The weather here in KL has reached 36°C and all I can think about is ice cream. Feeling inspired after having a scoop of salted caramel ice cream in Hokkaido Ice Cream in The Garden Mall, I went in search of recipes. I was very pleased that this splendid flavour was now available in KL. I’ve only ever had salted caramel in Paris (the best is from Berthillon). I found a recipe I am keen to try. Upon finding this recipe, I was keen to explore other flavours and thought that a pandan coconut flavour would be very nice indeed. I looked it up and found this.
There are some flavours that are almost universal in their appeal. Pandan is such a flavour. Pandan’s power lies in its versatility. It is not limited to Asian dishes. I made pandan pannacotta earlier this year, to serve as dessert for my Chinese New Year meal. I made the pannacotta in a rabbit mould and this resulted in the wobbly little creature above. In the UK, pandan can be bought from most Oriental supermarkets. If you live in London, Golden Gate Cake Shop on Macclesfield Street sells pandan layer cake. My sister and I have since started obsessing over pandan macarons. Since being back in KL, I have had them twice. They are, as you can imagine, seriously delicious. These can be ordered specially from The Huckleberry Cafe. I have not seen this concoction sold anywhere else.
I find it quite strange that in a city like KL – where there must be the highest number of foodies per capita in the world and the most interesting mixtures of flavours and fusion food, I have yet to see pandan used in other European desserts. Pandan coconut meringue pie, pandan cream puffs, pandan coconut crepes…mmmm I can see so many possibilities! Someone, make ’em a reality!
Quite simply, no trip back to KL is quite complete without a stop in Chinatown orPetaling Street as it is known. I spent many years’ worth of weekdays in this area. My mum used to send us to Mandarin lessons which we took in the back of a Chinese temple every day, after our daily school lessons. The classes were held in the back of the temple, up a flight of stairs. There were 3 rooms, where the lessons were taught. Walking through the temple you will have to go through huge incense hanging from the ceiling and there were always some homeless people begging for money right at the entrance. I hated learning Mandarin, so for me the lessons were an opportunity to make the temple our playground.
On Tuesday night, Augusta and I went to Petaling Street. Our friend Bassi had requested some mirrored wayfarers, so we went to hunt some down. After walking around and finding some bargains, we stopped for a little snack at Kim Lian Kee. This little corner shop has been around since the late 20s. It has not been modernised much and remains pretty much a modest outfit. This is Malaysian street food after all! We shared a plate of Hokkien mee/meehoon. I’ve eaten here several times before, and was happy to find that the noodles were still good in this KL institution.
We were thirsty and ordered one of the best thirst quenchers ever- kalamansi lime juice with asamboi. Kalamansi limes are a special variety of limes. They are tiny, but packed with flavour, a little explosion of sweet and sour. The juice of kalamansi limes with a couple of asamboi (preserved salted plums or saladitos) = flavoursome thirst quenching drink. It’s a drink that packs a flavourful punch, satisfying almost all the different tastebuds. Palate Palette, which is one of my favourite places in KL does an alcoholic version of this drink with your choice of Vodka or Rum. It’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.
After what felt like months of traveling, I feel settled in London again. And what a wondeful time to be in London, with the sun out to play most days. I was very lucky to have been in Seoul for work recently. What is especially lucky about this is that Seoul is a city that doesn’t sleep. Good for after work exploring, bad for getting enough sleep.
Nonetheless in about ten days, these are my favourite things about this World Design Capital 2010 are (in no particular order):
I’d heard a lot of people say that Seoul is like what Tokyo used to be like. Having only been in Tokyo for a few hours, I know not if this is truth. I do know that I enjoyed the city. I found it challenging not being able to read the script and not being able to speak the language but I got around fairly easily and found that once Koreans knew you were lost and understood where you were supposed to be, they would take the trouble to take you to the right place. Even women in high heel shoes.
The strangest experience and definitely one to be had is to go to a traditional Korean spa and get a full body scrub by an ajumma. Trust me you will find it the most surreal experience ever.
My favourite hang out place was easily the AA Design Cafe. Part museum, part furniture shop and part cafe. Unfortunately for me, the museum was shut when I was there. I still managed to get a peek and checked out some of the chairs on display. Check out the photos from If It’s Hip, It’s Here. Look! Even the cappucino is a friendly crafty creature!
