Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Watch out for Yen! Part 5 ( Final)

The demands for carry trades are sustainable so long as the outlook for Yen continues to be bearish, meaning the currency is foreseen to be on a downtrend due to factor like widening rate differential (between Japan and other major industrialised nations).

Another factor that is likely to spur carry trades demand is the bullish sentiments over stock markets, especially those in the emerging markets.

Any signal that is likely to induce speculators to believe that Yen is tending to strengthen or stock markets are already at higher risks, there would be jitters in the markets sufficient to trigger a sell-off to cut losses.

The logic behind is simple: When Yen goes up, speculators who expose to carry trades would incur huge losses in currency exchange because now they have to buy Yen back at higher exchange rates. Similarly, when markets turn bearish, they have to exit fast and unwind carry trades to protect against losses and vice versa.

When Yen and market outlook are not favourable to hedge funds with large exposure to carry trades, the market would slump fast and turn extremely volatile as borrowers rush to buy back Yen to cover their positions.

As of this date, the Yen carry trades amount to such a huge sum that they have become a cause for concern. The gigantic size of the liquidity has made the world market (particularly the markets of the emerging economies) so sensitive that an unfounded rumour is enough to send the markets tumbling.

I have been tracking Yen and , in this year alone, I have witnessed a few times the currency pricking the market by appreciating.

If you are in the market, it may be worthwhile to track the currency's trend.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Watch out for Yen! - Part 4

When Mr. Junichiro Koizumi took office as the PM of Japan on April 26 2001, he vowed to aggressively push for economic reform. Among other measures taken progressively, he heeded the advice of a top-notch economist from the United States to massively print Yen to lift up the economy.

With the rate of interest at zero, Japan had the world's loosest monetary policy. In sum, Japan's funds were the cheapest in the world - and now, with the enormous Yen printed, the market was flooded with liquidity.

This created a golden opportunity for speculative traders (hedge funds, for example) to borrow cheap Yen for trading in higher-yielding (and riskier) assets, especially those in emerging markets.

This is what we call "carry trades"- which are essentially trades taking advantage of yield differentials (low-yielding Yen anf higher-yielding stocks in China, for example).

This sort of trade yields positive returns, and has since been flourishing, pushing Yen to an even lower rate of exchange.

Yen is reputedly the most undervalued currency in the world - and " carry trades " could be one of the main causes of it.

Yen "carry trades" have been one of the chief factors driving up the Asian stock markets. What implications, then, do Yen movements have on the emerging markets?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Watch out for Yen! - Part 3

Japan's rising surpluses in balance of trade with the United States, in addition to its influential economic power built up over the years, prompted the Americans to pressurise Japan in 70s-80s to immensely revalue its Yen upwardly.

To this, Japan gave in and kowtowed to the American demands - both to its advantage and disadvantage.

After Yen was massively appreciated, Japan lost its competitive edge in exports. In short, Japan could no longer rely on its cheap currency to compete in international export markets.

Instead, Japan had to stand up to the tougher trading environment with quality and efficiency.
The qualitative factor took Japan to even further by leaps and bounds and enabled the nation to swim against the current. With this change in mindset, Japan did impressively well and outperformed most other countries.

But the appreciating Yen also drew in huge speculative funds or hot money to bet on the currency. The foreign funds together with the local excess liquidity inflated the Japanese asset prices enormously - so much so that, at a later stage, the speculative drive turned the property markets into bubbles.

Eventually, in 1990, the property bubbles in Japan burst , causing a terrible havoc to the nation. Nikkei index simply melted down from a height of 40,000 points, wiping out massive wealth of Japanese. The property prices, especially those in Tokyo, slumped down to the bottom. All these sent corporations and individuals alike to join in endless queues of bankrupts.

The chain effects affected the Japan's economy badly, causing it to go into recession for a period of more than 12 years.

During this period, Japan also adopted zero - interest monetary policy to prop up the economy and to lead the nation out of deflation.

Towards the end of 2002, Japan finally started to see twilight of recovery.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Watch out for Yen! - Part 2

Lat's cartoon best illustrated Japan's wealth and its superiority in economic influence - regionally as well as internationally.

It showed Mr. Ohira arriving at KL Subang International Airport on an official visit to Malaysia. At the airport welcoming him was Tun Hussein.

Standing tall and holding up his head, Mr. Ohira had a bit of stuck-up look - not surprising because Japan's superior standing in terms of economic power had raised its status everywhere.

Shocking to Mr. Ohira's counterpart in Malaysia was his lighting up cigarette using a burning Yen note - in fact it was so striking that Tun Hussein raised his eye-brows.

Wow! What a perfect illustration of the richness of Japan in cash.

In 70s and 80s, Japan's quick rise to a rich country status put it in a position to give out aid to developing countries in technology - transfer and Yen -denominated soft loans. Malaysia was one of the benefiting countries.

