Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Boat People

Pride and prejudice obviously still has its place in Malaysian politics. Even now - more than a century after our Chinese forefathers stepped on our shores, we are still labelled the same by narrow-minded bigots.

As immigrants newly arrived. Pendatang they call it. No doubt these banal politicians would still be repetitively beating that same dead horse a hundred years from now as well - not realizing in their blind idiocy that some of their own ancestors probably arrived on boats as well.

Despite the vicious racist epithets spat out in their overzealous rancor, I sometimes find myself paradoxically smiling. Intolerant bigots usually advance the hackneyed assertion that the original Chinese immigrants travelled here purely to garner wealth to send home to the mainland while maintaining tenuous ties to their adopted country.

Well, perhaps true for some but certainly not for my grandparents.

Aarif Lee
Now what was that you were saying about immigrants?

Especially my shockingly vehement grandmother. Once she wilfully shook the dirt of the dusty mainland off her stockinged feet, she vowed never to return. When questioned on her historical inconsistency, she has two answers to give. The more reasonable reply which comes with a quaint zen-like idiom.

Paul : Ever thought of going back to China?
Grandma : 好馬不吃回頭草!!
Paul : A translation for our avid readers please?
Grandma : A good horse never grazes on the same old pasture!

Or the more vitriolic reply which comes complete with lively hand-waving gestures.

Paul : But some of the older generation always wish to go home, don't they?
Grandma : Go back to China? Traitorous old fools. If it was so great, why did they leave in the first place?

Followed by a patriotic speech on loyalty to the country. Seriously, you'd expect the national anthem vigorously playing in the background as soldiers march past in salute.

And you still dub her grandchildren boat immigrants? Don't let this angry granny come after you with her walking cane.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All Batty Over Potter

Despite being sidelined in oh-so-many ways, this little town still manages to keep up with the times when it comes to the movie theatre. Came here half expecting to be confronted with the 1950s version of the movie experience with rickety wooden seats and ceiling fans rotating noisily overhead while kuaci and peanut shells snap, crackle and pop underfoot.

No such thing of course though I was reasonably informed not to keep my hopes high. I didn't - and was surprised. Cushioned seats, popcorn and even THX, if you can believe it.

I don't of course. I'm flabbergasted enough by the fact that the movie selection here's pretty current.

Hence our night out with the recurring boy wizard Harry Potter. Though calling him a boy when Harry's all of eighteen would be wrong, wouldn't it? Since I still felt like playing with his magic wand all throughout the movie, I was glad that Harry Potter ( and of course the actor Daniel Radcliffe ) had gone past the age of consent at least.

Harry and Hermione!

Though I seemed to be the only one to think so. In fact even the winsome Hermione Granger seemed remarkably composed even when he had his arms around her during a dance.

Paul : I'd jump him like now!
Patty : Harry Potter?
Paul : Simply can't understand how Hermione would pick someone like Ron over Harry!
Patty : Of course she would pick the redhead. Ron's cute!
Paul : Seriously! Harry looks loads better.
Patty : Harry isn't cute! Ron is so handsome. Those freckles and that wide mouth.
Paul : Large enough to swallow Hogwarts! Harry is a gentleman with buckets of gold in Gringotts and a crumbling mansion!
Patty : Ron has freckles!

Which seems to be the clincher for her. But come on, Ron Weasley?

Bear with me, those who haven't actually read the books - but I've never actually understood how courageous, intelligent Hermione could have fallen for Ron Weasley instead of Harry Potter. Boggles the mind. All I can conclude is that J.K. Rowling had the beginnings of what I term the Laurie Lawrence Syndrome where said author steadfastly refuses to allow two characters to be together - despite how much everything, including the characters and the plot, seem to be heading that way.

Paving the way for insipid, lacklustre Ginny Weasley to step in as the romantic foil for poor Harry. A sad pale imitation of a heroine if you ask me.

Harry, you deserve better. Call me, yeah?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dog Eat Dog

I think it is an undisputed fact that I am not an animal lover.

Only use I would have for a dog is to have it hot between the halves of a bun with mustard sauce. Even domestic farm animals such as poultry turn into targets for me.

So when our new boarder Fabulous Felix came by with a stray canine in tow, I stared aghast. Slobbering jaws, shedding hair and 50 pounds of gregarious, rambunctious golden retriever. Attack dog, he ain't.

