All posts by vwsl

Medan – a City of Surprises


Postcard from Medan

by Djoko Nademhopi



People often ask me what Medan is like. The general perception is that it is grimy and boring with nothing to do. Well it’s not like that.

I was on the plane home when I met three Malaysians who just had a golfing holiday in Medan. Not knowing what ‘a hole in one’ is or vice versa, I could not engage in golf talk. Anyway, I asked how it went. “Fantastic!” they chorused. Why all the way to play golf? The greens fees are cheap and the caddies are something else, they told me. Apparently, the caddies here are females. There must be more to golf than hitting a white ball and chasing after it in Medan. There are at least three golf courses around the city.

Medan is like that, full of surprises. It’s not just a hustling bustling city where the roads are forever macat (jammed) and nowhere to go. Medan has a lot to offer if you look for it.

It used to be a staging point for Danau Toba and Nias which is one of the best surfing spots in the world but these days tourists are increasingly spending more time in Medan.

Depending on what your interests are, there are museums, mosques, cathedrals, heritage buildings, restaurants and street life – plenty of street culture.

There are even art galleries whether you are a serious collector or just want a pretty picture to hang on your wall. Of course the art scene is not as vibrant as in Bali, Yogja or Jakarta but Medan is by no means a cultural desert.

The word “Medan” means a field, a padang. In this case a battlefield where the Acehnese fought the Deli Malays from late 16th century to the early 17th century.  It’s quite peaceful these days; the only ‘fights’ are political as each party gears up for the presidential election next year.


From a backwater Medan has grown to be the third largest city (population 2.1 million) in Indonesia. The wealth is conspicuous as more and more high rises pop up all over the place and shopping complexes are chock-a-block. The mansions here are tourist attractions – huge and ornate monstrosities with Grecian columns and Florentine embellishments.

But it’s not just skyscrapers and brand new mansions, Medanese also realise the importance of heritage and there is an attempt by both the public and private sector to preserve colonial buildings like the General Post Office. The old town hall has been incorporated into the architecture of the Grand Aston Hotel.

While there is grime – don’t expect Singapore clean – there is little crime. But having said that there has been a recent spate of bag snatching. However, Medan Police Chief Snr Comdr Nico Afinta said that Medan is still a safe place for tourists.

Like in any big city one has to take commonsense precautions with one’s property. Shootings, bag snatching and muggings are relatively rare; much depends on the area – generally it is a safe city.

The new airport at Kuala Namu is about 1.5 hours by taxi to Medan and 37 minutes by train according to the operator. The train station is right by the airport and it costs IDR80,000 (RM22) to Medan. It takes you right into the heart of downtown Medan opposite the spanking new Centre Point Mall and Kariba Hotel.

Taxis cost anything from IDR130,000 (RM36) to IDR200,000 (RM55) depending on your haggling skill. Taking a taxi brings you right to your destination and can take four passengers (if you do not have too much luggage) it can be cheaper than the train. (The current exchange rate: RM270 to IDR1,000,000).

Taxis in Medan are both metered and non-metered. The Executive (white) and Blue Bird taxis are metered. The boarding fare is IDR20,000 (RM5.50) for the first 10km. They are generally very clean and the drivers very polite. Avoid non-metered taxis.

There must be at least one hundred hotels in Medan, from posh establishments like JW Marriot, Grand Aston, Santika Dyandra, to cheaper ones like Grand Swiss-Bel, Grand Angkasa, Tiara, Danau Toba International and budget hotels. With the recent spate of power cuts it is best to avoid the budget hotels, which probably do not have generators.

There is no shortage of choice when it comes to food. Because of Indonesia’s ethnic diversity you can get Sundanese, Padang, Aceh, Minang, Batak, Betawi and even Malay cuisine (if you look hard enough, the Malays are a very small minority in Medan and I think in Indonesia, as a whole). Each region has its own unique flavour and it will take more than a weekend to try them all.

