Yin Yang Steamboat @ Cameron Highlands

mountain house hotel

A trip to Cameron Highlands would not be complete without the obligatory yin yang steamboat dinner, since the ambient temperature and wind chill factor can be pretty cold at night. We went southbound to Brinchang instead of Tanah Rata but it turns out that both towns were equally packed with tourists.

organic steamboat

There are a lot of places offering steamboat dinners, most of them yin yang style – so called due to the two different broths and the similarity to the symbol of good and evil. We went to Restaurant Mountain House Hotel, which offers “organic” steamboat priced at RM 16 per head.

yin yang

The yin yang steamboat comes with seafood, tofu (urgh…), noodles, rice vermicelli, assorted super processed food, and homegrown vegetables. Cameron Highlands produces a huge amount of fresh, organically grown vegetables, so it’s really cheap there…which is probably why we got an ultra generous portion of veggies.

noodle trick

The yin yang steamboat consists of a chicken broth and a tom yam broth – it’s usually a mild broth with a spicy broth, keeping with the themes of absolute good and absolute evil. Exhibit A above shows the patented sixthseal.com method of ensuring your noodles are cooked.

1. Use your chopsticks to snag some noodles.
2. Apply pressure to the noodles with your fingernails.
3. It needs to be slightly soggier than al dente – you’ll get a feel for it (pun not intended) the more you do it.

It was originally invented a good 17 years ago by yours truly, intended to gauge whether instant noodles are ready to eat when I started cooking Maggi at 10. πŸ™‚

me doris steamboat

This photo is making the post look dated – I went to Cameron Highlands with my ex last month, but never got around to posting it until today due to a massive backlog of posts. Quickly switching subjects, the vegetables in Cameron Highlands comes in the most vibrant shade of green I have ever seen!

no veggies

Nooooo….no more veggies!

Cactus Point @ Cameron Highlands

cacti

Cameron Highlands is known for its strawberries and roses but it also has a relatively obscure but healthy cactus industry going on.

cactus point

Cactus Point is a popular tourist attraction, and why not? Cacti are easy to take care of – they don’t need watering or any other affectionate gestures.

cactus spine

A cactus is a very lovable plant, with sharp spines protruding from every inch of its surface. I have a few sharp protuberances as well, so perhaps that’s where my affinity for cacti stems from. Pardon the lame pun.

cactus eat

You can break it open in times of dire need for water if your office or house is lacking. Or so I heard.

cactus camwhore

You can even camwhore with it.

cactus sale

Cactus Point has a wide range of cacti for sale…

cactus nfs

…and some marked NFS (Not For Sale).

cactus buy

Cactus Point has almost every species of cacti, according to the brochure. There are miniature versions as well – I bought some to bring back home. I’ll probably bring one to the office too.

I am now the proud owner of an evil looking cactus.

Big Red Strawberry CafΓ©

big red strawberry cafe

Big Red Strawberry CafΓ© is located in the renowned Big Red Strawberry Farm in Brinchang, Cameron Highlands. The place was packed full of tourists during the long weekend. We went on Sunday afternoon and I couldn’t even take a decent shot without at least two tourists armed with cameras blocking my view. πŸ˜‰

cafe montage

We headed straight for the Big Red Strawberry CafΓ© (the official cafΓ© of Big Red Strawberry Farm) coz I was famished – we woke up late after sleeping in until 10 am and haven’t had anything to eat since the previous night. The Big Red Strawberry CafΓ© mainly concentrates on strawberry products but they also serve a very fresh salad due to vegetables being one of the main produce of Cameron Highlands.

big red indulgence

Behold! The strawberry indulgence (overdose?).
The actual food looks nothing like the photos – this is after all, a tourist trap and they make do with disposable forks and spoons and paper plates instead of the well presented menu pictures.

big red drinks

I had the Strawberry Juice (RM 3.90) while my girlfriend went for the Strawberry Yogurt Smoothie (RM 5.90). The strawberry juice is very sour – Cameron Highland strawberries tend to be small and a bit on the acidic side, but it tasted very fresh. The Strawberry Yogurt Smoothie was better, since the tanginess is diffused by the yogurt.

big red strawberry waffle

The Fresh Strawberry Waffle (RM 5) is a mass produced item made with a waffle iron (I stand witness) and strawberry preserve and jam. It still tasted pretty good though due to the rather frigid temperatures up there. Big Red Strawberry Farm is located on the highlands and the wind chill factor can be quite cold. It’s topped with ice cream AND whipped cream.

big red fried ice cream

This is the Strawberry Fried Ice Cream (RM 3.90) adorned with two Cameron Highlands strawberries. The strawberries they serve in the Big Red Strawberry CafΓ© is a bit on the minute side, the big and juicy ones are in the farm, where you can pick your own. It’s good nevertheless, I like fried ice cream – despite knowing my physics and heat transfer it still amazes the inner child in me that the ice cream does not melt while being fried. πŸ™‚

big red yoghurt

My girlfriend had the healthy Strawberries with Honey and Yogurt (RM 3.90) for dessert. Big Red Strawberry CafΓ© uses real yogurt (e.g. the very sour kind) and it goes well with the honey (from a bee farm in Cameron Highlands) and strawberries. I pronounce it Heart Healthy (TM).

big red sundae

I, being no stranger to cardiac arrests and strokes, opted for the Strawberry Sundae (RM 5.90) topped with whipped cream. In my defense, it has a plethora of fresh strawberries at the bottom of the sundae…at least a quarter of the dessert consists of fresh strawberries.

big red strawberry cafe us

I think we both felt nauseous after the strawberry themed brunch – I had to eat a healthy plate of Maggie Mee Goreng with a Heart Healthy (TM) cholesterol laden sunny side up egg to counter the fructose and glucose intake.

