Sunday 28 June 2015

A little less conversation, please.

I always make it a rule not to get caught in a conversation with some one sitting next to me  during a long haul flight..  Firstly, how do you extricate yourself from listening to and coping with a fellow passenger who wants to keep on nattering for the duration of a 13-hour journey?  Secondly, you have to get through the usual rigmarole of  having to answer queries about  yourself, your career - almost your whole life  to a stranger...and what's more, you'll be talking within earshot of at least a dozen other passengers (assuming they're not wired up)!

Well, during the recent  MAS flight to KL, I found myself within earshot of a conversation between two passengers sitting to my left.

One was a young, yuppy Chinese lass who had earlier been told off  by another passenger for shouting at him over luggage space in the overhead compartment.   Tempers get frayed when passengers begin to arrange themselves and their hand paraphernalia as soon as they get to their seats.  Passengers nowadays do bring in more and bigger hand luggage  than stipulated by the airlines and this results in a scramble for space and 'invasions' into other overhead compartments which are not within their 'territory'.  It's the ultimate Kiasu in the air!

Her neighbour was a middle-aged Chinese man, a seasoned traveller on the route.  We had met him earlier when we were waiting to be herded into the plane.  The spouse noticed the boxes of Kelloggs cornflakes in his open paperbag.  "You've got the real thing in there - they are much nicer than the ones in KL", the spouse said to him with a smile. 

He returned the smile and wistfully replied, "I had to get this for my son - they were the last two boxes on the shelf !"

"How old is your son?".  I asked.

He replied, "32!"  and we all shared a good laugh.

As the journey began and all the passengers had  settled down,  the two passengers to my left  were going through the motion of getting to know each other.  She was Malaysian like him and had been working in the City in London for the past ten years and was now heading for KL to start a new job as a Financial/Investment  Officer with Khazanah.  She was asking him for tips about buying property in KL, about how she made a good  move in buying a 2-room apartment (not a flat) in the Docklands  and how property prices in London are going through the roof right now.  "Is it the same in KL?  Which condominiums would make the best buy and a remunerative investment?."

While drifting in and out of sleep I picked up ( I couldn't help it.  I was sitting and sleeping next to them!!!) more insights into the life and times and wealth-making tips from two obviously well-heeled, middle class Malaysian Chinese.  It seemed the middle-aged man flew frequently into London, where he and his sons owned a couple of properties.   He has been to Lisbon, Milan, Egypt etc etc.  And they both exchanged views about their visits to various cities in Europe and interestingly to some  mosques in Istanbul, Damascus and Cairo.  Good for them - they didn't travel just for the sake of shopping in pricey department stores.

But I wonder, would they be interested in visiting some of the old (and new) mosques in their own country?  Also, do mosques in Malaysia allow entry (of course not during prayer times) of non-Muslim visitors as in other countries in the Middle East?

When we were travelling in the Nilgiri Hills in India in the late 1980s, we visited an Adivasi village.  We approached their little temple, but because I was a female I was not allowed to enter.

The two priests are on the right.

I acknowledged and respected their belief and waited outside while the spouse went in accompanied by the priests,

(Which brings me to an amusing piece of news about the behaviour of  tourists in London.)

Read :

I think the insolent pup got what he deserved!

On arriving at KLIA we had a long long wait (over an hour) for our luggage to arrive on the carousel. With the delay, we worried about being able to get the right taxi - the last time we arrived at KLIA (November 2014) we could only get a taxi/van for 8 passengers because KLIA Taxi Service had run out of normal taxis!!   This time they ran out of the normal limo and so it had to be the  Luxury Limo which set us back by MYR 238.  ( One GBP = MYR 5.9)

Just to be bloody-minded, I decided to make a comparison of the cost of a taxi from Airport to home in KL and in Leicester.

1.  The distance between Leicester and Heathrow is 162 km, and it's 78.4 km between KLIA and Setiawangsa.

2.  The taxi fare to Heathrow from Leicester is GBP110 and it's GBP40 from KLIA to STW. Therefore per km you pay 51p in Malaysia and 67p in England.    So far, so good.

3.  BUT  petrol costs GBP 1.16 / litre in England.  In Malaysia it's 34p/ litre - just about 1/3 of the price in England!  

I suppose taxi operators in Leicester could pick up a few tips from their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur.  

But that's a digression.

The journey from KLIA to STW proved to be just as interesting as the flight from London.  We had a very helpful and courteous taxi driver.   When we got into his taxi, the driver just got on with his job while we sat back to admire the night lights of Sepang highway.    We like it when we can be left alone in the vehicle and not be interrogated about our marital status, our whereabouts, our number of children/grandchildren, our occupation and so on and so forth.   And our taxi driver did just that!

I then asked Iain about the time and as he was in the dark the driver very kindly looked at the clock on his dashboard to tell us the time.  He then, without sounding too quizzy enquired where we came from.  From then on, the conversation took on a very interesting turn.  David (the taxi driver) did most of the talking and we were given a fascinating insight into the head and heart of a working class Malaysian Chinese.

