Things I’ve missed about home

what i miss home

I’ve been home in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah for about a whole month now. That’s the longest I’ve been home since I started working in Singapore in 2009.

Before coming home for this long stretch, I was confused about where home was for me. In Singapore, I had a rented place, a job and friends but in Sabah, I have my family, my old bed and friends too. You see why it’s a bit confusing for me to pinpoint which exactly was home.

But after 4 months on the road and coming home, I’m glad to say where home is. It’s temporarily Sabah, and specifically my parent’s place. Eventually, I will still need to get out of here and find a job.

Until I do move out of the country, here’s a list of things I’ve missed about being home (in Sabah):

Clothes dried in the sun

I've got a pocket full of sunshine.

There’s a branded softener that even has a scent with the word “sunshine” in it. That’s how popular the indescribable scent of sun-dried clothes is.

At home, we have a backyard where we hung our clothes. When there is a lot of sunlight in the day and you collect the clothes at the right time, the clothes feels soft and has a strange chemical-like smell. (Or maybe that’s just our soap…)

Back when I was in Singapore, I didn’t have a lot of space to hang my laundry. In the tall rise HDB (Housing Development Board) flats, I either hung them inside or outside where most of the times the clothes are shaded. Wind-dried clothes just aren’t as good as sun-dried ones.

While travelling, my only option for laundry was to handwash them in the hostel bathroom sink and hang them from the laundry rope I tied to the under-bad planks of the upper bunk. The clothes dried reluctantly in dorms but I still wore them because they were my only 5 (or is it 6?) garments I have with me.

Only twice in the entire trip did I “splurge” in laundry when I sent them to the cleaner’s in Arequipa. I even had to shop for the cheapest laundress. When I spilled my laundered clothes onto my bed, I was delighted at how clean they were and I might have waltzed with my jeans for a bit.

Good Chinese food

Roughly translated as "Raw meat noodles".

I always thought that I was very open about food and wasn’t a food snob when it comes to how “authentic” a dish is. But right before I was flying to Hong Kong, I started vividly imagining all the Chinese food I would get to eat. I would space out on the bus or even at a restaurant and see plates of rice with crispy pork, noodle soups (Peru doesn’t do good noodle soup).

While the food choices back home aren’t as much as in Hong Kong, I enjoy eating all the food that are familiar to me and visit new places.

Driving and having a car

Times I don't have a car

In Singapore, I didn’t need a car to travel. The public transport is so perfect that I didn’t even have to take taxis much. I love that part.

However, not every place I went to during the trip had good public transport so I walked a lot. A lot. I didn’t rent any cars on the road because I cannot afford to splurge when taking buses are a lot cheaper and safer.

Here back home, we need a car to get anywhere. I’ve forgotten how nice it is that you don’t need to walk a whole kilometer because you don’t have door-to-door transportation. I could get used to this.

My parents

I didn’t get to see a lot of my parents when I was working. A phone call here and there doesn’t really match seeing them face-to-face.

Recently, I think I’ve been seeing them a little bit too much because we are starting to get on each other’s nerves.


Do you live away from home? What do you miss about home? Share them in the comments below!

Read other posts on YQtravelling:

museums backpacker homestay
Museums reflect how I travel My first backpacker moment Homestays are not for me

Final day in Hong Kong=Eat all the food! [YQrtw Day 130 Aug 18]

polo bun from hong kong

Location: Hong Kong

[I am now blogging at Hong Kong International Airport. I’ve managed to misplace my camera (as well as break my glasses). I dislike posts with no photos so I’ll be recycling some of my Twitter photos of the day. That also means there’s only photo of food. Boo.]

Like yesterday, I woke up at an ungodly hour. However, I’ve made improvements with my jetlag and today wake-up time was 4am instead of 2am.

After posting my posts and a bit of Facebook games, I packed my suitcase for the final time. Since I only bought 20kg with AirAsia this time, I had to strategize my packing.

I packed most of the liquids into my suitcase and other lighter things such as clothes into my backpack. If I discover that the suitcase is overweight, Ill transfer some of the things to my backpack. If the suitcase is underweight, I’ll toss my backpack into my check in quota.

