There’s more to me than what you can see…

This…

…is quite near my house and it is where I take my car for a car wash when there is a need for that. These days, we have been getting quite a lot of rain, on and off, on and off day in and day out so I would drop by quite often but not as frequently as when I used to go to and fro along the horrible Pain-Borneo Highway, sending my girl to her school in the jungle and going all the way there to bring her home on weekends.

Quite recently, I noticed that they have gone into vegetable farming, growing this curly lettuce – if I am not wrong, it is called salad patta…

…all over but hydroponically and lately, it appears to me that they are slowly increasing the output and have set up a lot more of those platforms and pipes…

…to plant the vegetable.

You may have noticed in the first photograph above that they have even set them up all along the fence. I guess that is one advantage of this way of planting vegetables – you do not need that much space and you do not need any soil which means that you do not need a spacious landed property to go into this – you can do it outside on your balcony of your condominium even.

I saw them hanging these pieces of fly paper…

…that is coated with a sweetly fragrant, but extremely sticky and sometimes poisonous substance that traps flies and other flying insects when they land upon it. This is considered a pest control device and this way, they do not have to resort to those poisonous pesticides.

The ones that they fold into paper windmills…

…are actually quite pleasant to look at.

They harvest the vegetables quite regularly and pack them in plastic containers. I’ve seen people dropping by to buy, a lot at one time but I have not bought any myself. I did ask one of the boys there and he told me that they are selling them at RM9.00 a container. I think I used to buy at the supermarket round the corner from my house for RM10.00 each so it isn’t very much cheaper but at least, the ones here are definitely a lot fresher.

WONG CAR CARE & SERVICES CENTRE (2.307081, 111.844783) is located at No. 8B, Lorong Pipit 4 – you turn left as soon as you turn into the lane where Starbucks Sibu is located and go straight ahead – it is at the corner at the end of that stretch of road or you can turn into that lane from Jalan Pahlawan and go straight ahead to the aforementioned corner.

Not again…

I saw a lot of friends sharing photographs of what they had at this new place in town so of course, I wanted to go and check it out even though I did see in the menu that the big head prawn noodles did not come cheap…

…because we had not had this fish noodles with the creamy soup…

…for a long, long time (we had a good one here once but not anymore). My girl enjoys it a lot and I wanted to take her there last Sunday morning to give theirs a try.

So there we were, the four of us…

*I guess they mean live, not life*

– I asked my sister to join us – so very early last Sunday morning at just past 8.00 a.m. They open at that time every day, I hear.

I would say it was a very nice place, not much decor to get excited about but it was comfortable enough and air-conditioned. Gosh!!! It’s the early bird that catches the worm, they say but no, we were not the earliest. The place was almost full when we arrived and thankfully, there was a table available. Many who came a bit later, had to go some place else, disappointed. They did not know how lucky they were!!!

I liked this little duckie…

…that they had on every table. Too bad it wasn’t a fish nor a prawn. LOL!!!

The boss served this slice of papaya…

…to every table on the house. I think he said something about the fruit coming from his own house/compound.

After sometime, two bowls of the fish noodles(RM18.90)…

…came.

My sister and my girl had that with bihun

– the latter thought it was good and was pleased with her order. My sister did not quite fancy the fish – I think it was ang chor (red snapper) – she prefers the tapah that they have in their fish noodles here but they do not do it in this creamy soup style there.

My missus ordered their prawn noodles (soup) and this (RM18.90)…

…came. I had a feeling that they had made a mistake as there was a big head prawn in it, even though there was one only, not three or more like what we can see in the menu above. In my honest opinion, seeing how ONE prawn can cost up to around RM10.00 each (see details below), I would consider RM18.90 quite a reasonable price for this bowl of prawn noodles.

Unfortunately, my order never appeared and I just sat there and waited and waited and waited. Oh dear!!! Deja vu, history repeating itself…like how I had to wait for the beef noodles the day before.

After more than an hour, it FINALLY came (RM35.90)…

…with ONE not very big prawn, a lot smaller than the giant ones I bought from the Dewan Suarah (Civic Centre) wet market…

…earlier that morning. At RM75 a kilo, I bought RM166.00 worth of those lovely crustaceans, 17 of them altogether and that works out to less than RM10.00 each. It sure looked like I had been shortchanged, seeing so very clearly that there were at least THREE of them in that photo of it in their menu. Just ONE not really big one for that kind of money is really pushing it a bit too far!

