26 December 2010

Chritmas roast turkey from Maria's

Our 3rd Christmas in Ipoh, and this year Christmas dinner was held at our house instead of at my inlaws' place. The menu consisted of the traditional roast turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, fried broccoli and cauliflower, grilled lamb shoulders and fried rice (a bit weird I know, but it was on request).

Father-in-law bought the roast turkey from Maria's Cafe, which has quite a good reputation. And indeed the main dish of Christmas dinner did not disappoint. The turkey was tender and moist while the stuffing was the best I have ever had (I usually detest turkey stuffing). The bird that FIL ordered was about 4.9kg, small if you compare it to the larger sizes Maria's has - the turkeys go up until about 8kg.
Our 4th Christmas in Ipoh (2011) was celebrated with a Christmas lunch instead of dinner, and with a roast chicken instead of roast turkey!

Not all the family was around, hence the smaller scale of celebration.

Lost World of Tambun - surprisingly good fun

It's been a great year-end vacation. And I managed to bring the kids to the Lost World of Tambun, almost 2 years after moving to Ipoh!

We went with 3 other moms and their kids so we had very good company for the day. I went with extremely low expectations, so when we got there, I was rather impressed with the Lost World, finding it way above my expectations.

While it is smaller than its big brother Sunway Lagoon in KL, its smallness lent it its own charm, cosiness and ease of getting around. I like that. And its location is far, far superior to that of Sunway Lagoon as the Lost World is cradled by lush green mountains on all sides, giving it a very tranquil, picture-perfect setting. Wonderful.

The kids had their squealing fun on the dry rides (very few, but enough for me), the wave pool, building sand castles on the artificial beach, bobbing along the canal in our rented rubber tubes, and of course swooshing down the 2 large water slides. I went with my 5-year old girl on one of the big slides and I admit that I was scared! Yiikkess!!

The train ride around the perimeter of the Lost World is a great way for you to see what else you would like to do there. We got off at the Petting Zoo and the kids enjoyed some close contact with the furry and scaly kind. We didn't have time to visit the cave or paddle boats. Next visit.

We ended the day with a dip in the famed hot spring pools of Ipoh. Something that Sunway Lagoon does not have. Highly recommended for a day of family fun.

14 December 2010

Teaching by example.....

.... is really more powerful and effective.

On our recent holiday to Australia, I had the chance to demonstrate kindness and consideration.

My family and I were on a tram which was rather packed. There was only standing room left. Not a problem for most people used to commuting and for the young. After several people got off and others got on at a stop, there were spaces enough for my kids and I to sit. But just then, an elderly Australian lady came on board.

Naturally, I got up and offered her my seat. She was carrying a large handbag which I offered to hold for her while she made her way slowly to my seat. I noticed a middle-aged but still-fit Australian man who was seated (he should have been the one to get up!) eyeing the exchange, and several other commuters in the tram smiling at me. When it was time for us to alight from the tram, the elderly lady thanked me again and wished us a lovely day.

As were walking the streets of the city, my 5-year old daughter said, "Mommy, you were kind to that old lady. She was old. People thought you were nice. Next time I will be kind too".

My heart warmed. Lesson taught and learned.

28 September 2010

Sun Hup Kee (Sin Hup Kee)

Having read so many good reviews by bloggers about this place, as well as personal recommendations from family, we finally had dinner there. As recommended by blogger Motormouth, we called to book in advance for an early dinner at 6.30pm.

Still, when we got there the place was packed out! And we had no table! With the advance booking we only had to wait a couple of minutes, in which time the waitress took our order. We ordered the classic dishes - pan fried chicken, kangkung belachan, sengkong taufu and the 3-yolk steamed egg.

My review - the pan fried chicken (kon chin kai), which is the most raved about dish, was fair but not outstanding. Small pieces of chicken, dry with thick sticky (and yes, tasty) sauce on them. I was rather disappointed since most of the Ipohan bloggers are practically in love with this dish. Guess my KL taste buds are different from those in Ipoh.

The sengkong taufu was actually quite bland and dry. The kangkung belachan was not as fragrant as some other restaurants' while the steamed egg was acceptable. But what is outstanding was the price - only RM33 for our family of 3 adults and 2 kids! Extremely reasonable. Maybe that's why people like to go there, perhaps?

25 September 2010

Malay Food in Ipoh - Restoran Tasik Raban

We finally tried out the well-known Restoran Tasik Raban near the Balai Bomba HQ close to the Stadium Sultan Azlan Shah for lunch today. The restaurant started out somewhere near Sauk (near Kuala Kangsar) at Lake Raban. The story goes that some VIP in Ipoh loved the food so much that the restaurant owner was made on offer too good to refuse to open up in Ipoh.

Well, the food was really tasty. I am not that well acquainted with Malay food, and this restaurant is famed for homestyle Perak-Malay cuisine - but I certainly enjoyed all the dishes that we ordered.

I used to be repulsed by "tempoyak" (a durian paste that is fermented and mixed with chillies and spices to be eaten as a sambal/ sauce) but on trying tempoyak here, it was fabulous! The traditional sambal that goes with "ulam" was also great.

While I was picking out my ulam, a Malay gentleman asked me "Orang Cina tahu makan ulam juga? " (The Chinese know how to eat ulam too?) I smiled and replied, "Tahu, sebenarnya saya sangat suka. Lagipun sekarang kan 1Malaysia?" (Of course, actually I love ulam. We are all 1Malaysia now.) Wouldn't our PM Najib be proud of my response??

