Monday, December 26, 2011

A Day Tour around Sibu

Thanks to my brother's wedding, we received a band of Perakians in Sibu. They are young, energetic, full of curiosity, adventurous and, that's their first time in Sibu. The town by the River of Goose has much to offer, and as their tour guide, I had to ensure that they found the hidden gems of Sibu.

Sunday, mid of December, 9 am, clear blue sky with merciless blazing sun. We stepped out from Kingwood Hotel to scout for renown dian-bian-hu (鼎边糊) at Sibu Butterfly Garden. Along the way, the story of why the Rejang River is crowned with another name- the River of Goose, was told. We stopped at Sibu Express Boat Terminal for a while to experience how important the river is to the people in Sarawak.

My original plan was to visit Yong-An Ting  and the pagoda first before breakfast. But they were really starving. So, plan-B, the food first.

How good was the dian bian hu? You can tell from their expression. I had to order the food for three rounds, in order to fill their appetite. By the way, they were sitting in Ah Hee Kopi Tian, while ordering dian bian hu from the food stall beside the coffee shop. They took Char Mee (fried noodle) and Char Meehun (fried beehun) as well at the coffee shop.

This is a bowl of the traditional Foochow delight with cuttlefish, home made fish ball, black fungus, blended with Sarawak black pepper. Beware, it is highly addictive!

After the breakfast, they stormed the souvenir shop beside the coffee shop.

Out of a sudden, three samurai appeared in front of Alih Craft (the souvenir shop) ...

Knowing the place of worship is always nearer to heaven, some of them had actually tried to fly right into the heaven...

They did it... for a short while.

Then, I brought them to Sibu Heritage Centre at Central Road. This building used to be the head office of Sibu Municipal Council. We spent nearly one hour in the centre.

Security.... someone is taking photo inside the exhibition hall!!

 12:30 pm, we left the heritage centre to find something to eat.

So I brought them to this very old gom bian shop, Seng Kee at Market Road.

And all of them really "give-face" by eating the gom bian right in front of the shop. Btw, I think the shop owner should give some advertising fee to these ladies to stand longer in front of the shop.

Next stop, Sibu Central Market. I planned to show them the hand made soo-mee (a special type of mee suah), dried kampua mee (noodle), and some indigenous fruits and vegetables.

This is how the dried kampua mee looks like.

They were lucky. They were able to identify one of the seasonal fruits- Dabai in the market. Besides, they found buah Sibau, ikan masin terumbok (Sarawak famous salted fish), and paku (a kind of edible fern). Driven by the tiredness, I couldn't show them many other things, such as tebaloi, the mountain durian, buah terap, sago, mulung, and fresh midin.

Sibu Central Market guarantees no empty hands!

Our tour officially ended at 2 pm, after I successfully brought them back to the hotel. I didn't bring them to Wisma Sanyan, Sibu Town Square and Masland Church at Island Road as all my tour members had visited the places a day before.

A solid five hours tour ended with one conclusion- Sibu is not small, as many had in their impression. Summary of the places that we had covered- Rejang Esplanade, Sibu Express Boat Terminal, dian bian hu for breakfast, Yong An Ting and the pagoda, Sibu Heritage Centre, traditional gom bian for refreshment, and Sibu Central Market.

Finally, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to all my tour members- Trass, Vernie, Yi Mei, Yong, Jessie, Tong Yuen, Jiunn Wai, Ken, Kun, Lih Yik, Pook, Kit Ling, and Xing Jiun, for the opportunity and the experience as a tour guide, especially for the tour on my beloved hometown.

Regards, Ling Shing.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Penang Batu Feringghi Beach

If you think to put your feet down the beach with blue clear sea water, a touch of gentle wind with the hued evening sky is an experience of a lifetime, then, you might agree with us that Feringghi Beach is a place for you.

We heard many unpleasant news about the beach before- dirty, full with trash, accidents that brought injuries to visitors, and the list went on. However, the local authorities have their job well done, which recently had transformed the beach into a vacation paradise.

 This is the prove- no sign of trash on this beach. We could see couples were enjoying their romantic moment while the thrill seekers were busy with their parasailing and jet skis (far left).

Parasailing is popular at this beach. The rate was RM45 per person per trip.

The rates of the water sports.

 The lifeguards are on duty during the daytime.

