When Nations Mourn and How the Media Either Helps or Gets in the Way

First written on July 31, 2014 but I decided to just actually finish it today. Also publishing this weeks after the incident to avoid being insensitive:

I’ve been putting off writing about things that caught my eye on the news the past couple of weeks so as to avoid tackling anything depressive.

But after weeks of not seeing anything other than Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, seeing images of people being hurt on both sides, after the several plane crashes within the same week, and catching a report on the TV showing a parade of hearses in the Netherlands carrying the bodies of those that died at the MH17 crash, I found myself scribbling my thoughts on random pieces of paper – the back pages of my planner, grocery lists, and even some receipts.

How can you not feel sad about it?

It’s just purely heartbreaking.

I was putting it off but I knew I had to sit down and write something about it – as what I would’ve done if I were back in Manila. It would have been for work and most likely with a political angle but it was getting it off my chest all the same.

This is not about Israel or Gaza (my husband and I have already been spending so much time during meals discussing the issue and we’ve both felt the sensitivity and emotion that comes with it that I guess it is best to avoid it at this point). This isn’t even about my heartbreak over the Chibok girls – something that I’ve been harbouring for a while now. Nor is this about Joseph Kony or who’s to blame over the MH17 crash.

After all, I promised my husband I won’t write anything political anymore so that I don’t get us in trouble ;) (We’ve been keeping my ‘scoops’ and my crazy opinions to ourselves as healthy discussions for meal times).

It’s about how people, as a nation, mourn.

In the Philippines, typhoons are expected from June till late in the year. We prepare, we try our best to minimise the casualties every time the weather centre reports that ‘another one’ is yet to come. Our lives and perceptions on typhoons changed in 2009 when Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) damaged Metro Manila and its neighbouring provinces. High death tolls, 2-storey houses completely submerged, people homeless. We thought we’ve seen the worst.

Along came Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013. Winds at 350kph, thousands homeless, infrastructure heavily damaged, over 6 thousand people dead.

On both times (and in several other tragedies), our country mourned. People prayed, differences were set aside and the whole nation (and even the world) came together to give the victims help and expressions of solidarity.

A couple of weeks ago, I accompanied my husband to an inter-faith gathering for the people that died in the MH17 crash as well as those people on board the lost MH370 plane. It was held at the Malaysia Airlines Academy in Kelana Jaya. Quite a long way from our place but I told my husband that I wanted to come along, pay my respects, and see representatives of different religions come together.

The entrance to the Malaysia Airlines Academy in Kelana Jaya

Diplomats, public officials, families of the victims, and employees of Malaysia Airlines were present to pay their respects. The transport minister came as well. And so did the media.

What was supposed to be a solemn gathering where families and friends of the victims as well as employees of the ill-fated airline company could pay their respects to those that lost their lives was mildly disrupted by the camera flashes, the noisy chatter, and the standing and constant moving around of the cameramen and the photographers trying to get a shot of the transport minister and the ambassadors who were praying. It irked me and made me spend a couple of minutes in my seat trying to remember if I was ever that disrespectful during a coverage (my memory might be hazy but thank goodness I don’t remember a time when I was that unruly during a coverage back in Manila).

I didn’t take photos of the actual inter-faith ceremony as I was quite interested with the Muslims, Christians, Sheiks, Hindus, Taoists, and Buddhists that took the stage one by one and prayed for the souls of the victims. It’s quite mystical to see and hear prayers in a different language, recited so beautifully. There was also a video presentation composed of photos of the crew of MH17 and MH370 as well as the passengers. It was so heartbreaking that I had tears in my eyes and I was fighting heaven and hell not to cry as I have the tendency to bawl and making me stop is quite a lot of work.

Bad photo but this is my least blurry shot of the colleagues of the victims. One of them told me that they’re all like family and that losing their colleagues in MH17 and MH370 felt like losing a relative or a best friend

All the while, photographers were just there – in front of the stage. Sometimes, they’d take photos and footage of the one leading the prayer but they would focus more on the transport minister and the Malaysia Airlines officials who were deep in prayer. Yes, I know that would make for good pictures on the newspapers the next day but really? All throughout the event? How many photos of the same people do you actually need?

