Monday, December 18, 2017

Kluang Mall - The Biggest Shopping Centre at the Heart of Johor [Malaysia]

There's no way I can stomach another food session immediately after a pretty heavy dinner at star restaurant; at least not at my age! 

The meal must be partially digested first before we were to stress the tummy further!  Since walking will aid in digestion, I indicated a visit to the biggest shopping center in Kluang, the heart of Johor

Boasting wide passageways and over 160 retail and dining outlets, Kluang Mall is listed on TripAdvisor as the #5 thing to do in Kluang

Singapore has a lot of shopping centers and it's a must to manage our expectations for a mall in a small Malaysian town. 

To sum it up, it wouldn't be the classy malls you see along Orchard Road with fancy designs and fixtures that made you ooh and ahh; the built-in 2008 Kluang Mall had a more practical design and what's more important would be the tenant mix. 

As the three of us have different things to look out for, we decided to split up and meet at a pre-determined location around 90 minutes later. 

Mascots; one of which was the character of Sun Wukong, the naughty yet terribly powerful monkey in Journey to the West! I think mascots do appeal to many shoppers, especially the children! 

There was another guy in front; from far, it looked like he was sitting on top of a robotic animal that was ferrying him obediently from one point to another. On a closer look, it was merely a costume and the hind legs of the "animal" were, in fact, the legs of the boy! 

Entered the "brands outlet" as I was on the lookout for cheap boxers! The ones in Singapore are freakish expensive and I didn't think the quality was worth the price. Personally, there's only one brand that I feel has the best quality; Burberry which cost S$120 now (in the past, it was less than S$50 a pair).

No boxers but my eyes lighted up at the sign; RM50 for 3 pieces of basic tees! Tried out a few pieces and got 3 pieces in one go. Saw sleeveless tees for the same price and grabbed those too! Darn, i am such an impulsive shopper! 

Optical illusion for those going to the washrooms! This was actually a publicity for the street art in Kluang. Now that the mural arts in Penang have gained so much popularity, many places in Malaysia (even Singapore) have also started doing the same to boost tourism. 

Cars for sale in the shopping mall; key question, how did they manage to get it in?! And I doubt the tiles can withstand the weight of the cars. 

Yubiso; the concept was similar to Miniso which I thought was a smaller scale of Daiso. The key difference would be the pricing as everything in Daiso is sold at a specific price while the ones for Yubiso and Miniso vary. 

 A new brand for handphone known as Vivo; I have never heard about it. Technically I had but the vivo I know came with the extra word "city; as in Vivo City. 

For a small town mall, it's amazing to see a two-floor H&M shop. There was even a Uniqlo clothing outlet where I spent around RM200  for three shirts! 

Kenny Rogers and Baskin Robbins; uninterested to find out more about the dining establishments as I was still stuffed with the delicious food from star restaurant! For the list of food outlets at Kluang Mall, click here

A dedicated zone for the animal rides! Even though I had paid for a few sessions for the nephew and niece when they were younger, I always feel very apologetic whenever we blocked someone's way, especially along a narrow passage! Hence, such dedicated zone would address the problem. 

There was an arcade for kids too! 

More things for kids; the Kids Play Zone (Sea World)! With kids being so pampered nowadays, it's no wonder that shopping malls are targeting the kids and hope that the kids would 'persuade' their parents to drop by the shopping center. 

The word "persuade" can include throwing a tantrum. 

To be the largest shopping center, two specific shops are required; a cinema and also a supermarket! In the case of Kluang Mall, it has a MBO cinema, bowling alleys and instead of a supermarket, there's a Pacific Hypermarket! 

Central atrium near the main entrance featured a stage for their "Christmas in Space" theme for the upcoming festival. Most shoppers were concentrated in this area even though I generally thought that the crowd was a bit thin on a Saturday evening. 

Performances by the locals; they were pretty good and I was amazed by the enthusiasm of the crowd which we don't commonly see in Singapore. Maybe that's why the Malaysians can thrive so well in music and performing arts. 

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Location
Jalan Rambutan, Taman Suria, 
86000 Kluang, Johor, Malaysia

Google Map

Check out my google map (look for Kluang Mall) as above.

