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Walking Tour: Bangsar South, Kuala Lumpur

Bordering the fringes of the Kuala Lumpur city centre, Bangsar South is perhaps best known as a modern business hub, home to multi-story office towers, luxury condos and chic retail outlets. The commercial area is nicely landscaped with parks, plenty of greenery and wide, paved roads, and the three main buildings – The Sphere, The Nexus and The Vertical – are all connected via convenient pedestrian bridges.

I was in the neighborhood recently and decided to walk around to take in the sights – here are some photos.

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I like how the area has been designed to incorporate lots of public green spaces, like this park with water features, sandwiched between towering offices. A perfect respite for office workers during lunch break.
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The iconic TM Tower, designed to resemble the shape of a bamboo shoot. It also looks remarkably like Stark Tower. When the Avengers premiered in Malaysia, the Avengers logo was projected onto the tower, as part of TM’s collaboration with Marvel Malaysia.
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One thing the Bangsar South neighbourhood has no shortage of: beautiful, modern architecture.
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Aside from offices, Bangsar South also boasts a repertoire of chic restaurants, cafes and eateries as well. Some of them are pretty famous; like Botanica + Co, SOULed Out, and The Farm Foodcraft. There’s also a branch of my favourite tonkatsu place, Tonkatsu by Ma Maison, here.
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Bridge connecting The Vertical, The Sphere and Nexus.

I’ve been watching a lot of walking tours on Youtube lately, so here’s my attempt at one! I don’t have a gymbal or anything so it might be shaky at times.

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

TTDI: A Photo Series

Hey guys! Not much to write about, so here are some photos for a change. These were taken when I went poking around the neighbourhood near my workplace during lunch break. Not sure if the places are empty because of the pandemic, or whether they’re always this dead lol. 

Enjoy! 

Location: TTDI MRT and TTDI Plaza 

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Last Day In Melbourne: Wandering The Streets + Williams Bar & Cafe @ Clarion Suites Gateway

We’ve come to an end to our fantastic time in Melbourne and the Victoria region! We (being me and the two other Indonesian media) spent the last couple of hours in town wandering the streets looking for souvenirs, before rounding it off with dinner at our hotel. Enjoy the random photos:

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Melbourne’s CBD is very walkable and it isn’t too big, but whenever we got lost we would just look for Flinders Street Station. One of the busiest railway stations in Australia, the station serves the entire metropolitan rail network. Built in 1909, it is listed under the Victorian Heritage Register.

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Architecture in Melbourne is a mishmash of old and new, its wide streets flanked by ultra modern buildings and heritage ones.

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A street artist working with chalk to create beautiful and realistic art pieces on the sidewalk.

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Venturing into one of the city’s shopping arcades (aka old versions of our modern shopping malls), home to hundreds of chic cafes, eateries, shops selling souvenirs and trinkets, boutique clothing stores, jewellery shops, art galleries, etc. Great place for hipsters and the intrepid traveller on the lookout for something unusual.

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A restaurant selling rather exotic meats, including crocodile, ostrich, emu and kangaroo. I’ve had kangaroo on my last trip to Melbourne (it’s red and has a somewhat spicy flavour). Moo says we had crocodile once when I was very little, but I’ve forgotten all about it.

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Street art peppers the alleyways around Melbourne.

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Dinner that night was at our hotel, the Clarion Suites Gateway, at the hotel’s in-house restaurant called Williams Bar and Cafe. Had a milkshake to cool down from all the walking; it was nice and frothy.

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The food took forever;  the waiters came out to apologise, citing that the chef had a lot of orders to make for dinner service. Baked scallop appetisers; scallops were sizable and sweet.

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Eggplant chips were rather soggy and greasy, nothing like the ones I enjoyed at Pontoon @ St Kilda. 

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Seafood pasta which came loaded with humongous scallops and crab. Tastewise it was decent but the portion was very large, probably enough for two, and there was a lot left over.

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L’s baked salmon

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T’s chicken parmigiana with potato wedges.

