Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ipoh 2016: Is Kellie's Castle Worth a Visit?

I have been meaning to write something here, also that was something I said (I think) when I made a comeback a few posts ago. So, I am here I am trying to do another comeback posts, because who doesn't want to hear (or read) from someone who has disappeared?

Ok, so here I am, enjoying what is left of our long weekend, the second of this month! I spent the three days doing absolutely nothing, except for emptying the bags of laundry that have been waiting for me. 

Even on the weekends, I try to stay busy, even if I should be dilly-dallying at home. However, I refuse to do anything work-related, because I don't want to be consumed by it. Well OK, I casually insert scheduling of Facebook posts and checking our website traffic sometimes. Also, last month, I have been working on weekends, too--attending events, giving a talk (yup, I did!) among other things. So this month, I vowed to keep my weekends for my personal agenda. 

I also try to travel, even if it means I take my friends with me--and I am glad they are happy to come along with.

***

Two weeks ago, we spent our weekend in Ipoh, Perak.

Some of the shop houses in one of the streets in Ipoh old town.

Ipoh was recently named as one of the top 10 destinations to visit in Asia by the Lonely Planet. The quaint city two hours north of Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a quick escape from the city if you want to soak in some culture, food, and sceneries. 

Our first stop was Kellie's Castle. Located 30 minutes away from Ipoh, it was our first stop as it was on the way from KL. 

Built by Scottish planter William Kellie Smith for his wife (or his son, whichever story you prefer to believe), the unfinished mansion has a hydraulic lift (supposed to be the first in Malaysia), tennis court, and secret passageway in almost every room. Also, the castle is supposed to be connected to a Hindu temple through a secret passageway. We did not attempt to look for it. 

From afar, the ruins look majestic.



A mix of Indian, Moorish, and Scottish architecture







I found it funny that the descriptions inside the mansion say something about Kellie's castle being haunted by spirits. I guess supernatural tidbits bring more guests? Personally, I found it unnecessary. Maybe mention once, but not over and over? Vandals were found all over the place, too. Not a nice way to leave your mark on a historic site, guys. Nothing much to say, except that if you like places like this (and for Instagram's sake, I guess), you should pay a visit. Otherwise, the RM10 entrance fee is quite not worth it. Other than one room filled with pieces of furniture, the rest are empty. Also, maybe don't go around noontime; it's very hot.

Toasted and famished, we headed over to a hawker place near our hotel. 

Chuk, Nessybessy, SuBB like being photographed, obviously. 
I think I will keep the post up to here for now. The next ones will be about the Old Town (and how we attempted to ride a four-man bike--did we succeed? Find out soon!), our breakfast food, and Gunung Lang

Have you also gone to Kellie's Castle? What do you think about it?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Nasi Lemak Story

Recently, Time Magazine named Nasi Lemak, Malaysia's most popular dish as one of the 10 healthy international breakfasts. (My work website also did a list inspired by this list, btw) I don't know what makes this breakfast appealing and healthy. One, can you imagine eating spicy sauce in the morning? Two, isn't rice cooked in coconut milk kind of icky to think about? Also, how is something literally translated to 'fatty rice' be healthy?

Typical Nasi Lemak with coconut rice, sambal, anchovies, egg, peanuts and some veggies. (from playbuzz.com)
Living in Malaysia for almost 3 1/2 years, it's impossible to ignore Nasi Lemak. It's the country's national food. They eat it not just in the morning; Malaysians eat it anytime of the day - breakfast, lunch, possibly even dinner. One plate can go low as RM1 (P10-11) - so cheap. It comes in different varieties, but staple ingredients are rice cooked in coconut milk, some anchovy, sambal (chili sauce), and peanuts. It's usually wrapped in banana leaf and sold everywhere in Malaysia. Luckily, I was able to stay away from this food. I could not even bring myself to like it - I can't think why people love it sooo much.

But this morning, while I was at my boyfriend's house in Johor Bahru, I had no choice but to eat Nasi Lemak. Side story, his family has made me eat all sorts of foods I can't imagine I will eat. Curry? Yes. Yam with deer meat? Yes. Chicken Biryani with super spicy curry? Yes (although not everything). Any food with curry? YES. Can't imagine, seroiously - and I am proud of myself  because I overcame my pickiness and actually loved them. (Thanks, Guys!!!)

