Vietnam's flags are all over town. The town is being painted with the brightly coloured red & yellow star... all geared up for their Independence on 2nd September (which apparently they got on 1945, from France).
"Tanggal 31... bulan 8, '57... Malaysia Merdeka, Malaysia Merdeka"... the song that is synonym to the Merdeka month.
Despite this rather patriotic & joyful song which goes into my head each time this Merdeka month, however, I can feel that the mood this year is quite different.
This year does seem a quiet/ quieter Merdeka for all Malaysians. Maybe we can't compare with last year's 'peak' of all Merdeka celebrations, where the nation's celebrated its 50th birthday... But even comparing it with previous years, this year's Merdeka seem a far cry from the usual.
I remember clearly when in school, Merdeka month is a month that I look forward to every year. I love seeing the flags on the streets. There is an air of joy, a sense of pride and a big dose of happiness.
The flags would cover the streets & its buildings. It felt that the shops were outdoing each other, trying to hang the Malaysian flags (sometimes the state flags too) to get attention of the passerby. Colours of blue, red, yellow & white were everywhere.
I'm wondering if I'm just imagining or is it really true... it could be that I was younger then, and being in school or during the teenage years, everything seem merrier, including Merdeka. Ie. the mood didn't change, but it's just me growing up?
But the more I think, I get the feeling that although growing up do change the outlook somewhat, however, the Merdeka mood really is quite different today.
And my guess is that Malaysians have many things going through their minds today... which are far from the celebrations.
Yes, Malaysia has gone through a lot the past months - just see the daily headlines and we can understand the 'bruises' the country have been facing, what more the people.
Well, one can say that it's not just us in Malaysia, as even our Asean neighbours are facing their internal problems... And even the 'cool-er' North Asian countries or Western counterparts are also having problems, many related to the current economic slowdown.
But, whatever reasons it is, it is with a heavy heart that the nation is not fully rejoicing whilst it goes past beyond 50 (I say not fully because there are still some/ many who look forward to Malaysia's Independence Day).
So while I still strive on my last year's wish for united & supportive Malaysians for all things Malaysia, my this year hope is for us to go back to the very basics of what makes us, Malaysia & Malaysians.
Comparatively, we have come a long long way, despite all the challenges being such a unique nation we are. Truly, it is admirable for a small & very diverse nation like ours.
So, moving forward, it's really for us (everyone including leaders, government, private & the people) to at least continue with the success formula we've been using to move ahead, doing the best we can with full pride & joy.
There are many factors in this success formula, and it may take some time for us to reflect. But, deep down, we will know the answers.
Finally, to all Malaysians, Selamat Hari Merdeka (Happy National Day!)... and I say this with full pride. Malaysia Merdeka... Malaysia Merdeka... !
Students taking a glimpse of the 50+1 Malaysia book after the talk.
This was done today morning in UiTM. I was invited to give a speech to the students from the tourism faculty, with the talk title: Why, What & How To Promote Malaysia.
It was nice to be able to share my experience on the potentials I see in tourism in Malaysia. This I believe can only be shared after seeing & visiting other countries... for it is only when we see what other countries have to offer, we realise our very own unique points.
Though I've done a few other talks on Batik Malaysia & the art of batik, however, this is still a first for me, as it is a wider topic - tourism. And it's my first talk in line with the 50+1 Malaysia book, plus it being held in a university.
After the talk, I was invited for a tour around the Art & Design faculty, and am truly impressed. Really, Malaysia got talents-lah! :)
*The whole event was a memorable experience. The staffs & managing committee involved were professional and made me feel very comfortable.
Like many visitors to Jakarta city, visiting the malls is a must. And I got a chance to visit one of its newest mall, Pacific Place.
This is quite a high end mall... and just like the other malls in the capital city of Indonesia, it is huge as well.
See the number of stories!
As it is rather new, not all of the shops are opened yet. But even then, the current outlets are already quite many - with big luxury brands, some of which are brands from even Malaysia & Singapore.
I wasn't really here for shopping actually, but nevertheless, managed to be awed by the mall.
I especially like the higher levels where the restaurants are. This is because, they really take effort in making the place a themed area (more like a theme park), and not simply just dining per say.
People can dine in style
The water element is used quite a bit here. Interestingly its ceiling is painted in light blue for its blue sky feel. Yes, its artificial, but it gives a joyous feel to a shopping & dining experience here.
The shopping centre is big enough even for a boat!
There is also the high end food court like, serving local delicacies, where customer are given cards to place orders & pay only at exit.
The high end foodcourt is like in a cafe on the street huh
Host of stalls serving local food in this clean & neat restaurant
Amongst the many local Indonesian food
The food was quite unique - to a visitor especially. But even my local Indonesian friend mentioned that the food here is not bad.
I guess the rest of the mall is about the same as many other luxurious malls around Asia, except for these 2 things I saw:
Small CD shop at the middle of the mall's corridor
I say this is unique because hardly do I see CD shops these small. And for a 'shop' to be in the middle of the corridor. I guess this is partly due to the shrinking CD industry as well.
And before I went off, I saw this at the entrance:
A large group of performers in 60s outfits
My Indonesian affiliate mentioned that "Indonesians are 'brave' (dare to show their talents/ skills), and are not shy in doing anything... which a foreigner might find it a lil 'crazy'".
Though for me, it gave a good feeling seeing the group, all quite confident despite wearing a different eras clothes & with big weird hairdos.
