Sunday, 16 June 2019

The Old Merchant, Melaka

The Old Merchant is Malacca's first speakeasy bar, located along the quaint riverside of the Malacca river, which is just 3 minutes walk from Jonker Street.
The back alley of The Old Merchant - truly picturesque!

I stumbled upon this place on Facebook (thank you AI and algorithm for the advert) and I was hooked by their happy hour promo (RM55 for a jug of cocktail), which seems like a pretty good deal.

There are two entrance to The Old Merchant, one is from the main road of Jalan Kampung Pantai, the other is from the river side.
The riverside entrance. You'll have to enter through the toilet! You will see a few tables and rattan chair set-up by the riverbank. You can enjoy your drinks there too, if you don't mind the humidity!

I was dazzled by the charming interior of The Old Merchant. It was a mix of traditional and modern design - which really bedazzled me.
The Old Merchant's signature backdrop - the Chinese characters literally translate to "White People's Herbal Tea" LOL!
 Happy hour menu.
The Old Merchant serves creative cocktails with a local twist and quirky names - there are more drinks choices which I did not take a picture of, but you can sort of get a gist of what the menu entails! According to the server, the drinks priced at RM30 are the "easy drinks" (ie lower alcohol content, sweeter taste). 

I decided to settle on the Made for Nyonya (RM30) as recommended by the server for a sweet, fruity & refreshing drink.
Made for Nyonya (RM30)
Three words - I love it. I've always been a fan of passion fruit so this drink was perfect for my taste buds. It was what I expected - sweet, fruity & refreshing! The kaffir lime was an interesting addition that gave the drink a truly Malaysian finish.
I dropped by The Old Merchant some time again with another friend to try out their RM55 Happy Hour promo. This was The East India Company if I am not mistaken. It was a fruity drink as well (sorry my memory was fuzzy for this drink) but I remember really enjoying it as well.

My verdict? The Old Merchant is definitely a place I'd drop by if I am ever at Melaka for a drink to cool myself down. I am keen on trying more of their drinks the next time I drop by!

The Old Merchant
88, Jalan Kampung Pantai, 
75200 Melaka

Business Hours:
Tuesdays - Sundays 6pm-1am
Closed on Mondays

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Journey Thus Far

"5 more hours of IPG classes left..."
"T-minus 2 days till this camp ends"
"5 more days to home!!!"


Throughout my fellowship, I find myself counting down a lot. Counting down to the end of my IPG weekend classes. Counting down the number of days till camp is over and I can be at my comfy bed. Counting down to a trip. Counting down to go home (Selangor). Counting down to end of school. Counting down to get out from a particular class. Counting down the hours left to go home from school.
Our last literature class in IPG

And this year in particular, I find myself counting down more than ever. I seek comfort in counting down. I needed things to look forward to, to help me carry through the day.

To be honest, I find my second year of fellowship extremely tough. I find myself missing home often. Often, I find myself unable to control my emotions. I feel tired all the time. I find myself falling into a cycle of despair and feeling demotivated.
My Thursday-After-School geng

I thought time and rest would help, and it did help, a little, but I can't help it but to feel really down still. And it was the counting down that helped me push through my day. Push through the week.

My Thursday dinner group with my fellow friends, Sophie, Fatimah and Emily, helped me stay sane. I started eating out more often for dinner after school because I had something to look forward to and stay busy (ahem busy researching new places to eat ahem). I planned my holidays and going-home-trip in advance.
In February, my collab, Sophie and I, spontaneously went on a 2d1n trip to Bangkok because...well we needed a break.

One of the 10000000 photos of after school Fried Chicken & me my collab took.

Last week in particular, time passed painfully slow. Perhaps because we just came back from a long (and abrupt) break (one week of school holiday + our school got closed down unexpectedly because of the pollution of Sungai Kim Kim), and whatever momentum that was built up had to be rebuilt.

