Saturday, September 26, 2009

Boiling water in the wilderness

While folks are either celebrating Hari Raya or just bumming around during the holiday, I went on a hiking trip with 8 others. 2 days 1 night trip from Gopeng to Cameron.


This trek starts from the Gopeng fruit orchards through the palm oil estates cutting pass the orang Asli villages and through Kinta forest, passing another orang Asli village and climb up to Tahan Rata in Cameron Highlands.

This trip was a real leechy experience for me and thought me not to under estimate the power of leeches. You might think "Heh.. it's just leeches, bite, then let it bite lah" well that was what I thought too. I had a total of 41 leech bites when I completed the 35km trek. If you think that is a lot, my trek buddies topped me with 50+ bites. Salt, alcohol, tobacco, insect repellent and even Bygone did not help much… Kinta forest was laughing at us. I can hear Kinta’s soul mocking us “all those are kids play, welcome to the real deal” HAHAHA ok… it’s dramatic but honestly I can’t find another way to describe the experience.

I can continue for pages, raving and ranting on the Kinta forest (I call it leech valley), and all the back to back bad luck that we faces, but this is a food blog… I'll get to the more stomach filling portion of the trek.


Taken from my Facebook description...
"Can't cross the swelling river, raining heavily, freezing cold, wet clothes, LEECHES EVERYWHERE, no tent, and I was thinking to myself...I CANNOT sleep here with the leeches...HOW HOW... stand and sleep? Then this was the part where I wore my poncho even when I was already wet (too cold ma) and sat on a tree root. I felt the leeches up my body, arms, legs, neck... I lost it. My low low lowest point during the trek.

...then there's fire! AMEN!"


Alang, one of our guides "saved" us with building up a fire. When it stopped raining, we collected water from the river using bamboos. Crumpled leafs were stuffed in the opening of the bamboo to make sure nothing gets in and also to keep the heat in while the water is boiling. The water filled bamboo is placed against the fire and let boil.


20 minutes later, hot water and cooked noodles. I popped an egg into my noodles and Korean instant noodles have never tasted so good. The small tray of eggs which was carried in a recycled paper tray were still perfect. None cracked. (Don't spend your money on plastic egg carriers, those pasar malam recycle paper trays works the best.)

The night was cold... and leechy... so many stories to tell... but fast forward to the next morning.


The Campbell Mushroom soup with oats I made wasn't as delicious as the noodles last night. Maybe because I knew I would be out of leech valley in an hour and am really not interested in anything other than crossing that darn river. We had to sleep in leech valley because the last river that we were suppose to cross before we reach the orang Asli kampung was at least a grade 3..maybe 3.5. From the looks of it, I wouldn't even want to raft on it, definitely a big No No if you are asking me to cross it.

I had the soup at about 6am, along with crackers and a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Should have eaten a heavier breakfast because my stomach started calling out to me. Breakfast didn't even last me for 2 hours.


While taking a break, there was this bunch of orang Asli kids making fire. Very interesting because when the fire was big enough, they emptied their bags which was filled with tapioca! I was so so so tempted to ask for a piece but ... hehehe shy la. The tapiocas was skinned and thrown into the fire. Alang mentioned that they were armatures in burning the tapiocas. The white surface turned all black very quickly from all the ash and coal. The elderly orang Asli would have been able to burn the tapioca but still able to maintain the “whiteness” of the tapioca.

It was another couple of hours walk until we reached Bharat tea farm in Tanah Rata where it started to rain again!... but everyone was just glad we made it out of leech valley in one piece.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rattan has fruits?

Back in the good old days of primary school, I was a very innocent and good student. *ahem ahem* The school I studied at is small and the headmaster (I still remember Mr.Teoh! He was a really good headmaster!) knew all the students, if not by name, by their faces. He knows who the bad ass nottie students and the less naughty students. He used to have a collection of rattan (I think about 6 of them all in different thickness) in this office to whoalup whoever that did bad.

How did I know all this? Well, I never kena rotan before la.

Mr.Teoh always walks around with this thickest rattan. He used to always use it to point at rubbish and instruct students to pick them up and throw it in the dustbin. When he sees students being rebellious, he will ask some other student to head to his room and fetch him his other rattans.

