East Coast Part 5 – Sungai Lembing

August 28, 2014 at 11:04 am

Continue from here.

♥Jun 8th Sunday♥

Although I was born in Kuantan, and lived there for the first 6 years of my live, I no longer go back for visits since my God parent’s passing. I don’t know which restaurant is good, which is a good place to visit. After lunch, instead of going to another beach, we decided to head to Sungai Lembing, an old mining town 40+km from Kuantan.

On our way to Sungai Lembing, we saw this monolith off the main road (something you won’t miss when driving from Kuantan to Sungai Lembing). Not sure where that was, we detoured and headed towards it, driving on small plantation roads.

We saw quite some cars parked at the foot of the hill, and found out this was Gua Cheras, which housed a statue of a reclining Buddha. Paying a small fee, we climbed some stairs to explore it.

Inside Gua Cheras, it was pretty mystical, as the whole place was shrouded by a thin layer of smoke from incense burning.

And then we saw the reclining Buddha.

It was very cooling inside, probably five degrees lower than the outside heat, the smell from the incense smoke was unpleasant though, so we didn’t stay there for long.

Reaching Sungai Lembing, we realised we’d missed all the morning crowd. It was quite quiet with only a few shops still opened. We stopped at Kedai Tea Lembing or 林明茶室 (No.6 jalan besar sg. lembing, Sungai Lembing, Pahang, Malaysia) which serves big bowl tea that was common for miners, and famous for their handmade duck egg noodle.

The rich soup for the noodle is charcoal boiled for many hours, but to us, it was too strong in pork taste. The Egg Noodle was very chewy and springy though.

The girls wanted some ‘adventure’ so we visited The Sungai Lembing Mines, an old underground tin mine, now a museum, preserved in it most natural and original settings.

It was quite eerie being under ground walking in these tunnels, the miners could not be claustrophobic to be in this profession.

I was quite glad to end the tour, and went back out to the surface. The girls have a great time navigating the handcar at the museum ground, experiencing what coordination was required to properly move the car front and back.

Back to the town in the evening, the place is almost dead.

But this is probably the best time for wedding shots as the tourists have almost all left.

After this, it was the long drive back to KL. Long because of the bumper to bumper jam on Karak Highway. What a stressful way to end a holiday.

East Coast Part 4 – Tumpat, Pantai Seri Tujoh, Kota Bharu

August 6, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Continues from here.

♥Jun 6th Friday♥

Early in the morning, the hubs drove to Kampung Kuala Besar, a fishing village near Kota Bharu.

The fishermen there seem to love to keep the Jambul or Red Whiskered Bulbul, a bird which they will use in bird singing competition.

Back at the hotel, we had another scrumptious buffet breakfast; after that the girls wanted to go back to Siti Khatijah Central Market to get more fake legos (yes, they sell them there at a very good price).

We stopped by at Loo Coffee for a drink and ended up chatting to the owner, Alice, for almost an hour about Kota Bharu and the Chinese community. Most of the Chinese there seem happy with the ruling party, PAS. When pork is sold at a little hidden corner with high walls in Klang Valley, they are sold openly in Kota Bharu. The market near by Loo Coffee had pork sold right at its entrance, a scene not available in Klang Valley. Unfortunately, when the hubs walked over there later, the market was already closed. Alice suggested that we go to the Thai border to see the impressive and huge temples built there.

We could have gone on chatting with Alice, but the girls were restless and nagging us to move on.

We drove out of Kota Bharu, and headed to Tumpat, which is a district at the Thai border (the other bigger Thai Border town Rantau Panjang is inland and further away from Kota Bharu); but to cross to Thailand (Tak Bai Checkpoint) from this side of the border, a ferry/boat ride across the Golok River is required.

The closer we got to Tumpat, the more Thais we saw. We actually broke for lunch at a small road side shed serving simple Thai food. Every one spoke Thai there, a guy had to take our orders in Bahasa Malaysia, and translate to Thai for the cook. Zaria was happy to have some pork to eat after so many days at the East Coast.

We stopped at the KTM station there, which is the eastern terminus of KTM’s East Coast Line.

As the station was pretty quiet, we went to the track and took some yoga shots. Eventually, the station master spotted us and shooed us away.

The girls, not toying with danger, stayed in a nearby shed, fooling around while waiting for us.

While driving to Pengkalan Kubor, the hubs decided to make a stop at Pantai Seri Tujuh. It seemed like a pretty popular beach for a picnic looking at how much rubbish had been littered and accumulated! I’d never seen a dirtier beach!

I’m disgusted at how we ‘take care’ of our beaches!

Luckily it wasn’t a wasted trip as besides being a popular picnic spot, it’s also a local favourite for kite flying. We saw some huge Wau Bulan or moon kites, being flown.

We even got to go on a horse carriage ride around the village nearby, as requested by the girls.

By the time we’re done at Pantai Seri Tujoh, and rushed to Pengkalan Kubur the Malaysian checkpoint at the Thai Border, the chekcpoint was already closed for the day (up till 6pm each day), so no crossing over to Thailand.

We drove back towards Kota Bharu, and searched for Restaurant Kampung Kulim (GPS coordinates) at Wakaf Baru as it’s a highly recommended restaurant.

It wasn’t an easy restaurant to find, as it’s hidden in some residential area. We has to ask around for direction before we managed to find it but only to know it’s closed for the week! (So that the workers can rest it seemed!) Anyway, if we were to be in Kelantan the next time, we’ll definitely want to try this place. We ended up eating at Cheng Mai Restoran, a Thai restaurant nearby Restaurant Kampung Kulim, but it wasn’t good that good.

