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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

day Three in Penang

As I begin this entry, its about 9.34 p.m. and again I'm blogging at Old Town cafe at Swatow alongside my good buddy Khye Shin. As the title says, it's my third day here.

We began with breakfast, but not outside the house though. We'd woken up pretty late and Khye Shin's grandmother had already gone out and come back. She'd bought us some of that nice curry mee along Anson Road. It was actually quite nice, and what makes it good is the chilli paste. She told us that actually some people go to the place she went just to buy the chilli paste, it is that good to a lot of people I suppose.

Something that was a little more 'in house' was the toast we had as well. Khye Shin's grandmother buys those thick loaves of bread that you usually eat with Kaya, and the bread we had was quite nice because it was light. There are quite a number of these 'Kaya toast' type breads which aren't so nice because they come out heavy. This particular one was an exception:

You can find it at this address:

So we toasted it in the small oven like so:

His grandmother also has this nifty little 'devivce' to take the toast out of the oven without burning your hands. Apparently, its supposed to be used to take stuff out of pans as well:

And this is the result:

It went pretty well with Khye Shin's grandmother's home made Kaya too.

We went a bit further to dip it into our curry and it was a pretty good combo actually.

Khye Shin's family was coming down today and the grandmother wasted no time in making something for them. It was a relatively new experience for me as I watched her make it.

Apparently the dough you're about to see works best only when its steamed, not boiled or fried. Khye Shin was telling me that if the dough is boiled, it takes out the moisture or something like that.

The little balls of dough

The filling (it's all vegetable if you're wondering)

So, she takes the dough and rolls it into a small circular shape, just enough to put in the fillings.

After which, she fills it up and folds the edges like a curry puff.

I'm sure you can see the resemblance between that and a curry puff.

I didn't get to take a photo of the cooking process and the end result because we'd left the house by then to try some Nasi Kandar at a place my parents reccomended.

The place is right opposite Gama (which is along Dato Keramat), it's called Yassin. Some of it was nice, but I have to say it wasn't all that great. To be honest Khye Shin and I have no idea even where to start to find good Nasi Kandar in Penang. We didn't go to Pelita because we've got that in KL as it is.

I took the beef and fish which was fine actually. The beef was nice and tender, and the 'kuah' or gravy was all right. This was my dish:

And this was Khye Shin's:

He discovered something though, as he opened his fried chicken, he could see the meat was uncooked. The replacement he got was just the same. Rest assured we weren't coming back.

Still, the papadam was quite good, its a little different. There's a bit more flavour to it than most I've had.

To counter-act that dissapointment, we went to the evergreen cendol place just opposite that police station that I'm sure the entire nations of Malaysia and Singapore know about. Well, if you want to know the name of the coffee shop next to it, its named Joo Hooi.

You may not believe it...... but actually, this was my first time having cendol, heh. Well, in my defence, better late than never right?

I'm not sure how many of you know, but actually the food inside the shop right next to the cendol stall is pretty decent too.

The stall less than five meters away selling fried kuay teow. Its pretty popular too. The fried kuay teow is something my mother approves of.

There's some accreditation to this stall I suppose. With Penang being overly famous for the dish, everybody's competing to prove themselves. So just like several famous food places, they've pasted a newspaper article that feature them (you can't see it from this angle, its on the opposite side). I remember it was good enough for me the last time I had it, it should still be good. If you're hungry and need more than a desert, Joo Hooi will do.

As for me I put my thumbs up for the loh bak and chinese sausage there too.

As you'll notice at a lot of Penang food stalls, many of them are manned by people who are quite elderly actually. If you think a bit, it does make you wonder about whether Penang can retain its name as a food haven after the next few decades or even before then maybe.

I got myself some of that loh bak, chinese sausage and prawn fritters. Naturally I enjoyed the loh bak more as its my favourite of the three.

I've been a fan of that for more than a decade I suppose.

One thing though, it's a pretty small lot. Whatever you see in this photo, that's it. There's no extension or anything, which explains why almost everybody eating the cendol and ice kacang just stand eating outside the coffee shop.

