Saturday, 26 March 2011

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur Central Market

Strolling past fruit and sundry vendors that line colorful Petaling Street, this November morning’s journey runs through Chinatown on its way to the Central Market.

Located in the heart of Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia, the closed-air market is a baby blue and white two-story building.  Formerly a wet market, the pungent, balmy air just outside, smells of fresh shrimp and cuttlefish hawked by the vendors positioned along the building’s outer perimeter.

Once inside the building, it turns into a vibrant lesson in Malaysian culture. Malaysia is a culturally diverse country and while the majority of the country is Muslim, there is also a strong Indian and Chinese presence as well as the Baba-Nyonya.

Baba Nyonya is a term used to describe the descendants of Malay women and Chinese men who married after Chinese settlement in the fifteenth century. Though there is a defined Chinese influence, the Baba Nyonya have developed a style and cuisine all their own.

The market boasts a multitude of shops vending affordable and original artwork, textiles, and souvenirs. Indian shops sell iron and brass castings of various Hindu deities while the Chinese vendors sell assortments of various incarnations of Lord Buddha.

In between, devote Muslims sell artistic and inspiring written Arabic phrases from the Koran and baju mals, the traditional Muslim wardrobe worn to Mosque. While most of the products are local to the various Malaysian cultures, products also come from Indonesia and Myanmar.

While the shopping is a unique experience, more unique are the Fish Spas. On the east edge of the market, on the first floor, are giant tanks full of tiny fish. Though the market used to be a hub for culinary fish, these fish serve a very different purpose.

Sitting on cushioned benches surrounding the tanks, with their pants rolled up, are giggling tourists and Malay locals alike. Customers of the spa dip their feet into the tank where hundreds of tiny fish swarm their legs, eating off dead skin cells.

To the unseasoned fish spa participant, the experience is exceedingly ticklish and the average time one can leave their leg is roughly thirty seconds before yanking it out in a fit of laughter. Those with a little more experience simply sip coffee as the fish make a meal of their epidermis.

While thirty seconds at a time is all I could stand, the proprietor looked at me with scorn as I surrendered at about minute two. The cost was twenty-five ringgit for twenty minutes and it is considered impolite to abandon the process even a second early.

After my feet have been chomped clean, I go upstairs where there are a multitude of reflexology clinics specializing in the art of foot massage. Since I had been walking all over the country and foot care was becoming a theme of the day, the twenty-minute rubdown was greatly enjoyed.

With my appendages rubbed down, greased up and free of dead skin cells, it was time to make my way back downstairs for a rich coffee and pastry at the elaborate food court.

After scarfing down some local noodles and a tapioca bao, which is Vietnamese, I begin the long walk back to the beautiful Istana Hotel located just a quick walk from the Petronas Towers, the tallest twin buildings in the world, where I will join other tourists on a journey to the top of Malaysia tallest building.

Sharp rise in human trafficking to Malaysia

The Indian embassy in Malaysia has, in a message to the state police, conveyed its concern over the growing menace of human traffick-ing to Malaysia from this part of Bihar.

Kishanganj SP Ranjit Kumar Mishra, confirming the message from the Indian embassy, said a probe conducted after four boys escaped from Ma-laysia and landed at Kishanganj on March 23 has disclosed that the racket had assumed gigantic proportions with its wide network spread over to Chennai and Siliguri.

An FIR lodged by escapee Jehangir Alam with the Kochadhaman police station states the traffickers modus operandi. Zila parishad member and Congress leader Lalit Kumar, his brother Luxman, their two cohorts Zabul and Anuj and Pak agent Rana have been charged with human trafficking. Indian traffickers are in cahoots with Pakistan agents in Malaysia who take care of the racket in Malaysia. An NGO is also under scanner, police said.

The FIR has been lodged under sections 467, 468, 471, 420, 120(B) IPC, among others, and 12/16 of Bandhuva Majdoor Unmoolan Act, according to SDPO PK Das.

Alam told TOI, adding inducing fear of arrest by police and subsequent jail term, they made us obey their orders.

Yemenis admire Dr M and Malaysia

SANA'A: It was Mohamed Ahmad's first day to Tahrir Square to join the anti-government protesters.

And the 28-year-old tailor outdid himself. He stuck a number of small Yemeni flags on his head and wore a protest bandana as a tie.

The tailoring business has been a bit slow of late because people are uncertain of what would happen in the future so they have been holding on to their money.

