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Things to Do@Tropicana Gardens Mall, Kota Damansara

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

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

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

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

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

SHOP FOR JAPANESE SNACKS AND GOODS AT DON DON DONKI

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

DO SOME READING AT BOOK XCESS

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

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GRAB A BITE

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

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

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GET A MAKEOVER

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

JOIN A DANCE OR SINGING CLASS

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

PLAY AND BUY TRADING CARDS AND BOARD GAMES

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

CATCH A FILM

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

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The upper floors are quite empty at present.

SING KARAOKE

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

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

SHOOT STUFF UP AT THE ARCADE

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

Last but not least…

GRAB SOME COFFEE AT THE STARBUCKS RESERVE

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

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

TROPICANA GARDENS MALL

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

Website

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

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

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

How often do you play tourist in your homeland?

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

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

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

Video has some extra portions that include Bukit Bintang.

DATARAN MERDEKA

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

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

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

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

SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD BUILDING

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

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

ROYAL SELANGOR CLUB

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

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

OLD CHARTERED BANK BUILDING / MUSIC MUSEUM

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

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

KUALA LUMPUR CITY GALLERY

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

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

KUALA LUMPUR LIBRARY

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

RIVER OF LIFE MASJID JAMEK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Coffee Spot: Cornerstone Cafe @ Taman Meranti Jaya, Puchong

Hey, everyone! We’re well into the first week of 2022 – how has the new year been for you so far? It has been pretty busy for me, what with the Hubs finally coming to Malaysia after 22 months of us being apart, me starting a new job, preparing to apply for the Hub’s spouse visa, etc.

I have a tonne of posts rolled over from last year still pending in drafts, but in the meantime, here’s one from when I went to buy lunch recently at Taman Meranti Jaya, Puchong. Whenever I’m craving for Ipoh-style Chicken Hor Fun, I usually pay a visit to Wai Wai kopitiam (this warrants a separate post!). I haven’t been this way for some time now, and I noticed a new canopy set up around the corner – which turned out to be a ‘cafe’!

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Run by a young man named Jeshua, Cornerstone Cafe has apparently been open for several months now – serving handcrafted coffees, teas, and lemonades, as well as cookies and snacks. The setup is simple, so you can only get your orders to go, but service is warm and friendly, as befitting a neighbourhood coffee joint.

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There aren’t any cafes serving coffee in this neighbourhood – unless you count kopi o from kopitiams and instant coffee from convenience stores – so it’s nice to see one serving ‘fancier’ items like lattes and cappuccinos. Prices are also extremely reasonable, given the quality, which is on par with what you get from proper cafes in Puchong Jaya or Bandar Puteri Puchong.

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Homemade cookies and the trending item that everyone’s into these days – dalgona candy.

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The cafe is open from Tuesdays to Fridays, and on Sundays, from 8.30AM to 3PM.

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I got a cold Caramel latte (RM9), plus a dalgona candy (RM3). The drink was perfectly balanced; not too sweet nor bitter, and it was smooth and creamy. It was perfect as an accompaniment to the candy.

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Anddddd I’m dead if this had been Squid Game.

CORNERSTONE CAFE

Tanming Boulevard, Taman Meranti Jaya, 47120, Puchong, Selangor (across the road, a short walk from Wai Wai restaurant)

instagram.com/cornerstonecafebyjeshua

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

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Christmas 2021 Recap: Of Food, Friends and the Spirit of Gifting

Anddddd just like that, another year has gone by.

I have much to be thankful for as I bid adieu to the old and welcome the new. Although it wasn’t a great start to 2021 – what with extended lockdowns due to the pandemic, job uncertainty and a general feeling of being stuck in limbo – things picked up towards the final quarter; the highlight being that my husband and I were finally able to reunite after almost two years apart from each other. He had to spend Christmas in quarantine, but we were able to usher in the new year together – and that for me has been the best present ever.

