last day, lasting memories

by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It’s Wednesday morning in KL and I’m writing this as we zip up our luggage and get ready to go to the airport. Though one and a half years flew by in a blink of an eye, I leave feeling 100% fulfilled with our experience. It was quite the adventure with its many ups and downs but man did this place steal my heart.

London was a good teacher but in this jungle town I feel like I’ve really grown into the person that I’m meant to be for the next chapter of my life. That goes for us as a couple, too. There’s nothing like experiencing changes, challenges, and moments of joy together to keep you on your toes and ready to take on the world.

I also leave with a very happy heart when I think about the beautiful friendships we made with locals and other expats who call KL home. They are wanderlust and adventurous just like us and I know that this is not goodbye, rather a ‘see you later’.

One of those friends is the witty and talented Clare, who took the amazing photos above. I’m so thankful that she was able to capture these moments of Joe and me at KLCC park by our apartment just before we left. We don’t have any photos like this as the ones we take ourselves usually only feature our heads and an outstretched arm in the frame! Such great keepsakes, thank you Clare!!!

Alright it’s time to go … see you later, KL. You were a treat.

melaka

Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia Melaka, Malaysia
Melaka, Malaysia

Hello from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil! Can’t believe that we’re on the other side of the world. It was a twenty four hour trip but all things considered, it’s freaking amazing that it’s possible.

These are some pics from our recent overnight in Melaka, Malaysia, just a two hour drive from KL. Melaka is a World Heritage City so all of the touristy things you’d expect were present: loads of tour groups and buses, souvenir shops, and of course, a Hard Rock Cafe (we skipped the t-shirt).

From a local’s standpoint, we’ve heard that you only really go to Melaka to eat Nyonya food (a mix of Straits Chinese and Chinese/Malay cuisine) but we thought it would be interesting to see what a World Heritage City in Malaysia looked like. The food was as amazing as promised (we went to Riverine, a Nyonya kitchen, twice!) but the architecture was what stood out for me.

In KL there are sadly far too many beautiful old buildings rotting away or being torn down to make room for new luxury malls or condos. The condo we live in is on a street where there used to be traditional homes and I can imagine how gorgeous they must have been based on the last remaining structure on the street. I feel like such an a-hole for lamenting the past while living in modern KL but if I ran the city, I would find a way to do it all better.

In Melaka, the heritage buildings seem to be a priority. Not all of course but a decent amount. It was awesome to see the different influences in design based on the location and date that the structures were built. Being the key port city of the Straits way back when, Melaka has buildings that reflect the Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese, British and of course, Malay aesthetics. I loved the colonial stuff but my favorite was seeing the mid-century modern influences in their Chinatown and government buildings. It made this LA girl very happy.

Now here in Rio, I’ve already spotted a ton of cool old buildings that I can’t wait to check out. I’m not sure I’ll take my camera out too much since I’ll be exploring solo most of the time but I’ll capture and share what I can. Have a great week!

comfort food to-go

LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassLaZat Malaysian Cooking Class
LaZat Malaysian Cooking ClassIn Malaysia, food is everything. Food is the center of family and friend gatherings, celebrations, and everyday conversation. It’s such a hot topic that even while you’re enjoying a meal, you’re already discussing what and where your next one will be. Malaysians are serious about their makan-makan – or “eat-eat” – and we’ve happily joined them, full bellies and all.

But now that we’re leaving Kuala Lumpur soon, we’ve been loading up on our local favorites like roti canai, nasi lemak, char kway teow, beef rendang, chicken curry, and pandan flavored treats. What will we do when we can’t simply walk down the street to grub on our newly adopted comfort food? The only option is to make it ourselves!

Enter LaZat, a local enterprise offering Malaysian home-cooking classes set in a typical Malaysian home nestled in the trees just outside of KL. I took an Indian cuisine class with them last year so when Joe said that he couldn’t leave Malaysia without learning how to make his beloved beef rendang and curry chicken, I knew exactly where to go.

From the moment you arrive, you feel like family. Owner Ana and home-cook chefs Sue and Saadiah are warm, welcoming, and are equally excited to learn about where you’re from (and where you’ve been) as they are to share their passions and skills in the kitchen. They take great pride in using fresh ingredients and have a way of making even the most intimidated wannabe-cook feel at ease. Everything for the day’s menu is pre-measured and pre-arranged, laid out beautifully on woven straw trays and decorative dishes.

