Catching Up & Climbing Up

Hello from my bedroom where I am feeling super sore from today’s cardio-intense workout and (guiltily) sipping some Fanta grape which I bought on a whim earlier this afternoon. I’ve just gotten back from dinner with my family and we’re all currently really excited about our family bowling tournament tomorrow morning!

But first, let’s do a bit of catching up.

One of my favourite things I did last week was have dinner with my friend Nadia. She’s one of the handful of people I’ve become friends with pretty much purely out of randomly following each other on social media for years. I mean, we have a few mutual friends but I don’t think that counts because that’s not how we started becoming friends? Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her better these past couple of years since we both blog, we found out our dads used to play football (or was it futsal?) together and since we learned that we both have similar ambitions.

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Notice the “Closed” sign behind us. They handed us the bill and we were like “ok rude, we’re not done yet??” before we realised that it was 10pm.

I think that last part was totally why it was so much fun chatting with her last Wednesday. It had been over a year since we last hung out so I loved catching up, hearing about what she was learning at work and what her future plans are. There is absolutely nothing I love more in a person—especially a female—than ambition combined with a vision and a sense of self and Nadia totally has that. I was so into the conversation that I didn’t even check my phone the whole time. Nadia even pointed out later than night after we got home that she loved how the subject of ~boys~ didn’t even come up until right at the end of the conversation for a short while, haha. Anyway, I’m very excited to see what she’s going to get up to next and Nadia, I know you’ll read this so I’m gonna say again that you have my faith & support!

The next morning, my family and I went to KLCC to see my parents’ friends from university, a couple from London who were in KL to visit family. We went to Chinoz on the Park which reminded me of when I was like 9 and we went to KLCC relatively frequently because that seemed to be one of the only malls around at the time… but I digress. Breakfast was good and it was really nice to hear stories from my parents’ friends. I realised (not for the first time) that morning that when I was a child I used to just assume that everyone marries someone from their university because I know my parents and these particular friends of theirs met while they were all at Kent. How silly is that? Haha. I also thought about how I can’t wait to have catch-ups like those with some of my Penn friends and their kids someday.

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I’m starting to realise as I’m thinking through this post right now that most of my last week was spent catching up with people. I had brunch with my friend Sabrena, who was my classmate when we both were doing our A-Levels. We had both recently graduated and it was nice seeing how far we’ve come from our days at Sunway. She’s almost a fully certified dentist now!

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My sisters, mum and I also went to visit my mum’s friend/roommate when she went for hajj ~7 years ago. We had such a good time listening to her stories about hajj and her travels, etc. I feel like my mum has a few friends who’re just really good at storytelling… I’m always amazed at how they can make a relatively normal story become really funny and entertaining. Plus, she surprised us with a spread of some insanely good food!! We had roti puri, kuey teow and some carrot cake—basically, a bunch of my favs. The kari she served with the puri was just so good. I ate so much that I left wishing I wore pants that were more stretchable, haha.

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Over the weekend, my family and I went out for chinese food at Mohd Chan with the extended family on my mum’s side before my cousin Amirah headed back to Ohio State for her junior year. It was the first time I had crab in at least a year, and it was so good. I also didn’t realise that Mohd Chan would have an Inside Scoop next to it so when I saw my favourite ice cream shop there, it was a huge plus. I got the earl grey flavour, which was amazing. We saw Amirah off at the airport the next day and I know she was really sad but unlike me, she didn’t bawl at the departure gates. I, however, was already feeling like I was on the brink of tears because I knew the feeling of leaving-home-to-go-halfway-around-the-world-for-9-months too well.

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On Sunday night, my family and I went to A&W for the first time in ages. When we were younger, A&W trips were like the most exciting thing ever. Root beer floats and waffles with ice cream just seemed like the best treat there ever was. We used to do it a lot more frequently but now that our tastes have diversified a bit more, we go a lot less. But some of that childhood excitement lingers so I still get really excited every time we go. The best part of that trip was my dad re-discovering Siri. He had written it off because Siri was bad at recognising his speech but I told him that Siri is really good now and gave it another try. He literally said “Siri, I’m having some waffles now!” HAHA. Earlier this morning when I came down for breakfast, he said “Siri, Dayana is finally up” and this evening on the way to dinner, when I wanted to ask Siri a question, he told me to make sure I say hello to Siri first, lol.

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Then, on Monday morning, my dad, my sisters and I went to Batu Caves. It’s probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in KL, I would say. I know quite a few celebrities and American friends who have made it there before me. I think most recently, Ansel Elgort, that guy from The Fault in Our Stars was there and took a typical tourist picture with a monkey. Anyway, the thing about Batu Caves is that there are like 272 steps on the staircase up into the cave, which houses some hindu shrines. It was a good workout, to say the least. And I’m glad I now know what’s inside! It was a pretty fun visit. And of course, what is a morning activity in KL if it’s not followed up by a hearty breakfast? We went to Sri Paandi, one of my dad’s favourite restaurants, after going to Batu Caves for some good ol’ thosai and mango lassi.

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Lastly, some time last week I also listened to this 3-part podcast series called “36 Questions” by Two Up (you can read about it here). It’s a MUSICAL in podcast form starring Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton. It’s about this couple on the brink of divorce reconnecting using the 36 questions thing that was featured on The New York Times a couple of years ago. At first, it seemed a little contrived because the premise is that the girl in the relationship, Judith, faked her identity for 2 years and that’s why she and her husband Jase are splitting and Judith is desperately trying to save it, which sounds totally insane doesn’t it? It doesn’t help that she’s a little annoying.