Coolest place to shop was A Land found in various parts of the city. It stocks A.P.C., vintage clothes, Korean designers and is a treasure trove of crazy accessories and more importantly the place that I first noticed Milimeter/Miligram, a wonderful design company. This is where I picked up my “watch” in all three colours (black, electric blue and pink). It tells the time the way I want it to: “It is not too late”. I went wild for all the products. The general vibe is not unlike Magma in the UK. Milimeter/Miligram is wonderful because it is humorous. I mean just look at these spacemen cards. Check their expressions out!
I can see why Seoul is Design Capital. Everywhere you go, it’s a feast for those who love all aspects of design. This is a bit of a lazy post. I really just wanted to share the wonderful world of Milimeter/Miligram with the world.
Let me introduce you to my faithful friend, a little man named Hank. He has been my travel companion in a bit of a journey, a scenic route from Milan to London. He is faceless, but he stuck with me all through this adventure. I wonder if he is faceless because sailors are the forgotten faces that passed through the ports.
I was in Milan for work. I left on Sunday night and was scheduled to be back on Thursday morning, straight into work. And then the sky produced a spectacular sunset and the volcanic ash cloud, a real black cloud covered the UK and quickly all over Europe changing the course I would take to head home.
Easyjet put me on a coach with some other passengers and we were taken to the magical Lago Maggiore, just outside Milan. During the hour long journey, I was in a queue to speak to Easyjet and to organise a new flight home. After the 3rd attempt I got through and was told that I could be put on a flight home the next evening. That’s when we arrived in Lago Maggiore. And it was breathtakingly beautiful.
I was torn. I did not know whether I was upset that I’d woken up at 5am to catch this early flight that had been cancelled or that this was an unexpected opportunity to see a new place and not be in the office! I had no idea where I was and it seem like nobody knew either. The scenery left me speechless.
So I decided to go with my natural holiday spirit and to drop the bags and sit in the sun, soaking in the scenery.
I checked into the Hotel Villa Carlotta. My room had a balcony and was lake-facing. Up to this point, I still had no idea where I was. Not having much geographical knowledge, I had to ask before I found out. I was more muddled about the name of the town because when I went out to explore that Thursday afternoon, I asked for a map and was given one for Stresa. So that’s where I thought we were. And it wasn’t until after not being able to find any of the roads or landmarks on the map that with more enquiries, I realised it was the little stretch called Belgirate.
I went in search for the attractions in the area. I found an old church on the top of the hill, resting higher than the train tracks. It was such a lovely day. The skies were blue and not a cloud in sight! By this time, I’d rearranged my plans and was now flying into Paris on Sunday and catching the first available Eurostar on Tuesday. I thought that I was going to be more than fine. I was giving myself two days to reach Paris should my flight end up being cancelled. So, on with this hill trek. I will find this church, I will enjoy this. I mean, what views! It’s the Swiss alps, check that snow out!
And by this church, a quiet cemetery. I thought to myself that this was not a bad place to rest in the afterlife.
I quickly found out that I’d covered the one major attraction. I was feeling a little bored and mainly anxious as this black cloud of ash looked like it was going to be more trouble than everyone had expected. I was glued to the news, waiting for updates constantly. I went for walks. And I found roses. I took photos.
Squint and you will see the Swiss alps, covered in snow like a cool icey dessert. Look at what’s in front of you. Without the rose-tinted glasses, reality hit me hard.
My flight to Paris was supposed to be on Sunday morning. On Saturday, I panicked. I even went a bit hysterical. I’d slept badly the last few nights because my sleep was fueled by nervous energy and my dreams, were anxiety driven. I had to go. I felt that I’d come under the spell of Lago Maggiore. The tranquility, a welcome break after being in Milan during the Salone was now turning eerie. I started to believe that if I did not make a run for it, I could end up living here forever.
I left. I went to Stresa and it was very pretty there too. But I’d broken the spell. I was no longer interested. I was single-minded. I wanted to survive. I wanted to be home. Both homes. I wanted to be back in London home and I also wanted to be back by Wednesday for my trip back to Malaysia.