As soon as I saw (and smelled) the colorful and fragrant spices, I was ready to get down to business, work that mortar and pestle, and heat things up in a traditional brass wok. We spent the next few hours switching from watching how it’s done to getting it done all while teasing our grumbling stomachs every time the wind picked up the aromas coming from our stove tops.

All of that teasing was worth it. We had our grand feast in the end but the true beauty was in the process. The simple things like remembering that some of the greatest food takes the longest time (patience is key), learning that it’s okay to throw in whole spice seeds, rather than ground or crushed, and realizing that for any meal to be Malaysian, it probably has to have a decent dose of coconut milk (yum and yum).

Now that I’m a LaZat alum, I’m excited to take the confidence I got there and bring it into my own kitchen. I’d love to push my boundaries beyond olive oil and salt and pepper and get more creative with spices and herbs. I took a baby step a few nights ago while making applesauce and I was quite proud of my small kitchen victory. Instead of adding ground cinnamon for flavor, I let the apples boil and reduce with whole cinnamon sticks, a few star anise, and lemon juice for preservation. The results? Amazing. The Malaysian recipes we learned have a bit more to them but I think I’m on my way to being able to prepare the dishes we’ve come to love. We have a brass wok ready to go so the next step will be to buy a mortar and pestle. Hopefully we get a chance to use it before we have to pack it in a box but regardless where that box ends up, we’ll know that we have the tools to satisfy our cravings and makan-makan our honorary Malaysian hearts out.

 

 

introducing the love malaysia collection

Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection
Gin & Jacqie // Love Malaysia Collection

Hi guys, I hope you had a great weekend! Today is Malaysia Day so what better day to share the launch of my collaboration with Kuala Lumpur based bag company Gin & Jacqie: the Love Malaysia Collection! It’s been nearly one year in the making and we are SO excited to see it come to life.

I met owner Jacqie soon after moving to KL and we were instant friends. We share a love of travel, design, and entrepreneurship so when she found out about my graphic design and growing love for my new home, she asked if I’d like to create a few prints that represent Malaysia…something that could pique the interest of tourists, expats, and locals alike. I jumped at the opportunity as I’ve always wanted to do product prints and I loved the idea of playing with images that were recognizable and unique to the country.

Not only did I get to design the prints but I also got to help design the bags that would be created for the collection! Since Gin & Jacqie is focused on making life a bit easier and more organized while on-the-go, it was easy to decide on the final products. We went with multipurpose pieces like zip pouches that can store anything from makeup to electronic choards, and a handy wrist pouch that can be kept in a larger bag and used separately when you only need to carry a few essentials. As you can see by the photos above, I took a few pieces on a trial run during our holiday last week and they were great! They kept everything tidy and easily accessible at all times…just right for making traveling easier.

Now, about the prints! The prints symbolize three main things that are standouts in Malaysia: food, heritage, and landscape.

For food I designed a pattern of the ubiquitous pyramid-shaped packaging of Nasi Lemak – Malaysia’s unofficial national breakfast consisting of coconut rice, dried anchovies, hard boiled egg, rendang or curry chicken or beef, roasted peanuts, and cucumber slices. I’m obsessed with it now and crave it more than I crave tacos (!!! I know). But even better than the taste is the little pyramid shape created when all of the contents are folded into a large banana leaf – a true on-the-go meal!

For heritage I went with the iconic Wau kites. The origin of the name – pronounced ‘wow’ – is Arabic, the kite tradition is Chinese, and each Malaysian state has their own unique design. It seemed the perfect representation of Malaysia’s diverse cultures.

And for landscape I created a tropical leaf pattern that represents the jungle greenery that is everywhere in Malaysia. Even in the city, it’s never really a concrete jungle. It’s the real deal here and it’s awesome.

It’s been a great experience to work with the Gin & Jacqie team and I’m beyond thankful for the opportunity to create something that represents a country that I’ve grown to love so much.

Now it’s time to share the goods with you! We’re giving away the product of your choice to one lucky Anamu reader. All you have to do is “like” or comment on your favorite product photo in the Love Malaysia Facebook photo album + leave a comment here to let me know that you’ve done so. We’ll pick a name next week, Thursday, and announce the winner on Friday the 27th.

