Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Where does the water go?

Because the drainage system in Malaysia is open canals instead of closed pipes, it is easy to follow the water trail. When I use the sink or bathe, the water goes down a drain and into a small canal which leads to a slightly bigger canal then a bigger one and a bigger one and so on. But where is the final destination for the sink and bath water? I decided to follow it one day.

When bathing, the water goes down this drain in the floor.

The water empties into a small canal behind the house. This canal is used for sink drainage too.

That small canal for the house empties into this slightly larger canal shared by two homes and a restaurant.

That canal empties into a street canal shared by dozens of homes and restaurants.

That canal passes under the street.

when it reaches the other side, it empties into a stream.

That stream flows through a field.

That stream flows under a wooden bridge and into a larger canal shared by a few neighborhoods.

This large canal flows toward a larger canal.

This larger canal is shared by dozens of neighborhoods.

This large canal flows into a larger canal which flows under the road.

After flowing under the road it flows into a river.

This river flows by many homes.

The river flows under the main road in Teluk Kumbar.

Fishing boats docked on the mouth of the river into the ocean.

The water then empties into the ocean.

More fishing boats docked along the beach near the mouth of the river where the bath and sink water empties.

Friday, October 19, 2007

American Money

Kelly was having a hard time understanding how much each American coin was worth. It never occurred to me how badly designed the US coins are until I saw her confusion. Now where on a quarter, dime or nickel does it say many cents it is worth.

The quarter says QUARTER DOLLAR but if you have no idea what a QUARTER is, then you have no idea how many cents it is worth.

The dime says ONE DIME. Not helpful if you don't know what a DIME is.

The nickel says FIVE CENTS. Not helpful if you don't know English and do not know what FIVE means.

The penny says ONE CENT. Not helpful if you don't know English.

Canadian coins say 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents and 25 cents.

Malaysian coins say 1, 5, 10, 20, 50.

Another problem is that the US nickel is larger and thicker than the penny and dime. The penny is also bigger than the dime.

In every other country I've visited, the coins increase size and thickness with value.

American dollar bills are finally starting to get some color. Every other country I have visited has colored dollar bills. They can also vary in size and texture.

Malaysia money has one of the most advanced dollar bills in the world. There are numerous ways you can check a bill to see if it is real. They are all different sizes and textures. The Five dollar bill has a window you can see through and has a smooth plastic feel to it.

All Malaysian bills are the same height but their length increases with value.

RM 1 = 12 cm long
RM 5 = 13.5 cm long
RM 10 = 14 cm long
RM 50 = 14.5 cm long
RM 100 = 15 cm long


RM 1 is blue
RM 5 is green
RM 10 is orange
RM 50 is blue/green
RM 100 is green/orange

Every year they upgrade their money. The newest bills have a metallic hologram strip. They embed metallic shiny fibers. They have blank areas for water marks which show up when held up to the light. The thickness of the paper increases as the value increases.

Although Malaysia is behind the first world in most ways, they are ahead in some like money. This can be said of many third world countries. They have the opportunity to leap frog first world countries. First world countries can have slow progress because it is too expensive to change for example if the US changed all of its coins, all coin operated machines would need to be changed. The same problem exists with changing the paper money. The machines that read dollar bills would need updating.

Why hasn't the US converted to Metric yet? Money. It's too expensive to change.

Malaysia has National ID cards with computer chips in them. When the US tried to do this, there was a lot of resistance. People resist change in the first world. In the third world, people crave change. They want things to change for the better but in the first world they want things to stay the same.

Prediction of the day: Eventually we will have no third or forth world countries. Everyone will essentially be a first world country. This may take another 500 to 1000 years, but I believe it will happen.

Prediction two: Coins and paper money will also disappear and our own bodies will be used to identify who we are. We will use various ways to identify ourselves like finger prints, eye scans, voice print, etc. along with a password, to pay for things. The transition to using such a system 100% will be slow and probably take 1000 years but I think it will happen.