We took our opportunity to take a walk from Bayview Beach Hotel to Parkroyal Hotel through the beach. Slowly, we made it in 30 minutes. Halfway down the beach, we enjoyed this beautiful sunset, around 6:30 pm.

We moved inwards, from the beach to the street after the sky turned dark. The Batu Feringghi Road turns into a night market belt after the night falls. The night market stretched more than 1 km from Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort to Bayview Beach Resort. The items offered by the night market were not that attractive to us, as they were basically a repetition of souvenirs, fake branded products, such as watches, clothes, and belts, as well as pirated DVDs. The only thing that attracted us was the food.

As we can see from the photos, there were not many people on the street and, it was not the off season. We learned from a taxi driver that the night market was targeting the tourists, with the items sold with the price slightly higher than other places in Penang. That's why the night market attracts less visitors. Trishaw is available at  Feringghi only during the night time (lower right).

We can get various food at Feringghi- Indian food, Chinese food, Middle East food, fast food, Western steak house, you name it, you got it. We tried asam laksa (some refer it as assam laksa) and fried oyster at Long Beach Cafe (it's a food court). The taste, so-so. The food at George Town and Gurney Drive taste better. We passed by some of the food shops such as The Ship and Golden Thai, and we personally felt that the food over there were over-priced.

This is how Batu Feringghi Road looks like during the day time.

Batu Feringghi and Penang Airport are located at the both ends of Penang Island, northern and southern ends respectively, around 30 km apart from each other. By taxi, we took around 40 minutes to travel from the airport to our hotel, and the fare, RM75. We stayed in Bayview Beach Hotel at Batu Feringghi for one night. The hotel is just by the sea, with astonishing sea side view. We chose the hotel as it is cheaper (bigger room and lower rate), compared to the other major hotels nearby, such as Hard Rock Hotel, Parkroyal Hotel, Shangri-La Rasa Sayang, and Holiday Inn. Location wise, a little bit to the western end of the whole tourism belt, but its still acceptably good. If we use the street, by foot, the hotel is 10 minutes away from Parkroyal Hotel and 25 minutes away from Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort (we did a brief calculation when we were moving around the night market). Long Beach Cafe is around 20 minutes away from our hotel.

Bayview Beach Hotel from the street (upper left), with a nice pool facing the beach (upper right). We didn't expect to get such a good view from our hill view deluxe room (lower left), and the room is really big, with many space to move around.

This photo was taken with handphone camera. The wrong white balance setting gives a totally different feeling to the photo. Well, this photo was taken at the beach side of our hotel.

We were lucky to get complimentary breakfast at Parkroyal Hotel, thanks to the conference that one of us had attended at the hotel. 

This is what we could see from our table during our breakfast.

We took the opportunity to walk around and enjoy the nice landscape of Parkroyal Hotel, and this was one of the picturesque scene we saw. In comparison, Parkroyal has better service and nicer landscape, a smaller room, and about RM200 more expensive than Bayview Beach Hotel. 

After we enjoyed our breakfast, we started our journey to Penang Butterfly Farm and Penang War Museum. Follow us now!

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Penang Butterfly Farm and War Museum

Hiding far at the north west corner of Penang Island, Penang Butterfly Farm is truly a hidden gem. Located at Teluk Bahang, approximately 20 km from George Town, but it is just 5 km away from our hotel at Batu Feringghi. As natural lovers, we didn't hesitate to visit the farm, for the second time (first time was in 2005). We took a taxi from Bayview Beach Hotel, with the fare of RM 20. Expensive for just 5 km, but had saved much of our time. 

The farm opens 9 am - 6 pm daily. The admission fees are RM27 for adult and RM15 for child, with 33% discount for MyKad holders. So, we got our admission fee at RM18 per person. The farm improved. That's the first impression when we stepped into the garden area. Many butterflies whirling in the garden with their unscratched wings, with very few of them stopping on the net and tried to find a hole to escape (which showed the farm had provided friendly environment to the butterflies).

We saw many butterflies around the garden area, Autumn Leaf butterfly (upper left), Paper Kite (upper right), and New Lacewing (lower right) are some of the species available. The one on the lower left, is it a Peacock Pansy (Precis almana)?


Guided by resourceful and dedicated farm natural informationist, we learned some precious knowledge about the life cycle of a butterfly. Now, we know how to identify the butterfly's egg.

