Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Book Report of 2013

  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle - While some stories and their denouments, like the Empty House or the Norwood Builder, are indelible (at least to me), many others can surprise me over again upon each re-reading, as long as I have allowed sufficient time to pass. For my brain, softened by decades of bad living, ten years is ideal--The Blue Carbuncle and The Beryl Coronet don't ring a bell and so are as fresh as when last I read them. And besides, even if you do remember what happens halfway through, the storytelling is so strong, the language so lovely and the characters so comfortable that you don't even mind. Since the tales are now in public domain, the price is right, too--iBooks, the Apple version of Kindle, has them all downloadable for free, along with hundreds of literary classics that have stood the test of time. Oh, joy!
  • The Pioneer Detectives by Konstantin Kakaes - Launched in the 1970s, Pioneer 10 and 11 were space probes set on a course that would take them past the planets then off into interstellar space. But by the late 1980s, trackers began to notice the spacecraft were inexplicably slowing down--the Pioneer Anomaly. What was causing the deceleration? The answer could be the long hoped for gravity wave, or even more tantalizing, so-called "dark matter" upon which a whole new type of physics depended. Or a software glitch. Or even more mundane, the failure to account for a small quantity of heat loss from, say, an oddly-shaped bulwark. I'm not going to give away the answer, but I will note that scientists are still looking for definitive proof of dark matter.
  • The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson - Humans make their first contact with aliens, blobby denizens of Jupiter's moon Europa which live in the icy shell, the "frozen sky" that covers it. This book is a fast-paced action adventure, a political intrigue and a good quality hard sci-fi read. This is good stuff, and the ending hints at a sequel. I hope so, and that is an indication of high esteem.
  • People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry - Disturbing true story of the disapperance and murder of a 21-year-old ex-British Airways flight attendant named Lucie Blackman who moved to Tokyo to make some money as a club hostess in the ex-pat friendly Roppongi district. She was not a stripper or prostitute, not a drug maniac, she was just looking for some adventure and quick yen to clear up her debts back home. A hostess sits and talks (or mainly listens) to frustrated milquetoast Japanese salarymen while encouraging them to buy more liquor. But they were also obliged to escort certain men to dinner outside the safe confines of the club--and Lucie disappeared while on an unscheduled jaunt to the seaside. The book details the grotesque inertia and incompetence of the Japanese police forces (while they cound not have saved her in this case, they could have locked up the perpetrator years before), the mind-numbing slowness of the judicial system, and the harrowing price paid by Lucie's family and friends because of the above. Lucie's killer was a Japanese of korean descent going under the name of Joji Obara, who had probably committed his first sexual crimes at age seventeen. He is incredibly wealthy and still uses his minions to harrass the book's author, a longtime journalist in Japan, from his jail cell.
  • Brilliance by Marcus Sakey - Starting in 1980, there was a substantial uptick in the number of children born with abnormal (abnormally high) intellectual or sensory abilities. Because of their great skills, the "brilliants" as they were initially called began to take over many aspects of public life--for example, playing Wall Street so well they shut it out down--and the tide of public opinion turned against them. Abnorms, or "twists" are identified at an early age and packed off into "academies" at age eight; the government has a powerful agency to hunt down activist or terrorist twists. Meet Nick Cooper, a twist himself and key agent of the Department of Analysis and Response, who goes under deep cover to assassinate the most dangerous and devisive abnorm of them all, John Smith, only to discover that all is not as it appears. The plotting is good, the characterizations are fair, but the dialogue is always leaden. Still, an exiting and occasionally thought-provoking read.
  • Operation Mincement by Ben Macintyre - Yes, the British spy agency did indeed dress up a dead guy as a Marine Captain, attach some brilliantly faked documents to him, and dump him from a submarine so that he would wash up on the Spanish coast. They knew that there was a good chance that Axis-leaning Spanish general staff would help the documents make their way to Berlin, where they may convince the Nazis that the Allies had no real plans to attack Sicily, that Sicily was just a cover for the real attack being developed for Greece and Sardinia. The story has been told in the book and the movie, The Man Who Never Was authored by Ewen Montagu, the MI6 officer who was one of the deception plan's key instigators. That book was intentionally and necessarily incomplete and mendacious in certain ways. Ben Macintyre's new work names names, fills in the blanks and shows us how successful the plot really was.
This is the first time I read every book on the list via an electronic medium. I still love paper books, and have a stack of them ready to go. Meanwhile, here is an interesting documentary of the printing press from Stephen Fry, in which he actually builds one:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Cake 2013

View previous cakes, all different: 2012 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.

