Friday, April 12, 2019

Ipoh, Perak - Nava K Discovery (Day 1)


Back on the road again after lunching and “Gaharu Tea Valley, Gopeng being our first sightseeing spot. Honestly, to tell you the truth, I had no clue whatsoever what to expect. In fact, I was under the impression that its gonna be another kinda standard tea plantation. Of course, a tea valley alright, but tea made from tea leaves of Gaharu/Agarwood trees. Trees at their infant stage and those already matured. In a huge slopping up and down area and where we embarked on a guided van tour which included two stops at different heights for a higher up view from up there and for seeing what's housed within this valley. Thereafter, once we returned to the entrance, we sampled the freshly brewed tea and we couldn't also resist picking up a packet or two of Hoga Gaharu tea. Said as tea for health and I must stress that, tea tasting pretty smooth and lovely as well.     

Subsequently, from Gaharu Tea Valley to Kellie's Castle, Batu Gajah. The unfinished ruined mansion, built by Scottish planter William Kelly-Smith and if you don't know, lemme tell you that, Kellie's Castle is listed as one of the hauntings in Malaysia. Ohhhhhhh! By any chance, did  I bump into Kellie or anyone else who have joined him in heaven or hell? No. Seriously, no. But heading from one section to the other, and till the roof top alone during this quiet weekday, while every now and then, passing by one or two people? Trust me, goose bumps. That eerie feeling? Quite a ruckus scary thing actually. Otherwise, all is fairly great wondrous in this historical site, and where you can put your hand-phone or camera to good use by posing over and over, again and again for impressing your Instagram followers.  

Next stop? Taman Herba, Batu Gajah. Well, me the plant lover who insisted on seeing and digesting the facts to the various types of our Malaysian herbs. Pretty much, for me personally, an appreciated knowledge and learning thirsting visit for which you have to pay and whether you are apt for exercising your legs by walking further inside or you prefer driving through this huge nature area before existing out.   

Half an hour,  more or less in Taman Herba, before we arriving in Casuarina Meru. Booked via Agoda there and then instead of prior booking due to wanting to grab the best deal for the day. Excluding buffet breakfast though. Our room? Like any other in other reputable hotels. Clean, well maintained, ample space for two and equipped with the necessary toiletries and beverages we Malaysians always expect. Wifi on the other hand? Duh! A sad case. Crawling at its own slow speed. Thank god for my mobile data.

20 minutes for freshening up, off we left prior to stepping foot in Ipoh town by 6.00pm. Some leisure walking within as far as we could, followed by dinner in Restoran Tauge Ayam Lou Wong. Food definitely didn’t disappoint us. Ipoh Tauge and Ipoh Chicken Rice in Ipoh? A must try right? Sure. Indeed, a satisfying meal, but paying almost RM150.00 for the three of us? Honestly, we really thought it was a rip off for ½ chicken, fish ball soup, tauge soy sauce, liver soy sauce, rice and a bowl of dessert. Anyway, what could have possibly been the outcome since we have already tucked in instead of prior checking how much, roughly we will be paying? Damn! One of those con job billing I suppose. Especially if you are a tourist or because you are different skin color?

After dinner, we started walking again. This time, in and out of the shops selling cakes and food stuffs. Grabbing a few pieces of the baked goodies, we returned to the hotel before showering and calling it a night.  

Friday, April 5, 2019

Pachai Sundakkai Kulambu (Fresh Turkey Berry Curry)

Fresh turkey berries, also known as wild eggplant or terung pipit among Malaysians like myself, are a delightful ingredient in many dishes. Growing up with Malay neighbors, I've developed a deep love for Malay cuisine, often calling turkey berries by their Malay name, terung pipit.

These berries are not only enjoyed in raw salads, known as ulam, dipped in a spicy sauce, but also shine in cooked dishes. My first attempt at a stir-fried turkey berry dish was a success, and I'll share that recipe after introducing you to Pachai Sundakkai Kulambu (Fresh Turkey Berry Curry).

