Mrs. Chan

Archive for the ‘Wandering Chans’ Category

heartbreaking fun of taking a crap

In Stevie Chan a.k.a YouTiup, Wandering Chans on August 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm
  photo by stevie

At a state-run commie hotel in Xinjiang, my sister had a bad breakfast and needed to use the toilet.

“May I have a roll of toilet tissue?”

“We don’t have it.”

“What do you mean you don’t have it?”

“We gave it to you yesterday.”

“But I need more now!”

“We don’t have it. You had your ration.”

“What the f#@k, you want me to use the bath towel?”

The housekeeper walked off.

Taking a shit in Xinjiang is always a difficult business; becoz toilets are very hard to come by.

apprehensions before the toilet photo by eloise

And when you finally found one, you’re likely to face the above problem.


But to tell you the truth, living without toilet rolls is nothing new to my family.

My grandfather built our first family home with his own hands and he was a really fine carpenter. The attap house had sliding wooden shutters, a double-leaf front door that pivoted on upside-down liquor bottles, and it had an attic where we kids loved to play in.

Fifty yards away, between the main adobe and our vegetable farm was the pigsty and the outhouse that shared a very large open cesspool of potential organic fertilizer.

Inside the outhouse were two wooden planks where you squat on and do your business, and to the side a bucketful of flat bamboo pieces measuring about 6 inches long and half an inch wide.

Those bamboo pieces were used for scrapping ourselves clean after crapping.

It’s more or less like shaving with a straight razor, if you’re still wondering how it was done.

What you really need to know is that you need to pucker up your anus properly; otherwise the chances of getting hurt in the ass are rather high.

And if you have external haemorrhoids….., then God bless you.

And so this method of cleaning up oneself with bamboo lasted for another couple of years after the local tuck shop started selling toilet rolls and we soon learned to wrap the bamboo sticks with toilet papers.

Toilet tissues were such novelty during those days we kids went to the outhouse in unnecessary high frequency.

Shitting was really quite a lot of fun back then.

STORY by Stevie Chan a.k.a YouTiup

XINJIANG: Life Is Sweet

In Wandering Chans on August 7, 2011 at 10:00 am

I was completely charmed.

Standing at the wooden box, his left hand steadily churning, while his right, holding a long, skinny bamboo stick, deftly picking up the nearly invisible ‘wool’ riding the hot air from a little cavity, and twirl it into a delicate cotton candy.

I have always thought  the cotton candy is a ‘modern’ invention, made by pushing a red button on a machine placed in amusement parks.



This artisan of sugar, like most Xinjiangers we have met on this trip, lives a life so basic he needs to work only 6 months in a year. “In the winter, I relax, and sip my baijiu,” he said.


It doesn’t matter how you eat it for that is secondary to the joy of seeing how it was made, literally out of thin air.


Margaux is so young she probably wouldn’t remember this artisanal cotton candy for too long. But that’s her privilege.


At 65, he has been doing this for the last 30 yrs. “I drink baijiu every day,” said the cotton-candy man, “it keeps me healthy, maybe you too, should do it.” I could only laugh, it was late, and I didn’t want to burden him with the long sad stories of my drinking problems.


I have a habit of imagining elderly persons as young boys or girls. I find it way too easy to forget that the olds were once young, and perhaps spunky, or perhaps naughty, or perhaps hungry.

But tonight, we met an old man who has no doubt that his life is beautiful, that his life is sweet.

STORY by Stevie Chan

3 cheers

In Apprentice Chef, Hakkamui Cooks, Wandering Chans on August 7, 2011 at 12:10 am

Agnes played host to the LevArt Xinjiang 2011 gang, a role she plays so effortlessly.


Although there are 11 of us in this silk road tour, we have to discount four Chan’s because we are in a family. The seven new found friends have very interesting personalities. There is ChiaChi, a lawyer working in Singapore ; Easy Yashashii who is pursuing her doctorate in Hong Kong; Yen, a savvy businesswoman in the rag trade; Karen who distributes UMW generators; WeiLing who is in architecture; Irene sells lorries and Eloise in logistics.

We clicked instantaneously, despite the big age gap, especially for Margaux. We were a little concerned if she would be overwhelmed by the taxing journey, heat and socialising with unknown travellers. All turned out well, except for her little trip to the hospital. Everyone adores her and she comfortably made new friends with a bunch of adults, a bunch of very beautiful people.

We picked August 6 for this post-Xinjiang gathering to suit all our busy schedules. A little sad that Yen and Easy aren’t able to join us due to distance and commitments. The Chan’s volunteered to host while Irene gladly accepted my invitation to be guest chef to share her recipe on Braised Pork Belly, a popular Hokkien dish.


Everyone traveled from various destinations in order to make this afternoon happen.


Agnes drove to Melaka to fetch Margaux who was spending her school holidays with our parents. ChiaChi happily came in from Singapore for this little do before she heads home to Penang. She is busy spending time with love ones before starting her class in Japan in a month or so. Karen flew in from Kuantan. (Beautiful shots by Irene Ngoh)


While Agnes was in the kitchen busy preparing us the Seafood Platter Baked in Sea Salt and Xinjiang Steamed Chicken Salad, our guests cheered themselves with our homemade Ribena Lemonade.


As the afternoon progressed, we ate a light Pao Paw Salad of raw papayas made by Pao, our Cambodian helping hand. It was great accompanied with samplings of Irene’s perfectly braised pork belly.

To celebrate, Stevie  made these lovely ladies each a gin tonic served with lime and mint leaves. Cheers!