A sure sign that it's Christmas Eve in Seoul? There are stacks and stacks of boxes inside and outside every bakery you come across. Inside each box, is a Christmas cake. A delightful tradition, and one which is welcomed here at the Seoul Patch, as you can see above.

This year's cake has a typically festive scene atop it (though you cannot eat the snowman!) and is made of moist and airy chockolate sheet cake with cookies and creme icing. Really tasty.

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Merry Christmas and Best Wishes of the Holiday Season to sll my friends out there in the Patch and beyond!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Korean Food on QI

This season, the great Stephen Fry's "QI" TV show is devoted to the letter K. I posted about the section on Korean idioms a few months ago. This week's episode has a segment on a certain Korean food that begins with K--any guesses?

The segment begins at 27:00.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I am now officially a Super Waygook!

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That's my avatar at an ESL teachers' resource/forum called I never once ever even heard of this website in my four years as a high school English conversation teacher in Korea. During my initial months after being transfered to an elementary school, I really foundered for materials that would be accepted by my three co-teachers.

The materials left behind by the previous NETs left a lot to be desired, as far as I was concerned, but conversation/task-based/cultural education activities didn't seem to thrill my cos. And I have to say the prevalence of "bomb games" on the website doesn't thrill me, either.

Nonetheless, came to the rescue! There are lots of great materials available here--you have to become a member to access them, but it's free, so that's alright. I would urge anyone for whom it is appropriate to sign up. And start downloading!

Eric, a dear old director friend of mine from the theatre department at USC once said, "I've never seen a play so bad I couldn't steal something from it!" I have always thought of the classroom as a bit of "theatre", and I attended every teacher's conference with an eye to what I could steal from even the most boring presentation. What is an internet site like but a continuous online teacher's conference?

If a desription or idea looks remotely useful, DL it, then worry about putting it to use later on. I'm sure I've DLed hundreds of files I never saved, much less used or adapted for use. It's all about your individual style. The same goes with the materials I've added to Christmas Quiz Game PPT I put up recently has over 500 downloads so far, but I bet it won't actually be used in 500 classrooms across Korea.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

When Pigs Fly

Had a night on the town last weekend with good old Andy and even older Jerry. Andy now lives out near incheon and was talking up his new neighborhood, which I have to agree is pretty nice. His place is about two minutes from the subway, and another two minutes from our spot for victuals, "The Flying Pig Cafe".

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It isn't really a cafe, but a pork restaurant, and quite a good one. I did a lousy job on camera, or otherwise I would be able to show you the lovely half-inch thick slabs of samgyupsal before sizzling. As it is, I can only show this:

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... and the aftermath, with pals awaiting their porcine platefuls:

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It was quite delicious.

Also in the neighborhood is one of those self-serve international beer places, and an Izakaya called "Sumo" that was reasonably nice, with the door-hangings surrounding each table to make a private niche, and comfortable chairs. The food was so-so but the conversation was excellent.

We didb't make it to saw-cha (fourth round), but we'll hopefully start with it next time I get out that way: a chicken place called "Oh! Ba Ma" or similar.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Invincible Summer

"In the depth of winter, I at last found that there was, within me, an invincible summer." --Albert Camus

Profound words from the French novelist and philosopher. Not being a philosopher, I have to take my summer where I can get it, which is typically a small island in the Gulf of Thailand.

I bring this up because it snowed today. It didn't stick, but the wet wind was bitter upon my cheeks, and this only a taste of what is to come when winter really moves in. And also because my school finally got the winter calendar worked out, so I know when I have camp, and mini-term, and etc.

I don't usually mouth off too much in advance about my vacation plans, but here they are: Mini-term ends at 12:10 on Friday, February 14. I will be airborne at 4:35 PM en route to Singapore. After 4 full days there, I land at Koh Samui at 9:30 AM on the 19th, where I have already succeeded in booking my beachfront, air con, hot water bungalow with a fridge. I leave from Koh Samui on March 3rd, returning to ICN at 9:55 that night. And have to be at work by 8:40 the next morning.

I realize this is all three months away, but airfares have gotten so high in the last couple of years that the earlier, the better--even at this remove, I paid something over a million won. Happily, traveling in Thailand is still quite inexpensive: that primo bungalow is 1000 Bt (about $31 per day), local beer goes for 50 Bt or so, and an excellent three-course meal is 200 Bt.

