One more night…

I hate to admit it but I’m really no spring chicken anymore. After the “marathon” from 8.00 am to 4.00 pm, I was really totally drained out. My friends asked me out again but I had to decline as I badly needed a rest. So the moment I got back to the hotel, I had a nap…and when I woke up at around 6, I bathed…and went looking for dinner.

I still remember on my last trip to give a talk to the students of St Michael’s here in Sandakan, some of the lady teachers took me for lunch at this place called De Palm…

De Palm, Sandakan

We had the set lunch then and it was very nice, so this time around, I had the set dinner. First, I was served this rich and creamy chicken tikka soup with toasted garlic bread…

Chicken tikka soup and garlic bread

After savouring the soup to the last drop and devouring the two slices of french loaf with garlic butter spread down to the last crumb (which were very small), the main course came – mushroom sirloin steak…

Mushroom sirloin steak

It was heavenly and I loved the gravy. I can’t remember the name but it certainly was a welcome change from the usual mushroom or black pepper sauce. I liked the way they did the potatoes too; gotta try it sometime! Anyway, the usual ice cream and coffee followed…and the total damage was RM28. Reasonable, right? After that, I went back to the hotel and slept till morning, so don’t bother asking me about any Filipino chicks. I wouldn’t know! LOL!!!

The next morning at around 7, Lily came to pick me up and on the way to the airport, we stopped for breakfast at this fish noodle stall…

Sandakan fish noodles stall

The specialty was fish noodles…or noodles made of fish. I had never had anything like that before and so I agreed to try the fish noodles – konlou style…

Fish noodles konlou style

It tasted like fish cakes cut into long thin strips like kway teow and if that was konlou, it certainly is different from Kuching kolo mee or Sibu kampua. I saw somebody having the actual konlou mee…and it looked more like Sibu kampua with soy sauce but I am pretty sure that they taste quite different. I think I would very much prefer our own homegrown delicacies. Well, there was also this soup to go with the noodles…

Sandakan - soup for fish noodles

That was in fact yong tau fu…and I’ve always liked that…or any clear soup for that matter. And then Lily dropped me off at the airport to catch my flight to KK. It was a good trip, no doubt about that, and I certainly hope to get the opportunity to go there again someday…

Listen…

I must say in no uncertain terms that I was extremely impressed by the positve attitude of the English Language teachers in Sandakan or at least, the 70 over who attended the talk that I gave on how to help students do well in the English Language 1119 papers in the SPM Examination. They actually signed up on their own accord and paid RM30 per head, and they were punctual and attentive throughout…

Sandakan Seminar 1

Here, the department would organise such courses or workshops for teachers and they would go grudgingly (forced by the school authorities) even though it was free of charge and they could claim this and that (Of course, this was what many would be most interested in!). I had on many occasions seen teachers who would appear around 8.00 a.m. to go for breakfast when the thing was supposed to start at 8.00 a.m. sharp, or teachers who would drag themselves in and the first thing they would ask you was, “At what time is this thing going to finish?”, or teachers who would sulk all day or spend their time talking in their group or outside the room on their handphones. Some would grumble to you blatantly that in school, they would only teach (I wonder how much of that they would actually do!) half a day but when they had to attend a course, they would have to stay till 4 or 5.00 p.m. Sometimes I really wondered why the people concerned would even bother to “cast pearls before swines”! Well, to be fair, there are some good ones here too, but sadly, they are outnumbered…especially when it comes to paying money to attend something that may be of benefit to them!

But the Sandakan teachers were not in any way like that. There were some who had attended a similar talk that I had given a few years ago and yet they wanted to come again. It felt good when they told me that they had tried out my suggestions and it had helped their students and the school examination results had improved, for instance the lady in white in the photograph below…and there was this Mr Lim from SM Sung Siew who was at my previous talk and he came again even though he would retire in 2 years’ time (He would have retired this year but he has opted for 58!). Even during the afternoon slot, they were all ears, participating actively by asking questions and giving opinions and laughing at my jokes…and when it was all over, so many of them took the trouble and time to come up front to say “thank you”. Thumbs up to everybody who was at the talk that day! Keep up the spirit and I am sure things can only be better in the days ahead…

Sandakan Seminar 2

There were two tea breaks – one in the morning and one on the afternoon and lunch was provided…

Sandakan Seminar Lunch Break

(Actually, I am including the above photograph because I thought that guy resembles Gundot’s handsome hubby aka Tom Selleck! LOL!!!) It was nothing fanciful…just the usual stuff like curry chicken…

Sandakan Seminar Lunch 2

…and a fish dish as well…

Sandakan Seminar Lunch 3

and also a vegetable dish (bean sprouts) plus fruits (watermelon) for dessert. It wasn’t much but I did not hear a word of complaint…unlike when we had courses here and meals were provided by the hotels used as venues; there were nothing but complaints…complaints…and complaints! I would blush each time I went through their feedback forms and saw where their priorities lay. One would really wonder how pathetic they could get!

