Thursday, 17 October 2019

Platform Coffee & Homestay, Kampung Nanas, Johor

Owning a B&B/Cafe has always been a dream of mine that I hold on to tightly for as long as I can remember, and hence I've been on an independent/family-run cafe run recently to gain inspiration and also just to indulge in their atmosphere.

I've recently paid a visit to Pekan Nanas, a little village located about 40 minutes from Johor Bahru with the aim of dropping by Platform Coffee & Homestay, a cafe/homestay run by a husband and wife duo.
Platform Coffee is a house-converted-cafe located in an unassuming residential area of Pekan Nanas.  The fence was lined with bamboo decolourized from the constant basking of sun, and the grills were adorned with branches and ropes, that outlines the Chinese characters ‘平台’ which means platform.


Step into the compound of Platform Coffee, and you'll notice that the front patio of the house has been modified and converted into a rustic coffee bar.
The sight of this coffee bar greeted us as we set foot into the compound. We arrived at around 12 noon and we had the whole place to ourselves. (Photo above was taken when I was leaving, at around 3ish-pm. Hence, the crowd)

My eyes were bedazzled by the sights around me - I felt as though I was sucked into an altogether different realm.
To the left, you'll see this old swing set that used to be a "staple" in grandparents' house, embellished with colourful, seemingly hand-sewn cushions.
And on the further corner you'll see an elevated platform adorned with cushions with contrasting textures. Dainty little wood work furniture.
Travel guides and magazines scattered around the platform, concealing the radio with antenna, an almost extinct..."artifact"?
Next to the platform you'll see this old wooden cabinet, adorned with handmade ornaments, ceramics tea cups and tea pots, little trinkets....and so much more. There were just too much for my eyes to register!
After loosing my focus for quite a bit, I walked back to the coffee bar to study the menu
Platform Coffee only serves drinks and some pastries. Selection of drinks was vast though - tea, coffee, juice, health drink, even alcohol (there's tuak!), you name it! Zoom into the board at the back and you'll notice that the menu you is made up of twigs. I thought the price is relatively affordable, if you compare to the prices at a typical coffee shop.


After placing our order, we went into the indoor section.
You'll marvel at the large mural of Pekan Nanas once you step inside the little house.
The interior of Platform Coffee is like my grandparents' house on steroid. - no air condition, no WiFi, old mismatched furniture. I sneaked a few peaks into the rooms to confirm my hypothesis.


I had a cup of Latte (RM6) which was served in a porcelain cup, I assume, is handmade. We spent the whole afternoon reading books and lounging around. The place started to get crowded after 3pm, chatters and laughter of local residences and hikers of Gunung Pulai filled up the space.

It was a lovely place to be. I wouldn't mind dropping by again when I'm free just to unwind, and pick up a book to read. Platform Coffee also offers pottery classes I heard, do check out their Facebook page for more information.


Platform Coffee
DH17A, Lorong A-4,
Pekan Nenas, 81500, Johor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/platform.coffee.homestay/

Business Hours:
Fridays - Tuesdays, 11am-6pm
Closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays



Monday, 30 September 2019

Expectation - Reality = Disappointment

Remember some time ago, KFC introduced ricebowl sets as their new line of products?
Looks tempting, innit? I was drawn towards their seemingly tantalizing advertisment. Bear in mind that Jia Qi doesn't eat fast food! But Jia Qi was hooked by the advertisement, so good job marketing team. And hey, it was only RM3.80! So on one fine day, Jia Qi decided to try out one of the rice bowl.
Well...when I got the rice bowl, a wave of emotions came crashing in - confusion, disappointment, then wrath, because I felt cheated. I was expecting more. I don't think I am able to convey the degree of disappointment I felt.

Yes, I know the photos are for illustration purposes only, but still! The actual product was a far cry from what was advertised. I begrudgingly finished the rice bowl in three mouthful, vowing to never have KFC anymore...

--

Often times, we feel disappointed because of the expectations we have -  We are disappointed in a particular food because we expected it to look as majestic as it is in the advertisement, but the food turned out to be a measly piece of...whatever. We are disappointed at our friend because we expected them to show up on time but he/she showed up late. Or perhaps we got disappointed while visiting somewhere that we got excited over because of some photos we've seen online, but it turns out to be...meh.

