Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Jelawat effect

It has been raining incessantly for the past three days already. My aunt says that it is due to the Chinese eighth lunar month that's causing the deluge but surely, there must be a scientific explanation and I believe that we are actually feeling the effects of the super typhoon that's being churned up presently east of the Philippines. Penang is not in a typhoon zone but occasionally, typhoons in the western Pacific, as well as those in the Indian Ocean, may affect us. Anyway, this is only my opinion.

Nevertheless, there's this satellite image that I've just picked up from the AccuWeather website. It's a mean typhoon with its epicentre just east of Luzon and travelling towards Taiwan. But significantly, the typhoon looks like drawing moisture from the Indian Ocean basin which means that as Penang is directly in its path, the moisture gets dumped on us..

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

OFA-PFS cricket match

The annual games between The Old Frees' Association and the Penang Free School were played last Saturday at both premises. A whole day-long affair starting with badminton in the morning and ending with hockey and football in the late afternoon.

I went to the school at about noon. A last-minute decision, as always. Missed the badminton matches as they had already ended. Nevertheless, I waited to watch the start of the cricket match. Naturally, took some photos. In my opinion, this one turned out to be the best of the bunch.

Monday, 24 September 2012

NZ travelogue: the Riccarton Bush

After the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple in Christchurch, the Riccarton Bush was our next stop in the itinerary. Originally, I had wanted to visit the farmer's market but found out that it was open only on a Saturday morning. As we would only arrive in Christchurch on Saturday evening, that means that we would have missed it already.

Nevertheless come Sunday morning, we still decided to visit the Riccarton Bush. This place is the largest surviving remnant of the forests that once covered the Canterbury Plains. Our destination was the Riccarton House. Although the building was closed due to the Christchurch earthquake, the vast grounds were still accessible to people and it was there that an artisan's market would be held every Sunday.

Pathway leading up to Riccarton House

Getting there was quite easy and finding a parking lot wasn't any problem. A leisurely walk among the tall kahikatea trees took us to Riccarton House. Stalls were already opened and people were everywhere .... eating, shopping or just whiling away time sitting by the banks of the Avon River. We did all three.

Riccarton House

Some of the stalls selling a wide variety of stuff 

People milling every where

Although the house was out of bounds, it did not stop people from occupying the verandah.

Others were enjoying the outdoor sun in a nippy autumn weather

Nearby, a band was providing entertainment

Directly opposite the house was the Avon River

We strolled around the grounds and came across Deans Cottage, built by pioneering Scottish brothers, William and John Deans, in 1843. This is the oldest building on the Canterbury Plains, built from timber cut in the Riccarton Bush and pit-sawn into boards. The brothers had lived here until their early and tragic deaths. William drowned in a shipwreck in 1851 while John died from tuberculosis in this cottage in 1854. The interior of the cottage has been turned into a museum to showcase the brothers' living conditions in the 19th century.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Kuala Lumpur postbox

The old cylindrical pillar postboxes continue to fascinate me. After having tracked down what I believe to be all the surviving colonial postboxes in Penang, I took the opportunity to visit the Central Market when I was down in Kuala Lumpur last month. I had heard that there was one outside the building.

True enough, while circumbulating the Central Market, I came across it at the southern end of building. A piece of paper was glued to the base of the postbox. I ran my hand over the paper, hoping to trace the outline of the royal cypher. It would have indicated the period when this postbox was installed. Unfortunately, there was none. Like the one in Ayer Itam, Penang, the mark had been filed off. It is so disgraceful that all remnants of our rich history are being removed by ignorant people. Anyway, this one was made by McDowall Steven & Co Ltd.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Reputation counts for nothing

It is very rare indeed that I write any review of the food stalls or coffee shops that I visit but I'm moved enough to pen something about a recent experience at the Seng Thor Coffee Shop & Hotel which is located at the corner of Carnarvon Street and Kimberley Street in George Town, Penang.

Now, this coffee shop has been around for ages and it has acquired a reputation for its street food. In particular, everyone wants to try the fried oysters (oh chien) as it is acclaimed to be the most famous on the island. When I was a kid, my father would, once in a very long while, take me there for a plate. A special treat. The memory of those few occasions still lingers in my mind.

Even now whenever I travel along Carnarvon Street or when I had to turn into Kimberley Street, I would turn to look longingly at that particular corner of the coffee shop. But I would often be on my way to somewhere else, or found it inconvenient to park the car or most times, I would find the stall not opened for the day.

But earlier this month, the opportunity presented itself for my whole family. We did find ourselves passing the coffee shop at around lunch time and so, we decided to stop there. We ordered a plate of the fried oysters and also from the Koay Teow Soup hawker.

While waiting, all eyes were on the hawker. We were looking at how he was preparing the food. To cut the story short, I must say that I was greatly shocked. The amount of cooking oil that had gone into the frying was alarmingly copious. If ever there was a candidate for the most unhealthy food in Penang, this must be it. Generous amounts of cooking oil went into the frying pan at every stage of the preparation. And finally, just before the hawker apportioned out the omelette onto the plates, the oil was scooped back into a pot, waiting to be unleashed again for the next round of frying.

If ever there was a disturbing sight, this must be it. But I must say that all this was done openly for everyone to see. If the idea of wolfing down a plateful of greasy, cholesterol-laden fried oysters is not your idea of healthy eating, well you have been warned here!

[UPDATE: I forgot. I forgot to mention something about the fried oysters. How did I find it? Well, it was not exactly like how I remembered it Although it was a long time ago, I do remember that the omelette used to be soft and a little chewy. That was because of the special flour used in the original batter. Now, the texture was crispier. Not so original anymore. Times have changed. A totally different experience.]

