a high standard of living. Everyone was part of the great economic machine that was the Republic. Venice was capitalizing on its position, on its gains, long before its contemporaries had realized the value of a market economy. With a level of social wealth unequaled since, the citizens of Venice developed a unique culture - one in which the concealing of the identity in daily life became paramount to daily activity. Part of the secrecy was pragmatic: there were things to do, people to see, and perhaps you might not want others to know what deals you were cutting. After all, the city is relatively small."

Additionally, the masks served an important social purpose of keeping every citizen on an equal playing field. Masked, a servant could be mistaken for a nobleman - or vice versa. State inquisitors and spies could question citizens without fear of their true identity being discovered (and citizens could answer without fear of retribution). The morale of the people was maintained through the use of masks - for with no faces, everyone had voices.

So, no masks either for us. Tak mahu berselindung disebalik topeng. Thus all the stalls we patronised did not get to take our Euros.

Walking through the alleys of St Marco, there were many boutique and designer shops, and more souvenir shops.

But the small canals criss-crossing St Marco was where our main focus went. Here would be where Venice is mostly featured, internationally. The aged buildings by the canals,

The curved bridge across the canals

And the gondolas

and a pose by the canal.

This is where the romance of Venice begins!

And finally my own pose at "167". It was not a romantic number, but a memorable one. You see, I was born at No. 167 Kg Dalam Ru, Tumpat 59 years ago!