It doesn’t matter anymore…

In the late 70’s, I was posted to teach in a school in Kanowit. I stayed in a small rented room above one of the shops with nothing else other than a bed and a writing table…and a small table fan. I was literally living out of a suitcase and no, I did not have a tv.

Those were the days of black and white tv and being musically-inclined, there was a weekly programme that I particularly liked at around 5.30 p.m. on Sundays, Ready To Roll, a top hits chart show from New Zealand, if I am not wrong, and I do recall that this song, the cover by some girly singer, was Number 1 for a few weeks.

In order that I could watch the show, I had to go to a coffee shop in that little town to join many others there and because this song was not the favourite of everybody else except me and it was very long, they would all moan and groan and declare that when the song came on, it would be a good time to go to the washroom.

Anyway, the title of the song that I have used for this post makes me think of what we had to go through week after week after week picking my girl from her school in the jungle and bringing her home on Fridays and sending her back on Sundays and to say that driving on the still-under-construction Pan-Borneo Highway, otherwise known as the Pain-Borneo Hellway, was a nightmare would be an understatement. Well, the good news is, as the song goes, it doesn’t matter anymore!

The official letter was released on Tuesday, 11th June, 2019 and my girl was supposed to report in her new school on that day itself. However, it so happened that even though a copy of the letter had arrived at the office in Selangau, there was nobody dropping by that day to collect the mail so she could not leave her station just yet.

That was why on Wednesday, 12th June, 2019, my missus and I made our way to the school, stopping by the office along the way to get the official copy of the letter, duly endorsed by the officer…and before school was dismissed that very day, there was a special assembly to bid farewell to their teacher and she would be walking along that wooden bridge from her quarters…

SK Sg Sepiring

…to the car one last time after over 6 years since the day she reported for duty in March 2013.

I did notice when we sent her back to her school on Monday, after the two-week mid-year break, that the road had greatly improved…

PBH 1

…unlike the horrendous conditions in the first half of the year and it was getting worse by the day.

Now, many parts have been completed…

PBH 2

…and are open for use…

PBH 3

…already and even though there are still those sections that are in a rather deplorable state, these good stretches…

PBH 4

…are indeed a welcome relief.

I don’t know if these are going to be part of THE highway eventually or only temporary but whatever it is, I will no longer be going that way again, praise the Lord, and I’ve said it already and I’ll say it again – it doesn’t matter anymore!

Waiting for your letter…

Well, my girl got a transfer to her alma mater

SK St Rita

– she studied here for 6 years from Year/Primary One till Year/Primary Six and emerged as one of the top students in the UPSR Examination, straight A’s no less.

This time around, she would be going back there as a teacher – as a matter of fact, she would be taking the place of HER teacher who had just retired. However, she would not be able to leave the old station until she had received the official letter that would state in no uncertain terms in black and white that she had been successful in her application for a transfer and would move from there to here plus for reasons unknown, there seemed to be some degree of confidentiality surrounding the whole thing until the letter had come.

For inter-state transfers, they will only tell you via their website whether you are successful or not in your application and if you are, which state you are going to. Other than that, you will have to wait for the letter for further details. In the case of those within the state, for successful applicants, they will state the name of the school so I asked my girl to print screen the web page quickly so she would have on record the official result…just in case.

The school shares the same compound as the cathedral…

Sacred Heart Cathedral

…and also the Catholic Centre…

Catholic Centre

…where this church-run eatery is – I’ve been there twice, here and here and the food is decent and very cheap. I guess in time to come, my girl can hop over when she is free for a quick breakfast or on days when she has something on in the afternoon, she can go there for lunch.

That day, she dropped by the school to make an informal courtesy call on the headmistress – it was the school holidays then so there wasn’t anybody else around, other than her and the clerk in the office, and yes, they did have a very long chat.

After my girl came out, we went for brunch and perhaps, with all that excitement and everything, she just wanted porridge (RM5.50 with century egg)…

Porridge

…so we stopped by here, the stall where I had the very nice pork ribs noodles, for that.