picking strawberries

The best part about Big Red Strawberry Farm? You get to stroll through the strawberry farm and pick your own big and juicy strawberries. πŸ™‚

Driving to Cameron Highlands

arrive

I drove up to Cameron Highlands over the long weekend with my girlfriend at 6 am in the morning. I consulted Google Maps and wrote down the directions from my place to Tapah. It wasn’t very difficult once we got on the PLUS highway but we still managed to get lost coz we didn’t realize the NKVE highway is part of the PLUS expressway.

speed
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (of the accelerator)

I managed to clock a decent speed once I got on PLUS, managed to hit nearly 180 km/h driving on the fast lane before switching from D to 2 and maintained about 190 km/h. My girlfriend wouldn’t take any photos of the speedometer after that, preferring to hold on to the passenger side handle with one hand braced against the glove box.

fail
Tourist destination peace of mind for travelers – FAIL

The toll costs a cool RM 19.20 so it’s about RM 40 for a return trip – make sure your Touch ‘n Go card is loaded with the appropriate amount coz we had to reverse (much to the annoyance of the cars behind us) and switch to the cash lane due to a lack of credit in the card.

lata iskandar

We managed to reach the Lata Iskandar waterfall after about an hour of driving. The Lata Iskandar waterfall is a popular rest stop for people driving up to Cameron Highlands.

lata iskandar waterfall

The Lata Iskandar waterfall is a magnificent sight with (very cold) water from the highlands rushing down a steep cliff. People can be seen frolicking in the water and generally chilling out before heading towards Tanah Rata (the main strip of Cameron Highlands).

lata iskandar us

It’s a great spot for vacation photography too – the “I was here” type shots. πŸ˜‰

fake strawberry

I didn’t get to eat a real strawberry then but the next post will be on the Big Red Strawberry Farm where we picked our own strawberries. πŸ™‚

Credit cards – boon or bane?

visa gold

I have just received another credit card – it’s a Petronas Visa Gold card from Maybank with no annual fees for life with no conditions. I didn’t apply for it since I’m not a big fan of filling in forms, but someone from the bank called me and told me I qualify for one and asked if I was interested. I told her I don’t like filling out forms (seriously, I hate doing that) but she can go ahead and fill in my particulars for me if she needs the quota, I’ll just make sure there is no High Risk Credit Card Processing wherever I decide to use it

Well, I got a call yesterday saying that the Petronas Visa Gold is ready to be picked up. I’m actually quite lazy to do stuff like that as well, I remember a HSBC credit card that I never picked up coz the place is too far away from where I work. My girlfriend wanted to go to the bank though, so I decided to pick this one up during lunch. I figured it’ll be useful for gas since I pump petrol at Petronas and it’ll soften the petrol price hike with the points for redeeming petrol vouchers.

dapple

However, I have noticed that I always tend to overspend, which is why I don’t carry credit cards in my wallet anymore. I used to have several cards from different banks and ran up a huge debt when I started working. I have to admit that I was never any good at budgeting and I always spend way beyond my means. The amount of money I have in the bank at the end of the month is always in the single digits. Seriously.

Nowadays, banks are overenthusiastic in giving out credit cards – cold calling and going to the extent of filling in all your details for you. It seems that Classic (Silver) cards are reserved for students and fresh graduates starting work since they don’t even offer those anymore. They are very keen on giving out Gold and Platinum cards with high credit limits with impunity, which is great for the bank, but bad for the holder. I can see the potential of overspending on this card already.

I was talking to my girlfriend last night about going on a trip this coming holiday. She likes the beach so I was thinking either Krabi, Bali or Macau. Macau was my choice since there are casinos there and I have this inappropriate romantic sentiment that I’ll beat the house odds and win the trip costs back. πŸ˜‰ It’s seriously a bad idea though, coz no one ever beats the house.

girlfriend

Bali would cost around RM 2,500 for the plane tickets alone for the both of us ex-Sibu and I think the total trip would probably hit the RM 5,000 mark easily with hotels and food. I shouldn’t even be thinking about it considering I can’t afford 5k right now (since I don’t have that much disposable income in the bank, and thus will be flying on credit).

…but the fact that I’m even considering it seriously is a testament to the fact that credit cards with high credit limits causes people like me to overspend.

I should be dating an accountant, the last girlfriend I had would have knocked me upside the head (coz she’s good at budgeting and all that) for even considering going on the trip. Oh wait, my current girlfriend is technically an accountant too. πŸ˜‰

Oh well, I’m thinking about Krabi, Thailand. It’ll be cheaper than Bali and I haven’t been there before.

Hmm…should I or should I not?

Anyway, I haven’t given my girlfriend an official sixthseal.com moniker yet – I’m thinking Dapple (20% related to her name) or Melody (near 100% translation of her Chinese name). The relationship will remain under wraps until further notice due to prevailing circumstances. πŸ˜‰

Sarikei road trip with Autumn

road trip

It’s the long Merdeka Day weekend and it was decided that a road trip is due to bring Autumn to check out the legendary Big Prawn Assam Noodles in Sarikei. She hasn’t tried it before and it’s a public holiday so down we went. We got some much needed rations for the one hour drive down – this is Autumn’s favorite vegetable crackers.

pumpkin

She was tempting me during the drive down…

cucumber

…with various different crackers

potato

…from a repertoire of herbivore food

carrot

…like carrots

long beans

…and long beans. It’s really hard to drive with someone feeding me random bits of vegetables. The long beans threw me off a little due to the phallic shape too. πŸ˜‰

oat congee

We stopped at the intersection before Sarikei to have some food since it was already past lunchtime. This is mixed oat congee (from a can) which tastes better than it sounds. We’ve been eating this for lunch for quite a while now.

congee inside

It’s really good, comes with a folded plastic disposable spoon and is full of constipation solutions (otherwise known as “fiber”).

me eating

I’m not a big fan of Healthy Stuff (TM) but I have been having a host of health issues lately (not just ED, but constipation to boot :p) so I’m trying to get more fiber into my diet.

me autumn

Anyway, after the brunch inside my car, we weren’t really that hungry anymore so we walked around Sarikei town and did a bit of the tourist camwhoring thing. There’s not much to do in Sarikei except walk around the (only) supermarket – Ngiu Kee.

