We all love the tranquility, cool weather and epic landscape of Cameron highlands! But...after two weeks of not moving around, we all got really restless. I guess that is why we are living this Grand Tour as our lifestyle!
If you know anything about the roads in Cameron Highlands, there are two ways into and out of the area. The road from Tapah was the original road the British built between 1926 and 1930. Opened in 1931, this road is EXTREMELY windy. If you are susceptible to carsickness/motion sickness, this will be hell for you.
The road surfaces are very very bad on this route. The potholes are just patched over again and again until you have some sort of a patch work blanket that is as rough as the moon's surface. One lane for each direction and trucks heading up can crawl as slow as 10km/h if they are very heavily loaded. Throw in a heavy downpour and fog, this road can get pretty dangerous.
The terrain is so challenging, we can imagine how hard it would be to get large machinery to properly repave the roads. Thankfully a new road was constructed to enter Cameron Highlands from the northern side. Simlang Pulai exit is about 40km further up the North-South highway from Tapah exit if you are coming from KL or Singapore. But let me tell you, it is WAY BETTER to travel slightly longer on this route. You still get windy roads but the turns are a lot less acute and the road surface is a lot smoother. There are several sections with overtaking lanes for safe overtaking instead of having to drive in the opposite lanes when you encounter crawling trucks.
And so we took off from Cameron Highlands and drove towards Penang on a day trip. 500km return trip. The kids slept and enjoyed the long drive. There is just something so calming about driving long distances and I love it!
We planned to visit the Penang Hill and ride the funicular but upon arriving, IT WAS CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE?! GOOGLE MAPS WASN'T UPDATED!!!! What else do you do in Penang? EAT!
We decide to enjoy some famous Dim Sum at Tai Tong Restaurant! (Non-Halal)
Here are some details:
Address: 45, Lebuh Cintra, George Town, 10100 George Town, Pulau Pinang
Opens Tuesday to Sundays from 630am to 2pm AND 6pm to 10pm.
They are closed on Mondays and everyday between 2pm to 6pm so do take note!
I just love these restaurants in old shop houses. The charm is in their focus on just making and selling delicious food. No fuss and fancy decor involved.
When you get there, find yourself a table and the staff will give you a restaurant menu and two ordering cards. One card is for the restaurant menu and the other is for Dim Sum. Don't be silly like us. We sat there confused and wondering where in the world is the Dim Sum menu?! There is none!
This is how you get your Dim Sum:
1. Walk towards the staff on the left (Refer to picture above). She has stacks and stacks of steamed dim sum on her trolley. Ask her what there is, and tell her what you want. She will mark on the dim sum card what you've ordered and pass you the dishes.
2. See the big sign in the middle? That's the second station where you get other fried dim sum or larger dishes like Chee Cheong Fun and Lo Mai Gai and Baos. Tell the staff what you want and she'll mark your card and pass you the dishes.
3. You'll grab the dishes and bring it back to your table. Only things on the restaurant menu and tea/drinks are served to your table.
4. Pay at the counter with both your marked cards once you're done eating.
This meal alone was worth the 500km of driving.
Debra and I were commenting on how this is better than Swee Choon in Singapore. What are your thoughts? Well, the bill was definitely better in terms of value. We paid only RM80++. We spent the evening walking off the calories at a mall. It reminded us a little bit of Melaka because many shop spaces remained empty. The effects of the pandemic are still profoundly felt.
We took the ride back in darkness and climbed 5000ft back to Cameron Highlands via the Simpang Pulai route which meant we made good progress quickly. We miss the dim sum already...
This little short trip still reminded us of how much the city has to offer. Perhaps this will influence our decision on where else to go to on our Grand Tour....
Dream big, live simply, laugh often and love a lot!
That's what we've been doing on this Grand Tour. We've been driving across the states of Johor, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Perak, Pahang, Penang and Kedah, soaking in the sights, food and culture. You can read our entire Malaysia series here!
We've been dreaming big! I've decided I would like to co-author a book, do up photography, video content of road trip through North and South Island New Zealand in a camper van in honour of my dad. I know he would have loved it so much to go on a trip like that. It is more than travelling on his behalf, it is making that last thing we shared come to life.