The place is supposed to be famous for its grilled fish (ikan bakar), but we didn't order any today. Well, reason enough to go back again! We had ulam, "urap" (salad-like dish with coconut and chillies and "pucuk paku"), sambal sotong, tempe cooked in sambal, rendang and french beans fried with tumeric and egg. All were eaten with hearty appetites and I finshed my big plate of rice. (the kids had their take-away KFC snack plates there, though!) I bought some home for our maid's lunch - she said it was delicious and reminded her of her mother's cooking at home!

Well, looks like everyone agrees that the food at Tasik Raban is good.

24 August 2010

Parks in Ipoh

The park most familiar to us is the Polo Grounds (Taman Rekreasi Sultan Abdul Aziz) along Jalan Tambun. It has a large-sized field, stately old trees, some playground and exercise equipment, and a newly added pond.

The Polo Grounds is extremely popular with the people in Ipoh, with families taking their kids there in the evenings and weekends, and people of all ages exercising, walking and jogging on the tracks. The Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh has done a good job, I must say, in promoting exercise as they organise weekend morning aerobics routines for the public, which is a great success. A rare "well done" to you, MBI!

Other than the Polo Grounds, another park of note would be Taman DR Seenivasagam. But Taman DR has lost much of its charm and atttraction, according to my husband. He remembers that as a child he used to ride his bicycle with his family there, but today, Taman DR is not attractive at all. MBI should do more to upgrade and revitalise this large and well located green lung.

Today, I discovered another gem of a park. A very large, well landscaped park with a huge lake as its central feature - Eco Park in Taman Botani. I gather it is part of the township of Taman Botani (developed by KLK Group) and it appears that the developer has not stinged in sprucing up this recreational area. The lake teems with large fish, and one complete circuit around the lake would give me more than enough exercise for the day!

I hear that another township in Ipoh - Tiara Lake Park in Pengkalan - is set to provide a serene and beautiful lakeside park for Tiara Lake Park residents, and of course the general public, to enjoy. Will have to check that out.

21 August 2010

It's fasting month in Malaysia, but let's all chill

It is that time of the year when Muslims in Malaysia observe "bulan Ramadhan", a month of fasting which precedes the joyous celebration of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

But alas, it seems that each year this holy month is marred by incidents of misunderstandings, badly checked emotions, insensitive remarks and the like.

Just when it has been alleged that a school principal in Johor had uttered unsettling remarks calling non-Malays "penumpang" (visitors), yet another principal in Kedah has behaved in an unbecoming manner by scolding non-Malays students for eating outside the canteen.

It was reported in the Star on 21 August 2010 that "In the incident, the principal had allegedly scolded 10 Form Three students for eating outside the school canteen at about 7am before classes began. The students were eating outside because the lights in the canteen were not switched on. The principal had purportedly told them off for “not respecting” their Muslim friends and that they “should return to their country of origin if they did not show such respect”.

If the principal did utter such remarks, one wonders why such words are being increasingly used these days? Perhaps, there have been too many people in authority/ politicians who have been using such words of late. And therefore, some simple-minded emotional citizens just follow such bad examples.

Asking non-Malays to return to their country of origin? Where would you ask citizens of Malaysia who were born and raised here, for maybe 2 or 3 generations, and who have contributed to nation-building, to return to? Where would be their country of origin? One would have thought that school principals were more educated, enlightened and rational. Sigh......the quality of the people in charge of our schools these days.

And isn't the point of Ramadhan for people to be more patient, compassionate, kind and to resist the body's usual demands? And surely by seeing other people eat - which is their right, since they are not fasting - should not weaken one's resolve to fast or make a person observing the fast to become furious beyond reason? Be assured that non-Malays would not be so arrogant or stupid or rude as to deliberately eat a scrumptious meal in front of our fellow Malays. But if the students in that school in Kedah were eating around the canteen area, then why should the principal be so upset? Shouldn't the principal respect the right of those students to eat their breakfast in peace? (By the way, why weren't the lights in the canteen turned on? Because it is fasting month, so nobody else needs to eat in the canteen?)

Let's all just chill, and may the noble spirit of Ramadhan prevail this month and for all Ramadhans to come.

10 August 2010

Why is "saman ekor" still around?

I had thought that the issue of "saman ekor" was settled a long time ago.

A number of years ago, much unhappiness was highlighted regarding the practice of the police issuing summonses to the public for various traffic offences - such summonses either arrived very late or never at all. And people could not remember whether they had indeed committed such an offence. The authorities, if I recall correctly, had said that they would put an end to "saman ekor" and that traffic violations would be penalised on the spot.

Hey, but "saman ekor" is very much alive. And now our DPM says he will "consider" public unhappiness about it.

I recently had to renew my road tax in July, and lo and behold the Transport Dept's system noted that my car registration number had a "block" on it, indicating that I had one or more unsettled police summonses. A first for me!

So off I trotted, like a good citizen, to the main police HQ opposite Ipoh's majestic old train station. Indeed, I had 2 summonses to my car - one on 26 Dec 2008 (just one day after I moved to Ipoh!!??) and another in May 2009. I was renewing my road tax for July 2010.

So, I only discover after almost 1 1/2 years from my first ever police traffic summons, that I had apparently ran a red light. How am I to remember that, to challenge that? How is the police to prove that I did? But you see, the govt and the police see to it that my arms are twisted and I HAVE to pay the fine if I am to renew my road tax. Otherwise, I will be fined for driving around without a valid road tax sticker displayed on my windscreen.

Where is the equity and logic behind the "saman ekor"?? DPM Muhyiddin, please do something useful for the people of Malaysia and do away with the "saman ekor".

04 August 2010

Yin Fai Kee - Redeemed

I try to be fair.

I had an earlier blog posting where I wrote that Yin Fai Kee kept my family waiting for over an hour, and we walked out without eating. Well, we gave the place another try - this time for supper. My son had just finished his martial arts class and was hungry, so we went to get the black Hokkien mee and some chilly la-la (mussels fried in garlic and chilly).

