Two weeks ago, I went to New York

I put fun in inverted commas because work is actually pretty fun and I want to be very careful about defining my life as only what happens outside of work, which is where I spend most of my time (and vice versa).

Anyway, my recent New York trip was two weeks ago now but I still want to immortalize it on here. It was the ever-so-controversial Columbus Day weekend, and we had Monday the 9th off of work so I decided to take the Megabus up to the city since tickets were also pretty cheap. I basically spent the whole time just meeting my friends and catching up with people. First, I met my friend Eliza who was one of my hallmates in the Quad during my freshman year. Then, I had dinner with Ken near Columbia, where he’s a first year PhD candidate!!!! (Sorry, I just get really excited about that still) He had two friends visiting him that week, so we all had dinner together at this pizza place and I absolutely loved the food and how quiet it was around the Columbia area. It was really nice to see Ken and I got to see his apartment as well, which was cool. It felt a little strange to be in a dorm with my college friend—just in a different city. Made me miss all my friends a bit more.

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Eliza!

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Ken

That weekend, I was staying with my friend Sarah, who I met earlier this year in January. You might recall (if you’re a loyal reader, I guess? I think I have like what, 7 of those?haha hello!) that she took me to see WNYC, where they produce some of my favourite podcasts like Radiolab, More Perfect and Freakonomics. I absolutely enjoyed staying with her because, like I said the last time, I feel like I’ve been friends with her for ages even though I’ve only kind of hung out with her 2-3 times. That first night I was there, I met her at the 42nd St subway stop and we were supposed to go to Brooklyn together but there was a power outage on Canal St that night so we ended up stopping at the next station for like 20-30 mins!! At the next station after that, we got stuck for a bit longer so Sarah and I were just like… ok, no way, we have to change trains. Everyone was just like running around trying to find an alternate route home. And it was so humid, we were all just like, totally drenched down there. It sounds awful, and it most definitely was, but it was also a hilarious bonding experience. Sarah kept apologizing to me on behalf of the city of New York and I was just like “meh, I’m young” LOL.

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Me (in my PJs) and Sarah before she headed out for work

The next day, I had brunch with Iman, Keyan and Zohair. Keyan was visiting from Harvard, Zohair works in New York and Iman is at NYU Law. I felt so unbelievably happy to see my MSA friends again because they were really like an extended extended family for me at Penn. Really, I’d say it just felt super cosy to get together with them again. A few years ago, I thought I wouldn’t be able to see all my friends again after graduation so it really just feels so good to hang out with them post-school.

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Keyan, me, Iman and Zo

After that, I went to the Glossier showroom!! I’ve been curious about Glossier for over a year now, ever since I heard Emily Weiss, Glossier founder, on a podcast. I’m a no-make-up kind of ~gal~ but lately, I’ve been a bit braver and rajin-er so I’ve really been trying out a no-make-up make-up look haha and Glossier is totally perfect for that but I was too scared to make the investment without trying stuff out first. I absolutely loved the Invisible Shield and Generation G lip stick/balm things buuuuut I guess they’re just going to have to wait for my birthday hehe.

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Stumbled upon this sign in Chinatown!!!! Made me miss home a lil bit more

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I was walking around after going to Glossier and stumbled upon an Outdoor Voices store and they were giving away free Stumptown cold brews!!

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I also stumbled upon Canal St Market near Glossier and it was full of all these cute little bits and bobs—this is literally the best thing about New York, there are gems at every corner.

