Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blooming Rafflesia - World's Largest Single Flower @ Sabah [East Malaysia]

I might have been to Cameron Highlands countless times but i have never once participated in the hike to see the world's largest single flower, the Rafflesia.

According to the tour guides, you would have to trek through untamed jungle for hours at times and there's no assurance you would see a blooming rafflesia. Hence, i jumped at the opportunity when the guide for my recent Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Spring Tour asked if we would be interested to check it out. 

Even though there was a top-up payment of RM 30 per person, the walk would not take you more than five minutes and sighting the rafflesia was a 100% guarantee! 

No one was interested except for me! While the rest of my tour mates sat comfortably in the air-conditioned mini coach, i braved the heat and continued on foot with Priscilla, our guide. 

The guide had a mini guide whom i believed to be the daughter of the villager who owned the plot of land for which the rafflesia had taken root. 

A person who wandered aimlessly would find it hard to navigate without a person familiar with the route. Who the hell would know walking through the above dry leaves patch will bring you to the rare flowers?! 

My body automatically moved to the left and i quickened my footsteps when i noticed the tall bamboos on my right. The Lau sisters had done a fantastic job resulting in these automated motor functions; they informed me, on quite a number of occasions, that bamboo woods are hot spots for snakes!! 

An abandoned hut that reminded me of my days in the village. I might be a kampong boy but i sure love the modern amenities like a sitting toilet bowl and water heater! 

About to reach soon, i think, as i seemed to have walked for quite some time. Truth was it was no more than four minutes since we started on foot. Darn, i feel old.

Arrived with much anticipation! From the above photograph, i can see not one but two five-petal flowers! It must have been my bloody lucky day! 

Ta-dah! Numbering about 28 species (information that i only found out when i was googling about the flower), this wasn't the one said to have a diameter spanning more than a meter.

I was notified well beforehand that the ones here were about 85 centimeters across but it was still a sight to behold. They were about three days old and could last for another four more days. 

Have you ever wondered why pictures of rafflesia always show them on the ground, like a watermelon, and aside from the flower head, there aren't the usual leaves and stem? Answer being it is a parasite flower and depends on the vines for survival. 

Above was a photo of a Rafflesia flower bud; I can so imagine villagers of the past using it as a soccer ball for recreational activities. 

Honestly, i was initially under the impression i could be cheated as the flowers appeared perfectly shaped and i could not help feeling the texture had that plastic touch to it. That thought was dispelled with the existence of numerous flies that were likely attracted by the supposedly foul stink emitted! 

I could not detect anything although rafflesia was known as 'corpse flower' in the local community. Of course i didn't manage to push my nose within centimeters from the flowers but Priscilla did clarify that this particular species doesn't have infamous smell. 

Sighted another flower bud. 

With a purpose built platform and a fence surrounding the small plot of land, i suspect these are 'farmed' rafflesia! By charging curious visitors RM 30 each, it's frankly very good money! 

Especially when i spent less than ten minutes taking photographs. 

In the mind of a man who took finance as his major, the short time i used may not be worth the money. However, in real life situations, many factors would determine the worth of an investment. I gained by seeing something i have never seen before but cutting short my journey would mean my companions would be able to continue their tour without wasting their time. 

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For the summarised itinerary of my 7 days, 6 nights Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) trip, please click here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Outback Steakhouse @ Millenia Walk [Singapore]

"A hungry man will eat anything" - and a famished man would likely feel that the first edible thing to enter their gut is the most delicious. Or so i thought when i finally step into a restaurant for brunch at 4.15 pm.

The search for steak brought me to Suntec City Mall where the Japanese restaurant i had in mind was closed from 3-6pm and the almost wobbly walk to Marina Square resulted in disappointment as hippopotamus restaurant grill had closed down for good.

Thankfully, i remember a particular steakhouse with its signature neon signboard; Outback Steakhouse! Given the condition of an almost empty stomach, i believed i could eat a horse!

With much impatience, i was rapid in ordering! The one item high on my priority would be a slab of steak and it didn't take me long to decide on the comfortable New York Strip which was labelled as the "most flavourful steak available"!

Two sides can be chosen from the list appended above and again, i opted to go with my usual fresh seasonal veggie and corn on the cob.

I was almost on the verge of tearing when the waitress served the complimentary bread; it was soft in the insides with a thin exterior crisp. Tear it apart, put it in the yummy butter (said to be homemade buttermilk butter) and it was such a stomach warmer! Very delicious and this is coming from a man who only loves bread with filling.

Coco Berry Smoothie - an enlightening drink that was similar to drinking pineapple from the can, mixed with strawberry milk that ended with a subtle trail of coconut aroma!

