Sunday, 22 November 2015

Gunung Rapat's Heong Peah - 14 Nov 2015

'189' and Seng Kee are household names for handmade 'heong peah' in Gunung Rapat, Ipoh. '189' has been around longer than Seng Kee, but both are old timers, building their business from their backyards. Seng Kee is one of the very few remaining shops making the traditional 'heong peah' broiled with coconut husks. Most of the other shops, like '189', are using the modern electronic ovens to enable them to produce big quantity of the biscuits. '189' has recently moved out of the residential area to a nearby shoplot.   

If you're not a die-hard fan of 'heong peah', you'll probably not able to tell the difference of the two ways of production. We're so used to buying from the famous Ching Han Guan, handmade using the modern oven, in Ipoh New Town. Only recently, we stumbled upon Seng Kee's traditionally broiled biscuits.

Piping hot 'heong peah' from the traditional barrel oven broiled with coconut husks.

Handmade 'heong peah', a labour of love.

Seng Kee only has a capacity of making 2,000 pcs per day.

Traditional barrel ovens require handling by skilled workers cos it's harder to control the temperature. If the fire is too strong, then the biscuits nearer to the fire will be more burnt, some may even drop inside the burning coconut husks. Heat is also not even, depending on how near it is to the heat source.

Coconut husks, a rare commodity now, give the character and aroma to the biscuits.

The pastry dough is stuck onto the inner wall of the oven, like naan bread. That's why the biscuits made using this traditional way have oblong shape, slanting towards one end due to gravity force.

Both are handmade 'heong peah' from Gunung Rapat. Both have a big fan-following. Seng Kee's biscuits are slightly out of shape and with less molasses filling. '189' biscuits are almost perfectly shaped, and studded with sesame seeds with much more filling and harder crust. I prefer Seng Kee's biscuits especially when eaten fresh, cos the aroma and character from the traditional barrel oven are unique, plus the biscuits are not so sweet and the crunchy and flaky crust is just right. If I cannot consume so many biscuits so fast, I find that '189' biscuits can keep better over a longer time - they're still flaky and crunchy but a tad too sweet for me. Both biscuits deserve the big following, but one thing for sure, the traditional barrel ovens heated with coconut husks will soon be overtaken by the electronic ovens.

Tambun Rock Art - 14 Nov 2015

We're privileged to join the researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia in their last public heritage walk at Gua Tambun for the year. The site is located just over 7 km from Ipoh Old Town. It seems like an odd place, situated in the midst of some residential houses and a polo club with horses grazing in the field.  The hill looks like just any other limestone hills in Ipoh. What made this place special was the discovery of hundreds of ancient paintings and drawings dated 4,000 - 2,500 years ago, known as Tambun Rock Art. The rock art was first reported in 1959 and later in 1984. 

A steep, almost upright steps leading to the Tambun rock art site.

The view from Gua Tambun, situated in Gunung Panjang limestone hill. The rock art site survives the modern times in Ipoh, and seems oblivious to the fact that it was once a sacred site for local spiritual ceremonies. The hill also survives blasting by the quarry operators. The researchers were quick to point out to us a part of hill which was marred by the quarrying activities.

The site looked unkempt, with signs of graffiti and illegal clearing. Still a lot, a lot of work needs to be done to raise the awareness, understanding and appreciation for Tambun Rock Art.

Many paintings waiting for intepretation... 

A dugong or tadpole?? An extinct animal or catfish??

A herd of deers? Can you spot a pregnant doe?

Rock Art hunting..... a 'breakneck' feat!

Claws beside the crack??

The rock art is facing west, away from the direct heat of the sun. Perhaps that's why they could survive for so long. But as the illegal clearing becomes rampant, we may lose the ancient heritage too.

The drawings were very high up on the wall. How did the ancient people get up there? 

Hanging stalactites add mystery to the site.

Haematite drawing by the cave boys!

Does this look like the head of Abe from Mount Rushmore?

Haematite walls

Natural supply of haematite paint. Last for thousands of years. Better than those chemical paint in the market.

Glowing, rich vegetation in the cool, damp cave.

The guardian angel of the cave!

Few loyal, strong guard dogs to safeguard the ancient rock art. They have dutifully escorted us for the entire visit.

Gracious Hope - 12 Nov 2015

The end of another school year has come. I've enjoyed spending time with my students, all teenagers, being there to talk and listen to them as they grow and thrive in foreign land. Most boys and girls in Malaysia will be taking a break before they continue their secondary education, whilst the older ones will be busy making preparation for tertiary education. What about these Myanmar teenagers, from ages 13 to 18 yo? My class is the highest level provided by the learning centre, and they know they're coming back to the same class next year. There's not much motivation for the older teens. Two of them have dropped out during the year. Their future as refugees in Malaysia is bleak. 

They continue to hope in our heavenly Father. "To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. (Oswald Chambers)."

A farewell party to thank God for a wonderful year. We watched the movie "Everest" in the class and discussed the importance of leadership and how our choices would have some kind of a ripple effect that spreads out to other people around us. At the beginning of the year, I asked each student to write a letter to him(her)self, about their hopes and dreams for the year. It's only appropriate that I returned those letters to them. This was one thing that they reminded me to do weeks before, cos they're also looking forward to read their own letters. I shared a beautiful poem with them, "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. Life is indeed a series of choices.

Nick Vujicic is such an inspiration to them, in ways more than I can understand. "I know for certain that God does not make mistakes, but He does make miracles. I am one. You are, too. (Nick Vujicic)."

Tinkering at KLESF - 30-31 Oct 2015

Malaysia has caught on the Makers' fever as we've seen a few fairs this year promoting the Makers' culture. The KL Engineering & Science Fair at The Mines, KL was another successful feat promoting STEM education through various workshops, activities, display of the Makers' capabilities. It has all the party-like atmosphere, with exhibitors from large corporates, universities, schools and even individuals. Though held in KL, we did not see a lot of participation from the schools in KL or PJ.

Programming a life-size robot made from junk materials.

KakiDIY booth was run by a 15 year old!

Notebook-sized circuit boards that can even replace computers one day!

Working at Mad Science workshop!

Rumpelstiltskin spinning chemistry into gold!

A DIY Telescope that works and does not cost a bomb.

'Junk Redefined' - a game of table football made from plastic water bottles and discarded wood.

Walking tall on stilts!

We met some amazing people from the corporates like Rolls Royce. The engineers took time to share their jet engines with young people. Brandon was grateful and he wrote a thank you letter to Rolls Royce. Little did we expect they posted the letter and an appreciation video on their facebook. This experience taught us it's worthwhile to engage with real people, talk to them, and not just join the hands-on activities.

Getting the hang of soldering!

Bubble Makers!

Another amazing corporation set up the Malaysia Toray Science Foundation, sponsoring many outreach programmes to promote STEM education. This unassuming, simple-looking teacher trainer was very passionate in sharing her DIY celestial sphere. She's so well-versed with the subject, and in fact, her energy was contagious.

Origami Maker in a class of his own!
Normally, I won't highlight the art of paper folding especially in an engineering and science fair. But this caught many of our attention cos it was so impressive. 

KLESF 2015 was a hit, attracted not only students, but parents as well.
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