‘P.Ramlee: Celebrating A Legend’ Musical @ BCCK, Kuching, Malaysia

Date of Show: September 10 2013

P Ramlee is a Malaysian icon. Ever the ladies man, he was also a hero for the macho set with his moustache, dimpled boyish grin and twinkling eyes. He was a megastar akin to George Clooney in his days. From his beginning as a musician in a kampung (village) in Penang, his talents exceeded from composing 360 songs to script writing and directing/ producing 66 movies.

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P Ramlee Banner at BCCK

(My Update: 10 days in the town of Boo, seemed an eternity. Whilst deciphering non-sensical letters letters issued by a local Datuk Pemanca and his daughter whose name totally contradicts her namesake – angry, venomous and NOT happy- had kept me amused, I still need a breather!)

As if the heaven had heard my prayers, I received a text from my friend Sandy, that she had secured a ticket for me to see a P.Ramlee musical in Kuching. This is the first time a professional troupe of artistes had flown in to stage a musical in the outback state of Borneo and I was truly excited to see my first Malay musical.

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Ticket

The concert was scheduled for a 7:30pm start but as usual in the serfdom of Sarawak, there is always a delay to accommodate some self-important VIPs who insist on making an entrance by arriving late. Even though this evening’s performance was sponsored by the State Government of Sarawak to commemorate 50 years of entering the Federation of Malaya together with the state of Sabah to form Malaysia or under the political banner, ‘Sarawak’s 50th Year of Progress in Malaysia‘ – a free event should still start on time, especially with the time costs of over a 1000 eager audiences -young and old – seated and waiting for the show to start! (Sir Elton John never tolerate give sh*t like this! Nor Rolling Stones for that matter! 7:30pm means 7:30pm!)

In the short 2-hour musical, the show chronicles a summary of P.Ramlee’s life romances and career highlights through the use of lightings, props and video clips amid the singing and dancing.

The story begins with P.Ramlee’s early days in Penang wooing a lass called ‘Azizah‘ by penning a song after her. This song became a runaway success for him, giving him the opportunity to work in Singapore to pursue his dreams. In Singapore, he met his first wife, Junaidah. Unfortunately, Junaidah could not handle her husband’s rising fame and decided to leave him. A broken hearted P.Ramlee then met with his second wife, Nurizan who had left the Sultan of Perak for him. During their marriage, he directed his first movie ‘Penarik Beca’ (Tricycle Driver) – a story about forbidden love due to the different family backgrounds. The movie was an instant hit. Naturally, P.Ramlee got engrossed in his work, thus putting a strain on his relationship with his wife. They later divorced. P.Ramlee then met Saloma, his third wife. They remained together until the day he died. The downfall of P.Ramlee’s brilliant career ended with the separation of Singapore from Malaya. As a patriot, P.Ramlee decided to move to Kuala Lumpur. In the final scene, P.Ramlee and Saloma reminisced about their life, singing a meaningful rendition of ‘Air Mata di Kuala Lumpur‘ (Will I be remembered, Sally?) which reflected his life and his worries that he will be forgotten.

I gather from the karaoke-style singing that the leading actor and 2 of the 3 lead actresses were not trained singers, but the humorous lyrics and jokes kept the audiences amused. The lead actor is Tony Eusoff, a Sarawakian architect-turned-actor who did a fine portrayal of P.Ramlee with his trademark hands-on-his-side chicken-wing style and speaking with an intonation.

Nonetheless, the success in the musical is not only attributed to the lively singing and joget-style/ à gogo dancings of the actors and actresses but also relied heavily on the change of props. One of the highlight was the steam train puffing with dry-ice rolling onto stage which later split into two to reveal the singing troupe on the train. It was exciting and wowed the audience. Flashing lights provided glitz, glamour and drama to the stage. The trio of paparazzo provided comedic relief as well as to fill in the gaps in background stories, making the story-line even more enthralling.

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Encore!

I should also praise the well-behaved audiences who did not push nor shove their way into the hall through the single 1-door entrance and for not standing up to get a better view of the low stage. Kudos to the best behaved crowds I have ever came across!

All-in-all, a marvellous night out! Thanks Sandy!

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Source: The Star Online

For more pictures, visit the local daily here.

