068 Thanks Dad, You’re The Best!

A month had passed since my family returned from a memorable 8-day-vacation to Kyushu, Japan.

From the pictures, you can tell how much I enjoyed the places I visited.

We travelled with two other families of my wife’s siblings this time. There were eleven of us –two teenagers, three young adults, two middle-aged adults in their forties, and another four in their fifties. The age gap between the youngest and the oldest person is more than 40 years.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to plan an itinerary that would suit everyone. The thing that worried me most, however, was something else. On the day before departure, I sought help from my thirteen year-old son, Conan.

“Dad needs your help. I have done all my homework, but I have never been to any of those places. You know that I am bad at navigation even with the help of google map.

I have to be physically ahead of others to confirm if we are heading in the right direction. Can you imagine the scenario of ten people following behind a clueless person? Very much like a brood of headless chicken!”

I made an awry smile before continuing,

“Also, I have to double up as the tour guide and interpreter for everyone. So, I need your help in two ways:

  • Double check the route each time we are on the move.
  • Watch over your brother if he needs to go toilet at times when I am busy.”

Then turning to my wife, I added,

“There is just one last thing, please bear with me if I become flustered and overly-stressed when things go wrong. I will try to regain composure quickly.”

Hearing this, my wife said to Conan with a worried look, “Better help your dad out,” before whispering some words into his ears.

Conan laughed, “I remember Dad even held his mobile phone upside-down when using the google map the previous time. Better spare everyone from walking in circles.”

Source: WordPress Photo Library

To spare everyone from trouble, I researched the routes to every destination meticulously. I studied the various modes of transport in details to figure out how to minimise travelling time and cost.

Unlike in Tokyo and Osaka where you could count on the JR subway alone to go anywhere, we rode on bullet-trains, trams, buses and even ferries to get around in Kyushu.

The various forms of transport made the journey interesting.

The variety of transport options added a sense of novelty, but also increased the complexity in navigating places. Fortunately, my hard work of preparation paid off. We were able to get to almost all destinations without a glitch.

Most thankfully, the young people stepped up to ease my burden. My niece XH assisted me in organising the groups at every destination. Another niece YX quietly researched for recommended restaurants to book in advance. And my nephew SZ covered extra footwork as the advance party to check out the routes physically. It was comforting seeing how well these children have turned out to be.

Over the eight days, we enjoyed visiting great places.

Some of the beautiful places we visited from Fukuoka, Yufuin-Beppu, Kumamoto to Nagasaki.

Of the many places we visited, the exotic scenery created by the hot springs of Beppu Hells left the deepest impression on us.

“Hell-hopping” in Beppu

As for food, we were spoilt for choices.

We tried all kinds of Japanese delicacies.

But when I asked Conan about his most memorable moment on the whole trip, his reply was most unexpected,

“My mobile phone was lost and found!”

On day five, Conan had lost his newly bought mobile phone on the way to Nagasaki city. He thought it might be lost for good, but I quietly had good faith in the Japanese people.

I brought the sullen-looking boy to the Nagasaki Subway Station to make enquiry. Almost immediately, Conan broke into broad smiles as the amicable station staff retrieved his mobile phone from the “Lost and Found” counter.

Conan recovered his mobile phone.

“You are lucky that your dad speaks fluent Japanese. If not, it wouldn’t be that easy to find your phone back.” A relative said to Conan.

Conan exclaimed, “Thanks, Dad! You’re the best!”

Those words were perhaps the sweetest thing a son could say to his father. And his words of gratitude made my best moment on the trip.

William W K Tan

7 July 2019


043 Lessons from a prayer @ Mumbai, India

  • An Eye-Opening Experience

I travelled to Mumbai, India with my boss three days ago. Coincidentally, they arranged a prayer called puja to celebrate the Mumbai office’s relocation to a bigger and newer premise. It was an eye-opening experience.

Do you see the red dot on my forehead? In Hindi, it is called tika, an abbreviation of its original name tilaka in Sanskrit. It was applied on my forehead by a Hindu priest as a customary way of honouring special guests.

The tika is positioned at the space between the eyes just above the eyebrows. This spot is deemed by yoga practitioners to be a crucial spot to focus on during meditation. It is also a “psychic opening” which symbolises a third eye is opened to see beyond ordinary perception. Literally speaking, it was no exaggeration to say that I had an “eye-opening” experience (laughs).

  • Why Do People Pray?

The puja experience set me thinking deeper about the meaning of prayer. In recent years, I have learnt about prayers from my Catholic and Christian friends who encouraged me to seek strength from God in times of needs, sickness or problems. I saw prayer as an act of supplication in needy times. Over time, I have also learnt to say proper prayers for friends in sickness. I am thankful that prayers had brought strength to me and friends.