Website

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Yuen Fatt Biscuit Confectionery (源發餅家) & Its Unique Shanghai Mooncake @ Kluang [Johor, Malaysia]

Our fingers were crossed when we stepped into Yuen Fatt Biscuit; just ten minutes ago, we were at another famous Kluang confectionery (Tong Huat) and its signature offerings were all sold out! 

Left of the shop where all the "biscuits" were; note the Chinese word for biscuits and pastries is the same and used interchangeably here in Asia.

Right side consisted of items not from the kitchen of the bakery like 3-in-1 coffee, instant noodles, sauces and even packaged herbs and spices mixes to cook bak kut teh, tea leaves eggs etc. 

Strangely, there's a fridge where you can find western-style confectionery too (like Swiss rolls) and that's rather uncommon for most traditional Chinese bakeries. 

I am not exactly what you call a traditionalist and prefer to let my taste buds make the eventual decision. As we would be having dinner at Star restaurant soon, i had to give up my intention to try their mini cheese cake (original)! 

Been a while since i last seen such paper packaging for Chinese pastries; it was the norm when i was a kid! Tau sar piah is actually the thing everyone will buy at Tong Huat and since we didn't have the luck; it's revenge time at Yuen Fatt! 

Didn't know whether to choose sweet or salty? Sample them! 

Picture taken at my office where my fellow colleagues and i unravelled the precious pieces of round shaped tau sar piah from its paper packaging. 

5 pieces in a roll that cost RM 3.40 (about S$1.10); each was blessed with generous amount of filling and the salty ones were noticeably better than the sweet ones. My sister loved it so much; i heard she finished a roll in one seating! 

Don't like tau sar peah? There's heong piah too! Actually, i am quite lost on the Malaysian terminology for Chinese pastries as Singapore might use another term; for example, heong piah and beh teh saw.

Their unusual shape was bound to attract attention yet it didn't create a big hooha for visitors to Yuen Fatt as they should be fully aware that these unique Shanghai mooncakes (yes, they are mooncakes) were the most popular item in the confectionery! 

Lotus paste, pandan with salted yolk and lotus with salted yolk; i honestly didn't know how to differentiate them apart aside from the pandan which was green. Guess you can draw references to a lot of things from the shape and i am not going to tell you what my initial thought was as that "thing" wasn't appealing. 

Unsure what was good and i got one lotus paste, one pandan with salted yolk and one black bean paste with salted yolk! Funny that i am buying mooncakes when i actually know how to make quite a good one! 

Anyway, these were handcrafted with no preservative and can be kept a maximum of 3 days (a week if you refrigerate them). The skin was pretty thick but the filling wasn't as sweet as the typical mooncakes we have; i would prefer some toasted melon seeds within the paste though. So, which was the best tasting? General consensus points towards the pandan mooncake with salted yolk! 

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Location
No. 39, Jalan Haji Manap Nordin, Kluang Baru, 
86000 Kluang, Johor, Malaysia

Opening Hours
Mondays to Saturdays - 9 am till 7 pm
Sundays - Closed

Map

Check out my google map (look for Yuen Fatt Biscuit) as above. 

Facebook Page
p.s. they deliver to Singapore!

Pricing
Tau Sar Peah - RM 3.40 a pack
Lotus Paste Mooncake - RM 9.18 
Pandan Paste with Salted Yolk - RM 10.20
Black bean paste with Salted Yolk - RM 10.20


To read more about our short 2-day, 1-night road trip to Kluang, click here!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Day 2 in Hokkaido - Out of My 8 Days, 7 Nights (Mostly Self-Drive) Summer Trip to Japan



First thing we did after leaving the airbnb was to get breakfast and there's no better choice than the convenience stores in this small town! I was like craving for nasi lemak but since there's no way i can get one in 7-11, i shall make do with the prawn rice ball and a beef burger.

I never thought it would be so difficult to eat the rice ball; i literally had to figure out how to wrap the triangular-shaped rice with the piece of seaweed.

Didn't quite succeed; oh well, a hungry man wouldn't care so much and i quickly cleaned it up. Not bad even though the tummy was asking for more. So lucky to have grabbed the beef burger too!

