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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?

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

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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 ? 🙂

Registration of Marriage @ Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur

For non-Muslim Malaysian couples who wish to get married, there are a few places where you can get your marriage solemnized and registered; namely the National Registration Department, or a church, temple or association where they have an assistant registrar of marriages. In KL, Thean Hou Temple is a popular place for Chinese couples, as it is a beautiful venue that offers plenty of photo opportunities.

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My good friend Helen and her husband Hong initially planned to have their ROM here on May 20 (5/20 sounds like ‘wo ai ni’ / I love you – so it’s a very popular date! ) but due to the pandemic, it had to be postponed to July. Although the temple has reopened to the public, there are new SOPs in place – so be mindful of these when visiting for leisure, or if you’re attending someone’s ROM.

Note: This is a post on my experience attending an ROM as a guest, so I will not be including info on what documents you need / the procedure. Some useful links here and here. 

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Considered one of the most beautiful Chinese temples in KL, Thean Hou is eponymously named after its principal deity, the Heavenly Mother, aka Lady Mazu. Like many Chinese temples in Malaysia, the temple offers a blend of Buddhism, Taoism and cultural elements. Located atop a hill surrounded by lush greenery, the temple also has awesome views of the city and its surroundings, making it a popular tourist attraction.

To ensure health and safety, a canopy has been set up leading into the main building, with a clearly demarcated route – so you enter from one side and exit on another.

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The marriage registration office is located at the basement, where the temple’s food court and souvenir shops are. Before entering the premises, visitors will have to scan their details via QR code, and have their temperatures checked. Visitors are also required to wear face masks.

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The marriage registration office is divided into two sections. The front is a reception area of sorts – the couple gets a number, waits for it to be called, and then goes in to verify their details. Once that’s done, they can then proceed to rooms at the back where the actual solemnisation and signing takes place.

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Since ROMs are formal events, avoid wearing casual clothing like jeans, shorts or T-shirts and slippers.

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In light of the pandemic, only seven people are allowed into the room at any given time (including the couple). Helen had her sis/bro-in-law as witnesses, while Hong brought his parents and I was the +1 guest. So honoured to be part of their special day 🙂

In comparison to my own ROM at JPN (I got a rather chatty Assistant Registrar), Helen and Hong’s ceremony was quick and fuss-free. After signing some documents and exchanging rings, they were formally declared husband and wife in the eyes of the law, and given their marriage certificates. A life of wedded bliss awaits!

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We made our way up to the shrine and the temple’s magnificent courtyard for some photos. It was a Saturday but the temple was quite empty, so observing social distancing was not a problem.

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After the photo taking, the new couple left and I hung around abit more to explore/pray/snap more photos.

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There are new SOPs to observe when entering the prayer hall. Temple volunteers are at hand to control visitor traffic, and there are clear indicators on the ground as to where you’re supposed to go – as much as possible, they want visitors to follow these marks when offering up prayers.

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Vivid painting of a ‘door guard’ – images of fierce general-gods that are meant to protect the temple and keep evil spirits away.

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The principal deity at Thean Hou Temple –  the Mother Goddess. She is flanked by two other goddesses, Goddess of Mercy (Gwanyin) and Waterfront Goddess (Swei Mei). There are deity statues seated at the bottom of the large golden ones, surrounded by tall prayer light towers. Walls are lined with pictures of Bodhisattvas, donated by devotees to accumulate merits (or karma). You can get joss sticks outside by making a small donation.

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One of my favourite architectural fixtures at Thean Hou is the ceiling dome, which is intricately carved with a stunning pattern. The effect is mesmerising.

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Gone are the days of the traditional ‘kau chim‘ (fortune telling) where you shake a bunch of sticks until one falls out and you get a reading from the resident monk or fortune teller. These days, you grab the sticks from a holder, bunch them up and toss them. You get the number from whichever stick is poking out above the rest, then look for the corresponding number from the drawer and get your fortune. Hand sanisiters are placed next to them so you can sanitise before and after.

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You don’t say. 2020 has been a shitty year for a lot of people. ha 

 

Note: Parking can be difficult to find in the area. If you are driving, the temple has a parking lot but a RM5 fee (channeled to the temple as a donation) applies.

 

 

Watch this Free Online Show To Support the Malaysian Performing Arts Scene: indicinelive! Quaranstream Edition

The coronavirus pandemic has affected many businesses and sectors – and with cancelled shows (going to theatres might be the last thing on people’s minds rn), the local performing arts scene has taken quite a hit.

Image courtesy of klpac

In support of those in the industry, indicinelive! (in-dee-SEE-nee-live) returns this year with a social-distancing compliant performance. Founded by Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) former director-in-residence Kelvin Wong, the show first premiered in 2010 and satirises the insane society we live in through a high-octane line-up of everyday characters, familiar situations and parodies of songs we’ve hard and are all too familiar with. It has played to packed houses in KL, Penang, Melaka, Kuching and Singapore since its inception.

indicinelive! Quaranstream Edition brings the show to audiences at home, and will be the very first show created for an online premiere by The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat (TAS STR) and The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac). This first ever ‘digital show’ packs in 75 minutes of fun and laughter with brand-new sketches, character satires and song parodies inspired by the pandemic, the recent political shift, and how we see the ‘new normal’ world.

It features a freshly sanitised cast comprising alumni – Anrie Too, Dinesh Kumar, Jad Hidhir, Kamini Senthilathiban, Siti Farrah Abdullah, and Tiara Anchant – along with the new kids on the block – Jon Chew, Nabilah Hamid, and Oxford Tong. They will be performing fun-sized sketches by Adriana Nordin Manan, Terence Toh, Tung Jit Yang and head writer, Uihua Cheah.

Rounding up the team are multimedia designers Coebar Abel and Sebastian Ng, sound designer Clarence Chua and Production / Stage Manager Benedict Chin. Audiences can also expect a few surprise guest performers during the livestream.

The show will be livestreamed on klpac’s Facebook page on the 12th of June (Friday) 9pm, and admission is free – although you can support the ongoing fundraising campaign for klpac and The Actors Studio via an interactive approach. With its theatres closed, klpac and The Actors Studio’s losses have already exceed RM1.1 million. While its recent #SaveYourSeat campaign has raised crucial funds for the next two months, klpac requires RM132,000 per month and The Actors Studio RM25,000 per month to stay afloat.

As part of its fundraising efforts, klpac is also running an e-greeting service called Send-A-Song (link) which packages your message with a song sung by a local artiste into a video and delivers it to your loved one’s phone for a fee of RM50 only. Whether it is a heartfelt message to our loved ones, to thank our front liners or just to cheer a friend up, this is a meaningful gift that will help to keep the arts alive, one song at a time. We can help to keep the arts alive and the theatres running!

Both indicinelive! Quaranstream Edition and Send-A-Song is run on a profit sharing basis with the artistes where they will receive a portion of the proceeds. For indicinelive! donations will be split between artistes, klpac and TAS.

The performance will span approximately 75 minutes including pre and post show engagements, and is strictly for mature audiences only. Direct links to the livestream and donation mechanism will be distributed via klpac and indicinelive!’s social media channels.

facebook.com/theklpac/

A Malaysian Chinese Wedding – Part 2: Customs, Traditions and Culture

Hey guys!  Welcome to part 2 of A Malaysian Chinese Wedding! I previously blogged about the planning and preparation stage: items to get, where to rent dresses, engaging a photographer and chaperone, etc. which you can read here. 

This time around, I’ll be running through some of the customs and traditions involved, some of which I also experienced for the first time during the ceremony itself. So if you’ve always been curious about how a Malaysian-Chinese wedding is like, read on! 😉

Malaysian Chinese weddings are usually divided into two ‘sessions’ – a morning tea ceremony and a Chinese banquet dinner in the evening. These days, weddings are much more modern and Westernised, with some opting for garden-style luncheons instead. There’s no right or wrong: a wedding is meant to be a special day celebrating the union of two people and their families – so don’t feel pressured to organise one in a ‘specific’ way, especially if it’s beyond your means.

