Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 2: Visit to Malacca, Returning Home

Sunday, 19th July 2009. The 2nd day of my trip to Malacca started off slowly. Initially planning to go for breakfast at 8:30am in the morning, I ended up with Timmy in the lobby at 9:30am instead. The rest, were also having trouble getting up after our night's stint at Capitol Satay. :p Getting the assurance from the rest of the gang that we'll meet up at Tham's gallery so that he can bring us to the breakfast venue, Timmy and I sallied forth. We waited there for about another 15 minutes, making idle chatter with Tham and being introduced for the first time to his girlfriend before the sight of brewing coffee from a kopitiam opposite beckoned. Timmy and I waited here and a while later most of the gang appeared. Well, I mentioned most, because the gals, Eva, Annette and Li Chen still had problems starting up their engines. :p :) It was decided that we'd head to the breakfast venue with Tham first, the growl of our stomachs probably the prime motivator to our decision, while the gals would have to catch up with us later.

Breakfast was a little bit outside Jonker Street area (a corner shop located along Jalan Kampung Pantai opposite an old medical hall, a short distance from a bridge crossing the Malacca River), featuring a somewhat new version of Bak Kut Teh called 'Bak Kee Teng' (Hokkien). It's also listed as 'Malacca Yam Rice' in the GPS.
Malacca's Famous 'Bak Kee Teng' aka Yam Rice

In essence, it basically replaces the standard pork meat with minced and sliced meat instead while the fragrant rice used to eat with Bak Kut Teh is replaced with 'yam rice'. The soup was surprisingly VERY GOOD and not a few of us vowed to return to the place if they were to return to Malacca some day! :) We were almost finished with our breakfast when the 3 'wayward' ladies arrived, guided in by Hoong Yi who so gallantly went off to help them find their way to us. Hmm... looks like chivalry isn't dead yet isn't it? ;) But it wasn't just Hoong Yi doing a good deed today, Tham also did the same, by generously paying for our breakfast! *Sigh* And this is despite me protesting that we pay for him instead.

Breakfast done with, we headed back to our hotel to check out. Tham separated away from us on the way back as we stopped by a few shops. Having packed out bags and checked out, we took some time to take a few group photos at the lobby and also opposite the hotel where there was this finely decorated door with two guardians.
Checking out from Baba Hotel. Notice the gay model in the background? :p

A group photo of us before the two 'Moon San' outside Baba House

We moved on, to our next point of interest, which was incidentally... FOOD, more specifically Malacca Satay Babi! :) Actually, this next place was sort of mentioned by Hoong Yi and Timmy and naturally curious, I'd thought we should try it. As the name implies, it is NOT HALAL though. :p Called Ming Satay Hut, it is located along Jalan Laksamana 1/1 and offers as its specialty, Chinese Pork Satay with sauce mixed with pineapples (they also serve pork intestines on a stick too). ;) Despite it being a 'snack' not so long after breakfast, we managed to wallop quite a significant number of sticks, bolstered also by the fact that we've heard how Timmy obliterated 37 sticks of satay in one sitting once and sort of demonstrating it to us again (he ate probably more than 25 sticks)... ;) The continuous stream of satay sticks placed onto our empty platters also didn't help, unlike shops here, it is their SOP to put satay sticks on the plates whether you ordered or not. You stop on your own choosing and what's left on the plate (untouched or course) will not be counted in the final tally.

Pork Satay in Malacca

Bellies loaded up, we now have to part company with Li Chen and Hoong Yi. ;) Apparently Li Chen (being a lawyer) has a court case on the next day and she has to go back to prepare and Hoong Yi so graciously volunteered to take her back (Awww... ;)). Bringing Kin Liang and Mei Yoong into my car, we went over across the Malacca River into the historical precint to work off the fats. Our first stop is the pier where we were supposed to have taken the Malacca River Cruise which is priced at RM10/head. Finding a parking proved to be a very difficult proposition though. While Timmy managed to find a parking near the Dataran Hang Tuah, I only managed to find one near the Melaka Raya Police Station Cooperative close to the Stadhuys.
Malacca's Stadhuys