Mr. Ohira's visit to Malaysia was to finalise certain soft loan packages - and no wonder Lat's humorously depicted him to show off in such an excessive manner.

Japan also used enormous Yen to make inroads into developed countries like U.S.A. The takeover of Rockefeller Center shocked Americans to the extent that they became wary of Japanese, thinking they might threaten the United States. So Americans schemed for the appreciation of Yen to fend off the probable threat.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Watch out for Yen! - Part 1

When I was at Monash University, one place that I loved most to go to during my lunch break or free times was Monash University Malaysian Students' Union room located on thr first floor of Student Union Building.

The MUMSU room became a chit-chatting place for Malaysian students of Monash. That was also the only place where New Straits Times was available to keep us close to homeland. NST was flown in from KL at high postage. Fortunately, Monash Student Union subsidised MUMSU for this meaningful service to the fellow Malaysian students.

I used to bring packed lunch there and waited with patience for my turn to read NST. In short, NST was very hotly demanded there.

At times, MUMSU room was also turned into a venue for airing views on Malaysian politics - and, occasionally, friendly exchanges were overshot into heated-up debate on contentious issues. The place, therefore, conveniently became an important source for me to update on the current political developments back in Malaysia.

I never missed Lat's cartoons in NST, especially those depicting Malaysian political issues.

In one copy of the paper, Lat's almost struck me off the balance with a cartoon on Tun Hussein bin Dato' Onn, then the PM of Malaysia, and Mr. Ohira Masayoshi, the then Japan's PM.

The cartoon was Japanese Yen-related.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My encounter with an Indian fortune teller

Early this morning, my worker informed that there was an Indian wishing to meet me for a personal matter.

That sounded a bit weird - and I hesitated for a short while before I went out to face the Indian.

In his 50s, the Indian self-introduced with a card as a "Life Preditor" ( or fortune teller, as we normally call). Seeing this, I immediately turned him away diplomatically.

This was not the first time I encountered a fortune teller. When I first came out to work, an Indian dropped in my office one morning. Very politely, he requested for a short audience.

I was then very much just a greenhorn. Without too much deeper thinking, I happily invited the Indian to a seat. He then went straight to the point, introducing himself as a fortune teller.

A glib talker, indeed, he gave an impressive presentation of my life analysis. Besides that, his magical gimmicks also mesmerized me.

I was almost hoodwinked into going further when a sudden flash in my mind swung me back to reality. I gestured to him for a stop - and for the most amusing lip-service rendered, I paid him off with RM20. Apparently, he expected more.

This incident taught me a lesson : never give fortune tellers or other glib talkers a slightest chance even to start off. Exercise your good diplomacy to turn them away before they start rolling.

Avoid eye contact with them - they may possess certain hypnotizing or supernatural power, someone advised me.

I value very much this golden advice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chain letters - now spread by SMS and e-mails

Chain letters were common during my school and college days. I used to receive them from unknown senders and, out of sheer fear, burn the midnight oil to hand-copy them for passing on - alas, to all my good friends.

At a later stage when copier hit the market, there was a sigh of relief. Instead of staying up late, we queued up at bookshops to make the required copies of the chain letters for mailing out to the targeted poor recipients.

A typical chain letter consists of a message that attempts to induce the recipients to make a number of copies of the letter and then pass them on to one or more new recipients.

Messages in chain letters are usually of exploitative nature, aiming to take advantage of human weaknesses in emotions, greed, superstitious beliefs, etc.

Emotionally manipulative stories and get-rich-quick pyramid schemes have , therefore, long become the methods commonly used in chain letters, and superstition has been exploited to the fullest to threaten recipients with bad luck if he or she breaks the chain , and refuses to adhere to the conditions set out in the letter.

With the advent of internet and mobile phones, the spread of chain letters has become even speedier.

Within a short span of time, I received two chain letters, one via SMS this morning and the other through e-mail two days ago. Both letters sounded very threatening, but I chose to disregard them.

Years ago, I started to adopt a personal policy to break the chains of all the chain letters I received. I can't stop others from sending out, but I have restrained myself from spreading ill-conceived messages that are purposeless. Praise God for that!

Next time when you receive one , you may attempt to put a stop to it by breaking the chain.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A whopping 50% devaluation of Rupiah in 1970s

Don was my coursemate, and my buddy, during my student days at Monash University in Australia. Coming from a well-to-do family in Indonesia, Don was unreservedly straightforward and friendly.

We chatted a lot, and occasionally he would amuse me by chipping in with some interesting, but little known, past events in Indonesia.

One day after our lecture on macroeconomics at Rotunda, I went with Don to buy lunch at Student Union Building. We joined in a long queue for chicken and chips.

Suddenly, Don nudged me and uttered with low voice, "Tony, our lecturer just now was eloquent on currencies - but my story would be even more striking and exciting, also on currency."

