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

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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

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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.

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Gourd-shaped souvenirs + traditional Chinese remedies for cough

Visit A Mushroom Farm

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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.

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Buy Birds Nest 

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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

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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.

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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’ 

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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! 

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Attractions in Betong, Thailand – Wat Phuttathiwat Buddhist Temple + Largest Mailbox in the World (?)

For a town with a relatively modest population, Betong’s Buddhist temple – Wat Phuttathiwat – is quite impressive. Sitting on a hill top overlooking the valley, the temple features unique architecture, with several golden spires rising into the sky.

Done in a modern Srivijaya style and measuring 40m at its peak, the temple’s most distinctive feature is its gold colour, which is also the colour of royalty in Thailand. Fitting, seeing as how the temple was built to commemorate the birthday of the reigning Queen in that era. Construction was completed in 1953, making the temple well over half a century old. It is still very well maintained though. The building is divided into several levels, and both the inside and outside has marble tiled flooring.

I’d imagine the temple would look gorgeous when the sun rays reflect off the shiny spires, but too bad it was a rainy day 😦

Typical Thai architecture: very detailed and elaborate.

The inside felt quite bare after the opulence of its exterior. In the centre was a raised golden tomb of some kind, but since there were no caretakers/monks around, we had nobody to ask.

Several tapestries hung from the walls, featuring Buddhist monks and people in traditional Thai costumes. The paintings had a raised motif so it gave off a 3D effect.

Very different from Chinese-Buddhist temples, since the paintings here reflect the local culture and beliefs.

The next level had a Buddha statue in the middle, an altar and a prayer mat. What was interesting though, was the corners of the hall…

I’ve never seen stained glass designs in a temple before! Instead of saints, they had flower/geometric/animal imagery.

More traditional elements.

Although it’s literally down the road from the town centre, the temple is a quiet little sanctuary for meditation and reflection should you need to escape the stresses of daily life.

WAT PHUTTATHIWAT (WAT BETONG) 

Moo 1, Tambon Betong, Amphoe Betong, Yala, 95110, Thailand

Before returning to the hotel, we braved the drizzle to make a quick pitstop to another tourist attraction in front of the Betong Town Hall: the supposed largest mailbox in the world (not really sure about this though, coz Guinness certifies the record to one in Illinois) !

It is very impressive, towering up at approximately 2.5 stories high. I wonder where the slot for the box is. Didn’t go near coz it was raining so we only took pix from the stairs.

Why Sri Lanka Should Be Your Next Honeymoon Destination

Honeymoon destinations.

Top off the head, places that come to mind – the Maldives, Bali, Paris…truth is, few would think of Sri Lanka – but there’s plenty of reasons why you should book your next flight to this relatively undiscovered gem of an island, southeast of the Indian coast. With a rich history and culture spanning 3,000 years, coupled with beautiful natural sights such as tropical beaches and majestic formations, Sri Lanka makes the perfect honeymoon spot for an unforgettable time with the significant other.

Here are just some of the things you can expect to see while visiting the island:

SIGIRIYA ROCK (LION ROCK) 

Credit: Wikimedia Commons – commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sigiriya_lion_gate_04.JPG

Towering nearly 200 metres high in the northern Matale District is the ancient rock fortress of Sigiriya Rock, or Lion Rock. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dubbed by locals as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’, the massive rock column, formed from magma from an extinct volcano, is a prime example of nature’s wonder blended with man’s ingenuity.

The fortress was built in the 5th century during the reign of King Kasyapa, who made it his royal residence. Inside, visitors will find the ruins of an ancient palace, alongside gardens, pools, alleyways and fountains. After the king’s death, it served as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. The entrance was made to look like a grand stone lion – hence the name Lion Rock – but visitors today will only find its carved feet as the rest of the structure has been destroyed. Other points of interest include a wall covered in frescoes, and the ‘Mirror Wall’, said to have been polished so thoroughly that the king would be able to see his reflection in it. Climbing to the top, visitors will be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding jungles and valleys.

SPICE GARDENS IN MATALE 

Spices Herbs Sri Lanka

Credit: Flickr, Amilla Tennakoon

Sri Lankan cuisine is known for being robust and full of flavours – thanks to its use of exotic herbs and spices, which are found abundantly all over the island. For many of us city folk, spices are sold in ready form in supermarkets, so getting to see how they are grown and processed on the ground will be an interesting experience. Stroll through gardens filled with greenery and the fragrant scents of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and more, before indulging in a herbal brew and a hearty local lunch. Couples can unwind to relaxing Ayurvedic massages using natural products from the gardens, designed to heal with its unique properties. Visitors may also purchase traditional remedies and cosmetics, used by the locals for centuries.

