Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Coming soon: aoba matsuri

Got an email from my good friend Tanaka-san from Japan, last Monday.

Tanaka-kun is from the historic city of Sendai in the north-east of Japan. He had a good story about an old Sendai tradition called Aoba Matsuri to tell me.

So, what is Aoba Matsuri?

Join me soon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Computer being upgraded

Salam to everybody.

No posting this week. Computer being upgraded.

Also, I shall be away for a workshop in Melaka, and followed by a trip up north for my brother in law's (Iduan) wedding.

Have a good weekend. And enjoy the school holidays-cum-wedding season.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Selamat Hari Guru

The 16th of May is Teachers' Day in Malaysia. So, Happy Teachers' Day to all my cikgu-cikgu.

The wish goes to my former cikgu during my primary school days in SRJK Ashby Road in Ipoh, SRJK Clifford in Kuala Kangsar, as well as Sek Men Sains Perlis, in Bohor Pulai, Kangar.

And of course, I must mention my Apak, a proud teacher himself.

Thank you so much cikgu-cikgu. Without selfless people like you, what would have been of me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Rider's log No. 14: The Mines

Today is Anas' birthday.

We had planned to go and see him at his school in Batu Kikir, Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan.

We were to start off from home at 11.00am. So, that gave me some time to do my weekend riding. It turned out to be my longest ride so far, distance-wise, as well as, time duration of ride.

Date: 17 May 2008 (Saturday)

Set off/finish time: 6.35am to 8.00am

Total duration: 1 hour 25 minutes

Starting point: Home (Bandar Tun Hussein Onn, Cheras)

Route taken: From BTHO to Tmn Minang Ria, Bdr Damai Perdana, Balakong Industrial Estate, Tmn Sg Besi Indah, The Mines shopping mall Serdang (turning point), Jusco Cheras Selatan, and back home.

Distance covered: 20.5km (personal record!)

Max. speed: 38.6km/h (another record!) - downhill entering Balakong industrial estate

Trail condition: mostly road, plus gravel surface

Uphill/downhill: a few very long stretches which attacked the knees (must be getting old la!)

General notes:
  • no stoppage for pics this time
  • didn't have to get off bike to push it uphill (managed to concur even the meanest & steepest of 'em all - the one near Jusco, but I was panting from there on).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Farewell to Ipoh's Fair Park

Buildings make up most of a city’s built-up area. When well-designed, even a single building is enough to stand out with its attractive appearance. In a group, they constitute an even stronger presence as a visual feast for the eyes.

However, in our age of mega-sized shopping malls and multi-storey office complexes, it is very easy to overlook some of these aging, but otherwise quaint and, historical structures.

One such example is the Fair Park residential scheme in Ipoh, an area with a strong character and history of its own.

Fair Park is a British Colonial period housing scheme located right smack in the centre of Ipoh city, off-Jalan Kamaruddin Isa – formerly Fair Park Road. But when it was first built, in the 1930’s, it was to be found on the outskirt of Ipoh town. Just beyond it would be forests and kampong areas, including Kampong Kepayang Fair Park – my birth place.

When I was small, I remember going to the hairdresser’s in Fair Park, pillion riding on my Tok Hussein’s motorbike. We’d pass by the single row of wooden shophouses before passing through Fair Park itself. The hairdresser’s was just across the main road from the earliest section of Fair Park to have been built.

Those were the days. You can imagine, thus, why Fair Park has a special place in my heart. This place is inextricably linked to my Kampong Kepayang – physically, in name, as well as, the fond childhood memories it brings.

According to Ms Rosy Tan, a resident for 30 odd years, Fair Park was developed in 1939. The oldest section, which sits on an area of about 2 acres, comprises 60 terrace-housing units arranged in five parallel rows of 10 separate blocks.

It was designed by a British architect firm, Iverson & Co. It had a handsome design with modern facilities. All housing units have three bedrooms and a toilet. Each toilet comes with a flushing system – something of a novelty (not to mention a rarity) for houses back in the 1930s.

The houses also come with a chimney up on the roof. But it is for the cooking stove rather than a living area fireplace.

A concrete entrance canopy grace the front of the houses providing some shade and protection from rain. However, it is rather small compared to what we Malaysians are used to today. Nevertheless, the front façade have remained intact as none of the units have any additional structure to their canopies. This, to me, is quite amazing, when you consider that one of our favourite national past time is extending our houses.

I am not clear as to the architectural style of Fair Park. However, it was built and designed in the late 1930s when Art Deco was the in thing. To my untrained eyes, some traces of this can be detected in the form of the concrete canopies above the front windows.

Being the latest offering of an up-market housing area meant that Fair Park attracted mostly English tenants when it was first completed. In fact, if one were to flag down a rickshaw to go to Fair Park back then, one has only to mention “kee ah molau” – which means “English house” in Chinese – for you to be promptly taken there.

My Emak still remembers that, when she was making her way home from her primary school those days, she would often stop by along the way to play around with the Mat Salleh kids.

After Malaya’s independence, most of the Mat Sallehs left for Britain. However, Fair Park continued to be an affluent and exclusive community. The Mat Sallehs were soon replaced by rich Chinese towkays and prominent Ipoh professionals – doctors, lawyers and politicians. Heck, if there was a Bel Air for Ipoh in the pre-Merdeka days, it would have been Fair Park!

Alas, after almost 70 years standing tall, Fair Park is now being demolished to make way for new development. This, I sadly discovered last weekend when I was back in Ipoh to visit my parents.
A check around the neighborhood revealed conflicting answers as to what will be developed over Fair Park’s site. “A health centre” offered Ms Rosy Tan. Yet the local newspaperman was quite adamant that it shall be a multi-storey shopping complex.

