12 Days of Christmas

First DaySecond DayThird DayFourth DayFifth DaySixth DaySeventh DayEight DayNinth DayTenth DayEleventh DayTwelfth Day


On the First Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
A PAIR OF EXCITED TRAVELERS

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009

For more than a month, our bags were packed and we were so ready to go…That’s THREE luggages, one camera bag, one backpack, one carry-on and a big handbag to put my bolster. 😀 The better part of the three luggages were filled only with presents or things for people at home. That left only enough room for the bare essentials, ie. underwear, toothbrush and sunglasses.

We were boarding the first flight out of JFK to HKG bright and early in the am. The night before was a mad rush to finish all the chores and last-minute packing before leaving for KL. After a quick dinner and washing up, we packed all of Jessie’s essentials and dropped her off at her sitter’s. She didn’t realize what she was in for. She has known for a while that something was happening. It was the what, when and how that she didn’t understand. I tried to tell her every night, but instead of listening, she either dozes off from my rubbing or spreads eagle for more belly rubs. I’m overjoyed to be home, but am dejected for leaving my baby behind.

Jessie thought, as she saw us packing her things into the car, that we were all going for a vacation together. She happily snoozed next to me in the car on the way to the sitter’s. When we arrived, she awoke happily and ran down to her new “destination.” Even when the sitter took her leash from me, Jessie still had no clue. Until she was behind a door, and I on the other side of it. Then she panicked. But hubs quickly tore me away, to “lessen” her pain. I think she thinks that I’m abandoning her. Technically, I am.

Our car arrived as expected on the day of. We, however, overslept and were awoken by an urgent call from our driver. In a mad rush, we brushed our teeth, got dressed and turned off all unnecessary utilities. Thank goodness we got everything done the night before. Timer set. Electronics unplugged. Plants watered. Windows sealed. Neighbor and friends informed. Hong Kong here we come! There is excitement and trepidation in the chilly cold December air. We’re psyched to be going away, but we are also dreading the very long and arduous journey home.

We easily wove through Manhattan in the early morning without the crazy rush hour traffic. Met up with TnT, our fellow travelers, at JFK. After checking-in, we hung around the airport until it was time to board the plane.

TnT were seated next to a pill-popper. Unfortunately for us, we had the worse end of the stick. Hubs had a stinker next to him. Not just ANY stinker, it was some serious BO going on. Come on! This early in the morning and THAT cold. How long have you not showered you bloody kwai loh!?! For the next 16 hours, hubs was ready to die, but patiently sat through it.

We didn’t sleep a wink.

We should have asked to move, and maybe got an upgrade to first class.

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On the Second Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
TWO WEARY DRIFTERS

Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009

We landed in Chek Lap Kok Airport at 2:00 pm. TnT proceeded to catch the connecting flight to KL, while the two of us stopped in HK. After we claimed our luggages and went through HK customs & immigration, we took the Airport Express from Hong Kong International Airport to Kowloon. From there we took a shuttle to Stanford Hillview Hotel in Tsimshatsui. Note to self: next time you come across a hotel called HILL-VIEW think twice about checking in. It was definitely ON a hill. The hill was at a 45º angle, but felt more like 90º. Hauling our luggage up that hill felt like we were pulling bricks. Oh, and the view? I saw into an adjacent apartment building, who really didn’t mind sharing their business with the entire world. I quickly drew the curtains. No more view for me.

After settling in, and calling on our friend, we still had some time before dinner.

We went to the ticketing counter for the ferry into Macau and got our fares for the next day, but not before going to a foreign currency exchange to get some local dough. Turns out, the ticketing office is right below our previous hotel when we were there two years ago – the Royal Pacific, and about a good 25-minute brisk walk from our Hill-View. The only consolation was a stop at Hui Lau Shan for a drink of bird’s nest.

We rushed back to our Hill-View, thinking that we were late for dinner – no thanks to my skills in reading time, only to realize we still had an hour more to go. As tired as we were, instead of taking a nap, we showered, so that we can immediately hit the bed when we got back from dinner. My dear old friend from St. Cloud (JnK) finally pulled up to the hotel with his newly acquired black Beamer and ushered us to dinner at his old stomping grounds in Hang Hau. We had an array of seafood dishes – all of which, was mighty fresh and tasted really good. There were herb boiled soup, black peppered long shelled clams, steamed scallops with vermicelli topped with dried prawns, steamed baby abalones with ginger and lobster in cheese.

eating

After dinner, we adjourned to JnK’s new apartment where we spent the next 5 hours. After catching up and exchanging Christmas gifts, we were driven to TVB headquarters, for a night view of where all the Chinese series are made. We finally got back to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Even as tired as we were, I only managed about two hours of sleep. Hubs slept like a baby.

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On the Third Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
THREE DIFFERENT CULTURES

Friday, Dec. 18, 2009

We were jolted from our slumber by the beeping of our alarm clock at 6 am. We hurriedly got dressed and took all the necessary items (travel documents, cameras, water) for our trip to Macau. After our long hike to the China Ferry Terminal, which is at the Royal Pacific Hotel, we almost missed our boat. Sweating it out under layers of clothing and jacket in the cool waters is a recipe for disaster. Lucky for us, we are made of sterner stuff.

