Teaching profession: held in high regards 教师:一个被尊敬的专业

Until I took up an academic position in China, it did not occur to me that the teaching profession is so respected. In fact all teaching staff, whether they are teaching primary, secondary or university students are referred to as “teachers”. For me, it felt great being addressed by my students as “teacher” when I stepped into the lecture hall at Zhaoqing University for the first time in March 2019.

Every year during the celebration for “teachers’ day” many businesses will give special deals and gifts to teachers in China. The feature image in this post is just one of many of such signs of respect to the teaching profession. I must admit, I will miss this free gift of RMB300 worth of spectacle products this year as I am still unable to travel back to my university from Malaysia due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have started my second semester of online teaching at the beginning of September 2020.

It is precisely due to the respect given to teaching staff that there is a higher requirement for university teaching staff to give more attention to students’ academic performance and their well-being on campus. This is unlike the situation in Malaysia and the UK (where this author was a student for 12 years) where university students are considered as adults. Chasing after students to submit assignments and giving offenders second chances are relatively new experience to me, a veteran of the higher education sector of over two decades!

Make “complete stops” at Persiaran Kewajipan T-junctions

It is the opinion of this author, a twenty three years resident of USJ that Majlis Perbandaran Subang Jaya (MPSJ) should seriously consider making all T-junctions at this township “complete stops” at the traffic lights. This may not solve the traffic congestion issue, especially at key areas of bottlenecks, it will certainly make it safer and perhaps even easier for road users turning into Persiaran Kewajipan in order to reach exits along these T-junctions.

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There are five main junctions along the USJ stretch of Persiaran Kewajipan which at most times are pretty busy. However, only two of these which are cross junctions have complete stop for all lanes when the traffic lights turn red. These are at the Persiaran Kewajipan- Persiaran Subang Permai junction (near Da Men Mall) and Persiaran Kewajipan-Jalan Damai / Jalan USJ 18/8 junctions.

For some reasons that this author could not comprehend, three major T-junctions along the USJ side of Persiaran Kewajipan  do not have complete stops for all lanes on Persiaran Kewajipan when the traffic lights on either direction on this major road turn red.

No total stop at the Persiaran Kewajipan-Persiaran Perpaduan junction (near Taipan LRT station)

(Click this link to view this on Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/@3.0469696,101.5889564,17.75z)

Traffic on Persiaran Kewajipan travelling towards USJ 21 direction (blue arrow) need not stop at the Persiaran Perpaduan junction. This makes it very dangerous and difficult for Persiaran Perpaduan traffic (red arrow) turning right at this junction as they have to filter into the main flow on Persiaran Kewajipan, often making it very dangerous for the road users who want to turn into USJ Police station or even further down to filter to the left to get into Persiaran Mulia. This junction is perhaps the second most congested at peak hours in USJ (after the Kewajipan-Subang Permai junction). The present arrangement makes it very taxing on all road users converging at this junction.

No total stop at the Pesiaran Kewajipan-Persiaran Mulia junction (near Al-Falah mosque)

The next T-junction along Persiaran Kewajipan is the Kewajipan-Mulia junction opposite the Al-Falah moque.

The Persiaran Kewajipan – Persiaran Mulia Junction, taken from Persiaran Kewajipan facing the direction of Taipan USJ.

(Click this link to visit the site on Google Maps:  https://www.google.com/maps/@3.0439564,101.5877635,17.75z)

At this T-junction, traffic on Persiaran Kewajipan heading towards Summit USJ direction (blue arrow) is not obliged to stop. This makes it very dangerous for traffic on Persiaran Mulia (red arrow) on green from the traffic lights to turn into Persiaran Kewajipan. This is most difficult for traffic intending to filter into the junction near the back entrance of Al-Falah mosque as well as for those wishing to turn into USJ 9 Business centre at Jalan USJ 9/5J further along Persiaran Kewajipan.

No total stop at  the Persiaran Kewajipan-Persiaran Tujuan junction

The last T-junction along Persiaran Kewajipan is when Persiaran Tujuan (the other major road of the township) meets Persiaran Kewajipan (at the intersection of USJ 9,  USJ 13 and USJ 14).

(Click this link to access this section of the map at Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/@3.0390894,101.5882483,17.75z)

In this case traffic turning right at on green light (red arrow) will have to merge with non-stopping Persiaran Kewajipan traffic (blue arrow) coming from Summit /Da Men direction. Thus the right turning traffic has to squeeze over a relatively short distance from the right hand most lane to the extreme left if they intend to enter the USJ 14 via Jalan Mulia which is pretty busy especially in the evening during durian seasons as there are a few established stalls along this road.

Only Tujuan-Bakti T-junction is a no-total-stop on Persiaran Tujuan

If we take a look at the other major arterial road of USJ, Persiaran Tujuan, we will find that out of the 4 junctions (all being T-junctions), only the Persiaran Tujuan-Persiaran Bakti junction (at the intersection of USJ 9 / USJ 13 and USJ 11) is a not total stop junction.

(Click here to view this map on Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/@3.0400067,101.5831001,18z)

Again for this Tujuan-Bakti junction, traffic from Persiaran Bakti will have to filter quickly into the extreme left lane if they are to turn left into Jalan Usaha to access USJ 17 & USJ 18 where this is a kind for shortcut for USJ resident to access the Elite highway. A complete stop for traffic on Persiaran Tujuan (heading towards Subang Jaya direction) at this T-junction will make it much safer for everyone crossing the Tujuan-Bakti T-junction.

Much safer if there is no not-stopping traffic at T-junctions

(Click on this link to access this section of the Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/@3.0507612,101.5793489,15.75z)

The other three T-junctions along Persiaran Tujuan in USJ, namely the Persiaran Tujuan-Persiaran Murni T-junction; the Persiaran Tujuan-Persiaran Perpaduan T-junction and the Persiaran Tujuan-Persiaran Setia T-junction all have complete stop (red icons) for traffic on Persiaran Tujuan when the traffic light is green for traffic at the respective corresponding T-junctions (blue arrows) . Aside from motocycles running through the red light, the flow of traffic filtering into Persiaran Tujuan at these three T-junctions are much smoother and safer.

Make all T-junctions “complete stops” at the traffic lights

It is the opinion of this author, a twenty three years resident of USJ that Majlis Perbandaran Subang Jaya (MPSJ) should seriously consider making all T-junctions at this township “complete stops” at the traffic lights. This may not solve the traffic congestion issue, especially at key areas of bottlenecks, it will certainly make it safer and perhaps even easier for road users turning into Persiaran Kewajipan in order to reach exits along these T-junctions.

They don’t build things to last anymore

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This may sound old or stale, “they don’t make things last anymore” is the key theme of this article. It seems that durability of products is no longer a key consideration. Often an expensive piece of appliance is rendered worthless because of the lack of durability of its control system, often because it is very electronic-based. In some cases, the crucial electronic system though durable but the appliance is not functional because of the poor quality of the interface, i.e. the LED panel!

An airfyer that failed by its LED control

When I was working and living alone in Penang (Jan 2015 to late 2016) I bought a few electrical appliances to make my stay more pleasant. One of these was a Kqueen airfryer that I bought online (shipped from China). The decision to buy this was fully influenced by my wife’s (then) favourite kitchen gadget, a Philips airfryer. After I moved back to Subang Jaya, Selangor upon the completion of my stint helming a university college we decided to make the Kqueen airfryer as the main fryer reserving the Philips airfryer for bigger loads or cooking that required higher power.

Just over 2 years into its service, the LED panel of our KQueen airfyer just suddenly decided to go off completely. Without a control panel, and despite having all moving parts and heating parts fully functional, the KQueen airfyer was rendered utterly useless. Well RM450 (US$107) that this Kqueen airfryer only gave us utility for 2 years for RM225 (US$53.5) per year! The part that failed was the LED control panel. I often wonder why manufacturers often overlook the most important part of the design, if you can’t control the gadget it is as good as scrap. Why simple mechanical/electrical thermostat plus radial timer could not have been used instead. The over reliance on electronic control in household gadgets should be reviewed. This could have given a much longer lifespan to the gadget. This Kqueen airfyer was just sold as scrap, I guess it fetched around RM1.00 (US$0.24) today!

