Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Strike Session with Adam Page (28th July 2009)

It has been 3 days since I came back, still feeling hazed and wake up uncertain where I am. Probably due to too much running around the last 2 weeks and now my brain is confused which country I'm currently in. Well, reality hits me rather quickly from the hazy state when I see myself in flannel pajamas and woollen socks. Oh...I'm back in cold, windy Wellington...Definitely NOT 'on holiday' anymore!

Didn't think much has changed in this town while I was away. Work is still the same with most of my colleagues MIA (Missing In Action) this week as they are away on training or have fallen sick. Surprisingly, the weather has been fairly warm and sunny. Oh my god, does this mean the coldest days in winter are over?! I sure hope so! Having spent 3 weeks in warmer countries, I do feel the chill, sunny day or not.

Haven't been feeling very sociable since my return (just tired out from my trip) so spent most of my non-working time hiding at home, unpacking and re-organising my stuff. Started my 5.30am exercise routine again this week. So far successfully dragged myself out of bed to swim/gym when it's still pitch-black outside. Hope I can last the week - already feel a head cold coming. Sigh...

Caught up with James for lunch on Monday and oh my god, he shaved off his moustache and goatee - I could hardly recognise him!! Took several years off him, that's for sure :P

Bought myself a ticket to see Strike Session with Adam Page at Downstage Theatre this evening. Cost me $37 which was a special offer price for those who have seen either Strike or Adam Page previously (and I've seen both). Frankly, I do not have high expectations of this collaboration since Strike is a percussion group that plays a somewhat classical-contemporary mix while Adam Page is an improvisation genius that plays jazzy-hip hop type music. Rather at 2 different ends of the music genre scale and my musical brain cells kind of tells me it's not going to sound all that great. Well, I've got to see it for myself to make a fair judgement.

I had a stall seat, 2nd row from the stage. A bit close for my liking but I didn't really mind. The show started at 6.30pm with Strike performing the opening act. Many of the songs/acts performed by Strike reminded me of their show I attended last year. And as I clearly recalled, they played with great enthusiasm, drumming on their instruments and gadgets which was exactly what they did again this time, only to my disappointment, they had not learnt the skills of noise control. The theatre is small and with them banging and clanging away plus having the sounds amplified in the arena, it was deafening noise and gave me a headache. I could hardly hear Adam Page playing on his saxaphone when he was up on stage with the Strike members!

There were a few new faces in the Strike group I haven't seen before. Wondered if the 2 youngers ones were learners playing in the show for the night (I remembered reading somewhere, maybe an events newsletter, that you could learn how to play percussion with Strike and perform with them). If they were, they played really well with the others in the group, especially the young man who showcased his talents on a drum set, imitating Adam Page's saxaphone tunes. The other key highlight of the show was when Adam Page sat down with members from Strike and they started a beer can clap game - a real joy to watch how quick their hands went, clapping and passing the beer cans creating a tune until someone gets out of sync :)

After a 20-minute interval, Adam Page kicked off the 2nd part of the show. He is definitely a world-class performer - the sound system was perfect, he's got real talent in music improvisation (no one show is identical) and great at interacting with the audience, all of which Strike has much to learn from to get to such a level. I've to say, Adam Page is better off performing on his own. Even though I've seen how he used props like the kumara and beer bottle in his show, he still gets me smiling and bobbing my head to his awesome tunes. Of course, he got the audience to sing and hum as well to add to his music loops. I love watching him perform - he's such a comedian yet blows me away with how he can mix and match tunes to create a whole song at such ease.

The final performance was one where the audience were invited to come up to the stage while both Strike and Adam Page performed their last song. Yes, everyone squeezed in between the lights, cables, instruments and performers - all in all an interesting experience because you could actually feel the energy oozing out of the performers (I could also feel the floor vibrating as Strike played on the drums).

The show ended around 8.30pm. Time for me to head home and make myself some dinner!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Another day of food and beauty treatments (8th July 2009)

Got up this morning to have breakfast with Dad at the former bus station off Jalan Omar. Once a busy bus station, today this place is filled with rows of little shops, mostly selling hawker food, and is rather quiet and bare during the day. Oh, but when night falls, this place is packed with youngsters and families out having a late night supper – bustling with people and at times you have to stand around waiting for a free table!

