Decode: Adventure: Cameron Highlands 2015 – Food Part 1

Decode Adventure

I’m going to start this post with some bonus content about a place we went to before heading up to Cameron Highlands – The Plan b. Café in Ipoh.

After touching down at KLIA2, Eugene and Katrina picked both the Tiger and I up and drove down to Ipoh, in the state of Perak, Malaysia. Situated at the foot of the Cameron Highlands, Ipoh is a town known for its heritage, heart, and food.

We had the usual Ipoh Hor Fun, the famous Ipoh Bean Sprout / Tau Geh (which is probably the only bean sprouts I will ever eat now), and something which we spotted a few times – Crème Caramel. It was okay.

The only taugeh I will eat now.
The only taugeh I will eat now.
Ipoh Creme Caramel
Ipoh Creme Caramel

A satisfying lunch later, we took a walk around and tried looking for the café which was opened in honour of the late Yasmin Ahmad. And we didn’t realize we were parked right in front of it until the Tiger and I returned to the car.

Plan b. Café

A brief look at the wonderful late Yasmin Ahmad
A brief look at the wonderful late Yasmin Ahmad

Apart from being a cool getaway from the humidity and heat, Plan b. Café welcomed visitors with a few sayings from Yasmin Ahmad. Upon entering, the café was wide and spacious, with more of her sayings hung on the walls and natural light streaming in from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

While relaxing with our fizzes, teas, and iced water, the Tiger indulged in a bit of drawing (and got a free cappuccino after!) and I, writing. We didn’t manage to sample their food (we were filled to the brim during lunch). However, it was a great getaway from the heat and the service was great. The fact that the café was attached to a few independent trinket stalls contributed to the overall indie feel as well.

Just chilling out before the climb up
Just chilling out before the climb up
And this place suits the Tiger very well indeed
And this place suits the Tiger very well indeed

Having our fill of drinks and exploring the few trinkets here and there, we made our way up to Cameron Highlands!

Jin Jin Steamboat

Apart from Tea and Strawberries, barbecues and steamboat are popular activities in Cameron Highlands.

Determined to experience as many food adventures as possible, we went to Jin Jin Steamboat (Or Jin2 Steamboat), which was a short drive down to the Butterfly Farm from the Copthorne (where we were staying). My first word of advice is – get there early because the queue goes insane once the dinner rush hour starts. We shared our table with another couple.

FOOD!
FOOD!
OTHER HALF OF FOOD!
OTHER HALF OF FOOD!

Their menu is extensive. Apart from their Steamboat sets (where you choose a soup base, and add ingredients if you would like to), they have a good range of western and Chinese items so you can have your Steamboat and cheese-baked rice and eat it too.

With Chicken in one half and Tom Yam in the other.
With Chicken in one half and Tom Yam in the other.

Something we noticed through our entire trip – the eggs in Cameron Highlands have been fresh and fantastic. Apart from the half-boiled eggs the Tiger and Eugene have been taking since our first hotel breakfast, the eggs we poached in the flavourful steamboat soup base were amazing.

The fact that each steamboat set is served with a heaping plate of meat and vegetable ingredients just makes you know that you’re going to eat well and full.

Jin Jin is located at 43rd Mile, Kea Farm, Cameron Highlands (Pahang, Malaysia).

BOH Tea Plantation

In the cool surroundings and the scenic views, having a freshly brewed cup of tea with moist cake or piping-hot pastry at a balcony overlooking the trellises of a large tea plantations may be one of the best feelings ever.

Tea leaves make 3 kinds of tea. From the biggest to the smallest, the leaves make - Black, Green, and White Tea.
Tea leaves make 3 kinds of tea. From the biggest to the smallest, the leaves make – Black, Green, and White Tea.
Beautiful emerald trellises
Beautiful emerald trellises

The BOH Tea Plantation was our last stop during the day tour we took during our second-to-last day at Cameron. As the factory was closed for the day (it was Hari Raya Puasa when we visited), we decided to head for the café.

The line was INSANE.

But the food was worth it.

