Friday, 29 January 2010

Winter Melon Flower

I love winter melon soup! We skinned the fruit and cut them into huge chunks before dropping them into the boiling chicken broth. We usually add dried, red Chinese dates and dried mushrooms to the soup as well.

Dad was growing some winter melon for a while. He removed it because the vines covered the lawn, which made grass-cutting difficult. And this was before the plants bore any fruit. I found a bright yellow flower amongst the leaves and vines.

Yellow flower of the winter melon plant

Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_melon
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/50047/

Why do they call it Brazilian Longan?

Update [30/10/2014]::: As I later found out, these fruits are not Brazilian Longan and they are also not Mamoncillo (Spanish Lime). These are actually known as Pometia Pinnata and in Spanish, it is calleLong├ín de Fiji, which is probably why they are called Fijian Longan or Fiji Longan. Other names include Island Lychee, Tava (Samoa) and Kasai (Malaysia).

References:
Tree description from pngplants.org
Wikipedia::Pometia_pinnata
Edible Medicinal And Non-Medicinal Plants: Volume 6, Fruits
Pometia pinnata link from montosogardens.com

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One day, dad, very excitedly, showed me a green, round fruit, the size of a golf ball. The green fruit has a very thick skin. So is the flesh. It is succulent, fleshy and sweet, tasting just like a longan. The seed is black and round, like that of a longan fruit too. And, the fruit is called Brazilian Longan. But, nowhere could I find on the web the proper name for this "Brazilian Longan". How the name came about is strange as it is not common for longans to be found in South America.

The Brazilian Longans probably came to Brunei from her neighbour, Malaysia as evident in some of these Malaysian blogs:

http://the69clover.blogspot.com/2008/08/brazil-longan.html
http://strykerspix.blogspot.com/2007/02/flora.html

Strangely, the other day, I heard mum saying that it's not longans but called Brazilian Lychees. So, now I'm so confused as to whether they are longans or lychees. The lychees found in Brazil as largely documented on the web are mostly the common red fruit types.

Mamoncillo fruits on the tree in our garden


Finally, I came upon the fruit Mamoncillo, a South American fruit that goes by the common name, Spanish Lime. The description and picture on Wikipedia seem to fit the bill.

Picture from Wikipedia

writingwithmymouthfull.com has a nice closeup picture of the fruit

Alternanthera Dentata 'Royal Tapestry' or 'Rubiginosa'?

I found this maroon plant with tiny pinkish white flowers at my dad's garden the other day growing all by itself under the shade of the bigger plants around. Dad had said that it is a medicinal plant though after surfing around, there were no such claim made on any of these botanical sites.

The Alternanthera Dentata 'Royal Tapestry' and 'Rubiginosa' pictures found on the linked websites resemble this picture I took of the flower. They all go by the common name of joyweed and are tropical flowers for decorative purposes. The 'Purple Knight' Alternanthera Dentata also looks quite similar which makes it hard to differentiate amongst them from mere photographs.

So far, I've not noticed this flower in any gardens I have visited in Brunei. Again, how my dad came to grow such a flower, like many other flowers he has been growing, is always a wonder.






Here are some links detailing about the flower:
http://www.finegardening.com/plantguide/alternanthera-dentata-purple-knight-calico-plant.aspx

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dinesh_valke/357151974/

http://www.learn2grow.com/plant-guides/sunset-zone-h1-page-26/

http://www.onlineplantguide.com/PlantDetails.aspx?Plant_id=134

http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/b/Amaranthaceae/Alternanthera/none/cultivar/0/

The Noni Plant in Brunei - Morinda citrifolia

Many months back, I walked into the kitchen to find myself staring at a strange-looking fruit. It looked like a big fat worm on the counter with its palish green skin. According to Dad, the fruit is called noni. Unconvinced (Dad always give wrong facts, which makes what he says mostly uncreditable), I did some homework on the Internet. And, it appeared, he is right!

When I was taking a walk in the garden, I found the tree that was spouting with many noni fruits. It was fascinating to see this worm-looking fruit growing on the tree and there were some tiny white flowers on it too.

