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Shah Alam Lake Gardens, Shah Alam

Malls may be popular in Malaysia because of our sweltering tropical weather, but for those who want a green respite in the city, there are many well landscaped parks to explore too. One of the largest in Selangor is the Shah Alam Lake Gardens, located in the heart of the state capital, Shah Alam.

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Designed by renowned Japanese landscape architect Fumiako Tanako, the Shah Alam Lake Gardens opened in 1985, covering a massive 43 hectares (roughly the size of 35 football fields). The park is built around three man-made lakes, and includes playgrounds, exercise lawns with equipment, elevated walkways, cycling and jogging tracks, gazebos, a floating seafood restaurant, and even an extreme sports tower where you can ride the flying fox across one of the lakes.

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N and I came here for a walk after our visit to the immigration nearby, thinking it would be a nice and relaxing stroll. We’ve never been here before, so when we parked at the east entrance and saw the smallish lake there, we thought ‘meh we can do this in under an hour’.

What we didn’t know is that the park is divided into three sections. We only ‘discovered’ the Central and West sections after walking through an underpass and emerging into another massive area lol. Still underestimating its size, we decided to make a ‘circuit’ around. It ended up being an absolute workout that took over two hours. The good news was that I got almost 20,000 steps in!

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The east section is smaller than the others, but has one of the most picturesque views of Shah Alam’s famous Blue Mosque. If you stand at the bridge spanning the lake (or a bit further, like in this shot), you’ll get wonderful shots of the building reflected on the water’s surface.

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The park is beautifully landscaped with a variety of different trees and plants. On the East end, you’ll find sparse-looking trees forming an archway over the bridge, which I think is very-eye catching for photography.

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Peeping Tom

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Some of the flowers you’ll come across at the park.

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After passing an underground tunnel of sorts, we emerged to the gardens’ Central area. It was massive, but it looked like there was an elevated walkway built across the lake where we could cross—so we (foolishly) decided to press on. We would later find out that the walkway was closed 😛

By then we were too far in to walk back the way we came so there was no choice but to finish the entire circuit lmao.

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If you’re an adrenaline junkie, look out for a tower in this area where you can sign up for the Flying Fox activity. N and I are too old for that sht, so walking on these elevated walkways was plenty of excitement already. The walkways were connected to each other with these wonky wooden bridges that swayed dangerously whenever someone walked on them—and although they weren’t high above the ground, it was a strenous workout to balance ourselves and not fall over.

The large trees provided plenty of shade. We even saw a couple of bushy-tailed squirrels darting across the branches!

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Taking a breather.

I actually missed out on taking pictures because I was getting tired by the time we got to the halfway point and was only focused on getting to the end. But along the way we passed by well-maintained exercise lawns complete with equipment, a massive children’s playground, the floating restaurant, and a boat rental area where you can rent paddle boats out onto the lake. There is also a museum, which was closed during our visit.

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As you loop to the other side of the lake which faces the Immigration department, you will see birds such as storks and geese. We even came across a giant monitor lizard slithering along the water’s edge.

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What we thought would be an easy, hour-long walk turned into a two-hour excursion—but not an unpleasant one. If you cycle or jog, this is a great place to workout, soak in the sights, and breathe in the fresh air. I think it’s wonderful that we have such nice parks right in the middle of the city that offer a respite from the concrete jungle.

SHAH ALAM LAKE GARDENS

Persiaran Tasek, Seksyen 14, 40000 Shah Alam, Selangor

Parking: Public parking is available at several entrances around the park.

Transport: It’s best to drive to the park. Alternatively, take bus T754 from the Shah Alam KTM station.

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Ilham Gallery, Kuala Lumpur: A Public Art Gallery for the People

From the prestigious Balai Seni Visual Negara to smaller, independent spaces like The Refinery Sentul, there is no shortage of art spaces to explore in Kuala Lumpur. The art scene here is an interesting reflection of the city’s diversity — so while you do have higher-end galleries that are by appointment only, there are plenty of public galleries as well.

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One of the latter is Ilham Gallery, which is housed within Ilham Tower in KL, just a stone’s throw away from the Petronas Twin Towers. The gallery is located on the 3rd and 5th floor of the building, and touts itself a “public art gallery committed to supporting the development, understanding and enjoyment of Malaysian modern and contemporary art within a regional and global context.”

Entrance to the gallery is at the side of the building, while the other leads to corporate offices — but don’t worry, as there are plenty of signs to guide you there.

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N and I came here on a weekend afternoon. SOPs are in place, including mandatory mask wearing and social distancing. It was also not crowded, so we could take our time exploring the exhibits without having to worry.

