My better half has never been to Bintangor before. It’s a small and sleepy town which is one of the major transit points to further destinations accessible only by river. We thought about dropping by the last time she was here but went directly to Sarikei instead.
Her parents were in town and I thought they’ll enjoy the small town vibe so I drove all of them down from our hotel in Sibu (after snapping a few quick photos at the swan statue).
It takes approximately an hour to reach Bintangor by car. The main feature in town is a passenger jetty with express boats departing to obscure villages and micro-towns like Dalat, Song and other similar places which can only be reached by the large Rejang River which runs along the entire length of Sarawak.
The express boats are the only way to go to these places upriver and that’s why you’ll see them packed to the brim (with people jammed in every nook and cranny and even occupying the roof). Boats like these are supposed to carry 103 pax but regularly exceed that and it makes accidents a very real possibility – a capsized boat killed quite a lot of people last year.
There are no roads to the towns further down, you can only get there by boat or helicopter.
I like how the major export of Bintangor is featured as a statue in the middle of town. There’s a local orange that features predominantly in the esplanade and the last time I was here, it was in a very sorry state – paint all peeling and unkempt. It’s been maintained better and the colors look more or less like what a real orange would look like. Trust me, it looked a lot worse in the past.
We also dropped by the Bintangor Market to check out their produce. They have a lot of interesting local vegetables, knick knacks and other assorted daily essentials.
I made it a point to bring them to the famous Bintangor rojak at Wong Hung Ping. This place is very popular even among Sibu folks, people would make the 1 hour drive to eat rojak during weekends and drive back down again. I ordered a large portion for us to share and my dear’s dad enjoyed it tremendously.
There are steamed sweet potatoes, cucumbers, pineapples (from the neighboring town of Sarikei), fried crullers and other miscellaneous ingredients tossed in a sweet homemade sauce and sprinkled with toasted peanuts. I think what makes it so good is that everything is sourced locally and very fresh. The sweet potatoes are even cooked to order!
I also highly recommended the local Bintangor orange juice (RM 3) which is the squeezed product of the fruits grown just on the outskirts of town. You can’t get it fresher than this!
Her dad enjoyed the rojak so much that he bought a bottle of their homemade rojak sauce to bring back to KL!
It’s a really fun day trip to do with my dear and the family. I haven’t been here in a few years and it seems like time hasn’t marred this small town like it has other places. Bintangor is still a serene little place you can escape to if you want a change of pace, to experience a quieter way of life.
There’s a new twin statue of the iconic Sarikei pineapple in the older part of town! This is the “unripe” version, it’s green instead of yellow. Technically, it’s not a statue since it’s not an effigy of a figure, person, or animal but a fruit – pineapples are the primary export of Sarikei and they’re famous for producing these prickly fruits.
2. The Journey from Sibu
My better half flew down with me from KL to visit my dad over the weekend. I decided to drive down to Sarikei since she’s never been there before so the three of us packed into a car and headed down to the small town. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from Sibu on a two lane road.
3. Entering Sarikei
A beautiful red curving bridge is located at the border between Sibu and Sarikei. You can also reach there by a ferry service across the river but we took the route that takes us through Bintangor (another rural town).
4. Sarikei Clock Tower
This is another famous landmark in town – erected in 1973, it’s been around for a while and recently the town seems to have found some funds to refurbish it. Yes, this is NOT the original clock tower – I have a photo of the earlier tower with a hollow center during my Sarikei trip in 2008.
5. Pasar Sungai Rejang
This roughly translates to “Rejang River Market”. Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia and connects much of Sarawak. This building houses the old wet market in town and there’s lots of interesting stuff in there!
6. Scenes from Sarikei Wet Market
There is a stall here that sells authentic home made Sarawak laksa paste but unfortunately it was closed by the time we arrived.
7. Salted Fish
Salted fish is a much beloved food item here. There are many different kinds of fish being dried, salted and sometimes fermented – everything from whitebait to local species to imported cod.
