Monday, August 11, 2014

With the Yezidis

In 2000, I visited Armenia, and had my first (and only encounter so far) with the Yezidi people. The Yezidis worshipped an ancient Mesopotamian religion, with complicated concepts of good and evil, and of angels and demons, as a result of which they were often misunderstood and accused of being devil worshipers. Despite being desperately poor, they invited me for tea and treated me with great hospitality. 

Today, with the ISIS terrorists in sudden conquest of large stretches of Northern Iraq, their ethnic relatives have come under the threat of genocide. Hundreds have been killed and thousands are trapped on a barren mountain. Unless international community take immediate action, this ancient people and culture will be decimated.

Have a look at this link for the pictures I took of the Yezidis in Armenia:

Crosses & Mountains: Mt Agarats & Etchmiadzin
  Click map to see detailed route 31 August Yerevan, Mt Aragats & Etchmiadzin Having Tea with Hospitable Yezidis Set off early in a 4 wheel drive for Mt Ar...
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Having Tea with Hospitable Yezidis
Set off early in a 4 wheel drive for Mt Aragats, the tallest mountain of Armenia. Of course, an Armenian would argue that Mt Ararat in Turkey is their tallest mountain and national symbol, but since the Armenian Genocide of 1915, Mt Ararat has been lost forever.  The clear blue skies and cooler weather made this expedition a most pleasant one... but what was most unexpected was the encounter with a group of Kurdish-Yezidi shepherds.  The Yezidis were a group of Kurds who have an often misunderstood religion - they believe that good and evil were one, and God and Saturn were mere different sides of the same coin – and this exposed them to accusations of bing devil worshippers.  In any case, they were among the most hospitable people I have ever encountered in my travels.  Upon introducing ourselves, we were invited into their tents and served with bread, tea and yogurt.  Pathetically poor they may be, they entertained us with great hospitality, and I had a wonderful time taking photos of these proud mountain people so often discriminated and misunderstood by their much more numerous neighbours.  An Armenian friend later said that the Yezidis are great to visitors but thieves outside their camps... stereotyping even among the educated and pleasant people. 
Amberd Castle
Amberd Castle
Kurdish emcampment on Mt Aragats
We got off our vehicle to have a closer vew.
Friendly locals
 Cattle owned by the Kurds
Invited into the tent
Home visit
Lake on Mt Aragats
Pile of stones: ancient customs ?
Mountain roads
Treacherous roads...