So Mohamed decided to come to the square and sell anti-government bandanas, caps, stickers and the country's flags.

“The protests are outpourings coming from the heart. So people are buying all these things as keepsakes to remember the moment,” he said.

One of those with anti-government protest souvenirs is 29-year-old Marwan Amery.

“It is a youth revolution. We want to make Yemen just like Malaysia.

“In just 10 years, we have seen how Malaysia has developed rapidly economically, in education, finance, tourism, and industries.

“Malaysians have gone all over the world to study and have come to their country with good thinking and good ideas' to contribute.

“We have watched Malaysia blossom and we want that for our own future. Is that too much to ask,” he said.

Marwan believed Malaysians owed it to all Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who during his 22-year tenure as Prime Minister, transformed Malaysia to the position it is today.

“Are Dr Mahathir Mohamad's ancestors from Yemen by any chance? Could they have come from Hadramont (in Yemen)? A lot of Malaysians have blood ties there,” asked a hopeful Marwan.

Yemenis as a whole have high regard for Malaysia and in particular Dr Mahathir.

Marwan wishes his own president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for 32 years, would have done half as much for his country.

“Saleh has done nothing for us,” he said.

For him, Saleh and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are two sides of the same coin.

“But at least Gaddafi is consistent so his people know what they are dealing with.

“But Saleh is sly. He says one thing and does something else and he changes his word all the time.

“I think if Saleh is left to continue, in the future he can be as brutal as Gaddafi has been to his people. That is why we must get him out now,” he said.

It has been seven weeks now since the anti-government protesters have camped out at the square with the aim of kicking their president out.

And they seem to be closer to reaching their goal as ministers, ambassadors, and key army figures have now backed their protest, after the March 18 deadly attack when snipers on rooftops, loyal to the regime, shot at unarmed protesters, killing 56 and injuring hundreds of others.

Amar Attam is also keen on seeing the end of Saleh.

He said all the concessions Saleh was trying to make now including an early exit, early elections, offers of a dialogue, making sure he hands over power to “safe hands” were pointless.

“He didn't do good in his younger years and ruling the country for 32 years ... So I don't expect him to change and do good now in his later years.

“He is a liar and a murderer. Why couldn't we have a president like Dr Mahathir Mohamad?”

When pointed out that Dr Mahathir had little tolerance for anti-government street protests, Amar retorted: “If we had a democratic country and a leader like Dr Mahathir who cared for his people and made sure the country and its people prospered, then we would have no need for street protests!”

Malaysian auto group sees record sales

Malaysia's auto sales are on track to grow 2 percent to a record 618,000 vehicles this year, although production could be disrupted by parts shortages following Japan's earthquake and tsunami.

Last year, sales in Southeast Asia's largest passenger car market rose 12.7 percent to a record high of 605,156 vehicles. Malaysian Automotive Association president Aishah Ahmad said Friday that sales were up 4 percent in the first two months of this year with demand still going strong.

Japanese models account for about a third of vehicles sold in Malaysia, led by Toyota, Honda and Nissan. The three carmakers say their Malaysian factories are operating normally with sufficient stockpiles for about 3 months but prospects are clouded after that

Malaysia Needs Continuity, Says Najib

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today that continuity in administration is essential for Malaysia to expand the success that had been so carefully planned.

The Prime Minister said that Barisan Nasional wanted to stay in power because it was far more able to serve the people than "those who trade in empty dreams and promises".

"We want power not for its own sake but because we are far superior to other quarters in serving the rakyat," he said at a meet-the-people session at Kampung Kenangan Tun Dr Ismail 2 in Sungai Abong here.

Najib said the opposition did not have any sound foundation to rule the country, and their policies were polemist by design.

Najib said he adhered to the principle and approach that "a leader cannot be far from the hearts of the people."

His visits to various parts of the country were to strengthen his bond with the people and to see how far a master plan could be explained on the ground, he said.

The Prime Minister said the visits also demonstrated that there could be no barrier between a leader and the people.

Najib announced a federal government allocation of RM4.8 million to reduce flooding in the area.

He said the federal and Johor governments would contribute RM1.5 million each to develop "uptown" Muar.

Earlier, Najib, who was accompanied by his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, went on a walkabout in Muar town, meeting traders and others.

Also accompanying Najib were Johor Mentri Besar Johor Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman and his wife, Datin Prof Dr Jamilah Ariffin, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Minister of Rural and Regional Development Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, Minister of Human Resources Datuk Dr S.Subramaniam and MCA president Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek.