Friday, September 28, 2018

Learn Sign Language with Starbucks Bangsar Village 2

Wouldn't it be cool to actually learn sign language?

Now you can do that at Starbucks Bangsar Village 2. Starbucks, in partnership with the Society of Interpreters for the Deaf (SID), developed the Outreach Community Program to enhance Deaf livelihood and enrich customers through a series of free workshops held throughout the year at Starbucks Bangsar Village II. There are currently three types of workshops that you can participate in : the Personal and Professional Development Workshop, the Deaf Empowerment and Awareness for Youth workshop, and the Signing Workshop.

Monday, September 24, 2018

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Visit Japan in Autumn

People say that Japan is beautiful all year, all season round. I disagree and I think that autumn is the worst time to go to Japan. And here are 5 reasons:

Friday, September 21, 2018

Things to do in Naha, Okinawa that are accessible by Train and Foot

Okinawa, despite being a part of Japan was like being in a different country altogether. The culture and food are influenced heavily by the Ryukyu history with touches of Taiwanese and Korean due to the proximity of those countries to the island. Also due to the American army bases all across the island, American brands are fairly popular with Blue Seal ice cream, SPAM and A and W fast food being common household names there. While a well-known holiday destination for locals, the island remained foreign to many tourists from abroad due to its accessibility.

Last February, I had the pleasure of spending several weeks there, the first couple of weeks on a horse farm in Nanjo, South of Naha and the remaining days exploring the main city. February being the peak of winter for the rest of Japan merely resulted in a pleasant weather with a cooling breeze on sunny days to enjoy at its many pristine beaches and historical and cultural sightseeing attractions. 

You can read my articles on my time at Umikaze Horse Farm and Five Things to do in Nanjo

After the farm, I spent a day or two exploring Naha by foot and Yui Monorail. As a solo traveler, it made no sense budget-wise to rent a car and also, my international driving permit had expired by then. It was okay though as it was my first time in Okinawa and I wanted to properly explore downtown Naha. I will save the rest of Okinawa for future trips. 

Start Point - Kitchen Hostel Ao
Nearest station: Prefectural Office aka Kencho-Mae station (10 minutes walk) 
My day started out with a hearty breakfast at my hostel, the Kitchen Hostel Ao, located a short ten minutes walk away from Kokusai-Dori and the Prefectural Office station of the Yui Monorail line.

Unlike the main cities in Japan, there are no sprawling interconnecting train lines in Naha - only the Yui Monorail. The line connects the city from Naha Airport all the way to Shuri castle and travellers have the option of the island prepaid IC card, OKICA or QR day passes for one or two days. These can be purchased at the ticket vending machine at the stations. 

Stop 1 - Shuri Castle (updated 1 Nov 2019: closed due to a massive fire) 
Nearest station: Gibo station or Shuri Castle (15 minutes walk) 
From the Prefectural Office station, I took the Yui monorail all the way to Shuri Castle, getting off at Gibo station as it was the closest station to the castle entrance. However you can also opt to get off at the last station of the line, Shuri station if you prefer walking through the park to the castle. 

When I was visiting Shuri Castle, the annual Momoso Omono Mairi procession was taking place and it drew in massive crowds of tourists and locals. Having originated from the Ryukyu Kingdom, it involved wirshipping Utaki aka sacred sites and the Hinukan aka God of Fire. The event started off in the main castle courtyard before leading on to the numerous sacred sites within the vicinity. Visitors are permitted to follow and take photos but remain a respectable distance to avoid interfering with the procession.

Stop 2 - Ishidatami Chaya Madama 
Nearest station: Gibo station or Shuri Castle (25 minutes walk) 
Ishidatami Chaya Madama was sort of a hidden jem with a stunning view of Okinawa inland. After the Momoso Omono Mairi, I wandered around the area and on to the Shrikinjocho Stone Path Road. A steep walk down, I found the entrance of the cafe right next to a makeshift waterfall.

An English menu was provided by the friendly cafe owner and I ended up feasting on their delicious Okinawa soba, local coffee and the toufu pudding while enjoying the view for over an hour. As I was leaving, the owner asked me where I was from and gave me a gift of Okinawa donuts.