My girl insisted on picking up the tab – including the cup of kopi-o, hot that my missus had (RM3.90!!!), the rest of us did not want anything to drink, the total came up to RM96.50.

Yes, I would say that what they dished out tasted quite good, that much credit I would give to them but they would need to cut down on the msg by at least half and at those prices and that very very long wait, no price for guessing whether or not I will be back there ever again.

FISH PAPPA is a few doors away to the right of HIDEOUT (2.301547, 111.843569) at Lorong 4, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai (formerly Jalan Pedada) in the block of shops back to back with Kim Hock Premier Food Court.

While we can…

I was in the vicinity of the Dewan Suarah (Civic Centre) here that day to check out the yew char koi stall there. I never liked going to that area because it was and still is always crowded in the morning with people going there to do their marketing and shopping and to have their breakfast and at the height of the pandemic, I avoided it like a plague!

Now that the situation seemed a whole lot better, that morning, I decided to walk around to see if there was anything I would want to buy. That was how we ended up having a feast of crabs…

…for our dinner that evening.

We just had crabs that day on my sister’s birthday after such a long time since the previous time we had it on my girl’s birthday in 2020 but that morning, I spotted a basket full of those lovely crustaceans at one of the shops there selling for RM65.00 a kilo.

I asked the guy for three of the biggest ones – it was a little bit more actually but he rounded it up to RM96.00 and I quickly took them home for my missus to prepare and cook…

I asked my sister to join us that evening but she had something on with her friends. In the end, we had all of it…

…ourselves and of course, we enjoyed it to the max.

What we had on those two aforementioned occasions were both way over RM100.00 so this was very much cheaper and there was a whole lot more too.

While I was there, I also saw some fairly large sotong (squid) going for RM35.00 a kilo. They were bigger than the medium-sized ones that I usually buy from my favourite fish & seafood stall in my neighbourhood (RM30.00 a kilo) but the other day, the ones there were way too small so I did not want to buy those. I took all that they had and paid RM60.00 for them – I suppose there were less than 2 kilos altogether. My missus spent most of the morning cleaning and scouring them before putting them away in the freezer, ready for Chinese New Year. For some reason, my girl loves these sotong a lot more than prawns.

I was delighted to see that they had midin (wild jungle fern)…

…too, selling at RM13.00 a kilo. They do not seem to have this at our neighbourhood shops anymore. It has been so very long since the last time they had crabs for sale there as well, not since July 2020! Of course, I asked for half a kilo of the midin and took it home.

My girl helped the mum to pluck only the nice and tender top part of each fern and the latter cooked it with sambal hay bee (udang kering/dried prawns) and belacan (dried prawn paste) to go with the crabs…

…for our dinner that evening.

I paid RM7.00 for the midin – it was a bit more than half a kilo but still, it was so very cheap. There was a lot of it, more than double of what we got for our RM10.00 a plate of the ferns here (or at any other place for that matter) that day.

Yes, there were still a lot of people that morning but at least, everyone had their masks on even though they did not seem too worried about keeping their distance but with the situation seemingly very much under control at this point in time, I sure would not mind going to this part of the woods again and again to see what other goodies I may stumble upon there…while I can.

e-Like Mart (2.310257, 111.831069)…

…is located at No. 6, Taman Damai, Jalan Tun Abg Hj Openg at the far end of the block of shops facing the back of the Civic Centre wet market.

It’s getting better…

I guess everybody went through a bad patch during the pandemic, some worse than others and there were some who had to call it a day eventually.

Yes, business was very poor all this while for my friends here

…too when they were depending on takeaways and food deliveries but thankfully, they did manage to pull through. Things sure seem to be getting a whole lot better now with only a few cases each day and with the state election just around the corner, business has started to pick up a bit.

