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

I’ve just gotten back from a quick… um, early dinner? late second lunch? I don’t know, I just got back from Kelana Jaya, where my family and I went out for some char kuey teow (no prizes for guessing whose idea that was). All of that “just had a scaling appointment at the dentist” sensation from my dentist appointment this afternoon has completely gone. Oops.

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My insanely indulgent summer holiday is coming to an all-too-rapid close but has shown no signs of slowing down in terms of how much fun I’ve been having. I think it’s been a while since I’ve done a recap and I don’t really feel like covering everything I’ve done so I’m just going to do another run down of some personal highlights.

Aboo Bakars Bowling Tournament

I mentioned a while ago that my family was going to have a bowling tournament and we did! It was so. much. fun.

First of all, let me just stress that I suck at bowling. If you set aside my 8-year-old cousin Natasha, I came last out of everyone that day. But it was just really fun to see how good some other people were and it was extra exciting when my ball didn’t end in the gutter! My dad even sorted people into teams such that each team would have players of equal capability and no team has an advantage over another and no one knew who was in which team to start with so we all just rooted for everyone. There were prizes and everything!

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My favourite part of the day though was probably when we all went out for lunch at Delicious after we all played two rounds. I love going out with my extended family. We always end up blocking out a whole section of the restaurant because there are like 20 of us.

Nasi kerabu

A while ago, my sister showed me this video on Instagram of this white guy speaking fluently in Malay about a restaurant called Kesom which serves really good nasi kerabu. We decided to go a couple of Sundays ago because nasi kerabu is one of my craving list items and it did not disappoint! The only thing was that my dad made me drive (!!!!) and the GPS took us on some small winding back roads so it was a little nerve wracking but it turned out ok.

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‘Bad Genius’

That same Sunday, my sisters and I went to Bukit Raja to watch a movie with two of our cousins, Alesya and Azlina. We watched Bad Genius, which was the talk of the town—everyone was absolutely raving about it! Basically, it’s about this really smart girl who starts a system to help rich kids get good grades by helping them cheat in exams in exchange for money (when I told my mom this, she was like “why are you watching a movie about cheating?” but like, obvs there was a lesson and all of that).

loved the cinematography of it all. Some parts were cringey and unrealistic but it was just all so beautifully shot and I really take my hat off to the Thai entertainment industry for a well thought out film. (*cough* now, if only Malaysia could stop making ridiculously stupid ghost movies…)

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Super awful Snapchat-quality picture of us at the cinema

HAIRCUT + FOOTBALL DEBACLE

Last week, my sister wanted to go get a haircut and for one reason or another, each salon she went to that day turned her away (too full, closed, etc) but after Maghrib, we decided to try another one near Aeon Seksyen 13. So we left after dinner, thinking it would just be a short drive, but a little apprehensive because Waze said it would take us like 30+ minutes. It was a little strange, but we thought it was just peak rush hour traffic jam, so like, whatevs.

After getting stuck in traffic for ages, we finally remembered that Malaysia was playing against Laos (I think it was Laos that night) at the Sect 13 stadium………. literally, there were cars parked on the road. We just couldn’t believe it. I think that was Aida’s like 4th or 5th attempt to get her haircut that day. So, we ended up going back to BJ, stopping at Mydin, getting a pair of scissors (and a good ol’ Ramli burger hehe) and getting my mum to cut her hair because she was desperate lol.

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A VERY RIDICULOUS picture of me with some other stuff we bought at Mydin while waiting for our burger

To be honest, it was such a fun(ny) night hahaha.

Seeing Amalina after 8 YEARS (!)

In 2009, I went to a couple of environmental camps: in Pahang in March and then in Sandakan in June. At both of those camps, I befriended Amalina. We didn’t become BFFs or anything during the camps but you know, we have followed each other on social media ever since. Trust me, I know there are a lot of downsides to social media sites like it amps up the temptation of comparison and urges you to waste your time etc etc but there are a lot of ups to it as well. Keeping in touch with your friends and having a sense of what everyone is up to is one of them—it helps give you like a jumping off point to talk to friends you rarely see. It also means that sometimes you get to really connect with people you otherwise might not get to and that was totally the case with me and Amalina.

We definitely didn’t talk all the time. Far from it. But there were multiple occasions where I felt like we were going through the same thing and sometimes we’d strike up a short conversation just lifting each other up and it was always so special to me. I still have screenshots of her messages to me just being really sweet and expressing how happy she was for me when things were going well. I had no idea that anything I said to her meant anything to her at all until she told me last week, so that was just really great. I’m so glad we got to catch up after 8 years.

