Kampungkayell

Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

The Trouble With Malaysia?

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Our 12th general elections loom.

I wrote about my experience as a child of the 60s last year, in August. In that same entry, I urged people to vote.

Starting a substantive conversation about our own country is like peeling back the festering scab of a pus filled wound. You either get invective, annoyance, or outright anger and frustration. Or you get an opportunity to switch on a memo recorder to playback oft repeated phrases to console oneself. Amongst the many comments I hear repeatedly; "the trouble with this country is..." or "aiyah, at least we don't have violence here. Can make some money and we have a good quality of life here. Still ok lah..."

Both have a kernel of truth.

But what is it that YOU would choose? Take a moment. Sit down. Close your eyes. What is it that you want for yourself and your loved ones?

  1. Do you think money is going to solve everything for you? If so, don't bother reading on.
  2. Do you want your kids and loved ones living in a place that supports the rule of law, justice, that's pursued as a matter of course? Rather than what is perceived now as a selective privilege.
  3. Do you want to feel invested in the future of this country?
  4. Is corruption an issue for you?
  5. Would you like to be able to be more vocal - in a positive way - about the issues?
  6. Would you like to be able to read the papers and realise that they give a balanced viewpoint, more or less? So that you can make an informed decision?
I've deliberately couched these questions in the positive rather than the negative because I believe that truth is a 2 headed coin. Let me rephrase them.
  1. Do you want to get rid of this government because you don't think they support the rule of law or justice?
  2. Do you blame the government for not making you feel like a citizen?
  3. Is the government at fault for not dealing with corruption?
And so on.

I would like you to realise that you can do something. That it all starts with YOU! The choice you make is whether or not to stand up and say YES. In my own small antlike way, I will do something about this; to control my own life. Ants are so tiny. But working in concert, they are truly greater than the sum of the whole.

Rather than blaming the government for everything. In other words, we get the government we deserve. WE voted for them. WE condone what they do by keeping quiet. Yes, that's exactly it. It's OUR fault for letting things get to this point. No one elses.

Now I'm NOT saying that if you go and vote for these next elections that change will be immediate. But let's say you choose not to. Haven't you just made a choice to despair? Haven't you then said "lets just lie back and have them DO IT TO ME AGAIN!" In a way, you've basically chosen a road that allows them to do the same things over and over. The trick is to realise what it is that you were put here to do. To know that your job is to do this one small thing and allow God to take His course. We're always so results oriented that before we even make a choice to do something positive we've already thought about the outcome and decided that it's not worth the effort. Who knows what the future holds? A million and one possible outcomes are available but we choose the one which is the most negative and with a Godlike certainty we choose not to act. These are probabilities. NOT certainties. No matter how small the chance, there is a chance.

A wise man once said to me, "if you keep on the same road knowing what's at the end of the road, wouldn't the destination be the same a year or two or ten from now?" Change for us means enough of us getting off our arses and doing something different. For most of us that doesn't mean turning into a militant activist. For most of us, it just means that we should stop being apathetic and do something different. Like VOTE!

Is Manscaping "Beckhaming" the next big Malaysian thing?

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Pic courtesy of ohlalaparis.com
From enlightened Metrosexuals to David Beckham. From Europe to both coasts of North America. From London and New York, to our little big city, Kuala Lumpur, manscaping appears to be a growing trend. The gals have taken it all off with the Brazilian. The Boys, I suspect, to maintain a semblance of masculinity, are making sure that short back and sides don't just apply to their heads anymore.

David Beckham's HUGE Sunset Boulevard ad for Emporio Armani briefs has put the man into manscaping. Not to mention the fact that it is, for Angelenos, a "bulgeboard" rather than a "billboard." His "bikini" line has been vetted and while there are traces of "photoshopping" the pundits do speculate that the absence of "short and curlies" cannot just be attributed to clever pixel painting. In other words, our David's eyebrows aren't the only part of his depilated anatomy that feels the thin end of a razor or the rrrrip of a waxing strip. Was he trying to tell us something when he was the face of Motorola's Razr2?

Pic courtesy of imnotobsessed.com

More to the point however, is what Malaysian men are doing in the face of this trend. Some I've spoken to have pointed to good hygiene. Some feel it ADDS to their "assets" as it were, however illusory that may be. And some just feel that a nice "house" obscured by an overgrown "garden" is just a waste. After all as one put it "if the lalang is so tall it covers up the view then how?" Good question indeed. There are others whose partners insist on a quid pro quo. After all, flossing is best done after brushing your teeth. Not during more - ahem - intimate moments.

So guys, what is your take on manscaping? Do you feel secure enough to admit that you use a Black and Decker weedwhacker or would you rather keep your surreptitious swipings to yourself? Do you do it in the shower and wash the leavings down the drain or over the loo? Or are there any more ingenius ways that you don't make a mess? Tell us.


Kong Hei Fatt Choy

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Gong Hei Fatt Choy. The Cantonese version.

Sun Neen Fai Lok. Long Mah Ching Sun. Siong Kor Yeong Tuck Kor Yeong. Man See Yuen Yee. Sang Yee Hing Loong.

It's Shrove Tuesday also known as Pancake Day

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy


Shrove Tuesday. Pancake Day.
So I made pancakes. Also known as Fat Tuesday. Also known as Mardi Gras.

