Archive for August, 2011

31
Aug
11

WE LIKE IT HERE!

30 August 2011, Tuesday.  We left our place in Butterworth at around half hour past 6 in the morning to catch our flight scheduled at 12 noon. It’s a holiday that I planned several  months ago, when days were less troubled and airfares were sold at discounted rates.

useless photo : they're wearing crocs, i'm wearing my old school reliable sneakers....perhaps, by the time you get a chance to view this entry, those happy feet have already explored some parts of a place so rich, clean and orderly.

Time check: 1:30AM, I have to doze off now. In a few hours, we shall have a long (and fun) family day again! Our arrival was a blast. We can’t wait to seize the remaining days. :)

27
Aug
11

MY FAVORITE PHOTOS TO DATE

And so the weeklong break has come. We’re up to enjoy the Hari Raya (end of Ramadan) vacation from work (for Tina and I) and school (for Gabby) beginning today, 27th August until 4th September. I will take my wife & kid on Tuesday next week to a short trip in a neighboring Asian country for the very perstaym, but since it’s too early to pack our luggage and bags, we’re just happy to spend more time together for more than a week (repeat : no work, no school, yahoo!) and do things we’d like to do. 

De-stressing at home : As Tina’s busy preparing our meals, she also finds more time to play her favorite computer games. Gabby’s doing a cartoon marathon on TV (making me miss to watch one of the series I follow, The Amazing Race but that’s OK of course) while I go online to do a little research on our itinerary next week, making last-minute reservations and bookings (akala ko ba de-stressing?) and blogging and blog hopping in between.

I’m happy that a popular Filipino website called spot.ph featured few of my blog pictures of the Japanese restaurant back home called, Zensho, with, permission, proper credit and link to my post (back in 2009),  I was inspired to browse my photo files once more.

I chose to repost my favorite photos taken after I purchased my Nikon D7000 early this year. They may be far from your standards, but I’d like to share them again to you as my favorites to date as these captures simply make me smile when I browse them in files. Comments for improvements, particularly free tips on this hobby called photography (I consider it a big word for I am a neophyte with still so much to learn –blame my laziness to read the few photography books and magazines I acquired) will be appreciated. :)

And of course, my main reason for owning a camera is to capture moments with them with their precious smiles…

I don’t know of the technical aspects of photography yet but I like these pictures not only because of the subjects but the memories that come with them.

PS: I agree with what I have read before that “owning a DSLR doesn’t make you an instant blogger more so a photographer”.  My 2-cents-worth: It’s not really the camera that matters for it’s only a tool; it takes passion, talent and the will to learn new things for you to love and improve on these hobbies. :)

25
Aug
11

GOOD NEWS!

Good news #1 : God’s healing hands are upon my nephew…

Almost moved me to tears : Joshua's hand held by his mom (photo taken from my sister-in-law's fb).

My 12 year-old nephew, Joshua is showing positive signs a day after his neurosurgeries. He underwent 3 procedures, the third of which was done last Tuesday, evacuation of hematoma. The blood clot that was sucked out from his AV malformation that led to stroke was as big as an apple. My brother told me this morning via SMS that his son was able to move his legs and dangle them over the hospital bed railings, was able to waive at the female doctors on duty at the ICU but shed tears whenever in pain. One thing is clear now–although apparently, it will take a long (and expensive!) process, he rose above the surgical procedures done on him, including the diagnostics (dye was used to visualize the trauma), Joshua is on his way to gradual recovery. Thank you, Lord!

We will appreciate prayers for Joshua’s condition to continuously improve as he’s schedule to be subjected too to radiation at the end of next month. Thank you!

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Good news #2 : Despite life’s challenges and stresses, we thank the Lord for a long holiday ahead!

How will you spend a paid work holiday that stretches from 27th August to 4th September? Those are 9 glorious days that include the commemoration of the end of the fasting month of Ramadhan for the Muslim community here in Penang and a perfect chance for us to spend quality time with our families.

Because Tina and I decided to take our vacation (my annual work leave) to the Philippines to celebrate Christmas and New Year, we skipped the thought of going home mid year.

Life has to go on despite its trials. 

Several months ago, I planned a trip somewhere for Tina, Gabby and I to enjoy on this year’s Hari Raya. I’ve patiently waited for a low cost carrier to even drop its airfare to a more affordable promo rate and I was successful. I just wish our 4 days next week to be spent outside Malaysia will de-stress us and recharge our spirits.

23
Aug
11

DURING OUR TRYING TIMES…

PRAYERS are all we can offer against all trials that our family has been experiencing. Unbelievably, things have been emotionally, physically and financially draining but it is only through prayers that we gain strength and could keep our sanity intact amidst things that are happening beyond our understanding.

Just last Saturday, I was informed that Joshua, my 12 year old nephew back home had CVA (cerebrovascular accident), commonly known as stroke. His case was a result of an aneurysm or ballooning and rupture of blood vessels in his brain brought about by AVmal (arteriovenous malformation); unknown to all of us, he had that intracerebral vascular abnormality since the day he was born.

Who would have thought that a very active youngster as Joshua who has been playing basketball with his team in their school and community has congenital vascular abnormality that can suddenly lead to stroke?

