Thursday, September 30, 2010

Malaysia Pavilion At Expo 2010

Short note: This is another over-due entry, which was supposed to be posted three months back. Before I continue blogging on my New Zealand trip, allow me to clear off some of my pending posts first. My entry on the Shanghai Expo 2010 was way too long, that I decided to dedicate a special entry for the Malaysia Pavilion. Some of the facts and information is taken from several websites.

Malaysia Pavilion is one of the 192 national pavilions at Expo 2010, Shanghai, and visiting the Malaysia Pavilion was one of our main aim.

Themed "One Malaysia, City Harmonious Living", the pavilion showcases a traditional Malaysian hut with Minangkabau's "Rumah Gadang" architecture based on a hand-painted batik roof to reflect the Malaysian image. The traditional Minangkabau design of the pavilion does make it stand out among other South East Asian countries' pavilions. After the Expo, the pavilion is to be donated to the county of Wuxi in the People's Republic of China.

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Nowadays, almost everything about Malaysia has to be associated with 1Malaysia.

The two-level pavilion is made of local Malaysian materials including rubber, woods and oil palm plants.

The inspiration of the pavilion design comes from the traditional Malaysian hut in the expression of a unique style and national spirit of union. The building comprises two streamlined high slopes with a cross on top, the symbol of Malaysian architecture. The facade of the pavilion is made from a combination of recyclable materials of palm oil and other environmentally-friendly materials.

The national promotion do not only promote food fare like laksa, nasi lemak, bak kut teh and curry puffs, but also featured the natural environment like the beaches, islands, golf courses and also a section on Formula 1 racing. Visitors will also get access to characteristic Malaysian artworks and their production process. Electronics, rubber and timber products will also be exhibited in the pavilion.

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The front view of Malaysia Pavilion.

The Malaysia Pavilion, which also included the world heritage sites of Penang and Melaka, has been chosen as one of fifteen "featured pavilions" of the expo by the organiser. With the status, the organiser had made arrangements for fifteen international reporters to visit and write on the Malaysia pavillion, which will promote Malaysia worldwide.

It is expected that the Malaysian Pavilion would attract 10 million visitors throughout the six-month long Expo.

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The flag of both nations greet the visitors to the pavilion.

There are five main highlights of the Malaysia Pavilion.

Highlight 1: Traditional House
The corridor and entrance at the ground floor will be based on Mosque design with elevated roof on columns to resemble the traditional long house in Malaysia. The exterior wall will imitate Malaysian textile printing with patterns of butterfly, bloom, flying birds and geometrical drawings.

Highlight 2: Mini-putt and Petronas Twin Towers 
Along with palm oil, rubber and other economical plants, the pavilion will also exhibit tourist attractions of beach and golf court, as well as ordinary family lives in Malaysia. Visitors will be able to pitch and putt at an indoor golf area. The sightseeing elevator between two stories will be designed to simulate the famous Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

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We were lucky that the cultural dance that reflects the multi-cultural society was being performed when we went to the Malaysia Pavilion.

Highlight 3: Central Stage
During the Expo, the central stage in the pavilion will host two local dance performances every day to showcase all 47 ethnic groups from the country.

Highlight 4: Lucky Draws
The pavilion will hold lucky draws on key days during the Expo, such as Malaysia's national day, and the anniversary of China-Malaysia Diplomatic Relationship.

Highlight 5: Artworks and Foods 
Visitors will see characteristic Malaysian artworks and their production process in the pavilion and will have the chance to taste delicious Malaysian foods such as bak kut teh.

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Kai Cung and I were in the free shuttle bus, transporting from one zone to the other, when we spotted a Malaysian delegates, which includes a minister.

Alright, enough of all the facts and information about the pavilion. I shall proceed by giving my personal opinions and views on the Malaysia Pavilion. It may sound a bit harsh, but they are all my honest thoughts. Taking a quote from the Minister of Tourism, Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen, she said that although Malaysia could not compete with developed countries like Germany and Switzerland in terms of technology, Malaysia had its own uniqueness of being multi-racial and multi-cultural.

Yes, I agree with the fact that we are unique in our own ways. However, I am quite disappointed that these multi-ethnic characteristics of Malaysia were not explained in depth at the Malaysia Pavilion.

