Monday, September 13, 2010

Dumbo in the Kitchen - #18: Pork Belly Porridge with Spinach

When it comes to food, it doesn't take a lot to make me a happy man. :-)

Get a strip of good pork belly (the best one is visibly three- or four-layered: fat, half-fat, lean) and some minced pork, cook them in rice porridge, take out the strip of cooked pork belly, slice it, and serve with the porridge. Serve also with a healthily large serving of spinach dunked into the still piping-hot porridge (this will half-cook the spinach; overcooked vegetables are so... 'eewww').

To make it even more perfect, use minced garlic and soy sauce as condiment when eating the sliced pork belly.

I can easily down two bowls of this. :-p

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dumbo up the Hills - #13: Maxwell Hill

My hill-climbing frenzy came about as a preparation for the climb up Mt. Kinabalu, and to scale that "bad boy" (a Hangaroo expression), you need to trek a total distance of 8 km and ascend a total altitude of 2,100+ meters (the mountain is 4,095 m in height, but the route we would be taking starts at an altitude of about 1,900 m, where the Kinabalu National Park entrance is) in the same day, therefore, one of several good ways to train is to go up Maxwell Hill (or Bukit Larut, as it is called now) in Taiping, which involves a 10 km hike (but the altitude is only 1,036 m, so the average gradient of the path is not so steep).


We started before light, and my phone camera doesn't have a flash light, so, the first picture below was taken when we were already a certain distance up the hill. The spot had a pretty amazing view of the Taiping city, which my 2 mega pixel phone camera did not quite do justice to.

Many elderly hikers hike up the hill almost everyday (I later found out some are in the habit of doing it twice a day - once in the morning, and once in the evening; amazing...), but of course they don't go all the way. Along the path, you can find numerous pavilions like the one shown below in which you can take a rest before pressing on or turning back.

As for us, we pressed on, of course... :-)

At about two-third of the way, you will come to a place where the climate starts to remind you of some cooler countries than Malaysia...

The date was 18th April, 2009, and they were building something called the "Tea Garden". At that time, we had no idea what it was meant for, whether a rest house or restaurant or cafe or exhibition hall. During a more recent climb, we finally found out the answer, but I'll leave that for another later post. :-)

The path up Maxwell Hill has a very unique feature, the picture of which I forgot to take, but I'll just try to describe it with words here: I've already mentioned that the entire path is 10 km in length, and as you travel along, other than milestones to indicate the distance, you will also notice small plates with numbers on them pinned to either trees or poles along the road, at irregular intervals. The number starts from 1 at the foot of the hill, and increase as you ascend. At first I thought they mark distances of 100 m, but then I discovered that their intervals are quite clearly irregular, so we had no clue at all what purpose they serve.

And as number reached 90, I was already very exhausted and feeling like giving up. I thought to myself, if 100 marks the destination, I do not think I would have the stamina to go another ten stretches (I noticed that the few stretches before 90 were markedly longer than earlier stretches). Just as I was about to give up, after #93, we saw the following building:

It's one of the numerous rest houses (some government-owned, some private, and we heard that there's one owned by the Methodist church) built atop the hill for "land dwellers" everywhere to go for a hilltop holiday, or company trips, or team-building, or church retreats.

Sensing that the destination (hilltop) is near, I found strength to press on a little further...

I was glad I did not give up. The view was fantastic from there...

A few hundred meters further from the first rest house, you'll turn a corner to find a rather touristy spot...

... complete with a hanging bridge that serves no other purpose than for tourists to take picture on...

... and nearby a tower for an even farther view (you could, of course, trek a little higher up the road for the same higher view instead of climbing up the tower).

A bit further up, a playground for the children... (how do children go up the hill? Of course, we were among the very few crazy enough to trek all the way up; other "normal" people go up Maxwell Hill by jeep service).

The place is beautiful... and the climate? Superb. Cool and refreshing.

We found a small cafe, the compound of which serves also as a waiting area for the jeep service. And boy, were we thirsty and hungry!

The nasi lemak was wonderful. Either that, or we were truly, truly famished.

The place was designed to have a certain European feel, in line with the temperate climate the place enjoys...

But, as beautiful as the place is, we were not in much mood for further sight-seeing. We were all pooped! My wife quickly fell asleep after finishing her breakfast...

So did a couple of other friends... :-)


We decided not to trek back down the hill, so we took the jeep, and as we went down the hill in a crazy ride that could only be described as "roller coaster", the driver entertained us with numerous jokes as well as enlightened us about the numbers we saw along the way: those numbers mark the 93 sharp turns in the road (many are hairpin turns). The road was originally built for horses, so, it is only wide enough for one vehicle, and there was no consideration whether a wheeled vehicle would be able to take those sharp and often very steep turns. As such, only 4WD vehicles built for off-road driving are capable of going up the road.