Good God. Are the sacred grounds of Netherfield ( though it be a work in progress ) to be thus sullied? Closing the gates to the marauding wild beast didn't seem to be a viable option. Unmannerly fleabags rough-housing all over the dainty cushions in the living room could mean the end of Netherfield as we know it.

A boy and his dog!

Though I yearned for immediate banishment with an imperious lift of my finger, I restrained myself and settled for shutting the doors on the drooling dog with a stern shake of my head.

Paul : Not in the house.
Felix : Awww. Little Widdle Puppy wants to come in.
Paul : Puppy will get my boot in his face if he tries.
Felix : Awww. So mean.
Paul : Not if he slobbers and sheds all over the floor.
Felix : Little Widdle Puppy says pretty please.
Paul : No! Backyard. Shoo.

Seriously. What is it about dogs and their fawning owners?

Though I'll have to admit his Little Widdle Puppy is endlessly adorable - and quite lovable in his own way. Although Felix - and Kat - do tend to go a little overboard with their endless baby coos! Seems like they spend more time playing ball and stick with the dog rather than offering any sort of stern discipline.

Hence the dog has none. Zero puppy training. Hardly listens to orders. Chases after everything that moves. Leaps madly into erroneous conclusions.

Paul : Time you trained him.
Felix : But he's okay la.
Paul : Until he runs into a snake? Or even a bus?
Felix : He won't la.
Paul : How will you stop him even if he does? Time he listened to orders.

He doesn't even listen to Stay.

Think it's about time the Little Widdle Puppy went to school for some obedience training. Finally had to sit Felix down and warn him of the inherent dangers of letting an unruly mongrel go untrained. Poisonous snakes, larcenous robbers and the like. Raising a dog isn't for the fainthearted. Takes a whole lotta love and commitment.

And though I bear but little love for him, at least I gotta stop the pooch from gamboling headlong ( and heedlessly ) into a speeding lorry. Wouldn't want the horrific blood spatter on my fence.

And I really hate scooping up roadkill.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Breakdown of a Breakup

Even when it seems ultimately beneficial for both parties, breakups never come easy. Inevitably someone gets hurt in the process.

Ever since high school, I've watched breakups happen from the sidelines. Certainly felt much safer when the emotional fireworks began. In the quiet aftermath when the last spark has fizzled out, I'd offer a crying shoulder to my buddy, at the same time wondering how I'd actually fare through such emotional upheavals.

Wistful thinking. As it turns out, it didn't take very long to find out for myself. Although I only recall trying to break one measly lamp ( it was ugly! ) in my simmering rage, my ISO claims a raging Krakatoa would pale in comparison. What I term my very own psychotic break. I barely raised my voice though. Of course my silence is inversely proportional to my rage.

We all grief for our lost relationships in different ways. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

For me, anger always comes first. A veritable tsunami of almost-broken lamps, tossed books and burnt photos. Only months later in the silence ( and relative privacy ) of a movie theatre, I would spontaneously dissolve into tears without warning. Even then I'd warn myself not to shed even one more tear over a careless heel not worth crying over.

Time for some tough love!

So this time as I witnessed my friend going through the painful inevitable, I realized that offering a shoulder wasn't what he needed. For that he already has a choir of soothing sob buds in the form of Kool Kat and Piratin Patty offering sympathy by the drunken barrel.

Didn't think he needed more from me. Heavy dose of reality with a spank of tough love to follow was what he got from me.

Kat : Awww. Poor thing.
Patty : Awww. Poor thing.
Paul : What poor thing? Don't leave it hanging forever! It is unfair for the both of you. Make a decision and stick to it!
Boy : Umm...
Paul : It is not that difficult. If you see a future with him, then work doubly hard to make it happen. If you don't...
Boy : Umm...
Kat : Awww... that was uncalled for. Give the boy some breathing space.
Patty : True also, the boy needs to make up his mind.
Boy : What if I break up?
Paul : All you get is three days to weep and whine. After that, the slap of shame is coming from me.
Boy : Only three days!!
Paul : Okay. Maybe four.

Yeah, I'm not the huggable sort.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shooting Chickens

So how many ways are there to kill a chicken?

And mind you, I don't necessarily have to administer the killing blow according to wholly halal methods.

My killing eye's out for the fowl next door. Look, I always knew Netherfield's right out there in the boondocks but I never knew it's smack dab in the countryside. Which means everything that it entails; yards, barns, stables - and that damned chicken coop.