But I found that there were a lot of avenues for me to relate to it anyway because there is so much humanity in the story: we all learn things about people in our lives that make us think the oft-repeated phrase, “you’re not who I thought you were” (obviously, usually it’s not to the extent of a faked identity, but still), we all struggle with figuring out how to or whether to forgive people and we all struggle to move on sometimes. I also loved that the writers of this series used audio as a medium to make it accessible. Theatre tickets are expensive and hard to come by most times, but this is free and anyone anywhere can enjoy it the way it was intended to be. Plus, it helps that I’m a sucker for a good musical theatre soundtrack, which “36 Questions” does not disappoint on! (Don’t ask me how many times I’ve seen Hairspray or listened to the All Shook Up soundtrack) So if you’re into musicals and/or podcasts, definitely definitely definitely check this out!

So yeah, it was another great week. I spent most of this week in Kuching, where my mum is from. My sisters and I ticked a lot of items off our craving list there and spent time with our cousins and grandparents. I’ll probably write about that sometime this weekend. Until then, thanks for reading!

Ipoh, Perak (again!)

So, I know I was just in Ipoh like a couple of weeks ago but on that trip, I was mostly just catching up with a friend–so much so that it didn’t really matter where we were. I even told Shahirah on my way home that day that “I spent a whole day in Ipoh and literally only have one picture and it’s a selfie in a carpark” HAHA.

Still, I had such a good time that day that I kinda convinced my family that we should all go. After some difficulty scheduling a 2-day block for a little getaway, we managed it last weekend! We left town right after my cousin’s doa selamat for her new house which was quite nice because it was the first time I saw her new place.

The ride to Ipoh was quite fun because it wasn’t too long like driving to Singapore in the south or Langkawi in the north, just about 2+ hours. We had apple strudels in the car on the way as an unlikely road trip snack, thanks to our cousin-in-law (is that a thing?) who bought a whole box for us. I did get a little tired of having my knees bent in the car along the way so as we exited the highway, I just couldn’t help but put my feet up. Yeah, very unbecoming of me, I know, but I just had to. It made me so grateful to be so short for once.

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We even took some disposable plates to eat the apple strudels in the car. Told you it was a very unlikely road trip snack.

We stayed at this really lovely place called Sarang Paloh right smack in Ipoh town (which, itself is very small) and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for somewhere to spend the night. Not only was it really pretty, it’s just a walking distance away from Kong Heng Square and the hotel staff were very friendly. We totally couldn’t resist having lots of mini amateur photo shoots around the place, haha.

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If you know Malaysia, you know that most getaways are centered around food. I had a good ol’ list of things to eat on our trip. The first thing we got was cendol! I love a nice cold bowl of cendol (note to American friends: it’s pronounced chain-dole or chen-dole LOL). There is nothing like a chilled spoon of santan and gula melaka on a hot day. Absolutely nothing else like it.

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Full disclosure: pictures from this cendol stall was taken from my previous trip to Ipoh but I ordered the exact same thing, so this was it.

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Later on in the evening, we took a stroll down to Kong Heng Square and Concubine Lane (don’t ask me why that’s what it’s called because I have no idea even though I’m probably just a Google search away from finding out). That area is small but really cute and well maintained. I was very pleased to see how clean it was, too!

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Lanterns at Concubine Lane

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With my sisters and my mum at Kong Heng

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We had early dinner at this place 20 minutes outside of the town center and had laksa telur goreng bersarang. It’s basically laksa utara but topped with an egg fried into a perfectly crisped mesh and it was probably the single best meal we had on the trip. We were a little weary on the drive there because we weren’t sure where Waze was taking us… it looked for a second like we were going to get lost in a housing area but the restaurant was tucked in this small neighbourhood like a real hidden gem. If you’re in Ipoh with a car, definitely go visit! Worth the drive and the wait in line.

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My parents stayed in the hotel after dinner because my mum wasn’t feeling too well but my sisters and I went to… Milk Cow and Plan B, lol. It’s funny because we find both of those places in KL all the time. We got honey milk ice cream, salted egg fries and a teh tarik cake for supper, since dinner was at like, 6-ish.

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My sisters and me before leaving the hotel to go out again.

Although the laksa takes the cake for best single meal, my favourite place on the trip was New Hollywood Cafe (again, don’t ask me why it’s called that because I truly have no idea) for breakfast on Sunday morning. We went at like 7.20am to avoid the crowd, which was a really good idea because by the time we were about to leave, people were struggling to get seats. I liked this place because it was a food-court type situation which is always a good thing when everyone has a different idea about what to have for breakfast.

I went with chee cheong fan and char kuey teow, two of my favourites (please don’t tell my trainer that I had two carb-loaded meals in one sitting). We also had mi rebus, roti canai, yong tau foo and roti goyang on our table. It was more than satisfying and I totally understand why it’s the go-to place for everyone from KL who makes a road trip to Ipoh. Seriously, I see this place on Instagram almost every other weekend (slight exaggeration).

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Kuey teow!!

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Sunday was a really nice day, not as hot as the day before. We walked to Kong Heng Square again, but this time to see the Yasmin Ahmad exhibit. It’s a small two-room exhibit run by Leo Burnett, where the late filmmaker used to work, and it’s really quite lovely. I absolutely loved it. The exhibit has some of her best work playing on loop, along with some of her poems and quotes hung around the room. I don’t need to say it because most of us already know… but Malaysia is destitute of good museums and accessible cultural centers so it’s always nice to see places like this. I think it’s better to have a small and simple exhibit and have it done well than to have large buildings with a big marketing budget and pathetic maintenance. So please, if you’re in Ipoh, go visit Yasmin at Kong Heng; we won’t get more places like this unless we prove that we’re here to support local arts and culture.

