Thursday, 13 January 2011

Seoul Trip

This post is long overdue.

It was in July when I was busy studying for my finals that Pau skyped me. He was pretty excited to inform me of a crazy AirAsia promo for KL-Seoul tickets that was due to start in a few hours' time. And yes, we waited until 2am, when the website was literally jammed with other cheap ticket hunters who thought that the promo was going to be something worth checking.

And it turned out that we managed to get to purchase the cheapest ticket available for the night. A KL-Bintulu return ticket for RM200 is cheap, but what say you when you have KL-Seoul at the said price? I didn't think much and snapped the ticket straightaway; well, even if we were to cancel the trip (which we hoped we won't), RM200 was still not too much to lose.

The AirAsia X plane that I boarded.

Come November, Pau, for his valid reason (internship) had to not go. I was literally left worried of the prospect of having to give the trip a pass; it must be very difficult to travel alone to a place where the people don't speak English and the places are not marked in Latin alphabets. After the initial thought of cancelling the trip altogether, I decided that I would not let the ticket go unused. I would go.

The flight to Seoul took me 6:30hrs. As I reached the airport, the first thing I noted about the place is its obsession with punctuality. The luggage carousel, which more or less read "Kuala Lumpur. Please wait 5 minutes for your luggage" could be seen operating at full-speed, and the whole custom and immigration process went very smoothly with thin (if any) queues. The airport's bigger than KLIA, and is architecturally impressive, too.

The chauffer (I pre-booked my airport-to-accommodation transfer earlier for a whopping AUD70), with a tag which clearly displayed my name met me at the arrival hall entrance. Thank goodness for the tag, for the driver could barely speak any English. His constant smiling and friendly appearance made it all look much less intimidating, though. The trip to the city took us an hour plus.

The accommodation that I booked turned out to be located at one of the most convenient locations in the whole of Seoul. It's in the middle of Myeong-Dong shopping districts, and I managed to get the much-coveted single room with an en-suite bathroom in the cheap, yet very safe backpackers' hotel. Knowing how fully-booked the place was, I had my early planning and booking to thank.

Myeong-Dong, alive at night.

Talking about Myeong-Dong, the place truly resembles Bukit Bintang's vibrancy and youthfulness, but safer and more organized. It should be the shopper's heaven in the city already considered a shopping mecca. There are many boutiques and stores that specially cater to the mercurial tastes of the yuppies and fashion-conscious students. The area also boasts a multitudes of restaurants serving a plethora of cuisines; this reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Seoul itself. The area paints Seoul in a decidedly western picture, but the strong presence of Korean restaurants which sit side-by-side with the cafes and popular Italian restaurants there gives you an impression that you're in Asia. The good fusion of the Eastern culture and the pervasive Western influence seen in the city is very intriguing and no less refreshing to look at.
The crabmeat Pasta.

One thing I noticed about the Seoulites is the people's obsession with fashion. Everyone seems, for better or worse, very fashionable and immaculately dressed, which sets Koreans apart from the more easy-going, relaxed and a little scruffier Australians, who are world-famous for their laid-back attitude and shirts-and-thongs culture.

A Seoul trip is not complete without visiting the city's many palaces. Gyeongbokgung Palace, which I visited on the second day of the trip, was simply impressive. I believe that it's not as colossal as its counterparts in Beijing and Europe, but it's architecturally stunning. I was also pretty lucky that it snowed the night before I visited the palace, since I found the view of the Asian terracotta Imperial palace roofs being covered completely in snow fascinating. There's also a lake garden behind concubine's wing of the palace, which is a good place for morning strollers to seek an oasis from the urban craziness outside the palace compound.
Unleashing my camwhore moment :p

However, the relative lack of details in the palace's interior rendered slight disappointment as I walked around the palace compound; visitors are not permitted to walk into much of the interior, and the rooms are not even furnished the way one would imagine it would have been like during their heyday. It'd be amazing if the palace could seem more 'alive' and furnished so that the people could get a better glimpse of what life was like back then for the Korean royal families.

