Do you wanna be a social escort ?


This website claims that it is the "University of Escorts"

Its says:

"In all major cities throughout the United States, the platonic dinner escort industry is a multi-million dollar market.

Top entertainment industry consultants, agents, celebrities, corporate executives and other top mainstream professionals are the largest single consumer group of the dinner, social, travel escort industry.

The dinner escort market represent millions of dollars of unreported income. For men and women who are engaged in this profession, they are a part of the alternative career industry. For them the term "let's have lunch or dinner," opens the door to hidden business opportunities and unlimited financial rewards.

Professional dinner escorts earn up to $300 per hour attending a variety of social events such as night clubs, movies, restaurants, sporting events, award shows and weekend gambling trips to Las Vegas.

If you consider yourself attractive, well-groomed and intellectually stimulating in conversation you can earn unlimited income as a professional dinner, social and travel escort.

The University of Escorts is proud to offer our unique audio training courses. The Dinner Escort Training Program consists of 36 audio cassettes or CDs. They are presented in unedited classroom style. All lectures are given by Johnnie Manley. Johnnie has over 25 years of experience in the companion industry. Manley's courses cover everything you need to know to get started into this exciting leisure profession.

The University of Escorts offers the best possible instruction available for men and women who want to succeed in the companion industry. Each audio training course is designed to help you develop the necessary skills to succeed in this unique and exciting industry. Our pricing ranges from $19.99 to $49.99 per course. The complete set of 36 tapes is offered for only $599 including postage."

Visit thier website:

Entertainment Personal Services

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Ive noticed some advertisements by social escorts in our local websites, dont know if they subscribed for the above course. :)

Here are examples of some advertisements:

"Hi there,if you are looking for a companion or someone to be with so you wont feel bored or lonely during your visit/stay here,pls. don't hesitate to contact me.I'm 5'8", weigh about 85kg,english educated,honest and cool.Sightseeing and taking you on a city tour is also possible.I will try to make your stay here a memorable one.My charges are reasonable.This ad is open to all big and beautiful women(BBW'S} below 50.Pls contact me through site or SMS/call me at 016-3XX-41XX.Thank you and have a nice day!"

"My name is Helena.I'm Malaysian. I'm a independent social escort and i'm doing this as a part time job. I work as a personal assistant and i need atleast 2 hours notice for any booking.I do outcall only.
Any enquiry or booking must by !!SMS ONLY!!.(anytime)I'll try to reply your sms shortly. I won't answer any phone calls.
Bussiness in Ringgit Malaysia Only
Enquiry or booking, SMS me at 017 6XX42XX"

"HI…..
My name is Shayla, 26 years old, fair complexion, an oriental Chinese lady who is sweet and tentative with a warm personality will make you at ease.
If you are on holidays or coming to Kuala Lumpur on business trip and need some quality female company or exceptional moments of pleasure and relax, I am here for you. I am independent, professional and discreet in every way.
Gentlemen make sure you are respectful and treat me with respect and courtesy. I like to be pampered, and I like to pamper...
I enjoy quality NOT quantity.
Please e-mail me with your photos and rate.
Looking forward to meet you soon."



Please leave comments if you know of social escorts or had experience with social escorts or even what you think of social escorts.


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Will you eat a tiger ?

Man eating tiger (man who eats the tiger)

The Star reports that Kahang, a town approximately 40km from Kluang, Johor is fast earning a reputation for exotic food restaurants.

Apparently if you are a regular customer and the restaurant operator knows you, you will be offered dishes made from protected animals, including tiger meat.

As supply is inconsistent and scarce, a plate of fried tiger meat costs about Rm40.

The restaurants in Kahang also offer dishes of wild boar, mountain goat, squirrel, mousedeer, bat, porcupine, anteater, tortoise, civet and various types of fish and prawn found in rivers in the Endau-Rompin National Park.

The restaurants get their supplies from middlemen who bought the animals from the Orang Asli.

A tiger in the black market could cost between RM100,000 and RM200,000 each but normally, the meat, teeth, whiskers and sexual organ are sold to different people.

For the full story...

The Star

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I want to order a tiger steak and a monkey burger with cheese. Can you also give me a set of KFC (Kahang Fried Cobra) - Hot and Spicy. Does it come with medium flies ?

Puchong - the exotic food district of KlangValley ?

A restaurant called Puchong Lim in Puchong is renowned for its exotic meat dishes. It serves wild boars, turtles, snakes, squirrels, flying fox(bat), pigeons, dog, even monkey and tiger (when available). Exotic food is very "heaty" and we better drink lots of water and herbal tea. One can get ill if too much exotic meat is eaten.

There is also a makeshift stall at Pudu (its at the corner, opposite a shopping complex in Pudu). This stall also sells
exotic meat dishes. The prices are quite reasonable.

Anywhere else anyone knows where exotic meat dishes are served ? please share.

Lure of the scams


BY REVATHI MURUGAPPAN

You’ve seen the ads in the newspapers, magazines and on the Internet — make money working from home assembling products and stuffing envelopes. Did you know these are two of the oldest home business scams?

The advertisements read:

# Part/Full time assembling job. Work at home. Earn extra income. SMS your name and address to 015-234 6789

# Earn RM300 weekly stuffing envelopes. More if you work more. Information free. Material provided. Email to stuffing@yahoo.com

LOOK familiar? Would you respond to this advertisement? And why not? It allows you the flexibility of working from home and gives you the opportunity to earn some money.

After reading it, you might rush to get more information only to be told you have to “register” as a member and pay a fee. So you pay the amount and you either don’t get your product or cannot locate the person. You feel cheated. If it’s any comfort, you’re not alone.

Home business or work-at-home scams rob unsuspecting consumers of millions of dollars every year. Victims targeted include homemakers, students, the unemployed, elderly, disabled, and anyone wanting to make a quick buck. From America to Singapore and Malaysia, there is always a gullible soul who will fall into the trap.

In this materialistic world, everybody wants to make money. So when you advertise something that tells people how to make easy money, it will sell like hotcakes. When you sign up to assemble products at home, you usually have to text your name and address to receive information by mail. Then, you have to pay a certain fee, after which sometimes you get the product.

The product arrives, you try to assemble it to the best of your ability and send it back. Bear in mind, you are paying for the postage. Most of the time, when you send the assembled product back to the company, they will tell you it’s not up to par. Afterwards, the crooks disappear.

What do you do? Where can you seek redress? Many of these dubious companies make their money off the “registration” fees.

Let’s analyse the situation. Do you think a company would spend money sending the parts of a product all over the country to be assembled? If it indeed were a genuine company, it would hire someone within the vicinity to assemble the products.

A check on some of these information flyers reveals that one person might operate a few scams. The signature on the flyers we examined, while having a different name every time, is markedly signed off in the same handwriting. These con artists employ deception, misrepresentation and fraud to lure their victims.

This year alone, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has received an average of five complaints a month.

CAP’s head of complaints section Ravinder Singh says, “There are no laws in this country to bring these perpetrators to book and the authorities seem unwilling to stop the unscrupulous operators.” (At press time, the police couldn’t be reached for comment.)

“We advise the victims to make police reports but the police tell them there is no element of criminal offence. Such scams are frauds which fall within the ambit of the Penal Code. The police can trace the scam operators through PO Box numbers, phone numbers, tenancy agreement, bank accounts, etc,” he says.

Ravinder thinks the police should not dismiss reports of such scams as “contracts voluntarily entered into by consumers with operators of the schemes (scams)”.

“The intention behind such schemes is to defraud consumers. This is a criminal offence!”

Still, Ravinder advises victims to make reports to the police and to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs. They can also file claims in the Consumer Claims Tribunal, although it is practically impossible for consumers to recover their losses because the identities of the scam operators are not known as they hop from one address to another.

“For the matter to be heard in the Consumer Claims Tribunal, the victims need to know the person behind the scheme. And if the company has disappeared, there is no way of tracking these cheaters.’’ says Ravinder.

Since these advertisements are mainly in the print media and reach a large number of unsuspecting people, Ravinder believes newspapers can play a major role in helping check this scam.

“Newspapers should stop accepting work-at-home advertisements that do not give street addresses, phone numbers or names of persons. Full particulars of the advertiser should be recorded and copies of business registration certificates obtained. Curbing such advertisement would go a long way in protecting consumers from such scams,” says Ravinder.

