Thursday 31 October 2013

Legoland Malaysia in Nusajaya, Iskandar

The iconic 'trade me' man (CNB 2013)

Legoland Malaysia Resort (opened 15 Sept. 2012) promises family fun where "almost everything is hands-on, so you can push, pedal and program, or steer, squirt and splash your way through a truly interactive experience - and of course there's building too". When we were there recently, we were a family of: 'wargamas' mother with two grown-up daughters, a nephew and his wife. No young children in tow!

There are 40 rides, shows and attractions, and it would take nearly two days to do them all perhaps. But we were there for only half a day, so we were most selective, aided by the late afternoon heavy downpour.

The fierce cute dragon scaring away children (CNB 2013)

Soft cuddly froggies to be won at a games booth (CNB 2013)

Miniland is touted as the centrepiece of Legoland Malaysia where Asian landmarks (on a scale of 1:20) have been recreated using more than 30 million LEGO bricks. That's a whole lotta (sic) plastic bricks! We can't help but be impressed with these beautiful miniature buildings. Especially the Twin Towers and the Taj Mahal. But our harsh tropical weather will take a heavy toll on them, so maintenance will be quite a headache?

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station in Miniland (CNB 2013)

B strides out with a LEGO father & daughter
(CNB 2013)

Legoland Water Park had its 'soft launch' the day we were there. I am not a fan of water theme parks in general, but rafting on the 'lazy river' looked inviting enough. For next time, maybe. Maybe ...

Part of the Water Park (CNB 2013)

Rafting along the lazy river (CNB 2013)

Saturday 26 October 2013

The Mausoleums of Kota Tinggi

In Kampung Makam (the original site of old Kota Tinggi) stands a beautiful mausoleum building (and an equally beautiful mosque next to it) housing the graves of the (in)famous 'Sultan Mahmud mangkat dijulang'* and other royals descended from the Melaka Sultanate ... err ... plus the Sultan's favourite pet kucing bertanduk (horned cat).

With the fall of Melaka to the Portuguese in 1511, Sultan Mahmud Shah fled the sultanate and established the first court of Johor in Pulau Bentan in the Riau archipelago. But with the Portuguese attack there in 1526 he fled to Sumatra and died two years later. His son Alauddin Riayat Shah found a new court on the upper reaches of the Johor River, fending off assaults by Portugal and the Sumatran sultanate of Aceh. The Johor court aligned itself with the Dutch who arrived at the end of the 16th century and was instrumental in the successful siege of Melaka by the Dutch in 1641. Johor became the supreme Malay kingdom during the 17th century but by the 1690s under the despotic rule of Sultan Mahmud Shah II, it declined, marking the end of the Melaka dynasty.

*Sultan Mahmud Shah II (1685 - 1699) was assassinated by his own Admiral, Megat Seri Rama (Laksamana Bentan) while being carried on the royal litter for Friday prayers.

Mausoleum of Sultan Mahmud mangkat dijulang (CNB 2013) 

The grave of Sultan Mahmud Shah II in the foreground 

The Fort and Admiral grave (sic)
Laksamana Bentan killed the Sultan to avenge the death of his wife Dang Anum. The Admiral was away fighting off pirates on the shores of southern Johor when Dang Anum was put to death for eating a piece of jack fruit from the Sultan's garden.

The graves of Laksamana Bentan and Dang Anum are located in Kampung Kelantan, by the bank of the Sungai Johor in Kota Tinggi. According to the marble information plaque, a fort may well have been in place here too.

The grave of Laksamana Bentan (CNB 2013)

The mausoleum of Laksamana Bentan & wife (CNB 2013)

Other than these two mausoleums that we visited this time, I had visited one other previously in 2006, that has a fascinating tale about the deceased. But we did not have the time visit the grave of the beautiful Cik Siti (erroneously aka Cik Siti 99, even Cik Siti Jalang!), whose 99 husbands were said to die on their wedding nights. Save the lucky 100th!

