Category Archives: Just weird

Curry Fish Head with sautéed lettuce…

This is our bill from dinner the other night, cannot read a damn word of it, more on the meal in a minute.

BillOne of my favorite buildings in downtown Kuala Lumpur is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Built in 1897 and designed by A.C. Norman in the style of the Mughal, Persian architecture, the building housed British government offices until after World War II.

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Curry Fish head

Thirty minutes drive south of Kuala Lumpur (KL) through the back streets of the city, away from the upscale hotels and modern neighborhoods is a borough known as Puchong where we are about to experience a local delicacy, Fish-head curry.

FishHeadSoup-13 FishHeadSoup-11-2Puchong is mostly a Chinese community with a myriad of local restaurants that rarely see any foreigners. This restaurant is known for good Fish Head, it’s not a fancy place, plastic chairs, open to the outside, with a queue quickly forming it’s an indication this place is good.

FishHeadSoup-3One thing I noticed when I moved here to Malaysia is that there is no salad, as we know it in the West. The Malaysian’s do eat lettuce, it’s just sautéed, steamed, and mixed with oyster sauce, very good.

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Whenever I go to Puchong children point at me because I look so out-of-place, restaurant owners ask my companion Ms. E if I need a fork and spoon, and some places dust off the English menu, if they have one, and set it in front of me. As awkward as all this is and as culturally different as it can get, this is why people love to travel.

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Phuket Thailand – Patong Beach

A final post on Phuket Thailand, tonight we are at Patong Beach and it is a show. This is where most come for a party, prostitution, and to get a glimpse of the beautiful Ladyboys (men) as they prance around the street. We park ourselves at one of the bars on the street, order some drinks and just watch the people, so much fun … ;)ThailandPhuket2013-265

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I just love the expression on these peoples faces…

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If you want a picture of a Ladyboy you need pay them 100 Baht ($3). If you take their picture and don’t pay them you get chased down the street followed by screeching obscenities. This family did not pay and I thought a fight was about to breakout…ThailandPhuket2013-250

I don’t think this is a place for children but many tourists bring their kids here. After some time of trying to understand what she is looking at I’m sure this poor little girl will have years of enjoyable therapy and an ample supply of mood inhibiting drugs.ThailandPhuket2013-256

This is not legal, this is not okay – I don’t mean the prostitution or the Ladyboys, I’m talking about this guy in the hat with a protected endangered Loris. As cute as they are, resist patronizing the people with gibbons, Loris, or other endangered species.ThailandPhuket2013-248

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Well this is enough silicon for me. Phuket is so much more than this and the place and people are very friendly, check out the previous few posts and you will see why. The Thai food, I can’t say enough about it, I’ll be back.

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How to make Birds Nest Soup

After a short visit to the US I’m back in Kuala Lumpur. Throughout the city there are any number of Chinese pharmacies making potions and remedies, the practice goes back thousands of years. These establishments just amaze me, they are mysterious, wonderous, and one just can’t describe the shelves filled with oddities and dead dried things. If you want to get your Yin balanced with your Yang, this is the place to come.

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The man behind the counter went to several jars and pulled out what looked like roots, dried mushrooms, ginseng, weighing each item as he did. After drying the items in an oven the twig collection is ground into a powder. I asked the lady next to me at the counter what she ordered as I pointed at the mix of items placed delicately on a paper square. “Energy tea” she said.

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One item I see all the time on Chinese menus is Birds Nest soup and if you are going to make it, here is where you come buy them. There are varying qualities of birds nest, here my expert picks out two nests for me, he weighs them and totals up the bill, $30. Hmmm… and I got the cheap ones. Yellow and red nests harvested from caves can run hundreds of dollars just for one.

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Bird in the hand ...

Bird in the hand …

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The White-nest Swiftlet (Aerodramus fuciphagus) builds its nests out of saliva. Unlike shark fin, bird nests are a renewable resource so I have no qualms about eating it however; the manual labor to clean them and the dangerous harvesting techniques in the caves makes it one of the most expensive consumables on earth.

Traditionally believed to provide health benefits, such as aiding digestion (Could use that), raising libido (Not sure, maybe), improving the voice (Don’t need that), alleviating asthma (Don’t have asthma), and enhancing the immune system (Sure can use that) to name a few, the Birds Nest does contain calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium, yum. I mentioned to my friend Donna, when I was in North Carolina, I’m going to make Birds Nest soup when I get back to Malaysia so here goes…

How to make Birds Nest Soup
Prep time 24 hours. The basic recipe is as follows:

Red Wine, a good red wine…
Skipping this ingredient could cause the whole thing to go to waste .

