Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

Pearls for a girl.

August 5, 2009

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: A Review: “Riceboy Sleeps” by Jonsi & Alex.

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At the end of the line, located diagonally from the farmers’ market along Jalan OKK Awang Besar is the Labuan weekend bazaar. Relatively smaller than the weekend markets (or perhaps any kinds of weekend bazaars available in Malaysia), the bazaar sells everything and anything you need to get souvenirs and gifts for your friends and family back home. From tacky Labuan map T-shirts, to cheap ukulele toys, to footwear with questionable durability, to locally made decorative ornaments.

If you want me to be honest, you are better off splurging on duty free vices than swing by this place. But there is just one thing at this bazaar that can be the only reason that will make your trip there worthwhile – pearls.


Not a lot of people know this, but genuine pearls shipped in from Hong Kong are cheap in Labuan. From RM15 charm bracelets to RM150 gem-complemented necklaces, Alli Handicraft Enterprise has a whole wall of selections for you to choose from. Whether you would like to get accessories in black or white pearls, beautifully simple or extravagantly complicated necklaces, something for your mother or your girlfriend, Alli has them all.

At first, I was doubtful. We are talking about genuine pearls sold in shacked up stores along what could probably be passed off as back alleys in Labuan. There are no proper packaging with one of those velvety jewllery boxes; just those in dusty cardboard boxes and plastic bags you get upon purchasing pirated DVDs. Forgive me if I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the RM15 bracelet I am looking at is actually for shizzle.

But as we lingered on in the store, and the store owner, Raja, got to talking, I came to believe him. Well, kind of. He could easily be passed off as a darn good salesman with his flailing hands and confident voice.

We learned a few things from him on how to differentiate genuine pearls from fake ones. Observe.

When you scratch the surface of a real pearl, it will create powdery substances. You will see scratch lines on the fake ones instead.

When you take a bite on the real one (I don’t know why anyone would do that, but oh well), it has the texture of a rough surface. Fake ones will have perfectly smooth surface.

Real pearls are a little out of shape. Fake pearls are flawlessly round in shape.

Raja also did some demonstrations for us to see, so I guess he is telling the truth. Besides, RM15 for a pearl bracelet. Why not? It is pretty and I am a girl. Heh.

So, why fork out ten times the price of the same accessories when you buy in Kuala Lumpur, when you can get such dirt cheap offers in Labuan? So, if you ever make your way to Labuan someday, look out for stores selling pearls, especially Alli Handicraft Enterprise at the Labuan weekend bazaar and another outlet at the Financial Park Complex in the town centre. Open Mondays to Sundays from 8AM till 5.45PM.

Even if you don’t like pearls, buy them back anyway to have the last laugh at your friends who bought theirs by the hundreds.

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Pulling a Jamie Oliver.

November 26, 2008

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: When we were young…

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I may be able to pull a fake British accent, but I am still an amateur when it comes to the kitchen department. Growing up in a house, where I have a mother who is more concerned of the floor being sparkling clean than putting awesome food on the table, I rarely have the opportunity to cook. Nonetheless, cooking is still a favourite past time I like to do on special occasions.

As many of you may know, November is the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival month. What better way to get into the spirit of things by, not only trying out the beautiful food all around, but trying to make them yourself.

Who would have known that hidden in the folds of suburbia is a humble abode to learn some traditional Malaysian dishes. I have never heard of LaZat before. In fact, I never knew there is a place that is not in a hotel or a fancy restaurant where we can learn to cook the simplest dishes. It can be easily passed off as an ordinary family next door, with its green picket fence and perfectly mowed lawn. There is no flashy signboards or a gourmet kitchen inside; just a normal setting you would usually come home to.

Along with me that day were three other ladies, who are all cooking enthusiasts: Elaine from Canada, Leigh Ann from Sydney and Janet from Los Angeles who is currently residing in Perth. Compared to them, I am like I was in Form 2’s HomeEc class, learning to cook long beans and curry chicken. Gulps.

LaZat has six menus that they rotate throughout the month, and we will learn to cook four dishes: an appertiser, two main courses and a dessert. I thought we would be cooking as they teach, but instead, before trying out every dish, there would be a demonstration every time at the counter up front. Ana, the hostess, would brief us on the ingredients as well as some tips on how to make the dishes taste better and more unique. While she was doing that, Saadiah, the chef, would do the demonstration. We were also given a recipe book each, in which we could make notes.

I have never been to a cooking class before, and honestly, I had trouble remembering the steps. The recipe book did not really do much help as the directions were quite vague, as it is with home cooking. So, I was constantly checking out the lady next to me to refresh my memory, as if a kid peeking during spelling tests. Heh.

The last time I cooked, and I mean really cooked, was at the beginning of the year in Brisbane, making my mom’s homemade prawns for Chinese New Year. So, as you can imagine, it has been quite a while. I was a little nervous, wondering if I would mess things up. But all the same, the excitement was there, like a captain anxious to head out to the football field for his first game.