We were at first reluctant to go back to Yin Fai Kee, and first stopped at Sun Seng Fatt on the same Jalan Leong Sin Nam (also famed for noodles). But the proprietor told us it would be a long wait - credit to her for telling us in advance. So we had no choice but to go to Yin Fai Kee.

This time we waited no more than 10 minutes and the food arrived. The Hokkien mee still could not match KL standards but for Ipoh, I guess it is one of the better ones. The fried la-la, though, was great. My son really liked it.

And last night, I had a craving for Hokkien mee. I nipped out at 2130 to "ta pau" the black fat noodles and got home with it one minute shy of 2200. Not bad.

So, Yin Fai Kee has redeemed itself in my eyes.

03 August 2010

Outrageous pricing at Nasi Kandar Pelita

OK - so the effects of the reduction in subsidies for sugar and chicken must be kicking in.

But I remember reading that the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners’ Association (Primas) and the Malaysian Indian Muslim Restaurant Operators’ Association (Presma) saying in the papers that they would maintain their prices. Perhaps Pelita Nasi Kandar is not a member of either Primas or Presma.

While we were out at the Tesco in Ipoh, my maid had lunch at Pelita. She had, to be exact, half a serving of white rice, one curried chicken wing and some bean sprouts. Oh, and some curry sauce on her rice. No drink, mind you. Her bill? RM8.70

Tell me that isn't exorbitant. Beware next time you eat at Nasi Kandar Pelita.

02 August 2010

Can you trust your school bus driver?

Malaysians are shocked and outraged at the recent case of a 10 year old who was raped by her school bus driver - that he was so brazen to rape the helpless child in broad day light in his bus while parked close to a kindergarten is even more unforgiveable. Thank goodness for the responsible kindergarten teacher who witnessed this terrible crime.

Now the idea being tossed about is to require all school buses to have a conductor on board. Aside from the issue of cost (which will inevitably be passed onto parents), will having a conductor on board the school bus make it safer for our children?

Maybe and maybe not.

The crime of rape may be conducted singularly or in gangs. If the conductor and bus driver are both males I, for one, would not feel any safer. If the conductor is a lady, the odds I think are better. But you might argue that the bus driver could intimidate or threaten his female conductor into being his accomplice.

The crime of rape is unacceptable in any circumstance, more so when the sick rapists target helpless young children. Karpal Singh has proposed the death penalty for convicted rapists. Certainly, they deserve severe punishment - there are many forms to choose from.

01 August 2010

Dry curry mee - Yee Fatt

As my parents are here visiting over the weekend, we have been eating out quite a bit. This morning we decided to have curry noodles for breakfast. My husband remembered that his grandmother used to love going to Yee Fatt at the Jalan Kampar roundabout opposite Methodist Girls' School for the dry curry mee there.

We got to Yee Fatt around 9.15am. The place was about a quarter full. We quickly found a table and placed our order - 4 dry curry with mee hoon and mee (mix of vermicelli and yellow noodles) with added roast pork, and 2 meehoon in plain soup for the kids. By now, the coffee shop was quickly filling up.

And hubby said his grandma also likes the "mo yee cha" there - a black sweet tea with a hardboiled egg - so we ordered 3 bowls.

The dry curry noodles were smothered in rich, reddish curry, topped with mint leaves. Very tasty. It also comes with pieces of charsiu and chicken, and of course, bean sprouts. The kids were happy enough with their soup noodles. I liked my breakfast this morning, but hubby thinks that the dry curry noodles in Nam Chau is better.

Well you can try out Yee Fatt and Nam Chau and decide for yourself, too!

14 July 2010

Etiquette when visiting friends

I recently had a friend who came to my home. We were actually going to visit another friend together, and since she didn't know the way there, she would hop into my car.

When my friend arrived, I was rushing to send my boy to school. So I told my friend to wait for me at home. At that time, my daughter was still having her lunch supervised by my maid. Before my friend arrived, I had closed the doors to our study and guest room downstairs.

Later, at our mutual friend's music centre opening (Allegretto in Panorama Lapangan Perdana), my friend who was at my home earlier, mentioned how handsome my son looked in his kindy graduation picture. Now, this picture is placed in the guest room downstairs, whose door I closed.

Back home, I asked my maid if she knew whether my friend had gone into the guest room. My maid replied, exasperated, that indeed my friend had gone into all the rooms downstairs, including the ones where I had closed the doors.

I was rather upset at my friend's behaviour as she had violated the privacy of my home. A closed door means "no entry", don't you agree? It is very unbecoming to explore, uninvited and unchaperoned, someone else's home, especially by opening doors.

I don't know if I should tell my friend my feelings, or just let it go. Well, I won't be having her in my home anytime soon.

Sun Marpoh Restaurant, Ipoh Garden

Reading other bloggers rave about this place, I am surprised my inlaws never seem to have tried it, despite living in Ipoh for ages and ages and ages.....

I heard about Sun Marpoh from my maid agency back in PJ! The lady at the agency is an Ipohan too. Well, I am glad to report that my family and I are happy with the food at Sun Marpoh.

The second time we dined there, on a Saturday evening around 1830, the place was packed! We managed to secure a table but worried about a long wait (a-la Yin Fai Kee's bad experience). Ha! I was suitably impressed that despite the crowd, our food arrived in 9 minutes flat. (hubby was timing it) So far, the quickest and most efficient kitchens in Ipoh have got to be 1919 and Sun Marpoh!

We love the butter-cream prawns (actually it's lai-liu har - no clue what it's called in English) - Sun Marpoh gives a generous heap of the crispy fried buttery strands - and my kids polished off the sizzling-bean curd in a jiffy. The black pepper venison was delicious too, though the belacan kangkung could be better - but still, it was good.