Another mausoleum that we missed too is that of Tun Habab (Chief Minister of Johor during the reigns of Sultan Ibrahim Shah and Sultan Mahmud Shah II; installed Sultan of Johor on the demise of the latter who had no heir). So much history, so little time ...

Thursday 24 October 2013

Continuing Our Johor Weekend Rendezvous

Early Sunday morning, we got up to a nice breakfast of bihun and tea at Iman's, after which we made quite a thorough inspection of the five-room bungalow and its grounds. We met Sukma the daily help, and teased the two playful pet kittens. A & B also enjoyed reminiscing with their favourite cousin (Iman, of course); about their childhood days and growing up years in the kampung in Teluk Kumbar, Pulau Pinang in the 80s and 90s.

Iman & Pigeon orchids in the grounds of his home (CNB 2013)

Iman played gracious host and planned a full day for us. First he drove us past (and through) acres of oil palm plantations to a beautiful and rather secluded beach in the Tanjung Sedili area to preview it only, because none of us were prepared for a dip in the sea then. Another time, maybe. We also had glimpses of the Sedili wetlands, the rocks along the so-called dinosaur trail and the site of the demolished controversial surau in Tanjung Sutera resort.

On the beach (NJ 2013)

At Sedili Besar we stood by Kuala Sedili (remember the classic eponymous song?) where the river flows into the South China Sea. We took pictures of the rather neglected facades of shops and dwellings and also of some friendly children playing in a park nearby (One little boy politely quipped, Buat apa tuuu...? ... to ensure we wait for him to be included in the photo-shoot!). For some mid-morning snacks, we stopped at the food stalls by the jetty in Tanjung Sedili for cempedak goreng, pisang goreng, and keropok lekor.

Boats near the jetty at Tanjung Sedili (CNB 2013)

We buy fried snacks from Ina (CNB 2013)

After Tanjung Sedili, Iman drove us towards Desaru, on a long route he'd not gone before. Along the way there were signs of the badak cipan (tapir) in areas where wildlife thrive. Seeing the acres upon acres of oil palm plantations that abound in our country, we thought of the poor displaced animals that have to make way for 'development'.

Watch out for wildlife crossing the road! (BB 2013)

For lunch, as promised, Iman took us to his favourite laksa Johor place, a small but very popular eatery by a plantation. When in Johor, one must indulge in a laksa Johor. We also had otak-otak, pepes, mee rebus and fresh coconut water. Dessert was a most delicious cendol kampung. (Do we have cendol bandar?)

Our lunch stop (CNB 2013)

After food for the body, then it was history for the soul. We went to Kampung Makam to see the Mausoleum of 'Sultan Mahmud mangkat dijulang' and other royals of the old Johor Sultanate (a revisit for me). We also (re)visited the grave of the man who killed him - his Admiral/Laksamana Bentan, in Kampung Kelantan. (More on the history/mausoleums in another posting). Back in the town, we found the Kota Tinggi Museum closed for renovations, so another time perhaps.

Kota Tinggi waterfalls from under our umbrella (CNB 2013)

We headed to Lombong for the famous Kota Tinggi waterfalls, now 'managed' by Wet World so you have to pay the entrance fee of RM7.50 pax and another RM3.00 for the car. Like yesterday, the heavy rains poured down again in the late afternoon when we arrived there, so it was indeed a very wet, wet world.

All for one ... (CNB 2013)
The waterfalls quickly became a gushing torrent and even before 6.00 pm, people were already leaving the area. We did the same, going back to a delicious dinner prepared by Sukma.

Although we were supposed to go back to Shah Alam then, we postponed it to early the next day. So on a very misty Monday morning, we said goodbye to Iman, Shila, Kota Tinggi and Johor, to head back home.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

A Weekend Rendezvous in Johor

Recently we were in Johor for a weekend rendezvous with my nephew Iman and his wife who live in Kota Tinggi. Our road trip via the North-South Highway began in Shah Alam around 8.00 am, with B at the wheel. We reached Nusajaya about four hours later. The coastal road would have been more interesting, but we wanted to arrive by midday, so all along the way it was just lalang and jungle, rubber and teak wood trees, oil palm trees, plus other vehicles using the long, boring highway stretch.

