Category Archives: Hobbies

Images of Water : The Fresh Cool Streams of Ulu Bendul

Images of water, be it of waves rushing to meet the ocean shore or images of fresh cool water running down a stream has always had that calming and soothing effect on people viewing these images.

Ulu Bendul Water 6 - 31 Dec 2015

The cool streams of Hutan Lipur Ulu Bendul (Ulu Bendul Recreational Park), Negeri Sembilan (@ all rights reserved)

Ulu Bendul Water 1 - 31 Dec 2015

Hutan Lipur Ulu Bendul (Ulu Bendul Recreational Park), Negeri Sembilan (@ all rights reserved)

 

Ulu Bendul Water 2 - 31 Dec 2015

Hutan Lipur Ulu Bendul (Ulu Bendul Recreational Park), Negeri Sembilan (@ all rights reserved)

 

Date : 4 May 2016

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The Joy of Philately aka Stamp Collecting

Malaysian stamps marking the coronation of the DYMM Yang Di Pertuan Agong (source : nst.com.my)

Malaysian stamps marking the coronation of the DYMM Yang Di Pertuan Agong
(source : nst.com.my)

I would like to state here, for the record that I am one of them. ‘Them’ being those who can admit that they actually have hobbies and pour moi, one of my hobbies is the hobby of collecting stamps or more glamourously known as philately, and by extension, I am therefore a philatelist or , stripped of all pretenses, a stamp collector.

Historically speaking, if not for the Frenchman Georges Herpin, we would be known as ‘timbromaniacs’ for having ‘Timbromania’ as a hobby. Thanks to him, he coined the new term ‘Philately’ in 1864 and ever since then, we have been known as ‘philatelists’. ¬†Sounds better and safer than being a ‘maniac’, does it not?

Stamps potraying some of the wildlife available in Malaysia (source : filatelic.,com)

Stamps potraying some of the wildlife available in Malaysia
(source : filatelic.,com)

In addition to being to a philatelist (ehem, ehem), I also admit to being a collector of coins and paper currencies (I have not looked the term up yet!), metal badges (nowadays metal badges are hard to come by, unlike in them good old days of a metal badge for every occasion), telephone cards (see my previous post, Into The Annals of History – The Telephone Card (http://wp.me/p21MP1-7i)), music cds and vinyl records (goes well with my interest in music regardless of genres) to name but a few.

I must admit it being not easy to admit to being a stamp collector or a philatelist, be it stamps from my own country of Malaysia or from elsewhere in the known world. I guess it’s all due to the normal reaction one draws whenever one admits to collecting stamps : looks of disbelief, a snicker and a snigger, to downright laughter (almost derisively, I could have sworn), all of whom are not exactly good for the morale, I must say.

A sample of the Malaysian reptilian population  (source : filatelic.com)

A sample of the Malaysian reptilian population
(source : filatelic.com)

But pray tell, where did I get this hobby from, you might ask? From my late father, that’s who. He was a King’s Scout (so I am told) in his school days and used to have quite a collection of stamps, lovingly kept in his collection of stamp albums, compiled since he was young and he kept them lovingly together even when he got married. Lovingly until that is when we, his children, came along not long thereafter.

His stamp albums did not last long after our arrival especially when we came to be amazed and excited at what colour pencils can do. After that, there was never enough paper (and walls for that matter) for us budding Vincent van Goghs to draw on.

Not only his stamps (and the walls, mind you) were not safe from us then, but as we got older and got to know (theorectically that is) that to send mail via the Post Office, you’d need stamps and as stamps require money (kids those days only had the money what our parents gave us), we came up with an ingenious way of sending mail without having to purchase them from the Post Office.

East German stamps - Space exploration  (source : commons.wikimedia.org)

East German stamps – Space exploration
(source : commons.wikimedia.org)

Trouble is, no one told us that those stamps must be unused stamps and they must be stamps issued by the country. We never saw our Father’s stamp collection after that. And kids being kids, we did wonder what happened our Father’s stamp collection, although not for long for there was always something else to attract our attention.