But that did not seem to be the case for the puja ritual. It was held to celebrate the opening of the new office, which I thought was purely ceremonial in nature. I was wrong.

(Picture on the left: The priest or locally addressed as a pandit, was a Hindu scholar learned in Sanskrit and Hinduism. He was getting ready to commence a one-hour ritual in a small meeting room which was temporarily converted into a prayer room.)

The pandit chanted mantra and sang in Hindi, a language that I did not comprehend. But quickly it became an invaluable learning moment when a colleague translated his instructions. The pandit said, “Keep in mind your parents as you hold these grains in your hands.”

“Also, keep in mind your beloved teachers.”

And of course, he also paid homage to the Hindu gods.

The reverence for elders was unmistakable. The ritual reinforced the values of filial piety for one’s parents and teachers. At that instant, I realised that praying was more than asking for favours and protection. It was also a moment of gratitude for the people who had loved and supported us in our lives. I was touched.

There was, however, just one part about the ritual that I had second thoughts. I always have a weak stomach for Indian food. Still, out of respect, I swallowed the some milky liquid with raw leaves that was supposed to bring me and my family bliss and happiness.

(Video above: The priest insisted that I ate everything on my palm, which was worrying because I had absolutely no idea of what it was. It tasted like a mixture made of condensed milk and peppermint leaves, added with some flowers and pebbles. Luckily, the pebbles were not meant to be eaten (laughs). )

In my mind, I was thinking, ” Oh no… I am going to get the runs later…” Surprisingly, nothing happened. I am all well and healthy. God bless.

William W.K. Tan

04 May 2018


11:00 pm

041 Seize Every Opportunity To Enjoy The Simple Things In Life @ Bandung, Indonesia

  • An Intensive Training Camp

Last week’s topic was about finding joy from work itself. This week is about finding simple joys of life in between and outside of work.

My work this week: be an observer of a 3-day-2-night staff training camp held in Bandung, the capital of West Java province in Indonesia. Sounds easy to be an observer, eh? Not really, not when the language was foreign and words were sometimes lost in translation. And it was a test of both physical and mental strengths. For two consecutive nights, I had to stay up till 2 a.m.

(Picture on the left: It was already quarter past one am, yet there was no sign of ending…)

The training was designed to broaden the perspectives of nearly 50 education consultants with the aim of enhancing the quality of their consultation to teachers. Focusing on a selected education Centre under our flagship in the area, the participants analysed data ranging from area demographics, classroom management to students’ study situation. Then they visited the Centre and even went to its nearby schools and kindergartens to interview parents. In the evening, they shared and discussed the information gathered till the wee hours. I marvelled at their dedication and enthusiasm.

(Picture on the right: Parents waiting for their children in a school compound…just the right time to make conversations.)

Clearly, the training approach was very successful in broadening perspectives and fostering a strong sense of camaraderie among the participants. That, I think, must be credited to the high level of commitment of their leaders, right from the highest echelons, who were constantly encouraging the participants.

Over the 3 days, I made constant comparisons in my mind between this training which was aimed at broadening perspectives and the training I conducted last week that was aimed at deepening understanding (041: Joy From Work Struggles). I must say, precious lessons were learnt. My conclusion is, whatever the approach, the real measure of success is whether it brings about a real change in the mindset and skills in people to deliver concrete results.

You may be wondering by now, given the hectic training schedule, how did I manage to find time to enjoy the simple things in life? Well, that depends on how much you want to enjoy work and life. Opportunities to discover joy in life abound, as long as you remain curious.

Opportunity (1): Cosplay @ Jalan Asia Afrika

On the first day, on my way to lunch along the street of Jalan Asia Afrika, I chanced upon some interesting cosplay characters: The Incredible Hulk, Transformers and Iron Man.

And if you are not someone who is easily put off by scary characters cosplay, here are some out-of-this-world beings from the horror realms.

I am impressed by the tolerant brand of Islam practised in Indonesia. It allows young people to showcase themselves in such bold expressions. These young people, in turn, are ingenuous enough to turn it into pocket-money earning art that attracts tourists and local people to pay them a nominal fee for taking pictures together. And they don’t take a cent from curious onlookers who are taking pictures from a near distance.

Opportunity (2): Interesting Street Sights

Adding to the charm on the streets of Bandung were the horse carriages picking up passengers on the roads

Also, as I walked along the streets of residential area with the participants, I was drawn by the lively mood of street hawkers and children.