COLOMBO CITY 

Credit: Wikimedia Commons – By Ocsi143

No trip to Sri Lanka would be complete without a visit to its bustling capital, Colombo. Very much like Melaka in Malaysia, the place is a natural harbour and was once colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch and English – so visitors will see an eclectic mix of modern and colonial buildings. Within the city are various attractions, including the Beira Lake at the heart of the city and the Gangaramaya Temple, which boasts Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian and Chinese architecture. Shopping precincts abound for those looking for souvenirs and gifts, many of which are located within revamped historical buildings such as the Old Dutch Hospital and the Independence Memorial Hall Square.

GALLE – BEAUTIFUL BEACHES

Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

Surrounded by the azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is fast earning a reputation as a surfer’s paradise – especially the area around Galle, where it boasts postcard-worthy tropical beaches: golden sand, clean blue water and foamy white waves. One of the best spots to take a dip or even just to suntan with a nice cocktail is at Unawatuna Beach or at the bohemian Hikkaduwa beach to catch a gorgeous, romantic sunset.

KANDY CITY – TEMPLE OF THE SACRED TOOTH RELIC

Kandy, Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Alut Maligawa

Credit: Flickr/Arian Zwegers 

One of Sri Lanka’s most popular attractions and a significant place for Buddhism (Sri Lanka’s main religion) is the Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple, or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. A World Heritage site, the temple houses the relic of the Buddha’s tooth and was completed in the 16th century. The building boasts beautiful architecture, with golden canopies and wall paintings done by the most skilled artisans of ancient times. Every year, a grand festival and parade is held on the streets – the only time the tooth will be out of its place in the temple.

Getting Around/Tour Packages 

Sri Lanka is still recovering from the effects of a 30-year-civil war that ended in 2009, so improvements to infrastructure are still in its early stages. As such, tourists will find it difficult to get around by public transport.

The best way to experience a holiday on the island would be to go with a reputable company that offers Sri Lanka tour packages, as not only will there be a guide to ferry you around, they’ll also be able to feed you with tidbits on the island’s history. Better still, go with a tailor-made Honeymoon Package, designed to make your trip with the significant other a special and memorable one. After all, the whole point of a honeymoon is to kick back, relax, and enjoy a wonderful time with the other half.

At the end of the day, services can be bought, but memories created last forever.

Happy Travels!

 

Fun-filled Spring comes to Broadway Macau

The month of April brings with it blooming flowers and warmer days – although that doesn’t mean much to me in ever-tropical Malaysia where the four seasons are hot, rainy, durian and mosquito season (!) 😀

Those planning a trip to Macau, however, can look to ushering in a fun-filled spring at Broadway Macau, the new landmark entertainment destination on the island. Comprising Broadway Macau and Galaxy Macau, the two properties span across 1.1mil square meters of entertainment attractions, including six world-class hotels, the world’s longest skytop aquatic adventure river ride, over 120 F&B outlets and high-end retail. From March 31 to April 17, visitors can expect a series of splendid and bountiful Easter holiday-themed activities throughout the establishments! 🙂

The Joyful Garden at Broadway Macau will transform into a whimsical fantasyland filled with magnificent Easter decorations, including colourful, spirited Easter eggs, and endearing Easter bunnies. Families will enjoy the one-of-a-kind decorations: the perfect setting for memorable holiday photos.

Street performances abound throughout the season; from pedicab singers and performers dressed up as adorable Easter Bunnies, entertaining guests on Broadway Street. On the night of 31 March, Happy Square will host a farewell party for the popular band High Five, and welcome the new resident band Voice of Broadway. The two bands will together bring guests a spectacular live-music performance. Guests can also enjoy the exclusive “Buy One Get One for Free” promotion on selected beers.

To top off the celebrations, don’t miss out on the series of time-limited Easter promotions and discounts at selected outlets.

