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Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11

September 11th 2001 is a memorable day for me and my wife. That particular day affected us as well as the world. We and another couple went to Adelaide for a holiday. On landing at the airport we drove our rented car to a time sharing apartment at Marine Cove Resort. The resort was located close to the sea in the south of Adelaide. My friend and I took turns to drive the rented car. The first two days went on well and we had good time sight seeing the city of Adelaide, Victor Harbour, Chinatown and visited an old friend living north of the city. My Australian friend had a very nice house with a garden and swimming pool which he designed and built. On the third day, 11 September 2001 it was my friend's turn to drive. He drove us to the wine region. There we saw miles and miles of vineyards on both sides of the road. We visited the wineries for wine tasting. It was not free and we had to pay a small fee. After visiting 3 winneries we were getting out of the area. Our car was approaching the main road to cross over to the opposite side of the road. Unfortunately, my friend did not see a car coming from his right and drove on. Bang! The two ladies and I in the car were knocked unconscious. We were taken to Flinders Medical Centre by an ambulance. Luckily I did not sustain any injury and was discharged the same day. My wife and my friend's wife had injuries and were hospitalised for a few days.

When we rented the car, we also bought a comprehensive insurance. Upon discharged from the hospital the bill was sent directly to the insurance company. All we did was to sign a few forms. It was a very good system which saved us a lot of inconvenience. So, it is advisable to rent a car with comprehensive insurance that includes hospitalisation.





Marine Cove Resort


After my discharged from the hospital my friend and I went back to the apartment to rest. It was about 9.30 pm that we turned on the television to watch the news channel. It showed live reporting that New York World Trade Centre was attacked and burning. Then I saw second plane flew in and targetted the second twin tower. Both buildings were inflamed with intense smokes. We were shocked beyond words and glued our eyes to the tv watching the burning towers with people falling to their death and the final collapsed of the two buildings.

When our wives were discharged from the hospital we had to head for home the next day. It is already 9 years since the accident. We hope to visit Adelaide again with our wives.







With an old friend


Adelaide Chinatown


A town in South Australia


A harbour in Adelaide


Granite Island in background


A tram car using horse power



A Chinese restaurant

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dalat 1994

Dalat is a highland in South Vietnam. The weather is cool like Malaysia's Fraser's Hill but not cold and misty like Genting Highland. The town center has a large central market selling diverse produce. There are many places of interest such as the Summer Palace, Dalat's Flower Garden and Love Valley. Along the way to Dalat are many water falls and the largest one is the Prenn Waterfalls.

In 1994 I visited Ho Chi Minh City and got a Vietnamese friend to book for me a 3d/2n package tour of Dalat. I did not know that he went to a travel agency that catered mainly to the Vietnames tourists. On the morning of the tour, I was the first to arrive at the travel agency office. The 12 seater mini-bus was waiting by the side of the road. Then came a young couple on motor bike. Another young couple arrived after them. Soon the mini bus was filled with 5 young Vietnamese couples. They were about my children's age. I was the only foreigner among them and felt very uneasy. I tried not to feel embarrass. Fortunately they were very friendly. We chatted along the way to the hill resort. I learned from them that they were all going on their honeymoon to Dalat. Oh dear, I was the only odd man out! I also came to know that as a foreigner I paid nearly 3 times more than them.


We stopped for refreshment at a tea shop which also displayed bottles of snake wine for sale. The shop owner claimed the snake wine, an aphrodisiac was very good for honeymooners. As we moved on we saw a few waterfalls. The largest and famous was the Prenn Waterfall. We arrived at Dalat in the afternoon. I was taken to Nam Dao Hotel in town and the Vietnamese couples were taken to a lodging house away from the town center. That was the only difference for being charged more.


Each morning at about 5.30 am the road fronting the hotel was like a market place with hawkers and buyers haggling over the price. Passing motor bike taxis added to the din with their noisy exhausts pipes. By 8.00 am the place was swept clean by the hawkers before they disappeared from the scene.

The package tour took us to the Love Valley which was surround by tall pine trees. There was a lake for boating with souvenir and food shops nearby. We also visited the Summer Palace of Vietnam's last Emperor Bao Dai. Other places in the tour itinerary included the Flower Garden famous for its variety of flowers, shopping at central market, Vietnamese temple and a church. I remember visiting a stand by itself building called Crazy House. It looked more like a big tree trunk to me with many pigeon holes. Evening was free and after dinner we booked a room at a Karoake lounge to sing our favourite songs until late at night. Looking back, I have no regret joining the honeymoon tour. The guys were very friendly and at the end of the tour we exchange our personal particulars before parting.

