Hiking with children is good for the whole family


Hiking_family

Hiking as a family has built strong bonds, made beautiful memories and improved health. And everyone has learnt to be more creative in tackling obstacles as they are no longer couch potatoes!

THE day I traded my high heels for hiking shoes, the malls for hills and the stale city air for fresh jungle air, my life was never the same again.

It all began when my dear hubby Adrian Yeong took up hiking. He had been hiking close to six months to improve his health and fitness when I saw the changes in him: he had shed 13 kilos and was much fitter and healthier than before. Finally one day, I agreed to join him.

Wasting no time, he got me my first pair of hiking shoes. I had my first taste of hiking at the Challenger trail in Gasing Hill, Petaling Jaya, on August 1, 2010. Since then, Gasing Hill has become our regular training ground.

Friends who heard of our hiking activities thought we were crazy to hike three times a week and when they learnt that we also brought our younger four children along with us, in their dictionary, we were well…insane. Why bother doing such tiring activities?

Many would not consider hiking with kids, supposedly because: “They will complain!”, “They will cry!”, “They will not want to walk!”

Our children being city kids were no angels either. They were always trying to find excuses to escape from hiking so that they could spend time at home instead, watching television and playing computer games. But as parents, we had the last say and so our hiking journey began…

The writer carrying her youngest son, Joseph, on her back, while climbing Gunung Datuk.

By training our children, who were then one-plus, three, seven and ten years old to hike, all of us eventually got fitter and stronger. Our speed and endurance improved. In a short span of five months, Adrian and I did 50 hikes while our kids went on 30 hikes with us.

We had explored almost all the hills and a few waterfalls in the Klang Valley. After a while, it felt a bit boring hiking the same hills. I dreamt of exploring further but often doubted if we were up to the challenge of hiking more than an hour plus with our young kids.

Little did I know that one day I would get to know a Facebook friend, Michael Mui, and that our feet would soon hit real mountains. Mui got to know of our family hiking activities and invited us to join him to hike Gunung Angsi and Gunung Datuk (both in Negri Sembilan).

In his own words, he described these mountains as “a stroll in the park!” That was our first event with the Freewill Hikers Club, a dynamic hiking group based in Johor led by Captain Richard Yeoh. My husband, being an adventurous guy, took up the idea immediately and the rest is history.

On August 11, 2012, Adrian and I, together with our young hikers, hiked our first two mountains Gunung Angsi and Gunung Datuk, on consecutive days. My two kids Audrey (then aged 12) and Dylan (nine) hiked on their own accompanied by our new friends while I carried Joshua (five) on and off as he happened to be a bit moody in the beginning.

The writer with her husband, Adrian Yeong, and their kids on the peak of Broga Hill, Selangor.

My capable hubby backpacked Lil Joseph (three years old and 12kg in weight) up to the peak of Gunung Angsi and back. Hiking more than an hour with heavier loads than other hikers made it tough.

To make matters worse, wearing the new hiking boots I got him as a surprise, he twisted his ankle during the hike. Despite having applied some ointment over the night, he still had not recovered from the injury and so I volunteered to backpack Lil Joseph up Gunung Datuk the next day.

I remembered assuring my dear hubby that I would hand the little boy over to him should the going get too tough. My hubby agreed to my suggestion. That was my first hike carrying my son up a mountain.

It was my first experience and I found Gunung Datuk to be a steep mountain, with endless roots along the way. Carrying my little boy up weighed me down though I found it quite easy to go on all fours, pulling myself up by tree roots.

Our new friends from Freewill Hikers were very helpful and took care of our two older kids, Audrey and Dylan. While Audrey was slow and steady, Dylan flew up with them and managed to reach the peak in 1 hour 40 minutes; whereas, with my load, we took about 30 minutes more.

It was tiring and our friends kept bluffing us — “You are almost there”, “15 minutes more to the peak”, “Just another 15 minutes more” — in the name of encouragement.

To reach the actual peak of Gunung Datuk, the writer’s family had to clamber up these ladders.

Nevertheless, we made it. At the false peak, I told my husband: “Darling, you take over. I am too tired!”

I handed my little boy over to my hubby to tackle the metal ladder that leads to the actual peak of Gunung Datuk as I was just too exhausted. We had all made it up to Gunung Datuk!

Those were our first two mountains — tough but rewarding. The next few months that followed saw us at Gunung Lambak, Gunung Belumut and Gunung Panti (all three in southern Johor, near Kluang).

Our toughest hike with Lil Jo was Gunung Belumut. Our little boy now weighed 15 kilos and he had not been trained as he was small. He also often pretended to be a 4WD stuck in the mud whilst hiking with his siblings, an idea he got from the multiple off-road trips we had gone for.

I uttered a prayer in the morning, “Dear God, I don’t know how we are going to make it hiking up Belumut but I ask for your help and enablement, in Jesus’ name.”

I came up with a plan. Conserve our energies, get the boy who normally walked only for half an hour to hike as far and as fast as he could. Motivating him, I said, “Jo, you need to look for 10 ant trails and you will get an ice-cream.”

The writer (centre) with her children, husband (right) and Lee Keam Keong of Freewill Hikers at the peak of Gunung Belumut (1,010m) in Kluang, Johor.

So I promised him and we went hunting all the way. He played with twigs, pretending they were rifles and he was soon blasting and shooting away, chasing his brother Joshua and another a new friend, a boy about six, named Rain, who was the grandson of Captain Richard Yeoh of the Freewill Hikers Club.

He played all the way and when he was tired, I gave him some drinks to boost his energy. I also talked, joked and laughed with him in order to distract him from the distance we had to cover. Lo and behold, my four-year-old boy successfully hiked up to the peak in four hours without being carried. It was a miracle indeed. My prayers were answered.

On the way down, Lil Joseph was now tired and had to be carried by his strong daddy. Adrian later shared that it was easier to carry a 15kg bagpack rather than our little boy as he kept swaying to and fro in the baby carrier as he tackled the tough steep terrain, squeezing through tight spots and at times jumping over gullies and large tree roots. After descending for over two hours, his neck and shoulders were stiff.

Nothing worthwhile comes easy, and we’ve had to build up our strength as well as our endurance in hiking. Being positive has made us conquerors. With sufficient training and preparations, we’ve tackled various mountains.