First Ferry Ticketing Office,
China Ferry Terminal

Shop 8B & 3, 1/F, China Ferry Terminal,
33 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong

• Shop 8B’s Hours: 6:30am – 10:30pm Daily
• Shop 3’s Hours: 6:10am – 6:00pm Daily

Macau was once a port city for trading silk to Rome. It’s earliest known inhabitants were fishermen from Fujian and farmers from Guangdong. In the early 1550s the Portuguese merchant-explorers reached Ou Mun, which the locals also called A Ma Gao, “place of A Ma”, in honour of the Goddess of Seafarers, whose temple stood at the entrance to the sheltered Inner Harbour. The Portuguese adopted the name, which gradually changes into the name Macau. With the permission of Guangdong’s mandarins, Macau was established as a city that became a major entrepôt for trade between China, Japan, India and Europe. The Roman Catholic church also sent some of its greatest missionaries to continue the work of St Francis Xavier, (who died nearby after making many converts in Japan). Other churches were built, as well as fortresses, which gave the city a historical European appearance that distinguishes it to this day. Macau has been a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China since 20 December 1999, and, like Hong Kong, benefits from the principle of “one country, two systems.”

Macau is a tourist island-country, which means most services should be catered to tourist. Looking for the Lotus Square was a challenge, as no one seems to understand what or where we were looking for. It was only after we asked a security guard at the Fishermen’s Wharf that we were directed correctly to the Square.

Fishermen's Wharf

• The Lotus Square, where the Lotus Flower in Full Bloom stands, marks the return of sovereignty of Macau to the Chinese. The sculpture is made of gilded bronze and weighs 6.5 tons, with a height of 6 meters and a diameter of 3.6 meters. This gift represents the everlasting prosperity of Macau, and its red granite base signifies the Macau Peninsula, Taipa Island and Coloane Island.

Lotus Square

• Then we headed to the Historic Centre of Macau, which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2005 by UNESCO. The site has over 400 years of history and spans eight squares and 22 historic buildings, of which we only managed 2 squares (Senado Square & St. Dominic’s Square) and 12 buildings (A-Ma Temple, Mandarin’s House, Dom Pedro V Theatre, Sir Robert Ho Tung Library, ‘Leal Senado’ Building, Lou Kau mansion, St. Dominic’s Church, the Ruins of St. Paul’s, Na Tcha Temple, Casa Garden, the Protestant Cemetery, and Guia Fortress (including Guia Chapel and Lighthouse).

Once again, trying to maneuver our way to Senado Square was like looking for a needle in a haystack.  No one knew where or what we were looking for.  We even stopped at the police station, which directed us to a nearby bus stop to get across the city.  We tried catching the bus, but were rudely told by the driver that wasn’t his route, and was promptly told to leave the bus. A “kind” resident told us to go around the bend to catch another bus. Another hoax. By this time, we were so frustrated that we hailed a cab instead.

Here’s the amazing part. I spoke to the cab driver in English. But on discovering the initial fare of the taxi, was so shocked, I had to tell hubs the price in Japanese. In turn, the driver started spewing out at least 5 different languages and dialects, of which I only caught four including Malay, Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese.

Weaving through the bustling street of Macau, our driver quickly got us to Senado Square. By this time, aside from the seasickness, my stomach was crying out in hunger. I wanted to gag so badly.

• Macau is filled with squares, which are paved in wavy patterns inspired by the tones and materials of Portugal. Senado Square is one of the better-known ones, usually showing up as background for movies. The infamous fountain sitting in the middle of the square has been renovated a few times and a celestial globe now sits in the heart of the fountain. The Square also is host to many architectural gems, namely St, Dominic’s Church, the Holy House of Mercy, Leal Senado Building and Sam Kai Vui Kun Temple.

I am still stupefied by the fact that breakfast was a rare commodity. Almost dying of an overflow of acid in my stomach, we crawled into St. Dominic’s Church.

St. Dominic’s Church, which once had a dramatic past, is this year’s site for the annual Christmas concert on Dec. 23. Too bad we will be missing the Macau Orchestra performing the works of Mozart and Bach for Christmas. 😦

St. Dominic's Church

There were many shops unopened that early in the morning, but what caught my eye was a Japanese store called Daiso, which promised to have food in it. We hurried into it, hubs more so, as he didn’t want to face my wrath. The shop was filled with knick-knacks, from housewares down to pet supplies. Winding through 4 floors of nonsense, we finally found food.  It wasn’t solid food, but to appease me, junk food will suffice. We got a bag of rice crackers, honeydew soda and coffee to keep the energy going.

As we left the shop, sipping on our drinks but unwilling to open the bag of crackers, we spotted opened restaurants. Hallelujah!  If I could sing I would have.  The choice was a Chinese store just heating up their charcoals or a Japanese store serving taiyaki.  The place is called Rookies’ Golden Taiyaki at Shop IC, G/F, Rua do Monte Centro a few steps from the Ruins of St. Paul. Hubs ordered fried pork with omelet tonpeiyaki and I ordered a cabbage omelet issenyaki. I have never been this ecstatic at the prospects of eating.