5.30 AM. 

Try to get a good night’s rest, because you definitely won’t be getting any on your wedding day. I slept for about two hours (thanks, anxiety!).

The tea ceremony typically begins in the early morning, around 8AM or 9AM, depending on the lucky hour that you’ve picked out based on your bazi (birthdate according to the Chinese almanac). Because Malaysian weather tends to be extremely hot, most chaperones (if you’ve engaged one) will advise you to start early and finish early, so that your guests wouldn’t be melting in the afternoon heat.

In our case, N was scheduled to arrive at my house around 8.45AM. My makeup artist needed about three hours to set my face and hair, so she was there by 5.30AM. Our photographer, James, arrived at around 6AM to get some photos and mood shots, then proceeded to N’s hotel (about 10 minutes away) to snap pictures of the groom’s preparations.

If the bride and groom’s places are too far away, you might need to allocate more time for your photographer, or engage 2 of them if you want photos and videos taken on both sides.

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7.30 AM 

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Our chaperone Ms Foong arrived at N’s hotel at 7.30AM. Usually, if the groom has a house, he will make his preparations there – but because N isn’t staying here permanently (yet), we rented a hotel room for him, my mom-in-law and sis-in-law at Four Points by Sheraton Puchong. For convenience, some couples can consider doing this if the distance between the groom’s and bride’s places is too far away.

The chaperone conducted a simple tea ceremony for N and his family. This is meant to show the groom’s appreciation to his parents for raising him, and also to ask for blessings. The groom’s ride (my cousins helped out as designated drivers) came to pick him up and they departed the hotel at 8.30AM.

8.30AM 

Relatives and friends started arriving. After sitting still for nearly three hours, I breathed a sigh of relief (hard to do with a corset on) – my makeup and hair was finally done!

Those who know me know that I’m quite a ‘cincai’ (chill?) person so I don’t wear any makeup other than eyeliner. Having falsies and contacts on was extremely uncomfortable; not to mention the corset, the tight dress and the heels – I just had to endure it for a day lol.

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Taking photos while waiting for the groom to arrive.

You’ll actually be super busy during the entire ceremony, so this might be the only time you’ll be able to catch up with your jimui-s (bridesmaids) and relatives. You’re also not encouraged to leave the bridal chamber.

8.45AM 

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The chaperone arrived ahead of the groom’s car to conduct a quick ceremony for my parents and me, similar to what was done with the groom but minus the tea drinking.

I basically had to perform a series of bows to my parents, to show my gratitude to them for raising me. Then they placed a red veil over my head, a sign of modesty. Traditionally, the veil can only be removed by the husband at night when the couple is in the bridal chamber – but in modern times, this is no longer practised.

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The groom arrives! We set off a row of firecrackers as welcome.

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Moo and Pops receiving gifts from the groom. Chaperone livens up the mood with auspicious sayings.

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A male relative from the bride’s family, in this case my brother, opens the door for the groom. The groom is not allowed to open the door on his own. The groom needs to prepare a bunch of red packets to give out – and he’ll be giving out a lot of them! The bro gets one for opening the door.

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Not so fast! The groom and his groomsmen will have to face my gatekeepers ie bridesmaids.

Wedding door games are now part and parcel of many Chinese weddings in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore and of course China. The groom and his groomsmen are subject to a series of fun challenges, which can be anything from popping balloons to dancing, singing or doing something embarrassing. The girls will also demand a ‘fee’ for letting the boys in – which is why the groom has to stand by with lots of red packets. It’s all in good fun, though!

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My guy friends and my brother acted as groomsmen for N. (Thanks for being so sporting!) They were made to fish out mahjong tiles from a bucket of ice water, dance and sing.