4114

After an hour or two of this, the QAG 4114 arrived at Glory Cafe and parked in its usual spot – right in front of a yellow fire hydrant. πŸ˜‰ Oh, this is becoming something of a recurring joke.

noodles

Autumn was a bit apprehensive about the Big Prawn Assam Tom Yam Noodles, but after a sampling of the rich broth, she was sold.

antenna

It turns out that Autumn is really good at peeling the antenna of the big prawns as well. She claims it’s a trick she learned from eating prawns during her youth. I can’t do it myself…

peeled

…but she was kind enough to peel the antenna for me. Thanks Autumn! πŸ™‚

us

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like the great noodles over here. It’s really worth the drive down if there’s a long weekend or holiday and you haven’t got anything better to do. Cheers!

Kingwood Resort Mukah

kingwood resort mukah

Kingwood Resort Mukah is a beach resort located in Mukah. It has 99 rooms sprawled across a huge compound that borders the beach and the facilities and buildings are all very new, having only been completed a couple of years ago. It’s perfect for a short weekend retreat.

palm fronds

The palm trees that greets you with it’s swaying fronds and the cool sea breeze coming in from the beach makes for a very nice and relaxing environment. The horizon is visible from the…er, horizon and covers the entire…well, horizon. πŸ˜‰

kingwood mukah

The main hotel building is a 3 story structure in the middle the resort compound. Kingwood Resort Mukah has facilities ranging from swimming pools to tennis courts. It’s very well maintained and looks clean and new despite being constantly exposed to salt water.

kingwood lobby

The lobby of the resort is decked out with rattan chairs and has free WiFi coverage.

king nothing

Hail to the King, baby! πŸ˜‰

kingwood sterile

The decor is very antiseptic, which may not be a good thing for a beach resort, but it gets brownie points for being clean and brand spanking new.

check in

The rooms start from RM 322 nett but we got a special deal from Henry so we only paid RM 160 nett for a Premier Room with a sea view with a published rate of RM 368 nett. He was also kind enough to throw in lunch and breakfast for two. Cheers!

queen sized

The Premier Room is equipped with two queen sized beds, which I always took to mean as one designated for activities which leaves wet spots on the sheets and the other for sleeping in. πŸ˜‰

interior

There is also a writing desk, a couch, TV with Astro, complimentary tea and coffee making facilities and wardrobes.

shower

There is a modern shower unit made of transparent glass and an adjacent toilet. I reminded Clare to shout “Fire in the hole” should she flush the toilet while I’m in the shower coz that makes the water go scalding hot. It’s proper travel etiquette when sharing rooms. πŸ˜‰

toiletries

The toiletries provided are pretty standard so you don’t have to bring your own toothbrush or shaver.

balcony

The best part about the Premier Room is the balcony outside the window. It allows the cool sea breeze to come in and commands a great view of the beach. It also serves well as the designated smoking zone.

balcony view

The view from the Premier Room also covers the swimming pool at the resort and the gazebos scattered throughout the beach front.

Video of Kingwood Resort Mukah from the balcony

palm beach cafe 

Henry was kind enough to prepare a complimentary lunch for us, so we went down to the Palm Beach Cafe. The Palm Beach Cafe is the only dining establishment in the entire resort, so unless you’re bringing your own food, that’s where you’ll be eating during your entire stay. πŸ™‚

melanau decor

Palm Beach Cafe has been decorated with Melanau elements and the cultural aspects of Mukah. The huge fishing net featured on the wall reflects the fishing industry Mukah is so well known for.

al fresco

There are al fresco seating arrangements with a water feature right by the poolside.

kingwood mukah sarawak

Henry had prepared two servings of the Melanau Fried Rice that is one of the signature dishes.

girl

Our waitress was a pleasant girl from Bintulu that somehow wound up working in Mukah for reasons we didn’t delve into.

drinks

She served us fresh orange juice and warm water while the lunch was being prepared.

melanau fried rice

The Melanau Fried Rice comes with generous amounts of seafood in the fried rice and is served with an egg and a huge fish cracker.

lunch eat

The portions at Palm Beach Cafe is huge, with me barely managing to finish the dish, which usually costs RM 12 ++ while Clare ate about 3/4 of the food.

ripples

There is a unique water feature surrounding the Palm Beach Cafe with ripples of water shimmering in the afternoon sun.

walk

The resort area is also a nice place to take a leisurely stroll with gazebos and concrete chairs for sitting down should the need arise.

Video of view from the beach front

pool

I figured we would go for a swim after the lunch despite having forgotten my sunscreen and we went down to the poolside.

pool chair

There are pool chairs and a small kiddy pool in addition to the main pool.

