Sailing never gets “old”


Drinking and driving is dangerous and unquestionably do not mix. But when it comes to single malt Scotch whiskies and sailing, that seems to be a whole different story.

Many have won mobiles phones and television sets; luckier ones received a weekend holiday for two; few have walked away with cars and condominiums. Yet, despite the myriad of lucky draws and contests surrounding us each day, those that truly cements a lasting experience are far and few between.

Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta 2014Hence, when International Beverage organised a contest for customers of its Old Pulteney single malt Scotch whisky with a voyage on a sail boat as the carrot, the overwhelming response was understandable. Activated across leading taverns throughout the Klang Valley over a six-week period, the Old Pulteney Maritime Series Party 2014 proved to be an effective campaign for the brand’s owner and for the selected outlets.

“We wanted to do something different from the norm. It’s an exclusive platform which enables the brand to communicate and engage consumers consistently throughout the contest period to drive key brand messages and to serve as a prelude to next year’s larger event activation series,” explains Lydia Yong, sales manager of InterBev Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Established in 2006 as the international arm of ThaiBev, International Beverage specialises in developing distinctive, premium Scotch whiskies, beers, spirits and whiskies for over 85 global markets. Amongst the prominent brands under the group include Chang Beer, Mekhong, Hankey Bannister blended whisky, Caorunn Gin and Old Pulteney single malt Scotch whisky. Its non-alcohol business is driven by the popular Oishi green tea and a portfolio of other water and soft drinks brands.

Voted “World Whisky of the Year” for 2012, Old Pulteney, which is crafted in the coastal town of Wick in Scotland, is widely known as the maritime malt for its long standing support of sailing and maritime adventures across the globe. Extending its reach to Malaysian shores, Old Pulteney was a sponsor of the Cabaret 6 that competed in the recent 2014 Raja Muda Selangor International Regatta (RMSIR).

“This event was perfect for us to as it mirrors the maritime heritage of the brand, as well as provided our customers with the opportunity to win a weekend getaway for two at a 5-star resort including an all-expenses paid trip to Langkawi, and most valuable of all, a memorable experience sailing on the Old Pulteney Cabaret 6 yacht at an international regatta event,” says Yong.

RMR14_2217Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the offshore sailing race was established in 1990 and organised annually by the Royal Selangor Yacht Club in association with the Royal Ocean Racing Club. This edition saw forty yachts, divided across seven classes, and 370 crew members sailing across 418.43km from Port Klang to Langkawi over three overnight passage races and three days of harbour racing.

“The beauty of this event is that it is a wonderful blend of open sea racing, a series of offshore passages combined with inshore races across the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia with stopovers at the three beautiful islands,” points out Old Pulteney Cabaret 6’s skipper Jeremy Camps.

In addition to the racing, which attracts a large variety of yachts, from top class racers to slow classic cruisers dating back over 100 years, the event also provided competitors and guests with nightly regatta dinners and onshore activities.

The RMSIR is the fourth point scoring regatta on the annual Asian Yachting Grand Prix (AYGP), where all the skippers and yachts are awarded points based on their overall placing that goes toward being crowned the 2014-15 AYGP Skipper and Yacht of the Year.

Wind; now you see it, now you don’t

Competing in the Class 4 category, Camps had high hopes leading up to the start in Port Klang. Although his boat did not have the latest technology and top speed to compete head-on with some of the other leading contenders, the 71-year-old skipper was initially confident that his crew of experience hands would be able to help them stay in contention.

“We were looking to be amongst the top three in our class, but as it turns out, the weather was not favourable to us,” says Camps, who is also owner of the 35ft Swedish-made Maxi Mixer boat. “The toughest part of this year’s race was during the passage race from Port Klang to Pangkor where we were greeted with a major downpour, huge waves, lightings and some very chancy conditions. It was really frantic as we all worked like crazy just to keep us afloat.”

True to its reputation as one of the more demanding regattas around the region, the 120.38km route from Pangkor to Langkawi served up a complete different challenge with the wind disappearing at one point, leaving most of the fleet parked out in the water for almost five hours, turning it into one of the slowest passage races in the regatta’s 25-year history.

RajaMudaRegatta-nov2014-0043“There was absolutely nothing we could do, as we just sat, waited nervously and prayed that the wind would return to push us towards the finishing line. It was a very frustrating time for the whole crew as we were doing rather well and could have finished strongly. When the wind did pick up sluggishly, our boat was just too far back,” says Camps, who has been sailing since the age of 14.

Built in 1984, the boat comes across as a nice balanced between a racer and a classic as she proudly shows of its wooden fittings alongside some sleek modern gears. The Briton skipper and his crew of six, which includes 4 Malaysians, are regulars on the Asian circuit. He sees this collaboration with International Beverage as a good platform to further promote sailing to the local communities.

“As we travel across the country, besides promoting our sponsor’s brand, Malaysians are able to see for themselves the different variety of boats and to meet up with us personally to learn more about the sport,” says the 1964 Olympic trialist.

All hands on deck

Thankfully for the four lucky contest winners, they did not have to endure those horrid conditions when it was their turn to take to the seas on the Old Pulteney Cabaret 6. For Ogawa Group executive director Patrick Lim, it was an opportunity that he was dreaming off to accomplish for a very long time. He and his friends were at 32 Bistro Bar in Puchong when he was informed of the contest and ended up purchasing four bottles of Old Pulteney that night.

“When I submitted my details for the contest, I wasn’t confident of winning as I had never won any contest or lucky draws throughout my life. Hence, when the contest organisers informed me that I had won myself the trip, I was initially shocked and could not believe my luck!” remarks the 44-year-old from Petaling Jaya who was first acquainted with the whisky brand five years ago.

Lim, who was accompanied by his wife Cherlyn Seah, said that they both enjoyed the trip, which was very relaxed and although his wife was initially hesitant to board the boat, she was clearly thrilled by the end of the hour-long ride.

“The weather was sunny and the sea was very calm. We had the occasional strong winds but we also got to experience complete stillness when there was no wind at all,” states the father of three.

The couple was joined by another contest winner Datuk Dr Edwen Yew, a property investor who was harbouring plans to get himself a yacht or sail boat prior to the trip.

“I was recently looking around for the right boat so that I can bring my family out to sea and also at times to entertain business clients. But I haven’t had the time to find out more about sailboats and also to speak with boat owners. As such, this event was perfect for me to learn and speak with them,” explains the 36-year-old entrepreneur, who had entered the contest with his purchase of five bottles of Old Pulteney at Bluu Club & Bistro in Mont Kiara.

RMR14_2285Having first tasted the malt a year back, Yew finds the brand well-suited to his taste as it was milder than many others and also has a distinctive aromatic flavour that he and his friends have come to enjoy.

“This outing enabled me to better appreciate sailing as it was great having the chance to steer the boat with my own hands. After this, I’m definitely going to get down to finalising the purchase of my own boat,” reveals Yew who brought along his long-time friend Jimmy Chong.

