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Happy Buns

Quit lookin at me like that already.

Rumor has it there exists a bakery in Wisma Central (circa downtown Kuala Lumpur, along Ampang Road) that makes such delicious Mexican Buns/Polo Pau, people bought them by the dozens every evening. It was also said that because this bakery's buns were in such high demand, the shop would only sell a maximum of 5 buns per person after 4:30pm.

So Mom packed me off yesterday asking me to look for this bakery, and come back with 10 samples. Wisma Central is about 10 minutes by train from my college, but of course since none of us knew where exactly the bakery was, my orders were quite literally, "If you find it..." This was how I found myself wandering around a run-down shopping complex with shoplots arranged ala Habitrail's Hamster Maze, going by nose no less, in search of freshly baked bread.

It took me only about half an hour of aimless wandering before a nice restaurant lady pointed me to Roti (Bread) Boy, the mysterious bakery. Roti Boy, to its credit, smells like Coffee Bean, if Coffee Bean also soaked its furnishings in extra strength coffee essence. This is actually the scent of their famous Mexican Buns, which are indeed drenched in the aforementioned essence. The shop proper is a small, secluded kitchen with display shelves. While I was there, shop assistants were wrapping each bun individually in brown bags to prevent the buns from crushing each other during handling. Each bun cost RM1.20 (USD 0.30), and was about the size of a bagel.

The Mexican Buns I bought from Roti Boy were dome shaped, with a dollop of butter inside. They were topped with a layer of minced sugared dough, although the buns themselves weren't heavily sweetened. Mom says the recipe for these buns came from Hong Kong, where they're called Polo Pau (Pineapple Buns). Apparently some versions have the sugared dough topping mixed with pineapple juice.

I wonder if these buns are anything at all Mexican (desertwolf, some help here please?), since it's more likely they're a purely Hong Kong invention. They are tasty though, and the rumors are all true. Roti Boy does indeed restrict sales of their buns after 4:30pm, advanced orders and walk-ins do hit a dozen or so buns a person. One lady waiting with me the other day ordered 45 buns in one sitting.

Veering off topic to the far left, my personal grudge against Habitrail pipe homes is best summed up with this review. Yes, the Habitrails look cute. Yes, they expand hamster running space by leaps and bounds. Yes, hamsters might like the playing space. But Habitrails aren't very good about hamster ventilation, and hamsters do require a lot of ventilation to prevent them from smelling and sweating excessively. It's definitely not healthy for either the hamster or the hamster's guardian to breathe compressed, rancid hamster smells over long periods of time. Moreover, the plastic parts of Habitrails make ideal chewing material, and hamsters have rodent needs to constantly chew. Even the tamest hamsters have desperate needs to escape their hutches (the common hamster owner's malady, heh). Habitrails are the ultimate chewtoy, and I've personally known hamster owners whose hamsters routinely chew their way out of Habitrail homes.

Some types of Habitrail plastic doors are easily openable by determined hamsters. It's easy to forget to lock down the trapdoors where this applies, or snap tight the domes, etc, and since hamsters really are determined little buggers, things like sliding door-tops can become virtually the same as leaving your hutches doorless. Remember that what your hamster can't chew through it will claw through, and where it can't do either, expect your sulky rodent to scheme. I know I make it sound like pet rodents are the stuff of evil geniuses, but I know from experience that the only doors not openable by a single hamster are the snaptight doors with hook locks seen on stainless-steel-and-plastic modified bird cages (usually sold as the boring comparison to Habitrails). My hamsters were only able to open a hook-locked door once, and that took two full grown Syrians literally shoving on said door for 20 minutes straight for the lock to give.

My final grunt against Habitrails reads thus. Habitrails are difficult to clean, and possibly dangerous in the wrong configurations during emergencies. In the first place, the Habitrail appears to have been made with the idea that hamsters don't really have to be taken out of their hutches often, for play, cleaning, checks, etc. The fact is that hamsters do need lots of interaction with their guardians, and while square hutches aren't much fun, the point is to give your hamster much play and affection. Wheels don't cut it, and hamsters shouldn't be allowed to 'just run' as this can result in dehydration and exhaustion (hamsters may overdo the wheel running activities). In an emergency, a good hutch allows you to extract your hamster as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

The other point about I made about Habitrails was a difficulty to clean them out. Good hygiene is a prerequisite for all pet homes, and even naturally potty-trained animals like the hamster can make a mess of their hutches. Sawdust requires a change once a week; hutches have to be scrubbed, aired and disinfected twice a month; free range potty areas have to wiped out; all hamster implements require similar disinfection and washes to rid it of sweat and grime. Add pipes, and rooms, and you have some major cleaning on your hands. Cleaning habits are a matter of personal taste though, and I know there are hamster guardians out there who dilligently clean out entire hamster cities without fuss. But what I am saying is that if you intend to keep a hamster city, make sure you have the time to clean it out.

Note to hamster lovers: Never keep more than one hamster per cage, whatever that cage's size, since anything more than one will result in fights. Never keep a hamster in a cage with a slidable bottom, because not only will this make the cage difficult to clean, the hamster will learn how to slide out the bottom, and chew a hole to enlarge the ensuing gap.

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