Monday, July 21, 2014

Travel 2014: Semporna, Sabah

I want to tell you about this beautiful place in my home country. A place so pretty, so full of wonderful lives, thrilling experiences that leave deep imprints in your heart. It's a place you can never forget for its charm stays forever in you, blooming and manifesting in a way that you can never forget. In time, the tropical sun, the scent of the sea breeze, the warmth of people, the mysterious lives below the sea will only grow more fondly inside you; and you will find yourself missing and wishing to return to this paradise again and again.

Believe me when I tell you how stunning this place is, because I have visited the place with a heart and never came back with one. I happily left my heart and soul at Semporna, Sabah.


[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="630"]Semporna_Minired (5) A common sight at Semporna.[/caption]

As a Malaysian Diver, I have always been told that I should dive in Sabah, because we have one of the best dive sites in the world namely the island of Sipadan. I kept hearing stories about how the place is so wickedly wonderful because you would not only be dazed by the many thriving underwater lives; you would also be threading on dangerous waters, whether it's on the land or under the water. Since you know, the currents there have been known to be strong and the security on land isn't that good with all the terrorism going around. But the adrenaline rush, the thrilling thoughts that you might not live to tell another story would all be worth it in the end.

Back to my long awaited vacation, we planned this trip a year before and managed to grab some good deal from Air Asia, costing approximately RM150 with return flight, from KL to Tawau. We had prior transport arrangement from Tawau Airport straight to Semporna. It was a 45 ~ 60 minutes drive to the small jetty town.


There are plenty of taxis/vans in the airport for rental, so you don't have to worry about getting to Semporna if you don't have any other arrangements beforehand. Most hotels will include the transportation in the package, so be sure to verify yours.

We stayed in a simple and thriving town called Semporna with Borneo Global Sipadan Backpackers Lodge & BGB Country Tours & Travel. It is the place where all the tourist would step foot on as it's also the nearest to all the beautiful islands on the nearby oceans. Almost all the people who are going to the islands would depart from its jetty.

There are plenty of diving centres, backpacking hostels and hotels in town and they cost slightly cheaper than staying on the many islands out in the nearby oceans. So if you are on a budget like me, you could choose stay in Semporna. There are plenty of dive centres around that will bring to the islands for diving or even snorkelling, island hopping if you don't have a license.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="630"]Semporna_Minired (3) Look at all the houses built on the sea.[/caption]

We chose to stay on the mainland instead of the islands because of the limited budget and also the perks of having varieties of food. On islands, you are subjected to whatever limited choices you have there, and it's pretty much impossible or else pricey to pay some boat taxis to bring to another islands.

Besides I have to warn you that you might not find anyone who's willing to travel on boat at night because of all the terrorism going on in the area. In terms of our accommodation, the room was fairly simple. We had everything we need, a place to stay and shower and just chill for the night as there weren't many night activities around and really not advisable to hang around at night. Though we all felt that the rooms could use some maintenance, most of the facilities, furnitures and beds were really old and in need of restoration.

They have plenty of chinese, western or malay eateries; and there's a market in the morning where you could see the locals selling tons of exotic seafoods. If you want to experience how locals go on with their lives, Semporna is a great place to stay and experience their culture.

On the first day itself, we were welcomed by the locals' warmth hospitality. Since it was already late for any dives on that day, our trusty host arranged us for a Borneo Semporna Proboscis River Cruise Excursion. It was long boat drive into one of the many national parks in Sabah to hunt for these wild proboscis monkeys and fortunately, we managed to spot a few of these evading creatures. Our dinner was nothing short of amazing. It was a BBQ Seafood dinner. The portion was generous and the taste was fresh and delicious. All of us on the excursion left with a satisfactory experience.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="630"]DSC_4140 Sneaky proboscis monkey. Spot the huge nose?[/caption]

And to be honest, I have known that people on East Malaysia are far more friendlier than those on West Malaysia especially those working in the tourism industry. Still, the amount of sincerity and warmth displayed by these locals surprised me, I have probably never experienced such hospitality from the many times I travelled around West Malaysia before. Not that I am complaining, I am just really happy that at least I don't need to an "ang moh" to receive these kinda treatments from my own fellow Malaysians. West Malaysians need to learn some of the attitudes from these locals in Semporna.

Another issue that kinda worried me when I visited Semporna is the security issue. Before I flew over, there was a series of kidnapping. I almost cancelled it because of the pressure from my parents. I have been hearing that it is potentially safer to stay on the mainland because the islands are easier to invade.

The thing about Semporna is, it's difficult to differentiate between the locals and the immigrants from Philippines. I have heard stories from the locals that these people literally float on a small wood plank for days to arrive here, to escape from the poverty from their own country in search of new opportunities. There are plenty of illegal houses built on the seas that most of these people live in.

