Get together…

A very Happy Dragon Boat Festival (端午节[duān wǔ jié]) to all celebrating this auspicious occasion in the Chinese Lunar calendar.

I guess by now, many would have made their own or bought those traditional  chang/zongzi (meat dumplings)  to enjoy. I was so blessed as my friends made their own that day and sent some to my house and without fail, like what he would do every year, my dear friend, Richard, made his out-of-this world nyonya chang

Nyonya chang from Richard

…and gave me some too. Thank you so so much, all.

Every year for many years now, without fail, I would blog about the ones Richard gave me and I think I also shared the photos on Facebook and my cousins in Kuching were green with envy, One of them said, “Anay ho mia!” or so very lucky, literally meaning “such a good life” as I was able to get to enjoy the nyonya chang from someone in Ah Hiok Ee’s family. Ah Hiok Ee (Auntie Ah Hiok) was a close family friend renowned locally for her cooking and baking – my mum would buy her cookies for Christmas or Chinese New Year and I would be sent on my bicycle to go and collect from her house.

Well, my cousin was in luck this year as they were in town when Richard sent his much-coveted dumplings over and the instant she saw my photos on Facebook, she asked right away, “Any more tomorrow?” They had planned to drop by my house in the afternoon the following day to just sit around, chit chat and gossip and what not.

When I was young, my mum would cycle to my maternal grandma’s house in Kampung Nangka here and she would always let me tag along. She and her mum and sisters (my aunts) would sit on the floor, chewing sirih (betel nut leaves) and buah pinang (areca nut)…and roll their own tobacco in the very very thin paper made for the purpose and smoke. They would talk and laugh while I just sat by the side and listened to their interesting exchanges. Somehow or other, I  did not find it boring, not at all.

Come tea time, they would brew a pot of coffee, Mui Hock, no less, and they would take all kinds of things out of the cupboard, tins and containers for us to eat and enjoy. There might not be anything really special since those visits were usually made unannounced but somehow or other, even the cream crackers or loti kaben (Cabin crackers, now Osborne) tasted so good when shared in such delightful company.

I loved it when they had the salai ikan (smoked fish) or prawns that we would eat with sagu’ (sago pellets) – my maternal grandma was a Melanau and without fail, they would have that in the house…and we had some kind of tea along those same lines that day when my cousins from Kuching dropped by my house.

Of course, I had to serve them Richard’s nyonya chang

Sharing Richard's nyonya chang
*cousin’s photo on Facebook*

…just two (Hehehehehe!!!), cut up to share so there would be enough to go round and boy, they absolutely swept them off their feet.

They praised it to the skies and were so very impressed that the meat was cut into tiny cubes, not minced meat from the blender or bought from the market and also by the winter melon added, cut into minute cubes as well…

Richard's nyonya chang, inside

It certainly was a labour of love  on Richard’s part and it sure paid off…and of course, his were bigger and there was a whole lot more meat filling than any that one can dream of when buying the ones commercially made and sold in Kuching, Singapore, Malacca or anywhere else, for that matter.

Unlike at my grandma’s kampung house, I did not have much to offer so I went to the shop round the corner and bought these Foochow traditional delights, the ma ngee (horse’s hoof)…

Ma Ngee
*cousin’s photo on Facebook*

…and yes, they agreed that the ones available there in the afternoon were pretty good and we also had our Sibu Foochow shortbread, the Pek Guek Tong Chiew pia, those traditional Foochow Mooncake Festival biscuits.

However, even though limited compared to what we would get to enjoy at my grandma’s house – why, I did not even have Mui Hock coffee, only Nescafe – it sure brought back fond memories of those wonderful days in the years gone by. The world has grown smaller, they say but never have families grown so far apart compared to those times in the past – on my part, I was glad to have some time to spend together with my cousins that day, just like in the good old days…or almost, at least and I look forward to any opportunity to do something like this again. As the lyrics in the children’s song go, “The more we get together, the happier we will be!

