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.


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)

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.


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).


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.


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.

We might not have sakuras in Malaysia, but these gorgeous bougainvillea blooms are just as pretty

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.

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.

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.

Bamboo trees add to the authenticity

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.


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

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Sipping Corner @ Plant & Pot Studio Puchong

Hidden at the back of a plant shop in Bandar Puteri Puchong, Sipping Corner by Plant & Pot Studio might just be the greenest cafe in the city. Opened last year, the place has already gained a loyal following – and because of its small capacity (the place seats about 15 at most), reservations are encouraged to avoid disappointment.


If you do manage to get a seat, you’ll be well rewarded with a cool and relaxing spot to chill and sip on a drink, surrounded by foliage. The Cafe offers a selection of coffees (espresso, long black, honey americano, latte, cappucino) and teas (blue mint honey, red roselle honey), as well as signature beverages (Matcha, Salted Gula Melaka Latte, Matcha/Hojicha Latte). Baristas are very friendly and accommodating.


Grab a sweet slice to go with your drink. Cakes range from RM13 to RM15 per slice.


I didn’t dine-in coz the Moo finished her shopping and we had to make a move – but I got one of their signature drinks, the Salted Gula Melaka Latte, to go. The palm sugar was creamy and sweet, but it was well balanced thanks to the hint of saltiness.

If you’re looking for a quick green respite, drop by for tea time – but make sure to call in advance.


 78G, Jalan Puteri 5/5, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong, Selangor

Opening hours: 9AM – 6PM (daily)

Phone: 018-578 6311


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The Secret Garden @ 1 Utama – The Botanical Garden On The Rooftop Of A Mall

It’s been years since they built The Secret Garden – a huge botanical garden on the rooftop of 1 Utama Shopping Centre – and while many are aware of this not-so-hidden secret, there aren’t many people visiting the place. WHY? 

My hypothesis is that our hot and humid Malaysian weather makes it uncomfortable to walk around in, since you start sweating the moment you leave any air-conditioned space. It’s such a shame, when you compare it to the experience of walking through parks overseas in spring or mild summers. But you gotta work with the cards you’re dealt with, I suppose. lol.

That being said, if you’re planning to visit The Secret Garden, try to go up in the evenings when it’s cooler; like how CH and I did when we were at the mall recently:


Touted to be the largest rooftop garden in Southeast Asia, the garden covers over 2,700 sq metres of space and is home to about 500 species of plants, mostly tropical and cool climate. If you like plants, this is a great place to enjoy the greenery and take photos of beautiful flowers.

  • PS: If you’re a mozzie-attracting person like me, be prepared for bites.
  • PS 2: Not a botanist or avid gardener of any sort, so I won’t be identifying every single plant in this post lol. Enjoy the photos!


Bunga raya aka the hibiscus, Malaysia’s national flower. Commonly found in red but also in other variants such as the above. Long stem, large petals. The red colour is supposed to symbolise courage, while the five petals represent the Rukun Negara (National Principles) of Belief in God, Loyalty to King & Country, The Supremacy of the Constitution, The Rule of Law, and Courtesy & Morality.


Dancing-lady orchids, so called because they resemble the figure of women in large flowing gowns. NOW YOU CANT UNSEE IT




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Bougainvillea flowers are known as bunga kertas (paper flowers) in Malay.


I think this was an English rose. Love the vibrant hue!


The garden boasts nicely landscaped areas, with shady gazebos and tunnels covered in plants.




More pretty but unidentified flowers lol




Look at that breathtaking colour combo. Wow.

So the next time you want to take a break from the shopping at 1 Utama, spend a moment or two at The Secret Garden. Entry is free.

Secret Garden

7th Floor,
1 Utama Shopping Centre
1 Lebuh Bandar Utama
Bandar Utama City Centre
Petaling Jaya
47800, Selangor, Malaysia.


Opening hours: 10AM – 10PM, daily

Urban Green Spaces – Secret Garden, Upper Roof 1 Utama

Living in the city, there aren’t too many green spaces outside of the allocated parks and forest reserves. In major metropolises, people have taken to ‘urban’ green spaces, converting their apartments or rooftops into small sanctuaries of green. While the practice hasn’t fully taken off in Malaysia, there are a few initiatives slowly taking root, such as the Secret Garden on the upper roof of 1Utama Shopping Center in Petaling Jaya. The mall has a ‘rainforest’ section – a small oasis in the middle of the building – so its great that they have another one! 🙂 The rooftop space is under utilised anyway.

