20 March 2013

Under the shadow, came the bug from my past

If you think this weird bug (from the photo above) comes all the way from the Black Hole to invade and take over our planet, you are off the target by a zillion year. My uncanny imagination says, this bug possess potent aphrodisiac properties that can boost some power to young-at-heart wannabes. Not that this theory has been proven by any sane human  or I recommend you to test this object of desire in the comfort of your bedroom, but in the time of uncertainty like now everything is possible.

Let me first introduce you to Cik Ru or Cik Mek (Ganu speak) or antlion (mat salleh speak). The physical form of this bug and the name Cik Ru don't strike  any resemblance to anything that will ignite puberty hormone furiously or raised  eyebrows of any kids on the street. The name Cik Mek however   doesn't do it justice to all the Cik Mek molek out there. Perhaps Mek Poghong is more appropriately named and given to this bug. But Mek Poghong after some 'tarbiah' and proper guidance by Iman muda for example, can be transformed into a Cik Mek Molek or even Cik Mek Berjuruh (a super courteous and well-mannered lady).

That bug was actually very special as  it brought back many  fond memories during my childhood time.   The fact that It had  wasted a lot of my childhood time sharpening my 'fishing' skill  under the shadow of my late grandfather's old house has never erased this bug from my memory. Fishing Cik Ru out from their sand pit which is also a trap was insanely a popular childhood pastime activity during my younger days. To see Cik Ru in person, one has to 'fish' them out from the sand pit by tickling the sand  pit by our own hair or a grass or anything that can tickle (by doing this, the antlions thought the prey has fallen into their pit). When they emerge from the pit, we scooped them out and tied them with our hair and again using this captured antlion we lured another antlion from their sandy dungeon. This process will go on and on until we were tired playing or tired of each other companion  or our mother called us for our usual ikang singgang sambal belancan lunch break. This  fishing activity could last through out the whole day.

What is more interesting, Cik Ru is actually a larvae, part of the life cycle  to another interesting insect known as lacewing. Not until last week, after 40 over years I thought this alien creature was some kind of sand bug that dug a sand pit, eat ant and then it completed its life cycle by getting old or having some terminal illnesses like falling in love with Najwa Latif. It was my youngest son who pointed out a story from a book I bought him a few years back that featured kids playing with antlions that made me realized the life cycle of an antlion. We can surely learn a lot from small kids and we should always do.

Antlions look ferocious and grotesque with its fusiform body and large mandibels. They however pose no threat to human or drag you into their sand pit unless some kind of mutation takes place and transform them 100 times larger than their normal size.  I always dream  to ride this bug to my office and occasionally scare off uncivilized mat rempit. Nowadays, it is very hard to find antlion as kampung houses are now made of concrete and modern houses don't spare any space  for antlion to lepak or settle down with their sand pit bungalows. 

This week I am off to Kota Bharu, I hope  Cik Mek Molek of Kelate are still around to greet me and bring back the nostalgic feeling spending time under the dark shadow of the old house. 

Exclusive and elusive sand pit bungalows of antlions. Surprisingly enough, I found it near the back stairs of my new office. I think they choose this strategic spot for a special reason too i.e reporting office staffs who smoke during office hour to the head of the department (the whole campus is now a smoke-free zone).

03 March 2013

A quickie and wet escapade into Hat Yai

Hat Yai is not one of the best cities on the earth but  deceptively a wonderful city to visit occasionally and periodically when my feet are itchy for some not-so-faraway foreign adventures. I'd only been here twice and only for a few days at a time, but this place is always happy to welcome me back and offers me some new experience each time I lay  my feet onto this region. It is fairly an inexpensive place to visit and with an exchange rate of  approximately 10 Thai Bath to 1 MYR you can practically forget Maggie mee or Brahim chicken masalla forever and can safely exclude them in you travel baggage. If you consider walking is  not the best transportation mode in Hat Yai, Tuk-tuk is the best option to get around comfortably and affordably. With only a few Thai Bath, it will get you to almost anywhere around Hat Yai, to places where you can find delectable foods and major tourist attractions. The best thing with tuk-tuk is that you won't get lost  and that is very assuring enough.

The trip started when we traveled up North for another interesting fact-finding mission. A  trip to Kedah and Perlis, the Northern  part of Malaysia had never ceased to persuade my adventurous spirit to hop across the border for an ad-hoc adventure into the foreign land. This time I submitted myself to an urge of  visiting the Klong Hae floating market in hoping to catch a glimpse of Thailand's unique and vibrant marketplace and to capture those brilliant sight through the lens of my camera. 

