Sunday, January 26, 2014

Onboard The Queen (Part 1)

I have always loved the sea and for as long as I can remember, had always wanted to sail. I've had a small problem though. I was never a good swimmer and that shortcoming somehow made me a little bit wary about going on sea voyages.
 Which perhaps explains why I've never had that much of a liking to visit Langkawi, since I would have to take a boat ride from the mainland. I've been there on by boat once and I did not like the crossing. The boat was small and it was packed with vacationers.
 Another long sea voyage I took was a two-hour catamaran ride from the city of Seattle on America's north-west coast to Victoria in Canada. I didn't like it at all because the sea was rather choppy at the time. I got seasick because the catamaran was travelling quite fast even in that rough seas.
 And so it was when my wife thought of the idea of going for a Mediterranean cruise, I tried to delay the trip for as long as possible. In the end I relented and agreed to sail on the luxury ship, the Queen Elizabeth.
 Queen Elizabeth belongs to the US-based Cunard Cruise company. It has two other similarly luxurious sister ships, the Queen Mary and Queen Victoria. I won't dwell too much on the technicalities of the ship but suffice to say that Queen Elizabeth is a six-star floating hotel. It has everything a lazy traveller would want to be pampered with.

The Queen Elizabeth berthed at Southampton

 We took the night flight out of Kuala Lumpur, reached London Heathrow early the next morning and hopped on a coach to the southern city of Southampton, home port for the all the three Cunard ships. When we got to the port at around noon, Queen Elizabeth was ready for embarkation. Form the departure hall, the ship looked like a city block of 10-storey high.
 The embarkation process was as smooth as silk. All payments were made in advance and about the only thing we had to do was to register a credit card for any purchase that we may make while onboard. There wasn't much of a necessity for that since meals have all be included in the overall cost of the cruise.
 While I was a bit apprehensive being on that ship, invincible as it seemed, I was looking forward to spending some quality time together with my beloved wife. We have both been very busy chasing after our dreams in the 25 years that we had been married that at times both of us feel that we should lay everything down and spend whatever time that we may have left seeing as much of this wonderful world as possible, together.
 Both our daughters have grown up to be beautiful ladies and they are well on their way towards building their own future. I guess thinking of all these helped me forget for a while the fact that I was a lousy swimmer and would have drowned in a matter of minutes should the big ship goes down.
 As we had spare time while waiting for the other passengers to board, we toured the ship. And what a big ship it was. I didn't feel like I was on a ship at all. It was more like walking around in a big hotel.
 There were four dining halls, each with their own dress code, a big theatre, a huge dance hall, several cafeterias, bars, a casino, a shopping arcade, a very beautiful lobby, an art gallery, a fully-equipped gymnasium, a spa complete with all the facilities and other amenities to make our 10-day stay memorable
 Outside there was a sizeable swimming pool, various outdoor sports facilities, a jogging track that actually runs around the ship, and more bars.

Our cabin on Deck 8

The main lobby
It was about 3.45 in the afternoon when the captain blew the ship's horn. I got out to the balcony of our luxurious cabin, perched on the 8th deck and saw the mighty ship's bow-thrusters slowly pushing its hull away from the pier.
 Soon the ship was sailing southeasterly through a narrow channel out of Southampton. For a while scores of pleasure crafts accompanied us as they sounded their horns to wave the Queen Elizabeth 'Bon Voyage".

 The log transmitted to a TV in our cabin says we'd be spending two days at sea before reaching our first port-of-call, Lisbon in Portugal.

(Next: Lisbon and into the Mediterranean)

Monday, May 20, 2013

In search of myself on a road less travelled

For Mancis, the writing is on the wall
The cup of tea was still hot when I took the first sip in that hot, humid and dusty afternoon. I had taken a seat in an almost empty stall, with a view of the road in front of me. It must have been a good ten minutes before the first vehicle passed by, a truck laden with timber inching its way towards a destination probably only its driver knew.
 I had exited a crowded highway to Kuantan about an hour earlier, deciding to follow a road less travelled southwards into Negeri Sembilan. The journey, cutting through rainforests, oil palm and rubber plantations and small towns I never knew existed, had taken me here to Mancis, a one street town north of Negeri Sembilan.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Malaysia choose and life will go on.

 Finally, after what may well be four long years, or maybe more, Malaysians are staring squarely at the day of reckoning.  After such a time of having their emotions bottled-up, after seemingly endless arguments which at times border absurdity, criss-crossing truths, half-truths and outright lies, Malaysians will now have the opportunity to either show their appreciation or vent their anger at the ballot boxes which will be opened from 8.00 am on Sunday.
 When I saw a frail old lady planting little multi-coloured flags on the grass sidewalk near my office this morning, I wondered about her wishes, her frustrations and her aspirations.
 Likwise, when I saw youths risking their lives climbing lamp posts to hang party flags, I wondered that besides the money they’d get from doing so, whether they actually believed in the party’s struggles.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Almost There

It seems the much-awaited 13th General Elections (GE) is just around the next bend. An MCA leader said it should happen within six weeks.
 The war-drums however, have been thumped since long ago. In fact since the 12th GE when the ruling coalition party, Barisan Nasional (BN) chalked-up one of its worst performance ever, Malaysians in general have done little else but talk politics.
 Many are growing increasingly tired of the politicking as other issues affecting Malaysia seems to have been relegated to the bottom of the 'To Do' list. At times, it feels like we are approaching India's status as a nation with probably the most politically-charged society around.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The General Elections and the media

AT the centre of the period leading to the 13th General Elections (GE) is the media. It would not be too much for me to say that never in past GEs has the media been put to as great a test as it is being put through now. Indeed, the media is living in a very different time.
 The primary agent for change as far as the media is concerned, is the internet and the advent of telecommunication. With arrival of the internet and advancement of telecommunication, the media as we know it in the past have lost its monopoly in the dissemination of information to the public.