DIY Spark Diwali Joy with Nippon

When you think of getting your house painted, the name that comes to mind is Nippon Paint. It’s a brand that’s been around for a while now and has established its name in the coating industry.  This is why I was thrilled to be a part of their Spark Diwali Joy media workshop that was conducted by a well-known interior designer, Ben Firdaus.

Before the workshop began, we were given a tour around their Expo, where the
Nippon team further explained to us about the types of paints they have
available. The area had so many bright-coloured showcases of items that can be painted with their paints and needless to say, it got my creative juices flowing to create my very own stencilled faux-wall design.
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I went for a minimalistic ombre Kollam inspired mandala design while keeping to the aesthetics of using bright vibrant colours to signify the Festival of Lights. We also given a quick overview on the proper coating solution for walls to ensure the colours last before the Do It Yourself introductory session with the Gold Paint (that I fell in love with). So going to be sharing my own version of my DIY process with you 🙂

I’m a sucker for gold details in any living space. I feel like it adds the right touch of classiness & it immediately gives a face-lift whilst brightening up the area. What I loved about this Nippon Gold Paint is that it is easily applicable to all types of surfaces at home. Plus, it’s made to withstand Malaysian weather which means you can use it for both indoor and outdoor items.

I had a bunch of clay oil lamps that I purchased from Brickfields about a year ago & decided to use them for this Deepavali DIY idea. If I’m not mistaken I paid about RM5 for the whole set that I got;

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The lamps itself had little details on them which I thought were perfect to be enhanced by the gold paint;

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To start off the process, you can apply a base primer to the item to make the gold colour pop even more. However, I wanted to experiment what it would look like without the primer and I must say, I am impressed with how gorgeous the gold paint looks. I only had to paint one coat of it & the results were stunning;

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It turned to be this gorgeous bright shade of gold & the whole process took me about half an hour or so to accomplish including the drying process. I had planned to use it as table decor, so I just reused an old wooden display I had to arrange the now gold clay lamps on it;

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Look how pretty they are!

I also added on some other aesthetic pieces on to show you the various looks you can create using just a few things at home;
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For this project, I went for a more modern approach but you can also use fresh flowers, candles & bangles to add a more authentic Indian inspired layout to usher in the festive season. Your options are endless!

If you’d like to try this yourself, get a hold of the Nippon Paint Gold Paint which is priced at RM35 per 250gm tub (Click here!) or make your way to the nearest paint dealers so you can create some golden magic yourself!

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Travel: Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Its safe to say that going to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah for a KL city girl like me feels a complete different country altogether. It’s so rich in culture, nature and the people are ridiculously nice (probably because they’re more laid-back) & it truly is an experience. If you’ve never been to KK, I suggest you do so (right now!) especially because I’m about to give you a detailed tour in this post of places you must visit & things you must eat.

Like most KL people, I took for granted that KK is still Malaysia and we can just hop over at any time because it’s not going anywhere. My bestfriendloverperson Atie has been living there for over 3 years & only when she had to move back did it force me to go visit.

Honestly, huge mistake on my end because I’m in love with the place & I wish my holiday was longer so I could explore more of Sabah. I had a week & here’s what I did;

DAY 1.

Since I was mostly traveling on my own, the easiest way to get things done is to check Airbnb Experiences to see what I can do while I’m there to make the most of my trip. I found this Kombi experience with Suchen & I have no regrets! Besides the ride being one of a kind, Suchen makes a great tour guide, is super friendly & is a photographer by profession (so much yes for my Insta-worthy shots).

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This Airbnb experience consisted of 2 locations but I ended up staying at this one & the pictures are self explanatory as to why I decided to do just that.
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Sungai Kobian, Babagon is a fairly secluded river that only the local villagers in that are seem to visit. The place is paradise with its incredibly clear water (with fishes!) and since it’s shallow, it’s safe too. With the hot weather on that day, cooling off in the river was perfection.
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Once I got there, I took all the pictures I wanted & then proceeded to just zening out in the water for hours until the sunset. There’s nothing like reconnecting with nature & it was just what I needed to rejuvenate.

If you’re heading to Sabah & want to check out the Kombi experience, here’s the link: CLICK HERE. 

DAY 2.

I booked another Airbnb experience, & this time it was a photowalk to explore KK City itself via a photowalk. Basically the photographer takes you around the famous touristy spots to take pictures & also as a guide to give you information about these places. I will forever be thankful to have booked this experience because meeting Ean (the photographer) really made my trip a whole different experience on its own.

She took me around & we shot in a couple of places around the city but to be honest, I wanted to experience the culture more than anything.
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I enjoyed the time spent with Ean & the touristy places were nice for picture taking but being the foodie I am, I asked her to take me on a food hunt instead & these places did not disappoint – Little Sulap for the local food & Biru-Biru Cafe for the coconut ice cream & waffles ;
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During our food break we exchanged ideas & spoke about the cultures in Sabah. I found out there were only two Hindu temples in KK & Ean wanted to check it one of it out but was always shy to go alone so we made a trip there;
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I wanted to experience a different culture instead of my own so we went to the cultural village that located at Kadazandusun Cultural Association (KDCA). I had tonnes of fun playing tourist – checking out the types of houses they had, the costumes, learning to play the instruments & joining in their band to perform, blowing a blowpipe and popping a balloon, attempting to dance with minimal skill, trying the local wine & freaking out about the worm they eat.
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If you’re looking for a photographer who is so incredibly talented & doesn’t cost a bomb, Ean is someone that comes really high on my list of recommendations. She’s accommodating, easy to get along with, & takes such amazing pictures! You can check out her Airbnb experience; CLICK HERE! 

Ended the night with some good seafood;
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DAY 3. 

The day started with mee Tuaran at Kentin Bakut (the goreng Tom Yam one is summers!) before the drive to Kundasang.
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Kundasang is known as the New Zealand of Sabah thanks to its beautiful mountains and scenery, as well as colder climate. I was sold when they told me I’d see cows at the Desa Dairy Farm 😀

Its basically a tourist spot for suckers like me who want to see some gorgeous nature & cute cows. The fresh milk & gelato there is also a must try. You can also buy milk & grass to feed baby cows & goats (which I obviously did several times because hello, so cute can die type!)