For those with a thing for some nice aerial night view of the city, Namsan Tower's a must in your itinerary. I went there on the second night I was in the city. Again, the hotel location couldn't have been better; the Namsan Hill Cable Car Terminus was within walking distance to my accommodation (in fact, it took me roughly 20 minutes to reach there on foot). The cable car ride cost me around 8000won (AUD7) and it was a steep uphill ride.
N Seoul Tower (better known as the Namsan Tower)

The tower, while not really tall (I think it should look like a midget next to KL Tower or even Sydney Tower), is located atop a fairly impressive hill, which interestingly remains green amidst the inner-city development of its surroundings. Its location also means that the observation deck is high enough to provide the visitors with a breathtaking bird-eye view of the whole city. Even North Korea can be seen pretty clearly on clear days. There are two fairly expensive restaurants at the top floor and a cafe (The Twosome Place), the latter being more kind to my not-so-well-endowed wallet.

For the prosperity and economic success of the country, many tend to forget that South Korea's still in a literal state of war. Looking for something different, I went to the Korean War Museum, which is accessible from Samgakji Metro Station. It houses an impressive collection of war artifacts, from the primitive spears used by the warring tribes centuries ago to the North Korean torpedo that's alleged to have caused the death of 46 South Korean sailors on the ill-fated warship Cheonan in 2010. Too bad my camera died just after I took a few snaps of the tanks and fighter jets.

Seoul, being a cosmopolitan city, has several neighborhoods characterized by a large presence of certain ethnic groups. Itaewon, which is approximately 15 minutes subway ride away from Myeong-Dong, is known for its sizable Muslim community. The neighborhood, which houses the only mosque in the whole city, is, to my delight, dotted with many halal restaurants, and grocers. It's more or less what Brunswick is to Melbourne.

There is also a significant presence of Malaysian community there; I never bumped into any Malaysians anywhere else in Seoul but I did see Malaysian families and students many times as I walked around the area. The suburb's main shopping street is also lined with many souvenir stores, and the stuff there are pretty cheap (for Korean standard, that is). The shopkeeper at the place that I went to (Tigers Souvenir Store) even spoke some Malay, to my amazement. The haggling made it all more fun, too. Very much recommended.

Interestingly, I also made some new friends in Seoul; that's one of the wonders of staying at the backpackers' hotel. We had a seafood dinner at a Korean restaurant, and had a good chat on the things students are always talking about. I even had the chance to visit their university (Yonsei University); I went there at 10pm and it was still teeming with people, which is a contrast to my university, which is normally nearly empty by nine.

Basically, I did all I wanted to do in Seoul except for one; DMZ Trip. I really wanted to go there and see what it's like to be uncomfortably close to the North, but the situation near the border at the time in the wake of North's recent aggression meant that the DMZ trips were too risky. Hence the government's having given an order for the tour operators to suspend all trips to DMZ until the situation gets better. Pretty disappointing to me, to say the least.

Traveling alone isn't half as intimidating as what I used to think. It's a liberating experience; nothing tastes sweeter than going your own way in a place where the scent and sight is totally unfamiliar to you. You go with your own flow. Nobody knows you and no one's there to make you think twice before doing things you like.
And have I mentioned the feeling of achievement and the rejuvenation for having pushed your boundaries out of your comfort zone? It's beautiful. Try it on your own, see the world from your own lenses, and good luck!

A ride on the Metro: KRW1,000
A set of Kebab at Itaewon: KRW6,000
An Airport Shuttle Bus Ticket: KRW10,000
A meal at a fancy western restaurant: KRW15,000
An Indian buffet at Itaewon: KRW16,000
A slice of cake: KRW4,500
A can of drink: KRW700
Backpacker's Accommodation (1night): less than KRW50,000

The exchange rate is roughly AUD1/USD1 = KRW1,100. RM1 = KRW330

Faizal Hamssin

Of Abandonment

I feel bad for this blog; it seems to have been abandoned for some time.

The summer break's been a good one, so far.

It seems that I've regained some of my blogging mojo back, so expect a few new posts in the next few days! Most of them are long-delayed journals on my travel experience this summer. I'm also gonna write about my Outward Bound experience, which was one of the more interesting things that I did last December.

Faizal Hamssin

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Homecoming Pathos

The homecoming pathos.

Heart was all excited to reach the land it sorely missed. As the figure got off the plane in what seemed to be one of the most architecturally-intriguing airports in the region (and the world), his expectations ran high. He thought that he'd finally feel at home as he walked through the place, having his olfactory sense rekindled with the scent of familiarity. His heart beamed with pride.

