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Winter in Hokkaido – Guide to Winterwear, Internet & Transportation

Published by on February 17, 2018

(This post is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the very beginning, click here.)

Before we get to the itinerary proper, here are guides to a few important matters that you need to prepare for before actually going to Japan. These are based on my experience and there are actually many resources online for you to research if you have the time.


Going to icy cold Hokkaido from a equatorial climate is a big change. BIG change. If you are going during the snow period, you need to get proper shoes and clothes. We got most of our items from Lazada, but if they’re from China (they most likely are) you need to be careful with the sizing.

Shoes – The cheaper winter shoes are for cold climates but not suited for snow as they are not water-proof and have soft soles. Get proper snow shoes with fur-lining inside and a good grip at the bottom. If you are not sure of the type you need, go to the winterwear shops in our shopping malls (like Universal Traveller or Winter Time) to check out the shoes before comparing them online. I can’t stress the importance of proper shoes as you do NOT want to slip and fall on slippery icy surfaces. Alternatively, you can wear normal shoes and buy this slip-on studs from the pharmacies there. But the downside is that if you enter some shops with timber or marble flooring, they will ask you to take them off. And one more thing, buy one size bigger because you need thick socks.

Clothes – I think the logic is simple, get the best you can afford. While we were in Hokkaido in early February, the temperature is from -1 to -10 degrees during the day and at night it can go to -17 degrees or lower. And it snowed every day. Get the affordable Heattech products from Uniqlo. For coats, you can get them online. For pants, I wore my regular jeans there and it was ok because it did not get wet easily in the snow. Get beanies / caps, gloves (water proof, with finger grip for using your smartphone), face masks, scarves. Additionally, if you are susceptible to the cold, get ear muffs and sweaters. Also important – get heat packs from Daiso. They are very useful.


Internet is important if you are travelling with your own itinerary. There are 3 options – get international roaming (DiGi currently has a good offer), get a simcard or a WiFi egg. Since the WiFi egg is the best option for the 4 of us in the family, we went for that option. I took the unlimited data plan with TravelRecommends at RM18/day for up to 5 users. It uses Softbank 4G networks and the connection is fantastic, much faster than my Unifi 50Mbps at home. I highly recommend using it. The only downside is that the battery life lasts about 6-8 hours only, so you need to get a powerbank or turn off the egg when not using if you plan to go out for longer that.


I think the same applies to any area in Japan – if you are travelling a lot within the city, buy a Kitaca card. If you are travelling long distance between cities using trains, get the JR Pass. The Kitaca card is a prepaid card like Suica and ICOCA in other regions and can be used for all buses, trains and within the city. Some taxis and shops accept them, too. The JR Pass is for long distance train travelling, but it is very expensive so you need to calculate whether you will save money using it or not. All these tickets including special tickets like the Asahiyama Zoo train tickets can be bought at the JR Office at Level B1F at Shin-Chitose Airport. For the JR Pass, it is advisable to book beforehand before going to Japan to save time.

Useful Websites

The best websites Japan travel is Google Maps and Hyperdia. For research, I recommend Japan Guide. For this trip, I also installed and used GuruNavi for searching good restaurants.

Winter in Hokkaido

Published by on February 17, 2018

Many years ago when I was a small young kid growing up in small town Johor, I read about the Winter Festival held annually in Sapporo, Japan. It seemed something magical to someone who was more used to sweltering heat and torrential thunderstorms in Malaysia, so it had always been a dream to visit it (though a rather far fetched one).

Two years ago, we had the opportunity to visit Japan for the first time, Osaka and Kyoto in the autumn (you can read the full itinerary here). We enjoyed ourselves so much that immediately after that trip, we knew we HAD to come back to Japan, and pretty soon. So when AirAsia had a big sale last year, we booked our tickets one year ahead of time (to get el cheapo tickets). It was sort of a risk as the main reasons to go to Sapporo was to witness the Snow Festival, and at the time the dates of the festival was not confirmed yet. But roughly we knew it should be the first week of February so it was a calculated risk.

Anyway, a year later now, we’re gone and just come back. And all I have to say is that it was a truly magical holiday. It was just as enjoyable (if not more than) Kyoto and Osaka, but the experience is really different.

This will be our last major holidays for many year since our children are already starting college, but Japan is always call us…

The following is our full itinerary for our 8-day holiday covering Sapporo, Rusutsu, Noboribetsu, Otaru and Chitose.

