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Short Road Trip to Johor Premium Outlets (JPO)

Published by on December 21, 2014

We’ve heard of Johor Premium Outlets (JPO) for the longest time, but never visited. after all, my family is hardly the kind of people who buys the kind of fashion (or prices) they offer. But a recent conversation with friends prompted this road trip. Sometimes, a road trip is more for the company and fellowship than the actual destination.

So last Saturday we packed up 5 adults and 2 kids and 1 toddler into the Toyota Rush and started off from Puchong. Despite some maneuvering around Putrajaya to avoid a inexplicable jam along the SKVE, we managed to reach our first pit stop in Tangkak.

Tangkak

Believe it or not, after growing up 18 years in Muar, I think this my first time in Tangkak town, not counting the few times I passed by en route to Gunung Ledang as a youth. We stopped by a clinic to pick up some drops for Caylee, and for an early lunch. What’s there to eat Tangkak? I mean, other than beef noodles? Nothing, really. So went for the obvious.

The dispenser lady at the clinic recommended 2 options for beef noodles, we went for more famous one.

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The noodles are quite good, a notch better than their branches here in the Klang Valley, but in the Tangkak they don’t any other choices aside from beef.

JPO

Tangkak looks to be a nice town, laidback, maybe larger than Kampar. Then we drove on to JPO.

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We reached JPO in early afternoon, and while there weren’t many people there, the carpark was almost full.

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If you are not familiar with this place, its an open concept mall like They have in Australia, but with covered connections. Its not really big, but if you’re a serious shopper with lots of cash to burn, you can easily spend a day here. There is a wide range of brands here from the most expensive – Armani, Coach (where you have to line up to get in, they only allow 5 customers at a time). The not so expensive brands are the most here – Bonia, Swatch, Tissot, Kipling, Braun Buffel, etc. There are also affordable brands, where we spent most of our time, like Nike, Adidas, Esprit and Cotton On. At the time, there was a sale going on, most store were having up to 70%.

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Personally, the best deal was at Nike. Running shoes start from RM79, but i bought the RM169 model.

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For food there is limited choice, but they have a food court here.

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I think all in all both families spent almost RM1,000 in total. I think we spent the most in Saccor, Kipling and Nike.

Dinner

By the time we finished it was almost 7pm, we went for dinner before checking in our hotel. Didn’t want to go far, since our hotel was in nearby Senai, the only other place i know of the duck rice and noodles in Skudai.

It was much better than i remember it – last time i was here was 1996 when my family visited me in uni before graduating.

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Dinner came up to RM80, not including the otak-otak.

Hotel Le Grandeur

By the time we check in to our hotel, Le Grandeur, it was way past dark and we were super tired, so we didn’t get a good look at the premise.

But next morning for breakfast, we were pleasantly surprised. Le grandeur isn’t a new hotel, more than 10 years old, but its still quite good. Thanks for John for getting us good rates.

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Johor Bahru

After a swim and checkout, we drove down to JB. Ive only been back here once in the past 18 years, and the that was 10 years ago. JB has changed a lot, but the old city is still pretty much same.
Danga Bay was disappointing, reclamation has ruined it, and the city was caught in a horrendous jam due to works along Wong Ah Fook.

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After a few rounds trying to find Holy Light church, we gave up and decided to head back. A pit stop at McDonalds for lunch, and then a long, long drive back to the city.

So ended another road trip. Maybe this was too short, rushed and tiring, but still fulfilling and great company. Looking forward to the next road trip, then.

Cuti-cuti Malaysia in Port Dickson & Seremban Again

Published by on December 9, 2014

This year’s family holiday, we went back to Port Dickson. In line with our austerity drive to have local holidays these next few years, 2 months ago I booked 3 nights in Grand Lexis PD Executive Pool Villas for RM2000 (room can fit 4 pax). I thought wow, that’s even cheaper than last year’s price! I only found out why when I checked in. RM2000 is for room only, no breakfast. this slight inconvenience turned out to be a good thing for us, we saved the money and spent more time in the room and pool rather than having to rush for breakfast every morning.

But anyway.

Friday morning we took a slow drive to Seremban first. the good thing about nearby cuti-cuti Malaysia – can take a slow drive there, no need to rush to airport or wake up early to beat traffic jams. First on the itinerary was Beef Noodles in the Seremban wet market. We first tried it last year, loved it so much, wanted to try it again.

this time we tried the other stall in the wet market, a few stalls down from the famous one. Regretfully it didn’t taste as great. there and then we decided to come back the next day or Sunday.

after the early brunch, the next thing on our touristy itinerary was – SIEW PAU! Oh sure, you’ll say its overrated, can buy anywhere in KL, etc. But what else is there to do in Seremban? Besides, I kinda like siew pau, especially the ones my mom used to buy from my hometown Muar.