While it was clear skies and smooth sailing for the lucky four, the winds played to a complete different tune throughout the week-long race, culminated with irregular wind conditions on the final day, which produced some interesting challenges during the harbour races at Kuah Harbour in Langkawi.

In the end, it was local familiarity that enabled defending champion Bill Bremner’s Foxy Lady VI to emerge as the winner of the Raja Muda Cup (Class One). Geoff Hill’s Antipodes won the Jugra Challenge Cup (Class Two) followed by the other classes’ winners Gordon Ketelby’s Fujin (Class Three), Mike Downard’s Piccolo (Class Four), Philip Auger’s Sophia (Class Five), Barry Wickett’s Kay Sira (Class Six) and Rolf Heemskerk’s Hurricane (Class Seven). Fujin was also awarded the Mount Gay Passage Race Award.

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Year-long floating billboard

Old Pulteney had participated at this year’s Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, a record-breaking 40,000 nautical mile (64,000km) race around the world on 70-foot ocean-racing yachts for amateur seafaring enthusiasts.

Stretching over a one-year period from 28 August 2013 to July 2014, the arduous competition started from UK and passed through 16 ports on six continents including French Port of Brest, Rio, Cape Town, Australia, Singapore, Qingdao, San Francisco, Panama, Jamaica and New York, before finishing in London.

As the only race in the world where skippers are supplied with a fleet of 12 identical racing yachts, Old Pulteney, whose crew included retired engineers, taxi drivers and housewives, was amongst the participants at this year’s race, which featured 670 crew members from more than 40 nations.

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Speak like a sailor

  • Port – Facing forward, this is anything to the left of the boat.
  • Starboard – Facing forward, this is anything to the right of the boat.
  • Bow/Stern – The bow is the front of the boat, the stern is the back.
  • Point of sail – The boat’s direction relative to the wind.
  • Helm – Where you steer the boat. Usually this is a big wheel, but on smaller boats it can be a tiller, which is basically a long wooden stick used to control the boat’s rudder.
  • Keel – The keel is a long, heavy fin on the bottom of the boat that sticks down into the water and it provides stability.
  • Heeling – This is the term for when a sailboat leans over in the water, pushed by the wind.
  • Lines: On board a boat, this is what you say instead of “ropes”.
  • Mainsail – The big triangular sail just aft of the sailboat’s mast. As the name suggests, this is the boat’s largest and most important sail.
  • Jib – The next most common sail on any boat. The jib can always be found forward of the mast.

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The man with the hypnotic touch

He wants you to stop smoking; he pushes you to finish a 24-hour run and he urges you to jump of a 421-metre tower. Yet, surprisingly, Malaysians still adores him.  

Julian & Nigel - Hypnosis at the top of the World

Reading Julian Leicester’s qualifications and credentials alone would take an extraordinary mind, and for someone like me with limited intellectual capacity, it may put you in a hypnotic state of mind.

For starters, the spirited 53-year-old is national record holder listed in the Malaysia Book of Records, in addition to having worked with the country’s ice hockey team at the Asian Winter Games in China, the national under-13 football team, contributed towards the training of our athletes at the Southeast Asian Games and was a mental coach for Adidas’s 24-hour Challenge Run.

As a member of UK Register of Advanced Hypnotherapist and armed with a diploma in advance hypnotherapy from Austin Centre in London, Leicester is a certified national service trainer for character building programmes as well as a speaker in numerous national-level health-related initiatives and university campaigns throughout Malaysia.

Previously a regular newspaper columnist, the highly sought after trainer is also the author of “The Science to Quit Smoking”, where he shared his thoughts on his patented S2QS system, a drug and product-free training format approach to quitting smoking based on 10 years of research and development in Malaysia, Holland and the Philippines.

“In 2005, I decided to specialise in quit smoking strategies without drugs. I tell people that hypnosis is like the brake pads in the car. It will stop the habit, yet with implementation of a syllabus of right educational process and measures, it can stop smoking forever rapidly,” testifies Leicester, CEO and subconscious specialist of Hypno Station.

Having amassed his share of accomplishments to date, it is interesting to discover that it was not a planned choice of work at the start of his flourishing career.

“It was by fate that I was introduced to this field. Many years ago, I attended a corporate training and was fascinated by the relaxation techniques that this trainer Peter Ling did. As I inquired about it from him later, Peter told me it was hypnosis and that it was a powerful tool for change and helps in curing some negative conditions like fear and addiction,” recalls Leicester who at that time had a diploma in computer studies from UK and was already a member of the prominent British Computer Society.

Working as an e-business solution architect with a global software company back then, he was going through some personal challenges and was hoping that hypnosis could provide him with some solutions.

“I was instantly interested and made many inquiries to this subject matter. I remember Peter telling me, it’s a much unknown profession in Malaysia then and if I was going to spend that much money to study in London, I had to seriously make sure that I made this career work for study investment sake. It was then that I thought that this was a business career that I could do even when I was 80 years old. All I will need then is a chair and I could still earn a living as a therapist,” he jokes.

Training with the best

Following this career enlightenment, Leicester went to Richmond, London in 2000 to undertake an advance diploma course on hypnotherapy at Austin Training Centre, where he was trained by acclaimed hypnotherapist Valerie Austin, who is also an author of an international series of hypnotherapy books. During this period, he was also trained by Dr Jack Gibson, an Irish surgeon who had done more than 4,000 operations without the use of anesthetic.

Picture 025

“Even back then, hypnosis was rather unknown to Asia. Even in the west, such therapy was learned or taught by experts with years of practice in the field. Many were either famous book authors or show masters,” he says.

Currently the National Chapter leader for hypnotherapy and honorary treasurer of the Malaysian Society for Complimentary Medicine, Leicester believes that his training in London presented him with the much-needed diversified experiences and insightful expressions of the profession’s ideas and techniques that helped groomed him to be among the country’s leading hypnotherapists today.

“In the course, we went through the manuals, case studies and hypnotic practice sessions. Learning hypnosis is not rocket science, but the impact it had, sure was. We had tests, assignments and thesis writing to support being qualified for the certification at the end of the course. Medical specialist like Dr Gibson, and many more were brought in to further teach us on specialised techniques that they themselves had used in real life patients.”

His biggest challenge came upon his return to Malaysia after completing his studies. Having the confidence in his newly acquired skills, he quit his IT job and started Hypno Station. He remembers that all of his IT vendor friends used to say that “Julian has gone to join the circus, doing this hypno something stuff!”

Leicester, who holds a certificate in intensive sports psychology from USM, recalls the harsh beginnings of his practice: “Starting a therapy business was so unknown to Malaysia then. Those days, the medical profession called it ‘quack practice’, and people were always saying to me ‘Don’t look at my eyes’ or ‘It’s against my religion’. I almost starved!”

Deciding that the only way he could educate people on hypnotherapy – and to earn a living — was to write about his profession in the newspaper. His break came when as a regular newspaper columnist, he was soon appearing in numerous radio and TV shows, as well as received invitations to lecture at public universities.

“I had a major advantage then; people have never seen a real life hypnotist and just mentioning what I do will always get me crowded by people with questions and fascination about hypnosis,” he says.

