Friday, 26 December 2014

Loving Every Facet of Tanjung Sepat

          The state of Selangor lured us back. This time, we ventured further south to Tanjung Sepat, close to the Negeri Sembilan border. Lying at the coast, Tanjung Sepat is primarily a fishing town.

Hock's House…home away from home
We located our pre-booked accommodation, Hock's House, without any difficulty. This three-storey guest house has a charming story. The previous owner, Mr. Lee Nam Hock, who has passed away, had this house built in 1982 to give his 5 children a large family home. It has now been transformed into a home stay with an artistic atmosphere. The rooms are modern, clean and comfortable.

        If you are looking for delicious, fresh and cheap seafood, look no further. Tanjung Sepat boasts of several seafood establishments that draw visitors from near and far.
Named after Tanjung Sepat's famous icon
We decided to have lunch with a view at the Lover Bridge Restaurant (pardon the grammatical mistake). The eatery is aptly named because of its proximity to and undisrupted view of Tanjung Sepat's most famous icon, the Lovers' Bridge (more about that later).

Crispy calamari and yummy prawns
Oyster omelette
        It was a sumptuous seafood feast of oyster omelette, deep fried calamari and butter fried prawns. As there was a huge lunch crowd, the food took some time to arrive. But the taste sure did make up for the wait. 

        The Lovers' Bridge is a half concrete, half wooden bridge that leads out to the Straits of Malacca. Sadly, part of the bridge has fallen prey to decay of time and have broken off. This happened in June 2013. Therefore, you cannot stroll all the way to the end. From a photographer's point of view, this adds to the allure of the bridge. A romantic explanation for the name of this bridge is to commemorate the practice of the fishermen's wives who used to bid farewell to their husbands before they went out to sea and would wait there eagerly in the evening for their return. 
Tread with care!

Sad destruction

Another view of the length of the Lovers' Bridge

         Besides the Lover's Bridge, another attraction in Tanjung Sepat is the Qingren Qiao local products shop, which is right across the road from the bridge, hence its name. The Hong Kong actor, Simon Yam, is one of the VIPs that have visited the shop. You can find an assortment of reasonably-priced things sold here like dried oysters, anchovies, noodles and snacks. I bought a packet of ramen made locally as well as some birds nest vermicelli, both of which are very good. It thrilled me to bits to find some murals there too --- the Tanjung Sepat version of Georgetown's wall art.
Siblings On Bicycle
Siblings On Swing
Little Boy Reaching Up

Pensive lass
        We also dropped by at the Ganofarm, which will delight any mushroom lover. However, we were not interested in the mushrooms today but were only keen to check out the premises, especially the wooden huts and walkway on the sea. It was very relaxing to just sit there, gazing dreamily out to the sea with the cool sea breeze gently caressing your face.

        Dinner that night was at Ocen (yes, that's the exact spelling) Seafood Restaurant,
Ocen Seafood Restaurant, right beside the bridge
 right at the start of the Lovers' Bridge. It was swarming with people so we assumed the food would be even better. But we were wrong as the kung poh sotong, taufu on sizzling plate and steamed la la were not impressive. And neither was the service.

         For breakfast, we were advised to try seafood bak kut teh as Tanjung Sepat is reputed to be one of the pioneers of this Chinese herbal soup with seafood. The two big giants of seafood bak kut teh here are YiKee and Ah Hock, located on the main market street. But both of us did not fancy such a hearty meal for breakfast so we opted for a simple yet tasty fare of noodles at an unassuming corner coffee shop called Restaurant 2525.

        Besides seafood bak kut teh, visitors throng to Tanjung Sepat in droves for the famous Hai Yew Heng Hainanese pau, established more than 40 years ago. Only available from noon onwards, these fluffy soft buns with a variety of fillings are handmade and steamed fresh at the factory/shop near the main market street. I am not a fan of pau and hardly ever touch one but the raves on the Internet stirred my curiosity. I bit into the succulent and piping hot mui choy pau (bun with preserved Chinese mustard vegetable filling) and immediately understood what the fuss was all about. Hai Yew Heng pau…a big thumbs up!

