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Experience A Hong Kong Christmas, No Matter Where You Are in The World

A couple of weeks ago, the highly anticipated Hong Kong-Singapore travel bubble (initially set for November 22) was shelved after a surge of cases in the region – much to the disappointment of many. Some hotels and shopping centres, had, in fact, tailored special holiday experiences – ready to welcome their first leisure travellers after over a year of travel restrictions. 

While that obviously hasn’t worked out, that doesn’t mean Christmas has to be canceled. Hong Kong retailers, businesses and artists alike have banded together to bring an immersive and innovative festive season to people all over the world – using the power of technology.

Take a 360-degree virtual tour of Hong Kong’s festive Central Business District 

Hong Kong’s Christmas celebrations are widely considered to be some of the best in the region, with vibrant Christmas markets, stunning displays, fun activities and more. The Hong Kong WinterFest, an annual fixture organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, has been a major tourist draw each year – and although visitors might not be able to attend physically this year, they can still expect a veritable wonderland through their screens. 

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Go on a tour of Christmas Town – a snow-kissed virtual CBD based on Hong Kong’s very own Central Business District – which ‘starts’ off at Statue Square, a historic public space in the heart of Central. From there, visitors are free to choose their own adventure: you can learn how to make festive DIY crafts such as aromatic wreaths, ornaments, pop-up holiday cards or candle holders via video tutorials, download holiday-themed Whatsapp stickers designed by famous Hong Kong illustrator like Din Dong, Dustykid and Messy Deck, or tune in to beautiful Christmas carols. If you prefer to just soak in the sights of the CBD’s iconic skyscrapers (which will be all decked out for the holidays), a towering tree and festive Christmas lodges, let Uncle Siu – a popular English educator known for his charming voice – lead you through the innovative 360-degree experience, and make fun, interactive stops along the way. 

The virtual tour of Christmas Town is part of the 2020 Hong Kong Winterfest, which will run until 3 January 2021. 

The world’s first “AI Butterflies Illuminating Interactive Art”

Enter a playground of light at Lee Tung Avenue in Wan Chai, where a seven-metre-tall, stained-glass butterfly and over 350 little LED butterflies have taken up residence. Dubbed “Butterflies of Hope,” it is the world’s first AI-powered butterfly art installation,  created to inspire, uplift and remind visitors of the hope, love, beauty and positivity we have in this world.

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If you are in Hong Kong, afternoon is the best time to visit, as the glass installation refracts natural light onto the ground, painting the boulevard in a myriad of colours. Evenings are a magical affair, with a music-and-light symphony that sees the butterflies taking flight as they ‘dance’ to the sound of music using artificial intelligence.

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The Lee Tung Avenue atrium is also home to a stunning, 12-metre-tall Christmas tree, with some powerful special effects. Combining touchless interactive technology and a special shadow projection technique, the tree projects butterflies onto the clothes of visitors – a feat of art and technology. 

Enjoy the festivities at Lee Tung Avenue until 10 January 2021.

Get lost in the Asia debut of Globoscope, a light showcase from France

K11 MUSEA, a new cultural-retail destination and arts hub on the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, has turned up the Christmas spirit this year with A Very MUSEA Christmas Village. The village spreads joy and wonderment with a roster of artistic cultural experiences, including the Asia debut of Globoscope.

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Globoscope debuts in Asia at K11 Musea

Created by Collectif Coin, a renowned French art lab, the site-specific immersive light show stretches across the Bohemian Garden, a roof-top open space. A 20-minute private experience can be reserved to enjoy the surreal, sensory light exhibit with family or friends. It’s a sight to behold: Glowing spheres dance and swirl in choreographed light movements, while the dramatic Hong Kong skyline shines in the distance.

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Adding to the festive vibes is K11 MUSEA’s gorgeous Christmas Forest, featuring glistening golden trees in the mall’s atrium. Also not to be missed is a special Santa Muse Parade and a Christmas Market.

Experience A Very MUSEA Christmas Village through 3 January 2021. 

“Christmas Every Day” goes high tech with virtual Santa Meet & Greets

For the past 50 years, Harbour City has marked the holiday seasons with larger-than-life Christmas installations and festive surprises. This year is no different: it’s “Christmas Every Day” celebration once again promises unforgettable holiday memories, complemented by a roster of online experiences. 

