The 2023 Trip Home

4/17 Monday (NJ time)

The last time we went home was in 2017. This time, 6 years later, for family financial reason in Indonesia, I’m typing on the flight towards Frankfurt in SIA (Singapore Airline’s SQ25). Currently 4 hours away from Germany, listening to the inflight classical music, Bach, as I type this. This is the longest vacation I have taken. Sort of 4 weeks, from 4/17 to 5/12 with the last week being remote, as the powers that be do not wish to start a habit of staffs taking more than 3 consecutive weeks off. I was able to use the 2 hour complementary inflight wi-fi for economy class. It’s 12am-1am right now EST and I do feel a bit tired, but what does it matter with jetlag expected later. Perhaps if I started delay sleep for 6 hours for a couple of times, I may find the quickest solution to this jetlag. So I should sleep around 3-6 am or so, for I guess 1-2 hours.

Then my tooth (#30 or LR 6) gave in on Thursday (4/13) while suddenly chewed on probably a hard crumb from Nadia’s fried fish. Not her fault. I should have looked into this and my wisdom teeth ages ago. So it was my fault for procrastinating. So about the top quarter portion of my tooth chipped thought not right away. I felt a cracking sound as I chewed on it with the crumb. My tongue then felt a cracked line on it. I used the mirror and found that the chipped piece was coming off though still intact with the teeth. The last dentist wasn’t open that day, plus I am reluctant to use her again because she did messed with this tooth trying to carve out the dirt in it. She did it so hard I did feel pain from time to time. She didn’t seem to know about it until I told her of the pain and though she was shocked, she couldn’t find the problem and blamed on the wisdom teeth, which I think she’s partially correct (right about the wisdom teeth needing to be extracted, but may be wrong about this being the cause of my chipped tooth) I believe she may have worsen it. So I went to Eleni’s recommended dentist in stead in Basking  Ridge: RidgeFamilyDentistry. The doctor was great and took out my chipped piece with no pain. They then helped me make appointment with an endodontist for a root canal appointment which I think wasn’t easy to get one right away, especially if I was the one looking for one instead in such a sort time, as we are flying on Monday. I went for my root canal the next Morning and everything went well: A day or two of pain (the kind I’ve felt before, years ago, especially when I haven’t chewed something for a long time). The Endodontist’s clinic was even kind enough to call on Monday Morning to check on me. I’m supposed to go back to him on 5/19 after returning from Malaysia for 2nd visit where he’s supposed to fill my canal or something and then I would go back to my original dentist for crowning.

Then on Sunday (4/16) we had a great fellowship time from start to end. Sunday school was on membership class related material and the same group plus a new Carol had our “fellowship” lunch at Olive Garden. They all cared for our 1 month hiatus. We also discussed about various theological topic from predestination to the Gospel.

On Monday, I swam at LA Fitness at around 8am. Pumped gas at Costco, took care of tire air (especially FR which for some unknown reason always drops pressure the quickest). Service sign (i.e. oil change time) turned on as I drove my way to RiteAid for B-2 and home. We don’t have time to deal with this oil change. Thanks to Nadia, who packed 99% of our trip including my clothing, over a disciplined time, my part was light. Mostly electronics related, including the GoPro10 she bought for me a couple weeks ago, mainly for this trip. I realized I should have ordered prescription snorkel mask (8.0-8.5), but it’s not too important. We left at 3:20pm. There’s some jam on the road so we arrived at JFK Terminal 4 around 4:30pm. Nadia brought the car to Ramonia’s and had her daughter drive her back to the airport. The ISA line at EFG’s 8th check-in row was long indeed. They were already lined up as I arrived but there was no sign or indication that this was for the Singapore Airline, not to mention when I asked, some staff in row #1 told me that it’s too early to open, so I waited a good 20 mins I think until I saw the monitors in Row 8 turned on showing SIA logo, and I joined the long line after inquiring about where the line was. The staff seemed impatient to answer me as if I should know where the line was, but he showed me in the end anyway. Nadia joined me within 30 mins or so. During the scan, one of our carry-on was marked for checking but it was Nadia’s Starbucks tin. Which I told her later that this could easily be seen as gunpowder related materials, the coffee, that is. Which led me to think that one could get away carrying certain things easily by placing something obvious (i.e. Starbucks coffee tin) .

So we were by Gate A6 with a couple of half BMT sandwiches ($11 total) at around 7pm. The flight departed on time at 8:55pm. Take off was very smooth as I wasn’t even aware of it. This time, I don’t seat next to Nadia as I convinced her to seat us both by the window. So I sat behind her in 56A. I had asked her to walk ahead of me entering the plane but she refused and acted as if it was nothing. She learned her lesson when I went into my seat first and couldn’t help her stow her carry-on in the cabin. Or did she learn it?

May God lead us and especially me fruitfully in this trip in a discipline and spiritual manner. Not to waste my time. Be sociable with our families in godly manner. Be patient with my mother’s materialism. Still able to keep up with some of my daily routine such as Bible ready, Psalms and others.

By the way the Disney Goes Classical music album by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is not bad, should download.

4/18 TUE – Nothing much can be said of this day, as we were transiting at Frankfurt to get on the 11-12 hour long flight to Singapore. What's amazing is our T-Mobile Magenta Max plan really came through with the free data/texting overseas. Supposed to be 5GB of 5G first and then unlimited 256k speed. Calling would be extra $ but I believe I could make calls using data via my SPG's RingCentral phone.

(Some welcoming party upon arriving Jakarta)

Upon arriving Jakarta (10:30AM) after Singapore, half of the passengers found that their baggage have been misplaced. Apparently this is something that often happens. My deduction is this was due to the logistics at Singapore Changi and not of the fault on the Indonesian side, I don’t even know if Singapore Airlines screwed this one up. We all filed a report and hopefully things get sorted out as all 4 of our big luggages were misplaced. They even gave each of us 750.000 as compensation, apparently not everyone got compensation. We were the last ones remaining in the queue anyway. Nadia seems to think that our uniqueness was due to our foreign status. I did notice that they are quite welcome towards Malaysians at custom. Then off we flew from Jakarta to Solo City (Adi Soemarmo International Airport) via Garuda.

(The sight of home - even if it's in Indonesia)

(At Salon Rudy Hadisuwarno Ronggowarsito, the family favorite- Haircut demanded by wife, in order to be presentable to her father who thinks her skill resulted in my hair looking like toilet brush)

(Dinner at the favorite Bakso Kalilarangang 2)

At night, I went out walking with Tom into their "pasar" and I alone ate some of their local food: Cumi (squid), Papeda egg roll (quail eggs 5000 for 5 sticks), blimbing (starfruit) juice.

4/19 WED - I've managed to keep my Morning Psalms these 3 days so far. Psalm 10 was recited the day before (jetlag thing).

(7am at Timlo Sastro 1, I think FangFang ordered Timlo Komplit for us - love the marinated egg - like the Chinese style, and the mix of the rice and soup)

I should look for some local food: Solo (Tongseng, Selat Solo, Sosis Solo), Malang (Bakwan Malang = Bakso Malang, apparently this is a Malang thing)

Other than relying on my extended family here in Solo, thanks to my other Indonesian friends (i.e. David Tong) that I know in U.S., who have no interest in sharing their culture, I must now turn to ChatGPT as my tour guide:

What attractions are there in Solo, Indonesia?

Solo, also known as Surakarta, is a city located in Central Java, Indonesia. It is known for its rich cultural heritage, which is reflected in its attractions. Here are some of the popular attractions in Solo:
- Keraton Surakarta Hadiningrat: This is the palace of the ruling Sultan of Solo, and is a must-visit attraction. It is a beautiful complex of pavilions, courtyards, and gardens that reflects Javanese culture and tradition.
- Pasar Klewer: This is one of the biggest traditional markets in Solo, and it offers a wide variety of goods, including batik clothes, traditional snacks, and handicrafts.
- Danar Hadi Batik Museum: This museum is dedicated to the history and art of batik, a traditional Indonesian textile. It displays a wide collection of batik fabrics, tools, and artifacts.
- Radya Pustaka Museum: This is a museum that displays the cultural heritage of Solo and Central Java. It has a vast collection of manuscripts, ceramics, and archaeological artifacts.
- Sriwedari Park: This is an amusement park that offers various rides and attractions, such as a ferris wheel, a water park, and a mini zoo.
- Grojogan Sewu Waterfall (already been there last time - Tawangmangu): This is a beautiful waterfall located about 30 km from Solo. It is a popular destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
- Mangkunegaran Palace: This is another palace in Solo, which was built in the 18th century. It is known for its unique architecture and beautiful collections of traditional Javanese art and culture.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Solo has to offer. Visitors can also explore the local markets, taste the local cuisine, and experience the vibrant cultural life of the city.

