New Capitol Restaurant, Sibu

gold tablecloth

I just came back from dinner with my parents! I brought my better half along, we just flew in this morning – it’s been a while since I’ve visited my mom.

new capitol restaurant

She just went through another killer bout of radiotherapy from tumors spreading to her scalp and it’s been impeding her movement and cognitive systems a little so I thought I’ll drop by and say hello.

blended ice lemon tea

My mom is usually in Singapore but my dad convinced her to come back for a 1 week sojourn to eat the chicken over here. Apparently, it’s more nutritious. ;)

raw vegetables

I was thinking about where to bring them to dinner tonight when New Capitol Restaurant came up. This is a very old establishment in Sibu – look at the display case with cognac bottles and the old school gold tablecloth!

sliced century egg

We wanted to have the signature Claypot Mutton but unfortunately it was sold out, so we ordered:

fried kampua
Fried Kampua
This is for my dear, who has eaten a lot of different incarnations of Sibu’s most popular noodles – except fried. New Capitol Restaurant does a pretty good rendition.

sweet sauce chicken
Sweet Sauce Chicken
This is quite good actually – it has cashew nuts and other goodies inside. I ate the most of this dish.

fu kui
Fu Kui Vegetable
I have no idea what this is. The New Capitol Restaurant waitresses came up with a platter of raw vegetables (see above) for us to choose from. My dad went with this one.

Tofu Soup with Oysters
It’s tofu, I ate half of my bowl just for the sake of eating it but I don’t like tofu as a general rule. It’s so funny, I just realized that I didn’t even take a photo of this dish coz I don’t like tofu! Haha!

foochow wine duck
Red Wine Sediment Duck
This is the famous Sibu Foochow cuisine condiment known as “hong zhou” – literally the remains of home made red wine. It’s slathered over a duck and deep fried. I’m not a huge fan but it tasted alright.

huai yee

The bill came up to RM 66.70 – it was cheaper than our extravagant lunch! It’s good to talk to my parents and spend time together with all my loved ones over dinner though.

red wine duck

That was worth the price of the flights back home! :)

Raro East Meets West Cuisine

soup in bread bowl

Raro serves up a mish mash of cuisine, like the restaurant’s name suggests. However, the “Eastern” dishes consists basically of rice with the steaks and other mainstays of “Western” cuisine. My dad is a regular there with his friends and he says the bread is really good.

raro

I took my dad out to dinner last night and checked out the Chef’s Special Mushroom Soup. That’s the official moniker for it, it’s mushroom soup inside a hollowed out bread bowl. The bread is sourced from a bakery here and it’s pretty good.

soup in bread

This appetizer goes for RM 6.90 and you can opt for it to be separated (like my dad’s order) if you don’t want the bread to go soggy. I like the soup inside the bread though so I went the regular way.

bread in soup bowl

I also had a New Zealand Lamb Chop (RM 20.90). It’s quite cheap for the portion – three thinly sliced lamb chops served in an oblique dish with half a boiled potato and some vegetables. I wasn’t very impressed with the sides but the meat is solid enough.

nz lamb chop

My dad doesn’t eat a lot of meat so he didn’t order a main and just had some off mine. Even with his help, the portion is quite satisfactory. However, one thing I didn’t like is the fact that everything comes in at once – they don’t wait for you to finish the appetizer before serving the mains.

hb dad

I think that’s how it’s done in Sibu but I still don’t like it. The drinks are pretty good though – had a Milo Shake (RM 8.90) and they didn’t skimp and dilute it. Raro East Meets West Cuisine is primarily known for its steaks and soup in a bread bowl but I didn’t find it exceptional.

raro restaurant

Good bonding time with my dad before everyone comes back tomorrow though! :D

You can’t control what people think, you shouldn’t control what people say

accident

Barrack Obama said that in one of his addressed to the UN where mentioned he has become used to people calling him appalling things every day. While I won’t dare to equate myself to him, it generally applies to everyone. I have an anecdote from my very first (and expensive) private rehab where I spent 28 days.

The psychologist told me before I left not to expect people playing kompangs (a Malay drum usually used for celebrations) to herald your new found sobriety. No one is going to believe you.

A lot of ex-addicts get snared by this apparent “lack of support” and relapse due to the mentality that “Well, if no one is going to believe me anyway, I might as well go right on doing drugs.

What has that got to to with anything?