Relatively deserted, I was in for a surprise when I came back. When we reached the pier however, a majority decision was made not to take the cruise because

a) it's too hot
b) there's nothing to 'see'... ;)

So we went over to Muzium Samudera represented by the replica of Alfonso D'Albuquerque's carrack, Flor De La Mar ('Flower of the Ocean', translation courtesy of Henry).
The Flor de la Mar at Muzium Samudera

Entering the muzium requires a payment of RM3/head and its air conditioned interiors offers a respite from the hot afternoon sun. Built from wood and concrete, it is clear it will never sail the seven seas, with doors at the bottom of 'hull' emphasizing this point. Don't expect high standards from it's exhibits though. The replica of ships inside lack details and are not to scale while the 'relics' on display are not even relics at all but very poorly made reproductions (as evident by a 'musket' consisting or a stock and a pipe with no trigger mechanism) :p.
The Captain's Cabin and some people with very bad backs! :p

The narratives are hardly worth reading either, which I have to reluctantly say, typical of Malaysia, offers a certain ethno centric approach in their version of events (you should go see the 'Istana Melaka' throne room diorama! Didn't know the Ming Dynasty held Malacca in such HIGH regard!). :p More interesting are the mannequins of the sailors on the top deck, displaying frizzy hair that looked like they are in bad need of conditioners! Ouch! :)

This sailor is miserable because he didn't anticipate bringing conditioners for his long voyage! :p

We moved out of the ship and into another section of the museum housed by a more normal looking building. The group took a break at the video viewing halls (except there is nothing being shown and some of the interactive displays are not working at all), recording some pictures for 'posterity' and possible 'blackmail' in the future! hahaha! :)

Timmy and Kin Liang 'cozying' up to one another... You both better not go into politics... hehehe

After that we left the museum, heading over the bridge to the end of Jonker Street in the quest to discover Malacca's Famous Popiah! :p Located close to the intersection of Jalan Kubu and Jonker Street, Popiah Lwee was supposedly one of the choice places to savour this culinary delight. Distances on the GPS can look deceiving. ;) Looking like it was going to be a brief walk, some of the gang were soon complaining about the less than half kilometer walk from the Stadhuys (and they are Trail Trekkers at that!) :p. It was more dissappointing when we found out the stall selling the popiah was closed! :p Tired, we stopped at the shop anyway, the owner offering us to try their Malacca Curry Laksa and rojak instead which ended up quite good actually. It was close to mid afternoon when we set off for our cars. The sweet smelling gula melaka laced cendol derailed our efforts for a few more minutes as we stopped for one last taste.
Malacca Nyonya Cendol. Resistance is Futile...;)

Having done that, we eventually reached our cars, Timmy splitting of to claim his reparked car right under the shadow of the Stadhuys (which is little known and surprisingly empty!) and I going for my car at the Police Cooperative. What I thought was one of those bothersome advertisment flyers stucked on my window wiper turned out to be a parking summon! Shocked, I looked around and saw a man astride a motorcycle nearby. I asked about the ticket and was told apparently in Malacca, you'd still have to pay parking, even if it's on a Sunday! :p (So guys, watch out!) I called Tham to seek his help one last time, leaving my ticket with him and the fine of RM30 for him to settle at Melaka Raya which he often frequents before heading out to the Ayer Keroh toll for Seremban.

The roads out was packed, which was surprising to me actually. Initially dismissing it as probably due to a surpise influx of weekend holiday makers, it turned out that there was a police roadblock instead. Whether by design or not, a few impatient drivers chose to take the emergency lane to bypass the queue, resulting in them playing squarely into the waiting PDRM pockets... er hands. :p I avoided the temptation to do the same despite the hollering from Timmy who had reached the toll plaza ahead of me, 20 minutes ahead. By now, we had received yet another surprise... Hoong Yi is coming back to JOIN US in Seremban for dinner! We reached Seremban without incident slightly before sunset, favoring the Seremban BBQ Crab restaurant located along Jalan Tuanku Munawir close to the Seremban Baptist Church.
Seremban's 'Siew Hai' (please mention 'hai' in a descending tone lest it becomes 'vulgar'... ;)

Hoong Yi was waiting for us there already and together we head into the restaurant. We ordered as default two servings of crabs (one of course the BBQ) and assorted side dishes. Having satiated our hunger, it was time for some clowning around with more photos taken for 'posterity' (hmmm perhaps something to show for the grandkids? "Hey look, grand dad is an orge!").