The impoverishment is obvious in this town, you could see it everywhere and these people are living on a minimum wages. So my advice to you is dress modestly, don't flaunt your riches because mainland or not, it's better be humble, safe than sorry. Don't make the same mistakes as those tourists from China. Based on the way they dress and spend extravagantly, it's really no wonder they have been targeted. So if you are visiting, don't do that; just don't bring troubles upon yourself.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="630"]Semporna_Minired (1) The jetty for people who want to head out to all islands. Surrounded by the houses built on sea.[/caption]

Also, on the way to the other islands from Semporna's jetty we noticed that there were a lot of people farming seaweeds on the surface of the oceans. I supposed it was a good income for these sea people, though I must say that these activities also caused plenty of other problems, like pollution. There were rubbish floating everywhere, plenty of plastic bottles, bags and those non-biodegradable waste which we assumed they were being thrown thoughtlessly into the water by those living on the water.

There is another problem from this seaweed farming apart from the increase in number of people living on the sea; is the number of sea turtles invading these farms. Seaweed is like their natural food so naturally they are attracted by the sheer amount of vegetations growing in the area.

This however poses another problems for those farmers who rely on these plants for a small amount of income, so they resort to killing because to them, sea turtles are pests and apparently they can destory the seaweed farm overnight. There has been controversies on this matter because some people blame it on the farmers; others point finger at the those commercial fisheries.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="630"]Semporna_Minired (6) A lot of people live on the sea, relying on fishing and seaweed farming for a living.[/caption]

Either ways, it's a big loss. These animals can smell the blood of their own species and they will avoid the areas instinctively. I supposed there will be less sighting of these wonderful animals in the future.

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="630"]Semporna_Minired (4) Heading out for our dives![/caption]

For the next 3 days in my 5D4N Vacation consisted of only diving, diving and diving, and we had our dinners around the town. The chinese foods were excellent. And the seafoods were so fresh and so cheap, do yourself a favor, forget all your diet plans and eat to your heart's content. The diving spots were stunning, but I will have to save all our guilty pleasures for the next post. ;)

So, believe me when I tell you how stunning this place is, because I have visited the place with a heart and never came back with one. I happily left my heart and soul at Semporna, Sabah.

Stay tuned for my epic story! And also all the information you need. ;)

Check out this companion piece: Travel 2014: Diving in Sipadan, Sabah.
Saturday, July 12, 2014

Read Whatever That Makes You Happy!

There's a certain "AGAINST YA" movement going around these days. And before you go googling for what YA means, it actually stands for "YOUNG ADULTS". So what's this AGAINST YA? Apparently, it's embarassing for adults to read young adults fictions and you should totally dig a hole and hide yourself forever there since you are actually reading something written for children when you are a grown-up adult yourself!

Honestly, few years back I wouldn't bother about this thing because at that point I was only a young adult. Now, no matter how much I want to deny this, I am getting older and right now I am at the NEW ADULT STAGE and I can't help to cringe at this movement because I am guilty as charged. I still read YA fictions! Hell yeah! I love them! And why should you control what I should be reading at different ages?

I started reading pretty late. English language has never been my first language and I remember how I used to hate this subject in schools. Luckily I grew out of the hatred and started realising just how important this lingua franca was; so I began drilling myself away to master this crazy language that seemed so difficult to me at that moment. To start it off, I had to read children's book because I couldn't understand the teenagers/Young Adults book. They were too hard. I sorta grasped the language eventually, if not I would not be writing this.

Anyways back to the AGAINST YA issue, I don't understand! I really don't. To me, reading is pretty much a very personal hobby. Sure, you can discuss about a book with someone else after you have done with it but at the time when you are in the midst of a book, you are the only one interacting and engaging with the pages right in front you. People may see you sitting at the bench in the book, however, you are the only one who knows where these words have carried you to be it a world of crazy fantasy, dramas, pain or love. It is like a personal connection, only you can feel it.

So the question is, why are you shaming other readers for whatever books they feel connected to?

Genre is there for a reason. As similar as the YA and Adult category can be, there is a difference. YA storyline often ends up to a happy ending or a positive one and often than not, the characters don't move beyond colleges. Life issues are not the major problems there because you know, mostly it revolves around high school/colleges scenarios, how many dramas can you have from there? While Adults fictions tackle a lot of real life issues and assert more maturity in how the story flows or how the characters handle the dramas. So there's a difference, but I don't mean that the other one is horrible or the latter one is better. It's just the genre. And seriously there are no faults nor shames in reading either genres. Why can't adults indulge in a little bit of teenagers' simple and totally nonsense dramas since the reality kinda sucks most of the time. Like they always say, there is always a kid in all of us no matter the age. And a lot of people actually read to escape into a different world, so why is it wrong when people choose to escape back to those pimpled eras where we only cared about getting drunks, puppy loves and maintaining grades in schools.