We liked Ilham’s sense of space: the ceiling was high, and exhibits were neatly divided according to sections, making it easy for visitors to look at each without having to double back and forth. The lighting was spot on too: I’ve been to some smaller galleries where the light is too bright, which reduces the impact of the art pieces and can make them look cheap and ‘exposed’.

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Since October 2021, the gallery has been hosting an exhibition titled Kok Yew Puah: Portrait of a Malaysian Artist, featuring works by the titular artist.

Born in Klang, Selangor to a wealthy business family, Puah’s story is unique in that he chose to become an artist twice: first in the 1970s as a bold, hard-edge abstract printmaker fresh from art school in Melbourne; then as a figurative painter in the 1980s and 1990s, where his works captured the gritty, unique visual landscapes of a Malaysia on the cusp of change.

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Puah often used himself as well as his family members and friends in his human portraits, with visual cues to represent the ordinary, everyday Malaysian. As someone who grew up in the 1990s, many of the props he uses in his works are instantly recognizable: take this very interesting blend of people dressed in 90s fashion (the tucked in t-shirt with belted jeans + chunky watch — my dad used to dress like that in the 90s!) juxtaposed against a backdrop of a Hindu temple’s facade.

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‘Two Important Men’ (acrylic on canvas, 1993) and’ Self Portrait In Deep Thought’ (acrylic on canvas, 1993).
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Puah’s works remind me of photos captured on analog cameras — but on canvas. You get scenes of people in cars, smiling and posing as if for a photo, against a backdrop of the signature colonial shophouses found throughout towns and cities in Malaysia. Yet another painting captures a bicycle propped against a wall, with the standard blue and white roadsigns that are ubiquitous around the country and that many Malaysians will know from first glance.

Aside from paintings, also on display are letters, newspaper clippings, as well as personal effects such as photos. Puah died at the relatively young age of 51, and this collection curated more than 20 years later offers a glimpse into the life of an artist who was well beyond his time.

Kok Yew Puah: Portrait of a Malaysian Artist will be running until 3 April 2022.

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Remember to stop by the gift shop before leaving. The shop carries souvenirs made by local artists, from canvas bags to dolls, postcards, art books, miniature figurines, jewellery, and more.

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The back of the shop has a mini exhibition of sorts, featuring vintage studio photos. It was interesting to catch glimpses of important moments captured on film — there are wedding photos, graduation photos, family photos, of people from all walks of life. It makes you wonder about where all these people are today — are they alive or dead? — and what has happened to them in their lives from the time they took these photos until today?

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Ilham Gallery is a great place to soak in arts and culture, and to learn more about the colourful contemporary art scene in Malaysia. Entrance is free.

ILHAM GALLERY

Levels 3 and 5, Ilham Tower, 8, Jln Binjai, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur

Open Tuesdays – Sundays (11AM – 7PM except Sunday, 11AM – 5PM). Closed Mondays.

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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Farm in the City, Seri Kembangan: A Unique Petting Zoo Experience

I’ve been getting bored of malls lately. And since I’m not a sporty person, that leaves me with few ‘outdoor’ activities to enjoy, aside from walking around parks, museums, and art galleries (there aren’t too many in Malaysia, so you run out of options after awhile lol).

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The Hubs and I initially thought of visiting the zoo over the weekend, but after some thought, we ended up at Farm in the City instead. Spanning 7 acres, this petting zoo in Seri Kembangan is home to over 100 species of animals, including exotic ones like alpaca and blue tongued skinks, as well as common pets and farm animals such as guinea pigs, hedgehogs, rabbits, and more.

Video below. Subscribe to my Youtube channel if you haven’t already ! 🙂

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The park is nicely landscaped and full of greenery, so even though it gets warm in the afternoon, the trees provide plenty of shade. Tickets are priced at RM39 for adults and RM32 for children. You can also buy a bucket of feed (with millet, hay, pandan leaves, carrots) for the animals.

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The ‘farm’ is built around a lake and is divided into several sections, such as the Bird Aviary, Reptile Cavern, Pet Village, and Jungle Walk, each housing different animals. At the entrance, you’ll be greeted by two friendly ponies, whom you can feed carrots and hay to. The hair on the top of their heads feels rough and warm, like hemp fabric.

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At the Giant Tortoise section, you’ll come across both the second and third largest tortoise species: the Aldabra (pictured above), and the Sulcata (pictured below). Both can live up to 150 years old. Maybe there’s something we can learn from these creatures – take things slow and easy, so you’ll live longer!