Anyway, we had a long lunch break from 12 noon to 2.00 p.m. so my lady friends suggested that we went to 7-Heaven…

7-Heaven Sandakan 1

7-Heaven Sandakan 2 

Now, now! Wait a minute!…..I hope the name did not conjure all kinds of wild imaginings in your head for actually, it was just a dessert palour as you can see from the above pictures. LOL!!! We had this Yo Mango Supreme which is 99% fat-free…

Yo Mango Supreme

and this 99% fat Banana Boat…

Banana Boat

Which one do you think I had? ROTFLMAO!!!…..At 2, it was back to the grind and I wrapped up the whole thing at 4.00 p.m. on the dot. I would always start punctually and never believe in keeping people any longer than the time stated. To close this post, I wish to dedicate to all the Sandakan teachers who were present that day these lines from one of my favourite songs…
“…I hope life treats you kind,
and I hope you have all you dream of,
and I’m wishing you joy and happiness,
and above all this, I’m wishing you…love!!!” 

Till we meet again, God bless you all in your true devotion to your vocation.

Good to be back…

It was good to be back in Sandakan again and to see my friends, Lily and Santhi…

Lily and Santhi

and Param and Monica…

Param and Monica

This is one of the perks that I derive from going here and there giving talks to teachers and students, paticipating in conferences, seminars, workshops and what have you. I get to meet all the very nice people throughout the whole country and we end up being such great friends. Param has retired but despite being from Malacca originally, he has settled in Sandakan permanently…and Santhi is from Kedah and it certainly looks like she’ll stay in Sandakan for good as well. Yes, Sabah IS a very nice place…

Well, after our drinks at the English Tea House, we went to this Pasir Putih place for seafood. They also brought me there when I was in Sandakan on one of my earlier visits. I did not want fish…and I did not fancy getting my hands all dirty eating crabs…so we had siput glasui

Sandakan seafood siput glasui

and fresh oysters…

Sandakan seafood fresh oysters

and prawns, of course…

Sandakan Seafood Butter Prawns

Gosh! The prawns were so fresh you could actually savour the sweetness in them, unlike the bland crustaceans we pay through our noses for back here! We also had homemade seafood tofu…

Sandakan homemade seafood tofu

and fried Sabah sayur manis

Sabah sayur manis

That is something like the cangkuk manis in Sarawak…but the plants are smaller and while we eat the leaves, they only take the young shoots. For dessert, we had fruits and fried ice cream…

Sandakan dessert Fried icecream

That was, in fact, ice cream wrapped in bread and deep-fried.

Sandakan dessert Fried icecream inside

It was nice and definitely unique…or to me at least, as I had never had anything like that before. All in all, I found the dinner most delightful and satisfying. Thanks so much, Lily, Shanti, Monica and Param, for the treat! I certainly look forward to doing that with everybody again sometime. In Sibu perhaps? And it will be my treat this time! Meanwhile, take care and wishing you all nothing but the best in the days ahead!

Lazy Sunday afternoon…

My friends would come to take me out later in the evening so I was left to my own devices for what’s left of the Sunday afternoon. I had not had lunch (The nasi lemak treat at KK airport wasn’t exactly lunch…LOL!!!) so I decided to roam around the vicinity in search of some mam-mams. Well, it was past 2 on a Sunday afternoon so most of the eating places were closed including one that’s blatantly named “Klang Bak Kut Teh”…and those that were still open were not that appealling in my eyes. In the end, I decided to go for the set lunch at After 5.

I thought it was a western restaurant…but it appeared from the menu that they served Chinese food as well. I guess that explained what the mushroom soup tasted like…

Mushroom soup and toast

It was neither rich nor creamy and if I had known, I would have opted for the sweet corn soup instead. Just look at the kopi-tiam toast that came with it! Fortunately they used butter instead of margarine! The main course was grilled lamb chop and it was fine except that the portion was so small… 

After 5 grilled lamp chop

Even the plate was smaller than at other places. I could not help comparing that to what I would get for RM14++ at Garden in Sibu. Then there was ice cream and coffee. All in all, it was not too bad for RM18.00 but I could have found something better if I had scouted around long enough.