My 2017 in 9 Points

Published by on January 7, 2018

It just occurred to me that this is the 10th year in a row doing this retrospective. I suppose that’s a record of sorts. Its nice revisit it once in awhile to see my life in years’ past. You can view the previous years’ editions here:


Anyway, let’s get started. (if you are wondering why 9 and not 10, read one of the earlier posts)

1. Cuti-cuti Malaysia

Well, after so many trips in the past years, in 2017, we didn’t go anywhere overseas since it was SPM year. Instead, we did a few short local holidays. We did a staycation in Doubletree Hilton KL and a long weekend stay in Melaka (both trips without the kids). After the exams, we went for a week holiday in Kuala Sepetang / Ipoh / Penang. Sometimes its good to realize that is less important where you go for holidays, rather it is more imporatant that you spend time with your family.

2. CG Retreat

Another local holiday that we enjoyed this year was with our CG. We just joined this group in early 2016, and I came to realize that they hadn’t had a CG retreat for a few years before this. So this year we made it a point to press on with the retreat. So we had a long weekend in Kuala Selangor, filled with kids playing in the swimming pool, adults playing silly games, eating lots of good food, etc. Definitely will be doing it again in 2018.

3. SPM 2017

Speaking of which, in 2017, the biggest even throughout the year was, of course SPM. A year of preparations and studying culminated in a few weeks of examinations at the end of the year. Thankfully, all went well, and our eldest daughter has now marked the completion of the schooling year.

4. the Job

But of course everything comes back to the Job. Things started pretty well at the start of the year, but thing started getting complicated at the end of the year. The situation is still unraveling now, but we’ll see how it pans out in the next few months.

5. books

What is my life without books. In 2017, I set a lower target of 30 books (in comparison to 100 for the past 4 years), with the plan to read and complete some of the thicker / longer books in my library. This started well, I read the excellent The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (962 pages). Somehow, after that first book the initiative petered out and I was back to reading anything and everything. In the end I clocked 104 books for 2017. Some things don’t change, I suppose.

6. new phone

Oh yes, I gave up on my Mi4i and went back to Samsung after 2 years. I spent a bit for the new Samsung Galaxy 8, and after a few months with it, I’m glad to announce that this is an excellent phone, worth very sen I spent. It has lots of cool, innovative features (not all I’m using) and it is so stable that it hasn’t hung on me once yet.

7. Donald Trump and Frank Underwood

Well, what did you expect? We all knew it was going to disastrous, but I don’t think anyone quite expected President Trump’s first year to turn out like this. Well, on the bright side, there are only 3 (or possibly 7) more years of this farce. Incidentally, this year, I started watching House of Cards. Kevin Spacey plays the manipulative Vice President of the US, which brings a strange yet interesting counterpoint to real White House.

8. Game of Thrones

What else? I watched GoT. I had actually stopped watching after Season 1, as I thought it was rather violent. But I was curious how Book 6 (and 7) would pan out, so I had to catch up on the TV series from season 2 through 5. in the latest season, I was watching it weekly as it was released in the US. I don’t think I’ve done this in many, many, years for any TV series.

9. That KL SEA Games

It was a memorable SEA Games for certain reasons – the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony and how embarrassing it was with all the claims of the host cheating just to amass gold medals. Well, we got a public holiday out of it, so… But seriously, I thought the closing ceremony, although very simple, was a great trip down memory lane.

Here’s to a great 2018!

Tourist in My Own City Part 3

Published by on October 1, 2017

This is the conclusion of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, click here.

After the tour ended we didn’t follow the group back to KL City Gallery, instead we went from Royal Selangor Club across the road to St Mary’s to catch our Grab. Lunch was in Ampang.

In recent years, we’ve been trying out all the famous (and not so famous) places in Klang Valley claiming to serve the best char siew (barbequed pork) and siew yoke (roasted pork). You name it, we’ve tried it – Toast ‘N Roast (both the old and new ones), Meng Kee and Spring Golden (Shah Alam), Char Siew Yoong (Jalan Peel), that unnamed stall behind HSBC Jalan Ipoh, Tian Hong (Salak South), the whole lot. However, recently, we haven’t tried Soo Kee in Jalan Ampang. I’ve been here more than 10 years ago, my wife hasn’t tried it.

