Tis sweet to be remembered…

After five years in Kanowit (1978-1982), I joined the staff in this school in 1983…

Chung Hua staff 1983
*Chiew Chong Hui aka Uncle Chong’s photo on Facebook*

…and was there for nine years till 1991. They held their grand Centenary Celebration dinner last Saturday night but no, I was not invited, me small fry. I don’t know if I never made it into the guest list or perhaps it was because I told my friend/ex-classmate, Robert, now the chairman of the school board after taking over from his late father, that I was invited by a group of my ex-students so I would be joining them at the function that night. After all, those would be the people that matter most.

I vaguely recall people saying that they would be able to accommodate some 100 over tables only at the ballroom, not up to 200 but there were some 213 tables that night, I was told. Our table was by the side where the ceiling was lower so by right, it should be cooler. Unfortunately, it was so very very hot that I was sweating profusely and uncomfortably all night long. It was equally hot and stuffy outside in the foyer though so I was wondering if the hotel is currently on some austerity drive, turning down the air conditioning or worse, switching it off altogether! For one thing, it sure needs a new coat of paint – at this point in time, it looks kind of miserable on the outside, sadly neglected. Such nice places, if not properly maintained and left to rot, would reflect a poor impression, quite unbecoming for the biggest hotel in town.

The multi-storey car park was full so I had to gatecrash here and make use of their private car park and walk all the way to the hotel. I was wondering though how on earth the car park could be full when I saw some driving out!!! Some people are not all that efficient, obviously! Tsk! Tsk!!!

They make use of a whole lot of part-time staff for such huge functions but even though they may not be on their permanent staff, they should train them well. I saw those young boys huddled together around the drinks’ station just a stone’s throw away from our table but even at such close proximity, it was near impossible to get their attention to come over and fill my glass of warm water.

The food was very slow in coming out. In the first dish…

Kingwood banquet, first dish

…that one with the fatt choy on top was cold, obviously not properly and completely defrosted before serving! I thought the chicken was good though a bit hard for me as I was having a tooth infection at the time but I liked the fish very much. I did not take any photos of those as when those dishes were served, I was outside for a bit of fresh air, not that it was any cooler, actually. This was the fifth dish…

Kingwood banquet, yam basket

…and it was already past 10.00 p.m. so I decided it was time I went home and I left before the function ended.

Because there were so many tables, there was hardly any space for me to move about, especially in view of the fact that I am not all that small in size. That was why I did not bother to go around at all in the ballroom but I did get to meet one of my ex-principals, a couple of ex-colleagues and ex-students when I was outside the ballroom. Anyway, the people that would matter the most would be those wonderful students of mine who had it in their hearts to invite me to join them…

Reunited, with my ex-Chung Hua students

…that night.

Here we were a long long time ago…

With my Chung Hua students back in the 80's

…when we went on a visit to the house of this family…

Soon sisters & brother

…across river, at what is called Pulau Kerto, if I am not wrong. One of the sisters was in the same class as those who invited me and coincidentally, they were right at the next table. I remember there was another sister, Mary, but she was not there  that night.

The mother…

Chung Hua Centenary celebration, with the Toh's.

…of one of the students came over to say hello, such a pleasant and sweet lady, along with the elder brother and sister, my students – all three of them!

I was amazed at how they could remember the things I taught them so very long ago and they seemed quite tickled by “Ah Kong ka gua” (Hokkien, literally translated as my grandfather and I), something that I coined to help them remember the name of the mountain in the Andes. They do not teach those things anymore in Geography these days so do not expect the present generation to be knowledgeable in such things, no way. Well, these students of mine all excelled in the subject…despite what or how I taught – after all, they were selected students in the best class for their respective year.

It sure was so very nice to see them all again and that sure made up for all the grouses I had over the place and the function as a whole. Of course, we will keep in touch with one another and look forward to getting together again sometimes. Thank you all for the invitation, all the best in all that you do, take care and God bless always.

Just us…

No, I did not have a grand celebration in conjunction with my 64th birthday the other day but of course, we had the longevity noodles…

64th birthday mee sua 2016

…in the morning, the mee sua in traditional Foochow red wine chicken soup, and two eggs…

Eggs

…to go with it. I went to buy a tray the previous day and I thought I would spoil myself just this once and grabbed the largest size, over RM13.00 a tray. Normally, we would buy the medium ones, around RM11.00 a tray as the small ones, around RM10.00, aren’t that big. If I am not mistaken, people would usually buy this size when they want to give the eggs to somebody, like someone who has just given birth and is in confinement and I think with eggs this size, there is a very good chance of getting one with twin yolks. Unfortunately, luck was not on my side with the two that I had that morning – hopefully, that is not a foreshadowing of what lies ahead in the year to come, touch wood!