As for the Koay Teow soup, this was only the third time in about six months that I had ordered from the hawker. My verdict is that this hawker's preparation is rather inconsistent. I had enjoyed his offering the first two times but this time around, I was greatly disappointed. The soup lacked the earlier oomph - in my opinion, almost tasteless - and despite it coming off fresh from the stove, the bowls arrived at our table lukewarm. So my advice to anyone who plan to try his food: be prepared for the best or the worst from this man. He has his good days. And bad days.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

George Town's street art

I can firmly declare that I do not know Ernest Zacharevic and neither does he know me. But like many Penangites, I do know who he is. And he is the one artist that has single-handedly turned George Town into the hippiest and most happening city in the country. He had landed in Penang several months ago, intending to stay for only a few days, but ended up staying for a good many months.

Inspired by the cultural heritage he saw around him, he sought permission from the Penang Island Municipal Council to put his paint brushes to good use. The first of his many wall murals was this giant painting, in Muntri Street, of a young girl perched on top of two windows.

Muntri Street

From that first mural, he went on to create several others. I can't say that I like them all, though. But I wouldn't even want to say which are the ones I like because one man's meat is obviously another man's poison and so, I shall leave it to other Penangites and of course, the tourists who had made a beeline to these murals, to pass their own judgments. But here they are, the rest of them (well, at least most of them), in no particular order of preference:

Cannon Street
Armenian Street
Armenian Street
Ah Quee Street
Ah Quee Street
Chew Jetty
Penang Road

As an aside, maybe I should also mention that the Quah Kongsi missed out on a golden opportunity to be part of this giant project. The Kongsi owned a building in Armenian Street and the organiser of this year's George Town Festival had written in for permission to paint on the side of the building. Unfortunately, the previous president of the association was well known to us for his procrastination and although the letter was received sometime in May or June, he did not bother to raise it up with his committee. Nobody else was aware and when I finally learnt of it, it was already much too late to reply to Joe Sidek. Wouldn't it have been fantastic to add to this fine collection in George Town?

Monday, 17 September 2012

Remembering the 77th anniversary of Ban Hin Lee Bank

Sometimes, I would remember it; most times I don't. But today was one of the few occasions when I did. I woke up this morning and it clicked in my mind that today's the seventeenth of September. It is a date in my version of history, as far as I am concerned. It mattered to me. It moved me enough to post this message on facebook:
17 September? Is today 17 September? That would mark today as the 77th anniversary of Ban Hin Lee Bank, it being founded on 17 September 1935. Unfortunately, the bank had already ceased to exist by 30 June 2000. All that's left for us are the memories of the past working life and camaraderie among old friends and former colleagues. Such was the friendship cultivated at Ban Hin Lee Bank that similar relationships could never be repeated at new work places. They never reached the same heights after our banking days.
Hours later, it had collected several "likes" and responses from my connected friends from the bank. I'd like to share them here:

  • KS Lim SS, but the memory is precious. Even though it has been more than 12 years since the bank has ceased to exist, we still identify ourselves as BHL bankers. This is something pretty rare. I left the bank 10 years prior to that date, but I still consider myself an ex-BHL bank staff.
  • Lim Soon Huat A large number of esp. Penangites has had their first career with this august institution. Maybe I'm wrong but I think BHLB was just more than an institution to us. In some ways it was like an extended family - the bonding has been unusually strong even til now.
    8 hours ago · Like · 1
  • KS Lim KS Lim Soon Huat, couldn't agree more. When I joined KL branch in early 78, almost half of the staff were Penangnites. And these are not only Penangnites who were sent to the branch, butPenangnites who have made KL their adopted homes. I can still remember even the customers were ex-Penangnites and Penang Hokkien was widely spoken in the branch. We always feel like being in a home away from home.
  • KS Lim Off course, we had senior staff like Khay Seang, Beng Huat, Benny, Thiam Cheong and a couple more who came to work with us as well.
    7 hours ago · Like · 1
  • Lim Soon Huat There are very few siimlar institutions nowadays which are people centric. We have lots to be grateful to our predecessors for their contribution in this aspect.
  • Vincent Tang Yes, very fond memories I have but all good things must come to an end at one point. Cherish the memories but life goes on.

Saturday, 15 September 2012


This orchid flower had seen better days so please remember, nothing is ever permanent in this world...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Old RAMs and old chips

What am I to do with these darn things? What can I do with them? These were stripped from my old obsolete or broken down desktop computers and laptops, and now lying on the table gathering dust. My wife wanted to throw them away but wait, I told her, I wanted them as a keepsake of the computers we've owned in the past.

I've a small collection of a piece of 32MB PC100 RAM card, a piece of 64MB PC133 RAM card, two pieces of 256MB KVR266 RAM cards and three pieces of 512MB PC3200/DDR400 RAM cards from my various desktops, in addition to a 256MB DDR333 RAM card from a laptop.

Then there are also an AMD Sempron chip, an AMD K6 chip, an Intel Pentium4 chip and a final Intel chip with unknown markings. What should I do with them?

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Getting set for mid-autumn

It's not even the end of the Chinese seventh lunar month or Hungry Ghost Festival month (last day will fall on 15 Sep) and already, the stalls in the shopping malls are selling mooncakes for the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival falls on the full moon day of the Chinese eighth lunar month which corresponds to 30 Sep 2012.

There are so many varieties to choose from until it's impossible to try them all. Nevertheless, I had my first bite at this year's mooncake delicacy yesterday. As an aside, I should mention that I try to avoid all the newfangled variations that manufacturers are wont to hit on their unsuspecting customers. No, it is only the traditional mooncake tastes for me!