We walked back down to Khye Shin's grandmother's place on Rangoon Road. We waited it out until dinner time before going to the place where Macallister Road and Rangoon Road meet, there's a hawker center there and we decided to try it out.

This place is right at the intersection between Macallister and Rangoon road.

There are a lot of stalls here, and you'll see two to three stalls selling the same food. Hence, the trick is to know which one is the best. I found out which one wasn't exactly the best by experience that night for one dish, you'll find out soon.

For starters, I had myself some Hokkien Mee. Now I made the mistake of ordering Hokkien Mee and not Hokkien Char. I forgot that Hokkien Mee in KL was actually Hokkien Char in Penang. So I was a little shocked to see a bowl of noodles in curry, and I'd actually had that quite a number of times on the trip already. Still, I wasn't going to let it go to waste and I ate up and I have to say that in the entire trip I have not experienced a single bad Hokkien Mee.

One thing that both Khye Shin and I found to be pretty nice was the ikan panggang. When Khye Shin asked me, "So what fish did you get?"

"I don't know, I just said satu ikan bakar."


So I didn't know what I ordered, all I knew was that it was going to be some sort of fried fish and this was what came to the table:

We both really loved it because it was really nice and sweet! It was definitely one of our favourites of the night. It was RM 12 and well worth it.

Khye Shin got in on the fried kuay teow there and that was good too. It wasn't so much the chilli that made it good but the lard used. I'm definitely trying that the next time I go back to Penang.

The fried oyster was up next, not bad right? It looks pretty good. Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same for the taste. The dish was a bit too starchy and there wasn't a lot of flavour, so this was a fail. The one we had at Swatow was way better than this. Khye Shin didn't go further than five bites on this one.

I saw something interesting, a little more 'unusual' for the place, stuffed crab, and so we ordered a few. Khye Shin and I were quite hyped up about it because it seemed there was a lot of stuffing.

When we opened it, we discovered why it looked like there was a lot of stuffing.

They'd put the processed crab meat in, and it tasted incredibly sweet! That's not a good thing by the way, it should be way more savory than sweet.

I ordered RM 9 worth of chicken wings and thank God, that was not a disappointment. In all fairness though, its hard to go wrong with chicken wings right? Still, it was nice, and the sweetness was correct, not the kind that went wrong with the stuffed crab.

After that, it was back to home base in Swatow to Old Town. As always it was for the internet. However, the connection was very unstable, so after being frustrated over and over for about an hour, we decided to call it a night.

After that, on the way back, Khye Shin showed me the place that sells nice Wan Ton mee, but I just couldn't I was pretty full. That would have to wait for another time. That place is actually right next to the Old Town coffee shop at Swatow.

After that, it was back to the house and tv watching for quite a bit before hitting the bed for some much needed sleep. Actually, I haven't talked much about it, but Khye Shin and I have been watching quite a lot of tv in between waiting for meals, hehe.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

day Two In Penang

Well, both of us woke up at about 9.00 a.m. and only left the house at ten. We circled the block to this hawker center behind the Giant building opposite the BMW showroom. I had wan tan mee which was just average I guess but Khye Shin's fried kuay teow definitely had some good flavour. I forgot to take pictures of the place (and the food) but there'll be more to come in this entry.

Swatow Lane (more like Swatow Place now actually) is right next to Tune Hotel, under the pavillion that you see just beneath it.

After going there we walked over to somewhere around the Komtar perimeter for some food Khye Shin wanted to find but we couldn't find it so we ended up doing a lot of sweating without the eating to compensate for it, haha! Anyway, we walked down Jln. Dato' Keramat to go find some nice curry noodles, but again we were disappointed because the shop was closed!!

The one thing we did manage to find that Khye Shin wanted was the Ban Chang Kueh, that pancake like thing with the corn on the inside. I didn't even know where we were by then, we'd been walking round so many corners.

Put down by another setback, we went back to our 'home base' Swatow Lane. There we had our ice kacang and fried oyster. Honestly, the fried oyster was pretty good. The ice kacang wasn't half bad either. I ordered a plate of fried kuay teow,which to my surprise came in like two minutes?!?! It wasn't such a fantastic dish though, the flavour was a lot less to what I'm used to in SS2.

