Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Langkawi : Of Nature and History

We were determined that this time, our visit will be of nature and history. Mr D said that we will not be climbing the cable car and will not be crossing the hanging bridge this time. So after breakfast on the 2nd day, we head direct to Laman Padi located near Pantai Cenang. Laman Padi is practically a rice museum. It is the combination of the actual scene of rice planting through the paddy field surrounding the museum, and the exhibition of artifacts and development our country went through from the traditional paddy planting to the current modern technology. The museum is informative enough. I understand the visitors can also take part in the paddy planting activity if they want to - what a good experience huh? They also have spa within the compound for those interested.

I told Mr D the day before we went to Langkawi that I have not been visiting 'Beras Terbakar' or burnt rice for 27 years. I told him about my father doubting the authenticity of the burnt rice coming out from the soil as it was commercialized then. I remember it was sold in small packets when we went there in 1985, and how the visitors were allowed to dig it out from the soil. So we decided to take a look at how it looks like nowadays.

The history of beras terbakar started when Datuk Kerma Jaya instructed the rice reserves in Langkawi to be burnt during the Siamese attack not long after Mahsuri was sentenced to death in 1819. The event took place at Padang Mat Sirat, at the compound of what now a private property of a local villager. Was very glad to see that area where the burnt rice is is now fenced. It used to be opened and free for visitors to dig. For preservation, I think it is better the way it is now, fenced. Am just not comfortable with the fact that there are many coins thrown into that area. What's that for?

Thumbs up to the owner of the house where the burnt rice is. I understand that it is his own effort to maintain the compound, and I thought the house itself is a tourist attraction. Nicely built, full of traditional value and definitely full of touristy sentiment. Very attractive. But it is just an eye sore to see stalls built outside the compound selling various items from gamat to fabrics. It is too many and too crowded. Should have lessen it a bit, let the burnt rice area be the focus.

We actually wanted to do Island Hopping that day, so our next destination was Pantai Cenang to book for one. The trip was scheduled either at 9am or 2:30pm. It was still early then, so after we booked the package at RM30 per pax for the afternoon trip, we decided to visit MARDI Agro Technology Park first. This park, apart from having a huge fruit plantation farm, also the place where recreational activities like camping and flying fox can be done. There are 3 types of tour packages offered, we just opted for farm tour to look around the farm which took about 30 minutes using the 'tram'. The entrance fee is RM5 with MyKad. The tour include an 'eat all you can' session where they serve us local fruits to be eaten. For us local, it probably is quite a common trip, I mean the fruits are what we can see day in day out. But for us, it is the technology that we wanted to look at (especially now that I am determined to be a successful farmer with my edible garden hahahaha).

By 2:30pm, we were already at Pantai Cenang waiting for the boat to be ready for island hopping. There were 8 of us in the boat, me, Mr D, a mat salleh couple and 2 Indian couples. There will be 3 locations, that is Pulau Dayang Bunting, Eagle feeding and Pulau Beras Basah.

The first location, Pulau Dayang Bunting is the biggest island apart from the main Langkawi island itself. The island got its name through its shape, which looks like a sleeping pregnant lady. There's a fresh water lake in this island, with the myth that those who want to be pregnant can try taking their bath in this lake. I was not interested to dive into the lake, so I decided to have a chat with a woman who stayed in the island itself. Though Dayang Bunting is the biggest island, nobody lives in there except a family of 5 who works to maintain the island.

The whole journey to the 3 different locations took about 3 hours in total. I guess for those foreigners, Pulau Beras Basah is what they enjoy the most, with the sea and direct sunlight. There's not much things on the island, but I think reading a novel there will be comforting. By 5:30pm, we were already in Pantai Cenang to end our island hopping.

For me and Mr D, it was such a tiring day. We were out from our hotel room at about 8am, and was still outside at about 6pm. We didn't had our lunch either, as we had quite a heavy breakfast that morning. So right after the trip, we went to find for food. Mr D saw a Minang restaurant on the way from airport to the hotel the night before, and insisted to have our dinner there.

The name of the restaurant is Minang Pelangi, which is a new restaurant serving Minang food. I think this restaurant used to be Lobster Village. We ordered sup buntut (sup ekor lah tu), ikan goreng lado mudo, gulai nangka and my favorite sambal ijo and sambal merah. The food was OK, though Sari Ratu's probably much better. Pricing wise, it is slightly overpriced I think. All the servings are small, especially ikan goreng because it is only a small piece of fish, but they charged us RM8 for that small piece of fish.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Langkawi : The Journey

I had a busy Saturday, so I was trying to arrange my time before the Langkawi trip. Flight to Langkawi will be at 18:25, but I had a birthday party invitation in Shah Alam at 12pm and a discussion with a Bank Negara officer at 14:00, also at Shah Alam. Since I had done my web check in, I thought it will be OK even if I reached there at 17:30 since the gate closed at 18:05. We reached airport at 18:00, just in time to catch the flight *phew*.

