Tomorrow is Gawai Dayak. This is a harvest festival celebrated by Sarawak’s largest ethnic group, the Dayaks, and the Bidayuhs. It is a time for family reunion, renewal of friendship and paying respects to the elders and the departed. The festival is rhapsody of non-stop dancing and merry-making as well as lavish offerings of traditional delicacies and tuak, a wine made from fermented rice, yeast and sugar.

This is how you make tuak. Glutinous rice is cooked and left to cool in a ‘tapan’ or any flat utensils. For every five kilograms of glutinous rice you will need five kilograms of round ‘ragi’ (yeast) and five pieces of thin slice ragi (round ragi for bitterness, slice ragi for sweetness). The yeast are pounded into powder and mixed with the rice after it has cooled. This mixture is then left to ferment in any clean container (jar) for a week or so. Cool, boiled water plus sugar is added to this mixture (10 kg sugar for 20 liters of water) . Depending on your taste, your tuak is now ready but the longer you keep it, the more potent it will be. Gawai Dayak would be less meaningful without the tuak. The tuak is a must, just like turkey is a must for Christmas. Bottoms up!

On Gawai Dayak, it is a ritual to give offerings to the dead through the miring ceremony, an elaborate and often colourful and noisy ceremony performed to appease the gods and the spirits and to ask for prosperity, good health and other blessings from them. The ceremony is performed by passing a live chicken above the food and drink, or other offerings, in a circular motion several times.

Gawai Dayak, particularly at the longhouses, is an unparalleled example of unity and harmony in the country. The longhouse folks welcome with open arms all guests irrespective of race, gender or religion. A visit to a Dayak longhouse during Gawai Dayak is a real eye-opener. The longhouse folks bring out their gongs and drums. Many of them wear hand-woven costumes lavishly decorated with antique beads and silver. Ladies and men in traditional costume perform ngajat which is a simple, rhythmic, strutting shuffle danced in rhythm to the beats of the gongs and drums. Visitors to the longhouses are often invited to join in.

A Dayak girl dancing

An Iban man performing the ngajat

A longhouse usually has dozens of families living in it so you will be invited to visit all the families. Be warned….if you cannot handle too much alcohol, you may end up very drunk as you will be served tuak by every family that you visit.

To all my Dayak friends, I wish you all Selamat Gawai Dayak……Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai!

Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai

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We had breakfast yesterday at Face To Face Noodles House in Boulevard Commercial Centre. Face To Face is a West Malaysian franchise.

Face To Face Noodles House at Boulevard Commercial Center

I ordered Fried Pan Mee Mamak ‘s Style with a cup of “Kopi O” while my wife tried Creations Minced Pork Pan Mee with her usual “Tea O”. My son Les opt for their House Specialty Hot & Spicy Pan Mee (dry) and a cup of Milo.

Fried Pan Mee Mamak's Style....looks like char kway teow

Minced meat pan mee with the usual ikan bilis and cangkut manis

House specialty......hot & spicy pan mee

House specialty......hot & spicy pan mee

There were not many customers so we got served quite fast. Want our verdict? Well, we all find the pan mee not bad but nothing to shout about. I was hoping that it would be something really nice so I must say I am a little bit disappointed. However if you are looking for something for a change when you get tired of the usual kolomee or laksa, do head down to Face To Face. Just for your info, our bill came to a reasonable RM16.40.

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The spirit of the King of Pop appears to live on in a 4-year-old Chinese boy, who is fast becoming an international dance sensation.

Wang Yiming Aka Siao Pao.....China's Michael Jackson

Wang Yiming, aka Xiao Bao or “little treasure,” has already been making waves across the world with his dance moves, appearing on U.S. television show “Ellen” and performing at the World Expo 2010.

A favorite of Chinese media, Xiao Bao draws curious crowds whenever he breaks into a dance routine, which his mother Bian Aiqing says happens almost every time he hears music.