Dad brought me to the kopitiam (the Hokkien term for breakfast and coffee shop in Southeast Asia) which he and Mum frequents where I had two soft-boiled eggs (the way kopitiams serve soft-boiled eggs is by cracking them into a saucer/bowl to which soy sauce and/or pepper is added), nasi lemak (Malaysia’s national dish of coconut rice, hot spicy sauce aka sambal, cucumber slices, small dried anchovies or ikan bilis, roasted peanuts and hard boiled egg, served wrapped up in banana leaves) and coffee. “Oh my god, how do you eat this Dad??!” I wailed, after taking a spoonful of the nasi lemak that was literally coconut rice and a gigantic dollop of sambal – it was SO spicy! My spice tolerance obviously has gotten weaker over the years living in NZ. “Not spicy at all!” said Dad, who helped himself to the sambal I scooped aside from my breakfast. Grr…

The whole reason why Dad dragged me out of bed for breakfast here this morning was so he could show me this man he and Mum agreed looked a lot like my younger brother. According to my parents, the Andin-lookalike also frequents this kopitiam and Dad reckons we would get to see him this morning – Dad was on the lookout for the said man and true enough, he turned up for breakfast just a few tables away. And I have to agree with my folks that he does look a lot like my brother, at a glance, that is. Andin will have to come here when he’s in town to check out his ‘twin’!

Strange as it may sound, I feel more and more like a tourist being back this time. Things I once knew of and that were familiar to me now feels foreign or a distant memory. How odd…Well, I won’t be driving in Batu Pahat, that’s for sure. It’s SO stressful sitting at the front passenger seat and watching my parents swerve through narrow lanes that are shared with other drivers, motorists, cyclists and pedestrians! How do the locals cope with their already stressful lives AND still put up with stress on the road? I’m not sure I can cope!

Went out shopping for clothes with Mum and did takeaway fish ball noodles from my favourite stall off Jalan Sultanah (opposite the old Cheng Siu Primary School) for lunch. This stall has been around for as long as I can remember, a place Mum and I would come by to buy lunch at least once a week during my university days, and we still do so every time I come back for the holidays :)

Got dropped off back at Fo & Fo Beauty Fitness Centre around 2pm for another hot chamber session. Managed to quickly snap a few photos while the attendant was away to show you what I was talking about yesterday:

Mum taking a photo of me sitting inside the hot chamber
The hot chamber is shaped like a large urn

Photo taken on my mobile phone of the hot chamber that
had a small opening/door for me to climb into

Another photo taken on my mobile of the stool with a towel draped on
where I sat for the past 30 minutes

After my hot chamber session today, I went upstairs for my facial appointment. I wasn't keen to have the facial done at the centre but the lady owner is a friend of Mum's and agreed it would be a one-off treatment which didn't require me coming back for more session or buy products so I agreed to it. Cost me RM210 and took about 3 hours long for the treatment which included opening up the pores to remove blackheads, face scrub and mask, shoulder and neck massage as well as having my face under some light. Frankly, it was not worth the time or money. For starters, the place was packed and reminded me of the hospital ward, only that the beds were placed quite close to each other, divided by curtains. There was a sales/marketing tape playing at the background and to make it worse, the other ladies beside me were answering their mobile phones, talking so loudly without care for the other customers. Definitely NOT the relaxing facial I had in mind. And to top it all off, I was told I had to purchase their antibacterial liquid (this is included in the RM210 payment) and apply it for the next 2 weeks as my face is now 'clean but exposed'. I'm sure you can tell I was not a happy chap knowing this, especially when it was agreed yesterday that this would be a one-off facial and that was it but now? I'm not impressed at all with the experience I had at the centre. Not sure I would consider going back there again for another facial.

