Friday, May 30, 2008

Malaysian Personality: Tan Sri Datuk Tiong Hiew King

Taken in his office in 1995 for a RH souvenir magazine. Tan Sri Tiong was very happy with this photo because he said he looked so much younger.

Taken in 1984 during the opening ceremony of RH's first steel bridge in Mujong, kapit. Tan Sri Tiong is at left (short sleeve, white shirt with tie). To his left in the centre is Datuk Haji Noor Tahir, former Sarawak Forestry Minister.

Greeting Tan Sri Hamdan Sirat, Acting Governor of Sarawak, on his arrival at the old Sibu airport in the 1980s. (above) Addressing his staff during a company's function in 1990s. White shirt and green tie is his trade mark. Green is his company's corporate colour. (below)

Searching through my old files and photo albums, I saw many old photos of outstanding personalities, most of them were or are still successful businessmen or politicians. So why not blog about these rich , powerful and famous people? I won't go into details, will only briefly mention about their background and their success stories. Tan Sri Tiong is currently one of the top ten richest men in Malaysia. Forbes puts him at No. 10 with a net worth of 1 billion USD. He is a self-made billionaire, born in a village not far from Sibu Town. In his younger days he worked as a timber grader in his uncle's timber company, WTK Organization. On May 13, 1975, he established his own timber logging company, Rimbunan Hijau Sdn Bhd.(RH) Rimbunan Hijau means forever green in mandarin. RH has since diversified into downstream timber processing, oil palm plantation, shipping, tourism, information technology, high technology, trading, media, cattle rearing, mining, oil exploration and many many more. The RH empire covers many countries in Asia, Asia Pacific, Russia, Africa, North and South America. Worth mentioning here is Tan Sri Tiong's tireless involvement and contributions to the development of the Chinese media industry in Malaysia and abroad. He bought over the ailing Sin Chew Daily and successfully turned it into the most successful chinese daily in the country.Other papers he controls in Malaysia include Guang Ming, China Press and Nanyang Siangpau.He also owns Ming Pao and Yazhou Zhoukan in Hong Kong,National in Papua New Guinea and several other newspapers in Asia and North America. Just recently he successfully merged several publishing houses in Malaysia and Hong Kong and turned them into the biggest chinese media house in the world. He is now popularly known as "Rupert Murdoch of Malaysia" and "Overseas Chinese Media Mogul".The humble and media-shy billionaire is also a well respected philanthropist for his generous contributions towards the development of Chinese education,Chinese culture and for helping the poor and less fortunate.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Heavenly Sky

I was at the Sibu Civic Centre this evening slightly after 5pm when the sky in the west suddenly turned colourful. I alerted my photographer friend and we started shooting for more than 5 minutes, watching in awe as the clouds changed their colours and shapes.It was a spectacular sight as both of us have never seen this before. Soon after the sky was clear again and returned to normal.When I came home, I immediately uploaded these pictures to the computer and watched them on the 19-inch screen.Do they look like paintings? Can anyone do a painting exactly the same as these natural wonders?

Durin & Lanang Bridge

There are only two bridges across the mighty Rajang River, which is the longest in Malaysia. Both bridges are built near to Sibu Town. The Durin Bridge (above) is located about 50km from Sibu Town and 25km from Sibu Airport.It took many many years and many many many different contractors to complete building this bridge due to lack of fund and alleged mismanagement of the project. The ground breaking ceremony for this bridge was done by a former Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Dr. Wong Soon Kai in the early 1990s but the bridge was only completed almost 15 years later. What a shame and embarrassment! But nevertheless, the final completion and commissioning of the bridge has brought much relief and convenience to road users who often had to queue for hours during festive seasons and public holidays to cross the river by ferry.

