Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Waiting game...

I wonder what percentage of our daily hours awake is spent on waiting?

Waiting for the bus or train...
Waiting for the monthly paycheck...
Waiting for someone to make a decision...
Waiting for politicians to make good their promises...
Waiting for medicine to be dispensed...

Mobile blogging while waiting at HSA Polyclinic pharmacy

Friday, 27 October 2017

One local destination a month - Part 9 : Kuala Gandah and Temerloh, Pahang

The Malaysia Day (16 September) public holiday fell on Saturday. I decided that it was a convenient time for us to drop by two places I have read about before but never had the opportunity to visit.

1. Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre

Deep in the Krau Forest Reserve in central Pahang, there exists an animal sanctuary run by the Wildlife & National Parks Department (more famously known by its Malay acronym Perhilitan) dedicated to saving the lives of elephants. While it may be located deep in the jungle, the conservation centre is surprisingly quite easily accessible. Kuala Gandah is only about a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. About 80% of the distance is on a tolled highway and the remainder on a narrower rural state road.

On that Saturday morning, we left Shah Alam after breakfast and took a leisurely drive to Kuala Gandah. Traffic was initially heavy on the Gombak-Bentong section of the highway but once we passed the Karak Toll, the drive was smooth and easy. We exited at Lanchang and from there followed the road signs to Kuala Gandah. The drive on the rural road was even lonelier. We did not pass many cars and it crossed my mind that the sanctuary might be closed on public holidays.

When we reached our destination, I needn't have worried. The elephant conservation park was open. It was still quite early and visitors were only starting to stream in. There was ample parking space when we arrived but later on in the day as we wanted to leave, the large parking lot was packed to the brim. It showed that the place was much more popular than we first thought.

Entry to the Kuala Gandah National Elephant Conservation Centre is free but visitors are required to register at the reception. They do however welcome voluntary contributions, which are properly recorded in the registration form.

This elephant sanctuary is a very good effort by Perhilitan. Apart from taking care of orphaned or displaced elephants, their work includes relocating elephants that encroach and cause damage to oil palm plantations. Perhaps it is more accurate for me to say that it is the plantations that have encroached into wildlife habitat. Anyway, it is good to know that the world's largest land mammal is being given proper protection here in Malaysia.

This preserve is not meant to be a tourist attraction but allowing the general public to come visit is a good step in educating people on the plight of these animals. Each afternoon, visitors can watch a group of elephants taking a bath in the river that runs through the park. Tourists can join in the bathing fun by paying a nominal fee. After the river dip, the elephants then parade to a performance area where the mahouts show some skill in handling their charges. At the end of the show, the audience is given the chance to feed the elephants with fruits and sugar-cane sold by the park's staff.

This simple show is not to be compared to the full-fledged tourist events held in other countries. The chance to be close to such huge and gentle animals is well worth the half-day spent.

Lovely welcome billboard at the reception lobby. Visited 16 September 2017

We saw this young bull munching on the bark of the tree

The juvenile pachyderm enclosure

A cool dip on a hot day

Mahout or elephant handler

Feeding time

2. Pekan Sehari Bandar Temerloh

From Kuala Gandah, we took the old Federal Route 2 towards Temerloh where we spent the night at a simple but comfortable budget hotel in the middle of town. The purpose of visiting this town by the Pahang river was to experience the weekly Sunday market that's purported to be the longest in Malaysia. It is held every Sunday morning from 7am to noon along a stretch of street next to the river bank. It is where the local farmers and smallholders from the surrounding areas come and put up their products for sale.

The hotel where we stayed was just a few minutes drive from the market location. Online tips suggested that we get to the market as early as possible because parking would be difficult to find. We left the hotel just as the day was breaking and found a very convenient parking spot. However, only a few stallholders were just setting up shop, so we spent a few minutes walking by the river bank to enjoy the early morning light. We later stopped for breakfast at a food stall which had just opened for business. We were literally the first customers. The stall had a decent selection of food on sale which included nasi lemak and nasi dagang. Taste wasn't too bad at all.

As we sat for our meal, other customers came and quickly occupied the adjoining tables. Apparently, most are regulars of the stall and the cheerful banter between the stall owner and his local patrons was a delight to hear. I had a hard time straining my ears to understand the local dialect.

