Write Lah!

Country and Names 101

With the American President’s recent visit to Malaysia, an issue was raised about an ungrammatical sign welcoming him to the country.


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The problem is not so much about grammar but a lack of awareness that some country names have the word “The” before it.

For example:

The United States of America

The Netherlands

The Philippines

Most countries don’t, including:




So we should say:

Welcome to the President of the United States of America, or

Welcome to the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

Simple really.

The same applies to people’s names.

In Malaysia, we have many honorifics and, although it can get complicated, we should know how to use them. Many are bestowed either by the state or federal governments.

So we would say:

Welcome Datuk Saraswati and Tan Sri Lim

rather than:

Welcome Mrs Datuk Saraswati and Mr Tan Sri Lim

Some honorifics are hereditary.

We should write:

Dear Raja Azman and Tengku Ahmad

rather than

Dear En Raja Azman and En Tengku Ahmad

A good book on the subject of titles is Malaysia Protocol by Abdullah Ali.

I think I’m mostly right here but I’m happy to be corrected! :)

Farewell Ampang Park

Ampang Park was the first shopping mall in KL.

We lived not more than a couple of kilometres away. It contained rows and rows of shops, a supermarket, many boutiques and a beer garden on the roof top.

As teenagers, my brothers and I used to frequent its record shop where they would record LPs on cassettes for a fee. (For you younger folk, LPs are Long Playing Records and a 90 minute cassette would record 2 albums, one on each 45 minute side.)


My most distinct memory of Ampang Park though is scurrying there one afternoon without our mother knowing. As soon as she had left home, we boys, aged 9, 12 and 13 hurried to its toy shop and, pooling our money together, bought an Airfix World War II Gun Emplacement with plastic German and American soldiers.

Our excursion to the shopping mall was scary and I didn’t even dare thing what punishment awaited us if we were caught. We weren’t. And we had hours of fun with our new toy!

Many of us have memories of the shopping mall. Perhaps you had wandered it’s non air-conditioned corridors with your first girlfriend or boyfriend? Or bought your first typewriter, Walkman, answering machine, computer or handphone there?

Ampang Park is not the prettiest of buildings. But because of the era it which it was built, it has a fairly unique architectural-style for KL. That is why it’s a pity to demolish it to make way for a MRT station.

So shouldn’t Ampang Park be classifed as a heritage building?


“What?” you might say. “That ugly thing?”.

It’s certainly no Le Coq D’Or, is it? A beautiful building, also on Jalan Ampang, which we unfortunately was stolen from us at the dead of night.

Yet heritage is not about beauty.

If a building is of architectural or historic interest, then it should be classified as heritage and must not be demolished.

For us in 2015, the 1970s wasn’t so long ago and a building from that era might not be considered as historic, but our grandchildren or great grand children may see this differently.

They may have a different idea of architectural significance too and may think that it was a terrible thing to have allowed the destruction of an important building that was part of the fabric of Kuala Lumpur.

But I can already hear the bulldozers rumbling away in the name of progress and profits.

So farewell Ampang Park.

Thanks for the memories. KL will not be the same without you.

The Long Farewell

Today is my mother’s 85th birthday. It fills me not with happiness but with a profound sadness.

She doesn’t know it’s her birthday. She doesn’t even know she exists. 

She has suffered from Alzheimer’s for 15 years, maybe more. The  journey of how an intelligent, energetic, dominant woman has become an emaciated, pitiful figure in a hospital bed is a sorrowful one. Nor can I fully describe it even if I wanted to.

I can’t because I  wasn’t there much. I’d been living overseas and so didn’t have to see the daily ravages upon my mother. It’s a disease that has been described as “the long goodbye”. 

It seems that my siblings and I have been saying goodbye for a long time. 

There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s. No medication to reverse it. The brain just slowly disappears. 

Everything is unlearnt. 

Forgetting her way home was a first indication. Many others followed, including paranoia, mood swings and being unaware of time. 

The memory goes first, followed by the mental capacity. She clutched on tightly to the oldest memories but these too were soon whittled away, leaving only an empty shell. There followed the full deterioration of her physical capacities. 

