Jack Reacher in “The Visitor”  by Lee Child


Over the past two and half months, I’ve done lots of reading catching up on lost time. As one gets nearer to the finishing line, the urgency to do what you like in life gets more urgent. When you are young especially if you are in your 20s, there seems plenty of time in your hands. You tend to squander it away indulging in frivolous past times with no real benefits.

As for myself, I’ve stopped watching television completely for decades. I only watch those rare movies I think worth watching on YouTube, on the net or maybe once a blue moon in the cinema. How do I spend my time? From henceforth, how am I going to fully utilize my limited lifespan? After all, I’ve got only 7,300 days left on the assumption that I get to live for another 20 yrs. By then, I would be in my mid 70s. Will I be too old to continue with my passion ie reading. When I reach that age, my failing eyesight and health may not allow me to read any longer. That’s my worst fear. It’s as good as dead if I could not indulge in my favorite pastime.

I’ll have to accept that it’s not possible to read all the best books in the world during my lifetime. I’ll have to be selective in my reading. Maybe, a mixture of classics (dead authors), living authors (bestsellers), poems, essays, blogs etc to enrich my reading experience.

Today is Vesak Day – a public holiday. Tomorrow, I’ll commence on a 2-week course relating to my job. After which, I’ll need to attend another 2 courses to equip myself in my new role. I expect more courses which are in line with the national adage of “keep learning and upgrading” to move on with the times. I expect some free time in between lessons for the next 2 weeks. Hopefully I could read a couple of books by then. I plan to read Ken Follett’s “A Place Called Freedom”. I’ve also read some of his books. More on him on my next post.

I’ll briefly touch on my 10th book which I finished 2 days ago, Lee Child’s “The Visitor”. I was introduced many years ago to Lee Child’s books by Sultana. Link to Sultana bookstore I took up his advise and read few of his books. Lee Child is one of the few authors – just like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch character – who manages to create a fictional character as the main protagonist in all his novels.

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher started in 1997 spanning over 22 thrillers in the series until 2017, one novel each year with 2 in 2010 and the latest still in the press about to be released. His fans never grow tired of the character Jack Reacher. Tom Cruise played Jack Reacher in few of the novels when they were made into movies. But no matter how great an actor, Tom Cruise considered a short ass by American standards is poorly cast as Jack Reacher, physically who is supposed to be huge standing at 6ft 5″ – nearly 2 meters.

In Lee Child’s words,

“The stories that I love are basically about the knight-errant, the mysterious stranger. And the reason why people think that’s an essentially American paradigm is the Westerns. The Westerns were absolutely rock solid with that stuff. You know, the mysterious rider comes in off the range, sorts out the problem, and rides off into the sunset. It is just such a total paradigm, but not invented in America. That was imported from the medieval tales of Europe. The knight-errant: literally a knight, somehow banished and forced to wander the land doing good deeds. It’s part of storytelling in every culture. Japan has it with the ronin myth; every culture has this Robin Hood idea. So really, that character was forced out of Europe as Europe became more densely populated and more civilized. That character no longer had stories in Europe; it had to migrate to where the frontier was still open and dangerous, which was America, essentially. So the character, I think, is actually universal and historic, most recently, normally represented in America. I think the Westerns saw it firmly adopted by America, so yeah, right now, we think of this as a completely American character, but really, it’s more historic than that. But I’m very happy to have that reference made.”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Reacher

As one reads Lee Child’s novels, the character Jack Reacher is slowly built up over the 22 novels. Bit by bit, Jack Reacher’s biography is revealed such as where was he born, his parents (mother is a French and he could speak French well), siblings, his preferences and habits. Basically, Jack Reacher is a brilliant investigator with an army background. He is an ex-MP (Military Police) served as a Major until he got booted out due to downsize and budget cuts I suppose. Having spent his entire life in the army (he was born in an army camp), he is suddenly thrown to the civilian world. He finds it hard to adjust to civilian life. He becomes a drifter leading the nomadic lifestyle without any luggage. He got nothing with barely enough in his bank account. He survives by taking hitch hike, bus or simply walking. When his clothes are soiled, he simply throws them away and gets a new set of functional clothing from a store. He only carries a toothbrush in his pocket. No handphone, watch or jewelry. He owns nothing.

As in the book I just read, The Visitor. Jack Reacher had a big house bequeathed to him by his former CO in the army. But he could not cope with maintenance of the house, property tax, utilities bills, conservancy charges etc. He finds it cumbersome and a pain in the ass. He refuses to be “anchored” to the house. He intends to sell off the big house so that he could live off the money from the sale leading a nomadic life wandering from state to state all over the vast American continent from one motel to another! He just can’t stay long in a place. His wandering is timed in such a way that he gets into trouble or an adventure once in a year. With his lethal unarmed combat, sharpshooter and extra ordinary deductive ingrained ability to observe minute details when he’s conducting an investigation, he overcomes all the seemingly insurmountable cases coming along his way.

Back to the book, The Visitor. I’ll just say that 4 women; all ex-army officers and victims of sexual harressment were mysterious killed in their houses at their bathtubs without any clues or leads to the killer. No marks on the victims, no prints in the houses, nothing on the forensic front, no forced entry to the houses. All of them live alone in isolated neighborhoods and all of them left the army over sexual harassment.