Street food is plentiful from bakso, to ayam penyet to soto to nasi uduk, mie aceh and more. They are cheap and tasty if you don’t mind mingling with the locals. There are also Chinese restaurants but also Chinese hawker food if you don’t want to spend too much. I can think of only one Indian resto (restaurants – Indonesians are prone to shorten words). And if the chilies have got to your guts by the third day take bandrake tea and you will be right as rain again.

The electrical outlets are different from Malaysia’s so bring your attachments if you want to charge up your phone or use your tablet.

Medan is an experience rather than a sterile showpiece. Soak up the atmosphere and get into the local culture if you want a good time. The people are friendly and helpful and may even show you places not in the guidebook if you ask them. As long as you are good at haggling you won’t get scalped too much; the rule of thumb is to half or one third the opening price depending on what you buy and where. The mall shops normally have fixed prices.

In the next postcard we will look at some places of interest. Meanwhile for tourist information contact:

North Sumatera Tourist Office
Jln Ahmad Yani 107
Tel: +62 061 452 8436.
Opens from 8am to 4pm

What Is a Newborn Baby’s Job? (Part 2)

Dr Shan Narayanan – Consultant General Paediatrician
Dr Shan Narayanan – Consultant General Paediatrician

Child Health

By Dr Shan Narayanan

“Life is really simple but we insist on making it so complicated.”Confucius

Babies lead a simple life. They eat, sleep and fill the nappy. Their life is thus pretty straight forward. However, their parents get very worried over these matters. The worry is out of their love for their baby.

In the last article, we looked at feeding. The best feed for the baby is breast milk. Some mothers, for various reasons (health, work or out of own choice) are not able to breastfeed partly or completely. They opt for formula feeding. In such situations, mums need to learn how to prepare the milk and sterilize the bottles to ensure babies do not develop infections.

Working mothers, who are breastfeeding, can express their milk and store it. Breast milk must always be stored in a sterilized container. If you use a pump, always sterilize it before and after use. In general, the milk can be stored as follows:

  • in the fridge for up to five days at 4°C or lower
  • for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge
  • for up to six months in a freezer.

Most newborns sleep for 16 to 20 hours a day. The sleep is intermittent with the need to feed outweighing the need to sleep and hence they sleep for 2 to 4 hours at a time. Breastfed babies get hungry more frequently than bottle-fed babies and may need to be nursed every 2 hours.

Their biological clock at this stage is not yet established. Many newborns tend to sleep all day and are awake at night. This is extremely tiring for the parents/caregivers. Thus it is not surprising if parents/caregivers lose their cool under these circumstances. Support and turns taken in caring for the newborn is important but not always available.

Every baby is different as to when he or she will sleep through the night. In general, by 2 months of age, most babies are sleeping 6 to 8 hours through the night.

Breastfed babies’ stool
Breastfed babies’ stool

It is recommended that babies are placed on their backs to sleep and not on their stomachs.  Babies who sleep on their stomachs tend to have a greater tendency towards blocking their breathing. There is a chance they may suffocate on softer bedding, as well. Once the babies are fed, they sleep, then they poop and pee to complete their job!

The urine is usually pale yellow in colour.  In the first week, as the feeding is establishing, the baby passes urine only 3 to 4 times per day. After this, both breast and bottle fed babies should pass 6 to 8 times in a day.

The initial stool passed by a newborn is called meconium. It has a thick, black and sticky consistency. The colour changes as the baby is fed. Breastfed babies have yellowish watery stools with some “seeds”. Formula fed babies have firmer stools which may be yellow to green in colour.

Stooling patterns vary from baby to baby. It is normal for babies to grunt and grimace when they stool. Breastfed babies pass more frequent stools; it may be 6 to 8 times per day. They tend to stool as they feed. Formula fed babies may stool 1 to 3 times per day.

Traditionally, fathers like well-fed and clean babies leaving the hard work to mothers. This practice is changing with younger dads getting involved in the hands-on care of the newborn – a credit to gender equality!

For more information, call Dr Shan’s clinic at Hospital Fatimah 05-546 1345 or email

Sinhalese Bar – A Relic of a Bygone Era


I refer to “Ipoh’s Nightlife Renaissance” (Ipoh Echo Issue 175) where a number of the city’s night joints which offers drinks, live music and fun for the younger generation were mentioned.

