Royal Museum

Did you know you can visit the old National Palace in Kuala Lumpur? The once glorious place, home to our Kings and Queens has now been converted to a Royal Museum and open for visit for all for a nominal fee. For your information my workplace is only 5 minutes drive from the Royal Museum but I only get to visit the place today.

The old national palace was formerly a huge double-storey mansion called "The Big House" and was built by a local chinese millionaire named Chan Wing in 1928. It was then used a the residence of the Selangor's Sultan and later sold to the Federal government for 1.4 million Straits dollar in 1957 to be used by the newly installed King.

The museum is open every day from 9:00 to 5:00 and for locals you only pay RM5.00 for adults and just 2 ringgit for kids. Car park is available outside the museum and the place is usually not crowded, even on weekends. After paying the entrance fee you walk up about 800 meters to the palace doors. It's good to finally see the iconic building that was once printed on our paper note (old RM5 money) up close.

We had much fun taking pictures of the beautiful surrounding and building but unfortunately we soon learned that we weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the building. I don't know what's the rational behind this but whatever it is, I sincerely think it's outdated and ridiculous not to allow people to take photos of old buildings. Anyway despite the fact that I'm longing to secretly snap a few pictures inside the palace, I adhered to the warning and took none. We walked everywhere inside the old palace, saw every room from the royal bedroom to the royal dining hall and even the royal laundry room (no kidding). Of course they were all beautiful except for a few spots with wear and tear due to old age.

Most of the spacious rooms inside the old palace were cordoned off to visitors so basically we only get to take a peek from the doorway. If they didn't I would imagine these tourists making all sort of poses, decent or not in and around the place. It would be scandalous. We covered all of the rooms in the double-storey palace pretty quickly. Not more than half an hour I should think. Then we head straight next door to the throne room or Balairong Seri. Although the same 'no photography' sign displayed at the entrance of this area, people including the guards were liberally taking selfies and pictures all over the place. So I guess the rules were relaxed in those part so we didn't miss the chance to pose for a few pictures ourself.

The Balairong Seri happens to host a special collections of malay rulers' exhibition so we get to see some of our kings and sultans favorite toys and paraphernalias. Our visit to the Royal Museum was at minimum informative and educational. We we awed at the beautiful things inside the building? Perhaps. But come to think of all our hard earned money used to build and maintain the place, I was not so thrilled.

Were they justified in building the new RM800 million palace in Jalan Duta? I reserve my comment but suffice to say, if I were a king and had to live in this 86 old and ageing building, I'd be bummed too. I like the fact that drinks from the vending machine is fairly cheap at 1 ringgit each. I still despise the fact that we couldn't take any pictures inside the museum. Would I visit it again in the future? Probably just to take my grandma who's an avid fan of royalties. Other than that, probably not.

The Royal Museum is located along Jalan Istana and you won't miss it if you're a regular visitor to KL city. I'm sure you'd passed the building going or coming back from work several days a week. Now you can see it for yourself the lifestyle of the lucky and famous.

Google Play Books

In my opinion, the best electronic book reader that you'll ever have is the one that you have with you all the time. And what else that you have in your pocket 12 hours a day but your smartphone? Sure you can always get a dedicated ebook reader like a Amazon's Kindle or even a generic Android tablet, but for me they're just too large and bulky. I still find reading a book with a tablet in hand in public as a bit show-offish and I'm more comfortable reading from a smartphone. At least I'd look like a normal guy who's probably sending text messages or reading his Twitter feed. Now there's about a dozen ebook reader in the market for your smartphone. I've used several free ones such as Fabrik and Aldiko, both are great in their own ways to be honest. But ultimately, I've settled on Google Play Books as my favorite ebook reader app. I'll tell you why in a minute.

For starters, Google Play Books is from Google and it's free. The electronic books that you have on Google Play Books syncs with your Google Play account as it is from Google and you can access it with any browser on a computer and any Android or iOS devices. Those two features alone should make Google Play Books the top choice for an ebook reader app.

As with many ebook reader app, they work best with an epub file format. Epub is an open source electronic document format which is supported by most ebook reader app and devices, except Kindle (Amazon you suck, that's why I'll probably never buy a Kindle). Sure you can always upload or sync a PDF document directly with your ebook reader app but you'll find out soon enough that it's a horrible experience. Even when reading a PDF document with a large tablet, you'll have to constantly zoom in and out and scroll left right, up and down to read the text. Epub on the other hand, fits nicely on your ebook reader app even for books with graphics.