Soo Kee is located at a small row of shops at the junction between Jalan Ampang and the MRR2, opposite the new M City.

The shop also serves lunch dishes in additional to roasted meat. When we were there, the shop was almost empty, probably since it was a long weekend.

The verdict? The char siew is quite good, the siew yoke, though was disappointing. And the rice is almost like plain rice. Anyway, so I guess this place won’t rank anywhere near the top of our list.

After that, we returned to hotel. Before the going back to our room, we stopped by Juan Valdez Café in Intermark for some coffee and cake (and free wifi). We passed by here yesterday and the smell of coffee was so aromatic. The coffee was good but the cake was a little dry.

That evening, after a visit to the gym again, it was time again for dinner. This time, we decided to try TAPAK Urban Street Dining. This relatively new concept in KL is a food truck park in an empty parking lot beside Corus Hotel. Since it was rather near our hotel, we decided to walk the 2km there.

The fastest way to get there was to go through Ampang Park. In case you missed the news, Ampang Park, KL’s oldest mall is closing down to make way for an MRT station. My mom’s friend Charlie says Campbell Shopping Complex was actually KL’s first shopping centre (Ampang Park opened a few months later), but it was reconstructed after a fire in 1976. But I digress.

A lot of the shops in Ampang Park are slowly closing down, but surprisingly it was still quite vibrant, partly due to the restaurants at the ground floor which are still open for business. I tried to locate a jewelry store owned by a friend, the only one was this one, but I’m not sure if it is the right one. Is this the one, Pastor Aaron?

Exiting the other end, past another empty lot, we finally reach Tapak. For a Saturday, it was pretty packed. There are probably about 40+ food trucks here. I like the concept where they select food trucks with different or special cuisine instead of the usual traditional local fare.

(as you can see, some guy left his car here overnight)

It is easy to spot the popular stalls – there’s a long line.

After walking round the park, we settled on giant cup of Congo (coconut jelly + mango jelly), some quesadilla (cheesy and delicious), chicken nuggets (overpriced), burger (meh) and churros (oklah it came with chocolate dipping sauce).

After dinner, with we took an uber to Pavilion for a walkabout.

Pavilion was overflowing with tourists and shoppers. On the ground floor, Samsung was launching their much hyped-about Note8.

I found out that Artfriend (Malaysia’s most expensive art supply store) has a new branch in Pavilion.

We were looking for Snowflake, but we found Miru Dessert Café instead. We tried their iced mocha and Milo Kakigori. Very nice.

After making our Uber driver brave 20 minutes through the horrible Bukit Bintang traffic, we finally made it back to the hotel for the night.

The next morning, we slept in a little. Instead of going out for breakfast, we went downstairs to Intermark to have brunch at Bonjour Café. Nice ambience, great food.

After brunch, we packed up and headed back home to end our little weekend trip to the city. Hope we can do it more often. Until then.

Tourist in My Own City Part 2

Published by on September 30, 2017

This part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, click here.

After a rather slow and relaxing first day, today we’re up early for breakfast. We’re joining a free heritage walking tour, so we have to be at the meeting point by 9am. Breakfast was coffee and ramen from the Korean supermarket (cos we are seriously not going to spend RM49++ for the hotel buffet breakfast). Mine was beef noodles, the other one was spicy something. Can’t remember what specific flavour, the spicy probably killed my tastebuds to taste anything else.

(ramen breakfast)

Something about the Heritage guided tour we joined. I learnt about it from an acquaintance of mine, who runs the Klang heritage walk. Every day of the week there is a different tour around the city, led by volunteer tour guides and supported by the Tourism Board and City Hall. Today we are joining the Dataran Merdeka Heritage trail, which explores the history of KL from its founding by the Chinese miners up until Independence. It is two and a half hours and covers various buildings and sites around the Sultan Abdul Samad building.

And most important of all, it is FREE.

This is Deanna, our tour guide for the day. She is very knowledgeable and eloquent and we really enjoyed the entire tour.

She also mentioned to me that local Malaysians who join these tours are ‘very rare’. I guess probably it isn’t well publicized, except on tourism websites and Tripadvisor, which locals don’t really look at. You can find more info on these tours here.