The schools have closed for the end-of-year holidays so last Saturday, I managed to persuade my girl to go out for lunch. All this while, she did not want to go anywhere #stayingsafe #stayingwell and #stayinghome but I managed to convince her – usually, there are not many customers around and the tables are all well-spread out so if there are others around, physical distancing is definitely not a problem…plus the place is not air-conditioned (they say this is bad – all schools are advised not to switch them on and to open all the doors and windows) and you can enjoy the fresh air that comes in with the breeze from the river.

Christmas…

…is just a few weeks away but I guess due to the pandemic, nobody is in the mood so the decoration this year is very minimal…

Yes, they were playing those Christmas songs that day but somehow, the mood just wasn’t there!

The ladies had a glass of buah kedondong (ambarella) juice (RM7.00)…

…each but I did not want that just in case there was sugar in it so I just had a glass of warm water.

We shared this plate of nasi kerabu (RM12.00)…

The serving was so big that there was more than enough to go round.

Yes, we enjoyed that and to go with it, I ordered this lamb curry (RM25.00)…

…and their belimbing prawns (RM17.00)…

I must say that I was very impressed by the size of the prawns…

…in the latter – they were so much bigger than the ones I always buy from my favourite fish & seafood stall near my house and those sure do not come cheap! These must have cost a bomb!!!

My girl wanted their very popular mushroom roll (RM8.00)…

…so I ordered that as well and since they were out of their pomelo salad and their papaya salad, we had their Payung rojak (RM12.00)…

…for our vegetable dish to go with all our orders.

Yes, this was like in the good ol’ days before the pandemic – it has been so long since we dropped by here for lunch or for dinner and it sure felt good to be able to do that again.

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.

How have you been…

I guess these days, at a time like this, this will be the first question people will ask when they meet somebody that they have not seen for a very long time.

Well, that was what those nice & friendly people asked me when I dropped by my regular Malay kuih and food stall…

…at the Bandong shops here that day.

Maybe it was already mid-morning so there were not many choices available or perhaps, they haven’t gone back full swing yet. The lady boss said that things were getting better now – it was very bad before this. Thankfully, they managed to sail through.

I saw these packs of curry puffs (RM3.00 for a pack of 2)…

…so I grabbed a few to take home and try.

I really admire people who can make such fine, uniform layers…

…in their puff pastry. I, for one, will never be able to do that! The pastry tasted very nice but maybe because it was cold already, it was not flaky nor crusty – I would love it that way.

The filling…

…tasted great, slightly spicy but if the D written on the pack was supposed to stand for “daging” (meat), I’m afraid one would be hard-pressed trying to find any inside.

I went over to have a look at the ice cream in their freezer and I bought two of these (RM4.50 each)…

…for the ladies in the house to try. I believe this is new as I don’t think I have seen it before. Of course I did not buy any for myself since I am on a low-sugar diet. Sobssss!!! Well, they did give it a try eventually and yes, they loved it!

I also bought the classic…

…because my girl likes it very much. They also had the almond but I did not buy any nor all the different types of ice cream that they had in the freezer from that same company.

I really enjoyed dropping by here before to have a bite to eat or to buy some of the things they had for sale. I hope that things will pick up slowly and go back to normal – I certainly will want to go back there again!

KOPI KOPI Café & Kitchen is located at the blocks of shops, at the back facing Bandong Walk (2.313869, 111.825808) and the main road.

When two worlds collide…

First and foremost, my heartiest congratulations to my friend, Dennis, and Outright Coffee

…on winning the 9th Sarawak Chief Minister’s Environmental Award, 2019/2020. If you drop by the place, you can see the trophy and certificate on display – I was there the other day but somehow, the idea of taking a snapshot of them did not cross my mind at that point in time. There is no formal grand presentation ceremony this time around because of the pandemic.

I went there that day because I wanted to buy a slice of this cake…

…to see what it was all about. I saw people talking about this onde onde cake, two worlds in one – a fusion of East and West and it sounded like something I would enjoy.

For the uninitiated, onde onde is also called kuih Melaka…

– those springy sticky (glutinous) rice flour balls (something like mochi or 汤圆/tang yuan) with gula Melaka inside that will squirt out when you bite into one, the more the better, coated with desiccated coconut.