After the games, the groom is finally allowed into the house, and receives blessings from the bride’s parents.

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His “Am I really going through with this I’m going to regret it omg” face.

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Exchange of rings. Guided by our chaperone, we then bow to each other several times – one for the groom, one for the bride, and one as a couple.

10 AM

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Offering prayers to the gods. We didn’t pray to the ancestors because I don’t have an ancestral tablet at home.

We first offered joss sticks to the main deity in my house, Guanyin (the Buddhist goddess of Mercy), then Tudigong (God of the Soil, a Chinese folk deity) and finally Tiangong (Jade Emperor, the Taoist Heavenly Emperor).

If you’re of different faiths, like N and I (N is Christian), it’s best to check if they’re comfortable with the ceremony.

10.15AM 

Traditionally, after the tea ceremony at the bride’s place, the couple departs for the groom’s place, where they will be staying for good. The bride will only be allowed to return to visit her own family three days later (because patriarchy). Many modern families have done away with this.

We still had a symbolic ‘leaving the house’ ceremony, where we hopped into the car and drove a few rounds around the neighbourhood. While walking to the car, my dad shielded me with a red umbrella while my mom threw rice over it – to protect the couple from evil spirits that may be watching the house.

10.30AM 

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The tea ceremony is an integral part of weddings in Chinese culture; one that has survived through the centuries. The ceremony is usually held at the bride’s place, then the groom’s, and is basically a way to show respect and gratitude to the elders in a family. Tea is served according to ‘rank’ ie parents, grandparents, then uncles and aunties, older married cousins, etc. Jewellery such as gold, as well as money in red packets, are given to the couple as gifts after the elder has been served.

Once the elders have been served, the younger/ unmarried cousins convey congratulatory wishes to the couple, and receive red packets in return.

11.15AM 

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While the guests enjoyed the buffet spread under the outdoor canopy, my friends and I had a little Western-style bouquet tossing on the road.

11.45 AM 

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I was starving at this point – thankfully, the next part of our ceremony involved my favourite activity: eating. Our chaperone had advised us to get 2 packets of chicken rice, which would be our first meal as a couple. I can’t remember exactly why a whole chicken thigh is needed, but knowing Chinese culture, it probably has something to do with prosperity lol. After feeding each other some chicken and rice we weren’t allowed to finish it 😦 we had to feed each other sweet dumplings in syrup, to symbolise sweet beginnings. The round shape of the dumplings signifies that our family will always be unified and complete.

Finally, the chaperone instructed me to take off my husband’s coat and hang it up – just as my mom-in-law had helped him put it on, it is now my duty as a wife to take care of my husband’s needs.

By this time, most of our guests had already left and I was finally able to finish up that chicken rice. I swear to god I had never tasted chicken rice so good. Best plate of chicken rice ever, lol.

1PM 

It took me forever to get my hairpins out, and by the time I was able to change out of my dress and into a T-shirt, it was already 1PM. An hour later (it felt like 2 minutes), my makeup artist arrived to get my makeup ready for the evening dinner. Sigh. Another three hours of sitting followed.

6.30 PM 

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Dinner that night was at Moon Palace Puchong. We arrived a little ahead of time to set up the reception table for guests as well as coordinate the photo slides with the banquet manager. Our dinner was a modest 10 tables – two for my friends, the rest for family / family friends.

For those unfamiliar with Chinese wedding banquet customs, guests are expected to give a small token of appreciation in the form of money in a red packet. This will help the couple to cover costs. While there is no set amount as to how much you can give, the unspoken minimum (for banquets organised in KL) is about RM100+. The amount collected during the banquet will be counted immediately and the balance of the banquet payment settled with the resto after the dinner is over.

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Our chaperone, who also acted as our emcee for the dinner.

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Cutting our fake wedding cake, which was provided by the restaurant.

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An extra service by our emcee, which involved combining two differently coloured sand into a bottle to symbolise the union of two individuals into one unit.

After our march-in and everyone was settled, the dishes were served.