A malfunctioned shaver that came back to life!

I bought a Philips Aquatouch shaver just over three years ago. This was a shaver that can be used for wet shave, which means one can put on shaving foam and shaves with this shaver. But just about 8 months ago, after charging my Philips Aquatouch’s battery (well I charged it overnight and forgot to unplug it from the charger, but I think this shaver came with the ability to avoid overcharging), when I press the “start” button, it only worked for 2 seconds then stopped. I was having the impression that my RM275 (US$65.50) investment was heading to the scrap heap.

A search on the internet yielded a very informative Youtube video which showed two things: firstly, the shaver was indeed malfunctioned and, secondly that the repair process was more for those who are skilled in doing electronic repairs (which excluded my attempt!). Further, Philips authorized service centre has a price tag of RM20 (US$4.76) for inspection and RM60 (US$14.29) for repair workmanship where the cost of replacement parts would be extra. I was resigned to the fact that it would not be worthwhile to repair this shaver as the overall cost of inspection-workmanship-parts could be close to the price of a replacement shaver. I just left the shaver in the bedroom where the air-conditioning would often be switched on at night.

After about three months of lying idle, this shaver was picked up by me recently. The temptation to press the power/start button was too much and I did what I had been doing very often: to try to test if the shaver would run. And surprisingly, it stayed working for longer than 2 seconds. In fact it was working as well as before! The long period of lying in close to the path of the air conditioning’s air flow perhaps helped to dry the interior of the shaver out so that the electronics were no longer malfunctioning! I gained back the utility of my Philips Aquatouch shaver, but I refrained from putting it anyway near  “aqua” , i.e. wet shaving and only used it as a “dry” shaver now. I wonder why the manufacturer did not pay enough attention to ensure that the “aqua” functioning of this gadget could stand the test of times! Perhaps this was a case of the gadget being designed to fail after 3 years of use?

Kanken: A backpack that lasted 31 years!

I bought a Kanken backpack in late 1985 after seeing this brand being so popular when my parents, my younger brother and I was on a holiday tour to the Nordic countries. The only thing that I dislike about this bag was the signature badge. It looked too childish for my taste and I foolishly removed it without knowing that it was a reflective badge that conferred safety. It was not cheap. I recalled paying something like £20 (US$28.8) in 1985 for this bag. Its exterior was splash-proof and this feature lasted for at least 20 years!

Today this bag cost around US$80, if you want a “Real McCoy”.

Of course there are plenty of imitation Kanken backpacks in the market that costs a fraction of this. But the quality differential is very easily detectable.

In late May 2017, after close to 32 years of utility, the straps of my classic Kanken backpack finally started to literally break apart. Reluctantly, I had to say “goodbye” to this trusted old workhouse that had accompanied me to the work in a summer camp in the USA in 1986; daily usage when I was working on my Master’s and PhD;  my tours of the UK and Ireland and countless domestic holiday trips. Unlike my electrical items, at least the Kanken backpack were made (still being made) to last!

Don’t rely on traditional banks for international remittance!

How much (as a percentage of fund) would you guess it cost to transfer RMB 1,406 from Taiwan to Malaysia using the traditional banking services? In this article I share my expensive lesson on international fund transaction using traditional banks. A staggering 27.46% of my fund of RMB 1,406 was “taxed” by the intermediary. Both the sending bank (in Taiwan) & receiving bank (in Malaysia) said that there it was not possible to find out how the intermediary levy the charges!

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How much (as a percentage of fund) would you guess it cost to transfer RMB 1,406 from Taiwan to Malaysia using the traditional banking services? In this article I share my expensive lesson on international fund transaction using traditional banks. A staggering 27.46% of my fund of RMB 1,406 was “taxed” by the intermediary. Both the sending bank (in Taiwan) & receiving bank (in Malaysia) said that there it was not possible to find out how the intermediary levy the charges!

Used a traditional route for international fund transfer

As my recent trip was sponsored, I was expecting reimbursement from the sponsor for the cost of my trip. To facilitate the process, the sponsoring university in China would pool our group’s reimbursements and let the organizer of the trip, Dr. Yan to do the individual distribution of the fund received.

There was just one issue for me: the organizer and all the rest of the members of our group are based in Taiwan with yours truly being the only one located in Malaysia. Nevertheless my modest claim (after deducting the RMB 500 loaned to me by Dr. Yan to alleviate my having left my wallet at home at the start of the trip!) was RMB 1,406 (about US$202). Dr. Yan’s office was resourceful enough to use one of his bank’s “transaction fee waiver” vouchers  in an attempt to keep the transaction fees down for me.

How much of RMB 1,406 would I get after being transferred to Malaysia?

At Malaysia’s end, previous experience told me that MayBank (Malayan Banking Berhad) would only levy a charge of RM5 (US$1.19)  for the transaction. Of course it would have made from the spread when converting the currency into Malaysian ringgit.

Whopping 27.46% transaction fees!

Based on the exchange rate of RMB 0.59 to RM 1.00, after deducting transaction fees, I was expecting to receive at least RM 750. When the fund finally arrived at my bank, I had a big shock.

From the RMB 1,406 remitted by Dr. Yan’s office, only RM 597.70 equivalent to RMB 1,019.96 arrived at my MayBank account. The meant that a whopping RMB 386.04 or 27.46% of the original RMB 1,406 remitted was deducted as the transaction fees!

No fees levied but banks make from the spread on currency conversion

Both Taiwanese and Malaysian did not levy any transaction fees

I contacted Dr. Yan’s office and his people double checked with his bank in Taiwan to confirm that the amount transferred from Taiwan was indeed RMB 1,406. This was confirmed via the transaction slip sent to me from Taiwan. There was also no fees levied by the Taiwanese bank on the RMB 1,406.

Next, I went to my bank, MayBank to get the full details of this transfer. I was told that MayBank did not levy any fees on the transaction but the transaction report indicated that only RMB 1,019.96 was received at the Malaysian end. I was told by MayBank that they only processed the amount that was received, that is RMB 1,019.96 and it has no idea on what was the transaction fees levied by the intermediary.

I conveyed MayBank’s findings to Dr. Yan’s office which in turn also confronted their bank in Taiwan. The conclusion given by the Taiwan bank was that they had remitted RMB 1,406 and the differential must be the transaction fees (including the spreads for converting from RMB to various intermediary currencies before the final conversion to RM). To make matters more confusing, the Taiwanese bank said that it had no control over how much its intermediary would charge.

Traditional remitting equals to having no idea of the transaction cost

It then became clear to me that for traditional bank remittance from overseas, the customers really are at the mercy of the intermediaries. The remittance cost is not transparent. It thus makes this a very risky and expensive choice to remit money.  And both the sending and receiving banks will wash their hands off should a customer like me getting fleeced by the intermediary (27.46% is a huge amount to levy as a remittance fee).

Better to use remittance service provider that are transparent in their fees


I made a check with MoneyGram’s website to see  if we were to transfer an equivalent of RMB 1,406 in US dollars (i.e, US$ 202) from Taiwan to Malaysia, with receiver paying the transaction fees what kind of scenario would happen.

MoneyGram’s transaction fees plus spread are reasonable

As shown above, if we were to use MoneyGram, I would be getting at least RM 770.49 from the RMB 1,406 or US$ 202 that were to be remitted with a fees of only US$ 15 (or RM63 or RMB105).  Thus with a exchange rate of RMB 1.00 = RM 0.59, this means I would have received RMB 1,305.92. The overall remittance and conversion cost in this case would be around RMB 100.08 or just 7.12% of the amount transacted.

Western Union

A check with Western Union shows that for a similar amount in US$, the cost of transaction would be around US$10. But since Western Union also make from a spread on conversion, for US$192, at US$1 =  RM3.8539, I would only get RM739.95 or equivalent of RMB 1,254.15 Thus the overall remittance and conversion costs would actually be RMB 151.85. The total remittance cost would have been 10.80% of the amount remitted.