Monday, March 25, 2019

Kochi, Kerala: The Kaleidoscope of Experiences

From the historic St. Francis Church (KOCHI: PEELING THE LAYERS), we navigated through the bustling traffic and finally arrived at the enchanting Kumbalangi Chinese Fishing Village. Kumbalangi, India's first model tourism village, captivates visitors with its iconic "cheena vala" – the Chinese fishing nets that grace its serene backwaters. Introduced by Chinese traders centuries ago, these nets offer a mesmerizing glimpse into Kerala's traditional fishing practices. The village thrives on a harmonious blend of rustic charm and sustainable tourism, inviting visitors to engage with the local fishing community and witness traditional crafts like coir making and crab farming.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Kochi, Kerala: Peeling Back the Layers of History

In another half hour (TRIRUVANANTHAPURAM), we would be in Kochi. During that time, a demure, sweet, middle-aged Keralite lady tour guide joined our van. Without any prompting, she began sharing the significance of Kochi. Also known as Cochin, it’s a major port city on the southwest coast of India in Kerala. Historically referred to as the "Queen of the Arabian Sea," Kochi has been a bustling center of trade and commerce since ancient times, drawing traders from Europe, Arabia, and China. 

Its strategic location and natural harbor have made it a melting pot of cultures, contributing to its diverse heritage. Kochi is also famed for its vibrant maritime history, being home to one of India's oldest European settlements, and it remains a vital hub for shipping and international trade (COLOMBO & KANDY SRI LANKA).

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala: Beyond the Ordinary

Before we headed to Kochi later in the day, our morning was dedicated to some sightseeing in Thiruvananthapuram (UNCOVERING UNEXPECTED DISCOVERIES) The previous day, we had taken a delightful (ALLEPPEY OVERNIGHT) detour from our itinerary, but today we were all about sticking to the plan. Our day started off around 10 am at the awe-inspiring Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. This majestic temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is renowned for its rich history, breathtaking Dravidian architecture, and staggering wealth. 

Established in the 18th century by Travancore Maharaja Marthanda Varma, the temple showcases the deity in a rare "Anantha Shayanam" posture, reclining gracefully on the serpent Anantha. Of course, its international fame skyrocketed with the discovery of hidden treasures worth billions, firmly securing its place as one of the world's richest temples.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala: Uncovering Unexpected Discoveries

Our journey in Kerala began with a splendid and blissful cruise through the backwaters (ALLEPPEY HOUSEBOAT OVERNIGHT), followed by a four-hour drive to Thiruvananthapuram. This coastal capital nestled by the Arabian Sea is a vibrant cultural hub steeped in history and tradition, known for its rich heritage, educational institutions, and bustling markets - a blend of modern comforts and old-world charm waiting to be explored (COLOMBO & GALLE SPOTS).

As we traveled, I couldn't help but marvel at the serene natural beauty - tranquil paddy fields, towering mountains, and the peaceful village life offered a refreshing break from city bustle. Along the way, we made a delightful pit stop at a roadside stall, enjoying Kerala's Masala Chai and snacks like freshly fried vadai and Palam Puri (Kerala Banana Fritters). 

While the chai warmed our hearts, the vadai was good, but let's be honest - nothing compares to our Malaysian Pisang Goreng! (Maybe Keralites need to visit Malaysia for tips on achieving that perfect crispy outside and soft inside!) Just kidding!

After continuing our journey, we arrived at Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel & Spa in Thiruvananthapuram around 1:30 pm for an overnight stay. After dropping our bags in our fourth-floor room, we quickly headed to "The Courtyard" for a delightful buffet lunch overlooking the pool. Despite some dishes running low, the flavors of Kerala cuisine shone through, making it a truly satisfying meal.

Following our city tour of Thiruvananthapuram, passing by notable landmarks such as the Kuthiramalika Palace, Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Napier Museum, and Sree Chitra Art Gallery - though the names were somewhat uncertain - we opted, on our guide's suggestion, for the "Poovar Backwater Cruise" instead. Despite initially likening it to our experience in Alleppey, we decided to give it a go and found ourselves swiftly boarding the boat.


The cruise unfolded into a mesmerizing journey through green waters winding amidst mangrove forests and serene villages, including Poovar Village - a quaint coastal settlement near the southern tip of Thiruvananthapuram. It was a perfect opportunity to sit back and marvel at the well-preserved local flora, adorned with countless spices, exotic birds, and vibrant flowers. Lush banana and coconut groves passed by, whichever that caught our attention along the way.