I saw my nephew grow before my eyes and I can personally and professionally attest that his medical history had remained unremarkable until the said diagnosis. He even engaged in a game before he had the attack at home last weekend. He was immediately brought to the ER of The Medical City in Ortigas, was admitted to ICU and subjected to diagnostic imaging procedures (CT scan, angiogram).

When I called my mom, I chanced to talked to one of my nephew’s MDs; she confirmed it’s AV mal that led to bleed. Two days after, he was put under the knife to evacuate the clots and repair the 4 intracerebral blood vessels. According to my brother (Joshua’s dad), the first operation was a success to initially repair the 3 blood vessels, and his son will be operated on for the second time (hopefully the last) today, Tuesday.

(At such a young age,)  He’s already post left frontal burr craniectomy with placement of ICP monitoring device, post embolization of left parietal arteriovenous malformation and craniotomy, evacuation of hematoma.

We ask for prayers for his uneventful surgeries and less complicated recovery.

Months ago, when my paternal grandmother passed away, one of my aunts failed to bear the situation, she also incurred stroke and until now, has been undergoing rehabilitation and recuperation. Our prayers also go out to my Tita Violy.

I need not elaborate on our other domestic problems; nothing can be more difficult than having family members with physical ailments. In my almost 35 years of existence, it has already dawned on me that life’s full of inevitable challenges but we believe we have a good Lord who’s definitely bigger than our burdens.

Life goes on.

We just have to keep the faith.

And uplift our spirits.

UPDATE : As of Tueday, 23rd Aug 2011, accdg to my relatives back home, his operation went well, the clot that was removed as per their description was as big as an apple. 72 hours post-op observation is highly critical, so please help us in praying for joshua’s recuperation. thank you po.

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About the photo above : Sunset viewed from our porch last 22 August 2011. For some, sundown is perceived negatively, i think otherwise; it’s a promise of a new hope, a fresh beginning.

20
Aug
11

IT’S ALL ABOUT FAMILY.FOOD.FUN!

PROLOGUE :

A lot of people perceive this site as an entirely food blog or a foodie’s virtual home. I cannot blame them, photos of food are apparently present in most, if not all of my posts. Although I really don’t mind to be tagged as a food blogger or a  foodie, allow me to remind everyone that Beyond Toxicity (yes, that’s my blog’s name), is a personal blog that gives reverence to family, food and fun (and thus, it’s NOT exclusively food). Thank you! :) 

Again, I don’t deny the fact that it’s flattering when people recognize BT as food blog and me as a food blogger; here’s a proof :

Exhibit A :  casual virtual conversation on facebook recently :

And while most people are at it, here’s another post about food and some things in between…

—————————

Unlike typical Filipino expats (a.k.a. OFWs or Overseas Filipino Workers), I am blessed to have my wife and our kid with me here in Penang.

Whenever Tina, Gabby and I spend lazy weekends at home, it’s definitely cable TV/movie/internet browsing marathons for the 3 of us (of course, creativity works as we squeezed in laundry, washing dishes, doing homeworks for Gabby and blogging for me).  And these bumming family bonding activities would not be complete without preparing and eating our favorites!

Admittedly, I’ve only (forced myself) to cook more frequently when I became an expat (last year). Part of cooking your own dishes is buying its ingredients of course. Thank goodness, there are still pasar (bahasa melayu term) or public markets here that sell pork amidst being a Muslim state in a predominantly Muslim country. Fortunately for people who eat pork like me and my family, Penang and the rest of Malaysia have rich diversity composed of Malays (who observe Halal-dining), Indians (who don’t eat beef) and Chinese (who eat pork like us).  FYI, present cost of pork meat in my place is RM 13 (PhP 182) per kg of kasim (shoulder part), and RM  16 (PhP 224) per kg of lomo or sirloin (mura ba iyon? kamusta presyo ngayon sa Pinas?).

From my late maternal grandmother’s (undocumented) recipes, I managed to reconstruct her delicious Adobong Pork Giniling. This was one of my very first baon (personally brought food) to work and a personal recipe that I generously shared to Filipino colleagues who liked it too.

It’s a no-fuzz, easy-to-do, ready-to-go recipe that’s perfect baon to work or school.  It’s a no-brainer to figure out that it’s not perishable easily because it’s simmered with vinegar and soy sauce, and it’s so easy to eat for it’s ground pork not the usual Adobo in chunks or cubes.

If you’re Filipino or Pinoy-at-heart, it’s absolute that you love Adobo! :)

Try this recipe, and you’ll find yourself asking for an extra cup of rice!
DocGelo’s (grandmother’s) Adobong Giniling :
Ingredients : 
  • ground pork, 1kg 
  • vinegar, 1 cup
  • soy sauce, 1 cup
  • tap water, 1 cup
  • garlic, 3 – 4 heads, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking oil

Cooking instructions :

  1. Saute minced garlic in cooking oil over medium fire; then add the ground pork.
  2. Cook the pork and minced garlic for 4- 5 min then add water, soy sauce and lastly vinegar.
  3. Remember not to cover the pan and never stir after you’ve added the vinegar.
  4. Simmer for 10 – 20 minutes, set aside and can be kept at the fridge for baon the next day.
  5. When reheating it, do not add additional oil to the pan, just heat it and let the sauce mixture (vinegar+water+soy sauce) be absorbed by the ground pork.
  6. Serve it with a smile! :)

I don’t know with you but I believe Adobo in any form is best eaten at least a day after it’s been cooked. This is when the vinegar and soy sauce mixture has already been fused with the meat (chicken or pork or even veggies like kangkong or string beans). 

