30 September 2013

What to do in Malaysia

For the tourist, getting information is so much easier in this web-age of ours. In fact, there's probably too much information out there!

Still, it's better having some idea on where to go than just arriving in a foreign country clueless.

I'm not a very adventurous traveler, I like safety and hygiene, am quite scared of illness. So what ever I recommend should be good for most everyone, perhaps a little dull!

I'm a Malaysian, and here's my introductory list of things for you to do in my wonderful country, Malaysia. Also next year, 2014, is Visit Malaysia Year.

Kuala Lumpur

The capital of any country is always the first and major gateway you walk through. Arriving at our international airport, KLIA, you will immediately feel the tropical heat and might be greeted by our routine afternoon showers. Welcome to Malaysia!

Highlights here include the Islamic Arts Museum, the National Mosque, the shopping  streets of Little India and Chinatown, the historic architecture around Independence Square and shopping in the city’s malls in the KL Golden Triangle where you will find Berjaya Times Square (with a theme park inside), Pavillion, Sungai Wang Plaza (bargain paradise) and Suria KLCC (visit the famed Petronas Twin Towers at the same time).


You would have heard that Malaysia is a food paradise, so don't worry about not finding something to eat - take your pick from cheap and flavourful hawker/ street food, air conditioned restaurants or fine dining in hotels. And the type of cuisine? We've got everything!

Other unique things you could do (which I haven't!) include having a lovely seafood dinner then watching the fireflies as you are taken for a gentle boat ride on the river in Kuala Selangor. Or visit our famous Batu Caves, a revered Hindu shrine set in limestone caverns and challenge yourself to climb up its 272 steps. You could also take a canopy walk in the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia.

 Exercise your legs climbing up the Batu Caves steps

Light show by fireflies

Malaysia's 5-star hotels are excellent and value for money for tourists from countries with currencies stronger than the Malaysian Ringgit. Take your pick from international names such as Shangri-La, Hyatt, Park Royal, Westin, Mandarin Oriental and the InterContinental, among others.

Our Hills

I love our hill stations. They offer a cooling respite from our constant summer conditions, and the kids can get to wear some light jackets just for the heck of it!

If you've had enough of the heat, try Cameron Highlands. You will find charming colonial styled bungalows, and strawberry and vegetable farms here. And Malaysia's famous Boh Tea Plantations. There are waterfalls and short trekking trails for you to stretch your muscles and enjoy the fresh air.

A smaller hill station would be Fraser's Hill - charming, cool and relaxing.

Or for a bit of gambling, Genting Highlands (close to KL) might interest you. Nature-wise, Genting is very sterile.

Our sand and sea

The Pearl of the Orient, is our famous and historical Penang island. With abundant choice of  delicious food, great hotels, temples and fabulous sandy beaches, there is little need to say more of the attractions of Penang.

Other islands beckoning those who love beach holidays are Langkawi, Pangkor, Redang, Perhentian and Tioman. You could do a great spot of snorkeling and diving at Redang and Perhentian. 


Our rainforest

National Geographic and nature lovers from the west make a fuss over our rain forest and lament its destruction for development and agriculture.

So perhaps you would enjoy a trip to our national park, Taman Negara.

If you are short on time, and traveling to Taman Negara in Pahang is a problem, you could visit the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, located right in the heart of KL. In fact, it's at the foot of the Kuala Lumpur Tower, the tallest telecommunication tower in South East Asia.


Our caves

For the adventurous nature explorers, Malaysia's caves may be an interesting destination. However, please do not expect our caves to be as well protected, preserved or maintained as cave systems abroad. I very much enjoyed my trip to the Margaret River region of Western Australia where there were some interesting cave systems.

I believe Malaysia could do more for its caves, to preserve them as nature's gift to Malaysians as well as being able to promote them with pride to tourists. Right now, there are no properly trained cave guides, lighting is inadequate, safety questionable and the general attitude towards our caves, lackadaisical. Unless under direct state protection or gazetted within a reserve, many of our caves are not protected.

Nonetheless, do explore and enjoy our caves if that's your cup of tea. Niah Cave in Sarawak, is part of the Niah National Park.