Anyway, it was drizzling although we persisted in continuing our journey to the mother of all flower lands in Hokkaido; Farm Tomita! Aside from the main farm post, you may refer to the sub-postings that included the greenhouse, the tomita lavender museum, the Furano melon and the Irodori & Forest Fields!

Weather had cleared beautifully and there's a clearer view of the mountains of theTokachi Volcanic Group! Hm... how come one of them looked like it was emitting smoke?

Driving towards our next destination; the #1 (out of 158) restaurant in Furano!

Nakafurano Hokusei Ski Area - would have been nice to check it out as the cable ski was still operational. Time wasn't on our side though as we had to be at Otaru that afternoon and the journey from Furano to Otaru was the longest throughout our trip at about 2.5 hours.

Bloody straight road; there's a tendency to speed, especially when there's no car in front of me! I had a really good vehicle commander though; he was worried of losing his life due to my likely negligence and took a great time nagging and nagging, and nagging.

Furano Delice and its unbeatable double fromage cheesecake! If you think the one by LeTao is unforgettable, wait till you have the one from Furano Delice!

I mentioned about this particular street flowers in Hokkaido before. Click here!

Many dragonflies were flying around. Come to think about it, i seldom see dragonflies in Singapore anymore. Maybe because i am usually too lazy to go out on weekends and prefer to hole up in my cozy home.

Sights along the way from Furano to Otaru!

My Hokkaido itinerary was uploaded to google map beforehand but it's easier to rely on the in-car GPS navigation which came with a much larger screen.

Well, it's a long ride and since i am not the driver, i had plenty of time to take photos. The nagging from my vehicle commander can be quite stressful; so i am happy to release my control of the wheel to him.

We were asked to stop in the middle of nowhere.

Giving way to a heavy vehicle transporting some important stuff, i guess. One thing i marvelled about Japan is their dedication to work; the gentleman actually gestured a sincere thank you once he "unblocked" the road. Sadly, i think it's more the older generation who behaved this way.

Another 89.2 kilometers to go.

Abandoned building spotted along the way; if i recall correctly, i think we were passing by a town known as Mikasa. Is it related to the Mikasa brand that gives us volleyball?

A statue to pray to for road safety; did anything happen along this stretch of the road to involve the installation of the statue? The curious mind is always looking for possible answers.

Up till now, we had yet to take the hokkaido expressway!

Finally on the expressway! As you can see from the display, it was a cool 27 degrees Celcius even though the weather so far had appeared as hot as Singapore!

Farmland, farmland and more of them.

What the hell is that!?

Hokkaido Information University - for a moment, i thought it was a university for meteorological science as the Chinese characters are about the same.

We had been on the road for more than 90 minutes and i guess it's timely to see a rest station coming up soon. A toilet break shall be helpful to break the lull of continuous driving!

And it's always nice to see a convenience store; this round, it's Seicomart and if you have been following my blog, you would note the familiarity. It's the place where i assumed the bento box was unagi when it was just fish. :(

I hate to go to the toilets at rest stops when i am overseas but it's a different case in Japan as the toilets were always spick and span!

Throwing our rubbish according to the type of recyclables.

Got a hot can drink! The normal me would have opted for just plain water; however, i needed the coffee to be alert for the driving. Not so much me as Alex was the main driver even though i still performed a very important role as the naggy vehicle commander. Karma is a bitch, Alex.

A recycling centre according to google map.

With the built up environment, i think we were in the vicinity of Hokkaido's capital; Sapporo! It would be a few days later before we check out Sapporo which shall be our last leg of journey in Hokkaido.

A structure along the expressway; not sure what its purpose is? Maybe as a decorative feature on a boring expression or to demarcate as a landmark.

Zenibako Cemetery - one of the regrets i had was not checking out any cemetery when i was in Japan.  That has always been something i do when i am overseas....

13 kilometers to Otaru!

Numerous tunnels later, we arrived at the said-to-be-charming port city of Otaru! How i know? Look to the right and you would see the iconic warehouses.

This building was said to be relatively famous as it was used as the backdrop for a TV show or something; read about it somewhere even though i couldn't find it anymore.