While waiting for the hubs to finish quarantine, I busied myself with preparations, finishing up work for my old job (I’m starting a new job tomorrow!), and catching up with old friends – which helped keep my nervous energy to a minimum. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

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November to December is typically monsoon season, and floods often occur on the east coast of West Malaysia, due to their proximity to the South China Sea. It is rare for serious floods to occur on the west coast, where I live, as we’re protected from most bad weather, thanks to the Indonesian islands. On 18 December, however, a continuous heavy downpour (it rained almost non-stop for more than 24 hours) caused by a tropical depression caused parts of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur to be inundated by floods.

The flooding was so severe that in some cases, homes in low lying areas were completely submerged up until the second floor. In total, 50 people across the different states lost their lives. People were extremely angry with the government, as they were ill prepared and the response was slow – leaving victims to fend for themselves, and some lost their lives while waiting for help that was too slow to come. But where the government failed, it was heartening to see how ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life banded together to help each other, with volunteers risking their lives and bringing their own boats to help with search and rescue.

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My brother and I did our own little part by volunteering to pack vegetarian food, to be distributed to victims at relief centres. The activity was organised by the Kuala Lumpur Chung De Confucian Association, of which my brother’s ex-lecturer is a member – that’s how we came to know about it. We were up early to head to May Yen Vegetarian Restaurant in Kepong, KL, where we joined a group of mostly young volunteers to pack 900 packets of lunch boxes.

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The kitchen was sweltering hot, and there was little space to maneuver about. It was a bit chaotic in the beginning, but once we had coordinated the roles, things moved quickly – there was a team assigned to ladling food (tofu, mock meat, vegetables and rice) into plastic containers, another team assigned to putting garnish and sealing off the lunch boxes, and yet another in charge of packing them into plastic bags for transport. We didn’t really have much chance to mingle as everyone was focused on completing their tasks as quickly as possible, but it was a good experience nonetheless.

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As of the time of this writing, flood victims are still in need of help, so it would be good to donate either monetary assistance or in the form of goods, if you’re not able to be on-ground for relief efforts.

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That aside, I’ve been taking time to catch up with old friends. Shopped for gifts for a few close friends, and also met up with G, a high school friend of mine whom I’ve been friends with for over 18 years. We don’t always get to hangout since she’s based in Ipoh, but we managed to have a quick catchup session. I think she badly needed some alone time that didn’t involve bringing her kid along.

Motherhood is an immense sacrifice – I think a lot of mothers give so much of themselves to their child, that they lose who they are as a person. I’m not here to judge, but that shouldn’t be how it is, even though society often expects it of mothers – and it’s sad that in Malaysian society, we still have this mentality. A healthy environment should involve a mother having the proper support to raise her child, but also the freedom to stay true to her own dreams.

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Anyway, I brought her to 1Utama and we ended up at Rocku Yakiniku, a Japanese-style BBQ buffet that offers free flow of various cuts of meat and seafood, including lamb, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and squid. I’ve been here several times, including once solo for my birthday celebration (yes, I celebrated my birthday by gorging on a BBQ buffet alone. lol), and they’ve never failed to disappoint. This time was no exception, and I think we got back our money’s worth.

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We got to 1Utama pretty late, so I was starving. While waiting for the charcoal brazier to heat up, I got some quick bites – stir-fried udon, samosas, hams and fried dumplings. I know you’re not supposed to eat a lot of these at a buffet, coz they’ll fill up space in your stomach quickly, but the fried dumplings were exceptionally good.

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Two things that I recommend: the enoki mushrooms, and the scallops. They come served in small aluminium bowls that you can heat directly over the grill. The former has butter, which brings out the rich, natural sweetness of the mushrooms; the latter comes swimming in a clear, sweet broth, with sizable scallops that squirt juice forth with each bite.

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Another thing about Rocku Yakiniku: the shrimps are huge. Just eating the shrimps alone will give you your money’s worth, since shrimps of this size are usually expensive. They’re not marinated, but they’re fresh and juicy, and the grill highlights the meat’s natural sweetness.

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The meat selection is great too, especially if you eat it with fresh lettuce, which cuts through the greasiness.

Our meal for two came up to RM120, inclusive of drinks. Quite a reasonable price, given the amount we ate, the variety, and the service.