After being fed, we went on our happy way towards the Ruins of St. Paul, also known as 大三巴 dai san ba.

• The Ruins of St. Paul was once a magnificent church, until a fire razed it and a sister college in 1835. Built in 1602, the church together with the Jesuit College, served missionaries studying Chinese before heading off to the Ming Court as astronomers and mathematicians. The fire left a dramatic façade, complete with stone carvings and statues, behind. Today, many musical performances are enacted at its steps.  We also went into the Museum of Sacred Art and Crypt where admission was free.

By the Ruins, we saw different food: fish balls in soup ranging from mild to fiery hot, bubble tea, crêpe like pastries, pork jerkies, and the infamous Portuguese import “Pastéis de Nata”, little egg tarts. It didn’t matter that we just ate.  The more the merrier. We started with piping hot fish balls, which were chewy and very tasty. Since I got thirsty from all the MSG from the fish ball soup, I got a cup of green tea bubble tea. After this, we waited in line for the egg tarts and ordered more to bring back to Hong Kong for our friends. (MOP$5 each at the store AFTER the Ruins. The stores by the Ruins sell the tarts for MOP$6 each)

eating

Since we were quite well-fed, we decided to stroll around in the vicinity of the Ruins and found a little park. We were relieved to find benches, as our legs – mine especially, were screaming for relief. It was still early in the day, and the only people in the park were old-timers (us included) “walking” their birds.

weary travellers

While I took a breather, hubs discovered a set of stairways leading to an overlook. I took one look at the uneven cobbled steps and the height, and told him to go ahead without me. Instead, I hung around watching people passing by. Purple must be an in color, as I discovered, while watching a few women (mainly from the Mainland) covered from top to bottom in purple adornments. And there were MANY Mainlanders.

fortress

• Hubs discovered the Mount Fortress. The Mount built-in 1617-26, occupies a hilltop to the east of the ruins of St. Paul′s. It was constructed by the Jesuits as part of a complex which also included the college and church of St. Paul′ s. The canons were used only once, when the Dutch invaded Macau in 1622. This was also the first residence of the governors of Macau. Over the following decades trees grew from the platform of the fort, which was transformed into a public park where residents and visitors came to enjoy the views.

Mount Fortress

Na Tcha Temple is right next to the Ruins of St. Paul, too seemingly different believes, but when it is found in Macau, it’s more like an integration and acceptance of culture and religion. This is a rather small temple but has more than 400 years of history in it. This temple was so small that we almost missed it, thinking it to be just someone’s abode.

NaCha Temple

The “Section of the Old City Wall” was first constructed in 1569, broken down by the Chinese who opposed the walls, and then rebuild by Portuguese until 1632. The remaining wall, located near Na Tcha Temple and the Ruins of St. Paul, measures only 18.5 m long, 5.6 m high and 1 m wide.

• The Mandarin’s House on Travessa de António da Silva was once the residence of prominent Chinese literary figure Zheng Guan Ying. It is a traditional 4,000 square meter Chinese-style compound made up of several courtyard houses. Its architecture dates back to the Qing Dynasty. Unfortunately for us, it was undergoing renovations. Lilau Square, St. Lawrence’s Church, the Moorish Barracks and A-Ma Temple can be found nearby, illustrating Macau’s multicultural background in a mix of striking architectural features.

Lilau Square

A-Ma Temple is said to be the first landing place for the Portuguese. The goddess A-Ma has long been revered as the protector of the fishermen of Macau. Chinese legend has it that touching the top of the moon gate up the hill will bring luck in love. By this time, having walked the entire Senado Square southwards to A-Ma Temple, the stairs were really ominous. If I had more gumption, I would have touched that moon gate, and maybe my holding out for a certain somebody will finally come true. Since I didn’t touch that gate, but was only in the vicinity of it, I don’t think my love luck has changed much.

A-Ma Temple

After the temple, what we thought was a short walk to Casino Lisboa became a journey of the southern tip of Macau. We walked, climbed and scaled across the rocky surfaces of Macau’s uneven roadways. It soon became a challenge to our knees, ankles and our flabby thighs. Even our coats began to weigh like dumbbells on our shoulders. We kept consoling ourselves that the prize was at the end. But our bodies knew better. Every step we took reminded us that we were no spring chickens anymore. The earlier meal that was consumed was not only burnt, but reserves were being called upon.

Walking

• Our last stop for the day was at least one casino. We were told to head to MGM for their buffet, but after learning that it was a distance, we opted for the closer Lisboa. We went in, took two looks and boarded the shuttle to the ferry terminal. That was all our bodies could take.

