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Suhana Rahim

Le Mirabeau Apartment living areea and sea view 760x434 - Why Living In Condos Are Beneficial

Why Living In Condos Are Beneficial

Choosing a condo when buying a property comes with a number of perks in which one of them is the fact that there will be no need for you to be bothered with exterior maintenance, considering that a condo has common walls with the other owners. You see, typically, when you buy a property as your home, you have to deal with everything like the interior and the exterior. There will be a lot to maintain such as damaged roofing, falling trees and more. However, that is not the case when it comes to condos because of what is mentioned above. The HOA will then be the one to handle all the exterior works and thus, you only need to beautify the interior of your unit and live comfortably.

Aside from what is already mentioned, here are more benefits if you choose to buy a condo:

More affordable

The financial advantage of owning a condo is very clear. The rental payments of the same apartment come at a similar price. Therefore, mortgaging ownership is a good idea. This is because no money is lost. Moreover, you can gain money by investing in a condo.

Watch this video to learn more about buying a condo for the first-time:

No exterior repairs

As mentioned above, owning a condo is not like owning a typical family home where even the exterior areas will be part of your responsibilities. With a condo unit though, there will be no need for you to be bothered by this. There will be no need for you to tend some gardens or mow some lawns and so on. It will be the management that will have to deal with this, though of course, it comes with a certain amount. And because there will be no outdoor expenses on your part, you can then focus on beautifying your interior area. Thus, if you can afford, you should consider to buy property verve suites mont kiara.

More amenities

You can expect that condos have more amenities than every tenant can use like for example, a modern gym, a pool and still a lot more. If you are just renting one, you can also be assured that it will come fully equipped. In fact, even if you are buying it, you can find one that is also fully furnished. Not only that, but there are also convenient parking garages which are not the same thing with apartments.

Freedom to Renovate

Bedroom3 - Why Living In Condos Are Beneficial

When you are just renting a space, you might be able to decorate it, but it should be in such a way that once you leave, nothing in the apartment will change. It means that the property should exactly be the same as when you first use it aside of course from the usual wear and tear. Of course, that will not be the same when buying a condo as because it is already in your name, you can do whatever you want in it. You can repaint, rearrange things, drill the walls and so on. No one will stop you as it is your property. You have the right to do whatever you want to do with it.

Community Living

Because you will be living side by side with other condo owners, you can really feel like you are in a close-knit community. You will have instant neighbors who can become your close friends, especially that you have to meet once in awhile. In fact, even if you won’t initiate any meetings at all, it will bound to happen since you are all living in one big building. So, over time, you will form friendly relationships. When you stay at marc residence KLCC or Verve Suites KLCC, you’ll be sure to be part of a community.

Easy Access to the City

One of the best things about condos is they are usually built at the center of where most of the actions are. That is right and because of their typical strategic locations, those who are living in a condo will not have a hard time getting to their errands like in offices, malls, hospitals and so on.
Do you want to exercise while going to your working places or some other places? Yes, biking is quite possible if you are living in a condo as in fact, most of the relevant places are just a walking distance. Condos are usually connected with many highways.

And because you are living just near to everything, you can even save lots of money on time. You don’t need to pay for gas or for fare and you can even get to exercise every day. It also means that you will be healthier for that matter.

It’s Safer

Yes, without a doubt, living in a condo is safer from burglaries. A burglar will hardly choose a condo to attack knowing that neighbors are just walls apart. It will be hard not to invite the curiosity of others considering they are just close.

And if you are only here in Kuala Lumpur for temporary business and live all the way from Amsterdam, you can just check out the marc residence klcc for rent. That is right as with marc residence kuala lumpur, you will not only be comfortable, at the same time, you will be close to your errands.

800 calorie meal plan 760x434 - Reasons to Take Good Care of Your Liver

Reasons to Take Good Care of Your Liver

Reasons to Take Good Care of Your Liver

Why you should take an extra mile to take good care of your liver? Well, of course you need to take good care of your health generally, especially now that hospitals seem to be overloaded everywhere. You can hardly get anything done in a day if you wake up late.

But why exert more efforts for your liver? have you noticed that if your trash bin is full and it can’t be used anymore, or you will still keep on dumping trash in it, it will just spill, and your entire house will become a mess?

getimage - Reasons to Take Good Care of Your Liver

That is also what will happen to your body because the liver, being the second largest organ of your body is assigned three major tasks in which one of them is the filtering of toxins you unknowingly get into your system. Yes, and it is one of the most important factors, why you should make sure that your liver won’t have to deal with too many ‘trash’ that it can no longer hold them all up.

Your body is composed of different organs in which each of them contribute to its wellness. And it is just a good thing there are now so many supplements that can help you take good care of it and buy Hepatitis medicine in Malaysia.

real estate agent negotiator malaysia 760x434 - Why Invest in Real Estate Agent Now

Why Invest in Real Estate Agent Now

Why Invest in Real Estate Agent Now

There is no denying that investing in real estate is a very good idea these days. This is why if you are thinking about it right now, I say that you should push for it and in fact, you should do it right away. However, you have to make sure that you do the due process before leaping into this industry. This will entail you to do a meticulous market analysis and also investment property analysis. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you need to be an expert in this field to start investing in some of the properties in Malaysia. After all, this is an industry where you can easily find allies. What you just need is the basic knowledge, enough time and of course, enough capital to ensure that your plan to invest in this industry will be successful. And if you are having second thoughts, check out below some of the most notable reasons why you should not backout.