I like that part when the 4th victim was found dead in her home at the tub submerged in army issued green camouflage paint (all victims suffer the same fate), the FBI (equivalent to our SIS/CID) engaged contractor to hack away the wall on the 2nd floor of the house and used a big crane to hoist the bathtub with the dead woman to a waiting truck. Packed the bathtub in a wooden crate and flown to the FBI forensic lab in another part of the country. The crime scene ie the bathtub is preserved in its original state delivered to one of the nation’s top pathologists. Next, the whole bathtub is sent to the X-ray room for more snaps before the body is systematically extricated for the post mortem. The X-ray films are analyzed with graphic details by the expert with all the FBI investigators and Jack Reacher surrounding the corpse in the cold room. I’m not going into more details or else I’d be accused of being a spoiler. The previous blog post on those books I read reveals too much resulting in some outcry from my readers!

If you want to find out more about Jack Reacher, The Visitor is quite an interesting read. I not only enjoy the fast paced thriller, I also find Jack Reacher a most fascinating character. He’s such an unique and enigmatic character that you will never find another similar one on earth.

Below are some pages from The Visitor

Click here to read about Jin Yong’s Chinese chivalrous novels or Wuxia 武侠 小说

Click here to read “Those in Peril” by Wilbur Smith

Posted in Langgar

Eye of Heaven – Sherlock Homes reincarnated, Japanese Stieg Larsson and others 

For the whole of Mar and April, I’ve managed to finish reading nine books at one go! In my previous life, I never had the time to read books and reflect on my life viz a viz syn with the reading experiences. Reading is a luxury I could ill afford when I was so busy struggling to eke out a living driving taxi for nearly 12 hours a day everyday. When I’ve given up taxi, I was put on nearly 2 months of intensive training to prepare for my new job. That gave me some breather in between class lessons and over the weekends when there was no class. It allowed me to enjoy my favorite hobby.

Not only have I managed to read all the nine bestsellers, I also acquired 7 WSQ (Work Skills Qualification) modules which will put me in good stead and will also remain with me for the rest of my working life. Whenever I log in with my Sing-pass, all the 7 WSQ courses will appear right under my name. I’ve got addicted to WSQ courses that I’ve decided to sign up on my own for another 5 courses spreading over 2 weeks in the same industry.

I’ve calculated the total costs of the 5 courses amounted to $3,244. With 95% government subsidy and whatever little balance (5% to be exact) I need to pay would be off set by the $500 skills credit given to every citizen. I virtually need not pay a single cent out of my own pocket. I’m now left with a balance of about $84 in my skills credit account. Alas! I’ve finally utilized my skills credit which was lying dormant for 2 years! 

I’ll just make a cursory note on all the nine books I’ve read so far. All the books are first class international bestseller thrillers. Some of the authors are totally new to me especially those translated from the Japanese and the Chinese. You may be familiar with some of the well known American authors but not many are aware of those translated works.

1) The Whistler by John Grisham
2) Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
3) The Crossing by Michael Connelly
4) The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei
5) The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
6) Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino
7) Malice by Keigo Higashino
8) Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman
9) Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

I completed the above nine books in chronicle order. The difference between The Whistler and Wrong Side of Goodbye is that the former is about a righteous lawyer going after a crooked judge and the latter about a veteran police detective going after crooks!

The Whistler revolves around a well established female judge – unknown to the public is the most corrupt judge in US history. She’s on the payroll of an organized crime syndicate swindling money out of the Indian reservation by building a huge casino and resort with luxury houses, bars, restaurants and hotels etc on a barren sparsely populated piece of Indian reservation. Her role as the circuit judge of the area is to pass judgements in favor of the mafia syndicate on lawsuits brought about by some of the inhabitants living on the reservation who are against the casino. 

But then, those people in the native reservation got jobs, livelihood, pension, hospital, schools and also monthly pension from the immense revenue generated by the huge casino. The Whistler refers to one disbarred small time lawyer (with monetary reward) giving information to the state investigation bureau specializing on nipping malpractices judges. Those investigators in the bureau are actually lawyers, not real police officers. Hence, this thriller is about a tenacious lawyer going after a crooked judge until she was nearly killed with her partner dead – a pre-arranged what look like a hit and run accident by a huge truck on their car when they are lured to meet an informant in one ulu part of the Indian reservation.

Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly is about the lively Harry Bosch as a volunteer crime investigator, with workaholic detective instinct in a small district when he was unceremoniously terminated by the LAPD. He is paid a pittance but he needs the police badge to carry out his private investigation job on a freelance basis. It is much easier to have a police badge when conducting his private investigation. He is headhunted to search for any heir, if any of a dying billionaire who has reached the end of his lifespan. He had a brief fling when he was a young man serving in the Vietnam war. With so little evidence and information, he is assigned with this task – a near impossible mission.