That instantly turned me high-spirited and inquisitive. After we got our packed chicken and chips, we settled on a bench in the beautifully landscapped compound of Monash with lush greenery.

"You know, it happened in Indonesia in 1970s when Suharto was at the helm," Don started off.

"One year, the President planned to devalue Rupiah - wow, by a whopping 50%!" Don continued excitedly.

President Suharto divulged this top official secret to his close buddy, a Chinese tycoon W.

Seeing it as a windfall not to be missed, W grabbed it with little hesitation and wasted no time - he liquidized literally all his assets and deposited the whole proceeds in Singapore , in U.S. dollars. W then laid back and waited for the devaluation announcement.

"When the President devalued Rupiah by a stunning 50%, W laughed his way to the bank and switched his entire cash back to Rupiah - wow! wow! wow! his personal wealth simply doubled overnight!" Don finished off with a look of admiration.

For a while, I sank into a state of illusion, musing over the scandalous windfall.

"It was a game of wits and risks - and the winner took it all," I told Don.

Don nodded to me.

This story stays on in my mind as a constant reminder about international currencies - their risks, manipulation and all the wits you need to outdo them.

I lost Don's contact after Monash. He should be in Jakarta. Anyway, sincerely, I hope Don is doing well.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Turn our foods into tourist attractions

Besides cultural diversity and natural beauty, Borneo has a lot more attractions to offer to our dear tourists, one of which is our ethnic foods.

I strongly believe, with innovative publicity, our foods have immense potentials to be turned into excellent tourist selling points.

Years back when I was in Melbourne, Australia as a student, I still remember Aussies talking a lot about Penang - in fact much more than any other places in Malaysia.

Subsequently, I found out that the formula to Penang's success was, partly, its well-received hawker foods. The state government there extensively promoted their sellable foods like Penang char kueh teow, Penang laksa, etc.

The astounding success of the hawker food promotion contributed to the flourishing tourism business in Penang which should be exemplary for us to learn from.

The above picture (taken in front of Premier Hotel, Sibu http://www.premierh.com.my/ )shows another group of Dutch tourists in Sibu on July 22 for a one-night transit. Led by Miss Charlotte, these ecotourists, comprising of 22 in total, flew in to Borneo for a stretch of 23 days touring the island.

Our culture and nature have lured them to take holiday here for personal experience. We should take pride of our unique assets. But I hope one day our ethnic foods would also turn into a selling point and become part of our tourists' itinerary.

Let's all work for it.

Andyson Sulang, the tour guide, with Charlotte (on the right) before they left for Bintulu.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nasi Goreng - our best seller

When you plan for dining out, and yet not knowing where to go to or what to order for ,
then let me tickle you with our best seller at Cafe Palmelia http://www.premierh.com.my/ -nasi goreng .
Nasi goreng or fried rice is a popular menu item easily available in eating - houses in Malaysia. Our recipe is uniquely designed to make the dish a lot more value-added and satisfying. The fried rice comes with vegetable pickles, two sticks of satay (chicken and beef , with peanut sauce) and curry (chicken and potato), and it is topped with fried silver anchovies, one fried egg and a piece of crispy prawn cracker.
It looks tempting and its taste - wow! I can assure you -is simply delicious!
Include it in your next dining-out programme and try out for yourself- you will like it.
The above picture is by courtesy of Peter S.K. Chiew ARPS.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Happy birthday, Allen

Today is Allen's birthday and he is now 15.

Yesterday he came up to me and asked, "Dad, shall we dine out on my birthday tomorrow?" O yes, I instantly gave a greenlight to his wish. His face turned radiant and he told me he looked forward to it.

We went to Happy Sweet Seafood, our favourite eating-house which serves one of the best home-cooked dishes. We let Allen "call the shot" this evening - and he made full use of it by placing orders for his favourites.

The meal was satisfactorily good and my family had a wonderful time together celebrating Allen's birthday.

The picture shows fish bladder soup - succulently good and it has become a must.

Salad king spare-ribs - Allen and Pauline all gave thumbs up to it.
Their signature dish - beancurd with assorted ingredients. We can't afford to miss it!
Lemon chicken - the birthday boy said this was yummy!
Yian ordered sweet and sour fish fillets - it was irresistibily good and we all loved it.

Happy birthday, Allen! With best wishes from granny, dad, mom, Sidney and Pauline.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Malaysia - an islamic or secular state?

This week, our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Rajak stunned the nation by publicly making a statement, saying that Malaysia is an islamic state in actual fact.

The Chinese-based MCA and DAP expectedly flung back with protests, basing their arguement on our constitutional provisions. They made it vehemently clear that Malaysia is a secular state, constitutionally speaking.

For a start, Malaysia is certainly not of a theocratic (and/or Orthodox Islamic) system of government. This point needs no further elaboration.

