Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Herd Mentality

All takes is a bull to start running and the rest will join the stampede. That is the herd mentality in the simplest of sense according to my understanding of the phrase. That was what happened yesterday in Labuan June 24, 2008. It was like the replay of A Night of Near Mayhem which I reported in Pasir Mas which happened when news spread of the impending 78 sen price hike of petrol.
This time it wasn't anything to do with a price hike. It was just a rumour that all petrol stations in Sabah (Labuan included) will be closed for 3 days as a protest to demand the increase of comission to petrol dealers. In this modern age of hi technology, rumours are not spread by words of mouth anymore, its via the short messaging system. So effective was the spread that by 5.00 PM queues started to build up at the petrol kiosks in Labuan. Those who received the sms immediately headed for the petrol station to fill up their vehicle immediately after leaving their place of work. Lucky thing my son in law Lokman was stuck in an office meeting and rushed straight home after it was over at 7.00 PM.(Hey that is how hard these Petronas people work). He immediately told me about what was happening at the petrol station and I was tempted to go and have a look and perhaps take some pictures. Unfortunately his motorbike which I had been using had a puncture. (It was eventually found out that a 2 inch nail was the cause of the puncture).
In Labuan all the petrol stations are located in Labuan town or at its fringe. So last night, the town was brought to a stand still.A neighbour in Taman Mutiara had to go to town to fetch his child who was attending a tuisyen class 2 hrs after the class ended and that he went on a motorbike. His wife who went to fetch them earlier was stuck in a jam and only managed to come home much later. Another neighbour was on his way for dinner with his family when he was caught in the jam. He turned around and drove against the flow of traffic because he feared he might drain every bit of petrol in his car before he could replenish it.
Such was the problem created by a hoax sms.How easy it is today to spread malicious rumours and how easy it is for people to believe in such a thing. The person who started the rumour was cursed by all those who had to endure the hardship. Many wished him to be obliterated from the face of this earth.
Petrol dealers suffer too when there is a price hike as their cost of purchasing new stock will increase by the same amount of increase. At 40 percent, the cost is crippling especially those that are operating on a tight cash flow. Some stations have to pay cash before delivery of petrol. Purchase made via credit card means an additional cost had to be paid to the card company as commission and money will only be realised at least a week later.
Unlike the nasi lemak seller who can make instant adjustments by either increasing his price or reducing the quantity sold in order to maintain the price and profit margin, petrol dealers have to wait for government approval before any adjustment can be made to their profit margin. The government will eventually consider thir plight but the crucial question is when?
Though the money is good, life as a petrol dealer can be very tough. Not many of their next generation are willing to take over the business especially if they have managed to get a good education. They will find a better way of making a living. To those who don't know the business, operating one may seem like having a well full of liquid gold. I had lived that life once and though I enjoyed it very much, I dont want to be in that business for the rest of my life.
It is time for us to reflect on the folly of not using our brain to think and just reacted to the herd mentality. Such mentality should be confined to the lower beings like those that we often see on National Geographic stampeding on the plains of Safari.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Labuan Revisited Part 2 - Labuan In Pictures

A long lost friend was recently found after he read my blog about my schooldays. When he saw the email of one of us he recognized he began writing email to him. On my side I saw his email address when he commented on my blogsite. Now we are connected again though we have yet to meet since we last parted ways 40 years ago after we finished schooling in Sultan Ibrahim School Pasir Mas, Kelantan in 1968. Now my friend resides in London and is a national of the United Kingdom.

When he was an auditor with Petronas he frequently came to Labuan where he stayed in what used to be Hotel Labuan, the top hotel in Labuan then.Due to some reasons Hotel Labuan was closed some ten years ago. To Suhaimi Jaafar of London I dedicate to you this blog.