Dinner tonight was at Hai Kee (Seaside) Hawker Centre, along Jalan Shahbandar by the river, and Andin arrived just in time to join us for outdoor steamboat dinner. The hawker centre is said to be the oldest and most frequented foodie place in Batu Pahat and has about 30 stalls selling different kinds of food including BBQ chicken wings, grilled fish or ikan bakar, sweet desserts and fruit juices, chicken rice, wonton noodles etc. Not sure if it was the rain or some religious day today but most stalls weren't opened so we only had steamboat and oh chien (Hokkien for fried oyster omelette). Photos taken at the hawker centre on my mobile:

View of stalls at the hawker centre from our table
Photo of Andin looking at the remains of our dinner
Thankfully it was quite cooling tonight or we would have been sweating while enjoying our steamboat! Oh, for those of you who haven't tried steamboat, it's pretty much a hot pot with broth that is kept simmering where ingredients such as an assortment of seafood, fish balls, mushrooms, leafy vegetables, thinly sliced meats, eggs, noodles etc. are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. We would often start with the meats as it would give the broth more taste and flavour as we continued cooking our food. Filling up the hot pot, the lid is closed to cook the food in the broth and once ready, we would scoop them out using our own ladles into bowls with or without the broth and usually have the cooked items with a hot sauce. And this ritual continues on until everyone has had enough. It's a great meal to have during cold winter days!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Hot chamber therapy & dinner with maternal grandparents (7th July 2009)

Ah-Kong, my maternal grandpa, came over to have coffee with me at home this morning. To me, he didn't really age much - still the same towering figure I always remembered since young and driving that old beat-up Mercedes of his (urm, how's his vision?? isn't he like 70+???). And some things just never change, like him insisting that I must marry a Chinese man. Right...There is absolutely no point arguing with him because I'll just end up getting an earful (yes, been there, done that, don't try again) :P

More shopping after breakfast with mum and dad, followed by 'bah kut teh' (literally translates to 'meat bone tea') for lunch in Taman Bukit Pasir. Yum! I miss this meaty pork rib dish that's simmered in Chinese herbs and spices. Definitely too hot for the weather here but I just love it! We had it served with yam rice and small side dishes of stir-fry sweet potato leaves, salted vegetable and vinegar pork trotters (a popular dish for women during confinement and very appetizing). Cost RM35 for the meal for 3 which barely feeds 1 in Wellington. SO cheap!

Brief stop with Mum to pick up Mama and headed over to her friend's boutique clothes shop in Kampung Merdeka. Hmm, didn't see anything I like there - not my style...Dropped Mama home and around 5pm, Mum and I headed to Fo & Fo Beauty Fitness Centre (also partially an Espressions International beauty centre) on Jalan Puteri for me to try their Hot Ceramic Chamber Health Therapy sessions. Mum had several free sessions from her full package so took me along to try it out. She had been emailing me about it before I came back, saying it was somewhat similar a sauna but I had to sit inside a chamber that looked like a large urn. Hmm...

The beauty centre only had 1 chamber so I went ahead for today's treatment while Mum just accompanied me. Before we started the therapy session, the beautician had me stand on a machine that measured not only my weight but also the amount of minerals like protein, fat, water and how fit I was. The result of the initial body check advised that I needed to lose 2kgs of fat and replace it with muscles! Really??!!

We then proceeded into the treatment room where I had to remove all my clothes and put on the disposable shower cap and underwear provided, then climbed into this massive pot/urn aka 'the chamber' which had a stool with a towel on it for me to sit on for the next 30 minutes. Once in, the beautician closed the small door of the chamber and placed a large semi-circle wooden plank to cover the top. All you could see was my head sticking out! The chamber was then turned up to 47 degrees Celcius but interestingly, the urn itself was not hot to the touch. I could feel lots of steam and water dripping from all over my body - not sure if it was just steam or a mixture with sweat from my pores. According to the DVD played for me while I was having the treatment, it is believed that the ceramic urn had healing properties and is able to cure illnesses such a eczema, back pain, fatigue etc. I found it hard to believe though it felt rather nice sitting in a sauna-like environment. During those 30 minutes, I was given 5 cups of mineral water (the water was from a special pot made with the same ceramic properties as the chamber) to sip on. And of course, mum was there chatting with me the whole time :)

Another body check was conducted post-therapy and I've gained 600 grams in water and increased my protein and mineral counts by 0.1%. How bizarre! Have 2 more free sessions to go to later this week. Need to bring my camera in to snap photos of this urn next time!