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Screenshot from Amalina’s Instagram story ❤

Tasha’s 8th Birthday

It’s been so long since I’ve managed to catch my cousin Natasha’s birthday. It’s usually right around the time that I head back to Penn. But this year, I got to go! It was just nice because, well, it’s always fun when my whole extended family gets together to eat (lol I’m family + food 24/7) but also because it has been forever since I’ve been to one of these kid birthday parties! I used to enjoy them so much when I was in primary school and this really reminded me of those days, with all the wrapped up presents and cartoon themed birthday cake!

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Watching Tasha unwrap her presents

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I thought this was really funny because it looks like everyone’s gathering trying to arrange themselves for a photo but they’re all just watching Amelia and watching Tasha unwrap presents haha

We got her some Shopkins toys for her birthday which is one of those new age kids things that I totally am out of touch with. They’re just like… objects? I don’t know. This is me, trying to explain what they are to Hanna:

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But yeah, it was so much fun and we stayed until like midnight talking and by the time we left, I was already hungry enough for a cheeky little McDonalds stop, heh.

DIPLOMA

My diploma arrived a week or so ago, while I was still in Kuching. It was rather underwhelming, I gotta tell you, to see that the whole thing is literally just a printed piece of paper and it’s all written up in Latin. Still, we decided to get it framed. I didn’t buy the frames that Penn sold at the bookstore ($200? no thanks) and this whole paragraph is really meant for me to express how happy I am that I got it framed beautifully for less than $30 and it feels way more legit now haha.

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Publika with Sha and Eli

It’s been a while since I saw Sha. And her friend Eli, who I met a few years ago, asked if I wanted to meet up, so we all went to Publika last Saturday for dinner because Eli said there was going to be a free jazz festival there (with emphasis on free”) and we should go catch it. We had dinner—Sha and I had a really good pizza with brie and beets—and after that we went to like that outdoor area to watch the show….. before we all kinda sat and looked at each other like “now what?” lol. Sha hardly complains but that day she was like “can we go somewhere else, I’m bored” hahaha so we went to Artisan (again). It’s so weird that I won’t be seeing her for months at a time now!!! I can’t believe she won’t be coming with me to the US anymore, I feel like that’s going to take time for me to get used to but I’m glad I got to hang out with her a few times this summer.

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First time on the MRT!

The new MRT line in KL opened up last month and I finally had a reason to try it out a few days ago. My mum and I took it to Bukit Bintang and it was quite fun! I loved the new stations; they’re really well done, clean and spacious. We hadn’t been to Bukit Bintang in ages (ok, we did go to Pavillion that one time but we didn’t go outside so I don’t think it counts) and I forgot how overwhelmingly touristy it is. I just forgot that there are parts of KL that are that touristy.

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Last full family dinner out (for now)

My sister heads back to London tomorrow for her third year in med school, so we went to Jibby & Co. for a nice family dinner yesterday. My family loves going out to eat, and Jibs has been on my list for dinner for a while now. It was a good night as always, especially because we ended up making a stop at what seems to now be our go-to dessert place: Family Mart, hahaha. If you’re in Malaysia, you would know that it’s a not-that-new-anymore Japanese convenience store, but I only got around to visiting it this summer and I. am. obsessed. with their cheesecake ice cream and their ebiko onigiri. Good luck staying in business, 7 Eleven!!!

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So yeah, that’ll be all from me now 🙂 I hope everyone else has had a nice week as well. Thanks for reading!

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Kuching, Sarawak

The greatest irony about hari raya/eid is that we go back to Kuching and we visit a lot of people to try to spend time with as many people as possible but I always leave feeling like I’ve spent time with absolutely no one and yet I’m so tired. Plus, this year, because I was fresh off the plane from the US and super-jet lagged, I really didn’t spend much time with anyone, so it’s nice that I got to be back in Kuching for another few days last week. Most of it was spent at my grandparents’ house—the house my mum grew up in!—eating, hanging out with my cousins and playing Bananagrams and other word games (by now you should know that this constitutes 90% of what I do when I’m back/on holiday).

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My grid from the one time I played alone!

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There’s this Reader’s Digest puzzle book at my grandparents’ house that we love going through

I have so many memories in that house, which, according to my nenek, is now like ~45 years old. That’s like twice my age. I remember when I was like 9 or 10, I spent quite a bit of my school holidays there. I even went on my first flight alone to Kuching! I remember playing with my cousins in the garden, running around pretending to be teachers or mothers or witches. I remember the house before it was renovated about 15 years ago, and everything was still wooden and the toilet bowl was, what one of my aunties described as a “throne” because once you entered the bathroom, you had to walk up a few steps to get to the toilet bowl haha. The shower was basically a tap that was above your head! The house is so different now but still sometimes as I walk through it, I almost expect to see all of those old things. So yeah, it’s always good to be back, despite the lack of wifi and airconditioning.

