Kuala Lumpur’s Monorail and Pickpockets

In addition to a train system, Kuala Lumpur has a monorail system.  It’s fun to ride, but it’s really slow in comparison to a train, which makes me wonder why they bothered to build it at all.  I suppose the answer is that the distance between the stops is so short that having a train run that route wouldn’t make sense.  Also, the route is very curvy.

The stations are almost identical to train stations.  You have to get in line and buy your ticket, then you insert the ticket into the turn-style, wait for it to pop up from the center of the machine and grab it as you walk through.

The ticketing system that Kuala Lumpur uses for its trains and monorail is absolutely ridiculous.  The lines of people waiting to buy a ticket are sometimes incredibly long to the point that they block other pedestrians trying to use the sidewalks outside the station.  They need to get with the times and do what Singapore does and just use a prepaid transit card.  It’s much, much more efficient.

Anyhow, you go up to the platform, wait for the monorail to show up and then go about your business.

The monorail cars themselves are nice.  There’s plenty of seating and space to stand.  It also has a lot of windows so you can see the area around you.  When the monorail takes a sharp turn, the track and the whole monorail tilts, which is a little unnerving.  Better than walking or taking the cab though.

Some interesting things to note are that the train platforms don’t have what I like to call “dummy doors” around the tracks.  There is a waist-high railing, but they expect people to use common sense when it comes to standing to close to openings where the monorail doors open.  I guess they don’t have any issues with people trying to leap in front of the monorail to kill themselves.  The actual train stations, on the other hand, which are underground, do have the extra doors.  I think that’s more for keeping the air conditioning in the station than anything else.  New York City should follow that example.  It gets hotter than Satan’s anus in those train stations in the summer.

There are signs on the platforms warning you to be wary of pickpockets.  As the monorail train approaches people have a tendency to push towards the openings where the doors will open.  When people start packing close together like that, it’s a great opportunity for people to get pickpocketed.

I know that from personal experience.  Some little punk ass kid tried to pick my pocket while I was waiting for the monorail this past trip.  He was wearing a coat draped over his shoulders to hide the fact that his opposite hand was reaching from under the edge of the coat to try to get into my pocket.  Tough luck for the bastard that I’m not an oblivious idiot… and that I wore shorts with pockets that button.

I knew something was up with the kid because when I moved he kept moving up next to me.  When I felt the tug at my pocket I pushed him away from me.  He should feel glad that I didn’t accidentally push him in front of the monorail while trying to get him away from me.  Even if the monorail hadn’t hit him it’s a long way down to the ground.

So, ya, keep an eye on your belongings while you’re there.  Most of KL is pretty safe looking, but so is Singapore and people are getting stabbed in broad daylight here now.

Avatar Used To Justify The Belief That 9/11 Attacks in NYC Were Staged

“In September 2001, the World Trade Centre was attacked allegedly by terrorists. I am not sure now that Muslim terrorists carried out these attacks. There is strong evidence that the attacks were staged. If they can make Avatar, they can make anything,” said Dr Mahathir during his speech at the General Conference for the Support of Al-Quds here. Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

For those of you that don’t know, Dr Mahathir was the Prime Minister of Malaysia from 16 July 1981 to 31 October 2003. He gave this statement, and others that will be in this entry, on January 20th, 2010.

Now that you have some background on this guy, let’s dive right into the heart of the matter. This guy is either senile, crazy, or both, but he’s most obviously a racist and should no longer be allowed to get near a reporter or microphone. How the hell can you say that because the US can make a 3D movie, we were capable of staging the September 11th attacks that killed around 3000 people? It’s absurd. Guess what, Dr Mahathir? Those holes in the ground in NYC aren’t special effects. They’re real. The people that died weren’t extras that shared a beer and laughed about the film later. They were real too. And they’re dead. Al’Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. The last time I checked, Osama Bin Laden wasn’t the Commander in Chief.

And, as if this weren’t enough, he went on to make plenty of off-color comments about the Jewish people and Israel.

“The Jews had always been a problem in European countries. They had to be confined to ghettoes and periodically massacred. But still they remained, they thrived and they held whole governments to ransom.