What attractions are there in Malang, Indonesia?

Malang is a city located in East Java, Indonesia. It is known for its cool climate, beautiful landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Here are some of the popular attractions in Malang:
Mount Bromo: This is an active volcano located about 2 hours from Malang. It is a popular destination for trekking and sightseeing, and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes.
Batu Night Spectacular: This is an amusement park that offers various rides and attractions, such as a Ferris wheel, a haunted house, and a water park. It also has a beautiful garden and a night market.
Coban Rondo Waterfall: This is a beautiful waterfall located about 12 km from Malang. It is surrounded by lush green forests and offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere.
Jatim Park: This is a theme park that offers various rides and attractions, such as a roller coaster, a water park, and a zoo. It also has a science center and a cultural museum.
Museum Angkut: This is a transportation museum that displays various types of vehicles, such as cars, motorcycles, and airplanes. It also has a replica of the famous Borobudur temple.
Singosari Temple: This is an ancient Hindu temple located about 10 km from Malang. It was built in the 13th century and is known for its unique architecture and historical significance.
Taman Rekreasi Selecta: This is a beautiful park that offers various recreational activities, such as swimming, fishing, and horse riding. It also has a flower garden and a children's playground.
These are just a few of the many attractions that Malang has to offer. Visitors can also explore the local markets, taste the local cuisine, and experience the vibrant cultural life of the city.

Apakah yang enak di Solo, Indonesia? I get: Nasi Liwet, Gudeg, Sate Kere, Soto, Es Dawet.
Tempat makan yang terkenal dengan Nasi Liwet di Solo adalah Warung Selat Mbak Lies dan Warung Mak Beng (too far in Denpasar area).
Beberapa tempat makan yang terkenal dengan Gudeg di Solo adalah Gudeg Bu Tjitro (seemed to be closed in Solo, but a few chain apparently in Yogyakarta) dan Gudeg Yu Djum.
Sate Kere dijual di warung-warung kecil di sepanjang jalan Slamet Riyadi.
Beberapa tempat makan yang terkenal dengan Soto di Solo adalah Soto Gading, Soto Bathok Mbah Katro, dan Soto Triwindu.
Es Dawet biasanya dijual di warung-warung kecil di sepanjang jalan.

Apakah yang enak di Malang, Indonesia? I get: Bakso Malang, Rawon Setan, Sate Klopo, Tahu Campur, Rujak Cingur.
Beberapa tempat makan yang terkenal dengan Bakso Malang di Malang adalah Bakso President (not the closed Presiden one), Bakso Kota Cak Man, dan Bakso Bakar Pak Man.
Beberapa tempat makan yang terkenal dengan Rawon Setan di Malang adalah Rawon Nguling dan Rawon Setan Pak Gendut (cannot be found in google map).
Beberapa tempat makan yang terkenal dengan Sate Klopo di Malang adalah Sate Klopo Ondomohen, Sate Klopo Cak Slamet, dan Sate Klopo Sambas (not found but I got this instead on google map: Sate Klopo Kak Mad).
Beberapa tempat makan yang terkenal dengan Tahu Campur di Malang adalah Tahu Campur Bu Asih dan Tahu Campur Pak Sadi (I get this on google map instead: Tahu Campur Cak Sadak).
Beberapa tempat makan yang terkenal dengan Rujak Cingur di Malang adalah Rujak Cingur Pak Sholeh (not found in google map) dan Rujak Cingur Ahmad Jais (could be price and reviews weren't too great, spelt Achmad Jais Cingur Rujak in Google Map)

4/20 Thurs: Today is mostly hanging out with Nadia's old classmate friends Sandra and her husband Jiang Jiang. We ate too much from mall to mall after the ladies' salon. Nadia didn't want to bother them for their time further as they would be going to Switzerland the next day for family vacation. This is also the night we received our luggages from airport, which Tom went to pick up. Surprisingly there was no hassle. Nadia suspected perhaps this had to do with the fact that we are foreigners.

4/21 Fri: This begins the 3 day 2 night Malang trip. Stephen Tong's old home town where he converted under Andrew Gih's 計志文 ministry and taught in Gih's seminary for 25 years. The seminary is now known as Southern Asia Bible Seminary. However, I didn't get the opportunity to visit the seminary, until next time then. We first headed to Surabaya, which is north of Malang about 1 hour. Surabaya (along with Medan) is the most populous Chinese area in Indonesia. (I'm typing this at 4/24 10:49pm and it's suddenly pouring hard outside that I can hear it from our Indonesian home room) We made our breakfast stop at Depot Bu Rudy Kupang Indah for some local food (mainly rawon and tofu).

@Bu Rudy

Then we toured the cheaper mall Pasar Atom, in Chinatown of Surabaya. Nadia bought some cheap shirt. The food court section in the mall looked just like a typical Penang hawker center in a shopping center.

@food court of Pasar Atom, Surabaya.

After that we lunch at Mie Tidar, which served something close to wonton mee and ice kacang:

@Mie Tidar

After that we drove to Malang's resort, the Shanaya Report for glaming:

@Shanaya Resort in front of all 3 of our units:

@Shanaya, our unit: Minimalism is the trend nowadays.

We had to park the car by the main lobby while they have these 24/7 driver in a golf cart:

driving us around the campus and to our rooms. This is when I tested my GoPro 10 when the first thing we did was headed to the swimming pool, which is by the main dining hall. At night we (minus Nadia's father and Nadia) ate at Warung Wareg: some fried fish and we ordered a fried rice as takeout for Nadia and her father to share. I believe I've also dropped my DJI Pocket camera this night and broke it such that it cannot recognize the SD card anymore.

@Warung Wareg, dinner.

4/22 Saturday: It was quite a sight as I walked out to the stream in front of our unit in the morning and found tadpoles/kecebong (berudu in Malay):

I haven't seen tadpoles for ages as it's not a common sight in the U.S. Had the stream bed not been too out of reach for me, I would have reached out to grab some.

The buffet breakfast was apparently included, and not bad:

@buffet at Shanaya at around 7am when there's not many people yet and seats were plenty. Good swimming pool view while eating as well. For recreation they had a little rabbit yard and children's play area where Tom and I played a rather longer than expected game of Ping Pong. They also provided bicycles but the area to ride was very limited - a circle next to the lobby. Makes sense, for safety and such with the kind of mountainous trails they have around. We checked out of the resort at around 11am.

At noon, we headed to Onsen, a Japanese resort for their nice Kyoto style view, however the 4 hour rain beat us to it and cut the tour incredibly short:

Before long, after having lunch at Gang Djangkrik, a very Chinese restaurant with i-fu mee and such:


we checked into our next and last resort in Malang, a grander more luxurious Grand Mercure Malang Mirama 5-star hotel. Also 3 rooms (906, 907 - parents, 826 - Tom's).

@Grand Mercure Hotel

We also did swimming pool right away, this time it's not just Tom, myself and Bryan, but Celine as well. However, despite the fun slide it uniquely has, I believe it was here that I took in too much pool water as I plunge down the slide many times and caused diarrhea for a whole couple of days starting around 9pm. I tried isolating the causes (i.e. paru I ate at Shanaya, I-fu mee at Djangkrik, Cumi I hate on the streets a couple days earlier) but this maybe the real culprit. I am feeling much better now as I am typing this as the diarrhea seemed subsided a little.

4/23 Sunday: Because of the diarrhea, I wasn't active enough while Nana was happily waiting for her included breakfast buffet meal at the hotel:

By now everyone heard about my diarrhea and Nadia's mom offered me this baojiwang tasting but also tasted like whiskey medicine:

I've only tried light soup and fruits at this buffet as I couldn't eat much. Went to my room's toilet to force vomit once hoping to clear whatever poison it was from top rather than bottom. Seemed to help a little. After the hotel, I reduced my food intake considerably. Nadia seemed to have lost appetite perhaps because of me. Because I did not eat much nor needed much, I felt no worse and was able to rest the whole 4 hour ride home.

