Monday, June 20, 2011

Lentang Forest Recreational Park (Air Terjun / Hutan Lipur Lentang)

Benus River in the Lentang Forest Recreational Park
Lentang waterfall is actually not a waterfall, but a stretch of the Benus River as it drops through a large section of granitic boulders.  The Benus forms in the mountains above Kampung Janda Baik and picks up the Sum Sum River just downstream of the Kampung.  It flows through a Recreational Forest Park (Hutan Lipur) before emerging from the jungle and going under the Karak Highway.  The Karak is the major east-west roadway which carries people from the population centre of Kuala Lumpur to the east coast and north through Bentong and the township of Karak.  It is a great place to stop for a picnic, swim in the slower, lower section or to enjoy a cooling soak in the upper boulder stretch.

If you are driving from Kuala Lumpur eastward, look for the exit sign after passing through the tunnel and going past Genting Sempah.  It is several kilometers down the hill with an exit to the left and back under the highway.  If you are going UPhill towards KL, then the exit is a simple left exit to the front gate.
Boulder Rapids (not a Waterfall)
The lower part of the Benus River is wide and shallow, with a sandy bottom, and is a picnic/swimming (wading) section for families and children.  For the more adventurous (not that much more), there is a section further upstream of a boulder patch in which the water drops down through with small pools and great sounds.  Boulder rapids are not true waterfalls, but if one has tinnitus, they are great at providing white noise to sooth the soul.  (Put the following video on a loop and see if I'm correct!)

Benus River Suspension Bridge
Massive Leaves
Like a lot of Malaysian recreational areas, they have tacked signs up to several trees indicating the genus and species, and sometimes with more information like uses of the tree.  I like that feature since the Malaysian rain forest has an incredible diversity of trees, bushes, butterflies, flowers, insects, birds, and trash.  (Need I say it, this recreational park has its own set of food outlets.)
Another Shorea species
Walking up the road a short ways beyond the food stalls, I came to a side stream which has a wading pool built at the bottom of a diversion wall.  Further upstream, I found a very sharp, steep, V-shaped canyon that has all of the features of a landslide-scoured channel.
Side Canyon With Channel Scour to Bedrock
The photo above shows water flowing directly on top of bare bedrock (i.e., no streambed gravels) with an isolated patch of forest in the middle.  There is a true knickpoint (waterfall) in the background just visible as a patch of white to the left of the tree on the far right side.  (Some day when I have more time available -i.e., no one waiting for me to stop my canyon climbing- I want to take a hike further upstream.)  There is a story here.

Here is a closer shot of the flow over bare bedrock.
Flow Over Bare Bedrock
The regolith in this canyon is quite exposed along the edge, another indication that a pile of rocks and soil were flushed out of this section during some large rainstorm-induced flow in the past.

Exposed Regolith
The rocks in this area are full of feldspar crystals, which indicates rocks in the granite family, but these were somewhat low in quartz, thus, something like a diorite or gabbro.  (I need a real geologist to take a look and tell me what the following photo shows.)
Feldspar Crystals in Bedrock Boulder
This side canyon is just uphill from the boulder stretch on the Benus River, so one can surmise that many of the boulders in the Benus (well-rounded) came down from this canyon and were eroded by the flow of the river.
But, hey, this blog post is getting a bit rocky now so I'll just say that the Lentang Park is a great place to stop off on a hot day, and there are a lot those in Malaysia!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Permanent Residency (PR) : How Can?

Any expat who has lived in Malaysia for several years will receive inevitably the question from friends "Why don't you try for PR (Permanent Residency)?"  Well, why not?

This question has been put to me many times before, but recently an added impetus came from my current employer when it was stated that I needed to consider PR if there was a chance of contract extension next year. Thus it was that I took it upon myself to research the PR process.

Last year, Malaysia seemingly relaxed its standards for PR as stated by the Prime Minister in his 2010 budget.  There are now SIX categories of eligibility under which a person may apply.