(Picture above: A hawker making surabi, a famous Indonesian pancake that is made from flour and shredded coconut.)

(Picture above: Children bursting out of their classrooms with smiles when the school bell rang.)

Opportunity (3): An Enchanting Villa- Stay Experience

For ease of bonding and late-night discussions, everyone stayed at the Resor Dago Pakar, which is made up of a long thread of beautifully-built villas along the hilly and breezy region of Dago, north of Bandung,

As we had to move out for work from 8 am, I made time by waking up at 6.30 am to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery.

The stay was pleasant with clean, comfortable beds and amenities. Too bad the experience was marred by the intrusion of winged insects that swarmed around the ceiling lights in our bedrooms after a sudden bout of rain on the first night. Strangely, these insects died quickly and fell all over the beds and floor.

We kept all windows and balcony doors tightly shut the next day. Sure enough, these short-lived creatures did not appear because it did not rain on the second night.

Opportunity (4): At The Airport

Even when I was departing at the airport, I did not squander the final opportunity: a picture of me posing in front of the plane.

Being able to capture this shot brought back much nostalgia of the yesteryear before aerobridges appear.

Seize every opportunity to enjoy the simple things in life, my family and friends.

William W.K Tan

22 April 2018, Sunday

8:32 pm

037 Just living is not enough…enjoy the flowers

“Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”

I was reminded of these words of Han Christian Andersen when I spotted these pretty flowers blooming in a neighbourhood park this morning.

I cannot agree more. At this time of the year, trees blossom and the air is perfumed with the scent of flowers. All you need to do is to go out to the parks. You must go.

The most spectacular sight is the blossoming sakura-look-alike trees, Tabebuia rosea, aka the Trumpet Trees. These tall trees distinctively stand out from other trees for their white and pinkish trumpet-shaped flowers, which also gives the tree its name.

Its blossom bears an uncanny resemblance to cherry blossoms. As the flowers fall onto the ground, they miraculously produce a melodramatic feel that is commonly found in the scenes of Korean love dramas.

I caught sight of this beautiful scene in a small park along Bukit Panjang Ring road last Monday. The jubilation of seeing a bed of fallen flowers created a stir in my heart. I halted my footsteps to allow myself to soak in the mood.

I know my love for flowers has grown since I learnt to appreciate the simple joys in life. It heightened after I started bringing home flowers that are routinely discarded in the office when a new floral arrangement arrives. Look, this is what that greets me every morning and evening at our doorsteps.

These flowers really raise my spirits, I can’t help smiling looking at them. Embarrassingly, I know next to nothing about the different species of orchids, and how to care for them better. I can only pray that they do not wither too fast under my care.

I thought I have been doing a good job in the floral arrangements of these orchids though. Perhaps, gardening and floral arrangement can become my new hobbies.

However, I have some concerns about picking up these new hobbies. My friends are already telling me that my degree of ”auntisation” is getting out of hand. (laughs)

William W. K. Tan

24 March 2018

Saturday, 4 pm

035 Japan: A Land Of Food Temptations

  • One More Food Indulgence To Go

I have a confession to make.

Even as I raised alarm over binge eating in Japan in the previous blog post, it did not stop me from having Kobe beef steak on the day of departure. Too many friends told me not to give it a miss since I was already in Kobe.

It wasn’t the first time I had Kobe beef. And as always, it did not disappoint. Its flavour, tenderness and marbled fat, called shimofuri, which dissolved at low temperatures, gave it a melt-in-the-mouth sensation. And not to forget those crispy and flavourful garlic chips which went very well with the rice.

Just in case you ask, here is the location of the steakhouse, Steakland (ステーキランド, pronounced as su-te-ki-ran-do). For the lunch set, it cost about ¥3,200 (S$40).

  • The Battle Ain’t Over

Unless you intend to fly home empty-handed, the lure of Japanese food does not simply end after you leave this country of many food temptations. The second round of battle: Japanese snacks.

Here are some of my family’s favourites:

No. 1: Hokkaido Grilled Scallops

No. 2: Tokyo Milk Cheese Factory

No. 3: Tokyo Banana

No. 4: The Loved Ones In White Winter (白色恋人, shi-roi-koi-bito)

And be impressed by the Japanese creation of Pocky, Pringles and Pretz snacks available. They come in all sorts of flavour such as sakura, takoyaki and even cow tongue!

The fun part was to pick and pack the snacks for our loved ones according to their preferences. I gave my wife and the two children each a goodie bag of snacks. I told them it’s a fortune bag (福袋), a pack of surprises given during the New Year celebrations in Japan. They were delighted by the choices I made.

