Following our detour to quickly visit a stateless village in Kota Kinabalu, Serrene drove us to her place at Taman Sri Gaya, a residential estate between the two Queen Elizabeth Hospitals in Kota Kinabalu.
Upon arrival, she gave us a tour of the lovely house she and her family have stayed at for the last 10 years. Her dogs greeted us at the door, and we got to play with them. They are all named after types of coffee — Macchiato, Latte, Cappuccino, Mocha, etc. We also got to meet Calvern, Serrene’s husband, who was also from the same school as Baby Crab and Serrene.
Continuing our conversation from breakfast earlier, where Serrene and Greg both learned that they were Christians, and that Sook Yeen and Baby Crab were open to learning more about Christianity, the conversation steered towards our transition to our current beliefs.
Both Baby Crab and Serrene were part of the Young Buddhist Fellowship in their hometown of Kluang. In the years since, Serrene found Jesus Christ and became a Christian, while Baby Crab became a free-thinker. We learned that every person that Serrene meets is either an opportunity to do her work of growing her business, or doing God’s work of growing His kingdom.
For the next couple of hours, while we ate chocolates and fruits, and drank tea, the four of us talked about Christianity while Baby Tilapia played ‘fetch’ with the dogs. The topic didn’t interest Baby Tilapia, who is an ex-Christian and now free-thinker.
However, when Greg borrowed a guitar to start playing some praise & worship songs, Baby Tilapia joined in. It’s been a long time since Baby Tilapia sang such songs, and Serrene was quite fascinated that Baby Tilapia, who until now had shown zero interest in the conversation about Christianity, knew the tunes and lyrics of these songs.
At 4pm, Serrene took us out for tea. She told us that tea time is very important for Sabahans, who will make it a point to take a tea break in the afternoon. She brought us to Fook Yuen Cafe. Not the one at Gaya Street, which is a tourist place, but the outlet at Jalan Lintas Khidmat. Serrene said that salespeople who were mobile often visited this outlet in the afternoon.
This place is known for its roti kahwin, which is steamed bread with butter and kaya. At some places, they may use margarine instead of butter, and you can taste the difference. Always ask for the butter version, because it’s so much better. Besides the roti kahwin, we also had some nasi lemak rumah, which is nasi lemak in the (rough) shape of a house… at least that’s what we’re told.
ONE-STOP BOTANIC CENTRE
Half an hour later, Serrene took us to Wisma TCT, an industrial building nearby. This is the head office of TCT Trading Sdn Bhd, the company that Serrene, Calvern, KL, and her younger brother built and managed together. In the empty warehouse where she parked the Tesla, Serrene told us that this used to be the site for a laundry service that her company provided for hotels in Kota Kinabalu.
However, when the pandemic hit, the hotels had no business, and that affected her business too. That was when they started One-Stop Botanic Centre, to cater to the gardening hobby that people started to take up because they spent a lot more time at home. Now, gardening supplies have become a part of every One-Stop Superstore they have.
Showing us around the building, we spent a bit of time in Serrene’s office where she shared a bit more about her business. We also went to KL’s office where there is a section of the room used to entertain guests. The next 3 hours of our day were spent here, where Serrene opened some bottles of whiskey for us to drink and we all enjoyed ourselves drinking, chatting, and eating sunflower seeds.
It was only after Baby Crab got drunk (she was the only one!) did we remember that none of us ate lunch. Serrene brought us over to Airport in Shanghai 1950, an airport-theme bistro. She was supposed to meet someone here tonight in a private room, but that got cancelled, so we got to use it. We got to watch live performances and a live band while we ate a delicious dinner.
Calvern joined us here because Serrene felt it was better if she didn’t drive after drinking with us earlier. Two hours after getting drunk, Baby Crab revived and joined in the merry-making, which continued until almost midnight, which is when Calvern sent us back to Stanton Hotel in his Landcruiser.
We are grateful to Serrene and Calvern for their hospitality during our time in Sabah, lending us your car, and spending a whole day entertaining us. Thank you so much!
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