However since not all ebook comes in the ePub format, you'll have to convert them into ePub for the best reading experience. Programs like Calibre eBook management is a great and free software that'll convert PDFs and many other document formats to ePub and vice versa. Here's an excellent article at How-to-geek on how to convert a PDF or any other ebook document to ePub using Calibre eBook Management.

If you already have some ePub files, you can already upload them to Google Play Books or purchase some from the Play Store. To upload ePub (or any other ebook documents) to Google Play Books, you'll need to do them from this page. Once the upload is complete, your eBooks will be synced to all your iOS or Android devices that have Google Play Books installed. The first time you open the book, it'll download all the chapters so that you can read them offline anytime. Another great feature of this app is that it'll automatically bookmark the current page of the book you're reading and sync it in the cloud across all your devices. So next time you open the book on an Android, iOS or the website, you'll find the last page you've read. Apart from that you can always bookmark any page you want manually, create notes, find word definitions and use several other cool features with the Google Play Books app.

I'm the kind of guy that couldn't bear to waste a second of my free or spare time sitting idle, doing nothing productive. Therefore a great ebook reader app such as Google Play Books is perfect for people like me. After I'm done reading all my social network feeds (Twitter/Instagram/Facebook) or when I don't feel like reading my RSS feeds with Feedly, I'll open up my Google Play Books app and start reading one of the many books I've got there.

Download links:

Calibre eBook management

Google Play Books for iOS and Android

Google Play Books upload page

Inside Llewyn Davis review

Just finished watching Inside Llewyn Davis last night. This is one of the movies that you would say "what the fuck? That's it?". Inside Llewyn Davies tells of the story of one week in the life of a struggling folk singer in Greenwich Village in New York in the 60s. I mean what could be more boring than that, right? I thought so too immediately after watching it. A few hours later however, I learnt to appreciate the quality cinematography that goes into making this film and the awesome music soundtrack from the movie. Inside Llewyn Davis has Justin Timberlake cast as an actor and singer in the movie and he even performed this lovely song in it.

I've been a recent fan of the Coen brothers who made the movie. Their other works that I loved as well were Fargo and No country for old man. For movies with quite a modest budget, they sure did produced some amazing stuff. I'd totally recommend this movie.

The Journey review

When I heard the news how The Journey broke the record for the highest grossing local film of all time beating KL Gangster with RM13 million in sales, I was curious to know what the film is all about. Is really that good or is it just overhyped? So I took my wife for a movie date last weekend. Here's what I think of the movie.

Warning: spoiler alert (duh)

The Journey is about a Malaysian girl who returns home after growing up in England, bringing along her boyfriend who wishes to take her hand in marriage. Being the good girl that she is, it is imperative that she seeks her father's blessing first. His father, being the quintessential chinese man that he is, demands that their marriage is steeped in tradition. The boyfriend (Benji) however finds it to be backward and unnecessary so he didn't go along with the idea initially. That changed after Benji found out her girlfriend Bee is pregnant and agreed to go with all the local chinese wedding tradition like sending out personal invites to the bride's every living relative and closest friends (apparently his father's entire primary school classmate) which is the entire premise of the movie.

Benji had one condition though. They must deliver the wedding invitations to such faraway places like Penang, Perak and Kedah using only his old Triumph (I think) bike. It appears that Benji is not your typical loaded mat salleh boyfriend since he can't afford a fancy car to drive around his future in laws. I suppose making a living as a rock star back home doesn't pay him much. So Bee's father (nickname: The Dog) agreed to Benji's request and they took a few days trip around northern Malaysia sending out wedding cards.

It was during this journey that Benji learnt that chinese tradition is more than just cultural norms but more about family values. He also learnt that his future father in law is not all that bad and rigid with his belief and he act the way he did just because of his love for his only daughter. I'm not going to spoil the movie more for you but let's just say that it has a happy ending and everybody lived happily ever after.

A few quirks that I had about the movie. For a girl that spend most of her adolescent life in England, Bee sure doesn't speak like one. I mean she sounded more like an expatriate Mandarin teacher from Beijing than a naturalized Briton. I also find the solar balloon scene a bit silly and superfluous. Benji and friends achieved an amazing feat by manufacturing that solar balloon in just a few days instead of weeks. Hmm, what else... Nope, that's about it.

