Kampungkayell

Food, life, and fun in my "kampung,"(village), KL (Kuala Lumpur). Did I mention "food?"

Tagged by Fatboybakes

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

I've been tagged by fatboybakes. OK, I have a duty and responsibility to keep this going. So here it is ;-) Since I don't have my manbag with me, my wallet it is... I will answer the questions then post the rules for those whom I will tag...However, I'm glad it happened because now I also know I'm missing Allan's photo which I used to have. It must have fallen out. Mental note; get another.

Describe the contents of your wallet/handbag.

Lots of receipts from purchases. I keep everything so I can do a proper accounting with my company accountant. My drivers licence, Identity card(IC), credit cards, US Dollars and Thai Bhat from my last trip to Krabi, which I obviously have not cleared from my wallet yet. My KGNS (Kelab Golf Negara Subang) membership card, a Capuchin prayer in which I was enrolled by the Wong family back in 1995, the docket from my joint account with Allan so I can remember our account number, various loyalty cards, business cards of people I've met from the last 2 weeks, and an angpow that my Mum always gave to me at the beginning of the Chinese New Year to "tzhark leen" for luck. Something that I will continue from now on.

What's the most important thing in your wallet/handbag?

My IC and drivers licence.

What's the most embarrassing thing in your wallet/handbag?

My drivers licence photo. Described as "the photo looks like the bahgger at MBPJ that I farrrk (scold badly) everyday."

What's the smallest thing in your wallet/handbag?

The CK Calvin Klein label?

Is there anything illegal in your handbag?

Umm nope! I don't think so. ;-)

I tag the following people;

A whiff of lemongrass
tummythoz

Jason (Ipohmali)
Eatfirstthinklater
Babeinthecity

Find a safe quiet place free of significant others, nosey meme makers, priests, nuns, all things religious and men in general. (If you're a guy just reverse this process to male and tell us about your wallet, tool box, briefcase or metro sexual accessory.)

1. Dump the contents of your handbag in a pile
2. Take a photo of your handbag and the contents
3. Be brave and explain to your fellow bloggers what lurks inside the handbag.
4. Tag FIVE (5) others who might want to embarrass themselves
5. Answer the questions above.

Mum's Eulogy

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Was debating whether or not to post this. But since I delivered it to an unexpectedly large crowd at the church today, it's pretty much public anyway. So here it is...

'Mum was an uncommon woman. I hear this sentiment from many. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone. Even though we’ve had months to prepare for it. I also know I didn’t want to come up and do the usual thing of, well, messages of love, and to remember her as someone as just being kind, generous, giving, loving, and big hearted. She was all that. But she was much more than that.

Perhaps a little history.

Mum was born to a middle class family in Singapore. She had 2 brothers and 1 sister. Uncle Steve, who has passed away, Aunty S.K., and Uncle Richard. Not too rich. Not too poor. Of her parents, Poh Poh, my grandmother, and her mother, was an extraordinary woman who I believe, in many ways, made Mum into who she was. From all the stories I hear, I think Mum took after her.

Mum grew up during the second world war, an independent, strong willed, young lady with equally spirited friends in Convent Bukit Nenas. Some of whom, like Aunty Pek and Aunty Balbir are sitting here today. I can only imagine that she must have driven Poh Poh somewhat to distraction as she displeased the Sisters of Convent Bukit Nenas. A Sister Teofen I believe, who, I was given to understand was as stern as she was beautiful. She snatched away Mum’s autograph book because someone had written in it the lyrics of that popular song of the period, “Smoke Get’s In Your Eyes.” The strict sister scolded her with “No wonder you can’t study. Smoke Got In Your Eyes.”

From riding her Father’s Triumph Motorcycle to work in her samfu to standing in the middle of a Cambridge street quaffing a pint of beer on a bet, she wasn’t exactly what you would call run of the mill. You could already see the mother she would become when to all intents and purposes she was thrust into the role at an early age by looking after her elder brother’s children Ron, Yvonne, and Christine while he was away studying; who to all intents and purposes became my elder siblings. Taking them on trips up to Cameron Highlands or to PD in Poh Poh’s Wolsely with Aunty Pek for company through the trunk roads of the day. Not something for the faint hearted.

She demanded a reciprocity that was sometimes difficult to keep up with. But she gave with all her heart and then some. She was somewhat blinkered by habits which led her to be a bit of a worrywort over things that perhaps weren’t quite worth worrying about.

