Thursday, July 21, 2011
Pak Pin the Kelantanese expatriate in Jeddah is rasing some fund for his Rumah Anak-anak Yatim dan Miskin in Kuala Krai, Kelantan. The hostel will be able to accommodate about 25 female students studying at an Islamic School nearby. Since Pak Pin has already spent a substantial sum of money on its construction, it is only right that others chip in to buy furnitures for the house which will also be the home of a live in warden to look after the students.
In his latest post on his blogsite "Bakpo~?" Pak Pin is raisng fund via selling almost all of the paintings that he bought from me since 2009. Read more of what he is offering at his blog HERE.
It is for a noble cause and for those with the extra money to spare, please chip in at the same time you will get to own one of my painting from his collection. The reward of pahala will be even bigger.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
It is necessary for me to delay the posting of the final part of The Trip Down Memory Lane in order to accommodate this post about the visit of this illustrious son of Kelantan who is now currently working in Jeddah but came back to Malaysia for a family business and a short holiday in Singapore. They once lived there. Pakpayne as I first knew with his blog Bakpo~? is also known as Pak Pin or just Pp.
I had enticed him to come to Pasir Mas for a home cooked lunch/dinner even before he left the shore of Saudi Arabia. I have something to pass to him and it would be most convenient should he dropped in to say hello and stay on for lunch or dinner.
A message on Facebook from him inquiring whether he could drop in on 11th July 2011 was answered in the affirmative by joyous me. This generous man deserve the best treatment from me as he had been instrumental in motivating me to be a painter after Zendra of Zendra's Fascinations spurred me on with her purchase of my first painting even before it was done. How not to be motivated when Pak Pin ordered 10 paintings in one go and paid for them in cash up front even before I have completed even half the numbers? This man really had faith in me though I only became a painter sometime in August 2009.
We had known each other in the blogosphere and we met for the first time only in August 2008 when we had a mini gathering of bloggers in Kota bharu where Puteri Campbell and Family dropped by into Kota Bharu enroute home for the US after visiting her parents in Sarawak. The late Captain Yusoff Ahmad of The Ancient Mariner with three other friends and Adawwiyah Abid, who is another blogger was in attendance too.
Painting came into my life only in August 2009 about a year after we met, so I gather he doesn't have any inkling at all on how well or how bad my work can be. Back then I thought he was just being charitable because Pak Pin was buying paintings on the net at auctions. The paintings he was buying and selling cost more than USD500 each and most of them are the works by established world class artists. Well lucky me as I have him as my patron who in a way encourages me to be a painter.
In all Pak Pin has 11 paintings of mine gracing the walls of his home in Taman Melati, Gombak.
To commemorate his visit to my home I gave him a painting of Sawah Padi with a backdrop of Bukit Panau, the famous hillock that forms the benchmark for all land survey work in Kelantan. Bukit Panau is visible from the house where Pak Pin grew up in Pangkal Kalong, Kemubu with his late single mum as a young boy during his primary school days.
Pak Pin receiving 'Sawah Padi' from me as a token of my appreciation for his visit and support.
Pak Pin and his family had lunch at our place. Since we had a small dining area with just a table for six, we let them have lunch first and we hang around to serve them. As En. Sahlan the owner and driver of the vehicle that they rented had just had his brunch, he declined to take lunch. The sixth seat at the table was taken up by our cousin Kamal who had been acquainted with Pak Pin during his days in Dubai where Kamal's company was doing some business there.
For the lunch we had a simple spread comprising mainly of 'daging singgang', my signature siakap sweet sour, fried fish, 'ikan tawar bakar' to go with the budu and ulam-ulam, young mango slices, sambal durian of the hottest kind, petai masak tumis with cockle flesh, fried 'ikan gelama sungai kering' and a watermelon fruit dish. Since the table was so small and everything was in two's, the table seemed overflowing with food and we had to take some out to accommodate the serving plate. Pak Pin's family are small eaters and they didn't consume much.
Before leaving the house, this couple gave me this perfume with the delicious scent.
Now it will be my favourite perfume as it is bereft of any alcohol.
