7 Things To Do In Sekinchan – The Rice Bowl Of Selangor, Malaysia

Located on the far northwestern reaches of Selangor, Sekinchan is a small fishing and agricultural town that is perfect for daytrippers from KL. Known for its vast paddy fields, it is also called the Rice Bowl of Selangor. For urban folk, the laidback pace here can be a nice change from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The only way to get here is by car, as public transportation is virtually non-existent. From Kuala Lumpur, Sekinchan is approximately a two-hour drive. Part of the trip is through the expressway, but most of it takes you through small towns, scenic kampung roads and even parts of palm oil plantations. Just be ready with Waze!

Here’s a short guide to things you can do / eat / see in town:

Take Lovely Photos of the Paddy Fields (In season: Sept – Nov)

20190928_114840

You’ll know you’re in Sekinchan when the landscape turns into vast swathes of paddy fields, dotted with concrete buildings (these are swiftlet nests; the locals use them to cultivate birds nest for consumption in Chinese herbal medicine), scarecrows and heavy machinery. The fields are green (pre-harvest) from September to October, which is also the perfect time for photos. Some couples come all the way here just to do their pre-wedding photoshoots (getting their gowns dirty in the mud / dirt notwithstanding). December is harvest season, when the fields turn into lush carpets of gold. Make sure you come at the right season to avoid disappointment !

Visit the Paddy Gallery 

20190928_112711

Sitting among the fields is a large paddy processing plant that also has a couple of shops for tourists. If you think rice is just rice, be prepared to have your eyes opened: they sell all kinds, from long grained basmathi to fluffy Jasmine and chewy brown rice (in smaller packs of two kilos up to gargantuan 20 kilo portions). There is a small ‘museum’ upstairs detailing the paddy processing, but entrance is RM5 which isn’t worth it IMO as all you get are static displays. Aside from rice, you can also get other products such as noodles, belacan, snacks, homemade goods, and more.

 

20190928_113008

Offer Prayers at Nan Tian Temple 

Overlooking the paddy fields is an old Chinese temple dedicated to the Nine Emperor Gods, which are nine deities in Taoist belief. Our visit conicided with the Nine Emperor Gods Festival and there were awnings out front, so I couldn’t capture the exterior – but it looks extremely Chinese, down to the bright yellow/red colour scheme and the curved, tiled roofs topped with dragons.

20190928_120518

2-metre high joss sticks, which will be burnt as an offering to the gods

20190928_120901

An intricately decorated paper (?) tower in front of the main altar, with figures of deities and mythical creatures

20190928_121454

The main prayer hall. The wood columns look pretty old.

Even if you’re not a devotee, come and observe the architecture and the going-ons in the temple – it’s a great insight into the local way of life here.

Get A Dose Of Nostalgia At Ah Ma House

20190928_123228

Close to the edge of the fields you will find Ah Ma House, a bakery-cum-tourist attraction. Step into its interior to be greeted by the smell of freshly baked goodies such as their famous kuih kapit and kuih bahulu, and while you’re munching away, browse through the decor which is filled with items from yesteryears. On display here are items such as antique furniture, cabinets, analog telephones, old sewing machines, black and white TVs, vintage radios, suitcases, and even a replica of a traditional wood-fired kitchen.

20190928_123247

20190928_123453

I am old enough to remember the days when we had to adjust the antennas on our TV to get better reception. lol

20190928_124312

Ceramic bowls and tiffin carriers were a common sight in kitchens and dining rooms back in the day, and they were often kept on glass/wooden shelves like these.

20190928_124123

Colourful hand made fans – perfect for cooling yourself down in the sweltering Malaysian heat

 

20190928_123916

Shelves lined with local products you can buy, like belacan, sauces, noodles, snacks, and more. We bought a large packet of fried shrimp crackers for RM8 which we finished in a day, lol.

Lunch Break: Tuck Into Fish Noodles At Old Friend Kopitiam

20190928_131206

Since Sekinchan is also a fishing village and part of it is located by the sea, the place is famed for its fresh seafood. The initial plan was to look for a seafood restaurant, but we ended up at a kopitiam called Old Friend, in the centre of town. This turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as a random order from the noodle stall (handmade noodles with fish slices) was delicious, with soft slices of fish in a spicy, peppery broth paired with al dente noodles (only RM6!)

Address: Old Friend Kopitiam, 158, Jalan Radin, Pekan Sekinchan, 45400 Sekinchan, Selangor

Indulge In Fried Goodies

20190928_133843

We noticed many diners with packets of what seemed to be fried goodies and located the source: a street food vendor just across the road. Business was brisk, with workers frying batches of items in a huge, oil-filled wok. There were fried prawn fritters, nian gao with yam (glutinous rice cake – it’s rare to see it outside of festivals!), sesame balls filled with red bean paste, goreng pisang (banana fritters) and more. We got a bit of everything and it did not disappoint; seasoned well, and not the least bit greasy. Should have gotten more!

Make A Wish At The Sekinchan Wishing Tree

20190928_134925

Done with lunch? Drive away from the town and fields to Pantai Redang, the seaside portion of Sekinchan. There stands a picturesque ‘Wishing Tree’, which was popularised by a Hong Kong TVB drama and now attracts tourists and shutter bugs who come to snap photos and make their own wishes. Just next to the old tree is a small temple where visitors can make a small donation and write their wishes on one of the red ribbons, weighted on both ends with holed coins. Once you’re done, sling it up onto the branches!

20190928_140532

There are many resident kitties and dogs around the area; some are friendly but always approach with caution.

Protip: Relax on one of the wooden swings under the tree and let the gentle rocking motion lull you into a nap.

20190928_141620

The beach itself isn’t pretty, but there are a couple of elevated huts where you can sit down and enjoy the sea breeze.

 

Royal Floria Putrajaya 2019 @ Taman Botani Putrajaya

The Royal Floria Putrajaya – Malaysia’s premiere flower and garden show – has been held annually for over 10 years now. First conceived in 2008, the idea was to have the nation’s very own version of famous horticulture shows such as the RHS Chelsea, Hampton Court and the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

20190831_200441

Last year’s Floria was a pretty well organised affair, so I was surprised (and quite disappointed) by the quality of 2019’s event, which has significantly dropped. I think the organisers know this too, as the entry price is much cheaper (RM5 for Malaysians, RM10 for nons). They’ve also moved the venue from Anjung Floria (near the lakeside), to Taman Botani Putrajaya. It’s not convenient for a couple of reasons:

  • Lack of parking spaces. You’ll have to park at the edge of the Putrajaya roundabout, and it can be a really long walk to the entrance. Not to be mention dangerous when crossing the road.
  • The garden is MASSIVE (like 3 acres). Not friendly for old folks and children. They do have intermittent buggy services, but it takes a long time to walk from exhibit to exhibit, and they’re all scattered across the park with no proper directions.

20190831_203324

We went at night because it was cooler. While you’re here, check out the cool-looking Astana Morocco, or the Moroccan Pavilion, which was built with the assistance of the Moroccan government and artisans. The Moorish architecture, reminiscent of places like Cordoba and Granada in Spain, features walls, pillars and archways covered in exquisite detailing. Geometric motifs abound on tiled floors, and water flows from beautiful basins. It’s no wonder the place is popular for wedding photoshoots.

 

20190831_204107

 

20190831_210353

To be frank, the exhibits were not as impressive as the previous edition, and they were so scattered across the park that we had a hard time walking around (pretty sure we missed out on a few due to poor directions and just the general layout of the place, with its undulating hills. Good workout though!)

Another point that they could improve on is lighting. I understand it’s hard to light up an entire park that is meant to be visited in the day, but there were exhibits sitting in the middle of nowhere and paths that were poorly lit. Almost fell flat on my face a couple of times after tripping over branches/holes in the ground and whatnot.

That isn’t to say that there weren’t a few interesting displays, however. Here are some highlights:

20190831_211717

This avenue of trees by the lakeside, draped over with colourful fairy lights.

 

20190831_212002

By far the most impressive showcase was by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur. Beautifully landscaped with various plants and flowers,  great use of lighting, and they even had actors playing fairies to take photos with visitors.

20190831_212410

Kudos to Mr Fairy. I was sweating in a T-shirt and shorts, and he had make up on + what looked like a heavy costume and headdress.

20190831_212532

A display representing the state of Terengganu, including a replica of the famous Batu Bersurat, a 700-year-old granite slab inscribed with verses in Jawi (Classical Malay script) surrounded by water ways and flowers.

20190831_212748

I dub this the Onion Disco, because they’re shaped like onions and they had disco lights inside.

20190831_214213

Antiques and vintage paraphernalia inside a replica of a traditional Johor-style kampung (village) home on stilts.

20190831_214546

A Japanese garden, complete with a bamboo water feature and a small flowing stream.

20190831_215138

Another interesting exhibit – the Johor Chateau featuring wires strung together to form archways and a building.

Royal Floria Putrajaya will be running until September 8, so there’s still time to catch it this weekend at Taman Botani Putrajaya, Precinct 1, Putrajaya. It is open from 10AM – 10PM.

 

5 Attractions In Cameron Highlands For People Who Don’t Like Crowds

Once a pristine mountain retreat, Cameron Highlands is a far cry from how it used to be 20 or 30 years ago. Vast swathes of forest have been cleared to make way for hotels, farms and tourist attractions. It isn’t even cold anymore in the daytime, and god forbid you go on a weekend, what with the hordes of tourist buses unloading at the flower farms and strawberry plantations. If I wanted to push and shove among a crowd, I’d go to a mall in KL – at least those are air conditioned. 😦

Depressing points aside, there are a couple of spots in CH still worth visiting, and where you are less likely to get trampled in case of a stampede.

LATA ISKANDAR 

20190405_122209

If you’re travelling up from the Tapah-CH side, you can’t miss the Lata Iskandar waterfall, located just by the side of the road. Comprised of several tiers, the water cascades down into pools where one can bathe and cool down from the intense heat. Despite being a public recreational area, it’s surprisingly clean, and the waterfalls are flanked on each side with lush greenery. More seasoned hikers might want to go on the trail to see unique flora and fauna in the area. There are also some shops selling local handicrafts from the Orang Asli, jungle produce and souvenirs.

20190405_121729

CAMERON VALLEY TEA PLANTATION 

20190405_140023

CH has a couple of big tea plantations, including the Boh and Bharat plantations. Cameron Valley belongs to the latter, founded by migrants from Uttar Pradesh.

Boh is popular for their jam and scones, which is served at a picturesque little cafe overlooking the valley. As such, the place can be slightly more crowded. CV also has a lookout point, but you can opt to walk down to the plantation to take pictures, or take a buggy down to a spot where they have a bridge and a small garden. PS: Entry is RM10 per pax, which is overpriced imo.

20190406_115215

Sam Poh Temple at Brinchang is a Buddhist temple dating back to the 1970s and is well worth a visit if you’re into culture and architecture. While not very large, the temple has intricate decor, a grand prayer hall housing various Buddha statues, and is well maintained and upkept.

CACTUS POINT

20190406_103104

Perhaps it is due to its location which is a few kilometres away from Brinchang, but Cactus Point is less crowded than other nearby attractions, and the spacious layout makes it easier to navigate and browse through as well. As the name suggests, the place is dedicated to various species of cacti both large and small. In fact, we were surprised by the variety of different types they have on display, from tiny ones that could fit into the palm of one’s hand, to giant ones that tower as high as an adult. They also carry a smaller selection of garden plants and flowers, and you can even buy them to take home.

BUTTERFLY FARM

20190406_133316

One of CH’s oldest tourist attractions, the Butterfly Farm is home to hundreds of butterflies within its enclosed gardens. It also has enclosures for live insects, reptiles, scorpions, small mammals and an aviary. The place is in need of an upgrade, as the interiors are old and dated, but since most tourists will prefer going to shiny new attractions, it means you get the whole place all to yourself! 🙂 Despite its age, the gardens are still well maintained and you can get up close to the butterflies (they have a large collection of Rajah Brooke Butterflies) while taking a leisurely stroll and admiring the garden’s pretty blooms.

20190406_133921

Things To Do in Sungai Pelek & Tanjung Sepat, Selangor

Located far away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the small town of Sungai Pelek, some 20 kilometres from the Sepang International Circuit, seems like an unlikely place for tourists. The town, which grew from a Chinese new village (the Chinese-majority settlements set up by the British during the Malayan Emergency, to combat the spread of communism), is often overlooked in favour of the more popular Tanjung Sepat and Bagan Lalang beach nearby – but it’s sleepy backwater vibe, with vintage shop houses and quaint kopitiams – has its own charm. Not to mention a few gems. Here are a few things you can do in the area:

Tuck Into Scrumptious Seafood

20180930_133809

For its size, Sungai Pelek boasts a good selection of seafood restaurants, thanks to its close proximity to the river and sea. It is also more reasonably priced compared to restaurants in Tanjung Sepat, which have jacked up prices because of tourists.

A good place for seafood in town is Cheng Kee Seafood : review here.

Visit A Dragonfruit Farm

20180930_142554

Sg Pelek is home to a number of dragonfruit farms. Not all are open to the public, but a short distance from town is Multi Rich Pitaya, which has a shop within the farm where you can purchase the fruits and their by-products.

20180930_143550

The shop is divided into an indoor / outdoor area. The setup is simple and laid back, and you might be greeted by the owners’ two pet chihuahuas as you walk in. The indoor part carries a selection of juices, distilled essences and enzymes – primarily from dragonfruit, but also other stuff like passion fruit, herbs + honey, and more.

We bought a bottle of dragonfruit enzyme to try. Because of the fermentation process, it has an alcoholic aftertaste  – kind of like wine, minus the bitterness. The owner recommends to drink a small cup each day, mixed with water, which is supposed to promote better health.

20180930_142950

Outside is where they sell the actual fruits, which come in varying sizes and ‘grades’. This section overlooks the vast dragonfruit farm.

20180930_142804

For those of you who have never seen a dragonfruit tree, here’s what they look like!

20180930_143035

Can’t remember the exact figures, but the fruits were pretty cheap.

Trivia: Did you know? If you drink a lot of dragonfruit juice, your pee becomes pink for a period of time! This is because of its rich content of betalains, a type of pigment that has antioxidant properties.

Buy Fresh Longan

20180930_150300

Also within town is Wan Tee Longan farm, which sells longan. Unfortunately during our visit it was not in season, and the owner doesn’t sell dried ones. Don’t let that deter you though – the shop has lots of other things for sale, such as fruits/vegetables, homemade pastes and cookies, and even some souvenirs.

20180930_145924

Gourd-shaped souvenirs + traditional Chinese remedies for cough

Visit A Mushroom Farm

20180930_153325

Drive 15 to 20 minutes away from Sungai Pelek, and you’ll come to Tanjung Sepat, a predominantly Chinese town famed for its fishing industry. There is a mushroom farm close to the coast, complete with mini museum where you can learn more about mushroom cultivation, as well as a spacious shop selling various fungi-related products.

20180930_153426

20180930_153710

Buy Birds Nest 

20200712_102540

In Chinese culture, birds nests created by swiftlets (using solidified saliva) are considered a delicacy, and they are eaten for their purported health and beauty benefits. You can buy quality bird’s nest at Kuan Wellness Eco Park, a swiftlet farm-cum-eco tourism attraction. While you can’t enter the buildings where the birds nest, there is a small but informative visitors centre which details how the birds nest industry works, harvesting techniques, types of birds nest, etc. Next to the visitor’s centre is a mini zoo which charges a RM5 entrance fee. It is quite sad though as the facilities aren’t well maintained and the animals are unkempt (during my visit, at least). There is also a collection of vintage automobiles at the park’s entrance. Read a more detailed review here. 

Take A Walk Down Lover’s Bridge

20180930_161210

One of Tanjung Sepat’s most popular attractions is the “Lover’s Bridge”, which stretches around 100 metres out to sea. Parts of the previous bridge were made from wooden planks and had a quaint, rustic charm to it, but it collapsed several years ago. The new one is made entirely from concrete.

