Thursday, June 21, 2012

DIY And Save Yourself Some Money

When my daughter in law Noralyani wanted to prepare a concrete working area at the back of her house covering an area of approximately 100 sq.ft., she was quoted at RM3,600 for the job. She felt that the amount was too much as it would only be a temporary feature as one day she may want to extend the kitchen as being done by her two immediate neighbours. After discussing with her husband, they decided to enlist my help since I was coming to Kuala Lumpur for my 40th  Year Reunion Dinner with my classmates, The Class of '72 College of Agriculture Malaya. on the 16th of June. I had a few days to spare before I leave for home on the evening of the 19th of June.
Having told Yani to order some sand and cement and a few tools such as the spades and a piece of 4 mm plywood for the job, I came to KL bringing along along from home some of the required tools such as the cement trowels and whatever else I could carry in my bag.
To help me with the job, I had roped in my son in law Ridzuan who happened to be home for the weekend.
The work area measuring 10 ft by 13 ft need no earth cutting as the highest end is at the right height and only the lower end needed to be filled in. A low brick wall was laid on the lower slope using cement bricks. Then sand was used to fill in to the desired level.

Ridwan helping to fill the area with sand while grandson pretended to work.
Work was continued the next day. Some manual compaction was done to prevent sink holes from developing. When that was done a lean cement mixture was laid and leveled so that water will flow towards one corner nearest to the drain hole.
The day ended with Ridzuan asking to be excused for the next day as he needed to rest his aching body on Monday to be ready for work on Tuesday. (Monday was a holiday for Israk Mekraj in Negeri Sembilan where he works).
I was in a fix as I need to lay another layer of cement rich concrete before I can consider the cement rendered surface done. I didn't have anybody to assist me on Monday and doing the job alone could be too much for my 62 years old body. Suddenly Yani volunteered to assist me saying that she was eager to learn a thing or two on how to do the job. 
Yani helped to carry the sand from the front of the house to the back using a wheel barrow, making the dry mix, later mixing the cement/sand mixture with water added.  When we were laying the final layer, she even volunteered to do the back breaking job of the final plaster and finishing stroke to bring the surface to a shine. Wow! That saved me a lot of backache.
That night Yani offered to take me for a massage so that I will recuperate fully before my trip back to Pasir Mas. I declined the offer as I know my body could repair itself and thus saved the money for other things.

Who says menial jobs are for men only? My daughter in law proved that women can do it too and even first timers can DIY (Do It Yourself) if you are willing to try.
All in all we spent less than RM600 for the purchase of the following items:
                    3 cu. yds of sand.
                    4 bags of portland cement.
                  100 cement bricks for the retaining wall and sink stand.
                    1 length of half inch diameter PVC pipe and pipe fittings.
                    1 faucet
                    1 second hand stainless steel sink.
                    1 roll of brick mat which I forgot to use.

With a saving of RM3,000, don't you think DIY is worth a try? The reward is numerous among which you learn how to do things new to you. You also learn to appreciate how tough it is for those who do such work for a living. The biggest reward is of course proving that you too can do it if you set your mind to it.
During difficult times, saving a few thousand ringgit is definitely good for the family.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My Life's Journey - The First Train Ride.

