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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit the Paddy Gallery 

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

 

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Offer Prayers at Nan Tian Temple 

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

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

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

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

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

Get A Dose Of Nostalgia At Ah Ma House

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

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

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

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

 

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

Lunch Break: Tuck Into Fish Noodles At Old Friend Kopitiam

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

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

Indulge In Fried Goodies

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

Make A Wish At The Sekinchan Wishing Tree

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

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

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

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

 

2017 in Pictures

It was 2014 when I first had the idea of posting a Year in Review: a ‘recap’ with highlights of each month – as a way to look back on the ups and downs that I’ve been through, and how the experiences have helped me to grow into a better person. Life will never be smooth-sailing all the time – but I’ve been luckier than most, and I count my blessings every day.

This will be the fourth In Pictures post, and I hope to continue this tradition (hopefully!) for many more years to come. 🙂

2017 has been an exceedingly good year. There were a few downs but I’ve mostly been blessed with incredible experiences and great people. This is a personal belief, but I think the ‘personality’ of my Chinese zodiac, the horse, suits me perfectly. Horses love to run free, and likewise, I love to travel around and see new places, so I’ve been very fortunate to have a job that allows me to fulfill my passion.

Without further ado:

JANUARY

Chinese New Year fell on January this year, and the fam and I travelled back to Ipoh, Perak for our annual reunion with the relatives. As usual, the parents ferreted out some places for us to visit while in town, and we visited a Tibetan Temple for the first time.

I think part of my wanderlust and thirst for travel comes from my parents. They might not be physically adventurous in the sense that they like hiking/diving etc., but they will always seek out new experiences and places to visit. We weren’t (okay, still not actually :P) rich, but as a kid, my parents would always bring me to local destinations like Langkawi, Melaka and Port Dickson, or even to KL to see the Twin Towers, ride on the trains, visit the museums, the science centres. I think it’s very important for parents to take their children out to see the world and experience it together. Not just shove an electronic device in their face to keep them occupied, and be done with it.

FEBRUARY

In Feb, the fam and I spent a week in Taiwan, at Taichung and Taipei. The country is beautiful yet modern, with stunning nature and huge metropolises, as well as a rich Chinese culture with notable Japanese influences (from the time they were under Japanese rule). One of my favourite places was Jiufen, a rural town perched on a mountain cliff overlooking the ocean. Comprised of narrow alleyways and old buildings with unique architecture, it was said to have been the inspiration of Hayao Miyazaki’s famous anime, Spirited Away.

Another unforgettable place we visited was Shifen, which had this gorgeous waterfall.

And of course, no trip to Taipei would be complete without a picture of the famous Taipei 101. 

MARCH

After returning from Taiwan, it was off again on more travels the following month, this time to Redang Island on the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia, for ‘work’. Yes, I put it in brackets because a lot of my friends keep telling me how it isn’t really ‘work’ when I’m enjoying it… but hey, who says you can’t enjoy work?

Okay, so it’s not a 9-to-5, stuck-in-a-cubicle job, but it’s a job nonetheless. lol

Icing on top of the cake for March: a viral story I wrote for a local portal came to the attention of BBC‘s Lifestyle section, and they asked me to write a piece for them. I think it is every writer’s dream to be published in such a big news organisation, and no matter how my writing career goes from now on, I can say I’ve ticked this off the list. 😀

APRIL

Back on the road in April, this time to Australia! The last time I was here was in 1997. It was so long ago that I barely have any memories of it (maybe kangaroos and the Sydney Harbour Bridge) but since it was to Victoria, it was a new experience anyway. It was a short trip but we managed to squeeze in a lot of things (mostly food). Spent two nights in Melbourne and the rest in the rural regions of Victoria, where we stayed at quaint hotels in the middle of nowhere, visited vineyards for wine tastings and ate a lot of delicious Australian-kampung food.

Getting lost in the bush because there was no signal coverage.

Drinking prosecco on a beautiful day out in the sunshine, surrounded by vineyards, at King Valley. 

No rest for the wanderluster! Still had the time/energy to go for a weekend trip with the fam to Kuala Kubu Bahru, a quaint town on the edges of Selangor where they have awesome chicken chop, nice hill views and this vivid pink-staircased temple.

