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Friday, February 18, 2005

Working in Malaysia

For the first time in three years (I think), I stepped onto Malaysian soil again. Part of me can't believe that it's been that long, part of me thinks I could've waited longer. Am I prejudiced against Malaysia? Well, the first thing I smelled upon clearing customs at the Causeway at Johor Bahru (JB) was the putrid stench of sewage. But I did my darnedest to keep an open mind through the half day there. Honest!

I was in JB on a business trip. Woo-hoo! My first ever business trip. Ya, it's geeky of me to be celebrating over this. But there was a slight thrill as I completed the immigration card, at the part that asked why I was entering the country. All along, it had always been "personal" or "leisure". Now it was "business". Whoa.

The purpose of the trip was to film the Malaysian factory for a company corporate video. This would also mark the first time that I had visited the company's Malaysian premises. (This was just a day of firsts for me.) The factory is located in the industrial area, which is a place that few tourists would venture to. Yup, another first for me.

We (my colleague involved in the filming, and the manager who gave us a lift there) left Singapore at 7:30am and arrived at the factory at about 8:30am. Clearing the Causeway took slightly under half an hour. The roads in the industrial area is badly in need of resurfacing, but I know that there are such roads in Singapore too, so I stopped comparing that.

I won't talk too much about the factory itself. Actually, there are two plants situated about one-minute drive from each other. They're filled with machines and workers who churn out printer ribbons and inkjet cartridges/refills and fax ribbons and ink. I thought that the plants could be mechanized further, since a lot of manual labour seemed to comprise of attaching something to a machine, then removing and packing it later.

The filming took over an hour, then my colleague had to meet a customer there and I tagged along for the ride. We had tea, visited another factory, then ate bak kut teh for lunch. After that, the customer gave us a ride all the way back to our Singapore office.

Some other observations about my morning trip to JB:
  • A lot of buildings look run down and in need of a renovation or total reconstruction. I thought JB was competing with Singapore to be the premiere city of south Peninsular Malaysia?
  • Why have traffic lights if the traffic police are going to give contrary directions? E.g. the policeman waved "go" when the traffic light was red. I thought the whole point of traffic lights is to automate the flow of traffic and reduce manpower.
  • Major traffic junctions have countdown timers. Good for impatient drivers.
  • Like America, the car of the 21st century is not the SUV, but the truck. I shudder in fear of when that day arrives in Singapore. Singaporean SUV drivers are obnoxious, right behind the bastards of the roads, taxi drivers.
  • Roadside hawkers, right out of pre-1970s Singapore! Awesome!
Thus was my half day-trip to Malaysia. Can't say I miss it. What I do miss is the large amount of space, unlike cramped Singapore.

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