Even if you don’t enter to win, I’d love to hear what you think!

hump day island hop

woven wall

The rainy season has come early so before it gets too wet to enjoy Malaysia’s beaches, we’re taking advantage of a last minute deal and heading to Redang Island off the east coast. We haven’t been to that part of the country yet but we’re told that the snorkeling is some of the best in the world. While in LA I bought this adventure camera (I was beating up my DSLR waaaay too much) so I can’t wait to give it its first dip in the sea.

I’ll be back here on Monday with an exciting announcement and giveaway but in the meantime you can come along with me via Instagram. Have a great rest of your week!

photo woven wall, bali  by Ana Maria Munoz

mirrors mirrors on the wall

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Every time I leave Malaysia for a while I return with a renewed ambition to see and do everything on our “hit list”. It’s embarrassing that our list is as long as it is (since we’ve been here for a year and a half) but the good thing is that with time comes more understanding and appreciation of the things around you.

Friends of ours recently went to the Islamic Arts Museum and highly recommended it for peeks at mosque architecture around the world and of course, artifacts with designs and patterns that are uniquely Islamic. We didn’t hesitate in making a date to go the next day.

I was in awe of a miniature model of the national mosque I visited in Abu Dhabi (how do they make it so small?!) and was fixated on a section where the mosaic designs were broken down to basic geometric sketches of shapes from beginning to end. It made me think that had I learned geometry through the art of pattern making I would have enjoyed my math classes much much more!

The main stand out for me was this impressive razzle-dazzle wall of mosaic mirrors. Though situated in the restaurant, it’s definitely a piece deserving of its own “Modern Islamic Art” section. I don’t know if mosaic mirrors are a new thing in Islamic design but it sure feels fresh and I love love love the looks of it for a modern interior. Future home DIY project perhaps?

old school brunch

Yut Kee
Yut Kee Yut Kee
Old Kuala Lumpur

Yut Kee is a KL institution and now that we’ve finally given it a try, we’re wondering why on earth it took us over a year to do so. It was simple, charmingly old, and the kind of place that has its routine so down that even in the chaos of seating throngs of patrons and serving their coveted pork dishes faster than you can say non-halal, you feel like you’re in someone’s home enjoying a good meal.

I think our timing was just right for our first visit … like maybe now I can appreciate the beauty of such an institution in a different way. I’m more in love with the food, the people, and can better understand how special it is to have such a long-lasting place like Yut Kee in KL where so much comes and goes and continues to move towards the more western and modern. You’ll never hear me complaining about those western and modern necessities (and indulgences) being here when I need them but at the end of the day, I love enjoying the original bits of KL that make living here the unique experience that it is. You know, like wearing skirts made out of kampung house curtains. That sort of thing.

one year in lumpy land

kl one year anniv

This time last year we packed up our home in London and moved to what we lovingly call Lumpy Land. Kuala Lumpur was definitely culture shock after living in LA and London but one year later, I don’t feel like such a stranger anymore.

To round up the anniversary I thought I’d share bits of what I love about this place and the things that I could do without.

Let’s start off with the bad things. I could live without …

  • the lack of pedestrian right-of-way and safety considerations from motorists. the reasons there are so many overpasses in the city is so that pedestrians are taken out of the equation completely, i’m sure.
  • the illegal/bribed buses that blow nasty smoke onto everyone on the sidewalk as they clank by.
  • the lack of consistent walkable sidewalks. every building owns the property all the way to the street so each block can be totally different. some developments opt to go without proper sidewalks altogether.
  • the fact that I walk 1,000 times faster than most locals and it makes a regular trip to the mall to run errands feel like a game of pac-man just to dodge everyone.
  • litter that eventually gets packed between the new “nice” landscaping and fences on the street. i know that litter is a problem in most places in the world but london was so on top of it that it spoiled me.
  • illegal taxi drivers who take advantage of tourists and charge RM10 or RM20 when it’s really a RM3 ride on the meter. never ride with a driver who won’t take you on the meter – they’re jerks.
  • mosquitoes gone wild after a really heavy rainfall.

As you can tell, most of my pet peeves have to do with getting around the city by foot. It’s just that KL is small enough that it could be a really walkable city if they wanted it to be but, unfortunately, city planning and pedestrian safety are just not happening. To its credit though, there have been many city-center sidewalk improvements since we moved here so I’m thankful for that…can’t hate on them too much now.

Now on to the things that I love about living in KL!