And with that, we bid adieu to this amazing city. Thanks for the memories, Melbourne! If fate decrees, we shall meet again. 🙂

 

Exploring The Zhongshan Building, Kuala Lumpur

I’ve been meaning to go to the Zhongshan Building in Kampung Attap, Kuala Lumpur ever since I read about it in one of our magazines, but was too shy to do it alone lol.

The chance finally came when the Boy came to visit, so we went there over the weekend to check out what the independent creative and research hub had to offer.

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Run by OURArtProjects Gallery, the building consists of three interconnected shophouses dating back to the 1950s, that once housed the Zhongshan Association, which is a frozen foods supplier. Currently, a dozen tenants call it home, including art, design and fashion studios, research centres, art galleries, a library, record store and more.

Start from the ground floor, which houses OURArts Project gallery. Although small, the place showcases a good selection of curated works by up and coming local artists.

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Just next door is Naaise, which sells gifts, souvenirs and handmade goodies. Founded in Singapore, the shop nevertheless has plenty of items that resonate with local tastes , since Malaysia and Singapore share many cultural traits. If you fancy some kuih-shaped pillows and T-shirts with Singlish/Manglish phrases, then Naaise is the place to go.

Some of the quirky things you can find here:

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Unique card games with names like “The Lepak Game” – lepak being Malay slang for ‘chill/hangout’.

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Cutesy dish scrubbers

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Pop-up cards depicting typical street scenes in Malaysia/Singapore – especially the pre- colonial shop houses unique to this region,

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Wooden cameras

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These pretty cards that are a throwback to the 60s – not sure if it’s a Western thing but we had this Hong Kong Chinese show that was very popular in that era, called “Black Rose” – a crime fighting femme fatale that wore a mask – so I imagine the characters in the cards are an homage to that.

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It took all my willpower not to buy some of these gorgeous looking notebooks – there were even hand-marbled ones!

Other stuff you can get at the store: everything from perfumes and fragrances, oils and candles to soaps, batik and accessories.

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After you’re done at Naaise, exit through the back into a well-lit courtyard, where you will find Tommy le Baker, a popular bakery-cum-cafe. Waiting times are pretty long, but patient patrons will be well rewarded with delicious sandwiches and tartines, featuring freshly baked sourdough bread + ingredients such as cured salmon, rotisserie chicken, an assortment of cheeses, and more.

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Cured salmon sandwich which came chock full of ingredients. Th  salty goodness was balanced out by the bread, which was soft on the inside but with a crispy crust.

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Garlic cream cheese spread on sourdough bread + a side of tomato with relish = divine.

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New to Zhongshan is Bendang Studio, a handmade ceramic and pottery store. They also organise pottery classes, but visitors should register in advance coz they get sold out quickly!

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The layout at Zhongshan is reminiscent of a flat, with narrow stairways, as well as little nooks and crannies to explore. While some are retailers and open to the public, others are private studios so it’s a good idea to knock /seek permission if you’re curious.

(Above) lining the walls in one of the corridors are single pages torn from books.

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A must check out for book lovers is Tintabudi, an independent bookstore that carries vintage and second hand books, and sometimes rare restored classics. The small, cosy space is bathed in a yellow light and has a rustic, homely feel to it  – more like someone’s personal library than a bookstore.

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If you exit through the back, you’ll come to PiuPiuPiu, a hole in the wall coffee bar that serves cakes alongside pale ale and lagers. Seats are limited, but patrons can opt to sit on the patio and enjoy the sunshine.

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Dedicated to all things punk and rock, Tandang Store carries vinyl, cassettes and CDs, as well as zines, books and punk-related paraphernalia. The exterior of the store is a colourful tapestry of gig posters, calls for band members and graffiti.

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We were a bit shy to go in. 😛

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Upstairs we found a spot called My Pink Hibiscus, an inclusive space for gatherings, sharing and events. Unfortunately last I checked, they’ve already moved out of the Zhongshan building.

