Put it together…

If you see these red lanterns here, there and everywhere around town…

CNY lanterns 1

…you will know right away that Chinese New Year is drawing very near…

CNY lanterns 2

…but of course, when it comes to the one and only Payung Café here, you can expect to see something unique, something very different from the rest every year.

This was what they had last year, 2017…

Payung CNY decor 2017

…and some people wanted that same thing for the Chinese New Year decoration at their premises this year.

It so happened that I dropped by that afternoon and Peter and his boys were very busy working on it. He had all the things…

Putting it together 1

…ready…

Putting it together 2

…and all they had to do was to put everything together…

Putting it together 3

…step by step…

Putting it together 4

…piece by piece…

Putting it together 5

…till it was done…

Putting it together 6

Peter never planned ahead – I had expected a rough sketch or something that he could work on but no, he just followed his instincts so of course, it would not be an identical replica of the old one. I have yet to see it on display with the lights and everything on but for one thing, the one this year is vertical as opposed to last year’s which was horizontal – probably that has something to do with the wall at the place, the space available.

While I was there, I had the opportunity to sample their durian cake…

Payung durian cake

This was their 3rd attempt at making that. The first time was very successful – I thought it was really nice but the second attempt failed to meet the mark – too much flour and not enough fresh durian cream so it was back to the drawing board and the third time around, I thought it was really very good, very fine and smooth – something like a cross between cake and bingka, not really like dodol, and like their banana cake…

Payung banana cake with ice cream

…it went so very well with a bit of ice cream…

Payung durian cake with ice cream

I don’t know if it is on their menu now or not – I have not dropped by since. Do give it a try if it is and see if you like it!

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.

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O Christmas tree…

It’s New Year’s Eve today.

If I am not wrong, like in previous years, there will be a countdown tonight at the Sibu Town Square…

Christmas at the Sibu Town Square

…and the winner of the Christmas Tree competition for this year…

Some of the Christmas trees

…will be announced.

The weather was fine that day, a few days before Christmas, so we went to have a look around and I was pleased to see that there were two out the many that depicted the true meaning of Christmas, this one…

Nativity scene 1

…and this one…

Nativity scene 2

In the past, if I am not wrong, they would insist on the use of recycled material to make those Christmas trees – I don’t know if the ruling still stands but it did appear that most did not bother to toe the line.

Of course, I grabbed the opportunity to take a snapshot of this one…

Peter's masterpiece

…that my good friend, Peter, the boss of Payung Café was commissioned to produce and he used those palm leaves that he had used before at his café or for the decoration elsewhere. If you look closely, you can even see the rattan baskets…

Recycled material

…that you will often get to see if you go to Payung to enjoy all the delights they have to offer there.

Thankfully, I was able to take some photographs before the sun went down…

Angels

…as it got dark quite quickly. There were not many people around that day, just some people walking around, taking selfies and wefies, and kids playing with bubbles here…

Bubbles 1

…and there…

Bubbles 2

I had expected a crowd but it was somewhat quiet and parking was a breeze and there wasn’t any traffic jam, not at all.

The annual food fair was on, right across the road, but we did not bother to walk over – those that we had been to before weren’t exactly anything to get us excited, nothing worth going back for more. Personally, I do feel that the organisers will have to think of something to attract more people to come. Generally, there would be the same things over and over again and the things sold are somewhat expensive and not all that nice.

It had been raining quite a lot  around that time, strong winds and all and I heard there was a short circuit and some of the small trees and one of those in the competition caught fire. They had repaired the latter so that one was fine when we went that day but the main one and all those around it were standing in the dark…

In the dark

Maybe that was why there were not so many people but I did see some friends sharing photographs taken a few days before Christmas and it did look like they had got everything fixed and the trees were shining brightly once more. Well, at least, in the dim light, I managed to catch a glimpse of Santa riding away in his sleigh…

Santa 2

So what plans do you all have in store for this evening to say goodbye to 2017 and to ring in the new year, 2018?

It’s Christmas…

It’s Christmas Day today.