It's the same case at my job. I caught myself being disappointed more than ever this year, because of the expectations I placed on my students and myself.

At the start of 2019

As we moved on to become second-year teachers earlier this year, I vowed to be a much better teacher, and set a few goals which I thought was reasonable. I wanted to eradicate the silly mistakes (12 October 2018 entry) I've made in my first year. I wanted to be a teacher that is consistent with her routines, rules and classroom culture.

I vowed that this year, I will make sure:
1. all students will bring their English books when there is English class
2. all students will write the day and date in their exercise book
3. all students will log in their index
4. all students will submit their homework on time
5. I do not shout in class.

Ambitious much, but I believe it is achievable. After all, I often see teachers who are strict and consistent achieving it! I started off the year being the 'strict' teacher. I was stingy with my smile. I took my time to build my classroom culture. I spent the first 10 minutes of each lesson checking if the students have their books. I took my time tracking if my students passed up my homework. If they did not complete my homework, I will make them do their homework twice, and I'd catch them during recess to complete it.


The Last Straw? 

Soon enough, all these rituals were taking a toll on me, as I taught six different classes at that time (four Form 2 classes and two Peralihan classes). My schedule was already packed to the brim - I could not sit down for more than an hour every single day, and all those tracking were driving me nuts. Of course, there was the struggle of me trying to understand and get used to being in the afternoon session too (you can read my sappy story here).
My schedule at the very start of the year. On top of teaching all these class, I had to be on duty for at least 30 minutes every day.
Rehat 1 is non-existent by the way.

It reached a point where I was simply angry and bitter every day - I shouted and screamed at students for matters that were trivial. Every little silly things students do detonates an anger bomb in me (I briefly wrote about it here). Goal no 5 of not shouting clearly went down the drain. I was severely displeased at myself for not being able to control my emotions.
I shouted so much, I kept a "Shouting/KPI Tracker" on Twitter lol.

I was tired of holding on to the strict teacher persona - it simply just wasn't me. I was upset and disappointed of how unpleasant I've became. Students that I taught last year (who are currently in Form 5, morning session) would tell me they could hear me screaming one or two floors below when they were leaving school (they finish school at 2.15pm and classes starts at 1.20pm for afternoon session). I guess I am naturally just a very smiley and jovial person, and it takes effort to hamper myself from smiling. So I slowly let my hair down and began to store that frown aside, and smiled a little more. My peralihans were the first to notice - "TEACHER WHY YOU SMILE SO MUCH????!", they asked. I dropped goal no 5, and it made my days a little more bearable.

I felt that some students noticed that I was letting my hair down, and they started to take advantage of it. Slowly, more and more students started to "forget" to bring their books. It is human nature to make mistakes, so I adjusted my expectations more - rather than expecting 100% of the students to bring my book, perhaps 80-90% will do.

Even so with my expectation of least 90% of the students to bring their book, what happened in reality in one of my class, lets call them Class Alpha, is that only a mere 40% brought their books.

The thing about disappointment is, it is not quantifiable. I wouldn't say my disappointment level is 50% because only 40% brought their books when I expect 90% to bring their books (90-40=50%!). No, it doesn't work that way.

If you're disappointed, you are disappointed. What made me even more upset were their "reasoning" of why they did not bring their books:

"Only one period mah....don't want to bring lah...waste my effort!" 
"Teacher didn't tell us we need to bring the book!!" 
"Nothing will happen ma if I don't bring my book!" 

(Anyway, when about 10 students from Class Alpha, congregated against me and started chanting statement number 2, I blew up. Like...over the top blew up. And the class was quiet for the whole hour).

The thing about being the angry/crazy teacher who is screaming at the top of his/her lungs is it only works temporarily. And it drains my soul. Every time I shout or scream I feel my lifespan decreasing slightly (exaggerating a little here, but you get the picture). I believe no one likes to be at the receiving end of being shouted/screamed at, and trust me it is utterly unpleasant to be on the giving end too. How vile, I was.
The irony of the advice given my former students (who are in Form 5 this year) - to lower my expectations

Words Are Like Daggers

The younger students, what I've noticed is some of them have not grasp the ability to articulate themselves well.