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While you’re in the area, do check out the nice, colourful graffiti next to the Zhongshan Building, which makes for very Instagrammable shots. 😉

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ZHONGSHAN BUILDING 

Jalan Rotan, Off Jalan Kampung Attap, Kuala Lumpur

 

Parking: I recommend parking at the parking lot on the hill above the building and walking down through the stairs. We thought it was a Saturday so we parked in the back alley and got a nice DKBL ticket for it lol.

 

I-City Shah Alam: A Neon Forest Of Lights And Fun (Revisited)

I-City in Shah Alam has become one of my ‘staple’ places to bring out-of-towners visiting KL. They’re usually impressed by the neon trees and overall atmosphere, which makes for great photos – so I took the Boy here on his last visit.

There are a few new additions to the place, but most of the attractions like the Horror House, Snow World, Wax Museum and the rides are still the same (and still overpriced, lol).

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The main area features a cluster of trees and a fountain illuminated by changing neon lights.

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Not sure if these were put up just for Halloween or if it’s part of a permanent decoration.

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The forest of neon trees, modeled after Nami Island in South Korea (popularised by that old K-Drama Winter Sonata) is I-City’s main attraction, drawing many visitors to take photos and selfies. Last year, CNN Travel named it one of the brightest, most colourful places in the world. The best part is that entrance is absolutely free! (minus parking)

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Within the ‘forest’ are various rides which you can go on for a fee; such as a double-storey carousel, a small (but fast moving!) swing ride, a pirate ship and more. The scariest, though, has to be:

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… this. Dubbed the ‘Disco Ride’, the car rotates at high speeds up and down a bowl-shaped track. The Boy and I were supposed to go on this together, but after we paid and everything he decided he couldn’t (lol) so I rode on it alone. It was a good call on his part; because the ride was scary. Whenever it rode up to the top of the track it felt like I was going to fly off into the trees at any second lol. Maybe it also has something to do with getting old – I can’t go on amusement rides like I used to. I was a real rollercoaster junkie back in my college days.

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These are new structures – they look like dandelions with very thin filaments. The effect was pretty magical!

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The Ferris Wheel is always popular at any amusement park. There was a long line waiting to go on it so we gave it a miss.

There are also carnival games and smaller rides like bumper cars, which are more suitable for the kids.

Verdict: Although it’s not in the city center, I-City is a fun place to visit at night, if you have the time and want to go beyond the usual KLCC-KL Tower-Bukit Bintang attractions.

Best way to get here: The nearest KTM station is Padang Jawa, but I suggest getting a Grab. Public transport is not the best in the area, and taxis will most probably fleece you.

 

Bonifacio Global City, Metro Manila

Bonifacio Global City, also known as The Fort or BGC for short, is a central business district sandwiched between Makati and Taguig. After the hustle and bustle of downtown Manila, stepping into its commercial area, High Street, felt a little surreal. Clean and well-paved streets free from belching jeepneys, people walking their dogs or jogging, skyscrapers and high-end retail/restaurants reminded me more of Singapore than the Philippines.

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High Street was lined with Christmas decorations – trees adorned with Christmas lights, grass blocks trimmed into reindeer shapes, bubbling water features and landscaped gardens.

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The pedestrian-friendly retail center features shops, offices and residential blocks on both sides.

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During my visit, the Philippine Armed Forces was running an exhibition, with displays of tanks, boats, guns and machinery. Visitors also got to take pictures with army personnel, listen to talks, performances and handle the artillery (not loaded of course!)

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Communications equipment.

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Members of the public trying on safety vests and helmets.

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Bullets ._.

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Different rifles, submachine guns and guns used by the PAF. Not a big fan of guns, but I know some guys who would probably go ga-ga over these.

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I held the small one. It was surprisingly heavy. I guess that would be my weapon of choice in a zombie apocalypse – I’d much rather use a melee weapon anyway xD

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A giant Christmas tree and more light decorations around the district. There are also lots of nice murals around the city, but since it was night I didn’t get to capture any.

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BGC is a nice neighbourhood and I’m glad I got to visit, but it also highlights the extreme disparity between rich and poor in Manila. Hopefully, with development, there will be more of such places to offer income and opportunities to the less fortunate.