After finishing our breakfast, we began our stroll along the weekend market. There were so many varieties of local vegetable produce I've never seen before. Some of them with names that I've never heard. Of course, being an inland town and by a large river, there were many stalls selling freshwater fishes. Temerloh after all, is famous for ikan patin.

My better half bought some of the greens which we would not be able to find in Johor Bahru. These include a few types of pucuk and cendawan. We were tempted to buy some udang galah, which, at RM40 a kilo, was way much cheaper than what we can get down south. In the end, we stuck to buying vegetables and other less perishable items. The famous sambal hitam Pahang was one of them.

We did not cover the whole length of the market because by then, I reckon we had walked more than two kilometres. My arms were already aching from the multiple purchases my better half had made.

It was an interesting morning in Temerloh. I hope to be able to come and visit again soon.

Early morning at the edge of Sungai Pahang

Different types of freshwater fish on sale

Petai, jering, pucuk paku, cendawan and many other greens with names I know not

Bunga kantan in bloom

Smoked, dried and salted fish

Friday, 20 October 2017

Swedish wash bag

Self-service laundry in Malaysia has been in the news for the past few weeks. A laundry operator in Muar decided to cater his business to Muslim customers only. Somebody picked this piece of news and decided it is worth spreading, or to use the latest cliche, to viral it. It became a source of debate between Muslims and caused some degree of animosity. Which sadly to me, is a bit of pity.

Anyway, this post is not about that issue although I admit that it's worth an in-depth discussion at another time. I'm posting a simple observation of a laundry I frequent when I stay at my brother-in-law's house in Bukit Jelutong, Shah Alam.

What I've seen is that the majority of customers bring their dirty laundry in those unmistakable blue over-sized Ikea shopping bags. I'm guessing that this observation would hold true at other self-service wash stations in Klang Valley. You can't fault the Swedish furniture maker for producing a truly versatile bag.

Such a scene is not yet evident in laundromats in Johor Bahru. But with Ikea opening a new store in Tebrau sometime next month, it wouldn't be surprising to see more JB folks using those familiar blue bags to haul their laundry.

Swedish laundry bags in blue

Tie the bag handles to the washer door

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The last race has been run...

The final race for the Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit was run last Sunday. The race was won by Dutch driver Max Verstappen for the Red Bull Racing team.

I watched the full race on television, which was something I have not done for a few years now because my interest in F1 racing has waned. However, I thought that it would be nice to view this so-called finale just for the memory. As it turned out, Max won his second victory in F1 on the day after his 20th birthday. That was something of a feat. At that age, I still had not possessed a driving license. Of course, that's not a reasonable comparison. Max comes from a racing family. He starting driving go-karts when he was just four and a half years old.

Max is trained by his father, Jos Verstappen who was a Formula One driver himself. Jos was relatively unsuccessful in the sport, having achieved only two podium finishes (3rd place in the Hungarian and Belgian GPs in 1994) in a total of 107 races. His drive for success did not diminish and he turned to mentoring his son to achieve what he had not managed to do. That takes some dedication.

I have not actually watched a live GP race at Sepang before. The tickets are too expensive for me. Furthermore, I think there is more knowledge to be gained by watching the race on TV where the informative commentaries tell you plenty more than you get by sitting in the grandstand and looking at speeding cars running around in circles. But that's just me.

Nonetheless, I can tell you that I have been to the Sepang Circuit once. It was at the official opening ceremony of the race track on 9 March 1999. A friend of mine who worked with Malaysia Airlines had managed to get some free passes from his friend at Malaysia Airports Berhad (who at that time, was the owner of the project). The ceremony was held in the evening, around 9pm if memory serves me right. Having said that, I can't remember much else of the event except for the final fireworks at the end. It was quite an impressive display, as fireworks shows are meant to be. I was seated in a reserved area of the grandstand together with some employees of MAB.

As the fireworks sputtered the final flashes of lights, I overheard an MAB staff next to me wistfully mutter, 'There goes our bonus for this year. Up in smoke..."

With the final F1 race run after 18 years, let's see what becomes of the Sepang Circuit from now on. Let's hope that the whole investment does not go up in smoke.

