Shoplot hotels

zoom inn hotel

These things are popping up like mushrooms. I’m currently in Johor and staying at Zoom Inn Boutique Hotel in Danga Bay for a night. I got it online for about RM 90+ and realized that the walk-in rate is only RM 78. There are three shoplot hotels within the area (not including Tune Hotel) and from looking at all (the room wasn’t available until 3 pm) this seems to provide the best price-comfort consideration.

game over room

Ill omens and portents. (!!!) Game Over all over the room. I’m not sure I want to see that whenever I open my eyes. smirk However, it is pretty creative, each room is has its unique theme and decoration…and the repeating game over is tethered to a quasi picture frame of someone playing a console game. Very artsy fartsy.

sliding either or door

Either-Or sliding door for toilet and shower.

lcd tv shoplot

The large LCD TV right at the foot of your bed is awesome though – it has all the premium channels but I only watch Discovery Channel or National Geographic variants/spinoffs. I’ll be happy with those channels.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Pretty comfortable for a night
  • Good selection of cable channels
  • Friendly and apologetic staff
  • Creative rooms

Cons:

  • Weak to non-existent WiFi
  • Room is dark
  • No writing desk

bloodstains duvet

It also has stains on the duvet that looks suspiciously like blood. I can only imagine what the previous occupants were doing but since their hairs are still sticking to the pillows, a multitude of entirely unwanted vivid scenarios come into mind.

I’m still waiting for housekeeping to change the sheets.

Speaking of creative, MilkADeal is having an awesome deal for novelty 8 GB USB drives in a variety of designs.

usb drive
RM43 instead of RM68 OR RM54 instead of RM89 for Limited Edition 8GB USB Drive + Free Delivery within Peninsular Malaysia from USB Boy. Only 200 vouchers available! [Up to 39% OFF]

I collect USB drives, though not to this extent, but it’ll be perfect for Secret Santa gifts. :)

Lontong kering @ Warong Saga

hb hanis

How does breaking your fast with royalty sound? Warong Saga has been operating for decades near the old cemetery in JB. The proprietors running it are the second generation and contrary to popular belief, it’s named after pokok saga instead of Proton Saga. ;)

lontong kering

Anyway, Warong Saga’s main claim to fame is their lontong kering. JB makes the best lontong kering in the country, or so they’ll have you believe. Lotong kering is a breakfast meal of nasi impit (compressed rice), a potpourri of vegetables (long beans, leeks, potatoes) and a piece of chicken rendang.

pokok saga

The entire dish is then doused with a generous amount of peanut sauce. It’s a pleasure to use the nasi impit to wipe the gravy from the plate before devouring it. The multitude of textures and flavors in lontong kering makes it an ideal breakfast.

nasi impit

The walls of Warong Saga is adorned with sultans, prime ministers (both ours and Singapore’s) and other people of historical importance and it attracts a healthy local crowd for breakfast.

warong saga

This place is a bit hard to find for non-locals but if you follow the old royal cemetery and watch out for a small shop by the road you’ll see it. The lontong kering and the chill, relaxed atmosphere in Warong Saga makes it well worth the trip! :)

Mee rebus tulang gearbox

mee rebus tulang gearbox

I just had the best mee rebus tulang gearbox at Restoran ZZ Sup Tulang in JB. This is one of those local foodie treasures that you need a local to bring you to.

zz sup tulang jb

The place is a rather chaotic assembly of huts and trees. The huts with the thatched roofs is meant to keep the sun and rain off your head and I found that dining in nature whets the appetite like nothing else.

mee tulang gearbox

What is mee rebus tulang gearbox? Well, it’s basically Malay style noodles with an interesting component – the tulang gearbox part. Tulang gearbox is basically the large bones from a cow, usually from the shank. There is still quite a lot of meat, cartilage and tendon on the bones but when you request for it “gearbox style” it comes with a straw.

bone marrow straw

The straw is for you to suck the marrow out of the huge bones.

hb tulang gearbox

The portion of the noodles in mee rebus tulang gearbox is a bit small for me but the gravy is sinfully rich and delicious. It leaves you hankering for more. It’s about RM 8.50 and comes with 4 good sized bones.

tulang

You’ll find at least one HUGE bone in there and you’re supposed to insert the straw deep inside it and suck in all the marrow and juices. It’s a visceral experience like no other. The bone marrow is sweet, warm and hearty. It’s simply the best mee rebus tulang gearbox I’ve had!