Our elephants

I haven't been to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary but friends who have been say it's a rare treat to get up close to our elephants. Visitor reviews all seem to attest to the fantastic time people had at the sanctuary.

Our mountain

Mount Kinabalu, standing at 4095 meters, is Malaysia's highest peak, and protected within Kinabalu National Park, a world heritage site.

I don't think I will ever scale the heights of this majestic mountain. I am content to look at its beautiful pictures.

My city, Ipoh

My home city now, of 4 years. An easy 2-hour drive northwards of Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Expressway from my birth city of Petaling Jaya in Selangor.

I have come to appreciate the pace and quality of life in this smaller city. All the basic infrastructure, facilities, services and entertainment you would expect to make your life comfortable are available.

Minus the endless traffic snarls of KL and PJ. The skies are blue and clear most days. The air is noticeably fresher. The people friendlier, with a little more time for a smile and some small talk. Distances are shorter, and parking more easily found. And the food! What can I say? Even Malaysians make day trips to Ipoh just for its food.

People call Ipoh the retirement city. Perhaps because of all these qualities. But they don't know the quality of life here is excellent. Housing is much more affordable. For the price of a condo in KL, you could buy a semi-detached house here with land enough for your green fingers. And there are no tolls to pay!!

Indeed, Ipoh should market itself as a retirement city . Your money goes further here. And Ipoh is conveniently located between KL and Penang, a 2hr drive either direction. Isn't that great? I think it is. There is an up and coming retirement village, styled after the well-planned retirement villages of Australia, that will be located in Meru, Ipoh.

But what is there to see and do in Ipoh? Granted, it is a smaller city, slower and much less cosmopolitan. Therein lies its charm, with pre-war architecture standing side by side with newer buildings. I was glad to see Ipoh mentioned in Asia Rooms.


Ipoh is surrounded by lime stone hills. The natural beauty of the hill-scape parallels that of the mountains I saw in Guilin, China. And within Ipoh's limestone caves, Chinese temples and shrines are found.
amous Chinese cave temples like Perak Tong, Sam Poh Tong and Kek Lok Tong. Ipoh is also one of Malaysia’s famous food havens - See more at: http://www.asiarooms.com/en/community/blog/5-lesser-known-cities-in-southeast-asia/#comment-1065378271

A cave popular with splunkers is Gua Tempurung, the largest cave in Peninsular Malaysia, about 3 km long with an underground river running through it.

Ipoh is blessed with natural hot springs. If you have the budget for it, you could indulge yourself at the Banjaran. Or, you could do the same without breaking your bank account at the  Lost World of Tambun.


Ipoh is famous for its lovely pomelo, a member of the citrus family and native to South East Asia. You could visit a pomelo farm while in Ipoh and buy the produce directly from the farmer.

28 September 2013

Pet Shop - Pretty Pets

When we first moved to Ipoh, I did most of my shopping for essentials at places frequented by my in-laws.

Naturally. Go to familiar and tried-and-tested places right?

Over the years, having settled into Ipoh, learned the roads and shortcuts, beat a few traffic lights and driving in the wrong direction on one-way streets, I'm branching out.

The pet shop.

Important for us since we have dogs.

I first did all my shopping for pet needs at Hupp Fatt. The owners of the shop are friendly and helpful. About 2 years ago, the elderly owner's son decided to set up a second Hup Fatt pet store just behind his father's shop - cleaner, air-conditioned and selling slightly more expensive brands.

In these last 2 years, I have also changed my pet needs destination to another pet store called Pretty Pets in Ipoh Garden South. The shop is very clean and well kept, with a good range of things. Their prices might be slightly higher, but they also carry premium brands which Hupp Fatt does not.

After a long, long time, we happened to be near Hupp Fatt as we had lunched at the Old Andersonian Club, enjoying their banana leaf rice. Since I needed a spare bag of dog biscuits, I decided to swing by the newer (the son's)  Hupp Fatt. I bought Science Plan Chicken flavour for large breeds in the large 18kg value pack. Hupp Fatt charged me RM192 for it, which is expensive and overpriced!

