Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - Wakeboarding

My first time wakeboarding. Well, it was quite fun and getting up was more difficult than I thought. 

Piece of Cake for Ash 

Boat Wake Surfing
Interesting!! Basically, the boat will create a wake where the person will be surfing (without any string/rope)

Finally, I got the taste of wakeboarding after many failed attempts.

Ivan was flying! He is quite a pro, but he is nice enough to do it with us.

It was a really nice experience, especially with a great company.

Poem: Moments

(Taken @ Inle Lake, Myanmar)

If I were able to live my life anew,
In the next I would try to commit more errors.
I would not try to be so perfect, I would relax more.
I would be more foolish than I’ve been,
In fact, I would take few things seriously.
I would be less hygienic.
I would run more risks,
take more vacations,
contemplate more sunsets,
climb more mountains, swim more rivers.
I would go to more places where I’ve never been,
I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans,
I would have more real problems and less imaginary ones.
I was one of those people that lived sensibly
and prolifically each minute of his life;
Of course I had moments of happiness.
If I could go back I would try
to have only good moments.
Because if you didn’t know, of that is life made:
only of moments; Don’t lose the now.
I was one of those that never
went anywhere without a thermometer,
a hot-water bottle,
an umbrella, and a parachute;
If I could live again, I would travel lighter.
If I could live again,
I would begin to walk barefoot from the beginning of spring
and I would continue barefoot until autumn ends.
I would take more cart rides,
contemplate more dawns,
and play with more children,
If I had another life ahead of me.
But already you see, I am 85,
and I know that I am dying.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Seeing beyond differences

Yesterday, I was at the HIV/AIDS patients volunteer training & sharing session. One of the stories shared by a volunteer (K) really touched me. 

A Malay Muslim AIDS patient was bedridden and very sick. There are really limited things that a volunteer could do to relief their pain and sufferings. K is a Chinese Buddhist and he tried his best to bring comfort and care to the patient by fulfilling his request.

K brought the Holy Koran to hospital and read verses from the Koran to the Muslim patient. I believe this brought a lot of comfort and peace to the patient.

I am impressed by K and his dedication. Seeing beyond differences like ethnic race, culture and religion. Helping a fellow human being who is in need. Showing compassion and love without boundary. That is so lacking in the current world, where everybody forgot to see beyond differences. A lot of people have forgotten that we have more similarities than differences.

May All Beings be Happy!

(Taken outside Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - Haw Par Villa

The last time I visited Haw Par Villa was 19 years ago back in 1992. It was really a popular theme park and I had fond memories exploring the place with my primary school friends. I decided to check it out again and it is free admission!


The Tiger Balm that made millions for the Haw Par Group.

The 18 levels of Hell is one of the main attractions in the park.

Literal Meaning:
The Sea of Sufferings is endless
Turn around and you will see the shore
Let go of your sabre sword
Repent and achieve Enlightenment 

Hell Guard

Punishment in hell

Another one

Sea of Blood in Hell

More sufferings in Hell

While the images are gruesome, the intention is to remind people not to do bad deeds, or else, you will suffer the consequence in afterlife. Whether you are believer or not, the intention is good.

Dilapidated Stage
I remember this amphitheater, it was used to be full of life and laughters. I was a bit sad to see it in such a sorry state and engulfed by mother nature. Well, it is also subjected to the Law of Impermanence. 

Goddess of Mercy

(Aka Maitreya - the future Buddha)  

There is a Moral Story behind each group of statues. 

Intricate facial details

I saw this 9 dragons artwork since I was really young. In 2002, I visited the Forbidden City in Beijing, then I realized that it was a replicate of the Nine Dragon Wall.

Reflection of Goddess of Mercy

Oddly, it did not feel 2 decades have passed. And interestingly, I personally know one of their descendants. 

Cycling with Family

My 3 years-old niece.

One of the best experiences in my life is to watch her grow up. It is an amazing process, and I am glad that I am part of it. She is constantly showered with love and is always very happy. =)

In my entire life, this was my first time cycling with my mum. 

I was quite excited about the whole experience. When I told her to be careful as she was not cycling steadily. She pridefully told me that  when she was young, she helped my late maternal grandma to deliver goods using bicycle. (My maternal grandpa died when my mum was very young). I had nothing more to say.