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When I was in Ipoh last month, I went to Funny Mountain Soya a bit too late and they had already run out of everything for the day, so I knew they were probably really good. Last weekend, I made sure we went a lot earlier in the day. We got 5 bowls of tau fu fah (which, like cendol, is also really good on a hot day) and some bottles of soya bean, cincau and soya cincau. It wasn’t anything we couldn’t have gotten in KL but delightful nonetheless.

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For lunch, we were thinking of getting mi rebus in this place just outside of the town center before we made our way back to KL but when we got there, we saw that it was unfortunately closed for some reason. Luckily we weren’t really hungry since we had been kinda eating non-stop haha. So we stopped by the side of the road to just get some cucur udang and rojak for a relatively light lunch before driving back. It was the first time I had had rojak in ages, so I was actually really pleased.

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My dad ordering lunch. We parked right in front of the stall like it was a drive-thru or something.

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Reusing the plates we used for apple strudels the day before, lol

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We got back to KL by about 3-ish that evening and I made it all the way without putting my feet up this time! I really enjoyed Ipoh and I’m definitely looking forward to returning again since there are still a few places on my list I want to visit. We used to go to Melaka quite frequently when one of my uncles lived there and once every few years we’d go to Penang or Port Dickson but we literally never go to Ipoh so I’m glad that we’ve added another city to our list of food-getaway places. Maybe our next addition will be my first ever trip to Kelantan (the only Malaysian state I’ve never been to!) for Kota Bharu.

I can’t even remember the last time I was this relaxed for so long

Hello! I’m happy to report another blissful and leisurely week at home, alhamdulillah.

The week started out really strong on Monday (I know some people insist that the week starts on Sunday but I see it as starting on Monday and this is my blog, so y’know, roll with it) with an early breakfast at Chong Kok, all the way in Klang. I want to say that’s my favourite kopitiam but the truth is, I don’t go to a lot of other kopitiams ever, so I guess this is just my favourite by default. First of all, I love the atmosphere there. I love that you see Malay, Chinese and Indians having breakfast in the same place. I love that it’s super no-frills and casual with a lot of character—I think the place has been around since the 1940s. But honestly, the best part is that we always have breakfast there with my aunty and cousins. Food’s really good too!! I still remember the first time I had roti steam there, it was so fluffy and soft and warm, ugh, so so so good and it goes so brilliantly well with butter and kaya. A moment of silence please for people in other parts of the world without the gift of pandan! Ok, thanks.

After breakfast last Monday, we went back to my aunty’s house to see Amelia for a bit. It’s hard to resist just sitting around watching her bob around with her toys even if it’s just for half an hour. She’s just such a cutie. I tried to get a selfie with her but she just keeps trying to grab my phone so I guess she’s not ready for it yet. I’ll wait.

The rest of the week was super relaxing. I can’t even remember what I did for most of Tuesday and Wednesday, but my camera roll reminds me that I ate an insanely good murtabak cheese and played some Bananagrams with my mum and sister.

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We went to KLCC on Thursday to go to Kinokuniya where I got some books. I absolutely love driving into KL and I know I only say that because I’m never the one actually driving; what I mean is I love sitting in a car being driven into KL. I love watching the highway break into the small KL roads and the view change from trees and houses to flyovers and skyscrapers.

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I’ve had 3 more personal training sessions (and one run!) since I last wrote on here and I think I’m getting a little better at it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still sit down anxiously in my room before every workout session hoping my trainer doesn’t literally kill me… but I’ve found that I’m so much less sore after exercising these days and I really enjoy the feeling of buckling down, silencing the nagging quitting-inclined voice in my head and focusing on hitting the number of reps the trainer sets for me. By the end of it, I’m always as red as a tomato and dripping in sweat, plus my heart seems to migrate into my ears because I can almost hear its pounding but it always feels so bloody good to see myself, quite frankly, just survive. We also had one kickboxing session with some pad work and I enjoyed that so I’m hoping to do that again a couple more times.

The best part of working out though, is actually how I feel when I eat after that! Haha. On Friday, we went to Chili’s for dinner after working out and it kinda felt more satisfying because it’s as if I deserved it more. Only as if.

After dinner last Friday, I went to see Ken, Peter and Shahirah at Artisan for dessert. Ken was leaving for the US that Sunday so we just wanted to hang out one last time this summer with the four of us together. We had Last Polka ice cream, and I had my absolute favourite flavour: salted gula melaka. We talked about everything from work grievances to toxic shock syndrome. Ken drove me all the way home from PJ again even though he had to be up at 5 the next morning because he’s just an insanely nice person. I’m going to really miss seeing these people regularly!!

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Look at Ken!!!! HOW CUTE!

Anyway, that’s all from me today! I’ll probably write again tomorrow about my family’s weekend trip to Ipoh but until then, thank you for reading as always, byeeeee!

WHOLESOME

I think if I had to set up an ideal week at home for myself, it would probably look a lot like last week.

After a nice trip to Ipoh last Sunday, Monday was mostly spent hanging out with family. I went to Pavillion with my mum, sisters, aunty and my cousin Alesya. To be honest, we made the trip because my family isn’t impervious to the whole Duck Scarves hype. Their only store is all the way there, so I just wanted to go check it out since I had never been. I didn’t buy anything (I think my mum and I were the only ones who didn’t) but it was fine because the highlight of the trip was really getting my Milk Cow honey soft serve and having lunch at Ben’s.