It has got to do with everything.

espresso

I’ll like to thank all my readers for being supportive throughout my Project Listen campaigns. There’s a handful of naysayers (but that’s to be expected, and coming from the same IP, disregarded by me) but the point of that lesson is learning how to believe in yourself!

That is the true path to recovery.

That is the only way to become a better person.

You don’t rely on what others think or say for your self-confidence – that is the worst thing you can do. Just believe in yourself and want to be a better person.

…and that is my journey, from my darkest days of drug addiction, to facing the skeletons in my closet and my journey to become a better person.

Of course, it takes a long time (nay, a lifetime) to become a better person but I wanted to start anyway coz every journey begins with a single step. I have taken enough from the ones dearest to me. I have lived life to the fullest extent. Now it’s time to give it all back.

arguing

I could have just written about anything mundane, but I choose to write about the most difficult parts of my life and how I’m changing it. I firmly believe in the reach of Project Listen and I hope that the experiences I’ve been through could be of help in some way to someone.

Thank you again for sharing my videos, it was hard doing them, it was a decision that I made and I’m glad I did it.

home

One last note – if there’s any of you out there stuck in the depths of drug addiction, know you can set yourself free, but only if you choose to. If any of you are in a spot coz of unwanted pregnancies colliding with religious beliefs, know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

josiah

Finally, cherish your family and those dearest to you for they are the ones who stay when everything else goes to shit.

Love,
Huai Bin
sixthseal.com

The Prodigal Son

I wrote this for Project Listen a while back and I’m re-posting it on my blog so it can be kept as an archive. Cheers to my family for enduring me all this while and I’m glad I have a chance to make it all right.

family

I’ve always felt that I haven’t been doing much for my family. I’ve put them through a lot – it all started when I went to New Zealand as a permanent resident to do my high school in Christchurch. I was 15 then and quite very extremely rebellious.

The freedom I had there pushed my rebellious nature to new heights, and I got involved in drugs, gangs, etc etc – basically your “regular” teenage rebellion multiplied by a billion in intensity.

reverse mohawk

That was more than 15 years ago and although I came to my senses I still never quite bonded with my family, creating more burden and causing more stress instead of what I was supposed to do as a filial son.

I can safely say that during my career as a professional human lab rat, I’ve tried more drugs that the vast majority of other users, sourcing for not just common drugs like heroin and methamphetamine but exotic research chemicals like 6-APB, UR-144 and 5-MeO-MiPT which most people have never even heard of, much less tried.

drugs

I was arrested for drug possession when I was 24 and appeared on many newspapers, some with extremely detailed information about me, which must have caused my parents a lot of grief. I’ve also went through rehab three times and been hospitalized countless times – overdoses, ICU admissions from permanent renal and liver damage, suicide attempts during psychotic breaks.

It was chaotic.

night out

I’ve never felt that I’ve contributed much to the family and I was never really close with them even as I got older. I was in Sibu for a period of time and even then I’m always out with friends when I’m back home for the holidays and coming home just to sleep. I’ve even brought girls back in the middle of the night for noisy drunken sex and wake up the next afternoon to shower together…

…in my parents house!

I never thought of how disrespectful I was being.

I never though of how much I hurt their feelings.

I never even communicate much with them – most of the conversation goes one way – with me talking about the latest exotic drugs I’ve tried, the inevitable escapades with police that I’ve gotten away with, the girls that I’ve fucked.

I never really listened to what their needs are. It took me a loooong time before I started becoming more attuned to their needs. I’m ashamed to even put a year to when I stopped. I shudder to even think about what I’ve done now.

…but like the Biblical story, my parents have always been believed in me despite my numerous flaws and downright disgusting behavior.

My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010 and it was only then that I understood what family meant. The way our family pulled together to support her as she went through multiple surgeries, radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions taught me what being related was all about.

I’ve always thought of my mom as a nag, and didn’t spend much time listening to her at all.

mom

However, since the diagnosis, it just struck me how fast the years fly by and how little time we actually have together as a family unit.

I regret not spending more time with my mom, and I started to realize that the “relationship” that I have was basically non-existent – I was just being selfish.

I started to really spend time with my parents at that point. Instead of just gaudily flaunting my sexual exploits, I started to listen more to what they have to say. I developed a genuine interest in their life and well being.

cancer

Hell, I even start to worry about them.

I talk to them more instead of the obligatory weekly check in phone call to make sure I’m not dead or in jail.

I listen and try to get them to talk about their problems.

lung cancer

We eat together when I’m back home instead of me heading out which sad to say was common until as late as 2008.