“When he was young, we just started playing music to him and he started moving around like this. But we didn’t think that he had such a strong feeling for music,” Bian said.

“When he was just a couple of months old we would let him listen to music and he would immediately stop crying and calm down,” she told Reuters Television.

Xiao Bao was born prematurely and very frail. “The doctor told me they couldn’t guarantee anything,” his mother Aiqing says. “It would be a miracle if Xiao Bao survived.”

The doctors told his parents that the best way to help his frail body recover physically and catch up with his peers would be to move his limbs to music. His parents were surprised by how quickly and passionately he took to the rhythm.

Dancing since he was two years old, he has now mastered the moonwalk and other signature Jackson moves, performing them to hits such as “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Dangerous.”

Before long, his passion turned into an obsession – his parents spend up to 20,000 yuan ($3,000) a month on dance trainers, choreographers, and tailored suits, shirts, and hats.

Xiao Bao is serious about his dancing career and says he would not mind becoming famous one day. But his parents say that no matter how talented their son is, his schooling will be their priority.

While checking out the sights on Hollywood Boulevard, he saw someone dancing on the street and just had to join in — and impressed the crowds!

On a recent CNN interview, when asked who was his favorite singer, Yiming said in his limited English, “My-co Jay-ke-sun!”. Then he collapsed into a fit of giggles. He is just like any other four-year old, incredibly cute, giggly and overwhelmingly energetic.

Wang Yiming (aka Siao Pao) with his parents

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Irene and her husband are new friends that I got to know recently as a result of an interesting job vacancy advertised by Irene.  She and her husband are the owners of Glorious Hair & Beauty Supplies situated on the second floor of Bintang Megamall. If you need any hair accessories & equipment, beauty & cosmetic products or nail art accessories, head down to their store….they have an interesting range of products.

I was at their shop at Bintang Megamall yesterday afternoon when two beautiful Caucasian ladies walked into the shop.  I immediately thought they must be contestants in the just-concluded Miss Tourism Intercontinental 2010. They shopped for a while and as they were about to leave the shop after paying for their purchases, I plucked up the courage to ask them if they were contestants in the beauty pageant. They spoke very limited English but one of them replied that she is Miss Azerbaijan. Her friend did not respond and walked out of the shop. I quickly asked Miss Azerbaijan’s permission to take a photo of her. She very sportingly agreed and struck up this pose for me.

Miss Azerbaijan...isn't she sporting?

It was almost 5.30 pm when I left Bintang Megamall with my wife. We decided to try out the new Hong Kong themed Food & Tea Restaurant at Boulevard Commercial Centre. The interior of the restaurant is a bit crammed but they have a lot of tables on the five foot pathway outside the restaurant. The place was packed as it just opened for business a couple of days ago.

Food & Tea Restaurant

A view of the restaurant

Part of the deco inside the restaurant

I ordered Shanghai style vegetable rice with roasted honey spare ribs and “Ying Yong in Hong Kong” drink while my wife ordered cheese baked rice with chicken chop and lemon green tea. This is how the dishes we ordered look like in the menu.

Shanghai style vegetable rice with roasted honey spare ribs

Cheese baked rice with chicken chop

My order came first. I forgot to take a photo of the dish before eating so I do not have a photo to show here. When my wife’s order arrived, I quickly took a photo of it and this is how it looked like.

Cheese baked rice with chicken chop

I found my honey roasted spare ribs a tad too sweet for my liking and my wife did not like the taste of the chicken chop at all. The drinks were also rather ordinary. Not a satisfying meal, that is my comment. The bill came to RM35.30.

The restaurant menu boasts of  over 200 choices so you may find something that is to your liking. Go try it out!

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Two days ago a good friend of mine passed me a few tickets for last night’s Michael Jackson Impersonator Show at the Eastwood Valley Golf & Country Club’s Music Corridor. The show is part of Miri May Fest in celebration of Miri’s fifth anniversary as a city. I went for the show last night with my wife and Edward Chieng, a nephew of ours.