Western Union’s spread is wider than MoneyGram’s

In both MoneyGram and Western Union cases, regardless of the total cost of the transfer of fund, the costs were pretty transparent. And even with the higher spread on currency conversion, Western Union would only have an overall cost of around 10.80% of the sum to be transferred. Of course the best choice would have been MoneyGram which has an overall cost of 7.12%.

Lesson Learned

  1. Never use traditional banks for international remittance.
  2. Zero “transaction fees” for international remittance is a misnomer. There is a spread when currencies are converted at the sending and receiving ends. This is how banks make their money!
  3. Intermediaries for traditional bank remittance (aside from MoneyGrams and Western Union) do take big cuts out of your total amount to be transferred overseas!
  4. Make sure the remittance service gives you a transparent total fees before committing to any overseas remittance.

In my case, since both Dr. Yan and I have WeChat China Wallet, it would have been better that we had explored this route where virtually there would be no cost of transaction. The only problems are: Dr. Yan needs to load his WeChat China Wallet with sufficient funds and at my end, I could only spend the amount in my WeChat China Wallet in China!

My tulmutous experience with WeChat Wallet

This article shares the author’s tortuous path towards getting WeChat Pay sorted during his trip from Malaysia to China when he left his entire wallet at home, with only RM15 to his name!

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At the start of my recent business trip to Guangzhou, China, I discovered that I committed the grievous of all errors that a seasoned (overly organized by my wife’s definition) traveller would not have done –  I left my wallet with all my cash, debit and credit cards at home! The only money I had was fifteen Ringgit Malaysia (RM15) that I kept in the casing of my mobile phone just in case I needed small amount of cash should I forget to bring my wallet when I was outside the house.

The start of the panic!

I was able to sail through immigration etc. because I had my passport with me and this was the only document (aside from the boarding pass) that I needed. Worse, I only discovered my predicament AFTER this process. By then, my wife who dropped me off in her car had arrived home from KL International Airport (KLIA). Even if she could fetch me the wallet, there would be a lot of persuading on my part to be allowed by the authorities to get through all those layers of security to meet my wife. And the clock was ticking, there was no certainty that my wife would be able to get to the airport with my wallet in time. Panic began to set in!

Transferring fund into WeChat Wallet

Then I remembered a friend from China telling me that he was able to live cashless relying only on his WeChat wallet for a week. I immediately contacted my wife to snap photographs of all my credit and debit cards and Whatsapp-ed these to me. This would allow me to “charge” up my WeChat wallet with some cash that I could use. Well that was the salvage plan.

As I already had my WeChat wallet set up and my identity verified (via a elaborate process involving snapping photographs of my MyKad and credit card), I thought adding a debit card where I could draw some cash would be a breeze. However, the debit card was only useful to you in this case if you have had authorized it to carry out  internet transactions which I did not do for my MayBank debit card nor was I had any luck with my Affin Bank card. But luckily, my Public Bank debit card did have this feature switched on and I was able to upload RM500 to my WeChat Wallet. But when I tried this wallet on, all the duty-free shops (that accepted WeChat Wallet) could not transact the payment. One of the shop assistants kindly suggested that this could be due to their system being set only to accept WeChat wallet of China visitors. Thus there might still be hope for me to be able to use my WeChat wallet in China!

AliPay is of no use

I did not give up. Next, I installed AliPay app and managed to add one of my credit cards to the system. But I faced the difficulty of verifying my identity. I was instructed by the app to upload a photograph of my passport to let AliPay’s people verify my identity. But this would take a few days (today, six weeks later, I am still waiting for an update from AliPay!). Thus AliPay was not a solution for me.
[Later, I Googled and found out that AliPay can only verify a bank card if it is issued by a bank in China!]

You need your physical credit card to access the airport lounge

I was hungry and remembered that one of my credit cards allowed me two free use of the airport lounge per month. So off I went in search of this lounge.

“Sorry sir, we do need the physical card to swipe and charge even if we can proof your identity with your passport”, was the reply I received when I presented my Whatsapp-ed copy of the credit card. Needless to say, my plan to use the lounge to get some food was in tatters. With my meager cash of RM15, I therefore could not take a chance to buy breakfast! I was looking forward to a proper meal on the plane! Hungry!

Free WiFi at Guangzhou Baiyun airport saved the day

To cut a long story short, I did not have to rely on my Wechat wallet for this trip. Guangzhou Baiyun airport provides free WiFi (you need to register to use). With this free WiFi, I did not have to switch on my mobile data roaming that would have cost me RM38 the instant I enabled it!

In this case I could use my WeChat identity to log on to Baiyun Airport’s WiFi. I was able to WeChat message the organizer of this business trip, Dr. Yan who happened to be at the airport early to meet the rest of our group. A loan of five hundred Renminbi (RMB 500) cash was promptly provided by Dr. Yan. This solved my cash problem as all transport and accommodation for the trip were arranged and sponsored by our host.

[I must add that, prior to that day, both Dr. Yan and I only communicated via WeChat. We’ve never met! I also was supposed to make my own way to the host university from Baiyun Airport about 100 km away, thus I would need to have at least RMB100 cash. There was no certainty that my Didi app which was linked to my credit card would work. It might not be a travel option. I did have the flight number of the rest of my group travelling from Taipei. If I did not meet Dr. Yan, and my WeChat Wallet did not work, my last resort would have been to camp outside the arrival gate with a placard to find them. Again, I had never met any of my group members before! It turned out that my luck was a bit better. Not only I could find Dr. Yan, he allowed me to hitch a ride to the host on a bus he arranged for the members from Taiwan.] 

Make sure you have a credit card verified travel booking app

As I had to stay an extra night in Guangzhou compared to my other group members, I promptly searched for a night’s accommodation on Trip (an app I used to book the flights for this trip). As Trip has already had my credit card details (and verified these when I booked my flights), I had no problem getting my room at a small apartment-hotel near the Baiyun airport.
[Travel tip: always have at least one of your favourite travel booking apps on your mobile phone and make sure it has all your credit card details. You never know when you will need it as in my case!]

Guangzhou’s Metro accepts WeChat pay too, but must have internet to work

To satisfy my curiosity, when I made my way to my hotel, I tried to use WeChat wallet on the Guangzhou Metro. A very nice young lady staff tried her best to help me to WeChat pay my fare. Then we discovered that Baiyun airport’s WiFi signal was too weak at the Metro station. I was not going to pay RM38 data roaming charge to carry this experiment to fruition. I went on to pay for the RMB2 fare by cash. I did have to go to another counter to have my RMB100 changed to smaller denominations that the ticket machine could accept.
[Travel tip: always carry some smaller denomination Renminbi, say in RMB10 at least for public transport etc.]

How to set up WeChat Wallet for China

WeChat Wallet comes in different versions. This, I found out when I was enlisted by my old pal, SM Liew who was experimenting with WeChat’s Red Packet feature. Red Packet allows WeChat users in China to send small “hong bao” (red packet) to their friends on WeChat anywhere in the world. To get your China version of WeChat Wallet enabled, all you need is a small Red Packet from someone with a WeChat Wallet for China. The moment you accept and open the Red Packet, your China wallet is enabled!

I repeated the same procedure successfully with my son recently by sending him a RMB0.50 Red Packet, from the RMB1.00 I received from SM Liew! Of course, my son had to get his identity verified and his WeChat wallet linked to one of his debit cards first.

WeChat Wallet Malaysia version does not like rooted phones!

With RM500 inside my WeChat Wallet and having failed to use this at KLIA duty-free shops which accepted WeChat wallet, I wanted to see if I could withdraw my money to my bank account. The moment I click “Withdraw”, I was hit with this message. “Withdrawal is not supported on jail-broken or rooted mobile phone.

Rooted phone not allowed!

A call to WeChat Malaysia’s call centre was made (on Oct 09, 2018) but I was told to screen capture the message and use the feedback system to complain to WeChat. I was promised a two-business days response, that was four days ago (this article was written on Oct 13, 2018)! I have not heard back from WeChat Malaysia since.

Feedback to WeChat, 2-business days turnaround is not true!