On his previous visit to kelantan Pak Pin gave us this gold plated commemorative plate of Dubai which is proudly displayed on a cabinet in our main guestroom.
Such a precious gift.
After a short rest and after Puan Aishah and her mother had done the Zohor prayers, we moved on to Kamal's house to see Kamal's yet to be completed Bali styled house. (Please don't imagine it to be anywhere near as huge as the ex-Selangor MB's house though). Kamal had built his Bali styled home using mainly recycled building materials he collected from buildings torn down at project sites that his company was rebuilding. It is not so much on saving of costs that he uses these recycled material as transportation costs bringing them over from KL was high but he had managed to lay his hand on high quality heavy hard wood to suit his design. Kamal by training is not only an architect but also a quantity surveyor.
Pak Pin with Kamal as viewed from a wooden arch in the garden.
Pak Pin was so impressed with the style and he was broaching the idea of creating a cluster of such villas with a gated community for sale to the many Kelantanese living in Kuala Lumpur who yearns for a second home in their home state and be used when returning to visit family and friends. He has friends who are willing to buy them. This idea not only excited Kamal but yours truly as well. Just imagine a cluster of 8 Bali style villas will translate in quite a market for original paintings for the market hungry painters in Kelantan including yours truly.
I had brought over some durians which Pak Pin had earlier brought to my house but we didn't have the stomach to consume them at my house because of the lunch. They were the best of durians with a rich yellow, thick and sweet flesh. Pak Pin had bought them in Pasir Mas from an old mak cik without bothering to bargain as we normally does. With that kind of quality, it was a bargain at RM10 per kg.
It is not only the king of fruits but also the king of durians.
Enjoying durian on the wakaf.
Dreaming of our own Bali styled Villa. Pak pin will realize the dream but me?
Pak pin took this picture. Dunno which is his subject, the family members or the wakaf?
One for the album. from left, my wife Fatthiyah, Kamal's wife Safiah, Puan Aishah and her mother.
We drove on to Pasir Mas as Pak Pin has something to do with ustaz Mat Zin, the owner of one of the top Malay jeweler in town. I won't be surprised if Pak Pin is going to open a jewelery outlet somewhere one day as everything this man touches seems to turn into Gold.
Pak Pin and Puan Aishah, thank you for the visit and gifts.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Sri Garden Hotel Kangar.
We checked out of the hotel immediately after having our breakfast of nasi lemak at the hotel. Our inquiry with the receptionist indicated that even the more expensive rooms are equipped with the same bedding materials so we have no choice but to change hotel though I like the wifi facility so much.
Our destination today is Gua Kelam along the way to Padang Besar. The place is quite easy to find with sufficient road signs to show us the way. Though we had known that Gua Kelam is closed for repair due to a severe flooding of the cave at the end of March 2011 we decided to see the place non the less. Gua Kelam is wet cave with a swiftly running stream through it coming from the other side of the limestone hillock which is part of the Nakawan Range. A wooden boardwalk had been built from one end to the other providing a lighted passageway across. The flood had damaged the wooden boardwalks and they are now under repair which should be completed soon. They are scheduled to open tomorrow! What luck! How I wish we could stay for another day to walk into the cave after it’s reopening.
The entrance to the cave is at the end of the road and the 1000 steps to the top of the hillock is on the right of it.
The entrance with a river running through the whole cave system
A peek into the darkness of the cave.
There is also a gallery displaying artifacts found in another man made cave which was formed by tin miners. A mini train used to run from the top of the gallery to about 400 meters into the cave but the service was suspended after a serious accident happened when a group of youths rode it into the caves. According to the park ranger, the youths had behaved worse than monkeys that live around the area. The loaded train was being rocked by the youth riders to scare off their fellow riders. The carriage had broken off from the front driving loco which is made of a forklift driven by an electric motor. The coaches with the full load of passengers had ran backward slowing gaining momentum along the inclined rail and the riders had no way to jump down due to the tight space between the walls. The carriages stopped only when it hit the end steel barricade with more than sufficient force to injure some of them. Though no life was lost, the accident was serious enough for the park management to suspend the service.