Kids being kids, can be brutally honest. Or sometimes, they would say mean things because they think it is funny. Some of them hurl insults like Oprah giving out cars

"Never take what they say personally!"

"Leave what happens in school, in school!"

Time and again, a senior teacher would remind me to not take things too personally. Easier said than done. I expected them to treat and respect me as a teacher. But I don't feel respected as teacher.

I had a close-knit relationship with my form 4 students last year - without realizing it, I somehow imposed the same expectations on my students this year. Somehow, perhaps because the students are younger, I failed to develop a bond as strong as last year with my current students. I kept comparing my experiences this year with last year.

I feel like disappointment has been compounding in me..

--
I place utmost importance in my classroom teaching.

How much more can I adjust my expectations? If I kept lowering my expectations, I am essentially lowering my standards towards my students, and I refuse to do so, because I know they can do better than that.

--

I haven't been writing a lot about my teaching life this year - mainly because I was just rather upset this year and most of the things that would just come out as rants, more rants, and more rants.

When people asked me how was I doing, I'd just answer "BAD" and "HORRIBLE" (notice my very limited vocab) and usually people would just stop there, after all, rants are unpleasant :P Some might probe further and I'd be ranting my heart out - my sincere apologies to my victims hahahahha.
Exhibit A of Jia Qi's rant. 

--

Coping With Everything

I started reclaiming my life and doing things I enjoy - I started to pick up reading again, though at a much slower pace as before. I tried to pick up writing about things other than my teaching life (hence, the blog post about Gunung Arong I tried to go on more hikes. I went home whenever I can. And very recently I started to enjoy watching movies and series on Netflix lol.

I'd also set a cap on how much time I'd spend lesson planning, or doing work related stuff. Having said that, I'd like to reassure you that I still ensure my lessons are still properly planned, though perhaps not as detailed and well-thought out as before. I am a firm believer of "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". I believe that kids can misbehave or get disengage simply because a lesson wasn't well-planned. So I'd still make sure the lesson is well-planned, just that I've cut down the time I used to plan it. I reached out more for materials rather than creating everything from scratch. Having more personal/me time really helped me cope.

--
Sekarang....

By taking care of my well-being a little better, days became slightly more bearable. I am still adamant on lowering some of my expectations on my students, especially on homework submissions and bringing their books. I still track their homework submission diligently, although I have to admit, I refrain assigning homework to some class which I know the turn-in rate would be low.

I am fully aware that my time in school now is very limited though. I often feel guilty for taking a step back this year, because you know, time is so limited, shouldn't I be pushing myself and the students, with the remaining time I have?

There is a proverb in mandarin that goes 'When a clay Buddha crosses a river, he can't save himself, let alone help others.'(泥菩萨过江,自身难保).

Disclaimer: Not calling myself a Buddha, but what I am trying to imply is that when you yourself are in the shambles, you can't expect to give it all to someone else. You need to fix yourself first.

--
I certainly did not expect that I'll feel like this. I certainly still feel pathetic at times. I always thought that second year of teaching will be much better, that I'll triumph in school, write inspirational blog post yeahhhh.

Oh, I was so wrong. Jokes on me. Ha ha.

Everyone goes through different experiences. There is no guideline or specific path one's experience will follow.

--

Often times, reality is out of our locus of control. You can try to adjust your expectations.

And if you can't fix your expectations...you've got to find an outlet for those disappointments.

(I mentioned in one of my post in April that I cancelled my Netflix subscription...I resubscribed to it a while later HAHAHA. And I am, still trying my best to indulge in every moment. Trying.)


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

One Day Island Hopping @ Mersing, Johor

Think of must-visit islands in Malaysia, - names like Langkawi, Tioman, Perhentian and Redang usually dominate the list. But recently, names of smaller islands around the coast of Mersing have been making its round on social media. Pulau Rawa has been gaining a lot of traction, with photos of the changing gradients of turquoise blue water, white sandy beach, and its trademark slide & swing set on the shallow water circulating around social media.
One of the hidden gems around the coast of Mersing

However, only overnight guests are allowed to set foot on Pulau Rawa, as it is a privately owned island. The price range for a night stay is way out of my league. (I heard that a night stay can easily go up to a thousand!) But the good news is there are plenty of smaller, inhabited islands around the coast of Mersing that are almost as nice.