Dinner tonight was at Restaurant Chor in Kampung Merdeka with my parents and maternal grandparents. Restaurant Chor is a fairly busy place popular for its delicious and cheap meals. A regular eating place for Ah-Kong and he would organise for us to have dinner here every time I'm back. And guess what? He'll order the same dishes too - Chinese steamed eggs (also known locally as foo yong tan), steamed silver pomfret with cencaluk (fermented mini shrimps or krill), fried long beans and sweet 'n' sour pork cutlets served with white rice. Even the waiter and waitresses knows him (and his attitude) well. FYI, Ah-Kong used to be a rather influential man during his heydays in this town and I still get glimpses of the pompous, chauvinistic man he once was at times, like when he depicts which table he wants to sit at or the way he calls at the waiter. Sigh...Of course, he wouldn't remember that I've been here before and would ask me how I found the dishes and continued on his story about Singaporeans driving the distance just to have a meal here. And me, the 'good' granddaughter would just nod and smile even though I've heard it umpteen times. I rarely come back so why not just humour the old man? And he seems happy enough telling me the story again and enjoying his meal...

Monday, 6 July 2009

A whole day of shopping, Batu Pahat (6th July 2009)

Was up at 7.30am to accompany mum to the morning market in my suburb, Taman Batu Pahat. For mum, this was a routine task she did most mornings, shopping for veggies and meat for the night's dinner, and maybe even buy a few local pastries for breakfast or afternoon tea. For me, it was an opportunity to tag along with my camera to snap photos of what the locals in my town do in a typical morning (mum included) - yippee! Frankly speaking, I don't recall when I last tagged along with mum to the market. Perhaps never??

Most of the stall owners knew my mum since she's a regular at the market. Many asked who I was and when told I'm the daughter who lives abroad, the next question would always be 'oh, so she's married over to New Zealand, huh?'. I just rolled my eyes - it didn't make any sense to me how they could equate 'living abroad' as 'married abroad' but to them, a woman my age should be on my way to matrimony thus such conclusions. Sheesh...

The morning market is small and compared to the Sunday markets in Wellington, you would find some stalls here you would never see in Wellington - I've never seen chicken or pork sellers selling their meats from the back of their truck or car boot in the Wellington markets (in fact, I don't think you can buy ANY meats at the Wellington markets), nor stray cats and dogs lingering about waiting to be given raw meat scraps. A tad disgusting but such is life typical in Malaysia. Photos taken at the morning market: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157621261069619/detail/

Oh yeah, I also met 4th-chim po selling fishballs at one of the stalls - she's a relative of 3rd-yi po and have watched me grow up since I was a small kid as both her and 3rd-yi po have been living on the same stretch of houses nearby for as long as I can remember. She looks very much the same too - surprisingly haven't aged much!

After breakfast at home, mum and I went to Pacific Mall to check out the shops. Still quite empty i.e. lots of shop lots available for lease. Spent several hours there, going from shop to shop to see if there was any clothings or shoes I fancied to purchase and bring back to NZ. Gee, shopping sure is tiring on the legs, even more so when you can't find anything you like or want...Bumped into Geeta's mum and younger brother, Kishan, at Popular bookstore - my, my, Kishan has grown up and is so tall! I only have an image of the shy 12-year-old boy I once knew in my head, not the qualified chef and man I see today :) It was so nice to see them (fancy meeting them before my catch up with Geeta later this week!) and we chatted and laughed reminiscing those days when I would pop over to Geeta's place for lunch or Geeta sleeping over at mine. Ah, yes, those highschool times :) Bless Mrs Ramachandran - she was hoping I could convince Geeta to settle down soon. Er, I don't think I'm the best person for this job when I'm the single of our old foursome gang (the other two in the gang is Ley In, who's happily married with 2 sons, and Cindy's getting married this weekend)...

Dad came to join us for lunch and left us to continue with more shopping. I was getting rather exhausted about 4pm and decided to call it a day. Went to the ground floor for mum to complete some competition form for her purchases. Urgh, the bells rung by the girls nearby trying to sell ice-cream is SO deafening and utterly annoying! Thankfully we didn't have to stick around for long. Bought some Papa Roti (they are these huge hollow puffed-up buns that is soft to the bite) and 'bak kua' (Malaysian-style pork jerky) - yum, I loved these especially 'bak kua' which I can't find any in Wellington, not even during the Chinese New Year period. Bad for my figure but what the heck - I'M ON HOLIDAY! Will work it off when I get back to reality haha :P