Okay, I forgot to take a photo before eating it, but anyway, for this plate, its just RM 2.00.

As for this though, it's RM 8.00, expensive you could say, but seriously, it is good.

That brings me to where I am now, back in Old Town for the internet. We're having dinner at Khye Shin's grandmother's place. She'll be cooking something nice for us, then, we'll be driving out for a not so light 'supper', hahahaha! We may tour Macallister road since the place we know has good wasn't open this morning, tonight it should be a lot better.

I've got another few days here, hoping to find some good food a little further from some of the familiar places. I won't be heading down to Gurney Drive for food, because I don't really find much fantastic there. Also, I'm definitely going to go down to the market that's somewhere along Dato Keramat. If you're walking from the big police station towards Komtar, the market is somewhere along the left, I can't quite remember the name of the street.

One of the places I know we'll get to go to is along Macallister as well, this place:
Apparently the porridge here is pretty good, so I'll give that a go. Beatrice, care to join us? Lol.

If anyone is free to bring us somewhere or to tour around, do give me a buzz. I've contacted Vern and Beatrice, see whether they can join us for something. Anyhow, I'm leaving Penang on the 1st of January 2010 at 9.00 a.m. by Aeroline bus, hopefully I can do everything worthwhile before then, hehe. =)

Monday, December 28, 2009

day One In Penang

Well, leaving KL for Penang at about 8.00 a.m. in the morning seemed to be a pretty good choice. The roads were practically empty and we were definitely in time for lunch at Foong Wei Heong on Jalan Sri Bahari. It was my late great grandmother's favourite place and we were there to have lunch together with Uncle SK and family.

The food was just great as usual and it was nice to see Geraldine, Rachel and Timothy Ng again. I haven't seen those people in quite a while. One thing common, ALL of them are tanned, lol.

Anyway, after dropping Khye Shin over at his grandmother's place, Hard Rock hotel was the next destination since Rachel and co. were staying nearby, their parents thought it was worth us having a look. The place certainly seems fit for a beach party with a band like Blink 182 on their stage. Plenty of people around to make a noise.

After touring the place, went to the beach for a while, a refreshing change from all the buzz of the city. I haven't been to a beach in quite a while, let alone a quiet one.

Dinner was next as my family went back down to Jln. Dato Keramat to eat the nasi kandar at a small stall that's set up just outside my granduncle's old clinic. The catfish there is seriously good.

Of course, dropped by to chat for a bit with my grandaunt and granduncle before heading back to Khye Shin's grandmum's place where I'll be staying til about the 1st or 2nd of January 2010. If you're wondering why I'm not with my parents, its because I'm styaing down longer than they are, and it'll be a lot quicker for me and Khye Shin to move around, ease the logistics a bit.]

Anyway, one of our aims this trip is to find a really good nasi kandar place! For all that we've been to Penang, and even more so for Khye Shin, we really don't know where the good places for Nasi Kandar in Penang is even though we hear about stuff like that every now and then!

Staying on Rangoon road, I'm sure tomorrow we'll start of with breakfast somewhere around the area. There's plenty of stuff around. As it is, I'm blogging from Old Town in Swatow (spelling?) Lane which is really close by! We don't have a program or fixed itinerary but we're just going with the flow, trying to call some people to see if we can meet up or something. If they can chill along with us, even better.

I'm sure there's quite a bit that can be done in the next few days that I'm here. We'll see.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

a Rekindled Pastime

Its one of my favourite things, but yet I haven't done it in a long time. What would that be? Watching cricket.

If you're an aquaintance of mine but don't already know, my all time favourite sport is cricket. Of all places to get introduced to the sport, I picked it up in Vietnam. You would never have guessed that right? A game similar to baseball in some ways, but a lot more sophisticated, or refined even. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy watching baseball too, but cricket is still my all time favourite. From what I see, comparing cricket to baseball is like comparing a Bentley to a Ford Mustang.