Today, with clients from across the region and as far as China, Middle East and Europe, Leicester owes his practice’s biggest leap to the “Your Heightness” seminar conducted in Menara Kuala Lumpur in 2003 for those with fear of heights.

“It was a first of its type in Asia and a world-class seminar never done before at the fourth tallest tower in the world then. We took 40 phobic sufferers to a one-day hypnosis therapy seminar and then asked them to look down from 431-metres high. We had 100% results with the participants,” he says of the event, which he was subsequently recognised with an admission into the Malaysia Book of Records.

Smoke-free nation

Not one to rest on his laurels, Leicester approached his next calling with a strong sense of purpose. In 2004, he started You1Quit.com, an innovative corporate quit smoking consultancy and training provider specialising in getting rid of cigarette addiction, while increasing productivity and an innovating workplace environment.

julian cigarette slayer 2013

“Quit smoking was truly an unexpected challenge and getting evidence-based millage took some time to achieve. Getting smokers to come for therapy was not an easy task and this specialisation in quit smoking cost me personal savings and sacrifices to implement, especially to the public, as we did many ground-breaking and pioneer public anti-smoking seminars and corporate training with hypnosis,” re reveals.

A registered hypnotherapist with Association of Hypnotherapy Practitioners Malaysia, which is the official hypnotherapist umbrella body under the Ministry of Health, it is his aspiration that one day You1Quit.com will be the official country rollout programme to teach smokers the will to quit smoking.

“Many people, including top ministry officials have told me not to give up on my quit smoking quest and innovation as it’s an original programme, has delivered consistent results and an iconic Malaysian innovation to the world. I dream of the day that our Prime Minister will launch it as a national quit smoking education programme for schools, corporations and youth camps,” he expresses.

“My greatest challenge has always been funding R&D and convincing corporate Malaysia to spend CSR to help their staff quit smoking. Today this program is HRDF-claimable and more companies are looking at its potential to create healthy leaders at work and reduce cigarette breaks for productivity during work hours,” he remarks.

These days, Leicester and his team at Hypno Station are kept busy with continuous invitations to speak at international conferences and public health symposiums. “Today my primary job function is still hypnotherapy. Over the years, our clients have come mainly through word of mouth and internet search engines.”

For those inspired to follow on Leicester’s footsteps, he advices: “Hypnotherapy is a healing and motivating therapy. It’s a rapid tool to change paradigm thinking and focus of limiting and negative thoughts.”

“The traits that a person should have to be a good hypnotherapist is self-confident and determination. Common sense and creativity is very important in dealing with symptoms. Good control of language, proper voice craft and the right usage of hypnotic scripts for intervention will determine the percentages to success.”

Adding further, he urges those who want to venture into this field of work to stay focused. “I believe to build a good brand is to be consistent, innovative and continuing to fulfil the brand promises. I have never ventured on anything other than being related to hypnosis.”


Chief stays brave and strong

It may be 113-year-old and played a role in two World Wars, but this iconic American two-wheeler is still riding loud and strong into the heart of millions of fans around the globe.

360_Classic_Indian_Red_Final_v06.0001       RedVintageWarehouse-018 Mention the name Indian Motorcycle to most of your office colleagues and very likely you will be greeted with a blank stare followed presumably by questions pertaining to its country of origin. Unless he knows more about fairings, sissy bars, jiffy and binders than the latest football scores, he would likely not be acquainted with one of America’s most legendary and iconic motorcycle brands.

First introduced into the Malaysian market in 2011 by Harmony Fabulous Sdn Bhd, the brand is steeped in history and its’ achievements in racing, engineering and industry innovations are well documented, including being America’s first motorcycle company that rolled out American-made motorcycles featuring innovative chain drives back in 1901, to the introduction of the first V-twin motorcycle in 1907.

BlackClassic 13384Since the early days of having 3,000 employees working on a seven-mile assembly line in the company’s one million sq ft plant in Massachusetts, the brand has endured as many challenges as it has achievements, including several changes in ownership.

Today, under the stable of Polaris Industries Inc, which took on Indian Motorcycle three years ago as a wholly-owned subsidiary, the brand is seeking to reignite the passion for its products. Polaris is a recognised name in the powersports industry in North America and holds more than 350 worldwide patents via designing and manufacturing high quality off-road vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles and on-road electric/hybrid powered vehicles.

Polaris first ventured in the bike industry when it unveiled Victory in 1998, becoming the first American motorcycle brand to be designed and manufactured in 50 years. Victory has now become the second-largest seller of heavyweight bikes in the world behind Harley-Davidson.

Indian Motorcycle enthusiasts and collectors have come to associate the brand with expert craftsmanship in producing exquisite, streamlined machines which elude a classic style that is truly timeless. The oldest American motorcycle brand is steadily building its presence over here in our shores as it seeks out new adventurers to add to its global community.

“The extremely high growth rate in the cruiser and superbike segments of the Malaysia market indicates that there is a growing demand for such vehicles.  The last two years alone has seen high double digit growth in this segment,” says Maxime Vandereyken, Asia distribution manager for Polaris Industries Inc.

Maxime Vandereyken_4According to Vandereyken, the current market size for the Malaysian market for the above 500cc range is approximately 5,000 units, while for the easy rider and cruise market sector, Indian Motorcycle holds around 8% to 10% market share. He states that the company has set out to achieve a 10% market share in the above 500cc market segment.

Vandereyken adds: “We have set out to capture the heart, soul and legendary heritage of this iconic American brand and then infuse it with unparalleled design, engineering and state-of-the-art technology. The broad design history of the Indian brand gives the team at Polaris huge latitude. The possibilities are copious for the manufacturing giant, well known for its sixty years of masterful engineering, heartland values and workforce that shares the same values, passions and enthusiasm.”

The brand has unveiled an impressive new line-up that Vandereyken claims is priced at 30% lower than the selling price prior to the acquisition by Polaris. First up is the development of the three 2014 Indian Chiefs, which took the design and engineering team a mere 27 months to develop from the ground. Powering every 2014 Indian Motorcycle is the clean sheet design of the new Thunder Stroke 111 engine offering 111 cubic inches of pavement pounding power.

Details 13751“The team started from scratch and created the ideal engine for the new generation of Indian Motorcycle. It’s smooth, efficient, and powerful. The Thunder Stroke 111 is a 49-degree, air-cooled V-twin with 6-speed overdrive transmission and features unmatched,” highlights Vandereyken,

The Frenchman adds that the brand offers owners the peace-of-mind that comes from over two million miles of on-road, including dyno and on-road evaluation, and test-lab verification plus Polaris’ 60 years of engineering expertise.

The other aspect of the brand is its exclusive community of bikers known as the Indian Motorcycle Riders Group (IRG). The IRG will boast a host of privileges and services, and will form a common platform for riders to meet, socialise, share “war stories”, ride and adventure together. Regular riders, excursions and events, within and outside the country will be organised by the IRG committee, supported by Indian Motorcycle Malaysia and by Indian Motorcycle in the USA.