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Take a virtual tour of the incredible decorations throughout the mall and “check-in” on social media or share your Christmas wish list with Santa during a virtual Meet & Greet. For the little ones, Harbour City has created an interactive online colouring game, where children can dress up their “Monster Friends” – adorable 3D cartoon characters illustrated by Dutch artist Eva Cremers – and then watch their masterpiece come to life!

The holiday extravaganza continues in person. At the “Christmas Lighting Garden” on the Ocean Terminal Deck, you can wade through a sea of illuminated LED clovers and dandelions and enjoy the “Christmas Lighting & Music Show” every evening with the stunning Hong Kong skyline as a backdrop.

Enjoy Harbour City’s “Christmas Every Day” online and offline experiences until 3 January 2021.

*Photos courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board.

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I Interviewed My Husband on his Typhoon Ulysses Experience

November has been an awful month for many Filipinos. 

The island nation has been battered by consecutive storms and typhoons, with five within the span of the last few weeks. Earlier this month, super typhoon Goni – one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded – devastated large swathes of Eastern Philippines, leaving 25 dead with thousands more displaced. 

And now another one has struck. 

Named after the Latin moniker for the Greek god Odysseus, Typhoon Ulysses made landfall on November 11 on the island town of Patnanungan in Quezon, before steadily carving a path of destruction across parts of Luzon with winds reaching up to 105 kph. As of November 13, Reuters reported at least 42 dead and over 75,000 packed into evacuation centres. Of course, this doesn’t bode well not only because of hygiene and sanitation, but also because of the current pandemic. 

Typhoons are very common in the Philippines,  so when I heard about the news, I asked N if his area was going to be affected. This was on Wednesday night, and he was pretty nonchalant about it, so I thought there was nothing to worry about. 

We  usually message each other the first thing after waking up, so when I didn’t hear anything from him at 11am on Thursday, I began to worry. Shortly after, I got a message from my sister-in-law, telling me that their house was flooded. Since there was no electricity, they were turning off their phones to conserve battery, and would update me on the situation as it went.

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She also sent me a few photos of the interior. I’ve been to N’s house several times, which is located in Cainta, about 12 kilometres from Metro Manila. Since it’s in a low-lying area, the house is prone to floods during the rainy season, so the main floor (living room, bedroom, kitchen) is slightly elevated above the entrance by about a foot. From the photos, I could see that water had already seeped into the upper level, so there was probably about three feet of water. 

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Water at its highest. You can see how much it rose compared to the previous photo.

Now.. this might sound super ignorant, but living on the west coast of Malaysia, which has zero natural disasters (we’re blessed), I’ve always imagined floods to be this super swift rush of water, obliterating everything in its path and sending people and things to a watery grave. This is the case in some scenarios, but there are also floods where the water level rises over time. Not that it’s any less dangerous; if anything, I think these are actually more deceiving – you think the water isn’t that high and boom! You’re suddenly stuck on the roof. 

Thursday was spent on tenterhooks as I waited for updates. Watching the news didn’t help, as media outlets showed devastating scenes of people stuck on rooftops, submerged homes and vehicles, uprooted trees and damaged infrastructure. I went to the FB group for residents of where N lives, and some areas were so badly affected, they had to use boats to get people out. 

I was relieved to hear that the flood waters had subsided by 6pm. N and my in-laws spent the night in the attic. It was very uncomfortable because they didn’t have electricity, but I was glad that they were, at least, safe. 

I didn’t hear much from N until Friday evening, when he got the electricity and Wi-Fi back.  He spent the whole day cleaning up; there was a lot of mud on the floor, and some items had to be thrown away – but the important thing is that him and his family are safe. 

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Kaya the doggo looking down from the attic.

During our call that night, my inner curiosity won out (once a journalist, always a journalist?) and I plied him with questions lol. It was actually a pretty insightful conversation and helped me to understand better what I should do in case of a flood (or any disaster for that matter). 

So, what actually happened? 

N: It had been raining throughout the night. I think the water started coming in around 6am. I was sleeping. 

What? How can you sleep through a flood? 

N: It happens all the time here. If it was serious my family would have woken me up, lol. I think they were also deliberating if they should pack up and go to a hotel, or stay behind. In the end they just started moving some of the appliances and stuff to the attic. I woke up around 9am and the water was about an inch-high in my bedroom. I helped my brother stack the bed up onto chairs. 

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Was it worse than Ondoy (2009)? 