 Taking the Express train ride from Pasir Mas to Kuala Lumpur today is reliving the day I took my first train ride out of Kelantan some forty three years ago at the College of Agriculture Malaya, Serdang, Selangor. I will be on my way to a gathering of my classmates who did their Diploma of Agriculture course from 1969 to 1972. It will be our 40th anniversary since we graduated in 1972. The only difference now is that the express train now leaves the Pasir Mas station at 7.15 PM instead of 10.00 AM it used to do in those days. The train will arrive  at KL Sentral instead of the majestic old KL Railway station but arrive at about the same time around 8.00 AM, meaning the journey of old took almost 21 hours compared to 13 hours nowadays. Another significant difference is that the coaches are now air conditioned and the seats are individual  and comfortably upholstered seats unlike the long bench with bare wood. The Pasir Mas railway station itself has undergone tremendous transformation. The old wooden building is long gone due to lack of maintenance and severe termite attack. The platform is as long as the express train length and waiting passengers have shelter from the sun and rain all along the platform. The other difference today is that I am taking the sleeping berth instead of the third class sitting coach. In those days they will let you ride the train even if you have to stand all the way from the point of embarkation to your destination as long as you have a ticket.
 Back to that day forty three years ago, just imagine a nineteen year old boy from the village soon after finishing school setting his foot out of Kelantan for the first time. A whole new world was opening up to me. I was on my way to study at the College of Agriculture Malaya located in Serdang, Selangor, a place I can't even imagine how it looks. The only place that I have ever set foot outside of Kelantan was a trip to Sungai Golok in the south of Thailand with my classmates from Rantau Panjang who considered the town as an extension of his town of Rantau Panjang. We were innocent kids then and didn't have much money to spend on anything beside buying a piece of underwear.
It was a Saturday forty three years ago that I took the express train from Pasir Mas to Kuala Lumpur. To the local the express train is known as the Mail train. Maybe it was used to carry mails back then. I can remember clearly that it was a Saturday in June 1969 but I could not recall the exact date. The black Monday of 13th may 1969 was slightly a month away and everyone in the family and even in the village was apprehensive that I should embark on a journey to Kuala Lumpur which was the epicenter of the riot of May 13th.
The train station was crowded with well wishers sending their loved ones away. I couldn't remember having any member of my family sending me off as on that day as my village being 10 miles away from the station would have cost some money for any of them to travel too. The bus fare for an adult was 50 sen and a ringgit saved for a return journey could be put to better use. For the journey to Kuala Lumpur I had seventy ringgit on me which was a big amount in those day. That was all the family could give me including monetary gifts from well wishers in the village. I remember another friend had his RM100 sewn into his underwear for safety. The fact that there wasn't anybody from the family to send me off didn't bother me as my sweet heart who is now my wife of 39 years and going, was there to see me off.
I had been staying away from home since the age of seven when I began schooling in another village called Kangkong, five miles away with my grandparents. After completing standard four and passing a special exam I was enrolled in a special Malay Class in Pasir Mas at the age of eleven to prepare us to join the standard six of an English Primary school. Upon the advice of my older half brother, my parents had agreed that I should get an English education for a better chance in life. I often wonder how uneducated village folks like my parents could be so forward looking compared to our leaders of today in developing an education policy that would benefit the people. How I wish my children could have the same education that I had to prepare them for their life.
To be continued...
Notes: Some photos will be added later.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kelantan International Kite Festival 2012

 The 30th edition of Pesta Wau Antarabangsa Kelantan (Kelantan International Kite Festival) was held from 5th - 9th June 2012 at Pantai Geting, Tumpat. Since it it was held during the school holidays and was part of the Visit Kelantan Year 2012 calendar of events, it attracted a sizable crowd.
Events detail is as per the picture below. Both pictures were taken from

I have missed all the 29 events held earlier due to several reasons among which are my not being in Kelantan when the event was held, lack of interest and initiative, lack of ability to remember the date of the event or lack of publicity about the event. All of these made me regret for not attending the yearly event which has gained international stature.
It was upon the insistence of the other half that made me go to the event after the Friday prayers. Given my choice I would have opted to go to slumberland to catch up on much needed sleep staying awake watching the live coverage of The French Open.
 Despite the lack of direction signages leading to the events side, the sight of the flying kites showed us the general direction of where to go. By following the direction taken by the other cars heading the same way, we reached the site at Pantai Geting.
The weather at the time of arrival was cloudy and windy, a perfect condition for both participants and visitors.

Kites flying from the junction leading to Pengkalan Kubur to the left.

The flying kites as seen when we get nearer.