The mum had the Foochow fried noodles (RM4.00)…

Foochow fried noodles

…from the very popular chu-char (cook and fry) place at the back and it sure took a very long time because they were busy cooking the orders for customers to take home and enjoy with their families in conjunction with the Duanwu or Dumpling Festival that day.

I decided to try the kampua noodles – they have some new people running the stall there now and I asked for the set with fish balls soup (RM6.00)…

Set

The noodles were great…

Kampua mee

…and so was the soup…

Soup

…with their own-made bay kar/ikan tenggiri (mackerel) fish balls though it was pretty obvious they would need to polish up their skill of making round fish balls. LOL!!!

Yes, I would give them a double thumbs up for not using those plastic plates and bowls but on the whole, I would not mind a little less msg.

MEI LE CAFE (2.313147, 111.846968) is located along Jalan Gambir, a stone’s throw away from the Delta Mall, straight ahead from the first turning to your left as soon as you turn into that road from Jalan Pedada, now Jalan Datuk Wong Soon Kai.

Better way…

When my girl was first posted to her school in the jungle in March, 2013, the Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road was not all that good or maybe I had no experience driving long distance then so I drove very fast there and back for fear that I would not get home before dark. In the meantime, there was an on-going upgrading of the road and the construction of some overtaking lanes and after a couple of years, I started to enjoy the leisurely drive every week.

We would leave home early and stop at Stapang or Selangau, roam around the market to see if there was any jungle produce that might tickle our fancy and have a bite to eat at one of the coffee shops at those places before proceeding to our girl’s school before lessons ended for the day.

Then came the construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway or what we would “affectionately” refer to as the Pain-Borneo Highway or Hellway. It has been gong on for a few years now and it sure does not look like it is ever going to end. Usually there are not many people working, just a few here and there and I simply cannot imagine where it is going or where it is coming from.

It would not have been so bad if they did not make a mess of the original road plus there are so many lencongan (diversions), one after another so one would be driving in a zig-zag manner all the way so what once was a 99 km drive is probably now at least 200 km. Talking about the diversions, I can go this week and find some very nice new ones and the following week, they will look like an earthquake has struck! Such poor quality work! I certainly hope that if ever they get the highway done, it will not be like this.

Anyway, sometime ago, I was at my regular petrol station and I was chatting with my friends there, the petrol attendants and I was telling them how horrible the road conditions were. There was a boy there wiping and cleaning the pumps and he suggested that I used Jalan Pasai Siong…

Jalan Pasai Siong

…adding that the road would be a whole lot better, no potholes, no diversions, nothing. However, it was only after my girl’s colleague mentioned that same thing to her that I decided to give it a try.

Not far after Stapang, you would get to a junction – you can see a road sign pointing right to Jalan Teku Pasai Siong and to Sibu/Sarikei straight ahead and a little further up, there is a bigger signboard with one arrow pointing to Sibu and the other, Bintulu/Miri. Instead of going straight like what I usually did, you turn right. You can see from the above photograph that it is a very narrow two-lane road, one coming and one going, not too winding but kind of hilly so one would go up and down smoothly as the slopes are not steep.

Before I embarked on my little adventure, I logged into Google Maps and went on a “drive” along that road. It felt so very long, nothing but jungle on both sides of the road and frankly, it does feel that way when you are driving along this road, like it is never going to end. However, I kept track of the distance and found that it was only 35 km (21.7 miles) and if you are driving along the Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road, SMK Luar Bandar is 21 miles away – and that was before they had all those lencongan (diversions), still quite a distance away from this Jalan Pasai Siong/Sibu-Bintulu Trunk Road junction. Maybe I was not driving very fast as I was not that familiar with the road yet so I found that we did not really make good time, perhaps by 15-20 minutes only.

Not far from the aforementioned junction, you will pass by this very nice temple…

Temple

…and along the way, other than the oil palm estates, the pepper gardens, the pineapple farms, you may see some country houses…

Country house

…and padi fields and some longhouses…

Longhouses

…too.

If I remember correctly, there are two streams and bridges…

Stream and bridge

…to cross and when you get to these shops…

Shops

…where the 1Malaysia Clinic, Teku is, you will know that you’re almost there.

