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Driving habits

We just returned back from Penang.

Great food as usual and… lousy drivers on the streets, also as usual.

At home, while watching the French TV channel the reporter announced that the local police will act quiet harsh for those driving to their vacation destiny by road.

As we also plan a trip to Europe in a short while, I’ll have to change my Penang driving habits or I might be paying a fortune on local fines:

I’m already preparing myself mentally to respect rules for overtaking, one-way streets, speeding, crossing continuous singel and double lines, parking and a few more. Of course all this while driving again at the correct and right side op the street! It’s going to be a challenge. More later, after our return.

Malaysian style rules were posted alreay in a former mail (see post of Januari 2011). Only for your personal information, a small reminder below.

Just for your information: how about this way of leaving your car parked? Only in Malaysia, I guess. (Wink)

The local way to park your car

A guide for expatriate drivers in Malaysia
by David Astley a British/Ozzie guy now living in KL

Since arriving in Malaysia in 1997, I have tried on many occasions to
buy a copy of the Malaysian road rules, but have come to the
conclusion that no such publication exists (or if it does, it has been
out of print for years). Therefore after carefully observing the
driving habits of Malaysian drivers, I believe I have at last worked
out the rules of the road in Malaysia.

For the benefit of other expatriates living in Malaysia, and the 50%
of local drivers who acquired their driving licences without taking a
driving test, I am pleased to share my knowledge below:

Q: What is the most important rule of the road in Malaysia?
A: The most important rule is that you must arrive at your destination
ahead of the car in front of you. This is the sacrosanct rule of
driving in Malaysia. All other rules are subservient to this rule.

Q: What side of the road should you drive on in Malaysia?
A: 99.7% of cars drive on the left hand side, 0.2% on the right hand
side, and 0.1% drive in reverse (be on the look out for drivers
reversing at high speed in the left hand lane of freeways, having just
missed their exit). Therefore on the basis of ‘majority rules’, it is
recommended that you drive on the left. However, be aware that only
90% of motorcyclists travel on the left hand side – the other 10% ride
in the opposite direction or on the sidewalk. Fortunately,
motorcyclists traveling in reverse are rarely seen.

Q: What are the white lines on the roads?
A: These are known as lane markers and were used by the British in the
colonial days to help them drive straight. Today their purpose is
mainly decorative, although a double white line is used to indicate a
place that is popular to overtake.

Q: When can I use the emergency lane?
A: You can use the emergency lane for any emergency, e.g. you are late
for work, you left the toaster plugged in at home, you are bursting to
go to the toilet, you have a toothache or you have just dropped your
Starbucks coffee in your lap. As it is an emergency, you may drive at
twice the speed of the other cars on the road.

Q: Do traffic lights have the same meaning as in other countries?
A: Not quite. Green is the same that means “Go”, but amber and red are
different. Amber means “Go like hell” and red means “Stop if there is
traffic coming in the other direction or if there is a policeman on
the corner”. Otherwise red means the same as green. Note that for
buses, red lights do not take effect until five seconds after the
light has changed.

Q: What does the sign “Jalan Sehala” mean?
A: This means “One Way Street” and indicates a street where the
traffic is required to travel in one direction. The arrow on the sign
indicates the preferred direction of the traffic flow, but is not
compulsory. If the traffic is not flowing in the direction in which
you wish to travel, then reversing in that direction is the best
option.

Q: What does the sign “Berhenti” mean?
A: This means “Stop”, and is used to indicate a junction where there
is a possibility that you may have to stop if you cannot fool the cars
on the road that you are entering into thinking that you are not going
to stop.

Q: What does the sign “Beri Laluan” mean?
A: This means “Give Way”, and is used to indicate a junction where the
cars on the road that you are entering will give way to you provided
you avoid all eye contact with them and you can fool them into
thinking that you have not seen them.

Q: What does the sign “Dilarang Masuk” mean?
A: This means “No Entry”. However, when used on exit ramps in
multi-storey car parks, it has an alternative meaning which is: “Short
cut to the next level up”.