There was a massive crowd at the hotel and there were a lot of security personnel stationed everywhere.  I guessed there must be some VIP coming and my guess was later proven to be correct.

I am not too impressed with the performances of the Michael Jackson impersonators. None of the performances came  anywhere close to what the late MJ was capable of doing. I guess I have too high expectation with all the publicity surrounding the show.

Stage backdrop for the show

One of the impersonators

A group of three impersonators

Another impersonator showing his MJ moves

Ohhhh...don't touch that!

Another MJ move

The gloved one

I guess groping the crotch seems to be a popular MJ dance routine

The champion impersonator

The champion receiving the champion trophy

After the performances, the MC announced the arrival of the Chief Minister of Sarawak, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud. No wonder there were so many security personnel everywhere! The CM arrived with lots of VIPS in tow, including the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Dr George Chan, the Malaysian Minister of  Energy, Green Technology & Water, Dato Sri Peter Chin and lots of local dignitaries.

The speeches started. It was hot and humid and I was sweating a lot. Reizo Zen was scheduled to perform after all the speeches by various VIPs. I would have loved to watch Reizo Zen perform but we did not want to sit through all the speeches by the VIPs so we left.

Reizo Zen.....the official Malaysia Michael Jackson impersonator

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Myriam Janeth Abreu Medfina, representing Venezuela, was crowned Miss Tourism Intercontinental 2010 last night by Sarawak’s Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan at the Miri Indoor Stadium.

Miss Venezuela Wins The Title of Miss Tourism Intercontinental 2010

Miss Venezuela Wins

First runner-up was Miss Australia, Kelly Louise Maguire. Miss America, Amy Diaz, was the second runner-up. Congratulations to the winners!

Winners of the Miss Tourism Intercontinental 2010

Miss Malaysia, Darcia Marselynna, won the subsidiary title of “Miss Congeniality”. The “Best Talent” title went to Miss Germany, Klaudia Domagalska. Miss Netherlands, Djamila Celina Mercherts, won the “Best National Costume” title.  Miss Mexico, Leslie Ines Quezada Bueno, took home the “Best Evening Gown” title.

Below are photos of 30 of the contestants taken during their stint at Grand Palace Hotel a few days ago. All the photos in this blog post are by the courtesy of Chris Gan of Grand Palace Hotel Miri. Thanks, Chris!

Miss Australia

Miss Azerbaijan

Miss Belarus

Miss Brazil

Miss China

Miss Estonia

Miss Ethiopia

Miss Germany

Miss Hong Kong

Miss India

Miss Japan

Miss Kyrghyzstan

Miss Latvia

Miss Lebanon

Miss Macau

Miss Malaysia

Miss Mexico

Miss Netherlands

Miss New Zealand

Miss Pakistan

Miss Russia

Miss Singapore

Miss South Africa

Miss South Korea

Miss Taiwan

Miss Thailand

Miss Tunisia

Miss Ukraine

Miss USA

Miss Venezuela...she really exudes confidence!

Chris Gan With Some of the Contestants

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The Miss Tourism Intercontinental 2010 Finale will be held at the Miri Indoor Stadium tonight. The pageant is organized by Alaric Productions which is owned by Malaysian Alaric Soh. It is being held in Miri in conjunction with Miri’s fifth anniversary as a city.

Miri Indoor Stadium

Thirty three finalists are vying for the title. These thirty three finalists are from Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brazil, China, Estonia, Ethiopia,  Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Kyrghyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, USA and Venezuela.

The beauty pageant has stirred up controversy in Taiwan. Amanda Chen Pei Ying, representing Taiwan, has sparked a war of words between two Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators in Taiwan after photos showed her wearing a “Miss Taiwan China” sash.

Miss Taiwan Amanda Chen(photo courtesy of Chris Gan)

DPP Legislator Chen Yin said that the organizers undermined Taiwan’s sovereignty and that Amanda Chen “had problems recognizing her own country.”