Powerful economic indicators

For those who are new and those who are experts in this field, it is easy to see that 2017 is the year to beat. It is actually just a simple equation: if the economy is growing, the housing market will also experience positive repercussions and strong growth in turn. As we are going through the last 6 months of the year, the US GDP improvement is expected to increase to 2.1% at the end of the year, at the same time, the unemployment rate is expected to drop to 4.5% in 2017 and beyond. As for this year, we expect more deals or people to sell houses or buy houses for that matter, and get more mortgage loans. The bottom line is, now is a great time to get your first rental property and dive into real estate investing. The thing is real estate is a safe investment option, as well as it is financially rewarding for the long haul.

Lenient processes

Another good reason why one should not hesitate in investing in real estate is the fact that this is an easy process to deal with as the qualifications available for borrowers are quite lenient and even in low interest rates at that. This only means that you will most likely have a lot of customers as they will be more motivated to but a property in Malaysia considering the comfortable environment in this industry, especially that taking out loans will be an easy process, to fund their plans in getting the property, whether that is a residential, apartment, or a condo.

If you are observant, you will see that real estate investors and agents are busy taking advantage of this situation investing in this market left and right. In fact, if you check your social media account, you will see that more and more housing projects are arising being posted by the different real estate agents as they can easily get interested clients. There is no denying that because also of the lenient processes in this industry, the competition is becoming tougher. However, if you know how to play your cards, if you know whom to connect yourself with, you will surely find a good spot in the real estate market. That is why, there is no need to have doubts if you will delve in the real estate market or not. You just have to know where to hunt as for sure, you will end up to your desired destination. If you are in Penang, check out BJ Court, Kondominium Cassia, Idaman Lavender, Summer Place, Elit Heights and Sunny Ville. For a complete list of properties in Penang, check out penang project outlook.


Appreciation is one the many reasons as well to invest in real estate right away as it is one of the safest investment choices out there. Why? The thing is, when it comes to real estate investments, you can expect that the process will be ongoing since your rental properties will surely appreciate in value in the future, considering its location and the fact that this industry is consistently booming for many years now. In short, in time when you decide to dispose your property, you will gain a lot more that what you invested. Besides, it is not as if that property will not generate money while you are still owning it as there are so many ways to make use of it. You can live in it or you can have it rented. So, while waiting for that future, you won’t even notice the time as you will be busy getting your money back in the process. You can say that in this industry, losing is most unlikely.

Tax benefits

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The tax advantages also contribute the lenient processes of investing in real estate these days. We don’t know until when this lenient environment of this industry will continue though amd this is why, if you are planning to invest in real estate, now is just the right time. As of the moment, any business owner, entrepreneur and investor is exempted to tax. Those investors owning a rental property have the chance to write off the interest rate that is charged on their mortgage and at the same time, write off depreciation, and other expenses, as well as maintenance repairs that are associated with the investment property.

Steady income

When you get into real estate, you will be your own boss while earning a steady flow of income. Gone are the hassles of being a boss in a company where you have to many complicated tasks to deal with and hard-headed employees. There will be no need for you to impress someone just to stay in your post or get promoted. You can go anywhere you want, travel with your family and just be back in time for the collections of rent. You can just hire someone to manage your property so your tenant will also become your loyal renters. Having loyal renters will assure you of a monthly income for a long time or until you decide to dispose your property which will surely gain you a lot of profit after many years. So, you can say that investing in real estate or buying a property in Malaysia will always prove to be a win-win situation.

Because investing in real estate will give you a steady flow of income, you can expect financial stability in the future, especially at times when your body will fail you and will disable you to find more opportunities. You can say that in real estate industry, your future will be assured financially with the possibility of a passive income. Well, of course, there are maintenance expenses, but then again, that will only be because someone is using the property. So, if you want to secure your retirement days, if you won’t want to be a burden to your kids later on, investing in real estate or buying a property in Malaysia is a good way to do it.

When it comes to your options of properties in Malaysia to buy, there are so many sites that can help you. It also pays if you will hire a reliable real estate agent if you want to be just in the investing side and does not have plans of becoming a real estate agent yourself. He can surely propose to you different sites with different properties. Just make sure that you will know what to consider the most when choosing a property so it will become an asset to you and can help you secure your future financially.

rainier ridao GRDpPpKczdY unsplash 760x434 - Dancefever


SOME 25-odd years ago, a cleft-chinned young actor donned a white suit, showed some deft footwork and unleashed a phenomenon called disco fever. Suddenly everyone was pointing their fingers skywards as a group of falsetto-voiced brothers accompanied their moves. I was one of those caught up in this dance craze, spending university evenings at the Gay Disco on Mondays and the Soul Disco on Thursdays and whatever other discos on other nights. I even won a disco dance competition once.

Back home in KL, the legendary Tin Mine disco was the hotspot. Many a Saturday night was spent polishing slick moves on the dance floor. From today’s perspective, what we did might be called line dancing but at the time, it was cool to be able to do a routine with friends to the latest songs. Never mind if we did the same routine for each and every song.What was great about disco fever was that we all learnt how to dance. To be able to execute some complicated steps was considered the height of cool. We danced and sweated, then we had a drink, then jumped onto the dance floor again ’til the wee hours of the morning.

Two decades have passed by and my disco dancing days are pretty much over. The body would rather curl up in front of the TV at home than put on high heels and heat up a dance floor. Besides, disco dancing is no longer fun.

For a start, no-one else on the dance floor looks like they were born before John Travolta put on his white suit. Fresh-faced young things fill the discos (or clubs as they are called these days) dressed, oddly enough, in the same fashions as those in the Saturday Night Fever days: batwing sleeves, glittery make-up, strappy sandals. Young men now, as then, stand around awkwardly, trying not to show that they are even remotely interested in what’s going on on the floor.