More info on galaxymacau.com or broadwaymacau.com.mo

 

Mud the Musical: The Story of Kuala Lumpur

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I went for the Escape the Fate concert in KL? Well, I was stuck in evening traffic in front of the old Panggung Bandaraya for a good half an hour, so there was plenty of time to look at the big MUD The Musical: The Story of Kuala Lumpur signs they had plastered all over the building. Turns out, the place houses the longest running musical in KL, which has been on for the past two years! How the actors don’t go crazy, singing the same songs every day, is beyond me. 😀

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Evelyn and I went to check it out over the weekend. The theatre is just next to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building facing Merdeka Square. Even if you’re not coming here for the musical, the building is a nice place to take photos. Opened in 1901 (making it well over a hundred years old!), its Mughal-inspired look features a unique carved facade, with brown bricks, white framed windows and a copper dome. Before it was converted into a performing arts centre, it was the first official administration office for the Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board. 

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The inside retains a European-colonial heritage, from the opulent chandelier to marble tiled floors ,  but with a distinctly local flavour. The stained glass windows, for example, have figures of Malay and Indian characters rather than the usual angels or saints. 
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Tickets are priced at RM50 for Malaysians, and RM80 for foreigners.

The theater is big and can easily seat up to 200 people. Sadly, during our visit, there were only 11 people .__.

Did a short video. Unlike other musicals, which prohibit photography and videography, they encourage it here so feel free to snap and take lots of pictures and vids! 🙂 (PS: 2021 edit: Apparently things have changed – my video on Youtube got a copyright strike from Enfiniti, the company that owns the production. Kind of a bummer that they said it was okay to film and upload, but then changed their policy later. Would have been nice to receive a message coz I would have taken it down, instead of getting a copyright strike immediately.) 

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The story is set in the 1880s, when Kuala Lumpur was nothing more than a small village. If you’re wondering about the title Mud, that’s because KL stands for ‘muddy confluence’ in Malay, being the central point where two rivers – Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang – converge together. Immigrant populations from all over Asia came with the promise of tin riches, and this is reflected in the diverse cast of characters.

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Mamat, Meng and Muthiah are the three central characters and childhood friends who came to KL in search of a better life. Through their tale, the audience is introduced to a host of other personalities, each with their own enduring stories. Mamat, newly married and expecting his first child, is the mail boy for the British administration, while Meng and Muthiah, who recently arrived from their villages, are searching for jobs. Muthiah, who was promised a job building the railway, searches in vain for ‘relatives’ whom he has paid a price for passage to KL.

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Meng, on the other hand, lands a job at the Ampang tin mine, run by a wealthy Chinese tycoon. But work is hard and troubles are afoot. The mines are dangerous, and they are raided often by rival factions as the Chinese triads in KL fight for power and influence.

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Meng and Mamat meet up again at the marketplace, where they find a disheveled looking Muthiah, adamant that his relatives will come to his rescue. Unable to face his friends, he runs away. Leaving him to cool his heels, Meng and Mamat adjourn to the village to celebrate the birth of Mamat’s child.

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The ‘kenduri’ scene, where all the characters gather for the celebration, gets points for audience interaction 🙂 They roped Evelyn and another member onto stage to ‘help’ out – Evelyn was given the task of stirring the communal wok 😀

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Meanwhile, Muthiah finds solace at a nearby temple. The backdrop, which first showed a stone statue of a goddess, eventually transformed into a real person and Muthiah starts dancing, seeking for spiritual guidance. This was one of my favourite parts of the show. Contemporary dance is difficult, but the actor who played Muthiah delivered it extremely well – fluid and full of expression. One could feel the character’s hopelessness and desperation in every movement.

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Tragedy strikes with The Great Fire of KL in 1881, where the entire town and its wooden houses was razed to the ground.

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Despondent villagers, resigned to their fate that they have lost their homes and belongings, the life they tried so hard to build.

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As if that wasn’t enough, later that same year, torrential rains caused a massive flooding in KL, resulting in more damage to property and crops.

The flooding scene (which I, unfortunately, didn’t manage to capture on video!) had a huge ‘wave’ crashing down onto the audience members – made from a large cloth tapestry that ran over the seats from one end of the hall to another. The effect was really good!

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At their wits end, the villagers almost pack up and leave… but of course, if they had, we wouldn’t have KL today, would we? 🙂 Persevering, they vow to continue rebuilding the town they have come to call home.