Dad says it is a medicinal fruit which helps lower a person's cholesterol level. But, it is unpleasant to taste and is bitter. I've never tasted the fruit and I am not sure if I want to though several sources have claimed of its high medicinal abilities.

Interestingly, the fruit is originated from South East Asia but I've never seen it until recently. Also known as the Indian mulberry, the fruit is largely grown in Hawaii.

Interestingly, it is listed as one of the anti-cancer herb here.

Here are some interesting reads about the fruit
Noni Botanical Facts
Noni (Morinda citrifolia) General Facts
Noni Wikipedia
Benefits of the Noni Fruit
History of the Noni Fruit


An unripe Noni fruit with white

Friday, 22 January 2010

The "Lantern" Flower is Heliconia Rostrata!

Out of a total of about 10 dragon fruit plants in our garden, one finally bore fruit! I decided to venture out into the garden to take some pictures. Dad had made several interesting additions to this little plot of green which was a lot barer before. Today, the plot is heavily surrounded by green lush of fruit trees, flower plants and medicinal plants which I find even more fascinating than the previously reigning green lords, the papaya plants.

There were these conspicuously bright-coloured flowers at one corner of our garden, which I immediately asked dad for its name when I saw them. He called it the Birds of Paradise flower and later added that it's also called the Lantern Flower, both of which are wrong. No wonder the other name for this flower is the false birds of paradise flower. Another name is the lobster claw flower.

This flower is called the Heliconia Rostrata (Hanging Heliconia). The flower has cup-shaped petals that are connected by a vine-like extension and hang downwards from the main plant. The origin of the plant is from Peru and Ecuador. I wondered how this plant ended up here in my garden in Brunei. It kind of looks like red bananas hanging out from its trunk.

There were heliconia rostrata of all sorts on this site.

Green everywhere. I love lying down right in the middle at look at the sky after a long, hectic day.


Beautifully flourescent red


As the flower matures, it hangs completely extended. The cup-shaped petals store water and nectar for birds and insects.


Ours look rather unkept as they are sprouting wildly.

The Ribena Plant?

I finally know the name of this mysterious plant which my parents call the Ribena plant. I was telling them that Ribena is a name of a blackcurrant drink but they were adamant that the plant is called Ribena.

Strangely, I saw Guardian in Kota Kinabalu selling packaged snacks made of these "Ribena buds". This is not a Ribena plant or flower. It is Roselle, which belongs to the family of Hibiscus. Its scientific name is Hibiscus sabdariffa.

It tastes exactly like Ribena but we drink it mixed with other fruit juices because it is extremely sour without any sugar. We grow them at home where my father tends to carefully like all plants in our garden. My mum washes them, then peels off the red skin. The skin is boiled until all the extracts are removed from the skin. The boiled liquid is what our home calls the Ribena drink. According to mum, it is high in Vitamin C and is an anti-oxidant.

I've brought some to a colleague to try. Much later when she'd caught a cold, I'd asked her if she wanted me to bring more of the drink and she accepted the offer. So, perhaps, it's effective after all?

Personally, it tastes good with fruit juices. I find that drinking too much of it makes my stomach feels like having gastric, due to its acidity.

Check out the following blogs on their entries of the Roselle (Ribena) plant.
1) Life is like that has pretty pictures of the "ribena" fruit.
2) Jessie Ling's and Maya Kirana's blogs teach on how to make the "ribena" drink.
3) Wilson Wong's entry on the roselle plant is comprehensive yet informative and provided a link to a much detailed website.

The Roselle buds


What once was a well-kept single bush of Roselle plant has now multiplied to several!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Sapi Island, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

The islands should be a definite stop when in Kota Kinabalu. At the Imperial Hotel, we purchased boat tickets to get us to either Manukan, Sapi or Mamutik Islands. We opted for Sapi since most of us have been to the other two.

Since the van to Tanjung Aru had left, our tour agent had arranged for a cab to bring us to the pier there. Upon seeing the big yellow sign that says "Beach Bums", I got excited. Oh yeah, that's definitely me, an eternal beach bum!