Additional cooking tips I got from my lola were the importance of having lots of garlic in adobo and an equal proportions of vinegar, soy sauce and water when cooking the dish. Try it and let me know if you like it too.

Imagine this scenario :  At lunch, just before I put a spoonful of rice and viand in my mouth, Tina said, “Oops, di mo na ba pipicturan?” (Don’t you want to take pictures?) I smiled. It affirms that my wife understands and supports my being a blogger, haha! :)  Sometimes, that line is uttered too by Gabby.  They’re already used to me taking pictures before eating. :) 

This one’s an Ode to Tina’s cooking : Other dishes that Tina cooked last week was that artery-clogging, Lechon Kawali that’s deep-fried to perfection. She also prepared a paksiw sauce for it from sachets of sarsa ni Mang Tomas!

Supreme crunchiness, sarap!

Then just before you think we only eat meat, consider these…
 

We also eat fibers, of  course! Only that this vegetable dish was buttered…oops! fatty again, hehe!

Anything that looks leafy and veggie on the fridge can be guisado… instant chopsuey!

Desserts on our table range from fresh local fruits –bananas, apples, lanzones watermelon, papaya or whatever is in season (I still have to convince Tina for us to try durian and myself, rambutan),  to chocolates and lately, these….

Deliciously divine : Leche flan by my one & only

(naks!)….

she steamed so many, they can lasts for a week and a half, i think… do you want some? haha!

And one of our sweet endings to our homecooked meals are nutty and sweet local chocnut!

I therefore conclude that nothing beats cooking and eating at home; dining with your love ones, dunking fork at toothsome leche flan while being oblivious about your blogging category. hehehe! :)

18
Aug
11

FROM BULLETIN BOARD DISPLAYS & POSTER MAKING CONTESTS….

….to appreciating paintings, furnitures, sculptures, photography and any forms with art, I know I have my own eyes.

A month ago, during the celebration of George Town Festival here in Penang in one of the premier hotels here, I chanced upon an exhibit of glass sculptures of a local artist whose name I failed to note, with works that were truly remarkable but only few really caught my attention(view photos below).  

Looking at my captures of her glass sculptures reminded me that once upon a time, I almost pursue my interest in fine arts.

My appreciation of art, or at least my own, initially started during class arts in Primary / Elementary school, when we’re asked to heat crayons on spoon over lighted candles then blow it over an Oslo paper; one color on top of the other. I really thought then, those moments were magical!

Then it officially flourished when I was in High School, joining and winning in inter-level monthly poster-making competitions. And in my books (and my schoolmates knew this), I only had one tough competitor, be it in poster-making or in bulletin board display contests in school, it was always neck-to-neck healthy competition with my brother (who’s now a professional private aviator–yes, none of us became artists!). I’m always proud to share the stage with him when we always bagged the medals and recognition—him as second and with utmost humility, I usually ranked first.

During those times, when white cartolina was required to be our “canvass” or base for our posters, I would bring white felt paper instead, so that my craypasses would have a greater effect.

No, I am not good at painting nor at drawing but perhaps what brought our (class’) winnings were my creative imaginations on how to interpret a theme given by the school and the remarkable assistance of my High School classmates in executing my concepts (speaking like a true blooded artist, haha! Pagbigyan nyo na, those were the days; and I just hope my HS classmates can read this, haha!).

I almost took a talent test as one of the requirements in entering the College of Fine Arts in the state university back home but it didn’t happen. Most of my High School classmates knew I would take Fine Arts major in Advertising then but it was not for me. You knew I was led in to PreMed (BS Biology) then eventually to Medicine.  The love for the arts took a back seat.

I have no regrets taking the course that gave me additional 2 letters after my surname. At least not all of us in this playing field know how to appreciate arts or culture itself. Many are intelligent but few have talents.

Going back to these gorgeous works of art, these are indeed beautiful but when it comes to glass sculpture, one Filipino name stands out –Ramon Orlina

My wishful thinking dictates me to own an Orlina someday or at least a piece of furniture either from Roberto Locsin or by Kenneth Conbonpue. ….Ah, the perks of daydreaming, haha!

15
Aug
11

HOT POT. CHINESE FONDUE. SHABU-SHABU. STEAMBOAT!

If gastronomic indulgence is a sin, then my family and I are always guilty as charged, hahaha! :)

pass the vinegar, please! yum!

Apparently, gluttony is one of the deadliest sins, but gastronomic indulgence isn’t. I believe when you only try to please your palates with a digestive feast without eating excessively, you are just being a foodie.

Enough with the defenses. Great foods are really meant to be enjoyed and the moment becomes instantly priceless when you share delightful dishes with your love ones.

