Pray…

It was not a very good day last Sunday. There was this landslide at a small town not too far away that not only cut off its communication links but also disrupted the water supply.

We did not manage to go for the novena and the sunset service the night before as we were at the wedding reception so we went for the early morning service before going for breakfast here.

My girl wanted the Sarawak laksa (RM6.00, small – up by 50 sen now)…

Thomson Corner Sarawak laksa

…the other day but not that morning. Anyway, I tapao-ed two packets for her and also for her housemate/colleague for their dinner that evening and yes, it was good as always but I thought that two of the prawns were a bit off so I spat them out and yes, the sambal belacan

Thomson Corner sambal belacan

…was good, obviously made from the better quality Bintulu or Mukah varieties, much nicer than the one here and heaps nicer than this one as well.

My missus had their kampua mee (RM3.20)…

Thomson Coerner kampua mee

…which, of course, is more expensive than most around town and at best, I would say theirs is pretty all right – good enough if you do not have a lot of time in town and would like to get to eat as many of the local delights as possible.

My girl had their pian sip (RM3.50)…

Thomson Corner pian sip

…which at one time, was one of my favourites in town but for reasons unknown, it was taken off the menu. Well, they have it back again now and my girl complained of it being too salty so she had to rinse each of them in the complimentary soup before eating. Probably, the employee spilled too much of the light soy sauce into the bowl. I did try one, rinsed too, of course, and I thought it was good.

After that, we headed home so I could have a short rest before we made our way to my girl’s school in the jungle. Just before leaving, I saw a Facebook friend sharing a photograph of this accident so we decided to use the old road…

Old Oya Road
*Google Maps photo*

…to avoid the slippery road (because of the oil spill) and the congestion. This is a very narrow two-lane road, one going and one coming, a bit winding at times but it is very good, mostly, hardly any of those bumpy “patchwork quilts” along the way and that morning, there were hardly any cars, none of those horrendous reckless, fast and furious show-offs and none of those road bullies that one would meet on the other road that we would usually use. If it is going to be like this all the time, I certainly would choose to go by this way in future.

It was an uneventful drive all the way to my girl’s school and when we reached there, it had started to rain so we did not stay long and quickly made our way back to town. We had just left the school when I received word from my sister, “Very heavy rain in Sibu! Drive safely!” Well, it did not just rain heavily there but where we were too till we had gone past Selangau Bazaar. Much to my relief, it was not raining, just extremely dark like late evening , almost night and I was glad to be able to make it past many of the lencongans (diversions) along the way.

Then, it came! The heavy downpour, so heavy that visibility was close to zero and there were flash floods everywhere which came as no surprise as the people involved in the construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway did not bother about the drainage at all…and there was no way whatsoever by which one could tell if there were any potholes, big or small under the muddy water as one crawled through slowly.

We came to one part that was severely flooded and there were many cars all lined up in the heavy rain, all unsure whether to take the risk and make their way across the fast-flowing water or not. I did not want to wait any longer as if the rain would go on for a while longer, it might render the road completely impassable to traffic. I certainly would not want to end up like the inter-town bus in the flood around this same time last year.

That was why I drove straight ahead into the water. I am not sure but maybe there was a massive pothole and I drove into it causing an upsurge of the muddy water, splashing all over my bonnet. “This is the end!” I thought to myself, expecting the car engine to stop dead and we would end up stuck in the middle of the torrential current…but miraculously, the engine did not give up and I managed to drive on…out of the water and the next instant, we were on our way.

The rain got heavier and heavier and I was feeling the toll so I decided to stop at Stapang for a brief rest and to wait for the storm to abate. It was there that I realised that I had lost my front license plate…

casualtyofthepanborneohighway

…and also the plastic cover of the spot/fog light on the right. Well, that was not as bad as what we saw – somebody’s bumper, liver red or maroon in colour, dropped off and was left behind in the middle of the road! Of course, I am most thankful that we got home safe and sound, everything else is secondary but one thing’s for sure, should we ever be caught in a similar situation again in future (God forbid, touch wood!), I will never ever attempt anything so foolish again. Lesson learnt!

Every week, without fail, I would pray fervently for God’s guidance and protection all along the way to my girl’s school in the jungle and back, twice (four  trips) a week, at least…and I will always give thanks that He has never failed to keep us safe all the time and yes, I do believe that it is because of our faith in Him and it was He who calmed the wind and the sea that had brought us safely across the raging flood, praise the Lord!

SIBU THOMSON CORNER (2.296517, 111.840710) is located at Pusat Tanahwang, opposite Sacred Heart Secondary School, Oya Road or you can go to their other outlet on the 1st floor of the Medan Mall, Jalan Wong King Huo.