Running parallel to his private investigation, he is also pursuing a serial rapist known as The Screen Cutter. Unexpectedly, the heir tracing proves to be much easier than apprehending that elusive Screen Cutter who happens to be an ex-police officer. Every police crime investigator on this planet knows that if the criminal happens to be an ex-police officer, the odds will be stacked against him. It becomes doubly difficult to track and capture such an ex-police officer criminal who has gone over to the dark side.

When I hit on another Michael Connelly thriller, The Crossing, I got dizzily intoxicated on another level as if I was high on drugs. I didn’t realize that this novel is even thrilling and exciting than Wrong Side of Goodbye. OMG! 7 murders by 2 serving anti-vice police detectives in LAPD!

A hundred pages into the novel then only I realized why the novel is titled The Crossing. I was wondering what the heck with The Crossing? It actually refers to a police officer crossing over to the other side ie the defendant side. No police officer on earth would help a criminal especially if he’s a confirmed criminal to exonerate him of the crime.

In this case, Harry Bosch (most of Michael Connelly novels revolve around Harry Bosch character he created) has a half brother who is a lawyer. His half brother convinced Harry Bosch that the convicted murderer he is defending is innocent. That guy did not mutilate and rape a celebrity. But the fact that his semen was found inside her private parts is an iron clad evidence (matches with his DNA) that he could not simply explain it away. Therein lies the langgar predicament that Bosch has to handle!

As fas as Bosch is concerned, if that guy his half-brother is defending is innocent then another criminal (murderer) is out there running free! Since he was terminated by LAPD for some lame excuse, the half brother proposes to engage this 30 over years experienced homicide detective to uncover the truth. Of course, he is paid for his expertise. Reluctantly, Bosch took over the case. The more he probes into the case, the worst it gets resulting in a trail of dead bodies and more murders committed by the 2 rogue cops just to cover their tracks!

When news got around that Bosch has crossed over to the other side – helping a condemned murderer to clear his name, all his brother officers ostracized him with nasty phone calls, hate emails and even that kind of accusing looks in their eyes. He was publicly lynched by his brother officers, some of them happen to be best frens! Go find out for yourself how Bosch manages to crack the iron clad incriminating evidence of the supposed murderer and shot dead both the rogue officers towards the end when the noose is tighten round their necks.

Like I said earlier, I hit to dizzily intoxicated state when I read The Crossing. But when I dived into the translated HK detective stories in The Borrowed by Chan Ho-kei, I was near hysterical. I meant extreme excitement over the series of short stories in that novel. As with all the books mentioned here, my good fren Lohcifer strongly recommended that I read this book. He even took the trouble of buying a brand new copy from JEM Kinokuniya for me. He simply said to me. Just look at the publisher. Kinokuniya is a book store selling books but in this case, it published The Borrowed. It shows that it must be a darn good book to read. True enough I never regretted reading it. Sadly, that book in Kinokuniya is not selling well. There are many unsold copies there. Maybe not many readers are aware of it.

I feel that Kwan Chun-dok in The Borrowed is the re-incarnation of our world famous Sherlock Holmes. Yup, he must be the classic Sherlock Holmes resurrected by the awesome award winning author Chan Ho-kei. Kwan is given the nickname, “Eye of Heaven” by fellow police officers in HK. He rose to police detective superintendent from an uniform police constable bearing service number PC 4447.

Even though he’s officially retired from police force, the commissioner still insists that he remain as a part time consultant to the police force until his very last breath. Yes, even as he is lying on the hospital bed with coma, he still manages to solve a murder case sacrificing his life! Before he lapses into coma after suffering from terminal cancer stage, he tells his protege Inspector Sunny to let him go and not hold on to the life sustaining machine. But before that, use his remaining breaths to the fullest if possible.

That’s exactly what Inspector Sunny does at the start of the novel. The author skillfully links up all of Heaven Eye’s exploits in a series of stories with the last ie the end of the book describing how a young PC 4447 manages to prevent a car bomb attached to the petrol tank of the official car of the Commissioner of Police. He saves the life of the Police Commissioner and many others especially VVIPs from UK if the CP’s official car is allowed to proceed to the official function.

I was enthralled by the story when ONLY Kwan Chun-dok aka Eye of Heaven manages to see through how one rogue detective Inspector cleverly uses an opportunity where an on-going police operation of apprehending the most wanted gunman to his favor when he kills the notorious gunman and other innocent people including his lover in a small ill repute hotel to cover his tracks by pushing the blame to another detective Inspector (rival suitor of the CP’s daughter)! The latter is put on no pay leave, suspended from duty pending internal disciplinary charges. Wow! Really Kwan saves that innocent police inspector and also nabs that rogue but brilliant and brave crack shooter detective Inspector. When he is confronted with insurmountable evidence of his crime by the Eye of Heaven, the rogue detective Inspector commits suicide by using his own revolver.

It’s rather sad for Kwan cuz he feels that a great talent is wasted if only his character isn’t flawed! Never had I read such beautifully thrilling story for a long time. I started at a frenzy pace and I went slow towards the end hoping against all hopes that the story will never come to end and pray that it keeps moving. But it was not meant to be. As in nature and in all things, everything must come to an end! It really made my day reading that unforgettable book.