As for me, I kept away from the snacks. Heeding the words of a wise friend Anding, I have been taking light meals since my return. And I raised the intensity of my exercise regime a few notches. The result was a flattering remark from my son Conan this morning,

”Dad, do you see the toning of your tummy muscles? Keep training and you are going to see your six packs soon.”

That was really encouraging. But son, that was because I was holding my breath! (laughs)

William W. K. Tan

11 March 2018, Sunday

034 Falling Into The Trap Of Binge Eating Overseas

  • Overseas Travel Presents Opportunities Of Over-eating

I arrived in Kobe, Japan on Friday morning for an annual education Conference. As a food lover, the temptations to overdo the eating and drinking were everywhere. The local delicacies, the hotel breakfast and the networking dinner at the Conference were readily available.

  • Hard Not To Over-Eat

My tendency to eat in excess was manifested from the first meal after arrival. It was meant to be a simple fare of Japanese curry to accommodate the dietary requirement of an Indian colleague Y. However, the dictum of “eating simple” apparently slipped my mind when I chose one of the most voluminous items on the menu — The Triple Flavours of Beef (ビーフ三味)a Japanese curry rice accompanied with beef cutlet, grilled short ribs and beef sauce.

(Picture above: Lunch at Coco Ichibanya Curry House, a popular chain restaurant of Japanese curry.)

Sleep-deprived by the overnight flight, I felt no remorse over my less than healthy choice of food. Feeling sluggish after the heavy lunch was precisely what I needed. I fell into sleep almost immediately the moment I hit the hotel bed after check-in.

  • Hard To Say No To Delicious And Affordable Food

Kobe beef was top on my list of must-eats in this trip. On the first evening, I contemplated going to Steak Land, a wildly popular steak place known for delicious and somewhat pricy (About ¥3500 or S$44) Kobe beef in Sannomiya. But I had to give it a miss because a colleague A who was joining me for dinner was not a beef-eater.

As a consolation prize, I found a restaurant “The Chicken Nobles” (鳥貴族) that received raving reviews for its wide variety of chicken dishes, with everything priced at only Â¥321 (S$4).

The signature dish was yakitori, skewed chicken flavourfully grilled with teriyaki sauce. Other yakitoris included chicken hearts and skins, which I avoided.

Even so, you would still be spoilt for choices. There were chicken wings, grilled pork and sour cream fried chicken and so on.

And there were non-meat options such as tofu, edamame, ramen noodles and mushroom rice.

I enjoyed the dinner so much that I brought a bigger group of friends and associates to the same restaurant the next day.

  • Hard To Say No When It’s Delicious And Free

It’s often said that there is no free lunch in this world. But the truth is hotel breakfasts are mostly provided for during work travel. Luckily, Japanese breakfasts are healthy treats.

That was not all. The networking dinner for Conference participants had all the all-time-favourites of Japanese cuisine such as sushi and tempura, among other food and drinks.

All these food were consumed in just two days. And as if it was not enough, some of us decided to have a taste of ice-cream in the cold winter. It was sinfully splendid.

As I thought about the food I ate, I became alarmed at the extent of over indulgence. But what surprised me most is how easily I had slipped into the trap of binge eating, despite all the past efforts to be health conscious.

There is still one more day before I depart tomorrow night. Looking at my bloated tummy, I know I have to banish all thoughts of Kobe beef tomorrow. Better be wise.

William W.K. Tan

4 March 2018, Sunday

Written in Kobe, Japan.

023 Borobudur: A World Heritage Site Not To Be Missed

Would you visit an UNESCO World Heritage site that promises an exotic view of an ancient Buddhist enclave in an Islamic territory?Welcome to Borobudur, an ancient Buddhist site in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Having attended an education conference near Borobudur last Saturday, it was a chance not to be missed!But would you wake up as early as 3 am in the morning to catch a glimpse of the stunning view of Borobudur at sunrise? My friend Mr Chen did that. Look at the beautiful pictures he took.

I wanted to see the sunrise too, but there was a risk of missing the early morning return flight if I did. The alternative was to visit at sunset. The place was filled with visitors by the time I reached at 4.30 pm.The temple is built on several layers of rock platforms, stack on top of one another. It looks tall from the bottom but less so in reality. No one seems to have trouble climbing up to the top quickly.

Built in the 9th century, the Borobudur temple withstood the test of time for 500 years. It fell into oblivion following the decline of Hindu kingdoms and the Javanese conversion to Islam in the 14th century. This explains the intriguing presence of a Buddhist heritage site in a land of Islam worshippers.