ROCKU YAKINIKU (1UTAMA)

F.355, F.356 & F.357, First Floor, Rainforest, No. 1, Lebuh Bandar Utama, Bandar Utama, 47800 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Opening hours: 11AM – 10PM (Daily)

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Dropped G back at her house and took the chance to play with her cats.

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And that was how I spent my Christmas! It was a great one, all things considered.

Here’s to a great 2022 ahead!

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Flavourful Mee Pok @ SRK Borneo Noodle House, Desa Setapak

As a college student, I frequented the shops at Desa Setapak, as I often had lunch there in between classes, or before I hopped onto the LRT back home. One of my favourite eateries there was Fancy Mee Corner, which served pan mee. I have fond memories of the place, not only for its excellent food, but also the company: many an afternoon was spent there with my friends, either having a meal, chilling out, or doing assignments while we munched on fried snacks.

But times change – and a lot can happen within a decade, which is also how long I haven’t been back to this neighbourhood. I was nearby after dropping off a Christmas gift for a friend, and decided to make a stop for old times’ sake.

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The main thoroughfare (Jalan Genting Klang) was almost unrecognisable. You know how a place feels familiar yet strange, because it has changed so much? The LRT station is still there, but there are now two massive flyovers, and there are multiple new high-rise projects within the area.

I walked over to where Fancy Mee Corner used to be. Unfortunately, it’s gone – but there is another restaurant in its place, called SRK Borneo Noodle House. Apparently it is not the same as the popular SRK Noodle House, even though the names are very similar, and the dishes are almost identical: they specialise in Sarawak-style kolo (dry) mee.

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The decor, however, is familiar, as it has the same layout as how Fancy Mee Corner used to look like. Nothing fancy (pardon the pun), with wooden stools and simple tables. Not a place to ‘chill’, but to have a quick meal.

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They have a lunch option going for RM6.50.

You can choose from a variety of noodles, including kolo mee, which has a thinner texture, wantan (egg noodles), as well as mee pok, which is what I prefer – the noodles are flat and thick, so it gives a good bite. They come with different accompaniments: the basic version has minced pork and slices of fishcake, and there is also a version with fishball. I opted for the one with charsiew (roast pork) sauce, which has a sweet and savoury flavour.

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Iced milk tea

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The char siew mee pok has a distinctive orange hue. The dish was pretty good: noodles were cooked al dente, the char siew sauce was sweet but not overwhelming, and the portions were generous. The bits of fried pork lard added extra oomph.

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For sides, I got a bowl of bursting pork balls, which were filled with minced pork and broth. They were bouncy with plenty of bite.

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Another side of fried wantans. Again, decent – they were freshly fried, sizable, crunchy and flavourful.

The food was pretty good, and the flavour is similar to SRK Noodle House. I wonder if they’re a ‘branch’ of sorts – it’s common here to have two ‘rival’ restaurants selling the same items, one opened by the original proprietor and another by a disciple/family member who had a disgareement or something.

The service, however, leaves much to be desired, especially from the main wait staff who also manned the cashier. The difference in service provided to me and another group of customers was too blatant for me to pass it off as me being paranoid, lol.

When I entered the shop and asked if there was a table for one, the staff (let’s call him A) didn’t even bother to reply : he simply looked at me as if I was annoying him by asking the obvious, and nodded to an empty table. After sitting down, I was given the menu, all without a word of hello, or any sort of acknowledgment. Well, at first I was like whatever – I’m here to eat, not to make chitchat. But then another group of diners – consisting of young college students, with what society would call ‘pretty’ girls – came in.

The difference in service was astounding. A came to their table, laid out menus for them, gave them recommendations, made jokes, laughed, and was generally the perfect picture of a friendly waiter. When he carried their meals to them, it was with a ‘enjoy your meal’, “oh this is your bowl, you didn’t want the pork intestines, right?”

Meanwhile, my meal was served and A was practically throwing the box of cutlery on my table.

Well, I know I’m not a pretty young thang … but dude. Same thing went I went to pay at the counter. Unsmiling, not so much a thank you for coming. If Malaysia had a tipping system, you’d get a 0 from me, my friend.