Our conclusion on hiking with kids: it’s not easy and did not happen overnight. But it’s not mission impossible either as kids have new engines and are fast learners.

By clocking the hours and allowing them to master hiking skills, we’ve built up their fitness and confidence. After time, they have become capable hikers.

Hiking together as a family has been rewarding as we’ve built strong bonds and made beautiful memories. We’ve inculcated healthier lifestyles and our children have learnt to tackle obstacles, to never give up and be optimistic.

It has taught them outdoor skills and built their appreciation of nature. It has made them strong, courageous and creative.

This is a win-win situation and I strongly encourage families to take up hiking as a regular family activity. Just make a change in your life and that of your family. Bring them out hiking. All you need is a good pair of hiking shoes, determination and motivation.

Go for it folks, don’t be a coach potato!

Backpacks, trekking poles, head lamps, a dry bag, a sleeping bag and a poncho are among the prizes being offered for those who write in about their Star2 Adventure Challenge.

By JESSY PHUAH The Star/Asian News Network

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 Shereen Teng clambering up rocks at Gunung Rinjani. It took death and sickness to make one girl change herlife… and start hiking….

Wake up and live: Hiking can build confidence, health, endurance, stamina and fitness!


Hiking_Shereen Teng
Shereen Teng clambering up rocks at Gunung Rinjani.
It took death and sickness to make one girl change her life… and start hiking.

Shereen Teng? That petite girl … a hiker? You must be kidding. This was the reaction of anyone who knew me well back then.

I was a couch potato-cum-workaholic who was glued to the TV during my free time. After work, I rushed home to watch my favourite Korean actor in action – Lee Min Ho. During peak periods, I spent hours in the office working like there was no tomorrow.

But in 2011, my life took a 360 degree turn and I transformed from a typical “girlish” lady into an outdoor person.

Let me reminisce what inspired me to transform my lifestyle back then. I had just joined a new company and firstly, there was shocking news about a lady there. After being diagnosed with cancer, she passed away three months later, leaving behind her two little children.

Secondly, during the first week on my new job, I worked until the wee morning hours even though I had very high fever. To keep my temperature down, the doctor jabbed me with painkillers. I was eventually hospitalised for one night due to an extreme allergic reaction (my whole body was swollen).

Hiking_Shereen Teng1

Teng (seated in orange) with her team mates at the top of Gunung Rinjani, Lombok, Indonesia. Photos: SHEREEN TENG

These two events woke me up. I didn’t want to die as a person with a meaningless life. And so I decided it was time to make a difference in my life and all those around me.

Being a Facebook addict, I browsed through many groups and found Boots n Fins, which organises activities such as hiking and scuba diving.

I decided to try hiking. Who knows, maybe I would enjoy it.

I signed up for a hike to Gunung Datuk, Negri Sembilan. There were carpooling arrangements, and I braced myself to meet a couple of strangers – YY Wong and Tamil Selvam – in front of Subang Parade. People thought I was crazy because I might end up being kidnapped!

But I had to take my chances. Being my inaugural hike, I was not prepared with the proper gear. Instead, I was just clad in a shirt, long pants and sports shoes. After an hour of driving, we reached the place. It was a very bright sunny day, perfect weather for hiking.

The initial part of the hike past a river was reasonably easy. Then, we had to ascent a very steep trail. My heart sank and I thought, “Why in the world did I sign up for this? Why torture myself?”

I hardly exercised back then and I worried if my legs could handle it. But step by step, I pulled myself uphill, stopping many times to catch my breath. Along the way, I met a girl called San San and her friends. It was strangely conforting to see that they were also exhausted.

After hiking for about three hours, I reached the top. The view was breathtakingly beautiful and I immediately fell in love with the place!

At the top of Gunung Kutu, near Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor.

Then we had to descend and my leg muscles started to cramp. Oh no! We had to hike a long way back to reach the trailhead. I used all my strength and slowly pulled myself together. After hiking for an hour, I almost wanted to give up, but I had no choice – no one was going to carry me down.

San San and the other girls, kept on encouraging me and shouted, “Jia You! Jia You!” in Mandarin, which means “Do your best!”. Yet, I was exhausted and could hardly feel my legs. I felt as if I was crippled, sitting in a wheelchair.

Slowly, I kept on going, even though my legs felt like lead. After an hour more of sheer torture, I finally reached the bottom.

For a week after the hike, I could hardly walk. Yet it was the most memorable hiking experience ever. And it led me to many more adventures. Hiking has strengthened me physically and mentally. I have joined other groups such as the KL Hiking and Trail Running group.

I can hardly believe it … but I have made a difference in my life. I am overjoyed that I have succeeded in climbing many mountains, including Rinjani (Indonesia) and Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal. My journey in hiking will never cease. I am glad to say that I am no longer a couch potato!

If I can do it, I am sure everyone can too. Carpe Diem! Seize the day!

By Shereen Teng The Star/Asia News Network

Building stamina: A hiker goes from hill to Mount KinabaluHiking_Jason Lim

Jason Lim made it to peak of Mount Kinabalu on his second try.

After struggling and sweating buckets, climbing a modest hill, one hiker has since done Kinabalu three times.

“Let’s climb Mount Kinabalu,” said a friend. That’s how it all started for my big climb up there.

Since joining the workforce in 2001, life was mostly about work and then spending the hard-earned money on food, gadgets, holidays, etc.

Exercise decreased and pounds were beginning to build up, no thanks to my job which sometimes involves hours of “yum cha” (tea drinking) business development sessions.

Mount Kinabalu first struck my interest when my colleague showed wonderful pictures taken during her climb to the summit. And in early 2008, when Ben, one of my “yum cha” kaki, suggested a climb to Mount K, I promptly agreed.

This was the beginning of my hiking journey. Prior to that, I had also noticed that my fitness level was at the lowest level since school days. Joining the trip was a way to push myself to be fit again and to prove that I still had what it takes.

Our training brought me to Bukit Tabur, Apek Hill and Batu Caves (all around Kuala Lumpur) as well as Gua Tempurung (Perak). These were places which I would not have thought of going if I had not taken up the challenge.