I began collecting stamps early, thanks to my father’s guidance and also thanks in his indulgence in getting me a stamp album. From then on, whatever I know today of stamp collecting, most are what he taught me when I was a child.

However, school began to take its toll on my new-found hobby and soon enough, my passion for stamps, their many designs and colours, all together telling a story, began to take a backseat. However, despite all that was happening in my life then, I still collected stamps, carefully cutting the stamps off from the envelopes they endorsed and put them away for a time when I had the time to really attend to them and hear their story.

Until that is til I was in my late 20’s, believe it or not, of all places, when I was in West Germany. There was, at that moment in time, an East Germany, internationally known as the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR for short, and a West Germany aka the Bundes Republik Deutschland (BRD).

A sample of a West German stamp (source : commons.wikimedia.org)

A sample of a West German stamp
(source : commons.wikimedia.org)

Some of the stories and the history of the two Germanies were told via the stamps issued by the Germanies, East and West as well as the stamps of the individual states that make up the current Germany – Pruessland, Hessen, NordRhein-Westfalen, Schleswig-Holstein, amongst others.

It was a natural that my West German stamp collection expanded to include East Germany, the United Kingdom, and of course Malaysia. It helped that for enthusiasts like me, there were stores that cater to philatelists, with a good and wide range of stamp albums to choose from.

Since then, I have settled down, got married and have children of my own. Learning from experience, I have kept my stamp albums hidden away from their reach and my collection are now awaiting for the day that I will, once again, be able to channel my energies and time to add to the collection that I already have.

Its hard to explain, this joyous feeling when you have compiled a complete set. It’s either you have it or you don’t, this feeling. Try it and just maybe, you’d understand why.

Into The Annals of History – The Telephone Card

Remember payphones? Those phones that would normally be found housed in a glass cubicle, especially in countries having four seasons, allowing you to make phone calls wherever you may be outside of your home.

All you would need are coins of legal tender to start making calls, although some have been known be a bit inventive and creative in trying to get the most of their coins and ‘coins’ from these payphones.

Famous British red telephone booths (good protection from the weather, but not sure about the air quality though)
(source : wikipedia,org)

Some of these cubicles would be red in colour (like in the United Kingdom) whilst others would be in other fashionable colours, and some of these cubicles would be plain-looking whilst some would be fashionably designed eg Spain, Netherlands, Brazil etc.

Most of these payphones would be in good working condition but some would fall prey to vandals. And as most people have experienced, the air quality within the cubicles leaves so much to be desired unless you are CSI’s Hodges who likes to take a whiff to give you a breakdown of the air’s constituents. But then again, it’s a no-brainer as most time, it would be urine anyway.

Sunset Scene (Uniphone Malaysia)
(@ all rights reserved)

And remember telephone cards? That little piece of plastic that we use to make phone calls with? Just by inserting the card into the payphone, we can get connected to our loved ones who lives a distance away or just to give their girlfriends a call (to ensure their girlfriends of their undying love, whilst hogging the phone for the next half an hour, complete with kisses etc, and remaining oblivious to the queue of people outside the cubicle looking and some even pointing at the watches, eating and finishing their burgers etc whilst waiting patiently for their turn) or make that all important call to the office thus ensuring the bossman that we are actually on the job despite not being in the office (as if!). That little piece of plastic that is the telephone card, later to be replaced almost totally by the mobile phone as the Digital Age took a firm grip of the late 1990s and the new millenium.

Telephone Card from Citifon Malaysia
(@ all rights reserved)

That little piece of plastic, the telephone card, was of no less importance in the 1990s than that other fashionable-to-have piece of plastic, the credit card, so fashionable that some would not leave home without it? That piece of plastic that comes in different denominations eg RM5, RM10 etc etc?

