Category: Distinctively Kuching

Shal Sagan

Shal Sagan is an independent music artist homegrown in Kuching, Sarawak.

I wrote about meeting her and her mate Brandon Juan at the Rainforest World Music Festival some time ago when JoyceTheFairy was in town. Prior to this I have heard of her though I never had the chance to listen to her music. Coincidentally, I bumped into them again at Bing the Coffee House last week. Brandon invited me to come to her gig on Sunday, so I figured why not.

For a 22-year-old, this fair-skinned beauty sure has accomplished a lot for herself. Shal Sagan has got some serious talent and I mean that in every sense of the word.
Get this – Shal doesn’t just sing. She wrote all her songs, composed all her songs, plays lead guitar, co-produced them, and on top of all that, started her own record label Shzogawa Records to distribute her music. And she did all these when she was just 21 years old.
When I was 21, I was still sitting in front of my computer play The Sims.

The gig was held at Somerset Gateway as part of a charity carnival. The bands performing that day were great but too bad the event was poorly organised. For some silly reason the organisers put the stage right in front of entrance to the condomnium, which means every now and then you get residents walking behind the performers to get to their suite, as you’ll see in the video clips later. Its very annoying.

It’s then Shal Sagan’s turn to go up there and do her thing as I readied my digital cameras and did my thing.
Halfway through her performance, I encountered a Freaky Fan Incident. Yes, I encountered it, not her.

A middle-aged man in his 40s or so (shown in this picture here) emerged from inside the building, walked past the stage and handed me a small folded note.

I looked at him quizzically and he smiled at me before walking away.
Now I don’t know if he’s the one reading my blog, or if he’s just playing messenger and passed me the note from someone else. But, guys! If you do happen to bump into me, there are less freaky ways to let me know you’re reader you know? Like, for example, “Hi Kenny, I read your blog. Nice to meet you!”

That guitarist bears an uncanny resemblance to Linus Chung from the movie Sepet.

Anyway, back to Shal Sagan.
Shal and band performed 4 songs from her debut album. They opened with Death’s Fatal Kiss and finished with a Green Day/Good Charlotte-inspired Newsflash, both of them uptempo rock tracks. In between, she sang a slow alternative track Message in a Bottle (think Smashing Pumpkins) and ballad track Just Fine, my favourite song from her album.

“These chicks don’t even know the name of my band… But they’re all on me like they wanna hold hands…”

Shal Sagan sounds a lot better live than my camera can apperciate, but here are the videos anyway (in MOV format, Quicktime Player required).
Death’s Fatal Kiss video
Just Fine video
Message in a Bottle video
Newsflash video
Samples of her songs can be downloaded from CD Baby. Pay attention and reflect on the lyrics as they are often the best parts to her songs.

Shal Sagan, Kuching’s Rock Princess and Kenny Sia, Kuching’s Rock.

Shal Sagan was nice enough to give me a copy of her CD. To show her my appreciation, I created for her a music video of her song ‘Just Fine’. Try to spot my Freaky Fan in there.
Download music video of Just Fine, crappily produced by
Low Res (17MB, WMV)
Hi Res (33MB, WMV)
Hi Res (alternate link) (33MB, WMV)
If you like what you hear, you can purchase her album from Tower Records if you’re in Malaysia, buy online through CD Baby, or just e-mail Shzogawa Records directly at
Support our local indie music industry. 🙂

Kuching Festival Fair 2005

The Kuching Festival Fair is a month-long food, trade and cultural fair held annually at the Dewan Masyarakat (Civic Hall).

The event has been going on 17 years now. I remember I used to attend the event as a kid together with my late grandmother. I vaguely recall the dimly lit footpath, the wide range of local food, the hustle and bustle of the crowd that’s so characteristic of the Festival.

But that was 10 years ago. For 8 of those years I’ve been attending the very boring and expensive Perth Royal Show instead, so when I heard about the Kuching Festival happening I dragged my saliva-soaked ass there as soon as I could.

“Can cut food. Can cut wood. Can cut brick. RM20 for one, buy two get one free. CHEAP!”

The fair at the Dewan Masyarakat comprised of a food fair, a trade fair and a forgettable garden show. There’s also a stage for performances, but those performances are more like visual and aural torture for me.

He’s so hungry he could eat a microphone.

