Sixty years of service

The Tunku Mahkota of Johor cutting the anniversary cake
Celebrating 60 years of service to the community

On 23 June 2012, the Rotary Club of Johor Baru (RCJB) celebrated 60 years of service with a dinner that coincided with the installation of their 61st President, Francis Gopal, for the Rotary year 2012 - 2013.  With 65 members, the RCJB is the second largest club in District 3310.  In the tradition of RCJB, the event was graced by members of the Johor royal family represented by DYAM Tunku Mahkota Johor, Tunku Ismail Idris Ibni DYMM Sultan Ibrahim and DYAM Tunku Abdul Rahman Ibni DYMM Sultan Ibrahim.

Immediate Past President Ng Swee Poh [Right]
congratulating Francis Gopal on his installation
as the RCJB's 61st President on 23 June 2012
One of the highlights of the celebration was a visual show in Sixty Years of Service with a brief history when Dr Richard Harvey Isaacs, an anesthetist from Cornwall, England, was posted to work with the Johor Baru General Hospital – now called Hospital Sultanah Aminah – more than sixty years ago.  He was formerly from the Royal Selangor Rotary Club in Kuala Lumpur and as he joined the Rotary Club of Singapore for meetings regularly, Dr Isaacs saw the need for such a club to serve the community in Johor Baru. 

With the help of the Singapore club, the Rotary Club of Johor Baru was chartered on 27 June 1952 and this year marks the club’s Diamond Anniversary.

At that time, the Rotary International movement founded by Paul Harris in 1905 was already 46 years old and between 1929 and 1930, Rotary Clubs were established in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Seremban and Singapore.  The first group of interested people met in October 1951 with weekly meetings held at the Johore Civil Service Club (now known as the Johor Cultural & Sports Club).  Eventually, the Provisional Rotary Club of Johor Baru was formed with 20 over members. 

RCJB Past President Dr K N Singh with a patient
at the medical camp in Kulai last year
The inaugural installation dinner where Dr Isaacs was installed as the first president of RCJB was held on 22 July 1952 at the Royal Johore International Club (Polo Club).  It was graced by the late HRH Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar Al-Masyhur Ibni Abu Bakar and a royal entourage and besides being the Royal Patron, HRH Sultan Ibrahim also maintained a royal presence at all the club’s installation dinners.  This proud tradition continued in the 60th anniversary event where members of the Johor royal family were also present. 

Facade of Rotary Haemodialysis Center in JB

A week before the event on 23 June 2012, a group of Rotarians had an audience with DYMM Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar where HRH the Johor Sultan consented to be the Royal Patron of RCJB and generously donated 2 units of haemodialysis machines to the Rotary Haemodialysis Centre.  The Centre had previously received the kind donation of 6 units from the late HRH Sultan Iskandar Ibni Sultan Ismail.  The economic lifespan of a dialysis machine that costs about RM50,000, is about 5 years because it would become expensive to maintain beyond those years.  

“This year, we carried out more projects than we planned,” said Immediate Past President Ng Swee Poh, as he outlined the many local and foreign community projects completed in 2011 - 2012.  With 20 over machines operating in 2-shifts, the Rotary Haemodialysis Centre is able to serve more than 60 patients.  Since opening the centre in 1990, RCJB has inspired other Rotary Clubs to set up similar centres in Pontian, Kulai, Batu Pahat and other districts in Johor.  In addition to operating the centre for 22 years, the RCJB has contributed towards the community in a wide range of services. 

Rotarian Ranjeet Singh with residents of a
welfare home in Skudai in 2010
While the RCJB has held numerous Medical Camps in various towns as well as one in the interior of Sarawak, a joint event with the clubs in Kulai and Changi Singapore was held for the first time last November.  It was dubbed the “Model Medical Camp” where at least 10 medical officers were available to meet the target of serving some 410 members of the public.  The teaming up of resources from the health department, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and private practitioners, not only allowed the group’s partnership but also the public to benefit from the resulting synergy.