With this information, I can speculate that my rooted smartphone was the cause of my failure to make a payment with WeChat wallet at KLIA’s duty-free shops. So, is my RM500 stuck at my Wechat Wallet forever?

[3 hours after I published this article, WeChat Malaysia finally responded to my feedback, citing Bank Negara (Malaysia’s Central Bank) rule that rooted mobile phone cannot be used for fintech transaction as the reason. Perhaps someone from WeChat Malaysia DID read this article?]

[With the latest update (version: V6.7.3), WeChat Wallet Malaysia seemed to have “re-allowed” rooted phones to work. I was able to initiate a withdrawal from my WeChat Malaysia wallet. If the transaction can be completed, I will update it here  Two working days were all it took for the transaction to withdraw RM400 from my WeChat Malaysia wallet to my bank account to be completed.]

WeChat’s multiple device sign in, a get-around for rooted phones!

Unlike Whatsapp, WeChat does allow multiple mobile devices to access it. But you can only do so one at a time. This means if you access WeChat on a spare mobile phone, yoru existing WeChat app will be signed out on the main phone. I had installed WeChat on my Amazon Kindle tablet before and using “username and password” option to sign in, I was able to access my WeChat Wallet for Malaysia and the offending message above did not come out. I can now withdraw my fund from this wallet by accessing WeChat using my Kindle!

Lesson learned and shared:

  1. Don’t forget your wallet when you travel, especially to overseas destinations!
  2. In case you have left your wallet at home on your trip, you should always keep one of your credit cards in your checked-in luggage [it may be worth paying the extra RM25 tax a year for this!].
  3. Always have a passport cover. Have a small cards holding wallet or just a small Ziploc bag to house some cash and one of your credit cards or debit cards inside. Keep this Ziploc bag with your passport all the time. But remove this Ziploc bag whenever you face the immigration officer (whether at home or abroad) to avoid confusing the good official who may take this as a bribe!
  4. Don’t rely on WeChat Wallet for your China trip unless you are going to have
    a) Cash uploaded to the wallet and
    b) mobile data roaming or a local SIM card.
    You cannot make use of your WeChat wallet if you do not have access to the internet in China! And it is very difficult now to get a SIM card in China.
  5. If you want to use WeChat Wallet in China, make sure that you have your WeChat Wallet for China enabled and find a way to upload RMB into it first. Of course you must have access to the internet while you are in China.
  6. Have at least one travel booking app installed in your smartphone. Make sure this app has verified your identity and your credit card. Even if you do not have your credit card with you, this app can still be used to make your bookings (like I did with Trip).

If you need to learn more and get updated with the latest discussion on WeChat Wallet for China, do check out this thread on Tripadvisor. For Americans, there is a fintech site, Swapsy which provides free transaction for swapping US$ for RMB on WeChat Wallet platform. Swapsy only works if you have a US ID card, so it is of no use to those without a US ID.

Don’t confuse Chinese primary schools with UEC recognition

This article lays down bare facts about Chinese primary (SJK(C)), secondary (SMJK) and independent Chinese schools in Malaysia. The differences between the UEC examinations & SJK(C) that’re wrongly lumped together are clearly explained. The author opined that the recognition of the UEC should be a separate issue which should not be confused with the Chinese Malaysian community’s wish for the government to increase the number of Chinese primary schools, especially in new urban areas.

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The politicization of the recognition of Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) has caused a lot of confusion in Malaysia. Although a few prominent people including politicians and those from the Chinese educationists movement had tried to explain the issue and rationale etc., so far no one seems to have realized one glaring error. The convenient lumping of the UEC recognition issue with that of the establishment of 16 new Chinese primary schools (Chinese vernacular primary schools under the national education system, or SJK(C) as these are designated by the Ministry of Education), whether by intent or by accident is rather unfortunate. My key objective in writing this piece is to offer facts and figures to try to explain the two issues which, I have to stress again, are separate. I shall leave it to more learned colleagues to argue about the issue of recognition of the UEC!

UEC and SJK(C): are they different?

For starter, Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (C) as the name in Malay indicated, is referring to “national type primary schools”. In essence, SJK(C)s are part and parcel of the national education system of Malaysia and are one type of many types of national schools under the purview of the Ministry of Education (MoE). It is worth stressing that SJK(C)s are primary schools catering for children aged 7 to 12. Many of these were established during the British colonial era but all had been incorporated into the national education system by virtue of the Education Act 1961. Students of SJK(C)s take national examination at the Standard 6, just like their counterparts in SJK(T) (Tamil primary schools, where Tamil is the main medium of instruction) and Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) (where Malay is the main medium of instruction). Hence for all intent and purposes, Year 6 students of all national schools will take the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR – Primary School Evaluation Test). Their progression to the national secondary schools system will be dependent on their performance at UPSR. Thus all three types of national primary schools (SK, SJK(C), SJK(T)) use the same curriculum but differ only in the medium of instruction, with the SJKs giving heavy emphasis on the national language even though the main medium of instruction is Chinese or Tamil.

UEC or Sijil Perperiksaan Bersepadu in Malay was set up by the Dong Jiao Zhong (an umbrella body of the Chinese educationist movement in Malaysia) in 1975 as a unified examination system for all the Independent Chinese Secondary Schools (ICS) in Malaysia. The UEC caters to ICS students at three levels, Junior Middle (UEC-JML) (equivalent to the Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 – PT3 examination taken by Form 3 students of the national secondary school system) , Vocational (UEC-V) and Senior Middle (UEC-SML) (pre-university level, equivalent to the MOE’s Matriculation level). Thus UEC examinations are meant for students of the 61 ICS at high school levels. These ICSs draw the bulk of their students from the SJK(C), but the UEC examination system does not have any direct or indirect impact on the teaching, learning, operation or even funding of the SJK(C)s. No SJK(C) student (unless he or she is a genius) will be able to take any of the UEC examination!

In contrast to 61 ICSs, there are 2,411 national secondary schools, of which there are 11 different types. One of these types are the Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan (SMJK), or Natonal Type Secondary School in English. There are 81 SMJK which are no different from other national secondary schools except that Chinese language is offered to all students (and is a compulsory subject). Many of these SMJKs were once Chinese high schools during the colonial era but with the Education Act 1961, the Board of Governors of these schools had pragmatically chosen to join the national school system and receive partial funding from the government.

More on SJK(C)

Most of the 1298 SJK(C)s could trace their origins in early 1900s to 1950s when the bulk of the migration from China into Malaya (and Northern Borneo) took place under the British colonial rule. My late father, a Malayan-born Chinese was one of those young teachers who took up the challenge to establish a new Chinese primary school in Cameron Highlands during the early 1950s.

Before the enactment of Education Act 1961, all these Chinese primary schools were funded entirely by the Chinese community. Even today, the bulk of the 1298 SJK(C) are only receiving partial funding from the government. Nevertheless, all SJK(C) are operated directly by the Ministry of Education which appoints (and pays the salaries of) all the academic and support staff. The Board of Governors of partially funded SJK(C) usually owns the land where the school is located and provides for the maintenance of the school’s facilities, staff’s and students’ welfare etc.

Essentially, since the early 1960s, SJK(C)s and SJK(T)s have been an integral part of Malaysia’s national primary education system. Collectively, as shown in Table 1 (the data for this table were obtained from the Ministry of Education’s publication), they constitute 23.43% of all schools in the national system and educate around 22.78% of all primary school students. They also use the same curriculum as the SK schools  with the only exception of having Chinese Mandarin or Tamil as the medium of instructions. For more information of how this author debunks the lies about SJK(C) told by those with dubious intention, please read my article entitles How do you debunk myths about Chinese primary schools in Malaysia?

A figure of around 100,000 non-Chinese Malaysians children are reported to be studying in the SJK(C)s. It is expected that this 19% figure of non-Chinese Malaysian enrollments will continue to grow in the future. The fact that the current Minister of Education, Maszlee Malik sends his children to a SJK(C) is a testament to the benefits of the teaching philosophy of SJK(C)s which, aside from the use of Chinese Mandarin as a core medium of instruction, is the only other difference in characteristics of SJK(C) schools compared to SK schools.

