Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Interesting Bicycle Story

How the Japanese defeated the British in Malaya during the 2nd World War.

Here's an extract from Colonel Masanobu Tsuji's : Japan's Greatest Victory, Britain's Worst Defeat.(1977).

While progressive Chinese were jabbing their elders with the idea of the bicycle, other Asian countries were well on the way to widespread adoption of the machine for mundane utilitarian purposes. Largely this was due to the surging Japanese bicycle industry, which had exported a staggering number of cheap, well-built bicycles to neighboring countries in the decade prior to World War II.

After Colonel Masanobu Tsuji scouted Malaya in 1941 to plan the Japanese invasion of the peninsula, he decided he would put his troops on bicycles on the long attack south to Singapore. Tsuji later wrote that two divisions had been out-fitted with six thousand bicycles each prior to the invasion, but many other sources say that the Japanese simply commandeered their bicycles from Malays upon arrival. There were plenty to go around.

Troops landed on Malaya about eighty minutes after the Zeroes swept into Pearl Harbor. Accompanied by tanks and trucks filled with their big guns ad heavy equipment, Tsuji's invaders extracted full advantage from Japan-built bicycles and the Brit's paved plantation roads, rolling about six hundred miles to Singapore. This was no ordinary charity ride. The bicycle troops stabbed into enemy territory, using secondary tracks to encircle allied forces mired in their armored columns on the main road--stuck in a traffic jam, essentially, where the armor was a fat target for airplanes and big guns. Motors in flames, the British soldiers were forced to hoof it, and were quickly overtaken by troops on two-wheelers. When the allies blew the bridges, the Japanese waded across with their bikes and kept rolling. "With the infantry on bicycles," Tsuji explained, "there was no traffic congestion or delay." Tsuji claimed that a conventional campaign without bicycles would have taken over a year. The British defenses were wiped out in seventy days.

Allied soldiers who were hiding along the route watched orderly columns of hundreds of Japanese soldiers pedaling by and happily talking among themselves as if headed to a picnic. These guys were in high spirits, at least at first. With extremely long days on the road, hauling sixty to eighty pounds of gear under their seats, pausing frequently for combat and chasing Englishmen into the jungle on foot, the rolling infantry started to feel the burn. Upon arrival at Singapore they were a hungry saddle-weary bunch, but captured what was supposedly an impregnable fortress easily enough despite their saddle sores.

The British seemed shocked. They hadn't expected to be blitzkrieged by bicyclists. Decades later they still seemed shocked, and embarrassed. It was a particularly humiliating way to get skunked- to have this old British invention, viewed as a child's toy by many Englishmen in 1941, turned against them in such devastating fashion. Even without the bicycles the loss of Singapore would have been the most humiliating military defeat the British have ever suffered. That the Japanese had achieved this victory via bicycle was beyond the pale. Most British histories of the campaign preferred not to mentions Tsuji's two-wheeled stratagem at all. Instead they dwelled on the Japanese use of tanks. Some big, bad tanks those were. Grrrr.

Cycling Facts
  • In Copenhagen, Denmark 36% of all citizens commute to work, school or university by bicycle.

  • Most bike commuters report losing 15 to 20 lbs during their first year in the saddle without changing their eating habits.
  • Bicycles use 2% as much energy as cars per kilometer - passenger, and cost less than 3% as much to purchase.
  • Bicycles in China outnumber cars 250 - 1.
  • 100 bicycles can be produced for the same energy and resources it takes to build one-medium size automobile.
  • You can reduce the risk of disease or stroke by 50% just by cycling 3 hours a week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Marathon Des Sables 2009 (Pictures)

With the French Medical Officers

With British participants

Dining tents after the end of the race

Feet swelling up due to the heat

Lost all toe nails within 3 months after the marathon

Friday, August 19, 2011

Road To London - The Hard Way

I am now in the midst of my final preparation for my biggest challenge to date - to cycle to London for the 2012 Olympics. Yes, while I failed to get to Beijing in 2008 I hope I can make it this time around though the distance is about twice as long. To give you a clearer picture, the distance is anything between 17,000km to 20,000km, through the northern half of peninsula Malaysia, northwards through Thailand, Laos and then Kunming in China. From Kunming, I hope to find a way to Dhaka in Bangladesh. ( It would be shorter to go through Myanmar but overland travel is not allowed there except by public transport).Next, Kolkata , then westward through India passing by Varanasi, Agra and Delhi on highway 1, then on highway 2 to Atari and across the border to Lahore in Pakistan, followed by Iran, Greece, Turkey, countries of the former Yugoslavia, Austria, Germany, France/Holland and finally London. I intend to start the journey on the 24nd or the 25th Of September and InsyaAllah all will be fine.

While cycling (the bicycle is the most efficient vehicle ever invented) there are still costs to bear: cost of bicycle and fittings and spares and other necessities and of course food and lodging. While costs in Asia are reasonably cheap, once in Europe the costs can be prohibitively high. It is estimated that the total cost of my journey to be about RM40,000. I am happy to say that to date, my requests for sponsorship have been positive from Media Prima (TV3; UFL(Universal Fitness And Leisure) Guinness Malta and Canon Marketing. I an also proud to say that my former students from S.M. Seri Garing,Rawang headed by Mr Francis Yew are giving me a generous cash sponsorship. I am still waiting for responses from other Sponsors and I am confident my target will be met before my departure.
Besides cash, I hope to get sponsors for the following : digital SLR camera/video camera, cycling equipment and spares, energy supplements, 2 airline tickets from London to KL(after the completion of the journey) and other things that can help lessen the burden and make my journey easier.Where accommodation is not available, I am well equipped to camp along the way but I hope that will not be the norm.

