The ties that bind…

It is indeed crucial for families to spend quality time together every opportunity they get to strengthen the bonds between them. Over the years, we tried our best to do that but then again, at the time, everyone was quite busy – my missus and I with our work and our chores and commitments and my daughter with her studies. Now that she has completed her degree and both her mum and I have retired, we certainly have a lot more time on our hands.

I have been to this park…

Let the sunshine in

…a number of times lately when my New Zealand friend came to town and then, Mandy and Yee Ling and more recently, Ivan…but my daughter could not even recall the last time she went – probably when she was still in primary school perhaps. So that day, around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, we went for a drive and stopped by there…

Peace & quiet & open air

…to enjoy the peace and quiet and open air and to feed the fish…

Feed the fish

We saw one really big one that day…

Big one!

…and while we were at the park, Melissa wanted some young coconut to enjoy the refreshing coconut water and the flesh…

Coconut woman

…and we also had the rojak

Bukit Aup rojak

It was very nice, I must say…and I hear that the kompia is good too but we did not have any that day as we just had tea before we left the house.

We stopped by the cultural village across the road after that but it still did not seem to be fully-completed yet. We left after a while and on the way back, stopped by the Giant Hypermart here…

Christmas at Giant

The Christmas decorations are up too but I must say that they are quite minimal here – not very impressive, I’m afraid.

I spotted this belt…

New belt

…that seemed VERY long…

54 inches

…and it was not very expensive…

Cheap

…so I quickly grabbed it. It certainly is not easy for the likes of me to look for belts that are long enough to tie around my waist and hold up my pants. LOL!!!

Well, we all enjoyed the outing…and I would say that it was time well spent to strengthen the ties that bind…

Little gesture…

Melissa’s coursemate was knocked down by a mat rempit (reckless motorcyclist) outside the teacher-training institute in Sungai Petani, Kedah some two months ago and sustained a fracture in her leg and had to undergo surgery. It was no doubt a stressful time for her and her family and yet the institute insisted on her sticking around, crutches, wheelchair and all, for the last few weeks even though most of what had to be done was already done. Luckily, she had her friends around to help her in any way they could and when they were finally dismissed and told that they could all go home, I helped book the air ticket for her so she could come back together with Melissa as she would be able to help her along the way from Penang to KLIA to Kuching and finally, to Sibu (as by then, all the direct flights from KLIA to Sibu were already fully-booked)…where her parents were waiting for her to take her back to Bintangor.

It wasn’t a big deal, really – the least we could do for a friend but her family was very grateful and insisted on inviting us out to dinner as a gesture of their appreciation. So there we were at this restaurant

Nice House, Sibu

…with them…

Angel baby

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned that when eating here, it would be good to come extra early before the crowd comes in unless one makes a reservation…and does not mind the commotion and the noise. Well, we didn’t and even though we could get a table quite easily, we were told that we would need to wait for around 45 minutes for the food to be served. So we waited…and waited…and it was way after an hour before we finally got to eat. Another thing about coming here after dark is one should avoid parking one’s car under those trees…

Birds in the trees

See those little white spots in the trees? Those would be the “swarm” of birds in the town centre, millions of them, and you can imagine what your car would be like when you get back to it after having had your dinner here.

Anyway, we had their steamed fish…

Steamed fish

– a Soon Hock, it was and Melissa said it was very nice. Personally, I thought that the recipe, their way of cooking was nice and the sauce was very tasty but I found the fish itself to be quite bland and best eaten dipped in soy sauce.

The plum sauce pork…

Plum sauce pork

…was very good, very tender and delicious and so was the sizzling beef on a hot plate…

Sizzling beef

…and the specialty of the house – their own-made tofu

NiceHouse tofu

Every table seemed to have ordered this…

Yam basket

– the mixed vegetables in a yam basket but I did not think it was all that sensational. Ah well, never mind where but I’m never a fan of that, anyway. Give me the cangkuk manis fried with egg…

Cangkuk manis with egg

…anytime…and I would say that they certainly do it pretty well here too.