I only wish I could live forever to see these changes!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Back in the USA

Our flight out of Penang was about 8 am so we awoke at 5 am and left for the airport at 6 am. Kelly's sister Chin drove us in the van with our luggage. Kelly's sister Ping and Kelly's mom drove in a second car. Kelly's sister Chu and her two sons, ages 10 and 12, also drove in a third car to see us off. It was both a happy and sad occasion so there were some tears.

I wore my USA socks which were a gift from the family.

Security asked me to check-in my PC which I had intended to carry on. That cost me an extra $115. It was not packaged to be checked. It was packaged to fit in an overhead compartment meaning it had no padding. Although they labeled the box fragile, it sustained quite a bit of damage and was not functional once I tried to get it working in the US. A technician troubleshooted the problem and after 15 minutes he determined that vibrations had knocked my RAM loose and it was fixed. That cost me another $65. I hope there is no other major damage.

We learned ahead of time that we were each allowed two bags to check-in which could total no more than 70 kg together so we used a scale to put as much as we could into each suitcase. We also knew the size and weight limits and number of carry-on luggage allowed so we had everything figured out and carefully packed. Kelly has been packing for months, literally. She started packing the day she got her US Visa. It was a long hard process to figure out what to leave behind, what to throw away, what to give to friends and family and what to sell.

We sold my big chair, PC monitor, speakers and UPS. I gave my mobile phone to my niece (age 20-something). Kelly left her laptop behind for the family. I gave my nephews the Age of Empires disks so they could play. I introduced them to the game two months ago and they have been addicted to it ever since. We had some really fun multiplayer games across the LAN. Things really got interesting when we started using cheats. We left behind the furniture and bed we bought. I threw away a huge stack of computer books. I almost never referenced them and when I did, they were almost never helpful. I had about 20 issues of Wired magazine which I gave my friend.

At first we were going to ship a lot of things to the US but after we learned that the cost of an extra carry-on is cheaper than shipping, we decided to pay for the extra carry-on at the airport. We also worked harder to purge things and made some hard decisions on what to leave behind.

Kelly and I flew to Bangkok where we stayed for a day at a hotel.

At the hotel I saw a notice that said ...

A Word of Caution

All big cities have their share of dishonest people who prey on foreign visitors. Although much safer than many other destinations, Bangkok is no exception, so please take a moment to read this, and protect yourself against such characters.

A handbag dangling from a wrist or shoulder is a tempting target anywhere in the world. Snatch thieves in Bangkok either operate on foot or on motorcycles, and are equally adept as their counterparts elsewhere. They will also grab valuables from open vehicles, such as Tuk-Tuks, particularly when stationary in traffic. Please take the usual precautions, and ensure that large amounts of cash, valuables, irreplaceable documents etc. are locked in the hotel's in-room safe or in the safe provided at the Front Desk - not kept in your handbag.

Bangkok's confidence tricksters come in a fascinating variety of shapes and sizes. They are all charming - from the smiling boy scouts who solicit generous "donations" destined for their own pockets, to the "off-duty policeman impersonator", the "university professor", the "taxi driver", etc. who will approach you in a public place and politely engage you in conversation. They will usually carry genuine-looking identification of some kind, and understandably, many foreign visitors see this as an excellent opportunity to talk to a friendly local - to mix with "real" Thai people. The truth is of course that "real" Thai people do not go out of their way to speak to tourists in the street. The golden rule to remember is that if somebody does, you can be sure they're up to no good - that helpful seemingly well-educated person is almost certainly a crook. If you go with him, or her, you do so at your own risk.

You may be taken sightseeing, then robbed, or coaxes into a game of cards where it seems you cannot lose. Most commonly, you'll be taken to a shop and grossly overcharged for inferior or fake goods. Be particularly careful of jewelry shops where the sales techniques are especially convincing, even to the most skeptical people. Many visitors have lost very large amounts "investing" in precious stones.

Proceed with caution. Most Thais are delightful and honest people, but naturally shy of foreign visitors. So should you encounter a well spoken and charming person out there, eager to know which country you come from ..... Beware.

