Sibu Ching Ming Trip Part II: Mom’s Grave ⚰️, Sarawak Laksa 🍜, Starbucks Sibu ☕, Central Market 🍖, Dinner @ Grandma’s 👵, Ah Beng Photo 🤙, Chip Chung Beef Noodles 🐄, Ak Kia Foochow Noodles 🦑

We woke up bright and early the next day to head to my mom’s grave. 🌞 This isn’t a grave per se – it’s more like a tomb. The arrangement here is an above-ground sealed chamber where the coffin slides in. It’s not buried underground. Someone slides a slab of concrete over the entrance after the coffin goes in and seals it up with cement. I believe this is common in Christian cemeteries to observe how Jesus was entombed.

I helped clean up the grave and we sang hymns and my dad led everyone in prayer. That’s what we do during Ching Ming. It’s more like a remembrance thing for Christians. ✝️ There’s no burning of incense or hell paper and there are no offerings of food or fruit, although we prepared a flower arrangement. My aunts were there too, as well as Mandy.

We all went to Aloha Café in Sibu for breakfast after that. This is one of our favorite coffee shops in Sibu, primarily due to the Sarawak Laksa here. 🍜 Mandy loves laksa so I brought her here to check out arguably the best one in Sibu. She said the Sarawak laksa I cooked tasted a lot better. Hehe.

My dad went for his favorite Sibu style char kueh tiaw. This is fried with an egg omelette on top, a unique local twist. 🍳 It’s kinda like mee goreng Pattaya or omurice, but not completely wrapped. Our kueh tiaw is flat and thick too. I don’t personally like it but plenty of people do.

I went for the interestingly named Fried Kompia. Kompia is a local unleavened baked bread, much like a bagel. 🥯 This stall uses the kompia as the base for frying. This reminds me of the Kothu Roti I had in Sri Lanka. I wouldn’t say it tasted good but it’s certainly novel! Good to see people trying new twists and takes on existing local food, although I’ll never order it again.

I also got Kompia with Cheese. 🧀 These are baked kompia with minced meat (pork) filling, with the addition of a small slice of processed cheddar cheese. It tasted pretty good though. I would order this again although I prefer deep fried kompia and kompia soaked in gravy.

We needed a caffeine boost after that so I went with Mandy to Starbucks Sibu. ☕ This is the biggest Starbucks in Malaysia! It’s housed in its own two-storey building – a vast, open space. I didn’t even know this was the biggest Starbucks in Malaysia until a Sarawak Tourism video mentioned it.

The place is clean and spacious so we sat here in the comfortable sofas for a while. 🛋️ They even have a meeting room here!

I had my usual Iced Americano while Mandy went for a Frappucino. 🥤

Thus energized, we headed to the Central Market. Sibu Central Market is the biggest covered market in Malaysia. I also didn’t know that until a few years back. Haha. There are a lot of interesting, hyper-local products – produce you can only find in the jungles of Borneo. 🌴 It’s very interesting!

One of those examples is Keranji Madu. This is a type of dry fruit with a soft, crackable shell and a seed coated with sweet fibres. 🌰 I convinced the girl to sell me a small amount for RM 3. I remember eating this in my childhood when my dad bought some but I haven’t eaten it in decades. I can’t say it’s delicious but it’s an interesting fruit.

This is not salak fruit. We have that here but it’s not in season. This is another local fruit which I forgot the name of. It looks very similar to salak but is smaller and clumps together. 🍇

There are chickens nicely wrapped and ready for takeaway! 🐔 This is a Sibu invention – wrapping live chickens in newspapers and binding them with nylon string so they’re easy to purchase and transport back.

Mandy tried a local avocado ice cream which is made by hand churning. 🥑 It’s made from a powder mix so don’t get your hopes up about the flavour. It tastes quite artificial.

We saw some huge specimens of freshwater big head prawn. 🦐

I bought some ang chao (fermented red rice wine sediments) to bring back to KL. 🍷 These are not sold openly since wine brewing requires a license so they have to sell these under the table. RM 1 got me a sizable amount!

The most interesting item we purchased is engkabang butter. This is frequently called “butter from the rainforest”. 🏞️ It’s made with oil extracted from the engkabang fruit. This becomes a paste that’s stored in short lengths of bamboo and sold to be mixed into rice.

A small tube can cost RM 20-40 depending on the diameter! 🎍 I tried this the other weekend and it tasted quite unfamiliar. Unusual, but I can see myself getting into it. It’s like century eggs – a taste which may not be immediately appealing but can get quite addictive if you let it.

That night, we had dinner at my grandma’s. 👵 My popo just celebrated her 90th birthday and she has met Mandy during CNY over Facebook Live. This is the first time she’s seen her in person though. We had sweet and sour fish, mayo prawns, pork leg, dabai, chai bo – all my favorite dishes! I ate till I was stuffed and then ate some more. I wanted to be dangerously close to puking.

We went to a local mall after that to walk off all the calories. My niece and nephew were also in town and they wanted to get some toys. He’s really into Beyblades. I found a new dry type instant noodles – BruMee Kollo Mee Goreng. 🇧🇳 This is made in Brunei and quite expensive due to the exchange rate. Sarawak is adjacent to Brunei so we get their imports sometimes. The noodles aren’t really good but it’s spicy and Mandy enjoyed them.

I also bought a ciplak coconut ice cream to share with Mandy. 🥥 This is a ghetto Sibu version made with powder coconut cream (santan) so it tastes unpleasant and grainy. I struggle to find anything good to say about this ice cream. It’s like someone saw the success of coconut ice cream and made an El Cheapo knockoff version which only appeals to the unrefined palate of the least well-traveled local.

We wanted to eat Chip Chung beef noodles the next day so we woke up bright and early. 🐄 Their beef noodles sell out by 9 am and they start operating before 5 am! This is definitely something for the early birds. Our family used to eat this when they were located at the old Chopsticks in town but we haven’t had it since they moved.

Their noodles are tossed with a delicious garlic sauce instead of the normal kolo/kampua mee mixture. I remember this distinctive taste from childhood. This is how I developed a love for garlic. The springy and garlicky noodles go very well with their beef soup. 😋

The soup is served separately with a variety of beef slices and offal inside. 🥣 The hearty and savory soup is also something I’ve missed. I highly recommend this place but be warned, the lady can be a bit grumpy during service so don’t over-customize your order. She’s very friendly when she’s not busy though. My only complaint is the serving sizes, which can be too small for big eaters. The beef noodles here are excellent otherwise.