The ladies went and got me a cake from Marcus, our favourite…

Birthday cake by Marcus

…and my good friend, Lim & family got me this assortment of cakes…

Cakes from Green Forest

…from this bakery in town. I found the chocolate one too sweet but the fruity one with the grape on top was very nice. My favourite, however, is still the Dark Bavarian, the ones with the pandas on top.

I have not had the chance to reciprocate since they invited us out to a scrumptious and sumptuous dinner in June this year and besides, their eldest daughter scored straight A’s in the recent UPSR Examination – the results have been somewhat disappointing this year but yes, she’s one of the few who made it and that would be reason enough for a little celebration…so I invited all of them to join us, and also my brother-in-law and his missus, here

Flavours Thai Kitchen Christmas decor

…that evening and when the first dish was served, our jaws fell wide open! Gasp!!!…

Flavours Thai Kitchen birthday special

I had ordered the poo cha or the Thai-style stuffed crabs (RM8.90 each)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen poo cha

…available upon special request only but Mary and her lovely staff went out of their way and threw in this lobster…

Flavours Thai Kitchen lobster

…and these eggs…

Flavours Thai Kitchen eggs

…and also the pineapple fried rice…

Flavours Thai Kitchen pineapple fried rice

…all on the house, with a special greeting…

Flavours Thai Kitchen special greeting

…for the occasion. Good grief!!! That certainly made my day! Thank you so so so much to Mary and all you wonderful people at Flavours!

As a matter of fact, that alone would be enough for all of us but of course, I couldn’t cancel the rest of my orders including this prawn dish (RM79.00)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen prawns

…and the pad Thai (RM29.90)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen

Lim and his wife had never been here before and this was the first time they tried the miang kam (RM19.90)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen miang kam

…and they loved it so very much that they, and also my brother-in-law who really enjoys it so much too, kept on going, one after another until it was all gone.

I must say my  favourite that night was the barramundi with the chef’s special Thai sauce (RM78.00)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen lap barramundi

…but then again, I have this soft spot for fish so I may be a little biased. Whatever it is, I sure enjoyed it a lot like those times when we had it before.

I did order another dish – the sotong (squid) curry (RM25.50) but we were already too full by then so I requested for it to be packed for me to take home.

I must say that I was indeed very glad that everyone enjoyed the dinner and it sure turned out to be not too bad a day at all with the simple low-key birthday celebration to wrap things up that night…and thank you all for the calls, the sms-es and the hundreds of greetings on Facebook. If wishes do come true, it sure looks like it is going to be a great year ahead. Cheers!!!

When I’m sixty-four…

FINALLY, the day has come when I can sing this song…

…and it is the truth, literally!

However, talking about the truth, there is a lot more of it in this very amusing parody of the aforementioned song…

– all the ailments that come with old age…but thankfully, not even half of it is true in my case, praise the Lord!

Well, it has been 64 years since the time when this photograph was taken…

Baby STP

…and thankfully, the years have been kind – there have been good days and not so good ones. Needless to say, I do not expect to live through another 64 – that, of course, is humanly impossible, I think – but I do hope to stick around for a while yet. Let’s all drink to that, shall we?

Cheers

Cheers!!!

How you’ve grown…

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older
When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday
When they were small?
Sunrise, sunset…

Sunset over the mighty Rejang

…Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze…
*Lyrics from “Sunrise sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof*

Well, my friend/ex-classmate, Robert’s son, who happened to be a student of mine in school, now residing in Melbourne, Australia, just had a baby girl not too long ago so of course, Robert and his wife, Angela, have had the honour and privilege of being elevated to the status of grandparents. Quite recently, they were back in Melbourne again and this time, it was for their daughter’s wedding…and last Saturday evening, they hosted a grand banquet here…

Kek Sheng & Jacqueline's wedding banquet, Sibu

…for their relatives and friends in Sibu and I was one of them there to share the joy…

Main table

…of that very happy and special occasion.

