Practice what preach…

Maybe I shouldn’t be writing about this, may be I should.

My last trip to UK revealed something. A professor in Surrey told me about the new thing that is becoming common in UK campus – the Starbucks. He said that around 6 in the evening, research students are either in pubs or starbucks, socializing. Perhaps sharing their successes or failures. Interesting.

Then I asked about people working at night in the labs, is it still common?

I remember in the late 80’s, we would see some students sleeping in their offices or even the labs, with alarm clocks to wake them up to feed their bacteria or to collect data from the fermenters. Those biotech researchers were really something.

And there were also plenty of those owls that worked on their computers through the midnights until the early hours of the day, like me. But now, it is no longer the case. Campuses are darker at nights because stringent procedures are generally enforced in many campuses. Good or bad, it is arguable, but it was the results of more awareness in occupational safety. And it was irony that these principles were taught on campus, only to be implemented in the industry. What? Maybe it was true!

The professor said that a work permit (in one form or another) was now required and the student cannot work alone, they have to have company.

Working in laboratories can be hazardous. Lets go through some anecdotes. In 2010, a graduate student was injured due to explosion in a laboratory in Texas Tech University. The following year in 2011 a 22 year old student found dead in the laboratory with her hair tangled in the lathe machine in Yale.

I can vaguely recall the tragedy in 2002 that killed our own UTM’s student that was drown in the monsoon drain while helping his friend to take water sample, so I heard.

But the landmark case that changed the occupational safety standard in campus laboratories throughout the world may be attributed to the case of Sheri Shangji at UCLA on 29 December 2008. It was a Christmas break.

Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji, a Pakistani born student a recent chemistry graduate took a job as a research assistant at UCLA while waiting for the graduate school to commence. She wanted to study environmental law at UC Berkeley.

One day, while transferring up to 2 ounces of t-butyl lithium from one sealed container to another, the plastic syringe came apart in her hands, spewing a chemical compound that ignites when exposed to air.

The rest was history. The fire caught her clothing and she suffered a third degree burn and died 18 days later. Following a long investigation, the LA county filed charges to the professor and UCLA in December 2011, three years after the incident.

In July 2012, the university settled the matter with the court by agreeing to contribute USD500,000 to an endowment fund in the name of Sheri Sangji to provide scholarships for studying Environmental Law at UC Berkeley, and to carry out several other measures to increase safety awareness at UCLA.

Following an arraignment on Sept 5, 2012, Harran, the chemistry professor continues to struggle against the criminal charges against him for allegedly being negligent in ensuring safety in his laboratory. He could be jailed for 4.5 years. He was ordered to trial on April 26, 2013 and the case was concluded with a settlement in June 20, 2014. The verdict? Substantial and multiple forms of community services, plus small fine. Details can be obtained here The career of the professor was saved.

The family members of Sheri were not happy about the settlement. But the case has many angles that one can argue from.

A lot of questions can be asked on this issue. Should we impose permit to work (PTW) and implement something similar to chemical industry in the university? In the interest of encouraging research and establishing academic excellence at affordable costs, people may differ in opinions on which turn to take – left, right or just go straight ahead. Definitely we don’t want to turn back because “square one” was a history. We don’t want to be back on it.

All in all, regardless of the situation, I believe that the standard of occupational safety in educational institutions – kindergarten, schools, universities – must be examined. We don’t have to wait for a few human sacrifices before making any positive initiative.

Aah… enough talk. Lets go ahead and do something… Lets practice what we preach.

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Beautiful Monuments of Praha

Panoramic city

The word panorama can very well describes Praha (or Prague). Either from Charles Bridge or Prague Castle, we were offered with beautiful panoramic views of the city. Red roofs, pointed gothic structures, vast greens – I can only summarize the city in one word – beautiful.

View of the city from Prague Castle. Most government buildings are red-roof building near the castle.

View of the city from Prague Castle. Most government buildings are red-roof building near the castle.