Last year we tried Asia Siew Pau, supposed the best in town, it was really good. this time, we opted for the more famous Empayar Siew Pau. You know, the huge place you can see next to the Plus Highway. The building is huge, but largely deserted. I guess they planned it to be a mall with ample parking, but no one moved there, except the siew pau store. but they’ve recently also opened a restaurant right in front of the siew pau shop specializing in Lukut Curry Chicken Bun.

Empayar, just like Asia, sells more than siew pau – they also sell other confectionary like kaya kok, curry puffs, lou por peng (wife biscuit) etc. So my take? Both are equally good, up to a certain level I can’t really tell the difference between the two.

From Seremban its a slow drive to Grand Lexis. We stayed in the Executive Pool Villa, but this was a slightly smaller unit from last years, on the upside, our room was really near the carpark (although still above the water).

We didn’t leave the hotel until lunch the next day, we spent all our time napping and swimming.

Lunch the next day Saturday was back to Seremban to try the original beef noodles in the market. Then with nothing much else to do, we drove to Seremban 2 (very nice township) to visit Aeon Jusco. the place, apparently the most happening mall in Seremban now, is very much like Station 18 in Ipoh. Walking around took us just 45 mins, so sat in Starbucks drinking coffee and McDonald’s ice-cream (Old Town Coffee was so packed we couldn’t get a table). After getting some snacks and bread from Jusco, back to hotel for swim and dinner of cup noodles.

And then we didn’t leave the hotel again until dinner on Sunday, which was at this forgettable restaurant opposite Giant in Lukut.

On Monday after checking out, we have dinner at the famous Lucky Bun King (curry chicken bun) in Lukut before heading home.

Short, cheap holidays, but great memories with the family.

Thai Fish Farm, Jalan Ampang – Ulu Langat

Published by on November 3, 2014

After relocating to the city for close to 20 years, we’ve only begun to really explore the extent and fringes of Klang Valley. For most part, we’ve stuck around the southern and western parts of Greater KL (this is the new, preferred term for ‘Klang Valley’, apparently). But on Saturday, we really went across the city, from Puchong to Ulu Langat to Thai Fish Farm.

It was supposed to be a day at Pulau Ketam, then when that didn’t happen, we thought of going to Selangor Pewter factory visit, and when even that didn’t pan out, I decided to go for an early dinner in Thai Fish Farm, some place I’ve read a few reviews about.

Getting here from PJ / Puchong is far but not difficult, made easier if you have Waze. Try coming earlier before sunset to see the place before dark. the final descent to the restaurant is really steep, not for the faint of heart.

Sorry for the dodgy photos. From my Galaxy S4. No time to take photos. Nom nom nom.

Free ample parking.
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Something fishy going on.
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Oysters.
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Very serene atmosphere.
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Fish food is available at RM2 per pack.
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Main course.

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Floating stage with a live performance by a one man band.

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Mango sticky rice!
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I think the food is definitely good, plus service was excellent by the Thai staff (although being early must have helped). Price came up to about RM266 for 5 adults and 3 kids. We had fish cooked in 2 different ways, plus 4 large oysters so I reckon it was good value considering the quality of food. But a lot of the dishes were spicy Thai style, so if you are going with kids who can’t take spicy there are limited choices. Will definitely come back again, very soon.

On the way back we stopped by Ampang Lookout point. a spectacular view of the city.
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After that we rounded it up with ice-cream and coffee at Inside Scoop in Damansara Jaya.
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Its days like these that make you realize that life can get pretty good.

Final Fantasy 7

Published by on October 12, 2014

In a simpler before this, there was a console system called PlayStation One (I have always preferred the name PSX to the later PSOne). And the greatest game ever for that console was Final Fantasy VII.

Maybe its really the greatest game of all time, as most websites claim it is, but in my humble opinion, it really was.

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Fantasy Books / Series I Read While Waiting for George R. R. Martin

Published by on September 24, 2014

People don’t really have a high regard for fantasy books. They usually think about a muscled bound hero fighting dragons or orcs to rescue the princess (no doubt influenced by the Conan movies).

But as a kid, I have always loved the idea of a bildungsroman tale of a boy, driven by circumstances, leaves home to find he is a fulfillment of an age old prophecy, whereby the saves his people from the clutches of an evil wizard… This is no doubt help by a childhood of computer role-playing games (e.g. Wizardry, Ultima, Bards Tale…). But I never had any fantasy books to read. Some of my friends always talked about Belgariad or Wheel of Time, but I never got a chance to read them.