I was never a beach person - I don't really fancy the humidity and baking heat at a beach. It is a pain to wash my hair after swimming in the sea as sea water tangles up my hair. Yet, I was intrigued by the pictures of the islands, and I made a mental note to visit the islands before I move out from Johor, as once I move back to KL it will be a long arduous car journey from KL-Mersing!

Upon googling, I realized that there are plenty of day trip packages for island hopping priced below RM200! The cheapest package I found was RM150 (all-in) by Sea Hunter. The itinerary for most tour operators are almost identical, and reviews are mostly on the positive side. So I made my decision based on the price.

Be wary that some prices charged by tour operator are not inclusive of marine conservative fee. The fee we paid was inclusive of everything, no extra/hidden charges!


When to Visit

Before I move on to the details of the tour, I'd like to point out that the tours are not available all-year round due to the East-Coast monsoon. It is best to visit during the summer months (June-September) as it is dry season = no rain = sea is calmer = safer & visibility under water is much better


Price

What was included in our RM150 fee?
- Light breakfast
- Lunch
- Fruits
- Drinks (Bottle of drinking water and packet drinks)
- Snorkel and goggles rental
- Life Jacket rental
- Transportation (Speed boat) to all islands
- Marine conservation fees
- Fun-filled activities like cliff jumping and hiking!
- Exciting boat rides and interesting stories from our boatman and guide!

The route we went on!

Booking

I made the booking via Whatsapp. Do note that most tour operator would ask for a certain fraction of the fees in advance as deposit. We were told to wait at Mersing jetty at 9am.

We left our house in Pasir Gudang around 6.40am and arrived at 8.30am. Lost of time to spare still. There are plenty of public parking around Mersing jetty. If I remembered correctly, parking was RM15 for a full day.

We embarked on our tour close to 10am, as there were other people who were on the same tour as us that were late. So please people, be on time =D

It was an exciting 45 minutes speed boat ride to our first island.

Stop 1: Pulau Raja Sandbank

My eyes marveled at the glistening, turquoise blue water surrounding Pulau Raja.

There was supposed to be a short stretch of sandbank in the middle of the sea. However, it was high tide during the time of our visit so the sand bank was submerge under the turquoise water.

It was a little crowded there as this island is usually the "starting point" for most tour operators. We had our little photo shoot session there, like many others. I felt some sharp, stinging sensation on my limbs, and after a while my friends reported the same too. We were told by our boatman and guide that we got stung by mini jellyfish, that are as minuscule as a strand of hair, hence, invisible to our naked eyes.

I wasn't comfortable with the stings and I got on the boat earlier than everyone else. These stings left nasty red bumps on our limbs a day or two after our trip - which aggravates into ugly scars if you scratch it too much.

Stop 2: Mangroves around Pulau Raja

Yes, snorkeling around a mangrove!

After Pulau Raja Sandbank, we embarked on a 10 minutes boat ride to the mangrove area. The water was clear and we could see the bottom - it wasn't too deep, perhaps a little more than 2m (or more, due to the distortion of light giving the illusion of a shallower water). There were some sign of marine life, but coral reefs were non-existent.

As my clothes were still relatively dry and we were going hiking next, I skipped snorkeling here - I didn't want my clothes to bear the weight of the water absorbed by the fabric, hence, we stayed on board, and went on round 2 of our photo shoot. (A little narcissism wouldn't hurt, no?)

And also there was my fear of salt-water crocodiles and snakes. It seems that this is a popular stopover spot for snorkeling and there hasn't been any casualties as far as I know so...it's safe I guess?
We lingered around for about 15 minutes, before we took off to our third stop located about 15 minutes away.

Stop 3: Pulau Seri Bulat

Pulau Seri Bulat is definitely my favourite island among all the islands visited, because there's a hiking trail! We were told that Pulau Seri Bulat used to be a popular stopover spot for pirates around the area.
Before we embark on the hike, we had our breakfast (included in the rate we paid) - Nasi dagang! The portion was small - which is good as it wouldn't be nice to hike with a bloated stomach!
We went up the trail after wolfing down the our meal. The hike was short and sweet, we reached the peak after about 10 minutes of ascending!