  • the lack of street laws that allow us to jaywalk wherever and whenever we want.
  • the warm and friendly locals who, when introduced personally, act as if you’re family.
  • the predictable afternoon thunderstorms that fill the sky on a daily basis. such a great show.
  • wearing sandals and summer clothes while it rains because it’s so warm out.
  • fresh fruit and veggie juices available everywhere. it’s almost unforgivable if a restaurant doesn’t offer them.
  • the standard script from new and friendly taxi drivers that goes like this: “where you from?”, “you stay here?”, “you work?”, “you married?”, “have children?”.
  • learning to enjoy spicy food. unlike the american version of spicy (which is really just hot) the indian and malaysian versions are more flavorful.
  • drinking out of coconuts like it’s no big deal.
  • seeing giant green rain trees and furry looking palm trees everywhere you go.
  • the way so many expats from around world call this place home, too. most are here with kids who are getting the experience of a lifetime.
  • the sweet security guards in our building who barely speak english but always greet with a smile and are helpful when needed. thank god for universal hand signals.
  • the little grocery truck that parks on our street two times per week for a pop up market.
  • the street food that is so plentiful and yummy even though half the time i have no idea what i’m ordering.
  • the fact that i now often point with my thumb over a fist (think bill clinton giving a speech). that’s how the locals do it so i figured i should too, out of respect.
  • driving down the highway and seeing a buddhist temple, a hindu temple, and a mosque all within thirty seconds.
  • hearing the calls to prayer throughout the day even though i have no idea what they’re saying.
  • seeing the parade of colorful prints worn by local women on their traditional head coverings and dresses.
  • the craftsmanship that is so exciting for a foreigner like me. my taxi driver laughs at me every time i get excited about a rattan store or talk about wanting to learn how to paint batik.
  • the fact that living here can often feel like we’re living on vacation (climate, scenery). my wardrobe has definitely started to reflect this.
  • the way joe looks so relaxed on the weekends when we can just be outside in the warm weather, wearing flip flops, year-round. having a nice pool certainly helps.
  • meeting incredibly good and solid people who we now call friends. so thankful to be carving-out a social circle.
  • and most of all, i love joe for being patient with me as i figure out this new place, how to live in it, and enjoy it.

 

weekend, we <3 you

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? Ours was the kind that “home” is made of. We spent time with friends, went out on the town, relished in lazy lounging, and simply enjoyed the slow pace that comes with Saturday and Sunday.

In just a few days we’ll be marking our one year anniversary of living in KL (say whaaa?) and just like our time in London, this place has really become home. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about living here permanently as I did in London (apples and oranges, I tell ya) but I do love what we’ve been able to make for ourselves so far. On Wednesday I’ll be sharing a little KL anniversary round up where I’ll spill my loves and dislikes about living here. It’s not all fun and palm trees sometimes but it has been amazing.

And with this anniversary, I was reminded that my sidebar photo was two years old and in dire need of an update. I honestly couldn’t find a decent “profile” photo that didn’t involve me wearing a hat and/or sunglasses so this one from Cartagena will have to do for now!

weekend, we <3 you

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Hey guys, how was your weekend? I’ve been trying to balance working on the computer and resting my eyes since I got LASIK done several weeks ago. I guess my sensitivity is taking longer to clear up :/. So, in efforts to get away from the screen we spent a lot of time out and about in KL enjoying new-to-us cafes and shops. I was thrilled to find a vintage furniture shop since I’ve been aching for the thrill of the hunt lately. We didn’t leave with anything but just getting the heart flutter of excitement was plenty for the day. God I miss flea markets and vintage shops! For now, I’m just happy that we continue to find new nuggets of things and places to enjoy until one day we may be back somewhere where I can get my treasure hunting fix.

weekend, we <3 you {kk}

kota kinabalu
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Hi guys, I hope you had a great weekend.

Things got so hectic that I wasn’t able to do a Friday post but if you follow me on Instagram, you know that we snuck away to Kota Kinabalu, in Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo.

We’re on a mission to take advantage of living in Southeast Asia before we wake up from this dream and realize that it’s too late to explore it all. So, we’re trying to do and see as much as we can during the weekends while still enjoying our home in KL. Not the worst challenge in the world, right? Game on!

Kota Kinabalu, or KK as locals call it, is the capital city of Sabah. Because of that I expected a big city like KL but to my delight, the downtown area where we stayed was really small, walkable, and best of all, right by the ocean. We’ve heard amazing things about hiking Mount Kinabalu but since we only had two full days there we decided that we’d save the jungle trekking for another trip and enjoy the islands.

