The walk…

This is Bandong Walk…

Bandong Walk

Those who were around in the 70’s and 80’s would probably remember the glory days when the eateries here would be jam-packed with people. It was a very popular place where the younger set would hang out at night, enjoying the food and one another’s company. Eventually, the crowd stopped coming – I hear it was because the place got very dirty and was infested with rats.

I must say that I am very impressed by the effort made by the people concerned to upgrade the place – the area in between the block of shops is near completion but I have no idea as to when it will reopen for business. I do hope that everyone, shop owners and members of the public alike, would make a concerted effort to keep the place very nice and clean and not let it go to rot all over again.

For some reason, some of the stalls by the side of the road are not open any time of day though I did gather from a reliable source that all of them have been rented out to somebody. Perhaps some of them only open at night and some only in the morning, like this one, for instance…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk, new sign

– my favourite nasi lemak in town!

They do seem to be enjoying brisk business…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk, stall

…which is good as that would mean that it will definitely make enough and more to keep them going and I can continue to drop by to enjoy the nasi lemak

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk nasi lemak sambal sotong 1

…there or have it packed to take home and eat.

There is a canopy at the back and customers can sit in that somewhat makeshift area…

Bandong Walk, under the canopy

…to enjoy their breakfast. Personally, I am of the opinion that they should have something more proper, more presentable and a lot nicer.

I had the coffee…

Bandong Walk kopi-o kao

…from the stall beside the nasi lemak stall and surprisingly, it was really very good. Often have I complained that the coffee at the Malay shops are quite hopeless, not nice at all but this one is one of the few exceptions to the rule and believe it or not, it was just RM1.00 a glass!!!

There is another stall next to the drinks stall where a lady would be frying noodles and I noticed that she even sells kampua mee. Perhaps one of these days, I would drop by again to give it a try.

Back to the nasi lemak, it certainly is cheaper…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk, price list

…than the ones at the shops and what I had, with the sambal sotong (squid)…

Nasi Lemak Bandong Walk nasi lemak sambal sotong 2

…was RM3.00 plus RM1.50, RM4.50 only altogether, the same as what one would need to fork out if one would go for the regular here and elsewhere.

To me, a good nasi lemak would be one whereby the rice is really lemak, rich with the taste and fragrance of santan (coconut milk) and would taste so good without it being drowned by a multitude of sins and this is just about the only one that I have tried and enjoyed that truly lives up to its name.

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. 

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You ruin me…

It was in early 2013 when my girl was posted to her current school in the jungle, 99 km along the Sibu-Bintulu trunk road so it has been over 5 years now, going into her sixth year right now and sadly, she has not been successful in her applications to move to a school closer to home.

It  could have been a somewhat nice school if the people concerned had been more pro-active and had maintained the place, facilities and all really well and if they have a steady supply of electricity and are not dependent on generators and have a more reliable supply of diesel but no, this post is not going to be about the school. Perhaps I shall get round to it in the not-too-distant future but right now, I would like to highlight the problem I face every week when I drive to her school to pick her on Fridays and come back together or when I send her there on Sundays.

Initially, the road was fine…

Sibu-Bintulu Road 2013
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu, 2013*

…though not all that great – maybe I was not too familiar with it and I had the tendency to go too fast. That probably was because it seemed so far away so I had to hurry there, do what we had to do such as cleaning the place up and what not and rush back again but there were regular upgrading and resurfacing works…

Upgrading & resurfacing
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu, 2013*

…and the little inconvenience at the time sure paid off and the road seemed to get better and better after a couple of years or maybe it was because I was so familiar with it by then, like the back of my hand, so to speak, so I would know every pothole there was along the way.

Eventually, I found myself enjoying the leisurely drive…

Batu 36 Sibu-Bintulu
*Archive photo*

…week after week after week. Of course, there would be those recalcitrant drivers in their 4WDs or pick-up trucks, those huge inter-town buses and even overloaded trucks like this one…

Overloaded

…driving like there is no tomorrow but experience has taught me to avoid those and give way to them, let them overtake, if they are coming from behind. The speed limit here is 90 kmph and if I was doing 80-90 kmph and they could overtake me and disappear out of sight, one can imagine how fast they were going. No worries though, over the years I hardly ever saw any police personnel on patrol even though there is a station at Stapang and this nice one, flats and all…

Police, Selangau
*Archive photo*

…at Selangau so those hell-raisers can just go ahead and race themselves to kingdom come!

The overtaking lanes constructed at three places did help somewhat but unfortunately, they are in a rather bad shape these days. Besides, it seems to me that most everyone thinks they are F1 drivers the moment they reach those lanes and they would go so very fast like they are afraid of people overtaking them. Obviously, these people are suffering from some kind of inferiority complex and would need to go and see a psychiatrist.