Oh yes, cock-a-doodle-doo. Going back to their peasantry roots, my neighbours have opted to keep a chicken coop in their backyard. But rather than have meek little chicks hiding behind curtains in the henhouse, we have a rebellious rooster who crows loudly at all hours. Irregardless of daybreak. Once the aggravating monster even squawked for no apparent reason during the wee hours of the morning. No doubt he got confused by the glare of the full moon.

It's time to hunt!

So what's the best way to get myself some fresh chicken chop by morning? Death by garroting? Death by gunshot? Death by poison? Idiotic foolhardy rooster leaps to the top of the coop every morning - placing itself as the perfect target since he's in direct range of my bedroom window.

Perhaps a bow and arrow?

Of course having a fowl murder happening within weeks of our moving in wouldn't bode well for future neighbourly relations. My more murderous plans will have to wait. Have a slingshot so perhaps a warning shot would do. I think one rock at its head each time it crows at the wrong time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Two's Company

The conduct of neither, if strictly examined, will be irreproachable; but since then, we have both, I hope, improved in civility.

With Netherfield being such a vast estate for a single fellow, I actually searched for someone to co-share the place with me. Certainly didn't have much of a criteria ready in place at the time so when a friend piped up that she'd be moving here as well, I readily agreed.

Kat : I'm moving to Miri.
Paul : Wanna share?
Kat : Sure.
Paul : Okay. Tell me when you arrive.

Seriously. It was that fast. And Kool Kat was my housemate.

Sharing the place seemed like an excellent idea after all. Even more mundane chores to do in such a big place - not to mention the endless repairs - and having someone else on the premises would certainly help allay my security paranoia. Financially speaking having a housemate would also help cut costs at least marginally.

That's what I initially thought. Of course I hadn't realized that I'd become an adult since my college days. And that I haven't actually had something close to a housemate in a really long time. Even less a roommate.

Even back in school, I only had the one roommate, and since Father John - the erstwhile community leader - spent his time preaching to the rest of the ungodly heathens about Jesus, I found myself by my lonesome most times. Good times that. Then as we moved on to our senior years, we graduated from our twin-share dorm rooms into cosy 4-bedroom apartments with a measly handkerchief-sized common area that no one bothered to use. Still pretty much left to ourselves.

The Paul & Kat Show?

Always had my own place ever since I started work as well. So when Kool Kat finally arrived to knock on my door, I didn't actually know what to think. Nervous wreck like me starts to worry whether we'd grow to hate each other after co-habitating. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

Fortunately it has been nothing of the sort. Yes, it takes some getting used to. Some of my personal habits have probably irritated her. Some of her idiosyncrasies has grated as well. Kat likes the ambient lighting stadium spotlight bright while I prefer mine as dim as moonlight. I'm a pillow arrangement fanatic while Kat likes to go casual.

And I gotta love the girl but Kat can really talk a mile a minute! Who called me a Chatty Cathy again? Come over here and I'll prove that Kat can actually match me word for word. Hell, she can edge in five to my measly uno.

Certainly will take a while to adjust. Till then thank God for dimmers.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rock and ( Accidental ) Roll

Lately I've given up on trying to understand the inexplicably boorish behaviour of the poorly-schooled local motorists here. Not only do these eccentrics find roundabouts a mystifying puzzle, they tend to mistake brakes for pretty playthings to step on according to whim.

Let's not even talk about their vestigial signal lights.


When I first transferred here a year back, I once saw - to my abject horror - a driver literally sliding into a ditch at 20 km/H. Thought that was the worst to come but I was proven wrong. What happened today certainly takes the godawful cake for idiot drivers out on the road.

Good boy, if you can't drive, you'd better hitch a ride instead.

Or perhaps godawful idiotic passengers.

Coming off from work at lunchtime, I saw a car making a slow, lackadaisical turn in front of me only to have the passenger door accidentally coming ajar. The very next moment, the side passenger comes tumbling out onto the asphalt.

And you had all this happening in John Woo slow-mo style. The car rocked and she rolled, as simple as that. Even accidents take their own sweet time here in Miri.

Turns out the silly lady in a printed green sarong had forgotten to lock her seatbelt, hastily tried to shut the car door - and then got flung out by sheer momentum. Since the vehicle was comfortably moving at 20 km/H therefore she trundled out at the exact same speed. No doubt embarassed by her sheer carelessness / stupidity, she hastily dusted off her dirtied sarong and leapt back into the car that surprisingly sped off with enviable speed.