While reading on P. Ramlee, I came upon an article written by Lim Kit Siang titled ‘Broke and Broken – Should P.Ramlee Have Came Back‘. He felt compelled to pen this article after watching P.Ramlee’s documentary in the History Channel. He used P.Ramlee as a case-study for any talented Malaysian contemplating on returning home to Malaysia. A provoking article as always from one of the Opposition Leaders in Malaysia.

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Exhibition corner

Additional resources on P.Ramlee can be found at P Ramlee Cyber Museum and P Ramlee Museum in Kuala Lumpur.

Something’s Amiss @ Steakhouse, Hilton Kuching, Malaysia

Date of Visit: July 11 2013

Not sure whether I am alone on this – but, do you get a mixed feeling of guilt + depression – when you stay sedentary the whole day, only shuffling between meetings and eating?   I often do.  And I have been eating sugar-laden food for 2 days in a row! (here and here)

Despite a more than filling lunch  at Bangkok Thai Seafood Restaurant less than 5 hours ago, we still have ample time for dinner since our flight back to The Boo is at 8:20pm.

Our meeting concluded at the Hilton, naturally we thought of having a quick bite  at the hotel’s cafe.  Unfortunately, but the cafe will only open at 6:30pm for the iftar buffet.  So we tried our luck at the Steakhouse, upon enquiry the kitchen was willing to accommodate us for an early dinner at 6pm.  I am pleasantly surprised to find that Steakhouse has been nominated one of Malaysia’s Best Restaurants for 3 years running, from the displays of their awards near the entrance.

This is a small restaurant modestly done.  Clean, no food smell along with  attentive service from the wait staff who made sure that our glasses are never empty.

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Interior

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Awards

First we were given drinks and then offered  complimentary brioche presented in a cup. A perfect break from eating the white spongy ‘mantaos’ from Breadsense which I am getting rather fond of in The Boo.

Speaking of which, I am wanting to cut out all things sweet, white and processed but it is proving to be very hard, especially since sugar creeps up on you – even in their most natural forms in fruits and vegetables.

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Brioche

For my main, I was deciding between a Oven Roasted Barramundi (RM49) or Grilled Salmon (RM57), in the end the fennel salad that was to accompany the salmon won me over.  As I was tucking in my perfectly grilled salmon which  was still pick inside, I thought that something was amiss, I pondered then remembered that there was supposed to be a fennel salad.  I then realised that the kitchen had very cleverly  masqueraded bits of celeries as fennels hidden under the orange segments and olives.  Not wanting to kick a fuss, I sucked up in finishing my course.  The salmon itself was not bad, the bits of oranges, olives and celery imparted a tangy sweetness and earthly taste to the fish.

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Grilled Salmon

While waiting for our bill, we were served house-made petit fours made of corn flakes, white chocolate and coconut butter.

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Petit Fours

The Steakhouse has a good priced $105 4-course set menu which I hope to try in my next visit.

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Set Menu

Opposite the hotel is a waterfront esplanade which is perfect for an evening stroll.

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Esplanade

Before I sign off this post, this is an aerial shot of Kuching before our plane landed this morning.  Kuching is a lovely quaint town, far superior than The Boo in terms of facilities and infrastructure – clean and rather pretty even the lawns by the roadside are manicured!   Since Kuching is only 40mins away, I must plan my next getaway to visit the Bako National Park and Damai Beach.

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Aerial View of Kuching

 

Fabulous Thai Lunch @ Bangkok Thai Seafood Restaurant, Kuching

Date of Visit: July 11 2013

Ramadan started on July 8, 3 days ago. Although I am not a Muslim I had planned to join in their religious cleansing and purification hoping to shift some weight (by skipping lunch:-)) But with this-and-that and visitors popping into town, it is a monumental task. My blog does not feature recipes, this is because I eat very simple foods at home – blanched broccoli, stir-fried cabbages (with store-bought Lee Kum Kee chilli paste) and cabbage soup (by dumping all the vegs from the markets into a pot) – which are hardly anything interesting.

