Monday, October 31, 2005

Melaka Day 2: Exploring & Bingefest

9am Eagerly head down for breakfast aka stuffing session #2. Unfortunately crowd's pretty eager too, feels like hungry ghost festival, even the staff are overwhelmed - must be the weekend getaway crowd. After stuffing ourselves, we head back to hotel room to vegetate. G claims it's gonna rain, tho I beg to differ.



11am I declare tt the weather's too good to stay indoors. Drag G along for exploration-by-foot of tourist spots - she's been to Malacca many times before, see.



1st stop - Maritime Museum showcasing Malacca's maritime history under the Portuguese & Dutch. But before we got there, was attracted to some medium-sized boats I spied from a distance and finally realized it was the pier. Crowded with many locals, supposed they were all heading home. The Maritime Museum's actually a Portuguese ship constructed as a 2-storey museum tt invites vistors to explore along its decks - albeit narrow & pretty dark.

Up next - Architectural Museum. Almost missed it because there wasn't much indicating its contents, other than a comissioning plaque. Interesting exhibits explaining the diversity of architectural designs in Malaysia - including the Sultanate Palace, the Malay community house, the Nyonya house etc. Was v. peaceful till family came in with terrorizing kids who can't stop running around.



Circled the A. Famosa area and climbed up the hill via Porta da Santiago, the sole remaining fortress gate. Upon reaching St. Paul's Church on the hilltop, a basker's soulful crooning greeted us, reflecting the peace & solemnity of this resting place - a Dutch graveyard skirted 1 corner of the hill.

Walked over to the Stadhuys, the official residence of Dutch Governors since 1650s, now a collection of museums archiving the town's eventful past. With Arab traders who stepped foot onto Malacca, the centre of trade also become the centre from which Islam spread across Malaysia during the 1400's. Short history lesson for me there.



2pm Finally get to try the famed chicken rice balls - actually just chicken rice but with fishball-sized riceballs, dense with carbohydrates & fragrant oil. After stuffing session #3, walked down the Jonker stretch which looked pretty different in the day time. Bought pineapple tarts & coffee mix - these fav products tt are splattered all over the place. 1 shop we bought from "Bibik House" made the tarts fresh - how can any discerning pastry-lover resist?

Headed back to hotel to watch Ian Wright & Far-flung Floyed on TV while relishing our acquisitions - small wonder tt we got easily psyched up for stuffing session #4.

8pm A rickety, old Mercedes cab with a driver cursing at traffic brought us to the Portuguese Settlement - for a moment was worried about safety. Settled down at Restoran de Lisbon. Though the food didn't seem particularly Portuguese to me and more like normal S'porean seafood fare, we had a feast nonetheless. Otak was awesome, grilled fresh fish was heavenly & sambal belachan was just shiok.

10pm Same old rickey Mers brought 2 middle-heavy souls back to the hotel.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Melaka Day 1: Simple Pleasures

7.10am Woken up by phone alarm. Supposed to reach Kovan by 7.45, so no time for breakfast. Mad rush to wash up, finally hop into cab at 7.40. G calls to hurry - she sounds pissed.

8am Last 2 to board the bus. At least I manage to grab Sunday Times just before bus departs. And we're off! G's still fuming tho. At least I can catch up on my bible reading.



8plus Arrive at 2nd link at Tuas - my virgin trip leh *blush* Awfully quiet tho.

9am We're in Johor! Woohoo! Gee, I sound positively deprived. Pretty hungry but decide to sleep it off. Am reminded by NYTimes article about the basal, irrepressible nature of man's hunger.

10plus 20min pitstop at Taman Lucky Gardens. FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD! But too sleepy to really eat, so grab buns & kopi instead.

12plus Arrive at Melaka Sentral, the less-than-2yo air-conditioned bus terminal. As we proceed to collect our tickets for the return trip, we spy some familiar fastfood restaurants. I remark to G, "When was the last time you saw an A&W?"

1plus Check-in at Century Mahkota Hotel into a simple no-frills apartment but too warm for our pampered butts. Instead we opt for an upgrade... AIR-CON *sigh of content* Turns out to be the right decision because it really was quite warm over there.

