Swee Mei Beauty Saloon Review

Swee Mei Beauty Saloon is this very old barber shop along Jalan Sekama that’s been in operation for as long as I could remember. I’ve been getting my haircut there since I was a young enough to have to sit on an elevated wooden plank. Almost 20 years later they’re still cutting my hair.

I kept going back there not because I like them, but because its becoming such a habit I didn’t bother going anywhere else. It wasn’t until much recently that I decided to get my hair done at other hair salons and I’ve neglected Swee Mei since then. In fact, my last visit was probably around 12 months ago.
Feeling a little nostalgic, I dropped by one day to pay them a visit.

This is the inside of the barber shop – the messy desk, the stench of lubricant, the mat on the chairs, Aaron Kwok on the radio singing ‘Dui Ni Ai Bu Wan’. Waliew, its like stepping back into the same barber shop 20 years ago.

Check out their tools. Screw those shit they use in modern hair salons. Swee Mei uses brushes and talcum powders and freaking BRYLCREEM! That’s 100% old school, baby. I don’t know what Loreal what Schwarzkopf wtf lah.
Swee Mei is too cool for that crap. They use Brylcreem and Brylcreem only, just like David Beckham. Until he went botak.

Heck, they are so old school, even their prices are the same as they were 20 years ago. How they manage to survive in this day and age of inflation and rising petrol cost, I have no idea.

Here’s a shot of me desperately in need of a haircut. My apologies for the bad lighting indoors. The Canon dSLR camera isn’t mine, but its the same one I borrowed to gatecrash the Miss Tourism Pageant. Note the Bloggercon T-shirt I was wearing, compliments of the Tomorrow.SG crew. 😉

Meet my barber. He’s still my favourite among the usual three in the shop. I’d like to introduce him, but 20 years of having my hair cut by him and I still have no idea what his name is. I just know him as the Ah Pek on the second chair in the barber shop.
Ah Pek is a genuinely nice guy alright. Every year, for 8 years, I’d returned from Australia and he’d attempt to strike up a conversation with me in Hokkien. And every year, for 8 years, our conversations would be the exact same topic.

Ah Pek: “Lu ding Orh Jiu tak chek hor?” (You’re studying in Australia right?)
Kenny: “Si lor.” (Yeah.)
Ah Pek: “Tak hamik?” (What course are you doing?)
Kenny: “Tak kar ji peng eh gao hor siang eh.” (I’m doing the equivalent of level 9 over here.)
Ah Pek: “Oh… Orh jiu ji zhong eh ti si jing leng hor?” (Oh… it must be very cold now in Australia isn’t it?)
Kenny: “Bo lah. Ji zhong jing juak leh.” (No lah, its damn hot right now leh.)
Ah Pek: “OH! Si ar hor. Orh Jiu ga Tiong Kok si toh peng eh!” (OH! That’s right. The seasons in Australia and China are opposites of each other!)
Kenny: “Mmm… tiok loh” (Mmmm… Correct.)
*awkward silence*

Anyway, I always tell my hairdressers to “Feel free to do whatever you want to do with my hair. Be creative.” But there’s no need for me to tell him to do that. As soon as my ass touch the seat, Ah Pek would start the session by spraying excessive water all over my head like I’m a potted plant.
After trimming most of my hair with an electric trimmer that smells like its been soaked overnight in motor oil, he picked up a huge pair of scissors and began cropping my hair slowly and carefully. His modus operandi was once again, the same as it was 20 years ago, except now the scissors is becoming blunt and squeaky, and his hands are shaking uncontrollably like he has Parkinson’s.

I requested for a shampoo like I always do at modern hair salons. Ah Pek politely declined, informing me that the shampoo girl grandma has gone home so I decided to let it go. Aiya, I don’t think I want to let him to shampoo my head lest he breaks his finger bones when he massaged my scalp.
I was getting my hair happily when suddenly Ah Pek stepped on a pedal on my chair and made me fall on my back. Skarly he pulled a knife out no where and held it against to my neck. I got so scared my balls almost shrank.

This picture could very well be mistaken for an al Qaeda hostage video in iRaq.