On being photogenic

hb jayne

You know, I’m not a particularly photogenic person. The concept of angles and poses is like an arcane art which I never quite mastered. People tell me I look better in real life than in photos.

I was browsing through my photos from JB (the most recent one that I just came back from) and saw this photo of me and Jayne drinking in the hotel room at night. We were both in our PJs and Jayne had this priceless expression on her face which I found hilarious.

She’s one of those people who’s really photogenic – the camera just adores her. It’s a great skill to have, but I guess it’ll forever elude me…it’s like how I can never style my hair properly unless it’s done by a hairstylist. :x

The famous curry fish head in JB at Kam Long Restaurant

jb famous curry fish head

There is a Chinese style curry fish head place in JB that seems to be VERY popular among the locals. Kam Long Restaurant serves curry fish head and curry fish head only. It’s their flagship, signature dish and…the only item on the menu. ;) I have heard about the prodigious queues forming just to get a taste of this very dish and I was very keen to check it out.

kam leong restaurant

The funniest thing I heard (which I didn’t get the first time) was from Lainey bff who told me – DON’T WRITE ABOUT IT. Geddit? I didn’t the first (or second time) either. smirk

curry fish head

Anyway, it just so happens that I was reading The Dead Cockroach’s review of the place the day before we were heading down. We drove along Jalan Wong Ah Fook twice and still couldn’t find the place so we stopped and asked for directions several times.

fish head

Okay, the problem with this place is that you can’t exactly see the Kam Leong Restaurant signboard while you’re driving. It’s obscured by some pull down canvas shutters to keep the sun out. It’s actually not hard to find – you just have to drive down from the BEGINNING of Jalan Wong Ah Fook and stop at the first traffic light.

queue

You’ll be able to see the queue of people outside the humble restaurant – just cross the road to join in.

curry fish head prep

It should be noted that the queue is not strictly first-come-first-serve. The small size of the restaurant and the limited seating arrangements allowed us (a group of two) to share a table with other people while if you’re in a larger posse, you might have to wait longer until a table clears.

steaming curry fish head

Well, since there’s only one thing to order, we went for the famous curry fish head for two people. It’s RM 18 inclusive of rice and you best be able to read Chinese coz there are no other languages on the menu. In fact, there is no menu, save for a small signboard beside the industrious kitchen.

kam leong curry fish head

I have to admit, the Chinese style curry fish head is very good. Lainey finished her rice, which is quite uncommon and I loved the curry sauce. They put in a lot of vegetables too – okra, long beans, tofu and so on but the fish head is the centerpiece and it does not disappoint.

hb lainey

The flesh of the fish is tender and juicy and the curry sauce complements the fresh fish head very well. My only complaint is that there isn’t enough fish meat to go around so if you’re feeling particularly hungry, order +1 people more than your group. :)

Anyway, I’m heading to JB again in a couple of hours despite just coming back early this week. Heh! We were in JB for Freedom. There’s another one this Saturday right in KL so don’t miss it! I’ll be going to the Freedom in Penang at the end of the month too!

The most WTF sign I’ve seen

pencuri

HOLD ON TO YOUR PANTS LADIES!!!

(and gentlemen)

Spotted at a JB toilet. It basically says “Beware – Thief. Don’t hang your pants here. Thanks.”.