8. The Original Sarikei Pineapple Statue
(accept no substitutes)
This is the original (bigger and ripe) Sarikei pineapple! It’s located by the waterfront and it’s almost bleached white from the constant cleaning. Contrast the Sarikei pineapple statue with a post I wrote when I went on a trip with a couple of friends during my winter holidays back from university in Melbourne – this is Sarikei back in 2002 where it’s a much dirtier but vibrant shade.
The United States Declaration of Independence has an oft quoted line – Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. It’s misunderstood by a lot of people. Your happiness is not guaranteed…the sentence is supposed to give you the basic unalienable human rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (emphasis mine).
What is happiness? Well, it depends on the individual but it is your right to seek your own happiness. To me, happiness is a state of mind where you’re content with everything in your life.
Happiness is something money cannot buy. A lot of people are unhappy about their financial situation but I believe that’s an unnecessary worry. The Chinese has a proverb that goes “Money is something that you can always earn back when you lose it”. There’s another phrase that goes “There will be water if God wills it” but that comes from the less reputable and more modern Dark Tower series of books by Stephen King. ;)
Happiness is a state of mind that I always try to strive for. I’m happy when I’m doing the things I like such as travelling. It enriches me and makes me a more understanding and better person when I meet new people and learn about new cultures. I’m even happier when I’m spending quality time with loved ones – friends, family, my girlfriend.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the rat race and forget about the simple things in life that lifts your mood:
Finding a parking space as soon as you enter a full car park
The smell of freshly cut grass
Laughing at corny jokes
Having a baby smile at you
A fellow commuter stopping to let you drive out of a particularly busy exit
Waking up and realizing it’s the weekend so you can sleep in
Watching a sweet TVC that makes you smile
These are all little things which makes yout day just that little bit brighter. It has a cumulative effect and happiness is highly contagious – it’s like laughter. It’s meant to be shared. :)
I watched the Cadbury TVC and repeated it twice coz it was just so sweet. I found it adorable – the simple sweet joy (pun not intended) that permeates the entire commercial. It has all the elements done right – the humor, the camaraderie of neighborhood love, and a dash of romance.
I took it upon myself to make a video similar to that. I was in Miri, Sarawak at that time to help my girlfriend move her stuff to KL. We spent a weekend in the Marriott Resort and Spa in Miri. It’s located right on the beach by the South China Sea and we booked a chalet facing the pool and sea.
You just need to open the sliding glass door to get out. There’s a balcony which is less than 10 meters from the pool – it’s almost like having a pool right at your doorstep!
I thought up the idea of having a series of unfortunate events much like the original TVC. The entire video was shot over a period of 2 days. I didn’t have a professional videographer so I had to think of how to get the scenes right.
I also wanted a “happy” vibe so everything is shot in daylight – it’s bright and sunny with no indoor scenes except the initial phone call. I’ll go through the more interesting bits to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of the video. :)
The first mishap you see (the one where I exit the house just to get splashed by a wayward neighbor’s dirty mop water) is done using a tripod. The one holding the bucket is…*drumroll*…Jeanie herself. The bucket was too heavy for her and we had to do two takes. I ended up changing coz the first splash totally failed – she went into the scene, propelled by the momentum and weight of the bucket of water.
We filled it with less water in the second take. I didn’t want to use up the rapidly dwindling backpack of attire I brought along. :x
The car not being able to start
You’ll see the same car in the next scene so I did an extreme close up so you won’t see the make, model or color of the car. :)
The accident scene
This one wasn’t too hard to do. It only required the two of us to pull it off. I filmed Jeanie driving towards me. I told her to put her foot on the gas and not worry about hitting me.
After that part was filmed, I passed the camera to her and she filmed me being caught like a deer in the headlights as the car (apparently) came barreling down on me.
The next scene was me twitching on the car bonnet after being “hit”. It took some video transitions to make it look comically realistic (without actually hitting me with the car).