The tour starts and ends in KL City Gallery, which is an interesting historical attraction by itself. It used to be a printing office 100 years ago during the British administration, now it is a historical gallery run by a local modelmaker who specializes heritage building and commercial models for property developers (an ex-colleague of mine used to work here).

This is their master craftsman. Every time a tour group passes he has to wave and smile. He’s probably gritting his teeth and cursing that he isn’t paid enough to be treated like a zoo display…

But the KL City Gallery is really interesting, especially if you are interested in models. They have many large pieces including a very interesting ‘running’ model (try it) and a AV show using the largest model of KL city in the world. Probably. You can visit it anytime but there is an entrance fee.

(sadly the model doesn’t extend until my house…)

After that we move outdoors to Dataran Merdeka. And this is where the tour gets really interesting. Deanna really has lots of anecdotes that are funny and insightful, including stories about the British officers’ horses and the fountain, the great floods, and drying wet money on the padang.

(The former Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China. The right wing was demolished to make way for traffic)

After that we got to enter the illustrious Sultan Abdul Samad building. It is now closed to public unless you have special clearance.

From there we moved on to the National Textile Museum (not so interesting, but it was an opportunity to talk about the history of Malacca Sultanate era). Then we went into St Mary’s Cathedral, seat of the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia. And also the church that Queen Elizabeth visited in 1989. And also where my cousin was married in a few years back. I thought I knew the history of St Mary’s pretty well, but Deanna had a few interesting anecdotes to tell!

Last stop on the tour was Royal Selangor Club. Understandably while it is steeped in history, it is already a very old and small club, paling in comparison to the new golf and country clubs we are used to today.

Non-members are strictly forbidden to enter the club, but we were given a special (big) sticker that allowed us temporary access.

The most interesting thing is this ‘spotted dog’, or formerly known as the Long Bar, the only place where women and children are still barred from entering.

The walls of the bar are filled with photos, mostly group shots of dinners and cricket teams of years past. I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone here.

Next – Lunch.

Tourist in My Own City Part 1

Published by on September 24, 2017

This long weekend my kids were away for a school-related camp, so that left me and my wife to take a short holiday in KL. We’ve friends that do these ‘self-pampering’ short vacations regularly, somehow we’ve never done it ourselves. In the past we’ve always done road trips (whether a day trip or over a weekend) out of the city.

So for this 3-day weekend, it started off with lunch on Friday. My wife has been watching lots of Korean dramas lately, and have developed a craving to try jajangmyeon – a Korean Chinese noodle dish topped with a thick sauce made of chunjang, diced pork and vegetables. During our last trip to Seoul / Jeju we didn’t have the opportunity to try it. Recently, we tried it at Out of Seoul in Ativo Damansara, it tasted quite good. But online reviews tell me that the best jajangmyeon in the city is in Ampang.

So our weekend holiday started with a long drive to KL’s Koreatown – now located in a new area centered around One Ampang Avenue. This small commercial district houses MANY Koreans restaurants and supermarkets. I’m not kidding, just drive here if you need to get your supply of kimchi or anything Korean-related.

The name of the restaurant is Chung Gung. They specialize in different varieties of jajangmyeon. They also serve Chinese-Korean dishes but people come here mainly for their jajangmyeon and fried mantou / gyoja. This is the original jajangmyeon (RM15).

The jajangmyeon is super-tasty. The black bean sauce is really authentic and at RM15 per bowl, you get a large serving that is really worth the price. And the mantou, I’ve got to say is the best I’ve tasted locally, whether Japanese or Korean style.

The restaurant is located just beside Hanwoori, another famous Korean restaurant serving BBQ. Maybe next time we’ll try it. But then again there are dozens of restaurants serving BBQ, even in Puchong there are at least 3 good ones. On the same row as Chung Gung there are 3 Korean supermarkets, we tried the nearest one. Later, after visiting the other two, the one we tried has the best selection and is the cheapest. This was the one we tried.

We bought some mung bean powder for making haemul pajeon, and samgyetang (ginseng soup with chicken stuffed with glutinous rice), all our favourite Korean food. We also bought some ramen for our breakfast tomorrow. They were reduced to clear.

This was the other supermarket. We bought some ice latte here.