A yardstick measurement of adequacy of schools for the population of Malaysia can easily be made by comparing the % of national enrollment with the % of schools. Ideally these two figures should be very close. For the SK schools, there are a difference of 0.86% which is not a big difference. Yet if we multiply this differential with the number of SK schools, we know that there is still a need to have at least another 50 schools.

Likewise the differential between enrollment % and % of schools for the SJK(C)s is around 3.04%, if we multiply this figure with the total number of SJK(C)s, we can estimate that there is a shortage of close to 40 schools. In reality the issue of the need for more SJK(C)s is further complicated by the fact that there are still many SJK(C)s in the rural areas with very small enrollment. At the same time, SJK(C)s in established townships and many urban areas are bursting at their seams with class sizes of 50 plus students. And in newer townships, there are usually a big demand for SJK(C)s but often with the nearest school located many kilometers away. Hence the issue of “10 + 6” SJK(C)s came forth. 6 of these are SJK(C)s with low enrollment in rural areas that are to be relocated to population centres in urban areas with known demand for SJK(C)s. 10 of these are new SJK(C)s promised by the Najib administration just before the 14th General Election (GE14).

What’re the differences between ICSs and national type secondary Chinese schools?

An excellent article in Malay Mail (published on July 03, 2017) provided a very detailed but clear explanation on the differences between SJK(C), SMJK and ICS schools. Hence this will not be the focus of this article, but a brief review of their key similarities and differences is appropriate.

Both SMJKs and ICSs traditionally rely on the SJK(C) to provide them with new students. Thus a look at the pathways taken by SJK(C) students completing Year 6 will tell us the relative popularity of the two (as discussed in the section below).

While SMJKs, like most of the SJK(C)s are partially funded by the government, ICSs do not receive any operational budget from the government, except for occasional lump sum provisions provided by state governments (of the Pakatan Harapan controlled states prior to GE14) and notable grants provided by the Najib adminstration during the GE14 campaign. ICSs thus have to charge school fees (usually RM200 to 300 per month) and SMJK (and SK) on the other hand are providing free education to students. When I was attached to a Chinese community funded university-college whose board of directors are common with an ICS, I was given to understand that the board of directors had to subsidise to the tune of RM1,500 per student per year. Thus fund raising activities are common for all ICSs where the key source of funding is donation from the Chinese Malaysian community.

Aside from offering the three UEC examinations, many ICSs are also preparing their students to take the  iGCSE examination from the UK. This alone makes many ICSs very affordable alternatives to international schools. This perhaps is evident from Table 2 where we can see a huge drop of UEC-SML takers as student progressed from senior middle two (equivalent to Form 5 at SMK). iGCSE is an entry qualification accepted by most private colleges for pre-university or diploma studies.

In contrast, SMJK and SMK only use national curriculum as prescribed by the MOE and their students will take the PT3 (at Form 3) and SPM national examinations (at Form 5) accordingly. Academically, SMJKs differ from SMKs only in the former having an added subject of Chinese in its regular timetable.

Majority of SJK(C)s students go on to SMK or SMJK schools!

An important fact that has somehow not been mentioned by many commentators of Chinese education in Malaysia is that the majority of the SJK(C) students will continue their secondary education at SMKs or SMJKs. The enrollment figures of all categories of national secondary schools and the Independent Chinese Schools are shown in Table 2.

% of secondary enrollment

If we assume (from Table 1) that in 2017 there were around 85,462 SJK(C) Year 6 students entering secondary schools and (from Table 2) the total enrollment of SMJKs was 108,000, we can estimate that SMJK enrolled around 21,600 of SJK(C) students (or 25.27%) for Form 1. The ICSs collectively took in around 14,481 (or 16.94%) new students for Form 1 in 2017, thus we had around 49,381 students (or 57.78%) who opted for the SMKs.

Possible reasons for preference for SMJK over ICSs

The majority of parents of SJK(C)s students, including this author have been opting for the national secondary schools (either SMK or SMJK) perhaps for the following reasons:

  1. The UEC examinations are not recognized in Malaysia. This means that UEC holders do not have any options to choose any of the state-funded tertiary options such as public universities, polytechnics and state vocational training institutions (unless they also hold appropriate SPM qualifications).
  2. The proximity of SMKs / SMJKs to their homes which reduces the traveling time and cost for the students (and parents).
  3. The medium of instructions for ICSs generally is Chinese Mandarin (although many do offer the English medium option). Parents of some SJK(C) students may worry  about the ability of their children to cope with switching to Chinese Mandarin entirely as the students have been prepared by the SJK(C)s to enter SMK and SMJK with heavy emphasis on getting them a solid foundation in Bahasa Malaysia (Malay).
  4. The national secondary school system is not perfect but it has been adequately producing SPM holders who can cope with college studies, even if the medium of instruction will likely to be English if they opt for private colleges after SPM.
  5. ICSs students often will take SPM as well and many parents feel that this will pose an added burden on their children’s ability to cope with their studies.
  6. The ICSs school fees, though is around RM300 per month, still pose a financial burden for lower income families.

Thus over 83% of all SJK(C) class of Year 6 would generally go on to national secondary schools. In fact (as shown in Table 2) the total number of ICSs is  just 2.53% that of the national secondary schools. Collectively all the ICS’s student population amounts to only 2.46% 4% (a calculation error was detected & rectified) of the national secondary school system. In addition, I think the majority of parents of non-Chinese students of SJK(C)s will opt for SMK or SMJK when their offspring complete their primary schools.


There are no private Chinese primary schools per se in Malaysia. All SJK(C)s are part and parcel of the national primary school system.

SJK(C)s are not to be confused with ICSs which offer the Unified Examination Certificate (some opponents of the UEC could not even get this name correct!). SJK(C)s are primary schools whereas ICSs are secondary schools!

It can be said that ICSs which draw most of its new cohort of students from SJK(C)s will not survive without the SJK(C)S. However, the  SJK(C)s can surely survive with or without the ICSs! This is because the majority of SJK(C)s students (over 83%) will go on to national secondary schools (either SMK or SMJK).

From the data and analysis presented, I hope my readers can see that Independent Chinese Schools cater to many different groups of students. The enrollment of ICSs collectively is less than 2.5% of the entire national secondary school population. The fact that ICSs prepare their academically capable students to take the SPM means that they are placing equal importance to the national language, granted not every student will be fully SPM-competent. The same can also be said about students from SMJKs or even SMKs!

With an enrollment of less than 2.5%  around 4.0% of the national secondary school system, to say that the ICSs pose a threat to national unity, we will need to reconcile the fact that there are over 100 international schools in Malaysia with a collective enrollment of around 62,000, and around 40,000 being Malaysians. None of these offer courses as close to the national curriculum as the ICSs but all having their students’ qualifications recognized by Malaysia.

To adequately prepare their students to take the SPM examination, it is not surprising that the UEC curriculum of the ICSs indeed covers sufficient similar grounds as that of the national secondary schools.

In addition, there are many unregulated  iGCSE learning centres that function more or less like secondary schools. These also do not offer any courses akin to the national curriculum compared to the ICSs. Why are these centres and the 100 international schools do not “pose-a-threat-to-national-unity” but ICS’s UEC recognition do begs a clear answer from those who has come up with this line of argument.


Bye Bye Unifi, Hello Maxis Fibre!

Unifi broadband has been taking customers for granted. It charges higher fees & forces IPTV subscription upon subscribers. Maxis Fibre, riding on Unifi’s backbone for the “last mile” presents a better & cheaper alternative where internet speed of 30 Mbps is consistently provided.

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After a lot of considerations and patience with TM’s Unifi broadband internet service, the last straw snapped. After yet another “throttling & upgrade” ploy where we experienced a typical  slow down of internet speed follow by another call to “upgrade to 50 Megabits per second (from 30 Megabits per second) for RM10 extra”, we made up our minds to switch.

With the final RM15 bill paid, officially our Unifi subscription ended!