Besides, Ana and Saadiah would walk around guiding us while we were cooking anyway, so we were not lost toally.

The first dish we made was Prawn Fritters (Cucur Udang).

It was a simple dish, where you throw everything into the mixing bowl and mix before chucking the pieces in the boiling oil to deep fry. I forgot to turn up the fire for my first batch as we should do, so the insides were still a little uncooked, but all the same, it was edible. It was nicer when dipped in their homemade sweet chilli sauce. Saadiah also taught us to make the decorations on the sides. However, with these unsteady hands, I did not manage to come up with the curvy shapes like she could. Yet, the more important thing was, my food was edible. Heh.

The second dish and the highlight on the menu was Beef Rendang.

It was probably the toughest dish to cook as well, what with the need to watch the pot so the sauce would be in the right moistness, and to make sure the beef is cooked thoroughly. Ana also gave us a tip on how to get the right taste out of it. The not-so-secret ingredient? Grated coconut, a.k.a kerisik, an ingredient commonly left out for foreign chefs making rendang in other countries. Yes, now you know.

It was funny how by at the end, everyone’s rendang came out looking differently. Leigh Ann’s got the more runny sauce, while Janet’s looked more dried up, and Elaine’s looked darker in texture. Mine was just right; not too dry, which I dislike, and not too watery, how it was not supposed to be. It was not too spicy too, so yes.

The Beef Rendang took a longer time to cook, as we needed to let the meat simmer in the pot. So while we were waiting, we made the third dish: Spicy Cucumber Salad (Acar Timun).

Once again, this was another simple dish to make, throwing everything in and cook. I just had a problem with what I should do first and next. And I had a problem at the mortar pounder, where I needed to mash out the dried shrimps. I am not exactly skilled with that, and I was more attentive towards keeping the ingredients from spilling out all over. Heh.

I am no veggie eater, but I enjoyed this dish, probably because it tasted a tad bit sour and it had cucumbers and carrots instead of leafy vegetables.

Last but not least, and probably the favourite dish to prepare out of the four for me was the Onde Onde, palm sugared glutinous balls.

Surprisingly, the others did not like the taste of it, but me, I loved it. I guess it has something to do with it being sweet to the core. Yum. And as surprising as that, it was quite easy to make as well: stuff blocks of palm sugar in the dough, roll them into balls, plop them into a pot of boiling water and then roll them out on the grated coconut. Voila.

After cooking every dish, we sat outside at the porch and enjoyed our own food, tried them out with slow mouthfuls and let them linger on the tongue to have a better feel of our hardwork well done. That day, the weather was cloudy and it was not humid to sit out there for lunch. No raging sunlight or depressing rain, just everything in between for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Mmm, tasted just like home. Or at least, how our idea of home would be.

If you are up for some kitchenery mischief yourself, I would recommend stopping by LaZat to learn some Malaysian cuisine. The price is just right for a half-day class, and you have quite a selection of menus to choose and learn from. Ana and Saadiah are the most down-to-earth bunch as well, so it is the making of everything heartwarming, just like a home should feel like.

Also seen at VM @ Travel Talk.

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LaZat Cooking Class
584, Jalan 17/17
Section 17
46400 Petaling Jaya
Selangor Darul Ehsan
Malaysia
T: +6 019 238 1198
E: enquiries@malaysia-klcookingclass.com
W: http://www.malaysia-klcookingclass.com

Bliss, however, is not ignorance.

November 10, 2008

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: Judging this book by its cover.

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After being on the edge of my seat for more than two months, what better way to let it all go in a whoosh over a spa session with some of the people who share the same stress over the same period in time. Although it is commonly known that a lady does not need a reason for relaxation, but it is always fun to have one nonetheless. After hearing there is such a thing as a ‘sparty’, best gather up some of your female colleagues for a different kind of bachelorette party.

Generally, a sparty is a party at a spa for, say, about 10 or less of your closest friends. You girls get to do stuff there together, like a steam bath, chilling at the patio, getting your own choice of massage – maybe not the in the same room, because face it, we will probably never be that close – and enjoy a spa cuisine with practically the whole spa outlet to yourselves.

Elaine from Energy Health and Day Spa hooked us up at their Mont Kiara branch for a few relaxing hours on a lazy Saturday all to ourselves. We got to choose from a few kinds of massage we would like, such as a facial treatment, a body wrap treatment, and a few different kinds of massages. I was torn between going the conventional treatment of a Shiatsu massage, or a unchartered territory of a Hot stone massage. After some not-so-deep consideration, I went for the latter, and boy was I up for a treat.

After changing into our own robes at their changing room, we all got into a few minutes of steam bathing. Basically, it is just to lock yourselves up in a small room, where there is constantly steam gushing out from a scorching pipe. This is to open up your pores and get all the icky stuff out of your skin. Half of the time while I was in there, I could barely see who I was talking to. And I was wondering if I were going to pass out anytime soon because the weather outside was not exactly a cooling one that day. I think we were only in there for about 15 minutes, and all of us scurried out before we turned into lobsters.