♥Jun 7th Saturday♥

We checked out Hotel Perdana after our morning breakfast. It’s been a great stay there, love the clean gymn, the nice pool, and with super buffet spread we got every morning, and the service we got from the reception to the concierge was 5 star!

After another visit to Siti Khatijah Central Market for last round of shopping, we went hunting for Kopitiam Kita ( 4357-A, Jalan Pengkalan Chepa, Taman Desa Jaya, Kelantan, Kota Bharu), another place highly recommended.

Crowded kopitiam, the place is famous for packed rice from different district of Kelantan.

However, most of the rice were gone when we got there. Only managed to grab 2 packs of Nasi Ayam Goreng Kak Wok.

The girls have some kaya toasts, and then some customers next to our table recommended us roti titab, famous in this kopitiam. It’s just a pan fried butter toast, top with soft boiled egg, with 4 dollops of kaya dotting the corners of the toast.

Something different.

This was considered our early lunch, before we took the long drive down to Kuantan. Our next destination.

Somewhere on the journey, we stopped at the road side for some kueh baked using brass pan over a fire fueled by coconut husks.

The brass pan was placed on top of the fire, and top with more burning husks to bake the kueh.

It was a very fragrant and tasty kueh.

Driving inland between palm oil plantations, we spotted some wild hornbills flying about kind of like playing, the hubs decided to chase after them.
.

All these stops made us finally arriving at Kuantan past 10pm. We felt so happy/relief to get into our cozy room at Riverview Boutique Guesthouse
.

East Coast Part 3 – Kota Bharu, Siti Khadijah Central Market

July 16, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Continues from here.

♥Jun 5th Thursday♥

After having breakfast at the hotel (which was scrumptious and part of the room rate), we headed to Siti Khadijah Central Market. Named after Prophet Muhammad’s entrepreneurial wife, it’s a name fit for this market which is mostly run by women.

This has to be the highlight of anybody’s trip to Kota Bharu. We like the place so much, we went there every day for the 3 days duration we were there!

This huge market has a tremendous variety of things being sold, from the regular produce you get from any wet market, vegetables, poultry, fish and fruits, to souvenirs for tourists, i.e. batik, keropok, serunding, copper ware etc.

First glance, it looked like any other wet market in Malaysia.

Until we moved to the centre of the market. The octagonal central hall of the market is probably the most visually attractive part of the market, it has vendors sitting on raised platforms surrounded with their enticing goods, i.e. colourful vegetables, pickled, sauces etc.

We were actually quite shock to see turtle eggs being sold by 2 or 3 vendors openly. I thought these were banned?

There are not that expensive considering these are from endangered sea turtles. The only consolation is during the 3 days we were there, we didn’t see anybody actually buying these eggs.

The central hall is best view from floors above, the glass roof ensures the whole place is bathed in enough light to show off the beautiful colours of the produce sold.

On the second floor, we found mainly dry grocers selling a variety of things. What attracted us was the wide array of salted fish available.

We went to one of the bigger stalls and asked for the best salted fish. The owner warned me it was very expensive, and asked me how many I would like to have. I gingerly (worried about the price) asked for 3 (they looked like these on the photo but lighter in colour), and waited for him to weigh and inform me of the price. Phew, they were only RM6 for 3!
(And by the way, they were delicious I regret not buying more!)

I love to see how spices and curry powder were sold in big bags by the weight, not pre-packed like how we get them in KL.

Serunding (dried meat floss) and keropok are being sold by a lot of the stalls here. I bought some back as well, not really that fantastic although they are cheaper than KL.

The 2nd flour is where all the batik sellers are. Lots of clothing, shoes, accessories can be found too on that floor. Zara got herself a fake Hello Kitty bag which was quite good quality.

Back to the ground floor, a section of the market is given over to ready to eat food. There’s wrapped tapai being sold.

Different kind of kueh-mueh (Malaysian cakes), some not seen before in KL. Most of them were not covered, and we didn’t dare to try them. However, we did buy a pack of Kuih Gomok (a round cake made with coconut and glutinous rice flour) and Kuih Ladu (pepper cake) each to try. Kuih Gomok is nice, but I can’t say the same for Kuih Ladu.

Not sure what this seed is, and a few stalls were selling this. We tried some and they tasted like lotus seeds.

Outside of the market, we saw this fish satay being sold. It’s 20sen per stick! We tried some. It’s not really fish pieces, but more like some fish flavored dough pieces. Still, it’s a cheap snack to munch on.

Not far from Siti Khadijah Central Market is China Town.

Most of the shops here have jawi written on their sign boards.

For lunch we went to Restaurant Nasi Ulam Cikgu at the Kampung Kraf Tangan. Food display wasn’t the most appetising looking (hence no photo), but taste wise it’s ok, lots of greens, ulam to choose from.

The rest of the day, we spent lazing in the hotel. Girls watched TV, while I went for a massage.

In the night, we went to try out Yati Ayam Percik (847, Jln Long Yunus, 15200 Kota Bharu). A big big disappointment.

We should have known when we stepped into the restaurant, with greasy floor and flies buzzing around. When the chicken (ayam percik) pieces were served, the girls asked if it was chicken covered in vomit, so unappetizing looking, and the chicken which was supposed to be barbecued was cold, cooked, probably many hours earlier. Even my neighbourhood Malay restaurants make better ayam percik than Yati. The vegetable that came in a clump with the rice was horrible as well.