“Even after their massacre by the Nazis of Germany, they survived to continue to be a source of even greater problems for the world. The Holocaust failed as a final solution,” said the outspoken Malaysian leader who was noted for his anti-Western and anti-Zionist stand while in power for 22 years, until October 2003.

Nice job projecting your racist views about Jews onto the entire European population. He seems to imply here that all Europeans wanted to get rid of the Jews all along and that, given the opportunity, would have sanctioned their mass extermination. I must have missed that page in my history book, and I certainly don’t recall World War II playing out quite that way.

The only sensible thing to come out of his mouth was what he had to say about Obama:

“Well, I am a bit disappointed because so far none of his promises have been kept. He promised to get out from Afghanistan but he ended up sending more troops there instead. He promised to close down Guantanamo but he has not closed down Guantanamo. Even other things he has not been able to do.

“It is quite easy to promise during election time but you know there are forces in the United States which prevents the president from doing some things. One of the forces is the Jewish lobby, IPAC,” he said.

I wonder why he went easy on him? It might be because he feels like Obama is a fellow Muslim being oppressed by supposed Jewish powers in Washington.  This guy’s paranoia runs deep.

There should come a point in all of our lives, famous politician, rock star, or whatever, where we realize that we’re no longer competent to speak to the public. If we can’t see it in ourselves, someone should tell us, because obviously Dr Mahathir’s time has long since come and gone.

Malaysia’s Church Bombings A Disappointment

“I think Singaporeans must have a care not to bring problems like this to themselves,” said DPM Wong at a community event in Singapore on Sunday.

“We live in an inter—connected world, we cannot be divorced from what happens in other countries. But at the same time we must be rational, and examine: when we bring such problems to our shores, what are we trying to do? Are we trying to express sympathy only, or will doing so result in more problems for our own community?”

Race and religion have always been seen as a potential minefield in Singapore.

via Yahoo! News

I’ve been following the news about the church bombings in Malaysia off and on and I think this guy’s message is pretty important.  It’s good to understand what’s going on in the world around us, as long as we don’t let it affect us so deeply that we begin to act on other people’s problems.  For all its ethnic and religious diversity, Singapore is probably the most peaceful country in the world.  It should stay that way.

This issue in Malaysia is one that boggles my mind.  Who knew that some people could be so deeply offended by such a small thing?  The universe is large, and God, or Allah, created all of it.  Do we really think that he would be so concerned over such a petty thing as non-believers using the name typically reserved for himself (in Malaysia)?  And even if Allah’s anger was piqued by non-believers using his name to refer to another idealization of God, isn’t it up to him to mete out Justice?

From my limited understanding of the use of Allah, it is typically used by Muslims when they reference God.  However, “Allah” is not a Muslim word.  It is an Arabic word, and as such is not subject to a monopoly by any certain group of people just as “God” isn’t subject to monopoly by Christians.

“The Allah ban is unusual in the Muslim world. The Arabic word is commonly used by Christians to describe God in such countries as Egypt, Syria and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation.”

via cnews WorldWatch

I also read that one argument against allowing the Catholic publication to use the word Allah is that it may confuse Muslims and lead to unwitting conversions.  That seems really weak to me though.  Do they have so little faith in people’s intelligence?  Or in their convictions?

The most disappointing part of this incident is that it has led to violent reactions allegedly on the part of Muslims.  Violence isn’t an answer.  It’s not going to make anyone change their mind.  Not in this day and age and especially not with petty acts of arson.  If anything, these actions have galvanized public opinion against extremist Muslims and painted Christians as the victims, lending public and international  favor to the court’s ruling to allow them the use of the word Allah.

On the other hand, this does is cast Malay Muslims in a poor light, even to other Muslims, since Islam as a religion is struggling to overcome international bias as a religion of war, terror and extremism.  There have been statements from the Malaysian government stressing that these actions are not condoned by the majority of Muslims in Malaysia.  There are also many Malay Muslims who have made contributions to have fire-bombed churches repaired, in a show of national solidarity against extremist attacks.