It was one of my first times watching satellite tv and I turned on Star Sports and a man dressed in white with a dark green helmet came on the screen. It was Jacques Kallis of South Africa, playing one of his first test matches ('tests' is one of the categories for the game of cricket, just like football, has futsal, 3 vs 3 and so forth).

I think the first thing that caught me was Kallis' helmet. I think it looks a lot better than a baseball helmet. Plus, it gives a lot more protection anyway, with the grill across the face. I don't get why baseball helmets don't have those, it pretty much defeats the purpose of wearing a helmet to me.

For some reason or another, I just think this looks cool.

I really loved watching the game, and playing it too. Fortunately, the international school I went to in Ho Chi Minh was Australian influenced, hence my chance to play the game came from there. We never played any serious games, but just as a fun activity during recess or physical education classes.

The last time I ever watched a cricket game live for extended hours was back in 1999, the last year I spent in Vietnam. It was the final of the World Cup too, between Pakistan and Australia which was very lob sided because Pakistan literally threw away their batting order and Adam Gilchrist smacked the Pakistani bowlers left and right chasing a measely total.

Since then, I've not watched any cricket. My parents don't subscribe to those special Astro cricket packages because they don't watch cricket, only I do. Even if they did, I'm sure they wouldn't be keen to see me on the couch for the entire day and night watching a one-day (another category of cricket) match.

In recent times though, I've been on the internet watching some videos on YouTube, highlights of some ridiculously good Indian innings, and the best one day match every played, when South Africa beat Australia at home chasing a massive total 434 runs for victory. I was definitely happy because my favourite player's Jacques Kallis and he's in my favourite team, South Africa.

Jacques Kallis on his way to scoring 120 at the ongoing test match between South Africa and England.

I try to keep myself updated a lot by visiting http://www.cricinfo.com/ very often but it really isn't the same as watching the game. I'm sure any sports fan can identify with me. Which would you rather do, watch the game or just read about it?

I really wish I could watch more cricket. I guess I'll just have to settle with video highlights posted online for now. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

closing The Year, phrasing The Next

We had a small potluck gathering just last week in tandem with the holiday season. It was supposed to be a Christmas party but it didn't have too much of a Christmas feel since we didn't really bother about decorations or even music for that matter. That didn't matter though because it was just a good time to chill out and mix around a bit. With twenty plus people, there was definitely enough talk going around.

Wai Nyan got us to sit in a around in a circle at the living room and go one round answering this question, "As we come to the year end, why don't we go one round, and share your highlight of the year, what's it been like for you?"

I'll share my answer with you. I can't quite remember what I said exactly, so I can't quote myself, but I'm pretty sure it went something like this, "Well for me, my year's been kind of divided into two. The first half was me being in university and the other was me being here in KL doing my internship, being with you guys. I can say its been two quite different halves for me. For the first half, it was quite a struggle for me because I had to deal with some personal issues. As it is now, I still am, but you know, its getting better. The second half of the year came at an interesting time for me because it gave me a chance, a space to take time out from that atmosphere and just deal with things better. The second half of my year has been undoubtedly better, being with you guys here. Coming back to the question though, of what was the highlight of my year; it was definitely my birthday. Yeah, my birthday was definitely the highlight, you guys made it happen, made it pretty special. I just want to thank you guys, cos' yeah; I haven't had something like that in a very long time."

A few 'awwws' went around the room as I was mentioning my birthday; really though, they did make it a memorable one. It does feel nice when people make a big deal out of your birthday.

After all twenty plus of us had gone through that question, Wai Nyan put us through one more, "Now that we've done what this year's been like for you, why don't we share what we want for ourselves next year. What do you want to be next year? Just put it into three words, or a phrase."

I answered, "Well, three words right? Passion, patience, confidence. Well, for passion, it has to do with the whole thing of my relationship with God, and that just hasn't come together for me this year and its definitely something I want to be better, develop the passion for my lover and creator. Patience, well, yeah; I just want to be more patient in doing things. Sometimes I get agitated or annoyed easily when things don't happen instantly so that's one area I need to improve. Confidence? That comes with the discovery of myself that I think maybe there are things that I could do but I don't simply because I don't feel I have what it takes. I think its a perception that holds me back from doing more, and so that's why confidence is one thing I'd like to have more of next year."