While the ex-deputy registrar of the Malaysian Intellectual Property Corporation Moinuddin Ibrahim agrees these scams are rampant, he says consumers should be more alert when looking at advertisements.

“People just have to be more cautious when dealing with these ads because there is no loophole. The only way to check the situation is for the newspapers to monitor the ads or get the full details of the advertiser. Like how they (newspapers) require death certificates for obituaries,” says Moinuddin, who himself fell for such a scam.

Reporting to the tribunal is one way but it might take years before the case is hear. For a loss of just a few hundred ringgit, it is not worth the hassle. So, the money is burnt.

According to Moinuddin, those wanting to sign up with these schemes (the genuine ones) should check the existence of the company with the authorities first. The list can be obtained at the front counter of the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs.

So, if you come across ads that sound too good to be true, be wary. Don’t be fooled into believing you can make huge amounts of money in a short span of time. Learn how to differentiate between the genuine home employment opportunities and the scams.

Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to these scams, as suggested by CAP:

1. If you are asked to pay money to start the work at home, register as a vendor or get a licence to operate the business, do NOT participate.

2. Make a police report if you are caught in the scheme, and provide all the information you have.

3. Report the scam to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs

Inform your friends, relatives and colleagues to prevent them from falling into a similar trap.

4. Don’t be greedy!

If no solution can be found to curb such businesses, CAP President S. M. Mohamed Idris proposes that the government ban all work-at-home businesses.

The Star

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I know someone who answered a classified ad in the papers about a typing job and was asked to pay a something like RM200 for the "opportunity" then was given some instructions and a link to another job "opportunity" online.

Do you know anyone who was cheated ? please leave comments.

Political chic

Politicians’ image consultants are turning out to be very important people because voters, like any other class of people, do judge candidates by their clothes. GUY TREBAY follows the political fashion trail.
WHEN Senator John McCain’s campaign went into a midflight stall last week, it was not only the candidate’s hardline stance on Iraq or problems with his party’s conservative wing that enthralled the thumb-tapping hordes of the blogosphere. It was leaks from inside the campaign alleging that McCain thought his handlers were dressing him up as a metrosexual.

Political blogs like the Stump and the Swamp, and more gossipy ones like Radar, had a field day with McCain’s so-called “gay sweater,” a V-neck worn over a T-shirt. Fashion insiders, for their part, shrugged off the look as more appropriate to the buffet line at an assisted living centre than the pages of Out.

But McCain’s so-called gay sweater brought up a perennial political bugbear. How much attention should politicians pay to their clothes?

There is a fine line, that is, between ignoring Dale Carnegie-era notions of dressing for success (a particularly weird concept in an age of iMoguls in cargo shorts), and the truth instinctively acknowledged by canny public figures and generations of Miss Popularity: people judge us by our clothes.
“That is a tremendous suit you have on,” David Letterman told Senator Barack Obama last April when he made an appearance on the Late Show. “That is a very electable suit.”

Obama’s outfit that night was in some ways standard-issue Capitol Hill: a single-breasted two-button suit whose only nod to fashion was in the choice of colour — black in place of the regulation dark blue. His shirt was white and starched. His tie was a reassuring blue and of a width (6.35cm) that locates him squarely in the middle of the sartorial road.

Throughout his campaign, fashion experts say, Obama has managed to score hits with wardrobe choices — jackets nonchalantly slung over a shoulder, short sleeves in the heartland, neatly tailored suits on television — that somehow telegraph personal comfort without sacrificing authority.

“Voters are looking for a new language and a new thinking,” said Dori Molitor, the chief executive of WomanWise, a consulting company specialising in marketing to women. “Obama helps bring in that new language visually by breaking the dress code of blue suit, starched shirt and red tie.”

Unlike some candidates, Obama “comes across more like a common person and has an aura of authenticity,” she said.

Voters will be hearing a lot about authenticity in the coming months. Carrick, the Democratic strategist, called it “the one thing you’ve got to worry about.”

“If somebody doesn’t come across as real and believable in their image,” he said, “they’re not going to be believable in their content, either.”

They risk becoming Al Gore in earth tones, in other words, to cite a famously lampooned misstep the former presidential candidate undertook on the advice of Naomi Wolf, then his image consultant. They risk making the mistake that Nixon did when he wore lace-up shoes on the beach. They risk John Kerry’s damaging decision to turn up on television tinted the tangerine hue of a Mystic Tan.

“You neither want to be seen as somebody who cares too much about appearance or too little,” said Jay Fielden, the editor of Men’s Vogue.

“His magazine’s July-August cover shows John Edwards looking model-handsome and yet sufficiently populist. He wears, as Fielden pointed out, a Carhartt field coat from his own closet, presumably in an attempt to deflect scrutiny away from his wealth, his North Carolina McMansion and his costly grooming habits and toward the anti-poverty agenda he pursued last week on a sweep through the South.

“There’s a strict code that’s kind of understood, but that you know these guys can’t talk about,” said Fielden, referring to sartorial guidelines. “If you get into a situation like McCain did, it ends up seeming like you’re being dressed by your mother. It’s not very macho.”

And masculinity is always in contention, both at the level of instinctive emotional response among voters, and at the level of scrutiny maintained by the “army of professional interpreters,” as D. A. Miller, a literary and political critic, calls the legion of journalists and bloggers dissecting political minutiae like cyber-sibyls consulting the entrails of birds.

“Everyone reads everyone,” said Professor Miller, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

So, when a candidate appears to be dressed by others, immediately that candidate is interpreted “as gay or effeminate or not butch enough to be president,” Professor Miller said.

That is, unless the candidate is Mrs Clinton, who has forgone the persona that the National Review contributor Myrna Blyth recently characterised as ‘Hairband Hillary’, the first lady whose unsteady self-image led to frequent coiffure changes and endearing wardrobe missteps.

The old Hillary Rodham Clinton has been replaced by a candidate who would never be caught dead in one of Nancy Pelosi’s flaming “Dynasty” suits, clothes that send up power woman flares. Mrs Clinton’s bid for an aura of Oval Office assurance is orchestrated around a wardrobe of the androgynous beige pantsuits beloved of policy wonks.

“For women it’s a totally separate game, a separate psychology,” said Juliana Glover, a lobbyist and longtime Washington insider.

“A female politician cannot afford to be too well turned out, Glover said, or she risks being read as untrustworthy, a virago, or worse, a vixen.

Mrs Clinton, of course, is far from clueless about fashion, counting among her friends the designer Oscar de la Renta, at whose oceanfront estate in the Dominican Republic the Clintons have spent holidays.

And her travelling chief of staff, Huma Abedin, enjoys semi-legendary status for maintaining an improbable level of chic on the campaign trail with a wardrobe of Yves Saint Laurent, Prada and Marc Jacobs.

“This is a bipartisan phenomenon absolutely,” Glover said. “Just as one would be suspicious of someone fabulously dressed, wearing top-of-the line skis who can barely get off the ski lift in Aspen,” she said, “in politics, there’s a high level of suspicion of anyone too finished and coiffed.”

Spit and polish, Glover said, is one thing. Spit and nail polish is something else. — NYT

NST

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Everything is image. People judge you based on the image you project. This is more so in Asia.
A businessman must look the part - he must drive a nice car and must show that he "has money" even if he doesn't. This similarly goes for politicians. People in Asia judge others based on face value. So, "fake it until you make it."

What do you guys think ?

Everything is energy

ART OF QI
By DR AMIR FARID ISAHAK


Science agrees that since everything that exists is either matter or energy, and since matter itself is another state of energy, then everything is in fact energy.

THROUGH the many articles that I have written, I have explained the proposition that the Universe began when God created “light” that was infinitely more energetic than the light we have now.

That light exploded in the “Big Bang” under its own intense and overpowering force. The “light” was then slowed down until it became slow enough to assume the characteristics of “matter” and formed the fundamental particles, and later, the elementary particles that make up all matter that we see or know to exist in the Universe.

Modern day quantum physics concedes that matter is just a different state of energy.

What about the origin of Life itself?

One of the most fascinating (and never-ending) debate is that between creation and evolution. Those who believe in God also believe that He created the Universe and everything in it, and then created living things as part of His grand plan. So it was God who created life, or gave life to His creations. Among the believers are scientists, including very prominent ones, too.