They actually introduced this guy as Kuching’s Dong Li Huo Che aka Kuching Train Station. Hopeless!
The trade show is very typical. Blenders, cleaning agents, blenders, knives, blenders, CD repairer kits, blenders, blenders, more blenders… However, I did notice a few interesting items on display, such as the most kiasu hi-fi system in the whole world…

Don’t play play, Mercedes hi-fi system. Pay RM1,500 for this set and boom your neighbour away.

A model recruitment agency…

The competition between modelling agencies just got a whole lot… bigger.

Ah Lian fashion at its best…

Guess? What Guess? We have GUEES!

There’s a lot of stalls whoring credit cards, all offering free annual fee, free gifts, free entries to competitions and so on.

Sometimes you wonder how they actually make money off credit cards.

I signed up with all of them and bagged their free gifts just for fun. Let’s see how many credit cards I’ll have after 3 weeks.

If this guy sold peanuts in Singapore, he’d be a freakin’ BILLIONAIRE right now.

The main attraction of the event is obviously, the food. I wasn’t disappointed. By my estimation there’s probably about 200 food stalls and 1,000 different menu items, all at very reasonable prices.

“Help! My food is on fire!” – Man cooking oyster omelette (‘Orh Chien’)

Let’s take a tour and look at what’s on menu shall we?

This is salad yew-tiaw. Yew-tiaw is some sort of deep-fried bread that’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. This version here has sesame seed sprinkled on top and is served with mayonnaise. Its good, though its not the best.
The best one is right here.

Yew Tiaw also got king one.

Declaring themselves ‘king’ in front of 200 other stalls is a pretty bold move. They’d better be able back it up. And lucky for them, they did.

HOLY MOLLY! Those yew tiaw are almost as big as my dickonosaurus! But mine is still bigger okay.

Kuching sio bee enjoying a sauna.

This is sio-bee in Hokkien or siew-mai in Cantonese. Its warm and savoury. Its not unlike the sio-bee you can find in dim sum restaurants all over the world. Personally I think those are a little too soggy for my liking.
I think Kuching’s sio-bee is still the best, and Kuching’s best sio-bee by de facto is at the Open Air Markets. People here watch them grow from a humble dirty little stall infested with rodents, into a successful franchise they are today selling sio-bee all over Kuching. For them, next stop, THE WORLD.

I thought this signboard is a little bit mean. How could they make it look as if the lamb is there enjoying a nice hot bath? So wrong.

Everybody loves coconuts.

I couldn’t resist photoshopping ‘Wong Lee Hom’ onto the menu.

More local favourites. Belacan Bee Hoon (or ‘Mehoom’ in that picture) is one of my favourite Kuching dish. Its rice vermicelli soaked in a Malaysian prawn-based soup and paste called ‘Belacan’. So smelly, yet so tasty.

Fancy some camel or ostrich burger?

To be honest, I don’t know how the hell they could come up with stuff like these. I don’t think anyone knows what camel or ostrich meat tastes like anyway, so even if they put bullshit in there can call it ostrich burger, people are still gonna eat it.

Before he was turned into food, Willy the Wealthy Chicken owned five nests, three barns and eight hens.

Wealthy chicken. Heh! This proves one thing correct. It doesn’t matter how much money you have – if you’re chicken, you’re dinner, baby.

Spiderman’s latest victims.

These are actually called ‘Emperor Dragon Whisker Sweet’. I swear it sounds a lot more elegant in Chinese (Long Xu Tang). They taste like soft Australian nougats, except there’s granules of peanuts in there. Sweet, sticky and delicious.

Malaysian satays. An eternal favourite worldwide.

Jeff Ooi‘s little birds went to Thailand and never came back.

This is fried ice-cream. I have no idea how they did it, but they managed to deep fry a scoop of ice-cream without making it melt. The result is an ice-cream with a warm outercrust and an icy cold inside. Only RM1.50. Its heavenly.
Too bad you cannot print it out and eat it.

This is a dish with a fun name called Chee Cheong Fun. Chee Cheong in Mandarin means ‘Go clubbing’. So this dish sounds like ‘Go clubbing very fun’. In reality its just some boring prawns wrapped by very thin steamed skins. Nothing fancy about it.

Barbequed sting rays at only RM25 per kilo. You choose the size and portion of the sting ray, they barbeque it, served on a piece of banana leaf over sambal and lime. It’ll turn out like this.

Its spicy and sour at the same time. I had this for dinner.

This is lok-lok. They’re basically fish balls and other stuff skewed on a satay stick. You can have them cooked in hot water or deep fried, then served with your choice of chilli, oyster, or satay sauce. Its yummy.
Please don’t lick your computer screen.