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My mum, Alesya, my aunty (who I call Chik), me, Aida and Julia

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I should also mention that I’m really enjoying the fact that public transport (or at least, the trains) are half off until the end of the month! I really like taking the LRT around so I was really glad we all took it to KL, though it might not be a good idea for next time because of my aunty’s knee. I just love the views and people-watching! Plus, I like how it makes me feel independent… and you know, I hate navigating roads and parking haha. I’m glad connectivity is getting better in KL. It’s still not great, I usually need someone to send me to the closest station. But it’s a lot better now and I’m grateful for progress!

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We also made a few more food excursions last week (honestly… what’s new?). We went to one of my favourite places for breakfast, Azira in Seksyen 10. They serve everything and everything they serve is just so good. My favs are mi kari, lontong, roti jala and soto in that order. It’s one of those restaurants where you can take as much as you want, which I love, which means I can have just a bit of everything. Their kari especially is just so good, and I think I really like it because it’s just so berlemak haha.

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Post-breakfast mess!

Later that evening, we went on yet another food hunt. I had recently heard of the kuey teow place near FAM in Kelana Jaya and when I asked my dad about it, he said we actually used to go there a long time ago so we decided to give it a visit. The one at Subang Ria was unfortunately closed that day so we went to Restoran Jamal which also has a really famous char kuey teow place. Normally, I’d be bummed if I went to KJ for a certain thing and couldn’t get it but the kuey teow we got instead absolutely did not disappoint and just reaffirmed my putting kuey teow in the upper echelon of Malaysian food.

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The next day, we had a cute little family photoshoot in Bangsar. We’ve been doing these once every 3 years or so and it’s always a little awkward having to do all the poses haha but they always turn out great so I’m excited to see these pictures, especially because we took some graduation pics as well and Aida got to be in them this time.

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Got to wear this robe one more time and really make the most out of the absurd amount of money I had to spend on it, haha (my robe isn’t dirty btw, it was the mirror)

After the photoshoot thing, my dad had a meeting but the rest of us went to KGNS for lunch. I love KGNS and it’s probably really bougie of me to say that I love being part of a ~golf and country club~ lol but honestly we just go there for the food. Aida and I were particularly craving yong tau foo so we got that, some pau ayam and good old teh tarik. SO SATISFYING.

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That night, I went to KL Sentral to have dinner because the Malaysians at Penn club thing was having a welcome dinner for the incoming freshmen. We squeezed into a small corner at Manhattan Fish Market because despite making a reservation, we were told we’d have to wait 30 minutes for a table otherwise. A little annoyed at first, we ended up making it work. I feel a little bad that I didn’t get to speak to the newbies much but it was the first time in ages that I got to see Peter, Han Yang and quite a few others who had graduated in previous years so I was just so excited to see them again.

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Excuse the extra large font, it was Peter’s doing, not mine.

Ken offered to drive me, Sha and Peter home after dinner and I gladly accepted, forgetting for a minute that I actually drove to the Glenmarie LRT station, haha. I had a hell of a laugh for a second, thinking about what my parents would say in the morning if they saw that the car wasn’t there. In the end, he drove me to the train station near Sha’s house which is a lot closer to Glenmarie than KL Sentral is. We had so much fun in the car, laughing, talking about everything from work to the healthcare bill to figuring out how to use Boomerang. It was so blissful—more so than usual now that I more fully understand how precious and rare times like those are and will continue to be now that we’re all going to be in different cities. It reminded me of lazy hangs at Ludlow and it made me miss May May and Hui Jie a bit more.

On Friday night, my family and I went to KLPAC which is the KL Performing Arts Centre to watch Family, a production put on by the participants/students of their Theatre for Young People program as their final showcase. My dad knew someone who was in it, so we all decided to go support him since we thought it would also be really fun. The show was well written and as far as I could tell, it was a very good performance. It ran for about 80 minutes and consisted of short sketches that really attempted to blow out into the open all the things we Malaysians tend to sweep under the rug when it comes to family: secrets, broken homes, mental illnesses, multiracial families, domestic violence and etc. I definitely was glad I went.

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Awfully dark and blurry picture of me and my sisters waiting for the show

I was also very happy to bump into Nadia that night at KLPAC!!! It was both of our first times there and we both adored the interiors together for a second, haha. I hadn’t seen her in ages and now that I’m thinking about it, this was probably the first time I’ve met her in Malaysia since we had only ever met up in London, where neither of us have lived, lol.

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We got back from the play and I had to try to fall asleep as soon as possible because the next morning, I had to wake up at like 5.30 because I was going hiking! Ken invited me and Peter only like a couple of days before but I’ve been wanting to go hiking for ages so I wasn’t going to turn it down. There was a hiking event at Bukit Wawasan and we kind of just randomly joined. My dad had to drive me out all the way to Puchong at like 6-ish a.m. (shoutout to my dad) and we started hiking just after 7. Literally 15 minutes after climbing uphill, I was panting and started to think, “hmm boleh ke ni?” (Can I actually do this?) LOL. Peter and Ken are so fit! Peter was literally just like prancing around while singing! But I’m not a giver-upper so I persisted through the 2-hour trail and I’m really glad I did because it was so satisfying. I have always said that the best part of physically exercising is the part where you train yourself to get better at negotiating with the nagging voice in your head and that was definitely true last Saturday as well.

