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Malaysian Neighbourhood: A Photo Series

I’m back!

I know, I haven’t updated for close to a month now. Being cooped up at home is getting stressful, even for shut-ins like me who can go for long periods of time without human interaction lol. Even embroidering (hobby I picked up earlier this year) has lost its spark.

For some reason, I can’t seem to get out of this state of languishment. I dread having to submit work these days, despite having the luxury of working from home. Also I had a COVID scare a couple of weeks ago; tested negative and recovered from the flu, but ever since then I’ve been having trouble breathing / a feeling of tightness in the chest. The doc says it could be GERD, but it could also be anxiety.

I feel slightly better this past week, so I’ve been going for walks around the neighbourhood, just to get out of the house and get some fresh air. It’s funny how being deprived of the basic freedom of going out without worry, changes the way you see things. Every leaf seemes greener, and I notice tiny details, on shrubs and flowers and on the ground, that I would never have paid attention to before. It’s true what they say about not knowing what you have until it’s gone.

Here are some photos from my walkabouts. Enjoy!

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The park near my home is small but pretty. It hasn’t been well kept so there are a lot of leaves and branches strewn around, but it’s still a good place to go jogging. But if you’re a mosquito magnet like me, don’t go in the evenings. Alternatively slather on some repellent.
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It’s mango season. I never noticed how many houses in my neighbourhood have mango trees.
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Also papayas

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Bougainvilleas are also called ‘paper flowers’ (bunga kertas) in Malay because of their thin petals.
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There’s a house a street away from where I live that has this beautiful garden in front, and it’s always bursting with blooms.
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Ixora, known locally as bunga jenjarum (needle flower). When we were kids, my brother and I often chained the flowers together to make garlands.
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Yellow alamanda

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A neighbourhood tuxedo meow in the grass. Despite its grumpy look, it was actually very friendly and allowed me pats.
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My parents have been into gardening these days.

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Notices prohibiting people from going to the adjacent neighbourhood.

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The Malaysian national flower, Bunga Raya (hibiscus).

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Hope you enjoyed this photo series!

2021 is coming to a close; I feel like I haven’t even processed 2020 yet lol.

Hope you’re all doing okay, wherever you are.

Morning Walk @ Bandar Seri Botani ECO Park, Ipoh

The first night we were in Ipoh for the Chinese New Year, I barely got any sleep. The fam and I were sharing a room and the Pops was performing a solo symphony (of snores). That, and I’m the type that can’t fall asleep easily when it’s not my own bed (no matter how comfy it is).

At 4AM, I finally gave up and tried to catch some shut eye on the couch in the living room. My aunt and uncle got up at 6AM so I had a good hour or so of sleep. Not a good start to the new year lmao.

The plus side? I got this incredible view of the sun rising from behind the limestone hills.

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Since I was up early, the cous asked if I’d like to go for a jog at the nearby Bandar Seri Botani Ecopark. Sun was fully up by the time we got to the place, and despite being a public holiday, there were quite a lot of joggers around. Now that’s dedication to the fitness routine!

The park is managed by the property developer of the residences, but open to the public. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful and well maintained it was – clean jogging paths, beautiful trees, adequate shade and a lake. They even had a couple of lanterns decorating the trees for CNY.

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Met some doggos. They didn’t have leashes on their collars, so the masters were probably jogging. The dogs were very friendly and a sweet black one even let me pet her.

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GOOD GIRL SILKY COAT SOFT AND FLUFFY

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The jogging path runs around a nice lake with a mirror-like effect. There are fishes that you can feed in it. Fishing, though, is not allowed.

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As we passed by a bridge crossing the lake, I spotted this beautiful tree with pink blooms that looked almost like clusters of sakura. That + the lake view made it look like it was somewhere in Japan or Taiwan.

I waited years for the guy in the red to leave so I could get a clear shot but he wouldn’t so yeah.

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The jogging path covers some 1.5 kilometres. There are also small outdoor gym facilities and playgrounds for the kids.

