My Mini Library

Hey guys!

It’s Day 6 of the Restricted Movement Order in Malaysia. Officially, there are 8 more days to go –  but looking at the upward trend of cases, an extension might be imminent. 😦 I know I am luckier than most in that I have enough savings to tide me over should the RMO be prolonged, but there are many out there such as the homeless and the destitute who are in danger of falling through the cracks as governments scramble to control the spread of the virus. Aside from doing our part as good citizens, we should also help donate what we can to help frontliners such as charity workers and NGOs.

As for what I’ve been doing at home: I’ve been working on my articles, both for my main job as well as my side hustles. It’s a good thing I did them way ahead of time, because looking at how things are, it’ll be a while before I can go out to conduct any sort of interview.

It can be difficult to keep yourself disciplined when you’re ‘working’ from home (my workspace is literally two steps away from my bed) but so far I’ve been adhering to my routine – wakeup at around 8.30 am to 9, breakfast, and then start working by 10. I take a short break for lunch, and then I work until 5pm and wrap up for the day. In the evenings I either help my mom out in the kitchen, or I work out for half an hour. After dinner, I surf the net, read or write for the blog.

The good thing about not having to spend time in traffic is that I have more time to do the things I want. I recently sorted out some photos in my laptop and realised I never blogged about my book cabinet. I had it installed at the end of last year because my mom, a neat freak, was losing it over how many books I had (and kept buying). I had books all over the place; on a bookshelf in my room, in the cabinet downstairs, in giant containers and boxes. She gave me an ultimatum – either I got a bigger space to keep everything, or she’d throw them away. So, cabinet it was.

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It took a couple of days to set up (problem with parts and stuff) but the result was great. It’s harder to get to the books at the top though, so we put stuff we don’t normally take out often like the photo albums and some old magazines.

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N was still here last year (he’s now in the Phils due to job commitments) so he had no choice but to help me sort out my mountain of books lol. You gotta work for your board and lodging, bruh

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It took us several hours but we finally got everything nicely in place! Even had them sorted out according to category, so there’s like a section for all the comics, Asian literature, fantasy, historical fiction and horror. How do you sort your books? I know some people like to sort their books according to colour, or alphabetical order, or genre.

 

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My favourite shelf.

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If you see books that look like they’re in a less-than-stellar condition, they’re either a) second-hand books, or b) my favourites, because I like to reread books and they somehow end up in tatters lol.

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Asian literature.

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Another shelf in my room. The books ended up in the upper cabinets.

People have asked me if I’ve actually read ALL of the books I have. And no, I haven’t. My reading habits have gone down the drain ever since I started working, but I’ve been trying to get back into it these last couple of months, and I can proudly say I’ve finished at least one book a month in the last 3 months. Now, only several dozen to go…

 

 

 

Rumah Attap Library & Collective @ The Zhongshan Building, Kuala Lumpur

Hey guys! I recently worked on a story on unique libraries in Kuala Lumpur – which included a Japanese-themed one and a children’s library in a refurbished wooden village house. Being a book lover, it was awesome to be able to share their stories and make sure they got the attention they deserved.

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One of the libraries I went to was the Rumah Attap Library & Collective at The Zhongshan Building in Kuala Lumpur. When N came visiting last year, I took him to visit the building, but we seemed to have missed the library as it is tucked in a quiet corner on the 3rd floor.

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Like many of the tenants at Zhongshan, it’s hard to determine what exactly lies behind each unit’s closed doors – until you knock and take a peek inside. In Rumah Attap’s case, visitors will be welcomed by various posters of upcoming art events, shows and festivals on the walls.

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While it’s not very large, the space is brightly lit and roomy, with plenty of sunshine filtering in. With a cosy couch in a corner and various paraphernalia lining one side of the wall, it feels more like someone’s apartment than it does a library.One of the most stunning fixtures in the library is the wall of books on wooden shelves. The library has over 3,000 books, mostly on art, culture, philosophy and sociology in the Chinese language, and a selection of English and Malay works as well.

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Started in 2017, the library came about as a collaboration between three local arts and culture organisations, namely Amateur, In Between Cultura and Au Sow Yee Studio. It was decided that a physical space was needed for the orgs to host their programmes, such as book readings, film screenings and cultural talks – and when Zhongshan called for tenants to fill up its units, the library was born.