As a group, we ordered their hot Cameronian Tea, their cold Orchid Tea, Strawberry Cheesecake, Sausage Pastry, Butter Cake, and a Strawberry Tart. I was impressed by their Orchid Tea. Cold tea usually finishes with this bitter aftertaste for me and I don’t really like it unless it has a good amount of fruit syrup in it. The Orchid Tea had the fragrance of fresh flowers, but a good balance of quality tea (qualitea ehehehe) and natural sweetness.

Their Sausage Pastry added a spicy kick and the Strawberry Tart, a crumbly mixture of butter and jam, going incredibly well with their Butter Cake. Their Strawberry Cheesecake was the star of our morning / afternoon tea, buttery crust, light but rich cheesecake filling, and fresh strawberry to top it all off. Washing it down with Cameronian Tea, in full view of the plantation ridges was wonderful.

Up close and far away
Up close and far away
The hills are definitely alive.
The hills are definitely alive.

The BOH Tea Plantation and café (We went to the Sungei Palas Garden), is located at 39100 Brinchang, Cameron Highlands. For more information, click here.

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Updates [July 2015]

Featured Posts

It’s the end of July and it still feels like I have yet to get over the travel fatigue induced by our trip to Cameron Highlands. A highly stimulating and enjoyable trip, but the return to the fast pace of the city might have done a number on my physical state.

Regardless, July has been a productively eventful month and I am very excited to present my favourite posts:

Writer-y Endeavours

Am very happy to have made two submissions this month and am a good way through my third. My manuscript for MAP is reaching the finishing line in terms of Official Draft One, and Escape from Reality is going through its close-to-final review before the official Table of Contents will be announced.

So until any official announcements can be made, enjoy the following posts instead!

Coming Up Soon!

  • A talk about Crime in Singapore
  • SG50 Celebrations and a new project to come!
  • The last running stretch of MAP
  • Escape from Reality’s Table of Contents
  • Posts about our trip to Cameron Highlands
  • Hopefully, the next part of our Dungeons & Dragons adventures
  • More writing and project madness!

And with that, I will see you in August!

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Decode: Adventure: Cameron Highlands 2015

Decode Adventure

Tea, Strawberries, and Cold Weather.

Those were my impressions when the Tiger and his best friend said we were going to Cameron Highlands for a short holiday. While I admit them to still be true, our recent trip to both there and Ipoh before was a trip to remember.

However, with so much happening (about slightly more than half of it mundane), highlighting the main events of our trip in various focusses will give a better picture. Like how I did so with my Penang trip (Tag: penang adventure 2014), I will be looking at Food, Museums, and our other adventures.

So stay tuned as I update this post with snippets of our adventure through Cameron Highlands!

These hills await you in the coming posts...
These hills await you in the coming posts…

To follow any other post related to our Cameron Highlands trip, stay tuned for the updated posts or search for the tag: cameron highlands adventure 2015. Thanks for reading!

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Blanket Fortress Play: Dungeons & Dragons

Blanket Fortress Play Dungeons & Dragons has always been known as a pioneer in role-playing games, before the video game industry took the concept and added the visual settings, effects, and other graphic elements we are so used to today. However, there is always that extra element of surprise when you play D&D with just pencils and paper, and this experience was something we were looking for.

Coincidentally, Weiman introduced us to a couple of her other friends who used to play D&D quite some time ago. Looking to get back into D&D again, they agreed to help us ease into the game.

Setup

The thing about D&D is the amount of prep you have to go through before the game starts. Apart from getting your Dungeon Master and finding your team mates, you need to read through your rules and create your characters and setting accordingly. This includes your character name, race, class, back stories, setting, and what not. You don’t need many tools as a participant, just these:

If you’re the Game Master, you need your scenario and dice value criteria for situations where dice need to be rolled.

The Game We Played

For our setting, our wonderful Dungeon Master a.k.a. Game Master a.k.a. Cedric, created a setting of a Post-Apocalyptic Singapore, at the risk of being overrun by evil care bears. As such, our band of characters has been called to fight this evil.

The Crew (Many thanks to Weiman, Ben, and the Tiger for the great artwork!)