Secondly, nobody really dances anymore. They may stand around and shake a bit but there’s no style to it, or any form of choreography. You do whatever comes to mind. Which is a necessity since music these days hardly has any distinguishable beat. Techno or house music, in my book, is one endless stream of noise. My youngest brother, who aspires to be an occasional deejay ( short for disc jockey, though I doubt if anyone knows that anymore), once played me a house album which, he claimed, had about 20 songs on it. I could not tell the difference between them, let alone dance to them.

Thirdly, whereas before you celebrated the songs and the singers or bands for coming up with great rhythms to shake your booty to, nowadays the real stars are the deejays. In my disco days, deejays certainly helped to create the right atmosphere by playing danceable songs but they did not become phenomena in themselves. These days, clubs advertise the deejays, with all sorts of creative nom de turntables, to attract people and some apparently earn almost as much as the singers or bands themselves. They travel from country to country playing at clubs and parties, attracting huge crowds. The spotlight thus has moved from the dance floor to the turntable so what is the need anymore to know any dance steps?

The only thing that has not changed is the records themselves. Technology may have evolved but deejays still prefer playing vinyl records. The odd thing is their young audiences hardly know what these are. In a quiz I once observed, young people did not know that RPM stands for Revolutions Per Minute because you don’t need to know that with compact discs. The other thing they find impressive about records is that you can play them on both sides.

I watched my teenage daughter and her friends recently at a party where a deejay spun his records and tried to get them to sweat a little bit. It seems that young girls these days, though dressed more expensively than when I was that age, are more self-conscious than before. Or perhaps they are afraid they might shake their coiffures loose. They all look like they need someone to teach them some steps first, preferably similar to those that models use on the catwalk. In any case, they never cut loose on the dance floor like we used to.

Boys of course haven’t changed at all. They could not dance in my time and they still can’t today.

Perhaps the state of modern music is so monotonous that young people don’t tap their toes anymore and therefore never learn rhythm. I can never keep still if a James Brown record is ever on the loudspeakers no matter where I might be, much to the mortification of my daughter.

But I felt vindicated recently when, after cajoling and coaxing my daughter and her friends to risk perspiring to little avail, the deejay at her party pointed at me as I strutted my stuff, “SHE’s more happening than you all!” Better still, one young man in all earnest sweetness said to me, “Auntie Marina, you put Ineza to shame!” Indeed!
sharon mccutcheon ZQI6N jaM I unsplash 760x434 - Foods of Fortune

Foods of Fortune

Yu Sheng
chinese boy

Illustrations and recipe by SC MOEY
Photographs courtesy of THE ORIENTAL, SINGAPORE

This succinct but rousing maxim most clearly conveys the spirit of merry feasting that is customary during the Lunar New Year. From fried noodles to steamed dumplings, fresh fish to raw fish salad, sticky cakes to lotus seeds: the festive dishes themselves are traditionally celebrated as potent symbols of everything auspicious and prosperous. Thus to tuck in is to bestow great blessings upon one and all!

So by all means proceed to eat, drink and be merry; any less effort on your part might be interpreted as an insult to your kind hosts. But commit some of the customs here to memory, so that you might present yourself as less of an enthusiastic glutton and more an aficionado of gastronomic traditions from over five thousand years of Chinese recorded history.

lion dancers

Fish and Chicken
Fish is an important dish during the family reunion dinner as it symbolises abundance and togetherness: the Chinese word for it, yu, sounds exactly like the word for abundance. Therefore, the fish is never fully eaten and the more careful families even try to keep the bones of the fish intact to ensure continuous fortune. Hence the seasonal greeting nian nian you yu, which more or less translates as “fish guaranteed every year to come”. Likewise, chicken needs to be presented with head and feet intact; symbolically related to the dragon and phoenix, it ensures happy marriages and family unity.

From Manhattan to Malacca, this hot, steamy ritual is itself a delicious orchestration of auspicious symbols. Family and friends gather around a bubbling pot to dip a traditional selection of meats, seafood and vegetables, each signifying something desirable. Lettuce, for instance, is believed to attract wealth and riches; prawns and oysters signify the arrival of good fortune; while black seaweed symbolises luck.


and Spring Rolls

Immensely popular, these are made with a skin rolled from dough and typically stuffed with pork or shrimp, or sometimes beef. Vegetarian dumplings are made with mushrooms, bamboo shoots and cabbage. These dumplings are moulded into little nuggets that represent old Chinese ingots. No prizes, then, if you guessed correctly that these symbolise great wealth. Spring rolls, too, are prepared in the shape of small gold bars and thus represent abundant riches.

Prominently served in long and uncut strands so as not to divide any existing good fortune, noodles also represent longevity. In fact they are so much associated with birthday celebrations that some say they serve a similar function to the candles on a birthday cake.

nian gao

Nian Gao
These translate as “New Year cakes” and consist of a variety of sweet pastries. To offer these to your hosts is to bid them nian nian gao sun, or “More success and prosperity every year”. According to customary beliefs, nian gao is offered to the Chinese Kitchen God to persuade him, on his annual visit to the heavenly court, to report favourably on the family’s deeds over the past year.

Oranges and Tangerines
To present your hosts with a pair of oranges and tangerines is to bless them with happiness and wealth, as the Cantonese word for tangerines also sounds like their word for gold. Oranges are particularly associated with ambition and success: legend has it that a Chinese Emperor ceremonially distributed oranges to his favoured court officials on the second day of the Lunar New Year.