 

 

Visiting Kenroku-En: One of Japan’s Three Most Beautiful Landscaped Gardens

Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture is relatively unknown among foreign tourists – perhaps due to it being off the beaten path of the Shinkansen (bullet train) – but the place is a popular destination for domestic travelers, and for good reason. If you’re looking for well-preserved examples of art, culture and history from Japan’s feudal era, Kanazawa has, perhaps, one of the best you’ll find in Japan.

Departing from Nagoya in the early morning, we arrive at the modern-looking JR Kanazawa Station an hour later. It was a rainy day – not surprising, since the city is known as the ‘Seattle of Japan’.

Part modern metropolis, part ancient capital, the city is an interesting blend of old and new, as seen from the giant wooden archway at the station’s entrance that stands in stark contrast to the place’s squeaky clean tiled floors, glass and steel railings and concrete facade. Known as a cultural and artistic hub, the city has a rich history that dates back hundreds of years, and was lucky enough to escape bombings during World War II. This makes Kanazawa the best place to see Edo-era buildings in their original form.

After dropping our items off at the hotel, our first stop for the day was Kanazawa Castle. 

* Since it was raining I had to keep my DSLR in the bag most of the time. The photos I took with my phone weren’t too good so here are some from the Japan National Tourism Organisation. Photos watermarked are my own. 

credit: Japan National Tourism Organisation

Kanazawa Castle was built in the 16th century as the homebase of Maeda Toshiie, a local daimyo (ruling warlord of a district). Japan’s feudal era was characterised by war and military insecurity, so it was natural for Toshiie to construct a castle town with which he could defend himself. As a result, nobles and samurais flocked to the place, as did the merchants, blacksmiths, carpenters, entertainers and geishas. Wars and several fires ravished the castle, resulting in its destruction in the 19th century, but the building has since been restored to some measure of its former glory.

A unique feature of the building’s architecture is its white-tiled roofs, said to be made from lead which could be melted down in times of war to make bullets.

Credit: Japan National Tourism Organisation

We skipped a tour of the castle and proceeded to the adjoining park instead, which is almost as old as the original castle itself. Kenroku-en, or the ‘Garden of Six Attributes’, is widely considered as one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens in Japan, so called because it combines the six qualities that make up a perfect garden: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views.

Spanning over 11.4 hectares, the garden is home to over 8,000 trees from 183 species of plants, with artificial ponds and streams found throughout the grounds. Look out for the unique two-legged lantern called a Kotojitoro (above, right) which has become a symbol of the gardens.

credit: Japan National Tourism Organisation

Since I was visiting in summer, the trees and plants were a bright, verdant green, bursting with colour and life. It is said that a visit to the Kenroku-en throughout the seasons offers a different experience each time: in spring, cherry blossoms abound, in autumn the leaves turn to vivid gold, red and yellow, while winter sees the trees tied down with long wooden contraptions to keep their shape and protect them from heavy snow.

The gentle patter of rain subsided halfway through our park tour, although the sky remained grey and overcast – a pity, since the place would have otherwise made great photos. Still beautiful though. I can imagine the lords and ladies of old in their fancy kimonos strolling through the bridges and walkways before settling down to a nice warm tea whilst taking in the views.

Some not so nice photos from my phone.

We spotted the ‘oldest fountain in Japan’!  It’s not that impressive at only 3.5m high, but considering that people in the olden days did not have the technology we have today, this was quite a feat. The spurting water was achieved by applying natural water pressure.

One of my favourite spots, which had an ‘island’ in the centre of a pond. I thought it looked rather like a turtle in the water with trees sprouting from its back.

One can easily spend the whole morning walking through the place. Not sure on good days when its sunny, but we almost had the whole garden to ourselves! It was serene and quiet.

Lunch was at a restaurant called Miyoshian, replete with low dining tables, tatami mats and sliding partitions for privacy. Ordered soba noodles again (but hot this time) with chicken in a creamy sauce on top. It also came served with a boiled prawn, sweet egg roll (tamago) and condiments.