Sadly, Singapore is as far from a bargain as you will find in all SE Asia. There are a few iconic things I suppose I must do, such as a Singapore Sling at Raffles, a visit to the top of Marina Bay Sands, and the Singapore Zoo. The only thing I am sure of is I want to visit Tiger Balm Gardens, a place we came to several times when I was a kid. If you, Dear Reader, have any outstanding Singapore experiences I could benefit from hearing, do comment below.

Meanwhile, that's almost three months away; before then, I have three weeks of regular instruction remaining in the school year, one and a half weeks of holidays regularly interrupted by my high school class, and three weeks of winter camp immediately followed by about three weeks of the useless "mini-term" during which grades 3, 4 and 5 will watch movies, and grade 6 won't bother to show up at all.

You can see why I wanted to get all this done now, so I have something to look forward to through the frigid doldrums of Korean elementary school winter.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pointless: The Game

Not much to blog about lately--busy at work, occupied at home. Today's submission will give you an udea what I've been doing in my spare time, especially if you combine it with a similarity in some other recent posts.

Here is an episode from season 6 of the British game show Pointless, aired in February 2012. It was notable for the appearance of a young couple headed to Korea to become English teachers. They did not acquit themselves well in this episode, but it's a double-elimination style game, so watch the next episode to see what happens next, eh?

Still, interesting format, challenging questions.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Great Story

I don't usually just reblog stuff, but I found this story to be really cool. As a longtime school athletic supporter (joke goes here) and coach, I have often seen the power of the group athletic endeavor to have a positive impact on young people. But here is a middle school team that learns--and teaches--an extraordinary lesson:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Local Bazaar

Attentive readers will have gleaned that I moved recently. My new place is a large complex called e-Starville in the middle of Mokdong. Two large apartment buildings, lots of shops and restaurants and some churches, all surrounding a central 마당 or courtyard. This weekend, the courtyard has been occupied by a large number of tents, and filled with all kinds of vendors. Health herbs, clothing, food of many kinds. Herewith, photos:

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Friday, October 11, 2013

School Flea Market 2013

Yeah, so I did this exact same post last year. If you don't mind, I'll truncate it a bit. The school market is essentially a junk swap, where families trade their unwanted stuff, with a handling/transaction fee going to the school, presumably to improve the school program.

Some pics:

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Please, buy a pencil.  Please.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What I'm Reading

I guess I haven't posted a list in a while! Here goes:

