Kuching Trip in 2019

Kuching, Sarawak is an annual destination for my family. This year we decided to use our yearly Waran tickets for Hari Raya Haji. Since it coincides with the school holidays, there was naturally a price hike for all hotel rooms and transport. Hence, I booked a Homestay which I found on Instagram : homestaymuslimkuching

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My rented home has 3 air-conditioned rooms, 2 bathrooms and basic amenities in the kitchen like a stove, some pans, plates,utensils, cups, a kettle, blender and there was even a washing machine. The home has a rate of  RM250/night. Since I will be there for at least 5 days 4 nights, we were eligible for a discount of just being charged RM210/night. I paid a 50% deposit online to the owner, to lock the date and completed the payment with cash upon arrival at the homestay. We also had to pay a RM150 security deposit when checking in which is later returned upon checking out.

The homestay is located in Matang Jaya, where the residents are predominantly Bumiputra of which there is a balance between muslims and non muslims in the area. Matang Jaya is situated across the other side of the bridge away from the city. Nevertheless there are plenty of activities and places to go. The shopping malls may be less grand as compared to the ones in the city but it is easier to find Halal food/ restaurants within this vicinity including places heading towards Petra Jaya/ Semariang.

Homestays are generally cheaper if we are traveling in a large group. Of course, it may not be as luxurious and comfortable compared to our usual state of living at home. We missed a few things from home such as;

  1. The microwave – we had to reheat our food using pots and pans on the stove
  2. Comforters – each room was provided with a very thin blanket. I suppose it is a technique so that we increase the temperature while we sleep. In a way less energy is used to cool the room to ‘extreme’ temperatures. Hence conserve electricity and reduces the bill.
  3. Coway water filter machine – given the easy access to clean water at home, boiling hot water can be a chore. Ha ha. Thankfully, there is a NINSO nearby for us to buy drinking water in abundance. The 1.5 litre bottles were sold at only RM2.30 for 3 bottles.
  4. Night lights/ bedside lamps – I was so glad that I brought my doTERRA LUMO diffuser. It doubles up as my lamp throughout the night as I set it to 10 hours of usage. If I did not bring it, I’d have to resort to a totally dark room or sleep with the doors open. 20190810_141932-019203051808957857482.jpeg
  5. The many available wall sockets – Each room has only 1 wall socket. Therefore, it is advisable to bring your own extensions.
  6. The assorted shower gels/shampoo & toothpaste -the homestay provided one basic solution for shampoo and body foam which is totally acceptable. I miss having the many choices like we do at home. Hence, it is wise to bring pre-packed toiletries too.

ACTIVITIES

Our flight was damn early at 0750AM. The kids did not bath and we performed our Subuh prayers at KLIA. Check in at KLIA was easy as there are plenty of self check in machines available. Once we’ve printed the luggage tags , we baggage dropped our things at the respective counters.

In-flight menu was OK although we personally prefer Air Asia’s nasi lemak. Even the kids pancakes taste funny.

We touched down at Kuching International Airport (KIA) 10 mins earlier than scheduled and had to wait for our rented car to come which took hours. So we had lunch at SUGAR BUN, in the airport which was freaking expensive. Our rented car is an Axia at RM90/day.

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This time around for raya haji, we would be visiting our relatives. We do not have the luxury to do other tourist-ish stuff like we normally do. So Santubong Damai Beach and museum visits were not part of the schedule. Some of the little things we manage to do include;

COFFEE AT BELALAK ADDICTED

This roadside stall was once famous for its Turkish like brewed coffee. Nowadays however, perhaps because its time consuming, they have removed that extra unique element and replaced it with other coffee varieties on top of selling fried food/critters for tea. I ordered Kopi Let which is a mixture of coffee with cocoa. It is very sweet though but the coffee taste still come out strong. Price : RM4.90

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RECITING YASSIN AND TAHLIL FOR THE DEceased

This was a get together on my moms side. We sedekah our recitations to those we love and hope Allah will ease their sufferings, if any, in alam barzakh. Then we had food. Lost of food. My sister and I brought chocolate cake all the way from Selangor for the occasion.

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FOOD HUNTING

There is no doubt that the queen of Laksa Sarawak is still Moms Laksa. The broth is super delicious and the closest restaurant to replicate its taste is here in Melaka, Kolok Vs Laksa restaurant located along the SPA Highway.

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A bowl of delicious mi kolok is harder to find because everyone’s recommendations differs greatly as to how they decide that mi kolok is nyaman. The last time I had a delicious mi kolok was at Kets Kitchen in Matang Jaya. Now rebranded as POpular Food Court. Till now, it was so difficult to get hold of the pakcik who makes the mi kolok.