Introducing... Dennis! The Human Can Opener! :)

And here he is, 'licking' the shell of a crab... Hmmm wonder how Audrey feels? ;)

An Orc imitating a Timmy (or is it vice versa?)

One last stop at Seremban's center for some tong yuen recommended by Eva marked the beginning of the end of our trip.

Strolling around Seremban center for some 'tong yuen'

Downing a bowl of the occasionally spicy concoction, we paid our dues and returned to our cars, bringing back with us memories and no less fulfilling one more thing 'to do before I die!'... ;) A wonderful thanks to Hoong Yi for helping organize the trip! Until next time...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 1: Malacca, A Culinary Adventure

Saturday, 18th July 2009. It's the 1st day of our inaugural trip organized through the rather macarbe sounding 'Things to do before I DIE' group which was created by Hoong Yi a couple of weeks back. Mustering a small posse of 12 people, we all gathered at Damansara Uptown's Hong Kong Dim Sum restaurant for breakfast at 9:00am in the morning, or sort of 9:00am. ;) I was late again, partly because I couldn't drag myself out of bed by the time the sun was starting to peek through my flimsy curtains at 7:00am in the morning and partly also because I have to do some emergency 'pest' control at Eva's apartment after I had picked up Annette in Klang, both of whom are travelling with me for the 1st time. Annette and I go back a very long way, way back to my high school days, while Eva is my 'boss'... oppss... client from my previous project with Murphy Sarawak Oil (She still gives me work to do via MSN!) :).
That's me with Eva, hehehehe

Amid the constant buzz of my Chris Brown ring tone, I finally arrived at the dim sum shop to link up with the rest of the regular misfits: Audrey, Dennis, Hoong Yi, Timmy, Henry, Kin Liang, Mei Yoong, along with new face (to me that is) 'Chicken' and my cousin, Li Chen. ;)
That pretty girl on the left is my cousin, Li Chen, while that chubby guy on the right is Hoong Yi... ;)

They were already in the midst of finishing breakfast, though with dim sum there is usually little or no chance to pick up scraps. We just ordered more! :) Thankfully, the restaurant was air conditioned although it was extremely packed with people. The food itself could have been better compared to the last time Henry and I were there but the varieties offered were alot better. I still felt it is comparable if not even better than the Seri Petaling fare. :p Having concluded breakfast and splitting the bill among ourselves, we all mounted our rides and aimed our sights on Malacca. Except that's what I thought we were heading, until I found out the other two cars were still in TTDI as I drove down the final length of the LDP to the Damansara toll. Promising to meet up again at the Seremban rest area, Eva, Annette and I continued on in my trusty Vios, guided by the sexy voice of my GPS who after a few wrong turns, actually was trying to take us to 'Holland', if you know what I mean. We did eventually leave Klang Valley and got onto the KL-Seremban highway but by this time, it was Timmy's and Hoong Yi's cars that was ahead of mine. We gathered again at the Senawang rest area, Hoong Yi having overshot the Seremban one apparently. We stopped here for a few minutes, most of us paying a visit to the loo while some took the opportunity to buy fruits. After that, it was a speedy descent to Malacca town, reaching Baba House ( in the middle of Heeren street at approximately 12:30pm.
The back entrance to Baba House

Originally composed of a number of traditional Peranakan abodes since combined and coverted into a hotel, Baba House retains much of it's original old world charm with it's intricately decorated wooden panelling, antique furniture and faded black and white photographs of Straits Chinese (Baba & Nyonya) families decorating the walls.
Checking in at the front desk of Baba House

Exquisite wooden paneling brings out the old world charm...

The rooms are only 'so-so' but the convenience and especially the atmosphere is worth it.