Tidbits Tray
Loaded with dried fruits, sweets, candies and cookies to welcome guests, this is sometimes referred to as the Tray of Togetherness. Traditionally its eight compartments are each filled with especially significant items including peanuts (for longevity, since they grow freely and have long roots) and various lotus and melon seeds (which represent great fertility, and hence the assurance of many descendants).

yu sheng

Yu Sheng
Given the special significance of fish, it is no surprise that this raw fish salad is the highlight of every Lunar New Year feast. Slices of salmon or carp are combined with other raw, crunchy and colourful ingredients (from sliced carrot to small crackers) which collectively signify a renewal of luck. Family and close friends then gather to mix the salad, and, each armed with a pair of chopsticks, energetically toss the ingredients high in the air. Meanwhile, all call out Lo hei! which can mean both “Mix it well!” and “Enjoy more and more prosperity!”

Modern variations served in restaurants today include jellyfish, papaya, pickles or even tuna.

Yu Sheng Recipe
Fresh carp is the traditional choice but you can also use salmon or even canned abalone. Be sure to use a large platter so that everyone can toss with abandon.

200 gms fresh fish (grass carp/salmon/haruan), thinly sliced
40 gms jellyfish, soaked
50 gms pomelo, pith removed and pulp broken up
30 gms pickled ginger, finely sliced
30 gms pickled leeks, finely sliced
30 gms pickled papaya, finely sliced
50 gms sweet potato, shredded
50 gms yam, shredded
80 gms white radish, shredded
80 gms carrot, shredded
3 stalks spring onions, finely sliced
1 stalk Chinese celery, finely sliced
2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely sliced
1 knob young ginger root, finely sliced
2–3 lime leaves (limau perut), finely sliced
2 packets of Yu Sheng crisps (available in supermarkets) OR deep fried cut strips of wanton/popiah skin
3 tbsp roasted peanuts
2 tbsp roasted sesame seeds
1 large lime, quartered

8 tbsp plum sauce
3 tbsp cooked oil (brown garlic in very hot oil, cool and discard garlic)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp five spice powder OR ground cinnamon

Blanch jellyfish in boiling water, drain and cut into strips.
Squeeze out juices from shredded yam and sweet potato. Add food colouring: red to one and green to the other. Dry in sun, then deep fry and set aside.
Soak white radish and carrot separately in water, drain and squeeze out juices. Set aside.
Arrange salad ingredients attractively on a large platter. Just before serving combine ingredients for sauce. Squeeze lime juice over fish, pour sauce over salad, toss and eat immediately.

Family Feasts and Facts

Tradition prescribes an even number of courses or dishes at the family reunion dinner, as multiples of two signify double blessings. Eight is an especially lucky number.

Customs vary from family to family, depending on which region in China their ancestors hailed from. Some even have charming idiosyncrasies creatively improvised and handed down over many generations.

chinese zodiac

Some families avoid tofu, since its fresh white appearance is symbolically linked to death and funeral rites.

Because lotus roots are difficult to cut up and separate completely, they are taken to symbolise lasting family attachments.

The use of knives on the first day of the Lunar New Year is frowned upon. So most families make do with the leftovers from their reunion dinner, together with some rice-flour cakes.

religious tourism pact signed in timor leste 1024x1024 760x434 - Easttimor


TO MAKE an argument for visiting East Timor you can’t rely on the staples of Asian tourism — low cost and exotica. The world’s newest nation is more expensive than many first world countries, and with its colonial legacy many of East Timor’s physical aspects will be familiar. Still, there are a million reasons to visit soon. East Timor’s people are her greatest attraction. Outgoing, tolerant, fun loving and family-oriented, the East Timorese are the perfect vacation hosts.


Wherever you go you will feel welcome and respected. Ninety-five percent of the people are devout Catholics, crime is rare and all essential services are functioning. You’ll get by with English, Bahasa Indonesia or Portuguese but try to learn the greetings of the indigenous language, Tetum (pronounced Tetun).

Allow at least two weeks to sample what East Timor has to offer. Tourism is in its infancy so there are no package tours, but the freshness of the experience will delight you. Sensible health precautions include the usual travel shots and avoiding malaria and dengue fever by taking malaria prophylaxis and using insect repellent day and night.

On arrival at the airport, pick up a free copy of Discover Dili — a brief up-to-date guide to tourism in East Timor with handy contact numbers. There are two public Internet cafés charging $2 for 15 minutes.

Where to stay:
Expect to pay between $15 and $120 per night. Within Dili a budget option is The Purple Cow on White Sands Beach at $15 per night including breakfast. Just a ten-minute taxi ride from Dili Central, it’s a new well-maintained beachfront restaurant, nightclub and small hotel that rocks on Friday and Saturday nights. I rate it three stars. Or for backpackers try the JC PAV Community Centre near Taibessi Market, Dili, with its new, clean rooms starting at $14 per night (email:

The newest resort hotel is the Esplanada at Coconut Beach, ten minutes from downtown Dili. With its swimming pool, cool green tiles and indigenous carvings the $100 rooms are reasonable value.

Top of the scale in the luxury market is the Portuguese-owned Hotel Timor in the downtown area. Opened just in time for independence celebrations in May, the hotel claims five stars and rooms start at $120 per night. The lobby with bar/restaurant is cool, spacious and invitingly decorated in a mix of Portuguese classic and modern East Timorese chic.

Dili Hotel lobby

You don’t need to book all your accommodation in advance, reserve the first couple of nights and then check out your options as more accommodation comes on-stream weekly. An interesting-looking resort hotel is being built on embassy row — Rue Alve Aldeia.