We rarely walk out on a restaurant but this time we did, with our food barely touched. We thought we’ll only do justice to ourselves if we went to another place for dinner since we only have 3 nights in Kelantan.

Off we went to Kedai Kopi White House (1329-L, Jalan Sultanah Zainab, 15000 Kota Bharu.). Chinese owned, we understand that the owner’s grandfather used to be the Sultan’s chef, therefore their shop is so strategically located between the Muhammadi State Mosque and the Kelantan Sultan’s palace

This small place is constantly full, we waited a while before we got a table. Coffee, tea, toasts were great, and even the packed nasi tumpang was quite nice.

East Coast Part 2 – The Summerland Retreat, Pantai Telaga Papan, Pantai Rhu Sepuluh, Setiu Wetlands

July 3, 2014 at 10:31 pm

Continues from here.

♥Jan 3rd Tuesday♥

After googling for a place to visit around Setiu, which is the district The Summerland Retreat is located, we decided to visit Setiu Wetlands; not knowing the place is so illusive.

We only knew we were supposed to head North, and then try to locate signage. There was actually no signage, so we had to ask around, finally locating the narrow village road that led us to Setiu Wetlands. We knew we were there when we saw some boats docked with mangrove forests nearby.

We asked around if anyone would bring us around, but the folks there were more interested in their game of checkers. Only a Pak Din was willing to show us around in his boat for RM150.

Pak Din mentioned that the place is not well posted with signage because they were afraid that big tourist crowd may actually cause harm to the environment, how true that is, we don’t know. Usually only university students come to the wetlands for research purposes, and they normally hire him to bring them around so he’s quite familiar with the area.

In his small boat, he showed us around.

One of the main income in the wetland area is generated through oyster farming. We passed by many of them, with floating platforms.

Pak Din docked at a mangrove forest, and got us to explore a bit. He expertly watched over the shallow pool of water (for bubbles rising from sand), and dug out a couple of big clams. I’d never eaten clams this big, but they seem to be quite popular in the East Coast. He asked if we wanted to bring home to cook, and when we didn’t want, he happily pocketed them.

Pak Din pointed out some strange stack horn like parasitic plants which could only be found here, according to him. They look like a big sweet potatos attached to the tree, with a few thin stalks with leaves sticking out at the ends.

He took his boat out to the open sea as well, just to show us how the Peninsular looked like from the sea. He also docked at a sandy beach near the Laguna Agro Resort, pointed to us where Pulau Perhentian Besar, Pulau Perhentian Kecil and Pulau Lang Tengah are. His boat stalled when we wanted to leave, and took a while to restart. That got us worried, so we headed back soon after that as none of us wanted to get stranded in the middle of the sea.

If you are visiting Setiu Wetland, do contact Pak Din to show you around in his boat. His number 0139030119.

After our lunch at Pak Din’s little shop (run by his wife), it started raining. Nothing much we could do, so we headed back to our vacation home. On our drive back, we caught these. A heard of goats squeezing together to shelter themselves from the rain.

Another peck of animals sharing a shelter together.

While this duck was enjoying itself in the rain.

At Pantai Rhu Sepuluh, we decided to try the famous Ikan Goreng Tepung (fried fish with batter). Not only fish, they have prawns, squids, and keropok lekor (fish sticks) and some other processed stuff like crab sticks, sausages and nuggets. We picked a few items for tea, and they were good as long as you don’t see how they were fried! I guess you can’t go wrong with fresh seafood.

The long wide stretch of beach at Pantai Rhu Sepuluh was nice to explore after the rain. It was so difficult to get the girls to leave.

Back at The Summerland Retreat, we went for a swim at the sea. The water is clean and shallow, and the waves so gentle and calm, it was the first time the girls actually enjoying themselves swimming in the sea.

At night, we asked if Oya and Ena could cook us a simple dinner since we were too lazy to go out again, we didn’t mind anything, even just a plain omelette. Instead we got fried black pomfret, omelette, chicken rendang, and stir fried celery ♥♥.

While having dinner, Oya shared her story of how both of them started the place together. Their story of 2 city girls giving up the city and choosing to live a simple life running a small place like this is so inspiring. Have I mentioned that one of the dreams I have was to run a small B&B in the mountains or at a beach? They are living my dream.

♥Jan 4th Wednesday♥

When in East Coast, we should all try to catch the sunrise. Well, not me, the hubs did. This was at Pantai Telaga Papan.

For the last 3 days we stayed at The Summerland Retreat, we’d been having breakfast at this eatery recommended by Oya. Located just across the Merang Mosque, this small eatery, which is hard to miss because there’ll be lots of cars parked next to it, serves one of the best nasi kerabu we’d ever tasted. Owners were friendly, and besides nasi kerabu, they have nasi dagang, nasi lemak, and nasi minyak (translate to oil rice) as well.

The hubs who tried the nasi dagang claimed it was nice, so when he had nasi kerabu, he added the fish from nasi dagang as well; the girls had nasi lemak for 3 days with fried chicken and they like it too.

I love the nasi kerabu so much, I didn’t try any of the other rice, and had the same thing 3 days straight. The plate of nasi kerabu which is RM5 comes with rice, fish cracker, a slice of salted egg, 2 pieces of freshly barbecued chicken, ulam (Malay salad), serunding ikan (spiced fish floss) a pickled onion and the secret sauce. So yummy I tell you.