It was originally longer but I thought the bit where I ended up wandering about dazed after being hit was a little too much so I cut it from the editing board. You can watch the full original scene here:
I spent a lot of time editing the videos – it’s a good learning process but it took me the better part of 3 days of almost continuous tweaking to get the timing and synchronization right. I’m a newbie in video production, thus the learning curve.
This is one of the scenes that I took out of the video as I thought it won’t contribute much to it. The beach walk also had to be sped up 4x so it won’t drag on.
The underwater scene
This is a bit of a retrofit. It was meant to be all fluff – a cool video taken underwater. I have a waterproof digicam and I figured it would be nifty to take a video underwater. I knew it won’t make much sense since I appear with my shirt on in the next scene…until I saw someone being escorted out by security.
The Marriott has a strict policy – only guests are allowed to use the resort facilities and The Proverbial Light Bulb (TM) came on. It shall be the scene where I evade the guards!
I put that in the caption (used the Confucius angle), and the rest, as they say, is history.
The end scene
After all those trials and tribulations, we finally shot the last scene beside the pool. There’s this comfy sofa and we enlisted the help of a kind lady from France who was more than obliged to help us film this scene. The inter-cuts you see at the end is filmed by us – I did her and she did me.
I swear this was the hardest part of the video – we went to several different shops in Miri but none of them had Cadbury Dairy Milk. They have others – the ones with nuts, Old Gold, and others…but not the original. It took us 2 hours before we stumbled upon a shop that sells it. I bought 5 x 75 gram bars.
I then realized that it was the old packaging when I chanced upon a shop with the new packaging. I bought more of it and re-shot some of the scenes again. I have a lot of chocolate now but I love Cadbury Dairy Milk so it’s all good. :D
We actually did share it – there were a couple of kids running around in the resort and I passed them several bars. I thought their parents would balk – candy from strangers and all that, but they thanked us for it and one even bought us drinks from the poolside bar.
The kids loved it. One of them came up to me and she showed me her toy – a launcher she was playing with beside the pool that launches a baby dinosaur up into the air by pumping air into the tube. That was the highlight of doing the video – sharing the Cadbury chocolate and seeing the little ones enjoying it by the pool during their holiday. :)
It was a lazy Friday night and we got a call from Wendy asking us if we would like to join her for dinner. She’s buying and we headed down to BARcelona for food and drinks. BARcelona is a place that serves Spanish food and the best thing about the place is that you can order stuff from SOHO (which is next door) too!
BARcelona and SOHO are located in adjacent lots and belongs to the same owner – you can sit at either one and order food from the other. SOHO specializes in Irish food and I’m pretty sure both establishments share the same bar.
There’s an outdoor patio type canopy that allows you to chill al fresco style. It’s Miri so there’s always a nice sea breeze going on at night. ;)
I am intrigued by BARcelona’s concept – they have different seating arrangements to suit everyone. You can have a private dining area or sit in one of the side booths where there’s a computer screen on the table. I saw a lot of people logging on to Facebook and showing their friends photos.
I the idea. :) It brings social media back to the real world.
Anyway, the photos I took are really horrible coz I didn’t bring my dSLR here so I’ll use a thousand words instead. Heh!
Jeanie had the broccoli soup from SOHO. I like it – it’s very creamy and rich. I’m not a big fan of soups in general so that’s saying a lot.
The other thing that surprised my friends was the large Cobb Salad (RM 15) which we ordered for starters. This also came from SOHO and contains organic mixed greens, honey roasted chicken, tomatoes, onions, bacon with blue cheese crumbles and hard boiled eggs. I don’t eat a lot of veggies but the salad uses a balsamic vinegar dressing which hits the spot and the bits of bacon inside helped a lot too. I ate quite a bit of the leafy greens – enough to hit my usual monthly quota.
The chef also recommended several tapas dishes that we had. The most memorable one is Albondigas Picante (which will hereby be referred to as the meatball tapas). This is quite surprising since it looks rather plain at first glance. However, when the Taste Test (TM) is applied, it turned me into a believer. The meatball is firm but literally bursts with juicy goodness when you bite down into it. Nice!