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Pig-nosed turtles are native to the rivers, lagoons, and streams of Northern Australia and Southern New Guinea. They are listed as endangered due to loss of habitat and the exotic pet trade.

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The small but interesting Reptile Cavern houses several large snakes, such as the Reticulated Python. The snakes tend to coil in the corners or on top of the glass roof, so you can walk by and see how it looks like from underneath lol. Also within this compound are some Dwarf Caimans, which are sort of small alligators.

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Chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl roam the common areas. You can feed them corn and millet. They all look well fed and groomed.

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Emo guinea fowl. Look at that hair!
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The Bird Aviary was my favourite section. There were so many colourful types: Mandarin ducks, pigeons, lovebirds, even a white peacock strutting its stuff!

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Unlike some zoos I’ve been to, the water in the pond looked clean and fresh – so kudos to the management for keeping the place clean and conducive for the animals.

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A stunning Golden Pheasant.
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At the goat/sheep paddock, I was nearly mobbed by the herd, who tried to get to the hay in my feed bucket lol. I ended up scattering it on the ground because a particularly aggressive one looked like it was ready to put its front legs on me to reach the feed.

The Hubs was also fascinated by the feeling of actual wool, and kept following one particular sheep around the paddock trying to pat it.

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The stars here are the alpacas. They have huge, watery, liquid black eyes and soft wool.

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Hey Kid
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We popped into Pelican Quay for a quick sojourn. There was a small bridge spanning a pond, where a pod of pelicans were sunning themselves by the water’s edge. Their long, gangly wings and sharp, narrow beaks reminded me of pterodactyls.

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Aside from animals, the farm also has a vegetable patch and orchard, with plants such as black pepper and a variety of flowers.

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Also in this area is the buffalo paddock, which is home to two regular water buffalos and an albino one. They like wallowing in mud to keep cool, so expect a lot of flies.

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Javan Deer. I’m so used to seeing them from afar/from outside enclosures that I forget how big they are up close.
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The farm’s resident ring-tailed lemur. Did you know that lemur colonies have matriarchal structures ?

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Stop for a quick break by the lake, which is home to hundreds of colourful koi fish. Drop some feed into the water and watch them swarm in a mass of fat, squirming bodies, lol.

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Very active otters.

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A marmoset. It was tiny! These new world primates measure just 20cm long, and sustain themselves on a diet of insects and fruit.

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There is a section dedicated to small animals, such as guinea pigs and hedgehogs. Here the Hubs touches a blue-tongued skink (it looks like a salamander, but is actually a lizard), and a bearded dragon. Kids will love the Pet Village, where you can cuddle with rabbits – we gave this a miss as the place was crowded with families. There is also a small stream outside where you can try your hand at Longkang Fishing (catching and releasing small fish).

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Iguanas
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A pair of vibrant blue and gold macaws. They can live up to 50 years in captivity.

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Before exiting, remember to say hi to the raccoon squad! They’re super fluffy and fat. You can buy feed from a machine nearby.

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If you’re hungry, stop for lunch at the cafe. The souvenir shop also sells refreshments.

Farm in the City is an educational attraction that’s great for families, especially those with young children, to teach them more about animals and conservation. Even for adults like the Hubs and I, it was a fun ‘date’, and we enjoyed feeding and touching the animals. Consider coming here for a day out, instead of heading to the mall on your next weekend trip.

Tickets can be purchased online, or at the venue.

FARM IN THE CITY

Lot 40187-40188, Jalan Prima Tropika Barat 1, Pusat Bandar Putra Permai, 43300 Seri Kembangan, Selangor

Open daily (Weekdays: 10AM – 6PM, Weekends: 9.30AM – 6PM)

Getting there: The farm is easily accessible via car, and has ample parking space. Unfortunately, public transport does not stop directly at the entrance, so you’d still need a Grab for the rest of the journey.

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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A Zen Experience @ The Selangor-Japan Friendship Garden, Shah Alam

Malaysia and Japan have long enjoyed good bilateral ties – and it’s no secret that Malaysians love everything Japanese, from its food to its culture and traditions. Anything trendy from Japan, such as discount chain store Don Don Donki (which opened last year), or brands such as Daiso, Uniqlo, and Muji, are hugely popular – as are the slew of notable Japanese restaurants (especially in KL) that are always packed with customers. Pre-pandemic, Japan was also one of the top international tourist destinations for Malaysians.

While COVID-19 has dashed many hopes for the latter, fret not. You can still experience a slice of Japan, right in the heart of the Malaysian capital: at the Selangor-Japan Friendship Garden in Shah Alam.