It was then time to leave The Summerland Retreat and move to our next destination, Kota Bharu.

We used the coastal road. Nice kampung houses were seen all along the coastal road, although most of them now have Astro Satelite dish attached to them.

This small quaint barber was empty when we passed it.

We had lunch at Kuala Besut, the main jetty to get to Pualau Perhentian, and also had some sata, a Terengganu fish satay grilled on a gentle fire fueled by coconut husks.

Then we reached Kelantan state. We drove passed Tok Bali, a small fishing port, before we headed inland towards Kota Bharu.

There were lots of clam stall at the road side selling the big clams we saw in Setiu Wetlands.

It was meant to be a 2hr journey from Merang to Kota Bharu, but it took us 4hrs using the coastal road and making numerous stops. When we finally arrived at Hotel Perdana, our hotel Kota Bharu, the girls were so glad; more so we got upgraded to a Deluxe Premier room, a big and modern room.

After many days of having Malay food, we were craving for Chinese, so we went to Four Seasons Restaurant, a halal Chinese restaurant; it was ok food.

Every Child Is A Creator (Of a Gadget)

May 23, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Unlike most urban kids, our girls don’t own an iPad, don’t have free access to one (they can only use it as a dictionary freely), and neither can they watch TV as and when they like. They are only allowed TV or the iPad time if they have earned it, such as, they have done a page of writing, or some worksheets I’d given to them, etc.

Today, I went out for a long lunch, and came home to find the girls have created their own toy with a box which was used to deliver my shopping 2 days ago.

They have created a vehicle which they claimed can be converted to a ship, a car, a plane.

With a very special control console.

I asked Zaria who was ‘driving’ the vehicle, “How can you have games on your console, you can’t play games when you are driving.”
She said, the car drives automatically without human control.
But of course.

They created a smart phone too with all the Apps they are interested to have.The 1st app on the right on the 2nd row is photo gallery according to Zaria.

The paw is an Apps for animals, and she hasn’t figured out what it can do yet.

And of course, how can someone do without an iPad, loaded with all the important Apps.

Love to see the girls do this instead of just being glued to the TV or gadgets.

Taiping Dec 2013 – Glorious Food, Around Town and Sentosa Villa

May 4, 2014 at 8:53 pm

(What we saw and where we visited in Taiping during our year end visit is captured in the earlier post.)

Possessing local knowledge helps tremendously in a trip, with this Taiping trip, we just referred to our “Where to eat” list from Zaria’s teacher, not having to hunt around or experience any disappointment during meal times.

One of the places that should not be missed is Restoran Kakak 家家茶室 (111, Jalan Pasar, Taiping)

The kuey teow soup is supposed to be famous, with a choice of your own topping (fish cake, fish ball, stuffed tofu etc) tasted alright with a nice soup and smooth kuey teow. And we saw lots of people ordering the chicken feet, which we should have tried but didn’t. What we really like is the Kakak Ping 家家冰, which is a cold Nescafe mixed with barley drink; a unique combination, which made the Nescafe has a slight malty taste.

The place is opened early in the morning, and sold out quickly, especially the Kakak Ping. We went back the following day at noon, missing the Kakak Ping already only to find they have sold out.

No photos were taken at the coffee shop as it was a mad morning rush when we were there.

As the coffee shop is located in town, we had a stroll around town after our breakfast.

The girls were fascinated with a shop next door to Restaurant Kakak, which sells animal food, chicken feed and also chicks.
Taiping Town Centre - shop selling chicks

The road that attracted Zaria, Jalan Boo Bee (just because it sounded like boobies) is just nearby.
Taiping Town Centre Pre-war shop house

Nice pre-war shop houses around town.
Taiping Town Centre Pre-war shop house

And we like all these old style shops.
Taiping Town Centre

Here are some other places we’d been for something to eat..

♥Siang Malam♥ (Jalan Kota)

It’s a bustling hawker centre beside the KFC Restaurant in town.
Taiping Pasar Siang Malam

We went there for supper, and hence couldn’t order much, but the cup of tea made by one of the stall was really good. The ‘barista’ deftly made cups of coffee and tea from the tiny kitchen was interesting to watch.
Taiping Pasar Siang Malam Drink Stall

We tried the chee cheong fun (flat rice noodle) there which was drenched with a reddish sweet sauce with generous topping of friend shallots and toasted sesame seeds. Unlike the brown sweet sauce we get in KL, this red sweet sauce is nicer and more fragrant.
Taiping Pasar Siang Malam Chee Cheong Fun

♥Larut Matang Food Court♥ (Jalan Panggung Wayang)
Best place for lunch I believe, as we went three times, once late afternoon, where some of the stalls were finishing up and closing, another before noon, but the Nonya kuih stalls were just about to start their business, and another time slightly after lunch, and the stalls were all bustling with activities.

Famous stalls include, Fishball kuey teow (stall number 78); it’s actually like a dry soy sauce fish ball noodle getting fried before serving.
Larut Matang Food Court Fried Fish Ball Kuey Teow
Unlike the fried kuey teow that we are used to, this one is a little wet, and the noodles are thicker cuts; I think we prefer the usual fried kuey teow.

Red Bean Soup 红豆水 and Groundnut Soup 花生汤 (stall number 40); We can just keep going back to this stall. The red bean soup is so rich and thick (but not bitter); while the Groundnut Soup is so fragrant, with melt in your mouth groundnuts. Best of all, only RM1.40 per bowl!