Created by: Weiman Kow
Created by: Weiman Kow

Dr. Grimm

  • Elven Mage
  • Neutral Evil
  • Seems to be obsessed with magic cats and riding Mechs
  • Also, not able to carry out any evil side actions just yet
  • Played by Weiman
Willos
Created by: Benjamin Chee


Willos Tealeaf

  • Halfling Cleric
  • Chaotic Good
  • Has Halfling luck and protection from the Goddess Tymora
  • Which is a good thing because he’s signal-whistle-trigger-happy and wants to eat orcs
  • Played by Ben
Gluteus
Created by: Max Loh


Gluteus, Son of Maximus

  • Dwarven Mage
  • Lawful Neutral
  • Seems to have an unexpectedly more volatile relationship with Willos than Dr. Grimm
  • Will not hesitate to electrocute you into submission (especially if you abuse your signal whistle)
  • Played by the Tiger
Contacts
Created by: Joelyn Alexandra | Artwork by: Max Loh

Alessandria “Contacts” Kuasimi 

  • Human Warrior
  • Chaotic Good
  • Apparently has strength rivalling Arnold Schwarznegger
  • Cannot see for nuts so she ends up using Echo Location and Blind Telekinesis
  • Played by Yours Truly

Highlights

Like many first timers into D&D, we started late because of prep and not knowing how to react to Cedric’s role playing antics. But as we went along, these were the main things we managed to take away from our first game:

  1. For someone with Halfling luck, Willos has horrible rolls. Perhaps it’s because he’s meant to be Chaotic Good but he ends up blowing his signal whistle in dark, dangerous areas just for fun.
  1. Gluteus was told it was uncommon for dwarves to become mages, but that didn’t phase him. Instead, he was attempting to electrocute Willos more than a couple of times because of untimely signal whistle usage.
  1. Grey Care Bears are only the start. Stay away from Care Bears. And magical cats which resemble the Cheshire cat.

Those aside, it was fun being able to explore role-playing games with that extra dimension of immediate and unpredictable interaction. While you may miss your attack in a video game, rolling a “1” in any of our attack rolls may warrant something which will render you paralysed with stomach-clutching laughter.

Just note that this is a trial scenario, so we may or may not continue with these characters. If I could, I would class my character as a Ranger. Or a Fighter Mystic. Heh.

However, we may be looking to have more sessions so please drop a comment if you would like to get episodic commentaries for future D&D hijinks!

Gameplay Winners: We kicked the monsters in the butt!! Thus far, we have slayed:

  • 1 Boa Constrictor
  • 1 Grey Care Bear
  • And Willos’s signal whistle (kinda)

Our trial session ended quite well, and the beauty of D&D is that with all the information you gather with your own character sheets, you games can stretch for as long as you want.

At the same time, side plots and actions can be twisted into the game – something you can’t have in many video games – so everything is just down to your creativity.

Dungeons & Dragons was created by Wizards of the Coast and continues to expand. To find out how you can get started, click here. Blanket Fortress Logo

Museum Escapades: Dream… then work it!

Museum Escapades

At the moment, I’ve been sorting out my photographs and albums after returning from my Cameron Highlands trip. And while that is in the waiting line of blog posts, here’s what the Tiger and I had the pleasure of experiencing at the Dreamworks Exhibition at the ArtScience Museum.

The Basics of Storytelling

Upon entering...
Upon entering…

The exhibition was sectioned into three main areas – story, characters, setting. Upon entrance and past the obligatory green-screen photography booth, we were greeted with a showcase of familiar clay models.

Models upon models...
Models upon models…
And walls of concept art.
And walls of concept art.

Lining the cylindrical entrance were artist impressions and models of the characters of Shrek, Kungfu Panda, and Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron. Models from The Road to El Dorado, The Prince of Egypt, and a few others studded the centre as well.

Shrek, Kungfu Panda, and Spirit each had media umbrellas, where we were able to listen to the experiences of the artists and animators when they were coming up with their stories and characters.