Atheist scientists counter that God does not exist, and that life exists through spontaneous evolutionary events which also explains the diversity of species in both the plant and animal kingdoms, starting from the primitive non-life forms like prions and viruses, and evolving into primitive life-forms like bacteria, amoebae and other one-celled organisms.

Humans, of course, are the most evolved ape, sharing 99% of our genes with the chimpanzees. “We are self-evolving organisms that do not need a creator for us to exist.” (Stephen Hawking).

According to science, primitive life began in the hot cauldron of volcanic soup where a fortuitous mixture of chemical elements and compounds somehow resulted in the first living organism – that was able to have an energy-generating mechanism (cellular respiration) for survival, and also able to replicate itself (otherwise the story ends there).

Although the scientists claim that several lab experiments mimicking those conditions have come close to “creating” life, it is indeed a monumental task for them to succeed in creating even the simplest life-form from bare chemicals.

All those who are familiar with qi (or ki, prana, tenaga hayat) believe that it is the energy that permeates the entire Universe, and it is also the energy that keeps our cells, and therefore ourselves, alive and healthy.


A clash of conclusions

Even believers cannot deny the scientific observations. In the study of the cosmos, the billions of galaxies, each containing billions of stars (each may have its system of planets, and the planets themselves may have moons) in the ever-expanding Universe is a scientific fact, only recently unravelled with the advent of sophisticated telescopes and space-satellites, combined with the brilliance of cosmologists like Stephen Hawking and his peers.

The above observations are acknowledged by scientists who are also believers, like me. The only difference is that atheist scientists do not have a clue about what actually exploded; why it exploded; and where did it come from? They theorise that a marble-sized super-dense matter somehow exploded between 15-20 billion years ago.

For believers, the answer is simple. God (who, by definition, is uncreated and eternal, and therefore does not need an explanation for His existence) created the super-dense light/energy/matter that exploded because the energy was too intense (much like a nuclear bomb, only a sextillion or more times stronger).

The believers have no reason to argue with the atheist scientists on what happened next, what is happening now, and what will happen in the future with the Universe, as proven scientific observations and evidences cannot be denied.

Where we differ is on whether everything happened and exists as a consequence of spontaneous, random events, or that these events were executed under some “Intelligent Plan” – implying the existence of a “higher intelligence” (read God for believers).

For example, atheist scientists insist that the precise respective sizes and orbital paths of the moon, earth and sun that enable total eclipse of the Sun with its beautiful corona are all coincidental (a chance occurrence). Any difference in the sizes or the orbital paths of the three celestial bodies would mean that the moon would be too big or too small to cause the corona-effect. It must be a perfect fit with the existing precise dimensions and orbital paths. Believers say that it is a result of “intelligent design”. “There is nothing in the whole of Nature to rival the glory of a total eclipse of the Sun.” – Michael Maunder & Sir Patrick Moore in The Sun in Eclipse.

The total eclipse of the Sun is indeed magnificent. Here is a description from the NASA website (http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast05aug99_1.htm): “Just before the Moon completely covers the Sun, tiny specks of light called ‘Bailey’s Beads’ appear. Caused by sunlight shining through valleys on the edge of the Moon, these points of light are spaced irregularly around the disappearing edge of the Sun, forming the appearance of a string of beads around the dark disk of the Moon.

“Bailey’s beads make their brief appearance up to 15 seconds before totality. When a single point of sunlight remains, a beautiful ‘diamond ring’ effect is created against the outline of the Moon. This final sparkling instant signals the arrival of the moon’s shadow. Bailey’s Beads and the diamond ring are seen again in reverse order at the end of totality when the Moon moves away from the Sun. During totality, colourful prominences and the reddish chromosphere are also frequently visible”.

The same divergent conclusions are made when it comes to observations on the creatures that live on earth. Believers cannot deny the evolutionary changes that have been scientifically validated ever since Darwin first proposed his Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (Origin of Species 1859).

Again and again scientific observations have shown that evolution does occur. To the scientists, evolution is already a fact, not a theory anymore.

Believing scientists however, while acknowledging the facts as observed, differ in their conclusion in that the observed evolutionary changes are a result of a deliberate, planned, intelligent design, not a result of random, spontaneous mutations as believed by atheist scientists.

The argument is now becoming very heated, especially with the release of Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion, calling on all true scientists to stop being deluded or hypocrites, denounce the existence of God, and embrace atheism and evolution by random mutation/natural selection.

On the other side, there is a growing community of respected scientists who maintain there is sufficient scientific evidence for Intelligent Design (ID) and Creative Evolution (CE), and therefore for the existence of God (see http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org).

If you believe the atheist scientists, it means believing that we have somehow come to be what we are, with all the complexities and sophistication of our intricate body, organs, mind, emotions and behaviour, through a series of spontaneous mutations over many aeons.

The origin of sex

I am a scientist. I am also a believer in God. When confronted with this enigma, I have to investigate, and not just blindly believe. Fortunately, I have found some answers which may be interesting to all.

No matter how much you theorise, you can never come out with a satisfactory answer on how the sexes evolved. The atheist scientists have conveniently avoided this issue. For the development of the sexes (male and female), two individuals of the same species must evolve at the same time, with complementary features.

For example, in animals, not only must the male gamete (eg. spermatozoon) have features that will enable it to fuse with the female gamete (eg. egg or ovum), but the external sexual apparatus must also be complementary (eg. the penis must fit the vagina).

And all this must happen randomly at the same time for them to be functional. Even in a hermaphrodite, the two sexes must develop at the same time for reproduction to be possible.

By Intelligent Design, this is not a problem. Note that any species will die off without the ability to reproduce. While lower organisms survive through asexual reproduction, everything else, including plants, have sexual differentiation and sexual reproduction (eg. via pollination). Indeed, in the Qur’an, God challenges the unbelievers to explain the mystery of the sexes.

Everything is energy

Readers who have followed this column will be familiar with qi, or life-force. I have described qi as being the intelligent force or energy that starts and sustains life, and (cellular) death is the depletion of this energy.

Qi also defies many scientific criteria, and is therefore not fully understood. It does have many properties of known energy-forms, but has others that defy science. Could qi be another form of light/energy with different characteristics from the light or energies we know?

Science at least agrees that since everything that exists is either matter or energy, and since matter itself is another state of energy, then everything is in fact energy.

Whatever it is, all those who are familiar with qi (or ki, prana, tenaga hayat) believe that it is the energy that permeates the entire Universe, yet is also the energy that keeps our cells, and therefore ourselves, alive and healthy.

It is interesting that in the Qur’an, God describes Himself as “The Light within the light”. Does this therefore explain in scientific terms the universal religious and spiritual teaching that God is everywhere?

While God certainly is not just a form of energy, could qi (or its higher forms) be God’s energy that shapes the cosmos and drives the evolutionary changes?

The truth? Only God knows!


# Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong.

The views expressed are those of the writer and readers are advised to always consult expert advice before undertaking any changes to their lifestyles. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

The Star

Black magic in Malaysia

By : Rizalman Hammim

The trussed-up dolls found strung upside down on a branch in the undergrowth near PJ Perdana in Paroi yesterday.
The trussed-up dolls found strung upside down on a branch in the undergrowth near PJ Perdana in Paroi yesterday.

SEREMBAN: The discovery of two packages in PJ Perdana in Paroi, near here, has caused a stir in the community.

The packages, each containing two dolls and tied tightly together with black thread and wrapped in red and yellow cloth, were hung upside down from a branch in thick bushes.

They were found by a group of Seremban Municipal Council workers doing road maintenance work in Jalan Taman Pancur on Wednesday.

"After we finished work, at 4pm, a colleague saw the packages hanging upside down from a branch," said one of the workers, Isa, 47.

"When I got to the bush, I saw the two packages hanging from a branch.
"I had a bad feeling when I got near the packages as I know this has something to do with black magic, so I told the others to leave them as they were," said Isa.

He later informed his brother-in-law, Sham, a traditional medicine practitioner.

"The moment my brother-in-law saw the packages, he knew they were intended to put a curse on certain people.

"He then decided to remove them so the intended victims would not suffer any longer."

Isa and Sham, along with a group of people from the community returned to the site at midnight to perform a ritual to remove the packages.

The ritual began with Sham reciting Quranic verses and throwing salt at the packages before proceeding to take them down. He took them to his house and burned them.