And enjoy we did! There are five islands just off of the mainland and with one main jetty to book a water taxi from, it was super easy to get to and from any of them. A fifteen minute ride on a speed boat took us to Pulau Sapi, or Sapi Island. Most of the people there were part of package deals that include a catered BBQ so with all of them crowded by the main beach, Joe and I set off to find a place of solitude elsewhere on the tiny Island.
Our first attempt at following a designated trail was a miss so we decided to try something different. Instead of walking through the jungle we made our way through the rocky shores around the southwestern part of the island. It was easy to do but we were definitely thankful to have our Ring Cozies on since we had to climb up and over some really rough rocks (yes – had to plug Ring Cozy since it works SO well!).

All was good until Joe pointed out a cool prickly aloe-type plant growing out of a rock wall. I looked, said “wow”, and then my eyes instantly went to a GIANT lizard right underneath it!  I’m talking 6ft long, prehistoric, big bodied, long-tongue looking lizard. I flipped out and ran into the water. It took Joe about ten seconds to see it because when I screamed “lizard!” he thought that I meant a small one like we’re used to seeing – that’s how well camouflaged that thing was. Once Joe saw it too, we were both outta there and he said that I should have yelled “GODZILLA!” instead.

Godzilla was immediately forgotten as soon as we walked a few more feet and found a slice of heaven. Aside from a woman who swam up from her privately chartered boat for a bit, we had a little stretch of sand all to ourselves. We joked about all the suckers we left behind on the crowded main beach. But, it wasn’t total perfection. There were jellyfish particles in the water that stung like a really bad case of razor burn when I swam for too long, so I stuck to beach-side lounging.

When it was time to leave I was on high lizard-alert and while we didn’t see the big one we first saw, we saw another one in the water just beneath the rocks we were climbing (eeekkk!!!). Joe took some photos as I pleaded “okay hunny, I think you got the shot. Let’s gooooo!”. It was only after that, on our return back to the main beach, that we saw an old rusted sign on the ground that read “AWAS” which means “BEWARE” in Bahasa Malay. Whomever put that sign there probably knows about the Godzilla family that stalks the shores…

At the end of the day were lucky that we got to enjoy that gorgeous little private beach without any real problems. Otherwise, we could have ended up being the suckers who left the main beach! Totally worth it. During lunch at another island, Pulau Mamutik, we Googled ‘the lizards of Sapi’ and learned that the ones we saw were Monitor Lizards. I think we’ll stick with calling them Godzilla.

 

one year, two different worlds

I didn’t think that we could top last year but as I look back on 2012 I realize that we’re only just getting started. We truly lived in two different worlds so I wanted to collect the most memorable moments, places, things, and thoughts into one post. I don’t really use Facebook so I’ll think of this as my “timeline” :) Travels will be on Thursday!

Here we go….

Enjoying a rare sunny winter day in London. Primrose Hill was Joe’s favorite place to fly his kite.primrose hill, london

A soothing cup of coffee and spot in the sun after my first (and thankfully only) mini-seasonal breakdown.post "i need to feel the sun's warmth" breakdown

Street art in our hood, W9. I loved walking past this everyday as a reminder of how much we had made London our home.street art w9

Back on Primrose Hill after the first snowfall, Joe proposed. His kite stayed home but he brought a gorgeous ring instead.engaged

Experiencing my first winter-to-spring transition felt so magical. I’ll never forget how this warm day felt and how good that cold beer tasted. Can I just say how badly I miss London’s pubs?!? Nothing else comes close.chiswick mall dove pub @ chiswick mall

Watching Feist bring the house down at the beautiful Royal Albert Hall. It was so cool to see her rock out in such a proper and classic venue.royal albert hall

Recapping our first year in Londonsmooch

…and then having to say goodbye shortly after

… and hello to a new landscape. Hello, Malaysia, you beautiful tropical place!palm leaves

Moving into our new apartment. Happy to have a few simple furnishings provided by the landlord.Untitled

Checking out our first wet market and being amazed by all the different varieties of fruit and fried food. I’m still learning what all of them are.chow kit, malaysia

Indulging in all said fruit. They’re so nice to have after experiencing the blandness of the ones available in London.penang by Ana Maria Munoz

Receiving love scribbles from my nieces in LA just as I was feeling homesick.from home

