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9 Culinary Experiences Across Asia for Food Aficionados

With leisure travel picking up again across the globe, now is the best time to pack your suitcases and check in for a stay at these luxury hotels in Asia — where a relaxing vacation and the best gastronomic experiences the region has to offer, await.

Alma Resort Pays Tribute to Vietnam’s Sidewalk Culture

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In homage to the Vietnamese pastime of sipping-brews-on-pavement, Alma has launched Cam Ranh’s most happening venue, Chill’s Snack & Bar. Open 5pm-10pm daily, the street-style venue is anchored by two American-style food trucks near the resort’s vast amphitheater. The menu features popular street beverages such as Vietnamese coffee, fresh fruit juice, and milk tea. Signature coffees are coconut coffee and coffee with fresh milk and tapioca pearls.

Chill’s serves cocktails such as ‘Amphitheater Sunset’ with tequila, orange, grenadine, crème de cassis and lime. The likes of seafood pizza, fruit, shrimp salad, meat sandwiches, cheese sticks and lemongrass chicken feet are written up on the menu board daily. Entertainment includes nightly movies screened under the stars, live music, fire twirlers and flair bartenders.

Meliá Chiang Mai Offers an Array of Exciting Dining Offerings

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A Sunday brunch with fresh seafood on ice, buffet dinner replete with a paella cooking station, and mojito menu with a Spanish and Thai spin are among Meliá Chiang Mai’s new dining offerings from 1 July to 30 September. Staged on the first and last Sunday of the month, ‘Brunch del Domingo’ features Spanish, Mediterranean and Thai offerings including charcuterie, chilled prawns, Mediterranean salads and a live cooking station.

Highlights of “¡Es viernes!” international dinner buffet, held on the first and last Friday night of the month, include tapas and pinchos, and live cooking of gambas al ajillo and grilled river prawns. The mojito menu adds wild berries, passionfruit, pineapple, watermelon and lemongrass to the cocktail’s traditional ingredients. 

Immerse in the Local Culture at Azerai Resorts

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Azerai has launched a new experiences menu with a strong culinary focus to help immerse guests in the local culture at the brand’s three resorts in Vietnam: Azerai La Residence, Hue in the former imperial capital, Azerai Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, and the beachfront Azerai Ke Ga Bay.

At Azerai La Residence, Hue, the resort’s new Perfume River boat offers a “Private Dinner Cruise” featuring fine Vietnamese and Western cuisine. At Azerai Can Tho, “Romance Under the Banyan Tree” features a lantern-lit, five-course meal for two. And at Azerai Ke Ga Bay, the “Monastery and Iconic Fruit of Binh Thuan” includes stops at an exotic dragon fruit farm, Ta Cu Mountain, and local salt fields.

An Omakase Dining Experience at Tanah Gajah, a Resort By Hadiprana in Bali

With any meal the conversation can be just as important as the culinary offering – especially when Chef Dean’s involved. The seasoned Singaporean chef, who has been guiding Tanah Gajah’s culinary direction for over a decade, infuses his personality into all his delectable dishes. With his Omakase Dining Experience at The Tempayan, guests get to see more of the chef than just the magic he creates on each plate.

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Omakase, which translates as a meal of dishes selected by the chef, ensures that the five-course menu he offers uses only the freshest seasonal ingredients, while also giving guests the opportunity to learn about local produce and dishes. The experience also includes a guided tour of Chef Dean’s passion project, the resort’s expansive organic garden. The cost is IDR 750,000 ++ (USD50) per person. 

French Fine Dining at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi

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Le Beaulieu, the award-winning modern French fine dining restaurant at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi, and its refined al fresco extension La Terrasse have celebrated their reopening following an extensive seven-month refurbishment. With an elegant and sophisticated new design, alongside renowned French gastronomy and a wide selection of wines, the signature restaurant at Metropole Hanoi ties together the hotel’s 120-year-old storied past with a contemporary new look that manages to meld the opulent, the classical and the modern in a single scheme that’s long on white, gold and heathery blue-grays. Operating in its current space since 1901, Le Beaulieu is believed to be the oldest continually operating restaurant in Vietnam. And now, after this renovation, the newest.

Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh unveils its latest menus

Hyatt Regency Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital’s newest international branded hotel, is leading the charge as the city’s culinary scene picks up pace following the pandemic. Opened in 2021, the property has gained an exalted reputation for dining through its range of exciting outlets. Two of these — all-day-dining outlet The Market Cafe Restaurant and Lounge and signature venue FiveFive Rooftop — have recently unveiled new menus.

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FiveFive focuses on fresh, sustainable seafood and local produce. Highlights of its new menu include a delectable set dinner featuring dishes like Kampot crab on toast and seared Hokkaido scallops. The Market Cafe Restaurant and Lounge, meanwhile, is reupping courtesy of items such as sustainably sourced Dover sole with brown butter and capers and a selection of plant-based dishes.