I could not figure out what the cake would be like. Would it be made up of those onde onde arranged in the shape of a cake, held together by some santan cream, with gula Melaka inside the balls and all over the cream and desiccated coconut on top? That was why when I heard that they had the cake here, I quickly went to buy a slice…

…to try. At over RM12.00 a slice, it sure did not come cheap, I must say.

It turned out to be layers of pandan (screwpine leaves) cake with cream in between – i was quite positive I could detect a hint of santan (coconut milk) in the cream and a little bit of gula Melaka, so little that I could hardly taste it. Perhaps adding too much of it may spoil the cake, I wouldn’t know.

On top, they had this desiccated coconut…

…and that was about all there was to that onde onde cake.

Yes, I would say it was nice, just that there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, more or less just a well-made pandan cake with a little bit of this and that and yes, at least I’ve tried. This Youtube video tells it as it is and calls it a “Coconut Pandan Cake With Gula Melaka/Ondeh Ondeh Cake 班兰椰糖蛋糕“.

I did enjoy it on the whole even though the texture of the cake was like cakes these days – a bit too dense for me. Personally, I prefer those old school cakes way back in the time when electrical appliances were unheard of and the cakes were not so fine.

Anyway, now that I have tried this onde onde cake, the next one that I would wanna check out would be the nasi lemak cake. Know of any good one in town, anybody?

OUTRIGHT COFFEE (2.290978, 111.820996) is located at 24B , Jalan Lau King Howe, at the end of the first block of shops immediately behind the Lau King Howe Memorial Museum.

Sing my heart out…

These days, they have live streaming at this karaoke pub in London and yes, I’ve been watching week after week without fail even though I would not say the singers are all that good. LOL!!!

Why do I bother to watch then, you may ask? Well, I love singing and I’ve always enjoyed karaoke…

To me, it’s a whole lot of fun even if one’s singing ain’t that great and I do derive a bit of enjoyment from just watching it. For one thing, it brings back fond memories of those wonderful nights at the pubs when I was in Plymouth, England in the autumn of 1994.

I did not venture out at night the first month I was there but I did go around in the daytime, weekends especially, to familiarise myself with the place and I saw that they had karaoke once a week on Monday nights at Bruno’s Bar, a small, dark and unimpressive pub right beside the Prince Regent…

…at one end of Union Street, Plymouth’s red light district, I was told.

Sometime in my 2nd month there, I finally made my way there and sang my heart out, my first time in the UK! The song I picked was this one and I was delighted that they had an excellent karaoke sound system and those Pioneer karaoke laser discs that I liked a lot. The video clips are great and the music is exactly like the original songs so if you can sing the originals, you would be able to sing to what they have on those discs. Besides, I used to frequent a pub in Sibu – they did not have the discs but they had the tracks on video tapes…and I knew exactly whether they would need to lower the key or make it higher and by how much, if necessary.

So how did my debut appearance go? Well, I must say that they were stunned! Obviously, they never had an Asian in their midst before, much less one who would go up on stage and sing…and the deejay said that he expected me to sound something like this – and he started speaking like Peter Sellers as a Chinese character or one of those in the popular TV series, “Mind your language”. Since then, there was no turning back and I was there every Monday, week after week until it was time for me to pack my bags and leave and come home.

I also found out that the mobile karaoke guys would be here at The Good Companion…

…along Mayflower Street (I read somewhere that it has been demolished already) on Wednesday nights and of course, eventually, I made my way there too and it became my routine, going to sing my heart out twice a week. The crowd here was younger and they told me it was because the Plymouth University was close by so they would get a lot of international students from Russia and places in Europe at the pub.

Beer was only a £ a pint there and the exchange rate at the time was RM3.50 to £1, so cheap. Back home in Sibu then, I would have to fork out around RM10.00 or more for a mug of draught beer. This may come as a surprise to many – they did not open till late over there, believe it or not – singing started at 9.00 p.m. and ended by 11.00 p.m.

They had very good singers there, not like the ones in the aforementioned live streaming. There was a guy, Tony, who would sing “Mandy” without fail and a very young plus-sized girl would sing Sinead O’ Connor. I never got to know them personally though, never got to know their names but ever so often, I would meet some young people in the city centre and they would all be calling my name and waving at me and I could jolly well guess that they were “my friends” from the pubs.