Credited with improving Kuala Lumpur is the British Resident, Frank Swettenham (Malaysia/then Malaya was under British rule, so the different states had an assigned BR, who oversaw stuff). After the flood and fire, he began the clean up of the streets, and stipulated that buildings should be made from brick and tile to make them less flammable. He also ordered wider streets to be built. This programme took about five years. The rich Chinese tycoon, Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, set up a brick industry to help rebuild KL, and the buildings were subsequently replaced with proper brick and tiles, but with Chinese carpentry and influences. This is why you’ll only find the eclectic ‘colonial shophouse’ architecture in Malaysia and Singapore.

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The final scene had the cast performing a very uplifting number dubbed Tomorrow Begins Today – dressed in costumes from all the different ethnic groups in Malaysia. They even had all of us go up on stage and dance the final number, before we took a group picture! 🙂

It was truly a fun and eye-opening experience, and I’m glad I went to check MUD out. The cast is excellent: from the way they perform, and how much heart and soul they put into it, you’d never guess this was probably their 502837 time performing. 🙂 The songs are good, although at times ,the dialogue and the Malaysian accent shines through, so some parts may be difficult to understand for foreign audiences not used to our local slang.

The props are also well done, like the cardboard ‘kampung house’ during the Kenduri scene, the umbrellas during the flooding scene, etc. Costumes are elaborately done and accurate.

It’s pretty sad that more people didn’t turn up for the show,despite it being a weekend. I bet there are some days where they only had one or two audience members (!) Such talent and quality should not be wasted. They really should look into better marketing, because prior to stumbling on the site while driving in KL, I had never heard of Mud KL.

The show runs twice daily at 3PM and 8.30PM. More info at mudkl.com

MUD KL : The Story of Kuala Lumpur

Panggung Bandaraya, Jalan Raja, Dataran Merdeka, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Phone: +603 2602 3335

Getting There 

By LRT: via Ampang or Kelana Jaya LRT line. Get off at Masjid Jamek station. The theatre is a 5min walk away.

Hop On Hop Off: Stop 17 at Dataran Merdeka

Driving: Parking at Dataran Merdeka Underground.

National Design Center, Singapore

Hey guys! I was in Singapore recently for a hotel review, but I can’t blog about it yet (it’s embargoed until December, when my article is published for work). What I CAN write about, though, is the places we went to visit during our stay. One of these is the National Design Center in the Bras Basah-Bugis district.

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The NDC is housed in the former 120-year-old St Anthony’s Convent – though, judging from its well-maintained structure and spick-and-span interior/exterior, you’d think it was opened just yesterday. Inside, visitors will find two galleries and three design labs, namely the IDA Labs, the Materials Design Lab and the Prototyping Lab.

We were led around by the affable Mr P, who guided us through different sections of the centre while offering some interesting insights on exhibits. 🙂

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As mentioned previously, the old pre-WWII Art Deco building used to be a school, so the layout is like a school block with a courtyard in the middle (now an exhibition space). During our visit, they were running a special exhibition in celebration of 50 years of Singapore-Japan diplomatic ties with Asia’s biggest Rody toy collection. These are cutesy inflatable ponies (? horses?) with short stubby legs, and they come in a variety of colours.

I don’t know why these were chosen to represent Sg-Jpn ties, since the Rody toy brand is from Italy. Mr P couldn’t answer me either lol.

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The one on the left represents Singapore, and the one on the right represents Japan.

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After awhile, it does get creepy, the way they’re all staring at you… .__.

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Some of the center’s staff busy rearranging the toys.

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We next stopped by at the Prototyping Lab – a maker space where SMEs, startups or anyone, basically, can rent a space and facilities to create prototypes or work on projects. Some of the stuff they have include laser making machines, 3-D Printers, CNC routers, and a host of other tools for carpentry, electronics ,and more. They also offer prototyping assistance schemes to help startups commercialise their inventions, as well as apprenticeship programmes.

I think it’s great that there are such avenues available. It’s no wonder Singapore became a first world country in a matter of 50 years – they genuinely appreciate local talents, and offer them the means to achieve their dreams and realities. Having a maker culture also encourages youths to be innovative and to think outside the box. This is something that Malaysia sorely needs. We have too many spoon-fed kids in our education system.

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The lab wasn’t very large but it was bustling with activity. There was a leather shoe workshop being conducted in one corner, while in the backroom some makers were working on electronic circuitry.

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The space was comfortably cluttered with an assortment of past projects, such as these 3D printed items, displayed on racks around the lab.

