Little Town Called Tawau

I was thinking I should write a little about Tawau, eventhough we just spent a day here. I was lucky because I have an ex colleague working in Tawau, eventhough he doesn’t remember me. Hahaha! So, I just sent him a message to ask for tips on how to go about Tawau and he just offered to take us around when we decided to drop by!

After a great relaxing trip in Sipadan Water Village, we put up a night at MB Hotel in Tawau. After resting for a bit, my friend came to pick us up. He took us to Good View Restaurant. I reserved my comments on Good View because, I remember I read in blogs that this place actually ain’t cheap at all. But since he will be buying, I let him choose the place lah. Haha!

He has been working here for the past 3 years, so he basically knew where is best to go. He usually takes his clients and friends here, so he chose Good View over Kam Ling. Both restaurants served equally good and fresh seafood – so take your pick!

We let him did all the ordering since he’s familiar and here were some of the dishes.

Steamed fresh prawns

Steamed flower crabs

Steamed 7 star garoupa

Midin

Seaweed kerabu

Also, we had avocado juice! It proven to be a good choice because it wasn’t sweet or too creamy as I thought it would be. It was soothing.. like liquid yogurt. I was surprised to find that, Tawau actually grows Avocado commercially. We didn’t buy any back because, it wasn’t the season so, the avocado that we had, might be imported from Indonesia – according to my friend lah. If he bullshit me also, I won’t know! Haha!

It was indeed a good dinner, totally fresh seafood. And we had the 7 star steamed garoupa – it seems, this type of coral fish can only be found in Sabah, hence the cheaper price as opposed to eating in back in West Malaysia.

The next day, he took us to the wet market in Sin On. He briefed us a little on history of Tawau. We would have thought it was the Chinese who came and made the place economically prosperous but we were wrong. It was the Japanese. I read on Wikipedia, it was said that – the Japanese were in the fishing business, canning and exported the manufactured goods back to Japan, so he was right in a way. He told me, they were in seaweed business. Hence, there were some roads like Kuhara and Kubota named after the Japanese. After World War II, the Japanese lost to the Allies, the rule of any war is that, if your country lost the war, you have to uproot yourselves from the colony and return to your own country. So, dozens of Japanese had to forsake whatever they had painstakingly build in Tawau and return to Japan. See, you gain nothing in wars, only more destitution.

Coral fishes

Pasar Sin On

During the short visit to Sin On market, we got ourselves some coral fishes, lobsters and sea cucumber. Sea cucumber went as cheap as RM50 per kg, lobsters, Rm70 per kg, coral fishes ranging from RM50 to Rm90 per kg. So, my friends were right when I asked for things to do in Tawau – everybody actually ask me to buy seafood! That is why I saw many people bringing their own ice box on the plane! It is not allowed to check in your seafood, so be prepared to hand carry them. On our way back to KL, we saw many people carrying ice boxes!

Pork noodles

Then, our friend took us to this shop selling pork noodles. For the life of me, I cannot remember the place name! Haha! But the pork noodles is good. I regretted for not asking for intestines and pork balls, just meat. The pork balls are crunchy and they stuffed some fried squids inside made it all chewy!

After breakfast, my friend has to get back to work, so he dropped us at our hotel. Since he had a flight at 1 pm later that day, we bid him good bye and went loitering around Tawau on our own. It was nice to walk to the jetty to see the things going on. It was funny to see how the islanders roll the gas tanks to the jetty to be transported to other islands and also Kalimantan! Our friend advised us to be careful when walking around town because there have been many cases of robbery,well, doesn’t make any difference walking in KL then? So, we just be extra alert and careful.

We had a huge lunch at this place nearby our hotel called Kedai Kim Kim. Here, they served variety of tongshui and leong char! My favorite red bean soup was good! So was Jasmine’s bubur cha cha. You should try the herbal chicken with rice. I overheard many people ordering salted chicken, so I guess you could try to order that too! We also tried the siew mai and pai kuat. Well, it was mediocre but it does make you feel like you are eating at home.

Siew Mai & Pai Kuat

Red bean soup

View of Tawau waterfront

Old shoplot

We went for last minute shopping for dried seafood – shrimps and prawn/fish crackers called amplang. It was delicious! I think if we had planned properly earlier, then we would have bought even more things! We stopped by Wukka Cafe for tea break before heading back to our hotel, to get to the airport.

There isn’t much to do here in Tawau, but seafood is rather fresh and cheap! And sea produce are cheap too!

For other photos, click here!

MERDEKA MAKAN MARATHON

After much pestering from a colleague of mine, asking almost every other week – when are we going to Tanjung Sepat, I had no choice but to bring her there. This time, because it’s a Merdeka Holiday and the kids, Sasha and Lok Lok were all in their own parents’ care, my family decided to join in the gluttony trip. Sure heboh one!

This time round, I didn’t seek the company of Popiah – who would always graciously take us around Tanjung Sepat and Sg. Pelek as she would be in KL instead to do some shopping.

So, it was only me and my cousin sister, who went to Tanjung Sepat before. I was quite confident though, because to date – this would be my fourth time in Tanjung Sepat makan spree.

First stop as usual, would be the Bak Kut Teh place along Jalan Pasar in Tanjung Sepat. I haven’t had the chance to eat the BKT every time we go there as we were always too late. The BKT sold off at 10 am every morning. This morning, we were early, so we had the chance to taste the BKT. To me, it’s almost the same as anywhere else in KL, but it’s slightly less oily. Probably we should have tried the dry BKT.

Bak Kut Teh, Curry Sotong, Fish Paste Soup & Bean Paste Red Snapper

If you notice, I ordered the same dish every time I was here – I really like the fish paste soup! Today everything was pricier! Probably Popiah was not with us – regular faces always get to eat cheaper! It’s RM95 for 5 dishes for 8 people.

Then, we made a stop at Shing Moh Kopitiam, also in Jalan Pasar for kopi-O in an antique cup and toasted bread. Ah… heavenly.

Patriotic fisherman, Catch of the Day, Lone Fisherman, Cute Little Girl!

A trip to Tanjung Sepat is always coupled with a visit to the Lover’s Bridge, Mushroom Farm, Longan farm and Morib. We lurked around Lover’s Bridge after our scrumptious brunch and took some photos. It was indeed a fun place to take pictures – the fishermen coming back from the sea with catch of the day, the old bridge, the live sea creatures… etc.

Pisces and Cancer for food?

Care-free Morib

It’s a delight that I managed to take different pics every time I go to Tanjung Sepat and Morib – even though I always go to the same spot. Lover’s bridge is just a bridge less than 200m! So does the small bridge at the back of the mushroom factory. Check it out here and here.

Mushroom Farm’s backyard

On our way back, we made a brief stop at Longan Farm. People bought longans in big plastic bags. I have never seen the longan farm this packed before.

Fungi on a dead log, Sweet Potato and Loads of Papaya

During lunch, we wanted to have it at the Lover’s Bridge restaurant but found it was packed to the brim with holiday makers. People came in big buses! It is never a good idea to go to Tanjung Sepat during big holidays or school holidays. I had been here a few times and never encountered not getting a place for lunch! We decided to leave the place as the crowd was getting restless waiting for their tables, and the waiter in Lover’s Bridge is a fucking prick for not telling us that the table was reserved – after we stood next to the table; a good 15 minutes, waiting for the assholes eating deliberately slow as they saw us waiting.

Pissed off, we headed out to Lorong 4 instead to look for Hai Yeu Hin – the quaint little kopitiam famous for its variety of paos. They have red bean paste, kaya, shang yok, char siew, tai pao, vegetarian, peanuts and mui choi pao. Their famous pao is probably the shang yok – as when we went there, shang yok were all sold out and if we want the pao, we would have to take the non-steamed ones back to KL and steam them ourselves. We had some paos as appetizer before hitting the road again for a bigger meal. My personal favorite is probably the mui choi pao (pic).

E.P. Hoon restaurant in Sg. Pelek, that served good loh mee and special fried salad was not opened due to Merdeka – very bad luck. We went to the neighbour restaurant instead, Sg. Pelek Restaurant. The food was mediocre, but it’s nonetheless good. RM103 for 5 dishes for 8 people.

Steam fish in Chew Chao style (my favorite), bean curd in plum sauce,
Thai-style chicken, lai liu har (prawns)

Happy Merdeka, everyone! Hope your Merdeka is as yummy as mine.

SUNDAY RENDEZVOUS

On Sunday, I went to Sg. Pelek, Sepang to see my TAR College ex room mate, Ms Pok together with another ex housemate, Ms Gan. Yes, it was a Mandarin speaking trip. I haven’t been on a Mandarin speaking trip for awhile, and I am glad that my mandarin is still smattering impressive; considering that I once mispronounced “mirror” as “sperm”.

Well, you people could consider this as a very mini fei chai trip… with the usual food galore, laughter and candid photography.

Being the one who is better in identifying routes, (despite always getting lost on my way to church), I took charge to drive Ms Gan to Sg. Pelek – coz if you depend on Ms Gan, you might as well ask the blind for directions. A piece of advice to drivers, especially the ladies, please learn to remember directions/ routes, other than going to your office from home, for your own good.

Ms Pok was a splendid host. She took us to Tanjung Sepat for brunch. Unfortunately, her usual haunt for ass-kicking Bak Kut Teh (Hokkien: Pork Rib Herbal Soup) was sold out by 10.30 am! Funny why she didn’t take us to her dad’s stall, selling the same thing, which was only 2 minutes drive from her home. We drove 15 minutes to Tanjung Sepat instead. (Sg. Pelek, orangnya pelik-pelik – Malay: The residents in Sg. Pelek are all weird) Heck. We drove 100 km away from KL to Tanjung Sepat for seafood.


Not discouraged, we were served the second best choice of dishes – the fish paste soup, stir fried ikan merah with bean paste and spicy calamari. The seafood was so fresh that I swore I saw the fish paste wiggling in the pot of hot soup.

After a hearty brunch, we took a stroll at the infamous Lover’s Bridge. I didn’t quite remember why it was called a Lover’s Bridge – considering I over ate during brunch and all my body energy was channeled into my gut area for digestion. The fishermen upload their goods from the boat to the shore using the connecting bridge. Ms Pok said, it was a sight to behold in early mornings to watch the fishermen coming back from the sea.

Lover’s Bridge

After basking in the hot sun, snapping away pictures, we were taken to this nice little kopitiam (Hokkien: Coffee shop) 2 minutes away from the Lover’s Bridge for a cup of aroma-rich authentic black coffee – the way my late grandmother used to love. The kopitiam also served the best toast bread that I had ever tasted. It was a delight to watch the elderly villagers nonchalantly kill time, playing Chinese chess on the porch of the kopitiam.

Stuffing our face with so many things in two hours proved much too heavy for us to bear. We went back to Ms Pok’s house for a breather. I took a short nap, sprawling on the cold floor of her living room. Yes – I am shameless. And the people in Sg Pelek do not close their doors during daylight. You could actually see people sprawling (not dead) in the living room to alleviate the heat from the sun, or just to chat with fellow family members. Don’t you just love small towns?

Cucumber in the Sky

We drove to Morib, which is about 30 minutes from Sg Pelek. There, we blended into a sea of people in their chatty and happy camaraderie; there was a small fest going on; bands and singers, ice cream sellers, colorful balloons and kites. It was an ideal place to bring your family members out. We had Ms Pok’s home made strawberry ice-sicle.

Morib

On our way back to Tanjung Sepat, Ms Pok took us to the mushroom culture plant. There, we could see how mushrooms are cultivated, harvested and packed. Couldn’t resist, I took some pictures – the boss of the plant was nice enough to explain the use of the many species to us.

Mushrooms

Backyard Swamp

At the backyard of the mushroom plant, we could see people harvesting lala in the torrid sun. Ms Gan and Ms Pok, being Puteri Lilins (Malay idiom: Wax Princess), couldn’t withstand the heat, they took a shelter in the car with fully blast air condition while I, being the one with elephant skin, snapped away pictures at the mangrove swamp. It was low tide and just perfect for picturesque shots. I offered to take pictures of a lovely couple whose camera chose to run out of battery unceremoniously at such a Kodak moment.

We had our lunch at 3.30 pm at the Lover’s Bridge’s seaside restaurant. Since we were all drained from the heat of the sun, we ordered dishes with a lot of water in it; fishball soup, lala soup, and fried mee hoon with crabs and the famous fried boneless fish (as claimed by the owner of the restaurant, this dish was recommended in the newspapers together with their famous fried calamari).

The boneless fish tasted a bit like keropok lekor, only slightly crunchier and flakier. The owner of this restaurant should come up with a signature chilli sauce to go with the fried fingers of fish. We were given an off-the-rack bottle of chilli sauce, which was an utter turn off for a serious food connoisseur like me. I wish there were a suggestion box where I could give them my two cents worth.

Not wanting to drive back to Kuala Lumpur in the dark with my sunglasses (yes- my spectacles are still missing), I suggested that we go home earlier. We made a brief stop at Bagan Lalang to check out the place. The sand was still soft and white. Unfortunately, there were too many litterbugs. The people should keep the place clean.

Colors in Bagan Lalang

The place was more commercialized compared to the last time I came here, some 8 years ago. There was a nice addition of colors to the place though. Those days, my group of friends and I would stay in a cargo made into a mini rest house. We would go to the beach; with spades and pails; not to build sand castles but to fork out the kepahs (Malay: mussels), embedded in the sand. We would take the pail of kepahs to a nearby restaurant and they would help us clean them up and cook up a dish for a mere RM3. Those were the good old days.

Family Outing

After filling our tummy, getting a nice tan, (for me – it is more like a heat stroke and sun burnt) and swearing off seafood for a week, we bid farewell to Ms Pok and promised to return again to fly some kites in Bagan Lalang.