The cruise also included a delightful 20-minute stopover at Golden Sand Beach overlooking the Arabian Sea, where we couldn't resist reliving our childhood memories, basking in the sun and enjoying the moment of "Poovar Backwater Cruise."

Continuing our boat ride, we caught sight of Pozhiyoor Church at the mouth of the Neyyar River near Poovar, although we didn't get a chance to visit. However, the highlight of our excursion felt almost like a legendary achievement: as we navigated the Neyyar River, our guide pointed out the spot where India meets Sri Lanka, separated only by a narrow stretch of water. We were mesmerized by this unique geographical feature, observing locals along the coastline engaged in everyday activities like washing clothes. It was a truly captivating moment that resonated deeply with my love for history.

Opting for the Poovar Backwater Cruise turned out to be an excellent decision, and we were grateful to our driver for the recommendation when he returned to pick us up. Next, we headed to Kovalam Beach to witness the sunset.


However, the experience at Kovalam Beach on a crowded Sunday was a bit overwhelming. The narrow streets leading to the beach were jammed, delaying our arrival, and the bustling beach filled with locals made me uneasy as many stared at me while I tried to approach the water. Feeling uncomfortable, I stepped back and found a quieter spot to enjoy the coastline and watch the sunset. Although not a pivotal moment, it added another memorable layer to our Kerala trip.

Next change: Kochi.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Kerala - Alleppey Houseboat Overnight Stay

When visiting Kerala, one can't overlook the allure of an Alleppey Houseboat experience (HOKKAIDO WINTER & NOBORIBETSU). It was our inaugural escapade into Kerala, having arrived the previous evening in Kochi, settling in with a night's rest and a hearty buffet breakfast. Promptly greeted by our driver, we embarked on our journey to the Alleppey Houseboat, eagerly anticipating our overnight stay.

Docked near Vazhicherry Bridge on VCNB Road, Alappuzha, the houseboat stood out from afar - a quintessential Kerala "Kettuvallam," blending traditional charm (COLOMBO & NUWARA ELIYA) with modern comforts. Originally designed as cargo vessels with bamboo, coconut fiber, and palm leaf thatch, these houseboats now offer travelers a luxurious glimpse into Kerala's backwaters.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Hokkaido - Japan: Winter Wanderlust

Our final day in Hokkaido (OTARU) began with a bitter twist. Winter had truly settled in, halting all sightseeing plans. Heavy snowflakes blanketed everything, bringing with them the news that our flight might be cancelled. Secretly, I hoped for more snow, longing for an extra day in this winter wonderland. My hopeful grin drew laughter from the group (NOBORIBETSU).

The greatest disappointment was the cancellation of our visit to the Okurayama Viewing Point, the 1972 Winter Olympic Games ski jumping venue. As someone who relishes visiting iconic spots, this news hit hard, like a sharp arrow piercing my heart. Also cancelled was the panoramic view of Sapporo city from the mountain peak and the visit to the serene Sapporo Shrine in Maruyama Park. No sightseeing at all. It felt like an explosion in my head, shattering my excitement.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Otaru: Nostalgic Winter

Totally crashed out from the previous day's whirlwind of activities and snow fun in Sapporo (SAPPORO WHAT AWAITS), I slept like a log until the alarm blared, signaling the start of another adventure-filled day (HOKKAIDO). Today, we were heading to Otaru, and despite my excitement, a wave of sentimentality hit me - only two days left before heading home. 

It's a familiar feeling that always accompanies the end of my travels, a longing for more adventures instead of returning to the grind. But reality bites; I need to work and save before planning the next holiday. Given the choice, I'd travel 365 days a year. As I showered, I mentally calculated how long it would take to save for my next trip. Once dressed, I joined the group for the buffet breakfast.

A Taste of Burma: Masoor Dal and More Lentil Delights

Lentils and dal are essential staples in my kitchen, celebrated globally ( PERTH CULINARY EXPERIENCES ) for their versatility and nutritiona...