Getting around:
Dili is a busy city with many of the sights within walking distance. Mikrolets (minibuses) cost a few cents. Taxis are plentiful and charge just one dollar within the city limits for all trips regardless of the number of passengers. Thrifty is the main car rental company but their prices are outrageous. Instead try Dili Rentals for four-wheel drives at $50 per day — you’ll need one if you plan to explore beyond greater Dili. The days are a hot average 31°C so keep out of the sun and stay hydrated on bottled water.

Ermera woman

Eating out:
East Timorese love their meat, especially BBQ and the seafood is plentiful and good value. Try the seafront restaurants for dinner and watch the sun slide into the sea. Classic eateries are The Dili Club with its pizzas, burgers, Indian curry and perfectly chilled beers, City Café, and Angelo’s $5 all-you-can-eat buffet. Expect to pay between $4 and $10 for main meals and $1 to $4 for drinks. There are some low price options such as the Singapore Coffee Shop, but you won’t find the variety of street stalls you’d see in Malaysia or Singapore. Sports fans worried about missing their matches can view them in comfort at The Monkey Bar with its four big screen TV sets under a large thatched hut. During the World Cup it did a roaring trade in Ronaldo Rolls and Beckham Burgers.

Local news:
Read the local news before you go at, East Timor’s independent online news service.

Things to do:
For shoppers the local markets hold the most interest. Three markets sell local produce — stock up on organic coffee, creamy coconut soap, fashionable woven handbags and high quality handloom cloth in a range of bright colours, shapes and sizes costing between $2 and $60. You’ll be contributing directly to the local economy where it needs it the most.

When you’ve exhausted the sights of Dili’s markets, beaches, nightclubs, monuments and historic sites, such as Santa Cruz cemetery, it’s time to head to the hills, islands or coastline. Hill towns like the coffee-growing district of Ermera and beautiful Maubisse offer cool, scenic retreats. Overnight at the Pousada de Maubisse, a large white bungalow four-star guesthouse with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains for $33-77 a double.

Coastal diving is said to be among the best in the world and you can charter a yacht to visit the islands and bays. Dive Timor, Free Flow and Dili Dive are a few local companies.

A spectacular two-and-a-half hour drive east of Dili brings you to Baucau where another comfortable Pousada awaits. Baucau’s beach rivals Tahiti and the town is worth at least two nights. Much more lush than Dili you will enjoy Baucau’s contrast between the colonial architecture and traditional thatched houses.

Timor Lorosae (the Tetum name for East Timor) will struggle economically until her oil revenue streams are established. Why not support this nascent nation now by having the holiday of your life!

(NB: All figures are in US dollars, East Timor’s currency.)

amsterdam 760x434 - Amsterdam


amsterdam title 3 - Amsterdam
amsterdam bridge 4 - Amsterdam
Photographs courtesy of the
The Skinny Bridge, seen here at night, is one of the famous wooden drawbridges in Amsterdam. (photo: Piet van der Meer)

IF YOU are looking for a place to visit that is small enough to explore but big enough to offer plenty of delights, then the charming city of Amsterdam must rate high on the list. Founded on a dam on the river Amstel in the 13th century, the city went on to become a hub during the busy days of the 17th century when the Dutch were expanding their trading empire and doing interesting things like invading Southeast Asian countries.

Modern Amsterdam is filled with exciting contemporary architecture that somehow manages to blend harmoniously with the older houses. It is a city with a youthful approach to life, always alive and ready to try out new ideas and experiences. It also helps that many Dutch people speak perfect English and are usually friendly and willing to help people who are as clueless as I am.

amsterdam waterlooplein - Amsterdam
Browse at the Waterlooplein fleamarket. (photo: Jurjen Drenth)

Central Amsterdam is quite small but filled with interesting sights to see. Amongst the many attractions the city has to offer is the Anne Frank House, the wartime hiding place of a young Jewish girl and her family and friends, who were evading the Nazis. After spending two years avoiding discovery, they were captured and taken to the concentration camps, which only Anne Frank’s father survived. The diaries of the young girl, detailing their life in hiding, were found in the house and, since they were published in 1947, have gone on to sell 13 million copies. The house remains exactly as the Frank family left it, right down to the movie star pin-ups in Anne’s bedroom and the marks on the walls detailing the heights of the children.

Amsterdam is also home to many good art museums, including one dedicated to the work of the Netherlands’ most famously insane painter Vincent Van Gogh, he of the severed ear and Sunflowers fame. For those of you who like modern art, the Stedelijk has a major collection from the 18th century onwards, featuring the works of Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian and Chagall, as well as Impressionists like Manet and Monet, and newer painters like Mark Rothko and Ellsworth Kelly — enough to make any modern art lover salivate. For those with a more classical bent, the Rijksmuseum has a fabulous collection featuring works by other great Dutch 17th-century painters like Vermeer and Rembrandt, whose famous The Nightwatch adorns their walls. It also contains fine collections of Asian art and displays on Dutch history.

Amsterdam: life is lived on and around the canals.
Amsterdam: life is lived on and around the canals.

Amsterdam has superb public transport facilities, with an efficient and logical tram service that can whip you around the city without leaving a serious dent in your wallet. Buy a strippenkart from any tobacconist, post office or railway service and stamp it yourself — no hectoring conductors shortchanging you here. Amsterdam is also very bike-friendly, so the adventurous amongst you might choose to rent one and explore the city that way. It certainly makes a big difference to the pollution levels in the city. But be warned if you are a pedestrian — you not only have to cope with cars and buses, but tram lanes and cycle lanes as well. This means that if you do not want to be decapitated, you have to keep a very alert eye all around you when you are crossing.