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

show And Tell

Its funny isn't it, how sometimes in life, one day can feel like the only day that matters even when you've been doing important things throught the year. That's what it felt like for me, and probably Shaqifah as well when we had to present on our work in PETRONAS Carigali.

A lecturer from the CIS department of UTP, Elaine Chen came to evaluate us. I'd met her before as she'd taught me Computer Organisation some time back. It wasn't my favourite subject I can assure you, but she's a nice person. I guess you could say to a small extent I hoped that the definition of 'nice' could be stretched to 'favourable' during the presentation.

As with my final exams before this, I didn't feel much pressure until the day of the presentation itself, which was yesterday. Both Shaqifah and myself were nervous because to be frank, neither of us really spent a lot of time preparing the presentation slides, or our presentation even because we'd been pretty busy at work.

Its fair to say that wasn't a good excuse, but our minds were more preoccupied on our work than we were on our presentation although to us as students the presentation may have been more important. This actually highlights a conflict of interest. Interns always have two stakeholders to be responsible to, and its hard to tell which is more important at times, the university or the host company?

Anyhow, I ushered Elaine up from the lobby to the discussion room at PETT: Tower 1, Level 24 where we'd conduct the presentations. We were supposed to take up a time slot between 2.30 p.m. - 5.00 p.m. but we assumed it would be less than that anyway.

I went first, and so I gave short introudction of BIMa, not too much, just letting Ms. Elaine know what BIMa does which I actually kind of explained to her already as I was talking to her in the lift. Most of my presentation time was spent presenting on the work I've been involved in as well as my ongoing tasks. Other than that, I took some time to share what I've learned during the past six months.

Throughout the presentation I found myself, babling a bit at certain points because I hadn't rehearsed. Whatever came out was just spontaneous and I'm not one of those people who can speak word perfect spontaneously delivering a speech or presentation. Thankfully though, I don't think I had any lengthy pauses although that may be attributed to some panicky 'spontaenous alternative phrases/words spewing' that I did. I was unhappy with myself in that sense, that the presentation wasn't smooth, at least in my opinion.

Next came the questioning and the feedback part from my senior manager, two managers who were supervisors to myself and Shaqifah and Elaine Chen of course. I was surprised during this session because I expected tougher questions to be directed at me, though I didn't prepare at all for such a thing. Instead, the questions were more about how I felt about working in PETRONAS Carigali, with BIMa in particular and if our work was relevant to our area of study.

I'm quite thankful that the feedback I received from both Elaine and Mr. Ghaffar, my senior manager was quite good. Truth be told, I felt that it was actually flattering. I don't know if I had a wide smile on my face as they said those things, but there was definitely one big one inside. Its moments like those where you feel very happy for yourself, but at the same time you need to keep your head down and not be a show off. People tell me Elaine's pretty strict in terms of marking and things like that, so to have the good comments from her does help make me feel good.

Shaqifah had hers next, and it went reasonably well too and we were both quite happy to have it done and dusted. A private conversation between our managers and Ms. Elaine followed, which they did before during the first internship visit when Ms. Nazleeni came. Until today, I'm still quite curious as what the subject matter of those conversations were.

In any case, show and tell is over. The next part is going to be write and report.

Friday, December 04, 2009

the Holiday Surprise

When you go on holiday, you don't expect anything other than to have a jolly good time away from everything familiar. For that one week or a few days, you just want to forget everything that has happened for the past month. Whatever feelings of love and hate, of being jaded and dull are all thrown out the window. All you know is one thing, "I'm here to enjoy"

I arrive in Bandung, Indonesia just before noon, waiting at the small airport for our transport to arrive. Twenty two others stand around, the families in my tour group, anxiously waiting for things to move along. All with families, the parents had one top priority, and it wasn't kids. It was shopping. Famed for high quality branded clothes at factory prices, Bandung was a working person's dream. Finally, these working class of people had a way to get some nice clothes badged with brands of fame, without having to let go of a treasure for it.