We finally reached the site and I was lucky to find a place to park not far from the site.

One for the album of my wife Fatthiyah.

All sort of kites in various shape and sizes were flown including the local wau which I didn't manage to photograph as not many were being flown then or if they were flown, they would be too high up in the sky and becomes too small to photograph. So just enjoy what I have to show.

The Monkey Kite as the owners call it is flying high.

The persons flying the kites are international participants from India. Here they are. Unfortunately I couldn't remember their names.

 All participants were given commemorative T-Shirts of the event to wear.

 Helmut Georgi from Vienna, Austria allowed me to handle his kite. This is the third time Helmut participated in the Kelantan International Kite festival.

  This stack of six kites attracted my attention.
 Andreas Fischbacher from Germany is the proud owner of  the stack of kites. The pull from the kite was so hard that they had to be tied to a parked tractor to hold them in place. later Andreas did a stunt by trying to hang on to the kite lines which brought him down to the soft sands.
Suddenly the sky open up and rain came to spoil the show. All the participants pulled down their kites.

 This German guy was anxious as he had a camera attached to his kite taking aerial shots with his remote control.

 Here he was seen showing his wonderful shots to his local assistant.

The remote control he used to shoot or tilt the camera with the camera attached to his kite.
The stack of fish, cat and whatever belonging to Andreas had to come down too.
 Down on the ground. Drying them up is a priority now. It would not be a problem if the hot sun is up. But will the sun comes up since it was evening and the rain is yet to stop.
 The proud tiger kite and his puffer fish kite is down too.

 The monkey kite is safely down under the tent under the watchful eyes of the owner.
Since the rain subsided, we decided to go home. The way out was jammed tight. How I wish the organizer would place traffic marshals to ensure the smooth flow of traffic. Given the mentality of some of these drivers, which can be as low as the toilet, many started to jump queue. It it took was for one person to do it and many more would follow suit. It took us almost an hour to get out of the jam over a distance of about a kilometer. Come next year's Kelantan International Kite Festival, I will know what to prepare, have a rain coat ready in case it rains.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Prague, Czech Republic

 Prague or Praha as the locals call it is the capital of The Czech Republic. It is the largest city in the Republic and is home to 1.3 million people.
Our tour of Prague began in the morning and the local guide for today was Veronica who spoke fluent English.

 The day's tour started with a short walk to the tram station not far from our hotel. Each of us were given a ticket and we had to verify the ticket on the tram via a ticketing machine. Since the ticket was only valid for half an hour after verification, it would only be a one way ticket to the Prague Castle.

 Riding the tram.
It was standing room only but since it was just a short ride, we didn't mind it.

 Veronica gave us a short briefing before we entered the castle.

 The first square inside the castle.

 The changing of the guards happened every hour. We managed to get choice location for a view of the changing of the guards. It was a show that never failed to draw the crowd.

 When the state flag is flying, that indicates that The President is within the country.

 The entrance to St Vitus Cathedral with Azmi looking at the crowd.

 The glass window from outside.

 The glass window from inside.
Visitors who wish to enter the main hall of the cathedral must pay an entrance fee, so we opted not to enter that part of it.

 Resting our old tired legs while waiting for the rest of the group to regroup.

 Veronica briefed us on The Golden lane. The little lane near the Prague Castle is lined with small houses. The gold makers of Prague used to live there in the 15th century and later they house the servants of the palace. Some information of The Golden lane can be found here.

 At the end of one street we saw girls being photographed with a statue of a naked boy. Upon arrival I saw a girl being photographed while she was rubbing the appendage of the statue with her hand but I failed to capture her picture as I was struggling to take out my camera from my back pack. By the time I took out my camera, this pretty girl had taken her place.

 She didn't seem to dare to do what the previous girl did and just place her hand near to the statues appendage. The frequent rubbing by girls who may feel mystified by the statues appendage or were seeking for some luck must have made the part shiny.