We stopped by a scuba diving hut, not exactly knowing where to go. In the end, we found the equipment hut where we took our life jackets and sunbathing mats. At Sapi, we rented flippers for RM10 each. I think we paid about 50RM each person for the boat ride, which was a fair deal.

The beach ride had been thrilling, sending us bobbing along with the waves. It wasn't exactly smooth as I was lifted from my seat on several occasions. But, yes, very fun indeed.

When we neared any of the islands, I was enthralled by how clear and blue the water is. It was beautiful! I should hear holidaymakers laughing despite the distance between the boat and the island. I was so excited!

That day, we snorkeled for about an hour and I got to see all sorts of fishes, including jelly fishes. There were some colourful corals but many were covered in some sort of dirty green mold. They were some really big fishes I saw and some small ones, as well as intimidating ones. The intimidating ones like to rush themselves towards you, then stop, reverse and repeat the whole process again. I have to admit, I was frightened by them even though I was like hundreds of times larger than them. It was jelly fish season so we were occasionally being stung by small and not-easily-visible ones. Whenever I see bigger ones about the size of my fist, I panicked and quickly swam away. I saw a few dead ones too, floating lifelessly in the water. I think they turn brown when they are dead.

While it looks all so beautiful on the surface, I found the beach rather sad when I was snorkeling. I mean, I did have a lot of fun but, I realised the corals are badly damaged. I see people trampling on corals with no sense of caution at all. Unlike the waters where I have dived where the corals are in shades of deep red, purple and blue, these ones here looked as though they're dying. Yet, many fishes still live here. It's rather sad to watch after a while.

It started drizzling when we were having lunch. When the rain got heavier, we packed and went back to the hotel instead. That night, we karaoke-ed at KBox just across the street from Myne Hotel.
Beach Bums Village at Tanjung Aru


Tourists getting on the boat at the pier


A man kayaking


Crabs on the rocks


Hanging dry Banana boats


Water villages in the surrounding area


More water villages at the far end


Some passengers getting off at Mamutik Island


Big shoal of small fishes


The waters around Sapi Island


This is where we snorkeled at Sapi Island, within the area marked by the red buoys.


Our spot


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Little Italy, Kota Kinabalu

After settling everything in the hotel, we got into the taxi to Little Italy to have dinner. It is a big restaurant, extending its space outside towards the building's corridor. And, it was packed! There were waiting customers studying the menu set by the side of the patio.

We got the attention of a waiter to help us get a table. Within 10 minutes, we got ourselves a table just by the roadside with a nice evening breeze wafting in every now and then.

I was looking for something different to eat and decided to try the house's special crespelle. I've never seen a pasta dish like this before and thought with the spinach and cheese, it ought to be really yummy!

The order took about 15 minutes to process, which I thought was impressive for a big and fully packed restaurant. And, the food was brilliant! I especially love the starter's platter and crespelle!

We spent the Christmas countdown at Best Entertainment Destination (B.E.D). There was a really awesome Filipino band playing. I enjoyed the energy of the place with the high-spirited band. As the countdown took place, I found myself thinking of my family since we usually go to the midnight church mass singing carols at this time.

Check out what New Sabah Times have to say about Little Italy; here and here.

Read reviews from Trip Advisor here.

I took this after dinner when the restaurant has quietened.


Starter's platter. The egg plant and zucchini were so yummy!


The calamari was alright.


Spinach crespelle is like rolled lassagne. It was so yummy! The pasta sheets were so soft and savoury with the cheese, mushroom and spinach.


Seafood spaghetti in soup was also delicious. J and I were stealing spoonfuls of the soup from D.


The seafood risotto was alright. I always think that risotto is the most difficult Italian dish to make deliciously. Because the rice becomes soggy, it must be a feat to make it tasty at the same time. So far, I haven't really tasted a really yummy risotto.


A Hawaiian pizza as the finale to our dinner. We were so stuffed and happy on a lovely Christmas Eve.



Thursday, 7 January 2010

Myne Hotel, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

The jingle bells were not ringing for me even after having sat for my FR (government administration) exams. Despite the missing festive mood, I felt so liberated. Yippy! Away from work!