The modern shop amidst village shops and houses that churns out such scrumptious paus
        Tanjung Sepat also has a local coffee maker, with the  small factory right in the town center. Joo Fa Trading
The smell of aromatic coffee wafted out from the factory
welcomes visitors, who can view the entire coffee making process and purchase some coffee too. The wondrous aroma of coffee envelops you as soon as you step into the village house turned factory. The friendly owner is delighted to explain the whole process of churning the beans into the magic powder. 

Freshly fried fishballs
Yet another attraction drawing in visitors is the Yek Loong fishball factory. Visitors have the chance to view how the fish paste is made, shaped into desired sizes, fried right before your eyes and then purchase bags of the goodies. One bite into the little tasty balls of 100% fish meat, you'll be hooked. Hubby and I departed from the factory with four bags of 20 fishballs each, gleefully sinking our teeth into the juicy fishballs as we left Tanjung Sepat.

        This short visit to Tanjung Sepat has left indelible memories. We truly enjoyed our visit and vow to return.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Re-discovering Penang

        Penang has always held a special spot in my heart so when hubby included Penang in our Visit Malaysia 2014 itinerary, my heart leapt with joy. Two gracious hosts, Jason and Alex, also played a part in making this visit a huge success.

         Jason, hubby's cousin, is the right person to take us to good Penang food as he has lived in Penang for more than 10 years. We were introduced to New World Park, a modern food court in Georgetown, bordered by Burmah Road, Hutton Lane and Swatow Lane. According to Jason, the food stalls that used to operate at Swatow Lane have all moved into New World Park, hence you get all the divine street food under one roof. Hubby predictably zeroed in on his favourite prawn mee. I threw caution to the wind and indulged freely by ordering assam laksa, or chien (oyster omelette) and ice cream pancake! The following morning, Jason took us to the Super Tanker Food Court at Lip Sin Garden, Sungai Dua. Upon his recommendation, I tried the tasty fried mi sua. Any guesses for hubby's pick? Bingo! It was prawn mee again!                          
Ice cream, bananas and peanuts on crispy base

Succulent oysters in fried with egg and starchy batter…yum!

        Alex, another photography aficionado, took hubby to Teluk Tempoyak, a quiet Malay fishing village on the southeast tip of Penang island, for sunset shots. Until recently, Teluk Tempoyak was truly off the beaten path and it is in rustic sites like this that a photographer is often rewarded with pictures of great depth.
Bridging the Gap at Teluk Tempoyak

Alex, hard at work at Teluk Tempoyak

Two Friends At Sea

Taking You Out To The Sun

Fruits of my shopping spree
While hubby was engaged in his photography pursuits, I conveniently walked from Eastin Hotel to Queensbay Mall  for some retail therapy. 

         After they were done, Alex picked me up from the hotel to join his wife and son for dinner at the famous Pak Hussin Tomyam Restaurant in Sungai Ara. It was heart-warming to see Malaysians of all races dining under one roof. Ever the gracious host, Alex extended dessert to more photography opportunities for Derrick. We were taken to a spot under the
Penang Bridge from below
first Penang Bridge, a firm favourite with anglers, photographers, BBQ enthusiasts and dating sweethearts. Braving the infamous Penang traffic crawl, we moved on to Gurney Drive close to midnight. Night owls were everywhere!
Gurney Drive at midnight


        We changed hotels the next day as Derrick wanted somewhere closer to the city centre for different photography sites. With a colleague's recommendation in mind, I chose to stay at Chulia Heritage Hotel,
Ideal location, affordable rates, clean rooms
centrally located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Penang. 