It's really nice to be home and enjoy the simple daily routines with my folks like afternoon tea in the dining table with mum - we used to buy some snacks like pastries, buns, 'goreng pisang' (fried battered bananas) to have with tea or coffee around 3-4pm when I was still living at home AND we still do so when I'm back :) The rest of the evening was spent at home having another yummy home-cooked late dinner and watching Singapore soap opera on TV. Gosh, how much I miss Singapore soaps - sometimes the whole family would be glued to the TV for the hour when a good soap is on!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Urut Man - genius or bogus?, Batu Pahat (5th July 2009)

Was up at 6 this morning and tagged along with mum, dad and Mama to see Urut Man around 7am at his home in one of the suburbs in town. The Malay word 'urut' translates to 'massage' but I'm nicknaming him Urut Man just because I can't think of a better name for him. Everyone else just calls this Chinese healer 'shi fu' in Mandarin (which literal translation means 'master' in English).

I'm not sure if he's a real genius or bogus but he's said to be a healer for all ailments and there were about 7 or 8 others ahead of us...AT 7AM!! The thing about Asian culture that sometimes puzzles me is their beliefs in mythical things such as deities, gods/goddesses, mediums etc. rather than scientific evidences. Yet when questioned of such non-scientific beliefs, there is no explaination of how or why someone can be healed by just a mere touch on the head. Strangely enough, there is a trend and Urut Man seems to be the 'in' thing for my family at the moment.

Anyway, I spent my waiting time observing the magic man carry out his healing. It was rather strange to sit and wait with 10+ others in his covered porch, watching and listening to him while he attended to each of us - yep, no private room to have your one-on-one session with Urut Man but in full public view. His Mrs was yakking away obnoxiously with some 'patients' and I was surprised to find out that 'patients' came from as far as Singapore to see the man. Even the Malays come to seek him for help.

Mama tells me that it's a god/deity at work using Urut Man's body - how else would he be able to tend to so many people in a day? The idea of an unknown being making use of a human body to perform its work sounds somewhat creepy but my grandma does have a point. He ain't a human machine. He performs the same standard procedures on all the 'patients', asking you to first relax and beginning with a back rub followed by placing his hands on the head (a means to pass through 'energy'??). He continues on massaging your hands, then pours some Minyak Angin Cap Kapak (literally translated as "Oil For Wind Axe Brand", an oil popularly used by Malaysians as the best medicine for nausea, colds, headaches and stomach-aches) on his fingers and proceeds to pinch and briefly puts pressure on the upper ear lobes. Next, he pours some liquid that looks like cooking oil (but doesn't smell like it) and rubs it on both lower legs, massaging them, then pinching your toes with his nails (ouch!). And then he does this chiropractic spine adjustment (I've my doubts of this since he's not a health professional), followed by nudging your knees to bend your leg (you'll have to stand against the wall for this) and elbow massage the butt. And he repeats the whole thing again with the next person. As he carries out this routine procedure, he would be giving you health advice (such as what you can or cannot eat) as well as getting involved in chit-chat with other folks.

I was told that I have a spine disalignment which was the reason behind my tingling and slightly numb left leg. How very clever - I didn't even tell him about my MRI scan or back injury! He assures me with 1-2 visits, I would be all fine. Hmm...

Oh, and you DO NOT want to have throat infection of any kind for he will put two fingers into your mouth and you are not to wash your mouth after (he will wash his hands after but he didn't wash them prior to putting them into your mouth AND he had been massaging several people beforehand!!). Dad had the privilege of Urut Man's 'special' treatment - eww!

Cost us $10 each which you would pay in form of a red packet i.e. you don't hand him the cash directly but put inside a red packet similar to those used during the Chinese New Year festival. Oh yeah, he has this old towel tied around his waist which looks odd but we all suspect is a must-wear, just not sure what its purpose is for. Photo taken of Urut Man at work on my mobile phone:

Left the place at 8am for breakfast with mum and Mama (dad had already taken off for work) at Gerai Selera Rhine behind the Telekom building in town. The folks at the stall knew most of my mum's side of the family for we have been long-time customers back when they had their stall on Jalan Rahmat. During my highschool days, I used to pop by their old stall in the afternoons after tuition classes to buy takeaway tea for mum and her office staff. Couldn't believe they could still remember my uncles' names! I had 2 roti canai for breakfast with a nice, warm teh halia (ginger tea) - cheap and yummy :)

Dropped Mama home and then stopped by to visit 3rd-yi po (my nanny when I was younger; also Mama's 3rd elder sis). I feel sad seeing both of them growing old and now reliant on others on tasks they once used to do so easily and independantly - Mama now needs someone's hand to hold when walking while 3-yipo is confined to her house ever since she had a bad fall and broke her hip (3rd-yi po used to cycle everywhere in town but now walks very little post-surgery). I don't know why but growing old scares me? I think it's the inability to do the things I want to do whenever I want to and being totally dependant on someone that is what scares me. Looking at them just makes me even more aware of my own age and the many things I still want to do in life. No time to waste!

