Saturday, December 25, 2010

The good news

Luk 2:10 ... but the angel said to them, "Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you, which will bring great joy to all the people. "

It's Christmas day today. Guess where I am?

I am now faraway from home, away from my familiar surroundings, and struggling to adapt to a new working environment while catching up with studies.

Luckily... there's a church just a kilometer away, so there's really no excuse for me to miss out on celebrating the spirit of Christmas with others who share the faith. I attended the Christmas service in Taman Midah Lutheran Church.

Some shots...

"Welcome to all who join us on Christmas day."

Energetic youths led the congregation into worship.

A time of singing praises to God.

Two pastors in nice uniforms.

Angelic kiddies performing a dance.

And it got better.

Then came the men and women's choir.

Followed by the Christmas message from a very comedic Pastor Ezra Yew, who started with listing the benefits of having a big belly (like his, and Santa's).

By the way, the Christmas service was in Cantonese, with English translation (the young guy did a great job!).

Then came the part about Santa Claus replacing Jesus Christ as the symbol of Christmas. The world has replaced CHRISTmas with X'mas... the 'x' being the unknown variable used in mathematics. People do not know what they're celebrating on Christmas anymore. It has became a marketing instrument to boost spending and shopping. And the 'mas' in Christmas symbolises the 3 main elements of Christmas these days...
1. Money - no money how to go for Christmas shopping and Year-End sales wor ...
2. Amusement - partying, countdowns, performances ...
3. Self - it's about making myself happy on Christmas day.

Many in the world today have turned a deaf ear to the Good News that was proclaimed to the shepherds on the day Jesus was born. Shepherds those days lived dull lives ... they were poor, looked down upon, and only had sheep as company all day long. The good news of Jesus' birth and God's forgiveness of sin and reconciling with mankind would have been extremely refreshing to those earliest witnesses of Jesus' birth. Of course some were skeptical and chose to watch from afar; but those who went to seek Jesus found for themselves a life-changing encounter. The good news of Christmas is still calling out for responders today. If we choose to tune our ears to the good news amidst the hustles and bustles of the world, we too would find our lives totally changed because we allowed God to work in our hearts. But you need to make a stand, as the shepherds did: to be skeptical and wait... or to go and seek Jesus. Life is unpredictable, you never know when the chance would come again... and Christmas only comes once a year. None of the 27 deceased in the Cameron Highlands bus tragedy knew that their lives would end so abruptly.

And then came the altar call. OK there were many Cantonese jokes that just could not be translated into English.

The pastors gave out school bags and stuffs to forty plus children in the neighbourhood and prayed for their wellbeing. Some of their parents were in church too.

The youths ended the Christmas service by bidding "we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year".

I hope they didn't mind me taking so many photos... my fingers itchy already coz the poor camera has been in cold storage since I arrived in Cheras. Too busy no time for photographic indulgences.

Merry Christmas and may the good news of Christmas be a blessing to you and your family.

I should go back to my books now.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

He laughs

Christmas and new year is coming. I will be getting presents hehehe...

I will be one year old soon. I am crawling around now. Should be standing up and walking soon.

This year has had its ups and downs... but all seems well as it comes to a close.

I don't know about tomorrow. But I know who holds the future.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

What we did during Deepavali

We drove up to Kundasang for a day trip.

Made a stop-over at Pekan Nabalu. They've added new stalls since the last time we went, and tidied up the place nicely.

Sabahans don't need to buy handicrafts la. Tourist stuffs.

Ate lunch at the restaurant just outside National Park. Cool mountain breeze paired with a steaming hot meal. Perfect.

Then we drove up to Mesilau National Park.

If got extra money should try staying overnight. But be forewarned... food prices at the restaurant was cut-throat. RM 10 for a teh tarik, need I say more?

The cow farm nearby was packed with visitors.

Pumps used to extract cows' milk.

Actually we went to New Zealand la (imagination only).

Do you like Ryan's Ultraman hairstyle?

We made a brief visit to Auntie Lebing's home in Kg. Bundu Tuhan before returning to KK.

HCMC Travel Series - Oct 2010

Click on any of the below links. Hope you enjoy the series.

Interesting two-wheelers in HCMC

Interesting two-wheelers in HCMC

Antique bicycle.

Motorized bicycle.

Heavy-duty bicycles.

A family vehicle.

A difficult balancing act.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

13.10.2010 - Going home

How to spend the last day in HCMC? Go shopping of course. Finish up whatever left over dongs.

Finally, a photo of our favorite roadside noodle soup stall, in an alley along De Tham Street.

Price was 20k dongs (RM3.50) for a bowl of pho, and 10k dongs (RM 1.70) for an iced coffee with milk. I missed noodle soup and Vietnamese coffee.