  • The Miracle at Speedy Motors by Alexander McCall Smith - This is the ninth in the No 1 Ladies' Detective series set in a charming and delightful version of Botswana. Those familiar with these books recognize they aren't exactly edge-of-your-chair whodunits. Which probably is more closely attuned to the real life of detectives anyway. In this entry, Mma Ramotswe helps an adopted woman find her birth relatives. She also deals with some threatening letters sent to the agency, and Mr J. L. B. Matekoni's pursuit of an expensive miracle cure for their foster daughter Motholeli.
  • The Last Van Gogh by Alyson Richman - I recently read a book called The Lost Van Gogh, so I thought this would make a good book-end. The earlier read concerned a painting from van Gogh's time in the hospital at Saint-Remy in 1889, but this one is about his time in Auvers-sur-Oise at the end of his life (it is, after all, the last van Gogh). Van Gogh was being looked after by a Dr Gachet, an amateur artist, and a depressive like himself. Gachet has a beautiful but sheltered young daughter, Marguerite, who catches the artist's eye as a subject for both his art and his infatuation. Well-researched, charming, but slow-moving like the time it was set in.
  • What Doesn't Kill You by Iris Johansen - What doesn't kill you ... puts you to sleep. This is the first Iris Johansen book I've read, and it was the stupidest. Catherine Ling is an indestructible yet voluptuous ex-CIA operative who has a young son and an inscrutable Chinese herbalist/martial arts master named Hu Chang as a mentor and best friend. Hu Chang has created a special poison that everyone in the dark trades wants to get their hands on, and ... oh, who cares! The characters are unlikeable, the plot is unbelievable, and the writing ordinary.
  • The Colonel's Mistake by Dan Mayland - Retired CIA station chief Mark Sava rescues operative Dara Buckingham from a prison in Azerbaijan, only to find himself in the middle of complex plot between the US, China, Iran and various terrorist groups centered on oil. This is a first novel, and it has some problems, like the open space between characters the plot holes, or the uneven jumps between locales (speaking of which, I don't think I've read another book set largely in Azerbaijan--though the story also carries Sava to Dubai, Iran, Washington, DC, and somewhere in France). Still, it's good enough to give the next installment in the Mark Sava series a look.
  • On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison - Almost exactly fifty years ago, events in Dallas, Texas occurred that changed the world in ways large and small--the killing of John F Kennedy. I don't remember where I was that day, but I have heard and read repeatedly of the conspiracy theories, the eyewitnesses, the magic bullet, the reversed film frames, etc. Never mind the incredible public dispatch of the only suspect. I even saw the Oliver Stone film (ha!) Nothing has given me anything like the clarity and perspective of this book, authored by the New Orleans DA of the period, who used his office to investigate the assassination's NOLA connections. Garrison seems as solid and rational as they come, and indeed the book puts us on the trail of the assassins, but doesn't lead us to them--or even attempt to burnish any particular conspiracy theory, though he does insist there was a conspiracy--a point bolstered by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978. Anyway, good read.
  • CyberStorm by Matthew Mather - This is a ripping good electronic Armageddon story set during the holiday season in Manhattan. Suppose the Iranians, or the Chinese, or the Russians launched a cyber attack that shut down key power stations. At the same time, the East Coast is ravaged by powerful snowstorms. You would expect that within a few days, the authorities would get the power going, the streets ploughed, and everything back to normal. But what if they couldn't? What if the attack crippled the whole country--or at least east of the Mississippi? The internet goes down: no trains, no planes, even your apartment building can't perform essential functions anymore. Soon, the stores are empty, the TV and radio stations shut down. You huddle together with friends to conserve warmth, you forage in co-operative groups; in just a week or so everyone you see on the streets is a competitor for resources: an enemy. This is the situation young IT pro Mike Mitchell and his small family find themselves in a hundred pages into CyberStorm. And it's bound to get considerably darker before the dawn.
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson - Genius is a word much bandied about thesee days, and when we describe Steve Jobs as a genius, we should be clear what we mean by that term. I think it's more along the lines of "a person who is very good at something" than "a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority". Isaacson isn't really strong about this distinction, and as a result he creates a portrait that isn't a hagiography, but that isn't as unbiased as you might expect if you interviewed over one hundred people. Jobs was really good at something, of that there is no doubt: Apple products are almost always a pleasure to use, and that is due entirely to his ability to control every aspect of their design. But, Jobs was not, let's be clear, a designer himself. He was not an electrical engineer. He was not a filmmaker. Based on the book, he typically had an intuitive idea of what he wanted a product to be like, but he wasn't good at articulating it: usually, a design was "shit" until it was "the best thing ever". Unlike most successful businesspeople, he wasn't very "good at" people: he was cruel when he didn't have to be, and created unnecessary enmities along the way; he created what many co-workers dubbed a "reality distortion field" in which his view of events, let's say the timetable for rolling out a new product, was so strong and convincing, people nearby were convinced that it could happen. Many times it did, but sometimes Apple could be two years behind the announced delivery of a new widget. This also caused problems when he convinced the board to back-date some stock options--a questionable but not downright illegal gambit that the book mentions in less than one paragraph. What makes him interesting, though, as a CEO, is his unlikely combination of "visionary", big picture man (we need to create our own stores to sell our brand, not commoditize the Mac between the Compaq and the Asus on Circuit City shelves) and detail man (we must get our limestone tiles from the same quarry in Italy that Venice got theirs). In sum, I probably wouldn't have liked the guy, but I think he was a genius.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Fall Sports Day 2013

Our new principal inaugurated Fall Sports Day (Spring Sports Day is a long-standing tradition) on a crisp early autumn Friday that couldn't have been more suitable.

There was dancing ...

... and racing ...

... and more dancing ...

... and mugging for the camera:

A good time. And we got to leave early, perhaps an indication that the new administration is a bit more relaxed than the old one.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Some Korean Expressions on QI

This season's QI (Quite Interesting) is devoted to the letter K. We had only to wait for episode three for Korea to come up. It's all about idiomatic expressions. The fun begins at the 4:53 mark:

I only knew one of these, which I learned as "Too many captains send the boat to the hilltop". I was able to find another, "The other man's rice cake always looks bigger," in the book, "How Koreans Talk" by Sang-Hun Choe and Christopher Torchia, previously mentioned here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

My New Digs

I moved last Saturday (August 24), because the officetel I lived in went into tax arrears, never having paid taxes in its eight years of operation. It was a long, busy afternoon packing and moving all the stuff I've accumulated in five years, plus several pieces of furniture belonging to the school, like the desk, bed, TV, etc.