But in a city cobwebbed with canals, undoubtedly the best way to see the sights of the city is by boat. Tours last 90 minutes and give you a spectacular introduction to old and new Amsterdam. The tours meander around the beautiful tree-lined waterways, giving you a close-up glimpse of life on board the city’s 3000-plus houseboats — a great way to live if you don’t get seasick. With the wind in your hair, and the sun on your back it is a truly civilised way to get to know a city. If you’re feeling particularly romantic, then maybe you might want to try taking your partner on a candlelit cruise in the evening, complete with dinner, flowers and music. However, the energetic amongst you might want to rent a pedalo or peddle boat, and you can happily wander around the canals at your own pace. Unusual sights abound from one-man bands on tiny rowboats to grand pianos being hoisted into the top floors of houses via cunning block-and-tackle devices. During the strictly controlled development of the city, even the wealthiest citizens had to conform to stringent design specifications which meant that individualism in residences was limited to things like the ornate gables that decorate each building. Bizarrely, property taxes were also levied according to the width of the house — hence the prevalence of tall, narrow buildings.

Relax with good food and friendly people along Rembrandtplein.
Relax with good food and friendly people along Rembrandtplein.

There is so much more to say about Amsterdam — the many restaurants and cafés serving delicious food from creamy cakes and pastries to spicy Indonesian and Surinamese dishes; the friendliest and coziest bars I have ever encountered in the world, where to strike up a conversation is to learn something delightfully new; clubs which play an exciting range of music from hip-hop to house to stuff you just can’t put a name to; the verdant Vondelpark south of the Leiseplein, ideal for lazing around on a hot summer afternoon; having a coffee in the orangery of the Hortus Botanicus, a botanical garden with over 6000 species — truly an oasis in the city. One thing is for sure — I’m going back for another visit.

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Wild Men of Rodeo

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A bull rider in action at the Dayboro Rodeo.

Photographs courtesy of EXTREME BULLRIDING

DUST, SWEAT, testosterone and two tonnes of bucking, sharp-horned bull. Tight, blue jeans, wide smiles, high-energy music and Akubras. Welcome to the world of the wild men of rodeo.

Rodeo used to be a well-kept secret. Apart from the occasional Hollywood appearance, the city slicker’s rodeo experience was usually limited to the annual Royal Show’s equestrian events.

But since serious sponsorship dollars entered the picture in the mid-’90s, professional bull riding, wild horse racing, barrel racing and camp drafting extended rodeo’s reach. Now it’s easy to treat yourself to some real excitement. Before your next trip to Australia check the calendar of events for both the professional circuit and country town rodeos but be aware of the difference.

Extreme bull riding is for purists who want a well-run spectacle of man and mean bovine muscle without any distractions, whereas country rodeo has bull riding plus, plus, plus.

The pluses include a host of physically challenging men’s, women’s and kids’ events like children’s ‘goat tying’ (the child who lassoes and pins the goat first wins) and ‘mutton busting’ (kids ride a bucking sheep), as well as side show alley and a mechanical bull the punters can try their luck on.

And if you miss out on the rodeo circuit drop by Rockie’s Great Western Hotel’s Friday night rodeo. With an indoor rodeo arena, top rib fillet (exported to Raffles Hotel, Singapore) and cold beer on tap, the Great Western fills up quickly with locals and visitors all year round. Call +617 4922 1862 to find out the event schedule.


1. Troy Dunn

So what does it take to stay on a raging bull for more than 8 seconds? I talked to two professional champion bull riders about how they prepare mentally and physically to stare down death. At 35 years of age Troy Dunn is the old man of rodeo with 13 years at the top of the sport. World bull riding champion in 1998, Troy’s cash winnings to date are impressive, but he doesn’t take success for granted. “So much of bull riding is mental, being ready for the animal in the chute. It takes at least four years to develop the skills. I train with weights and sprint three to four times a week all year round because a fit body makes a confident mind. Ninety per cent of bull riding is mental. I’m not superstitious any more, I used to have a special pair of socks but now I just do some self-talk before I go into the chute. My worst injury was at my first world final in Las Vegas. I got thrown and did the splits when I landed, dislocated my hips and was out for six months.”

2. Wayne Darr

2002 could be Wayne Darr’s year. The handsome 27-year-old Queenslander has been sitting at third or fourth place in the rankings and is fit, confident and looking forward to enjoying the championship season. “I practise on two or three bulls several times a week and go to the gym four times a week. I don’t smoke. It’s important to be positive, to think you’re a winner, to think you’re better than the bull. I respect the animals, they’re athletes in their own right and they’re seventy per cent of the sport. One time a bull’s horn hit the side of my face and caved my cheek in but I don’t think about that.”


A type of black or brown, wide-brimmed hat made of rabbit felt that’s worn by Australian country folk.

Barrel Racing
Women’s and men’s events see expert horsemanship as the rider races her steed around a figure eight course to clock the fastest time.

Camp Drafting
The rider must separate or ‘cut’ one steer from the herd and drive it around a course marked by poles in the fastest time without losing control of the beast to win.

Rockhampton is the beef capital of Australia. About four hours drive from Brisbane along Queensland’s beautiful coastline, Rockie is a traditional country town.

(pronounced ‘rodayo’, emphasis on the second syllable, by Australians over 50; and ‘rowdio’, with emphasis on the first syllable by the under 50s and all Americans except those who shop on Rodeo Drive). A kind of country carnival held at night where cowboys and cowgirls compete in skilful events involving horses, steers and bulls.