Larut Matang Food Court Red Bean Soup

Larut Matang Food Court Groundnut Soup

All stalls in Larut Matang Food Court have sign boards which indicate their stall number.
Larut Matang Food Court Stall Number 40

There are also two traditional nyonya kuih stalls (in front of the fishball kuey teow stall) which sell a huge variety of nyonya kuih.

♥Restoran Mr BBQ♥ (Jalan Maharajalela)
This place was so good, we had dinner there two nights in a row.

The BBQ stingray is not to be missed, but the asam steamed fish is also fantastic.
Restoran Mr BBQ BBQ Stingray

Restoran Mr BBQ Nyonya Steam Fish

Restoran Mr BBQ Fried Squid

On the eve of Zaria’s birthday, she, who’s the only pork eater in the house, wanted sweet and sour pork for dinner, so we ordered this for her in Mr BBQ. She said it was really delicious as well.
Restoran Mr BBQ Sweet And Sour Pork Rice

Restoran Mr BBQ Taiping

♥Ipoh Bakery 怡保面包西饼屋♥ (144-146 Jalan Taming Sari)
We chanced upon this when we googled for a bakery to get Zaria’s birthday cake. This bakery has been operating for more than 90 over years, the bread and the chicken pies are famous. They have also progressed with time and now they make fondant cakes as well.

Ipoh Bakery Taiping

Besides getting a slice of cake for Zaria, we bought lots of buns and bread too, and they were all quite nice, some of the bread like the cream roll, sure brought back some childhood memory.

Zaria said the slice of cake we got her tasted very much like my cake, meaning it’s very home-styled.
Zaria's 7th birthday cake from Ipoh Bakery

♥Restaurant Tepi Sungai(十八丁海上食店)♥ (150 Tepi Sungai, Kuala Sepetang)
Kuala Sepetang has many seafood restaurants but this was recommended by our friend. The fried little crabs are not common, but I think the fried little shrimps are nicer. They are so tiny they could be eaten whole.
Kuala Sepetang Seafood Fried Little Crabs

We tried the Bismillah Cendol (Jalan Barrack) as well, but maybe because we are not cendol connoisseur, we didn’t find it that nice (Just like we didn’t find the famous Penang Road Teo Chew Cendol nice as well).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ . ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

♥Sentosa Villa♥

As for hotel, we stayed in Sentosa Villa which is at the fringe of the Lake Garden. We got a family room at the main hotel block. Room is huge and clean but without any character. I think staying in the family villa would have been better (but they are quickly snapped up).
Family Room at Sentosa Villa

The hotel surrounding is beautiful, we only realised this when we stayed back on the last day for breakfast.
Cafeteria at Villa Sentosa

There’s a natural stream and pool in the compound.
Duck swimming in the stream at Sentosa Villa

Stream at Sentosa Villa

And there are chickens, ducks, turkey running around in the garden, which the girls were fascinated with, trying to feed them with bread from the breakfast buffet.
Feeding chickens at Villa Sentosa

They also tried catching some fishes from the pond, and because there were so many, they could actually scoop them up with their bare hands.
Catching little fishes at Villa Sentosa

Exploring the gardens at Villa Sentosa

Taiping Dec 2013 – The Sights And Places We Visited

April 30, 2014 at 11:26 am

To end our year last year, we made a trip to Taiping and spent 3 days there.

My memory of Taiping was of a drive we took many years ago (before the children came) passing the big angsana trees at the Taiping Lake Garden, last year, after gathering some information from Zaria’s teacher from Taiping, on what to eat, and what not to miss, we decided to make a trip there instead of Ipoh (which we’d been going for the previous 2 years at year end).

These are the sights and the places we visited in Taiping. Refer to this other post on where to stay; where and what to eat.

Taiping Lake Garden

The first public garden established in then Malaya; huge and scenic, the garden has lots of huge gigantic rain trees or Angsana trees lining the lake with its branches stretching from the road to the waters. This place obviously is a popular place for various exercise.

Soldiers did their physical exercise and this few didn’t mind a photo taken after completing their sit ups.
Soldiers at Taiping Lake Garden

There was a coach (Volunteer? Assigned?) doing some stretching exercises on the stage, with those interested following.
Morning exercise at Taiping Lake Garden

Small exercise groups did their own routine. This group doing taichi.
Taichi at Taiping Lake Garden

And this group doing fan dancing.
Fan Dance at Taiping Lake Garden

The huge trees were so fascinating, the hubs just couldn’t stop taking photos.
Taiping Lake Garden

Such a big beautiful park, so picturesque.
Taiping Lake Garden

Taiping Lake Garden

Taiping Lake Garden

Taiping Lake Garden

Taiping Lake Garden

The lucky residents of Taiping, we envy you!
Taiping Lake Garden

Bukit Larut (Maxwell Hill)
The oldest hill resort in Malaysia, perched at 1250m above sea level, it is the wettest place in Malaysia, with temperature ranges from 10C to 25C. Access up the hill is available only by (government owned) Land Rovers although people are free to walk up the hill as many do for exercise.

The journey up the hill is about 13km, so we decided to take the Land Rover, and then walk down.

The Land Rover operational hour is from 8am to 5pm daily with a frequency of 1 hour. Fees is about RM5 for adult and RM3 for children.

We bought our ticket for a specific time slot, waited at the stop 15mins earlier, (but like all things badly operated by the government) but the land rover just zoomed passed us without even stopping for us (he claimed he didn’t see us later). We complained at the office (nobody was mending the ticketing office as it was 1:30pm on a Friday, prayers time), but was asked to wait for the next available Land Rover (coming down from the hill) to bring us up.