There’s also the Patatas con Alioli Picante which all the others liked but I didn’t care much for. It does have very nice dressing but eating potatoes just doesn’t do it for me. To each his/her own!
The Baranjas con Salsa de Pimentas (eggplant with Spanish sauce) was good though. I love eggplant. It’s one of the few vegetables I like, mostly due to it’s creamy and rich texture. The tapas dishes all come with slices of bread to soak up the gravy.
I love the Paella Marisco (seafood paella) too – it came with huge prawns, mussels and squid. You can request for them to use the more authentic Spanish rice instead of the regular rice tailored to local tastes – it tastes much better this way.
The rice is firm and each grain is distinctive. It’s flavorful and goes very well with the seafood. Trust me on this – ask for Spanish rice. :D
Next came another one of their specialties – the Valencia Pizza (RM 19). It’s 10 inches, made with a topping of onion, chilli, pepper, bacon and minced beef and comes in a proper thin crust. I had my doubts initially upon setting my eyes on it. Chilli slices on a pizza? It looks like the product of an overzealous fusion chef but when I bit into the thin crust and tasted the pizza, I fell in love with it immediately. I eat a lot of pizza and I usually forgo it when I’m eating out but this one tastes exquisite!
It’s one of those rare moments when fusion cuisine works very well. I can see why it’s on the recommended list in the menu. I would recommend it too. :)
Down to the cocktails, I had three – this is the Ultimate Margarita (RM 20). It’s done well and I love the sea salt lining the rim of the glass. It’s a small thing but you’ll be surprised at the number of places that don’t do it, especially in smaller cities. It’s not a proper margarita unless there’s sea salt on the rim. I like the attention to detail in BARcelona.
I also had their signature BARcelona Tea Party (RM 25). It’s listed on the alcohol menu as “Star & Strong Alcohol”. It’s true, the alcohol content is rather high in this long island tea variant. I love it! :D
The best dish that we had that night was hands down the humble chicken wings. It’s oven baked and marinated with juices which complement the chicken very well. The skin is crispy but the meat tender – a wonderful experience. Do not miss this one if you’re ever in BARcelona. It’s perfect as finger food or a main course. Succulent.
BARcelona and SOHO is located diagonally from Mega Hotel in Miri. It’s outside of the main clubbing distinct and as such, provides a nice change of scenery. The bill is affordable too – the tapas ranges from RM 5 – RM 10 and the mains are reasonably priced. It’s a great place to have dinner or drinks with a couple of friends.
Thanks for picking up the bill Siaw Yin! You’re too kind. Next meal is on me. :)
It was a boring Sunday and we decided to get ourselves acquainted with nature by heading down to Lambir Hills National Park. Lambir is a 31 km drive from Miri (according to the roadsigns) and is said to be one of the most bio-diverse parks in Malaysia.
We departed a little bit late due to some domestic issues but managed to reach the park at about 12 pm.
We were a bit apprehensive about getting down with nature at that hour, considering its fiery temper – namely, the sun, but surprisingly the sheer amount of trees in Lambir Hills National Park totally negated any heat from the sun.
Lambir Hills National Park is home to a few waterfalls, but the most popular one is Latak Waterfall. There’s a good reason why Latak Waterfall is so popular – it’s neither the highest nor the most tranquil waterfall in Lambir but it is the nearest.
It only takes a leisurely 20 minute stroll to reach Latak Waterfall in Lambir Hills National Park. You’ll pass by two smaller waterfalls on the way but it’s not accessible unless you’re willing to scale over untamed forest brush to get to what amounts to a glorified puddle with a trickle of water from above.
Latak Waterfall on the other hand is a comparatively majestic 25 meter wall of water rushing down from a cliff above. You can hear the roar of the waterfall before you even see it…which is true of most waterfalls anyway so I don’t know why I’m mentioning this.
It is however quite grand, better than my expectations. The pool of water created by the waterfall cascade starts out shallow and quite suddenly drops down in depth.