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Give a little something special…

Usually when we go and visit somebody, the traditional practice in our local social etiquette would be to bring a little something. It may be something very special like a very nice dish that one has cooked or something one has baked…or something very nice that one has bought and likes a lot so he or she would buy that for the recipient to try. However, good manners have it that one would say, “It’s nothing much! I’ve nothing to give!” and the other party would go, “Haiyar!!! Cho mik cho bo eng? (Why make yourself busy?) No need to go through all that trouble, thank you…thank you!”

My cousins from Kuching were no exception and these were what they brought…

Goodies from Kuching

…when they came that day. There were the very nice tau sar peah (bottom left) that I enjoyed very much and these instant pastes from “The old Djakarta Restaurant“…

Instant pastes

I knew of this Indonesian nasi padang restaurant in Kuching a long long time ago located opposite the since-closed-down Cathay Cinema in the vicinity of Oriental Park where one can get to enjoy one of the best kolo mee in the city. By the mid-70’s, it was no longer there and its place was taken over by some kind of boutique owned one classy beautiful lady, always nicely dolled up and dressed to the nines.

I saw on Facebook that this restaurant has re-opened some place else much to the delight of those who were around at the time and enjoyed what they served there. I certainly wouldn’t want to miss the chance to drop by and try should I happen to hop over to Kuching anytime soon. In the meantime, I have these pastes to cook my own and try but I have yet to get down to doing that.

This is a local Kampung delight, what we call kuih jala

Kuih jala

…which should not be confused with roti jala. It is also called sarang semut (ants’ nest), not to be confused with kek sarang semut (bee hive cake). The ingredients are rice flour and gula apong (nipah palm sugar) so it is gluten-free and my girl can get to enjoy that.

There were also some almonds and a box of gluten-free crackers for my girl and they also brought her these…

More goodies

…very very nice ethnic Dayak beads, a headband that one of my cousins knitted herself and my girl loves it a lot, and also a box of gluten-free flour.

No, they did not bring this…

Kurma madu

…all the way from Kuching. They dropped by that supermarket in town that has all the imported stuff from countries all over the world and they liked these, imported and packed in Singapore, more than the Penang-imported Yusof Taiyoob ones that we had for our dinner that night. Yes, they were nice but I thought they were a little too soft and a bit too sweet as well.

That leaves just one more thing – the one wrapped in aluminium foil, newspapers and cling film in the above photograph (bottom right). Inside was the pork cooked with tempoyak (fermented durian)…

Tempoyak pork

…that one of my cousins cooked and she would like us to try. Of course it was very nice and of course, she was so very generous with the tempoyak – she always makes her own when the fruit is in season – she did send us some time and time again but to us, that is one precious and rare commodity so when my missus cooks the same dish, she would not use so much at a time and she adds serai (lemon grass) to hers as well. They had it here at this place that has since closed down too and theirs were pretty good as well but don’t count on a lot of tempoyak in theirs either.

The usual practice when people give you things is to balas or in Hokkien, tak tor tui (give in return). Oh dear!!! I did not get them anything in return when they left town and flew home, shame on me…but they kept saying that they did not have much luggage space for much of anything so I refrained from buying them lots of stuff to take back.

Walking in the sun…

I wonder how many visitors to Sibu will drop by the Tua Pek Kong Temple…

Sibu Tua Pek Kong Temple

…here with its 7-storey pagoda. I know some people will do that so they can go up to the top floor of the pagoda for a bird’s eye view of the town. Well, that sunny day, before our Korean lunch at the restaurant close by, we dropped by and walked around the place…

Riverfront

…to pass the time.

I love the decor like these colourful borders that line the corners below the ceiling, the dragons…

Dragons

…and the phoenixes…

Phoenixes

…and there are lovely carvings all around on the walls and there is this fountain…

Fountain

…there too and devotees go here to offer joss sticks to the tortoise…

Tortoise

…and also to the Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) statue at the back.

There is a small park further to the back, the Chiang Chuan Garden (漳泉園) with nice swan statues…

Swan

– the iconic symbol of Sibu town but I did see a headless one. Hopefully, that was not the result of some act of vandalism – some people are really incorrigible.