These above 4 pictures are the Lanang Bridge, which at 1.2km, is the present longest bridge in Sarawak. It was built by a private company with Chinese participation.If I am not wrong, the bridge was completed in just 3 years. The Lanang Bridge was located at the Upper Lanang Road area which is less than 5km from Sibu Town centre. A toll is payable at Lanang Bridge while Durin bridge is still toll-free now.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Selamat Gawai, Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai

Gawai Dayak, the Iban's harvest festival is just round the corner. It falls on June 1st. In Sarawak June 1st and 2nd are public holidays to celebrate the festival. Ibans are the major group of people, making up roughly 40% of Sarawak's total population. I take this opportunity to wish all Iban friends a very happy Gawai Dayak. The above picture is my long time friend, Mr. Dickie Issac. I met Dickie in 1986 when Action Films of Hong Kong was here searching for talents to make the first ever Iban feature film. I was Production Manager for this 90-minute film which won several international awards in Hong Kong, Japan and Germany. Dickie was the main cast in the film. It took us a year to plan for the whole project but actual filming was completed in less than a month. The filming and recording crew was flown in from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Kuala Lumpur.

Many of the Iban longhouses are traditionally located along river banks. So naturally rivers are still the main means of transportation. I hopped on a motor boat this morning to Sungai Assan which is about 45 minutes from Sibu Town. Apart from the boat owner who is also the driver, I am the only other Chinese in the boat which carried about 30 passengers. The lower Sungai Assan area has 8 Iban longhouses. Although it is accessible by road via the Lanang Bridge, many people still prefer using the boat as the return boat fare at RM3 is 50% cheaper than the toll. Many of the passengers were returning from outstations to celebrate Gawai. They brought along with them families, lots of luggage and newly purchased electrical items such as refrigerator and TV .

This is one of the 8 longhouses at Sungai Assan. The bridge is linking the longhouse communities to a primary school opposite them. It is only passable by bicycles and motorcycles. If you stand in the middle of the bridge, it offers you nice views of the entire surrounding. It is particularly interesting in the early morning and evening when the river is full of activities with playful children bathing and swimming and women washing clothings.

The above pictures were scences at the kapit Wharf and Express Boat Terminal.The jetties were crowded with people, most of them Ibans, coming to Sibu and going home to their longhouses. I found out that there was an express boat departing here in every half an hour to Kanowit, Song and Kapit. These three towns in the upper Rajang are the main centres for the Iban communities. Each boat which could accommodate 60-120 passengers was fully packed with people and goods. This rush is expected to continue until the coming Saturday which is the last day before the Gawai. The modern day Gawai is celebrated much the same as we celebrate Chinese New year or Hari Raya. In true Malaysian style and hospitality, they also have open house to welcome and entertain relatives and friends from different cultural and religious background.Indeed we are fortunate to live in Sarawak where more than 20 different races live together in peace and harmony.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Marathon Queen

I had earlier promised to blog more about Ling Mee Eng...the Marathon champion. Yesterday I had the opportunity to see her in her office and I was so astonished with her achievements in long distance running. When I logged in to this blog with her pc to let her see what I had written about her, she immediately pointed out that I have got her name and weight wrong. So I have already edited my earlier entry to correct them.Ling Mee Eng (not Lim Bee Eng) is just 37 kg and not 40 Kg which I earlier estimated. Frankly speaking, I didn't dare or rather felt impolite to ask about her personal details like age, weight, height and whether she is married or not. But she is so approachable and affable that there is absolutely no gap between us although we hardly know each other. Her running history goes like this: She started having interest in running at a very young age of 10. During the course of our conversation, she emphasized many times on INTEREST. She said if without interest in running, one will not carry on in this sport which requires a lot of stamina and determination. Throughout her secondary school years, Mee Eng was involved in the 1500m and 3000m track events and needless to say she was always the champion. She was quickly discovered by the Sibu Marathon Club which encouraged her to join the club and hence a marathon runner was born.The fact that she has countless medals, trophies and certificates bore testimony to her success in marathon running. She proudly disclosed that she has an entire room in her house to keep her winning trophies. Some of her major achievements include winning the first place (Women) in the 1993 Penang Bridge International Marathon with the time of 3 hours 30 minutes. In the same year she represented Malaysia to compete in the Pune International Marathon in India and got 9th place with the time of 3 hours 50 minutes. She was the only female participant from Malaysia for this event. More recently in 2007, she was one of the four participants selected from Malaysia to take part in the EAGA Marathon held in Davao, Southen Philippines. And she emerged the only winner for the Malaysian team, winning the 3rd place. Asked about her secrets to all these successes, she humbly said there are no just need to train every day,have a strong determination, perseverance and run smart. Towards the end of our conversation, I finally gathered my courage to ask her about her height and age. From her own mouth: " Err...I am just 146cm and arr..... just write I am in the late 30s lah" One last curiosity I failed to clear directly from her was her marital status. After leaving her office, I called one of her running buddies and he joking said: " she runs too fast, noboday can chase her up yet".