Actually I’m just getting an old-fashioned shave lah. Before Gillette comes along, this is how real men shave.
Ah Pek didn’t use any shaving foam, just some soap water to lubricate my chin with a bristle. He shaved everything he could shave too – my chins, sideburns, my face, my neck, monobrow. No lah not my chest hair. No aftershave afterwards either, just Vicks Vaporub to soothe the burns. He even trimmed the hair inside my nose and cleaned my ears with a cotton bud. So nice.
I know all these sounds very gay lah, but Ah Pek is so fatherly you wouldn’t even think about it. Anyway, 30 minutes later and this is how I look like.

Ya, I’m very shocked too. Nabeh, like I’m wearing a helmet right? I think I’m just a pussy moustache away from looking like Mr Adolf Hitler. I wonder if Desperate Addict is still gonna like me after this.
Still, at RM8.00, cannot complain lah. Its just an old-fashioned barber shop. How to compare right?

So, what do you think?

One down, one to go.
My sleepless nights paid off in the end. Server failures and flawed data entries aside, Project #1 kicked off yesterday morning without too much technical issues. Now I get to enjoy a few normal-sleeping days before I jumped right into Project #2. It’ll be back to regular blogging from kennysia.com when that’s done. Shanghai and Perth, here I come. 🙂

170 Replies to “Swee Mei Beauty Saloon Review”

  1. For the cheap price, not a bad haircut. But personally, I prefer the Tony & Guy hairdo — you look way hip and cooler. Alan Salon hairdo is so-so. If that’s the case, try for the tried and tested Swee Mei. 🙂

  2. I think that the Alan Salon’s do is quite okay. You look really boyish in it.
    But as for the Swee Mei, hrmm, a definite no no. It looks like you didn’t even had a haircut at all. Plus, the style is the 20 years ago Ah Pek do. Well, considering the fact that he is still doing all the cuttings, I presume that he still follows his own 20 years ago Ah Pek style.

  3. Don’t waste your money on the first one – just don’t comb your hair after you wake up. 😛
    Second one will be great if you are partying but not if you are going to work.
    Third haircut makes you look so innocent.(just proves that looks can be deceiving huh? ;P)

  4. Kenny, you want to hear the truth? You look like a cute *cough cough* pie =) I suppose it is not a big deal realy, depend how you style it by the end of the day. You had an old uncle to cut your hair, and i guess he saw your cute innocent face, so he also get you a high-school style, while the tony and guy haidresser might see you in different person, who knows, right? =)

  5. lol…the third hairdo has a nostalgic touch. Bravo Ah Pek, brilliant job! Ditch Alan and Tony…with petrol price on the rise, Ah Pek will do just fine 😀

  6. 1. alan salon – boyish and mid-priced
    2. swee mei – best price but beware the shaking hands. somemore i think the nerdy look is in. after eddy neo disappeared, there’s been such a void…
    3. toni & guy – way too expensive for a cut that makes yr face look rather square even with the extended spikes

  7. swee mei gets the vote! 🙂
    wah… u now go to your old sec skool also the teacher will think you are new student and pull your ears for not wearing uniform man! 🙂
    the ah pek made you into an ah boy… aiyah, as long as it is not ah gua… hehe

  8. i had been visiting toni & guy for eons, and they had never failed me. hehe…
    i guess i do believe in yi fen qian yi fen huo afterall ;P
    anyway, ur new haircut…. i’m sure after some styling u will look fine 😉

  9. LOL
    You have the same freaking haircut as I had when I was primary 3… That was errm about 10 years ago, well at least the barber did move forward 10 years in hairstyle fashion, compared to 20 years of cutting your hair.

  10. just style it yourself lah 🙂 that is what i do – go to old fashioned barber shop and then style it yourself to make it look like a ‘Toni & Guy’ cut 😉

  11. Muahahaha.
    My gosh. I got wet looking at your pics, like how you enlarged lookin at mine.
    I laughed so much that my eyes all tearing leh.
    Still, the uncle is so shweet. I would make my bf go there cut his hair if i could.

  12. For 4x to 10x cheaper than the other two, Ah Pek Salon gets 90% of the job done. Surelah, the other 10% is what makes the difference. But look at it this way, YOU FEEL GOOD? (getting manhandled by Ah Pek)
    Think of how James Brown might answer.