I guess a trained eye could see it from above based on the color of the water but it surprised me when I stepped from waist deep water into what seemed like an abyss.
I think the buoy line warning swimmers not to frolic beyond a certain point is there for a good reason.
I would guess that it’s about 5 meters deep just before the buoy, it’s bound to be deeper at the base of the waterfall but unfortunately there was a guard on duty that day so I couldn’t venture there.
The place seems rather lively even for a Sunday – there’s family bringing their kids swimming, a couple of giggling college girls (and one shemale) plus your regular assortment of the dredges of humanity making a ruckus.
This is Jeanie doing some sort of yoga pose in the water and failing badly.
Latak Waterfall has BBQ pits for your use and changing rooms are within walking distance from the falls. The water is VERY COLD and that’s a great thing. The only downside is that there’s a lot of stones which can cut your feet and random flotsam drifting around the outer fringes of the pool.
I don’t think the water is the type you bottle and ship too coz we both got very itchy soon after coming out of the pool.
Nevertheless, it’s a nice diversion on a weekend and well worth the RM 10 entrance fee. There are better and more private waterfalls in Lambir Hills National Park but you’ll have to be prepared to walk 3 hours to get there.
Take only photographs, leave only footprints.
It was a well spent Sunday – relaxing by the waterfalls with an occasional dip into the cold natural pool, looking up at the foliage above.
Nasi Lalapan is an Indonesian dish that’s very popular in Miri. I went to Muara Restaurant just now based on Jeanie’s recommendation to check out this unique incarnation of Indonesian cuisine. Muara Restaurant is self-dubbed “The Founder of Lalapan” – very lofty claims indeed.
This is the original restaurant at Miri Waterfront Commercial Centre. There’s another newer establishment in Miri but the first Muara Restaurant is located at a much more appealing location – it’s right beside the river!
There is a very nice breeze and you can see the bustling activity of the river right from the vantage of your dining table.
Muara Restaurant is supposed to serve the best nasi lalapan in Miri and coming from Jeanie (who doesn’t like spicy food) it was intriguing enough for me to check it out.
We went there well past lunch hour (it was around 3 pm) and there were still heaps of diners eating nasi lalapan – a great testament to its popularity.
Nasi Lalapan is basically a dish of vegetables, tofu and meat arranged around a unique sambal based sauce. You can choose the meat that goes with your nasi lalapan – there’s everything from chicken to prawn. The rice is served separately on a plate and there’s also a bowl of soup to go with your meal.
Jeanie had the Nasi Lalapan Empal (beef) which costs RM 8. Here’s a top view of what nasi lalapan is all about – starting from the 12′ o clock position, there’s tempeh (a soy product which tastes like nuts), a piece of deep fried tofu, the meat (in this case, beef), some greens (spinach if I’m not mistaken), cucumber slices, uncooked long beans (called ulam in Malay), a lime, and some cabbage.
You start eating nasi lalapan by squeezing the lime into the sambal based sauce and mixing it up. The sauce is the cornerstone of lalapan and it tastes great – spicy, with visible flakes of chilli and a tangy finish.
The vegetables can be picked apart using your fingers and dipped into the sauce. I saw people eating it this way so I emulated them.
It tastes much better when you use your hands to eat. Primal. :D
I really liked the beef in Jeanie’s Nasi Lalapan Empal – it’s smoked beef and tastes delicious, with a lingering sweet aftertaste.
I chose Nasi Lalapan Keli (RM 10) for my late lunch. Ikan keli is catfish and I was surprised when the plate of nasi lalapan came out – the fish is humongous! I forgot to use something as a reference point so you can’t appreciate the sheer size of it, but trust me, it’s gigantic!
It’s deep fried to perfection. The skin is crunchy and the flesh is tasty – delectable! The presentation is awesome too! They must have a really huge wok to be able to fry that mutant catfish wholesale. I particularly liked the precision in which they sliced the fish so that you can easily use a fork to spear a segment of the fish.