PS: Apparently this place has been around since 2009, I just wasn’t aware of it. Better late than never, they say 😀 

To get to the place, simply look for the lifts that are between the Old and New Wing. The lift has a button labeled ‘Secret Garden’. Guess it’s not so secret after all. 😀

Since it is an open air rooftop concept, it was quite sunny and humid during our afternoon visit. The garden is quite large, spanning across 30,000 sq ft, and is divided into two sections. There are over 500 types of tropical plants/flowers to be found here!  Some of the plants are labeled to provide information to visitors.

I think the ‘curtain’ structure was very Instagrammable 🙂

Cosy nooks with benches for people to sit and just chill.

They also do guided tours and people can use the venue for wedding photography. Check or schedules on their FB page 🙂

Not a gardening enthusiast so I didn’t know what everything was called – but it’s nice to just walk around in a garden setting, don’t you think ? 🙂

We had these back at our old home. Ixora plants (woo, I got one right!) We used to make ixora bracelets and necklaces out of them. 🙂

Secret Garden

7th Floor,
1 Utama Shopping Centre
1 Lebuh Bandar Utama
Bandar Utama City Centre
Petaling Jaya
47800, Selangor, Malaysia.


Opening hours: 10AM – 10PM, daily.

FB Page

Genting Strawberry Leisure Farm, Malaysia – Pluck Your Own Strawberries !

It has been a chill and relaxing weekend at Genting Highlands – time to head home! Our last stop was Strawberry Leisure Farm, located at Gohtong Jaya at the foot of the hills. The weather is not as cooling as up in the mountains, but flowers and strawberries still thrive in this spacious garden.


Entrance to the gardens is RM8 for adults.


We were greeted by rows upon rows of strawberry plants. Unlike the commercial farms in Cameron Highlands, which have been swarmed with tourists and plucked to death, the plants here are healthy with a good amount of juicy strawberries. Course, you have to pay extra to go in and pluck them. They did allow me to take some pictures from the side though.


Random: did you know that there are ‘Ichigo’ or white strawberries in Japan? They are completely white as they don’t get sunlight, and are said to be very sweet and juicy. One piece can cost over 1,000 Yen (USD10)  and upwards per piece! The priciest strawberry is the Bijen Hime (Beautiful Princess), costing a whopping 500USD and weighing up to 100gms.





If you’re not into pickin your own fruits, the place sells them nicely packaged in plastic boxes. They do look tantalizing..


Some parts of the garden are closed to the public, presumably to allow the strawberries time to grow / for their own harvesting purposes.


Strawberries aren’t the only thing you’ll find here – they also have flower gardens housing roses, lavenders, and many more. We head through a shady tunnel draped in tendrils and pretty shrubbery.


The upper deck was filled with these purple dandelion-like blooms. Unfortunately, there were no labels and being a city girl, I wasn’t familiar with many of these flowers lol. I’ll regale you with some pictures instead ! 🙂

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Purple lavender patches

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Nicely landscaped. The purple + white and green contrasted really nicely.

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Roses. The weather was warm though so they looked kind of wilted.

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We weren’t expecting the gardens to be so big. Spent an hour or more exploring the place. Lots of nice flowers everywhere – great for pictures!

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A very odd piece of furniture, but I’d totally have this in my garden just for a laugh.

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These orchids are called ‘dancing ladies’. Do you see the resemblance? Apparently they look like women in a dress with flaring sleeves, like a traditional Spanish flamenco costume.


Large white orchids. They looked healthy and well-cared for.



The Strawberry Farm is well-worth the RM8 we paid. From the outside it looks small but there is more than meets the eye. They also have souvenir shops, cafes where you can enjoy strawberry-based products such as tea/jam/ice-cream (albeit overpriced) and more.


No. 1, Lot 3707, Jalan Jati 2, Bandar Gohtong Jaya,
Genting Highlands, 69000 Genting Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia
Business hours: 9AM – 6.30PM (Daily)

Manila : First Impressions and Visiting Nayong Filipino, Rizal Park

I’m a city girl, but I was not prepared for Manila. It seemed like every square inch of the city was crowded with people. There were people in shopping malls, at street corners waiting for jeepneys, filling up the subway platforms… everywhere. With more than 42,000 ppl per sq km, it is truly the most densely populated city in the world. The city center, in particular, was chaos. Other than crowds of sweaty people, there were the jeepneys (which run on diesel) and motorbikes, spewing carbon monoxide into the air. It’s not uncommon to see passengers with hankies to their mouths – getting a fresh breath of air in Manila during commuting hours is impossible. Also, you might sniff random whiffs of piss, especially when walking through seedier areas.