We took a time out at their patio that has been reserved for us only. Sipping over a cup of tea with a cooling towel over your face, you could just sit back and relax as the world goes by around you while you listen to the rustling of the leaves around you.

However, being in Mont Kiara, where the area is still under heavy construction, and being just next to an apartment swimming pool, you cannot really get the total tranquility you would hope for with all the machines hammering and the kids screaming and splashing in the water. But, the atmosphere is there and if you could channel the right wavelength, you could actually find peace.

Next, would be the main course of the sparty. I was escorted to a curtained room where I would get my massage treatment. The masseuse uses these black stones that are probably the same ones decorating the floors of the patio outside. The stones are of different sizes and they are warmed up in a pot of boiling water. The stones are supposed to work with your body’s blood circulation or something, and eases up your tensed muscles.

There is no direct contact between the stones and the skin; there will always be a towel to prevent first degree burns. The masseuse placed a line of stones on my spine first, and every passing second, I was holding my breath for the heat to hit, and when it did, wow it burned and half of the time I was contemplating if I should just call the thing off.

Unlike a Shiatsu massage, which I would fall asleep to all of the time, I was constantly driven awake whenever the masseuse rubbed the stones over my body. It took a while to get used to the heat. Sometimes, it felt like I was putting myself through more torture than easing everything up. Like asking someone to please burn me to death with a fire torch, and eat me up crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

I will not lie that I did not really get a lot of ‘relaxing’ time with this kind of massage. But once it was over, it did felt nice. Whether it was nice because it was finally over, or because the stones have perfected my muscles and blood circulation, I would have to come back to you on that. It is going to be a while before I go through that again. Perhaps I am more used to hands doing the massage rather than stones.

We finished off our sparty with a tête-à-tête at the patio over a glass of fruit juice and over some salad thingamajig. A jumble of capsicum, salad greens, pineapples, chickens and the likes that taste sweet, salty and sour all at the same time. Perhaps it was the massage, but I was chomping down the food like I were to go back to the jungle the next day with no food to eat. I am even putting things in my mouth I would never do that on a normal day. Except the greens, because I do not eat greens. I just make them. Heh.

All in all, it was a well-deserved escape. Quiet time to throw work to the back of your mind and just hide between the seconds of euphoria. I would definitely look forward to something similar to this in the near future, though not too near as not to kill the novelty of it. Ladies, do try something different like this once in a while too with your girl friends to get all the pampering you deserve. In fact, do it with your man. I am sure most spa outlets out there have couple treatments now. I do not know about you men, but you can probably try that with your guy friends if you all are into this kind of stuff. Or not. Heh.

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Energy Health & Day Spa
Damai Sari, Mont Kiara Damai
3, Jalan Kiara 2
Mont Kiara
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
T: +6 03 6201 7833
W: http://www.energymindbodyspirit.com

A quiet mind.

August 30, 2008

I have never been a morning person. Ask anyone that knows me. They would all snicker at any morning-related activities I attempt. But that morning, I felt like walking along the deserted beach and listening to Damien Rice. I have never done it before. Walking by the beach at the break of dawn, that is. So, since the itinerary was going to be a laid back one, I thought, why not.

I woke up an hour earlier, washed the sleep off my face, got dressed, grabbed my iPod and headed off to the beach. The weather has been gloomy at best during my stay on the island, but that morning, the air was still yet not humid enough to make me go into hiding. I took off my sandals and felt the hardened sand under my feet. It was not the best beach, if you ask me: the sand was hard from yesterday’s rain and grey, and the waves were pathetically timid. But it was enough for a quiet time.

The delicate strum of Delicate filled my ears along with the crashing waves. Every beat of the song brought me closer to the ocean until I could feel the lukewarm water lapping my toes. I cast my back to the vast building behind me. Where lovers were still asleep in each other’s arms. Where the pool boys were still figuring out the right amount of chlorine for the pool. Where waitresses were setting up the spread for breakfast.

I saw clouds building kingdoms in the clear blue sky. I saw the edges of the island like arms trying to hold the world. I saw transparent hermits scurrying back to the many holes they have dug. I saw trapped bubbles punctuating under the sand. I saw waves rushing to me like foamy creepy-crawlies, only to reach my ankles with the most tender embrace.

My mind was blank. I tried to pull out a troubling memory to mull over, but the search came up blank. I tried to think of someone I would like to share this with, but I found none that could be more appropriate. It was definitely a ‘me’ time. A time to worry about nothing. A time when time itself stood still, and I was buried between the seconds, where Father Time could not find me.

I walked with The Blower’s Daughter by the shore, and tried to sink away into the Straits with Amie. When Cold Water came, I knew it is time to snap out of it and return to reality. It was with a heavy heart as Eskimo took me back to my room.

It was wonderful.