And guess what? It was the foreign wait staff who was professional and courteous to me when I had to place my order. Kudos to you, foreign wait staff.

So yeah. Probably not going to come back here. Not coz the food is bad, mind you. At first I thought it was just me being sensitive, but I was looking up Google reviews while writing this, and apparently I’m not the only one to think so. 😛

Or, you know. If you have faith in your ‘looks’, (I think I look okay, but apparently I don’t qualify, lol), by all means, give it a shot.

SRK BORNEO NOODLE HOUSE

Lot 15, 1/27B Desa Setapak 53300 Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 9AM – 9PM

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

PS2: Opinions here are entirely my own, and are not presented as fact. So if you’re thinking of suing me for a negative review, note that I’ve read up the relevant laws on libel. And hey – I did say your food is good, didn’t I?

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2021 in Pictures

In the long-standing tradition of this blog, I’m back again with another year in review!

Like most of 2020, 2021 felt like being in a perpetual limbo – a year peppered with uncertainty, and where life seemed to move neither forwards nor backwards. I missed my husband the most: due to pandemic restrictions and endless lockdowns, we were unable to make any concrete plans for him to travel to Malaysia for much of the year. But more on this later.

JANUARY

The year was off to a sluggish start, and I did not get much done other than routine work. This was when Malaysia had its second MCO (Movement Control Order), which meant that we were not allowed to be out and about for leisure, or visit family and friends in other states.

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As everyone was stuck at home, I took some time to try candle-making for the first time. It didn’t turn out bad, considering how sucky I am with artsy fartsy stuff. In a fit of boredom, I also finally succumbed to a Netflix subscription.

FEBRUARY

One of the perks of being able to work from home is flexibility. Much of February was spent ferrying my mom to the doctor for her eye surgery, as well as follow-ups. February was also Chinese New Year month, and although we weren’t able to visit relatives, we had a quiet celebration at home with lots of food.

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MARCH

Movement restrictions were eased slightly, so I took the opportunity to try out new cafes, eat out at restaurants and just grab whatever chance I could to get out of the house, while still adhering to health and safety rules.

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It’s amazing how changing your perspective a little can work wonders. I found joy in simple things like going out for a meal, or just going to a mall for groceries: I’d think of it as a ‘trip’, just like how I would for a holiday. And I’d pay attention to things that I would have completely ignored before. Take, for example, the time I drove my mom to the eye clinic. While waiting for her surgery, I walked around the CBD, and just spent a couple of hours soaking in the sights, taking videos and photos, like a tourist would. It was a refreshing feeling.

APRIL

I continued my trend of exploring local spots. One particularly memorable spot was Kedai KL, an artisanal market concept housing small businesses, from kimono stores to cafes and tattoo parlours.

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April was also when I picked up embroidery, surprising even myself. Being an INTP, I’ve never been good with my hands, prefering learning through books and pursuits of the mind. But I found embroidery to be therapeutic, especially when it involves making a pattern or filling up a space on the fabric with repeated motions. It’s a hobby that has stuck with me until the end of the year, and I’m looking forward to working on more projects, and upskilling myself.

MAY

I went to check out the newly opened Don Don Donki store, which is the first of its kind in Malaysia, at Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur. It was my first time in over a year being in KL again, so it was nice to be out and about.

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After some deliberation, I gave my old phone to my mom (because the camera wasn’t good anymore, and since I like taking photos this was a sore point), and bought a new one: the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE. It was my most expensive phone to date, but half a year on I’m pretty happy with how well it works.

JUNE

Didn’t do much in June, except subscribe to a book bundle. I think at this point I was deliberating whether or not to quit my job. Work had become extremely tedious, and I felt disinterested and uninspired. It didn’t help that some of my other colleagues were also leaving the company for better prospects.

It was around this time that I felt at an all-time low. I did not feel as if I could move forward or grow anymore, but I was also worried about leaving the job and not having a stable income to support my family, especially since my parents were retired.