Surreal. In other news we’re staying at Zon Regency Hotel by the sea and Gods be good it’s a duty free haven.

 jb food

I can’t say much about the quality of food (it’s alright but nothing to write home about – wait till my next post for an awesome JB specialty). However, it IS exactly like the photo in the menu so no one can say that it’s false advertising.

jb view

The best thing however is the ambience – it’s al fresco dining beside the sea…and yes, you can see Singapore yonder.

duty free

…and the alcohol? Duty free prices baby. :D

6 Corner, Senibong Seafood

senibong

Senibong is a seafood haven located at Permas Jaya in Johor. I was very keen to try out this place since it has a reputation for having the freshest seafood in town. The restaurant we went to has been featured in Jalan Jalan Cari Makan, a local food TV feature. It turned out to be a truly extraordinary dinner!

jetty

Kampung Senibong is situated right by the sea and and boasts a long row of restaurants serving a wide range of various aquatic creatures.

catch

Senibong itself is a village of seafood restaurants and all of them display the catch of the day – everything ranging from the relatively mundane fish to exotic stingrays.

dining

I could be mistaken but I believe most, if not all, of the restaurants are halal. This is also another attraction since my experiences with halal seafood is limited, to say the least. The seafood I’ve eaten is usually cooked Chinese style and I thought it’ll be awesome to sample Malay style seafood. :D

sea

Senibong seafood is really just a long alley inter-spaced with private jetties owned by the restaurants. I imagine that’s where the fishermen unload their catch to be sold to the eateries. It manages to balance the fine line between commercialism and a quaint village like ambiance. I found the place very warm and inviting.

senibong seafood

The lot of us descended to 6 Corner, one of the restaurants in Senibong. Dusk was just setting in and you can see the sea stretching out from the dining area.

6 corner

I was told you can even glimpse Singapore from that vantage point.

bulb

Regardless, there’s just something about the sea breeze that whets your appetite like nothing else. :)

mussels

The first dish that came out was mussels cooked in a sweet and spicy sauce. The gravy was delectable! I nearly finished my plate of rice just from eating the mussels and the gravy inside.

fish

I thought nothing could surpass that but then came the fish. It’s deep fried and cooked with Thai chilli sauce and pineapples. I’m not sure what type of fish they used but it didn’t come with a lot of bones, which is always a good thing. I sat on a table that has the fewest people, just so I could eat more of the food. smirk

fish sauce

It turns out that the fish wasn’t sufficient so I was thick skinned enough to “borrow” the adjoining table’s dish. Heh! It really is that good. Who would have thought Thai chilli sauce and pineapples would make such a mouth-watering gravy?

vegetable

This is the obligatory vegetable dish. I’m not keen on vegetables, especially when there are other more delicious fare on the table so I can’t comment on this. I ate some anyway.

egg

This is just a plain egg omelet but 6 Corner somehow manages to elevate this simple dish into something extraordinary. The seasoning goes very well with the egg and the omelet neutralizes the stronger taste of the seafood dishes.

prawns

The deep fried whole prawns with chilli dipping sauce is awesome. I don’t know what they put into the batter but it tastes great and it’s crunchy enough to eat the entire thing whole – head and all. I also like the boat dish that it was served in.

calamari

I’m more blasé about the deep fried calamari. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, but the other dishes were so divine that this feels bland in comparison.

tomyam

The tom yam soup is one of 6 Corner’s specialties as well. It’s very appetizing and spicy but it came rather late in the game so everyone was pretty full by then.

crabs

Just as we though the parade of dishes was ending, there was one last encore – black pepper crabs. I loved the sauce but I was too stuffed to eat more than a token claw.

dinner

It feels like I’m heaping lavish praises on the seafood here but I can honestly say that this is one of the best seafood dinners I’ve ever had in ages. It was truly an extraordinary feast. I ate so much I think my companions were taken aback. smirk

Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival 2011

bukit layang layang

I went on this trip to Pasir Gudang in Johor to catch the World Kite Festival 2011 a few weeks ago. It’s called Festival Layang-Layang Sedunia 2011 in Malay and I was surprised to see a lot of international participants. I also witnessed an awesome 400 meter long kite being deployed (that’s almost half a kilometer) which is pretty impressive.

kite fest

It seems that the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival is a big thing amongst kite enthusiasts around the world. I’m amazed that people actually travel to Johor just to fly kites for a couple of days. I used to play with kites as a kid too but never really got into it.

kite assembly

These people however are serious kite enthusiasts. I saw gravity defying contraptions being flown over the weekend and got a lesson on kites around the world while at it.