4/24 Monday: This is the one day Tawangmangu trip without Nadia's father and Tom. We ate at their favorite (I remembered going here once the first trip to Indonesia) Pecel Bu Dirah street food, I didn't eat much but took some of Nadia's Nasi Pecel portion. Then we had oxtail soup at Sop Iga dan Pecel Bu Ugi:

Looked like I gained some appetite here:

and apparently Nadia's mom and the shop owner are business friends:

Then we visited some newly build cottage/resort and had lunch there at Mountain Cottage. It was here I wondered about investing in agriculture in Indonesia. Broccoli seems to be the most expensive type of vegetation here as it needs colder climate like Tawangmangu. On the trip home, Nadia couldn't contain herself and vomited due to the wavy road. I was quick enough to spare her a good plastic bag from the take home oxtail soup in time. We've had frog legs for these last two dinners since the day before, at home after Tom ordered them from outside. To be honest, I'd rather eat something else (something we can't find in U.S. which even street hawker food wins) and outside rather than at home, but it is what it is. Nadia skipped tonight's dinner to sleep while I tried to keep myself awake to write these and perhaps watch a couple of quick movies to relax myself.

4/25 Tuesday: Museums Trip for me by Fang Fang and Bryan. The rest stayed as I had convinced them it's better I was left alone in these museums as I need a lot of time for them: Museum Keris Nusantara & Museum Radya Pustaka (2nd oldest in Indonesia). Fang Fang and Bryan accompanied me to the first one and waited outside for me for the second one. Was going for a third one: House of Danar Hadi where many reviews gave high praise about a 45 min tour guide that could even be in English about the history and sample the make of Batik, but the guided tour's on break until 5/4. Solo is one of the two places (viz. Pekalongan) famous in Indonesia for Batik. To keep time short, I recorded and photographed the entire two museums as best as I could. Some quick notes: the handle of the kris is thought to be resembling a boat. The oldest museum in Solo definitely could use some fine curation as well as renovation. My diarrhea still prevails, so is Nadia's. I suspected it was the rawon both of us were the only partaker at Bu Rudy from the Malang trip, the meal right before we checked into Grand Mercure.

4/26 Wednesday: We all but the grands went for a morning walk around 5:30-6am at the Sebelas Maret University, the most famous in Solo, a public uni. Though certainly not the only one in Solo. Nadia said that their kedoctoran (medical doctor program) is the most prestigious in town. Interesting that they have Javanologi department. We then stopped at Ny. Lidia's Serabi Notosuman for the Serabi dessert which I have yet to see and try. Then we had Soto Gading at Soto Kirana:

@Soto Kirana having eggs, kikil (beef tendon), soto gading, gizzard.

Visited the same mall (Solo Square) we did with Sandra's a few days back. This time we spent time next door to Nadia's allegedly (she never gives me clear accurate answers) $100 salon (FF said it's the most expensive kind and she would never visit such), which is a sort of dollar store but with better quality products. I bought a $1 retractable rubber/silicon funnel. Then we also visited a media/book store a few steps away. I was taken by the presence of Tim Keller's book "Jesus the King" in the Christianity section which is about 4 times smaller than the Islamic section. At Adem Ayem, Tom got me es (ice-cream) durian ($1) and Nadia was too eager to share mind and stopped me from finishing it out of concern for my health. It was the real durian deal, perhaps the only taste of durian I have this year in Asia as my mom said it's out of season in Malaysia. We got Gudeg and some ayam goreng from Adem Ayem to eat at home. I realized though Gudeg is Solo's favorite, it's not mine, as Tom and I prefer the real jackfruit and not the "cooked" version. However, the "sauce" (with beef skin) supposedly accompanying the Gudeg was fantastic. I did not try the fried chicken, I should have, now knowing that it's from Adem Ayem and from google map, it's the signature dish of the restaurant as well.

Back at home, after lunch, I documented (2nd time) mama's simpler version of how to make sapi tim (beef essence juice). Then Nadia and I spent time playing games (rummikub) with the kids.

I realize as time passed, it does get harder to discipline my routine schedule. Distractions. But having a habit of writing journal in a timely manner seems to help quite a bit.

4/27/2023 Thursday: On the way to Salatiga, Tom located the GRII Solo branch and I took some photo:

Then the 1+ hour drive placed us in Salatiga's famous pork barbeque hakka restaurant: Kedai Kairos (I wonder if this is Christian owned):

It's famous (according to FF) for its chasiew, roast pork:

I got myself Chicken rice but the overall taste was certainly remarkable. Although I think the trick is to serve mostly the fatty portion. Their roast pork was chopped smaller than the usual size I am used to and there's hardly any meaty portion, just the charred skin and the fat. It's however cubed small enough for you to feel guilty about eating it:

Then we stopped by this Tahu Oom Shin place where tohu and soymilk were made fresh in front of you:

Upon returning home at night, Tom, myself, Nadia and Bryan stopped by Nini Thowong, Nadia's favorite nearby (walking distance) eating place for "dinner" - I had Es Duren Kopyor while she had Es Kopyor, and I managed to sneak a photo of the owner behind me:

Before calling it a night, I needed to remind myself to make sure Nadia's mom does not store the supplements in the heat:

4/28/2023 Friday: Last day we have in Solo. Had to finish our list of food: Mie Pinangsia (I supposed this is from Penang) which we had on previous visit. But the one at Pasar Gede was too early to open so we stopped by the sister restaurant: Mie Pinangsia Abun. Basically, this is similar to wonton mee:

For lunch, we had tongseng along with other lamb related: sate, internal organs, etc. at Pak Samin (Mas Totok).

Nini Thowong again for "dinner" while Tom's family had rice, Nadia and I just had our es Kopyor and es Mega Mendung (everything including cendol green noodle, guilinggao, etc.)

Before turning to bed, I had quite a serious discussion with Nadia's mom about Willy. Basically I proposed that Willy needs to learn to be spiritually independence (we are not his wives nor his caregiver) as he had complained to his mother that he did not feel "welcomed enough" every time he visited our place; while mama disagreed (all things tolerant towards family). We did not have enough time to discuss further but we promised to continue the friendly discussion when Nadia and I return to U.S.A.

4/29/2023 Saturday: Tom and FF were kind enough to take us on the 3 hour drive to our airport at Surabaya and this time (we had tried in Solo before but they were closed) we ate at Warung Bu Kris Tenggilis in Surabaya. Bu Kris is a famous franchise of Balinese cuisine:

On the way to the airport, we faced a few flooded area due to heavy rainstorm the night before:

Though slightly overweighed (by 0.9 kg) they weren't too strict with us. I was even attempting to lean close to the scale to try giving the luggage some wings but it wasn't a good idea (would only show unstable value). After saying our farewells to Tom and FF, all process to the flight was smooth and on time. Though it was full house for the flight to Penang, which made me wonder what's Indonesia's current relationship with Malaysia now. Looked like they tried speeding the boarding process by making the other half of the passengers entering via the rear:

Interesting prayers Air Asia had on flight for those who were afraid, I supposed:

Upon arriving Penang, the immigration line was crazy long:

It appeared that everyone's stuck here including those from other flights (i.e. Taiwan, etc.) It wasn't until Nadia took a further look at the signs that we learn that I could have gone through the Malaysian check in side which is completely empty, it's just that the crowd was so heavy that even the path to the Malaysian side was blocked. I separated from Nadia to check in via electronic passport reader/thumb print reader. Took a while (a couple times) to scan my passport properly and off I went to find our luggage.

After Nadia came out, we picked up my mom and we ate at our usual after-airport hawker center (Spice Pisa Cafe). It was great to see both my dad and mom were looking healthy for their ages.

I finally had my Lo-Mein. The key is in the spoon of spicy garlicy sauce I suppose. Blending noodle with starchy broth is important to I think.

4/30/2023 Sunday: For breakfast, went with dad to get take out from Jalan Pantai Jerjak 13, dad ordered me the famous Yoo's White Curry Mee and Koay Teow Th'ng for Nadia. I could feel the temptation of pork blood from time to time, but the cockle clams I have yet to taste thus far as my dad thinks it's not safe:

Then my dad and I went to the church service at 10:30am across from the house, Taman Century Methodist church (Mandarin). Mostly Uni students. The song worship is modeled after Charismatic's CCM, but the preacher's message appears to gear towards reformed with a sprinkle of evangelism (stressed on God being the one who saves, not us, yet we must do our best to reach out).