This restaurant will surely be a family regular from now on.

06 July 2010

Kinta Valley Wind Orchestra - inaugural concert

I did not have high expectations when I went for the Kinta Valley Wind Orchestra (KVWO) inaugural concert on the 4th of July 2010. It was to be held in the Syuen Hotel - not the best place with the best acoustics. I told my husband that I would stay until 930pm max, regardless whether the concert was over or not.

But the night turned out to be extremely enjoyable, with the orchestra members enthusiastic and full of promise, and with tremendous local support as the Syuen ballroom was packed out. So there is room and demand for orchestral music and the arts in Ipoh! We stayed till the end of the concert at well past 10pm.

The 50 member-strong wind orchestra comprised musicians of all ages, mainly novice and amateur players supplemented by the presence and service of professional musicians from the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra who gave of their service freely. Such is their commitment to music.

The KVWO was formed in January 2010 under the auspices of the Kinta Valley Symphonic Society, founded by the generous grant given by Dato' KK Lim. Eugene Pook was brought on board to be the first artistic director and conductor of the orchestra. At the same time, Eugene is also music director of the Perak Society of Performing Arts and advisor to the Youth Circle of Arts Malaysia.

Given the short time with which the musicians had to prepare for the concert, their performance that night was commendable. Conductor Eugene Pook shared with the audience that when he auditioned the musicians, he was heartened that so many turned up for the audition - that was the good news. The bad news, as Eugene put it, "They cannot play! Oh man, I've got a lot of work to do" - to the amusement of the audience. Well the hard work put in by all has certainly paid off. Well done!

I look forward to the growing orchestral and arts scene in Ipoh, never really expecting it to be vibrant here at all. Pleasant surprises to living in Ipoh .....

22 June 2010

Too much pressure in Malaysian school system

So, that's what the Education Man is saying now.

There's the UPSR for Year 6, PMR for year 9 and SPM for year 11. And most everyone takes these exams oh so seriously! Even though when you think about it, who cares what you scored when you were 12 or 15 years old? Yet the amount of expectation and pressure piled onto our kids to excel in these exams are tremendous.

While our Education Ministry is now mulling the possibility of abolishing the UPSR and PMR, let me tell you about an interesting development in Perak in the public education system.

The Perak Education Department, or I am told it is the District Education Department for Kinta Utara, has in its exam-oriented wisdom decided to implement a "controlled-school" system. 17 primary schools in Ipoh have been given the privilege to be called controlled-schools, and with it the power from 2011 to demand that all students entering year 1 must possess satisfactiory mastery of the 3Ms (reading, writing and math). These controlled schools will require kindergartens to provide "report cards" for children wishing to enter the schools.

After entering the controlled school, the pressure cooker saga continues. The controlled school is empowered to remove students from the school if in Year 3, Year 4 or Year 5 the student does not achieve a Grae C (50% and above) for the core examinable subjects. This means that there is no certainty that a student can remain in his/ her chosen school after Year 3, as each year the controlled school will review the year-end exams, and the student may be asked to leave the school if his/ her results are not up to scratch.

Imagine the uncertainty, the pressure on primary school students to perform academically just to stay on in the school. Imagine the disruption to the child's education, not to mention his/ her social development and connection to friendships already developed from Year 1 to 3 should the student be compelled to leave the school. And not to forget, the label of being a "failure" and having to leave a controlled school to go to a "school for failures"!

So the Perak Education Department wants to segregate Ipoh schools into "brilliant schools" and "for the dumb ones"? I just don't see the rationale. And I sure hope the Perak Education Department did its homework, research, focus group discussions, invite feedback and opinion before it embarked on this insane education policy.

I also spoke to an officer in the Ministry of Education in Putrajaya about this matter, and guess what? Hey! It's ok, each state can do as it pleases with its education system. That's real united, uniformed and 1Malaysia, isn't it?

23 May 2010

Loooong wait at Yin Fai Kee

In our quest for the KL-equivalent Hokkien Mee (black fat fried noodles) in Ipoh, my family and I went to Yin Fai Kee on Jalan Leong Sin Nam on the recommendation of an uncle. The shop is diagonally opposite the paeditrician Dr. Tang.

The shop has a big banner advertising its famous lard-fried Hokkien Mee. With anticipation, we arrived at the shop around 7.20pm. The elderly waiter told us we could sit on the ground floor section or upstairs. It didn't look too packed downstairs, so we went in and found ourselves a table. We ordered the Hokkien Mee, braised yee mee, fried la-la (mussels) and a green vege. We were given the number 8 - and we sat back to wait.

And wait, and wait, and wait ...... table no. 5 was a big family who ordered multiple dishes. By 8pm (more than half an hour after we arrived) the restaurant had just finished serving them. I noticed that they kept sending dishes up via the dumb-waiter. At about 8.10 pm, they served table no. 6, and continued sending dishes upstairs.

I went to talk to the waiter and assistant to the cook, asking why they were not cooking dishes for the customers downstairs. They said they were following the queue numbers - I said all the numbers downstairs were from 5 to 10. They must be jumping queue for the people upstairs! Just then, table no. 10 got up and left without waiting any longer for their food.

Our kids were starting to whine and complain. Finally, at 8.25 pm, one hour after we arrived, we too got up and left. On our way out, we told the waiter that they somehow screwed up the wait system tonight. Well, it was only our first time there and sadly, it was not a pleasant experience.

The place seems quite well patronised, so if you would like to try it out, I suggest you get there way before 7pm.

21 May 2010

Dewan Bandaraya Ipoh

Of all the "new" things we would have to adjust to in Ipoh, one of the unexpected ones is the rubbish disposal and collection by the Ipoh Municipal Council (Dewan Bandaraya Ipoh; DBI).