Christmas crib
*Nativity scene – Christmas crib at the Church of St Mary of Divine Mercy, Sibu*

I didn’t go round the malls to look around but at places where I did happen to go to like the hotels and the cafés and restaurants, the decorations seemed somewhat minimal, if at all there was any, just some Christmas trees…

Christmas tree

…here and there or a little bit of this…

Christmas stocking

…and that…

Santa

…nothing much really or at least, not anything that would make one go, “Wowww!!!”.

Even though the guys at Payung Café did not go all out this year with their decor as they were busy with the Christmas Tree competition in the town square, I do think that theirs still stood out, very unique and a head above the rest. As for the Christmas trees, at this point in time, we still do not know which of the many participating is the winner. They usually announce the results at the New Year Eve Countdown at this same venue…and yes, they did have the Annual Christmas Parade the other day and the crowd turned up by the droves…

Sibu Annual Christmas Parade 2017 1
*Friend’s photo on Facebook*

It rained every year but thankfully, this year, the weather was just perfect…

Sibu Christmas Parade 2017 2
*Friend’s photo on Facebook*

…for such a huge gathering and the parade of marching bands, all the people who had congregated for this very meaningful event and all the beautiful floats…

Sibu Christmas Parade 2017 3
*Friend’s photo on Facebook*

…all around our little town. Unlike the commercially-inclined ones overseas, a whole lot of fun and very much more impressive though theirs may be, the one here highlights the true meaning of Christmas, the way it should be.

In keeping with the season of giving, my girl decided to give her prized collection of soft toys from her childhood years…

Melissa's toys

…to the church in the Selangau district, where her school in the jungle is, to be distributed to the less privileged kids there in the hope that they will bring to them some of the joy and cheer of this auspicious occasion.

No, she is not asking for anything in return but on my part, I am praying that God will bless her abundantly each passing day in the year ahead, guiding and guarding her in all that she does and help her find joy and fulfilment in her vocation…

To my daughter
*Source unknown – photo shared by somebody on Facebook*

…and if it be His Will, after some 5 years there already, may she get her transfer to a school closer to home, preferably in the town proper, of course. I certainly hope that on this very special day, everyone will join me and say a little prayer that mine will soon be answered and for that, I thank you all…very very much.

And talking about gifts, my friend, Alex, went over to Australia to attend a friend’s wedding and when he came back, he brought me this box of chocolates…

Chocolates from Alex

– an early Christmas present, he said. Isn’t that so sweet and thoughtful of him?

I received some Christmas cards this year – the first one was from my maternal cousin in Brisbane, Australia who was here in September…

Christmas card from Brisbane

…and I also got one from my uncle and his family…

Christmas card from uncle & family

…when they came to Sibu earlier this month.

This made it just in time for Christmas…

Christmas card from Perth

…from my paternal cousin in Perth, Australia. I loved the unique paper-cutting design and I do prefer to send cards that are for a good cause

All for a good cause

Nick came over to visit me here in Sibu in February this year all the way from Sungai Petani in Kedah and he too sent me a card…

Christmas card from Nick 1

I certainly hope that he will come again…someday soon…

Christmas card from Nick 2

…and of course, everyone else is most welcome to hop over – I love having visitors, family or friends, around.

Thank you to the aforementioned for the cards and gifts…and here’s wishing everybody, near or far, and all your loved ones a Blessed and Joyous Christmas. Joy to the world!!!

United as one…

She was my girl’s coursemate but they became friends a little earlier than that when they entered Form 6 at my school here and were there for a while before going to the teacher-training institute in Sungai Petani, Kedah on a twinning programme with the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. It was during the two years there that she met him, now her husband after the two were united in Holy Matrimony…

The Gospel Reading

…on Saturday, the 2nd of December which coincidentally was my birthday.

So there we were at the cathedral in town…

The bridal car

…to witness this very happy event after which the blissful couple walked out…

Man and wife

…as man and wife.