By constitution, our country is a secular state completely from a legal point of view.

However, in modern context, an islamic state ( as is argued by many ) is to strike a middle path between a completely secular and a theocratic systems of government. In other words, it is a compromise in a loose sense.

Here is the point - politically, Malaysia is caught in this context. Raising islamic state issue has been a political gimmick only to serve political needs with no viable plan to amend the Malaysian constitution to that effect.

Our ex-PM Tun Dr. Mahathir brought up the islamic state issue on Sept. 29, 2001 to fence off the overwhelming challenge posed by PAS (Pan Malaysian Islamic Party).

And now Datuk Seri Najib also openly made the same statement, also with a political motive - to sidetrack. Lately Najib has been sitting on a burning seat. With the drumbeat of the next parliamentary elections sounding loud and clear, Datuk Seri has to take a political tactic to firm his foothold.

Simply put, Najib was only striking to capitalise on the islamic state issue.

Both MCA and DAP jumped up high from their seats on this sticky issue - why did they react strong? They have to, otherwise the Chinese community would slap back on their faces during elections.

Malaysia can't afford, as yet, to constitutionally change its status from a secular state to that of an islamic state. With our nation still depending heavily on foreign funds for investments, a declaration to that effect would instantly scare off investors and trigger an outflow of foreign funds.

I foresee Malaysia to continue remaining politically an islamic state (to suit political needs), but constitutionally secular in status.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Coming far away from Holland

Arriving Sibu for a one-night stay-over on July 15, this group of Dutch tourists is on a 23-day holiday touring the exotic Borneo.

The beauty of Borneo Island has fascinated the outside world. We all grow up here - and naturally the beautiful settings have become so used to us that we might tend to be indifferent to them. In other words, we have developed "colour-blindness" to the uniqueness of our nature and culture.

But to our dear tourists coming from countries like Germany. Holland, etc, there is simply too much to discover here in Borneo. As Sarawak Tourism Board put it some years ago, Borneo is a land of hidden paradise.

This tour group would certainly find their holiday here an eye-opener - taking them to see for themselves and experience personally our natural settings and cultural heritage.

I met up with the tour leader Mr. Koen Jansen together with the tour guide for a short chat before they left for Bintulu.

The picture shows the Dutch tourists in front of Premier Hotel, Sibu .www.premierh.com.my

Koen Jansen (left) with the tour guide Andyson Sulang in the hotel's lobby. Together they are going to take the group for a journey of memories.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Metropolitan Travel Service took the lead on July 17

This 38-seater tourist coach quietly entered the market to boost the local tourism industry. It might even have not caught your attention, but never underestimate its role in tourism development. If you just go a bit deeper , you would probably agree with me that it is beneficial to Sibuians, albeit in a humble way initially.
YB Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, Finance Minister II cum Minister for Urban Development and Tourism Sarawak, cut the ribbon to declare the launching of Tour Bus. The Minister aspires to expand the economic base of Sibu and he sees tourism as having immense potentials for the central region. As such, Dato Sri has been committed to making Sibu shine on the tourist map.
YB Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh and YB Datuk Tiong Thai King gave thumbs up to the plush interiors. Together with other invited guests, they went for a free ride to personally experience the coach. There is still a distance to go for the tourism industry in Sibu - but let's get on board and together we finish the journey.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A new tourist coach for Sibu

This morning at 9:30 am, Metropolitan Travel Service Sdn. Bhd. launched its Tour Bus, the first ever privately operated full-fledged tourist coach to meet the long-felt need of Sibu.

The launching,which was officiated by YB Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, marked an important milestone in the tourism industry of Sibu. With Tour Bus coming on stream, it implies that from now onwards, Sibu would at least be catered for by a proper tourist coach of industry standard.

I remember vividly a sour experience poured out to me by the leader of an orchestra from Peking last year. "We had to charter a local passenger bus without air-conditioning facility for a trip to Sarikei," he grumbled. A far cry from what is available in Peking, he expressed surprise at our very lacking infrastructure.

Upon arriving at the premises this morning, the posh Tour Bus came into my sight and it struck my mind - O dear, what a long wait for Sibu to have one!

My thought instantly flashed back to the first ever tourist coach in Sibu something like 15 years ago. A MOT (Ministry of Tourism) - owned and operated, the coach was despatched to Sibu in 1993 under a scheme to boost the local tourism industry. It served Sibuians humbly for 5 years before MOT auctioned it off in 1998 without assigning any convincing reason. I remember at that time a few industry players' eyes almost turned red to see the coach go into history.

The MOT-owned coach was truly an asset to Sibu. While the private sector could not afford to viably operate one, the Ministry stepped in to take the lead.

We benefited a lot from the scheme (of providing a coach at very much subsidised rates), especially in tourism aspects. Its demise was not only a loss but also a blow to the region's tourism industry.