After everything was ready, I head out for breakfast. There wasn’t much choice around before 8am so I went back to the porridge place and got their signature dish as well as a “spring roll”. That meal was actually for 1.5 persons but I didn’t have dinner last night so let’s all forgive me for being a glutton.

Ocean Empire signature porridge and spring roll

After breakfast, I walked around the area, thinking up places to visit. Sadly, the shops weren’t open so I did the next best thing: Eat more food.

Next on my list was the egg tart from the cafe in Excelsior hotel. I had them on the first day and the memories of the flaky pastry is still in my mind. Plus, they have a coffee and egg tarts set. I’ve not had coffee for three days.

Egg tart and coffee set

After coffee and desserts, I needed to pass time before check out time. As usual, I opt for the most comfortable way of sightseeing–public transportation! I took the tram from Causeway Bay to one of the terminals and back to the same place.

While I was on the tram, my sister helped research things I could eat nearby. One of her finds were a “bolo bun” place which I noted on Foursquare.

I got back to the hostel and checked out. Since the reception area was in another building, I had to drag all my things there. The landlady allowed me to leave my things before my bus to the airport.

Now that checkout is done, it’s time for more food. My stomach couldn’t handle a full meal so I head to the “bolo bun” place with the aid of Foursquare.

Despite the name “bolo”, meaning pineapple in Cantonese, the bun does not contain any pineapple. It’s supposedly in the shape of a pineapple, thus the name.

Bolo bun in Hong Kong

After the meal, I still have about 2.5 hours to waste. I decided to take the tram to Happy Valley where the horse race tracks are. Coincidentally, this is where a few foot massage shops are (according to Foursquare, again).

I found the recommended foot massage place and sat for 50 minute of good-painful massage. The masseuse kneaded my foot like it was dough. While slapping my lower leg, he even commented that it was very stiff. Four months of travelling does bring stiff legs.

After the massage, it was about time for me to head back to the hostel and to the airport. Before I went to get my luggage, I checked out a few skincare shops (Watson and Sasa) to find something my sister requested.

There wasn’t any of what she wanted but I managed to buy something I want. I was thinking that I was losing interest in skincare since I’ve been doing the very basic while travelling. Thankfully I still have the urge to buy things. Long live consumerism!

To the airport

Near the hostel, there’s a bus stop where the direct bus to the airport stops. After bidding the landlady farewell, I dragged all my things and waited.

The bus arrived and there weren’t a lot of people. However, more people boarded at subsequent stops and the luggage storage place was crammed full of luggage.

The bus passed the sides of central Hong Kong, went into the underground tunnel and then the bridge to Lantau Island where the airport is. From the bus, I saw shops, mountains, cable cars and the road sign to Disney Land.

Pretty soon, we reached the airport. I dragged my stuff with me to Terminal 1 for a bit of shopping. I did get one bag which will replace my current slingbag for my future travels (in September!). It was a lot pricier than I expected but I really need one as the current is breaking at the seams.

Next was to Terminal 2 where my check in counter was. There was a free-to-use weigh so I checked to see if my bags were under 20kg. The total weight wasn’t so I had to do a bit more shifting before I got the weight undercontrol.

I checked in and went to the bathroom. I managed to break my glasses. I also discovered that I couldn’t find my camera after I got into the boarding area. Thank goodness all these happened on the last day!

A break for now

After today’s post, I’m taking a 2-week break from blogging to recharge and to find a stable internet connection (my parents cancelled the home phone line so no broadband for us).

If you miss my posts (aww shucks), please do go back and read the old posts.

Journey to the Tip of Borneo

Journey to the TIp of Borneo

When I was back home for my 10-day holiday in Sabah, the only tourist attraction I visited was the Tip of Borneo. It is publicized as the most Northern point of the Borneo island.

Getting there was no easy even with our own car. The road signs were very lacking.

3G connection was bad and we had to rely on our inner GPS to guess which road to take when at a junction.

Road to Tip of Borneo

Along the way, we saw a lot of oil palm tree plantations. The plantations were thick with oil palm trees with their evil-looking pointy leaves.

There were also coconut trees which looked like they were beheaded and left with pointy tree stumps.

On our way, we passed by several homestay houses that didn’t look as comfortable as a city person wants. But if you want to be able to see the beautiful sea during evey waking moment (only that and not much else), I suppose staying at the Tip of Borneo area is good.

