Monthly Archives: August 2013

Rising Asia: At Work and Play

In the third installment of our Connecting Musafirs conversation series, we talk to Jaafar Rihan who is General Manager, Capital Markets and Head of Islamic Investments at the Employees Provident Fund, an agency under the Ministry of Finance Malaysia and one of Malaysia’s largest institutional investors with more than USD150 billion under management.

Jaafar at the Chao Phraya RIver in Bangkok earlier this year

Jaafar at the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok earlier this year.

Jaafar Rihan is well aware of the opportunities within the Asian region, both economic, as well as personal. As a senior investment officer at the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), he is directly responsible for exploring viable investment opportunities in markets outside Malaysia.

His work requires him to travel frequently around Asia as well as further-flung markets, which have afforded him some remarkable investment prospects as well as cultural insights and experiences.

Recently, in Bangkok for an investor roadshow, he was taken over by the central role the Chao Phraya River played in serving the nation and providing livelihood for the people.

“I was amazed at the weight of Thai history and culture along the river. It is the heart of trade and transportation for many Thais, even till today,” says Jaafar.

Jaafar finds there are always plenty of things to learn from other Asian countries, which could benefit Malaysia and fellow Malaysians in general, providing a different perspective to our existing customs.

“For example, all Thais practise the same gesture, the wai, which is generally a show of respect. It is one of the many marks of a uniform identity, something which could be attributed to the single school education and their social behaviour,” he explains.

Jaafar tends to rely on Google for travel preparations, particularly around weather conditions and information on what to pack. He does find that one of the challenges as a Muslim traveller remains finding good places to eat easily.

“When in doubt, I just stick to seafood,” he adds.

While Jaafar looks forward to new tools to navigate around this challenge, he isn’t letting it slow him down on the experiences and learnings from travel. He will be spending more time in and out of the region this year in his capacity at the EPF before taking a personal trip to Australia with his family at the end of the year.

Penang Street Food @ Dickens Street, Penang

Penang, Malaysia is synonymous with great food. There is one problem though, most of it is non-Halal. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any but it is hard to come by unless you go for traditionally Halal fare like Mamak (Indian-Malay) or Malay food. Other types of food like Penang street food are non-Halal unless cooked by a Muslim which sometimes doesn’t come out quite right i.e. it is not always authentic.

Enter Bee Hwa Cafe, a kopitiam (Malaysian coffee shop or cafe) which serves Penang street food that’s Halal! It’s so authentic that we’re told by our non-Muslim friends that it’s the real deal when compared to the non-Halal alternatives. When eating there, you’re also comforted by the fact that you’re right across from the Penang police headquarters. Arguably the safest kopitiam in Penang, you’ll often eat amongst uniformed and undercover cops – you can tell because they usually carry a compact sling bag which presumably conceals a fire arm and sometimes eat with their uniformed colleagues. The day we were there, a local television show was doing a piece on Bee Hwa Cafe. Good to know we’re not the only ones who think this place is fantastic.

Back to the food. It’s awesome! They have a variety of stir fried dishes like Char Koay Teow (stir-fried ricecake strips), Char Pui (stir-fried rice) and Char Mee (stir-fried noodles). If soupy is what you’re after, try the Hokkien Mee (prawn noodles), Curry Mee (curry noodles) and Koay Teow T’ng (ricecake strips in a chicken broth). Be sure to specify the amount of heat you prefer in your food because it is turned up all the way to at least an 8 by default. Wash it down with your typical kopitiam drinks like teh tarik (literal translation is ‘tea pull’, hot local tea with condensed milk and frothed by transferring the tea from one pot to another repeatedly), teh oh (hot plain local tea), kopi (hot local coffee with condensed milk), kopi oh (hot plain local coffee), Milo (hot Milo with condensed milk), Milo oh (hot plain Milo), bali (hot barley) and some exotics like teh oh swee kam (hot plain local tea with lime), teh oh ‘c’ kosong (hot local tea with evaporated milk and without sugar) and derivatives thereof. Note that adding the word peng after each makes it an iced drink, for example, teh oh peng is an iced plain local tea. Finally, order the roti bakar (toasted bread with butter and kaya, a sweet coconut jam) for dessert even though this is usually a breakfast item.


Address: Lebuh Dickens (a.k.a. Dickens Street), 10050 Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia (directly across the street from the entrance to the Penang police headquarters)
Phone: We don’t know whether there is one – just go there!
Hours: 7am – 5:00pm Monday to Saturday / closed on Sunday

Travel is Personal Business

Houssam Abiad

We continue our Connecting Musafirs conversation series with Houssam Abiad, a multi-talented and inspiring business traveller who hails from Adelaide, South Australia.

To Houssam Abiad, the lines usually drawn between work and leisure are all but indistinct.

“You have to enjoy what you do,” he articulates.       

The young South Australian certainly thrives from wearing many different hats – as an Adelaide City Councillor, focused on preserving and growing the business and economic development in one of the fastest growing cities in Australia; as a multi-awarded serial entrepreneur with at least three established businesses in the information & telecommunications technology and food & beverage industries; and as a strong advocate for community engagement and multiculturalism.

While his trips often start out work-related, Houssam draws enjoyment and wisdom from personal experiences while in a new place. His travels have taken him across the globe, to the Gulf region including the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon as well as the United States, and that does not include the places he has been to for dedicated holidays.

“To me, travel is as much about the people as it is the place.  Who and where you connect with, such as discovering a street by accident, that perhaps only the locals knew about. My travel memories are created around exactly these places and people,” shares Houssam.

The value of connecting with the local community cannot be underestimated.

Houssam revealed that where possible, he prefers spontaneity to meticulous planning and preparation when it comes to seeking these travel experiences. While he would see online search as his first point of reference for essential information such as where to go to observe Muslim prayer times or for shisha, there have been occasions where online searches have offered inaccurate information.

“I would certainly see the value of being able to connect with the local community, although that is naturally a time-consuming process,” he says.

Houssam added that he definitely see the potential advantage of an app or a service which would allow musafirs (travellers) like himself to quickly connect with the local community.

As he continues to make his mark around the world and on behalf of the city he calls home, Adelaide, there is no doubting Houssam will inspire and inculcate in young musafirs everywhere the same passion and integrity to serve for the greater good. And to enjoy themselves while doing it.

Happy Eid Al-Fitr 2013!

Tanjung Bungah Floating Mosque, Penang, Malaysia

Ramadan has come and gone so quickly. We hope you’ve had a most fulfilling Ramadan. It is now time to celebrate. We wish everyone a very happy Eid Al-Fitr! Be safe and enjoy. Here are a few more Eid Al-Fitr greetings in languages from around the world…

Acehnese – Uroë Raya Puasa

Bosnian – Ramazanski bajram

Chinese – 开斋的盛宴 / Kāizhāi de Shèngyàn

Croatian – Ramazanski bajram

Dutch – Suikerfeest

German – Fest des Fastenbrechens

Hebrew – עיד אל-פיטר

Hindi – ईद उल-फ़ित्र

Indonesian – Idul Fitri, Hari Lebaran

Malay – Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

Spanish – Fiesta de la ruptura del ayuno

Turkish – Ramazan Bayramı

Urdu – چھوٹی عید

Photo courtesy of Sky Wosh – thank you.