If not for one of my few valued senior colleagues who generously shared his affordable eating discovery with his family here in Penang, we wouldn’t sample it too.

Along one of the busiest thoroughfares in George Town, Penang is Jalan Macalister (or Macalister Road); it is one of the places in this part of Malaysia where hawker food stalls and restaurants can be found almost side by side. With tough but “healthy” and delicious competition, one of the establishments that was referred to us by my senior fellow is Town Steamboat Restaurant. He only had good words about this eat-all-want-food place; his family’s satisfaction was enough for us to give it a try.

Popular among Asian countries, Steamboat also known with so many names like Shabu-shabu because of some Japanese influence, Chinese Fondue, or Hotpot if claypot was used, requires no skill in cooking but creativity in combining various slices of raw meat -pork, beef, fish, seafoods, veggies, noodles and other interesting ingredients simmered in a pot of boiling stock, cooked directly on the dining table and readily served hot!

tender beef strips cooked slowly on butter and sinigang na hipon or prawn on sour broth simmered to almost perfection!

 I think the affordability of the buffet in Town Steamboat Restaurant is difficult to top with its wide and varied delicious spread. The flavors are almost infinite!

Other than bottomless ice cream, ais kacang (say, ays ka-chang!), the Malaysian version of Filipino Halo-halo or vise-versa served with red bean, nuts and shaved ice…pastries and other sweets, Town Steamboat Restaurant has a  dimsum corner where you can take a volume of steamed goodies!

They got me on this one; I am sucker for dimsum and dumplings!  ….And you?

Drinks from orange, grape and lychee juices, Chinese tea and my favorite, iced cold soya are all available as bottomless and via self-service; it’s all inclusive!

after a hearty meal, must drink tea.

 You’ll never go wrong with a casual atmosphere… 
 
 
…unless you make a big deal out of an overly exposed cooking gas beside your dining table, hahaha!  
 
I think the exposed cooking gas tanks are nothing to these hungry pack…
 
 
Admittedly, I didn’t like the red and spicy broth that they also serve; we prefer the plain soup as base for our steamboat; it’s most appropriate in cooking sour broth or our very own Sinigang!
 
 
This is more we like it….
 

except those with hypersensitivity to it, who doesn't like sinigang na hipon? imagine a Filipino dish personally cooked in a Chinese-Malaysian restaurant! Sarap! Ang saya!

 
Heeding my colleague’s advice, we brought our very own, Knorr Sinigang na may Gabi Recipe Mix which made our Steamboat more appetizingly good! Now, if only Knorr could sponsor and send us here lots of their goodies, we’ll be more than grateful! Because Philippine products are rare here in Penang, can someone refer this blog post to makers of Knorr mixes? Paging Knorr Sinigang Mix, hehe!
 

We brought the mix, baby!

 
We’re definitely spending another gastronomic feast here when we find a chance…
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The first time we dined at Town Steamboat Restaurant, I only paid RM 49 (PhP 686) for the three of us –Tina, Gabby and me. Then several weeks ago, when my parents came over, we paid around RM 80 (PhP 1120) as lower rates are charged to senior citizens (age 55 and up) and only RM 4.90 (PhP 69) for kids of Gabby’s age and height. It was really a great deal! Now, if only YAKIMIX (which post continuously gives me highest blog hits per day!) or Tong Yang in Manila can top this restaurant with its price, more Filipinos back home can enjoy good food with their families and friends. But I know, YAKIMIX‘s edge are its smokeless grill, airconditioned and more comfortable ambience. 
 
——————————
Town Steamboat Restaurant. 
63 Macalister Road (slightly opposite UMNO building)
10400 George Town, Penang, Malaysia.
 
14
Aug
11

QUOTES

“Love and respect those people who treat you right, and do nothing but pray for those who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy.”    -from twitter.

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

- Proverbs 13:20

“The Lord is my light & salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”   – Psalm 27:1 NIV

*What are your favorite inspiring quotes?

09
Aug
11

DISCOVERING HAT YAI, THAILAND : A TEMPLE, A BEACH & LOTSA SEAFOODS & BREAKFAST GONE BAD!

One of the images of Buddha in Wat Hat Yai Nai

On our second day in Hat Yai, Thailand, my family and I started the day by eating a hearty breakfast (for us but not theoretically & practically for the heart) at the Food Loft of New Seasons Hotel. The morning meals were inclusive of the 3D2N accomodation package we availed.

Guests were provided a set menu that has butter+jam and toasts, coffee or tea,  and a variety of local and continental breakfast to choose from.  My options were artery-clogging bacon strips and slices of ham with sunny side up eggs then, I feared Salmonellosis, I had my eggs scrambled the next morning.

Delightful breakfast gone bad!

Everything was fine until a problem in communication happened.  Tina and I opted to have extra fried rice.  Knowing that the staff (and most Thai, let’s admit it!)  can speak little English,  I took extra effort in explaining to the wait staff our add-on orders.

