A wise man from Yangon

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

He waited for me at the door when he saw my car pulled over to empty parking space. An old man with frail frame put a genuine smile on his face to welcome a foreign visitor to his apartment near Tamwe township in Yangon, Myanmar. The wife was equally excited to receive a simple me, only in normal unironed t-shirt. I heard about him from his daughter and he must have heard about me from her too. He was a retired Myanmar supreme court judge. A knowledgeable man indeed. He asked about me, my family, my country and he wished someday his country would be as advanced as Malaysia or Singapore. Then he talked about the history of Laws inherited from British. Then I sought his view about one pending case at office. Outsourcing noncore personnel from Myanmar labor laws perspective. He talked slowly, in difficulty but clear English, probably due to his health condition. Just came back from getting medical treatment in Singapore, where one of his daughters was staying. I was served fresh fruits together with some juices I bought at Citymart at Yankin enroute here. 

He is the father of one of my national staff at office. 

It was a good conversation. Before I left, I gave him a book on introduction to Islam as a present to him. May this friendship last. Ya ALLAH, berikan hidayah kpdnya.

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Iftaar dan zakat fitrah di Miri, SARAWAK

Friday, September 17th, 2010

29 OGOS 2010

AKu membuat keputusan untuk check-out dari Mega Hotel hari ini selepas rumah sewa di Pujut 4 dikonfirm. AKu rasa lebih elok check-out awal dan tidur di sana malam ni sekurang-kurangnya aku tahu apa yang kurang di rumah itu supaya boleh diberitahu kepada Mdm Lau untuk dibaiki apa yang perlu.  Selepas check-out, masuk waktu zuhur jam 12:40 ptg dan aku terus ke Masjid Lama Miri di depan hotel. Jumpa Pak Johari selepas solat Zuhur untuk membayar zakat fitrah.

Fitrah tahun ini di Miri ialah RM5.20 seorang.  DIa bertanya lebih dari biasa. DIa bertanya detil mengenai latar belakang, asal dari mana, kerja di mana, dsbnya dan aku seperti biasa sedaya upaya cuba untuk mempertahankan imej low profile dengan menjawab secara umum soalan-soalan tersebut. Aku tahu ramai AJK masjid itu tertanya seperti Pak Harun dan Shahar selepas mereka tahu aku duduk di hotel depan masjid dan selalu berbuka puasa di masjid bersama rakyat marhaen dan musafir lalu lalang. Aku tahu Pak Harun agak terkejut menerima sumbangan berbuka puasa dariku hari itu dan semalam dia memasak nasi tomato Penang untuk menjamu orang berbuka puasa di masjid itu. Aku pasti tak akan lupa mee goreng mamak dengan taugeh yang banyak tapi berminyak sikit. Shahar usahawan muda dengan bisnes kurma mariami sepanjang Ramadhan. Ramai orang utara Semenanjung rupanya yang datang ke Miri, kebanyakan berkahwin dengan wanita Sarawak, seperti Pak Harun dan Shahar. Azman datang sekejap saja untuk buat kerja instrumentasi di paltform Tukau, tapi aku dapat menhidu kesukaannya kepada bandaraya ini. Walaupun dia diam di Hotel Imperial dan masjid at-Taqwa lebih dekat, aku selalu jumpa dia setiap waktu solat fardu di Masjid Lama Miri. Seorang doktor gigi Mesir yang aku tak tahu namanya juga selalu berkunjung ke Masjid Lama Miri dan membawa buah-buahan dan roti canai bila tiba setiap waktu berbuka. Beberapa pekerja Indonesia dan Bangladesh juga menjadi pengunjung setia Masjid Lama Miri setiap kali waktu berbuka puasa. Budget dari kewangan masjid hanyalah RM70 sehari untuk program ini, kata Pak Harun. KAlau ada sumbangan lain, dia akan masak spesial dan lebih sikit. Kalau tidak, hanyalah air teh o, air sirap, kueh-mueh dan mee goreng (atau nasi goreng). Tapi alhamdulillah, apa yang diperlukan hanyalah sekadar untuk meneruskan kelangsungan hidup yang sementara ini. Lebih dari itu, tunggulah di syurga nanti, insyallah.