The End Polio Walk from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Baru
last year saw many Rotarians taking part
Rotarians have been working to end the spread of the polio virus since 1985 and the last polio cases in Malaysia were reported in 1992.  In December 2010, a group of Rotarians and Rotaractors took part in a Walk to End Polio that covered 400km over 11 days from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore that raised RM180,000.  To raise more funds, Rotarians went on a grueling End Polio Trans-Sabah Walk and Climb in November 2011, a 12-day walk from Sandakan on the East to Kota Kinabalu in the West with a trek across the Crocker Range and the exciting Mount Kinabalu climb. 

Fit and adventurous Rotarians in the Trans-Sabah
Walk and Climb, 2011
In their Dengue Eradication Project, the club joined forces with other Rotary Clubs, Non-Governmental Organizations, government agencies and private companies to make Johor Baru a cleaner and healthier place to live in.  The club was also involved with numerous social projects to improve the living conditions of the hardcore poor and underprivileged as well as the terminally ill through the Palliative Care Association of Johor Baru.  Members actively participated in repainting buildings and sharing goodwill with the needy.  Besides training and equipping Interactors in schools with leadership skills, the club also hosted young people from other countries to promote cross-cultural exchanges.

The club donating a van to the Palliative Care Association
of Johor Baru; 
[Left to Right] Jason Tan, Dr Anga and Tan Chee Seng
Over the years, RCJB established a close relationship with sister clubs in Japan and the Philippines and some of their members were present at the anniversary celebration.  Between 1995 and 1997, the Rotary Club of Haramachi-Chuo contributed 3 million Japanese Yen toward the Rotary Haemodialysis Centre.  In the wake of the March 2011 Japanese tsunami and earthquake, the RCJB returned their goodwill by quickly raising 1 million Japanese Yen that was sent to the Rotary Club of Haramachi-Chuo which was situated in Fukushima, directly in the path of destruction.  

A renewal of Sister Club Agreement and signing of Memorandum of Joint Projects was signed with K. Shibusha, the Rotary Club of Haramachi-Chuo president and with Leo Santos, president of the Rotary Club of Marbel.  Since 2000, RCJB has been carrying out Mercy Missions at Koronadal, South Cotabato in Mindanao, the Philippines to provide multiple surgeries for children with cleft and harelips.  For his selfless contribution in this international project, Rotarian Dr Angamuthu Rajoo was recognized as The Rotarian of the Year. 

Rotarians helping to paint a senior care home in Senai
Peggy [Right] with some of the Rotarian spouses
at the 60th anniversary celebration
A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 29 June 2012

Drum Roll

24 Festive Drums, a Malaysian ensemble, celebrates its
worldwide success on its 24th anniversary
Johor Baru's 24 Festive Drums celebrate their 24th anniversary with pride

It all started in 1988 when Tan Chai Puan and Tan Hooi Song were tasked with organizing a performance for the Ninth National Dance Festival in Johor Baru. 

These cultural activists shared the vision in using drums that traditionally echo the rhythm of life, to create a festive mood.  While Chai Puan, a businessman, talented poet and cartoonist, wrote the poetry, Hooi Song, a renowned musician, composed the music.

Founders, Tan Chai Puan [Left] and Tan Hooi Song
at Hu Nan Province, China in 2005
To enhance the presentation with a blend of drumming, music, poetry and dance, they sought the help of Yu Sing Kong, a master in the art of Chinese crosstalk and Charlie Tan Cheng Swee, a choreographer.  This unique collaboration became fondly known as Three Tans and One Yu.  They agreed that it should be a multiple drum performance but couldn’t decide on how many drums until Chai Puan read a poem by a Taiwanese poet who described the beauty of the 4 seasons in a set of 24 poems.  