You’re next…

My friends’ eldest son, Daniel, got married in 2014. Wow!!! Was it that long ago? That was some 5 years ago and of course, he and his wife, Natalie, are blessed with one pretty little girl now and last Saturday, the 23rd of March, my friends’ youngest son, Alvin, tied the knot with the love of his life, Stellia. Of course, we were at the church service…

Wedding mass

…that morning for what I always believe to be the most important part of any wedding for the solemnisation of their marriage vows.

I did not go round taking a whole lot of photographs as they had a few professional guys to do the job but I did get this shot of the father of the bride with his daughter…

Here comes the bride

…as they walked up to the altar to give away her hand in Holy Matrimony and another one of the bride and groom…

Just married

…as they were walking out of the church as man and wife.

That night, we attended the wedding reception at the grand ballroom of the leading hotel in town…

Backdrop

…and no, I did not take a lot of photographs either…

Centrepiece

…but I did snap one of my favourite duck stuffed with glutinous rice…

Duck stuffed with glutinous rice

I guess I enjoyed it very much which prompted my girl to comment that I had quite a few helpings that night.

Both my friends were in the education service, now retired…like me and the gathering that night was like one big happy reunion, meeting so many old friends – teachers, principals most of whom are retired too…like me. We sure had a lovely evening, I must say.

Thank you so much, Catherine & Stephen for the invitation and congratulations to you two, the proud parents and of course, to Alvin and Stellia – may God bless you both with abundant bliss in the years ahead. All the best, cheers!

Do better…

This lady started off with her stall here selling the local ethnic Iban delights and yes, I did drop by to enjoy what she had to offer and beyond the shadow of a doubt, I sure did and of course, I did go back again for more.

Unfortunately, she disappeared one fine day and I heard that she had moved to another coffee shop and if parking is hard here, it is very much worse there so I never went over to see her at that location.

I was at the restaurant next door for lunch one fine day and I saw that the coffee shop had closed down. I asked some guy there and he said that the Iban lady would be moving back and she would take over the coffee shop…

Ruai Aku Cafe

He added that there were others before the last one and all of them did not last too long so hopefully, this lady would be able to manage somehow.

I dropped by the other morning and I had their coffee…

Kopi-o-peng

…which I thought was all right and it was only RM1.50 a glass, cheaper than most elsewhere.

There is a kampua mee stall…

Kampua mee stall

…in front and I decided to give it a try.

Well, if you are looking for some original authentic Sibu kampua mee, then this is not the one but if it is just a plate of nice noodles to enjoy, this isn’t too bad (RM3.00)…

Kampua mee

…which is more than what I could say about the pain sip (RM3.00)…

Pian sip

For one thing, the guy added some vinegar and I did not fancy that. I wish he would just serve the dumplings in clear bone soup and give the vinegar and/or the traditional Foochow red wine for anyone thus inclined to add themselves.  Besides, the dumplings were kind of chewy, not the extra thin, super smooth and slippery that I can enjoy with minimal biting/chewing and it will all slide down one’s throat with the soup…so let’s just say that this is not one that I would want to have again.

The stall with all the ethnic Iban delights was at the same place as the first time I spotted it here and some of the dishes had started coming out including this pansoh babi hutan (wild boar cooked in bamboo)…

Pansoh babi hutan

…and of course, I wasted no time in tapao-ing some to enjoy with our meals at home…and hopefully, she is going to do better than all her predecessors at that coffee shop, fingers crossed.

RUAI AKU CAFE is located below Eden Inn (2.285223, 111.831256) along Jalan Maju to the right of Hai Bing Coffee Shop/Seafood Restaurant, right across the road from the Rejang Esplanade.

No one’s home…

Last Tuesday was Chap Goh Meh which marked the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year festivities.

My missus asked if I wanted a steamboat dinner that night and I said no. I did not see any point going through all that when there were just the two of us at home. In the end, we just had a simple dinner like on any other day.

I can imagine those old couples with lots of children but either they and their own families are living and working elsewhere in the country or abroad or the girls have got married and have their commitments (among the Chinese, they are considered as having “married out” already) or have moved away as well. No matter what they may say or do, at times like this, I am sure they would feel something when no one’s home.

My girl enjoys a steamboat dinner so I suggested having a belated celebration on Friday evening when we had gone to her school in the jungle to bring her home.

It was our no-meat Friday – yes, we can eat fish and other kinds of seafood and ever since my growing-up years, I have abstained from meat on Fridays. I guess that was some kind of sacrifice but these days, it is not so much the going without meat part but the pinch that one feels when paying for fish, prawns and all kinds of seafood. It is so expensive, a luxury many can ill afford. Incidentally, they have stretched this practice even further these days – you may choose another form of sacrifice like not watching television, not going online, giving up smoking or drinking for the whole day, for instance…but I still choose to follow what I have been doing from young.

