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

Sipadan-a spiritual journey (Pics in the links)

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

We arrive on Mabul after losing a bag at the hands of Malaysian Airlines. Notwithstanding the fact that they have systems to retrieve it, it shouldn't have happened.

Our checkout dive on the housereef was uneventful. Or eventful, depending on how you look at it. A 5 foot garoupa swimming 3 feet away from you and catching you in it's backwash is eventful, isn't it?

Jun, Allan and I were listed as going to Sipadan the very next day.

The weather held.

Sun, blue sky, and a relatively calm sea. The salt tang of the Celebes in our faces and the warmth of father sun on our backs.

Same old rigmarole. The part I hate.

Zip up wetsuit. Bend over slightly and throw weight belt over your back and cinch it tight. Dislocate your shoulder to fit your arms through a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) already fixed to a tank of air; your lifeline. Tubes and protrusions sticking out the end of everything. It's all you can do not to tie yourself in knots. Check first stage. Sound like Darth Vader. Good. Check second stage. Still sounding like Darth Vader. Air? 240Bar. Contort yourself into your fins and snap on your mask. Hope that said mask doesn't fog up and you've hawked up enough spit to prevent it. At this point, I'm grateful that my hair is usually shaved into the bathroom sink. Having a mask pull your hair out is the next worst thing to being waxed.

Clamber, crawl, lift yourself up with size 30 feet/flippers onto a small bench while the boat is rocking, sometimes gently, sometimes like a crazy 5 year old about to take off, and yell "CLEAR?" and wait for a response from someone looking the other direction. Then roll back, the cool, blue water envelops you and you bob up, tap your head for the "all clear" signal and wait.

Check for your buddy at this point, give the "descend" sign, pull the BCD's in/deflation tube up and release the air and you start to sink beneath the waves.

Peace. Beyond the hissing and burbling of your breathing, there is silence. As you near the bottom, you double click your BCD with a hishhish and your arrest your freefall.

You're weightless and suspended. A single quick kick is sufficient to move you along. And most of the time, that's how I move. Single slow kicks to get to the next clump of reef or coral to view the next wonder of God.

The sights you see are really the icing on the cake. That feeling of weightlessness and the spirit of exploration of a world in which we are the aliens takes you out of yourself. Puts you into a place that you're just a visitor. And it's humbling. In all of God's Universe, there is a place so near to home where you can see His wonders and know that He is There.

From the smallest crustacean to the largest Turtle we've seen, the hand of God, the unknowable and ineffable, is present. The breathtaking views of Barracuda schooling, Jacks racing past you to an unknown destination, Flamboyant cuttlefish pulsating to the lambada, the experience of diving is spiritual. You spend time listening to your own breathing and marvelling at the wonders He hath wrought.

Then you have the opportunity to surface and on the next day, do it all over again.

Shark's Fin House, Jalan Imbi

By Allan Yap & Nigel A. Skelchy

Roll 496One fine Monday evening, we stepped out with Mo Lin with the wind in our, well, eyebrows, and roared down to The Marc Residence in Jalan Pinang.

We attended the "I♡KL" event held in Delicious at the Marc. And it was the biggest agglomeration of people in white that I've seen in a long time.

The event was organised by Randomalphabets.com for no other reason than to have Malaysians from every walk of life gather and have a good time. Basically, a way to promote civil society. The idea, I believe, is that if people know each other, they won't spend time fighting with each other. AND, it also benefitted some charities, one of which was the SPCA.

Roll 492Since it was rather packed and the opportunity arose to have dinner at Shark's Fin House, we decided to skip the buffet (after some lovely Passion Fruit Marshmallows at the Buffet in Delicious) and headed on out to Jalan Imbi where the aforesaid restaurant is located.

The restaurant was taken over recently by The Oriental Group and redone. Kudos to the group for knowing how to target their restaurants. They live by the axiom "Locationlocationlocation" and they tweak every one of their restaurants according to that idea. This one is no different in that respect.

Roll 491The minute you walk in under the canopy, you know the type of restaurant that you're walking into. Clean,Roll 495 contemporary, but catering to a chinese market. The type that grew up in traditionally chinese households who follow cantopop, ginza fashion, and speak mandarin and chinese on a daily basis. The type that values sharks fin for weddings and considers it a luxury item to be enjoyed periodically. Not something I agree with which is why we didn't have any shark's fin that night.
Roll 493We started with two choices of a starter. What Allan's aunty calls "teeteetahptahp." Sorta the sounds you make crunching and smacking your lips to whet your appetite. Except in this instance, it was a free choice with the menu that we chose.

Roll 494One appetizer we chose was 3 types of mushrooms sauteed with their special sauce. Tasted of oyster sauce as the base. And the other a Thai cuttlefish with a green chilli and lime sauce. Yum!

Next up was this deep fried codfish with a pomelo sauce, and a Braised Pei Pa Egg Taufu with Crabmeat. Yum. What's not to like with deep fried battered fish with a sweet tangy sauce filled with little bursts of pomelo sacs.

From a fish course to meat; a charcoal grilled pork ribs. Tender, flavourful. As only SLOW COOKED ribs can be. The Hiong Ha Meen Pok was a lovely almost "chai" (Vegetarian) take on the broad wheat flour noodles. Very simply done but great texture and NOT gloppy. A pet peeve.

Dessert was a "Kwai Ling Ko" with a sugar syrup, Hasma(Frogs glands) boiled in Papaya with Almond Milk, and Mango Pomelo "Chowder." I only use the word "chowder" because that's the closest texture that comes to mind.

I did spy with mine little eye that prices for combo menus started at around RM38++ per person and went upwards from there. A very value oriented pricing strategy. All in all a great evening of giggles with good food and good friends.

Shark's Fin House (Formerly Yu Jia Restaurant)
No. 51, Jalan Barat, Off Jalan Imbi , 55100 KL
Tel: 03- 2143 9966 Fax: 03- 2143 8966 :-)