KL cityscape

Memories of Kuala Lumpur

I find it a bit difficult to describe my time in KL. There was a lot to take in, familiar and otherwise. New places to see, new cuisine to try, activities to do. But on top of it all was this cathartic-like relief that I felt once my eyes set upon Krissy, who was patiently waiting for me at the arrivals hall. When I saw her waving at me, I remember having the biggest smile on my face.

Us being apart during NYC and now KL has been very tough, but all the worries and troubles were flushed away upon that long overdue embrace. Finally, I felt complete again – I’m sure many of you know the feeling; like you’re on top of the world and you feel everything will be okay. And so being there, on top of the world, I find it difficult to capture the words that can justly describe all the things that we saw and all that we experienced. Because that is the purpose of having a blog, right? Well, the best way I know how to relive and reminisce those precious moments is through photographs. Taking photographs is capturing and savoring life, every hundredth of a second.

Surprising even to myself, I had actually never stepped foot outside of any East Asian airport apart from in Manila. I was eager to get out of the airport and see what KL has to offer. Krissy and I took the bus from KLIA to the city center. My overall impression is that KL is very similar to Manila, and so right away I felt at home. I love when Krissy goes into planning mode when people visit her. We had an excel sheet with things to do and places to eat during my relatively short stay. Although planned, our schedule was flexible in that I could experience “must see” places, but also give us time to just relax and enjoy each other’s company and make new memories together. What I appreciate the most is how Krissy made sure that I got to experience her life in KL; where she works, the route she takes to get there, where she likes to eat on Sundays, which malls she likes to visit, which alleys are shortcuts, who she lives with (awesome people!), etc. All those things that she has become accustomed to during her stay, but that I know very little about (apart from stories I hear from her). But being there and doing these things with her was very different, and it made us feel closer. She also made sure that there were activities or restaurants that she waited to try until I got there, so that we would be creating new memories together. Isn’t she awesome? One of the hardest things in a long-distance relationship is experiencing new things when you’re not together. When you can’t immediately talk about how you feel or have that instant understanding. Undoubtedly, it leads to growing apart, so it’s important that you share thoughts, impressions, and feelings with each other. Just some advice for others out there. We have, after all, done this before. ;)

I arrived early morning, so we went straight to sight-seeing. We started off with the Petronas Twin Towers, and were treated with a mini concert performed by University students to honor traditional culture and music. In the late afternoon, Krissy took me to a bar called Heli Lounge Bar located on the 34th floor of Menara KH. The amazing part is that you get to go to the very top of the building, to a helipad turned lounge and enjoy your drinks there. Now I suffer from acrophobia, so I was hesitant and nervous to go up to the open-air bar. But life is more exciting when you challenge yourself. So up I went, clinging tightly to the stair railing, wishing profoundly that gravity keeps doing its job. When we got up to the top, my head was swirling and so was my stomach. However, the sense of accomplishment and the view that we were met with took all the fear and nausea away (well, almost all). We found ourselves standing at the very top of the building, surrounded by an unobstructed 360-degree view of KL city center and the encompassing districts. Let me try to describe how I saw it: As the sun dipped behind the horizon, the cityscape was bathed in golden light. Only threads of light lingered in the sky, weaving its way past the rolling clouds. The sky glowed yellow, then orange, then blue, until the colors fused, leaving behind a chalky mauve sky that blanketed the softly silhouetted skyscrapers. I hope my words and the photos do to the beautiful scenic view.

As great as KL sounds during the day, the festivities and the nightlife really bring out a new side to this city. Krissy lives very close to Jalan Alor, a road boasting in abundance of hawker stalls and delectable eateries, and especially hustling and bustling once the sun goes down. We had dinner at Wong Ah Wah together with Mads & Sidsel, the lovely couple living in the same apartment. The internet was raving about WAW’s chicken wings (RM 3.00 a piece), so those had to be sampled! The wings were marinated and cooked to fall-off-the-bone perfection. It is safe to say that Jalan Alor is renowned for the amazing street food. However, this vibrant street is not just a showcase of some of the best Malaysian cuisine; sampling the food means sampling the culture as well. I found that what makes Malaysia so special and diverse translates into its cooking. Bring your appetite and revel in the sound sizzling woks and the all-pervading scent of charcoal fire.