That evening, I went to Gong Cha and got my utmost fav winter melon bubble tea and caught up with my friend Andrew, who I worked with on a club called Sangam back at Penn. I really looked up to him in college and it was nice to see him again after over a year. We talked about growing up and stuff and it was just really nice to catch up. Sarah and I had dinner after that at this Malaysian restaurant and it was so absurdly mediocre but I still enjoyed it. Part of it, I think, was getting to speak Malay with the waitress haha. Since I don’t live with Shahirah anymore, I never speak Malay anymore and I had no idea that I kinda missed it. (Btw pa, if you decide to FaceTime me speaking bahasa baku, my reaction is going to be -_- because that’s such a lame dad jokey thing to do lol)

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The best mediocrity I’ve ever experienced

Thankfully, the second night, Sarah and I had no problems on the MTA. We got back to Brooklyn in the perfectly decent amount of time. I hung out with her and her roommate/cousin and it was just a nice chilled night. I was honestly glad to stay in because the weather was so crap that whole time. It was most certainly crap the next morning as well. I got breakfast with fellow NPR intern, Alice that Monday morning in Brooklyn because she lived not far away from Sarah’s place. I weathered an awfully windy gloomy humid morning to meet her at this cute breakfast place (probably the most reasonably priced sit-down meal I’ve ever had in New York). I met Alice at the internship orientation thing last month and she’s working on probably the most successful NPR podcast, Planet Money so I was really interested to hear how she’s doing and what she’s learning and all of that.

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Me and Alice in crappy weather

After breakfast, I just cleaned up at Sarah’s and made my way to Penn Station to head back to DC. I managed to snag one last New York goodie there—a slice of cake at Magnolia! Then I had to suffer through the 5-hour bus ride back. Let me just tell you, that I sometimes get car sick on a half an hour car ride so me being on long bus rides is always a….. story. I’m always equipped with Panadol, some vapour rub, some mints and snacks, a drink. It didn’t help that I sat close-ish to the bathroom, where the smell was… well, you know. Ugh. Could not sleep the entire time, either. And let me just add that I was already damp because I was stuck in a drizzle while waiting 45 minutes to board the bus. It is a TRUE WONDER how I did not get sick that week. But I made it back to my apartment and right after a good scrub, I made myself a good bowl of maggi kari and went to bed.

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This is what the weather looked like the whole time I was in New York

I honestly don’t think I wanna do many more weekend trips haha, wow, I guess I’m getting old. It’s just that, when you’re working, a weekend trip feels like you actually lose the weekend. You always feel like you need a holiday to recover from your holiday, you know? And I was just so tired that whole week! It wasn’t like in school where like if I arrived Sunday night, I could go to class on Monday from let’s say 10-3 and then just curl up in bed. I was actually debating going back to Philly for Homecoming in November but a) I don’t want to spend that money and b) I like spending the weekends resting these days because I’m officially old and boring. Just at this very moment, I got struck by a strong craving for a Hokkaido cheese tart. Sigh.

Anyway, as I was saying, I like spending weekends resting. This weekend was perfect. I slept in on Saturday, spent the afternoon doing my groceries and then had Jamie come visit me that evening for a night. I initially was going to write a short thing about New York and continue to write about Jamie’s visit but we’re at 1300+ words right now so I guess that’ll just have to wait! Haha. Be back soon! 🙂

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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.

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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CHICAGO, IL.

I get why they call it the Windy City now. I’ve said on multiple occasions now that I’m quite proud of myself for being so much better at braving the cold, since I’ve spent 4 winters in Philadelphia. Yet, the cold of Chicago was different because of the wind. Even though it was about 10-13 degrees C most of the time (that’s 50-55 degrees F, to my American friends—I googled that for you), my fingers were freezing and I kinda wished I wore gloves. Regardless, I had so much fun with Hui Jie in that beautiful city.

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We flew out of Trenton Mercer on Saturday. I think it was the smallest most desolate airport I have ever been to—smaller than even the Bandung Airport, which, if I recall correctly, closed for the day after we flew back to KL. Anyway, I realise that just means I’ve been really spoilt/lucky. But I digress. So yeah, we flew Frontier to O’Hare and when we landed, Hui Jie turned to me and said “I want McDonald’s.” So that’s what we did; the McDonald’s was literally just one gate away from the gate we arrived at, haha.