I was there for the exact same thing, the material. I wasn't there for the culture, the sights and sounds of the place. Besides, Bandung's all about the shopping isn't it? Our first stop, Grande was my first taste of Bandung shopping. With the Espirit shirts, Nike dri-fits and Quiksilver shorts, I thought, "Yeah, this is it."

"Shop till' you drop."

I never knew the true meaning of the phrase although I'd heard it many times. I discovered it first hand though, it had only been a day in Bandung but I was already ready to drop. It was a lot harder than I thought, shopping here. It was not easy, finding what I wanted, the right designs, the right size. The next two days was going to be a challenging time of shopping. I came here to de-stress but I was getting stressed, some holiday this was turning out to be.

Riding on the bus had me feeling jaded, knowing I was being shuffled to a place where I would spend three hours walking around and come out with nothing probably. I just sat there, looking out the window, observing the jam we were in on a tiny road. In Bandung, you'd be hard pressed to find a road with more than one lane for one direction.

As I looked in front of me, suddenly two eyes and a head popped up from in front of me. A cute girl with bangs looked at me with a smile on her face. I had noticed her before when our travelling party gathered at the airport. I didn't talk to her, she didn't talk to me, so why take notice of me now? Anyway, that didn't stop me from talking to the girl that greeted me with her unusual, yet sweet hello.

We just had a little small talk on the bus, nothing deep or personal. We didn't even get to telling each other which school we were from. It's not like we hit it off or anything, she was just a very friendly girl that got along with almost everyone on our tour bus. She spend most of her time talking other people anyway, mainly her girl friends. She seemed to be very free spirited, not a surprise if you met here mother. She was a pretty outgoing woman herself.

Somehow, I was just attracted to that young girl. I knew this because I found myself looking out for her anywhere I went for the rest of my time in Bandung. I just wanted to know where she was. She suddenly became my focus of attention on the trip. I was still very much into my clothes shopping and I certainly was happy when I got what I was looking for, but I always had an eye out for that cute girl. She was with her parents and her brother most of the time, a family person she was. Venturing all over the place by herself wasn't really in her character I suppose. I wasn't much different, going around with my family most of the time too.

There was one time though, when both our families were in the same outlet. I didn't know at first actually. I was just walking around looking at clothes when I suddenly felt a hand on my arm, the girl's of course. I thought to myself, "Boy, your love language must be touch huh,". Another one could have been speech, after all, she could talk a lot. She then took my hand.

"Your hands are warm," I said.

"No, your hands are warm."

"Well, just keep holding then, because I feel cold."

She held on for a little while before letting go as I continued my shopping. Strange isn't it? It was something, but yet nothing at the same time. Mixed signals. She was just a really curious girl and I think that's what grabbed me.

On the last day, just before our flight, our tour group had lunch at this tropical resort with some nice green surroundings with a nice walkway that we'd explore later. For the first time on the trip, she sat next to me. She was awfully nice, or maybe just being very polite, taking the rice and putting it on my plate. Again, we got into some small talk at the table. She almost got to coax me into playing a kid's game too. What a weird girl, but that's what I liked to begin with.

After a while when we were done eating, a few people went to walk around the area since it was a pretty nice place. She called me to go along with her, "Come Christon."


"Just come, don't be lazy.."

I thought to myself, "Now, where have I heard that before?"

Again, this time she took my hand and held it tight, almost pinching it as we went along. I just obliged, I didn't reject it. After all, why would I? We took a few photos here and there and I thought, "This is nice."

The exact same thing happened later when we were at the airport. She held my hand as we walked across the runway to the plane, and that image somehow just stayed with me. I guess it has something to do with the fact you're holding hands with person in such an open space in front of everybody.

That was the last time I saw her though, after the flight she just disappeared. I don't know why I didn't get her contact to begin with. People say she's around though, that I'd probably see her sooner or later. I think I'll just wait for that to happen. That Renae, such a cutie, can't wait to see you again when I do. You made my holiday worth a lot more than I thought it would.

Who would've thought, that I'd fall for the innocence of a cute 9 year old child. If only I'd meet such people around my age.