The way our house is located, DBI will not come to our gate to collect the house refuse. Instead, we have to walk out to the main road and place our bags of garbage on the road shoulder.

I notice that a DBI worker would pull a large trolley - it looks more like a black, round tub on wheels - along the roads and put all the bags of garbage into his trolley. Then he would deposit everything into piles at designated spots along his route. The DBI garbage truck would then come round to pick them up.

It seems like double work to me. Back in PJ, MBPJ's truck would just move around slowly and the team of MBPJ workers would walk ahead of the truck, pick up the bags of garbage and throw them into the back of the truck. Here in Ipoh, the poor guy has to place the bags into his trolley and then unload them onto the ground, after which the truck would pick them up. That's 3 steps compared to just 1 practised in PJ. (creating more employment?)

But that's not the problem I have. My problem is with one particular DBI worker whose job, it appears, is to ride around on his motorcycle in my area and pick up random rubbish strewn on the road or the side of it with a long pincher. He doesn't have anything to do with the residential garbage bags.

But somehow, he has taken a keen interest in our garbage bags. We use various types of plastic bags - the big black ones and the ones I recycle from the supermarkets. More of the supermarket bags because we don't generate enough waste to warrant using the big black plastic bags. But the DBI guy insists that we must use the big black bags and has waited for my maid several times in the morning, to admonish her for not using the black bags.

Admonishment bordering on harassment. He even says things like "tauke awak tak ada wang nak beli bag hitam, ah?" (your employer can't afford to buy the black plastic bags?) My maid became increasingly irritated with him and they exchanged words more than once.

So I called DBI and asked if Ipoh specifically insists on black plastic bags. The DBI refuse department officer said it was not necessary, as long as the bags were neatly tied. So, there.

Have you been harassed by your friendly neighbourhood DBI worker?

28 April 2010

Facial at Clarins, Ipoh

It was my first time getting a facial at a "branded" cosmetics counter.

I understand that Clarins has "institutes" in the bigger malls like OneUtama, but here in Ipoh Parade, they have their counter and a room. As I am still hunting for a good place to get my facials, I decided to try out Clarins since I had received a birthday voucher for a facial costing RM145, for which I would only have to pay RM68.

So off I trooped to Ipoh Parade. It's quite difficult to get a park on the ground level under the shady trees but I spied one last empty space - only that it was blocked by a large SUV with its driver inside, obviously waiting. Should I just park in the basement? No, I like the ground level parking. So I drew up abreast of the waiting SUV, got out of my car and indicated that I wanted to park in the spot that was being blocked. The driver obliged and reversed her SUV to clear the way - good lady.

Now, the facial. The Clarins representative first gave me an "examination" - gently pressing on my face and pinching softly. She announced that my skin was "fair" and "not dry, not oily". A pretty good assessment, I thought. Then she went on to explain that at Clarins, they provide a facial treatment with cleansing and facial massage with Clarins' pure plant oil. Ok with me....but at the end of the facial, I feel that at the price of RM145, Clarins' facial is grossly inadequate. There was no steaming (to soften the skin and open up the pores), no extraction of oil heads, and no multiple times of cleansing and scrub. Just a very cursory cleanse, scrub and massage with the plant oil. I am not sure if there was even a mask at the end - everything was done so quickly and with so little of the creams, lotion etc. applied on.

For the price that Clarins is charging, I was very disappointed with Clarins. Perhaps the Clarins Institutes do a better facial.

12 April 2010

Feet care - see a podiatrist

Have you ever had a corn on your foot? You know, it's really uncomfortable as the corn gets larger. Each step you take, you feel something poking into your sole.

I never had a corn until about 4 years ago. I went to the little park near our house in BU and played some impromptu badminton, without the proper shoes - and taa daa, I had the first corn in my life. And the sad thing about corns is, once you've had one, chances are that they tend to recur, at exactly the same spot. It's so true that we have to keep our body well and in good condition - one little breakdown, and your parts are never as good as they were before.

The first time I had that nasty little thing removed, I didn't know better. I went to my company's panel clinic, Klinik Famili at Taman Tun Dr Ismail. The doc there said sure she could remove it. But she performed a mini surgery! Went for my little corn with swords drawn, needles piercing, blood letting and bandages rolling - youch! I couldn't walk properly for a day after.

When my corn reappeared, I thought there's got to be a better way. I researched about podiatrists and whether there were any in Malaysia. Very few, but I found one in Sunway Medical Centre. I had to get a referral and that same Klinik Famili was very offended and reluctant to refer me to a "podiatrist" because a GP could do it for me (I don't think the GP even knew what a podiatrist is!)

Ah, professional feet care at last! The podiatrist removed my corn in about 10 minutes, with a scalpel BUT there was no blood, no pain, no anaesthetic, no needles, no bandages - it was marvellous. And I could walk and run normally immediately after that. The podiatrist said GPs do not know how to treat feet problems like corns etc but there is not much awareness about that here in Malaysia. In hindsight, I should have sued Klinik Famili for their negligent treatment of a very minor foot problem. And Klink Famili is on the panel of so many government bodies - hmmph!

Now that we are here in Ipoh, I had to find a podiatrist. I had very low hopes of locating one here (Ipoh being a small city and all) but to my amazement and delight, my husband found a British podiatrist practising here in Ipoh! We visited her last weekend and she removed my corn using the same painless method as the podiatrist in KL. Even better, she massages the feet briefly and she is able to do reflexology too. We were informed that she will soon be providing her services to Kinta Medical Centre.

So, the next time you have a foot problem - corn, ingrown toe nail, fungus on your foot - do check out a podiatrist.

03 April 2010

Qing Ming Festival

Today, we went to pay our respects to the deceased parents of my father-in-law - a yearly ritual observed by the family. In all, usually about 7 families would turn up for this occasion. The elders in the family would be my parents-in-law and and my father-in-law's brother.