Putting down our stuff, we moved out for lunch, dropping by at the nearby Restaurant Peranakan, a few shoplots away from our hotel. We ordered the recommended Nyonya fare of ayam 'pong teh', asam ikan pari, kangkong belacan and stuff, the surrounding decor another example of Straits Chinese architecture.
Nyonya food at the Restaurant Peranakan, or what's left of it :)

Finishing off our meal, we now hit the streets, stopping first at my friend's father's Art Gallery ( for a visit. Tham Siew Inn (my friend's father), is a renowned watercolor artist whose numerous works have adorned many a home.
Back entrance to Mr. Tham's gallery. Hmmm... seems like we like entering back entrances... ;)

He is also skilled at working with metal and sculptures, one fine example is a vast copper relief adorning a cafe in Berkeley, Klang from which his whole family once resided. Don't be perturbed however by the high prices of his works of art adorning the shop however, for prints are for sale for a fraction of the price (RM100-150 and above). I've got 2 of these prints at home myself, its soft and free flowing textures relaxing to the eyes.

My friend, college mate and house mate, Tham Ze Hoe, was not at home when we visited, having to go to the airport to fetch his girlfriend.
That's Mr. Tham, my friend from college days minus the long MTV hair! ;p

He is the IT wizard for his father's and brother's enterprise, doing the scanning of the artworks, rendering it into prints and maintaining the website. He also dabbles into the arts as well, working together with his brother to engrave those Chinese style stone seals for tourists, on weekends squatting outside Geographer's Cafe, opening a stall at the pasar malam. His brother, Ze King, chose to follow his father's footsteps better, producing works in watercolor as well as clay.

Leaving the art gallery and promising to come back later, we moved to Jonker street (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock), the central street of Malacca's historical district lined with antiques, curio shops and lots and lots of food! :)
Gateway to Jonker Street (Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock)

Strange African style maskes on sale

We stopped at a few antique shops, most of it's wares were very old, rusty and literally 'priceless' (there were no price tags on them which means you have to go through that tiresome exercise of haggling/bargaining), before the call of food beckons in which we stopped at the famous Nyonya cendol shop located on the same street some distance from Geographer's cafe.
The line outside the Nyonya Cendol Shop on Jonker Street

It isn't hard to find, because at any time of the day there is always a line of people waiting to get a shot of shaved ice topped with thick, rich gula melaka to make their day a happy one ;). There are chairs and tables inside the stall but as expected, you'll have to shadow the people sitting there to finally get one. We did just that and got a couple of tables.

After getting our sugar rush, we head on over to the '3rd uncle shop' (sam sook kong), located at the entrance to Jonker Street from St. Paul's hill side.
'Third Uncle' or 'Sam Sook Kong' shop

Here, they were offering various home made cakes, taros and treats. The place was packed with people as well, having a taste of the local coffee (Aik Cheong being the most predominant). I didn't buy anything here although some of the gang did.
Malacca leng lui making cakes at Sam Sook Kong... ;)

Shopping finished, we wandered down to the riverfront, taking a few photos of the Santiago bastion and drawing in the salty sea breeze blowing up the river, all the time watching the few boats of the malacca river cruise passing by lazily in front of us.
The Malacca riverside along Heeren Street

Tired, we returned to the hotel, to catch some winks before coming out later in the night for dinner and a stroll through the pasar malam. Dinner was at Pak Putra's Tandoori Chicken, a place recommended by my Garmin navigator as a point of interest. ;) I have had heard of a famous Tandoori Chicken Stall highlighted in the STAR but failing to relocate the article before the trip, I had to rely on my trusty navigator instead.
Restaurant Pak Putra

Located behind the Baba Hotel close to a 7-11 store, we sat down for some naan and lots of tandoori. Being not a connoiseur of naan and tandoori myself, I couldn't comment much of the food, but from Timmy, Henry and Hoong Yi's comments (who are frequent visitors to TTDI's Mohsin, which I find it's naan, good), it's a general 'A' for this store. :)
Lines of Tandoori Chicken await Timmy to devour...