Snapping out of my homesick funk and breaking in our building’s BBQ for a little Fourth of July celebration of our own.weekend 070712_5

…and then doing it local style with the most amazing satay and peanut sauce ever. weekend we <3 you

Having front row seats to awesome thunder and lightning storms that happen nearly every afternoon. Even if we’re outside when they occur, it’s so warm out that it doesn’t matter. weekend we <3 you

Finding beauty in KL’s nooks and crannies.Kuala Lumpur

…and in more obvious and opulent places like the Petronas Twin Towers.weekend 102012_6

and last but not least, the feeling of growth that comes from exploring new territories both physically and mentally. 2013…bring it on.Batu Caves

doing the wok

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Last week I attended a local cooking class and while I completely forgot to take my camera along for photos, I did leave with a beautiful brass wok; crafted right here in Malaysia and just what our wet kitchen needed. What is a wet kitchen you may ask? It’s a secondary room with a gas stove, sink, window, and a door – all for cooking and frying up your fish and meats without stinking up the rest of the house. So yeah, we have a second kitchen right off of the main one and it’s totally normal…here at least ;)

Our wet kitchen also doubles as a laundry and storage room so we often forget to cook in it. But, now that we have a fancy new wok I’m more than ready to get in there and get dirty. The class I took was for Indian cuisine and my faves were the potato samosas and dhall curry. I’m hoping that I can make my home versions taste just as good since I’m pretty sure that most of the flavor came from the love and sweetness of our instructors Sue and Saadiah. They reminded me that a good meal is all about a pinch of love and dash of creativity … and now, using an awesome brass wok to fry fry fry.

If you find yourself in KL and want to cook like a local, check out LaZat. I loved it and already want to go back for another course.

weekend, we <3 you

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Hi guys, how was your weekend? We had lunch at the new Mexican restaurant in town, La Mexicana, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It was authentic in every way from the food to the decor…so much so that I did a little happy dance as soon as I took a bite of the pork tacos! I know it’s crazy to want/expect authentic anything that isn’t Asian but it sure is awesome that there are expats doing a great job of bringing bits of their own culture to KL.

To burn off our Mexican food binge, we decided to check out the nearby walking trails of Bukit Nanas, an eco reserve park in the center of the city. We were all set with our hats, comfy walking clothes, and water bottles but when we got to the entrance we were greeted by a locked gate and a notice of the park’s closure for construction. Wah wah. By that point it was too late for a plan b involving a relaxing hike so we opted for the next best thing: cold beers. Never a bad alternative on a warm day and certainly perfect for a leisurely Sunday out.

Cheers to a good week ahead!

to the cave

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Ancient limestone, trees, scurrying monkeys, and Hindu shrines – the Batu Caves felt a world away while being only forty minutes out of KL. The colorful steps with their layers of paint made the 272 step climb a bit easier and every now and then we’d stop to observe the monkeys. Not feed, just observe, because people who feed them are just asking for their hands to be mangled! I’ve never been inside anything like this grand cave turned religious temple before and with water from recent rainstorms trickling in through the cracks it felt like we had gone back in time. Sure it was touristy with trinket shops not quite fitting into the scenery but for a simple and free afternoon adventure it was great. There were a few people who were there to worship and I’ve heard that the Thaipsusam pilgrimage is quite the sight if you’re there early in the year. I’m glad we got to experience it on a quiet day though, in all of its ancient cave glory.

 

to all of my east coast USA readers and to those who have loved ones there, i’m thinking of you and praying for a safe end to the storm and quick recovery. hope you’re staying warm and strong. sending lots of love your way.

pop displays

neon tags

One of the first things I noticed when we moved to Malaysia was the way that some small independent shops display product prices and information. These neon tags are everywhere and they literally make me smile every time I see them. How could they not?! They’re bright, playful, and with great geometric shapes and cartoon-ish hands they’re hard to miss and not appreciate. When I started seeing packs of them for sale at stationary shops I got really excited because I knew that I had to have them. I have no idea what I’m actually going to do with them but I’m quite happy with the collection that has developed. Do you have any ideas for putting these awesome tags to use, functional or as art?

weekend we <3 you

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weekend weekend
weekend weekend