Some of the photographers would even walk around the venue (noisily) and they totally ignored the pleading of the host in between prayers to take their seats.

No, I am not angry at the media. I know and understand how hard the job is. I’ve been there myself. Though I do believe that they could have tried a bit harder to keep the solemnity of the event. They could have moved a bit more quietly, taken their shots quickly and returned to their seats.

After the prayers, everyone was invited to lay flowers on the entrance of the academy and to write something on the signature wall the airline company prepared.

I took a quick snap while we were in line. It was a relief that the media decided to stay on one side and let the people laying flowers do it without being pushed around. But this scene was rather short lived.

Right after the CEO of Malaysia Airlines was able to place some flowers on the small altar they set up on the entrance, the media went wild again and started swarming towards him. I was a bit scared for the old man as he was quite old and at about 5’3″ a lot of us were way taller than him – especially the media who could easily envelope and trap him in a tight “ambush” circle. I heard one reporter shout at the old man: “Is it true that you are not doing enough for the families of the victims?!” Good thing there was security who whisked the old man off back inside the academy. Am I getting soft? Aren’t tough questions important anymore? I still believe that they are but there is always a way not to intimidate or to harass the person you are trying to get an answer from especially if he’s old and frail. Maybe this is my soft spot for older people talking but I believe there should still be enough amount of respect towards people – even if you’re interviewing a convicted criminal, it doesn’t give you the right to call that person names or make fools out of them on national TV (yes, I am thinking of certain journalists who love doing this back in Manila). Reporters, I believe, should be respectful to beget respect. They should offer both sides of the story and ask the tough questions without being rude.

And speaking of the media, remember how international channels ran special coverages on the lost MH370 plane and the MH17 tragedy? Back then, it was all you can see on the telly, hear about on the radio, and read on the newspapers and online news sites. Nowadays, after the parade of hearses in the Netherlands and after the bodies have been brought back in Malaysia, there’s hardly a peep about it. We can’t force the media to come up with stories especially when there’s no development (there’s so many other things happening elsewhere that are also news worthy) but what worries me is when the public starts to forget.

It’s a trend that I’ve noticed in Manila and in other countries where disasters struck. After a disaster, people would talk about it for days and weeks. Donations will come. The whole world will say their piece about what happened and after a while, when the news dies down, you don’t hear anything about it anymore from other people.

That’s where the media comes in. And this is one of the things I love about journalism. Not only does the media report what’s happening right now but they also play an important role in keeping the memories and lessons learned alive. News agencies will then air something about it every now and then, say when there’s a new development, a new donation, when something goes awry in the rebuilding of homes in typhoon-affected areas or when the investigation on MH17 is taking a bit long,  then comes the what I like to call “in-memoriam” and “looking back” stories aired or printed during the tragedy’s anniversary.

The time for mourning for MH17 won’t last long. In media timelines, even, it’s been over for days. But for the people of Malaysia, the shadow of MH17 and MH370 is still there. They go about their daily lives but you still see signs of mourning within the city.

I’ve heard that there might be less or even no fireworks this year for the Merdeka Day Celebration (Independence Day) here in Malaysia in deference to the tragedies that still feel quite fresh. In every mall, you see candles and areas where people can write their prayers for the victims of the tragedy. You see electronic billboards flashing messages of condolence from different entities here. You see people looking at Malaysia Airlines adds all over the city with a look that suggests sadness or loss. After all, it’s their national airline. I can’t help but feel a sense of pride for the people here.

I see the similarity we Filipinos have with Malaysians and even the Dutch who are also mourning their citizens who died in the MH17 tragedy. Like us Filipinos who often say that our spirits are waterproof and can weather any storm, the Dutch and the Malaysians also bond and get inspiration and support from each other when tragedy strikes – then they bounce back. You feel that they are sad, that they are mourning but you also see the resilience that people develop when something devastating happens to them and affects their nation. I think resilience is not just a Filipino thing. It’s a human being thing. And though we get more typhoons and natural disasters in the Philippines than some countries and that we practice resilience more often than others (that’s why ‘resilience’ is actually synonymous to being Filipino these days and it makes me proud and happy that the world sees that about us), I’m pretty sure that other nations can do it too.