We were back on Jonker Street next, the sounds and smells of the weekly pasar malam abound. Not surprisingly there were many people, although I believe it was probably less than normal considering the weekend we are in Malacca wasn't a school holiday and Manchester United is playing in Bukit Jalil. On the opposite entrance to Jonker Street from Sam Sook Kong, there was this stage set up where on it, a few people were crooning some songs.
The karaoke stage at the other entrance to Jonker Street

From the looks of the sitting crowd though, the songs didn't really fall within our era (I'd stick if they sang Michael Jackson, but they were singing Teresa Teng's), so we made a wide berth.
You can guess the era of songs sung by the looks of the crowd...

Nyonya cakes, street foods, handicrafts, antiques and bottle of fruit 'Kampai(?)' were on sale in this pasar malam. I didn't buy anything (again). :) The 'Kampai(?)' tempted me for a while but the immediate doubts of its manufacture made me gave it a pass. Hoong Yi, Henry and Li Chen stopped at a stall and bought a couple of those colorful clay figurines you'd see being sold along the ancient streets of China in those TVB kung fu serials and showed it to us as the rest took a break on the top floor of Geographer's cafe, downing a few bottles of ice cool beer, escaping the hustle and bustle of the street below.
Geographer's Cafe on Jonker Street

I've heard that here there would be some dance sessions during the weekends but on this Saturday night I was dissappointed there wasn't any. I was also hoping Annette would strut her stuff as she is currently investing in dance classes at Dataran Prima. Too bad! ;)

By 10:30pm, Hoong Yi, Timmy and myself had to excuse ourselves and return to the hotel, leaving the rest behind. We had made an appointment with the hotel masseuse and we didn't want to be late! :) It costs RM88/hour for an oil massage, me choosing the option of using the tangy smelling australian citrus oil applied through a deep, muscle cracking massage. The masseuses were very professional and you really do get what you ordered for (ie no lousy finger jabs for massages and offers of 'extra' services, if you get what I mean ;)). There was a slight commotion before the massage session started as Timmy's masseuse discovered he wasn't wearing an underwear! How she discovered it, I leave it to your imagination because I was safely tucked away in another curtained section of the two sectioned parlour. A quarter way through the session later, my masseuse asked me whether I wanted to extend the session to 1 1/2 hours. I was initially surprised, but was told that Hoong Yi and Timmy had already done so. Wow, guess the massage was really that GOOD? :) I did the same, maintaing our drivers 'solidarity' ending up paying an additional RM59 for the extra time. Well, it's been a long time since I got a good back rub.

We had planned to play werewolves after this but as we returned to join the group, it was decided instead to hop into our cars and go for a midnight snack at Capitol Satay Celup, located along Lorong Bukit Cina. It was pass midnight when we got there but still there was a continuing stream of people coming! We took out turn lining up, finally getting a place to sit in about 20 minutes.
Annette pointing at the sign outside Capitol Satay which says it does not have brothers, sisters, uncles or aunties... ;)

Each stick of 'satay' costed RM0.70, with varieties ranging from slices of chicken, seafood, crunched kang kong to whole prawns and even scallops. Fish balls and chicken balls are offered on colored plates which are differently priced and all this are dipped in a thick hot sauce of grounded peanuts! Ooooooohhhhh Yummmmyyyy! (My knees are getting weak ;)).
My legs go weak thinking about the kuah satay! Mmmmmm... ;)

Don't worry about running out of sauce because every few minutes, a lady would come by and refill it, stirring up the gathered peanuts for good measure. :p We returned to the hotel once we finished, passing through a police roadblock near the Stadhuys. There was a brief panic among the occupants of Timmy's car as we have squeezed in 6 people (Timmy, Eva, Annette, Kin Liang, Mei Yoong and myself). Luckily we passed through without incident and soon Timmy and I were at the hotel lobby waiting for Hoong Yi to come back with our room key! (Like duh!) :p :) When Hoong Yi returned a while later, it was to the showers and a little time surfing the net. Let me tell you, Baba House can be quite eerie in the middle of the night with it's abandoned corridors and courtyards.
The nights at Baba House can be quite spooky... :p