Whatever stands in place of the old Fair Park, things would never be the same again for this part of Ipoh. And as the old English saying goes: “out of sight, out of mind”. Soon enough Fair Park will be forgotten and lost in history.

This need not have been the case. For if the authorities had been more sensitive to history, some research would have established the social and historical significance of Fair Park. Its architectural values could have been documented.

The place could have been conserved. Even if that was not possible, at least the documentations would have been useful for future generations as a record of Ipoh history, as well as, a homage to a piece of our heritage.

Traces of Art Deco features

Window details

Quaint: front elevation of a single unit

Green seperation in between blocks

Chimney for the cooking stove below

Side elevation of a block

The road dividing two rows facing each other. A cosy and relaxing atmosphere. Just imagine this space teeming with life and activities back in its heydays.

Side wall

Second floor. Notice the red brick used for construction. They are still in good form.

Close-up of front entrance. Notice the extension over the front door and window which is the original concrete entrance canopy.

Cooking area. I'm not sure what type of cooker was used. Charcoal? Firewood?

Winding staircase up to the second floor. Notice the small squarish tiles.

There are only three units left still with occupants. The rest have left to make way for the demolition job. This is the front view of Ms Rosy Tan's residence.

Sprightly and friendly Ms Rosy Tan

Ms Tan's beautiful front garden

Close-up of Ms Tan's front entrance

View from inside Ms Tan's house looking out to her front garden

Some of Ms Tan's most valued belongings arranged on the floor of her living room. When we visited her, she was in the process of moving out. A small lorry duly arrived sometime later and the driver and his helpers started filling up their lorry with Ms Tan's things

Ms Tan's post box

Another resident was octogenarian, Mr Mak (right). He is seen here relating stories of how he has been hounded by workers of the demolition job contractors to move out as soon as possible. Window panes and light bulbs have been broken in order to intimidate him, said Mr Mak.

Mr Mak is a school bus driver and he lives alone. This is his trusted ride. "Dia umur sudah lima puluh tahun", said Mr Mak of his Mercedes Benz mini bus.

Scene of demolition job in progress

This is the view of a slightly newer section of Fair Park. This was built in early 1940s, according to my Emak. Another piece of heritage waiting to lost forever? I sure hope not

The Fair Park name signage by the side of the main road Jalan Kamaruddin Isa. How long will this continue to stand here? Forever, I hope. But for now, its farewell to old Fair Park.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Rider's log No. 11: Putrajaya Core Island

About the title of this posting, okay, I admit this is not my 11th riding log to be posted here.

But it is a log on my 11th ride since I got my mountain bike slightly over two months ago. So, okay la, kan?

So here goes...

Date: 7 May 2008 (Wednesday)

Set off/finish time: 6.20pm to 7.15pm

Total duration: 55 minutes

Start and finish point: Millennium Monument, Precinct 2, Putrajaya

Approx. distance: 12km

Route taken: the promenade around the Core Island, clock-wise direction

Trail condition: cycling/pedestrian path, road and grass

Uphill/downhill: minimal (most challenging uphill being Precinct 18)

General notes:
  • lots of stoppage this time, to take pictures (my first ride armed with a camera)
  • enjoyed the beautiful Putrajaya sunset
  • penat! (back after a 2 weeks break)

Start point, the Millennium Monument

The graceful Jambatan Wawasan

Putra Mosque and Istana Selangor

Blurred pic ( I am doing 98km/hour here )

Water lillies in a pond along my trail

Judges' houses

Wakaf and picnic table by the lake, nice eh?

Putrajaya Lake is a strictly no fishing water body (except during fishing competitions, la)

The Palace of Justice in the background against evening sunset

Tun Mahathir's orchard house by the lake side

The Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC)

Alexandre III Bridge in Paris?

The famous Putrajaya sunset, calm, peaceful, and tranquil atmosphere

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Trip Down Under

My trip Down Under two weeks ago was a real eye opener.

Having been trained in the UK for my basic degree, you have to excuse me for thinking that everything English is the best bar none.

To me, the English provide the benchmark in town planning – not to mention pop music, movies, comedy, soccer and the list can go on. And to my ignorant mind, Australia was nothing more than a nation which started out as a penal colony for prisoners from England which is good in sports like swimming, rugby and cricket.

How far from the truth can that be.

For, as I found out first hand, Australia is a nation of friendly, easy-going people, which has developed by leaps and bounds from the early historical settlements.

Although European-centric, it has developed its own culture (and slang) over the years quite distinct from their English cousins. They are very self-proud and would often make jokes of the English at the slightest of excuse.

The trip, which lasted 10 days in all, took me to Brisbane and Gold Coast in the Queensland, as well as Sydney in the New South Wales.

Queensland was a technical trip where we had the opportunity to visit various planning schemes of significance such as the Kelvin Grove redevelopment scheme. We also met up with the local town planners for presentations and discussions.

The Sydney part of the visit was for us to participate in the Planning Institute of Australia Annual Conference 2008. It provided us an insight into the planning trends and major planning issues that Australian planners are grappling with, chief amongst which, are climate change, low cost housing and transport oriented design development.

I had taken loads of pictures during the trip. And, lest one forgets, an old Chinese proverb does say “A Picture Paints a Thousand Words” (boy, this sure is a marvelous excuse for me not to write much !!).

Therefore, instead of more words, I let you enjoy some pictures under a few subject headings which particularly caught my interest.


Public arts and performance for the public to enjoy. Lively public realms

Well-designed kiosks in city centre: for public convenience and vibrant spaces

The Darling Harbour: a study in vibrant waterfront development

magic show perfomance in progress

Respect for cyclists

Well-designed and functional bus stops

Transparent, therefore reduces crime occurence, safe for users

shelter from the Sydney rain

caters for the disabled as well

complete information on services