The sticker pass that's still stuck to my car's windshield to this day

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Whisper to the sky

"Kata orang tua-tua, jaga lembu sekandang lebih mudah dari jaga anak perempuan seorang."

The literal translation of this Malay idiom is that taking care of a herd of cows is much easier than taking care of one daughter. I personally wouldn't know about that because I have three sons and no daughters. But I guess there could be a grain of truth in it, otherwise our wise old folks would not have mentioned it.

It has been a few years since I last watched a Malay movie at the cinema. There are not many locally-made films that spur my interest. In a way, I'm not an ardent supporter of the local movie industry, which is actually a sad thing. I hope to put things right in this respect from now on but at the same time, I really wish Malay filmmakers would correspondingly improve their product too.

Bisik Pada Langit is a beautifully touching movie. It tells the story of a father's unconditional love for his only daughter, perhaps at the expense of the other male offspring. The plot is simple, the dialogue uncomplicated and the scenes are short and crisp. The efficient use of flashbacks to tell the background events help sustain interest.

The lead role as patriarch of the family is played by Jalil Hamid. While more well-known as a comedian, I truly like to watch Jalil's skillful acting in dramatic roles. In this movie, he shows his ability through a whole range of emotions : joy, affection, impatience, anger, despair and sorrow.

Go watch this film at the cinema and support our local films. Be prepared to shed a tear or two...

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

One local destination a month - Part 8 : Kedai Makan Pak Raub, Pedas / Linggi

Sometimes things that you have planned for, do not turn out the way you wanted it to. Not all factors are within your control. So when things don't go according to plan, you either adapt, modify or abandon it altogether.

The 8th part of this series was another trip to Negeri Sembilan. We were on our way to Kuala Lumpur and I had intended to make a detour to visit the Rembau Museum located in a small village known as Kampung Astana Raja. The museum is built in the Minangkabau style and is said to be a replica of the palace of Raja Melewar, the first king of the state. However, I had miscalculated my travelling time from Johor Bahru and arrived at the site when it was already closed for the mid-day break. Since it was also a Friday, the mid-day closure was a little longer than normal to allow for Friday prayers. It was also raining during the latter part of my journey which caused me to drive at a slower pace.

With the museum closed and the bleak weather not permitting me taking a decent picture even from the outside, there was nothing much I could do but to proceed to find a mosque and stop for prayers. Before doing so, I searched for the grave of Raja Melewar, which according to Google Maps, is located within the same vicinity. I easily found it since it was just by the road side but I was very surprised when I saw it. As viewed from my car (I did not step out due to the rain), the cemetery is not as grand as the other royal burial sites I have been to. Maybe I'll explore and elaborate on this if I do stop by this location again in future.

This entry therefore has been revised to write about a particular eatery that I first discovered in May this year. I know it seems a bit off-tangent to be writing just about a makan place as a destination to visit but I've had it my mind to introduce this restaurant for quite some time now. The original idea was to write about a few good makan places located just off the North-South Expressway that are worth making the detour. However, I'm so satisfied with this place that I've decided it merits a blog post entirely on its own.

After Friday prayers at Masjid Dr Hj Mohammad Eusuff Teh, we proceeded along Route N9 towards the Pedas/Linggi interchange of the NSE. Just before the interchange, we stopped at our favourite `nismilan' restaurant known as Kedai Makan Pak Raub.

I first got to know of this place in a Facebook posting by a group calling themselves Anak-anak Negeri Sembilan. Since our first visit, I have now planned my northbound trips to include a lunch stop at Pedas/Linggi whenever possible.

Kedai Makan Pak Raub serves traditional Negeri Sembilan kampung-style dishes that are simply delicious. Nismilan cuisine is generous in its use of coconut cream (santan) and is hot and spicy to boot. All the well-known dishes are there, I'll just name a few : daging salai masak lemak cili api, ikan keli bakar, kambing gulai kawah, telur itek masak lemak, gulai ayam kampung plus a whole host of veggies cooked in santan. I have yet to come across a dish that does not agree to my taste.

To quench the fire of the spicy dishes, you can help yourself to the iced rose-syrup drink offered for free. Drink as much as you want. If you cannot take iced drinks, plain warm water is available too at no charge. I don't actually know if they sells other drinks because I've never found the need to order them.

