Write it down…

When my dad was in hospital, I noticed that the nurses were all very busy all the time. They were standing there writing…and writing…and writing. Then, it dawned on me that teachers are not the only ones all caught up in this documentation thing – everything would have to be recorded on paper. Keeping a detailed record probably has its uses and its place and time but what good would it do to have all those thick, gaily-wrapped and decorated files when the core duty of one’s profession and vocation is neglected – which is to provide tender loving nursing care to the poor ailing patients in their ward. I am pretty sure Florence Nightingale did not have to do any documentation whatsoever in the dim light of her lamp when she went round nursing all those wounded soldiers in the Crimean War!

Well, so it is with teachers these days. I praise the Lord and give thanks that it was not like that those days before I retired. There are so many to do and to be submitted online…and it sure does not help one bit that the connection in the rural areas here sucks big time!

For one thing, perhaps someone can tell me how on earth did the Teacher’s Record Book get lost in translation and become a (very detailed) Lesson Plan, I wonder? Even during my time, I did know of people who had really beautiful record books, very impressive penmanship and very tastefully decorated…but I was wishing I could say the exact same things about what they did in the classrooms.

Then, of course, there would be the long and endless meetings – as the English proverb goes, “Every ass loves to hear itself bray!” and all the programmes to carry out even though they do not seem to be of any benefit at all, and all the extra classes which often make me ask – what it is that a teacher, the same one, can do in an hour or two that he or she cannot do in so many periods in the classroom the whole week? Never mind! The documentation is there to show. They have done this…this…and this…and if the pupils still do not do well, they are not the ones to blame. Surely the true essence of education is not supposed to be like that? Aren’t they losing sight of the wood for the trees?

With all those things to be done, at the end of the day, one would be way too exhausted to mark the pupils’ work diligently and write carefully thought-out remarks that they could read and act upon to improve. One would also be way too exhausted to try and think of interesting and inspiring lessons to teach, ones that would motivate pupils to want to learn – no, just take something from the textbook and teach it from cover to cover and of course, one must not forget the most crucial thing – to write everything down to the most minute detail in the record book.

And with all those things to be done, at the end of the day, one would be way too exhausted to eat even, much less to cook something nice for dinner. That is why we will always pack some food for my girl to take to her school in her jungle – she can eat it if she feels like it or just throw away when she is too tired and does not have an appetite. In fact, that was what triggered all the ailments that emerged as a result of her gluten intolerance. She (and many of the rest too) were having oats for breakfast, lunch and dinner…every day and oats and barley, not just wheat alone, are also bad for individuals sensitive to gluten.

Well, I did cook some chicken curry that day and it turned out really nice so the mum saved some for her to take to her school and as I was not feeling well and everything was not tasting all that great, I reckoned I needed stronger tasting dishes to whet my appetite so I bought this Bangladeshi lamb curry (RM18.00)…

Payung Cafe Bangladeshi lamb curry

…and belimbing prawns (RM16.00)…

Payung Cafe belimbing prawns

…from Payung Café for our meals at home – with all the things going on in my life these past couple of months, it had been a while since I dropped by there and since I was there, I decided to pack this green curry chicken (RM17.00)…

Payung Cafe green curry chicken

…and lamb masala (RM18.00)….

Payung Cafe lamb masala

…for my girl to bring up.

This is my version of the ants up to the tree (螞蟻上樹)

Ants up to the tree

I had some leftover luncheon meat from the porridge dinner a few days earlier when I was unwell so I cut it into little cubes to use to fry a bit of tang hoon (glass noodles) that I saw lying around in the house and I added the leftover cangkuk manis that my missus fried for dinner the night before. In my house, nothing goes to waste, if I can help it!

I also made more meat balls…

Meat balls

…for my girl. Obviously she enjoyed the ones I did for her the week before and she said she did not mind some more and of course, it was no sooner said than done!

Hopefully sometime during the course of the week, she will find time to enjoy everything that I’ve prepared for her and hopefully, they will bring some welcome relief. I really loved and enjoyed teaching and being a teacher, no regrets whatsoever, but looking at the way it is now, I bless my lucky stars that I am out of all that madness.