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Since my attempts to steal a baby cow didn’t quite go as planned, we decided to head back & stopped by Pekan Nabalu for the worlds most amazing pineapples. I generally don’t like pineapples and I *cough*lie saying I’m allergic to avoid eating it but these magical pineapples were something else – so sweet & legit melts in your mouth.

Seriously, you MUST have it. I’ve even taken a picture of the aunty who sells it for your reference;
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I also tried Tarap which is their local fruit. Not a fan of the smell or texture, but worth trying atleast once for experience sake.

Sinalau Bakas on the other hand is OMG amazing. It’s wild boar but cooked to perfection & I’m salivating just writing this ;
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& for dinner, Damn Good Burgers were, well, damn good!;
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DAY 4. 

Since it was a Sunday, there’s the Gaya Market in KK city which is much hyped about. It’s basically a street market that sells souvenirs, clothes and food. It’s worth checking out if you’re looking for Sabah themed stuff to bring back, cheap beachy clothes & just for the bazaar experience.

Also, if you see this uncle doing calligraphy, say hi & buy his art! His PR game is so on point and he’s so talented. Absolutely loved his friendly vibe and stories;
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KK is known for their beautiful sunsets & I was determined to find a place that I could see the sunset without having to deal with a flock of tourists. After some research & Ean’s help, we ended up at Sabandar Beach.

It’s a beach that’s off the regular tourist trails (I was probably the only tourist on that beach in my swimsuit & huge beach hat) & it’s near their ‘cowboy’ town with horses so don’t be surprised if you see horses on the beach too.

It was a rainy day & so apparently the sunset wasn’t as great, either way I personally was mesmerised.
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DAY 5. 

Spent most of the day in due to rain, but managed to get some time to check out the Filipino Market which pretty much sells souvenirs & pretty pearls for cheap!
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Literally down the road is the seafood market that sells the freshest seafood ever! The best time to visit those places are really early in the morning or later at night;
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Met a friend for dinner & drinks at this bar called Kalamatas which is an Indian owned bar hence the delish Indian food. The satti sooru (Indian claypot curry rice) was so good!
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DAY 6.

The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park comprises a group of 5 islands & I visited the 3 that was suggested by the guide itself which was Sapi, Manukan & Mamutik. If you’re going to the islands, be prepared for huge groups of tourists. Thankful I went with Ean who basically likes personal space like I do so we went to more secluded parts of these beaches.

Be prepared to be spammed by amazing beauty because this water baby couldn’t get enough of how stunning these beaches were. First stop, Sapi Island. It’s a 20 minute boat ride from KK itself & is probably the most popular choices to visit.

What I loved about it is the clear gorgeous waters that had fishes even close to the shore. What I couldn’t stand was the amount of plastic floating in the water. I basically snorkelled to pick up rubbish & by the time I  was done, I had a huge pile. Help keep our oceans clean, people!
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The next one was Manukan island, which we hardly managed to spend much time at as we had lunch in one of the resorts that took almost an hour plus to bring us some pretty bad food. I’d suggest just bringing along cup noodles or something of that sort to avoid disappointment.  It was a really beautiful island though with lots of water sports & it was so incredibly blue!
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Mamutik Island was the last stop & probably my favourite one. It was more quiet & peaceful.
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All my beach photoshoot pictures were taken by Ean, whom I’ll always be thankful to the Universe for connecting me to.

If you’re headed to Kota Kinabalu & looking for things to do, definitely check out the experiences I suggested & you can also get 10% off your total home booking & RM45 to use for an Airbnb experience worth Rm191 or more using my code if you’re a first time user; CLICK HERE!

You can check out my Instagram for more pictures & videos of this trip under my highlights: Sabah. Signing off now to get over the reacquiring holiday blues until the next one.

Sri Mahamariamman Temple & Kwai Chai Hong, Petaling Street

My inner “Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex in the City” writer vibes are failing me right now as I attempt to create a well articulated and witty blogpost. I apologise in advance for the basic content but I have tons of pretty pictures to make up for my lack of words.

Today, me and 2 friends took a temple trip to the Sri Mahariamman Temple in Petaling Street. I am far from religious, but I do love going to temples for the vibes & energy. The conversation of my beliefs are intense and meant for another session entirely. Let me however give you a brief introduction to the temple & a tour of just how beautiful it is.

The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Founded in 1873, it is situated at edge of Chinatown in Jalan Bandar. IMG_6320

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I’m basing this on a tourist point of view, it’s definitely worth the visit. The temple is always open, and tourist friendly as they allow photography in the vicinity. As it is a place of worship, you are required to dress modesty – have your shoulders & legs covered when you enter. For those who aren’t, they provide fabric to wrap around as a cover.

I, however was dressed in a saree for this occasion. I hardly ever wear sarees but when I do, I make the best of it. After prayers, me & the girls took the opportunity to take some pictures in the temple. Be prepared to scroll through & enjoy the aesthetics, colours and details of this place of worship.

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I’d also like to take a moment & appreciate the beauty of my soft yellow khadi cotton saree from @livsarees (on Instagram) that reminded me of sunshine & pretty blue skies.

After basking in the beauty of the temple, we went food hunting. Petaling Street has become quite a hipster area with its hidden cafes that are aesthetically on point as well as random street art.

What we didn’t know is that nestled among the rich Chinese heritage is this hidden gem;
IMG_6333 This space was created to preserve the cultural legacy with interactive murals (which is a definite crowd pleaser, especially for those on the hunt for Instagram worth shots).  The murals showcase the daily lives of the Kwai Chai Hong neighbourhood. Look how authentic these are! ;
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The entire place is filled with picture worthy spots that will take you down memory lane, but my personal favourite was right outside the entrance of the place. It was a building painted in yellow & blue that absolutely matched my saree;
IMG_6377IMG_6334IMG_6381A full on photoshoot session took place because, how could I not?!