Then he went through the customs and layers of bureaucracy, who lacked the courtesy he was accustomed to having his culture traditionally associated with. With the rather strenuous-looking faces (the eyes could tell) the airport staff just showed how dispassionate they were with their job. That they were simply stuck into doing what they're doing as part of their constant cycle of survival. The constant juggle between living life and surviving it; the latter would normally predominate. The visibly underpaid cleaning ladies (all but few of them seemed to be of Malaysian Indian descent), with their hardship-spelling premature wrinkles did the cleaning of such a futuristic-looking arrival hall with the most primitive tool one could find (hay broom), igniting a complex sense of irony. A pair of information counter staff had a casual chat over the the recent gossips and goings, and the electronic kiosks that were supposed to fill in the void left by the dis-functionality of the manned information counter came with the "NOT IN SERVICE" sign. This happened while the well-heeled customers did what they do best- shopping in the many duty-free stores, showing the economic stature of a nation's thriving middle class. Tens of gentlemen on Air Nepal arrived in the airport with their drab clothing and very rudimentary (or zero) English and had their 'tourist' visas checked by the seemingly indifferent immigration officers.

Beyond all these, KLIA is still an amazing airport.

This is the country with irony and juxtaposition. Neither here nor there. Now I don't think that I understand my home country more than the other countries the world, for my experience of spending my hour and a half people-watching in KLIA just unfolds more of the mystery that surrounds this country in a transition. KLIA is an edifice that represents what the country is trying to achieve in the future and the subtle, systemic failure that might impede it all. A barometer of what works and what doesn't in Malaysia.

Faizal Hamssin

Post-Exams Blabbery.

The cumulative 10 hours of double flights and a seemingly-endless transit in KLIA later, here I am. Bintulu. Home. Yay!

Summer break's started, and I am personally starting the break with some very good vibes. Many plans are already on the radar, and I think I did pretty well for the finals last week. It is a complete reversal from the 'gosh-I-know-I'm-gonna-flop' feeling I had the moment I finished my papers for the previous sem. And you know how massively underwhelming my results were for that sem (thank goodness I still managed to pass all papers, though). This time around, no massive flops are predicted (or foreseen), and this gives me a peace of mind.

Good luck to those whose timetable's not kind enough as mine (aka those whose papers are a wee-bit 'too' well-spaced). Trust me, a holiday too long can actually be uncool sometimes, so no rush people. Focus on what you need to do and ace them all like a pro!

Faizal Hamssin

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


The disproportionately-high number of my friends born in September never fails to amaze me. Having thought a wee bit deeper, these are the ones conceived around Christmas and New Year's Eve. And yes, that's the deepest I'd go :p

Emi's Birthday

Aggie's Birthday!

And the inevitable 'press conference' moment fit for a diva of Aggie's calibre:

Too bad I didn't bring my camera to every single birthday celebration I went to. There could've been more birthdays covered if that was so.

My birthday's in around a month's time, so friends, take note, okay :p

My new obsession: Lindt Cafe's Macaroons!

I'm such a late bloomer. How could I not discover the place earlier. It's been there, on Collin's Street for nearly a year already.

Happy Birthday, people. "May you live to see one hundred autumns, may you overcome all ills, and may your life be filled with love, joy, and good fortune." (said by Dorje in 'Falling To Heaven')

Faizal Hamssin

Faizal Hamssin

Friday, 17 September 2010

Number 101

It's post #101 baby! Yay. I'm glad that my blog is still alive, after having gone through cycles of death and subsequent rejuvenation time and again. It's been 3 years, people!

Random Picture Of The Day:
#1 fARTS CENTRE ftw!

You should now know why I sometimes, guiltily and knowingly, love Melbourne Uni's vandals.

By the way, have fun in Malaysia, Leena, Syazree and Faiz. Amira too! I want me some (authentic) Malaysian food. Have mercy on my easily-envious mind, people. Not to mention the joy of celebrating Syawal at home. Kinda late a celebration, of course, but still...

I'm finally getting the break I totally need. 2 weeks of sleeping in. And yes, I've got heaps of books to read over the break. Gonna do it in my bed with the stereo blasting some fine tunes. My way. Heavenly bliss.

O Spring, be warm s'il vous plait?

