Archive for May, 2011

30
May
11

PENANG BOTANICAL GARDEN

My first exposure to the idea of horticulture was when I was in fifth grade after my teacher asked us to bring plants, small figurines (I brought a tiny bridge and a water well, both made of ceramic), pebbles, moss, soil and a glazed pot, he taught us to make a “dish garden”. 

From then on, I have thought I would have an intense fascination with such, much more to have an instant green thumb; I was absolutely wrong! haha! :) Well, at least, I learned to appreciate twigs, leaves and flowers.

It was a long tiring week for us but we’re not complaining. In fact, we’re even grateful for days passed by so fast and weekend dawned in a swift.

The challenge has been always to make a variety of experiences every weekend. Apart from finding solace every time we attend mass, it’s a bit sickening when you only go to malls, dine and shop a little and repeatedly do it on a Saturday-Sunday-basis (read : expat life can be dull or fun!). 

In a place where most women cover their hair (and practically everything!) with veils for religious purposes, my wife decided to have hers rebonded, haha! It was her very first time to go to a beauty salon, spend a few money for her virgin locks and that was one of her ideas of creativity with weekend.

While my wife’s long straight and shiny hair was under that UFO-looking steamer, Gabby and I decided to leave her inside the mall, hopped on the bus and went to find our own unique Saturday. From bus, we rode this tram that took us to Penang Floral Festival in Penang Botanical Garden…

I have been to a few Botanical Gardens of other countries and honestly, that of Penang wasn’t that impressive (my personal favorite is the Winter Garden in Auckland, New Zealand). Yes, Penang Botanical Garden is a good venue for picnics; a place for strolling and jogging or just kill time and commune with nature but I think I have seen a lot more fantastic gardens before. Nonetheless, the festival made it livelier, with so many plants for sale and for photo-enthusiasts to enjoy…

My son and I never bothered to know the names of the blooms neither asked the vendors of their  commodities’ prices, what I remember was we were in awe of the colors.

Among the flowers, I can identify this easily because its name was the brand of the notebooks I used back in college.

And from my PreMed Botany class, I knew this is a pitcher plant…I told Gabby that this plant can trap insects effortlessly. Please don’t tell me they remind you of condoms…oops!

There was a showcase of bonsai too!

Simply amazing!

It was a total feast for the eyes! I felt like a bee, admiring those vibrant and wonderful God’s creations.

Much to my son’s delight, Penang Botanical Garden has these voluminous tailed mammals wandering freely all over!

we almost locked eyes! i wonder if it recognized an old familar face, "long lost relative?" haha! nah!

Like any day in Penang, the sun was unforgiving last Saturday afternoon so after an hour of stroll and getting close with Mother Nature, I decided to go back to the mall where we left Tina (inside the beauty salon).
We brought 2 affordable & small potted bonsai (of course, they’re small; they wouldn’t be called such if they’re not!) as pasalubong for Tina (to bring to our new home come July).
Gabby and I became sweaty and all, I had to freshen him up; changed his shirt but nonetheless, he had his first-hand lessons on nature appreciation and he liked it. It was a day less ordinary.
We ended our Saturday with a simple dimsum dinner after attending anticipated Catholic mass.
Enjoy the new week, everyone!

 

25
May
11

OLD SCHOOL TOY

In the age of computer games, tech gadgets and applications, creativity in play and activity is still alive.

Several weeks ago, Tina and I brought Gabby to a toy store in a mall.  After giving him the liberty to pick a new toy he fancies within our prescribed minimal budget (read: mura dapat sa hirap ng buhay ngayon!, haha!), he disregarded our toy-suggestions and handed me this at the counter…

We gave our thumbs up for his choice. It wasn’t pricey and more importantly, we didn’t want to kill his artistic inclinations…

It’s one of the best options with his almost daily routine of computer games and watching cartoons and downloaded movies and at times, reading his books (FYI, he’ll start his schooling here in Penang in August, God willing).

But in between being artistic and (God forbid–) being interested in our fields… 

Tina and I still like him to be what he wanted to be.  Last week, he professed he still wanted to become a chef, restaurateur and hotelier someday.  So help us, God! :)

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Do you still remember your favorite toy/s before?

 

20
May
11

KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN SERIES : BUDDHIST TEMPLES

Being one of the towns bordering Malaysia and Thailand, Kelantan is obviously rich in culture and religion. It’s considered to be the cradle of Malay civilization and is predominantly a Muslim state but inevitably Buddhist temples sprung like mushrooms.