Q: What does the sign “Pandu Cermat” mean?
A: This means “Drive Smartly”, and is placed along highways to remind
drivers that they should never leave more than one car length between
them and the car in front, irrespective of what speed they are
driving. This is to ensure that other cars cannot cut in front of you
and thus prevent you from achieving the primary objective of driving
in Malaysia, and that is to arrive ahead of the car in front of you.
If you can see the rear number plate of the car in front of you, then
you are not driving close enough.

Q: What is the speed limit in Malaysia?
A: The concept of a speed limit is unknown in Malaysia.

Q: So what are the round signs on the highways with the numbers, 60,
80 and 110?
A: This is the amount of the ‘on-the-spot’ fine (in ringgits – the
local currency) that you have to pay to the police if you are stopped
on that stretch of the highway. Note that for expatriates or locals
driving Mercedes or BMWs, the on-the-spot fine is double the amount
shown on the sign.

Q: Where do you pay the ‘on-the-spot’ fine?
A: As the name suggests, you pay it ‘on-the-spot’ to the policeman who
has stopped you. You will be asked to place your driving licence on
the policeman’s notebook that he will hand to you through the window
of your car. You will note that there is a spot on the cover of the
notebook. Neatly fold the amount of your fine into four, place the
fine on the spot, and then cover it with your driving licence so that
it cannot be seen. Pass it carefully to the policeman. Then, with a
David Copperfield movement of his hands, he will make your money
disappear. It is not necessary to applaud.

Q: But isn’t this a bribe?
A: Oh pleeease, go and wash your mouth out. What do you want? A
traffic ticket? Yes, you can request one of those instead, but it will
cost you twice the price, forms to fill out, cheques to write,
envelopes to mail, and then three months later when you are advised
that your fine was never received, more forms to fill out, a trip to
the police station, a trip to the bank, a trip back to the police
station, and maybe then you will wish you had paid ‘on-the-spot’.

Q: But what if I haven’t broken any road rules?
A: It is not common practice in Malaysia to stop motorists for
breaking road rules (because nobody is really sure what they are). The
most common reasons for being stopped are:
(a) the policeman is hungry and would like you to buy him lunch;
(b) the policeman has run out of petrol and needs some money to get
back to the station;
(c) you look like a generous person who would like to make a donation
to the police welfare fund; or
(d) you are driving an expensive car which means you can afford to
make a donation to the police welfare fund.

Q: Does my car require a roadworthy certificate before I can drive it
in Malaysia?
A: No, roadworthy certificates are not required in Malaysia. However
there are certain other statutory requirements that must be fulfilled
before your car can be driven in Malaysia.
Firstly, you must ensure that your windscreen is at least 50% obscured
with English football club decals, golf club membership stickers or
condo parking permits.
Secondly, you must place a tissue box (preferably in a white lace
cover) on the back shelf of your car under the rear window.
Thirdly, you must hang as many CDs or plastic ornaments from your rear
vision mirror as it will support. Finally, you must place a Garfield
doll with suction caps on one of your windows. Your car will then be
ready to drive on Malaysian roads.

Q: What does a single yellow line along the edge of a road mean?
A: This means parking is permitted.

Q: What does a double yellow line along the edge of a road mean?
A: This means double parking is permitted.

Q: What does a yellow box with a diagonal grid of yellow lines painted
on the road at a junction mean?
A: Contrary to the understanding of some local drivers, this does not
mean that diagonal parking is permitted. It indicates a junction that
is grid-locked at peak hours.

Q: Can I use my mobile phone whilst driving in Malaysia?
A: No problem at all, but it should be noted that if you wish to use
the rear-vision mirror to put on your lipstick (women only please) or
trim your eyebrows at the same time as you are using a mobile phone in
the other hand, you should ensure that you keep an elbow free to steer
the car. Alternatively, you may place a toddler on your lap and have
the child steer the car whilst you are carrying out these other
essential driving tasks.

Q: Is it necessary to use indicator lights in Malaysia?
A: These blinking orange lights are commonly used by newly arrived
expatriate drivers to indicate they are about to change lanes. This
provides a useful signal to local drivers to close up any gaps to
prevent the expatriate driver from changing lanes. Therefore it is
recommended that expatriate drivers adopt the local practice of
avoiding all use of indicator lights. However, it is sometimes useful
to turn on your left hand indicator if you want to merge right,
because this confuses other drivers enabling you to take advantage of
an unprotected gap in the traffic.