"I believe the targets are a family of four comprising three siblings and the daughter of one of the siblings.

"Hopefully, with this intervention, the intended victims will be free from the suffering brought on by such heinous act," Sham said.

During the ritual, a boy became hysterical and was groaning in pain.

Sham said he spent over an hour calming him down.

NST

Living the stuff of his dreams

TALL, suave and handsome. At 32, Zhang Zhen Hong will literally and metaphorically sweep any girl off her feet. If she’s not swayed by his prowess on the dance floor, she'll likely be won over by serenades and Canto pop.

But it's not just all salsa and showmanship. A respectable professional, Zhang holds a full-time job as a legal manager at a public listed company. His passion for law is equal to that for dance and song.

Pursuing a career as a singer did not seem a promising career for Zhang who is the second of four children from a traditional Chinese family. So he dutifully packed his bag and left for England to obtain his law degree.

Promising start: Zhang, who won his first singing contest a the age of eight, has finally released his own album.
“At the time, the typical Chinese mindset was that only lawyers, accountants and doctors made good money. But fortunately, I did have a strong interest in law and it was something that I wanted to pursue,” says the graduate from Exeter University.

Even while he was memorising cases and having his fill of Acts and provisions, he managed to take time off from the grind and put on his dancing shoes.

“I was reading law and taking dancing lessons at the same time!” says Zhang who now teaches salsa and hip-hop during weekends as a hobby.

Now that he earns a comfortable salary as a legal manager, his aim is to achieve his childhood dreams.

Born and bred in Kuala Lumpur, Zhang was just a few years old when it was clear that he had a talent for singing. However, his parents didn't take it seriously as they felt it was natural for most children to hum and sing along to songs.

Zhang took part in his first singing contest at the age of eight and won second place with a rendition of Mun Sui Qin San Zhong Xi Qing.

“I sing whenever I get the chance, in the shower, at home, in my car, at music studios and karaokes. It’s just in me. I love singing,” shares Zhang, who loves Canto-pop and Japanese pop music.

“Everyone has a childhood dream and mine is to sing and release albums,” he says, citing Tamaki Koji (lead singer of Anzenchitai) as his favourite Japanese singer.

“I was very active in musicals in my high school days and have had lead roles in My Fair Lady, and West Side Story.”

After returning to Malaysia with a law degree, Zhang got himself a job and continued taking singing classes after work and even managed to take part in the singing contest organised by the Malaysian Philharmonic Society in 2004.

“I was a finalist at the contest and I sang a song by Glen Mederos titled Nothing Is Going to Change My Love for You,” says Zhang who started composing at the age of 16 and wrote his first song to a girl he liked. Like a sad song, his romance didn't take off.

He managed to get a few production houses to help him produce his first album Shou Hou, which was released just a week ago.

When asked why a Chinese album, Zhang replied: “I grew up with Chinese music and am more inclined to sing in Chinese.”

“It took me three years to come up with this album. My work schedule is hectic and I can only record during my free time.”

He says he composed the entire melody in the album and wrote half of the lyrics. His inspiration came from poems, articles, and personal experiences.

“It’s comforting that I am finally able to release my first album and realise my childhood dream. I will continue producing more albums,” enthuses Zhang.

“I am living my dreams!”

The Star


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Fantastic guy. I also met a lawyer who plays in a band at night. I met a doctor who decided to become a journalist. A good friend of mine decided to change his career from accounting to advertising. I suppose in this time and age, people are more open to pursuing the career of their dreams rather than what society expects of them. This ideas whilst more prevalent in the west is getting more acceptance in Asia.

What do you think, pursue your passion or be practical and choose a "safe career" ?

New job regrets -- oh no!

(AP) -- Have you ever toiled to land a dream job, then dreamed of leaving after your first week? Many of us have regretted accepting a new job, but if your second thoughts persist for more than six months, it may not pay to stay.

Sticking it out with a job you hate could cause your performance and attitude to suffer, damaging your reputation and future job prospects, according to John Challenger of employment consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Some of the most common reasons Challenger cites for regrets over a new position are that the job differs from what the jobseeker expected, or the new employee doesn't get along with co-workers or perform well.

To avoid winding up in the wrong job, Challenger offered the following tips:

Before starting your job search, identify "must have" and "like to have" characteristics of the position you hope to land. Once you receive an offer, evaluate how many of each would likely be fulfilled. Don't compromise on "must haves."

Avoid rushing to accept. Most companies will give job candidates time to consider a job offer.

Talk to friends and family about all aspects of the position and solicit their honest opinions. They know you better than the hiring manager who interviewed you.

CNN

------------

This happened to me once. I moved to a new job with a better salary but in the first week itself I found that I didnt fit into the work culture of that organisation. If an organisation's values are inconsistent with your own values, you are indeed in trouble. My advice is to get out at once - you'd be happier.

Has anyone of you experienced the same thing ?

21 steps to a great retirement

In this final article on retirement planning, the Financial Planning Association of Malaysia (FPAM) puts forward 21 recommendations to help Malaysians prepare for their future.

EDMOND Cheah, immediate past president of the FPAM says, “If we’re fortunate to live long enough, we all have to retire one day. So, make realistic decisions on the timing of your exit from the workforce.” Here are 21 steps to help you plan well for the golden years.

1. Face your future honestly

Extensive retirement studies show that those who exercise control over when they retire live happier lives than those who wait to be put out to pasture by others.

It is important to not make dangerous assumptions about the future. U Chen Hock, President of the FPAM observes, “Malaysians generally still harbour expectations of their children looking after them in retirement. However, I advise parents to be pragmatic in planning for their children’s education to the extent they can afford it without jeopardising their own retirement funding plan.” Of course, there is no harm in aiming to tilt the odds in your favour (see recommendation 18)!

2. Exercise delayed gratification

Financial planner Rajen Devadason says, “Those who adopt a delayed gratification mentality early in life often discover a decade down the road that this mindset is the most dependable key to future wealth.”

3. Start yesterday, failing which start today

The time value of money tells us money today is worth more than the same amount tomorrow. This is best understood by realising RM1,000 today will be worth RM1,030 one year from now if it is deposited in a 3% one-year fixed deposit (FD) account. This ability of money to snowball over time is termed compounding. Mike Lee, managing director of CTLA Financial Planners Sdn Bhd, says, “Compounding your savings and your returns early in life is always a better strategy than hoping to catch up later.”

4. Save your money

Two effective ways to save money are to first set aside savings before allowing any other outflows each time you receive your salary, and second, to manage your cash flow effectively.

Even those who have let time slip by can benefit from saving money. Wong Loke Lim, honorary secretary of the FPAM, explains: “While it’s obviously better to start saving early, it is never too late to start even if you’re already close to retirement. This is because every ringgit saved will help cover retirement expenses.”

5. Teach yourself about financial planning

Take personal responsibility for educating yourself about financial planning. The bookstores are filled with awesome resources. Cheah says, “It is vital that those who are serious about succeeding in retirement begin thinking and reading about it as early as possible.”

6. Write down your goals

Retirement specialist Devadason says, “Over many years of consulting, I’ve discovered that my most successful clients have goals that are clearly written in personal, positive and present tense terms.” It is therefore wise to write down your own retirement planning goals in the same way.

7.Fine-tune your preferred future on paper

The earlier you begin writing down your dreams for the perfect retirement, the more time you will have to tweak those aspirations into concrete written goals. It is important that personal control is exercised in this matter. FPAM honorary secretary Wong says: “Loneliness, loss of respect, expensive medical bills – these are just some possible negative aspects of retirement which must be taken care of.”

As for the financial dimension, Cheah elaborates, Be practical; know that you will have to compromise and adapt to possible changes to your lifestyle.”

8. Beef up your net worth

Your net worth is measured by your net worth statement. This lists all your assets and all your liabilities. If you total each column, the difference between assets and liabilities is your net worth. In corporate terms this is equivalent to a company’s net book value. We should focus on boosting our store of productive assets that generate passive income for us in the form of dividends, rental and interest. At the same time, we should eliminate all forms of bad debt that suck up our financial resources.

9. Create your own pension

Some government servants can look forward to a lifetime public sector pension that’s equal to half of their final drawn salary. Others contribute to EPF, just as most private sector workers do. K.P Bose Dasan, Securities Commission-licensed financial planner with Standard Financial Planner Sdn Bhd, maintains, “Retirees must have a pension. No pension, no retirement!” So, those without a government pension must take personal responsibility for creating their own. Devadason says, “The goal for everyone should be to proactively create multiple sources of income from investments and, perhaps, privately-held businesses to channel through a future pipeline of passive income.”