Buy Local Produce

20180930_162735

Right in front of the bridge is the Qingren Qiao (Lover’s Bridge in Mandarin Chinese) Local Produce Store, which sells everything from local and imported snacks to dried seafood goods. A section of the store is plastered with photos of famous local/Hong Kong/Chinese celebrities (Simon Yam included) who have paid a visit. Apparently fish maw (above) is a best seller here.

Take A Trip Down Memory Lane

20180930_162141

Just next to the store is a street-cum-outdoor museum, filled with nostalgic paraphernalia. Expect to find everything from old scooters to traditional Chinese wine jars, a sedan chair, flour grinding tools, rubber tapping equipment, shoulder baskets, and more.

The parents, who grew up in small towns, were more than happy to explain most of the items to this city kid lol.

 

20180930_162345

A mural fashioned after the famous Penang original by Ernest Zacharevic.

20180930_162518

20180930_162515

Rubber tapping equipment, which the Dad was familiar with because my paternal grandparents used to work on a rubber estate. They’d leave early in the morning, while it was still dark – and it was dangerous because rubber estates were often close to jungles and there would be wild animals like boars, snakes and even tigers. It was a hard time and looking at these items, I feel thankful for their sacrifices to give the next generation a better life.

20180930_162539

Before plumbing, people used potties for their waste, and a waste collector would come by to pick up and dispose of your pee and poop.

Probably unimaginable to most of us urban folk today, but that was how people in my parents’ time lived, and the sad reality is that many poor people in other parts of the world today don’t enjoy the sanitation and hygiene we tend to take for granted.

Feast Your Way Through Lorong 4, Tanjung Sepat’s ‘Wai Sek Gai’ 

20200712_134704

Wai Sek Gai is a Cantonese term that translates to ‘glutton street’. Lorong 4, located within the Tanjung Sepat new village, certainly fits the bill, as the entire stretch (plus a few adjacent streets) features restaurants, eateries and food kiosks. You will find the Tanjung Sepat Pau (Hai Yew Heng) shop here, which is famous for its fluffy buns with various fillings. The mui choy bao (pork bun with preserved vegetables) is a bestseller and runs out fast. Also on this street is Kwo Zha B, which sells local coffee. A more detailed post on what to eat here

Getting To Sungai Pelek / Tanjung Sepat

Public transport is poor, and its remote location far from major cities means that taxis and Grab will be impossible to find. A useful guide on how to get there here. 

Alternatively, Waze to any of the above locations as they are available as destinations on the app.

Happy travels!

If you find this info useful, please support this website by buying me a cup of coffee! 

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

$1.00
$5.00
$10.00
$1.00
$5.00
$10.00
$12.00
$60.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Beautiful Blooms @ Royal Floria Putrajaya 2018, Malaysia’s Premier Flower & Garden Show

Modelled after world-famous flower and garden events the likes of the Chelsea Flower Show in London, the Philadelphia Flower Show in the US and the Singapore Garden Festival in Singapore, the Royal Floria Putrajaya is an annual event held in Malaysia’s administrative capital, Putrajaya. This year marked a significant milestone, as the show celebrated its 10th anniversary, and was held over a 9-day period coinciding with the long Merdeka Day holidays.

20180830_184039

The last Floria installment I attended was in 2014, but the events have always been pretty well organised so I was expecting as much this year. Brought the Boy here on a weekday evening to avoid the crowds; and it did not disappoint. There was a colourful tapestry at the entrance – they had a similar one in 2014 but with umbrellas.

20180830_192022

Living in the city and in a tropical country, it’s hard to find temperate blooms – so it was nice to see the colourful flowers and beautifully landscaped gardens.

The original Floria shows were free, but a couple of years back they started charging people  (currently it’s like RM14). It’s not too pricey, and I feel that it’s worth the entrance fee, since I can see that they’re improving their standards and exhibits year after year.

20180830_192443

Beautiful colour combi!

**Some idiots actually laid down on the flowers so they could take a ‘flower bed’ pose like wtf you are crushing the flowers

20180830_192633

One of my favourite spots was this nicely landscaped and designed garden, complete with a pathway lined with sheer curtains, and an elevated walkway leading into a wooden house, tastefully illuminated with ambient lighting.

