Second home…

When I was little, come Chinese New Year, my father would take me and my brother to the barber for a haircut. I remember sitting on a plank placed across the arm rests throughout the whole process. He said we would have to get our hair cut before the day of the festival to get rid of the bad luck in the old year and to this day, I still observe this traditional practice.

These days, I get Andy to cut my hair – he learnt the skill from Peter, the boss of Payung. I think I did mention before that Peter started off as a hair stylist in 1981 when he came back from overseas and opened his own salon here – as a matter of fact, I got him to do my hair for my wedding in December that year…and later, Peter started taking on students and began running a hairdressing school. To this day, he still has a small salon at the back, behind the café and his die-hard customers will still go back to him as and when the need arises.

Well, Andy has a younger brother, Karan who was here helping out at Payung for two years before he went back two years ago. He did learn a bit from Peter as well but there, he enrolled in the L’Oreal Academy in New Delhi and now he is a qualified professional hair stylist. I sure was taken by surprise when I dropped by the café the other day and there he was! He had come back for a holiday and that just about shows the attachment those who had worked here before for the place, their second home, so to speak, and for Peter who always treats them like family…and he did not tell anyone, not even his brother that he was coming so everyone was shocked/surprised when he showed up. LOL!!!

Peter had bought him some durians…


– he so loves the fruit and I also got to enjoy them, talk about being at the right place at the right time. The season is coming to an end now so it is getting more expensive – Peter said that he got 6 for RM60.00 and he also bought these langsat or duku

Langsat or duku

– I can never tell one from the other…and there is another variety that we call lau sai bua in Hokkien.

Andy insisted that Karan did my hair this time around and so he did. Here’s a snapshot of me and “my Chinese New Year hair” with Karan…

With Karan
*Peter was busy in the background, preparing our bowls of mee sua*

…taken the other night when Peter asked us over for the much-coveted mee sua

Payung mee sua

…in the traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup as a special treat in conjunction with Karan’s homecoming. Like Andy, he loves mee sua a lot and also our Sibu kampua mee – needless to say, he wasted no time at all and went to enjoy a plate of that for breakfast the very next morning after the day he arrived.

At first, I thought that was white fungus in my bowl but when I looked closer, it turned out to be lenggeng kua (dried longans). Usually we would add wolfberries or goji berries (枸杞) and red dates and shitake mushroom only but they have this in addition to all that and while eating, I also came across a bit of dong quai ( 當歸), just a bit so that was hardly noticeable in the soup but maybe that is their secret as to why their mee sua is so very nice but unfortunately, it is not on their regular menu.

My missus did buy some dabai from the wet market that morning so we cooked some and brought them along and yes, Karan loves dabai too! It is pretty obvious that he loves a lot of things here and misses everything so much that instead of going some place else for his holiday, he chose to “come home”.

Welcome back, Karan – it sure is so good to get to see you again. I do hope you will have the most delightful stay here…and yes, thanks so much for the very nice haircut! Wink! Wink!

PAYUNG CAFÉ (2.284049, 111.833014) is located at No.20F, Lanang Road, Sibu, Malaysia, back to back with the multi-storey car park of the Kingwood Hotel which faces the majestic Rejang River.