While there were still several things to work on, I am grateful for the four days of holiday in the modestly busy city of Kota Kinabalu. I flew with three other friends, with Air Asia for a return flight fare of BND200. I guess it was a pretty good deal, having booked just only a month prior to departure.

D had booked us two twin rooms at Myne Hotel, which was extremely location friendly! The Centrepoint building was just next door. So was Imperial Hotel, where we purchased boat tickets to the islands. And, not to mention the hotel is located within Warisan Square, in the heart of shopping complexes and restaurants; the waterfront is just minutes of walk away where B.E.D (Best Entertainment Destination club) and KBox (karaoke lounge) are. For three nights, I shared a room with J and paid RM300.

While the room was a little small, I was much happy with its furnishing and interior design. The bathroom reminded me of Changi Airport's Transit Hotel though this one is way smaller. Other than space, I would say it is nicely furnished with facilities. They provided a hair dryer, fresh towels daily and hot water. They also replenished drinking water everyday. The LCD tv was awesome because J and I were often glued to it, watching National Geographic Channel, learning the Sun's geomagnetic storms and tunnel boring machines.

Another thing I like about Myne is security. As the hotel is sharing the common stairs with the other shops/ offices in the shopping complex, a locked door is installed at the entrance of the corridor on each floor to seal the hotel rooms away from the common areas.

The room door beeps when it is not closed properly. How I came to know this is because I couldn't get any sleep with the incessant beeping. At first, I thought it was the air-conditioning and fidgeted with the controls to make it stop. Finally, I thought it really couldn't be the door but gave it a push anyway to check. To my utter surprise, the door slammed shut! And, the whole time I was alone in the room and even took a shower with the bathroom door unlocked! I'm just glad that the corridor's door to the stairs and the lift has an auto-lock feature. :)


Christmas lights outside the hotel


Wall prints and painting with a goth edge


Dressing table and LCD tv


We got a double bedroom instead as the hotel was extremely full during Christmas season.


Bathroom with toiletry supplies, hair dryer, body and face towels.


Simple and nice shower cubicle


The hotel is made up of two blocks, A and B. Our room was in block B.


Another dark painting on earthy-coloured, textured wall paper


Saturday, 2 January 2010

DJ Earworm - United State of Pop 2009

It's New Year's Day and a chat message came in from Teadi with nothing but a YouTube link to an amazing remix of the previous year.

DJ Earworm definitely got my attention with a brilliant remix of 25 top pop songs of the year. Talk about perfect fluidity in the remix! Maybe it's really the "ear worms" that's really kicking up such great rhythms and tempo!

Check out the "Blame it on the pop" video:


Here's DJ Earworm's website and DJ Earworm's YouTube page.

The 25 pop songs in the remix:
The Black Eyed Peas – BOOM BOOM POW
Lady Gaga – POKER FACE
Lady Gaga Featuring Colby O’Donis – JUST DANCE
The Black Eyed Peas – I GOTTA FEELING
Taylor Swift – LOVE STORY
Flo Rida – RIGHT ROUND
Jason Mraz – I’M YOURS
Beyonce – SINGLE LADIES (PUT A RING ON IT)
Kanye West – HEARTLESS
The All-American Rejects – GIVES YOU HELL
Taylor Swift – YOU BELONG WITH ME
T.I. Featuring Justin Timberlake – DEAD AND GONE
The Fray – YOU FOUND ME
Kings Of Leon – USE SOMEBODY
Keri Hilson Featuring Kanye West & Ne-Yo – KNOCK YOU DOWN
Jamie Foxx Featuring T-Pain – BLAME IT
Pitbull – I KNOW YOU WANT ME (CALLE OCHO)
T.I. Featuring Rihanna – LIVE YOUR LIFE
Soulja Boy Tell ‘em Featuring Sammie – KISS ME THRU THE PHONE
Jay Sean Featuring Lil Wayne – DOWN
Miley Cyrus – THE CLIMB
Drake – BEST I EVER HAD
Kelly Clarkson – MY LIFE WOULD SUCK WITHOUT YOU
Beyonce – HALO
Katy Perry – HOT N COLD