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The information counter at the main entrance to the pavilion. Ehem, this is not a hotel, where you have a reception counter.

The first section upon entering the pavilion brings visitors to see the traditional costumes of each ethnicity, followed by a Petronas Twin Towers stand, tropical rainforests and historical monuments from Penang and Malacca. However, most of the exhibits are too superficial and not linked to each other. For example, the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Kadazan traditional costumes at the pavilion entrance lack information or explanation for the visitors. You cannot just put up those costumes and expect visitors, especially the foreign tourists to know what each of the costumes are for.

I walked to the information counter to get a pamphlet from one of the staff and guess what reply I got? "Sorry-lar dik, dah habis." ("Sorry, but no more pamphlets available already"). In the end, I was given a pamphlet in Japanese language.

From my observations and visits to other pavilions, Malaysia Pavilion could have done so much better in terms of their method of presentation. There was neither advanced technology nor creativity in the Malaysia pavilion. Those responsible should at least put in more efforts, and promote our multi-cultural heritage to attract more foreigners to visit, study and invest in the country.

I just couldn't help but to feel slightly sorry when comparisons are made between the Malaysia Pavilion and other pavilions. Take the UAE Pavilion for example, in which visitors are taken into a virtual journey on the birth of the country that is backed by narration using updated presentation technology. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Monaco have used advanced multimedia technology and even 3D movies as big as four basketball courts to introduce their own countries.

If budget is the problem, I wonder how a tiny country like Singapore, or a poor country with all sorts of political turmoil like Indonesia and Thailand can come out with such outstanding and magnificent pavilions. Other countries also brought in their national treasures - some being displayed abroad for the first time. France brought in seven renowned paintings, while Denmark displayed its famed 'Little Mermaid' statue.  In return, their pavilions attracted huge crowds and visitors often needed to queue for at least two or three hours to enter.

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The Peranakan cultural delights of Malacca and Georgetown.

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The Malacca's Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Muhammad Ali Rustam was the minister I mentioned just now.

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Apart from this section, I don't think there are any other significant corners seen inside the Malaysian Pavilion. However, I still believe that a lot more that could be done to showcase these two heritage sites.

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A group picture of the minister and the rest of the delegates.

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Besides Malacca, Georgetown is also listed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Cities.

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It happened that on the day of our visit, the Chief Minister was there to visit and officiate some function at the Malaysia Pavilion.

Yes, I gotta admit that the section introducing the UNESCO world heritage sites and Baba Nyonya culture looks nice with colourful posters and photos, but apart from several brief notes, they are hardly inspiring. 

I strongly believe that the experience could be improved if there was more imagination and depth in presenting the exhibits. The Baba Nyonya culture exhibit could have been enlivened with descriptions of their lifestyle in depth, perhaps explained by a real Baba or Nyonya, in costume. That would make the experience much more lively and interesting.

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A poster at one corner, probably for visitors to pose for photographs to tell their friends that they have stood by the Twin Towers.

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A mock tropical rainforest in Malaysia, which I find it to be a bit messy and unkept.

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Personally, I have never visited Taman Negara to see our rainforest for real, but I am unsure if we can find banana plants and oil palms there.

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If I saw it properly, isn't that orang utan on the right without its head already?

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There is a platform for visitor to walk through the rustic countryside and waterfall setting.

While other pavilions utilised the latest, modern technology in their presentation, it seems that ours still prefer to stick to the traditional method of putting up information using diagrams hung on walls. It makes a visit to the Malaysia Pavilion feels like visiting a museum. They should be aware that in these days, they cannot expect visitors to spend time reading from the wall anymore, because that it just too outdated and boring.

Besides, visiting an expo of such magnitude doesn't give one that much time to slowly explore every pavilions. Instead of having visitors to read the texts, they should have something that people can explore and interact with. Do you know that in Israel Pavilion, they have visitors to communicate and chat with the people back in Israel on real time, using the Internet.

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Welcome to the pasar malam of the Malaysia Pavilion. You will know why later.

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This is an example of putting up information that is hardly useful. I doubt any visitors will read through the details.

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Made-in-Malaysia products, made from palm oil, one of our traditional products.

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Biscuits, bakery products, margarine and spreads are examples of products made of palm oil.

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This is the first time in my life seeing raw rubber.