Mum's friend, Auntie Swee Lian and her daughter, Maggie came to see us and we had mum's homemade cake together during afternoon tea - she's an old friend of mum's and both women had watch their daughters respectively grow up since young. I vaguely remember Maggie; all I could remember was she used to take over the clothes I've grown out of and now she's in Taiwan at uni! Eeks, which again reminds me I'm getting older! Photos taken this afternoon at home:

Mum, Auntie Swee Lian and Maggie

Group photo of the mothers and daughters

Rest of the day was pretty much spent catching up with sleep, had a home-cooked meal for dinner (how much I've missed them - bless my mum!) followed by coffee at Old Town Kopitiam with mum and dad. Yawn...despite the caffeine, I'm still sleepy...

Chee Seng's wedding banquet, Batu Pahat (4th July 2009)

Yawn...ended up chatting with mum till 4am in the morning...I SO need to catch up with sleep but there's SO much to talk about! Was up at 10am and headed out with mum and dad to dim sum brunch in town followed by a short shopping stop at Summit Parade shopping mall.

Back home to rest and was picked up by Sea Ping around 6pm to catch up over coffee prior to attending Chee Seng's wedding banquet. Both Sea Ping and Chee Seng are friends of mine from college and we will always try to catch up whenever I'm back in town. It was lovely to see Sea Ping - we had so much to chat and laugh about over our work, love lives, travels and our lives in general. In fact, we have much in common, both enjoy travelling, independant and have been single for the last 2 years. We both laughed that the local Chinese boys wouldn't fancy girls like us - considered too independant, outspoken and just not the type of Asian girls they seek. I suppose I wouldn't fancy a local boy either. We are just so different in so many ways - the mindset, the ideals in life etc. "Do you think we are choosy?" she asked. Well, I would say that we are not ready to just settle for any guy that walks into our lives at the moment. We are seeking the one right guy to share our amazing lives with!

After our chit-chat over coffee and peanut butter waffles (cost RM12.80 for 2 Dagan Special Brew coffees and 2 peanut butter waffles) in Dagan Cafe on Jalan Sultanah, we walked a block to Hai Huang Banquet Restaurant where Chee Seng was having his wedding dinner banquet. This was the first Chinese wedding banquet I am attending as an adult i.e. I've not been to one since I left Malaysia in 2001 - should be quite interesting :)

The venue was a former school hall now turned restaurant, all decorated for the event, including a red carpet laid from the entrance leading towards the front stage. Upon entering the venue, Sea Ping and I had to get our names checked off the guest list with the folks manning the reception table and handed over our red packets to them. It was customary for guests to gift a red packet that had money in it when attending wedding banquets (quite different from that of the Western world where guests would purchase a gift for the married couple based on the wedding gift list provided). According to my maternal grandmother, Mama, who have been to so many weddings in her lifetime, there is also a yearly base rate of how much one needs to put into the red packet and depending on which city and how close you are to the bride and groom, the amount increases. And then those same people at the reception desk will mark next to your name how much you gave (which I found rather appalling) - this is so that should there be a wedding in your family and someone from this family got invited, they know how much to give back, whether to equal or give more. I think this custom is rather complicated, frankly - one would have thought whatever the amount was given willingly, not because of all these 'rules' and the need for face-saving.

"Congratulations, Chee Seng - you're a grown man now!" we teased when he came to greet us and ushered us to our seats. Sure felt weird that we shook hands - I nearly hugged him but he stuck out his hand first. Note to self: people here don't hug; they shake hands. Us girls were meant to sit at the table with other guests who also studied at our old college but 2 older men had already taken our seats so we ended up sitting with Chee Seng's college mates from Inti College which was fine by us.