 From a fiercely independent woman, she became totally dependent. She’s now taken care of 24 hours a day. 

There are many stories like hers. Most of them hidden. Sad and untold. 

Heart break and almost insurmountable difficulties are visited upon the affected families. These are stories of parental love and loss.

So today I’m not celebrating.

I’m just writing this to mark an unhappy birthday.

Ngiap, Senyap, Quiet …

As I sit in my hotel room, I can hear the grinding of construction work, and I wonder if I should change rooms to the other side of the hotel. But I don’t really want the morning sun or lose the enchanting view of the mountain. 

Life is just too full of these difficult choices!

Anyway, I’ve been in Chiang Mai for a month now and I’ve only found one Thai word that’s similar to Malay. 

‘Ngiap’ means silent. Just like Malay’s ‘senyap’!

I do like it quiet too!

The Thai language belongs to the Tai-Kadai language family with words taken from Sanskrit, Pali and Old Khmer. It’s a fairly small language family in terms of number of speakers. 

The Malay language is Austronesian which is a much larger language family. Malay is the most widely spoken Austronesian language and is the the 8th most widely spoke language in the world.

It strikes me as strange that two countries which are so close to each other have so little in common in their languages. Whereas, as I wrote in my previous post, the Filipino languages, a country which is more than 2000 kilometers away, have so many common words.

Anyway, “Selamat Sawadii kap!”

Malay and Visayan: Common Words

Having spent some time in the southern Philippines, I’ve learnt that Visayan (or Bisaya) language share many common words with the Malay language. The Filipinos I’ve met express surprise when I mention this. I’m sure many Malaysians would be surprised too.

Visayan is also known as Cebuano and you’ll find its purer form spoken on the island of Cebu. Other than the national language, which is Tagalog, Visayan is the second most widely spoken language spoke in the country. Tagalog and Malay share many common words too. I would guess, to a lesser extend,that this would be the same for some of the other Filipino languages.

Filipinos have to learn Tagalog and will also speak their local language, which might be Visayan, Ilocano, Waray, Ilongo, Bikol or one of the other hundred or more languages. Other than that they also learn American English at school. So the Philippines is a country of multi-lingual speakers.

It’s interesting too that in Visayan the word for tiger is “tigre”, whereas a harimau happens to be a demon! Also the word of milk is gatas and the word “susu” is breast!

Languages just evolve.

Anyway, here are the common words I’ve come across so far. There are, I’m sure, many others.

Melayu ….. Bisaya

Aku ….. Ako
Anak ….. Anak
Angin ….. Hangin
Api …. Apo
Asap ….. Aso
Atap ….. Atop
Atas …… Taas

Babi …. Baboy
Bahu …. Baho
Baldi ….. Baldi
Balik …. Balik
Bangun ….. Bangun
Baru ….. Bago
Batu ….. Bato
Bayar …. Bayad
Beras ….. Bugas
Berat ….. Bugat
Berita …. Balita
Buaya ….. Buaya
Basah ….. Basak
Beras …. Bugas
Bola …. Bola
Buat ….. Buhaton
Bulan ….. Bulan
Buta ….. Buta

Cermin ….. Samin

Daun ….. Dahon
Dua ….. Duha
Durian ….. Durian

Engkau ….. Ikaw
Empat ….. Upat
Enam ….. Unom

Gunting ….. Gunting

Harga ….. Halaga
Hitam ….. Itom
Hujan ….. Ulan
Hutang ….. Utang

Jalan …… Dalan

Kambing ….. Kanding
Kami ….. Kami
Ketawa …. Ketawa
Kerbau …. Kalabau
Kita ….. Kita

Langga ….. Bangga
Langit ….. Langit
Langsat ….. Langsones
Lelaki …. Lalaki
Lima ….. Lima

Mahal ….. Mahal
Mangga ….. Mangga
Manis …. Tamis
Mata ….. Mata
Minum ….. Inom

Nyamuk ….. Lamuk

Pahit ….. Pait
Payung ….. Payung
Pintu ….. Pintu
Putih …. Puti

Sabun …. Sabun
Sakit ….. Sakit
Salah ….. Sala
Sandar …… Sandiri
Senyum ….. Pahiyum

Takut ….. Hadlok
Tanam ….. Tanum
Timbang ….. Timbang
Tuwala …. Twala

It’s possible that some of the Bisaya words have come from the Tagalog, or perhaps visa versa!