This was the inspiration for the creation of a performance based on the 24 seasons in the lunar calendar, traditionally marked by festivals, that has guided the lives of the ancient Chinese agricultural community for thousands of years. They chose to use the Cantonese drums and depended on donations and sponsors to buy them from China.  The first set of drums was acquired through the goodwill of generous sponsors and contributions from the Johor Bahru Tiong-Hua Association and the 5 Chinese clans representing the Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hokkien and Hakka communities in Johor Baru.

Historical event at Johor Gu Miao on 12 June 1988
Each drum was painted with two bold Chinese characters that represent each of the 24 seasons.  The music and choreography are arranged to harmonize gracefully into a performing art that depicts the cycles of the 24 seasons in music, calligraphy and the rhythm of life.  Hooi Song, then the music master in Foon Yew High School, trained the first troupe of drummers and it was a memorable day in April 1988 when they gave their inaugural performance in the Ninth National Dance Festival.

The 24 Festive or Season Drums was to perform only for the opening ceremony but the performance so enthralled the audience that the troupe was asked to perform again the next day.  Some 2000 tickets at RM50 each were sold for the fest and the 2-day festival was so successful that it was extended for another day.  The drums show created a great impact and this positive response was a strong encouragement for everyone involved.

Johor Chinese Association stalwarts at the event in
Johor Gu Miao on 12 June 1988

On 12 June 1988, the 24 Festive Drums was officially recognized in a ceremony held at the forecourt of Johor Gu Miao or ancient temple. 

It was an auspicious event attended by the presidents of the Johor Bahru Tiong-Hua Association and the 5 Chinese clans as well as Dato Kuek Ho Yau and the calligraphy masters who wrote the Chinese characters of the 24 seasons on the drums.

Tan Chai Puan [Seated Centre] with first troupe
of drummers at Johor Gu Miao, 12 June 1988
On 9 June 2012, just 2 days ahead of the Drums’ 24th anniversary on 12 June, representatives of the Johor Bahru Tiong-Hua Association, the 5 Chinese clans and YB Mok Chek Hou, state assemblyman for Stulang, met to commemorate this special event at Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk.

“While the drums are a cultural element from China, the 24 Festive Drums has its origins in Johor Baru,” said Chai Puan because many are not aware that this performing art is truly a Malaysian heritage.  Hooi Song received the Warisan Orang Hidup award from the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry, a week before he lost the battle to cancer in July 2008.  On 14 February 2009, the same ministry listed the 24 Festive Drums as a national cultural heritage.

Tan Chai Puan [4th from Left] and Mok Chek Hou [Right]
with representatives from the Chinese clans at 24th
anniversary celebration at Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk
As a memento of this performing art’s humble beginning, each representative received a framed photo of the original troupe taken at the temple 24 years ago.  In the celebration, the deep, dramatic sound of the 24 Festive Drums resonated from the front of the Red House and throbbed through the heart of old Johor Baru.  A tall tray of traditional Chinese peach-shaped birthday pau or buns was arranged on a Chinese drum, surrounded by 24 red candles that were lit up as a special birthday cake!

“I never imagined it would gain such popularity,” said Chai Puan, reminiscing on the creation of the Festive Drums and how this art of drumming has grown to more than 300 troupes worldwide.  There are now professional troupes in Singapore, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Switzerland and the United States. 

Malaysian 24 Festive Drums half-time performance
at NBA games in Oklahoma City, 2010
He said there may be more than 50 troupes in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur alone and since 2008, when drumming was included in the primary 6 school syllabus there are now drum troupes in primary and secondary schools in East and West Malaysia and even among the physically handicapped!

From 2003, universities in China starting forming their drum troupes and in 2005, the Hu Nan province of China incorporated the 24 Festive Drums into their cultural ceremony to pay respects to ancient Chinese national ancestors, Emperor Shen Nong (Yindi) and the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi).  In 2008, Malaysian students in Oklahoma State University, Ben Loh Weng Kheong, Yeo Chee Kiong, Leu Guan Shyong and Tang Choon, started the first 24 Festive Drums troupe in the United States.  It was a very proud experience for this drum troupe who had the honour to perform at half-time for the NBA games in Oklahoma City in 2010. 