I've sat with my dad on countless occasions along hospital corridors, in the clinics and by his bed side for hours in the two years he battled the cancer. Those times gave me an insight I never had of my old man. I still remember the day he showed me the channels he subscribed to on Youtube vividly. We sat waiting for his number to be called in the Haematology Department at Singapore General Hospital. He whipped out his iPad as usual and went: "I'm watching this ang moh build their own container house". It was the "Life uncontained" channel on Youtube! I've never seen him so excited! Mind you, he had a rare blood cancer that sucked the life out of him. We would discuss the progress of the renovation every week and when they missed a scheduled upload, we'd comment about it. It was something special between us! I still watch it weekly. I wish he was here to see the completed house.
After showing me the "Life uncontained" stuff, he went on to say "You see this van, they can cook, got toilet and he drive all over and travel". I was in absolute shock because I WATCH VAN LIFE VIDEOS TOO!? and I'm also crazy about living out in the nature and HGTV/renovations. His eyes sparkled and I could tell he was so excited about it. We watched several episodes from the Chinese van life channel. He would occasionally say "How good can travel everywhere and do this...Singapore don't allow, they should allow this". New Zealand was also the last place we planned to go as a whole family just before the pandemic hit. My heart aches as I'm writing about this now.
(I did New Zealand for my honeymoon and you can read about it here!)
I'm so glad we've come up with a meaningful way to memorialise my dad. We miss him terribly. The only issue is....we can't make the trip. Airfares alone are $8000-$9000 for all of us. Camper rental would cost another $6000 for a month. That's not including camp sites, fuel, food and attraction costs. We estimate that a trip for a month to properly cover the North and South Island would cost more than $20,000 cash. It didn't cost this much pre-pandemic! The costs have doubled!
We are determined to make this work and at the same time we would love to continue travelling long-term. We've come up with a series of products that we are excited to launch very soon. We hope to get your strong support so that we could make this plan work in the near future! If you'd like to support our dreams, we welcome sponsorships, advertising or even donations. Click the red button and we are happy to chat about it!
We've been living simply and enjoying the simple pleasures of life: Food! There is where I made the MISTAKE THAT ALMOST KILLED ME. It was a regular evening, we were happy to visit a cafe near our apartment to enjoy a good meal after a good day of homeschool and content creation. I was excited to see a delicious chicken burger picture on the menu....
Chicken burger and a golden ring on top. What would you assume it is? An onion ring right?! Lo and behold, I put the WHOLE THING into my mouth and it tasted nothing like an onion ring. It was a calamari! I spat it out immediately but it was too late.
I’m dangerously allergic to calamari/squid/shellfish/Molluscs.
I experienced TWO episodes of anaphylaxis over the years after I ate steamboat and fried food contaminated with squid/shellfish. Had swelling all over, couldn't breathe properly, very very high heart rate + crash after that and had a whole body of rash. Ended in emergency to get jabs that didn’t help much. Each time it took two weeks of medical leave to recover from it.
Debra was immediately alarmed, she witnessed it first hand the previous time it happened. (Sorry I scared the crap out of you!)
I drank my coffee and assumed it would wash it down fine. After all, I didn't swallow the calamari. I only felt a little tired which I assumed was normal post-meal tiredness. We went to the supermarket to get some groceries and that was when the serious reaction started.
The little tiredness became extreme exhaustion and I gradually felt more and more confused + brain fog. I stood in the supermarket thinking "buy toilet paper" and I did walk to the aisle. When I arrived at the row, I stood there staring at the toilet paper in a daze. I completely forgot where I was and why I was there. My body was reacting to the "toxins" and I think my blood pressure fell. We managed to get back safely and I collapsed in bed. I slept/concussed for an entire 12 hours. Thank God I'm okay now!
I'm a little ashamed because I tell my students this all the time! READ, DON'T ASSUME! But I did exactly that and it almost killed me. It is so important for people will allergies to READ, ASK and CONFIRM that they aren't any allergens in food they purchase outside of home. It is a matter of life and death. You don't always come back from an episode like that.
I woke up a few hours after collapsing in bed to this magnificent night sky. I grabbed the Leica with whatever energy I had and snapped these shots. Living simply took on a whole new meaning. This sky reminded how I first fell in love with photography. It showed me how small I was and I was in a place that made me feel so alive.
Laugh often and love a lot
Travelling slowly has given us so much time to look beyond the shopping and attractions. It has given me time to look beyond our homeschool schedule or work demands. It has given me more time to enjoy our children. It has dawned upon me that every day that passes is one less day I can put them to bed and kiss them goodnight. It is one day less I could tickle their tummies and have a little monkey on my back.
I found this post on Instagram and it is like that life-saving model you drew for your problem sums that enlightened you!