Banyan Tree Samui Welcomes Aficionados of Thai Cuisine

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Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, Saffron, has initiated a Thai Tasting Menu, ideal for those on the island who wish to introduce friends and family to Thai classic cuisine in a luxurious ambience. Overlooking the sapphire sea from an exquisite venue above the resort, Saffron’s newest menu features an array of favorites: from appetizers of por pai pho (crabmeat spring rolls in a mango salad) and mieng som-o (pomelo, cashews, coconut & ginger wrapped in betel leaves and topped with a tamarind sauce) to entreés of grilled salmon in galangal and lemongrass or a sizzling plate of roasted peppered pork spare ribs. Dessert is the ever-popular dish of mango in sticky rice and coconut. Price is 1,800 THB (USD50) nett per person. Open daily 6pm – 11pm. For reservations, call +66 077 915 333 or email: saffron-samui@banyantree.com

A New Chef and New Menu at SOL By Meliá Phu Quoc in Vietnam

SOL By Meliã Phu Quoc is embracing new beginnings with Spanish chef, Sergio Nieto Garces, joining as executive chef. Garces will bring more Spanish flair to the oceanfront resort elevating OLA Beach Club to the pinnacle of Spanish gastronomy on the island. In July OLA Beach Club will launch a new menu, inspired by Garces’ own fascinating culinary journey.

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The talented chef trained under some of Spain’s foremost culinary experts, including Martin Berasategui, who holds 12 Michelin stars – the most of any Spanish chef. In Madrid, he worked as executive chef of Jose Luis group, opening branches in Marrakech and Tokyo. At SOL’s OLA Beach Club Garces will serve up contemporary Spanish cuisine. Highlights from the new menu include Andalusian style marinated chicken paella and creative vegan fare like almond soup with smoked beetroot tartare. 

Palace Hotel Tokyo Blooms for Tenth Anniversary

To celebrate Palace Hotel Tokyo’s tenth anniversary this year the Forbes Five Star property is going back to its roots. For the summer the hotel’s popular bars will be serving up “Blooming,” a new cocktail inspired by its original Triple One (1-1-1) cocktail, which first debuted in the hotel’s opening year.

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The new blend mixes Palace Hotel Tokyo’s signature 1-1-1 sake by Hakkaisan, Yuzu liqueur, Lillet Blanc, and Sakura liqueur to deliver a clear, sharp taste with a flowery Japanese aroma. The limited-time cocktail will be on offer at Palace Hotel Tokyo’s Royal Bar, an old world-style cigar bar with the most comprehensive Japanese whiskey selection in the city, and the chic Lounge Bar Prive, where guests can take in views of the Imperial Palace gardens by day and the surrounding city skyline by night. 

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Tian Hock Kung – The Snake Temple of Klang

I’ve always had a fascination with temples—and being raised a Buddhist (the faith of which a majority of Malaysian Chinese people profess to), I’ve been to my fair share of unique places of worship in Malaysia. Among them are:

But just when I think I’ve seen it all, my backyard surprises me with a hidden gem — Tian Hock Kung, also dubbed the “Snake Temple of Klang”. I chanced upon some pictures online while doing research; there wasn’t a lot of info available in English, but it was enough to pique my inner travel journalist. So I decided to drag the Hubs, a fellow person of culture, on an impromptu adventure to seek out the place.

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Once the capital of Selangor, Klang is one of the region’s oldest cities, known for its colonial buildings and rich heritage sites. It has a huge Hokkien Chinese population, and as such, there are dozens of beautiful Chinese temples within the city, some of which are over a hundred years old.

Tian Hock Kung is tucked in a quiet locality next to the Klang River, a few minutes drive from the city centre. There are no signs along the way pointing to the temple and the building is hidden from the main road by foliage, but it’s not that difficult to find (you can Waze there, or look out for Klinik Kesihatan Sungai Berthek, which is just next to it).

Even though it was a weekend, and most temples would have seen at least some visitors, it was so quiet that we thought the place was not open to visitors. But since the gate was open, we ventured in cautiously. No caretaker was present; we were greeted only by a skinny black and white dog, ie the informal temple guardian.

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On the outside, Tian Hock Kung looks like an ordinary Chinese temple, with all the elements — curved orange roofs, lots of red, typical Chinese motifs. But as you walk closer, you’ll see why they call it Snake Temple.

In place of dragons or phoenixes, which are common motifs that represent auspiciousness and prosperity, you’ll find dozens of life-like snake statues and carvings; coiled around pillars in menacing poses and perched atop roofs.

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Even for someone without ophidophobia (fear of snakes), looking at the figures can trigger a feeling of uneasiness — even though they are clearly not alive. I think it stems from a primal sort of fear : a NatGeo article suggests that fear of snakes may be hardwired, a remnant from a time when being wary of dangerous animals gave humans an evolutionary advantage. Even though only one in five snakes are venomous (a smaller number are fatal to humans), and snakes are generally shy creatures that would run away from people rather than attack them, I think the natural reaction for many of us towards snakes is to get the hell away from them, lol.

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A large green snake figure surrounded by flowers and plants on a giant wheeled float.

There is also, perhaps, another reason why we fear snakes. Their appearance and slithering movements seem cold and alien; far removed from mammals like ourselves, and so unlike cuddly, furry animals such as dogs and cats.

PS: For those unaware, a majority of the Malaysian Chinese population subscribe to an amalgamation of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism, the latter two which incorporates many elements of traditional Chinese folklore and pagan practices of ancestor worship. Tian Hock Kung is primarily a Taoist temple, but it has a Guanyin statue as well, which is worshipped in both Buddhism as a bodhisattva, and Taoism as a deity/god.

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So why does this temple have so many representations of snakes?

Since I couldn’t find a caretaker to answer my questions, I can only rely on info I found online (most of these are written in Mandarin, which I can’t read lol and had to Google translate— so excuse me if I get some things wrong in translation).

The deities worshipped here are three sworn brothers, and like many Taoist deities, they are based on real historical figures. They are Zhang Gong Sheng Jun, Xiao Gong Sheng Jun, and Hong Gong Sheng Jun. You will find their statues inside the temple, with the main deity sporting a green face.

I’m not 100% sure which brother it is (I think it’s Zhang Gong Sheng Jun) but the god has an affinity for snakes and was known for defeating a thousand-year old snake demon. He also carries a magical weapon that used to be a snake which he subdued. You can read about the legend here.

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The interior of the temple is quite spacious, and the ceiling features an octagonal window with a Yin Yang motif — the primary symbol of Taoism — surrounded by other Taoist symbols that represent the different Immortals, such as the fan, gourd, iron crutch, and flute. In the centre of the room are several small but intricately carved wooden shrines with wooden seats on them (I’ve seen this before and I think they’re used to carry the deity statues out on religious parades). During our visit, there were also large stacks of paper offerings, sorted into neat bundles.

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Of course, it won’t be a Snake Temple without at least one resident snake — a huge albino python in a cage in the corner. Apparently snakes used to come here from time to time (on their own). According to a China Press article, in 2011, a six-foot-long python climbed into the temple and made a cozy nook for itself behind the altar, just before the deity’s birthday celebration. However, the snakes don’t come anymore, likely due to the surrounding neighbourhood’s development.

PS2: The northern state of Penang, another Chinese majority place, also has a snake temple, but instead of being in cages, the snakes roam freely around the temple. The history behind that temple is super interesting too, but I haven’t visited, and that would be a story for another time.

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Wall paintings. I think they tell the story of the deities worshipped at this temple.
Not being able to read Chinese characters is a real bummer. :c
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The main altar has been designed to look like a cave, complete with stalactites and outcroppings. There are three nooks, each housing one deity. The main one, as mentioned, has a green face, with a dragon on its back, and many smaller deities at the base. There are also large snakes with glowing LED eyes on each side of the central altar.

Unlike Buddhist statues, which often have serene, calm expressions, Taoist gods can appear quite….intimidating. In Cantonese, we call it having a strong sat hei, or ‘killing’ aura — ie a fierce disposition which is meant to scare away evil. You need not fear if you’re not an evil-doer, but those with evil in their hearts, beware.

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More paper offerings, these in the shape of clothes.
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Why pineapples? Pineapples are symbols of prosperity and good luck — the Hokkien word for pineapple ‘ong lai’, sounds like ‘prosperity comes’.
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The entire time we were roaming around and taking photos, there was not a soul in sight. I would have liked to speak to the caretaker to understand more about the place, but it was also a positive experience in a way, as I could take my time exploring without having to worry about bothering anyone.

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While on my way to the toilet, I chanced upon an area that was almost hidden from sight, adjacent to the main building. Peeking in, I saw that it was a shrine to the Taoist god of the underworld, Yanluo Wang. The entrance was designed to look like the gates of Hell, flanked by Hell’s guardians in Chinese mythology, Ox-Head and Horse-Face. As the name suggests, they have the bodies of men, but the head of an ox and the face of a horse. They are believed to escort newly deceased souls to face Yan Wang’s judgement, where they will subsequently be sent to the different levels of hell for punishment, based on their earthly crimes, or sent on to heavenly realms if they’ve been good people. Trivia: Japanese mythology has similar beliefs, where they are known as Gozu and Mezu.

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If what the temple committee wanted to achieve was to evoke a sense of fear and apprehension, then they certainly succeeded. The shrine was located lower than ground level, so visitors would have to descend steps to get closer (I did not because no way, Jose), and it was also bathed in an eerie blue light.

Instead, I respectfully (call me superstitious if you like, better safe than sorry!) asked for permission to take photos (the husband, a Christian, looked at me with a funny expression at what must seem to him absurd; ie me talking to the air, lol).

There were baskets of paper offerings lined up on one side of the shrine, a small table and chair on the other with some teapots (for mediums to channel the gods, perhaps?) on the other. Like at the main shrine, Yanluo Wang’s shrine was made to look like a cave, with the deity elevated on an outcropping, flanked by his assistants, the Black and White Guards (Heibai Wuchang). Taoism is heavy on balance, and like the concept of Yin and Yang, the Hei Bai Wuchang represent rewarding the good, and punishing the evil.

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Before leaving, I paid a visit to the Na Tuk Kong shrine within the temple’s compound. You might be wondering why there’s a dome resembling a mosque, and why the deity within seems to be wearing traditional Malay clothes. Well, when the Chinese migrated to Malaya centuries ago, they brought their folk worship beliefs with them; that is, paying respects to the local guardians and spirits they may encounter in this new land. Malays probably have another word for it — penunggu.

Klang’s Snake Temple is an interesting look into the Malaysian Chinese community’s way of life, culture, and beliefs. It’s a unique mixture of adherence to long held traditions passed down through hundreds, perhaps thousands of years – combined with new influences shaped by centuries of migration and assimilation. Definitely one of the more unique temples around!

TIAN HOCK KUNG (KLANG SNAKE TEMPLE 巴生天福宫)

Lot 3115 & 3116, Jalan Siakap, Jln Tepi Sungai, Taman Teluk Pulai, 41100 Klang, Selangor

Opening hours: 9AM – 11PM (daily)

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto

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Hakka Cuisine@Fu Gua Thong, Bandar Puteri Puchong

Bitter gourd, or bitter melon, is a common ingredient in Chinese cuisine, often stir-fried with meat or eggs, or served in a soup. It has many purported health benefits, including reducing blood sugar levels, as well as aiding in weight loss. I think the latter is because it’s so bitter, you wouldn’t be able to finish the dish anyway. Eat less = lose weight = profit. (You can probably tell I don’t like bitter gourd very much, lol).

Jokes aside, there are people who enjoy the vegetable’s distinct flavour – so if you’re craving a nutritious and tasty(?) bitter gourd dish, head to Fu Gua Thong Restaurant in Bandar Puteri Puchong. Their signature bitter gourd soup, cooked with tender slices of pork, is a crowd puller, and while I won’t order this on my own volition, I’ve had it before with the fam and can attest that they cook it in a way that doesn’t make the bitterness pronounced.

Wait. So this isn’t a review about their bittergourd dish?

Well, for fellow bittergourd haters like me, a trip to Fu Gua Thong is still worth it for their Hakka cuisine, with dishes such as Deep Fried Hakka Style Pork (zha yuk), Yam and pork belly, stuffed tau fu pok, and stir-fried yam and abacus seed. The Hubs and I were here for dinner over the weekend, and even though we only ordered two dishes to share, they were both excellent and reasonably priced.

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Typical Chinese restaurant vibe. There’s a small section selling snacks, pastries, and groceries at the front of the restaurant.
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The stir-fried fish slices in ginger and onion came in a generous portion, swimming in a rich, and savoury sauce. The fish slices were fresh, thick, and firm,and the sauce made it an excellent accompaniment to rice. The ginger and onion not only gave it a nice flavour, but also masked any fishy odours the seafood might have had.

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This is my favourite at Fu Gua Thong – Hakka fried pork! Thick slices of pork belly are marinated in nam yue (a fermented beancurd sauce – my dad hates the stuff, so we don’t have this often at family dinners), then deep fried to give it a crispy, crunchy exterior. The meat inside was fatty but not greasy. It was served with a side of chilli sauce, which accentuated the salty flavour.

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Our simple but tasty meal for two!

So yeah. While Fu Gua Thong’s bittergourd dishes are sure to satisfy fans, they have many other dishes that are decent as well. Service wise, waiters appear harried and are not exactly welcoming, with curt/bordering on rude responses, but if you have zero expectations for service, this is a good place for the food.

FU GUA THONG (PUCHONG)

32, Jalan Puteri 2/4, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 11AM – 3.30PM, 5.30PM – 9.30PM (Daily)

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto

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Roast Meats @ Chan Meng Kee, Bandar Puteri Puchong

The Chan Meng Kee brand, famed for its roasted meats, was started in 2008 by Chan Yoke Pui, a self-professed ‘charsiew fanatic’. The original restaurant in SS2, Petaling Jaya, quickly gained a loyal following, as patrons thronged the store for their dose of siew yuk (crispy roast pork), char siew (sweet barbecued pork), and roast chicken, served with their signature noodles or rice.

Today, Chan Meng Kee has two other branches – one in Da Men Mall USJ, and another in Puchong, the latter of which I visited for lunch with the fam. The store is simple but comfortable, with basic tables and chairs, floor to ceiling windows that afford plenty of natural sunlight, and air conditioning. Diners can also see the chefs chopping up the meats through a glass window next to the kitchen.

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Our food did not take long to arrive. The Hubs ordered the siew yuk, which came in generous portions atop a bed of cucumbers. The rice was also topped with two slices of sweet liver sausage. The pork was well seasoned, with crunchy, crackly skin, and a nice balance between the lean and fat. The liver sausage was superb – basted in a sweet, caramel-like sauce, the sausage casing was chewy on the outside, with bits of fat within the sausage that lent it a unique texture. It was so good I ordered a separate plate!

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Liver sausage is a rarer menu item compared to the usual trio of roasties – chicken, siew yuk, and char siew.
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Chan Meng Kee does roast duck as well. I like that they gave me the thigh part; there was a lot of meat, and it was easy to eat. The blend of textures and flavours – crispy skin, the melt-in-your-mouth layer of fat underneath it, the slightly gamey duck meat seasoned with herbs and spices – came together perfectly. While I still prefer the roast duck from Soon Lok, Chan Meng Kee can probably give it a run for its money.

Aside from roast items, the restaurant also offers dishes such as poached chicken, curry laksa, shrimp wontons, and more. Prices are reasonable for the setting, ranging around RM10-RM15 for single plates.

CHAN MENG KEE (PUCHONG)

No.1-GF, Jalan Puteri 1/4, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 9AM – 3.30PM, 5PM – 8.30PM (closed Wednesdays)

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto

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Pulau Ketam Day Trip 2022 — Selangor’s Unique “Crab Island”

If a foreign friend was traveling to Malaysia for the first time, where would you recommend they visit?

Perhaps Melaka for its rich history, Penang for its art and food, Langkawi for its gorgeous beaches, or Sabah and Sarawak for beautiful nature. Not forgetting Kuala Lumpur—the bustling metropolis and the heart of the Malaysian economy—with its eclectic mix of skyscrapers, glitzy malls, colonial shophouses, and chic cafes; a true melting pot of the region’s culture and influences.

Pulau Ketam, however, is probably not the first place that comes to mind. That should change — because it’s an excellent spot for visitors seeking something truly immersive and local. Doubly so for the Malaysians who have yet to pay this place a visit! You might be surprised at the unique experiences you can find in your own backyard.

Here’s a video for the lazy-to-read people. Also to give you a ‘feel’ of how it’s like on the island!

Located off the coast of Port Klang in Selangor, Pulau Ketam (or Crab Island) is a fishing village established in the 1880s by Teochew and Hokkien Chinese immigrants. The settlement, built on mudflats surrounded by mangroves, is known for its quaint homes and elevated pathways built over stilts, which gives them the appearance of floating over water during high tide. What started as a small fishing village soon grew; today, the island hosts some 1,000 homes.

In the past, the main industry in Pulau Ketam was fishing, but tourism now contributes a major part to the local economy as well. Visitors to the place are mostly Malaysians; the few times I have been here, I have not seen many foreign tourists. All the more reason to put it on your itinerary !

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GETTING THERE

Since there are no roads connecting the island to the mainland, villagers have their own boats in lieu of cars whenever they need to travel for supplies. As for visitors, the only way to access Pulau Ketam is via ferry from the South Port Terminal in Port Klang. If you’re driving, you can park your car at the Asa Niaga Habour City compound, next to the terminal.

The terminal can be quite warm, and crowded on busy days, but there is a canteen where you can order drinks and finger food, as well as stalls selling snacks. There are several ferry operators here, so once you step into the terminal you’ll be greeted by touts yelling out prices.

We went for the Alibaba Cruise (RM20 – return tickets, RM12 – one way) which is slightly cheaper than a speedboat. Regretted this decision, as even though they have scheduled departure times, they still waited for the boat to be full before they left the port. We waited more than 45 minutes on the boat, which was supposed to leave at 11.30AM, but only left around 12.15PM. -_-

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Either way, off to Pulau Ketam we go!

The ride takes about 30 to 40 minutes. If your boat has a deck on top, I suggest sitting there so you get a nice view of the mangroves. But maybe not in the afternoon because the weather can get extremely hot.

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WHAT TO DO ON PULAU KETAM

I last came here in 2016 and made a blog post about my trip (read it here) – so you can check the post out if you want a gist. This time around, I’m going to share more photos and commentary, because on my previous trip I didn’t really get to explore as much as I wanted to.

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Walk along the pier and enjoy the breeze. If you come in the afternoon, when the tide is low, you’ll see hundreds of tiny crabs and mudskippers crawling around in the mud (hence the name Crab Island).

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A new addition since my visit in 2016 – colourful signage and some nautical/ocean-inspired art installations. You’ll also find some interesting murals scattered around the island.

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Houses on Pulau Ketam are built on stilts measuring around 1 to 10 metres above the water. Most of the structures are made of either wood or concrete, as are the walkways that form an intricate maze connecting the many different parts of the village. Because of how narrow the streets are, there are no large vehicles, only motorbikes and bicycles. You can rent a bike to get around the island, but I prefer exploring on foot, since you can really take your time to soak in the sights.

Take note that most of the bikes are electric. Since they don’t produce a lot of noise, you have to be aware of your surroundings while making your way through the alleyways!

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Despite it’s remote location, Pulau Ketam is well equipped with all sorts of facilities. They have their own police station and volunteer fire brigade, 3 primary schools and a secondary school, a post office, and even a Maybank (so don’t worry if you’re strapped for cash – there’s an ATM machine within).

The internet and call quality is probably better than what I get at home (thanks for the ‘coverage’, Digi!), and they also have a constant supply of electricity and water from the mainland. You might still find a couple of homes with a rainwater harvesting system, which is what they used before a direct water supply was installed in 1991.

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Mini post office and souvenir shop.
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Pulau Ketam’s Jalan Besar (main street) bustles with activity, flanked by seafood restaurants, snack stalls and souvenir shops. It was high time for lunch, so we popped into one called Restoran Kim Hoe.