It was a delight that after 10 years, Metropolitan Travel Service Sdn. Bhd. came in to bridge the gap. We hope its humble steps now would one day turn into a giant leap for the tourism of Sibu.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Bowling competition at Sibu Superbowl

Sibu Superbowl, the only indoor bowling centre in Sibu, is now into its 11th year of operations, providing alternative sporting facilities to Sibuians.

Sibu Superbowl is housed in a detached complex, operating on a 28-lane capacity with full computerisation. An excellent venue for both leisure and exercise, Sibu Superbowl has long become a love of many locals.

Bowling players have to practise to perfect, otherwise you might end up embarrassingly clumsy.

Methodist Adult Fellowship (MAF) of Sibu East District organised a district level bowling competition this evening from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm at Sibu Superbowl with the objective to foster better ties among the fellowshipers.

All in all, 14 teams from 12 MAFs participated. There were moments of fun, but, at times, tense excitement also set in when points were close to one another. However, at the end of it, everybody just laughed away, knowing that the spirit of fellowship got to prevail.

The end results did not come as a surprise, although some might feel they could have done better. The championship of the competition went to Xin Fu Yuan Methodist. Truly, they deserved it - all the players did well and there was perfect balance in their playing skills. Masland Methodist Church was the runner-up, with third and fourth places grabbed by Wesley Methodist Church and Shiuan Daw Methodist Church respectively.

A group photograph of the contingent from Masland Methodist Church. They had put in their best efforts - and the result was encouraging.
Xin Fu Yuan Methodist Church receiving the prize. They did exceedingly well- and they stood proud of it.
And a sumptuous supper after the event.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sibu Trade and Exhibition Centre

Sibu Trade and Exhibition Centre was established about two years ago at the brain-wave of the Vision Team to broaden the economic base through turning Sibu into an economically viable M.I.C.E. (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) centre with the ultimate aim to make Sibu more prosperous.

With timber resources diminishing, it is the aspiration of the Vision Team to diversify the base of Sibu. The concept of MICE was mooted and it eventually materialised in a privatisation scheme by way of converting a godown of Rajang Port Authority (RPA) to a full-fledged multi-functional hall suitable for a wide spectrum of functions.

Ideally situated in the strategic location of Sibu, the Exhibition Centre is reputedly the biggest event centre of the town. Handy as it is, it facilitates to diversify Sibu and take it one step nearer to be a MICE centre.

It all still sounds a distance away - but Sibu Trade and Exhibition Centre is a step in the right direction.

The picture shows the main entrance of the Exhibition Centre.

The picture shows a section of the Exhibition Centre. The excess capacity of RPA is now put to a more productive use for the good cause of Sibu.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Teh Tarik at Cafe Palmelia

Teh tarik or pulled tea is a popular local hot beverage loved by Malaysians and Singaporeans of all walks of life. Usually available only in outdoor stalls or kopitiam, it now quietly creeps its way into the cosy setting of Premier Hotel www.premierh.com.my , making it now more than just a hawker drink.

A de facto national drink of Malaysia, teh tarik is brewed up by using tea and condensed milk. The mixture is then poured from a hand held high into a container held in a hand below. The tea is poured back and forth in this manner to create a thick froth.

It is believed that this brewing method mixes the tea with condensed milk more thoroughly and, in the pulling action, cools down the tea to an optimum temperature for consumption.

Teh tarik in Cafe Palmelia of Premier Hotel is served in a gigantic mug - seriously enough to make you entirely satisfied. Together with it comes a piece of mint-stuffed chocolate to sweeten you up, making your tea time here a lot more enjoyable.

At only RM7.5++ per mug, it is not pricey if you take its quality and the ambience of the coffee-house into consideration.

Come to try it out for yourself - and I am positive that you would agree with me!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Upgrade the broadband service

This week on July 10, I was very much interested by Telekom's news release on its plan to return surplus cash to its shareholders as a reward. Oh, what a miss - I banged on my chest for not holding on to the shares.

TM is indeed flush with cash to give hefty rewards. As of March 31, the gigantic TM is high with cash balances of RM2.2 billion.

It is notably pleasing to learn that the giant continues to seek out investment opportunities in Asian region, aiming to grow into a regional player of telecommunication.

Certainly, growth through investment is the objective of all corporations. Rewarding shareholders is to provide return to their investments which is their ultimate aim. In sum, TM is perfectly on the right track.

However, other than investing regionally to enlarge earning base, and rewarding shareholders handsomely, may I humbly suggest to TM to also consider setting aside funds to upgrade the broadband internet services which are presently under fire.

Locally still low in usage, the broadband service is , therefore, a market of immense potentials.

The aspiration of our government is to turn Malaysia into a global ICT hub. The present quality would undermine the government's efforts.

Maybe it is also time for Malaysia to get in foreign players with huge capital to provide broadband services of higher quality.