In all, going to the Pacific Plaza shopping centre has been another eye opener to this grand city... that yes, this city is quite 'rich' actually.
Truly, this would be a good recommendation for the shopping enthusiasts! (& business too) :)
I've mentioned how awed I am with Indonesia... especially right here in Jakarta. The perception I get is that this city is grand indeed.
Their shopping centres here are huge & luxurious!
And to make its mark, there is this mega shopping mall right in the heart of Jakarta, with a name that says it all - Grand Indonesia!
Despite the many malls all over Jakarta, all of which are rather huge & grand themselves, but this mall makes it presence felt even from afar.
This is just part of the big mall
And if the outside exudes its physical size, inside this shopping centre exudes luxury and comfort.
There are simply so many levels of shopping, with every level/ segment catering to a different different theme.
The mall's East & West wing have a full range of items!
Walking at every corner gives a different experience. There are the more family oriented corners with fully packed restaurants, the upper range segment with a great full rows of big restaurants, and the fashion district.
A full big part of the mall catering just to music instruments.
The fashion district
Each segment has a different feel, mainly due to the decorations, which makes some parts of the mall very theme park like.
The big masks all over one corner of the shopping centre
One will know when entering the restaurant areas, as you can see the decorations lit up accordingly.
The are for the Chinese restaurants
There is also the lounge for the tired legs.
Just look at the number of rest chairs it offers
One part that I like most about this mall is its cinema (multiplex). This multiplex area is quite ahead of its time... and really a rest area for people to chill out and not just to watch movies.
They actually take the effort to make entering the multiplex & buying tickets even an experience
See how lush to wait for your movie
The cafe beside it really adds to this 'glamour' feel with its high ceilings, beautiful modern interior & high windows for a good view of Jakarta city. It gives a feeling like being in a huge tower.
The modern cafe
What a way to chill out, before/ after your movie.
Truly, the experience here fits in well with what I think the country is promoting - ie. grandness. I must say, they did this with class & style.
And though there are so many malls around, but I think this is one mall every visitor should at least visit to fully experience Jakarta, Indonesia! :)
I was indeed looking forward to the dinner after a rather fun & hectic day. At first thought, I would be dressed casual, but as later I had to accompany the bride & bridegroom, hence, I continued wearing the suite for the night as well... that means no dressing down.
At around 5 plus, we were in the ballroom, and there were the last minute preparations. The hotel staff and the events company crew could be seen doing the final touches to make this night the memorable night for the newly wed couple & their families.
Staffs getting the fruits ready
All kinds of fruits were brought in - local & imported
Loads of trays of food were brought in - from hot cooked food, to cold dishes like salads.
Trays & trays of food
There was 2 food stations - one in the ballroom & one more in the gardens of the hotel, which is just beside.
The tent during the early evening
The food nicely put under the tent
Truly, this is going to be a grand affair. Even the red carpets were rolled out, with decorations on its sides. This shows that when it comes to doing things, the Indonesians really know what they want & they do it in style!
Simply grand heh, red carpet & all
But the red carpet is not the highlight, but in fact it is the stage. Just look at the stage which has chairs for the couple, and both parents from each side.
Does the stage looks a lil familiar - reminds me of Datuk Siti's wedding
And of course, the not to be missed, wedding cake.
This wedding cake was designed by the bride's mum, who then had the cake company to do it up
*Hint: Don't try cutting the cake as apparently, the cake is all cardboard. The real cakes were already done up and presented in boxes for the family members to bring home & savour.
And besides the cake, the familiar champagne glasses were all stacked up.
The couple opened & poured 2 champagne bottles to fill the glasses.
And of course, with all decorations in place, the most important is the food. But before that, there is one more important thing - the Live music. And I mean, live.
A 3 member group plus a professional emcee were to entertain guests during dinner.
With such great lengths of preparations, the food must be something grand as well. And it sure was.
The ballroom was converted to a mini buffet style with stalls around the corners serving different cuisines.
The array of keropok & kerepek, plus its many sauces to go with.
There was the kambing guling (mutton). This best-seller was one of the firsts to be finished.
The peking duck was quite a hit!
Another food which drew the crowd - this interesting salmon wrap.
And finally, the desserts were again a splendour.
Big bowls of icr cream toppings!
I had to miss this as I was just too full. The ice creams actually went hand in hand with the waffles, which were cooked on the spot.
One of the many cakes.
And finally, remember the hotel staffs trying to arrange & prepare the fruits? Well, this is their hardwork:
Seriously, even the fruits come in proper & grand arrangements.
The whole night was really a wonderful night. The couples & family members must have been tired though as while the guests were eating, they had to shake all the guests hands for a good 2 hours or so... all this while doing it standing.
And that was not all, as thereafter, there was the photo sessions with different parties of groups, which again took quite a bit of time (maybe 45 minutes to an hour) - yes, that many groups of people.
Finally, it all ended with me doing a video interview with the couple on their relationship (before, present & future). This is for the video crew to document & I guess present to the couple & their families the DVD/ VCD.
I thought this could be rare especially with such scale, but apparently just like the many other Chinese Indonesians weddings.
In all, I learnt a lot from this wedding alone. I now understand how the Indonesians work & how grand they do things, which truly is far bigger than what I've experience back home. And if I thought the mainland Chinese place high importance on 'face', the Indonesians do just as much.
In this age where over back home, weddings seem to be simpler & simpler, the Indonesians show how important these cultural traditions must be upkept, and in all grandour. And truly, I notice that this not only applies in weddings, but in everything else that they do.