Obviously ignominious shame helps the acceleration.

So I guess it's time for a bad limerick.

There once was a lady from Miri,
Who was just a little bit silly,
Took a turn in her car,
Left her door quite ajar,
Got flung out of her car in a tizzy.

I could only stare disbelieving, wishing that I'd had a camera ready to make her youtube famous. Fortunately for her, I was only driving at half my usual speed or the unfortunate dame would have been instant roadkill.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A November in Netherfield

Certainly turning out to be an eventful November for me. What with my moving house to Netherfield followed by the recent emotional setback in my relationship!

Spoke of the ramshackle estate Netherfield as the ultimate fixer-upper - and that particular premonition has certainly come true. Not a day has gone by that I haven't called up the much-harried landowner to gripe about some minor botheration. Already have Mrs Elton's number on speed dial to ring up first thing in the morning to recite my daily litany of complaints.

From the leaking water heater to the broken locks to the chipped ceiling tiles. With many more to come.

Master of all he surveys?

Starting to feel as if I've inadvertently stepped into the shoes of Archie MacDonald, beleaguered laird of Glenbogle! Which explains the endless armies of cleaners, plumbers and repairmen traipsing in and out of the house with errands to run. Even hired a gardener to tame the feral growth of bougainvilleas by the gate.

Although our tastes differ greatly, I assured Mrs Elton that Netherfield would have a conscientious custodian in me. A worded guarantee that certainly relieved the anxious lady who worries that her ancestral estate - once out of her own able hands - would fall into a sad state of disrepair.

Paul : I've packed some of your belongings into the boxes over there.
Mrs Elton : You don't want these ornamental cats?
Paul : Don't even like them in the flesh, much less breakable porcelain ones.
Mrs Elton : You don't want this lovely, lovely peacock?
Paul : It's black, feathered and scary. The only use I would have for it is to scare away overly familiar neighbours.
Mrs Elton : What about pretty lacey tablecovers?
Paul : With roses and lilies? I'm not Victorian.

In return, I'm sure the conservative Mrs Elton had her own reservations when she stared aghast at her living room literally awash in a shade of dusky rose!

The walls might be freshly painted but the house is still a massive refurbishing project that will probably take weeks to set to rights. Picture frames to be placed on the walls. Always a broken cabinet that just needs a spray and a glaze. Some withered plants that need repotting. Torn curtains that need just a few stitches.

Netherfield's quite a big larger than I first expected. With the guest rooms, dining room, study, maid's quarters and even an annexe to the bedrooms, it's far more spacious than the cosy country cottage I lived in before. Whereas before the kitchen rests only a door away, now it takes quite a hike from the dining room!

And lets not even think of the mundane such as the eletricity / the water / the gas bills to reconnect. Certainly given me enough chores to keep me occupied for quite a while.

Netherfield shall shine again!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Headache Excuse

'Not tonight, dear. I have a headache.'

Alright, I'll accept that banal cliché-ridden excuse. Since I've never actually had sex with a woman - nor walked in their six-inch heels, I certainly wouldn't know how to refute that particular claim when it comes from them. Don't think the ladies would appreciate being told that a wild headboard-banging night of sex can actually cure a massive migraine!

But what about the boys?

Since time immemorial, the male of the species has been branded the insatiable hound dog ready to go any time of day. Our gay brethren included of course.

Oh baby I think I've got the headache!

So when such an old hackneyed excuse of the headache comes from a guy, you gotta feel just that little bit suspicious. Just a few weeks back when a friend of mine tried to make a move, the younger fella came up with this.

Boy : Oh I have classes this week. I can't spend the night. Gotta hit the books.

Seriously. A youthful, vital twenty year old forgoes sex for books? Look, I don't care if you're swamped with textbooks, workbooks and notes for the finals - but when you're a virile college student with a chance to get your rocks off...

There's almost no saying no to that.

So any excuse to get out of a making out session just sounds like the perfect kiss-off. The gentle prelude to a goodbye.

At least to me. I don't think I'd have said no back in my early twenties. Hell, I'd skip my own damned convocation for a good fuck. Definitely missed a few soporofic biochemistry lectures, that's for sure.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Hit at Starbucks

Nothing's better than a fresh cup of coffee in the morning.

Even better when it's served with a wide welcoming smile - and a dark twinkle in mocha chocolate brown eyes.