I spent less than RM20 that night and I had such a total feast I need to roll myself back to my own car. There’s so much food to try, its truly gonna take one whole month for me to fully sample each and every one of them.
Note to self: Postpone diet plan till end of August.
Alright I’m done. You may wipe your drool off your computer monitor now. 😉

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Red Ferrari Spotted in Kuching

I was walking past some shoplots this morning when I spotted this seeming innocent-looking car parked by the side.

On closer inspection, I realised this isn’t your average lau-ah-pek car you can find in Kuching.

Check out that famous black and yellow emblem on the front of the car.

Yes. The unmistakable signature of a true Scuderia Ferrari Italian sports car. I saw it right here, in Kuching, parked next to a kopitiam selling RM2 kolo mee.
I’m curious to know who the owner of the Ferrari is. After all, authentic sports cars are a rare sight in Kuching, let alone a true Ferrari sports car.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait too long for the owner to return to his vehicle.

Look, its Michael Schumacher!

Apparently, Michael Schumacher is in Kuching on an official business. I had a short conversation with him and he said he was here to attend an exclusive car show. Funny I didn’t know about it, else I’d be there to blog about the event.
Michael then pulled a photo album out of his Ferrari to show me. They’re photos from the car show. I spotted a familiar face in there.

That’s my friend Apple Lim on the right, posing next to Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari.

Whoa! Such a coincidence, isn’t it?
Anyway, I don’t know how long Michael Schumacher is gonna be in Kuching, but I have a newfound respect for him after talking to him today. One thing for sure – next time I see that red Ferrari on the grand prix race course, I know who I’ll be cheering.

Go Schumacher, go!

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Ghost Caught On Tape

A friend of mine who works as a security guard passed me the following CCTV footage, taken at the 4th mile area a few weeks ago. This is the second time it has happened.

Personally I don’t believe in paranormal activities. But neither do I have an explanation for the following phenomenon.

Click to watch the video (5 sec, 272 KB). I did absolutely no other alteration (other than watermarking) to the video clip. Don’t worry, its not one of those prank video designed to shock you out of your pants. 😉
Note the white figure following the tail of the motorbike for a split second before it disappeard.

I thought it was smoke, but it certainly doesn’t look like smoke to me. The best I could come up with is that the figure was a reflection of light of some sorts. I’ve checked the area in question, and there were NO reflective surfaces at all. So where did it come from?
Can someone tell me what the hell going on?

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A Letter To Gym Masyarakat

To: The Manager of Gym Masyarakat
Dear Madam,
Re: A Little Suggestion For Improvement
I have been a member of your gym for two months. Although I appreciate you offering members like me a nice environment to workout and lead a healthier lifestyle, I feel there has been some rather frustrating issues plaguing the operations of your gym that’s overlooked.

Gym Masyarakat is a state government-sponsored gym that is actually quite decent, if it weren’t for its lousy management.

For your convenience, I’ve summarised those issues below.
1. The gym attendants in general are helpful. However one in particular stood out like a sore thumb. For some reason, the vocabulary of that attendant in question seems limited only to two phrases – “No” and “Don’t know.” I don’t even need to ask anything because I know her answer will be definitely be something negative.

This is the most useless help desk in a gym anywhere in the world… simply because there’s nobody there 90% of time. Even if there are people there, they sure don’t provide any ‘help’.

My issue with her started even before I joined this gym.
Kenny: “Hi. I submitted my gym membership application 3 weeks ago and I still haven’t heard from you. Do you know what happened to it?”
Blur Staff: “I don’t know.”
“Okayyy then… is it possible that I speak to your manager?”
“No. She’s not here.”
“When would she be in?”
“Don’t know.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?”
*blank stare*
“Alright… I’ll leave my card with you. Please ask her to give me a ring when she gets this.”
Rather predictably, I never receive any follow up. Its only after I made a second trip to the gym that I got your number from a different gym attendant.
2. Every now and then there is this one big group of smokers (some of whom are the gym attendants themselves) gathering at the entrance of the gym fagging happily whilst the front door is wide open.

Evidence: cigarette butts outside the gym entrance.