It was not really bright, the ballroom, so I did not bother to take the photographs of all the dishes we had that night, just this Four Seasons platter…

Four Seasons

…and as always, here in Sibu, you can expect more than just four, everytime.

I certainly was glad that they had replaced the not-to-be-named soup with this very much nicer chicken and fish maw soup…

Chicken and fish maw soup

…and it came in such a huge bowl that everyone at my my table had more than just seconds!

Being in one of the leading hotels in town, of course, this place is halal…or pork-free, at least, so the usual stewed pork belly slices for stuffing the steamed mantao was replaced with some other meat…

Stuffed mantao

…and while the guys at my table were debating as to whether it was chicken or duck, I just ate! Hehehehehe!!!!

Among the other dishes, there was also this huge piece of fish…

Steamed fish

They said it was cod – I wouldn’t know as I am not all that good at telling one fish from another…but yes, it was very nice and I sure enjoyed it.

Robert got a country & western band all the way from Miri for the entertainment that evening and look at who was in the building!!!…

Elvis was in the house!

He’s an old friend of mine – we used to hang out at the same karaoke pub here in the 90’s but of course, he’s a much better singer than I ever was and he is still actively singing, going here, there and everywhere doing his Elvis impersonations while my vocal cords have already called it a day. For one thing, way back then, he was singing all the oldies but goodies by Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and the like while I had a much wider repertoire that included the more current hit songs like this one or this one or this one, just to give a few examples.

Anyway, getting back to the event, thank you, Robert and Angela, for the invitation and congratulations to you two too, the proud and happy parents…and congratulations to Jonathan & missus on your latest addition to the Chew family…and to Jacqueline and Kek Sheng, wishing you two everlasting happiness in the years ahead. God bless, all! Cheers!!!

We will meet again…

It was on Malaysia Day, September 16th last week – the reunion gathering…

SMK Kanowit reunion September 2016

…that I was invited to by my ex-students in Kanowit where I taught from 1978 till 1982.

As a matter of fact, an ex-student of mine, not the same year – probably a year younger than the ones organising the function, from that same school owns this restaurant…

168 Restaurant Sibu 1

…where the reunion was held on the first floor…

168 Restaurant Sibu 2

…of the Sibu Express Terminal…

Sibu Express Wharf
*Archive photo*

 I did hear of him running this restaurant there and I even met him once at the wharf when I was waiting for someone but somehow or other, I never got round to dropping by to check this place out.

I was glad that this batch of students decided to hold the gathering there – that would be an opportunity for me to drop by, killing two birds with one stone so to speak. The food was good – there was this more-than-four seasons…

168 Restaurant more-than-four seasons

…and this pumpkin dish…

168 Restaurant pumpkin dish

…came towards the end when I was very full already so I did not eat whatever that was inside and after this one, there was a prawn dish but I did not take any photograph of it as I was up and about, mingling when it was served and when I came back, the rest at the table was already halfway through – I did try one though despite the fact that I could hardly take in anymore and I thought it was pretty good.

So what did we have, other than the three aforementioned dishes plus a fruit platter? They got somebody to cook a few local Cantonese delights such as the sour duck…

Sour duck

…and the kampung chicken dish…

Kampung chicken

Both were very nice but I did not eat much of the meat. Instead, I just enjoyed the gravy with my rice and between the two, I thought the sourish and very much stronger-tasting duck sauce had an edge over the chicken.

There was a sourish soup of pork knuckle and dried cuttle fish and I just had the soup – I had a HUGE bowl of pork knuckle for lunch that day (This will be in my next post!) so I did not want to have anymore and for that same reason, I only had a piece of what is called in Hokkien, the Dayak pig (lakia too)…

Pork

…which probably means that the meat was organic, the product of some livestock rearing in some ethnic village or longhouse, hence the name.

Then, this…

Ikan semah 1

…was served – the exclusive worth-its-weight-in-gold ikan semah from the upper reaches of the Rejang River, second only to the empurau, known as Wang Poo Liao (unforgettable) in Mandarin…and I always say that for the amount of money you would have to pay for the fish, it would come as no surprise at all that you will never ever forget it.

One of the students had these specially ordered and delivered for the dinner that night and of course, I feasted on it…

Ikan semah 2

Opportunities like this to enjoy the fish would be extremely few and very very far between…and somebody even commented that each spoonful is worth at least RM50.00 so you can imagine how expensive one is.

