Ramadhan 1430H in Yangon, MYANMAR

First Ramadhan this year (1430Hijrah=2009M) found me in Kuala Lumpur after having attended some business meetings in Malaysian capital city.   I took MH740 flight back to Yangon only on Sunday morning. It was fairly a good flight except when approaching Yangon where heavy clouds littered the southern Myanmar sky and despite the enhanced avionic technology, this Boeing 737 – 800 — the upgraded version of B737 with distinguishable flipped wings feature — still could not withstand the force of the nature, to be exact, the power of Allah SWT.  The plane was relatively new in Malaysian Airlines fleet, just introduced mid this year to replace B737-400.  I must say that it is smoother and less noisier that its older cousin B737-400. Nevertheless the flight was not smooth all the way. Approaching Yangon, a couple of times the ever-cool pilot — who talked in word by word — had to remind passengers to return to their seats and fasten seatbelt, due to air turbulence caused by bad weather. Yangon was raining when I left and when I returned. Monsoon season, so to speak. But I was asleep half of the time of the flight and half asleep at the other  half.  I knew when the meal was served even though with eyes closed, as the aroma was so familiar and so intense. A slight feeling of regret was felt when embarking at the gate as to why I did not ask the stewardess to pack one for my iftaar. Yes it was second day of Ramadhan and I was fasting.

Lets move on with the theme of this post – Ramadhan on Yangon. FYI, this is my first Ramadhan in Yangon and Myanmar after being posted here.

I managed to find time one afternoon in between work to perform solat  Zuhur at Masjid Kokhine Masjid at Kabaye Pagoda Road.  I had to meet Brother Anwar to pay up my iftaari sponsorship I promised him before I left for KUL a week before. He was sharing some story about ifttaar program they are organizing every day in Ramadhan. They needed sponsors for this program — you may sponsor one session for about 35000 kyats. He is the bilal and the trustee for the Masjid.

One night I hailed a taxi to go to the same masjid for solat Taraweh.  It was old white Toyota SE with no inside door cover at the front passenger side. It was just like a mechanic’s car. I could see the gear and other things which control the sliding of the glass window up or down.  When its engine accelerated, it sounded like the helicopter I took the other day to the offshore. But the  driver was really friendly, he was in the talking mood and was asking about where I came from, despite his mouth was full with sirih (beattle leave).

“You Malayu? You Malayu?”. He asked me inquisitively.

I answered in affirmative. And then suddenly we had so many thing in common.  Apparently he was working somewehere in Kajang for four years and returned to Myanmar in 1997. He said one thing he missed badly about Malaysia was bah-kut-teh soup. He said he could not find it here in Yangon such a delicacy. I felt like throwing up. Cultural diffences, I convinced myself.

He charged me 1500 kyats for a 5 minutes ride, and for some information about himself.

Solat Isyak started at 8pm sharp. Solat Taraweh started right after long solat sunat ba’diyah Isyak.  Moslems here are Hanafi followers and they are very particular about solat in jamaah and solat sunat (or nawafil). Our brothers here perform long solat sunat especially after Zuhur, Maghrib and Isyak. While we Malaysians are generally contented with 2 rakaat or none at all, they could go up to 8 rakaat easily. Times for solat fardhu in jamaah are calculated exactly to the minute and displayed at the notice board so that everybody can participate. When the time comes, it starts on the dot.  If you come five minutes late, you will miss it. This is a practise for all masjids in Yangon. To me it is a good practise which can be copied by  Malaysians, who in majority did not bother to solat in masjid, even though his house is next to a masjid’s loudspeaker.

Solat Taraweh was done in 2 by 2 rakaat. The imaam was a young hafeez from a local madrasah. He led the first 4 rakaat before another imaam (another young hafeez) took over and continued with another 4 rakaat.  So all together there were five hafeez leading the solat taraweh. They read surahs after Fatihah very fast, compromising the rules of recitation of verses of the Holy Quran (tawjid). Could not blame them either, since they had to complete the whole Quran within Ramadhan. This happened in Malaysia also and anywhere else where hafeez leading prayers.

The 4 saffs of worshippers remained the same until the end of 20 rakaat. Which meant everybody completes the 20 rakaat. In total contrast in Malaysia where after 8 rakaats, three quarters of jemaah would have left. I have no comment on this.

The regular imaam led solat Witir of 3 rakaat with one salam. It was very similar to maghrib, i.e. with 2 tahiyyats, except in the 3rd rakaat, after a surah was read after alFatihah, there was a long pause before rukuk. I suspected this could be due to Qunut. It caught me by surprise as I  almost went into rukuk by myself after the surah.

There was no selawat in between the 2 rakaats. No tazkirah. The whole 20 rakaats was completed within about an hour. Except for the speed, it was a memorable experience for me.

At 9:30pm, in front of the masjid, Kabaye Pagoda Rd was still busy with traffic. I took another dilapidated white taxi home.

Menggubah Bunga di Yangon, MYANMAR

14 Ogos 2009:

(Catatan ini ditulis oleh Wannor)

Hari ini Datin menjemput kami ke kediamannya di Inya Road di pinggir kota Yangon. Program ini ialah program kesukaannya dan berkebetulan dengan minat saya pada suatu masa dahulu semasa di zaman bujang dahulu. Tetapi entah bagaimana minat itu pudar dan hilang dek kekalutan dan himpitan kehidupan. Tapi bakat itu timbul semula dan diasah semula sejak saya turut serta dalam aktiviti PERWAKILAN Yangon. Beberapa teman ikut serta termasuk seorang dari wanita tempatan Myanmar. Aktiviti ini memang menyeronokkan dan tidak sedar masa berlalu begitu pantas. Lihat galeri di bawah untuk sampel gubahan bunga yang dihasilkan.

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.