The sign behind Kelly says NO DURIAN! The statue has a Durian fruit for a head. Durian is a smelly fruit whose smell offends some people. Kelly is making the sign for Durian which is imitating how you open it.

I have never seen water fountains in Asia but I saw this set at the Bangkok airport but they didn't work.

At 1 am we caught our flight to the US. The 16 hour flight felt very short since we were very comfortable, we slept a lot and each seat had a screen with a remote control to movies, TV shows, music and more.

There was also many maps showing where the plane was and they gave info like estimated hours to arrival, current air speed, altitude, etc. This shows our route from BKK (Bangkok) goes right over the North Pole to JFK airport in New York.

I was disappointed that the plane cam wasn't working which should have given views left, right and forward from under the plane but in reality there was not much to see. They had everyone put their window blinds down but we took a peak once in a while but all we saw clouds. After we passed the North Pole, we quickly transitioned from day to night.

Kelly and I arrived at JFK airport in New York at 6:40 am Thursday September 27, 2007. The sunrise out our window was amazing.

We passed thru immigration quickly, picked up our luggage quickly at the carousel, got a porter to help us transport our 4 large bags, my bicycle, my PC and our two carry-ons, to the curb where we waited an hour before we got picked up by my parents.

While waiting, Kelly tried to sit on some seats provided but found she was too short and experienced the opposite of my "I'm too big for Asia" feeling. She felt she was too small for America. Here she is trying to balance on these rotating chairs which are designed to discourage homeless people from sleeping on them.

Kelly also saw this street cleaning truck for the first time.

My sister and nephew also arrived in a second car. The temperature was a comfortable 70F (21 C) They had a 1 hour delay at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge due to construction otherwise we would have had no wait. My parents had a van and everything fit neatly into the back and the ride home was very comfortable.

The ride home was only 1 hour and 15 minutes. Once we were within 5 minutes of their home, we stopped at Perkins for some pancakes (one of my favorite foods). My niece met us there.

Home sweet Holmdel

Kelly had never seen this type of mailbox before.

This is the first time Kelly saw a combination lock on a car door.

Kelly only saw one guy on a motorcycle up until that point. She would say the phrase "This is the first time I ... " often for example at the restaurant she ordered grapefruit juice thinking it was grape juice. She noticed her juice was yellow and not purple and gave it a sip and got a rude surprise that it was so sour and we all laughed watching her expression. She had never tried grapefruit juice before. She noted that the amount of food on everyone's plate was much more than you get in Malaysia.

Afterwards we arrived at my parents and unloaded our luggage then exchanged gifts. We began to unpack and Kelly and my mom spent some time looking at each other's photo albums. We learned that my parents, sister and niece had all enrolled in a sign language course and already knew how to sign A-Z as well as many other signs. Kelly was quite pleased she could easily communicate with everyone except my nephew Shane who is 7 year old but he started learning.

Kelly and I had a nap and managed to stay up late and sleep at a normal time USA time.

The next day we visited my sister's house which I had never seen.

We took a walk along the beach and walked to the end of this pier which is more than twice as long as the pier in Kelly's home town.

Kelly had never seen these outdoor showers before. They are used to clean sand off your body before you get in your car and go home.

English sub-titles on TV which can be turned on and off.

Kelly had never seen this type of shifter in a car before.

Kelly's first garage sale.

Kelly and I went to a dancing show with my mom and niece.

Welcome to USA balloons

Gang of bikers. We only see motorcycles. No motorbikes.

Bananas in the USA are much larger than those found in Malaysia.

Kelly drinking from a water fountain for the first time.

Visiting the park near my parent's house. They have many satellite dishes.

Kelly and my mom.

List of firsts for Kelly and things I haven't seen in over 2 years.