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Finally, the new place is taking shape, the blind man came today--but had measured wrong initially, which I would have told him if I knew how, the washing machine repairman fixed the leak, the cable/internet guy hooked me up last week, and I've added or taken from storage boxes some accent pieces. Now that I'm used to it, I have to say it's the nicest apatuh I've had here, better appointed, brighter, and even roomier, despite the fact there's no loft.

The location is a place called e-Starville in Mokdong, a complex with two eighteen floor residential towers, about fifty restaurants, a greengrocer, a butcher and bakery right outside the entrance. There is a 7-Eleven, Buy the Way and a GS25 all within sight of each other. The best thing about the location is that it's a seven minute walk to school. The worst thing about the location is that it's a fifteen minute walk to the nearest subway station. And that station is Yangcheon-gu Office, in the middle of the line 2 west spur, convenient to absolutely nothing. Still, I walk to school five days a week, I take the subway once or twice.

Anyway, the guided tour. First, the view of the exterior wall, you can see by the desk where the blinds come up short. The view is nothing spectacular--the roof of the next building, mainly--but it lets in a lot of light.

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Here's one wall, where I have hung these enormous Korean masks. The cable guy came back the next day to install a box on the TV which gives me a crystal-clear image of 120 channels of crap. The AC unit is directly over the bed.

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The kitchen next, with more storage space than the old places, and this pullout table that is an excellent feature. The washing machine has a dryer function, which most people only dream of. You can't see it, but on the left side of the hallway is a huge (comparatively) fridge and about twelve running feet of clothes/general storage.

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The bathroom. Main feature: enormous, separate shower stall. It's also got a quite large medicine cabinet.

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So there you have it. This, together with my Thailand vacation, from which I returned mere hours before I had to show up for the first day of the new semester at school, the new semester itself, and a variety of other draws on my time, will explain to your satisfaction, I hope, Dear Reader, the dearth of posts here in the Patch. More to come.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Read A Book!

Well, I'm off for a week in the sun and surf of Samui. Read a book!
  • The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz - Izzy Spellman has been a private investigator since age 14, working in her family's detective agency; a good detective agency, one gathers from the story, but extremely disfunctional family. The mom and dad split their time between working cases and following Izzy around. Older brother David was a model of perfection growing up, and is now a high-price corporate lawyer, who happens to be dating Izzy's best friend behind her back. Uncle Ray has survived cancer gotten from a lifetime of clean living and has decided to live it up, and so part of Izzy's work is trying locate him after he disappears on one of his periodic, debauched "lost weekends". And fourteen-year-old sister Rae has a detecting compulsion that leads her sneak out at night and shadow random people. Somewhere in there, Izzy is working a cold case about the disappearance of a teenager from camping trip twenty years ago.
  • The Secret of the Stones by Ernest Dempsey - I don't mind a story that stretches credulity, but this one exceeds the snapping point by quite a margin. On the other hand, it's set almost entirely in Georgia, so I liked the "local" flavor. An artifact has been found which may unlock the secret treasure of the Cherokee Indians and their link to the ancient Egyptians. Our hero is in a race to solve the mystery in time to save his archaeologist friend who's been kidnapped by minions of "The Prophet. To do so, he must decipher long-misunderstood clues at locations like Etowah Indian Mounds (I took eighth graders there for years) and Rock Eagle (4H camp locale). Still, it's just too unbelievable for me.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir - Imagine being left for dead by your team when exploring a remote location: little food and water, few supplies, no communication. Now imagine that you're on Mars, and the next manned mission is years away. Fortunately, you're a botanist and a mechanical engineer. What are your priorities, what are your longer-term goals? Read how astronaut Mark Watney answers those questions in this well-researched page-turner, reminiscent of Ray Bradbury--it hasn't got Bradbury's lyrical qualities, but it makes up for it with technical exactitude and creative problem-solving.
  • Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre - The story of Eddie Chapman has all the earmarks of a Hollywood tall tale--in fact, there have been a few fictionalizations of his life, but none as good as the real thing. Chapman, a career criminal in his late twenties, volunteered to work for the German Abwehr intelligence agency in order to get out of a Jersey prison. When he made his way to England to sabotage an airplane factory, he turned himself in to MI5 and became the most effective British double agent of the War. In his four journeys across the channel, he bedded women, charmed men, and did untold damage to the Axis war effort in Europe. Bravo to him, and to this well-told, well-researched book about him.
  • Hidden Genius: Frank Mann, the Black Engineer Behind Howard Hughes by HT Bryer - Thanks to my friend Chris for this tip (and many others), or I would never have heard of this remarkable guy. Even serious engineering types have never heard of Frank Mann, even though he designed cars for the Big Three, solved mechanical engineering problems for Howard Hughes, became an honorary member of "Doolittle's Raiders", piloted airplanes for Southwest Airways, created the coupling system for NASA that attached the Shuttle to the 747, and even sat aboard the famous 'Spruce Goose' in its only flight. He was also a singer, dancer, and MC at Huston's Eldorado Club, and hung out with movie stars like Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart and John Barrymore. Big life--slim book, only 109 pages. The book came about because the author's brother Paul befriended Mann in the eighties, got to know him and his remarkable story, was given the "rights" by Frank to his life story, but backed out of a Hollywood miniseries when he learned they planned to sensationalize it with his penchant for the ladies and the celebrity scene. It is based almost completely on Frank's conversations with Paul, his supply of memorabilia, and interviews with people still around from his days at the rather secretive Hughes Corporation. Fascinating, and a great role model no matter what your skin color.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu: Food & Drink