The egg will soon turns into a caterpillar (larva), pupa (chrysalis), and imago. We saw a Paper Kite imago emerged from pupa in the garden. The imago needs a few hours to dry up its wing before it can fly.

The garden area is well landscaped with waterfall (upper left) and few other water bodies. The directions are clearly stated (upper right). Many indigenous species of plants area available, including the nepenthes which prey on ants (lower right) and the water lily.

We had the chance to touch many of the insects inside the farm, shy leaf insect (upper left) which likes to hide on pomelo tree and gentle giant millipede (upper right) were some of them. The exhibition hall is quite informative (lower right), while the amphibian house provides a chance to take a very close look on different species of frogs.

We spent about an hour and a half at the farm. A canteen is attached to the farm, but it cannot be accessed from the garden area. So, sufficient drink is required to keep us hydrated. Butterflies will be attracted by human sweat, so we should not be surprised that we will become the attraction to the insects once we get wet due to sweating. Getting a taxi at a remote corner of Penang is not an easy task. So, we would advise that making the taxi wait for you is a good idea (or we can make an appointment with the taxi driver who drives us there). The bus service is scheduled at 40 minutes per bus. The information about the farm is available at its official website.

We would like to send our highest appreciation to our natural informationist for his guide.

After visited the butterfly farm, we were lucky enough to get a taxi without long waiting, which brought us from Batu Feringghi to our Chulia Heritage Hotel at George Town, and then to our next destination- Penang War Museum. It was a long journey, as the war museum is located at Batu Maung, just a few kilometers away from Penang Airport (gosh, we should have visited the museum first upon arrival, or before our departure). The taxi fare was RM45 per trip from George Town.

Penang War Museum is in fact a relics of a old British fortification, with massive tunnels and underground facilities. The fort was built by a combined work force of British engineers and local workers. The entrance fee of the museum is RM 20 per adult, and we need to pay RM 2 per camera. The opening hours are 9 am - 6 pm daily.


 Our taxi driver helped us with this photo at the entrance of Penang War Museum.

We came across this replica of 6 inch breech loading gun just after the entrance. The gun which was originally installed here had an effective range of 15 km... wow!

The old abandoned fort has an extensive underground tunnels and fortification system, which was much more sophisticated and systematic compared to Fort Siloso at Sentosa Island. The old weapons and ammunition room (upper left) is located several meters under the hill. The explosive wastes were stored in a four storeys deep chamber (upper right). The entrance to the tunnels and underground chambers (lower left) were built around the fort, served as the escaping route for the soldiers. The rooms for the British Intel and the highest rank officers are located under the hill, which was impossible to be penetrated by the bombers. We found that all the underground complex here have excellent air ventilating system.

 We met another site which was originally the firing bay of the big cannon. There is another firing bay like this in the museum, which the cannon was destroyed by the British during the Japanese invasion.

Anti aircraft artillery, 22 of them altogether were installed around the fort. It was one of the best anti aircraft system in whole South East Asia during World War 2. However, the British army was ordered to destroy most of their weapons before the Japanese attacked on 17 Dec 1941. If they had maintained this fort in full operational state, British might be able to hold longer against the Japanese attack.

The whole fort was built on 20 acres of land, with most of the buildings are well camouflaged. Many of the empty rooms, which once were the hostels for the soldiers are now serves as the places to display the photos, which were taken during War World 2.

Penang War Museum is located at the middle of the jungle. The fort was totally went out of notice after been abandoned after World War 2, for more than 30 years, and still remains as an isolated fort. So, getting our taxi to wait for us while we roam around the museum might be a wise idea.

According to the locals, the place is haunted, believe it or not, this fort was really infested by blood sucking "vampires". We were attacked by these "vampires" until we had to hasten our foot steps towards the exit. So, please bring along the mosquito repellent if you wish to get rid of these annoying pest. Comfortable walking shoes and sufficient drinking water is necessary, if you wish to stay for an hour or two.

The whole journey through Penang Butterfly Farm to Penang War Museum was exhausting. However, we still took the opportunity to stop at Penang Snake Temple on our way back to George Town. The temple has loss most of the snakes to the vast development in vicinity of the temple. At night, we visited Komtar and the shopping malls nearby.

Our visited the UNESCO Heritage Site at George Town on our third day in Penang Island. Follow us now.


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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Penang World Heritage Site Part 1

Chulia Street is located in the heart of George Town, right in the middle of the UNESCO Heritage Site. Staying at Chulia Heritage Hotel was really a good choice, location wise.