“The key objective of the IRG is to provide a service upon which riders may depend on for the easy organising of their riding hobby and be in contact with other Indian Motorcycle owners.  The IRG will be part of a worldwide organisation spanning the globe and allows communication and joint activities across borders,” says Vandereyken, adding that the brand is distributed in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Brunei, and will set foot in Singapore and Philippines by year end.

Besides revving up a premium bike, looking good is also another important aspect for thoroughbred bikers. The company is also offering a full range of accessories to support the customising of their rides.

Details 13754“Customising and making the bike a reflection of the rider’s personality has never been easier.  Accessory options include stage 1 mufflers, performance air filters, upgrades to tuning, a range of floorboards and footpegs, hand controls, backrests and sissy-bars,” remarks Vandereyken.

To top it all off, Indian Motorcycles has created an entire range of garments, riding gear, accessories and other collectables, which reflect its branding, style and heritage. He declares: “Emphasis is given to wearability and functionality in all riding gear without compromising on safety and protection. These and stylishly designed garments allow Indian motorcycle owners to wear and display the oldest and most prestigious American motorcycle brand in the world. A clear and obvious distinction that sets Indian motorcycle riders apart from all other “easy-riders” in the world.”

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Malaysian touch to a legend

BlackVintage 7999Established in 2011, Harmony Fabulous Sdn Bhd – a company under the Naza group, which also distributes other motorcycle brands including Harley Davidson, Ducati and Vespa – is currently the sole importer and distributor for the Indian Motorcycle and Victory brand of motorcycles in Malaysia.

Located at Temasya Square in Glenmarie, Shah Alam, its main showroom is a full-fledged 3S service centre manned by a team of sales and technical personnel. Complete with a workshop, parts and accessory options for the full range of Indian Motorcycles, the centre provide customers with maintenance and repair, upgrades, accessorising and a special roadside assist programme available throughout Peninsular Malaysia.

Each Indian Motorcycle is covered by a special five-year warranty programme with unlimited mileage – a first in the industry – as well as a special trade-in confidence programme if a customer decided to upgrade within the first 24 months of ownership. The programme guarantees that the customers are able to trade-in their pre-owned bikes at above market prices, making it easy to upgrade to a better or newer model. The company also has a presence at the Naza World Automall in Petaling Jaya.

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Fresh from the oven

Details 10163In the current 2014 product line-up, Indian Motorcycle has introduced the redesigned Indian Chiefs family – the Indian Chief Classic, the Indian Chief Vintage and the Indian Chieftain, with all three models sharing an identical frame, engine, controls and standard features.

2014 Indian Chief Classic

The new Indian Chief Classic is a pure, powerful cruiser forged from key heritage design elements yet wrapped in advanced design, engineering and technology. It features iconic styling like valanced fenders, rich genuine leather saddle, classic tank-mounted instrumentation, tear-drop fuel tank design, and sculpted and lighted front fender war bonnet.

It comes standard with a host of premium features including endless chrome, keyless ignition, ABS, cruise control, throttle-by-wire, true dual exhaust, high quality chrome laced spoke wheels, brake calliper covers and cast aluminium frame with integrated air intake.

(Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price: RM168,000)

2014 Indian Chief Vintage

The new Indian 2014 Indian Chief Vintage is a soft bagger that takes iconic Indian Motorcycle styling to a whole new level with handcrafted detail and a signature heritage aesthetic. The Indian 2014 Indian Chief Vintage offers top-quality quick release soft-sided leather bags, leather fringe, chrome fender tips, vintage chrome badging on the front fender and a quick-release windshield for easy installation or removal.

It includes the same premium standard features as the Indian Chief Classic and sports the same iconic design elements like valanced fenders, laced wheels, whitewall tires, tank-mounted instrument cluster and extensive chrome finishes throughout.

(Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price: RM178,000)

2014 Indian Chieftain

The first Indian Motorcycle of its kind, the 2014 Indian Chieftain maintains the legendary Indian Chief styling, while taking this progressive machine to new heights with advanced features and premium comfort.

Unlike any Indian Motorcycle ever made, the Chieftain features a fairing with integrated driving lights and its power windshield is an industry-first for a fork-mounted fairing. Standard features include hard saddlebags featuring remote locks and quick-release anchors, a high-output audio system featuring integrated Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and a tire pressure monitoring system.

(Starting manufacturer’s suggested retail price: RM188,000)


Sporting touch to city driving

By Christopher Tan.

With all kinds of hands-free contraptions on board this latest sports utility vehicle, it is hardly surprising that the driver will have time to comb through the mini refrigerator on board.  

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0001When the enthusiastic Sime Darby Auto Connexion’s representative pointed out the car’s hands-free phone call facility and hands-free music player, I merely responded with a polite nod while quietly countering: “Ok, nothing new here.”

Next, he mentioned that the system also comes with the ability to read out your mobile phone’s incoming text messages; I found myself paying a tad closer attention to his ongoing demonstration of car’s key features. But it was the “cool” air-conditioned glove box that finally captured my full interest to the car’s content.

Ford’s latest EcoSport is all about delivering convenience to the driver and passengers on board. What else can get more useful than having a few cans of chilled drinks readily available to four sun-drenched treasure hunters on a 400 kilometre drive?

I figure that this compact SUV’s interior designer would likely have been an outdoor person based on the inclusion of 20 storage compartments located throughout the car, which proved handy for our team’s storage of endless titbits, chocolate bars and caffeine-filled beverages.

The EcoSport aims to boost the American carmaker’s presence in the fast-growing B-segment crossover market, particularly in this part of the region. Designed on the same platform as its hugely popular Fiesta and rolled off from its production facility in Thailand, it is available in two variants – Trend and Titanium.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0014Driven by a 1.5 litre Ti-VCT engine offering 142 Nm at 4,400 rpm, the Titanium proved to be an indispensable team member during a weekend treasure hunt adventure for this writer’s team of media personnel. As an automobile treasure hunt often requires plenty of stopping and restarting, the vehicle’s Powershift 6-speed automatic dual-clutch transmission was easily equal to the task, although I did find the gear ratio spread out slightly too far apart resulting in evident drag in between gear shifts.

Running on 16″ alloy wheels and a 52-litre fuel tank, it comes with the now common features in the likes of smart keyless entry, push-start ignition, rear parking sensors and hill launch assist, although it stands out somewhat from many of its peers with seven airbags (driver, passenger, sides, curtain and driver’s knee).

As the journey took us onto both fast four-lane expressway, curvaceous coastal roads and through congested small towns, the car’s traction control and an electronic stability program kept us firmly on the road, particularly when we were running late reaching our event’s final checkpoint.

Going through a downpour on the expressway and speeding gingerly right on the edge of the speed limit in order to meet our deadline, the car’s anti-lock braking system and electronic brake force distribution kept the ride stable and in constant control by reducing wheel spin and over or under-steering especially on the slippery stretches.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0003This variant also gets the leather seat treatment, automatic climate control system, auto lights, rain sensor wipers and a power sunroof. Packaged in five exterior colours – candy red, mars red, winning blue, midnight sky and frozen white – the Ford EcoSport Trend is priced (on-the-road with insurance) at RM92,888 while the EcoSport Titanium goes for RM103,888.