So we reached the top of the hill in the next available Land Rover late afternoon; it was a thrill ride all the way up, the roads were narrow with sharp bands, I chose the front seat, and tried not to get nauseous while the girls were screaming and shouting like they were on a roller coaster ride. The weather was nice and cooling at the peak, but we didn’t see anything operating, the cafeteria, tea garden were all closed, and I wasn’t sure if any of the bungalows were habitable. Whatever buildings we came across looked dilapidated.

We didn’t spend much time up at the top; took the next available Land Rover downhill but alighted midway and walked the rest of the journey to the foot of the hill. On foot, we were able to enjoy the fresh air (diesel smell on the Land Rover) and the flora and fauna available.
Spider at Bukit Larut

The last 3km we decided to take one of the jungle trek instead of walking on the tar road. This is the popular exercise trail lots of people take, but it’s not an easy trail especially with children. It was steep all the way, with lots of tree roots forming steps, and ropes provided to assist with the climb/descent at some part.

Climbing down Bukit Larut

Climbing down Bukit Larut
Zaria, the fearless, took the lead all the way.

Taiping Zoo Night Safari

The night before Zaria’s 7th birthday, we asked her what she would like to do in Taiping, and knowing there’s a night safari at the Taiping Zoo, she said she wanted to go just there.

Taiping zoo is located in a beautiful natural setting in Taiping Lake Gardens and pretty well maintained. Ticket was RM20 for adult and RM10 for children for night safari.
Night Safari Taiping Zoo

The animals were healthy looking, and some were very active in the night, like this clouded leopard which we could watch so closely through the glass cage.
Clouded leopard at Night Safari Taiping Zoo

Kuala Sepetang

Kuala Sepetang (formerly known as Port Weld) is a coastal town famous for its mangrove forest and also charcoal factories. The Port Weld railway station was located at the centre of the town, now dismantled, it was the last station up North on the first railway line in Peninsular Malaysia.

On the way there, this huge green piece of land was covered with cement buildings for housing swiftlets for their bird nests.
Swiftlets House at Kuala Sepetang

We had lunch at the fishing village at Kuala Sepetang, and bought some dried seafood.
Kuala Sepetang

Kuala Sepetang

A visit to the charcoal factories shouldn’t be missed when one is in Kuala Sepetang, in my opinion (here is the direction to get there).

We always go to Mr Chuah’s factory. There’s a smokey smell in the air upon arriving. The factory has many huge beehive like kilns to bake big wooden logs until the moisture is gone and turn them into charcoal.
Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Kiln

These logs, stacked outside of the factory, is ready to be baked.
Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory

This place has a nice charm, and it’s probably quite popular for wedding shots.
Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory Wedding Shoot

And of course, we took the opportunity to take some arti-farti shots too. Zaria doing a bridge.
Zaria doing a bridge at Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory“ title=

Me doing a Reverse Warrior pose.
Reverse Warrior at Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory“ title=

My current favourite bag from Ki Ichizawa gets an ‘advertisement-like’ shot too.
Ki Ichizawa bag at Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory“ title=

And Zaria trying to push a cart loaded with charcoal.
Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory“ title=

The charcoal produced here are mainly exported out to Japan (no wonder their yakitori there is so delicious), but visitors are able to purchase them too. We grabbed 3 big packs, freshly bagged.
Sorting out charcoal at Kuala Sepetang Charcoal Factory“ title=

Japan Part 11 – Day 12 – Osaka Doguyasuji 千日前道具屋筋商店街 and Shinsekai 新世界

April 10, 2014 at 10:08 pm

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here

♥Dec 3rd Tuesday♥

Osaka Skyline

Last day in Japan, and I woke up with a massive migraine. I asked the hubs to bring the children out without me but they preferred to stay in with me. Good thing was after sleeping for 2hrs, the migraine went away, and we could still shop and explore for one last day before we left.

First stop was Doguyasuji 千日前道具屋筋商店街, a small shopping street which sells kitchen and baking wares/utensils. For a small street, we spent quite some time there, and I got myself a clay pot, a bread knife, a cast iron kettle, two thermometers and an aluminium pot; I made sure everything I got was Made In Japan to worth the effort for carrying them back.
Doguyasuji

There were other interesting shops around Doguyasuji, but we didn’t have time to check them out. O

Cycling seems to be very popular in Osaka and Kyoto; if it wasn’t for the busy traffic, we would have opted to use the bicycle too; maybe in future trips when the girls are older.
Around Doguyasuji

After that it was off to lunch. Our first western meal in Japan at Bene Pesce.
Bene Pesce Pesto Octopus Pasta

Bene Pesce Smoke Sardines

Bene Pesce Tomato Pasta
For about ¥800 for a set lunch, the food was not bad and of good quality, like all things Japanese.

We lugged all the things we’d purchased, and headed to Namba Station to store them in the locker.
Namba Station

Namba Station

Because the hubs has patiently waited for me to shop at Doguyasuji, I had to agree to go to Shinsekai 新世界; one of the poorest area in Japan, it has a unique character and tackiness that is not found in other parts of Japan. The moment we got out of the train, it’s as though we’d been transported back in time to a notorious and dangerous part of Japan.