She also stubbornly demonstrated how she would cycle my bicycle (higher and bigger) even though she could not touch the ground while seated. I was really scared when I saw how she cycled, especially she didn't know how to use brake. Now, I know where I inherited my stubbornness from.

My Dad and my niece spending some quality time playing.

I am learning not to take little things like family excursion for granted.
I thoroughly enjoyed the simple fun.
It is a sense of comfort that is hard to replace.

Help needed?

A few days ago, I was going for my lunch and a lady in her early 30s asked me for help. She told me that her mum is diabetic and could not work, she has 2 younger siblings (13years old & 15 years old) who are still schooling, and she is unemployed. She asked me money for food.

This is something new. I have met such people in overseas (esp. China), but this is my first encounter in Singapore. She is obviously a Singaporean and I am a bit doubtful of her story. I don't want to say no to someone who might really need help. At the same time, I hate to be cheated like a fool. It's frustrating!

Fortunately, I was quite free that day. I called up my friend who is a social worker to understand what kind of supports and assistance are available. I also called one of the NGOs (Community Chest). I am delighted to know that as long as you are a Singapore citizen, there are alot of supports & assistance and there is no need for begging on the street. 

This lady told me that they just applied for assistance and is waiting for approval. Anyway, I asked her quite a lot of questions to verify and assess if she genuinely needs help. If she is lying, her story would not piece together properly.

I met her diabetic mum.
I gave her the toll-free hotline number to call for further assistance.
I bought her 4 packs of food for her mother, her siblings and herself. 
I accompanied her for her interviewing at a fast food chain.

She interviewed for job @ Mos Burger.

That's all within my ability to help her.

May be I did something good.
May be I am just a fool.
At least, I tried.

Miracle or Gimmick or Ignorance?

A few days ago, I received an email from an ex-colleague (AC) whom I have not kept in touch. AC was so excited about the "good" news that he sent an email about the miracle performed by his church pastor. 

Quoted from the pastor's email:
"Arising from the many testimonies in different countries of people healed of terminal illnesses by either applying the tissue in faith or singing the song from their hearts, God directed me to arrange small groups of about 150 people with HIV and cancer.
Later on in February 2011 another healing group was started, in the same four centres in Masaka, Uganda. Blood tests were done in April by the same medical team as the first group. Again God healed far more than I had prayed for. Out of 146 people with HIV, God healed 113, representing 77%! The substantial increase in the healing percentage is due to the fact that the participants were told that the first fellowship had a healing percentage of 57%, which really encouraged them."

Obviously, I am skeptical about the "miracles". If the claim is true, I think the Gates foundation should just engage this pastor and not wasting billions of dollars on researching the cure for HIV/AIDS. Coincidentally, I am volunteering at the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) for HIV/AIDS patients. Hence, I invited the pastor to volunteer at CDC and would introduce him to the doctor-in-charge. I hope to witness his miracle.

It has been a few days and I have not heard from this pastor yet. If there is any response from him, I would update it on this blog.

Another thing that puzzled me is AC who is a smart guy with good education background (graduated from local university and studied in top schools in Singapore). How could AC be so gullible to believe the "miracles" performed by his pastor in Africa? Why didn't AC question his pastor? Is AC taught to accept certain things by blind faith? What will happen if someone really believed in the "miracles" without verifying/questioning? Why are AC and his pastor using these "miracles" stories to evangelize?

The red ribbon is a symbol for solidarity with HIV-positive people and those living with AIDS.

For me, the REAL miracle of life is being ALIVE, and given the gift to experience & see this wonderful world, and to love and be loved.

**Updated on 24th May 2011: The pastor replied that he is keen to volunteer for HIV/AIDS patients. However, he is working a DVD on Jesus healing people of cancer and HIV and will be completed in 2 weeks. He wants me to pass the DVD to the doctor-in-charge before meeting the doctor.

**Doctor-in-charge said that no miracle-healing allowed in the hospital, which is a sensible and responsible way of handling this. But, the pastor is encouraged to be a volunteer, but require to be interviewed by Doctor. The pastor was not too happy, and wanted me to pass his "miraculous healing" DVD to doctor when it's ready.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One New Experience Each Week - Walking Meditation

Walking Meditation in a park.

I learnt the walking meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh.
Walking Meditation helps to quieten my mind.
It calms me and makes me more at peace.

I literally observed the whole process of a leave falling gently onto the ground.
I observed the leaves swinging and dancing in the wind.
The environment looks so much different. 