Concept art for Shrek.
Concept art for Shrek.
Master Sifu! (Which is a redundancy)
Master Sifu! (Which is a redundancy)

From 2D to 3D

In the light of the many 3D animations from Dreamworks, it can be easy to forget that they started with classics like The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, and Spirit: The Stallion of Cimarron. Things started to take shape with collaborations like Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and Flushed Away (with Aardman Animations) came into play.

The leads of Chicken Run
The leads of Chicken Run
And Gromit amazed by the huge melon in his garden
And Gromit amazed by the huge melon in his garden

Films like Shrek and Madagascar shot Dreamworks into full-blown 3D animation, now with favourites like How to Train Your Dragon, Kungfu Panda, and remakes like Mr. Peabody and Sherman under their belt.

The Process

What I particularly liked about their exhibit on characters and stories was the story and drawing board projections. It was entertaining to see a typical day at the team’s drawing board, and it was hilarious listening to the story board pitch of a scene in Shrek.

All in a day's work
All in a day’s work

While it was both enlightening and amusing, it gives a better sense of appreciation when you see the energy behind these family films. And the number of storyboards created for one film.

Pitching a single scene to the audience
Pitching a single scene to the audience

The Result

3D animation is not just a team of artists working on numerous in-betweens and drawings. Looking at the sets on display, it is clear our animation films have entire worlds and lives built into their studios.

In a land, Far Far Away...
In a land, Far Far Away…

Taking a ride on Toothless in a “How to Train Your Dragon” flight show, we got a ride of our lives as we travelled through the world of the dragons and their trainers, something we often miss out during the films. Yet, it is a key aspect the film will collapse without.

What We Know Today

So when you think about your favourite animations – Kungfu Panda, Madagascar, Rise of the Guardians – what you see is only a fraction of the many processes, creativity, and stories the creators have. What we see and know are the final cuts which pull through.

And what we saw in this exhibition was the birth and lives of many worlds, characters, and stories to last our lives.

So hop on and take this journey through an animated world.
So hop on and take this journey through an animated world.

The Dreamworks Exhibition will be at the ArtScience Museum until 27 September 2015. For more information, click here.

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Muse Moment: The Perfect Opportunity

Muse Moment  Now that we’re approaching the second half of the year, I am quite relieved that I managed to put some time aside to write for the sake of writing. While I cannot promise that Muse Moment will be permanently monthly, I hope I will be able to post as much as I can.

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The Perfect Opportunity Joelyn Alexandra

The door clicks. The bell rings. You ignore the roar of the teenage wave crashing into the café. Picking at your pastry, you keep the corner of your eye across the road – you waited for the predator.

He is late.

His wife came to your office when you were closing early.

“Are you Inspector Vass?” she asked.

“Call me ‘Tania’,” you said. You had not heard ‘Inspector’ in a long time.

“How may I help you?” you asked.

“My husband…” she started, and you knew. Contrary to popular belief, there were many uses for private investigators in Singapore – background checks, surveillance, missing people – and domestic cases were the necessary evil PIs had to take for survival.

She went on about the messages on his phone, the pictures he did not bother hiding, and the unfamiliar clothes he did not bother explaining anymore. He is influential, she repeated.

“He will leave me destitute if he wants to,” she said. You comforted her, and went through what she brought for you. You skimmed through his schedule, his license plate, and took a long, hard look at his photograph.

He appears. You take care not to look up too eagerly. Surveying from your safe zone, you watch him swagger on the opposite side. Hyenas had no need for appearances, they just hunt, bite, and snatch. With a face and name like that, you do not need to check your photographs to know this was the one.

“Dr. Shaun Tan,” your supervisor said.

That name etched itself as deep as his alleged actions were long. You scoffed at his plea when you opened his file.

“We were in love,” he claimed then.

The professor was caught with his A-Star student and pants down. With nothing to go on then, you snooped around. You spoke – to the university, to his colleagues, to the IT dude, to the girl’s friends, to the girl.

“I don’t see the fuss,” the girl had said, “And we’re not together anymore, please don’t bother me.”

You ignore the messages buzzing in your pocket, your eyes glued as he approaches his prey. You fish your phone out in case it was new information. Nothing. You sneer.