However, not being a young man anymore, I walked into this bar located in Old Town. One might wonder whether this is the Wild East! The swinging saloon doors of a Western movie, take you to a dingy bar that has not changed since it was opened in 1931.

In the bar are various kinds of liquor stacked on the racks of the glass cabinet. On the wall is a Victorian pendulum clock, a sculpture of a deer skull and a faded photo of the founder, untouched since 1931. The surroundings exude much of the decadent colonial charms of yore.

It is a well known fact that the oldest restaurant in Ipoh is the F.M.S. Bar, which was founded in 1906 by a Hainanese. It was the most celebrated watering-hole of European planters and miners and their wannabes then.

With the migration of white-collar Ceylonese to Ipoh in the late 1800s, it prompted an enterprising Sinhalese businessman to start a similar bar in Treacher Street (Jalan Bijih Timah). After the Japanese Occupation the joint was managed by his sons and they called it, “The Sinhalese Bar”, being the only one of its kind in the country.

Like the F.M.S. Bar, which was a favourite with British planters and miners, the Sinhalese Bar became a popular spot for the Ceylonese, Tamils, Malayalees and Sikhs.

These days you can find all kinds of people patronising the Sinhalese Bar. Gulping mugs of beer and relaxing in the cool comfort of the bar, one is reminded of what it must have been like in an era gone by.

S. Sundralingam

Why do clever investors make big money mistakes?


Statistics show that most equity investors, including professionals, cannot beat the stock index. Studies have also shown that more than 80 per cent of day traders lose money mainly due to transaction costs as they select shares based on hot tips. There are several reasons for their poor performance but the most frequent mistake is ‘loss aversion’. This is a psychological obstacle which has been consistently affecting their performance, especially in view of the ups and downs that is the normal behaviour of the stock market.

Loss Aversion
Some investors may object to the implication that loss aversion is a bad thing. After all, it is a very natural behaviour. They might justifiably point out that the tendency to weigh losses more heavily than gains is a net positive attitude. After all, investors who care too much about possible gains and too little about potential losses, run a great risk that can threaten their portfolios. It may appear better to care more about the share price falling than hoping for it to climb higher.

True enough; loss aversion can be helpful and is part of a conservative strategy. But an over sensitivity to loss can also have negative consequences. One of the most obvious and most important areas in which loss aversion skews judgment is in selling too early and missing the additional profit if you dare to hold it longer. Very often even clever investors who are well versed in stock selection cannot overcome this psychological fear.

What is tricky about this concept of loss aversion is that it can often lead us in the opposite direction- to hold on to a losing investment for longer than we should. I asked one of my friends why he sold a particular stock instead of selling his other holdings that he bought at higher prices? He said that he did not want to recognise the losses but preferred to lock in the profit. This is the most common mistake committed by investors because they do not want to admit their mistake of picking the wrong stock. Moreover, the profit from the sale could easily cover the losses.

Studies have shown that on average, it is easier for well managed companies to continue their good performance than for bad companies to improve their poor position. That is why we should not sell good shares too early and retain the bad shares.

How to select shares?
It is easy to master all the basic fundamental principles in stock selection. The most important criterion, in my opinion is that the stock must be ‘Undervalued and with good profit growth prospect’. I will not buy a stock which does not have this quality. In other words – buy on solid evidence of value and good profit growth – not on the basis of speculation or hot tips!

After you have bought some stocks that you think can perform well, you will have to decide when and which stock to sell. Often many investors make the mistake of selling the good ones to lock in profit early but retain those that are not performing because of their aversion to taking losses on these. Some regret their action later and may even jump back into the market to buy the same stock that they had just sold but at a higher price. Most of them do not jump back into the market for the stock and they can only watch the stock go higher and higher.

Why invest in public listed shares?
Statistics show that our Malaysian Stock Index has an average annual growth rate of about 10% which is more than most other forms of investment. You can make more than 10% if you buy really undervalued stocks with good profit growth prospect.