We then lunch at Little Nyonya in Queens Bay Mall. Mama is happy because of the aircon and "cleaner" class cuisine:

We then walked the mall, checking out Daiso (Nadia's fav) and considering Souper Tang in the future where not only 燕窝 is served but also real 鱼翅. We had a little taste of soymilk in the top floor food court. At night, my dad took me to Tai Zi Bak Kut Teh near Lipsin to have 滑蛋河:

I took a photo of our toilet, which shows that hand bidet is a must have in every household in South East Asia (Indonesia & Malaysia), probably a Muslim thing:

Though icky to some at first, but once you're used to bidet, there's no turning back.

5/1/2023 Monday: Labor Day. Finally met my brother at breakfast fav: Maxim Dim Sum Pekaka. Long line. First time found out that they've been using robot AI to serve tea/drinks. You can tell it's approaching from a specific musical tone, which is universally used everywhere in foodcourts/hawker centers:

For lunch, we parted with David and headed to Balik Pulau's famous laksa place: Kim Laksa Balik Pulau, for me and my dad while Nadia and mom had bao:

Then while attempting to go around the island towards Batu Ferringhi, we got lost in a small hill trail towards Air Hitam instead of the wider, common Jalan Tanjung Bungah:

Dangerous mountain trail (Jalan Bukit Penara) narrow enough for only one car. Two cars can can lah but must have skill. My dad decided to turn back half way after contemplating heading through the Air Hitam Dam and we met an incoming car. It was a slight hassle as the road was too narrow. After learning that our car couldn't slide any further to the left and I couldn't open the car, I exited through the passenger's window to get rid of two (one whole one not rotten) durians that were in the way of the front left tire of the car. Then after confirming that the uncle's car couldn't make way any leftward from his end, seeing my dad's car was too close to scratching their right sides, I signaled my dad's car forward and the leftward (from his point) to avoid any accident and safely get out of the jam. The motorbikes (indian or malay) behind us who were initially impatient even said in 谢谢, I think, as I went back into the car.

While back on Jalan Tanjung Bungah - Jalan Teluk Bahang, we passed by scenic Telok Bahang Dam and lots of Durian estate/stalls which were not yet in season. Then we got stuck in traffic for at least 30 min - 60 min delay in the North where plenty of beachside hotels and the floating mosque: Masjid Daerah Timur Laut (Masjid Terapung) were located.

The only traffic light at the mosque was the cause of this heavy traffic on the holiday as after that, the road was cleared. I wondered about Batu Ferringhi's water, how clear it was, I still wonder now as they looked good from afar. But I have yet to get the chance to step in the water to examine it myself.

After the traffic, we stopped by Market & Food Complex Tanjung Bungah to get some fruits (i.e. dragon fruits), where my dad usually go after Penang Swimming Club.

For dinner, my brother's wife joined us at home and we ate at Big Crab hawker center, which is very close to George Town if I wasn't aware of had I not checked the map. We ordered the popular fried/barbequed/seared stingray fish (RM 62) to share. The marinate was hinted with delicious indian spices.

After that, David and his wife went back for next day's work until we meet again on Thursday for Hatyai's trip.

5/2/2023 Tuesday: My dad has to work so we try to stay out of his way. At around noon, we finally met Uncle Jaya at his place (just dad and I) and talked about Koh Lipe and what he used to do (spear fishing/lobster out of his own make in the 70s in Pulau Payar when nobody knew of the place).

After much research, my dad and I finally land on the decision for Koh Lipe instead of Pulau Perhentian or Langkawi. I found out Koh Lipe, apparently a lost paradise to me (mom heard of it from her Hatyai craz friends, so she claimed), while looking for places to snorkel in Langkawi, and someone in some forum suggested Koh Lipe. Upon looking up, the fact that it was so close to Langkawi (to the West) and of Thai's property, made me feel like I was dreaming that such a place existed as I had given up looking for any coral reefs along the West coast of Malaysia not to mention shallow snorkeling waters. Even a tour center I reached out for tips on snorkeling in Langkawi (Tanjung Rhu) told me to choose Koh Lipe instead when I told them I was considering Koh Lipe. So can't go wrong with Koh Lipe if Langkawi was the only alternative. Though, uncle Jaya did prefer Koh Tao, which is way north on the East coast of Thailand and north of the famed but tourist polluted Koh Samui. By night, I've booked for myself and dad round trip flight straight from airasia since it's same price as (RM 276 Airasia 5/8 7am-7:35am), Harbour Telaga Marina ferry from owner's official site (RM 614 10am, return 12pm), first night stay at The Cliff Lipe Resort (RM 56.70 Sunset beach), 2nd night stay at Wapi Resort (RM 52.60) via Agoda recommended a 7-island hopping RM 104.30 tour for 7.5 hour but since it's a whole day, I figure we'll sort it out after we get there. We may be satisfied with the beaches on Lipe instead of all the surrounding islands which don't look bad from google:
For reference of other nearby islands for snorkeling: The 7 hour tour: 09:00 - 09:30: Pick Up at your Hotel in Lipe Island 10:00: Departure to Jabang for Snorkeling 11:00: Snorkeling at Koh Hin-Ngam (Black Stone Island) and Take a photo at Koh Hin Sorn 12:00: Lunch at Ao Ling(The inclusive lunch box will be prepared) 13:00-13:30: Enjoy photogenic spot at Koh Hin Sorn then snorkeling at Koh Dong & Ao Ling 14:00: Snorkeling at Koh Ro Kloy 15:00: Snorkeling at Koh Phung 16:30: Return back to your Hotel

At night, Nadia reminiscent of the hawker center we went first every time after landing, so we dined at Spice Pisa Cafe. She had Hokkien mee while I ordered Char Koay Teow which my dad wasn't fond of after trying it a couple days before when we first landed. Apparently they don't serve clams in it, I thought my dad had it removed. Nonetheless, the taste seemed authentic: very soft thin noodle blended with the taste. I had first wanted to order curry mee, but they were not open. After char koay teow, I tried to order hokkien char but not more. The Lok Lok (meat on satay sticks) was enticing but I figure my parents wouldn't let me have it.

5/3/2023 Wednesday: This is the day I caught up my journal, typing all these at 11:16am. Cleared my SPG emails. While enjoying the morning watching my parents leading the TaiChi class in front of the house,

I noticed that the ants in the field were frighteningly large and unusually shaped and new to me, even their movement is somewhat scarily impressive, three by three:

Update: As it turns out, these weren't ants. These were termites! Harvester termites! I learned of this after whatsapping a company called and he immediately replied that these were termites. I then looked up the shape and color and concluded that Northern Harvester termites would be the closest to what I saw. There's some interesting facts about them, that when their colony is large enough, they would grow wings and spread out to populate further. Despite being helpful in aerating the soil and taking care of dead plants, the damages they cause still outweighs the good: killing all kinds of plants, etc. Thus, some have suggested how to kill them, such as getting a kind of medicine that could kill bacteria in their stomach that helped digest their food, or pesticides:
to get rid of Harvester Termites is any one of a range of commercially available pesticides. These include Efekto Zero Harvester Termite Bait, Efekto Kamikaze, Skatterkill for Insects (which is not harmful to birds or animals), Bayer Baythion Liquid, Bayer Baythroid Liquid, Bayer K-O Gard and Kombat Termites – all of which are available at leading nurseries and garden centres.

According to mom, this pest problem has been tried and unresolved. Maybe I can look this up in the U.S. or ask my pest-control neighbor upon return.

For breakfast, this time we just ate bread and butter/honey at home, finishing the dragon fruits.

Lunch: We went to Kafe Kheng Pin's Hainanese Chicken, favorite of my parents. Took home to eat. They are good indeed. The meat was tender and boneless.

Before home, I also ate the famous Chung Ling chui nui imitation at No. 5 Macalister Road, and his CKT (char koay teow):

The mother helping with drink orders. The chef is from Chung Ling. I was mislead by CL friends on Whatsapp to think that this was the original Chung Ling hawker. However, his CKT was great (I finally told him to add hum/clams before telling my dad 🙂 ) and Nadia had another. I also had the famous cui nui, which is certainly a good match authentically. It's all about the timing, the mother said. I also realized that white pepper is an important final ingredient. The loud fire is crucial to keep the egg half cooked, apparently.