While offering a nice overall buffet spread, there are some trifling concerns and notable ingredients missing from this scrumptious ride. Boasting a helpful 200mm ground clearance between passengers and the flood-prone Malaysian roads is a definite plus point, but with the surprisingly missing hand rail above the door frame for all doors, older folks and shorter passengers may find it an adventure by itself getting into the vehicle.

FordEcoSport-sep2014-0018Another aesthetic annoyance I had with this SUV was the old-styled spare wheel dreadfully placed at its tailgate door. In this age of smaller parking spots at shopping malls and narrow car porches in our homes, a bulky wheel protruding from the back of your car is the last thing you want to deal with.

Finally, where is the daytime running light? Possibly the most imperative feature of any automobile on today’s road, no car should be allowed to roll out of the factory without this gadget conceitedly beaming onto the rear mirror of the car in front.


Boost for the self-esteem

By Christopher Tan

The familiar adage that “great things come in small packages” is never truer when it comes to this American automaker’s latest compact offering.

fordFiesta1L-0003It amazes most people how pocket-sized weightlifters are able to effortlessly lift more than double their own body weight during competitions. Many reason that being short, these athletes need less distance to lift the same weight above the head as compared to their taller peers, while some argue that their smaller frame provide a lower point of gravity thus increasing stability during movement.

I am not sure if those insightful automobile designers over at Ford are big fans of weightlifting but their latest Fiesta design sure resembles every inch of a champion weightlifter; small in size but delivers plenty of thrust, power and stability.

fordFiesta1L-0007First introduced way back in 1976, the Ford Fiesta has continued to keep their growing international fan base happy, including becoming the United Kingdom’s best-selling vehicle of all time recently with sales topping 4.1 million units. Introduced to the Malaysian market in May this year, it is easy to understand why its patented three-cylinder 1.0L EcoBoost engine was named “International Engine of the Year” both in 2012 and 2013.

While the general public may offer a sceptical expression when a single litre car is mentioned, car enthusiasts are aware that automakers are of late swiftly rolling out smaller engine drives that are enhanced with similar power and performance as those from larger vehicles. Much of the rationale comes from improved fuel efficiency as well as increased environment consciousness demanded of consumer cars.

Personally, this latest Fiesta variant is not for those with children and family in tow. It is truly a “driver’s car” for those seeking the thrill and excitement of zipping around the city traffic and for the traffic light “faceoff” when a roaring turbo engine matters.   

fordFiesta1L-0011Combining turbo-charging and direct fuel injection, my very first acceleration of the car – hitting 0-100kmph in under 11.2 seconds – had me nodding in agreement at Ford’s declaration of it being the “most powerful and fuel-efficient B-segment vehicle available in Malaysia.”

With electronic stability program and traction control turned on plus a set of responsive shock absorbers beneath it, I had the additional comfort knowing (and earnestly hoping) that the seven airbags would promptly do its job should I encounter any of the instantaneously-appearing sinkholes around the KL roads.

In all honesty, after only a few corners and traffic lights junctions, this car has impressed me more than a handful of 1.5 and 1.6 litre engine rides that I have reviewed recently. Surprisingly smooth on the acceleration, it seems effortless in producing 125PS of power and 170Nm of torque, but more importantly during these tough economic times, churns out fuel efficiency of 5.3L over a distance of 100 kilometres.

The 1.0L version incorporates various safety features currently available in its 1.5L big brother variant including hill launch assist, which helps to hold the car for up to three seconds on the slope, anti-lock braking system with electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist. For added convenience, it comes standard with a free three-year or 60,000km maintenance programme that covers parts and labour free of charge.

It is not all about the hardware as it is easily ranked high amongst its class in terms of looks. An intimidating five-bar chrome grille, slim headlamps and LED day-time running lights alongside a set of fitting sport kit that extends to the skirting, gives this machine a serious yet sporting edge.

On the software, it clearly comes out fighting above its weight class particularly via Ford Sync that offers drivers hands-free and seamless Bluetooth/USB connectivity to answer phone calls and select music from connected devices, as well as listen to text messages by simply using voice commands.

fordFiesta1L-0018The EcoBoost also comes standard with 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, rear parking aid with park pilot, rain-sensing wipers, six-speaker audio system and of course smart keyless entry together with push button start, which have become a mandatory feature for any car coming out of the assembly line.

Now comes its dilemma; the five-door Ford Fiesta Sport+ with 1.0L EcoBoost engine, which comes in artic white, panther black and true red is priced at RM93,888. I can see many heads turning in disagreement especially amongst those who sternly believe that they can easily get a larger capacity car and one that can fit more of their family members for a lower price tag.

True, but can they get one that will make the driver of the car beside you at the traffic light turn to admire your car’s smooth sporty contours, listen in awe to its purring turbo engine and stare at disbelief when you swiftly leave him behind after the lights turn green?


What’s in store?

fordFiesta1L-0009

  • 1.0l GTDI, EcoBoost 3-cylinder
  • Powershift six-speed dual clutch automatic
  • Electric motor driven power steering
  • 16” alloy wheels
  • Automatic twin chamber halogen reflector headlamps with home safe lighting
  • Power adjustable wing mirror with indicator and puddle lamp
  • Automatic temperature control
  • Electronic stability programme
  • Emergency brake assist
  • Keyless entry and push start button
  • Seven airbags
  • Day-time running lights
  • Stylish all-round skirting

Royal touch to cruising

By Christopher Tan

Since being casted on the popular 1970s television series The Love Boat, they have made dreams come true for more than 1.7 million people from around the world annually.   

cruise-1Spending a week on a cruise ship is inevitably high on almost everyone’s bucket list. For some peculiar reason, many seem to envision that lazing on a sun-baked deckchair with a glass of freshly peeled pineapple juice while waiting to catch the sunset would be the epitome of a perfect day. For others, it could be the lure of a romantic adventure akin to the movie Titanic.  

Irrespective of what the motives may be, there is definitely something about floating on a cruise liner in the middle of nowhere that continues to draw the crowd. With the Asian and international cruise passenger market growing at an average rate of 14% annually over the past 10 years, Malaysia’s cruise industry is also set to grow with passengers exceeding half a million last year.

“The experience of being on a cruise ship is unlike most other forms of holidays. On a cruise, people are more casual, relaxed and most of all, have the time to meet people from other walks of life to learn and share stories with,” said Diamond Princess’ captain Fabrizio Maresca, aformer Italian Navy coast guard who has skippered several ships in the Princess Cruises fleet over the last 14 years.

Diamond Princess, which was launched in 2004 and recently underwent a USD30 mil (RM97.5 mil) makeover, is part of the 17-strong fleet of Princess Cruises, the third largest cruise line in the world offering more than 150 different itineraries across 300 ports and destinations including Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Mexico, South America, Australia/New Zealand, Hawaii, Tahiti/French Polynesia, Asia and Africa.

cruise-2Princess Cruises was catapulted to stardom in 1977 when its ship, the Pacific Princess, was cast in a starring role on the popular television show The Love Boat, widely credited with fuelling the expansion of the cruise industry.