Pretty Pets sells the same brand to me for RM181, a good RM11below Hupp Fatt's price. I was quite sure Hupp Fatt was overcharging me but I couldn't remember the price at that time. I did query the owner of Hupp Fatt and she said the full price is RM200 with an RM8 special given by Science Plan itself. When I arrived home, I checked Pretty Pet's receipt: RM189 less RM8=RM181.

Going by the location in Ipoh Garden South, the range of brands and things available, I would recommend that you shop for your pet's needs in Pretty Pets (unless you live far away from Ipoh Garden South).

(Image from panpages.my)     

27 September 2013

Double-boiled Chinese Pear and Red Apple Soup

I am making this sweet soup for the first time today, in my brand new ceramic double-boiler that I bought from an old-style shop near the Ipoh market.

It is a delight to visit such shops as they are crammed to the top of their shelves and on the floor with pots and pans and plates and bowls and so many other things. You can't find anything yourself, you'll have to ask the owner! I bought the ceramic double boiler, a mini Satay grill, rattan hand-fans, titanium wok, stainless steel plate and a round tea-leaf holder.

Back to this soup.

The mom of my daughter's classmate recommended this soup to me, saying it is sweet, delicious and good for the lungs and skin. I remember my mom mentioning to me about double boiling apples or pears or oranges, but my mom never did it herself.

A mother myself now, I decided to try this soup today. We Chinese love anything soupy!

2-3 large yellow Chinese pears
2-3 red apples

Very simple. Just wash the fruits and peel them (I didn't want to have the skin left on the fruits - pesticides).
Core the fruits and cut them into medium sized chunks.
Place everything into the double boiler and add 1 cup of water.
Boil away for about 2 hours.

I didn't add any rock sugar, so it tastes very natural, with the fragrance of apple and pear. If you would like it sweeter (my little girl screwed up her little nose in displeasure because it wasn't sweet enough), you'll have to add some rock sugar, or perhaps more red apples and some dried figs. My boy said it was fine (he takes after me, not much of a sweet tooth).

Googling around, I found other similar recipes. Some just use the pear or apple on their own, like my attempt today. Variations include adding sweet & bitter almonds (to alleviate coughs), dried figs, wolfberries (wonder berry!) and chuan bei mu (Bulbus Fritillariae Cirrhosae) (to nourish lungs).


(Chuan bei mu and wolfberry pictures from Wikipedia)

19 September 2013

Common Courtesy

One of our radio stations recently had a short run on the topic "Common Courtesy" in a bid to help improve Malaysians' appalling lack of courtesy and manners.

It's true isn't it, when you look around you and watch how Malaysian parents are NOT doing their part to educate their beloved offspring on how to behave like a civilized person. The adults are equally bad.

  • I see Malaysian children pushing and shoving in the parks (while mom looks lovingly at her specimen)
  • I see Malaysian kids rushing into elevators without waiting for other people to step out
  • I see Malaysian adults jumping queue
  • I see Malaysian adults who do not make eye contact with you, much less thank you, for holding the bank/ restaurant door open for them ( I feel like deliberately letting the door slam into their big noses!)
  • I see Malaysian adults loading their shopping into their car in a mall parking lot while you wait patiently for them in your car (thinking they are leaving). And then, these people lock up their car and stride back towards the mall to continue their shopping/ dining/ whatever. Having made you wait there like an idiot! 

Common courtesy is not common.

But there are courteous Malaysians left in this country as evidenced by letters such as these Common courtesy is lacking, Chivalry is not dead and Common courtesy is almost dead.

I have had my run-ins with my rude neighbour:
  • when their house was being constructed, we had to put up with much noise and dust but they never once came to make small talk
  • when their house was being constructed, we often had to open the common gate leading into our area for their workmen to come and go late at night or during weekends. They never once said thank you.
  • their workmen used our electricity supply for their work before theirs was connected. No word of thanks? You bet! 
  • after they moved in, I did the neighborly thing by them - sending food over to them (nasi lemak, chicken curry, bubur caca, nangka and umbra from my garden, banana fritters, yam cake). My platters were returned to me empty. Being Chinese, this shows a very real lack of good manners and poor upbringing if not on the husband's part, then on the wife's part. Oh! Wait...I forget. They did send over one dish: a broccoli-ham dish that was a leftover from Chinese New Year.
  • when Fed Ex comes to deliver stuff to them, and they're out or abroad, they expect us to take delivery for them. When our courier service comes to our house and we're out, do they take delivery for us? Man! You're a genius!
  • they give our telephone number, without telling us, to the person who feeds their pets when they are abroad. So the pet-keeper calls us up when she can't open the common gates. 