20180830_193624

Also a water fountain with the Malaysian flag projected on it!

20180830_193219

More flowers.

20180830_194633

Another themed section called The Enchanted Garden. There was a hidden dark room within with a digital projection of butterflies  onto physical plants. The effect was quite magical.

20180830_194927

20180830_195114

View of the Putrajaya bridge from one of the building’s balconies.

20180830_195314

Another themed area which caught my eye was the replica of the royal palace in Kuala Kangsar, Perak. The architecture was spot on, and I liked the gazebo which was lit up by changing colours.

20180830_195553

20180830_195815

20180830_200320

The weather was pretty muggy even though it was evening, so we escaped to the air conditioned confines of a tent, which had an exhibition on orchids and floral displays.

20180830_202307

 

20180830_200504

 

20180830_200536

There was a Suiseki (stone) and wood exhibition which was extremely interesting! Apparently there are collectors for these rare and oddly shaped rocks, stones and wood which have not been carved or altered in any way, save for a few accessories here and there. It was fun trying to see what shape they resembled, and a little hard to believe that these were made by nature and not man.

20180830_200852

A piece of wood that was a dead ringer for a monitor lizard.

20180830_201109

A gold prize winner, which resembled a monk/pilgrim in flowing robes, holding a cane.

20180830_201219

Another one that looked like a certain Chinese deity with a sloping forehead, a walking stick pointed outwards and a bag under his shoulder. YOU CANT UNSEE IT 

20180830_203804

Mechanical flower made from glass bottles. Creative! It could open and close its petals.

20180830_205113

A gazebo in the themed garden for the state of Terengganu.

20180830_205438

Lanterns in the Chinese garden.

Until next year, Floria! Twas’ a fun experience, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll have in store for 2019. 🙂

Perlis Travels: Harum Manis – The Sweetest Mangoes Ever!? + Cheap Shopping @ Padang Besar / Rock Melon Plantation

Hey guys!

We’re in Perlis for work – but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun. 😀

After filming wrapped up at the palace, we were taken on a tour of sights around the state. Aside from being one of the rice bowls of Malaysia, Perlis also boasts agricultural produce, such as the Harum Manis, a popular mango variant known for being exceptionally meaty, sweet and fragrant. Rather than calling it ‘mangga‘ (malay for mango), Perlisians call it ‘Mempelam’.

20180531_144414

The Pusat Kecermelangan Harum Manis is a research centre-cum-plantation where visitors can find out more about the process of planting, caring for and harvesting harum manis mangoes, as well as make purchases. It’s run by Jabatan Pertanian Perlis.

20180531_144435

We got there in the afternoon and there were only a few mangoes left for sale. Got a kilo (RM20), which yielded about 4 medium-sized mangoes. The staff will advise as to when they are best eaten.

20180531_150002

Paid a visit to the plantation.

Taste isn’t the only thing that makes the harum manis more expensive than other variants on the market. It’s the painstaking process of caring for the trees, as each fruit has to be individually wrapped (to protect it from pests) and harvested by hand. The only season that you can get them is from April to early June.

20180531_145530

Beautiful fruit. They don’t turn yellow (maybe a slight tinge) and remain greenish even when ripe. Some people might find it too sweet, almost sugary (fine for me though!)

20180531_152400

Visiting the Timah Tasoh Dam; a good place to take pictures. You can’t go down on that island thing though.

20180531_155135

Shoppers will like Padang Besar, a border town close to Thailand where you can find cheap, knockoff goods, from toys to jewellery, watches, shoes, hats, T-shirts and makeup. There were lipsticks and fragrances going for as low as RM5, although I wouldn’t recommend those – who knows what they’re made of lol.

20180531_155731

I didn’t enjoy this place much as I’m not a shopper and it was really stuffy within the complex, but I can see the appeal for some.

20180531_164501

Heading back via the Chuping Valley – a vast expanse of flat grasslands.

20180531_170054

Our last stop for the day was to a Rock Melon plantation. We were lucky as the melons were just turning ripe and we could see the huge fruit dangling from the vines.