KL

Whenever one of my friends from overseas ask me which part of Malaysia I’m from, I always tell them I’m from Kuala Lumpur, even though technically, I live an hour away from it. That’s because it’s the most recognisable city in the region, and it’s always met with an ‘Oh, I know. The Petronas Twin Towers! I know that!’

Truth be told, KL is much, much more than that.

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Kuala Lumpur, the city of my birth.

There has always been something inherently charming about KL. It is a modern metropolis, just like Singapore, Milan, Paris. In fact, if you’re strolling through one of its malls, it’s easy to make believe that you are in any other city in the world: one where you can find your Bvlgaris, your Pierre Cardins and your Ferragamos. But unlike some cities, KL has flavour. It is an odd mix of new and old: the graffiti-scrawled riverbanks run right next to the century-old Pasar Seni and the British colonial train station, recognisable from a distance with its Mughal-inspired spires. Over in Pudu, which is just a stone’s throw away from KLCC, there are stalls that have been run by decades offering all sorts of delectable street food imaginable, their recipes handed down through the generations. While you wait for a bus at the shiny new bus depot, inhaling the smell of carbon monoxide fumes, you can always grab some keropok lekor from the Malay auntie who peddles her snacks from a makeshift shack nearby. You will still find old-world cobblers, tailors and custom-made everything in the nooks and crannies of KL.

But there are also seedy joints: where people like you and me might not venture to;desolate highway underpasses where the homeless and drug-addicted youths make their haunt – an underbelly lying just beneath KL’s ‘modern’ facade – away from its capitalist malls, clean streets, and 24-hour entertainment. You will find massage parlours offering ‘special services’, small apartments quartered and crammed with foreign workers, streets where you might get snatched, mugged or robbed despite police beats dotted around the area.

For good or bad, this is all KL.

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I have come to be familiar with some parts of the city. Driving down the constantly congested Jalan Tun Razak, I pass through what I dub the ‘moustache tunnel’ – because it has these patterns that look like a cartoon moustache on a stereotypical Italian chef. Emerging into the light, on my right, is the indomitable-looking US Embassy, all decked out in cinder grey and tiled orange roofs. If you head straight on, you’ll hit another part of the city; but take a left turn and you’ll eventually come to the icon(s) of KL: the Petronas Twin Towers. They rise up into the sky like two gigantic corn cobs, their windows reflecting the noon-day sun to create an almost glittering-like effect. It’s hard not to be awed, even though I see it often. And like an oasis in the middle of this concrete jungle lies a swathe of green, the KLCC park, which has become a favourite haunt for foreign workers on their days off

A couple of minutes away is the Golden Triangle, the very pulse of shopping in the city. Sometimes I like to stand in the corner between Lot 10 and Sungei Wang, overlooking traffic, and just soak it all in – the gigantic LED billboards flashing Malaysia Truly Asia ads, as the monorail runs across at intervals like some weird, mechanical caterpillar. But mostly I like to people-watch. There are loads of em’. Tall, short, long, brown-skinned, white, black, dark, honeyed, caramel-coloured, speaking in so many tongues it’s hard to keep track. There are women in black hijabs, clinging on to their bearish husbands, walking alongside Chinese girls in super short shorts and their hair dyed in a multitude of colours. There are hipster boys with slingbacks on skateboards, ogling at Converse shoes, their noses almost pressing on the clean windows, as they trot next to punk rockers and metal heads smoking cigarettes, wearing metal band tees, with their heads shaved and sporting knee-high boots with enough metal and silver to kill a horde of vampires.

When I’m tired of people-watching, I’ll trudge downstairs to Lot 10’s Hutong, located underground, where hawker stalls give you a semblance of ‘authentic’ street food amidst this shopping mecca. I always get the beef tripe noodle; it’s one of the best in town.

I’m thankful that at my (relatively young?) age, I’ve been to many cities around the world: Paris, Milan, London, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Los Angeles. And I say now that there is really nothing like Kuala Lumpur.

KL holds my heart, and I’ll miss it terribly when I leave.

It will always be home.