January 31st, 2014

CHANGLUN: A welcoming town near the Thai border

TWO years ago when we decided that enough was enough, and we didn't want to be a weekend husband and wife anymore, we moved from Kuala Lumpur to the tiny, sleepy town of Changlun, Kubang Pasu, Kedah.

When I tried to slot in Changlun as the town where we lived, my Facebook account failed to indicate that it was located in Malaysia.

I discovered that there were at least four districts or places named Changlun in China.

Universiti Utara Malaysia’s campus is located 10km east of Changlun.

With that information, I assumed Changlun was named by Chinese immigrants to the Malay Peninsula in the late 19th century.

But, the locals said Changlun was a combination of two Thai words -- chang means elephant and loon means falling.

Eight or nine years ago, Changlun was just another dead town that we passed each time we made a trip to Haadyai. We could have stopped here once or twice to exchange currency.

I wanted to find out more about Changlun, so I asked around. The town folk were generous with their stories. Some shared hilarious accounts, while others related dark and creepy tales.

Some 35 years ago, before the Bukit Kayu Hitam Township came into existence, Changlun was the last town on the northern frontier between Malaysia and Thailand. It was bordered by Perlis in the west.

It was a quiet town of rubber plantations with a backdrop of jungles, hills and mountains. There were scattered kampung baru or new villages with rows of old wooden shops and stray dogs, here and there.

In 2009, the population was estimated be around 40,000 people. It has doubled over the past six years partly because of the expansion of Universiti Utara Malaysia's campus which is located 10km east of Changlun.

Many people have moved in because of work opportunities at Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Kolej Matrikulasi Kedah, Politeknik Arau, Perlis and Universiti Teknologi Mara Arau.

I had a scary experience, that gave me goose bumps, when we were just settling down in our humble abode, in the residential area behind the C-Mart Supermarket in December 2012. Yes, it carries local and imported goods just like other stores of its kind in Kuala Lumpur.

I was unpacking boxes by myself in the upstairs bedroom at the back, at a quarter to midnight, when I heard an eerie, sad but melodious voice begin to hum and sing Cantonese oldies.

The songs were full of sorrow, heartache, loneliness and longing for love. I couldn't understand a word, but I know a good voice when I hear one.

It was creepy because the songs reminded me of female vampires in those Chinese movies that I loved to watch in my younger days, and old Shanghai, circa 1920s and 1930s. The next day, after a short walk and an awkward hello, I got to know a neighbour from the back row of the house -- a soft-spoken, somewhat aged, but still beautiful lady who turned out to be a one-time belle of the town of Danok, many, many moons ago.

A friend of my other half, who was a senior lecturer at UUM, once told me in a humorous tone that Changlun was infamous as a Communist hideout from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s.

As a 20-year-old, newly commissioned army officer, he was deployed to Sungai Petani, Kedah, and was immediately sent to the Malaysia-Thailand border area.

"Each time, when we were about to enter Changlun, we would be welcomed by them (the Communists) in a very 'friendly way'.

"We would receive messages in English of 'Welcome to Changlun' through the walkie-talkie. Of course we knew that they wanted us to know they were ready for us. It was quite frightening," he said.

I enjoy living Changlun. It is a small and safe place with enough basic facilities. Of course, sometimes, there are a few hiccups here and there.

We live like other urbanites. We enjoy food at Pizza Hut, KFC, Merry Brown and Secret Recipe, whenever we have extra money to spend.

Luckily, all these food outlets are just a walking distance from our house.

People come from as far away as Kangar and Jitra to eat Yusof Jan’s nasi jagung.

We have our famous Yusof Jan's nasi jagung which is served with more than 10 types of curry. People come from as far away as Kangar and Jitra to enjoy this local fare.

Of course, we have the usual Mamak Restaurants as well.

The town is welcoming to outsiders and foreigners. Ten or maybe 15 years ago, only locals were seen here. Now, there are Arabs, Uzbeks and Africans. Most of them are UUM lecturers and postgraduate students. There are also a few Americans who are engaged in volunteer work.

Hundreds of lorries from Cambodia, Laos and, of course, Thailand pass through daily and some of them stop in Changlun before continuing their journeys south.

It may not be such a bad idea to turn Changlun into a rest and recreation hub for these lorry drivers?

Politicians and businessmen should also sit down and come up with practical solutions to ensure the safety of pedestrians and deal with the traffic congestion caused by illegally-parked lorries.