Wild Horse Races
A team of men must lasso, saddle and bridle an unbroken horse and assist one of them to ride it through a marked course. First rider across the line wins for their team.

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AS I WRITE this piece, English football has just had a very good week at the expense of the Greeks. To begin with the English national team clinched a point at Old Trafford in their final World Cup qualifier against Greece, which was enough to give them automatic qualification for next summer’s World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea.

Then the team that usually plays at Old Trafford, Manchester United, thumped the Greek club side Olympiakos 2-0 in Athens to move to the top of their group in the European Champions League.

The link to both these results was old (well, not-so-old, actually) ‘Goldenballs’ himself, David Beckham, who scored a last minute equaliser for England with a scintillating 25-yard free-kick and then knocked in Manchester United’s first goal in Athens from all of six yards.

Beckham, who was originally given his nickname by his wife Victoria (otherwise known as ‘Posh Spice’) but is now affectionately referred to as ‘Goldenballs’ throughout England, appears to be finally coming of age.

I must confess that I didn’t use to have any time for him. Not out of jealousy you understand (although anyone could be forgiven for being a little jealous of him, after all he has been gifted with a marvellous footballing talent, is Captain of England, married to a Spice Girl and makes millions doing something he loves), but rather because he typified the new breed of sporting hero, who couldn’t string two proper sentences together, showed little regard for authority and generally set a bad example to young people.

Young Manchester United fans — beginning a lifelong obsession.

However I have to admit that I now have nothing but total respect for a person who just three years ago was nationally vilified as the man responsible for England’s World Cup defeat by Argentina, after he was sent off for utterly reckless retaliation against one of the galloping gauchos. How much he has matured since then and what a wonderfully hard-working, gifted and inspiring captain of England he is now. It makes any English football fan almost dare to dream of winning the World Cup again, especially after the way in which they thrashed Germany 5-1 in Munich in September.

On the Premiership stage it remains to be seen how memorable a season ‘Goldenballs’ and his teammates can make it for Sir Alex Ferguson in his final term as Manchester United’s manager. Ferguson’s stated aim is to win the European Champions League for the second time, following their success in 1999. If they are to achieve this aim they’ll need to wake up goalkeeper Barthez, whose two tragic blunders led to their home defeat to Deportivo recently. And the rest of their defence has been frail in Europe.

They’ve also looked vulnerable in the Premiership this season and currently lie third, three points behind David O’Leary’s Leeds United, who were England’s best-placed Champions League team last season when they reached the semi-finals.

Leeds are looking good this season, especially Robbie Keane, the striker they signed from Inter Milan for £11 million, but they still don’t arouse the same kind of passion outside of their native city that Manchester United do all over the world. So great is this international passion for the Red Devils that they probably have more fans in Malaysia than they do in Manchester and, accordingly, a Manchester United shop has been opened in Kuala Lumpur to service the need for Manchester United shirts, boots, scarves, books and goodness knows what else, amongst Malaysian fans. There’s also a Manchester United shop in Singapore.

Man U Store
The Manchester United store in Singapore’s busy Orchard Road.

The Malaysian Manchester United fervour was further fanned last July when ‘Goldenballs’ and co. undertook a short Southeast Asian tour, visiting Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, and attracting the kind of crowds in KL that the Malaysian national team can only dream about. Other English Premiership teams with strong followings in Malaysia are Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, and they’re all having mixed seasons so far.

Arsenal currently lie second to Leeds in the Premiership, ahead of Manchester United on goal difference, though they’re struggling in Europe having won only one of their Champions League games so far.

Liverpool are also struggling in the Champions League and suffered the ignominy of being knocked out of the Worthington Cup, one of the three trophies they’re defending this season, by Nationwide First Division opponents Grimsby Town. However they’re fairly well placed in the Premiership, currently five points behind Leeds with a game in hand.

Chelsea are also motoring along OK so far, being unbeaten in the Premiership, though they’re managing to draw more games than they’re winning under Claudio Ranieri’s leadership despite striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink having struck (forgive the pun) a rich vein of form with seven goals from just six games. The boys from Stamford Bridge were also sailing through the early rounds of the UEFA Cup, until they came unstuck in Tel Aviv, losing to Haptoed Tel Aviv 2-0, largely because six of their star players were too frightened to travel with the rest of the team to Israel. Given the current situation there, it’s probably understandable, although they would appear to have let down their courageous team-mates who did make the journey. Let’s hope that they can atone for this in the return leg at Stamford Bridge.

Man U group shot
Will Manchester United be able to repeat their 2000/2001 Premiership win?

But it’s early days yet in the Premiership, though most pundits would expect the eventual 2001/2002 champions to come from those five teams, with possibly a rejuvenated Aston Villa as a dark horse outside bet.

At the other end of football’s toughest league Leicester are really missing manager Martin O’Neill after he left to join Glasgow Celtic towards the end of last season. Firmly rooted to the bottom with just five points they’ve already parted company with his replacement, Peter Taylor. Ipswich, West Ham and Derby are also looking to be in trouble and the relegated teams at the end of the season may well come from those four and perennial strugglers Southampton. But as I said, it’s early days yet.

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The Museum entrance, courtyard and Art of the Mosque exhibit all show superb Islamic detailing.

EMBRACING 1,300 years of history over a vast arena the arts of Islam are evidence of the magnificent, but often little known, accomplishments of one of the world’s major civilizations. With its vast repositories of architecture, calligraphy, book illumination, paintings, ceramics, textiles, glassware and metalwork, it’s hard to imagine how a single museum could do it justice.