The sea cucumber soup was all right…

Sea cucumber soup

…but I did not like biting into those thin strips of ginger in it.

Actually there were 7 of us, 6 adults and one kid (who could actually eat quite a lot…and almost finished the whole bowl of rice all by herself!!! LOL!!!) and we ordered for 4 persons only and my goodness! The servings were really huge for 4, I must say.

All in all, it was an enjoyable dinner…and a great opportunity for our families to interact and get to know one another better. Thank you so much, Christina, and everybody for the dinner treat…

Baby, what a big surprise!…

We were out all morning yesterday – Melissa, my missus and I…and when we got home, we saw that the postman had come and gone and he had left these in the mailbox…

Both came from my friend, Yoong, in Western Australia…

From Yoong & Onn

…and I guessed that she had sent me a birthday card in the green envelope and a present in the big one.

Of course, I opened the big envelope first but no, there was no birthday present inside. Instead, there were a lovely Christmas card and some very pretty fridge magnets…

Christmas card & gift

That’s so sweet of her and her husband, Onn! I guess they know that I would be away for a while prior to Christmas so they would want to catch me before I leave.

Then, I opened the green envelope…and there was a cheeky birthday card inside…

Birthday card & ang pao

…with everybody and everything mooning (showing their butts) and OMIGAWD!!!!! What was that? Oh me oh my!!! They had sent me an ang pao for my birthday as well!!!

Oh dear! Oh dear! That is so kind and generous of you, Yoong & Onn…

From Yoong & Onn

…but really, you shouldn’t have. Now how to balas? What can I send in return? Sigh!!!

All I can do, I guess, is to thank both of you so very very much and pray that God will bless you two abundantly each passing day of your lives. Come, let’s drink a toast to that – YAAAAAAMMMMMMM…SENG!!!!

A toast

Thank you, thank  you, thank you…

Take me somewhere nice…

Language is quintessentially a spoken thing. On paper, at best, one would be able to make use of punctuation marks to convey one’s intended meaning. For example, “How nice?” with a question mark may be a request for opinion as to how nice a place or something is. With an exclamation mark, “How nice!” could be an exclamation of delight but in writing, one does not have the tone that may actually convey a message to the contrary. Spoken with sarcasm and disgust or contempt, it may mean that the subject in question is really not nice at all.

Thus, when you drop by this cafe here in Sibu…

How Nice, Sibu

…you may be asking yourself the question, “How nice?”

Well, Melissa had the hung ngang (big mihun) served in the traditional Foochow-style chicken soup cooked with red wine and ginger (RM5.00)…

HungNgang in chicken soup

…with one poached egg in it and she thought it was nice.

I had mee sua (RM5.00)…

Foochow mee sua

…in the same soup but the egg in mine was hard-boiled and I also felt that mine was nice as well though I would not say it is the best in town. Still, I would not mind ordering that again should I happen to drop by here on another occasion.

I suppose I probably would come again soon enough as I loved the popiah (RM2.50 each)…

Popiah 1

It wasn’t exactly like how I would make them at home but I thought it was very nice, a lot nicer than what we can get anywhere else here in Sibu…

Popiah 2

…and it would definitely be a whole lot easier to just buy one or two to eat instead of going through all that hassle to make one’s own.

I wouldn’t say the same about the cendol though…

Cendol

No doubt, when it is served, one would probably exclaim out loud, “How nice!” for it does look good, that I simply cannot deny. Unfortunately, it was not lemak (rich with santan or coconut milk) at all and there wasn’t any gula Melaka in it or if there was, I could hardly detect any hint of it. But to be fair, it tasted all right, just a little too strong with the rose essence and nothing like what cendol usually is.

My missus had the fried pek koi (rice cakes) with canned clams in soy sauce (RM4.00)…

Fried pek koi

…and it was really very good. We all tasted a bit of it and Melissa loved it a lot – especially those teeny-weeny clams.