We need more teachers and a larger police force here due to the growing population of both locals and foreigners.

The state government should also do something about the frequent blackouts and low water pressure.

MUNAARFAH ABU BAKAR is a former BH journalist NST Streets Northern 31 Jan 2014

Let's gallop into a united new year

ONENESS: What better time to foster closer ties than this Year of the Horse?

WHILE seated on a fairly stiff waiting room settee inside a government department office here in Putrajaya, we found ourselves babbling about animals while waiting for the media conference to start.

There I was, a snake, seated next to a rat and farther to our right was a pair of tigers. Evidently, I am at the very bottom of this food chain.

No, we had not reverted to name-calling among the journalism fraternity during our rare idle periods, but rather were having an interesting discourse pertaining to the Chinese zodiac animal signs and what the Year of the Horse has in store for us in terms of career predicaments, marital prospects and health concerns.

I continued deliberating over this subject back in the comfort of my office.

Based on the 12 animal symbols of the Chinese calendar, being "born" in 1957 would make Malaysia a rooster. Several taps of the keyboards and scrolls of the mouse later, I am instantaneously transformed into a Chinese astrology sage.

As the Year of the Horse rewards those who are honest, forthright and diligent, the rooster is perfectly positioned to take advantage with its innate qualities. The year is expected to bring us good business prospects and increased wealth, but only if we form strong collaborations and pay attention to the details of the plans as carelessness may lead to failure.

The success of Iskandar Malaysia in attracting RM131 billion in investments coupled with the creation of 554,000 job opportunities over the past eight years is the result of establishing strong working relationships between the federal and Johor governments.

For the rooster to prosper this year, soothsayers say it is imperative to plan properly, work hard and take progressive steps instead of expecting instant gratification.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently reminded local entrepreneurs to use the business facilities provided by the government to improve their livelihood instead of renting the premises to others to operate.

Najib has urged hawkers and petty traders to optimise the opportunities provided and work hard to attain lucrative returns and be more successful in their businesses, thus contributing to a stronger national economy.

On the financial outlook, the rooster will need to keep a close eye on its expenses this year or it could see debts building up. Apt warning indeed as Malaysians from all walks of life are faced with fiscal discomforts projected for the year. In his New Year message, the prime minister assured the people that he will "continue to fine-tune government programmes so that the effect on household incomes is not too great".

He added that his team "will put in place mechanisms to cushion people from the rises in the electricity tariff and toll fares" and to come up with new ideas to ease the cost of living pressures.

The new year places  tremendous emphasis on equality when it comes to relationship and family for those born in 1957, which, incidentally, according to experts, are  people full of passion and easily moved by emotion.

As we continue to find ways to be more receptive to one another and respectful of the multicultural and multiracial fusion that makes our nation distinctive, it would be good to take heed of the need for equality this year.   With Malaysian Chinese representing the second largest ethnic group at 24 per cent of the country's total population, which  exceeds 29 million, it is worth taking the time to understand better our family members as they welcome the horse into their homes today.

While our leaders strive to figure it out on a larger scale to get the formula right for national unity, despite my outspoken repulsion of the deafening fireworks during this festive period, my family continues with our own modest approach to foster stronger ties within our own community.

This time each year, we will give our neighbours mandarin oranges and Chinese New Year cookies to strengthen our bond. Although we may not visit each other often enough to keep tabs of our children's development or deliberate over our homes' escalating maintenance fee, it is nonetheless a pleasantly amusing sight watching a Malay lady in lively green baju kurung carrying a box of oranges and handing out  ang pow to beaming kids of various races.

As the rooster is advised to build trust and a sense of community in the presence of the horse this year, my family and I hope that Malaysians can start coming together more often to share and listen to each other,  even if it means starting a conversation about animals.

Gong Xi Fa Cai to all!

A shopper looking at Chinese New Year decorations.
The Year of the Horse is expected to bring business prospects and wealth.

Azura Abas | azuraa@nst.com.my NST Opinion Columnist31 Jan 2014

A glorious past and present

IN celebration of Federal Territory Day, we take a picturesque journey through history to get a 'then and now' glimpse of the transformation undergone by Malaysia's capital as it weathers the tide of development and progress of culture.


Brickfields, otherwise known as Little India in 1992 (left). A new hotel has come up in place of the old struture, and decorative arches now line the streets.