It’s not an easy task, but the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia has not only taken it on, but has succeeded admirably. The first museum of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region, it not only serves to present the arts of Islam to the public, but also educates them in the finer points of the religion and its civilization.

Situated in the middle of Kuala Lumpur’s “tourist belt”, adjacent to the National Mosque, the museum mirrors the Islamic ideal of paradise: fountains play in the courtyard and views of verdant gardens appear through the transparent walls. With architecture being the most dominant and spectacular of all Islamic arts, the museum doesn’t disappoint. Built at a cost of RM70 million, the four-level building combines contemporary museum style with superb Islamic detailing.

Dome interiors
Dome interior
Dome interiors

“Travel through the Earth and see how Allah originates the creation”, is but part of the peculiarly apt Qur’anic inscription that greets visitors entering the Iwan, the traditional Persian mosque gateway. Its flowing calligraphy and arabesque tilework were created on site by Iranian craftsmen.

The museum is an oasis. Kuala Lumpur’s heat and humidity disappear when you enter, substituted by the welcome respite of an almost Arctic cool, essential for the preservation of the many priceless objects. Traffic noises are replaced by sonorous Qur’an recitals.

Ascending the marble staircase visitors arrive in a spacious hall to gaze up at another architectural triumph, a unique inverted dome. Created by Uzbekistan craftsmen, this pure white dome protrudes from the lofty roof. Qur’anic verses in gold pattern its rim and arabesques of cut glass glitter over its surface.

From this level, resist the impulse to experience the cuisine at the museum’s restaurant or be tempted by one of Malaysia’s most sophisticated gift shops. These can wait till later. Take the lift directly to Level 3 for the Art of the Mosque and the Art of Architecture. Here are intricate scale models of some of the Islamic world’s most enduring architecture. Discover the immensity of Al-Haram, the Islamic world’s holiest mosque in Mecca, the soaring façades of Samarkand’s Great Mosque and the infinite purity of the Taj Mahal, among others.

The Museum gift shop, a treasure trove of interesting pieces.

For anyone who has longed to visit the great mosques of the world, this exhibition is a wonderful introduction not only to these houses of worship but to the underlying factor that encompasses all Islamic art — it may appear disparate, but it is all essentially a physical manifestation of the worship of God (Allah). Art and faith are interchangeable in Islam since the precepts of the faith pervade all aspects of life and work.

The Art of the Mosque is even more revealing, especially for non-Muslims, as it shows the interior aspects of mosques, featuring essentials like the Minbar, or pulpit, from which the Imam delivers his Friday address, and the Mihrab, a false door which shows the direction of Mecca. But even more fascinating, because only Muslims are allowed to view them in the original in Mecca, are the large velvet cloths embroidered with Qur’anic verses that formerly covered the Kaabah, the “House of God”.

Ottoman Room
The Ottoman room was reconstructed from a house in Damascus.

Islam’s glorious history is well reflected in both the museum’s permanent and changing exhibitions. Of course, the most important exhibition is of the Qur’ans, reflecting the importance of the Muslim holy texts. The beauty of the calligraphy, and the delicate illuminations can be viewed at leisure while listening to Qur’anic recitals. It’s a lesson in the ageless appeal of the Qur’an: while many of the written works are ancient, the source of the audio is high tech at its best. It’s an interactive Qur’an with monitors giving a simultaneous translation in English. The wall display is linked to a touch-sensitive panel from which the viewer can select any surah — verse from the Qur’an — and then play to hear the celebrated Mohamad Jebril recite the selected passage.

A recent invention, the Fraser-Nash Sundial, calculates astronomical movements to an accuracy of less than three seconds. Five coloured bands across a world map indicate the five prayer times across the world at that instant, showing at a glance the global impact of Islam.

Another highlight of the museum is the lavish, wood-panelled Ottoman Room, formerly from a rich merchant’s summer house in Damascus, which was reconstructed by a Syrian craftsman. Panels are painted with calligraphy, floral arrangements and depictions of old Istanbul houses, while the intricate ceiling is carved, gilded, painted and mirrored to an astonishing degree.

Children's section of the library
The children’s section of the library.

This intricacy of work, a constant in Islamic art, is repeated in many of the exhibitions. There are manuscripts, ceramics, textiles, prayer rugs, coins, metalwork, weapons, jewellery and glass. The unique Chinese calligraphic scrolls inscribed in Arabic, are a personal favourite of Dr Norbert Heinrich Holl, the German Ambassador to Malaysia. “I’ve never seen anything like them anywhere else”, he remarked. He should know as not only does he collect Qur’ans and Islamic art, but he has also handed over his collection to the museum for public viewing during his tenure in Malaysia.

Dr Holl’s generosity was praised by Syed Mohamad Albukhary, the director of the museum and the Albukhary Foundation, the Malaysia-based philanthropic enterprise, which provided the majority of the funds for the museum. “It will certainly create an impetus for others”, he said, “to come forward and work with the museum in educating the world on the timeless beauty of Islam and its Arts”.

Others have also been forthcoming, particularly the Sultan of Brunei whose fabulous collection of artefacts certainly enhances not only the viewer’s pleasure, but the prestige of the museum.

It has only been two and a half years since the museum first opened, but it is well on the way to realising its commitment to be the custodian, restorer, preserver and educator of Islamic Arts, not only in Malaysia but also in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia
Jalan Lembah Perdana, 50480, Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: (603) 2274 2020
Opening Hours: 10am to 6pm, except Monday.
Entrance Fee: RM8 (adults); RM4 (children).