Today I finally managed to explore the town of Labuan which is 16 km from Taman Mutiara in Kampung Bedaun where I am staying with mw son in law Lokman. Balqis will be taken care of by a neighbour who ultimately will be looking after her when I leave for home on the 2nd July 2008.
I had the option of using any of his Hondas. One is a 1.7 litre Honda Civic and the other is a 100 cc Honda Ex 5 Class 1. He asked me to make the choice. So what do you think? I opted for the 100 cc Honda Cub which was more frugal on petrol and required only RM8.00 to fill up.. Being unfamiliar with the ways around Labuan, it would be cheaper for me to lose my way and backtrack as often as I want on a motorbike than in a car. It proved to be the correct choice as the use of a two wheeler was easier to stop and park whenever I need to take pictures.My first stop was of course at the Petronas Petrol Station to fill up the tank. That done I then proceeded on to the town center.

The 'bas mini' filling up behind my bike is another convenient transportation around Labuan. Fares from Taman Mutiara to Labuan town a distance of 16 km used to cost RM0.60 one way before the price of fuel shot up. I guess the fare remains for now.

On the way to town I saw this beautiful building which turned out to be the Syariah Court.

Next to it is the Mesjid Jameq Annur. A beautiful piece of architecture.

Mesjid Jameq Annur.

Many spots in the town are landscaped with colorful flowers (flower names to be supplied later) making the roadside very colorful and beautiful. The plants are regularly replaced and thus always look fresh.

The next stop was the Labuan International Ferry terminal as from my earlier visit I know there was a bookshop there and I need a map of Labuan. The stall owner told me that she doesnt sell any map of Labuan and pointed to me to the brochure racks where Tourism Development Corporation placed some brochures and phamplets. I picked up a few including one on Labuan which contains a basic map of the island indicating the places of interest.
Seeing the address of the TIC on the phamplet. I then proceeded to look for it. On the way to there I saw this fountain at a roundabout. It turned out to be the only fountain that is switched on to save cost. Others maybe too expensived to operate daily.

The Harrison's Trading building in the back ground must have been an off shoot of Harrison & Crossfield Company a British trading giant involved in plantation and suppleir of building materials. Beside it I could see this colorful building belonging to Kastam dan Eksais Di Raja.

Moving on towards the Tourist Information Center I could see the back of entrance to the Labuan Square with the unique chimney shaped pillars holding the a circular contraption above a stage.
Going through this entrance I saw this beautifully landscaped planter box with colorful flowers at the base of the flagpoles flying the Malaysian flag and the various state flags making up Malaysia.

Right across the road to Labuan Square is the former Hotel Labuan stood. Due to some reasons this hotel ceased operation some ten years ago. It once belonged to Datok Haris Salleh, the former Chief Minister of Sabah. Soon the hotel will be renovated and refurbished to provide much needed rooms to the visitors to Labuan. Suhaimi Jaafar hopefully you will come back to Labuan one day. This was where you met our junior in school by the name of Sharifah Hamizah while she was working for the hotel during those time.

Hotel Labuan was the Hotel back then. It is yet to be decided as to who will refurbish and manage the hotel.

Across the expanse of green grass of there stands the Grand Dorsett Hotel. It was called Labuan Sheraton before and there must have been a change of ownwership and thus the change of name. In some brochures it is still called Labuan Sheraton though so please be aware of the name change.

Close to the Grand Dorsett stands the Komplek Ujana Kewangan.

Komplex Ujana Kewangan with the Beta Service Apartment beside it (Brown building).
Komplek Ujana Kewangan is a shopping complex with most of the government offices within it.

The Post Office with The TIC/ Tourism Malaysia office beside it.

Entering the Labuan Tourist Information Centre I was surprised to know that Gay Leona Peter E is still the manager as I have met Leona once at a Tourism Fair in Kuching Sarawak some two years ago. I was then the outgoing manager of Kesedar Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd. I was outgoing because of my impnding retirement and a replacement manager was already appointed.

The TIC Manager of Labuan.

After a brief introduction and recollection of the fair that happened two years ago, I informed Leona of what I am doing lately emphasising on blogging as my main activity.

According to her there are about 70,000 people living on the island and many residents come to work here. So just like its sister city of KL, the population of Labuan fluctuates immensely when these workers return home for the festivals.

According to their pamphlets Labuan is made up of Labuan Island and six other islets of Rusukan Kechil, Rusukan Besar, Kuraman, Daat, Papan and Burung. 15 places of interest on the island are listed on the pamphlet.Labuan town was once known as Victoria.