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Opened in March 2021, this beautiful park spans 2.4 hectares and is located adjacent to the Shah Alam Lake Gardens. Built at a cost of RM3.8 mil, the garden is meant to symbolises the warm ties between the goverments of Selangor and Japan, on top of being an added attraction for the state. For those who have missed travelling to Japan, a trip to the garden might just be what you need to cure your Japan blues.

Video below:

I came here with my parents a few months ago (but only got down to posting about it now :P)
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The gardens are beautifully landscaped, with five themed zones. Just next to it is the famous Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque (also known as the Blue Mosque), its dramatic spires and giant dome peeking from above the tree tops.

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Expect to see Japanese-inspired features here, including trimmed bonsai trees, traditional torii gates which are commonly found at Japanese shrines, as well as fixtures such as tsukubai (washbasin – pictured).

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The central feature is a huge pond stocked with colourful koi fish. You can buy feed from the counter to feed the fishes and turtles.

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Next to the pond is the Rumah Selangor (Selangor House), which provides some welcome respite from the heat. For those who want the full experience, you can rent some summer yukatas to wear and imagine that you’re in an authentic Japanese garden. There is also a small museum at the back with displays of items from Japanese culture such as clothing and traditional dolls.

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We might not have sakuras in Malaysia, but these gorgeous bougainvillea blooms are just as pretty
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Meander along the shady pathways, past a maze of waterways and over small bridges with exquisite architecture, or just sit down on one of the benches and wile the morning away.

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Course, not all of the plants are similar to Japan, but I think the landscape architects did an excellent job at replicating the ‘feel’ of an authentic Zen garden.
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The garden has reflexology paths as well, where visitors are encouraged to remove their shoes and walk on the stones, which purportedly helps with improving blood circulation.

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Bamboo trees add to the authenticity
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The Zen garden section boasts features such as carefully stacked stones and meticulously spread-out gravel. In traditional Zen philosophy, this stripping of nature to its barest form is meant to promote meditation and bring out the meaning of life.

We spent a good hour strolling through the garden, and since it was the afternoon, we had the whole place to ourselves. Best of all, entry is free!

The garden is open daily from 10AM – 6PM.

SELANGOR-JAPAN FRIENDSHIP GARDEN

Persiaran Bandar Raya, Seksyen 14, 40000 Shah Alam, Selangor

PS: If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto!

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Things to Do@Tropicana Gardens Mall, Kota Damansara

Malls these days follow a cookie-cutter formula – if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all.

Once in awhile, though, you find neighbourhood places like Tropicana Gardens Mall in Kota Damansara. Despite being a stone’s throw away from well known malls like IKEA Damansara, 1Utama and The Curve, Tropicana Gardens holds its own with a unique mix of offerings and cool tenants; most notably Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki, as well as the largest Starbucks Reserve in Malaysia.

Although it’s far from my house, I’ve been here a couple of times, mostly to visit Donki, but also coz it’s a nice mall to shop at, with everything under one roof.

If you haven’t had the chance to visit, here’s what to expect!

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The mall spans five floors, and has a star-shaped layout. It’s fairly new (the mall opened in February 2021), so the upper floors are quite empty – but there’s plenty to explore on the lower floors. A golden tree takes centre stage at the main concourse, and they spruce it up with different decorations for every season (this pic was taken over a Christmas visit).

SHOP FOR JAPANESE SNACKS AND GOODS AT DON DON DONKI

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One of the mall’s highlights is, of course, the Don Don Donki. This is the second Donki outlet in Malaysia and also the largest, covering nearly 4,000 sq m across two floors. There is a wide variety of goods to shop for here, from fresh produce and snacks, to cosmetics, gym equipment and toys imported from Japan. You can read a more detailed post here.

DO SOME READING AT BOOK XCESS

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Lifestyle bookstore Book Xcess, which sells most of its titles for half the price of what you get at normal bookstores (they’re able to do this as they sell remainder books — books that were overprinted and weren’t taken by conventional bookstores, but are brand new), has a branch on the 2nd floor. If you’re a bibliophile, you can wile the hours away browsing, or just soaking in the store’s cosy aesthetics. I especially like the floor to ceiling ‘wave’ book shelf that stretches from one end of the shop to the other.

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GRAB A BITE

Tropicana Gardens Mall has a fair selection of F&B tenants, from fast food chains to chic cafes. There is also an area called Pitstop which is inspired by the food truck concept — with food truck-shaped kiosks, open seating, and gas station-themed decor.

Personally, I would recommend Tendon Kohaku, which specialises in tempura bowls. Other notable restaurants here include Delay No More Crab Restaurant, Dodo Dimsum Bowls, Go Street Noodle, Ramen Bankara, Rakuzen, D’Italiane, and Sukishi. Don’t forget to check out the snack bars, cafes and bakeries such as Chizu, Park’s Bagels and Gula Cakery.

