Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What does ALL-IN FARE Really Mean

It depends on who you ask. If you ask an accountant a dollar added to another is equal to $2. But if you ask a marketer a $9.90 merchandise is actually $10.00.

Take the following case and you will understand why the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, ACCC, filed a lawsuit against Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia. ACCC accused AirAsia of failing to disclose the full price of fares on its website.

So, I did the following:

  • Landed on AirAsia's website
  • Clicked the first promo that appear on the homepage
  • Entered flight details according to the promo T&Cs
  • Presented with total fare

Very attractive, all-in fare starts from RM199.00 although not many seats are priced this low.

Simple, and the offer is looking good! Almost all year around.

To be fair to customers, All-in fare should read as "FROM RM257.50". For obvious reason the airline did not disclose the higher fare when flying back from Tokyo. Interestingly for Gold Coast-KUL-Gold Coast  routes, both fares are displayed prominently.
At least that is my first impression of a return tickets to from KUL-Tokyo-KUL: RM199 x 2

Clearly, RM199.00 is not the all-in fare. Finding out what's the airport fees and taxes in Haneda, Tokyo should not be the customer's, it's the airline duty to disclose them. In this case, only the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo is correct as per advertised.

I have nothing against AirAsia, in fact eversince this budget carrier started its operations my family has been using its services for leisure travelings, except for routes it has not covered yet. Malaysia Airlines for me is mainly for formal company trips.

The above may not be an exact copy of what happened in the carrier's adverts for it's Australia website but the idea is still the same. The airline's advertisements always get me sceptical as most of the time the final total fare would be much higher than what is written as big prints in their commercials.

We may not have a law specifying "Businesses that choose to advertise a part of the price of a particular product or service must also prominently specify a single total price", but as a responsible business entity this is the right thing to do. Consumers should not be faced with surprises after making online bookings and are ready to make payment.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lahad Datu Tower of Heaven

Image from Daily Express
Literally translated (but contextually correct), tower of heaven means Menara Kayangan in Malay. If you read Malay literatures, stories and folklores you will find numerous mention of the word 'kayangan' in reference to something supernatural that is coming from above.

No magic about this tower though.

But putting definition into perspective, starting March this year, people will be able to fulfill their dream of going up to kayangan when Menara Kayangan Lahad Datu is opened to the general public. You will not be able to go to heaven climbing it but you will get to enjoy magnificent  bird eye view of Lahad Datu and Darvel Bay in particular, at 33m above the ground.

That's about 11-storey building high and considering it's built on top of Mount. Silam, it is not hard to imagine the beautiful panoramic view one can expect to see from the top floor.

You may have been planning to visit Tabin and Danum Valley all this while but with the new development, you now have more reasons to make that trip to Lahad Datu. I have not been to these places before but if the timing is right, Danum Valley is high in my list for upcoming venture - primarily because I love taking pictures but also because I love nature so much.

You will not get the view from as high as at 86th floor, Petronas Twin Towers but this will definitely give you a totally different experience. You are surrounded by forest on one side and a picturesque sea on another.

What's in store in and around this RM1.8 million tower is  the 2-kilometre nature trail leading to the summit of Mount. Silam, complete with interpretation centre. What this means is that you walk along the trail, take pictures (a lot of them) and get all the information and references about what you have captured at the tower later. For plants and animals you you don't get to see along the way, you still get to see them and educate yourself  through the reading materials made available by Forestry Department.

Scheduled to open in two months time, let's hope fellow bloggers from Lahad Datu will make early coverage of this new tourist attraction.

Note: I have included in this post the article by Daily Express as they tend to archive their articles after sometime, meaning not-reachable to the public for free.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

You have your own Domain. Now What?

green atlas www

When I started blogging a couple of years ago, I remember that I wanted to design my own website and decided to buy few books on website design. It was quite simple really considering the many web design softwares available in the market. So, I reverse-learn from the many templates available in the Internet. After a couple of weeks I decided I would better start writing/blogging using the free hosted Bloggers or Wordpress, and thought that I could transfer my contents to the 'permanent' website later on.