I still remember our first hike at Apek Hill in Cheras, KL. At the end, I felt like I had just gone through a detox programme, after sweating out what seemed like litres of toxins from my body. Though it was really tiring, I felt completely “refreshed” and knew that there was a lot more to be done.Hiking_Jason Lim1

Jason Lim (centre) with his friends on a training climb up Bukit Tabur, near Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Jason Lim

Among all the places I’ve climbed, I would say Bukit Tabur has probably the most wonderful scenery. It’s also challenging enough to build your endurance and stamina.

We had about six months to prepare for our big climb. For anyone planning to conquer Mount K, I would say it’s good to train up your stamina consistently. However, my training regime was not very consistent – I paid for this later.

Our climb was on Aug 30 and 31, 2008 (Merdeka Day) and the seven of us rented a van to send us to Kinabalu Park from Kota Kinabalu (KK) city before sunrise.

The climb started in a joyous and excited mood, but close to the third kilometre of the trail, accident struck. The trail was wet and slippery from an earlier downpour and Ben accidentally slipped, fracturing his ankle. The team were shocked and sad for him as he was the one who had pulled the group together for this trip and made all the arrangements. He had to be escorted back to Kinabalu Park by our guide, and eventually transferred to KK for hospital admission.

Our spirits were a bit down but we continued our journey and eventually the last of us reached (the halfway point of) Laban Rata around 4pm.

Rain started to pour midway and we had to put on raincoat for the last half of the hike.

The journey to the peak started around 2:30am the next day. Of the six of us, only four completed it. One of us suffered from altitude sickness not long after starting the climb, while the other one who didn’t make it was myself. I gave up about 500 metres away from the peak.

But having made it that far, I was still very proud of my achievement, though there were some regrets till this day for not completing it. At that time, somehow I just didn’t feel like I had the stamina. Now you know why I say consistent training is important.

Drenched with rain at Laban Rata, halfway to the Mount Kinabalu.

 We continued our regular hiking sessions after his recovery, and less than two years later, I went back to Mount K again with Ben and different group members. Better prepared and trained this time, I eventually made it to the peak this round. However Ben didn’t due to altitude sickness.

But the most important part of it was, both of us had tried our best. And along the way, we built a friendship that we treasure. Thanks Ben for bring me back to fitness!

The climbs up Mount K have definitely brought back the “exercise mode” back to me. I started running, cycling and hitting the gym more from then on.

As for my health, I have managed to prevent my blood pressure level from going up further, and my stamina has also improved so much. I did a third Mount K climb in 2012 and the time taken to reach Laban Rata was 25% less than the first climb.

I have come so far since my first training session at Apek Hill where I was struggling to just keep up with the other regular climbers who were mostly uncles and aunties!

 

By Jason Lim The Star/Asia News Network

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Entrepreneur Liew Kee Sin from SP Setia to Eco World, passing the baton to the right person


Eco World_Liew & SonLiew and his son Tian Xiong (left) at the interview. The biggest shareholder of Eco World Development Group is Tian Xiong, who at 22 in 2013 became the major shareholder of the company.

Entrepreneur who drives the smaller Eco World group is still a much talked-about figure in corporate world

AT 57 years of age, Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin can easily count himself to be one of the most talked about personality in Malaysia’s corporate circle – by the Government, the private sector and property investors.

Amidst the unravelling of events over the past four years, including his exit from SP Setia Bhd, Liew continues to be among the corporate figures today that enjoy the adulation of some and the wrath of others.

Since leaving SP Setia a year ago, Liew has been furiously on the ball, trying to “regain” what he has lost. He has kept a fast and furious pace, though buffeted on every front by unabating current.

Although he has previously overcome challenges thrown at him, the pressure this time is different, in severity and magnitude. It’s a pressure cooker in Eco World Development Group Bhd (EWB), he admits.

“The momentum is on-going. It forces me to be the face of Eco World,” he says.

The positive side to all these is that he has about 300 out of a staff count of 800 who joined him from his previous company. This round of rebuilding includes his son, Tian Xiong, 24. That may also account for him being more driven than before.

While he has made a success of the 4,000 acres in S P Setia’s flagship development in Shah Alam years ago, today’s climate of high house prices and stagnant wages mean his team would have to work doubly hard. So far, however, most of his projects in the Klang Valley and Johor seem to enjoy take-up rates of 80% and above.

His latest launch in Batu Kawan, Penang, has prices hovering in the RM700,000-RM800,000 bracket.

Credited with making something out of 4,000 acres in Shah Alam, Liew is trying to do the same in Semenyih, Selangor, and Batu Kawan, Penang, on a smaller scale. Liew says his objective is to set a new benchmark in terms of concepts, ideas and designs for branding purposes.

Next month, he will be launching 1,130 units in London City Island with a gross development value (GDV) of £617mil, at a time when house prices are frothy, with wages stagnant. The May 7 elections is another dampener. The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) has just sold a building at a profit and may be selling another.

The weakening ringgit works for and against him. For local investors, a property abroad is a good hedge against exposure to any possible future weakening of the ringgit. The downside is that the pool of buyers shrink with the weaker ringgit.

However, the target market for the London City Island project goes to Hong Kong, Singapore and London.

Even as he is keeping his finger on sales, other challenges faces Liew and the Eco World group.

Eye on SPAC

In October last year, Liew and his team proposed to list Eco World International Bhd (EWI) as a SPAC (special-purpose acquisition company). But the Securities Commission has yet to approve the application.

While awaiting the SC’s nod for the the proposed SPAC, in January, he and his right hand man Datuk Voon Tin Yow in their personal capacity, via a private vehicle, entered into a joint venture with UK-based Ballymore on a 75:25 basis to develop three projects in London – with the first slated to kick off next month.

The plan was to inject the three properties into EWI, which will be the vehicle for the proposed SPAC. Shareholders of EWB would not be left out as they would be offered up to a 30% stake in EWI.

It was a neat plan – at least on paper.

But the snag is that a SPAC is a blank cheque listing. It is supposed to list without pre-identified and ready assets, which is an issue when it comes to EWI. This is despite Liew’s plan to inject the private purchases “at cost plus holding costs” – meaning Liew and Voon do not profit from the asset injection.