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GET A MAKEOVER

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The upper floors host a number of salons and beauty parlours where you can get your hair cut, washed and styled, or enjoy beauty treatments.

JOIN A DANCE OR SINGING CLASS

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Here, you can find Flow Academy, a creative school dedicated to the performing arts. They offer dancing and fitness as well as music and singing classes. Many of the academy’s students perform professionally, but you can sign up too if you’re looking to pick up a hobby.

PLAY AND BUY TRADING CARDS AND BOARD GAMES

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If nerdy stuff is more your thing (and I mean it in the best way, being a nerd myself), Invictus Force carries a wide selection of tabletop accessories, trading cards and board games. They also host events for games like Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering.

CATCH A FILM

I haven’t been to the theatres for over two years now, and probably will not in the near future — but for movie-buffs, the mall has a Golden Screen Cinemas on the top floor.

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The upper floors are quite empty at present.

SING KARAOKE

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Another activity that I haven’t done for years is karaoke — my college mates and I used to go every other week, as it was relatively ‘cheap’ entertainment (20 bucks for 4 hours — but this was back in the 2010s :P). Now that we’re all working, it has been hard to go for such activities, and even if we have free time we end up at a cafe anyway.

If you’d like to sing your heart out and belt out some Whitney Houston, Loudspeaker is on the same floor as the cinema.

SHOOT STUFF UP AT THE ARCADE

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Or race some cars, play some drums, shoot a few hoops.

Last but not least…

GRAB SOME COFFEE AT THE STARBUCKS RESERVE

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The mall is home to Malaysia’s largest Starbucks Reserve (they’re essentially ‘high-end Starbucks’, carrying  ‘a selection of the rarest, most extraordinary coffees Starbucks has to offer’, prepared through different techniques such as Chemex, siphon and pour-over). I haven’t actually been inside (on my visits, I was always too full from eating at the other restos or stuffing my face at Donki, lol), but I’d like to drop by on my next trip. It looks impressive enough from the outside, where there is al fresco seating and an outdoor area with beautiful murals.

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If you have the weekend free, Tropicana Gardens Mall is worth a visit! There is ample parking (although the entrance is quite difficult to find — you have to go past the drop-off point in front of the mall, then make a U-turn when you’re almost at the exit), and alternatively, you can take the MRT and stop at the Surian station.

TROPICANA GARDENS MALL

29 No, Unit CC, 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah, 47810 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Website

PS: This is not a sponsored post. Opinions here are entirely my own.

PS2: If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto!

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Photowalk: Things to See and Do Around Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur

How often do you play tourist in your homeland?

Pre-COVID, I always wanted to ‘discover’ new places and experiences – but this pandemic has made me realise that these things can be had, even in our own backyard: it’s all a matter of how you ‘frame’ it. Even something like grocery shopping can be an adventure!

The hubs finally arrived in Malaysia over Christmas, and while dropping off supplies at his quarantine hotel near Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, I took the chance to do some sightseeing – and was pleasantly surprised at how much there is to explore within this small but historically-rich area.

Video below. Subscribe if you haven’t already! 🙂

Video has some extra portions that include Bukit Bintang.

DATARAN MERDEKA

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There’s something very powerful and moving about being in places where history was written – you get a sense of being separated only by time, and not by space. Dataran Merdeka, or Merdeka Square, is one such place. It was where Malaya declared its independence from British colonists, where the Union Jack flag was lowered and the Malaysian flag hoisted in its place, and where our forefathers basically laid the foundations of our country.

The field was not purpose-built for this; rather, it was formerly used as a cricket field for the adjacent Royal Selangor Club, which was a country club for wealthy British and government officials. Fitting, then, that it was repurposed – I find the idea of taking something that stood for colonisation and reclaiming it as our own quite poetic.

Standing underneath the giant flag pole facing the green, it’s easy to visualise how this place would have looked like years ago – minus the modern skyscrapers – and marvel at how far we have come as a nation.

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At 95m high, the flagpole at Dataran Merdeka is one of the tallest flagpoles in the world!

SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD BUILDING

Even if you’re not a history buff, there are many beautiful historical buildings around Dataran Merdeka that make for great photos, such as the Sultan Abdul Samad building. Completed in 1897, it was used to house British government offices, and then the Malaysian Courts, post-independence. It is currently home to offices of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.

