Category Archives: Places

Rising Asia: At Work and Play

In the third installment of our Connecting Musafirs conversation series, we talk to Jaafar Rihan who is General Manager, Capital Markets and Head of Islamic Investments at the Employees Provident Fund, an agency under the Ministry of Finance Malaysia and one of Malaysia’s largest institutional investors with more than USD150 billion under management.

Jaafar at the Chao Phraya RIver in Bangkok earlier this year

Jaafar at the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok earlier this year.

Jaafar Rihan is well aware of the opportunities within the Asian region, both economic, as well as personal. As a senior investment officer at the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), he is directly responsible for exploring viable investment opportunities in markets outside Malaysia.

His work requires him to travel frequently around Asia as well as further-flung markets, which have afforded him some remarkable investment prospects as well as cultural insights and experiences.

Recently, in Bangkok for an investor roadshow, he was taken over by the central role the Chao Phraya River played in serving the nation and providing livelihood for the people.

“I was amazed at the weight of Thai history and culture along the river. It is the heart of trade and transportation for many Thais, even till today,” says Jaafar.

Jaafar finds there are always plenty of things to learn from other Asian countries, which could benefit Malaysia and fellow Malaysians in general, providing a different perspective to our existing customs.

“For example, all Thais practise the same gesture, the wai, which is generally a show of respect. It is one of the many marks of a uniform identity, something which could be attributed to the single school education and their social behaviour,” he explains.

Jaafar tends to rely on Google for travel preparations, particularly around weather conditions and information on what to pack. He does find that one of the challenges as a Muslim traveller remains finding good places to eat easily.

“When in doubt, I just stick to seafood,” he adds.

While Jaafar looks forward to new tools to navigate around this challenge, he isn’t letting it slow him down on the experiences and learnings from travel. He will be spending more time in and out of the region this year in his capacity at the EPF before taking a personal trip to Australia with his family at the end of the year.

Penang Street Food @ Dickens Street, Penang

Penang, Malaysia is synonymous with great food. There is one problem though, most of it is non-Halal. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any but it is hard to come by unless you go for traditionally Halal fare like Mamak (Indian-Malay) or Malay food. Other types of food like Penang street food are non-Halal unless cooked by a Muslim which sometimes doesn’t come out quite right i.e. it is not always authentic.

Enter Bee Hwa Cafe, a kopitiam (Malaysian coffee shop or cafe) which serves Penang street food that’s Halal! It’s so authentic that we’re told by our non-Muslim friends that it’s the real deal when compared to the non-Halal alternatives. When eating there, you’re also comforted by the fact that you’re right across from the Penang police headquarters. Arguably the safest kopitiam in Penang, you’ll often eat amongst uniformed and undercover cops – you can tell because they usually carry a compact sling bag which presumably conceals a fire arm and sometimes eat with their uniformed colleagues. The day we were there, a local television show was doing a piece on Bee Hwa Cafe. Good to know we’re not the only ones who think this place is fantastic.

Back to the food. It’s awesome! They have a variety of stir fried dishes like Char Koay Teow (stir-fried ricecake strips), Char Pui (stir-fried rice) and Char Mee (stir-fried noodles). If soupy is what you’re after, try the Hokkien Mee (prawn noodles), Curry Mee (curry noodles) and Koay Teow T’ng (ricecake strips in a chicken broth). Be sure to specify the amount of heat you prefer in your food because it is turned up all the way to at least an 8 by default. Wash it down with your typical kopitiam drinks like teh tarik (literal translation is ‘tea pull’, hot local tea with condensed milk and frothed by transferring the tea from one pot to another repeatedly), teh oh (hot plain local tea), kopi (hot local coffee with condensed milk), kopi oh (hot plain local coffee), Milo (hot Milo with condensed milk), Milo oh (hot plain Milo), bali (hot barley) and some exotics like teh oh swee kam (hot plain local tea with lime), teh oh ‘c’ kosong (hot local tea with evaporated milk and without sugar) and derivatives thereof. Note that adding the word peng after each makes it an iced drink, for example, teh oh peng is an iced plain local tea. Finally, order the roti bakar (toasted bread with butter and kaya, a sweet coconut jam) for dessert even though this is usually a breakfast item.