When I grew up and could afford my own books, I read a lot of everything else, but not fantasy. There were so many other books and genres I had wanted to read, so fantasy took a backseat temporarily.

One day, at the Wisma Atria closing down sale, I found a copy of George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones for RM15. Fifteen bucks! Please do remember, this was long before the fanfare of the TV series and everything, when no one except the small circle of fantasy readers have heard of A Song of Ice and Fire. I think I breezed through the 500 page book in less than a week, and was amazed by how awesome it was. Granted, Martin’s new fantasy style is a progression and very much different from the 80’s style of David Eddings or Robert Jordan, and I was hooked. In a span of two years, I had caught up with Book 5, A Dance with Dragons.

Yes I do realize it might be a good 2 more years before George R.R. Martin releases Book 6, and probably another 10 more years before the series is concluded… so I decide to spend the time until then exploring other fantasy book series.

But the thing about fantasy book series – its like this. Its like buying cars in Malaysia. There are only that many series that are good. This is different from general fiction – there are thousands of novels and series out there, everyone has their own opinion on which are good (they all are good in their own way). But if you google ‘good fantasy book series’, you will roughly get the same few results. There are good reasons for this, but maybe that’s for another article.

Then there’s another thing. I know fully well that GRRM’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is the VERY best in fantasy books – today and ever. And will probably be for the next 20 years. So I have to accept that any other series I read will not measure up to Martin’s tale of dragons and kings killing one another.

So with all the caveats, I set out look explore the world of fantasy books. I generally pick them up at book sales, and always at discounted price. God knows I can’t afford full price books.


The Magician, Book 1 of The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist
I actually bought this one together with A Game of Thrones. Although it follows the classic bildungsroman tale of a poor boy discovering his destiny to defeat the evil overlord, I found the storyline too outdated (granted it was first released in 1982). Someone told me the later books in the Riftwar saga are quite good, but I don’t intend to find out. I am actually surprised that the Riftwar Cycle is still ongoing as of 2008.


Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson
Now, I had high hopes for this one. in fantasy book circles, this is usually regarded as the best there is, sharing the top spot with Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I found the first book ‘Gardens of the Moon’ for RM12 (hardcover!) at a sale. But here’s my problem with it. While it promises a vast meticulously crafted world and magic system, there are no protagonists you can root for, or at least identify with. Everyone says, ‘it really kicks in the 5th book onwards’ but do I want to hang around another 4 books of wondering what’s going on? For this first book, the storyline isn’t convincing and there wasn’t much of a closure to it. To me, the first book of any series should be strong (if not the strongest) to draw readers in, not muddle them. Currently, the series has been completed, but for me it is on hold as I’m not convinced it’s worth my time to continue on.


Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. LeGuin
These are 6 short novels about the wizard Ged’s journey of self-discovery. This is a different kind of fantasy writing, they are simple and short, and I really loved it. I like the concept of magic based on your name, and the conclusion of Tenar and Ged’s story in The Furthest Shore is especially poignant. I read them online.


The Blade Itself, Book 1 of the First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
Now this I really like. The series is short and completed (only 3 books) and it has a dark sense of humour. I read the first book online but am looking to buy the books on the cheap (don’t really like e-reading). I don’t think any bookstore sells this, other than Kinokuniya.


Assassin’s Apprentice, Book 1 of the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Read the first book, thought it was okay, but never got round to finish it. Kind of slow-burning actually, not sure if i want to give it another shot.


Myrren’s Gift, Book 1 of the Quickening by Fiona Mcintosh
Almost halfway through the first book, did not like it.


The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson
I’ve read Way of Kings and I love this series. I think potentially this series can live up to be one of the best, if Sanderson keeps the momentum. It takes awhile to clue in to the big picture (there are 4 separate protagonists and storylines) but once you see the scope of it, you will appreciate the stage it has set. On the downside, we are currently only at Book 2 of 10, so its going to be a long long wait to conclusion.

I have also bought the Long Price Quartet (by Daniel Abraham) and Mistborn series (by Brandon Sanderson) but have yet to start them. Some of the series I am looking out for are Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams and Black Company by Glenn Cook. And since Brandon Sanderson recently recommended the Black Prism series by Brent Weeks, I must give it a try.

P/S I HAVE read Lord of the Rings (3X), The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials and Abhorsen, but i don’t consider them similar to be above.

Happy 10th Birthday, VIOSer!

Published by on September 9, 2014

Last month marked an important milestone – my faithful Toyota Vios (“VIOSer”) reached 10 years old.