10. Purchase appropriate life insurance

Ultimately, people should aim to be self-insured. But the road toward such a large level of wealth is not easy. Along the way, those who are gradually building their net worth (see recommendation 8) ought to ensure they’re managing disability and premature mortality risk appropriately. Michael Tan Lib Chau, CEO of RHB Unit Trust Management, says: “Besides setting aside some savings for investment, it is also crucial to protect the loss of earning capacity. In other words I would encourage them to seriously look at life insurance coverage.” Toward that end, many financial planners believe a “buy term and invest the difference” approach is the most cost-effective route.

However, the danger lies in a possible lack of discipline being exhibited by some adherents of D-I-Y financial planning: They might choose to buy relatively cheap term life policies but then squander the rest of the money. In many cases, then, it would be wise to work with a reputable financial planner

11. Prepare for future inflation

A major factor in retirement funding calculations is future inflation. Saving money in the bank, while a great initial step toward financial freedom, is unlikely to generate returns greater than inflation. Therefore, focus on educating yourself on the damaging effects of inflation and the need to accept some level of investment risk.

12. Manage your investment risk

It is unwise to take on so much investment risk that you lose sleep and begin to develop ulcers. On the other hand, accepting too little investment risk is likely to hurt your long-term portfolio returns. Educate yourself to gradually elevate your risk appetite to at least moderate levels. Tan Beng Wah, CEO of CIMB Wealth Advisors Bhd, explains why the quanta of accepted risk should change with age: “In funding for retirement, the investor may start with an aggressive portfolio, then switch to a moderate one half way toward retirement, and then to a conservative portfolio when he or she is a few years from retirement.”

Knowing how to do this wisely requires either active self-education or the help of a trusted advisor or, preferably, both.

13. Enslave your money

Don’t always work for your money. Make it work for you. Steve L. H. Teoh, deputy president of the FPAM, notes, “Failing to plan is planning to fail!” This piece of advice is relevant to those entering retirement. Teoh explains, “From that point on, the wealth a person has accumulated throughout his working life will now have to work for him instead.” The larger that pool of resources and the harder it works for the retiree, the better the quality of life in retirement.

14. Hone your career skills

Do what you can today to extend your employability through enhanced skills development.

15. Target greater tax efficiency

Bose, a tax specialist, notes, “To retire well, you have to accumulate a healthy sum in your retirement portfolio. It helps, therefore, to take advantage of all possible tax incentives available in Malaysia.” A tax specialist in retirement planning can be of great value in this endeavour.

16. Tame the credit beast

Unnecessary interest spent on consumer debt instruments, particularly credit cards, sucks money away from possible retirement plans. Manage your total liability situation well.

17. Aim to be debt-free

While there is such a thing as good debt that ends up enriching us, most people are wired in such a way as to benefit from living a debt-free life. Therefore, if the prospect of one day becoming free of all liabilities appeals to you, make it a written goal and then act in a manner consistent with that desire. Teoh says, “Work toward attaining zero gearing in as short a period as is practical. Certainly settle all credit card monthly dues promptly and in full! Remember, there is always a cost to borrowing.” He recommends settling all liabilities by age of 50, or earlier.

18. Train your children well

In the decades ahead, it will be difficult for even the most filial of children to fully fund their parents’ retirement needs. But if you are able to instil even a partial sense of responsibility in your children as they mature, you might be able to derive a steady, modest flow of income from them. This possibility should not in any way alleviate your own responsibility for funding your own retirement through intelligent saving and investing.

19. Clarify your legacy

Write a will. Consult a reputable will writer or a lawyer familiar with probate matters. Ong Eu Jin, chief operating officer and director of OSK Trustees, and author of Can Wealth Last Three Generations, says: “It is important to have a will. Also, parents with minor children should consider creating a testamentary trust under their will.” Such a trust may be used to set aside specified liquid assets like bank deposits, unit trust funds and life insurance proceeds to meet children’s maintenance and education requirements in the event of an untimely demise by one or both parents.”

20. Make a difference

Aim to retire from work, not from life! Always focus on continuing to live a life of significance. This requires careful long range planning.

21. Engage the right financial planner

Sue Yong, executive director of Equity Trust (Malaysia) Bhd, notes, “To enhance your chances of succeeding in retirement, focus on building a good working relationship with a financial planner for the long-term. Such a professional may also act as a coach when we have gone astray from the agreed plan.” Financial planner Ken Lo of Money Concepts Corporation adds, “Because most people have little time, discipline, knowledge or expertise to manage their own financial affairs, they need to work with professionals to reach their financial goals.”

The first step in becoming adept at financial planning is focusing on self-education. That commitment alone will help most people enormously. For those who might want to pursue things further, please visit FPAM’s website at www.fpam.org.my for a free downloadable copy of “Insights to Choosing A Financial Planner” as well as to search and access the directory listing for licensed and qualified financial planners.

  • FPAM will be conducting a Securities Industry Development Centre (SIDC) approved course titled “Equity Market Indicators” at Bukit Kiara Equestrian & Country Resort, KL on August 11(Saturday) by Anthony Dass, Head of Research, Inter-Pacific Research Sdn Bhd. For details, log on to www.fpam.org.my or call Cliff Tan 03-2095 7713

  • The Star

    Clarins Warehouse Sale

    All you ladies and metrosexuals out there. This is your chance to get some beauty products at a huge discount.

    Can God help you lose weight ?

    Andy and Maggie Sorrells before and after pictures









    Extremely fat husband and wife, Andy and Maggie Sorrells both having a combined weight of nearly 1,000 pounds tried countless diets but failed to keep the weight off. Their life changed when they joined The Weigh Down Workshop, a faith-based weight loss program, which teaches people to conquer their addiction to food, as well as other substances and vices, by turning to God.

    For the full story...

    CNN

    --------------

    My friend has lost about 14 kgs by going on the Atkins diet - just eating meat. No carbohydrates eg. no rice, noodles, bread etc. No suger in any of your food or drink. She followed the diet strictly for 2 weeks and lost 7 kgs. Then a few months later she followed the diet again and lost another 7kgs. Its difficult for Malaysians as all our food are carbohydrate based, but if you're determined, Atkins diet does work.

    Anyone has any other weight lost plans, please share.

    Fuck You - Fcuk You - Fook Yew


    In English its Fuck You

    In Fashion its Fcuk You.

    In Chinese its Fook Yew.

    Since I've been forewarned, I wont be stepping into this shop in Kuantan nor will I be buying anything from it.

    I won't wanna get fucked. Or rather, Fook-ed !

    Well, Fook Yew, too !



    This other shop in KL says Fook On (Fuck On, not Fuck Off).

    As far as I'm concerned, "Fook On" is better than "Fook Off"

    PC FAIR 2007

    3 - 5 August 2007
    11:00 am - 9:00 pm

    KL Convention Centre, Kuala Lumpur (Route Map)
    Kuala Lumpur City Centre, 50888 Kuala Lumpur
    Penang International Sports Arena, Penang
    Jalan Tun Dr Awang, 11900 Relau
    Dewan Jubli Intan, Kluang, Johor
    Sabah Trade Centre, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
    Dewan Tun Hj Mustapha, Lahad Datu, Sabah



    10 - 12 August 2007
    11:00 am - 9:00 pm

    Johor Bahru City Square, Johor
    Jalan Wong Ah Fook, 80000 Johor Bahru
    Stadium Indera Mulia, Ipoh, Perak
    Jalan Stadium Perak, 31400 Ipoh
    Central Square, Sungai Petani, Kedah
    Jalan Kampung Baru, 08000 Sungai Petani
    Dewan Sri Mentakab, Pahang
    Mentakab, Pahang



    16 - 18 August 2007
    11:00 am - 9:00 pm

    KB Mall, Kota Bharu, Kelantan
    Jalan Hamzah, 15050 Kota Bharu
    Terengganu Trade Centre, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu
    Padang Hiliran, 21100 Kuala Terengganu



    17 - 19 August 2007
    11:00 am - 9:00 pm

    Mahkota Parade Melaka
    Jalan Merdeka, 75000 Bandar Hilir, Melaka
    Star Parade, Alor Star, Kedah
    Jalan Teluk Wanjah, 05200 Alor Star
    Dewan Merdeka MP Manjung, Perak
    Jalan Pinang Raja, 32040 Seri Manjung


    Pikom

    More malaysian women having extramarital afffairs.

