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

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

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

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

5.30 AM. 

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

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

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

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

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7.30 AM 

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

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

8.30AM 

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

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

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Taking photos while waiting for the groom to arrive.

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

8.45AM 

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

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

9 A.M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 AM

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

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

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

10.15AM 

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

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

10.30AM 

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

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

11.15AM 

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

11.45 AM 

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

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

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

1PM 

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

6.30 PM 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Herbal soup with abalone.

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Iberico pork ribs. These were excellent!

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Fried shrimp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30-Day Writing Challenge Day 13 : A Memorable Stranger

13. A Memorable Stranger

stranger
/ˈstreɪn(d)ʒə/
noun
  1. a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar.

It was many years ago when I first watched Wong Fu Production’s Youtube short, Strangers Again which chronicles the stages of a relationship. From being strangers gradually trying to get to know each other, getting into a relationship, going through a honeymoon phase where everything is sweet and lovey-dovey, misunderstandings, fights and the inability to compromise or reconcile differences, and finally breaking up – becoming strangers, again.

I spent the better part of five years with someone from high school. We had been friends since we were 16, and got together when we were 17.  We even went to the same college for awhile, and I recall fondly times where we’d ride the train to college, sometimes waiting for hours at the mall for the other to finish their classes, just so we could ride home together. Things were sweet for awhile, but as it goes, things played out just like in Strangers, Again. It wasn’t any one person’s fault – it was just that we were young, naive and had idealistic notions about love.

Perhaps the idea is best encapsulated by this nugget of wisdom from Zendaya (young but very talented and mature, unlike many of her contemporaries in Hollywood):

“I’m so anti being in a committed relationship when you’re young and people are learning and growing, because when people are young, they make bad decisions sometimes because they don’t know any better. It doesn’t mean they don’t know the difference between right and wrong—it just means that they’re still in the experimental phase in their life where they haven’t made the right decisions yet…it’s very hard to be in a relationship when the both of you are still figuring out life. You cannot change anybody. You cannot make someone grow up faster than they’re supposed to.”

 

We were both at a phase where we were just discovering the world and the best people and environments to surround ourselves with  – and our ideals and visions for the future were just too different at the time. While we broke up on relatively good terms, it felt awkward. How do you become friends again with someone whom you have been so intimate with and who knows almost every facet of your life, for five years? Friends who knew us were pretty appalled, saying it was a shame and that I wasted five years of my life and youth. That’s just the thing though – did I want to waste another five? I’ve always been of the belief that if things don’t work out even when you’ve already exhausted all avenues, perhaps it’s time to move on.

These days, we’re still ‘friends’ on social media, although I haven’t seen him for the good part of six years, nor have we spoken much other than sporadically. Of course, having spent so much time together in our developmental years, it’s hard not to recall things from the past. All things considered, we had a good run, and our experiences together helped shaped me into the person I am today. Strangers? Yes. Memorable? Definitely.

 

 

30-Day Writing Challenge: Day 12 – Friendships

12. Friendships 

Friendships come easy to some people. It’s fascinating how some people just have the gift of the gab for approaching complete strangers and somehow leaving with numbers, smiles and promises to catch up over drinks someday.

I, on the other hand, have struggled with this since high school. Being bullied, ostracised and made to feel like I never belonged, I am now somewhat guarded and reserved in person, and it takes time for me to warm up to people. In an extrovert’s world where everything is about whom you know and how well you know ’em, this can be a disadvantage (especially in a field like lifestyle journalism!).

As we get older and our time is occupied by things like family and commitments, it is natural for some friends to simply … drift apart. I’ve never been a social butterfly with a big group of friends, but the few I have kept, I treasure. I have also learnt that time is not always a determinant for good friendships, and that relationships can be fluid. I met one of my closest friends at my last workplace, where we were colleagues. Another close friend I have known since I was 13, but only became really close after high school, and one I was close to in high school but has since drifted apart. There’s also my ‘bro’ who migrated to the States (have not seen him for a decade), but still calls to wish me Happy Birthday every year. We don’t talk much, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off – it’s as if nothing has changed.

There was a time where I expected my friends to be perfect friends, which they are, of course, not. Nobody is. Even lovers fight and disagree, what more friends? One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to let go of the hurt and betrayal I’ve carried and not project it onto my friendships. If all else fails, live, let go and wish them all the best.

Life’s too short for regrets.

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30-Day Writing Challenge – Day 11: An Adventure In The Kitchen

11. An Adventure In The Kitchen

First things first: I am not much of a cook.

When I was younger, my mother ruled the kitchen with an iron-fist, and would often shoo me out because I wasn’t cutting something right or wasn’t quick enough to take the pan off the heat, etc. Over the years, my interest waned, and while she did eventually try to get me to cook, I was completely disinterested by then. There’s also a complicated food dynamic in my household; they don’t eat what I eat, and I can’t feel bothered to cook something that I don’t like (because why the effort, then?). Living alone in the UK, I had more freedom to experiment, but my cooking was still basic – edible (occasionally tasty) but not exactly 5-star fare.