Category One : Filthy Rich
An individual who puts US$2 million (current exchange rate = RM6 million) into a fixed deposit into any bank in Malaysia will be granted the opportunity to apply for PR status.  This is still no guarantee, however, as it clearly states on the bottom of the PR application form (IM.4) "Even though you may have fulfilled all the conditions, your application may still be rejected if the government is not satisfied with your application."

But, hey, with RM6 million of your money available for Malaysians to borrow from your bank, your chances are probably pretty good.  Fixed deposits currently pay around 2.75% annual interest.

Category Two : Expert (Highly Talented/Highly Skilled Individual)
An individual who is classified as "world class" in terms of talent, expertise, and skills will be granted PR within 24 hours after application if some international organisation recognises them as such.  Huh?  Who, praytell, could fit this category unless it was someone world-reknown (and rich) like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or Jean Todt?  Well, the latter has actually taken up Malaysian PR and it certainly helps that Formula One racing (of which he headed up Team Ferrari for a period) is quite popular with the Bigshots.  And he is married to Malaysia's own Michelle Yeoh.  (That qualifies him under #4 below.)

Category Three : Professional (Outstanding Skills in Any Field)
Similar to #2, this individual needs a Malaysian ministry to vet that they are a professional of outstanding skills, and also (like #2) requires that a Certificate of Good Conduct is obtained from their home country.  Unfortunately, this category does not provide an easy path for the trailing spouse who must qualify for PR on his or her own merit, or wait five years, playing the Visa Run Game of which expats tire after several trips.

Category Four : Married to a Malaysian Citizen
Fairly self-explanatory, my darling non-Malaysian wife won't let me consider this avenue for PR!

Category Five : Returning Expert Programme
This is for the spouses of Malaysians who have been residing overseas for several years.  It is part of the inducement for Malaysians to come back and help build Malaysia.  This is the same as category #4 (married to a Malaysian) except that instead of waiting five years to receive PR, this category will give PR to the trailing non-Malaysian spouse in only one month!  They really want you orang Malaysia yang tinggal di luar Malaysia balik cepat!

Category Six : Point System
This is the most interesting category since it gives hope to the seemingly hopeless, who don't qualify under #1-5.  Basically, there are 120 points spread over 7 criteria:
Age (Max 10 points)
Academic/Professional Qualification (Max 20 points)
Malay language proficiency (Max 10 points)
Relationship ties with Malaysians (Max 30 points)
Length of stay in Malaysia (Max 10 points)
Investment in Malaysia (Max 30 points)
Employment/work experience in Malaysia (Max 10 points)

To qualify for PR, one must obtain at least 65 points from the seven criteria.  This may sound fairly easy initially, but an online calculator (here) reveals the difficulty when you consider that 50% of the points are in two categories: Relationship ties and Investment.

I performed a variety of calculations using the online calculator and found that it is nearly impossible for someone to qualify under the points system unless:
1) Your father and/or mother are Malaysian citizens or PR themselves;
2) You employ over 31 Malaysians in a business that you establish.

Since neither of my parents are Malaysians, I looked more closely at the Investment option.  Even if I nailed 10 points from each of the other five categories (which I couldn't; I don't hold the PhD), I would still need 15 points from the Investment option.  Of these 30 points, fully 50% of them (15 points) are earned by employing Malaysians: 5 points if employing 31 to 50 Malaysians; 10 points if employing 51 to 100; and a full 15 points if employing over 100 Malaysians.  (Clearly the government is looking for someone else to employ the thousands of graduates whom the government will not be able to employ.)  In lieu of that, one would need to invest more than RM500,000 in a house, AND over RM500,000 in a fixed deposit, AND over RM500,000 in a business.  It has to be the combination; each category has a maximum of five points with nothing to be gained over RM500k.
Wow.  So the point is, unless you marry a Malaysian, travel back in time to force your parents to move to Malaysia and become residents, or have lot$ of $pecial $tuff, your chances of PR are pretty low.