The whole group would arrive at the cemetery around 10am, and tend to the grave and begin laying out offerings of food and drink, as well as lighting candles, joss sticks and joss paper (spirit money). Every family member would step up and offer to the ancestors joss sticks, and pour some tea and wine onto the ground. The finale would be the lighting of fire crackers. We also do not forget the graves neighbouring those of our ancestors, as we also walk around and offer joss sticks to the other graves.

The entire family would then adjourn to the nearest relative's place to enjoy the food that was offered to the ancestors - the menu for the day usually consists of generous portions of roast pork, roast chicken, roast duck, char siu pau (steamed pork buns), chung (rice dumplings), cake, colourful steamed buns (fatt ko) and fried noodles (always cooked courtesy of Eldest Aunty thank you Tai So!) And so the event would conclude by lunch time.

Some believe that Qing Ming originated in the Tang Dynasty, with Emperor Xuanzong. Yet others associate Qing Ming with Jie Zi Zhui, who lived in Shanxi province in 600 B.C. Qing means "pure" or "clean", and Ming means "brightness". Whatever practice is observed, the basic observation of Qing Ming is to remember one's elders by making a special effort to visit their graves, ashes or ancestral tablets. To make the visit even more meaningful, some time should be spent to remind the younger members of the family of the lives and contributions of their ancestors.

31 March 2010

Luxury health holiday in Ipoh?

Are you well heeled, or at least willing to splurge on a luxury holiday that is meant to restore your well being or to reduce your stress? Then perhaps the Banjaran Hot Springs Retreat, owned by Sunway Group, in Ipoh is something you would like to try out. (http://www.thebanjaran.com)

The Banjaran opened its doors to guests this year, with lots of advertising over the radio. I also noticed new signs on the major roads in Ipoh directing you to the Banjaran.

Well, last weekend we decided to check it out. True to its desire to be exclusive, the Banjaran does not permit casual visitors to enter the retreat. You need an "appointment". The guard at the entrance turned away several cars, including ours. He also handed us an information sheet quoting Banjaran's opening special of a 2 nights/3 days package which includes accommodation, aromatherapy, spa cuisine menu etc. at RM1,990 per person for a twin package.

Sound attractive to you? Let me know all about your experience there!

29 March 2010

Rolling in something smelly

No, I'm not referring to the recent MCA election results.

My white, gentle female lab-mix who is usually very obedient, clean and docile came home yesterday after a jaunt out smelling like s*&@! I thought I had stepped on some poop or perhaps some animal had died on my car porch. But I could not find the source of the offending smell until my maid yelled that Bonnie (the dog) was a walking smelly-bin!

Yucks! She smelled like poop and a dead animal combined. Really, really disgusting. It reminded me of a dog I had when I was a child. I caught it nosing and pawing at something excitedly. Upon checking, I found that it was a dead rodent of some sort. Before I could do anything, my dog madly and joyfully leapt onto the carcass and rolled vigorously onto it. Then my dog regained her senses and started bounding towards me for a pat. I, of course, ran away from my dog, screaming!

So back to my Bonnie in the present time. The only explanation for her bad smell is that she must have found a carcass outside the house and rolled in it. This is such a weird behaviour of dogs. The general thinking out there is that dogs roll around in a carcass to mask its own scent in order to hunt effectively - in other words, it's instinctive so there's no point punishing your dog for it. The joy of having pets .......


I read in disbelief and great disappointment the results of the MCA elections.

The "wisdom" of the MCA central delegates has put Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek aka "the one in the DVD" in the post of party president, while Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai aka "I will stand by my President- maybe I'll try and push him out- I'll stand by my President again - maybe not" was chosen as deputy president.

With such people helming MCA, and the central delegates supporting them, it is clear that MCA can no longer, and does not want to, serve or be relevant to the general voters.

On the side, it is admirable that Datin Seri Wong, Datuk Seri Chua's wife, was able to stand by her husband's side and demonstrated her affection publicly with 2 congratulatory kisses. Great is her forgiveness and tolerance.

25 March 2010

Hunting for a good dentist in Ipoh

Now that my family is settled in Ipoh, I need to locate services such as dental, facial, medical etc. here.

For paediatricians, I have tried Dr. Lim in Fair Park, Dr. David in Ipoh Specialist and Dr Tang in town. My children don't really take to Dr. Lim as he appears rather grouchy. Dr. David is thorough and caring, but he is extremely popular and there is always a long wait for him. Dr. Tang is now our regular paed.

My hunt for a good beautician is still ongoing.

As is the hunt for a good dentist. We still go back to KL for that. But just this week, my maid's molar tooth flared up again, causing her pain and discomfort. It definitely has to go. The nearest dentist to us is Kuan Dental Clinic in Ipoh Garden South. It is close by, and you don't have to wait long.

I guess the reason is because Kuan Dental is very pricey, and as for its quality, I am not very impressed. I was charged RM 90 for my maid's cleaning, scaling and antibiotics. The dentist on duty said that the molar was impacted and infected. It can only be removed once the infection clears. My maid's feedback to me was that the dentist (a middle aged lady) was quite rough and she felt quite a bit of pain during the scaling. Also, my maid said there was spray all over her face! Not to mention quite a lot of bleeding. Sounds like a bad job to me.

Scaling done by a good dentist should not feel too uncomfortable and there should be little bleeding. My dentist in Desa Sri Hartamas always cleans thoroughly yet gently.

As for surgical removal of the molar, Kuan Dental told me it would cost RM650. I checked with another dentist - Dr. Teh on Hume Street - and I was told it would cost RM350. That's a huge difference! But we haven't tried out Dr Teh yet, so the search continues......