2plus Wandering around, searching for lunch. Streets are rather quiet, guess it's sunday. Settle for decent looking cafe serving chinese food. So begins the 1st of stuffing sessions - G's in ectasy over sambal seafood fried rice. Food's spicy but shiok - as usual, sweat like anything. A caucasian couple lunches there too, wonder if they know what they're in for - practically the entire menu's spicy.

After lunch, discover tt next door's a pet shop with many interesting pets. For one, they had 2 hyper-oodle poodles, taking turns to zip around the shop after the owner took them out of their cages - must be awfully eager to be brought home.

3plus Make our way to Mahkota Parade nearby, it's the biggest shopping complex there. G finally satiates her craving for Mac's Vanilla Milkshake, now extinct in S'pore.

6plus Back to hotel. I decide to go for a run at the gym's treadmill. For 30min, I avoid making eyes with a buxomy ang-moh poster-girl on the wall in front of the treadmill.



8plus Headed to the weekend bazaar along Jonker Walk. Oh, joy! Assorted dim sum, chendol, pineapple tarts... Craved nyonya laksa but by the time we got hungry, the shops were already closing. Many interesting shops around, including 1 with a lingzhi showroom & another selling coffins. Eventually settled for Chinese-style foot massage to appease our tired legs, 2 Chinese chaps from Shenyang who massaged us expressed their amazement at how the locals can master so many languages & dialects.



11pm 2 contented sleepyheads head back for beauty sleep.

Hello Melaka!



Off to small land of good food & cheap shopping, I go! Already got 1 request list of unmentionables...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Friday Blues



Was the last to leave work today - you know when the email's down for maintenance, tt no one's expecting you to still be in office.

At least got to satisfy myself with McChicken Fold-over, didn't win a trip to Bangkok though. But the ad's pretty funny: a Thai lady goes "Sir, this one normally 200baht, but for you special, 100baht. Cheap cheap."

Met ZS & M for drinks at Acid Bar & got to know some people - friend's friend, you know. A place tt has live acoustic music is always a great place, esp. when a mean somebody requests for Bohemian Rhapsody into the 3rd/4th set. Broke out laughing when singer/guitar duo starting bashing their way through the song. But the crowd, singing along, was pretty supportive. The rendition brought the longest round of applause too.

Possible alternative career: Singer in pub - but's gotta be smoke-free.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Of Cow Dung & Spicy Mango Sorbet



My new food craze: Indian food.

Was watching Floyd's India on central and salivate, I did, even though I just had dinner.

Deliciously red Tandoori chicken, minced lamb with yoghurt, Tandoori-roasted peppers stuffed with chopped cashew nuts & half a dozen spices, lamb cuts seasoned with spices & yoghurt and simmered over cow-dung fire (seriously), Floyd's proprietary mango sorbet with chopped red chilli (must be for those who live life dangerously).

*cue Homer Simpson blank stare while drooling*

Floyd's quite a character, though I hear he's quite a pain on the set too. But I'm simply happy to be a TV follower :)



FLOYD’S IMPERIAL BIRYANI
Serves 10

This is a sumptuous dish of tender, spicy mutton cooked gently in fragrant rice. A celebration dish, it should be served for a very special occasion. It is best to have small pieces of good quality mutton, and if possible, on the bone. Lamb or goat can be used instead of mutton, if preferred.

1 kg/2 ¼ lb basmati rice, washed under running water for at least 15 minutes and strained
350g/12oz ghee
salt
150g/5oz coarsely chopped red onions
100g/4oz flaked almonds
2kg/4 ½ lb mutton morsels (or lamb or goat)
250g/9oz natural yoghurt
100g/4oz cream
100g/4oz cashew nuts
100g/4oz raisins
6 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
8 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves
2 tbsp lemon juice
a pinch of saffron threads soaked in 2 tbsp water
a few drops of rosewater
plain flour
vegetable oil
150g/5oz finely sliced red onions
small packet of silver leaf to garnish

1. Soak the washed rice in fresh water for 1 hour. Meanwhile, dry roast all the pieces for the masala in a frying pan over a low heat, then grind them to a powder in a food processor or blender. Mix together all the ingredients for the purée.