Tourists at Chew Jetty
        This new location enabled us to explore the nearby clan jetties. These water villages are over a century old and are each named after a certain clan. We managed to visit three of them ---  Tan Jetty, Lee Jetty and Chew Jetty (which is the one attracting most of the tourists). 

Bloggers have been raving about the prawn fritters at Tan Jetty so it made sense for us to try some. I must have looked like a hungry tourist, wandering around the jetties under the hot sun, poking the stick into the plastic bag of tasty delights, popping them into my mouth without any decorum and occasionally sharing them with Derrick!
Happy to find the prawn fritters stall

Tasty delights sizzling away in the hot wok

        The bustling Chulia Street, where our hotel is located, has gained a reputation for good food. There were positive Internet reviews of the several chicken rice shops and we chose to eat at Restaurant Goh Thew Chik, where long queues were forming in front of the two shoplots. Derrick, who is a chicken rice connoisseur, proclaimed the food to be very tasty but still loses out to his favourite chicken rice shop in Ipoh.

        In the evening, Derrick was once again whisked away for more photography. With the harsh afternoon sun slowly setting, it was comfortable enough for me to venture around, seeking the much talked-about murals around Georgetown. With a tub of warm
Sticky rice balls coated with brown sugar, sesame seed & lots of ground peanuts
muar chee in hand,
weaving around the streets to locate the wall art was part of the fun. Feeling carefree, with all the time in the world, I also took a breather at a cafe to enjoy the thirst-quenching drink of lemongrass, lime, lemon and sour plum soda...bliss!      
Boy on Motorbike at Lebuh Ah Qwee
Ernest Zacharevic's famous Siblings on a Bike

Boy Reaching Up (for Starbucks?) and Children Reaching Out for Pau

Interesting street art in Penang

        That night, Derrick and I roamed Chulia Street for street food. As cautioned by Jason, Chulia Street at dark becomes a rather notorious area with men and women in the flesh trade coming out to prowl. But with lots of tourists and locals around, it was still safe enough to hunt around for food. We did not have to look far, as there were plenty of hawker stalls around. And we had the tastiest koay teow th'ng good that Derrick had a second helping!
Look for this stall at Chulia Street
A bowl of goodness!

        My mum, who used to work in Penang, has fond memories of Campbell Street's dim sum. So the next morning, we ventured there to seek out Tho Yuen, an old Cantonese restaurant that has been around for more than 5 decades and still commands a loyal following. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but the dim sum served there were a notch below Ipoh's. Still, it was a nice experience eating at such an old establishment.
Dim sum from the steam array
Fried snacks for dim sum

        Before bidding adieu to Penang, we drove to Eaton Kuih Centre at Jalan Tan Sri Teh Ewe Lim. I am extremely fond of their green cakes as well as their rendang.  
Red and green ku from Eaton
        As always, all good things must come to an end. Our short Penang trip was over. But as Penang has so much to offer, the Pearl of the Orient beckons us to return, in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Appreciating the Meaning of Christmas

C is for the Child born in Bethlehem
H is for Hope that Jesus brings
R is for my Redeemer, who has paid for 
   my sins
I is for an Invitation to follow in His 
S is for my Saviour, whom I love dearly
T is for being Thankful that I belong to 
is for a Meaningful season that is not
   about presents and partying  
A is for His Amazing love for All
S is for Spending time with my Special
   ones on this Splendid day

Wishing everyone a Blessed Christmas    

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sighting Treasures in Sekinchan

        Always on the lookout for landscape photography opportunities, Derrick suggested spending a weekend in Sekinchan. Approximately two and a half hours away from Ipoh, Sekinchan is a small town in Selangor. The name in Chinese means "village suitable for plantation" and this explains why Sekinchan is one of the major rice producing areas in Malaysia.
        Sekinchan is fast becoming a magnet for tourists. We were lucky to be able to secure a room for the night at the Harbour View Hotel, a modest but clean hotel right smack in town. Despite the name, it does not offer any view of the harbour or beach. But we chose this hotel because of its proximity to the paddy fields, the reason for this trip.
        We city slickers were excited to see the golden yellow paddy fields. We had arrived at the right time as the paddy was ripe for harvesting and we were able to catch the harvester tractors in action. Derrick donned his boots to trudge into the fields for closer shots while I was content to enjoy the sunset and the rainbow in the comfort of the car.
"I'm coming for you!"
The paddy, the machine and the rainbow