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A selection of appetisers: fried items, cold cuts, bite-sized goodies.

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Herbal soup with abalone.

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Iberico pork ribs. These were excellent!

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Fried shrimp.

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In between the dishes, we had toasting sessions at each table.

You can discuss with your emcee on how you want the flow of your night to be. We actually had a short vow exchange ceremony, where each of us read a speech to the other on stage.

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Champagne pouring. The ‘champagne’ was really just apple juice.

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And finally, a family toast with my parents, N’s family and a few other close relatives. We’re supposed to give three cheers – one for the bride, one for the groom and one for the couple – and yell ‘yam seng’ (cheers in Cantonese) for as long as you can.

The dinner wrapped up by 10PM. We saw off guests, took some photos and settled payment with the resto. My left eye was looking pretty red and angry at this point, due to the contact lenses. It took several days to clear. Never wearing contacts if I can after this, lol.

Got home close to midnight, and N spent another hour getting my hair pins out, taking a shower before we could finally hit the bed.

Planning a wedding isn’t as glamourous as you think – there’s a lot of work involved plus a significant amount of stress. While there were some things that I wouldn’t have done if I had the choice (the dinner, for instance – it was more out of respect for my parents), I still think it was something very memorable which I will cherish looking back on in the years to come.

The Lost Kingdoms Exhibition @ Muzium Negara, Kuala Lumpur

Southeast Asia was once home to many Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, such as Angkor in Cambodia, Kedah Tua in modern-day Malaysia, as well as the mighty Srivijaya, Sailendra and Majapahit empires in what is today Indonesia. Their legacies can be seen in the form of ancient temples, relics and artefacts that have survived through the ages. Good news for history buffs – you can see them for yourself at The Lost Kingdoms exhibition, currently running at Muzium Negara in Kuala Lumpur until the end of April 2020. The entrance fee to the main section of the museum is just RM2, and covers entry to this exhibition as well!

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Working with the National Museum of Indonesia and the National Museum of Cambodia, Lost Kingdoms maps out 12 ancient Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms of Southeast Asia, featuring 103 items that are a mix of real artefacts as well as replicas. Through these items, one can see that there are many similarities between the cultures of the region, from the techniques used to create beautifully carved statues of the gods, to the elaborate decorations found on the hilts of traditional weaponry.

Here are just some of the exhibits that visitors will get to see at the exhibition:

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A 9th century statue of the Hindu god Vishnu, from pre-Angkorian times (on loan from the National Museum of Cambodia).

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Angkorian/Banteay Srei style seated garuda from the late 10th century, carved from red sandstone. Half man and half bird, the garuda is an important mythical figure in Hindu folklore, being the bearer of the Hindu god Vishnu. The garuda features heavily in Javanese and Balinese culture, and is also featured on the Indonesian crest.

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Another statue of Vishnu, this one from the pre-Angkorian period in the Prei Khmeng Style. The statue is made from sandstone and dates back to the mid 7th century. The full, round forms of the face demonstrate the strong Indian influence in the region. Vishnu holds a conch in his raised left hand, a war discus (chakra) in his right, while his lowered left hand rests on the remains of a mace.

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If I’m not mistaken, this is the head of a Kala, a common sight at many Hindu/Buddhist temples in Central Java. The Kala is a mythical lion-like creature – its name in Sanskrit also symbolises ‘time’, which is why the kala is said to devour everything, just as time does.

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One of my favourite pieces from the exhibition is an elaborate relief of Vishnu riding the Garuda, dedicated to the king of Airlangga from the Kahuripan kingdom (9th to 10th century). The image of Vishnu was made in the king’s likeness, to honour his contribution to rescuing and rebuilding Java after the kingdom almost collapsed from war with a neighbouring empire. This is on loan from the National Museum of Indonesia.