Except for the accommodation where Mr D reserved a standard room at Bayview in Kuah, we didn't make any other arrangement. It was a last minute trip. But it was a breeze since Langkawi, unlike most cities around Malaysia, is quite well prepared for its tourism industry at the entrance gate. With many rental car companies operating at the airport, with the free map distributed highlighting its attractions, it was such an easy one. It reminds me of New Zealand somehow, except New Zealand probably is more organized in that sense. How I wish other cities in Malaysia is doing the same, we are not tourist friendly enough. We should provide more facilities and tourist information centres for tourists, not only in major cities.

Langkawi probably relies heavily on the taxi service for public transportation. I understand that public buses only operates around Kuah and Pantai Cenang. So if we want to have freedom to move around, renting a transport is probably the better option. Cars, motorbikes and bicycles are available for rent. We opted to rent a basic car, so we got an old Proton Wira for RM70 per day. Not the best deal, but OK lah.. though the noise coming out from the car's engine was quite scary. I was just quite worry because there's no insurance related matter spelled out during the renting of the car. Other than that, it was quite an OK deal.

By the time we reached Langkawi, it was already dark. Kuah is quite far from the airport, so by the time we reached our hotel, it was already past 8pm. Once we've done with the check in, we decided to take a walk nearby to the night market. The free maps distributed at the airport actually have the information on where the night markets will be on what day. The items sold ranges from food to fabric items to souvenir. We had yong tau foo and the not so nice murtabak with the refreshing guava juice as dinner before ending the day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Langkawi Live

Am in Langkawi now for a short trip with Mr D. When I visited Langkawi the first time at the age of 9, I insisted to count how many islands there are in Langkawi (which of course I failed to do so) because I can't believe that it is made up of 99 islands. How can the number be so exact - that's what I was thinking. And until now, at the age of 35, I still can't be sure whether it is really 99 haha.

Langkawi is not so crowded currently, but there are still people everywhere. My feet is aching today from the walk from one place to another, from one island to another. Time to rest!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Ong Choy is Growing!!

Meet my new darling! In my attempt to be self-sufficient, I turned my balcony into a vege patch. I am determined to be a successful farmer from now on hahaha. Who said those living in condo cannot have edible garden? We can make use of the balcony!!

I planted a number of seeds in my vege patch, including Hong Kong kailan, cabbage, tomatoes etc, but looks like ong choy (kangkung) is the fastest one to grow. Perhaps it has something to do with the size of its seed huh? Kangkung's seed is the biggest among all I've planted.

My mother threw some chilli seeds as well while she was here last week, and it grows wildly on the vege patch. Will have to rearrange it when it grows slightly bigger later. Can't wait to see. Grow bigger, my darling. Grow bigger. And faster.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Relaxing @ Grand Lexis, Port Dickson

Port Dickson ... balik-balik Port Dickson kan? But that's the easiest and nearest place to just take a drive to given the limited time. There's nothing to be done there, but if 'relaxing' is the only theme, then it is not too bad.

This time the visit to Port Dickson is for my parents' 68th and 70th birthday. They were born on the same date but in different year. So for us children, it is very easy to celebrate their birthday - we do it together. I decided to book Grand Lexis, the waterhomes built on the sea, as a present for my parents, hopefully they can relax. The last time I went there was in late 2010, when the place was still called Legend Water Homes (I went to Legend Water Chalets).

This time I booked for Premium Pool Villa, with 2 King / Queen beds. The highlight about this villa is each villa has its own pool inside, so we can swim with nobody else around. Even my mum joined us in the pool. The villa is spacious, at about 1,200sq ft. So it really feels like home.

Grand Lexis has no beach on its own, so for those who wants to enjoy the beach will have to go to the other places nearby.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pavlova @ Serai

Mr D's favorite dessert is pavlova. Perhaps because of years he spent in New Zealand, and because his foster mother the late Mrs W was good at baking it. Even when we were in New Zealand last September, he was asking for pavlova whenever we stop by at any bakery (but we can't find it). Amazing huh.. pavlova is the national dessert of New Zealand (which they fight with Aussie to claim it is theirs), but yet we can't find it easily sold throughout our 2 weeks stay there.

The other day we dropped by at Serai @ Empire Gallery Subang Jaya, and ordered pavlova (looks like it is much easier to find it in KL than in NZ hahaha). My review of it, it is edible, though that's not the best pavlova I've eaten. It is a bit too sweet, but it is OK. Comparing to the chocolate pavlova in Delicious, Serai's is slightly better.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fruits Heaven

Another thing I like about Cameron Highland is the availability of fruits we can hardly find in other places in Malaysia. Kalau ke sana, antara buah-buahan yang wajib dibawa balik is jambu epal, which until now am not so sure whether is it really kacukan jambu + epal, and why they have to peel it and colour it green? Why don't just leave it in original condition?

In the recent trip, among the fruits I bought was rambai (which I love when I was a kid, but can hardly find it nowadays), markisar or passion fruit (versi CH yang agak comel dan lonjong, dan sangat manis), CH apple and persimmon (is it called pisang kaki in Malay?). I love all, except CH apple. Kind of weird, ni hasil kacukan epal dengan terung ke apa? The taste is rather blegh.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cameron Highland Short Visit

Just thought today to keep some of the pictures I've taken during my short visit to Cameron - quite a number of months ago. I think I went there somewhere in November 2011. Cameron ni macam acara wajib tahunan, every year wajib paling kurang sekali. Nak kata menarik taklah juga, but I guess sebab it is quite near to Kuala Lumpur so kadang-kadang bila terasa nak lari dari KL untuk jangkamasa singkat, antara consideration nya adalah Cameron - senang nak dituju. Not too far, and boleh drive je.

Yang kali ni pun we went there without proper planning. On Saturday morning tu rasa macam kepala semak, terus je decide to go to Cameron tengaharinya. I don't normally do much things in Cameron, except for relaxing, and go shopping for some sayur mayur, fruits and my favorite pearl corn. Jagung kat sana somehow rasa lain sikit dari kat bawah ni kan? Sambil-sambil tu boleh cari petai kesukaan Mr D yg dijual tepi jalan near kampung-kampung orang asli tu. Biasanya cantik-cantik petainya. Sometimes tu, singgah sekejap merehatkan minda di Lata Iskandar on the way up or on the way down. This time I got to buy tudung saji anyaman di Lata Iskandar, OK lah juga walau harganya tak lah semurah mana.

This time we chose to stay at Strawberry Park. Believe it or not, we just gamble je tau tak book earlier pun. There are a lot of hotels and apartments in Cameron, so there's nothing to worry about. Asalnya we all nak try Cameron Highland Resort, I like this place. Cuma nasib tak menyebelahi kami, it was full then. So we went to Strawberry Park not far from there. Cameron Highlands Resort ni is more accessible, sebab just next to the main road, unlike Strawberry Park where we had to go deep inside (with not so convenient road). The room was spacious, very convenient though. Parking pun right in front. So basically our objective to just relax was achieved.

We didn't have much plan, that night just jalan-jalan dekat night market di Brinchang cari food as usual. Night market di Brinchang ni memang ada masa weekend, and if I am not mistaken, kalau cuti sekolah memang ada every day. That's where we can get local food and all. We all sakan lah meratah itu ini malam tu.

The next morning tu buffet breakfast di Jim Thompson Terrace. Mr D almost naik darah sekejap masa kami turun breakfast tu, because they make customers wait for almost an hour sebab tak cukup meja in the restaurant. Can you believe that? It was so disappointing, considering Strawberry Park is not a cikai resort kan. Lama jugak we had to wait before we were allowed in. Buffet pun so-so je lah, not bad, but not that good either. But okeylah, buat alas perut.

With no plan in mind, we thought of relaxing kejap kat Big Red Strawberries Farm di Brinchang. Kat sini ada ladang strawberry, sayur-sayur especially salad, and some strawberry based food. Aktiviti biasa di sini biasanya kami jadi pemetik strawberry lah. Sebenarnya senang lagi kan just to buy, but kadang-kadang it is a theraphy when we pick it ourselves. Sambil-sambil tu reminisce the days when I worked part time as pemetik strawberry masa di England dulu. But kat sana strawberry atas batas-batas on the ground, di Cameron Highland biasanya atas para. So it is much easier to pick the strawberry in Cameron Highland. Di England dulu sampai sakit-sakit pinggang sebab kena mencangkung sepanjang masa memetik.

Kat sini sayur-sayurnya pun kita boleh just ask the worker to pick and we can buy. But masa we went tu it was still young, not yet ready to be sold. So kempunan lah I nak cabut sayur-sayur tu, especially the salad, looks so nice and so young kalau makan tu mesti best.

Lepas dah berjalan di Big Red Strawberries Farm tu, we wanted to go and shop for vegetables to be brought back to KL. The normal place we go biasanya di Kea Farm, but this time sebab it was so jam and was so difficult to park there, kami akhirnya pergi di tapak pasar malam di Brinchang tu and bought all the vegetables there. Memang puas hati, sebab banyak choice dan murah. I kalau bab shopping sayur ni memang rambang mata.

But that's about all we did kat sana lah. Sebab unplanned kan. Biasanya I suka pergi Boh plantation, minum-minum teh kat atas tu. But then this time tak pergi sebab Mr D nak balik KL cepat, so we dropped by kat Bharat Tea je.. sambil makan scone yang oh not so nice lah. Tapi minum teh sambil tengok view tea plantation memang relaxing kan?