Here’s a video of the action at Bukit Layang-Layang.

flying kites

The passion of the international teams is infectious. I ended up talking to some of them, trying to understand their love for the sport. These are people who lug their kites from various countries to Malaysia just for a few days of fraternizing with like minded people and showing off their carefully made kites.

japanese

The Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival is held at the appropriately named Bukit Layang-Layang (Kite Hill) and it’s a tourist attraction which the government has capitalized on. A lot of hotels have promotions for this and there’s even a kite museum at the venue.

kite array

The kites come in every shape and size. I saw everything from giant alligators to statue sized clowns being flown.

german

The larger kites require a small “pilot kite” to be raised before the actual kite can fly.

The pilot kite is a small parachute that gives enough lift to enable the main kite – in this case a gigantic squid by the team from Germany – to fly. It takes a lot of skill and effort to get this one afloat.

line kite

I found this one particularly impressive too – it’s a dragon kite that measures over 250 meters (!!!). This is from a team in Taiwan and there was a bit of controversy over which category in the competition it can go into.

I don’t know enough about the technicalities of kite classifications to comment, but based on the video, the organizers put them in the “line kite” instead of the “dragon kite” category due to some small design feature which violates the dragon kite specifications.

dragon kite

These type of kites takes a long time to setup and fly – it needs to be packed in a box and guided slowly out before the entire kite is sky bound. The longest one measures over 400 meters (!!!). That’s almost ½ a kilometer and it’s a wonder how they managed to get it up. It must be quite a task to retrieve it in one piece too.

flying kite

Here are some of the other kites that I liked:

box kite

This is a box kite from Australia.

box

It’s hexagonal shape seem to go against every law of aerodynamics but they actually flew it quite easily.

starfruit

Our very own country also came out with a starfruit shaped kite.

spinner

This is called a spinner – it doesn’t fly per se but floats and spins clockwise, thus the name.

eagle kite

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s…well, it’s not Superman, but an eagle kite that flies like a real bird.

jump

I saw this YouTube video of a dog totally owning a cat and now I can’t get that image out of my head. I had originally thought of this as a tiger pouncing on a shark but now it looks more like the large cat is about to forcibly initiate some inter-species coitus with the shark. It doesn’t help that the shark kite has a shocked expression on its face too. smirk

guitar

Look! A flying acoustic guitar shaped kite!

cupid

An anatomically correct Cupid kite. ;)

rose

One of the girls in the China team has a rather improbable kite – it’s the tiniest one in the festival and it really flies. Yes, it’s the rose she’s holding in her hand. That’s actually a very small flower kite. Nifty! A rose by any other name is a kite. :D

museum

I went with Khairie and Mohd Zaid and got really sunburned over the weekend, but it was fun experiencing something I normally wouldn’t and talking to the kite enthusiasts around the world. It’s an insightful look into the kite flying subculture, one where even 86-year-old grandmothers fly all the way from Japan to participate in.

kites

The Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival is an annual affair in Johor. They have a website with more information here. This is the 16th incarnation of the festival-cum-competition and it’s interesting to see people who are really serious about it gather from all over the world to indulge in their mutual passion.