The 24 Festive Drums performing on their 24th anniversary
in front of the Red House at Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Walk

Sultan Iskandar, the late Johor Sultan [Standing Right] applauding
the 24 Festive Drum performance at an event in Larkin Stadium
Malaysian 24 Festive Drums performing on their first visit to
Teochew city, China in 2008
A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 18 June 2012

Macaroon Me?

Peppermint Macaroon [Green] among
other macaroons at Passionfood Cafe
My first encounter with macaroons was probably in the pages of Enid Blyton story books where I read about how the child characters had melt-in-your-mouth macaroons for tea or packed some delicious macaroons for a picnic.  At that time, all I wanted to do was to rush to the end of the story to solve the mysteries and only had a passing interest in how the macaroons really tasted. 

I may have eaten them before but my most memorable encounter with macaroons must have been at the St Regis Singapore, a hotel renowned for its unsurpassed luxury and elegance.  I cannot forget the pleasure of being checked-in, not at the reception counter, but by my personal butler inside my suite of rooms.  I was graciously invited to sit down and help myself to the refreshments prepared as he efficiently processed the paperwork.  As I settled myself more comfortably on the sofa, my eyes were riveted to what was on the coffee-table.

Warm welcome from St Regis Singapore
included macaroons!
Laid out nicely for me, were macaroons and a tray of fruit with a bottle of Baileys Irish Cream whiskey!  I did not need much persuasion to indulge myself because in the short time my butler took to complete the paperwork for my signature, I had discreetly wolfed down one macaroon!  [Notice the uneven number of macaroons from the photo!]

So what is a macaroon?  A macaroon or macaron [French pronunciation] is a sweet meringue-based confectionary shaped like cookies made with egg whites, icing sugar and almond powder sandwiched with a variety of tasty fillings between the two cookies.
To enjoy its taste, I simply sank my teeth into its crisp crust to a softer interior and melt it in my mouth as I savour the filling flavour sandwiched in between. 

Poster menu for macaroons at Passionfood Cafe
I didn’t have any further encounters with macaroons until that day when I accepted an invitation to Passionfood Café & Bakery.  I know they have a reputation for macaroons, cupcakes and an exciting range of confectionery but my first time there was to taste their menu of French fusion food. 

Finally in the Tea-for-Two set to share for dessert, there were only two macaroons among the array of cakes and snacks on the two-tier plates.  As I was only sampling, I managed to savour a tiny wedge of the Peppermint Macaroon and I found that it tasted surprisingly like After Eight, the after-dinner mint chocolates!

Wow!  The Peppermint Macaroon is named after me?
Keeping this in mind, my next time in Passionfood Cafe was purely to satisfy my sweet-tooth.  It was a leisurely evening where I had time to survey what was available and I selected a few items to try and decide if I liked them.  I took my time to look closer at the colourful confection range on the shelves and decided to pick a few macaroons as well. 

The helpful waitress directed my attention to the poster that introduced a variety of macaroons by flavour and as I scrutinized the brief description under the pictures, I was pleasantly surprised to read my name!  I was rather taken aback as it was least expected and I’m not so conceited to think that the café deliberately named the Peppermint macaroon after me! 

More macaroons among other yummy cakes!
Then I discovered that the cafe has nine interesting flavours with each named with girl’s names like Denise for the double-chocolate macaroon, Betty for the blueberry macaroon while Bonnie is the black sesame flavoured macaroon.  I know Peggy is often used for animals like horses, chimpanzees and dogs but this was the first time I came across it being used for a macaroon! 

