Category: Distinctively Kuching

Kuching And Auckland Are Almost The Same

It’s nice to finally be back in Kuching after a long hiatus away in New Zealand. Back to the dreaded routine of waking up, going to work, gymming, blogging, sleeping, waking up, then repeat the process everyday until the next holiday.

As soon as I stepped off the plane at our beautiful multi-million ringgit Kuching “International” Airport (“International” is in quotes, because the ONLY international destination it has direct flights with is our neighbour Singapore), I came to realise that Auckland and Kuching are actually quite similar.
See, Auckland was foggy.

Kuching is also foggy.

The only difference is that in Auckland, it was due to coldness.
In Kuching, it was due to pollution.

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Singapore Jia Xiang Kolo Mee Vs Authentic Kuching Kolo Mee

Gorgeous Mia Tan told me about a shop claiming to offer authentic Kuching Kolo Mee near her place in Orchard, so we made a date to pop in there one evening to have a look.

Kolo Mee is such an inseparable part of the whole Kuching culture. Ask any true Kuchingnite living overseas what they miss most about their hometown and they would all invariably say,
“Kolo Mee… Laksa… Tomato Kueh Teow…”
“How about Mommy and Daddy?”
“Oh ya, almost forgot! Mommy and Daddy too!”

We Kuchingnites LOVE our Kolo Mee. No, it’s not the same as Wanton Mee in the Peninsular or Char Siew Mee in Singapore.
Our noodles are firmer, curlier and tastier than our western counterparts. The noodles are quickly cooked in boiling water, drained then ‘dry-tossed’ (hence the name ‘kolo’) in a bowl containing a concoction of soy sauce, char siew oil and fried garlic oil for the extra oomph!
The result is a delicious, aromatic and addictive bowl of noodles that’s good to savour anytime of the day.

Jia Xiang Sarawak Kuching Kolo Mee is a fairly new chain of restaurants by a Kuchingnite living in Singapore. They pride themselves being the first in Singapore to offer the signature dish at their outlets, with the noodles specially air-flown in from Kuching to guarantee authenticity.
Their restaurants must be doing quite well from what I can see. We were there a bit past dinner time at 7:30pm and the tables were still about 80% full. Either there are lots of Kuchingnites in Singapore, or Singaporeans are starting to warm up to our yummy delicacy.

Jia Xiang seems to have gotten a bit creative with their menu. Their recommended dish is kolo mee in soup or topped with prawn and abalone.
I don’t think there’s anyone in Kuching who eats kolo mee with abalone. 😐

Got myself a cup of ice-cold Luo Han Guo (Air Mata Kuching) to round up the experience.

As far as I’m concerned the “default settings” for kolo mee is dry, topped with bak chor (pork mince), steamed vegie and char sio (BBQ pork). Anyway, that’s what we ordered instead of their recommended dish.

This is Singapore Jia Xiang’s version of the Kuching Kolo Mee (SGD$ 3.90 / RM9)
Compare that to the RM2.20 Kolo Mee you can get anywhere in Kuching.

An actual Kuching Kolo Mee. LG Chocolate not included.

I say it’s pretty good.
One bite on the noodles… once the taste engulfed my mouth and immediately I knew I’ve got authentic kolo mee right there. This is it! This is what I’ve been eating growing up, people! Of course, I know.

Jia Xiang Kolo Mee Vs Kuching Kolo Mee

I do have some minor gripes like the amount of bak chor was a bit too much, a bit too dark and the vegies tasted a bit different for my liking, but overall it’s pretty close to the real deal.

I cringed a bit when I saw Mia and Eugene mixing their Kolo Mee with sambal. I’m not sure why Jia Xiang done it that way, probably to cater to local tastes, but this is the first time I’ve seen sambal offered as the default condiment to kolo mee.

Over here, we eat it with seasoned cut chillis. I think they do offer cut chillis as options. It’s just puzzling the sambal is there by default.
Another thing that came across as bizzare to me is the decor.