According to my blogger friend Nightwing you can drive around the island within an hour. That must be without seeing any of the places of interest. But yet he has never done that before.

Leona told me about a trip to Pulau Papan some ten minutes boat ride from the ferry terminal which is being organized by Perbadanan Labuan who manages the resort island of Pulau Papan. The island belongs to The mInistry of Fedarl Territory and has some accomodation facilities which was recently refurbished.The trip was planned for the next day and she suggested that I tag along if I am free. Never passing off such a an opportuinity, I promised to call her up later to confirm if I can get Lokman to nanny Balqis on Saturday while I visit Pulau Papan. (I did go to Pulau Papan that Saturday and will blog about it soon).

Upon leaving Leona's office I saw the museum directly in front of her office. To know and understand more about a place you must first visit their museum if there is one around.

I went over to have a look. The entrance is free. And it is open from 9.00 AM to 5 PM everyday and is only closed on Hari Raya.
Now I know the Europeans who sttled here in 1775 were the survivors of the British East India Company who took refuge here. Do you know that Labuan once belonged to Brunei? It was ceded to the British by the Sultan of Brunei in 1846. Japan invaded Labuan on 1st January 1942. Liberation of Labuan by the Allied forces was accomplished on 10th Jan 1945. Many soldiers perished during the war and the World War II Memorial and the Surrender Points are two of the places of interest to be visited which are related to the War.

Labuan became independent in 1963 by joining Malaysia and proclaimed as Federal Territory on 16th April 1984. On 1st October 1990 Labuan was declared as an International Offshore Financial Centre. Labuan Development Authority was formed. Labuan Corporation was formed on 1st July 2001 with a Chief Executive Officer heading it. That is a bit of Labuan's history for you and me.

Perbadanan Labuan Building also houses the Public Library.

Leaving the museum I walked around looking for a place to have lunch. Surprise of surprise I saw this reataurant. It was here that I had meals with my wife when we visited Labuan ten years ago. The reason being the eating place was located right behind our hotel and the food then was OK.

Below is what I had for lunch:

I had rice with lots of vegetables for lunch and a piece of tenggiri curry. It cost me RM7.50 with a glass of sirap bandung.

These girls saw me photographing my lunch and they asked me to take photograph of themselves too, which I obliged.

Upon finishing lunch I walked over to the front of the building near the restaurant. This building was where The Federal Hotel was before.

The Federal Hotel that I stayed in before is no more there now. With the change of ownership, the hotel was refurbished and now is called Klasik Hotel and it is one of the three hotels in the stable of Ambassador Hotels. The others are named Ambassador Hotel 1 and Ambassador Hotel 2. The hotel now it is totally refurbished and fitted with a lift. I remember lugging my suitcase up the stairs to the second floor room ten years ago.

The town of Labuan is clean. The streets have trees that provide cooling shades. Seats are also provided to rest those tired legs after walking around.

The above picture shows a former cinema being converted to a billiard parlour.

Victoria hotel is another old hotel and another old landmark of Labuan. Remember the old name for Labuan was Victoria and if you were to use Google Earth, Victoria is clearly indicated on it.

This is the bus stand in town. Only minibus plies the roads in Labuan. Taxis are available too.

You will see many people wearing coverall in Labuan. These are provided by their employers. Most are made of Fire Retarding Compound material for their safety especially for those involved in the oil and gas industry.

Hotel Pulau Labuan is another chain of hotels in Labuan. Below is another of their new hotel being built.

I will have to continue my rediscovery of Labuan another time as I had promised Lokman that I would be home early to go to Layang Layangan to enjoy the delicious satey there.

It had rained earlier so there were not many patrons. We managed to get our order soon after we placed it.

Here are some pictures of Lokman, Balqis and me enjoying ourselves at the Layang Layangan satey joint.

The satey man and his helpers.

We ordered 15 sticks and I ended up eating 10 of them and Lokman had to order chicken wings to make up for the imbalance to his share of the satey.

A piece of chicken wing cost RM1.60 inclusive of all the cholesterol.

Balqis was ecstatic when I fed her with the flesh of a young coconut. Even young Balqis knows when something is good to eat.