We were warmly welcome by Slavek, the host at My House Apartment that we booked through Transfer from the airport was arranged using a private car to the beautiful studio apartment in the old town of Prague or Praha 1. This was my first visit this city and I liked it. Prague  was beautiful and the cost of living was reasonable compared to other European cities that I have visited (well, not many anyway). Prague had a  history of civilization dated long ago. It is currently the capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic, a landlocked country in central Europe, bordered by Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland.

Quick Overview of History

The Czech state that was formerly known as Bohemia was formed in the 9th century. Over the years, it has went through the typical ups and downs in terms of power with struggles with the kingdom of Moravia, Premyslids, Austria, Hungary, and etc. Following the fall of Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, it became the core of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. As a results of the second world war, Czechoslovakia became a part of Germany, and by 1944 it became a communist country under the influence of Soviet Union. Following the velvet revolution in 1989, the communist regime collapsed and a multi-party parliamentary republic was formed, but on 1st January 1993, the republic was peacefully dissolved into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Unlike Slovakia, which has adopted Euro as its currency, Czech Republic maintained its Koroner (CZK) and is approximately 1/27 of the Euro, at present.

A part of Prague castle. There are too many sites to visit for those who are interested.

A part of Prague castle. There are too many sites to visit for those who are interested.There’s a cathedral, palace, etc.

Prague Castle 

Prague castle was located uphill. It was dated back to the 9th century and covered vast areas. It has a palace, cathedrals, buildings for administrations and other functions and a vineyard.The best way to explore was  to take metro and tram to the castle and go down the hill on foot, passing by the historical vineyard.  To get into some of the buildings, there were some fees, but we didn’t have time anyway.

St. Wenceclas' Vineyard A.D. 908 - The oldest Czwch vineyard

St. Wenceclas’ Vineyard A.D. 908 – The oldest Czwch vineyard, adjacent to the Prague Castle

A different Culture

It was difficult to understand the Czech. When dealing with academics as well as those assisting various functions at the conference, the feelings were similar to any other conferences that I had attended. Academics were friendly and open to each other if you approach them. But when observing the general public that I met on the train or the tram, I saw very different expression altogether. The people were a bit aloof, perhaps deep in thought. They were either analyzing you, or busy in trying to solve some complex issues. At times, it was like in the scene of a cold-war spy movie. Everybody was anxious of some KGB agents looking after them, or something like that. I felt awkward in the beginning, at least on the first two days. Later, I got used to it. On the street, I felt more comfortable. Later I realized that after all, they were actually friendly. It is just that they have a unique expression. Something than can make you a bit uncomfortable in the beginning.

Irina, the art seller

Irina, the art seller

Bridges and cathedrals

Prague has many monuments for those who appreciate buildings and architectures. The city is separated by river Vitava that is connected by a number of bridges. 

There are a number of bridges city centre in Prague

There are a number of bridges city centre in Prague

The most famous of all is Charles Bridge that was constructed in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV who ruled Bohemia and Luxembourg. Today the bridge is a pedestrian way and is frequented by tourists. The air was lively with artists offering sketching services and musics being played by street performers. The views from the bridge were magnificent. No wonder many tourists were taking their selfie photos, in addition to panoramas. Haha…

Old Town Square - Nice place to relax

Old Town Square – Nice place to relax.  At the centre is the TYne Church. To the right of the square (not in the photo) is the clock tower. Tourists would gather at the tower at every hour to see the mechanics of the bell.

Prague also offers a number of cathedrals and other religious buildings such as old synagogues etc. 

Republican Square - as people are leaving

Republican Square – as people are leaving. In this area, there is shopping malls and various other shops. There’s also performances of musicians, gypsies etc. From this square, we can walk to the Praha 1 Mosque, where regular congregational prayers are held.

A roll bread - delicious. 50-60 CZK a portion

A roll bread – delicious. 50-60 CZK a portion. The bread was delicious especially when taken warm. it was roll-baked on charcoal. It is normally available at most places of tourist attraction.