There was karaoke too…

Karaoke

…that night but no, I did not sing though not too long ago, I would have gone on stage singing my heart out. I had a terrible cough once and lost my voice completely and when I finally got it back, I was speaking like Rod Stewart for quite sometime before I got my normal voice back. To my horror, I discovered that I could no longer sing – my voice would be all over the place and after a verse or two, my voice would be gone. I guess it looks like I will be never ever be able to sing again. Sobssss!!!!

Well, I certainly enjoyed the dinner and meeting all my lovely ex-students again…

One for the memory
*Photo through the kind courtesy of one of my ex-students*

– thank you all for remembering and inviting me again. We had our first ever reunion in December last year and this is the second time we got together and hopefully, we’ll meet again.

Like no other…

Last Saturday, we dropped by here…

Payung Cafe table decor

…again for lunch…

Payung Cafe floral decor

…as we did not get to enjoy their green chicken curry (RM16,with rice)…

Payung Cafe green chicken curry

…on our previous visit and I wanted to take my girl there for that before she went back to her school in the jungle the following day.

Of course we had to have other things to go with it so I ordered the Payung rojak, small (RM10.00)…

Payung Cafe Payung rojak

…and the ikan bilis special  (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe ikan bilis special

– note how they have had all the heads and insides removed unlike some places here…and also the mushroom roll (RM8.00)…

Payung Cafe mushroom roll 1

…and here’s a glimpse of what it looks like inside…

Payung Cafe mushroom roll, inside

…in case you’re wondering.

It so happened that the boss, Peter, celebrated his birthday the day before, September 16th – Malaysia Day…and he treated us to a slice of his birthday cake…

Secret Recipe - Chocolate Indulgence

I guess most everyone would be able to tell what cake that was – the Chocolate Indulgence from Secret Recipe which was nice, very sweet…and would come nowhere near the cakes here made by Marcus who, as you can see, has an eye for detail…

Marcus' cake - icing 1

…and is really good with his hands in the decoration of his cakes…

Marcus' cake - icing 2

…and this blueberry one that we got for my girl…

Blueberry cake from Marcus

…who celebrated her birthday the following day, 17th September (and hence our little celebration, the simple lunch that afternoon – she was going for a wedding dinner that evening, her good friend’s brother got married that same day), is no exception – of course, it was very very nice, like no other, true and true.

On Sunday…

…after the morning service in the church, I was thinking of having something light as I did not have anything for breakfast prior to leaving the house that morning. I was thinking of the roti canai here but the stall was closed probably because it was Hari Raya Haji the very next day and Janggut’s stall was not open either – well, I did notice that his was always closed on Sundays.

In the end, we adjourned here

Sri Pelita

…as it is located a couple of minutes’ walk away. That nice and friendly Indian guy looks like he has put on a bit of weight and is much more handsome now. Hmmm…Sibu sure is a great place to live, eh? LOL!!!

My missus had their mee mamak (RM3.50)…

Sri Pelita mee mamak

…which was way nicer than what she had here and so much cheaper too, a difference of RM2.00!!! Even if you have to fork out the parking fee of 40 sen for half an hour around here, it will not come up to that much.

My girl did not want to eat anything as she wanted to save her tummy space for my mum’s birthday lunch at my parents’ house later but when we got there, she saw that they had dosai or tosai and she could not resist ordering one (RM2.20)…

Sri Pelita tosai

It came with this special dip…

Sri Pelita tosai dip

…and yes, she liked it a lot and sure enjoyed herself. We do not get this a lot here, maybe just at one other place, if I am not wrong.

She also helped herself to the very nice curry dips…

Sri Pelita curry dips

…that I got for my orders.

I was a little slow in walking from that other shop and by the time I got there, she and the mum had already placed their orders and I was not aware that she had asked for the dosai. That was why I requested for one roti canai (RM1.20) and one roti telur (RM2.00)…

Sri Pelita roti canai & roti telur

…and I had to finish both all by myself. Personally, I thought the roti canai was nicer – more fragrant, crispier and I enjoyed it a lot more than the other one with egg.

We had not been here for quite a while now, no particular reason, but looking at how we enjoyed our little breakfast, we certainly would be back again…soon.

FOOTNOTE:
It’s the 16th of September, the actual day in 1963 when all the states in the mainland peninsula, then-called Malaya, and Sarawak and Sabah across the South China Sea on the island of Borneo came together to form the Federation of Malaysia along with Singapore which left on August, 9th 1965.

Happy Malaysia Day!