Refreshment at a tea shop. On the table was a large jar of snake wine.



Path to Datanlah Waterfall



Datanlah Waterfall


I stayed alone in this hotel


Dalat Train Station


A restaurant by the lake. The tourist guide is on the front left




Dalat Flower Garden





Love Valley with honeymooners

Today the landscape in Dalat town has changed. It has many new hotels and shops. There is a market square, night markets and many more establishments catering for tourists' dollors.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Story of My Cars

In 1957 I took my car driving test at the Maxwell Road Traffic Police car driving test centre. The theory test and toy car pushing was at the office. The practical test consisted of parallel parking was held at the parking lot beside the Traffic Police office. Next was driving around the China town circuit to test my driving skill. I had to filter from one lane to another, putting up the correct car indicator when turning to the left or right and applying emergency brake when the tester suddenly tapped on the dashboard of the car. The final test was driving uphill at Erskine Road. I was instructed to stopped the car at the slope with the handbrake on. When releasing the handbrake to move forward, the car must not jerk or slide backward . I passed all the tests and got my car licence the same day.

My first car was a second hand 1953 Hillman Minx. But I owned only half the car. The other half belonged to my uncle. We had an agreement that I used the car at night as I was on permanent graveyard shift. He used the car during the day for his business. A year later I attended a diploma course at the polytechnic. During the term break, I and 3 classmates drove the car to Kota Tinggi waterfall for a picnic. It was smooth sailing all the way there. We had an enjoyable time swimming, walking under the waterfall and exploring the area.






The return journey was more challenging. The car broke down on the road due to overheating of the car radiator. We had no container to collect water and the few passing motorists refused to help. There was no house within sight. After walking quite a distance we saw a hut and was glad to buy a pail from the owner and took water from his well. As we headed for the Singaopore the car radiator heated up again a few times. We had to search for water to top up the radiator. At last we made it to Singapore. I thought my car was fine except to fix the radiator. On closer examination I found the engine block had a hair line cracked.


Car broke down

I replaced the Hillminx with another second hand car, a Triumph Mayflower 1951 model and continued the same arrangement with my uncle. Due to its shape the Hokkien community referred to it as 'kwa cha chia' or coffin car. It had hand gear and I had problem engaging it. I had no choice as I could not afford a better car then. I used it for a few years and then sold it away.


Picture from ST 20 Oct. 1952


In 1961 I was the proud sole owner of a second hand 1960 Triumph Herald. It was about one year old and was in a very good condition. It looked like a sportscar with low chassis, 2 doors, white colour body with a metallic blue streak on both sides and 4 white wall tyres. White wall tyres cost more and was very popular in the 60s. I liked the car very much and it served me for 7 years.



1960 Truimph Herald

1968 Volkswagen 1300

In 1968 I bought my first new car, a Volkswagen 1300 cc. The beetle shaped car was very sturdy. It had air cooled engine at the back of the car and needed little maintenance. I drove my family of six to Fraser's Hill and returned without any problem. It had the power to go uphill easily. The only drawback was its fuel comsumption (about 26/7 miles per gallon). In 1974 I was working in Jurong. Due to the nature of my job I had to get a fuel economy car. I bought a 1000 cc car Datsun FII. It gave me a mileage of about 35 miles per gallon. Though with less power than the beetle, I was compensated by its fuel consumption.



Datsun FII 1000 cc

As my 4 kids had grown up, I needed a bigger car for the family. In 1979 I bought a new Mazda 626 hatchback from Asia Motor at Kg Ampat. It had a 1600 cc engine and looked very stream lined and stylish. It was a cheap big car. I drove the car to Penang when the Penang Bridge was just ready for traffic. In those days, there were no highway to the north. The roads were narrow and rugged with many heavy vehicles on both sides. Overtaking needed good pick-up and power. Mazda 626 was lacking in both areas. I tried to overtake the front vehicles many times with the accelerator all the way down but in vain. Often I had to quickly move back because of on coming vehicles. On another occasion I drove to Genting Highland with my wife. I had to drive on second and third gear most of the time to go uphill. Hokkien saying " ho kwa bo ho chiah".
Mazda 626 Hatchback 1979 model

Picture from carsplusplus.com

My last new car was Alfa Romeo T15 (1500 cc) similar to the one in the above picture. It had a boxer engine that packed with nearly 100 horse power. I loved the car. The pick up was fantastic compared to all other made 1500 cc car. It also had the power to climb steep slope. At the traffic light I tested the pick up with many cars including bigger ones. I was very satisfied with the car performance but it was very costly to maintain. It served me well for 5 years until I retired in early 1993.