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After the hike, we were dead set on replacing all our calories with some good nasi lemak. We even drove out to Uptown to get Village Park nasi lemak (since Ken has never been!) but honestly… Village Park? At 9.30 am on a Saturday? Forget it. So we just drove to Bukit Jelutong since they were going to send me home anyway and the best nasi lemak is actually a 5-minute walk from my house. We ended up sitting there for a couple of hours and I joked that it was probably my most wholesome hangout with those two, haha.

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On Sunday, even though I was a little sore and my toe really hurt from slipping during the hike, I went to Puchong in the afternoon to see my friend Lisa who is spending a year in Malaysia teaching English in Sarawak as a Fulbright scholar. She was in KL for the weekend as part of a Dance Camp some of the Fulbright scholars organised and I went to watch their closing show. It was so nice to catch up with Lisa and see firsthand how she’s like with her students. We didn’t get to speak a whole lot because obviously we didn’t want to be disruptive or disrespectful or whatever during the show but we did get to talk about the camp, a few of her struggles as a Fulbright ETA and what she’s thinking of doing next. I’m honestly so amazed by her enthusiasm and dedication to those kids. Her team ended up winning Audience Favourite and even was about to just full on break into tears, not gonna lie.

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(An awful shot of) the winning group’s performance. These kids teared up when they found out they won!!

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ME WITH LISA!!!

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Lisa hyping up her group before they went on stage

I got home that evening, baked some pecan cupcakes and helped prepare for a little dinner thing we were having that night. We invited one of our neighbours to come to dinner at our place as a family. We all just love spending time with Aunty A and her family; they’re always so warm and hospitable and funny. It’s just always a good time. My mum made laksa sarawak (insanely good, btw) and aunty brought some bread butter pudding, which was delicious. I actually used to follow Aunty A and her husband to work every morning when I was interning in KL a couple of summers ago and I honestly enjoyed chatting with them in the mornings and sometimes getting breakfast with them so having them over for dinner really reminded me of that, except more meriah because the rest of our families were there as well.

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My mum’s laksa

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So yeah, that was my week! It was so lovely… Hiking and dinner with friends! Food excursions, shopping and theatre with family! Catching up with people! How cute and wholesome, am I right? I did leave a few things out, like following my dad to a work event, quick detours to get cronuts at Dotty’s, eating McD breakfast in traffic and going out for chinese food dinner with my cousins but… I don’t know, I guess I just missed it and now I’m too lazy to go back and fit it in lol. Anyway, rest assured, I also spent a lot of time at home doing boring things like napping, staring at the ceiling in my room and flipping through channels aimlessly hehe.

Until next time!

Stopping To Exchange Notes

I think so few days are as special as yesterday was. I took a train out to Ipoh on such a nice Sunday morning to visit my friend Nate, who’s spending the year in Kampung Gajah, Perak as a Fulbright ETA.

It’s so rare to have someone understand the particularities of having a foot in both Penn culture and Malaysian culture. No doubt, it’s easy to find people who personally understand the experience in broad strokes. So many of my Malaysian friends have studied abroad, even in America. But I think it’s different when you explain something subtle and specific and then get a “YES” or an “oh my god, me too!” in return because you both know both of those places to some extent and I feel like in terms of personality or like the way we think and some of the things we went through, there were a lot of similarities as well (to name a few: we both didn’t love Penn for most of our time there, we both felt very meh about majoring in Psychology, we both did Penn Monologues and we both mix sambal into the rice before eating nasi lemak).

Plus, I think what makes this whole thing even more amazing for me is that I don’t know anyone else from America who knows what it’s like to live here. All my other Penn friends who negotiate the same physical and cultural distance as me do that coming from the same side of the world as I do, so I was beyond curious to know and to hear firsthand what it’s like to be on the opposite side of that (if that makes sense?).  I’ve been a huge fan of his blog about his experience in Malaysia from day one for this very reason. On my train ride home yesterday, I was thinking about how it’s kind of like two people on different journeys crossing the same path at the same time but going in different directions, looking at the same things but from different perspectives, stopping to exchange notes… which is kind of cool.

We spent almost the whole day together effortfully navigating our way around Ipoh by foot and car. And because this is Malaysia and I haven’t been to Ipoh in at least 5 years, we. ate. so. much. That’s kind of my fault because that’s kind of all I wanted to do, but the truth is, the food took a backseat on this trip because I really came to just catch up with Nate.

I think I might’ve mentioned in earlier posts that we both met in a small Cultural Psychology class in the spring of my junior year, though Nate was a senior then. It was during that semester that he found out he was going to spend a year in Malaysia and I think on some level, I’ve been waiting to have this conversation with him since I found out he got into the program. That might partly be because of selfish reasons, like a sense of pride for a culture that I’ve never really gotten to share with my friends abroad even though I’ve always wanted to or tried to in small ways. But I think my excitement also stems from this profound curiosity.

There were so many things I wanted to ask him and talk about and I feel like we covered so much ground. We talked about difficulties trying to adjust moving to and from Malaysia, the different ways in which we stick out, learning and participating in a new culture and where we think we’re headed in the next few years, etc. (At this point I feel like I should also say that my American accent immediately resurfaced and I’m sure everyone around me was probably glancing at me like… “that girl is Malay, why is she talking like that?” but I was too preoccupied to think about it really, lol.)

I honestly felt like I learned so much which isn’t at all surprising with someone as curious and introspective as Nate is. I left feeling somewhat… rejuvenated (?) but also felt like there were so many more things I wanted to talk about but didn’t get the chance to and obviously I can’t speak for him, but I imagine he might’ve felt the same.