Faizal Hamssin

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Thoughts On 9/11 And Burn A Quran Day

I still remember that on the faithful day of Sept 11, 2001, my parents and I congregated near the TV and spent the evening watching TV (of course, duh) and suddenly an urgent news report took the current show to a halt to announce that one of the WTC Towers was hit by a passenger plane (presumably massive), causing damage and a fire that was (also presumed) to not be of too significant a hazard. We thought that that was it, until the second plane came to hit the other tower, insinuating the event to not have actually been an accident. More than 3000 office-workers, who innocently went to work thinking that it would actually be another working day that would run and end normally, died as the towers that was a symbol of power and modern economy in general, crumbled. Being a 12-year-old boy at that time, I was pretty curious of what actually happened, but little did I know of the power it actually had in moulding the history of the Naughties as we know it.

Few events manages to compare to the crumbling of the towers when it comes to the implications it had to the global geopolitics. While Kristallnacht heralded full-fledged Holocaust in parts of Continental Europe, 9/11 brought along a sense of enmity towards Muslims, whose faith was alleged as an impediment to peace.

Let's face it; terrorism IS deplorable. Religions and holy scriptures of any kind, if interpreted properly, do not condone any act of atrocity, 9/11 included. Therefore, while the 'Burn A Quran Day' idea can be said to have stemmed from bigotry, insensitivity and evil intention, it also gives Muslims around the world a chance to reflect at what they have done wrong to the world to have given rise to such hatred and Islamophobia.

It's a shame that some Muslims use Islam to justify terrorism. They claim that it's what God, through His scripture, has ordered them to do. This certainly contradicts the Islamic principle of not using ends to justify the means. Since Islam strictly prohibits the killing of women and children and the destruction of the places of worship, livestock, properties and even trees, it can be said with intense surety and ease that the religion itself is not of any harm to mankind.

“…take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.” 6:151

So, where does the problem lie, actually?

While Islam, in its own right, advocates peace, it is disheartening to note that some, who proclaim themselves as Muslim, do not follow what the religion preaches. They defy their religious order and commit terror. It is even more disheartening for many to use the example of a this type of Muslims, who have clearly transgressed as they choose to spread violence, as indicative of what Islam is actually all about. It's like saying that the Mexicans are all involved in drug cartels and all South Africans, whose country has a relatively high homicide rate, are murderers. Generalization at its glory.

Therefore, since burning items always sends powerful message to the society (back then, smoke was used as a place-mark or something), let's burn something then. Something we rightfully deplore. Something that deserves to be deplored. Since obesity is such a problem in many parts of the world, especially in the land of KFCs and Drive-Thru's, let's mark 9/11 as a 'Burn-Your-Calorie Day'. Or if your house smells like open sewer, you can light some aromatherapy candles (and subsequently burn it out) to make your olfactory sense (and self) a wee bit happier. Or if you hate the tacky pop songs that currently inundate our pop radios, you can always have a ''Burn A Bieber CD Day". Something like that.

Even if you despise the Islamic teachings to the core, there's no point in burning a Quran on the day, either. To burn a Quran, you have to buy it first. The printed Qurans just don't fall straight from the sky. So yes, you have to go to a bookstore and spend your dollars getting a copy. By spending those dollars you are helping the Islamic publishing companies to be a few dollars more profitable, and the struggling ones will finally be kept afloat. Just imagine, if ten thousand people just feel the need to burn ten thousand copies of Quran, the publishing companies will end up earning at least USD100,000 extra (with the approximate profit of USD10 per copy). With the money, they can surely publish more quality Islamic materials and print more copies of Quran in the future. It's simple economics, people!

So, if you think that burning a Quran just makes you look plain stupid, or if you seek answers for some questions you think no other book seems capable of answering, just take your time and read Quran. And if you think that a dose of divine revelation doesn't hurt, have a peek at the following Quranic verses:

"And do not let ill-will towards any folk incite you so that you swerve from dealing justly. Be just; that is nearest to heedfulness" 5:8

And this:
“…if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” 5:32

Yes, 9/11's a tragedy. The towers that fell were not just simple edifice; they acted as a symbol of globalization and modern economic principles and values. The destruction of the towers not only drove thousands to their death. It also pulled millions into bigotry. The latter was what the terrorists wanted to achieve by any means. For with bigotry and hatred, the civilization will be led to ruination and people will never know peace.

Faizal Hamssin

Happy Eid!

Happy Eid Selamat Hari Raya Aidlifitri Bon Eid

To all of you.

