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.

 

5 Things To Do In Kuala Rompin, Pahang

Strategically located by the sea and the river, and surrounded by tropical rainforests, the town of Kuala Rompin in Pahang, Malaysia is blessed with an abundance of natural gems. The place retains vestiges of its roots as a fishing village, with many folk still making a living from the sea and the Rompin River. In recent years, the town has come to be known as a sailfish haven, drawing anglers from all over the globe during fishing season. It also makes a great base for adventurers looking to explore the Endau-Rompin National Park – one of the oldest rain forests in the world.

I was in town recently for a short trip, and while we weren’t able to visit many places, I’ve listed down some of the lesser known activities that you can add to your itinerary while in Kuala Rompin! 🙂

1 ) Visit an Orang Asli Village 

20181018_103139

Kuala Rompin is home to a sizable Orang Asli population, most of who make a living from agriculture and fishing. If you’re travelling in a group, you can make arrangements with some local hotels to visit a village and buy fresh produce/seafood. One of these villages is Kampung Deraman – which has its very own balai masyarakat (community hall) right next to the main road. The building is where the locals organise events such as weddings and celebrations. We were given a brief insight into the arts and culture of the Orang Asli during our visit, as they welcomed us with a traditional dance. A village artisan even taught us how to weave!

20181018_111912

20181018_113928

There is a compound in front of the village where visitors will find large fish tanks housing various types of fish, shrimp and udang galah (river prawns) – a local specialty – for sale.

20181018_115001

A wooden shack sells fruits and forest produce.

2 ) Go Clam Picking 

20181018_142801

The Rompin River is the lifeblood of Kuala Rompin, cutting through vast swathes of land before flowing out into the South China Sea. Clam picking is a popular activity for tourists, with trips usually organised by hotels or tour agencies.

20181018_143919

A boat from the jetty takes you to shallow parts of the river during low tide, whereby you can wade into the sandy riverbank and muck around for clams. A little luck is needed, as it is not always in season! Activities usually cease by 4PM, as the tide starts to rise. If you’re lucky you might even spot shoals of silvery fish ‘jumping’ on the surface of the water. This is also a popular spot for anglers and game fishing.

20181018_151614

3) Go Firefly Hunting 

20181017_211109

Come night, you can take a larger boat from the jetty, to catch a sight of fireflies in the trees by the river bank. The trip is pretty long (approximately two hours) but worth it. The boat gets really close to the trees, so the fireflies are literally dancing around you, twinkling like hundreds of tiny fairy lights!

PS: Please do not be a social media whore and try to take flash photos so you can ‘show off’ to your friends – it kills the fireflies.

4) Chill by the ‘Mirror’ Beach & See… Dolphins!? 

20181017_174510

One of Kuala Rompin’s best kept secrets can be found within Lanjut Beach and Golf Resort. Book a stay and walk out to the beach in the evening to witness an incredible ‘mirror’ beach phenomenon, where the sand ‘reflects’ the sky and the clouds – blending seamlessly with the shoreline. The effect is really pretty, and wonderful for Instagram photos!

PS: The manager of the resort tells us that if you wake up before dawn and lady luck is on your side, you might even see dolphins frolicking in the water! Apparently the area is part of their territory.

5) Gorge on Fresh Seafood

20181017_195206

Being so close to the river and the sea, it would be foolish not to gorge on the abundance of fresh seafood available in Kuala Rompin! River and sea side seafood restos aplenty, with the specialty being udang galah (river prawns). (Above) the seafood spread at Lanjut Beach Resort. I’ve never eaten so much sotong in my life, lol

BONUS: Pineapples! 

20181019_121456

Rompin Integrated Pineapple Industries Sdn Bhd (Rompine) is a pineapple plantation / producer that exports pineapples to places like Japan and South Korea. We all know how stringent they are with food quality, so you best believe that the pineapples at Rompine are fresh, sweet and tasty. The factory/facilities are usually not open to the public if you’re buying one or two pineapples, but if I remember correctly they do sell any extras they have for walk-ins, if you’re buying in bulk. The pineapples were indeed extremely juicy and sweet. They are primarily exporters, so quantities are limited for local consumption.

Happy travels!

 

Review: Cheng Kee Seafood Restaurant, Sg Pelek

Sungai Pelek, located about 20 minutes from the Sepang International Circuit, seems like an unlikely place for tourists – but that was what the fam and I were there for recently, to see what the small town had to offer. First order of the day – lunch! Owing to its close proximity to the river and the sea (Sungai Pelek literally means ‘weird river’ in Malay – a name attributed to a local legend where the river flowed upstream), there are several established seafood restaurants in the area.

20180930_132705

Cheng Kee Seafood Restaurant is one of the larger ones in town, complete with air conditioning so diners can eat in comfort.

20180930_133109

No question as to what’s popular here.

20180930_133122

Typical Chinese seafood restaurant interior : underwater paintings, red and yellow ingot decorations, red tablecloths.

20180930_133809

We ordered one of the house specialties – clams in superior soup. We were impressed with the size of the clams, which were much larger than the ones you find in city restaurants, and juicy to boot. The generous amount of ginger got rid of any unpleasant odours, while the soup was clear, peppery and sweet, thanks to goji berries.