After an unsuccessful Saturday evening of queuing up for over two hours in Centrale, only to be told by the unhelpful lady that all trains to Paris were booked until May and a dash to the bus terminal, only to find it as chaotic as the train station. Ticket holders were fighting with each other to get onto coaches.
I felt broken. I was in tears. I had had enough. I wanted to be back. Urged to stay calm, and with another night’s bad sleep, a new plan had been hatched. Guy had been thinking about it and thought that I was to find a way into France, Lyon perhaps. And make my way to Paris.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 6 something from worry. I headed to Centrale again. I queued for about an hour (easy, after the day before). This time I was told they could offer me Nice and that was it.
I went for it. I had a ticket in my hand and I felt hope. A tgv train ticket from Nice to Paris was booked online. My wonderful friend Jess booked it for me. So I was off to Nice and Jess used to live there. I immediately felt like I was closer to home. I could see the light and I should celebrate!
I celebrated with Nutella on the go! It’s the perfect trainride snack. There is ice-tea in one corner, breadsticks and nutella. I even found the Sunday papers. I was all set! I listened to some music. I felt relaxed enough to enjoy and my journey out of Milan was sountracked by Floating Points’ XLR8R podcast. I sat in a compartment with four other travelers. A man who was wearing double denim, which I’ve read is oh so fashionable. He wasn’t even trying to be fashionable. You knew he’d been dressing this way since his youth. He had travelled from Vienna and was making his way to Avignon; a mother and daughter going on holiday and would have normally taken the train and a lovely lady from Stuttgart. Crystal was jolly. She was also determined not to let the ash cloud ruin her holiday. She had friends to see! So she’d been traveling for over 20 hours and had a car journey ahead of her. She was tired but we were both excited as we got on the train from Vingtimilla to Nice.
I reached Nice at night, it was dark but the route was so scenic. The weather was beautiful, but I was on a train. I could see the sea and it made me happy. I had to collect my ticket and this took another hour of queuing in the train station. The next morning, I woke up early. I wanted to see a bit Nice, I wanted to see what it was all about.
It was sun, sea and stripes! I was wearing stripes! I had Hank with me! I felt good. I was in France and I had a ticket in my fist for the 1035 to Gare du Lyon. And I saw this:
And yes. It was all going to be fine. I am going to make my Eurostar on Tuesday morning. And Hank was still with me. I have been very lucky. I was not left camping in airports and I wasn’t going to be stranded for much longer. This adventure only made me realise,that not unlike thinking about where your sausages and bacon comes from, modern travel has made us forget the actual miles between places. It is not until you move around countries to get to your final destination that you can really understand and appreciate that the quote about traveling being about the journey and not the destination has a lot of truth in it.
So I came home the scenic route, I met some interesting people, I felt loneliness, craziness and excitement too. I am glad to be back in London and I miss the sight of the lake and sea. And to be honest I’ve always wanted to take the train across Europe. I find train journeys old fashioned and romantic. And for all the hassle, for all the worry, I have returned with a story to tell. That’s not a bad thing at all.
One lazy weekend afternoon in March, we headed into Soho to view Alice Anderson‘s exhibition, Time Reversal. Walking on Beak Street, you will be struck by the odd sight of seeing hair falling over the front of this building in Soho like a heavy curtain. Like a supersized, modern version Rapunzel-esque tale, this installation draws you in.
Inside 1000s of metres of dolls’ hair shoot out from the fireplace and fill the room. The auburn hair catches the sunlight beautifully and you will end up standing and staring at this web of hair and admiring how beautiful and golden it looks in the sun.
It makes for a slightly eerie, and most definitely captivating sight. Like a freak show, you are invited to see the rest of the exhibition for a pound. Upstairs there are various sculptures featuring a doll theme and creep downstairs you can watch the 9 minute film which is part of the exhibition, The Day I Became A Doll.
For me, the exhibition’s biggest draw was the hair installation. The film with its references to gothic horror (which I love) and a study on the mother-daughter relationship, was a bit contrived. This exhibition runs until 24th April so catch it in the Riflemaker Gallery before it ends. Believe me, it makes a nice escape from the madness of the city centre being in a room of hair.
