Hello…

I had not heard from my dear friend in KL, Mandy, for quite a while and I was wondering how she was doing. She was not active on Facebook either – had not seen her there for a long time too. That was why I sent her a message to ask how she was doing but I did not get a reply until a couple of days later.

My handphone rang but it was somewhere in the house, not by my side, and by the time I got to it, the ringing had stopped. So, I called her back and yes, it was great to get to talk to her and to know that she was getting on all right, just that she had been so busy with her work and everything.

She said she had been here on her working trips twice, I think, but they stayed in Mukah, not in Sibu, and according to her, the road from the junction, a little past Selangau bazaar on the way to my girl’s school, to the town was much better than the Sibu-Selangau sector. I had thought of driving there and spending a few nights in the town enjoying the fresh seafood but when the time came, I changed my mind. Perhaps I should make a trip one of these days.

We talked for quite a while and when I ended the call, I got the prompt from the telco informing me of the balance that I still had and telling me that the call had cost me RM25.60. Good grief!!! For that kind of money, I could have bought two packs of the Sibu instant kampua mee and sent to her via our national courier, the so-called “fast post” and there would be enough to cover the cost of the noodles and the postal charges. Still, it was great to get to talk to Mandy after all this while so it was fine by me. That was what mattered most.

Later that day, I saw some friend LIKE-ing this ad from the telco…

DIGI ad on Facebook

…on their Facebook page. “Unlimited calls”, it said. I guess that meant one would be able to make free calls should one subscribe to the plan?

Of course, the ad got quite a few comments, none favourable, and I thought I would just add my two-cents’ worth…

Comments on DIGI ad

…and much to my surprise, I got an almost instant reply from them!

I did what they requested immediately and sent them my phone number, handphone model and all and I even forwarded a photograph I took of the prompt on my handphone…

PM to DIGI

I did check the call log and saw that we had spoken for over 10 minutes but I had deleted that once I had seen it so I could not attach a snapshot of it.

That was Thursday and according to their Facebook page, they would check their PM on Monday to Friday from 9.00 a.m. onwards. I did not hear anything from them on Friday and then, it was the weekend so I guess I would have to wait till today, Monday or later if I were to get any further response from them.

Well, I never expected anything initially but now that they had responded in such a manner, I would want to hear their side of the story, at least. I do not think I will be hearing much else from them after this though – I looked at all the complaints in the other posts on their Facebook page and this looks like their standard reply – the same response to everybody like it’s computer-generated or something of that sort.

Checking my account status, I noted that I had been their customer since 2002. Gee!!! RM25.60 for a 10-minute call, Sibu-Kuala Lumpur, RM2.50 per minute. Perhaps it is high time that I switched telco. What do you all think?

The end of it all…

They will announce the winner of the last season of this reality singing competition…

The final season

…today, Friday morning here and Thursday night in the USA after 15 seasons.

We did not get to see the first two seasons when the show started in 2002 as we did not have the show on the local television stations in our country at the time. That meant that we did not get to see the first-ever winner, Kelly Clarkson, one of the most successful of the lot, who gave this heart-wrenching performance when she guest-starred in one of the shows in this final season…and of course, we did not get to see Ruben Studdard either, who despite the win after beating Clay Aiken to second place, never really got off the ground.

Yes, after so many years, so many have won and so many have not managed to make it big in the music world and looking at some of those voted to become the winners, I certainly am not surprised as most, in my opinion, were really quite forgettable. On the other hand, there were others that I thought were really good but they were unceremoniously booted out, many even before they got anywhere near the finals.

So what about you? Have you watched the show at sometime or another? Who do you remember? Any memorable performances? I must say I do have a few like this one, for instance…

…who lost to the other guy by that same name in the finale.

I don’t think many would remember this lady…

…who was up against the likes of the eventual winner, Fantasia Barrino and also the very successful, Jennifer Hudson and this guy didn’t make it into the grand finale either…

…in Season 5 but he was on the recent Fox Live musical, The Passion, aired on Palm Sunday, playing the part of Judas Iscariot. Well, like many of the rest, he did not need to win either as he did have an impressive track record after he dropped out of the competition…and the same goes to this guy…

…that I was quite sure would win that year but didn’t…and how could this Filipino power pack of talent…

…not win? Tsk! Tsk!

Towards the later years, I did not watch the show that faithfully like I did initially and I do know of many who stopped following it as well, many out of frustration that some of the really good ones did not win or worse, were kicked out early in the show.