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JULY

Feeling dispirited at work, I spent most of my free time escaping into games as a coping mechanism. Also got my first AstraZeneca shot.

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AUGUST

Got my second dose of AstraZeneca. Around this time, I started having problems with breathing, as well as atopic dermatitis (which hasn’t resolved by the way, even as I write this in December). I wasn’t sure if it was due to my body responding to the vaccine, or whether it was stress induced from my work situation and basically being cooped up all the time. At one point, my dyspnea was so bad I thought I was suffering from COVID, as I couldn’t breathe properly and was gasping for air. The doctor, however, said it was just GERD. To this day, I’m still unsure if it is GERD, because although the medicine did not cure me ( I still have breathing difficulties), it is much better now and does not disrupt my daily life as much.

SEPTEMBER

Had a quiet birthday month. Friends weren’t able to celebrate it with me, as my parents were still afraid of COVID, so I tried not to hangout with people too much. My birthday meal was Putien, which I finally got to try after all this time.

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At work, the situation was on a downward trend. Another colleague resigned, leaving me and another colleague to shoulder what was essentially the workload of a five-man team. As the situation did not seem like it would be improving, it was around this time that I started thinking of making an exit, even without a concrete job offer. I felt like I had enough savings to last me awhile, as I was really in a bad place emotionally and mentally, and needed the break.

OCTOBER

Things suddenly started picking up in the last quarter of the year. I went for a series of interviews, and successfully landed a new job. Armed with this, I tendered my resignation. It feels sad to leave a company that I’ve spent five years in, building and honing it to what it is today, but all good times come to an end, and I feel like it wouldn’t have been beneficial to both me or the company if I continued stagnating where I was. I still had to finish up all my tasks before leaving, so I busied myself with making sure that everything was in order before I left.

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Managed to squeeze in some time for local sightseeing at Jenjarom.

Towards the end of the month, the husband and I finally decided to start making plans for him to travel here and apply for the Long Term Spouse Visa, which was long overdue. We had initially wanted to do this after our wedding ceremony in 2020. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and he got stuck in the Philippines. And then it was just one travel restriction after another. We felt like if we waited any longer, who knows what other thing the universe might throw at us – so we took the plunge.

Of course, travelling these days is no longer just about hopping onto a plane and flying to your destination. It took us months of planning and multiple rejections, running to the immigration and so on and so forth. In the end, it took us three months to have everything in place.

NOVEMBER

November passed by in a blur of work, eating out, exploring new local destinations like the World of Phalaenopsis in Ulu Yam, more work, and getting things into order for the husband’s travels in December.

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DECEMBER

And in the blink of an eye, here we are in December. The highlight of this month, and of the year, really, is that after nearly two years of separation, my husband has finally made it back to Malaysia. He will be here to apply for the LTSVP, which was delayed for so long.

It’s hard to describe in words how I feel – the sense of how much time we’ve lost in between, and the excitement that we’re finally going to make up for it, and build a life together. Of course, it’s not going to be easy, but the important thing is that we’re going to be around for each other; no longer through a screen, thousands of miles away.

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The earlier part of the month saw me visiting new places – a Thai wat, the new Don Don Donki store in PJ – and burying myself in work, so that time would pass by quicker until the day he arrived. I’ve never been a religious person, but I found myself praying to the universe that things would go smoothly, as it would be terrible for us to have our hopes up only to be dashed by another challenge being thrown our way.

But I’m happy to announce that the hubs arrived safely last week, and will be out from quarantine tomorrow. I will finally be able to see him after close to two years. I spent the last week almost in auto pilot, finishing up all my work for the current job before doing the handover, and also volunteering to help pack vegetarian food for victims of the recent flood.

The day has finally come.

So yeah. Year started off shitty, and there were more downs than ups, but all of it worked out in the end.

2022 is the year.

What about you? How was your 2021?

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Boozy Sweet Treats @ The Ice Cream Bar, Puchong

Dessert, or booze?

Why choose, when you can have both? Newly opened at Le Pavillion in Bandar Puteri Puchong, The Ice Cream Bar serves artisanal ice cream infused with alcohol, with boozy creations the likes of Rum & Raisin and Bailey’s Original Ice Cream Liqueur. This is the brand’s latest outlet, after successful stints in Hartamas, 1Utama, and Seapark.