I had quite a fright when I was heading to this place which I knew had a stone round table underneath an airwell and saw this stern looking lady sitting there. Guess she was gathering some air because she wasn't doing anything else. :p I immediately put some distance between us (just in case) and sat down somewhere more 'public' :p. Why am I wandering about outside my room for wifi? Well Baba House's coverage is best only in the new wing. In the older section, wifi is only available at the lobby and at the courtyards. After watering my plants (Barn Buddies), feeding my puppy (Petz Pups) and plundering the Carribean (Pirates: Rule the Carribean), it was time to count sheep, as my mind drifted into the depths of soothing slumber (in my room of course!) :).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

'House': A story of people less fortunate than ourselves

Saturday, 11th July 2009, 5:30am.
Dragged myself out of the bed, rushing down to TTDI to meet up at Linus's place for breakfast at Devi's corner. Sounds familiar? ;) Well it does, except that this time it was not another Trail Trackers trip that I am headed. This time, I am headed to do a little bit of 'volunteer' work.
It all started Thursday night when I was glued to my now gloriously wide 23" LCD monitor battling French and Indians in the North American wilderness of the 1720s when Linus messaged me on MSN asking me whether I was interested to 'act' as an extra in one of his short films. Having been stuck working late nights and bearing a heap of RESPONSIBILITIES from my most recent project, Linus's offer came as a welcome balm, offering me something totally different from what I am usually used to do at work. To put it into context, it felt like "Just what the doctor ordered!" and not a moment too soon, because I was already starting to get bonkers!Not to mention that his offer also sort of provides me a glimpse into what exactly does it take to pay the bills for these film people I have been hanging around the past year with as well. :p
L'Director astride on his mighty 'ostrich'? ;)

Arriving at Linus's place shortly before 7:00am, I realized that the earlier breakfast plan at Devi's didn't materialize. Instead, we immediately headed to Sekolah Kebangsaan TTDI which I found out was one of the settings used for the short film. It didn't take long before the other 'extras' begin streaming in. They were students of the school and Linus seems to have previously arranged to have at least 20 kids appear to fill up the classroom which he was going to shoot the scene in. Among them are the co-stars, one Chinese boy and another Malay boy, acting as bullies who is going to rip, smash and destroy the model house of the star, an Indian boy Linus told us he got from Sunway.
Varma, the star of the show!
Looking at some of these kids, I wonder what parents nowadays use to feed them. The Chinese boy, Ivan, was especially big standing almost as tall as Dennis at only 11 years of age! Appropriate I guess for Linus to cast him as a bully to the Indian boy, Varma, who came after everyone else had arrived. He was pint sized with these big eyes and joyful smile which again was very suitable for his character of this innocent boy coming from a poverty stricken family. The other 'bully', the Malay boy, Ryan, had that 'rich' kid look about him. Hmmm... come to think of it, the whole thing reminds me of Giant, Sunyu and Nobita from Doraemon! :)

The other stars! Varma is with Linus, Ivan is the boy with that white box in front of him and Ryan is on the bottom right. 'Cikgu' is at the back with the 85 T-shirt.
After having obtained the keys to one of the classrooms, it was time to set up the equipment for the shoot of which I was not involved! Instead, I was 'drafted' to occupy the kids in another classroom, ending up with me teaching them a little bit of science to confound their little minds! :p :) Truthfully though, the kids were very sporting, with one of them, Low, being the most participatory. ;) Kinda reminds me when I was their age, a long, long, long time ago, when dinosaurs roam the planet and people still write on things called 'letters' to their pals overseas! Then again, I was pretty naughty too. :)
When everything was ready, it was time for everyone to move to the set and take up positions. For this bit, I am going to leave the story itself for you guys to watch once the film is editted and posted by Linus and gang later. Suffice to say, shooting this segment in the classroom was hard work, especially working with children who often don't really think in the same wavelength as we adults do. :) But most of them are eager to please and overall very well behaved.
Shooting the classroom scenes took most of the morning away before the team moved down to the school grounds and the canteen. For a while, it appeared as if the afternoon sun was going to be swallowed up by threatening storm clouds but thank goodness it was only a feign by mother nature because the much feared showers didn't materialize. By now, parents were also gathering to pick up their precious little ones and one by one the kids begin to dissappear. Fortunately, there was still enough left for us to shoot this scene at the school corridor where Varma was confronted by the two bullies, Ivan and Ryan, ending with his small model of his home ripped, smashed and stomped! We had to do this a number of times to get the whole thing right for the director and it was Dennis's diligence and industriousness that ensured the two identical models of Varma's house was quickly rebuilt to a somewhat presentable shape for a retake after being stomped flat! :)