The coaches of the train whose services is currently suspended.The section of the river from the cave entrance to the Gallery is well landscaped and is an ideal place for picnics. Ample and well maintained shelters with seats are available.
Fungi found growing at the base of a tree trunk.
For those agile and energetic enough can walk up the thousand steps for an exhilarating vista view from the top of the limestone outcrop. How I wish I am in my youths again to walk up those steps.
The wooden dulang found in the tin mine cave. This cave is purported to be the largest mining cave in the world.
We were told that there is a Pusat Latihan Khidmat Negara camp on the other side of the cave and we could drive over to the other side to see the opposite entrance via the camp. We were not keen to see the other entrance and decided to visit Wang Kelian instead.
Wang Kelian is another border entrance to Thailand. The road to Wang Kelian is via a torturous incline very much like the old route to Cameron Highlannds from Tapah. The only difference was it is being much shorter but much steeper accent.
Along the way we saw an uninhabited housing area which seems to be a big mistake for the developer. There is no sign to indicate who is the foolish developer. Another white elephant along the way was a bazaar with just a couple of shops being opened without a shopper in sight.
The white elephant with just two shops open. This bazaar may thrive occasionally when the peak tourist season that is the school holidays is on.We returned to the main road to Padang Besar and headed straight for Padang Besar.
Just like Bukit Kayu Hitam, Padang Besar is a busy entry point to Malaysia not only for passenger vehicles but for good laden heavy vehicles.
We headed straight for the Bazaar where most outlets stock cheap goods from Thailand. Here you can find large ‘Deuter’ bag packs at below RM100. So are many other branded T shirts and shoes, all going for a song compared to the price for ‘originals’ displayed in many outlet in posh shopping complex. I doubt many of us could differentiate between the fakes and the originals and for all we know it maybe the same products.
I had a bowl of ‘pulut pauh’ glutinous rice with sweetened coconut milk accompanied by slices of sweet Thai mango at a warong beside the bazaar to tide my hunger.
Inside the main bazaar.As is in most border towns in Malaysia, the selling items are those that depict something from Thailand. In this instance it is Hard Rock Cafe, Bangkok. Why not Hard Rock Cafe Kuala Lumpur?
Here branded 'Deuter' backpack costing below RM100 are available.
We returned to our car to drive back to Kangar. Along the way we stopped at Tasoh Resort. This resort is located on the fringe of the Timah Tasoh Reservoir, a splendid resort but in a state of degradation. I guess poor business is depriving this resort from retaining its splendour and glory. A restaurant by the lake side shows signs that it is only operational in the evening.
Passing through Kangar, we drove onward to Kuala Perlis to check on a hotel that is offering rooms at a promotional rate of RM98 per night without breakfast. We had a slight problem locating the hotel as it did not display any name on the rear of the building though it was clearly visible from the town.
I should have checked this small hotel which claim to provide bedsheet with 280 thread count and not only wifi but wired internet. Their standard room cost only RM85 during off peak season.
The wifi connection at Putra Berasmana Hotel was bad. I couldn’t get any access at all though the wifi connection strength was OK. With that failure, I decided to rest my tired body. The lack of sleep the previous night due to poor bedding clearly showed it on the both of us.
After a shower and a nap and it was still early afternoon, we decided to visit a family friend in Arau which is about 20 kms from Kuala Perlis. Tuan Haji Shuib and Puan Latifah was on an Umrah package with us in April 2011. Tuan Haji Shuib had to be admitted to a hospital in Mecca when he vomited blood after performing the Shaie. He was suspected to be suffering from stomach ulcer. By the time we finished our Umrah, Tuan haji Shuib had recovered pretty well to travel back to Malaysia where his children took him to a private hospital in Damansara for further treatment.
We reached Arau and purposefully stopped in front of Istana Arau and called Tuan Haji Shuib. He told us to wait there as he will arrive in 14 minutes. Half an hour later we reached Haji Shuib’s residence in Taman Jejawi mere 5 kms away from Kangar! We should have contacted Tuan Haji Shuib while we were in Kangar which we didn’t. Taman Jejawi is located between Kangar and Arau in the district of Arau.