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Very Chinese decor. Bright red lanterns hanging from the ceiling, red fans, auspicious paper cutouts, red chairs and round tables, all the trimmings.
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It was just the Hubs and me and we didn’t want to overstuff ourselves, so we went for fried squid and kam heong style bamboo clams to go with our rice. The squid was fresh and springy, the batter deep fried to crunchy perfection. There was some seasoning in the batter so it wasn’t bland, and the chilli sauce complemented it well too.

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Bamboo clams get their name from their long, cylindrical shells. I think they taste like a meatier cross between oysters and Live Venus clams (what we call in Malaysia and Singapore as ‘lala’).

Because shellfish tends to have a briny, ‘fishy’ smell, they are usually cooked with strong spices such as curry and kam heong. FYI, kam heong is Cantonese for ‘golden and fragrant’ – a fitting name for an aromatic, rich sauce made from dried shrimps, curry powder, shallots, and garlic. Here’s another fun tidbit: kamheong is a Malaysian Chinese creation! Chinese immigrants here took influences from their Malay and Indian neighbours (hence the curry powder, dried shrimps, and other spices), added it into their own cooking, and voila.

The version at Restoran Kim Hoe is tasty. The clams were not cleaned thoroughy so there was a bit of sand left in them, but I understand that it’s difficult to get the sand out entirely sometimes. Otherwise, an excellent dish!

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Having had our tummies filled, it was time to explore the streets.
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Chinese immigrant communities back in the day were deeply religious and had strong beliefs in gods and the supernatural. More so for a fishing village, as they were dependent on the sea and nature for a living. As such, you’ll still find many temples scattered across the settlement. The one right after main street is probably the most photographed/popular, but if you wander deeper, you’ll find other temples too. Although small in size, the temples are colourful and richly adorned – great for photography.

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I love the detailing here! Aside from dragons, which are a common motif in Chinese temples, you can also see that they have crabs, as well as other sea creatures like shrimps, squid, octopi, and fish.
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An empty wooden altar in the hall next to the temple with phoenix, dragon, and cloud motifs.
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A shrine dedicated to the Thousand Hand Guanyin.
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Since most of the villagers built their own homes, no two houses on Pulau Ketam are the same and each boasts unique features. They’re mostly single storey, but there are some grander double storey homes as well. They’re also painted in various colourful shades. No two homes next to each other have the same colour – I wonder if they discussed beforehand like “Hey, I’m going to paint my house yellow, so maybe you can take blue instead?” xD

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Instead of cars, villagers have boats parked next to piers in front of their homes.
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Keep your eyes peeled for interesting murals. I like this creative piece – if you look more closely, you’ll find that the yellow guy on the left has an Ultraman tattoo on his belly drawn in the style of a Chinese deity!

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Many homes on Pulau Ketam leave their doors unlocked during the day – something almost impossible to see in the big city. But I guess if you’re stuck on an island (with their own police station to boot), it’s going to be pretty hard to run anywhere unless you have your own boat…

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A local Datuk Gong shrine.

Fun fact: a lot of people don’t know this, but the deity/spirit that the Malaysian Chinese here worship as Datuk Gong is actually – wait for it – Malay! That’s why you’ll often see the figure within these shrines dressed in traditional Malay clothing, such as a songkok and sarong.

The story goes that when Chinese immigrants came to Malaya, they brought their folk worship beliefs with them (specifically the worship of Tudi, or the god of the earth/the local deity of whatever land they’ve settled in). It was believed that the Chinese back then blended it with the animisme that some Malays practiced in ancient times, before they embraced Islam – hence why Datuk Gong has the appearance of a Malay personage.

This belief is also prevalent in other Nusantara Chinese communities, such as in Indonesia and Singapore.

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Someone’s hall in front of their house, complete with rocking chair to wile away the hours.
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More colourful homes. Some of these have been renovated and turned into homestays, but the more traditional ones are still made of wood.
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Another temple.
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A Taoist temple with a hexagonal window featuring the Yinyang symbol. There were a few very old, weathered looking statues within. Unfortunately the temple was not open during our visit.
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A clan association building.

Clan associations were the OG social networks – a place where people could mingle, and where they could go to for support, especially financially. In the 1800s, when many Chinese emigrated overseas in search for a better life, they often travelled long distances and arrived on distant shores with nothing but the clothes on their back. Clan associations were founded as a way to offer a support network for its members, and to build camaraderie and a spirit of kinship in a place far from home.

The associations would pool together resources to help solve problems that their members might face, such as securing a loan so start a business, buying land for burial, or building temples. They also facilitated personal and business introductions, and acted as important links to their homelands back in China. Some of these clan associations became very wealthy and powerful, such as the Khoo clan in Penang.

Today, clan associations are dying off because the roles they used to fulfill have been taken over by modern institutions such as banks or business associations. Also, many Malaysian Chinese communities no longer have any links to China. Their role, if any, has evolved to focus more on culture, education, and social service.