Another food haven is Imbi market, located right in the heart of KL. There is a wet market and then a section with only hawker stalls, plastic tables and chairs. I love it! We had Crispy Popiah, Nasi Lemak, Wantan Mee, and Kopi O (black sweetened coffee)! Sitting there looking at locals – young, old, small groups, big groups – eating and enjoying good food, it felt really great and humbling to be a part of a charming, local breakfast tradition. We visited Batu caves, a series of caves and Hindu temples and shrines. Monkeys frolic freely, but behave aggressively when tourists mess with them (I don’t blame the poor monkeys). We took the cave tour, where you wander inside a pitch black cave with only your little flashlight to guide you along the trail. Stalactites, stalagmites and over 200,000 bats greet you as you walk the trail with your guide. We visited the Bird Park, a free-flight aviary featuring parrots, storks, egrets, peafowls, hornbills, ducks, flamingos, etc. Make sure to bring lots of water and mosquito spray!

I also recommend taking the heritage walk, where along the way, you may run into Old China Cafe. As you step through the swinging saloon doors, you’re met with the rustic interior that still feature some of the original furnishings. Here you can have a taste of classic Nyonya food. We highly recommend the Beef Rendang and Nyonya Lasak.

Here are pictures of other food that we ate (name and location provided as captions). With so many new things experienced, new cuisine sampled, feelings of love and joy, it was difficult to put it all in writing. See, the blog is partly for our readers to keep up with what we’re doing, but also for us as a couple to cherish memories and moments during our trips. And certainly, thinking about what to write and browsing through these photographs brought me right back to the wonderful time I spent in KL with my beloved Krissy.

On that note of good times and good food, I will end my post with this advice: Come visit KL! If you’ve been there before, then please share with us your favorite places to eat at or favorite things to do! Krissy is still in KL, and I’m sure she would love some tips.

/Gideon

Ps. There has been some slight redesign of the blog. We now also have an Instragram account that you can follow if you click on the Instagram icon at the top of the page, next to the search. We hope you like the changes! :)

Through the Lens

Through the Lens

I always wanted to get more into photography. While I always felt I had some idea about what makes good composition, I never really bothered to know more about photography. I therefore wanted to get more into the art and the technology. For many years, I used a point-and-shoot Casio camera, and I felt that it served me well for what I needed. However, I wanted a camera that could give me more flexibility as I delve deeper into the wonderful world of photography; something that isn’t as daunting as a full-frame DSLR camera. After digging around on the internet, I narrowed my search down to Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras (or Compact System Camera). These types of cameras come with a compact body but has a sensor size that is comparable to that of some DSLR cameras. I found a good deal on a used Sony Alpha NEX-5N including the 18-55mm kit lens and a Sigma 19mm F2.8 EX DN lens (which at that time I didn’t know was a great prime lens for the Sony E-mount).

In the last two months, I’ve been amassing great knowledge about photography and camera settings like a sponge. Now I have a fairly good understanding of camera sensors; exposure settings involving aperture, shutter speed & ISO; metering modes; depth of field, and so on. There is still so much to learn, and I’m really excited about the journey. My foray into getting better at photography would no doubt lead me to learning about vintage lenses, which can be used on the mirrorless cameras using a cheap adapter. Why use vintage lenses? Well for one, the quality and build of vintage lenses are top notch, and are marginally cheaper compared to their equivalent modern counterpart. Also, vintage lenses often create unique effects and colour rendering on photos. Since I’m still learning, I find it a good thing to be manual focusing, as it gives me more control over my shot. Sure, it’s a slower process and I might miss a good shot, but it really helps me to stop and think about what I want to shoot. So I found myself scouring eBay for all sorts of vintage lenses with different apertures and focal lengths. You get really into it – at least I did. Haha! Apparently there are common “diseases” that afflict photographers:

  • Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS)
  • Lens Buying Addiction (LBA)
  • Photo Forum Addiction (PFA)

I found the acronyms from this site, where these common ailments are described. I find that it’s all part of the journey. I really like keeping up to date with technology and gadgets, and this is no different. Knowing what kind of gear you can use with your camera, what kind of lenses are available, and how other people shoot all helps make you a better photographer. I got a really good deal on a Helios 44M-6 58mm f2 manual focus lens for very cheap. The lens has a FOV corresponding to 87mm on the 5n’s crop sensor. Below is a photo of what I have so far.

Lens party

But at the end of the day, for a novice, the common mantra is “Gear doesn’t matter.” Make do with what you have. Use the camera and gear you have until you’ve completely mastered it. As a novice, learning how to control what you see through the lens is what makes you a better photographer. When your gear starts to limit what you can do, then it’s time to upgrade!

So I went for a nature walk in Skodsborg, north of Copenhagen, along with my two Bromies, Claus and Anders. I got to shoot with the Helios and the Sigma. I really like the swirly bokeh that the Helios renders. The Sigma is great for wide angle shots. I picked out my favourites from all the shots that day, and edited them using Lightroom.

Enjoy the photos and stay tuned for more!

/Gideon

Picture Postcard

No photoshop Try to picture one of those tacky postcards: white, sandy beaches, palm trees marking up the shore line and the turquoise sea water battling it out with the sky to see which blue nuance is the brightest. At Perhentian Islands, postcards don’t do reality justice. I stayed a whole weekend in this paradise where my fellow travel-companions and I quickly got spellbound by the island-vibe, where time seems to slow down and errands and to-do lists get tucked away somewhere in the back of the mind. Little was on the agenda other than slurping mango smoothies and soaking up some sun with the occasional dip in the sea. We also took a 3 hour snorkeling trip to other, smaller islands lying around the Perhentian Islands, offering colourful fish and untouched corals. It is safe to say that it was an unforgettable snorkeling experience, with a blue marlin jumping near our boat, turtles coming up for air as we were lying in the water and of course, not to forget, the finding of many a cute Nemos. Picture Postcard To make sure that we didn’t miss our flight back to the city we decided to take the jetty back early on Sunday and go explore Kota Bharu and its famous central market, Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah. This colourful wonder offers a wet market with the usual produce like fish and veggies, and it was also here that I got to try the famous Nasi Kerabu, a beautiful blue-coloured rice dish that is really popular here in Malaysia. As you ascend the stairs in this building you get to the dry market – a myriad of small pathways that will lead you around dried snacks, cooking utensils and beautiful batik clothing. It is easy to get lost in here and lose all sense of time. <3 Getting over my dengue fever also gave me back my appetite, and food suddenly became appealing to me once again. That opened up for countless food adventures around the city – everything from local Malay to fine Japanese food. One such local adventure was a trip to the nearby Imbi market, which hid itself from us for some time but proved worth the chase once we found a spot at one of the glitzy plastic chairs and tables, barely shaded by the sun. The heat was heavy, but with a plate of Sisters Crispy Popiah in front of me, I forgot all about the sweaty circumstances. Other edible delights included an amazing experience at Gangnam 88 in Mont Kiara where kimchi stew and bulgogi blew my mind and made me want to fly away to Kpop-land right away. Dim sum also crept its way back into my life, and I realized how much I have missed this usual Sunday ritual from when I was living in Hong Kong. This weekend we simply had to try the afternoon high tea session at The Majestic Hotel, with fine bone china of teapots and teacups and a circular tower of goodies. Of course, the only correct way to eat your cucumber sandwich is with a pointy pinky. Yes, the colonial feel is a bit much, and yes it is a bit pricey, but once you dig into that scone you have already convinced yourself that you have to come back. High Tea session The 2015 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix also came to Kuala Lumpur, attracting thousands of enthusiasts from around the world. Not being a car or adrenalin junkie, I did not plan to go to this big event, but was lucky enough to be invited along on some free tickets. And though I must admit I never understood the fascination e.g. why my dad would want to spend a whole Sunday watching cars driving around and around and around on a pit (and still don’t), I am happy that I was fortunate enough to try it and “tick it off” the list of musts. One weekend was also spent traversing all of the acres of the ‘Lake Gardens’, also called Perdana Botanical Garden. I was very surprised by all the colours and how bright the greenery was. Due to the intense heat that follows you everywhere you go, I often have a difficult time accepting how green Kuala Lumpur actually is. Of course the almost daily afternoon showers give plants and trees the necessary sustenance, however, these rain showers always seem to escape my memory (which might also explain why I always forget an umbrella). The garden area is absolutely stunning and offers an orchid section, a hibiscus section, a small deer park and everything in between. Walking around the big lake in the center of the park made me reminisce about my time in NYC the past few months, wondering if this heritage park is KL’s equivalent to my beloved Central Park. Botanical gardens KL is still treating me real good and apart from the usual cab driver trying to press me for an extra ringgit or two, the past month has offered me some amazing memories, like a funky jazz night at No Black Tie, a mojito at Marini’s rooftop bar, not to forget the many snacks and deserts that find their way to my tummy. If you are a resident in KL, please share with me your favourite food spot, and any local must eats– always up for a new food adventure. Follow me on instagram if you are a foodie yourself. Until next time! /Krissy