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Spanning two floors, the building is an eclectic mix of architectural styles, such as Indo-Saracenic and Neo-Mughal, which were popular in British colonies such as India, Sri Lanka, and Malaya. The arched windows are distinctively Moorish, and the towers are topped with copper domes, which are common elements in Muslim architecture. One of the building’s highlights is the clocktower, which was designed to mimic London’s Big Ben. It first chimed at the building’s completion, and has continued to do so ever since.

ROYAL SELANGOR CLUB

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As mentioned earlier, the field that is now Dataran Merdeka formerly belonged to the Selangor Club (now the Royal Selangor Club) – a clubhouse founded by the British administration as a place for British elites to gather and socialise. The club still stands, boasting Mock Tudor design and the style’s distinctive ‘striped’ look (which is meant to mimic historical homes with half-timbering effects).

Access is for members only, where they can enjoy facilities such as football fields, pool and billiards rooms, squash courts, tennis courts, as well as bars, lounges and restaurants. Pre-pandemic, there were tours that the public could join for a glimpse inside the exclusive clubhouse.

OLD CHARTERED BANK BUILDING / MUSIC MUSEUM

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Sporting similar Mughal architecture as the Sultan Abdul Samad Building across the road, the old Chartered Bank building was the very first bank to open in Kuala Lumpur. Aside from scalloped windows and a signature arched entrance, the building also has four large domes on each of the roof’s corners. An interesting story: as the buildings here are close to the river, the area was prone to massive floods before KL upgraded its flood and drainage systems. In 1926, a severe flood caused damage to millions worth of bank notes in the bank’s vault. So they took them out and laid them on the field to dry in the sun. It must have been quite a sight!

The building now hosts a Music Museum (I visited back in 2016), which chronicles the history and diversity of traditional and modern music in Malaysia, with displays of instruments and more.

KUALA LUMPUR CITY GALLERY

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Just next door is another historical building: the former Government Printing Office building, which was responsible for printing all government reports, publications and other media. Today, it houses the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery, a tourist hub with its own museum, souvenir shop and cafe. There is also an iconic “I Love KL” sign outside the building, which is popular with tourists. The building’s Jacobean facade is a nice contrast to the other Mughal-inspired buildings in the area, and features details such as oriel windows (windows that jut out from the wall). Fun fact: as electricity was not available at the time (the building dates back to the 1900s), the building was designed with lots of windows so that workers at the press could work better with natural sunlight.

I wanted to pop in for a visit, but unfortunately they were closed for cleaning. KL suffered a bad flood in December, and the KL City Gallery was also affected.

KUALA LUMPUR LIBRARY

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Bibliophiles will want to stop by the Kuala Lumpur Library (Perpustakaan Kuala Lumpur), which has an extensive collection of physical books as well as audio visual materials. You have to register as a member to enter, though, but the process should be quick and easy. Bags need to be placed in lockers. The library is open in the afternoon on Mondays, from 10am – 6.45pm from Tuesdays to Fridays, and 10am to 5pm on weekends. It is closed on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month.

RIVER OF LIFE MASJID JAMEK

A short walk away from Dataran Merdeka is the confluence where two rivers meet; namely the Gombak River and the Klang River. They come together in a Y-shape in front of Masjid Jamek — the oldest mosque in Kuala Lumpur — which was built in 1909 and was designed by (surprise!) a British architect. Although opinions might differ, I like to consider this place the true ‘heart’ of Kuala Lumpur, as opposed to the Petronas Twin Towers or even the Golden Triangle of Bukit Bintang. This is where KL got its name, as the Gombak River was once known as ‘Sungai Lumpur’ (literally ‘muddy river’), and Kuala Lumpur itself means “Muddy Confluence”.

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There are two bridges spanning the river, one located right in front of the mosque, which is the perfect spot for photos. You’ll also get to see the Kuala Lumpur Tower and Petronas Twin Towers in the distance. The walkway between the River and the back portion of the Sultan Abdul Samad building is nicely paved, and lined with greenery.

If you come at night, you’ll get to see a wonderful light show! This is part of the River of Life project, a river beautification and clean-up project by the government.
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Back portion of Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
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Morocco vibes
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View from the bridge near Masjid Jamek.
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Masjid Jamek compound.

If you’re interested in visiting the mosque, it is open to visitors — but non-Muslims would have to wear a robe or scarf to cover up. If you’re a man and wearing shorts, they have sarongs on hand too.

Dataran Merdeka is also quite close to Petaling Street (Chinatown), but I’ll detail that in another post. The area is central and easily accessible via public transport, including the LRT (Masjid Jamek stop). From there, Dataran Merdeka is a five minute walk away.