There are only two lanes, one going and one coming…

Two lanes
*Archive photo: Sibu-Bintulu 2013*

…so if there is a slow coach in front…

Slow coach
*Under-powered and overloaded*

…on days like some weekends, especially after a long weekend or a festival, when the lines of cars are simply unending, one will just have to follow quietly and patiently.

Then there were those left-wing people (they are right wing now) who kept making a whole lot of noise asking for a highway like those multi-lane ones in the mainland. Why, the father and son came to Sibu when the YB at the time died of cancer and there was a by-election and the old man commented that driving on the roads here was like riding on horses – and that got me wondering as to whether they ever did ride on horses before.

That was how it all started, the construction of the Pan-Borneo Highway. Slopes were bulldozed and flattened, vast areas of jungle were cleared, longhouses and other houses along the way were demolished but works went on at a snail’s pace. On my weekly drives, along the way I could count the number of people that I saw working with one hand and when it rained, flash floods would occur and the water would wash the mud onto the road rendering it quite invisible so I would have to drive very very slowly, praying and hoping that I would not run over a giant pothole or go into the drain.

Lately, they have had all the detours along this once relatively straight road so you would have to turn right here…

Lencongan 1

…and left there…

Lencongan 2

…go down the slope here and up the slope there…

Lencongan 3

…twisting and turning like a snake…

Lencongan 4

…and it would not be so bad if these lencongans had been well-made. Maybe it is because they are meant to be temporary so the quality is bad and they have been done hastily in a slip-shod manner so give it a week or two, there will be potholes, BIG ones, all over, a whole lot of very uneven parts and going over those, I would hear the LOUD crunching sound of my car being dragged along. Suffice to say that with the construction of what we call the Pain-Borneo Highway, the once rather nice road has been completely ruined!!!

I hear that construction has been held back pending investigation of the main contractor and the sub-contractor and the sub-sub-contractor etc…etc…etc… Word has it that the ones right at the bottom line, doing all the work, get paid very little, if at all.

Our population is smaller, our traffic volume is much less than over in the peninsula – personally, I do not feel we really need a highway. It would have been a lot better if all the money had been spent gradually and progressively on maintaining and upgrading the road and at most, a few more of those overtaking lanes would do fine but I guess it is too late to turn back – the whole road is one horrendous mess and it gets worse by the day! Looking at the progress going on so very very slowly, I really do not think I, and many of those at the top as well, including the one at the very top, will get to see its completion…in our lifetime.

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.

Before the sun sets…

That day, after the not-very-fruitful visit to the Ramadan Bazaar, I had one restaurant in mind for our dinner and since it was a public holiday, it was not that difficult to find a parking space – normally, we would avoid the area as trying to park the car would be near impossible unless one is really very lucky.

However, it was just after 5.00 p.m. and the place would not be open till 6.00 p.m…

Opens at 6.00 p.m.

…so we decided to go to the pasar malam (night market)

Sibu Night Market

…close by to stroll around. They moved it back to the original place not long ago but they are back here again now, the place where they call the Butterfly Garden, for whatever reason, I wouldn’t know. Those as old as me would remember this place as the location of the old bus terminal way back in the 50’s and 60’s and maybe right through the 70’s.

They were saying that there would be some massive renovations done to make the site much nicer, with a roof and all, but I did not notice any difference from the way it was before. For one thing, with the shops/buildings all around, though not protected from the rain, this place is well-shaded so one would not need to endure the unbearable heat of the scorching sun – this was just before the sun had set so it was still very sunny at the time.

We were early so there were not that many people around…

Pasar Malam stalls, Chinese

…and many stalls were not even up yet.

A lot of them were food stalls – one can grab a pack of chap fan (mixed rice) from this one…

Chap fan

…and I saw that a number of these roast meat stalls…

Roast meat

…were all ready to roll.

I spotted this dumpling stall…

Dumpling stall

…that I did not see before on my previous trips – probably, it is new…

Dumplings

…like one lok lok stall but I did not take a photograph of that one and of course, there are those stuffed kompia and Sibu-style sio bee

Kompia & sio bee

…but I wouldn’t know if they are any good or not as I have never tried any of those from here before.

For some, the booze…

Booze

…and the cigarettes…

Cigarettes

…at the pasar malam are an attraction, with some unique brands not usually available at the shops.

There is a section with all the Malay/halal food stalls…

Halal section

…and another section selling non-edibles…

Non-edibles

…including this one where I was attracted to the ethnic native Dayak prints of the sarong.

Sarong

This dog…

Dog in boots

…sure got a lot of attention but no, it was the stall-owner’s pet, not for sale.