CHISA 2014

I was in Praha attending CHISA 2014, and my paper was the last on the list as part of the Process Intensification Symposium. Since it was on the last session of the last day, I thought that I was a bit unlucky, partly because I didn’t pay my registration in advanced. But I was surprised to see that the room was full. As the earlier presenters completed their presentations, there were not many questions asked. Then I got a bit nervous. They must have been waiting for my presentation, and it was true. Many questions were asked based on my presentations. I clearly answered some of the questions, and apologize for not being able to give some of the details they needed due to limitations of our study (read: lack of sophistications on our equipment). After the sessions, we had further discussions and exchange cards. Hopefully, this will mark as another important milestone for our research networking.

Mosques in Praha

There were a number of mosques in Praha. The largest was located in Praha-9. We didn’t got a chance to be there due to time constraints. We nevertheless visited the two mosques in Praha-1. The first was on 14 Politickych Veznu Street, located across the Istanbul Kebab restaurant. A new one was sited near the police station, not far from the previous one. The entrance was next to a kebab restaurant. There were quite a number of people from various nationalities attending the maghrib prayer that we attended.


This is the new mosque on Prague-1. It was located behind a kebab outlet and close to the police station. It has a female area on the menzanine floor and the main prayer hall on the ground floor. To get there take the metro and sot at MUZEUM station. From there it was about 5 minutes walk.


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Ibadah Qurban dan Kos Kehidupan

Ketika saya mendaftar masuk ke KL Hilton untuk menghadiri Expert Panel Workshop bagi meneliti cadangan program M.Sc. Process Safety yang sedang dirangka oleh UTP, petugas di front desk bertanya tentang alamat tempat tinggal saya. Ianya membawa kepada perbualan mengenai ibadah korban yang dianjurkan oleh masjid di masjid kami. Saya memberitahunya Continue reading

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Telah lama tidak sampai di Kuantan

Aku dan Kuantan

Kuantan adalah bandar yang sering aku lawati suatu masa dulu. Well,… bukan melawat tapi bertugas mencari rezeki, mengendalikan pelbagai kursus pendek di industri Petrokimia. Malah suatu masa dulu, kami juga terlibat dalam membangunkan Pelan Induk Perindustrian bagi Gebeng Fasa 2. Menyingkap lebih jauh ke belakang, aku masih boleh bayangkan suasana malam ketika aku berjalan kaki dari bandar Kuantan ke Pantai teluk Cempedak ketika berusia 17 tahun. Banyak nostalgia di bandar ini. Tidak lupa juga ikan bakar dan ketam bercili yang aku sukai di Tanjung Lumpur. Juga gulai kawah. Malah aku pernah berfikir untuk menetap di Kuantan. Lokasinya ideal. Dekat dengan laut dan dekat pula dengan hutan. Sesuai dengan jiwaku.

Baru-baru ini aku ke Kuantan 2 kali dalam sebulan. Sekali semasa melawat beberapa loji termasuk Lynas, dan sekali lagi ketika mengendalikan kursus HAZOP bagi Kaneka (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd. Mmm, HAZOP memang kursus kegemerankua kerana setiap kali mengendalikannya, aku akan juga dapat menambah ilmu tentang proses yang dikendalikan oleh peserta. Dapat memperkayakan pengetahuan.

Dalam kesibukan, masih sempat juga menjamu selera dengan ikan bakar dan ketam di samping minum petang di Kuala Kemaman, menikmati satar kegemaran dan membeli keropok cap bunga orkid yang kami sukai. Sampai di gerai keropok, si penjual menegur… Lama tak mari… Ya, memang lama, jawabku selamba.

Tiang Lampu Berdebu Merah

Dalam ziarah kali ini, aku agak kecewa melihat persekitaran Gebeng dan pelabuhan yang berdebu merah. Malah tiang lampu disalut debu. Daun-daun pokok yang hijau menyejukkan mata menjadi suram disalut debu coklat kemerahan, bagaikan karat menghilangkan seri. Aura baru pula yang menyerlah. Aura pudar berdebu, bagaikan dunia diselubungi kemurungan. Hilang seri bandar ini.