GETTING TO KENROKUEN/KANAZAWA CASTLE PARK 

Board the tourist oriented Kanazawa Loop Bus and stop at numbers LL9 and RL8. The Kenrokuen Shuttle Bus stops at number S8. It costs approximately 200yen and takes 20 minutes. Alternatively, there are Hokutetsu buses that run between Kanazawa Station and Kenrokuen, which takes 15 minutes and 200 yen one way.

Entrance fee to Kenrokuen: 300 yen (RM11)

Opening hours:

  • 7AM-6PM (March to October 15)
  • 8AM – 5PM (October 16 – February)

 

Shinshe Lavender Cottage, Taichung – Not for Singles

It took me awhile to find out what this place is called. Tourism in Taiwan caters mostly to an Asian crowd (you’ll see a lot of domestic holiday-goers, Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese, Japanese and Koreans) and as such, it was hard to find English signs and place names. My cousin, who organised our trip there, simply told me this was ‘the love garden’ and that didn’t turn up anything on the search engine lol.

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Shinshe Lavender Cottage is about an hour’s drive away from Taichung City and a tranquil spot to chill. While it’s not a bad place, if I had been planning the trip, I wouldn’t choose this as a spot – not only is it out of the way, the ticket is overpriced and it’s a typical tourist trap, especially for couples. If you’re single, I suggest you skip this coz there’s literally nothing you can do without a constant reminder of your single-dom. lol.

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Trekking up to the garden area, which is on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside. Trees and shrubs line the pathway, which has love quotes embedded into it at intervals, as well as stone displays with poetry and more quotes (all in Mandarin, of course).

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The garden was cute, but not very impressive. There were several European-style ‘cottages’, housing souvenir shops and cafes. Like many tourist places in Taiwan, the price of the admission ticket includes a voucher to spend, so they are essentially forcing you to buy stuff lol. I got a keychain and some lavender-scented pouches.

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Another souvenir shop selling overpriced necklaces, brooches and silver jewellery to gift to your girlfriend (or boyfriend).

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Wooden spoons which you can get from the workshop. They even throw in calligraphy/writing services for free. Couples write their wishes on to the spoons and hang them up on the hedge, like love locks.

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A good place to drop on your knees and… tie your shoelaces?

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Not a real piano.

There were actually lots of couple props, ie hedges cut into heart shapes, hanging frames with love quotes, kissing cutouts, etc. which were all a little too sickly sweet for my taste lol so I didn’t put any pictures up here.

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The main courtyard with a cafe and a fountain.

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Personally, Shinshe was not one of my favourites spots, but apparently they have a very nice lavender field in spring and summer so you might want to time your visit properly. 🙂

No. 20, Zhongxing St, Xinshe District, Taichung City, Taiwan 426
Opening hours: 10:30AM–6:30PM

Bukit Jalil Recreation Park, Kuala Lumpur

Hey guys! Sorry for the lack of updates lately – I’ve been busy with real life. Blogging is like a drug to me, so I was legit getting withdrawal symptoms, thinking of all the posts waiting to be written lol.

But I digress.

So last weekend, in a fit of gungho-ness, C and I woke up early and got our asses to the Bukit Jalil Recreation Park for a morning jog. I haven’t been back here for a long time – I think since my college days – but was pleasantly surprised to find that the place is still popular with the local crowd. Guess Malaysians aren’t that lazy after all, even if we are the fattest in Southeast Asia. 😛

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Headsup:  the park is huge with slope-y terrain, so you’ll definitely get a good workout. It is also divided into several sections and has gym equipment, although not all these are well-maintained. There are loads of shady trees and the pathways are paved, but the ‘lake’, with its pool of stagnant water, needs to be cleaned.

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Even if you’re not jogging, still a nice place for a stroll.

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C doing the pushups. Power woo.

