RECREATION, GAMBLING, AND PETS IN MALAYSIA

RECREATION. ENTERTAINMENT AND GAMES IN MALAYSIA

Malaysians' strong sense of community is reflected in many of their traditional games and pastimes. These activities are still played by local children on cool afternoons and are also a communal activity during festivities such as before or after the rice harvest season and weddings.

An all Malaysian team, with Malay, Chinese and Indian members, scaled Mt. Everest in 1997.

In the early 2000s, the Malaysian government labeled game arcades as a threat to morality and threatened to shut them down. Some have blamed them for an increase in school crimes that included stabbings and setting classrooms on fire. The arcades themselves were blamed for being covers for gambling and money laundering and being the site of violent crimes. One influential Malay-language newspaper called for a “jihad” against the arcades. “Commit yourself to this jihad, as may victims (of these arcades) are Muslim teenagers, possibly your own children.” Arcades in Malaysia are required to get operating licences that a good for between one and five years. In 2004, it was announced the arcades would only be allowed to operate until their licenses expired.

The Islamic PAS party wants authorities to close down karaokes because they encourage men and women to mix.

Children's games in Malaysia include kite fighting, marbles and fish fighting. Congkak is a game of mathematics played by womenfolk in ancient times that only required dug out holes in the earth and tamarind seeds. Today, it is an oval solid wood block with two rows of five, seven, or nine holes and two large holes at both ends called "home". Congkak, played with shells, marbles, pebbles or tamarind seeds, requires two players.

The launch of a giant ferris wheel in Malacca in November 2007 went sour when a power cut trapped dozens of people on the inaugural ride. AFP reported: “Some 50 passengers including tearful children and an eight-month-pregnant woman were stuck 25 metres above the ground in the pitch dark last night until rescuers managed to bring the gondolas down manually half an hour later. The New Straits Times said the incident happened just as Malacca's state governor and chief minister arrived for their turn on the new 3.3 million ringgit ($A988,00) tourist attraction built on the banks of the Malacca River. "I was shaken. This is a sign of poor safety features. I feel the ferris wheel is not ready for operations yet," Ibrahim Mohamed, whose daughter and grandchildren were trapped on the ride, told the daily. [Source: AFP, November 5, 2007]

Malaysian Book of Records

Malaysia has its own book of records, which is taken quite seriously in Malaysia. Louisa Lim wrote in The Star, Danny Ooi “is the remaining founder of Malaysia’s own Book of Records. It was a lifelong infatuation with the original Guinness World Book of Record’s biggest, fastest and tallest that prompted him to start the Malaysian version in 1990 with a few friends. “I’d buy all the Guinness books when I was young but the idea to begin a local version didn’t really occur to me till I was 40 or so,” he reminisced. “Then one day I thought: ‘Why not create something Malaysians can be proud of, a record book they can call their own?’ I’ve heard of so many Malaysians pushing themselves to the limits. They’re in the limelight for one second, and they’re gone the next.” [Source: Louisa Lim, The Star, September 26, 2009 *+*]

“Unfortunately, the company got off to a shaky start. It lost about RM1mil in capital within the first year. As a result, his partners fled the apparently sinking ship, leaving Ooi to manage on his own. “I had to look for the past achievers, and it was very difficult because nobody remembered who they were. Then I had to study the Guinness book closely and make a few tweaks to the guidelines for each record category. This is to ensure that all record breakers could be listed in line with the rules and regulations. It took me three whole years to compile a list,” he said. *+*

“The result was phenomenal: the book, once it was published, generated a huge buzz. Companies scrambled for ad space. Funds began to roll in. The mini empire that Ooi had built from scratch now boasts a TV show with RTM, six editions of hardcover books (with a seventh one in the making), and, if all goes well, a multi-million ringgit museum next year. “We’re one of the few countries to have our own record book,” said Ooi. “The other countries are India, Poland and Indonesia. Singapore will be coming up with one soon. I think it’s important to inform people about the oldest man or the tallest building. It’s something to be proud of!” *+*