  13. dude! You bought a new camera? 😛 I remember u having a Kodak last time we met. And Did you take the picture of u being shaved by yourself? If yes, how did u manage that feat? it boggles the mind…

  14. Hi Kenny, my “traditional” barber did the same thing to me last week. I swear I look like the class nerd from a 70s school yearbook. But nothing that some roughly applied gel can’t fix.

  15. I lurve AH Pek….he’s such a sweetie, reminds me of my kong-kong! I think you should enjoy and savour your trips to AH Pek’s shop. In another 20 years time, quaint shops like Swee Mei with kindly old men like Ah Pek will be a thing of the past.

  16. I’ll bet Ah Pek thinks that his cut is pretty stylish, or that is it appropriate for young boys. So.. I wonder what Ah Pek thinks of all those ‘a-la Hong Kong’ hair styles that Edison and Daniel Wu wannabes sport these days 😉

  17. BUauahhahuBuuhauhhabahahaahahhaahahhahahafehhfahahahahahahahahahaah
    *plop! falls off chair…*

  18. I had my own personal Ah Pek barber when I was back in Kuching (Somewhere along Green Road), and I went there for years.
    I never believed in pricy haircuts (at the time) coz expensive or not, it wont neccesarily get u laid, right?
    Uh, hello? Right??

  19. This is funny… Kenny, i think the Alan Salon and Toni and Guy ones makes u look ur age…. Swee Mei – Go there jus for the nostalgic feeling la. No no for proper hair cut :).

  20. Ei, Kenny, no wonder ur hairstyle looks like Apek lah … outdated lah – u’re living in the 50’s & 60’s era meh? Now is millenium liao lah! Toni & Guy style is the way to go loh.

  21. With your current look, I bet Uncle Lim will straight away approve your VIP card application, instead of the previous two. Cause U look like Chow Yung Fatt in the 80’s. N needless 2 say, u will get more high class treatment from China men’s town. LOL.

  22. Question!
    What is the difference between a:
    1) Hair Crop (Boy) – RM 6, 7
    2) Hair Crop (Child) – RM 5
    I like Kenny’s very shocked look! But then ah, Vicks Vaporub (instead of aftershave) sounds a bit cor leh…

  23. swee mei eh… i vouch for jin ming barber instead… it’s two doors down from ky cafe with the old school kolo mee by the fat, the skinny and the old… still remember the elevated wooden planks… memories man… 15 years of hair-cutting… woohoo…

  24. Actually, U look more like Aaron Kwok in the 90’s. I think the Ah Pek cut hair based on what song he’s listening 2. As U’ve mentioned he’s listening AK’s song while cutting you hair. That makes some sense now. ;p

  25. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!
    This reminds me of an ex-staff who cuts his hair like that even though he is in his late 30’s.
    Unfortunately, he pairs with another blur staff, so we had to call them Dumb & Dumber

  26. Tk u v much Kenney for the info. It looks like Swee Mei Beauty is indeed a must visit if I visit Kuching. Not so much for the hair cut but for the ears dig, a service I reckoned even Alan Saloon or Toni and Guy cannot provide. A nostalgic endeavour and for just Rm7/- its a real bargain.

  27. :0
    The ‘Alan’ hair makes me wanna punch you. Look so cheeky.
    With the ‘Toni & Guy’ hair, I want to date you.
    With this current guai kia look.. I will bring you home to see my parents. haha. 🙂

  28. On the September issue of the KL Lifestyle magazine, the editor described Kenny’s blog as “Ingenious and hilarious spoofs, parodies and jokes that Kenny from Kuching makes about real life.”
    Kenny, you deserve it!!

  29. i think u look like a guilty fellow in all 3 pics. 😀
    you know, the dodgy kind that try to look like they’re all innocent?
    but the last one is the cutest!

  30. Eh!!! Same as my hairstyle. So, this hairstyle is widespread among the mamak barber and even the Ah pek barber. Nice one about David Beckham and Brylcreem

  31. Dude, you look like standard 6 schoolboy with this new hair do. But seriously, you looked more refreshed compared to other 2.

