Thursday, 27 October 2016

Gulping Down Desserts At The Roadside

     The mention of “tong sui” (sweet soup, usually taken for dessert) never stirs any excitement in me unless it is referring to the “fah sang wu” (peanut soup). However, in Ipoh, most “tong sui” establishments either stick to peddling the more famous red bean soup and the likes or serve a watery rendition of the peanut soup. Thus, I could only get my fill of the peanut soup at restaurant dinners, after praying fervently that the “fah sang wu” would be included in the dessert course. I remember insisting on that as the dessert for my own wedding reception, but being the busy bride that I was on that day, I failed to even enjoy a sip.
     Therefore, when I learned of the existence of a “fah sang wu” stall in Pasir Pinji, I excitedly made my way there.  This stall has been in operation for more than 30 years, having been started by the current lady boss’ father. It is actually more famous for its “mah chee” (sticky balls of glutinous rice flour coated with peanut and sugar). In fact, the name of the stall reads Hong Kee Mah Chee. Reading the Chinese characters, I discovered that it’s actually called “Fong” and not “Hong”.
Park your car by the roadside and grab a seat inside this wooden stall.
       Those tempting balls were also another carrot for this rabbit as they have been another firm favourite where desserts are concerned. I remember roaming the streets of Georgetown, hunting for their famous street art and enjoying a tub of hot “mah chee” at the same time. You can read that post here : 
     Together with my equally adventurous partner-in-crime (my mother), we went in search of this stall on a hot Sunday afternoon (business starts after 1 p.m.). We had earlier enjoyed a Japanese lunch at Mokuren but were disappointed to find that they did not have our favourite black sesame ice cream that day. So we decided to look elsewhere for desserts. We managed to locate Hong Kee without difficulty as I had been provided with clear directions from my helpful colleagues. If you are travelling from the direction of the town centre, drive past the Pasir Pinji market and look out for the light blue wooden stall on the left. Both the “fah sang wu” and “mah chee” are sold at RM3.00 per portion, which is quite a hefty price for Ipoh standards. But I suppose we are also paying for the name “Hong Kee”, which has shot to stardom after it was featured in “Ho Chiak”, a local food programme. Since then, it has been drawing steady crowds of tourists.
This picture of Hong Kee's "mah chee" is taken from another blogger's collection.

Looking at this photo of Hong Kee's "fah sang wu" taken from another blogger's collection, I'm salivating again.

Lady boss and her son at their stall situated along Jalan Queen, Pasir Pinji
     Tucking into the warm bowl of sweet and fragrant soup and occasionally pausing to pop in those delightful chewy balls, I was in seventh heaven. I was so caught up in eating and slurping that I even forgot to take pictures of the “fah sang wu” and “mah chee”. So were they really that good and worth the price? I would say that the peanut soup is indeed one of the better ones that I have tasted as it’s not sickly sweet and it had the right consistency. As for the “mah chee”, I would order that again if I am at the stall. But I wouldn’t drive all the way there just for that. There is a stall that sells equally good “mah chee” at the Aneka Selera Food Paradise, Ipoh Garden.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Living The Irish Dream - Part 10

       County Donegal in the northwestern corner is considered to be the wild child of Ireland. It is at times battered by brutal weather but boasts of wild, rugged and unspoilt splendour. Due to its remote location, it is not plundered by tourists. But we included it in our Irish itinerary as we wanted to break the long journey from County Galway to County Antrim, and also because Mr. Photographer had his eyes on three spots in County Donegal.
        A shipwreck at Magherclogher Beach, Gweedore, attracted Derrick strongly to County Donegal. The ship, now called Bad Eddie, ran ashore here in the 1970s after it encountered stormy weather. It is sad to see this once magnificent vessel now stranded in solitary silence on the shore.
Bad Eddie dreams of better days in action
        Fanad Head, a peninsula at the tip of Ireland, was also calling out to Derrick. With the captivating Fanad Head Lighthouse, it made a great photo shot. Constructed in the early 19th century, Fanad Head Lighthouse has been voted as one of the most beautiful lighthouses in the world.
A truly captivating sight!
        And the real hidden gem of County Donegal is the Great Pollet Sea Arch! It is an excellent example of marine erosion. However, it is not easy to locate and we made several wrong turns before we found the right spot to park. And then it was a long steep descent to the beach. But it sure was worth it when the spectacular natural sea arch came into sight.
Behold the Great Pollet Sea Arch!
Sea arches are a spectacular phenomena created by Mother Nature with some help from the ocean.

       During dinner at one of the pubs, we decided to give the Irish coffee a try. The name may sound innocent but this concoction of coffee plus whiskey, I assure you, wields great power. It unleashed its potency after a few sips and rendered me incoherent and misbehaving in the car! I also finally understood why drunks can fall asleep in the toilet because that was what I nearly did! 
The deceptively innocent-looking glass of Irish coffee that led me to experience the true state of intoxication!