That night, we were at the grand wedding reception…

Loon & Lan

…in one of the ballrooms at a leading hotel in town…

Main table

…to celebrate and to drink to their happiness…

Cheers!

…and wish them good luck and everlasting happiness along the way.

Congratulations, Christina and Loon Peng…

The happy couple

All the best from my family and I and may God bless the two of you abundantly in the years ahead. Cheers!!!

You can count on me…

Last Saturday, the 2nd of December was my 65th birthday.

We had to attend my girl’s coursemate’s wedding at the cathedral in the morning and the banquet at a leading hotel here that evening so I did not think I would have time to cook anything for my special day.

I remember I had the best mee sua I ever had here for Andy’s birthday so I decided to ask if they could cook that for me for lunch that day insisting that I would pay for everything, of course. They responded right away saying that they would love to do that for me and give me a real special treat on my birthday. I was pretty sure that I could count on them and yes, I was right!

So there we were that afternoon…

Payung Cafe reserved for birthday boy

…for the mee sua.

They even gave us a bottle of the traditional Foochow red wine…

Payung Cafe extra Foochow red wine

…for us to add should we feel like it and of course, there were the eggs…

Payung Cafe birthday eggs

…to go with the mee sua

Payung Cafe birthday mee sua 1

…and yes, it was really so very good…

Payung Cafe birthday mee sua 2

…and all of us had our fill.

We did not expect this but when we were done, we were  served my girl’s favourite ice cream here, the one with the kahlua coffee liquer…

Payung Cafe kahlua ice cream

…and when we were leaving and wanted to pay for everything, they simply refused to accept anything and insisted that it was their pleasure to be able to celebrate my birthday for me. I understand they do this everytime a member of the staff celebrates his or her birthday and they did cook enough that day for everyone to enjoy too – Andy loves our Foochow mee sua with lots of the red wine!

Well, it so happened that my missus did order a cake from Marcus…

Birthday cake from Marcus

…for my birthday to be collected that afternoon from his house at 6B, Lane 3, Delta Estate (2.305337, 111.826342) and she ordered an extra one…

Cheese cake from Marcus

…thinking that her niece, the one working in Singapore, would be home for the weekend and she wanted to give it to her but it turned out that the jet setter had taken off for Shanghai and would not be back. We decided to give it to the wonderful people at Payung Café instead to thank them and to reciprocate for all that they had done for me on my birthday and in appreciation of all that. That evening, on our way to the wedding banquet at the hotel behind the café, we stopped by to pass the cake to them.

I must say I had a great day, and thank you so much also to all for your good wishes on Facebook and via smses and calls – with that many blessings from one and all, I bet the year ahead will be a really awesome one. Cheers!!!

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

Not bad at all…

Congratulations to the lovely people at Payung Café, Sibu…

Payung Cafe Sibu 1
*Archive photo*

…on their nomination as one of the finalists for the Sarawak Hornbill Tourism Award 2015/2016…

Andy & Peter at the Award Presentation Ceremony
*Andy’s photo on Facebook*

…for best kopitiamThey succeeded in grabbing the coveted award for Outstanding Food Outlet in the Kopitiam category in 2013/2014 but unfortunately, they are not that successful this time around.

As a matter of fact, their getting into the final three sure came as a surprise as even though I did know that the judges were in town (and as far as I knew, they were also in Sarikei, Mukah and Bintulu) not too long ago, I did not know that Payung Café was in the running again. I was the one chauffeuring them around the last time and from their reaction, I was pretty confident that Payung would win that time two years ago – it seemed to me that this time around, they drove all the way themselves so they had their own transport while they were in town.

zmun2 of muntalksfood.blogspot.my did ask me once which place I would suggest if one had only one night in town and could only go to just one place here and my answer was obvious. We have Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesian, Indian, western and Italian restaurants here but there are all these restaurants everywhere – whether they are better than the ones here or not is another story but Payung is in a class by itself altogether.