My final night was at The Good Companion and the deejay announced that I was leaving and he did not think they would ever have anybody like me coming their way again. This was the last song I sang and everyone took out their lighters (no, they did not have handphones then) and waved the little flame in the air – I was so so touched, to say the least. Sadly, all I have left left now are the beautiful memories at Bruno’s and the Good Companion but one thing’s for sure – they are forever cherished and will always live on in my hearts.

Going back to the live streaming, they also have this one from a place called Two Friends at Key West – if I am not mistaken, that is in Florida in the US. They seem to have better singers there and they sure do have a lot of fun too. Too bad they did not have this when I was in Plymouth – the folks back home would be able to watch me singing live on Youtube. That would have been a blast!!!

Running back for more…

We enjoyed the prawns that my missus cooked that day that I simply had to run back to my favourite fish & seafood stall for more. Of course it was super delicious because of her recipe and her superb cooking skills but for one thing, those prawns had been in the freezer for way over a month before we took them out to cook and eat.

We were amazed by how they were still so very fresh and sweet, so firm and succulent unlike some that we might have had the displeasure of eating outside especially when most of the time they were so minute!!! That was why I decided to go back to the stall and buy some more.

Yes, this time around, the lady had three different sizes and prices and of course, I picked the biggest ones…

…going for RM38.00 a kilo. I think that was a little cheaper than the previous time but they did look a little bit smaller. There were 30 altogether, RM1.27 each.

Much to my delight, I saw that she had these…

…that morning. Gosh! I cannot remember the last time I had those, probably way before the outbreak of the pandemic. My missus would buy them sometimes when she went marketing.

We call these mini pek chio/ikan bawal putih/white or silver pomfret kilat which means lightning in Malay or shining, a word to describe a nicely polished car or pair of shoes, for instance. Normally, they are somewhat small but the ones I bought that morning were bigger than the palm of my hand! They were not all that cheap though – RM25.00 a kilo, same as or chio/ikan bawal hitam/black pomfret but I went ahead and bought 2 kilos, nonetheless, considering especially that we had not eaten these for such a long time and the nice lady was kind enough to ask her young assistant to clean all 18 of them for me – it would probably take me a long time if I were to do it myself.

We cooked half of the lot and kept the rest in the freezer for another day. We love them fried…

…till nicely done and a little crispy at the edges so I would just eat it all up except the head perhaps and parts with some bigger bones!

My goodness!!! They were so fresh, so sweet!!! I had never had any that was so so so good. You would usually find this fish at the chap fan (mixed rice) places, very small and absolutely bland, tasteless, not nice at all. They probably use those cheap frozen ones that they buy in bulk from the supermarkets or the frozen foods suppliers, this and all the other kinds of fish like kembong and the rest.

I certainly was pleased with my purchases, definitely worth it, value for money and look at what the kind and generous lady gave me…

She said that a friend of hers gave them to her, quite a lot, and asked her to make some chiew chu koi (tapioca cake) to give to her so she picked two good ones and said that I could have them.

I did manage to get to eat some when I went to Miri in 2019 and I did buy some here as well, also way back in 2019. That did not look like a lot but there was enough to fill one big bowl…

…and yes, it was very good. Actually, I dread buying this as sometimes, the texture of the tuber is not good, not edible and we would end up throwing it all away.

I sms-ed my sister to ask her if she wanted any and of course she did…and in no time at all, she was at our gate! We enjoy eating it with gula apong but since it is starchy and I am on a low-carbs, low-sugar diet, I have to refrain from going overboard – just a bit will do. After all, we do not get to eat this all that often.

I must say it was truly a really good day that day!

The fish stall is located to the right of CCL FRESH MINI MARKET against the wall at that end of the block to the right of the Grand Wonderful Hotel (2.309601, 111.845163) along Jalan Pipit, off Jalan Dr Wong Soon Kai, if you go in via the entrance where San Len Tyres is located, just before the Petronas petrol station a short distance from Delta Mall.

In the blink of an eye…

This is the last in a series of blogposts on my weekend trip to London in November, 1994. Indeed, it was a whirlwind visit, just over one weekend and it was over in the blink of an eye.