Our guide was really helpful and patient, guiding our friend step by step because their shoes' grip weren't that great. 10/10 for service, really!
The view at the peak was breath-taking. We could see the changing gradient of the sea around the island - signifying a change in depth. The strong sea breeze at the peak was invigorating, drying our sweat from the hike!

Photo credit to our Mr tour guide, who voluntarily offered to help us take photos! (Just so you know, this isn't a sponsored post k...genuinely grateful and satisfied with the service :P)

After we descended, we hopped on the speedboat and went around the other side of Pulau Seri Bulat for a bit of cliff jumping.

Stop 4: The Other Side of Pulau Seri Bulat

The area where we did our cliff jumping! Unfortunately, none of us have a waterproof camera case nor go-pro so...no videos or photos of us jumping.
We leaped from the cliff on the right side! It doesn't seem that high (and it wasn't that high up, probably around 2-3m?), but I could feel my legs trembling when I stood at the edge of the rocks! It took me a while (+ lots of convincing & words of encouragement from my friends) before I took my leap of faith.

Do take note that this activity is subject to sea conditions! We were told that if the seas are rough we will not be allowed to jump.

The boatman took us to a higher cliff and did a demonstration of a high cliff jump (I'm pretty sure it was at least 5m high), but by that time, somehow, we (by we, I mean me and my friends) were suffering from sea-sickness, so we didn't bother taking any photos or videos sorry!

Stop 5: Random islands

My apologies, as my friends and I were suffering from sea sickness at this point, so there isn't much photos and details beyond here I apologies. I just remember being on the boat for quite a while, and we arrived at this beautiful island. We unanimously agreed that this is the most beautiful island we saw on that day. However, we were not allowed to disembark there as it is forbidden by the Johor Sultan. So it was more of a "see-see-look-look" stop.

We were told that this island was once a filming location for the reality series "Survival". Sadly, visitors are banned from visiting it after some teenagers were caught filming extreme stunts on the island...


We cruised past Pulau Rawa too. We were also shown different islands that were featured in "Survival" but we were too unwell to pay attention and take more photos. We stopped quite a bit on the sea for photos, the boat wobbled and swayed on the rough sea when we were stationary so we really wasn't at our best state.
This was an island used as a "punishment" site for participants that lost in Survival...I think

At this point, the boatman and our guide could sense our faltering enthusiasm which stemmed from our seasickness and they swiftly made a change of plan, and we brought forward our lunch stop at Pulau Besar.

Stop x? (Lost track due to sea sickness): Pulau Besar

Lunch was chicken rice -  I loved the fact that it is packed in reusable containers! Plastic waste minimized (though there are some plastic waste produced, as plastic was needed to contain the soup and sauce!)

We felt regenerated after lunch and was ready for snorkeling - we stopped at three different spots for snorkeling but as mentioned previously, we had no waterproof camera and hence no photos!

The snorkeling experience was okay - coral reef not as pretty as the one in Perhentian and the marine life not as diverse but still it was an enjoyable experience. I was quite relieved when the snorkeling trip ended and we were heading back to the jetty.

BUT bear in mind I'm not a beach and sea person so I spent more time sitting by the beach, waiting for everyone :p I don't quite enjoy underwater activity so, perhaps I'm not the greatest reference point for snorkeling review :p


Being a teacher, I like to give everything a tangible rating. 

I'd give Sea Hunter a 10/10 for this trip. Our guide and boat man was the best guide one could ask for - they were attentive, humorous, and fun! They were patient when anyone in the group would like to take photos, or when we took our own sweet time. They were attentive to our needs (always reminding us to drink water!), and cracked up a lot of jokes during our trip. If you're planning an island hopping trip around Mersing, I'd really recommend them!

Sea Hunter

Other places to visit near Mersing:
1. Pulau Mawar
2. Gunung Arong

Other places to visit in Johor:
1. Blue Lagoon of Kangkar Pulai
2. Rainforest Treehouse, Pulai

Back to Top