20180531_170113

And that’s all for Perlis!

To see a list of Things To Do in Perlis, check out this post. 

 

Tasting the Best Beef in Australia @ Blackmore Wagyu Farm, Alexandra, Victoria

David Blackmore knows a thing or two about beef.

After all, the award-winning farmer is considered a pioneer in bringing wagyu cattle to Australia, and now owns a 150-hectare farm in the Victoria region, where his beef is very much sought after both locally and abroad, despite its hefty AUD$450/kilo price tag.

Prior to the 1970s, wagyu was exclusive to Japan – a national treasure that was jealously guarded, carefully selected and bred to maintain the purest blood lines. In 1988, David discovered two purebred females on loan from the Japanese government while visiting research facilities in the US – but it wasn’t until four years later that he was able to secure a large number of embryos and semen to bring into Australia. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the farm boasts a herd of 3,000 animals from three of Japan’s most famous black Wagyu bloodlines, namely Itozakura and Kikumidoi, Kikutsuru from the Hyogo prefecture, and Okudoi, from the 100% purebred Tajima cow family. There is also the exclusive Mishima, known as Japan’s native wagyu, born by mating Angus and Wagyu females with a Mishima bull.

I was extremely fortunate (a big thank you to Visit Victoria for putting together the trip) to be able to visit the Blackmore farm in Alexandra, where fellow journalists and I spoke to David and his family to find out more about the history of the business and their farming practices.

We were taken on a tour through the farm grounds in a truck. Instead of being cooped up in sheds, the wide open fields, gentle rolling hills and lush greenery make for a relaxing and sustainable environment for the cattle. Calves are raised naturally on mother’s milk and pasture, before transitioning to irrigation pasture and non-grain rations. The entire process of raising the cows until they are ready for the market takes three years. 

Two of David’s oldest cows. They have their own special paddock.

An interesting tidbit David shared – the cows should be in a relaxed state, so it’s good to see them lounging around rather than standing, because this ensures more marbling/fat, which ultimately creates high quality meat.

So what’s the deal with Wagyu and what makes it so expensive? 

Aside from the long and extensive farming process, the beef produced also has a high percentage of marbling to muscle ratio, which gives it a melt in the mouth texture, tenderness and great flavour that is hard to achieve with any other beef variant.

The meat looked absolutely gorgeous – look at that marbling! Blackmore has the highest grade rated by the Australian Wagyu Association, which is grade 9.

Enough talking though – the proof lies in the pudding (or in this case, the beef!) – so we adjourned to David’s homestead, where we got to try the award-winning beef, prepared by the lovely Mrs Blackmore. No fancy cooking or extra seasoning, just simple pan frying in its own juices.

Amazing is an understatement. 

I’ve tried Wagyu once (blog link here), and even though that was really good, it doesn’t come close to the meaty flavour and marbling from Blackmore. Almost no chewing was required as the beef literally melted on my tongue, it was that soft and tender. Despite the high percentage of fat, it did not feel greasy or cloying at all. I understand why their beef is so sought after in high-end restaurants around Australia and around the world – you do get what you are paying for, and David and his family are so passionate about rearing cattle and producing the best product possible while adhering to sustainable practices.

Delicious home cooked food to go with our meaty meal.

For a full list of places where you can get Blackmore Wagyu, visit blackmorewagyu.com/purchase/purchase-wagyu/

Sekinchan: Paddy Fields and Temples

20151213_123628-tile

Imagine a flat expanse of green and golden yellow, stretching on for miles in all directions – dotted only by the odd blockish building in the middle of each field. This is Sekinchan, a paddy and fishing village on the outskirts of Selangor. What was once a sleepy nook has become a famous tourist destination, thanks to a TV show.. but there’s no doubt that even with the throng of weekenders, the place retains a quaint charm.

20151213_112907-tile

Known as the ‘ricebowl of Selangor’, the vast irrigated paddy fields produces one of the highest yields in Malaysia.