Trying to Get Into the Malaysian Book of Records

Reporting from the headquarters of Malaysian Book of Records (MYBOR) in Kuala Lumpur. Louisa Lim wrote in The Star, “What would you do to go down in history? A whole lot if you’re a Malaysian, it would seem. The man behind the Malaysian Book of Records tells us how he managed to get our nation into a record-breaking frenzy. A primly-dressed aunty accosted Datuk Danny Ooi as soon as he stepped out of his office for a lunch appointment. Eyes wide and face red, she breathlessly exclaimed, “Datuk, Datuk, my son is a very young poet! He’s here to perform for you!!” Then, she glanced my way and got even more keyed up. “Are you a journalist? Oh good, good! My son will be receiving Malaysia’s Youngest Poet award soon. I hear you’re a poet too!” Judging from the look on Ooi’s face, however, this was just another day at work. His expression stayed impassive, like a statue’s. [Source: Louisa Lim, The Star, September 26, 2009 *+*]

“The chatty mother, who introduced herself as Grace, had led us to her son, Gloson Teh. She proudly proclaimed that he had self-published a book entitled Creative & Funny Poetry for Kids early this year. When we approached, the baby-faced 11-year-old looked up at us from behind his laptop. He had just finished composing an on-the-spot poem. “Gloson is going to recite his work for you, right Gloson?” she asked, before turning her attention to Ooi again. “I hope we can receive the certificate on 09-09-09. The boy cleared his throat and, with an amazing display of showmanship, began: “My dad’s obsessed with elephants, he wished one was his pet . . .” He stamped his legs and flailed his arms as he uttered his lines, before moving on to the poem he had just written, My Kitty’s Adventure. Evidently, this wasn’t his first gig. *+*

“Actually, my son has appeared on RTM,” said Grace. “It all started when I submitted his poetry book to the prime minister’s office. We got a call from him shortly after that, inviting us to his home. Gloson performed for him, and all the media was there. That was also when we met someone from MYBOR, who asked us to apply as a record holder.” Charming and unusually gifted, Gloson had mastered the Internet when he was seven, and has been blogging since he was 10. Incidentally, it was in the virtual world, rather than the real one, that he had found the source of his inspiration. *+*

“I was surfing the Internet when I came across some funny poems by Dr Seuss and Kenn Nesbitt. I found them fun and entertaining, so I began writing poems too,” he said. “With funny poems, you can use your imagination and write about cats, hats, mats, rats, bats and a new blue shoe. But coming out with a great ‘funnytabulous’ idea is quite difficult.” Pretty soon, Gloson realised that he had produced enough poems for a children’s book. At his mother’s urging, he took two months off from school just to provide the illustrations for each poem. But now that his book is complete, he is working on an audio version — another one of his mom’s ideas. *+*

“With it, toddlers who aren’t able to read will be able to appreciate my poems too,” he said.

The fact that a mere child could speak like an experienced businessman was a tad unsettling. However, this hard-nosed behaviour isn’t unheard of in Ooi’s line of work. I was informed that there are many who are determined at making a name for themselves, and they will stop at nothing to get it. “It’s called highly-driven,” corrected Ooi. “There are other parents who are equally, if not more, aggressive. They just want the best for their kids.” *+*

Malaysia the World Record Holder in Holding Records?