Aku membayangkan,…. setelah berjaya menarik pelaburan berjuta ringgit dari industri petrokimia, sudah pasti hasil cukai dan aktiviti perdagangan yang dijana dapat diguna bagi menambah keindahan persekitarannya. Sekurang-kurangnya membawa nilai tambah kepada bandar ini. Namun telahan itu meleset… Kuantan telah mengecewakanku.

Aku bertanya kepada beberapa kenalan, kerana ingin mengetahui puncanya.  Aah, rupa-rupanya pengangkutan bijih besi ke pelabuhan dari pelbagai tempat di Pahang adalah punca pencemaran itu. Barulah aku tahu yang berlonggok di tepi jalan itu rupanya bijih besi yang akan dieksport ke Cina. 

Mengapakan kurang pengawalan dari kerajaan tempatan bagi memastikan persekitaran di situ bersih. Bagaimana pula nasib penduduk berhampiran disitu? Persoalan itu bermain di kepalaku. Sudah pasti ianya patut ditangani oleh pihak berwajib. 

I wish you luck, anyway.


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Mengapa mereka diuji?

Apabila imam membaca surah Maryam, hatiku terus menjadi amat sayu. Tidak dapat dibayangkan betapa susahnya hidup yang perlu ditempuh oleh Maryam. Sudah pasti amat sukar  dia menjelaskan apa yang berlaku pada dirinya kepada keluarga. Jika ia berlaku hari ini, aku yakin tidak ada siapa yang akan mempercayai kata-kata wanita seperti itu. Bayangkan jika anda sendiri yang berada pada tempatnya. Namun dia insan terpilih dan Allah memperkukuhkan kedudukannya, dan Allah mahukan ianya menjadi tauladan kepada kita pada hari ini.

Begitu juga kisah Nuh a.s. yang berjuang selama hampir seribu tahun. Dengan usaha gigih melaksanakan tanggung-jawab sebagai rasul, menyampaikan risalah kepada umatnya dalam tempoh 950 tahun, anaknya sendiri termasuk dalam golongan orang yang tertinggal. Bayangkan jika kita sendiri yang berada pada tempatnya. Namun dia insan terpilih dan Allah memperkukuhkan kedudukannya, dan Allah mahukan ianya menjadi tauladan kepada kita pada hari ini.

Begitu juga kisah Ibrahim a.s. yang terpaksa berhadapan dengan ayahnya sendiri sehingga dia diusir.Bayangkan jika kita sendiri yang berada pada tempatnya. Namun dia insan terpilih dan Allah memperkukuhkan kedudukannya, dan Allah mahukan ianya menjadi tauladan kepada kita pada hari ini.

Apakah perasaan Muhammad s.a.w. apabila dia gagal menyampaikan risalah kepada bapa saudaranya yang telah melindunginya dari tentangan masyarakat. Walaupun begitu dekat di hati,  bapa saudara baginda pergi sebagai orang yang tidak beriman. Itulah ketetapan Allah yang Maha Mengetahui apa yang terbaik.

Malah banyak lagi kisah-kisah yang boleh diambil pengajaran daripada Al-Qur’an.


Fiqh dakwah mengajar kita tentang maratib ‘amal, bagaimana dakwah dan tarbiyah itu mesti bermula pada diri sendiri, kemudian dikembangkan kepada ahli keluarga, kemudian kepada masyarakat setempat, kemudian dikembangkan ke peringkat negara sehingga terbentuknya kerajaan Islam, dan khilafah Islam dan terus berkembang supaya pentadbiran keseluruhan alam mendapat manfaat dari naungan Islam. Sungguh cantik strategi itu, dan ianya perlu terus dijiwai.

Namun kadang-kadang ianya tidak secantik seperti yang dilakarkan. Entah di mana silapnya, kadang-kadang seorang pendakwah gagal membawa bersamanya mereka yang disayang. Walaupun hasratnya ingin berkongsi semua kebaikan yang dijiwainya bersama semua yang dekat dengan dirinya, namun kadang-kadang ketetapan Allah ternyata berbeza. Apakah sikap yang patut diambil olehnya, dan apa pula sikap sahabat-sahabat di sekelilingnya?

