A SURPRISING RE-DISCOVERY OF BATU PAHAT

DS and I travelled to Malaysia during the Hari Raya/National Day long weekend holiday.

As it is known to many, Malaysia is a popular holiday destination of many Singaporeans.  Although DS and I grew up in Batu Pahat (the third largest town in Johor state), as Singaporeans for more than two decades now, we seldom go back unless there is a need, or for a special occasion.

That morning (8 Aug), both customs in Singapore and Johor were packed with express buses and cars, especially Singapore-registered cars.  We were stuck in both customs for over three hours although we went by the Second Link in Tuas.  What a wrong time to travel to Malaysia!  We would have avoided making the trip if not for a special occasion.

My dad turned 83 years old, and as I always tease him, he is one lucky dad because his children make an effort to get together to celebrate the occasion every year.  The other occasion is the Chinese New Year reunion dinner.  So, my family is still quite traditional in a way. 🙂

It being my dad’s birthday, needless to say, the highlight was a celebration at the restaurant.

As usual, a plate of Chinese Mian Xian (vermicelli) to kick off the meal

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Followed by 6 dishes, before dessert

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Dessert – Yam Paste (竽泥) with pumpkin, gingko nuts and red dates

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The dessert was the only dish that I was satisfied with that night!  Although Seaview Restaurant is not new to my family (we have had many family meals there), I was disappointed that the standard of food has dropped in recent years.  Despite that, the restaurant was packed with people that night, and we had to bear with the less satisfactory service.  Perhaps it is still one of the best restaurant in Batu Pahat?

During our two-night stay in Batu Pahat, I had the opportunity to visit the Lotus Pond (莲花池), a place that I used to go with my buddies during school days. Thanks to my good old friend for taking me there early in the morning before we went for our breakfast together.  That brought back many wonderful memories of my school days and my group of close friends then, many of whom I am no longer in contact with.  I trust that they are all doing fine wherever they are.

This shot was taken outside Pinetree Hotel where DS and I stayed, while I was waiting to be picked up by my friend.

BP01

This was my first visit to Lotus Pond since I left Batu Pahat to further my education, and later, to settle down in Singapore. I was happy to see that it has turned into a beautiful park.  It was also full of buzz with lots of people and activities going on.

There are now two ponds (instead of one in the past) and the ponds are quite well maintained in terms of cleanliness.  However, lotus was no where to be seen now!  Perhaps it should not be called Lotus Pond anymore.

Lotus Pond1

Lotus Pond2

Nicely done playground

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A lady practising yoga.  I am impressed!  This is something I could never do.

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A group practising Taiji or Qigong

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This group was doing line-dancing

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Many brisk-walkers too.  Good to see that there are many health-conscious people in this little small town that I grew up!

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There are even two giant dinosaurs!  

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Lotus Pond9

Someone selling vegetables like bitter gourds, egg plants & sweet potatoes in the park!

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I would say the biggest highlight of this trip was actually a visit to a kampong (village) called Segenting (within Batu Pahat) which neither DS and I have heard of.  Just how little we knew about our birthplace!  We were told that Segenting is popular amongst tourists from within Malaysia and also Singapore, mainly because of its Chinese temple.

We had seafood lunch at this restaurant by the sea called Ship Village.  The food was better than what we ate at Seaview the night before.  It was full-house when we were there.  Crabs were selling at RM75 per kilo.  Not cheap though.

Segenting1

Views from the restaurant

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DS’ elder brother took us for a walk around the heart of Segenting before lunch.  It was packed with people, perhaps due to the long-weekend holiday. 

Freshly made food on sale by the road-side and in small shops, obviously targeted at tourists.

Segenting6

Segenting7

Old man selling “kok kok” candies and 麦芽糖 , something which I used to enjoy eating as a little kid.  Very nostalgic.

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This Chinese temple is the main tourist attraction in Segenting.  Although DS and I are Christians, I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw.

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Look at the size of this structure!Segenting11

Another big structureSegenting12

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I would have enjoyed this beautiful seaside if not for the hot weather

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Lots of people gathering around the pond near the “Guan Yin” statue.  Can you guess what they were up to?Segenting15

They were trying to touch the fish (摸鱼) in the pond!  I heard from my sister-in-law that these people believe that they will prosper (strike lottery) after touching the fish.

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Another group of people waiting to touch the fish in the cave.

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After a considerably satisfied seafood lunch, I was shocked to see the amount of flies in the kitchen as we made our way out.  Lots of flies were also flying around the batter used to fry the seafood!  What a sight!  I would have given a second thought to the food if I had seen this earlier but it would also be very rude of me not accept the generous treat by my in-laws.  Thank goodness we did not have diarrhea after the meal!

Segenting2

Back in town that afternoon, we did not miss having a bowl of chendol before heading back to my parents’ home.  This chendol stall (near the central wet market) is probably older than DS and I.  It has expanded from a small stall by the corridor to a shop with tables and chairs for its customers.  I believe the owner has already changed but this chendol remains very popular.

Chendol

Our dinner that night as well as breakfast the next morning before heading back to Singapore were these yummy (frozen) durians specially reserved for us by DS’ brother who runs a durian plantation with a few partners.  What a treat! 🙂

Durians

Our trip back to Batu Pahat was never this interesting!  Lots of food aside, it was also a trip of re-discovery!  I wonder how much do I still not know about my birthplace, having lived there for about 20 years?

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