The Good, The Bad & The Durian: Reflections On Being Back In Malaysia

It was exactly a month ago since I set out on this journey back to the homeland. People have asked how I’m adjusting, and as expected, there are pros and cons.

The first two weeks were spent getting over jet lag and the fact that I no longer lived in Maryland. Quite a number of mornings started out with me thinking that I had someplace in Washington D.C. to get to, only to remember that oh, right. I moved halfway around the world. Continue reading

Five Essential Ways to Discover the Real San Francisco

An alley in the Mission District.

Cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and Lombard Street — iconic, San Francisco landmarks that are a given on the must-see lists of first-time visitors. A few days of exploring those gorgeous sights are bound to have you hankering for more that the city has to offer, especially to places that fewer tourists know about. Here are my suggestions on how to discover the real San Francisco.

 

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Snow is Fun — Sometimes

We started off nice and cutesy…

I’ve made it clear on more than one occasion how much I dislike snow, but when good old friends show up for a visit in this weather, even I can’t stay moody. Della, my Taiwanese friend whom I’ve known since freshman year of college came down from New Jersey for a farewell visit, and we decided to have a little fun with the snow, even though it was already beginning to melt.

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Penn State in the Winter

I’m now at 15 days before I leave the US permanently. It’s so surreal to think that one day, I’m living here and in a couple of weeks, I’ll be elsewhere, never to return (at least not in the foreseeable future.) I still have a number of essential things I need to get done, namely papers for the cat that can’t be processed till I’m down to my last 10 days here. The procedure with bringing him over has been so nerve wracking that I’ll be saving that for a post after I’m back in Kuala Lumpur.

But none of that has anything to do with winter at Penn State, my alma mater in State College, Pennsylvania. I visited last weekend with my friend Liz, mainly because we live so far from each other and Penn State often becomes our mid point meeting. Continue reading

See What Washington D.C. Looks Like at Night

Every night when dark settles over the District, bright lights around the city’s famous landmarks power on, creating a magnificent glowing aura around it. Even if you had traipsed around the city snapping shots of yourself in front of memorials and monuments earlier in the day, it’s worth the trip to come back out at night and see them again in a, well — different light. A thinner volume of visitors and cool night air makes the walk all the more pleasant. Not to mention a creative, romantic date idea! Continue reading

Korean Food at Vit Goel (Lighthouse Tofu)

I’m typically not a fan of Korean food. Previous experiences have ranged from too much garlic, to overly sweet bulgogi, to chewy and inedible grilled pork skin; and to emerging from poorly ventilated restaurants smelling musky of days-old food. I’m aware that my sentiment goes against the love for Korean food as shown by legions of fans, but sorry — or not — I just never got into it.

But at Lighthouse Tofu, also known as Vit Goel, I’m assured that I’ll never encounter the problems mentioned above. Atmosphere in the wood-paneled restaurant is quite a pleasant home feel, whilst servers are quick with recommending dishes and serving complimentary little saucers of kimchi and pickled vegetable appetizers. Continue reading

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios

I’m a huge Potterhead, I am. I’ve read the entire series twice over and seen (all) the movies at least four times. While researching the trip, I became aware that the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is actually part of Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure theme park, and couldn’t help feeling a bit worried that HP World might be too small or too watered down, but my fears are now equivocally nixed. HP World is every bit as magical as everyone says it is, and overall, Islands of Adventure is as exciting as the main Universal Studios park. Continue reading

The Ollivander’s Wand Shop Experience

The wizard’s apprentice ushers about 10-15 people from the queue formed outside the shop, into a room lit just enough to make out a staircase built against wall shelves holding stacks and stacks of boxes (presumably) containing wands. A dark figure, back towards the crowd, begins to move on the landing of the staircase once the small crowd gathered has situated themselves.

Soon, you’ll realise that it’s an actor in wizard costume, the presumed shop proprietor. The wizard welcomes you to his shop before going on to pick one audience member for the reenactment of the scene in the movie, where Harry Potter meets Ollivander the wand maker and is told that “the wand chooses the wizard.” Continue reading

Izakaya Dinner at Kushi

Dinner at Kushi is one of the most delicious Japanese meals I’ve had in awhile. Special shout out goes to their mini rice bowl with salmon sashimi and roe — the fish glimmers with freshness and melts in your mouth like really fresh sashimi should; those little orange-red pearls of salmon roe burst when chewed, spreading delightfully rich and savoury goodness across the tastebuds. If heaven exists, I would hope I’ll be served this little bowl of gargantuan deliciousness thrice a week. Continue reading