In my view, what makes this place so special is the man himself. Pak Raub is an amiable old man who greets his customers cordially, invites them to self-serve the dishes on display, encourages second helpings at minimal charge and really want customers to enjoy their meal. While I've been his customer a few times, I doubt he remembers me but his greetings and welcome make me feel like I've known him a long time.

Kedai Makan Pak Raub is a simple, no-frills family-run eatery located by the roadside. The food taste marvellous. Seating area is clean and comfortable enough. Price of meal is still at kampung-level, which is to say, ridiculously cheap when compared to Johor Bahru or Kuala Lumpur. If you are coming from the NSE, exit the highway at Pedas/Linggi interchange (Exit 223) and turn left after the toll plaza. The shop is only about 2 minutes away on your left. Try to come before noon if you wish to avoid the crowd. Closed on Mondays.

The shop is alternatively known as Kedai Kuih Kak Wok and they even have a Facebook page. Why this alternate name? Because they sell a variety of kuih as well.

Simple roadside stall. Visited on 25 August 2017

Daging salai, pucuk ubi and labu, all cooked in coconut cream

Kambing gulai kawah

Ayam kampung masak lemak cili api plus a portion of chicken liver

Ice-cold rose-syrup drinks prepared in jugs and placed at each table. FOC

Monday, 11 September 2017

An old name for Great Britain

In the English Premier League football competition, I support Liverpool Football Club. I first became an LFC fan when I studied in the UK in the 1980s. Last Saturday, they played against Manchester City and got the worst drubbing that I can ever remember watching. After the exhilarating game against Arsenal the previous fortnight where the Gunners were trounced 4 to nothing, last weekend saw Liverpool on the receiving end of a City goal-scoring spree.

Damn it hurts... but I guess if you are able to dish it out, then you should be able to take it too.

The only other team in EPL that I would consider myself a supporter of is West Bromwich Albion, although I cannot call myself a die-hard fan. I became a supporter of WBA much earlier that LFC, when I was still in secondary school. The main reason for my attraction to Albion was a certain player named Bryan Robson. A stylish and hardworking midfielder, Robson later transferred to Manchester United where he enjoyed a successful career. He also became captain of the England team.

After watching the horrible Liverpool team display on Saturday, I then switched to watch the later game of West Bromwich Albion versus recently-promoted Brighton & Hove Albion. As it turned out, the new boys BHA defeated WBA by 3 - 1. A rotten Saturday of EPL football for me.

Anyway, the item that caught my interest was that two teams with `Albion' in their names are playing against each other, the first time I've come across it. This caused me to look up what `albion' means.

According to Wikipedia, Albion is the oldest known name for the island of Great Britain. The name is ancient Greek in origin (as opposed to Britain, which has Latin roots).

Okay then... enough of rolling in sorrow and looking forward to next week's game.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Barely alive

In some of my responses to social media comments from friends, I often use the Malay idiom nyawa-nyawa ikan to describe the present political career of a certain minister. The phrase has a graphic impact and apply to a condition (life, career or business situation, for example) that is barely alive or in its last gasp of breath before expiring.

As usual, after using such a phrase, I often wonder how it originated. Sad to say, all my online search for Malay word or phrase origins have revealed very little. Apart from telling us what the idiom means, no website has provided information on how, when or who created the phrase. There aren't any websites whose authors or administrators are even willing to offer a theory on how such sayings came to be.

This pales in comparison to websites that offer the etymology of English words and origins of the most popular and common phrases. Malay language and literary scholars still have a long way to go, it seems.

In the absence of such theories, I guess I'll offer one of mine :

Nyawa-nyawa ikan ~ when a fish is caught on a hook and pulled to the river bank or into the perahu, it would flop here and there, gasping for water and struggle for a bit before finally reaching the end. The duration from the time it is taken out of the water and the time it stops moving is not a terribly long one. Some wise wordsmith of old then thought that this situation would aptly describe someone who is in his final throes of survival.

Not a nice situation to be in...

On sale at our local fishmonger at the central market

Thursday, 24 August 2017

One local destination a month - Part 7 : Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan

Welcome to the 7th entry of my 1LD1M series. This time it is about Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan.