Q: Why do some local drivers turn on their left hand indicator and
then turn right, or turn on their right hand indicator and then turn
left?
A: This is one of the unsolved mysteries of driving in Malaysia.

Q. What is the use of the hazard warning lights?
A. Contrary to all international protocol, this four way flashing
light is = switched on when the Police are escorting VIPs on the road
to warn lesser mortals to move out of the way and not hinder the flow
of the motorcade. Taking a cue from the Police, motorists use this at
the slightest excuse when it rains to tell other motorist to get out
of the way as using their hazard light anoints them with powers that
part the traffic, somewhat akin to Moses parting the Red Sea.

Just for the feeling, have a look at following Youtube video (not mine).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkzGa3mS_qQ&feature=endscreen&NR=1

(My own experiences will be posted later. Sorry for that but I’m a  little bit busy at the time with some other projects.) 

Any private pilot here?

My daughter sent me lately a few photographs from quite some time ago, bringing back memories of  flying experiences, when she still was a young teenager while I was, well… a few years older. 

At the airforce base of Koksijde. In the far left a Seaking from the SAR flight.

Years ago while still living in Belgium on the old continent, I started my training for getting the private pilot licence. Following the first part of the schooling and  theory classes came the real thing after hours of required  flight training with an instructor to get familiarised with the planes: the first solo.  Hmm…Piece of cake to get the plane into the air! Only after that I realised also having to bring it down alone by my own, on the correct runway and in one piece  preferably, without damaging that flying thing or my own macho pride!

Later I passed a written exam, an oral radio phraseology exam and a practical, behind-the-wheel exam. After extra flying hours, more exams to get an international license and one allowing night flights.  It all went ok and after about 45/50 flying hours total and one year later, I got a VFR international license and my first certificates and ratings for single engine prop plane operation in my category of less than 5,7 tons, if I recall well.

IFR certified instruments of OO-TWA.

So, there we were, ready for starting our adventures. Ready for travelling the good old Europe by air and without being bothered by flight strikes of British Airways or Air France or Gawd forbid, the late S.A.B.E.N.A.   

Oh… and what about this post and its relation to food, you wonder?   Nah, I’m afraid this airline offers no food on board. We fly on a budget after all.  But we used the plane on several occasions for a destination near to some very fine restaurants abroad! More perhaps later. For the moment, let’s fly in the sky, enjoying clouds and trips

Between layers, still VFR

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q2Sq-anGYY

I’ve nothing against fast food, be it like from Penang hawker places, Belgian fry booths or American hot-dog stalls 

However I do have something against those major chains producing food, or better: stuff only to fatten you with whatever stomach filling. I don’t eat at Pizza-Hut, KFC, Taco Bell or hamburger joints.I might eat some Mac Do as a snack but that will be 3 times a year max. Same goes for the “coffee” joints like “Star$” or similar. Hot boiled bitter dishwater in a paper mug is not exactly my thing. It reminds me of that Dutch Heineken: the only branded piss in the world served in lemonade glasses…:-)  [I really was unable to resist that one!]

But I’ll admit to visit on a weekly basis our local branch of Super Super. They are part of Café de Coral, a huge chain. I do like their simple Hong Kong Food like:

♦  Chok (Congee) with chuncks of fish, fine slices of  roasted pork, rings of squid and a few shrimps. All topped of with scallions and a few nuts. Add white pepper before eating!      ♦  Chee cheong fun, with a mix inside of chopped watercress, chopped meat, shallot and more. Put some soy sauce over before eating.    ♦  Turnip, prepared with greatly balanced herbs and spices,maybe with a lick of schrimp paste. Comes all grilled -or something like that.

Ang mo and food humour

Just while checking through my library, I stumbled upon an old French language marabout book [editor: Marabout; 1987 - Alleur / Belgique]. In it some humourous food drawings by Frapar, who I guess, was a local artist worldwide known in his own village.

Thomas Keller, a U.S. chef, explains that Sous Vide is a foolproof technique, involving cooking at precise temperatures below simmering, yielding results that other culinary methods cannot. However: literally it means  “under emptiness” which I hope helps explaining the wordplay that makes up the joke.

