Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Lost City of Mimaland: An Urban Adventure

Five intrepid adventurers (Marcus, Angela, Rudhra, Nicole and I) spent a Sunday morning a couple of months ago exploring the ruins of Mimaland. It was reportedly Asia's largest theme park back in the 70s, and was hugely popular from 1971 to 1987 or so. It closed its doors for good in 1994 following several fatalities within its grounds. The place has been abandoned and boarded up and is reputed to be haunted, but hey, this is Southeast Asia! Everything from the upstairs bathroom and corner cubicle to your grandmother's larder is said to be haunted!
We trespassed into private property, took nothing but photographs and left nothing but footprints and memories of a simpler, happier time when Malaysians could be amused by mini golf, paddle boats, giant waterslides and fibreglass dinosaurs.
The entrance ticket used to cost only RM2.00 and then we would pay extra for all the different attractions. The paddleboats, water slides, mini golf and children's rides were very popular back in the day.

Mimaland from the outside: Metal fencing and a Keep Out sign.
The derelict old entrance. This is where the ticketing counter used to be.
A walk in the woods led by our Chief Scout Marcus.
The paths leading to the Ticketing Office are all overgrown now. 

We entered what must have been a sort of rec room, because we found snooker balls, playing cards and stacks of tickets, now all reduced to ashes. Marcus says it wasn't burned down yet the last time he was here. Could this possibly have been due to arson?
The old tickets to the swimming pool. It used to cost only RM2 per entry.

Steps and bridge over a stream, all overgrown now.
The ruins of the old arcade.
This used to be the old boating lake where the paddleboats and swan boats used to be.
But wait, what's that on the dry shore of the lake?
Why, it's a little bi-plane, from one of the old rides!
Vandalised, graffiti-ed and mostly empty -- the old arcade.
The remains of two of the old kiddie rides are still here.
I rode on these very same horses as a child. I used to think these were life-sized horses. I felt a little shocked at seeing how tiny they actually are today.
The old Hall of Mirrors used to look so huge to me as a child. I saw with amazement today that it was actually no bigger than my master bedroom.
Hiking up the hill to the highlight of our day.

We found dinosaurs! We whooped and cheered like actual paleontologists. Well, actually, I did. I have no chill when it comes to dinosaurs.  

This is what the same spot used to look like when I visited with my family in 1985.

Super-happy besties on an adventure, upon encountering an intact T-Rex!
Now let's see what the T-Rex used to look like back in 1985.
Poor forgotten Triceratops with a broken horn.
I swear it wasn't us who broke the horn back in '85. I am pretty sure it had remained intact for a good number of years until the park's closure.
What the heck is this anyway? Some kind of ancient Moa bird?
Poor pentaceratops with a split skull.
I still think you are cool, Pentaceratops!
Cool-ass stegosaurus.
Dimetrodon with a severed leg.
A random cute baby bear.

Woolly mammoth found!
And this was how imposing it used to look back in '85. And yes, my brothers and I were hamming it up for the camera because our parents asked us to.
Petrified saber-toothed tiger.
Ankylosaur at the old archway.
An almost-concealed random Asian elephant. I think this used to be a stream.
Rudhra blowing an elven triceratops horn.
A cicada had moulted and left behind its transparent exoskeleton.
We continued exploring and found what probably used to be the old motel and chalets.
Vintage glass soda bottles left behind, as though the people just stood up and left in the middle of a party.
Nature taking over. Pretty soon the roots of the ficus tree would cover the walls, and we will end up with a modern day Angkor Wat here.
Old room rates engraved onto the walls.
What is probably part of the old swimming pool. This used to be a marvelously landscaped park but the secondary forest has taken over now.
The old Mimaland logo on the metal fencing, bringing back memories of a simpler, happier time.

Urban adventurers, out.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Bento Game Strong!

I have been making themed bentos regularly, usually on Sunday nights for lunch on Monday, and posting the photos on Facebook and It has earned me quite a following.