“But this goes against the spirit of SPAC guidelines as set by the SC. A SPAC is a blank cheque listing … a cash box looking for assets,” says a merchant banker.

“To go global, we must react quickly to market conditions, better design concepts and learn. We have the skill set,” he says. He learned a lot managing and marketing Battersea. No matter how challenging a project, “you gotta break it down to smaller bits”.

Nevertheless, Liew hopes to see some development with respect to the SPAC application within the next month or so.

Keeping EWB and EWI on separate lanes will help him to manage the gearing of both companies and reduce dilution for shareholders of EWB that includes his son, who is the major shareholder.

Liew says he also does not want to park the London assets under EWB because they are too big for its balance sheet.

Although his stake has diluted from 35.05% in 2013 to 13.52% on March 27, 2015, he is still the major shareholder.

Visionary though he may be, time was on his side when Liew built his previous “priced possession”, which is S P Setia. He built S P Setia over the years at a more even pace while the momentum and task he faces today with regards to the Eco World Group has been nothing short but blistering.

Within two years, the company has accumulated 5,396 acres with a GDV of about RM55bil. Debts was up at RM1.15bil as at Jan 31, 2015, from RM215mil in September 30, 2014. (Sept 2013: RM52mil). EWB completed a rights issue raising RM800mil and will undertake a placement. At the end of the corporate exercise, EWB’s gearing will be less than 0.6 times and it will be sitting on a pile of cash that will be used for working capital to develop the massive land bank here.

Liew says he received a lot of offers to work with landowners.

“People ask, why so aggressive? It’s because of the brand. We want to charge ahead in Malaysia. We are using up about 800 acres a year.”

Dealt a good hand

Although Liew has been dealt a good hand in his working life, he may be losing another priced project, all within two years.

As he goes about tying up loose ends on the Battersea chairmanship, a legacy from S P Setia days, and finishing the restructuring in EWB by the end of this month, questions about conflicts of interest have surfaced.

The Battersea Power Station is a 40:40:20 project with S P Setia and Sime Darby holding equal share and EPF remaining 20%.

“When I resigned from S P Setia in April 2014, the Battersea board suggested I wait till September 2015. At that time, there was no Eco World Ballymore (Holding Co Ltd, a developer of the three projects) yet.”

The private vehicle belonging to Liew and Voon – Eco World Investment – has a 75% stake in EcoWorld-Ballymore while UK-based Ballymore Group owning the rest.

At about June of last year, he declared to the board of Battersea of his interest to go into property development in Britain. He was told to wait.

Six months later in January this year, Liew and Voon went public with their 75% stake in the UK-Malaysia joint venture. At that point, he felt “obligated to resign” but was told to wait.

“We have three projects which may seem to be competing with Battersea Power Station although in terms of price point, they are priced differently.”

The latest Battersea Phase 3A units are priced at £1,700 per sq ft while the EcoWorld-Ballymore units are being sold at about £1,000 per sq ft. About 90% of the EcoWorld Ballymore units will be less than £1mil.

Ironically, a vexing issue confronting Liew these days is his chairmanship of Battersea. The roots of the situation he is caught in today can be traced to his entrepreneurship that created Malaysia’s biggest property company that he lost control to Permodalan Nasional Bhd – after a protracted corporate exercise which started in 2011.

Liew, however, is still capable and motivated to use his set of skills to further create value for himself and those around him. But the dichotomy is between duty and interest.

“I do not want to offend anyone anymore. But I (also) feel duty bound,” says Liew.

The Battersea project, which is Liew’s brainchild when he was in S P Setia, has several key milestones in the next one year.

Phase one of the project will be handed over to buyers next year. Work on Malaysian Square – the pride and joy of Malaysia – has just started. Work on London’s underground Northern Line extension, which connects to Battersea, begins this year. These milestones will help the investment to appreciate.

The British authorities are concerned about the reconstruction of the four white chimneys and the restoration of the power station brickwork. So Battersea has quite a bit of important obligations to meet in the next one year and it cannot afford any slip-ups.

“I am under a lot of pressure … Morally, I should resign. But when I buy (my land in London), I also declare (to the board). I am duty bound to declare on the grounds of good governance. At the same time, I am also duty-bound as chairman because this year is crucial for the Battersea.

“I am trying to get out of this (situation) because I want to reduce the areas of conflict between myself, the Government and everybody else. I have lost S P Setia and I should gentlemanly give up (Battersea),” says Liew.

Time will only provide an answer.

With London mayor Boris Johnson ending his term in 2016 – and considering Liew has a good working relationship with him – there are are more than several reasons for shareholders of Battersea to continue to retain him for another year as chairman. Before works such as the construction of the underground station and reconstruction of white chimneys take off, there is a lot of interaction with the London authorities, something that is not easy to cultivate.

Interest versus duty

Whatever the outcome of his Battersea chairmanship, there are at least two broad contentious issues here. His fiduciary responsibility and duty of care is one. Liew has taken that duty seriously and returned value for that which was entrusted to him. The second issue is his skill set. Life has obviously given Liew a good card, despite his losses.

Now, the question that arises is if he should wait if opportunities come, complete all ties with Battersea and S P Setia before embarking on new ventures that may not come knocking every day?

Every day, directors are offered various opportunities which conflict with their fiduciary duty. Often times, the fiduciary duty of directors, parallel to trustees, can be onerous. But the law is the law.

Yet, in many ways, Liew’s situation is parallel to a 1978 case of Queesland Mines Ltd v Hudson. The company Queensland Mines was an iron ore mining company that established as a joint venture between A Ltd and F Ltd. Hudson was the managing director of A Ltd and had negotiated with the Tasmanian government for mining licences.

Just before the licences were issued, Hudson’s joint-venture partner ran into financial difficulties and was unable to proceed with the venture.

Hudson resigned, taking the licences with him, and formed his own company. At considerable risk and expense, Hudson exploited the licences and earned profits. Queensland later filed a suit against Hudson for what it claimed was abusing his position to divert opportunties for himself.

However, the courts ruled that although the opportunity to make profits came to Hudson through his position at Queensland Mines and was something that the board was made aware of, Hudson was not in a position of conflict.