Several minutes of patient waiting, no fried rice landed on our table. We called the attention of the wait staffs and politely (with a smile), made a follow up on our extra order. After slicing my bacon strips into bits, thankfully, fried rice arrived but the orders were taken and delivered wrongly. They were plateful, complete with fried pork and vinegar and side dishes (as shown on photo above, which my parents ordered for themselves)! I explained with utmost courtesy (you know how food people can do to your plates, so be very extra good in dealing with them), that we only asked for 2 plates of fried rice and nothing more–not a complete set of breakfast meal.

They immediately got the plates and returned to us with just fried rice on it.  I and Tina enjoyed our breakfast (who would not with those bacon strips?–double order please! hehehe!)  But I was again astonished when they made me sign the bill after I told them that Gabby’s meal shall be charged on our room bill. I saw that they charged us 2 extra complete breakfast sets where in fact we only ordered and ate 2 cups of fried rice –meaning without butter+jam and toasts, coffee/tea and viand.. WE ONLY ORDERED AND ATE EXTRA FRIED RICE!  Despite my efforts in explaining the scenario, I thought my view was noted but I was wrong.

THIS SH*T HAPPENS WHEN USE OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS A RARITY IN A COUNTRY!  (read : I am not fluent myself, but most people if not all, can speak and understand English from my country, the Philippines! And I am damn proud of it–google translate: Kahit karpintero o tricycle driver marunong ng is-was-were sa Pinas; minsan fluent pa sila!)

On our last day, when I was about to settle the hotel bill, I found out the food people really charged us with 2 entire breakfast sets instead of 2 cups of freaking fried rice! Although, the receptionist at the front desk understands English and the situation completely, I still ended up mildly straining my larynx again in elaborating that it’s not an issue of price or cost (it’s so affordable at only B70 or RM 7 = PhP 78 per set meal and B20 or RM 2 =PhP 28 per cup of rice), but how efficient you are in delivering your service. They did nothing and still asked me to pay what we didn’t eat. I asked the front desk lady to take extra efforts next time in avoiding the same thing to happen again with other guests. Training of staffs would help.

Poor Customer Service is a Pure Insult to Paying Customers!

Sayang lang, gusto ko pa naman ang sign boards ninyo….

Enough… Let us not spoil the memories of our days in Hat Yai.

After that eventful breakfast, we hopped in the same tuktuk we hired the previous day and continued the Hat Yai tour.

Tuktuk or taxi in Hat Yai... hop in!

I guess everyone will agree with me that no trip to any parts of Thailand is complete without Buddhist temple visit. I opted to include in our itinerary the Wat Hat Yai Nai, the shrine of the reclining Buddha which is said to be the 3rd largest in the world (so would that make the one in Penang, the fourth and the one in Kelantan, Malaysia the fifth? Can anyone confirm?).

This frequently visited shrine is located on Phetchakasem Road, near Saphan Khlong U-Taphao, Hat Yai.  The image of the Enlightened One is said to measure 35 metres long, 15 metres tall and 10 meters wide.

One of my colleagues who hails from Yangon, Myanmar told me that the images of Buddha depicted in reclining or somewhat in near-sleeping position show his peace prior to his death. How many of us can face death peacefully? *pass muna ako dyan, di ba ako ready sa death, bata pa anak ko, hehe!*
Few photo ops in Wat Hat Yai Nai, a scoop of dirty ice cream for Gabby and several kilometers from the Hat Yai City Center (it took us an hour to get to our next stop, passing through highway without traffic jam at all!), following the itinerary that I made, our friendly Thai tuktuk driver (who also barely speaks English), brought us to another frequently visited spot in Southern Thailand –Samila Beach in the province of Songkhla that covers the city of Hat Yai.
Samila Beach is a famous place for weekend getaway particularly for families who like to unwind and enjoy the sea breeze and the sun, both local and tourist alike.
Forgive me for being too lazy to know the significance of the statue of the Golden Mermaid in Samila Beach to Buddhist people of Songkhla.

The family behind Beyond Toxicity in Copenhagen, Denmark --toinks! *wishful thinking!*

Samila Beach is a welcoming respite when you get tired of shopping from Hat Yai City Center.  I regret the fact that I did not allow Gabby to try flying a kite there because the heat from the sun was unforgiving but nonetheless, there’s wind.
There will be a next time, son and other places to fly kite.
A couple of weeks back when I was googling details about Hat Yai, I was surprised to know that some Thai people also believe in legends and myths. Proof to this is the solid brass monument of the Golden Mermaid and few meters away from her statue, also along the shoreline of Samila Beach is the brass monument for the Cat and the Mouse.
There are islands across Samila called, Mouse Island, Cat and Dog Island.  The myth has it that someone decided to bring pets at home as he sailed across the sea. When he heard something about a magical crystal, among the 3 pets he had, he chose the mouse to secure the magical crystal for him; this explains the brass monument of the Cat and the Mouse. If you’re wondering what happened to the dog and it was not in the tableaux, according to the legend, the dog died. End of story (lame excuse for lack of research, hehe!).
LUNCH TIME! What can be more appropriate to eat by the beach on a sunny afternoon but seafoods!
Here’s our feast!

Thai Seafood Mango Salad : Spicy? you bet!