However, I did keep up with the updates online and I did watch some of the clips on youtube…and now that it has come to an end, I must say that I do feel a little sad but then again, there are lots of shows along these same lines here, there and everywhere all over the world. After all, as in the words of William Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Little bit of this, little bit of that…

I was down with a cough around two weeks ago. It was not really bad, worse at night when I was trying to sleep, but I had this lump in my throat that hurt terribly when I swallowed. Because of that, I had to go for a soft diet most of the time – porridge, and to go with it, I went out and bought myself a bottle of Bovril.

I have not bought Bovril nor Marmite for a long long time now as they are really not all that affordable anymore. Well, now that I had that in the house, one morning, I cooked some Bovril mee sua

Bovril mee sua

I missed eating that!

As a result of my ill health, I had to miss my alma mater’s annual reunion this year held on Saturday – for once, they invited the retired teachers and I got an invitation to attend. I missed the one last year too but I did go to the one in 2013 and also in 2014. However, I did not feel up to it when the day finally came so I had no choice but to miss it again this year. A cousin of mine in Kuching flew in for the event and she brought me this bak koi

Bak koi from aunt

…that her mum made for me. That certainly was so sweet and nice of her, thank you so very much, Auntie and thanks to you too, coz, for carting it all the way.

Incidentally, the other day, I spotted this red-leafed hibiscus hybrid…

Red-leafed hibiscus

…outside my neighbour’s house and I thought that was very nice. I’ve blogged about the different varieties here and also here but this was the first time that I had seen one with red leaves. Has anybody seen anything like this before?

We had not been here for quite a while now for the simple reason that we had not come across anything there that was worth going back for but I heard that the beef noodles lady who was here previously had moved to a stall in the food court…

Beef noodles stall at Bateras Food Court

If I am not mistaken, she is related to the guy here, our favourite beef noodles place in town, and they all started off here a long time ago.

We decided to drop by after the church service on Sunday morning and my missus had the dry noodles…

Bateras Food Court dry noodles with beef soup

…with a bowl of beef soup. Obviously, they are not using kampua mee and have replaced that with their handmade noodles instead. You have the choice either to have it white (with light soy sauce) or black (with dark soy sauce). According to her, she prefers what we would usually have at our regular place.

In fact, we also shared the same sentiments regarding what we had – my girl had the beef noodles, soup…

Bateras Food Court beef noodles, soup

…while I had the mixed version…

Bateras Food Court mixed beef noodles, soup 1

…the one with beef plus tripe and tendons…

Bateras Food Court, mixed beef noodles, soup

…and they all cost the same – RM6.00 each.

However, minus all the parking woes plus the fact that it is free here…and the food court is more spacious, not so crowded and congested, we might just decide to come here instead should we feel like having this again.

Incidentally, I found that many of the stalls that were there previously had closed down and had been replaced by some other people including the very familiar char kway teow guy, the brother of the guy whose son used to be here a long time ago…and he sure seemed to be getting a whole lot of business – perhaps I would order something from his stall next time.

The movie in my mind…

In my post on the fun fair here in town the other day, the discussion in some of the comments gave mention to some of the amusement parks in Singapore going way back to a long long time ago. I was quite sure that the fair was no longer active at Great World when I was there in 1973 but it says here in wiki that it was not till 1978 that they actually closed it down.

One thing that I can remember for sure was that there was a cinema in that amusement park, the Globe, showing reruns of old movies that I had missed when I was in school as I was not allowed to attend most of the good shows that hit the silver screen at the time on school days and one that I clearly remember was this one – S.W.A.L.K Melody and my favourite song from the soundtrack…

Now that we are on the topic of the old cinemas in Singapore, I remember going to the Lido along Orchard Road/Scotts Road to watch this movie from which this theme song was taken from…

…but that was not in 1973. I think it was the end of 1969 or early 1970 when I visited Singapore for the first time. Of course, while I was there 1973/74, I did see a lot of movies at a number of the cinemas there including the Orchard at Grange Road and the movie and theme song that has stayed in my mind all these years would be this one…

Memories light the corners of my mind
Misty water-coloured memories of the way we were…

Ah yes!!! I remember I went to the Jurong Drive-in too but I cannot remember what movie we watched that night…and of course I went to shows at the Cathay as well…and the Capitol – I remember the little coffee house/ice cream palour beside its entrance along North Bridge Road and yes, there was the Odeon at North Bridge Road where I watched the Poseidon Adventure and it was around that time, I think it was the following day that we received news of this tragedy at the mouth of the Rejang River…and I think it was at the Odeon too that I saw The Towering Inferno and when I came out of the cinema, there was a massive fire at some of the rows of old shophouses in the vicinity. Talk about coincidences!