And yet, when it came time to marry and start a family, she was as blinkeredly, fiercely, protective as they come. Her pride in me knew no bounds. But her disappointment in some of the things I did also crushed her. And she showed it. She drove Dad to distraction with her need for a certain order. And she, from her actions AND words, loved him as intensely. Only someone who loves someone else that intensely can be as bothered by them. ;-)

My Mum was very much given to a measure of dramatics. She scaled the heights and plumbed some depths of emotion. And the attendant range would have been familiar to any Oscar Winner. On the subject of marriage, I can only say that she was crushed when I answered her truthfully on the matter. Only to work through her own feelings on the matter and then accept and embrace with all her heart, Allan, who to all intents and purposes became the second son she never had.

Someone asked me on the day she passed away if we’d said everything we wanted to say to her. Thinking about it then and now, I believe we had. I can’t imagine there’s anything that I’ve left unsaid; about how grateful I was. Or how much I loved her.

I think I’ve painted a picture of a person who is in my mind a very complex character. On the one hand fun-loving, loving, gregarious, spirited, generous, kind, fiercely loyal to those she loved. But also someone rooted in tradition, but not mired in it, someone who lived life to the fullest, sometimes dramatic, sometimes searching; in a word, human.

Above it all, My Mother taught me 3 things. One, that at the end of the day, when all is said and done, you need to be answerable to your own conscience and therefore to God. Her favourite saying was “you need to be able to wake up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror.” Two, be considerate of others. She was also fond of saying “try and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” And three, was something that she showed me in later life. Something which I feel is even more profound. She showed me, us, that it’s never too late to strive for perfection. To strive to be the person God meant you to be; and in that striving to be a better person she was perfect.'

What a difference a few hours can make

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

"Nigel, come here now!" The urgency with which Aunty Pek summoned me pulled me into the room. I had been preparing to come home and make dinner. Just a few hours earlier we had been preparing to say goodbye to Mum. I never realised it would be so soon. I had thought that it would be a few days, maybe next week. Instead we were thrown into a maelstrom of fast moving events with the death of my Mum at 8pm on 8 Sept 08.

I'm amazed I can write this so calmly.

Mum had been sick for months. Almost 7 months. In a way, I could only think that it was a blessing for her. And for Dad. Poor bloke has been her main caregiver with the nurses and Kak Kris for the entire 7 months now. And his life had really been on hold.

Only thing I do know is that for 44 years I've had the pleasure, privilege of having my one and only Mum around. For the love that she gave me, Dad, and later Allan, and the blessing she was to us, I can only be grateful and give thanks.

Thanks Mum for life, love, and her unconditional support. In short, thank you for everything you gave all of us.

Viroth's

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

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Keith pokes at his Ipod Touch as we sit in the alfresco section of Le Papier Du Tigre on Pub Street wondering where to go for dinner.

An armless man passes us on the street and comes up to our table and holds out his hand, begging. 2 children come by offering trinkets for the ubiquitous “one dol-lah.” It clawed at me to put on a dead pan face and shut them out.

“There’s this one called ‘Viroth’s.’ It really looks good.” Keith offers.

I guiltily but gladly pull myself out of my reverie and don’t mention how I feel to Allan or Keith. We decide on Viroth’s for our first dinner in Siem Reap.

Coming back from the temples to the hotel for a bit of a rest before the evening, it struck me how alike Siem Reap is to some of our towns in Malaysia. The grassy tree-lined river, the alleyways and roadways bordered with colonial style shophouses, the asian faces running around making ends meet and trying to scrape up a living. The only difference is that this is a country that had just come out of a civil war about a decade ago and was just now reclaiming it's rightful position in the community of nations. Truly, there but for the Grace of God...

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That night, Dara, our trusty moto driver from our "sunset" jaunt to the temples meets us at the entrance and in the light night drizzle, wends his way confidently to Viroth's. Obviously a destination he was familiar with.

As we step up to the main entrance of Viroth's, attractive Cambodian guys greet us in that amazingly hospitable manner that is obviously a cultural trait and show us to our table.

That was the first time we noticed Fabien sitting behind the reception area. We later learned that he owned the place with his Cambodian partner.

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The ambience was contemporary, chic, simply but effectively decorated and easygoing.

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I ordered a beer (An Angkor; not to be confused with An-chor ;-) ) and Keith and Allan ordered the food. I find it's easier to let them decide as I'm not very particular about what I eat and will generally eat most anything that's put in front of me.

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Allan was starving so we started off with Beef Salad. Gorgeous. Cool. Crunchy. Tart, sweet, and notes of lemons and herb from the lemongrass and coriander leaf. It didn't have the bite of a traditional Thai salad and it's flavours were nicely balanced rather than the overt herbaciousness of Vietnamese food.

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As part of our culinary adventure, we started with Vietnamese style fresh spring rolls. Lovely. The cool, crunchy vegetables, the sweet prawniness combined with the salty hit of the fish sauce. I have no idea what they call nuoc mam in Khmer but the fish sauce was yummylicious.