2. Drain the soaked rice thoroughly. Heat some of the ghee in a large wok or shallow frying pan and sauté the rice for 2 or 3 minutes until each grain is coated with ghee. Add enough water to just cover the rice (I emphasise you must only just cover the rice with the water). Season to taste with a little salt and then cook the rice gently until the water has evaporated. At this point the rice will still be slightly undercooked. This is correct. Remove from the heat and keep to one side while you prepare the mutton.

3. In a large heavy-based flameproof casserole with a lid, heat some ghee and fry the chopped onions. Stir in the masala powder and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, mixing well. Stir in the purée and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

4. Stir in half the almonds, then add the mutton and season with salt. Stir in the yoghurt and a little water if the mixture seems dry. Cook gently until the mutton is tender and slightly dry. Stir in the cream and continue cooking gently.

5. Sprinkle half the cashew nuts, half the raisins and half the mint and coriander leaves over the mutton. Tip the rice on top, add the remaining raisins, mint and coriander leaves and mix them into the rice, and then level the top of the rice.

6. Sprinkle the lemon juice, saffron water and rosewater over the rice, then drizzle a little melted ghee over the top.

7. Make a stiff paste with plain flour a little oil and water and knead it until it is like putty. Put a rind of paste around the edge of the casserole lid, making sure that there are no gaps. This will seal the casserole so that no vapour, steam, or more importantly, wonderful aromas can escape. Place the lid with its seal on the casserole and cook gently for 15-20 minutes.

8. Meanwhile, fry the sliced red onions in a little oil until they are crisp and golden. Put to one side. Fry the remaining cashew nuts and almonds on a little ghee until they are light toasted.

9. Just before serving the biryani, lay some pieces of silver leaf over the top and sprinkle on the toasted nuts and the crispy onions.

For the masala
10 cardamom pods
10 cloves
4 blades of mace
10g/ 1/3 oz ground cinnamon

For the purée
40g/1 ½ oz root ginger, peeled
40g/1 ½ oz cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tsp chilli powder

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Goodbye, Ms Sng. Good Morning, Vietnam



So that's it, Ms Sng is flying off to Ho Chi Minh to teach for a year. Last night when we met at Menotti's, I asked how long she took to decide. S said when she saw the ad last week, she just went for it.

Wow. You go, gal!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

2 Beers & a Tau Huey



Met M, J & 2 of J's colleagues for after-dinner drinks, specifically Erdinger + Heineken. Listening to his colleague go on & on abt various topics makes me wonder how much more I have to experience in life - travelling, office politics, diving etc.

After tt, had soft, fluffy Yong He tau huey at Geylang. Mmmm...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Under a Lot of Plessure



Terribly busy this week, work's really picking up. But busy's good yeah??

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Of Pantiliners & Elusive Ramly Burgers

See Flickr slideshow here.

At ZH's behest, him, Ray, Martin & myself signed up for a trek up Gunung Panti, a 512m mountain set in the nature reserve of Kota Tinggi. It's ZH's special day, see.

Dragged ourselves up at 5am because the meeting time was 6.30am at Marsiling mrt. At least we avoided the causeway jam. Did 1 round of introductions at the station, met ZH's 2 frens, one of whom seemed perpetually high - laughing more than half the time.

Breakfast was an uninteresting experience at a slightly "atas" coffeeshop and we were mildly irritated by the poor service. Bought water supplies at a mini-mart along the way, realized how useful it is to know malay.

Time-check 0930. First fumigated ourselves with assorted brands of insect repellent, especially around the ankles at the trek leaders' advice to ward off leeches - though they said we probably wouldn't encounter many. Right before setting off, we were intrigued by a dead giant centipede on the ground on the road.

The trek began at a comfortably fast pace, with the vegetation progressively getting thicker and the track muddier. Excitement and disgust abounded when we spotted our first leech - dark red, 1-inch long with a stump on 1 end, smelling us before trying to worm closer. Near panicked when I got my first, but didn't have the necessary implements to get rid of it - a 2 step process of spray till sock/pants is soaked & flick with finger. The highest leech count of 8 little buggers came from the trek leader leading in front.