I lounge in the living room after and chat about everything – news, politics, religion – with my parents instead of skipping out and coming home drunk in the middle of the night.

I understood the importance of just hanging out with my family – listening instead of just talking, helping out with chores at home, comforting my mom when she’s throwing up.

It’s made us into a better family unit.

birthday

I just received a birthday card from my parents (it was somehow lost until a few days ago) and it nearly brought tears to my eyes when I realized that they’ve mailed me one every single year without fail while I barely remember their birthdays.

I am truly ashamed of how I’ve behaved and I’m trying my level best to be a better son now. I visit my mom in Singapore more often, where she’s having her treatments done. We all chip in to help – not just financially but emotionally.

I really want to save up enough money to bring my parents for a trip around the world.

simple meal

They’ve worked hard in raising us and my dad still works hard and I think it would be the least that I can do. I’m actually being extremely frugal right now – limiting the times I go out, being careful with spending, saving up money so I can help out with the medical bills and especially to let my parents visit the world.

They’ve always saved up for our education and it’s time for us to give back

Not because of some attempt to seek forgiveness for past transgressions.

Not because of my ongoing mother’s fight against cancer.

Not because of guilt.

It’s because I want to, out of the love I have for them.

parents

I want them to know that someone cares, someone always will, and that someone is FAMILY.

7 photos of stuff I did in Singapore

1. Hung out with my mom

food singapore

She’s doing another course of chemotherapy and we’re here for her. My dad flew in too and we’ll usually walk to Hola and eat there. Cheap and decent food. The caterers (old skool Tiffin carriers) come weekday nights.

My mom eats separately; she still can’t stand a lot of food, not even the smell of it. That’s her hiding in the room coz she’s so nauseous from the chemo.

2. Went to church

bedok methodist church

Took a cab to Bedok Methodist Church. Service is familiar but the praise and worship had an unusual twist – women dressed in traditional Chinese garb were dancing and twirling long silk ribbons. How I wish I managed to take a photo…

Got an EZ-Link card so I could use the MRT, bus and pay for food and groceries at places which accepts it.

3. The Gospel of Pool

church pool

Poster stuck beside the pool table at church. Words fail me. Sometimes a cue is just a cue. smirk

Mom got temporarily better and asked me to get her a Mocha soy ice blended drink. I bought it and she had a sip and promptly got sick again.

4. Salted egg yolk mooncakes

mini mooncakes

Dad got this from Sibu. It’s really quite good, there’s an entire salted egg yolk inside that’s almost the size of the puff pastry.

I ate all of them. Heh.

5. Grocery shopping

singapore grocery shopping

Got soy milk for my niece. She’s allergic to nuts, gluten, and most other things. This is the brand that we know doesn’t have any additives or traces of abovementioned. Also got reacquainted with the same brand of cigarettes I smoked last time I was here.

Middle of the night scare from my niece’s talking chair.

6. Timbre @ The Substation

timbre pizza buffulo wings

Lovely watering hole at 45, Armenian Street with live bands playing every day of the week. You can text song requests in for them to perform. Fiona recommended the Timbre Buffalo Wings – love the hot sauce and nuts topping but a tad overcooked for me. They do good pizzas too – got a half and half with Goodfellas and 53A. They’re both names of bands playing there.

Here’s a cover of Oasis’ Stand by Me.

7. Left my keys with Fiona

timbre substation singapore

Had a couple of drinks and hung out at Timbre. I put my sister’s condo keys and tag card in her bag earlier that night (tend to chuck my stuff in her tote due to lack of pocket space, thanks Fiona) and forgot to get it back from her. I only realized after I got back and couldn’t go in. Went back to her place to get it.

It’s a good thing we live near each other. Heh.

Posted: 4:08 pm Singapore time

Father’s Day @ Payung Cafe (and the best Father’s Day present)

fathers day dinner

17th of June is Father’s Day for most of the world with some notable exceptions, namely Australia and New Zealand. I guess that’s why my sister was a bit puzzled when I told her that we’re heading out during her usual Skype session with my parents.

payung cafe sibu

I asked my dad where he wanted to go, giving him a couple of suggestions like Tom’s Too. Arthur, being the resident food expert also contributed to the list. My dad wanted to go to an al fresco dining area where people doesn’t smoke and he hasn’t been to Payung Cafe yet so I brought him and my mom there.

payung sibu

Payung Cafe is one of the little known eateries in Sibu – the owners are friendly and the ambiance is great, with little touches like freshly cut flowers on the table and off-the-menu specials written on a chalkboard every single day.

