Afterthought of a recent trip

The last few days , I was in Shanghai and Hangzhou. I have visited China many times before, and have been to SH and Hangzhou , but  my the last trip there was about 6 years back.

It was so much changed. Not just the landscape and buildings and infrastructure, but the people mainly the younger generation too.

In Shanghai , I traveled like a local, took their metro subway and their airconditioned buses.In Hangzhou, to avoid the heat, I took mainly the taxies. The subway system in SH is among one of the best, having tried the  London’s subway as well as subways in New York and and other cities.

Although the weather was shearing hot – the Jiangnan area was hit by a historic heat wave –  most transportations and buildings are now air-conditioned, and by travelling in mornings and  evenings, i avoided the hottest hours , and it was still bearable.

I also took the maglev train from Pudong to Loong Yang station as well as the bullet trains from HongChiao Station to Hangzhou to and fro. China is basically a train country. Train fares are not expensive even if you travel first class. The first class coaches on the bullet trains are very clean and comfortable, and you can basically get to any part of China using the train system.

It is easy to move around. Signatures are good in Shanghai, and are displayed in english as well as Chinese, so for a foreigner without knowledge of the Chinese language, it would still not be a problem to move around.

I have occasions to go into Starbucks and speak to some of the younger generation in English (pretending that i do not speak Mandarin). Two things that struck me: many of them speak  good American-accent  english, and the self confidence ( some may interpret this to be arrogance) of these younger generations. Compared this with Malaysia, where good English is getting harder and harder to come by..I must admit that the Starbuck crowd may not be representative of the general population as these are mainly the higher-income and better-educated groups.

Many of the toilets i used are so clean in areas of attractions and train stations and airport( there are still dirty toilets around,  in the older parts of the city) that it puts a shame on our Malaysia toilets in public places. Dirty toilets are one of the main things holding me back from travelling more often to that country, but after this trip, it would no longer worry me as much as before when I plan a trip to that country.

It is a country that is getting more and more confident of itself.  Though many areas are still tightly controlled, it was much more liberal than my last few trips there.

Contrast this with  Malaysia where  Lee Kuan Yew have said in his latest book, people are getting more and more orthodox  (a euphemism to suggest people are getting more and more conservative and more extreme in their views?)

Having said all these, China still has a lot to catch up. Many people still spit on the floor. Many people still cut queues and push their way around; many people are still rushing into the metro trains before we have a chance to alight. There are also many ‘service people” (like one metro ticket seller who refused to answer any queries) with ‘tidak apa’ attitude. The drivers on the roads are worst than Malaysia; it is really not advisable for a foreigner to drive in China, as most people disregard traffic rules, a thing that we Malaysians are now trying to catch up to.

One common complaint among the common people on the ground–  cost of living is shooting up. Like  Malaysia, property prices have gone up so much that it is beyond most people to buy. A house in Hangzhou city costs RMB 5-6 millions, those near to West Lake are even higher, some over RMB 10 millions. Shanghai is even more expensive.

This will be their leadership’s biggest challenge in years to come. If not dwelt with properly, it will definitely give rise to much discontent and become a potential time bomb.

A young taxi driver complained to me: the rich in China are those either with connections or those holding positions; whereas most people on the ground are poor.

Don’t these complaints sound similar?


You cannot say “Bomb” on a plane!

In the film “meet the parents” by Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, Ben Stiller at the last section of the show boarded a plane, and when he tried to put his bag up at the overhead storage area, a straight faced air attendant asked him to check in his bag. Ben stiller didn’t want to, since he has lost his bag in another flight by the same airline.

This is the conversation between him and the air stewardess and her supervisor:

Ben: “It’s not like I have a bomb in here. It’s not like I want to blow up the plane.”………………

The air stewardess called in another more senior supervisor.

Supervisor: “I’ve got a plane full of people saying you threatened that stewardess.”

 Ben: “I was not threatening her. I was trying to get my bag into the overhead storage thing.”

 Supervisor: “You were acting like a maniac, and you threatened her with a bomb!”

 Ben: ” I said I didn’t have a bomb! “

Supervisor: “You said “bomb. You said “bomb” on an airplane.”

 Ben: “What’s wrong with saying “bomb” on an airplane?”

Supervisor: “You can’t say “bomb.” “

Ben: “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb! You gonna arrest me?”

For that he was arrested.

Apparently, even if you say you don’t have a bomb is sensitive enough to make the airport security arrest you..

Of course, this is a comedy, a box office comedy. Those who saw the show laughed and laughed at the stupidity and absurdity of the stewardess and the airport security ( there was no Homeland security yet since the show was produced prior to 911, in year 1999).

Those who see the show may wonder why people can become so sensitive, when obviously there was no such threat.

We may think that such stupid and absurd things happen only in novels and movies.

But in real life, we Malaysians can be that sensitive; so sensitive that we sometimes overstep the line of sanity.

For example, any movies produced in Malaysia that mention communism will be viewed with suspicion. The latest, the “New Village’, was almost banned apparently because a girl depicted in the movie married a leftist. Such is our sensitivity that In a Malaysian movie, no one can supposedly marry or even get associated with a leftist. To do so would be ‘glorifying’ certain ideology.

Nevermind that such shows are supposed to show what happened during that time, and during that time,  such things actually happened.

Nevermind that communism is now dead. Nevermind that the people now view communism as a dead and failed ideology. Nevermind that even the 2 biggest Communist countries, Russia and CHina, are now adopting market economy and tacitly admitting that communism does not work.

Nevermnd that. You just cannot show people marrying communists or get assocaited with communists AT THAT TIME,  just like you cannot say the word ‘bomb’ on a plane.

Just think about those who  make movies about the NAZis. There are many shows showing how Hitler being adored by hundreds of thousands of people on the street.  But that does not mean that the producer is trying to glorify Facism. In fact, most of the movies  which showed Hitler being adored by millions of people are anti-Hitler and most in the end, showed the collapse of the Third Reich, and the West triumphed over NAZI Germany.

These movies merely reflected the true fact that Hitler indeed mesmerised so many of his countrymen INITIALLY.

You just cannot produce a Hitler movie showing that Hitler in the 1930s had no support at all from his people; if you do so, people will wonder how the hack did he ascend to the top of Germany??  How the hack did he conquer most of Europe initially?

I think I have made the point that we Malaysians should be matured enough to differentiate what is in a movie or a video  and what is real life.

I think we Malaysians should not be too overtly sensitive, be it towards ideology or even religious practice.

We are supposed to be a first world country by 2020, a mere 6 plus years away. How are we going to be first world when our mentality is still that of the third world? How are we going to be first world when most time we are still chasing the shadows of our past? How are we going to be First world when we are so sensitive and insecure about certain things and  practices?

We need the government leaders to take the lead to discard these sensitivities in order for us to move forward. But the saddest thing is that the opposite is happening!!