Perak has been fantasised, romanticised and idealised by all sorts of people from all walks of life throughout Malaysian history. In the days when tin prices were sky high, the Kinta Valley in Perak, possessing the world’s richest alluvial tin deposits, held promise of great fortunes for already-wealthy businessmen, small-time speculators and the average dreamer.
In Batu Gajah, about a half hour’s drive from Ipoh, the capital city of modern Perak, a visionary Scottish planter dreamed up a palace (with facilities such as an underground cellar, a rooftop tennis court, a large kitchen, a moat, an elevator and secret tunnels) for his beloved wife at the perfect location – on a little hill by the banks of Sungai Raya – before his untimely demise rendered the project incomplete. Today, a century later, Kellie’s Castle stands as a lonesome yet still beautiful relic of a once tragic romance.
The snake slithered through the undergrowth. Pausing, flickering its tongue and rearing its head, slowly….
Startled, I took a step back. I peered closer at the small snake basking on the forest floor.
It had longitudinal reddish orange stripes, with bits of greenish lateral stripes on a black background.
Was it a Banded Malayan Coral Snake? Or was it the Striped Kukri Snake?
Has Langkawi become an annual pilgrimage destination for me? It seems that way since the past few years, I have never failed to visit the isle of legends at least once a year!
But who can blame me. After all, I think it’s one of the destinations in Malaysia that is perfect for any occasion or anyone. I’ve been to Langkawi for work and for leisure; been there as a single woman and as a married couple (for my honeymoon, in fact), and have also enjoyed it as a mom with extended family in tow!
A waft of freshly cut ketupat fills the air. On the stove, the chicken curry simmers slowly in the pot. Even the beef rendang has been cooked to perfection.
The plates, cups and utensils are neatly arranged and small jars filled with crispy cookies. The cookies are made early as these can be stored in airtight containers.
The house is spick and span, and new with a fresh coat of paint. Everything is new (or almost new!) and neat and tidy to usher in Hari Raya Aidilifitri.
Kueh seri muka, lepat pisang, jala emas, putu mayam and definitely the famous porridge, bubur lambuk.
Are some tasty delicacies available throughout the month of Ramadan.
Though Ramadan does sound like it is a sombre month, it is also a celebration of many things.
Observed by Muslims throughout the world, Ramadan is when Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and indulging in excessive or ill-natured conduct, from dawn to dusk. It teaches one patience, perseverance and reflections of spirituality.
The Ramadan month, too, brings with it much flavours. In Malaysia, Ramadan is greeted with a riot of colourful and tasty foods.
Every state in Malaysia will have several designated places where stalls selling various delicacies and drinks for buka puasa (breaking of fast). These sites are commonly known as Bazaar Ramadan.
The trees bristle violently in the chill wind.
A large orange nose peers shyly from the tree tops. Wide-eyed with weary lines under its eyes, the proboscis scans the horizon.
Another tiny face peers from the leaves. It’s a tiny, baby proboscis, hanging tightly onto its furry mum.
Juicy, red, succulent strawberries…ever had a craving for some?
Malaysians are very fortunate as we do not have to book the next plane ticket overseas as strawberries are grown right at our very doorsteps.
Cameron Highlands, with its cooling climate and low temperatures is the most suitable place for these strawberries to thrive.
“Do you know how to choose a good jambu air?”
“Here, look at its fleshy back. It must be firm and make sure it is clean.”
A bubbly, Henry Goh, our guide at the Desaru Fruit Farm, with his cowboy hat grinned widely.
Several ikat of jambu air were hanging from a pole in the clean orchard. Pink and blue plastic wrappers hung colourfully on the treetops above us.
The silence was deafening, and surprisingly no mosquitoes!
“At the farm, we have good agricultural practices to ensure that our fruits are of the highest quality,” said Henry.
“Look at the farm’s clean surroundings; you see no fruits on the ground, right? We also have good drainage system and this is one reason why there are no mosquitoes here.”
“We clear away fruits fallen on the ground as it attracts fruit flies, and other insects,” he added.
A visit to the Kuala Lumpur Craft Cultural Complex at Jalan Conlay, is a wonderful hidden gem. Tucked away from the busy traffic, this craft centre is situated in an open-concept building, with traditional motifs and intricate wooden carvings.
The complex houses several different sections comprising a craft museum, artists’ colony and craft village as well as batik gallery and souvenir shop.
Stepping into the complex, one is greeted with the latest cultural exhibits. On display are local handicrafts such as batik, rattan baskets, pottery, and other crafty knick-knacks.
Make your way to the artists’ colony to try your hand at batik painting. Visitors are encouraged to participate and leave their prints behind.
This is a great place to find more about the history of songket weaving. One is able to view the ornate and expensive gold thread songket also on display in glass cases.
To get there:
One can use the monorail and stop at the Raja Chulan station. Follow the signage to the complex. It is a 30 minute walk (leisurely pace).
Another alternative is to go there by taxi.
There is also a shuttle service available, upon request, at the complex to hotels in the city center. Check with the information counter to verify.
Visit their website at http://www.kraftangan.gov.my/main/or call +6 03 2162 7459 for further information.
The Kuala Lumpur Craft Complex, Section 63, Jalan Conlay, 50450 Kuala Lumpur.
An island holiday that's perfect for moms, dads and babes-in-tow!
It was supposed to be a three-day vacation but we packed like we were going away for three weeks.
Well, I guess that’s what happens when you go on your first-ever holiday with a baby in tow! Our luggage literally burst at the seams with baby stroller, baby food, favourite toys, baby bottles, a “lifetime supply of diapers” as hubby joked, and such. I guess, if we had more space – and a bigger budget – I would have packed my nanny in as well, but hubby said it was strictly a family affair!
Little Moses was not yet a year old and it was our first vacation together, so naturally, I had some trepidation – and some specific demands – about the trip:
1. Location, location, location
First, we had to decide where to go. I had some pretty good ideas of where we were not going – any place that was off-the-beaten track and anywhere that required some form of exertion to get to, i.e. mountain climbing, jungle trekking, river rafting, etc.
My dream vacation had a personal butler in it, but, oh, well…At the very least, our destination had to be both baby- and parent-friendly, easily accessible with modern conveniences, and fun, too!