With that one and only special mission, my entourage obediently followed me into this Sawadee-kap territory for a three days two nights floating market photo-safari short trip. For some of  my entourage members, that was their virgin visit to Thailand and they expect  the new place will be kind to them and the people will be gentle as well. Both assumptions (the place and the people) were spot on except the weather was not on their best mood. The first night after we checked-in into our hotel, the sky opened up and generously poured down the rain heavily - nonstop. Few hours later we received a warning note under our hotel's door that flood was  inevitable and any guest that parked their car at the underground car park had to move their vehicle to a higher ground. Looking trough my hotel's window and how heavy the rain  poured down that night I had to believe that the warning was not a joke or some kind of  hotel new-year's prank. Not to be defeated by the weather, we managed that night to scout the surrounding area and enjoyed some tasty street food for our dinner.

The next morning we received another bad news that  Klong Hae river was over-flooded  and there won't be any floating market in that wet and potentially dangerous condition. So, half-heartedly we packed our bag, panickly check-out from the hotel and jumped into the waiting  van that was supposed to chauffeur us to the Klong Hae river but then to  head back down-South  into the Motherland.  Before we ended our trip and since we had some un-spent Thai Bath in our pocket which was  also another good reason to justify our craving for foreign souvenirs, we waded the heavy rain and stormed into some street stalls to empty our wallet.

I didn't manage to buy anything except a pair of  branded-but imitation boxers for my friends and some colourful fridge magnets to mark my visit to this place. The journey back was smooth as we traveled during the weekdays (try to avoid the weekend as  immigration can be jam-packed with tourist - particularly Malaysian tourists who are looking for some wet experience)

General consensus throughout Malaysia says that Hat Yai is one of the food capitals in the Southern Thailand. I have to agree with that but Hat Yai , with very unpredictable weather and other surprises, is also the flood capital in the region. It is good and I like it.

Travelling into this exciting and unpredicted territory, you were not supposed to be alone. My jubilant entourage checked-in into a love hotel...I meant a lovely hotel.   A barricade of sand-bags was not included in the hotel brochure but somehow they gave some sense of adventure and thrill. An awesome view from the rooftop pool was an added advantage. This hotel situated at a junction of Thanon Prachathipat and Thanon Saneha Nusom and very close to everything.

Hotels and lepak spots are quite plentiful in Hat Yai.  A view from Centara Hotel lobby barricaded with sand bags ready for the flash flood. Barely missed by merely three weeks, the pre-explosion Lee Gardens Plaza Hotel stood beside McD was still intact.

Great street food, plentiful of street vendors and colorful cheap stuffs  were potent enough in their dosage to drain our pocket if we don't watch our budget carefully. Hamid restaurant, a popular halal hangout is just a walking distant from this spot, on the far right cornet of this street. At night, this spot was transformed into another side alley food paradise with prawn the size of our big ego and traditional mango on sticky rice to satisfy our unequal appetite.

The indoor section of Kim Yong market didn't look very appealing at all with load of birds' dropping and other unthinkable residues by any human standard on this indoor rooftop. However below this row of plywood, there were labyrinth of shops that will  make shopaholics salivating and never to think twice when emptying their wallet. 

Hat Yai had been and always be a shopping paradise for her Southerner neighbor.  When a Thai lady says "Mari lah abeeeee...Muroh ja abeeeee..."  you'd better watch your wallet or anything that close to your pocket with some serious precaution.

A mobile food hawker for a quick  afternoon snack is a normal sight in the street of Hat Yai. I supposed this mode of business was very convenience indeed as  you can just grab the food virtually anywhere even right from a moving tuk-tuk.

Restoran Kelantan, off the Thumnoonvitithi and Thanon Sangchan didn't look any much difference from any food stalls in Rantau Panjang. We strolled to  this restaurant  for a famous, fantastic nasi kerabou Hat Yai-style. A local delicacies of unknown and unconfirmed origin exploded with wonderful color and taste. 

My entourage, fresh and motivated to continue the journey up North. A plate of nasi kerabu managed to boost some spirit. That was  before the heavy downfall and the bad news which prematurely ended our wet dream.

A transit station near  Bkt Kayu Hitam, a rendezvous place to plan for an exciting trip across the border. We parked our cars, rented a transport, hired a  travel guide, got some Thai Bath and booked hotel at the same counter and not to forget to empty our stomach here. A one stop center before starting an exciting journey.

It is good to have friends particularly when you travel to a distance place and your Thai Bath, for example is dangerously running low  from over-spending on cheap stuffs along the street of Hat Yai. They smiled because the heavy rain and unexpected flood had saved them load of Bath from impulse buying and one-of a lifetime shopping spree.

An hour journey back to the border of our Motherland and 62 km away from Hat Yai, we reached the gateway of  Thailand/Malaysia. We  promised to go through this gate one more time for another floating mission in Hat Yai. After all the set-backs I am hoping  my entourage is still up for another uncompromising adventure in the land of Sawadee-kap.

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