There is a classic saying ‘you can still buy the winning horse after the race in the stock market’. It means that you can still buy shares of really good companies after they have announced their good results.

Moreover, profit from share investment is tax free in Malaysia. You do not have to deal with people which are the most difficult from my experience, as you can never satisfy everybody. You do not have to consult anybody if you want to buy, sell or hold. Another advantage is that there is no bad debt, all cash deal.

When to sell?
After having said all that about selling too early due to the loss aversion phenomenon, we must not forget that no share can keep climbing up and up indefinitely for whatever reasons. In other words, we must not be too greedy and wait for the bubble to burst. Hence the time to sell is when the reasons you bought the share – undervalued and good profit growth prospect – are no longer
there or valid. Sometimes you have to sell to raise cash to buy another stock which is better.

Koon Yew Yin

Young Emotion – Memories from an Old Free


Book Review

By Wern Sze Gill

Young Emotion 1Student days …… Words cannot describe the beauty of its carefree days. It is a personal treasure that everyone has; one that comes alive again when you meet an old friend or when you visit your home town. Memories of how things were then, the pranks, the games, the loves…

Young Emotion, authored by Ipoh-based obstetrician and gynecologist Dr Teoh Soong Kee, is a collection of treasured memories from his days as a teenager in Penang. It was during his secondary years at the prestigious Penang Free School where his love for writing began. Young Emotion contains snapshots in poems and short stories, of student day-memories which engages the older reader to reminisce of similar happy days, while opening up to the younger reader a glimpse of life in the ‘good old days’. Not just refreshingly lucid, Young Emotion is raw and rich with the passion of a witty yet eloquent youth, who from humble beginnings, journeyed through student days with caring friends and inspiring teachers who helped shaped his life. Through the pages of Young Emotion, you will not only be transported back to your happy days as a youth, but inspire you to consider living the rest of your life with passion and purpose.

Young Emotion (117 pages) is available at Dr Teoh’s clinic at Ipoh Specialist Hospital (call Tracy 05 255 1406) or at St Peter’s church (call Jenny 05 546 0444) at a minimum donation of RM15 per copy. All proceeds will benefit the Penang Free School student fund.

From Vienna to Broadway


From Vienna To Broadway1

The PSPA Singers made their debut with a repertoire of arias in their musical presentation entitled “Voices from Vienna to Broadway” at Tandoor Grill Restaurant in Ipoh recently. Along with three prominent singers from Thailand, Sirikhwan Buathong (soprano), Thanis Sonkloe (baritone) and Salith Dechsangworn (tenor), the singers gave a rousing performance, not only through their vocal prowess but also facial expressions.

Led by music director Marianne Poh, who is herself a soprano, the show had an interesting programme, with the first half consisting of Mozart’s well-known operas, Don Giovanni and Cosi Fan Tutte, and the second half, a selection of evergreen musicals from The Sound of Music to Miss Saigon and Les Miserables.

The first half began with a solo presentation, kicked off by Marianna Poh’s rendition of L’amour est un oiseau rebelle (Love is a rebellious bird) from the 1875 opera Carmen by Georges Bizet. Then, Thai baritone, Thanis Sonkloe, took to the stage with Mozart’s Deh, vieni alla finestra from the opera, Don Giovanni.

From Vienna To Broadway2

The second part of the first half was arias from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. First was Giovinette, which was a scene at the wedding party for Zerlina and Masetto. This was followed by Là ci darem la mano where Don Giovanni, the philandering Count, tried to seduce his housemaid, Zerlina. The last aria, Eh via, buffone wrapped up the second part.

In the third part, Così fan tutte, two sisters, one blonde, and the other a brunette, discussed the men of their choice. It ended with the women sending their men to the army.

The second half of the presentation was on musicals through the ages from light to the serious, beginning with The Sound of Music from 1959. The selection of songs included Edelweiss, My Favourite Things and Do-Re-Mi.

Tracks from Miss Saigon were Sun and Moon and Last Night of the World while those from Les Miserables included I Dreamed a Dream and One Day More.