It was fun to soak in the water and swim a little.

pool me

It’s a very nice feeling to relax at a beach resort after a working week.

dusk

We swam in the pool until it was evening then went back to the hotel and took a shower together, er…I meant took turns showering before heading down for dinner.

dinner

We ate again at the Palm Beach Cafe for dinner, it being the only restaurant there and what not. It was decided that we’re going to check out the western dishes for dinner.

dinner me

There were a group of people having a function there so the food came out a little bit slow but that’s alright since it’s a vacation and all, so there are no fires in dire need to be put out. πŸ˜‰

kingwood macaroni

I had the Kingwood Macaroni (RM 11 ++) which is stir fried macaroni with prawn, minced chicken, mixed vegetables and beef bacon. It doesn’t taste as good as Clare’s order.

fettuccine carbonara

Clare has the Fettuccine Carbonara (RM 14 ++) which, as it’s name suggests is loaded with carbs. πŸ˜‰ It’s stir fried fettuccine with beef bacon, onion, garlic, black olive, mushroom and cream. The sauce is very creamy and it tastes much better than the stir fried macaroni.

kingwood night

We went for a walk on the beach after dinner…

wine

…and adjourned back to the hotel room to drink some wine. I had brought a bottle of wine and several bottles of liquor for some liquid entertainment at night.

mixer

Clare also brought her Anything and Whatever drinks which works as a good mixer for the cheap Joker liquor that I got. It’s very relaxing to kick back once in a while and get some drinks in and just smoke at the balcony while talking the night away.

The morning view when you wake up in the morning and open the balcony to breath in the sea breeze is amazing.

breakfast coupon

The hotel provides a free buffet breakfast so we woke up at 8:30 am the next morning to eat breakfast before we headed down to Palm Beach Cafe.

breakfast

I noticed that the Palm Beach Cafe logo is actually made out of wooden spatulas!

cereal

The buffet breakfast has a wide range of options ranging from fruits, cereal and pastries…

hot food

…to hot food like fried noodles, curry chicken and fried eggs.

my plate

I loaded up my plate for a huge breakfast in anticipation of all the walking that was in store for us in Mukah.

morning pool

The hotel was kind enough to concede us a late checkout time of 3 PM so we still had time to go for a swim after the trip to Mukah town.

kingwood end

We packed our bags and took the 3:30 PM bus back to Sibu. You don’t actually have to travel down to Mukah to catch the bus, the bus route takes it through the resort so you can actually flag it down as it passes by. I got the driver to drop us off at the resort instead of bringing us to Mukah town when we arrived the previous day too.

relax end

It was fun to take a trip down to Kingwood Resort Mukah. The resort is very well maintained and clean and the beach front locality provides a very relaxing weekend getaway.

Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant

marina bay seafood restaurant

Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant is a new eating establishment built at the Miri marina near the iconic seahorse statue facing the sea. Kim and Mark wanted to check it out at night but were kind enough to accommodate my schedule by bringing me there for lunch instead. πŸ™‚

marina bay signage

The place seems to be referred to as ulumulu by a lot of local Mirians but the only signage I saw called it the Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant. The waitresses were all wearing uniforms with the same title so I’m not sure if this is the same place as ulumulu, but it’s the only restaurant at the Marina Bay in Miri.

marina path

There is a wooden path surrounding the area beside the sea and it offers a great view of the coastline and the cityscape across the body of water. There are also two smaller structures besides the main wooden restaurant construction as a more private dining enclave. The two clubhouses are still under construction but the main restaurant is complete.

seahorse miri

The landmark of the Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant is a huge bronze seahorse facing the sea. It’s the official mascot (?) of Miri, just like ours is the swan. Sibu is called Swan City for a reason…and no, I know we’ve not actually achieved city status yet, Kim. :p

marina yatch

The marina is located to one side of the Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant and all kinds of seafaring vessels were parked there – from fishing boats to yatchs.

deep blue sea

The sea in Miri is a deep blue that is rivaled only by the best beaches in Sabah. The gentle undulating waves and the cool breeze coming in from the beach makes the leisurely stroll from the car park (which is quite a distance away) to the restaurant rather enjoyable.

marina bali

The architecture of Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant is heavily inspired by Balinese and Siamese themes and attention is paid to the most minor details, giving it an authentic ambiance of a marina retreat.

marina server

There is a waitress on duty for seating diners at the main entrance. The ground floor of the place is a bar and lounge while the restaurant is located on the second floor.

marina stairs

There is a flight of stairs that one has to climb to reach the restaurant upstairs and you’ll be escorted by one of the Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant waitresses. The service over here is truly international class.

marina interior

The dining area is huge and consists of various seating accommodations of every configuration you can think of. There is no air-conditioning in the place but the sea breeze makes the temperature just right even for midday dining and you get all the benefits of al fresco dining without being rained on.

varandah

There is even a verandah area which doubles as the smoking section of Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant.

marina view

There is a great view of the ocean and the interior design capitalizes on this by making one side of the restaurant open to the breeze coming in from the sea. I find that the open sea view and the smell of the ocean does wonders to my appetite.

open kitchen

Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant has an open kitchen concept where the entire kitchen, ovens and all, are visibly located beside the restaurant. The entire place is kept neat and clean, which is quite a feat, considering the size of the restaurant.

marina waitress

This is our waitress for the day. She’s wearing a white Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant uniform.

marina oj

I had the orange juice (RM 8.50) which came with a slice of the fruit on the rim of the glass it came served with. The watermelon juice also contains a thin slice of watermelon as a garnish as well.

marina noodles

Mark went for the Oriental menu and had the Fried Yee Mee with Seafood (RM 30). The seafood bits are quite generous, with fish and squid dominating the dish. The general consensus was that the yee mee tastes better than the fried vermicelli.

marina rice vermicilli

Darren also ordered from the Oriental menu – Fried Vermicelli Noodles with Eggs and Seafood (RM 30). It tasted pretty good but it was a little bit too dry from the frying process.

pan fried salmon fillet

Kim had the Pan-Fried Salmon Fillet with Ragout of Squid and Lemon Grass Pepperonata Drizzle with Mirin Reduction (RM 38).

salmon fillet

The salmon tasted better than mine since it had sauce on it and it’s pan-fried instead of grilled.

trio seafood

I had the Trio Grilled Seafood on Bed of Mash Potato served with Crispy Julienne Veggie and Lemon Hollandaise Sauce (RM 78) which the waitress recommended.