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Chicken Stock
Go get some vegetables and chicken. Make ahead your own chicken stock. Simple, chicken carcass, carrots, celery, onion, salt, and pepper. TIP: Blanch the chicken carcass a few moments, this ensures a clear broth then discard the water. Start with clean water, vegetables and make the stock. Of course if you screw it up just go buy some pre-made chicken stock. Ignore the fact that I have Kraft Mac and Cheese in my pantry, not sure how that got there.

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Ingredients:

  • Birds Nest: Soak over night in cold water. Remove any feathers or twigs with tweezers. Nothing worse than feathers in a soup.
  • Chicken Stock 6 cups
  • Chicken Breast (minced)
  • Cornstarch 1 tbsp. make a slurry
  • Dry Sherry 1 tbsp. Take a sip if you like…
  • Egg whites 2
  • Take a sip of wine, 4 tbsp.
  • Green onions
  • Ham (Optional)
  • Ginger one slice about this big around|<——>| and this wide |–|

Mix the cornstarch roux and add to the stock. Bring stock to a boil and add birds nest and Sherry.bowl_of_steaming_soup
Sip some wine and add minced chicken, ginger and salt to taste.
Sip some more wine, Beat egg whites and fold into the soup, bring to a boil and serve with chopped green onions, ham, finish off with a sip of wine …. and wallah we have →

Hmm, how did that happen, Donna’s feet in my soup. Must be the low-grade birds nest. Let me try again.

Finish off with a sip of wine and wallah !

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Taste like chicken! Or egg drop soup with rubbery strings of birds nest, not bad when paired with some duck. Given the expense and time I don’t think I will make this again. However, the fun of shopping in Chinese pharmacies makes it a worthwhile experience, walk in one sometime and ask for Porcupine Bezoar or sea cucumber, it will fix that Yin and Yang problem you’ve been having…

A Fortune Teller Once Told Me …

“You mean to tell me you went to a fortune-teller?” I almost laughed in her face.

Scoobydoo syndicate

Scoobydoo syndicate

“No, he is not a fortune-teller.” My friend Ms. E. explains. “Master You helps you understand when to make decisions in your life.”

“Oh come on!” My eyes rolled back so far in my head I could see the hairs on my neck. “You paid good money to have someone tell you what you should be doing according to your birthday?” Hands on hips, tapping one foot.

“Yes.”

Ms. E. and a few of her friends went to see a Shifu, a Master of the ancient Chinese art known as BaZi. The idea or concept is to receive further understanding into their personal events for the coming year.

In China and throughout Asia BaZi is big business, storekeepers to CEO’s make no decision until they have met with their Feng Shui Master and had a BaZi (pronounced bah-dzee) reading.

Ms. E. looks at me with discontent. “Would you like to go see him?” One hand on hip the other tapping on my forehead.

“Who me?” I scoffed at the idea. “Of, of course not, what could I possibly gain? It’s ridiculous. No way, not in this lifetime, wouldn’t be caught dead in the place, nope, nadda, not me…”

It’s Sunday morning and I stand at the foot of the stairs to Master You’s office, mailboxes from the 1940’s still in use cling to the 21st century. My palms are clammy as we slowly climb the stairs to a mufti-purpose shop locked behind glass doors.

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This is Master You, modern-day “forecaster”, he invites us into his small office, I hand him my birth date and time of day I was born and he begins. Master You pulls out a paper template and starts to scribble Chinese characters, all the while flipping through a big book with 2013 inked on the binding. The master stops for a second, counts a few digits with his thumb then starts to scribble some more. While he determines my fate I ask if I could take some pictures.

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FortuneTeller-26People wait in the next office to spend time with the Master. Rates seem reasonable, 50 Ringgit ($15) for a reading, additional costs for other services. Not sure about the big flower painting on the wall maybe he painted, don’t know but it was nice.

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This doesn’t look good…

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Okay! We are ready. Ms. E. translates as Master You explains his calculations. And a calculation is what it is determining my “possible” fate based on how my birth date interacts with the five basic elements Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth and their relationships with time and the seasons.

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Ms. E. suggested I block out portions of the Reading that show my 4 pillars, personal information, and personality, for privacy reasons. In business people pay large sums of money to know this information about their competitors.

So according to Master You I have a strong religious sense, I work hard but people do not notice, he goes on to explain my strength and weakness within the 5 elements. On the back Master You draws the months that are good and months that are not in my best interest. For example, I should not make any financial decisions in the months of April and May.

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If one thinks about it, Christianity is based on lesser knowledge. Based on stories, human accounts and events, the Bible can’t be verified although millions have faith in the religion that has nothing to do with the physical space we live in today.