With the Eye of Heaven, I thought I hit climax. No other thrillers would tempt me further. I had the same feeling when I completed Steig Larsson’s thrilogy – The Millennium novels. I was proven wrong when I discovered Kwan Chun-dok. Yet again, I was proven wrong when I delved into Japanese author Keigo Higashino. I read 3 of his novels at one go! Reviewers are saying that he is the Japanese version of Steig Larsson. If you read Steig Larsson novels before, you would definitely want to read this guy’s works.

Just to sidetrack, Steig Larsson, a Swedish wrote only 3 novels – The girl with dragon tattoo, The girl who played with fire and The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest – all became international sensation. Unfortunately he died of a heart attack at age 50 yrs after the publication of his 3 novels. There won’t be any more novel by him. He envisioned 10 novels in the series with outlines but his early demise killed that plan. Link

Back to the Japanese Steig Larsson, Keigo Higashino. I’ve read 3 of his many works so far. I plan to read more of his books. As usual, Lohcifer bought 3 brand new Keigo Higashino novels for me. He gave instruction on the order of the 3 novels I should read. I followed his instruction faithfully without regrets. In one sentence I shall comment on each novel. Link

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino – The perfect alibi

Let me elaborate a little on each of the comment on the novel. In the first novel, a brilliant Maths school teacher falls in love with a divorcee with a young daughter when they shift in on the first day to introduce themselves to the neighbours including that ugly round expressionless monk face living next door. Actually, he is quite depressed living alone having trouble with the school management, lack of girlfriend or other friends cuz he spends his time after work in his room solving complex Maths problems. He even thinks that a certain Maths problem would take him the earliest 20 yrs to solve or he might not even able to solve it in his lifetime! He compares himself with the world’s best mathematician and even refutes some of their solutions etc. When he is about to hang himself, the mother and daughter come knocking on his door. The moment he sees them, he is in love with the pretty divorcee. From that day onwards, he vows to take care of them.

When the ex-husband comes over to harass her resulting in the woman accidentally killing the ex-husband, they are at a loss what to do. The eccentric Maths teacher steps in and saves them from the police. He uses Maths to solve the problem. In fact, the whole novel is all about Maths and formulas, equations, geometry, calculus etc. This brilliant Maths teacher creates the perfect alibi by killing another guy on the next day to look like the ex-husband. The real husband is killed on the 9th March is being systematically disposed off in 6 body parts dumped on 3 days in 6 different locations using weights to sink them into the bottom of the river.

The Maths teacher then gives step by step instructions to the mother and daughter – as if solving a Maths problem when the police come knocking on their door. This is what the Maths teacher tells them to do. Go watch a movie with her daughter after work. Keep the movie stubs. After the movie, go to the karaoke and have supper in a cafe. The daughter should discuss the movie with her frens the next day etc. When the police keep asking what she does on the 10 March (not 9th March), the suspect relates about the movie, karaoke etc. She is telling the truth. She is not lying. The police checking on the movie and even the daughter’s frens in school confirm their solid alibi. As such, it is an iron clad alibi. There is no way to link her to the death of her supposedly ex-husband on 10 March which the police are led to believe. (Actually her ex-husband was killed on 9th March). That is why I said “The perfect alibi”!

Only another equally brilliant physics professor Galileo from Imperial University also happens to be the schoolmate of the Maths teacher and the police detective, could crack the case! The university professor is a consultant to the metropolitan police force.

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino – The perfect crime

Young Japanese middle class couple got married one year ago. They live in an exclusive well to do neighborhood. The husband is a well to do CEO of a big company. Just before they got married, the husband tells the wife that if after one year, she is not pregnant, the marriage is over. Wife knows that she can’t conceive but proceeds with the marriage anyway thinking that surely her husband’s love is much more than that.Unknown to the husband, the wife already made plans since the first day of marriage just in case the husband really carries out his warning. Wife puts arsenic in the water filtration below the tap in the kitchen sink. 

For one complete solid year, she guards and ensures that no one turns on the water tap. There are 2 taps but the poisoned one is out of bounds. Husband never wanders to the kitchen. Wife always does the cooking. No helper in the house. Exactly one year when the husband mentions about separation due to the wife not able to conceive, she gets very disappointed and decides to kill her husband. She tells the husband she’s going to the northern part of Japan, so much further away from Tokyo to visit her aged parents over the weekend. Husband alone at home turns on the tap with the arsenic poison to make coffee. He is killed instantly by the poison once he drinks the coffee. The husband’s mistress who is pregnant with his child discovers the death first.

Question is who kills the man? Wife is so far away with a solid alibi. Problem is that no traces of arsenic poison found in the tap or water filtration system cuz the wife keeps draining water from the poison tap to water the plants in the balcony when she comes back home after she’s informed of the husband’s death. Whatever traces of poison found inside the water filtration has been drained out by her. The police are at a loss. Again, that brilliant Imperial University Physics professor Galileo manages to solve the case. He is able to crack “The perfect crime!”

Malice by Keigo Higashino – The perfect motive

It is common knowledge that every murder has a motive. One doesn’t commit murder or pre-mediated killing – without any motive. In Malice by Keigo Higashino, the suspect commits murder with the intention of apprehension by the police. Before he commits the murder, he painstakingly creates and builds up The perfect motive. What a langgar motive? Odd is it? You are wrong if you think likewise.