After several turns and windy roads, we reached the seaside. The weather that day was great. The sun was bright but not too hot and the sky was clear with only some clouds.

The Tip was at the very end of the road and we had to park our car. There was an uphill slope that we needed to climb before we were at the edge.

Coastline of Tip of Borneo

Visitors of the Tip of Borneo

We reached the Tip of Borneo at around 10am. I was surprised to see that many people were already there and some just about to go back. What time did they leave their house/hotel to come here so early?

We also saw a TV production team with a TV host in a red T-shirt, a couple taking wedding photos (stunning view) and a few lovebirds.

Visitors of the Tip of Borneo

As usual, there was a large globe-thing with words like “YOU ARE AT THE TIP OF BORNEO. NOW GET A COOKIE” so people can remember where they actually were when they look back at the photos. “Hmmm…this stone looks like the one in Sandakan, or was it Kudat?”

Postcard from the Tip of Borneo

The actual Tip of Borneo is a protruding rock surface which is half-heartedly fenced off with a small wooden road block that said: “DANGER” in Malay.

Mom and I played it safe and didn’t walk down, although I would have if I were with friends.

We listened to the waves crash and the cicada sing as we stared at the very end (or beginning) of the Borneo island.

Have you been to the Tip of Borneo?

Review: Kudat Golf & Marina Resort


I haven’t talked much about my trip to Kudat with mom (except about food) so I’ll start with the hotel we stayed at during our 1 night in Kudat.

While we were planning the trip, mom said we could stay at Kudat Golf & Marina Resort since we’ve not stayed there the last time we were in Kudat. (Summary of the trip 10+ years ago: The whole family was in the north of Sabah to catch the eclipse. We stayed at a hall of a Taoist Temple because all hotels were full.)

I made the booking online and picked the Standard Garden Terrace (Twin-Sharing) room which was RM180.00 nett

While driving, the hotel is not the easiest to find as the sign only pops up once in a while. Our car drove past the golf area on the windy road before we reached the main building.

Kudat Golf & Marina Resort facade
Kudat Golf & Marina Resort facade

I didn’t have much expectations for the hotel, even though it has “Resort” in its name.

Sure enough, it was a small resort with only 3 stories (4 floors of room if you count the ground floor).

Other half wing of Kudat Golf & Marina Resort
Other half wing of Kudat Golf & Marina Resort

Standard Garden Terrace (Twin-Sharing)

Twin room of Kudat Golf & Marina Resort
Twin room of Kudat Golf & Marina Resort

Our room was located on the ground floor. The glass doors opened to a small pavement and a shrub which covered some of the view of the golf fields.

It wasn’t the most fantastic view but we were either sleeping or watching TV anyway.

Bathroom of Kudat Golf & Marina Resort
Bathroom of Kudat Golf & Marina Resort
Shower Kudat Golf & Marina Resort
Shower Kudat Golf & Marina Resort

Of course, there was no bathtub. (I adore bathtubs even if it uses too much water.)

Unfortunately, there wasn’t Wi-Fi in the room. I had to bring my laptop out to the lobby so I could surf the Net. (Why are you online when you are on vacation?!)

View from the lobby

View from lobby, overlooking swimming pool at Kudat Golf & Marina Resort
View from lobby, overlooking swimming pool at Kudat Golf & Marina Resort
View from lobby at Kudat Golf & Marina Resort (again)
View from lobby at Kudat Golf & Marina Resort (again)
Lobby and veranda of Kudat Golf & Marina Resort
Lobby and veranda of Kudat Golf & Marina Resort

Luckily, the view from the lobby was quite gorgeous.

I even woke up at 5.30 am, hoping I could catch the sunrise.

Unfortunately, a bunch of trees faraway blocked my view of the sun. It was too cloudy for sunrise anyway.

So-so breakfast

As you probably know by now, I adore food.

You probably cannot tell from my stomach that I like to eat because many kind Samaritans have offered me their seats on the train, thinking my food baby is a real foetus.

I digress.


Our room came with free breakfast at the D’Conutt Coffee House at the other end of our corridor.

I have not figured why many Malaysian establishments LOVE to add a “de” or “d'” to their restaurants. Is it to give it a French flair? Why would they need a French sounding–but obviously not French because “d'” comes before a vowel–name?