I know I’ve only just written about how much I looked forward to asking Nate all my questions and how I feel now that I have gotten to catch up with him and nothing really about what we talked about but that’s in part because of our privacy and because I could never fully get everything right and I don’t want to risk getting anything wrong. And since there’s no way I could write about everything, I’ll just say that spending time with Nate really reminded me of how small we are and how much of the world we have to learn from. This is so cheesy but I am so inspired by his bravery and sensitivity—the fact that he literally moved to a kampung in Malaysia where he stands out like a coconut tree in a paddy field and does not speak the language, I mean, I don’t think that’s something I could do, and he does it with so much genuine care and respect for the people around him and that’s just something I really look up to him for.

I think it was special because there’s this huge part of my life that I know most of my American friends know about on the surface level. But to have someone from that… other world of mine come see for themselves what it’s like makes me feel understood in a way that I haven’t before. Maybe I feel seen and heard better. Maybe it’s like… having one foot on both sides of the world is difficult because it attempts to rip you down the middle, and this closes that gap just a little bit more than I ever could on my own and I’m really thankful for that.

What I’ve Been Up To, In List Form (ii)

I’ve been saying lately that all I’ve been doing is eating because it’s kind of true. A lot of life in Malaysia is centered on food. It’s not really a thing to say let’s go for a walk or whatever to catch up. So, just as a short foreword: there’s a lot of food on this list! Haha.

Qamarina

I got dinner with my friend Qamarina, who goes by QM for short (I actually have never asked her why…) last week. She’s working in London and was back for Raya for 2 weeks-ish. I don’t see her often at all so it was so nice to just catch up and talk about everything since I saw her last in December. It’s so crazy to think I have no idea when I’ll see her next but hopefully it won’t be 3 years again, which was the longest we went without catching up.

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QM & my unintentionally patriotic selfie.

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(My parking was a lot better that day!)

Corporate open house!

My sisters and I followed our dad to a corporate open house and the food was so good. We had durian, otak otak (my favourite, and this was such a wonderful surprise because they’re quite hard to find!) and laksa. My dad even “made” dodol—ok not really make, just stirred for a bit. This was pretty much my only real open house this year, and I didn’t even wear baju kurung for it! Like I said, it was such a quiet raya.

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Otak otak and a good ol’ bowl of laksa Johor!!

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Making dodol, haha

WISDOM TOOTH EXTRACTION

This was a big one last week. I removed my wisdom tooth from the top left side!!!! I did it, guys!! So here’s the thing, my bottom left wisdom tooth was giving me a hard time a couple of years ago because it was a little impacted. I had it removed at Penn in 2015, just a week or so before finals! I couldn’t eat solids for 6 days and was sore for such a long time… I remember having such a bad experience last time so I just totally dreaded going through it again.

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My xray from 2015!! lol

In hindsight, I probably should’ve had both removed at the same time so that I wouldn’t have to recover twice. I definitely had the option to, but I knew it would be cheaper to wait and get it done in Malaysia so I just did what I absolutely had to do while I was in the US. Summer after summer passed and I kept putting it off… but my dad put his foot down and was like yeah, you definitely need to do it now. I even made him call the dentist to make the appointment because I refused haha.

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This extraction went a lot better than the last I think. And this time I got to keep the tooth! The first day, I could at least eat KFC’s mashed potatoes (which is pretty much liquid, let’s be honest) while binge-watching Stranger Things with my sisters. The toughest parts were when I had to go out in the rain to buy more gauze from the pharmacy and when I had to swallow painkillers with that whole gauze situation in my mouth.

Thankfully, I was able eat solid-ish foods within 1.5 days and in 3 days, I was back to normal although was still avoiding chewing hard things on the left side. I am so scared of the dentist, my heart starts pounding just at the thought of going for a regular scaling appointment. So yeah, very glad this is done with!

Baby sitting Amelia

Last week, my sisters and I got to babysit our cousin’s baby, Amelia. She’s a year old now, which means she’s just so full of energy. Even when she’s yawning and sleepy, she just runs around and giggles non stop. It’s kind of cute, but definitely tiring for us. The fun parts were playing with bouncy balls and carrying her around in a slow run while my mum pretended to chase us and “scare” her; she really enjoyed this. The not-so-fun part was watching her take apart and put together the same toys again, and again, and again. Children are cute, tiring, sometimes even boring but always fascinating.

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It was so hard to even take a picture of her because she kept moving around!!

Chik’s open house

My aunty had an open house for her group of police wives last weekend but invited the whole family over as well. The funny part was that we were supposed to arrive after her guests had eaten. We even came a little later just to be super sure we wouldn’t be caught in the middle of her entertaining the whole lot of them and whatnot but when we arrived, they arrived at the same time right behind us! It turns out they were all late, hahaha. So we did end up getting caught right in the middle of it all.

I missed out on the roti jala (!!!) but I had lemang with kuah kacang and laksa. It was in the evening, too. Like, 4-ish p.m. and we had already eaten lunch at 1, had dessert after, and also had a cheese tart around 2.30… I really just… couldn’t believe how much I ate that day.

Banana leaf rice

We had banana leaf rice on Monday! We took Faizol there because he had never been before. I had some sotong goreng and tosai, which is always good. I wish Kanna Curry House still used actual banana leaves but their food would taste amazing on cardboard so I won’t really complain. And that’s all I have to say about that—I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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SOTONG GORENG, MY LOVE.

Seeing Shahirah at work!

I just cannot stress how proud I was to see Sha all legit with her work lanyard and access card and all of that when I visited her at work to have lunch a few days ago. I’ve heard her talk about working there for 4 years, dreading it and preparing for it. And now it’s finally there!!!!! Her work sounds really interesting and I’m beyond excited to see how she grows there.