If you are a history buff, you may be interested in speculating the stories behind each artefact on the walls. For example, there are many decapitated Buddha heads. It set you thinking if it was the result of religious persecution or theft by profiteers over the long passage of time.

The stories on the walls go beyond religion. They depict the menial work of ordinary people inside households, as well as the grandeur of procession outside on the streets in one thousand two hundred years ago.

And you might be just as surprised as I was to find out that Borobudur was a well-kept secret of the natives until it was rediscovered by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1814, five years before he set his sights on the island of Singapore, my home country.

This historical coincidence is an interesting reminder of how closely connected people of different countries really are.

William W K Tan

17 Dec 2017


Personal Notes

In its magical ways, Borobudur also helped friends to connect closer. I was amazed by how much fun my friends had in taking pictures there.

Look at them! Soo prayed with a blissful smile behind the protection of Buddha.

Wong looked deep in his spiritual thoughts.

Loo seemed totally at home with sitting on the ground.

Julie looked every bit like a teenage model having a school excursion.

And Foong Hsing, together with Melanie looked like two like-minded friends taking a stroll on a quiet lane.

As for me, I am clueless about posing in front of a camera. But I bet you can tell that I was really happy in the company of these wonderful friends.

When was it the last time you had an outing with your friends?

Life is short. Find a place of interest and just do it.

022-C 每一刻各自精彩的马六甲游


就说上次在马六甲,碰上雨天,一家人只好待在“地理学家咖啡馆” 等候雨停。这里有吐露着成年往事的摆设,还播放着动人的老情歌,叫我不由地随着哼唱两句。这一刻,心情是愉悦的。









“孩子,我们去吃这里著名的珍多冰(Iced Chendol) !”






William W K Tan

26 Nov 2017 (Sunday)



1. Geographer Cafe 地理学家咖啡馆

在马来西亚的友人卢洁慧老师的好介绍下,我去了马六甲鸡场街的“地理学家咖啡馆”。午间的咖啡厅有古早慵懒的感觉。听说晚间有live band 表演,甚是有情调。想好了,下次晚上过来消磨时间。

Geographér Café
83, Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Malacca, Malaysia
Tel: +60 6 281 6813 Fax: +60 6 2816613
email: geocafe@geographer.com.my

2. 马六甲文化娘惹糕饼店
Malacca Jonker Nyonya Enterprise
(aka Christina Ee)

发现在地理学家咖啡馆对面有一间著名的家庭手工土产小店”马六甲文化娘惹糕饼”, 别名“Christina Ee”。这里其貌不扬,但口碑好,有个老人家格外亲切。不仅有很棒的珍多冰,还有正椰糖、黄梨酥、蛋卷都很好吃,可叫老板让你品尝后才决定买。

29, Jalan Hang Lekir, 75200 Melaka
(opposite Geographer Cafe)
Tel: 06-2812023

3. Nadeje Cake Shop

在另一个友人苏芳贤的推荐下,去了Nadeje Cake Shop。原来这家店在当地好多地方都有,是一间特别适合享用下午茶的西式咖啡厅。这里的最大卖点是米勒千层蛋糕 (Mille Crepe)。


我决定了。 明年的生日蛋糕该改吃这个!

Nadeje Mahkota Parade
Address : G-23B, EG 4 & EG 5, Ground Floor, Mahkota Parade, 75000 Melaka.
Opening Hours : 11:00am – 10:00pm(Daily)
Tel No : 06-2843469.
Website : http://www.nadeje.com.my/
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/nadejefans

Others branches :
Nadeje Plaza Mahkota
Address : G-23, 25 & 27, Jalan PM 4, Plaza Mahkota, 75000 Melaka.
Tel No : 06-2838750.
Opening Hours : Daily : 11:00am – 10:00pm

Nadeje Jaya 99
Address : G-01, Bangunan Jaya 99, Block A, Jalan Tun Sri Lanang, 75100 Melaka.
Opening Hours : Daily : 11:00am – 10:00pm
Tel No : 06-2277750.

Nadeje 3 Two Square (PJ)
Address : B-01-01, Dataran 3 Two Square, Jalan 19/1, Section 19, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Opening Hours : Daily : 11:00am – 10:00pm
Tel No : 03-79600025.

Nadeje Sunway Giza
Address : C-11, Sunway Giza, Jalan PJU 5/14, PJU 5, Kota Damansara, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Opening Hours : Daily : 12:00pm – 11:00pm
Tel No : 03-61437270.

021-C 放假心得(一)




















































William W K Tan

30/11/2017, Thursday