In fact, we Filipinos often find ourselves smiling after a storm. It’s not because we’re crazy. But it’s because we know that after that much rain, tomorrow’s gonna be sunny for sure.

More later.

Love,

Carol

The Entertainer: Two for the price of one – always

The Entertainer Malaysia and The Entertainer Travel

I love a good bargain. I mean, really. Who doesn’t? Personally, I get a kick out of buying something on a discount. I feel that the purchase (even if it’s pretty hasty/impulsive) is justified.

A couple of days ago, a new friend of mine introduced The Entertainer – Malaysia to me. And needless to say, I am thrilled by it and totally excited to start using it. 

The Entertainer is basically a coupon book (good for one whole year) that lets you enjoy food, spa services, staying in hotels, fun activities, and a lot of other things in a certain area – buy 1, take 1. So let’s say my husband and I would want to try out a new steak restaurant, we’ll be ordering two steaks but will only be paying for one – it’s like dining out for the two of us is always on 50% off. Pretty cool, huh? 

It’s great for people who love to eat out and enjoy some pampering! One thing I didn’t like about it though is that the coupons come in a thick book which might a bit of a hassle to lug around every time I’d go out here in KL. Good thing I was informed about the Entertainer app which contains all of the coupons in the book. All I have to do is show the coupon (on my phone’s screen) to the waiter upon receiving my check for the meal or the service I availed, enter my personal code then let the establishment’s people enter theirs. The app will then deduct the coupon from your “virtual” coupon book and your bill will be revised. It’s that simple and the app is available for phones running on iOs, Android, Windows, and Blackberry’s OS.

It’s pretty easy to set up your own account on the app and if you’re not set on shelling out for the full product, they’ll let you try it for free for two weeks.

i do go out a lot with the husband and some girl friends and I are planning to dine out or go for coffee this September. So the vouchers will come in pretty handy. Better to spread the love and savings among your friends, right?

The whole thing costs RM235 and promises you RM90,000 in 2-for1 savings. But it gets better. My friends would probably go “get out of here!” if I say that the spa discounts are not my most favourite things in the book. It’s actually this (the one on top):

Contains over 380 hotel vouchers

It’s no secret that my husband and I love to travel. From European cities to Asian beaches, we’re all game for it. And one of the biggest expenses when it comes to travelling is the hotel booking.  While my husband and I are also experienced when it comes to budget travel and we’re perfectly fine with booking a small hotel room which we will hardly stay in (we maximise our trips by going out all day, sightseeing and just going back to the hotel for a shower and some sleep), I’m not gonna lie to you guys – I still think luxury hotels can also be a good garnish on top of a trip but only if we can afford it without breaking the bank. 

Our anniversary is coming up and we’ve been looking at places to visit in the Southeast Asia area or maybe just within Malaysia. And anniversaries are special after all so we’re willing to spend just a wee bit more (we’re thrifty bordering on being cheapskates – there, I said it) to make the celebration a bit more special.

Imagine staying at The Oberoi in Bali or the Intercontinental just here in KL for a staycation for half the price. Not bad, right? That falls under my “not breaking the bank” category and it will totally help us save on our anniversary expenses without settling on one of the usual hotels we will pick out when we’re just going on a normal holiday.

The travel edition of the Entertainer is included in the purchase of Entertainer Malaysia and helps you get buy one get one nights in different luxury hotels within the region. 

Some of the hotel partners featured in the back.

The Asia and Indian Ocean edition includes offers in countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Seychelles, and one of my dream destinations:

Though we’re not going there THIS anniversary just yet, it’s nice to know that when we finally decide to go, there’s a way to get a discount on one of those beautiful sea-side villas. :D

The Entertainer is also available in Dubai and the Emirates, Jordan, Cape Town, Abu Dhabi & Al Ain, Kuwait, Johannesburg, Lebanon, London, Bahrain, Oman, Cyprus, Jeddah, Qatar, Malaysia, Riyadh & E. Prov, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

More later.