Petard means fire-cracker. – Dinde means Turkey. -

Farce has a double meaning -> or stuffing, or joke.  So they were “just joking” or “stuffing the turkey with a fire-cracker” is the wordplay in this cartoon. Always difficult to get the point translated I’m afraid, isn’t it?

An easy one: “I tell you it smells like paint, your lackered duck! Great line in a Chinese restaurant enjoying Peking Duck.

The boss of an eating place who identifies a inspector, the one who decides about the stars attributed…  “How many stars do you see now, mister G&M ?”  (Gault et Millau is a french institution commenting on the quality of restaurants.)

It doesn’t has to be always about Asian food on this blog right?
 

 To start on an ironical although humoristic note, allow me to explain in a simple way the former negotiations of Belgian politics.
(No central government agreement since elections in June 2010 till a year and a half later.) 
It illustrates and sums up the fundamental difference between the north and the southern regions in that small next-to be-ex-country.
 
Here we go: Belgian Political Negotiations 101 explained:
You have one cow.
The cow is schizophrenic.
Sometimes the cow thinks it’s French, other times it’s Flemish.
The Flemish cow won’t share with the French cow.
The French cow wants control of the Flemish cow’s milk.
The cow asks permission to be cut in half.
The cow dies happy.
 
After this starter, let us go and enjoy some local food.
Mostly stuff from my native regions in Flanders, Wallonia and France. Of course, marvelous food is available coming from Portugal, Spain, Italy… and other regions as well.  Just think about Scandinavian seafood places. 
 Succulent food in fact is available from all over the world and I’m sure  people, better informed than I am, are writing about local and regional cuisines all over the globe.
Also, it’s very difficult in my opinion to recreate original far-away-cuisine-specialities abroad if the cook or chef is not educated in its taste finesses and has not always access to the fresh original ingredients. Restaurants in  ***** hotels have great results, I know, unfortunately at very “Warren-Buffet-like” prices!
 
 Now, to start with some favourites of mine:  
For a very Flemish snack I suggest cherry tomatoes filled with freshly hand peeled grey shrimps. Going for the best ones? Only available in Belgium I’m afraid! Unpeeled fresh grey shrimps are very rare to find EVEN in the Netherlands! Go figure.
Grey shrimp snack with cherry tomatos

Grey shrimp snack with cherry tomatoes

 
cherry tomates crevettes

cherry tomates crevettes

The shrimps are cooked directly after fishing while still on board the vessel."tom-garnaal" as a nice little snack

 
 
Prepare a  light homemade mayonnaise (avoid industrial products by all means), add black pepper and finely chopped spring onions.
Simple but heavenly food. Also be attentive for the quality of the little tomatoes as nowadays sometimes they lack taste! A pity!
 
A tad more elaborated version below.
Served as a starter, using bigger flesh tomatoes, hand peeled -Noblesse oblige-. On a bed of butter lettuce, with some parts of hard-boiled egg and freshly cooked but cooled asparagus.
Asparagus to be cooked 20 seconds longer than “al dente” while keeping the tips out of the boiling water so they will remain crisp. Shrimps mixed with chopped parsley, spring onions and the mayo. Fill the tomatoes and voila!
Grey shrimp & tomato salad

Grey shrimp & tomato salad

 
 
Another Snack below: deep fried cheese & bread bits, Flemish way.
 
Use a mixture of French/Suisse Emmenthaler, Suisse Gruyère and Italian Parmigiano. Those cheeses have some subtle differences among themselves. So, make the mixture according to your personal preferences.
First, start making a béchamel sauce, adding an egg-yolk at the end. Gently heat it with the cheese mixture added. The sauce needs to have some consistency.
At the end of the heating process: add 1 TS of Kirsch.  
Allow to cool off.  That will make the sauce even more consistent.
For the bread: use sliced white bread that has aged for a few days. ( it becomes firmer that way).
With a small glass with a diameter of about 3 to 4 cm to make / cut-out circular bread bits. Cover the bread with the cheese mixture and keep it all cold in the fridge or put all in the freezer for later use.
When ready to party: deep fry in vegetable oil, heated to 190° centigrade.
Serve with some branches of parsley, also deep fried for 15 seconds.
kaastoast - cheese toast snack
 
 
NEXT: “Platte oesters uit Zeeuws Vlaanderen” (Netherlands)  [* note to myself] are among the best if not the best, available in western Europe.
 