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But here’s where my favourite thing that day happened: we saw a pony. At the airport. This woman and her pony walked past us and I was like, “is that a—?” and before I could finish my sentence, this other woman in front of me turned around and said “YEP!” and her daughter turned around and told me “we just took a picture with it!” For the rest of the day, I could not stop thinking about how amazing it was that I saw a pony at the airport.

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Awful picture quality but I was too excited to think about the picture.

After we got to the Airbnb, we quite quickly headed back out for the rest of the evening. We spent most of the evening at the Navy Pier, which was really cold but very pretty. We got a nice view of the skyline, and the atmosphere was really nice because it was like a funfair type thing except there was probably like a huge prom going on because there were so many people in dresses (who all, by the way, I feel like look older and way more sophisticated than me). It was a very chill day, we just went to dinner and then a speakeasy in town later that night. I mostly just loved the vibe of the city. Hui Jie said it felt like a cleaner New York.

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These shrimp tacos and that parmesan pepper calamari were amazinggg.

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The Rock n Roll McDonalds next to Hard Rock

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Us at the Speakeasy

The next day we walked along the river and then down Magnificent Mile, which is like their shopping area thing. It was absolutely beautiful, and I think there must’ve been a french bulldog show or something going on because we saw so many of them along our river walk.

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For lunch, we had this amazing cod sandwich, which is probably like the best fish sandwich I have ever had—it was so perfectly battered, oh my god. And because our next planned thing was not until much later in the evening, we spent a lot of the afternoon at Uniqlo. Specifically, the Starbucks at Uniqlo LOL. We got frappuccinos (which I usually never order) because they were half off for happy hour, so it was only like $2 and I couldn’t resist a good deal, hahaha.

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Then, we went to Second City to watch a comedy show called the Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno. A lot of it was about American culture/politics. It was so funny and entertaining. It really reminded me of why comedy is considered a very effective tool for storytelling and commentary. I also really loved the cast, they were so talented and I genuinely hope for amazing things for them in the future. My favourite part of the night was probably their improv section where they ask the crowd for suggestions for words and start acting out a scene based on that word. I highly recommend going for one of their shows if you’re in Chicago! Hui Jie and I had so many good laughs that night.

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The next day (sorry, I just keep saying next day and the next day because I really have lost track of the days but I’m now talking about Monday, I think) was our most touristy day. We spent the whole morning at the Chicago Art Institute. It was one of the most beautiful art museums I’ve ever been to, though it did not beat Louisiana in Copenhagen. The modern art section was my favourite, but I also really liked seeing the Asian and Islamic art sections. Looking at batik designs and artefacts with Islamic motifs made me feel just a teeny bit closer to home.

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For lunch, we went to the Revival Food Hall which is essentially a food court, but it was an amazing food court. I got an amazing egg sandwich and fries. Then Hui Jie got coffee and for the second day in a row, we just sat there chilling with our coffees for a long time before getting back out. I even got to charge my phone back up to 100% at that coffee place.

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Eventually, we did get back up and we headed to see some shops before heading to Millennium Park, which was the one thing I knew Chicago had before ever going there. I must say, it was cool to see the bean/Cloud Gate in real life because I mean, obviously it’s like a very famous landmark… but it was also kinda dirty and underwhelming, hahaha. Still, we got plenty of good pictures and I think the park itself was a really nice one—probably one I’d like to go to if I lived there.

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After Cloud Gate, we went back to Revival for dinner (!!!) because we thought it’d be too late to eat dinner after going to Willis Tower. Plus, we had initially wanted to get poke bowls from there for lunch but they were out of salmon so we got something else and came back for dinner. It was totally worth waiting for, by the way. So good.

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Then, on a full tummy, we went to Willis Tower, which is where everyone goes to see the view of Chicago and take a picture on that glass floor thing. I am not the best with heights so I was pretty nervous about going on that ledge thing but I managed to do it by not looking down at all. Plus, there was a long line of people waiting to take pictures so there was really no time to look at the view.