For dinner, I and my dad went to Padang Brown (the famous used to be Agogo 滑蛋河) for sup kamping campur RM16 by the famous 3rd generation Al-Bismi Soup:

There's even a sign board next to where I sat confirming that customers are allowed to order any drinks from any stall, as the way some drink hawkers came at us was as if they own our seats or something. We refused them and only had the soup:

We got one take out soup for Nadia. She was asleep so we'll heat the soup tomorrow for her breakfast before Thailand trip. Nadia appeared to have digestive problem and kept burping. Since we don't have ENO, dad suggested the vitamin C/D tablet that melts in water. She had half a cup and burped again for a few times and went to bed.

5/4/2023 Thursday: Nadia had a couple sip of last night's lamb soup and gave the rest to me upon waking up. Dad fetched my brother and his wife and we took off (8am) with the hired driver viz. Lionel/driver & Danny to Hatyai. At this point my root canal tooth was not quite harming my tongue or lips as I was afraid of, and the ulcer parts were recovered quite well. In 3 hours, we've arrived at the immigration center to get these white cards for Thailand entrance. We were told to keep the white cards all the time until after we've returned to Malaysia, or else we would not be return to Malaysia. As expected, upon crossing the border (long line about an hour) and Nadia had to come out at the last check point due to her country (Not Malaysian) to do thumbprints before we entered Thailand, got text message from T-Mobile's free roaming in Thailand as I did in Indonesia & Malaysia, we went to exchange the currency as when we tried on Malaysia's side, they had to convert first to Malaysian Ringgit from USD before converting to Thai Baht. At the rate of 1:33, we converted 200 USD. Our first lunch

was at some random restaurant because the famous one with Koay Teow Teng was closed. I learned from my dad that the Google Translate App has this photograph to translated language feature which was very handy and effective in reading Thai menu.

The next stop was Songkhla Old Town Culture center where most of us weren't too interested in reading all the information of the town on the walls, but I missed getting that egg yolk ice-cream. Nadia however got her Mango Sticky coconut milk rice

and fell in love with Thailand since. Songkhla looked very much like Georgetown Penang, perhaps due to British influence.

Songkhla's beach, Samila Beach was the next top: Basically took photo with statues of Cat and Mouse as well as mermaid. Taking in the South China Sea:

Soon at around 4pm, we checked into New Season Square Hotel, all planned and booked by my brother.

Sign outside hotel elevator showing that Durian's not allowed in Hotel:

Then we went to eat 汤圆 at the well recommended:


At night, we visited the very crowded night market: Greenway Night Market. The food court is your typical Thai local hawker center on one side while the others were retail market which Nadia prefers while I preferred the food:

After that, we visited Lee Garden Night Market (street market in front of the Lee Garden Mall). After that, we bought the tour guide recommended Jack Daniel + COLA drink at mini-C mart.

Nadia enjoying the oyster egg that she bought from the Lee Garden market.

I went back to the Lee Garden Market in order to order the cockles which my dad advised against. I must have them since there were long missed in U.S.

5/5/2023 Friday:

We walked to 成龙面条:

Then off we went to the 1 hour away water falls at Ton Nga Chang Wildlife Sanctuary.

* I'm back in the States now, this shows that I wasn't able to keep up the diary for a week over there in Malaysia. But at least I've come this far, it's a first that I was able to update while on vacation. I shall finish this now.

The river by the fall definitely saw tons of Mahseer Barb fish and was said to be poisonous, which is probably why it's been left populating like this. But the falls were definitely a great choice by my brother:

Nadia certainly seemed to love it.

Then we lunched at 秋哥豬脚飯:

Then we headed to Central Festival Hatyai market. It's like a shopping mall with not just food courts and groceries, but pet section as well!

That's about $6 for each rabbit or parakeet.

For dinner, we went to the much anticipated especially by my mom, 489 Seafood all you can eat huge outdoor restaurant. 489 is also the price per head.

I think my mom ate the most, but though they all said it was a one time thing, I don't think anyone especially myself would mind coming back again. After all, we were all too full to think of food at the time.

At night, we toured the Lee Garden night market again. Nadia definitely enjoyed that market while I looked for street snacks there (fruits, baked squid, drinks, etc.). I also went for the first Thai massage, which was a bit disappointing: Because it was late, probably around 10pm, I failed to get the well reviewed Dee Dee Ancient Massage, and ended up in some unknown to google map Kasalong Massage around Dee Dee's North West corner. I fell for it and ordered a 2 hour THAI MASSAGE. It was all hard, way too hard in areas unnecessary just like in Indonesia and the elderly lady who did it even said "痛才爽". I snored a few times (a good sign for me but I think she took it as a bad sign). Since I later learned that Thai Massage is a type that's the hard type, and without another experience for some comparison, I won't say much about this place except that she should have turn the massage softer after several warnings. The good thing about this place was when after walking back to the hotel for 8 minute, I realized I had left my room keycard at the massage place and ran back. Despite being the last customer, I was surprised and grateful that they had not completely left the place (seems like some of them lived there) and I was able to retrieve my keycard. Though I did not leave any tip for them, I did however, gave some tips to all 3 other subsequent massages the rest of the Asian journey. I also had a 燕窩 supper along that street, 150 baht.

05/06/2023 Saturday: In the morning, we toured the Kim Yong Market and ate breakfast at some wanton noodle place:

Both mom and Nadia enjoyed getting nuts, mangos, bachang, etc. from that market.

After that, I used that tight last hour before checkout for satisfying massage (200 baht Foot Massage) at Michael's Massage near the hotel, around 10am. It was satisfying indeed and I gave 50 baht as tip. The massage was not just the feet by a young man, which I don't care too much about, but the back rub with some mysterious hot oil was great. The owner chatted with me as I was hurrying back and learned that he (Michael) was originally from Sarawak. I told him I found him on google map with good reviews as he wanted me to spread the news.

After making it back to the hotel in time, we checked out to eat chicken rice @ 哥弟老店:

Did money exchange ($200 USD) at the tour guide's favorite place: Thairat Exchange.

Our last stop in Thailand before returning home was the Big C, where we tried the tour guide recommended po-tart from KFC:

Then it's the 4 hour ride home with a much shorter line (virtually no line compared to the 30-60 min line when we came) at custom.

Malaysians could stay in the van but the American needs to get out for questioning at custom, but it was a short one:

Nadia enjoyed her Thai-bought jambul and shared with us in the van:

05/07/2023 Sunday: Back in Penang, early pasar for some veggie. Visited a special food fair at the Setia SPICE Convention Centre, free of charge: Huge Taiwanese food court as well as retails of other products: Citronella oil for warding off mosquitoes (安恒選品 Mosquito Hulu). And I even learned of something called iridology (telling your symptoms via patterns in your iris), which is quite trusted among medical professionals:

Apparently that big hole in my right eye's iris indicate some toxicity in my lung and Bronchia, according to the staff there. And he promoted their dietary supplement: Bio Organix, Biozyme Powder, Bio Rex, costing around RM68 for 15 days, supposedly going to help my toxic colon, blood pressure risk.

At the convention, it's interesting (impressive?) that Penang appears to be into tea art: 茶藝:

For lunch, after dropping mom and Nadia off at Lotus (formerly known as TESCO - then bought by Thai company Lotus), dad and I went to the Golden Phoenix Restaurant next door for some food court food: 燉湯:

And dad was kind enough to get me the Penang version 豬腸粉 CheeChongFun:

Come to think of it, I should learn how to make this cheap simple dish.

In the evening, dad took us on the 2nd Bridge for a ride:

The Butterworth certainly has developed a little, though not enough for people to go crazy with properties there. Batu Kawan being the most luxury spot. We tried to look for a good spot for scenic view of the bridge at Design Village Outlet Mall, but couldn't see much from there. There's a park by the bridge: Central Island Park Batu Kawan Vision City:

A couple of Instagram Pro looking girls took us a photo:

For dinner, we ordered take out from Super Tanker Food Court 美麗華飲食中心: Wan Tan Mee, Loh Mee, Koay Teow Teng, etc.