If you’re looking for something to do over the weekend that doesn’t involve hitting the clubs or mall, take advantage of these cool things that KL has to offer & play tourist in your own place. It’s an experience on its own 🙂

Travel: Bali

Having been to Bali several times before, I think it was this exact trip that I truly felt connected & fell in love with the place. The whole trip had a perfect mix of good food, shopping & sightseeing, culture & beaches, & most importantly, an easy to travel with companion. Good vibes all around 🙂

Having been to Seminyak & Kuta, several times where its usually a more crowded scene, we decided to check out Nusa Dua instead for some peace & quiet. I would usually opt for a nice AirBnb to stay in, but we managed to snag a really good deal on Agoda for Bali Nusa Dua hotel which I’ll forever be thankful for.

Nusa Dua was absolutely gorgeous. Like most of Bali, the aesthetics of the place was beyond, but because its a more secluded area with not as many people, the whole vibe was something else entirely.

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& then there’s the Bali Nusa Dua Hotel that I absolutely love;

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The customer service was on point, the ambience of the space, all of it was ace. I also indulged in their aromatherapy oil massage which was much needed!

For food around the area, I cannot recommend this place enough. Its hands down my favourite place in Bali & I wish I could have just lived there. Manarai Beach House by Sofitel Nusa Dua is magic. So magical in fact, that we spent two nights there for dinner and drinks.

Just because this is a worthy mention, if you’re going to the beach house, take the longer walk which is closer to the beach itself because lucky us, we saw a turtle come up to lay eggs. One of the highlights to my trip 🙂

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Day one, we got beach bed thats by the pool which is by the sea (first picture). The pictures don’t do the place any justice so I have videos up on my Instagram highlights to make up for it.

Day two, it started to drizzle so we couldn’t get the beach bed 😦 but managed to get this equally amazing gazebo cabana with a comfy huge sofa and decorated so tastefully.

The mellow buttery smooth music that complimented the gorgeous space was on point. I Shazam-ed my way through their playlist & now I have my own Bali Spotify playlist (drop me a message if you want it!)

Let’s talk about the food. Food, oh glorious food. Hands down the best meals I’ve had in Bali. Everything we tried was on point.
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The Manarai sushi rolls come very highly recommended packed with crab, salmon and avocado. I went with the Balinese classic of Nasi Campur Bali – Hainanese rice, crispy pork, satay, cracklings, sambal matah & lawar. Seriously ah-may-zing.
IMG_4148If you love fish like I do, the Jimbaran style whole red snapper (that feeds two) is a must! The fish was incredibly fresh and the sauce was so good. It came with a side of vegetable which was equally as good.

As for the cocktails, I tried the C-Cup’s – Coconut sorbet, coconut water, homemade vanilla syrup & vodka. So refreshing and delicious. Also let’s take a moment & appreciate the presentation of it all.

IMG_4149I like me some bubbly so the Girlfriend, Yes! – coconut sorbet & sparkling wine was a great choice. The sorbet itself is amazing.

& on to dessert. This divine affogato frozen yogurt with Nutella and granola was the perfect end to any meal. Take my word for it because I never joke about food, Manarai Beach Club is an absolute must! It gets 5 stars for food, customer service & ambience.

No trip to Bali is complete without a trip to the beach, and by far, Mengiat Beach is probably my favourite here. There’s a main area where you’ll have food outlets and see tons of people sunbathing &  getting ready to surf but I like my beach with a lot of peace and quiet – I took a long walk to a more secluded area & look how gorgeous!

IMG_4150 PSA: When you go on beach strolls, help clean up along the way. I know some people find it gross to pick up another person’s trash but honestly, in the long run you’re doing our gorgeous beaches a huge favour by wanting them to remain gorgeous. Every little bit helps 🙂

IMG_4151I’m actually not quite sure why I bother packaging clothes when I go to Bali because I end up shopping for a weeks worth, wearing everything new I’ve bought & not having baggage space. Lesson learnt – pack very light because Kuta has tons of clothes, especially if you’re like me and wear flowy, bohemian beach wear all the time.

Kuta is about 40 minutes away from where we stayed, so we just took a Grab to do some shopping and (mostly) eat.
IMG_4153Benih Cafe is fairly hidden, but very cozy and their smoothie bowls are so damn good. Definitely worth trying if you’re around Kuta area.

If  you want something with more of a local flavour, PLEASE go to Nasi Pedas Ibu Andika. Its been recommended to me by so many friends and it did not disappoint in terms of flavour and especially pricing.

IMG_4154Its basically nasi campus style where you get to pick what you’d like from the variety of dishes they have, and keep in mind that the sambal is actually really spicy. I got a tad overambitious and ended up downing two Teh Botol (which is also great by the way).

If you like burgers, Big Boss is a must try! I’ve had it twice before & I had to have it this time around too.
IMG_4155 I’m not much of an alcohol drinker, and I usually enjoy light drinks that doesn’t give you the alcohol taste. I’d recommend trying these while you’re in Bali;
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We did a day visit to Seminyak as well to check out some of the really hyped places I’ve seen on social media.
IMG_4165Just like I remembered it from my last trip, Seminyak is a prime tourist spot which means tons of people, as well as higher end places to eat and shop.

I checked out the very Instagram worthy Kynd Community & true enough, everything about it was picture pretty.
IMG_4166The food was good, but I wouldn’t entirely go back just for the food. A lot of pretty spots to take pictures though. I almost regretted not having a change of clothes to do some OOTD (read: outfit of the day) shots.

Right next to the cafe, they have their vegan ice cream shop which I loved.
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Indulged in the super yummy coconut chocolate ice cream before heading over to Potato Head Beach Club, another very aesthetically driven place.
IMG_4168I loved how creative the structure was & how pretty it all was, however it was too crowded for my liking. I’d probably go again if it was a bigger group who wanted to party and people watch.

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If you’ve been following me on social media for awhile now, or have read my previous posts, you’ll know I’m a huge AirBnB fan. It has truly made traveling so much easier and cheaper, and I firmly standby how much I love it. This time instead of accommodation, I booked an experience instead & it was so worth it because I got to see the beautiful main attractions Bali has to offer.

It was quite a drive from Nusa Dua to visit these places, but our guide picked us up on time and briefed us as he drove. The drive to each attraction itself was so scenic, that it made up for the time spent in the car.

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Pura Lempuyang Temple is one of the oldest and most sacred Balinese Hindu temples on the island. When it isn’t so cloudy (like it is in the picture), you can actually see Mount Agung in the distance & it’s absolutely breathtaking.