May you all be blessed with a year of joy, happiness and peace of mind. May you live to see 150 more Rayas! Sounds too good to be true, I know, but well, wishes on festivities are always saccharine-sweet and bombast-filled, anyway.

Happy Melburnians on Eid. Nothing beats an Eid with my family back home, though. So, for those with the privilege of celebrating Eid, or any other important occasions (Christmas/Chinese New Year/Deepavali/Gawai/Wesak/Hanukkah/etc) with your family at home, count your blessing!

Faizal Hamssin

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Baby Dumping And The Society In Complicity

A rather serious article here. Can't help it =p

The issue of baby dumping in Malaysia has recently been brought to the forefront by the media, no thanks to the drastic increase in the number of abandoned babies found not monthly or weekly, but daily. As much as the barbaric action needs to be deplored as it deprives the babies their very right to survive and live, it is totally wrong to put the total blame towards the 'dumper'.

The Malaysian society, especially the Malays, is known for its relative religiosity. Islam, for example, has been one of the elements that shape the Malay culture and its societal values, for example. This is made even more apparent by the advent of political Islam, that seems to have taken a pivotal spot in the country's decision-making and its policies.

At the same time, the Malay people have undergone through phases of Islamization. (Many of the) Things that go against the tenets of the religion appear are viewed with contempt or at least discouraged in the public sphere, at least. More and more Malay families try to appear more religious to garner more respect and survive in a incorrigibly-judgmental society. Religion is followed as a daily chore, rather than a spiritual means for self and societal betterment, and of course, pre-marital sex is considered a taboo. While abstinence is conceptually good, the delusional thought of every single unmarried member of the society is born to achieve total premarital abstinence, totally ignores the non-uniformity of one's belief and approach in life. This view, of course, is bound to produce some disastrous repercussions.

Talking about the non-uniformity of one's conformation to his religious belief should bring us back to the issue of the traditional approach many Malays take with regards to Islam. Since the practice of the religion is considered by many as their 'daily chore', which are done for the sake of 'doing it', duality when it comes to their adherence to their religion is inevitably present. This particular 'duality' in adherence makes it natural for them to live double lives. Many may seem to be pious and religious to please the society's expectations on them, but beyond the watchful eyes of the myopic religious enforcement officers, for example, some of them have a totally different approach to Life, in general. This includes their views on things that are considered as blasphemous in Islam, which, of course, include premarital sex. Here, in their private world, the teenagers learn about sex from their friends, but unfortunately, the information they obtain on this is naturally bound to mislead them further. Their miseducation by the dubious materials and sources from their friends and the internet leads to them being totally ignorant (or innocent) when it comes to the importance of practicing safe sex. Abstinence is totally out of the equation here, of course.

To make matters worse, the society continues to deny the aforementioned reality nowadays and parents are still stuck in the 'trap' of continual deception that their kids are better off not knowing anything about sex before they get married. They are in denial that if the kids don't receive a proper sex education formally or from them, the kids will always have their 'informal' source that provides them with some harmfully misleading information on sex. Let's face it, teenagers are inquisitive, and impressionable at the same time. They tend to trust whatever they read or hear, and if the parents and teachers don't preemptively educate them of the real way of averting premarital pregnancy, there's always an alternative source for such information.

While religious education is always championed as the way of nipping the social ills off the buds, it only works to a certain extent. Religious education has been a compulsory part of Malaysia's education system for many years already, and everyone knows that a Muslim is required by their religion to, for example, cover up, socialize the Islamic way and of course, avoid premarital sex, or anything that leads to it at any cost. That's what I learned throughout the 11 years of my formal education in Malaysia. The Ustazs/Ustazahs would give counseling to students who didn't seem to show a strong Islamic credence through the dresses they wore or the degree of their religious adherence. It all led to a lot of my female friends wearing tudungs (headscarves) at school and abandoning them altogether once they left the school compound. Of course, they are aware of their religious obligation to cover up, but once they're in control of their own destiny, they're in control of what they wear too, of course.

So, the Malaysian youngsters already know about their religion's view towards premarital sex, and they, of course, have the capacity to either do it or avoid it behind the closed doors and away from the preying eyes of the society. This shows that one's personal religious view is not something that the schools, government, or religious bodies can control.