05/08/2023 Monday: A few days ago, I've booked the flights and hotels to Koh Lipe. This morning at 5:30am, my dear brother drove dad and I to the airport for the 7am AirAsia flight to Langkawi. After the 30 min full house flight, we arrived fresh and feeling good. I still wonder why so many flew to Langkawi as it's no longer a place of interest for us due to too many tourists and no good snorkeling spots. Perhaps I should re-discover this island on Youtube sometime. Apparently, dad and I were to only one on the flight to Koh Lipe as upon arrival on Langkawi, we took GRAB (after asking for taxi price which the taxi guy went from RM45 to RM25) to Telaga Harbour Marina Terminal for only RM 12 (+RM3 tip I gladly gave, I think this is the only part I was americanized and finding it hard to change). GRAB receipts in my gmail. We arrived about 2.5 hours early and no one besides us, but it was fine, we could wait:

An hour later, people started coming. All for Koh Lipe. We then filled out the white card (for Thailand entry) what we had to keep until returning from Thailand, went through the Malaysian custom, which is interesting to me as this is the first custom I've been via harbor. The Alaskan cruise didn't count as it wasn't really crossing international border. The line was short, the ferry was half if not less than half full:

I still couldn't believe, that both my dad and I never heard of this paradise near Penang before. We arrived 90 mins later and the long boats had to come fetch us from the ferry which stopped about 3-5 mins away from the shore, which would be incredibly shallow for the ferry, not to mention to avoid damaging the reefs:

Then we waited literally an hour at the beach Thai custom:

They let Netherlands and Germany through first. Malaysians and Singaporeans were last apparently. I told my dad who was feeling a sense of unfairness from such close neighboring country that it maybe due to the fact that Malaysians don't have a habit of giving tips. After checking out of custom, paid the compulsory 200B island park entry fee each, they got us hooked up with our hotel's transport who apparently was waiting somewhere else before. The Singaporean family that came on the same ferry also booked the same The Cliff Lipe Resort and they had called the transport. So the Taxi Bike guy was a bit confused as to how many were coming along. He walked fast, carrying our luggage. So fast that we were hard to keep up. My dad even had to time the high tide waves as we were walking by the shore led by the guy. Dad got his long pants wet because of the incoming waves, good thing it was only for a few seconds. But he was fast to get all of us on two Taxi bikes:

The reception at The Cliff Lipe was remarkably amazing. My dad certainly loved this resort compared to the next one. Food and everything, despite being at hotel higher rates, but it was still not too expensive compared to Malaysian standard:

The scenes on the entire island were amazing. I definitely wouldn't mind going back. And I bet if I asked my dad, we both would prefer Koh Lipe to Pulau Payar, only because in comparison, Lipe is bigger, more things to do, eat, more snorkeling sites, etc. The only advantage Pulau Payar has would be its close distance to Penang.

We lunched at the closest restaurant (FOREVER) near The Cliff and it wasn't as great as the reviews:

The "owner" lady was apparently busy with her youtube/instagram thing the whole time like a robot and the food was kind of blend. The only good dish would be the recommended pumpkin + Coconut curry soup, dad agreed:

Then it was time to take the kayak the both of us and go look for good snorkeling sites in the vicinity. All equipment are provided by the hotel and free: boats, oars, life jackets, and most importantly: the fins, which is the only thing we didn't have and expected to get on site. We tried a transparent boat at first but Harry the staff told us not to do it if we expected to go in and out of the boat in the middle of sea as the transparent plastic boat though very cool, was designed such that it would easily flip out of balance compared to the kayak.

First dive from the kayak prompted by my dad, was just too murky. I could see the corals, but due to the storms I heard happened a day before, I expected clearer. We landed on a couple of shores later and the waters were clearer. I learned that this snorkeling business is crucially dependent on the weather: Not only our time is slightly less desirable (closer to the monsoon season of JUNE to OCTOBER, which they called low season), but any windy storm prior or heavy waves would not be desirable for snorkeling. The shore at the The Cliff looked dirty, floating bottles by the shoreline. But this was due to the storm prior and it cleared the next morning, as explained by Harry. And in Koh Lipe, you would prefer higher tides rather than lower ones because the waters around the island is shallow enough. In fact, you want to watch out for Sea Urchins which were plenty and I often worried for dad seeing him floating around with his life jacket and especially when he floated butt facing down. We both definitely agreed that fins were necessary. But we found the right spots from time to time and the water was usually very calm in early morning, good enough for a clear snorkeling swim. Surprisingly, this whole trip the sea water wasn't cold at all. Perhaps I lived in the North far too long.

(Me looking out for dad as he snorkeled: He said that the salt water kept coming out of his nostrils even after the trip, I hope it's normal)

(When tide gets low, we could see the corals from the top)

I will skip much of the snorkeling details except to say that it was rich. The corals were alive, unlimited variety (clownfish, sea cucumber, clams-I learned that these big beauty somehow managed to lock themselves in rocks though I managed to pluck one out back at The Cliff before, scallops, anemones, pipefish, butterflyfish, filefish, angelfish, rabbitfish, needlefish, Moorish Idols, puffers, parrotfish, etc.) and areas. If I were to go into the details, I would need a new entry just for the snorkeling part, thanks to Nadia's gift: GoPro 10. I was definitely more eager than my dad, taking any opportunities I got to snorkel:

In the evening, dad and I made several attempts at the sunset shots from the resort, but being the unprofessional that I am, the photos didn't do the real scene justice, plus it was rather cloudy so there was no red Sun:

Such was the first day, that I planned for us to be on the Sunset Beach. Tomorrow we go to Sunrise Beach at Wapi Resort. The Cliff is one of the two (the other being Pitusas Resort) most far West out on the Sunset beach and thus we felt rather peaceful and quiet. I'm quite curious of the nature park West of it but that's a venture for another day. Both resorts were 3 stars as I wanted to make sure both dad and I had a good time rather than the more popular 2 star no-aircon mosquito net covered bed resorts. We're talking about the difference between 55USD/day vs. 25USD/day. I did try to study the reviews before booking. Some owner of the two star hotel even responded back to reviewers negative comments with sarcasm: "Go back to Holland", etc. Online research recommended both Sunrise and Sunset beaches, but not the Southern one: Pattaya Beach where we landed, as though nothing wrong with it, is filled with long boats and sea traffic. So some suggested to stay away from staying near Pattaya Beach. Of the entire trip, dad and I realized that the best place to snorkel/swim is near the North Point Beach where resorts are super expensive, we're talking about 150-200USD/night, which of course is actually standard in U.S. but not in Malaysia. In other words, should we go again, I'd be tempted to spoil my dad (and whoever else coming with). When we were in Wapi Resort the next day, we walked based on the hotel staff's recommendation, about 10 minutes to the North Point for good snorkeling spot. And going out towards Ko Adang from North Point Beach, there's a sandbar where if you go beyond its waves, you would enjoy a slightly deeper and more beautiful coral reefs for snorkeling.

For dinner, I made the mistake of thinking I was so smart that I found a shortcut road to the Pattaya Beach from The Cliff and that I could take my dad to The Bay restaurant/resort, but upon arriving there, which was a hard find as the resort was like a maze, it was either we were too late or that as if they had no customers despite being open. My dad and I decided to return to The Cliff for the dinner specials. Because it was already around 8pm, the sunset special that we wanted was no longer available, but their food was enjoyable, dad loved it:

05/09/2023 Tuesday: In the morning, I took a snorkeling swim myself by the beach. Water was calm and clear. Then dad and I both enjoyed the included resort breakfast:

It was a mix of all you can eat and ONE selection of either congee and sunny side up eggs (I don't remember what other selections were available, but I wasn't interested anyway). Dad and the Hatyai tour guide generally do not like Thai food: too sweet or too salty.

As I was trying to take a selfie of both of us because of the rainbow after the early morning heavy rain (though water still ended up clear outside perhaps only storm not rain that stirs up the sands in the water), Harry offered to take the photo of us for us and he suddenly hurried taking our photos when I mentioned the rainbow to him and he scurried out to the porch to take his own selfie with the rainbow:

It rained again (seems to be a raining season from Jawa to Malaysia to Thailand), but what a site with the clear ocean water, I was going to but gave up swimming and ready for checking out:

The same taxi bike guy came to take us to our next hotel: Wapi Resort. They've arranged this since we arrived at The Cliff on day one, all service included. I would definitely stay at the Cliff again as they've certainly left an incredible impression as far as service goes, not to mention good catering and room and view as well.

Wapi Resort wasn't bad, but perhaps due to the tons of other surrounding resorts on the Sunrise Beach, I supposed they just looked too busy to do better than The Cliff. But who cares, We're here for the snorkeling and for those who're into more than just relaxing, the culture.