I had used up all my clothes so I picked something from my old wardrobe to wear. ✨ Behold my Ah Beng past in all its glory! Trust me, these hooks and chains were the height of fashion back in the day. Positively haute couture.

We were flying back to KL that afternoon so we could squeeze in one final spot for lunch. I decided on Ak Kia Foochow Fried Noodles. This is their fully loaded Foochow fried noodles with lots of pork slices and pork liver. 🐖 It’s the bomb! Ak Kia is known for some of the best Foochow fried noodles in town and these don’t disappoint!

I also ordered their Seafood Fried Noodles. This is another fully loaded plate with shrimp, fish slices and squid. 🦑 The noodles are cooked in white sauce instead of black soy sauce and it also tastes amazing. We both couldn’t decide which one we liked better. This was definitely a perfect meal to end our Sibu trip.

I only go back once or twice every year but I enjoy every trip back to my hometown. I spent most of my childhood here and I enjoy the flavors of Sibu. It’s my first time bringing Mandy back to meet my family too and that was fulfilling! 👫

Sibu Ching Ming Trip Part I: Malu Apa Bosco? Big Prawn Noodles at Bosco Café, Sibu Pasar Malam, Kompia Burger, Ruby Restaurant

I just came back from a short trip back to Sibu to clean my mom’s grave. It’s Ching Ming, an annual practice by Chinese for remembrance of the dead. I brought along Mandy along and the first thing she wanted to eat was Foochow red wine mee sua. We headed to Happiness Café in Delta – they do one of the better versions in town. I wanted to eat kampua mee but I couldn’t resist ordering this too.

It’s a new stall selling kompia burger! Technically, this is chu nu miang – the sweet and soft version of kompia. I think it’s called thus coz chu nu means virgin in Foochow and virgins are supposed to be sweet and soft. Don’t quote me on that though. My Chinese is terrible and I could be making all these up. I asked the two ladies manning the stall if it’s their own stall but it turns out they’re only working here and couldn’t tell me the background of the stall.

The stall is called Zen Don Bin and they have different types of kompia burgers with beef, sausage and fish fillet patties. I asked for a recommendation and they unreservedly told me the Fish Fillet Burger with Egg and Cheese (RM 3.90) was their bestseller. This actually tasted pretty good! I liked the crunchy fish fillet and the creamy egg with the pillowy soft chu nu miang. Nice!

I also had my kampua mee fix. This is a tossed dry noodle that’s a Sibu specialty. You don’t find a lot of people making this with lard nowadays. There has been a trend of using vegetable oil on the pretext that it’s a healthier option. I suspect it’s also a cost-cutting measure too since lard is significantly more expensive. I love the ones with lard.

Mandy had the Foochow red wine mee sua. This is chicken soup with Foochow unfiltered red wine with sediment. It tastes surprisingly good. I’m not a fan of this dish but they do a really nice version here.

Of course, you can’t leave Sibu without trying the Big Head Prawn Noodles. These are freshwater prawns with huge heads that’s cooked into a Foochow style soup dish. The noodles are fried then boiled and it’s quite a distinctive local taste. The head juice from the prawn heads leach into the soup, adding tons of flavour.

This dish costs RM 38 at Bosco Café, which is considered a reasonable price. A lot of other places charge upwards of RM 50 for this.

My sister came back in the evening with my niece and nephew so we went to pick her up from the airport and headed to Ruby Restaurant for dinner. This is a favorite among our family. The must have dish here is their butter prawns but since my niece is allergic to dairy, we went for the Nestum prawns instead. It’s not as good, but decent.

We also had their famous pandan chicken. These are dark boneless chicken pieces marinated in various spices before being stuffed into a pandan leaf and grilled. It’s smoky, sweet and delicious!

I also ordered midin belacan – a type of jungle fern – for Mandy. You can’t leave Sarawak without tasting midin. It’s a crunchy type of vegetable with a core like okra – ever so slightly slimy.

This is sour lamb, another dish I always order at Ruby. The lamb pieces are tenderized till they’re melt-in-your-mouth and tossed in a sour mayonnaise based sauce. Very delicious!

We also ordered a tapah curry fish head since there were so many of us. Tapah is a local fish that’s similar to catfish. The flesh can be incredibly fatty due to their sedentary lifestyle but it’s a real treat – creamy mouthfeel juxtaposed with firm flesh. This is quite a small fish head but costs RM 63. Tapah is a local favorite so the prices tend to be higher.

The meal came up to RM 186 for the 4 of us plus 2 children. We usually run up at RM 50 bill for two pax so this seems par for the course. I feasted until I was absolutely stuffed! This is one of my favorite places to eat in Sibu.

Mandy has never been to the Sibu pasar malam before so we headed there after our dinner. Our pasar malam has lots of stalls specializing in pork. Sibu is a majority Chinese town so pork is the choice of protein here. You can get various different cuts of meat from pork belly to tail to even a full pig face!

I bought a few pieces of chai kueh and also a crispy apam balik. Both were dismal. I had better versions of both during my Penang day trip for work before coming back to Sibu.

It was still fun to walk around town and do all the things I normally wouldn’t do. It’s nice to see my hometown from the perspective of someone else too!

Part II of my Sibu Ching Ming trip coming soon!

Pontianak Trip Part II: Oukie Bakmie Kepiting, Kopi Asiang, Gado Gado Jln Merapi, Es Krim Angi, Bebek Boedjang, Mie Tiaw Apollo Daging Sapi, Roti Durian Cheese, Bubur Ikan Ahian, Che Hun Tiau Ahui

Bong came to pick me up the next morning for a Pontianak breakfast special. I haven’t seen him for at least 10 years! I knew he was working in Kalimantan and it turned out that he was in Pontianak at this time too. One of my to-eat items was Bakmie Kepiting. This is a local specialty of dry tossed noodles with crab meat (!). We headed down to Oukie Bakmie Kepiting (Oukie Crab Bakmi). 🦀

1. Oukie Bakmie Kepiting (Sibu)

There are several bakmie kepiting (crab bakmi) stalls in Pontianak, all bearing the same name – Oukie. Turns out Oukie was the original guy who brought this dish here and all the current stalls are his descendants (sons, daughters, nephews). Strangely, they all bear the name “Sibu” which my hometown!