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We hopped on to the aptly named Kapok, a retail outlet-cum-cafe selling the most hipster sht imaginable clothing, souvenirs and other lifestyle items by indie labels and designers. Apart from being really cool and trendy, some of the products are legit great conversation starters, like this book-lamp. Open the ‘pages’ to turn the lights on, and simply close it to turn it off. Of course, the price was really ‘great’ too. Emphasis on the inverted commas.

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How about some iPhone covers made from real marble? Granted, you’ll have an actual stone weighing down your pocket, but it’s a nice thing to be able to tell your friends that it’s genuine.

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Olivia Burton watches for the ladies.

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Accessories from local label Stale and Co. 

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Cafe area is just next to where you can shop for stuff.

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I’d have loved to buy something from the shop, but unfortunately the cheapest items were at least 15SGD, and when converted to our measley, terrible-performing ringgit, that would set me back about RM45, which can buy me a week’s worth of cheap lunches back home. So nah.

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Moving on, we came to another exhibition titled Death by Design, which explores the role of design in death. I was really impressed – this was a final year project by students from the Division of Industrial Design, National University of Singapore – but it was of excellent quality. These students are on to great things ! 🙂

Death is often a taboo subject, and cultural aspects of honouring the dead are rarely changed or touched upon. But as we live in a modernising world, many of these issues are cropping up: the need for space to bury our dead, for example. The exhibition explores the possibilities of using design to solve these issues, challenging the norms of what people have been doing for centuries.

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In Chinese culture, for example, we burn paper offerings of hell money and gold ingots for our dead – a practice that is not very environmentally friendly. The solution for this, as explored by the exhibition, is a new paper design, which burns without leaving any residue behind.

On the topic of making a will, the exhibition suggested that it would be possible to leave ‘e-wills’ in the future, without the need for paper. The will or messages for our loved ones can be sent to the recipient, even after death, at a set time.

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The IDA Labs was next on the list. Like the Protoyping center, this is also a maker’s space where SMEs or individuals can come together to discuss, create and invent. There’s a large workshop-like area for working, complete with loads of 3D printers, as well as a classroom-like space.

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Pokemon-shaped 3D printouts. I’d pay money to buy these 🙂

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When a button was pressed, the thing started rotating and because the models are set at different positions, it gave the illusion of movement.

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The Materials Design Lab is where they keep a catalogue of new materials created to suit our ever changing needs in a modern world. This section is very hands-on as visitors can touch and feel samples. We had brain fart moments whenever we saw something that looked really hard and sturdy, and they ended up being as light as a feather.

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Last but not least was the exhibition dubbed Fifty Years of Singapore Design, which chronicles the journey of the country’s design evolution: everything from clothing to buildings, products, promotional government materials and even furniture. The iconic Singapore Airlines uniform was also on display (above). There were also posters explaining how the country’s stamp and money design has changed over the years.

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Mr P telling us about another iconic Singaporean item – the hawker stall chair. It looks simple, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. For example, the chairs ‘legs’ jut out for more stability, and the center has a small hole so that rainwater would run down without having to wipe it dry. It also allows users to chain it easily together to prevent theft.

“There’s one more thing you can use it for,” Mr P quips, motioning with an upside down gesture. “Put a plastic bag and you get a portable trash can!”

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and I left a little wiser about the design machinations of Singapore, and how it has shaped this very young but progressive nation.

The NDC doesn’t get as much hype as some of the republic’s more popular attractions, like Marina Bay Sands or Sentosa, but if you’re ever in the Bugis area and you enjoy learning about design, history and culture, I suggest a visit. 🙂

National Design Center Singapore 

111 Middle Road
National Design Centre
Singapore 188969

Opening hours: 9AM – 9PM (daily)

designsingapore.org

Concubine Lane, Ipoh

Often overlooked in favour of more popular spots like Penang or Kuala Lumpur, it’s nice to see Ipoh finally having its moment to shine – it was recently named as one of the top 10 places to visit in Asia by Lonely Planet. Quaint and full of colonial charm, this sleepy city has undergone a cultural and artistic revival in the last couple of years, with boutique inns, chic eateries and hole-in-the-wall cafes sprouting up everywhere.

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Since my parents are from Ipoh, I am reasonably familiar with the place as we come back every year to visit relatives.