N: In terms of wind strength, I think this was more powerful. But Ondoy brought a huge volume of rainfall with it, so the floods were worse. This house was almost submerged. I can’t really tell you how that was though, because I was living near campus at the time and wasn’t affected much.

So the waters were rising. How did you prepare? 

N: You should watch the Korean movie Alive. It’s on Netflix. 

Isn’t that about zombies? 

N: Yeah, but it’s still super useful for disaster situations. I learned that you should get your earphones, because the 3.5mm jack actually doubles as a radio antenna. If you don’t have a radio, you can use your phone’s radio function to tune into the news. My mom also has a small transistor radio for emergencies. The night before, when we heard that there might be a possibility of floods, we charged up all of our devices and power banks, coz we knew electricity might be cut. Then there’s the usual; batteries, flashlights, emergency first aid kit. Electricity companies will automatically cut off electricity, but we turned off all the switches just in case. 

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View from the roof of N’s house. Uprooted trees

What else do you think one should do when preparing for a flood? 

Perishables won’t keep if your fridge is submerged, so have some processed food and canned food on standby. The water wasn’t that high this time so we could still use the gas stove to cook all the perishables for dinner. As for clothes, you can pack them into waterproof bags. Previously we used garbage bags because they float, but the material is thin and if it tears your stuff will get dirty and wet. If you have a vehicle, you should remove the car battery. Also, if you have important documents, put them all in an envelope so it’ll be easy to carry and keep safe.  

What did you do while waiting for the water to subside? 

I went downstairs to observe the situation, my family stayed in the attic. I fell asleep again and woke up around 1pm. 

I am astonished you can sleep in the middle of a flood. 

Well, it happens all the time so I’m used to it. We get floods very often; I used to call it ‘annual general cleaning’ because we’d have to clean the house from top to bottom afterwards. I was a little surprised that the water rose fast though. Like two inches every 20 minutes. I think it reached about three feet. 

What did you do at night? 

Just had dinner, talked. We didn’t use our devices to save battery. It was very hot and difficult to sleep with everyone in the attic. S (niece) kept tossing and turning, so my brother had to fan her.  The next morning we started cleaning up. We couldn’t move the fridge because there was no place to put it. Thankfully it’s still working.  

Okay, I have to ask this. Since everyone is in the attic, where do you go when you need to pee? 

N: You pee in the flood water. 

Come again? 

N: You pee in the flood water. You can’t go outside because snakes might swim into the house when you open the door lol. And the toilet is flooded anyway. So you just kinda go downstairs and do your thing. You know, the first night, I had this overwhelming urge to poop and I kept holding it in the entire night. The next morning when I could finally go to the toilet, nothing came out. What the effing hell. I guess if you really need to do a no.2, there are plastic bags… 

Typhoons are so common in the Philippines. Do you think that the government should improve on their disaster prevention measures? 

N: I might get a lot of flak for saying this, but I actually think there isn’t that much the government can do. I think they’re doing okay with what they have.

(note**: While writing this, I read some articles about how more money should be allocated to improve housing for the poor. Many Filipinos from the low income bracket live in flimsy wooden homes, which are easily flattened by storms – as is the case with Haiyan in 2013. N and I did not discuss this, but I think we should expand on this after more research).

While the worst of Ulysses seems to have passed, relief might take a long time – especially with government agencies and facilities overburdened as it is from COVID and previous disasters. It’s 1AM and I’m still seeing cries for help on social media from areas like Cagayan and Isabela, which are located in the northern part of Luzon: there hasn’t been much media coverage and apparently aid is slow in coming, and many people are still stuck, with flood waters rising.

I’m glad N and my in-laws are safe, and that there isn’t that much damage to their home. -Ber months in the Philippines are when the La Nina phenomenon occurs, so I wouldn’t be surprised if another typhoon decides to make a visit. 2020 just sucks in general.

I know it’s a difficult time and there’s nothing that I can say that can help make it easier. But to those affected, please stay strong, and keep each other safe. For donations, Philippine Tatler has compiled a list of organisations that you can contribute to. Link here.

This photo of a dog stuck on a roof broke my heart. There’s a happy ending though – it was rescued and reunited with its owner.
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Big Bad Wolf 2020 – Malaysia’s Largest Book Sale Goes Online

Since 2009, Malaysian bibliophiles and book hoarders have made their annual pilgrimage to the Big Bad Wolf Sale, which is held every year around Feb/Mac or Nov/Dec and is touted as the largest book sale in the region. The last time I went in 2018, they had over 3 million titles!

