Why Can’t We Learn from Our ASEAN Neighbours?

By A. Jeyaraj

There have been a number of cases of pedestrians being knocked down at pedestrian crossings. Once it happens there is a hue and cry and soon the incident is forgotten, till the next one. I feel that we can learn some lessons from our neighbours on this issue.

Recently, I visited Chiang Mai with my family and we had to do a lot of walking to see the heritage temples. We were hesitant to cross the road at pedestrian crossings based on the experience we have back home, but we realised that in Chiang Mai, the motorists stop and give way to pedestrians. In a number of places the drivers stopped and waved at us to cross the road. The same is true in Brunei where I have not been for 15 years since my retirement and recently at my mother-in-law’s funeral I was pleased to note that motorists do stop for pedestrians.

How is it that drivers in our neighbouring countries have been trained to give pedestrians right of way at pedestrian crossings, except those in Malaysia. Where have we gone wrong? The reason most touted is lack of enforcement. The government is talking of transformation, but we are yet to solve basic problems.

On another issue, I visited the toilet at Tesco Lotus and found it clean, dry and not smelly. Each cubicle had toilet paper and a dustbin, with signs admonishing not to throw toilet paper into the bowl. My wife informed me that the ladies toilet was also clean. The toilet at Tesco Extra, Ipoh Garden however was the usual despicable mess. Where is enforcement?

In Thailand, the toilets in the temples provide their own slippers and we have to remove our shoes and use their slippers to keep the toilet clean. In one temple they announce this in English.

When I spoke of the cleanliness of toilets during our editorial meeting, everyone agreed that toilets in Thailand are clean. It is a fact. Dirty toilets are the norm in Malaysia. Why can’t we keep our toilets clean?

When it comes to the issue of smoking, in Chiang Mai, notices are pasted all over the town with “No Smoking, fine 2000 Baht”. I did not notice people smoking in public places, but saw Western tourists smoking in restaurants. Back in Ipoh, a ‘No Smoking’ policy was implemented recently in a number of public places in Ipoh including Polo Ground. I am told that people are smoking in Polo Ground as well as in other no smoking zones. Where is enforcement? There goes our ‘No Smoking’ policy. Customers also smoke in restaurants with ‘No Smoking’ signs and when I complain to the boss, he says he does not want to lose his regular customers.

In Chiang Mai there is a moat about 6km long spanning the town. The water is stagnant and I cannot say for sure whether it is dirty or clean. There are fountains along the canal. Though the moat is in the town, I did not see any floating garbage.

In Ipoh, from my house I can see Jalan Raja bridge crossing Sungai Pari in Kampung Manjoi. Before dawn, people come in cars, pickups and bicycles and dump garbage into the river from the bridge. This is our mentality.

In Chiang Mai, the staff in the hospitality sector and traders in food courts and night markets are conversant in English and we could communicate; albeit sometimes with difficulty. If we want to attract more tourists, people in relevant businesses must be able to speak English.

The hotel I stayed provided breakfast and the staff at the reception counter were managing the breakfast section. They were cleaning the place and washing cups and plates. When I looked into the kitchen, I noticed that they were doing the cooking as well. The staff at the reception counter were multitasking.

In Malaysia we could learn from this. Instead of being choosy, our fresh graduates must realise that to be employed they must be prepared to do all types of jobs, even if they don’t like it.

I have visited Siem Reap, Bali and Bangkok and the situation is similar. These countries have come a long way to give tourists a good impression.

Why can’t we do the same?

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