We puzzled over this. Did the original Oukie come from Sibu? Do they claim that this bakmi is exactly like what Sibu offers? Coz it’s definitely not. We don’t have a similar dish in Sibu. Nothing close. The closest is probably Foochow noodles with crab, which is a relatively new invention.

Sometimes Bakmi Kepiting is served with a whole crab claw but these items are in high demand and sell out very fast. They were all sold out at this stall by the time we got there.

In addition to the crab meat, there’s fish balls, fish slices and a piece of crispy deep-fried wonton. The noodles are tossed with a variety of sauces and you’re served a hot bowl of soup on the side.

I really liked these crab noodles! I thought this will be a perfunctory visit just to experience their local noodles but I loved the combination of flavors in this bowl of noodles. It’s very good! There wasn’t a lot of crab meat though – just a sprinkling, but crab is expensive and this is street food.

I can’t remember how much it cost coz Bong insisted on buying me breakfast. Cheers!

2. Kopi Asiang

Bong also brought me to this local Pontianak coffee shop. I went to Aming Coffee yesterday and he said this place was very good too. It’s exceedingly packed and we had to take a table under the hot sun but the coffee was indeed excellent!

I tried the regular ones without condensed milk this time. Rich, fragrant and delicious – coffee here is a real treat! You can see the grease slick at the top of my coffee shimmering in the sun. The coffee beans are usually fried with butter or margarine, which is where the oil comes from.

He also ordered soft boiled eggs for us. This was served in a glass, complete with spoon so it’s easy for you to consume.

3. Gado Gado Jln Merapi

Gado gado is another food item on my hit list. It’s basically a cold noodle dish that’s more like a salad.

Rice vermicelli is topped with vegetables like bean sprouts and kangkong are tossed with tofu and crackers and the whole thing is doused with peanut sauce.

This is what it looks like when it’s served – the different crunchy and soft items make for an interesting dish with good mouth-feel. I enjoyed this one as well! It’s 24,000 IDR (RM 7) for this plate.

4. Es Krim Angi

This is probably the most famous ice cream parlour in Pontianak. They’re known for serving home-made ice cream in a coconut shell complete with coconut meat you can scrape up and eat together with the ice cream!

This “parlour” is actually a converted residential house that’s located beside a Catholic school. The place was *packed* despite being the middle of the afternoon on a working weekday. Motorcycles are the preferred mode of transport here so you’ll see heaps of them parked haphazardly in front.

The guys will tell you the flavors of the day and you choose which one you want. I went for all three – pandan, durian and chocolate. The chocolate and pandan was the best.

The ice cream is “sliced” out of the vats with a spoon so you get thin segments instead of a round scoop. I like this format, it makes for good eating! The flat surface fits perfectly on your tongue.

You can also choose the toppings you want – all complimentary. I went for a little bit of everything but I liked the squiggly transparent noodles best.

This coconut bowl of ice cream cost 23,000 IDR (RM 6.70). Excellent value! I like the combination of the slippery coconut flesh and homemade ice cream.

5. Bebek Boedjang

This spicy duck recommendation came from Bong. It didn’t even register on my radar and didn’t make it to my original list. I’m glad I tried it though coz it’s the best meal I’ve had, other than Pondok Kakap! This restaurant is in a huge wooden complex and I saw many Gojek and Grab Food drivers waiting in line to fulfil food deliveries.

To drink, we have an iced mango drink called Es Mangga Boedjang (15,000 IDR) with mango cubes at the bottom. This came recommended by the menu and the waitress but it was so sweet I didn’t care for it. I find most drinks in Pontianak overly sweet and cloying but if you like tons of sugar in your drink, you’ll enjoy this.

Bebek Paha Bakar Bumbu Rica (30,900 IDR) is the main event! This is smoked duck leg with spices. It’s served with rice, which is a 5,500 IDR add-on. The duck leg is still fork tender and has an intense smoky quality that I enjoy. The spices are a sweet-spicy blend that lends itself very well to nice. I wish I had space for 2 of these babies.

Cumi Tumis Cabe Ijo (16,960 IDR). Cumi means squid (sotong) in Indonesian. This is one of their flagship sides – squid cooked with green chillies. Wow! Does it pack a flavour punch! I was almost knocked out by the sheer intensity of seasoning on my palate. Welcome to Flavortown! There are tomatoes to add umami, onions for that pleasing aroma, tender squid and a gravy that’s sweet/salty/spicy. I used all of the gravy with rice, and when my rice was finished, I drank it by the spoonful.

Tumis Jamur Tiram (9,790 IDR) is another one of their signature side dishes – oyster mushrooms cooked in some kind of sauce which hits all the 5 flavor profiles at once. There’s some insane flavouring alchemy going on here. Delicious.

I left Bebek Boedjang a very happy man. The bill came up to 78,100 IDR (RM 23). That’s an exceedingly fair price for such a decent spread. An excellent meal that I wish was closer so I can partake of it once a month.

6. Mie Tiaw Apollo Daging Sapi

I have read stories about these two neighbours. Apollo was the original beef kueh tiaw and is run by siblings. Unfortunately, they had a huge falling out one day. One of the brothers moved out and rented a shoplot right beside Apollo and called it Mie Tiau Polo. They even had snarky signs put up!

Apollo said “Mie Tiaw Apollo. Sejak 1968. Tak Pernah Pindah.” (Apollo Mie Tiaw. Since 1968. Never Moved.). Polo put up one that read “Mie Tiau Polo. Pindahan Dari Sebelah.” (Polo Mie Tiau. Moved From Beside.) I thought that was hilarious! Unfortunately, the crabby signs have since been taken down so you can only see them in Google Images.

They only serve one thing – beef mie tiaw (which is something like kueh tiaw). They use all parts of the beef, including innards. You can see tripe, beef slices, tendon and even stomach on offer. The mie tiaw is fried in huge woks on high heat and the beef parts added.

I went to the original Mie Tiaw Apollo and the version they do is a wetter style. This isn’t as wet e.g. gravy filled as local Malay kueh tiaw but merely very moist. It’s also quite oily! The sodium levels are really high too. I found it almost unpalatably salty and had to struggle to finish it. I might enjoy it more if it were less greasy and salty coz the beef tasted pretty good and the flavors were decent. It’s 28,000 IDR or RM 8.50.