It’s odd that for a restaurant serving Sarawakian food, the interior is furnished with ancient Chinese furniture. Most of the staff they employed are from mainland China (as evident from their distinctive accent) and they’re even dressed up in traditional Chinese restaurant workers outfit.

Say hello to the very shy (and pretty) Maggie. You can order anything you want from the menu, but you can’t order Maggie Mee.

What’s up with that? What if people think Kuching is not in Malaysia, but in China? Then how?
Will I still be asked to “drive down the causeway from Kuching to Singapore” by my less-informed friends?
I do have to give Jia Xiang full marks for one thing though.

This is the definitive but often omitted ingredient to a good bowl of Kuching Kolo Mee. I don’t care what you put inside, it is NOT Kolo Mee if it’s not served inside the chicken bowl!
Everything tastes better in the chicken bowl.

Apart from a few oddities I’d still call it a true blue Kolo Mee experience at Jia Xiang. The noodles itself is 100% authentic and a definite must try. The decor, toppings and condiments (sambal wtf?), I’m not too sure.
Overall, it passed the authenticity test and I’m giving it a generous 7.5 out of 10. Just remember not to take kolo mee with sambal.

Want some?

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Sarawak Elections 2006 Fallout

It is very difficult for me to write this entry objectively without offending people.

Cutest. Election billboard. Ever.
While other bloggers can openly state whichever party they are supporting, with’s massive readership and me having friends on both sides of the fence, I regret I am not able to do the same. As much as I’d love to bare it all out no-holds-barred style, I understand that politics, like race and religion, is a very sensitive topic.
Revealing who I voted for would be quickest way for me to make enemies.
With that in mind, I ask that you read this entry with an open-mind, and understand that it is important that I voice out my opinion in my domain, but it is not my desire to offend anybody or rub salts into the wound. It’s just a blog. Nothing personal.

We’re just coming off from an exciting landmark election in Sarawak.
You see it in newspapers all over Malaysia today. The Sarawak Legislative Assembly since its inception has always been heavily dominated by the ruling Barisan Nasional. The Opposition often holding a weak 2, no more than 3 seats.
Yesterday’s historical election results was a shocker to many. I didn’t believe it when I was walking out from the gym at Hilton, and the taxi drivers were yelling in Chinese “Huo Jian Fei Wan Ah!” (Rockets flew today!)

Photo credit: Desmond Jerukan

BN swept most of the rural seats, but a total of NINE seats were lost to the Opposition. In urban Kuching, the Chinese-majority constituencies of Batu Lintang, Pending, Kota Sentosa, and Padungan all fell into the hands of DAP and Keadilan.
One theory I heard was that Kuching-nites were getting increasingly fed up with the Chief Minister, and were upset when SUPP repeatedly failed to voice out their concerns against the state’s head. The message Kuching-nites is sending to their (former) elected representatives in State Assembly is clear: “You didn’t work for us, so we didn’t vote for you.”

One, I like her hair, and two, Violet’s mom makes good ‘loh bak’

Most impressive victory must go to DAP’s Violet Yong, a 29-year-old law graduate from Melbourne University, who managed to defeat 63-year-old BN’s seasoned veteran and Assistant Minister Datuk Sim Kheng Hui by a whooping 4,400 votes in her first ever electoral debut.
Instead of giving Datuk Sim a mandate, the voters has denied Violet Yong a man to date. Because once she gets busy with politics, where got time to find man date right?

Another upset victory is Keadilan making their first win in Kuching. Who would’ve thought popular and well-liked Lily Yong could’ve lost to a Keadilan lawyer with a funny moustache?
Why, just a few days ago Lily Yong even held a massive concert in the rugby field over there. Musical concerts as part of an election campaign? Hell yeah.

I was a little disappointed BN’s Chan Seng Khai didn’t retain Batu Lintang. He’s a pleasant guy and I always thought he did a great job as Kuching’s mayor. Then again, stranger things have happened. Like Chris Daughtry getting voted out from American Idol.
The biggest losers this election aren’t any of the candidates, but the newspapers in Sarawak. I’m talking about the Eastern Times and Borneo Post. Hey if I had to turn to a national newspaper like The Star for not-so-biased election coverage, that’s not saying you’re bad. That’s saying you’re utterly hopeless as a newspaper because you’ve failed in your very basic duty to inform and educate the public.