More than being tourist spots, these temples are apparently sacred sanctuaries.  However, one could not help but admire its architecture, interiors and ambience.

On our second day in Kelantan, we had temple visit overload. We went to see the Temple of the Sitting Buddha…

The Shrine of the Standing Buddha…

And a Reclining Buddha that’s bigger than the one in Penang… *yes! position matters!*

This Reclining Buddha is enshrined in a bigger than life gymnasium-like-temple.  At the lateral and the back areas of the enormous image are even more images!

Few kilometers away, we found ourselves appreciating the facade and interiors of the Sitting Buddha Temple which are truly spectacular!

Awesome looking dragons guard its entrance…

And there’s spontaneity in its interiors…

Tina and Gabby went inside the temple of the Sitting Buddha first, as I was still in awe outside. Then as I walked in, my wife hurriedly called my attention to see these art works…

A few we found to be disturbing…

Every detail gave us goosebumps, or we’re only clueless of this religion, sorry!

Can anyone share anything on this? *so busy  lazy to research and google!*

I wonder if people from other religions also get curious and fascinated with our very own. Either way, I am definite that whenever we go to a new place, my family and I will always include temples and mosques and other houses of prayer to visit.

Do we think the same?

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——-This blog series includes :

16
May
11

KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN SERIES : BUFFET AT RENAISSANCE HOTEL

I completely understand that it’s essential to sample local cuisine from a place you’re visiting for the first time.  And I forgot  did not do that when we were in Kota Bharu. *epic failure!*

Defensively, there are 3 reasons why we didn’t have the chance to taste Kelantanese food – firstly, we have limited time (lame excuse, I know). Secondly, when you’re on a trip with a 6-year-old kid, it’s more often than not that he would prefer to eat in fast food joints rather than to try native delicacies (I’m not blaming you, Gabby! I love Pizza Hut and A&W too!). Lastly, we were weak to resist the hotel’s buffet spread…

At Renaissance Hotel, Kota Bharu manned by Marriott, the restaurant that offers International cuisine was so inviting, thus we gave in.


Only those who have hypersensitivity to prawns and cheese would say no to these sumptuous dish…

peborit ko 'to!

Nice to know : UDANG is the local term for shrimps / prawns in Bahasa Melayu.

How do you like your plate to be seasoned?  Mine, not too much. I have an aversion to strong spices.

Fish and beef : perfect on a plate!

Here we go again : shameless display of our pig-out plates… yum! yum! yum!

Tina and I loved the Korean beef (the one with sesame seeds). Tender. Juicy. Tasteful. Although it isn’t my favorite, there was lamb cuts too that was hard to miss. No after-taste actually.

Tina’s plating was beautifully done… agree?

tina's plate

…as if she’s not hungry! haha! :P

My taste buds also tried the pasta, potato wedges and local crunchies that weren’t that greasy.

can't get enough of those prawns

Every meal must have sweet endings!

What would you pour in your ice cream? chocolate syrup? kiwi? orange? the flavors were too many to handle!

We never forgot to eat fibrous fruits!

Sublime. Divine. Irresistible.

I posted a teaser on facebook about this food porn that it’s not our common gastronomic adventure. On the second thought, it was! The spread might be a bit less than usual but the elements of casual dining I enjoy the most were all there –good food, friendly ambience, affordable price, impeccable service,most of all, the company of my lovable family.

What do you look for in an eat-all-you-want dining?

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——-This blog series includes :

13
May
11

KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN SERIES : RENAISSANCE HOTEL

At almost an hour before 10PM, we’re already in Penang Sentral bus station in Butterworth; ready excited to enjoy the long weekend (last 30 April – 2 May 2011).

It took a 5 1/2 hour bus ride for us to reach Kota Bharu in Kelantan, a quaint town in Northeastern Malaysia bordering Thailand. From the station in Kota Bharu, we took a cab that brought us to Renaissance Hotels where I booked an overnight stay for a reasonable (read: very affordable) price.

After interrupted uncomfortable sleep in the bus, it was heaven we felt on this beautiful bed.

How could you resist such volume of comfy pillows?

Tagged as the only 5-star-hotel in Kelantan, Renaissance Hotels run by Marriott doesn’t disappoint.