All the smoke generated from them inevitably spread into the gym, polluting the lungs of everyone else inside. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want when I’m puffing heavily on the threadmill is to choke on second hand smoke.
3. I’m ok with the gym closing on public holidays, but I am NOT OK with is the gym closing without giving its members any prior notice. The most recent example was over the Gawai Holidays. We were given notice that the gym will be closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. We were NOT given notice that it will be closed on Friday. So while your gym attendants were off enjoying their 5-day break, the bunch of us were met with a locked door on the Friday when we expected it to open.
4. The advertised closing time for Gym Masyarakat is 9:00pm on weekdays. Not 8:45pm, not 8:50pm, but 9:00pm. Therefore I do not understand why the lights are off, music are off and the aircond shut down even before the clock hits 9:00pm. I certainly do NOT appreciate having the lights turned off on me when I’m halfway lifting weights. It is RUDE.

Don’t turn off the lights when I’m still working out. Who do you think I am? Batman?

5. If there are times when the gym needs to close at 8:30pm, let us know EARLIER. Don’t turn off the lights in the middle of our workout unexpectedly just to chase us away so you can have an early night. It is RUDE.
6. And on that note, may I remind you that your clock in the gym is actually set ten minutes too early.

My clock says 8:32pm when your clock says 8:40pm.

There are no reasons why these problems should arise, apart from the lazy sloth-like attitude some members of your staff adopt. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that it doesn’t take much effort at all to put up advanced notices, close the gym on schedule, or for that attendant to smile and learn new words like “Yes, how may I help you?”, does it?
Well, I thank you for taking time to read this letter and I do hope that you also take time to rectify these problems. It doesn’t cost money, but it will be for the benefit of your gym and its members.
Have a nice day.

Warmest Regards,
Kenny Sia

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I suffer from an incurable disease. Its called Datuknametoolongitis.
Datuknametoolongitis is typically characterised by the sufferer’s inability to remember people’s names in full, especially that of the Datuks. At best the sufferer can absorb the first three syllables of the name. Anything after that becomes pure gibberish.

Jalan Datuk what-what-what?

Kuching, my hometown, is a city that discriminates victims of Datuknametoolongitis, like me. I’m saying that because 70% of the roads here are named after famous people, most of whom are Datuks, some of whom have unfortunately very very long names.
Many years ago I remember studying at a Chinese Primary School along Pineapple Road, not too far from Palm Road. I remember a Jalan Keretapi (Train Road) near Wisma Saberkas. There’s even a oddly named Jalan Central Barat (Central West Road), which is a strange fusion of Malay and English words.

Jalan Rambutan. One of the few old road that retained its name. No there’s no Jalan Coconuts.

I then travelled to Perth Australia where I stayed for eight years growing accustomed to road names like Hay Street where I do my shopping, and James Street where there’s good bubble tea, great coffee and fantastic pubs at night. The longest road name I’ve came across is probably Sir Charles Court Promenade, which is more of a walkway on campus than a road.
And then I return to Kuching. And I experienced reverse culture shock.
There are some changes with Kuching that I can put up with. Then there are some that I cannot.

One road, two names. One new, one old. Kinda defeats the purpose of changing its name isn’t it?

Gone was Jalan Central Barat, its now Jalan Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui. Gone were Palm Road and Jalan Keretapi, its now Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce.
I have nothing against their names. I don’t even know who the heck they are. But I’m sure at one point or another probably they did something so magnificient the city council decided to name a road after them. Then another. And another. And one more. Then another…
As if remembering long and complicated names wasn’t difficult enough for sufferers of Datuknametoolongitis like me, I was further punished by having to differentiate between two almost similar road names.

Two roads, similar names. But the difference is day and night.

Its not that I didn’t try remembering the names. Believe me, I tried. Its very difficult to know the names by heart. One trick I find very useful is to associate the road name with food.

Doing so helps me remember long road names, but makes me hungry very easily.

Its too bad some road names are a bit too long for me to use that trick.

Umm… Jalan Murtabak?

Then they start naming the roundabouts after these famous people.

Try reading them double fast without pausing.

How bad can this get? I thought those were the worst, I have no idea.
Until I came face to face… with The Mother of All Long Roundabout Names.


DOUBLE the “Datuk”, DOUBLE the “Abang Haji”, DOUBLE THE OOMPH!!!

