Thursday, April 16, 2015

Muar's old world charm

The decades old Hua Nam cafe is still a popular haunt for locals. 

Some years back, when I first visited Muar on the way back from Singapore to Malacca, if I am not mistaken, this was the first premises I stopped at. We were famished that afternoon and seeing an uncrowded café with ample parking space in the street was a sight for sore eyes. Since then, whenever my wife and I are in Muar, this will be one of the first food outlets we would stop here for coffee. 

This building, established in 1917, is located at the intersection of Jalan Yahya and Jalan Meriam. I was attracted by the old features of this building, and even more fascinated with the two colours used on the same building – light blue at left and pink at right.

Pork innards soup and laksa (top right) are the specialities of hawkers operating in Hua Nam Cafe

A local told me the reason for the different colour was because Muar’s buildings had been thematically painted to differentiate their location according to the streets. However, the building painters must have been stumped by the location of Hua Nam Café must which lies smack in the corner of the two roads and they decided to make it easy by painting the same building in two colours to differentiate the two streets flanking the façade.

Located within Hua Nam Café are a laksa stall and a mixed-meat or “chichap” (non-halal) rice seller. Although the café serves toast and eggs with coffee, we noticed that the laksa stall is highly popular both with seat-in as well as takeaway customers. Priced at RM4 a bowl, the noodles (a choice of rice vermicelli or yellow noodles, of half of each) come in a very fragrant curry gravy. I can’t say if it is the affordability or the lipsmacking goodness of the laksa that is drawing a steady stream of customers. Service is also very fast.

I sketched and painted this building from across the street, seated on a folding chair at the five-foot way of a shop. The outlet was closed during Chinese New Year so I could complete this piece without hindering pedestrian traffic. 

This building in pink is another striking attraction that lends old world charm to Muar.

Although there was heavy cloud cover that morning, I decided to paint a strong shadow in the foreground to add interest to the perspective. The clouds were painted with basic primaries, with a tint of warm colours, and some patches of cobalt blue to depict cloud-holes to show the upper layer of blue skies frequently seen during Chinese New Year.

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