My blog content have grown to what it is today and I decided to take the next step - buy a domain. My contents are now hosted on a paid web-hosting company for $10 (about RM33.00) a year.

What should I do next? I was browsing Arlington web design the other day and suddenly the urge is back to design my own site. I could download a shareware software for a start, but it'll take quite a lot of my time writing the codes. I have a day job and I could end up less productive as a result. So, I may consider getting help from professional if the price is right.

I'm wondering if other bloggers have experience with other web designers - costs, support services and ease of use. If yes, kindly share so that we could all benefit from them.

Grins that Say it All

Don't think, just look at the pictures and make your own story later.


Credit: I got this from momto8blog which I follow and read. You can read further from the blogger's website.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese months are reckoned by the lunar calendar, with each month beginning on the darkest day. New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar.

The Chinese year 4710 begins on Jan. 23, 2012. [quote: infoplease.com]

Let's start this short week by wishing everyone around the globe a happy happy happy new year. May you have good fortune and good health this year.

_DSC6478 copy-600
Enter the Dragon..! - Chinese New Year decorations at Centre Atrium, 1Borneo.

"watch me fly..!"
A performance by SJK(C) Yick Nam at 1Borneo Hypermall on the first day of Lunar New Year

Red Dragon
Huge dragon replica at the entrance of KDCA, Penampang captured 2 years ago

How about sharing a link here to those great shots you took during this year's CNY celebration? That would be awesome!

Have a good week, everyone!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hong Kong to Create 25 Man-made Islands?

Early this month, AFP reported that Hong Kong government had proposed to create 25 man-made islands off the city's coast.

Hong Kong Map
Image source: Google Map

It said that in a desperate attempt to ease land shortage, officials proposed the creation of a 1500-hectare man-made giant island and 24 other smaller islands on Wednesday.

If constructed, the artificial island would have an area larger than the island reclaimed for Hong Kong's international airport and would require claiming land from sea up to 14.5 metres deep, the government said.

Of course, environmentalists in Hong Kong and particularly WWF was right in voicing its concern as this would inevitably affect the city's natural shorelines.

We are blessed with bigger and less densely populated country compared to Hong Kong. Malaysians own bigger land area to build houses and plant crops. People in the more developed city of Hong Kong don't have this kind of luxury. Property prices in Hong Kong soared last year due to shortage of land and leader Donald Tsang vowed to boost the city's land supply in ways he sees fit.

While WWF Hong Kong is closely monitoring such proposal and development, we Malaysians are taking the more laid-back approach when it comes to public response to people's poor treatment to the soil.

We have beautiful hills for paragliding whatever activities and it is our responsibility to preserve the floral beauty of our land...
paragliders800 sharp-crop
Newly found paragliding spot in Tamparuli, Sabah

Instead, we cut them indiscriminately first and foremost for personal gain...
hill cutting
Hill cutting is rampant, particularly in Penampang Sabah

And we cut trees at pleasure...
Why would they chop off non-obstructing trees in Tg. Aru?

Perhaps we will start thinking and listening when every city in our country is submerged by flash floods. By then, we may be able to realise that we have only ourselves to blame for such disaster.
kota kinabalu flood

Hong Kong citizens are always on alert and I believe the government will pull through the situation where they need to strike a balance between nature conservation and development.

What about us? The least we can do is to report activities that we feel are damaging the environment. I don't travel a lot and I can only see what's happening in and around my place. You can do your bit for your respective areas; take a shots or two and highlight your concerns through media of your choice.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Life, 100 Years From Now

BBC News Magazine asked its readers for their predictions of life in 100 years time.

mountain sunrise
Will there be elevators built to go up there? - Sunrise shot from Kasih Sayang Resort, K.Kinabalu.

