Kuala Selangor Part 2: Kelip-Kelip

27 January 2013

Oh Best Beloved,

There are some things that can only be captured in the heart and in the memory. The best thing I can do is record it all in paper. Through a drawing. Through a story. Through a song or a piece of poetry.

We went to the firefly lake after we ate at the riverside restaurant. Yes, to Kampung Kelip-Kelip. It was the second time for me and Ate Di; the first for the others. The 12th I think for our "tour guide", Andy. Or something.

I wish I describe to you the beauty of that lake (wait, was it a lake or a river - hmmm). We tried taking pictures, we tried taking videos but it was all to no avail. All our shots resulted to black screens or blurred silhouettes of bushes and trees. So I did a digital painting using good ol' Stevie Wonder:

They blinked like Christmas lights set against a Christmas tree. It's amazing how they did it at the same time, synchronized, as if they were flickering to the beat of some unknown music. Set against an almost pitch black  body of water (I say almost because the moon was full when we went there) it was magical and melancholy.

We could go back there, if you want. The sense of wonder never wears off. :)



Kuala Selangor Part 1: Bukit Melawati

27 January 2013

Oh Best Beloved,

We went to Kuala Selangor today. It was one of those spontaneous trips, the kind you decide to join just a few hours before the ETD despite your need to compulsively "prepare". Ate Di's friends had plans to visit the fireflies so we decided at sort of the last minute to tag along.

It was raining like crazy when we left KL. That made us worry. Fireflies and rain don't go together, you know.

Thankfully, the clouds were clear and the ground was dry when we reached Kuala Selangor. We were supposed to eat at a seafood restaurant by the river but we made a quick detour to Bukit Melawati before we decided to satiate our hunger.

The place was filled with monkeys. BIG ONES. Black, almost resembling baboons, harrier that the ones that ran along the corridors of my kolej in UKM. It was amusing seeing them again. Here's a picture of the furry creatures so that you can also have a look at them:

There was a lighthouse in Bukit Melawati. I took a picture of that, too. The hill overlooks the Strait of Malacca, so I guess it was an important sight for sailors and traders years and years ago.

We had a scrumptious dinner soon after. And then we saw the fireflies. It was the second time I saw them.

But I shall tell you about that in my next letter.

Word of the Week: Pencuci Mulut

Pencuci mulut (noun): Bahasa Melayu word for "dessert". When translated, it literally means "mouth washer" or "panhugas ng bunganga".

Example: Saya nak pencuci mulut!
Mari's literal translation: I want to wash this taste off my mouth! I want dessert!

Kajang Part 2: Singgalang is Gone!

Singgalang's gone. Half of what used to be our favourite lunch house has now been occupied by Rico Rinaldi (the guy who sewed my bridesmaid's dress for the TM wedding) and an unknown eatery.

It's a bit sad because I've had some pretty good memories there in that Indonesian resto. They had this pretty good beef - grilled and topped with vinegar-like sauce, onions, and chilli. They also had this petai which my friends fooled me into eating by itself. It's better eaten with sambal or some other spicy dish, but... well, let's just say it was like an initiation to the Malaysian experience. But more than that, Singgalang was a place where new friendships were established, where dreams were dreamed, and where visions were casted.

The beef.

Sigh. Goodbyes. We all have to deal with them.

We said farewell to Kajang. Bye to our old house. Bye to the now bigger but slightly crampy-er grocery shop. Bye to the Internet shop we used to frequent.

2013. It's a new year. A new season.

Right now, we have a new territory to conquer.

Kajang Part 1: On Nostalgia and Pecel Lele

We went to Kajang this Saturday. It was both fun and nostalgic.

Fun because we got to eat Pecel Lele once again. Yes, Pecel Lele - deep fried catfish in its crunchy, salty goodness.