When we got up on Friday morning after our first night at the Malaysia House, the first thing we all did was to head downstairs to the basement for a truly Malaysian breakfast at the canteen there. Needless to say, after around two months in the UK, the nasi lemak tasted like heaven, absolutely something to die for!

I heard the others talking about waiting for some big shot to show up, the guy in charge of the Malaysian students in the UK. I don’t know if he was the ambassador or something but they said he managed the Malaysia House where we were staying. Of course, I had no intention of doing that so I went outside, giving the rest the impression that I was just going out for a bit of fresh air.

I walked to Regent Street and hopped on a double decker tour bus…

…and climbed on top and sat there in the open air and went on a tour of all the places of interest in the city.

I saw all of them – the Tower Bridge…

…Trafalgar Square, Westminister Abbey and all the rest. We even went past No. 10, Downing Street and Hard Rock Cafe, London too!

Actually, this was a hop on hop off bus and I could get off anywhere I liked to take photographs and get on the next one that came along but those were the days before the smartphone and selfies were unheard of…and I jolly well would not want to take photos without me in them for remembrance, just snapshots of sceneries – I might as well go and buy some postcards if I wanted those.

I ended the tour at Piccadilly Circus – that was where I stopped by a booking agent’s office and bought the tickets to the two musicals that I watched in a day that weekend in London. I also stopped by Planet Hollywood, London and bought a t-shirt from there – of course, I was the envy of all who saw me using it when I came back to Malaysia but personally, I preferred this cheap one…

…that I bought at a roadside stall at Regent Street.

Before I left the vicinity, I went to see what they had at The Rock Circus, the pop music spin-off of Madame Tussaud’s there. I sure enjoyed myself very much especially how when I walked near an exhibit…

…I would hear the popular songs by that singer or singers

…or groups.

After I was done there, I walked to Soho/Chinatown which people said was the red light district of London. No, I did not see anything (s)exciting at all or maybe I was not looking in all the right places. The only interesting thing that I stumbled upon there was an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch for only £2 at a Chinese restaurant. That was cheap and of course, I walked right in!

Unfortunately, what they were serving was most disappointing – what we call the F4 dinners at school parties. For the uninitiated, F4 was a very popular Taiwanese boy band at one time and an F4 dinner would have 4 choices – Fried rice, Fried noodles, Fried bihun and Fried kway teow but they did not have that last one, just another noodle dish instead and they called it Singapore Fried noodles. The difference was that those noodle dishes that we had at the school parties were quite nice but no, I would not say the same about these that I had in London for want of a whole lot of ingredients. They were all so bland, absolutely tasteless, so much so that I suspected they did not add any salt or msg even.

Thankfully, there was another option – fried chicken wings and of course, I feasted on those to eat my fill and get my money’s worth. I don’t remember anything else that transpired that day. I probably went back to my room at the Malaysia House and had an early night – I did not get to sleep the whole night the night before all the way in the coach from Plymouth to London.

The next morning, I sneaked off again and made my way to Madame Tussaud’s which actually was not very far away, walking distance. When I got there, I was shocked to see the queue…

…but thankfully, they were very fast and the line was moving the whole time! In no time at all, I was already inside the building where I met the Royal Family…

…and a whole lot of famous people and celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor…

…and all the rest. Personally, because I am more into music, I actually enjoyed The Rock Circus that I went to the day before more.

I went to watch the two musicals that afternoon and night and the next morning, I chanced upon a sexy model in her lingerie along Regent or was it Oxford Street and before I knew it, we were in the coach once more, on our way back to Plymouth. I guess it wasn’t much, really but at least, I’ve been to London – been there, done that! THE END.

Two in one…

I did blog about this before, briefly, but never mind – I don’t think I included all the juicy bits then! LOL!!!

Back to my weekend in London, England, 1994, on my first day there, Friday, I was in the vicinity of the Piccadilly Circus when I spotted a booking agent’s office among the shops close by. I approached the guy there quickly and asked for a ticket to Miss Saigon, the matinee the following day, Saturday. I was not all that keen on venturing out alone at night in a strange land. He said that would not be a problem at all and he collected £25 from me after which he told me that I would have to go back there the next day to collect it.

