Going Overseas For Dinner
As seven teksi drivers loudly discussed my tattered scrap of notepaper, I wondered if going to Malaysia for dinner was actually a good idea.
As it was, we were hours behind schedule. Darling Man had gotten mesmerised by his garden, even before a jackfruit fell, damaging a nearby papaya tree. We left home at 6pm instead of 4, briefly stopping to chat to a neighbour who told us everything would be jammed up at this hour, Singlish for `it’s peak hour’.
But we pressed on, baby in the pram, backpack stuffed full of baby bottles, a change of clothes for Miss M, a sarong and a plastic container of yoghurt and avocado. (When you travel with kids, you have to be prepared!) We walked to the bus stop, went three stops to the MRT station, five more stops, walked two blocks then joined the end of a loooooonnng queue for the bus. When we finally got on the bus, the lovely baby was fidgety and wiggley and loud. Thankfully she fell asleep before we got to the immigration checkpoint.
Checking out of Singapore, taking a bus to the Malaysian checkpoint and checking into Malaysia was tedious, with other travelers running past us to get a better spot in the queues. When we finally jumped through all the hoops we started following signs to the teksi stand in Johor Bahru.
There I handed over the scrap of paper with the address, sparking a vigorous debate. When I handed over the colourful ad I ripped out of the newspaper, the ad that invited us to the Malaysia Street Food Festival, things got even more heated. But a lady in a booth sold us a taxi voucher anyway and we piled into a cab, which promptly got stuck in traffic. Miss M and I were both slightly grumpy at this stage.
Finally we arrived, just after 9pm, to find two rows of crowded marquees bursting with people, tables and food, glorious food. We grabbed a bag of dried fish near the entrance.
The vendor was such a skilled upseller we ended up with bag of eight pieces of dried and fried fish. At 1 ringitt for four pieces we weren’t really complaining. The bag fitted nicely on the top of the pram as we munched and tried to edge our way through the crowd. A bag of grilled skewered meat and a bag of satay sauce was soon up there on top of the pram too. Then we spotted a laksa stall. A styrofoam bowl of soup is not the easiest thing to carry, so we found a table.
But the table belonged to another vendor, who wasn’t happy we were sitting at his table and not eating his food. So we ordered a bowl.
I thought it was terrible. But thankfully, Darling Man likes offal. The tofu, once cooled, pleased the baby.
But the laksa was the dish of the day. It was like a jungle curry, not a hint of coconut. Instead there was a strong tamarind taste, slivers of pickled cucumber, onion slices, shredded lettuce and strips of fish cake. Delicious! The stall holder was proud of his product, enthusiastically pressing his business card into my hand and posing for a photo. (I didn’t have the heart to ask him to look up).
We slurped, gnawed and crunched for a while, stopping sporadically to insert food into the baby. But after a while she’d had enough of sitting still. She stomped around, collecting smiles from nearby diners and a food server. Then she spotted some street cats, who were gorging themselves on leftovers dropped on the ground. Miss M was off, waddling at speed, perilously close to a drainage ditch towards the “ooglithooglith”. Naturally, the cats fled. Our fearless baby decided to follow, pausing only briefly to look up and grab my hand at the entry to the dark dingy alley the cats had disappeared into. We went only a little way down the alley before the food beckoned me back. We were on a tight schedule, with the last bus leaving the checkpoint at 11.30pm.
Darling Man lunged back into the throng, reappearing with some chicken, lightly flavoured with Chinese five-spice and plum. I made a foray, returning with one plastic cup full of cooling herbal drink and another cup of strawberry pearl milk shake.
Then it was time to head back. Teksi, bus, bus. We got home from our latest family adventure travel experience slightly before midnight with Miss M asleep in her carrier and three passports with extra stamps. It turned out to be our cheapest overseas trip yet, about $25 for transport and food. We can’t wait to go back and explore some of the food we passed in the teksi. Next time, however, we will try to avoid the peak hour “jam”.
Dish of the day: Wah! Asam Laksa. The business card is in Chinese and Malay, so the name is the only thing I understand. But if you spot it when you’re in JB, try it.
10 years ago