When you got that anonymous tip, you jumped at the opportunity.

‘I can’t say who I am,’ the message said then, ‘But I have something that can help you. I saw something, and I saw you asking questions. I hope this helps.’

The letter from Mr. Anonymous made it to court, but it also signed your permanent resignation from civil service. Your source came into question, and Tan countersued for evidence fabrication. You swore seeing a smirk at the corner of his mouth in court.

When you surrendered your badge, news of Tan’s IT serviceman’s death came in. Fell off a bridge after a night of drinking, they said. You knew better.

His prey looks no older than the one you questioned before.  hardly change their tastes. However, hands gripping elbows do not speak excitement – she knows she is prey. Regardless, he approaches her, you start snapping.

She backs away, a bruised gazelle. He charges forward, jaws wide, she steps, her face turned away to not show the tears. You click, click, and click. The intervals between each push reducing. You glare – hunting is meant to be swift. This is torture.

When he reaches for her, you know what will come next. You slip your camera into your pocket, and your ankles are primed for action. Adrenaline courses through your veins as he sinks his claws. She screams. No one reacts.

You remember promising yourself that you would never run head-first into a situation like this the moment they took your badge. You slink out of your seat and sprint, horns pointed and forward.

Some promises are meant to be broken.

Got you, you son of a bitch.

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This piece, The Perfect Opportunity, was written in a flash fic exercise during a writing workshop with the wonderful Miguel Syjuco. I entered it for the Singapore Noir Writing the City competition recently, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

You can check out some of my other pieces on my Tablo. Or just click here. Thanks again for reading! Blanket Fortress Logo

Next-in-Reading #44: Café Jause

Next in Reading

Title: Café Jause: A Story of Viennese Shanghai
Author: Wena Poon
Year: 2014
Publisher:
Sutajio Wena

Among the endlims of this book, Wena spoke about how she wanted to write a Cake Book in a long time. For me, it was definitely a cake book. It was also a book about humanity, identity, food, and war.

Born in the ethnic intersection of Chinese and Jewish, Philip “Pinkel” is left with the Viennese café his mother opened at his birth when she decides to flee to Hong Kong. Irma and Irene, the two Austrian women who bought the café, have no objections to letting Pinkel stay in the café, where his help in running the place and conversations with the café’s regulars come in handy.

Able to traverse between the Chinese and the European quarters without looking out of place, Pinkel’s life soon becomes embroiled in film, baking, and war. Under the same café roof, he speaks to the Chinese family living nearby, the Jewish Mr. Papp, and the Japanese officer Arthur (Asa) Hayashi and his “war wife” and ex-comfort woman, Singaporean-Chinese Sis.

Under this roof, they speak about what it is like to experience Shanghai in the 1920s, the documentaries, the war experiences, and things they read in magazines. All of this happens over a jause, a Viennese term which meant the small meal between two, usually comprising coffee and cakes – just enough to tide you over to a late dinner.

The end of the story comes around the making of the king of cakes – the German Baumkuchen – and it encompasses the cultures and identities merged and mixed into this book. Each layer can be seen to be the symbol of toil and hard work – the people who have built Shanghai, and by extension, China to be what it is. And within each layer, sweat, tears, toil, blood, memories, dreams, and many other things which make us who we are, go into it. The burnt layer in everyone’s baumkuchen at the end of the story can also showcase humanity’s pain and troubles in the greater scheme of things – it will never leave, but one can choose to ignore it, embrace it, or lament about it. Regardless, every character from different nations all enjoy a slice, burnt layer and all.

It feels good to have a story set during the pacific war which concentrates on personal history at that time. While people generally know what happened in National History, contemporary history and personal histories hardly come to light. Big things happen, but life goes on. What happens then?

Perhaps it’s because these histories become too painful to recall. Perhaps these histories remind us that like us, the “enemy” was also human, and vice versa. Perhaps it’s a stark reminder that we have to fight our own conflict (as Arthur and Sis do in the book) while fighting for the bigger things in life.

Café Jause is written by Wena Poon. To find out more about who she is and her works, click here.

And I’ll see you next week!

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