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Monday, December 31, 2012

Snakes of Cameron Highlands

Some people might think we are kinda weird to go all the way to Cameron Highlands and see snakes in captivity especially as the Singapore Zoo has a wider range but the snakes were at the butterfly farms that we visited so why not?

And with 2013 being the year of the Snake, I think its good and auspicious to end 2012 and start off 2013 with what else but snakes!

Have a  blessed healthy sizzling Snake year! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

NIght Creatures at Cameron Highlands

As there is basically nothing to do in Cameron Highlands at night, we decided to go jungle trekking. We signed up with this tour company who brought us to this place near a Malay kampung. It was raining as usual when we arrived which was a bit disappointing as most of the forest creatures would have gone into hiding.
Still we managed through the knowledge of our guide to spot several insects including some weird creatures such as this stick insect
We also spotted several of ths forest frogs. 
Spiders of course 
And this long legged centipede which the guide claimed is also a first for him.
Then he showed us this little critter which he had originally mistook for a fire fly. But on closer look, it is in fact a caterpillar.
And the thing about this caterpillar? It glows in the dark!
All in, it was an interesting 3 hours walking through the forest. Except for the rain which dampened the spirit, it was worth every penny and minute of it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cameron Highlands - More than a Land of Strawberry

Cameron Highlands. Everywhere we go, strawberries are everywhere. From the strawberry farms to the strawberries theme souvenirs for tourists.
Strawberries growing on pots in the farm. Year end is not really a good time to visit as it is too cold and most of the bigger strawberries would have been harvested.

Dried preserved strawberries for sale. Nice but too much salt and sugar added though.
Strawberry fondue

Of course, Cameron Highlands is also famous for its tea and the most famous is the Boh Tea plantations which dot the mountains making for a very postcard picture.
One of the must do when in Cameron Highlands is to trek through one of the numerous mountains. Weather is great most of the year so it makes for a great trek unlike hot humid Singapore. There are lot of trails to trek, lots of things to see like stick insects and exotic plant. We even spotted a lingzhi growing one of the trees. More on trekking here
Unfortunately like everywhere else, Cameron Highlands is fast succumbing to development both legal and illegal. Large tract of lands are being cleared for farming and hotel development. There is a perpetual traffic jam along the main road and the air is no longer as cool as it used to be.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Rong Cheng Bah Kut Teh

I love bak kut teh. And I make it my mission to go to all the "famous" one in Singapore. So far I have tried all those that have featured in newspapers, blogs and tv programes. My favourite so far is still the humble little stall at Ang Mo Kio. Worst so far was the Johore Bahru Bah Kut Teh at Tampines.

Recently, I went to this outlet at far flung Midview. Okay it isn't that far but it was located right in the middle of an industrial park.

Like all bak kut teh that are located in their own premises, prices here are not cheap cheap. Each serving of the ribs comes with only 1 big rib and 2 smaller pieces.

I am also crazy over pork trotters and so we also ordered one to go along. 

Overall, we didn't find the bak kut teh to be that spectacular to warrant coming all the way here. But one man meat is another man's poison and obviously judging by the good tutnout, some must have consider it good enough.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Poor Kids

I am amazed at the way parents nowadays mollycoddly their kids. Teacher cut the kids hair. Run to MOE or worse report to the police! And it is so common to hear parents yelling at their kids not to run, not to jump and not to climb at the playground! For heaven sake, its the playground. What else are the children expected to do? And after all that, they wonder why their kids only want to watch tv and play games on their phone, computer and game console!

Just the other day, I read this post where this guy was whinning about MOE and the police refusing to take actions after his Primary 6 son was bullied in school. Frankly, I have no pity for the parent. I think MOE and the police have better things to do than go after school bullies. Sure, I feel sad for the kid being bullied but isn't that what school is about? To teach us not only about serious stuff like history, maths and languages but also about growing up and getting along with others and building characters?

As an old uncle, I know people hate it when I said, "long time ago when policeman worn short", but it is a fact that in our days, our parents will just leave us to take the knocks and pick ourselves up. Where in the world do they find time to go to school to complain, make police report? I still have a scar on my hand from my primary school when me and a classmate were using our metal rulers as sword. Did my mother kick a big fuss? No, put a plaster over it and that's it. And how can I forget the fights in school? Although I was not involve in any (in primary school anyway), everytime there was a challenge, the whole school except the teachers will know about it and all of us would turned up at the location to witness the fight. The winner gets to goad about it, the loser simply pick himself up to fight another day. I never see any police coming in to investigate not even when one time one boy got hurt so bad by a stone that he had to be sent to hospital to stitch up his head.

Ok maybe that was 40 years ago. But I adopted the same lais·sez faire attitude towards my kids when they were in school. Better that they learn from the school of life than to find out the hard way many years out that they have been inadequately prepared for life.

If our kids cannot handle a little bit of bullying, how are they going to fare when they go on to secondary school, tertiary, NS or work? The guy who wrote that letter, I not too sure whether he is a Singaporean and has served NS before, but if his son goes to NS and get picked on for being a wimp, is he going to the Chief of Defence Force for justice? Me think instead of running to the authorities, he should train his son to stand up to the bully and sock it back to him!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bus Fare Increase!

I read with disbelief the headline in the papers today what Minister Lui said. I am perturbed why an increase in salary for staff in a public listed company is the concern of the government.  As if pumping $1.1b tax payer money into these companies is not enough – now they expect the public to pay for the increase in the salary through higher fares! They might as well put a donation box on each bus and train and ask the commuters to donate money for the staff!

For goodness sake, if the transport sector is so unprofitable, then the transport company should exit the business and let somebody else take over. Minister Lui asked and as quoted in the papers “where is that money coming from?”

Let me tell you where:

SBS and SMRT are the 2 main public transport operators together with Comfort Delgro which operates mainly taxis and private hired buses.

In their latest financial announcements, SBS and SMRT reported net profit for the current year up to the current quarter at $16m and $70m respectively. For their last full financial year end, the profits were $37m and $120m respectively. Shareholders' fund was $332m and $791m. If that isn’t money to be used to pay for the salary increase what is?

Aside from that, from their annual report, salary cost was $305m and $340m for SBS and SMRT out of which $2.4m and $9.7m went to directors and senior management respectively. No wonder SMRT has such human resource problems. Look at the amount that they pay their top as compared to SBS! Me think, they should cut the pay of the bloody incompetent management at SMRT and give it to the bus drivers.
Annual Reports for SBS
Annual Report for SMRT

Both SBS and SMRT are listed on the SGX and answerable to its shareholders for its bottom-line but yet it is operating a public service which may necessitate some loss making operations. Public service and profit driven objectives cannot be easily reconciled and where there is a conflict, the interest of the owners will always take precedent over the provision of public service. After all, the logic will be that the company cannot fail otherwise greater harm will be done so these companies are allowed to get away with slipshod services like not providing buses to far flung places like Kranji; Senoko etc or operating the trains at later hours.

Since the government is pumping so much money into these companies, I think the government might as well take back the operation of public transport in Singapore. At least than there will be justification to use tax payer money to fund them!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

View from the top of Swissotel Hotel

Managed to go up to the roof top of Swissotel Hotel at Stamford Rd while covering the Vertical Marathon. Although view was great, it was cloudy but for what's its worth, these are the view right from the top.

The financial district

The Bugis area and beyond

Orchard area

Marina Bay area