After lunch it was time to check into the hotel. I had thought long and hard about which hotel to choose. Well, obviously I wanted a good hotel, and not some RM90 backpacker shindig in Bukit Bintang where the you can touch all four walls without moving. Firstly, I did a lot of research – the 5-star hotels were out of my price range. After asking my friend Radzi who does ID work for a lot of upmarket hotels in KL, I narrowed it down to a few and finally chose Doubletree Hilton along Jalan Tun Razak. It was not too expensive, relatively new, and in a good location (near to KLCC and everywhere else I wanted to go).

Doubletree Hilton is located inside another building complex called Intermark, which also housed a shopping mall (and I thought I knew ALL the malls in KL!) Intermark mall is actually a great albeit small, mall. There is a great food court downstairs, lots of good restaurants, Village Grocer and even a FamilyMart. But more on the mall later.

After a short wait, we were checked into our room. While waiting, they offered each guest a cookie. Very nice (and expensive) cookie.

My room was nice, and we got a view towards the U Thant area. That’s the Somerset building you can see. Too bad we didn’t get the KLCC view.

The coolest thing about my room (besides the see through toilet from the bed) was this hidden reading light. Very cool.

Later in the evening we went down to the gym. The gym is facing the swimming pool.

After a quick shower, we took an Uber out for dinner. For the entire 3 days here, we didn’t drive out, all our transportation was courtesy Uber (and their RM4 off promo) and Grab when Uber was more expensive. Dinner tonight was Ipoh Market Street in Avenue K, opposite KLCC.

This place serves authentic Ipoh staples, unfortunately their dinner menu is rather limited. But fortunately, they still had the 2 dishes we wanted to try, kaisee horfun and curry mee.

Our dinner, plus Ipoh white coffee.

Since there wasn’t much to see in Avenue K (well, to be fair, it is now much better than 10 years ago, but it still pales in comparison to its neighbour), so we took the underpass to Suria KLCC. Suria as usual was overflowing with people. After a lot of window-shopping, we settled for some cendol at Nyonya Colors.

We managed to catch the fountain show twice.

So ended our first day of holiday. On the way back to our room, we can see KLCC along the corridor. Here are two shots taken from the same place, at different times.

Next – City Heritage Walking Tour.

Being Tourists in Melaka 2017 – Part 4

Published by on July 30, 2017

Day 4 is our final day in Melaka. We have to be back in PJ to pick up our kids.

So as usual we had breakfast at hotel. After that we wanted to walk to this dim sum place called Low Yong Moh.
On the way there on Jalan Hang Kasturi, we found a flea market. This is a side road between Heeren and Jonker street. There weren’t many stalls open, but the stuff on sale were pretty interesting.

So this is Low Yong Moh. The tai pau (big pork dumpling) is supposed to be pretty good. Since we just had breakfast, we bought one to go. Low Yong Moh is a pretty small place, so do go early if you are planning to have breakfast or brunch there.

So this the pau. very flavourful and old-school.

After the tai pau, we were walking back to the hotel and we passed by Jonker 88. This is the most popular eatery in the whole area. Each time we passed by there was always a long line of people (most probably Singapore tourists) outside this place. Today, though, since it was before 10am, there was no line. So we decided to drop in to try the Nyonya cendol.

Well, have to admit their version is very good, better (and cheaper) than Christina Ee’s version. Since it was too early in the day we didn’t try any of their famous dishes like curry mee or laksa.

Anyway, we packed up and checked out from the hotel. Just before leaving Melaka, we dropped by Baba Charlie again to buy more goodies for our friends. And we bought some freshly made pulut tekan from them.

So ends our little long weekend in Melaka. Must come back to my own second hometown more often.

Being Tourists in Melaka 2017 – Part 3

Published by on July 29, 2017

Day 3 in Melaka. Breakfast at the hotel as usual. Today we decided to go to a mall to walk about. Before that, we decided to visit 2 places near our hotel first.

The first one was the goldsmith once owned by my family. The name of the shop is still on Google even though it has been closed for many years. My grandparents’ generation lost ownership of the shop after someone broke into and stole everything. One of my uncles tried to open another small shop but it didn’t succeed.

I’m surprised after so many years, the shop is still here and the name is still engraved on the pillars.

yoong teck hin

I’m glad a piece of my family name still survives somewhere in historical Melaka.

Second place we went to visit was Titi’s Art Gallery, but he wasn’t open today. Titi is Aunty Rosemary’s friend, he even did a large art piece commissioned by her.