With some inspiration from the ten 100-year predictions made by American civil engineer John Elfreth Watkins in 1900, here are the readers' top 20 picks:

  1. Oceans will be extensively farmed and not just for fish
  2. We will have the ability to communicate through thought transmission
  3. Thanks to DNA and robotic engineering, we will have created incredibly intelligent humans who are immortal
  4. We will be able to control the weather
  5. Antarctica will be "open for business"
  6. One single worldwide currency
  7. We will all be wired to computers to make our brains work faster
  8. Nanorobots will flow around our body fixing cells, and will be able to record our memories
  9. We will have sussed nuclear fusion
  10. There will only be three languages in the world - English, Spanish and Mandarin
  11. Eighty per cent of the world will have gay marriage
  12. California will lead the break-up of the US
  13. Space elevators will make space travel cheap and easy
  14. Women will be routinely impregnated by artificial insemination rather than by a man
  15. There will be museums for almost every aspect of nature, as so much of the world's natural habitat will have been destroyed
  16. Deserts will become tropical forests
  17. Marriage will be replaced by an annual contract
  18. Sovereign nation states will cease to exist and there will be one world government
  19. War by the West will be fought totally by remote control
  20. Britain will have had a revolution

Read BBC News magazine to find out what futurologists think about them. As crazy and impossible as some of these may sound, many of the previous prediction by Watkins actually came true. Check out his 10 predictions one hundred years ago.

Depending on your belief, these could well be signs that the end of time is not too far away.

Change in website Template

Many months/years later I'll have something to look back on in terms of how my old blog page looked like. Obviously this post has no tangible benefit to anyone other than for my own future reference.

I've grown tired of reading not-so-bright fonts on a dark background and I decided to change the appearance of the webpage to a simpler template. Dark font on white/bright background suits my mobile devices screen better. And on bigger screens, reading is much more at ease.

Old page, prior to 2012.
Blog pre2012
Header photo shot during sunset at Magellan Sutera man-made beach.

New page, Jan 2012.
Blog 2012
Header photo (Mt. Kinabalu) shot from a suspension bridge in Telibong, Tuaran.

More pictures are available at my dedicated photo page.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Elderly Fruit Seller Loses RM200

If you happen to see the suspects, kindly help to notify the nearest police station. Alternatively, you could help by spreading the news via e-mail, your social networks, etc.

An elderly fruit seller lost about RM200 and documents when her bag was stolen while she was busy attending to customers. This happened last week in Sabah's small Southern township of Sipitang and it was reported in the Daily Express.

Sipitang fruitseller
The stall where the incident happened.

According to the report, three customers (a man in his 40s, a woman, and a teenager) came to her stall located near the teachers' headquarters, in a Proton Saga.

"The woman stood at the left side of the stall and kept me busy by asking about the prices of fruit sold" she explained in her police report.

She only realised that her bag kept at the right end of the stall was missing when she wanted to keep money she had earned.

This could happen to anyone and some unscrupulous individuals might have actively been playing such tricks along the busy roads for sometime now, especially during this time when it is Durian season.

Kindly be warned and be on alert of such persons. They may or may not be the actual thieves - no one shall be considered guilty until proven - but it is always good to be cautious.

I feel for my fellow farmers back home who don't earn much from selling fruits and veggies and it hurts me to think that they go home empty-handed after a full day's work.

Pretty interesting Definitions

Good day everyone.

To kick start a brand new week and to ice-break your day, let's share some quotable definitions that may do it for you. Not that they will make or break everyone's day, but I'll just share them just as colleagues of mine share them to me:-


Friday, January 13, 2012

1Malaysia Amanah Rakyat Scheme, SARA

What a news!

Photo from www.sara1malaysia.com.my

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak launched the 1Malaysia Amanah Rakyat Scheme (SARA) on Thursday, Jan 12th 2012, aimed at helping those with a monthly household income of RM3,000 and below. Najib said the scheme had attractive features which had not been introduced before.