Is it any wonder that cute baristas are hit on every other day? If you ask me, the customers are hardly to blame. Standing at the line at Starbucks, there is nothing much to do in between placing the order and receiving the java.

Paul : One caffe mocha. Tall.
Barista : Yes, sir. Would you like whipped cream with that?
Paul : Only if you get slathered up in it.
Barista : Now that would be wasting cream!
Paul : Not if I lick it all up.
Barista : Well it does taste good.
Paul : Now if I could only get you on a muffin to go.

Cheap thrills, I know. And it almost always scandalizes the God-fearing customers standing right behind me. Of course their shocked expressions only goad me further. Turns out getting hit on is pretty common at java chains. No doubt a dangerous combination of jazzed-up customers high on coffee courage paired with adorable post-teenage baristas in forest green aprons.

Coffee, tea or me?

Been chatting them up a little too often these days since I've recently decamped to Netherfield. Unfortunately it takes at least a few days for the internet connections to be reconnected. Hence my recent Starbucks hauntings. While I was lazing about waiting for my mocha, I chanced upon an interview for a fresh new barista.

Of course the senseless questions are always forthcoming.

Interviewer : How would you describe teamwork in your own words? How would you define community?

Seriously. Buy a dictionary why don't you? Does the Human Resource Dept sit together by committee to come up with such inane questions? Is there even a correct answer to all that?

But I digress. Then the interviewer started ane ntire long spiel about customers, their wayward habits and how they are always right.

Interviewer : So would you be alright with the customers hitting on you?

I know the reasons they ask is to gauge a prospective employee's response - but does anyone actually dislike getting hit on?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monsoon Rains

Into each life a little rain must fall.

Always struck me as a particularly poignant phrase. Even though we hope for the best, we can't all have sunny days the whole year round after all.

The inevitable rain will come. Lately it seems my relationship has been suffering an unseasonal monsoon on par with the thunderstorms battering our northern states. Dark clouds have been gathering with our time apart - and it seems Charming Calvin has started developing doubts about our relationship. Time by the darkened window sill with the relentless raindrops battering the fragile pane has given him time to brood - never a good thing - which has led to a disturbing puddle of misgivings forming.

Get the umbrellas out, boys.

I'm a shockingly low-maintenance boyfriend. At least I like to think so. Don't require much apart from knowing that I have someone out there who will support me when I stumble on occasion. Otherwise I can stand tall on my own very well, thank you very much. Sure there are some things I'd love to change about Calvin. But though I love the occasional fixer-upper project, I draw the line when it comes to boyfriends. If you want a DIY project, go get a broken-down chair, don't get a boyfriend.

Turns out I haven't fulfilled his expectations when it comes to a boyfriend. Like the pouring rain it came. More time. More affirmation. More romance.

Of course I blew my top. Though I don't mind the occasional downpour, storms that roll in unexpectedly to leave me drenched and dripping always piss me off.

Then an ex called. The urge to drown him with my own complaints was there but I managed to hold in the flood. Some things you just don't discuss with an ex.

Paul : Just some problems with the boyfriend.
My ISO : Whatever you're thinking, don't.
Paul : Don't what? I haven't said a word.
My ISO : I know you. You get the occasional irrational leap of insanity. Whatever it is, don't.
Paul : I have no plans to ...
My ISO : Take a day off.

It's been a day. So yes, I've calmed down.

Ironic, isn't it to get advice from an ex? Guess my ISO has had some experience with my mercurial moods. Bet that bump on his head still hurts.

And Charming Calvin did make some valid points. Yes, into each relationship there has to be rain. But it also cleans out the dirt and clutter - so hopefully there'll be better, brighter days ahead.

Get the umbrellas out, boys. Looks like there'll be rain.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

All About Jiwang


A colloquial Malay word that encompasses anything, and everything, dealing with a nauseating surfeit of emotion. A terribly apt term I've surprisingly come to associate with much of Mando-pop.

For a taciturn race seemingly tough, unemotional and pragmatic, the Chinese have come up with a bewildering anthology of music dedicated to heartbreak with all the affliction, agony and anguish. Sentimental mush if you will.

Or what I call weep, whimper & whine wails.

Can't I wallow just a bit longer?