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Before heading north along North-South Expressway, head for the District Town of Pontian.
Visit the fish wholesale market with its amazing range of fish and sea creatures direct from fishermen. Most active from 10am to 1pm.
Pontian is the Malaysian capital of Wanton Noodles.
We tried the one at Sin Kee, which is very famous:
Restaurant name: Sin Kee (stall inside 8383 kopitiam)
Address: 245, Batu 36, Jalan Johor, Pontian, Johor.
GPS: 1.480350, 103.396217
Hours: 1:00pm to 6:00pm (closed on Thurs)
While waiting for Sin Kee to open, we had fried shark meat and a huge glutinous rice pork dumpling 粽子at the same coffeeshop.  Both are good, but the latter is one of the best rice dumplings I have ever tried.  It has spiced fermented shrimp paste inside.  Simply delicious.
We returned to the N-S Expressway and drove northwards for about 80km to the small one-street town of Yong Peng, most well-known for its Fuzhou style fish balls and fish ball noodles.
I last visited Yuan Yean Fish Ball Eating House in 2004 and the establishment has obviously been totally renovated and gentrified.  But the food remains excellent and we love almost every dish there – Fuzhou style fish ball (with minced pork inside), mackerel fish ball soup, KL-style dark soy sauce noodles, fuzhu (toufu skin) and taiping eggs ("peace eggs").  The Muar otah otah (spiced fermented fish paste) was somewhat diluted though probably passable.  Highly recommended to anyone with a bit of spare time and not on the hurry to get to Melaka.
Restaurant name: Yuan Yean Fishball Eating House 元延正宗永平西刀鱼丸
Address: 123, Main Road, Yong Peng, Johor
GPS: 2.011061,103.063305
Hours: 8:30am to 7:30pm (Closed on alternate Wednesday)
Towns that we skipped: Muar, Batu Pahat and Ayer Hitam, which have their own specialties.  Search for details on
Melaka is a renowned Malaysian food capital and there are tonnes written about the city's food.  I will just provide basic details and avoid elaborating on them.
Jonkers Street Night Market (Friday & Saturday)
Highly recommended.  Quite a few nice food stalls.  Atmospheric.
Chicken rice ball and chicken rice in general
We visited Chung Wah Chicken Rice Ball at the eastern end of Jonkers Street.  Heard it will move out of Jonkers St area in a few months' time.  It opens at 8.30am but there is normally a queue by 7.45am.  If you want to eat at this legendary place, be prepared to queue for an hour or so.
Hoe Kee a few doors away is also very famous and some claim it is better than Chung Wah.  May need to wait too but not as long as Chung Wah.
Peranakan / Nonya cuisine
Nancy's Kitchen: Our favourite Peranakan restaurant in Melaka.  Very good. Highly recommended.  You may need to queue for 30min to 1 hour during weekends.  They do not take reservations.  And the price is very reasonable.  We had 7 persons and ordered probably 10 dishes – the damage was about RM 25 per person. 
Address: 7, Jalan Hang Lekir, Off Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, 75200, Melaka, Melaka, 75200, Malaysia
Phone: +60 6-283 6099
We also tried Kocik Kitchen just round the corner from Nancy's. Very good as well – though we all rate Nancy's as number one.
Kocik's Kitchen Nyonya Restaurant,
100, Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Malacca.
Satay Celup
The most famous place for this Melaka favourite is Capital, but we also tried Ban Lee Siang Sate Celup
on this trip:
Capitol Satay Celup
Address: 41, Lorong Bukit Cina, 75100, Melaka, Melaka, 75100, Malaysia
Phone:+60 6-283 5508
Be prepared for long queues before 5pm when it opens.
Ban Lee Siang Sate Celup
45F, Jalan Ong Kim Wee, 75300 Melaka, Melaka
Long queues around 30min expected.
There is a similarly named eatery with long queues next door at 45E but we do not know which is the better one. The locals we asked did not know either.
Durian Chendol
Malaysia's favourite dessert.  The most convenient good place to try this is at the eastern end of Jonkers Street, just opposite Chung Wah Chicken Rice Ball.  The huge eatery also has a large shop selling all sorts of Melakan food takeaways that tourists typically buy when they visit Melaka.
San Shu Gong Durian Cendol
33, Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka. Weekdays : 10am to 6pm / Weekends : 10am to 9.30pm
We went to the Pasar Besar (Big Market) in the city centre and tried two of Seremban's most famous dishes, the Hakka noodle and Seremban beef noodle:
Seremban Tow Kee Hakka Mee (Stall 810) & Sin Yee Kee Seremban Beef Noodles (Stall 748)
Jalan Pasar, 70200 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
Highly recommended if you are in Negeri Seremban or driving from Melaka to KL.  The Hakka noodle has a nice chewy springy texture and mixes well with the minced pork; the beef noodle comes with a thick dark gravy very similar to the Hainanese beef noodle found in Singapore, and the beef cuts are well stewed and tender. Very delicious.

Friday, March 28, 2014

11Apr14 Afghanistan (Kabul/Mazar/etc) by Justin / Wakhan Corridor by ALONG

Friday 11 April 2014

Potluck & Chat @ 7:30pm

Presentation @ 8:30pm
Afghanistan - Sleepless in Kabul
by Justin Lau

Hundred Years of Solitude
- A Yak-Back Winter Expedition to the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan

@ Wee Cheng's place