five years ago

March 27, 2012

Poh Poh’s hand-embroidered kebaya blouse, 30 years old but as beautiful as ever.
Georg Jensen meets some Malaysian leaves.
Mr. Snow, I can’t wait for the next five years!

chinatown walking tour

October 24, 2008

So what’s this walking tour I keep going on about? Well, I found a very old pamphlet at Casa Myyear in KL when I was home in August. It outlined a two-part walking tour of KL’s Chinatown, and was drawn up by Victor Chin at the end of the 80’s. He was instrumental in raising awareness of the cultural heritage the buildings and shophouses in the area held, through a series of colourful watercolour paintings of each on a stark white background.

The area is also one of my favourite neighbourhoods in KL. The tour we did focused on the area north of Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, around Medan Pasar (above) and Leboh Pudu. Through it we also found the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, which I didn’t even know existed, down a little alleyway that I have passed many times.

Between the time the guide was published and now, many of the traditional shops selling spices, fabrics and dried foods have disappeared. The area has taken on a new role as home to many Nepalese migrant workers, so shops and restaurants catering to their needs have mushroomed. As with any city, the streets and its character evolve.

Not too many photos I’m afraid, as our tour was momentarily disrupted by rain, after which it started to get dark quickly. But personally I have only known, and as a result love, the beautiful old buildings with the mould, creepers and disrepair. The newly renovated ones often have a tarted-up look I can’t quite reconcile. Make sure you look up above street level the next time you are in the area, and you’ll be surprised what you find.

PS – I got in touch with Victor via his blog, and he tells me that copies of walking tour map are still available from him. So just drop him a line if you are interested!


October 23, 2008

Halfway through our walking tour of Chinatown in KL, we dropped in on Central Square in its latest incarnation, including the Annexe Gallery. It was also there that we met and picked up the newest resident of our home. Meet our friendly alien!

He seems to be happy enough in his own corner of our kitchen, though he’s far away from his birthplace in KL, and his daddy Mistawhy, who we met at They Art Studio.

Below, you can see the hole in the gallery wall where he used to live. I hope he’s not too lonely now, I’m enjoying his company while writing this!

coliseum cafe and hotel

October 23, 2008

At the end of our walking tour, Mr. Snow and I retired to the Coliseum’s bar on Jalan TAR for the most pre-war, planter-era drinks you can have in KL. Grandpa Myyear used to take Pa Myyear there for a treat many, many moons ago. There’s even still a hat stand, though I don’t know when the last time was that someone hung their hat on it. The place opened for business 87 years ago, funnily enough in the very same year that Captain Ho, who has been manning the restaurant for 40 years in his starched white uniform, was born. He knows the regulars so well they don’t even need to order anymore.

Morgan (Mogan) and his brother are young upstarts by comparison, having worked at the Coliseum for a mere 33 years each. According to a newspaper interview hanging on the wall, starting there was tough. They were apparently given two weeks to lean Hainanese or leave. Morgan said, “(The) manager Wong Chin Wan used to shout at me when I mispronounced words, but I knew that he was good at heart and only wanted me to speak the dialect well.”

On the rainy evening we visited, all three were waiting the tables in the bar and restaurant. A group of middle-aged lawyers were kicking back around the low tables and armchairs. With the High Courts around the corner, the Coliseum isn’t a surprising choice. And with the beer bellies in evidence, it didn’t seem like it was their first time there either.

We had a dinner date with Ma and Pa Myyear at Nathans, so no sizzling steak for us this time. But the Tiger beer was cold and the bartender chatty. And in which other bar in the world, when you ask for peanuts to go with your beer, are you directed to the kacang stall at the art deco, Indian-language cinema next door?

98-100 Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman
Kuala Lumpur 50100 Malaysia
+60 3 2692 6270

coffee-roasted chestnuts

October 23, 2008

Is coffee-roasting of chestnuts special for Malaysia and Singapore? I’ve never seen it anywhere else, and Google didn’t throw anything up either. Amazing as for me the two are so inseparable that non-coffee roasted chestnuts seem to miss the point altogether.

This shot was taken at the junction of Petaling Street and Jalan Hang Lekir in KL, across from the air mata kuching stall. KL foodies will know exactly where I mean!