Food prep takes place on Sundays, and for the rest of the week, I just have to assemble my lunchbox using the ingredients that have already been cleaned and cut and blanched/cooked and stored in separate containers for freshness. It saves me a lot of time and I don't have to worry about driving out for lunch, finding parking and getting back to the office before lunch hour is up.

International Talk Like A Pirate Day bento, 18 Sept 2015.

World Animal Day bento, 4th Oct 2015.

Made this one on 16 Nov 2015 after the Paris terror attack because my heart was hurting for our troubled world.

Ushering in the New Year.

 First bento for the Lunar New Year of the Monkey.

 A low-carb, almost-entirely-raw-veggie-based monkey bento to mark the end of the Lunar New Year.  

Game Night Bento.

Spring Equinox 2016.

Visual presentation is an important factor in bento-making!
Top left: lettuce, vegan coleslaw and edible flowers.
Top right: mulberries, ambarella and a chequered apple.
Main compartment: grilled vegetables under brown rice and quinoa cooked with lemon zest and bay leaves, and air-fried tempeh coated with sriracha, chili powder and turmeric on top.

April Showers Bring May Flowers.
An expression of hope for more rain to end the hot, dry and hazy weather.

A bento for Earth Day 2016, with Planet Earth onigiri and cherry tomato hearts. The dirt pot at the upper left holds homegrown Brazilian spinach in dirt made from crumbled Ikea veggie balls.

A Southwestern-themed bento to bring out the cowboy in me.
Many people on Facebook, Blogspot and have asked me how long it takes to make each bento lunchbox and how I manage to cut intricate patterns out of nori. The typical comments and queries are as follows:

"It would take ages to cut these out of seaweed!"
"Nori sheets are so flimsy and fragile, how do you cut them without tearing them or unintentionally making them moist?"
"Do you trace patterns directly onto the nori sheets? Do you use Exacto knives or any special tools?"
This photo tutorial demonstrates a quick and easy method I developed and improved on to make simple food art. It is created for the benefit of to promote a healthy plant-based diet and packaging-free meals. As the objective is to encourage the sharing of ideas, please feel free to share this.

Step 1: Fold a clean sheet of notepad paper in half and sketch your design on it. It doesn't have to be perfect. You can make corrections to your initial sketches.

Step 2: Cut a sheet of nori seaweed of the same size as the sketch and slide it in between the two halves of the folded sheet of paper.

Step 3: Use paper clips to hold the nori seaweed sheet in place.
 Step 4: Clip the shapes out using a pair of scissors. See how easy it is? The paper keeps the nori sheet firm and dry. It's easier than attempting to cut the floppy, crinkly, fragile nori sheet directly.

Step 5: Shift the paper clips to different positions to continue to hold the nori sheet in place as you cut around it.

 Step 6: Remove the pieces of paper to reveal your neatly-cut nori silhouettes. The scrap paper can go into the recycling bin. The nori scraps can go into your bowl of miso soup ;)

 You don't need a lot of fancy tools to make an attractive bento lunch set. Silicone baking cups hold different food items to keep them separate and dry, and also provide a pop of colour. Choose a contrasting colour for heightened visual impact.
Alphabet and number cookie cutters can be used both for cutting shapes out of fruits and vegetables (carrots, jicama, fruit leather and dried mango slices work great for this purpose as they do not fall apart easily) and for creating a 'negative' -- in this instance, cutting holes out of the top slice of sandwich bread so that the darker colours of the nut spread beneath will create a colour contrast.
Peel kyuri and other vegetables or fruits with a darker peel in alternating stripes (i.e. Peel an inch, leave the next inch unpeeled, peel the 3rd inch, and so forth) to create a striped effect, and position the striped kyuri slices to create a checkered pattern.
Choose colours and patterns that will stand out for greater visual impact (because the more attractive it is, the more likely it is to be eaten) and use the firmest parts of fresh fruits and vegetables if your lunch box is going to be tossed into a backpack or briefcase.
Hope you enjoyed this post!