When you get to this roundabout…

Roundabout

…turn left into Jalan Ling Kai Cheng and go straight ahead to the traffic lights at its junction with Jalan Deshon (Selemo junction), the sole traffic lights the whole way and none of those horrendous lencongan (diversions), none at all to make your driving a horrible nightmare!

Besides, there are hardly any cars so you can just cruise along happily – no F1 Grand Prix driver-wannabes, no road bullies tailgating you at a dangerously close range when they cannot overtake, no excessively-overloaded lorries, long trailers and inter-town buses behaving like it’s their grandfather’s road, overtaking when they please – no signal, no horn, no warning whatsoever, never mind right or left and scaring the living daylights out of you. Here, along this somewhat deserted/quiet road, if you come across one that is slower than you, it is so easy to overtake because there are no other cars, none on-coming and none going.

There is a part somewhere in the middle where the patching and repairing have made it kind of bumpy so the ride would not be all that smooth but that is chicken feed compared to the torture you have to go through when driving through those diversions. Do be careful and watch out for unexpected curves, just a few here and there – you may be speeding uphill and when you reach the top, you may find that suddenly, you have to turn right or left and not go straight over the edge!

The school holidays are here, praise the Lord so I will not have to drive to my girl’s school in the jungle for the next two weeks but when it reopens, no prize for guessing which road I would take!

*Photos taken from Google Map and adapted/edited for use in this post. I did take a few that I shared on Facebook sometime ago but when one is driving, the photographs taken may not be all that nice.*

Not all about the money…

I see young people these days hanging around those coffee places that can be quite expensive, in fact and I noticed that a lot of them are of the fairer sex. I mentioned it to somebody once and he told me that it is like guys hanging out with friends and boozing at pubs and all those places to chat and pass the time. Fair enough! That sure is a logical explanation.

Other than that, those franchised fast food restaurants do seem to have an appeal as well, not only to the young crowd but adults too. Generally, you will not find me at those places unless I am waiting for the ladies to do their shopping and they are convenient places to sit and pass the time sipping a drink and have something to munch…or maybe I am taking a flight to some place and I have not eaten yet or I may reach my destination a little late, too late to go out for a bite to eat.

My girl, however, does not fall into the same category. She likes going to those places and sometimes, she may bring something home for me, not that I enjoy it all that much. Ah well! Like they say, it’s the thought that counts.

Well, last week, on our way back from her school in the jungle, I asked her if she wanted to go to our Sarawak’s own fast food franchise, the Sugar Bun and needless to say, she was thrilled at my suggestion so there we were at the outlet at Swan Square here, formerly Giant Megamall.

She wanted the fish burger…

Sugar Bun fish burger 1

…one of her favourites here and since it was our no-meat Friday, I ordered three (RM24.30). Out of the blue, the mum said she wanted a beef burger (RM4.40) so I asked for that and requested for one of the fish ones to be packed for us to take away. The girl at the counter did not seem all that familiar with the computing and everything and I might confuse her all the more if I had asked for the order to be cancelled.

My girl had an iced orange juice (RM4.80) while my missus and I had their three-layer tea (RM4.00) and three-layer coffee (RM4.00)…

Three-layer tea & coffee

…respectively. I must say that mine was really very nice and I sure would not mind dropping by for it again like say, when the ladies want to go browsing around and shopping at the mall.

Our orders arrived – three fish burgers plus the beef burger in a plastic bag. Ah well! We just had to take the beef burger out and put one of the fish burgers in the bag. We also had their cheesy wedges (RM5.10)…

Cheesy wedges

– my girl said that the ones here were crispier than Colonel Sanders’ but we like the Colonel’s mashed potatoes more than what we had here (RM5.70)…

Mashed potatoes

Of course we enjoyed our fish burgers…

Sugar Bun fish burger 2

…as always. The mum did not say anything about her beef burger and since we did not hear her complain, I guess it was all right.