While I consider myself very lucky to be in this physical state to be able to undertake this daunting challenge, there are many Malaysians who are less fortunate and are in constant need of medical treatment, but far from being able to afford the high cost of treatment.

In this respect, I'm collaborating with the Malaysian Aids Foundation, to collect funds for the Foundation. Your donation will go a long way in making a difference to the lives of Malaysians who are infected and affected by HIV. It must be emphasised that most of those infected are innocent women and young children, through no fault of their own. It is my hope, that my humble effort in this arduous journey, will inspire fellow Malaysians to make a donation. Your donation, however small, will be appreciated as it can make a difference to the lives of the people who are in need of help. Donation can made through the Foundation's Maybank Account- 514105421257.

You can also call me at +60126369227 or read my blog at I'd certainly appreciate your comments. Expect some pictures in my next post.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Adventure Continues

I did the most unexpected thing during the 2010 Chinese New Year break by joining a group of Sai Baba ( Swami died on 24 April 2011) followers to Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh, India. We spent a week in the commune and while there I joined the congregation and observed the rituals. It is interesting to note that the followers comprise people from all over the world including many Europeans and people from countries from the former Soviet Union. On the two occasions when I attended the 'darshan' where devotees chanted prayers, Swami appeared, to bless the congregation. I am considered lucky by many because some people were not able to see Swami during 'darshan' because on many occasions he did not appear. While Sai Baba is said to have performed miracles, what is apparent is the tremendous development that is taking place in that area that was once (half a century ago) practically barren. Now the area boasts state of the art specialist hospital, schools, universities providing free access to the community. The success of the development of extensive network of water supply to the region especially for the poor, is an achievement that even the Indian government could not match.
One noticeable feature of the commune is the sense of peace and tranquility displayed by all present even though they are from different stratas of society (remember the caste system is still very much alive in India). After leaving Puttaparthi I stayed in Bangalore and toured the city. I also toured Mysore where there are some of the finest palaces in India.
Since my last KL marathon (16th) in 2009 the worst ever organized KL marathon I stopped participating in all organized runs simply because I feel that people like me who are nearing 70 and those seniors who are over 70 should not be made to pay to participate in the runs.We should at least be given a discount. Imagine us running with all the youngsters who could be our grandchildren and beating many of them. I know many seniors in their 70s who have been running for more than 30 years and are still active . They are an inspiration to the others. They should be given special privileges.
My fitness routine however has not changed much . I still run/jog; cycle; trekking and other outdoor activities. My routine usually involves endurance training,jogging 8 to 12 km or strength training involving push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. I am happy to say that I can still manage to handle 100 push-ups, 30 pull-ups and 300 sit-ups in a single day's workout. Since March 2011 I train twice a day to improve my endurance.
It may surprise many who have known me , to know that in early July 2011 I traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah. While I have been known to be not a religious person, I found the journey to have a profound effect on me in a spiritual sense that I never thought possible. I made the journey together with my elder sister Noorain and her husband Shahrin, my younger sisters Datin Noorlia and Noor Nahar, and a niece Noorita.Needless to say,I wasn't well prepared for it but I now know that I need to be better prepared to take the same journey again in the future InsyaAllah.. I shall dwell on the subject and my experience in the Holy Land as I continue writing the blog as we go along.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Welcome back

Hi Guys,

First of all I must apologize for being totally silent for some 3 years since my last posting. I have no excuses really but simply put I am just not in the groove with this internet thing. I suppose I really cannot ignore the advancement in global communications. Well from now I'll try to keep abreast. I have not been inactive though during the state of my silence. After lots of persuasion I shall now share my experiences especially those that involve travel and adventure.
After my failure to enter China during my cycling attempt in 08, I toured Vietnam for 2 weeks, traveling all the way down from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) in the south. Vietnam has lots of interesting places for tourists and even those seeking adventure.
From Ho Chi Minh city I continued my journey to Phnom Penh in Cambodia, and like Vietnam it too has many interesting places connected to atrocities committed during the Pol Pot regime of the seventies. Cambodia offers a variety of destinations for cyclist especially the rural areas where motorized traffic do not pose much problems. Cycling tours are gaining popularity. After a week, I came back home, tired but ready for more adventures. On the first Sunday in December I ran my slowest marathon in the Singapore Standard Charted edition but as usual, I always enjoy the run there.
In 09 I undertook another challenge, participating in the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert of Morocco dubbed the toughest footrace in the world. I had the good fortune of being sponsored by Sime Darby for the race, but again I was taken off the race some 12km from the finish line, failing to meet the cut- off time. For the uninitiated, the race is over 6 days covering a distance of some 240km over unforgiving sand dunes, barren rocky grounds with temperatures in the mid 40's during the day and very cold temperatures in the night. except for water distributed at designated check points, each runner is required to lug his own food & clothing, and other safety equipment for the duration of the race. Needless to say some runners are eliminated even on the first day. While the race is considered torturous, I'd do it again given another chance.
Also in 09 I spent a week backpacking in the Central Highlands of the Philippines (Baguio) for a week.