Friday, August 31, 2012

Selamat Hari Merdeka, Malaysia

Last week, I was at the neighborhood vegetarian eatery, thinking about the 1Malaysia concept. The idea of Malays, Chinese and Indians uniting for the good of the country has plenty of flaws because of the way Malaysia is run. I was thinking about how superficially created the three-races-together image is, a marketing ploy for tourists to the land that bills itself "Truly Asia".

When I approached the counter to pay for my dinner, the Indian server spoke to me in Chinese. Then I thought, hey, maybe 1Malaysia isn't too far-fetched after all.

Happy Independence Day, Malaysia. You've done well in these past 50-odd years.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Salon thoughts

"Haircut," I said to the tiny girl manning the cashier.

"Shampoo?" she asked.

"Yes," I said. I sat down on the chair when another woman started dripping water on my hair using a container similar to the kind that was being used for ketchup in eateries sometime ago. It took me a while to figure out that she was going to shampoo my hair in the chair, not at the sink, which is what I was used to. She expertly worked up a lather, very careful not to let any suds fall to the floor. Shaping my hair every which way, she demonstrated her skills in the longest shampoo session I have ever had in my life. My hair smelled terrific afterwards.

The stylists were all hip, as if ready to go on a night out. They had touchscreen phones and looked too cool for a salon beside a supermarket. I thought my stylist was going to be the young gay Chinese lookalike of Ely Buendia seated irritably in one corner. But no, it was the tiny girl manning the cashier. When she stepped toward me, I had a glimpse of her tattoo-covered calves.

She said that I have the unholy triumvirate of hair woes: too thick, frizzy and naturally wavy. Either I use chemicals (which I have had enough of) or I blow dry every day (which I do, but always in a hurry and most likely in the wrong way). She knew my hair better than I did in the three decades I have been on this earth.

Her cropped black jacket, though it looked plastic and not leather, made her look cool. Her short hair was perfectly coloured into an oddly natural-looking light brown. Her folded-up cut-offs, fanny pack and shiny scissors actually made her look like a manga character with a superhero alterego. I imagined myself writing about her exploits. Snip! Snip! Snip! Without a strand out of place.

There was no iced tea, no massage, no brush to dust off the stray hair that had entered my shirt. The stylist walked to the counter. She really was the cashier. The price was somewhere around what I expected, but it was still more than four times what I would pay for back home. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to tip so I lingered for a few seconds longer. She gave me her card. Now I have a heroine. Her name is Litz.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ramadan 2012

My first Ramadan in a Muslim country was insightful. The Muslims would fast for sun-up until sundown, then break the fast with nightly feasts. For some, this meant adjusted working hours that allowed them to leave the office earlier to avoid the traffic jam. For me, it was about sensitivity towards those who were fasting (don't eat in front of them or be more discreet about drinking). Although I prefer the Catholic form of fasting that at least allowed crackers and water (eating a large meal at night doesn't sound that healthy), fasting is a habit that is good for the spirit.

Like Christmas, Raya means flashing lights and decor like ketupat (think puso from Cebu, rice wrapped in woven palm leaves) and greetings of "Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri".

There are Raya commercials, Raya songs, Raya deals in stores, and cultural presentations like these at Suria KLCC for the whole month.

One thing that struck me is the fondness for the kampung, the humble village. All the LRT stations had simple dining spreads at the entrances. Would you think about displaying a rusty roof with a rubber tire in the middle of the mall? It's quite nostalgic.

I enjoyed going to two pasar ramadhans, markets that would sell special food from the afternoons till early evenings for people to take home and eat with their families. There's always more food than you can finish!

It was also nice to dress up in traditional Malay attire in the office without anybody scratching their heads. Wouldn't it be nice to wear Filipiniana in the office once a year?

Raya is also the time when many people take extended holidays. The only thing I missed is the open house where people invite you to break the fast with them at home. Hope I'll catch that next year.

Even though Ramadan is over, the mood isn't quite back to work yet--there's another long weekend coming up for Independence Day. Time to paint!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Makan 2

I didn't eat or drink most of these, but I wanted to share them with you anyway.

My tablemates' food, L'Elephant, Luang Prabang, Laos:

Beer and breakfast at midnight, Paradiso Lounge, Publika, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

Finally, what I actually ate. Golden Soft-shell Crab Pasta, Plan B, 1Utama, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia:

Claypot Chicken Rice from roadside stall, Jln Tun Sambanthan 4, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

Conveyor belt sushi, Sushi King, Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

In which I discover that dory does not a good cod substitute make. Fish & Chips, Manhattan Fish Market, Ampang Park Shopping Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

National Textile Museum + KL City Gallery

Intrigued by its facade, I visited the National Textile Museum (Muzium Tekstil Negara) near Merdeka Square (Dataran Merdeka) hoping to have a better appreciation of Malaysian textiles. I came out of it wanting more. Maybe I'm asking for too much from a free museum with limited space, but there's something off when your favourite gallery in the textile museum is the one with the accessories.

The entrance hall made of glass is away from the road.

Nyonya kebaya


An intriguing buckle with numbers

The most unusual thing I saw in the museum. Can you guess what it is for?

Various types of traditional Malay clothing

Right across the road from the museum is the KL City Gallery. This thinly disguised ARCH souvenir store is aimed at tourists (think 10% KL history--which is short enough as it is, 90% gift shop). Don't get me wrong--I find ARCH wood veneer products beautiful (though quite expensive even though they are handmade).

A craftsman at work

A collection of framed ARCH souvenirs

Gift shop ceiling

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lucky Lindy

After two months of lindy hop, we're now moving to charleston. But before that, we had a little graduation party. The girls came in their dresses and all looked good. There weren't enough leads, so they had to be 'recycled' for the Mess Around. A good night.