And there you have it! I hope this mini-guide has been helpful. If you liked this post, please consider supporting my blog via Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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Wat Chetawan – A Beautiful Thai-Buddhist Temple in Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Buddhism is a major religion in Malaysia, with around 20% of the population subscribing to the belief. As most devotees here are of Malaysian Chinese descent, many Buddhist temples in the country incorporate Chinese elements in their design and architecture, and tend to also include Taoism, Confucianism, and Chinese folklore influences.

Thai-Buddhist temples are much rarer, especially in the south of Peninsula Malaysia (there are more up north, due to their close proximity with Thailand). In Selangor, as far as I know, there is only one major Thai-Buddhist temple : Wat Chetawan in Section 10, Petaling Jaya. Tucked in a quiet suburban area, the temple is located just next to a church, and has over 60 years of history.

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The idea to have a Thai Buddhist temple was first conceived in 1956 by a group of Thai sanghas (monks). The proposal was well received by the Selangor government, who awarded the group two acres of land to build the temple. The project was also backed by the local community and sponsors. As a mark of the friendship between our young nation (Malaya gained independence in 1957) and Thailand, the late King of Thailand himself, Bhumibol Adulyadej, donated to the temple and officiated its opening when it was completed in 1962.

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Over the years, the temple has undergone a few expansions, and today includes several shrines, monks quarters, a columbarium, and even a ‘herbal sauna’ where you can go to relieve aches and pains (the concept reminds me of the Thai massages you can get at Wat Pho in Bangkok).

The main shrine is located up a short flight of stairs flanked by two multi-headed nagas, known as Phaya Naga (lord of the nagas). Nagas are mythical serpents in Buddhist, Hinduism and Jainism, but they hold special reverence in Thai culture as patrons of water and medicine, so you will often see nagas ‘guarding’ the entrances to many Thai Buddhist temples. A popular myth is that nagas dwell in the Mekong, and were even involved in the creation of the mighty river itself.

Video for those who are lazy to read (subscribe if you haven’t already!) :

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Before coming to the main shrine, you’ll pass by a pavilion housing a Phra Phrom (Four-Faced Buddha). Phra Phrom is a unique deity that is often associated with Thailand, and whose origins are believed to be Hindu (it is believed to be a representation of the Hindu god, Brahma). Thailand was once part of the mighty Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms in the region, and it is not at all surprising to see a blend of different cultures.

The Phra Phrom shrine here is decorated with colourful glass and mirrors, with offerings laid out in front of each altar. There are also small elephant statues surrounding it, as elephants are seen as symbols of good luck and fortune, as well as being the national animal of Thailand.

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The main shrine looks resplendent in shades of yellow and gold, with gilded windows and a curving roof topped with chofas (a decorative ornament at the corners, made to look like a tall, thin bird, or a horn).

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Two apsonsi flank the stairs leading up to the prayer hall. Apsonsi are mythical beings from Thai mythology, depicted as half woman on top, and half lion on the bottom. They are said to guard Himavanta, a legendary forest in the Himalayas that is full of magical creatures. Apsonsi aren’t the only chimeras in Thai mythology: there are also kinnaras – half-bird and half human celestials that are believed to be excellent singers, dancers and poets.

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After removing my shoes, I stepped into the spacious prayer hall. There was a row of golden Buddhas on one side, each holding a pot. Devotees can drop their donations to the temple into the pots.

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The Buddha statue in the main prayer hall was clad in bright saffron robes and seated tranquilly on a golden, intricately-carved dias studded with shiny pieces of glass and stones. The workmanship is a marvel to look at. Offered up a donation and prayer for good health for the fam and I – and an end to this pandemic.

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Coincidentally, a monk was offering blessings, so I joined the session. While chanting prayers, he sprinkled devotees with holy water. You can get bottled holy water as well to take home.

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Aside from the main prayer hall, there is also the Bhrama Pavilion, which houses a few other Buddhas and statues of former temple abbots.

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You can grab some free books on Buddhism in this area. The books are usually printed by religious organisations, and even devotees with their own money, as the spread of dharma (Buddha’s teachings) is believed to help gain good karma.

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As I mentioned earlier, the Buddhism in Malaysia usually has a Chinese influence, and this is no exception at Wat Chetawan. So amidst the elephants, roof spires and Thai-centric architecture, you’ll also find traditional Chinese influences: like this shrine to Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy) which is distinctively Chinese – think tiled orange roof, topped by a pagoda and dragons. Next to it is another shrine housing the Matreiya Buddha (commonly known as the Laughing Buddha – a Chinese semi-historical figure-turned deity).