Louisa Lim wrote in The Star, “Record-breaking attempts in the country are currently at an all-time high, so much so that a 2006 article by online magazine Wired stated that “Malaysia might just be the world record holder in holding records . . . from the inexplicable (most faces captured on a phonecam) to the outright banal (first independent tyre-testing facility), not a week goes by without a record-setting event somewhere in Malaysia.” [Source: Louisa Lim, The Star, September 26, 2009 *+*]

“Nonetheless, Malaysia isn’t running out of records to surpass. According to Ooi, 70 percent of records currently held are in the human achievements category. As such, there are numerous gaps left in categories like architecture and transport. Ooi receives 10 to 20 applications from aspiring record breakers every week, 5 percent of which are rejected because they are a little too ambitious for their own good. He has specially appointed a three-man research team to sift through applications. *+*

“This yoga guru came to me saying he wanted a record for most time spent staring at the sun,” Ooi remarked. “I said, ‘No way, it’s bad for your health.’ Same goes for stunts that involve staying awake for days, or living in a box with snakes and scorpions. We usually suggest to these applicants other records that they could break,” Ooi revealed. *+*

“He said his number one moment occurred in 2000, when a group of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) students successfully carried and mounted Malaysia’s flag to the Great Wall of China. “It was the longest flag I’d ever seen, and it weighed two tonnes,” Ooi said. “It took them about four to five hours to hang it up in the freezing cold, but when they finished, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I’d never felt so proud of my country before.” *+*

“However, not everyone agrees with Ooi and his records. There are those who scoff at his knack for celebrating trivialities like “Biggest Roti Canai” or “Longest Dodol”. Ooi, however, begs to differ: “It’s not as easy or as lame as it looks. Baking the tallest cake, for instance, requires an extraordinary amount of coordination and teamwork. Like, how are you going to bake it? How do you make sure it doesn’t topple over?”These naysayers, Ooi claimed, are the ones who sit back and do nothing. *+*

“Let’s see them break a record, any record,” he challenged. “There are, after all, some Malaysian record holders who have gone on to be world record holders, like 18-year-old Low Yee-Ming, who recently broke a Malaysian Record and Guinness Record simultaneously for balancing a football on his head for 11.1km. “But, please, if anyone is interested in achieving something, let it be positive. We need to encourage others to strive for excellence.” The sixth edition of the Malaysian Book of Records is available at most leading bookstores for RM88. For more information, visit www.malaysiarecords.com.my or call (03) 9283 8877. *+*

In June, 2009, AFP reported: “A kung fu master has jabbed his way into the Malaysian records book after piercing four coconuts with his index finger in a little over 30 seconds, according to a newspaper report. Ho Eng Hui, 55, made it into the Malaysia Book of Records for coconut opening with his 30.81 second feat, the New Straits Times reported Monday. "Now, I will start preparing myself to get into the Guinness Book of World Records," Master Ho told the newspaper. "This is not an illusion or black magic. I am able to do this after mastering the Chinese martial art technique of using the strength of my finger, from a martial arts master in Singapore." Hundreds of people, many of them tourists, witnessed the record breaking coconut piercing in Malacca. Master Ho smashed his previous record of breaking three coconuts in 70 seconds. [Source: AFP, June 21, 2009]

Golf in Malaysia

There were about 100,000 golfers in Malaysia in the early 2000s. For a while the number of golfers in Malaysia was growing at a rate of about 20 percent a year. In 1994 there were 153 golf courses in Malaysia, triple the number that existed in 1985. A that time there were plans to build another 100 more.

There are around 50 golf courses more within an hour's drive of Kuala Lumpur, most of them built in since 1990. Memberships fees range from $2,600 to $15,800. Many of the memberships at courses in southern Malaysia are owned by Singaporeans.

Golf attracts affluent tourists from abroad and the sport is loved by wealthy Asians who view the sport as a status symbol. Many of the resorts cater to foreign golfers—particularly the Japanese, and more and more Taiwanese, Koreans, Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese, who find it cheaper to fly to foreign countries and play golf than play the game at home. One survey found that foreign golfer spend an average of $400 to $525 a day while in the country.