Here’s another video of the scene at Bukit Layang-Layang during the event.

me

It has a very vibrant ambience and everyone was friendly and eager to help each other out. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and the nature of the activity practically begs for a quote from the bestselling book by Khaled Hosseini:

…for you, a thousand times over. smirk

Polly’s wedding in Tangkak, Johor

polly

Polly had her wedding last Sunday and I drove 1 ½ hours (yes, it really is that near) down from KL with my girlfriend, Cherry and Susan in tow to get to Tangkak, Johor on Saturday to attend the festivities.

prep

My girlfriend was one of the sisters (ji mui) and after a night’s rest at a guesthouse the bride was kind enough to arrange for us, we arrived at Polly’s place at around 7 am to eat breakfast and start the preparations.

breakfast

There was chicken rice, buns and other stuff and we had to eat rather quickly since the groom’s delegation was due to arrive soon.

stuff

Padlocks galore to prevent entry.

water

There was also this drink of prayer paper being burnt into water – it’s supposed to bring peace and harmony and I took a sip, despite being agnostic in my beliefs. It’s a Buddhist custom.

arrival

As tradition goes, the groom and his entourage of cars came amidst a lot of honking to announce their presence.

sisters

They disembarked at the front gate for the “sisters” (female friends of the bride) to grill the “brothers” (male friends of the groom) – this usually involves various stages which the brothers will have to go through in order for the groom to get to the bride.

gate

The sisters act as a gatekeeper of sorts – asking the brothers to perform a multitude of tasks before being allowed deeper and deeper into the house.

panties

This is a Hong Kong custom and I’m told it’s supposed to make the groom more appreciative of the bride due to the obstacles he has to go through to get her.

soybean

I remember faces being painted with makeup, drinks of Guinness with a raw egg inside (which is pretty delicious actually), and panties being put on by the groom’s band of brothers before they get into the house.

It was all in good fun…

…for all parties involved.

yoga

There was also a lot of interesting yoga poses that they have to perform before being allowed entry.

makeup

The brothers got back at the sisters after that by hiding all their shoes. smirk

bride

The groom finally gets to the bride! *applause

tea

Anyway, the customary tea giving ceremony to the elders were performed at the bride’s place and at the groom’s place.

siesta

This took quite a while and sent us to three different places and we convened back at the groom’s place where the bride throws the flowers.

bouquet throwing

The bouquet of flowers somehow landed in Cherry’s hands.

cherry

Heh!

flowers

I also appropriated the flowers for a bit of camwhoring.

I like this mish mash of Eastern and Western traditions though when it comes to my wedding, I think I’ll forgo most of it in lieu of a more private ceremony at a beach or the highlands with an outdoor wedding ceremony.

us

There was a break after that before the lunch wedding reception so we took the opportunity to go back and take a 1 hour nap before showering and heading out again.

reception

I was quite sleep deprived and needed the shut eye since we’re driving down straight after the wedding reception.

guests

The lunch wedding reception was held at Bangunan Persatuan Eng Choon – a meeting halls of sorts. There’s a lack of restaurants with the capacity to fit the people invited in Tangkak since it’s a small town.

group

The bride and groom already had another wedding in Penang prior to this. It’s not uncommon to have multiple weddings due to relatives – my sister had 3 – one in New Zealand, one in KL and one in Sibu.

table

We were seated at a table labelled “Diploma Friends”. I don’t know Polly personally, she’s Jeanie’s friend and I guess that makes me the chauffeur cum +1 in this entire shebang. ;)

fruits

The first dish was refreshingly different. I mean that literally. It was a hot afternoon and the lychee, grapes and pineapple chunks on a bed of ice inside a hollowed out pineapple really did the trick.

sampler

There is also the more traditional “sampler” first dish. I think there’s a name to it, usually “Four Seasons” or something to that effect but I like to call it a sampler dish coz it comes in a smorgasbord of small servings. I like the unorthodox century eggs and peanuts in this dish. The satay was good and so was the cuttlefish.

pork

The next dish is a combination of pork, yam and sea cucumber braised in dark sauce. It’s really good as well.

shark fin soup

Of course, there’s the customary shark fin’s soup after that. I like the generous servings of shark’s fin inside – you can literally see the huge chunks in each bowl.

sharks fin

Here you go! I know a lot of people are against shark’s fin, but I’m neither a tree hugger or an environmentalist wannabe, I eat just about anything – my previous culinary adventures can be a testament to that. ;)

billionare

Polly works at a records company and she got this famous local singer to come and perform at the wedding reception. I don’t know his name but my girlfriend told me he’s the one who sang the Hokkien song “If I had a billion dollars”. No, not the “I wanna be a billionaire” song currently on the airwaves, this is old skool stuff.