I slow down
I hear more
I see more
I smell more

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why do I keep a blog?

(Taken @ the Great Sand Sea, Siwa Oasis, Western Egypt)

1.       For myself
 It is a way to record down some of the lessons, experiences, inspirations, beautiful things, philosophies, observations, and other things in my small world. Many times, I learnt something great and I forgot about it. This blog is a source of reminder for me about the important things in life. I enjoyed reading and recalling the some of the gems in life.

2.       For my family, friends and others
 It is an avenue for me to share some of the things that I have learnt along the way.  Once a while, I would receive compliments from my friends. I am happy they got something out of reading this blog. Some friends are inspired to travel after reading my blog. =)

3. This is my Work-In-Progress Obituary
One of the key philosophies in my life is “The Impermanence of Life”. I do not know when is my last day on this beautiful World, but I do know that everyday I am a day closer to the inevitable. I have wondered what is the use of a funeral, wake or burial service, since I am no longer around. I am more than a physical warm body. My philosophies, my beliefs, my values, my thoughts, my attitude towards life and people around me, my way of life and my views make up me. And this blog allows me to capture some of these things. When I am gone, this blog would be an avenue for my family and friends to visit me again. That is more meaningful than a tablet or a burial place. It somewhat immortalize me (as long as blogger is still around).


Monday, May 16, 2011


"This human birth is precious,
our opportunity to awaken.
The body is impermanent,
and time of death is uncertain.
The cause and effect of karma
shapes the course of our lives.
Life has inevitable difficulties,
no one can control it all.

This life we must know
As the tiny splash of a raindrop.
A thing of beauty that disappears
Even as it comes into being.

Therefore I recall
My inspiration and aspiration
And resolve to make use
Of every day and night to realize it."

- Tsongkhapa (14th century Tibetan master)
Source: Wildmind

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Book: The Warren Buffett Next Door

AmazonThe Warren Buffetts Next Door profiles previously unknown investors, with legendary performance records, who are proving every day that you don't need to work for a hedge fund or have an Ivy League diploma to consistently beat the best performing Wall Street professionals.

These amazing individuals come from all walks of life, from a globe drifting college dropout and a retired disc jockey to a computer room geek and a truck driver. Their methods vary from technical trading and global macro-economic analysis to deep value investing. The glue that holds them together is their passion for investing and their ability to efficiently harness the Internet for critical investment ideas, research, and trading skills.


If you put money with one of them, you could get back $18m for every $1m invested after 10 years. That's really amazing! And I discovered 2 BIG Secrets from these amazing individuals:

Secret Number 1: They are really passionate about investing/trading.
Secret Number 2: They are really hardworking. It is Hard Work. There is no coincidence.

The bad news is that even after working hard, you might not even be a successful investor. 
But the good news is that by working hard, there is still a possibility of being a successful investor.
Based on my risk/reward analysis, it still makes a lot of sense to be hardworking.

Book: Hope for the flowers

"Hope For the Flowers is a 1972 parable written by Trina Paulus in English. It is a "tale - partly about life, partly about revolution and lots about hope. It all starts when Stripe, the main character, first hatches from an egg. He begins his life by eating the leaf he was born on. He realizes that there must be "more" to life than just eating leaves...."

Quotes from the Book:

Stripe asked a fellow crawler "Do you know what's happening?"
"I just arrived myself," said the other. "Nobody has time to explain; they're so busy trying to get wherever they're going - up there."
"But what's at the top?" continued Stripe.
"No one knows that either but it must be awfully good because everybody's rushing there. Goodbye! I've no more time!"
He plunged into the pile


He (Stripe) turned around and began down the pillar. This time he didn't curl up. He stretched out full length and looked straight into the eyes of each caterpillar. 
He marveled at the variety and beauty, amazed that he had never noticed it before.
He whispered to each. "I've been up; there's nothing there."
Most paid no attention; they were too intent on climbing.
One said, "It's sour grapes. He's bitter. I bet he never made it to the top."


"We can fly! 
We can become butterflies!
There's nothing at the top and it doesn't matter!"
As he heard his own message he realized how he had misread the instinct to get high.
To get to the "top" he must fly, not climb.
Stripe looked at each caterpillar inebriated with joy that there could be a butterfly inside.


When I was young, I looked up to some adults, as role models, and assumed that they know what they are doing. But when I grew up, I realized that they are ignorant and confused people.