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When we got there it was during their prayers so it was fairly crowded but that made the entire experience more memorable for me. The Balinese women clad in their gorgeous body fitting Kebayas (that I regret not buying) & the men with their sarongs and headgear, carrying offering as they hike up (yes, it was quite a hike) to the temple to pray.

We were given sarongs as well, and a shawl for me to cover my shoulders. I had prior to this seen this place on social media with so many girls dressed in different types of outfit but I rather stay respectful as it was temple grounds. If you do end up visiting, make sure your shoulders and knees are covered 🙂

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The former royal palace of Tirtagangga (which means water of the Ganges, Hinduism’s holy river) features tiered fountains, gardens, and stone sculptures of mythical creatures spouting water into bathing pools.

It was so well kept, with lush greenery and huge fishes in the pond that you can feed.
IMG_4160 After being surrounded by all that water, it was only natural for me to want to get in water as well, especially on such a hot day. A short drive and hike (fairly easy) led us to Tukad Cepung waterfalls.

IMG_4161The walk to the waterfalls itself isn’t all that bad unless you have a fear of heights like me. It took me awhile but I finally got there to see all the beauty it had to offer as well as the gorgeous light rays that spilled through. The main waterfall itself has turned into a photoshoot spot where tourists (and me) lined up to take pictures after which we just walked around for a bit.

On the other side, is a smaller waterfall, just as beautiful if you ask me, that I managed to actually spend some time at.

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After the waterfall adventure (where I found a baby python swimming past me so beautifully in the water), it was time for food.

Ubud is known for their bebek & our guide took us to this incredibly gorgeous place that served some really good bebek;
IMG_4164 There was more to the tour but we decided against it because we didn’t want to strain ourselves and just be able to enjoy Bali, so we opted to leave right after.

If you’re ever in Bali & want to check out the experience, I’d definitely recommend it. Click HERE for the link.

Also, if you’re a first time AirBnb user and want to get RM120 worth of credit for your first usage, I got you covered. Register using my link – HERE! 

There so much to Bali I haven’t seen yet so I’m definitely going to make a trip back there. Any recommendations of what I absolutely must see and experience, drop it at the comments below 🙂

2018. Thank you, Next.

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As I sit down and do my yearly wrap up, all I can think about is how much of 2018 hit my cons list instead of my pros. I’m going to brush aside all the silver linings, ray of sunshines & take off my rainbow tinted shades for this. This was the year of heartbreaks, breakups and breakdowns for me. & right now I’m walking out of my comfort zone and rainbow bubble, I’m about to break it down for you.  

The year started fairly decent, I was looking forward to turning 30 and experience all the wonderful things that life had to offer me. This wasn’t the fairytale turning 30 and reaching a different level of self-love that I had envisioned , this year was an influx of lessons, most of which I wasn’t mentally prepared for. 

This year I got my heart broken in the worst way possible, in a way I never thought possible & somehow this impacted every single part of my year. I’m not proud of it (mostly because hello, strong independent woman) but then again, I’ve been known to wear my heart on my sleeve (hello, hopeless romantic). 

I learnt that someone can be a fantastic friend, brother and son but that doesn’t mean he’s a good partner. That if someone is a good person, but they aren’t good to you, it can’t be justified by “but he’s a good person” because how you are treated should be priority. That not every person deserves to be loved through pain and mistakes because it’s you who feeds the monster and tells them it’s okay to treat you less. That people can only treat you how you allow them to & you can’t expect the same person who destroyed you to heal you. 

This year I broke up with friends. I always believe that the five people you are the closest to are the people you absorb the most from and most importantly, should be the five people who help you grow. As much as my Geng Unicorn has always been a constant (and will always be a constant), with almost every one of them being in a different country, I widened my horizon to meet new people and let them in. 

I learnt that I couldn’t just be friends with people on a surface level and I crave friendships that have mutual respect and understanding. I lost some friendships this year but knowing that I can do that yet still wish them well has made a difference to me. 

This year I had so many days where I didn’t feel enough. Days I couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t stop feeling sorry for myself and allowing myself to wallow in pity. Then I’d beat myself up about feeling that way because thats generally not who I am as a person. 

I learnt that I’m allowed to feel how I feel, that my pain was valid and that it didn’t need to be justified to anyone else. I also learnt that I could pick myself up once I was done feeling & that I had a strong support system to give me a backbone when I wasn’t feeling a hundred percent myself. For this, I will forever be thankful. 

This year I travelled more than I usually do & even did my first solo travel. I worked with some big brands that wanted to get this brown babe on board & I’m so thankful for it. I worked with some amazing people on projects and photoshoot, focused a lot more on my art, sold some paintings and donated the money from them to charity. 

As I end the year, it’s slowly starting to pick up and the grass is becoming greener because I’ve been watering it after neglecting it for long enough. I’m slowly figuring out what inspires me, how to curate my dreams, how to hold firm to my beliefs and to stop apologising for things I believed in. As I wrap up this year, I am thankful for all the lessons learnt (even the ones that still haunt me). 

I’m leaving behind bad vibrations, second guessing, and the inability to see my worth. In 2019, I’m making room for emotional flexibility, personal growth and self love. Here we go all over again, trying to make the best of every single day we’ve been blessed with.

Here’s to a magical 2019. 

Things I Learnt When Solo Traveling Sri Lanka

I wrote a post about my trip & what I saw (which was already super long because I was there for 9 days) so here’s another one on things you absolutely need to know when solo traveling Sri Lanka (from this brown girl’s point of view). 

  • Solo Traveling Doesn’t Mean Backpacking 

I’m here to break that myth that solo travel means traveling like a backpacker. I enjoy traveling in comfort (thank you very much) and that doesn’t make me spoilt.  

Of course, ultimately backpacking is a great way to meet new people and save up on accommodation, especially when you travel alone because most hotels and AirBnBs cater for two people so the price is for two.

I generally like my own personal space so my own room worked out best for me. With so many options to choose from, you can always find places to suit your budget.  

  • AirBnB Your Accommodations 

I love AirBnB for many reasons. I use it quite frequently to book my staycays and such, and they have this wonderful option where you can share your personal code to invite your friends. They get a certain amount off on their first stay and you get some money credited into your AirBnB account to use. 