Fiqh dakwah juga mengajar tentang kepentingan ukhuwah. Ianya suatu yang benar dan praktikal, bukan teori untuk dihafal dan diulang-ulang tanpa kesan di hati. Ukhuwah yang sebenar berlaku dalam semua keadaan – dalam mengecapi kejayaan, dalam menginsafi kegagalan, dalam susah dan senang. Ya, itu teorinya. Yang dipelajari dan diulang-ulang dalam halaqah. Lebih penting dari itu ialah perlaksanaannya. Oleh itu, laksanakanlah tanggung-jawab ukhuwah, dan janganlah terlalu menganalisis, sehingga akhirnya mempersalahkan pula sahabat yang sudah sememangnya berduka-cita. Jika ia pernah berlaku begitu, bayangkannya kembali, apakah perasaan anda ketika itu. Adakah anda merasa kasihan ? Atau tidak merasa apa-apa kerana ianya memang patut berlaku begitu? Atau ada sedikit kebencian kerana anda merasakan sahabat itu tidak tahu meletakkan prioriti dalam melaksanakan tanggung-jawab ? Atau anda merasakan sahabat itu tidak memahami maratib ‘amal? Perlu diselami kembali,  adakah ketika itu anda berukhuwah?

Fiqh dakwah juga mengajar kita untuk terus tsabat dalam perjuangan. Walau apapun keadaan yang berlaku, semangat tidak seharusnya menurun, malah ianya perlu diganda bagi menunjukkan kesungguhan kita kepada yang Esa. Kita harus sentiasa mengharap bantuan, malah merintih meminta kasihan belas dari Allah yang Maha Penyayang. Tiada siapa yang mengetahui apa yang berlaku di hujung sana. Maka bersangka baik dengan  apa yang bakal dianugerah Allah lebih baik dari putus asa.

Semoga Allah menolong kita semua… 




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Hydrogen at Gunung Arong

The Planning

Ramadan was getting near and we haven’t had our hiking trip this year. So, we made a quick decision to hike Gunung Arong the following week. We simply fix a day in the week about 6 days away. After lunch, I went to the Risk Analysis Laboratory and made the announcement to the graduate students, “we are going for a hike to Gunung Arong and everybody is invited to join”. A couple of them seemed interested, the rest were unsure. Then after explaining what to expect, 5 students decided to join.  Then I remembered the Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Lab downstairs, and asked them to inform Walid and his brother Bahador. I thought they might want to join, and I was correct and the number became 7.

Accommodations and climbing permit were arranged by Lyana and Maria. These days, the authority charges RM150 for the climbing permit. In all my previous trips, there were no such thing. Not expensive for big group, but it will be too much if you climb alone. Nevertheless, I saw some improvements made on the track. They have added some wooden structures at the summit, iron railings and ropes at dangerous slopes. These were not available in my previous trip in 2009. The trail was also better with clear markings showing the direction. So, you don’t really need a guide especially if have hiked the trail before. However, I think the fees is simply too much and the hastle to register in person in Mersing Forestry Department is uncalled for.

Departure from Skudai

Just before departure, my PhD student from Yemen, Ali decided not to come along. Finally the group was 13 (4 UTM staff: AA, TATA, MWA, Adnan, 6 graduate students: Mohamed-Sudan, Taha-Iraq, Goke-Nigeria, Saeed-Nigeria, Walid-Iran, Bahador-Iran, my son Amin and Adnan’s sons Amar and Amir Hamzah). We departed in 3 cars, passing through a winding road towards Mersing and reached the Gorek Bay Chalet around 7 pm.

Teluk Gorek is a perfect site to relax

Teluk Gorek is a perfect site to relax

After looking at the booked accommodation, we negotiated for bigger rooms. The manager agreed. However,  since the rooms were not immediately available, we decided to go for dinner. The destination was Kg. Air Papan Laut and we stopped at a small mosque in the village for our maghrib & isyak prayer.