  32. eh kenny i think u will look nice in long hair! HAHA. or mebbe slightly long hair. cos i tink u look good before u cut ur hair =P
    just need abit of styling here and spiking up there and baik lah

  33. hey kenny i used to went there when i was in sec school you know……..but i have found a better place at saberkas, cheaper than your ah pek..RM5 nia……somemore is not ah pek cut ur hair….u should go try it out, saberkas 4th floors ‘Yik Xin’

  34. The Toni & Guy haircut pic looks good but I don’t think it’s because of the cut, it’s because of the gel! Alan is not impressive but the RM8 haircut rocks my socks!!
    Just get the RM8 haircut and buy gel! I’m sure a RM92 gel will make you look even better than in the Toni & Guy picture 😉

  35. +, I agree that Ah Pek do look fatherly. In fact, somehow, he look kind of pitiful and lonely with the weathered face of his.

  36. i’d probably stick to swee mei… old school yes, but sometimes, old school’s good… and somehow, the ah pek is so old and i would miss him excessively if i were u…

  37. MUHAHAHA first two pictures maybe get girl but last picture definitely appeal to future MIL. MUHAHAHA>> gonna die laughing

  38. I found this a curiously touching post. 🙂 My heart just wrenched at the close up picture of the AhPek. to be so old, yet still working.
    For sentimentality’s sake, I vote Swee Mei. They are probably the ones who need the business most, and yet do not chage super overly-inflated prices like the other salons you’ve been to.
    It’s easy to get rid of the ‘nerdy’ hair slicked down look 🙂 just don’t put any hair product, and voila, instant sexy bedhair 😉

  39. aha…. thats rather err.. funny. Indeed there’s a diff in quality. But I think the service is already good enuff.. Don’t think one can even pay for a simple shave + nose hair-trimming + ear cleaning in any of those classy salon.. Cool~ get that hairstyle once in a while.. Go retro~

  40. I agree with entwined…. But I suspect Ah Pek is working becos that’s the only thing to do to pass the time (not due to financial reasons). 🙂
    Btw, shame on you, so many years at the shop but no idea what’s Ah Pek’s real name?
    Nerdy Hair? No worries… it’s how you style it, not who cuts it… Just use tons of mousse/gel and mess it up ala Alan or T&G – the sideburns may be a problem though…. 😉

  41. Did Ah Pek make u sit on this wooden plank placed on top of the barber chair handles? Just curious! But if one look at the 3 pics, one wud keep wondering whether Alan Salon / Toni & Guy are good barbers, considering the uneven and jaggard hair finished compared to De Kuching Swee Mei Saloon neat hair job? Hence my vote 4 Ah Pek. Good one Kenny.

  42. and his hands are shaking uncontrollably like he has Parkinson’s & Aiya, I don’t think I want to let him to shampoo my head lest he breaks his finger bones when he massaged my scalp —-> so mean of you… ya.. i know you are merely kidding, in fact, me too…
    Anyway, i think Alan Salon looks the best =)

  43. Hey Kenny,
    I’ve been secretly reading your post for sometime now, and I find it hillarious. Things like KNNCCB and now your hair cut, I’ve got to have a say 🙂
    Stick to Toni and Guys, go say once in 2 months. That should do the work.
    Keep on writing and snapping!

  44. the swee-mei-do is such a throw back to the past it’s vintage ! you can get into one of those it’s so uncool it’s practically cool again. but it’s not too bad is it ? jus the way you comb it.

  45. your photos reminds me of this, u’re much younger, mom sends u in for a shower, when you are done, she towels u and combs your hair, applies powder all over your cheeks..=)hehehe

  46. Kanasai Kenny!
    You made me hold my laughter so badly at my desk when I saw the finished “product” from your swee mei ah pek…
    HAHAHA No shit! You REALLY look like my DAD ok! LMAO!

  47. You should have tried the one in Green Road (Opposite Chong Ling Tower). Interesting especially they have that PVC mating to be replaced (bottom & back) after every job done.
    Thank you.