The position Hudson was prior to 1978 is the predicament Liew faces today. In both these cases, the contention boils down to timing and turn of events.

If one were to consider the big picture and balance out the events surrounding Liew in the last four years, should he not be allowed to exploit the resources due to him because of his skills and expertise? Or should he be shackled by time and ties, despite having added value to those he has been entrusted with? That would be unfair to Liew.


The legacy issue – passing the baton to the right person

AT the spanking new Eco World International Centre in the Gardens office block in Kuala Lumpur recently, a photo session was in progress. There was a light-hearted camaraderie in the air.

Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin and his top management were present, all of them in their white Nehru-collared shirt with green trimmings.

The photo session was as much symbolic as telling. It was as if to say: “These are the people I will need to grow Eco World Development Group Bhd (EWB).”

With a staff strength of about 800, about 300 of them were from Liew’s previous company S P Setia Bhd. Despite the market conditions working against the property sector and crushing issues confronting him, Liew was his usual warm, confident self.

A lot of this has to do with the people around him. Liew was named chairman in March and his right-hand man Datuk Voon Tin Yow, previously from S P Setia, joined the group officially as executive director.

A notable addition was newbie Liew Tian Xiong, 24, bright-eyed and smiling. He first surfaced in 2013 and has been seen as a proxy of his father. The presence of that young man has changed the landscape for Liew.

Passing the baton

It is a legacy issue. As one considers the property sector, a number of the country’s developers have in one way or another paved their sons and daughters to join Dad.

There is Datuk N.K. Tong, 47, group managing director of Bukit Kiara Properties Sdn Bhd who joined Datuk Alan Tong, who is known as Condo King for his work in Sunrise Bhd’s Mont’Kiara.

It was the elder Tong who saw the potential of the area, then Segambut and bought 100 acres there. Over the years, Mont’Kiara has progressed to become a thriving suburb and is currently considered as “an aspirational location” among the young.

Ken Holdings Bhd group managing director Sam Tan, 35, joined his father Datuk Kenny Tan. That was 2004, and he was 24.

Over at the Sunway group, Sarena Cheah, 40, the daughter of Sunway Bhd founder Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah and anointed successor, will assume full control of the group’s key property unit effective May 1. She may well have been the youngest to join Dad, when she was just 20, in 1995. She started out in the corporate finance and group internal audit divisions.

Passing the baton cannot be done overnight. There is a lot of planning to do. There is also the task of moulding and nurturing the right person for the job and looking over the shoulder of the young person to ensure they are constantly on the straight and narrow. If there are more than one, then there is the selection process of who will take up the position of annointed successor.

After the painful lesson of having lost S P Setia, Liew would clearly circumspect legacy and stewardship issues.

Which takes this story to next level.

Who is working for who?

The years of passing the baton may be painful, for both parties. This explains why the years of preparation are so crucial before the final moment of actually handing over the reins. In each of the three cases – N.K., Sam and Sarena – the children joined Dad and allowed themselves to be moulded.

Which takes us to the next question.

Is Tian Xiong working for Dad, or is Dad working for Tian Xiong?

Every parent wants the best for their children and Liew is no exception.

By joining the company now, Tian Xiong will have “the history” of the company. But will he be able to take on turbulent times?

He ponders: “It’s a pressure cooker here.”

If the staff do not accept him, he will never be the “real boss”, says Liew.

Of late, Liew has been keeping the young man closely by his side.

The rationale, says Liew is that, whatever Tian Xiong had learned in EWB in the last two years, he would take years to learn outside. So he better learn fast and learn now.

Stewardship

It is not just passing the baton. It is stewardship.

Says Tian Xiong after Liew steps out of the room: “Every night, from 9 to 10pm, he would nag me about how I dress, my tie, what time I get into office, how long I took for lunch and what I did after lunch. And other larger office and market issues.

“He also told me that I have to earn it, that it is not going to drop on me, that I have other siblings,” says Tian Xiong.

On whether he was pressured into returning to Malaysia from Melbourne where he graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne, Australia, he says he returned on his own free will.

The young man first surfaced in 2013 as a buyer for a little known company Focal Aims Holdings Bhd. His emergence “caused a tsunami” because during that period, there was many questions as to Liew’s move.

Tian Xiong started out in corporate finance department for the first two years and is currently in corporate marketing.

By Thean Lee Cheng The Star/Asia News Network

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Malaysia’s richest four poorer by RM13b


Their net worth hit by challenging economic outlook and slump in oil prices

PETALING JAYA: The country’s top four tycoons in the latest Forbes Malaysia Rich List are “poorer” by a total of US$3.6bil (RM12.9bil) with last year’s challenging economic out­­look shrinking their wealth, ­albeit slightly.

Robert Kuok, 91, who controls a business empire which includes palm oil, shipping, media, hotels and real estate, topped the list for the 10th year in a row with an estimated net worth of US$11.3bil (RM40.5bil) as of February, down US$200mil (RM720mil) from 2013.

In second place was telecommunications tycoon T. Ananda Krishnan whose wealth is valued at US$9.7bil (RM35bil), a drop of US$1.6bil (RM5.7bil) from the previous year, with third spot taken by property mogul and Hong Leong Group chairman Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan with a net worth of US$5.6bil (RM20bil), down US$800mil (RM2.8bil).

Genting Malaysia Bhd chairman and chief executive Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, who runs casinos in the Bahamas, London, Singapore, Manila and New York besides the home-grown casino in Genting Highlands, claimed fourth place with a net worth of US$5.5bil (RM19.8bil), down US$1bil (RM3.6bil).

“The wealth of some on the list was affected as the local stock market lost steam and the oil price collapse sent the Malaysian ringgit down 10% against the dollar,” according to a statement issued by the business magazine after the release of its latest rankings.

The statement said Ananda’s net worth decreased partly due to a slump in the shares of Bumi Armada Bhd, his offshore oilfield services provider, while Lim’s wealth was affected as China’s economic moderation affected the region’s casino gaming and entertainment sector.

The statement said tycoons with significant investments and ties to the oil sector also suffered a decline in their net worth.

SapuraKencana Petroleum Bhd vice-chairman Tan Sri Mokhzani Ma­­­­ha­­thir was knocked out of the billionaire’s list this year as his estimated net worth fell by US$500mil (RM1.8bil) to US$700mil (RM2.5bil).