Speaking to the Liberty Times, Amanda Chen denied that the sash was a big issue for her and said that she did not see the need to ask organizers to change the wording. “China is very friendly toward me, so the sash doesn’t need to be changed,” the newspaper quoted Amanda Chen, who reportedly works in China, as saying.

However, in a turn of events that left the DPP lawmaker red-faced, it was later revealed that Amanda Chen is connected with DPP Legislator Yu Tien through his son Yu Hsiang-chuan, who is Amanda Chen’s boyfriend.

The Chinese-language website NOWnews quoted Yu Tien criticizing Chen Ying yesterday afternoon, saying that her comments crossed the line and that she should instead empathize with the contestant.

“What kind of bullshit is she saying? What does she mean by problems recognizing her own country?” Yu Tien was quoted as saying. “Chen Ying has no right criticizing my son’s girlfriend.”

“She has no choice, being out there alone. Instead, what has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs done for her? I think that the problem lies with Taiwan’s government,” Yu Tien said.

Another snag that hit the pageant was the absence of Vietnam’s Kim Dung . Kin Dung was supposed to take part but she was not granted licence to participate because she has not won any titles in national beauty contests. She therefore did not meet Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism’s standard to represent Vietnam in international beauty pageants. Kim Dung was the Bronze Cup winner at the Vietnam Supermodel 2009 contest which means she can compete in international model competitions but not beauty pageants.

Vietnam's Kim Dung

Malaysia is represented by student Darcia Marselynna, 20, from Miri. She was the first runner up in Miss Borneo Beautiful 2009 and is of Malay and Chinese parentage.

The contestants have varied backgrounds and include students, models, beauty therapists, environmental spokesperson, lecturer, TV host, general manager, tour guide, actress and cabin crew.

The tallest among the contestants is Pakistan’s Asma Waheed. Aged 24, she is 180 cm tall and weighs 65 kg and her hobby is car racing.

The shortest is 21-year old Ane Coertze, a beauty therapist from South Africa who stands at 162 cm and weighs 50 kg and lists scuba diving as her hobby.

The youngest is Panama’s Maria Alejandra Tejada, 18, a student of social communication and whose hobby is reading. Her height is 176 cm.

Who will win the coveted title of Miss Tourism Intercontinental 2010 tonight? Check out my blog post tomorrow!

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Kids nowadays are really amazing.  They can be so astounding with their skills that they put us adults to shame. To all the kids in this world, I dedicate the following poem by Mel Vincent Basconcillo:

CHILDREN ARE AMAZING

Laughter echo through the skies,
- children are amazing
So young and so innocent
- children are amazing
Care free yet compassionate and kind
- children are amazing
From birth to walking and finally speaking ”Dada”
- children are amazing
Enthusiastic at day, pristine at night
- children are amazing
Naive and curious, motivated to learn
- children are amazing
Heaven sent, God’s little miracles
- children are amazing
Working young, carrying sacks heavier than them
- children are amazing
Selfless, working for their families
- children are amazing
Naked in the streets, asking for money to eat
- children are amazing
Dreams to nightmares, hearts strengthened in mud
- children are amazing
Staying resilient through adversity and poverty,
That is truly AMAZING!

A lot of you have probably watched this performance by a three-year old boy in Malaysia. If you watch his facial expression as he plays the drum, your face will light up with a smile.  I thoroughly enjoy watching this video and I have watched it many times.  Watch him play “I Hate Myself For Loving You” by Joan Jett & The Blackheart. Simply amazing!

Then there is this 7-year old Lee Shuan Hern who is creating waves on Australia’s Got Talent 2010 with his piano performance of “Flight of the Bumblebee”.  This little boy has also performed to help raise funds for Princess Margaret Hospital in Western Australia and for Red Cross. What a kid! Enjoy his performance. Simply amazing!