Shinsekai Love Locks

People were sloppily dressed (Zara said every one looked like a gangster), some looked dirty and zombie like as though they had not taken a bath or rested for quite some time. Shinsekai is famous for cheap eats as well; we saw lots of small restaurants lining the streets, and they were mainly ‘standing bars’ or in Japanese 立吞, where the Kanji characters translated to ‘stand and swallow’ (I understand it’s now also a popular restaurant concept in Taiwan).

Shinsekai Standing Bar 立吞

Shinsekai Standing Bar 立吞

There were a couple of adult movie theatres that we came across with their bold posters, the girls squealed every time they came across one, “Eeeyer!!!! Humsup!!” “Eeeyer, she’s showing her boobs!” “Eeeeyer, they look like they are mating!” o.O”

I had to ask the hubs walk ahead of us to ensure the ‘coast’ was clear before we followed him.

There are a lot of Pachinko Parlour in Shinsekai too; hubs went into one of them to have a look.
Shinsekai Pachinko Parlour

If the restaurant signboards in Dotonburi is tacky (but acceptable), the ones in Shinsekai brought it to another level. Most of the restaurants have the Shinsekai Mascot Billiken that’s supposed to bring luck. Luck or not, it looked hideous.

Shinsekai Restaurant with Billiken

Shinsekai Restaurant with Billiken

Shinsekai Restaurant with Billiken

Shinsekai Restaurant

We didn’t have dinner there, because the girls were uncomfortable with the people they saw there. So if we were not after the cheap food, why were we there? This was all because the hubs wanted to photograph the vibrant colours of Shinsekai (no doubt it’s colourful) and the Shinshekai Tsūtenkaku 通天閣, which means “Tower Reaching Heaven”.

We were there late afternoon till night time, so the hubs could take the tower under natural light, and also when it’s litted.
Shinsekai Tsūtenkaku

Shinsekai Tsūtenkaku

So he took photos of the tower from different angles, of the tower itself, and also from the busy street.
Shinsekai Tsūtenkaku

Shinsekai Tsūtenkaku

Shinsekai Tsūtenkaku

He spent so much time there, the girls and I got really bored since there were no shops interesting enough for us to spend time in; and we had tackiness overdosed!

Finally when it was time to go, we were so happy! It was back to Dotonbori 道頓堀 and Shinsaibashi 心斎橋 for more shopping.

While we were walking around looking for restaurant to have a quick meal, a group of men were standing outside a small eatery chatting loudly. They started chatting with us too, i.e. where we were from, if we were enjoying ourselves etc. We asked what they were waiting for, and one of the guy mentioned onigiri. He told us the eatery sold really good onigiri, and we should try it. And so we did! It was one of the best onigiri we had tasted, they were made on the spot, it was so good we went for seconds. For the record, the name of the eatery is めはり屋文在ェ門 (pronounced as Mehari-ya Bun-zaemon).

After our light meal, we did all the girls’ shopping at GU, sister company of Uniqlo, where things were much cheaper. The girls bought 4 pairs of shoes from there, 3 were UGG like boots which were going for ¥500.

Then we came across Laduree at Daimaru, so we had to had some (moreover, a mochi costs the same amount as a Laduree macaron, i.e. ¥300, in Japan). We took 2 each, as we absolutely love (good) macarons. Choosing which piece of heaven we wanted to taste was tough though.
Choosing macaron flavours at Laduree Daimaru

Finally, a little more of Osaka by night, and it was time to go.
Osaka Taxi

Namba HIPS

Osaka At Night

The following day, after breakfast, it was time to leave for the airport. It’s been a good trip, and we can’t wait to return again.

Japan 2013 Part 10 : Day 11 – Osaka Castle 大阪城 Dotonbori 道頓堀 Shinsaibashi 心斎橋

April 3, 2014 at 9:24 pm

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here.

♥Dec 2nd Monday♥

Osaka, being the 3rd largest city in Japan, has a train network that is quite complicated. Every train trip, I (yes, read I, not we) had to plan out the route and then purchase the ticket.
Buying ticket at Osaka Station

The plan for the day was to go to Osaka Castle Park 大阪城公園 and then Namba 難波 in the evening.

Osaka Castle Park 大阪城公園 is a the second largest park in Osaka, a very beautiful and pleasant park, which attracts lots of locals as well as tourists.
Sparrow at Osaka Castle Park

It seems to be a very popular place to take wedding shots, we saw a couple of them; but this one seems to be having a great time getting their shots done.
Wedding couple in Kimono at Osaka Castle Park

Wedding couple in Kimono at Osaka Castle Park

Wedding couple in Kimono at Osaka Castle Park

We saw a few groups of children on a field trip there. As the park is near the Osaka Museum of History, it’s probably a good place for children to go for a field trip to cover both places.
School children at Osaka Castle Park

The park has lots of benches, and places to rest, and people do make good used of it.
Taking a nap at Osaka Castle Park

When it was time for lunch, we got ourselves Nissin noodles from the park vendors. The girls kept saying it was the best instant noodle they had ever tasted. Ha.
Lunch at Osaka Castle Park

Lots of people brought their dogs for walks the park. People in Osaka are generally more friendly than other Japanese, when the girls showed interest in their dogs, they slowed down to let the girls pet them. One lady let Zaria carried her dog, Nana; and Nana was so taken by Zaria (or was it because she tasted Nissin soup on Zaria’s face) she kept licking Zaria’s face!
Being kissed by a dog at Osaka Castle Park

Strolling around the park was extremely pleasant, and we could see the Osaka Castle from almost every where in the park; and it’s extremely beautiful in the evening sun light.
Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle Park