PAYUNG  CAFE (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.

Come and go…

In Chinese (Hokkien) we say, “Oo lai oo khi,” which may be literally translated as got come, got go, something along the same line as the give and take philosophy in life.

Well, last Saturday, after the nasi Arab lunch, we went to the supermarket round the corner to browse around and I picked up some stuff that I thought would be nice for my girl’s colleague for the Gawai Festival coming up next week – the one who would give her a lift back to town every Friday unless there are matters arising and we would have to go and pick her instead which isn’t very often so that would save us a lot of trouble and cut our travelling/my driving by half, more or less.

No, she does not charge anything but my girl would chip in when they stop at a petrol station to fill up the tank and she would give her a little something (ang pao) periodically. That was why I thought it would be nice to give her something for the forthcoming auspicious occasion that she will be celebrating to express our gratitude and appreciation for her help all these years.

True to what they say, “As you give, thus shall you receive,” and that evening just before I went for the sunset service in church, I received word from my friend, Mary, asking me to drop by her restaurant the next morning as she and her crew would like to give me this steamed kampung chicken…

Steamed kampung chicken from Flavours Thai Kitchen

…for no apparent reason, just out of the goodness and generosity of her/their hearts. Isn’t that so very sweet of them?

When I went there that morning, Sunday, I decided to tapao my girl’s favourite, their pad Thai

Flavours Thai Kitchen pad Thai

…home and those were what we had for brunch that morning before we made our way to my girl’s school in the jungle for just one more week before the two-week mid-year holidays starting right after tomorrow, Friday.

We made our way home ourselves, my missus and I and after dinner that night, I got a surprise call from my dear friend, Richard. Why, it’s that time of year again and in no time at all, he was at my house to give me some of his awesomely yummy out-of-this-world simply-the-best own-made nyonya chang (meat dumplings)…

Richard's nyonya chang

…like what he will do year after year, without fail.

I googled to check and I found out that this year, the Dragon Boat or Chang Festival, also known as the Duanwu Festival will fall on the 30th of May,  Tuesday next week.

I had just had dinner but no, I could not possibly wait another day and that was why I immediately took one, unwrapped it…

Richard's nyonya chang, unwrapped

…and ate.

Boy!!! This Richard keeps getting better and better each year and this year, it was exceptionally good – none that I’ve bought in Kuching or Malacca nor those from Singapore would come anywhere close and look at all that meat in it…

Richard's nyonya chang, so much meat
*Sorry for the slightly blurry pic – the challenge of night photography with the insufficient lighting*

Thank you so so so much, Richard, and also to you, Mary & everybody at Flavours, both truly unexpected but most welcome indeed and I do believe these were special blessings for the insignificantly small gesture on my part to get a little something for my girl’s colleague for the Gawai Festival – what goes around comes around, got come, got go!

FLAVOURS THAI KITCHEN is located on the ground floor of the ORCHID HOTEL, along Brooke Drive at its junction with Jalan Tunku Osman. You can use its main entrance at the back of the hotel building (facing Brooke Drive) or go through the lobby past the reception desk if you are using its hotel entrance.

The other man’s grass…

The other man’s grass is always greener, the sun shines brighter on the other side.

The first time I had to fly to Langkawi on a working trip, a friend said to me, “You must buy the Kit Kat there!”

“Oh?” I responded. “Don’t we have lots of Kit Kat in our shops and supermarkets?”

“Theirs are imported,” she explained, “from Australia. They are creamier and very much nicer.”

Of course, I had to buy some but blame it on my retarded taste buds, I could not tell the difference and I would say that like our own locally manufactured products, not all imported stuff is necessarily good or better. For instance, the other day, my girl bought two packs of the imported Nice biscuits and two of the Teddy bear ones (that looked more like a lion to me) for me to enjoy. The expiry dates were drawing near so they were going for around RM4 something instead of the usual over RM7.00-8.00 each. They were all right but I do think our own Tiger biscuits are nicer though looking at the prices these days, they may not necessarily be cheaper than these discounted prices.