We also ordered a chicken drumstick – you can order the meat in the nasi lalapan variants separately. I saw a lot of people eating the chicken nasi lalapan and wanted to try it. Unfortunately, it’s nothing to write home about – I preferred my catfish and Jeanie’s smoked beef tastes much better.
Muara Restaurant has really good nasi lalapan. You can determine the authenticity of the food based on how many Indonesians visit the joint and the spicy tang of the sambal goes very well with the vegetables and meat. The dishes range from RM 8 – RM 15 depending on what you choose as your meat and the entire meal just set us back RM 21.80.
I only realized that they forgot to charge us for the chicken when I looked at the receipt. :x
I went out at 8 am this morning to get some breakfast with Diana. Picked up Daniel too and headed off to Sugarbun to get something to eat, partly because it’s air-conditioned and partly because we haven’t eaten there in a while.
Me and Diana
Hung around there for an hour before Ah Chan joined us. We had to leave at 10 am though, to meet up with Yi Ching and Justina to go to Sarikei. We went to the city bus terminal to catch the bus, but the buses leaves in 2 hour intervals and we just missed the 10 am bus. We decided to take the express boat to Paradom and catch a bus from there. The bus fare from Paradom to Sarikei is RM 5.40, the most I’ve paid for a bus ticket in Sibu. Heh.
Me and Daniel
An hour later, we were in Sarikei and got some lunch while waiting for Jonas to pick us up.
Lunch at Sarikei
Obligatory picture with Sarikei signboard to show I was there
The pineapple replica in Sarikei town
After lunch, we walked to the tallest building in Sarikei (some government building) because it was air-conditioned. It was really hot today. We walked to Courts Mammoth after that to pretend to try the couches there. Another thinly veiled attempt to enjoy their air-conditioned premises, of course. I saw this interestingly named coffee shop besides Courts Mammoth. It’s named Ma Li Cafe which cracked me up.
If you speak Foochow, the words “ma li” will no doubt elicit chuckles. For those of you who don’t, it sounds like a mild profanity in Foochow. After that, we walked to SMB St Anthony (a high school), who seems to produce several individuals of high caliber.
St Anthony High School
Jonas picked us up from St Anthony’s and we headed to get some ABC special to cool down and headed off to Ngiu Kee to get a large bottle of cold mineral water.
Eating ABC special (an iced dessert)
We went to this new park in Sarikei after that, it’s called the Water Tower Park, if I’m not mistaken. The main feature is an old water tower.
Water Tower Park
The Water Tower
Jonas dropped us off at the government building again after that and we got visitor’s passes to go to the top floor. The top floor is the 10th floor (what did you expect?) and there is nothing much there, except a good view of the river and some exceptionally cool air conditioning.
View of the river with ferry in dock
A friend of Justina’s picked us up after that and took us to Sebangkoi, a nature reserve about 30 minutes away from Sarikei town. Took heaps of pics there and Yi Ching had cramps and was trailing us all through the reserve. =D
Bridge over a waterfall
Arrrggghhhhh…the croc got me!!!!!!!!!!!
We headed to Daniel’s uncle’s orchard after that, where I was promptly bitten 1000 times by 1000 mosquitoes.
Managed to walk though most of the orchard, which contains ‘landmines’ in the form of holes (some going down as far as 1 feet) which are covered by shrubbery.
Tr navigation. I also managed to drive this mini tractor thing, which has no gas pedal, but only a lever to move faster. The gear shift is in between the legs too, and the tractor jittered all the time, which makes an interesting experience.
We drove Daniel’s uncle’s car to Jakar (har har…sounds like penis in Malay) to get something to eat. Headed back to the orchard after that and hi uncle drove us back to Sibu at around 8:15 pm. Interesting day, but I managed to get mild heat stroke from the obscene heat. Poor Yi Ching was struck by heat stroke too, we’re both sensitive that way. Now where did I put my Poh Chi Kit pills?
From left: Huai Bin (me), Yi Ching, Justina, Daniel