The audience asked for an encore and to their delight was awarded with not one but two additional pieces; local hit Belaian Jiwa and African hymn Siyahamba.


Mayor Bids Farewell


Mayor Bids Farewell

Ipoh City Council honoured media representatives with a dinner on Friday, November 22. The event, held at newly opened Symphony Suites along Jalan Gopeng, Ipoh, was attended by over 200 reporters, photographers and staff of news agencies in Ipoh.

It was a fitting occasion for all as the dinner was also to honour the mayor, Dato’ Roshidi Hashim, who will retire on January 2, 2014 after having helmed the Ipoh City Council for over five years.

Colour and pomp were deliberately added by the organisers led by the Council’s Public Relations Officer, Mohd Shahrizal, who insisted that attendees turn up in their most glamorous outfits to match the occasion.

The Academy Award lookalike event was accentuated with a pre-dinner red carpet welcome complete with a brief interview session at the foyer of the hotel.

Fathol Zaman Bukhari of Ipoh Echo spoke on behalf of the media representatives, as a prelude to the welcoming speech by the mayor. Roshidi was visibly moved by the overwhelming response, as most of the reporters were well acquainted with this affable man. He recounted his experiences helming the Council during his tenure as mayor and how the media had played a pivotal role in relaying his messages to Ipohites.

“I am truly indebted to you all,” he said. “For without you where would I be?” It struck a chord with the audience who gave the mayor a rousing applause for his honesty.

The dinner ended at almost midnight after prizes and gifts were given away.


Casuarina Is Back


Casuarina Is Back

Casuarina, one of Ipoh’s pioneer business-class hotel brands, is back, this time in the new township of Bandar Meru Raya.

Its management recently unveiled its best kept secret to members of the press – their convention centre, the first in Ipoh. This large, pillarless hall, now named Meru Raya Convention Centre (MRCC) has a theatre-style seating capacity of 2500 people or 150 to 170 round tables.

Casuarina@Meru also has an indoor exhibition area that can accommodate at least twenty booths of the standard size of 3ft x 3ft.

Strategically located in the heart of Bandar Meru Raya and just within walking distance from Terminal Amanjaya and Mydin Hypermarket, this 12-storey boutique, premier business-class hotel has a total of 150 guest rooms and suites, all tastefully crafted with an impeccable modern contemporary concept.

The hotel offers five room categories from Standard at a promotional rate of RM168 to Designer at RM488 per night. Promotional rates are valid from now until January 29, 2014. With the aim of making guests feel at home away from home, patrons can expect comfort in addition to a choice of a 24-hour coffee house, patisserie and club lounge.

Owned by Perak State Government’s Perak Corporation Bhd, the hotel also offers a business centre equipped with private workstation, internet, teleconferencing, fax and courier facilities, in addition to secretarial support service.


Casuarina Trees


I like to draw your attention to the casuarina trees beside the Ipoh Padang that were brought down last weekend. The PTA of St Michael’s Institution wrote to the Mayor, Dato’ Roshidi and copied Councillor David Lai our concerns regarding the health of the trees. We requested the city’s authorities verify the health of the trees and to take appropriate action to prevent any tragedy that may arise from an unhealthy tree. Earlier this year a number of trees were blown over and it was fortunate that they fell onto the Padang and not towards our school or the mosque next door.

It is sad that these majestic Casuarinas, that had defined the image of Ipoh Padang and St Michael’s Institution, had to be brought down but we fully support the action taken by the city’s authorities as the safety of our children can never be compromised. I thank the Mayor and Councillor David Lai for their prompt decision and action.

I hope that the city’s authorities will immediately replant the perimeter of the Padang with trees again but to do so within the Padang and not at the same spot where the Casuarinas were removed.

Joseph Michael Lee
PTA President
SM St Michael’s Institution

Of Veterans and Losing Faith



By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

Of veterans and losing faith - editor's desk

If the 2009 Australian eavesdropping episode on its Asean neighbours is anything but deliberate then I stand by my conviction that their dithering is for a reason. Insofar as Malaysia is concerned, I feel it is not for reasons of security per se, but more to do with the prevailing political climate then following the two vociferous Bersih demonstrations clamouring for a free and independent election.