 

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Statue of the Hindu elephant god Ganesha made from granite stone, from the Kedah Tua (Kataha) kingdom, 6th to 7th century. Unlike the Hindu Buddhist kingdoms in Java, Indonesia, or even Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, not much remains of the Kataha kingdom in Kedah, other than a couple of candis (shrines).

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Prajnaparamita Statue from the Singhasari Kingdom, 13th century. Prajnaparamita is the goddess of transcendental wisdom in Buddhist tradition, and this particular statue is said to have been modeled after the beauty of Ken Dedes, an ancient Javanese princess who was the consort of Ken Arok, the first king of the Singhasari Kingdom. It is said that the kings that ruled from the Srivijayan to Majapahit eras were direct descendants of Ken Dedes, making her the literal mother of kings.

The Lost Kingdoms Exhibition is running until April 30 at Muzium Negara’s Gallery 2.  Entrance is RM2 for Malaysians (included with the ticket to the main museum).

Museum opening hours are from 9AM – 6PM.

MUSASHI: Music From The East – A One Night Only Performance In Kuala Lumpur

Curious about the sounds of traditional Japanese music? Four master musicians will be in town on February 11 for MUSASHI: Music From The East – a one-night only performance at Rex KL.

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Here exclusively on invitation by The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, the four are Nobuto Yamanaka on the tsugaru-shamisen (a three-stringed instrument with a distinctive lilt, inspired by the Chinese sanxian), Satoshi Katano on the shinobue (bamboo flute), and Taka and Junya Tsukamoto on the Wadaiko (Japanese drums). The show will feature a wide range of Japanese songs, from traditional to the contemporary.

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Nobuto Yamanaka (tsugaru-shamisen)

After graduating from intermediate school at the age of 15, Yamanaka became a live-in apprentice to the late Tsugaru-shamisen master Yamada Chisato for four years, before becoming a master of the tsugaru-shamisen.

In 2018, he was inducted into the hall of fame after becoming a three-time winner in the A-class division of the Tsugaru Shamisen World Tournament, as well as three time champion of the Tsugaru Shamisen’s National Competition. His powerful style of playing and well emoted sounds has earned him a reputation that transcends the shamisen, and he is frequently involved in performances of different genres. To date he has performed in over 38 countries.

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Satoshi Katano (Shinobue – Bamboo Flute)

Born in Chiba, Katano began playing music when he was just nine, influenced by his father. He started a solo career as a shinobue player in 2008 and won the National Yokobue (Cross Flute) contest in 2013, and the All-Japan Yokobue Contest in 2017 and 2019, among other accolades. Currently based in Fukuoka, he continues playing the Shinobue while working as a boatman.

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TAKA (Wadaiko – Japanese drum)

TAKA is an award-winning Wadaiko player and Japanese calligrapher. He started playing Wadaiko since he was seven years old. After graduation, he started to work as a solo Wadaiko player in earnest, and opened a Wadaiko class “DAGAKU” in 2009. In 2013, he formed a performance group “Wadaiko Akatsuki”.TAKA won the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Award as the best Otaiko (large drum) player at the “World Wadaiko Uchikurabe Contest” in Okaya Taiko Festa in 2015. In 2017, he won the same prize in the ensemble taiko drumming section. In 2019, TAKA was awarded the Prefectural Governor Award as the best drummer in a single drumming contest in “OTAIKO HIBIKI Festival”. He is currently studying tsugaru-shamisen under master Yamanaka Nobuto.

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Junya Tsukamoto (Wadaiko – Japanese Drum)

Tsukamoto started playing the Wadaiko when he was just five.  In 2012, he performed with Kanjani Eight (a famous Japanese boy band group) on Kohaku Uta Gassen, a famous Japanese TV show. He then joined
“Wadaiko Akatsuki” in 2013 and won an Excellence Prize in the soloist division of “Fujisan Otaiko Uchikurabe Contest” the following year. In 2018, he toured three countries in Central and South America and has performed in over nine countries to date. Not one to rest on his laurels, Tsukamoto is studying both the tsugaru-shamisen and shinobue instruments.

