O Christmas tree…

It’s New Year’s Eve today.

If I am not wrong, like in previous years, there will be a countdown tonight at the Sibu Town Square…

Christmas at the Sibu Town Square

…and the winner of the Christmas Tree competition for this year…

Some of the Christmas trees

…will be announced.

The weather was fine that day, a few days before Christmas, so we went to have a look around and I was pleased to see that there were two out the many that depicted the true meaning of Christmas, this one…

Nativity scene 1

…and this one…

Nativity scene 2

In the past, if I am not wrong, they would insist on the use of recycled material to make those Christmas trees – I don’t know if the ruling still stands but it did appear that most did not bother to toe the line.

Of course, I grabbed the opportunity to take a snapshot of this one…

Peter's masterpiece

…that my good friend, Peter, the boss of Payung Café was commissioned to produce and he used those palm leaves that he had used before at his café or for the decoration elsewhere. If you look closely, you can even see the rattan baskets…

Recycled material

…that you will often get to see if you go to Payung to enjoy all the delights they have to offer there.

Thankfully, I was able to take some photographs before the sun went down…

Angels

…as it got dark quite quickly. There were not many people around that day, just some people walking around, taking selfies and wefies, and kids playing with bubbles here…

Bubbles 1

…and there…

Bubbles 2

I had expected a crowd but it was somewhat quiet and parking was a breeze and there wasn’t any traffic jam, not at all.

The annual food fair was on, right across the road, but we did not bother to walk over – those that we had been to before weren’t exactly anything to get us excited, nothing worth going back for more. Personally, I do feel that the organisers will have to think of something to attract more people to come. Generally, there would be the same things over and over again and the things sold are somewhat expensive and not all that nice.

It had been raining quite a lot  around that time, strong winds and all and I heard there was a short circuit and some of the small trees and one of those in the competition caught fire. They had repaired the latter so that one was fine when we went that day but the main one and all those around it were standing in the dark…

In the dark

Maybe that was why there were not so many people but I did see some friends sharing photographs taken a few days before Christmas and it did look like they had got everything fixed and the trees were shining brightly once more. Well, at least, in the dim light, I managed to catch a glimpse of Santa riding away in his sleigh…

Santa 2

So what plans do you all have in store for this evening to say goodbye to 2017 and to ring in the new year, 2018?

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The music played…

Personally, I do think that it matters a lot the songs and music that people play at their cafés and restaurants, and needless to say, the volume at which it is played. For one thing, what they pick should fit the theme of their eatery – if it is Italian, then some nice Italian melodies would be very nice, not the current or retro pop hits that stick out like a sore thumb.

I like it a lot when they play the very sweet and soothing keroncong songs or some light ethnic sape music at Payung Café or even some light jazz music – it just complements the comfortably relaxing ambiance of the place…unlike the ear-splitting techno music they had at one place here – I just could not wait to finish eating and rush out of the place!

I was at this new place…

Sarindu 1

…in town and they were playing this lovely guitar acoustic versions of the Malay rock songs from days gone by and it sure made me feel good and dining there a pleasure.

According to this article in a local Malay tabloid, it is an Indonesian franchise…

Personalised plates

…and yes, I did go to the kitchen at the back to talk to the guy – he is Indonesian all right, assisted by a not-so-young local Malay lady. It is located in the vicinity of what they call the Sibu Twin Towers…

Sibu Twin Towers

…near the Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum in the Sibu Town Square Phase 2.

It is not a very big place, somewhat simple with hardly any decor or ambiance to talk about…

Sarindu 2

…but you can go up the stairs to the air-conditioned section on the first floor. I was quite happy to stay where I was, with my feet on the ground.

Looking at the prices on their menu…

Sarindu menu

…it certainly appeared that things here do not come cheap or at least, not as cheap as at the regular coffee shops.

Even water was RM2.00…

Sarindu MOMA water

…but at least, they served the much-talked about MOMA water – if I am not wrong, this costs more than mineral or drinking water.

My missus had their sotong bakar (RM14.22, inclusive of GST)…

Sarindu sotong bakar 1

…but it did not come with rice so we had to order that separately (RM1.60, inclusive of GST).

The sotong or squid…

Sarindu sotong bakar 2

…was very tasty and also very nicely done, just right and not overdone till it became hard and rubbery.

I had the ikan tenggiri bakar (RM12.40, inclusive of GST, with rice)…

Sarindu tenggiri bakar 1

…and the fish was nicely done…

Sarindu tenggiri bakar 2

…too and tasty. It was not all that sweet and nice as the fresh ones I would get from the market or here or whatever fish in whichever way they would cook it here but with the sambals/sauces they gave…

Sarindu sauces

…I quite enjoyed it.

And of course, the music that they played helped…in one way or another.

Presently, they do not have any off days so they are open 7 days a week from 11.00 a.m. till 11.00 p.m. and till 12 midnight on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

SARINDU (2.291510, 111.821170) is located at No. 15, Jalan Lau King Howe in the vicinity of the Sibu Twin Towers at the Sibu Town Square Phase 2, a stone’s throw away from the Lau King Howe Hospital Memorial Museum.

Where you wanna go…

When my sister-in-law was in town, I took her around the no-longer-all-that-familiar places in Sibu and the new ones like the UniCity area and I drove her round the university campus after which we dropped by the Sungai Merah Heritage Walk but the recently-opened pasar malam (night market) there was such a disappointment. Only around 3 or 4 stalls were open and we did ask one of them and he said that all the others had called it a day. Ain’t that sad?

The place in itself was in dire need of maintenance – the Lovers’ Bridge looked so pathetic…

Lovers' Bridge

…and to think that this year, 2017, is Visit Sibu Year…

Visit Sibu Year 2017

…I simply cannot imagine tourists coming here and seeing everything in such a miserable state. Since there was nothing much we could buy to eat and enjoy, we stopped by here on our way home and had dinner there instead.

The next day, for our lunch, I wanted to take her for something that she enjoys very much so we stopped by here only to find that the people running the stall with the very nice own-made fish balls had terminated their business or moved elsewhere. I tried this place next but even though it was still early, around 11.30 a.m., the coffee shop was already closed. I did hear that the drinks people here would like to close early as they would open again in the evening and stay open till quite late into the night.

We ended up here…

Yong Chuan Fish Noodles House

…eventually and yes, my sister-in-law got to enjoy her zhao chai hung ngang (RM6.00)…

Yong Chuan zhao chai hung ngang

– the sourish preserved vegetable soup with the big bihun, one of the local Foochow delights, and they certainly were very generous with the fish slices and their own-made fish balls. She loved it so very much and kept praising it to the skies. She did say that they also have that in Kuching but the one she had here wins hands down.

I had the one with the clear soup (RM6.00)…

Yong Chuan fish hung ngang, clear soup

– fat people are not so into sour things while my missus had the sour and spicy tom yam version (RM6.00)…

Yong Chuan tom yam fish hung ngang

…of the same and she too enjoyed it a lot.

YONG CHUAN FISH NOODLES HOUSE (2.308016, 111.848896) is located among the shops on the right (next to WikiTea) along Lorong Sena 8, off Jalan Sena, directly opposite SMK Deshon.

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.