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hope haze will not come this time.

The extreme hot weather here for the past week reminds me of the serious haze affecting us a decade ago. The above two photos were taken at around 3.30pm some ten years ago along Brooke Drive, Sibu. Visibility was very poor which forced many flights to be cancelled and also forced most businesses and offices to open only for half day.I remember schools were also closed for several days.The haze problem was mainly due to forest fires and burning of cleared land for agriculture purposes in Malaysian and Indonesian Borneo.Lets pray and hope that rain will shower upon us soon and there will be no haze this year.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sibu's Bendy Roads:From Jalan Jelutong to Wisma Sanyan (Part 2)

Have you had enough rest? I just had a cold beer to cool down from the heat of the burning sun. So lets get down to finish the second half of the bendy journey. After going through 6 bends, you come out from the back lane to reach another back lane. Yes , you have arrived at another back lane. I know just one beer cannot make me blur.Here you will see the back gate of the Methodist Secondary School. Now you turn left (B7) as the car above does.

As you enter this second back lane, you see another high concrete wall to your right. A large section of this wall has cracked and is in danger of falling. If it falls to its right, it falls into the Malay graveyard. If it falls to its left, it may just hit you head on. Bend No 8 (B8) is already in sight. Follow the van and motorcycle above and turn left to reach another turn as seen in the next picture.

As the blue and white arrow sign shows, you turn to right (B9) Drive slowly, don't bang into this Kembara!. Now in yet another back lane, you are driving behind Ruby Restaurant and Hap Seng Auto which is the Mercedes-Benz dealer.

OK, you are almost out of this crazy back lane driving! You see Maybank right infront of you.When the traffic is clear, turn left. (B10) You are now driving on the broken section of Jalan Kampong Nyabor. The Jalan Kampong Nyabor was a major road in the town centre, but it was broken into two sections when the stupid Mist Garden was created right in the middle of the road. You may not be aware that this portion of road (infront of RH Hotel , Maybank, Hong Kong Bank RHB Delta and Hong Leong Bank) is still called Jalan Kampong Nyabor. Isn't it more appropriate to rename it or simply name it Lower Jalan Kampong Nyabor? The Upper Jalan Kampong Nyabor should be from the Post Office until the traffic lights infront of Kenturkey Fried Chicken beside the Tanahmas Hotel. You may also not know that the small lane where Ruby Restaurant, Hap Seng Auto are located is also called Jalan Kampong Nyabor. A side lane beside the AM Bank is called Jalan Tuanku Osman Lane 1. And this lane could perhaps be the shortest lane in Malaysia. Some body go and measure it please. Bend No.11 (B11) is beside the stupid Mist Garden infront of Appolo KTV. This bend is considered a smooth turn. Now you are driving along Raminway. You must make your left turn (B12) infront of Star Cineplex into Jalan Morsidi Sidek. And right at the end of this road is Wisma Sanyan. But you can't simply leave your car in the middle of the road to go to this 27-story building which is the tallest in Borneo. You need two more turns, if you are lucky, to find yourself a parking lot. So that makes a total of 14 turns for such a short distance from Jalan Jelutong to Wisma Sanyan. Part Two has finally came to a conclusion. I am dazed, aren't you? I just need another 2 cold beer to get out of these mess.

Sibu's Bendy Roads: From Jalan Jelutong to Wisma Sanyan (Part 1)

I have to split into two parts the journey from Jalan Jelutong to Wisma Sanyan because I count 14 bends or turns along this slightly more than half a km journey, half of which is driving at the back lane. I guess if I don't split into two parts, the readers will not only feel dizzy after reading , but will probably faint. Picture No.1 is the first sharp bend (B1) as you begin your drive along Jalan Jelutong (Brooke Drive 9) to Wisma Sanyan. This bend is right beside the Joyful Montessori. Then you drive towards Jalan Sepetir (Brooke Drive 7) which is immediately behind the Telecom Office. Stop, turn right (B2), and drive further up until you see Lorong Sepetir 1.

Now you turn left (B3) into the narrow Lorong Sepetir 1 until you see Welmark Trading Company which is at the last corner shop.

