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  • Writer's pictureRick

West Malaysia Day 5: Short Leap to Muar

Again, I was awakened at around 6am by the same loud engine sound of a certain heavy vehicle going past the hotel — despite using ear-plugs. I was having an easy trip but still lacked of sleep.

What was the use of windows? If an accommodation was in a rural area or seaside, it might have some scenic views from the windows. But, almost all accommodations in towns or cities faced either roads, carparks or back alleys. And most often than not, curtains were always drawn closed for privacy. Therefore, I preferred windowless rooms, but I could not do much with doors.

I killed the early hours by washing up, write some blog posts, touch-up photos, pack my belongings to prepare for check-out and then hit the streets just before 9am.

About 300 metres down the road, Chop See Kee (张亚泗云吞面), a restaurant serving wanton noodle, opened its door at 9am. A couple of diners were in the restaurant when I stepped inside. I ordered a small wanton noodle and added a small bowl of dumplings soup. No coffee was available, so I ordered soy milk. The wanton noodle was good— no wonder the restaurant was popular.

Chop See Kee Wanton Noodle

I needed coffee and went in search for a coffee place. Just few units from Chop See Kee, I noticed a shop front that looked antiquated with a blue Japanese short curtain and a set of old-fashioned wooden table and chairs. Written on a wooden board were “觉味 rasa rasa” (probably the shop’s name) and “rice & noodle, sourdough, dessert and pour-over coffee” — it was a cafe. I peeped inside, no one could be seen but the opening hours on the door was printed as “9am to 6pm”. I stepped in.

The cafe’s name was 觉味 / rasa rasa / Niqiu Space (泥鳅空间). Its interior was decorated with a large number of antiques. A “bar counter” near the entrance was actually a decoration, the real bar counter was at the rear of the cafe. I was the only customer in the early morning.

The cafe served non-meat dishes but I had my breakfast so I considered getting a dessert. The staff (or owner?) reassured me that all their desserts had very low sweetness levels. I chose the La Germania (Columbia) beans —with a smooth, mellow roselle and gentle nutty taste profile — for pour-over and a banana walnut pound cake (香蕉磅旦糕) to go along.

Rasa Rasa / Niqiu Space

I had a short conversation with the friendly barista, who shared his ideology in brewing quality coffee. I should have told him my preference for coffee and let him decide the kind of coffee beans that would best suit my palate — for the inexperience me to know myself better.

I lingered in the cafe, observed other customers came in and left. Some were not receptive to pour-over coffee and were being difficult, some were willing to try. The staff were very patient and willing to share what they believed.

10:45am, it was time to go.

After checked-out from Room.V Hotel, I walked to Sin Sin Foodstuff (新新包粿食品), at Glutton Street, to get some kuehs for eating at the bus terminal while waiting for the bus to Muar. I picked 2 ang ku kuehs (one black sesame, one sweet potato), 2 layered kuehs (one gula melaka, one taro) and a pack of white sugar sponge cake (白糖糕). Sin Sin Foodstuff’s kuehs were never too sweet.

Sin Sin Foodstuff

At Batu Pahat Express Bus Terminal, I bought a 12pm ticket to Muar (RM5) from the Mayang Sari counter. White waiting for the bus from Pontian, I munched on the kuehs. The Kuala Lumpur-bound Mayang-Sari bus arrived at 12:05pm and I was motioned to board it. I kept the white sugar sponge cake for later and boarded the bus.

Selamat tinggal, Batu Pahat!

It was only one hour to Muar. After alighting from the bus, I checked the distance to J. Boutique Hotel — 1.6Km, about 20 minutes’ walk. But, before deciding whether to walk or to e-hail a Grab car, I wanted to get some otak-otak from Otak-Otak Cheng Boi, which was along the way. I had failed to try their otak-otak on all my past visits to Muar.

Otak-Otak Cheng Boi (阿梅麻坡乌达) was opened. Only the fish otak-otak were grilled and sold at RM1.10 per stick, other flavours were frozen in packs and sold chilled. I bought 10 sticks of the grilled otak-otak. There were no tables for eat-in so I had to bring the food to some corners or the hotel lobby to eat.

The distance to the hotel was reduced by about one-third after walking to Cheng Boi. So I decided to walk the remaining distance. The sun would not be a bother to me anymore since it had already toasted me the day before. But I was drenched by my own sweat.

2pm, I reached J. Boutique Hotel. Even though it was a hotel with a reception desk on the second floor, it operated like a guest house due to manpower shortage. I had to call or WhatsApp a number to check-in.

After a lengthy check-in delay, I got a standard single room with quite a relatively big space but it was a windowed unit facing a carpark and a road about 30 metres away. All the rooms in J. Boutique Hotel had different shapes and sizes.

J. Boutique Hotel

It was too hot to go out so I stayed in the room until 6pm. Meanwhile, I finished all the 10 sticks of otak-otak and white sugar sponge cake as late lunch with drinking water. The fish otak-otak were nice and not very spicy and the white sugar sponge cake, despite its name, was not too sweet either.

6pm, I walked to the old town of Pekan Muar and worked out a sweat half way to the town. 15 minutes’ walk and I came to the great mural of “The Loving Sisters” that was painted in 2016. I first saw it in 2017 when it was still very “fresh”. This mural was recorded in the “Malaysia Book of Records” in 2016 as the largest portrait painting and had since became a landmark of Muar — replacing the clock tower.

I checked out the giant murals of Muar while hunting for a place to have dinner. Took me less than 15 minutes to look for them since I could remember all their locations.

The old town was closing for the day, except for few restaurants that were still opened. A pasar malam (night market) was being setup, but not many food stalls. There was not much to do after circling one round and I was not attracted to the eating places that were still opened.

One hour was all it took for me to walk to the old town, circled one round and walked back to Taman Kenanga, where J. Boutique Hotel was. I had noticed a couple of restaurants beside the hotel when I came out earlier. One sold Thai mookata and the other sold red wine mee sua (红酒面线). My choice would always be local food.

At Restoran GP Red Wine Mee Sua, I placed my order for a bowl of their signature mee sua but had to wait for 20 minutes. While waiting, I noticed that almost every table would have some fried chicken wings. It seemed rather popular. I was pondering to order one too but decided against it as there might be another long wait.

Restoran GP Red Wine Mee Sua

8:20pm, I went right back to the hotel just 20 metres away. The worst thing that could happen, when staying up long hours in the room, was when the WiFi stopped working and no staff was around to reset it — that was one demerit for poor WiFi.

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