Macau Trotting

Partial map of Macau

We walked, looked, photographed and ate till we dropped. We called it quits soon after one visit to Lisboa. We took the 3:30 pm ferry back to Hong Kong. Unfortunately for us, not only was our hotel a hike away, it was also up that ultra steep hill. We bought lunch/dinner back to the hotel and finally ate at 6:30 pm. I had Hong Kong’s infamous shrimp dumplings with noodles and hubs had a plate of seafood fried noodle. It really didn’t matter what we ate at that point. I was so sore, I had to pop Celebrex to ease some of the inflammation. Sleeping was not a problem after that. When JnK called for drinks at 10 pm, even though we were sleeping in our “going-out clothes,” we just surrendered and finally slept through the night.

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On the Fourth Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
FOUR HOURS TO HOME

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009

We woke up bright and early the next day having slept our fill.  However, our bodies were aching. Everything was throbbing.

Since our stomachs were rumbling, we headed out for an early breakfast at 7 in the morning. We stopped by a coffee shop on Kimberly Road and since we couldn’t read the menu, pointed to the dishes on the next table. Hubs got their store’s best-seller beef brisket noodle soup and I had oily fried noodles.

BreakfastAfter breakfast, we walked around, looking for stores that might be opened (since hubs forgot to pack underwear), and chanced upon an outdoor dim sum store. We promised to buy from them on our way back to the hotel.  After roaming the streets of Nathan Road for more than an hour, we figured it was time to return to the hotel, pack and wait for JnK for brunch. Of course being as greedy as we were, we stopped at the earlier dim sum store, and took away two chicken steamed buns.

We returned to the hotel, packed up and ate our buns while waiting for JnK to call us. They finally did and we were told to meet them at the Kowloon station – ie. Elements shopping mall. They met us there close to 11 am.

Farewell

After checking in our baggage at Kowloon Station, we proceeded into Elements for lunch at Full Moon restaurant. (We didn’t let them know what pigs we were earlier and the result was over-stuffing) We had a vast selection of Hong Kong’s best dim sum, most notably shrimp dumplings, pork rice noodles, fried shrimp pancakes, and an almond jelly with Osmanthus flower 桂花.

Eating

After eating, we strolled around the mall to kill some time before boarding the Airport Express train at 1:45 pm to get to the airport. The mall is definitely huge, covering over a million square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment all under one roof. It is divided into 5 elemental zones metal, wood, water, fire and earth. I think we were at the Water Zone.

Elements

We caught the 3 pm flight into KUL. The plane touched down as expected and we finally reached home around 9:30pm. Embarrassingly, I misdirected the cab driver to a few wrong turns into different housing areas before finally redirecting him to my home of 18 years. I know, I should be shot. When we got home, there was more food waiting for us. Daddy had ordered a special take out for us of pancake-fried beehoon and seafood fried flat noodles. Mommy boiled gingko bilbo soup. Stuffed. Definitely stuffed.

All the girls are finally home – but TnT had left earlier in the day for their hotel before we arrived.

After we had our late dinner, hubs and I met our long-time college friend for more eating/drinking at PapaRich, a franchise coffee shop that is popping up faster than the spread of H1N1.  White flag.

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On the Fifth Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
FIVE GOLDEN RINGS

Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009

The long-awaited TnT’s wedding dinner in KL, and the entire Chong and Phoa clan met (minus a few).

The day began with the older sisters running off to preen, stopping first at the salon for a quick mani and pedi, which took longer than expected and delayed our planned lunch with the family at home.

Lunch with the entire family (minus hubs who left earlier to be with his family) was the whole nine-yards. Even TnT returned home for lunch. We had pig stomach soup with abalone, oo-ee-pann – a traditional Hakka dish of diced mushrooms and dried prawns fried with yam that took a few days to prepare, fried chicken wings, french beans with shrimp and Shanghai lettuce fried with fish. We were stuffed to the brim again. As daddy dropped TnT off back at their hotel in KL, Cheh and I showered early so that when daddy returned, we could go to the salon to get our hair done.

Dinner was at Oversea Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. We were actually running late, not because Cheh and I ran off to the salon. In fact, we were very prompt. We had to turn back around, after leaving the house, as daddy forgot to bring an extra bottle of wine. Just as well, since Cheh needed to get more things – clothes tape (to avoid a mishap ala Janet Jackson during the Superbowl), camera, water and gum.

The restaurant wasn’t the best place to have a wedding, but according to many of the guests, the food was definitely good. We had a variety of appetizer, shark’s fin soup with lobster and scallops, a roasted baby suckling pig, steamed fish, sweet glutinous rice, prawns, mixed vegetables with mushrooms and dessert of sweet dragon eye soup and rice crackers.

the wedding feast

The dinner reception was held on the second floor of the restaurant. However, many customers of the restaurant strolled in and out of the second floor constantly to use the bathroom – located ONLY on the second floor. So every Tom, Dick, Harry, Mary, Jane and Sally ambled casually into the wedding “hall” and stood and stared at the only white boy in the entire restaurant.  I guess that was the intention?

wedding

Cheh and I were also assigned last-minute duties – manning the reception counter, guarding the money and gifts, greeting, directing and ushering the guests, 11th hour emcee and finally money counter. Even hubs got the unofficial duty of photographer for the night.

Of course, Cheh’s get-up had a few close calls, even with the additional clothes tape.  She flashed my aunt, who was sitting next to us, a few times. My aunt consoled her saying that it was, “OK, very fashionable.”  “很流行.”