My first 4 days of accommodations were free thanks to this (THANK YOU for those of you who used my code to sign up!).

You can customise the option to see what budget works best, and also I always opt to check out the SuperHosts, which is basically the ones that are frequently used and have wonderful reviews. Yes, I’m one of those people who read reviews just to be extra sure. I had such wonderful experiences with most of my AirBnB bookings.

  • Get A Driver 

 The fastest way to travel around Sri Lanka is to book a private car as most places are quite far off from each other. This was the most expensive option in terms of traveling but I wanted to make the most of my time there as opposed to traveling by public transport which is much cheaper but takes a lot longer. 

My driver was also a guide hence why I could stop anywhere along the way and was fed with really good stories and information about the country throughout the ride. 

  • Dress Modestly 

Sri Lanka is still relatively modest and people can immediately tell your a tourist based on how you dress. The place has lots of gorgeous temples and historical sites which require you to be dressed modesty (with your shoulders and legs covered) when you enter. I lived in mostly t-shirts and comfy pants while I was there which saves the hassle of having to wrap around fabric on your waist and shoulders to enter these places. 

On days you plan to visit temples, wearing slippers makes it so much easier.  

  • Get A Guide In Tourist Spots 

A lot of the temples and historical sites have some amazing stories and so much to learn from. Do get a guide because chances are if you don’t, you miss out on some great stories. They usually don’t charge much – the most I paid was RM35.  

  • Have A Realistic Budget Planned Out

I set aside a realistic amount taking into consideration that there will be unexpected costs as I go along. It helps planning your accommodation and travel first to see how much you need, and just add on for things like your visa, tourist attraction costs, food, things you need to buy, etc. I spent about 4K inclusive of shopping and my flight tickets for the trip.

Keep in mind that they have separate pricing for locals and tourists. 

  •  Languages Spoken 

The majority of people there speak Sinhala however they do have a basic command of English for the most of it, especially in the city. I did have trouble communicating in the more rural areas so there was a lot of smiling and hand signalling. Quite a lot of them do speak Tamil as well, so I got by with my minimal Tamil speaking skills.  

  • Be Alert Of Everything 

A lot of people told me traveling Sri Lanka is really safe. I think there’s always two sides to it. For me, looking like a local but dressed and speaking like a foreigner became a novelty to many of the people there, which in turn also got me a lot of unwanted attention as well. 

Being on your own means you need to take care of yourself, without being able to call for back up. Be mindful of places you go to, and always be careful of your belongings. There were several times through the trip that I did feel unsafe (beach areas with lots of beach boys) and was even followed around twice (in the city!) and one of those times I was with another female friend.

Always trust your instincts and if you ever feel like you’re in danger, ask for help or attempt to strike a conversation with someone who looks trustworthy. 

  • Be Prepared To Feel Lonely 

The first night, I remember having a meltdown wondering why I did this to myself and if I could handle all 9 days of being alone in a place I had no friends at. Safe to say, a friend told me he’d buy me my flight tickets back and I snapped back to reality. 

This was something I had to do for myself and I couldn’t be happier with this decision. It’s a great way to force you to be okay with your own thoughts and feelings and just do you. The loneliness comes and goes but the feeling of knowing you can handle a new adventure on your own is priceless. 

  • Make Friends 

It was so easy to make friends once I got past being shy. People respond to kindness and a smile, so that helped when I needed help with my pictures taken. I had the uncle selling coconut water, the tuk tuk driver, random tourist and people along the way help me take my picture. They found it very amusing and were also very obliging. It also became an easy way to start up a conversation.   

Here’s a tip – find the frame you want, and just tell them to keep pressing until you’re done posing. Chances are out of the 20 pictures, there’ll be 1 you like 🙂

  • Adapt To Local Customs 

Traveling should broaden your horizons and open your mind to customs and traditions of the place you’re visiting. Simple things like not facing your back towards Buddha statues as it is seen as a sign of disrespect should be followed. I’m basing this on some people who ignored these easy instructions because they needed to have their picture a specific way.  

  • Stay Connected 

I sent several people my itinerary (flight details, AirBnB stayed at, drivers contact details) and updates throughout the travel just to be safe. Better safe than sorry 🙂 

I think this pretty much covers all the important things that I’d recommend for anyone traveling by themselves. Most importantly, have fun and make the most out of your trip. If there’s a specific food you want to try, eat it. A specific place you want to see, visit it. A specific thing you want to buy, get it then and there. There’s always this idea that you can do it later and chances are you won’t be bothered to. Living in the now and getting things done as you go is ideal. 

Traveling solo was a fantastic experience and one I would recommend anyone and everyone to do atleast once in their lives. This is definitely my first of many to come! 

 

Travel: Sri Lanka

Turning 30 had always been a big deal to me. I’m one of those people who loves birthday; the being spoilt rotten by family and friends, the cake, the celebrating ‘me’, the works. Safe to say, a lot of people (including myself!) were surprised by the fact that I wanted to be away and alone on my birthday.

With very high expectations of what I would experience on this trip, I thought to myself that there’d only be two outcomes. 1. I’d freak out and feel so lonely I’ll book the next flight back, or 2. I’d embrace all that this trip threw my way and become a completely changed woman. Safe to say I felt both things, but let me share with you the journey on this post before I dive into those detail in my next blog post.

Welcome onboard Sri Lanka through my eyes;

Day 1. Airport to Sigiriya.

I got a tour guide/driver for a few days in Sri Lanka. It was an expensive option but the most practical and logical thing to do, because I wanted to see and experience as much as I could take in. The 5 hours drive was a scenic one & I loved how it felt like something right out of the movies.
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The people were generally really friendly and I was a bit of a novelty to them because I looked like one of them but spoke like ‘a white girl’. At almost every stop, I was asked if I’m Sri Lankan.

My first stop was the Minneriya National Park in Sigiriya and I have zero regrets of picking that instead of the Pinnawale elephant sanctuary.

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It was so much magic! There’s something about elephants that I absolutely love and to be able to watch them in their natural surroundings was pretty fantastic. For those who’ve asked me, no, you can’t touch the elephants because these are wild elephants and not trained to be human friendly, which is another reason why I opted to go in this safari.

