Wednesday 24 May 2017

Pictures Have Unspoken Words In Them

Hi everyone,

I am still rattling about my train ride and taking you to browse some photos.

Can't help it. I keep looking at the photos which I took on the way back. Though memories have dimmed through the time the pictures help bring back happy times of the past . .  .

Besides the river, padi field was my play ground when I was small. Playing in the water trying to catch small fishes was fun. Picking the kangkung that grew in abundance and plucking cucumber grown on the batas was very enjoyable and a willing-to-do task when requested ordered. The very young cucumber, as small as the frankfurter was crunchy and kind of sweet and the longer you chew and let remained in the mouth the sweeter. We never knew about the sweetness of the colorful jelly beans which the children of today enjoy .

Of course, when you were small you were not really appreciative of the scenic view of the padi field. You took it for granted what there was before you. We just blended into the vast span of the green field, the blue sky and the voluminous clouds. And during harvesting time the simple sound of our padi stalk serunai went on a crescendo distinctively above the sound the rustle of the swaying padi leaves blown by the wind.

It is for someone from the outside of the time to look back and say ah that was beautiful . . .

Yes the romance of the kampung sawah scenery is something many want them to remain intact, undisturbed. A place where from time to time people would come to savour its beauty and feel its quietness.

But if you ask me whether I want to be there again I would say no. It is so cool to view and take photographs from an air conditioned train but outside there, it must be scorching hot. With layers of clothing on, as most are today, you can't stand the heat . It was different then when young children of the sawah bendang only wore sleeveless T-shirt and cotton shorts  . . .never mind the sunburn.

Below are some snapshots of the city taken from the the balcony of an eatery, The Gravy, at Nu Central, where we took a rest on arrival. Of course, you see the concrete jungle in contrast to the above pictures. These pictures speak of noise and buzz. Sure, some who like quietness would be wondering why were they existing in its midst . . .

But you can still find serenity. Find a corner, sit in comfort, and quietly enjoy the skyline at dusk.  

A picture is worth a thousand words people say but if you are the photographer you have more on your mind . . . the unspoken words . . .

The first set of pictures above are in stark contrast to the set of the city pictures. Which one is synonymous with you? Or you, contemplating a change . . .

As for me I am happy to be where I am . . . 

Dear readers I hope you have enjoyed reading . . .

Will be back . . .

Monday 15 May 2017

Put A Little Spice

Hello again friends

I am still thinking about the  savoury food  I had in Penang the other day. So hot and spicy and so satisfying, so special. I think the right word to use for it is authentic. Why their curry was so special it must be because of the spices they used. The taste was greatly enhanced due the unique combination of the different spices. That must be their closely and jealousy guarded trade secret. That is why you keep going to the same restaurant ( never mind the walking) although there are many more restaurants or food stalls around the area.

For us doing the everyday cooking at home we only use the standard curry powder in packets which are found sold at the sundry shop. They are mass produced and surely they must contain food additives and preservatives and their volume is made up with non-spice ingredients like rice or may be corn or wheat flour. So usually our curry just tastes ordinary, bland and without punch if you know what I mean. You thought you did everything right yet you don't get that wow . . .

In the old days my mother used to mix and grind her own spices.Coriander seeds made up the volume. Other spices in the right proportions including the the very hard dried turmeric which had to be banged first with the stone roller against the slab to break it before starting the grinding proper. We sometimes mistook it for our mother's expression of anger ha ha.

It was hard work for my mother when grinding spices using the ancient manual grinder which was a combination of a big and heavy stone roller and a slab.

First she would put the wet spices on the slab. Then she would break the spices by banging it with the roller. In between wiping off her sweat she would then with much energy pushed and pulled the roller on the slab until the spices were finely ground and most of the paste stuck onto the roller in neat layers. The technique to get the paste to stick on to the roller was to lift up the roller slightly as you pull it. This is of course  easily said than done.

Then with her hand she would lovingly scrap and scoop and carefully formed the paste into a ball twice the size of a tennis ball.

With that and other correctly matching ingredients she then would expertly cook the curry in an earthen ware pot.

As she tumis the aroma would be released from the spices that sometimes made our neighbor called out in a sing song way  voooiiii masak gulai apa tuuuuu . . . .

And the curry would taste perfect.

The right and clever use of spices makes all the difference.

The roller and the slab make the batu giling

Indeed without spices food is tasteless. And without spices there is no varieties in life.

From time immemorial spice is a commodity being sought after by humans. They had gone to war because of spices. People had died protecting their spices. Some people were bullied off their spices.

Today we get spices in packets ready to cook. We hardly know the individual spices that made up our curry powder, bryani powder or asam pedas mix and so on. I think if we know the specialty of each type of spices we can concoct our own mixture and give the dishes we cook more punch and make it unforgettable.

On my trip on the hop on hop off bus if you remember I mentioned that we made a stop at the spice garden. I was expecting to see the plants that produce some of the familiar spices. But no it was more of the tropical spices and herbs. Except for the black pepper plants I don't remember coming across any coriander or cumin plant. Oh ya there are cinnamon trees.