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Brochures for upcoming events and activities.

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Since the space is run by volunteers, it is only open on weekends. They regularly host programmes such as talks by scholars and book reading sessions, so keep updated on their Facebook page.

RUMAH ATTAP LIBRARY AND COLLECTIVE 

84c, Jalan Rotan, Kampung Attap, 50460, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

**While you’re around the area: check out beautiful graffiti art on the walls of the adjacent building. 

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Little Giraffe Book Club @ Batu 11 Cheras, Selangor

We tend to picture libraries as tranquil, cosy sanctuaries – so the last place you’d expect to find one is in an old kampung house in the middle of a Chinese village. Opened in late 2017, the Little Giraffe Book Club at Batu 11 Cheras is anything but your average ‘library’. Formerly a dilapidated home, the space was given a new lease of life by curator Lee Soon Yong and a group of passionate architecture students, who envisioned a communal space that would also benefit the community.

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Originally, the Little Giraffe Book Club was a community initiative started by a group of kindergarten teachers with the aim of educating children in the village. Back then, the library was housed in a mobile container. Seeing the need for a proper place and with support from the locals, Lee, a former architecture student who grew up in the village, embarked on the project after returning from his studies in Taiwan.

Much of the building’s old exterior has been retained – from the pink and green wooden panels to the traditional windows and grates, zinc roofing and shaded veranda. Like many village homes, the compound is not gated, and there are benches and seats for visitors to rest on.

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The interior has been remodeled into a library-cum-cafe space, with open, lofty ceilings. One side of the space also features floor to ceiling windows, so the result is a bright, cheerful space with plenty of sunshine to filter in.

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The library corner, which sits on an elevated section, carries a large selection of children’s books in various languages. The layout of wooden shelves and steps makes it more fun and interactive for the children, who sit cross legged on the floor to read their books or play with toys. To be frank, this is the noisiest ‘library’ I’ve been in – but I’m sure it works well for the kids, because most of them learn through stimulation and play.

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So why a giraffe? Lee says it’s because children like animals, and a giraffe is far sighted – just like their vision to improve the community through educating the next generation. “You can’t force adults to read, but you can encourage reading habits from a young age,” Lee explains.

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The space is not only a library – it also runs as a cafe, which is how they support the book club. Their specialty is rojak – (for the non-Malaysians reading this, it’s a type of salad. But definitely not the healthy kind lol), since one of the people running the place is the son of the couple who run the famous Rojak Wan stall in TTDI! I never used to like rojak until I had Rojak Wan’s – the beautiful combination of fresh fruits and veggies, tossed in a thick shrimp paste sauce and topped with crunchy crackers, fried Chinese crullers and ground nuts – is simply divine.

Aside from rojak, they offer coffee and simple fare such as burgers and rice dishes. Expect a long wait if the place is crowded, however.

Due to the zinc roofing and its lack of air conditioning, the space can get very warm in the afternoons. It’s best to come in the mornings or evenings, and if you have an off day on the weekday, come then to avoid the weekend crowds.

LITTLE GIRAFFE BOOK CLUB

114, Jalan 15, Batu 11 Cheras, Selangor

Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 1pm to 10pm

facebook.com/littlegiraffebookclub

 

Visiting: The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL) Library @ Northpoint, Mid Valley

KL has its fair share of libraries, but did you know that there’s one dedicated exclusively to promoting Japanese language, arts and culture? And it’s been around since the 1990s!

The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur Library is located on the 18th floor of Northpoint in Kuala Lumpur, and was established by the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL) – a semi-government entity under the Foreign Ministry of Japan, which seeks to promote mutual understanding of Japan in other countries, mainly through the areas of arts and culture. Back in the day, the Internet was not as readily accessible as it is today, and the library was setup to provide students of the Japanese language in Malaysia with learning resources. Today, it boasts an impressive collection of over 14,000 books, CDs, DVDs and other materials. 

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The library’s Japanese decorations are immediately apparent, from the traditional wall hangings that feature subjects such as dragons and tigers, to the dolls dressed in elaborate kimonos that greet visitors at the counter. There’s even a tatami room, complete with sliding doors and papier mache lanterns to give it that Zen vibe.