He did a parody of other well known Chinese artists and I can’t get most of his references coz I don’t listen to that genre of music but it was quite entertaining.

prawns

During the interlude, there came a dish of prawns – it’s done in a yin yang presentation, with half of it being deep fried butter prawns topped with mayo and the other fried in hot sauce.

cheers

I preferred the butter prawns and it was so crunchy that you can eat the entire thing, head and tail. At least that’s how I eat my prawns. A lot of people are surprised that I can eat the entire thing without shelling. I guess it’s equal part laziness and having a taste for the shell – I think it tastes better whole.

fish

Another must have dish during weddings is fish – this is a steamed fish which I can’t identify. However, I really liked the soft texture and the sauce that it was done with. I like this kind of fish, I don’t know when I started liking fish, since I never used to as a kid, same with vegetables.

suckling pig

…then came the best dish of the wedding reception. This is hands down is the most delicious thing that I had that day. It’s roasted suckling pig.

pig

I like the thinly sliced crispy skin and the BBQ sauce served under it. The presentation is really awesome too – you can clearly see that the entire pig has been served.

tongue

The tongue of the sucking pig was something I had to work very hard to get. I like the taste of tongue – you can find canned versions of it but the best thing is to eat it fresh in England or Australia.

chicken

There were a lot of dishes that day – this is paper wrapped chicken. It’s cooked inside wrapping to produce meat that literally melts in your mouth. It’s tender and all the flavors are preserved due to the cooking method.

ham

I couldn’t eat very much after that but there was a serving of sliced abalone, ham, broccoli, mushrooms and a rare (and expensive) type of seafood that I don’t know the name of. It’s chewy and it tastes like clams.

ice cream

The final dish was rather unique as well – it’s ice cream! I found that it suits the weather rather well. We saw one person eating it with chopsticks and another eating it with a soup spoon at another table. Jeanie thought it was pretty funny and I took several photos of me doing it as well.

chopsticks

When in Tangkak…

spoon

…do as the Tangkak-ians do.

newlyweds

Cheers to the newlyweds!

grooms

All the best in all your future endeavors! :)

couple

I really enjoyed this experience and though I was just about nodding off on the drive back, a quick pit stop and an energy drink resolved that.

wedding

It was a really fun weekend and a good opportunity to meet the girlfriend’s friends. :D

An interesting wedding at Tangkak, Johor

tangkak

I just made a 1 ½ hour drive down from KL to Tangkak in Johor to attend a wedding with Jeanie and two of her friends. It’s a very small town and we spent most of the day in Muar before heading over here.

wedding tent

The groom’s house has been decked out with an outdoor canopy catering to numerous guests during the night before the wedding. There’s food and beer under the tent, it’s a midnight vigil of sorts. :D

groom house

It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this in a Chinese wedding. I’ve seen this sort of setup in Malay weddings but never in Chinese ones. I’m told it’s quite common in the smaller towns in rural areas. Imagine the logistics of having to block off an entire residential street with the permission of all the neighbours!

bunking

Anyway, the soon-to-be-wed couple were kind enough to provide accomodations for us. We’re bunking in a room inside a guest house just opposite the groom’s place for the night.

driving

The pre-wedding rituals (Jeanie is the “sister” – ji mui) is going to start early tomorrow morning and we’re heading home to KL straight after the lunch wedding reception so it’s time to grab some shut eye coz I nearly fell sleep driving today. :x

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