Rather than the liberated cries of freedom from the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Pink, over here on this side we have the stereotypical Mando-pop music video featuring the sad, lonesome figure manfully trying to hold back tears while sighing / languishing in a dimly-lit abandoned residency. Crouched in corners. Staring at mirrors. Occasionally juxtaposed with lingering views of a desolate, bleak, windswept landscape.

There could be impending storms as well.

Once exposed - and hooked - to such regrettably jiwang music, I defy anyone to remain unmoved by such pathos. Certainly explains the extreme sentimentality of the regular listeners of Mandarin radio.

Hell, even the usually feisty A-Mei 阿妹 has an entire set of heart-rending sob stories for your listening pleasure. Staples of karaoke fans such as Charming Calvin. :)

Paul : Umm... Was A-Mei weeping over her lost kite in the video?
Calvin : No.
Paul : Why are they always weeping in dark, lonely rooms?
Calvin : Heartbreak lo.
Paul : They can't turn the lights on?
Calvin : Heartbreak lo.
Paul : Wallowing in self-pity won't help. Stop whimpering pathetically in dingy corners and go buy a new dress dammit!
Calvin : They don't have such songs in Chinese.
Paul : Buy dumplings then?
Calvin : No.

In direct contrast to the music I usually listen to. Never listen to wimpy James Blunt with his tearful tour de force of You're Beautiful of course. Sure I do have the occasional lovey-dovey strains of a winsome Taylor Swift but even Miss Goody-Two-Shoes has her angry moments.

Doesn't that explain the differing views on what constitutes a relationship?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Weaving Rattan Baskets

Girl : He stays with his parents.
Paul : Well they are ancient. You expect him to toss them in a rattan basket and leave them by the hillside?
Girl : Well, no, but he could always get his own place.
Paul : And leave them in that big old house?
Girl : Perhaps at the retirement home?
Paul : We're Asian. We don't do that.

I meant it as a joke.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true it was for me. Certainly a given for me - as I'm sure it is for many of my peers. No matter how screwed up, your parents raised you; so when you’re old enough, you do the same for your parents. Turns out Confucius is alive and well in my home.

Yes, we are helluva conservative when it comes to this.

So when exactly did this change? When did we start following the Western style of parenting? When did the kids start thinking of moving out right after school leaving the elderly folks in a nursing home? When their parents gave them the boot right after college graduation?

Does filial piety mean handing out monthly fees for the retirement home?

Of course, advocates of the Octogenarian Nursing Home would cite proper nursing care, a greater sense of community and increased autonomy for the elderly. The advantages are clear but I think it's an easy cop-out. I don't see why they can't have all that while staying with their children as well.

I'm not saying dealing with old folks approaching senility is all that easy. I've had more than my fair share of forgetful senior citizens in my life - so yes, I understand they can be quite a burden ( ouch, I know! ) at times.

But come on, life isn't meant to be easy. Some responsibilities you just can't shirk. Till you really have exhausted all resources, you should make that little bit of effort to try. If your parents had wanted life to be easier, wouldn't it be simpler to just ship you off to a nursing creche / boarding school the second you started crawling as well?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Bikes, Rempits & Thieves

The thing that struck me while I was in Hanoi - or should I say brushed by me a half dozen times a day - was the thousands of motorcycles on its streets. Almost overwhelming in number, noise and sheer chaos.

In an ancient city with narrow streets, lanes and backalleys bisecting the endless tubehouses, the motorcycle is the most efficient, cost-effective and cheapest mode of transportation around. Think it's pretty safe to say that the communist government hands every loyal Hanoian an itty little bike at birth. :)

Not as common on the streets here as you'd think.

Yet there are not as many snatch thieves and mat rempits around. At least none that I saw.

Paul : No mat rempits here?
Hanoikid : What are those?
Paul : Bored young idiots who prefer to die young by racing bikes on the streets at midnight.
Hanoikid : Hanoi people work hard. No time to do all that.
Paul : That's actually quite profound in a way.

Same goes for the bustling Chinese megacities as well. Countless numbers of motorcycles on the streets yet not as much street crime.

Which is something I can't say for our country.

Sadly a perennial social problem here. Unruly thugs-on-wheels who participate in illegal street races, snatch thefts and assaults with impunity. A handful smash head-first into walls during their midnight runs but five more hooligans spring up to replace them. Unfortunately our government is a soft touch when it comes to such juvenile delinquents, preferring to spare the rod when it comes to such rotten children.

So much so that our streets aren't at all safe anymore. Even the soft purr of the motorcycle is enough to have us watching our backs.