Walking out from our hotel in Intramuros, we were greeted by rows of green pedicabs (sidecar attached to a bicycle), most decorated with a politician’s face. These were common around Manila, especially in tourist areas.


Also chickens. Many chickens. People keep them in small wire coops by the roadside. I heard chickens crowing every morning, which doesn’t happen in KL because people don’t keep chickens in the urban areas.


My first jeepney ride! Jeepneys are prevalent throughout the country, and are synonymous with Filipino culture (like the tuk tuk is to Thailand). When  American troops left the Philippines after the war, they also left behind hundreds of Jeeps. The illustrious Filipinos stripped them down, put metal roofs for shade, long parallel benches to accommodate more passengers, and then souped them up in vibrant colours. We saw loads of outlandish ones, that had Tom Cruise on it along with angels. They also have names or (religious) quotes emblazoned on the front, such as ‘Maria’, ‘Fatima Guadalupe’ and even ‘God Bless the Philippines’.

How to ride a Jeepney like a boss local 

  1. Look out for signs they have propped in front of the dashboard/painted onto the side of the jeep which indicate the destinations.
  2. Hop on/off anywhere. Usually the side of the road. There are no stops.
  3. Fares are posted on a chart behind the drivers seat. Prepare small change, fares are cheap – 7pesos (minimum fare) to 20+ pesos.
  4. Payment: Alert the driver or fellow passengers by saying ‘Bayad’ (pay).
  5. If you’re sitting at the end of the line, pass the fares to the front. If you’re passing fares for someone else, say ‘Bayad daw’.
  6. To get off, tap the Jeepney roof. Or say ‘Para’, which means ‘here!’
  7. When it gets busy during rush hour, be prepared to squeeze in tightly. E rode sabit (standing at the back) but it can be dangerous as there will be many sudden stops.



Our Jeepney dropped us off at Rizal Park, a historical park that has seen many changes and events since the 1820s. Hundreds of nationalists were executed here during Spanish rule, and it was named after one – Jose Rizal, one of the most famous Filipino freedom fighters of all time. The Philippine Declaration of Independence from America was also read in this spot.

Today, it counts itself among the largest urban parks in Asia, with smaller parks, monuments and water features. During Pope Francis’ concluding mass here, a whopping 6mil people turned up, filling up the park’s entire vicinity!


Thankfully, it was fairly quiet during our visit 😛

Upon entering, there was a boardwalk area with a pond and a replica of the Philippine islands (7000+). It wasn’t well kept as the water was a dirty, murky brown, as if they had been sitting there for ages. Some of the replica islands were broken, and irresponsible visitors had dumped their trash into the ‘craters’.

Speaking of trash, it was hard to find a proper garbage bin in Manila. I faced the same problem in London, because they removed all the bins (especially in the subway) after the London terror attacks. While most Londoners had the sense not to throw their litter until they got back home, in Manila, garbage is almost everywhere on the streets. Sorry guys.. I’m an honest traveler. :/


The park was cleaner. Since it was a weekday, it was mostly students doing dance practice and such on the lawn.


There was a 20m (?) statue of Lapu-Lapu sitting in the middle of the park. He was a ruler of Mactan in the Visayas region, and considered by Filipinos to be the first local hero to fight against the Spanish; killing Ferdinand Magellan in battle and delaying Spanish occupation of the islands by 40 years. His face appears on the seal of the Philippine National Police.


When we visited, there were a few naked children bathing in a pool of stagnant water at the base of the statue. The oldest was barely five and dressed in rags, and there were no adults in sight. I was to learn in the next couple of days how common this was in Manila.. which made me both sad and angry at the same time.


As we strolled through the place, I was attracted to a beautiful and detailed wooden bamboo arch – entrance to a garden called Nayong Filipino. Spanning across 1.5 hectares, it was once an environmental NGO site. Entrance fee was PHP50 for adults.


Correct me if my research is wrong, but I think these are called ‘Singkaban’. Originating from a region called Bulacan, the elaborate arches are intricately pieced together to form mesmerizing patterns. We walked through one and into a corridor of trellises with dangling white stars.


Not sure if Christmas deco

Surprisingly, weather in Manila was cooler than Malaysia. It was hot, but not too humid. I hate to be in KL in February, the humidity just melts your face off.


Decided to be a kid and jumped on a seesaw.


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A model Jeepney! This had murals of flying doves, Jose Rizal with a gun and some other freedom fighters.


Spot the frangipani


More bamboo frames


A traditional hut, raised high above the ground. We crawled up and it was spacious (but hot and full of mozzies) on the inside.


Kitties resting in the shade of a trishaw.

There were many stray cats all around Manila, but I rarely saw dogs.


