Book Review: The Cypress Tree by Kamin Mohammadi

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

My Rating: 4/5
My Rating: 4/5

We Iranians are like the cypress tree. We may bend and bend on the wind but we will never break’ 

I bought this book last year and I only got a chance to read it this year. Why I took so long to read, I don’t even know. Maybe it does not have an appealing cover like some middle-eastern non-fiction books like a piercing stare by a young girl who wore a burqa or a war image captured by some famous journalist.  Iran, in my opinion, is a truly country that makes you wonder and ponder. This country is formed from an empire of great Persia to the reign of Shah, then it has been handed to Khomeini and it changed into the Islamic Republic of Iran until now. This book featured an interesting perspective from a refugee who just returned to her own country where she used to call it home once.

I read some of the books about Iran like Persepolis, not without my daughter and so many more. However, this one struck in my mind a bit longer. Kamin told a tale about her big family but in the same time, she poured her heart out to her beloved country. She returned to Iran after a long time and sudden regret bloomed from her heart for not preserving her own culture and tradition in her foreign country. The language for this book is quite simple actually. When the language is not so difficult to understand, you connected with the author much quicker than you thought.

From the event of how her grandfather and her grandmother get married, how her mother standing up to her conservative father to avoid from being married off and even got a chance to further in higher education and work in a management level in some company until to the event of Shah Downfall in Iran and How Khomeini stated ‘He felt nothing’ when people asked how he felt right after he returned to Iran. I could connect with Kamin because she wrote the Iran history in a view of a person who yearn a freedom and peace for her country. She looked back into her childhood and teenage hood where she learned many things from her uncles, aunties, cousins and even her grandmother. She pointed out how the Iranian revolution somehow turned many things upside down including breaking many relations through betrayals and how many deaths she encountered during the event.

Kamin also vividly narrated the experience of leaving Iran and seeking a refuge in England somehow changed and altered her behavior but failed to change her parents. Her parents still continuing living in England like how they live in Iran but with a different community. Since they are no longer with a big family, gatherings will be attended by an Iranian community who’s faced the similar fate of fled from the country. Kamin confessed how her teen- rebellious phase forcing her to abandon Farsi, her language that she spoke everyday at Iran into a thick accent of English in England. Little did she know it will show how she made a bad choice when she barely able speaks that language when she returned to Iran.

I have no criticism on the book as I always enjoyed reading non-fiction books. I love reading about people lives, tragedy, experience, difficulty or any events that changed the idea of living their life. I find it very gutsy and me myself hoping I could able to do that someday. I wish Kamin did put an assemblage of her family photos in the book so that readers could see it. If you wanted to know about Iran’s history but does not want to read a thick book with a very small letter, this book might do you good.

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Hong Kong : I’ll Never Forget You :)

By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu

Ruby, Fatma and I have our own version of interest and hobby. It’s usually different and not overlapping at all with each other. For instance, Ruby wanted to be a writer for a long time. Only god knows where she hides all her writing works. Fatma is aspiring to be a write. She already had an idea and just waiting for a right time to let the pen move. I myself, however, did not see myself in writing field at all. I love reading, that is no doubt about that but me as writer, there is no way in hell it could happen. First of all, my writing sucks. That’s a fact. I have no creative mind whatsoever. Second, if somebody does a proofreading on my work, he/she may advise me to retake a grammar class. I knew my grammar sometimes could raise your eye brows to the sky, but hey English is not my native language. Duh-Doy (I usually use this excuse because I don’t have any other excuse).

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Travelling is among other things that all of us love and would like to do it together one day. We did plan to go to Bangkok this year but since the Riot happened, we postponed the plan. Choosing a country where we all wanted to go also could be a problem. Ruby already declared her unbeatable love to India meaning to say that one of the countries chinguz have to visit is India. Fatma, on the other hands, wanted to explore Europe and Eastern Asia countries like South Korea and Japan. I myself wanted to go to middle-eastern countries like Afghanistan, Morocco, Turkey and Palestine. Maybe I would do a solo journey going to Palestine and Afghanistan but Turkey and Morocco, Chinguz can’t say No to me. Anyway, on 4-7 March 2014, I went to Hong Kong with a close friend of mine from USM. We both did our master degree in September 2012 at USM. We’ve been a roommate for a year and eventually graduated together on September 2013. I still remember how I wish I didn’t get a LAME roommate during my first day at USM. By my own definition on ‘LAME’ person means over-religious, busybody kind of people, a very silent person, a person who always talk about his significant other and a fucking cheapskate. It turns out my roommate Najibah did not possess any of LAME quality that I highlighted in the above sentence. We’ve been a close friend ever since we met. Going to Hong Kong is like one of the random decisions I’ve ever made. I love traveling but Hong Kong is not on my list of places I wanted to go.

Arrive at the HK Airport with style.
Arrive at the HK Airport with style.