Little India, named due to the area's high presence of Indian residents and businessmen, began as a medium-sized town on the fringes of Kuala Lumpur. It has steadily evolved into a well-known trade district and tourist landmark, specialising in textiles, spices, food and gold, among other merchandise.

As seen from the picture taken in Sept 20, 1992, the area had not yet undergone its many beautification projects, and the now-demolished Peking House was still a famous landmark. Drop by the area today and you will see vibrant and colourful decorations with Indian elements along the main roads and shops.

Google Maps link here:

Bukit Bintang

Jalan Bukit Bintang on Feb 13, 1993 (left) and today. Traffic was sparse as the picture was taken during Chinese New Year.

Jalan Bukit Bintang was – and still is – a prominent commercial hub of the city, with many Chinese entrepreneurs originally setting up businesses along the stretch.

The picture taken during Chinese New Year on Feb 13, 1993, shows an empty Bukit Bintang as everyone returned home to celebrate the festival. Today, many Middle Eastern restaurants and establishments have a presence there.

One of the area's casualties of modernisation is the Cathay Cinema, which was torn down in 1997. In the picture taken on Aug 29, 1988, thousands of theatre buffs can be seen queuing for free tickets to a movie screening.

Movie buffs line up outside the Cathay cinema for free tickets on Aug 29, 1988. All that remains of the cinema today is a construction site.

Google Maps link here:

Central Market

Founded in 1988, the Kuala Lumpur Central Market's started out as a wet market. The building that stands today was completed in 1937 and has since been recognised as a Malaysian heritage site.

Rickshaws wait outside Central Market - then a wet market - for customers on Jan 5, 1982. The entrance has been retained, but the interior is now air-conditioned and houses mainly arts and crafts stores.

To the romantic layman, Central Market represents the heart of the city, an infusion of socialisation, commerce and culture.

The market has undergone many renovations and expansions and is now a centre for diverse genres of Malaysian art. One can purchase crafts and traditional items or rub shoulders with notable members of the local art scene.

In March and April 1986, a mezzanine floor was added to building.

The pictures on the left, taken in March and April 1986, show a refurbishment of the Central Market when a mezzanine floor was added to the building.

Google Maps link here:

Chow Kit

Chow Kit is known as the market centre of central Kuala Lumpur, boasting a daily wet market and night market alongside its many business establishments that operate along the main thoroughfare.

Although certain sections allegedly play residence to homes of ill-repute, visitors can still safely observe the hustle and bustle of Chow Kit by keeping to the more open areas.

KL's infamous minibuses are now part of the city's history, and have since been replaced with RapidKL buses.

The first picture, taken on March 24, 1984 shows iconic pink Mini Buses, which have since been replaced with Rapid buses, and pedestrian walks expanded to allow for safer and more comfortable shopping.

On Apr 14, 1986, Malaysian singing legend Sudirman Arshad staged a free concert at Chow Kit, drawing in a remarkable crowd of 100,000, effectively bringing all traffic to a standstill.

Jalan Chow Kit was transformed into a giant concert venue, when famed Malaysian entertainer Sudirman Haji Arshad gave a historic free performance there on Apr 14, 1986.

Google Maps link here:

Jalan Dang Wangi

Take a stroll along Jalan Dang Wangi and you are sure to catch a glimpse of the Odeon Theatre. The picture taken on Jan 2, 1991 and the later picture on the right show the same building with promotional posters of films plastered along its exterior.

Small shops have taken advantage of Dang Wangi's prime location and made base on the ground floor of the theatre.

The Odeon Theatre on Jalan Dang Wangi is still in operation today, but mainly screens Hindi movies.

Google Maps link here:

Dataran Merdeka

During Kuala Lumpur's early days, the Sultan Abdul Samad building stood as a solitary structure, dominating the landscape opposite the Dataran Merdeka. Today, the skyline is shared by many new and modern structures that create an interesting contrast to the building's classic Mughal-inspired architecture.

Brass bands from eight schools combine for the very first Federal Territory Day on Feb 1, 1974 (left). Today, the skyline behind the Sultan Abdul Samad building is drastically different.

The Sultan Abdul Samad building undergoing a hetfy RM16.9mil renovation in 1984 (left)

Google Maps link here:

Confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers

This is where it all began - the confluence of the Klang and Gombak Rivers. The city was said to have been founded in 1857 on this very patch of land. In the picture taken in 1977, the river still meandered through the city, bordered by muddy banks.

