The Perils of Travelling Light

SJ and I are very light travellers. We bring what we need and wear sensible clothes because travelling isn’t a fashion show. We gallavant to see the country after all and not to match scarves and bags. Even when we run around with others, we hardly care if we are not coordinated. Of course, hygiene is placed high above all other considerations where clothes and malodorous smells are concerned. Otherwise, we are quite happy to just put on jeans and tees then trundle out.


But, we wear only a single pair of pants no matter how long the trip in winter. We don’t sweat a whole lot, so as long as we keep clean, we are good to go. We see bug eyes and thinly-veiled looks of horror when we share that fact with others. Heh. So far, we haven’t had a single person who has said the same thing back to us. 

There is, however, a difference between packing light and taking things lightly while packing. This was too keenly felt on the recent trip to KL. 

We had discovered in our hotel room on the first night that we had, much to our amusement, exactly one pair of underwear each for the whole darn trip. Good Lordy, I had totally forgotten to pack them into the luggage! I really don’t like Murphy much.

 It is not a wretched situation we were in because the disposable ones we usually wear can be easily procured in one of the many malls in KL. But dang it. Did I have to go commando to get them? I have never done that before. Was this what YOLO at 41 years of age is about? Gosh. Life would be made immeasurably more secure if we had them with us. 

We decided that we must do laundry. We cannot let SJ’s buddies hang out. It is a good thing we were not wearing disposables that day (unusually so) because washing them means I might be missing some vital parts afterwards. I guess the grogginess of waking up for a 6am flight ensured the body auto-piloted our usual routine of wearing proper clothing while the mind was struggling to make sense of what was happening at the break of dawn.

So we laundered our knickers and hung them where the air-conditioning was blowing the hardest, crossed our fingers and went to bed thanking the heavens for soap and water, and prayed that we would not need to wait till tea to don them again. 


Weird and Wonderful Expressions 

I came across a social media space that has a collection of words, that when one is lost for words, gives one the ability to accurately express oneself mostly in languages other than one’s own. 

Quite interesting, considering that they have a word to so aptly describe me in bed. *devilish grin* 

If you find beauty in all things, you are a philocalist.

If you are leading a life unbounded by convention, you are being datsukozu.

The distinct smell of rain when it falls to the dry, warm ground is petrichor.

If you find comfort in the darkness, you have nyctophilia.

If you have dysania, you would find it difficult to get out of bed each morning.

When you are in a scurryfunge, you are madly cleaning up when a guest is on his way over.

For more, google Wordstuck.

The strangest one I have seen (and is ridiculous to pronounce):

The Tasmanian Devil


SJ has an obsession with this furry guy. Described as a murderous beast capable of snapping one in half with a single bite, I fail to understand the obsession. But he can be silly, sometimes funny, while chasing whichever unfortunate character down to sink his fangs into.

I waltzed into Tasmania in my late teens thinking that the actual Tasmanian Devil looked like him. How silly was I to be duped by a cartoon? At that age too. Well, that was more than twenty years ago and I didn’t have Google at my fingertips. I know way, way, way better now.

How much has Tasmania changed over two decades? I cannot wait to find out.

Sugar and Spice in Malacca

Malacca. One of the few places that I will include in the chart capturing the hyperbolic growth of my interest in spices. 

The very first place was in a school bus. I ate up my social studies project as a snack on the boring trip home. 

Thirty years ago, my teacher had us do a presentation on the East India Company and the spice trade. I was in primary school – I didn’t understand the significance of the EIC, but I knew how to eat. So the focus then was more on the spices than the trade. My parents got me a bag of spices from the mamak store (local provision store run usually by a burly but friendly Indian man) which I happily poured out and carefully sorted, bagged, labelled and stuck on a piece of vanguard sheet,  rather wildly illustrated to help prove that I knew what I was talking about. I was already OCD then.

After the exhilaration of telling my friends about what a star anise was, I proceeded to lick one on the bus on the way home because it looked so pretty. Ick. Didn’t like it much. Which is probably why I don’t care for licorice. Then, I decided to try another and another and another till I had uncooked dried shrimp. Boredom sure made me do odd things. 

I am unsure why they were there since prawns are strictly not a spice but they were. I loved it and fished out all the orange bits I could find and gobbled them up before I arrived home. There, my love for Hae Bi (dried shrimp, cooked) began.

You make a lot of things with Hae Bi. Peranakan cuisine is one whose dishes are liberally doused with them. I discovered the true blue taste of the Nonya while in Malacca many years back. I learnt what a rempah (spice paste, like pesto but spicier) was and what ingredients went into making one. Of course, there isn’t just one way to make it. The composition, that affects taste and flavour, is totally dependent on where the cook is from, his preferences and what the paste is for. It seems the amount of time spent manually pounding, not machine-blending, spices together makes a great difference. Therein lies the space for creativity and innovation not for the weak of heart nor short of stamina! 

When I think Peranakan, I think of Malacca and all the wonderful bowls of Ayam Buah Keluak, Babi Pongteh, Ikan Assam, Jiu Hu Char, Kueh Pie Ti, Belacan and Chendol. 

In fact, I am on my way there now on yet another boring bus trip. My Hae Bi beckons and I must comply. In an hour or two, I will whisper I do to my beautiful goggly prawn eyes.

Sambal Petai

Trim in Sydney and Cairo

No, not fit. Matthew Flinders’ cat. 

Heralded as the first person to correctly map out Australia and identify it as a continent, Lt. Flinders had a short but well-lived life. Trim, a black cat with white paws, was his loyal companion till the end. 

Lt. Flinders left his wife of three months to pursue adventures in the Navy and didn’t see her till nine years after. During this time, he did many things for Australia, but not so much for his wife. He finally returned and had a daughter with his wife. The daughter married into the Petrie family and went on to have a son, William Petrie. 

Sir William Petrie became a famed Egyptologist who had a student named Howard Carter. Yes, the same one who discovered King Tut’s tomb. 

Six degrees of separation. How interesting. 

I learnt about Lt. Flinders after a brief lesson in Aussie history by a volunteer at the State Library of NSW. I had time to burn  so I hopped over for the tour – I was glad I did!