We bought a flight ticket in January 2014 and planned everything ahead of schedule like where we wanted to go and where can we get a Halal food. Actually, it is not really ‘we’ because I did nothing. Thanks to Najibah and her friend, Izzah who prepared everything before we arrived to Hong Kong. When we landed at Hong Kong, first thing I regretted is how foolish I am for not bringing any sweater, shoes and socks there. My mother did nag me about it and ask me to pack a sweater but let just say I am a stubborn daughter.  I regretted my decision for not listening to my mother right after we landed there. It’s fucking 15 Celsius degree there. I know some of you say that’s normal but where I came from that’s not normal. That freaking cold (especially if you didn’t bring any sweater with you).

Jib and I freestyling in front of the Disneyland Entrance.
Jib and I freestyling in front of the Disneyland Entrance.
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We Met Buzz Lightyear!!
With Minnie Mouse ;)
With Minnie Mouse 😉

I make do with what I had. I wore like freaking 4 layers of clothes just to keep me warm. There are 5 places we visited at Hong Kong which are the Avenue of Stars, Disneyland Hong Kong, Ocean Park Hong Kong, The Peak Tram and Ngong Ping 360 (where you can see the Big Buddha yourself). I wish we could go to many places but let’s just be honest, 4 days is too short. We missed on visiting the Art Museum Hong Kong, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and Ladies Market. If Any Malaysian is planning on going to Hong Kong this year, hey RM 2000 is enough for the budget. I used RM 1000 for Plane ticket and Hotel accommodation. Another RM 1000 is for your spending there (you will pay for the Disneyland, ocean park and all of that ticket to the place you wanted to go) but trust me, it is more than enough. Since Hong Kong is not really famous destination among Muslim tourists, it is a bit difficult to find a Halal food restaurant.There are some of the restaurants that offers Halal Food (google it if you wanted the list of Halal restaurant in HK) but we have to take a long journey to arrive there. Due to that, we ate at Halal Food Restaurant only for lunch and we ate Ramen Cup/Maggi Cup or white bread we brought from Malaysia for dinner.

Admiralty MTR station

Underground MTR station

We stayed at YesInn Hotel near the Fortress Hill area. It is pretty strategic area actually considering it is close to MTR station. It is very convenient to us to go to many places in Hong Kong. We bought or ‘rent’ the Octopus Card at the airport on the day we arrived there. Octopus Card is similar to Touch N Go Card that we had here in Malaysia. You have to reload it and you can use it pretty much everywhere. I know some of us would like to use cheap transportation in Hong Kong and may conceive the idea that MTR is much affordable than taxi. In Malaysia, KTM is way much cheaper than Taxi because our taxi did not use their freaking meter. In Hong Kong, MTR cost and Taxi Cost is pretty much similar. However, you better use taxi when there are 3 or 4 of you. It’s just convenient for me (maybe because I hate walking). The perks of using MTR there is they are faster, comfortable and you don’t have to wait like half an hour for the next available train to come. For me, MTR and Taxi did not differ much; the cost is pretty much the same.

Yesinn Hotel

YesInn Hotel is not a fancy 5 star Hotel. We slept there because the building is in the middle of town, accessible with bus route and MTR route. The room is not that big. We have 1 bunk bed and 1 extra sliding bed. It is comfortable enough for us because we are only using it during night. Since this is cheap hotel, there is no thermostat in the room. You can’t control the temperature in the room. The temperature outside the hotel will be similar in the hotel’s room (maybe slightly less cold but still cold). We bear the cold with a very thick blanket and socks. We have access to Hot water for morning shower but we have to wait every half an hour so that water can take time to reheat again. It may not perfect for some of you but I think it’s good enough for us (especially the price we paid for the hotel is not that much). Hong Kong Airport is just awesome. Their WIFI is so fast that you can watch youtube video there without any buffering. They had cinema in their airport. Can you imagine having a cinema at LCCT and KLIA? It would be awesome if we had it too.

Muslim Tourist might encounter the problem like finding the prayer room in certain places in HK. HK airport provides prayer room for Muslim Tourists but they didn’t do partition for men and women in that prayer room. We can’t blame them though because they don’t know. For famous places like Disneyland and Ocean Park, asking the customer service counter might be a wise decision. They will show the rest room where it can be use for prayer. All you have to do is ask. I don’t know whether we’re not lucky enough or we’re asked the wrong person there. Every single time we asked any people in HK about the direction, they seem snobbish and unfriendly. I don’t want to assume that all people in HK are like that but we face the experience of being yelled at and being dismissed right away. I would like to assume we are just bunch of bad luck tourists who asked the wrong persons. Those that worked at Disneyland and Ocean park, they are friendly and warm people (maybe it is part of their job and they get paid for doing so). Overall, going to Hong Kong is such an amazing experience. I would never forget it because I use my own money to pay for everything for the first time. It is also my first time going to the oversea without any parents’ protection, rule and restriction.  I also went there with my best friend. What more could I ask, right?

Overall, for this Hong Kong trip:

My Rating: 4/5

1) Famous Places: 4/5

2) Public Transportation: 5/5

3) Accommodation: 3.5/5

4) Food: 2/5

5) People: 2.5/5