Back to the story, on the table were bungkus of Nasi Lemak. Oh damn.

bungkus means pack (from Getty Images)

As I sat there thinking 'How can I get away from this situation?' I asked my boyfriend if he can share it with me. Lol. He said, no. I was so hungry, but I have no choice but to get one and eat my own Nasi Lemak. So I stood up, took spoon and fork, and prayed internally that I won't die of the spiciness.

And you know what: It was actually good. The Nasi Lemak I had was everything I imagined Nasi Lemak would be... NOT.

The rice had a hint of coconut taste - it's not overpowering and the texture is not wet. Cooked to perfection. The sambal sauce was sweet and spicy - but I didn't put everything because I was still apprehensive. The anchovy, oh boy, I loved this before I even came to Malaysia, together with the egg, were good additions to the sauce because the saltiness tamed the sweet/spicy combination. Plus, the peanut is something really unexpected. If you spoon all of them and eat altogether, the weird, but tasty taste is like what they say - 'an explosion in the mouth.'

The food that I have tried so many times to avoid has become one of my favourite discoveries this year. Moral of the story, don't judge a food until you haven't eaten it. Ok, maybe I still will - but I will try my best to be more open about different cuisines and don't be afraid to 'tickle' my tastebuds a bit.

Verdict: I wouldn't mind eating Nasi Lemak again. Oh, next time with fried chicken, maybe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Health Confession

Recently, I have been dealing with the worst health problems since I had typhoid fever (22 years ago, I think). Last March, I had a weekend suffering from Vertigo. It's funny when people say I use it as an excuse because they think I'm too young to have it, and it angers me because they do not know how hard it is to go through the day and I can't even get out of bed. The doctor gave me a ton of medicines and at some point I was running on pain killers and muscle relaxers. 

Then a few weeks back, I went to the doctor because I've been having constant headache on the left side of my head. The pain extends over my left eye that I cannot even stare at my work computer or direct light to get through. And guess what, my BP is 140/80. That got me scared a bit, because alta presion runs in the both side of my families, with both my grandparents on father side suffering from stroke.I have to take more pain killers and it was scary at one point because it felt like my life depended on it. 

I have gained two kilos (not normally scary, but weird to think I've never been more than 50kgs in my life) and have cut down on food because I'm too scared to eat anything that can cause me more dilemma. 

I admit I have become a bit lazy. I stopped running (well, that did not work out, I guess) and haven't been doing yoga. Sad to admit that all I do now is sleep and eat and repeat and my only work out is when I go to my boss's office which is quite often (you should see my shy leg muscles). I have been moody and always mad crazy. It's sad and disappointing. And it's not me. 

I have been rethinking of my recent lifestyle choices and all the things I have been doing wrong. It's sad that my body has to suffer because of my preferences. I used to enjoy walking around on weekends and sweating it out when I can. I used to go swimming on Saturday mornings because I wake up early. I used to not eat pork almost on a daily basis.

Thinking I should get a healthy overhaul soon and get my lazy ass out of the bed or couch. But for now, as recommended by my doctor, heading to bed early so I will not be too stressed. 

I'm putting this out here as a reminder to myself to think of me first and what's best for me. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gone Girl

These thoughts came to me around 3.30 this morning. I am not sure why and how, but I had the urge to write about them instantly. But I didn't because sleepiness took over and I thought that maybe if I don't remember it when I wake up, it's probably not worth blabbing about.

But I still remembered.

I am talking about my feelings for Gone Girl, not the book, but the movie directed by one of my favourite directors, David Fincher. It stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as the doomed Dunne couple. If you have read the book, you would say that it's better than the film. I have heard this several times, but cannot really attest, as I have not finished it and went straight to see the movie version. So I will not touch how the film seemed to hurried everything and packed most of the story in two hours (or depending on which version you have seen).