  • Seagulls
  • Squirrels
  • Lack of motorbikes
  • Driving on the right
  • Steering wheel on the left
  • Different plugs on the wall
  • Light switches that go up for On and down for Off
  • Car door that requires you type in a numbered pass-code to open
  • Trying grapefruit juice
  • Cranberry Juice
  • New Jersey Pizza
  • Americanized Chinese food
  • Dishwasher in the home
  • American style washing machine
  • Clothes dryer
  • Bounce anti-static strips for dryer
  • Washed clothes feel softer
  • Poison Ivy
  • Underground pipes for water drainage instead of open canals
  • MPH instead of KPJ (Kilometers Per Jam (Jam = Hour in Malaysia))
  • Tivo
  • Krimpets
  • Yodels
  • Ring Dings
  • Ding Dongs
  • Devil Dogs
  • Pop Tarts
  • Fig Newtons
  • Twinkies
  • Mt. Dew
  • American Milk
  • Quality Steak
  • American pancakes
  • drinking water from the tap
  • hot water from the tap
  • bread toaster
  • Cable TV
  • Cable Internet
  • Fast Internet
  • 80+ channels on TV
  • Garage Sales
  • Yard Sales
  • American Christian Church
  • Beef hotdogs
  • Yellow mustard
  • Cheese
  • English sub-titles
  • Sub-titles on TV you can turn on and off
  • Leaves changing color for the fall season
  • Fireplace
  • Lack of privacy in public toilets (can see people's feet)
  • Paying car tolls by throwing coins into a basket at the toll booth
  • Static shock
  • Leaves changing color
  • Snow (not yet, but Kelly will see snow for the first time eventually)
  • V8 Juice (8 different vegetables in one)
  • Girls and boys playing soccer (football) together
  • Pollen
  • No Darlie toothpaste
  • Water fountains
  • Lots of 1 gallon milk bottles at the store
  • Lots of beef hotdogs at store
  • Snow sled
  • Halloween
  • No rice cooker in homes
  • Jug handle turns (turn right around loop to turn left)
  • Outdoor grills for cooking meat like hotdogs and hamburgers
  • Visiting Costco and seeing large quantities of products for cheap prices
  • Costco - lots of free food samples
  • Costco - upon exit compare receipt to contents of cart to prevent theft
  • Everyone always buckling in, even children in the back-seat ... especially children in the back seat
  • Hotdogs with mustard, sauerkraut, relish, diced onions
  • Free parking almost everywhere
  • Free refills
  • Pools in the back yard common
  • Vending machine with glass to see what it is inside. Press something like C4 to get your food drop so you can retrieve it
  • Burger King
  • Hummers
  • Groundhogs
  • Baloney
  • No Durian
  • Lockers
  • No squat toilets
  • Public toilets always have toilet paper
  • Salad
  • Salad dressings like Ranch and Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Acorns
  • No cicaks (geckos) crawling on the wall inside the house
  • Houses closed to the outside world so no insects inside
  • Leaving food out overnight and not covered in ants by the morning
  • Maple syrup
  • Asparagus
  • Sparkling cider
  • Street cleaner truck
  • Mail boxes
  • Car shift lever different
  • Public outdoor beach showers
  • Auto check-out at the supermarket
  • Olives (black or green)
  • Auto-open doors that detect motion

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wheelie Boys of Teluk Kumbar

I shot some video of the local boys doing bicycle tricks in front of their school.

The clips of this music video were shot August 22 and 23 of 2006.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Too Hot to Handle (Part 5)

I'm exhausted. It's 8 pm and I left this morning at around 11 am to ride down Penang Hill. I also out-did myself. Both of my inner tubes went flat and both my tires got slashed. My bike also got quite a few more scratches on it.

I must wri3te it down now while the details are still fresh in my head unlike my post for Part 4 was delayed for weeks because I was trying to launch Truehome so I forgot most of the details by the time I wrote it.

As I approach the train station, I can see the top of the highest point in Penang in which I will be going. I can see the train station at the top.

I place my bicycle in this car in the front. It doesn't actually ride in the car with us humans.

Here we pass the train that is coming down the hill. There is one track for both trains and they share the same cable so they basically counter weight each other with the engine at the top controlling when they move. The track splits here so they can pass. Genius!