 On the way out from the castle compound we saw these street performers playing music. The one in red T isn't a bagpipe blower and all he had was a big tummy to drum on.

 On the way down the hill where the castle was located I saw this artist at work. He had only four tubes of acrylic paint with him, red, yellow, blue and white. From these four colours he created all the hues he needed.
 These are some of his finished work being displayed for sale.

 Giovani the painter obliged me and posed for a picture. An artist in the truest sense of the word, unlike this painter (me) who needed to buy all the colours of the rainbow before he could paint a picture.

 If you are hungry after visiting the Castle, no worry, there is a place to tuck in.

Below is a wine bistro with a view of Prague.

 Views from the bistro.
   From The Prague Castle we walked to The Senate building via a garden with a pool well stocked with fish.

 Immaculate garden

 The senate building where announcements used to be made.

The ceiling of the senate building is covered with paintings.

The park benches were used to rest our tired old legs. We had our lunch here too.

 On the way out we saw this water spout with a handle to pump the water out. Hidden behind me was a sign telling us not to push the lever up. it will revert to its own position after you have pulled it down.

We were walking towards Charles Bridge when my wife Fatthiyah turned around to see why I was lagging behind. The construction of Charles Bridge spanning across Ultava River in Prague began in 1357 under King Charles IV and was finished only in the early 15th Century. Until 1841, it was the only connection between the old town and Prague Castle. That was how important it was then.

Many portrait painters and artist plied their trade on Charles Bridge. The pretty girl must be a hard act for the painter to put on paper.

 Beside the bridge there is a water wheel. The guide told us that the wheel did not serve any purpose now other than being a tourist attraction. The channel that flows through here created this island on the left.

It was at this location on this island that a James bond movie (Casino Royale) was once shot. Malaysia has followed suit and managed to entice Shah Rukh Khan to shoot films to capitalize on his popularity and make famous the city the film was shot on location. For that he was given the coveted Datokship. Do you remember which film and which city Shah Rukh Khan made the film?

 Beside painters there were musicians who made their living by performing on Charles Bridge. These trio rendered beautiful songs and many stopped by to listen to them. Patrons are encourage to donate into their donation box perched on a folding chair.

 Cruise ships ply the Ultava River and the turning point is immediately after Charles Bridge. The weir placed across the river to raise the water level upstream will not allow the ships to negotiate further upstream.

 Veronica alerted us to the wooden protruding right upstream of the pillars of the bridge. She asked us to guess what the structure is for. My answer was to prevent the pillars from being hit by floating debris to which she said that I was quite correct but the exact use was to prevent ice during the winter from hitting them. I forgot about ice as the weather at the time of the visit was pretty warm.

 Almost at the end of the bridge on the Old Town side we saw this man prostrating himself on the bridge's floor with a paper cup in the grip of his two hands. With such an able body, I don't know if there is anybody who will take pity and donate money for his next meal. What a way to beg for money.

This is the tower on the Old Town side.

 After reaching the Old Town Square, Veronica briefed us on The Astronomical Clock. The clock was installed in 1410 and is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world but the oldest one still working.
The Orloj as it is named is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town City Hall in the Old Town Square.
Since it was still quite awhile before 4 PM when we would be witnessing it's chiming and the show of moving figures on the clock, Veronica asked us to take our own time and come back at 4 Pm to witness the event and afterwards she will take us for a another walking tour.

Upon entering a side street my wife saw these stalls selling souvenirs. She had found paradise! We bought a replica of the astronomical clock.

We forgot the 4 PM appointment with veronica and decided to spend more time shopping. Later we met many others who decided not to go on playing tourist and head hone for the hotel instead. With the Old Town Square being just next to Wenceslas Square, we know we are not far from home.

Seeing other tourists riding horse carriages or riding antique cars like the one below made me feel like doing the same to get back to the hotel with the tired feet not willing to go on walking the fairly short distance back to the hotel.