13 good reasons to return to Yangon, Myanmar

Friday, September 17th, 2010

And below are some reasons for me to return to Yangon in Myanmar. What a beautiful country it is! I have been there and some memories keep lingering on. 

1. Gemstones.

I don’t like this but my wife does. She managed to persuade me into it. Finally she bought 3 silver rings (with sapphire, ruby and jade stones) from her Myanmar friend in Bogyoke Market. I have to wear it for the first few days.  Where are they now?

2. Golf

Even though the price is picking up, relatively cheaper green fees of as low as 15000 kyats (USD15) with caddy is still available. Yemon golf course is on the way to Bago is good for beginners and intermediateries.

3. C otton textiles (Kain kapas)

Quality cotton material from Korea and China is cheap. Remember China is the most important trading country with Myanmar. Buy the textile at Bogyoke Market in Yangon and go to the tailor nearby. Your long sleeve shirt, for the cost of 5000 kyats will be ready in a couple days.  Pay urgency fees of additional 1000 kyats if you want it early.

4. Used designer watches

Take a stroll along downtown streets near Sule Pagoda and you will come to many watch shops. The front glass displays common watches only. Go inside and quietly ask for Rolex or Tag Heuer or Hamilton or Tissot, and in no time they will bring second-hand branded watches and make offer you cannot resist. Some watches come with certificate of authenticity.

5. T-shirt with embroidery or printed.

Near Shwegondaing junction in Yangon, there are many plain t-shirt shops, ready to be printed. Buy as many as you want for as low as 1500 kyats each and send for printing or embroidery the nearby printing shops. They will do design for you for free on their computer.  For printing, they will create stamping block, and minimum order is necessary.   

6.  Cashew nuts

3200 kyats (USD3.2)  for 500 gram of Grade A cashew nuts from upper Myanmar is certainly a good buy, especially for wholesalers. You need contact to get to the supplier.

7. Programming services

This one for techies. For 200,000 kyats (USD200 per month) or even less, you can hire a programmer well-versed in CSS and PHP full time to develop a customized website for you or develop on-line store for you. There are desparate for works. Myanmar people are creative in every aspect of life. They can make 40- 50  year-old cars and buses running on the city streets! Programming is a cup of tea for well-trained ones.

8. Stone paintings

Plenty of these at Bogyoke Market in downtown Yangon or at Sayasan Plaza in Yankin Township. Choose ready made or bring your own design or photo and give them some times before collecting the paintings.

8. Oil paintings

Plenty of street artists, unknown but very prolific. Meet them at Bogyoke Market in downtown Yangon. Choose ready made or bring your own design or photo and give them some times before collecting the paintings. Prices are very reasonable.

9. Simple life

If you want to run away from fake people in big cities, come to Myanmar. Life is so simple here. The telecommunication system is as secretive as its military government system is. High spreed internet access is only for few privileged ones. Websites are subject to heavy censorship by the government and . Power blackout is the order of the day. Main power supply is from diesel-powered generator, with backup supply from the government. Electricity supply is rationed to 6-hours per day. Your mobile will not roam in this country. Get a new local SIM card for USD70 with airtime USD30

Natures untouched. Wooden bridges along the main road to Pathein and Chaungtha Beach and other places are common sights.

10. AirAsia

AirAsia started flying direct to Yangon from Kuala Lumpur beginning July 2010 with incredibly lower fare, if you are lucky enough. Coupled with newly introduced Visa on Arrival at Yangon Airport, getting into Myanmar has never been that easy. 