I was at Passionfood again for lunch and wanted a few macaroons for dessert but I was disappointed that PEGGY – the Peppermint Macaroon was all sold out.  I guess the café makes new batches by flavours in rotation but I couldn’t help wondering if the PEGGY macaroons are so popular that they were quickly sold out… Well, now I have another reason to go there again for my PEGGY!


Korean Affair

A typical Korean meal comes with many appetizers
Learning about Korean culture through food

As more Koreans live and work in Johor Baru, our city is also experiencing a Korean Wave.  The International Women’s Association Johor Baru (IWA JB) has a number of Korean members and for their June activity these members were assigned the task to organize an event for members to better appreciate the Korean culture.  Food is a great way to get to know a culture, so the event dubbed the Korean Affair, was arranged at a popular Korean restaurant in the city.

Members sign-in on arrival at Korea Family Restaurant
From as early as 11am, some 35 members and guests met for their June Coffee Morning at Korea Family Restaurant in Jalan Sri Pelangi, Taman Pelangi.  The restaurant, run by Kim Sun A and her husband, Lee Jun Min, has been serving a menu of authentic Korean cuisine in Johor Baru for the last 4 years.  

Working closely with the IWA Korean members, Kim presented a range of appetizers with favourites like fresh Kimchi (Korean pickled vegetables), Bim Bim Bap (Korean stone-pot rice), Tteokbokki (Korean braised rice cake), Panjeon (Korean pancake) and Bulgogi (Korean barbecued beef), to introduce Korean cuisine to the IWA JB members.

Lisa Lee looking elegant in
her traditional Hanbok
On their arrival, the members were welcomed by Lisa Lee, a Korean IWA JB member and the event hostess, and they could not help admiring her Hanbok, the elegant traditional Korean costume she wore.  Lee’s hanbok, made of special spun silk, is 10 years old but it looked as good as new.  Members who were curious about the costume, quizzed her about it and Lee graciously explained the traditions of wearing it, including demonstrating the skills of tying the kwan sai or ribbon in front.

Following the welcome address from Carol Tsang, the IWA JB Vice-President, Lee briefly introduced the Do’s and Don’ts in Korean dining etiquette before the members savoured the sumptuous meal.  Lee said their customs are very similar to that of the Chinese and Japanese, in that it was courteous to wait for the elders to start the meal before the younger generation could eat.  Unlike other cultures where people talk over a meal, she said that Koreans traditionally dine with minimal talk and any talking was reserved until after the meal.

Speaking in English, Lee, whose husband has a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice in Johor Baru, emphasized that the Korean tradition in using the rice bowl is opposite to that of the Chinese. 

Lisa Lee [Left] demonstrating Korean dining etiquette
While the Chinese way is to lift the bowl to their faces, the Koreans consider it bad manners and traditionally eat with the bowl on the table.  She also advised that chopsticks should be laid on the table when not in use and should not be stuck in the bowl because it was the practice for funerals!

She said when serving tea, it is polite to serve others first before pouring for yourself.  If senior family members or older people offered you wine, it is courteous to accept the offer.  Lee said that the Korean way to drink it is by turning sideways before sipping the wine.

Pam Harris skillfully using Korean
stainless steel flat chopsticks
“I usually do better with wooden chopsticks,” said Pam Harris from Texas, United States, as she gingerly picked up a morsel of food with a pair of stainless steel flat chopsticks.  Korean chopsticks that are flat and narrow with a smooth surface were certainly a challenge for many users as it was difficult to get a firm grip.  Instead of asking for a fork, she persevered and used the chopsticks to enjoy her Korean meal.

Although Kathy George, from the United Kingdom, was comfortable with using chopsticks, she admitted that her chopsticks occasionally got crossed.  She must be the veteran chopsticks user among the non-Asian ladies because she learnt to use them in Hong Kong when she was aged 10.  It was helpful that the Korean chopsticks set came with a long-handled spoon that made eating the meal less challenging.