After all the eating, “yum seng,” and meeting and greeting, the event finally came to a wrap close to midnight. After we paid off the restaurant, we returned home, while TnT prepared for their early morning flight out to Bali for the next 12 days.

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On the Sixth Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
SIX CHORES TO-DO
Monday, Dec. 21, 2009

The day began very early, in fact before the sun even rose.

• Hubs had a scheduled appointment with the US Embassy bright and early in the morning. Daddy drove us there, and after dropping hubs off, we took a walk around the area of Jalan Ampang. After what seemed like an eternity, hubs came out from the embassy looking forlorn. He had to return to the embassy again, but only WHEN they called. The question was would he make it in time for his return on the 28th and before the upcoming Christmas break? Low in spirits, we returned home only to complete the chores already set out for the day like zombies.

• Cheh, hubs and I then headed to Mid-Valley mall to purchase my parents’ Christmas gift – a flat screen TV. After browsing around in two shops (Harvey Norman and Best Denki), we decided that the later had a better and cheaper selection of TV.  We settled on a Panasonic 42″ plasma (even though we were going to purchase a LCD) when the salesperson convinced us that since HD is not yet available in Malaysia, the plasma will not enhance the pixelation or graininess of analog TV. We were supposed to be in Petaling Jaya (PJ) for a dental appointment at 2. But since the TV transaction took longer than expected, we decided to have a quick bite in the mall at Sushi King, a kaiten sushi (carousel-style sushi). This took longer than expected, and we even had to cancel our order, which thoroughly frightened our poor waitress who promptly dropped the dishes she was about to serve us.

• We finally got into PJ for our dental appointment a little before 2 pm. Cheh still had to park, but dropped hubs and I off first. In the cool and calm office, which had sounds of birds and insects chirping, hubs and I fell asleep waiting for the doctor who had another patient before us. And that’s how Cheh found us, both snoozing comfortably on the dentist’s coach. Instead of the three of us waiting around for one dentist, Cheh and I then ran off to get chips for our phones. I officially had a working KL phone after that, and not to mention clean and shiny teeth.

Still hungry after that, (since we didn’t quite have lunch) we opted for guava with sour plum powder. We saw a goreng pisang store (fried bananas) but decided against it, as the bananas didn’t “look” too sweet. Beggars sometimes can be choosers.

• After our short stint in PJ, Cheh then drove us and dropped us off at the Swiss Garden Inn, where we were supposed to spend the night. Daddy had won a one night stay at the hotel during a drawing for mother’s day and then passed on the winning to us instead. Unfortunately for us, the hotel was, to put it mildly, a piece of crap.

Swiss Inn Hotel

The hotel room was dingy and smelled horrible. The room door and the bathroom door didn’t lock. The bathroom was something I didn’t even want to hover over, much like do anything major in. It was so bad, we wanted to go back home to my hard pillows, but decided not to throw my father’s good-will towards us away. We decided to stick it out, and instead, spent the day AWAY from the room.

• We went shopping, or in our case, window shopping, after that. We dropped off my and cheh’s wedding skirts for alteration at a tailor nearby, and flagged a taxi down to Lot 10 for $5 from Chinatown. We went into Isetan and browsed around for a while before we decided it was too expensive for us.  Then we crossed the bridge over to Sungei Wang and found more nonsense there that caught our eyes. We bought a bag of nibbles, face masks, a cup of mango bubble tea and almost got some mangas, but hubs couldn’t decide how many he wanted. We also strolled into music stores, hair accessories stores, anime stores and odds and ends stores. We even ended up in Low-Yat looking for a camera battery replacement.

• The day finally ended at the Equatorial Hotel for our anniversary dinner. This made me reminisce. I had to meet our planners, Balam and Mary, so I asked concierge to page them for me. Balam came first and after a brief confusion, remembered hubs and I, and led us to the Chalet for our meal. He then found Mary, who was working on a prom night at the same ballroom that we had our wedding reception at. She immediately recognized me, and gave us a warm embrace. It’s nice to be remembered not just as a “client” but as a fellow human. I was very surprised with the concept of a “prom night” in Malaysia, as this has never been a trend when we were in school. The teenagers were all decked out in the finest tuxedos, dresses, with perfectly coiffed hair and well-don makeup – all according to Mary were done by hired professionals. It’s the fa-mo bank, according to cheh (father-mother bank). What happened to the simple life of going to school, getting an education and trying to get into college/university?

Dinner at the Chalet was just special. The atmosphere was inviting but quiet, and the wait staff were all attentive but not overly so. Food was quite exquisite. We started off with an array of appetizers – wrapped sliced beef, ham and lox, mixed cold vegetables, seafood and fruit salads, cheeses, garlic knots and multi-grain raisin buns. Then hubs had steak while I had salmon. It would have tasted better if I were not so tired, constipated and worried about going back to the hotel that looked like it just might be infested with something. I had half a mind to check into the Equatorial, but thought better of it. Instead, during our last course, I used their bathroom for something I would not do at the Swiss Inn.  😀 We left Equatorial Hotel sate, happy, contented but tired.

