Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jehan bagged it!



Journalist Jehan Mohd is 30 today.

I thought she would like a mer? original handbag so I invited Ice to design one that would suit her charming and vivacious personality.

Ice did not disappoint and I am very happy with her creation. I think Jehan likes the stylish tote (see picture) too.

Happy Birthday Jehan and enjoy the bag!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

When a card came out of the blue ...

This post is prompted by a remark made by my good friend Wei Lin. She saw me reading a card I had received from a friend recently and said: "Traditional cards are so old-fashioned."

I wondered if that was true and decided to probe into the issue. A Google search revealed numerous articles on the debate between traditional paper-based cards and e-cards. Tracey Grady's examination of the pros and cons of each type is informative.

In my opinion, e-cards are not substitutes for the real (traditional) ones and they shouldn't be. I treat e-card e-mails with suspicion because spammers could be using them to download viruses and software onto my computer.

I have never sent anyone an e-card and I don't plan to; I dislike the cold impersonality of conveying greetings electronically.

I have always liked sending and receiving cards the traditional way.

The ritual of going to a bookshop, browsing at the card section, picking a suitable one for the recipient and then walking to a post office nearby to mail it always gives me immense joy. After that I will proceed to the nearest cafe for a nice cup of coffee to muse on my choice of card.

Admittedly, the traditional method of buying and sending cards can be time-consuming, if you have deadlines to meet. But it is worth the effort because the giver gets as much pleasure as the receiver, if not more.

Hallmark market researchers talk about "the emotional power of an unexpected card" and "sending a card is one of the biggest little things you can do to make someone's day".

"People are returning to a focus on basic human connection, reaching out and letting people know they’re loved and appreciated or just to say thanks," said Tressa Angell, Hallmark senior product manager.

I totally susbscribe to that view and I think we should often tell our family, friends and loved ones how much they mean to us.

The current economic recession is not likely to harm card sales, say industry watchers. Indeed, cards can be replacements for gifts during times of financial difficulty.

Make your own cards, if you feel so inclined. We must stay connected with those who matter to us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Slow boats to nowhere


Wouldn't it be nice to take a slow boat to nowhere?
The picture of these small boats with flat bottoms, used along the coasts and rivers of Southeast Asia was taken at the Jetty Complex, Sungai Merbok in Kedah, Malaysia.
These boats or sampans remind me of Gavin Young's Slow Boats to China (1981) and Slow Boats Home (1985) which detail his "ship-hopping adventures".
These books are standing in the bookcase in my living room, beckoning to me to read them again. And I will do that soon.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Follow the trail


Nature trails such as the one pictured above make me want to go for long walks.
It is a joy to take a path through countryside, along which interesting plants, animals, among others can be seen.
When was the last time you got out of the city to enjoy the countryside?
When was the last time you reflected on the state of the environment?
Do you even care what happens to our green areas?
There is nothing better than treading a new path with congenial company and savouring the sense of freedom that it gives us.
Equally important, the activity allows us to assess the extent of damage we have inflicted on our natural world, which biologist E.O. Wilson says "is in deep trouble".
"Scientists estimate that if habitat conversion and other destructive human activities continue at their present rates, half the species of plants and animals on Earth could be either gone or at least fated for early extinction by the end of the century."
For more read The Creation by E.O. Wilson (2006)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A blissful afternoon

Close your eyes and imagine that you are sinking your teeth into the creamy, custardy yellow flesh of premium durians.
The company is good and the conversation is light and amusing. You roar with laughter at all the funny bits.
You scoop another piece of durian from its shell and put it into your mouth as you sit back to enjoy the view from the terrace of a modern farmhouse which overlooks durian trees and the mountain.
If that is your idea of bliss, then an afternoon at Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Penang is just the thing for you.
The seven-acre spread is situated in Balik Pulau and is becoming increasingly popular with serious durian lovers especially those from Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
I was there with my siblings recently and it was an afternoon that would be hard to forget.


For starters, the durians here are of the highest quality.
Bao Sheng has 180 durian trees and they belong to the kampung (village) varieties with curious names such as Red Prawn, Horlor (Hokkien for melon) and Little Red.
When owner Chang Teik Seng's father bought the plantation in 1955 for a mere RM3,500, it only had five durian trees.
Few farmers were interested in growing durians commercially at the time because government incentives were for rubber cultivation.
But the elder Chang felt that the King of Fruit had a lot of potential. He turned out to be right and today Bao Sheng is the THE place for the durian connoisseur.
Durians from the holding shot to fame when they earned top spot in a 1996 competition organised by the Agriculture Department; they went on to grab other coveted awards.
Chang started a website about his thorny gems soon after that and collaborated with a hotel in Penang to drive guests to his place for "Eat all you can" sessions, which have become a "must do" activity for visitors to the island.


Not surprisingly, foreigners are drawn to Bao Sheng. Chang Zhi Keong (second picture from top), Chang's son, related the following story.
Three Americans came to plantation recently and devoured the fruit as locals would. One of them even polished off eight durians. Apparently the smell didn't bother them.
Zhi Keong is a first-rate storyteller and he held his audience spellbound.
For me that was among the highlights of my afternoon at Bao Sheng Durian Farm.
Being told that he would pack rambutans (also from the farm) for us to take home (free of charge) was an added bonus of our visit to Malaysia's best kept secret (at least to me before this trip).

His website has played an important role in promoting Bao Sheng, says Chang, who eats durians daily ("my family and I love the fruit"). Many of his new customers are tech-savvy young professionals who came across his website while surfing the internet.
Since Malaysia offers some of the best durians in the region why do we still import from Thailand?
Thai durians flood the local market in March and April. Malaysia's durian season starts in May and ends either at the end of June or early July. The Thai durians are cast aside when the local season begins, Chang says.

Those who have tasted durians from Bao Sheng are not likely to forget the experience and would like to share it with their colleagues and business partners. That's where durian parties come in.
Organisers -- professionals in the 25-50 age group -- of these parties, which take place two to three times a week in Kuala Lumpur and on the weekends in Penang, get their supply of the fruit from Bao Sheng.
You can also buy these durians in supermarkets. Apart from Balik Pulau, excellent durians can also be found in some areas in Perak, Kuala Lumpur, Negri Sembilan, Pahang and Johor.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Odour and passion






These are some of the varieties of durian that you will find at the Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Balik Pulau, Penang. Many Malaysians can't get enough of it yet there are also those who can't stand it. It is that overpowering smell, they say. Yes, it is a complex relationship. Find out more about the Bao Sheng Durian Farm tomorrow.