Address: Lebuh Dickens (a.k.a. Dickens Street), 10050 Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia (directly across the street from the entrance to the Penang police headquarters)
Phone: We don’t know whether there is one – just go there!
Hours: 7am – 5:00pm Monday to Saturday / closed on Sunday

Travel is Personal Business

Houssam Abiad

We continue our Connecting Musafirs conversation series with Houssam Abiad, a multi-talented and inspiring business traveller who hails from Adelaide, South Australia.

To Houssam Abiad, the lines usually drawn between work and leisure are all but indistinct.

“You have to enjoy what you do,” he articulates.       

The young South Australian certainly thrives from wearing many different hats – as an Adelaide City Councillor, focused on preserving and growing the business and economic development in one of the fastest growing cities in Australia; as a multi-awarded serial entrepreneur with at least three established businesses in the information & telecommunications technology and food & beverage industries; and as a strong advocate for community engagement and multiculturalism.

While his trips often start out work-related, Houssam draws enjoyment and wisdom from personal experiences while in a new place. His travels have taken him across the globe, to the Gulf region including the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon as well as the United States, and that does not include the places he has been to for dedicated holidays.

“To me, travel is as much about the people as it is the place.  Who and where you connect with, such as discovering a street by accident, that perhaps only the locals knew about. My travel memories are created around exactly these places and people,” shares Houssam.

The value of connecting with the local community cannot be underestimated.

Houssam revealed that where possible, he prefers spontaneity to meticulous planning and preparation when it comes to seeking these travel experiences. While he would see online search as his first point of reference for essential information such as where to go to observe Muslim prayer times or for shisha, there have been occasions where online searches have offered inaccurate information.

“I would certainly see the value of being able to connect with the local community, although that is naturally a time-consuming process,” he says.

Houssam added that he definitely see the potential advantage of an app or a service which would allow musafirs (travellers) like himself to quickly connect with the local community.

As he continues to make his mark around the world and on behalf of the city he calls home, Adelaide, there is no doubting Houssam will inspire and inculcate in young musafirs everywhere the same passion and integrity to serve for the greater good. And to enjoy themselves while doing it.

Granite Island @ Victor Harbor

Granite Island is located in Victor Harbor which is about 80 kms from Adelaide city centre and takes about an hour and a half to get there by car. What struck us at first is that it is really small particularly compared to Penang Island in Malaysia from where we hail. It takes less than an hour to go around it on foot. You can walk across the 600 metre wooden causeway which connects the mainland to the island or take the horse drawn tram there. The operators are quick to reassure you that the horses are treated well as they work in short shifts, are fed regularly and taken to a nearby farm to roam when not put to work. We had no reason to doubt this as the horses looked very well fed and groomed. Trams run daily in 20 minute intervals between 10.30am to 3.30pm to the island and 11am to 4pm to the mainland. It costs AUD6 for a one-way trip or AUD8 per return trip for adults, less for children below 15 years old and families of four.

As to what you can do there, well, just look at the photos! Taking in the stunning views in all directions either from the mainland or island is well worth the trip. Bring a hat to shield yourself from the sun because as the island’s name suggests, is really just a piece of rock, very bare with only maybe one or two tress from which you can take cover. There is also a Penguin, Marine and Environmental Centre on the island which rescues and rehabilitates injured penguins. The centre conducts tours on Tuesdays to Sundays and public holidays from 11am to 4pm and costs AUD6 and AUD4 per entry for adults and children respectively.

Visit the Victor Harbor Visitor Information Centre for more information on Granite Island and other things you can do in the area including whale watching in the winter months. Also see this fact sheet for current attractions.

Address: The Causeway (look for Flinders Road), Victor Harbor, South Australia 5211
Phone: +61 8 8551 0777 (dial 08 8551 0777 if in Australia)
Hours: 9am – 5pm daily

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The Botanic Gardens of Adelaide (There are 3!)