There were also some exotic  birds and a very nice view of nature but my focus was on the elephants, especially the little week old baby one (shows in the bottom picture).

Called it a day after the safari & headed back to my AirBnB. I had booked this place solely for the lake view & I have no regrets. The room itself was standard and clean. It’s right next to a big hotel that shares the same lake view. Totally winning on getting the view without the hefty price tag!
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The Lake House – Water Lily Room (on AirBnb).

Day 2: Sigiriya to Dambulla to Kandy.

Started the day early to hike up Sigiriya Rock, an ancient rock fortress that used to be a palace and later converted into a Buddhist monastery. There’s a long historical story behind it which you can pay a guide to tell you as you hike. As for me, the intention was to do two things I was terrified of together; be completely alone in a new place & to face my fear of heights.

Photo 18-07-2018, 12 27 15 PMPhoto 18-07-2018, 12 27 20 PMIt was all sorts of overwhelming but I made it to the top, and made a bunch of friends along the way;
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Let me just say I’m the least athletic person I know and exercise for me is walking from my room to the fridge so when I managed to accomplish this two hour hike, my legs were jelly and my heart was full of pride.

Once I was done, Nalaka drove towards Dambulla to the Golden Temple which was about 20 minutes away to see the gorgeous huge Buddha statue;
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The black blobs you see on Buddha’s chin is actually bees nests. It was insane how massive it was. I also learnt that you shouldn’t have your back turned towards the statue as it’s a sign of disrespect.

We then drove to the Golden Cave Temple. It was also a bit of a hike up, so with my jelly legs at this point, I took my time climbing up and taking in the gorgeous surroundings before I reached the temple;
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Five separate caves contain about 150 absolutely stunning Buddha statues and paintings, some of Sri Lanka’s most important and evocative religious art. Buddha images were first created here over 2000 years ago, and over the centuries subsequent kings added to and embellished the cave art.
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I asked a vendor which way to take to go back down fastest as there was the way I came from, and another path that a lot of tourists were taking & was told to follow the tourists. Big mistake – I had walked back to the Golden Temple (with the big Buddha statue) that I had originally drove from.

Safe to say my legs were no longer functional and I had to get to Kandy which was 2 and a half hours away, so we left. I then went to the Sacred Tooth Relic Temple. The golden-roofed Temple of the Sacred Tooth houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic – a tooth of the Buddha;
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My advice is, always get a guide for historical sites because the amount of information, stories and insights they can provide truly makes the entire experience.
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The next place I stayed at was a little out of the town area but so incredibly worth it;
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By far my most favourite place to stay on this entire trip. Riverview-Kandy on AirBnB.

I had a gorgeous room; big and clean and most importantly with the view of the Mahaweli river right outside my door – the longest river in Sri Lanka. The hosts Irean & Chris were absolutely lovely and made me feel right at home.

She cooked up an absolute storm for breakfast. Hands down best meal I had in Sri Lanka.

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Day 3: Nuwara Eliya – Ella. 

After breakfast, we were off to Nuwara Eliya, which is a 3 hour drive. Its a mountain area so the drive was very scenic – with lush plants and waterfalls;

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Stopped at the Shri Bhakta Hanuman Temple. It was a quite simple temple, with a huge  black Hanuman statue (unlike anything I’ve ever seen before). It is said that this is the place where Hanuman landed looking for Sita over 7000 years ago.
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I finally got to use some of my Tamil skills while talking to the guy selling the archanai, & he told me this story (in Tamil) which I found online to also share because I thought it was so interesting;

“One day Sita mata was wearing a red powder in the parting of her hair. Curiously Hanuman asked mata, what was the red powder that she was wearing. Sita mata replied “Hanuman! This is sindoor. Sindoor makes Lord Rama happy and would bless him with a long and prosperous life.” Listening to this Hanuman disappeared from the place. Hanuman came back with his body fully covered with red sindoor. He covered his entire body, even his clothes and hair with sindoor. Lord Rama saw Hanuman covered with sindoor and asked the reason. Hanuman replied “Sita mata told me that by applying just a small pinch of sindoor on her head every day it will make you have a long and happy life. I thought if just a pinch will do so much, what will happen if I cover my entire body with sindoor.” Thus, Lord Ram gave a boon to all his devotees that those who apply sindoor to Hanuman and observe hanuman puja with sindoor would be blessed with a long, happy life and have their wishes fulfilled. For this reason sindoor is mixed in til (sesame) oil and applied to the entire body of Lord Hanuman. People take back a little sindoor from Lord Hanuman as prasada and wear it on their foreheads.”

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After the temple (& making friends with more doggos along the way), we drove to the centre of Nuwara Eliya which was ridiculously cold. Maybe I’m exaggerating because I’m not a fan of cold weather, but do have a jacket to keep you warn. I ended up having to buy one.
Photo 18-07-2018, 12 28 51 PM.pngThe place reminded me a little bit of Cameron Highlands with all the tea plantations, misty air and pretty plants. In all honesty, the tea plantations were beautiful but didn’t top my list of things to see. Plus, I had a train ride to catch to Ella.

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Almost everyone I spoke to about Sri Lanka has raved about the train ride. I didn’t manage to get 1st Class tickets (which is what most tourists take) but took 2nd class instead. It was cramped and no seats, I couldn’t appreciate the scenic views because there wasn’t enough space, groups of boys were walking up and down then standing by the door which makes it less safe for any female solo traveling to do the same (saw them harass a local girl) and they also serenaded the passengers while drumming against the train and singing Tamil songs.

In all honesty, that was the experience and I’m not complaining. I stood for 2 hours of the 2 and a half hour ride & when I finally sat down made friends with a group of Indian aunties who were so amused by me.
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They were so cute and took care of, even shared their food with me (bless them!) and gave me hugs and wished me luck and told me to find a Sri Lankan husband 🙂

From the Ella station, it’s a 45 minutes walk to the 9 Arch Bridge. The walk itself was stunning and I enjoyed making friends along the way. I even made them help me take Insta worthy pictures.
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If possible do visit when a train is scheduled to pass on the bridge to get the full view of the blue train going across the bridge. Either way, it was really beautiful.

As it was the eve of my birthday, I decided to head to my hotel early to get sufficient rest before heading out again.
Photo 18-07-2018, 12 29 36 PM.pngElla Flower Garden Resort on AirBnB.