The main investors in Sapura­Ken­cana – brothers Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin and Datuk Shahriman – also saw their fortunes drop to US$860mil (RM3.1bil) from a reported US$1.4bil (RM5bil) the year before.

It was not all bad news for some Malaysian tycoons as a weaker ringgit boosted exports.

Tan Sri Lau Cho Kun, who heads Hap Seng Consolidated Bhd, made it to the billionaire ranks with a net worth of US$1.08bil (RM3.8bil) on the back of robust plantation and trading revenues.

Software tycoon Goh Peng Ooi, the founder and executive chairman of Silverlake Group, saw his net worth rise by US$450mil (RM1.6bil) to US$1.55bil (RM5.5bil).

– The Star Asia News Network

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The life force to Koreans: hiking the fabulous Koreas’ mountains


Korea's mountainsMore spell-binding Korean landscapes are found beyond Seoul in the Seoraksan mountain range.

Mountain culture and customs are hot-wired into the lives of each Korean. What better way to get under their skin than to hike together with them?SOUTH Korea lies along a peninsula that is hugely mountainous, with a spinal ridge running for 735 km from the DMZ boundary in the north to the East China Sea down south.

This mountain range has monumental relevance to the people of Korea as it is believed to provide the life force to the nation: its arterial rivers drain seawards, bearing sustenance for the inhabitants living in the lowlands. Many historical events that occurred on these mountains have been documented whilst just as many myths and folklore have been re-told over generations.

For the tourist, hiking the mountains of the Korean peninsula would seem like a natural activity, to immerse in the culture of this dynamic country.

The terrain is not high, the tallest peak being Cheonhwangbong at 1,915m, in Jirisan National Park, at the southern tip of the range. The next highest peak is Daecheongbong, 1,708m in altitude, squatting on Seoraksan National Park diametrically to the north.

The ranges are inter-linked through a series of hiking trails, following the ridge line closely and crisscrossing valleys and rivers. Temples, villages, farms and shelters dot the hills.

Soothing: The scenic mountain ranges of Korea are rich in bio-diversity. The N Seoul Tower is a popular tourist attraction. Go early to avoid the long queues for the cable car.

Such an eco-system has made mountain hiking a national pastime that is likely to overtake taekwando in popularity as a sport. There’s also a whole line of Korean celebrity fashion wear for hikers. Unfortunately, for the tourist, not much promotional information on hiking is available from official tourism literature.

It would take a lifetime to explore the legendary mountains of Korea and we had limited time to spare before our wedding anniversary celebration back in Seoul.

Day trip to Seoraksan

We took a 3-hour bus ride to Sokcho, a tourist town on the north-eastern coast of the Korean peninsula and an entry point into Seoraksan National Park.

The park showcases the Seorak mountain range, and is loved by the locals for its natural beauty and bio-diversity. Hikers come to marvel at the uncanny ruggedness of the “Dinosaur Ridge” and soak up the fables of the mountains’ origins.

There are many trails up picturesque Seoraksan, numerous short ones requiring half-day’s effort and several longer routes that are more than 10km in distance.

A good option for tourists is to hop on the cable car, not far from the Visitor Information Office, and catch a ride up to Gwongeumseong Fortress at a height of about 900 m. This was the option we selected together with a long queue of like-minded tourists. We reached the counter at 10.30am but all tickets were sold out.

Without wasting any more time, we opened the map, picked out what looked like an easy route and headed out to Biseondae Cliff.

It was only 2.3km one-way and took us through a forested area, tracing a path beside a gushing stream. The fresh air and fine drizzle made the pace invigorating.

 Many eateries are found along the trails of the park.

We skirted a pool of crystalline water at the bottom of a huge rock face, which I took to be Biseondae Cliff, and crossed a short bridge whereupon the trail ended abruptly at a locked gate. Beyond laid wilderness that could be experienced only with a permit from the ranger’s office. We clambered up a rocky slope and joined some hikers on a break.

“Where are you from?” queried the ajeossi (middle-aged man). I told him we were from Malaysia, as I shared a chocolate bar with his 10-year old son. I remarked that the scenery here had a mystical and mysterious air.

He nodded, “Ah, as mysterious as the disappearance of your airplane”. I guess he was referring to MH370. We both nodded and sighed. They wished us a good trip and moved on. We stayed a while to admire the view of the distant peaks framed in by the hillside trees. On our way down we stopped by a tea house. Bibimbap downed with a hot bowl of miso soup tasted a lot better here than in the lowlands.

We dozed on the bus back to Seoul. That chilly night in Seoul, we captured our last “high” at the N Seoul Tower, atop Namsan. Standing 236m tall, the tower accords a night scene of the city.

We were feeling pretty tired, but fulfilled. So, I suggested we take the cable car up instead of climbing the stairs. I didn’t hear any objections.

Hiking near Seoul

THE view from Bugaksan might have been more panoramic if not for the faint haze hanging over the “ancient quarters” of Seoul that April morning.

To the south-west, we could just make out the hillock of Inwangsan and the colourful string of hikers inching up its summit trail, while afar north, the rocky peaks of Bukhansan glared in the sun.

Seoul, the 600-year old capital city of South Korea, is encircled by a fortress wall that links four surrounding hills, Bugaksan, Ingwangsan, Namsan and Naksan. Of these, Bugaksan is the tallest at 342m and is located in the neighbourhood of Samcheong-dong, majestically overlooking Cheongwadae (Blue House), the President’s official residence and office.

We had taken the northern route of the fortress wall, entering through Hyehwamun Gate, muddling through a residential area up a steep incline, and, with some orienteering instinct, located the path that followed the ancient stone wall, leading us up a hill of cherry trees.

Due to its proximity with the Blue House, this section of the trail requires foreigners (who are called “aliens” in official documents here) to sign in at Malbawi Station with their passports (or “Alien Registration Card”) and sign-out at Changuimun Station.

Guards are posted at intervals within eye-shot of hikers. One young cadet approached me to view my camera photos and requested some to be deleted. The pictures were mainly landscape shots, mostly bird’s eye views of the city, which didn’t look pretty anyway, back-lit by the morning sun.