October 23, 2008

On a tip-off from Lil Miss M’s mum, and with 3 of our joint 24 KL hours, Ms. P and I visited a little Balinese oasis of greenery and water in a converted PJ bungalow called Khareyana. It was easy to find, just across the roundabout from Assunta Hospital, and next to PJ Nursing Home. The spa’s friendly owner welcomed us warmly. Pa Myyear was settled in a comfy armchair with the Sunday papers, while we were ushered an alcove overlooking a shady green patio for our pedicures.

There we caught up on months worth of each others’ news, while our soles, nails, cuticles and feet were gently tended to by spa staff. Thoroughly entertaining and relaxing, and rather more effective (if less giggle-inducing) than the fish spa. Our session ended with ginger and lemongrass tea and slices of watermelon, and a sneak peek into the couples treatment rooms across the stepping stones and water garden. Mr. Snow and I went back on our last day in KL for a session. Even if the masseurs were not as tough as the Balinese Mr. Snow had in Ubud, Khareyana comes highly recommended for a mini-Bali trip without having to board a plane.

Khareyana Spa
36 Jalan Selangor
46050 Petaling Jaya
Selangor, MALAYSIA
03 7958 6219

flower in the pocket

October 14, 2008

I’m so sorry I missed Liew Seng Tat’s Flower in the Pocket, due to Inspector Gadget’s arrival time and a meeting that ran over. The film, produced by Tan Chui Mui (of Love Conquers All fame), even won a Tiger Award for first or second feature films this year in Rotterdam. It looks like a film to make you smile and think a little. I’ll have to try and find it on DVD when I’m home next. Has anyone seen it?

gift of rain

October 8, 2008

Whenever new books by Malaysian authors come out, it doesn’t take long before they end up on my bookshelf. At the same time I think I tend to be overly critical upon reading them. Familiarity with the setting is fun, but also means that the voices have to sound right. Maybe I’m too much of a realist but sloppy or improbable plots and details tend to really grate.

As it turned out, that was one problem The Gift of Rain did not have, though it set itself a stiff challenge by placing its main character at the crossroads of three cultures: Chinese, British and Japanese, at the onset and during the Second World War. That the character’s motives appeared at times unreadable or illogical seemed (almost…) a consequence of his sense of displacement.

I suppose the wartime period is one of the most significant in Malaysia’s short shared history as a modern country, and as a result many Malaysian books seem to incorporate at least some of the events of that time. The Gift of Rain did so with a twist by personifying all sides of the war through its characters, and by setting it on Penang. Mr. Snow and I visited recently, staying at the Blue Mansion, which is also mentioned, so I could imagine it all extra well. Certain wartime scenes, which I know less about, were especially fast-paced, reading almost like a thriller, for better and for worse.

I have to say my expectations were high for this book, especially after I heard it had made it onto last year’s Booker Prize Longlist. Were they met? Two things about the book struck me repeatedly while reading. First, a profusion of adjectives in describing scenes, people and memories, almost to the point of exhaustion. Less is more for me here, especially if a short simple sentence can illustrate the same.

This is diametrically related to the second point. In contrast to the above, several passages were stunning in their simplicity of thought, and expressed so much more of the characters’ thoughts and feelings, which made the whole book for me. These flashes of brilliance lit up this nicely-plotted, if slightly pedestrian book like jolts of electricity. More than reason enough to read it.

my lunch online

September 4, 2008

This post is especially for all the Malaysians abroad. After a last-minute shop for a shirt for Mr. Snow to attend the wedding in, this was our lunch.

Prawn mee for Mr. Snow (go large for RM5)

and char kuay teow for me.

If it’s any consolation, I’m posting this from a very wet and grey Oslo. I’m paining too!


September 4, 2008

An amazing DVD shop has opened on the same row as Steven’s. As a result I finally got hold of the first season of Dexter. I had caught the pilot on TV during this exciting trip to England. Dexter, played by Michael C. Hall (David in Six Feet Under), is a serial killer who also works for the Miami Metro Police Department as a blood spatter analyst (apparently a true specialization) who gives justice a helping hand when he feels it’s necessary.

It takes humour blacker than black, surreal-meets-Disney cinematography and a couple of great twists per episode but the series pulls off the unlikely premise convincingly and enjoyably. Pity we’re still totally hung up on The Wire (Season Two, Episode 5 and counting… )!