MUSASHI: MUSIC FROM THE EAST 

Date/Time: 11 February (Tuesday), *8:30 PM
*Time subject to change

Venue: REXKL, 80, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur

Admission: RM45 (General), RM25 (Students, Senior, Disabled, JFKL members) via peatix.com

For more information, visit jfkl.org.my/events/musashi-music-from-the-east/ or fb.com/theJapanFoundationKL/

 

We Dined While Dangling 150 Feet In The Air @ Lounge In The Sky Kuala Lumpur

Food with a view is always good, especially if it’s the Kuala Lumpur skyline (one of the prettiest in Southeast Asia, IMO). But forget rooftop bars. How would you like to be seated on a platform raised 150 feet into the air by a crane, with nothing but a couple of straps to keep you from falling? If that appeals to your inner adrenaline junkie, then Lounge In The Sky should be right up your alley.

Following the success of Dinner In The Sky , Lounge In The Sky was launched several months ago at TREC KL, offering a different experience for diners. I went for DITS several years ago (blog post here) and it was both fun and scary due to my acrophobia. Still, I was pretty excited to go on something similar again.

That being said, LITS is notably different from DITS in that you get a) smaller, more intimate tables of four, rather than DITS’ large table configuration where everyone is seated facing the chefs in the middle of the platform; and b) live entertainment where a performer will serenade you with tunes as you try not to look below lol.

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CEO of 2Spicy Entertainment Arvin Randhawa speaking to the media before we were hoisted up for our session

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There was a slight drizzle, but we were finally okayed for lift off. Crew members were on hand to make sure that everyone was properly secured into the seats. The straps felt like the ones you get on roller coaster rides, which kind of limit your movements, but it’s a necessary safety measure. We were allowed to bring our phones and cameras up, but larger bags had to be stowed in storage lockers below.

As the platform was raised, I sneaked a glance down (it’s hard not to) and felt a little weak in the knees to see how fast the ground was receding from view. It also didn’t help that the platform was rotating, so one minute I was facing one side and the next I was looking at the Twin Towers in the distance.

FYI 150 feet is equivalent to about 12 to 15 storeys high!

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Twin towers shrouded in a light mist in the distance; KL traffic below. The position of my seat made it difficult to get a good overall shot of the skyline, but the view was awesome.

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The platform had four ‘catwalks’ so that staff could serve us dishes. We started off with a caviar-topped appetiser and a cocktail.

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LITS offers several different packages, including standard, business and first class. On the menu of our standard session (RM199) was prawn ceviche with yuzu cream, bonito flakes and fried oba leaf; mushroom fricasse with chive cream and fried shallots; and for dessert, lemon meringue tart with rose cream and chocolate pearls. Everything was excellent, but being a fan of mushroom, I especially liked the mushroom fricasse and its savoury, crumbly pastry shell.

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The highlight of the night for me was when the lights were dimmed to a deep blue, and our performer for the night serenaded us with sultry tunes. The slight drizzle and the view of Kuala Lumpur in the evening created a romantic, magical atmosphere – something that no rooftop bar can emulate.

Each LITS session lasts about 40 minutes – and even though I enjoyed it, I was glad to have two feet on solid ground again!

For bookings and menus, visit elements.my/skylounge.

 

 

*PS: I am so proud of N, who decided to tag along despite his overwhelming fear of heights (it’s so extreme he does not even walk near the barriers at shopping malls). I told him multiple times before we went up that it was absolutely okay if he didn’t want to go, but he went anyway. I could see how frightened he was from the way he gripped the table as we ascended. He was stiff and made minimal movements throughout the entire 40 minutes we were up in the air, but he got through it nonetheless. ❤ Well done bibi.

BONUS: 

I’ve never been to TREC, so N and I wandered around in search of food. The dishes served on LITS were tasty but we weren’t expecting just canapes so we came on an empty stomach. We ended up getting instant noodles afterwards (lol) but not before getting some great shots of TREC. #mood

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