       I initially did not understand the interest in County Donegal and was quite reluctant to include it in our itinerary. But I am now mighty glad that I let Mr. Photographer have his way, or else I would have missed out on such splendid sights of Ireland. There’s definitely so much more to explore in Ireland and we could not cover everything in our 11-day visit. So a return to the Emerald Isle is in the cards.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Living The Irish Dream - Part 9

             Humming the catchy World War I song “It’s A Long Way To Tipperary”, we drove 170 km from County Wicklow to County Tipperary. We were not headed for the town of Tipperary, but for the town of Cashel. The imposing Rock of Cashel, or more formally known as St. Patrick’s Rock, is the main reason for our visit.

Rock of Cashel at dusk

Truly captivated by the awe-inspiring Rock of Cashel
       The Rock of Cashel dates back to the 9th or 10th century and part of the original church still stands today. Rising from a beautiful meadow, perched on a prominent green hill and surrounded with ancient fortifications, the remains of the church is like a beacon that draws visitors.
        Besides the Rock of Cashel, the nearby Hore Abbey is also worth a visit.
Weaving my way around the ruins of Hore Abbey
Hore Abbey, all for our exploration

Hore Abbey is a Cistercian monastery in ruins but is picturesque nonetheless. It is also surrounded by green pastures, making it a delightful capture for the camera lens, especially when some Irish cows decide to grace your picture with their presence.
"Come, brothers, follow me!"

Now who's watching who?
        Driving back to our B&B in Dualla, a 10-minute drive from Cashel, we caught sight of little flashes of lightning. No, it was not a brewing storm, but we had stumbled upon a community park where kids were being trained for the national game of Ireland — hurling. Resembling hockey but played with a shorter stick and broader oval blade, the Irish of all ages and both sexes take the game very seriously. It has been dubbed as the fastest game on grass and it was such joy watching these little flashes of lightning, who may well turn out to be hurling giants one day.
A hurling game at play
Keen kids
        We also dropped by at Cahir, another town in County Tipperary. This small heritage town is best known for its castle and the Swiss Cottage. From the car park beside Cahir Castle, we took a leisurely 2km walk through the woods to reach the entrance of Swiss Cottage. 
A lovely morning walk through the woods

Our walk rewarded us with sights like this.

        As we left County Tipperary for another part of Ireland, we also drove through The Vee, a gap in the Knockmealdown mountains which rewarded us with panoramic views of the Irish landscape. This was not in our planned itinerary but had come strongly recommended by the host of our B&B. Indeed, like the rest of Ireland, it was another jewel waiting to be discovered and savoured.
Savouring the landscape at The Vee

Friday, 14 October 2016

Living The Irish Dream - Part 8

        A visit to Dublin would excite any literature buff and surgeon wannabe for Dublin is the home to some of the most enduring writers in the English language and Dublin is also the location of the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Derrick and I were neither literature buffs nor surgeon wannabes, but we were thrilled to be in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland.
        Flying in via KLM, we spent our first night in Dublin, before venturing to other parts of Ireland. At the end of our Irish exploration, we spent another night in Dublin. We chose to stay at the Riverhouse Hotel for the first night. It was right smack in the vicinity of the happening Temple Bar. Apart from its ideal location, I cannot find anything good to say about this hotel.
        However, I did choose this hotel because of its proximity to all the places we wanted to visit in Dublin. This enabled us to have good meals at the pubs, walk to Hard Rock Cafe to purchase some merchandise, stroll along the banks of the River Liffey, relax at St. Stephen's Green, visit the Christchurch Cathedral and pick up our rented car the following day.
We took a bus from the airport to Dublin city centre. Here I am, lugging my luggage to the Temple Bar area.


Our hotel for the first night
The Temple Bar Pub in Temple Bar, Dublin. Temple Bar is where Dublin's nightlife is.

Christchurch Cathedral
Christchurch Cathedral was founded in 1030 and is Dublin's oldest building.

The Ha'penny Bridge is a pedestrian bridge built over the River Liffey.

One of the many pubs in Temple Bar

The Molly Malone statue, dubbed as "The Tart with the Cart"
On our second night in Dublin (last night of our trip), we chose to stay a little further away from the Temple Bar area. We needed an accommodation that had free parking for our rented car. Morehampton Townhouse was way better than the first night's Riverhouse Hotel. The only snag was we had to walk quite a distance to get to the city centre for some last minute souvenir-hunting. We had earlier planned to catch the shuttle to the Merry Ploughboy Pub for dinner and some Irish music, but shelved the plan as we were too exhausted after our 11-day Irish exploration. We have now put that down on our must-do list for our return to Ireland.