We are about to pass through a tunnel at the top.

And finally we reach the top station. What I didn't show you is that there is a mid-point station where you have to change trains. The reason for this is that the angle changes and each set of trains is built to match that angle. Plus the construction was started in 1906 so they probably didn't have a cable long enough or strong enough to go up the entire mountain at one time. Check out the Wikipedia page about Penang Hill.

Here I am about to go down the hill.

Rounding a turn at the rest stop. Yes this shot is staged. I went very slow for the picture. Normally I take the turns as fast as I safely can.

When I reached the bottom of Penang Hill, I gave my front disc brake a tap with my gloved hand and I saw smoke coming off the disc. Just a tap had singed my glove. I did a few more times. My poor glove. It has these rubber finger tips for grip which are now missing some rubber. But that's how hot my disc was. Had I tapped it with my bare-hand, the smoke I saw would have been burned flesh.

I was about 100 steps from the bottom when my front tire went soft. It's then that I realized that both of my inner tube valves were slanted. I knew exactly what had happened. I had let out some air earlier while riding a rocky trail in order to cushion the ride. My tires were at about 40 psi. They were soft but not too soft. Actually they were too soft for going down Penang Hill since it's obvious there was not enough force to hold my tire in place so it slid backward a few cm while I was breaking. This put too much strain on the inner tube presta-valve, which is held in place by a screw on bolt, and the rubber tore wide open.

This is my front tube. You can see the valve is hanging by a thread.

I examined my rear inner tube and determined that it was OK. I fixed its alignment but obviously it had been weakened and finally gave out about half-way to the bike-shop. I did have another inner-tube and I could have repaired it but I noticed Komtar (the tallest building in Penang) on the horizon and decided it was easier just to walk there. I regret that decision now. My bike-shop is near Komtar. Although the street I was on gave the illusion that it went straight to Komtar, that is never the case in Penang where you are confronted with one-way streets and dead-ends (but not both at the same time obviously).

It took me about 1.5 hours to walk to my bike-shop, usually walking in the street against heavy traffic.

The bike-shop was so kind to me. I didn't want my bike fixed. I just wanted them to pack it so I could ship it to the United States. They did not take my name or phone number and said the box and packing would be free. They even said they would give my bike a free inspection.

I'm not sure why they were being so nice to me, but it's probably because of my loyalty to them. During the 1.5 hours of my walk, I passed many bike shops. I will only give my business to CCI. They are by far the best bike shop in Penang and if you care about quality parts and service, then go nowhere else.

Let's start at the beginning. I tried a new route to Penang Hill. Every time I ride my bike there, I try a different route to see if I can find one that will get me in less time with less energy but now I'm convinced that there is no way to avoid going up over a big hill on the way there. My quest for the totally flat route has failed.

I bought 1.5 Liter bottle of a sport drink. By the time I got to Penang Hill, I had finished it so I bought another bottle. By the time I got to the bottom of Penang Hill, I had finished it so I bought another one which I finished by the time I got to the bike shop. So in total I drank 4.5 Liters of fluids today … at least! I'm still thirsty and drinking even more water.

My trip to Penang Hill was uneventful except for the time I rode between two parked cars. The car on the right was double parked (because they drive on the left in Malaysia) and I felt safer going between the cars instead of around the double-parked into traffic. I was travelling fairly fast … maybe 20 mph and it was a tight squeeze but I thought I could make it. Unfortunately the 1 cm of handlebar that stuck out past my right hand, hit the cars mirror. It hardly phased me. I heard a loud smacking noise but it did not yank my handle-bars and I kept going. Car mirrors are made to fold forward on modern cars so I figured I had just adjusted this guys mirror and nothing more until I heard something hit the ground.

Now I felt like a little child who had done something wrong. In my mind I imagined the mirror snapping off and falling to the ground. Then I heard the car horn start honking. At first I thought it was the car alarm but then I realized it was too uneven. The person in the parked car was trying to get my attention. I should have stopped, turned around and found out what happened but instead I kept going, totally expecting them to come after me.