After a tiring day of walking, browsing and eating, we returned, begrudgingly, to the Swiss Inn. Even though I had pranced around the dusty and filthy city the entire day, I could not bring myself to step into their bathroom to clean myself. Instead, I just put on fresh pjs and crawled under the covers, careful not to touch anything that wasn’t white in color. In fact, I had planned, before seeing the Swiss Inn, to return to the hotel to get dressed for our night out at the Equatorial. But after seeing the Swiss Inn, my plan was drastically altered.

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On the Seventh Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
SEVEN LAYERS OF GRIME

Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009

We woke up very early and headed down to the café for our complimentary breakfast. Before that, hubs decided to shower, only to find out that their hot water wasn’t working. That is what you call a wake up call. After our unappetizing breakfast (which could have been better if I had just walked out to the hawker store), we walked the stretch of Petaling Street and collected my altered skirts from the tailor.

Daddy came to pick us up from the hotel a little after 11 am and because Cheh forgot something from home, we managed to drop off our stuff and I even had a change of clothes (but no time for a shower!) 😦

We then headed off to Mid Valley (again! – it’s like the new hangout) for Cheh to meet with her friends for lunch, while daddy, hubs and I had lunch at Dragon-i. We ordered their 小龙包 Xiao Loong Pau (pork dumplings with soup flowing in the wrapping), fried eel, a couple of hand-made noodle dishes and a clay pot chicken rice. The dumplings were juicy and mouth-watering, with the right amount of spices. The hand-made noodles were chewy – just the way I like them.  Even the fried eel was appetizing. After lunch, we walked around the mall a little before meeting up with Cheh again. Ten minutes before our meet up, daddy and hubs decided to have 糖水 tong sui/dessert. Hubs had durian cendol while daddy had a huge bowl of tau fu fa/congealed soy with yau cha kuay/fried buns, and even I were cajoled into having ice kacang, which I never finished.

After meeting with Cheh, daddy was dropped off at home, and the three of us dash off to KL again, this time for our hair cut at Toni and Guy. Cheh dropped us off first, as we were running late for our 2 pm appointment, and hubs and I who looked lost was helped by a guy in the lift of the building. Turns out, he is our hairstylist, Gary. My hair, together with  Cheh’s, was lopped off more than 10″ for  Locks of Love and then expertly and painstakingly styled. Hubs wanted to get his hair cut too, but we were running out of time for our next meeting, as it drew close to 5:30 pm and rush hour traffic. As we maneuvered through KL traffic, we tried to find our way back to PJ the fastest way possible, but ended up outside of our Garden instead. We took a bathroom break at home and sprinted out again, much to the surprise of our parents.

Hubs had to return to his brother’s that night, I had to meet up with another set of college friends, while cheh had to meet with her friends too. In the end, hub’s brother and my friend were instructed to meet us in Bangsar – one in Bangsar Village and the other at Bangsar Shopping Centre. Hub’s brother, not knowing the area too well, ended up waiting at Bangsar Shopping Centre instead, and after the confusion was cleared, 30 minutes later, picked hubs up from the Village.

My friends and I were like the three stooges back in the day, except I were the one laughing at the antics of the other two. Now both of my friends are married, one with a son of almost two years and the other whose bun just came out of the oven. And I have one of my own, four legs with a tail that buzzes like a bee when she sees us coming home. The first friend with a son, used to live in LA, London and then moved back to KL about 2.5 years ago. My other friend, with a newborn baby girl now lives in Indonesia. We talked for hours, catching up and I was sent home close to midnight – after a few misdirection again.  It’s worse than the blind leading the blind.

People! Stop asking me for directions!!

I finally took my shower at 12:30 am. Ah – two days of dust and grime easily came off.

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On the Eight Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
EIGHT WAYS OF RELAXATION

Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

Today was the day that we were supposed to head to Malacca, where the only thing on the agenda was eating. But that was changed when mommy couldn’t recover from her fever that persisted a week before we were even home. The doctors thought it may have been dengue fever, but her blood test report wasn’t available until the 28th morning. Just as well, since hubs still had to wait for the embassy to call. When he finally got a hold of the officer who was assisting him two days ago, the officer apologized for the delay but insist that it was beyond his control as there was technical difficulties from the US side. Hearing that, even though it wasn’t much, made me a little relief, yet worried at the same time. I’ve never prayed harder in my life for a miracle, and a miracle was truly what was needed.

To cheer me up, Cheh brought me to Mid Valley to do a little “shopping” but we didn’t get anything, except for a RM5 bracelet. That just didn’t quite cut it. We left for home soon after.

I just happen to stroll downstairs after lunch to check with Cheh when the TV was going to be delivered, when I heard a huge truck pulling into our street. I looked out the window and saw a white truck stopped three houses away, and thought excitedly that this was our TV truck. I quickly got the keys to open the door, while Cheh ran upstairs to get my father who was sweeping the floors.  One minute the old TV was sitting atop of the divider, and the next, the brand new flat screen plasma was placed on top of it.  Daddy, however excited, was disappointed that it wasn’t a LCD but a plasma instead. But we explained to him that it was because Malaysia has yet to receive HD and the LCD doesn’t view analog too well. Mommy, on the other hand, was angry at us for spending the “unnecessary” money.