Later on, its banks were reinforced with concrete, constructed to avert floods and ease water flow. Skyscrapers have also sprung up close by, but the stalwart waterway remains.

Google Maps link here:

Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman

Formerly known as Batu Road, Jalan TAR was renamed after Malaysia's first Yang di-Pertuan Agung from Negri Sembilan. Among its many trademark buildings is the Coliseum Theatre, built in the 1920s.

The Coliseum Theatre (left, picture courtesy of Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia) has changed little and is still popular with moviegoers today.

The theatre's adjoining bakery was later turned into a hotel and restaurant. In the 1930s, the Coliseum staged live performances but has now switched to screening movies. Drop by the Coliseum café for its famed sizzling steak, always something to look forward to for Sunday lunches!

Jalan TAR looking deserted during Ramadan on Jan 31, 1995 (left). Some stores such as Restoran Insaf, A&W and Bata are still operating in the same locations.

Google Maps link here:

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

A monument of more than 100 years, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is still in use today as a stop for KTM Komuter trains and express busses. The Heritage Station Hotel, located within the premises, is a welcome haven for weary travellers in need of rest and recuperation.

The KL Railway station in the early 1910s (left). A new wing was added to the right portion of the stucture as shown in the modern-day picture.

In the picture taken in the early 1910s, the station was one of the largest buildings in the area. After numerous renovations and additions, the Railway Station still strikes an impressive figure in the city landscape.

Until the 1990s, the interior of the station was largely unchanged, with similar signboards denoting gates. If anything has changed today, it is the digital signage and train schedules in place of older analogue clocks and signs.

The interior of the station is largely unchanged, but signage and clocks have since been digitised.

Google Maps link here:

Pudu roundabout

The Pudu roundabout used to stand between the Cahaya Suria tower and Pudu Sentral Bus Terminal (formerly Puduraya), the busiest bus station in Kuala Lumpur. In the picture taken on Sept 18, 1989, the roundabout was a prominent feature.

The Pudu area has seen significant development. Gone is the roundabout, and the train track is now a prominent feature of the area.

Now, the roundabout is no more but the intersection is even busier and an elevated railway track runs across the road. Interestingly, the skyline remains largely unaltered despite the road's many changes on the ground.

Google Maps link here:

Petaling Street

Chinatown has long been a haven for cheap goods and accessories. A walk though Petaling Street will find enthusiastic shoppers haggling for bargains and tourists browsing through 'branded' merchandise. Today, a bright blue roof has been installed over the area to protect visitors from the elements.

Petaling Street in Feb 10, 1985 was still filled with shoppers despite it being the CNY period (left). Shoppers still throng the street today, albeit in better comfort due to the installation of a roof.
A photograph taken on Feb 22, 1992 (left) at the Jalan Cheng Lock end of the road in preparation for a carnival.

Google Maps link here:

Starpix of modern-day Kuala Lumpur by AZMAN GHANI and YAP CHEE HONG Dina Murad The STAR Home News Nation 30/01/2014

A kaleidoscope of culture

AS you walk down some streets in Kuala Lumpur, it almost seems as if you have been transported to another country.

The sights, sounds, and smells overwhelm your senses as you soak in the culture the street embodies.

Malaysia is home to people of different ethnicities. Their forefathers transported themselves to a foreign land, but brought their traditions along with them, making Malaysia the melting pot of cultures that we know today.

The city has several streets with strong influences from the different ethnicities they represent, and we take a look at the changes and development that have happened there over the years.

A little piece of India

Brickfields offers a glimpse of the bustling streets of Mumbai. From colourful clothes and jewellery on display, fragrant garlands for sale, hypnotising music blaring from speakers on the roadside and fiery curries, it is no surprise that Brickfields is fondly known to all as Little India.

The archway to Little India in Brickfields.

Restaurateur Rama Nathen was born in India and moved to Malaysia when he was 21 years old.

Rama initially worked as a magazine distributor in Kuala Lumpur before he opened Vishalatchi Food Catering, a restaurant specialising in Chettinad cuisine, in 2002.

"I remember the days when I distributed magazines such as Asiaweek, Galaxie,Reader's Digest, Times, even Playboy!"

"I have been in Malaysia for 43 years and have seen Brickfields change over the years," said Rama.

"It has seen dramatic development. I have seen many old buildings disappear and replaced with new ones," said the 64-year-old.

Rama Nathen has called Malaysia his home for 43 years and has seen Brickfields go through dramatic changes.