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As for reading material, they come in various genres, in both English and Japanese: from novels and literature from bestselling authors such as Haruki Murakami and Keigo Higashino, to Japanese language books, exercise books for learners, the latest magazines in fashion, entertainment and travel, manga, as well as cookbooks.

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Children’s books section.

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A quiet corner with a view of the city. Members (you can sign up by providing two passport sized photos and pay a RM10 annual fee) can utilise the audio /visual equipment to listen to recordings, or watch films and documentaries.

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My favourite section was definitely the manga corner, which had tatami mats where you can lounge with a book in hand. They’ve got popular titles such as Slamdunk, Bleach and One Piece, to name a few.

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Verdict: The library isn’t massive, but I like how fun and educational it is, especially for lovers of Japanese culture. The only downside I can think of is that it’s not very accessible, even though it’s open to the public. Since it’s part of the JFKL, the library is located within an office building, and you’ll need to register at the security office before you can proceed to the 18th floor. Parking is also difficult to get if you’re driving, so I suggest parking at Mid Valley and walking over from the connecting bridge, or just taking a Grab.

JAPAN FOUNDATION KUALA LUMPUR LIBRARY 

18th Floor, Northpoint, Block B, Mid Valley City, No 1, Medan Syed Putra, 59200, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Opening hours: Tuesday–Friday (10.30 a.m.–6.30 p.m), Saturday (10.00 a.m.–6.00 p.m). Closed on Sunday, Monday and Public Holidays.

Contact:  03 2284 6228 (ext. 401/402/403) or email library@jfkl.org.my

Website

The Library In A Mall – The Selangor Public Library @ Jaya One, Petaling Jaya

Malls can be a nice place to shop, eat and chill. 

Now, you can add reading to the list, as the Selangor Public Library opens its doors at Jaya One in Petaling Jaya. Tucked in a quiet corner of the mall’s ground floor, the newly opened public library has a small but nice selection of fiction and non-fiction titles, and a cosy space where visitors can relax in comfort, peace and quiet.

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Shoes are to be left outside, or placed into bags at the entrance.

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Spacious and clean, the library is divided into several sections. There is a section for fiction, non-fiction, as well as children’s books, encyclopedias and graphic novels. The colour scheme and ambient lighting is warm and inviting.

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(Right) Children’s section with colourful pouffe stools.There aren’t too many books at the moment though. They welcome donations.

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You can register for a library account for free, and it only takes minutes! Just fill up a form at the counter and you can start borrowing right away.

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I know I just bought a tonne of books recently but I couldn’t resist. The time limit is three weeks, so I have my work cut out for me lol. Halfway through Khaled Hosseini’s And The Mountains Echoed, which seems less depressing than his other works. (**I never did finish The Kite Runner because it was so friggin depressing. Maybe someday I will).

The thing about Malaysian libraries is that they’re not always up kept well in the long run (case in point: our National Library is just… sad) so I hope this doesn’t succumb to the same fate.

SELANGOR PUBLIC LIBRARY 

Ground Floor, Jaya One Mall, Petaling Jaya

Opening hours: 10AM – 7PM

Entrance / membership: Free

 

 

Books, Bread and Ice Cream at Miyahara Optometry, Taichung

Nope, you read the title right. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you lol sorry I’m not that good with puns.

In the central district of Taichung City, an old eye hospital built in the 1920s is now a one-of-a-kind gourmet destination. Miyahara Optometry, established by Japanese ophtamologist Dr Miyahara Takeo during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, was once the largest eye clinic in Taichung. After the Japs left, the two storey red brick building was converted into a Health Center, but was left vacant for years after it was identified as a dangerous post-earthquake building. Just five years ago, the place was bought over, refurbished and turned into a bakery-cum-ice-cream store. Needless to say, the crowds have been non-stop ever since.

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Stepping into the place is like coming onto a Harry Potter set.. or is it that library we see in Beauty and the Beast? Walls are stacked from floor to ceiling with wooden shelves packed with books, while wooden staircases jut out from the side (they look like they can almost swivel around magically, just like at Hogwarts!)

Now known as Dawn Cakes Flagship Store, visitors can find a myriad of candies, chocolates and their ever famous pineapple cakes – not to mention a range of yummy-licious ice cream flavours next door. Even if you’re not buying anything, a trip here is worth it just for photos!