Of course, many have tried coming out with their own – here or in other countries overseas but none would come near those Kjeldsens Danish butter cookies and I do love those Scottish shortbread so much but unfortunately, I can’t afford to buy those to enjoy anymore these days. My eyes almost popped out at one supermarket that day – a regular-sized pack was going for over RM30.00! *faints*

It’s the same with these digestives…

Digestives

– this particular brand. I’ve tried others but somehow, they are simply not quite there. Not too long ago, I bought what looked quite the same, a bigger pack, but they were really horrible like they had gone all limp and the original taste was not there at all. I did not check to see where they were made but my girl could recall there were some Mandarin characters on the pack. But these came all the way from the UK and they are good and even at over RM9.00, I would buy once in a long while to enjoy.

They are only £1 in the UK…

One pound special

When I was there long ago, I used to look for these special offers – the ones selling at the regular prices were not quite within my budget, especially after converting them into our miserable ringgit. That should be over RM5.00 here but I guess those people would need to make a bit of profit after deducting the shipping charges, the overheads and all.

I am not a fan of ginger cookies but I do enjoy these…

Ginger nuts

…also from the UK…

From the UK

…going for around RM4.00 only so I would buy them sometimes to enjoy.

Then, the other day, I saw these…

Ovaltine biscuits

…and I decided to buy a pack to try, just over RM3.00 each!

I can recall during the British colonial days, people used to argue as to which one was better – Milo or Ovaltine. I don’t think I’ve seen the latter anywhere these days, just Milo…and I hear many complaining that it is not so nice anymore, nothing like what it was like in the good ol’ days when it was imported from England.

I checked the pack and found that it was not made in Malaysia…

Made in Thailand

…but in our neighbouring country.

I am not fond of biscuits with cream filling including those overly-sweet black ones with white filling, though I would not mind our Malaysian-made cheese crackers with peanut butter cream inside. To my delight, the filling in this one…

Ovaltine biscuits 1

…was so very nice. I absolutely love it! I wonder if that was the same as what I got from my Singapore friend sometime ago. I did try the other one and it was very nice and in the meantime, my sister saw something shared by somebody on Instagram or somewhere and he insisted it was nicer than Nutella so she asked me for it to try. Well, if it is the same, I would say it is really nice.

No, I will not be rushing out to grab a bottle – it is not available here, anyway but I sure wouldn’t mind buying some more of the biscuits…

Ovaltine biscuits 2

…but not that often. They are not really sweet but still, they are sweet and people my age should not be eating too much of those, everything in moderation.

I guess it’s like going some place to eat – not everywhere here or overseas will be good, we just need to know where to go and it’s the same with these biscuits/cookies. Most of the imported ones are a lot more expensive, of that we can be sure, but they are not necessarily nice(r) and on the other hand, we do have some usually more affordable and very nice local-made ones.

As the remaining lines of the chorus of that song in the above link go:
The other man’s grass is always greener
Some are lucky, some are not
But just be thankful for what you’ve got !

The day…

I did mention a couple of posts back that Facebook has this special feature where it will allow you to look at something you shared a year or more back and one of them the other day reminded me that it has been four years since the first time I drove my girl to Selangau to report for duty at the District Education Office there. That means that I’ve been driving along this road…

Sibu-Selangau road
*Archive photo*

…to her school, 99 km. from Sibu town, every Sunday, excluding school holidays, and at times, on other days as well, for not one or two or three but four long years now. It’s not a highway, just a trunk road linking some main towns in the  huge state of Sarawak, with just two lanes, one lane going and another lane coming back.

I remember it was not a very smooth drive at the beginning but with some upgrading works time and again…

Sibu-Selangau road, upgrading
*Archive photo*

…it became a lot nicer but of late, it seems that it is getting quite bad – potholes everywhere and shoddy patching jobs that do not last very long and with the construction of the pan-Borneo highway, a lot has been going on for sometime now. Hills are being levelled, people have been resettled and their (long)houses have been shifted or demolished. They have not started work on the highway proper but with the soil exposed, the rain would wash it all onto the road and it did not help one bit that there are people who will not slow down, rain or shine.

Last Sunday, there was a terrible storm and of course, my car was splashed all over each and every time those hell-raisers drove past. I do not understand why these recalcitrant characters do not seem to value their own lives nor do they have any respect for others. By the time I got back home, the whole vehicle was a terrible mess so I had to send it to the car wash right away.