Getting My Batik On!

Getting My Batik On

The first month in Kuala Lumpur flew by, confirming once again that time is my worst enemy!

I arrived mid-February, ready for a life as an intern in one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions in the country. My fellow interns – who also happen to be my roomies – took good care of me and showed me around through all the alleys and crooked streets that make up KL. Also, one of the interns managed to persuade his girlfriend to come along for 6 months, making up a great male-female ratio in our apartment, and I predict late night beer talks, and fun, weekend shenanigans the next 6 months.

One such memorable shenanigan already unfolded in the cooler regions of Cameron Highlands, a 4hrs bus ride outside of KL. While getting there was quite the challenge (as the gear lever proved uncooperative), the gentle hills served as an open farmland, with rows-upon-rows of tea shrubs. The perfect and cooler weather conditions provide the perfect home for hundreds of floral species, and traversing around the mountains makes for a breathtaking excursion. We stayed at a cute cottage-like bed and breakfast in Tanah Rata, which served as our base for exploration. We spent most of the weekend hiking through the forests with mud up to our ankles – the best way to spend a weekend! The views were stunning and it felt great to walk the distances on foot, rather than hiring a touristy-bus tour. Leisure time was spent at a strawberry farm – after all that hiking the red, shinny berries never tasted better.

The view
And now, lets turn to the tea… The second day we walked to Boh Tea Plantation, to get a colonial-inspired scone and sandwich. Now I don’t want to waste any more space on the food, but instead turn to the best peach ice tea I ever had in my life – the Boh peach tea! If you are ever able to get your hands on this stuff (it is available also in most supermarkets in KL to our great delight upon return), please fill up your suitcase – every single drop of ice tea is worth it!

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The first few weeks of the internship also coincided with this years Chinese New Year, the year of the goat. This naturally served as a window of opportunity to visit Thean Hou Temple as it was decorated with the most beautiful, Chinese red lanterns during the festivities. Thean Hou is probably THE Chinese temple to visit while in KL as it offers some great views over the city. With all the big malls and streets being decked out in Chinese decorations, the sea of red proved a beautiful, welcoming gesture.

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Other, first month highlights include eating my own body weight in food within all the different Asian cuisines: Malay, Chinese, Vietnamese and the list goes on. Goreng and fresh, whole fish are a must, and with Jalan Alor and other street-food options right around the corner from our apartment it is most likely that I will put on some weight – no regrets though!