He said the scheme was a hybrid of a unit trust investment and loan product, capable of generating a consistent cash flow or monthly incentive.

    “The limit is RM5,000 and it can be bought through savings or investment loans from selected financial institutions,” he said.

    “We guarantee that investors would get RM134 monthly and for those who borrow, they only need to pay RM84 a month and still get RM50 in profit,” he added during the launch. - Bernama

This has became the headlines of major tabloids yesterday and today. So, let's digest the short announcement and see for yourself if you'd like to invest.



Everyone is eligible! So long as he/she satisfies the following requirements:
  1. Malaysians aged between 18 and 58 years,
  2. Household or single parents monthly income of RM3,000 or less,
  3. Not declared bankrupt throughout the loan funding period,
  4. Not a beneficiary of other Government special schemes managed by Amanah Saham Nasional Berhad (ASNB),
  5. No other investments in ASNB unit trusts, OR, if there is, a combined aggregate investment must be RM10,000 or less in all ASNB products

From sara1malaysia website, distribution of funds is by way of

50% to Bumiputera,
30% to Chinese
15% to Indian
5% to Others
On how they formulated it that way, you make your own deduction.

How to apply?

Obtain Forms from participating banks starting from 30 January 2012. Currently there are 4 listed banks, namely: Maybank, CIMB Bank, RHB Bank and Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN.

What documents are required?

The original and certified true copies of the followings:
  • Identity card of applicant – 2 copies
  • Identity card of spouse/s, if applicable – 1 copy
  • Income verification document:
    • latest three months' pay slip or Bank Statements of applicants and/or spouse.

There are two options available to prospective investors:

1) Invest RM5,000 from your own pocket. You are guaranteed monthly dividend of RM134. If you opt not to withdraw your monthly dividend, you can expect return of RM13,000 after 5 years.

2) Invest RM5,000 through loan from bank. You are guaranteed monthly dividend of RM50, after deducting RM84 as minimum repayment to the bank. If you opt not to withdraw your monthly dividend, you can expect return of RM5,000 after 5 years.


You may be asking if this scheme is better than Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB). As a matter of fact, yes. Albeit certain limitation in terms of maximum amount of unit you can buy and the limited investment tenure. To compare, ASB's average return is about 8% to 10% annually and the scheme is open only to Bumis.

Let me explain.

Option one is investment from your own cash, with RM134 x 12 = RM1,608 return annually. This is equivalent to 32.16%. After 5 years, you would have accumulated RM8,040 of dividend which is 160.8%. Assuming that you left your investment untouched, you will get back about RM13,040 at the end of the tenure. Now, where in the world can you find such an investment scheme?

Option two is investment using borrowed cash (from bank), with RM50 x 12 = RM600 return annually. In mathematics sense, this is even better as percentage of return is high (infinity),
i.e. RM600/(zero investment) x 100%. In real sense, you get less simply because you did not put any money in your investment coffer.

In order for this too-good-to-be-true scheme to guarantee such return, the Government (to my understanding, and it is easy to see) will channel fund to the participating banks to enable it to source loans at 'competitive' rates, and hence the high rate of return to investors. In other words, a better way for the Government to dish out money compared to the one-time RM500 payout.

According to Bernama, dividend in SARA is guaranteed by a special purpose vehicle, Malaysian Development Holdings Sdn Bhd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Finance Ministry Incorporated.


Hell, yes! Without hesitation. While I'm not eligible for this scheme, for the qualified you stand to gain handsomely either way. The return breaks all other previous records held by every unit trust in the country, at least for a 5-year period. The best is Option One but if you don't have the money, Option Two is still a steal!