After that heavy meal, the long walk back to Gibo station helped to fend off the food coma threatening to roll in. As the stations are open-aired and elevated, the view from Gibo station was enough to make one pause to whip out the camera for a shot or two.

Stop 3 - Kokusai-Dori Shopping Street 
Nearest station: Makishi station or Prefectural Office station (5 minutes walk) 
Ah, the main shopping street of downtown Naha. On Sundays, the entire road will be closed off to vehicles and open for street performers, art shows and pedestrians to walk around and about the two kilometer street.

The temptation to stick to the main street was real but the side streets hold their own secrets too. I found quiet little shopping street selling the reasonable clothing, antiques, fresh produces and kitchenware and bought handcrafted Japanese curry spoons for myself and friends. Along Kokusai-Dori, some main places to check out are Blue Seal for ice cream, Don Quixote for souvenirs, A and W for root beer and Sango35 coffee for their local coffee brew.

Stop 4 - Yunangi Restaurant 
Nearest station: Prefectural Office station (5 minutes walk) 
Okinawa cuisine are miles apart from the typical ramen, tempura and sushi dishes of Japanese food. The food often carry touches of Chinese style cooking and ingredients. Yunangi was a little hideaway restaurant just off the start of Kokusai-Dori, entrance closest to the Prefectural Office station. 

The entrance was hard to spot but the row of chairs outside the establishment was a good indicator of how popular it can get. I was there early for dinner but as soon as I stepped in, I was surprised by how crowded it was with locals. I was quickly seated at the bar and ordered a bowl of squid ink risotto, ratufe and umibudo (sea grapes). The risotto came out more like porridge with chunks of squid. The umibudo was one of the island speciality and was pleasantly refreshing. Fans of braised pork should order the ratufe for the melt in the mouth balance of fat and meat soaked in brown sugar and awamori liquor.

Stuffed and filled the brim with the island delicacies and its cultural wonders, I waddled back to my hostel which was just a ten minutes walk away from Yunangi. For late night owls, there are ample pubs and izakayas along Kokusai-Dori that open until late.

Getting to Okinawa
Sorry, no bullet train to whisk visitors off to this seaside heaven. Flying in is the most economical and fastest way to get to Naha Airport from the rest of Japan. Premium airlines like ANA and JAL often offer fixed reasonable rates for domestic flights for foreigners at about 10,800 yen one way (RM360 - RM400). Alternatively Malaysians can fly into Okinawa via Jetstar through Singapore for a shorter flight at about 5 hours.

Of course Naha and Okinawa has much more to offer but without a car or a bike, I was limited to public transportation and my own two feet. Had I more time, I would have taken the bus to the other parts of the island but then again, would rather leave some parts unexplored for a returning trip hopefully not alone the next time. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Starbucks Malaysia's Autumn Drinks are in Stores nationwide!

Did you know coffee beans grow inside of a cherry? In the world of Starbucks coffee craft, the outer husk of the cherry, also known as Cascara, is having a star moment this autumn. Embracing this often-neglected part of a coffee plant, the subtly sweet Cascara is made into a syrup with complex flavors reminiscent of dark brown sugar and maple. Starting 12 September 2018, Cascara Cold Foam Cold Brew will be available for a limited time, bringing together Starbucks 14-hour slow-steeped Cold Brew with Cascara syrup infused cold foam.

Monday, September 17, 2018

A Noob Cupid's Guide to Matchmaking

I never understood people's fascination with other people's love life and their constant need to play matchmaker. Frankly, every time a group of friends tries to set me up with someone else, it only shows me how little they understand about me and makes one wonder if they do this simply for their own amusement *looks pointedly at aforementioned friends*

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sarawak Laksa at SALTed, Mutiara Damansara

Happy Malaysia Day to my fellow Malaysians!