You’ll find the Malay/Tagalog common words here

Chiang Mai – July 2015

I’ve been in this northern Thai city for 10 days now. I’ll be here for 2 months. I’ve been working on a non-fiction book (but I won’t tell you what’s it about … it’s a surprise!)

The weather’s been wonderfully cool, a bit rainy too, which is nice. I’m staying in a 3 star hotel a bit out of the city. I don’t think it’s even on the map I’ve inserted.


I’ve got a large 1 bedroom suite which is far in excess of my needs. I booked a standard room but it didn’t have a kitchen sink, so I needed to upgrade. I like to prepare my own very simple food sometimes. Anyway, my monthly rent is less than what you’d pay for a studio in a KL condo. So it’s not expensive.

The people here are called Lanna. They speak the Lanna language which is different from standard Thai. The city itself is not geographically that big. There are no skyscrapers. I’m on the 11th floor and I look down on most buildings. From my window I can see the mountain with the Doi Suthep temple. It looks mysterious with the clouds curling past it.

Sometimes there’s quite a bit of traffic. So it’s not a quiet city. There’re lots of scooters shooting about everywhere. It’s the major form of transport. Mine is mostly on foot or in tuk tuks. I don’t go out often.

Today is Sunday, so there’s a night market in the old city. I may go, I may not. It depends whether I want to join all the tourists. But the wares on sale are interesting. I do love the moat that demarcates the old city. It’s wonderful looking at the remains of the old walls that surround it. This place is historic and full of lovely temples too.

I’ll tell you more in another update …Sawadii krap!

Happy Birthday, Papa!

Today would have been my father’s 90th birthday. We lost him so unexpectedly 7 years ago. So much has happened in Malaysia and the world since then. I know he would have taken a deep interest in these events, that continue to unfold before us.  He left 9 of us children behind, some still young, some so much older. Not to forget, of course, the grandchildren too.

I know we, and so many of his relatives and friends, have fond memories of him. He was quite a guy. And I’m sure, if he was still around that we would be having a big party tonight!

I dedicate my books, as a collection, to my parents.


There are two types of people in this world: those that read fiction and those that don’t. 

That’s mostly true. 

Some of my family and friends fall into the latter category — and I do ask why?

I’m sure you too know many people too that won’t go near a novel.

Perhaps it’s to do with the reading habit. Many of us got into this habit at an early age whilst others didn’t. But I do know people who read when they were young but don’t do now. I also know those that didn’t read at an early age but picked up reading later on in life.

Why do some of us choose not to read fiction? Is it from sheer laziness? Is it that it reminds them too much of school or that they may come across words they don’t understand? Or is it from the mistaken belief that there couldn’t possible be anything useful in it? Or that time is better spent watching a movie instead? After all it only takes a 100 minutes or so and pratically does the same thing, which is to tell a story. So why slog for many hours through a novel? Surely the Game of Thrones episodes and Harry Potter movies are much more exciting, with heck a lot more eye candy, that the books on which they’re based.

Yes, they indeed are.


But the idea of reading is to go in the opposite direction. Not from exciting to boring. But from exciting to a peaceful, restful mind. This is a contemplative and indeed healthy state that is becoming more difficult to find in our frantic digital world. Reading fiction takes you into yourself, it delivers feelings, thoughts, insights and ideas that no movie can ever match. A novel can change the way you think. It may allow you to see the world differently.

It provides a richness in life.

So I do, in a way, feel sorry for those who don’t read fiction. So, if you’re reading this bit of non-fiction but never touch a novel, then you’re missing out, my friend.

You truly are.

I suggest starting with something that isn’t so heavy, an easier read perhaps. It may be good to start with just a short story.