        Besides paddy planting, Sekinchan is also a fishing village, hence the abundance of fresh and cheap seafood. Visitors are spoilt for choice as there are numerous seafood restaurants. We decided to have dinner at Ten Tian Lai and were not disappointed. Both of us agreed that the steamed grouper in a sour spicy sauce, steamed la-la with ginger and wine as well as the butter fried prawns were ooo-la-lla indeed.
        Our hopes for peaceful slumber were dashed as a bus-load of schoolkids had also checked into the hotel. They were shouting, rushing in and out of their rooms and banging the doors. I seriously considered barging out into the corridor, demanding to know which school they were from and threatening to lodge complaints to their principal. In the end, I did nothing of that sort but some vicious kicking on the room door by Derrick stunned and scared them a little.
        With seafood aplenty, enterprising villagers have churned them into various types of crackers. 
One of the many brands of crackers in Sekinchan
Besides the mundane fish and prawn crackers, there are sotong and la-la crackers as well. Every crunch reveals freshness but the la-la crackers get my vote.

        If fruits are your cup of tea, Sekinchan is the right place to be. Orchards are in abundance, as are roadside fruits stalls. We dropped by at Wah Chai Mango King, which is a village house selling all types of mangoes. 
Take your pick of the mangoes at Mango King
To cater to lazy bums like us, they also sell cut, ready-to-eat mango slivers in packets. Big thumbs up to those sweet and juicy mangoes!

        Another tourist attraction in Sekinchan is the Redang Beach, made famous by "Outbound Love", the TVB romantic comedy serial starring Ruco Chan and Aimee Chan. The seaside itself is nothing to shout about but the many colourful tree houses
The famous red tree house at Redang Beach, Sekinchan
that dot the beach make it a unique experience. And it was in one of these tree houses that Aimee spent the night with Ruco (in the drama serial, of course!).

         After this visit to Sekinchan, I am convinced that treasures can indeed be found in one's own backyard. Sekinchan, you have not seen the last of us!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Being Mesmerized By Mirror Lake

     A truly hidden gem, serenely tucked away in an idyllic spot, lovingly embraced by limestone hills...Ipoh's Mirror Lake.
   Mirror Lakes abound worldwide, so-named because of the well-defined reflections on a lake's crystal clear waters. Ipoh's version of her Mirror Lake is found in a most unlikely place. Travel towards Gopeng along the busy and dusty Jalan Simpang Pulai, be on the lookout for an Isuzu factory on your left, turn in there, navigate along a sandy and pebbled path, venture through a stone quarry and park near a tiny cave entrance.
    If you are there before 10 a.m., brace yourself for pitch darkness as you tread gingerly through the 50m long cave. Soon you will reach the end, which opens out into a breathtaking sight...a tranquil lake framed by shrubs and limestone hills.
    Metal planks and benches have been constructed to enable you to safely walk out further and admire the  awe-inspiring scenery. Peer closer at the lake and you are bound to see fishes darting around or even a tortoise playing hide and seek with you. Spend some moments of solitude to soak in the wonders of God's creations, right at the doorstep of us Ipoh lang.
Enter via this small cave entrance

Hold your loved one's hand as you walk through this cave

The end of the tunnel draws closer

As you catch a glimpse of what there is to offer, you hasten your steps
This gorgeous sight greets you as you step out of the cave tunnel

With hardly anyone around, it's bliss to enjoy some quiet moments here

Fancy a ride across the lake?

A photographer's haven