Speaking of escaping, I went to Kensington Palace for the Enchanted Palace exhibition. Drawn by its poster and by the designers involved including Vivienne Westwood, Boudicca and Stephen Jones, I took a bite. A poisoned apple it wasn’t, but it was slightly disappointing. Mainly because with magical fairytales, it is easy for the imagination to take over and reality, even with the help of digital projections and theater sets, will never match that of the mind!
Having said that, there were quite a few things I loved in the exhibition. The tear jars on display were magnificent and I left lusting after jewel-encrusted apple headband and the paper dress by Echo Morgan in the Room of the World
Photos below are via Style Bubble as photography was not allowed in the exhibition.
It still made for a fun afternoon which ended with a berry meringue served with thick cream and fresh berries in The Orangery.
London. I love how it’s so easy to disappear into a modern day fairytale here.
I have been feeling guilty for neglecting the blog. A confession. I have a few new addictions. One is the game Doodle Jump and the other is wonderful Joy Orbison mix. The mix is an easier thing to be obsessed with as I can just listen to this on repeat and it does not really affect my life apart from the obvious joy I get streaming into my ears. Doodle Jump on the other hand has put my life on hold. Like a proper geek, I’ve quickly become very addicted to this game, playing it all the time, at any given chance.
I thought that I needed to cure this addiction but could not bring myself to delete the application from my phone. I have decided that tonight I will write about Porto and Lisbon.
At our first stop, Porto we regrettably had rain every day. Luckily the large number of confectioners meant that we could duck in and out of the rain for more pasteis de nata and quick cups of strong coffee or bica. And even though chocolate umbrellas can’t really protect you from the rain, it can with a little imagination make you forget your soaking feet.
I found Porto an interesting destination. The city was so old and hilly. The architecture beautiful. We searched for youth, but kept finding old men in flat caps and walking sticks. In a club, we sat in the dancefloor next to a family. Three generations sitting together in a darkened club, illuminated only by the dancing lights from the giant disco ball. The DJ played something generic and other families peered in from the madly decorated bar. It was surreal and wonderful.
Our next stop was Lisbon, a city we knew would be very different. It even has its own Le Cool guidebook. We wouldn’t find clubs filled with small tots learning how to walk and greying men and women. We’d find bars that looked like crazy museums lit by pak choy lampshades.
In Lisbon, we missed variety in our diet so we went in search of something different. It led us to near wild goose chases to find the Mozambican restaurant and later a Malaysian-inspired place called Cafe Malacca.
We pursued the cool in Barrio Alto and Principe Real but it was in Sintra where we found paradise (as described by Lord Byron) and a paper mache animal park. In Lisbon, the old and new sat together comfortably. Sprayed on tiles didn’t look out of place next to the originals that are so distinctively Portugese.
In Sintra we walked up the massive hill and were rewarded by the calm of the lake where a lone black swan was swimming in circles. The air was so fresh and the forest trees were alight with autumnal colours.
On our way to Belem we found the Museu Da Carris, a charming little museum dedicated to the trams! In Belem we had the most delicious tarts in Antiga Confectaria de Belem. Here perfectly baked custard tarts are served with icing sugar and cinnamon. Each bite is perfectly flaky with a soft filling. I regret not taking photos of any tarts. There were so many petite cakes and tarts. I have never eaten so much pastry in my life. And I’ve also never enjoyed pastry this much.
On one of the evenings we met a dapper man. He was so excited about the fact we lived in London that he repeatedly proclaimed “London is the best country in the world!”. This we found endearing and very amusing.
The main highlight of the trip was when we decided to seek out The Cape Verdean Association (Associação de Cabo-Verde, 8th floor at Avenida Duque de Palmela 2, tel. 21 353 1932). In the business district of Lisbon, in an 80s office block, we entered this grey building and into the lift with two men in suits, clearly on their office lunch breaks.
Together we rode up to the eight floor. As we approached the 6th floor, we started hearing music. The men got more and more animated.
The lift opened onto the 8th floor into a big dining hall, filled with people, laughing, eating and chatting. There was a band playing Afro-Portugese music and couples danced in the front. I have never felt so much happiness around me. My last memory of Lisbon was this busy hall filled with music, chatter and dance. And I can’t imagine a nicer way to end a holiday.