From Temple street, we took uber to a mall in Melaka Raya. While waiting for Uber, I noticed this Cheng Ho museum. Should visit it one day.

When we reached the mall, we found out Elements mall wasn’t completed yet (I thought the website indicated they were already open for business!). So we walked the length of Melaka Raya to go to Mahkota Parade instead. on the way, we passed by this restaurant, recommended by my uncle.

After spending 2 hours or so in (the air-conditioned) Mahkota Parade, it was lunch time. we took another uber to Pin Pin Hiong to try their chicken chop. Pin Pin Hiong is an old-school Hainanese restaurant located in a small wooded shoplot. their specialty is the mee shua (a kind of rice vermicelli noodles or bihun) very limited tables, and be prepared to wait for more than 1 hour if you’re here during peak hour. We arrived at the end of lunch time, so we found a sharing table (with two other couples). we didn’t have to wait long, maybe about 45 minutes, for the food to arrive. we ordered the chicken chop and pork chop.

Verdict? The food isn’t much to shout about, there are lots of other places in PJ that serve better traditional style chops. But it is nice to see a old school style restaurant surviving for so long. So anyway, what do you do after a lunch on a hot day? You get your caffeine fix! There are many new gourmet coffee places in Malacca now, which is a good sign. We wanted to try Ola Lavanderia Café, which supposedly had a great tasting gula Melaka cheese cake. But unfortunately, it was closed!

Next choice was The Mods Café, further down the road. This place didn’t disappoint. This place, run by a young couple with a kid, serves ‘for serious coffee drinkers only’.

coffee at mods

So what do you do after getting your caffeine fix? You eat nyonya cendol!

This time we tried Christina Ee, a well known shop here. The cendol was quite good.

My wife also tried the durian puff from the same shop we went yesterday.

Then it was back to hotel for a nap.

For an early dinner, we decided to try wan tan mee. Melaka is known for their white sauced mee, different from elsewhere. Instead of going to the famous one in Bunga Raya, I went for this locals-only coffeeshop in Jalan Kampung Lapan. When we after after 6pm, the wan tan mee stall was just setting up. the owner told us to wait 15 minutes. So we sat down in the empty coffeeshop and order drinks and or chien (fried oysters).

(this photo was taken after we finished our meal about 7pm. you can see the place is full of people)

or chien

By the time the stall was ready to send out the first order (which was ours) the coffeeshop was FULL of patrons. And there was at least 10 people lining up to tarpau. Well, it was just as well we were early! We can surmise that this place is REALLY popular with locals.

Since it was just 7pm, I decided to go for a walk in Bunga Raya. It’s been a long, long time since I went to this street in the heart of Chinatown (that one time we went to have wan tan mee notwithstanding). The the old days, Jalan Bunga Raya was THE place for family shopping. There were two department stores there, Madam King’s and Lian Fatt. The entire street is lined with old-style businesses selling shoes, bags, sundry goods, clothes, accessories etc. Then came huge shopping centres (it started with Jusco in Ayer Keroh in 1991, then followed by Mahkota Parade in 1994) and Jalan Bunga Raya slowly and surely died out and became the quiet street it is today. Well, Madam King’s is still surviving, though.

Even the famous wan tan mee stall in Bunga Raya is rather quiet on a Saturday night.

Night was still young, we went back to Jonker Walk for more coffee. After trying to get a place here twice in the past 2 days, we managed to catch this place without the crowds today.

daily fix

After dinner we walked through the night market again (for like the 37th time) to reach our hotel. Saturday has the biggest crowd.

To be concluded.

Being Tourists in Melaka 2017 – Part 2

Published by on July 29, 2017

Day 2 of Being a Tourist in my second hometown, Melaka – breakfast at our hotel. Since my hotel is very narrow and compact, the breakfast is served in another lot across the street, located inside a nyonya kebaya boutique. Breakfast here is a very low key affair, but serves good food. On the last day here, the chicken rice served for breakfast was excellent.


Today, we’re going around out of the city. First stop is to visit my grandmother’s house in Ujong Pasir. My father was born in an old wooden house in Kubu Road, near where the stadium is now. Over the years, they moved around a few times, including a house in Tranquerah (Tengkera). A few years before I was born, they moved to this house in the pic. This is where all the memories of my grandmother and Chinese New Year reside. Back then Ujong Pasir a nice residential area, walking distance to the beach and mangrove swamp. Today the area still retains the quiet suburbia charm, although the swamp has long been converted to more homes. And the beach… well, I don’t think I want to see how it looks like now.