Staring from our hotel, we toured around the UNESCO World Heritage Site at 9 am, heading westwards until we reached Penang Road. After taking our breakfast at one of the coffee shops there, we turned into Lebuh Leith (Leith Street) to visit Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. We turned back to Muntri Road, then reached Lebuh Light (Light Street) through Lorong Love (Love Lane). From Light Street, we travelled into Lebuh Pantai (Beach Street), had our lunch at a kopitiam and, visited Peranakan Mansion before we make our stop at Khoo Kongsi along the street. We stepped our foot back into our hotel at around 4 pm, covering a distance of 4.5 km, by foot.

Along our way, we saw different types of old shops, which their age can be determined by their architecture styles. The Southern Chinese style (upper left) was the oldest shops that we could identify, which were built between 1840-1890. Early Strait style shops (upper right) can be found at Love Lane. They were built between 1890-1910. We came across some shops built in Late Strait style (lower left) at Muntri Road, while Early Modern style shops are everywhere across George Town area. We learned the knowledge about architecture styles of the shops from this penang shophouses blog.

We reached this blue building at the end of Leith Road around 10 am.  It was a mansion, which now serves as a boutique hotel. This edifice has won several international awards, which include the highly recognized "Most Excellent Heritage Conservation Award", which was given by UNESCO. It is a popular movie filming site as well. More information about Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion can be found at its official website. We didn't go into the mansion, as the first tour started only at 11 am. We need to pay RM12 per person for the tour. Many had mentioned that the tour is somehow overrated. Our advice, why not take a look on their comments, and then, make your own decision.

We came across this Hainan Temple, which was built in 1895 at Muntri Road. This temple serves the goddess of Mazu. What you can't miss about this temple is the fine sculptures on it's walls and the pillars (as some of them can be seen at the pillars of the arch). 

 The Goldsmith's Guild (upper left) at Muntri Road and Carpenter's Guild (upper right) at Love Lane are two of the oldest trade associations in Penang. We entered the Carpenter's Guild and saw a very fine sculpture was hanged in the middle of the guild (lower right). Love Lane is an old street, which the name might has the connection to the illicit liaison of mistress, which was once quite popular at the street.

We met this historical Church of Assumption at the junction between Love Lane and Light Road, which was built more than 160 years ago in 1860. This church can accommodate more than 1000 congregation in a single mass.

The pictures designed with stained glass in the church are the lighting windows, decorative pictures, and the story tellers.

St. John Church is located just beside Penang Church of Assumption. This should be a very popular place wedding photo taking. How did we know about that? Take a look on the notice below...

 Commercial photography and pre-wedding photography is NOT ALLOWED.

We were not posing commercial nor pre-wedding purposes. So, taking photo there was allowed. :p A helpful tour guide, Gary, volunteered to take this photo for us. He is specialized in Penang tour. Take a look on his blog here. Or contact him at garyleop@yahoo.com.

We took a short rest in front of Penang Town Hall, as the pedestrian path over there was well shaded. There are three main heritage sites beside Light Street- Penang Town Hall, Penang and Fort Cornwallis. Penang Town Hall was built in 1880. It was once been called the "Ang Mo Gong Kuang", or The Meeting Place of the Foreigners by the locals.

The Building of Penang Municipal Council was built in 1903, and still functional until today.

We reached the entrance of Fort Cornwallis, with the sun blazing 90 degree above us. This is the fort which was built by Francis Light in 1786.  Lucky, and we were saved from the stinging heat by the trees planted inside the fort.

The building of Fort Cornwallis marked the starting of British colonization in Penang. From what we can see, many of the cannons are facing the sea, make the fort a powerful British stand against the Malay army from the peninsular mainland. The design of the fort showed that Francis Light had the intention to take over Penang by force, from the very beginning of his plan. A small chapel was built in the fort (lower left), while some parts of the wall were reconstructed (lower right).

Along Light Road, we turned right when we met this sixty feet tower. The tower was built in commemorating the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1902 (the construction started in 1897, but the Queen died before the completion of the tower). The building was sponsored by Cheah Cheng Eok, one of the richest men in Penang at that time.

We took a lunch break at an air conditioned Kopitiam, next to Standard Chartered. We continued our journey along Beach Street after the lunch. Follow us now!

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