salmon

There is grilled salmon, which came out a little bit too dry but the presentation was excellent.

cod

The cod is great though, tender and juicy.

prawn

The prawn is fully de-shelled and is one of the best fresh water prawns that I’ve ever tasted.

poached pears

I also ordered the Poached Pears in Saffron served with Vanilla Panna Cotta (RM 18) for dessert.

marina group

I know I look kinda fucked up. My eyes look soulless, or so I’ve been told. My drink was spiked with three (3) tablets of Ecstasy just the night before and I only slept for 2 hours before the lunch at Marina Bay.

marina bloggers

This is the blogger group photo from Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant. L-R: Darren, Huai Bin (me), Kim, Mark (who is a blogger by association with Kim). πŸ˜‰

marina sipping drinks

I still had half a glass of OJ left and insisted on having Kim pose with her empty one. πŸ™‚

marina me darren

This is me and Darren, who joined us at the Marina Bay Seafood Restaurant after he went back to get his d-SLR.

marina me kim

I had a photo taken with Kim at the veranda with the sea as the backdrop. I thought this would make a nice photo with the palm trees swaying in the wind.

hb kim mark

Thanks goes out to Kim and Mark who picked me up and drove me around Miri. Much love!

marina seaside

We went for a walk by the seaside to take a photo with the Miri Seahorse after the meal. The weather was just right for a stroll, if you disregard the midday sun and head for the shaded areas. πŸ˜‰

beachfront property

There were a lot of beach front properties across the marina. It would be a really nice place to live in, just by the seaside with the beach just a step away from your front door.

mark kim

Kodak Moment: Mark attempts to throw Kim into the sea.

marina titanic

*cue Titanic music*

marina titanic take

This is Take #2 of the iconic Titanic scene. It seemed that we didn’t look “sad” enough for an accurate reenactment in the first photo. I put on my best sombre face for the second take but Kim was kinda smiling so this is the final version:

marina titanic final

Jack: Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me… it brought me to you. And I’m thankful for that, Rose. I’m thankful. You must do me this honor, Rose. Promise me you’ll survive. That you won’t give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise.
Rose: I promise.
Jack: Never let go.
Rose: I’ll never let go. I’ll never let go, Jack.

marina titanic foursome

The Titanic Foursome (The Titans?)

marina fishing

The Marina Bay has a lot of No Fishing signs which in grand tradition, was largely ignored. πŸ˜‰

miri seahorse

I had fun with Kim, Mark and Darren in Miri. Thanks for all the great memories! πŸ™‚

Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort

hilton batang ai

Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is a private and secluded nature retreat near Kuching, Sarawak. It’s accessible only by boat and is operated by the Hilton chain of hotels.

hilton resort

Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort aims to provide a world class authentic Iban resort in the middle of prime rainforest. The entire resort is surrounded by a lake.

batang ai longhouse resort

There will be a boat to take you to the resort itself and the entire Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is visible as the boat is pulling up to the jetty. The rooms are built in the traditional Iban style longhouse (communal living quarters) design. There are several of these longhouses in the resort – in fact, the entire resort looks like a traditional village in the middle of the jungle!

hiltong batang ai resort

The 20 minute boat ride takes you to the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort jetty, where you disembark and walk up a wooden path to the elevated resort grounds. The air is fresh and cool from the surrounding rainforest canopy and I immediately felt refreshed by the large lake surrounding the resort.

batang ai lake

The entire lake is visible from the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse resort reception area. The calm body of water around you is very therapeutic. This is what a retreat resort should feel like. πŸ™‚

welcome drink

There will be Hilton staff waiting for you with a welcome drink (some kind of fruit juice) at the resort lobby. The resort is made of timber and is very well maintained, which is quite impressive for rural resorts.

lobby

The Hilton Batang Ai Resort lobby is furnished in traditional native design with timber being the main structural support, as well as interior wood fittings. It provides a warmer ambiance than steel and glass constructions and well suited to this rainforest resort.

check in

The checking in procedure is relatively uncomplicated and a porter will carry your bags and lead you to your room.

ulu ai

The rooms are located in longhouses surrounding the main communal resort area and all are within a short walking distance from the lobby. The longhouse design is done like an authentic Iban longhouse built on raised stilts.

walkway

There are oil lamps hung on the top of the walkway…

patio

…and the entire longhouse has one facade dedicated to the common corridor and patio, true to the Borneo longhouse design.

queen bed

The room itself is furnished with modern fittings, and provides the amenities of contemporary living.

tv desk

There is a TV and a comfortable spring queen sized bed, as well as chairs and a writing desk.

bathroom

The bathroom facilities includes a shower (no tubs here) and sink and is in a separate room from the sleeping quarters. The tap water is filtered by the resort and is safe for drinking without fears of cholera or other water borne pathogens. πŸ˜‰

coffee tea

Coffee and tea making facilities – don’t worry, there is an electric kettle and even a fridge – are available in-room. There is also a wardrobe and a full-length mirror.

balcony

The blinds opens up to reveal a nice view of the nature retreat and the design was intelligent enough to incorporate three (3) sliding doors – a glass door for retaining the air conditioning, a mosquito netting if you want the maximum outdoor experience without the inconvenience of insect attacks, and a wood panel for total privacy.

armchair

There is also a comfortable armchair for you to relax, put on your smoking jacket and have a big fat cigar while enjoying the rainforest view. Just kidding, you can’t smoke in the rooms. πŸ™‚

ecolamp

Batang Ai Hilton Longhouse Resort is a eco-friendly resort – the lights in the room go out if you’re not within a certain proximity to conserve energy. The bedside lamps tur
n off automatically when you’re not lying on the bed and turn back on when you step close to the area. Very nifty.