You see, the suspect is dying of stomach cancer anyway. His days are numbered. But he dreams of being a famous novelist. He’s only children books author! That made him envy and jealous of his best fren’s success as a well known author. That is the crux of the matter when his classmate and childhood fren becomes a famous novelist in Japan. The suspect creates manuscripts and fabricates evidence in such a way to make the police believe that he kills his best fren cuz he’s being blackmail by his scandalous relationship (not true) with the wife. He tells the police that is the motive for killing his best fren. He presents himself as the victim to the police and that he has no choice but to murder him. Really KNN!

The police believe his lies initially but not the main investigator who finds loop holes in his written confession and some of the fabricated evidence. This smart and brilliant detective is able to see thru his deviously conceived motive and established his real motive. The suspect not only wants to take the entire credit of his best fren’s many bestsellers but also to destroy his reputation for being a plagiarist! How evil is that guy!

Usually the police will rest the case once the culprit is arrested and close the case. But not for this relentlessly tenacious detective who takes the trouble to demolish his Perfect motive thereby exposing his true evil intention. Or else the suspect would have died a hero winning so much sympathy from the general public. They say the public court of opinion rules. If it remains unearthed by that duty bound police detective, the innocent man would not only have lost his life and all his honor but also his reputation bringing shame to his family as a plagiarist! The story line is very original here. The suspect is arrested very much early in the story. Three quarters of the story revolve around the suspect’s confession on his falsified motive which the detective takes pains to uncover his lies.

Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman is an easy going smooth reading fiction with a surprise twist in the ending. So many lives lost due to a “fake” ruby. Actually it’s not fake. It’s just a lousy huge spinel ruby thought to worth hundreds of millions but only a paltry $4.5K! Can’t blame those who lost their lives cuz they aren’t jewelry experts! Heartbreak Hotel is Jonathan Kellerman’s latest novel. One has to get used to the American language and way of talking to read it. I would prefer reading novels in standard English like those novels written by Jeffrey Archer, Wilbur Smith or Ken Follet etc. 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer is the most heartbreaking novel I ever read. I’ve finished most of it but I couldn’t bear to finish it. Only 200 odd pages but I’m so sadden by this brilliantly abnormal young man’s obsession with the Alaskan wild that I could hardly carry on reading. I’ve reached the part where the 80 yr old man who’s grown so found of him hitting the bottle once he found out that he’s dead.

That young man’s adventure immediately after college (he scored 3.72 in History and Anthropology), renounces everything to “live off the land” and “hit the roads!” He’s anti establishments, changes his original name to hide his real identity and renounces his upper middle class past, hate man’s irksome rules and civilization in general. His only wish to see the sunset and daybreak on different parts of the vast wild landscape! He travels around looking for any odd jobs or he simply forages for wild berries and what not to survive in the desert, ravines and faraway ulu towns etc. He meets all kinds of people on his travels in the vast American hinterland. 

Like that 80 yr old man who is lonely and grown so attached to him after spending some time together even offers to adopt him as his grandson! That old man prays to God to protect the young man but now disappointed with God (when he found out that the young man dies of cold and starvation in the wild Alaskan no man land), that the devout Christian denounces God and turns into an atheist. He’s heartbroken to the point of inconsolable despair. My eyes got misty when I read the old man whom wanted to adopt him as his grandson sunk into bottomless pit of sorrow and despair!

They say reading defines the man. Fact is nowadays people don’t read novels anymore as evidenced by the many closure of bookstores. Think Borders and the many other smaller bookshops. By sharing what I’ve read here I hope some of you will be persuaded by the joy and fun of reading. Why not try one of those bestsellers mentioned? May you read and broaden your perspectives in life.

Click here for related article. 

Read Frederick Forsyth Kill List review here. 

Click to read Jeffrey Archer First Among Equals.

Posted in Langgar

Seng Steam Fish Restaurant in JB – Johor Bahru 

I’ve rested exactly 2 weeks after I returned my taxi on 2 Feb 17. I’m looking forward to my new job tomorrow. During this time, I was inundated with invitations from friends for lunch, dinner, drinks or simply coffee. Just last Sat, I was invited by Rodney to his Hill Top Garden. Before that, I had lunch in little India with a local celebrity and the very next day I spent the whole day in JB with my ex-colleagues and friends. In between such “bonding” – (Enche’s favorite term when he met his friends for bonding), I still carry on with my 5 km brisk walking, push-up and sit-up morning routine lasting one hour at Pasir Ris park. I’ll talk about the importance of regular exercise other time.

On 8 Feb, five of us piggy backed Dark Knight’s bone shaker over to JB. It’s the last trip we made on his bone shaker. I just heard that it’s gone kaput even though there is another year of COE left. Before incarcerated in my own taxi, I used to go JB for food, shopping and entertainment. After 3 full years, I could finally go over to JB again. That also due to Dark Knight’s initiative when he realized that I’m now free and available. He and many others especially Wilson used to invite me for short trips either to the North or South but I was not able to break free from my incarceration! What a langgar situation!