In case some of you may not know, I am a Sarawak-born, Peejay girl and with that, comes a love for Sarawak Laksa. Compared to Penang and Ipoh cuisine, good Sarawak food are hard to come by in Peninsular Malaysia. Once I find a place or two that meets my standards and fulfill my cravings, I tend to go back to those places again and again for the same dish.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Mari Ber-REMPAH Carnival 2018, Tamarind Square Cyberjaya

If an Instagrammable 110 year old train depot in Sentul West is not your thing, then head on down to REMPAH 2018, held at Tamarind Square, Cyberjaya. Ya know, that place with the 24 hours bookstore...You can expect everything under one roof: Food, music, arts and crafts. Basically a mixture of everything hence also the event name REMPAH (apparently having food-named events is a crowd pleaser ah. REMPAH la...Tiffin we'll get - Rojak, Laksa and Burger Carnival without the actual food). 

Friday, September 14, 2018

6 Instagrammable Angles at Sentul Depot

As you may already know from my previous post, RIUH x GRAB Malaysia Day Weekend is kicking off this 15-16 Sept at the once decommissioned, off limited to public Sentul Depot. Sentul Depot in Sentul West has somewhat of an eventful history having survived a WWII bombing and is still the largest train depot in Malaysia. It currently occupies an estimated 5.2 hectares (13 acres) of land, Sentul Depot with a footprint of 200,000 square feet.  However as beautiful as it is and despite YTL Land's renovation and works, Sentul Depot has its untouched, un-rebuilt areas and corners, left in ruins since the bombing.

Even as the RIUH x Grab Malaysia Day Weekend takes place this weekend opening up Sentul Depot to the masses in decades, there will be sections and areas that will be blocked off for safety purposes. But fret not because there are some instagrammable angles you can try without endangering your life and without breaking the rules all for that Insta-worthy feed.

RIUH X GRAB: Malaysia Day Weekend at Historical Sentul Depot

This Malaysia Day weekend (15-16 September), RIUH together with GRAB Malaysia invites you to step into what was once a forbidden premise. Standing for over 100 years, the baronial statue of Sentul Depot loomed through the greens of Sentul West, among similarly structured buildings of a long but not forgotten time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Canmake Japan x Guardian Malaysia Funfair

What girl doesn't love her makeup? For the longest time, dark eyeliners and brown eyeshadows has been my go-to aid for a quick fix me up when I am headed out for a meeting or event. And for someone who is in need of changing up her day-to-day and event look, Canmake Tokyo make up collection is just what I needed to add to my current collection.

At Canmake's recent Fun Fair event at Alya International Gallery (love the location btw! So much natural lighting and space!), Canmake introduced the latest additions to its many makeup ranges and demonstrated in a grandeur of fun in pink and white, why it is one of Japan's most popular makeup brands.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Have a Splash at the All New Swimming Club, KL Journal Hotel

Get your swimsuits ready for one of the latest and most Instagrammable pool bars in Kuala Lumpur. Hidden on the 11th rooftop floor of The Kuala Lumpur Journal Hotel, The Swimming Club is the perfect place to get sun-kissed, unwind with friends, and share sundown moments with classic cocktails with a local twist in hand. Don't believe me?

Then check out this photo below:

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Mooncake Festival 2018 - Starbucks Mooncake Gift Set 2018

Starbucks continues its tradition of offering new and unique gift sets that are sure to inspire families to reconnect during this harvest season. The new exclusive mooncake gift set from Starbucks features a brand new design, a unique tea-set, two sachets of tea and four moon cake in very distinct flavors. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Beauty Through Wellness through Nature' s Bounty, Watsons

As the famous saying goes, beauty is only skin deep. From what I learnt at the recent Nature's Bounty Beauty Through Wellness talk, beauty goes beyond skin deep right down to the micro levels of our body's nutrients and vitamins intake. After all, you are what you eat. So take care of your insides for your skin and complexion to glow.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Mooncake Festival 2018 - Four Seasons Hotel KL

Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur has officially announced that its in-house mooncakes will be specially made by Chef Jimmy Wong, Executive Chinese Chef of Yun House and his team of capable chefs. 

Its luxurious golden box can hold up to four mooncakes and with seven carefully crafted flavours to pick from, the temptation to get multiple boxes might be too great.