My mechanic told me not to ask those people to clean my engine but he never explained why – he just said it would not be good. That was why I had to do it myself, wiping away till it was clean enough…

Car engine, cleaned

Well, the week-long school holidays are here which means that I would not need to drive down that road this Sunday so it should stay this clean for a while, at least.

With my girl home, she will be able to spend sometime with her grandparents – on working days, she is only able to drop by to see them once a week, on Saturdays. I don’t know if my father will want us to take him out or not. We just did that the other day – it was time once again for his fortnightly haircut.

While he was at his regular old-school barber shop, I browsed around the coffee shop next door and I saw this…

Pig's blood with chives

Gosh!!! The last time I had any was coincidentally four years ago as well, way back in 2013 at that coffee shop/food court in Sungai Merah that has since closed down for reasons unknown. I did not want to buy any as I knew my missus would not touch the stuff but she went and bought some home for dinner – it was very nice and she had the chives while I had the coagulated blood. Yum yummm!!!

Of course, after the haircut, we had to take my father to his favourite place in town for his Foochow fried noodles with added char siew (RM5.00)…

Y2K Cafe Foochow fried noodles with added char siew

…and I also had the same. He also tapao-ed a plate home for my mum and my missus had this so-called Singapore fried bihun (RM5.00)…

Y2K Cafe Singapore fried bihun

…which was nice with its pleasant wok hei fragrance but it was just fried bihun with curry powder added and other than some bits of char siew and some taugeh (bean sprouts) and egg in it, there wasn’t much of anything else so personally, I would not want to go for that, not at RM5.00 a plate.

I had gone to get the car when my father picked up the tab and on our way home, my missus told me that he had to fork out RM25.00 for the four plates of noodles and our two glasses of kopi-o-peng (my father did not want anything to drink). So does that mean that the coffee here is RM2.50 a glass, a lot more than at the regular coffee shops? I will want to find out next time but of course, this place is air-conditioned and I often saw people sitting around having some drinks, not eating, and chatting away the whole time we were there – maybe that is why, I wouldn’t know.

WU ZHAO PAI (2.289093, 111.827338) is located opposite Standard Chartered Bank at the bend turning into Ramin Way from Central Road and Y2K CAFE (2.294220, 111.825753) is located in the Tunku Osman area, round the corner from that block of shops where branches of AmBank & RHB Bank are located. The back entrance actually faces the side (right, not the main one) entrance/exit of Methodist Secondary School.

Temple of the king…

The Jade Dragon Temple or the the Yu Lung San Tien En Si Temple (玉龍山天恩寺) is located 27 km away from Sibu town. It is believed to be the largest not only in Malaysia but in South-east Asia as well, comprising 3 different forms of practice under one roof – Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

The colourful wall fronting the main Sibu-Mukah/Bintulu & Miri road has a nice dragon design…

Dragon on the wall

…on top.

There are a few big temples inside including this one…

Temple 2

…and this one…

Temple 2

…for instance, and other interesting structures…

Possibly, acknowledgements

…and arches…

Arch

…and pavilions…

Pavilion

…all over the sprawling compound and some intricate carvings (or carved tiles) and lovely paintings…

Fairies

…here and there…

7 fairies crossing the sea

There is also this circle of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac/horoscope surrounding a feng shui ball…

Chinese zodiac animals & feng shui ball

Probably, there is a fountain in the middle but it was not turned on when we were there that morning.

I did mention in an earlier post that we would drive past every Sunday when we sent our girl back to her school some 99 km away from Sibu but we never stopped by despite having heard a lot about this place of interest. That was why when my blogger friend, Nick, from Sungai Petani in Kedah, was here, I took the chance to come here on a visit.

If I am not wrong, this had been earmarked as a must-visit for tourists to Sibu but when I looked around at the place, I was somewhat disappointed by the dire need for good and proper maintenance. Some of the tiles had come off or were cracked or badly stained and there was some litter here and there. The toilets were obviously hardly ever used, not exactly dirty but I would not say they were very clean – as a matter of fact, the one that my missus used was not functioning properly – there was no water in the tank.