I do not go to the movies anymore these days not at those prices one would need to fork out to see one. Why, they are no longer called cinemas. Now, they have cineplexes or the one here in Sibu is a trioplex – with three halls. I think there are others elsewhere with a lot more and trying to buy a ticket can be quite a pain especially if there is a box office hit showing at the same time…and one would have to be careful not to buy a ticket for the wrong movie. Oh dear!!! Needless to say, you would be hard-pressed to ever get to see something like this outside…

Kacang stall outside Penang cinema
*Archive photo*

– something some of us may remember, a regular feature outside some cinemas around at the time.

What about you? Is there any movie that you hold dear to your heart, memories of when you watched it at a cinema…

Cathay cinema Kuching
*Archive photo*

…a long long time ago?

Sunday…

This is one place that we have not gone to for a while now. Like most every place in the town centre, parking can be such a pain and it does not help one bit that there is a bank a hundred meters away. It would not be so bad that one can’t find a space – you will see all those huge flashy vehicles, double-parked all over, drivers not inside, blocking the way and you cannot even drive through. I wish we had that lorry driver in Penang or the one driving a trailer in Melaka. Some people here sure need to be taught a very good lesson.

A good time to drop by here would be on Sunday mornings…

Ample parking on Sunday mornings

There will be lots of places to park especially if you do not mind parking, say some 30-50 metres away. The spots right in front of the shop would be fully-occupied, of course. If they could drive into the shop to eat, I bet they would!

We went at around 9 something on Sunday morning after the service in the church. I seem to notice that people around here would start coming out at around that time for breakfast or brunch so you should be a little earlier than that if you want to beat the crowd. Usually by around 10, all the coffee shops would be packed to the brim. However, on working days, every Sunday, we would be getting ready for our weekly drive to Selangau to send my girl to her school and dropping by here would be out of the question.

I noticed that day that the tyre shop next door that provides car washing services was not open, for whatever reason – I think they do work on Sundays, usually and if you sit at the tables nearest to the shop, it can be rather noisy sometimes like when they are doing the vacuuming.

I also noticed that they are providing new chopsticks and spoons at the shop…

Chopsticks & spoons

…which is a good thing. The moment you are seated, somebody will bring a mug of boiling hot water and you can pick the ones you want and stick them into the mug to sterilise them a bit before use. So which one would you like – the black ones or those stainless steel ones? Personally, I am not all that fond of the metal ones. For one thing, I am not all that good at using chopsticks and for another, those would be rather difficult to handle. Someone told me long ago that they’re either Japanese or Korean, true or not?

Both my girl and the mum ordered the regular (RM6.00 each) – their combination of a bowl of kampua kosong (no meat) and a bowl of the beef soup. They decided to share the drink – the Tiga Masam (3 sours)…

Ah Sian Tiga Masam

…and my guess is there were asamboi (preserved dried plum), limau nipis and limau kesturi (lime and calamansi lime) in it.

I had my usual kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) and for a change, I asked for the mee pok (flat noodles)…

Ah Sian mee pok

…instead of the regular kampua ones and the beef soup. I loved how thinly they sliced the meat…

Ah Sian beef, thinly sliced

– when it is that thin, it can’t possibly be tough, I think, and would be just right for good ol’ toothless me.

I asked for the special (RM10.00) so mine was a very much bigger bowl, around double the size of the regular and there were tripe and tendons in the soup…

Ah Sian beef soup, special

Nice!

After our delightful breakfast/brunch, we went to the supermarket round the corner and yes, there were lots and lots of parking spaces and I just could not understand why there were all those cars parked along the yellow line by the building right in front of the entrance. Perhaps somebody should open a drive-thru’ supermart specially for the likes of those. Tsk! Tsk!

In between…

This is Pekan Stapang

Stapang

…or Stapang Bazaar, located halfway in between Sibu and Selangau and in comparison, it is a lot smaller than the two of them. However, the location makes it an ideal stop if you urgently need a toilet break. Go right in after the single row of a couple of blocks of shops on your right and you will get to the public toilet…

Stapang public toilet

…facing the playground…

Selangau playground

Be forewarned, however, that it is 30 sen per entry unlike the others in Sibu or Selangau where you only need to fork out 20 sen per entry. There is a lady stationed there and my guess is her duties include keeping the place clean so yes, it is clean unlike some public toilets even in the big towns and cities.

This is the market…

Stapang market

…and being a weekday that day when I had to send my girl back to her school after attending something here for two days, there were not many sellers around, just a few ethnic women selling some jungle produce and stuff. I think it is a lot busier on Sunday mornings.