What was stopping the switch

  1. Change of broadband provider necessitates a change in telephone number. But our landline only rings at most once a week! Hardly anyone will reach for any of us via our landline. We doubt most of our contacts even know our landline numbers! Thus the change of landline telephone number is no longer a consideration for us.
  2. The fastest (and cheapest, bit by bit) provider, Time dotcom may come to our residential area. I had contacted Time a few times, they could not say if their service will ever reach my part of USJ (they are at USJ 9 business centre already). Thus we would have to rule out Time as a potential replacement for Unifi. This leaves just Maxis Fibre. And Maxis Fibre did not get a good review when it was launched.

What favoured the switch

  1. Maxis Fibre has been giving a good promotion. For the same speed of 30 Megabits per second (Mbps), the price differential between Unifi and Maxis Fibre is RM40 per month. With a price guarantee of 24 months, compared to Unifi, we will be saving close to RM1,000.
  2. Unifi which forces subscribers to pay a minimum of RM25 extra for HyppTV that is devoid of good channels and hence not viewed by most “forced subscribers”. Thus this not only adds extra to Unifi’s bill but the bad taste felt by subscribers for being taken for a ride (as opined by this author before) is the driver that pushes us to switch. Channels being taken out suddenly with no replacements are the norm.
  3. Bouts of “throttling followed by offer to upgrade” became too frequent and this ploy got stale. We hardly get internet speed that is anywhere near the 30 Mbps that we have paid for.
  4. The poor customer service of TM Unifi with no-follow up after complaints by subscribers like us is another push factor.

Anyone wishing to switch will need to do so soon. I was informed by the Maxis people that this promotion will end soon .

Maxis Fibre’s deal… any good?

We are getting the same package of 30 Mbps speed as our previous Unifi package. The internet speed tests have always turn in a good result which ranged from 20 Mbps to 32 Mbps (Downloading) and 7 Mbps to 31 Mbps (uploading). Maxis Fibre essentially is riding on Unifi’s backbone for the “last mile” to the customers. The difference… it could be that Maxis Fibre is not as congested as Unifi.

This speed was recorded at around 4 pm, much faster than we ever get from Unifi!

We do not have to be forced to pay for any IPTV that we do not need. This together with the higher price for the 30 Mbps deal of Unifi means we are paying RM40 less (if we put GST as “zero rated” for both players).

We are still getting a landline. And unlike Unifi’s phone service whose landline phone calls are free only for landline-to-landline calls, Maxis Fibre gives us free calls to all networks, including mobile phones numbers. Thus Maxis Fibre subscribers like us will not have to pay extra if we use the landline to call mobile phones.

In addition (though we have not yet found out how to activate this service), Maxis Fibre gives us free subscription to iflix video on demand service.

The router that came with MaxisFibre is modern and functional.

So far, the internet speed is good. The router that came with the package gives both a 2.4 GHz and a 5 GHz wifi channel. But for some reasons, devices like our security webcams that need to be logged into the network at all  times have issues with this router. Luckily we have another router for these devices to logged on to and this solved the problem.

First impression of Subang Airport Skypark Link

The new Skypark Link provides the missing link between Subang Airport and the network of public transport in the Klang Valley. The service should alleviate traffic congestion around the airport and reduce traffic jams on Subang Airport road, especially on peak hours. The pluses & minuses of the service are laid out in this article.

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Subang Airport is popular but… mind the traffic jams!

Many people living in the western and northern parts of the Klang Valley, Subang Airport will be their first choice for taking domestic flights. This is because of the relative proximity of Subang Airport to most parts of the Klang Valley.

When I was working and living in Penang, managing a university college, I tried to spend some time with my family at least once every 4 – 6 weeks. Subang Airport which is only 13 km from my home in USJ was my favourite airport to commute between Penang and home.

However, Persiaran Lapangan Terbang Subang (Subang Airport Road) is notorious for traffic jams, especially during peak hours and whenever there is a heavy downpour.

For my usual early morning flights to Penang, the same journey from USJ to Subang Airport would take only 15 minutes!  Because of this, I would usually plan my journey to depart from Subang Airport as early in the morning as possible. Likewise, I usually would try to arrive at Subang Airport from Penang after 8:30 pm to avoid the peak hour’s crawl, especially around the Citta Mall area.

Once it took my wife over 2 hours to travel the 13 km from USJ to pick me up at Subang Airport during off-peak hour of around 8 pm. There were two accidents, one of each side of the road! The return journey was a little better, it took just over 90 minutes.

Enter Subang Skypark Link

When news of the test run of Subang Skypark Link broke, I was naturally delighted. Although I no longer work in Penang, the introduction of this service from KL Sentral to Subang Airport (Skypark Terminal) via Subang Jaya station is a great development. Subang Skypark Link has the potential to reduce traffic on the Subang Airport Road and allows air passengers a more dependable mode of transport to other parts of the Klang Valley.

The intermediate stop at Subang Jaya station is a great move as this station is the interchange for both the LRT and KTM Kommuter services. Thus passengers have a choice of connections  from the Subang Skypark train where the LRT (Kelana Jaya Line) will link up with the Sri Petaling line at Putera Heights Station. For KTM Kommuter passengers, the train service to Port Klang is accessible via Subang Jaya station.

Test-riding Subang Skypark Link services

My wife and I decided to take advantage of the month-long free test-ride of Subang Skypark Link to check out the new rail service recently. We began our ride from Subang Jaya to Skypark Terminal. The KTM staff was polite and helpful. Of course KTM would not give us a free ride from Subang Jaya station to KL Sentral. There was already the LRT or Kommuter train that ply that route too (and we would have to pay!).

Here is my two cents’ worth on this service.

The confusing platform at Subang Jaya Station

Both KTM Kommuter heading to KL Sentral (opposite direction) & Skypark Link trains share the same platform, a bit confusing for commuters!

At the Subang Jaya train station, the Skypark Link train shares the same platform with KTM Kommuter train. This is fine as this is common practice for KTM Kommuter services and with good announcement system and signages on train, commuters will be well informed. However in this case the KL Sentral bound Kommuter train was using the same platform as Skypark Link train but travel on the opposite direction! So shall we look left or right for our train?

The 3-coach Skypark Link trains look refurbished!

Distinctive orange colour scheme, the 3-coach Skypark link train looks very unique.

The dull looking roof of the coaches of Skypark Link makes these look like refurbished rolling stock.

Skypark Link trains use a distinctive orange paint on its bodywork. This is good as it distinguishes the 3-coach trains from the normal Kommuter trains. However, looking at these Skypark Link trains from the outside, they look like refurbished rolling stocks where the top of the trains look dull giving the impression that these coaches have been lying around idle for a while!

However, once inside the coaches, the bench-type seats and railings are well designed, cleaned with the interior brightly lit.

Spacious interior of Skypark Link’s train. Bench-type seats give more standing & baggage room.

“Scenic” Route

The track from Subang Jaya station to Skypark Terminal actually first goes west, towards Batu Tiga station but veers to the right shortly after passing by Empire Shopping Mall (on the left) near Subang Racquet & Golf Centre. It traverses the Federal Highway and Persiaran Kerjaya via two “tunnels” . It then passes by two golf clubs on the right, with the Glenmarie industry area on its left. The track also rises above North Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE) and Subang Airport Road (near Ara Damansara Medical Centre). After that it follows the course of Sungai Damansara on its right before arriving at Skypark Terminal, just opposite Subang Airport. Although the brochure indicated that the journey from Subang Jaya station to Skypark Terminal would take 7 minutes, our test-ride took about thrice as long, at around 20 minutes (the return journey took around 15 minutes).

The final stretch of the Skypark link route passes through some scenic golf courses before approaching Subang Airport. (Source of map: Google Map, the Skypark Terminal to Subang Jaya station route is highlighted in red)

The new track is built from Skypark Terminal station to Subang Jaya station. From Subang Jaya station onward, it shares the same track as the existing KTM Kommuter line.

Nice Skypark Terminal station but….

The Skypark Terminal station is very nicely built. It is spacious and well lit.

Spacious walkways of Skypark Terminal station.