The front desk officer was so generous enough to talk to her manager for us to be allowed to check in at 5AM instead of early check in I availed online which was supposed to be at 7 in the morning (and not the regular check in sched of 2PM) for free! The half-day rate that we’re supposed to pay for checking in 2 hours before their “early check in time” was waived. That’s  beyond efficiency in customer-service!

Kami naman ni Tina basta may kape kahit 3-in-1 solb na! :D

But the Deluxe room we got has more to offer than 3-1 coffee…

Free use of gym (which we passed on in favor of laziness), steam bath, whirlpool but Tina and I separately sampled their sauna after Gabby had his time on the kiddie swimming pool.

We really had fun time at Renaissance. Did I already mentioned we also tried their dinner buffet? *That deserve a separate post* And everything –from the accomodation plus dinner buffet inclusive charges and taxes cost less than you imagine. :p

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——-This blog series includes :

13
May
11

KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN SERIES : BATIK MAKING

Indubitably, Malaysian Batik is an art in itself. The process of making it has been part of the colorful culture of people from eastern states of Malaysia including Kelantan. What makes it different from batik from other countries is the absence of human and animal designs with the exception of butterflies because their religion forbids the use of animal images as decorative motifs. Nonetheless, geometrical figures, floral and foliage in large designs make it aesthetically appealing.

On our second day in Kota Bharu, we met our taxi cab driver who served as our tour guide as well; our trip started at around 2PM. Although I have a list of places of interest, we appreciated that Mr. Nasri who was endorsed by his colleague, Mr. Kamel (the equally friendly driver-tour guide on our first day) suggested we go first to a nearby Batik factory.

Roughly 10 minutes after leaving the hotel, we found ourselves amazed at how Batik is made.

Perhaps, because we were in awe, I forgot to ask the name of the factory.  Mr. Nasri explained that most of his tourist-passengers from all over the globe who visited Kota Bharu were brought to this batik making factory and inevitably marveled. He told us that the technique used in Kelantan differs from batik making process in Indonesia and other Asian countries.

Ladies who make the batik use heated wax to outline every design in the fabric. This will keep the colors in particular shape once applied.

They also use rock salt to have a desired effect.

The prints are truly praise-worthy!

Batik can be worn by men in formal dinner and ladies may combine them with modern fashion. The government suggests the wearing of Batik every 1st and 15t day of the month as a part of their 1Malaysia campaign (sourced from Wiki)

Do you see yourself wearing a Malaysian Batik ?

Stay tuned for few more posts on this series. Terima Kasih!

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Special thanks to our friends whom we met on the road and made our Kelantan trip more than amazing :

Mr. Nik Mat Kamal -our taxi cab driver-tour guide on our 1st day; you may reach him at +60129909538 and +60199735439.

Mr. Mohd Nasri Mohd Nawi -our taxi cab driver-tour guide on our 2nd day; you may reach him at +60139425241.

Mr. Muhammad Dain bin Othman (Pak Dain) -the owner and expert maker of Wayang kulit (Shadow Puppet which I will blog soon); his gallery is located at Simpang 3, Morak, Palekbang 16040, Kelantan; website : WayangPakDain

to Gula Kapas who responded to my query by emailing me a google map of the location of wau bulan makers in kelantan.

and to our student, Ain and her dad for welcoming us in their hometown.

——-This blog series includes :

10
May
11

KOTA BHARU, KELANTAN SERIES : SITI KHADIJAH MARKET

Either in black and white ….

or in burst of colors…

Siti Kadijah Market or the Central Market of Kota Bharu in Kelantan appears to be interesting to me and to those who have experienced it.

Some say that you’ll learn a lot about a place when you explore its public market. I cannot agree more.

From the fresh garden produce…

To dry goods that are uniquely appealing…

This vibrant 3 storey public market was the first place we went to after we hopped into a taxi cab that toured us around which was referred by the hotel where we checked in.

How could we miss Kota Bharu Central Market when in fact it’s one of the most photographed places in Kelantan. It’s nothing but common market but it frequently draws crowd particularly tourists perhaps because of its unexplainable charm.

Tina found a pair of cheap brooch pins with lady bug design for only RM 5 (PhP 70)

We bought two malong for only RM 10 (PhP 140) each for pasalubong to one of our friends.

The Kelantanese woman graciously posed with Gabby with her nicely printed merchandise

We’ve been to Chatuchak Market in Bangkok that’s so huge that even a day isn’t enough for you to enjoy.  But nothing compares to our very own Divisoria! :p

Do you usually explore public market/s when you travel?

——-This blog series includes :




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