Mosque at Kg Air Papan Laut

Mosque at Kg Air Papan Laut

Dinner at Air Papan Laut

It was a long wait as we decided to go with “masakan panas”.  With multinational students, taking the orders were already confusing, and it was funny to watch. In the end, only after I finished my dinner Walid got his Nasi Goreng Ayam Kunyit, and Goke said, “next time go with the professors, just follow what they ordered”. Haha,… quite true, we all got our food earliest. Then we settled for the night.

waiting for the order to come

waiting for the order to come

Breakfast at Penyabong

After fajr prayer, we went for breakfast at Penyabong jetty. It was a delicious nasi dagang, a delicacy that couldn’t be swallowed by Walid. He was looking for bread and lucky enough we had some in the car, haha… Then came Nasi Lemak and we had a good additional breakfast, getting prepared for the hike. Well, the portions we small.

IHE Hike – gunung Arong 2014

We didn’t have a guide and I have forgotten how to get to the starting point at the foot of Gunung Arong. By asking few people along the way, we got to the entrance, where we stopped for a stretching session, led by Bahador the karate master.

Stretching Led by Bahador

Stretching Led by Bahador, the Karate master

Then we start moving into the forest towards the foot of the mountain, where there’s a small waterfall (that didn’t fall due to low water level). From there the journey uphill began.

The climb begins with quite a steep trail

The climb begins with quite a steep trail

 The first half an hour or so was quite challenging for a novice. Then it got much easier.


The Kembang Semangkok tree is actually a huge one !

The Kembang Semangkok tree is actually a huge one !

Kembang Semangkok

The best part of the trails was that it has lots to offer, for those who enjoys learning new things. We found Tongkat Ali, beautiful orchids as well as many other species of tropical plants. The one that attracted my attention was Kembang Semangkok. I was surprised to learn that it was a huge tree. For those who do not know, Kembang semangkok has a cooling effect. It can be purchased at a Chinese medicine shop. I remember seeing how by dipping it into a bowl of water, the “nut” swell as if to fill up the town, thus explained its name which can be translated as “swelling to fill up a bowl”. So, as usual, Adnan came for the explanation. Yes the tree is big.

Taking a break, after climbing steep slopes

Taking a break, after climbing steep slopes

After about 45 minutes, we were all sweating and it was time for a longer break. Only 10 minute or so. Otherwise, the breaks were limited to 3 minutes.

Maybe it was not steep enough!

Maybe it was not steep enough!

The Summit

We reached the summit in about an hour and a half. I think it was quite fast considering many hadn’t been hiking. Well,…  they do not have mountain near Khartoum.

Making a show at the summit

Making a show at the summit

The park management had built a hut at the summit. I thought it would be very nice to camp there for the night. But then, you need to bring enough water supply.

on a newly built hut at the summit

on a newly built hut at the summit

the group at the summit

the group at the summit

The Journey Downhill

As usual, the journey down was easy for most people, but for some, it was tougher. Some might loose balance and fell. some might have problem with their knees.

Quite an improvement has been made to Gunung Arong facilities -new ropes etc

Quite an improvement has been made to Gunung Arong facilities -new ropes etc

What was he doing?

What was he doing?

The best part of Gunung Arong was that, you end your descend straight to the beach. Naturally, we took a break, ate our packed lunch and jumped into the sea.

After spending some time enjoying the clear water – swimming competition, lessons etc – we decided to call it a day. Walking by the long strech of the beautiful beach, we finally reached the chalet around pm, just as it was planned, alhamdulillah.

Walking along the beach towards the chalet

Walking along the beach towards the chalet. Why is this guy reluctant to leave? Perhaps the beach was just too beautiful…

It was a short trip that was organized in ad-hoc manner, stealing time time from busy schedule. After all, Ramadan was very near and in the following week, I was scheduled for a week trip to Korea. It was nevertheless a good trip, and we’ll do it again in future.


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The Future Has Begun

It was a 6 hours flight from Incheon to KLIA. After watching a comedy on the flight entertainment system, I decided to write this entry as I was not sleepy. I am on my way back home after a week long trip to Korea.