This is limited to the first 100,000 applicants so, make up your mind and act fast. You've got nothing to lose.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Water Loss in Sabah THIRD Highest

The Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) carried out a non-revenue water (NRW) study in Malaysia and said that more than 1/3 of water treated at our plants is WASTED. National water loss averages were 36.6% in 2009 and 36.4% in 2010.

for a good cause?
Water jetting out of a transmission main during pipe flushing/cleaning

In 2010, of the total revenue from water sector of close to RM4.1 billion (US$1.3bil), RM1.7 billion or nearly HALF of it is lost to NRW. The three top contributors to this loss are Selangor, Johor and Sabah:
    Selangor: RM598.9 million, estimated loss of revenue
    Johor : RM200.9 million
    Sabah : RM175.4 million
    Kedah : RM140.9 million
    Pahang : RM132.9 million

In terms of VOLUME, the top five 'losers' are:
    Selangor: 481mil m3
    Pahang : 195mil m3
    Sabah : 195mil m3
    Kedah : 188mil m3
    Johor : 161mil m3

In Sabah, the last 3 years of record shows that we continue to leak out money to the drain at alarming rate:
    2008 - RM150.6 million
    2009 - RM142.4 million
    2010 - RM175.4 million
    2011 - could well surpass Johor; RM200million. Wait & see!
(Source: AWER, Malaysia)

Sabah's current largest and most economical Water Treatment Plant: Moyog WTP

Sabah's largest waterworks (WTP) located in Penampang is designed for production of 165 million liter (MLD) of water per day and at overload mode it can go up to 180 - 190 MLD.

If the estimates by AWER is taken at face value, i.e. 195 million m3 water loss in 2010, we are talking about 3 WTPs of this size. Solve 30% of our NRW volume and we DO NOT need to construct any dam in Kaiduan for the foreseeable future. By reducing NRW, we are tackling several tricky issues namely - avoid destruction of greenery in Kaiduan Penampang, avoid relocating people from their ancestral lands, and patch a hole in the treasurer's pocket.

It is pointless to keep building new Water Treatment Plants to increase production but at the same time loss half of the treated water along the transmission and distribution pipes.

The action plan I've learnt through my working life is as simple as this:
  1. Set the NRW reduction target. A detailed one if needed be.
  2. Specify reasonable time frame. Speaking of which, 5 years is not reasonable at all!
  3. Identify areas of concern (the people, the facilities, the environment, etc)
  4. Prepare technical guidelines. Let the engineers work it out.
  5. Work out capital and operational expenditures. Who says engineers and accountants can't agree on figures!
  6. Check and analyse the plans. The accountants say 'audit', we say 'assess'.
  7. People's participation. Let the public know about it and provide avenue for feedback.

There is a popular Malay saying "CAKAP TIDAK SERUPA BIKIN" or easier said than done. Of course, addressing the NRW issue will never be an easy task. But if we don't start somewhere, when will we ever get to the finish line?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

$1.76 Million Wooden Cottage

Wooden cottage for US$1,760,000? Sure this is in New York, but can I not buy 20-30 small, old houses like that (looks more like hut to me) for such price? Surely it must be a camouflage of something.

The property looks just like a typical weekend chalet in the forested Adirondack Mountains, according to AFP report. But that is what you see from above the ground. Go underground (literally) and you will see why it's just the tip of an iceberg you saw up there.

It further explained:
      First comes the old underground missile control center, refitted as luxury housing. From there, you enter a tunnel, passing several massive blast doors, into the now empty silo descending seven floors down.

      For the James Bond wannabe, the property, which can be viewed on http://www.coldwarmissilesilo.com/index.htm, also has its own airstrip.

      The Atlas-F missile site, part of the first generation of "super-hardened" silos, was activated in 1961 and closed in 1965, then later bought by businessman Bruce Francisco. A black and white picture on the property's web ad shows an intercontinental missile protruding from the silo's open doors. - AFP

You can view the photographic details of the silo from Sotheby's website.

If you want to live in a silo like that, I'm putting my money that you are interested with none other than to protect yourself from intense bombing of up to 200psi blast, and for a nice cool hideout when things get messy.

My question is that, if this place is intended to be a safe heaven, why must the plans/drawings and pictures be revealed to the public in great detail?