We came at a wrong time, as most of the paddy had already been harvested. There were still a few squares left over but nothing compared to how pretty it would be when all the fields are green! 🙂 Perhaps a return trip next time.

paddy-field-view-at-sekinchan-9

This is how it looks like when the fields are all green. Pretty, non? Photo from: sekinchan.org

The best time to visit is from March – May and Sept – Nov. Time your visit to avoid disappointment! 🙂

20151213_123705-tile

While driving through the narrow and dusty roads (be prepared to give your car a good wash after the trip!), visitors will come across these random grey blocks now and then. These are ‘nests’ for swallows. The birds usually make their nests in dark caves, hence the enclosed building. The nest, made out of swallow saliva, is collected and sold at Chinese medicinal shops for high prices and are supposedly healthy and nutritious. Might sound disgusting to some Westerners, but it’s not that bad. Really.

When I was younger and whenever my mum had money, she’d buy me some and boil it into a soup with rock sugar and ginger. The nest is dried and only expands when it’s soaked in water. It’s tasteless; the only taste comes from rock sugar. The texture is similar to crunchy gelatin.

Does it have proven health benefits? Maybe, maybe not. Some say they do because of their protein, collagen and vitamin content, but no comprehensive research has been done. These were ingredients handed down over thousands of years of Chinese history, and the modern day Chinese still follow the wisdom of our ancestors. My parents are quite traditional, so when I was growing up, they made me eat a tonne of stuff like frog eggs (yes! They’re kinda like jelly), pigs brain soup (good for the brain, apparently), and whatnot. Maybe that’s why I became a strong, healthy adult (???) Or maybe it’s just all that milk and cod liver oil. Nobody knows for sure.

Anyway, I digress.

20151213_113356-tile

There is a paddy processing plant in the middle of the site. It’s easy to lose your bearings when driving through endless paddy fields, so look out for road signs.

20151213_113615-tile

20151213_114032-tile

One of them huge-ass harvesting machines.

20151213_114549-tile

Before going into the plant, we stopped by the roadside stall for a snack of fried strawberry ice-cream. It wasn’t good.. lol

20151213_114928-tile

Another famous produce in Sekinchan is their mangoes, which can grow as big as a human forearm.

20151213_114941-tile

All manner of snacks and produce, neatly packaged for tourists to take home. Fried prawn crackers hang from the ceiling, while biscuits, preserved fruits and jam line the shelves.

20151213_115047-tile

Freshly fried and crunchy sesame rice cakes being cut into neat pieces.

20151213_115638-tile

There isn’t much to do at the processing plant because they don’t allow visitors to look at the actual process. You can pay Rm5 to buy a ticket and watch a show in the gallery upstairs instead. It’s also a good place to shop for cheap but high quality rice. Rice connoisseurs, go crazy! You can find not only regular white rice, but brown rice, fragrant rice, Jasmine rice, the list goes on….

20151213_122744-tile

Leaving the plant and passing by a large flock of storks.

20151213_124201-tile

And stopping by a fruit orchard to get some fresh fruits! 🙂

20151213_124903-tile 20151213_125809-tile

Just a short drive away is the Nan Tian Temple, which overlooks the paddy fields. Dedicated to the Nine Emperor Gods in Taoist beliefs, the fishing and farming community would pray for good harvest and weather.

20151213_125905-tile

The bright yellow and red structure looks pretty with a fresh coat of paint. Architecture is typical of Chinese temples, with dragon statues on curling rooftops and pagodas.  The original structure was erected in 1984.

20151213_125935-tile 20151213_125945-tile 20151213_130017-tile

Light a candle and offer a prayer to the gods. 🙂

You’re probably wondering why pineapples. Pineapples are called ‘Ong Lai’ in Chinese, which also sounds like ‘fortune comes’. Chinese people are all about fortune, wealth and prosperity – go to any Chinese community anywhere and it’s the same. lol

20151213_130019-tile 20151213_130125-tile 20151213_130146-tile

We left around 3pm. It took two hours to get home because halfway through it started raining like a storm. Good thing we left early!

There isn’t much to do in Sekinchan other than visit the paddy fields, eat and shop for souvenirs and fresh produce; but it’s a nice palce to get away from the city for a bit, especially if you don’t feel like staying overnight.