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On our last day, we spent the morning near Wicker Park. We got coffee at Intelligentsia, and took a lot of pictures, haha. Then we walked around and looked at the shops around there, which was a really nice area. My favourite shop was this one called Secret Agent Supply Co. They sell a lot of books that are compilations of writings by public school students in this creative writing program called 826 operating in cities all over, like Seattle, LA, New York, Chicago, Detroit and DC. All the proceeds go back to supporting these programs, so I bought this one book consisting of cute and moving letters written by kids addressed to Michelle Obama.

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We also got some really good takeout from En Hakkore in that area so that we’d have something to eat on the flight. It was so good and it’s another thing I also highly recommend if you are in Chicago. The sushi burrito thing was honestly amazing. But then it was time to head back to Philly and we took the train to the airport. Only after I got on the platform did I feel like I needed a bathroom and I swear, it was the longest 45 minutes of my life. When the train announcer person thing said “we are experiencing delays” I really had to remind myself that the pants I was wearing were new in order to help me through. But we got to O’Hare with my pants dry and clean and I have never felt so happy to see a stinky airport bathroom ever before.

I’ve been back in Philly for 2 days now, and it’s been nice to just hang out with my friends without anything really weighing on me other than the fact that there’s this huge goodbye looming over us. But I guess that’s also why I’m glad I got to take this trip with Hui Jie before we go our “separate ways”. She’s been one of the most important people in my life these past few years and I’m glad we got to close out college with this Chicago trip.

LOS ANGELES, CA.

I am so in denial over not being in LA right now. I had such a good time there and I’m so glad I made the leap and decided to go even though I didn’t have anyone to travel with. I initially wanted to go to San Francisco or maybe even Airbnb a super cute Brooklyn apartment but SF tickets were super expensive and my sister was like “ala tak nak la New York lagi…” lol. Since I had never been to the West Coast and LA flights were pretty cheap, I ended up going there. And this might just be hindsight bias or cognitive dissonance or whatever else we’ve learned in Psychology but I’m so glad I ended up going to LA! In a weird way, LA kind of reminded me of KL—the sprawl of the city, less-than-ideal public transport, sun. And… I don’t know. There was just something about it.

So, I left my apartment in Philly at like 3.45AM or something ridiculous like that because I had a 6AM flight on Spirit. I was too cheap to pay for seats obviously, so I got the aisle seat. I don’t care what most people think; to me, if it’s not a window seat, they all equally suck. Luckily, the window seat on my row was free so I woke up the dude sleeping peacefully in the middle seat, scooted over and slept my way to LA.

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Then began my struggle with LA public transport. I was staying at UCLA (thank you again Xen and Serena if you’re reading this!!!) so I had to take the bus there but it comes only at the top of every hour and because my plane landed at like 9.07AM, there was a lot of waiting to do. Thank god Ed Sheeran’s album had just come out so I was content sitting there with my earphones. I should also say ‘÷’ became the definitive soundtrack of my trip and I already know that when I listen to it years from now, I’ll get flashbacks of LA sun.

Serena and I spent Sunday walking around Melrose Avenue. On the way there, thanks to Uber Pool, I got a really nice view of Beverly Hills and Bel Air and oh my god. It was just… so nice… to just… look at. Every house looked like the kind of house you’d see in the background of celebrity pap shots and surely enough, around the corner, there were people selling maps to celebrities’ houses haha. Anyway, as much as I enjoyed treating my eyes to the beautiful Beverly Hills area (which is basically Bukit Bintang x 10 but super clean), that wasn’t where I was going. We visited the Melrose Trading Post which is basically a flea market, and we looked at really pretty shops from the outside and took lots of pictures in front of murals. It was a drizzly afternoon though so poor Serena had to carry around this huge rented UCLA umbrella the whole day, haha. Then we went to ~Hollywood~ to see the most touristy places: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Walk of Fame, Dolby Theatre, etc etc. I literally looked around for 10 minutes and was like ok what’s next? Seriously, the Walk of Fame is hardly an attraction. It’s literally pavement. But I mean, if you’re in LA for the first time I guess you “have” to or whatever, haha.

