31 Dec 2009

Bali trip

The last time we went to Bali was May 2004 - and that time we stayed at this truly fantastic place called Tegal Sari in Ubud. This time we stayed at Champlung Sari, also in Ubud, not too bad a place, but I was quite disappointed. It's okay I guess if you haven't been to Tegal Sari but after Tegal Sari, this place just sort of became second class. I'm not saying that Tegal Sari is a 5 star hotel - definitely not. But our room had a wide verandah which faced the padi field and it is separated from the other rooms by a narrow path with beautiful trees on either side. Since that was May then, the padi was still growing and the green was like emerald and you were greeted by the sound of birds cooing early in the morning.

Monkey eating my apple

Here in Champlung Sari, you are greeted by monkeys raiding your verandah, fighting on the roofs or stealing your food. You cannot leave anything outside for fear they will steal it.  However they look kind of cute.
 Rice terraces at Jati Luwih

However this time around we got to see more places - we went to see the padi terraces - they are really fantastic - at JatiLuwih. It was quite far from Ubud - maybe around 2 hrs away on a very narrow winding road but I think the trip was really worth it. The water that irrigates the padi comes from the mountains and its so clear you can see right through to the gravel beneath. We had tea and fried bananas with honey at a cafe there and it was simply marvellous. The farmers here still use the ox and plough to plough the land and many were actually ploughing when we were there. There was also a group of young boys swimming in the irrigation canals,their high spirited shouts echoing through the valley. The scene reminded me so much of my childhood and I hope that modernisation, if it came to Bali, would not take this away.

That evening we also went to Tanah Lot to see the sunset. It's been said that the sunset here is just out of this world but this treat was denied us - the spectacular sunset just did not arise - the cloud cover was too low and we could only see mild strips of burgundy and orange - nice but not spectacular. However Tanah Lot itself is an awesome place - its a promontory where the sea has carved out blowholes, caves and also a spit upon which the Balinese have built a temple. It is truly a marvellous sight and a natural masterpiece.

Tanah Lot, Bali

The rest of Bali is just as beautiful as ever though Denpasar is bigger than I remembered it. There are more big malls and shopping centres and also of course more vehicles. The people are just as spiritual as ever - there are holy days in Bali almost every day - each day for a special saint. THis time around too we did not see the Barong Dance or even the Kecak Dance. We just wanted to see the sights - the natural beauty that is Bali. I think next time we'll renew our memories of Kintamani and the volcanic basin  or Danau Batur, and Mount Batur. Anyway I'll try to remember not to come at the end of the year where they have thousands of visitors who go there for the New Year celebrations at Kuta Beach.

THis is my last post for this year so I'll say good bye to 2009 and welcome to 2010. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF YOU OUT THERE!

27 Dec 2009

Haji Tahir Family Day

(That's me trying my hand at gold putting!)

Its the time of year for the Family day again. This time we're joining in - Repin, myself, Wan and Shasha. Rizal flew to Brisbane yesterday with Pohling and Sophie. They're visiting with Chee Mun there so its a kind of family day for them too.

We had ours at Pengkalan Balak , approximately 22 km from Melaka Town - at a place called Padang Kamunting. Its quite lovely actually - the beach was nice and sandy - soft yellow sand and quite spacious too so we could have games on the beach itself. They started the day with Treasure Hunt.There were quite a number of teams and mine was called Golden Stars - Jasmine, Intan, Azura ,Nadia and me. Some of the clues were quite easy - How many arrows in Robin Hood's quiver, the name of our chalet and so on but we only got 5 answers correct and Lela's team won first prize.

The day was quite warm and balmy - plenty of sun in the morning though not too hot, so it was really fun, sitting there under the shade, talking and playing with my sisters and brothers. Zin however didnt turn up at all and Kamal came late. So did Leha but she was from Singapore so I guess that was excused. Anyway all in all it was a good day and everyone took part, even Mami Leha. It rained in the evening though and the Sandcastle competition had to be cancelled. They all played an indoor game however so things went well.