But I wish there is more than just one escalator for each platform as many commuters will have baggage to carry and it is a pain to carry these while walking down the stairs. Of course there are the lifts for the disabled which is good.

Both platforms are served with only one escalator each!

The passageway leading to the exit is spacious. The Customer Service centre is located just at the exit.

Ticket machines are already installed. But on the day of our visit, none of these are operational. I think the ticket system will also accept Touch N Go cards.

Ticket machines are installed but as of May 18, 2018 fares have not been announced yet.

Clear LED information boards are strategically located in several places, informing commuters of the train services. I hope the information on this line could be “live” and constantly updated as in the LRT system.

LED signboards giving information on train services are strategically located.

Skypark Terminal Station is  located at the far end of the car park opposite Subang Airport terminal which means that commuters will have to use the single overhead bridge to cross Subang Airport Road.

Wide entrance to Skypark Terminal.

Skypark Terminal station, viewed from the car park which looks neglected.

Although the “direct route” from the entrance of Skypark Terminal Station to the overhead bridge to reach Subang Airport is around 300 m, if one is to use the covered walkway, the distance will be another 200m at least.

A pre-existing overhead bridge links the car park plus Skypark Terminal walkway to Subang Airport. This allows travellers to cross the busy Subang Airport Road & access roads within Subang Airport safely.

Hence there is no fully enclosed (and sheltered) walkway between Subang Airport and Skypark Terminal. And the walk from Skypark Terminal station to Subang Airport can be very taxing for those who are travelling with a lot of baggage.

The walkway running the perimeter of the car park to the overhead bridge, has only a roof which does not fully protect the travellers from the elements.

The overhead bridge to cross Subang Airport Road is serviced by a lift which is a little bit on the small side, especially troublesome for those with large-sized luggage.

The walkway is joined with the overhead bridge where a lift helps travellers to move up 3 flights of stairs.

A small lift is provided at both ends of the overhead bridge. These are a bit small for those with a lot of baggage.

The overhead bridge is facilitated with ramps on both ends which means that commuters with bags or those on wheelchairs can roll up or down the staircase at both ends.

A ramp is found on each end of the overhead bridge.

Once you have arrived at Subang Airport, you need to remember that the overhead bridge brings you to the first floor of the airport. Again, if you have a lot of baggage, you will need to navigate to the escalator to get down to the ground floor for check-in etc.

The overhead bridge ends at the first floor of Subang Airport terminal building.

Plus points

  1. The Skypark Terminal Link provides a more reliable (compared to cars) for air passengers to get to / from Subang Airport.
  2. The journey time (when fully operational) of less than half an hour from the heart of KL (KL Sentral) and 7 minutes from Subang Jaya station means the “last mile” for air travel using Subang Airport is that much more certain. This is provided KTM does not practice train cancellations, delay etc. that are the common grouses of commuters relying on KTM Kommuter services.
  3. The link provides a much needed linkage between Subang Airport and KLIA / KLIA2 via the combination of ERL-Skypark Link. This will facilitate travellers that need to shuttle between the two airports to catch flights, especially domestic flights via Subang Airport.
  4. Skypark Terminal station, aside from some minor quarks (lack of escalators for both “going up” and “going down”, is spacious, with good LED signages.

Minus points

  1. Skypark Link needs to share the rail track with KTM Kommuter from Subang Jaya Station towards KL Sentral (and vice versa). This means any delays due to congestion on this track will have an impact on the timing and reliability of the service.
  2. The lack of a seamless linkage between the Skypark Terminal Station and Subang Airport present a challenge for travellers with young children and lots of baggage. The designated partially-covered  walkway, requires users to go around the perimeter of the car park, adding considerable distance for travellers to walk. As this walkway only has a roof, travellers are exposed to the elements if there is a heavy rain.
  3. The sharing of KTM Kommuter’s rail track from Subang Jaya Station towards KL Sentral means that Skypark Link’s train services will be subjected to the congestion experienced by KTM Kommuter users currently. Thus travellers using this service, compared to the ERL, will have to budget at least another 30  to 45 minutes extra time to use Skypark Link if they do not wish to run a risk of missing their flights at Subang Airport. A simple solution may be to just concentrate the Skypark Link trains to ply between Subang Jaya station and Subang Airport, where the track (aside from a small stretch between Subang Jaya and Batu Tiga station) is fully dedicated for the Skypark Link. This will inconvenient travellers who have to transfer either from KTM Kommuter or the LRT (coming from KL Sentral).  However the LRT service is a lot more reliable. The journey via LRT from KL Sentral to Subang Jaya will take around 35 minutes which is not too long compared to having the risk of delays.

A good addition to public transport

Despite the shortcomings, I think the Skypark Link train services is a good addition to the Klang Valley’s public transport network. The interchange with other mode of public transport  at KL Sentral and Subang Jaya stations provide more travel options to travellers compared to the current over reliance on road transport. It will be better if the reported service intervals of once every hour (from June 01, 2018) could be increase during peak hours for flights (such as early in the morning and from 6 pm to 8 pm).

At the time of writing this article, the fares for the two stages of Skypark Link services have not been announced. I would expect that a fare of  RM10 or lower for the full KL Sentral to Skypark Terminal (Subang Airport) and RM3 or lower between Subang Jaya and Skypark Terminal will be fair and will attract good ridership.

13th May 1969 my little story (pre- & post- GE14)

I echo here YB Lim’s advice for all Malaysians, regardless of whichever side of the political divide we stand, to take the opportunity offered to us after the 14th General Election (GE14) to bury the ghost of May 13th forever. But the lessons of May 13th should always be taught to younger generations so that the same will not happen again.

Commentary (May13, 2018):  The inspiration to share my little May 13th story came from a letter by senior politician, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, published in Malaysiakini (the pdf version is available here).

I echo here YB Lim’s advice for all Malaysians, regardless of whichever side of the political divide we stand, to take the opportunity offered to us after the 14th General Election (GE14) to bury the ghost of May 13th forever. But the lessons of May 13th should always be taught to younger generations so that the same will not happen again. We should learn from Northern Ireland (my 2nd homeland!) of what communal distrust and sectarian divide can do to a nation.

We should be proud of ourselves as Malaysians. We have, through the resolution and courage shown the world that ours is a democratic nation. There is something among Malaysians that money simply cannot buy! The message from YB Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal (in one of his videos) perhaps sums up the feeling of many against money politics, “the RM500, RM10,000 or RM1,000 that you’re given will not make you a millionaire….. our dignity is not for sale.”

I think many Malaysians who are in the public service, the police and the military deserve our gratitude for coming out of their comfort zone and voted with their conscience. Without their support, the outcome of GE14 could have been very different.

Together, we have shown the world that Malaysians are no zombies when it comes to expressing our democratic rights!

It is time for reconciliation. A matured democracy shall always accommodate differing political views. Just because someone do not subscribe to your political view does not make her/him less of a Malaysian or a subject of hatred.

The confidence given by Malaysians to the present Pakatan Harapan regime does not mean that we have given the politicians a blank cheque.  This is my response when asked by BFM radio on what I want from the new regime:

(link: https://twitter.com/Everboleh/status/994430242969108482)


First published: May 14th, 2004, edited version published on May 13th, 2018

As a young boy aged 6+ during the May 13th incident in 1969, my memory of this event is still good.

However, a lot of the younger generation today seem to have no memory of this significant turning point of Malaysia’s history. I feel sad about this. (and the local TV, TV3 had an item on this last night).

My little Story about 13th May 1969:

I still remember on this faithful day, everything was ‘normal’, at around 6:45am, my dad cycled to his school to teach (about 4 km away) and I was already up and about (I was attending afternoon session at school) making a nuisance of myself to the adults. Then suddenly, at around 7:00 am, dad cycled back in a hurry and I saw a lot of people rushing back……curfew was imposed.

We were shielded from the bulk of the troubles as Ipoh was relatively unaffected by the events in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. I was too young to comprehend the magnitude and the seriousness of the event. All I remembered of that few days was: the adults were very tensed.

