Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Welcome, 1430H

Muslims all around the world celebrate Ma'al Hijrah or Awal Muharram, 1430H on 29 December 2008. Ma'al Hijrah is the Muslim New Year, and Muharram is the earliest month in the Islamic calendar.

The day marks the hijra in 622 CE when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) emigrated from Mecca to Medina, and set up the first Islamic state. Islamic years are calculated from the Hijra, 1 Muharram, 622 CE, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix H or AH (After Hijra). Islam has a lunar
based calendar with 354 days. The New Year date changes every year as the Islamic calendar is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar.

Ma'al Hijrah is generally a low
key event in the Muslim world, celebrated less than the two major festivals of Aidilfitri or Eidul Fitri and Aidiladha or Eidul Adha. There are no prescribed religious observances, but generally, Muslims welcome the New Year with peace and prayers.

The Qur'an uses the word Hijra to mean moving from a bad place or state of affairs to a good one
and so Muslims may think about how their faith helps them leave behind bad ways of living and achieve a better life. The word Muharram means respect.
www.bbc.co.uk , www.newyearfestival.com and www.religionfacts.com

I wish my Muslim readers a blessed and beautiful Ma'al Hijrah, and may 1430 be better in so many ways for all of us. Allahu'akbar!

Monday, December 29, 2008


Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself. Harvey Fierstein

In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
Abraham Lincoln

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Year, New Leaf

2008 has been a lifechanging year for me. After living and working onoff in the capital city of Malaysia for 10 years, I've decided to return home for good. By home, I mean the north of Malaysia. I bade farewell to heavy, daily traffic, road bullies, toll charges, flash floods, crowds, unnecessary stress and the likes. What a huge, huge relief!

I'm a much happier person now. I love waking up to lots of green and enjoy the breeze in the garden here at home. I get to see the sunrise and sunset everyday. I hardly got to do this when I was working in the traffic capital. My sensitive skin complexion and my intolerance to a certain type of food have improved. I don't have a scientific explanation to that, but I believe it has something to do with my quality of life now. I think a low level of stress does wonders to your health and well
being. Don't you think so?

I took a few months off just to figure out what I really want to do in life. Saying no to something comes quite easily to me, but trying to find out what I really want is something else. I've decided to leave the rat race for good and pursue what I've always wanted to do, that is, working from home and pursue my passion in photography. I'm currently enrolled in a postgraduate programme and planning to take up a photography course in the not
toodistant future. I didn't plan to pursue a postgraduate degree, but a family member offered to sponsor my studies, so I thought why not? Wish me luck!

I'm happy to say that I'm finally at peace with myself. For that, I thank the Almighty for giving me the inner strength to carry on. I feel truly blessed. Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year and may 2009 bring us endless love, joy, peace, discovery, prosperity, and last but not least, excellent health and well
being! I can't wait!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Man of the Year (2006)

Tom Dobbs, a comedian who hosts a new satire programme decides to run for President, and a computerised voting machine malfunction gets him elected.

I haven't watched Robin Williams in action in a while. So, when I saw this on TV, I continued watching it. It's not a bad film nor it is a great one, but I think Robin Williams played the leading role really well. He made it look effortless. Other notable cast include Christopher Walken, Laura Linney (who portrayed the lawyer Erin Brunner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose) and Jeff Goldblum.

Rating: 2/5.

Transformers (2007)

An ancient struggle re
erupts on Earth between two extraterrestrial clans, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, with a clue to the ultimate power held by a teen named Sam Witwicky.

I'm not a fan of Transformers franchise, so I didn't bother catching it on the silver screen when it was released last year. All in all, it was better than expected with good CGI effects. The autobots were more interesting to watch than the human actors. The cast include Academy
Award winner Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, John Turturro, Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox.

Rating: 2/5.

The Contract (2006)

Ray Keene, a father who wants to redeem himself in the eyes of his son, is trying to bring Frank Carden, a worldclass assassin to justice.

The film could benefit from having a strong cast like Morgan Freeman and John Cusack, but it didn't. A predictable plot with little action. What a waste.

Rating: 1.5/5.

Good Luck Chuck (2007)

Pictures: www.rottentomatoes.com

In order to keep the woman of his dreams, Cam Wexler (Jessica Alba), from falling for another guy, dentist Charlie 'Chuck' Logan (Dane Cook) has to break the curse that made him infamous with single woman: Sleep with Charlie once, and the next man you meet will be your true love.

One word: Urrrggghhhhh! Skip this.

Rating: 0.5/5.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


"Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes. It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results." Anonymous

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Golden Compass (2007)

Sam Elliot as Lee Scoresby

Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala the Witch

Lyra reading the alethiometer, known as the Golden Compass

Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter

In a parallel universe, young Lyra Belacqua journeys to the far North with her allied Gyptians, Witches and and the strong Armoured Bear, Lorek Byrnison, to save her best friend, Roger, and other missing children from terrible experiments by an organisation called the Gobblers.