 It ended with the karaoke and Wan won second prize with his song. Iskandar won the first prize with his rendition of "Cant help falling for you" which was quite good. As in many karaoke competitions, there were a few really lousy singers but I guess they can't help it. Lots of fun and games though.However,in spite of having booked  two rooms for myself, Repin decided to go back to BB in the end so we went home around 11.30pm.

24 Dec 2009

Salmon for Shasha

Yesterday I made a salmon dish for Shasha my daughter. She hates fish other than salmon and Repin doesn't like salmon, so I've never cooked it at home. However yesterday since she was on leave I decided to make a salmon dish for her, using left over pasta sauce, some vegetables and lots of tomatoes. First I marinated the salmon steak with oregano, black pepper, salt and lemon juice. After marinating it for a half hour, I popped it in the oven for 10 minutes under broil. Take it out again and this time I put in the other ingredients - chopped onions, Japanese cucumber, tomatoes, a dash of pepper and finally the pasta sauce. I put it in the oven again and leave it to grill until its well done - crisp outside. It tasted great, especially after I put on some parmesan cheese on top and let it melt. Shasha loved it, finishing the whole piece of fish. I guess that's the only way she'll eat fish and salmon does have a lot of omega 3.


I've hardly made a dent in my reading list. In the last big bad wolf sale I must have bought over 30 books, and so far have read only about 5 or 6, mainly the ones by Nora Roberts and Julia Quinn because they're the easy to read ones. I still have a lot to go through.- travel books, a biography of Dr Mahathir, a book by Tahir Shah entitled In Search of King Solomon's MInes and another travel book entitled Two Caravans.
I've just finished Anderson Cooper's book -News from the Edge, which reads a lot like his programme 60 minutes. I remember at one time, as a teenager I very much wanted to be a journalist and this book is actually his experiences in all the various hot spots of the world - from Darfur in Sudan to Bosnia and Iraq, even Afghanistan. Written in an exciting journalistic style, Cooper recounts his experiences in these dangerous places, some of which were very very dangerous and he was even taken captive at one time in Africa. Interspersed with these are his memories of his childhood, his feelings when his father died suddenly leaving him and his brother confused for a long time. He also recounted the time when his brother killed himself and how it affected him. For along time he used to wonder why his brother did it and  for a while felt that it was his fault that he did not see it coming. Generally an interesting recount of a journalist's experiences during war time all over the world, an indepth look at Anderson Cooper's life. But reading them  I find that it is a typical American view of the state of war, however objective he tries to be. Many of the places he described were Muslim countries - Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan , Sudan as well as Somalia. They are war torn countries mainly because of poverty, corruption and the fight for power. But they were also sometimes caused by interference by whatever American government then in power which Cooper does not even mention in the book.

In the big bad wolf sale I also found a book by one of my favourite authors - James Herriot - who wrote "All creatures big and small". This one is "Vet in harness" and like the other books written by him hugely entertaining and really funny. Imagine my delight when I also managed to get a whole set of Madeline L' Engle's books- A Wrinkle in Time,A Wind in the Door,A Swiftly Tilting Planet, An Acceptable Time and the last one - Many Waters. These books for children are real gems and she won the Newbery Medal for Children's Literature.I had already read most of them of course - borrowed from my daughter Shasha. These books tell about three children who were growing up in 60s America but they are as different from other children's books as chalk from cheese. They flip from the world of reality to unreality and entwines fantasy and science fiction. Even as an adult when I read the first book so many years ago I was immediately gripped into the children's world of suspense and excitement. Now I have my own set and can read them again and again as I always love to do with my favourite books.

22 Dec 2009

trip to Langkawi

The jetty at Porto Malai, Langkawi

The Langkawi trip had been planned for some time because Repin wanted to use up his Leisure Holiday points. We didnt use the points for two years already and by next year it would be considered void so finally we decided to go to Langkawi during the Awal Muharam break. That was a really bad idea because the highway was very congested even though we travelled at night, after the Isyak prayers. We arrived at the Gunung Semanggol rest area late at night (1.00am actually) and decided to stay there for the night. Room rates were cheap - RM59.90 per room! It wasnt anything much -just the basics but we were only going to sleep there until morning. We pushed off for Langkawi after breakfast at 9 am.