Shortly after I hit the mirror, I came to a red light and had to stop. I thought for sure they would catch me then, but nothing. I continued on and I imagined a car pulling in front of me and cutting me off with some angry driver coming to beat me up. I began to imagine scenarios of what I would do in this situation and how I would escape from the angry motorist … but I never got the chance to put my plans into action. They never came after me and I'm sure I broke something.

I got to Penang Hill, took the train to the top and down I went. My goal was to explore this trail that was half way down. The locals told me that it is now the rainy season so it is washed out, muddy, rocky, roots exposed, slippery, wet and so there is no way for you to ride it. I was not deterred. I went anyway. It was all of these things and more. I was able to ride half the time and the other half the time I was lugging my bike up a hill.

Check out how many roots and rocks there are on this trail. I could actually ride this section which was a lot easier to do going down than up since I didn't have to pedal.

Water had eroded this section. It was so narrow that I had to walk behind my bike to get through.

It was hot and humid and I was constantly thirsty. I worried that I would run out fluids long before I reached civilization again. For some reason, the trail was going up instead of down the mountain. I stopped and thought about turning back for a long time then decided it was the smart thing to do. Besides, this trail wasn't going where I wanted to go, which was down.

I had glanced at a map of trails before going up and I noticed a lot of very long trails out here. I must have made a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong trail. Upon reaching the road again, a local told me that I had taken a wrong turn. Oh well. The ride back was a lot nicer since it was downhill and I got to do some serious hard-core mt. biking but I have to confess that I did not attempt some of the scarier sections.

Back when my bike riding skills were at their peak, I would have ridden about 90% of this trail not my skills are about 75% of what they were so I only attempted about 70% of the sections and I was quite pleased with my performance. I put my seat down really low so that I could get my weight back really far for those big drop-offs. For long rocky sections, I just went for it but unfortunately this is where both my front and rear tires got slashed. They were slashed thru to blow the inner tube. It was just surface damage. Layers of the side-wall literally peeled off. Later when riding down the hill I noticed my bike was wobbling. That's because both my front and back tire side-walls were now weakened and the tires were now bulging on one side. I was worried they were going to blow but they didn't but they are both destroyed.

My water bottles kept falling off on that rocky trail. That's how brutal this trail was. I finally stuck them in my bag.

At one point, my pedal hit a rock really hard and broke the rock! The last time my pedal hit something hard (a curb) it tore my pedal out of the crank! I had them replace my cranks with stronger cranks and this time the pedal and crank broke the rock! If you click on the picture to see the full-size version you can see how the reflective strip has been torn off my tire side-wall. Both my front and back tires had chunks missing and slashes and gashes. That's because I would side-swipe rocks and my tire would ride over then slip off the side of a rock. I got some major tire damage but this is not what gave me a flat tire.

Once again I was not happy with my disc brakes. They did their job but I had to squeeze really hard and once again, I was in a lot of pain from squeezing so hard. Also once again, either the cables slipped or stretched because by the time I reached the bottom, I had a lot more space between the disc and the brakes than when I started.

I saw a family of monkeys on the way down.

They were not afraid of me as long as I didn't threaten them. They came over and started looking through my bag. I thought it was funny until I realized they would probably take something I wouldn't get it back so I gently took my bag away from them.

This was my farewell ride. The bike is now at the shop and will be packed in a few days ready for mailing back to the US. Kelly and I are not waiting until the last minute. Instead we are packing stuff up and mailing it now so it will be there when we arrive. This room should get rather empty soon. Kelly has been packing for weeks deciding what to throw away, what to take to the US, what to sell, what to give to family and friends and so on.

20 more days and we are on a plane back to the US and my adventures in Asia will come to an end and this blog will simply be an archive. But Kelly will start her blog of her Life in the US so one blog dies and a new one is born. Plus I'm hoping we can visit once a year so perhaps I will add more adventures in Asia someday.