We got dim sum for lunch and I gave her a birthday present, Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit. Charawi and I have been asking her to read that book for like, a year now. Every time I see it, I snap it and send it to her and she keeps saying it “haunts” her and it became a funny thing between us so as soon as she could tell that my present was a book, she was like “OH MY GODDDDD, I KNOW WHAT IT IS” hahaha. It was priceless.

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Kickboxing

My sisters, my mum and I had a personal trainer come over last week for a private kickboxing class. Ugh. It was insane. I am still sore from it. My mom has been doing this for a while, and honestly I don’t know how she does it because it’s just not fun??? Yesterday though, we had the same trainers come over and we did more of a strength training thing with mats and I enjoyed that so much more. I am going out of town tomorrow though, so I’m a little worried that I’m going to be so sore the whole time but I’ll let you know how that goes! Anyway, with all the eating I’ve been doing here… I shouldn’t be complaining about the pain. I kinda don’t have a choice. I have to be doing some exercise to make up for all the calories.

[31 hours passed since I wrote that last sentence, just so you know lol]

Chair.

I was on the train back from KL on Tuesday, and as I was approaching the Asia Jaya station, I suddenly remembered that on my commutes back from KLCC in early 2013, I would always look at this office chair on a balcony of this random building between Taman Jaya and Asia Jaya. I would always wonder why it was there. And as I passed that same spot last Tuesday, my heart had this small leap of joy when I saw that two chairs were there. I know it might not have been the same chair but there was just something about it that made me feel really happy.

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Making my parents try quinoa

I kinda already wrote about this on Instagram so apologies for the repetition, but here it goes again. My parents used to always perli me when I ate quinoa because it’s “hipster food” or whatever but I brought some back from Trader Joe’s and cooked it at home. I just mixed some cooked quinoa with pesto, baked carrots + broccolis and lots of chopped red onions. I would’ve liked some dried cherry tomatoes and/or mushrooms in it but I was on a bit of a time crunch and had to just work with what was in the fridge. I think it turned out really well and my parents seemed to like it so it was a win for both me and quinoa that day.

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HomePro (haha)

I went to HomePro for the first time this past week because my dad wanted my sisters, my mum and me to go check out some wallpapers for our living room. We probably did that for like 10 minutes and then spent the rest of the time wandering around that huge shop… and we got the most stuck at the baking section. I ended up buying this really cute apron and a small muffin pan for our oven (which is relatively small) and I just really enjoyed looking at all the cute and different types of spatulas and whisks and pans!!!!!! AHHHH. Ok that’s all about HomePro. It’s not that interesting… I just felt like I had to include it because I was so excited there.

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llao llao

One of the things I was sad about when I left Philly was leaving Yogorino. It’s this frozen yogurt place that serves one of my all-time favourite desserts and I actually dare say that llao llao is better than that!! It has the same tart taste but is milkier and like… fattier than Yogorino’s “thinner” frozen yogurt and I love it. I literally kept thinking about it during my last personal training session in order to help get me through. Right after the workout, my sisters and I took a shower, had quick dinner and headed to Aeon to get some llao llao. I wanted it so much I even volunteered to drive, which says a lot!

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I like my frozen yogurt with as little toppings as possible and I think the Lotus biscuit crumbs might be the best one.

Shahirah’s surprise party

Shahirah’s mum organised a surprise party for her on Saturday and it was so nice! Sha was told that her mum was organising a makan makan thing for her friends (her mum’s friends, not Shahirah’s friends… I realize this is all a bit confusing…) and Sha had to help clean the house and prepare the table and all of that for supposedly 20 of her mum’s friends. She was so shocked when she saw her own friends turn up at the gate haha. Apparently she said that at first, she thought “what are they doing here?? My mum’s friends are coming soon!” or something like that lol. But the food was so good and I got to hang out with Aish and Kai Syuen as well so it was just a really, really pleasant Saturday evening.

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A very poor picture of Sha cutting the cake because I didn’t want to leave my seat to get a better shot.

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In case you haven’t heard, Shahirah’s mum is a home chef extraordinaire. 

Dunkirk

I watched Dunkirk last night and it was really interesting. I think I enjoyed it, if “enjoyed” is the right word for it. That is, I deeply appreciated it as a film. The sound effects and cinematography were amazing and I was just revelling in that the whole time. I loved how, conceptually, it felt more like an immersive experience than a typical movie. The plot doesn’t play a huge role in the film and I read this Slate review that described it as being a movie without “military higher-ups debating strategy over maps”, which I thought was really cool. But other than that, the movie leaves you with quite a bit of heartbreak, which means it’s effective as a film but not necessarily “enjoyable”. Plus, there were literally 2 women in the whole film and only 1 person of colour in a non-speaking role, so like, meh. I get that it is a historical thing so they were just portraying what was going on but looking at 400,000 white men can only be so interesting.

We also snuck in so much food from Carls Jr which was hilarious! I felt really bad when we opened the box of chili cheese fries in the cinema but we were pretty hungry so it finished really quickly and I hope no one was too bothered by it! It was so good though, heh.

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Blurry picture of my dad holding the cheese fries, popcorn and on the right, those are 2 more bags with jalapeño poppers and chicken tenders in them! Haha

So that’s all for this week! I’ve got a really nice week lined up ahead of me and I’m so excited to be able to write about that next. Until then, as always always always, thanks for reading!