What I love about The Journey is the excellent cinematic quality, comparable to a Hollywood production I should say. Shooting the movie in idyllic Cameron Highlands is definitely a plus point as you get to see the gorgeous tea plantation in the background. I'd kill to have a home somewhere thereabouts. The beach scene in Sabah is naturally beautiful. The Chinese New Year celebration in Penang would make a nice little visit Malaysia ad on its own.

The Journey offers the Malaysian audience something new, fresh and different at the movies (instead of the usual gangster/ghost theme). It's heart-warming, funny and had that mass-appeal that every Malaysian could relate to. This movie will make KRU Studios' Vikingdom totally shit in comparison. Overall, I'd give The Journey 7/10 stars.

TUDM Museum

Have you ever been to the TUDM (Royal Air Force) museum in downtown KL? If you haven't, I don't blame you. Although I drove by this museum every day to get to work, I only get to visit it last week when I brought my family to a wedding at a hall nearby.

The TUDM museum is located at the entrance of the Sungai Besi air force base. The air force base itself was our country's first international airport that was converted to an air force base after it relocated to Subang. To get there, just go to the air force base entrance, nod politely at the personnel and turn left immediately after the checkpoint post.

Even during weekend, you'll find a lot of empty parking spaces and when we got there, there were no other visitors present. The TUDM museum is more like a junkyard for old and retired air force jet fighters and planes. After going to the entrance, you'll find a row of old, rusty and decaying planes of all sizes lining up in a rectangular in front of a little hanger that houses a few more planes and exhibit.

Many of the planes are already in a state of decay with presumably little care or maintenance if any. Some of them are literally falling apart with rust all over and a few became a nice little nesting spot for birds, decorated by bird droppings.

With such appalling state of display, little wonder that very few tourist or visitors bothered to go there safe for a few curious locals like me. It is sad that the country's only air force museum is in such a sorry state. I'm pretty certain that the ministry of defence gets a few billions in budget every year and surely a few million from that could go the better maintenance of the air force museum that is currently rusting to oblivion.

It's about time

Last week I bought a new guitar so that I could learn to play that thing. When I was a teenager, my dad bought me one but I never had the chance to seriously learn to play it. Back then there was no YouTube or much online learning websites like where I can learn to play the guitar step by step. It's only now that I got the chance to do that and start over from scratch. I suppose it is a dream for every boy to know how to play the guitar and I'm no exception.

Apart from learning to play the guitar, I am also actively learning French from this cool app called Duolingo. It's available for download for free on iOS and Google Play store and also from their website. It's a really great app if you'd like to learn French, Spanish, German, Portuguese or several other popular European languages. I did learn some basic Spanish in college but one semester is definitely not enough. Even then I only managed to get a "C". So with the advent of smartphone and the Internet, I have the golden opportunity to master another foreign language, for free. One is never too old to learn something new.

Then in my free time I'm also learning HTML and CSS from Code Academy. Yes you guessed it, another online learning platform. I'm sure you've heard by now that Facebook just bought Whatsapp for $16 billion. While not all programmer could be so lucky or successful as the Whatsapp developers but there's no harm learning a new knowledge especially programming which I can use at work or as a part time job.

In the evening after work, I have my workout routine where I run for 4-5 kilometers around the neighborhood followed by a little bit of circuit exercise and weight-lifting at home. I learned about the exercise routine from the Internet as well. At night, if I'm not too tired I will be updating one of my blogs or spend some time with my kids and family apart from watching one of the hundreds of TV series or movies that I've downloaded.

Sometimes I will read one of the dozens paperback or digital books that I have on the shelf or on my phone at night as well. Once or twice a week I will practice chess with Adam Farihin, him representing the school and all.

Weekend is the only time I could get some rest especially if I ran that extra 10 kilometers every fortnight. As you can see, my time is filled with activities whether for fun, business, education, family or pleasure. If somebody were to call and ask me to make a write-up for his company, I'm afraid I won't have the time or the energy for that. Sure, the job could be rewarding but it could also be stressful to me. And you know what they say, there are things money can't buy. One of that is a stress-free life.

At 33, I wished I had done some of the things that I started doing now much earlier. You know, things like exercise, learn to play the guitar, learn to code and stuff. That said, it's never to late to start now. Today I have the time and the resources to do much of what I wanted to do then. You only live once and I'm sure am going to make the best of it.