The wedding was quite elaborately done. As guests arrived in dribs and drabs, the large screens by the stage were showing weddings photos of the happy couple. The dinner officially started around 8pm (Sea Ping was right about not being on time) with Chee Seng singing a love song in Mandarin as he walked towards to his beautiful wife, Ring, who was standing at the entrance with little bridesmaids and groomsmen paired up in front of her. She was all dolled up and wearing a stunning wedding dress :) By the way, I've never met the Mrs before - she wasn't yet present in his life my last trip back. Anyway, so there goes Chee Seng finishing his song and stood next to Ring then the kids, the bride and groom walked down the red carpet towards the stage with confetti thrown at them by the waiters (we were sitting very near the aisle so was told to cover up our drinks in case bits of stuff ended up in our fizzy drinks). Up on stage, the happy couple did the customary cake cutting and poured red wine down a tier of glasses.

Two family members (1 female and 1 male) hosted the event, starting off with words of congratulations. I was having quite a hard time understanding what was said since I don't understand Mandarin all that well (it was all hosted in Mandarin). It was quite amusing that the waiters and waitresses had to walk down the red carpet with the first dish in hand all the way up to the stage, as if to present to the guest that the dinner shall commence now. Sea Ping tells me that they have to do so or some people might not be clear of the fact that dinner is to be served at the event. Really??

Typically, a Chinese wedding banquet has 8 dishes in total starting with the cold plate (like an antipasto, a dish with an assortment of sliced food served chilled), following by shark fin's soup, several meat and seafood dishes, and finishing off with a dessert. Honestly, the food served by this restaurant didn't taste that great plus both Sea Ping and I had waffles earlier so hardly ate much.

As we nibbled on our food, the hosts played a home-made comedy movie of Chee Seng's and Ring's childhood and how they fell in love - quite cheesy but I was impressed with the effort put into organising this whole thing. It even had a part where Chee Seng was pretending to be Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk moves! Karaoke singing on stage proceeded after the dvd. Oh my god...for an Asian, I'm not a fan of karaoke singing and really can't stand people doing so at weddings. The sound system was pretty bad but that didn't put a stop to the stream of extended family members having a ball crooning away (they weren't too bad but just not my cup of tea). One auntie sang Chinese opera on karaoke!

My guess was there were at least 100 guests each from the bride's and groom's families respectively. There were people dressed ranging from casual t-shirt and jeans to all dolled up which was an interesting sight. I tried to strike a conversation with the others on our table but Sea Ping discouraged me from doing so. I was puzzled yet went ahead and made my small talk asking the others if they knew the bride or groom and how they got to know them. My open-ended questions came back with a momentary silence and then one word answers. Hmm, that wasn't how I expected the conversation to end...didn't even last 5 minutes. "Feeling disappointed now? Told you not to bother being friendly - they would just talk among themselves," whispered Sea Ping. That was just so weird...how very unsociable and unfriendly...

Dinner continued on, Sea Ping and I kept each other entertained, more karaoke singing (please save me!) and the happy couple went from table to table to toast with their guests aka yam seng (literally translates to 'drink to success'). Strangely, you get random lotto ticket or newspaper sellers roaming in the hall. How did they even get in when their aren't on the guest list??? We left the dinner around 9.30pm for supper elsewhere. Couldn't really catch up with Chee Seng tonight - he was too busy running around entertaining his guests etc. Will have to catch up another time. Congratulations again! Photos taken at dinner: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157620975937130/detail/

Sea Ping and I ended up in Taman Maju for drinks (here in Batu Pahat, when we say drinks, it means non-alcoholic drinks) and another college mate of mine, Alvin, came to join us. Wow, I've not seen Alvin for over 4 years and he's still the same bubbly, cheeky sumo-size of a man :) Happily married with a 5-year-old daughter - made both us girls felt rather old and behind the road to matrimony now that his daughter is already so big. It was lovely to catch up with him and we all laughed so much together. Would have loved to stay chatting much longer but I was feeling so sleepy so we all headed for home by 12am.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Flying from Wellington to KL (3rd July 2009)

My morning pretty much started at 5am - up to shower, locked up my bags and await my shuttle pick-up at 6am for my first leg of flights leaving at 8am. Today was going to be a long day flying from Wellington to Auckland to Singapore then ending in Kuala Lumpur. Thankfully I've got my neck pillow and book to keep me occupied during my travels. Will need lots of coffee to keep me awake though...