I liked this starter. With generous serving of Thai Mango Salad fused with variety of fried sweet and sour seafoods topped with mildly roasted cashew nuts; a bit spicy for our palates. What else do you expect, welcome to Thailand!
Prawn Soup : It could have been more acceptable to my taste buds if they did not add roots (looked like ginseng!) and spices that I am unfamiliar with.
Sweet and Sour Tiger Prawn : OK, lah!
The winner dishes for me were the fried sea bass and steamed crabs. *pass the vinegar, please!*  yum! :)
The tuktuk driver (with his son) offered to buy a local appetizer that appeared to me as a pasty and spicy one; my family refused of tasting. I have dunked my fork to it twice out of courtesy and gratitude to his friendly gesture. It was indeed, spicy! My tongue easily surrendered.
We left Samila Beach satiated and smiling…
It was past 2PM when we left the dampa-like restaurant (seafood resto by the beach) in Samila Beach. I didn’t say no when the tuktuk driver suggested for us to go to Tang Kuan Hilltop. Without a clue of what’s in store for us (remember, he speaks little English only), we got off his tuktuk and walked towards the Lift Station.
We paid a minimal entrance fee for the lift that took us uphill. After riding an elevator for about 3 minutes to that steep hill, the view offered us a 360 degree-appreciation of the entire Songkhla province.
It’s breathtaking!
My captures don’t give justice to its actual beauty.
Imagine enjoying gloriouy Thai sunset at this Hilltop…

The view's the best, but the sun was at its best too! :(

The Hilltop is also a site of veneration to Buddha…

What do you call these bells for prayers?

Now this quote on the Hilltop is too difficult to observe, agree?

It was almost 4 in the afternoon when we went down from the Hilltop, and since I asked the tuktuk driver (forgive me, I forgot to note his name!) to drop us off at a money changer to exchange few more ringgit to baht, I decided not to bring my family to Hat Yai Municipal Park. Honestly, by doing so, I regret now not having even a single photograph alongside the Laughing Buddha in the Municipality Park of Hat Yai :(

After going to the money changer, we were brought back to the hotel; spent an hour refreshing up then we went out for an early light dinner.

Mcdonald's Samurai PORK burger : Have you tasted one? Do you like it? I don't.

My excitement to try Mcdonald’s Samurai PORK burger went downhill when I found out that there’s nothing special about its taste after taking the first bite. The sauce inside the bun was far something that I will like. It was not that I am partial with beef burger (sure I am!) but this pork burger that probably is present only in Hat Yai (is it?) didn’t meet my expectations.

I remember I was also disappointed in Mcdonald’s Hat Yai because their Coca cola cups aren’t refillable unlike in Penang. Yes, here in Penang, it’s drink all you want Coke in all Mcdo branches, isn’t that great? *Imagine kung sa Starbucks drink all you want din?* LOL! :)

After Mcdo, we decided to watch Captain America in one of the malls in Hat Yai that’s walking distance from our hotel. Unfortunately, Captain America in Hat Yai also doesn’t speak English! Oh Well!


Out of disappointment that the movie we wanted to see was dubbed in Thai (FYI, in Penang –English movies are shown in English with only Malay and Chinese subtitles which for me is far better), instead of spending B120 (RM12) for a movie we won’t understand, we settled and just drowned ourselves to a better option–Thai local sweet delicacies, we so liked it!

These Thai delicacies are so similar to our local kutsinta, cassava cake, and other rice cakes! yummy!

Then few steps more just before getting to our hotel, we bought fresh fruits from this street stall…

That ended our tour in Hat Yai.  We decided the next morning to just stay in the hotel and be early at the pick up point of our van back to Butterworth, Penang.
All in all, I found Hat Yai as an overlooked spot by most tourists and travelers who only consider the mostly visited Thai destinations such as Bangkok, Phuket,and Chang Mai over this city at the Southern part of Thailand. There are really more to explore even in less popular places such as Hat Yai. It has the same feel and ambiance of Bangkok but less traffic congestion. Now, I understand why it’s one of the favorite weekend getaway places of most Chinese-Malaysians and some Singaporeans not only because of its proximity to the borders of the two countries (Thailand-Malaysia) but there are really a lot of reasons to visit, go back and enjoy Hat Yai. The possibilities are just endless.
08
Aug
11

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT

One afternoon, I came home to Tina and Gabby with these 3 wooden pull-me-down puppets which I spotted at a store near our place. With tacks, I pinned them on our appartment's door. They may be cheap but they symbolize something about our family. That to me, at the end of the day, it's just the three of us.

I’m going through trying times the past week and although regret and putting blame on me may be useless at this moment, I’m still taking all the charges. Lessons are definitely learned the hard way.

On top of a private issue concerning me and my parents, our almost 7-year-old son, Gabby has been having loose watery stools and occasional vomiting since last Friday, 05 August and needless to say, Tina and I have been so worried. 

Instead of the service-van-driver, his school teacher/owner had to drive him home earlier last weekend because he initially had his first episode of vomiting in class.

Despite the fact that we knew based on history, that he doesn’t like its taste, we still tried to give him ORS (Oral Rehydrating Solution) to replace electrolyte and fluid losses but he just vomited what he drank.

