NOT a food blog
I had just landed at the Langkawi International Airport, and standing before me was a lanky man holding a placard with my name on it. He had a pleasant smile, this mild-mannered man, and meeting him provided the perfect transition – my passage from hectic city living to paradise. He allowed me the luxury of dwelling on my own thoughts for the 30 minutes ahead of me, but I was keen to talk. “What’s the music that you’re playing right now?” I asked appreciatively. “I don’t know,” he replied sheepishly, and handed me the CD sleeve. “Mmmm….it’s nice,” I said. He smiled. “It’s peaceful, isn’t it?” he replied. I nodded. The rest of the time was filled with endless chatter about work and family and religion. As we drove up to the entrance of The Datai, he took out the music CD from the player and handed it to me. “Here, you have it,” he said.
The private beach at The Datai
The Datai is located at the north western tip of Langkawi and is surrounded by virgin rainforest with a private footpath leading to the white sand beach. The Datai’s 54 villas, 16 suites and 54 rooms are all set within the rainforest with their own private verandas. The first thing I did when I checked into my room was to throw open the balcony doors and inhale the fresh air. Little did I know that monkeys are common visitors at The Datai, and a dusky leaf monkey was observing me just a few metres from where I stood on my balcony!
The typical visitor to The Datai must be someone who loves nature. At night, I was serenaded to sleep by an orchestra of sounds emanating from the jungle – the deep croak of frogs to the quiet song of crickets. Nature’s symphony. In the day, birds would perch on my balcony, chirping briskly like a bunch of housewives sharing the morning news. It’s a euphoric and comforting experience. It’s a place where one can be alone, and yet not feel lonely.
The villas offer guests privacy as they are set apart, separated by trees and connected by an intricate series of pathways. The pool villas, as the name indicates, have private plunge pools and jacuzzis. They are all luxurious, and are all equipped with a dining table for two, LCD flat screen TV, Bose CD sound system and iPod dock, and their sizes range from 93 square metres to 120 square metres.
The rooms, on the other hand, are no less impressive. At 62.5 square metres in size, they’re relatively large, and offer views of either the Andaman sea, the pool or the rainforest. Binoculars are provided in the premium rooms for those who want to do a spot of bird watching. Of course, what blew me away were the beach villas. At 218 square metres (for the one bedroom beach villa), the beach villas fringe the ocean on one side and the forest on the other, with a gorgeous outdoor shower, a glass walled bathroom, a 10 metre private swimming pool, a lush garden and a separate dining and living area. The price is not for the faint-hearted. Rates start from RM9,550 per night.
There are pros and cons. Cons – You’re isolated, so unless you have a car, be prepared to dine in everyday. Pros – Dining in isn’t all that bad. You have a choice of 4 restaurants (more about the restaurants later), so you won’t go hungry.
The best thing about the resort is the service. Service is attentive, be it at the resort or the restaurants. Often, service seemed to be personable as well, as there appeared to be a genuine interest in getting to know the guests better. I think it works both ways; one has to be interested in getting to know others if one expects others to show an interest in getting to know you. A smile goes a long way, I’ve learnt, and the eyes speak the heart’s intent.
I am an accountant, and to a certain extent, I fit the stereotype associated with accountants. I am an introvert and I am risk-averse. Change is something that I view as an absolute last resort. At this point, my friend, Fatboybakes, will probably sputter out an incoherent string of words that will probably include “guffaw”, “roll eyes” and “delusional”. Public events scare me. If you don’t want someone to be your friend on Facebook, tell them you’re an accountant. *crickets* Oh look, there’s Jules…I haven’t seen him in awhile…ta! It’s worse if you’re an auditor. You may as well whip out your mobile phone and exclaim, “Oh dear, my boss is trying to reach me!”, then seek out the darkest corner and play Candy Crush alone for the rest of the evening.
When you’re forced into a situation of change, you have no choice but to swim. What used to scare you at night now scares you even when your eyes are wide open. Everything becomes amplified. and soon you become your worst nightmare and you begin to do things that are destructive because you think that when you’re hurting, the whole world will hurt with you.
The fact is, and this is clearly evident in the current times, people have short term memories and what may be sensational this hour will be old news in the next. We live in a disposable world. People, objects, memories…they’re all replaceable.
The remedy? Embrace the change, acknowledge the cause and problem, and fill that void.
To put things simply, I cooked. I cooked ferociously, day and night, and even when there was no one to eat the food, I’d still cook.
When Bongo Lee told me that she was throwing a birthday party for her brother, I offered to bake the birthday cake. But here’s the thing – my track record, as far as baking is concerned, is pitiful. If you have been a reader of this blog since its inception, you may have laughed at some of my struggles (links HERE and HERE). The oven has always been my enemy. Nevertheless, I wanted to do this. There was no back-up plan.