Good thing about Japan; roads were darn organised. Bad thing about Japan; too darn organised with too many roads, streets and lanes! I was trying to find a restaurant and the GPS was bringing us in circles!

It's too conventional to have seafood in Otaru! Let's have thin-skinned fried chicken instead! For review of Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten, please click here.

Leaving for our airbnb in Otaru and spotted this tower that bears a striking resemblance to its more famous sibling in Sapporo.

Locals were out in traditional outfit in summer, the yukatas!

Court.You.Me - that's the building in the directional guide given by the owner of the airbnb and i actually had to research further to understand exactly how to get to the airbnb.

Thanks to google map, i knew exactly where to go but there's a problem. There's a construction up the hill and this large vehicle was blocking the small road. We had to wait for it to reverse before our car can drive up!

The materials that were unloaded.

Clear way to the airbnb which was at the end of the road. Want to know how it looks like and whether i enjoyed the stay better than the one at furano? Click here!

Dumped our luggage and drove out again to explore Otaru; again, a family in yutaka! Do note that parking was expensive and the hourly rate i paid for during peak hours was 300 yen (slightly less than S$4)!

Display of three large stuffed teddy bears; i didn't take a closer look and am unsure if this was for the toy store or the left or the Otaru music box museum on the right.

Every tourist to Otaru would visit to the music box museum and it's an injustice if i were to skip it! There were so many music boxes to choose from as a gift although the price was a bit hard to swallow.

We should have allocated more time to shop at the pretty Sakaimachi Street that's lined with eateries, glass shops (with items like the glass pens), museums etc! Check out here for more pictures of the signature street in Otaru.

No time but we die die had to try the double fromage cheesecake from LeTAO. Back then, i wanted too as i can then do a comparison with Furano Delice.

Continuing our way along Sakaimachi Street!

A light ceremony, i presume as i don't read Japanese and couldn't understand the content of the publicity poster. Another event worth noting was the wind chimes display! For the pictures, visit here.


Running stream with strings of wind chimes crossing it! The cool weather made it extremely comfortable to walk even though as night beckoned, the temperature also started dropping.

Wanted to try this tendon outfit at Otaru Denuki Koji but strange not to have any seafood in Otaru right!? Let's go for a seafood dinner instead! 

Before dinner and before sunset, let's dedicate some time for Otaru's icon; the Otaru Canal! Frankly, it's a matter of visiting just for the sake of visiting... 

Otaru Unga Syokudo (小樽運河食堂) - we initially hoped to try the crab buffet in one of the eateries but like most Singaporeans, the pretty empty restaurant gave us a bad vibe and we decided to pass it. 

Almost went in but i think the menu was pretty pricey; Alex was on a tight budget and he never likes to pay for expensive food.   

My dinner - Bluefin Tuna Five Nigiri at Sushi Zammai Japanese Restaurant

As usual, i am a fast eater and completed the meal when the rest were only about halfway through. Since i am no time waster, i suggested collecting the car first and decided to cut across the now-quiet

Compared to the bustle in the daytime, the place was dead quiet. Nevertheless, there's still a romantic atmosphere hanging in the air. 

Picked up my travel mates and guess where we went? To the convenience store again to stock up on snacks and drinks! 

I don't like gummies and the ones from the above packs were the only exceptions! They can be found in some petrol kiosks in Singapore although price wise, the cheapest that i found cost only S$1 a pack.

Too shagged to park the car in another location and decided to take an empty slot next to the ONE lot assigned by the airbnb. While reversing, the car headlights shone onto a black stuff; turned out it was a humongous spider! 

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Detailed Postings for Day 2
  1. Farm Tomita - Most Famous Flower Land in Hokkaido
  2. Furano Delice - Ranked #1 Restaurant in Furano
  3. Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten - Fried Chicken in Otaru
  4. Second Airbnb @ AMS Suitengu in Otaru
  5. Otaru Must See - Music Box Museum
  6. Sakaimachi Street
  7. LeTAO Cheesecake Lab
  8. Otaru Denuki Koji (小樽出抜小路)
  9. Otaru Unga Syokudo (小樽運河食堂)
  10. Sushi Zammai Japanese Restaurant



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