So from our personal point of view, the popiah and the fried pek koi with canned clams were very nice and we would not hesitate to have those again while the mee sua and hung ngang were pretty nice as well. That was how nice we thought this place was…and if anyone’s interested, it is along Wong King Huo Road to the RIGHT of Medan Mall (not the left, where Courts Mammoth is), the block on the far end of the area with the back of this block of shophouses facing Tong Sang Road.

Love is all around…

This came via courier service last week, DHL no less…

From Huai Bin 1

…from my dear friend and fellow-blogger, Huai Bin

From Huai Bin 2

He went to the Philippines sometime ago and it really was so sweet of him to remember me when he was over there having a ball of a time. He actually went through the trouble of buying a couple of things that he wanted to give to me the next time he came home. Unfortunately, he has not had the opportunity to come back to Sibu lately so he decided to send the things over to me instead.

Inside, there was a packet of dried mangoes…

Dried mangoes 1

…which were very nice – not pickled, just dried…

Dried mangoes 2

…and other than that, there was this as well…

Chicaron

Chicaron? I did not know what that was so I had a look at the ingredients…

Chicaron - ingredients

Eyewwww!!!!!! My goodness gracious – pork skin!!!

But come to think of it, when we go to eat those slabs of roast pork belly at the char siew places, don’t we love the crispy skin or what they call the crackle? I am supposed to put this into the microwave and let it pop…and then I can eat it but unfortunately, I have not got round to doing that yet so I would not know how good that actually tastes. We will just have to wait till one fine day when I can manage to pluck up enough courage to get down to doing that. Hehehehehehe!!!!

Anyway, thanks so very much, Huai Bin…and at the same time, I would like to thank my very dear old friends, old in every sense of the word, Vivien and Mary, for the lovely birthday card that they sent me…

Birthday card

 It arrived the day after I got the stuff from Huai Bin and this is what it says inside…

Birthday card - inside

I quickly texted them to thank them and I added, “My eyesight is failing already so you two will look real gorgeous to me, no worries!” God is indeed fair and merciful, don’t you think? LOL!!!! Well, thank you so much for the card, ladies. I love it, I really do! It not only made me smile – I actually LOLed when I opened and read it. And just in case anyone is wondering, no, it is not my birthday yet – there are still a few days to go before I hit the big SIX-O!!!

And if you think that is all, think again for you are indeed very very sadly mistaken. Annie-Q‘s mum who just got back from KL, dropped by my house yesterday afternoon to pass me this…

Exclusive from Starbucks

Holy Moses!!! A birthday present – something exclusive from Starbucks!!!

Birthday present from Annie

Oooo…thank you so so so much, Annie! I saw somebody’s photos of it on Facebook and I was wishing and hoping that I would get one…and yippee!!!! My wish has come true!!!!

But wait a minute! She also sent me these yummy stuff from Marks & Spencer, including my favourite All Butter Viennese…and a Christmas present for Melissa as well…

More goodies from Annie

Thanks, Annie, on her behalf – so sweet of you to get something for her too.

Then there was Yi Ling as well – an ex-student of mine in one of my English tuition classes sometime ago. If I’m not mistaken, she was in the same class as Huai Bin’s sister…and presently, she’s married with 3 kids and is based in Johore. I did get to meet her when she came home last year but this time around, she just had her 3rd one so it was not convenient for her to come out. Still, that did not stop her from sending her father to deliver these…

From Yi Ling

…to my house. Thank you so very much to you too, Yi Ling and also to your father for sending the stuff over.

Gosh!!! I must have done something really good in my previous life or what to be so blessed and so very much loved in my present one by all the wonderfully kind and generous friends that I have all over, praise the Lord. May God bless you all abundantly each passing day of your lives…

Waiting in line…

It really amazes me how people are willing to wait in line for a place in a cafe or restaurant to eat. No matter how good the food may be, I would just go elsewhere and settle for something that may be just as nice or at times, even better. There is one restaurant here that is always so crowded and I hear that even if you can get a table, while you are eating, there will be people standing around waiting for you to finish so they can grab your table and in the meantime, they will be watching you eat like you’re some animals in the zoo. Well, you would never catch me there ever, that’s for sure.