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This is where the Oscars are held!

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Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

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Anyway, my favourite part of the day was going to Griffith Observatory. I guess people go for the view more than anything. Serena asked me if I wanted to go to for the observatory or just to see the outside of it and I was like, “are you kidding? I am struggling through Astronomy right now, the last place I want to go to is an observatory.” Heh. But we went at about sunset and the view really was breathtaking. My phone died as soon as we got there though, so we actually did end up going inside… to look for a power outlet, haha. Serena’s phone ran out of battery too so we really needed a charger because a cab was going to cost us a bomb to get back to campus (this one guy said it’d be about $40…) and we needed to call an Uber. After I charged my phone, we went outside to get picked up and my phone did the thing where it goes down to like 5% or whatever and the car was still like 10 minutes away and the power bank was out of power and it was the most stressful part of the trip. I even memorised the car’s plate number because I didn’t want to keep checking my phone for it and actually, now that I think about it, I oddly still remember the driver’s name and license plate number lol.

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The next few days were mostly spent wandering about LA on my own and even though I knew I’d be fine, I actually found myself enjoying it way more than I thought. My apprehensions about travelling alone were mostly surrounding navigation (I’m somewhat directionally challenged) and um… I guess you could say “photography” (basically I had no one to take pictures of me!!!) but it actually turned out fine and I really liked it because I could kind of just… do whatever I wanted.

I ate wherever I wanted, I stayed at any place I went for how long I wanted and I just did whatever I wanted. It sounds self-centered, I know, but I was alone so I could, and I dare you to tell me it doesn’t sound appealing. I got to stay for a super long time at the Toba Khedoori exhibit at LACMA without worrying about the rest of my group wanting to move on to the next building. I stayed for an extra long time at brunch, sitting in my corner drinking grapefruit juice and writing in my journal quietly. It, was, pure bliss.

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Brunch at Republique

On Monday, I went Downtown by bus/Metro. I took the bus to Hollywood from Westwood, and stopped by at Amoeba Music on my way. Then I took the metro downtown. It’s quite clear that the Metro isn’t the most popular mode of transport—it was literally sunyi sepi at the Hollywood & Vine station. When I got there, I had lunch at Grand Central Market which was pretty cool. I’m sure most things there were really good but I had heard about Eggslut from, well, Instagram to be honest, and I had known for months that I’d eat there if ever went to LA. They had baked eggs with potato puree and a hint of salt and chives and as a huge fan of eggs, I have to say that went down as eggs in one of its best forms. Ugh. Amazing. I really liked Downtown LA in general. It felt a bit more like New York; more skyscrapers and old historic buildings, sans a lot of the bustle. It was also here where I finally made my way to a Blue Bottle even though I had been meaning to pay one of their cafes in New York a visit every time I’ve been in the city. I had their New Orleans iced coffee and it was just perfect. They also served me my miso cookie in a chemex filter, which I thought was a really nice touch. And oh my god, the whole cafe was beautiful—I felt like I was having coffee at an Apple store.

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Grand Central Market

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Walt Disney Concert Hall

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When I sent Jamie a bunch of photos of this place, she responded to this specific one, with “omg dayana ❤️❤️❤️ immaculately dressed man executing the perfect pourover” LOL.

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My favourite place in the area was definitely The Last Bookstore, highly recommended to me by friends and LA Uber drivers. It was a really cool place, with a “labyrinth” of shelves upstairs leading to a little hallway of cute artsy shops. I must’ve spent over an hour there on the couch, laughing to myself reading Texts from Jane Eyre.