The picture shows the frontage of TM , Sibu.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Shrinking greenback

Several years ago, I received a U.S. dollar note with the denomination of one-dollar. The note was enclosed in a magazine sent to me as a way to say "thank you" in a massive readership loyalty drive. I accepted with heart-felt thanks - plus, of course, much admiration of the periodical's most innovative strategy.

At that time, the strong dollar policy still prevailed. I loved the note not because of its monetary value, but for the sentimental reason. So I decided to keep it as a constant reminder of the uniqueness of the loyalty drive.

Not long after the receipt, Bush took over the presidency from Clinton. In an apparent move to diverge from the Clinton's strong dollar policy, Bush indicated to the whole world that he favoured a weak greenback - apparently more for political than for economic reasons.

Since mid-2002, the dollar has been on a falling trend with no sign of bottoming out. This has kept the currency traders and punters alike crazy worldwide.

An email from U.S. this morning informed me that the politically-driven weakening of the greenback has a lot of hidden costs to the Americans in the long term.

The costs are going to impact the United States of America in its standing as the world's No. 1 power. This alarming wake-up call, I hope, is sufficient to send a cold chill down the Americans' spinal cords.

Well, it sounds unbelievable - but you may choose not to heed. However, if you have sizeable dollar-denominated assets on hand, it is worth your while to keep track of the dollar's movements.

In the foreseeable future, the dollar value of the note that I am still keeping as a souvenir is going to fade away some more- and, worse still, no one seems certain how far more the dollar is going to dip.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A cowboy town in the making?

It was a bombshell , causing a big stir locally. As the scene was video-shot and uploaded to YouTube for free screening worldwide, to a certain extent, it has now become a scandalous case, internationally.

The whole video scene, lasting for 20 minutes in total, involved three youngsters bashing up another one ( of similar age - from the look of him ), glaringly, on an open ground with no regard to the surroundings. Even more daring was their live video shooting and subsequent uploading to YouTube, as if telling the whole world how cowboyish they were.

I was very much perturbed by the show and it cast a chill over me.

It was just a sheer act - don't be fooled by them, someone told me.

Maybe - but they acted so convincingly real that the whole world fell to their deception - if that was truly the case, then the superstars of tomorrow have been born in Sibu.

If the video show was a real act of fist and violence, then there is cause for deep concern by Police Department and Education Department.

The widely screened bashing might impact youngsters in Sibu with wrongful perception - that the fists overpower all , not the rule of law.

If we let it spread like a disease and get our boys' minds contaminated without curbing, then more and more of our youngsters would likely grow up cowboy-like, believing very much in fist-power.

Are we all prepared to happily let Sibu become a cowboy town in the making?

The picture is the cover of the latest issue of "The Economist", showing George Bush as the world's No. 1 in fist-power. Did the three boys in Sibu copy the President's idea?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

German tourists on a 23-day visit - Part 3 (final)

Sibu, here we come!

The tour group stepped on the Land of Swan on July 5 with much eagerness to look forward to. After they dropped their luggage in the hotel, they started their tightly scheduled programme.

The itinerary in Sibu was only a one-night stop-over - seriously too transitory in nature to experience much. Despite that, the group managed to squeeze out time for maximum coverage.

City tour was a must. Then they popped over to Bukit Aup to appreciate the greenery. Not missed out was Pasar Malam where they experienced the urban petty traders' livelihood. And, of course, before they called it a day, they would all love to go to Bamboo House for a drink or two.

Short as the stay might be, the German tourists were impressed by Sibu. Before they drove off to Bintulu on the following morning, we wished them a happy remaining journey.

The group's itinerary for the central region was shockingly brief. Destination of adventure like Pelagus was left out, making me wonder what has gone wrong with our tourism promotions and planning. You might argue that this was very much an isolated case and, therefore,should not be generalised. But, if you talk to people who are in this line,you would find that they tend to concur with me.

Tourism has been identified as one of the economically viable industries that Sibu has great potentials to develop. As we all know, the central region has been blessed with richness in cultural diversity, natural beauty and adventure settings - all are well in place to make this region an excellent destination for discovery tours.

CAN (culture, adventure and nature) is our asset and as we thrive to nourish the growth of our tourism industry, we need to focus well on these aspects.

Ecotourism is a worldwide trend. Growing numbers of holiday-makers love to go back to nature. Have we already captured our share of this market?

By any standard, we have been lagged behind in tourism, especially in comparison with Kuching, Miri and now even with Bintulu. Have we reflected seriously on this issue?

Much has been talked about and we have been vocal over the years, but sadly, there is still left with desirable room for concrete follow-up.

I recall about twelve years back when the concept of CAN was raised to promote the region's tourism, there was much enthusiasm about it. But it was not put into a concrete plan - sadly, indeed.

As we are all too well aware, the economy base of Sibu is presently in a transformation stage - from timber to tourism, agriculture and light industry-based. We really have to work hard to catch up - otherwise we might stand to be edged out in no time.