This is Welmark Trading Company. Right infront of it you turn right (B4), drive a little further up until you see on your left the offices of Great Eastern Assurance , Airasia and Wisma Seng Ling. If you look carefully you will also see the Sibu Public Library at your extreme left. Then look to your right, you will see the back side of Methodist Secondary School.

Turn to your right (B5) From here you will be driving all along the back lane until you snake out to Jalan Kampong Nyabor.

Now you are driving behind the offices of Bank Pertanian, Maxis, Digi and Celcom. Don't drive past Aloha Coffee Shop because you have to make a u-turn back to your original position if you drive past here. Just before the back side of Aloha Coffee shop, you have to turn to your right (B6) Here you are driving behind the offices of World Sports, Big Thumb, Cloud 9 and MAS. The high concrete wall in white to your right is the fencing for the Methodist Secondary School. You have covered more or less half of the journey after 6 sharp turns. I really don't want you to get fainted, so rest for a while until I write part 2.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sibu's Bendy Roads

Sibu should earn itself as the town in Malaysia (or is it the whole world?) with the most bendy roads. And I certainly suggest that certain roads should be renamed Bend Road, U-Turn Street, Sharp Turn Lane 1 and Lorong Tight Turn etc etc. I have travelled to many towns and cities in Asia and Europe and find our beloved little Sibu Town is so uniquely different from them in terms of having the most number of sharp turns. The compacted Sibu town is also a haunting place where we have to frequently use the backlane and alley to drive from one place to another.Every one of my foreign friend making his first visit to Sibu would ask why we have so many sharp turns and why we are always driving in the backlanes. Wouldn't the foreign dignitaries visiting Sibu be asking the same questions to our YBs and Ministers? I just wonder how our YBs and Ministers answer these questions truthfully and professionally, or the foreign visitors would simply praise them for implementing an efficient and excellent road system with many bendy roads constructed for beautification purposes. The above pictures were taken behind the Standard Chartered Bank at Blacksmith Road. Sibu's drivers should know that is a notorious bend and if you look closely at the edged corner of the building, many vehicles have made their marks there. I think this backlane has no name why not name it Bend Road Lane 1. It is high time now that the Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) start replanning the town's road system, if not to cover the entire town it should at least improve certain bad areas. Talking about bad areas, would you agree with me that it is better to open up the entire Kampong Nyabor Road by removing that stupid Mist Garden infront of Malaysia Hotel/Cinta Pub? How many of us have ever set foot on this Mist Garden which is rumoured to be a favourite place for the " Ah Guas"? (transvestites) Another bad area is at Keranji Road which is where Celcom, Maxis and Digi offices are located. In the next entry I will write about how rediculous it is to drive from Jalan Jelutong (Brooke Drive No. 9) to Wisma Sanyan. I promise you will feel dizzy after reading it.

A Ferry Without A Captain

Nothing interesting and nothing special in this picture 1.You only see a small ferry transporting motorcycles and passengers. Look closer, you see the operator of the ferry driving the boat inside the wheel house. He is wearing a yellow T-shirt. I didn't realize anything unusual until I took severl pictures of the same ferry during its many trips.
Now in picture No. 2, you see a man wearing the yellow T-shirt collecting the fare from a passenger.

In picture 3 and 4, you see the man in yellow T-shirt walking back towards the wheel house. And in both picture 3 and 4, you will notice that there is no one navigating the ferry inside the wheel house. The man in yellow T-shirt is the SAME person who is driving the ferry. That means the ferry is left without a captain for a few minutes (or a few seconds?) when he is collecting the fare from the passengers. Do you think it is not dangerous? How can he compromise the safety of the passengers with his stupid actions? He is trying to save some money by doing all these work himself, but can he guarantee that no accident will happen while the ferry is not manned? He is probably making not less than 30 trips on an average day criss-crossing this stretch of busy Igan River. Although the distance is short, may be just less than half a km, he is too irresponsibe to expose the passengers to such unnecessary risks and dangers.

This b&w photo was taken in the late 80s of a similiar ferry plying the same route. We see here a lady collecting the fare from the motorcyclists while someone else was driving the boat. During those days when there was no bridge linking to Sibu Town, residents living in villages across the Igan River could only come to the town by ferry.