Tuesday, 24 February 2015


I had tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. After all, it was the gathering of the Penang Free School batch of 1971/73 and I had only gone to their dinner function to meet some of my old friends there. I left after saying hello to them and to some of the former teachers present. But somehow, I still managed to be captured in one or two of their photographs. This one, for example, I wasn't even posing for the group shot. I wasn't even aware that the picture was being taken. I was, in fact, talking to someone off the camera. Yet, I found myself unintentionally photo-bombing. BTW, that's Michael Devaraj in the picture.

Oh yes, also this one. A little bit of me in the background. Like everyone else, I was startled to see a very frail Leong Yee Fong being helped to the teachers' table. According to one of my friends, one of the best history teachers ever!

Monday, 23 February 2015


Oh yeah....the relatives had come a-visiting on the second day of Chinese New Year....

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Old teachers

I gate-crashed a reunion last night. I got to hear about the gathering of the Penang Free School batch of 1971/73 and decided to go see some of my old friends. Was pleasantly surprised to see that they had filled 11 or 12 tables, which meant that there were at least 100 of their year at the function!

Technically, I'm one of them but because I got into an express class in Standard Two whilst at the Westlands Primary School, I jumped to Standard Four in the following year and thus ended up as their senior in the PFS.

Nevertheless, I know several people whom I've known for quite a long while: people like Ooi Eng Hong, Lim Eng Chong, Lim Eng Swee, Tan Leong Wah, Ong Charn Hong, Khoo Boo Teik, Cheah Cheng Hye, Neoh Chin Boon, et cetera....

But what I didn't expect was to meet so many of our old teachers too. I half-expected to see Tan Boon Lin but he couldn't turn up. Instead, there was my other headmaster, Poon Poh Kong, as well as Ooi Keat Leong, Phang Pheng Yoke, Tan Sean Huat, Khor Gark Khim and Poh Guat Cheng who had all taught me. Present also were Padmanathan, Hwang Hong Shi, Ang Chin Bean, Leong Yee Fong and Yeoh Oon Huat who didn't get to teach me.

After saying hello to the people I knew, I left soon after this picture was taken. It's their party, after all; no point intruding too much, no point wearing out my welcome.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Chinese New Year with friends

Small gathering yesterday at the Northam Beach Cafe in Northam Road, George Town, which was the second day of Chinese New Year. Glad to have seen them. Kim Bok was not in the pictures as he arrived after this "professional" photo-shoot was over.

There's this reddish tinge in the picture because a string of red lights was overhead. Anyhow, from left to right were Teik Wah, Oon Hup, Phang Peng Yoke, Huan Chiang, Chye Chye, Soon Chye, Andrew and myself. Phang was our Geography teacher. Last met him about five years ago, or maybe even longer!

The night wore on and this picture was snapped at about 11.15p.m. Even then, we had Kim Bok arriving much later just about when I was about to leave this gang of old school friends. From left to right: Soon Chye, Jessie, Hock Leong, Michael, myself, Kah Kheng, Chye Chye, Huan Chiang, Andrew, Teik Wah, Seng Oo and Oon Hup.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Joey Yap says: Power up for 2015

Here are the auspicious directions for Wealth, Helpful People, Nobility and Good Fortune, Career and Business Success on Feb 19th, the first day of the Lunar New Year. 

For those of you who want to receive the Wealth Star (culturally known as Receiving the God of Wealth), receive the Qi from the East.

For those seeking mentors and helpful people, use the West.

If you prefer to give value and contribute, serve others more this year - use the North. This is the direction of Nobility and Good Fortune.

If you seek career advancement and progress this year, tap to the NorthWest.

For Business Opportunities and business growth, access the NorthEast.

The auspicious time is 12.30am. Allow the Qi to flow into your home from the direction you desire. Make sure the Qi from this direction can enter your home.

Traditionally, people also do a full prayer facing that direction. Or if you are like me, who prefer to keep things simple (but equally effective ), make a wish facing that direction.

Can we use more than one direction?

Why not? :-)

The Qi (energy) is free for all. Tap in and access it as much as you'd like.

More importantly , share the wealth and good fortune with others. The more we can help others succeed and be happier in life, the more we will receive in return. Please share this post with all your friends.

Wishing you good fortune and happiness in The Year of The Wood Goat.

(The above story was reproduced from Joey Yap's facebook entry.)\

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Indian Summers in Penang

The Bellevue Hotel at Penang Hill is a photographer's private delight. From its vantage point behind the restaurant, one looks down at the promontory which is George Town. When my wife and I were there at the turn of the new year, we truly enjoyed our stay there despite the somewhat quaint service from the kitchen. To the left of the vantage point, one can see a huge structure in the distance, somehow positioned at a slightly lower elevation than the Bellevue itself.

A long time ago, this was the well-known Crag Hotel, established in 1895 by the same Sarkies Brothers from Armenia who had also developed the Eastern & Oriental (E&O) Hotel in downtown George Town and the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

In the late 19th century, a certain Captain J Kerr had leased a plot of land at Penang Hill and erected his bungalow which he called The Crag. Later, the Sarkies brothers acquired the bungalow from Kerr and turned it into the Crag Hotel. The hotel operated until the Second World War and after that, it fell into disuse. From 1955 to 1977, the International School of Penang (or Uplands School) used the building as its primary boarding school.