I will kiss her cheek for Daphne Ling after I have cleaned up the remnants of the cocnut flesh on her cheek.

OK folks, we will see more of Labuan in the next post.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Labuan Revisited - Part 1

I was shocked when I found out that AirAsia had retimed our flight to KL from the earlier 1500 hrs to 1600 hrs. As I had another flight to catch to Labuan at 1800 hrs, the time gap of an hour was too short to enable me to collect my baggage to be checked in again for the onward flight to Labuan even though I was already within the terminal. AirAsia doesn't provide direct check in of your baggages to your final destination.
Their staff assured us that AirAsia will put us on the next day's flight to Labuan at no cost should we miss today's flight since it was their fault. They will not pay for lodging though. With that assurance I called up my son Azrin to wait for us at the LCCT incase we may have to put up the night at his place. Hey what happens if I dont have a son living near the LCCT and I have to stay overnight for the next day's flight?

Tok Ma spending the last few moments with Balqis at KB Airport. Tok Ma wont be flying with us to Labuan.

The paternal grandparents and their daughter was at the airport to send Balqis off too.

We touched down at KL LCCT around 5.00 PM and we rushed on to the terminal with Azini carrying Balqis in her arms while I carried the few bags that we couldn't check in due to excess baggage. AirAsia allow us to carry just 30 kg for the two of us and we will have to pay any excess. At the baggage carousel, I picked up Balqis and exited the arrival hall to go to the check in counter at the other end of the building. Azini was left to collect the baggage. Luckily Azrin and Yani was waiting at the exit of the arrival hall as I could hand over Balqis to her and made my way with Azrin and son Irsyad to counter 51 for the check in to Labuan.
After explaining my predicament, the lady at the check in counter cooly accepted my check in and agreed to wait for my baggage to arrive. I have this feeling that her relaxed attitude with the flight due to depart with less than 30 minutes to spare could translate into another delayed flight. I don't care much if it was delayed as long as I can get on the flight.
True to my earlier hunch, the flight was delayed by half an hour, not as bad as the earlier delay in Kota Bharu. Now they have come up with an 'On Time Guarantee' whereby if you experience a delay of more than 3 hours and they fail to inform you in advance, they will compensate you with RM300. Don't get too excited about it as there are clauses that will ensure that it wont be that easy to benefit from it.

Azrin and his whole family was there to meet us. If the flight was not delayed from KB, we could have spent more time with them.

With the new Airbus 320, the journey on both sectors were super smooth. I had ordered online a meal of nasi lemak when buying my flight ticket on the KUL-LBU-KUL sectors. Lucky thing as I found myself so hungry and the quite tasty nasi lemak with al the usual condiments and a piece of 'curry chicken' was to my taste. Azini didn't want any even though I offered to buy another meal for her. I guess she prefered to wait and have dinner with her husband in Labuan.

I bet Balqis was the only passenger who glanced through all the safety procedures as written on the phamplet available in the back pockets of the seat infront of you.

We touched down at the new Labuan Airport at about 8.40 PM and there waiting for us was my son in law Lokman. Balqis was wheeled out in her pram and Lokman took Balqis from me at the door to the arrival hall. I tried to go back to the arrival hall to help Azini collect our baggage but was not allowed by the female security personnel who was guarding the entrance when I couldnt produce my boarding pass. After a short while Azini came out with the baggage. We drove back to their flat at Taman Mutiara, Bedaun, Labuan, Malaysia.
This airport is a new airport as I remember the old airport was much smaller when I was last here some ten years ago.
It was night and I couldn't see much of Labuan.
The next day my SIL and Azini were busy cleaning up the house. The house must be made such that anything within reach of Balqis must be stashed somewhere safer. Though she has yet to walk, she could stand up by holding on to chairs or table and just pull everything down.
Azini had to prepare to get back to college in Keningau for another 2 weeks of classes.
We left Taman Mutiara at 2.30 PM to send Azini to the International Ferry Terminal. This terminal serves the passengers going to all destinations such as Brunei, Kota Kinabalu and Menumbuk. Azini's destination was Menumbuk and the fare was RM15 by small ferries with outboard motors. Each boat will only carry 12 passengers. Anything more than that number is ilegall but up to sixteen passengers has been known to be carried by such boats.
Fares and timetables can be collected at the ticketing office. One thing special about this terminal is the announcement of arrivals and departures of ferries just like the way they do at the airport. Even final calls were made to passengers who had bought tickets but have yet to board the ferries.