The room itself wasn’t impressive nor the cleanest, but the view of the mountain was really pretty. I personally wouldn’t recommend staying there but instead maybe go over for a drink or two.

Took a took took down to a rest-bar called Chill, which I highly recommend and made friends with a bunch of people who celebrated me turning 30.

Day 4: Ella to Colombo. 

Headed to Colombo because I wanted to spend my birthday in the city and meet up with a family friend, Avi who was living there. I then realised I’m legit one of those people who aren’t impressed by city structures and that lifestyle especially during travel.

The drive down to Colombo was 5 hours & you’re probably tired of me saying this by now but the scenery was fantastic;
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My favourite part of the whole trip? Stopping at a gemstone mine in Pelmadulla. Sri Lanka is known for its gemstones worldwide and it was such an amazing experience getting down to the actual mine itself.

Thanks to my driver, who went and spoke to the men working at the mine, they gave me a brief tour and tried to explain how the process works.
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Its so amazing that they go down 8 to 10 meters and then proceed to go through the tunnel to get the gemstone soil before going through the whole process of cleaning and looking for stones. They actually send down a lit lantern down to see if the oxygen levels are okay for them to proceed to work.

If you’re ever at the mines and they offer you food, please say yes. Do it for yourself, and do it for me. I had a miscommunication with my driver because when I was offered, I had asked if there’d be enough food for everyone (because I didn’t want to take anyones food) and he said we’ll eat somewhere else.

Later I found out he assumed I didn’t want to eat in a hut because it was unclean. My life will never be the same again. The food smelt amazing.

Extra tip: Check if they have gemstones for sale. You can get it at such a steal!

Colombo, had it’s own city charms. I generally don’t quite understand the hype as much but thats also because I like more nature and historical places when it comes to travel.  The sea-city divide however is pretty cool.
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Spent most of the day just walking around and resting it up before heading out for the night. The nightlife is fairly decent and I enjoyed the bars I visited.

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Day 5: Colombo. 

Went around Colombo doing touristy things;

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Seema Malaka Temple; The temple is mainly used for meditation and rest, rather than for worship.

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Gangaramaya Temple; The temple’s architecture demonstrates an eclectic mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Indian, and Chinese architecture.

We then took a tuk tuk to Pettah (which reminds me of Masjid India) to see the Red Mosque.

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Day 6: Galle.

Galle is a place I absolutely wanted to go to to check out the beaches. However, I did get ample warning from some locals that it may not be the safest to travel there alone because I might get harassed. Just like magic, this beautiful human being named Divya reached out to me via Instagram welcoming me to Sri Lanka and letting me know she was in Colombo.

I shamelessly invited her to travel Galle with me and to my delight, she said yes. That was the start of a beautiful friendship right there.

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Galle Fort; Must visit for the history and view, as well as the quaint yet hipster-like shops around the area. Absolutely loved the vibe, did a little bit of shopping (because beach clothes win!) and had some gelato.

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Unawatuna Beach; it’s probably the most famous beach on the stretch and has the most tourists but I loved it the most as well. The vibe was great – the sand, super soft, the water was swimming-friendly & the waves weren’t too intense. To top it off, friendly beach dogs who wanted belly rubs!

Day 7: Galle to Colombo 
It was a great idea to get a driver for the trip because it made it easier to stop & explore other beaches along the way. But our first stop was my favourite;

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There’s tons of sea turtle sanctuaries but this one in particular came recommended so we decided to check it out. Absolutely no regrets! The guys taking care of the place were passionate about the turtles and the work they do.

To top it off, they rescue the turtles that can’t survive in the wild and take care of them. For the love of the ocean you guys, please don’t throw rubbish on the beach. Especially plastic bags because turtles mistaken them for jellyfish and eat them 😦

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Balapitiya Beach; As much as I liked this secluded beach & the really cool tire swing that I attempted to swing from several times, it might just be a bit too secluded for two girls to be at with a bunch of beach men standing around and watching. Though there was a hotel situated there, after awhile it got uncomfortable, so we just left. I would recommend it for a group of people though (safety reasons and all). 

Photo 18-07-2018, 12 32 15 PMPhoto 18-07-2018, 12 32 20 PMKosgoda Beach; this beach was a secluded one too, and I loved the rocky area where the waves were crashing, it looked like something right out of a Tamil movie music video with A.R.Rahman music in the background. Also there was absolutely no one there except for a family that runs a turtle sanctuary nearby.

The weather was crazy hot (which I will take over cloudy any day at the beach) and the beach wasn’t swimming friendly (though I did jump in for a bit, because necessary).

Drove back to Colombo after beach-hunting and ended up visiting this gorgeous Lord Shiva temple & Ganesha temple next to it;
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Day 9: Colombo & back to Malaysia. 

The last day in Colombo was just filled with some last minute souvenir shopping. I fell in love with a few things/places that I’d definitely recommend; 

– Barefoot; which is basically a store that sells hand woven and designed fabric that has been turned  into stuff like bed linen, table decor, toys and as well as books from local Sri Lankan authors.. There’s also an exclusive range of sarees and clothes that were gorgeous and totally not within my budget. 

– Munchee Milk Short Cake Biscuits; Thanks to Divya, I absolutely fell in love with these and ended up buying 15 packets back. Absolutely delicious on its own and with tea. You can get them in almost all the small stores. I also carried a pack of them in my bag to feed the stray dogs I made friends with. 

Also these Sri Lankan food you have to try; 

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For those of you planning to travel to Sri Lanka and book AirBnBs, if your a first time user you can get RM120 in travel credit when you sign up using my code; HERE!

Also, if you need a tour guide/driver I’d definitely recommend this guy; Nalaka +94 (77) 031 0737

This pretty much wraps up all the amazing things I saw and experienced in Sri Lanka throughout my 9 days there, & even with me cutting it down is a lot to take in. I’ll do another post on turning 30 in Sri Lanka, the full experience and what it taught me soonest.

