Pringles connoisseur

Posted on Tuesday, September 06, 2005

This week’s instalment is a relatively short one, thank god I hear a lot of you gasp in my imagination. It’s been a very low key weekend, which kinda frustrates me a bit, as I am getting quite bored hanging around in Brunei on the weekend. I should be off seeing the sights of Borneo and blah blah. Next weekend will probably be more of the same as I am sending off my passport for my Vietnam visa, and even though I’ve been told it should only take a week, I am not holding my breath.
As I mentioned in the past week, I was hoping to go diving off one of the offshore oil platforms this weekend. Unfortunately my cards haven’t arrived yet, but I am expecting them any time this week. Things seem to take about ten days to get here by post, and it’s only been eight so far.
I did manage to get into pretty regular contact with the Panaga dive club however, and as hoped they were fine with me going out with them to the platforms on Sunday. Of course I didn’t find this out until 4:30pm on the Friday. In other places that would not have been much of an issue, but everyone in Shell has shoofled off by 4pm, so I had no way of getting back to them to confirm. Again, if I had access to car this would not have been an issue, but seeing as the dive boat leaves at 7:15am, and I am staying a good 14kms from the boat club, fun ensues.
Saturday morning saw me riding a push bike to the boat club in order to work out how long it would take the next morning. The first half hour of the trip seemed pleasant enough, being mostly jungle suburbia. Another one of those interesting Brunei Shell peculiarities, the company housing is set between the sea and the main road between Seria and Kuala Belait. Each house has it’s own little pocket of cleared space within the jungle, connected by small roads that runs almost the whole distance to KB. The lack of cars competing with you for road space, and the occasional monkey jumping across the path make it a pleasant bike ride in the late afternoon. I would not recommend doing it in the middle of the day however, as the backs of my hands are still sporting rather embarrassing fluorescent red sunburn patches. I can not stress enough how gallons of sun screen and gloves are important when spending any time on a bike in the daylight.
Riding through KB is another scary lesson in it’s own. Where else in the world do you develop the personal mantra,
“Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me. Please don’t kill me!”
whilst being passed by car loads of teenage Muslims doing 130kmh+, listening to the mid-day prayer blasting out the radio? It truly is a moment of my life that shall live forever. Mostly at 3am in the morning when I wake up in a cold sweat.
By the time I got to the boat club the dive crew weren’t due to arrive back for another two hours, so the decision was made to tough it out at the boat club restraunt, overlooking the Belait river and impenetrable jungle on the opposite shore 300m away.
Part of my little personal quest I have allocated myself whilst here, is to find the ultimate rendang curry. Those of the Rocky crew who are part of the old cooking circle will have a bit of an idea what rendang tastes like, as I have cooked it for them on a couple of occasions. I must hang my head at this point and say, sorry guys, I was close but I still haven’t gotten it quite right yet. Those of you who are feeling brave however, will be pleased to know I have sourced a recipe of how to make it from scratch. Fun for your taste buds lay ahead. I just have to work out what veggies will go well with it as a side, because the authentic thing is quite thin on the greens.
The rendang at the boat club was OK, but more of your western stew with a rendangy twist to it. It needed a bit more coconut and time to reduce. I enjoyed it for what it was, but at $6.50 it was getting to the upmarket side of the scale. Seriously, I love how cheap food here is. If there was a hawkers market within easy access from my apartment, I would have already put on 20 kilos and still be saving money.
As I was enjoying my post prandial glow, reading a copy of the ‘Borneo Bulletin’, the prestigious local newspaper which has had such fantastic headlining stories such as “More second wives to avoid un-wed virgins” and “Toilet cleaner college for Singapore”, the dive boat pulled up early.
I had a nice chat with the team who had just finished a set of training dives, and gratefully arranged a lift to the boat club the next morning.
Cue a early Sunday morning boat ride to a distant oil platform, 35 nautical miles offshore. I went for an enjoyable little snorkel around the platform, and tried not to think about what the indistinguishable large shapes twenty meters below me were. Being short sighted, good diving visibility is wasted on me these days. Oh how I long for the days of my youth, before I needed glasses to see anything in detail beyond arms length. *sniff*
I hope you all enjoy the pictures this week, which include one of the random roundabout monuments. The teapot is a gift from Brunei Shell Petroleum to the Sultan of Brunei and his peoples. It’s supposed to represent the boundless wealth of Brunei pouring into the teacup. At night it even lights up and you can see the oil pouring from the pot – Except these days the electronics mechanism in charge of the neon light representing the stream of wealth is broken. I don’t know if that too is meant to be a metaphor for something, but combined with Singapore’s fountain of wealth, that is all dried up except for special occasions, this is not boding well for the region.
On a side note, I have just been watching the Motorcycle Diaries again. Bless legal piracy btw. I first saw this movie the day of my last performance with The Lanterns. I had a whole speech prepared in my head that night about how I saw this movie, about a young man, who at that point in his life was not so dissimilar from myself. We are both medical students, of a similar age, embarking on great journeys that were destined to change themselves forever. I don’t pretend to actually consider myself in the same league as Ernesto Guevara, but it is humbling to think that a great man who achieved great things could have evolved from a man very little different from myself, or any one of my colleagues. It gives pause for thought about what he may have achieved had he not been killed.
But instead I just said thank you to those who turned up, and said the rest with the help of the band.
OK, frivolous side thought moment.
I have discovered in myself, amongst other things, a sadomasochistic streak in me that revels in experimenting in junk food in all it’s various forms here in SE Asia. Part of my journey of gastronomic discovery, is that not all Pringles are created equally. In Singapore, I tried tomato salsa Pringles, manufactured in Indonesia. They were alright, in a 4 out of 10 kind of way.
In Sarawak, the day before going to Niah Caves I bought a tin of sour cream and chives Pringles in a Miri supermarket. Malaysian supermarkets are bizarre by the way, totally unlike any supermarket I have experienced back home, but I have let myself get side tracked enough already in this piece. These Pringles were also manufactured in Indonesia, but I figured I would be leaving too early to buy breakfast in the morning and a snack on the bus would not be such a bad idea. I should have known better by this point, but I persevered. On the plus side, after about five chips, I was done for Pringles for life it seemed. Under normal circumstances I would be ashamed of the actions that followed, but then, those people who have tried Indonesian Pringles would understand. I threw those little bowel clenchers out with over three quarters of the can left. Some things man was not meant to dabble in.
Recently however, I was awed to see American Pringles on sale at the Super Save for less than two Brunei dollars. For the sake of research I was willing to jump back into the fray and dabble in Pringles as originally intended. They were everything their Indonesian counterparts were not: Flavoursome in a not entirely toxic manner, with a flakiness that dissolved in your mouth on contact.
I’m still giving the gong however to the good ol’ home grown Aussie Pringle counterpart, which possesses just the right blend of flavour and crunch for my unrefined palate. We export them to the Middle East, so they can’t be all that bad.
Alright, that is it for now.
Until the next adventure, take care ;P
Grim-e-o out.


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