Anyway, the breakfast was so-so local food although I quite enjoyed the drinks–orange syrup with water and coffee.

Not so yummy breakfast
Not so yummy breakfast

In a nut shell

Kudat Golf & Marina Resort is a nice pretty place with what you need for more than minimum comfort. You will need a vehicle to get in and out as the public transport to town is not developed.

There are other hotels right inside Kudat town if you wish something more central. (Shops all close really early so it’s not really that convenient anyway.)

Find out more on Kudat Golf & Marina Resort website.

I’m on Runaway Juno representing Kota Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu

I interrupt our regular post schedule with a BIG announcement!

I’m on Runaway Juno’s Runaway to Sister’s City this week, talking about my dear hometown: Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia.

Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu

If you are interested to learn more about Kota Kinabalu, here are some primer (actually, almost all of KK posts here):

For my regular readers who do not know about Juno, you should check out Runaway Juno blog now! (OK, maybe after reading the rest this posts.)

A few of my favorite Runaway Juno posts are the one where she talked about how she took a giant leap and also discussed things that I would (cowardly) rather sweep under the rug.

Until next travels! Stay safe.

Come see to a ‘tamu’ Sabah’s version of a Farmer’s Market

Tamu Kota Belud

If you happen to visit Sabah, please time your visit so you can go to one of the weekly “tamu”.

Pronounced as “tah-moo”, the weekly market (or Farmer’s Market) where vendors gather to sell different produce and products.

Different areas have different tamu days. For example, Donggogon’s tamu is on Thursday and Friday. Putatan’s tamu is on Saturday and Sunday. Kota Belud has one on Wednesday. Kinarut is on Saturday while Lok-Kawi where my parents have a shop has tamu on Thursday.

In olden days, it was a day in the week where villagers flock to a central location to either sell or buy their excess agricultural or anima stock. Nowadays, you will find all sorts of things on sale at a tamu, including clothes.

Seeing the Kota Belud tamu on Wednesday

Gate of Pasar Tani Kota Belud
Gates of Kota Belud agricultural market

I had the chance to visit the tamu in Kota Belud on the day of the roadtrip to Kudat. Kota Belud is a little town halfway between Kota Kinabalu and Kudat which takes about 1.5 hours to reach there by car.

My family began our journey to Kudat on a Wednesday. On the way, we stopped by Kota Belud for lunch. We were in luck since Kota Belud’s tamu was on a Wednesday.

According to a guidebook which I just returned to the library today, Kota Belud is the home of tamu. I couldn’t really tell when I was there.

Woman buys water
Stall buys water

Sheltered market
Sheltered market

It was fruit season that period and my parents managed to buy durian and rambutan for cheap.

For those used to the sanitized markets in the western world, Sabah’s Farmers Market might be a culture shock with overpowering smells, heat and humidity.

Vendors lay their wares on sheets of plastic. For peel-able fruits, you are able to taste some before you decide on buying more from the vendor.

In Kota Belud, most of the durian sellers (who also sell mangosteen and rambutan) were lined up on the pavement and not in the real market area. Some of the vendors bought the fruit wholesale and didn’t plant it themselves.

If you speak Malay, bargaining can be easy. I’ve not seen vendors quoting prices to those who do not speak Malay but I suspect they will not rip people off too badly.



Stalls outside the official market
Stalls outside the official market

Roadside stalls
Roadside stalls

Unknown fruit at Kota Belud market
Unknown fruit at Kota Belud market
From nearest: Unknown fruit, langsat, mangosteen, jackfruit
From nearest: Unknown fruit, langsat, mangosteen, jackfruit
Odd combination of rambutan and ginger
Odd combination of rambutan and ginger
Wild cat at Kota Belud
Wild cat at Kota Belud

Have you ever been to a tamu? How was your experience?

Glutton in Sabah

Crab in Kudat

I was home for the holidays and ate many yummy things (and some less yummy food). This post is divided by the locations I ate the dishes.

Bon appetit!

Durian. My family loves durians but I’m a little meh about it. However, this time when I was back, I have kind of fallen in love with its creamy custard texture.

Lamb chop. On the second day when I reached home, I had a craving for lamb chop so I requested my parents to bring me to our regular steak place.