I remember that one time at the restaurant in Malacca when we had to go in to write down our names and right after that, we were shooed outside and made to wait by the roadside till it was our turn and they would call us back inside to eat. Actually, I wanted to leave and go some place else already but my friend, Mandy, said that since we were there already, we might as well just wait…and that was what we did (and I would not say that I was overwhelmed by what we had there that day) but I don’t think I would ever want to do anything of the sort again.

That was why when we went to this place the other night for dinner, we decided to go elsewhere instead. I went there at least twice before for lunch but lately, it no longer opens in the daytime – only for dinner at night and I’ve been told that they open quite early, at around 5.30 p.m. We got there before 6.00 p.m. but the place was packed and there were a number of people standing around the pavement and in the parking lot…waiting. If they think I would join the crowd and do the same, they’d better think again.

So in the end, we adjourned to this place but nobody wanted the western dishes available at one of the stalls there. My daughter had the Penang har mee (prawn noodles) which I liked a lot and had had a number of times before and she enjoyed it tremendously. My missus had the nasi ayam penyet (cobbled chicken rice) while I decided to try the bak kut teh noodles (RM5.00)…

BusTerminal bkt noodles 1

…from one of the other stalls in that coffee shop.

The soup was very tasty, fragrant with the herbal taste but not overly strong and they used what people call the Emperor noodles (huang ti mien). I would say it was really very compatible with the bak kut teh soup, much nicer than the instant noodle-like ones that they use elsewhere or our local yellow noodles.

BusTerminal bkt noodles

I enjoyed it very much and I certainly would not mind having that again. Unfortunately, there were only two chunks of meat – I did wish they had given more and maybe jacked up the price by a ringgit or so.

On another day in the morning, I took my daughter here to try the very nice bitter gourd mihun that I enjoyed very much on one of my earlier visits. She liked it a lot but the serving was a bit too huge for her to finish – she’s not really a big eater like the father, you see. My missus tried the kampua noodles (RM2.30)…

Colourful kampua

…which is cheaper than most other places in town but although it wasn’t too bad, I thought it was a little bit too starchy for my liking.

I had the tom yam goong, RM4.00 or was it RM4.50, I can’t remember exactly now…

Colourful tom yam goong 1

…or the white tom yam by virtue of the santan (coconut milk added.

It was very nice – spicy enough and sour, perhaps a little bit too sour for me but on the whole, I quite enjoyed it. They had minced meat, fish slices, meat balls and black fungus, tomatoes in it…

Colourful tom yam goong 2

…and if you order the RM6.50 bowl of the same, you would get some prawns.

I certainly would prefer to go to such less overcrowded places where I would not have to wait in line and other than that, it would not be so unbearably noisy and at times, even hot and stuffy so much so that one’s appetite would be absolutely ruined…but I guess, unlike me, many actually do not mind at all.

Looking for love…

We did not have any of them before in the past, not when I was growing up and not even when I had grown much older and was working but out of the blue, they came. I am talking about those beautiful white egrets that flocked to the town by the droves and I must say they were a sight to behold. The big roundabouts in the town were at one time peppered with what looked like puffs of little white clouds. Nobody knew where they had migrated from and why they had decided to move here.

Unfortunately, I do not seem to see that many around these days. Maybe with the changing weather conditions or perhaps now that we no longer have regular floods like before and the roadside drains are at times rather dry, they have decided to move elsewhere. There were two of them though in the area where I stay – in fact, when my friend, Ivan, was in town, he was pleasantly surprised when they moved as we were driving past them. He thought they were those dummies – something like those horrendous pink flamingos that people put in their gardens for landscaping…and he too loved the sight of them – so pure and white, so elegant when in flight, gliding silently through the air.

Well, it so happened that I spotted one of them the other day. I don’t know what has happened to the other one for there seems to be just one of the two left. It was walking past the gate of a neighbour’s house and it saw its reflection in the tiles…

Hey good looking!