After all the excitement died down with the TV, Cheh once again took me out, this time to a salon for a facial. That 2-3 hours really worked its magic. I was rubbed, massaged, pressed, and molded until I almost fell asleep.

Then for dinner, we decided to go for pasar malam/night market food. Unfortunately for us, it starting pouring cats and dogs. So, daddy and his two girls headed to a coffee shop instead and had kaya toast, dried curry noodles, java mee and fried spring rolls. We also had old town coffee and wheat grass honey drinks. Ah…good old Malaysian food.  So comforting. So much like home.

Just as we left, it stopped pouring and daddy suggested we took a stroll in the pasar malam to see if we wanted something else. Tempting.

So we walked in the wet grounds of the pasar malam, found everything to our taste, but was too full to even attempt another bite.  We do have a little self-restrain after all.

However, I saw throngs of badly scarred, marred and disfigured beggars all littered on the floors of the night market. Daddy said that there was a write-up on these beggars, calling them “professional beggars” who begged in these night markets and at the end of the night, rode taxis back to their “owners.” These beggars could very well be long-time stories of children who were once kidnapped from their parents, dismembered or disfigured and then forced to beg on the streets from young. I, once again, felt that I am very lucky to not only have all my limbs, but that I grew up with parents who not only love me, but strove very hard to send us for a higher education overseas.

Walking in the night market made us feel very dirty, and we decided to shower before heading out to meet our friends in Bangsar. I met my long time friend from Assunta, a mother of two and a success in her own way. She has always been the shy one, but seeing her this time, I realized that she finally came out of her shell and can truly speak her mind. We stopped at PapaRich.

We got home and I took another shower to rid myself off the damp and humid air of KL. Hubs too came home that night. Somehow, I felt like things were going to be ok then.

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On the Ninth Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
NINE KINDS OF MIRACLE

Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009

This was the last day that hubs can get in to meet with the embassy officials. So early in the morning, he finally got someone on the phone to verify that his information arrived at the embassy. The lady called back to ask that hubs get to the embassy immediately as the information just arrived. That was at 10:30 am. We got to the embassy at 10:45 and hubs came out almost immediately. They were trying to get his passport ready, but they weren’t sure if they can meet the day’s dateline, as they were closing early for the holidays. They however told hubs to go to a different building to collect his passport between the hours of 3-4pm that day.

Thinking we had a lot more time, we decided to head to PJ for lunch and a few errands at the bank and medicine/herbal shop. Just as we finished ordering our food, hubs got a call from his brother at 12:30 pm telling him that his passport was ready and had to be picked up immediately at the embassy before it closed. In a panic, and with me holding my newly ordered food, we split in different directions, all trying to cancel or pack our lunch to go. Instead, daddy said that he alone will go with hubs to KL, while mommy (who was feeling much better that day and came along with us) and I finished our lunch and ran our errands.

As we sat there quietly eating our lunch, I prayed again that hubs and daddy would make it there in time to get his passport. After lunch, we headed to the bank and the medicine shop. Hubs called in saying that he got his passport, and right away, the mood changed between my mom and I. The tension was gone. We bought up a storm of tong kuai, dehydrated dragon eyes, sweet plums, seedless red dates and luo han guo (Siraitia grosvenori). Daddy and hubs finally picked us up in PJ, after a bad traffic snare in KL, at 2 pm. Daddy had to purchase fried bananas, which we passed up a few days back, just to hold his stomach until he got home for lunch.

Relieved beyond words, we both took our nap waiting for dinner with his family at 6:30. His sister didn’t show up until an hour later. With the jam, we finally had dinner at 9pm, but not before hub’s brother told us that it was short of a miracle that the embassy actually got a hold of him today. He usually doesn’t carry his cell phone while making his inspection rounds in the factory. On top of that, hubs didn’t list his brother’s cell phone number as a point of contact with the embassy.

We had driven to Kayu Ara in Damansara Jaya for the infamous La La Chong seafood. We had crabs served with steamed buns, sharks fin soup, spicy clams, sweet and sour fried whole chicken, steamed fish, and kangkung/water spinach fried with chili belacan.

La La Chong

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On the Tenth Day of Christmasmy true love gave to me,
TEN DOLLAR HAWKER FOOD

Friday, Dec. 25, 2009

Cheh and I made our way to church early that morning. We were pretty early, but there were people even more kiasu 驚輸 than us. I gave my thanks and counted my blessings in every way possible. Ironically, the speaker for the day is an import from America.

Then we went home for leftover lunch – food from TnT’s wedding that lasted forever. We later prepared for our outing at night.

Our Christmas celebration was going to start with a movie and then a nice quiet Chinese family dinner in the mall. At least that was the plan.

We were going for the 4 pm movie in Mid Valley of Treasure Hunter starring Jay Chou, but ended up buying tickets for Storm Warriors at 7 pm as the tickets were sold out. Who knew that there would be that many people watching movies on Christmas?! Lucky for us we didn’t get tickets for Treasure Hunter, as we got the movie later in a night market and realized how totally horrible it was.

