Friday, September 24, 2010

Hari Raya Gathering At Rasa Malaysia

Short note: Credit to Awadh Asyraf for some of the photos posted in this entry.

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The entrance to Rasa Malaysia restaurant in Ginza.

The Tourism Minister of Malaysia recently made a trip to Japan to promote our country to the Japanese market. A small group of Malaysian students in Tokyo were invited to join the minister for a Hari Raya gathering at Rasa Malaysia restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo.  This is my first visit to this restaurant, one of the few Malaysian restaurants found in Tokyo.

I had some difficulty locating this restaurant that morning; from the address I got, I took the wrong way and walked towards the opposite direction upon coming out from the subway haha! Fortunately, Ben called me and he managed to guide me to there in the end. It would've been better if the restaurant is on the ground floor, instead of being located at the eight floor and hid in between tall buildings along the main road in Ginza. But even with an area of only 60 square-meters (that is smaller than a standard-sized badminton court), the rent still cost as much as RM 37,000 a month!

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The taukeh, Mr Tam Yun Tong and his wife.

No, I didn't type an extra zero there.

The restaurant is run by a forty-something Malaysian from Kedah and his wife, along with several Malaysian workers who speak fluent Japanese. The food here ranges from Kajang satay, Klang's famous chicken bak kut teh, Penang-style char kuey teow, and Johor' style Indian rojak. A fair and honest verdict from me would be: the food and ambiance inside the restaurant is not bad, but the price might be a little bit expensive to my liking.

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Nasi lemak and rendang, curry noodles, satay and some beverages. Too bad ketupat was no where to be spotted.

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Satay that tasted more like the Japanese yakitori.

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Datuk Seri was kind enough to bring us some kuih raya and mooncakes too.

However, the party was a treat from the Embassy of Malaysia in Tokyo, I think. So, I guess I shouldn't have any complaints.

We were supposed to arrived at the restaurant by nine in the morning. Due to the fact that I lost my way earlier, I was there two minutes late. Anyway, we all knew the minister and her delegates won't arrive that soon; my guess was they would only arrive around half-past nine. So, we spent the time doing catching ups with people we know and making new friends with new faces while we still able to so while moving around casually from one table to the other with all the freedom to ourselves. You know, once they arrived, everything will turn rigid.

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Ben Foo, president of Malaysian Students' Association in Japan (MSAJ) shaking some light moments with the rest.

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Same thing happened at the table next to them.

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This table stopped chatting immediately the cameraman walked to their table haha!

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Puan Siti Zaharah from the HR Department (far left) wanted to take this photo for us but she didn't know how to use a DSLR. In the end, she decided to join us in the photo as well haha!

Finally, we were given a cue to stand up. We had no idea who was arriving. A familiar face was spotted. It was the Ambassador to Japan, Datuk Shaharuddin Md. Som. Walking next to him was a lady, wearing a thick-frame glasses, clad in golden baju kurung. I was thinking, "Eh, how come Dr Ng Yen Yen looked so different? She went for plastic surgery is it?"

It was only revealed later that she wasn't the minister, but the Deputy Secretary General in Ministry of Tourism, Dr. Junaida Lee Abdullah. The whole delegate just arrived in Narita at seven in the morning, and since the minister had to "re-make-up" herself at the hotel first after a long flight, she sent some of her staffs to the restaurant to greet us.

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Dr. Junaida gave us a short talk about how the students can act as mini ambassadors to lure Japanese tourist to Malaysia. The ambassador meanwhile, was wondering when can he have his satay haha!

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Feeling paiseh for being caught red-handed, he quickly looked away from the plate of satay lol!

We were invited to start eating first while waiting for the minister because she would arrive late. I was quite sure almost everyone there went without having their breakfast, so nobody hesitated when we were asked to eat first. It was already ten in the morning and there were still no signs of the arrival of the minister. It doesn't really matter because it meant we had more time to chat longer and eat more haha!

At one time, the ambassador suddenly turned to my table, and he spoke to me in Thai. I was totally clueless; why on earth would he talk to me in that language. I later found out that Ben had told him that I know some Thai and I come from a Thai background. I was quite surprised on his ability to speak in Thai; apparently he had been posted to Bangkok before this, so that explains everything. Too bad his Thai was more to the soft and polite Bangkok accent and I could hardly understand him, except for a couple of words lol! If I'm not mistaken, he said he was in Thailand for two years.

Nevertheless, it was a funny moment.