Rama believes that not all changes are bad, and comments that there are temples, churches and a few other buildings that have not changed since he arrived in Kuala Lumpur.

"There have been good changes too. Many hotels and development have come up in the area, so it brings a lot more people into Brickfields," he said.

The flood of people coming in and out of Brickfields translates into business for Rama.

"A lot of tourists and locals come to my restaurant to experience good Indian cuisine," he said, adding that Brickfields has the best Indian food.

Fragant garlands of flowers are ubiquitously available in Little India, Brickfields.

Brickfields is seen as a place of comfort and a reminder of a distant home for many Indian nationals.

Several have taken up residence or started businesses in Brickfields, and the area is a hangout destination and shopping haven for many.

This makes 'Little India' a truly apt name for Brickfields.

A walk down Malay Street

Jalan Melayu (translated as Malay Street) is a must-go if one is looking to purchase traditional Malay clothing.

The entrance of the Jalan Melayu bazaar.

The street has been turned into a covered bazaar to make the shopping experience a comfortable one.

It has been closed off to road traffic and transformed into a pedestrian shopping centre with many stalls and shops selling traditional Malay clothing, accessories and every day items.

Tampan Tailor is one of the many shops in the area, but the people behind the store revealed that it had been in existence since 1970.

Father-daughter team Jakirman Naik and Irasuriani Jakirman are the owners of a humble outlet that sells traditional and modern Malay clothing.

"I am the third generation running this shop and my daughter is the fourth generation. It has been in my family for a long time," said Jakirman.

"I remember when the shops here were wooden stalls rather than the concrete structure now," said the 54-year-old.

He recalled having to move out of the shoplot in 2003 when they were renovating the bazaar.

"They changed all the wooden shops to concrete ones. We moved into this new shop in 2005 and have been here ever since," said Jakirman.

Father-daughter team Jakirman Naik and Irasuriani Jakirman run a clothes store on Jalan Melayu.

He said that the street had changed little despite the renovation.

"The wau (traditional Malay kite) in the front and the roof along the bazaar are new," he quipped.

His daughter, Irasuriani, 30, said that she was working in the advertising line before deciding to join her father.

"It is nice to be part of the family business," she said.

"Hari Raya is our busiest period. We will get around a thousand orders during that period," she said.

Jakirman and Irasuriani said many tourists visit the bazaar.

"Both locals and foreign tourists visit the area. It is mainly a Malay area, but many come to this area to buy clothing," she said.

Going down to Chinatown

You hear vendors enticing you to visit their stall, customers and vendors haggling over prices, the smell and crackle of mouth-watering Chinese delicacies and red lanterns swinging above your head signal that you have arrived at Kuala Lumpur's famous Petaling Street.

Visitors will experience a taste of Chinese culture at Petaling Street.

Otherwise known as Chinatown, it is a street where hustle and bustle never ends. Day or night, the street is filled with visitors hunting for good food or bargains.

Petaling Street is very much a shoppers' paradise, where almost everything can be found — from clothes, bags, shoes, accessories, souvenirs, electronic items and even fabrics. However, the street is also renowned for selling imitation goods.

Other than shopping, many flock here to experience some of the best street food in Malaysia.

One of the well-known dishes is Hokkien Mee, and the best place to go to is Kim Lian Kee Restaurant, recognised as the birth-place of the famous black-coloured noodles.

Lee Heng Chuan, 60, the current owner of Kim Lian Kee Restaurant, said his restaurant prepares their stir-fried Hokkien Mee the traditional way — over a charcoal fire.

Lee Heng Chuan is the owner of Kim Lian Kee Restaurant, which created the delectable Hokkien Mee dish picture here.

"I am the third generation to manage the restaurant," said the 60-year-old.

"My grandfather set up this noodle shop in 1927. He used to only serve soup-based noodles, but the customers wanted a change so he came up with a dry, black sauce, stir-fry noodle dish and called it Hokkien Mee," said Lee.

What started as a small shop selling noodles 87 years ago has now expanded to two shops selling a wide range of Chinese food.

Lee said that his restaurant is popular with both locals and tourists.

"Tourists are sometimes scared to try Hokkien Mee, so I have other dishes that they may like as well. I have a very extensive menu," said Lee.

Lee is very involved in the cooking process at his restaurant and spends much time in the kitchen.

He is determined to ensure the quality of the food served is high and that the Hokkien Mee tastes the same as it always did.