Osaka Castle Park

Osaka Castle

One part of the park had lots of ginko trees, which have beautiful yellow leaves on the tree and scattered on the ground.
Ginko Fruits and Nuts

Ginko Plant

After a stroll around the park, we headed back to the train station located near Osaka Museum of History 大阪歴史博物館 and took the train to Namba and then walked to the shopping dining paradise of Osaka, Dotonbori 道頓堀 and Shinsaibashi 心斎橋.
Osaka Museum Of History

Bright neon lights, LCD billboards brighten up the place.
Dotonburi Neon Signboards

Glico Man at Dotonburi

And when you are there, you will never miss the tempting scent of grilled crab from Kani Doraku Dotonburi かに道楽. They purposely grilled it at the front of the restaurant to lure customers I believe. For ¥700, we got a small portion of grilled crab and ate standing. The crab siew-mais were also very nice. ¥500 for 3 pieces, we bought 3 portions as they were just too delicious.
Dotonburi Crab Restaurant

For dinner, we chose a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.
Dining at Dotonburi sushi restaurant

I love the tacky restaurant signs in Osaka. Unlike the signs in Kyoto, they are loud here.
Seafood Restaurant at Dotonburi

And they like using 3D signboards.
Fugu Restaurant at Dotonburi

Gyoza Restaurant at Dotonburi

Some are also quite artistic.
Birdland at Dotonburi

Mural at Dotonburi

After some shopping and walking, we passed by Kinryu Ramen (金龍 ラーメン), and thought of trying. So we queued up, ordered 2 bowls, and waited. There’s only char siew topping, but there’s condiments such as kimchi, chives, for us to add, so while Zaria had all the char siew, hubs and I shared the rest with heaps of condiments added. It was quite nice, and Zaria claimed it’s the best ramen she’s ever tasted and the char siew melted in the mouth!
Ramen Restaurant at Dotonburi

Japan 2013 Part 9 : Day 10 – Gero 下呂 Friends Making and Osaka 大阪 Takoyaki Making

March 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm

The posts and summary for the whole trip, can be found here

Girls' shadown

♥November 30th Sunday♥

Leaving Gokayama, we started driving to Gero 下呂, a city about 2 hours away from Gokayama, which is famous for their onsen.

Why a stop at Gero? It’s all because of the beautiful listing of Shinko’s House in Airbnb.

The House is 100 years old and when I read about the place and the feedback, I immediately thought we had to make a stop there, even if it was just for one night.

Arriving at Gero after dark, we got lost trying to find her place, but with the help of a worker at a convenient store, who called Shinko (the house owner) and charted our route on a map, we managed to locate it easily). It’s located right at the top of a hill. We got a section of the house ourselves, which includes a living room and the bed room.

Shinko cooked us a simple local Gero chicken dish for dinner, and after dinner we went to an onsen for our bath. As this is a town famous for onsen, there are many onsens, and I couldn’t believe that they only charge as low as ¥300 for adults and ¥150 for kids to use the facilities. The girls’ feedback on the onsen here? “The ladies were younger and more beautiful at Takayama, the ones here are bigger size and older.” They enjoyed the dip none-the-less.

Sleeping arrangement in Shinko's house

♥December 1st Sunday♥

Shinko brought us a breakfast tray in the morning, and then sent in fried eggs and pancakes later. It was a big breakfast! Zaria enjoyed the pancakes so much she said that was her best breakfast in Japan.
Shinko's breakfast tray

After breakfast, the girls went to Shinko’s section of the house and met up with Shinko’s 2 children, Francois, 3; and Claire 9; the four of them clicked immediately. The rest of the morning, the 4 of them played in Shinko’s compound.

A holiday is not just about the places you see, but the people you meet and the friends you make.

Girls making friends at Gero

Girls making friends at Gero

Zaria was so taken by their hen Peacock, she kept asking us to get her a pet hen when we got home.
Francois was so taken by Zaria, he wanted to stay close to her all the time, and asking her to play with him. He wasn’t happy Zaria spent so much time with Peacock the hen.

Shinko’s house is situation on a hill, most houses have big plots of land to plant rice and vege. It was the same for Shinko’s house. There is a clear stream as well (she said during summer, it’s nice for swimming), and there are chestnut trees, persimmon trees, flower bushes around.

Drying persimmons

Fallen Chestnuts

Beautiful flower

We were rather sad to leave her house, especially the girls, who asked if they could stay for another night. We left at noon time after all the hugs and good byes, and then headed to Gero town for lunch.
Japanese restaurant

Then it was the long drive to Osaka, where 1/3 of the journey is on trunk road.

We arrived at Osaka after dark, checked into our hotel Crowne Plaza ANA. This was the hotel with the biggest room we got in Japan, however, we there’s only one king bed. So Zaria had to sleep on the sofa, while the 3 of us shared the king bed.

Room at Crowne Plaza ANA Osaka

Room at Crowne Plaza ANA Osaka

We then returned our rented car at the nearby Nisan centre, and had dinner at Takonotetsu, a Takoyaki (or Octopus ball) restaurant where you can cook your own Takoyaki.
Takoyaki at Takonotetsu
My first try in Takoyaki making, and it they came out quite good actually, and properly rounded. I saw some other diners’ Takoyaki came out pretty ‘disfigured’. I’m not sure if they were self cooked or the Takoyaki here is in deed nicer, we love our Takoyaki; we tried other Takoyaki in Osaka later in our trip, and they were never as nice.

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