I noticed that it quickly went to the gate and looked behind the pillar for what it thought was another egret at the back. When it saw that there was no bird of its kind anywhere to be found, it went back to look at the reflection again…and lo and behold, the egret was still there. It repeated the action a few times and then it gave up and just stood there staring at its own image.

After some time, it decided to move on…

Walk away

…and when it got to the front of the other pillar, there it was – the very elusive other egret!

Another you

It quickly went to check behind the pillar…

Looking for love

…and of course, there was nothing behind it.

It stood there for a long time, looking very sad and lonely. Perhaps, it was missing its partner and was looking for another friend. Unfortunately, it looked like it was looking for love in all the wrong places

…and was looking in vain. Sigh!!! If it is companionship that it’s looking for, I certainly hope that it will find it some day, that poor thing!

Survivor…

This is probably one of the oldest and the longest surviving hotel in Sibu that is still under the same management since when it first started. It still looks the same on the outside – old school design and all but they have renovated and refurbished the lobby and the cafe and it certainly looks a whole lot nicer now…

LiHua Sibu

I understand that they have done the same with the rooms but I did not get the chance to go and have a look so I cannot comment on that. For one thing, the rates are dirt cheap – RM50 for a standard single and RM65 for a deluxe…more or less like what they have in their sister hotel in town…and yes, papakucing, they do have a lift in this one!

Another thing that has not changed is the eat-all-you-can buffet dinner there on Saturday nights. The last time I was there was in June, 2008 with Huai Bin and some other blogger-friends and it was priced at RM10.00++ then…and believe it or not, it is still that same price to this very day. O.k…if you insist, it is 10 sen more now since they have raised the 5% government tax to 6% and with the 10% service charge, one would have to fork out RM11.60 altogether (approximately AUD3.60 or NZ$4.60…Hehehehehe!!!).

I was there last Saturday night and I would say that the mee mamak or noodles, fried Malay style, was just as nice as before…

Fried noodles

…and the chicken curry too…

Chicken curry

I was kind of disappointed that they did not have the Sarawak masak hitam beef or chicken as theirs used to be the best in town, I wouldn’t know now.

The fried chicken was very nice as well…

Fried chicken

…and even though the fish fillet seemed very popular, I did not help myself to any. I think those would be the breadcrumb coated ones that one can easily buy at any supermarket in town and deep-fry at home.

I did not take the mixed vegetables either…

Mixed veg & long beans

That looked a bit too watery for my liking and I did not feel like having any long beans either.

The tofu was nice…and the fish in fermented beans was not too bad either.

Tofu and fish

They also had another fish dish (to the left of the curry) which was quite good as well and one could have rice too (beside the noodles) to go with all the above.

For dessert, there were some fruits and black jelly…

Dessert & fruits

…and there was free flow of orange cordial, Chinese tea or plain water.

This was what I had for my first helping…

1st helping

…and don’t bother asking how many rounds I had. Ask no questions and I’ll tell no lies! LOL!!! The best part, of course, would be the fact that you can dine in the very pleasant surroundings and air-conditioned comfort and you can sit and chat for as long as you like.

The buffet dinner starts at 7.00 p.m. but I would advise anyone who is interested in going to drop by a little bit early, say at around 6.45 p.m. – they do not seem very prompt in refilling, if at all…and as you can see from the photographs above, some people believe in jumping the gun and sapoo-ing a whole lot of what is served. As a matter of fact, I was there on the dot – at 7.00 p.m. and there were only a few people around – less than half a dozen, I’m sure…but look at the total damage done. Tsk! Tsk!

Other than that, parking in the vicinity can be quite a pain…especially on draw nights but if you just wait awhile, you should be able to grab a space easily when a punter drives off after having made all his or her bets at the row of lottery shops down the road.

I’ll try something new…

I was out again one afternoon with Melissa and my missus and we headed to this now-very-familiar place in town…

Noodle House Sibu

I tried their new matcha mille crepe…

Matcha mille crepe

Well, it isn’t exactly new – they had that flavour, the green tea one, before and I  did not really fancy it then because I was quite put off by the green tea smell. This time around, it certainly looks nicer with the top layer of green tea powder. Unfortunately, I still do not think it is all that great. They have toned down the green tea flavour so much so that it tastes more or less like their vanilla – which is a whole lot cheaper. My favourite is still their rum and raisin and I love their double chocolate but it is a lot sweeter so I would usually try to avoid ordering that.