When I started working, I met successful multi-millionaires and assumed that they knew it as well, but after sometimes, I realized that they are equally ignorant and confused. 

I realized that there are a lot of successful and very smart people, yet there are very few WISE man around. 

Even though I am still ignorant and confused, I realized that:
 There is fine line between self-confident and self-delusional
Ego is a double-edged sword.
Money is one of the attributes for Happiness, and it is subjected to the law of "Diminishing Marginal Returns".

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Just attended a friend (W)'s father wake. W's dad died last night after a road accident. W is technically an orphan now, as his mum passed away 2 years ago after losing the battle with cancer.

Life can be over in a flash, in the most unexpected time and place. This serves as a constant reminder to myself of the inevitable. You really never know when is the last goodbye. 

(Taken at Bagan, Myanmar)

You really never know when is the Last Sunset...

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Travel: Bali Trip (28th Apr - 3rd May 2011)

Kuta Beach

I was really happy to sign up an introductory class for surfing (US$35 for 2.5hrs). The last time I surfed was 7 years ago in Santa Cruz, California! Time flies! The wave along Kuta Beach is really suitable for beginners like me, I managed to stand on the surf board a few times, and it was great fun!

It was not as exhilarating as my previous experience in Santa Cruz. Partly because it was not my virgin experience, but I admit I am a bit jaded (which is bad). The overall experience was still great, and I would definitely go back to Bali for more surfing.

Inland Bali

Tanah Lot
I love the blue Sky and Sea. 

Guardians of the Coast

Circular Wave

Green Padi Field @ Jatiluwih

Unexpected Experience is always good. =)

It was a nice experience sitting on the speedboat in the mountain lake covered by fog, and getting drenched by the rain. I felt ALIVE! I felt the chill wind on my skin and the painful "beating" of the rain drops on my face. =)

Enjoying a moment of silence & peace in a strawberry farm at the hill. In recent years, I enjoy and appreciate serenity and peaceful moments more. Silence is Beautiful. =)

Asian Palm Civet - Caged to "produce" Kopi Luwak.

I could really sense the sadness in its eyes. The animals just resigned to their fates and gave up the fight to escape which is futile. I was thinking of setting the animal free, but I did not have the guts (afraid that I would be beaten up by the locals).

"Kopi luwak (Malay pronunciation: [ˈkopi ˈlu.aʔ]), or civet coffee, is one of the world's most expensive and low-production coffee. It is made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) and other related civets, then passed through its digestive tract.[1] 

Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for between US $100 and $600 per pound.[1] The specialty Vietnamese weasel coffee, which is made by collecting coffee beans eaten by wild civets, is sold at $6600 per kilogram ($3000 per pound)."

Nice Coffee or Freedom for a Caged Animal?

I did not drink the coffee. I strongly advise anybody to consume it and resist the urge of trying a good coffee. Fortunately, I was not a coffee lover. My friends drank it, and I do not see the need to brag about drinking Kopi Luwak. 

Taman Ayun
The Balinese temple and architecture is always very beautiful and peaceful. It is always in harmony with the nature and the surrounding. Beautiful!!

"Seminyak is a mixed tourist / residential area on the west coast of Bali just north of Kuta and Legian. This area is very popular with resident expatriates and land and accommodation prices are amongst the highest in Bali. Plenty of luxury spas and hotels abound. Owing to its high density of high end shopping, combined with the clustering of many fine eating establishments, it has rapidly become one of the most well known tourist areas on the island."

I like Semiyak for its art galleries, local designer boutiques, interesting eateries etc... It reminded me of Omate Sando Hills in Tokyo (See my Blog) and Neve Tsedek in Tel Aviv (See my blog). It is a nice place to chill out , read a book and do a spa.

One of the Shops.

One of the Eateries.

It was evening. I just enjoyed walking slowly along the street and drinking a chilled alcoholic drink.The pace of life is slower and more refine. Very different from the bustling and rowdiness of Kuta. Each place is beautiful in its own ways. 


Stayed in a very nice specialty hotel in Ubud (Ranked No. 2 in tripadvisor). It was not cheap, but totally worth it. The staff was friendly and helpful, and many details are taken care of (e.g. Lemon Grass Scented Insect Repellent, Nice Cookies, Free Yoga Classes, Free High Tea, Apple Jukebox, Shuttle Service to Ubud Town etc..).

Suite Room

Huge Bathroom

Cosy Balcony

Awesome View from the Balcony.