My best friend in Brunei is Ken Cho. His 14-year old son Sam took up piano lessons about 16 months ago and has progressed through the various piano grades at amazing speed. Sam performed at many high-profile charity functions in Brunei. Not only is he a great piano player but he also excels academically. He has skipped two grades at the international school where he is studying. By the time he completes Grade 12 , he will only be 15. He is a contestant on Brunei’s Who’s Got Talent Contest. I wish him the best of luck. You can find out more about him by visiting his blog at samcho.net. The following video is the Chopin piece that he chose to play for the Brunei’s Who’s Got Talent contest. Amazing kid!

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Sibu voters have spoken loud and clear. The REAL Kampua Power has successfully launched the Rocket in Sibu!

View of the Rejang River express wharves in Sibu

In  the most hotly-contested by-election Sarawak has ever witnessed, DAP trounced the BN despite the immense and seemingly-impossible odds stacked against them. DAP’s Richard Wong Ho Leng has become the new MP for Sibu!

The BN chose Sibu’s signature Foochow kampua mee dish to try to convey its message to protect its five term-held Sibu fort. A huge billboard erected by the SUPP camp at the Brooke roundabout in Sibu shows a picture of the noodle dish with a little caption in Chinese characters that seek to convey the message that kampua mee will not taste the same if its recipe is changed. Vote for BN to retain its orginal flavour.

BN was hoping to instil fear in the Chinese by saying that a vote the DAP is a vote for PAS and a vote for an Islamic state. This means no pork meat in Kampua noodles!

DAP's Richard Wong Ho Leng savouring kampua mee with his family

Sibu’s Chinese voters responded.  Oh yes, they responded in anger. They showed the BN that kampua mee is, and always will be, their signature dish…..they know that no one can change that. According to statistics reported in a Chinese daily today, about 70% of the Chinese votes cast went to DAP.

The people of Sibu has shown BN the meaning of people power. The REAL Kampua Power has triumphed!

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A 12-year old boy’s sixth grade festival performance has become so blistering viral that it has achieved almost 10 million YouTube views in just a fortnight.  Meet Greyson Michael Chance.

Greyson performed Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” for his school’s sixth grade festival and posted his performance on YouTube. The blogosphere went wild and Greyson became an instant sensation.

Greyson’s family got a call from Ellen DeGeneres who flew them out to Los Angeles for a spot on her show. DeGeneres set up the surprise by asking Greyson why he admires Gaga. “She’s probably my No. 1 inspiration because I love how she’s so different,” Greyson said. “She takes her individuality, and she takes the amazing talent that she has and she makes just great songs that are catchy and they make you want to dance and maybe throw out some Ellen moves.”

“Well, we have somebody on the line right now,” Ellen said. “Hi, Greyson!” Gaga exclaimed, as Greyson took in the surprise. “Hi, Miss Gaga!” he replied. Gaga offered a few words of advice for the 12-year-old: “Everyone loves you so much, so keep following your dreams and work really hard, and stay away from girls, and be focused.”

“Don’t be nervous today,” she added. “You already won over everybody’s hearts

Greyson Chance with Ellen on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show"

Pop Sensation Lady Gaga

On his YouTube profile, Greyson posts that “Lady Gaga is a freak but she has so much talent and her style of music is what I would like mine to be when I grow older.” He has also posted his performances of “Stars” and “Broken Hearts” on YouTube. “Broken Hearts” is one of his original songs. The young prodigy plays the piano like a young maestro and is inspired by the band Augustana.

Greyson can be found on YouTube under the profile name “greyson97”. He joined YouTube in April 2010 and was ranked as #1 for the most subscribed-to member for the month on YouTube.

What makes Greyson Chance stand out from the crowd is his emotion as he performs. He appears to “feel” the music. He performs songs that would typically be more appropriate for someone much older. This is definitely a soon-to-be megastar. Remember his name again….Greyson Michael Chance. You will be hearing a lot about him in the coming months!

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