Last year we sold the old house after both my uncle and aunt (my father’s siblings) passed on. I guess the new owners still haven’t decided to do anything with the place yet. Jimmy’s house on the left is not visible.

Melaka house

From Ujong Pasir, we drove right across town to Ayer Keroh to Aunty Rosemary’s house. Aunty Rosemary is my mother’s best from her nursing school days. She married a successful plantation manager but he passed on in the mid-80’s. Her 3 children have all grown up and she lives by herself in a huge (by Malacca standards, anyway) house in Taman Sentosa.

We’re here to have lunch with my mom, Aunty Rosemary and my uncle & auntie who stay nearby in Bukit Beruang. But the REAL reason I’m is to see my old friend Maya!

(maya is very tired)

Haven’t seen Maya for 7 years. She used to be extremely active and noisy, but now she’s old and overweight, suffering from some growth. But still happy to see me. Aunty Rosemary has had many dogs in the past. There was Hazel, the Rottweiler mix, Frisco, the smaller version of Hazel, that cocker spaniel (can’t remember name). And when Dinesh the son comes back, he brings the imposing golden retriever Caesar.

Lunch is at Huang Chang chicken ball rice in nearby Batu Berendam.

huang chang

huang chang chicken rice

Eh, the food here wasn’t good at all. The rice was still tasty (although much smaller balls), but the chicken didn’t taste good. That’s it, I’m never coming back here again. Time to find another chicken ball rice (please don’t ask me to line up 2 hours at that coffeeshop near the Stadhuys).

After lunch it was time to go back to the hotel. On the way, we stopped by Baba Charlie for get some nyonya snacks. I’ve never heard of this place, Google told me it is THE place to shop, so I obeyed Google. It is located at the end of a (very) narrow side street just after Tengkera.

baba Charlie 1

baba Charlie 2

Turns out it is really awesome. The pineapple tarts were delicious and cheaper than in town. It was so good we came back on Sunday to buy snacks for our friends. Do go early in the day, as the kueh tend to sell out fast especially on weekends.

Back to hotel for a nap.


After that we went round Jonker Street for a walkabout.

jonker walk

There’s a shop at the northern end of Jonker street that serves nice durian ice cream.

durian ice cream

We also dropped by the Mamee shop. Not sure if the Mamee snack is as popular as it was back in the day, but now they’ve diversified into making biscuits and instant cup noodles. Back then we each Mamee packed contained a sticker (in addition to the pack of unhealthy MSG flavouring), that you’re supposed to collect a whole set and stick them in a sticker book. Something like Figurine Panini collectibles.


We also stopped by the famous satay shop for some nyonya cendol to cool down in the heat.


Of course we tried that special satay babi. Nothing really special about it, though, but I guess its a Malacca thing.


In the late afternoon, when it wasn’t so crazy hot, we went out to the Jonker Street night market. The famous market is open from Friday to Sunday. I have to say the market is pretty vibrant, selling a different variety of stuff, not jus the touristy trinkets and standard street food. The latest thing now is this quail’s eggs on a stick. I can feel my cholesterol shooting up by just looking at it.

quails eggs

We tried some egg waffles. Of course it is never as good as in Hong Kong.

egg tarts

Finally for dinner, we wanted some place with good coffee, so we decided to try Calanthe Art Café. They claim to see different variants of coffee from every state in Malaysia, wanna guess which two flavours did we order?

coffee at calanthe art cafe

Food was so-so, but slightly better than yesterday’s riverside dinner. in terms of Western cuisine, I guess Malacca doesn’t have the quality compared to PJ & KL.

calanthe food

Walking back through the market to our hotel. Really lots of people now.

night market

To be continued.

Being Tourists in Melaka 2017 – Part 1

Published by on July 28, 2017

Melaka, or Malacca to some of us, is my father’s hometown. All the relatives from his side of the family are from there, most of them still stay there. When I was little, every weekend we’d drive up from Muar to spend the day in Malacca. During the long school holidays, my parents would leave all three of us (me, my brother and sister) to stay in Malacca, together with my grandmother and my cousin (she is the same age as my brother). Those were great times with many wonderful memories. We’d play card games and children games. Sometimes I’d hang out with the neighbor Jimmy. Sometime’s all 4 of us would take the bus into town to catch a movie or walk around Bunga Raya. So, really, Malacca can be considered my second hometown.