That was why we did not have any meat in our steamboat…

Steamboat

…but we had fishballs (own-made bay kar/ikan tenggiri, no less), quail eggs (my girl loves those) and prawns…

Prawns

– I still have quite a bit left from those that I bought for Chinese New Year and later, my missus threw in a bit of sotong (squid)…

Sotong

…and these left-over Pacific clams…

Pacific clams

…which sure do not come cheap either nowadays.

The clear soup stock from boiling the prawns and the fishballs got sweeter and sweeter when we were enjoying everything with my missus’ very nice and spicy chili dip…

Dipping

…and yes, we all enjoyed ourselves very much that evening.

A steamboat dinner with everyone in the family sure is very symbolic. It helps enhance togetherness and unite all the family members as they sit around the pot, talking and eating while at the same time, laughing and enjoying one another’s company, thus creating a natural atmosphere of closeness among all those present.

Superstar…

I’ve been here once before and had their kueh chap and the other day, we dropped by again for the Sarawak laksa as my paternal cousin did say it was good too.

That was on Friday and as usual, we went to get my girl from her school in the jungle to bring her home. She wanted to go for our favourite in town but I was not all that keen as I’ve blogged about it so many times already. Actually, we stopped by here first but all the stalls were closed, not a single one was open, even though it was just around 2.00 p.m. so we just walked to this place instead.

There is a Malay stall there now, right behind the kampua mee stall but no, we were there for the Sarawak laksa so that was what we had…

Sarawak laksa 1

As it was on our no-meat Friday, we did not want any of the shredded boiled chicken and yes, the lady did seem to add a lot more of the rest unlike other places that I know. More often than not, it would be a case of if you don’t want it, then that is it!

The ladies had the small/regular (RM6.00) while I had the large (RM7.00) and I lived to regret it. No, it wasn’t because it was not nice but one bowl is approximately equal to two of the regular ones…

Sarawak laksa 2

…and it was quite a struggle for me to finish all of it. Just like the kueh chap, I would say it was not the best in town, nor the worst and I would say that exact same thing too about their sambal belacan

Sambal belacan

…too.

Walking back to the car, I spotted this banner at a Malay coffee shop nearby…

Superstar

What? RM2K for the winner? That’s more or less my one month’s pension! Gee!!! I wish I were younger – I certainly would give it my best shot. Anybody interested?

This coffee shop (2.290717, 111.822459) is located near the Sibu Town Square/Dataran Tun Tuanku Bujang at Jalan Lau King Howe Lorong 1, facing the Lau King Howe Memorial Museum which is on the opposite side of the road.

I said…

I said to the guy at this nasi kerabu place that I would go back and try their Sarawak laksa one fine day simply because they seemed to be pushing it and I did see a lot of customers having that…but that was around a month ago. Time does seem to fly these days!

I finally stopped by the other morning and I noticed this…

Only on Saturday

Oh no! They only have nasi kerabu on Saturdays now, no more on Tuesdays. I guess it does entail a whole lot of work and the guy told me that even on Saturdays, they would cut down on the amount so I guess should we feel like going for that, we must go early to avoid disappointment.

Well, I had the Sarawak laksa (RM5.00)…

Sarawak laksa

…like I said I would and the fact that they used the cheaper hard shell seawater prawns did not bother me too much. I would much sooner have these, not those bland and rubbery farmed ones.

On the whole, though it did not sweep me off my feet, I thought it was quite nice. In fact, in the first place I never got my hopes up high especially when considering that this culinary delight was of Chinese origin, in Kuching. In my growing up years, we could hardly find a stall here selling this but we can find many all over town nowadays and of course, whether it is nice or not is another story altogether. Likewise, it is available at many Malay stalls and shops now and they even have Malay/Muslim companies/factories making their own sambal for their use.

My happiness upon seeing the sambal belacan

Lime & belacan

…was short-lived, unfortunately. At other places, they will give you less than half a teaspoon of it but they usually use the very much nicer and more expensive Bintulu belacan. They certainly did not use that to make this one here and I hardly touched it in the end.

All things considered, my favourite is still the one here so should I feel like having Sarawak laksa, I would much sooner hop over there for theirs than the one here…

Sarawak laksa 2

…even though theirs costs a little bit more.

LA’ZZATY CUISINE (2.307198, 111.828479) is located along Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg on the left if you are coming from town, right after the SHELL petrol station, at its junction with Jalan Nibong. The Sibu Buddhist Temple is on your right on the other side of the road.