What helped me pull through the week was our South TFM Regional Event 1 (RE1) retreat - it was something that I was looking forward to.
The staffs, alumni, and fellows in South!
And sure enough, our RE1 retreat lived up to my expectation - it was fun, rejuvenating and meaningful.

On the first night after dinner, we had an appreciation session.  For this session, we were tasked to tie ribbons of different colours on someone elses wrist. There were different colours of ribbons, and each colour conveys a certain feelings (ie Red - "I am inspired by you", Blue - "It is fun being around you") you wish to share with the person you are tying it on.

One colour conveys "I wish to keep in touch with you after the fellowship".

This hit me hard, as I realized our two years fellowship journey is coming to an end very soon. Us fellows have the choice to either stay on as a teaching alumni, or leave and move on. And very likely, next year, we won't be able to see each other easily because of many different factors and reasons.

And it just occur to me, that this might be our very last retreat together, before the end of the fellowship (we will have Alumni Induction at the end of our fellowship). We don't have anymore weekend classes in IPG, which means we won't gather as the whole cohort as often as before because of other commitments & various reasons. The next TFM even that will force us to be together is our workshop in June, and a conference in July.
Us, last year during our first week of IPG classes

IPG weekends classes were dreadful and tiring, because we don't get as much rest as we are supposed to. But I can't help but to miss it, a little. Just because all of us 2018 South cohort get to be in the same room, and go through the hurdle together, look forward to lunch together.

I somehow miss those moments. I kind of wish, if we could see each other more often and have lunch together again.

This year, I kept wishing if I have a fast forward button for time. Sometimes, I forget to be "in the moment". I let time slip and pass. I distracted myself by binge watching movies (which is very unlike me, as I don't watch movies). Heck, I even gotten myself a Netflix one month trial account (which is honestly not something I'd do). I choose not to treasure and remember certain moments and feelings. I subconsciously blocked some of my feelings and selectively choosing what to remember and treasure. I've stopped writing much about school because I wanted to block it from my mind off. 

I let time slip and pass. Looking back on this year, I spent January trying to find my footing and get used to being in the noon session (moping and weeping and complaining a lot along the way), February trying to get as much rest and distract myself through my Bangkok trip, and March I distracted myself by getting a Netflix account, going on trips to Kuching, and also hiking trips around Johor. 

Honestly, I feel like I have not achieved or done much this year. Nor built meaningful relationship (other than with my Thursday dinner crew), because I was too busy distracting myself, and counting down to my random trips and towards to end of something dreadful. I have been staying inside my little comfort zone cocoon. 


No, I am not going to be wasting more time beating myself over this.


What I can do now, is to (try to) stop letting time just slip and past. (Try to) start working on something, and work on building meaningful relationship with whatever time I've had left. (Try to) be in the moment, even at shiat-ty moments. Remind myself that my time in school *might* be limited. Slowly get out from this comfort zone cocoon. Slowly. (and reminding myself that we have approximately 7/8 months of school left, and I haven't deducted weekends and holidays from there).

Us Southern Tigers 2018 on our last day of BIG Camp, which honestly, I had a lot of fun in.
I won't say that after this, I will embrace every single moment I dread just because "it might be the last time". Heck, I still feel dreadful thinking about tomorrow (schooling day tomorrow!) I don't think my life will miraculously turn around after this revelation. And no, I don't think my countdown is going to stop. But I will certainly (try to) treasure each moment more. (Try to)  not let time slip and pass, indulge in every moment, even when my kids go berserk in the classroom. Breathe in the air, and remember how the moment feels.

And the utmost priority, reach out and connect to my fellow fellows. There's no IPG weekend classes to (force) tie us together now.

I cancelled my free trial Netflix account. That's a good start kan.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Gunung Arong, Mersing, Johor

If you ask me about my favourite hike in Johor, it'd definitely be Gunung Arong!