The controversy has pushed locals to turn to the Web in a bid to rally support for the affected buildings. A blogger who started an Internet fundraising campaign for the Metro Tabernacle Church, which was attacked by arsonists, raised 8,467 ringgit (US$2,493) in four days.

Mohamed Rafick Khan Abdul Rahman, 45, started the donation drive on his blog after learning about the attack in Kuala Lumpur. He said donations poured in nationwide, and from the U.K. and Europe.

via ZDNet Asia

I don’t pretend to understand Islam, since I’m not Muslim myself, but what I do know is that we as human beings should be able to settle our differences peacefully.  Any religion that purports itself to be a religion of peace can not, by definition, support violence as a mean’s to an end so committing violent acts in the name of Islam or Allah is contradictory.  People shouldn’t be so offended on religious grounds by a practice that’s already widely accepted by Muslims around the world.

In closing, it’s nice to see that while Singaporeans have taken in the news of religious strife in Malaysia, they’ve simply consumed the information for what it is and not let it affect the peaceful prosperity that Singapore is currently enjoying.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Often considered the “national dish” of Singapore, this is a food that’s widely loved by Singaporeans and visitors alike.  Also, it’s one of the few local dishes served on Singapore Airlines, giving you the opportunity to get a taste of Singapore before you’re even in Singapore.

Here’s a quick history of the dish (the links in this quote will all go to Wikipedia pages):

Hainanese chicken rice is a dish of Chinese origin most commonly associated with Singaporean cuisine or Malaysian cuisine, although it is also commonly sold in neighbouring Thailand, and found in Hainan, China itself. So-called due to its roots in Hainan cuisine and its adoption by the Hainanese overseas Chinese population in the Nanyang area (present-day Singapore), the version found in Singapore region combines elements of Hainanese and Cantonese cuisines along with culinary preferences in the Southeast Asian region. The dish was popularised in the 1950s by Moh Lee Twee, whose Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant operated from 1947 to 1997. [1]

You can find at least one stall at every food center selling chicken rice, as it’s usually called here. Typically you can get it either roasted or steamed. I prefer the roasted, but my wife loves the steamed version, which is probably why she loves Mr. Chicken Rice so much (shown in the top picture).

Mr. Chicken Rice is a restaurant in E-Hub, Pasir Ris in the Downtown East area that sells a specific type of steamed chicken rice. I don’t recall the whole back-story, but the chef that got that location going used to work for a five star hotel in downtown Singapore. Eventually, I think the restaurant decided they didn’t need him anymore, so he went out on his own and started up his own business. The restaurant at E-Hub is always jam packed, and even though I don’t generally like the steamed version it’s damn good!

To me, chicken rice is the staple dish of Singapore. It’s also my ‘safe’ dish. When I’m wandering back and forth in the food court and I can’t figure out what I want, or I’m scared to try something new, I always settle on the chicken rice. I know it’s good and I know it’s safe. The recipe is more or less the same wherever you go. All you have to worry about with chicken rice is whether the guy behind the counter gives you a bad cut of meat (too many bones) or not.

Chicken rice is also something that people apparently get really passionate about.  For example, recently the Malaysian government tried to claim chicken rice (“”We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food. Chili crab is Malaysian. Hainanese chicken rice is Malaysian,” in The Star newspaper.”) as a native Malay dish, which is kinda ridiculous.  Even the name says Hainanese. Singaporeans were outraged by the idea, but I don’t see why either side is fighting so hard over where chicken rice belongs.  The current status or love of the dish in either country doesn’t matter much when you realize that it’s originally, and factually, from Hainan in China.  The dish doesn’t belong to Singapore or Malaysia.  It belongs to China.  It’s simply been imported to the two countries along with other cultural and culinary traditions.  That’s one of the drawbacks of being a multicultural society of immigrants like Singapore, Malaysia and my own country (US) are.  The only traditions you can claim as actually being your own are the ones that develop in the area.  Previous traditions that you bring with you don’t really count.  Also, it’s worth it to note that 44 years ago Singapore was a part of Malaysia, rather than an independent nation.

Regardless of where it came from, or who it ‘belongs’ to, chicken rice is a dish that I’ve come to love greatly and will come to miss greatly if I can’t find it when I leave this country.  My loss on that one.