Also known as Bougainvillea City (from its large number of bougainvillea plants), it is considered one of the cleanest in Malaysia and carries an idyllic, laid-back pace. Colonial shophouses are a common fixture, and many of these have been converted into artsy spaces or restos.

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One of these spaces is Lorong Panglima, or Concubine Lane (Yee Lai Horng, literally ‘mistress’/’second wife’ lane) This short and narrow street was very rundown just a few years ago, but thanks to restoration efforts, has become a major tourist attraction. A little too touristy, but that’s a small price to pay to preserve the place, which has a heritage dating back over 120 years old.

Beyond the souvenir shops and colourful store fronts, there are a few interesting tales to tell of its history. The story goes that rich Chinese tycoons would keep their mistresses here, hence the name – but another version says that it was all a front for people visiting opium dens, since opium was a vice that was more frowned upon over adultery lol.

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It was a very hot day and the crowds made it hard to manoeuvre around. But there are loads of interesting stalls to check out along the way, and most importantly, for our selfie-obsessed generation, lots of props to take pictures with.

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Outside a toy store.   We went in to check out what they have, but everything was so overpriced we left in a hurry lol. 20161002_092448-tile

A girl waiting patiently for her cotton candy, which the vendor expertly shaped into a pretty flower. It’s nice to be a kid, to be able to ask your parents to fork out RM5 for friggin cotton candy. I could eat a nice big bowl of noodles for 5 bucks. But where’s the fun in that?

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Colourful mini lion dance heads hanging from the rafters of another souvenir shop.

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Nice to see, nice to hold, everything is expensive, are they made of gold? once broken considered sold

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Some random cactus plants, because why not, right?

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You’ll also find food vendors along the street. Stuff is, again, overpriced, but some of these are pretty nostalgic ‘childhood’ snacks like the ‘ear biscuit’ (so named coz it’s shaped like an ear), Ipoh heong peng, lou por beng (Wife’s biscuit, a traditional item gifted during Chinese weddings) and many more.

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Some of the spaces have been converted into inns for those who want to stay in the thick of things and soak in the atmosphere.

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Based on other online reviews of the place, this shop was supposed to have a large stuffed teddy bear and a giraffe looking down on visitors. They didn’t make an appearance during our visit.

Rewind this back about 100 years and think about how mistresses used to look down those very same windows, waiting for their men to come along.

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Exiting from Concubine Lane, there are also other nearby buildings with some very interesting colonial architecture. The Arlene House (above) is reminiscent of early 20th century British architecture and has recently been restored to its current facade.
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If you can take the relentless weather, Ipoh is a nice place to stroll around, especially if you love design and architecture. The buildings are unique and can only be found in Malaysia and Singapore, both which were once under British rule.

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Concubine Lane is just one of the many stops you can visit while exploring Ipoh. While not the most ‘authentic’ experience, it’s still a great place to visit nonetheless to understand the culture and heritage behind one of Ipoh’s oldest streets. Plus it’s super close to some famous coffeeshops and other attractions. 🙂

 

Gopeng Heritage House Museum, Perak

Growing up in Puchong –  a bustling city of 400,000 – I’m a city girl through and through. I never knew the hardships (nor the simple joys) that my parents experienced growing up in small towns in the 60s and 70s; when Malaysia was young and life wasn’t easy.

The fam and I recently visited the Gopeng Heritage House Museum in Gopeng, Perak – which houses antiquities, old furniture and other paraphernalia from a bygone era. It was a great experience for all of us – a walk down memory lane for Mi and Pi, and an interesting insight into the old way of life for the bro and I. Bonus: Parents acted as tour guides, since they knew all the stuff we modern kids have never seen before lol.

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The old part of Gopeng (which was a tin mining town in the 1870s) has super wide roads and three or four rows of colonial British/Chinese shophouses. The museum is housed in a red building and looks well-preserved on the outside.  The family house was donated by a Mr Wong and converted into a full-fledged museum in 2009. Today, it is managed by the local community, and it’s great to see that they’re maintaining it well 🙂

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Entrance is free but do make a contribution so that they can keep on running the place ! 🙂

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The house is stuffed to the brim with antiques and old furniture, recreating life for a typical middle-class Chinese family in many Malaysian towns at the turn of the 20th century, up til my parent’s era (1960s-70s). My mum used to live in a small town shophouse similar to this one until she married my dad.