Love,

Carol

KL Adventures: Colourful Brickfields (Little India)

Right in the centre of Kuala Lumpur is its own Little India. The husband and I were able to walk around its main street during one of our weekend afternoons which we usually spend either sightseeing within the city or furniture shopping.

Brickfields is a neighbourhood near KL Sentral station. It’s easily accessible and is a place known for good bargains (from food, grocery items, to accessories) and a good mix of modern meets traditional architecture.

Just wanted to do a quick post on this neighbourhood (which we visited after our trip to the Planetarium) and share some photos taken along the area’s main street, Jalan Tun Sambanthan:

The KL Sentral side of Brickfields is filled with modern architecture.

From offices to hotels on one side, to a little piece of India just right across the street.

How cute are these earrings? Cheap too!

Fell in love with this beautiful, Hindu-inspired fountain constructed on the centre of a roundabout.

The lamps and even the information centre (which was already closed by the time we got there – it was around 6pm) features elaborate design. It’s a feast for the eyes!

And how beautiful are these arches? I felt like an Indian princess in a pretty sari while walking along the main street! ;)

Flowers for sale!

Good to know: Flower garlands play a huge role in Hindu society. They are a must in every festival and there are certain flowers that are used for each deity. An Indian wedding will not push through as well if the bride and groom are not wearing wedding garlands. Some of the temples in India even have their own flower gardens where they can get blooms for their garlands everyday and back in the day, to be a garland maker (appointed by the king) is a huge honour!

While in Bali for our honeymoon last year, I also read that there are certain rules in making the garlands – like, you can’t let the flowers or any of the materials you are using touch the floor or be at the same level as your feet (because the garlands are for their gods, it shouldn’t be placed lower than your pelvis). Garland makers should also pick the flowers early in the morning but only after they have taken a bath. And the flower pickers should also chant to their gods while doing the picking. Pretty mystical, no?

Pretty busy street.

Brickfields’ main street is populated by sari shops (which you have to check out because the clothes are just b-e-a-utiful), restaurants that serve authentic Biryani, hotels, and grocery stores where you can get the cheapest Basmati rice grains in the city. There are also shops that sell jewellery, kitchenware, Bollywood movies, and of course – incense sticks.

There are also Indian bridal shops where you can get intricate temporary tattoos on your hands and feet (using dye from a plant which they call Mehendilike these. Indian women (and even men) undergo a mehendi ceremony a day before their wedding where the patterns are drawn onto their hands and feet. The temporary tattoos are said to bring the couple luck and a fruitful marriage. 

Fancy a walk?

At night, the wide sidewalk is transformed into a street-dining area similar to Jalan Alor. Monoblock chairs and plastic tables are set up by the restaurants on the street and people (a lot of tourists and local Indians) flock to this neighbourhood for a hearty, authentic Indian dinner.

MY FIRST DOG SIGHTING IN MALAYSIA! (All caps was necessary)

I was so excited and giddy when we chanced upon this precious little shih-tzu in Brickfields. The owner was also kind enough to let me pet and coo at it for a good couple of minutes. Here in Malaysia (particularly KL), dogs are not allowed in most condos and public areas. Muslims do not like them and classified dogs as ‘dirty’. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to leave our dogs Sophie (shih-tzu) and Jack (maltese) back in Manila with my husband’s parents. We don’t want to offend or scare any of our neighbours and I’d feel bad for the dogs if they’re only cooped up inside our condo.

Before I end this really short (quickie) post, here’s a closer look at the fountain. It’s totes pretty with elephants supporting the base – they remind me of my favourite Hindu deity Ganesha.

It was getting dark by the time we got there so our walk was pretty short (we wanted to be home early as the husband has work the next day) but there are still more places to see in the district like a Lutheran Church, a Buddhist Temple, and a traditional Malaysian house so we’ll definitely be back for those. 

When visiting Brickfields, do be mindful of your belongings. It’s a pretty busy area and according to other expats, petty crime such as theft is still common there.

Back for more later.