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Tourism Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, flanked by Dr Junaida and the ambassador.

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Datuk Shaharuddin welcoming the minister and the delegates to Japan. 

Finally, the minister arrived. She still looked very much upbeat despite the long and tiring journey from KL. The minister was joined by a few representatives and also a reporter from The Star. A few hand-shakes with us was followed by a short welcoming speech from the ambassador. Dr Ng started her speech by wishing all of us "Selamat Hari Raya", "Happy Mooncake Festival", and "Happy Malaysia Day". Yes, it was a 3-in-1 celebration.

She later announced that he had some goodies for us, much to our excitement. They were kuih raya and a couple of boxes of mooncakes, which she brought all the way from home inside her hand carry. It was nevertheless a nice and thoughtful gesture from her, for some of us who hadn't have the chance to go back to celebrate with our loved ones.

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"You know what? Everything in Japan is so small, tiny and narrow, including this restaurant. Aiyoyo, want to move also susah!" 

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"On the positive side, the first word about Japan that PM told the Cabinet Ministers when he just got back from Japan the other day was - precision."

The trip is actually a promotion tour to promote the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme and a host of products such as homestay, train leisure tours and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) to the Japanese market. She said since the programme started in 2002, more than 14,300 foreigners had made Malaysia their second home. Of these, more than 1,100 were Japanese.

To take advantage on the increasing number Japanese people aged 65 in the coming years, the ministry is currently trying to lure more Japanese to make Malaysia their second home. Malaysia's strategic location, advances in medicine and cheaper cost of living are all plus points that would definitely make Malaysia one of the most popular destination for the Japanese.

From the observations and experiences I have gained from traveling to several parts of the world, which includes Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore and New Zealand, there are many things we can learned and improve to further boast our tourism industry. For a start, I guess it would be to put a considerably huge amount of effort to improve the state of our public transportation and also to make top tourist attraction spots to be more tourist friendly.

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"We really hope you guys can act as ambassadors to help us promote Malaysia to the Japanese, through various methods such as the MM2H programme."

Malaysia is indeed full of potential when it comes to tourism industry. We have everything back home - from natural beauty to a wide range of great food, warm hospitality from the locals to a peaceful and
stabilised country. The Amazon rainforest, estimated to be at least 55 million years-old, might represents over half of the planet's remaining rainforests, and it comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world.

However, I just learned something new. Do you know that our rainforest in Taman Negara started to develop as early as 130 million years ago? It is indeed the grandmother to the rest of the world's rainforests. During the Ice Ages, when immense glaciers covered much of the Earth, Malaysia was blessed with a location far enough away from the ice that its forest started to develop to give it a biological richness and diversity unequaled by that of the Amazon or African rainforests. If we do not take any actions to preserve them, it is not impossible that they will be gone forever in the next few decades.

Besides that, Malaysia actually has more than 1,000 islands and 42 marine parks. With all these, Malaysia has been listed by the World Tourism Council as the ninth most visited country in 2009, above countries like Japan and Australia. In fact, Lonely Planet have listed Malaysia as one of the top ten countries to visit in 2010. That is certainly some recognition for a small country like Malaysia.

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"If you can get 40 people to attend a homestay programme, we will give you a free ticket home!"

The ministry is also currently working on to promote its homestay program. Villages with more than ten houses can apply to join the programme, provided they adhere to the required hygiene and safety standards set. Tourists will be taken to experience and feel how is it like to live in a kampong through various activities like fishing, playing traditional games, learning some traditional hand-crafts, local dances and perform a traditional song. At the end of the program, they will have to plant a tree before they leave, which I like the idea very much.

In a nutshell, it wasn't merely a free makan gathering with the minister, because I have gained some knowledge that were unknown to be before that. Now I know a little bit more about the efforts being made by the ministry to promote Malaysia to the world and indirectly, boast the local tourism industry.

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A group photo with everyone who attended the Hari Raya gathering.

I wonder if Samy Vellu will be the next one to visit Japan, so that we can have a Deepavali gathering as I really miss my muruku already haha!

4 comments:

kae vin said...

Samy Velu no longer in power la. =.= Never reads the newspaper...=.=

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
then i will vote him into power in the next general election. i miss his legendary phrases lol!

Darren Tan Qin Chen said...

I was thinking, "Eh, how come Dr Ng Yen Yen looked so different? She went for plastic surgery is it?" Like this.

calvin said...

@ darren tan qin chen:
that's exactly what i thought when i first saw that lady xD