After the late lunch, I went back to the hotel and had a nap. Around 4 something, I was up and about again…and the moment I stepped out of the hotel this time, my sharp nose detected the fragrance of…satay!!!

Taman Indah satay 1

I had not had beef satay for quite sometime owing to the problem with the supply of beef here…so despite the fact that I just had lunch not too long ago, I simply could not resist…

Taman Indah satay 2

…indulging in a few sticks of satay and some ketupat to go with it. Incidentally, I noticed that there were mostly ladies in the area at that time of day. Probably the men were all sleeping off their hangovers after staying out late on Saturday night but there was a shop selling those bubble-tea drinks or whatever you call those…and it was packed with ladies only! I thought of taking a photograph but changed my mind in case the Amazons ladies would charge out and beat me to pulp, some 50 of them or so! LOL!!!

My friends came at 7 something and we headed to the English Tea House. It was too late for tea, and I had western for lunch and they say if you go to Sandakan, you must have seafood, so we just stopped for drinks there.

English Tea House Sandakan 1

I got to meet Tim, a radio friend I made on the TraxxFm afternoon show…and in case anyone’s wondering, yes! I was that cikgu…before the show ended (and I never bother to tune in to the station anymore after that!). Tim’s the chef there…and since he was working, it was more of a hello, goodbye thing! Didn’t want him to land in hot soup with his bosses…and in the rush, I forgot to take his photograph! He’s very young, maybe in his mid-20s…

The place was very nice – perfect ambience, very classy…but we should have gone there during the day to enjoy the scenery and the bird’s eye view of Sandakan town. You can dine in one of the gazebos or in the open air…

English Tea House Sandakan 2

…or in the main dining hall.

English Tea House Sandakan 3

For one thing, I noticed that all the customers (except us) were mat sallehs and my friends said they were tourists, not locals. Gee! Coming all the way here for a not-very-authentic experience of what they could get back home! That certainly reminded me of Tintin in Perth and his craving for nasi lemak or jeremychee in Brisbane and his kuih chap!!!

After our drinks, Lily and the others (You’ll see their photos in the next post, so make sure you come back!) took me for a seafood dinner. Do stick around, everybody! One seafood dinner coming up…..

Wind beneath my [mas]wings…

I’m home…safe and sound and in one piece! Anybody missed me?…Well, I left Sibu on Sunday morning and when I got to the airport, what I saw…

O fare, 0 passenger 1 O fare O passenger 2

…was not very encouraging. Times are hard…and even with zero fare, there were 0 passengers, or almost…

 O fares, a few passengers

As I have mentioned in my previous post, I was flying via maswings in their Fokker 50 aircraft. The thought crossed my mind that it was not a very appropriate name for an airline. I’m sure if you’re flying in a swinging aircraft, you’ll need a lot of hong eyew or minyak cap kapak (Axe brand oil)!

I flew to Bintulu where I had to disembark for immigration clearance and then I had to board the aircraft again…

Reboarding at Bintulu

The flight was pleasant…and we were served a packet of Milo from Sibu to Bintulu and from Bintulu to Kota Kinabalu, we were given this…

maswings inflight light refreshment

Inside, they had turkey ham sandwich and egg sandwich in cling wrap. You do not get to see them in the photograph as I had already eaten them all! LOL!!! Definitely nicer than the inedible, inpalatable stuff we get on the KL-Sibu-KL flights despite being packed in a classier and very impressive looking box. I would think that the box for this one is quite unnecessary too. Somehow or other, I would imagine certain individuals with “extra loose change” in their pockets derived from the lucrative deals, but this is just an uncanny suspicion on my part and not a statement of fact! Anyway, there was also a packet of Milo and a bar of KitKat in the box as well… 

maswings inflight light refreshment 2

The lady at the MAS counter in Sibu told me that I could only check in for the Sibu-KK sector and I would have to check in again at KK airport for my flight to Sandakan. Darn!!! The airport at KK was worse than a fish market! It was so crowded with mat sallehs and loud Cantonese-speaking Chinese (from Hong Kong probably) and it took me quite a while to go through the process. There were only a few counters and none for no-baggage check-in and the place was not air-conditioned, so you can imagine me oozing sweat from every pore…

Busy KK airport

I met a former student there, now a flourishing businessman…and he treated me to coffee and nasi lemak at The Mouth, the restaurant at the airport. I did not take any photographs as we were too engrossed in our conversation about who’s doing what, who’s married to who, how many kids and so on and so forth. I noticed this sign upon arrival though…

Sign at KK airport

I think the BM translation for “What’s that big one?” isn’t quite correct. What do you think? And I wonder what “big one” they are talking about! Hahahahaha!!! Well, I reached Sandakan at 1.20; there were no delays all the way so that’s one good thing.