    Malaysian women are now cheating on thier husbands. According to the NST women who cheat on thier husbands are the ones who were usually cheated first by thier husbands.

    Malaysian women now don't feel it is taboo to leave thier husbands.

    National Registration Department records showed that although the number of couples going separate ways had tripled from 3,291 cases in 2004 to 9,919 in 2005, the numbers for the following year fell to 5,748.

    Last year, only 23,880 couples tied the knot compared with 53,783 marriages in 2001, 55,314 in 2002, 57,882 in 2003, 57,530 in 2004 and 50,335 in 2005.

    "Some people claim that marriage interferes with romance. There's no doubt about it. Anytime you have a romance, your wife is bound to interfere." The Groucho Phile, 1976

    Read the full story...

    NST

    ----------

    Well, today Malaysian women are more independent. I have heard of cases where "when husband is away, the wife will play". The husband has probably a girlfriend(s) outside, and the wife knows of this. If the wife is attractive and is pursued by other men - the possibility of her "playing the field" is very great. I hear that in KL even single professional women now are open to "discreet relationships".

    What do you guys think ? any comments ?


    Six Steps to Eliminating Your Debt Painlessly

    by Nora Dunn

    Eliminating Debt Painlessly. Rarely do you see these words fit together in a neat little sentence. The very act of putting your hard earned money towards the stack of debts you've accrued is painful. The good news is you can snowball your progress against mounting debts if you do it the right way.

    Let's say you are juggling a number of debts, from student loans to credit cards to that loan your parents don't expect to ever see repaid but won't let you forget about either.

    1. First things first: Write down each debt vehicle you have, the amount of the debt, and the rate of interest being charged. Department store cards are inevitably the worst culprits, charging interest rates that border on criminal. Next in line are usually the credit cards, student loans, then lines of credit, and your parents (unfortunately) usually come last.

    EXAMPLE:

    Balance Owing Interest

    Sears $500 28%

    Visa $2,000 18%

    MC $1,000 16%

    Student Loan $6,000 10%

    Line of Credit $5,000 8%

    Mum & Dad $1,500 0%

    2. Next: Determine how much money you have available each month to put towards all your debts. If you're like most people on a tight budget you probably haphazardly throw the minimum payment plus a bit at each debt every month, hoping that eventually it will all magically disappear. Unfortunately, making minimum payments on most credit cards is a sentence to upwards of 15 years of paying off that debt, and paying at least double the original balance in interest only.

    EXAMPLE:

    Balance Owing Interest Min Pymt

    Sears $500 28% $16

    Visa $2,000 18% $66

    MC $1,000 16% $25

    Student Loan $6,000 10% $150

    Line of Credit $5,000 8% $90

    Mum & Dad $1,500 0% $0

    TOTAL: $16,000 $347

    Total amount you can put towards your debt each month: $450

    3. Choose the highest interest debt on your list. (I don't care if it's the highest or lowest balance, just look at the interest rate). With the money you have designated towards all your debts, make ONLY minimum payments on all your debts, except your chosen highest interest debt, to which you put all the rest of your monthly allocation. Hopefully this is fair bit more than the minimum payment.

    EXAMPLE:

    Pay your extra $103/month to your Sears card in addition to the minimum payment, totalling $119/month.

    4. Continue until your first debt is paid off. Now, you have one less debt to juggle each month. Yay! It may have taken a while to get here, but now you can cut up one card. No really. Cut it up. (Especially if it's a department store card. They're pure evil). The reason you got in this place to begin with is that you had too many cards, so let's reduce the number you have.

    EXAMPLE:

    Sears is paid off in 5 months. Card is destroyed.

    5. Choose the next highest interest debt on your list. Repeat the same process as in steps three and four. You'll notice now, though, that you have more money to contribute towards your next debt of choice, since you now have one less debt payment nagging at your pocketbook.

    EXAMPLE:

    Visa is next. Now have an extra $119/month since the Sears card is paid off, in addition to the minimum Visa payment. Your total Visa payments are now $185.

    6. And so on. Each time you systematically pay off one of your debts, you'll have more and more money to pay off the next debt on your list, effectively snowballing the process of paying off your debts. It picks up momentum quickly, and by the end you're blasting through your debts and even your parents get paid.

    EXAMPLE:

    After the Visa is paid off, you have $210/month for your Mastercard.

    After the Mastercard is paid off, you have $360 for your Student Loan.

    After the Student Loan is paid off, you have the full $450 for your Line of Credit.

    After that, pay off your parents! It will only take you three months, and will get you in their good books for sure.

    The total amount of time required to pay off this laundry list of debts: Under 5 years.

    This is a long time, but think of it this way: Now you're Debt Free! You didn't have to toil every month over how much extra cash you can throw at the never-ending debt load, and you minimized every single dollar of interest you possibly could.

    The trick is, you need to continue to allocate the same amount of money (or more) towards your overall debt every month until all your debts are paid off. If after tackling one or two cards you decide you can decrease your monthly allocation towards your debts, you'll only prolong the process and end up paying a ton of interest. A little bit of short term pain makes for lots of long term gain. You deserve it!

    CAVEAT: There are other debt elimination plans that would have you pay off the lowest balance first, instead of the highest interest debt. The reason for this is the feeling of satisfaction you get from knocking off a debt from the pile, even though you may be doling out more interest dollars on a higher balance elsewhere.

    The wrong person without enough dedication to the plan outlined in this article might give up if the first few debts were slow to be paid off (for example, if your Sears card had the $6,000 balance, it would take you over 3 years just to pay off your first debt. That's a long time to wait for tangible progress, even if it is the most efficient).

    So take a look at your debts and ask yourself if you have the discipline to stick to the high interest plan. If not, try paying off a few smaller debts to get your legs under you and then re-evaluate. It's a personal choice - not all money matters are pure dollars and cents (I mean - sense).

    WiseBread

    Pay Less Books - Warehouse Sale


    Warehouse Sales - Pay Less Book


    3/8 - 5/8/07


    10am - 7pm


    Venue: 3K Sports Complex


    TEL: 03-80682170

    No getting back citizenship if you give it up

    PUTRAJAYA: Think hard and long before giving up your citizenship.

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warned that Malaysians who did so could not hope to get it back again.

    “The Home Affairs Ministry has made a decision to allow citizens to surrender their citizenship. The ministry has its own reasons to give their approval for this.

    “However, there is one thing that Malaysians must know and which I want to stress here. Those who have given up their citizenship cannot get it back if they suddenly want to become Malaysians again,” he told reporters after the Internal Security Ministry's monthly gathering here yesterday.

    Briefing for the PM: Abdullah and his wife Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah listening to an explanation on seized items by Mohd Rahimi Ibrahim from the publication control department of the Internal Security Ministry after the ministry’s monthly gathering in Putrajaya.
    According to Deputy Home Affairs Minister Datuk Tan Chai Ho, some 106,000 Malaysians had given up their citizenship between 1996 and April this year.

    Of the figure, 70% or 79,100 were Malays, 25,107 Chinese, 1,347 Indians and 350 of other races. Marrying a foreigner was the main reason given by women while most men cited better career options.

    The preferred top five destinations of ex-Malaysians were the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia, according to Tan.

    Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib said the high number of Malays emigrating was not a cause for concern but it would be good to know why they wanted to leave their homeland.

    Muhammad said the need to “move around and see places” was in their blood as their forefathers were seafarers.

    “In a sense, the Malays are just doing what their forefathers did. Travel and see the world. Venture into new areas and the unexpected,” he said.

    “Individuals of other ethnic groups also emigrated to other countries. Even the Chinese and Indians surrendered their Malaysian citizenship, so it should not be an issue if the Malays did so too,” he added.

    The Star

    Ikea - Sale

    Ikea Store Sale - up to 50% discount





    From 19 July until 19 August 2007

    IKEA Damansara
    IKANO Power Centre
    No. 2, Jalan PJU 7/2
    Mutiara Damansara
    47800 Petaling Jaya
    Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia.