As I spoke with an overseas counterpart recently, keeping fit was a fast topic. Yes I was quite an athlete before my arrival in Malaysia early this year (without sounding cocky my partner and I came 3rd in the Lantau Race in Hong Kong a few years back. And that was our first time running a trail race!). With the change of environment, especially the weather and culture (there is NO Fitness First here *shockers*), I am missing my 6:30am training sessions with my trainer, daily spin classes and running back home in Sydney. I have also changed my diet, in order to fit into my new context – I was following a predominantly raw food diet – but ahd to abandon it because getting the food I want (organic) is very hard. Moreover, vegetarian in Malaysia means oily greasy pedestrian stuffs like noodles, rice, tofu, etc. Moreover, it is very rude to be not eating if you are entertaining. Therefore, I eat clean when I am at home.

Anyway, Dr Liu’s name came up in our conversation. He is the Chinese doctor who practise Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Bondi Junction, who gain fame for putting his patients on a 2-week fast subsisting only on herbal concoctions. I am very eager to try and hope to make an appointment to see him when I am back in Sydney next.

In the meantime, I had a whirl-wind trip to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak today. The flight took 40minutes, being the Ramadan month, only drinks and some nuts were offered on-board. This left me wondering whether Emirates has the same policies.

Lunch was at a Thai restaurant at a non-descript corner lot of a shophouse typical of any Borneo townscape. The restaurant was very well-patronised as it also provide buffet lunch. I had almost forgot to check name of restaurant being distracted by the striking Thai memorabilia and statues, the servers are all dressed in traditional Thai costumes to impart authenticity. I later did a google search and found out that this restaurant is the 1st Thai restaurant in Kuching.

We started off with a DIY appetizer of Betel Leaf Salad also known as ‘miang kam’. This is a typical Thai street-side snack whereby you wrap an assortment of – whatever that takes your fancy – pomelo, chili padi (bird’s eye chili, which is very fiery), fragrant fried coconut flakes, roasted baby peanuts, dried shrimps, spanish onions, fresh young gingers – to wrap in a betel leaf with tamarind paste. This was my very first time trying the snack and I was absolutely taken by it. Being a peanut-addict, I could not stop myself from picking at the freshly roasted baby peanuts.

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Miang Kam with Keropok (local shrimp crackers)

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Miang Kam

Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus is a must-order in any Thai meal. Chicken pieces were marinated in ginger and herb paste and then chargrilled in pandanus leaves. While unwrapping the package, a sweet fragrance wafted through the air. The chicken pieces were done just right, juicy with a lot of ginger-herb-nut paste, thus did not require a dip in the sweet chilli sauce provided.

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Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus

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Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus

It’s been a long time since I had Shark Fin Soup. This used to be a very traditional Chinese soup until the environmentalists kicked up a fuss. It’s a thick soup with silky smooth egg white in starchy base.

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Chicken Wrapped in Pandanus

Sweet Sour Midin stir-fried with minced pork and shrimps is a twist from the usual midins stir-fried with garlic found in the other restaurants. Midins is a type of fern that is only available in Sarawak. This was also the first time I sampled a different style of cooking midins, so I had a few extra helpings. Now, why can’t the Chinese restaurants be more adventurous in their cooking?

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Sweet Sour Midin

Grilled Squids, springy and creamy, I prefer the squids to be in its natural taste so did not bother with the sweet chilli garlic sauce provided.

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Grilled Squids

Pineapple Rice is another must-order in any Thai restaurant. I especially like how the restaurant prepared it by frying the rice with turmeric, raisins, baby shrimps and pineapple chunks. The final presentation came in a hollowed-out pineapple and topped with generous pork floss.

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Pineapple Rice

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Pineapple Rice

Deep fried Garoupa. Another sweet sour dish. The fish was deep-fried in a light batter, then served with mango slices and aromatic herbs on top. A perfect dish with flaky fish flesh off the bone.

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Deep fried Garoupa

Although a plate of fresh cut fruits were pre-ordered for our table, we still insisted on having some Thai desserts. There were a lot to choose from the picture menu. Since it was a hot afternoon, I chose Chestnut in Coconut Milk which I had enjoyed in my previous Thai meal (review here). Unfortunately dessert today was a letdown. My request for extra ice went unheeded, so I was left with the overly thick sweet santan. There goes my sugar quota for the week.

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Chestnut in Coconut Milk

Overall, I have to say, this is the best Thai food I had sampled so far. Although the dishes seemed to taste the same – all sweet and sour – they were extremely tasty and very satisfying. I had a sugar high and had a difficult time keeping awake for the afternoon.