life is short. do first thing first.

Month: July 2009

INDIA / Mumbai India

This project was undertaken in August 2008. The motive was simple.  A close friend was posted to Mumbai, India and he emailed me — “This city is your type. You’ll like it. Come while I am still here.”  Despite busy schedule,  I did visit him one month before his repatriation to Malaysia, after getting my annual leave approved by the boss. All on my own expenses — except the accomodation, where we put up in his company-provided compressed but neat apartment in Bandra West, north of Mumbai. That was part of the deal to visit him — give me a place to sleep. We spent a couple of days exploring Mumbai, before we flew to Delhi to visit places tourist normally go. From Delhi we traveled 203km to Agra by road, to see one of the seven wonders of the world, the magnificient Taj Mahal. Back to Delhi the next day and later on the same day flew back to Mumbai on airline GoAir, one of many budget airlines plying domestic routes in India.

Follow these links for more photos on Mumbai.

This was my first trip to India. I have started this Mumbai story in my previous posting during blogspot days. Preparation before departure, visa requirement and small introduction to Mumbai (plus few places like Crawford Market and Flower Market and Dargah Haji Ali) can be found in this link. But heavy workload then was holding me from further update. This posting will continue, insyallah, from where I left last time. India is too interesting to be missed in your travel plan, before you die. So enjoy this story of the roads.

This series will start with Mumbai, followed by Delhi and Agra. (Technically speaking, I am testing In-Series plugin to tie this series together).

Solat Hajat in Yangon, Myanmar

July 6th, 2009:

Today is a public holiday in Myanmar. One of my staff printed something about this holy day and put it on my table, when I asked her what is the fullmoon day of Waso. I have not seen what she printed. So I cannot tell you what this public holiday is all about. In the meantime follow the link to know all fullmoon days in Myanmar. Yes they have a lot of fullmoons, at least one per month.

It rained the whole day with intermittent somewhat clear sky. Cannot blame the nature. It is monsoon season in Yangon, which means water is everywhere. It will be a wet, wet life for the next kapla months.

Unable  to make it to the fairway for a round of golf, I turned on the dumb box and watched “AQaeda Ambush” on NGEO channel.   Boredom ruled after that. I booted up the PC to work on this website, having just migrated to wordpress from blogspot, and many things still not working properly. Coppermine photo gallery — guest user could see my entire albums. WordPress theme plaintxtBlog — the title’s  font size still the same despite I have already changed the style.css file.  Cpanel — do not know how to delete the folder in the cpanel file manager. You see, I have so many things to do. Bear with me. This post is under category Rambling, so let it be.

The phone rang. Haji Shafien was on the other side. “Saya buat solat hajat malam ni kat rumah. Datanglah!”.

His apartment is at the other side of Yangon, in Mingalar Taung Nyunt township, to be exact. Near Kandawgyi Lake, if you know Yangon. So I called my driver to pick me up.

We started with yaasin, tazkirah, solat maghrib, solat hajat, dinner. In that order.  Most guests left after dinner, but I stayed on for solat Isyak and a cup of teh tarik (lempeyek in Myanmar), knowing very well that nobody was waiting for me at home, save that merciless wordpress problem.  Tazkirah was delivered by the host in English, translated to Burmese by Haji Kamaruddin. He said the objective of this gathering is to perform solat and doa in jemaah, so as to attract Allah’s attention faster. Ukhuwwah or brotherhood and solidarity are key to the success of this  ummah. Our brothers are fighting kafiroon in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, sacrificing their lives, but we did not even move a finger to help. Forget about Jannah, he said. The talk was simple but full of message. It moved me.

I admired Haji Shafien for his down-to-earth people approach and seamless assimilation with local Myanmar people. For this solat hajat, he also invited his masjid friends. They introduced themselves using moslem names. It is not their real names as per registration card. Here everyone must maintain their Burmese name, regardless of their belief. Burmese names are not easy to write, to pronounce, let alone to remember. I found myself struggling even with my local staff names. Haji Jalal is a retired civil engineer with the government agency. He has a son — a hafeez — in Penang, Malaysia. Haji Yunus is a maulabi (religious teacher). Haji Kamaruddin is staying near masjid in Mingalar Taung Nyunt. Mr Mohideen is a traditional medicine man at Mingalarze market. Mr Ibrahim just came back from Malaysia four months ago, where he worked as roti canai (prata) maker at Taman Melati, KL. Haji Abdullah is a driver with my company. I could see his wife and lanky daughter running about in the kitchen, helping and serving.

Looking at their faces, you can tell they are simple, humble and sincere. Mr Ibrahim spoke in Malaysian better than I did, having spent 14 years in Malaysia. I did not have their photos, unfortunately. They are my friend’s friends, therefore my friends also. They are my brothers in Islam. Allahuakbar!

I left his apartment at about 9:30pm. My driver was waiting downstair with umbrella in his hand.  Gusting wind accompanied the rain now, picking up momentum.  Just before he dropped me at my apartment lobby, I shoved 3000 kyats into his hand. I gave him the white plastic bag given to me by Haji Shafien’s wife just now. ” Take it home to you wife. I think it is rice and chicken curry”.