There are a lot more beautiful carvings…

Elephants

…though I do think some of them need a bit of washing…

Birds & peaches

…and cleaning…

Flowers

…and there are some lovely plants here and there…

Bonzai 1

…like these pots of bonzai

Bonzai 2

…for instance.

Ever so often, you will catch a glimpse of an express boat…

Express boat

…sailing past along the majestic Rejang River, the longest in Malaysia, and you can go to the wharf to see these old motor launches…

Motor launches

…and these double-decker ones…

Floating grocery stores

…that are now being used as floating grocery stores.

In the distance, you can see the Express Boat Wharf/Jetty with one of the leading hotels in Sibu in the background…

Express wharf & Kingwood Hotel

I must say that I enjoyed the walk a lot more than that time when I visited the massively huge temple complex which was somewhat dilapidated and run-down. I certainly hope they have done something by now to restore it and make it more worthwhile for visitors to go all the way to walk around the place.

THE SIBU TUA PEK KONG TAOIST TEMPLE (2.287257, 111.825988) is located along Jalan Temple at its t-junction with Jalan Chew Geok Lin.

Every picture tells a story…

On the 1st day of Ramadan, we went to check out one of the bazaars in the town centre but there wasn’t anything that we found appealing. In the end, we decided to walk over to the venue of…

Sibu Street Art Festival

…one of the festivals held here annually to have a look at what they had in store.

The festival for this year had already ended and from their Facebook page, I noticed that they had workshops and things going on at the time. I do not know how long they will leave the artworks there but it sure would be a good idea to have them around for visitors to drop by and admire and take photographs…

Having fun at the Sibu Street Art Festival

If anyone is wondering where the location (2.290047, 111.823891) is, it is by the side of the Sibu Town Square along Island Road (Jalan Pulau) near the Rejang Port Authority Building…

RPA & the Twin Towers

…not far from the Lembaga Hasil Dalam Negeri office…

LHDN Office

There are some very nice ones that one would not be able to see when driving past in a car – that was why I never bothered as I thought there wasn’t anything worth the trouble.

I like the message in this one…

Meaningful

…and this very colourful one is by the son of some friends of mine…

By my friends' son

– if I am not mistaken, he is also a foodie in his own right but on Instagram and I’m not into that.

This one by the people at the local university here is unique…

UCTS

…in the sense that theirs is not a painting but a carving out of plywood or whatever. There are lights hidden behind the panels so my guess is that it will look very much nicer at night.

I thought this one is very cute – depicting the birds…

The birds

…that would come in the evening, thousands of them like the ones here at Dengkil in Selangor…

Birds in the tree at Dengkil, Selangor
*Archive photo*

That is why when one is out somewhere in town at night, one must not park one’s car under a tree or something so as not to get their droppings all over the vehicle.

They also have one of the egrets…

The egrets

So many of them appeared here out of nowhere at one time that one would see places dotted in white like flocks of sheep but for some reason, they are getting scarce now. Maybe the heat these days is getting to them so they have migrated some place else. I did blog about a lovesick one sometime ago in 2012 if anyone can remember.

Most of them are about food though – many would agree that that is what Sibu is all about…

All about food

– the kampua mee, the kompia, the dianpainngu and the mee sua, the making…

Making mee sua

…and a bowl of it, ready for the eating…

Mee sua and chickens

…and yes, the newspaper-wrapped chicken (and ducks)…

Newspaper-wrapped chickens
*Archive photo*

…are indeed a tourist attraction – correct me if I am wrong but I don’t think one can see this anywhere else.

This one pays tribute to the coffee shops…

The coffee shop culture

…here in Sibu. There are so many coffee shops in the town, at least one or two or three or more in one block of shops unlike other places I had been to where I had to walk and walk and walk and still could not find a decent place to stop by and eat.

We sure enjoyed ourselves very much that day and if these are anything to go by, we certainly would look forward to the one next year.