Helen Smale tasting a piece of Tteok

Tteokbokki (Korean braised rice cake) is traditionally more of a snack than a meal and even as the sauce was spicy, non-Asian members found its sweet, short burning sensation rather agreeable.  Rice cakes are a tradition in any Korean celebration and the Tteok served here was made with a blend of white rice and glutinous rice flour with sandwiched layers of pumpkin and Korean mugwort puree.  As the members got better acquainted with Korean food and culture, they also watched a demo to make kimchi pancake by Kim and many asked her about the ingredients as they were keen to try it out at home.

Established in May 1999 the IWA is a non-profit charity organization involved with fund-raising social events and contributes towards healthcare, education and other social needs in Johor Baru.  The members are represented by an eclectic group from Australia, Belgium, Barbados, Finland, Germany, India, Korea, Netherlands, England, Scotland, the United States, Singapore, Mauritius and Malaysia.  Women from the international community in JB are invited to join IWA and queries should be sent to email:

Kim Sun A of Korea Family Restaurant [Left] demonstrating
the making of Panjeon or kimchi pancake

Korean dry-tossed potato starch noodles
Tteok [pronounced "tok"] is a Korean rice cake
Bim Bim Bap is Korean stone-pot rice with
the mixed version [Background] in spicy flavour
[Note the empty plate of spicy sauce at Top Right!]
[From Left] Helen Smale, Pam Harris, Carol Tsang with Kathy George [Right]

Korea Family Restaurant is located at No. 185, Jalan Sri Pelangi, 80400 Johor Baru.  For reservations, telephone: 607 - 331 4276.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 11 June 2012

Wan Sifu

Voon Kan Kwee in Montreal, Canada, 1975
Chi kung for good health

Voon Kan Kwee better known as Wan Sifu, 76, practices and promotes nui kung and chi kung disciplines for better health and well-being

I’m the elder of a pair of twin boys, the third child in a Cantonese family of four siblings.  We used to live at No.84 Jalan Trus and at that time, our father owned a tin mine in Kota Tinggi.  One of my fondest memories of living here was paying just ten cents to watch exciting episodes of Tarzan and Batman black & white films screened at the nearby Foon Yew Primary School.

There was also a shop that sold fighting fish run by a merchant we fondly called, Fei Lo (meaning fat man in Cantonese).  I enjoyed playing with these exciting fish but I did not have money to buy them.  So I used to dig for worms from the drain and trade a milk tin of worms with Fei Lo in exchange for my fish!

I remember there was a Hokkien rubber trader further up the road and it was big news when he won the first prize in the Social Welfare lottery.  He bought 2 cases of brandy to celebrate and since it was then the durian season, he also indulged in durians.  As a result, he became very ill and after about a month, he passed away.

Voon Kan Kwee [Left] with his master [Right]
and grandmaster in Plentong
There was also a coffin shop along the road and I remember being terrified by the sight of the hideous-looking old-fashioned Chinese coffins.  These wooden coffins that are hewn out of tree trunks, just made me feel eerie.  I would shudder at the sight of the decorated hearse whenever it passed by our house.

In those days, besides going to Lido Beach we had very little to amuse ourselves and I remember catching yellow locusts and tying them with strings.  Then I would let them fly and reel them in again and again.  After the insects were tired of their futile attempts to flee, I would release them.

I was a student with the English College (now Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar) and while my twin brother attended Chinese night classes in Foon Yew Primary School, I chose martial arts training with Kwong Siew Wui Koon, the Cantonese clan association at Jalan Siew Nam.  Since age 10, I trained in Hung Ga kung fu, a southern Chinese martial art that is synonymous with the legendary Chinese folk hero, Wong Fei Hung.  Around 1963 my father moved the family to Queenstown, Singapore and I started working with Metal Box as a Tool Room Clerk and ended my career with them in the Purchasing Department.