We had so much to talk about and Tuan Haji Shuib who was a former teacher and headmaster had so much to share about his teaching days.
My request to take leave to return to my hotel in Kuala Perlis was vetoed out as he wanted us to take to dinner at a nearby restaurant a short distance from his home. Puan Latipah was fasting for that day. Steamed siakap, chicken tomyam, beef soup and fried egg stuffed with some condiments was extremely delicious.
We left for our hotel immediately after dinner. Tonight we need all the rest we could get to prepare for tomorrow which will be a drive to Prai with a stopover at Tuan Haji Zakaria’s place in Gurun.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
We booked our hotel room at Sentosa Regency Room in Alor Setar online via Agoda the hotel booking site while we were in Pasir Mas. I have come to trust Agoda as the provider of the cheapest booking site and managed to get our room at RM108 per night, inclusive of tax the total came to RM275 for two nights averaging RM137.50. So when we checked in, our room was there.
Sentosa Regency Hotel Alor Setar is within the town area and has a very large room and an equally large bathroom attached to it. They could easily halved the size of the bathroom and saved on space. I wonder why the architect didn’t think of that when they design the hotel rooms. Anyway I have no complain about the room other than that the wifi failed me on the second day. I guess there was line congestion as there was a course going on at that hotel on the second day of my stay.
Our plan for the second day in Alor Setar was to do Bukit Kayu Hitam in the morning and do the Pekan Rabu in the afternoon. Later in the evening we had a friend Tuan haji Zakaria and his wife joining us for dinner. Tuan Haji Zakaria and Kak Asmah had been with us on our European Tour sometime in 2011 and were very happy when we informed them that we will be in their state of Kedah. Though they live in Gurun further south, they were willing to come down to Alor Setar to meet us.
The visit to Bukit Kayu Hitam.
When we lived in Felda Sungai Tiang in 1980, the shortest way back to Kelantan from Kedah was via the border check point of Bukit Kayu Hitam through Thailand. After Bukit Kayu Hitam, we wiill pass by Sadao, Patani, exiting at Sungai Golok and Rantau Panjang in Kelantan is just across the river. The other way hoe was via the East West Highway and off course we had to negotiate the torturous climbs and turns before reaching the highway entrance somewhere near Grik. So the route via Thailand was more of our choice especially when we have other friend going to Kelantan to keep us company.
Present day Bukit Kayu Hitam before the immigration and custom complex.
Bukit Kayu Hitam of today is much developed. Though it wasn't really much to see there, reading about glorious duty free shopping in the local travel magazine Libur that incensed my other half into wanting to visit this border town and I was just accommodating her wish to go there.
The Bazaar Majlis Daerah Kubang Pasu.
The Duty Free outlet.
Bought a folding mosquito net as a token purchase at an equally visitorless BazaarBukit Kayu Hitam.
Extended lorries bringing in cattles from Thailand. Such lorries must be more cost effective as only a single engine can transfer double the load.
Since it wasn’t the tourist season, we found the bazaars and duty free shops in Bukit Kayu Hitam to be deserted. In the end we didn’t buy much to justify the visit to this town. Before noon we headed back to Alor Setar for a simple lunch at Pekan Rabu and some small shopping. Here I found a mortar and pestle made of marble which I wanted to use as a decorative item.The staircases of Pekan Rabu
Inside Pekan Rabu.
Mat Kelantan doing business in Pekan Rabu Kedah.Our friend Haji Zakaria and spouse came to our hotel to pick us up in the afternoon. After a short drive around town we ended up at Zakaria Laksa Telok Kechai on the road to Kuala Kedah for our first taste of Kedah Laksa. The similarity in name was just coincidental. Though my friend Haji Zakaria wanted us to try the special mee udang, we just can’t wait to savour laksa Kedah since we didn’t manage to do it on the first day. I did a second helping and insisted on some cut up chilly padi as the first plate was devoid of the zing of hot chili padi that should be the real taste of laksa.The name of the eatery was just coincidental.