The Mayback Malaysian Open is part of the men’s European Tour. Before 2013 it was known simply as the Malaysian Open. It has attracted some of Europe’s best golfers, including Rory McIlroy. The inauguaral Asia Pacific Classic—the first PGA-Tour-sanctioned event in Southeast Asia — was held in Selangor, Malaysia in October 2010. The winner, American Ben Crane, took home $1 million, with an eight-foot birdie put on the final hole to beat England’s Brian Davis by one stroke. Tiger Woods competed at CIMB Classic— a PGA Tour event—played in Kuala Lumpur in October 2012. Thunderstorms plagued the tournament, played at the relatively short Mines Golf Course. There is a Malaysian Open and the LPGA Malaysia for women golfers

Night Golf and the Anti-Golf Movement in Malaysia

Many Malaysians are too busy working during the day to play golf. To attract more of them, some courses installed lights and began offering night golf. One fan of the game told Reuters, “You feel more relaxed because if you play during the day you get interrupted by phone calls.” Another said, “Its cooler and the atmosphere is nice.” Among the problems are long searches for balls that land in unlit areas. As of 2002, about 20 golf courses had installed lights: no cheap endeavor as the cost of putting in cables, towers and lights can run $92 million for just four holes.

Malaysian Sreela Kolandai founded the Anti-Golf Movement. He told the New York Times, “Golf has become a serious environmental threat all across Asia." Golf courses have been built on land cleared from rain forest and valuable agricultural land. The courses also drink up valuable sources of water. Fertilizers and pesticides that drain off the courses contaminate other water sources. Some farmers have been forced to give up their land at gun point. Defenders of the golf boom claim that displaced farmers can earn more being caddies, security guards and greenskeepers.

Six Divers Saved after Going Missing in Malaysia

In June 2012 Agence France-Presse reported: “Six scuba divers who went missing off a Malaysian resort island were rescued when they were spotted by a passing tugboat after spending a night in the sea, a maritime official said. The boat spotted the divers—a Singaporean, a Chinese and four Malaysians—off Tioman island on Malaysia’s east coast, said Syed Mohamad Fuzi Syed Hasan, an official with the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency. [Source: Agence France-Presse, June 24, 2012 <<<<]

“The Malaysian boat, which was on its way to Indonesia, later informed authorities, who picked up the divers, he said. Another official had said earlier the boat was Indonesian. “Luckily all are safe,” Syed Mohamad Fuzi told AFP, adding that they were uninjured and back on Tioman island. The six, who were aged between 25 and 33 and included two women, were reported missing after going diving off the island. A seventh member of the group, who lost the rest underwater, raised the alarm. <<<<

“Syed Mohamad Fuzi said that due to a misunderstanding, the alarm was raised when the six were still diving. When they resurfaced, the boat was gone as it went to get help, and they drifted away with the current. Syed Mohamad Fuzi said the divers were experienced, had inflatable jackets and huddled together throughout the night so no one would become separated from the group. Malaysia’s east coast islands, famed for their corals and marine life, are a popular dive destination and accidents are rare.” <<<<

Gambling in Malaysia

About 6 billion ringiit was wagered in legitimate gambling each year in the early 2000s. The amount of illegal gambling is supposed to be as big or bigger. Illegal bookies pay no taxes and are able to offer higher prizes.

Numbers games are popular in Malaysia. Tanjoun PLC run a popular four-digit numbers game. Bejaya Sports Toto and Magnum Corp also run popular games. In an effort to lure gamblers away from illegal bookies the government said it would revise betting taxes and raise prize payouts. Betting taxes were standardized at 6 percent of sales.

Gamblers in Malaysia bet huge sums of money on English Premier League soccer games. There have been several match-fixing scandals in Malaysia (See soccer). Members of a Malaysian gambling syndicate reportedly offered gifts to players in the 1995 under-17 World Cup in Qatar. Punters in Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia bet on British horse races.

Informal casinos have been set up in the no mans land between Malaysia and Thailand. I stayed at guest house in Kota Bahru, near the Thai border, in the 1980s that was a cover for gambling den used by cad-playing Thais.