"I remember learning my way around the kitchen at a very young age. I had to take over the restaurant in 1972 when I was only 18 years old because my father fell sick. It was a very difficult time for me because I was so young.

"Now, I am very determined to expand my business," he said.

Lee spoke of how Petaling Street had changed over the years.

"Before, they didn't have the green roof along the street. It used to be the Chinese who set up stalls along the road to sell things. Now it is very different, it has expanded and now more tourists come to Chinatown," said Lee.

"I liked the old Chinatown better," he added quietly.

A melting-pot of cultures

Even though Malaysia is made up of people of different ethnicities, it is important to remember that we all consider ourselves Malaysians at the end of the day.

It is nice to see such amazing cultures featured in one country and to see different ethnicities living together in harmony. That is the true meaning of Malaysia.

VICTORIA BROWN The STAR Home News Nation 30/01/2014

Green in the city

KUALA Lumpur may be better known for its tall buildings and traffic jams, but nestled in this bustling city are swathes of green that break the monotony of brick-and-mortar buildings.

These green lungs of the city are a welcome break from the surrounding concrete jungle, and offer relief to city dwellers and tourists alike.

Perdana Botanical Gardens

Situated close to the city centre, the Perdana Botanical Gardens provides city dwellers an opportunity to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the city.

A favourite weekend spot for families and individuals, it not only provides much-needed refuge of greenery to visitors, but also features many different species of flora and fauna, all tagged with information on its type and species.

The garden, which has a good-sized lake as a centrepiece, also has a herbatarium, Orchid Garden, Hibiscus Garden and many others.

The Perdana Botanical Gardens also has a library where visitors can look up information on the plants, insects and animals found here.

The Perdana Botanical Garden has been pristinely landscaped, and is a favourite of city dwellers.

Built in 1888 by the then-Selangor state treasurer A.R. Venning, it was then known as the Lake Gardens.

Almost a century later in 1975, the park was given a facelift and renamed Perdana Lake Gardens by the second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak.

Waterways and a lake are a prominent feature of the Perdana Botanical Gardens.

Being a public park, priority was given to the construction of jogging tracks and other amenities, catering to those who want to get fresh air and exercise.

In 2011, the garden was further expanded and turned into what is now known as The Perdana Botanical Gardens.

Google Maps link here:

Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM)

FRIM’s main function may be to conduct research on forest and timber utilisation, but its main facility also serves as a favourite spot for nature lovers to enjoy some fresh air, have a picnic, outdoor recreation and other educational activities.

Visitor to FRIM can see and experience a Malaysian rainforest up close.

Located about 16km from the city centre, the facility is one of the must-see attractions in Kuala Lumpur, especially for those who would like to know more about Malaysia’s rainforest and its ecosystem.

Spanning a 544ha area, FRIM boasts a wide variety of flora and fauna; many of these labelled or with information available at the facility’s library.

The canopy walk located at FRIM, KL.

Activities such as jogging, camping, a canopy walk and bird watching are a draw for city dwellers who want to be close to nature.

Opening hours of the facility are weather-dependant, and potential visitors are advised to check its website (frim.gov.my) or call before making the trip.

Google Maps link here:

Taman Rimba Kiara

Located at the fringes of Taman Tun Dr Ismail, this park is the place to go for those living in surrounding neighbourhoods for a light hike or jog.

The park is pretty basic, with a tarred running trail in the middle of a jungle. There are many trees along the trail that keep visitors in the shade at all times.

Taman Rimba Kiara is popular with residents from surrounding neighbourhoods.

Surrounded by the greenery and clean fresh air, visitors can go there to melt away the stress of the hours spent stuck in the city’s traffic jams.

A great place to spend the weekend with family or friends, Taman Rimba Kiara is the place to visit the next time you want a break from city life without having to travel too far.

Google Maps link here:

Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Park

Located at the intersection of Jalan Pinang and Jalan P. Ramlee, the park was recently adopted by the Standard Chartered Bank.

It may not be as big or as well-featured as the neighbouring KLCC park, but it remains a welcome break from the city.

Trees planted in neat rows at the park.

Uniformly-placed tall indigenous trees make visitors feel they are in another place the minute they take a step into the park.

Benches are strategically placed, giving visitors the chance to just sit back and relax or enjoy a good book for an hour or two.

Poems by 13th century Persian Muslim poet, jurist and theologian Jalal Al-Rumi are also strategically placed in the park.