A couple of years ago when my ex came to visit me from the States, he thought of impressing my folks with what I couldn’t do – cook a nice meal. My ex is not a bad cook, and I was touched that he was expending such effort. On the menu was pork adobo, spaghetti and fruit salad. I was to assist.

Shopping for ingredients was an adventure in itself, because many of the items he was used to were not available in Malaysia, or were called by a different name so it was difficult to look for them. We couldn’t find bayleaf, so we had to leave that out of the adobo (although he insisted that it wasn’t true adobo if there wasn’t bayleaf), and for the spaghetti he requested ‘tomato sauce’.

Now this was the funniest part. To Malaysians (myself included), tomato sauce = ketchup and not the canned tomato sauce type Westerners use for pasta. Mistaking this (and me not realising), we ended up putting ketchup in our spaghetti! Of course it was super sweet and almost inedible, but all else considering, having 2/3 dishes right was not too bad.

While we might not have broken up on good terms, this kitchen adventure has stuck with me because they were some of the good moments in our relationship. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and if you aren’t able to look past the bitterness after a breakup, I think you’d carry a lot of resentment and hate in your heart. Which is why despite going our separate ways, I look back on this fondly.

An Open Letter To My Boyfriend: 17 Reasons I Love You

PS: I wanted to do one for every day we’ve been together but 508 was just too many, so I took the lazy way out and did one for each month instead. 😛

Dear Neil,

1 ) You make me laugh like no one else does. Except maybe Russell Peters, but I have to pay to watch his show lol. Granted, you always say I’m the only one who would laugh at your lame jokes, so it’s proven that we’re made for each other.

2) You tell me that I’m beautiful everyday. Without fail, since day one. Even on days when I feel like a potato. ❤

3 ) You look out for me. It’s just the little things that you do which you might not have realised. Like grabbing my hand and leading me across the road, or letting me walk on the inside of the pavement when we’re on the street. Or stopping for a rest when you notice I’m tired from walking.

4) You’re nakakagigil. You eliminate my need for blushers. I get naturally pink cheeks from you constantly pinching me.

5 ) Your belly. AKA your ultimate weapon to stop me from crying coz I can’t help but laugh when I see it lol.

6 ) You’re attractive. And we will have beautiful bebes.

7) You love food. If you didn’t, it’d be a deal breaker.

8) We share a lot in common. Like our mutual dislike for idiots.

9) Your indomitable spirit. Things may get you down, but you always pick yourself up and start again. It’s something I really admire in you.

10) You think for the future: one with both of us in it. It’s touching to know that you have to make sacrifices or decisions that are not always the best for you, but you do it anyway because you’re thinking of the long term, for us.

11) You’re patient with my bullshit. Includes the (many) times I have blown my top when I was PMS-ing or being unreasonable.

12) You give up things for me. Even though you’re thrifty, you’re willing to spend money to buy me nice things if it makes me happy.

13) How you like to watch teleseryes and K-dramas. Tender boyo at heart.

14) You’re romantic. Surprised I’m not diabetic yet with all the sweet words and gestures you shower me with.

15) You are my shoulder to cry on. When I’m sad or feeling down, I can count on you to listen to my problems and comfort me. Even if it’s the middle of the night and I wake you up from your sleep.

16) You let me be me, and more. I’m completely comfortable in being my crazy, random self with you, whilst inspiring me to be the best that I can be.

17) Just because. This is not because I ran out of reasons to write about. Nope.

Here’s to a lifetime of Valentine’s with you. ❤ 

 

I Got Tatted

Yep.

The quintessential goodie-two-shoes Asian daughter, ie me, got tatted.

It happened about a month ago. It wasn’t a rash decision or a whim, because I’ve been thinking to get one ever since college, and I finally did just shy of my 25th birthday.

Of course, it didn’t go down well with my traditional Chinese parents. People who get tatted, in their books, are either

  • a) Hooligans/Gangsters/Thugs
  • b) Drug dealers/drug addicts
  • c) Stupid

To a lot of young people, getting a tattoo might be something ‘cool’. I certainly thought of it that way when I was younger. But as I grew older, my perceptions changed.  Tatts are going to be a part of you, forever. And to many, it marks something important in life – an event, a memory, a lesson that they want to remember.

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I’ve written about this before, but I’ve always struggled with my ‘duties’ as a Traditional Asian Daughter.

I was raised in a (relatively) conservative household, where daughters are expected to follow and obey. I did just that, from a young age – until one day, I discovered that I was very unhappy with who I was. I had my own ideals, and I wanted to follow them. It was all very confusing : I respect and love my parents a lot, but I couldn’t be who they wanted me to be. I was afraid of disappointing them, but I resented myself for not having the courage to do what I thought would make me happy.

To them, I was an awkward and rebellious child that had to be protected and forced to do things that I might not agree with for my own good. They simply wanted me to conform, to be filial, to be what they had laid out for me.