Sotong Kangkung from LOCK ANN is a must. It has now relocated just opposite Matang Mall.

We went to a new place this year. MAMI CENDOL. It sells cendol, shaved ice with toppings, rojak buah, sotong kangkung and mi belacan. We thought it was a bit odd though to tapau self service but we went along with the system. The taste was alright.

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We had our seafood fix as usual at TOPSPOT. It is open at night and we usually patron stall no 25. I recommend ordering their butter prawn. Damn delicious!

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If you yearn for seafood during the day, then TELAGA AIR is the place for you. It is equally cheap. They serve the dishes buffet style but they are still freshly cooked. Telaga Air is situated about 35 – 40 minutes from Matang Jaya.

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BUYING SOUVENIRS

I bring back kuih lapis and butter cake back to Melaka every year without fail. It is sad though that nowadays kuih lapis has become so commercialized that its lost its unique value during Hari Raya. I  also get my Sarawak orientated kain pasang from main bazaar or India Street for my working baju kurung. I plan to enrich my wardrobe with baju kurung that has a Sarawakian or Terengganu motive to it. Ha ha.

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A SPECIAL VISIT TO MASJID AL GHAZALI

This masjid is located just 6 minutes from our homestay. Al Ghazali is special because it was built with the compensation money the relatives received with regards to this whole family who died in the MH17 crash. InsyaAllah as long as people keep the masjid alive, it will be a continuous supply of good deeds for the dead.

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I hope to spend longer time in Kuching next year. Our family will be going through transitions in our everyday routine next month as we ponder and wait for where Mr Husband will be deployed for his specialist gazzettement.

I hope it is in a state where the weekends are the same as in Melaka.

66 Hours in Phuket : Halal food

Itinerary What We Did ⌉ Our Hotel 

It’s nice to see that the culinary world has improved tremendously to cater for customers on special diet restrictions : vegetarian, vegan, kosher, Halal et cetera.. At the mention of Thailand among muslims, we would naturally go for food like tomyam, seafood, fried rice and stuff instead of where to get the best booze and things. Here’s a few of the places we get to experience during our 66 hours there. Sad to say, we didn’t get to taste Kesuma – a restaurant most Malaysians were raving about.

Arman Halal Restaurant

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As mentioned previously, our hotel has its in-house restaurant that serves all main meals of the day and they open as early as 7AM. Our free included breakfast was an ala carte dish between an American breakfast, Continental or Southern Thai breakfast. Portion was humungous for my appetite. Food was lovely. Especially when they’re free.

Tandoori Restaurant at Bangla Road

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This restaurant had a mix of Indian and Thai food. We opted for Thai cuisine with Hazeeq munching on a slice of Margarita pizza . We had a glimpse at the kitchen and saw that the cook is of Thai descent and yum yum.. the tomyam kung was delicious. Not too spicy but still leaves you that feeling of wanting more. Mr Husband had a seafood noodle platter which was equally nice.

BANANA PANCAKE

In between, we had the popular banana pancake for snacks. The vendors are like everywhere. The roti is very crispy and full of calories!

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JUNGCEYLON FOOD COURT

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The most famous stall was Islamtai Bangja. This was what most Malaysian bloggers recommended to which we did the same. I however  urge consumers to try the other new Halal stalls set up within the food court as well. For instance, Bismillah Cafe, Pad Thai Chayam and Mae-Mae. We only noticed their existence after we’ve ordered our meals. Mr Husband had white rice with seafood vegetable stir-fry mix. Mine was white rice with spicy chicken curry.

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PHUKET FANTA-SEA BUFFET RESTAURANT

Well, there’s only one buffet restaurant in the area. The briyani was rich in spices and lots of protein to choose from. Don’t forget to taste the traditional Thai dessert – cincau in white syrup. Hazeeq was so full he had to lie down. Ha ha.

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KOH PANYEE FLOATING VILLAGE

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This wasn’t really a choice – it was more of a ‘lunch-included package’. In a way, it is good for the villagers as it provides them with some sort of income. Thankfully there was always something for everybody. Hazeeq enjoyed his fried chicken very much. The Upin Ipin style .

PHUKET NIGHT MARKET

One could find almost anything at the market. We settled for its fried rice and grilled prawns. And trust me, that meal in the polysterene pack was actually for one person. Mr Husband and I had to share.