longhouse

The longhouse design is modeled on the traditional Iban living arrangements. The longhouse is a communal dwelling structure where families live in rooms joined by a central common walkway. The Hilton Batang Ai Resort faithfully reproduces this design and all of the fittings. There are even replica kerosene oil lamps (which are electric lights) illuminating the corridor.

patio me

There is also a communal patio with deck chairs on one side of the longhouse. The design of this is excellent as the deck faces the jungle (instead of being adjoined to the room) so privacy is ensured, coupled with a serene nature view.

me sandra patio

It should be noted that smoking is not permitted in the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort rooms so indulgences in tobacco should be done at the patio.

pool table

There are recreational facilities ranging from tennis courts to table tennis. Phoenix trashed me at the ping pong table due to my ethanol attenuated reflexes. At least, that’s what I’ll like to think since she got the better of me at pool as well, both times while competing for the 8 ball. The pool table costs RM 4 in tokens for one game.

lobby pool

Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort also has a wading pool and a swimming pool. The swimming pool is surrounded by palm trees, creating an illusion of an oasis in the middle of the jungle.

buddychum

Unlike other resorts in remote areas, the Hilton Batang Ai Resort is maintained in excellent condition. There is no evidence of neglect prevalent in such remote retreats and the resort is kept so clean that you can even walk barefoot if you’re so inclined.

lakeview

Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort would be a paradise for nature lovers. There are guided walks through the forest (including the classic Smuggler’s Trail which crosses the border into Indonesia) and outdoor activities like recreational fishing and jungle trekking are scheduled throughout the day.

tranquil lake

There are also trips by longboat (a local variant of the schooner without a sail) to nearby longhouses where travelers can absorb the local Iban culture.

pool

I noticed that the overwhelming majority of the visitors are older Caucasians blazing a trail through the off-beat path. Younger Caucasians tend to follow the Phuket-Bali route while the more mature and seasoned travelers tend to gravitate towards Sarawak.

pier us

The staff is majority native Iban too so it’s also an ideal place for a private retreat for person(s) without the luxury of overt relationships (e.g. having a romantic sojourn with someone else’s wife/husband) in their own stomping grounds. Don’t worry, I won’t tell if you won’t. πŸ˜‰

poolhouse

The facilities at the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort includes a swimming pool and a smaller wading pool. There are also numerous deck chairs lining the pool area for soaking up the sun.

me pool

I went in for a leisurely swim in the swimming pool…

me sandra inside

…and Phoenix decided to join me and we spent almost an hour inside the water. My skin was all wrinkly when I finally came out of the water.

legs

I noticed a couple of chronologically advanced Caucasians basking in our warm tropical climate. Other popular poolside activities includes reading (there is even a small bookstore at the resort lobby selling novels) and interestingly enough, playing card games.

gym towel

The pool towels are provided and there is also a small gym with minimal facilities for you to turn that blubber into beefcake. πŸ˜‰

me sandra beside pool

Drinks (both cocktails and mocktails) can be ordered and consumed by the poolside. There’s nothing like enjoying a nice tropical cocktail while reclining on the poolside with a good book and some SPF 50 sunblock…

flora

There are also concrete paths lining the resort and you can opt for a stroll with a loved one. The flora are all labeled with local and scientific names and there is an abundance of trees, plants and flowers.

forbidden f

ruit

Eating the forbidden fruit.

safe drinking

The Batang Ai water is safe for drinking. At least that’s what the resort tells me. πŸ˜‰

camwhore

Camwhore!

replica

There is also a replica longhouse at the resort where I saw mini natives going about their daily lives.

the light

The path is also illuminated at night so you don’t have to worry about losing your way.

nanga mepi

Dinner is available from the Nanga Nepi Restaurant. This is the only restaurant available in Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort and serves international and local cuisine.

nanga mepi table

The tagline of the restaurant goes “Embark on an adventure of jungle cuisine as you discover the exotic flavors of Sarawak”.

dinner rolls

Complimentary dinner rolls are served with butter upon your arrival, which is a bit of a nice touch. It all adds up to the positive ambiance of the restaurant.

batang ai delight

I had the Batang Ai Delight (RM 15.50) for the non-alcoholic session of the drink. This is a mixture of mango juice, grenadine, and 100 Plus (the isotonic drink) and it really taxes the gray matter to ponder why such a concoction would come with such an astronomical price tag. πŸ˜‰

ruai delight

Phoenix had the Ruai Delight (RM 15.50) which looks suspiciously like a chocolate milkshake but is actually made of pineapple, vanilla ice cream and coconut cream.

lubok antu discover platter

This is the Lubok Antu Discovery Platter (RM 22). It’s a starter with a combination of beef and chicken satays, prawn samosas, and vegetable spring rolls, served with homemade chilli and peanut sauce.

pansoh manok

I went for the Pansoh Manok (RM 26). It’s chicken pieces flavored with Iban eggplant and herbs slowly cooked inside bamboo over hot coals. This is a local signature Iban dish.

chicken

It’s served with local vegetables and steamed rice. It tastes pretty good actually, but that could be the THC talking. *cough*

sri aman campuran

Sandra had the Sri Aman Campuran (RM 44) which is a combination of local favorites – grilled fresh water prawn with spicy tomato sauce, beef rendang, mixed satays, jungle fern and steamed fragrant rice.

prawn

The fresh water prawn is from the Batang Ai lake and it’s gargantuan! It must have been on a serious course of PGH (Prawn Growth Hormone) therapy. The flesh is succulent and sweet, and goes very well with the spicy tomato sauce.

sago gula melaka

This is the Sago Gula Melaka (RM 10). It’s a dessert of pearls of sago served with coconut milk and local brown sugar.

sago pearls

It’s a local dessert that’s served warm and tastes great!