Love,

Carol

Happenings + OOTD: Vision KL 18th Anniversary

Photo wall! Strike an (awkward) pose! ;)

Last night, the husband and I attended the Vision KL Anniversary Party at Signature by the Hill (The Roof). It made me totally excited cos it meant that I can wear something that’s not too formal for a change. The husband was tasked to attend the party in place of the our Ambassador who had a prior commitment. So, yay! Lucky, lucky!

Vision KL is a popular magazine-slash-city guide here in Kuala Lumpur. They have over a million readers and has been around for 18 years.

I loved Signature by the Hill’s interior. It’s pretty chill with striking elements. Like this:

An LED-lighted tree. It changes colour every couple of seconds.

Wore something a little less formal for a night out in this chic place. The outfit is actually a repeat. The dress I wore is something I’ve had for 3 years and I’ve only worn it thrice. I’m a huge supporter of repeating outfits. After all, not everyone can afford to be like Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton who practically get clothes like everyday. I just make it to a point to mix and match the shoes, the accessories, and make sure that I don’t wear my hair the same way as the last time I wore the same dress.

OOTD/OOTN? A little less formal. The Flash is a bit too strong on this one. ;)

Dress from H&M Denmark (a gift from my ultra-fashionable sister Desiree), shoes are also a repeat (they’re my wedding shoes – which I will probably keep wearing until they are all worn out), clutch from Kultura, earrings from Forever 21 (also a gift, this time from my friend Camille), watch from Casio (my favourite, classic/digital piece). The red band isn’t part of the outfit – you get it at the entrance and you’re asked to wear it all night then return it at the end of the event.

The venue is on top of a tall building in Petaling Jaya and the view is just ah-mazing. You can even see the KL skyline from a distance.

KL Skyline.

Downtown PJ.

Lots of applause for the Vision KL team for throwing a great party and for lasting almost 2 decades!

I was also pleasantly surprised last night. I bumped into Jeanne – who I am supposed to meet today for a chat on some exciting things I can do with this blog. Talk about fate!

What’s a party without cake?

Remember the red band I mentioned up there? Once you return it after the event, you get a gift – a stuffed teddy or Hello Kitty. Cute! Of course, my husband and I chose the bears. I’ve kind of outgrown Hello Kitty but bears are still adorable and would make fluffy guests in our home.

We were also given a printed copy of our photo at the photo wall. I love this photo of us. :)

Before leaving, Alvin and I checked out the helipad further up the building. Up there, there was yet another bar – Stratosphere.

It’s cosy and a lot more quiet than Signature. And the view is also great. A nice place to take photos if you ask me. ;)

There are also seats around the helipad so you can just relax and enjoy the view. Just be careful that you don’t fall off!

Hair: I was dying to try the faux-side shave hair style which I first saw being sported by Rihanna. Of course, I didn’t have the heart nor the commitment to actually shave the side of my head so I decided to fake it. I’m addicted to styling my hair (as much as I am addicted to makeup) and I learned a lot of my techniques from my hairstylist friend back in Manila, Mycke Arcano. He inspired to keep trying out different styles on my curls. This look in particular is rather easy. I just made a deep part on my hair then made a simple french braid on the side that I wanted to fake the shaved look. Make sure the french braid is thin and tight. Start from the back of your earlobe and keep braiding until the other side of your nape. Tuck it under the hair that you will keep loose and secure with bobby pins. You now have a sort of “base” for pinning the hair that you want to keep flat. After that, I combed the upper side of the “shaved” part and started pinning it by sections on the french braid. I also used some maximum strength hair spray to keep it in place. As for the loose side, I just used some leave on product for my curls for volume. (If you don’t have curly hair, using your curling iron and some setting spray will do the trick. Use some hair spray for volume as well).

Makeup used: Benefit 15-hour primer, MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix Fluid in NC 25, MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix Powder NC 25, Benefit Benetint, The Balm Shady Lady Vol 2 eyeshadow palette, HEMA Eyeliner, Benefit Brow Zings, HEMA Brow Gel, MAC Cosmetics Alluring Aquatic Lipstick in Enchanted One, Make Up Factory High Shine Lipgloss in 35. And yes, I forgot to use mascara that night.

More later.

Love,

Carol

Music: Robyn + Royksopp at the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Screencap from the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Screencap from the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

I love me some awesome electropop. I like it even better when its performed live.

A friend who knows I’m a die-hard Robyn fan sent me a link to this video and I was practically screaming in delight while watching it. Just thought I’d share it with you today. It’s practically eargasmic!

Watch it here: http://www.nbc.com/the-tonight-show/video/royksopp-robyn-do-it-again/2806273

Hope you’re all having a great day so far! :)

Love,

Carol

Foodie Adventures: Chinese food haven at Jalan Alor

Malaysia is basically Asian food heaven. With the country being a melting pot of Malay, Chinese, and Indian culture, it’s quite hard to imagine Malaysia not having good food.

We all know the history between Singapore and Malaysia and I’m pretty sure a bit of the rivalry between these two countries also extends to their food which is very very similar. However, one observation that can really differentiate one’s cuisine from the other is this: Malaysian food is definitely spicier than Singaporean. If you’re used to Singaporean laksa which is already spicy, you better brace yourself for Malaysian laksa because it will definitely leave your mouth burning. I have a friend who will testify to this as well.

A couple of weeks back, the husband and I decided to walk all the way to Jalan Alor – a street known for its authentic Chinese street-restaurants – for dinner. The food was so good, we found ourselves back in Jalan Alor only two days after that, friends in tow.

Ok, first things first: Where in KL is Jalan Alor?

Jalan Alor is located in the Bukit Bintang area. You can take the Monorail and just hop off at the Bukit Bintang station. From there, it’s only a short walk. As for my husband and I, we would always pass through Pavilion Mall (our building is located a couple of minutes walk from the mall’s back entrance while it’s front opens up to Bukit Bintang). For a map to Jalan Alor, click here.

From the mall’s main entrance, you will see this:

Just go straight down the main road which is behind that fountain. But wait, there’s Sephora! It’s best if my husband and I would make a quick stop over, yes?

The road along Bukit Bintang is one of the busiest in KL (see the heavy traffic on the side?) so it’s better to walk or take the train rather than take a cab.

If you’re a big H&M fan like I am, you will also be delighted to know that there’s a huge H&M branch just along the road. You can make a quick stop before dinner. I would. ;)

Keep going and make a quick right at Changkat Bukit Bintang. Go straight and after about a minute, you’ll spot Jalan Alor on your left. Don’t worry. It’s kind of impossible to miss it.

See what I mean?

It’s basically a street filled with Chinese restaurants with tables and chairs propped up on the street. Yes, you will have to eat along a road that is still open to cars that want to pass so better pick a table that’s not directly next to the street. There are also lots of people walking and you wouldn’t want them bumping into you or your table.

This is how most of the restaurants’ set-ups look like.

Jalan Alor is peppered with locals but is dominated by expats and tourists as customers – and for good reason. You get your authentic Chinese dish fast and cheap.

There are even a couple of grocery stores in the area.

And just in case you’re craving for oysters, you can get some there too. You have a choice of having them flavoured either in cheese or barbecue too.

Hello! This was us during the first night – while waiting for our orders!

We had some iced Teh Tarik (Pulled Milk Tea).

We weren’t that hungry that night so I ordered some prawn dumpling soup and the husband had some beef noodles.

Prawn Dumpling Soup (around RM10 or Php138, US3.17, EUR2.37)

Beef noodles (around RM13 or Php179.96, US4.12, EUR3.08)

This was a mistake as when you go to Jalan Alor, you should always come with an appetite. Eating light is not giving justice to the trip to this street.

You can also get fried/barbecued seafood along the street…

…Or make your own shabu-shabu.

And surprisingly, there are some restaurants that offer Filipino food. For those who aren’t familiar, Tapsilog stands for Tapa, Sinangag and Itlog. Tapa is usually a good portion of marinated beef strips paired with fried rice (sinangag) and some fried egg (itlog).

The second night we went to Jalan Alor, we came ready and with backup – equally hungry friends Josh and Todd.

Hey Josh and Todd!

Happy tummies = smiley faces.

I wasn’t able to take note of the prices (was too busy stuffing my face with food) but prices for dishes which you can share are between RM18-RM25 (Php248.83-Php346.11, US5.70-US7.92, EUR4.26-EUR5.92) depending on the size – Small is enough for 2 people, Medium works for 3, and Large is enough for 4-5 people.

Sweet Chinese Pork Ribs with Pineapple. We saw our neighbouring table order this dish and couldn’t resist to imitate them. They seemed to be enjoying it after all.

No Southeast Asian/Chinese meal can be considered complete without some rice. I am rather partial to Yang Chow.

A must have in Malaysia: Claypot Chicken

We also ordered two other dishes made of pork ribs – one cooked in soy sauce and the other, in some spicy paste. Not posting the photos anymore as they’re rather blurry. The food tasted so good, we couldn’t focus on anything else other than eating! :P

Some tips when going to Jalan Alor for a food trip:

  • As I mentioned earlier, come hungry! You’ll definitely leave happy. ;)
  • Don’t come during lunch. A lot of the stalls and restaurants are said to be closed. Better to come for dinner as that’s when the street really comes alive. It’s also rather hard to eat in an open area during lunch – the heat and humidity can be very unforgiving here in KL.
  • Dress comfortably. It’s a very casual place. Flip-flops or sandals are encouraged. 
  • Watch out for pickpockets. Jalan Alor used to be part of KL’s Red Light District. Though it’s been cleared up, you can still see some of its ‘remnants’ so it’s best to be careful with your belongings! Also, with tourists flocking this street, pickpockets will most likely see this as a good ‘hunting ground’.
  • Pick your restaurant carefully. Walk around the street first and choose which one you like best. Though almost all the stalls and establishments offer Chinese food, there are some that also have Vietnamese and Thai dishes. You’d want to see everything before you decide, right?

My husband and I loved Jalan Alor and we’ll definitely be back – especially when we get visitors. It would be nice to take them on a food trip in this area. After all, one of the best ways to indulge yourself in a culture that’s different from your own is to do what the locals do and eat what the locals eat. ;)

Love,

Carol

KL Adventures: Islamic architecture in Putrajaya

Putrajaya on a holiday.

The husband and I are suckers for beautiful architecture – be it modern or more on the classical side. I’ve fallen in love with several European and Asian cities because of their skylines and the feeling I get when I walk around the city, surrounded by stunning buildings. They just add so much character (some even add to the city’s history) to a certain place.

So it’s no wonder that I enjoyed our short afternoon trip to Putrajaya, Malaysia’s seat of government, a couple of weeks back. We went with 3 of Alvin’s colleagues who were nice enough to drive us around.

It’s quite easy to get to Putrajaya from Kuala Lumpur – you can take the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Transit (don’t take the express train as it won’t stop at Putrajaya station and will go straight to the airport!) or you can take a Rapid KL bus marked ‘E1′. It will pick up passengers in the Pasar Seni and KL Sentral train stations. However, once you actually get to Putrajaya, it’s quite hard to navigate without your own car. So some tourists opt to hire a taxi within the city and agree on a fixed price with the driver who will also act as your tour guide.

Fast facts:

  • Though Putrajaya is now the seat of government, Kuala Lumpur remains to be Malaysia’s national capital and the seat of the King.
  • Malaysia only shifted their seat of government in the late 90s to avoid congestion in the capital.
  • Almost all of the ministries are now in Putrajaya except for the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Works which are still in KL.
  • A 650-hectare, man-mad lake is found in the middle of the city. The Malaysian government has said before that the main reason (aside from the obvious aesthetics and recreation opportunities it can bring) the lake was made was to act as a “natural cooling system” for the city. And man, do they need it. Putrajaya is way more hot and humid than KL. I couldn’t stand not having a roof over my head for 2 minutes. I cannot possibly imagine how hot it would be without that lake.

Okay, enough yapping. Let me show you the breathtaking view from the elevated Putrajaya International Convention Centre:

I feel like I was looking at a real-life post card. Though I had to cut the sight seeing from here. PICC is on top of a hill and MUCH closer to the sun. I had to get back into the car right away.

We were there at around 2 in the afternoon. I wouldn’t advise to go to Putrajaya at that time. The sun can be very unforgiving. It’s best to go at around 5 in the afternoon and wait for the sunset at around 7pm.

The PICC. My husband made a joke that it kinda looks like a cowboy hat from afar. One of his younger colleagues said it looked like a UFO. What do you think?

Before you get to the PICC, you will pass the Seri Gemilang Bridge which I find really pretty.

The 240-metre long bridge has intricately designed columns or balusters that light up at night.

From there, we drove for a bit to the Palace of Justice known for its Islamic-inspired architecture. It was a holiday that day so we couldn’t try to get in. Too bad. The internet says it’s really pretty inside.

Love the details of the dome!

But the highlight of our short trip was the Putra Mosque, also known as the Pink Mosque. Opened in 1999, the construction of the Putra Mosque reportedly cost around RM 250 million. It is massive and it can accommodate up to  15 thousand people.

There’s a certain level of mystique that comes with places of worship like churches, mosques, synagogues, etc.

The entrance.

I’ve never been inside a mosque before even though we have a couple of them in Manila so this was a totally new experience for me. I had this notion before that you have to be Muslim to enter one but it turns out a lot of mosques are open to non-Muslims but only at certain hours.

The Pink Mosque is open to tourists every Saturday to Thursday and from 9am-12:30pm, 2-4pm, and 5:30-6pm. On Fridays, the day of worship for Muslims, you can only visit between 3-4pm and 5:30-6pm. Entrance is free.

People who wish to visit the mosque must also dress appropriately. Women should be covered up and should wear a veil. But if you’re not suitably dressed, you will be directed to a counter that will lend you robes – also for free.

The robe counter is located right next to the souvenir shop.

Totally covering up is not really one of my strongest suits and this gave my husband something to laugh about:

Good thing I actually like maroon.

From there, you can step into the beautiful, sunlit courtyard called ‘Sahn’.

The impressive minaret is 116 metres tall and has 5 tiers which represent the 5 pillars of Islam.

To enter the prayer room, you would have to take off your shoes. Neat freaks might be a bit skeptical but it’s totally worth it.

Intricately designed walls and a wall to wall carpet but the best thing about the mosque is something you will see when you look up –

The main dome as well as the smaller ones are made of pink granite.

Tourists taking photos

The mosque is rather different from the place of worship that I myself grew up in. Muslims are not supposed to have statues and they don’t have saints as well so it’s basically a big beautiful room full of space where people can pray.

Though there’s no entrance fee, people can leave donations for the maintenance of the mosque.

The mystique of the place was kind of ruined by us tourists taking photos. So I totally understand why they don’t let non-Muslims in during their service. There were still a couple of Muslims praying on one side of the room at that time so my husband and I spoked in hushed voices. Some of the other tourists weren’t as sensitive though. It kind of made me feel bad.

Just on the other side of the Putra Square outside the Pink Mosque is the Prime Minister’s office called the Perdana Putra – another example of exquisite Islamic architecture.

It’s green domes shine under the sunlight. A building fit for the office of the country’s most powerful man.

Flags at the square were at half mast on that day due to the MH17 tragedy.

Yet on another side of the square is the Putra Souq –  a shopping and dining area that opens up to a boardwalk by the lake.

The boardwalk has good view of the Putra Bridge…

…the Istana Darul Ehsan, one of the royal residences of the Sultan of the Malaysian State of Selangor

… and the back of the Pink Mosque.

Don’t forget to bring an umbrella and your sunglasses. Like I said earlier, the sun was just so harsh. Bring a bottle of water to keep hydrated.

It’s best to visit Putrajaya on weekends (it’s less busy as government offices are closed) or on a holiday.

We haven’t seen everything there yet as out trip was kind of short (we all had something else scheduled that day). So we promised to just come back for the others. Though I did get a glimpse of the foreign ministry which is yet another pretty Islamic-themed building.

More later.

Love,

Carol