It is wise to number our days and understand we don't have a lot of time left. It could be a blood cancer or just a calamari ring.
Dream big, live simply, laugh often and love a lot!
p.s: Updates from our whirlwind drive to Penang for finger licking good Dim sum coming this Thursday!
It always scares me when I see ads on the newspapers promoting package tours that list 4 to 6 European cities for a 10 to 12 day trip. You'll spend an entire day on the plane and another day jet-lagging while they drag you across more than 1000kms in the coach. I'm not sure if that's a $5000 holiday or paid torture.
Here are 4 reasons why you should travel slowly!
1. Travelling slowly helps you relax (and maybe make a baby :p)
Have you ever got back from a vacation and wished you had another to catch up on rest? We've been there and we hated it. Packing less in a day helps you enjoy the lull moments sitting by the pool or taking a stroll around a picturesque nature reserve. It helps us unwind from the stresses of having to meet schedules and answer millions of emails right from the time we wake up. It is a great opportunity to not set an alarm for the morning! It gives you the opportunity to spend quality time with your loved ones and come back feeling recharged!
I'm not joking about the baby part! We all know someone who is stressed out with trying to conceive. After years of not being able to conceive in the midst of their hectic stressful lives, BOOM! A good slow relaxing trip and congratulations! They are pregnant! We can attest this worked for us!
I cannot emphasise what wonders this slow trip has done for our mental health as a family. We can focus better when we need to. We have that bandwidth to write blogs, take photographs, write a book, draw and design! The kids are more willing to do their school work, focus on reading and enjoy countless hours of open ended play.
2. Travelling slowly saves you $$$
Long stays on Airbnb are almost always cheaper. You also can ask for better rates when you stay longer with a hotel too! Less commuting = less costs! You save time and energy packing and unpacking again and again.
Settling longer in a place also means we are more willing to cook/make simple meals, make our own cup of tea and coffee. Instead of eating at touristy places, we use Google Maps and look for great local reviews for awesome food. We've been able to find many food options throughout our trip that cost between 50 to 70RM (About S$15.80 to S$22) for the entire family.
3. Travelling slowly allows you to find hidden gems!
Travelling deeply and slowly, you get to fully immerse yourself and enjoy a place. That's exactly what we've been doing! We found places other explorers mark as "Great View" on google maps in Cameron Highlands and roamed the around on foot to find our favourite satay man in Tana Rata. He sold a satay for 1RM and cooked them over coal... (See pictures in this post)
Because we get to spend more time at a place, we tend to go exploring the area beyond what the travel guides point us to. We go beyond what Google Maps recommends! That was also how we found these eateries when we explored Ipoh...
4. Travelling slowly gives you unexpected adventures
(my favourite reason for travelling slowly!)
We've seen most of the places we could in Cameron Highlands and decided to explore the surrounding areas in Perak (Ipoh). Mossy forest and Parit falls in Cameron Highlands were closed when we wanted to access them because of landslide and maintenance.
I chanced upon this cave on google maps while looking at the terrain layer. (Please try this, it is most amusing for those who enjoy seeing 3D maps!). The interesting "T" shape caught my eye and you won't believe what we found....
Next time you travel, try travelling slowly! Hope you'll find it as rewarding as us!
If you've found other amazing food, scenery or relaxing places around Malaysia, please share them with us!
Click the red chat button or any of these social icons and we'd love to connect!
P.S, We just got on the TikTok bandwagon! Follow us here
Thanks for following along our Grand Tour of Malaysia! We've done, Genting, Cameron Highlands and Melaka over the past 34 days! If you are curious as to why we've chosen to travel so slowly, you can read it here!
This blog post's inspiration came most dramatically on a starry starry night as I enjoyed the cool 18 celcius night breeze with several bugs as company in the balcony. Cameron Highlands rarely has clear skies at night. That special night, the clouds cleared, the massive full moon shone and the stars appeared. I sat there in awe of that indescribable beauty. Most unexpectedly....
A shooting star suddenly cut across the night sky
I made a wish. I wished that our Grand Tour will never come to an end. I wished that we would be able to make travelling our way of life. I wished that I could live out my dad's last words.
I know of so many people who would have these thoughts...
Why?! Of all dreams, you dream to live a life on the road?
Why not dream of owning an expensive property on prime land or an expensive car?
Gold? silver? stocks and bonds?
Why won't you choose stability for your family? Why can't you be like everyone else?