The visit to Port Dickson was somewhat unplanned. In early July, our second son received confirmation of his housemanship posting to Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor. Prior to his posting, he has to attend an orientation programme to be held at a hotel in Port Dickson. We took the opportunity to send him for his course while at the same time spend a day at the seaside town that's well-known by its shortened name of PD.

We have been to PD a number of times and for each trip we stayed at different accommodations. It was no different this time around.

1. Klana Beach Resort and Balai Cerap Teluk Kemang

Both these buildings are located within the same compound and are owned by Majlis Agama Islam Negeri Sembilan (MAINS), the Islamic Religious Council of the state.

The hotel itself is a low-rise building of only 4 storeys. It has one row of rooms facing the sea while the other facing inland. We took one that faces the sea. Although it cost slightly more, the nice view was worth it.

While it attaches the `beach resort' label to its name, the hotel does not exactly have a sandy beach where guests could easily access for a dip in the sea. The hotel sits on a hilly cape with a rocky coastline at the bottom. There is a well-constructed staircase and footpath that leads from the hotel grounds to the water's edge. You can't really swim there but I guess the walk around the cape would be enjoyable enough. If you are still keen on a beach swim, there are nice public beaches on either side of the cape.

As I see it, the main advantage of being located on elevated ground is the lovely view of the Straits of Melaka. On the day we were there, the weather was calm and serene. As we approached the end of the day, the glorious sunset was a sight to soothe the soul.

The front of Klana Beach Resort. Visited on 17 July 2017

A medium-sized swimming pool with separate zones for men and ladies

A lone jet-ski rider cutting across the calm sea

Final rays of the day before the sun sinks below the horizon
Another reason why I chose to stay at this resort is the Balai Cerap Teluk Kemang, an astronomy observatory that is well-known among Muslim calendar enthusiasts as one of the places in the country for the official moon-sighting exercise to determine the start of the Ramadhan fasting month. Guests at the resort are entitled to a free pass to enter the observatory and have a look at the sky through its telescope.

This telescope is said to be the biggest in Malaysia, but how big is big, I have no idea. From what little I know about astronomy, the reference size of a telescope is the diameter of its reflective mirror, which in this case is said to be 24 inches. To reach this telescope, you'd have to climb up 6 flight of stairs. No elevator. The telescope is very sensitive to vibrations, hence any mechanical equipment that would induce such jitters (such as a lift going up and down) cannot be accommodated.

It was a tough climb up the stairs for an unfit couple like me and my better half but the effort was so worthwhile. We were blessed with a clear night sky and the observatory staff could point the telescope at Saturn. Yes, the planet Saturn... the special one with those unique rings around it. As seen through the telescope, the planet was a small blob of light in a huge dark sky. But those rings were sharp and clear. No mistaking Saturn from the other planets. I could have stayed there all night to watch the skies but then they close the place to visitors at midnight.

The staff at the observatory were very helpful in answering questions we had about the solar system, stars and constellations. They also have a collection of images of the galaxy which they showed us on a large flat-screen monitor. I asked to see an image of the Milky Way (known as Bima Sakti in Malay) and the gentleman manning the computer pulled up a file from his archive to display a breathtaking well-composed picture of the observatory (foreground) and the star-filled sky (background). I hope to be able to capture a picture of such quality some time in the future.

Teluk Kemang Observatory, rear view facing Straits of Melaka

View of observatory main entrance

The main telescope at the top level of the observatory

2. Pengkalan Kempas Megalith Complex

Upon checking out of Klana Beach Resort, we took the main road (Federal Route 5) heading south to Johor Bahru. About 30km from Teluk Kemang along this road, Google Maps show a place with an interesting name. I thought it was worth a stop since it was on our return route anyway.

Pengkalan Kempas Megalith Complex (alternatively mentioned as Kompleks Sejarah Pengkalan Kempas on official road signs) is actually the grave of a Muslim missionary of olden days identified as Sheikh Ahmad Majnun. This religious teacher was said to be propagating Islam during the time of 13th century Melaka Sultanate. Around his tomb are some carved stones placed in peculiar fashion. Some of these stones are inscribed with old Jawi (arabic) script but what they actually say is not translated.