Our seats were right next to the covered drain but we got wafts of drain smell floating around us. :<

The lamb chop was rather disappointing. The portion was large but the meat was so tough I felt like I was a grazing cow. My jaw hurt in the end.

Kota Belud kopitiam

Before my mom and I headed to Kudat, we stopped by a kopitiam in Kota Belud. We lunched with my dad and my parents’ friends and ordered things to share.

Fried bee hoon. A typical fried noodle dish, garnished with roast pork bits.

Pig blood curd yong tau foo

Pig blood curd yong tau foo. If you’ve not had blood curd (like bean curd but with animal blood), you might feel a bit queasy about it.

It’s actually really tasty. It doesn’t taste of blood. I can’t really describe the taste but it’s firmer than jelly.

Kudat seafood

Mom and I couldn’t find a nice place for seafood while we were in Kudat. In our car, we went about town.

Finally, we settled at one of the wooden houses at the sea. We happened to sit at the less popular restaurant. Oh well, food is food is food.

Crab, seafood in sabah

Crab meat

Crab. I’ve never had this sort of crab before. The usual crab I eat has a uniform color but this was patterned. Mom said it was a “flower crab”.

The meat wasn’t as firm as the usual crab I eat. But the good thing is that the shell is less tough and I can break off the shell easily to the crab meat.


(This crab was not eaten in Kudat.) Just to show you what the regular crab I eat looks like. I had this at  restaurant near my home.

Steamed fish

Steamed fish. Oh, how much I love fish steamed with soy sauce and ginger. The sauce goes well with rice.

Roadside fruit stall

On the way to and from Kudat, fruit stalls are scattered by the roadside.

Fruit stall Sabah

They all sell the same seasonal fruits: BBQ corn, bananas, jackfruit, honey, rambutan.

BBQ corn

BBQ corn. It’s interesting how they cook the corn. I usually eat steamed or boiled corn, never one roasted by fire.

However, our cobs of corn weren’t cooked enough.


Honey. Mom bought a bottle of dark honey (“Darker means older honey,” said the seller.) I haven’t tried it but the bottles look so pretty.

Bukit Padang stalls

Cha kway teo

Cha kway teow. Stir fried flat board noodles. The half-cooked cockles are known to cause mild food poisoning.


Cendol. Shaved ice, coconut milk, gula melaka (palm sugar) syrup, and green cendol. Enough said. It gave me brain freeze when I tried to eat it really fast.


Hokkien noodle. I love this dark sauce thick noodles. And the fried pork fat. Mmmm.

Pearl milk tea

Pearl milk tea. Or also known as “bubble tea” in Singapore. Black chewy tapioca drowned in milk tea.

YOYO’s the best pearl milk tea branch in Southeast Asia, according to me.

Rhino horn water, cooling water

Cooling water, or what we call “rhino horn water”. I do not think the drink has actual bits of rhino calcium. But it was selling like hot cakes (if they were liquid and cool) at my parents’ store.

I learned from a customer that they use it to cool down after eating heaty durians.

Moo moo cake

Swiss roll. I bought this cake because I mistook it for another bakery’s milk cake. There’s custard in between.

Bee hoon fish soup

Fish soup bee hoon. Sluuuuurp. (OK, I’m not that big a fan of pale fish.)

Pot luck! My mom and her friends had a pot luck on new year eve night. It was dinner after mahjong. Later we went to the beach for our ritual feet washing.

Which is your favorite dish?

What I do when I am back home in Sabah

I just came back from an 11-day trip home (which is about 9 days long if you take away the travelling days). It was a good recharging of my batteries.

Since some people–okay, maybe only my uncle–are curious about why I go home so often. (I only went back home 3 times in 2012.) I’ll share what I do when I am home.

See the parents

The main reason I head back to Sabah is to see my parents. Or maybe for my parents to see me. I’m not sure which way it goes.

I also bicker (good humoredly, I hope) with the parents.

Eat seafood

Seafood in Sabah, butter crabs

A good reason to head home is for the cheap yummy seafood. A meal for two which includes a kilogram of cooked crabs, steamed fish, a stirfried vegetable and rice costs only RM63 (US$21).

Steal Wi-Fi at restaurants

My parents cancelled the fixed broadband line because it doesn’t work 95 percent of the time. In the end, I had to surf on my mobile phone.