The shooting at the school completed, we headed over to TTDI's Pizza Hut for lunch before moving on to our next venue, Varma's REAL house in Kampung Kayu Ara. Before this however, we had to get his 'mother', whom I found out was a prominent theater actress named Sukarnia. Meeting up with her outside Centerpoint Damansara, we proceeded to rendevous with Linus at Varma's house which I have to say bore an uncanny resemblance to the model Dennis made, right down to the swing in front of the house!

Two other veteran actors from NTV7's kopitam fame were already there along with a menacing looking excavator positioned threateningly in front of Varma's house. This I realized caused quite a stir among the local residents who not surprisingly, were not drawn by the actors but by the excavator, a number of them really thinking that we were a demolition crew out to wreck people's homes!

Sukarnia pleading to have 'her' home spared...

Some brief explanations by the director and a little bit time spent to finalize preparations, we were again ready to shoot, this time with me in front of the camera for a change! :) Being cast as 'contractor #2 out to wreck poor Indian boy's house', my function was to dress like a contractor (complete with hard hat, worn out clothes and safety shoes), walk into the scene with my two stars and act irritated/angry when Varma's 'mother' rushes out from her house as the excavator was about to destroy her home, pleading to us to have it spared.

Sukarnia was a wonderful actor, her emotions and actions so realistic, it really felt like she indeed was begging for HER home to be spared and when she aimed her pleadings at me, I responded by saying my (improvised) lines, "Saya tak tau. Saya tak tau. Saya hanya ikut perintah. Kalau ada apa-apa, cari boss saya," at which point, I gestured to my stars, after which I pretended as if I don't want to look at her. ;) Well, that didn't sound so hard was it? In fact it was a completely knee jerk reaction since I have actually used these lines more often than not in my daily doings! :) hahaha... it's called 'tai-chi' if you know what I mean.

The local thuggery showed up moments after we finished the excavator scene. At first it started as a shouting match between Varma's parents who owned the house and a number of bruisers before the bruisers moved on to our small crew, demanding 'pao' money for using 'their' village for the shoot. Linus attempted to get them off our backs with RM50 which they initially did not want to accept on the spot. Rather, they wanted us to come to their 'headquarters', a few houses away to give them the money, a dangerous proposition since we wouldn't know what's going to happen away from the public eye!

They did allow us to continue to shoot other scenes inside and around the house, while they zipped up and down the road in front of Varma's house on their motorcycles, presumably to keep an eye on us. In between, conversations with Varma's real parents indicate that these thugs are small time gangsters, extorting money from the local populace and foreign workers living in the area to finance their gambling and drinking binges, which sadly is a common problem afflicting the poor of this community.

It was a wrap just before 8:30pm at night and as we packed up, Linus stopped one of those roving gangsters who kept on reminding us to 'pay up' once we were finished each time they passed us. Offering the RM50, he sort of told them that he doesn't want any trouble while at the same time indicating very clearly that he wasn't going to their 'headquarters' either. The guy finally accepted the money while sheepishly claiming that he would drop the money into the nearby temple's coffers if we didn't believe it was going to the villagers. A battered Proton Saga filled with more of his members came by a while later to which he demonstrated his 'integrity' by depositing the money to them.

We moved on to Damansara Uptown's famous Lanun Steak Restaurant for dinner, Varma and his family in tow. :) I ordered a juicy rib eye steak decked with lanun sauce, a well enough ending to a day filled with eye opening adventure and some suspense.