The total, with the 6% SST, came up to RM55.45 which is definitely not cheap and we can easily go some place to have something a lot more substantial and nicer for that same amount of money, or more or less. I guess it’s not all about the money – my girl enjoys going to such places and the food they have there so whatever will make her happy is fine by me.

SUGAR BUN, Swan Square is located on the ground floor of the former Giant Megamall that is located to the left of SMK Bandar Sibu along Jalan Ling Kai Cheng.

Ya…not so hot…

It was a lovely afternoon that day, not so hot because it was drizzling/raining all morning and around noon. After the rain stopped, it was comfortably cool so I decided to go and walk around the Ramadan Bazaar at Bandong Walk

Bandong Walk

…here.

That was around 3.00 p.m. and obviously, a bit too early. Some of the stalls were still closed and some were just starting for the day like this lady who had just commenced barbecuing the chicken and the parson’s nose (buntut ayam)…

Ayam bakar

This is the current craze…

Manok Broo

…here – fried chicken and while all the rest are selling theirs for RM2.00 a piece, this one is going for only RM1.00! No, I did not buy any though as I am not really into that. Incidentally, manok is ayam or chicken in Sarawak Malay (and in Iban too) and if I am not wrong, they also call it that in Tagalog (Filipino language).

I tried kueh akok

Akok

…a Kelantanese favourite, at another place last year but no, I was not impressed. Maybe the one here is better but I did not feel like it that day. Another time perhaps.

The only place that was enjoying brisk business already at that point in time would be my regular Malay kueh stall in the vicinity. They still had quite a lot of the baked macaroni that I bought the other day…

Baked macaroni

…but they only had one pack of the very nice cucur udang (prawn fritters) salad left and I bumped into a friend there and I told her it was good so she took it so it was all sold out! I wonder what time they open.

I bought this…

Chappati chicken wrap

…for my girl once and she loved it! However, she was not home that day, stuck in her school in the jungle so I did not buy any this time around. Perhaps we shall drop by when she is home for the weekend and we can buy that then.

Their keria

Keria

…(sweet potato doughnut coated with palm sugar) is very popular, that I do know but no, I did not buy any. I did try their ubi goreng (fried tapioca)…

Ubi goreng

…and it was all right but no, I did not buy that either. I prefer tapioca boiled with a little bit of salt added, eaten with gula apong (nipah palm sugar).

So what did I buy in the end? I walked over to the little shop in the middle to grab a box of my favourite dates

Yusuf Taiyoob dates

…RM13.00 a box but it’s only once a year so that’s fine by me.

I certainly look forward to more good days so I can go to this one again or check out some of the others before Ramadan ends.

PASAR RAMADAN BANDONG  is located at Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) along Jalan Bandong, somewhere in front of the shops in the vicinity.

Quickly…

It has been blistering hot here so even though it’s already the month of Ramadan and fasting has begun and the bazaars have been going full swing all over town, I did not bother to go and check any of them out.

My girl was home since the weekend till Wednesday as she had some matters to attend to so we did not have to send her back to her school in the jungle till Wednesday. We did not have anything to eat for dinner that evening so we stopped by our favourite at Bandong Walk here to see if we could grab something nice quickly and head on home.

No, I did not bother to walk around, not in the heat – I just went straight to my regular Malay kueh stall there and of course, I did not cast a second glance at the things that I can get there…

Mak Met's Breakfast Station

…on regular days but it sure looked like their cucur (fritters) was a best seller.

This is their ayam penyet side…

Penyet Bandong

…where this boy was busy frying…

Frying

…their tauhu goreng (fried tofu)…

Tauhu goreng

I remember buying that to try last year but I do not remember being swept off my feet and looking forward to buying more this year.

I bought this makaroni bakar/baked macaroni (RM5.00)…

Baked macaroni

…which was very nice except that it was bolognese. For one thing, I am never a fan of that pasta sauce and for another, I would prefer something local this time of year. They could have used rendang minced beef or satay peanut sauce instead – I probably would love it a lot more.