I saw a man selling some rather fresh-looking wild boar meat at only RM20.00 a kg but my missus was not at all keen. Well, for one thing, she is not fond of the meat but neither is she all that fond of duck, lamb and quite a lot of other things. In the end, I did not buy and we left the bazaar, heading back to Sibu.

I did not go straight home though. Since we were free, I decided to drive to Sibu Jaya, a township a little to the left of the Sibu Airport. If you turn right and go straight ahead, you will eventually get to Sibu town proper, 15 miles away. I’ve been there a few times but my missus just went once a long long time ago when they first started developing the place as some kind of low-cost housing residential area with a few shops…and of course, it did not look nice at all. That was why when anyone talked about this place, she would insist on how miserably horrible it was but I do feel that lately, they have done quite a great deal and a good job at that. To me, it does look nicer (and perhaps, bigger as well) than some of the towns around here like Bintangor or Kanowit…or perhaps even Sarikei and Kapit.

When we got there, we saw blocks and blocks of shophouses, mostly under construction but a few facing the original town centre have been occupied. Gee, I thought! This place is getting bigger and bigger! I saw a bank but I am not too sure if there is more than one and yes, there is a big KFC outlet even…which is more than what I can say about three of the aforementioned towns!

We stopped by the ethnic jungle produce market and I saw a couple selling ikan keli (catfish). They said that those were caught, not the farmed ones. The bigger ones were RM20 a kg while they also had smaller ones going for RM15 only. The lady was willing to cut and clean for me so I asked her to pick big three nice ones for me – they turned out to be exactly 1 kg!

My missus does not eat these either but yes, she can cook them…

Ikan keli

…very well. This is the Chinese/Foochow style with soy sauce, lots of ginger and garlic and lemon grass and all and because we did not have any bottle of brandy in the pantry, already opened, my missus added whiskey instead – lots of it! These fresh ones really taste a lot nicer than the farmed ones – we get a lot of those at the markets here…and of course, the way my missus cooked it, I enjoyed it to the max!

I picked a few pieces and saved them for my girl – she loves ikan keli too, especially when cooked this way – she would be coming home again the following day, Friday so I would want her to enjoy it too.

The only thing that matters…

If you were a teenager or in your twenties in the 70’s, you would probably know this rock band that took its name from a character in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. No, I was not into their songs, hits or otherwise, until I heard this one…

…which has remained a favourite of mine to this day.

Indeed, I was surprised to come across a contestant in a local talent show a couple of years ago named Uriah, pronounced you-rai-yah, and boy was he good! Of course he won in the end – the Astro Star Quest Chinese Singing Competition that year. This handsome young man…

Uriah See live in Sibu 1

…from Pontian, Johore whose mother, a piano music teacher, came from Sabah here in East Malaysia, went on to win the TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship in Hong Kong that same year, beating the best from China, the US, Australia, Singapore, Canada and New Zealand. Now that was quite an accomplishment wasn’t it?

I saw some fishtail banners along the roads here publicising his show last Friday and it was in the newspapers too so when my girl came home that afternoon, I asked her if she would want to go and watch and she did – this would be a welcome change from our usual routine, a chance for her to unwind and relax a bit after the dreary and gruelling week at her school…so there we were that night for his live performance at a mall…

Uriah See live in Sibu 2

…in town. Gee!!! The last time I saw a singer perform live at a mall was Singapore’s Tracy Huang way back in 1973 at one place along Orchard Road, just imagine that!

Uriah kicked off his show with the rousing theme song from the movie Ola Bola. I didn’t know this one, only this slower one by Sarawak’s own Zee Avi, that was on television day in, day out way before the movie was released – it was screened during Chinese New Year and by the time I was free to go and watch, it wasn’t showing anymore. That’s how it is here in Sibu. Those genres that I like will never get shown here and if they do, it will not be for long.

This was the very pretty and eloquent emcee…

Uriah See live in Sibu 3

…for the show and for his second number, Uriah did a really impressive cover of Josh Groban’s You raise me up

Uriah See live in Sibu 4

…followed by his rendition of John Legend’s hit, All of me

– one of the songs that he sang in the competition on television.

He also played the violin…

Uriah See live in Sibu 5

…when he sang his own original composition, The only thing that matters, the Mandarin version…

Incidentally, the  music video was filmed on location in Melbourne, Australia.

I was kind of disappointed he did not sing it in English…

– he penned the lyrics for this one himself, available online on amazon.co.uk…but never mind, we certainly enjoyed the one-hour performance that night. If he were to come for a full concert, I certainly would love to go and enjoy more of the very nice songs…

…from this very talented young man.