Tuesday, February 24, 2009


We finally set the ball rolling for our maiden backpacking trip to Perth yesterday instead of the initial plan to go Sarawak in a group.

One thing I learned so far from a couple of small trips I organised is that there has to be a dateline. By the time that is up, the only way is to proceed with whatever the situation is then because if not, nothing will happen.

Consensus is not a privilege because any intentional delay simply means paying more for transportation as fares go up as the date gets nearer. So once I got signals that the original plan is set to go crash and burn, I decided to stop wasting valuable time and focus on just us hence the switch of plans.

We sat in Axela near a McDonalds outlet to tap on wireless@sg and booked the tickets. The flight schedule is at odd timings that it scares me a little as to what screw-ups will be coming our way then.

But they say that's the fun of backpacking - the unknown, and we might be putting ourselves deeper into unchartered waters by trying to get a freeloaders stay there. Although Perth is practically safe, doing anything for the first time will always be a little scary.

The trip will be on a very strict budget although to me food is something that I can exclude from that as compared to other aspects. Going hungry is never fun.

Lots of things are maiden on this trip apart from it being our first attempt at backpacking. A first together on a trip (not a getaway). A first to Perth and the first to Australia for her. It might snow there too so it would be another first for her.

Of the things in our list of 'firsts', this being the first time we really sat down planned something tops it all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Changes to OPC rules

LTA is considering to reduce if not totally remove restriction for off-peak cars on Saturdays. They are also considering doing away with paper coupons and implement an electronic payments system instead.

Both the above are very much welcomed.

OPC owners have been requesting for the restrictions to be lifted since LTA did the same for the VEP on Saturdays for foreign registered cars. Surely one of the main reasons for implementing such change in 2005 was due to the roads on Saturdays able to handle increased traffic as a result of the government pushing for 5 days work week. The reason why such restrictions cannot be lifted for OPC because it will worsen the congestion on the roads is no longer valid.

With such changes, is it expected that OPC will gain more popularity and possibly add to the already bad traffic. How true is that?

Drivers know that roads here are jammed up in the morning around 7am to 9:30am and in the evening around 7pm to 8:30pm. The morning jams are mostly attributed to parents sending their kids to school before the themselves head to work. This is fact because during school holidays, the roads are clear. Probably parents either drive to work later or they decided to take public transport. The evening jams, in the reverse order, are caused by drivers returning home from work.

Therefore even with an increase in OPCs in the future, it should not have an adverse effect on the morning traffic as OPCs cannot be driven after 7am, before the real jam starts.

As for the evening jams, OPC cars made up for 7.7% of the 500,000 cars here. That is about 40,000. Even if all of them ply the roads at the same time, it is still 7.7% compared to the other 93.7% non-OPCs out there. In fact, most OPCs are parked at home and only driven on weekends. Therefore even if the number increases but with most parked at home on weekdays, nothing much will change.

Same goes for Saturdays as the traffic conditions on Saturdays are no where as bad as on weekdays. With the restrictions on Saturday lifted, situation should be pretty much the same.

Having more OPCs simply means less non-OPCs. If the COE is properly implemented, it makes no difference what type of cars are there on the roads.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Tribute to Axela

Last November marks our 3rd anniversary together. How time flies.

Although her fuel consumption is higher compared some of her peers, it was not as bad as most thought it is. With the car weighing around 1.2 tonnes, heavier than her Korean or Japanese peers, 11.3km/l is considered more than acceptable especially when it is compensated that with superb handling during high speeds and at bends. 180km/h and the three passengers did not even realise it. That's how stable she is.

Underpowered she may be from the get go but she gets me places and gives me the needed power when required. No complaints from me on this aspect.

She posed no major problems all these while except for warped front brake discs which resulted in the car jerking when braking during high speed. I would not have known if I had not been to Sepang. That was thankfully settled by the warranty program so it cost me nothing.

I had to replace the front windscreen, cracked twice in the first year, caused by flying objects while on the road. I had to fork out approximately 15% of the total cost each time while the rest of it, was covered by the insurance. That however was beyond Axela's control.

Wear and tear wise, her Bridgestone tyres lasted 3 years, clocking 70,000 km. That is considered way above expectation. They also wore out evenly which means the alignment is still ok. I had them replaced with the exact same model, the most I spend on her, because not only it lasts, it performed really well, wet or dry, proven with many on the road incidents.

Just changed her battery today, a similar case of performing beyond expectation. It gave signs a few months back but only recently she started to give me warnings. When to JB with makcik today and had it replaced with a similar flooded cell, 65% cheaper compared to local prices. Decided against a dry cell not only because it is cheaper but also because unlike dry cell batteries that will stop working without warning, flooded cell will give you signs of its condition when you crank the engine up.

The rear brake pads was replaced after around 2 1/2 years. Good thing too since after that the brake dust on the wheels reduced dramatically. Made me wonder why Mazda did not supply that brake pads instead in the first time round.

Her front headlight bulbs blew recently, one after the other, a really minor cost.

Her body also proved its worth for being heavy. Once a rider hit her left side near the tail light. It was quite a hard knock that the car jolted a little from a stationary position. I stopped the rider, a probationer with a pillion, to the side and both of them had no blood on their face. As it was dark and I can't see anything broken, I let them off. It was only when I reached home under the bright carpark lights that I noticed a line of dent. Considering the impact, damage is minor.

Then there was the Gunung Pulai incident where an Ah Pek's bike fell on the driver's door. Again, considering the impact, the dent left by it is considered a blessing.

Her bodykit took the most beatings and amazingly still not broken albeit scratches here and there.

Once I hit the front skirting against a divider, thinking it broke judging by the sound of it but it only got misaligned and I just need to nudge it back to its original place.

I also hit a divider on the sides, jolting the car, and still nothing is broken.

Then there was the time when the right side of the rear bumper came off after a friend who is not familiar with how deceivingly low Axela is tried to park her. Again, I just need to push everything back in place and it looks like nothing happened. The bodykits are worth every penny spent.

With all the above and trips to Terengganu, twice up Genting and once to Sepang covered, she has been really good to me. Hopefully it will be Penang or maybe even Thailand the next time round.

Thanks Axela.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Opposing for the sake of opposing

Recently MP Low Thia Kiang questioned the effectiveness of the Job Credit scheme.

As expected, he was countered with verbal ammunitions from the ruling party MPs, sparking exchanges from both sides of the online camp.

Without fail, those who supported the government or those who hates the opposition asked the same thing - why Mr Low offered no alternative solutions? This is the constant every time and the part I seriously do not understand.

Why must the oppositions provide alternative solutions if they oppose a certain scheme?

First of all, oppositions did offer alternative solutions before which were never taken up because they were 'not viable' according to the government.

Even if the solutions are good, would the ruling party take it up? Of course the official answer is yes. However that will never happen because it would mean that the whole lot of policy makers in the government is just a waste of money as they cannot come out with a better solution in the first place and had to wait for the opposition to tell them that.

Giving thumbs up to oppositions' idea as a no-no. So what's the point?

Secondly, why is it a must? If for example you chance upon someone who wants to commit suicide, would you go ahead and let them do it because you cannot offer them a better alternative to solving their problems?

The problem with the current government is that the ideas are never discussed in parliament. Everything is done back doors and only announced when it is decided upon. Even if a better solution if offered by the oppositions, taking them up would amount to embarrassment to the ruling party. Hence they have to stand their ground and activate their propaganda machines to make the idea look as the best there is.

Great ideas are never realised in an instance. It emerges through scores of criticisms - Azhar Khamis