I bought Smecta Dioctahedral (Smectite) which is an anti-diarrheal powder to be dissolve in water, Gabby didn’t like its taste too given its orange-vanilla flavor.  Amidst his LBM and vomiting, we’re thankful that he remained up and about with no signs of dehydration.

Fast forward to Monday morning, before conducting my lectures, I consulted our medical university clinic and asked for some pediatric medicines, luckily, they have and provided me for free as part of our employees’ benefits. (read : Can you easily imagine how difficult it is to deliver a lecture on Muscle Contraction and Nervous System Physiology in 3 classes almost the entire day and your child is sick at home? I was actually begging for prayers for our kid from my Muslim, Indian and Chinese students)

Nothing is more difficult for any profession than being a doctor and you become helpless when you’re family is in unhealthy state. Kung pwede lang akuin ang sakit ng anak, ginawa ko na.

Like a preschooler who receives his report card with marks of “Needs Improvement“, I know I have to change a whole lot of myself particularly in dealing with problems head on.  I should learn to calm down and pray in troubled times; keep words to myself that might hurt someone.

One of the 2 senior colleagues here in Penang whom I respect and value the most, reminded me that these things are nothing compared to what he and his family, and other people who are severely burdened went through. The other senior fellow who also understands me never wasted time and visited Gabby and Tina in our unit despite she came from long hours of trip from work commitments.  Even with little words, both of these people have been constantly inspiring me to be tough through tough times, continuously motivating me to do only what is right and had moved me to further love my family next to God. 

With hope and prayers that Gabby’s condition will improve soon, I also ask God’s forgiveness for whatever words I have said to people whom I’ve hurt particularly my family.

I may be one of the worst sons on the planet; I may be astronomically far from being the best husband to Tina but I am trying my best to be a good father to Gabby.

To all parents and people who may be emphatic to my situation, your prayers for our kid will be highly appreciated.

04
Aug
11

DISCOVERING HAT YAI, THAILAND : CROSSING BORDERS, FLOATING MARKET & MORE

Thailand to many tourists and travelers frequently means Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai and only few have heard of Hat Yai. This is otherwise to many Malaysians and even Singaporeans; Hat Yai to them is a famous weekend getaway spot.

“Hat Yai (Thai: หาดใหญ่, pronounced [hàːt jàj], also Haad Yai or Had Yai) is a city in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border.  Hat Yai is the largest city of Soongkhla Province, the largest metropolitan area in Southern, and third largest metropolitan area of the country. It is often mistaken as being the capital of the province, but Songkhla is the capital and the center of administration and culture, while Hat Yai is the business center. The two cities are considered as twin cities due to their close connection, and accordingly, Hat Yai and Songkhla form the Greater Hatyai-Songkhla Metropolitan Area.” (sourced from Wiki)

With our luggages and backpacks in tow, we left Penang Sentral bus station (5-minute-bus-ride from our place in Butterworth) via KKKL double decker bus bound for Hat Yai, the city nearest to the Northern Malaysian and Southern Thailand border; it’s our first time to experience crossing country borders by land!

Unlike seasoned travelers who take efforts in planning and learning the ins and outs of their itineraries, I only had  little knowledge about Hat Yai from 2 senior colleagues who have been there already and from googling some details of must-visit-sites thus, I marveled like a kid when we reached the Malaysian exit border in exactly 2 hours; I didn’t expect it would be that fast! (FYI, trip to Kuala Lumpur from Butterworth, Penang takes around 6 hours by bus, 9 hours by night train that departs 11PM usually, and our trip to Northeastern Malaysian town known as Kota Bharu in the state of Kelantan which is also near the Thailand border took us for 5 1/2 hours).

We left at 1:45 PM in Butterworth, Penang with bus tickets that were bought a week in advance at regular rate of RM 35 each (USD 11.76 or PhP 497) one-way, and found ourselves at the bus stopping station near the border a couple of hours after, we’re asked to submit our passports to the bus captain for embarkation and other immigration procedures, and we’re advised to eat and exchange ringgit to baht at the said station too.

Malaysia’s Char Koay Teow meets Thailand’s Baht. I don’t know with you, but I like CKT’s smokey taste.

First-timers to reached Northern Malaysia and crossed the border to Thailand by land…

Exiting Malaysia and entering Thailand went seamless. We needed to get in the bus again after leaving Malaysia and be at the Thailand border for our passports to be stamped. It only took us less than an hour to do the process. Nonetheless, the arrival cards were already filled out by our bus driver so it really lessens the hassles. In less than 4 hours after leaving Penang Sentral, we finally went off the bus at its main office in the heart of Hat Yai where I bought return tickets for us at RM30 per pax; a little cheaper because the vehicle that would take us back to Penang isn’t an 18-seater double decker bus but a 12-seater fully airconditioned van.

After asking directions to get to our hotel, we hopped into tuktuk (bigger than those we saw in Bangkok back in 2004 during our honeymoon; yes, Gabby’s Bangkok-made!), paid 100 baht (B20 per pax or RM2 or PhP28 each).

The main thoroughfares in Hat Yai reminded me of streets back home like Mabini in Malate, Ongpin, Binondo and Divisoria in Manila.  It really looked so familiar!