It was totally serene and peaceful to lie down on the day-bed at the balcony, especially during the sunset. The view was the padi field and a hill of coconut trees, and the background music was the sound of running river and insects symphony. Wonderful!!

View from the lobby. I love the swimming pool.

Reflection on the Swimming Pool.

I felt I was swimming in a Natural lake (without the dirt and insects). While I was floating in the pool and facing the sky, I saw flocks of migratory birds flying in V-shape across the sky. It was a wonderful experience. Definitely one of the best swimming pools I ever swam.

"Nusa Lembongan is a small island off the southeast coast of the main island of Bali. Fast becoming one of Bali's most popular attractions, this island paradise is a world away from the hassle and hectic pace of South Bali. Neither hawkers nor traffic mar the magnificent scenery; this is a fine place to just put your feet up and relax. Main activities include surfing, diving and snorkeling. The water is some of the clearest you will find anywhere, and a vivid aqua blue in colour."

My friends went back home, and I decided to go for diving alone in a small island away from the main Bali Island. I took me 1-2hrs to get comfortable from a 5-stars Specialty Hotel to a Budget Specialty Accommodation (which costed less than 10% of the former). 

The Secret Garden.
I really like it (except for the mosquito), very green & cosy & friendly staffs.

Rented a motorcycle (auto-gear) for 2 days to explore the island. I did not have a license and I had never rode a bike before. After 5 minutes orientation, I went exploring without a helmet. It is one of the best experiences of the trip.

Seaweed Farm

Local Religious Procession 

This is the REAL Balinese Lifestyle.

Low Tide

Went diving in hope to see Mola Mola. Unfortunately, luck was not on my side, but I really enjoyed the dives. There were no big fishes, but the coral and coral fishes were really pretty and colorful. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching the school of tiny colourful fishes swimming/dancing gracefully against the strong underwater current. Beautiful!

That afternoon, I had a lazy afternoon nap and a wonderful dream. I saw Mola Mola in my dream (yeah, I really really wanted to see it). Frankly, I wasn't too disappointed not seeing Mola Mola, as I reckoned that this is life - as long as I tried, I should be at peace with any outcome. You can't have everything in life. That's life. Even though it was a dream, my happiness and excitement of seeing Mola Mola was real. =)

Devil's Tear

Chilling out with a glass of pineapple juice @ Dream Beach.

Well, the nice part about traveling alone for the last few days is getting to meet and interact with new people. For example: My fellow diver was a Swiss and we talked & discussed on many things including religion & spiritual stuff (He is a Catholic, I am a Buddhist). There was really nothing much to do at night.

I also had a good conversation with the cab driver from Sanur to Bali airport. I asked him quite alot of questions, and that was a good opportunity to understand Bali from a local. He is 28 years old from Nusa Penida, married and has a 5-month old daughter. He wants to have at least a son (which is important for Balinese, as a son will continue the family line) and will keep trying. With elementary school education, he speaks his native language, Balinese, Bahasa Indonesian and a bit of English. Came from a poor farmer family, and father died when he was young. His mother single handedly, raised 4 kids. He has 2 elder sisters, one is working in Kuta as Sales Assistant and the other one is a Sea Weed farmer. His younger brother is currently unemployed and is helping his mother with the subsistence farming (they have enough produce for themselves). 

The daily rental for his car is 100,000 Rps (S$14.32, US$11.56). He is only allowed to solicit business at Sanur Jetty, and if he picks up any customers from the street other than Sanur Jetty, he would get into trouble. The local competition for tourist money is fierce and competitive. Hence, driving me to the airport was a single trip and he was not allowed to pick up any passenger from the airport. Life is really tough and competitive.

When I was at Sanur Jetty, the first offer was 150,000 Rps, but I bargained hard to 80,000 Rps. None of the drivers accepted my offer except him. The reason was that he was no. 8 driver in the "Queue". He could only solicit my business after the 7 drivers before him rejected my offer. He felt that he may not get any client that day, hence, taking my 80,000Rps offer would at least cover part of his rental cost.

Beneath the "paradise" Bali that everybody knows, Life for the local is actually quite competitive and tough. In fact, I enjoyed talking & joking with him who is a very genuine person. When I reached the airport, I gave him 120,000Rps (50% more than the agreed price). This amount of money is nothing to us, but he was really happy and grateful. That made me happy too!