    Contact details:
    Tel: 6-03-7726 7777
    Fax: 6-03-7726 6255

    Backpack essentials

    With the rash of cheap flights on offer, backpacking is becoming increasingly popular. But before you hit the road, know what you need to pack.

    By MAJIDAH HASHIM

    Prepping your backpack, I always say, is an art. When you consider that your backpack is your entire home (somewhat like a tortoise shell!), it truly is an art.

    Like a tortoise’s shell, the backpack holds everything you might need for your weeks on the road. That’s right, everything has got to fit into the 40-litre space of a standard backpack and still be light enough for you to lug around.

    A-globetrotting we will go: A backpack allows you more mobility.
    I’ve prepped my backpack a hundred times, and yet I’m always finding new ways to utilise space. The trick is mostly to double up the purpose of the items that you bring and to leave everything unnecessary at home.

    In preparing for my trek across mainland Indochina, I spent an afternoon with Wong Wye Yim from Nomad Adventures at the Summit USJ, and discovered some nifty ways to save on storage space.

    1: Clothes

    When deciding what kind of clothes to bring, consider micro-fibres. Micro-fibres are not only strong and durable, but also dry really quickly. They are also light and comfortable. What makes micro-fibre particularly outstanding is that it remains virtually wrinkle-free despite everything.

    Bring a light jacket, which can double up as a raincoat. Look out for jackets with a polyurethane coating (waterproof). Consider also drawstring pants and trousers that can be converted into shorts when you need to.

    Remember the Rule of Half: Take everything that you plan on bringing with you and lay them out on your bed. Now pack just half of the items.

    2: Copy of travel documents

    Carry a photocopy of your most important travel documents with you. This should include the details page of your passport, travel insurance and credit cards. Ensuing that these documents are kept neatly is tricky. There are a number of document holders in the market that can do this.

    A homemade remedy, on the other hand, is to seal the documents in a kitchen zip lock bag. Flatten and roll this package up and pop it into a diploma scroll holder. This method prevents the documents from being crumpled and is easy to store.

    3: First aid kit

    A first-aid kit is worthless unless you know how to use it, so get to know your kit. A standard first-aid kit can be purchased at any pharmacy. Be sure to understand how everything works.

    If you have any doubt at all, get your doctor or pharmacist to go through the items with you. The contents should include plasters, bandages, gauzes (get to know the difference!), paracetamol, iodine and antiseptic.

    I personally find it useful to add to the kit according to my paranoia. Always carry some Vitamin C and a few slabs of lozenges. Bring along some dehydration salts and indigestion salts. And, of course, being Malaysian, you’ll need Minyak Cap Kapak and Tiger Balm.

    Get a good map book to help you get around. — WAN MOHIZAN WAN HUSSEIN & CHRIS LIM
    If you suffer from any sort of allergies, be sure to bring your medication and a prescription from your physician.

    4: Food

    You can usually tell if you meet a Malaysian on the trail. The Malaysian will be the one carrying 12 packs of instant noodles, a tub of sambal ikan bilis, and a bucket of dodol in a very big backpack.

    Is it advisable to bring perishables with you?

    The answer is yes and no. Rule of thumb here: less is more. What is the point of travelling to a foreign country if you are not going to try their food? You will discover on the road that the flavours of the world lie not just in the food but in the dining experience as well.

    If you absolutely must, then carry instant noodles that are pre-packed in a cup or a bowl. Leave the sambal and dodol at home, substituting perhaps with small, individually packed biscuits and a bar of chocolate (or two).

    5: Footwear

    Footwear is one of the most overlooked aspects of packing, sometimes to one’s detriment. Your feet are supposed to carry you on your journey, so they deserve attention.

    Contrary to popular belief, the best way to get around most of South-East Asia is on flat sandals. Bring also a pair of worn-out running shoes, as you may engage in some sports activities.

    You can’t go too far off with this combination. If you’re travelling long distance overland, wear shoes with comfortable socks. Consider choosing technical socks over ordinary cotton socks. Technical socks, found at most pro-shops, are specially designed to wick moisture, keeping your feet dry and preventing them from smelling.

    Leave the heels at home, ladies.

    6: A sarong

    Travellers, women and men, from all around the world vouch for the usefulness of the sarong. It is light, hardly takes up any space, and is extremely useful. Besides defining you as an Asian, it doubles up as funky beachwear, towel and blanket. Travellers have used them as curtains on trains and mats for picnics. too.

    I have used my sarong as a sheet to sleep on more than once.

    7: Toiletries

    I have met some backpackers for whom toiletries take up half the baggage. Because of the personal nature of toiletries, I am inclined to say that you really are the best judge of how much supplies you will need. But the two most essential items that you should bring are the toothbrush and comb. Next, get a tube of toothpaste.

    Soap is debatable. If you are staying at a nice hotel, soap will be provided. Carrying a melting bar in your pack can be disgusting. The solution is to carry a bottle of body wash that can also double up as shampoo.

    Throw in a bottle of talcum and shaver, and you will have the barest toiletry kit for the hardcore backpacker. For a bit of luxury, throw in a small bottle of moisturiser.

    8: Maps

    If you know where you are going, it would be great to have maps of your destinations. If you are traversing several countries, it is important that you know where your border crossings are and the visa requirements.

    Travel guidebooks are a useful investment if you plan to visit more than one city in your destination country. As a safety precaution, take note of the address and telephone number of the Malaysian embassy, as well as its location on the map.

    9: Camera

    This seems to be the generation where EVERYONE has a digital camera, doesn’t it? I am often asked if one should bring a DSLR or just a simple point-and-shoot camera on travels. The answer is simple: it depends on how rough you plan on travelling.

    If you plan on hopping from train to bus to tuk-tuk, the risk of damaging the DSLR is greater. If you do decide to bring your DSLR, remember to bring padding for it.

    One tip that I’ve learnt from travelling photographers is to use black electrical tape to cover the brand name to discourage thefts. If you do not mind the bulk, WXTEX makes incredible camera drybags that are suitable for DSLRs.

    The last thing you want to do is be at the mercy of your camera and worry about it being damaged or stolen. Travelling is supposed to be fun.

    10: Others

    All of these should fit in your very small ice cream tub: a flashlight, extra batteries and a nail clipper.

    Make sure you have a rain-cover for your backpack. Also carry about 1m of 3mm climbing cord. You can find this at most adventure gear shops. The cord comes in handy when you need to fix things like a broken shoelace, or when you need to attach things to the outside of your backpack.

    Wide-mouth polycarbonate water bottles have found their way into just about every backpacker’s list of essential items. Besides holding drinks, the bottle also doubles up as a container for first-aid material and food items that you want to keep dry.

    Ladies may want to consider carrying pepper spray as precaution. Personally, I find it relatively safe to backpack within South-East Asia as long as you keep your dressing modest and stay away from dark alleys.

    Responsible tourism

    Do your homework. Read up on the countries you will be visiting and understand a little about their culture before visiting.

    Generally, you should not visit places of worship in shorts, short skirts and sleeveless shirts. Respect local customs and keep in mind that you are the outsider and this is their way of life.

    Wherever you can, support local communities by buying souvenirs straight from the locals instead of second parties.

    Photographers should keep in mind that people are not museum exhibits. ALWAYS ASK before taking photos of people and their property, and respect their wishes if they decline to be photographed.

    The Star

    Setting up shop

    When she was 20, Mito Kiyoi of Kyoto, Japan started working in Narita Airport near Tokyo. After six years, she had had enough and decided to apply for a job with the hotel industry in South-East Asia.

    She clinched a job in Langkawi with the now-defunct Sheraton Perdana Resort.

    She didn’t know where Malaysia was but thought she could come here and sharpen her English skills.

    “It was a big change coming from chaotic Narita to a tranquil tropical island,” recalls Kiyoi, now 36.

    In 1997, Langkawi was still a sleepy backwater. To Kiyoi’s surprise, aside from those in the tourism industry, most people spoke Malay rather than English.

    Then she met a Chinese guy from Alor Setar, a tour guide who frequented the hotel. Kiyoi was really impressed by his ability to switch tongues. One second he spoke Japanese, the next Malay, and then he would speak the different Chinese dialects.

    Vincent lived and studied in Japan for four years, so the two of them could relate to each other well.

    “He’s not any different from a Japanese guy. In fact, he’s very flexible and understands me well,” says Kiyoi, who speaks fluent English. “I’m very lucky.”