When I was at the Bellevue on 31 Dec 2014, I had trained my camera at the former Crag Hotel and captured this picture. The place actually looked spruced up and not as dilapidated as originally thought. Even from this distance, I had noticed that the lawn and garden was very neat. Evidently, someone was taking care of the place. It had been so cleaned up.

Then in the past fortnight or so, I've been reading that a new 10-episode television series was about to be screened in the United Kingdom. The Channel 4 TV series, called Indian Summers, would take viewers back to the summer of 1932. It would be the last days of British rule in colonial India: there's the decline of the British Raj and the birth of modern India.

The series is set in Simla - the capital of the Himachel Pradesh state in the north of India. It was here during the hottest months of the year that a burgeoning community of Brits would descend and govern from the foothills of the Himalayas, where it was cooler. However, modern-day Simla posed too many practical obstacles: too many modern high-rise buildings that couldn't be avoided in any location shooting.

Then the producers happened to visit Penang and they were swept away by our colonial past. The buildings here have far too many similarities with Simla in the past. Penang was an ideal substitute. And the former Crag Hotel became the Royal Simla Club, the focal point of the whole series. But there was still a problem.

Simla was located at the foothills of the snow-capped Himalayas. Where on earth could we find snow-capped mountains in Malaysia? Luckily, this problem was easily solved. No big deal. Like many film shows nowadays, computer-generated backdrops have come to the rescue. And so, here we are, Penang Hill has been relocated to the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Year-end send-off prayers to the ancestors

The last week or so had been very busy for my wife and I during this run-up to the Chinese New Year. We have been spring-cleaning the house almost daily and we couldn't believe the amount of dust that had accumulated since about two years ago. My hospitalisation in January of 2014 meant that we hardly had time to spring-clean the house last year; this year, it was back to the mops and brooms with a vengeance!

Anyhow, we did manage to slot in some time to visit Ipoh last weekend and gone out to the island for our weekend yoga classes. Yesterday, we awoke very early at six o'clock to prepare for the annual end-of-year prayers to my departed ancestors.

That would mean my grandparents on both my paternal and maternal side, my parents and my aunt. I had written in the past how challenging it once was to throw the old pair of coins that would signify whether they had, erm, arrived at our house for our little prayer session. These old coins were meant for divination purposes: a heads-and-tail combination would mean that yes, your inquiries have been answered while a tail-tail or a head-head combination would mean a no, and you will have to try again.

My past run-in with the door guardians or door spirits was that I had failed to request them to allow my ancestors unhindered passage into the house. They would be stopped at the door  and not allowed in until I had prayed to the door guardians and told them my purpose.

This time, I pre-empted the potential sticky situation by purposefully praying to the door guardians first. After that, my first try with the divination coins was a successful head-tail combination. Yes, my ancestors had arrived for the feat of fruits and Chinese New Year tidbits. After an hour, I tried again to inquire whether my ancestors had finished. And yes, they had. They were indeed satisfied.

And with that, ended our simple prayers this year-end....

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Balancing an egg on Li Chun (立春) day

I did it on this very day last year and I managed to do it again on Li Chun (立春), the fourth of February. It's a special day in the Chinese calendar as today signifies the beginning of Spring. And what did I do again? I balanced an egg upright on the kitchen top. That's all, that's all I did.

In the meantime at noon today, I placed this new packet of rice in my rice bucket to signify abundance. Purists may be horrified that I did not actually empty the packet of rice into the bucket but to me, it is still the same. I'm filling it up. Happy Li Chun (立春), folks!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Full moon, plus planet Jupiter

Another attempt at photographing our nearest celestial neighbour tonight: it's the full moon. The last full moon before Chinese New Year. I'm quite happy with the moon...it's full, it's round and it's bright.

But more than the full moon itself, there was also a bonus: I see the very bright planet Jupiter to the south of the moon. Jupiter has been very prominent in our night sky for months now, and I had first noticed it in April last year.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Small reunion of old schoolmates

The occasion was the wedding dinner of Swee Poh's daughter at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel in George Town, Penang, in early December last year. Swee Poh is my old classmate from our Penang Free School days. Several of my old school friends also took the opportunity to attend the function and it became sort of a mini-reunion for us. An added bonus was the presence of our old geography teacher, Ms Tan Joo Sim, who is well into her 90s.

(Left to right) Abu Huraira, Abdullah Sani, Quah Chei Jin, Yeap Leong Teik, Andrew Choong, Loh Choi Choon, Choi Choon's daughter, Mrs Cheah Swee Poh, Cheah Swee Poh, the happy couple, myself, Ms Tan Joo Sim (in wheelchair), Ooi Kah Theang, Mrs Ooi Kah Theang, Boon Choong Meng, Chang Yew Keow

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Almost a full moon

I was stepping outside the house just a while ago and I caught a glimpse of the moon. It is still not fully round yet as the full moon is still two days away. Nevertheless, with the long shadows cast at the lower outer ridges of the moon, where the pock marks are, the sight is rather interesting. I just can't wait for the evening of the third of February....