19 March 2010

Facial at Casa Mia

I've relocated to Ipoh for just over a year now, and I still haven't found a place to have a facial. Not that there aren't any beauty centres here - there's plenty. But I just don't have the confidence to go to any particular one here yet, as the few that have been recommended to me seem, well, below average. Even my friends who recommended them to me said it's just so-so.

What's left to do? Return to my usual beautician in Desa Sri Hartamas everytime we go back to KL and I can squeeze in the time during our trips.

I just had a badly needed facial 2 days ago. Casa Mia has been having a body massage and facial combo offering at RM138 - one hour of massage and another hour of facial. It's great! I rarely fall asleep during facials but after an hour of soothing body massage, I actually dozed off.

I sure hope I can find a good beautician here in Ipoh....soon.

20 February 2010

Children - kindness & cruelty

It has been a good, family oriented Chinese New Year celebration. As usual, lots of eating and meeting up with relatives we don't see very often. Keeps the ties connected.

We were at a friend's open house last night. And what I saw of children's behaviour concerned me.

After the food was served and tummies filled, some of the kids ran into the house to play together. Most of the adults sat outside chatting and eating. As is my usual practice, I would go check on the kids after a little while.

I found my kids in the TV area, playing. Most of the kids were around my son's age while my daughter was the youngest one there, just following whatever the older kids were doing. When I got to the TV room, there was one other mom sitting there. I sat down to watch - the TV as well as the kids.

At this time, the kids were already into what they were doing - and that was having a pillow fight. But the pillow fight was not a random pillow fight with unspecified targets. The kids had somehow targetted a boy and they were all hitting him with pillows. The girls were particularly vicious and persistent. I saw my son enjoying the spectacle, and joining in as well as encouraging his sister to do the same. My little girl hit the boy once with her pillow, then stopped. The victim was not a small boy, and if he retalliated, I am sure some of the girls would end up in tears. He was however, restrained (I like to believe it is because of his good upbringing) and merely shouted his warnings to his tormentors to stop. But at breaking point, he pushed one girl and swiped another with a pillow.

On my part, I signalled my son to stop participating in the "bullying". He complied, a little reluctantly. And I said to the group in general to stop the pillow fight. The other mom sitting with me said nothing. The mom of the victim arrived shortly and told her son to behave himself and not make trouble. Of course, the boy was aghast and protested that he was being attacked. But his mom did not reprimand the other kids, and merely repeated her request to her son to behave. An older sister of one particularly vicious girl came round and led her away.

Now, in such situations, what would you as a mom have done? Many would feel that until and unless things got really dicey, they would say nothing. They may instruct their own chidren to stop playing or lead them away from the area. But I am certain no mom would reprimand other people's children. The "mind your own business" mentality, or "the other mom would not like it" kinda thinking. So we just stand by and allow the kids to bully? The kids there were all about 9 years of age.

When we got home that night, I sat my boy and girl down for a talk. I told them that what they did was bullying. Targetting someone and attacking that person as a group. I asked the reason for the attack, and my son couldn't say. I asked if it was fun. He didn't deny it. I asked him to place himself in the boy's position and to feel whether he would like it. I explained to my kids about compassion and doing to others what you would like others to do to you. I told them in any bullying situtation to walk away and to report it.

Chidren can be cruel. Don't fool yourself into thinking they are innocent and kind and know right from wrong. They need our guidance so much.

05 February 2010

Some Malaysians still do care

As I approached the large round-about with the fountain on my way home after dropping my son off at school, I noticed that a lady on a motorbike had somehow lost her balance and had tipped over on the left lane. Fortunately, she must have been going slow as her bike was leaning against the raised pedestrian footpath on the left lane, and her school going child was already sitting down on the footpath. The mother had some difficulty uprighting her bike.

I was driving on the left lane, approaching the distressed motorcyclist. I slowed down and turned on my hazard signal, and was wondering how I could assist. Well I didn't have to, as an Indian man and another Chinese guy on their respective bikes were stopping to help the lady.

My heart was so glad to see this today, and the lady on the fallen bike was smiling - so all was well.

Ong Kee chicken & bean sprouts

Too tired to go to the market, I decided to eat out with the kids and maid after school. I had planned to go straight from school to the chicken and bean sprout shops in town but an unexpected downpour left my son and me soaked. So home we went to dry off and change, before heading to town again.

We had tried Onn Kee with hubby before but the taste didn't quite sit with me. So I wanted to try Lo Wong tonight, but alas, it was closed! So we walked across to Ong Kee instead.

Maybe it was the weather, as everyone was voraciously hungry. The food came quickly. I thought the chicken was nicely tender and the sauce tasty and not too oily. The bean sprouts were the usual Ipoh best - fat, short, crispy and white.

Thumbs up for Ong Kee.

Weng Kee Restaurant

It feels like it's been a long time since we tried a new place to eat. The December school holidays just flew by in a blink of an eye and before I knew it, it was January and back to school for the kids.

Well last weekend we decided to eat at Weng Kee in Ipoh Garden South, just next to Scotch Pub. I'd been looking at it for a while now, and hubby said the last time he tried it, it was quite ok. And the speciality there is "lai yau yu" , that is buttered fish.

We had a very large dish of buttered fish - it was crispy and buttery alright, with lots of little butter crisps and deep fried curry leaves to put on top of your rice! The taufoo dish was saucy and tender, good for kids. Sweet and sour pork tasted fine, but was just a touch dry. Perennial favourite sambal kangkung turned out alright too. The pricing at Weng Kee was also reasonable, coming to Rm78 for the 5 of us - much more reasonble than Yum Yum Seafood Restaurant in Ipoh Garden South which I maintain is overpriced!