Mama…

Today marks the 7th Day after the passing of my dear beloved mum…

Flowers 1

She was into her 11th year, bedridden as a result of a backbone and nerve problem that caused her so much pain that she was unable to walk. My father, who was around at the time, decided not to go ahead with the surgery as the risks were high as she had heart problem, diabetes and anything and everything but knowing her for who she had always been, she put up with it all and was always cheerful and got on all right with her condition.

Of course, over the years, it got worse and the pain she was suffering from got more chronic and intense and she was somewhat depressed, especially after my father died and that badly affected her emotionally, her appetite, her physical strength and everything. There were all kinds of problems and ailments along the way…so much so that we are indeed thankful to God above that He has seen it fitting to grant her relief from all that she had endured all these years…

Flowers 2

We were always very close during my growing up years probably because I was the second of her two naughty boys and it was not until 9 years later that my sister came along.

Flowers 3

I was the one in the kitchen with her, doing all the peeling, cutting and chopping, all the pounding…and beating the eggs and the cake batter using that brass thing that looked like a spring and she had me keep an eye on the rice. We did not have a rice cooker then so we cooked that on a kerosene stove, later a gas cooker and I was thankful for that – in 1994, when I was in the UK, we did not have a rice cooker either and I could easily cook the rice without any problem at all – when the other guys in our house in the university campus did it, it would turn out uncooked or it became porridge.

I was the one who would accompany her to the market, carrying the rattan basket and everything she bought was wrapped in newspapers in those days and was placed in the basket which got heavier and heavier as we went along from stall to stall and at the end of it all, we would take the bus home.

I was the one who would accompany her to watch those Malay movies from Shaw Brothers and Cathay Organisation as well as the Hindi movies, the afternoon matinee at 2.00 p.m. I guess my dad was not into those, only the English and the Chinese ones that we would go and watch together at night – he had to work, running his business, during the day from early morning till late afternoon.

I was the one who would go to a pengillan with her, the Malay/Melanau wedding receptions at the kampung, go and nanggok in the stream beside our house with our maternal grandma – her mum, our maternal grand-auntie – my grandma’s sister and her sisters and cousin – my aunties. At the end of it all, all of us would gather around and sit on the floor to enjoy the fruits of our labour. How I enjoyed eating the luit, those little shrimps, still alive and jumping around, with the sambal that she would prepare.

Flowers 4

Of course, boys will be boys and there were times a-plenty when we got on her nerves and pushed it a little too far so we had to be taught a good lesson. Spare the road and spoil the child, so they say. I remember my dad as the sole breadwinner and yes, he provided for us very well all through the years but I do not recall him being the disciplinarian that my mum was but even so, he would just sit there and we would not dare make a sound. On the other hand, despite all the scolding, the caning and everything, we drove our mum up the wall!

She was a superwoman who did everything – the cleaning, the washing, the laundry, the ironing, the cooking from dawn to dusk, the gardening and mowing our massively-expansive lawn with no less than 10 rambutan trees in just one section of it, among all kinds of trees that we had all over the land where our house was sited and yes, she was the one climbing up those trees, harvesting the fruits for sale…and of course, I was there to lend a hand. Shudders! She even single-handedly slaughtered the chickens to cook for us and her chicken curry was simply the best – family and friends would flock to our house without fail every Christmas  and Chinese New Year just to enjoy it!

Come Christmas, my aunties – her sisters – would give us cloth by the yard, not the kind of gifts little kids would fancy and look forward to…and my mum would make identical shirts on her sewing machine for my brother and I in time for Chinese New Year when the two of us would don those shirts like identical twins, not that we looked anything like each other. No, we did not buy clothes from departmental stores then – there weren’t any at the time.