I did. I chose the Singaporean way of life back then. I studied hard for 16-17 years and had a career I loved. The stress of raising a young family and growing a small business had a significant impact. For many years, my health was poor and my mental health was dismal.
I lived vicariously (& precariously) through others and their dreams. I watched countless films, followed many YouTubers and read blogs. But these people inspired me! Their hopes and dreams showed me that there was something more. These 3 teams/people were the MOST impactful:
1. Tim Slessor and team (1955) The First Overland from London to Singapore in two Land Rovers. Back in 1955, you don't have highways and the first generation Land Rovers were far less comfortable than a regular hatchback today. That spirit of adventure gets me SO excited. This trip also inspired the Last Overland. The dream of making a similar trip consumes me!
2. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. Two men on their motorcycles riding 3 epic journeys. (Long way down, Long way round, Long way up) I have special respect for people who take journeys on two wheels. You are exposed to the relentless elements and the terrain is very often unkind to bikes. The camaraderie, the open minds and the tenacity in these guys inspire me the most.
3. 7 years ago while I slipped down this rabbit hole, I found out about Juvena Huang, a Singaporean lady who rode to Europe from Singapore on her old Vespa, ALONE! A regular person with a big dream, she has given me so much inspiration and courage to overcome our fears of the unknown.
On a stormy night in December 2021, daddy breathed his last in the ICU. Just a week before that he sent his last WhatsApp message to us...
“尽量享受人生，感恩。” (Enjoy life as much as possible, be grateful)
I spent many nights thinking about my life. Am I really living my life like I'm enjoying it? Did he say those words from the hospital bed tinged with regret?
I still feel an immense guilt that we couldn't make a last trip together. The pandemic didn't let us have our way.
We walk through the tea plantations and talk about how daddy would have loved it. He would have had so much fun filming on his video camera! We have scones, cakes, coffee and tea thinking about daddy’s smile if he were having it with us. We walk through the Parksons emporium and thinking about how happy he would be shopping there.
We travel in honour of a man who worked 40 years of his life, always loved his family tremendously and didn't spare any expense taking us across the world on amazing trips. He infected us with this love for the journey and travel.
To be brutally honest, we cannot afford any of the trips taken by the 3 inspiring people/teams mentioned above. Looking at the airfares, accommodation and transport costs scare me. We are cracking our brains on how and where we should go next.
We are working hard on new merchandise on our store, remodelling it so we can work remotely from anywhere.
We are working on our story-telling, photography, art so we can create value and perhaps raise the funds we need for a life changing journey.
Help fuel our journeys! As we go on this journey, we hope you can be there for us and support us!
Help share our posts, like them if you enjoyed reading it!
Drop us a comment or a word of encouragement (we need lots of it!).
Link us up with sponsors or other inspiring people who can give us a boost in this journey.
We are in the midst of creating content of our journeys through Ipoh, caves and also visiting some gentle giants. Stay tuned for Thursday's and next week's editions!
This is our story, this is our Grand Tour.
What's yours? What inspires you to travel?
After a month on the road, travelling across 6 states and 2500kms later, we asked ourselves....
“where do we go from here?”
“Is this the end?"
After a disastrous AND delicious time in Melaka, it really felt like the end of the road for us because we had to return to Singapore. The Singapore government had announced that even those with a recorded previous covid-19 infection had to take their booster jab to maintain their vaccination status and so I had no choice but to get it. It was unpleasant to say the least and it took me out for two days…
We sat down with the kids and weighed our options before taking the journey down south.
Dead asleep and I couldn't wake them up!
The immigration officer was kind enough to come out and look at their faces.
If you remember from Part 1 we spoke about why we took this trip. Grieving is a process and we are still in the process of processing our pain and loss. We are very grateful that this trip has given us time to rest and reflect. We’ve come to these 3 conclusions that will shape our lives and the road ahead.
1. Less is now more
Experiencing a death of a loved one was a rude shock to how short life is. Yet, many of us spend the majority of our time focusing on things that in the grand scheme of things, matter very little. We have learnt that when we say no and do less, we can live more.
Furthermore, when we let go of things we don’t need, it gives us more time to focus on people, experiences and our surroundings. When we left for this Grand Tour, we basically packed our entire lives into a tiny hatchback (supermini class). That has taught us to let go of things we don’t need. Less is now more. We even went back to Singapore to drop off the things we didn’t need. Throughout the trip, we’ve realised how liberating it was to have only things we needed.