The view of the International Ferry Terminal in Labuan.

At the exit of the ferry arrival hall there is displayed the places of interest in Labuan. How convenient.

After Azini had boarded the ferry we left the terminal. Lokman took me around the island and I was so excited when I saw so many places that I can come back and do some photo shoot. I wonder if I can find enough time to visit them all.Of special interest will be the birdpark, the chimney, the tunnel, peace memorial etc.

We stopped to have the best satay on the island at a place called Layang Layangan. I would choose their satay anytime over the current fare they are serving in Kajang. Their beef satey is far superior in taste. A whole young coconut will be served with the satay and the satay cost an affordable 50 sen a stick and no fat or skin will be put in between the meat as is often done in Kelantan.

Lokman and Balqis waiting for our order to come.

A whole cocnut is served with no ice or sugar added.

We had a nice view of the beach at low tide.

On the way back to Taman Mutiara we came across this sunset and I told Lokman to stop the car to enable me to take this luxuriant color of the sky over Labuan.

Glorious sunset. I must let Akmal fiddle around with the above photo using photoshp and let us see what he can come up with.

I waited again today for another display of colors in the sky but God created the special show to be on only on that particular Sunday evening. Who knows when the next show will be on.
My daily routine beside nannying Balqis to surf the net whenever I have the chance. If she is not asleep I will have to compete with her for the use of the laptop. She is really adept with the note book and will know which button to hit in order to alter the image on the screen. A good hit with her plam never fails to bring the result.

Balqis taking her turn at using the laptop.

Those are the account of my arrival and the first few days in Labuan. I must explore the rest of the island when I have the chance.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Remember my grand daughter Balqis who was featured in my A Bundle of Joy and later in When Will I See You Again? Well she came back some six months ago as her her mum Azini was enrolled for a Kursus Perguruan Lepasan Ijazah. Her mum who has a degree in Machanical Engineering chose to be a teacher and hence she had to undergo a one year teacher training course at a college in Keningau Sabah. Balqis's father works in Labuan some 5 hours of driving and ferry ride from Keningau.
To solve matter it was agreed that Balqis be taken care of by us in Kelantan for six months untill Azini starts her practical training hopefully in Labuan which should be near to her home. As desired she got the permission to do the practical in Labuan. So now she is back home in Pasir Mas to take Balqis to her home in Labuan. The flight home will be tomorrow morning. I will be going along with them to look after Balqis while her mum attends another two weeks of class in Keningau. Doting grandma will have to stay home as she still has to teach at school.

The doting grandma has to stay back.

The period when she was under our care was such a joy that the six months seem to fly off in no time. Since my wife teaches in the morning till afternoon, Balqis was left completely under my care. Many neighbours were askance on how I manage to take care of such a baby all on my own. With Balqis being the seventh grandchildren, I more or less had six experiences with babies before her.

Balqis started to learn how to crawl and went to every nook and corner of the house to explore the new world.

When the cousins Lis and As came back for her mum's delivery of baby Aqil, they enjoyed the morning walk around the village.

Balqis started early in life on learning to play with the keyboards. Hopefuly she will have a head start in IT.

Riding the bicyle with me was her favourite activity too.

She finishes her six oz of milk in no time.

That bad habit of suckling the toe was stopped by constant reprimand from us.

Of course she enjoyed shopping at the newly opened Tesco store in KB.

She is in a happy mood.

Being pretty heavy I had to use the 'kain batik lepas' to carry her around. The baby carrier bought for her earlier was too small for her. This was the way I saw my father carried my brother around when he was small.

Balqis is comfortable with anybody. Now she is with auntie Farizat who came to visit her auntie Azura who was recuperating from the big C.

For more pictures of Balqis, see them here as seen from the eyes of Akmal via the lens of my Sony Alpha 350. This is one of them.
More of her pictures here.

She has been seperated from her parents for so long, it is now time for her to return to them. I will miss her again soon.