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(mine is silver colour)

For a 10 year old car, it’s still rather in good shape. Granted, for the first few years it wasn’t used as much (I had a company car then) but it has been regularly used for the past 7 years it was heavily used. I doubt had I bought a Waja or Wira it would still be on the road now.

I remember the time we were planning to buy the car. We went round 7 different showrooms – Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, Chevrolet and Ford. Nope, no Proton. We test drove all the sedan models around the 1.5 class (only the Nissan Slyphy was at 1.6). At the end, it was between the Vios, City and Hyundai Accent. The City had this ugly back (remember the first gen Darth Vader look?) and I wasn’t entirely sold on Korean cars yet, so it was the Vios. I wasn’t entirely crazy about the Vios’ look (especialy the back), but I guess it was my choice by process of elimination.

This was the first gen Vios, just a few months after it was launched in Malaysia. Remember the ad featuring (a young) Britney Spears? Some of my friends who bought the 2nd and 3rd gens reported lots of problems after 5-6 years.

So ten years, baby. This is by far the longest I’ve used a car. I doubt there are many more years for it, the stock engine parts are beginning require replacing due to age.

Idiot Box Marathon – 8 Seasons of Jack Bauer and 24 (Part One)

Published by on August 17, 2014

I always tell people I’ve never watched a single episode of TV dramas like 24, NCIS, Bones, Castle, Lost, CSI (well, actually only New York and Last Vegas – I’ve watched a few episodes of Miami before). I’ve nothing against them, I’ve just never had patience to sit through one hour of drama and 20+ episodes of storyline arc. Recently, I’ve done HBO series which have shorter seasons, like Suits or Homeland.

But I’ve also told my friends one day when I’m retired, I’ll do a marathon of these shows just to see what the fuss was all about.

Recently, though, Boone has been talking about the latest season of 24, so back in June, I started the 24 marathon, coinciding with the World Cup season. I do realize that most people started watching the series more than 12 years ago, so they don’t really remember much of it.

Season 1

Storyline –
Its the day of the US presidential primary, and terrorist kidnap Jack’s wife and daughter and forces him to assassinate the Senator David Palmer.

My thoughts –
as far as first seasons go, I thought this was okay. All through the season I kept wondering the same thing as everyone who watches the show – don’t these people need to eat and sleep? Don’t they need to charge their phones?? is there a software I can download off the Internet to control the satellites like they do??? Jack and presidential candidate David Palmer are of course the heroes, but I didn’t know who was more annoying – Kim Bauer or the David Palmer’s son. Jack’s wife was so gullible it was unreal. On an interesting note most 24 fans may not remember – the very first scene in the series is a night shot of KLCC Twin Towers.

Season 2

Storyline –
Jack and CTU race to find and deactivate a bomb in Los Angeles. President Palmer face traitors in his cabinet. Kim Bauer has her own storyline / crisis, mostly stemming from her stupidity.

My thoughts –
I felt Season 2, though having a rather weak first half, was overall better than Season 1. George Mason turns out to be a good guy and hero, although I think everyone saw that a mile away. On the other hand, Sherri Palmer shows how she can be even more annoying than ever. The cliffhanger with the President was good, though. I’m beginning to realize just how long it is to sit through 24 episodes. Maybe they should have just named it 10 or 12.

Season 3

Storyline –
Something to do with Jack busting a Mexican drug lord out of prison and back to Mexico in order to stop a deadly virus. Nina Meyers reappears like a rash that won’t go away.

My thoughts –
Storyline getting bit more kua-chiong (over the top). Also, Jack now has a sidekick, and it doesn’t end well for him. Jack has to kill Ryan Chappelle, which I thought was really unexpected. I start to realize more Federal agents get killed than the Star Trek extras in TNG. The bad guy turns out to be the guy playing the police chief in The Arrow, but wearing a turtle neck sweater. We are also finally introduced to Chloe O’Brian, and also Kim Bauer’s horrible new haircut.

Season 4

Storyline –
Jack starts off rescuing his boss and girlfriend, then tries to start an attack on Air Force One and then a nuclear warhead heading for Los Angeles. Main antagonist is a terrorist played by the bad guy in the Mummy movie.

My thoughts –
Although Jack started off with the Dept of Defense, and has seemingly left the CTU life behind, the first half storyline seemed quite the same as the earlier seasons. But the as the episodes moved on, the focus was more on his love interest, the continuing relationship with former president David Palmer and the importance of Chloe O’Brien. In the end, Jack fakes his own death and walks off into the sunset (literally), but hey, he’s fooling no one. There’s at least 5 more seasons to go, right?