Wapi's service is commendable as well as they do try hard. Upon checking in, they made sure we know that they offer free ride to the ferry when we check out and that all questions answered. They also sent us to our room via their Taxi Bike, which is actually only about 3 minute walk away from the reception/restaurant. Looking around, I'm beginning to realize that not every tourists here were like me, including the Singaporeans we met. For me, and probably my dad, we were here for the waters, not just looking at the water, but to do snorkeling. However, for these other tourists, snorkeling may not be their primary reason, they would prefer just laying down by the sand staring at the jade blue/green ocean or enjoy the culture, the bars on the island.

Before our swim, as it was sort of noon and lunch time and the waves were rather strong, we toured the town and walked the main famous street called the Walking Street. It was about 20-30 min walk from one end on the Sunrise Beach side to Pattaya Beach, the same road that our Taxi Bike would later use to take us to port. The street (or streets rather as the Walking Street was not the only street that has shops, where I mistakenly thought because of the blue painted roads, that we were on the Walking Street) was filled with all kinds of shops and restaurants and street food and bars. My kind of street for sure. You won't see this in the West in general, maybe in Mexico. The ocean and the culture, I don't want to be too narrow minded, but perhaps the only other place that could beat this is Palau. But based on a brief online research, Palauan meals are about U.S. living cost and convenience to the reefs though plenty of shallow waters, may not be as easy as Ko Lipe, so by this standard, Palau may lose, but I'd need to consult my brother Clyde at church about that.

When we return to the hotel after the walk, apparently we skipped lunch perhaps due to a full breakfast, but I don't remember, my dad took a nap and I went back to the Walking Street for Soi Buri Massage (I learned that hard massages were: Thai, Shoulder and foot while softer massages was oil - I had back & shoulder massage I think, which was I think 400B and I gave 50B tip. I had asked the massager to go harder but I wasn't sure if she understood or not, not much difference felt, though not too soft either) and another dish of cockles. Apparently cockles are mainly a Malay favorite in the part of the world (Maybe Wenzhounese and Koreans love them too based on what I've seen in groceries before being banned in U.S.) as the restaurant immediately spoke Malay to me when I asked for the 200B cockles. They were more cooked than I wanted but it was fine:

I did return the next day for the same but the cockles weren't as warm as the first.

After my quick walk and tour of the street, I return to my dad to get ready for snorkeling. Got the tip from the hotel staff to go to the North Point (since they won't allow us to use the boat rental 100B/hour due to waves and the rental closed at 6pm), same story with the boat rental the next morning) and we walked out there this time and for the first time, using the floating bag that my brother provided, we placed my phone and keys in it and my dad used it as "life jacket", after talking some selfie my dad realized that I forgot to bring our snorkels so I had to run back to our room where I went back to the reception asking about the closing time for the free lifejacket borrowing and learned that I could just sneak out the fins despite being closed at 6pm, the outdoor closet that held the fins, snorkels and jackets. After all, we would return the fins the next day anyway - after our next morning swim of course. So there I attempt to run at around 5:30pm to beat the sunset which would be less than a couple of hours away, holding two snorkels and 2 pairs of fins.

(Before we got them snorkels)

(When I came with snorkels and fins as my dad waited for me, the marathon runner - based on the video/photo timestamps, the whole round trip run, including receptionist inquiry, took me about 16 mins)

The snorkeling in this part of the island was definitely superior.

(Dad using the snorkel and the purple floating bag that my brother provided)

We're done around sunset 6:30pm. Went back to hotel (dad insisted on carrying the fins as we walked back, "these fins are a must!" dad confirmed), showered, changed, and headed out for dinner.


(too many options)

Dad decided on Sri Lipe Restaurant, but regretted later disappointing at their food. I don't recall how it tasted. Other than drinks being too sweet (I ordered coconut but without sugar specifically), I don't remember how these tasted.

(I ordered the octopus before dinner and tasted great. He cut them in pieces in a soury sauce in a pint container for me instead of having me eat it from a stick, so not really satay, I later returned to want what seemed to be sotong eggs, circled in red, but he sold out, saying come back next day open at 4pm, so I didn't get sotong egg this whole time back to Asia, not even Indian restaurant in Malaysia, no nasi kandar, thanks to Nadia). But after the walk, this stall seems to be the best at selling these. The others either don't have the squids and octopus or they seemed over cooked, that is what I saw at the Sri Lipe Restaurant - My criticism is rather limited and may not be accurate since I had to judge all these in a short time)

Dinner at Sri Lipe. Dad didn't seem to enjoy the food. Probably "too halal". I think I ordered fried rice, which was probably a bit blend. The soup I liked but probably too salty for dad.

We then ate at JA YAO Restaurant, about 3 min walk from Sri Lipe towards Pattaya. I forgot what dad ordered but he liked it better. I only ordered a drink. The host got our attention as we passed by by saying "不好吃不用給錢". I definitely did not research for restaurants here, never thought I had to in Asia since these places are everywhere, not like in U.S.

Thai is famous for carrying Cannabis and Marijuana product everywhere. Death sentence in Malaysia. After returning to our room, I headed out myself again around 10pm for massage at Sabye Sabye as it seemed a popularly visited spa. I had Oil Massage (450B I tipped 50B, they were closing shop when I left but I think there was some angmoh still next to my room after me), still no match to the foot massage at Michael's in Hatyai who uses some soothing heat oil, but maybe I just don't know much about types of massages, they both however served ginger tea after the service. I supposed the right kind of massage I was looking for is pressures on the right acupuncture spots. Michael's hot oil was new to me and I liked it: look up "warming massage oil", "massage oil warms upon contact", best I've found online so far is CryoDerm Heat, with Capsaicin as warming agent, now I don't remember if Michael's oil was already hot when applied but felt like it got warm after contact. So I've tried, Thai, Foot, Back & Shoulder and Oil massages. Foot was the favorite since it came with back rub with soothing warm oil and virtual the whole body as well from head to toe. I wonder if I could ask for foot massage without the feet part next time, no joke. All but the foot massage requires you to go into private room to lie on bed for back and front massages.

@Sabye Sabye waiting for my room to be prepped.

@7-11, to my surprised, that I found Jack Daniel's COLA here. But about doubled the price at 126Baht. Thailand has a law that prohibits selling of alcohol between 2pm-5pm and midnight to 11am:

05/10/2023 Wednesday: We both woke up and went back to North Point Beach for snorkeling at around 5:30am, it was the last for both of us and my dad certainly seemed like he wouldn't let this opportunity pass after witnessing the beauty from last evening. High tides at noon, low tides at 6:00AM/PM. But morning was better that way you get the tides rising rather than receding and not aware of how shallow it had become.

(the two photos above were taken beyond the sandbar towards Ko Adang before I rushed back to my dad thinking that he must have been waiting for me, for breakfast)

(dad still enjoying himself)

(We both saw needlefish at different time)

I then had the included breakfast with my dad at around 8am (opened from 7:30am to 10am, I think, standard timing everywhere here apparently, including The Cliff). Here they also asked about what kind of eggs you like, I had sunny side up again, my dad was curious of this. But in the end, though I have not much complain, I do agree with dad that breakfast at The Cliff was still better. I think it has to do with the taste. Maybe The Cliff used enough salt or MSG.

At around 9am, after breakfast, seeing that my dad was not interested for another swim, I went for snorkeling myself closer to our Wapi Resort (still about 3-5min walk to find a good clear fenced area). Great clear and quiet water. Lots of fish and other lives. My last snorkel of the whole vacation.

(rabbitfish, parrotfish)

This allowed us in time to check out at 10am, which I tried bargaining seeing that the ferry was 12pm, but due to the size of guests they had, we must be ready at the reception by 10am. So my snorkeling was a rushing one, though still enjoyable. Come to think of it, 10am free taxi bike ride to Pattaya Beach for custom still beats later time or walking yourself there because after being dropped off, we still have lots of time (bout an hour) to go about the Walking Street which is very near the custom. Dad stayed in the airconditioned 7-11 as it was hot out there while I took the opportunity for my last cockles feast and bought some Thai chips (26B) at the 7-11 store so that I could spend the 6Baht coins I have left with me.

Custom was quicker this time, no line, but we noticed that a few of the same people we came with were also leaving on the same day as us. I supposed we were all 3 day 2 nighters. I wouldn't mind 5 days the next time, which is the maximum day our 200Baht park entry fee allows, pay more if staying longer than 5 days I suppose. There certainly were opportunities to learn Scuba Diving here, as well as taxi boats to other nearby islands for allegedly better reefs, though the hotel staff said it's not a good season now as low season is beginning.