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Buang balik #2018

Due to the pandemic, many events have had to be cancelled – so the BBW won’t be held physically this year. They are, however, having an online sale, so you can still shop for books from the comforts of your own home. The sale went live at midnight on Nov 4, and will run until Nov 11 (which is shorter than the usual BBW which usually runs for 2 weeks).

Now, although BBW and BookXCess (BBW’s parent company) has been around for some time, they’ve always been more of a brick-and-mortar business – as evidenced by their bookstores, which are all beautifully designed as ‘lifestyle hubs’ where you can sip on a coffee, work, study, etc. There is of course nothing wrong with this; I personally prefer physical bookstores and the joy of finding an awesome book hidden in a corner shelf , getting to inhale the smell of paper, touch the sleek edges of the page. Hmm.

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The BookXCess store at Tamarind Square, Cyberjaya is the largest bookstore in Malaysia, and it operated 24 hours a day (pre-pandemic)

But we are living in uncertain times, and many businesses have had to accelerate their digital processes and shift to a more online-centric model to cater to shifting consumer needs/demands. BBW’s first online sale will be a test as to how well it’ll be able to cope. So far, there seem to be a lot of teething problems.

Since going live at midnight, many users have complained that the website is inaccessible – probably due to the sheer amount of web traffic which is overloading their servers. When they do get in, some have problems creating an account, while others can’t browse because titles are not showing up on the pages. Still others have said their cart turns up empty after they’ve selected the items they want to purchase, and some users haven’t been able to checkout at all.

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I’m part of a local book group on FB, and these are just some of the frustrated comments:

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Curious, I went to the website myself at around 11AM today. It loaded fine at first…

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But upon trying to register for an account:

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Tried again at 12.40PM and managed to get a form to fill up, but after filling it up and pressing ‘create account’, it cleared my data and requested for me to fill up my details again.

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BBW has at least acknowledged they’re having problems on their page.

Now I’m not trying to be mean here or say that they’re doing a shit job – I’m sure their IT department is working round-the-clock to resolve these issues, and despite how some people have commented that “Oh you should have been prepared knowing that there will be many people surfing your website”, I know Murphy’s Law applies – you can prepare for every possibility in the world, but things that will go wrong will go wrong.

But I also understand the frustration on the consumer’s side – one comment said it took them an hour to register an account, an hour to browse and select their books, and another hour to checkout because they had to keep refreshing the page – a total of four hours. In a digital-savvy world of instant gratification and convenient online shopping, four hours just doesn’t cut it.

That being said, there are also customers like these – which is when you know you’ve done something right with your brand:

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If you do manage to get in, BBW 2020 does have great discounts, up to 90% off on 40,000 titles and with over two million books on sale. They also provide free shipping on orders above RM180. If you’re buying above RM300, you’re entitled to a further 10% discount with the code BBW10% off.

Anyway, I hope they manage to sort things out soon because I do think that they are doing a good thing – which is bringing books to customers. There are also many pros to going online, namely avoiding the crowd of shoppers and the massive traffic jams that are a signature of BBW sales every year.

PS: I initially wanted to browse some of the titles, but perhaps this is for the best seeing as I have a TBR pile from AS FAR BACK AS 2013 LMFAO I HATE MYSELF WHY AM I LIKE THIS LOL.

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These were from 2018. I have only managed to finish the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time wtf. Kill me.

Have you ordered books from the Big Bad Wolf Sale 2020? How was your experience?

I Finally Played Assassin’s Creed – Here Are My Thoughts

The Assassin’s Creed series is one of the most popular games in the world, with 11 installments under its belt and over 140 million copies sold. While I have heard many good things about the game, I never had the chance to play it until recently. Steam was having a sale on all AC titles, some of which were going at half price – and after looking up reviews, I settled on AC: Origins.

Only regret? I should have started playing sooner.

AC Origins is set in the last days of the Ptolemaic dynasty in ancient Egypt, and follows Bayek of Siwa, a Medjay whose duty is to protect the people – sort of like a modern day sheriff of sorts. A dangerous job begets dangerous enemies, and Bayek and his son Khemu are captured by mysterious masked figures from The Order of the Ancients. They demand Bayek open the Siwa Vault, but Bayek was actually oblivious to the vault’s existence, a fact the Order of the Ancients refused to believe. In the ensuing scuffle, Khemu is accidentally murdered by his own father. 