I made a reservation for 3D2N for 2 deluxe rooms in New Seasons Hotel after reading its good reviews at tripadvisor.com. There’s nothing much to rave about, in fact, I even complained to their front desk just before checking out (which will be included on my next post) about a miscommunication (yes, it’s a huge problem every time you travel to a country where the use of English language is a rarity) with our breakfast meals. At least our rooms were pretty clean and decent for an affordable rate. Not bad, actually but it’s nothing special either. I am just thankful I have chosen a hotel where rooms provided firm queen-sized beds with white linens and fluffy pillows—those to me are very essential. And yes, I wasn’t surprise to see packs of durex in the minibar alongside Lays potato chips and nuts, haha! (check out last photo in the set below); we were in Thailand, remember? *no offense meant*

The same tuktuk driver who brought us to New Seasons Hotel offered us a tour at the Floating Market immediately after checking in, which was actually included in my must-visit-list. He quoted us B500 (RM50 or PhP700) for the 5 of us, in roughly 3 hours with little shopping and some bites. Everything sounded OK to me, since we can maximize the day.

These are the scenes at Klonghae Floating Market at past 5 in the afternoon when we arrived there last Saturday, 30 July 2011.

Fruits in this tropical country are abundant! It was so like the Philippines!

It’s durian season in Penang and Hat Yai; do you eat durian? I don’t. I mean, I haven’t tried.

What about rambutan and lanzones, do you like?  …Lanzones only for me.

Thank God for the sweetest Tamarind on the planet! I’d say if there’s one thing in Hat Yai that is worth revisiting, it’s their sampaloc! ang tamis-kakaiba! :)

Oh my, they’re selling pork barbecue in Hat Yai ! yum, yum! *wala ito sa Penang!*

Walking several steps more towards the bridge that will take you to that famous Hat Yai tourist spot…

My first glance at Klonghae Floating Market…

Back in 2004 when we headed for Bangkok, Tina and I didn’t get a chance to experience their Floating Market located hours away from the city; luckily we had a chance to go to its counterpart in Hat Yai.

I wished we had the same Floating Market in Pinas (Do we have like one that I am not aware of?). 

I appreciate the efforts of Hat Yai authorities in keeping the tourism spirit alive at Klonghae Floating Market, so does the opportunity to provide livelihood to the vendors and peddlers.

Honestly, I was more excited to click my cam for extraordinary captures rather than to do some shopping and eat, haha!

The energy from the atmosphere was so high! There’s a burst of colors everywhere!  This sight never appears on a daily basis!

Whenever you decide to sample and buy something, just point and ask for whatever you want, then the goods will be placed in a basket with long handle, and with an outstretched hand, you have to place your payment in the basket and get your goodies. et voila! Transaction is done!

Business must be good!

And almost all people from all walks of life visit and enjoy the vibrant mood at the Klonghae Floating Market.

Crepes, anyone?

Almost all sorts of flavors and textures are available in this part of Hat Yai…

I should have remained in my comfort zone and avoided becoming adventurous when it comes to food. It may appear so attractive to the senses but it’s actually otherwise. Case in point –this seaweed salad which almost made me throw up!

The bad and the beautiful —Although I never liked the taste of this seaweed salad, we all loved the crunchiness and all of this “KFC” chicken fillet; just right to save the day! yum, yum, yum!

I therefore conclude, not everything floats at Klonghae Floating Market, haha!

And from these choices…

we sampled some…

Noticed those fried quail eggs –sunny side up pa, ang husay! :) The hotdogs were nice, but the sauce was too spicy for our palates!

Do you fancy corn on the cob?

Tell me, what’s the difference of yellow and purplish corns?

I have a sweet tooth hence, I gave my thumbs up for this Thai salad…Delightfully good at 20 baht (RM 2 or PhP 28).

And perhaps, it will take me to be casted first in Fear Factor and be paid big bucks before anyone can force me to eat exotic…  and you?

Not all kids will find merriment in Kloghae Floating Market but Gabby…

When dusk falls, this area becomes more lively! 

Grilled prawns were really tempting!

It was almost 9PM when we decided to end our first day in Hat Yai…

We were on our way back to our tuktuk when these soda bottles caught my eyes, they’re too cute for words for non-diabetics!

Then, we arrived in our hotels with few souvenirs…

Four colorfully handmade and sturdy Thai rectangular pillows, all-for B200 (RM 20 or PhP 280) and the sweetest sampaloc on planet Earth for B50 (RM 5 or PhP 70) per pack. We also bought lanzones (not in photo).

And one thing I like in most Thai hotels (Tina and I had the same bottled water in Amari Watergate Hotel in Bangkok back in our honeymoon in 2004) is their usual provision of complimentary agua in beautiful bottled packaging…

I brought all bottles at home and reused for our water plants.

All in all, it was what I’d surmise as one fascinating day!

We retired to bed early and got ready for more sun exposure on our second day…up next! :)

PS : Malaysia and Philippines share similar timezones while Hat Yai, Thailand is one hour ahead of those 2 countries.

02
Aug
11

BE BACK SOON

I’m taking a blog holiday for few days; will be back online for posts and blog visits soon. Thank you.




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