Instead of our dinner after movie, we had to eat before our movie. Mommy, who was still under the weather, craved for porridge, so we went to Canton-i for dinner. We would have been better off at Dragon-i. Food not only didn’t taste good, it was ultra expensive. Hawker food under a roof with AC.  That’s what I call a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The movie Storm Warriors had much going for it. The costumes were intricately designed. Visuals on point. 3-D graphics were out of this world. The fighting choreography was kick-ass. Colors were that of 300.  The only thing was maybe the story was lacking a little. Yet, it was an entertaining and spell-binding movie. Not a bad way to spend Christmas. Our first Christmas together as a family after more than 14 years apart. Dinner and a movie in a mall.  Just can’t beat that.

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On the Eleventh Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
ELEVEN KINS TO BID ADIEU

Saturday, Dec. 26, 2009

The day began with news of an idiot trying to blow up a flight into Detroit.  It’s people like this who should be shot.

Our day, like the pass few days, began with eating and ended with more eating.

Today was no exception. We had breakfast with our mutual friends at a local dim sum store and later adjourned to, you know it, PapaRich. I’m going to buy a franchise and stick it in Joisey. We had fish balls, siew mai, chicken glutinous rice, fried pot stickers, chicken’s feet, pork ribs, honey milk tea, and cendol. It really didn’t matter where we were, and what we ate.

friends

After meeting them, hubs and I split up. He was sent home, while I went to Bangsar Village to meet another friend. The unfortunate basket just returned from Singapore, but his car was broken into, and on the way to meet me, met with a little road rage and had to stop at a nearby police station. He finally made it to Bangsar, and I realized how much he has aged. (Although he may think otherwise) I congratulated him on his impending wedding in January, and he reminisces on how I never permitted him to go after my younger sister.

Then I left for home with Cheh and prepared for our dinner in Klang with the Phoas. It was pouring quite heavily, therefore getting out to Klang took a little longer than expected. Instead of stopping at my second uncle’s house (Kuleh Jee), we went straight to the restaurant. By the time we reached the restaurant, my bladder was about to explode. Together with my mom, we were directed to the outhouse – literally. We walked out, into the rain, to a little shed. Gross!  If I didn’t have to go, I would have held it in for the next hour or so.

klang seafood

The food was better than the facilities. We had spicy fried shrimps with eggs still intact in their heads, dried fried spicy crabs, fish cake molded into the shape of a whole fish, garlic fried Chinese vege, fried oysters in omelet, paper-wrapped chicken in herbs, and finally fish beehun soup in sour plum soup. YUM-O! The spread was even tastier with family around us and us playing with the hammer trying to get the crabs to cooperate with us.

mommy and daddy

After dinner, we left for Kuleh Jee’s house and had dessert of an assortment of local fruits. We had papaya, white dragon fruit and oranges. We even got tupperwares of pineapple tarts and a huge bag of freshly dried Chrysanthemum tea. Ah – how spoiled are we?!

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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…my true love gave to me,
TWELVE KINDS OF MALAYSIAN CUISINE

Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009

Before heading out for to Sunway Resort, we picked up our almond cookies from mommy’s personal baker in Subang Parade.  Special isn’t she?

My stomach wasn’t feeling too good – probably from the extra spicy seafood in Klang. Cheh too was having a little upset stomach before heading out. Even hubs called to say that we was in and out of the toilet TWICE that morning.

After much convincing, cheh come along for high tea at Sunway Resort’s Sun and Surf Café. They had briyani, beef rendang, chicken satay, chicken porridge, fried kuey teow with cockles, fruit rojak, vegetable acah, and gado-gado, sweetened honey chicken, prawns fried in belacan, lok-lok, ice kacang, mango mousse and much more. After eating all of this, Cheh’s stomach started grumbling. She broke the camel’s back when she decided to have raw oysters too.  She went straight to the toilet after that.  She came out and continued stuffing her face. That’s the spirit!

daddy

Since I brought a big bag, I was assigned the role as resident food swiper, and was entrusted with the task of taking home jambu air / bell fruits. I managed to stuff five in my bag.

jambu air

After brunch, we took a stroll in the adjoining mall. There, I finally got a chance to buy hubs his Christmas present. (I got mine on Christmas eve, but hubs later bought my “material” gift from Chow Tai Fook at the airport in Hong Kong) We finally got home, and I hunkered down to finish our packing without hubs around. One bag, which initially arrived with gifts for other people, was now packed with the over hundred Ringgit worth of Chinese herbs. The rest were filled with our clothes, and various gifts from other people. Truthfully though, we didn’t buy anything at all for ourselves this time around. The time was spent on family, friends and a lot of eating.

Even after gorging ourselves at the Sunway Resort, when hubs finally came home, we decided to have the last run at another night market, since our last attempt was foiled by rain. We managed to bring home bubble tea, two DVDS, four tank tops, rubber bands and cucuk udang.

Our final night in KL was spent quietly watching Treasure Hunter with my parents.

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