It was way past 5.30 p.m. already when we were making our way back to the restaurant when I spotted the handsome boy setting up their stall…

Handsome boy

– they had just arrived and thankfully, they had some pre-fried at home…

Tee peang

…so we were able to grab all we wanted without having to wait for them to fry and buy them straight from the wok.

After that, it was dinner time but that will be in the next post. Stick around!

The quiet side…

After the disappointment on the first day of Ramadan – there wasn’t anything that tickled our fancy at the bazaar we went to and my girl and I did not buy anything at all even though my missus did tapao some sambal petai udang (stink beans with prawns) and sambal terung (brinjal/egg plant) which were very nice but very expensive and she got only a little bit of each, very little considering that she paid at least RM10.00 for one – we went to our preferred one on the second day, the one that we would go to every year.

It was a Friday so I asked my missus and my girl to look for some nice stuff that the latter would like for dinner, some ikan bakar (grilled fish) or sotong bakar (grilled squid) perhaps – it was our no-meat day so we were abstaining from all the alluring meat delights that we saw at the bazaar.

In the meantime, I walked around slowly looking at all the things they had in store at every stall…right up to the very far end of the bazaar, the quiet side which did not seem to get a lot of attention and was not so crowded. There, at the very last stall in the line, I spotted one with a very young girl and an even younger boy, probably the brother, sitting there waiting for somebody to stop by. Poor things, I thought! So, of course, I went over to have a look at what they had to sell and I decided I would buy something from them just to help them a bit in their undertaking.

In the end, I bought this sambal buah (RM4.00)…

Pasar Ramadan sambal buah mangga 1

…which they made out of unripened mango. It was very nice, with the right level of spiciness but very very sour so my missus added a bit of sugar to counter-balance the overly-sourish taste and it was just nice after that…

Pasar Ramadan sambal buah mangga 2

We sure enjoyed it with our rice for dinner that night and finished it all in one sitting.

They were also selling umai, the Melanau “raw” fish delight, daging masak hitam at only RM5.00 a tub (I saw some selling the same at RM7.00 at some other stalls but of course, they may have more inside, I wouldn’t know) and chicken curry too. I decided to buy their fish curry (RM6.00)…

Pasar Ramadan fish curry 1

…which turned out to be very nice too but it was a bit salty. I guess it is kind of difficult for those people to cook at this time of year when they are not able to taste their cooking to see if everything is all right.

My missus added a bit of water when heating it up and it was not too bad after that. The gravy went very well with rice and the fish…

Pasar Ramadan fish curry 2

…was good too, The girl did tell me the name of the fish but I am no good at those so it did not ring a bell.

I got this tempeh (RM2.00)…

Pasar Ramadan tempeh

…from another stall thinking that my girl would like it – she enjoys tempeh very much but unfortunately, it was in dire need of a lot more ingredients other than the few ikan bilis that I could see in it as it was, at best, just salty and not very tasty, definitely not anything I would want to buy again.

At another stall, I saw this kuih bungkur (RM2.00 for a pack of 3)…

Pasar Ramadan kuih bungkur 1

…which were smaller than the regular ones, usually sold singly and knowing how my girl loves this, of course, I had to buy a few packs home.

I was not too comfortable with how they had used the stapler…

Pasar Ramadan kuih bungkur 2

…to staple the banana leaves together – normally, they would use a toothpick or a lidi (skewer) but I guess as long as one is careful in removing it and getting it out of the way, it would not matter all that much.

Being made from ground rice or rice flour, this lovely pudding…

Pasar Ramadan kuih bungkur 3

…with gula apong (nipah palm sugar) at the bottom makes a very nice light dessert that we could enjoy after a meal.

Then, at another stall, I saw this tofu fa (RM2.00)…

Pasar Ramadan tofu fa 1

…with gula Melaka (palm sugar). Usually, at the Chinese stalls and shops, they will use sugar syrup which, I feel, is not as nice. Having said that, the texture of the tofu fa in this one is not that silky and smooth…

Pasar Ramadan tofu fa 2

…but it was all right and I did enjoy it very much.

So that was it for the 2nd day of Ramadan. Hang on to see what’s in store on the 3rd day. LOL!!!

THE BANDONG RAMADAN BAZAAR (2.314192, 111.825581) is located around the shops at Jalan Bandong and all along Bandong Walk, somewhere around the primary schools and the surau in the vicinity.

The story of a small town…

If you were into Mandarin movies in the 80’s, you probably would have seen this one (小城故事) starring Kenny Bee and Lin Fong Chiao with Teresa Teng singing the beautiful theme song. I did go and watch the movie at a cinema here way back then but no, I did not think much of it though I do love the very melodious song to this day.

Anyway, there is this small town in the Sarikei District/Division – the mere mention of its name, Jakar (2.043039, 111.494602), would make people think of the celebrated prawn noodles there

Jakar prawn noodles
*Archive photo*

…and the last time my friend, Annie, was back home from KL, she went there with her mum and family and bought me the very nice sio bee (meat dumplings) from there.