wong irup bar

The Wong Irup Bar is the only lounge in Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort and serves a variety of alcoholic drinks, including several of their in-house concoctions. There are specialty cocktails containing tuak (a local Iban rice wine) for those wanting a sample of the local culture.

wong irup bar seat

We opted for a table for two with comfortable rattan armchairs.

bartender

The bartender is a friendly Iban local who recommended three (3) of their signature cocktails.

batang ai sunset

Phoenix had the Batang Ai Sunset (RM 20) a signature cocktai

l containing gin, Cointreau, orange juice, lime juice and grenadine syrup.

longhouse paradise

I had the Longhouse Paradise (RM 20) a local cocktail made of tequila, tuak (a local rice wine), Drambuie, mango juice and sprite.

longhouse brew

We also tried the other specialty cocktail – the Longhouse Brew (RM 20) which is a concoction of tuak (Iban rice wine), tequila, coconut milk and grenadine syrup.

bar smoking

Wong Irup Bar is the only place within the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort where smoking is permitted. I capitalized on this by using their decorative candles to light a Marlboro.

corridor night

The corridor at the Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is highlighted (no pun intended) at night by the quasi kerosene lamps hanging on top. This is a common fire hazard in traditional Iban longhouses but the resort version uses electricity.

adam

Thou shalt eat everything except the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

bed wine

The resort pretty much tones down after 11 pm when the restaurant and bars close. You can bring your own wine for consumption after the bar closes.

making love

I found it very relaxing to just lay back, relax, drink some wine, make love and lounge at the deck at night, watching the night sky as the insects chirp around you. Not all at the same time, of course.

sunset us

Smoking on the veranda at night is tranquil (depending on the substances ingested, of course, and in my case, it’s always tobacco ;)) and while Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is not for everyone, it’s perfect for city dwellers wanting a weekend getaway with a loved one.

sandra pool

Time seems to slow down, and you really get to recharge your batteries at the place. Checkout time is at 12 noon but you would probably want to check out earlier to take the 12:15 am boat to meet the 1 pm shuttle back to Kuching. You can opt for a short stroll by the poolside or soak up the warm morning sun with the cool breeze coming in from the lake by the jetty.

noodles us

You might want to bring some instant food like cup noodles to the resort. Food at the restaurant is not cheap and while it’s not very expensive either, it’s also fun to boil some water and slurp some instant noodles in bed for breakfast.

sunrise

You can catch the rising sun if you wake up early enough for the sunrise over the lake.

me sandra steps

There is still time to go for a stroll if you wake up early in the morning. You can opt to have a leisurely lovemaking session…

poolchair me

…lounge by the poolside,

smell flowers

…or just stop and smell the flowers.

goodbye ai

Hilton Batang Ai Longhouse Resort is a very chilled and relaxed environment – perfect for a weekend getaway.

back

It should be noted that there is no cellphone reception here, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on the reasons for your trip.

trip boat

I felt totally refreshed from the weekend getaway. πŸ™‚

Sarikei

sarikei

Sarikei is a town located about 105 km from Sibu. Sarikei is famous for its pineapples, which is cultivated here and exported. I drove down with Faye to sample the Asam Tom Yam Big Prawn Noodles over there (see previous post) and had an acute case of the post-lunch coma after the enormous serving was consumed and decided to stay the night before driving back early next morning.

pier street

Sarikei is a pretty small town by anyone’s standards and the main commercial area is concentrated around the pier (esplanade). There are only a few main roads in town and you’ll be hard pressed to lose your way around the town.

sarikei pineapple

There is a gigantic 3.6 meter pineapple located at the Sarikei waterfront. This distinctive feature pays homage to the famous Sarikei pineapples, most of which is exported and is renowned for it’s sweet and juicy fruit.

pineapple prick

The Sarikei pineapple replica is perhaps the most popular photo op available in this sleepy little town. There were a couple of other tourists taking photos with the prickly fruit too. I don’t know what the structure is made of but the thorny leaves are not very conducive to sitting, as I found out first hand.

pineapple us

Faye also wanted to take a photo with the famous Pineapple of Sarikei. Please, no jokes about inserting bromeliads where the sun don’t shine. πŸ˜‰

kings inn

I was feeling rather drowsy after lunch and didn’t feel like driving back home so I cruised around town for hotels to check into. I had seen a billboard on the road leading to Sarikei advertising King’s Inn and decided to spend the night there. It was a rather impulsive decision since we didn’t even bring a change of clothes (or even the basics like a toothbrush). I had an extra pair of pants and a spare pullover in my car from a road trip several months back and Faye elected to wear the shorts and T-shirt I was currently wearing at night so it worked out alright.

kings inn outside

King’s Inn is newly renovated and has WiFi in every room. The proprietor of Glory Cafe recommended the place to us since it’s clean and relatively cheap. It cost us RM 40 for a double room. The occupancy rates are very high – we saw a FULL sign being put up as soon as we checked in.

kings inn lobby

The lobby at King’s Inn is smaller than my bedroom but it’s comfortable, with a couple of rattan lounge chairs and some reading material (mostly newspapers and magazines) on the shelf. There is also a water cooler and a chiller with sodas and snacks.

kings inn bed

The room at King’s Inn is indeed clean and neat. This is pretty good by rural standards – there are no international class hotels over here, most of them are budget hostel accommodations and dodgy old inns. The only complaint I have is the desk between the single beds, which prevents the beds from being joined together. King’s Inn ran out of queen sized bedrooms so we had to go for a double single bed room.