In the early 2000s, Star Cruises ran vessels that picked up passengers in Kukup and then sailed into international waters and anchored for a while to get around gambling laws in Hong Kong. Described as a "cruise to nowhere," the ship offered slot machines, baccarat and video mahjong. Three companies offer gambling cruises. Some offer food and cabins for less than $50 a night. Star Cruises is owned by Malaysia’s Gentling International.

Genting

Lim Kok Thay. the son of late casino magnate Lim Goh Tong runs Genting Group, which boasts resorts and casinos in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines and the U.K., and a 43 percent stake in Norwegian Cruise Line. In the mid 2000s, under Lim Goh Tong, Genting was the biggest casino operator in Asia, There are currently 5 public companies listed in 3 jurisdictions that operate under the "Genting" name with a combined market capitalisation of over RM124 billion (US$41 billion) as at 30 April 2013. 1) Genting Berhad; 2) Genting Malaysia Berhad; 3) Genting Plantations Berhad; 4) Genting Singapore PLC; 5) Genting Hong Kong Limited. [Source: Genting]

These public companies and their subsidiaries and affiliates are involved in various businesses, including leisure & hospitality, power generation, oil palm plantation, property development, biotechnology and oil & gas. Collectively, they have about 55,000 employees (excluding Genting Hong Kong), 4,500 hectares of prime resort land and about 228,000 hectares of plantation land.

The leisure & hospitality business operates using various brand names including “Resorts World”, “Maxims”, “Crockfords”, “Awana”, “Star Cruises” and “Norwegian Cruise Line”. In addition to Premium Outlets®, Genting companies have tie ups with Universal Studios, Hard Rock Hotel and other renowned international brands.

Genting History

The Genting Group was founded in 1965 by the late Tan Sri (Dr.) Lim Goh Tong with the development of a beautiful highlands resort in Malaysia named Resorts World Genting (formerly known as Genting Highlands Resort). Located at 2,000 metres above sea level and 58 kilometres from Kuala Lumpur, Resorts World Genting is one of the world’s leading integrated entertainment resorts, attracting 20.5 million visitors in 2012. [Source: Genting]

The idea of a hill resort was chanced upon by late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong amidst the crisp air of Cameron Highlands in 1964. Tan Sri Lim was then working on a hydro-electric power project at the popular hill resort, patronised mostly by British colonials seeking cool refuge from the tropical heat, when he foresaw a prosperous Malaysia of the future desiring a cool mountain holiday resort within the reach of all Malaysians.

A study of the maps and Kuala Lumpur’s vicinity located the ideal site - the 1,800-metre Gunung Ulu Kali, just 58 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur. Amidst the dense virgin tropical jungle and rugged terrain, the task to transform a remote mountain into Malaysia’s premier holiday destination seemed impossible… but not for Tan Sri Lim. Setting up a private company called Genting Highlands Berhad in April 1965, with the late Tan Sri Haji Mohammed Noah bin Omar, Tan Sri Lim successfully obtained approval for the alienation of 12,000 acres and 2,800 acres of land from the Pahang and Selangor State Government respectively between the years 1965 and 1970.

In August 1965, a technical and construction team began the herculean task that would take four years to complete the access road from Genting Sempah to the peak of Gunung Ulu Kali. To ensure the sound and prompt construction of the hotel-cum-resort, Tan Sri Lim devoted all of his time, capital and resources, including the reserves of his family company, Kien Huat Berhad towards the making of this "dream resort".

In March 1969, the late YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister graced the official laying of the foundation stone for the company’s pioneer hotel, the then Highlands Hotel, marking the completion of the access road to Genting Highlands Resort. The Prime Minister was impressed that the private sector, without the assistance of the Government, could develop a mountain resort for the enjoyment of all Malaysians; a gaming licence was suggested to help accelerate the development of this remote area. In 1971, the first hotel at Genting Highlands was successfully completed and was then named Highlands Hotel (now renamed Theme Park Hotel).