There really are a wealth of books waiting for you. All the ebooks you could ever want are right at your fingertips and browsing through a bookshop can be a real pleasure.

Believe me, you’ll find the hours spent reading are truly worth every minute. You read at you leisure and at your own time and pace. You can re-read or even skip passages. Your book will be your companion, your friend. You’re never alone if you have a book with you.

There’s a new reality waiting for you in this world of books and what’s beautiful that this new world is within you!

Trouble Sleeping? 10 Habits that Promote Beautiful Sleep Every Night

Sleep should be the most natural of all activities for every one of us.

But in this modern world, with all its stresses and demands, for some of us, it may no longer be so. We may have trouble falling asleep. Or we may wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall asleep again. We feel tired and cranky for the rest of the day.

We then worry if we can sleep well that night. This anxiety prevents us from sleeping. And so we enter a vicious cycle which stops us from entering a natural, restful sleep.

We may end up taking pills which creates a dependency and is unhealthy.

But this, believe me, can change.

So here are 10 Habits which will help give you a wholesome, restful, revitalising sleep every night:

1. Go to bed at the same time every night. Your body has a natural body clock that follow a 24 hour cycle. If you sleep at the same time every night your body becomes aware of this and sleep comes more naturally.

2. Wake up at the same time every day, even if you haven’t slept well the night before. Use an alarm clock if you have to. Again, you are creating a routine to help with your natural body clock. You are teaching your body and mind, when it’s time to wake up and when to sleep.

3. As it gets dark outside, keep the lights dim, perhaps just have one table lamp switched on or a candle burning. Dim lights promote relaxation. The lack of strong light entering your eyes, tells the body that it’s night. This helps your natural body clock.

4. Eat your meals at regular times, especially dinner. Again this helps the natural body clock know that bed time is approaching. Don’t eat within two hours of going to sleep.

5. Turn off all electronics an hour before going to bed. No mobile phones, TV or iPads. Read a real book instead of an electronic book. You don’t want the brightness from the electronic devices entering your eyes. If listening to music, ensure that it’s calm, relaxing music played at a low volume.

6. Brush your teeth etc. an hour before bed. You can then now relax. Spend this time quietly in your bedroom. Read a real book. It’s better to read a more literary work rather than an exciting book which might keep you awake. Write in a journal. Sketch. Listen to soft, relaxing music.

7. Don’t allow yourself to worry about what happened during the day or what will happen tomorrow. Worrying won’t change anything. Nothing you can do can change the past or future. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. All you have is now. This quiet, peaceful time before bed.

8. Massage yourself just before bed. Start with massaging your feet, each individual toe, then your calves and thighs. Spend at least 15 minutes doing this.

9. Drop caffeine from your diet. No coffee, tea, energy drinks or soft drinks.

10. Learn to meditate. (I recommend Hurry Up and Meditate by David Michie) Meditate for ten to twenty minutes an hour before bed. Then just relax. It will not only help with sleep but with life too!

That Music Event, 30 Years Ago …

In these seemingly inauspicious times, we may recall that 30 years ago famous musicans from the UK, the US and Europe came together and raised £150 million for starving children in Africa. It that summer of 1985, two live concerts, one in London, the other in Philadelphia, played simultaneously to record crowds and was beamed across to 1.9 billion people in 150 countries.


Enduring names like Queen, David Bowie, U2, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Madonna, Phil Collins and others, more famous in the 80s, like Ultravox, Spandau Ballet, Boomtown Rats, Sade, Paul Young, Simple Minds and Duran Duran performed for LiveAid.

My post from 3 years ago …



I was then a student in London and felt that we, as a human race, if united could achieve anything. Yet the events of recent weeks also tell us that we, once divided, whether by race, religion or culture, can cause death and, ultimately, our destruction.

Whilst we argue about religious extremism versus freedom of expression or distracted by cultural minutiae and political bickering, every 10 seconds a child dies of a hunger-related disease. It’s not that some these things are not important (they are), but not all causes are equal, and we really only have a finite time on this fine world of ours!

[My post from 3 years ago …]

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