Personally, to call the site a complex is somewhat an overstatement. And calling the stones megaliths is stretching it too much. Apart from the official Jabatan Warisan (Heritage Department) plaque at the entrance to the site, not much other information can be seen. Who actually was this sheikh? Who carved the stones? When and why were they placed in such a manner? What do those carvings mean? I guess such questions would remain unanswered. Nonetheless, an interesting enough place to make a stop if you happen to be passing by the area.

On the day of our visit, the roof structure covering the grave was under repairs. At least this shows that effort is being made to keep the site in a presentable state.


Tomb of a learned man

Unique stone structures next to the grave. There is another smaller group of stones
a few metres away under a separate roof

Sunday, 30 July 2017

One local destination a month - Part 6 : Mersing, Johor

I have to start this 6th post of my 1LD1M series with an apology. When I first embarked on this set of travel stories, the intention was to write about a new place in Malaysia that I have never been to before. However, the month of June was mostly taken up by the fasting month of Ramadhan and later the Aidifitri celebration. Hence there wasn't much traveling except for the balik kampung trip to my better half's hometown of Mersing.

To keep the series in motion, I therefore have to slightly bend my rules and write about Mersing, a place I have written about a few times before. Sorry about that. Nonetheless, I hope the new information I'm sharing here would be helpful to readers who plan to drop by this small town on the east coast of Johor.

While Mersing is probably more well-known for its beaches (Air Papan, Penyabong etc.) and as the stepping point to the islands (Tioman, Sibu etc.), I'll focus my writing on a few makan places that are worth mentioning.

1. Nasi Dagang

Not many people know that Mersing has a good selection of food items that originated from Terengganu like nasi dagang, keropok lekor and satar. This is because a sizeable number of Terengganu descendants have settled there, especially in the area known as Mersing Kanan (locally known as Tanjung). Perhaps the most famous of all the nasi dagang in Mersing is Nasi Dagang Mak Yah, sold from a simple stall next to the main wet market. The nasi dagang is so popular that you have to queue to buy it.

However, Mak Yah sells her nasi dagang for take-away only. If you wish to have your nasi dagang as a sit-down breakfast meal or not patient enough to stand in a waiting queue, I recommend you make a visit to Nasi Dagang Warisan Kak Ju. It is a foodstall located on Jalan Makam, a road that runs along the coast on the north side of town. Other than nasi dagang, Kak Ju also sells nasi lemak, nasi minyak and other breakfast items. Although it is slightly out of town, the short drive would be worth it. Taste is good, price is very reasonable (still at kampung levels) and parking space is ample.

Warisan Kak Ju. Visited 28 June 2017

Nasi dagang on a plate

2. Nasi campur masakan kampung

For a kampung-style nasi campur (mixed rice) lunch meal, our place of choice is a foodstall called Kedai Ucu Selera Kita, also located on Jalan Makam but nearer to town. This place sells a wide spread of kampung dishes that would make you spoilt for choice. The slight drawback is that service may be a bit slow when the huge crowd hits at lunchtime. On weekends, hungry out-of-towners would flock the place, so if you wish to avoid it, try coming here before noon. Despite this minor inconvenience, we like to have our lunch here because we've not found another place in Mersing which can match the variety of dishes on offer.

Large seating area that's quickly packed

Typical nasi campur mix consisting of asam pedas ikan, sayur and telur asin

3. Mee bandung

You wouldn't think you'd find good mee bandung muar in Mersing, would you? I'll tell you now that you can. But you have to drive some ways out of town to reach the place. Mee Bandung D'gunung is an unimpressive stall located right by the roadside of Federal Route 3 about 10km north of town. If you are driving from Mersing town towards Endau, you'd probably miss it. But if you are game for a bit of difference, then make a look-out for it on your left-hand side after you pass the water treatment plant in Tenglu.

The stall is mostly a one-man show run by an amiable gentleman called Encik Mat. If you come in a large group, then patience is key. He operates from early morning to around 6pm with a short closing period around mid-day for zohor prayers.

While the mee bandung is not bad, Encik Mat also serves good mee soto too. Again, prices are still customer-friendly.