  48. I’m sorry if someone has asked this Q already (didn’t bother to read all of ur 120++ comments!!! *gasp*). Didn’t Ah Pek ask you about your snapping pics in his shop? You’re damn good, dude – Camwhoring even when getting haircut. Heck, that’s what most of us bloggers do – Camwhoring at weird places :p
    Your new 9-to-1-parting haircut is awesome, man! I stopped going to Indian barbers when I was 18 :p

  49. I vote for Alan Salon! Muah hahaha.. you really do look like you got helmet on your head.. but like you say lor.. RM$8… wat you expect rite? Next time come my house.. i do same look for you for FREE! :)hahahahaha…

  50. i nearly choked on my organic almonds when i saw the last pic of yours.. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

  51. lol who cares if its cheap? the ‘toni and guy’ do looks the absolute best .. the RM8 one looks a lil ‘oh biang’ (old-fashioned) lol

  52. Aiyoh, you’re damn daringlah. If the hairdresser cuts my hair like that I’ll go home, cry for one week and then hire a good lawyer. But then, my parents would probably know the fella and cannotlah…

  53. Nabei! Read your blog for so long liao nvr laugh so hard before… now my stomach like cramp from excessive laughter. Omg lar Kenny I think the ah Pek cutting your hair still think you 8 years old… skills nvr change hairstyle then for the same person oso never change rite! Ah Pek rocks man! Alan saloon cut look like suave and young, tony and guy you look like quite energetic. Thanks to swee mei, we now have a picture of a 8 yrs old Kenny! OMFG ROFL LMAO!

  54. Haha, toni guy is just gel plus styling. So you pay more for someone to make your hair spiky. Do it youself lar!

  55. I only do Old Style barber, those that when you go in, the ah pek or thamby will just Say:
    “Macam biasa ah?”
    and the macam biasa is not my macam biasa, but more of their macam biasa.
    At rm10 a cut in KL/PJ, am not complaining..and there is nothing some cheap hair wax can’t fix.
    So, well done in supporting ah pek and his pension fund!

  56. Hmm. in comparison I think the Toni & Guys one look better. But then again, the reason why it looks nice might not be because of good haircut , but rather the way they put the wax and style it.
    KENNY, personally which hairstyle do you prefer?

  57. all differents cutting…
    alan salon = cutting against hair grown direction, recomment to use clay(dry) to control direction or else look mess…
    toni & guy = famous in the world beside vidal sassoon, dry(clay) or wet(gel) look will be ok
    swee mei = nothing to say~ one word – classic…

  58. well.. guys ..and kenny too.. 🙂 i think those 3 pics there all look great.. they all have individual judgement and your own desire,from the 3 pics.
    what i can say here from the first pic hair done by alan ..look cool but bit unbalance’s cut,
    mostly u can see this hairstyle carry by ,, shopekeeper,,, mechanic,,store keeper,, security guide ,,waiter those 3 stars and below hotel.. engineer.,,30% doctors n lawyers.
    middle pic, look bit macho, cutting no complain..looks good job !! not because of the name brand from the salon.
    salesman..bartender…night life type,,,sporty and aggresive guy,,tai ko…5 stars or above waiter….10% doctors and lawyers.
    last pic,, although is ah pek but they still have the skillfull hand, if u really like to look like “LAU SEAT KIA” than go for it..
    70% doctor and lawyer and others professional official. 🙂 and is safe to bring this hairstyle everywhere in the world.. not ah beng look.. sure no one look at u and u dont’ have to worry when people look at u ” kuah ha mik??? ha mik beh song? ??”
    so u should know where or which salon u must go for you personal desire style character of look u like to be. etc…your looks show people your personal character, living standard and more ..
    from every different haircut shown on pic have many different jugdment from other people. as u can read yourself all the comments .. some like it some don’t…just do who u like to be 🙂 be yourself..
    But why and what’s wrong about the guy massage? anything wrong? guys like u all who are educated and even some from overseas.. is guy doing hair massage really strange? what if that happen to your family? your brother? your sister? dont mean every stylist or hairdresser are gay..or lesbian. never judge a book from the cover rite??? for your info a gay guy or lesbian have his own taste and desire of guys and gals.. they dont’have sex simplely guys or gals. pls do understand their feeling
    ok.. i talk to much here.. but i do enjoy reading them..
    regards and be happy…
    may god bless u all.

  59. One of the most entertaining blogs… laughed cried and laughed… cos this blog is just so funny – full of expression. Well Done.

  60. hey! my granparent’s salloon! i mean seriously.
    you should look for my granpa – mr.chin ted shin, it’ll probably comes out beta. haha. hmmm altho i dont actually cut my hair there but cant deny that until now, there’s still quite alot of customer coming in especially on the weekends. and i meant all type of ages.

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