Got my bags checked through all the way to Singapore (yay, no need to lug the huge bag with me between terminals in Auckland - not that I've packed much for home this time but still, it's a huge bag), all happy-happy and just about to start browsing the bookstore when it suddenly hit me that I didn't have my Malaysian ID card with me. Shit. Cost me an unnecessary 45 bucks return trip on the taxi just to grab the card. It has been 2 years since I went back to Malaysia and I had totally forgotten I needed to have the ID card with me during my stay (and travels) in the country (having a Malaysian drivers licence is not sufficient as proof of identity). ARGH!!

The days leading up to my 3 week trip away had been busy, mainly trying to sort most of my work out before I go. Honestly, I'm very glad I'm going away for a bit - just to get out from this cold weather and chill out (been months since my last holiday break). 3 weeks will zip by very quickly, with weddings to attend, family and friends to catch up with, short trips with mum to Cambodia and Bali, and just lots of running around.

(around 7.30ish in the morning)...time to board the plane for Auckland! The Air New Zealand latest in-flight safety video was really cool - most of the time, such videos are the standard boring drag but this one really caught my attention with humour injected to the usual safety instructions plus the crew members featured had body-painted on uniforms i.e. they were not wearing anything. I like! :) Spent my time in Auckland International Airport looking for duty free items to bring home and $4 for 30 minutes at the internet kiosk hacking away on the sticky keyboard replying emails (Auckland airport should provide free wi-fi service; it's free in Wellington airport).

Around 12.15pm, I boarded my flight to Singapore with Singapore Airlines. One thing I like about this airline is the service - always so polite and with a smile. The flight was around 10 hours which was somewhat long but I didn't really felt so because I was having my own movie marathon with my on-demand TV screen. Hehe, watched 4 movies during my flight! Oh, and they feed you so often throughout the flight - the food was yummy and I really liked it that they kept hydrating us with water and/or juice (I always feel so thirsty on planes). Tried their Singapore sling, a famous cocktail drink of the country which was a mix of gin, cherry brandy, Benedictine, cointreau, pineapple and lemon juice, and Angostura bitters. Very nice and reminded me of a Cosmopolitan. Here's my drink:

Oh, and you could charge your electronic equipments at your seat too - how cool is that? Made the most of it and charged my mobile phone :)

...hey, the toilets on the plane had full-length mirrors...not surprised if they had more Mile High Club flyers...hmm...

Arrived in Changi Airport around 7pm. I must say, I was a little freaked out seeing Singaporeans wearing masks in the airport. I don't think the country is that badly affected by the flu pandemic but because of their 'kia su, kia si' (directly translates to 'afraid to lose, afraid to die') mentality, this is what you see coming into the country. And then there's those temperature machine things you have to walk through before you get to the customs officer. Freaky...

Replied more emails (free internet access), had wanton noodles for dinner and waited for my flight on Air Asia to KL. I wasn't planning to fly into KL initially but mum and dad said it was more convenient for them to pick me up from KL so bought the flight for SGD73 from the web. I've never flown Air Asia before - they are said to be the world's best low-cost airline. Low-cost in the sense you can fly cheap provided you aren't planning to carry lots of luggage and have anything on board (both come at extra cost, of course). Great for us travellers not caring much about great flight service but just wanting to get to our destination fast and cheap.

Boarded my flight at 10.15pm and arrived some 55 minutes later to Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCC Terminal) in Sepang. I thought I had landed in some Polynesian island or something! It was nothing like an international airport - the passengers had to walk quite a distance from the plane into the arrival hall through outdoor covered walkway, very similar to those in the islands but not so far a walk. Again, there was that temperature machine just before customs but less people with masks around this time. It's very quick to go through customs in Malaysia when you've got your passport and ID card - all I had to do was slot them into the customs checkpoint machine, let it scan my thumbprint and I was good to go.

Mum, Dad, my brother, Andin and his gf, Yang Jing, were all waiting for me at the arrival hall. So nice to finally see them - it has definitely been awhile! This was also the first time I was meeting Yang Jing - I've only seen photos of her and heard of her through mum. Very lovely to finally meet her in person :) Photos taken at the arrival hall:

Mum and me

Me and my future sis-in-law, Yang Jing
Photo here with dad

A short stop for a late night coffee and tea, then a 2.5 hours car ride all the way back home to Batu Pahat. What a long day this has been but very glad to be back :)