Location is just by the main road

Mee bandung in reasonable portion


Couldn't resist a bowl of mee soto after finishing the mee bandung

4. Satar and keropok lekor

Okay, back to the Terengganu delicacies of satar and keropok lekor. There are not that many stalls selling satar. We have tried almost all and the one we consider the best is located near the keropok gallery along Jalan Makam at Mersing Kanan. This stall has no particular name so I decided to give it the title of Gerai Satar Terbaik Mersing and recommended an addition to Google Maps.

They start business around 11 in the morning and would sometimes be sold-out by 3pm. They have a few small tables where you can sit and have your satar in-situ. Complete your selection with some keropok lekor, otak-otak, kuih paung and cendol which they also sell, and you have a satisfying tea-time meal.

Satar and otak-otak over charcoal fire

Satar is made up of fish, coconut and some killer bits of cili padi

Kuih paung whose insides are also fish and coconut

Sunday, 23 July 2017

An exclave in Peninsula Malaysia


exclave (noun)a portion of a country geographically separated from the main part by surrounding alien territory

It is quite common for us to come across the word `enclave', a country or region that is completely surrounded or enclosed by the territory of another country. Examples of enclaves are :

1. Lesotho (enclaved by South Africa)
2. Vatican City (enclaved by Italy)

Before the re-unification of Germany in 1990, the city of West Berlin was also considered an enclave because it was surrounded by the former East Germany.

A logical extension of this concept is the 'exclave', where only part of a country or region is geographically separated from the main part by another territory. I have only recently found out what this word means and that there is an example in Peninsula Malaysia itself.

I was browsing Google Maps not long ago to look for interesting places to visit in Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan. I noticed that the cape of Tanjung Tuan (also known by its Portuguese name of Cape Rachado) has a state boundary crossing it. I have been to this place before and loved the shallow beach known as Blue Lagoon (see post here -> Port Dickson) but I never realised that Tanjung Tuan is not in Negeri Sembilan. It is actually part of the state of Melaka.

When I was in Port Dickson last week, I made a stop at Tanjung Tuan to take some photographs confirming this fact.

So there you have it. The small protrusion of hilly land extending its head to the sea known as Tanjung Tuan, which is mostly forest reserve and site of Cape Rachado Lighthouse is an exclave belonging to Melaka.

It has taken more than a half-century of my life to discover this. We learn something new every day...

The signboard on Federal Route 5, giving first indication that
part of Melaka is isolated by Negeri Sembilan

As we approach the cape, the state boundary signboard (right background) becomes evident

The road on the left leads to the lighthouse (Melaka) while the one on the right
leads to Pantai Tg Biru (Negeri  Sembilan)

The Google Map showing state lines cutting across the neck of the cape

Thursday, 13 July 2017

A clinic for the masses

Tucked in an obscure corner of the UTC Kotaraya complex in central Johor Bahru is the government health clinic known as Klinik 1Malaysia. It offers both medical and dental services at a nominal price.

Earlier this month I made my first visit. At the registration counter for dental services, I handed over my MyKad and was asked to fill up a form. The nurse then keyed in my data into the system. While doing so, she asked me a few questions.

"Have you been here before, sir?"

No. My first visit.

"May I know your occupation?"

Retired.

"Do you have a pensioner card?"

No. I work in the private sector.

She returned my identity card, gave me a queue number and asked me to wait until my number is called. There were not that many people in the waiting lounge, maybe six or seven, I can't recall now. The lounge itself is bright and clean. There is a television on, tuned to the Suria Channel of Singapore. The TV reception is quite good and I assume that is why it's tuned to a neighbouring country's programme. Unless you are subscribed to Astro, the reception of local stations using normal antenna can be quite dismal. Except for the stiff and uncomfortable metal seats, the overall waiting experience was generally bearable.

The duration of the wait, under different circumstances, I would call as exceedingly long. But then you have to remember that this is a government clinic. Waiting for one to two hours is normal. Furthermore, I was a walk-in patient. No appointment needed like most private dentists.

When my number finally flashed on the screen, I walked into Treatment Room 8 where I was greeted by a smiling young male doctor. He asked me a few questions and then told me to sit on the dentist's chair. The chair and other equipment in the room looked as modern as can be.

After performing the descaling process on my teeth, the doctor pronounced that all my white chompers are in good condition. He praised me for taking good care of them. Wow... no other dentists have praised me before.