payung cafe

It doesn’t have a large menu but they have an admirable aim of having cuisine from all over the world, with a focus on Asian countries.

myanmar vegetables

Myanmar Sayur (RM 8)
Sayur means vegetable and this dish is a kind of salad that contains an assortment of raw and cooked vegetables mixed together rojak style. The sprinkling of sesame seeds and the raw vegetables provides a nice texture that goes very well with the gravy.

payung jelly pisang

Jelly Pisang (RM 7)
Jelly Pisang is a dessert that used to be very popular in Sibu back in the days. It went the way of dinosaurs when I was born and to the best of my knowledge this is only one of two places that still serves it in Sibu. The other one is at a hotel (see link). Payung Cafe’s interpretation comes with loads of jelly and thinly sliced bananas.

I asked my dad if this seemed authentic enough and he mentioned that back in the days it wasn’t really served like this but…

close enough

Heh.

lamb masala

Lamb Masala (RM 17)
It doesn’t look like much but this one was the first dish to go – the lamb is flavorful and tender with none of the gamey taste usually associated with this particular animal. It was a hit with both my mom and dad. The portion is a bit small and I only had one piece but other than that it’s highly recommended.

payung otak otak

Otak-otak Fish with Rice (RM 13)
This is the most popular dish in Payung Cafe, bar none. It’s one of their signature menu items and it’s hand made otak-otak! One of the proprietors actually does this each evening and it’s fresh and very different from the usual mass produced otak-otak. People with a sensitive palate beware! This is not for the faint-hearted for it’s quite spicy.

turkish milkshake

Turkish Milkshake (RM 8)
It came highly recommended from the proprietor and I have to agree – it’s quite good. It’s one of the specials on the chalkboard so this is a limited time menu item. What is a Turkish milkshake? Well, it’s based on the drink called Salep in Turkey. It has ground dried tubers of the orchid flower (!) with spices topped with cream and chocolate flakes. The owners travel around to add new stuff to the menu.

indian red beef

Indian Red Beef (RM 17)
This is a rather spicy affair which was the special of the day. It was quite spicy and I ended up eating most of it. I didn’t like it as much as the lamb masala.

pineapple ginger soda

Pineapple Ginger Soda (RM 5)
I wanted the Durian Milkshake I had last time I was here but they ran out of durians (it’s not the season anyway). I asked for a recommendation and got this one – it’s apparently one of the most popular drinks and the combination of pineapple and ginger works surprisingly well. I like the sediments at the bottom, which contains a bit of both ingredients. Lovely.

belimbing pasta

Belimbing Prawn with Spaghetti (RM 16)
I also had this dish last time and was quite enthralled by it. Belimbing is starfruit (or carambola) in English and it’s a fusion dish that works very well. The type of starfruit they use is known locally as belimbing asam and it’s a very sour variant of the fruit used in cooking. It’s served with prawns and I wanted everyone to try this. It’s a very different dish that works very well. :D

The total bill came out to RM 99 which is very reasonable for a dinner for three that had us struggling to finish the dishes.

fathers day

However, the best Father’s Day present that I gave my dad (and mom) happened to be a totally random act while I was talking to them the night I came back in the living room. I was showing how swipe typing works on my Android phone and my dad casually asked what app I was using. I didn’t know he’s unfamiliar with Whatsapp since my parents are pretty IT savvy, navigating the maze of social media pretty well.

whatsapp

Anyway, I found out that my sister is on it (coz she was on Skype with my parents at the time) and I gifted the app to my dad’s cell using my iTunes account. I added myself and my sister to the contacts list and showed my parents how to use it. They didn’t know there’s an option for free texting (although they use Viber) with quick photo, video and audio file sharing.

fathers day 2012

The look on my mom’s face when my sister snapped a photo of my newborn nephew and instantly sent it over followed by the smiles on my parents faces was worth the USD 0.99 I used to gift the app a gazillion times over. :)

Love each other as I have loved you

wesley church sibu

It has been a while since I last attended a church service. By “a while” I actually mean 18 years (!!!). I stopped going when I was 13 – it used to be a family affair before that. We’ll all go for the 7:30 am English worship service followed by brunch.

I’ve been meaning to find a church that I’m comfortable with in KL and made a promise to myself that I’ll start looking last Sunday but since I was in Indonesia, today was the first day I stepped foot inside one.

wesley church

Wesley Methodist Church is a relatively small assembly in Sibu that my family goes to. It can best be described as a conservative Methodist church with strong fundamentalist teachings. The service is very orderly, quiet and steeped in tradition.