Malacca to me was a bigger town than my own hometown, but it was still a sleepy and quiet town. We hardly ever went out to eat anywhere in town (except if one of my cousins had a wedding dinner). On Fridays I’d follow my dad to HSBC in Banda Hilir (now turned into a museum) for his banking (kids, this was long before the days of internet banking. Heck, the ATM wasn’t even invented yet). Nothing much ever happened in sleepy Malacca, except sometimes we’d see foreign tourists talking pictures at the Stadhuys. Whenever we passed by them in the car, my dad would always say ‘Click-click-click-click!’ (mimicking the camera sound).

After my grandmother passed away in 1990, we kinda stopped going to Malacca anymore.

In the intervening 27 years, I’ve been back to Malacca a handful of times, a few times due to work, and a few times with friends. I’ve seen it grow from the sleepy hollow into the tourist destination it is now. But of late, though, I haven’t really gone back there for many years. The last time we stayed more than a day there was 2010, probably.

Anyway, recently we decided to take a few days holiday there, to really be a tourist in own hometown. Our own kids were away for camp, so husband and wife packed up the car and drove down the PLUS Highway.

But first stop, though, was to Seremban to eat our favourite beef noodles for brunch. We wanted to try another shop, but unfortunately it wasn’t open. So we went back to our usual joint, in the wet market. After that, we couldn’t resist buying siew pau and curry puffs.

Anyway, back on the road. Nearing Melaka, we made another last minute decision to drop by Freeport A’Famosa Outlet. This newly opened premium outlet is about 4km off the Simpang Ampat highway exit. It’s rather small compared to JPO or Mitsui, and the range of shops are in the more affordable range.

Upstairs, though, there’s a huge hall where a jumble sale was ongoing. Prices here are cheaper. Got a cool fidget spinner for RM10.

After the 2-hour detour, we drove onward to Klebang to try the original coconut shake. I used to associate Klebang with the nice beach and my grand-aunt’s house, which we visited every year during Chinese New Year. Now it is famous for this coconut shake. Its basically ice blended fresh coconut water mixed with vanilla ice cream. This stall beside the main road is for takeaway. Inside there’s a huge restaurant for dining in, with ample parking.

After many detours, we finally made it to the city. Our hotel is Courtyard @ Heeren, a boutique hotel in a refurbished traditional home on Heeren Street (now called Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock). One of my cousins still stay somewhere here, although I really can’t remember which one.

My father used to tell me in the old tradition, the main hall at the front is for the master of the house and for entertaining guests. This is the second hall, for concubines and servants.

This was our room, very spacious and impressive.

After checking in, time for a walkabout around town. we wanted to try the Melaka River cruise. If you’re going to be a tourist in Malacca, might as well go all the way and do the most tourist-y thing, right?

Walking en route to the river dock, we passed by this Hard Rock Café. This has been here awhile, but man, if you were to tell my when I was a kid that HRC would open in Malacca… the poshest thing I ever had back then was a burger in Ramada Renaissance which cost my parent about RM4. It was a big, big sum back then.

That famous clock tower and church.

We got our tickets from the booth outside the tourist centre. You can get tickets at the docks, it is the same price. Make sure you have your MyKad ready.

boat tickets

This is the river cruise. Don’t worry about not getting a place, they have many, many boats and they run continuously whenever there are enough passengers. On a related note, they have a Sid’s Pub in Melaka now?!

The cruise itself takes about 45 minutes. Was it worth it? I suppose if you haven’t tried it, it is a cheap and enjoyable to see Melaka. Try going in the evening at sunset, so you can still see it daytime and enjoy the night lights on the way back. The bilingual commentary will come on during the return trip.

On the way I saw this building, used to be Cathay cinema. I watched a lot of movies here back in the day.

Cathay cinema

After the cruise, we took a walk along the river. St Francis Xavier church looks beautiful in the evening light.

Someone trapped a giant monitor lizard in their backyard.

We decided to have dinner right beside the river. There wasn’t much choice in terms of restaurants, so we ended in this place that was rather pricey and so-so food.

On the way back to the hotel, we dropped by San Su Gong.

To be continued.

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