Perhaps it's a better idea to radically convert this to a museum of sort and make it a tourist attraction.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

100% Power Supply coverage in Sabah by 2012

This was what some local media reported in October 2011. As misleading as the headlines seem, that is what exactly the people deserve after seeing SESB (formerly known as SEB and NBE) in operations for more than 50 years.

A better fit for purpose title would have been 'Towards 100% power supply coverage in 2012' so as to ward of unrealistic expectations. The then Managing Director of SESB, Ir. Baharin Din said it was targeted that Sabah would reach 95% electricity coverage by the end of this year.

Something the utility company must strive to achieve to walk their talk on "WORKING HARDER FOR BETTER POWER". This is also the least that the people can expect from the RM962.5 million of allocation for electricity supply in rural areas in Sabah under The 2012 Budget.

Sabah grid June2010-600shrp
SESB grid and generating capacity, 2010. Source: SESB

As it now stands, electricity coverage in Sabah is about 80%, and by looking at the development plans and data released by SESB from time to time, I'm confident that the additional 15% more of coverage is realistic and achievable probably by 2013.

Also, an interesting fact worth mentioning is that, by percentage, SESB is currently the biggest taker in the country on Renewable Energy initiatives. The contract for take-off in 2010 accounted for more than 30MW capacity or about 3% of Sabah Energy Generation share. In comparison, the national average is less than 0.5%.

The new SESB MD, Ir. Abd Razak Salim is expected to continue to steer the utility company to play major role in encouraging such RE initiatives, in line with the national objective to minimise the impact of power generation on environment.

TheGreenmechanics' two cents:

The allocation of almost RM1 billion is huge and whoever is entrusted to carry out the task is duty-bound to deliver the goods. Infrastructure network, especially in the rural areas has been the stumbling block for rural electrification due to the geographical condition of the state. It is a huge challenge we know but it is a good opportunity too.

I say, if the mountainous terrains of Sabah is to blame it is about time that we turn to Greener Source of energy. It is no doubt more expensive but that is what the big allocation is for.

Last year, Malaysia through SEDA, has embarked on feed-in-tariff initiatives for 4 sources of renewable energy and it will be all the more meaningful for the state take que from and be aggressive in its effort towards environment-friendly power generators.

COME ON! Let's go for 100 percent. That will do for the rural rakyat!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Petronas Twin Towers

There are few things I really wanted to do before 2011 closes its door, two of them being watching the Formula 1 race in Malaysia or Singapore, and to 'scale' the famous Twin Towers of Petronas. Not to literally scale it the spider way; visiting the observation deck would be more definitive.

Cut the story short, I managed to catch Michael Schumacher - my all time favourite race king - in action at Malaysian GP Sepang in April 2011. The race was won by another German tho in Sebastian Vettel, a fast improving no-nonsense young driver.

Petronas Twin Towers was more of an elusive target as I failed to gain entry in my first two attempts - once in December 2010 and another in April 2011. On both occasions, tickets were sold out and I could not make advance booking as I did not stay long enough to exhaust the long waiting period (1 week).

So, few days ago on 31st December 2011, while wifey and kids were enjoying their nap in the early morning, I woke up and took a walk from the hotel to the towers to join the long queue of tourists taking their chances nicking that elusive tickets. Joined the zig-zag lines at 6.30 in the morning and finally get to purchase a ticket at almost 9.00am (first group of 22 visitors made their way up at 9.00am); I opted for afternoon visit at 1.00pm.

One of the landmarks to die for is KL Tower (seen on the background)

A sample of the concrete jungle around the Towers

KLCC Park viewed from above

As a twin structures, Petronas Twin Towers is still regarded as the tallest in the world. Standing at 451.9m, the 88-storey Twin Towers is inspired by Islamic geometric shape with each tower plan being based on an eight-pointed star. It's tall and the scenery from up there is breath taking.

Wifey doesn't like height and my small daughter doesn't fancy going either. Still it's a mission accomplished for me personally.