We left Pasir Ris around 11.30am for JB. Before 1pm, we were already seated at Seng Steam Fish Restaurant at the end of Jln Keris in Taman Sri Tebrau, JB. That’s our favorite eatery. We never got tired of the place. 3 yrs ago I also visited this place. As the name says it, their speciality is fresh steam fish. We know that if the fish is not fresh, it can’t be steamed. Usually, we only deep fry fish that are not fresh. The place was crowded as usual. We quickly ordered our food including 2 fish dishes. The boss personally came to serve us insisting that we try their “Orange Rough Fin” or 长寿鱼. As typical Singaporeans we only know groupa, promfrets, sea bass or red snappers etc but not heard of this fish. The boss said money back guaranteed if that fish is not to our liking. Cost of the fish quoted was RM180! We settled for half of it

The bill for 8 dishes plus free flow of Chinese tea came to about RM220 (S$70). Divide that amount by 5 of us is only $14. Even after so many years after I re-visited this place the prices still remain the same. You can never expect the same back home. Before CNY and after CNY, prices of cooked food usually jump northwards and difficult to come down. It happens on every CNY and after few yrs, suddenly you realize your typical bowl of mee in a coffeeshop costs $3.50. With the recent increases on electricity tariffs, gas and water, cooked food will definitely going to cost higher! That’s the stark reality we facing in the near future economy lah! 

After our lunch, we then proceeded to the shopping malls in the area on a spending spree. Dark Knight bought a month supply of groceries from Giant and “Little India” in the old JB town centre. We had our dinner at the restaurant just opposite the Indian Temple there. We took tons of roti prata, tosai, Ah Pom, Masala chicken, potatoes etc with hot Teh Tarik until our tummy about to explode! When the bill came, it was RM53 (S$17). Divide that amount by 5 is only S$3.50! Now you know why no matter how much toll fee or levy imposed by the Johore govt or no matter how they target Singaporeans, we still mati mati must go JB to eat, drink and shop!

Just before coming back, we decided to drop by at my friend’s pub for a drink. We reached De’Mirage at No:25 Jalan Persia, Taman Sri Terbau exactly opposite Crystal Crown Hotel before the big tyre shop at the corner. The pub is owned by my friend Dave. He’s running his own transport company. About 2 yrs ago, he invested in the pub. The rental is only RM1,700 with 2 full time staff at only RM50 each. The operating costs are so low that he said he could never afford to run a pub back home. The pub was quite cosy with nice antique old school furniture but not many patrons. Maybe it’s a weekday. After few drinks, we decided to leave for home cuz the next day is Thaipusam. Dark Knight had to report to the temple to say his prayers!

The return trip was also smooth plain sailing. No jam at all. Straight back to Pasir Ris where most of us live. It was wonderful trip bonding with my good friends after more than 3 yrs since my last incarceration and only recently managed to break free.

Posted in Langgar | 2 Comments

Cheap motorcycle repair in JB – Johor Bahru

I regretted selling off my 6 year old Yamaha YBR 125cc in Jan 2015. It was left in the carpark collecting dust. I couldn’t even start the bike due to flat battery. When someone offered to buy it at $3K, I was too glad to let it go. No sooner had I sold off the very well taken care bike, I deeply regretted it. In Jan 2016, I acquired this Honda Wave 125cc after much scouting around. The COE will expire on 19 April 2017.

Even though I was driving taxi everyday in my previous life, I still feel compelled to ride my ride once in a while for the fun of it especially if I need to get to a place fast. From the age of 19 yrs till now, I have never stopped riding a motorcycle. I’ve driven no less than 8 bikes in my lifetime. This old bone shaker could be my last bike before calling it a day when I’m too old to ride anymore. Of course, I’ll need to renew the COE at $3.2K for another 5 yrs or pay $6.4K for another 10 yrs! I’m still considering the available options. But first, I had to do up the bike.

When I bought this nearly 9 year old bike at $1,800, it needed some fixing up especially the front wheel alignment which is a little out. When I test drive the bike, I found that the engine was in tip top condition. It was smooth and easy with the throttle. The owner had changed many things such as both tyres and the bike cover-set. He told me that he had the clutch plates changed too. The price I paid for this bike is slightly higher than the market price but I was satisfied with its overall performance.

Since I was driving taxi almost everyday, I did not really ride the bike much. It’s parked in the carpark most of the time. I only rode it on weekends or in the nights after my day shift taxi driving. I’ve asked a few motor shops whenever I passed by in my taxi to enquire about the front wheel alignment. Almost all of them quoted me between $100 to $150 to get it done. I also had to leave it in the workshop for a couple of days.

After returning my taxi on 2 Feb 2017, my first priority was to go to JB to fix it. Soon after I acquired this bike, I told Douglas of my intention of going to a workshop in JB to fix the problem. Douglas asked his security officer from JB and the latter recommended a workshop in JB with quotations to change the front fork. That was more than 1 yr ago. At last on 9 Feb 2017 (Thu), @0930 hrs, I managed to ride my bike to JB. It was a smooth ride with no jam across the border which took me about 30 mins to reach the checkpoint.