(Time to go home, when we came to Ko Lipe, they held our passports until the custom on the island, when we leave the Thai island, they returned the passports to us on the ferry)

(The line returning to Malaysian custom, Telaga Langkawi was definitely many times longer than when we departed it)

(after GRAB ride to the Aquarium in Langkawi, we ate at the restaurant (QSF Cenang Kopitiam) right across from the Aquarium, dad seems to enjoy it but not the "Hainanese" chicken, not much meat he said, but the fish ball soup was superb he said, believing that they were homemade)

We did a quick tour of the Aquarium and I recalled that I've been there before on my last trip when my brother planned the Langkawi and Pulau Payar trip for us a while back.

@dinner at the airport, where dad enjoyed Starbucks Caramel Frappe for the first time (his first Starbucks experience, allegedly)

I asked dad and he confirmed that he would rather fly to Langkawi than go by ferry or car. Flying's definitely better, only 30 minutes. Shortest I've tried myself. Upon arriving Penang at 10:30pm, Kher Sing picked us up as my brother had work conference with manager from The States, Florida, if I'm not mistaken.

I slept rather late perhaps at around 1am due to trying to transfer all photos to my dad's jumpdrive. So I didn't get the chance to show mom the photos and videos we took this night. I learned later that Nadia and mom, and sometimes along with my brother and his wife had great times while I and dad was away in Ko Lipe. They had pizza, they chatted about family in Indonesia, etc.

05/11/2023 Thursday: Since Nadia suddenly thought of a plan to retire in Penang, perhaps due to the enjoyable Hatyai trip, she and mom had looked up some properties and contacts and this day, since everyone else was busy working (dad, brother and his wife), Nadia got a hold of a broker, CK, to take us to visit two properties (buildings). I ordered GRAB (Asian UBER) to take Nadia, mom and I to meet CK at Scots Pavilion, a luxury apartment. Though impressively, this building, per my brother, is only good for retirement, not for renting. It's interesting that my brother prompted how the broker, CK, represents both buyers and sellers, which is something though not unheard of, but uncommon. Then we took a look at 28 Jalan Logan, which is near the Loh Guan Lye hospital, meaning good for homestay use, but unfortunately, this building, according to the owner, does not permit homestay: 4th floor, from RM 1 Mil to 900,000. But both my brother and dad considered this area too "matured" after having a look again few days later, meaning not possible to increase in value, and suggested Tanjung Tokong instead. Nadia said that CK kept trying to reach out to her for more deals, but we basically started to look elsewhere after I probed CK on his negative view on Tanjung Tokong: traffic, etc.

At night, we went to dinner at Pisa Cafe per Nadia's suggestion. But since it was a little late, around 10pm, some stalls were closed. Since no curry mee, no loh mee, I could only get Laksa, that somehow has fish balls in it. It's alright, not the best.

05/12/2023 Friday: We went back to the Jalan Logan apartment with my brother and dad this time for them to evaluate. I opened bank accounts with my brother and mother respectively at Hong Leong Bank, after given a hard time by Public Bank (the hardest) and Maybank (requires original birth certs to prove kinship). I told mom who was being over zealous at times not to interrupt me when I ask questions to these bankers, even brokers, because I may not be looking for what I need in the right answers but in how they answer. Out of gratitude for their time, Nadia wanted to treat them all for dinner. So we went to Queensbay Mall's Nando's Peri Peri chicken where I was trying to recall where I had this in the States, the Peri Peri chicken: It was the Nando's Peri-Peri in D.C. on 7th St. NW, must be the time I Acela trained to DC for the Legal site of SPG:

(shot taken from Google Map, I had it for to go dinner, or supper?, back at my hotel after walking around in Chinatown)

05/13/2023 Saturday: After packing, breakfast at my brother's recommended food court at Macalister Signature Food Court (great indeed, I had curry mee, seems that KherSing and I had affinity to pork blood but I wish I had told her more than that it was a discipline thing upon a preacher's interpretation of Acts 15, which she told me that it was also my brother's talk with her to stay off the blood. That its a matter of whether I would idolize it to a point of being controlled by it or rather willing to put it away for good, even forever and only Christ's blood matters, in the end, none of us ate the blood, I checked 🙂 ), then we got Nadia's favorite: Him Heang, which I do like as well, despite saying that I'm not too crazy about it. It was crazy long line, but which moved fast, so all was good.

We then toured Tanjung Tokong which seemed to be loved by Ang Moh, Straits Quay Marina Mall (which looks like the Three World Financial Center in the Financial District of New York City) and learned that even A.I. has taken over Chinese Psychic: 看相

dad's office space that was rented out, to get a feel of what investment in this area would be. I trust my brother's judgment, I told Nadia. After all, it's definitely convenient and better than Logan Street when the LRT is built, whenever that maybe, but Anwar seemed determined to please the people.

At 1pm, we said our goodbyes to David and KherSing after taking a family photo (we also took one last night), and dad drove mom, Nadia and me to the airport. Mom was more than helpful:

There were no hard times given by the check in counters this whole trip, despite sometimes luggage being over weighed by a kilo or so.

We then enjoyed Starbucks, as my dad had gotten to love it:

I ordered the same for my dad, and my mom found it to be too sweet. Hopefully my dad would get less sweetened Starbucks coffee in the future as I wasn't sure how much sugar they couldn't take and was too blinded by being happy seeing dad enjoying something new.

Bye bye Penang, until next time. On the way back to New York, I believe my brain was working on getting enough points on my Amex card to do Business Class next time around. I chatted with Vincent later on Facebook days later about this. Check 6 months or more earlier, convert Amex points to Krisflyer at the time but not before as Kris miles expires while Amex points don't. These points/miles are all one to one conversion rate even to USD. And SQ Business Class at the time I checked (for 2024 Feb-April) costs around 110k kris miles. All this for a good sleep on the plane since Business class allows for sleeping flat horizontally. But then, Nadia reminded me that these deals, if we get them, should go to our parents instead of us. Well, we'll see, either they come or we go, whichever is more likely. To accrue 100k points on Amex would mean 1.5 year the quickest, but who's going to spend more than $50k? I am beginning to do my NYGC purchases using Amex and get reimbursed from now on. Though even that's not going to reach $50k in a year. But whatever it takes to be wise on this.

Flying Scoot (subsidiary of Singapore Airlines) did seem better than AirAsia:

(Saw our luggage being unloaded off the plane in Singapore)

This is my second time having meal at this food court in Terminal 3. Singaporean attitude is definitely different than Malaysians or Indonesians or Thai. They would not spoil you: Come back in 10 minutes, clear your own trays, etc. I had thought that the auntie was cleaning after people's trays by observation so I thought I would do her the favor of putting mine on her cart as she was cleaning another table's. She stopped to tell me that we were supposed to bring the trays to the stand ourselves and pointed to the sign on our tables (circled in red in photo above) indicating so. I immediately apologized that she felt kind enough to take my trays instead. We also learned that no vouchers anymore for transiting flights and economic classes don't get lounge treatment. But good thing we both had windows seating, so this time I don't have to be stuck in the middle of two people for 12 (Frankfurt) + 8 (JFK) hours:

To Frankfurt, no one was sitting next to either of us. The one on my row was an affable older lady who's probably Polish, traveling from Australia to Poland. I had to go to toilet at one point, a first at least in many years, as far as I can remember, as I don't like to go to toilet on the plane being lazy and not wanting to inconvenience others to move for my sake, thus I watched what I ate and drink carefully. So I took time to video the entire lavatory, being in a good mood with my seating. Nadia seemed to enjoy her flight with no motion sickness as well:

Upon arrival, custom was just like the one arriving in Penang from foreign country, extremely long. I told Nadia she could do mobile passport with her phone to skip the line as citizen before more and more did it, and she finally took that advice. I believe I waited for more than an hour to get out. The custom was a funny but cheerful black man who seemed to love his job, asking me, so why haven't you become a citizen, com'n let's hear your excuse. I remember laughing than what I answered. We then took a LYFT ride to Ramonia's place in Jamaica where she parked our car in her driveway and it was home sweet home around 4:30pm after eating at Avenue U (Junes Bakery & Cafe Inc 澳莱: 鍋貼,茶葉蛋,雲吞麵,炒米粉) in Brooklyn.

This trip was well. Praise be to God. Saw our family and we parted happily with each other. Anything more to say or think, I'll do it in other entries as this long one is mainly for record keeping that's good for my photo album which is chronologically sorted, good for a trip down memory lane in the future.

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