On the first day of curfew, dad and granddad went to the sundry shop (just after dad had cycled back in the morning) and bought a lot of food stuff. I was not allowed out of the house or the garden on the first day. By the second day, things seemed to have calmed down. I was allowed out (I think by then the curfew was lifted for a couple of hours for that day). But I went to the field opposite my house to play. I was warned by dad to get back into the house within the hour but I stayed around the play gound at the field for longer than usual (after all I was caged up for one full day already!)….

Then I saw a couple of police on petrol in the area and off I went jumping into the drain next to the field to hide from them….(I remembered being told that if I were caught after curfew hours outside the house, the police would lock me up).

As I was hiding in the drain, I could hear that the police petrol had passed but I dared not leave the drain for a few more minutes as I was afraid that they might turn back towards me. Then……I felt itchiness and a sharp pain around my groin and then my buttocks. This sensation was occuring at more than one spot!

…..My posterior was very close to the nest of a colony of fire-ants! These little guys then attacked me or more like my sensitive areas to protect their colony. Those days we ddin’t wear brief until you were close to 10 or 11 and of course little boy  all would wear shorts!

I ran from the drain, but dared not cry out loud (for fear of the police) even though the pain was terrible. I screamed when I got home. I only allowed my dad to see the ‘damage’ (mum and the rest of the family were not allowed near me!) My posterior, including my ‘3 pieces of inheritance from my ancestors’ were sore for days…..

I promised myself then that I would never hide in the drain again, even if I was playing with my friends, a promise I kept for the nest 5 days…

That was my personal memory of the whole May 13 incident as a young boy of not-yet 7 in age. But little did I know then, there were many things that happened in that few days that had changed the course of history for my country.

The National Economic Policy and other measures implemented by the government post May 13, 1969, had changed the economic and political landscape for my country forever. This paved the way for Malaysia to withstand the economic challenges of the 1997/98.

For many years this subject (of May 13) has been tabooed for all. But I feel that youngsters should be told what went on and more importantly, what we all have learned from it (or have we?)

In 1979, I was fortunate enough to have parents (who were working as a teacher/a clerk) that sacrificed their pension money to pay for my studies in the UK. There, the first thing I did was to look through the library of my technical college to see if I could find something on this event. After a few months of searching, I located a journal called something like “World Event- day by day” and I had the chance to read up on the foreign reports (foreign perspective) about May 13th, 1969 for the first time and understood some of the causes of this unfortunate episode of our history as a nation.

One thing is sure: we must not allow this to happen again, NEVER! But we must remember and remind our younger generations of this incident to ensure that the lessons learned are not forgotten and more importantly incident like this shall never happen again.

And one small lesson: do not play inside a drain, if you do, watch out for fire ants!

Learning to work with WordPress plugins & add-ons

Due consideration must be given when applying plugins to WordPress software, especially when a plugin is an “add-on” to a core plugin for a page builder. Incompatibility after an update may render elements of an “add-on” not functioning & thus losing your content.

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When this blog was hosted under WordPress.com with a domain name registration using the “free hosting” package (which is no longer available to new registrants), the decision to update plugins was not provided to subscribers. WordPress.com takes the responsibility to update/upgrade plugins and solves any technical issues that might appear. All themes and plugins offered under WordPress.com are “tried and tested”.

This makes life relatively easy for the subscribers, with one big major drawback. The themes and plugins available under the “free hosting” being pathetically few in numbers and provide only a plain, “vanilla” version of WordPress.

[In fact, the “free hosting”  is not really free if you want to use your own domain e.g. theplantcloner.com as you have to pay for the registration of the domain as well as the “redirection” of the “free hosted” site to your domain name. This came to US$18 for my package, unfortunately, this package is no longer available.]

If you want features, you got to pay a lot more!

Only if you pay for the “Business” package (at US$25 per month) then you can install any plugin (I think these have to be pre-verified by WordPress.com as well). The other “cheaper” packages; “Premium” at US$8 per month and “Personal” at US$4 per month only give you a better selection of themes.

Image Source: https://https://wordpress.com/pricing/

Thus it was not surprising that when I gained more confidence in working with the WordPress software I found the limitations of my “free hosting” package not something I could live with. Hence the consolidation and relocation of this blog to a “self-hosted” WordPress site in Mar 2018. WordPress (under WordPress.org) is offered as an open source software.

Plugins galore but which are the most suitable?

I installed a lot of plugins and test-run many more before settling with a core number of around 30 plus plugins. The most useful, as far as the design and customization of the look-and-feel of my site was concern were the page builder plugins. There are many different “brands” of page builders. After trying and testing a few major page builders (you can identify these as “major” plugins by the number of downloads and reviews shown), I had settled down for the free version of Elementor. The reason was clear, other page builders (the free versions) might have more features and had downloaded more often, with better reviews, Elementor was the easiest to use.

“Add-on” plugins are specially designed to expand the functionalities of the core features of page builders, some are specific for a brand of page builder, such as Elementor while some may be meant for another page builder brand, but some of its features may be compatible with Elementor.  I applied a few features, called “elements” from these “add-ons” to make my website and blog look more aesthetically pleasant. Page builders like Elementor also add a lot more functionalities at my disposal.

Should I update the plugins?

When you self-host your website using WordPress, you will have to decide if you need to update your plugins and themes (as well as the core WordPress software) when these are available. Generally, the WordPress software itself will highlight which plugins need to be updated. You can also check the relevant plugin page under WordPress.org (right inside your WordPress software) for compatibility.

Thus for “standalone” plugins, I think if you go by the compatibility indicator, you are pretty safe in installing the update in most cases. However, if you have “add-ons” to a key plugin such as Elementor, the end result may be very troubling, as I found out.

Where is my Post Carousel? Where is my Modal Box?

I had installed three “add-ons” for page builder, two of which were specifically meant for Elementor while the third, “Widgets Bundle for Siteorigin” was meant for another page builder named Siteorigin. Somehow the widgets from “Widget Bundle“ worked well with Elementor as well as the native WordPress editor.

The attractiveness of “Widget Bundle” was that many of its elements were installed as widgets. Widgets are small additional features that you can apply to almost anywhere in your website whereas most of the page builder’s add-on features are only available within the confine of the plugin. Thus if you are not editing a post or a page using the page builder’s interface, these additional features are not available.

One particular widget, “Post Carousel” from “Widget Bundle” was very useful. It allowed me to put a random selection of my blog posts in a carousel at the front page of my website. However, one day, after doing the routine updating of plugins, I discovered to my horror that “Post Carousel” was missing from my front page. Mysteriously, “Widget Bundle for Siteorigin” too was missing from my list of plugins! I tried to re-install “Widget Bundle” but was informed that the folder for it was already in the system! I had to search, test and re-configure another, standalone plugin to return Post Carousel to my front page. But this plugin was not as features-rich as the one from “Widget Bundle”.

Then the next shock came just a day before this piece was written. The Modal Box which came via “Premium Addons for Elementor” went missing from my front page! A Modal Box is a box (text & image) that pops up when a page is loaded. I used it to welcome and inform my readers redirected from theplantcloner.com of how to find old articles. I resorted to using the “Alert” element, native to Elementor to replace the Modal Box. But “Alert” does not pop up when visitors come to the front page. “Alert” also does not come as a widget which would have allowed me to insert it near the top of the front page. Instead, I had to contend with putting the “Alert” box right at the bottom of the page (due to the design of my theme). Hardly an ideal location to carry a welcome message!

Lessons learned    

  1. Not all updates bring better utility and functionality to your WordPress software.
  2. If you install “add-ons” to a popular plugin, you will need to be aware of incompatibility of these add-ons upon an update of the core plugin.
  3. It is better to look for a standalone plugin (e.g. Post Carousel) to do what you want than to use a widget from one of the “add-ons”.
  4. Elements from add-ons that are compatible with the core page builder such as Elementor at installation may be rendered useless upon upgrading (e.g “Widget Bundles for Siteorigin” was fully compatible with Elementor but when the latter was updated, problems arose!).
  5. It is better to live with the native elements from a page builder.
  6. You must check your website regularly to spot missing content due to plugin issues.