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The most popular "local" brew in Kota Kinabalu is Skol, manufactured under auspices of Carlsberg, and created by a consortium of brewers as a global mega-brand in the 1960s, so Wikipedia tells me. My hang-out downtown, sharing roof-space with the Rainforest Lodge, sold it in an ice bucket at 3 for 13 RM, or USD 1.50, with tax, during "happy hour", which being from 11 AM to 9 PM was more like "happy day."

The Sugarbun Cafe next door offered one of Malaysia's specialties, the "claypot" meal, a stew that could range from bland to fairly spicy. Here's the chicken one:

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BBs Cafe and Beer Garden also ran a teppan grill at night, offering good grub at good prices, like this salmon for 20 RM:

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I picked up these snacks somewhere and thought to take a picture before digging in. The dried red plums are the original sour candy, albeit with a pip inside.

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Other typical fare at the dozens of coffeehouse/cafe establishments that fill out the city center area include this breakfast of a pork-filled bun, a pastry and a great cup of strong yet sweetened coffee, for 4.40 RM:

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I knew it was Ramadan when I went to Malaysia, and I knew it was a majority Muslim country (though the constitution ensures religious freedom), and I somehow worried a bit that it would complicate my meal plans a bit. Well, restaurants weren't closed, beer was readily available, and after sundown the Ramadan food markets were in full flow. I even read in the newspaper surprising statistics about the number of people admitted to hospital with severe gastric distress after gorging themselves.

One night, I made my way toward the waterfront restaurant area, but was instead diverted by the Ramadan food tent area. I set out for some red snapper (dedicated readers will know this already), and I was not disappointed. I had it grilled, added a trio of enormous shrimp, and a tasty repast for about 40 RM. On the downside, no alcohol.

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Here are a few other shots of the tent city:

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Needless to say, I went back for more the next night.

I mentioned that this was a night-time function, but there was, right next to my hotel, a daytime edition, rather smaller, but also quite delicious. It seemed to run from 2 to 5 or so. I first stopped by for an ice-cold beverage--they had OJ, mango juice, avocado juice (I like avocados, but yuck!) tembikai juice, lobak juice and lo han kuo, among others. I have no idea what any of those are, but I gambled on the lo han kuo and found it quite nice--vaguely nutty but refreshing.

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Many of the stalls had signage with names and prices, but they didn't really help much (though nasi goreng means 'fried rice' in Indonesian):

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However, English is quite common in Kota Kinabalu, though like the rest of the country, Malaysian is the official language, and people were always kind and helpful. And they sure can cook!

This concludes my series of posts on my visit to Malaysia. It's been slow coming together because I've been quite busy between camp, my public speaking class and just farting around. I leave Friday for a week on Koh Samui, but don't expect much in the way of photos etc from that trip--been, there, done that, to the extend I think I won't take the Nikon, but just settle for pics from the iPhone camera. Before I go, I do expect to update the Book Report. Until then, see you in the funny papers!