kings inn tv

The fittings in the hotel room is pretty standard – there’s a vanity mirror on a desk, a very small 14″ TV set, several cloth hangers and a plastic stool. It’s only RM 40 per night nett so it was alright with us since we’ll just be staying until 4 am before we have to drive back to Sibu. The room is clean and the air-conditioning is cold and that’s all that matters. πŸ™‚

main street

I crashed for about an hour due to excessive consumption of alcohol the previous night before waking up to go exploring around the small town. The last time I was here was back in 2002 so a good six years had passed since I have been in Sarikei. This is the Main Street of Sarikei town taken at dusk.

sarikei toilet

I would be remiss if I didn’t do a reenactment of the popular pose at the Sarikei Public Toilet that received critical acclaim (?) back in 2002. The photo is somewhere in the archives of sixthseal.com – this is our version of the “I was here” photo.

sarikei clock

The Sarikei town clock is also another landmark in Sarikei. The town clock served an important function back in the days when wristwatches and cell phones weren’t available but no one probably bothers to look at it nowadays, except for the visitors. I took the liberty of squeezing myself into an empty waste disposal post. I don’t think that worked out very well for my shorts…

shell

Sarikei Wharf Esplanade is another popular place to watch the sun set (and for lovebirds to gather at night). It’s conveniently located at the main row of shophouses in Sarikei town. You can take a leisurely stroll in the evening when the sun sets as the cool breeze coming in from the Rejang River makes it ideal for a nice walk down the wharf.

playground

There is also a playground at the esplanade where the children play on the plastic swings and slides. It seems to be a very popular pastime among the families over here. I guess there’s nothing better to do on a lazy Sunday evening.

fishing

The other popular activity for locals is fishing by the pier. We saw quite a number of anglers whiling the time away at the wharf. I went to have a look and saw that the people here mostly use baited hooks instead of the jigging or popping method which is more popular with recreational fishing enthusiasts elsewhere.

pineapples

We also went exploring at the local market and found a cache of pineapples. Pineapples are Sarikei’s claim to fame and the variant they cultivate is noted for its juiciness and sweet texture. It costs RM 4 for a kg of the fruit. One pineapple weighs about 1 kg or less, depending on the size. Sarikei’s pineapples is a must try if you ever come over – it’s delicious!

pasar tamu

The local marketplace has received a makeover of sorts and is now painted in (rather garish) tribal designs. The taller building behind the market is an old Chinese operated hotel which has become rather run down since the glory days of Sarikei as a wharf town.

local foreign

The difference is clear.

mangrove

Sarikei also has numerous smaller jetties and docking bays made out of roughly bound timber. I found a little path opposite a place selling coffins (of all things) which led to a mangrove beach (it’s actually silt deposits from the river).

jesus

Jesus walks on water (with adidas trainers)
“Ye of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:31

sheraton

Dusk came over pretty soon and we took a shower at the hotel before heading out for dinner. I had asked for recommendations from the receptionist at the inn we were staying at and she suggested checking out Sheraton Seafood Centre.

prawns egg

This is the steamed prawn with egg, which is flavored with chilli, ginger and Chinese red wine. It tasted absolutely fabulous! The prawns were so tender and juicy it came off the shell with just the gentlest of nudging from a chopstick.

deer meat

This is deer meat cooked with dried chillis. I’m not sure about the legal status of deer as a protected species, but they serve it (as well as bats and other exotic wildlife). It’s good, tender and spicy.

pork

This is sweet and sour pork which is one of our staples. It’s nothing to write home about – I’ve had better. We wanted sweet and sour fish but the proprietor (who is also the chef) advised against it since it would take a long time with the crowd at the place.

dinner

The meal cost us RM 40.20 inclusive of drinks. Faye paid for the dinner. That’s why I sayang her while posing for this photo. πŸ˜‰

chicken king

We saw a couple of bars and pubs around Sarikei and was intending to check out the interestingly named Fire before noticing the distinctive Guinness sign and neon blue lighting above Chicken King Restaurant. Chicken King Restaurant is er…emulating, shall we say, the KFC operational model and has almost the same menu items.

chicken king interior

However, the second floor is al fresco (albeit covered) and offers a cafe style environment. I asked the proprietor and he told me it’s been open for six months and they serve a small selection of beer. It’s called Chicken King Cafe and is meant as a watering hole with a more relaxed ambiance.

chicken king tv

The entire perimeter of the place is open and there are plenty of ceiling fans to provide adequate ventilation. There are various seating arrangements and a huge projection TV to attract customers but we were the only ones there.

view down

The place affords a nice view of the main street of Sarikei, though it seems that this town becomes a bit of a ghost town after 10 pm. Perhaps it’s due to it being a Sunday, but the rural lifestyle seems to adhere to the sleep early, rise early philosophy.

drinks

We ordered a couple of beers to relax and chill out at the place before heading back to the hotel. The Guinness Stout is priced at RM 7 per bottle and the Tiger Beer is priced at RM 7 per bottle.

pier night

There is another pier opposite King’s Inn where we were staying and we saw a bit of man-on-man love going on at a secluded bench when we went for a night stroll. I was surprised to see such tolerance of GLBT relationships in a small, rural town. πŸ˜‰

pier night us

Despite our decidedly heterosexual orientation, the two male-male couples were kind enough to take a photo of us by the pier at night before we went back and hit the sack. I had to wake up at 4 am the next morning to drive back to Sibu in time for work.

pineapple night

Sarikei is a sleepy, quiet town that’s ideal for a weekend trip away from the city with friends and family. The hotels are cheap and the seafood and the pineapples are great! It just cost us a little more than RM 100 for the entire trip.

Note: You should be careful when driving back at night. There is a turn going into Durin before reaching Sibu and the 40 km of unpaved gravel road is seriously going to mess your car tires up. It took us 1 Β½ hours to drive back due to a wrong turn into Durin. It takes MUCH longer for that detour and there are no road signs but if the marker jumps from Sibu – 100 km to Sibu – 50 km within a kilometer, you’re on the wrong road. Stick to the main road.

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