20180930_134156

Perfect with rice and some chopped garlic + soy sauce.

20180930_133958

The stir-fried sweet potato leaves were crisp and fresh.

20180930_134315

Deep fried tofu, egg and fish paste cakes, which were light and fluffy on the inside. Tasted excellent when dipped into a side of chilli sauce.

20180930_134645

Last but not least, “salad” chicken – essentially fried chicken cooked with mayonnaise. The mayo wasn’t prominent, but gave the chicken a sweetish tinge. Meat was fresh and juicy and tasted homecooked.

All in all, it was a satisfying meal that ticked all the boxes! Pricing is quite reasonable as well.

CHENG KEE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

1416, Jalan Sungai Pelek, Kampung Baharu Sungai Pelek, 43950 Sepang, Selangor

Opening hours: Mon – Sat (dinner only, 5PM – 11.30PM), Sun (11AM -2.30PM, 5-11.30PM)

Phone: 011-2306 6880

 

Travelogue Japan: Hida-Furukawa – The Small Town Made Famous By An Anime

Even if you’re not an anime fan, you might have heard of the hugely popular Kimi No Na Wa (2016). The movie earned a whopping $355mil at the box office, making it the highest grossing anime film of all time (topping Spirited Away)! It tells the tale of a city boy from Tokyo and a girl in a rural town in Japan who switch bodies, eventually falling in love with each other. Compelling story line aside, the animation is famous for its beautiful art style and references to actual landmarks and gorgeous landscapes in Japan.

One of these places is the small town of Furukawa in the mountainous Hida region, which I had the pleasure of visiting during my recent trip to Japan! 🙂

Kanazawa, Japan

Situated within the mountainous Gifu prefecture, Hida Furukawa is a quaint town with an old touch, since most of its buildings date back to the Edo era. Furukawa, along with sister town Takayama (15 minutes by train) was once famed for their high quality timber and skilled carpenters, so much so that nobles used to hire them to work on buildings in the capital, calling them the ‘Master Builders of Hida’.

Kanazawa, Japan

Today, agriculture is a major source of income for the town’s residents. Streets are quiet on a weekday, so much so that you could probably lie down in the middle of the road and not encounter any traffic! The newer part of town is characterised by small mom-and-pop stores, while the old section boasts typical Edo-era wooden structures.

Kanazawa, Japan

We popped into a local restaurant for a lunch. Since the region is mountainous, there are plenty of ingredients such as roots, shoots and mushrooms in the cuisine. Wasn’t sure what exactly I was eating since the proprietor spoke no English, but I think this was a mix of shoots with plump mushrooms, topped with quail egg and the town’s specialty, miso paste. The savoury miso brought out the earthy flavours of everything else, balanced by the silkiness of the raw egg. Amazingly fresh, amazingly good!

Kanazawa, Japan

Japanese food is always served in such a way that it feasts the eyes before it does the tummy. There was also a soup with noodles, beans, ginger/pickles, miso soup, bamboo shoots and rice.

Kanazawa, Japan

After lunch, we walked to Hida Furukawa Matsuri Hall, a museum dedicated to the town’s history and the Furukawa Festival, an annual event held since ancient times. Participants, dressed in nothing but a loin cloth, pull giant decorated wooden floats that are several stories high through the streets; accompanied by the beat of drums. Atop the floats are various puppets featuring both mythical and historical characters, which are moved to tell stories to eager spectators.

Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa, Japan

Back to the streets we go! An interesting point for visitors to look out for are the canals, which are stocked with fat and colourful Japanese koi fish. Strolling through the neighbourhood felt extremely relaxing, what with the gentle breeze and the sound of flowing water.

Kanazawa, Japan

Kanazawa, Japan

Furukawa is also known for its sake breweries, housed in traditional wooden buildings with the signature sugidama (cedar ball) hanging at the entrance. Was surprised to enter one and find that the ‘master brewer’ there was a white American man (!)

Kanazawa, Japan

And finally, we paid a visit to the very famous scene from the Kimi No Na Wa anime, the train station…

Amazingly detailed!

Getting to Hida Furukawa 

Useful guide here

*Photos not watermarked courtesy of Japan National Tourism Organisation

 

 

 

 

 

Country Style Boutique Accommodation at Lindenwarrah, Milawa

Visitors on the food and wine trail across Victoria High Country in Australia will likely want to make a pitstop at Milawa, a small produce and craft centre surrounded by vineyards and low lying hills and pastures. It’s  also where our boutique accommodation for the night, Lindenwarrah, is located at. Just steps away from the popular Brown Brothers produce store/winery/cafe, the two-storey country house exudes an elegant yet rustic charm.

credit: booking.com

One of the entrances, flanked by shady trees on a sandy lawn. Sorry, didn’t manage to take pictures of the property on my camera because we were so tired at the end of the day all we wanted was to get up to our rooms. 😀

credit: lancemore.com.au

They’re still pretty old school so doors still use keys instead of electronic slots. I got to my Sunset View room on the second floor and was greeted by a spacious room with a wonderfully calming blue colour scheme, a large (and extremely fluffy!) bed, sheer white curtains framing double glass/wooden screen doors and a beautiful view of the vineyards surrounding the property. 