7. Roti Durian Orchard

What is this, you might ask? It’s a loaf of bread spread with durian jam and sprinkled liberally with grated cheese. If that sounds awesome to you, you’re at the right place! I didn’t know Pontianak is famous for this and only chanced upon this beacon of light while walking back from Apollo. I popped my head in and asked what they serve and immediately decided to try.

The loaf of bread is actually made up of 5-6 long buns and the clerk slices it in half and spread massive quantities of durian jam into the soft pillowy bread.

The entire shebang is then topped with prodigious amounts of grated cheese. It tastes heavenly!

This loaf was too much for me to finish so I had to eat it over two sessions – for supper and as a snack the next day.

I really enjoyed the flavors here. It’s rich, sweet and savory at the same time! The bread remains ultra soft even the next day. 32,000 IDR (RM 9.50) for the durian cheese loaf.

8. Bubur Ikan Ahian

This was my last savory meal before leaving Pontianak. My flight to KL was at noon so I woke up early to have fish porridge at Ahian. This isn’t really porridge/congee per se but fish soup served with rice. You can also opt to have the rice dunked into the soup, which they call “porridge”.

The front part of the restaurant is taken over by a fish processing station. Different types of fish are brought here to be broken down into slices and bones for cooking soup. They have a selection of different types of fishes at differing price points.

I opted for a mixture of all the fishes for 55,000 IDR (RM 16). It’s a little steep for local standards but a steal in Malaysia. The fish slices were all very fresh!

I loved the flavourful soup too. I don’t normally like soup but I enjoyed the strong flavors and sesame oil here. The soup is very different from the bland soup we get locally. This is savory and packed with taste! It goes so well with rice.

You can mix the remainder of your rice into the soup for the porridge style too!

9. Che Hun Tiau Ahui

Che Hun Tiau is a local shaved ice dessert. The famous one is called Ahua and located a stone’s throw away from Ahian fish porridge. Unfortunately, it was still closed when I went, although it opened 30 minutes later when I was leaving to return to my hotel). There are several other che hun tiau carts in that area so I picked one at random.

Ice is shaved on top of various items like red bean, a gelatinous mass of jelly, and my favorite – slippery strands of transparent noodles.

Here’s a closer look. I really enjoy the mouthfeel of the noodle things. This cost just 6,000 IDR (RM 1.75).

I had a fun 3D/2N trip to Pontianak. This was my first time here but I’ll be back for more eating adventures in the Kalimantan region! I like these remote semi-developed areas. I find them relaxing and unpretentious. It’ll be nice to head to a more rural area next time.

Pontianak Trip Part I: Nasi Ayam Asan 333, Aming Coffee, Chai Kue Panas Siam Ahin, Pondok Kakap, Thien Mie Mie durian, Tugu Khatulistiwa (Equator Monument)

I was really hungry upon touching down in Pontianak. My flight from Kuching was delayed for more than an hour! I had a list of everything I wanted to eat during my short 3D/2N stay in this remote part of Indonesia and I wanted to make sure I hit every single one. I did, and more! Here’s a list of the things I ate, drank and saw during my time in Kalimantan – in chronological order:

1. Nasi Ayam Asan 333

I wanted to try Nasi Ayam Afu but they were closed for renovations. Nasi Ayam Asan 333 Pontianak was my second choice – they’re just a 6-minute walk away.

The owner here is Indonesian Chinese and she told me they have an air-conditioned outlet just beside, which might me more comfortable. She pegged me as a non-local instantly.

I chose to sit here though coz I thought I’ll be really fast. The seating is via long rows of shared cafeteria-type tables.

This is what “nasi ayam” in Pontianak looks like. It’s a selection of many different meats – Indonesian Chinese style char siu, siu yoke, pork sausage, and chopped up roast chicken. Everything looks familiar, yet slightly off, like a strange alternate universe. The sauce is THICK and flavorful and there’s bits of pickled vegetable to cut the strong flavors. I really like it! It’s different from local Chinese chicken rice in Malaysia. It’s 33,000 IDR (RM 9.50) for this plate.

2. Aming Coffee

This is a sprawling coffee shop with two outlets located opposite each other. Locals come here to smoke, play games, hang out and drink coffee.

Just look at how packed it is!

Pontianak is majority Muslim so alcohol isn’t a common form of socializing. Instead, they drink coffee – even late at night!

It’s so busy here even during a weekday off-peak afternoon. Every single table was occupied and I had to share one with a local Muslim girl. She turned out to be a university student and was on her laptop doing some slides.

I ordered an iced coffee and a Milo toast (basically Milo powder and condensed milk inside one slice of toasted bread folded together). 16,000 IDR or RM 4.70.

3. Chai Kue Panas Siam Ahin

This is a shack located around the corner from Aming Coffee. Most places in Pontianak town are within walking distance of each other, if you don’t mind walking up to 10 minutes under the hot sun. Gojek is available for little more than ringgits for a short ride, which I took advantage of more than a few times.

This is the Indonesian take on chai kueh – a vegetable stuffed kueh. The Pontianak version is very, very oily though – they literally brush each kueh and the banana leaf it is steamed on with cooking oil! Minimum order is 5 pieces and I struggled to finish it due to the oiliness. I like how they’re steamed to order though. 7,500 IDR (RM 2.20).

4. Pondok Kakap

The best smoked crab ever! This is the first time I’ve had smoked crab and the intense smoky rendang flavors are awesome! It’s so delicious, I felt it deserved its own blog post. Read my review of Pondok Kakap in Pontianak here. It’s a bit expensive compared to the others but definitely worth the price.

5. Thien Mie Mie durian

This is a durian hailing from Sungai Jawi. I gather it’s a popular breed here. I paid 60,000 IDR (RM 18) for a small durian with only 5 seeds.

This is likely coz I found the durian stall outside Pondok Kakap – a high end seafood restaurant, among the best in Pontianak. I later saw durians of the same breed being sold for 5,000-15,000 IDR (RM 1.50 – RM 4.50) elsewhere.

Taste wise it was decent, although a little less ripe that most Malaysians would prefer.