Since the opening of the first hotel in 1971, Genting Highlands Resort continued to grow from strength to strength. The development of the area continued to this present day to enhance Genting Highlands Resort as the premier holiday destination in the region while ensuring that the natural beauty of the rain forest is maintained. To date, Genting Highlands Resort has five hotels (namely Genting Hotel, Highlands Hotel, Resort Hotel, Theme Park Hotel and First World Hotel) and two apartment blocks (Ria and Kayangan Apartments) at the hilltop and Awana Genting Highlands Golf and Country Resort. Together with integrated world-standard entertainment facilities encompassing various leisure, indoor and outdoor theme parks and gaming facilities, Genting Highlands Resort has become the "City of Entertainment" and Malaysia's Premier Resort.

In 1997, Genting Highlands Resort further boosted its facility attraction with Genting Skyway cable car system that provides a 3.38 kilometers transport to the hilltop. Genting Skyway is also recognised as the "World's Fastest Mono Cable Car System" with a maximum speed of 21.6 kilometers per hour and the "Longest Cable Car in Malaysia and Southeast Asia".

Genting Group, with Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay as its Chairman and Chief Executive, has since expanded and diversified from its initial hotel and resort activities to plantation, power generation and oil and gas exploration and production. Today, Genting Berhad is a leading multinational corporation in Malaysia that has constantly been acknowledged by various organisations for its exemplary leadership and management. Genting Berhad was acknowledged as the No.1 Leading Company in Malaysia for 10 years, i.e. in 2004 and from 1994 to 2002 by The Asian Wall Street Journal 200 (formerly Far Eastern Economic Review 200). Genting Berhad was also rated No.1 in Malaysia and No.2 in Asia for Overall Best Managed Company for the Decade by Asiamoney.

Founder Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong passed away in October 2007."Once the goals have been clearly defined, with the greatest amount of determination and hard work, one can conclusively realise one's goals, he said.

Pets in Malaysia

Many of Malaysia's homeless cats have knobby, mishappen tails. This is due to a genetic defect that causes their tail bones to grow on top of one another. The first mention of this was made by a Sarawak museum curator named Robert Shelford in 1904.

Malaysians put a small dried fish in their mousetraps rather than a piece of cheese.

In January 2011, two dogs mauled an Irish tourist to death at an organic farm in northern Malaysia. The Guardian reported: “Local police officer Lai Fah Hin says the man died on the spot Sunday after being attacked by the two dogs at the farm on the northern island of Penang. The dogs tore gashes in his face and body.Reports identified the dead man as Maurice Sullivan, aged 50. He was reportedly staying at the farm with his Polish companion to take photos. Local media quoted the farm owner as saying he would hand over the dogs, which he reared to protect the farm from wild boars and pythons, to the veterinary department. It is still unclear what caused them to attack Sullivan. [Source: AP, January 2011]

Telomian

The Telomian is rare breed of dogs that originated in Malaysia and resembles an African Basenji. Named after the Telom River, where the were first discovered by Westeners, they are believed to have been a distinct breed for at least 3000 years and may be a missing link between Australian dingos and basenjis. Like the basenji, the Telomian has a furrowed brow and tail that curls over the dog’s back, but not as tightly as a basenji’s.

Telomian have traditionally been rased by native people in peninsular Malaysia. These people used the dogs for hunting and were so fond of them the treated them like children, even breast feeding them with human milk. The dogs were skill tree climbers and able to wade into streams and catch their own fish.

The Telomian was introduced to the West by Dr. Orville Elliot, a scientist studying tree shrews in Malaysia. In the 1960s, he and his wife convinced some local people to give them their dogs so they could take them to United States and breed them to prevent them from becoming extinct. The first Telomians were raised primarily by scientists in laboratories. In the 1970s they caught on with American pet owners,

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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