Flowers from Melissa to grandma
*Flowers from my girl specially for her dearly beloved grandma on the 7th day of her passing*

No, I would not say she had a hard life – I do think she found joy and fulfilment in all the things she did and yes, she loved us well. I could go on and on about the happy times, the wonderful memories from all those years – there is so much to remember and cherish and sad though I may be that she has left us, after all those times, watching her in pain, feeling so helpless as there was nothing much we could do other than to comfort her and be around for her and to pray,  I am thankful to the Lord that by His Will and His Mercy, she would have to suffer no more.

Eternal rest, grant unto my mum, o Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. God bless her soul, may she rest in peace.

Mother of mine…

The Good Lord has seen it fitting to welcome His daughter, Julia – my beloved mum…

Mother of mine

…into his Heavenly Kingdom yesterday, Sunday, the 4th of March, 2018 at around 3.00 p.m., thus granting her relief from her long years of suffering and pain. She had been bedridden for over 10 years, now into her 11th year already.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. God bless her soul, may she rest in peace.

As a mark of deep respect and profound love and affection, there shall be no updates in my blog till after the funeral on Tuesday, the 6th of March, 2018. Please say a little prayer for the repose of her soul. Thank you

In case you didn’t know…

I read in the papers not too long ago the report on the local assemblywoman making some noise about the new parking rates at the Sibu Airport after it had been taken over by the Malaysian airport authorities…

Malaysia Airports Sdn Bhd
*Sdn. Bhd? I wonder who owns it?*

…and it has increased from RM1.50 to RM2.00. Well, it sure did not get me pulling all my hair out – after all, what has not increased in price? Besides, I do not go to the airport all that often.

Well, it so happened that I had to do just that the other day as my cousin and her hubby from the UK were dropping by Sibu for a couple of days and to drive into the parking zone, I had to press a button and get a card. I did not have a problem with that.

There were lots of parking spaces, obviously due to the price hike – that is quite typical of the people here and pretty soon, they will forget and the place would be quite full and one would have to park one’s car far far away from the terminal building.

A friend of mine happened to be there, about to leave, and he stopped his car beside mine and told me that they were using the auto pay system now and one would have to pay at the counter beside the Sugar Bun outlet there…

Sugar Bun Sibu Airport
*Archive photo*

…before one could get out of the place. When I shared about this matter on Facebook, another friend told me that she was stuck there for half an hour the day before because many people did not know this.

Again, I was fine with it, thanks to my friend for letting me know. As I was walking to the counter, I saw a few auto pay machines but there were signs on them stating that they were “under maintenance”. What? I thought they just started not too long ago. I wonder how much they paid for those machines and if they did work at all when they first started this whole thing.

Silly me!!! I went and paid…

RM2.00

…straight away thinking that I would have an hour since the time of entry and I waited for my cousin and her hubby to arrive. We were lucky that day as the flight was neither delayed nor cancelled. It was pouring cats and dogs when they landed and I told them to wait for me outside while I went to get the car to drive over and pick them up.

So there I went in the heavy rain and when I put the card into the machine, I saw the digital thing on it saying that my “grace period had expired”. I tried again and there was a voice on the intercom telling me to go to the counter beside Sugar Bun and pay. There was a car behind me and he honked at me impatiently. @#$%^&*!!!!! Blardy road bully, kurang ajar!I quickly reversed and re-parked my car and went back to the counter and paid an additional RM1.00…

RM1.00

…to get out of the place. The guy manning the booth said, “Lain kali, uncle, mahu jalan baru bayar!” (Next time, uncle, pay before you leave). Tsk! Tsk! I thought I could pay first and relax after that, no need to worry about it as I would have an hour at my disposal.

Well, in case you didn’t know all this, now you do! I wonder how long the “grace period” is because honestly, it is not near at all, the counter from the parking zone and imagine the not-so-agile warga emas (senior citizens) like me having to walk all the way there to pay and back again to the car to drive out of there! I hear at the UTC (Urban Transformation Centre), they have this autopay system too and it is printed in the payment chit that you have 30 minutes to get out of there – I did not see anything in the two that I got here that day.

Yes, by all means, increase the parking rates but they should, at least, make sure that the change is for the better and that their system is user-friendly, easier or more convenient for the people concerned…not worse!