The Kuala Kedah Jetty was really overcrowded. No place to park even and Repin had to park quite far away - with the help of the parking attendants who drove him to the car park. There were no more tickets for the 11.30am ferry so we took the next one - 12.30pm.

The ferry was okay I guess, quite comfortable and the journey took about 1 1/2 hours. But we had to wait a further one hour for the car which we had booked from Kuala Kedah. However by 3.00pm we were on the way to the Leisure Holiday apartment in Pantai Cenang. It's the same one we took 4 years ago when last we were there. Two bedrooms, a kitchen and dining area, sitting area and balcony facing the swimming pool. Not too bad a deal. After praying and a short lunch we all decided to go out for a drive round the island, more for Yatie's sake than ours because she had never been to Langkawi.

It's changed a lot this island. For one thing Pantai Cenang is now a real tourist hot spot - lots of tiny boutiques selling beach clothes and also other tropical wear, side walk cafes, bistros and restaurants to suit any budget - from the more expensive to the cheapest. It also looks a lot like Bali - a bit like the Kuta area. There are also one or two bookstores now - used books really - to cater to the tourists who want to laze about and read.

The roads are also better - more smooth and wider too so we drove all over the island. Wan took a lot of photos - photos of boats, beaches, shops but very few of us! We went to Dataran Helang and that too had changed. They look nicer somehow and there are more shops too in Kuah besides the old ones. In fact none of the wooden shops are there any longer. But I think this will be the last time I come here during a national holiday and the school holidays! If you want peace during your vacation, I'd advise you not to come here during this time too!

10 Dec 2009

Back in Singapore

I'm back again visiting my little grand daughter in Singapore - our very own two-year-old imp. Its not just visiting Sophia that I look forward to but Singapore itself. I've always admired its greenness and garden-like quality. Its true that Singapore is a very modern city but every time I come here I am drawn again and again to its beauty. Not just the huge trees that one can see everywhere along the roads (and which are decidely absent in many of Malaysia's towns) but also the mature trees in all its housing estates. The huge rain trees along the roads are well maintained and there are flowers everywhere, mainly bougainvilea. It's not that Malaysia is so different in climate and terrain that we cannot have the same trees and the same flowers. But Malaysia does not not appreciate a tree, or at least I think the government does not. What ever trees we have in Kuala Lumpur are always cut and destroyed - to make way for roads, for new housing developments and for the ubiquitous plantations. Unlike Singapore, we cut down trees like its nobody's business but our own and for what - to widen a hitherto narrow road!

And of course the bonus is to be with my little chatter box of a grand daughter. Sophia is now two and a bit, and getting to be very talkative and interesting. She's very imaginative and can tell you stories about her Totoro ( a Japanese soft toy) about everyday activities in her own life and about her parents. Listening to her talk I am amazed that she can use words like difficult, wonderful, hexagon, showerhead. She loves jigsaw puzzles and can do a 30 or 40 piece puzzle in minutes. She has this big puzzle of Totoro with Mei and Satsuki, which she enjoys doing with us. If I put a piece in wrongly,she'll tell me, " That's wrong nenek! That piece doesn't go there!" and she would put the piece in its right place. I think for a two year old she is very advanced. The other day she told me - "Nenek look we have a new showerhead! Mummy and me went to buy it and Kong Kong (her other grandfather on the Chinese side) fixed it for us!" She says things like " I'm going to the library, Nenek" and which 2 year old will tell you she's going to the library? I think only Sophia does that.
Sometimes while playing in the living room she'll run to the kitchen to see what Jona the Filipino helper is doing. Then she'll ask: "Are you okay Jona? Be careful when you use the knife!" sounding so adult you just had to laugh!

4 Dec 2009

walking tour of Melaka

The Queen Victoria Fountain built during the Jubilee anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign. In the background is the Stadthuys.

A view of the Malacca river from the bridge at Jonker Street