Driving along the N-S highway (CNB 2013)

At Nusajaya we made for the Legoland water park soft launch, meeting up with Iman and Shila. (For lunch we had KFC, compliments of B, thank you). B and I also went into the main park. A very heavy downpour later caused all activities to stop. (More on Legoland in another posting after this).

The entrances into Legoland Malaysia (CNB 2013)

After this Iman took us to Johor Bahru (JB) for the best asam pedas in Johor, according to him. I have no problem agreeing with him, but then I found the fish asam pedas we had, much more pedas than it is masam. There was also puyuh goreng/fried quail and the freshest ikan goreng/fried fish, mixed vegetables and ulam/herbs, plus sambal tumis udang with petai/stink beans.This 'Restoran Anisofea Asam Pedas Johor Asli' is located in Taman Mt Austin. (There is a write-up on this restaurant and its asam pedas in the New Straits Times, 6 September 2012).

Iman, Shila, B & I at Restoran Anisofea (AB 2013)

After this early dinner Iman guided B so that we followed him back to his home in the Kota Tinggi district. Mostly along the way, oil palm plantations dominate the landscape and Iman is manager of one of these. In 2006 when Iman got married here, his mother (my sister) CY and I had the opportunity to do some sightseeing in this historic enclave of Johor, so this time around I'd hope to visit new sites as well as revisit some.

Movie screen grab of KL Gangster 2
Kota Tinggi is 40 km northeast of JB and the town clings to the fast and wide Sungai Johor. In the evening we went into Kota Tinggi town, to the Heritage Mall - not to shop but to see the Malay movie KL Gangster 2 Prequel. What a way to end the day - with a lot of on-screen violence! But very interesting for the poetic garbles of a (not so) minor gangster (Sofi Jikan), and the eye candy in protagonist Aaron Aziz.

The next day (Sunday) Iman took us around the Kota Tinggi district (aka 'The Historical Tourism District'/'Daerah Pelancongan Bersejarah') to experience and enjoy its history, sights and sounds.        

(To be continued ...)

Friday 18 October 2013

The Mousetrap; the Second Time Around

In 1975 I saw The Mousetrap staged at the West End, London. Fast forward 38 years later... last night (with B), I went to see it again at the City Hall (DBKL) Auditorium. Celebrating its 60th year of performances, productions are being staged around the world, including Malaysia.  The world's longest-running play is still playing on!

The (British) cast of The Mousetrap at DBKL (CNB 2013)

Agatha Christie's famous murder mystery has been seen by more than ten million people, and I make two out of this ten mill! I may be seeing it for a second time, yet the ending still surprised me. I guess as requested by 'Sergeant Trotter', I became a true 'partner in crime' and forgot whodunit, immediately upon leaving the theatre the first time around.

P.S. It is also the second time around for B, but then she'd slept through the first (in London at the end of last year) because of jetlag! (Laa... siapa suruh tengok 'Perangkap Tikus' bila tengah jetlag?)

17 October 2013

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Books I Love: Railway Stations; Masterpieces of Architecture

I love books, architecture, railways and trains (among other things lah!), so this book was a must have as soon as I laid my eyes on it at a bookshop. Railway stations; masterpieces of architecture by Charles Sheppard was published in 1996.

The book has only three chapters; the first on the early development of railway stations, the second on the great European railways and finally on the US and global railway network. There are lots of pictures of course, of the beautiful stations like the Victoria, King's Cross, and St. Pancras in London, the Gare du Nord and Gare d'Orsay in Paris, Victoria Terminus in Mumbai, Grand Central of New York, Helsinki station, the Moscow subway stations, etc., etc. 'The world's great railway stations are evocative of romantic, cross-continental journeys and rough-and-ready adventure. Not simply imposing examples of civic architecture, these structures also represent massive feats of engineering'.

