Familiar delights in a foreign land

Johor brand, Hwa Tai's Luxury crackers that I nibbled
with cheddar cheese in my in-flight meal on board MH
Whenever I’m travelling abroad, I’m always delighted to catch a glimpse of something from home.  On our family’s recent trip abroad, the flight stewardess distributed our meal trays and my eyes usually found the dessert first before going on to check what else was served.  Besides the tiny salad and main course, there may be crackers with cheese so you can imagine the pride I felt when I discovered that the crackers packet on the tray was Johor’s very own Hwa Tai brand Luxury crackers!

This biscuit manufacturing company had its humble beginnings in Batu Pahat in 1962 and is now a public listed with worldwide distribution of its range of quality products.  I remember Hwa Tai was one of the pioneer companies that started to sell individually wrapped packets of crackers within a retail pack and I always enjoyed these handy packets which kept the crackers fresh.  It was like meeting an old friend again when I ripped the packet open and rounded off my meal by nibbling the Hwa Tai Luxury crackers, held in one hand alternating with a bite of cheese, held in the other.  Mmm…
Lingham Chilli Sauce on the table in Giraffe!
In Bath, we decided to have a meal before exploring the historical city and Melanie, our English niece, picked Giraffe, a café that she liked.  After studying the menu, we made our orders and sat back to wait for our meal to be served.  I usually make good use of idle moments like this to explore the café [and its mezzanine floor] to check out its interesting décor and creative fittings. 

While checking out the condiments tray on the table, we were pleasantly surprised to discover Lingham Chilli Sauce – a household name in our country!  I quickly turned the bottle around to read the label and confirmed that it was truly a product by Lingham & Son (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd.  I don’t know about the others but I was filled with pride and nostalgia. 

This product was created in 1908 to meet the tastes of the colonial expatriate community in then Malaya and was still going strong.  The distinct sweet and spicy taste of this chilli sauce recipe has been around for more than 100 years and the English community probably couldn’t get enough of it.  I just felt good to know that now this Malaysian chilli sauce is being enjoyed by customers in the Giraffe group of restaurants throughout the UK! 

My family and I were thrilled to discover Malaysian brand, Lingham Chilli Sauce in Giraffe, Bath in the UK!

In London, we went to Trafalgar Square to see how it looked starkly different because the trademark pigeons that used to roost there have been removed.  It was certainly much cleaner so we did the touristy thing, posing for photos and capturing various shots of Nelson’s Column, the fountains and those majestic lions.  After snapping the mandatory shots for my brother and his family, I suggested to drop in at the Tourism Malaysia office located just across the road.

I opened the page to Riders Lodge in Sedenak, Johor!
The familiar Tourism Malaysia (TM) logo with an iconic red hibiscus beckoned and I hoped to meet with any Malaysian tourism officers there because I have a working relationship with TM.  However, the staff behind the counter told us that their personnel had left for an event and she would be joining them soon.  That was disappointing but it did not stop us from browsing around, soaking in a bit of Malaysia in London and taking a look at the promo materials. 

When I picked up a promotional booklet, I was delighted to discover a beautiful 2-page pictorial spread on the facilities at Riders Lodge in Sedenak, Johor!  The booklet was filled with various Malaysian destinations but I was thrilled to see Riders Lodge listed under The Southern Gateway section as I’m a friend of the owners, Agnes and Sennet Tzinberg.  Started in 1999, Riders Lodge is an award-winning, family-oriented leisure getaway for pleasure horse riding and training in professional riding courses.  The resort’s hallmarks of personalized service and great food in Agnes Café have kept regulars coming back, not just for riding on jungle trails and through palm oil plantations but as a retreat from the pressures of city life. 

That's me signing the visitors book at the Tourism Malaysia
office in Trafalgar Square, London
Malaysia, in particular Johor, has a host of interesting destinations for international travellers to enjoy – especially cultural festivals and heritage sites – that will give them a deeper insight into our city and its people.  A great deal more can still be done to draw tourists to Johor Baru and with a concerted effort among TM, hotels and tour agencies, I’m sure a sustainable framework is already in place to show visitors both the new and old attractions here.  

Elated by the experience of what was fond and familiar, I decided to leave my mark in London by signing the visitors’ book in the TM office. 

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Streets Johor on 11 Sept 2014

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