Tuan Haji Zakaria and Kak Asmah sandwiched between yours truly and wife Fatthiyah.
We stopped at this mosque along Jalan Pegawai for Asar prayers.
Pekan Melayu on the right and Pekan Cina on the left.
We entered the old Alor Setar town passing under an arch with an indication that Pekan Cina is on the left and Pekan Melayu is on the right. I didn't manage to check whether there are still Malays plying their trade in that section. Tuan haji Zakaria told me that there is a small budget hotel there belonging to a Malay.
Mesjid Zakhir in the midst of Alor Setar town.
Some crystals of brownish hue.
Crytals mounted in a flat shallow vase with crystal chippings at the base.
The Muzium Padi from afar.
When we reached Muzium Padi, it was way past the visiting hours. Given the immense size of the building and Haji Zakaria’s insistence that the place is worth a visit, we were determined to come back on our own the next day.
We parted ways with Tuan haji Zakaria and Kak Asmah after they dropped us off at our hotel with the promise that we will be calling on them at their house in Gurun on our way to Penang after doing Perlis.
We slept early on the second night at the hotel as I failed to get an internet access though I had an excellent connection with the wireless router. I guess the lines at the hotel was congested. The second posting can wait.
We rise early for the Subuh prayers and continue with our sleep after performing the prayers. By 8.00 AM we were down for our complimentary breakfast. Breakfast was great except for the lack of fresh juice because the hotel only provided cordial drink and soya bean juice which wasn’t my choice.
By 9.00 AM we were already checked out.
While we were in Felda Sungai Tiang, Cikgu Mahathir had told us that their former headmaster at Sekolah Kebangsaan Felda Sungai Tiang is still alive and living in Alor Setar near a Chinese School along the road to Kuala Kedah. The way to locate his house is to look for a green roofed house.
True enough there were two green houses. The first one was the wrong house as the two young kids left at home by their parents couldn't recall the name of their grandparents. Unfortunately when we arrived at the second green roofed house, nobody was in the house. I was confident that it was the residence of Cikgu Hashim but he was not in. We were on the verge of walking to our car when a car drove into the house compound. We could immediately recognize it was Cikgu Hashim though he couldn't recognize any of us even after getting a hug from me.
His wife Kak Yam was away at their daughters place as the daughter is still in confinement.
Fatthiyah with her former headmaster.Though he is already 80 years old, frail looking Cikgu hashim is in the best of health and devoid of such ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or kidney problem often associated with the elderly. His secret to good health? He lives a frugal life. Using his own words "saya makan macam orang miskin".(He eats like a pauper) He eats little and avoiding the fatty food. He will buy the freshest fish that are yet to added with preservative such as formaldehyde which is becoming a common practice among fishmongers. He will try as far as possible to eat chemical free vegetables and fruits by buying the worst looking ones in terms of pest attack for leafy vegetables and the smallest watermelon for fear that the big ones are chemical laden from the heavy use of fertilizers.
After another hug, we took leave telling him that we are heading for Kangar Perlis with a stopover Kg. Sungai Baru where Gunung Keriang and Muzium PADI is located. Cikgu Hashim specifically told us to look for Alor Janggus and take the right turn but we took an earlier turn when we saw the sign showing Gunung Keriang.
Upon reaching Gunung Keriang, we headed for the Gunung Keriang recreational park with the intention of buying some crystals which we didn't buy when we visited the place with Haji Zakaria earlier. This time we bought a piece together with a kilogram of the white crystal chippings.
Upon returning home to Pasir Mas this is how the crystal look.
Muzium Padi is on the other side of Gunung Keriang. A short drive took us there.
The spiral cavelike staircase to the top of 'Gunung Keriang'
The view from 'the top of Gunung Keriang' based on the paintings by some North Koran artists.
Padi seed samples from all over the world is displayed.
Equipments related to rice production on display.
Scenes of the rice growing areas in Kedah painted by some Koran artists.
After the muzium padi we headed to our next destination, Kangar Perlis by passing the Pusat Sains nearby the Muzium Padi.