No, it does not fall into any specific category. What they serve here might be something Peter, the boss, had tried and enjoyed somewhere and he came out with his version of the dish even though the name may be the same like their butter chicken…

Payung butter chicken
*Archive photo*

…for instance, which is quite different from the curry one would find at some Indian restaurant and their beef spaghetti bolognese is unlike what everyone would be more familiar with, that’s for sure, and personally, I would much sooner go for what they serve here.

Their otak-otak (fish)…

Payung otak fish
*Archive photo*

…is one of its kind and the mushroom roll…

Payung mushroom roll
*Archive photo*

…is the favourite of many.

I can go on and on about the food here but that alone is not what makes this place special – after all, there are many other places in town where the food is also very good and some may even feel it is better elsewhere.

One thing that puts this place a head above the rest would be the decor…

Payung decor 1
*Archive photo*

– how they are able to use those very simple stuff such as ordinary flowers…

Payung Cafe decor 2
*Archive photo*

…that no one would give a second glance at and make them look so good…

Payung Cafe decor 3
*Archive photo*

…and of course, there is the ambiance as well, the whole package…

Payung Cafe Sibu 2
*Archive photo*

My late aunt loved coming here everytime she came over from Kuching – she said she felt like in Bali and my ex-student/godson, Andrew, currently residing in Christchurch, New Zealand, said that it was like being in a completely different world and once out of there, it would suddenly dawn upon him, “Oh! I’m in Sibu!!!”

All these, along with the very friendly and efficient staff makes dining here special, a real feel-good experience.

Congratulations also to the guys of Café Café – they were one of the finalists for Outstanding Food Outlet in the restaurant category but sadly, they did not win either. They have two outlets here in Sibu, the original one in the town centre where it all started …

Cafe Cafe Sibu

…and another one…

Cafe Cafe@Giant
*Archive photo*

…at the Giant Hypermart Mega Mall that we do go to time and time again as parking is a whole lot easier there. They now have two more outlets in Kuching, one at Rubber Road and the other at Song Plaza, four altogether.

An immensely popular coffee place here also got into the list of finalists, in the café/bistro category but like the aforementioned two, they did not manage to grab the coveted award as well.

Still, it was not bad at all, all three of them, don’t you think? Our own homegrown from our good ol’ little town! Keep up the good work, guys! Better luck next time…and to the rest, try harder – your turn may come in 2019 for 2017/2018.

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 while Café Café, Sibu (2.287274, 111.826501) is along Jalan Chew Geok Lin in the middle of the block of shophouses on your right along that road – the Tua Pek Kong Temple with its 7-storey Pagoda is straight ahead and Café Café@Giant (2.325540, 111.853538), is located on the ground floor of the Giant Hypermart Megamall located to the left of SMK Bandar Sibu along Jalan Ling Kai Cheng

Let’s get ready…

There certainly seems to be a whole lot of events going on in Sibu this year but I guess that’s to be expected considering that 2017 is Visit Sibu Year.

Not too long ago, there was the Sibu International Dance Festival and just last week, the Sibu International BASE Jump attracted jumpers from all over the world. According to the news report, there were enthusiasts from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, United Kingdom, the United States and Malaysia.

Well, the Mooncake or Lantern Festival also known as the Mid-Autumn or Zhongqiu Festival falls on the 4th of October this year and preparations are on the way at the town square

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 1

…for a grand celebration…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2

…starting on the 3rd until the 26th.

The 1Malaysia Food Fair will be held simultaneously at the Phase 2 section of the square, right across the road.

I dropped by the other evening…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 3

…to have a look and it being the Year of the Cockerel this year, this…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 4

…has been given centre stage.

There were still a lot of people working on them but that did not stop members of the public of all colour and creed  from crowding around and posing to have their snapshots taken…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 5

These are lanterns made of cloth…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 6

…and of course, our Sibu iconic symbol, the Swan…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 7

…has not been left out but my favourite would be these elegant-looking butterflies…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 8

I am very sure they would look very nice when lighted up at night…

Sibu Lantern Festival 2017 9

…but I guess the only way to find out would be to drop by when everything is ready.