I don’t know if there is a permanent staff there to look after these things – I did see some building material and equipment being dumped all over the place but there wasn’t anybody working other than the two guys who were giving the wall a new coat of paint. 2017 being Visit Sibu Year, the authorities concerned should get into action quickly to spruce up the place so that it…

View of the main road from inside

…would be truly a place worth visiting while one is in Sibu.

One down, two to go…

Well, actually, it’s two down…and there’s only one more to go and if you’re all wondering what I am talking about, I bet this will ring a bell…

Bacon delights from Phong Hong
*Archive photo*

– the box of goodies that I received sometime ago from my blogger-friend, Phong Hong.

I tried their bacon jam spread on some baguette slices that I toasted lightly in the oven and it literally swept me off my feet. It was so so so good!!!

In the meantime, I did tune in to the interview conducted by my ol’ friend, Mag, from the TraxxFm days on AFORADIO, the online radio station when she spoke to the people behind this whole thing, John and Georgina…

The story

…and it seems that the name they picked – Five & Two Foods…

Five & Two Foods

…has some biblical implication. It is actually a reference to the 5 loaves and 2 fishes at the Sermon on the Mount and those of you who are familiar with it would know that they were distributed to feed a multitude of five thousand.

From the interview, I gathered that these products are not available on the shelves at the shops and supermarkets and anyone interested would have to order online at their website or Facebook page and they will send it to you, provided you live within the country, only in Malaysia, that is.

Well, I decided to try another one…

The original Bacon Sambal

…the other day and as we had a lot of leftover rice in the fridge, I reckoned I could use the sambal to fry it with.

No, I did not add a lot of ingredients – just a bit of finely-chopped garlic that I fried in a bit of oil till golden brown and then, I added around half a bottle of the sambal and then the rice. After sometime, I tried a bit and found that it was not salty. No!!!! I most certainly would not want to add the rest of what was in the bottle, the precious commodity – who knows when the next one will come my way again! In the end, I just added a few dashes of Thai fish sauce, two eggs and some chopped spring onions and dished it all out…

Bacon sambal fried rice 1

…and garnished it with some sliced chili and what was left of the chopped spring onions…

Bacon sambal fried rice 2

…and served.

It was all right, just that the taste of the sambal was lost in all that rice so much so that one could hardly detect it. I did have what was left with plain rice – just add a bit to the rice and eat and yes, it was a lot nicer this way and I enjoyed it with these crackers…

Bacon sambal with crackers

…too! Just dip one in, scoop out a bit of the sambal

Dip scoop eat

…and eat! Yummmm!!!!

Well, I would say that I liked the taste of the bacon jam a lot, very much more than this sambal which was, at best, all right, not really anything to get me real excited like the last time…and that leaves just one more to go – the Angry Bacon!

People say…

…it is expensive to eat here or at least, that was what I was told and she heard that from a friend just like what some people said about this place as well but personally, I feel that is a broad generalisation as there are many things one would need to consider – the place, the ambiance, the comfort…and of course, the food. If you order a whole lot of things including fish and prawns and lobsters or exclusive exotic stuff you can’t get elsewhere, surely you do not expect it to be anything but…cheap.

Let us look at what we had when we dropped by for lunch the other day. My girl wanted the phad thai (RM13.90)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen phad thai

…so that was what we had. This was the small but it was enough for the three of us so that would work out to RM4.00 something each. Expensive? You can see there were a lot of prawns and other things in it…whereas as some coffee shop stall, you may pay around the same for a plate with a whole lot of kway teow and soy sauce and lots of msg and egg, no prawns and even if there are any, you may just get a couple of miserably tiny ones.

For want of a bit more protein, I ordered the oyster omelette (19.50)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen oyster omelette

Not cheap, right? But wait a minute! There were a lot of oysters in it and those crustaceans sure do not come cheap.

For a bit more vegetables other than the taugeh ( bean sprouts) in the phad thai, I ordered the paku or wild jungle fern (RM13.50)…

Flavours Thai Kitchen paku

The small serving in a chu char restaurant would cost around RM10.00 but in this one, there was a lot more so much so that in the end, it was quite a struggle for us to finish all of it…plus it was much nicer too!