I went on to work with several other companies including General Electric, National Semiconductor and Litten Components in Singapore.  I was married in 1969 and when my 2 daughters were aged 3 and 18 months old, a cousin in Canada urged me to move to Alberta because there were good career prospects there.  In May 1975, my family migrated to Canada and I found employment in Montreal with CAE Inc, the world’s leading supplier of civil flight simulators.

This picture captured a glowing
light above Wan Sifu
In 1970, I started learning chi kung, a practice to cultivate and balance life energy (chi or qi), especially for health.  My second chi kung master, Wong Lip Nam, was very strict and I remember how he used to wield a stick and raise his voice at any mistake.  Today other chi kung practitioners who observed my skills can tell that my master taught me well.  I kept a close relationship with Master Wong when he was alive and remain in touch with his family in Johor Baru.

My mother told me about a neighbour who lost his job as a bus conductor and he set up a stall to sell eggs in the market.  One day he decided to sell his stall and started to work as a spiritual medium.  When I heard this, I decided that if I ever received any spiritual gift, I would use it to help people through the practice of chi kung and nui kung, a powerful system of chi kung based on the principles of the inner flow of chi energy.

As a practitioner of these martial arts, I wake up at 3.45am in a daily routine to pray and meditate and practice chi kung and nui kung for 1 and a half hours.  Chi kung and nui kung have been used by practitioners of Chinese medicine and acupuncture for centuries and is now widely accepted in modern communities.  Besides teaching a few students in my own home every night, I teach 3-hour morning classes daily on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday in a community centre in Montreal for between 15 to 25 students aged 55 and above.

Wan Sifu is on a mission to share
goodwill through chi kung
In May 2012 just before coming in Johor Baru, I was with a group in Beijing, walking almost to the fourth tower of the Great Wall of China, when a lady suddenly collapsed from exhaustion.  I responded to that emergency by reviving her with chi kung and the news about what happened on the Wall spread like wildfire.  By the time we returned to the coach, everyone knew about the lady’s recovery through the help of chi kung and our coach driver was so impressed that he could not resist asking me to diagnose him!

Every 2 to 3 years, I visit Johor Baru to promote chi kung for good health.  The last time I was here in 2009, I did not have time to tour the city but this trip, I saw some interesting changes and developments in the city.  Wherever I go, it is like a spiritual mission for me and I always look for ways to share goodwill and help people with chi kung. 

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 14 June 2012

Happy Golden Years

Facade of Jeta Care in Kulaijaya, Johor
Through a healthier lifestyle, many seniors are enjoying longer life spans and even in their advancing age, they prefer to spend time with people of their own age.  As their children may have relocated to the cities for work or live abroad, these seniors can now choose to retire comfortably in professionally-run senior communities.  In fact, living out their golden years with enjoyment, dignity and independence is a mindset many Asian senior citizens are now increasingly embracing. 

Jack Lim, Executive Director of Jeta Care with
his father and mentor, Tan Choe Lam
The senior lifestyle community in Jeta Gardens, Queensland Australia, successfully removed the social stigma of senior care facilities because its operations combine the best in Western practices with Asian values.  Open since 2007, Jeta Gardens provides professional senior care services that meet the interests of a multi-cultural community and help them enjoy a quality lifestyle with a range of compassionate and caring services. 

In 2011, Kumpulan Perubatan Johor (KPJ) Healthcare became a major partner of Jeta Gardens with a development plan for the next 10 years that include a hospital dedicated to geriatric care, international nurses training college, serviced apartments and a shopping mall.

“The name Jeta is derived from Jetavana, a place in India where Buddha gave most of his teachings,” said Tan Choe Lam, a Buddhist and founder of Jeta Gardens.  Brought up with the Confucian values of filial piety, Tan, an aircraft engineer by profession, quit his job in 1981 to do his filial duty to care for his father who had suffered a stroke.  The experience of caring for his father, planted the seeds of desire to create a support system where one can have a successful career and married life while caring of our aged and ailing seniors.