This has been around for a while now – their cheese spicy chicken kompia

Cheese spicy chciken kompia 1

…but I have not ordered it before. For one thing, I did not get to hear any rave reviews of it so I have been quite reluctant especially when considering that it is a lot more expensive than the rest.

Well, don’t say that I did not give it a chance, so I tried it that day…

Cheese chicken kompia 2

It was all right. The chicken wasn’t spicy, not at all…and I’ve never liked the batter they use to fry their chicken, for instance, when I had it with the nasi lemak there. All in all, it tasted like chicken with cheese in garlic bread – it did not feel like I was eating kompia at all…so very frankly, I think I would just stick to the usual that I find a lot nicer and they are cheaper too!

Melissa wanted some of her favourites – their dry-fried chicken dumplings (jian jiao)…

Dry-fried dumplings

…and their deep-fried salt & pepper calamari…

Salt & peper calamari

…and my missus loved their Chocolate Godzilla a lot…

Chocolate Godzilla

After that scrumptious tea, we went around town just to look around and I spotted these “sweet” Christmas trees in front of some blocks of shops along one of the streets…

Sweet Xmas tree 1

…with lollipops and all…

Sweet Xmas tree 2

…but I would think they should have more tinsel and glitter at least as they look kind of bare. Perhaps they look better at night when they switch on all the lights.

After that, we went for a walk in the park at the river front…

Swans in Swan City

…before calling it a day.

The sweetest days…

The sweetest days would be the ones spent with loved ones, family or friends alike…and it certainly was one when I went out for tea that afternoon with my girl and the mum.

When she was in Sg Petani, Melissa would drop by the outlet of this franchise there but not frequently as she said that her friends would rather go to places like McD’s or KFC or Pizza Hut. She loves the blackforest cheese cake (RM7.00)…

Blackforest cheesecake

…so that was what she had that afternoon.

I tried the chocolate strawberry (RM7.00)…

Chocolate strawberry

…which was all right. Is it just me or do all their cakes taste similar somewhat?

My missus had their durian durian (RM7.00)…

Durian durian

…and she liked it very much.

Incidentally, somebody posted a comment right here in my blog (TWICE) sometime ago telling me that he would be coming home to Sibu to celebrate his kid’s birthday and asking me where he could order some fondant cakes for the occasion. Well, I didn’t know of any place then…but now I do! My niece had one for her engagement that day from this place and if I’m not mistaken, they have something along Wong Nai Siong Road here in Sibu (where the old Yien King/Chung Kuo restaurants used to be, opposite the Sarawak Hotel) as well…and it seems that you can order from this franchise shop too. However, they would need 7 days’ advance notice as they would get it done in Kuching and have it air-flown to Sibu. I saw some of what they have to offer on a catalogue and I must say that some of them look really nice. I love the bumble bee one the most! Personally, I prefer whipped cream though…or rich butter icing.

Business was slow that afternoon. There was only one other table of four persons…and later, I saw two people coming in but they left pretty quickly and by the time we left, there was another table of two. Despite that, service was extremely lacking and our orders took ages to be served, not that they had to cook and bake or anything! I spotted these slices of cake sitting pretty on top of the counter…

Poor service

…and there wasn’t anybody to serve them. My missus order a cup of long black (RM6.60) and she had almost finished her slice of cake before it came. Tsk! Tsk! I would not say they were shorthanded, not at all, as there were at least 3 or 4 of them on duty. Frankly, they might as well have self-service – we’d probably get to eat much sooner that way…and I would say that they badly need a refresher course in cutting those cakes!

Nevertheless, the less-than-satisfactory service notwithstanding, that was most definitely a nice outing for the family and you can be sure there would be more to come in the days ahead…