6. Tugu Khatulistiwa (Equator Monument)

This was the only touristy thing I did in Pontianak. I heard Pontianak is the only city in the world to sit along the equator line so I thought I’ll go visit the Equator Monument. This monument slash park is located 30 minutes from town – a 64,000 IDR (RM 19) Gojek ride away.

It’s supposed to be a place of interest but the park is so run down and ill-maintained that I do not think a visit is warranted. It looks like a forgotten and deserted government-run attraction that time forgot. There’s a sleepy security guard but all the F&B stalls and kiosks were closed, probably due to lack of business.

There’s no entry fee but there’s nothing much to see here either. I found 2 other souls there – a couple from Surabaya. Including the security guard and the old makcik running the dusty and sad souvenir shop, only 5 people were present at the park.

It was disappointing. There’s not much to see or do, and I would recommend you skip this place unless you really want a photo with the equator monument.

Part II of my Pontianak trip coming soon!

Fraser’s Hill Valentine’s Part II: Strawberry farm, Allan’s Water boat paddling, Restoran Nine Thy Eight KKB seafood dinner and a Valentine’s Day present

I’m not sure who Aida Daniya is but she (?) seems to have taken over Fraser’s Hill with a vengeance. Not only does she have a picturesque tea house, said restaurant overlooks a beautiful garden and there’s also a strawberry nursery named after her. We walked down to the garden after lunch at Aida Daniya Tea House – there are well tended flowers and plenty of spots to take the perfect Instagram photo.

Wake up and smell the flowers! Background: I pretended to be possessed by a female ghost on the drive up. I let her come out to play.

My Mandy was very proud of this photo. 💁‍♀️

I tried to recreate her pose. Unsuccessfully. 💁‍♂️

We tried doing this trendy shot at Sekinchan but failed to get a good photo. This is a better attempt.

The flowers here are exceedingly beautiful – it must be the cool weather here. 🌸 The unforgiving sun down the hill tends to wilt flowers.

We headed over to Fraser’s Hill Strawberry Garden (now renamed Aida Daniya Strawberry Garden) but it was unfortunately closed. Luckily the gate was partially open so we took the opportunity to do a little breaking and entering.

The F&B outlets were closed but the nursery was visible. One strawberry fell down from its vine so I thought it’ll be permissible to consume the strawberry instead of allowing it to rot. I did feel mildly guilty about doing so but hey, it’s not like I plucked the damn thing from its creeper. That would delve into morally questionable territory, perhaps even theft by consumption.

It’s not very delicious but grown locally. 🍓

We also went to Allan’s Water. This is a place run by Tourism Malaysia where you can feed fishes and rent paddle boats for RM 8/15 minutes.

We went on a working weekday so there was no one paddling, just a family feeding the fishes. 🐠

The river section you can use is quite large, but blocked at two ends with strategically placed logs and obstructions so you can’t go too far.

It’s far enough to give you a sense of space and privacy though.

I found it very peaceful and the weather at Fraser’s Hill is perfect for this type of activity. The temperature was in the high teens all morning so you don’t sweat. There’s also a cool breeze going on that makes you feel like you’re in a different (colder) country.

My only complaint was that the life vests provided smells really bad. They probably haven’t been washed in years! It stinks to high heaven. Aside from that, paddling in the water under the mild sun and cool weather with my Mandy was perfect.

We decided to head down for our seafood dinner after so we drove to the Fraser’s Hill Clock Tower for some final photos…

…before making the 1 hour journey to Kuala Kubu Bharu (KKB).

We saw a family of monkeys (baboons?) on the windy road down. There was a male who got quite inquisitive and kept trying to look into our stopped car. I think he might have stolen my girlfriend’s handbag had she wound down the window. He looks like that type of monkey. 🐒

Our Valentine’s Day dinner was at Restoran Nine Thy Eight at KKB. Mandy loves crabs and I like Chinese food so a Chinese seafood restaurant was the perfect place to go. This is a sleepy restaurant that serves primarily locals and the occasional out-of-state people heading to Genting or Fraser’s Hill. The owner is very friendly and was happy to recommend several of their signature dishes.

This is Crab Porridge (RM 61.60) which is their flagship specialty. 🦀 It uses a whole crab cooked in very flavorsome porridge topped with some crunchy bits. We hesitated before ordering this coz Mandy likes other ways of cooking crab but she finally decided to give this one a try. It’s what this restaurant is famous for after all.

Here’s what it looks like after it’s been mixed. I’m not a big fan of porridge. I usually find porridge too mild but Restoran Nine Thy Eight does an excellent version of crab porridge. The congee is so flavorful and thick! It’s packed with savory and crab goodness. I finished the lion’s share of this porridge despite not generally liking congee. Delicious!

I also ordered another specialty of theirs – Catfish Steamed with Soy Sauce and Half Boiled Egg (RM 26). 🐟 How unique! I’ve never seen soft boiled egg paired with Chinese style steamed fish. It’s really good! The creamy egg yolk adds richness and mouthfeel to the soft and tender catfish meat. I wish this place was nearer so I can eat this every day. That’s the highest compliment I can give this dish. I want to smash 3 platters of this in a single sitting!

Tofu Cooked with Broccoli and Mushroom (RM 16). 🥦 We ordered this just to fulfil our vegetable quota. It tasted mediocre in comparison to the two other excellent dishes. It probably isn’t bad by in another setting but we’ve just had two superlative dishes so this seemed to pale as a result.

The bill came up to RM 120 for the food and drinks. I ordered a large beer and Mandy had carrot juice. Restoran Nine Thy Eight does their signature dishes very well. I highly recommend it and will be back if I pass by the area again. I’ll like to try their other flagship dishes. The prices are very reasonable too.

We got back home at around 10:30 pm and I presented my girlfriend her Valentine’s Day gift. I noticed her looking at a Swarovski pendant last month and skilfully brought her to Sunway Pyramid to look at other jewellery to see what kind she likes. It wasn’t very subtle but I got to know her tastes and preferences.

I bought her this gold necklace to go with…

…a golden M from Wah Chan’s official Disney Mickey Mouse collection.

This is what the pendant and chain looks like combined. It cost around 1.2k for everything. The M was supposed to stand for Mickey but here it stands for Mandy. It’s a coincidence they both have the same initial.