I told my dad of my intention to join them for the morning service – my dad is very involved in the church, he’s one of the ushers today so we had to go earlier. I wolfed down a huge chunk of chocolate generously spread with peanut butter (buried would be a better word, I scooped up a good quarter of the contents of the jar) and we all arrived well before the service started.

I was surprised that a lot of the older members of the congregation still recognize me. I didn’t see a lot of new faces, it doesn’t attract a lot of young people due to the reserved and orthodox nature of the church.

church sarawak

Don’t expect loud music and fervent singing, it’s all about solemn hymns with subdued piano music here. I don’t think the church believes in any music written after 1900. smirk

I did enjoy the service though. I sat beside my mom while my dad was performing his duties as an usher. I remember as a kid, we always looked forward to eating at our favorite places right after Sunday service but I quit going to church when I went to high school.

I went for brunch with my parents at my dad’s favorite kampua place after that. The kampua is quite different from Sibu’s normal kampua. It’s somewhere in between kampua and kolo mee. This is the part I miss the most, spending quality time with my parents!

church brunch

I got my mom and dad batik from Jakarta and we’re going to have a nice sit-down dinner later to celebrate Father’s Day.

It’s good to be back! :)

You shouldn’t do that

me dad

My dad is the person that I admire the most. This is not the first time I have written about him – as I grow older, I get closer and understand him even more. As a kid, especially during my pubescent years where I made it my personal crusade to be the most rebellious little shit in the world, he stood by me.

I never understood why.

He believed in me when I went into a period of an intense hedonistic lifestyle of drugs, alcohol and indiscriminate sex. My dad never supported my choices though – I remember the first time I was arrested – I expected him to bail me out of jail, but he didn’t. I was in there for the standard 14 day remand until a friend bailed me out.

…now some of you might think that means he doesn’t love me. No, that isn’t true. It means he loves me so much he wants me to learn. I didn’t at that time but he kept on believing in me and encouraging me to sort out my life.

He would just tell me his personal take on things and advice me on life. I have always hated his advice – advice being the worse kind of vice and all that – but as I grew older, I started to appreciate it.

Now that I’m turning 31 I find myself looking to him for counsel for all the difficult decisions in life.

I wish I had more time to tap into his wisdom and life experience. Sure, there’s a huge generation gap between us but some things in life will always be true. I have learned love from him – and I believe I will be able to provide the same kind of unconditional love – agape – to my future children.

dad me

I really hope he’ll be there to see that and experience raising my kids with me.

I’m trying to live a healthier life and doing what I can to prolong the time we have together. There is a Wellness Profiling Tool which I’m using to find out about the little bad habits that I’ve never really thought about. It’s on the Great Eastern website and they have a motto that really tugs at my heartstrings – We believe that only you can be there for the ones you love.

There’s also an iOS and Android app called Great Eastern 21 days which you can use to break the bad habits that you have. Research suggests that it takes exactly that amount of time to truly stop a bad habit or start a new (good) one.

Surfing through the site made me realize that I’ve never taken a lot of photos with my dad – there is just a couple of snapshots over the Chinese New Year period and I really want to change that. There’s a Facebook contest where you can win a priceless photo shoot by celebrity photographer Russel Wong by uploading a photo and writing about how much that person means to you.

Your photo will join a gallery of Malaysia’s most irreplaceable people. The contest is called There Will Never Be Another You.

That’s exactly how I feel about you, dad. I’m sorry I was such a hard kid to raise up and I hope I’m doing enough to make up for it now, although as you always say, you don’t want any of that…all you hope to see is for me to be a good person. I’m trying every single day. I love you dad.

O HAI! I IZ AN UNCLE!

o hai uncle

I love this pic taken while I was in my sister’s place in Auckland, NZ a few weeks ago. I was carrying my niece and kissing her while my dad looks on. My sister is a bit of a private person (she is my polar opposite) so I am applying mosaic on her daughter (though to what purpose I do not know since all babies look alike).

She smells nice. She has a milky scent and it still puts a smile on my face when I think about her. :)

Have a great one dad!

bdadbday.jpg

The thing I will always remember about being with my dad is buffets
at hotels. An appropriate photo, even though it wasn’t taken on one of
our family vacations, the imagery is not lost. Happy birthday dad!

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