I tried and I really liked them a lot

Jakar sio bee
*Archive photo*

…and I did go round looking for them all over town because I heard that they are sold at some places around here. Unfortunately, I have not been very successful – as a matter of fact, I even mentioned it to the boss’ son at this shop as his father would go to Sarikei on alternate days to stock up on stuff for sale but so far, I have not seen them at the shop so I guess they are not all that keen.

Well, Annie was back again for a couple of days to exercise her democratic rights and for some reason, her constituency was in Sarikei so she had to go all the way there to cast her vote. This time around, she got me not one but three packets…

Sarikei Jakar shumai

…for me to enjoy. For sure I would go through them slowly, a few at a time to stretch it for as long as I can.

I also heard from the guy at the hair salon that I would go to that the coffee at Jakar was his favourite – none in Sibu could come near it, he said. I never had the chance to try but that day, Annie got me a pack of that…

Jakar coffee 1

…from this renowned coffee manufacturer there (2.038381, 111.492155)…

Jakar coffee 2

I came across some photographs taken by my friend at their factory…

Jakar coffee 3
*Philip Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…so I asked for his permission to share some of them…

Jakar coffee 4
*Philip Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…here in my blog…

Jakar coffee 5
*Philip Hii’s photo on Facebook*

…and he gave me the green light, thank you so much, Philip!

For one thing, they roast the coffee beans with butter added…

Jakar coffee 6

The one here did that too but the last time I spoke to the guy, he said that they would mix margarine these days as butter is way too expensive. Of course, that would mean that their coffee would not be as nice as in the good ol’ days anymore.

Well, I’ve given it a try. They came in sachets…

Jakar coffee 7

…so I just put one in a cup and poured hot water into it.

It was nice but I am not so used to our local coffee without sugar, unlike the mug of Nescafe that I would have every morning, so I added a little bit…

Jakar coffee 8

…and I quite enjoyed it. However, it was not kao (strong) enough for me – I think I would prefer the powder that I can use to brew the coffee using my good ol’ percolator. I bet that would be a whole lot nicer.

Thank you, Annie, for the goodies from Jakar and for going through the trouble of getting me some stuff from there even though you were rushing for time during your lightning visit here.

Shopping…

My girl came home last Tuesday to exercise her democratic right the next day and that evening, she cooked this potato gnocchi dish…

Potato gnocchi with bacon & enoki mushrooms & alfredo sauce 1

…with bacon and enoki mushroom and her own-made alfredo sauce…

Potato gnocchi with bacon & enoki mushroom & alfredo sauce 2

…and yes, it turned out really well. We sure enjoyed that!

For dessert, we had this pumpkin sago…

Pumpkin sago

…that the mum cooked. I had been wanting to try that since I saw it in their menu here and it seemed the two ladies, while on one of their outings, stopped there and my girl had that and loved it a lot.

After that delightful dinner, we decided to go and check out this new place…

Country Grocers

…at the mall since renamed Swan Square – it so happened that it had its soft opening on that very day itself. Giant Hypermart used to be here but it has since closed down and this one has taken over the premises.

I saw Adibah

Adibah Noor

…next door and since she kept insisting, “Masuklah! Masuklah!” so I went in and bought a few packets of organic fertilisers for the plants in my garden.

The new grocery store was pretty much the same like any other supermarket except that this one has a lot of stuff from Japan…

Japanese Kit Kat

…and Korea…

Korean products

…and  of course, my girl was thrilled by all the stuff available…

Sauces

She ended up buying these Korean instant porridge…

Korean instant porridge

…that my cousin in Kuching said was nice, abalone and beef.

They had this wagyu beef…

Wagyu beef

…too but of course, I did not buy that, not that price…

Wagyu beef, price

…thank you very much – not something for poor old pensioners like me, that’s for sure.

I was also shocked to see the current price of my favourite Danish butter cookies…

Butter cookies

…these days. Well, there are things I can live without and this would be one of them but of course, if anyone is thinking of what to get me for my birthday or Christmas or for whatever reason, I shall be most happy to accept with both hands wide open! Hehehehehehe!!!!

This is new – the seating area…

Country Grocers, seating area

They did not have it before when Giant was here. I think one can have chap fan/nasi campur (mixed rice), sandwiches, buns and cakes from the bakery or one of these roast chicken…

Country Grocers roast chicken

…or whatever else that they may have there.

There were a lot of people that night – hopefully, business will always be that good so this place will stay open unlike the one before it.

COUNTRY GROCERS (2.325350, 111.85349) is located at the mall where Giant Hypermart used to be, along Jalan Ling Kai Cheng, on your right if you are coming from town, right after SMK Bandar Sibu.