Service at Weng Kee was efficient though the "si tau poh" at first was rather surly, but improved her mood later on. The restaurant's menu has other dishes that we will return to try another time.

28 January 2010

Acts of desecreation unacceptable

All Malaysians condemn acts of desecration carried out against places of worship, all places of worship, in the country.

Whether it is stomping on a severed cow head or leaving severed wild boar heads at a surau; these acts are unacceptable to all right-thinking and peace-loving Malaysians who love their country and have seen Malaysia grow to celebrate 52 years of independence.

We can only hope that the government and police force are able to quickly, effecitvely and fairly conduct their investigations to bring those responsible to book and to expose their malicious agendas.

May cool heads, rational thinking and the spirit of unity prevail.

16 January 2010

Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

While homeschooling is more widespread overseas, it is also beginning to take root in Malaysia. Given the state of our national education, it is not difficult to see why. Parents are just exploring options.

Just today over breakfast, a friend informed us that a mutual friend had decided to homeschool their chidren. I also know of friends who send their kids to homeschool centres (which I think defeats the purpose of homeschooling as it more resembles private schooling).

I have, off and on, given thought to homeschooling. This afternoon, I had a brief talk with my 8-year old and he decided he didn't want to be homeschooled by Mommy and risk being scolded even more fiercely than his teachers at school! A short stint of teaching phonics to my 4-year old was already a test of my patience.

I looked up what some people said about the pros and cons of homeschooling. Some of the comments seemed very naive to me. Perhaps putting down the list might be helpful:

Children are taught according to their learning styles and interests. Parents have more control over how, what and for how long their children are taught.
Parents must help children improve upon their weaknesses and not just cater or pander to their strengths. Parents take on sole and total responsibility for their children's education.
My take: There is a risk of restricting teaching to certain preferred areas or topics that the parent/child is comfortable with.

Children can progress slowly or quickly, according to their abilities.
Parents may feel inadequate to address the needs of gifted and special needs students.

Schedules revolve around family and allow time to bond with parents and siblings. Flexible schedules allow time for breaks, field trips and off-season vacations.
My take: It would take a tremendous amount of discipline on the part of the teaching parent not to give in to the temptation of a day off here, a movie day there, let's bake together instead of study day etc.
Extended time with family can strain relationships or lead to burnout on the part of the teaching parent. Family crises, illness and lax supervision by parents can interfere with learning.
My take: Too much time spent together may not be a good thing. When will the independence and separation for the children come?

Children spend time in a diverse, real world environment.
My take: I find this reasoning laughable - is a homeshooling parent actually saying that kids who attend public schools in the mainstream system living in an unreal world? I would say the reverse is true!
Parents must search for activities such as sports and music that are easily accessible at public schools.

Parents can transmit their values to children and shelter them from negative influence.
Parents must give children increasing independence and a chance to learn to stand for their values.
My take: Will homeschooled children be able to function in a real world that is imperfect where not everybody will treat you as well as your family?

Sadly peer pressure, competition and bullies are all part of a typical school day. Homeschooled kids are free from these kinds of pressure and can act and dress the way they want without fear or a need to "fit in". They live in the real world.
My take: Again, I wonder just how well homeschooled kids face up to real life pressures.

For families who feel their religious and spiritual beliefs are an important part of their lives, homeshooling provides the opportunity for parents to incorporate their beliefs into their daliy lives.
My take: This can just as easily be achieved even if the child attends regular school. The risk for homeschoolers is that they are exposed only to the religious and cultural practices of their family and close relations, without the chance to mix with and learn from other peoples in the world. How is tolerance to grow and bigotry eliminated? The homeschooling parent must make special effort to expose their children to the existence of other races, religions, cultures, languages and ways of life. Your way is not the only way.

Homeschooled children can accomplish in a few hours what takes a typical classroom a week or more to cover. In a recent interview, John Taylor Gatto, New York City Teacher of the Year and a 26-year teaching veteran, said that in many classrooms less than one hour out of each school day is spent on "on task" learning. No wonder these kids have so much homework. And that brings us to a major "pro" of homeschooling: No more homework!
My take: Well, if this is true, then I am all for homeschooling!

13 January 2010

Secret Recipe's price increase

Do you like Secret Recipe's food? I know some people say it's real bad, but we quite like some of its cakes. And my kids love their black pepper lamb pie - moist filling with peppery chunks of lamb and onions. If you haven't tried it, you should. And we always thought its pricing was very reasonable at RM6 per pie.

That is, until tonight.

When I went to get some black pepper lamb pie, I was surprised that the price tag said RM6.80. I asked the staff and they said "Sudah naik harga, dari hari Isnin" (all prices have increased as of Monday). Well, that's a rather steep price hike of almost 15%.

Is Secret Recipe raising its prices on account of the 20sen increase in one kilo of sugar?

I am certain that you don't need one kilo of sugar to make one black pepper lamb pie, neither do you need one kilo of sugar to make a cake. So what's the rationale behind the 80sen increase in the price of Secret Recipe's pie (I can't be certain of the price hike for its other products as I am not as familiar with their prices)

I am disappointed with Secret Recipe's new year resolution of increasing its price by almost 15% for its lamb pie, and as much as my kids like it, well........maybe I just have to learn to make it.

08 January 2010

Malaysian churches fire-bombed ahead of demonstrations

This headline was carried on BBC's online news.

Well done, to whoever and whichever party is behind these attacks on churches in the Klang Valley today.

You have successfully portrayed Malaysia as a dangerous country full of extreme and violent religious fanatics who do not and will not respect the rule of law. You show Malaysia as a country that does not honour or value its peace, prosperity and multi-racial (multi-religious) gift.

You do not improve international perception of terrorism that sprouts from this part of the world.

May all the Gods of all religions bless this country, for we need it now more than ever.