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Taiwan shares a lot of similarities with Japan when it comes to food trends ie they have things that look too cute to be eaten. Teddy-bear shaped chocolates, for example.

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Cakes, wafers, cookies and candies are wrapped in book-shaped boxes, complete with legit-looking, fancy covers.

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The second floor houses the Moon Pavilion Restaurant, which was closed during our visit.

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The arched passageway on the outside, overhung with old-looking lamps, was packed with people queueing up for ice-cream next door. Observation: Taiwanese are hardcore foodies, and won’t hesitate to line up for hours to get their fix of whatever snack they’re craving. At all the famous food spots, we had to line up for a good half an hour or more.

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Dozens of flavours to choose from! Here, one will find the basic types like Vanilla and Chocolate, but also rather unusual combinations and local flavours, like Pineapple and mango, and even Chinese tea.

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Our set of two scoops with wafer and three condiments (150NT). Opted for Salted Caramel and Tieguanyin (Chinese tea). I liked the salted caramel better because it had an addictive, salty-sweet quality. Tieguanyin was pretty good too, although a tad bitter. The sweet and fragrant flower-shaped floral cake, butter teddy cookie and raisins balanced everything out with some sweetness.

PS: The menu is all in Chinese. If you, like me, can’t read Chinese characters and you don’t have a translator, you can always point ! xD

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Other buildings in the vicinity are not so lucky.

Many people have been saying that the economy in Taiwan has stagnated in the past decade. As an outside observer, I think this is partially true. There doesn’t seem to be many new projects going on, and ongoing ones seem to have been halted. While the city is certainly developed, buildings look old and decayed – like they’re badly in need of a fresh coat of paint.’

But I digress.

The Miyahara Eye Hospital is a sight for sore eyes, and a treat for the tummy. A must visit while in Taichung! 🙂

MIYAHARA OPHTHALMOLOGY DEPARTMENT (Dawn Cakes Flagship Store)

No. 20, Zhongshan Rd, Central District, Taichung City, Taiwan

Open: 10am – 10PM

 

 

Los Angeles Library & Walt Disney Concert Hall

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It rarely rains in California – hence the drought – but the warm weather in LA reminds me of home. Had breakfast, then took a bus to Downtown LA.

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Americans are big on convenience –  almost everything has a drive-through or other. It was my first time seeing a Drive Thru Pharmacy… ironically, it was right next to a Fatburger drive-thru lol.

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Downtown LA is a busy metropolis, with its tall shiny buildings and modern amenities. Despite this, one can still observe poorer parts of the city where there are many homeless people pushing carts or sleeping on the street.

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I dunno if I’ve mentioned, but I love reading books; So I couldn’t miss out on visiting one of the largest public-funded libraries in the world -the Los Angeles Public Library. Built in the 1920s, the library has a massive six million books. That’s one book for each person in Kuala Lumpur!

The interior is massive and divided into many sections. We explored a bit, taking care to make as little noise as possible as there were many visitors reading and doing work.

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A computer station where you can do research and look up titles.

I like how everything is so well kept. There are even wooden booths with comfy chairs for privacy. Definitely a world-class library.

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There’s a nice little park with a water feature once you step outside the library.

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View from Flower Street. You can see influences of Egyptian and Mediterranean architecture in its facade.

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We went to visit the Walt Disney Concert Hall next. On the way we spotted lots of beautiful purple trees in bloom. They are called Jacaranda and are found all over the city – sort of LA’s version of Japanese sakura.

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The building is massive. An iconic landmark in LA, it is often featured in pop culture, movies and tv shows. They were running some show but we didn’t go in because we hadn’t budgeted the time and money for tickets. But I recommend coming here just to gawk at the architecture alone. It has an odd shape, uneven shape, which I think resembles a lotus flower. Maybe it’s just one of those Rorscarch things. What do you think it looks like?

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It’s sunny and I’m feeling small and touristy in LA. 🙂

DIRECTIONS 

to library:

Take the Metro Red/Purple, Expo or Blue Line to 7th St. Metro Central Station and walk three blocks north on Hope Street.

to Hall:

Get down at the Red Line Civic Center Metro Stop at 101 S.Hill St (southwest corner of First and Hill)