The story picks up one year later, with Bayek returning to Siwa after successfully killing The Heron, one of the Order. Bayek and his wife Aya are hell-bent on revenge, and they have a list of targets from which they intend to eliminate. However, the more Bayek investigates, the more he realizes that toppling the order isn’t simply about assassinating a few men, as the organisation is not only firmly entrenched in society and politics, but also wields enormous influence. They also discover that the Order is actually after powerful relics – which is why they wanted access to Siwa Vault – and use these powers to subjugate the population and bring peace and order to the world. 

To counter this, Bayek and Aya found The Hidden Ones, the precursor to the modern Assassins. Like the modern version, the Hidden Ones are meant to represent peace through freedom, whereas the Order of Ancients – a forerunner to the modern Templars in other AC games, represent peace through order. These two secret societies will battle each other through the ages: one determined to seek out relics for power, the other to prevent the subjugation of mankind. 

The Story and Characters 

If you’re a fan of historical fiction (like Dan Brown), you’ll love how the story weaves Bayek and the Hidden Ones into real-life events in history. There’s even a mission where you help sneak Cleopatra into Ptolemy’s palace, so that she can meet Julius Caesar. The main story isn’t all that long, but there are plenty of side missions to keep you occupied. Some have interesting plots and add to the overall story; others are mundane and involve things like fetching items. As much as I like the game, I found the side missions tedious and repetitive after awhile, but kept going because I’m *hangs head in shame* a completionist and it bugs me when there’s an incomplete mark on the map lol. 

Bayek as a character is quite likeable, albeit a little naive (he often takes what people say at face value, then (insert Pikachu face meme here) is shocked when they betray him. Bayek’s guilt at Khemu’s murder ,his helplessness at being unable to protect his son and family, is also well written and portrayed through small side missions, like the one where you can complete puzzles and be rewarded with some dialogue about how Bayek and Khemu used to go star gazing.

I also think that the theme of revenge is conveyed really well. Bayek feels that by killing the people responsible for his son’s death, as well as those who have wronged Egypt and oppressed its people, he will be able to feel at peace. We see that this is not the case. 

Whenever Bayek makes a kill, the player is transported to a dark space where Bayek has a conversation with his victim and passes judgement for their sins, before they are sent to the afterlife. But as the player observes, Bayek is not always happy, even after his vengeance is complete, because deep down he knows that like Hydra in Greek mythology, cut off one head and another appears. There will always be oppressors, just as how there will always be the oppressed. It isn’t until he realises this and finds a greater calling – to protect the people through the Hidden Ones and leave a legacy that lasts beyond his own life – that he truly finds purpose. 

Graphics and Setting 

Image via Ubisoft

I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Egyptian history (one of my dreams as a kid was to go see the Pyramids of Giza), and AC Origins delivers with breathtaking visuals. It’s one of the prettiest games that I’ve played, aside from Detroit Become Human. 

The immersion is wonderful; at times I felt like I was actually exploring ancient Egypt in Bayek’s shoes, checking out tiny details on the buildings and statues,soaking in the culture and colourful tales of their gods and myths. The costumes are amazingly detailed and reflect the different stations of its characters, from the everyday people and the priestesses, to soldiers, merchants and nobility. You also get a nice mix of Egyptian, Greek and Roman culture, as during the Ptolemaic period these three were intertwined (Rome invaded Egypt in 30BC, ending Cleopatra’s rule and the ancient Egyptian dynasty). As Bayek, you visit important cities such as Alexandria, Krokodiliopolis, Thebes and Memphis, each with their own unique architecture.

Gameplay 

I have to admit – I was rather miffed at the lack of a ‘jump’ command when I first started playing, because it seemed like such a basic move that players won’t be able to do at will. Instead, you vault over obstacles when Bayek’s avatar is close – but you kind of get used to it as the game progresses. As the AC series is all about stealth, you’re not supposed to be running through hordes of enemies hacking and slashing, relying instead on hiding yourself in bushes, around pillars and timing your attacks so that enemies won’t raise the alarm. Overall, the gameplay feels smooth, even though sometimes I would accidentally release myself from a ledge and watch as Bayek falls to his doom wtf haha. That being said, the game allows you to move and climb virtually anywhere. The use of your hawk Senu to hone in on hidden treasure and enemies is a nice touch, and is apparently a hallmark of the AC games (can’t compare because I’ve never played the other ones). 

