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December 28, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

labuan’s chimney

Considering Labuan is so tiny and the chimney is such an important landmark — we had a hard time finding it.
We were driving down from town, and at one point we didnt see any signboards to guide us.

We stopped, stuck our head out of the car and asked the locals.

The first guy looked totally blank

The second stop was a couple in a van full of children. We asked them for directions. And the husband and wife spoke to each other, flailing their arms, pointing in one direction and then another — and finally they said they didn’t know.
The third guy came along — we tried to use the local word for chimney which is “punil” i think. No. He said. “I am new here”.

Finally, we drove around in circles and found the chimney ourselves.

Nobody knows the exact reason why this chimney was built. Some people say it was built for air-ventilation. Some say its not a chimney and probably a lighthouse.Others think it used to be a bell-tower.

The guidebooks say that this structure was built in 1890s, and built from red bricks that were imported from England. Its height is around 106 ft, and apparently there are at least 12 layers of bricks beneath the surface. Also in the premises is Chimney Information Centre, where I read all about the history of coal minig as well as the construction of railways and tunnels in Labuan.

Apparently coal mining in Labuan began in 1847 and ended in 1911 after a series of mining accidents. It was operated by various British companies that built a network of underground tunnels, deep wells and rail tracks in order to transport coal

two helpfrul security guards @ the chimney, who helped us with directions to the bird park, the next place on our list

The chimney is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

December 27, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

Lat plane

while i was on the plane ready to take off to Labuan, and i took a photo of the plane next to ours …
(in India photography aboard flights is frowned upon, but they seem more relaxed about those rules here in Malaysia)

I was mighty surprised to spot this “fun” aircraft that wore on its body the cartoons of Malaysia’s beloved Lat.

I googled to find more. I found these details on airasia’s blog…

AirAsia paid tribute to one of Malaysia’s greatest cartoonists, Dato’ Mohd Nor bin Khalid, also affectionately known as Dato’ Lat, by featuring his illustrations on one of its Boeing 737 aircraft.

On Tuesday, the low-cost airline paid tribute to the cartoonist once again but this time featuring his masterpiece on our brand new A320 aircraft.

When describing his work then, Lat explained, “I have wanted the characters and storyboard to reflect the culture, and the way of life of Asean people as what AirAsia has grown to become. My vision was for the people of ASEAN to identify with the characters on the plane.”

Lat’s colourful characters and universal stories have always captured the very ideals that make up Malaysia’s unique multi-racial society; celebrating our differences as well as our similarities.

“These are also the very ideals that have helped AirAsia grow into the Truly Asean airline that we’re proud to call ourselves today.

“We have an Asean crew and an unparalleled route network that brings the rest of the world closer to the region, so it’s only fitting that we invite Lat back to illustrate another aircraft with his timeless art.

“Now that we’re an Asean airline, our dream has been realised and Lat helped us realise that dream,” says Dato’ Sri Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia, in his welcome speech.

“We are proud to be associated with someone as talented and well loved across the Asean region. With the aircraft flying all over ASEAN, we believe that his creativity will inspire other young artists to greater height,” concluded Tony.

Also present at the ceremony was surprise guest Sir Bob Geldof who paid a visit to AirAsia while in town to speak at the Youth Engagement Summit 2009, Dato’ Kamarudin bin Meranun, Deputy Group CEO of AirAsia and AirAsia’ esteemed Board of Directors.

December 26, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

unforgettable beaches

how the waters glitter, shimmer and bedazzle

It’s only after five years of marriage that we discovered that we had always been vacationing in the wrong places — hills and hill stations.
I barf all the way up the drive. My husband is shivering to the bone at high altitudes. And the kids are faring no better.
And yet, when it comes to a holiday, we always pick a hill-station.
This year, we finally came to our senses and decided to pick beaches.
And we picked a winner. We loved the beaches of Labuan.

First we visited the Layang Layangan beach which has won an award by the UN for being one of Asia’s cleanest beaches.

the award-winning beach

No wonder this is one of the cleanest beaches (this woman was hard at work — at it was 2 p.m. — even though the sun was at its hottest)

i love the way she has stuck her spare broomstick in the mud

the gentle afternoon waves

The sands are white. The waves are softly creeping into the shore. The view is magnificent.

I don’t know why the “beach drive” is not listed as an attraction in the guide book. You can drive from Layang- Layangan, passing through beaches in Pancur Hitam and Pohon Batu, all the way until you reach Manikar resort.
I totally recommend this 9 km stretch of a beach-side drive. The air is balmy, you see plenty of coconut palms and casuarina trees, you can spot some families cooking barbequed chicken wings, there’s even a football match… all these are foreground to the peerless blue, gleaming, shimmering backdrop of the sea.