Hotel quality bedding in rooms
In 2000, Tan created the Jeta Concepts for a professionally run retirement village and residential aged care facility that incorporate the 4-fold concept of Aging in Place, East Meets West, 4-Hs for Home, Hotel, Holiday Resort and Hospital and providing service with Joy and Compassion.  His Aging in Place concept provides residents with a one-stop facility where they can enjoy a lifestyle that matches their level of independence.  The residential care packages available range from low care to high care, dementia care, respite care, nursing care as well as palliative care.

“We have a clinical assessment system to determine the level of care needed,” said Tan who went on to explain that from time to time there are reviews to ascertain the resident’s current needs.  Care packages will then be recommended based on these assessments so that residents receive the most appropriate care and attention.  With the success of Jeta Gardens in Australia, Tan decided to bring the Jeta Concepts to Johor and work on creating Jeta Care in his hometown, Kulaijaya, started in 2010.

A section of Jeta Cafe on ground level of Jeta Care
Tan was a mentor to his younger son Jack Tan Yeu Jie, as he supervised the renovation and fitting-out of 4 units of their family-owned shops over the last 2 years.  The modern 3-level building is designed with elevators, wheelchair-friendly and multi-cultural facilities like a surau and halal menu, a hair salon as well as a rooftop garden, to comfortably accommodate 80 residents.  Jeta Care welcomed their first resident, Subramaniam Pechaimuthu, 70, followed by 9 other residents, when they recently opened as Malaysia’s first Aged Care Centre based on Australian concepts and Confucian values.

Subramaniam Pechaimuthu, 70,
the first resident of Jeta Care
“Our Director of Nursing from Jeta Gardens will give 6 weeks of training here,” said Tan who emphasized that staff is trained in the Jeta core values like treating residents as extended family members and providing service with joy and compassion.  Jeta Care pride themselves as an ideal home for seniors from diverse cultural and language backgrounds as the staff understands the local culture and more than one Chinese dialect or Asian language.  To ensure that residents receive the best attention, the building has a 24-hour nurse-call-system with easily accessible call buttons for any emergencies.

To encourage resident and family interaction, the rooftop garden is linked to a multi-purpose hall with a library and recreational activities like watching television and karaoke singing.  While the grassy rooftop is ideal for outdoor exercise and barbecues, there is even an elevated plot for residents to enjoy gardening comfortably.  The building is also equipped with WiFi hotspots for wireless high-speed internet access.

Resident, Mdm Kon Tai, 93,  [Seated Left] with her family at Jeta Care
Resident, Mrs Smith Macrae Moh Allison, 74,  [Centre]
with Tan Soo Kim [Right] and a friend
Rooftop garden created for outdoor activities
Curry Laksa served at Jeta Cafe

As more senior citizens decide to spend their golden years comfortably in professionally-run senior communities, Tan aims to make Jeta Care the “Hilton of senior care centres” in Malaysia.  “When I see the smiling faces of the residents, it is all worth it,” he added.

Jeta Care is located at No. 1, 2 & 3 Jalan Susur 1, Taman Seraya, Kulai Besar, 81000 Kulaijaya.  Tel: 607 – 6636 888, Fax: 607 – 6633 669.  Website:

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 13 June 2012

Feedback Received

A. Ruby said: Hey Peggy, saw the 2nd of your articles on Jeta Care today. Wonderful! The last few years, I have been thinking about this concept - next to a church. Not somewhere that it’s isolated and away from the action.  So it’s nice to read that it can be done in this part of Malaysia!

Good Morning Peggy,

A wonderful published blog!

You have provided a great service to an outstanding man and family.


Peter C. Hennessy FAICD CPA ACIS
Executive Director/Company Secretary
Jeta Gardens
Australia's first retirement & aged care resort based on eastern values                              

27 Clarendon Avenue
Bethania QLD 4205 Australia
P O Box 475 Waterford QLD 4133 Australia