Google Maps link here:

Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park

A favourite of tourists and locals alike, KLCC Park offers respite from a day of shopping at nearby Suria KLCC or from visiting the city.

KLCC Park is a favourite of locals and tourists alike.

The 20.23ha park features ample greenery, playgrounds, a water fountain, a jogging track, benches, a wading pool and a lake, making it a welcome contrast from the concrete jungle surrounding the area.

Indigenous trees and palms representing over 74 species can be found at the park, including some which were preserved and transplanted from the former Selangor Turf Club.

Google Maps link here:

The KL Forest Eco Park (formerly Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve)

The only natural rainforest reserve in the city, The KL Forest Eco Park was gazetted in 1906 and has remained untouched despite being located on prime city land.

The jogging track at the top of the hill in KL Forest Eco Park.

The 11ha rainforest is smaller than the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), but is well worth a visit.

The rich variety of flora include rare herbs, giant bamboo grass, creepers and ferns, are a rare sight and should not be missed.

Visitors can traverse any of the trails available such as the 360m Merbau Trail or the 300m Jelutong Trail. The forest is potentially dangerous at night, and as such, the reserve is only open from 7am to 6pm.

Google Maps link here:

Putrajaya Wetlands Park

While many visit the administrative capital of the country to see its unique architecture, the city also has a lot to offer when it comes to eco-tourism.

The Wetlands Park is the first man-made wetland in the country, with the park itself occupying 138ha and another 1,977ha of wetland, which is not accessible to the public.

The flamingo pond is one of the most-visited spots at the Putrajaya Wetlands Park.

The park plays an important part in maintaining the ecosystem of Putrajaya, as well as giving visitors and residents a chance to appreciate what nature has to offer.

Among the biggest attractions of the park is its flamingo pond, nursery and lookout tower.

Visitors to the park can also go for a walk along the nature trails and even have a picnic.

The place is also favoured by cyclists, joggers, as well as nature lovers.

Google Maps link here:

Agriculture Heritage Park, Putrajaya

This park is not only a place to enjoy the nature, but also a place to learn more about the traditional and modern agricultural methods in the country.

Cempedak (jackfruit) hanging from a tree in the Agriculture Heritage Park , wrapped in palm fronds as traditionally done in Terengganu.

Visitors have a chance to sample local fruits, observe the rubber tapping process, crop maintenance, fruit preservation and many other activities. Herb and spice gardens, orchards and viewing decks are only some of the attractions that visitors can enjoy.

Agro-based activities are also organised from time to time, so those interested in participating can visit the park’s official website to check the dates and coordinate their visits.

Google Maps link here:

L. SUGANYA The STAR Home News Nation 30/01/2014

Reliability of Cambridge Placement Test results is questionable

THE Cambridge Placement Test (CPT) was carried out in 2013 to gauge the proficiency of all English teachers nationwide. The objective to conduct the CPT is indeed commendable, especially when the deteriorating standard of English among English teachers is a cause for concern today.

However, the way in which the CPT was administered is very much questionable. Teachers were given a token as a password each to do the test online anywhere at their own convenience. Is this procedure valid when many a teacher received help from their colleagues, spouses or relatives?

In some schools, the English teachers meticulously completed the CPT together for each and every colleague with the most proficient teacher providing the answers. Excellent team work!

Some teachers encountered technical glitches and problems like the computer hanging and clicking the wrong button in the midst of answering the CPT items.

Taking all these discrepancies and problems into consideration, the reliability and validity of the CPT results will surely be questionable. It must be pointed out here that we are not questioning the reliability and validity of the CPT or the test items.

Based on the CPT results, about 37,000 English teachers who did not obtain C1 or C2 bands (advanced user levels) have to attend the “Professional Up-Skilling Of The English Teachers (Pro-ELT)” programme” to enhance their English Language proficiency and this incurs huge sums of taxpayers’ money. A third cohort of unhappy teachers are now attending the Pro-ELT programme.

The CPT should have been carried out in a centre with external invigilators for the test results to be considered valid and reliable. It would allow English teachers who are required to attend Pro-ELT programme to be properly identified.

If an important test like the CPT was conducted properly at the very start, it will help reduce unnecessary costs and prevent victimising some of the teachers.

We hope that those carrying out such tests in future will strictly adhere to the principles of fair testing.

Fair Play Johor The STAR Home News Opinion 31/01/2014