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On Tuesday, I spent a very long time at LACMA after an insanely good brunch (shoutout to Republique for their amazing creme brulee bomboloni, ugh). Like I said earlier, I spent an insanely long time at Toba Khedoori’s exhibit, chatting with an art student who helped me think about the pieces and “how we fit in them” which was really cool. Then I walked like 20 minutes to The Grove. I really liked their Farmers’ Market and I would’ve tried some food there if I wasn’t so full from brunch. The shopping area whatever you call it was very Disneyland-like which I guess compensated in some small way for me not dedicating a day to Anaheim, haha. I obvs didn’t do any shopping, but the weather was absolutely beautiful so I spent quite a bit of time lying on the grass the comfy blankets they provided and read a couple of chapters of Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, which is my March read. Then, on my way back to campus, my Uber driver (very politely) scolded me for not investing 15 extra dollars to see the Picasso and Rivera exhibit at LACMA, haha.

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I got to hang out with Serena and Xen later than evening, and they actually took me to one of UCLA’s dining halls which were all insanely fancy. Seriously, they make Commons and Kings Court look really sad in comparison. It was also strange to think that had I not gotten into Penn, I would’ve gone to UCLA and that campus with its hotel-like dining halls, winding roads, uphill treks and ideal weather could have very well been my life.

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I spent my last day in LA at Venice. I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to work since I planned to go straight to the airport from the beach, meaning I’d have my suitcase with me. Thankfully, my googling skills revealed that Hotel Erwin helps people store bags for like $5 and they gave me complimentary sunblock and a towel and it was all good. I had lunch at Eggslut again because, well, you know… eggs. And also because it was right next to Hotel Erwin so I just… I had to.

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😍😍😍

Venice reminded me a bit of Port Dickson meets Batu Ferringhi, if they were like 50x cleaner and full of white people. I saw the Venice Canals which were so pretty, but there was like absolutely nothing for me to do there other than look at it so I literally sat on the side of the bridge for a bit, just enjoying the weather and the view.

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I think it is worth mentioning that I can’t quite remember when I last went to a beach. June 2015?! Even then, it was just so that I could get on a boat and—oh my god, this is definitely a huge digression but as I typed that last sentence, I just remembered that I think in 2015 in Phuket, I embarrassed myself at the beach when I screamed everyone’s bloody eardrums out when a monkey approached my boat, lol yikes. Anyway. So it’s been forever since I’ve been to a beach. (I’m 100% prepared for one of my sisters to text me being like “we went to the beach last summer -_-” but for now I’m pretty sure 2015 was the last time)

Anyway, anyway, anyway! Ok. Venice. Focus, Dayana. So yes, I took my free towel and trekked to the beach. I say trek because it was so tiring to walk across the beach to get close enough to the water… like the sand was so deep and my legs are… pretty weak I guess. It reminded me of when those teams in Amazing Race season 28 had to lead some camels through the desert—not quite the same thing, but it reminded me of that. I took a nap at the beach, read another chapter of my book and just relaxed to the sound of the waves. I did not get into the water, if you can believe it. And if you know me you probably can totally believe it because I don’t like the way sand sticks to your feet once you’ve stepped on water and I hate getting wet in general. Plus, I packed really light and didn’t have spare clothes or even sandals. I literally went to the beach with my Flyknits and a Longchamp bag with my Macbook in it because I didn’t want to leave it at the hotel lol. And I was fully aware of how silly it all might have looked but I was just having the time of my life that I didn’t care at all.