[* note to myself]:  Phuleese, …don’t get me started about local geography  in and around  Belgium, … east and western Flanders, Flanders as a Flemish Belgian region, French Flanders in.. errr: France and Zeeuws Vlaanderen in err… the Netherlands, not Holland)
 
Succulent taste, full of finesse, excellent balance for saltness, with very light hints of  ‘noisettes’.
Unfortunately they are becoming rare and thus expensive. Sizes from 1 zero to 5 zeros. That translates as  “0”  to  “00000”.
As usual personal taste prevails. So, in my opinion the biggest are far from being the best. The finest for me are: “00” or max. “000”.
 
¿ I know that’s against the opinion of some of my Chinese friends who live according the gospel of “Fattheus”:  “Big, Bigger, Biggest“, but he… !! ?
For those friends: Try them smaller if you get the chance.
Open them with what we call a special oyster knife (get some training first to avoid cutting off your hand). Get rid of the initial juice as half a minute later the oyster has reproduced new juice.
That’s the time to eat them live, direct from the shell.
Adding some lemon juice and pepper is ok but really not necessary when they are just as fresh as possible. After that experience you never again will go for live tropical oysters, so be warned! 
flat oysters from Zeeuws Vlaanderen - Netherlands.

flat oysters from Zeeuws Vlaanderen - Netherlands.

 
 
 
More traditional than Mussels you die!  Belgians are known for being the best mussels lovers in the world! 

Bouchot mussels

Bouchot mussels

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 La sole meuniere, elsewhere AKA Dover Sole. Don’t settle for less than the original from the North Sea.
Sole meuniere - real Dover sole (Origin North Sea)

Sole meuniere - real Dover sole (Origin North Sea)

 
 
Sole meuniere, a jewel from the North sea.

Sole meuniere, a jewel from the North sea.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Loving game and its preparations in the season?
 
Dinant Wallonia: great game pate

Dinant Wallonia: great game pate and cold cuts

 
 
 
 
 
 
Happy days to all of you.
 
 

It is a fun and weird thought altogether, definitely.

I’ve been feeling like a young 30 something guy my whole life long. Lots of sports and hobbies, traveling much,  operating a few local successful businesses, among them a small flying school…  and leaving finally Europe for living in Asia about almost 10 years ago.    In short: a very busy and adventurous life.

Ok, probably also not the most healthy one but who cares? One only live once. On the other hand, I stopped smoking more than 3 years ago, stopped drinking strong booze also years ago. So, no problem, right?

Wrong, as all of a sudden, according to the doctors, I’m suffering from a weak heart. Huh???  After being admitted to the well-known and highly repudiated Queen Mary Uni Hospital here in town for observation, they even had to fight all of a sudden for keeping me alive. Go figure. A serious shock for my ego, difficult to admit, although, as I realised later, a perfect timing  had brought me to the hospital. In hindsight however some warnings already had been manifesting themselves. I just didn’t catch them.

However, things are getting back to normal after that catastrophic last 3 months of 2011. After our not-so-funny-stay in Penang in september because of the passing away of my wife’s aunt and also her mother and after my personal health problem, we now just returned from Penang after arranging some administration with banks and other firms. And (grin)… after writing and officially registering my will!  (A thing I only thought about doing after that bloody-Near-Death experience.  Maybe all of us should think about that one in time! )

 Of course Pulau Penang to me means also enjoying lots of the local food.  I only was hoping my medicine intake results would not be influenced by all the yummy, but alas, maybe not recommended food I enjoy there.   (One only live once though, remember…).   Lucky me however, because after returning to HK and after some blood checks by my doctor, everything was ok! So, the original planning about retiring to Penang to enjoy the local cuisine stays an objective for my future life. – Great, as now I am ready for returning to my food paradise as soon as we can.

BTW, happy CNY: Kung Hei Fat Choi to everyone.

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