I feel that it is a good thing that I started with AC: Origins. Not only does it start in the ‘correct’ chronological order ie how the Assassins came to be, thus giving the player plenty of backstory, it’s also touted as one of the best AC games of all time. Because I had so much fun, I purchased AC: Odyssey, which is the latest one in the franchise and will be checking it out as soon as I have more time – and I’m planning to get some of the older games too.The thing about that, though, is that the new games tend to be improvements over old ones, so you just can’t get into them once you’ve played the new (case in point: I played Witcher 3 first, and Witcher 2 just sucked in comparison. Same case with Borderlands 2). 

Have you played any of the Assassin’s Creed games? Which one is your favourite? 

REX KL – An Urban Creative Space In The Heart of Kuala Lumpur

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Just a stone’s throw away from Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, REX KL is one of the city’s latest creative spaces and is packed with chic cafes, edgy food outlets and eclectic tenants. Formerly a cinema, the building was abandoned for some time before it was given a new lease of life. As such, vestiges of its days as a cinema remain, such as the wide staircase which leads up to the second floor, the main theatre which has been converted into an exhibition / events space, as well as fixtures such as tiles and signages.

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This is my second time to REX KL (you can read about my first visit here!). The fam and I were there to check out their Buy for Impact showcase, which ran for several weekends in September and featured local social enterprises such as Masala Wheels, Helping Hands Penan, Krayon.Asia and Silent Teddies, to name a few.

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There weren’t many stalls, but they were all interesting.

We stopped by the GOLD (Generating Opportunities for Learning Disables) booth. They were selling T-shirts, Kindness Cookies in various flavours, mugs, cards and beautiful notebooks, all made by the disabled community. Moo bought a T-shirt and we also got some cookies, which were tasty. You can find out more about what they do here.

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Checking out the Krayon.asia booth, an online eco-art store and social enterprise that promotes eco friendly products and arts & craft made by the disadvantaged community, artists and crafters with special needs and those who are marginalised and have limited resources. The keychains they had on sale, which are made from recycled plastic beads, were absolutely adorable.
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Another social enterprise at the showcase was ENTO, which aims to promote entomophagy as a sustainable solution to the world’s food security problems. The company sells roasted crickets in flavours like salted egg, kimchi and barbecue. There were samples which I would have liked to try (I tried crickets in when I was in Phuket) but the Moo, who was hovering over my shoulder, gave me a horrified expression and a firm “NO”. You know how some mothers are lol.
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There was also a photo exhibition on the same floor, featuring stunning portraits of local artists and makers.

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WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO AT REX KL ?

Even when they’re not having events and exhibitions, there’s plenty to do here.

You can grab a cuppa at Stellar, which is located at the entrance and has several al fresco seats surrounded by lush greenery. Order a hand-brewed Guatemalan or a flat white, or opt for a refreshing cold brew to go with delicious cakes. They also serve coffee cocktails for those who want a shot of booze (drink responsibly!)

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Bibliophiles can browse for rare books, indie titles and second-hand items at Mentor Bookstore. Although most of the books are in Chinese, there are a few English titles too.

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Just next to Mentor is where you can unearth nostalgic treasures and collectibles like old toys, records; even cassette tapes and old-school radios. There is quite the collection here, and if you’re a millennial like me, bring your parents so they can tell you how a record player works lol.

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There’s more on the ground floor: old stamps, postcards, etc.
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Come on a weekend for fresh produce from One Kind Market, which features locally grown vegetables and fruits from local farmers and traders.

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If you love craft beers, then The Rex Bar should be on your list. Helmed by Modern Madness, you get interesting Malaysian-inspired flavours like teh tarik ale and lemongrass lager, or (if you’re brave enough!) bak kut teh beer and durian beer. They serve a selection of non-alcoholic beverages as well.

There are plenty of things to eat within Rex KL: urban warung Lauk Pauk offers Malay favourites like Ayam Bakar (roast chicken) and Paru Sambal Hijau (beef lungs cooked in sambal), while ParkLife dishes out contemporary London cuisine with a healthy twist.

REX KL remains open during the CMCO period until October 27. While unnecessary is discouraged in light of the pandemic, consider supporting some of the local businesses while you’re in the area – maybe grab a cup of coffee or takeaway from the eateries there.