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I really liked Venice, especially Abbot Kinney Boulevard. There were lots of cute shops and restaurants there. Huset was this adorable store selling Scandinavian homeware and I was so excited to see the candles I almost bought at the Copenhagen airport last December. I visited the Toms flagship store, went into Warby Parker for the first time (even though there’s literally a store on like 15th and Walnut or something in Center City) and I had the best damn ice cream OF. MY. LIFE. at Salt & Straw. When I got the first spoon of my taste test, I got the same feeling I had when I took the first sips of coffee at Monmouth in London and Devocion in New York, i.e. I was just absolutely transported. It must’ve been really popular too, given the queue went around the block. I tried Honey Lavender and oh my god it was sooo good. When I first arrived in Westwood on Sunday morning, I made a quick visit to Saffron & Rose, this Persian ice cream place and I thought that was the best ice cream ever. I guess it was, but by Wednesday it was dethroned when I had Honey Lavender at Salt & Straw. I also got their salty caramel flavour because salted caramel is my favourite dessert flavour of all time. I told Rafael, the guy who served me, that I like saltiness in ice cream so much that I sometimes joke I wish they’d make an ice cream that was salt with caramel instead of a bit of salt on caramel. He was immediately like, “oh, then you’re in for a treat because that’s what this is” and oh my god, it really was. I just realised I’ve spent most of this paragraph talking about this ice cream place and you know what… I am more than ok with that because Salt & Straw really deserves it.

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I went back to the beach that evening to have early dinner and, I have to say, an ibuprofen. The sun was getting to be a bit much, haha, and I knew if I let the headache continue for even a little longer, the flight back to Philly would not have been a pleasant one. I watched the sunset on the beach with my salmon poke bowl in all my contentment with the sweet sounds of Justin Bieber’s most recent hits blaring from the boardwalk.

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And that’s… pretty much it. I picked up my suitcase and made my way to LAX without incident so, no, no celebrity sightings. Although, now that I think about it, when Serena and I were on Melrose, we heard a bunch of people going like “Oh my god, isn’t that Skrillex? I met him at the Grammys!” LA, amirite? Hahaha I don’t even know if they were right, but the guy they were talking about did at least look like Skrillex. But yeah, LAX is a pretty crappy airport (the guys behind me in line were all wishfully talking about Changi while in line for security) and despite not wanting to leave LA, I was desperate to get out of the airport. I told my family that it reminded me of Subang Parade circa 2000.

I got into Philly early in the morning, about 4.30AM. I was asleep by six and woke up at noon. I am admittedly a little bit jet lagged still, even though the time difference between the coasts is only 3 hours. I probably could have gotten over it last night if Kim and I hadn’t caught the 11PM screening of Get Out. I’m not one for horror films—Kim and I seriously were gasping and squealing non stop throughout the entire movie—but though Get Out is decidedly not enough to convert me into a scary movie person, I did think it was well thought out, unique and had great cinematography.

Anyway. It’s like 5.45PM in the evening as I write this and I have to get ready to go to dinner. I hope you liked this post and I’m sorry I didn’t post anything last week—I was labouring over 5 other written pieces all due on Sunday and my writing juices were all spent. Plus, nothing happened last week. So I’ll make up for it next week or something. I hope you had a good week, enjoy the weekend!

P.S. It took all the strength I had in my body to not title this post with some La La Land reference. I just thought it would be too cliche, even for me.

HONG KONG

This is late. Like so, so late. I may have mentioned it briefly, but my family and I were in Hong Kong in August. It was hot. We were sweating almost everywhere we went. It’s kind of unfortunate, but if you ask any one of us about the trip, that’s probably the first thing we’ll tell you about it haha. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy it there; I don’t know about the others but I loved Hong Kong. I really liked the efficiency, how clean it was, how modern it was, while at the same time flaunting its more rough (?) character.

Anyway. We filmed (if you can even call it that) a lot of bits and pieces while we were there and my sister Julia edited it into a video a while back and here it is! I feel like some parts are so silly and some things might not make sense to you because we provide little context (we’re not ~vloggers~ lol) but I hope you like it anyway!

 

COPENHAGEN

I went to Copenhagen with my sister Aida and my cousin Alesya last week and it was so much fun. I said this on Instagram but Denmark is really one of those places I’ve never really thought of going to because it seems cold and stuff but ugh I loved it and it really reminded me how much I’ve missed seeing new places.

I made a poorly-edited video of Copenhagen vignettes and here it is, if you’d like to see it!