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I've been longing to own one of these rubber ducks and frogs.

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Condoms and also golf balls are also made of rubber, which was quite surprising.

Some Malaysian tourists pointed out that the pavilion resembles a pasar malam to promote commercial products. Most of the space was used to promote commercial products like massage machines, coco drinks, tongkat ali coffee, furniture, paintings, and even palm oil and timber.

Still, these companies at least put more effort in to promote their products than the ministry staff and the volunteers. I noticed some of the staff in the pavilion just sat down at one corner, playing with their mobile phones, instead of interacting with the visitors. They are, after all, being paid to be at the pavilion.

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Malaysia's unique art and crafts, and paintings from Balai Seni Lukis Negara.

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Some of the paintings displayed are for sale.

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Wau bulan, the traditional and colourful Malaysian moon-kite with floral motifs.

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Batik was on display as well in the Malaysian craft corner.

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Two batik painter was specially brought there to demonstrate the batik techniques. However, their inability to communicate with the tourists, mostly from the mainland left most of them in the dark.

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More paintings on the wall and pewters from Royal Selangor.

The Malaysia Pavilion looked attractive on outside but there were several weaknesses in terms of details. It lacks conceptual depth, vision and imagination, and has failed to impress visitors despite exhibiting a wide range of products and content. I guess the Tourism Ministry was too overly eager to promote as many tourism spots as possible and that has completely backfired, which has resulted in the exhibit lacking focus as a whole.

Besides that, the Malaysia Pavilion was not built in compliance with the expo theme - "Better City, Better Life". I guess that it is because Malaysians have no idea on how to make their urban life better. The most obvious example would be the public transport in Kuala Lumpur. Anyone who has had a first-hand experience with it will certainly know that it is a mess - the road congestion, potholes spotted everywhere, and flooding whenever it rains.

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Taiping Zoo was featured in that map!

Urban areas in foreign countries like Tokyo are heading towards the low carbon and environmental-friendly directions because of the development and concentrated populations. However, are we able to find such a city in Malaysia? I doubt so. Furthermore, cities in Malaysia are also lacking in core values. How is a country going to make progress without a positive value?

Our senior officials and politicians should pay a visit to the Shanghai World Expo to absorb the values of globalisation, instead of quarreling among themselves on petty issues at home like a jaguh kampung.

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Some famous Malaysia dished at the food and beverages outlet.

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The saddest-looking nasi lemak in my life lol!

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I have no idea how they ended up calling this curry laksa noodle.

I know I have only been giving not-so-nice reviews on the Malaysia Pavilion up to this point. Receiving constructive criticism is part and parcel of life, isn't it? If I am gonna say everything is nice and perfect, there's surely not gonna be much improvements after this. Everything will just stay static, just like how it is. 

I don't really blame them because Malaysia is new in participating in such expo, and there are still a lot for them to learn. It is my hope that they would study and reflect on these weaknesses, and come out with much better ideas in the future, so that we are able to compete with other nations, which seemed to be taking it seriously to present their nations in the best possible light.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Potluck For Birthday Girl

Short note: I went to get my hair-cut a few days ago. After the lady was done cutting my hair, she used a soft brush to remove the remaining hair around my face. When she reached my ear, she used her fingers to brush off the hair as some of them had went into it. She then commented, "耳大きいですね" ("You got a pair of huge ears, don't you?"). I replied her, "象程大きくないけど" ("Yes, not as big as elephant's ears though") haha!

All pictures were taken using Nadia's Nikon D40.

Guys, meet baby Wan Hui.

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And I am Sesame Street's #1 fan!

I am quite sure the next question that will linger in your mind is, who is this cute little baby. Come, let me do some brief introduction. Wan Hui is the daughter of the landlord of the girlfriend of this blog's owner. How was that? Too confusing? Let me rephrase it then. Wan Hui is the niece of the senior of this blog's owner. Does that sound any better?

Haha! Alright, let me just proceed with this entry. So, a couple of days after Mich and I returned to Christchurch from our road-trip around the South Island, her landlord organised a potluck dinner to celebrate their daughter's first birthday. Both of them are doctors, so no prize for guessing who were the guests who attended the potluck that evening.

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Except the kids, all of them in this pictures are either doctors or medical students, except for one in the stripe shirt, and that's me by the way.