It’s one thing to carry the furry balls of your owners, it’s another thing to uphold the confidence of your readers. If you anyhowly print big bold headlines humiliating Anwar and calling the Opposition ‘traitors’ without having any sorts of facts to back it up, you’re just gonna make yourself look stupid. No one is going to believe your bullshit. You’re insulting our intelligence.
Congratulations to all winners, and especially to Taib Mahmud, our would-be Chief Minister for 30 glorious years. Happy 70th birthday.

Sorry about the birthday present.

More Sarawak Elections:

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Newspaper Headlines

“Hopefully, the media can also give fair and balance coverage to all candidates and parties taking part in the elections this time.” — Election Commission Chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid in Bernama.

The front page headlines and photos in Sarawak’s only English newspaper in the days leading up to the State Elections all have one thing in common. Can you spot what it is?

3rd May

4th May

5th May

6th May

7th May

8th May

9th May

10th May

11th May

12th May

14th May
(Hey I wanted that birthday gift too!)

15th May

16th May
Yep, that’s about as fair and balanced as a fat elephant walking on a tight rope. Drunk.
At least it’s better than the state’s only English tabloid’s full page tribute.

You know, maybe one day I could become so famous that instead of publishing my blog on the lousy Internet, I will publish my daily life on the front pages of the state’s largest newspaper, and have them delivered to people every single day.

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Sarawak Erections Update

KUCHING, May 9 (Ber-niama): Erection fever is heating up in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak as the official nomination process completes today.

All eyes are on the Erection Commission (EC) as they announce the candidates in the state that saw the ruling Libra Party dominantly controlling a massive 61 out of 62 seats (98.4% majority) in the State Legislative Assembly.
The Libra Party is widely predicted to “score” this erection once again, but not without some resistance from the newly-reformed Opposition.

All the usual suspects are in the Opposition. Last erection, missles fired by Rocket Party failed to meet their target, enabling the Libra Party to rule the State Assembly with absolute power for the past 5 years. This time round, the ‘O’ Party has agreed to give the Rocket Party a little “helping hand”.
However, it is predicted that a much-rumoured new party will most likely steal the spotlight and “blow speculators away”. Details are sketchy at best, but with the help of a hard-headed little bird, Ber-niama is able to bring you exclusive news coverage on this new political party known as…

The Sims: House Party
Speaking secretly from their secret base in a secret location somewhere in Sims Ave, spokesperson Bob Newbie confirmed that party leader Mortimer Goth yesterday unveiled a half-page campaign platform dubbed the Ninth Kennysia Plan (9KP).

Mortimer Goth discussing campaign strategies with Bob Newbie.

Due to language difficulties, Ber-niama is only able to understand Mr Newbie’s speech through the help of Simlish translators. Suffice to say, it is known that the 9KP will include the following action plans:

  • All front page news items on the Borneo Post will feature Mortimer Goth’s Advice of the Day column accompanied by a picture of him smiling broadly.
  • The following 5 pages on the Borneo Post will be reserved for advertisements for the Sims: House Party.
  • Assemblymen will be allowed to wear bowties and boxers in the State Assembly.

Mortimer Goth practising his campaign speech.

Bob Newbie has asked all candidates to watch out for his new party. “We will be coming up from behind” he warned.
The Erection Commission will be on hand to ensure there be no instances of dysfunction this year.

Mortimer Goth gets a feel on what it’s like to be elected Chief Minister.

In the past, the Libra Party has accused the Opposition for using “underhanded tactics”. Representatives for the Libra Party could not be reached as they were away in China doing “missionary work”.
When interviewed, a sharp-tongued candidate for the ‘O’ Party who wish to remain anonymous criticised the ruling party for taking Sarawakians “for a ride”. “Thanks to them, our state coffers were sucked dry,” she said. “A capable opposition will pump milk into the state and give it much-needed life.”