11. Helping people.

Jika anda dari kalangan yang ‘ringan tangan’ dan suka menolong orang, Yangon memang sesuai untuk anda. Di sini ramai orang miskin dan peminta sedekah berada di mana-mana termasuk di pintu masuk masjid. Bahasa Inggerisnya orang yang suka menolong orang lain disebut sebagai  ‘good samaritan’ atau orang kaya yang yang punya banyak wang dalam bank dan suka menolong orang lain digelar  ‘philantrophist’  . Di barat ramai orang seperti ini seperti mendiang Putri Diana dan juga Bill Gates, yang mana bagi mereka kebahagian dan ketenangan hanya diperolehi melalui memberi harta benda mereka kepada orang miskin di seluruh dunia. Dikenali juga sebagai ‘compulsive helper’.

12. Pirated DVDs

Be it the latest movies or even the latest installers or softwares or antivirus signatures, you can find from street peddlers along downtown streets. If you a collector, the whole series of popular TV programs like LOST or CSI or even Korean dramas, can be found in a single DVD, costing only 1500 kyats. One single DVD could host 60 war movies or James Bond movies.

13. A pair of glasses.

Along downstown streets you can find a lot of spectacles shops. Choose your own frame and all sort of lenses are available. Common lenses available within 3o mins.

MAS tambah penerbangan ke Yangon, MYANMAR mulai September 2010

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

Semenjak AirAsia menyerang Yangon, MYANMAR dengan penerbangan tambang rendahnya setiap hari mulai Jun 2010, MAS mula terasa bahangnya. Laluan KUL-RGN (Yangon ialah nama baru bagi Rangoon) yang sebelum ini hanya popular dengan pelancong bisnes (business travelers), kini semakin kencang dengan pelancong kasual (leisure travelers) dan tidak boleh dipandang sebelah mata oleh strategis MAS.

Justeru itu, MAS membuka kedua-dua matanya dengan menambah penerbangan KUL-RGN setiap hari. Sebelum ini hanya 5 hari seminggu sahaja. MH740 berlepas dari KUL ke Yangon pada jam 10:05 pagi dan MH741 berlepas pulang dari Yangon ke KUL pada jam 12:15 tgh. setiap hari. Masa penerbangan ialah 2 jam 30 minit dan kadang-kadang 2 jam 45 minit.

Selamat datang ke Yangon, MYANMAR.

“It happened so fast.”

Friday, July 9th, 2010

July 6th 2010:

One of our contractor passed away yesterday while we were busy with work and meetings and doing other worldly things.

I got the message late while in one of the KPI-setting meeting which was supposed to set key performance indicators to measure individual performance for the next financial year.   While we can plan how much sales and revenue the Company can make, or how many leaders we want to develop, we never can plan when and how we will die.

Unable to catch the funeral ceremony at Yuwey cemetery in Mingalardon, we visited the bereaved family members today at their house at University Avenue in Yangon. Our car was stopped by the security guarding this stretch of University Avenue  which is the home for the most famous lady in Myanmar — Daw Aung San Su Kyi.  We were made to walk some 800 meters along University Crest to the house no 71A.

We met the wife, a widow now. A petite pretty lady, who spoke English better than most of my local staff in my office.

“It happened so fast. ” The wife started the story. There were many relatives and friends in the house, which served as his husband’s office. So she took us to the verandah.

“He complained about slight chest pain in the morning.  Then he visited a doctor at nearby clinic, have ECG taken. ECG was no good and the doctor gave him a bundle of medication, to be taken after meal.”

Her eyes were wet with tears but she managed it well not to drop the tears. She tried to put up a brave front but sometimes she broke down and simply buried her face into her hands, while we were waiting for this damsel in distress to complete her sentence.

“I quit working and started becoming a fulltime housewife last year. Now I don’t know…  It seems I have to return to work.”

“I am spoilt by by him, everything I wanted I got it, just like a baby.”  She is a young mother with 2 boys — aged 6 month and 2.5 years old. She said her late husband said he had 3 kids, and she is the third one.

“This house is my husband’s office, somebody new will come. I have to leave and find a new place.”

I did not say much. I was not good at comforting others in pain save some words rather direct like life is test, be patient, Allah loves him more.

Anyway I did hand over my business card before I left just in case she wanted to try her luck in my organization.