I understand where they’re coming from. They truly believe that this is the way to keep me safe and happy. But there will come a day when they have to let go of the reins. I have to learn to make my own mistakes, fall down and cry, then get up again. I don’t love them any less, but I have to find my own way in life.

My tattoo is an embodiment of all those feelings. It was symbolic, a way of making a decision I felt was best for me.

Since the very beginning, I’ve always wanted a Lotus flower, because they’re beautiful and bloom even in the harshest, muddiest environments. It was a way of reminding myself that I should always persevere and hold on to hope even in the darkest of times. The Lotus is also Buddha’s vessel, so I felt it was appropriate.  I was raised a Buddhist, and although I’m not very religious, many of his teachings about  life resonates with how I’d like to lead my own life, and I try to follow them as best as I can.

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I got tatted at Michelle’s (ex-colleague) boyfriend’s tattoo parlour. It’s called Exodus and they just shifted in to their new place last month at Damansara Perdana. I had the honour of being the second person to be tatted at the studio on their re-opening day, because Michelle beat me to it. ha

The studio was very cool looking, with pop art paintings done by the artist himself. The walls are glass so virtually anyone can look inside while you’re doing your tatt. There is a shade for privacy but since there weren’t many people walking around and it wasn’t like I was doing a tattoo on my boob anyway…

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The design was simple, so it took less than 30mins.

Did it hurt? 

I’d say my tolerance to pain is high, but yes, it hurt like a bitch. It felt like a cat was constantly scratching on my back in one long motion with it’s claw. We didn’t stop for breaks, since he said it was gonna hurt more that way. Michelle helped by distracting me with small talk lol. I was thankful that it was done and over quickly!

The tattoo bled for a couple of hours so I had to constantly wipe it off with some wet tissue. It didn’t actually hurt after the tattoo was done except for a light, stinging sensation. The real hell came after a week, when the skin started peeling and itching. I couldn’t scratch it lest it disfigured the design so I was just constantly tapping it lightly, willing the itch to go away. It was maddening.

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It has been over a month and every time I turn back to look in the mirror, I feel a swell of pride. I’ve never been happier with how it turned out. I’ve never regretted anything in life. And this will not be one of them.All the experiences I’ve been through, pleasant or unpleasant, have made me who I am today. No matter how my physical appearance changes, those who know me know that I’m still the same person. With or without a tatt.

Of Speed Dating and Random Food Posts

Ever been to a speed dating event? It has become increasingly popular these days, coz people have no time to meet other people outside of work, and when they do, they want it to be fast. The whole idea of speed dating is to engage in short conversations that (usually) lasts less than five minutes. If you like the other party, you can always arrange for drinks after the meetup.

I imagine awkwardness, coz I’ve never been good at making small talk 😀

Last weekend, I got to go and see for myself how these sessions go. Not as a participant though – it was for work, lol. The event was held at Parkamaya, Farenheit 88 KL. For those who haven’t been here before, it’s a cool spot with lots of K and J-pop inspired fashion items.

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Got free coffee, cakes and sandwiches, courtesy of Coffee Stain. The Machiatto Latte was pretty good, but their Iced Chocolate was diluted and tasted like regular powdered chocolate drinks. Well I guess coz it’s free…

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OOTD: Boots, scarf and long sleeved dress from H&M; tights from Primark UK and beanie from boyfie in California. Bag from Roxy.

 

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I made a new acquaintance at the event! Her name is Choy Peng and she’s a regular at all these fun events at Parkamaya and stuff. She blogs at choypengism.blogspot.com, if anyone wants to check out her writing.

CP told me she has been to speed dating events before, and ‘you’d be surprisd by the people you meet’ – including insurance agents, real estate brokers and salesmen who try to sell you stuff while you’re supposed to be getting to know each other. 😀 So desperate meh…

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The couples took turns asking each other questions for five minutes each time, then they had a question and answer session for the chance to win a dinner date. There was also a Miss and Mr Congeniality contest, whereby all the participants had to put stickers behind the guy/girl they like. The one with the most wins. Ps: Purely my opinion, but I think looks DO play a part in this respect. The winners were relatively good looking. But I also noticed that a charming, suave personality helps, coz some guys who weren’t that good looking received lots of heart stickers.

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And then I went.. window shopping! 😀

It’s not often I go to KL coz I hate the traffic and the parking here, so Must. Spend. Time. Shopping.

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Dinner at Fish&CO, my favourite fish N Chip chain restaurant. The one at Pavilion KL serves REALLY good salt and pepper squid. It was so springy and fresh i dont even. My expression when I first chomped on that chewy ring was literally ;_____;.

I have searched long and hard for a place that serves such good squid. And I have finally found it. It is seasoned just right, without being too salty, and the texture is perfect. The hardest part about cooking squid is getting the bouncy, ‘fresh seafood’ texture right. This absolutely nailed it.

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On the other hand, the New York fish n chips was a disappointment. The fish was soggy and overcooked, the meat was soft and spongy. Well I guess you can’t have everything…

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Ending the post with a random picture of KFC lunch. OMG CHEESE SAUCE.

Til next post!