They charge 50 sen per head for iced water now and for that, they served us a big glass each plus a big jug full of ice cubes and water. They would charge you at any cheap coffee shop if you ask for ice cubes, don’t they? After all, they actually have to buy those from the factories these days – they do not make their own ice blocks anymore. The overall total on the bill came up to RM48.40 which would be more or less the same as what I had to fork out here or here and at a lot of other places in town and at times, even more!

In the meantime, we went to check out this place in town that is relatively new but I shall not mention the name nor show any photos of the place to avoid any unnecessary “complications”. It has some kind of coffee shop setting, maybe a little nicer than most, but at the end of the day, that is what it is – a coffee shop, non-air conditioned, no pleasant ambiance, nothing much really. Business looked very good that day – there were quite a lot of people eating there and that certainly showed a lot of promise.

Of course, what would be most important would be the food and I had their nasi bryani with mutton curry (RM15.00)…

Nasi bryani with mutton curry

…and it came in those stainless steel trays used in school and college hostels. Yes, I would say it was quite nice and yes, it was RM3.50 cheaper than here but the latter is a very much nicer and classier place right down to the way it is served there plus we do feel that the rice and curry there are way nicer than what I had here and the servings are more substantial as well. The tomato and egg and the cucumber pickle by the side were an added bonus but no, I did not think those were enough to save the day. Other than that, I saw some other people getting a piece of papadum with theirs but I did not get any with mine. No, I did not bother to ask for it – I just added that to the minus points I was giving to the place.

At this place that we frequent quite a lot, the nasi bryani with mutton curry, minus the sides but with a piece of papadum, is only RM8.00, up from RM7.00 in 2012 and I would say I like the one there a lot more, not just because of the price difference, of course – it is nicer and besides, the boss and everybody there are all very nice and friendly, all the smiling faces – something that I do not see here, not at all. I have never seen so many unhappy-looking people, to the extent of looking fierce or angry, at one place before and it made me wonder why they all looked that way.

My missus ordered their Sarawak kway teow (RM9.90)…

Sarawak kway teow

…that she said was nice and she enjoyed that though it got me wondering as to how it would qualify as “Sarawak” kway teow seeing that it was nothing more than just any other fried kway teow and with those two prawns on top and the banana leaf lining on the plate, I would think it was indeed way over-priced…for a coffee shop.

My girl wanted the ikan keli

Not available

– she loves catfish but we were informed that all the fish selections were not available that day. That is one thing that puts me off, my beta noire – to have an elaborate menu and in the end, this and that are all not available.

She wanted the Penang fried kway teow instead but I said that might have soy sauce in it so she picked the tom yam seafood kway teow (RM18.90)…

Tom yam seafood kway teow

…in the end. Yes, you read that right – RM18.90!!! At that price, I was expecting it to be teeming with fish, prawns and sotong (squid) but no, there wasn’t much seafood in it. “Mostly vegetables,” my girl said and I did see quite a bit of tofu puffs and some three or so not-very-big prawns…and though it tasted all right at that point in time, she complained about an unpleasant lingering taste on the tongue as we were going home, probably the result of an overdose of msg or whatever, I wouldn’t know.

The drinks were extremely slow in coming out – I had already finished my rice when they came and if I had known that the kopi-o-peng (iced black coffee) would be that bad, I would have just ordered a small bottle of drinking or mineral water instead.

The total on our bill came up to a shocking RM49.50 so compared to the place I was talking about earlier in the post, with its more pleasant and comfortable surroundings, better service a thousand-fold and very much nicer food, it would be pretty obvious which one would give better value for money and besides, with the music blasting at ear-splitting volume at this place (which reminded me of the time I took the wrong turn and walked straight into Little India in Penang), I could not wait for the ladies to finish and make a run for it…out of there as fast as I could.

So honestly, when people want to say that some place is expensive, they should qualify their sweeping remark and specify exactly why they feel so, compared to what and where, to substantiate and validate their opinion…but at the end of the day, the money is theirs. If they feel a place it is expensive, they are free to go elsewhere. I would…especially when I see no good reason whatsoever to come back for more.