(Well but actually, I've only been to Gunung Ledang, Gunung Pulai and Gunung Arong in Johor, so the candidate pool isn't big. I am not including Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai in this pool here because it was pretty short hike)

Standing at 240m, Gunung Arong is the third lowest peak in the state of Johor. The hike is not too long nor tough, and you get a stunning view at the peak.

I planned a day trip from Johor Bahru to Mersing last year to hike Gunung Arong and Pulau Mawar. However, we spent half a day at Pulau Mawar, and a looooong time trying to locate the entrance to Gunung Arong (if you try to search it on Google Map, it will lead you to a road that is heading towards Rompin, Pahang) so by the time we reached the entrance, it was already 4pm and the locals advised us against hiking up Gunung Arong at that time.

The rebellious side of Jia was rather unsatisfied at that time, but after hiking it the other day with my friends, I am grateful that the rebellious side of Jia got overpowered by the rational side of Jia, which I will explain why in this blog post, and also why this blog post exist because I can't find much detailed info regarding the entrances of Gunung Arong.

Things You Need To Know Before Hiking Gunung Arong.

1. Permit

Please do get yourself a permit before hiking Gunung Arong. We were warned by the locals to get a permit before we hike, as the forest rangers might give us a hefty fine if we were caught without one.

He told us that we could get a permit at Endau Forest office, which is 30 minutes drive away. This blog provides detailed instruction on how to obtain a permit. So please, do apply for a permit prior to your hike.

2. What to wear

Dri-fit clothes, especially if you are taking the beach entrance (Read below for reasons why!). You will get wet.

2. Entrance

There are two entrances for Gunung Arong, one is the beach entrance, and the other entrance, well, let's call it the "actual entrance". You may choose to go up using one entrance and exit from the other, or make a U-turn after reaching the peak, hence using the same entrance and exit. The approximate GPS location of the entrances are as below:

"Actual Entrance" approximate GPS location:
2.573806, 103.803861

Beach entrance approximate GPS location:
2.563920, 103.817835

This blog provides a detailed guide to get to the "actual entrance". So please have a read if you plan to use this entrance!

I entered via the "actual entrance" and exited via the beach entrance, near to Teluk Gorek campsite. If you do the same, after you finally reached Teluk Gorek campsite, you have to walk another 1.6km to reach your parking spot at the "actual entrance".

The long 1.6km walk from Teluk Gorek campsite to our car at the "actual" entrance

The trail from the beach side entrance is slightly longer, because you have to travel some distance from the car park before reaching the trail head. For first timer, the beach entrance will be really tricky. You'd have to cross a few bays, climb giant rocks, cross a mangrove etc. to get to the entrance. I doubted myself so many times so here's a rough guide so you won't feel as lost as I did :P

To get to the beach entrance, park your car at Teluk Gorek camp site. Then you'd have to cross about 2km of beach/mangrove/rocks terrain to the trail head
I wouldn't recommend swimming all the way to get to the trail head. I have no idea how deep the water are and how strong the currents are.

The walk along the beach felt rather long, because there wasn't much shelter against the sun, and we had to climb up rocks at some parts. The best way to cross the bays is to stick close to the sea, so you won't get lost!

We get to go up close with submerged mangrove trees. We reached a river mouth where it seems like the only way across is to waddle through the water.

The water seems shallow at first, then it gets deeper progressively. However, fret not, as the deepest the water got was just slightly below our waist. I've read at this blog that during high tide the water might reach up to one's shoulder.

See the double red stripes? That's the entrance!
view from the trail. We were so excited when we finally reached the exit!

Most hikers would camp overnight at the beach and hike up before the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise. It'd be hard to cross the beaches when it is dark, hence I was glad I did not proceed with the hike during my first visit.

4. The hike

The hike was relatively straightforward and well-marked! Follow the red/yellow marker on the tree, and avoid the path labelled with the red & white tape.

Most part of the hike is covered too!

5. The Peak

There is a viewing tower at the peak of Gunung Arong where you can get a better view of the bay. Take note that a maximum of 3 people are allowed at the viewing tower.