It was a quarter past eleven when we arrived at the top of Bugaksan. The guard, more militia than forest ranger, had been monitoring the growing crowd at the plot, and sternly ushered any lingerers to move on. No picnic here, literally, just pictures.

The Koreans are actually a helpful and friendly lot. On the way up we had approached more than a few ajumma (“aunty”) for directions and they were profuse with their assistance; expressive hand gestures and finger pointing, and a continuous barrage of verbal directions, delivered in Korean.

We nodded our gamsa-hamnida (“thank you”) and they gleefully let us off. Still clueless, we were comforted to know that at least we were in hospitable country.

The descent to Changuimun was unexpectedly steep, and the high steps slowed the pace somewhat. Overall, the hike was enjoyable, requiring just three hours, which left us plenty of time to slip back downtown for another helping of sumptuous Korean spicy soup.

By Lee Meng Lai The Star/Asia News Network

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Living life to the fullest


living-life-to-the-fullest
Chan, an avid mountaineer and myelofibrosis patient, with a photo of himself (in red jacket) and fellow climbers at the summit of Mount Kinabalu. Photo: UU BAN/The Star >>

Despite having a rare blood disorder, Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak not only continued his active lifestyle , but also took up mountain-climbing.

FORMER Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak’s motto in life is to live it to the fullest.

Not surprising then that among his many accomplishments are two Malaysian Book of Records titles as the oldest Malaysian to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak (on Aug 31, 2003, at the age of 70) and the oldest Malaysian to reach the top of Mount Kinabalu’s King George Peak (on Aug 29, 2004, at the age of 71).

Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world (from sea level) and the tallest mountain in Africa, while King George Peak is located on the more challenging and lessclimbed Eastern Plateau of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.

What makes these two records more significant – aside from the impressive fact that Chan only took up mountain-climbing in his sixties – is that he was suffering from a rare bone marrow disorder at the same time.

His condition, primary myelofibrosis, is one of a group of diseases called myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are caused by abnormal production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

In the case of myelofibrosis, the problem lies in the abnormally-increased production of megakaryocytes, which are the cells that directly give rise to platelets. This results in an initial increased number of platelets in the body.

Cytokines – protein growth factors that are produced by megakaryocytes – are also correspondingly increased.

And as these cytokines are what stimulate the bone marrow’s fibroblasts to produce collagen, this results in an excessive amount of collagen being made.

The collagen deposits in the bone marrow as webs of fibre – similar to scar tissue on the skin – resulting in the disease’s characteristic fibrosis of the bone marrow.

With the collagen taking up so much space in the bone marrow, regular blood cell production is disrupted.

Red blood cells (RBCs) are usually decreased in number and abnormally formed, resulting in anaemia, while white blood cells (WBCs) are abnormal and immature, resulting in increased infection rates.

With production of blood cells in the bone marrow disrupted, the spleen, which is the body’s secondary supplier of blood cells, steps up to meet the body’s needs.

This extra work usually causes the spleen to enlarge (splenomegaly), resulting in pain or a feeling of fullness below the left rib.

Occurring commonly in those above 50 years of age, myelofibrosis is caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation (i.e. not inherited) in the affected person’s blood stem cells. This is what causes the uncontrolled production of megakaryocytes.

The cause of the mutation itself in primary myelofibrosis is, as yet, unknown.

Accidental discovery

As the symptoms of myelofibrosis, like fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, frequent infections and easy bruising, are quite vague, diagnosis can be quite difficult.

In Chan’s case, he did not notice any signs or symptoms of myelofibrosis prior to his diagnosis.

In fact, it was a combination of a road accident and his wife, Puan Sri Cecelia Chia’s sharp eyes that alerted them to the possibility of a problem.

He shares: “My son gave me a racing bike for my 60th birthday – that was 21 years ago. So, I used to cycle around. Then, I met with a road accident.”

Chan was cycling along the narrow, winding roads of his hillside residential area in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, when he suddenly met an oncoming car.

With no space to avoid the car, he braked hard and was thrown to the ground in a head-first fall.

“My helmet broke and I thought I would be paralysed. My friend, who is a doctor, straightaway rang up the hospital and they sent the ambulance,” he says.

Fortunately, Chan suffered no major injuries from the accident.

However, his cardiologist son insisted that he be checked more thoroughly for brain injuries, which resulted in him seeing a neurologist.

While his brain turned out to be fine, his wife noticed that his platelet count from the blood test were quite high – between 600,000 to 700,000 platelets per cubic millimetre, when the upper limit for normal is 400,000.

His son then sent him to consultant haematologist Dr Ng Soo Chin, who prescribed hydroxyurea to bring down his platelet count.

That seemed to work quite well for Chan, and it was, in fact, shortly after this that he began mountain-climbing with a group of fellow MBA (Masters of Business Administration) alumni from Tenaga Nasional Bhd.

Chan was then a director of the company, and had gone to Ohio University, United States, to study his MBA along with other Tenaga Nasional executives.

“So, as I climbed, I continued to take hydroxyurea and everything was normal.

“But Soo Chin said, hydroxyurea will eventually bring down your red corpuscles (another term for RBCs), and recommended anagrelide,” he says. Anagrelide is a platelet-reducing agent.

Accelerating disease

Chan continued happily with the two medications, until the year 2011, 18 years after his initial diagnosis.

By then, he was seeing consultant haematologist Datuk Dr Chang Kian Meng at Hospital Ampang, Selangor, as Dr Ng had advised him to continue his follow-ups at a public hospital as his medications are quite expensive.

Chan shares that Dr Chang started him on epoetin alfa and pegylated interferon that year as his blood cell levels were fluctuating.

While interferon decreases the production of blood cells in general, epoetin alfa stimulates the production of RBCs to counteract the effects of anaemia.

However, his haemoglobin levels dropped even further, and he started requiring blood transfusions about once every two months.

The transfusions made a big difference as he reports feeling “very energetic” after receiving the first one. (Fatigue is a common symptom of anaemia.)

The following year, it was the WBCs turn to go “completely haywire”, when a blood test revealed that they had dramatically increased to about 56 from the regular range of about 4 to 10.