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Mich's three juniors. Jane on the left was too busy choosing her inari that she just couldn't be bothered to pose for the camera haha!

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We didn't plan this, but both of us ended up in black on that night.

The main subject when we are talking about a potluck would definitely the food everyone brings. Just thinking about all the possible food people would bring is already enough to make us feel excited. To consider the fact that most of them who were invited are Malaysians makes it even better. That means we all would get lots and lots of good Malaysian food.

Amazingly, most of the doctors cooked the food by themselves and that made it even more special.

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It has been a long, long time I see so many kinds of local food in a foreign land.

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More high cholesterol and calories food, but who can resist them?

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Chinese pancakes and lor mai fan, made by aunty and the delicious chicken rendang.

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Home made jellies with dates and fruits, also by aunty. Seriously, she is just too good in cooking.

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Not sure who brought this scary-looking apples haha!

The doctors who came were not just Malaysians, as there were several Kiwis and a Korean guy as well. The common language was of course English, but with some Kiwi accent that I still find it difficult to understand until today haha! Do you know that "ten dollars" is pronounced as "tin dollars". Mich once told me that a Kiwi asked her something like, "Do you have a pin?". She almost looked for a hair pin on her hair, until she realised that that person was referring to a "pen" haha!

Furthermore, all they talked about revolved around medicine stuff, and it would be a suicidal act if I attempt to jump into their conversation. It would definitely make me look like an idiot when they randomly throw me with some medical terms, say for example, Triceratopsm. While the adults did their chatting with each other, the kids teamed up to have their fun time too.

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Building a boat from the sponge puzzles.

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This girl thought it would be more comfortable to have a bigger boat.

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Too bad they hit a Kiwi bird and their boat sank. That's how the story Titanic 2 came about.

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Pretending to be Rose, waiting for Jack while clasping to the last piece of floating pillow haha!

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Teaching the boy how to climb a pole with just one arm.

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Like father, like sons.

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It's like a common thing to do when Moms and their kids gather together. The Moms will sorta ask the kids to "make friends" with each other.

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And who know's maybe when they're all grown up, they might become an item. That's how arranged marriage was created.

Soon, it was the highlight of the birthday party - the cake cutting ceremony.

The three girls and I shared in getting the chocolate mud cake from Divine at Riccarton Mall. Any chocolate fan would definitely love this rich and moist dark chocolate cake, which is dunked in chocolate ganache. But guess what, the baby actually loves it as well. She kept on asking for another bite from her Mom after it was cut haha!

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Chocolate mud cake, with a candle on top of it.

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Someone's sleepy. I guess Baby Wan Hui was hoping for everyone to sing her the birthday song as quickly as possible.

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The blue lighter attracted more attention than the birthday cake haha!

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Kids group photograph. Wonder what Li Min was looking at lol!

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Managed to kidnap the baby from her Mom and we quickly had a photo with her before she turns an octopus.

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No doubt she was the star of the evening.

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Despite my huge size, kids find me like a friendly giant. Bradon talked almost like a native Kiwi, that it made me feel that my English is damn cacat haha!

Too all ex-PPKTJ-ians, just in case you're wondering, Li Min is the elder sister of Li Jia. Talking about what a small world it is.

I actually only found out about that one day a couple of years ago, when Mich told me about her new landlord. When I heard Li Min's name and that she comes from Penang, I began to suspect that she could be related to Li Jia. Some simple research led me to find out that both of them are indeed sisters. Since Mich occasionally brings baby Wan Hui to her room when we Skype, I actually get to see the baby more often that Li Jia gets to see her niece *hehe*

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Believe it or not, that lady, Juliet on the left is a consultant in Christchurch Hospital. I'm amazed at how simple and down-to-earth these people are, despite the high post they hold in hospital.

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Another group picture, which is taken every time someone was leaving.

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So funny to see how that guy on the left tapao some food back - put the food on the plate and just wrap it over.

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The baby with her parents and grandparents.

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Birthday girl with the 3+1 Charlie's Angels in the house haha!

Let me share a secret here: Baby Wan Hui loves it a lot to have guys to accompany her. She gave me a broad smile on the first day I arrived in Christchurch. I think she recognised me, as she has been seeing me quite often before this on Skype.

I am after all, her long-lost virtual friend haha!