Hi guys, how was your weekend? We had a great date night on Saturday with dinner, a concert with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, and drinks next to the crazy-impressive Petrona Towers. I swear, they really know how to light those beauties! Sunday was equally as nice though much less fancy with grocery shopping, cleaning house, and organizing. The simple things that make all of the difference in enjoying your home, right?  Cheers to a great week ahead!

cultural bits

mooncake

I was lucky to be able to catch up with a lot of friends in LA but one of the hardest parts of catching up was answering the question “so, how is living in Malaysia?”.  Though most of my friends keep up to date with my blog I realize that I haven’t been sharing as much of the everyday moments and things that really make up the collective experience of living here. “Where do I even start?” I’d ask myself. On the surface level it appears to be like any other city (fancy skyscrapers, high-end shopping, trendy bars and restaurants) but how do I describe the nuances that make my walk to the grocery store that much different that it was in London or LA? And what about what happens inside of the grocery store? How do I give examples of things without making KL sound like a completely strange foreign place while acknowledging the fact that it is a thriving city straddled between old customs and modern western ways?

I found myself answering with surprising optimism that I LOVE it. I’ve realized that yes, it would be easier to live in a more mature city like Singapore but KL is rad. It feels like it’s five to ten years away from being like other major cities and we have a front row seat to the action. Construction is everywhere, locals seem to be hungry for new and exciting retail and dining experiences, and the tourism board is on overdrive – with good reason, too. Just like London is to Europe, KL is the perfect launch pad to the rest of South East Asia, Asia, and Australia. Malaysia may not have it all (yet) but what it does have is worth celebrating: heritage cities, modern cities, jungles, beaches, unique street-food, colorful religious festivals, and best of all, friendly people. I encountered more openly friendly strangers in the first three weeks here than I did in a year in London if that tells ya anything.

As for the little details? The ones that aren’t so great are made easier by the details that I have fallen for: the giant rainforest trees spared by new constructions, the black and white striped curbs on the roads that make me feel like I’m in a race car game, and the dangerously delicious baked goods that are hot and fresh anytime of the day (in the mall bakeries, of course ;).

I don’t recall if I managed to recite all of the above to my friends in response to their question but I did give them a few fish out of water type stories. I want to share those with you, too, so moving forward I will offer up some “cultural bits” so you can gain a little more insight as to how different (or not) living here can be.

Oh and the photo? They’re Chinese Mooncakes in celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. I initially had a totally different direction for this post but naturally I went off on a tangent so now the image is kinda random. Oh well, c’est la vie!

weekend, we <3 you

Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur

Hi guys, how was your weekend? Mine was fantastic. I feel like I’ve turned a new leaf and am ready to really enjoy living here. I’ve started craving local food, I’m making new friends, and I’m starting to see the beauty in this totally imperfect city. I’m done criticizing what it’s not and just want to enjoy it for what it is right now, what it is today. On Saturday we walked around Merdeka Square and the surrounding old part of town. We marveled at the giant flags draped everywhere and took time to appreciate the derelict yet beautiful buildings (see Singapore for their potential).

Between celebrating Malaysia’s independence from British rule just over fifty years ago, and the Muslim festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri (the end of Ramadan, the fasting month), KL is buzzing. It’s been so fascinating to see the Malay Muslim version of Christmas decorations in the malls and try new foods that are only available during this time of year. There’s so much to take in and I’m finally feeling 100% open to it. It feels good.

street grub

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jalan alor_9
jalan alor jalan alor_2 jalan alor, kuala lumpur jalan alor, kuala lumpur
jalan alor, kuala lumpur
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jalan alor, kuala lumpur jalan alor, kuala lumpur
jalan alor, kuala lumpur

Malaysia is known for its food but between our comfy sofa, Apple TV, and epic grocery buys, we’ve become quite the homebodies with dining and entertainment. On Saturday it was time to break the pattern and finally make our way to Jalan Alor, one of KL’s most well known spots for street grub.

There was all sorts of good stuff: Malaysian, Chinese, Thai but instead of opting for a big meal from one restaurant, we went to different stalls and built our own feast.  I loved trying all the new-to-us satays from squid to mushroom…there’s not much that they won’t put on a stick! For dessert I went for durian ice cream. Durian, the King of Fruit as they call it here, is known for being stinky. I can’t say that I understand where some people’s repulsion comes from but I do know that I loved that ice cream.

The bustle, the smells, the sense of a mini-adventure…I can’t wait to try more food, new streets, and leave the comfort of our blue sofa more often. Much more often.

 

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