Therefore, the society needs to stop being delusional and be ready to admit the failure of the present way of educating the youngsters. If they want to have sex, they will have it anyway. You can raid the parks, and they'll do it in the bush. You can raid the bush, and they'll do it in their rooms. You can raid their rooms, and they'll do it in the palm oil estates and whatnot. The possibility for these youngsters to indulge in premarital sex is endless, and conducting endless raids and promoting overzealous vigilance will always be in vain. Futile.

That's why a proper sex education is imperative. Make sure the youngsters know that sex comes with a risk. Tell them that making love without protection is similar to making babies.
The youngsters involved already know that it increases the chance of them being banished into hell for eternity, for this is a tale they've been hearing a million times to no effect to their actions. Perhaps the government and religious teachers can work on revamping the limp and seemingly lifeless religious and moral education in our schools.

The society also needs to stop holding uncompounded prejudice toward the out-of-wedlock mothers. Most of the baby dumping cases are caused by the mother's panic and anxiety, and her irresponsible sexual partner who refuses to chip in the responsibility of raising the baby. Therefore, the society should, instead of aggravating the grim fate of the women involved, be more supportive. The family members need to form a strong, coherent support system to help the rather-unfortunate new mother raise her baby. The current double standard of blaming the mother-uber-alles should stop.

People make mistakes. Nobody's perfect. Instead of lamenting others for the mistakes they've done, we should reflect and be humbled by the mistakes that we, knowingly or unknowingly, have committed at various points in our Life.

Babies and Life, in general are the miracles of our Universe. Babies come with full responsibility. Feed them, treat them with love and care, raise them the good way, and these unwanted babies may turn out into the most 'wanted' leader of our future. 'Wanted' in a good, prized way, of course.

Faizal Hamssin

Raya What?

Hectic, hectic weeks (this and the next). I have:

1) Field Mapping and Sedimentary Geology Prac Exam (30%) this Thursday
2) Intermediate Macroeconomics Assignment #1 (12.5%) due next Wednesday
3) Biochemical Regulations and Cell Functions Midsem (10%) next Thursday.

My progress with (2) has so far been zero. nil. There goes my 'Raya' weekend!

RAYA will fall on Friday (most probably), and I'm gonna celebrate it in the Uni, of course. Too bad there's no such thing as 'Raya Holidays' here. I think of wearing my full raya costume to the morning classes, however.

To the peeps studying/working in Malaysia, be extra thankful for you will have a full, proper Raya. Something I've been deprived of and somewhat miss.

Faizal Hamssin

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Food (Not) For Thought

If this doesn't look fattening enough, tell me what's fattening food's supposed to look like.

Food for Iftar:

Not to mention my heavier-than-Iftar Sahurs!

But well, it's always good to be in a situation when gaining a few kilos won't hurt one much. You gotta envy me now.

Have a blessed final week of Ramadhan, people. Fill it up with love, piety and kindness, will you?

From us Petrovic peeps =)

Faizal Hamssin

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

7 Things

31st August is not the birthday of Malaysia. It is the birthday of Malaya, and historical facts, with the truth and supposed impartiality that they hold, are not something that we be change. Malaysia was born on September 13, 1963.

However, since Malaya formed the foundation of the modern Malaysia as we see today, it can be said that Malaysia gained its independence in 1957. Therefore, the date is more appropriately referred to as Merdeka or Independence Day, but not Malaysia Day, since the concept of Malaysia as an entity was truly alien prior to 1963.

Having said that, HAPPY 53rd INDEPENDENCE DAY, Malaysia! "Happy Birthday, Malaysia" will have to wait for another 2 weeks.

Talking about our country, let's list down the things we hate and love about it. Let me begin with the positive things about the nation I call home;

1) Malaysian Food. No one can ever deny the power of Malaysian food in winning one's heart. It is an infusion of different styles of cooking, so basically we've got the best Asia has to offer. If you can't value Malaysian food gastronomically, try valuing it in an economic sense; Malaysian cities/towns/kampungs are teeming with restaurants that offer dirt-cheap food. And the Mamak restaurants are even open 24/7, making them an excellent place for the youngsters to hang out after pulling an all-nighter (studying or oh well...). Halal food's everywhere, and our KFC should be the best in the world. It's just great!