Comprising 1,337 passenger cabins including suites with private balconies, family suites, balcony cabins, ocean view cabins and inside cabins, the 18-deck refurbished Diamond Princess is currently homeport in Yokohama, Japan for an extended season of 9-day cruises that include visits to Taiwan, South Korea, Hokkaido, Russia and 15 Japanese ports.

“As Asia offers an unforgettable combination of natural beauty, fascinating culture and colourful history, this is a great way for passengers to enjoy these attractions and to truly engage in all that this region has to offer,” remarked Maresca, during a recent tour of Japan, Korea and Taiwan, which hosted 2,000 passengers including 17 Malaysians.

The new features aboard the ship, which include a 8,800-sq ft bath and garden complex – the largest Japanese bath at sea – and a sushi restaurant, add to the ship’s current impressive array of dining and entertainment facilities including its Movies-Under-the-Stars poolside theatre and The Sanctuary, an exclusive top-deck retreat.

The new Japanese bath area is highlighted by an elegant, open-air Japanese unisex hydro-therapy pool surrounded by shaded lounge chairs and refreshing footbath facilities. Inside, its two separate, gender-segregated sauna and bath with open air skylight and picturesque sea views is a must try. And to help relieve those built up tension in the back and shoulders, the Utaseyu stone bath are the best way to complete the bath experience.

A conversation about cruising would not be complete without the mention of food, yes, plenty of it! The latest addition to Diamond Princess’ wide array of dining conveniences is Kai Sushi, a trendy 66-seater sushi restaurant that serves miso shiro, nigiri sushi, maki sushi, sashimi variety of seafood delights, and as well as different styles of sakes and its signature dessert, matcha ice cream with red bean paste.

For all-day dining – cause of the writer’s inflated waistline – the ship’s buffet area, Horizon Court feature a diverse selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner provisions. There are also action stations for live a la carte cooking and an enticing pastry section. For a more exquisite palate, the classy Italian restaurant Sabatini’s offers a modest but scrumptious menu. 

cruise-3There are numerous eateries on-board to meet the different needs of an international community. Whether it is a quick hot dog at Trident Grill, hot slice of pizza from Prego Pizzeria, sinful ice creams at Sundaes, a soothing pick-me-up over at Wine Bar or an unhurried meal via room service, you will not hear a single whine over food throughout the journey.

“The food is one of the first aspects that passengers look out for when deciding on which cruise to choose. Thus, it is imperative that we have not just a wide selection but also the very best in taste,” explained executive chef Nilo Palma, who has been with Princess Cruises since 2009.

With 21 years of culinary experience behind him and the experience required to manage 210 kitchen staffs comprising 42 nationalities – including two sous chefs from Malaysia – spread out over seven kitchen galleys, Palma finds it more challenging than anything he has done before.

“Preparing the food requirements of 2,000 passengers is an enormous task. We prepare 350kg of beef each day, 1,200kg of chicken daily and 27,000 eggs each week during each voyage,” the chef pointed out, adding that most of the ingredients were brought in from Los Angeles, USA and Yokohama in Japan.

The presence of a large multinational culinary team helps to cater for any specific requests that may arise. Palma said: “The diverse group of cooks and specialities we have allow us to meet almost any demand from our passengers on their taste and diet preferences, such as halal dishes, Asian menu or European-styled food.”

For those that had assumed a long week of boredom of doing nothing but stare at the open sea, how wrong they were. Guest facilities on-board include three swimming pools, eight whirlpools, casino, fitness centre, children playrooms, video arcade, 9-hole putting course, library, art gallery, sports deck, duty-free shops that carry luxury brands such as Omega, Swarovski, Burberry, Salvatore Ferragamo, Coach and Ralph Lauren, plus unexpectedly, a wedding chapel!

In fact, a 9-day journey did not seem sufficient to really participate in its host of non-stop activities lined up throughout the day. Daily activities on the ship include morning exercises, treasure hunts, sports competitions, wellness seminars, culinary demonstration, art auctions, photography exhibitions, casino gaming lessons, musical instrument lessons and dance classes.

In terms of entertainment, there are endless varieties of performances, musicals, magic show, concerts and movies to keep everyone happy. There are also activities that are designed for festival periods such as Easter, Christmas and even sports events such as the football World Cup.

“We are the fun people here as our team’s primary role is to provide fun to all passengers here with us,” declared cruise director Warren Smith.

The pleasant former competitive dancer from South Africa who joined the group in 2008 said that the biggest challenge for his team was to ensure that perfect execution on the timing of all shows, events and activities planned.

“This is crucial not just so that we are able to meet the schedule of each day’s packed events and to make sure that everything takes place, but also to help keep the passenger flow moving throughout the boat daily,” said Smith.

His entertainment team comprises more than 100 members including musicians, performers and technical support crew. It even has its own orchestra on board to support the distinctive production shows at the 870-seater theatre.

“Each production cost around US$1.5 mil to produce including performers fees, equipment and licensing fees. Amongst the favourites shows include Born To Be Wild, Piano Man and Do You Wanna Dance, which are always packed,” Smith said.

After all that energy-sapping activities and pulsating shows, a tad of pampering at the well-furnished spa over a comprehensive assortment of hair and facial treatments, acupuncture, detox programmes, massages and grooming services is the perfect finale to the day and to rejuvenate yourself for the next day’s thrills.

Now that the writer has scratched off “Recreate the Leonardo DiCaprio pose at the bow of a ship” from his own bucket list, he is already working on improving his drawing skills as he eyes “Do a Kate Winslet-like sketch on a cruise ship” on the same list.

\End.

Malaysia, ship ahoy!

Princess Cruises is responding to the vast potential of the Malaysian and Southeast Asian cruise market by introducing the largest deployment ever by a premium cruise line in the region, bringing the Sapphire Princess to Southeast Asia for a 4-month season from November 2014 to February 2015.

The itineraries, running from three to 11 days, covers seven countries and 16 ports in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei. This includes a 3-day Straits of Malacca trip calling at Penang and Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang) and a 4-day Malaysia trip calling at Penang, Langkawi and Kuala Lumpur (Port Klang). Others include a 5-day Thailand and Malaysia trip and a 10-day Malaysia and Indonesia trip.

The 116,000-ton Sapphire Princess carries 2,670 passengers and features more than 200 suites and mini-suites with private balconies, spa, dining facilities, shopping boutiques and Internet café among other amenities.


Silky addition to an iconic township

By Christopher Tan

As a long-established bustling suburb looks to house more commercial, infrastructure and residential amenities, a stylish hotel is just the perfect tonic to meet its growing needs. 

At first impression, situating a hotel in Cheras, a well-known township for its’ infinite labyrinth of housing estates and endless traffic congestion, may not be the most ideal location for many of us.  