Another must - nasi lemak <3
Another must – nasi lemak <3

Apart from all that goodness, Malaysia has also tested and tried me this past month. The greatest test was undoubtedly no bigger than 0.3 to 2 cm – a bloodsucking, stupid little mosquito carrying the infamous tropical disease also known as dengue fever. I wish this upon no one, and after spending three days in the hospital, with a water drop in my wrist and under constant observation; I left the hospital scarred for life with a collection of blue marks from the many blood tests. Let the mosquito-spray frenzy begin!

Saying My Goodbyes

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My last post about New York and my second exchange experience is written in the comforts of my apartment in Copenhagen, with a warm cup of tea looking out at the gloomy, Northern weather. This delay was certainly unintentional as Christmas somehow got torn out of my calendar and time truly betrayed me. With the last December days creeping up on me, I barely had time to notice that I was sitting in JFK on the 24th of December waiting to go home. Somehow, however, this unintentional delay does provide me with a retrospective advantage, allowing me to give a better account of my last city-life escapades. However, as a disadvantage, dear reader, this means that you are subject to what they refer to as an unreliable narrator in literary courses, or as a hindsight bias in psychology, and I therefore leave it up to you to see through the thick fog of romanticism and partiality that naturally will dilute my last recollections of my life in the greatest city, that is New York.

Before sharing my last memories, I must dedicate a section to the great American tradition of giving thanks for the harvest and the year that went by, otherwise known as Thanksgiving. I got to be a part of the ‘giving thanks’ traditions together with my family residing in the lovely Sunshine State. I only had a vague idea of Thanksgiving being all about turkey and American football, as seen in all the movies – but it felt like an even bigger deal being part of it. And seeing as I can embrace any tradition that revolves around food, I found myself quickly taking it to heart. Pie-making and pie-eating definitely makes the top of my list, but watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade from the front row on the couch was somehow nostalgic, though it was my first time witnessing the biggest spectacle of the holiday season. Thanks go out to my Florida-family, making it such a great experience.

Giving Thanks

But to rewind a bit, I had some lovely late November days in the city with my mom, dad and my not-so-little brother before getting some vitamin D in Florida. It was quite nice to be “forced” to see all the touristy things once more, as the season naturally brought about a change in appearance of all the famous sights, streets and eateries. Particularly the change of colour and light of the city as seen from The Highline, was spectacular, as pigments of red, yellow and orange were magically fading away in favour of brown and barren hues. To be able to experience such visual changes is exactly what makes this city so great to live in. Not to visit, but to live in. Of course seasonal change is an undeniable fact all over the world. But to witness the change of nature in one of the largest urban settlements created by mankind makes for some thought-provoking moments. Just like the visuals of the city constantly change throughout the year, so does the people who make up its population and the events and spaces that make up the backbone of the daily routines. There is always something new going on in the city – a critical requirement for a young lady out of a restless generation, always looking for a new place to call home.
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December month was brisk, making it necessary to tuck in that scarf. Yet with deep blue skies and sunny rays finding its way around the glistening skyscrapers to brighten the pavement that I walked, I forgave the icy winds. The weather proved to be quite sporadic during the last month, ranging from arctic cold to shorts-weather – Perhaps Mother Nature was going through menopause? All poor-jokes aside, I find it necessary to give tribute to the rainy days that also made quite the impression on me whilst living in the city. Having always had a weird fascination with rain ever since childhood, the city is undoubtedly at its prettiest in the pouring rain. While rain might be a nuisance in my adulthood, it really did transform New York to a prettier version of itself, by somehow softening the urban landscape – taking off some of the New York edge. The reflections of buildings and lights gave the city an additional dimension and made for some great exploring. Of course, getting soaked by passing cars on corners or loosing the battle of umbrellas on the sidewalk naturally does not make the list of top experiences, yet remains vivid in my memory. In particular, the umbrella war is nostalgic to me, reminding me of my exchange in Hong Kong, only the war would be fared during sunshine hours.