I just moved house recently (again!) and was unpacking a box of old personal belongings, stuff that I bring along with me whenever we move house, without fail and always in the same box, when I came across a bundle of old used telephone cards. As I was going through the cards, the memories came flooding back with each card having its own little story to tell.

Japanese Telephone Card (NTT)
(@ all rights reserved)

For instance, the Japanese telephone cards from NTT came to become part of my collection when I was on a month’s training in Tokyo, Japan, with a unit of Nomura no less. Since telecommunications is a big thing in Japan (they were experimenting with some form of texting way before it came big in United Kingdom and later in Malaysia), you could find payphones easily and most, if not all, accept telephone cards.

Japanese Telephone Card (NTT)
(@ all rights reserved)

 

 

 

 

 

As everybody knows, you’d normally use coins to make calls at payphones then. Thats okay for short distances, eg within Tokyo or even Japan itself, but for long distance calls eg to Malaysia, the telephone card is the way to go. Convenient and easily available, even from a vending machine.

LAT Cartoons from Uniphone Malaysia
(@ all rights reserved)

That was an eye opener but then again, this is Japan. If you want something, chances are that you can get it from a vending machine and in Japan, vending machines live a long and prosperous life. Unlike their cousins in some places.

And in Japan, vending machines are a dime a dozen. They can be found almost everywhere and the most amazing thing is that these machines remained intact and good working condition despite being left unattended out in the open.

The Selayak Bird – Flora & Fauna (Uniphone Malaysia)
(@ all rights reserved)

And for most of us who went for that particular piece of training, we mastered the art of making a call from the hotel where we were staying, to Malaysia in no time. It being a telephone card, the downside was that our calls were limited in terms of duration but on the upside, it kept us on the right side of a budget.

Marine Live (Time Malaysia)
(@ all rights reserved)

The telephone cards in my collection were mostly, as expected, Malaysian. Malaysian telephone cards, if you look carefully, carries a lot of information, that is if you know where to look. For instance, names like Uniphone, Citifon are some of the household names during the age of payphones and by extension, telephone cards as well. Today, telecommunication household names tend to be mobile operators, with most people having at least one mobile phone and one mobile number.

Lata Mengkuan Waterfalls (Uniphone Malaysia)
(@ all rights reserved)

Malaysian telephone cards also tend to be made of solid plastic, unlike those pliable ones from Japan’s NTT thus indicating the different technology and materials employed.

Another common characteristic amongst all telephone cards that I have used or come across is that they tend to have scenes of public life or cartoons or fauna and flora or interesting locations etc pasted onto these telephone cards, making these cards items of interest and thus, collectible giving rise to a new hobby (or a new form of hoarding, as my wife would always say).

Divali Greetings – Telephone Card from SIngapore Telecom

Compare these telephone cards to the pre-paid reload cards that you have today, well in Malaysia at least, one can definitely say there is a vast difference in the presentation as well as materials used. Maybe the marketing approach for reload cards is not as demanding for telephone cards due to the nature of the business or the competition available.

Whatever it is, one thing’s for sure. In the Digital Age where connectivity is of great import, and as telecommunication technology gets more and more sophisticated, the telephone card will definitely go by way of the Dodo bird soon, if it hasn’t already.

Malaysian Fruits – The Cempedak (Uniphone Malaysia)
(@ all rights reserved)

But for collectors of telephone cards, it will always bring back memories of an era where things were comparatively simpler as compared to nowadays. Days when we had a certain degree of freedom and time for ourselves, and not always subject to the ring (or ringtone, as it is nowadays) of our mobile handphones.

Granted, everything has its price but the day may come when, to stay connected or as they say, wired in, the price may soon be a bit too high for some. Some have already ditched their handphones for a more stress-free environment. Being wired-in does have its limitations and its drawbacks, you must agree.

When that day comes, are we to see the re-introduction of the telephone card? Who knows? It may just happen.