New York Strip - was about to eat it whole and stopped myself in time from behaving like a barbarian! Let's talk about the sides first. One word; normal. I thought both were more appetising back at Astons Specialities.

I prefer my steak to have a medium doneness for that touch of blood to satisfy the beast in me and i was pretty satisfied with the texture at Outback. Flavour wise, it wasn't unexceptional and i could blame my lousy taste buds for identifying traces of salt and peppers. For S$36.90, i would have expected more. 

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Service wasn't up to mark; bread came together with steak which might be excusable but when we asked for our dessert to be served and waited for more than ten minutes before getting to know that it hadn't even been prepared, i knew i had no more mood for sweet things.  

Location
9 Raffles Boulevard, 
#01-114, Millenia Walk
[Promenade Station, Circle Line]

Price
Coco Berry Smoothie - S$6.90
New York Strip - S$36.90
[Subject to GST and Service Charge]

Monday, April 27, 2015

Stopover at Nabalu Market (Part of Kinabalu Park And Poring Hot Spring Tour) @ Sabah [East Malaysia]

Priscilla, our guide for this day trip to Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Spring, warned us that the drive up to Kinabalu Park would be similar to navigating the winding roads at Cameron Highland and i braced myself by bringing along a few plastic bags; you know, just in case i need to purge.

Turned out it wasn't that bad and i reached the first leg of our journey, Nabalu Market, with a full bladder instead. For non mountain enthusiasts like me, this should be a place you mustn't miss when you visit Kota Kinabalu.

Reason being Kota Kinabalu was best known for its majestic Mount Kinabalu and Nabalu Market happened to provide a panoramic view of the mountain that was most importantly, accessible by motor vehicles.

Pity the top was enveloped by a thick layer of cloud, lending an aura of mystery to the mountain considered as sacred and spiritual by the local tribes.

On a clear, cloudless day, you might be blessed with sightings of the four main peaks of Mount Kinabalu; Alexandra, Low's, St John's and South. Shockingly, Low's Peak is the highest point at 4,095.2 meters.

A panoramic picture for the sake of proving i was there. Honestly, i did consider climbing the mountain but knowing how accident prone i am, there is a higher likelihood i would kill myself. In addition, i could vividly remember my torturous non-summit hike up South Korea's Hallasan!

One of the mountain villages; i have always imagined this would be the ideal place to retire and i have already identified a few places! At the moment, rank number one is Nantou county where Cingjing farm is located.

Enough of the scenery; let's proceed to the market. 

There were quite a few buildings although it was obvious that they were catered for the lucrative tourist sector; i was expecting to see a local market with fishes gasping for breath on a tray of ice and hanging pig heads.  

The adventurous me would have climbed up the tower for a much better vantage spot to take photographs and i would have done so if not for the big "no-entry" sign. 

Back to the market - you can find local cultural handicrafts, nuts, magnets, key chains, small packs of grains and even fruits! I was thinking if the pineapples are the super sweet species known as Sarawak Pineapples. 

If you ask me, i would very much prefer the market at Cameron Highlands which was more a famer's market where you can get fresh vegetables and flowers.

Stalls at Nabalu were closely packed with one another and i didn't venture inside as we were given limited time. It also did seem that products were pretty much the same across stalls. 

My eyes were instead captivated by the beautiful, breathtaking landscape behind the buildings. 

A good retirement plan would entails buying one of the stalls facing the mountain; doing business is secondary and the main priority is to get a comfortable chair overlooking the impressive sight. 

Would you dare to buy cut fruits when you are overseas? I have had quite a few bouts of food poisoning and i am always cautious when it comes to purchasing cut fruits from this kind of stall. Kaoz, the pineapples looked so yellow; must be damn sweet! 

Another building; i didn't manage to cover all the buildings and regretted not hurrying along to check out one that was filled with souvenir stalls!

Magnets and keychains again; you could find plenty of them at cheaper prices at Gaya Street Sunday Market although you may wish to note that quality can be an issue. Choose carefully! 

Trinkets; one of the few things i would not buy back as souvenirs for family and friends. The other things include clothes, shoes, bags, watches etc.

Almost bought the mini guitar for the kids! 

Bananas of varying sizes.

Alex and i pondered for a while on nylon-net thingy; we initially thought they were fish nets but who the hell would fish on a mountain?! Maybe as net for volleyball? It eventually dawned on us that they were hammocks! 

Those afraid of dogs might want to keep in mind of the many dogs we chanced upon at Nabalu market; they were generally harmless and would ignore you unless you are holding on food. 

The most amazing thing happened to me; a tiny ladybird landed on my finger! Isn't it weird that the last time i saw a ladybird (after a long hiatus) was also at a mountain. Maybe it's a sign. 

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For the summarised itinerary of my 7 days, 6 nights Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) trip, please click here

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