Initially the movie got cancelled for release in Malaysia, due to its graphic and sexual contents. According to Twentieth Century Fox, the film's distributor, in a response to a question posted in their Facebook account, Gone Girl was "taken out of the release plan here (Malaysia) due to the excessive censor cuts required, which significantly affect the movie experience." It came as a big surprise however on the last week of November, when they announced that they are finally showing an 'International Cut' meaning there was a 'way around' showing the significant moments in the film without (too much) cuts as one would have expected. Still, a supposed better version  came out online on Friday, before the movie hit local cinemas.

Although I initially wanted to watch the movie on big screen, it was a good thing I did because I was terribly disappointed. Fincher and I have gone a long way. From the Fight Club, to Se7en (so awesome!), my favouriteSocial Network and also Girl with Dragon Tattoo, which were both adapted from books. I had high expectations for Gone Girl. Firstly, because it had an all-star cast, 2/3 of my dream team (Fincher with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), and everyone was buzzing about the movie. I even threw a small fit when they did not show it in Malaysia at first because I have waited for it.

But I guess despite the good reviews and high ratings, the film still felt lacking. In the beginning, it was long and dragging and it reached its high point when they finally showed Amy (Rosamund Pike was so good, I think she was the saving grace of the movie), then towards the end it felt flat. Ben Affleck did not at all move me, even during the confessional part. I did not feel any sympathy when he lost his wife, or mad when we learned he cheated. The character was a little undeveloped. Affleck is not a bad actor - he got me on the edge of my seat when I watched Argo, but he did not shine in the movie the way Pike or Neil Patrick Harris did. If he did not play the lead character, his appearance to me was forgettable - even his penis and ass (which were much talked about) were, too.

So when I learned that the movie and Affleck got snubbed in this year's Golden Globes, I thought it was another injustice. But then again, the movie proved that they did not deserve to be on the list. Let's see if it gets nominated in the Academy Awards. 

Maybe this is me coming from too much hope to disappointment. A lot of people might disagree with me. I don't know. I'd like to know what you think.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

For Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift, the country-pop-rock songstress who just recently released her new album, 1989. I admit I was very excited to listen to this album, amongst all the ones she released, because it's a shift from the usual Swift - it's purely pop, not the guitar driven country music, but more of synth and drums with late '80s, early '90s feel. It's a refreshing album, whose references to a lost love is still evident in the songs (but lesser, I think!), but in a catchier, less sappy tunes we are so used to hearing from her.

I am a new listener, and now a new fan. Some would hate her for being so transparent, especially with her music, but this is what makes her admirable. She's maybe oversharing, but in today's age, who is not? The only difference is we live in filters, in sugar coating, meanwhile she tells it as it is, while under the limelight. I have never followed her career so intently. To be honest I just started truly liking her with her 2012 album, Red, where we can already sense a hint of change in her direction. If you call yourself a fan and have not sensed that, how did that happen? 

Now going back to her 1989, which is named so after her birth year, I have seen people reacting how different this new release sounds and that they miss the old Taylor Swift. But what do we want her to do? Get stuck for not being herself? Reading her notes on the album, as well as the various interviews she has given, Swift said the change was something she has always wanted to do and if she doesn't do it, she might forever regret not even trying. 

A lot of artists have tried experimenting with their career, there is of course Madonna, the queen of pop and re-invention, as the most evident example, among others. While Mad's is a success story, there are some whose career went into oblivion, never ever had a chance to recover, because they risked the change. Maybe they did it wrong? Maybe the success of the change hit them so hard, they wasted the opportunity? We would not know. But regardless if it was a great feat or a doom, isn't taking a risk the very same thing that should drive all of us? The only successful people I know have pushed boundaries and dared to reach heights as compared to their play-it-safe contemporaries. There might be a chance for us to fail, but we will never know what will happen if we won't push for it. 

The point is, why are we limiting ourselves to what is expected? Not because it has worked over and over, it does not mean we need to get stuck. For that, I admire Taylor Swift for the path she has decided to cross. I love the new album. It's worth the risk. 

***

After listening to the album for three straight days (okay, mostly when I wake up and get home from work and while writing this blog), I recommend the tracks Welcome to New York, Style, and Out of the Woods

Enjoy, 1989!