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(Recreation) Before plastic umbrellas, there were wooden ones made from bamboo. Apart from providing shade, they were also used during wedding ceremonies as symbolic items.

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Calligraphy paintings depicting natural sceneries such as flowers and birds.

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An old kapcai bike. Mi relates that she once stole my uncle’s bike to ride and crashed it into a tree. *and she says I was a naughty kid.. wonder where I got that from.

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Old-style scale.

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Super old phone. For each ‘number’ to dial, you had to rotate the mechanism and wait until it clicked back into place before dialing the next number. *gasp!* for the smartphone generation, this seems like an awfully ancient way to make a call. But back then you could rattle off long phone numbers by heart; now I can’t even remember what my house’s number is.

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Am I the only one who finds grandfather clocks creepy? The way they chime in the middle of the night (watched too many horror films lol).

I do like the elephant detailing at the bottom though. 🙂

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A bust of Chairman Mao (left). Many Chinese who came to Malaya before independence still had immense love for the Motherland. On the right is an oil lamp. We enjoy electricity at the flick of a switch now, but during my mom’s time, they had to read at night by the flickering light.

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My aunt has one of these, passed down from my grandmother. Irons were heavy and super clunky, with a space at the bottom for putting hot charcoal.

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Radio. I’m not that young, so I still remember these, but ask anyone below 20 and they’ll probably think it’s some alien contraption. We had one in our house and I liked playing with the antenna thing by pulling it up and down (always got scolded by parents) and messing up the tune. You couldn’t just press it like how you do with radios these days; you have to dial it to exactly the right frequency.

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There were no gas or electric stoves, so people had to use firewood for cooking.

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Ais kacang was (and still is!) a popular icy cool treat. Like the Filipino halo-halo, ais kacang is a shaved ice topped with various condiments such as syrup, red beans, cendol, fruits and jelly. Now we have modern machines, but the old ones were made from heavy steel and vendors had to manually grind huge ice blocks using a round mechanism at the side.

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Fancy cutlery with engravings, matchboxes, cards.

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The black and gold wooden basket was used to carry food to workers out on the field or in the tin mines. Reminds me of Chinese periodical dramas.

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A gramophone. I bet if you showed this to a kid now they wouldn’t be able to identify what in the holy hell it is.

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An even older radio. Might seem basic for us today, but these were only for well-to-do families back then. My mom lived in a very small town and while radios were more common, only one family had a TV set (black and white). All the neighbourhood kids would go over to watch shows, especially during festivals – so the kid with the TV would have been a big shot in town.

Did you know that in Malaysia pre-independence, you had to apply for a license in order to own a TV?

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Up on the second floor, rooms have been converted to resemble proper living spaces, complete with beds, dressing tables and cupboards. Four poster beds like these were popular among middle-class families back then. My dad, who came from a not-so-well-to-do family and had many siblings, used to sleep on wooden planks fashioned like a bed, with just a piece of cloth as a ‘bedsheet’. 😥

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(From left to right)

  • 1 -A red baby-wrap carrier with embroidered detailing. There were no such things as ‘safety straps’ back then, so the only straps were four pieces of thick string.
  • 2&3 – Wash basin stands were elaborately carved.
  • 4 – Wooden Trunks containing personal belongings.

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More paintings, these depicting deities and scenes from ancient China.

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Hallway. Building is made from wood, of course. I imagine it gets quite dark in the evening, since there aren’t many lights.

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Another four poster bed with quilt covering and embroidered pillows.

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Before the advent of computers and printing, there were typewriters…

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The attic, which the museum has fashioned into a more ‘European’ theme, has plush leather chairs, a coffee table and a coat/hat stand.

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Ceiling lights with pretty flower motifs on them.

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Jade hanging, surrounded by thick carved wood. Don’t ask me what the Chinese character means, I’m a twinkie.

Whether you’re someone who loves history and culture, or just a curious cat visiting Gopeng, a visit to the Heritage Museum is a definite must while in town. For myself, it was awesome hearing the stories my parents told of their childhood and seeing how they grew up with all these items and contraptions that we youngsters no longer know or recognise. It also gives us a new found appreciation for their struggles and to always treasure all the things we take for granted today. Coz they sure didn’t come easy.

GOPENG HERITAGE HOUSE MUSEUM

No. 6, Jalan Sungai Itek, 31600 Gopeng, Perak.

Open on Sat-Sun: 9am-3pm

Tel: +60 12-598 7857