Nostalgic because - 

Mygash. That was my territory for what? Two and a half years? I was with Kuya Tram and take note that Kajang was his territory for an even longer span of time. Like, six or seven years, I guess. So you can just imagine just how melancholy we both were.

We spent two hours at the Pecel Lele eatery. Yes, TWO hours. We ordered the famous catfish. And we also ordered tempe (fermented soybean) and gado-gado. Gado-gado is a mix of vegetables with this savoury peanut sauce. It was goooood.

Pecel lele



As we ate, Bas Minis zoomed by. Okay, they didn't zoom by. They rattled by. Rapid KL U40 buses - those zoomed by. They brought memories of my first few months of work with them. I used to wake up at 5:30 am just so that I could chase those buses. So that I could get the 6:40 train at the Kajang KTM station. So that I could catch the 7:10 KLIA transit at Bandar Tasik Selatan.

Aiyoh.  It's strange how a place like that could bring back so many memories.

So we decided to walk around the area afterwards to burn catfish calories and to see if our favourite spots were still there. Some were, some weren't.

But that will be for another blog post.

(To be continued...)

Word of the Week: Terang

Terang (adj): Bahasa Melayu word meaning "vivid" or "bright". 

Example: Lampu ini nak tukar? Yang dalam bilik sudah terang. (Malay repairman conversing with Mari)

Mari's literal translation: Uhhhh - (*looks up "terang" in Google Translate while repairman does his job*) - Oh. "Do you want to change this lamp? The lamp inside the room is already bright."

Congratulate me. The lights in the apartment's hall have now been replaced with bright fluorescent lamps. And yes, they are more "terang".

Go Philippines!

Stumbled upon this this vid a friend shared through Facebook. While I was watching it, my Indonesian officemate (who was hovering by) said, "Wow, is that Manila? It's better than Jakarta." He and some of his friends are planning to tour around the Pearl of the Orient this year - I've been spamming him with "It's more fun in the Philippines" links since I found out - and I think a few seconds of the vid made a good impression on him.

Gah. Now I'm missing my country again. If my cash and leaves permit me, I'll probably go home twice or thrice this year. To attend weddings. It's always to attend weddings. I'm wishing I could do a little bit of touring, too, but - we'll see.

Well. Go Philippines!

How to Survive Homesickness and Alone-ness

The house is empty again. It gets like this every once in a while. Every other while it's packed full of people, packed full of guests, packed full of family and friends.

But tonight is one of those nights again. One of those nights when all I have are God and words to keep me company. But I happy with God. I am happy with words. Yet sometimes...

Alright, people. Here's how you survive homesickness and frequent bouts of alone-ness:

  1. Be productive. Find a hobby. Create. Do you like cooking? Do you like painting? Do you like photography or gardening? Bake a cake. Paint a picture. Experiment with lights and textures, produce your own organic vegetables. I love to write and I find joy in playing around with words thus this blog and my other blog at www.mariscribbles.com. Now you know why I'm able to write so frequently even though I also have a full time job!
  2. Be lost in wonder. Ride a train (when it's not rush hour). Drive forever. Read a book and find yourself exploring a whole new world.
  3. Surround yourself with friends! Online and offline ones. Laugh no matter how disgusting your lunch topic is (armpit hair, anyone?). Cry no matter how far away the people typing the words into your chat screens are.
  4. Be thankful. Count your blessings. Praise God in every circumstance.
  5. At the risk of sounding too spiritual, communicate with God. He is our ever present Friend and Comforter. 
  6. Do the things you're supposed to do! If you have a mission in life, do it! Don't idle around. Don't procrastinate. Don't dwell in your pity party. "Delays are costly!" so just get up and walk. 

Well, that's all I can come up with, so far. How about you? Any tips and trades to make homesick folks unblue?

Puppydog/Pussycat Eyes. Drama lang to. See? I'm not blue.

How to Survive Airports

I once had to spend the night at an airport. Malaysia's LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) to be exact. My plane landed at about 1:00AM, buses ceased operation at 12:30AM and resumed at 6:00AM, I could only check in at the dorm by 8:00AM, and I knew my friend had a rough week so I felt like I shouldn't bother her at 1:30AM.

I had only one battle plan. That was to find a quiet spot and read Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, staying awake until sunrise. It seemed easy enough. Though I hadn't counted on the number of passengers who had the same plan - the staying awake until sunrise part, not the Gulliver reading part.

There were throngs of them. Some laid newspapers on the floor and slept. Some staked their claims over the coveted Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf booths and did not even pretend to drink coffee. Some sat near power outlets and hankered at their phones, laptops, and other gadgets. 

I must have circled the airport five times before I found the perfect spot - an empty space next to a power outlet, next to the ladies' room, right across the already full Starbucks cafe.

I sat on my trolley and went to Lilliput with Gulliver that night.

So how do you survive airports?
  1. Bring a book. Or a magazine. My friend who sometimes fetches me from NAIA 3 apparently grabs the free ones there - I found the stowaway inside my bright blue pasalubong bag last November. Words will make the best company especially if you're going to spend much time in the airport alone.
  2. Load your music player with lots of awesome sounds. And make sure the gadget is fully charged.
  3. Bring a scarf. Or a light blanket. If you're brave enough to sleep through the night, you're going to need something to keep you covered and warm.
  4. Have some good movies handy. If you have a laptop, netbook, or tablet with you, yes you can kill time by watching movies, too. While waiting in between Davao-Manila and Manila-KL flights, I was able to watch Crazy Little Thing Called Love and there was still lots of time to kill before I could check in.
  5. Bring a friend. This one is particularly for surviving airport departures. For airport arrivals, "phone a friend" would be more applicable, given that you wouldn't be disturbing that friend too much.
  6. For artists and writers, make sure you have a pen. And lots and lots of paper. You never know when inspiration will strike.
I wanted to write my own Anjeli's Travels after that night at the airport. Maybe I will one day. But for now, let me leave you with the copy of the book that helped me get though it all. Happy flying!

Yes, my table cloth is osom. No, I never got to finish the book. Will finish it this year though.

Word of the Week: Bakar

Bakar (adj): Bahasa Melayu word for "grilled", "toasty", "roasted". Often refers to toasted bread i.e. roti bakar. Today I learned that it is also used to describe lights which have gone out (napundi in Filipino).

Example: Lampu ini sudah bakar. (According to the Malay repairman)
Mari's literal translation: This lamp is toast.

Penang Trip Part 3: Wantan and Coffee

January 3, 2013

Oh Best Beloved,

Another reason why I would love to come back to Penang would be because I would still like to try out more George Town food. Don't get me wrong - I loved the briyani, wantan, kuey teow, and kopi that we had there. But I have heard rave reviews about their hawker dishes. I resolve to try more stuff should I find myself wandering around the streets of George Town again.

The wantan and coffee (kopi panas) were my favourite orders from the trip. I ordered dry wantan mee but had some sort of a misunderstanding with the stall keeper so I got this instead:

I don't know what this is exactly. Dad gave me some of his noodles since it was mostly dumplings bathing in yummy soup.

The coffee was heavenly. It was thick, tasted of coffee, margarine, and chocolate at the same time and - you have to try it yourself. Oh, but wait. You can't drink coffee. :(

Well. Satisfy yourself with this photo instead.

That's all for the Penang Trip. We travelled from George Town to LCCT that afternoon (406 km this time - took me 6 hours and 30 minutes again) and now - well, now I have to sleep because I have to go to work again tomorrow.

I hope you liked the stories.

Sweet dreaming,


Penang Trip Part 2: George Town

January 2, 2013

Oh Best Beloved,

We went around George Town by foot today. We left Caleb at the hotel parking lot and followed the map I downloaded from a Penang tourism website. Guess what? The map was very informative! I became an instant tour guide. When we reached a spot marked on the map, I read the accompanying description-slash-information and viola! It granted us an instant appreciation of the place. 