Thailand by Bus (Part 5) – Ayutthaya > Bangkok > .. > Sungai Kolok

One of the ancient ruins in Ayutthaya

One of the ancient ruins in Ayutthaya

Heading south from Chiangmai and Chiangrai and Maesai, we made a quick stop at this ancient city. Ayutthaya was a capital of  Siam, founded some 600 years ago. The Burmese army seized and destroyed the city in 1767 and what was left behind ever since were the ruins, which can be seen today.  Declared as one of the world heritage sites by UNESCO, efforts are under way to reconstruct the city’s past glory. If you are into history and old wats and palaces or something like that, look no more. Spend some times circling the city either by horse cart or on foot. Tourists are aplenty here.

Ayutthaya is very near to/from Bangkok, less than one hour drive.

Thailand by Bus (Part 5) – Ayutthaya and back to Sungai Kolok.

This is the last part of Thailand by Bus trip. After Ayutthaya, we headed south to Bangkok and spent a night at Hotel Chaleena in the Ramkamheang area. That night we shopped and dined in Pratunam shopping district. The next morning, we visited Grand Palace in Bangkok and a shopping center nearby. [Refer to Part 2 posting on this Bangkok story]. After sumptous lunch of white tomyam soup and solat Zuhur/Asr at Masjid Darul Aman at Phetchaburi, we undertook the last stretch of the journey from Bangkok to Sungai Kolok. Again we missed the coastline of Chumphon and Surat Thani provinces, due to night time. We stopped at Hatyai the next morning for late breakfast – nasi kerabu Kelantan style. Continued to the south, we stopped for lunch at Pattani and proceeded immediately to Narathiwat to beat border crossing closing time into Malaysia at 6pm. [Refer to Part 1 posting on this story].

Finally we reached Sungai Kolok at about 5pm with the same double decker bus fully loaded with counterfeit items and souvenirs from Thailand (read: China). Border crossing into Rantau Panjang, Malaysia,  was a breeze — surprisingly — thanks to Matlee, due to his fierce connection with border people. It was one of the trip I could not forget.  Thailand is always in my mind for years to come.  To Cikgu Anuar, wherever you are. if you have other interesting projects, let me know. We share the same interest in the story of the roads.   Terima kasih untuk semua. Wassalam.

Thailand by Bus (Part 4) – Chiangrai > Maesai

Welcome to Chiangrai! Sawadeekrap!

Welcome to Chiangrai! Sawadeekrap!

Chiangrai city is the capital of Chiangrai province, Thailand’s most northern province. It is about 800 kms from the capital city Bangkok, and some 180kms from Chiangmai city. We headed further north to Maesai, a border town between Thailand and Myanmar, about an hour drive from Chiangrai city.  Maesai is well-known for made-in-China counterfeit goodies, from electronic items to clothings to precious stones.  The Myanmar side of the border is Tachilek, a town used to be ruled by warlords in opium business. I was informed it was possible to cross the border for some small fee in USD, but you must leave the passport with Myanmar army at the checkpoint on the river. We did not do this, eventhough I wanted very much to visit Tachilek.  Remember this is the organized tour. I had no control over itinerary. Same excuse.  May be next time. (Anyway,  see my other postings on Yangon, Myanmar).

One more thing before I forget, there is quite a big masjid in Maesai, which goes to show that there is quite a moslem community in this area.  The masjid is along the main road. Follow the sign Masjid An-noor.

The rest of Chiangrai, Maesai and environs pixs are here.

Thailand by Bus (Part 4) – Chiangrai / Maesai

Thailand by Bus (Part 3) – Chiangmai & en route

En route Chiangmai, Lampang is a popular stopover for weary travelers.

En route Chiangmai, the city of Lampang is a popular stopover for weary travelers.

We left Pattaya early in the morning on the third day. Continued to the north to Chiangmai bypassing Bangkok business district. There were many towns we passed by, as you can see in the photos link below. We finally stopped at Lampang to catch  Zuhur/Asr prayers at Masjid Al Falak. Lampang is the third largest city in Thailand, some 600 kms from the capital city Bangkok, and some 100 kms from Chiangmai. It is famous for its horse-cart (kereta kuda) and colorful buildings made of teak wood (kayu jati). Again, I could not explore the city beyond the authorized bus stops, even though I wanted to. We left this cool city in the drizzling rain and headed for Chiangmai.

Tired and hungry, the first place we stormed in was a chinese restaurant when we reached the city of Chiangmai. The bus driver had a difficulty manouvering the big bus through narrow downtown streets to find the restaurant, but finally he made it to the applause of starving folks in the bus. So welcome to Chiangmai, said the smiling owner. After dinner, we checked in into a riverside hotel and called it a day. Some young ones or young-at-hearts sneaked out to the nearby Night Bazaar, one of the main tourist attraction in Chiangmai.

The next morning, we trekked up the 1700m mountain Doi Suthep, perhaps the most famous tourist destination in Chiangmai. The city was surrounded by the mountains, and of them is Doi Suthep, believed by locals as a spiritual guardian of their city.  Along the winding but good road up the mountain, we passed by a national park, some Buddhist temples and waterfalls amidst lush tropical rainforest.  Not much stories & photos on those places, though. Again, same excuse — I could not stop, this is an organized tour! (Orang gagal beri alasan).

The rest of Chiangmai and environs pixs are here.

Thailand by Bus (Part 3) – Chiangmai

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