Budapest - New York Palace Hotel

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy


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The Coffee House

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One of the Royal Boxes

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The Main Lobby

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Allan pretending to take a nap in the chair - Look at how large the chair is.

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The Main Dining Room of the coffee house


Budapest's Baths

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

"Mennyi?"

"Tízezer forintok."

For 10,000 Florins we gain entry. I take the ticket.

Turn right. Walk through the turnstiles. The gent at the stiles gives you the once over and hands you a large bib/small apron. The feeling of uncertainty, adventure builds. You walk through Soviet style, spartan but functional tiled rooms lined with rows on rows of lockers past partially clad men.

It's a men only day.

Walking down a spiral staircase only heightens the sense of adventure. Of uncertainty. Of not knowing what to expect.

It opens up into a surprisingly modern chamber. Straight ahead you see an archway which disappears into an uncertain gloom. The staircase continues downward.

The use of the bib/apron becomes obvious at this point.

'Why even bother' sort of flashed through my head. If it was to protect your modesty it wasn't doing its job at all. If anything it was calling attention to the very part it was supposed to draw attention away from. Imagine a grown naked man (fat, thin, muscular, whatever), dripping wet, with this bib/apron made of thin cotton draped around his crotch. Where are your eyes going to go first?

So it was with great hilarity that we went down to changing rooms and donned this peculiar garment designed to preserve one's modesty but in effect had all the men, gay or otherwise, checking out everyone else's lunch box. The only thing that was preserved was the air of slight homo eroticism which the bib/apron was designed to lift from the proceedings. Especially, after you went into the water.

Class in session! "Children, what happens to a tight tshirt when you wet it?"

"Teacher, teacher, me, me! It becomes wet and you can see EVERYTHING under it. And it makes everything more obvious because it outlines everything."

"Very good, little Johnny."

Or in this case, maybe not so little. For some at least.

Walking from the changing rooms through the archway into the shower area gave you a greater glimpse into the next chamber, which was where the hot springs were located. You had a shower, and then you walked through a final archway and this is why portals are considered powerful and mysterious objects.

The minute you take that last step through the arch, the tiling beneath your feet abruptly changes to medieval granite, worn away by centuries of naked feet rubbing them down to a smooth finish. Vaulted ceilings replace functional plaster. The light dims to the level of a gothic cathedral during winter. Damp, humid steam replaces cool, dry air. Once through the arch, you're transported from Soviet Chic to a space which is taken out of time. Everything is aged granite. The smell of slightly rotten eggs creeps into your nostrils. You're faced with eight pillars holding up a vaulted ceiling complete with small, dirty glass windows which allow in shafts of sunlight to shine like small searchlights on the glistening, wet bodies meandering their way across the large central pool. To your left and right there are 2 smaller pools. Beyond the large pool, there are another 2 small pools. If you connected all the dots, you'd have an X, with the large pool taking up the point of intersection.

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From the internet
It was Alice through the looking glass.

You could have been in the 15th Century. There are no clothes to give you a frame of reference. Everyone is naked but for the bibs/aprons. It's like a place which is out of time.

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From the internet
Each of the five pools was at a different temperature, denoted by a blurred out 25C or 32C or, in the one which poaches you, 42C. You can't escape the feeling of being checked out. Being given the once over. Whether by straight men or by gay men or those who say they're straight but whose eyes give lie to that fact, categorisations almost don't matter. It's a strange feeling and you would need a certain amount of security in yourself to be there alone. In my case, I'm glad to be with Allan and Keith. Security in numbers for me!

To the right of the X, you walk into the showers, steam rooms, and sauna. In the sauna you're shoulder to shoulder with other men. Ostensibly, to protect their arses from being burnt, they turn the bib/apron around and sit on that. Frankly, I think some were just there to show off. From chippolatas to what reminded me of a 2m bratwurst that we had in Vienna, they were all on display. The funny thing was, it reminded me of a recent study that was done. I can't remember which university it was but the hypothesis from an empirical study done on men and women to improve the effectiveness of news article design showed that women look at faces first while men (straight or gay) looked at crotches first. It concluded that there were different gender imperatives during evolution that made us evolve that way. Personally I think it's to see whether or not another guy has larger tackle than you!

Rudac (pronounced Roo-darsh with a silent R for you American types) was my first foray into a world of thermal baths that I'd never seen before. The Baths itself were built in the 16th Century and Turkish artisans were imported to build them. Which explained the slightly oriental flavour of the whole place.

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During our time in Budapest, we managed to go to another called Szechenyi Baths which had a totally different ambience. It was mixed for one. Everyone was in swim suits and it was family day. Hundreds of citizens of the city are soaking for therapy, exercising, socialising, playing chess in the pools, steaming, sauna-ing. The outdoor pools reminded me of a time when skiing in Austria, we would be swimming in an outdoor pool, run out, roll around in snow, and jump back in. It was cool that day. Around 10C. The pools were steaming. Enough to lightly poach kailan.

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Furthermore, it was grand. It looked like a Royal Summer Palace. Light, airy, bright, everything that Rudac was not. Don't get me wrong. I loved both experiences. It was just as night and day as you could get.

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It was amazing. Culturally, Budapest-ians(?) use the baths as social outlets. For their aches and pains and for meeting friends. Much like we Malaysians do over food. Frankly, I think it's a healthier way of bonding. But for the drama of a first time, Rudac was hard to beat.