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Part of the garden, as seen from the front of the house

Ok, anyway, first thing’s first, let’s do a cheeky little run down of all the places I went to eat in Kuching. See, the other thing about only going to Kuching during raya is that everything is closed the whole time I’m there. Like, all the shops I want to go to are closed for the whole week or something so I only get to eat it when someone brings some back to KL. But not this time!

We first went to Swee Kang for jagung susu, which is exactly what the name implies. Milk and corn with shaved ice. I have only ever eaten it with the ice all melted because once it reaches me in KL, it’s typically many hours after it was prepared. We also had some rojak buah and cha kueh there, which were so good.

Then we went to Mita, which is the go-to bakery in Kuching. I literally remember going there when I was little and getting the same loaf of… I don’t know what it’s called… butter cake, I guess? It just smells amazing. I got some egg tarts and buttermilk buns and they were perfect for snacking.

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We also made a quick pit stop at Black Bean Coffee near the riverfront which is actually a super touristy place but I had heard from my mum that the coffee’s good there and I just really wanted to try it. I got some iced coffee and it was so satisfying, though I think it’s partly because I just haven’t had good strong coffee in ages, since school ended.

The next day, we went to Rumah Hijau, which is another thing that is almost exactly as the name implies. It really is a house that’s green which was made into a restaurant. My sisters and I wanted to go there to have nasi goreng bunga kantan, which is something I had never ever had and it was amazing!! I loved how aromatic the fried rice was. It was nothing like I had ever tasted before. The next time I visit though, I think I’m going to try their nasi kukus. My Mak Long had it and it tasted pretty good.

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We got some ice cream at Sunny Hill, which is just this small ice cream stall next to a school on Jalan Cahaya (hence, the name). I have to say the ice cream itself is nothing extraordinary; it’s the really soft and melty kind which isn’t my favourite, but even if it was, I’ve definitely had better ones. But (!) the ice cream is topped with these crushed salted peanuts which makes for this perfect balance of tastes and adds some texture to the otherwise overly liquidy ice cream. 10/10 would go again.

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I think our last food stop was Mom’s Laksa for a good ol’ bowl of laksa sarawak, probably my favourite variety of all the laksas in Malaysia (if you’re wondering, though they’ll all really good, I’d easily rank it Sarawak, Johor, Penang/Kedah). Laksa was amazing for breakfast, though it’s really not that much better than what my mum makes at home. It’s just less effort, I guess haha.

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So yeah, other than that, we mostly just stayed and ate at home. My grandma made some amazing dhal which we ate with rice or roti bom. On the last day, she made nasi daging with air asam which was amazing. In true grandma fashion, she even made some extra for us to bring home to eat the next day.

The first morning we were there, my friend Lisa came over to visit! It was really funny. She came at like 9 AM, when we were all still kinda groggy. In fact, my sisters were still sprawled out on their mats on the living room floor where they’d slept the night before. So Lisa came and saw us all in our pyjamas, hahaha, it was quite a sight. Lisa is currently a Fulbright ETA in Serian, a couple of hours outside of Kuching, where she’s teaching English at a secondary school. We had some paratha and kari for breakfast together as we caught up and listened to my grandparents’ stories. I think she really enjoyed listening to my grandparents’ stories, seeing as they were both teachers/worked in education for a very long time.

This was actually the first time I ever heard that my atuk actually spent 4 months in Hawaii training some people in the American Peace Corps. He was in the US when JFK was shot, apparently. I literally never knew this. We also heard stories about his experience in Birmingham where he spent 2 academic years studying. He was telling us about how difficult it was to call home back then. I kinda can’t imagine just going abroad for so long when you already have a family and all of that, in a time when travel and communication wasn’t as easy or cheap.

Anyway, so yeah, we had a really nice morning at the dining table. I never would’ve thought that someone I met randomly at PAACH one day would someday be having breakfast with me at my grandparents’ house!! I’m so proud of Lisa and I’ve mentioned it before but I’m so amazed by her dedication to her students and her persistence in trying to keep students engaged despite language and cultural barriers. I honestly don’t think I would fare as well as her if I were to live in Serian but she seems to be enjoying it and has expanded her food palate way beyond mine (no tempoyak for me, thanks). I’m so glad we got to meet again and I honestly can’t wait to see what she goes on to do next.

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Me and Lisa before she got on the bus back to Serian

I also really enjoyed spending time with my cousins, aunts and uncles, and my grandparents because I don’t get to see them a lot, since they’re a whole flight away. As we stood outside in my atuk’s garden, looking at all his plants (mangoes, grapes, pineapples, chilis…) I thought about how I have a lot of hopes and dreams and things I want to achieve and places I want to see. But what do grandparents want? They just want to tell stories to make us laugh and feed us so we’re healthy and happy and just be able to spend time with us as much as possible. I hope we got to make them a bit happier with our visit.

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Atuk showing us his plants

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Waving goodbye before we headed off to the airport

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.