Once I crossed over to the other side, I simply asked some of the bikers around how to get to the workshop at Jln Tun Abdul Razak, Susur 4? Just entered via the centre road inside the tunnel (just after the Msian checkpoint) and follow the road all the way to the highway. “When you see Danga City Mall, keep left and filtered out. At the traffic junction just after you filtered out turn right and keep left. After a short distance, just turn in to the slip road and you should be there!”, that young Malaysian biker instructed me in Malay.

I managed to locate the said workshop but it was closed. 10.30am the shop is closed? Later I found out that the owner of the workshop is an Indian and that day was Thaipusum. Oh dear, I didn’t realize that. When I was wondering what to do, one middle-aged Malay mechanic from the next door workshop in overalls greeted me with a wide smile. I explained to him my bike problem. Without a word, he took over my bike and rode off before I could even protest. He came back after a while and started rattling off his assessment of my bike in Malay.

Luckily, I could understand what he was saying. Basically, he told me that my bike’s out of alignment not to due to the front fork. Even if he were to change the front fork, the same mis-alignment would remain. It’s actually the top part of the fork that needed to be “pressed” to align it back. He had to dismantle the entire front fork assembly and send it to another specialized workshop to straighten it. That would take about one hour! He also told me that the engine of my bike is in excellent condition. Maybe, I just need to change the sprocket & chain set.

Since that Indian workshop is celebrating Thaipusum, I had no choice but to let that friendly Malay mechanic from the next workshop handle my bike.

I did the following on my 9 year old plus bike.

a) Re-alignment of front fork RM95,
b) One set of sprocket and solid O ring chain. The best of the 3 options given to me. RM95, (RM55, RM75 and RM95)
c) Fully synthetic Castrol engine oil one litre RM35
d) Rear brake pad RM18
e) spark plug RM12
d) 4 pieces of rubber bush inside rear tyre hub RM13

Total is RM268. Convert to Singapore Dollar only $85!

Just alignment of front fork here will set me back by more than S$100! With only S$85, I could do so many things for my bike! When I was waiting for my bike to be repaired (about 2 hours), I ordered a packet of Nasi Lemak wrapped with fresh banana leaf and newspaper with fried fish, cucumber plus hot chilli washed down with a hot glass of ginger Teh Tarik at the road side Sarabat stall. When I called for the bill. Only RM3. Less than S$1!

The above illustrates the vast differences in our costs of living separated by only a narrow waterway. I can hear that some of you shouting their pay is so much lower than us. Well that’s true. My friend Walter from EM ever told us that his wife’s niece, a fresh graduate from KL university earning around RM2,800 working in an office which is even less than our cleaners earning more than S$1,000. What about the other lesser universities or those without any university education? Wonder no more why so many of them are crossing the border each day to seek employment here.

Those from across the border made their money here only to spend comfortably back home. Not us. We are different from them. Let’s look at the bike price of the latest Honda Wave 125cc. The same bike costs RM5,550 (S$1,767) in Johor Bahru and 53,000 Baht(S$2,148) in Thailand. Listen carefully, the same Honda Wave 125cc currently costs S$12,400 on our road without insurance! When I told that Malay mechanic how much a Honda Wave costs here and you’ll need to scrap it after 10 yrs (there is no COE in Msia and no scrapping of bikes), he shook his head kept saying “Gila!”

Yup, we live in the system and we are so used to such ridiculous prices tantamount to “daylight robbery!” I’m not against COE per se but at such ‘Gila’ price of more than S$12,000 for the same bike model with a 10 year life span? Come on. It’s logic defying especially when there is only ONE COE category for motorcycles when there are so many for 4 wheelers.

The limited COEs are quickly snapped up by big corporations such as Macdonalds, Piza Hut, SingPost etc etc pushing up to dizzling high levels beyond the reach of the ordinary shift workers, despatch riders or the newspaperman. In some ulu places where public transport is not easily accessible, these shift workers need to get to their work places on their bikes. What about those depending on small bikes to make an honest living. The rich will never ride a 125cc Honda Wave. They only ride big luxury bikes but pay the same amount of small bike COE. These poor workers are priced out by the rich guys and big corporations snapping up all the available bike COEs! Nobody takes notice of the little people. Maybe once in 5 yrs their existence is only recognized?

We may be earning much higher than our counterparts across the border but do we have the buying power as them? I’m only quoting bike COE and the maintenance costs to drive home my points. What about foodstuff, utilities, education, medical and housing etc. With car-lite society being the mindset now and with so many more buses choking the roads, some say that car COE will eventually hit $100K with bikes at $10K. We may be earning more than those in the north but many of us can’t even afford to buy a small motorcycle. That’s the future economy we should expect lah! 

We have changed so fast over the years. When I cross the border, I could sense the much slower pace of life. We can never go back to those good old days when our pay was low but life was quite comfortable and affordable then. When I was driving taxi, many of my pax from 1st world big cities also complained about our expensive city. It’s too expensive to visit here. They would rather go to our neighboring countries where they are so much cheaper and less restrictions. They could drink till the wee hours unlike here. No night life after 10.30pm. It becomes a dead city after that cut-off time. Wonder no more why there are tons of empty cabs roaming the streets in the middle of the night. That my friend is the future economy we will have to live with as far as common people like you and me are concerned.