And finally, although events aren’t allowed yet, you can watch some previous live sessions on their Youtube channel:

REX KL

80, Jalan Sultan, 55000 Kuala Lumpur

Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM – 10PM

Hilton Kuala Lumpur Celebrates The Mid-Autumn Festival with Royal Midnight Mooncake Series

The Mid-Autumn Festival is an important festival in Chinese culture. Also called the Mooncake Festival or the Lantern Festival, it is also celebrated in a few other East Asian countries, where it is known as Chuseok in Korea and Tsukimi in Japan. The festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese Lunar calendar, when the moon is believed to be at its fullest and brightest. Like the Lunar New Year and Winters Solstice, it is a time of reunion for families, where they gather to watch the moon. The moon’s round shape also symbolizes unity and togetherness, as no matter how far apart loved ones are from each other, they can gaze upon the same moon in the night sky.

Mooncakes are an integral part of the Mid-Autumn Festival. In Malaysia, malls are often chock full of stalls stacked high with mooncake boxes in the days leading up to the festival. Traditional flavours like lotus paste, red bean and black sesame are always popular, but there are also modern creations like tiramisu, chocolate, durian and many more.

Drawing inspiration from these stories, Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s mooncake series, “Royal Midnight”, appreciates the fine art of simplicity and serves as a tribute to the beauty of traditions. Featuring a lunar medallion and silver embroidered clouds on a navy blue sheen fabric, the luxurious mooncake box doubles as a jewellery case.

Royal Midnight

The box is so pretty – it’s a work of art on its own!

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Received a box from Hilton KL for work and shared it with colleagues. Brought home the traditional Baked White Lotus Paste. Its eerything a good mooncake should be – not too sweet or greasy, and definitely not cloying. But as with everything, eat in moderation – a baked mooncake can contain as much as 800 calories!

Chynna Special 2020

This year’s signature, the Bulgarian Blush (RM38 nett), comprises custard cream cheese, Bulgarian Rose petal Jam and pine nuts, enclosed in a delicate baby pink snow skin.

Traditional Baked

Enjoy the traditional season with our array of mouthwatering halal-baked mooncakes.

  • Baked White Lotus Paste – RM35 nett
  • Baked White Lotus Paste with Single Yolk – RM38 nett
  • Baked Lotus Paste with Single Yolk – RM35 nett
  • Baked Pandan Paste with Single Yolk – RM35 nett
  • Baked Red Bean Paste with Almond Flakes – RM35 nett
  • Traditional-Style with Five Nuts Mix – RM38 nett

Snow Skin

  • Heavenly Gold – Snow Skin with Pure Premium Musang King Durian – RM56 nett
  • Blue Moon – Snow Skin Amaretto Lotus Paste with Blueberry Cheese Feuillantine – RM35 nett
  • Flower Drum – Snow Skin Lotus Paste with Soft Custard Egg Yolk – RM35 nett

Gift Boxes

  • Royal Midnight Traditional Baked – RM258
  • Royal Midnight Snow Skin – RM268
  • Christy Ng’s Crimson Red/Royal Purple Traditional Baked – RM158
  • Christy Ng’s Crimson Red/Royal Purple Snow Skin – RM168
  • Lunar Charms Traditional Baked RM138
  • Lunar Charms Snow Skin– RM148
  • Heavenly Gold Package – RM318

2020 Mid-Autumn High-Tea at The Lounge

Royal Midnight_Mid-Autumn High-Tea at The Lounge

Indulge in a Mid-Autumn high-tea for two consisting of bite-sized Chinese delights by Chef Lam, and traditional and snow skin mooncakes, complemented by Dilmah’s Natural Rosehip with Hibiscus Tea. The high-tea is priced at RM236 nett for two and isa available from 18 July to 4 October, weekdays from 12.30PM to 5.30PM.

All mooncakes are available for purchase at the hotel lobby or online at www.takehome.hiltonkl.com from now until 4 October 2020. For more information, call +603 2264 2264.

*Photos not watermarked courtesy of Hilton KL.