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A villager’s garden, filled with gorgeous blooms.
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Pulau Ketam is not very big, and you can probably explore everything within the day. We were done by 3.30PM, caught the next ferry back, and reached Port Klang by 5PM.

To be honest, nothing much has changed (aside from the addition of a couple more homestays?) – but that’s the beauty of living in a village like this. Seasons change, but the essence of the place – it’s quaint charm, the friendliness of the locals – remain constant. Personally, I love the story behind how Pulau Ketam came to be, as it’s a testament to the resilience of the Chinese immigrant community in Malaysia, most of whom came to Malaya with nothing, and built a life for themselves here.

There are a couple of things to remember while planning a trip here:

  • Bring a hat or sunscreen, as the weather gets super hot. Maybe because they don’t really have trees to shade the place, or because they’re located in an intertidal zone.
  • Most places operate with cash, but some have upgraded to accept e-wallets too.
  • Please remember these are actual homes and that there are people living in them, so be respectful.
  • The last ferry from Pulau Ketam leaves at 6PM on weekends, and 5PM on weekdays. While chatting with a local, she told me that some tourists forget this, miss the last boat, and are forced to spend the night on the island lol. Be mindful of the time!

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto

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Budget Eats: Soru Station Puchong

With food prices increasing, even noodles and rice at your neighbourhood chap fan stall or kopitiam can be quite pricey, what more cuisine like Western food.

But there are still some good options – if you know where to look.

Newly opened in The Wharf at Taman Tasik Prima is Soru Station, which serves affordable local and Western fare. With humble beginnings as a food truck, business did so well that they opened a few physical branches, the latest being this outlet in Puchong.

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The Hubs and I came here for a quick lunch. Despite being peak hour, the restaurant was not too crowded. The space wasn’t fancy, but it is well ventilated, clean, and comfortable. We made our orders by scanning the QR code menu at our table, then proceeded to the cashier for payment (you can also choose to pay online).

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Our orders were served quickly. Hubs had the Beef Burger (RM9), served with a side of mashed potato. Like many Malay-style burgers, the burger was extremely messy; slathered in a variety of sauces such as tomato, chilli, cheese, and finally a large helping of gravy.

The sauces can be a tad overpowering, but I could still taste the seasonings used in the patty, which was thick and juicy. It reminded me of Otai burgers, actually. Our only qualm was that the dish was a little cold – the patty was probably heated up very quickly on the grill, but everything else wasn’t. Still, for the price, I think it’s good value.

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I went for the nasi lemak ayam crispy (RM8). Again, portions were generous. The rice was good; with hints of ginger and turmeric – but I was a little disappointed with the chicken. It was fried well with a crispy texture, but it was very bland. It didn’t even have the natural flavour of the chicken, which was very odd. The skin had no flavour whatsoever. The saving grace was the sweet and savoury sambal, which went well with the rice (I also used it as a sauce for the chicken). So yeah, some hits and misses. But all in all, I wouldn’t complain, given the price point.

Most of the dishes are priced around RM7 to RM12; and the portions are filling. I wasn’t expecting anything super, so the food was decent enough for me. Service and environment is good as well – so all in all, value for money!

SORU STATION (PUCHONG)

No 8/1, Prima Bizwalk Business Centre, Jalan Tasik Prima 6/2, Taman Tasik Prima, 47150 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 12PM – 12AM (closed Mondays)

https://www.sorustation.com/

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto

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Think Thailand 2022 — Malaysia’s Largest Thai Festival @ Tropicana Gardens Mall, PJ

The Hubs and I recently paid a visit to Think Thailand — Malaysia’s Largest Thai Festival — which was held from 26 May to 6 June 2022 at Tropicana Gardens Mall in Petaling Jaya. Organized by the Thai embassy in collaboration with several major Thai companies as well as SMEs, the festival featured over 50 booths showcasing the best Thailand has to offer, from food and drinks, to products and services. There were also scheduled performances and cooking demonstrations throughout the 12-day event.

Here’s what went down during our visit!

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Live cooking demo in session
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Thailand is known for its abundance of snacks. We saw a few that looked familiar, but also many new ones.

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Sweet basil seed drinks are popular in Thailand, with purported benefits such as helping to cool the body. They come in a variety of flavours, including pomegranate, honey, grape, orange, and more. We got a few bottles to try. Maybe it’s because our taste buds are spoiled by sugary drinks, but these tasted very mild. They were refreshing though!

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Traditional Thai clothing on display. Visitors were welcome to try them on and take photos as a souvenir, for a price.
Fun fact: traditional Thai clothing is called ‘chut thai’ — literally ‘Thai outfit’.
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There was an outdoor area as well with an open-air dining area, with booths selling street food such as som tam (salad), grilled meats, and beer. The stalls were divided into halal and non-halal sections. Food was a bit pricey, but I liked the atmosphere as it reminded me of the street food vibe you get in Thailand — the smells of food from the grill, smoke from the cooking, animated conversations wafting across the warm tropical air.