To be continued – I’m starting season 5 soon…

Remembering Robin Williams

Published by on August 13, 2014

So the comedian committed suicide yesterday.

Can’t say i was a fan, but he undoubtedly was a talented guy. On an average day, i found him his impressions mildly irritating, but sometimes when he does his stand-up routine, he can make me laugh. But most of his comedic roles tend to rehash the same comedic routines. But its when he controls these his overacting tendencies that i find him really funny.

Like in Good Morning Vietnam, the one Robin Williams movie i like. Mrs. Doubtfire was pretty good, but I like the latter more.

I was fortunate enough to watch Mork and Mindy on telly, though i can’t remember much except his 70’s haircut and the nanonano. I also remember my dad bringing me to watch him in Popeye in Cathay cinema.

Fast forward to recent times, i caught the first few episodes of the Crazy Ones, more for Sarah Michelle Gellar rather than Robin Williams. It was just okay, but i thought he was rather subdued in his characterization, which was a good thing.

For whatever reasons he killed himself, i don’t think anyone else will understand his pain.

Running Man / K-Pop Store in KL

Published by on July 23, 2014

My daughter loves everything K-pop and Hallyu. Including Running Man.

I used to watch Running Man, too, but have stopped for some time now. I still think its one of the funniest show on television, better than anything American or Hong Kong TV has done (獎門人系列 can really learn a lot of things from them). But lately, the episodes have become over-produced, and the humour forced. I particular don’t like the heavily-themed episodes, and how they like to unnecessarily play up the romance between guests and the stars.

But, anyway, it is still funny and a great concept.

So I was thinking to get a Running Man T-shirt for my daughter for her birthday. Preferably one with the tear-off name tag at the back (you need to understand the show to understand this concept).

Some searching online led me to a few fan-run websites and FB pages, but they seem rather disorganized and in some cases, dodgy. So I kept putting it off until last week when it was too late. So I asked around and someone recommended I try looking around either Berjaya Times Square or Sungei Wang Plaza (why does it have to be THESE two places?). Rather than wandering around in the mess of SWP or the cavernous Ah Lian maze of BTS, I did even more google searches and came up with a shop name.

So one day I drove down to SWP and found this.

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Unfortunately, it wasn’t open yet. The little sign hanging on the door said I had 90 minutes to wait.

So I went for lunch, waited around, went to check out art books at Basheer (they had none).

Opening time came, still not open. I walked in the bookstore next door and asked the shopkeeper. This is what she said, “Sometimes they open at 11 plus, sometimes at 2.30pm. Puasa month, sometimes they don’t even open. Yesterday, they opened at 2.30pm, a customer screamed at them coz she was waiting for hours. Better you call their number hanging at the door.”

I hadn’t even notice the number. I called but no response. I decided to go off, I can’t afford to sit around all day.

when I almost reached the ground floor, I decided to go back up again to check one last time (its not like I come to SWP every day). Lo and behold it was open!

Anyway, the store is well stocked if K-pop is your thing. They sell a wide variety of useful and useless stuff – tees, books, videos, keychains, mugs, car stickers, even mousepads with pictures of your favourite K-pop star. Who uses mousepads anymore?

they had a good selection of Running Man tees, testament to the shows popularity here. I settled for these two. Jae-Suk looks too cute in the black tee.

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Fighting!!

Happy Holidays are Here Again

Published by on June 4, 2014

School holidays are here again. Parent these days scramble to find activities to prevent their kids from spending their whole break glued to the PCs or iPads. Or spend it on vacations.

When i was small, my parents had a very effective plan. They’d pack us up to my grandmother’s house in Malacca. Together with my cousin, we’d spent days after days playing endless card games (gin rummy and Bluff were our favourites), charades and messing with Balone the dog (he was our dog Scooby’s identical brother). In the evenings we’d play in the field near our house. I remember a small little tomboy of Portuguese descent that i love to play catch with.

Most evenings we’d walk town to the beach to watch the mudskippers on dirty beach. My cousin told me deep in the mangrove there was a shrine. If you went there on a particular night of the year with the right offering, you see whatever you asked for. Strangely enough, the entire mangrove is now a housing estate now. I wonder who’s unfortunate house sits on the shrine location.

Sometimes on weekends my aunt would take us to town to catch a movie. Most of the time it’d be one of the cinemas in town, one time we went all the way to Kam Mah Theater in Bukit Baru. When my mom found out, she wasn’t happy. Apparently, that cinema had a somewhat seedy reputation.

Mostly we stayed in the house. Sometimes we’d help my grandmother prepare beansprouts, or pound belacan. In the afternoons, we’d listen to the Cantonese drama on the radio.

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