    After they got married in 2001, she quit her job and they set up a small souvenir shop in Kuah.

    “We love small towns and quiet places so we decided to make Langkawi our home,” says Kiyoi.

    Today, the couple runs two fine jewellery and handicraft shops in two shopping malls. (Kiyoi comes from a Kyoto family with a tradition in the jewellery business). Most of the fine jewellery pieces in their stores are manufactured in Italy, and the stones are from Mozambique, Israel, Kenya, Japan and Australia.

    Kiyoi also incorporates local designs like the hornbill and hibiscus into her drawings for the designers.

    In the past 10 years, Kiyoi has seen Langkawi grow into a bustling place.

    “When I first came here, it was very kampung. Now there’s a supermarket everywhere, and it’s quite convenient,” says Kiyoi. “The first time I tried sambal belacan, it was too spicy. Now I’m addicted to it. It’s hard to eat my food without sambal belacan.”

    Kiyoi and Vincent are thinking about retiring in Japan, but for now, they are happy where they are.

    The Star

    Life is full of surprises

    Seven years ago, when her sister asked her to come to Malaysia for three months to help out at her new restaurant, Luan Morgan didn’t know what to expect.

    She couldn’t point out Malaysia on the map and had never left Europe.

    “As I flew into Langkawi, I could see Bon Ton Resort with its traditional Malay houses and the lovely, lush greenery. Before the plane even landed, I felt like I had come home!” says Morgan, 36, who was then a secretary in London.

    “It’s the most bizarre thing, and I wasn’t even remotely scared or anything.”

    For Morgan, it was love at first sight. On her first week here, her sister took her to Phuket. She experienced culture shock and couldn’t wait to return to Langkawi.

    “In England, you’re judged by what you wear, how much your salary is, your car, and how well-connected your family is. It was utterly superficial,” says Morgan.

    “Here, people would talk to me even if I were the pot washer. It made no difference to them. I love that!”

    The first house Morgan lived in had no hot shower or fridge. She found it refreshing to get back to basics. Her sister already had an established circle of friends so there was no problem socialising.

    Besides, the locals were friendly and English was widely spoken.

    “I had the softest introduction to Asia you could possibly ask for,” admits Morgan. “But I’m a total Mat Salleh when it comes to spicy food – I can’t handle it. My sister ran an Italian place, so food wasn’t a problem.

    For almost a year, Morgan partied hard and every sen she earned went straight to the bar. Then one night, at a friend’s party, she met a guy who changed her life. Raden Mustaffa, 41, was everything Morgan liked in a man.

    “He makes me laugh. He’s very intelligent, a real gentleman, and talks to me like a person,” says Morgan, gushing.

    The problem was, Raden was already married with kids. But the two couldn’t ignore the strong chemistry between them. Langkawi being a small island, people talked, and Morgan couldn’t escape the gossip.

    “I know this sounds awful, but I knew my place as a mistress,” says Morgan. “So if our plans got dropped, and he had to go running off to his family, I had no right to kick up a scene. I chose to be in the relationship.”

    Their relationship grew and when they decided to have a child, marriage seemed the next logical step. When she told her parents, they were worried sick.

    “They had visions of me living in some beach hut with a dreadlocked beach boy,” Morgan chuckles. “Then they came over here, met Raden (a marina manager), and found that he’s respectable and looks after me well. Now they love him to bits.”

    Morgan’s mom, in her 60s, comes from south England. She and her friends are pretty conservative.

    “So here she is with a coloured son-in-law. That makes her very cosmopolitan among her friends,” she adds laughing. But Morgan found herself constantly on edge when she and Raden went back to England for a visit.

    “When I told people he’s Malaysian, they said, ‘No, he’s Paki (a derogatory word in UK for anyone who looks Indian)’,” says Morgan. “Over here, I never once felt threatened because I am a different colour. I’ve friends who’re Malay, Chinese and Indian.”

    Morgan says she prefers to bring up her son here.

    “I think he’d learn more being out here than he would in England. I want him to learn about the different cultures and religions,” says Morgan, now a homemaker. “I think the education here is good enough. If he’s determined and works hard, he can achieve whatever he wants.”

    Morgan doesn’t mind having to share her husband with another woman.

    “I see myself as the second wife, and I feel like I’ve intruded on her life. But he never lets us feel lesser. He takes care of all our needs and never complains.”

    Raden’s parents and siblings have accepted Morgan as part of the family.

    Does Morgan see herself being stuck in Langkawi?

    “For me, Langkawi isn’t cut-and-dry ‘this is it’. It doesn’t feel like a dead end. There’s so much potential here. There are still things I don’t know about the culture, the people. There are things that I still don’t know about Raden because we come from such different backgrounds.

    “I guess that’s what keeps the relationship going.”

    The Star

    Her island home

    By LEONG SIOK HUI

    I didn’t decide to stay – I just fell in love!” says Tanja Bindemann when I asked why she decided to settle down in Langkawi.

    Nine years ago, Bindemann was a carefree, single German girl visiting Langkawi. She ran into an ex-boss’ friend who offered her a job as a German tour guide.

    “I liked my job (as a draftsman in an engineering firm) back home, so I wasn’t planning to move. But when I got home (near Frankfurt), it was grey and -17°C, so I thought: ‘Ok, maybe I’ll do this for a few months, just for the fun of it’.”

    So Bindemann took a year’s unpaid leave and returned to Malaysia. In between her tour guide job, she waited tables but this landed her in the Kuah police station.

    “Someone told immigration I didn’t have a work permit so they locked me up for one night and released me with a stern warning,” says Bindemann, smiling.

    “I just wanted to have fun and go home. I never even fell in love with Langkawi. For me, it was just an island,” admits the 37-year-old.

    But at the end of her one-year-stay, Bindemann had fallen head over heels in love with Langkawi resident Rosle Khalid, now her husband.

    “I was so madly in love,” says Bindemann. “But it was important to go back because I still had a job and I wanted to make sure our relationship wasn’t just a holiday romance.”

    Over the next 12 months, the couple chalked up massive phone bills and travelled back and forth to be with each other.

    Reality hits

    Then someone offered the couple a chance to run chalets for backpackers on the island. So, they put a deposit down and Bindemann moved to Langkawi for good. At the time, Rosle (everyone calls him Oli) was doing landscaping jobs for hotels.

    “When you’re in love, you believe everything’s going to work out because it has to,” says Bindemann. “But once the butterflies are gone, reality sinks in.”

    Running the chalets kept Bindemann busy but after a while she got sick of cleaning up after messy backpackers. The couple, still unmarried, also found it hard to escape the religious department’s prying eyes, so in 1999, they got married in Penang.

    Since Oli’s parents live in Kuala Lumpur, Bindemann only sees her in-laws once or twice a year. Their son Noah is seven now. Five years ago, they set up their first Italian restaurant, the Red Tomato Garden CafĂ©, a popular fixture with tourists on Pantai Cenang.

    “To me, wherever you are in the world, if you don’t have friends, you won’t be happy. I have a few good friends now, mostly couples from intercultural marriages like locals married to foreigners,” she says.

    Things are going well for Bindemann and her family. They opened a second restaurant by the beach called Red Tomato Splash Beach Cafe in 2004. Her days are spent taking care of their son, baking fresh German breads, and running the business. But deep down, Bindemann is a city girl at heart.

    “Nothing happens here,” sighs the peppy lady who practises pilates and is training for a half-marathon next month. “I miss going to a nice concert, and dressing up for the evening other than just wearing beachwear all the time.”

    Bindemann escapes to Kuala Lumpur twice a year, if she can, to revel in the city’s chaos and energy. It’s been six years since she went back to Germany. She misses her family and friends, but not the country. Her son speaks Malay, English and Chinese and goes to a Chinese primary school.

    “Looking back, if you’d told me what I was going to go through when I moved here, I would have said, ‘You must be out of your mind’,” says Bindemann, who is frustrated with the red tape here when it comes to things like applying for a passport for Noah.

    But her husband Oli, 49, loves the place and can’t imagine staying anywhere else, she shrugs.

    “I’ve no idea if I’m going to stick around for a long time. But we have friends here, we’re building a house, and the restaurants are doing well,” says Bindemann, who can now get ample supply of her favourites things – Italian coffee, German bread and French cheeses.

    “We can’t have everything in life. But life is good.”

    The Star