Its not true what they said about Sarawakians living on trees you know. That’s not what we’re famous for.
We’re famous for giving road directions to tourists.
Angmoh tourist: “Excuse me, how do I get to the library?”
Local Sarawakian: “Oh that’s easy! From here, go along Jalan Datuk Abang Abdul Rahim, turn right at Jalan Tun Abdul Rahman and drive until you reach Bulatan Datuk Temenggong Abang Kipali Bin Abang Akip. Do a 3 o’clock towards Jalan TunKU Abdul Rahman, make a left at Jalan Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce and drive until you reach the roundabout at Bulatan Datuk Amar Abang Haji Suleiman Bin Haji Taha. Exit at Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg, then turn left at Jalan Laksamana Cheng Ho. Soon you’ll reach Bulatan Datuk Menteri Abang Haji Mohammad Zin Bin Haji Salleh, where you should turn into Jalan Tun Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Muhammad Salahuddin until you arrive Bulatan Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Abdillah Bin Datuk Bandar Abang Haji Mohammad Kassim.
The library is just on your left. Any questions?”

Angmoh tourist:

Guide to Gawai Lights

The Gawai (not to be confused with the Japanese word ‘Kawaii’, which means something else completely different) is a uniquely Sarawakian harvest-cum-thanksgiving festival celebrated by the native Dayaks here every 1st June.

Hello Kitty. This pampered pussy changes into her cultural clothes every festive season. I call her the Barbie Doll cat.

Whilst the Malays are the natives (or bumiputeras) and form the dominant race in Peninsular Malaysia, the Dayaks are the dominant race in Sarawak, just as the Kadazans are the dominant race in Sabah. A lot of them are from the rural area, but have since migrated to Kuching city for work and studies.
A common misconception held is that the Dayaks are similar to Malays because it seems as if both races speak the Bahasa Melayu as their mother tongue. In actual fact, the Dayaks speak a language that is very similar but not identical to Bahasa Melayu.

Jalan Padungan. You can call it Chinatown, but Kuching city is majority Chinese anyway.

Apart from that, the Dayaks are now very modernised and drastically different to the bloodthirsty headhunters the history books tell us. Most Dayaks here practise Christianity instead of Islam. They are also bloody good alcohol drinkers, and the younger ones have damn cool English-sounding names like ‘Matthew Anderson Lockhart’.
One thing I appreciate living in Malaysia is that almost all races here get to celebrate their respective festivities. I forget how good it felt because I don’t have that kind of luxury when I was in Australia. I can personally attest that hauling your ass to work/lecture on the first day of Chinese New Year isn’t the best feeling in the world.

This is how we celebrate festivities in Kuching… by making our streets a little bit brighter.

So anyway, I was in the city last night practising my night photography skills when I noticed a particularly interesting set of decorative lights along Jalan Song Thian Chiok that seems to be telling us some story. Its a bit like pictures in the Egyptian pyramids really.
I know they’re supposed to depict customs and cultural practices of the Dayaks here. But someone not born here might not be able to understand what’s going. So here’s what they might intepret it instead.

This is a story about how the Dayaks celebrate the Gawai Festival.

All day long, the men sit on their butts smoking their big-arse Sarawakian cigarettes. What’s this Dunhill thing you’re talking about? Dunhill is for pansies. Sarawakian cigarettes are for real men, like us.

Feminism? Never heard of it. Our bitches spend their day and night rolling them big-arse Sarawakian cigarettes for us, the real men. For entertainment, we dress them up in skimpy clothes so we can watch them shake their asses while we smoke our life away. Ooh yea, baby.

And, errrr…

Usually them chicks do a good job out of it. But sometimes they don’t. So we gotta teach them a lesson, eh?

Of course the Dayaks are all really friendly people and they’re not like that at all. But decorations like that can easily be misinterpretated, eh? 🙂 Happy holidays, my fellow Sarawakians.

WWE Wrestling in Kuching

One sunny day, I was driving down towards Tabuan Jaya when I saw this.
A closer look at the sign that caught my attention.

Immediately, it reminded me of this.

Which gave me the impression that the inside of the office probably looks like this.

WE ENGINEERING – We Engineer Other People’s Logo For Ourselves!
When it comes to designing your own company logo, some people really need to grow a right brain.

The Worst Newspaper Ad Ever

Whoever designed this advertisement for the Sarawak Tribune Classifieds needs to be shot, grilled, tied to the ground and forced to undergo cosmetic surgery to look exactly like that horrendously deformed human being he drew.
Worst Ad Ever
I hope he’s not trying to imply Sarawak Tribune readers look so pathetic. Shit, how bad is that drawing? See this wouldn’t have happened if he were to choose someone like me as the model.
Man that’s the ugliest advertisement I’ve ever seen.
I wonder who he used as a model.

Worst Ad Ever
I think we got a winner.
Lessons in Advertising #1337:
“Never EVER use a monkey as a model for your drawings.”