He also started experiencing profuse night sweats and cramps, along with the occasional itchiness that had started in his seventies – all of which are among the symptoms of myelofibrosis.

“Then, both Dr Chang and Soo Chin agreed that I had entered into myelofibrosis in acceleration,” he says.

The only cure for myelofibrosis is a bone marrow transplant, but aside from the difficulty of finding a suitable donor and the riskiness of the procedure, Chan’s age rendered him unsuitable for such a treatment.

Fortunately for him, a new drug had recently been approved by both the European Commission and the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in myelofibrosis at that time.


A new drug

The drug, ruxolitinib, inhibits certain enzymes in the JAK pathway, which regulates blood cell production. Half of primary myelofibrosis cases are caused by mutations in the JAK genes, which results in the dysfunctional production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

However, the drug was not available in Malaysia then. (It was only launched in the Malaysian market in 2013.)

This is where his political connections as a Gerakan life member and former secretary-general came in useful.

Then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon offered to help pass on the letter Chan had written to the Health Ministry requesting approval to use the drug on compassionate grounds, to the Health secretary-general.

Four days later, Chan received the approval he needed, and received his first dose of ruxolitinib in October 2012.

Since then, after some adjustments in dosage, Chan’s blood cells are back in the normal range and his last transfusion was in December 2013.

He is currently doing well enough for his doctor to lower his dosage of ruxolitinib, while still taking epoetin alfa and interferon.

Life goes on as normal for this active 81-year-old, who still climbs hills, reads newspapers of various languages and blogs daily, works out in the gym and does regular morning calisthenics.

Of his condition, Chan shares that he never felt the need to know about the disease, being only interested in his blood test results.

“I didn’t know what myelofibrosis was all about until I was asked to do this interview. That was the first time I went into Google to see what was myelofibrosis,” he says with a laugh.

“But I knew it was a dangerous disease, but I wasn’t bothered. I continued to carry on with my normal life.”

He adds: “I’m not bothered with what happens because I have full trust in my doctors.

By Tan shiow China The Star/ANN

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Regulating energy flow of a house with Vasthu Sastra principles


Vasthu Sastra_Energy flow_land_house

Cuts or voids in certain quadrants of a property can have negative effects on occupants.

CUTS on a piece of land or on the physical structure of a property can distort the flow of subtle energy, thereby affecting the wellbeing of the occupants of that space.

This is highlighted in Vasthu Sastra, the ancient science of architecture, which urges practitioners to build, design and renovate houses and buildings to be in harmony with their surroundings.

At my talk during The Star Property Fair at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre last Sunday, issues related to irregular shapes of land and buildings dominated questions at my presentation on Vasthu Sastra and pyramids.

Members of the audience were seeking answers as to why they were facing challenges after moving into properties that were not square or rectangular in shape.

The space we occupy, whether permanent or temporary, is actually a representation of a miniature Earth and we must be in harmony with the energies that govern the space to enjoy favourable health, peace, happiness and prosperity.

According to Vasthu principles, the eight compass directions of each property are governed by a planet that has specific influences on the occupants’ health, mood and welfare.

What is vital here is to prevent defects like cuts and extensions in these quadrants because the outcome will be adverse.

The north is ruled by Jupiter and if a property has a void in this quadrant, the occupants will not enjoy good fortune, incurring more expenditure than they receive income.

This is because the powerful planet is associated with prosperity, foreign travel and merrymaking.

North-east is associated with Mercury, which controls the education, spirituality, communication and growth of any individual. A defect in this sacred sector will hinder growth and success.

East is ruled by Venus and disruptions here will impede the dwellers’ beauty, comfort and affection towards people.

1. Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.
2.Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.
Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.

Master Yuvaraj placing a Vasthu yantra on one of the eight corners of a piece of land to correct defective energy flow.

South-east is associated with the Moon which is linked with mood and emotions, and any shortcomings in this sector will result in the occupants having a disturbed character and difficulty in getting along with people.

South is ruled by the aggressive planet Mars and its characteristics are related to the muscular system. Faults in this quadrant can lead to occupants experiencing hypertension and longevity issues.

South-west, a powerful quadrant in Vasthu for married couples, is associated with relationships and is influenced by the celestial planet Rahu (dragon head).

A cut in this area will disrupt the conjugal relationship and passionate impulse that should be enjoyed by the husband and wife.

West is controlled by Saturn and a missing quadrant here will result in the dwellers experiencing financial hardship, and an increased likelihood of bone and bladder problems.

Kethu (dragon head) is responsible for liberation and any imperfection in the north-west sector will upset wisdom and give rise to respiratory problems.

According to my 7th generation Vasthu master Yuvaraj Sowma, the defects can be corrected by acquiring the missing space or realigning the land or structure to make them a perfect shape.

People should be careful when acquiring a property and should avoid irregular-shaped properties because it can sometimes be challenging to bring them into a rectangular or square shape.

For land and buildings that cannot be corrected physically, master Yuvaraj suggested the use of the ancient Vasthu yantra remedy which involves the placement of eight mystical silver diagrams in the eight corners of the property.

The sacred object has the power to negate the inauspicious effects of Vasthu faults in a property.

The rectification ceremony is to appease the planets with the vibrations of the energised objects that have similar qualities to chanted mantras – that is, to restore balance to the energy of a location.

This can be done before construction of the property to correct the irregular land shape, or after occupants have moved in to rectify the structural defects in the respective corners.

Its purpose, says master Yuvaraj, is to regulate the positive vibrations in the living space by Vasthu yantra, which are buried under the soil.

Vasthu yantra have the power to regulate the positive vibrations in a living space by overcoming malefic effects, thereby giving the residents peace, happiness, good health, improved fortune and spiritual development.

TSelvaT. Selva is the author of the Vasthu Sastra Guide and the first disciple of 7th generation Vasthu Sastra master YuvaViewpoints -Ancient Secrets by T. Selva

Vasthu Sastra talks

T. Selva will present a talk on 2015 astrology forecast and Vasthu Sastra for health, peace and prosperity on Jan 3 at 7.30pm at Shirdi Sai Baba Centre, 10 Jalan Trus, Johor Baru. A similar session will be held on Jan 10 at Shirdi Sai Baba Centre at 27 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. Admission is free. To register, call 012-329 9713.

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