One of the December highlights was visiting Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Despite being quite the landmark, I feel that visitors often overlook it. Yet, going for a quick stroll amongst the tombstones and beautiful lakes is absolutely stunning, and it is hard to believe that this peaceful cemetery is also part of the make-up of New York. You won’t forget too long however, as numerous hills offer you a beautiful view of the city. A fellow explorer and myself came at the perfect time, with dusk luring any moment, adding a spooky feel to an otherwise beautiful setting.

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December is of course also a month of tinsel and caroling, and unless you do not like to watch movies, you are most likely aware that New York is the perfect setting to get in the right Christmas spirit. It shall be no secret that Christmas is my favourite holiday, and the roomies and I upheld the Danish Christmas traditions of ‘jule-hygge’ – a cozy day of decorating the apartment, eating Christmas cookies and singing ‘Last Christmas’ one more time. If you are a faithful wild-wonton’er, you will know I also carried on the Danish traditions in Hong Kong during Christmas time, and always makes for great memories.

Christmas<3

The rest of my days ended up being a battle against time, with a long list of things yet to see and eat, but hindered by an infinite amount of long essays and exams. The list is of course saved for next time, but I did manage to squeeze in a terrible amount of doughnut places (YUM), hours of perusing MoMa, several peeks of ice skating New Yorkers, numerous ‘battle’ days of Christmas shopping, and too many tearful goodbyes to all the new friendships I made this half year. Luckily the goodbyes were made over food, alcohol or rooftops to make the end a cheery one. I am excited to one day return to what I got to call home for a few months and to meet familiar faces again that are currenlty scattered across the world.

Please try Doughnut Plant for me if you ever go to NYC
Please try Doughnut Plant for me if you ever go to NYC

And at last: a minor announcement. While this is my last post about New York (for now), a new adventure is awaiting just around the corner, as the next 6 months will be spend in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. So do not fret, a new exciting chapter of wildwonton will soon begin – possibly with more, actual wonton’s on the blog.

/Krissy

 

 

The Beat of New York City

Stop right there. Let me rewind time a little bit. I’ll take you back to October, when I visited Krissy in NYC. It’s difficult to put into words how amazing this trip was. I fell in love with the city fairly quickly. I was only there for 8 days, unfortunately, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I guess my experience of the city was enhanced by the fact that I was overjoyed to finally see and be with Krissy again.

There was a lot to see, and a lot to experience. We tried, as much as possible, to be efficient in seeing and trying new things every day. When Krissy would go to class in the afternoon, I would wander off on my own and just explore the city on foot.

Apart from all the beautiful, new things to see, I was also very excited by what I could hear and what I could smell. Something that stays fresh in my mind is the sound of the subway. This might seem weird to many, but in Copenhagen, I take the train every day and the two experiences are significantly different that it creates a stark contrast in my mind. Imagine this: you’re waiting for your train; the tunnels are dark lit only by underground lights; you hear background chatter from other commuters; as the whirring train arrives, you set yourself up to get in swiftly, trying to find your place in the out and inward stream of people. Inside, the chugging sound of the subway train fills your ears, overlaid with the often-garbled sound of the PA system. Blurred silhouettes from passing stations flash your eyes. It’s really the small details that I really opened myself up to. The result was (literally) sensational.

I even love the feeling of emerging from the subway station, especially in mid to downtown Manhattan, where you find yourself walking in the midst of the hustle and bustle, where the busy streets overshadowed by towering skyscrapers. This animated and breathing concrete jungle offers a unique palette of imagery and an orchestra of sounds that, to me, is undeniably exciting and stimulating. With the imagery and rhythm all around me, it was easy to feel the heart of this metropolis pulsating to the beat of New York City.

Have a look through my photos. I wrote captions to most of them, and these help give a better idea of what this trip was like for me.

Thanks for reading.

/G