December 26, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

Sikhs in Labuan

One of the spots in Malaysia that has a significant population of Sikhs is Labuan. When I visited the island, I found a book titled “Sikhs in Saban and Labuan — A historical perspective, authored by Surjit S Gill.

The book begins with an introduction to Sikhism and Guru Nanak’s teachings. And then it details the history of Sikhs in Sabah and Labuan. Sikhs form a minority in the population. The book says Sikhs have made contributions in areas such as defence, law and order and served in the public sector.
According to the book, the first Sikh to set fooot on the island was Bhagat Singh Sandhu who reached Labuan to join the coal company security service as early as 1868. He was only 20-years-old. He was paid Rm 5, which was considered a handsome amount in those days.
In fact, Bhagat Singh is remembered by a monument along the old Macarther Road.
A significant contributor in the life history of Labuan was Gurbux Singh Sandhu (an India-born man who arrived in Labuan in 1923). He was the founding president of the Indian Association of North Borneo, Labuan formed in 1936. He served as a honorary inspector on the police force.
The book laments the fact that younger generation of Sikhs are losing touch with their religion and the mores of Sikhism.
Many young Sikhs cannot read or write Punjabi language in which the divine philosphy is written and spoken. The book urges the present generation to “remember their historical past … and maintain identity in the volatile world order.”

When I was in Labuan, I found a Gurudwara (Sikh Temple) in a prestigious area in town. The book says that the Gurudwara was built in the year 2000 at a cost of Rm 1.6 million.

I began talking to some Sikh people in Labuan and asked them about life on an island.

Manjit Kaur, working at Rent-a-Car, loves it here… “It’s a peaceful island,” she says. “I have lived in KL … but i moved here to bring up my daughters. You can quality time to spend with your children. Half your life is not spent in driving — I can’t say the same about KL,” she says.

Manjit Kaur introduced me to the Secretary of the Sikh Temple, Sital Singh. He describes a typical day in Labuan. “Life begins early. At 7.30 a.m. all shops are open. Between 8 and 8.30 Government, Public Works and Immigration Offices open. The working day continues till 4.30 pm., after which people begin to wind up their day. I personally wind up my business at around 7.30 p.m.”

“Labuan has religious institutions of all faiths: there are Masjids, Churches, Chinese Temples, a hindu temple and our very own gurudwara,” he says. But there is complete religious freedom, and each one is free to practice his or her own faith.

sital singh at his office

Sital Singh wouldn’t move anywhere else in the world for anything. “I have visited the U.S. , Canada, India, Singapore and Australia. But nowhere in the world is life as stress-free, quiet and peaceful as it is here.”

December 25, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

Surrender Point

Surrender Point is a very solemn, quiet place in Labuan.
It was here that the Japanese Army surrendered to the Allied Forces on 10 September 1945, which marked the end of World War II in Borneo.
Three months after the Allied Forces landed, Major General Wooten, commander of the Australian 9th Division presided over the formal signing of the letter of surrender by Lt. Gen Masao Baba, commander of the 37 th Japanese Army.

Things are very quiet here. All you can hear is the South China Sea and the chirping of an occasional bird.

I read in the Labuan Museum that life during the Japanese occupation was very difficult for the locals.

I quietly took photos.

But I was very sorry to see a small bit of blue pen and some scribbling on such a solemn landmark. What a pity.

December 25, 2009 / maidinmalaysia


(photo taken at Labuan Airport)

December 25, 2009 / maidinmalaysia

bikers galore

We heard some cheering and clapping behind the Malaysian Tourism Office in Labuan.
And we went off to investigate.

We see mean machines and men in black.

We asked around and found that we were at the 10th Borneo Island International Big Bike Festival.

And we see these two bikers, and their awesome bikes and we hear a lot of revving … vroom, vrooom, vroooom.

So we stood back. My husband and I were expecting to see a take-off to rival the take-off of our air asia flight. These bikes look as if they can easily go from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds.

Phut. Phut. Phut. “Actually this isnt a racing contest, this is a contest to see which biker can go the slowest,” one of the bystanders told us. Er. So much for standing back and vrooming.

Nevertheless. we clapped and cheered. We lalso walked around to see the bikes on display.

I want this one.

My husband wants this one.

My firstborn will want this one.

No pressure. Santa. Take your time.