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Things To Do Over the Merdeka Weekend – August 2020

Monday (31 Aug) marks the 63rd Hari Kebangsaan or National Day, which commemorates the Federation of Malaya’s independence from British colonial rule. This year’s theme, aptly dubbed  ‘Malaysia Prihatin‘ (Malaysia Cares), is a tribute to our front liners who have worked tirelessly during this difficult time, and is also timely to foster a sense of community which is now even more important than ever. While celebrations will be much more subdued this year, there are still plenty of things that you can do to get into the patriotic spirit:

WATCH A PARADE… KINDA 

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Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas via Wikimedia Commons

In light of the pandemic, the usual National Day parades and processions have been cancelled. BUT. You can still watch a pre-recorded version on TV. The contingents will march separately, and the footage will be stitched together to create the programme, with the aid of augmented reality and CGI. Now that’s a historic first! Pro: You won’t have to wake up super early to try and get a good spot at Dataran Putrajaya.

PARTICIPATE IN PATRIOTIC-THEMED ACTIVITIES / COMPETITIONS

No parade? No problem! The gov is organising a bunch of programmes with a national theme, including photography and public speaking contests, as well as colouring and drawing contests for kids. Submit your applications here.

VISIT HISTORIC LANDMARKS

Tugu Negara - National Monument

Photo via Flickr / Naz Amir

Since it’s a long weekend, this is the perfect time for some Cuti-Cuti Malaysia (whilst adhering to social distancing norms!) If you’re in KL, you can go on a historic trail and visit some of the city’s prominent landmarks, such as Tugu Negara (dedicated to the sacrifice of our armed forces), the Sultan Abdul Samad Building (formerly the offices of the British colonial administration) and Dataran Merdeka, where Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed our independence. There’s also the Petronas Twin Towers – which stand tall as a proud reminder of our country’s achievements.

JOIN A VIRTUAL RUN

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There are a couple of virtual runs you can participate in, complete with medal and T-shirt. The only difference is that you’ll be running on your own, and measuring the distance based on the number of steps on your pacer. Heck, you can even ‘run’ 10 kilometres indoors! Another upside is that you’ll be able to pick your own route. Wear a Malaysian flag bandana for good measure.

GO ON A FOODIE TRIP

Image via needpix

Malaysians and food are inseparable  – and what better way to pay tribute to the national past time (eating) than by tucking into scrumptious local fare? Start off with some Nasi Lemak and Teh Tarik at Village Park, then perhaps Curry Noodles or Kuih Bakul at the Pudu ICC FoodCourt. For tea time, go cafe hopping around KL (I recommend Merchant’s Lane), and finish off your gastronomic adventure with dinner at the popular Jalan Alor. Some restaurants and cafes are offering special Merdeka-themed menus, such as MyBurgerLab with their Nasi Lemak Ayam Rendang Burger, or Knowhere Bangsar’s Cita Rasa Gemilang, featuring 13 specially crafted dishes to represent the different states in Malaysia (Pizza Tempeh teratai, anyone?)

SUPPORT THE LOCAL ARTS SCENE 

Mass gatherings aren’t allowed, but that doesn’t mean you have to cut out entertainment completely. Show your support for local artists and performers by attending small-scale events. The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) in Sentul has reopened its doors, and they’re kicking things off with a series of cabaret shows over the Merdeka weekend. Love shopping? Get cool goods from local entrepreneurs and small businesses at The Linc KL’s pop-up market, which is happening from August 29 to 31.

 

So. Have you made plans ? 🙂

Have You Ever Seen Kuala Lumpur This Empty?

With its glitzy array of shopping malls and eclectic mix of restaurants, cafes and entertainment outlets, Bukit Bintang is often dubbed the heart and soul of Kuala Lumpur. The main thoroughfare – Jalan Bukit Bintang – used to see a constant flurry of activity day and night, especially near Pavilion KL, one of the country’s premiere shopping destinations. Things are much quieter these days due to the pandemic.  Granted, it was drizzling during my visit – but it’s still odd to see this usually bustling spot devoid of tourists.

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It’s notoriously difficult to get a good shot of the fountain in front of the mall, since there are always tourists / visitors milling about. Now’s my chance!

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The walkway connecting Pavilion Kuala Lumpur to nearby malls ie Fahrenheit 88, Lot 10 and Sungei Wang. In all my years of coming to KL, I have never seen it this empty.

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Decorations are also subdued. There are a couple of trees at the front of the mall for the upcoming Mid-Autumn festival, but it’s pretty toned down by Pavilion KL standards.

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This current pandemic has had an adverse effect on everyone across the world, not just in terms of health but also the economy. Hopefully it’ll tide over soon.

If not, we’ll just have to learn to live with it.