So tropical spice and herbs mean plants like the torch ginger turmeric or the laksa leaves. And rightly so the place is called tropical spice garden.

Though I didn't get to see what I really want to see it was still worth while visiting the place. It was quite a big area it looked like a forest in my kampung when the environment was not yet being tempered.

After paying the entrance fee we were each given an audio guide. As you walk to each of the spot you just switch on the audio and  a clear recorded voice will explain what you are looking at. But mind your steps  haa because the hilly terrain is carved out into terraces and at some points there are wooden board walk, stepping stones crossing the pond, shallow steps and climbs. Other than that it really was quite safe. By the way do not use high heels.

Mind your steps
As nature lovers we didn't mind spending time there. It took us nearly two hours to cover the spice terraces in a relaxed manner while trying to learn the names of the trees and plants there. I should feel a shame being as old as I am I do not know much except for some which are so commonly found outside.

Below is the stevia plant, I have never seen or taste it before but have read about it being a substitute for sugar  usually by the diabetics. There were very few of these plants but you can get the dried stevia leaves sold in plastic packets in their souvenir shop located at the end of the spice trail.

Stevia plant
Below is the belimbing buluh. Oh no we didn't come all the way here for the belimbing buluh. It's just that I found the fruits to be so much bigger smoother and yellow in color unlike those from the tree at home. They looked like plastic.

Below is the cinnamon tree protected with netting lest some one would be tempted to harvest the bark.
Cinnamon a spice we can't do without
This lily plant has medicinal value
Nutmeg tree
Where is the vanilla plant?

The Gaharu for perfume

Red bark tree
Below are more photos randomly taken as we walked up and down the spice trail

Like trays in the water

As you can see from the last picture the tropical spice garden is right alongside the the Batu Ferringhi main road. I took this picture while waiting for the hop on hop off bus to take us back to Gurney Drive where we had to change on to another bus that ply the city route and the hotel where we stayed The Royale Bintang is just so near to the bus terminal. It was so convenient.

Hope you enjoy reading. See you in the coming entry.

Bye . . .

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Close To Nature


When I first mooted the idea of travelling on the Ets going up north, we really did not decide on a proper itinerary. We wanted a relaxed holiday and not be bound by any schedule and not be hurried by whatever. We just thought of sitting comfortably and sight seeing from the hop on hop off bus. Let the wheels of the bus do the walking . . .

It was after all a good thing that we hopped off at the butterfly farm a place that can bring you close to nature.

The Entopia butterfly farm in Penang is one place you should visit even though you are old. Do not think that such a place is just for kids. The many types of insects and other animals found here that would excite and stir up the sense of wonder in children could also stimulate the inexcitable minds of the old.

The place was so well planned that if you follow the meandering sloping up and down path you can never miss anything on show. Do not be intimidated by me mentioning sloping for it is at a very low inclination for easy walking .

If you are moderately fit you can cover the entire place in about two hours. If not you can choose a shady spot to stand and stare and feel closer to nature. Or sit on the seat provided and watch the flying colors.

There were a lot to see and browse it all depends on whether you can sustain your interest and appreciate things or not.

I was quite impressed with the place. I went there of course not to do something serious like a student of lepidopterology would.

I looked at the butterflies not with the eyes of a scientist nor with the eyes of an artist.Nevertheless I appreciate the intricate patterns and beautiful colouration on their wings.They remind me of my batik baju kurung hanging in my wardrobe.

Their images deserve  to be recorded so my zoom camera came in handy as the animals were small and at quite a distance.

Or you may pretend to have eyes of a poet and rhyme the butterflies in a line or two to post as a blog entry. How else do you want to celebrate nature if not with poetry ?

Though the main attraction is butterfly the place is host to many other classes of animals like the reptiles amphibians fish and birds and the various creepy crawlies.

Among the tourist there was a group of kids from an international school. Definitely those children were from some well heeled families who may have not been to an environment where lizards or leeches thrive. How they got really excited just looking at a bored tortoise.

Me an old adult who have gone through the rough and tumble of kampung life during her girlhood is proud to say that a frog or a tortoise was just a plaything. How about the snake haa?

Mmmm a snake . . .?

Always together inseparable

Butterflies feeding on pineapple slices

A frog which looks like  a leaf

The Mandarin duck doing a little stretching after bathing

As said above that we did not want to be hurried in anyway but somehow we had to heed as the bus has its schedule. And we still have to track the time . . .I wish I have my own tour bus . . .

Till the next entry . . .

Cheers . . .

Thursday 4 May 2017



Have you ever seen butterflies floating in the air
painting colors in nature
black white yellow and amber
so pure

Ever you wonder
the thousands of times the wings flutter
to stay suspended and cling to flowers
sipping heavenly nectar

Such is the beauty of the living creature
pure but not so simple
butterflies, the gift of nature 
that never fails to inspire

At last it decided to alight . . .  

The butterflies are from the Entopia, Penang.

Hope you enjoy this posting.

More pictures in the coming entry. Stay tuned.

Bye . . .