Hydrogen Energy

Much had been said about climate change and the needs to reduce carbon emissions. Equally extensive were the calls for renewable energy to prepare the world for the decline of fossil fuels and increasing rejection of nuclear energy. And the answer is here… It is hydrogen !

It is nothing new. In fact it has been around ages ago. Hot air balloons using hydrogen has been in air since the 1700’s. Fuel cell has been introduced as early as the 1800’s and developed to be used by NASA in the 1900’s. It has also been used to propel the German Airship in the early 1900’s.  However due to some unwanted events and safety concerns such as the Hindenburg incident in 1937, hydrogen energy has to undergo a long journey of revival.

When combusted in engine, hydrogen produces more energy than hydrocarbons. When used to power fuel cells, it emits nothing except water which can be recycled and reused. It is also quiet. So it is clean, quiet, and zero emission – such a briliant combination. What more do we want? Well of course we want it to be cheap, because we have other options. When the options runs out, hydrogen will surely stand tall.

Hydrogen - Energy for the Future

Hydrogen – Energy for the Future

All the while, it has beed advocated as the fuel for future. And this week, after listening to series of lectures, state of the art reviews, status updates, and highlights on innovations, I am convinced that the future has begun. Yes, it has begun.

That was what I learnt from the conference that I attended for 4 days. The World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC2014) was held in Gwangju, Korea, a city south of Seoul.

KTX Train

We (TATA and I) took Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul, and A KTX train from Yongsan Station in Seoul to Gwangju, with a fare of 370,000 Won for single journey (USD 37). The journey passed through vast rice paddies and ocassionally some small towns. The views were beautiful and soothing. The crop that serves as the staple food for the Korean were recently planted. It was equally spaced thin patches of greens smartly planted by machineries.

At Yongsan Train Station (on the way back from Gwangju)

At Yongsan Train Station (on the way back from Gwangju)

The train was mostly vacant and the comfort level was good even for the economy class. Toilets were clean with adequate water supply and convenient delivery system. I noticed the train inspector, but we were never asked to show our tickets – at the stations or on the train – indicating certain level of trusts on passengers. Nevertheless, I think the inspector knew which seat that was supposed to be occupied. We reached our destination after about 3 hours of journey. From the station, we took taxi and the adventure began – they don’t speak English in Gwangju, well except those in the 20’s who struggled to help giving us directions when needed. So, sign language is the most important communication tool. 


Shortly after arrival, we spared no time. Out of a habit that I have developed, we immediately explored the city on foot to know the surrounding. From the hotel we followed the green path, nicely made available for pedestrians.  And there were many people doing exercises along the way. Since it was late afternoon, the crowd were mostly the elderly above 60’s or so. After a couple of hours of evening walk, we were tired enough to retire for the day.

A green path along the major road, shadowed by trees, it is a nice walk

A green path along the major road, shadowed by trees, it is a nice walk

The efforts paid well since we managed to find a Turkish kebab outlet, not big enough to be called a restaurant, but enough to feed hungry men. The Kebab stall was in the downtown area, adjacent to the pedestrian shopping streets and rows of bars.

Turkish Kebab Stall (Hasan, Murat etc)

Turkish Kebab Stall (Hasan, Murat etc)

WHEC 2014

The biannual world conference was held at Kim Dae Jung Convention Center, next to the Holiday Inn hotel. Unfortunately, it was fully booked when we tried our luck, and ended up with Prado Hotel, located at a different part of the city. Since it was also far from metro train stations, we had to commute by taxi. The conference was supposed to attract something like 1500-2000 delegates, but the turn out was less than a thousand, perhaps 500 or so.

Prof Hamdani delivering bid proposal to the Board of Director, International Association of Hydrogen Energy

Prof Hamdani delivering bid proposal to the Board of Director, International Association of Hydrogen Energy

I came for 3 reasons – to listen to updates of technology, to share my work and to bid for hosting WHEC2020. We were successful in the first two, and were advised to propose again for 2022. That bidding session will be held in Zaracossa, Spain during WHEC2016. It was nevertheless an interesting experience. The idea was mooted by MYCEB 3 months earlier, and after lingering with it for about 2 weeks, we gave them a nod. Amazingly, the team(MYCEB and IHE) did very well in preparing the document during that short period.