A very old tree with hanging tendrils all over. There were also smaller bonsai trees.

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The garden is a nice place to chill and escape the heat, with lots of trees and shade – well worth the 50PHP entry ticket. Be prepared to feed some mozzies though .


Daily: 8am – 5pm

Roxas Blvd Ermita, Barangay 666 Zone 72, Manila, 1000 Metro Manila, Philippines


River and Water Conservation @ Lembah Kiara, TTDI Kuala Lumpur


8AM: a clear, beautiful Saturday morning at the Lembah Kiara Recreational Park in Taman Tun Dr Ismail KL. It was my first time here and the park looked impressive. There were many joggers and families doing their morning exercises, or people strolling under the shady trees and admiring the big pond near the entrance.

Some construction stuff going on, but otherwise the park was nice and green. Groups of older people were doing taichi while some meditation music blasted in the background. Some families were also picnicking with mats on the grass.


I was here to cover a CSR programme to educate primary and secondary school kids on river and water conservation. They do it once every two months and this time around it was with a group of Fifth Formers.

I think schoolkids these days are lucky because they get to join all these ‘holistic’ programmes. Back in my day (that makes me sound really old but yeah) ‘learning’ was mostly through text books because of our theory and exam-based Asian-style education.


Part of Sungai Penchala flows through the park. The teens and their facilitators waded into the river and collected samples for testing. They also learnt about the river flora and fauna by catching river shrimps, dragonflies and other microorganisms.


Good thing it was shady.


The river was quite clean. You could see the base and there were tiny fish and spiders swimming about.


The children were from an ‘eco-school’ – meaning that they adopted many green practices in their school projects. Their teacher said that they had recycled cooking oil projects which they sold to companies to be made into biodiesel. They also create compost from coffee beans collected from cafes, and make their own products such as candles to sell or as gifts at school functions.


The samples were tested for things like dissolved oxygen content, phosphate and nitrate content, pH levels, etc to determine how ‘healthy’ the river was.

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A river shrimp.

The whole programme was pretty educational, and I suppose its more fun to wade about in rivers than just read about it in Science class. Even I learnt some stuff – like what sort of insects and organisms you’ll find in a very clean river (like stone flies) or a dirty river (maggots and the like).


Someone meditating at the closed off waterfall feature.


The park was huge. It took me a good 15 mins to walk from the entrance to the area where they were conducting the programme. And this was just a small part of the park.


Lembah Kiara park is a good place to exercise at if you live in the neighbourhood. But if (ever) I can drag myself out of the bed on weekends, I don’t think a 40min drive there is worth it, especially with the crazy traffic.

Lembah Kiara Park @ Jalan Haji Openg

Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur

***I don’t think there are many buses servicing the route coz it’s like smack in the middle of housing and not within the city center. Best to take a Uber ?

*U82 from Bandar Utama is the closest but you’ll still have to walk about 650ms down the road.

Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park San Francisco


IT was late afternoon after our visit to the California Academy of Sciences, but a little too early for dinner. E and I decided to hang out a bit at the Music Concourse, a large, open air plaza located just across the street. Built in 1894, the place has lots of shrubby trees and a bandstand where many prominent musicians and bands have played before.


There are three fountain features from one end to the other. Only one was on during our visit because Cali is having a drought and they are trying to save on water.



Seats facing the bandstand, which is done in a Roman/Grecian style with fat pillars.


Some naked ladies with trumpets.

This is the dome above the focal point of the plaza, called the Spreckels Temple of Music (also called the ‘Bandshell’) which was built in 1899. It has served as a stage, from classical performers such as Luciano Pavarotti to the Grateful Dead.


The weather was rather cloudy and cold, but the trees and flowers were all blooming in a soft, green spring. This is one thing I like about parks in the US (and Europe, for that matter) because they have such beautiful scenery and its nice and cool to walk around even in the afternoon. In South East Asia, people don’t really go to parks because it is so hot nobody feels like doing anything other than hide in air conditioned buildings.


The Japanese Tea Garden from the outside. We only took pictures from the outside on that day because it was late and they were closing.



Academy of Sciences view from behind the bandstand.



50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr San Francisco, CA 94118

Getting here: 

The #44-O’Shaughnessy bus which goes directly to the California Academy of Sciences. Walk opposite to the Music Concourse.

The #5-Fulton bus stops at 8th Avenue and Fulton Street, just outside the park. From 8th Avenue, walk into the park and turn right on John F. Kennedy Drive. Then turn left onto Music Concourse Drive.

A good place to relax in between visiting the many attractions inside San Fransisco’s Golden Gate Park 🙂