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It was a really cool night, and the breeze was very like a daytime in Fraser's Hill; cool, crisp and a little damp. So, we decided on a soup. A Chicken Lemon soup with julienned basil. Warming, green, savoury; absolutely delicious. Very soon, I was looking regretfully at the bottom of my bowl and wondering if I should be a pig and order more.

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The other dishes were just as yummy. Beef done like Thai Basil Beef but milder and more flavourful. And chicken with bamboo segments as well as onions and kangkung.

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We also had a Vegetarian Amok. Much like our Sayur Lemak. Rich, coconuty, earthy vegetables with that light lemony lemongrass. And they certainly were generous with the coconut milk; the sweet, creaminess shone through. If dishes like this are too lean on coconut milk, they're flat!

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For dessert, we had flambed bananas with coconut ice cream and a splash of rum. Sweet bananas paired with the evaporating feeling of alcohol up your nose and the light creaminess of coconut.

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Blue Pumpkin is one of the premiere cake and dessert suppliers in Siem Reap and we eventually came to recognise this mousse cake as one of their creations. It's called Le Louvre. A pun on Louvred windows and the museum. Very nice. Think creme brulee with a moist chocolate base! That heady chocolateyness and creamy custard is something that should be tried.

All in all a fantastic experience and one I would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone making a trip to Siem Reap. AND from what I can see on the website, his hotel is also a must try!

Viroth's Restaurant (Cambodian)
242 Wat Bo St, 016-951-800

Siem Reap - Angkor Adventure - Day 2

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

From Angkor Thom, to the Bayon, then to Baphuon, and Phimeanaka, on to Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, the Terrace of the Leper King & Angkor Wat, Day 2 was just amazing. The Food, again, will be a separate posting. But I just had to include Happy Herb Pizza which included special "oregano." ;-)

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Siem Reap - Angkor Adventure - Day 1

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

“Two doh-lah, I geeve you peece and qui-ette” she said, with the cheekiest of grins. You knew she meant it, this little extortioner with the charming, toothy grin.

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Rewind to 12 hours earlier we had set foot in the LCCT, our Low Cost Carrier Terminal. I trail behind Allan and Keith, trusting them to lead me through the throngs of bodies to the right counter. After check in my feet automatically walk toward the nearest Starbucks/Coffee Bean (they're interchangeable aren't they? Sort of like Coke and Pepsi) and order my first cuppa of the day. The aroma of coffee alone begins to switch on my brain. One sip later and I feel human again. Enough to join in the conversation and survive the 2 hour flight.

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As we disembark at Siem Reap, I drink in the air. It's different. It's the same time at home, same Earth (though an hour later due to a time zone shift) but owing to a quirk in geography and modern air travel and a good dose of psychological delusion, it's different! The airport is nice and clean. Small but seemingly well run. The luggage is picked up in short order and the driver proceeds to drive us to Bopha Angkor along with a friendly Canadian family.

You can't help but draw parallels with other places you've visited before and the inevitable comparisons pop up. "Oooo it looks like some towns in Kedah with all the Padi Fields!" "It sorta reminds me a little like Bali" this as we pull into the town proper. And it does. Lots of tourists. The Cambodians are petite, tanned people with the most friendly demeanour and are apt to smile at you at the drop of a hat. The tourists all just looked "foreign!" They all looked like they were walking around with great big neon signs flashing "Tourist" on their foreheads. You know that pose that tourists automatically fall into. The curious, almost overly polite unctuousness that drips from them especially when they ask the locals in slooooowwww English. "Doo you-u-u-u kn-ow th-e wa-ay to-o..." Hello, Cambodians aren't stupid. They just don't understand YOUR language!

We drop off everything at the hotel and we set off on the beginning of our adventure. Don't you just love that feeling when you've got 4 long days stretching ahead of you and you know you're going to be experiencing things which are new and novel?

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The Bopha Angkor is situated right on the Banks of the Siem Reap River. The river itself is still undeveloped. By that I mean it's banks are still verdant and grassy and manicured and lacking in "riverwalk" cafes or a "riverside alfresco dining experience." In short, it looks like human beings have had a hand in keeping it tidy but (thank God) it doesn't look like Clarke Quay.

As a matter of fact, as we processed through into the town area you get a sense of the "frenchness" of Siem Reap. The grid system that the town is organised into, the beauty of the public spaces, and the abundance of colonial architecture in the main area of Psar Chaa, the Old Market, which was, for us, just across the Wat Preah Prom Rath Bridge.

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Massage Parlours jostle for space side by jowl with eateries, some quite flash and some distinctly like our old Chinese coffee shops. A sarong and textile shop marks our entry into a dim and dingy passageway and into Psar Chaa proper. With cries of "kam baaiii...Ai keef you goood price..." following us, I do my best not to catch their eye. Otherwise your side may grow an appendage that you never knew you had. And the appendage will be talking incessantly in your ear, trying to persuade you to buy...something.