I don't get it why my neighbour can't have the courtesy to inform us about the pet keeper, about Fed Ex deliveries and could we please accept delivery for them and thank you by the way?

18 September 2013

High Heeled Warrior Awards

I just learned about the presently ongoing High Heeled Warrior Awards - Celebrating Women in Asia.

This awards event is rolled out by NBC Universal, having concluded their High Heeled Warrior research on female Pay-TV viewers.

The High Heeled Warrior Awards will recognize and celebrate the achievements of women in Asia who have contributed to society in their industry and community, and have made an impact in the lives of many around them.

The 12 High Heeled Warrior Awards nominees from Asia spread across four categories.

The first 3 categories; Arts & Entertainment, Community Service and Entrepreneurship have been selected by the High Heeled Warrior Awards Judging Panel, based on their positive impact and contribution to their community.

A fourth category, Unsung Hero, will include women nominated by the public.

What is the Unsung Hero all about?
The nominated Unsung Hero in your life is a passionate woman living in Asia and providing a service that benefits others.

Why nominate an Unsung Hero?
Your Unsung Hero may not be well-known around the region like the High Heeled Warriors Awards nominees, but that doesn't mean she is any less impactful, inspiring and all-round awesome! This is a perfect opportunity to let everyone know how much you recognize and honour your Unsung Hero's self-sacrificing efforts. Everyone needs a little bit of encouragement and appreciation from time to time!

My choice for the Unsung Hero this time is Jasmine Ong from Malaysia.

12 September 2013

Bio-essence Bird’s Nest Nutri-Collagen & Whitening Series

The Chinese love their bird's nest soup, believing that it nourishes your skin and improves your general health. It tastes delicious enough, double boiled with rock sugar and little hard-boiled quail's eggs.

Having been quite happy with Bio-Essence's ATP range (the blue bottles), I decided to try their Bird's Nest range.

I must say the  Bio-Essence Bird's Nest range is disappointing. And it didn't do (for me, anyway) any of the things Bio Essence claims this range would.

Bio Essence said that the Bird's Nest range would bring your complexion to a new level of ultimate radiance and vitality with its powerful anti-aging and whitening care range.

Feed your skin with Bird’s Nest everyday!
Formulated with premium grade pure bird’s nest essence and amino acid whitening complex for an effective anti-aging and whitening solution, you can now easily incorporate these elixirs of beauty to your daily skin care regime with the Bio-essence Bird’s Nest Nutri-Collagen & Whitening series.

Bird's nest contains a high concentration of up to 85% water soluble glycoprotein, amino acids, and Epidermic Growth Factors that promote cell growth and tissue repair. Consequently, the process of ageing is retarded through the antioxidant content in the bird's nest. Besides, minerals such as calcium, sodium, potassium also increase the body's resistance against disease.

I tried the Bio-essence Bird’s Nest Nutri-Collagen & Whitening Cleanser.

First off, this cleanser does not cleanse well at all.

Those with oily or combination skin like me will find that you will definitely have to double-cleanse if you use this. Otherwise, it fails to cleanse the day's dust, dirt, oils and makeup from your face.

Even then, after I used the whole tube of the cleanser, I found that I had developed quite a number of oil seeds at the base of my hairline on my forehead.

I also used the Bio-essence Bird’s Nest Nutri-Collagen & Whitening Cream.

The texture is creamy, thick and cooling. But despite its rich texture, the Bird's Nest Cream does not deliver the needed moisture to your skin.

As for the whitening claims, there was no visible effect (I completed using the whole tub). In fact, shortly after finishing the Bio Essence Bird's Nest Cleanser and Cream, I had gone for a facial at Shakura , where the beautician there said my skin was dehydrated! So there....