Meanwhile, the Rocket Party hopes to follow the PAP’s footsteps “hammering their way” to an hard-fought victory in a climaxing Singapore Erections this past Sunday.
PAP stands for Party Action People.

When approached by reporters, leader of Party Action People and resident DJ, Lee Hsiao Loong, still celebrating his win at their Party Headquarters in Zouk Singapore, has the following to say.
“We are fa-mi-ly! I got all my sisters with me! We are fa-mi-ly! Get up everybody and SING!”
Sarawak goes to poll on the 20th May.

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Kuching Traffic Police Is My Best Friend

See, what happened was this.

I was driving to work as usual on a Saturday morning. There I was on Ellis Road, turning into Jalan Lumba Kuda, and BAM! Big mistake.
Kuching traffic police was working hard that day, and when they saw me without my seatbelts on, boy they sure welcome me with open arms. “SHIT!” I thought to myself as I scrambled to fasten my seatbelt.
Too late. They saw me. Car stopped. Windows wound down. Awkward smile. You know, the whole yalah-I-know-I-did-something-wrong-lah-so-quit-torturing-me-and-get-it-over-with-dammit routine.

The traffic police who stopped me was a 30-something year old man who spoke in a strange hybrid of Malay, English and Hokkien. I’ll attempt to recreate them as accurate as possible here.
Police: Lu tau lu buat apa salah ke? [You realised what you did wrong?]
Kenny: Ya.
Police: IC and lesen! [Your identity card and driver’s license!]
I took out the IC from my wallet and handed it over to the police. SHIT! Forgot to bring the driver’s license together with me! Double whammy. Damn suay today.
Police: Mana lesen?! [Where’s your driver’s license?!]
Kenny: Lesen tidur di rumah lah boss. [It’s sleeping at home, sir.]
Police: *gleefully* AH! Dua sudah. [Ah! That’s two offences already.]
Kenny: *sigh*
Police: Tingki!
Kenny: Apa? [What?]
Police: Tingki lah!
Kenny: Apa tu ‘tingki’? [What’s a ‘tingki’?]
Police: Tingki lah! IC lah!
Kenny: Ohhhh! ‘Teng ki’ lah! (Bloody hell, don’t speak Hokkien if you can’t lah you idiot.)

I handed him my IC (aka ‘tingki’) for the second time and the policeman proceeded to jot down my details. I knew I was screwed. RM300 fine for not wearing a seatbelt, and another RM300 for not bringing my driver’s license together with me. RM600 gone just like that.
Police: Lu begitu mesti saman loh. [You, like that, will have to be fined.]
Kenny: ……
Or is it? I could attempt to bribe the policeman with some cash. I’m just not sure if he’s a corruptible cop or a good one. After all, when Badawi become PM one of his objectives was to cut down on corruption, even to the extent of making them wear one of those cute little ‘anti-corruption’ badges.

The words say “I’m anti-corruption”

That is, until it was deemed a fashion faux pas and the police stopped wearing them en masse.
Well, my cop wasn’t wearing an anti-corruption badge so that’s a good sign. But I had to be sure.
The way I look at it, asking a policeman if he accepts bribes is like asking a girl to become your fuck buddy. The result could go either way. You could either get a smashing good deal on your end, or wound up utterly embarrassing yourself in the process.

I didn’t want to make the first move, lest I be prosecuted for attempting to bribe the police. Then I know I’ll be in deep shit. So when he handed me my IC back and I took out my wallet once again, I deliberately flashed the greens and reds. The intention was clear, but nothing too obvious. 😉
Then, the moment of truth happened.
Police: Lu mau kena saman ke? [Do you want to get fined?]
What da heck? You mean I HAVE A CHOICE whether or not I want to get fined?! Hell, of course I don’t wanna pay RM600 in fine.
Kenny: Tak tau! You mau saman saya ke? [I don’t know. Do you wanna fine me?]
Police: I tak minta! [I didn’t ask for it!]
Kenny: Oh, jadi tak apa loh. [Oh, too bad then.] *look away, pretend nothing happens*
Police: !!!
Kenny: 🙂
Police: … lu mau ‘chia’ me kah? [You wanna give me a treat?]
HA! That’s my cue!
Kenny: ‘Chia’ lah. [I’ll treat you.]
Police: Lu ‘chia’ me berapa? [How much you wanna treat me?]
I pulled out three reds from my wallet (RM30) and showed it to him. I think the market rate was RM20, but the policeman was the one who made the first move so I reckon he deserves more.
He saw the RM30 and immediately his face lit up. Coincidentally his friends were all looking the other direction when I passed the notes to him. So smart!
And that is how I contributed to the Policeman Retirement Fund.
He’s happy. I’m happy. Everybody goes home happy. Ahhh… the joys of living in a third world country. 🙂