Posted in Langgar | 3 Comments

Hill Top Garden @AMK Ave 4

Yesterday was the 15th day of CNY. Chinese celebrate CNY for 15 days and yesterday marked the formal closure of CNY. No more lion dancing in the coffeeshops, residences or other establishments. No more collection of red packets. I spent my last day of CNY in an interesting place – a “beer garden” created by my innovative friend Rodney. I received an invitation to visit his beer garden few days ago. He insisted that I pay him a visit. Together with Enche, we made our way there around 8pm last night.
When Enche and I reached the dimly lit carpark at Blk 171 Ang Mo Kio Ave 4 on my nearly 10-year old bike, we could see the radiantly lighted enclosure. I told Enche it should be the beer garden Rodney was talking about. True enough, we found Rodney and few of his neighbors sitting at one end inside the fenced-up enclosure enjoying his beer chit-chatting kampung style! I was impressed with the set-up. Many questions came to my mind. But first let us – Enche and myself explore the surroundings with some photo shots.

According to Rodney, it’s a 50 feet by 20 feet fenced-up enclosure right below his flat gifted by Yishun Town Council. Three and half months ago, the town council merely handed over an empty enclosure with a gate to him and his partner (neighbor). It’s to be used for gardening purposes. Water is free flow from the tap at the void deck using a long rubber hose. Rodney tapped the electricity from his 2nd floor flat giving lights and radiance to the otherwise dark garden.

How did it come about? Did he apply to the town council for such a facility? I told him for the 90% of us living in HDB flats, it’s an unheard luxury to get such a big plot of land for gardening. Only those living on landed property enjoy such luxury. The best part is that it’s free. No need to pay anything for such a big plot of land to do whatever gardening he wishes. It’s indeed a surprise to learn that my good friend Rodney who is 12 yrs older than me spending so much time and effort on the garden to keep fit on his retirement years and getting immense satisfaction out of it. He has single handedly turned an empty plot of land into an impressive garden of labour and love. It’s a monument of his love for nature and outdoor with endless toil and sweat!

Rodney told me that his place used to come under AMK Town Council. During the last election, it suddenly came under Yishun Town Council. Before AMK, it was Yishun and now it swings back to Yishun again. Yup it’s quite confusing swinging to and fro whenever there is an election. Anyway, his partner and the neighbors used to plant some flowers on that plot of land. AMK Town Council would remove and get rid of those plants and flowers painstakingly cultivated those residents. The residents would plant again and those people from the town council would also destroy them again. The tug of war went on for quite some time until those residents couldn’t take it anymore.

It so happened that some time last year, Rodney’s neighbor met the MP of the area, Henry Kwek who was on his weekend rounds at Mayflower hawker centre and market opposite their place. The neighbor let go his pent-up frustrations and complained bitterly to the MP by relating how their painstakingly cultivated flowers and plants by the residents were willfully destroyed by the town council. Henry Kwek listened sympathetically and told Rodney’s neighbor to give him 3 days to come up with a solution. The neighbor told me that he met the MP in the morning and by afternoon on the same day, a phone call came to him to say that they would be given that piece of land to plant whatever they wish!

In Rodney’s word, they have “prayed to the correct Tua Peh Kong” to get rid of senseless minions!

Needless to say the residents of the area were delighted. Now they have got an official plot of land to build their dreamed garden. True enough after three and half months, that empty plot of land is turned into a green piece of sanctuary amidst those concrete blocks of flats. When I entered the cosy enclosure, I could feel the fresh luxuriant greens and natural flagrance from the flowering plants with sounds of joyous Japanese carps swimming in the little pond. Little windmills and twirling morning glory creeping around the fencing greeted me as I entered the curved walkway towards the end of the little green sanctuary to take my seat with nearby residents gathered around there welcoming me. Their pride and satisfaction indeed! I could sense the kampung spirit and camaraderie amongst the residents gathered there.

When I examined the little garden closely, I could see the painstaking effort with much sweat and toil in creating such an impressive garden within such a short space of time – three and half months to be exact. Amongst my circle of friends, Rodney never failed to impress me with his ingenuity and resourcefulness in converting discarded rubbish into something of value. Everything – the racks, poles, ceiling, table etc within the garden is re-cycled from unwanted waste! I’ve ever blogged about him here.

Rodney – the prime motivator of the garden has big plans. He’s experimenting with many types of plants on the piece of barren land. He said that the ground is not so conducive to planting. He’ll need to pump in lots of fertilizers to grow his plants such as Chye Sim.

I suggested to him that he should plant sour soup cuz it’s so much easier and also they sell like gold in the market due to it’s anti-cancer properties. When I was a child living in a kumpung, there were sour soup trees all over the place. Now, those sour soup fruits are imported from Malaysia and they cost a bomb. He told me he already planted 3 saplings and he’s an expert on that.

The little garden is named “Hill Top Garden”. Enche and myself left the beautiful garden around 10.30pm after spending two and half hours there. Given time, by next CNY, Hill Top Garden should be much better than now. We wish them luck and success.

Read related article here.  

How to start a community garden.  

Posted in Langgar