At the end the author laments on the decline of the world's railways due to the popularity of other modes of transportation but hopes that the sophisticated technologies of Europe's and Japan's high-speed trains 'may yet bring about a new era of rail travel and a return to the tradition of grand station-building'.

"Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adha" to all who celebrate today.

P.S. Although our Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is not included in this book, I think it is a most beautiful and romantic building. Pity it is pretty neglected now that we have the spanking not so new KL Sentral (2001) with its not so significant facade.

Ex Libris CNB 0222

Sunday 13 October 2013

SA Garden Catalogue: Torch Ginger

Any edible garden in Malaysia surely must include the beautiful Torch ginger. This tall plant with leafy shoots up to 5 m long, will grow in large clumps and flower throughout the year. Though sometimes, as happened in my little garden, the plant is said to be in a phase of 'gila daun' (luxuriant growth of leaves at the expense of flowers). The inflorescences, about 50 cm long, arise independently from the rhizomes and bear robust torch-like cones of pink to red bracts (hence the common name). There is also a white form, though I have only seen pictures of these, and I have yet to see the real thing.

The magical bloom of the Torch ginger (CNB 2013)

Scientific name: Etlingera elatior 
syn: Phaeomeria magnifica, P. speciosa, Nicolaia speciosa 
Common name: Torch ginger
Malay name: Kantan
Origin: South East Asia

'The flowers have an enlarged red 'lip petal' with a white or golden yellow edge. The inflorescences are sharply spicy-fragrant and used in Malaysian and Thai cuisines'. No laksa dish is complete without some Torch ginger in the kuah (fish soup/base) or as garnish. Many local salads too contain the slightly sour taste of the bunga kantan. Asam pedas and curries also taste better with the kantan buds added in. Even our ubiquitous nasi goreng is enhanced by adding shredded bunga kantan. Do check out my previous entry of 10 October 2011 on 'Food from a Garden at SA'.

The Torch ginger is easy to grow and thrives in full or partial sun. Propagation is by division of clumps. My patch of this edible plant started with a clump of rhizomes from our family home garden in Pulau Pinang.

This month of October, the weather has been very humid mostly. It often gets cloudy, and then the rains would fall, usually in the afternoon. Sometimes very heavily, causing floods in parts of the Klang valley.

Friday 11 October 2013

Be the Movement

Be the Movement was a Charity Walk in support of World Hunger Relief 2013, held on Saturday 5th October 2013. A and I joined the 5 kilometre walk from Dataran Putrajaya, Presint 3 to the PICC (Putrajaya International Convention Centre) and back. (B did her own behind the scene working walking).

There was a sea of hijau pucuk pisang (banana shoot green/lime green?) tee shirts bobbing along the route. It was interesting to see 'walkers' of all ages, although some very young ones rode in their perambulators or were carried by their parents. There were even a few teens who roller bladed ... Err ... it's a walk?

A and I completed the 5 km walk at a leisurely pace; I stopped to take photos of the flora along the way, also the bridges and lake, plus the sunset. We reached the finishing line after 7 pm, with a few more stragglers behind us. There was a 'reward' at the end for everybody - a goodie bag and KFC/Pizza Hut/Ayamas food and drinks.

It was quite a fun outing for a good cause (although as I have already mentioned before, I have an aversion to physical exercise). In fact I think I shall be looking out to join more 'charity walks' in the future.

Thursday 3 October 2013

The Song of the Chrysanthemum

At last I have come to my throne.
No more, despised and unknown,
   In gardens forlorn
   My blossoms are born;
No more in some corner obscure
Do I drearily, sadly endure
   The withering blight
   Of neglect and of slight;
Oh, long have I waited and late,
For this fair and slow-coming fate,
   Which the years have foretold
   As they sighingly rolled.
Oh, long have I waited and lone;
But at last on my blossomy throne,
   The world doth declare
   I am fairest of fair,
And queen of the autumn I reign,
With a sway that none may disdain,
   I, once who did stand,
   Despised in the land.
                       Nora Perry, 19th century

from  "A Victorian Posy, Penhaligon's scented treasury of verse and prose". 
Ex libris CNB 0145