Despite the demand for an unconditional apology from Tony Abbott, the newly-minted Prime Minister of Australia, the response has been lukewarm, to say the least. I wonder why Tony has not brushed aside the Indonesian President’s insistence with a mere, “I wasn’t the Prime Minister then, Kevin Rudd was” reply typical of how politicians in a quandary would have reacted.

Or resort to elegant silence, as a golden rule of thumb for someone in the pits. But in a Western society, of which Australia is one, such behaviour is deemed unethical and will earn the wrath of the nation and the international community.

My rambling is not aimed at placing Australia in the spotlight for its wrongdoings. Far from it, my allusion is merely an opener for a matter of lesser significance than what is ongoing in the Oceanic region. Politics, however, is not the issue here.

I respect the Aussies for one innate quality which we Malaysians find wanting. It has much to do with their attitude towards military veterans, especially their own. Australians, since the Second Boer War (1899 to 1902), have been fighting wars not in their backyards but on foreign soils.

The only time they were forced to do the inevitable was when Japanese planes bombed Darwin and their midget submarines sneaked into Sydney Harbour in an attempt to sink Allied warships at the onset of the Second World War in 1942. Otherwise, Australian troops were in harness for duties abroad all of the time.

An Australian infantry division was in Malaya propping the weak British defensive perimeter before the Japanese invasion in December 1941. They were here again during the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960) providing ground and air support for counter-insurgency operations. Their troops were recalled when President Sukarno of Indonesia decided to confront newly formed Malaysia, claiming it to be a British colonial stooge in 1962.

Those who died in these conflicts were being interred in a number of cemeteries located throughout the length and breadth of the country, including Sabah and Sarawak. And remembering their dearly departed has become an obsession with those who had served in the same outfits as the dead and the maimed.

These war-weary veterans and their families make annual pilgrimages to Taiping, Batu Gajah, Terendak, Sandakan, Labuan and Kuching to honour their kinsmen who had made the ultimate sacrifice, not for their country but the country that they had the misfortune to serve. Nothing can be more honourable than to remember these brave soldiers who died in the prime of their youth while fighting a war in a far-flung country whose affiliation they were never certain.

I had the privilege to attend one such service on Sunday, November 24 at the Esplanade in Penang. The Penang Veterans’ Association organised the morning service dedicated to fallen heroes of the Great War (1914 to 1918), Second World War (1939 to 1945), Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960), Indonesian Confrontation (1962 to 1966) and the Re-Insurgency Period (1968 to 1990).

The association, under the presidency of Major Sivarajan KM Ramathan (Retired), has been doing so without fail for the last 12 years. Quite unexpectedly, I was honoured with the responsibility of laying a wreath on behalf of retired Royal Ranger Regiment officers and men. I was touched by the gesture, which I thought strange considering my abhorrence for officialdom.

Feelings aside, I was somewhat perplexed by the conspicuous absence of serving officers from Headquarters 2nd Infantry Division, which is stationed on the island. The state government and the Police were well represented and so were the High Commissions of Australia and New Zealand and the Nepalese Embassy, including the Thai Consulate-General in Penang.

If these foreign dignitaries could make an appearance I see no reason why the local army commander could not. He could at least send a senior officer to represent the division. After all, wasn’t this an occasion to honour military personnel?

The reason is obvious. It has to do with religious belief. Since the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, which led to the ouster of Shah Pahlavi and his decadent royal entourage by Ayatollah Khomeini, the country has been overwhelmed by religious fervour that is second to none. Today paying homage to a cenotaph is considered taboo as the action would, in the words of the learned clerics, cause one to lose faith in Islam or more succinctly, hilang akidah.

If I were to go strictly by this dictate I would have been a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu and a Taoist many times over, as I had stood in reverence to an obelisk, not once but several times in my lifetime. In spite of all this my faith in my religion has never once fluttered.

Malay Muslims should be more circumspect about ceremonies to honour fallen heroes than to submit selflessly to fatwas which are man-made. I rest my case.