PS I never used to be able to do pushups from the floor. Now I can. Like, five. #stillachievement #sowow

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Back then, one of my favourite sections in the park is the ‘Wonders of the World’, which has small enclaves made to look like structures from different parts of the world. Stuff isn’t as well-kept now but it’s still a nice place to take photos in between your jogging session.

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Greece/Rome or some European-inspired place.

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Mini Holland, complete with wooden windmill.

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The Japanese garden with bamboo plants.

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Chinese garden, with a wall made to look like the traditional types you find in periodical dramas, a gazebo with pointy roof edges. They also have a couple of Fu-dog statues in there.

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A garden in ‘Iran’. The tiles are pretty but need a good scrubbing, and the pool seriously needs to be cleaned coz the water in it was black ._.

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The section for Thailand has a golden gazebo with a pointy roof.

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Last but not least, the ‘Peru’ garden, made to look like an ancient temple structure. I distinctly remember this because as a child, when the park was first opened, my brother and I liked to climb up to the very top and pretend we were explorers. ha !

All in all, Bukit Jalil Recreation Park is a nice place for families and those looking for a good safe spot to jog, since there are many joggers around (but not to the point that it gets crowded). Parking can be quite difficult if you come late though so come early to get the best spot.

BUKIT JALIL RECREATION PARK 

Jalan 13/155c, Bukit Jalil, 57000 Kuala Lumpur,

Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Open during daylight hours: 7am-8pm

River and Water Conservation @ Lembah Kiara, TTDI Kuala Lumpur

MANY of my health-conscious and productive, early-rising friends can usually be found jogging or hiking on weekends.

Me? More likely to be at home, under the covers at 10am.

I like working on weekends because my bosses aren’t around and we can just….chill. But there are days when the assignments happen early in the morning.

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So: 8am, clear, beautiful Saturday morning; one sleepy me walking into 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.

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Anyway, 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.

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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.

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Good thing it was shady.

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

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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.

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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).

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Someone meditating at the closed off waterfall feature.

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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.

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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.

Travelogue Penang: Penang Botanic Gardens

Traversing the Penang Botanic Gardens is like a walk in the park…not.

Exploring the place requires lots of stamina and sunscreen. It’s location is far out from the rest of the attractions in Penang, but if you like nature, it is worth a visit.

Not to be confused with the Penang National Park, the Botanic Gardens is the largest city park in Penang and was founded in 1884 as part of the wider research of the Singapore Botanic Gardens (both Penang and Singapore were under British rule then). It was originally established to conduct research and development of plants from around the world for commercial purposes. Back then it was not open to the public, and rare plants were kept under lock and key. Since there is a big waterfall cascading down towards a nearby river, the park is sometimes known as the Waterfall gardens.

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Other than that the place was clean and quiet (on a weekday), with some tourists taking the buggies rather than hike up the sloping hills under the burning sun. The main paths were well paved, while the more adventurous can opt for the smaller, hidden paths among the trees which lead up to the jungle. Surrounded by green hills, the place is a tranquil retreat from the city.

How I wish Malaysia had nice weather like in the UK, where walking through parks is a joy. One could spend all day sitting on the grass during summer and not turn out like toast.

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We wanted to visit the famous waterfalls; unfortunately they were closed for a photoshoot, wut.  I felt a heatstroke coming on, so we had to rest at a gazebo and take some pictures.

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There are monkeys in the park, but I think they were hiding from the heat as well. All we saw was a large monitor lizard running across the road, and butterflies darting in between flowers.

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There were a couple of greenhouses and orchid gardens within, but I really couldn’t take how hot and sunny it was (over 40C, I think!) and we left after just one round around the park. Took a bus to the air conditioned haven of the Gurney Plaza shopping mall (hallelujah !)

GETTING THERE 

Rapid Penang Bus 10 takes travelers from Weld Quay and goes through many attractions in Georgetown, before ending at the Penang Botanic Gardens.

Entrance is free.

Opening hours: 5AM – 8PM

Phone: 04-226 4401