Here are some noteworthy spots we got to see there:

One of the murals (sort of like Easter Eggs
you will have to go looking for) painted on one of the buildings there.

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. There were guided tours
but we chose to just take pictures from outside.

Yes, I just had to take a picture of this.

Town hall. Reminds me of Baker Hall in UPLB.

This fountain looks awfully dreamy and romantic, don't you think?

City Hall. They had one right next to the town hall.

A panoramic shot of the esplanade.

Fort Cornwallis.

Queen Victoria's Clock Tower. It is 60 feet tall.
Each foot represents a year in the Queen V's reign.

Of course, I took so much more pictures - more pictures than the one included in this letter here. But I shall show them to you personally soon.

I hope I can come back to George Town. I think we were only able to explore a quarter of it today. Tomorrow we'll just buy souvenirs and then it's back to KL, but I'd still like to find the other murals and explore the jetty, too.

Perhaps you'll be the one to drive me here next time?



P.S. I haven't written about Penang food yet. I shall tell you about them in my next letter. :)

Penang Trip Part 1: On Ipoh Chicken Rice and Technology

Note: I decided to write my travel notes in letter format. It seems more natural for me to tell stories about trips this way. It will make writing about past adventures easier, too. We can just pretend we're digging up old letters. That way, writing about a trip that took place last 2002 wouldn't be so weird. I hope you enjoy reading them. If you get tired of the melancholy letters, fret not - I shall shift to the "usual" writing style for all the other non-"oh-best-beloved" entries. ;)

January 2, 2013

We embarked on a road trip today, Oh best beloved. To Penang. Yes, Penang. It's one of the four new places I wanted to go to this year and I am thankful my family agreed on taking this trip. We initially planned on going to Singapore but, unfortunately (or was it fortunately?), my working visa is still being renewed - no trips outside the country for now. 

So we went to Penang. I told them it was a historical spot in Malaysia (George Town turns out to be listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site) and that the food there is supposed to be great.

Google Maps says George Town is 3 hours and 52 minutes away from my place (364 km, more precisely). We made it there in 6 hours and 30 minutes. Well. You know it's my first time to drive this far. And there were so many slow moving trucks on the road (I overtook most of them). Plus we made a stop over at Ipoh. We tried their Chicken Rice - Dad said his steamed chicken was a bit undercooked but they appreciated the meal because I explained to them how Chicken Rice is actually rice cooked in chicken broth. Anyway, stopping over at Ipoh was okay since we got to see this pretty hilarious signboard (thanks, Mom, for taking the picture):

I was almost dead tired by the time we arrived in George Town. Hey, I was driving a manually transmitted car! Plus we sort of got lost trying to find our hotel. We were trying to find the Tune Hotel located at Jalan Burma. Well, I had a map and some instructions prepared but I took an early turn into one of the streets. And then we found out that George Town is a city of one way streets. Oops.

It was a good thing we had my Yes 4G Huddle (wifi on the go, anyone?) with us. It was also a good thing my brother's phone had a GPS application as well. And it was a super good thing that the iPad (I shall dub him Stevie Wonder) had Google Maps open so that we could easily see which one way streets led to which other one way streets.

So we got to Tune Hotel in one piece. Well, four pieces. We rested for an hour or so before exploring George Town by foot.

But I shall tell you that story next time.

I hope all is well with you, Oh best beloved.

Until next time,


Back from Penang!

Just got back from a family road trip to Penang! Will share stories soon. For now, here's a teaser pic taken by my mom. I think I was taking a picture of St. George's Church in this shot.

Well. This little wanderer has to catch up on work first. And get some rest. Cheers!


Fireworks peeping from behind the Petronas Twin Towers. A glimpse of surprises and breakthroughs in the year ahead.

Happy new year, everyone!