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You can light a pineapple-shaped or lotus-shaped prayer candle. Why pineapples? Well, I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s because in Chinese culture, pineapples are seen as symbols of good luck and fortune, because they are called ‘ong lai’, which is a homonym for ‘wealth/prosperity comes’. As for lotuses, lotus flowers are a common motif in Buddhism – since they grow and bloom in mud, they represent purity, rising from murky waters.

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You can also find statues of characters like Son Wukong from Journey to the West – a classic 16th century Chinese novel based on the pilgrimage of Tang Xuanzang (he’s a real life monk who spent 20 years travelling from China to India to get sacred Buddhist texts).

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Even if you’re not a devotee, Wat Chetawan is a good place to visit for its beautiful architecture and rich culture. If you come on a weekday, when it’s less crowded, the surroundings are actually quite tranquil and conducive for meditation – or just to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Entry is free, and there are some parking spaces within the compound.

WAT CHETAWAN THAI BUDDHIST TEMPLE

No.24, Jalan Pantai 9/7, Seksyen 10 Petaling Jaya, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor

Open daily from 9AM to 5PM

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.

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World of Phalaenopsis, Ulu Yam – Malaysia’s Largest Moth Orchid Farm with Its Own Hipster Cafe

What’s the best remedy for stress? Experts suggest that spending time in nature – a term coined ‘ecotherapy’ – can help to boost mental health and improve your wellbeing. It can be anything, from hiking and camping, to a picnic by the waterfall, or even a visit to a plant nursery.

If it’s the latter, then I suggest a day trip to Ulu Yam, where you’ll find World of Phalaenopsis, a plant nursery that specialises in phalaenopsis (or moth orchids, because phalaenopsis is a mouthful. lol). Tucked within a quiet kampung, about an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, the nursery is home to thousands of orchids as well as a myriad of other plants — and it even has its own hipster-esque cafe called Florescence.

Vlog here!
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There’s no admission fee, so feel free to waltz in, admire the blooms and get a plant or two (or a dozen – one can never have too many plants!) to bring home. Photos are allowed in the outdoor areas, but not in the dedicated air-conditioned sections, where they carry some of the more exotic plants.

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Moth orchids are a genus of orchids, of which there are over 70 species. They are native to places such as India, Taiwan, China, New Guinea and Australia, as well as Southeast Asia. With their bright colours (usually in hues of pink, white and purple) and large, shapely petals, these orchids are a popular choice for many gardens in Malaysia (which is why you’ll see them often at plant nurseries.

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But first things first – food. I had skipped lunch and was feeling famished (we got there around 3.15PM), so we made a beeline for the in-house cafe, Florescence. The interior was spacious and bright, thanks to glass windows which allowed for plenty of natural light to filter in. The windows also afforded diners with a nice view of the duck pond next to the cafe.

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The menu is rather limited, but what they offer, they do well. My Nasi Lemak with Rendang Chicken (RM13.90) came in a sizable portion, and although the chicken was a tad salty, it was tender and seasoned well. The rice was fluffy and the sambal added a nice kick, without being overpowering.

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Pop’s ordered the Assam Laksa. The cafe also has items like Mee Goreng Siam, pasta, and a variety of coffees and cakes. Moo got a Banana Cake with Ice Cream, which was excellent as the cake was not too sweet and still warm when served, which contrasted nicely with the chocolate ice cream. My iced chocolate drink was a disappointment, though, as it was powdery. Maybe you’re better off ordering one of their teas or coffees.

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The ducks in the pond outside looked clean, healthy and well fed. You can buy feed for them at the counter.

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After we were fed and watered, it was back to exploring the nursery. The moth orchids look lovely when they’re all lined up in a row together – you can walk in between the aisles and literally be surrounded by flowers.

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Most of the orchids are white, pink and purple, but there are yellow ones too.

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The orchids are for sale, and you can get a plant for between RM25 and RM40.

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A section dedicated to other varieties of plants.

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We spent about an hour soaking in the greenery. Didn’t buy anything though, because the fam and I don’t have green fingers, and any plant that makes its way to our ‘garden’ will just be in for a world of sadness.

World of Phalaenopsis is open daily from 9AM to 5PM. It’s best to drive there (Waze or Google Maps: World of Phalaenopsis), as there is limited public transport in the area. Ample parking can be found outside the farm.

WORLD OF PHALAENOPSIS

1017, Jalan Batang Kali – Hulu Yam Bharu, Kampung Sungai Kamin, 44300 Batang Kali, Selangor

Phone: 03-6075 1133

Website

PS: I hope you liked this post! Please consider supporting my blog via my Patreon, so I can make more. Or buy me a cup of coffee on Paypal @erisgoesto.