For long blog posts, I had to bring my laptop to restaurants and use their Wi-Fi while I wait for the food to arrive.

Meet friends

I usually multitask by stealing Wi-Fi and meeting my long-time-no-see friends.

Help a little at the shop and house chores

My parents own a grocery store in the neighborhood where I grew up. I didn’t really like tending to the shop because it’s mindnumbingly dull to sit at the cashier, key in prices and bag groceries.

But then, this was the place which provided my university tuition.

Play mahjong

mahjong tiles

I played plenty of mahjong with my mom and her friends when they lacked another player.

I’m not very good at it but I did win some (a minority) rounds.


Sabah roadtrip

When my holidays are too short, I don’t move around much. This time, I had 11-days so my mom drove us to Kudat for a one-night trip. We saw the “tip of Borneo” and ate some seafood.

Visit the temple

Taoist temple in Sabah

I’m still rather confused about which religion I am partial to. I grew up believing I was Buddhist when I was praying to Taoist gods). I do like Greek gods now but I don’t think that’s considered a religion now.

Despite my confusion, I still visit temples. There’s a Taiwanese saying “有拜有保佑” which means “you will be protected if you pray”. The saying means that it doesn’t hurt to pray to as many gods so you won’t be left out on Judgement Day.

Welcome the new year

new year fireworks
My mom and her friends have a tradition of going to the beach around 11pm on new year eve. Before the clock strikes 12, we head into the sea to wash away the bad from the current year and welcome the good luck from the coming year.

Where is home?

Last time, I wrote a post about how I am homeless because I cannot tell which is home. When I was back in Sabah this time, I realized that it’s possible to have many places you call home.

It all depends on how much you feel that you belong in a place.

Do you live away from home? What do you do when you are back?

#FoodFri Banmian from Kota Kinabalu

When people ask me what food I miss most from home. I can rarely give an answer.

Saying “Seafood” is too easy. Who doesn’t love cheap seafood?

So instead of a real answer, I will show you one of my favorite dishes from home.

Ban mian
This noodle dish is called “ban mian” which roughly translates as “plank noodles”. I think the “ban” or “plank” signifies how the dough is chunky…I think.

A regular bowl of banmian (which is available in Singapore as well) has a pork-based stock, doughy noodles, pork, salted anchovies and some vegetable.

But not all banmian are good. It depends on the stock and the noodles. Some soup are so bland that my tears are probably tastier. Some noodles are undercooked or overcooked.

At my favorite banmian shop, everything is mixed in perfect harmony. The soup is tongue-scaldingly hot and the noodles chewy. The meat that accompanies it is always tender.

I do miss my banmian from home.

Rumah terbalik (Upside down house) at Telibon, Sabah

My sister brought me and my friend to the upside down house (Rumah Terbalik) when I was back home for the weekend.

Sabah has lots of gorgeous natural tourist attractions so it was very funny to find this man-made attraction that’s trying a bit too hard to be popular.

The location of the attraction is very far from the city center. Even with our own car, we drove kilometers and kilometers until we are at the foot of the route to Mt Kinabalu!

To find your way to the house, you will need to pass the water reservoir on the way to Tamparuli. The house is next to the Shell station after the famous Tamparuli bridge (it even has it own song–“Jambatan Tamparuli”!).

There’s an entrance fee and locals pay a bit lesser than foreigners.

The rules there say you are not allowed to take photos of the inside of the house but you can take as many photos as you want outside.

You will be fined 100 ringgit if you are caught taking photos inside the house. (What draconian rules.) The employees said it’s to preserve the uniqueness of the house. Pfft.

Inside the upside down house

The inside of the house is more fascinating than the outside. It’s a rather tiny home and everyone has to crowd on the red carpet.

The layout of the house is a typical Malay home sort of place, except everything is glued to the ceiling.

There’s a living room, two bedrooms, one bathroom and a kitchen. There’s spare change scattered on the floor and even a bucket of KFC–a cute touch.

My favorite is the upside down washing machine because I didn’t catch it (not literally) until I was far away from it.

The backside of the house is really cute because of the upside down bicycle.

The most interesting exhibit is the upside down Kancil with upside down Angry Birds dolls. I tried to pose like I’m hanging outside a car, waiting for Spiderman to save me.

Have you ever been to an upside down house?