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Interiors are cool and sophisticated, with a sleek black and white colour scheme, paired with high ceilings and lots of windows to give the space an airy feeling.

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Pick your poison: aside from the signatures mentioned above, they also carry flavours such as Smoked Cognac, Guinness Brownies, Kahlua Cheesecake, and more. For those who prefer non-alcoholic flavours, opt for choices such as Valrhona Chocolate or Vanilla.

PS: If the design/feel/flavours of The Ice Cream Bar remind you of homegrown artisanal ice cream brand, Inside Scoop, that’s because they are under the same company.

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You can have your scoop ice cream in cups, with cones, or on waffles. S and I went for the latter with three scoops of ice cream (RM27) : Whisky Cream, Popcorn Daiquiri, and their signature Rum & Raisin.

Now, I’m a bit of a teetotaler. I can’t hold my liquor well, and I can’t identify different kinds of liquor to save my life. So if you want my honest opinion: the ice cream tasted boozy. But they also tasted very similar to me. The Rum & Raisin had a distinctive flavour, but otherwise, all the flavours kind of blended together into one big hodgepodge of creamy alcoholic ice cream lol. That’s not to say it wasn’t good though; and I can see how people would enjoy this. It’s not like we have many boozy ice cream bars in Malaysia, so the concept is unique – that alone makes it worth a try.

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Bought a Mapled Churchill for the bro. I like that they put it in these little transparent cans: not only is the packaging adorable, it’s also easy to store and eat from.

THE ICE CREAM BAR (PUCHONG)

LPC GF 18, Block C, Le Pavillion, Jalan Puteri 7/13, Bandar Puteri, 47100 Puchong
Phone: 03-5878 4735

Website

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

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Largest Don Don Donki in Malaysia @ Tropicana Gardens Mall, Petaling Jaya

Earlier this year, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. It was very well received, with people queueing up for hours just to get into the shop on the first day. I visited the store a month after its opening (read about it here), and it was a great shopping experience, with lots of interesting things to see and buy.

Fast forward to December 2021, and Don Don Donki has opened its second store at Tropicana Gardens Mall, Petaling Jaya. Covering over 42,000 square feet and spanning two floors, this is also the largest Donki in the country. Plans are in the works for a dozen other Donkis, but in the meantime, let’s see what this outlet has in store!

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I came during a weekday, so there was no queue, and I was able to shop in peace without having to squeeze my way through crowded aisles.

The entrance to the shop is located on the first floor. You go up the escalator in the central area ,then make a U-turn to where Donki is. The signs are a bit confusing as they point to the far end of the ground floor, which is where the exit is.

Video here. Subscribe if you haven’t already!

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You’ll be greeted by CosmeDonki as soon as you enter the shop, which is a section that carries makeup, beauty, and wellness products. Not my thing, so I made a beeline for the food section next to it. This area has numerous dessert counters, with items such as souffle, pudding, jellies, mochi, sweet sando (sandwiches), basque cheesecakes served in cups, and more.

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Here, you’ll find Japanese condiments like bonito flakes and wasabi furikake.
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Onigiri with a unique packaging design! I assume it’s meant to be convenient, especially for salarymen on the go.
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We might not be able to travel right now due to restrictions, but you can still experience a taste of Japan, as Donki carries specialty items from the different prefectures.
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On this floor, you can choose from a wide variety of ready-to-eat meals, from sushi rolls and sashimi over rice, to fried gyoza, karaage (fried chicken), bento bowls, and more.

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To cater to Muslims, the store has a section carrying halal certified products.
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Aside from food, there is a section dedicated to sports and gym equipment, as well as hobbies and toys. Check out these adorable socks.

One thing I observed with this Donki outlet – they seem to be focused more on food. The Donki in KL has a wider selection of household products. But being a foodie, I’m not complaining! The aisles are also a little organised compared to Don Don Donki KL, in that they’re neatly sectioned according to category, so it makes it easier to shop. The design still has that characteristic Donki ‘feel’ though, with shelves piled high with products, loud and colourful posters and signages, and of course, their mascot Donpen.