The usual photospot at Gunung Arong is about 10 minutes hike away from the viewpoint. If you hiked up from the beach, you'd reach this spot before the viewing tower.

Would I go again? Definitely :D I'd want to catch the sunrise there, one day.

Gunung Arong
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Duration of Hike: 1.5~3 hours, depending on speed and frequency of stopping

Other places to visit near Mersing:
1. Pulau Mawar

Other places to visit in Johor:
1. Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai

Photo credits to my beautiful friends, Fatimah & Emily!

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai, Johor

*Edited in May 2019 with more photos after my second trip

I WANT YOU TO IMAGINE - a few hundred truckloads of Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouth Wash, in a huge crater, surrounded by layers of cliffs.

Now, let me make this imagination a little more of a "6D experience". Lets throw in some peaceful bird chirping sound effect, and the hollow sound of the wind blowing. Feel the breeze as it caresses your face, messing up your hair.

This is how it feels like being at the Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai.

I didn't expect the blue lagoon to be so mesmerizing to be honest. When I googled about this place, I thought that most photos online were edited with masks of filters (or heavily contrasted), but when I saw the blue lagoon with my own eyes, yep, Listerine Cool Mint Antiseptic Mouth Wash. (In other words, yes, it is worth a visit and you have to see it with your own eyes!)

But anyway, the blue hue of the lake is formed by the Copper (Cu2+) ions which seeped into the water through...somewhere.

The Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai is located about 45 minutes drive from Johor Bahru. The hike is relatively short and easy, just a brisk 10 minutes hike (less than 500m in distance) to the first view point, and you can proceed to hike further around the lagoon for a different view!

This hike can be done by kids, as it is not too challenging. Trail was straightforward and well-marked. However, do be very careful if you wish to take a photo closer to the edge of the lake. The soil around the cliffs can be loose!

You can find the location on Google Map in this link.

If you follow the link above, Google will lead you through some windy plantation roads and eventually to a rocky, untarred roads. You'll see speed signs warning you about the 20kmph speed limit. Though it seems doubtful, you're on the right track, don't worry. Just drive slowly until you see cars parked at the road side, and you know you've reached the trail head.

If you use Waze, Waze will lead you through some residential area, and you'll see some cars parked at the roadside and a "Do Not Trespass" Sign. Walk through the dirt trail, and after about 200m you'll reach the same start point as above.

If in doubt, just ask anyone around!

You'll see a stall with a blue canopy selling drinks, walk towards the direction of the stall...

And see that little pathway next to the boom gate? That's the trail head! (No, you don't need to climb the boom gate as demonstrated by the kid in the picture...)
The first 200m features a flat terrain. It was a breezy, easy walk, with flowers and bushes on both side of the trail.
After that, the real "hike" starts. The trails starts to become steep, maybe an incline of 30 degrees. There are ropes to help you too. However, the incline part is really short and not too tough. I saw many children during my hike!
Just keep going up up up and...
...on your right, you'll catch the first glimpse of the blue lagoon!

You may go closer to the cliff, but do be really careful while doing so! Don't put your life on the edge for a photo!

Most people would just hang around the first view point and make a U-Turn back to their cars. I proceeded further (about 1/3 of the circumference of the lagoon) till I reach a fenced area and I made a U-Turn back to where I came from.

I'd recommend going around the lake as it offers a view from different angle of the lagoon! There's a viewpoint where the wind is really breezy. I could just sit there for ages!

It was a hazy and cloudy day when I visited this place. This place is best visited on a sunny day, as the sun acts as a natural "enhancer" for photos haha :P

In a nutshell, please just visit this place. It is worth it, I assure you. Easy hike with a rewarding view.

Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai
Difficulty: Easy
Duration of Hike: 10 minutes (to first view point) and beyond (well it depends on how far you want to go)

Other places to visit in Johor:
1. Pulau Mawar
2. Gunung Arong
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