Here’s a place that’s not food related, the botanic gardens of Adelaide. Adelaide has three – the Adelaide Botanic Garden, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden and Wittunga Botanic Garden. There is nothing better than spending the day at the botanic gardens for a picnic, go for a run or hike or just to take in the breathtaking scenery. The one we’ll cover this time is the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. It is only just under 20 kms from the Adelaide city centre but once you’re there, you feel like you’re hours away from the city which is great because you have that highly accessible choice of city vs. nature.

There’s a lot of ground to cover so start early. Make the Mount Lofty Summit your first stop – grab a map from the tourist info desk and view Adelaide city from there. On a clear day, you’re supposed to be able to see Kangaroo Island. Next, hike down through the gardens. Alternatively, you could drive down to the lower entrance (via Lampert Road), park there and work your way up through the gardens towards the summit. Meet there on Thursdays at 10:30am for the free guided walks in spring and autumn. If hiking’s not your thing, there’s a lake there which is a great spot for a picnic.

There are many trails but we recommend the Bank SA Nature Trail (note: gradient is rather steep but there are other easier trails you could attempt) because you get to see flora that is native to Mount Lofty. Doesn’t matter which trail you choose though – you can’t go wrong – they’re all beautiful! Also, if you’re lucky as we were, you’ll be able to see kangaroos.

Check out for more information on all three botanic gardens and click here to download information specifically on the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden.

We’ll cover the Adelaide Botanic Garden in a future post.

Address: Summit Rd / Piccadilly Rd, Crafers, South Australia 5052
Phone: +61 8 8370 8370 (dial 08 8370 8370 if in Australia)
Hours: 8:30am – 4pm Monday to Friday / 10am – 5pm (6pm during daylight savings) Saturday and Sunday (note: CLOSED if there is a danger of fire during the summer months – check with the Bureau of Meteorology before going)

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Adelaide Central Market – Part 1

Wow, what a place! A melting pot of people, cultures, languages – it’s the United Nations of Adelaide. More than 140 years old, it is supposedly the largest fresh produce market in the southern hemisphere. Food galore, too many to list but the three we bought from recently are:

  1. Springfield Butcher – Halal meats including beef, lamb and chicken
  2. Poultry Cuisine – Halal chicken
  3. Aubergine’s Fresh Produce – fruit and vegetables, not the cheapest but not the most expensive either – great balance between price and consistent quality.

You must visit this place if you are ever in Adelaide. Go to for more information.

Address: 44 – 60 Gouger Street, Adelaide, South Australia 5000
Phone: +61 8 8203 7494 (dial 08 8203 7494 if in Australia)
Hours: 7am – 5:30pm Tuesday to Thursday / 7am – 9pm Friday / 7am – 3pm Saturday / closed on Sunday and Monday

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I Am Thai Takeaway

It’s quite surprising to find Halal Thai food in Adelaide or anywhere for that matter other than the south of Thailand perhaps. Step into this place and you’ll immediately think that this is going to be an authentic experience given that the cooks are all Thais. Less authentic (but even less important) is the interior which is set up like a fish and chips shop. To summarise, this is authentic Thai food in a fast food setting. It is after all called I Am Thai TAKEAWAY. We decided to dine in anyway. There are three tables and a bar counter which can seat about 20 people all up. Note that this is not a full service restaurant.

We had beef Pad Thai (stir fried noodles), prawn Tom Yam Gung (sour + spicy soup) and green curry chicken. All were well executed with the flavours being well balanced between spicy, sour and sweet – not easy to achieve in Thai food. Each dish was AUD12 on average (approx. USD12) and of decent sized portions, enough for two. It’s cheaper still for lunch on weekdays for selected dishes priced at around AUD9 (approx. USD9). How does it stack up against Thai food in Thailand? Not quite there but it’s a good attempt and enough to satisfy the odd Thai food craving. We would have liked the food to be a little spicier but it was good on the whole. Give it a go.

Address: Shop 3, 200 Richmond Road, Marleston 5033, South Australia
Phone: +61 8 8352 3334 (dial 08 8352 3334 if in Australia)
Hours: 11:30am – 2:30pm Monday to Friday (lunch) / 5pm – 9:30pm daily (dinner)

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