Irene shared with us 2 bottles of Fleur de Cap’s prized Noble Late Harvest from South Africa. I particularly enjoyed this sweet wine that was such a great pair to the Seafood Platter Baked in Sea Salt. While the party began with plenty of yamsengs, Mrs. Chan went to prepare Pumpkin Sweet Soup and French Apple Cake for our guests. I was all tipsy and high. Cheers!


We had such great time together and talks of a trip to Japan popped up. I know Agnes is eager to organise this and I look forward to travelling with this bunch again. It will be great to visit ChiaChi there, and Margaux thinks it was a great idea.


pic by Irene Ngoh

One group photo for the album. Wished you were here, Yen and Easy.


In Wandering Chans on August 5, 2011 at 10:00 pm

“No rock so hard but that a little wave may beat admission in a thousand years”

- Lord Alfred Tennyson


Clean energy bursting, roaring loud and clear.


Despite the tiring flight, we so looked forward to put on our forbidden YELLOW TEES in support of our comrades back home. On this 9th July afternoon, the LEVART Xinjiang 2011 gang marched on 4688 kilometres from home in support of Bersih 2.0




Set against a backdrop of  Xinjiang’s wind farms along the Silk Route, we are determined to fight alongside fellow Malaysians to demand for electoral reforms.


These windmills look small in the pictures, but that’s deceptive. It takes a 22 wheeler truck to transport a single propeller fin, even then 20 feet of it will be sticking out from the truck.


Six years ago China could barely produce enough electricity for a city. Today, they have not only became the world’s second largest producer of renewable energy through wind turbines but are now exporting their technological know-how.

#BERSIH energy through winds of change, how an idea can come to it’s fullest potential!

CLEAN and renewable energy is the way to go!!


XINJIANG: Lunch at Ajehan’s

In Wandering Chans on August 4, 2011 at 8:52 am


We started the day at  Jiaohe, a 3,000-year old desert dwelling, then moved on to see historical relics and rhino fossils at the Turpan Musuem before making a stop at the Turpan Water Museum to understand Karez, the mind-boggling ancient underground irrigation system.

Upon emerging from the ancient karez, Agnes and I hurriedly bargained and bought some of the best raisins we’ve tasted. Xinjiang is famous for it’s grapes, today we have driven pass a 150km-length of vineyards but didn’t have a chance to take a closer look. But this longing was soon satisfied.

Lunch was at a traditional Uighur family house right next door to the water museum. Our host, Ajehan, his wife and 2 kids live in this beautiful family home with his parents while his twin brother who works in the city would drop by on Sundays.


Our first course, the Xinjiang Polo (our briyani) was a little too sweet for Agnes and Stevie while I truly welcomed them as my first familiar comfort food. The extremely dry climate begets sweeter produce; I find their yellow and orange carrot very delicious and mistaken them for pumpkin. While we were rating their home-made raisins from last season’s harvest, Ajehan and wife were busy cooking up our next course, the laghmen noodle, or ramen.


The Xinjiang Laghmen, the staple that we have learnt to love but later overdosed on.


Xinjiang boasts the best, plumiest, and sweetest tomatoes, really delicious.


The briyani here is no match to our Malaysian ones, no chunky generous lamb and the rice is not the long fluffy basmathi.



I really liked the idea of outdoor dining, eating under a canopy of grape vines was truly unbelievable. Naans, assortment of raisins, bright golden dried pineapples for appetisers were all neatly placed in the centre of our dining table, a very unique one. It was a large rectangle table stacked up on another carpeted larger rectangular platform.



It was pleasant to discover during Stevie’s short chat that a Malaysian filmmaker has actually made a short film here and Ajehan played a speaking part.


Margaux bright and cheery on the 2nd day of our Xinjiang travel.


We had a relaxing time there, and I almost doze off after such a hearty meal. It was the best local meal we had throughout the travel and in my next few postings, you will understand why.


We then bade farewell, made our final visit to a clean modern toilet (which is a rarity here), and then off to our much anticipated destination, Kumtagh Desert, Shan Shan.


XINJIANG – Kumtagh Desert

In Wandering Chans on August 3, 2011 at 10:10 pm

For the recent 12 days Xinjiang holidays, I kept a diary on the highlights by jotting down accounts of our travel. It was just incomprehensible scribbles at the back of the copies of itinerary I printed out.


Margaux kept a diary too. A very different one. One that gives you the virtual tour of the day. In the earlier leg of our travel, before she fell sick due to the intense 45 C heat, Margaux would sit quietly in the front row, behind the driver’s seat, happily inking away. She had observed keenly and drew out the characters, all the participants of this tour, less the driver and local guide. I am quite sure you can easily spot Stevie from her sketches. Not because he was the sole thorn among the roses but she truly depicted him well.

kumtagh desert by margaux chan

As far as kiddo was concerned, the desert was her ultimate Xinjiang. She has arrived. Her face lit with joy and her light little legs carried rapid pace to conquer. I was the first to challenge the sand dunes on an upward climb and she trailed from behind. Never squirming nor resigning. She raced ahead.


picture by LEVART

As it is summer, there is longer daylight. We often started our mornings from 9.30 am and would not be checking into a new destination hotel till 10 pm at night. In the evening, night falls into complete darkness only at 9 pm. We arrived Kumtagh Desert late in the evening at about 6.30 pm and did not have enough time to complete the 3 scenic points intended. Had we known that we would not be in time to catch the camel ride, we would have stayed on at this very first scenic spot and sat here awaiting the beautiful sunset from here.

picture by LEVART




picture by LEVART