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My must-get while exploring Thai night markets — iced tea! Thai milk tea has a distinctively orange colour as they use orange blossom water, which is water distilled from the essence of flowers from orange trees. Some vendors substitute it with food colouring. There was also green tea, which is different from Japanese green tea, as it is mixed with milk and sugar.
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Staff preparing somtam, or Thai papaya salad.
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Stalls selling Thai beer like Singha and Chang.
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Chicken skewers fresh from the grill
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Thailand’s iconic Tomyum Mama noodles
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Deep fried baby crabs
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We had a great time checking out the stalls, and returned with a few packets of snacks in tow: a crispy baked rice cracker snack with salted egg and chilli squid flavour, as well as a crispy enoki mushroom snack that featured very fine, deep fried strands of mushroom that served as an excellent condiment with rice.

I’m happy to see that events are being held again after two years. Hopefully this is a sign of a better economy to come!

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Pasar Malam OUG (OUG Night Market), Kuala Lumpur

With Malaysia in the endemic phase and its borders once again open to tourists, many events and activities have now resumed, including open air night markets. And since it has been close to three years since I last went to one, I dragged the Hubs to the OUG Pasar Malam in KL for a foodie adventure.

Held every Thursday evening from 5pm onwards, this predominantly Malaysian Chinese night market may not be the largest or the most popular, but there are lots of interesting things to see, cheap items for sale, and more importantly, delicious street food.

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We parked at the housing area next to the market and walked a short distance to where bright yellow umbrellas had been set up, the familiar hum of electric generators filling the air. I was surprised to see the sparse crowd (something almost unheard of pre-pandemic, because Malaysians love pasar malams). There seemed to be less stalls as well. I guess the pandemic did take a toll on businesses.

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The market is spread across several streets, but it is not very large, with maybe 50 or 60 stalls at most. Aside from snacks and local fare, you can also find cheap mobile phone cases, accessories, clothing, jewellery, bags, fresh produce, and more.

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Although it was drizzling slightly, it felt nostalgic to be walking around a night market again! Nothing beats the atmosphere of a night market – the smell of food being cooked wafting across the air, the sight of a hawker cooking char kuey teow over a huge flame, sellers shouting to customers to try their goods, thumping Chinese techno music – it’s an experience that you won’t find in the cold, clinical confines of an air-conditioned shopping mall.

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Pro tip for visitors to the Klang Valley – there are pasar malams every day of the week in different areas. Some of the vendors will move to different markets every evening, so you might spot them even when you visit another spot. The major ones are the SS2 pasar malam on Mondays, Taman Connaught pasar malam on Wednesdays, and Setia Alam pasar malam on Saturdays.

While some stalls are unique to their particular pasar malam, you will typically find several that offer similar items. Standard fare at most Malaysian Chinese pasar malams would include fried goodies like salted egg fried chicken, squid, and roast meats. If you’re wondering why there’s an Ultraman on the banner, it’s because “Ultraman” is called “Ham Darn Chew Yun” (literally ‘salted egg superman’ in Cantonese – I guess because the eyes have a similar appearance?).

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Deep fried chicken skin. One does not eat ‘healthy’ at a pasar malam. If you’re looking for that then you’re better off at a salad bar. 😛

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Colourful steamed dumplings.

Like many other things, food prices have also increased at the pasar malam. It is no longer super cheap, but of course, items are still relatively affordable. Just be prepared to shell out a little extra, especially if you’re buying a lot of snacks rather than having one big meal.

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Giant deep fried prawn fritters (har beng), with at least four or five whole prawns in each.

So, what did we get? There were so many options to choose from that we had a hard time picking just a few, and after walking up and down the main street several times, we settled for:

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Lemongrass pork sausages (RM4 each). The meat is minced and blended with lemongrass and chilli, then stuffed into a chewy sausage casing. The flavour was a tad strong for me, but it was tasty nonetheless. The barbecued pork skewers (moo ping – RM4) did not fare as well, as they were almost pure blobs of fat.

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The husband loves crispy apam balik, so we got a bunch of these to try. They were thin, flaky, and sweet, with a generous filling of crushed peanut and corn.

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Another snack I haven’t had in a long time – keropok lekor (fried fish snacks)! These were sold by a Malay auntie, and came in several different varieties. The thin crispy one is great for those who like a bit of crunch, but since I prefer something with more bite, I went for the ‘losong’ (long and cyllindrical). RM2 netted me five pieces. They were nicely fried, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. But as I munched, I couldn’t help but reminisce about how as a student, just RM1 could get me five pieces of losong, and 10 of the crispy ones. Inflation’s a btch.

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The highlight for us from our trip was these crab-filled mantous, available steamed or deep fried. We got the deep fried ones for RM5 per pop. They were not greasy at all, and the frying gave the bread a crispy texture, while the inside remained soft and fluffy. The filling was generous and flavourful – it reminded me of Singapore chilli crab. So if there’s one thing you have to get at the Pasar Malam OUG, I recommend these!

I was happy to be back at the night market again, and although it’s much less lively these days, it’s still nice to be back enjoying the open-air atmosphere.

PASAR MALAM OUG

Jalan Hujan Emas 4, Taman Overseas Union, 58200 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Open every Thursday from 5PM – midnight

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto