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Why Tamarind Square in Cyberjaya Is Perfect For Photographers and Lovers of Architecture

Brutalist architecture is characterised by functional, ‘soulless’-looking buildings, which often incorporate raw concrete and massive, monolithic designs with rigid, block-like shapes. The style was especially popular in the Soviet Union and its former allied countries from the 1960s to 1980s. Over the years, brutalism fell out of favour due to its association with totalitarianism and its cold, unwelcoming appearance — but the style has been seeing a comeback in the last decade, albeit with softer features and fixtures.

Tamarind Square in Cyberjaya seems to be one of these places drawing inspiration from a hipper, more modern version of brutalism, and industrial architecture. Developed by Tujuan Gemilang, the commercial development was intended to promote a ‘tropical retail and office experience’, and is arranged in an 8-figure courtyard with a ring road circulating the premises.

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On their own, the buildings might have looked austere and clinical, but the impact is offset by beautifully landscaped plants. Here you will find curtains of green draped over the side of metal walkways and staircases, and a cooling stream runs through the centre of the courtyard, which is lined with shrubs.The greenery is in stark contrast to the square’s raw concrete floors, stone pillars and exposed brick. Personally, it gives me a feeling of an abandoned place reclaimed by nature — and it’s easy to feel you’ve been transported someplace else, especially when there aren’t many people around.

Walking tour here:

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Tamarind Square is spread across several blocks, with most of the shops concentrated on the lower floors of Block A. Aside from chic cafes and eateries, visitors will also find retail outlets selling clothing, eyewear and shops providing beauty and wellness services. The block is centred around a courtyard filled with plants and two-storey “stand-alone” shops. These are not connected to other shops within Block A, but can still be traversed via the ground floor and elevated walkways on the first floor. Pictured above is a shop called The Botanist (they serve artisan brewed coffee and handmade baos), which I’ve wanted to try for the longest time but unfortunately couldn’t on this particular visit. Other noteworthy cafes in the area include Herbs and Butter (Asian and Western fusion), Pastribella Bakeshop (cakes), Alcea Cafe (coffee spot) and Book Barter Cafe (they have book shelves where you can read while you sip on drinks).

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The layout of the place is such that you can round a corner and discover a ‘hidden’ nook, or staircases leading to your next adventure.

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The square is a popular place for photoshoots. During my visit, I counted no less than five couples, some with bridesmaids and best men in tow.
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Not all of the offices and retail spaces are occupied, which lends to the ‘abandoned’ vibe. But it’s good news for architectural photographers – you can basically take your time photographing and exploring without having to worry about crowds getting in your shot!

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Boardgame cafe
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I come to Tamarind Square mainly for BookXCess, which at 3,000 square metres, is the largest bookstore in Malaysia. Prior to the pandemic, it was also open 24 hours, so you could come for a spot of book-shopping if ever insomnia hits (is it just me?) Keeping to the theme, the store’s design is similarly industrial (it was apparently part of the car park — so you can see pillars with signs on them and yellow lines on the floor).

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Anddddddd self-control was defeated that day.

GETTING TO TAMARIND SQUARE CYBERJAYA

It’s best to drive or take a Grab, as public buses are few and far between, and do not stop directly at the Square. The nearest bus hub is the Cyberjaya Transport Terminal, 2 kilometres away. Driving, Tamarind Square is accessible via the MEX Highway from Kuala Lumpur, or if you’re coming from Puchong, the SKVE.

Tamarind Square, Cyberjaya

Tamarind Bldg Rd, Cyberjaya, 63000 Cyberjaya, Selangor

https://www.tamarindsq.com/

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Mud the Musical: The Story of Kuala Lumpur

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I went for the Escape the Fate concert in KL? Well, I was stuck in evening traffic in front of the old Panggung Bandaraya for a good half an hour, so there was plenty of time to look at the big MUD The Musical: The Story of Kuala Lumpur signs they had plastered all over the building. Turns out, the place houses the longest running musical in KL, which has been on for the past two years! How the actors don’t go crazy, singing the same songs every day, is beyond me. 😀

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Evelyn and I went to check it out over the weekend. The theatre is just next to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building facing Merdeka Square. Even if you’re not coming here for the musical, the building is a nice place to take photos. Opened in 1901 (making it well over a hundred years old!), its Mughal-inspired look features a unique carved facade, with brown bricks, white framed windows and a copper dome. Before it was converted into a performing arts centre, it was the first official administration office for the Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board. 

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The inside retains a European-colonial heritage, from the opulent chandelier to marble tiled floors ,  but with a distinctly local flavour. The stained glass windows, for example, have figures of Malay and Indian characters rather than the usual angels or saints. 
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Tickets are priced at RM50 for Malaysians, and RM80 for foreigners.

The theater is big and can easily seat up to 200 people. Sadly, during our visit, there were only 11 people .__.

Did a short video. Unlike other musicals, which prohibit photography and videography, they encourage it here so feel free to snap and take lots of pictures and vids! 🙂 (PS: 2021 edit: Apparently things have changed – my video on Youtube got a copyright strike from Enfiniti, the company that owns the production. Kind of a bummer that they said it was okay to film and upload, but then changed their policy later. Would have been nice to receive a message coz I would have taken it down, instead of getting a copyright strike immediately.) 

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The story is set in the 1880s, when Kuala Lumpur was nothing more than a small village. If you’re wondering about the title Mud, that’s because KL stands for ‘muddy confluence’ in Malay, being the central point where two rivers – Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang – converge together. Immigrant populations from all over Asia came with the promise of tin riches, and this is reflected in the diverse cast of characters.

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Mamat, Meng and Muthiah are the three central characters and childhood friends who came to KL in search of a better life. Through their tale, the audience is introduced to a host of other personalities, each with their own enduring stories. Mamat, newly married and expecting his first child, is the mail boy for the British administration, while Meng and Muthiah, who recently arrived from their villages, are searching for jobs. Muthiah, who was promised a job building the railway, searches in vain for ‘relatives’ whom he has paid a price for passage to KL.

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Meng, on the other hand, lands a job at the Ampang tin mine, run by a wealthy Chinese tycoon. But work is hard and troubles are afoot. The mines are dangerous, and they are raided often by rival factions as the Chinese triads in KL fight for power and influence.

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Meng and Mamat meet up again at the marketplace, where they find a disheveled looking Muthiah, adamant that his relatives will come to his rescue. Unable to face his friends, he runs away. Leaving him to cool his heels, Meng and Mamat adjourn to the village to celebrate the birth of Mamat’s child.

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The ‘kenduri’ scene, where all the characters gather for the celebration, gets points for audience interaction 🙂 They roped Evelyn and another member onto stage to ‘help’ out – Evelyn was given the task of stirring the communal wok 😀

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Meanwhile, Muthiah finds solace at a nearby temple. The backdrop, which first showed a stone statue of a goddess, eventually transformed into a real person and Muthiah starts dancing, seeking for spiritual guidance. This was one of my favourite parts of the show. Contemporary dance is difficult, but the actor who played Muthiah delivered it extremely well – fluid and full of expression. One could feel the character’s hopelessness and desperation in every movement.

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Tragedy strikes with The Great Fire of KL in 1881, where the entire town and its wooden houses was razed to the ground.

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Despondent villagers, resigned to their fate that they have lost their homes and belongings, the life they tried so hard to build.

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As if that wasn’t enough, later that same year, torrential rains caused a massive flooding in KL, resulting in more damage to property and crops.

The flooding scene (which I, unfortunately, didn’t manage to capture on video!) had a huge ‘wave’ crashing down onto the audience members – made from a large cloth tapestry that ran over the seats from one end of the hall to another. The effect was really good!

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At their wits end, the villagers almost pack up and leave… but of course, if they had, we wouldn’t have KL today, would we? 🙂 Persevering, they vow to continue rebuilding the town they have come to call home.

Credited with improving Kuala Lumpur is the British Resident, Frank Swettenham (Malaysia/then Malaya was under British rule, so the different states had an assigned BR, who oversaw stuff). After the flood and fire, he began the clean up of the streets, and stipulated that buildings should be made from brick and tile to make them less flammable. He also ordered wider streets to be built. This programme took about five years. The rich Chinese tycoon, Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, set up a brick industry to help rebuild KL, and the buildings were subsequently replaced with proper brick and tiles, but with Chinese carpentry and influences. This is why you’ll only find the eclectic ‘colonial shophouse’ architecture in Malaysia and Singapore.

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The final scene had the cast performing a very uplifting number dubbed Tomorrow Begins Today – dressed in costumes from all the different ethnic groups in Malaysia. They even had all of us go up on stage and dance the final number, before we took a group picture! 🙂

It was truly a fun and eye-opening experience, and I’m glad I went to check MUD out. The cast is excellent: from the way they perform, and how much heart and soul they put into it, you’d never guess this was probably their 502837 time performing. 🙂 The songs are good, although at times ,the dialogue and the Malaysian accent shines through, so some parts may be difficult to understand for foreign audiences not used to our local slang.

The props are also well done, like the cardboard ‘kampung house’ during the Kenduri scene, the umbrellas during the flooding scene, etc. Costumes are elaborately done and accurate.

It’s pretty sad that more people didn’t turn up for the show,despite it being a weekend. I bet there are some days where they only had one or two audience members (!) Such talent and quality should not be wasted. They really should look into better marketing, because prior to stumbling on the site while driving in KL, I had never heard of Mud KL.

The show runs twice daily at 3PM and 8.30PM. More info at mudkl.com

MUD KL : The Story of Kuala Lumpur

Panggung Bandaraya, Jalan Raja, Dataran Merdeka, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Phone: +603 2602 3335

Getting There 

By LRT: via Ampang or Kelana Jaya LRT line. Get off at Masjid Jamek station. The theatre is a 5min walk away.

Hop On Hop Off: Stop 17 at Dataran Merdeka

Driving: Parking at Dataran Merdeka Underground.

The Sekinchan Wishing Tree & Redang Beach

It’s been such a long time since our last family trip, so even though I had to wake up really early on a Sunday morning, it was worth it 🙂

Anyway, the fam and I went on a daytrip to Sekinchan, a small agricultural and fishing village on the far reaches of Selangor. It has become very popular among local tourists in recent years for its beautiful paddy fields. The village is a 1 1/2 hour drive from KL, and is only accessible by trunk roads. Although the trip is long, the scenic views of quaint Malay villages and small towns along the way make up for it.

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One of the attractions in the area is the Sekinchan Wishing Tree at Redang Beach. The place was featured in a Hong Kong TVB drama and has since become THE place for tourists to take photos. The tree itself is a beautiful sight, with hundreds, if not thousands of wishes written on red strips of cloth weighted down with two coins, then thrown over the branches.

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Just next to it is a simple wooden temple painted red,  where visitors can say prayers and get the wishing knots (or whatever you call them, idk). I’m guessing there’s a small donation to get the knot, but we didn’t get any coz it seemed like a waste of money lol.

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While you’re at it, snap a photo at the ‘I Love Sekinchan’ placard at the base of the tree.

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So many wishes and hopes. I’m sure a few of them have come true. 🙂 What would you wish for if you could throw a wish onto the Sekinchan Wishing Tree?

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Next to the big red tree are a couple of smaller ones and swings, made out of old chairs. I chill for a bit in a hammock underneath the shade. It was cool and breezy; I could have fallen asleep.

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Hammock view.

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Redang Beach is not pretty, if you compare it to places like Ya Nui Beach in Phuket. It’s small but there’s a certain, rustic charm about it. There was a man picking up discarded litter and rubbish from the beach. “Wasn’t that much before the tourists started pouring in,” he lamented when we went to pick shells. People, please, please be more responsible with your trash! A beach is not a garbage dump. If you want to visit a place, leave only footprints and take only memories (and photos).

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Speaking of shells, the beach is littered with them. They’re mostly white and grey, but there were a couple of really pretty ones.

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A rickety treehouse facing the beach.

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For those wanting some cheap produce, there are a few stalls here selling all manner of dried seafood, fermented pastes and snacks like prawn crackers.

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We left the beach to go hunt for food. On the way out, we passed by this congested dock, lined on both sides with wooden village houses.

 

 

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On the suggestion of a local, we stopped by a place called Cha Po Tion. It’s next to a Thai restaurant and can be hard to find coz the signboard is obscured by a tree. The restaurant was packed with customers even though it was only 11am, so we were expecting some good food…

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We were sadly disappointed. We initially wanted squid, but were told that they had run out (at 11am?).  Service was very slow, and we waited a good 45 minutes for food to come.

Mi got so pissed off she started eating plain rice because her gastric was giving her problems. When the food finally arrived, they messed up our order (gave us Kam Heong Shrimp instead of Oyster Sauce Shrimp) and completely forgot another dish (Kam Heong Lala). We were famished by then so we just dug in with no objections. Who knows how long it would take for them to cook up a fresh batch ?

The Hung Joe (red snapper) (RM30) was almost tasteless and the meat was not fresh. Good fish should have a smooth texture that falls off with each spoonful, but this was flaky and felt dry on the tongue, even with all that sauce. You know you’re in deep shit when the fish you serve at a seafood restaurant in a fishing village isn’t fresh.

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The Kam Heong Shrimp (RM16) was slightly better, but they were very stingy on the shrimps, which were miniscule in size, and the dish was mostly stir-fried onions and tomatoes. I would not recommend coming here, despite what the locals say…. or maybe we were just unlucky that we were there on a busy weekend and quality control went down. There are many reviews online which swear by this place.

There is another restaurant further down which is endorsed by a famous celebrity food show host but the prices are more expensive.

CHA PO TION

Jalan Besar Bagan,

Bagan, Sekinchan, 45400, Sekinchan,

Selangor, Malaysia

Opens at 8am

More of Sekinchan to come!