Monday, July 9, 2007

German tourists on a 23-day visit - Part 2

Guiding the tour group from Kuching to Miri is Andyson Sulang, a veteran guide who has been in this line for a whopping long period of 16 years.

Not long, he mused. "I have a lot of satisfaction out of it and I simply love guiding."

On his career planning, Andyson said he would move on with full commitment to contribute his little efforts to the local tourism industry.

After leaving Kuching, the coach took them to Serian for a transitory stop-over where they went for sight-seeing. After that, they proceeded to Sri Aman.

The itinerary had a more exciting programme for the German holiday-makers in Sri Aman, the highlight of which was a night-stay in one Iban longhouse to experience a personal touch of the local culture. They simply loved the longhouse experience.

After they departed Sri Aman, they continued their journey to the next destination - Sibu.

Though tiring, travelling by land is a lot more interesting -you see, you have wonderful opportunities to see more on your way. Country scenery is what air-travellers miss the most. It is precisely for this reason that Andyson's groups are mostly land-travelling.

The picture shows Andyson Sulang at the hotel's reception counter.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Borneo Cultural Festival 2007 - Grand Finale

Borneo Cultural Festival 2007 came to a close on July 7 with a display of colourful fireworks, bringing the event to a climax.

The grand finale was the begining to another greater height of BCF in 2008 as the organisers reflect on the event just concluded.

On the aspect of promoting harmony in culture, BCF deserves thumbs up. The diversity of our culture is an asset and BCF successfully brings the ethnic groups to showcase their unique culture under its banner, thereby creating better understanding.

However, on the tourism front, SMC has to put in more efforts to popularise the event in foreign tourists in order to get more arrivals of them. Planning needs to be done early enough to enable intending visitors to draw up itineraries well in advance.

We also have to improve our flight scheduling and connectivity to give enthusiastic tourists hassle-free air-travelling.

Our present air flights have been a source of disappointment to travellers, domestic and foreign alike. Don't let our tourists go back disgruntled - as we all know, once beaten ,
twice shy. So work on to upgrade this aspect of air services to attract more tourists to come.

BCF has great potentials as a puller of foreign visitors - all that is required is for us to put hands together to work for it.

The picture shows an exhibition of Traditional Chinese Wedding.

A demonstration of Wu Shu or Chinese Martial Arts .
Dayak food stalls.
A section of the trade fair.
The crowds on the grand finale night.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

070707 - a centennial date, an ordinary day

I woke up this morning with my mind preoccupied with 070707 - the number standing for the centennial date (July 7, 2007) that has sent a lot of people worldwide frenzy. Goodness, somehow I got a little bit carried away also.

The media plays up the mania for 070707. In the past weeks, I had been bombarded by the extensive coverage in the local dailies on this so-called once-in-a-century affair, so much so that at one time it got instilled into my mind also.

Worldwide, there are about one million couples choosing to get their knots tied today.

It is perfectly alright to choose this date for their great day, so long as they are happy with it, and, more important still, they have the right motive. Come to think of it, today is just one of the days which, in essence, has no difference from any other days.

All days are God's creations and, therefore, are good days with blessings. If you wish, you may plan for something special with your loved one on 070707, but, please bear in mind, don't get too fanatical about it, believing it is a day of great fortune, simply because 070707 occurs only once in a hundred years. In fact, in God's eyes, everyday is unique in itself.

So, wake up with bright spirit and be thankful everyday.

Friday, July 6, 2007

German tourists on a 23-day visit - Part 1

We received a group of tourists coming far away from Humberg, Germany going on a 23-day tour of Sarawak and Sabah, reputedly the most fascinating destinations for holiday.

Despite after a hectic and tiring journey by land from Sri Aman, they looked energetic and beamed with excitement - apparently looking forward to experiencing even more interesting itinerary lying ahead of them.

The group is truly on a CAN ( culture, adventure and nature ) tour by the very nature of its itinerary. Our valuable assets -the hidden paradise of Borneo - promise a perfect setting for CAN lovers to take their holiday here.

The German tourists are on a organised trip, taking them all the way by land from Kuching to Kota Kinabalu to experience our unique nature and diverse culture. I am sure when they go back, their word of mouth would attract more to come.

Their 23-day most memorable trip began in Kuching. After landing, they went straight to Bako National Park for a two-night stay. The itinerary then took them back to Kuching for a one-night stay, the programme there of which included sightseeing, city touring, visiting Sarawak Cultural Village, and experiencing orang utan at Semongok Orang Utan Centre. The group then moved on.

The picture shows the German tourists in the lobby of Premier Hotel, Sibu.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Veils over involvement in gangsterism - Part 3 (final)

Seriously, I am as puzzled about the identities of the suspected political leaders as all others do - for a simple reason that the veils are still tightly clad over the faces.