So what is wrong with reading YA and laugh about all the antics that we used to be so conscious about too? We have been there, done that and reading a YA or children books even is nothing to be ashamed of. At the end of the day, I just want to relive some of its simplicity without getting myself into all the adulthood dramas when our real lives are packed to the capacity with all the random issues.

To emphasize my point again, I feel that reading is a personal hobby, it's an intimate connection you are establishing with the authors and their overly imaginative minds to experience the angst or happiness they are going through. And it's not up to people to tell you what you should read and if it's a hobby, it should be enjoyable and you should get those books that make you feel connected. All those haters be damned!

Oh yeah, I love fanfictions, like tons, selectively too. There are plenty of talented authors out there and really, they don't need to publish their work into hard copies - books to prove themselves worthy.

I am not ashamed of what I read. I embrace all genres as long as I am happy and interested. Published or not. Adult or not.
I suggest you to do the same. And just enjoy the ride. :)


Monday, July 7, 2014

Little Wonton @ Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL

With the help of the navigation app and some pointers from our fellow foodies from the blogosphere, we finally landed ourselves at the doorstep of Little Wonton, which has been creating hype around the internet world because of their supposedly irresistible fried dumplings with plenty of flavours and interesting fillings to pick from.

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The simple decoration of Little Wonton has been tastefully done. There is a certain welcoming warmth that comforts the patrons and makes you all feel all homey, comfortable and cosy the instant you enter the shop, which by the way is located on the first floor. So if you discover yourself walking around the shop lots and you are pretty sure you have got the address correct, remember to look up! You should be able to notice the signboard then!

Whether you like them sweet or salty, there are plenty of Air Fried Wontons to choose from. It comes in 6 pieces for the price of RM7.90. There are other items to pick from too like the Curry Fishball which we were pretty tempted to order and Air Fried Chicken Wings too! So take your pick! Remember to watch the chalkboard near the counter because they do offer set meals or other promotions.

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My initial response - WEIRD. You can't deny it that this is a pretty odd combination, it's lychee man and also did I mention that this noodle is served cold? I am not really a fan of cold dishes but at that moment, I decided to give it the benefits of doubt, and boy, I definitely don't regret this. The noodle is surprisingly appetizing and tasty thanks to the vinegar zest, the mild garlicky taste and the sweetness of lychee makes the otherwise dull charcoal noodle an enjoyable dish. Though I must warn you though, the noodle comes in a pretty small portion especially for guys might find it unsatisfying. Will I return for this? Definitely.

littlewonton_minired (2)

Sesame dressing makes everything alright. You know those roasted sesame dressing that you can get from Japanese restaurants when  you order salad? Those good kinds. So yeah that kinda pretty sums up my feel on this noodle dish. I like it, but that's also because I love the sesame dressing. Simple as that. :)
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Now we have arrived to our main protagonists! Their famous wontons!

We chose this flavour as it was highly recommended by the staff. We suspect that it's one of the most popular choice there since I have been noticing this items popping up in the blogosphere pretty often. True enough, the wonton actually lives up to its popularity. The thin wonton skin is fried to a perfect crisp and best of all, it doesn't feel oily, leaving behind a very pleasant texture in your mouth. The Mushroom Onion Cheese is a great combination, bursting with flavours and with the right amount of cheese to keep the wontons juicy. For a person who doesn't enjoy cheese much, the wonton feels and tastes just right to me, definitely something I would return for when I am craving some delicious wontons. Pricing at around RM1.30 for each wonton, I would say that it's pretty worth they are pretty generous with the size and filling.

littlewonton_minired (4)

For the second serving, we tried out something sweet. I don't usually have my wontons sweet, it's just not a common thing so I am pretty reluctant about this. After I have tried this though, I must say that I never regret my decision. The chocolate tastes just right with banana as always, and it's mildly sweet just enough to tease your taste buds and leave you craving for more. Ya, it's good, I have definitely enjoyed them.

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Overall, the concept behind this business is really interesting, I mean, how they are just selling wontons and look how far they have come! The quality and concept are definitely there and I am sure with the right marketing, this business could go a long way. I am definitely returning here for my wontons craving in the future and since they have so many other flavours, I can't wait to try them all! Hopefully the next time I come back, the quality will be maintained because to me, if you can't keep the consistency in your food quality, you will lose customers. So all the best Little Wontons! You can definitely go far!



Ambience: 5/5
Service: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Value: 4/5

For more information:
Little Wonton Cafe | Facebook Page

1st Floor, 20-1 Lorong Rahim Kajai 14

Taman Tun Dr Ismail

60000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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