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After buying your snacks or ready-to-eat meals, you can pay for them directly and enjoy the food at a dining area nearby. There’s more to explore downstairs, though, so this can be like a ‘pitstop’ to your shopping.

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Try your hand at a capsule machine!
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Just before the escalator is a section selling street food. I adore this concept as they’ve designed the stalls (yatai) to look like Japanese railway stations, with the signs at each stall displaying destinations like Tokyo and Osaka. Each stall also sells a street food that is famous from that region; for example Taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries with filling) for Tokyo, Takoyaki (octopus balls) for Osaka, and Tako Senbei (octopus crackers) for Kanagawa.

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On the ground floor, you’ll be directed past a section selling premium Japanese goods, such as handmade Ukiyoe soaps, frozen seafood from Hokkaido including giant hairy crabs and fat, juicy scallops, handmade crafts, teas, as well as kimonos.

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Also in this area is the kitchen, where you’ll be able to see through a glass window the staff prepare sushi and sashimi, to be sold at the store.

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You then exit from this small section and reenter through another entrance, which is where they have the fresh produce, such as vegetables, fruits, meat and seafood. Most of these are imported from Japan. Everything looks fresh and is beautifully displayed – but expect to pay higher-than-average prices, of course.

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Wagyu beef, thinly sliced for grilling or the hotpot.
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Of course, not to be missed is the fresh seafood section. Thick cuts of tuna, uni (sea urchin), salmon, tako (octopus) – you name it, they got it.

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Uni. Which I still haven’t tried to date, by the way, due to its expensive price tag.
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Sashimi cuts, complete with sauces for dipping.
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Fish roe
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Unagi (eel)
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Moving on from the fresh produce section, you’ll come to the snacks section selling dry goods, including snacks, ramen, biscuits, drinks, and more.

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Have you tried Ramune? I first had this carbonated drink in San Francisco’s Japantown, and the little glass ball in the bottle has always fascinated me. Apparently in the old days, before the invention of bottle caps, it was used to stopper the drink and prevent the carbon from escaping. In modern times, Ramune is a symbol of summer in Japan, where it is often enjoyed at festivals.

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Anime fans are not left out, as you’ll also find anime-themed merchandise here, such as these Demon Slayer-themed snacks.

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I was tickled to find the Sakeru Gummy candy, which was popularised by the hilarious series of ads featuring the Long Long Man character. And it was, indeed, true to the name, measuring 50cm. There was a short version too.

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More unusual products – giant serving of noodles
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A lot of thought goes into packaging and presentation when it comes to Japanese products. I, at least, feel tempted to buy (and keep) them just for their looks lol.

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After over an hour exploring the aisles, I finally settled on a couple of snacks, some chuuka idako (marinated baby octopus) and fried squid. Would have liked to get more, but my budget doesn’t allow for it. Check out was fast as they have multiple counters, and there are staff members to help you bag your purchases. But do note that they don’t provide plastic bags, so you’ll have to bring your own or buy their recyclable tote bags.

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The squid was a bit rubbery since it had been fried early in the day, but it was well seasoned. The octopus was excellent and came in a sizable portion, considering the price.

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And that was my trip to Don Don Donki Tropicana Gardens Mall! I actually enjoyed shopping here more than the KL outlet. Not only is it closer to where I stay, so I don’t have to brave KL traffic, they also have a larger section dedicated to food and snacks, which is what I prefer over household goods or toys anyway. Another plus point would be the organisation – it’s definitely more neatly organised than Donki KL.

To those planning a visit, I recommend coming early or on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Tropicana Gardens Mall is a good place to shop too, with lots to see.

DON DON DONKI (TROPICANA GARDENS MALL)

Lot CC-26, 27, 28 & Lot G-20, 20A, 21 Tropicana Gardens Mall 2A, Persiaran Surian, Tropicana Indah Petaling Jaya, 47810 Selangor

Open daily

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