PHUKET, THAILAND

I think it’s amazing when you stay at the same resort a fourth time and you still enjoy it as much as you did the first time. I don’t think my family goes back to the same hotel in the same city very often, but we have stayed at Phuket’s JW Marriott four times in the past 10 years because it is one of the best places to just have a nice chill week. This resort is the best place for that just because of the amenities.

The health club is probably my favourite part. It’s physically a gym, but it’s also the center that organises lots of group activities like yoga on the patio by the pool, “cooking” classes, facial lessons, etc. They also have bicycles, books and DVDs for you to borrow so we usually make the most of that. We didn’t do any island hopping or shopping because we had already done those things on previous visits, plus my dad was under the weather for the first few days and we all just wanted to hang out and do relaxing activities.

Somehow, on that holiday, we started a routine of watching one movie a day. Over the 6 nights we were all there, we watched Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Kubo and the Two Strings, Jurassic World, Sing, Moneyball and Hugo. Julia and I left one night early because of a booking snafu haha, but Aida and my parents watched Life on the last night. We watched a lot of animated movies because my mom particularly loves them. I think my favourite movie was Moneyball but without a doubt, our collective favourite in terms of viewing experience was Jurassic World—not because we really loved the movie but because we just ripped it apart.

My mom couldn’t stop making remarks about how Jessica Chastain wore high heels throughout the whole thing, and my sister made comments about how the kids’ hairs still looked good even after they jumped down a waterfall. The most insane part in the entire movie, in my humble opinion, had nothing to do with dinosaurs but was when one of the boys could still use the matches in his bag even after it had been in the water. And when Chris Pratt and Jessica Chastain kissed towards the end of the movie, we were all really annoyed, like “OH, COME ON!!!” because it was such typical Hollywood nonsense, hahaha. Anyway, I went off on a tangent, lol.

We did do some fun stuff that we couldn’t have done at home as well, we didn’t just watch movies the whole time, haha. We had a thai language class which was really cool, a short class about how to do a face massage at the spa, played Pétanque, did yoga, went to the beach and visited the hotel’s small turtle conservatory.

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My parents at the thai language class

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Facial massage class at the spa

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Playing Pétanque (or trying to play Pétanque)

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The first time I ever climbed a tree!

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Our only family picture from the trip haha

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My parents taking a selfie; it was too cloudy to watch a nice sunset but I still love a good lie on the beach

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We visited the conservatory (which helps treat disabled turtles!) during feeding time. We didn’t get to feed them anything because all the little kids were so eager we figured we’d just leave it to them, haha.

My favourite activity we did at the hotel though was definitely the one where we learned to make mango sticky rice. Because we’re so used to using santan straight from the box we get at the supermarket, we’ve never actually had to scrape the isi from the actual coconut, but that day, we got to have that experience. Of course, my parents were all like “yeah, you know girls, this is how we had to do it when we were little when there were no machines… etc etc” haha.

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When we were done scraping the flesh into little shredded bits, we poured water into it and squeezed the coconut milk out. This was my favourite part because I love the smell of santan and it also made my hands feel super smooth. But with that said, I’m definitely going to stick to buying santan from the box. It’s just not worth the time and effort.

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Then, we had to cook it, sweeten it and add salt etc to thicken the milk. Honestly, the smell at this point is just intoxicating. And since the sticky rice—or as we call it, pulut—was already cooked for us, all that was left was to do was peel/cut the mangoes, which is probably one of my favourite fruits, if not my absolute favourite.

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Julia, my mum and me with our Health Club aprons, hehe

It was so good and so much fun! Not only did we get to make it, we got to eat a lot of it as well.

The only day we actually ventured into Phuket town was Tuesday, and it was only for half a day. In all honesty, we primarily just wanted to go into town to visit this restaurant we went to 2 years ago called Pantai because the food was amazing and also to buy more groceries for the rest of our stay. Basically, we went out to eat food and buy more food.

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(Part of) what we ordered for dinner. That green curry was so good!!

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We went to get groceries and saw some huge durians, which I LOVE.

On the last night, I really really wanted pad thai and tom kha but room service is too expensive and we all didn’t want to go out so we texted the driver who took us around Phuket a couple of years ago and (shamelessly but kindly!) asked him if he knew anyone in our area who could bring us food from outside, hahaha. We ended up being connected to someone else who got someone else still to get it for us, and I’m so thankful it worked out because the food was amazing.

We each had pad thai and we also ordered some kangkung, tom yam, tom kha and I had to get my thai iced tea of course.

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Sipping my thai tea while watching our movie of the day

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This is a screenshot of a boomerang of my tom kha, which is probably my favourite thai food (though many others come close).

I just love Thai food so much, and I think it’s because it’s really just adjacent to Malaysian food??? We didn’t eat that much Thai food despite being in Phuket for a whole week though because again, we didn’t want to leave the resort that much or spend a lot of money on food so we literally packed some groceries from home and cooked in the room. (#AsianParents? or no? Do other people do this too?)

Speaking of saving money on food, I should also tell you that the bakery at the hotel has this thing where its baked goods are half off after 9 p.m. (!!!) so on two nights, we actually paused our movie, left the room at like 8.45 in our pyjamas just to linger around the bakery up until the discount time and bought a lot of snacks!

Other than that, most of our time was spent doing crossword puzzles and playing Bananagrams together, two things that are so relaxing and so, so, so insanely exciting at the same time. I think those are probably our favourite family word games!

Hehe can you tell I didn’t take that many pictures? All of these are just saved from Snapchat/Instagram story.

So yeah, that’s pretty much it! We had such a good relaxing week there just chillin’ and spending time with each other without distractions. I’ll miss this beautiful resort until we come back the next time, inshaallah.

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