All kopitiam talks are, at best, wild guessing only. Believe me, only the higher authorities hold the cards - and they keep them high up their sleeves. Wow! What a tricky scenario.

Datuk Christopher Wan Soo Kee, Federal CID Director of Police, flatly denied that the source of BERNAMA's release was from the police. By this very statement, Datuk Wan effectively implied that BERNAMA had its source somewhere else.

Despite intense speculations, BERNAMA as of this date has neither clarified about nor denied the contents of its release on June 25. In other words, it logically follows that the national news agency is satisfied with the credibility of the source of its news release.

So we may safely conclude that both the credibility of the source and the integrity of BERNAMA are beyond doubt.

Then, why are they still veiling the faces of the so-called suspects?

It looks very much like that a power game is going on at the back stage. It would be a game-over scenario once the veils are lifted. Equally possible is that the veils may remain there forever. Let's wait and see.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

My blog

This morning I signed up to instal a site meter to track traffic flow to my blog. The service is absolutely at no charge - but don't be too fast to think that it is a free lunch. They have intelligent ways to turn you into opportunities for them to make money.

Blogging is just for personal interest - and a way to gain satisfaction out of sharing my thoughts with friends. In doing so, it also enriches my daily life, allowing me to reach out to more people.

Blogger is a convenient site - seriously it is extremely user-friendly and, again, entirely free. These wizards always outsmart you - they have the brains to plough back the free lunches they are giving away.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Borneo Cultural Festival 2007 - Fascinating Food Fair

Foods are inseparable from culture - in fact they are an integral part of it.

In a multi-cultural event like BCF, without a food fair would make it seriously lacking and dull. The BCF Food Fair has added attraction to the event, making it a lot more fascinating.

All ethnic groups in Sarawak have their individual delicacies and specialties to show off. A rare occasion, indeed, it is that a variety of ethnic foods are here for sampling at prices that are value for money. BCF is, therefore, simply a must for food lovers and gastronomists alike.

If you are fascinated by the Sarawak local cuisine, then the more you have to come to BCF. It promises a unique experience for you to bag and cherish.

The picture shows a Malay stall serving kebab, a mouth-watering Malay food. You have to try it out yourself to know.

Another Malay stall with a live cooking station preparing tumpik on the spot. If you miss the event this year, make sure you plan ahead for the next year's BCF.
Kacang putih was my favourite during my childhood. I bought some to cherish my old time memories.
Sibu Hakka Association's food stall with tempting Hakka foods which you can't afford to miss!
Sibu Teochew Association's uniquely designed stall drew my whole attentiom to it. Teochew foods - have you already tried out? Grab it if you have not!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Second International Borneo Tattoo Convention - Sayonara! Sibu, We Are Going To Miss You!

All good things must come to an end. The 2nd International Borneo Tattoo Convention concluded on July 1 with an applause to the organisers.

As the bustle of the event settles down, it is time now for us to reflect on it.

When the tattoo artists and tourists from far away depart Sibu, they bring along all the sweet memories of Sibu to cherish. They are now our living advertisements- their word of mouth would bring Sibu to a greater exposure.

They all gave thumbs up when asked about their experiences during their stay in Sibu. We love Sibu - its culture, nature, adventure, people and foods, all are fascinating, they told me.

These foreigners may have flown back, but the tattoos and memories they leave behind to Sibu are going to stay on for long, long time.

Tourism is just about making visitors feel like coming back again and again! Let's work on it.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Borneo Cultural Festival 2007

The curtain of the 8th Borneo Cultural Festival was raised on June 28 amidst a line-up of events taking place in Sibu , making the place bustle with excitement.

Sibu has been blessed with selfless ethnic groups who are more than willing to put hands together for the betterment of the central region. Seeing this as a strong point of Sibu, the Sibu Municipal Council capitalised on it and came out with BCF - a multi-cultural event for both cultural sharing and tourism promotion. That was eight years ago and BCF has since become an annual event.

BCF has done exceedingly well in putting together the local ethnic groups' cultures under the banner of BCF to promote understanding and cultural tolerance. This idea has been receptive to all the ethnic groups thus far.

In 2005, SMC blended BCF with trade fair, making the event even more diverse, albeit with divergence from the orginal objectives.

On local cultural sharing aspect, BCF has certainly delivered the goods. But on the tourism promotion front - how did BCF fare so far?

The above picture shows a live cooking station of Sibu Foochow Association.

I was caught by a melodious hymn even before I stepped into the BCF site- only too surprised to find that it came from the stall of MTS (Methodist Theological School). Located opposite to a few food fair stalls, the MTS stall conveniently balances everybody's needs -whilst the food stalls make available foods to meet bodily nourishment, the MTS stall comes in to offer foods to satisfy spiritual needs. Praise our Lord, MTS is doing a great job.