I’d been meaning to try the butter cake recipe from WendyinKK’s blog, named after her friend, Mrs Ng SK, who gave her the recipe, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to try it. It was past midnight when I took out my pans, feeling somewhat intoxicated from the drinks and hokkien mee that I had consumed earlier at The Moon Bar, and I became Nigella, boobs and all. Adamant that this would not be a repeat performance of my 2008 baking disasters, I followed the recipe to a T. A couple of hours later, I was staring at my masterpiece. It was a work of art.
The next morning, I had bigger ambitions for the cake. I had this sudden brilliant idea that I would sandwich the cake with lemon curd, then coat it completely with lemon butter cream. My only problem was that the existing cake was too low to be sliced horizontally into two. Solution? Bake another cake for the top half. So with barely a couple of hours to go before my lunch appointment with my parents, I set out to bake the second cake. This time, Nigella did not materialise. I was Usain Bolt as I moved at lightning speed. In a little over an hour, my cake was done. It was another masterpiece. I set out to my parents’ place, pleased as Punch.
When I got home after lunch, I decided to slowly work on the construction of the square cake. After whipping the lemon butter cream and preparing the lemon curd, I assembled the cake. It looked somewhat lopsided, but I figured that the butter cream frosting would take care of that. So I painstakingly coated it, layer after layer, with the frosting. I was meticulous, adding a millimetre here and a millimetre there, but after the umpteeth time of frosting, chucking it in the fridge, then frosting it again, I realised that the cake was destined to look like an amateurish effort at best.
I looked at it sadly and made the executive decision not to serve it at the birthday party.
I am an accountant, and I have this idea of perfection, the devil being in the details and all, and I thought it an abomination to serve something so imperfect to people I barely knew. I wanted to disappear into a corner and play Candy Crush.
It wasn’t just a cake to me. It was a projection of the unspoken insecurities and a desire for affirmation.
A couple of days later, I served it to some friends. They tried it and said that it was good. I got the affirmation I wanted, but I realised that I was doing it the wrong way.
I am studying the book of Jeremiah now and the following verses in Jeremiah 29 have been seared into my heart -
11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Maybe there is hope for me yet.
In my office of a hundred odd people, it is easy enough to spot the person who has just been to the loo. With all the newfangled gadgetry in the world, and despite the major renovation of the office toilets a couple of months back, the changes seem to be merely cosmetic. Mind you, I am thankful that we’ve moved from the ancient look of the 80s (think cheap white fluorescent light above soft board ceilings) to classy maroon tiled finishing, chrome taps and soft warm hidden lighting. What irks me is the leaky bidet hose which splashes water into my leather heels; I’ve found a new position while sitting in the loo now – my left foot is raised about a foot off the floor to avoid the leaky hose and my body is contorted to ensure that I don’t fall off the seat. It’s quite a workout. I can’t avoid the second problem, though. The bloody taps are water bombs in disguise. Don’t be fooled by the elegant appearance; nay, these taps gush like a man ejaculating after a 60-day abstinence and cover your entire chest with enough liquid to douse a fire.
It was divine providence that I would be meeting an old friend for lunch just after encountering yet another harrowing session in my office loo. One learns to be dignified in such conditions. Look him in the eye, give him a strong handshake, and stand at an angle so that he does not see that you’re a candidate for a wet t-shirt contest.
We had decided to walk to Chinatown to have lunch. A brilliant idea as the strong gusts of wind from the passing vehicles would ensure that my chest (dress) would dry by the time we reached our destination.
Now pay attention to what I’m about to share with you. If you’re looking for an Indian meal that will make you shed tears of joy (well, to be honest, you’ll also be tearing up with all the dust from the nearby MRT project), then you’re at the right place. At the intersection between Jalan Tun HS Lee and Jalan Sultan stands a narrow shoplot bearing the name Yong Bee with a pa kua mirror above the entrance, but you won’t find any Chinese food here. You will see a smiling Indian man with a thick MGR moustache standing behind trays of hot curries, peratals and stews. You can tell that the food is freshly cooked from the steam emanating from these trays. A queue will start forming at 11.45 in the morning, and the food is all but gone by the time he closes at 3.30pm. The sweet and savoury mango chutney that he makes is so good that I can eat it with plain rice and die happy. His mutton peratal is tender and cooked in a rich and thick sauce perfumed with coriander and turmeric and ginger. Everything is decidedly homecooked and reminds me of mum’s cooking (especially that mango chutney!!).
Go early for the best stuff. Open Mondays to Fridays for lunch only.
Oh, I should let you know that the kiwifruit blogging competition is over. I ended up in 5th place while my arch-nemesis, Fatboybakes, stood at 3rd. Congratulations, Swee San, on winning the super prize. This social media thing is just not for me. Nevertheless, it was good fun getting the creative juices flowing. I can’t believe I’m saying this but….*gasp*….is FBB….*gasp*….my muse?
Food, for me, is a means to an end and not an end in itself.
Food, for me, represents the love of family, the fellowship of friends, and the community and communality it brings.