David had been driving his taxi for the past 5 years.  Prior to that he had been working in Hong Kong and China as a Sales Rep for a Hong Kong company.  He met his wife in Xichuan and his first child was born in China.  He decided to come home because of his father's failing health and as the only son he felt it was his duty to take over his father's job - as a taxi driver. Years ago, when he was working abroad, he was proud to call himself a Malaysian - those were the years when the Prime Minister of Malaysia was Dr Mahathir.    He now feels that so many things are going wrong in Malaysia and everything seem to be turning bad and so many Malaysians are feeling unhappy and angry - especially with corrupt shenanigans in high places.      1MDB figured prominently in his discontent.

He talked about the hassle he went through to get a Visa for his China-born wife.  When we told him how applicants for ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) in UK  - equivalent to a PR status in Malaysia - had to take an English Language Test and a "Life in UK" test (see sample questions at the end of this posting), he was quite surprised to learn how the rules in Malaysia are so undemanding.

He also talked about the rising cost of living in Malaysia .   We countered with some comments about the UK.   We told him what we had to pay for Council Tax (the equivalent of a house assessment tax in Malaysia), our water supply, gas, electricity and phone, and the cost of bus fare and fuel - he was quite shocked. When he asked about health facilities, we mentioned free health care provided by the NHS - but also told him how cutbacks and lack of funding for the NHS was becoming a great concern for the British public.  The elderly for instance had to wait on trolleys for hours before they could be given a bed in a ward.  Unless it's a dire emergency you had to wait 3-4 days before you could see your GP and even then the surgery would ask you to go straight to the A and E Unit at the hospital where you can expect to wait 5 hours or more before you get to see a doctor.

"Wow", he said.  "My father had to have a heart by-pass.  At a private hospital he would have to pay $36,000.  But the government hospital in Seremban sent him to IJN for the operation which came to just 1/6 of the cost at the private hospital."  He further added how IJN took good care of his father  during and after the operation.  He went on to describe  how the maternity unit of the Seremban Government Hospital (where his second child was born) was far, far superior to the private hospital in China where his first-born was delivered.  He was almost gushing about the postnatal services that his wife received.

To David, health and education facilities matter very much and on those two concerns he realised that Malaysians are very lucky.  But there was one thing that worried him.  His eldest son attends a Chinese medium Sekolah Kebangsaan.  He was concerned that the teaching of history is not up to par, not like what he received when he was studying at St Xavier in Seremban.  His son's history  (according to David) was mainly about   Twin Towers and Proton.  David exclaimed "What about 'Kesultanan Melaka" and Hang Tuah?'    And this from a young Chinese who had said, early in the conversation (and with no idea that I was Malay): "I am Chinese Malaysian, and I accept that we are a different case to Malay Malaysians - we should not expect the same rights."

Spoken like a true Malaysian !!!

What an experience for a grumpy-ole- Scottish/English-git and a moaning-ole-Malay-maverick-minnie.

What a difference from our last long haul flight on MAS.

Read :


Samples of questions for the compulsory Life in UK test - to qualify for Indefite Leave to Remain

1.  Which two names are given to the period before the Norman Conquest?
2.  Which of these statements about the Crimean War is correct?
3.  At what age did Queen Victoria become Queen of the United Kingdom?
4.  TRUE or FALSE :  Most paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland have now decommissioned their arms and are inactive.
4.  Why did the United States enter the Second World War in December 1941?

The passing mark for the tests must be at least 75%.

For your information the English Language Test includes  a speaking and listening qualification at B1 CEFR  (CEFR = Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) level AND even if you have GCSE in English, it is not recognised as it doesn't test speaking and listening skills.

And oh yes, you have to pay for each Test you take.  And if you fail, you just try and try and pay and pay again.

And that makes me wonder - during the pre-Independence period, what conditions and requirements were necessary to become a Malayan citizen?

Here's a little pome to end this posting :


'Why of the sheep do you not learn peace?'
'Because I don't want you to shear my fleece.'

William Blake (1757 - 1827)


adion said...

so is it the rakyat/voter or the politician/leader in Malaysia are being ungrateful ?

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Adion.

Sorry, I can't get the drift of your query. I assume you mean : " is it the rakyat/voter or the politician/leader who are ungrateful?".

If that's the question, I would say ALL Malaysians should be grateful not only for the services and facilities and opportunities existing in the nation but also for the bounty and resources that they can exploit, the peaceful ambience that allows for both creative and destructive ventures and the fact that this basically Muslim nation has been spared and protected from the bloodshed and wars and violence that plague the Middle East.

Anonymous said...

"I am Brown Briton, and I accept that we are a different case to White Britons - we should not expect the same rights."

Spoken like a true Briton !?

nasir said...

Thank you .. love reading your blog.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Nasir

This little ole lady has been quite remiss in her postings. InsyaAllah after Ramadan AsH shall push the little ole lady to get a move on!

Have a blessed Eid