All around…

Last Sunday, on our way to my girl’s school in the jungle, I ran over a massive pothole – some of them are not visible till you are already too near and it is already too late to slow down. I guess under such circumstances, it is not that safe to swerve or stop all of a sudden either. Because of the violent impact, the left side signal light fell off. I heard something so I quickly pulled up and went out to check. There was another car there, a fellow-victim, I guess and when he saw me looking all around the car to see if there was any damage, he shouted, “Lampu! Lampu depan!

I had some duct tape that I used to stick some carton box in the boot so I pulled that off and used it to stick the lamp in place till we reached Selangau bazaar where we could buy some tape at one of the shops for the job, good enough for the rest of the ride to the school and all the way back home again.

Of course, early the very next morning, I made my way to my regular workshop in Sg Merah to get it fixed.  The nice employee there was keen on salvaging what was left of the lamp and started working on it but the plastic had become so brittle that it kept breaking and coming apart so when the boss showed up, he sent for a spare to be delivered.

The problem with this workshop is they do not stock up on spares so when any is needed, they will call somebody in town and wait for them to deliver…and at times, I had to wait a mighty long time. My guess is they will wait till they have a number of orders so it would be worth their while to go round all over town to deliver the items. Often, when I know something will take quite a bit of time, I will just ask them to come to my house to get the car and send it back when they’re done.

However, while waiting, you could always walk around and drop by the supermarket there to browse around perhaps. That morning, I spotted an unfamiliar Australian brand of fresh milk, “So Natural”, selling for RM3.67 a carton. I bought one to try but I did not think it was all that great, not really thick and rich…like another brand, Moo. My favourites would be Devondale or Meadow Fresh – in the case of the latter, the ones from New Zealand would be a bit cheaper but these would be around RM5.00 a carton, at times less and at times, more.

Another thing one could do around there would be to go to one coffee shop to eat and drink and sit and wait. This one would be the most convenient, directly opposite the workshop, just about 50 metres away or this Malay/Muslim coffee shop right behind it. This one where the kampua mee and the pian sip are a lot cheaper is around the corner, right down the lane.

The mee sapi (beef noodles) here has its following – it does seem to be quite popular but I did try once or twice and I was not impressed. It looked like they now have nasi campur and a whole lot of other things at that shop…and the Malay stalls at the coffee shop next door are still going strong…but the once-very-popular Chinese fried noodles at the back has called it a day owing to some problems in the family, so I’ve been told.  There is also an outlet of our very own Sarawak chicken rice franchise here if you are thus inclined.

Now, if you think that is a whole lot of coffee shops for you to pick and choose, there is another one…

Mas Cafe

…that I had never gone to try before, right beside the branch of a bank there. Well, I’ve walked there before all right but it looked kind of deserted and the stalls were all closed – probably by some coincidence, I had caught them on a wrong day, their off day but seeing how it has been around for  a very long time, it should be doing well enough for it to stay open…

Mas Cafe, inside

I would say it was a nice, clean place unlike some around town – the authorities concerned should do their work and go round and tell them off. It should not be just about making money – they should put in some effort to make their shop a bit more presentable so it will not spoil the appetite of intending customers who may have a change of heart at the sight of the condition of the shop and go some place else.

I saw that the kampua mee stall was open (and the stall next to it and later, I noticed some kind of life at another stall at the back too) and it had mee sua on the menu. From the look of the elderly lady running the stall, I was quite confident that she would know what she was doing and her mee sua would be good enough…

Mee sua 1

…and I was right in a way. The meat was well-marinated with the traditional Foochow red wine, hence the red colour but not horrifyingly so like at some places around here and there was enough ginger in the soup but other than the two tiny bits of Shitake mushroom, it did not have any wolfberries/goji berries in it and on the whole, it was more on the milder side, not so thick and rich like the ones we cook at home or the one that I love so much here.

I was thinking that my late parents would love this…

Mee sua 2

…a lot. Theirs was always lighter and milder and as a matter of fact, my girl liked it a lot that way – we would always go over on birthdays and new years to enjoy it the way they enjoyed it.

I was quite positive that I saw RM6.50 below the photograph on display at the stall so I gave the lady RM10.00 when she came to serve the noodles. After a while, she came back and gave me RM3.00 change and my guess is like everything else, the price had gone up. I did not say a word and went on enjoying the longevity noodles right down to the very last drop…though I can’t say I was all that comfortable with the use of the plastic bowl for serving anything in hot soup – I wish these people would not do that.

MAS CAFE (2.327190, 111.840853) is located along Lorong Sg Merah 2C, off Jalan Teng Chin Hua, to the right of the branch of the RHB Bank there.