We didn’t do any prior booking of any room in Kangar assuming that rooms in Kangar are easy to come by. Right smack in town we saw this hotel by the name of Sri Garden Hotel with a vacant parking bay right by its entrance. We booked into a room and since I irequested for a room with very strong wifi signal, I was given room 103 with the wifi router right smack opposite the room door. Connection was very good and I was very happy with it.
The Sri Garden Hotel where we stayed on the first day in Kangar.That afternoon we decided to visit Taman Ular in Sungai Batu Pahat. The famous harum manis mango farm was also along the way so it will be like hitting two birds with one stone. Harum Manis is the best local variety of mango in term of sweetness, texture and color. Unfortunately it was past its season which ended in mid June. I can’t find a single fruit to taste and I was later told by a friend that if there is any harum manis on sale, they are not the true variety they they are being sold at an astronomical price of RM15 per kg.
On the way to Taman Ular Fatthiyah remembered Cikgu Mahathir from Sungai Tiang telling us to visit Cikgu Asmah who had opened up a Kopitiam by the name of MaiCafe. He said it was easy to find if I could locate Mesjid Putra on the right side of the road after taking the road to Padang Besar. MaiCafe was visible immediately after we made the turn to the right. Asmah and Fatthiyah had stayed together in the bachelors quarters together with another two friends during her teaching days in Felda Sungai Tiang. When I changed job and relocated to Besut, Trengganu, her transfer couldn’t be effected immediately and she had to stay on till the end of the year, while I left Sungai Tiang with the three young children.
We were invited to dinner and agreed to visit the cafe by 7.00 PM.
Upon reaching Taman Ular, we were quite surprised to see quite a sizable number of visitors there given that it wasn’t really the tourist season and it was a Wednesday. Some minor renovations were going on with a covered walkway with concrete paving being constructed. This is something good really. We did the gallery and were amazed at both the living and preserved specimen on display. With excellent write up, we learn more about these reptiles and thus recommend to all visitors as a must see on anybody’s visit list to Perlis.
Preserved specimen in the gallery.
Live specimen of an albino python
Live King Cobra in their hut.
A beautiful lansdsape pond with a few kois in pool.
It was 6.45 PM when we left the hotel for MaiCafe located near Mesjid Putra.
Asmah was there to greet us. It was a sight to see as old friends get to meet again after 30 years. Cikgu Mahathir had told us that Asmah had been asking about Fatthiyah and this visit was just like an answer to her callings.
Two old friends meeting again after 30 years.
MaiCafe is tastefully decorated. The owner had traveled extensively to find ideas for the décor of the place. The husband did much of the décor himself had saved MaiCafe with lots of expenses. Though the café is an open air café, an air-conditioned section is available for those who wants privacy. With 2 experienced chefs working with her and a total work force of 21 staffs, MaiCafe is in serious business in the food business. One of the chefs is an ex Sheraton chain of hotels who prefer to work in Kangar than the world capitals even at lower pay, MaiCafe can only prosper. Their prices are way below the price of the same if they were to be served in the five star hotels. Even the Perlis Royalties who incidentally own the premise dines at MaiCafe which serve authentic western dishes using the finest china and cutlery. The chef had insisted that only the premise and price can be different but the food and presentation must be the same as those that are served at any Sheraton Hotels. So there you are, the best at less than half the price.
Unique interior decoration for MaiCafe.
The chicken dish recconmended by Asmah for Fatthiyah while I dug in my delicious lamb chop in black pepper sauce.
Khairul Syafic is the manager while the younger brother is the assistant. Both are graduates but prefer to be in business rather than be stuck to a 9 to 5 jobs.
For reservations please call the manager Khairul Syafic bin Baharudin at 012-4199772 who incidentally is Puan Asmah’s son together with another brother who chose to work there immediately after their graduation from courses in Accountancy and the other in Business Management.
Cikgu Asmah, thanks for the dinner.
We didn’t have a good rest at the hotel that night. The stiff spring bed didn’t help as the covering material was too thin and we could feel the steel spring on our body. We decided to change hotels the next day.