Shutting Hiro & Jack Co. for an entire month wasn’t an easy decision. But it has helped us rethink our business model and plot the days ahead. Restructuring the entire business that we’ve painstakingly built over 6 years is an even harder decision. We are learning to say no and do less. We are working on a smaller product range that best reflects less is now more.
4 of us + Gluten Free food supplies +
School materials + clothes and everything else in our little car.
2. Slow is now the flow
Slow is a healing and liberating way of living our lives. When we say slow, it doesn’t mean the opposite of fast. Neither does it literally mean slow.
Slow is living at a pace where we can live intentionally while making meaning and connection. Too much of our life is about “everyone else is doing this”, “I will lose out if I don’t do it” and “faster is better”. In this busyness, we’ve turned our relationships into transactions. Friends are just people who help fix your loneliness. Family is just there to provide for you. We’ve forgotten the joys of genuine connections. We’ve lost the ability to enjoy the flow of our daily lives. Fast has erased traditions and cultures and replaced it with convenience and more work.
It sounds very abstract but let me just illustrate this. We live in a society that gives children 30 minutes (or less) to queue and inhale their food + rest/play daily at recess time. Under Ministry of Manpower laws, meal breaks are supposed to be AT LEAST 45 minutes long. If we can do this for adults, why are children treated differently? Do children have no rights? I don't know why this is still acceptable in 2022.
I grew up in a family where we eat quickly and get on with our lives. It was not until later in life that my parents and I travelled Europe and we realised people made meals a very important time of making connections with other people. 2 hour meals were common and coffee breaks were part of life. I got to experience this in depth when I studied in the UK and I loved cooking and sharing a table with people. But these experiences are incompatible because our society is built upon faster, cheaper and better. We just cannot afford to savour the flow of our lives. We inhale our grab food orders at our own desks. Family meals are brief and functional.
Travelling helps us see life in a very different perspective. Travelling slowly allows us to live this perspective. In our “slow” Grand Tour, we’ve taken our time to eat and connect with the kids. We took time to enjoy visual aspects of our food, the smells and the textures of our food. We actually discussed how it felt eating our individual dishes!
I think mummies will all agree to this: once you have a kid, you'll forget how your food taste like.
Actually some can't even recall if they've eaten. SLOW has allowed mama to taste her food and smile again!
Matthias has learnt to appreciate the different textures.
He even picked out the curry leaf smells infused in the meat and asked if he could eat them.
More than just trying to survive, humans turn to food for enjoyment.
I've learnt to appreciate how dishes are plated! I've learnt how colours can turn on our appetites.
Gwyn tried truffle fries for the first time and she loved the aroma. She noticed that the grated cheese was twirly! How cute!
We need to reclaim our meal times! It is more than just trying to survive.
It is both a sensory and social experience we share with people we love.
Instead of rushing off, I thought reading the kids a story after our meal would be nice.
True enough, it felt so special!
We want to make slow the new way we flow. We want to reclaim our time, rest and freedom from the world that has taught us that they don’t belong to us.
3. The grand tour is now our life
We are making the Grand Tour a model for our lives. We do less, we live slow.
We love travelling but more than that, we would like to have deeper connections, understanding and authenticity in our relationships. We want to love ourselves and others.
We are definitely still working out how we can continue travelling, homeschooling, remaking Hiro & Jack, growing this blog and engaging our audience. It really isn't about gaining more wealth or becoming famous.
One thing for sure we know we want is to HAVE TIME to grow into the person WE WANT to be. The person we CHOOSE to be. According to Maslow, this is can be defined as Self-actualisation. It is the highest level of psychological development, where personal potential is fully realised. (Source: Wikipedia)
This means we will be growing our photography, writing, illustration, design and authoring skills through Hiro & Jack Co. We hope to produce content, stories and products that people connect with and enjoy.
So what are we up to now?
We are back in the highlands! The climate here is doing us tangible good. At 5000ft and a daily average of 19 celcius, we are at home. We are less irritable, feel a lot more relaxed and inspired! We will be spending the rest of the month here taking inspiration for more stories and a brand new product range. More than that we are taking more walks, cooking more/enjoying our food and connecting with each other.
If you would like to connect, share ideas, collaborate or work on a sponsorship, simply click on the red chat button or drop us an email at email@example.com anytime!
p.s: We are only blogging once this week but we will be posting daily stories, reels and launch our tiktok channel!
Stay tuned and follow us on Facebook & Instagram!
Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.
Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org