Orang Utan mascot at Sandakan airport

No, that wasn’t Kpenyu waiting for me at Sandakan airport and that wasn’t his portrait on the wall either (though some may claim that there’s a resemblance! ROTFLMAO!!!). My friend, Lily, met me at the airport and brought me to the hotel…

Grand Hotel Sandakan

It is right across the road from some private Chinese school where I was going to give a talk the next day…and is located in Taman Indah which some say is the red-light area in Sandakan. Hehehehehe!!!! Ask no questions and I’ll tell no lies!!! When I went into the room, I was somewhat tickled at being welcomed by this very hospitable sign… 

Sign at Sandakan hotel

That was nice! I hate the stale cigarette stench in some hotel rooms that I have stayed in. Lily said she would pick me up later for dinner…but that will have to wait till the next post! Well, hasn’t it been said that patience is a virtue? LOL!!!

Please don’t go away…

Well, I’ll be flying to Kota Kinabalu tomorrow in this Fokker aircraft…

MAS Wings Fokker aircraft/Farispis' photo@www.flickr.com

…and then I’ll be getting on a Boeing 737…

MAS Boeing 737/Ly Ning's photo@www.flickr.com

…to Sandakan. And this is what I’ll be doing there…..

Motivational seminar

This photograph was taken sometime in late 2006…so by now, I would probably be older…and maybe bigger…or smaller. By the way, chris, do you recognise anybody in the photograph?

I hope I can go to the very unique English Tea House in Sandakan, not to have the English scones (Well, maybe that too!)…but to meet Tim, my friend from the now-terminated TraxxFm radio show – Pat and Mag in the afternoon. He is the chef there!!! I’ll post his photo when I get back…if I get to meet him there, that is.

So do take note, everybody, that I will be back by Tuesday. Please don’t go away but if you really really have to, do not stray too far as it will only be for a couple of days!!! I am sure I will have a lot to post once I get back! In the meantime, take care and be good…if you can!!! LOL!!!

Evergreen tree…

When I was a kid, I lived in a wooden house in a very very big compound and we had a lot of rambutan trees. The weather was very predictable then – hot in the middle of the year and rain (and flood) around year-end. The fruit season would always be at the end of the year and our rambutan trees would bear fruit in abundance.

Rambutans/tk-yeoh's photo@www.flickr.com

There were two types of rambutans then – the local ones with the soft, jelly-like flesh that usually would stick to the seed or the Singapore ones, as they were called then, that were crunchier and sweeter and those from our trees would never stick to the seeds, that’s for sure!

Rambutan/jrozwado's photo@www.flickr.com

We would tie the fruits in bundles and I would sell them to the people passing by our house…and many years later, they could still recall seeing that (cute) little boy sitting by the roadside selling his rambutans…ummm the fruits, I mean! Ah…never mind! ROTFLMAO!!!…Later my father sold the land and the family had to move. He grafted the tree and planted one in the backyard of the new house, or were there two? It/They grew very well and we continued to enjoy the fruits. Then they moved again; by then, I had already moved out to stay on my own. Once again, my father grafted the tree and gave the seedlings to everybody. I also got one and I just planted it at the back of the house. Believe it or not, everybody else’s died but mine survived!

It was about two-feet tall for many years and it never grew bigger…and then suddenly, it did just that! Probably the ground was very hard and finally the roots could break through. It bore fruits many times – exactly like the ones we had long ago in the old wooden house. It had flowered recently and now, the fruits have appeared… 

Baby rambutans

Sometimes, if the weather is too hot, these young baby fruits would drop off…but lately, the weather has been quite kind. Not too hot and quite a lot of rain! So hopefully, by the time Stella gets here next month from Down Under, she can get to enjoy my rambutans…the fruits, I mean! Arghhh!!! LOL!!!