Mudeungsan National Park

Mudeungsan National Park is the home for Mudeungsan mountain which has 1186 elevation.  It is a wonderful place to visit and it is close to the city. No wonder it was listed No 1 by Trip Advisor as a place of attraction. We decided to dedicate one evening to hike the national park. Taking bus service no 9 from YMCA, we reached the park headquarters after a few minutes. 

TATA trying hard to ask for the direction in creative manner using sign language - we are asking for restroom. It was interesting !

TATA trying hard to ask for the direction in creative manner using sign language – we were asking for restroom. It was interesting and funny !

At the park headquarters, there were rows of shops, all selling branded goods dedicated for outdoor clothing and acessories – columbia, lafuma, millet, northface, fila design, merrel, plus many others, some of which I didn’t recognized such as redface, centrepole, westwood, etc. Now, that’s a detour, wasn’t it. 

Outlets for outdoor apparels were plentiful with all major brands - Lafuma, Millet, Columbia, Northface and many others that I didn't recognize - Korean's and international brands.

Outlets for outdoor apparels were plentiful with all major brands – Lafuma, Millet, Columbia, Northface,  Wenger, Fila, and many others that I didn’t recognize – Korean’s and international brands.

So, we need to make some adjustment. Finally instead of hiking any of the trails, we settled for an hour of uphill journey visiting the Jeungsimsa Temple, so that about two hours were made available for hiking the stores, a nice experience for a man – window shopping.

Jeungsimsa Temple, about 20 minutes from the information centre

Jeungsimsa Temple, about 20 minutes from the information centre. We also met a Malaysian couple who spend some time living in the temple

Due to currency difference, many of the items were considered a bit too expensive, unless a handsome discount was offered. Nevertheless, due to so many things to buy, it would require an angel not to be tempted. Haha I got myself something to remember.

Many trails to choose from. There were many hikers, some in small groups, some walking alone, More women than men

Many trails to choose from. There were many hikers, some in small groups, some walking alone, more women than men

The offered a selection of trails with different levels of difficulties to suit time availability and level of fitness. Within the area, there were also a number of temples. To get to the summit, a 6 hours is needed, but there were trails that require less time. It was interesting to note that there were more women, either in small groups or alone, both climbing up, or making a descend. No wonder we hardly find any obese individuals in Gwangju, perhaps due to hiking, or perhaps due to the diet they took. 

Too bad, time was too short. It would have been nice if we spent 2 days doing some hikings

Too bad, time was too short. We were there for only half a day. It would have been nice if we spent 2 days doing some hikings

Seoul Mosque

As the conference moved to closure, we departed to Seoul, again by train. We booked a hotel in a place called Itaewon. It can be conveniently reached by subway. In fact Seoul subway system was fantastic with excellent connectivity. But you have to know which exit to take. So, after alighting from the train, we simply looked for the maps or directories that gave us the information needed – which exit to take based on our point of interests.

Seoul Mosque, located on a higher ground in Itaewon area of Seoul

Seoul Mosque, located on a higher ground in Itaewon area of Seoul

That evening we got our full serving of rice – a mutton briyani, mmm. Then we went to the only mosque in Seoul. It was located up the hill, and it took a couple of minutes to get there. It was beautiful and I can feel the tranquility being inside. It is suddently as if your imaan has increased significantly. Perhaps it did, since it has been a week of not going to a mosque. The jamaah was multiracial, with significant origin of those from the indian subcontinent. 

Bibimbap and and another soup that I have forgotten the name

Bibimbap and and another soup that I have forgotten the name

Within the area, there were also many other halal food restaurant – Turkish, Moroccan, Indian, Pakistani, Arabs etc. But the one that caught our attention was the Halal Korean Food, where we had our dinner the following day.

Seoul is different than Gwangju. If you need help, just ask around since language is more widely understood, especially by the younger generations.


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