SilkaCheras-Lobby seating areaSimilar to the guarded reaction of several of my office colleagues when I mentioned about Silka Cheras, Kuala Lumpur being located in the heart of Cheras, I was initially apprehensive of what the latest hotel opening under the fast-growing Dorsett Hospitality International hotel group had to offer.

After all, this was a locality that I will always find excuses to avoid coming over to; misread date on wedding invitation cards, GPS failure during office colleagues’ birthday bashes and ill-timed last-minute wife’s demand to be her shopping companion whenever there are house warming parties over that area.

Since I was not able to use any of those excuses when assigned to undertake a media review of this hotel, after spending a weekend there, I came away somewhat surprised by my stay and drove home with a better understanding of the rationality and practicality of such a hotel location.

First up, Silka Cheras is located within the premises of the new Cheras Sentral shopping centre. Redeveloped from the previous Plaza Phoenix, the mall boasts of several leading retail brands and shopping conveniences.

Throughout the short stay, I found it remarkably convenient to fill my time as I zipped in and out between my room and the mall over two days. From chilling out at Starbucks, The Loaf and getting my favourite bite from Subway, I even had time to catch a movie over at TGV Cinemas and also to stock up on the depleted groceries supply at home from Jaya Grocer.

SilkaCheras-Silka RoomOther prominent retail brands housed at the shopping centre include Uniqlo, Somerset Bay, Sushi Tei, Old Town White Coffee, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Chatime, Giordano, Guardian Pharmacy and Celebrity Fitness.

Shifting back our focus to the hotel, I found Silka Cheras to be surprisingly relaxed and unpretentious. Even though there was a packed conference at the time of my stay over in the Cheras Room, its main function room catering to small and medium-scale meetings, banquets and events, I did not experience any congestion at the lobby, lifts or along the passageways. Possibly the mall and its many coffee bars, cafes and restaurants provided the added places for those delegates to meet and chat outside the hotel.

I was told that the Cheras Room can be separated into two smaller meeting rooms named Cheras I and Cheras II for customers requiring smaller discussion facilities and also for private and family events.

“The hotel’s interior was designed to offer a high level of comfort at great value with added benefits and convenient services to the value-conscious guests. We aim to capture the segments of family, leisure and corporate business travellers in Klang Valley,” said Christina Toh, area general manager of Silka Hotels, Malaysia.

When it comes to the most important area of a hotel, the hotel’s accommodation is second to none, even when compared to a higher star-rating facility. Silka Cheras provides busy business executives and travellers 319 guestrooms comprising four room categories – Superior, Silka Room, Studio and Silka Suite. All the rooms feature functional, modern interior and convenient fittings such as wall-to-wall window, writing desk and a 32” LED TV that epitomises the essence of the Silka brand; comfortable, hassle-free and convenient.

For someone who is very demanding when it comes to hotel room’s comfort and furnishings, I found the Silka Suite truly of a higher class than many of its peers. Ideal for the romantic couple or business executives who prefer the open concept feel, the spacious 42-square metre suite is bright and airy with natural sunlight flittering through the full length semi-circular windows and sufficiently well-lit.

SilkaCheras-ExternalNice touches such as a cosy seating space, comfortable bedding, sofas and pillows in complementary colour tones, a separate walk-in rainforest shower and an open bath makes the suit one of the best amongst city hotels.

“As radiated through the design and decor in the rooms, we strive to offer a fuss-free yet fun and colourful experience. All the guestrooms are spacious yet contemporary in design with innovative layout and efficient use of space,” said Toh.

Being spoilt for choice from the adjacent shopping mall when it came to food, I was perhaps initially guilty of being overly critical of its food fare. Decked with rows of transparent glass spheres draped intricately from the ceiling, the semi-curved Curvz Café seats 110 persons and opens from 6.30am to 10.30pm.

The eatery offers a mix of both local specialties and international favourites infused with Asian-British elements. Buffet and a-la-carte breakfasts are available in the morning, while a scrumptious spread of international buffet are served for lunch and dinner. The Silka International Weekend Hi-Tea is available on weekends and public holidays for just RM45++ per person served from 12 noon to 4.00pm.

Amongst the must try signature dishes of the hotel’s award-winning Chef Badrul Hisham include his inimitable cream of wild mushroom soup, Silka prawn mee, kampung style fried rice and chicken schnitzel.

Once the weekend came to a close, I was completely bought over by the convenience of building a hotel next to a shopping centre. While the concept is not entirely new as there have been other hotels similarly sited locally and around the world, at least now I have an encouraging reason to visit Cheras.


Finding Forester

By Christopher Tan

We are often cautioned to not judge a book by its cover. After going through three states and one mountain range, it evidently rings true for cars too.

It will not be the most attractive ride you will see on the potholes-filled Malaysian roads this year nor will it be the most fashionable. Although she would likely not win any beauty contest, three days with her on a mountain retreat and I found it surprisingly difficult to let her go.

subaru-1
“The design looks rather dated and boxy,” commented my wife candidly on her first sight of the new Subaru Forester 2.0XT. That was before she looked up and saw the glass sunroof that comes standard with the vehicle. “Ah, that’s quite cool,” she said trying her best to reverse her initial reaction.

While my wife spent the next three days admiring the birds and counting the stars through the panoramic opening above her head, the rest of the car’s occupants discovered the many positives and near-negligible negatives of Subaru’s latest sport utility vehicle.

When mum, who suffers from motion sickness, found out that we were headed for a car journey to the winding roads of Cameron Highlands, she was understandably not overly enthusiastic. While we will come back to mum’s appraisal later, Dad on the other hand could not stop grinning from the moment his hands touched the leather wrapped steering wheel and his legs stepped on the responsive metal pedals.

Under the hood sits an impressive 2.0-litre direct injection turbo-charged engine that seems to top many of the other SUVs in its range, particularly in terms of handling. Dad found himself exceeding the speed limit on many occasions throughout the 4-hour drive up the highlands and has the pinch marks by mum to show for it.

Having learned the easy-to-use Subaru Intelligent Drive feature, he was like a kid in the candy store adjusting the drivetrain, throttle response and automatic-transmission shifting behaviour to support various driving style and road conditions, even though I am quite sure he did not entirely understood most of what he was doing with the feature.

subaru-2As for me, having yet to fully recuperate from the elevated admiration from my recent experience with a certain Swedish marque SUV, I found myself unfortunately comparing the Forester with its rival. After about an hour before I finally decided to stop comparing it with a much superior and more costly opponent, I still found myself a tad unease at the car’s much lighter feel especially at high speeds and when taking sharp bends.

The most fun I had was the Forester’s X-Mode feature. Once I got over the initial struggle to understand its capabilities, I found myself fiddling with it relentlessly over various road conditions throughout the trip; bumpy roads from previous landslides, slippery surfaces in the rain and even the death-defying narrow slopes leading up the famed Boh Tea plantations.

I was pleasantly surprised when I learnt that the X-Mode also incorporates hill descent control, which automatically maintains the car at a constant speed when the car was moving downhill, without having me to depress the accelerator or brakes. This set-up allows the driver to steer safely through any slopes or downhill whilst leaving the braking to the car itself.