MAY

Took a ‘break’ from travelling, but still had to attend some events for work. Got to interview the veteran Malaysian songstress, Dato Sheila Majid, for the magazine. She was really cool and down to earth, none of that diva-ish air you might expect from someone of her stature.

Discovered the wonder that is 4Fingers Korean-style fried chicken. Yes, they’ve been on the market for some time but it was only this month that I got to try it. Been addicted ever since.

JUNE

Went to my first Musical, Love Story. It was a nice production with great performances and sets, but the bro fell asleep lol.

JULY

The trip that I was really excited for finally came: Japan! As part of a media trip, we traveled to the Chubu (central) region of Honshu, spanning several historic cities such as Kanazawa, Nagoya and Nagano, as well as rural towns where we experienced a slice of the authentic countryside life. In the process, I learnt a lot about Japanese culture and the country’s history, and gained newfound respect for its people. Nowhere will you find such pride and commitment to preserving history and tradition, whilst still being one of the most advanced nations in the world.

Historic Higashi Chaya Geisha District, where geishas still perform in teahouses.

Breathtaking views of the valley at Ainokura Village, one of the last ancient thatched roof houses in the Gokayama region, where its people have lived the same, slow pace of life for centuries.

Coming back from Japan, it was a blow when I heard the news on Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington’s death. I grew up listening to LP songs and it helped me through some dark times. Never has a celebrity’s death affected me in a personal way as much as his passing. It felt like I had lost a friend.

AUGUST

August was a relatively quiet month, but got to make my own snowskin mooncakes ! Ever tried port wine and cheese flavoured ones? 🙂

SEPTEMBER

My favourite month of the year, because it’s birthday month. 😛 There’s also a lazy vibe that kicks in, being the last quarter and all. Kickstarted September with several shows, including one featuring the Sachal Ensemble, a Pakistani traditional music band. Their amazing talent aside, you will be moved by the story of these musicians, who were once celebrated in their native Lahore before war and radical Islamisation silenced their songs.

Daytrip with the fam to Jenjarom, where we visited a tranquil and well kept Buddhist temple called Fo Guang Shan.

The boyfie finally came to visit! Took him to explore (and eat) around Ipoh and KL. I missed him a lot so it was nice to just hangout with each other and do couple-y things. It’s difficult being in a long distance relationship, but we’re working things out and hopefully he’ll be here soon, for good. Fingers crossed.

Found the best tonkatsu in the world (okay, maybe just Malaysia).

OCTOBER

More fam trips! This was planned by the parents coz they heard it from their auntie/uncle friends. I was initially unenthusiastic coz Betong sounded like some backwater hicktown (except Thai version) but the trip turned out pretty fun! It was also quite an experience to drive across the border of a country as opposed to taking a plane.

The best part of the trip was probably the visit to the communist tunnels. Betong was a former communist hideout, and they had base deep within the hills. Today it has been converted into a tourist attraction, but you still need to walk pretty far into the jungle (albeit on a proper pathway) and you get to traverse the tunnels they dug as bomb shelters. Interesting insight into their lives, to say the least.

NOVEMBER

November was really busy. What with all the travelling throughout the year, I burnt a big hole in my pocket so I needed to replenish it with part time writing gigs. At the same time, two members of my staff left so I had to take up their responsibilities. The good news was the comp gave me a promotion + raise – the bad news = drowning in work.

DECEMBER

It was a spur of the moment thing but I decided to buy a ticket to Manila (again) to celebrate the boyfie’s birthday. This is our first year together. It has been like a tempest. We’re both hot-tempered so like Eminem puts it, “it’s like a tornado meets a volcano”.

He’s a tiger, and like a tiger, he’s domineering. I’m a horse, and like a horse, the thing I hate the most is being controlled or told what to do. I like doing whatever I want, whenever I want without having to explain anything to anyone. We’ve both toned down those traits so as not to lose each other. He tries to be less aggressive and domineering in his approach, and to be more mindful of my feelings, I try to be less emotional and be more understanding towards his needs. I’m used to being accountable to no one, but I realise that I’m not alone anymore, and being a couple sometimes requires finding out what the other person thinks/feels before making a decision.

So congrats, I guess you (partly) tamed the wild filly. 😛

That’s all for 2017! Once again, thank you for reading and have an awesome one ahead. Here’s to a brand new year!