Happy Valentine’s Day Mandy! I love you. 💕

Fraser’s Hill Valentine’s Part I: Aida Daniya Tea House, steamboat dinner, a gruesome night drive up

I wanted to surprise my girlfriend with a trip to Pulau Ketam (which was our first trip together) on Valentine’s Day, but I thought going again so soon would be diminish the magic. I decided on Fraser’s Hill instead – a cool hilltop destination about 2.5 hours from KL. She’s never been there before and I booked a nice AirBNB on the top floor of Silverpark Resort with amazing views to spend the night.

She has her off day on Thursday (which coincidentally is 14th February) and I won’t start work until the 18th so it’s perfect for a weekday getaway without massive crowds of people. Indeed, Fraser’s Hill was almost deserted. It was also rainy and misty on the way up and I entertained (scared?) Mandy with ghost stories and pretended to be possessed by a female ghost. She was not amused. 😨

I planned this trip a month back and sent her a Powerpoint presentation to detail what I have planned for Valentine’s. Haha. What a corporate thing to do. It came complete with an itinerary, which we managed to complete!

I also arranged for flowers to be delivered to her workplace. I got her 12 roses.

She finished work at 6:30 pm and I flew in from Pontianak at 3 pm and I timed it so I just had enough time to buy ingredients for a steamboat dinner and pick her up from work. It was 10:30 pm by the time we checked into our apartment at Fraser’s Hill.

The place is very nice. It’s a studio unit with two queen beds…

Two balconies – this is the one facing down the hill (too misty to see anything unfortunately but the view is great on a clear day)

And this is the one facing inwards.

There’s also a full kitchen and I decided to cook her a steamboat dinner since it was so late when we got there.

Here’s the spread for the night! I got pork slices, two types of fishballs, bacon, soft tofu, assorted seafood, sausages, broccoli, eggs and mushrooms.

I used a tom yam – chicken stock base with Shaoxing wine and fish sauce. Unfortunately, I spilled the Shaoxing wine and fish sauce all over the back car cushion on the way up. It smells so bad now. I need to get it cleaned.

I also brought up some Mi Sedaap noodles I got from my recent Pontianak trip to enjoy with the steamboat. This is a new type of Mi Sedaap soup noodles with real egg. Only available in Indonesia.

My babe surprised me with a cheesecake that she made herself! She labored over this a few days ago coz she was thinking of what to get me. This is the first cake she has ever baked.

It’s really delicious! I would have said it’s yummy even if it’s not coz she made it for me, but honestly, this tasted great! It’s been contributing to my expanding waistline coz I’ve been eating it everyday since.

The next day we headed over to Aida Daniya Tea House for lunch after checking out. This place has amazing views and a comfortable balcony where you can enjoy the cool breeze and see the beautiful flowers growing at the cultivated park beneath.

This is the view we had sitting at the tables outside.

I ordered a double cappuccino (RM 15) as my morning coffee…

…and we got another couple to take a photo of us at the balcony.

We also ordered their English cream tea for two (RM 38)…

…which came with scones, clotted cream, jam and a selection of cakes and pies. The highlight was the orange cake, the pie and the other cakes were forgettable and the scones weren’t the best.

We also had something called an Irish Chicken (RM 25) which is a gruesome creation of a deep fried chicken roll slathered with mashed potatoes. It doesn’t taste half bad but it didn’t taste good either. The bill came up to RM 85.80. You pay for the scenic views and the nice ambiance, not so much the food. The food was quite mediocre but I enjoyed the quiet and cool surroundings. Recommended if you want a nice place to chill in Fraser’s Hill but manage your expectations on the food.

I love you my Mandy! <3

Part II of our Fraser’s Hill trip coming soon!

Restoran Pondok Kakap: Smoked Crab (Kepiting Asap) in Pontianak

Pontianak is famous for crab. There’s crab noodles (Bakmi Kepiting Ou Kie) and lots of seafood restaurants offering a local specialty – smoked crab. I was keen to check this out so I headed over to Restoran Pondok Kakap for some of their famous smoked crab. This restaurant is rated #1 on TripAdvisor and seems to get good reviews (except for one guy who claims he was overcharged for semah fish).

I was surprised to see how large Restoran Pondok Kakap was. It looked rather grand too and I told myself I’ll better pay attention to the menu prices before I order. Haha. It isn’t too expensive by Malaysian standards though – crab goes for 200,000 IDR (about RM 58) per portion. I mostly eat street food and local favorites here so it’s alright to splurge a little.

Es Jeruk (15,000 IDR). This is a pickle juice of sorts. Not bad but exceedingly sweet. Actually everything here is either very sweet or very salty. The flavor profile of food in Pontianak is dialed up to a 10. The dishes are very intense tasting. Indeed, you’ll here of them complaining our Malaysian food is bland (tawar).

Kepiting Asap (220,000 IDR). This is their famous smoked crab. The smoky flavors are super in-your-face and intense. I can smell burning wood in the crab. I meant that as a compliment. The sauce is similar to rendang – full of spices and flavor. There’s not much sauce but the little here goes a long way with rice! I love how the crab is filled with roe that I could dig out and eat with my rice. The meat was succulent and sweet too. 10/10.

For my vegetable dish, I went with Yam Pakis (30,000 IDR). This is a type of fern similar to midin in Sarawak. It’s recommended by Pondok Kakap and cooked with an acidic and sweet mixture that made my mouth water. I love the dried shrimp they sprinkle on top too. The sweet and sour flavors really whet my appetite. Excellent!

The total inclusive of white rice (7,500 IDR) and a 27,250 IDR tax came up to 299,750 IDR. That works out to RM 87. It’s not cheap but worth the price. I highly recommend the amazing smoked crab. It’s easily the best meal I had in Pontianak and I will definitely come back if I return. The smoky flavor profile and interesting rendang sauce of the crab is spectacular – not a flavor combination we can find in Malaysia.

Posted: 9:39 pm Pontianak time (10:39 pm Malaysian time)

Sekinchan: A day trip to Pantai Redang, famous Sekinchan wishing tree, paddy fields, rice factory, bus café, capped with a seafood dinner

I went on a day trip to Sekinchan with Mandy last week. Sekinchan is a small village with fishing and paddy cultivation as its primary industries. It’s a sleepy small town where everyone seems to know each other. One of their most famous landmarks (?) is a tree by the Pantai Redang beach called the Sekinchan Wishing Tree. This is an old looming tree that has strands of red hanging on its branches. People write on red threads and throw it into the air so it hangs from the tree. It’s a wish fulfillment thing.

It makes for a really nice picture!

There is a Chinese temple beside this tree where you can get the red strands of clothes. I can’t read Chinese but there are recommended donation amounts for things like joss sticks. The threads are freely available for the taking but you’re supposed to put in a donation into the box. The donation can be any amount you feel like giving.

You take the red strip of cloth and write whatever you want on the provided table. This is usually a wish you want fulfilled. Mandy wrote both my name and hers in Chinese. Coz this is an Oriental tree, you see. It may not understand English. Haha.

The red cloth has two round metal weights at the end so you just need to lead one and it’ll hook around something. I managed to get it up on the tree on my second try.

Our names in Sekinchan for all eternity, bound by the red threads of fate. Or until a strong wind comes, which is more likely.

Pantai Redang is not a swimming beach. The sand is quite dirty and the water is polluted. However, it’s a nice place to chill and walk with your loved one.

There are stalls at one end of the beach selling seafood dishes and drinks. We got a coconut and took it to a hut by the beach to enjoy.

The best thing about taking leave to come on a weekday is the lack of people around. We had the beach hut all to ourselves and we spent a good hour here talking with our arms around each other. It’s fun. There’s a cool sea breeze, the smell of salt in the air, the warm indirect sun beside you, stray puppies coming to sleep by your feet, and a refreshing drink of coconut within arm’s reach. Bliss.

There’s also an abandoned café (I think) made of red Coca-Cola shipping containers which makes for a good photo opportunity. It has the Coke tagline and Sekinchan on one of the sides. This is my #emoforever contribution.

My beautiful Mandy does it better though. <3

There’s not much to do in Sekinchan. Like I said, it’s a sleepy little town but another place people go to is the Sekinchan Paddy Processing Factory and Museum. The road here is lined with paddy fields.

This is actually just a rice processing factory which has a small museum attached. Entry is RM 5/person and comes with a free small packet of Sekinchan rice.

The tours are guided, which an option of Chinese or English. I learned that rice factories add in 5% broken rice to meet government specifications. The technology is already there to produce 100% unbroken rice but this is more to keep with government regulations on rice price controls.

There are also 3D photo walls inside the museum where you can take photos.

…as well as various old scenes from Sekinchan past. It’s worth the 45 min or so coz there’s little else to do in Sekinchan.

You can also get cendol made with their special Sekinchan brown rice and ice cream there.

Of course, another popular destination in Sekinchan is the No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Café. I’ve written about it in a previous post.

The best part of the café is the photo ops, not the food per se.

Definitely worth a trip if you stick to the cakes and drinks though.

It’s a great place to get the perfect shot for Instagram.

You have to try Sekinchan’s local seafood before you leave. We choose a restaurant at random and ended up at Restoran Pantai Redang. This is a family run seafood location near the beach.

Mandy wanted to have their crabs. This is a crab of around 600-700 grams that’s simply steamed to preserve its original flavor.

It’s very good! Juicy and succulent, much better than the crab we had in Pulau Ketam. I love the Shaoxing wine flavored sauce too.

We saw the owner carrying in two huge fishes. They looked fresh, so we ordered two slices of that as well. It’s also cooked with minimal seasoning. I don’t think Mandy liked it but I really enjoyed the simple, clean flavors. You can only get fish as fresh as this in a fishing village.

Lala cooked in taucu and chillies were very decent as well.

We also ordered huge ass mussels steamed with garlic and rice wine. This was my favorite dish of the meal. They’re only RM 2 each and perfectly steamed so they’re still juicy and plump. This isn’t one of those overcooked mussel dishes you normally see – Mandy made sure to tell the owner to steam it for a short while so it’s barely cooked. Delicious!

It’s important to note that there’s no fancy techniques or complicated sauces at this restaurant. The food is cooked and presented simply, allowing the freshness of the seafood to shine. We both enjoyed the meal and it only came up to RM 127 including beer. Food alone was just RM 93 which is a great price for seafood of this quality. Sekinchan may not be for everyone with its slow pace of living and relatively uncommercialized tourist attractions but both Mandy and I enjoyed it immensely. I love going on trips with her.

No. 16 Bus Café in Sekinchan review: Excellent photos, mediocre food

“Do you want to go to the bus café in Sekinchan that’s inside a real vintage bus?” I asked Mandy. “Oh! That one lots of 小妹妹 (xiao mei mei) go one.” The irony of her reply is that she’s also quite young. She’s 24. Haha. I’m clearing my annual leave so I took yesterday off to go to Sekinchan with my Mandy. I’ve never been to Sekinchan. It’s about 1.5 hours away from KL/PJ and we had fun in another rustic, rural setting (Pulau Ketam) so I thought we’ll enjoy the day trip.

I timed our journey so we’ll arrive at Sekinchan Bus No. 16 Café right when they open for lunch. The café is an air-conditioned bus that’s mounted on a few shipping containers.

The kitchen is inside the shipping containers and the shell of the bus contains the café proper. There’s also al fresco seating at a small balcony to the side but the main draw is the authentic, vintage bus.

These are the types of buses that used to ply Malaysia’s roads. We had the exact same bus in Sibu! The green ones work the Lanang routes. I lived closer to town so I took the red Sungai Merah buses but the fittings are the same.

I remember the dingy interior, faded seats and the large “PRESS ONCE” button you push to let the driver know you want to get down at the next stop.

It’s very nostalgic!

It’s one of those themed cafes that people come to for the perfect Instagram shot. They’re not exactly known for their food. I knew that coming in. I’ve been to a few character cafes in Japan (where the food is generally excellent), only to be disappointed by their dismal attempts at a meal.

You’re here for the environment, not the food. You need to have this mindset when you come to No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Cafe coz the food is very subpar.

They have a very limited and streamlined savory menu under “No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Bento Boxes”. We ordered the chicken chop meal and the Korean fried chicken wings. Unfortunately, they said the Korean fried chicken wings weren’t ready yet so we switched to the Korean-style Chicken Bibimbap.

Mandy had a mango Barbican soda and I had their White Coffee. You can’t go wrong with bottled soda but the brewed white coffee was extremely diluted and borderline tasteless.