Another safety feature is its Vehicle Dynamics Control that assists to monitor and analyse if the vehicle is following the driver’s intended course via an array of sensors. If the vehicle approaches the limits of stability whilst cornering or avoiding an obstacle, the AWD torque distribution, engine output and brakes at each 18-inch wheel are adjusted to assist in keeping the vehicle on course; comes in handy when you are playing peek-a-boo with the kid seated behind.

“It’s definitely a lot more comfortable and gives me less headache than our previous trips,” said mum. Granted that her last trip was in a much smaller car from almost two decades ago, still it was reassuring to hear that she came out of the 3-day trip in good health and full of praise for the RM206,481 (with insurance) vehicle.

A large part of mum’s wellbeing was down to the Forester’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system, which in a nutshell kept the car’s gravity low resulting in reduced body roll and greater stability, as well as reduced engine vibrations and quieter interior experience. Kudos to the designers at Subaru on getting this spot on.

A feature of the Forester that I found convenient particularly when driving in the city is its increased visibility, beating even the Swedish make that I have been goggling over. By redesigning the A-pillar and integrating the partition windows into the front doors, Subaru has made it easier to see both the front and rear directions and greatly reducing the size of blind spots.

When it came to storage and luggage space, the SUV came up commendable as it comfortably tucked away four adults and a toddler’s essentials for a road trip. With a large cargo capacity and very vital wide door openings to put in and take out things without bumping our heads, it allowed passengers to sit back and enjoy the view without having to battle our luggage for seating space.

As the family drove away from Cameron Highlands with our cabin full of strawberries reflecting on all the wonderful memories and most of all, kept safe and contented with our journey, the folks at Subaru would be glad to know that they have indeed successfully converted one more family towards their brand.


Don’t sabotage your media coverage

The below is an extract of a timely article reflecting what I’ve been shouting out to our local entrepreneurs for the longest time while carrying my duties as a journalist and editor.

Published on Forbes.
com (By Elizabeth MacBride), 13 August 2014

5 Ways Entrepreneurs Sabotage Their Own Media Coverage

I talk to many entrepreneurs and business owners as a journalist. Many are eager for more coverage. Lately, I’ve been speaking with entrepreneurs in emerging markets, who seem to want stories written about their companies even more. But often, entrepreneurs shoot themselves in the foot during the interview or as I ask questions afterwards.

In the interests of better communication and less wasting time, I put together this list of mistakes, sort of a very mini-media training, for entrepreneurs seeking coverage.

Media relations

1. Not sharing numbers.

Numbers mean everything. If you are not prepared to share at least some hard facts about your company, why bother to get in touch? That’s especially true if you are making assertions about your company. If you say you are the largest, by what measure? If you say you are the fastest-growing, by what rate and measured against which competitors? It is routine for privately held companies to share year-over-year revenue figures and, if they are VC-backed and haven’t started generating significant revenue yet, their funding totals and their investors, plus some other number, like the number of trials or customers.

2. Lying. This should be obvious, but: Don’t lie.

I have encountered a handful of outright lies over the years. When I was covering health care as a very young reporter, the CEO of a local hospital used to lie about his competitors, the other hospitals and surgery centers in town. Before I figured out what he was doing, I wasted a lot of time chasing down bad tips he gave me.

3. Obfuscating.

Lying is pretty rare. Obfuscation is common. For instance, entrepreneurs might say they are the leader in a particular market, or introduced a technology. Later, I’ll find out that objective observers think another company deserves the credit. The hubristic claims weren’t out-and-out lies, but they still cause me to mistrust the entrepreneur. At best, it makes me doubt the entrepreneur’s ability to separate truth from ego.

A better approach is to explain why you’re making a claim and add what an objective observer might say about what makes your company different or better. You get a lot of credit for being up front.

4. Hiring public relations people who deliberately stir the pot.

Some PR people are great. They help shape stories, pin executives down and wrangle interviews. Thank you to all of those.

But some, unfortunately, prove their worth to clients — that’s you, entrepreneurs — by creating conflicts with journalists and then solving them. Especially after a story is published, the public relations team will call an executive, flabbergasted at something published in the story. It’s often a minor thing: a word choice that’s not quite in the lexicon the company has decided is best, or a phrase with a debatable meaning.

A PR company that seizes on the issue can argue that it’s a disaster, which leads to the conclusion that you not only need the PR team to call the media outlet, but that you must hire the PR team to manage all of your media relationships for you.

Meanwhile, the PR team is doing a lot of damage to your relationship with the particular reporter and sometimes the media outlet in question. A better approach: If there’s a mistake in a story, tell me. I’ll fix it or make sure it is fixed ASAP. If there’s a nuance I didn’t capture, call me to tell me about it so I can incorporate it into a story next time around.

Journalists don’t need the drama created by public relations companies whose main interest is cementing their own revenue stream in the short term. You don’t, either.

5. Avoiding emails and calls.

If you’re not going to tell me something, just tell me that. It’s a journalist’s job to be persistent, and we will be. But it would be great if you just let us know if there’s something that you don’t want to share, and why. Then we won’t waste time in a fruitless endeavor, and you’ve won appreciation for being straightforward.


OCBC named SME bank of the year

Published in The Star Online (August 8, 2014) 

OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd (OCBC Bank) has been adjudged Malaysia’s SME Bank of the Year by Singapore-based Asian Banking and Finance.

Speaking at the awards ceremony in Singapore recently, Tim Charlton, publisher and editor-in-chief of Asian Banking and Finance said for this year, OCBC Bank performed admirably both in Malaysia and across the region, bagging also the top award for Indonesia and overall Asean SME Bank of the Year title for the fourth year running.

OCBC Bank

“OCBC Bank’s success lay fundamentally in how it uncovered the various lifecycle stages that require varied business solutions. This helped them develop a seamless suite of products and processes that could assist businesses in their growth along their lifecycle.

“The Bank’s key strategies paid off when they were finally able to deepen market share from less than 3% in 2006 to almost 9% last year, grow its total income by 18%, become number one in loans growth, achieve a more than 100% growth in case count from 2012-2013, and reach a high level of employee satisfaction, thereby further entrenching the Bank’s name in the SME scene,” he said.

The winners are judged on their levels of innovation, effectiveness and dynamism to react to changes in the market and take on progressive opportunities. The selection panel comprised judges from KPMG, Deloitte Consulting, Ernst and Young Advisory LLP and Accenture.

OCBC Bank’s Head of Emerging Business, Mr Wong Chee Seng, said the award represented the culmination of years of listening to and addressing the needs of SMEs in Malaysia.

”Winning a prestigious well-known Asian award like this gives us further conviction that we are on the right track in delivering innovative products and services, serving the community effectively and being dynamic when seeking to meet customers’ various lifecycle needs. Living up to the OCBC business proposition of being simple, fast and convenient also means acknowledging a continuous commitment to positive changes in SME markets and regulations,” he said.

Wong says he expects the Bank progress with the SME industry to grow exponentially in time to come. We would like to play our part in the government’s plan for SMEs as a significant contributor to the country’s economic growth,” he said.