Bench to chill on in the room. There was also a large TV with a limited number of channels (we’re out in the country after all), a cupboard full of liquor and snacks, as well as tea making facilities.

View from room. Mountains, cattle grazing on pasture, vineyards and a beautiful sunset.

Walked out onto the verandah, which was basically one long balcony with lazy chairs; connected to all the other rooms. Not very good for privacy, since anyone can just walk past my room and peek inside if I don’t have the curtains drawn. There was a nice water feature on the ground floor and a well kept lawn though.

More scenic views. Apparently this is also where they have balloon flights but because of bad weather the next morning we had to give it a miss.

Popping back inside to check out the bathroom, I was super happy to find a wide range of bath products from Appelles, with unique ingredients such as Australian sandalwood and Kakadu Plum. No tub but there’s a spacious shower with temperature control.

Dinner that night with my companions was at the hotel’s in-house Restaurant Merlot, where we enjoyed a four-course meal that included this succulent medium rare thick cut steaks with potato gratin. The food was hearty and delicious.

Other facilities at the accommodation include a swimming pool, guest lounges, a terrace and most importantly, free Wi-Fi so you can still stay connected to the outside world.

For bookings, visit lancemore.com.au. 

A Countryside Winery Experience @ Fowles Winery, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria

When you talk about visiting Australia, big cities like Melbourne are probably what come to mind. I spent my first day tucking into artisanal coffee at a hipster cafe-cum-roaster, stuffing my face on freshly baked breads, gelato and cheeses in the city’s Little Italy district, before ending the night on a high note with some fine dining. While there’s certainly plenty to see and do in the city, there’s a different kind of adventure when you set out beyond, into the surrounding region of Victoria. 

Known as the third largest producer of wines, Victoria boasts stunning vineyards and hills, with rustic countryside views and fresh produce served in homely farmsteads. So much so that the tourism authority has put together a food and wine trial itinerary, where visitors can literally eat and drink their way across the region from one rural town to another. Which is what I set off to do on my second day. 😀

Our first stop was to Fowles Winery in Avenel, located in the Strathbogie Ranges some 100km north of Melbourne. Our car rolled past hills and through segments of bush. The grass was yellow and the trees had that dry tinge as it was autumn time, but the  views were gorgeous all the same. Arriving at their cellar door cafe, we were greeted by a modern-looking circular structure sitting atop a hill. The interior was spacious yet cosy, with lots of sunlight filtering in from the glass windows.

Shop area selling wines.

Other products, such as sauces.

Was still groggy from the early morning wake up call, so had a coffee for starters…

Although a relatively young brand, the family owned Fowles Wine has been making waves in the winery scene, winning the great Australian Shiraz Challenge for Australia’s best shiraz, while their cellar door was awarded Hall of Fame status by the Victorian Tourism Awards. One of their best selling ranges is the quirkily named Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch, which are available in Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz varietals. The concept and blends were developed specifically around game, so it wasn’t surprising that they had a tasting platter that paired wines with game meat. Unusual, since I’ve only seen wines paired with items such as seafood or regular red meat.

PS: (Above) real photography and (below) my shitty photo… this is why businesses need to invest in a professional photographer xD

Initially we were only here to taste the wines but the friendly proprietor Matt insisted we go with the whole experience, so he had the kitchen whip up ‘the Gamekeeper’s platter’ for us. My favourite was the pale-coloured Riesling, which had a flowery aroma to it with hints of lime, citrus blossom and notes of rose petal that gave it a fine and complex flavour that lingered on in the mouth. To go with it, crispy grilled trout with horseradish and lemon cream. It was nice to try the wine before on its own, and then after with the trout to really bring out the flavour of the seafood and horseradish. The other game meats we tried included a pork and rabbit rillette, duck and venison.

Why hunting and game meat, you might ask? In an interview, Matt explained that meat in the wild has a different texture and flavour compared to commercial meat – which creates a completely different wine and dine experience. As a hunter, one is also confronted with the realities of meat-eating: you actually go out, hunt, track down and kill the game before it’s served to the table, so it creates a respect for the animal and less wastage.

Aside from food and wine tastings at the cellar door, interested visitors can join private guided tours to find out more about the wine making process as part of their Ultimate Winery Experiences programme. Those who sign up for the Stone Dwellers Experience will get to enjoy a scenic coach ride to the vineyards and winery, as well as tank and barrel room tastings before adjourning to take in the scenic views of the central Victorian plains while sipping on a glass of wine.

 

We were pressed for time so we couldn’t go on the tour, but it was certainly a great experience to kickstart our food and wine trial across the Victoria region. More to come!

FOWLES WINE 

1175 Lambing Gully Rd, Avenel VIC 3664, Australia

Open daily: 9am – 5pm

Phone: +61 3 5796 2150 

fowleswine.com

 

*Photos not watermarked are courtesy of Fowles Wine

*Views expressed are the writer’s own