People base important decisions on these readings, which I find all very interesting. I’m not MasterYousure how much scientific basis is founded in BaZi however, I gained an insight into another culture I intermingle with everyday. It was a fascinating experience although more investigation is in order to better understand why so many people participate in this practice.

Nevertheless, I have decided NOT to make any financial decisions until June.

Getting Scammed and Eating Scorpions at Wangfujing Street, Beijing

As many ways as there are to make bread, love, or kill a man, there are just as many ways to run a scam in Beijing and it goes something like this, a tourist is approached by a local person, a pretty girl, student, or friendly person and asks if the tourist would like to go for a drink. The local takes the tourist to a specific bar and they order drinks, food, and when the bill arrives it turns out to be an exorbitant amount of money. If the tourist resists in paying the bill the police are called or depending on the situation it could be worse.

I’m traveling with my girlfriend and we went to dinner at the biggest mall in Beijing located on Wangfujing street. We finish and walk out into the Mall  and my companion says she needs to visit the toilet. I am left alone in the middle of the mall and all of a sudden these two young beautiful 20 something girls approach me and start a conversation. They start flirting and coming on to me, I’m all a giggle, and they are obviously interested in me, right?

Lets get real people. I am a middle aged average looking guy and there is no frigging way these two beautiful women are coming on to me, no frigging way, so it occurs to me I’m in the middle of a scam! Now I could brush them off but I decide to have some fun. The young girls ask if I’m with my wife.

“No, no wife” I say as I look towards the bathroom.

“We are looking for a place for dinner and some drinks.” The more confident girl said as she twirls her hair.

To ensure I have the advantage of the situation i start to notice their body language. Both girls’ shoulders were erect with plenty of eye contact. I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was observing or approaching from behind. I pointed to the escalator. “There are plenty of restaurants down there.”

“No they are getting ready to close. Where are you staying?” the second girl asked as she lightly touched my arm, more body language to show interest and affection.

I moved a little closer and kept close observant of their eyes.

“I’m staying at the Marriot.” Not really but I want to see their reaction when I said I was staying at one of the most expensive hotels in Beijing. The less confident girl’s eyes quickly dilated indicating extreme interests or more like, “We have hit the big money.”

The first girl asked  “We are going down the street would you like to join us?”

I looked over at the bathroom again and wondered where my companion was.

“Who are you waiting for?” the second girl asked as she noticed my interest in the toilet door.

At that time my girlfriend comes out looking not too pleased as she sees these two young girls paying more attention to me than they should. I wrap my arm around my partner and whisper in her ear. “Play along.”

I addressed the two girls. “This is my girlfriend.”

“Oh that’s nice, the American with an Asian woman.” One girl whispers to the other. “We are still looking for a drink, care to join us?”

It was time to end this little game and I smiled and said, “No we are heading home but would you care to join us in our room?” eyebrows going up and down.

The two girls laughed, realized we were on to them and waved a goodbye.

I felt a sharp punch to the rib. My girlfriend glared at me. “What were you going to do if they said yes?!

Apparently many people fall for this scam and this scenario happened to us twice during our stay in Beijing so it’s wise to be prepared and aware.

Wangfujing Street, Beijing

Wangfujing is the main shopping area in Beijing. High-end shops line the avenue but what you want to do is go off the main grid and get behind the scenes. Not only will the prices be cheaper the food gets a little bizarre. 

You think I ate this stuff? Think again. At the end of Wangfujing is St. Josephs where people line dance every evening to Chinese top-40 hits, a pleasant way to end an evening.

Next Tianaman Square and the Forbidden City

Pudu Prison Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • Completed in 1895. Built by the British Colonial government.
  • Official location to administer Caning for Malaysia.
  • In 1945 Pudu Prison saw the execution of 100’s of WWII Japanese prisoners of war.
  • In 1986 two Australian’s were executed for drug trafficking of heroin, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers.
  • 1993 Pudu saw its last execution.
  • Closed in 1996.
  • Scheduled for Demolition in 2012
  • And of course it’s haunted…

Circa 1990’s courtesy of Wikipedia

Today
Circa 1920’s
In 2004 Pudu was a museum for a short while. Courtesy of Malaxi
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1945 Crowd waiting for the execution of Japanese prisoners of war. Courtesy of Unspokencodes Archive
Today, Yesterday and a CANING Rack
Prison Cells

They wouldn’t let me in so I’m off to a popular Dim Sum restaurant in Puchong for lunch.