The last stretch to the top involved scaling a steep, 20m high rock wall, thankfully already prepped with ropes to guide the trekker along.


Summit cum Leech Shrine

Finally reached the summit at 1145. Leech check and counting of battle wounds. An entertaining hour of jokes about leeches & losing blood ensued. ZH had it worse though; he was 1 of 2 to discover a couple leeches on his waistline and in his hurry to get rid of them, he flicked them off, leaving himself with 2 bleeding wounds, soaking through his shirt. Amazingly, the bleeding didn't stop; a small plaster filled up quickly, an wound cleansing gauze didn't help, and eventually a male trek leader pulled out a Sofy pantiliner - a tribute to Mt. Panti, but really quite useful for such situations. Unfortunately even Sofy couldn't contain ZH's heavy flow for long.

I had an epiphany why people hate leeches even though they probably harmless - because nobody wants to be a free lunch.

After a simple lunch of bread, fruits & nuts (we brought our own, it's not exactly Sun Wukong's peach mountain) and headed back down the same way we came up.

Timecheck 1240. Scaling down the rock wall was treacherously challenging but fun. Went at a hard pace, as the trek leader promised to bring us to a nearby waterfall if we have time. Reached the bottom around 1430. Record time! For us, at least :) Interestingly, hardly saw any leeches on the way down, because the sun's out and these littles vampires shun the light.



Waterfall! Funnily, when I used to see pictures of people who visited waterfalls, it never impressed me, because they are just standing around, sitting down under the waterfall or simply splashing water about. Till I saw the huge torrent of water eternally gushing downwards.

It beckoned to me. Water was cold but relaxing - apparently Martin got calf cramps. Had to wade slowly towards the splash pool because the rocks beneath are v. slippery, covered with some kind of algae film. A couple was taking their wedding shots there, v. nice location. Plus it being Ramadan, the fasting month, the waterfall wasn't crowded at all.



After a quick shower, we made our way to Kota Tinggi town where we were going to have dinner. Got there early so jalan jalan we went to the nearby "pasar malam" - probably just an open pasar, with 1 big section selling streetside food, while the other was clothes, dried food and other knick knacks.

RM1 Chendol proved most satisfying *big grin* - a simple concoction of coconut milk & gulu melaka with green agar worms & red bean. Didn't manage to find a decent-looking Ramly burger stall, because most of it is already prepared whereas we wanted a fresh burger. Instead bought a freshly bbq-ed chicken - looked & smelt really good, the way the skewered fowl was being rotating over charcoal ambers.



Quite evidently, we were all quite pooped from the day's strenuous activities, dozing off while waiting for dinner to be served. Dinner was a satisfying array of the usual Chinese dishes - sambal kang kong, hotplate tofu, chilli crab, sweet & sour deep fried fish etc downed with tie guan yin tea. Then made our way back to JB - I was drooling in my sleep - and eventually reaching SG at 8plus.

Home sweet home! Yay Singapore! And a most fulfilling adventure I had :)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Chanster's Birthday




Met NS pals for dinner & pool, mainly to celebrate Chanster's birthday although it wasn't much of a celebration. Glad for Chan tt he's found his direction in life.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The 10 Faces of Innovation



Ideo's 10 people-centric tools, talents, or personas developed for innovation to help teams express a different point of view and create a broader range of innovative solutions.

1. Anthropologist
2. Experimenter
3. Cross-Pollinator
4. Hurdler
5. Collaborator
6. Director
7. Experience Architect
8. Set Designer
9. Caregiver
10. Storyteller

-- From Fastcompany.com

Tapping into a Million iPods at Once


www.mercora.com


"The really important cultural innovations are the ones that blur the definitions of old categories. The VCR clouded the distinction between TV and movies. The World Wide Web punched open the wall between print and video.

Now, a site called Mercora is busy rubbing out the lines separating radio from music downloading. As with radio, Mercora plays music chosen by someone else, according to the DJ's tastes and rules. But as with downloading onto your iPod or adding a CD to your collection, Mercora lets the user decide what music to listen to."
-- From Washingtonpost.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ooh, Commuting Joy



*Ed flaunts new toy*

Special thanks to a good friend ;)