Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Railbus That Was No Real Bus

Look, it’s a train, no, it’s a bus….aiya, no lah, it’s a Railbus, haha

In 1987, KTM started operating a fleet of 10 Hungarian-made “railbuses”. Among the routes were :-

  1. Kulai/Singapura/Kulai
  2. Ipoh/Kuala Lumpur/Ipoh
  3. Ipoh/Butterworth/Ipoh
  4. Gemas/Mentakab/Gemas
  5. Port Klang/KL/Sentul
  6. Butterworth/Arau/Butterworth

I remember travelling once in the early 1990s from SGP to Kulai for a work assignment (my company had a factory in Bandar Tenggara).

There were many complaints though….no aircon, trains were wobbly,etc. After a few years these were withdrawn from service.

Has anyone else travelled on one of these railbuses ?

Eh-Oh! There I Go Again

This animated “3D cartoon” series, released at the turn of the century (late 1990s) quickly gained a cult status among kids and even adults.

Yes, it was the Teletubbies.  The four cutesy characters with equally chubby pot bellies in soft-toy outfits of Yellow, Green, Purple and Red were a huge draw.

Never mind if there was nothing intelligible in their “conversations” – it proved to the world that spouting gibberish could generate tons of money.  Actually the show was quite a therapeutic relaxation – especially after a hard day’s work in the office – putting the brain on idiot mode for an hour or so.

Eh-Oh!  Have I just used the wrong words?

Hah, during that time, this “Eh-Oh” exclamation became the favourite utterance in my home.   We even called each other by the names of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-laa and Po.

A Bird In Cage Is Worth Thousands In The Bush

Keeping a bird in a cage was a very popular hobby among many of the menfolk in Malaysia in the kampongs and smaller towns in the olden days, and probably the hobby might have gone the way of the dodo in modern times – or so I thought.

I was surprised when I moved to Singapore in 1984 and saw that this pastime was very much flapping and alive.   Even today, the government has allocated specific corners of HDB void decks, and playing fields for enthusiasts to hang up their feathered captives, and hear them sing (or maybe cry) and gossip about their unfeathered captors.

Oh yes, these birds are not cheap!  The record price stands at S$96,000 for a super merbok that could out-croon anything with wings.  So much truth in that age-old proverb !

Ada Udang Di Dalam Botol*

There is no hidden agenda* behind this story – just an honest recount of my childhood encounter with some dead crustaceans preserved in a bottle.

One day a relative gave us a bottle of Cincalok : upon opening, out came a smell that was awful, somewhat pungent.  My late mum put several scoops of the stuff into a dish of meat (with onions, garlic and red chilli) and steamed the mixture in a wok. 

When cooked, the smell was a lot better, but somehow, apart from my mum, no one else in the family took any liking to it.  Perhaps she was the only one with some authentic Peranakan DNA in her.

That was probably the last time ever that we ate Cincalok.

We might be the exception, because I know many other folks salivate over this heritage-class appetite-whetter.

*note : pun, alluding to the Malay proverb, “Ada Udang Di Sebalik Batu”

Hedged My Bets On A Hatchback

It was my first “proper” car after driving a couple of junks that were not not much younger than I – the Mazda 323 Hatchback.  The two-box design was all the rave in the late 70s/early 80s, and I thought it would put the “unexciting” me into the chic league!

It claimed to be miserly on fuel, with 40mpg, but I soon found out that Mazda had simply put a gearbox that was in overdrive. If one went around corners at below 20mph on 3rd gear, the whole car would shudder.  I had to insert pieces of sponge here and there to overcome the vibrations.

Many sweet memories though. It was the car in which I took my first girlfriend for a date, … and drove with her all over Malaysia,…until we got married. Gave it to my sister, when we migrated to Singapore.

All’s Not Lost On My Copy-Cub

Prior to early 1970s, all Cubs in Malaysia were sired by Honda-san.  (Our family owned a series of Cubs in succession). Then Yamaha and Suzuki decided to bring forth their own Cubs – copies of the Hondas.

In 1978, my father bought me a new Suzuki FR70. With great joy, I rode off this 2-stroke 70cc bike for the final year of my MU studies.

My late uncle remarked that we should not have bought Suzuki, since in our Hokkien dialect it sounded like “lost it all” (输输去). Nonetheless, it served me well and I did graduate.

The 2-stroke engine’s domain was in the mid-to-high rpms – at low rpm, torque was poor, unlike the rugged Honda kapcai’s. The “zhng-zhng” sound was very different from the “put-put” sound of the 4-strokers. Overall, it was a fun machine.

Close Encounters Of The Gooey Kind

I have forgotten now exactly when the first encounter took place, but I do remember how that black, gooey (some say ‘smelly’) stuff made inroads into my favourite food list.

It came in the form of a slightly viscous sauce that was generously poured over the white rolls on a plate of ‘chee cheong fun’ (猪肠粉) together with the maroon-coloured ‘sweet sauce’ (甜酱).  But initially it took much persuasion to get me to put that stuff into my mouth.  The rest is history.

Of course, this Otak Udang was also an inseparable key companion and enhancer of the famed Penang Asam Laksa.

Looking back, it intrigues me how folks can be hooked onto eating the mashed-up brains of some lowly crustaceans (don’t ask me how they died – that’s a no-brainer)