Dim Sum in Puchong

Tire size bamboo containers stand head high as their contents steam over boiling water. Wait-staff come around to each table lifting the lid of the bamboo steamers revealing delectable bite size dumplings. You point to what you want and are charged by the plate. This is my second time here.

Tea – Part I, Or Back in the USSR

Continued from the previous post here: “Tea reminds me of the days of running hashish through the mountains of Tibet. No, just kidding, never did that, but my love of tea started with a tea pot I bought for my best friend Donna, so bear with me while we take a trip to find the best tea in the world.

We start our tea journey, once upon a time, in Russia where my good friend Paul and i ventured some time ago after being chased out of Tibet on some trumped up charges. Being the world-renowned international man of mystery that he is, Paul found us refuge in Russia from the Nepal-ese syndicate who was in hot pursuit, something to do with the tea bags we purchased on the street in Kathmandu.

We take up quarters in Moscow with his then friend-girl, Ms. M. We arrive at the train station in Red Square. There are still signs of the old USSR in the station and around Moscow but offending messages have been removed.

Paul in Red Square

We make haste and find ourselves in the middle of Ms. M’s small kitchen with her friend Sergei making Russian pork dumplings. Reputed to be associated with the Russian mafia Sergei welcomes us with open arms and explains that we should help, we immediately all pitch in.

Now there are two staples to a Russian meal that are always on the table. Beets in some form such as Borshch (pic below), or in a salad, or stewed, creamed, pickled, mashed, damn I got sick of beets. Ukrainian in origin Borshch consists of BEETS, tomatoes, beef stock, wine, onion, and thats about it. Very good on those cold Russian nights.

The second staple is Vodka, good Russian Vodka, smooth good Vodka, good Vodka, good. I had a hard time keeping up with Sergei on the Vodka front.

Russian superstition: Never, ever, place an empty Vodka bottle back on the dinner table once the last drop has been poured, bad luck. Found that out the hard way.

Everyone drinks Vodka even the women and the Russians only add ice.

I ask about the tea in Russia and everyone went on about the history, tea houses in the area, and Sergei laughs and brings out a hearty brew suitable for staining hardwood floors accompanied with a lemon slice. The tea was strong, very strong, and very good.

Sergei slaps me on the back “If you want best tea, go see Ms. M’s uncle in St. Petersburg, the Bookmaker.” I glance over at Ms. M and she nods.

The Bookmaker hmmm, So the quest begins …

Russian’s love their tea. BLACK tea made up of Oolong, Keemun, and Darjeeling is Russia’s tea of choice. Once so rare only the Tsars could afford it.

The night ends and Ms. M prepares Paul’s bath. According to Ms. M, a tea bath has medicinal properties. Till this day I haven’t asked what went on that night back in Moscow, i may never know. But that next morning Paul’s skin looked fresher, a little darker, a little tea wrinkled maybe, but he had a skip in his step and a smile on his face you couldn’t remove even if he was hit with a baseball bat.

As we were having our morning Tea, footsteps could be heard running up the stairs. Ms. M peers out the window. “It’s the Nepal-ese! Hurry, I’ll stall them!”

We skedaddled out the back window. There was very little time to find the Bookmaker, Ms. M’s uncle. Paul and I made it to the station and hopped the next train out of Moscow.

We settled in for the night. Accommodations were fair, not bad, a table folds up and beds fold down. Tea is served, another strong black tea.

We make it to St. Petersburg.

home of the Winter Palace where Romanov Emperors ruled for two hundred years, the Hermitage Museum, Isaacs Cathedral, and the Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood

Now to find the Bookmakers house.

Leftover from the communist state supported housing projects we find the Bookmaker, second story, third window.

A product of Perestroika, Ms. M’s uncle sits with us and his daughter and tells of a life the way it use to be before the fall of Russia, a Russia that was bitter, harsh, and cruel.

Today is a different story and Ms. M’s uncle now has his own book repair business and is doing well. Of course he served us Black Tea.

We follow the uncle into a back room, the smell of old paper and parchment permeates the air.

Ms. M’s uncle pulls down book after ancient book and manuscripts showing us his skill and techniques.

The aging man pulls down one last book written in latin by Christian Monks traveling through South East Asia over 100 years ago. With his ink stained hand he points to the inscription and the location of where the best tea in the world can be found ….

Suddenly a knock comes to the the front door and the uncles daughter shouts out. “Father! There are some Nepal-ese men here to see you.”

The uncle’s face goes white and he drops the ancient book to the floor as he turns in a panic to leave the room.

“Quickly tell us what it says!” I begged.

This was the last time i saw the Bookmaker as he turned towards us and whispered ….

“Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.”