The kerabu mempelam & kedondong (RM5.00)…

Kerabu

…or pickled local mango and ambarella was so good I could just eat that with rice alone but I loved this one the best – their cucur udang (prawn fritters) salad (RM10.00)…

Cucur udang salad

I would not say that was expensive as there were so many of the prawn fritters and there was a lot of egg and everything else too, the tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce, definitely enough to be shared by three or four. The dressing was actually something like blended chili and yes, it was very nice. I did wish they had some kentang rebus (boiled potatoes) too, just a few slices would do but there was none. I certainly would want to buy again and I would add my own potatoes, that’s for sure.

PASAR RAMADAN BANDONG  is located at Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) along Jalan Bandong, somewhere in front of the shops in the vicinity.

Anything new…

In my blogpost the other day, I mentioned that I dropped by a supermarket that I had not been to for a while to see if they had anything new that might tickle my fancy.

I saw this nasi lemak (coconut rice)…

CP nasi lemak 1

…from a company based in Seremban and of course, I had to grab one to take home an try.

It was supposed to be heated up in a microwave oven but we had one before, just that it had called it a day and after reading all those not very flattering things online about the electrical appliance, we decided that we would do without a new one.

In the end, I opened up the pack…

CP nasi lemak 2

…and moved everything into a bowl and had it steamed. I sure would not want to steam it in its original plastic container.

It was quite nice – the rice had that lovely pandan fragrance and a light hint of ginger and it was lemak (rich with santan/coconut milk) but no, it was not lemak enough for me. The sambal was nice and spicy but it did not quite taste like the usual nasi lemak sambal and though there are other options like one with sambal eggs and another with rendang, there was nothing much else in this one other than that thick slab of omelette and a bit of fried ikan bilis/pusu (dried anchovies)…and for RM4.99 each. I would much sooner go for these…

YTA Bandong Walk nasi lemak

– my favourite in town at Bandong Walk here…

YTA photo Bandong Walk nasi lemak stall

…at RM4.50 only with a choice of sambal kerang (cockles, canned) or sotong (squid) or fried chicken or RM3.50 only with the regular nasi lemak sambal. So far I have not had any luck with the petai (stink beans) as they never seemed to have that everytime I dropped by.

My friend, home from Perth, dropped by there when he was home that day and he sent me the above photographs and he wholeheartedly agreed to my comment that the nasi lemak there was “simply the best“.

Anyway, back to my shopping spree, I also spotted this (RM5.10)…

CP aglio olio spaghetti

…and of course, I had to grab one to let my girl heat up in her school in the jungle and try. They also have bolognese but with chicken, not beef, so I decided not to go for it.

These came from the same company but upon closer scrutiny, I found that they were made in Thailand…

CP wantons

My girl would love those dumplings usually so I thought she would enjoy these. The whole shrimp caption on the label does sound promising…but I almost had a heart attack when I saw the prices on the screen at the cashier’s counter – RM9.90 for the tom yam one and RM10.90 for the other one. I asked the cashier and he too agreed that it was extraordinarily expensive and he asked if I would like to cancel the purchase. I decided I would just go ahead and buy…just this once – don’t say I did not try – but no matter how nice they may be, I do not think I will be buying them again.

Frankly, I really hate this barcode thing – I’d much sooner prefer the old school price tags where you can see how much a thing costs right away. They may have labels by the side but at times, those can be quite mind-boggling and at times, not all that easy to read and figure out or they can be misleading even (the label may be for something else that was there before)…and they may have the barcode reader at some obscure corner but it would be quite  a hassle to bring everything there to read…if that thing works! Tsk! Tsk!

There were other things that did attract my interest, not the usual stuff found at most/all supermarkets but I thought that would be enough for the time being. I can always come back again some other time.

The MDS MART is located at Simpang Tiga at the end of Jalan Kampung Hilir/Jalan Awang Ramli Amit (formerly Race Course Road),  facing the food stalls at the SEDC HAWKER CENTRE (2.306488, 111.818695) and the NASI LEMAK BANDONG WALK stall (2.313869, 111.825808) is located at Bandong Walk, Jalan Bandong somewhere in front of the block of shops where Mastura Delite and the 1Malaysia clinic are.