I went back the next day but he said that he could not get the ticket for the matinee, only for the show that night but he was willing to refund me the money. No, my mind was made up – Miss Saigon, I wanted to see so Miss Saigon I would get to see! I took the ticket from him and walked away.

Then, I turned and went back to the booking agent and asked him if there was any other show that I could watch since I had the afternoon free.

What do you have on mind?” he asked.

Phantom?” I replied and he burst out laughing, so amused by my response.

Come back next year!” he said.

He told me he had a ticket for Grease at the Dominion Theatre, not far away from where we were. walking distance and the show was about to start. He would give it to me at face value, £28.50 and yes, I took the offer. The next minute, I was on my way to the theatre – the guy walked with me most of the way to make sure I would not get lost and would get there in time.

There I was, seated so near to the stage…

…when I started having second thoughts. What was I doing there? I had watched the movie so many times in the cinema and on video tape and I knew all the songs. The exchange rate was only RM3.50 to a £ at the time – still, that came up to RM99.75 for the ticket but as soon as the show started, whatever reservation I had disappeared into thin air.

It sure was a fun show – everyone was clapping, cheering, singing and dancing away and of course, I happily joined in. This was the first musical I had watched in my entire life and it sure was an unforgettable experience! What I did not know then – I found out much later while browsing online – was that Debbie Gibson was playing the part of Sandy! Those of you who are familiar of the pop songs of the 80’s would probably know her big hit, Lost in your eyes.

It was dark already when I came out of the theatre – it was late autumn, coming to winter so it got dark very quickly. I had to rush back to Malaysia House (where we were staying) to bathe and change and head to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for Miss Saigon

…that same night.

As I was walking, a car pulled up by the side of the road right beside me. I saw a lady at the wheel and I thought it was one of those in our group. Probably she had been to see her relatives or friends residing in London and had borrowed a car and wanted to give me a lift. I approached the car, passenger side and the lady screened down the window. She was not very young, definitely no spring chicken, all dressed up in a fur coat.

I need company!” she cooed, seductively.

No, thank you!” I fumbled with my reply and quickly turned and went on my way as fast as I could. In my panic, I took the wrong turning at the junction ahead but luckily, I realised it soon enough so I went back the way I came and finally, got to Malaysia House, safe and sound. Phew!!!

In no time at all, I was on my way to the theatre and yes, I made it in ample time before the show started. There I was, perched high up in the gallery – we were given binoculars but I did not bother to use them and yes, I enjoyed it tremendously!

It was an epic drama…

…and I loved every minute of it right from the moment it started. I loved all the songs and luckily, I did not know them at the time so I was not singing my heart out – I would probably have done that if I had gone to see The Phantom. No, it wasn’t Lea Salonga anymore, playing the part of Kim but if I am not wrong, John Barrowman was Chris at the time. Anyway, I wouldn’t know him even if I knew it was him then. I only got to know him much later via Youtube.

When it came to the part when Kim had to say goodbye to her son, suddenly I missed my little girl back home in Sibu and the dam burst and I cried buckets!!! The young girl sitting beside me must be wondering why but at that parting scene where Kim shot herself and Chris came back into the house and they said their last goodbye, I saw the girl crying her eyeballs out! My friend in Auckland, New Zealand went to watch when the musical opened there and after she saw it, she grumbled that I did not tell her it was so so so sad. I guess she too cried her heart out! LOL!!!

It was already past 11 after the show ended and this “Cinderella” had to rush back to Malaysia House before they locked the door at midnight. Luckily, the couple behind me helped me and got me my ticket for the London Underground (I paid them, of course) – the machine rejected all the British currency I had with me! Yes, I made it just in time (many could not believe I had never been to London before seeing how I could get around without any problem whatsoever) and that was indeed a truly memorable day, one that I will never ever forget – TWO musicals in ONE day, believe it or not!

Incidentally, if anyone is interested in watching Miss Saigon, you can try these links in two parts, Part One and Part Two, on Youtube or you can try this link, for the better and clearer production than any you can find on Youtube, with Eva Noblezada as Kim and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi in the 25th Anniversary Gala Performance at the Prince Edward Theatre, London. Do make sure you have a box of tissue paper beside you and don’t say I did not warn you!