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Our mini culinary adventure went well. Now we have to burn back those extra calories on the threadmill. Huhu.

Phnom Penh : Part 2 – Halal Food

To Eat or not to Eat; Halal is the question

The challenge of travelling overseas especially to a country with Muslims as a minority is in finding a HALAL yet LOCAL cuisine. Its no surprise then that in catering for muslim tourists , we see Halal restaurants sprouting like mushrooms although at times a bit disappointing as they serve either Malaysian or Indian food.
I don’t want that. I want to taste the exotic, Halal Cambodian food. Meaning the meat is slaughtered in accordance to syarak and the dish is not flavoured with alcohol and such.

There were times when we had no choice but to eat at Malaysian restaurants but still, the trip was worthwhile as we still get to experience the local dishes.

Breakfast at Royal Mekong Boutique Hotel

 

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Unlike Malaysia where one can start having breakfast at 4AM in the nearest Mamak stall, things does not run on the same vein here. Which explains why Malaysians are overweight/obese to a certain extent. They just eat whenever and whatever time they feel like.

We had the ‘safe options’ – Harmless coffee, scramble eggs with toast and seafood noodles. Like, for 2 days in a row throughout our stay at the hotel.

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Both Mr Husband and I studied in countries where Halal food is scarce thus are quite ‘open’ to observing certain religious practices. Therefore while some Muslims have a strict NO-NO against eating in a non Muslim premise, we were quite happy to indulge in our meals as long as we are confident that the providers do not spray pig fat on our toast or add bourbon in our scramble eggs and serve sake instead of coffee. Ha ha ha.

Ah-Man Halal Restaurant

 

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Food was OK. We had takeout from this place the moment we arrived and had another meal her for dinner too. No Khmer options. Just Malaysian food. bosan. However, we were starving and baby kept screaming for his drink. So, we caved in. Mr Husband insisted that his food was still exotic : Black Mushroom Noodle. I ordered the common Roti Telur. Not even worth a picture, he says.

Halal Restaurant

 

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Its as though the owner is out of ideas to name this joint. At least they had a tinge of Khmer to their menu. I honestly enjoyed my Khmer beef dish. It has a citrus taste to it but palatable. Mr Husband had the tomato rice with Lock Lack beef. Baby fed from us like parasites and get to eat them all. They were not spicy hence baby loved it.

D’WAu Restaurant

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This was another Malaysian restaurant but at least it serves both  Malaysian and Cambodian dishes. We had Lock Lack Rice, Tonle Sap Clear fish soup with steamed rice and as for drinks : Soda Gembira which literally means Happy Soda. Even the owner was asking if we felt happier after drinking the soda.

Bopha Phnom Penh – Titanic Restaurant

 

Here’s a tip. Scroll through the Muslim trip packages and see which restaurants they tend to bring their clients to. In Phnom Penh, we dont have the Jakim Halal logo and to be honest, these so called Halal eateries arent 100% halal as they too offer alcoholic drinks at the bar to cater for non muslim tourists. Its the same for Victoria Station or TGI Fridays in Malaysia but we still see a huge amount of Muslims eating at those places for they go there for the meat, not the alcohol.

So we were excited to find this pretty place which is also children friendly. The atmosphere was wonderful beside the river and it didnt take us long to choose our lunch from the menu. We chose the Cambodian meal set and boy, it was not disappointing.  The portion huge though that we regretted ordering 2 sets instead of one.

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In the set there was

Appetizer : Khmer beef salad

Main Course : Jasmine steamed rice and amok fish

Dessert : Crunchy spring rolls with banana filling and sira

Drinks : Angkor Wat Sunrise & Chocolate Milkshake

Bon Bon French Ice Cream

Price Range : $1 – $12

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An odd place to choose maybe but we have a little boy who loves ice cream. So its only natural that we go to a place not available in Malaysia hence Bon BOn. We had 3 scoops of ice cream for $2.95 which isn’t bad. Thank God baby did not demand for a second bowl of ice cream. Or we’d have to drag him away by the feet – kidding!

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SMILE

This is not a restaurant – just a convenience store. Something like 7-Eleven where we get our supplies of orange juice for morning brekkie in the room and snacks.

A side note;

Dont forget to taste their sugar cane mixed with lemongrass drink. Available on the streets I suppose. We got ours during a haggling session at the Russian market. We were so thirsty that we just stopped a lady selling those walking by the shops and bought the drink there and then.

We had wanted to taste the so called famous Cap beruang Coffee and colourful corn but couldn’t find any. Perhaps next time when we consider going to Angkor Watt.