Bigger chairs for bigger customers next door.

Then we walked over to Ben Thanh market, which was just 15 minutes away.

A shop selling motorbike helmets only.

Ryan did not like this Chinaman outfit.

Fresh seafood at the market.

Beheading and hudud punishment for the frogs.

Naked frogs. Yummy.

Bought some T-shirts, key chains, fridge magnets, handbags... simple souvenirs. We were budget travelers, remember?

A final look of where we stayed for a week in HCMC.

Street vendor.

Going home to see adik.

12.10.2010 - Free and easy HCMC

We had a free day in HCMC. It was always good to have a free day at the end of a journey, whether to buffer any unexpected change in schedule during the countryside tours, or simply to rest.

There was a saying... if you can't beat them, join 'em. So we rented a Honda motorbike for USD$6 a day (quite cheap lo) to move around. The guy in the shop was a bit hesitant... 'take good care of my bike ya, it's a new bike you know...'. Went to a nearby petrol station to top up the tank, then explored HCMC.

First we stopped at Ben Thanh market for breakfast. You thought eating at a market was cheap? My piece of advice: DON'T EAT THERE. Gosh their noodle soup and drinks cost almost double of what we paid eating at the roadside, even slightly more than restaurant prices. Big tourist trap!

I must say the BBQ pork was very delicious. Ryan would have finished a whole plate if we hadn't stopped him.

Then we checked out the shops around Ben Thanh market for some surveying of prices. Stuffs at the fixed price shops owned by the Ben Thanh market group was sold quite reasonably. But those shops inside the market area (not a fresh market la... something like Central Market in KL, tourist market)... their starting price was four times higher than at the fixed-price shop. And if you walked away with that you-think-I-am-an-idiot-meh look, they would try to persuade you to bargain... 'how many do you want?' (I want none, to maintain my sanity, TQ) ... 'how much do you want ?' (I want it free can ah?). If you have lots of time, you could spend a whole day sparring with the sellers while sharpening your bargaining skills. We had other plans. Bye bye.

Giant sized durians sold outside the market.

Ryan enjoyed the vrroomm vrroomm around HCMC. Traffic was crazy. You thought red light = stop and green light = safe to go? Not here. They had no regards for traffic lights. The rule of the road was... 'just go only, other people would be clever enough to avoid you'. With that principle we conquered the streets of HCMC.

After a few wrong turns, we found what we wanted, the HCMC zoo. Ryan had never been to any zoo in Malaysia, and yet visited his first zoo in HCMC. Typical tourist.

Nice trains, but was not in service.

Some interesting stuffs around the zoo...


Sun bears. I heard that bear paws were very delicious if braised over slow fire.


White tiger.

Nice kitty.

Skinny lion. I am sure Ryan could roar louder than that fella.

Mousedeer maybe.


Mountain goats. Ah would make nice lamb kebabs.



After the zoo, we wanted to check out Dong Khoi area, the more affluent part of HCMC, where luxurious hotels, classy shopping centres and designer shops were located (there was a Louis Vuitton).

It began to rain, so we had to seek temporary refuge in Parkson supermarket, which happened to be a 'higher class' place in Dong Khoi. I remembered our guide telling us 'these shops are for you guys to shop, not us'.

In Malaysia, you get car parks in the basement. In HCMC, you get a huge motorcycle park, and they charged entrance fees.

The entrance fee was for valet parking services. You see how crammed the parking place was? I just had to cincai park the bike somewhere, without locking it. Then when somebody wanted to leave, the parking attendant would push my bike and slot it into the parking space. Nobody locked their bikes in motorcycle parks around HCMC. When I returned to the motorbike parking outside Ben Thanh market, I just had to show my parking ticket... the attendant would then go and search for my bike and bring it to me. Nice? The danger was... what if the attendant could not remember where he parked your bike... real nightmare. Solution: install motorbike alarms.

Parkson in HCMC looked quite similar to the ones in Malaysia.

Eating ice cream while waiting for the rain to stop. That was the Pho24 noodle soup franchise shop at the back.

Back to our favorite restaurant for dinner. Nice atmosphere, polite staffs, and a looong menu which offered Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Western, even Italian food.

Our rented motorbike.

The rain stopped after dinner. So we went to visit the waterfront which faced Saigon river.

Saigon River Cruise... dinner on a ship.

Nice hotel.

Besides that you could find many Vietnamese couples hugging and smooching along the waterfront. Fortunately or unfortunately they didn't have JAIS to police over their 'public display of affection'.

Then it started to rain again, so we had to go back to the hotel and returned the bike. The city dwellers did not seem to mind the drizzle, here they were still kicking shuttlecocks in the park, with minimal lighting.

A favorite HCMC nightlife... watching people pass by while having a drink with your pal, with little table and chairs.