Of course I walked out of the clinic with a big smile on my face. And I paid only RM3 for the whole treatment (RM1 to register plus RM2 for the scaling work).

Convenient and inexpensive. A very good government initiative.

Friday, 30 June 2017

One local destination a month - Part 5 : Jugra, Selangor

The 5th instalment of my 1LD1M series is somewhat delayed in making its appearance. The trip was actually done on 24 May 2017, before the Muslim fasting month. So I'm squeezing this post in just before the month of June leaves us.

This time, I managed to make the journey to Jugra in Kuala Langat, Selangor, the place where I intended to visit in April. There are a number of interesting historical spots here which are not so well-known and discovering them made our trip so worthwhile.

1. Istana Bandar

Within the district of Banting in a small village with the oxymoronic name of Kampung Bandar, there is an old palace built by a former sultan of Selangor. Known alternatively as Istana Bandar or Istana Sultan Ala'eddin, this royal dwelling was built in 1905 by the fifth Sultan of Selangor.

The building sits on a 12.6 acre flat plot of land and is a combination of Malay and Moorish architecture. It is a 2-storey design; the upper floor having the grander rooms and balconies while the lower floor has a relatively low ceiling height. When Sultan Ala'eddin (also known as Sultan Alauddin Sulaiman) passed away in 1938, his successor did not take residence there and the palace became empty. Over the years, the building went through a series of transformations in its use before reverting back to being an empty shell, left to be appreciated by only a few who care to have that inkling of interest in history. The palace is presently registered as a heritage building under Jabatan Warisan Negara.

On the day of our visit, we were the only ones there. The guard at the security post was probably surprised seeing a car with Johor license plates driving up to that quiet location on a weekday afternoon. After I signed the visitor book, he allowed us into the compound and said that we are free to walk around.

The palace is totally empty inside - no furniture or furnishings or exhibits. A number of broken windows and rotting floor planks (properly cordoned-off) show the age of the building. Nonetheless overall the place is clean and tidy. Even the external grounds are well-maintained, i.e. no overgrown bushes or creepers and the like.

Serene and peaceful. And if you are alone, can be creepy as well.

View of Istana Bandar from the front. Visited 24 May 2017

A water reservoir or kolah in the internal courtyard

A view from inside to outside through broken windows

Wide staircase at the rear

2. Bukit Jugra

On the eastern side of Sungai Langat near its mouth, there is a hill known as Bukit Jugra on which sits the Jugra Lighthouse. The hill slope next to the lighthouse is a popular place for para-gliding enthusiasts. On the day of our visit, not a single para-glider was in sight because it was a weekday. I was told that they pack the place mostly on weekends.

Anyway, we were there to enjoy the view from a lovely vantage point. The Langat river mouth where it meets the Melaka Straits can be clearly seen. This viewing spot is surprisingly quite accessible by car. The road up the hill to the lighthouse is paved and there is even space to park your car safely, although I can imagine some congestion on weekends.

A barge being towed upstream of Sg Langat. The Melaka Straits on the horizon

Jugra Lighthouse

3. Makam Sultan Abdul Samad

I came upon this royal mausoleum by chance. As we were heading towards Jugra Lighthouse, I saw a signboard that indicated the grave of royalty. The cemetery itself was not visible from the small road and I decided to make a stop on the way back.

Sultan Abdul Samad ibni Al-marhum Raja Abdullah was the 4th Sultan of Selangor. He reigned from 1857 to 1898, a span of 41 years. At the time of his death he was 93 years-old. The heir apparent to the throne, his eldest son Raja Muda Musa had already departed ahead of him. This resulted in Raja Muda Musa's eldest son, Sulaiman Shah Musa (later also known as Alaudin Sulaiman) becoming the next-in-line. The 5th Sultan of Selangor was therefore the grandson of the 4th.

Perhaps the most famous building in Kuala Lumpur that bears his name is the Moorish-styled landmark known as Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad, located opposite of Dataran Merdeka and the Royal Selangor Club.

This mausoleum at Jugra is a hidden gem. The place is well-kept with a wide parking area for visitors. The security guard on duty was kind enough to give me an impromptu tour. Other than the king, members of his immediately family are also buried there.

Resting place of the 4th Sultan of Selangor