Mr.Teoh: Teckiee, go to my room. Take number 5 for me.
Teckiee: OK.
*walks to the headmaster's office, looks behind the door. WOAHHH! the rattan is neatly hung on the wall with numberings above the nail*

Number 5 is the second thinnest rattan...6 being the thinnest (and I say most painful!)
*fiak fiak fiak* Itulah consequences of behind a naughty student.

Anyway, I had this flash back when David, the owner of Gopeng Rainforest Resort should me this.


Rattan fruit. Yeah I know... they have fruits?! Apparently they do! This one is really ripe. I did a search on Google and found that those on the rattans are more yellow in colour like the skin of a longan fruit.


David also mentioned that they can be eaten! Yay! Sourish little things. It tasted like lime with lychee's texture. It is quite nice actually. So next time you come across bundles of rattan fruits... make sure you try them.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Round sea grapes - Caulerpa lentillifera

I know. It's been a while. But please forgive me for my long hiatus because I was stranded in the middle of the ocean and was forced to LOB (live on board) for the past few couple of months.


HAHAHA! Ok, jokes aside. It's good to be back! I have been working odd hours and it was really taxing me. Ocean = office. LOB = Camped at work so many times that I lost track of it. But all is good now because if I don't work hard, I won't be able to enjoy as much when I play harder :p

In Nov 2008, I joined a group of student researchers from SOS Malaysia to Sungai Pulai (the river that separates Malaysia and Singapore) for seahorse and pipe fish survey. During the trip, we were suppose to look out and catch seahorses/pipe fish for tagging.

I was quite disappointed because for the few hours that we were at the sand bank, not even a single seahorse was spotted. We saw a bunch of pipe fishes but they swam really fast. It was difficult to catch them using only our bare hands and a plastic bag.

However, I did come across a few other interesting creatures.


Sea cucumber, the boring one.


Sea cucumber, the interesting one!


Sea urchin.

We took the speed boat back to the SOS hut, change of clothes.. and hey.. I saw one of the researcher taking out a full bag of seaweeds. Tons of them and all different species. She slowly place them in water and took one bunch up... and started to eat them!

The seaweed that she ate resembles bunches of little grapes. Each 'grape' is a tiny spherical bead, and these are tightly packed on a vertical 'stem' to form a sausage-like shape (2-8cm long). The 'grape' has a distinct constriction where it attaches to the 'stem'. These bunches of 'grapes' emerge from a long horizontal 'stem' that creeps over the surface. It grows on coral rubble or on rocks. Colours range from bright green to bluish and olive green.
I regretted that I didn't ask for them and try.


Lucky me, I saw them again all the way in Kota Kinabalu's night market for RM1 a plate. I knew I had to try them so I bought and took it back to the lodge I was staying.

Guess what... I had no idea how to clean them! HAHAHAHA! (People who went with me to Kinabalu better not read this) I kind of just rinse them in water. Pluck the stem off. And threw away the parts which I though looked like it was rotting. But aiyorrr! I have not touch these Caulerpa lentillifera (that's the scientific name for it by the way) in my life and now I have to clean them? I just kasi hentam lah hahahaha.

I ate a bit ... and YUCK! tasted like sea water. DUH! My apologies to Lf, Andy, Sim, Darren... and I kind of forgot who else tried them.


The kind folks at Borneo backpacker lodge not only let me wash the fishy smelling seaweed in the pantry but later taught me how to eat them. I need lime and chili and a little salt. But errr.. it tasted like sea water! Do you really need salt?! I head downstairs to the local style post war coffee shop (really cool antiques there!) to ask if I could borrow some lime. The young shop owner was really kind because he asked the chef to see what I can do with the bowl of round sea grapes I had with me. I later found out that I cleaned them right but I had to rinse them more, and with warm/hot water.


I tasted them again and Yup! the sea water taste and smell was gone and it tasted really good with lime and chili padi! Crunchy and filled with water (not salty) on the inside. Too bad I couldn't buy some home.

ps, for those who missed me.. thanks dears! and *waves to J2Kfm!*

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