2) The massive malls! Yes, they are massive! My Bintulu has not been graced by the big malls yet (well, it's a tiny 'city' after all), but KL is full of big-arsed malls, which normally have everything. These malls can also be found near the city centre; Melbourne has some big malls, but they're normally located in the suburbs, which is sad for the 'inner-city' folks like moi!


3) Manglish! Well, we're living in a melting pot, anyway, so the language also needs to be rojak-ed, kan?

4) The strong, family-first culture of its people. I feel blessed that I'm born a Malaysian. As much as I admire much of the Western culture, (they are mostly good, minus certain things) I just don't fancy their family values. The kids seem somewhat disjointed from their parents. They're normally repelled to the idea of sharing things about their lives to their parents and seeking advice from them. Well, I don't share everything with my parents either (doing so may seem a little absurd, of course) but sometimes their advice is what I need when I'm faced with certain life situations.

5) While the level of English proficiency among the Malaysians nowadays seems to have gone through a tragic from-hero-to-zero-esque mutation compared to what it was in the 1970s, we're still very much a British-influenced nation, linguistically. Businesses are mainly done in English, and I don't have to struggle the way the others (Cambodians or Vietnamese, anyone?) do when it comes to communicating with the global community and settling down in an Anglophone country; the foundation is already there.

6) We have cheap flights to everywhere. Air Asia, anyone?

7) The most important thing about Malaysia: my family and many of my friends are there! I grew up there, I've spent most of my lifetime there, and my whole family is there. There's no home without a family, so that practically explains why Melbourne still doesn't feel like home, regardless of the good things they have to offer here!

Let's face it. Malaysia, even when seen from the best angle, has its weaknesses too.

1) The people. While the Asians are famed for their friendliness and warmth, there is something wrong with the Malaysian's 'mindset'. While Malaysians are generally able to tolerate racial and religious differences (the tolerance seems to currently be eroding, however), we've difficulties to 'embrace' differences. The Malaysians nowadays are more polarized than ever. I remember, back in high school, one of my Malay friends told me that we're not supposed to even have a drink (even skyjuice) at a non-Muslim's home. I asked him why and he's like, "Oh well, the kettle may have been cross-contaminated with something of porcine origin (pork)". I was like, "What the hell?. Who, in their right mind, would actually cook their meat in the kettle?" It was sheer paranoia and stupidity to put it that way, and I'm being kind with my words here. So yes, there's racism and a degree of religious paranoia going on across the country; rural and urban.

2) The politicians (many, but not all of them) have pea-sized brains in their heads. The ignorance of the masses is seriously manipulated by these individuals who actually give them empty promise of 'better times ahead' and whatnot. And of course, their speeches are so uninspired and full of phoniness that they should be recorded for the prison inmates to hear repetitively as an instrument of torture.

3) Malaysian Ringgit is not really strong. It makes online shopping less fun!

4) The weather. It's too humid. I prefer milder, more temperate weather so I can have a walk in the park without having to sweat :)

5) The mindset. The tidak apa attitude. Our streets are littered with rubbish and the toilets so unacceptably dirty they're a joke. The cities are so pedestrian-unfriendly it's just unsafe to walk around on foot. The horrid public transportation system just makes driving and hailing cabs as the only options available to get around the sprawling towns and cities, if you value your time as a precious commodity. If the latter's what you have to choose, get ready to be ripped off by the taxi drivers!

6) The career choices in Malaysia are admittedly pretty limited. You've to choose a certain career to end up with a job. Forget about your dream to become a world-famous archaeologist, for example.

7) The kepoh mentality. People tend to assume and assume of things with the slightest evidence. Not that they care about the sin of putting off slanderous accusations on the innocents, anyway. Just read an issue of Harian Metro, and you'll see that there's such thing as 'sure-shot' when it comes to making big bucks in the tabloid business. You will surely see articles with babi, seks, bohsia, arak, murtad, and khalwat as their centerpiece. Who cares about Global Warming, anyway? The media is part of the process of mass-stupidization of the society. "Give them opium and the addiction will distract them from the real deal". Oh well, I guess we're not dealing with opium here but something worse.

But well, with all its imperfections in mind, Malaysia is still my home. It may currently be analogous to a house with gutted wallpaper, leaking ceiling and blocked toilets, but it's still home. I love Malaysia and I don't think I will emigrate.

Here's to a better Malaysia! God bless Malaysia!

p.s. I've done enough ranting to last me a long time, I guess. Bye for now!

Faizal Hamssin