Happy, quick and correct

Mesra, cepat dan betul. ‘Mesra’ when they see you. ‘Cepat’ pay them, don’t hold up the line ‘cos they have other customers to serve. And don’t argue with them ‘cos no matter how hard you try they’re always ‘betul’.
Do you want to get fined?

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Songwriters’ Round @ Mojo

One of the best places in Singapore to hang out at night is Wala Wala.

They’re one of the very few pubs that seems to get the formula right.
Hot pizzas freshly made – check.
Hoegaarden on tap – check.
Live rock music by the hottest local indie bands – check.
It’s no wonder their crampy 2nd floor gets filled up night after night.

Since then I’ve been trying to find a decent pub in my hometown that can match up to the same standards. Sadly, live music in Kuching is either crappy cover bands or dangdut pubs.
It left me wondering where all the creative juices in Kuching have flowed to. Surely Kuching-nites have more talent than just sitting in coffee shops complaining about the government.

I was told of a Songwriters’ Round held at Mojo one evening and decided to turn up with much skeptism, thinking it’s gonna be more torture than enjoyment.
Mojo is this small but cosy lounge bar located beside Denise the wine shop in Abell Road. They don’t serve Hoegaarden here. What they do have are fancy cocktails like IvannaHumpalot and Creamy Punani, which much to my dismay, is not served inside a real punani. 🙁

Tickets to the Songwriters’ Round cost RM20 and include one standard drink. The line-up was all local indie bands most of whom I’ve never heard of. Mojo was filled up when I got there. Not bad, considering the only promotion Gerald the owner did was by word of mouth.
Rock music wasn’t the only thing on the agenda that night.

Serini builds houses by day, builds dreams by night.

One band made a good effort shaking things up a little. Until this petite little girl came out with a red-feather boa, brought out her friend dressed like Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars then proceeded to recite an eerie poem that sent chills down everyone’s spines.

Man, I seriously hope he’s paid to do this.
Also on the card was KL band One Buck Short. Why ‘One Buck Short’ instead of ‘One Ringgit Not Enough’? It’s a cool name for a band, but made them look like they’re always in financial troubles liddat.

The idea for Songwriters’ Round was for patrons to enjoy casual, live, acoustic and unplugged local music in the comfortable setting of a typical lounge room. It’s a nice deviation from rock concerts where it’s often loud, sticky and noisy. Best part is, you can always interact with the performers and tell them how much you love their music after their performance.

How does a punk rock band sound on acoustic guitars and no drums? Pretty darn good, I must say. One Buck Short rocked the house.
But it was Kuching’s own Tempered Mental who stole the show that night.

Lead singer Melina worked the mic like a pro and the crowd loved it. Even I find myself rocking ermm… shaking to their songs. Now, THAT’S the kind of band I’d like to see playing regularly at a pub in Kuching.

Tempered Mental will be playing at gigs in major cities like KL and Singapore over the next few months. If you’re in the area, be sure to check out our Kuching’s finest export.

Just listen to the music. Don’t bother watching the video ‘cos it’s all black.

That was the first Songwriters Round I attended and unexpectedly, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. This certainly won’t be my last. Gerald is still looking for performers for the next Songwriters Round, so if you have a passion for singing, performing or anything else, drop into Mojo and let him know.
One thing for sure, I’ll be at their next event.

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