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The clothing section opens out into a central area and immediately your nostrils are assaulted with the ripe, sweet, pungent smell of freshly killed fish and meat. "See hum" sit out on un-iced counters. Fish, meat, and seafood counters sit side by side with hawkers hawking their bowls of steaming hot soup noodles or friend mee hoon.

Then there they were. Two ladies sitting with their backs facing each other. One deboning fish and the other declawing and skinning frogs. Fresh padi frogs. They were doing it so fast that I'm not sure a trained chef would have kept up with them.

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The light is natural and it streams in through plastic sheets lining the roof. We pass through a dried foods section and just as I think we've seen all that Psar Chaa has to offer, we walk into a seamstresses area. A lady stands in front of a seamstress with her arms up to her sides, getting measured for a new dress. About 6 ladies sit in two neat rows busily guiding pieces of cloth into their eventual transformation to clothes. You walk through the whirring machines and the next section, the ammoniacal smell of perm lotion hits you. As you look up you realise that someone is getting their hair done. All this in one market.

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As we meandered our way out of Psar Chaa we happen upon Pub Street Alley and Pub Street. No prizes for guessing what is on Pub Street. After an earlyish lunch we made our way back to Bopha Angkor for a bit of a nap before heading out to the temple complex of Angkor. Now here's a little tip; if you go to the ticket counter at around 430 to 445pm you can buy your ticket and it will be dated for the following day but you can go into the temple complex and catch a sunset for free.

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Our tuk-tuk (a term obviously borrowed from the Thai's) driver, zips us into Angkor and as he slows down to stop in front of Phnom Bakheng, we met our cheerful little extortioner.

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Although Angkor Wat’s footprint only occupies a small amount of the space of the entire temple collection, the place is usually known by it’s name. It occupies such a huge space in the national Cambodian mindset that it’s even on their national Flag.

Slowly folding my pregnant middle into the rice paper thin plastic raincoat that I had just bought from one of the street urchins (unfortunately our little extortioner was 1 minute late or for her cheerful attempt at the most blatant blackmail with such a brass faced assertion, I would have certainly bought it from her) we splooshed down onto the street and prepared for an arduous climb up to Phnom Bakheng. Remember, words like “arduous” are all relative and for three lazy city boys who had woken up at 4 am that morning, the rain and the gentle, unpaved slope that lay ahead of us might as well have been Everest. I was more worried about wet shoes than I was about anything else. After all, I was wearing my most comfortable pair of New Balance. Not to mention my ONLY pair that I had with me.

It’s very easy to moan and groan about the rain being wet and how it makes everything rather mouldy feeling and looking, with that patina of grey that accompanies the big splatty drizzles we have in South East Asia. But while most may bemoan the fact that we’re not going to get one of those glorious, red, orange, purple hued, majestic, clichéd, visions from God, there is a soft mysterious beauty to greyness. Every line and edge which cuts like the sharpest of ceramic knives in bright sunlight becomes velvet coated like a cool, moist rose petal. The very greyness makes you look for the shadows which tell you what is there.

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As we trudge up the muddy slope we passed 3 temple kids begging and a little further on a "minder." We had been warned about the street kids and instead of money we had planned to give them crayons and colour pencils. For one thing, just handing out US dollar notes breeds a certain contempt for the value of the money and the other thing was we didn't exactly relish being swarmed by clouds of kids patheticking us into a handout. We had also been told that there were professional begging syndicates who basically put these kids to work begging and then taking all their money away at their end of the day. The "minder" standing idly by did not ease our minds one bit!

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You turn a bend, and over the next rise you're facing this ancient ruin. Facing steps which are almost as vertical as they are high you suddenly realise that you have to literally climb these steps on all fours. It's like crawling across the floor, only vertically.

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Off in the misty distance you glimpse Angkor and everywhere you step on the top of this ancient pyramid-like ruin you breathe in the weight of history.

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Slipping and sliding back down the hill and living in fear of my life Allan has an attack of the "good samaritans." My lovely other half decides it's time to pull out the crayons and show some of these wet, bedraggled kids some generosity. As we pass them Allan hands each of them a few crayons to play with. I happened to be dawdling behind fiddling with my camera when I happened to look up and catch the expression on one of the faces of this teensy tiny girl who had just received said crayons.

I guffawed. She started and proceeded to arrange her face into a more appropriate pathetic mien. Just as Allan had walked past she darted a glance at her companion across the way with a distinctly disappointed sneer of "what the f**k am I going to do with a few crayons?"

My kind hearted white knight had his heart dashed against the rocks of a street wizened professional. We decided not to be as giving and awaited a moment when we would be able to hand our little gifts to more appreciative recipients.

(Food adventures are going to be written separately).