Mandy is laughing here coz she thought the shaved ice in the bucket meant to cool your drink is for pouring the drinks into, until I corrected her. Haha.

I thought both our food orders were horrible – I honestly don’t have anything good to say about the mains we ordered except that they’re both dreadful. Food isn’t their forte. I compared it unfavorably with airline food! Service was also spotty – the Chinese girl was disinterested and low-energy but the Malay girl fared better. Another gripe of mine is that the bus was way too stuffy during the afternoon heat despite the air-conditioning going full blast. I shudder to imagine how hot it’ll be with more people inside.

We also ordered their Dark Chocolate Cheese Cake with a LEGO chocolate dude on top. I did enjoy the malty chocolate cake – it tasted like it was made with Ovaltine, which is a nostalgia tinged memory for me. This was the only thing I enjoyed. I recommend you go for the cakes and drinks if you want to meet the minimum RM 30 per table spending. This minimum spend is only for weekends and public holidays though. We were hungry so we ordered a full meal. Our bill came up to RM 59 for two.

I really like the ambiance of No. 16 Sekinchan Bus Café. You can get excellent photos here. It was also empty when we came so we could take as many photos as we wanted. Don’t come here for the food coz you’ll be sorely disappointed. Think of it more like rent for use of their photography studio e.g. the bus café. I loved going with Mandy coz she’s really good with photos and she’s interested in taking nice photos so we had fun here.

Whether you’ll enjoy it depends on what you want to get out of this experience.

Pulau Ketam Trip Day 2: Exploring the island, electric bicycles, oyster omelet, haunted house, and a remarkable coincidence

Pulau Ketam isn’t very big but it might take you a while to walk around the island. Most people get by on electric bikes or regular bicycles. Electric bicycles usually go for RM 20/hour but our homestay rented them to us at RM 15/hour, so off we went to explore the habitated areas. There are 2 primary schools and a secondary school on the island so there’s a good amount of younger folks still here.

The main commercial area by the jetty is sleepy on the weekends though. It has a very familiar small town vibe. Both Mandy and I are from Sarawak so we felt very comfortable here. You can hear snippets of Teochow and Heng Hua, old ladies with curly hair smoking cigarettes, and men with Buddhist tattoos undergoing traditional Chinese cupping while seated on low stools. This can be any rural town in Sarawak – Serian, Lundu, Batang Ai.

Most of the shops serve some kind of noodle dish in the mornings so we went to a random one. Interestingly, all the coffee shops had their shutters half closed and lights off to save electricity but they’re actually open.

Mandy ordered a kueh tiaw soup dish with several different types of fishballs. This tasted peppery and mild. She didn’t like it and ended up eating my noodles.

I went for a dry tossed noodle with pork, shrimp, and boiled eggs. This tasted good but unfortunately I didn’t get to eat much of it. Mandy swapped her noodles with mine after tasting my superior order. I don’t really enjoy soup noodles but I’m a nice guy so I exchanged with her.

We also ordered 3 coffees from the next coffee shop. This one only had canned drinks and they asked us to order from their neighboring shop if we wanted brewed drinks. You can only do this in small towns where the competition is less and the spirit of cooperation is higher.

Thus satiated and fueled with caffeine, we went to Lover’s Bridge. This was marked as a tourist attraction on official Pulau Ketam maps but in reality, it’s just a rickety arch bridge. It’s good for photos though.

Mandy is pointing at the richest person in Pulau Ketam. Haha. This house is so different from the wooden structures surrounding it. Modern, sleek and tall, it’s the highest point on the island.

There’s also an old cinema beside the Lover’s Bridge. It’s amazing to think that at one point, the population of Pulau Ketam was large and vibrant enough to support a theatre as big as this one. 👏

Mandy randomly asked me what my IC number was and we found out that our last 4 digits were in sequence! What a coincidence! These checksum numbers are always odd if you’re male and even if you’re female so we can’t be the same but having ours in order is serendipitous.

It was an extremely hot day so we went to get some ABC (shaved ice dessert) to cool down. Our homestay told us about this stall, which he says has the best ABC on the island.

It was pretty good! There’s peanuts, nata de coco, jellies, cendol and all the trimmings underneath a mound of shaved ice and gula Melaka.

We sat with the owner, who told us many tales about the history and origin of the people who’re now at Pulau Ketam. He had a stroke a few years ago so his daughters run the stall, which is actually a shaved ice machine in front of their home.

We also went to the temple opposite which has very old tortoises and a huge, long python. Their toilets are very interesting too – little more than a carved rectangle on the floor. There’s no sewage system in Pulau Ketam. All human waste goes into the sea and it’s washed out by the tides.

We decided to cycle to the furthest end of the island until we couldn’t go any further. All the paths here are made of wooden boards on top of stilts. Only the main jetty and commercial area has concrete roads. It’s very exciting.

The view on the bridges that connects the island is nice towards the further regions of Pulau Ketam. You can see fishing boats moored to the individual jetties connected to houses. This is a less commercialized area of the island.

There was a very friendly woman running a drinks and snacks stand near the end of the island. We stopped there for a couple of beers. She told us she’s from Klang and come down during weekends to stay with her mom and run the stand. It’s a good place to refuel. She’s one of those people with natural PR skills.

We found an abandoned wooden house with creaking, rickety floorboards that would make a perfect photo op. The floorboards were so rotten we nearly fell through into the sea a few times.

I did a cool pose (or so I thought) and I ended up looking like such a sissy we couldn’t stop laughing for a good 3 minutes. In my defense, this looked manly and casual when conceived in my mind. The execution and angle could have been better though. 😄

Here’s a proper one so you can get rid of the previous mental image.

This is my favorite photo of us. I love the emo vibe. I told her to do a sad pose. #emoforever

We went back to Remember Me Restaurant to have o chien (oyster omelet) and a beer. This isn’t as good as the ones you’ll get in Penang or Kuching but edible. Especially on vacation since everything tastes better when you’re having fun.

The ones here are gooey and soggy instead of the crispy variant we get in Kuching but they’re both equally good.

It was a good overnight trip! Pulau Ketam is a chill and relaxing place that’s perfect for a weekend getaway. It’s not too far from KL or PJ either – just a 40 min drive and a 30 min boat trip away. I can see why people like it here. I’ll definitely be back someday.

Goodbye Pulau Ketam! We made great memories here and we’ll miss you. 🦀

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