The cast, which includes Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter, Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, Sam Elliot as Lee Scoresby and Eva Green as Serafina Pekkala, did a good job in a poor adaption. Other notable cast include Christopher Lee, Kathy Bates and Sir Ian McKellen as the voice of Lorek Byrnison.

Let's hope the sequel will be a lot better.

Rating: 1.5/5.

Over Her Dead Body (2008)

A ghost tries to sabotage her former fiancé's current relationship with a psychic.

This is one of the most boring chick flicks I've ever seen.

Rating: 1/5.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My 'Aidiladha Goodies

My fragrant lemuni rice with ayam masak merah (chicken in chilli and tomato sauce). The leaves on the rice are lemuni. Lemuni rice is one of the Northern Malaysian specialty dishes.

Picked lemuni leaves

Lemuni tree

Many Malays in the Northern Malaysian states plant this tree in their garden. Lemuni is known as a natural energy booster and is used for mothers in confinement.

The herb is also said to have anti
ageing properties. The leaves can also be used to treat burn cuts, headache and get rid of mosquito larvae.

My justbaked kek gula hangus (honeycomb cake)

Honeycomb cake slices, my first attempt. Everyone loved it.

Sago gula melaka (pearl sago with palm sugar syrup) served with milk.

The traditional recipe calls for santan (coconut milk), but I served mine with milk as I'm not a fan of thick coconut milk.

My tiramisu

These are goodies I made for 'Aidiladha. I had no idea what got into me. I couldn't stop cooking and baking. Well, it won't be long before I start to get really busy again. So, I took the opportunity to cook and bake as I please.

'Aidiladha Goodies

Blooms in the balcony garden

The blue sky

Ketupat pulut (glutinous rice cakes), usually served with rendang and/or serunding.

Ketupat pulut originates in the northern states of Malaysia. Ketupat pulut is par
cooked glutinous rice in coconut milk, wrapped with palm leaves in a triangular shape & then boiled. The texture is sticky. Some would add groundnuts for extra bite & flavour or use black glutinous rice.

is spicy chicken or beef curry cooked with shallots, onions, chillies, lemongrass, galangal & coconut milk.

is spicy chicken/beef/fish floss fried with shallots, chillies, spices & grated coconut.

Rendang ayam cili padi (Dry chicken rendang, Negeri Sembilan style)

Rendang ayam utara (Northernstyle chicken rendang)

Rendang daging utara (Northernstyle beef rendang)

My grandma's sacrificed 'Aidiladha lamb meat on the grill

Daging masak hitam (spiced beef), cooked by a friend's grandparent. Finger licking good!

Mains & Sides

Pulut kuning (glutinous rice served with chicken curry).

Pulut kuning
is usually served during special occasions such as after one completes the reading of Al
Qur'an and after a baby's first shave.

Pak tong ko (fried seafood cakes topped with mayonnaiselike sauce) from the popular Hai Thien Seafood Restaurant in Kuala Perlis. Tender meat, crispy skin. Yummylicious!

Hai Thien's squids in chilli, garlic and sour sauce.

Hai Thien's tauhu isi ketam (tofu in crabmeat sauce)

Homemade fried rice

Homecooked mee hailam (stirfry yellow noodles) with fish ball, prawns and vegetables.

Homecooked char kway teow (stirfry flat, broad rice noodles) with eggs, prawns, tofu and vegetables.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cave of Darkness II (2008)

Fancy staying here overnight?

In the heart of the cave system

The cave system is 300 million years old!

Kept telling myself I was walking in history

The info reads: Gua Kelam II is among the many natural caves at Wang Mu Forest Reserve (FR) that was mined for tin. These caves had large amount of casiterite or tin ore deposited in them over many thousands of years. Small time miners among the local Malays started mining tin in the area for many hundreds of years. It was not until the arrival of the Chinese and Western miners in the early 20th century before mining took a turn for the big time.

Perlis is the only place in the world where tin was mined extensively from natural caves. Although the output of tin was no more than 5% of the national output even at its peak, the caves here were attractive to miners due to the sheer concentration of tin ore. If a lucky miner finds a rich pocket casiterite in one of the caves, he would be a millionaire overnight! This opportunity to be an instant millionaire drove many people to explore caves at Wang Mu FR to great depths!

Today, many of these caves have been abandoned while some are now flooded. Remnants of past mining activities can still be found in caves like Gua Kelam II. Over these 100 years, people have worked, lived and even died in these cave mines. There are many stories about mining that awaits to be told but are in danger of being lost if no effort is made to extract and record these oral history.

The mined caves of Wang Mu is part of the nation's rich heritage and Gua Kelam II is a fine example of an interesting and unique facet of Malaysia's mining heritage. It is currently being protected by the Perlis state government as part of the larger Perlis State Park managed by the Perlis State Forestry Department.

Unique formations

One of the massive chambers

As you can see, photography is a challenge inside the cave system as the construction is still ongoing. Hence, lack of lights and proper walkway.

This short road trip around the state with my friends was an eyeopener. Whoever says that the smallest and most northern state of Malaysia, which was once a part of Thailand, has nothing much to offer should pay Perlis a visit and see for yourself.