Now excuse me while I indulge in the rest of my cookies and tea from Sri Lanka as you read this post 🙂 

Travel: Langkawi

Langkawi, also known as the Jewel of Kedah, is probably one of the most frequently visited islands by KLites. It’s fairly near, there’s lots to see and do, and most importantly, it’s duty free (I can almost see my alcohol-friendly friends in the background nodding in approval) 😉

Nothing provides me a pick me up like the beach does, so Langkawi was a perfect place for me to escape to, to recharge and get my thoughts back on track. If you’re planning on heading to Langkawi to recharge and spend some quality time with yourself, like I did, here’s some things you absolutely need to do.

I went there in December but was stuck in my room the entire time due to rainy weather, but I had to revisit Pia’s the Padi, It’s located fairly near the airport and is definitely worth trying. Their menu consists of Malaysian fusion food but their Beef Rendang & Butter Chicken is out of this world and comes highly recommended.. Make room for dessert as well, the mango kulfi is a real treat!

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Besides the food being great and the customer service being on point, I love that the view is of the paddy fields. The food is served fresh and takes a while to prepare so it gives you ample time to walk around and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. 

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A friend recommended Sunset Beach Resort for me to stay at, and I’ll forever be thankful to this human being! It’s located in the busy area of Cenang but has a feel of its own. Carefully designed with tropical plants, water features, and stone statues, it immediately sets you up for a peaceful holiday mode. 

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The rooms are basic, clean and well kept – definitely worth the price you pay. But why would you be in the room if the private beach is a 3 minutes walk away & looks like this? 

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I had the entire beach to myself! Best. feeling. ever. I spent my entire first day in Langkawi just being at the beach. There’s nothing quite like self reflection with the salt water cleansing you, the salty breeze kissing your skin, the soft sand beneath your feet and the sound of crashing waves against the shore.

I also have a habit of collecting shells when I walk on the beach. It never fails to amaze me, the kind of mermaid treasures you find. 

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The busy streets of Cenang is a 5 minute walk from where I stayed, Red Tomato (where I had breakfast because yum!)  was right across the road and the duty free zone was about 7 minutes away. Tons of food place, souvenir and beach clothes shops around. 

Say hello to my RM30 dress & random cat I tried to steal; 
35724597_10155780050867058_2559138108494839808_n35804800_10155780058412058_292849574823854080_n35628380_10155780051007058_4067424060416458752_nWith so many places to pick from to eat at, Palm View Restaurant was a random decision & thankfully a great one! The special fried king prawns, Kam Heong squid and three flavoured fish was ace. 

35741642_10155780290772058_2558595031355097088_nOn day two, I went to visit some friends (40 minutes away from where I stayed) at The Andaman Langkawi, a luxury resort that’s surrounded by the rainforest. It was so incredibly gorgeous, I can’t even. 

The water was cleaner (obviously) from where I was staying and the view was stunning but what truly made the entire visit was seeing a sea otter run from the shore into the water to catch fish. I may or may not have ran towards it screaming “Sea dog!” like a crazy person. 

35773158_10155780050217058_8573861892370464768_n35687102_10155780051082058_3617796338063769600_n35804800_10155780058412058_292849574823854080_nAfter watching the sunset and basking in all it’s beauty, we headed out to eat at this place the resort staff had recommended called Kapal Layar Restaurant. Everything was yum, but what stood out was their house special white pepper crab. If you end up going, ask for extra sauce! (one of my biggest regrets is not having extra sauce!) 

I’m getting hungry just thinking about it again;

35522442_10155780058352058_1441022344544911360_nI didn’t do the regular touristy stuff this round but then again, I went purely to relax and get my head (& heart) back on track. 

35628246_10155780051107058_3310234537451061248_nLangkawi, you’ve been a lifesaver. I can’t wait to go back again. 

PS: If you haven’t signed up to Booking.com yet, use my referral to get 10% back from your first stay ; HERE! 

2017. Thank you.

I’m happy to say that I at least have the discipline required to do a wrap up of the year when it comes to an end. I’ve neglected this space more than I should have and I have no excuses except that I’m an Instagram addict and have devoted most of my picture-taking, caption writing and ranting on that space instead. I’m sorry, WordPress, it’s not you. It’s me.

2017 like every other year had its massive ups and downs, but instead of focusing on the downs, I’m taking a walk down the yearly memory lane with the good. There’s so much of positives that I so easily look past when the negatives come to play but I’m honestly so blessed and should truly focus on that instead.

This was the year I moved out from the family home into my own rented space & I couldn’t be happier or more proud of this. I remember calling my sister and freaking out about how expensive bedsheets were. Basic things, but always being taken care of by my parents who provided me with so much I took for granted. I learnt to appreciate them so much more & vice versa. 16708482_10154405265372058_657732109491017225_n

Being in my own space also meant I could finally have a cat! & this little fur-bundle of joy is everything to me. I genuinely look forward to waking up to cuddle up with her.

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The surreal moment I met Superwoman, Lilly Singh & just being able to bask in her positivity and presence even for just a bit made me want to be better, work harder and be a better human being. Her vibes are contagious and the girl-love was oh-so real.

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Speaking of YouTube sensation, Superwoman, I started my YouTube channel as well after years (I kid you not) of procrastinating. I was even more privileged to have my first video be an interview with the amazingly talented, Sid Sriram.

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I ventured into a new business that I have always been so passionate about, makeup & thus, Dusky Rose was born. I can’t even explain how overwhelmed, nervous and ecstatic I am for all the things I’ve learnt through this progression of this brand.

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There’s so much more I am thankful for that pictures can’t do justice to. I’m thankful for a fantastic family and my newborn nephew, my Geng Unicorn who’ve always been my main pillars of strength who always have my back, to that special person who taught me that love has no gender, race and labels, to everyone who’ve made an effort to be a part of my 2017 including my online family who’ve followed me through my progress. You made my year (and life) complete.

Thank you for the continuous love and support. I couldn’t have done this without you. Here’s to a beautiful 2018. Stay blessed.

 

Love & light. Always,

Harmini Asokumar

Faux Saree Stylin’

Attended the Indian Fashion Agora event at Publika that showcased 7 designers and their collections with the theme ‘Pop India’. Rushed over from a meeting which I didnt want to wear a traditional Indian costume for, so I decided to wear my standard ‘faux saree’ style outfit.

I’m sharing this only because it’s super easy and convenient for those who want to create a contemporary Indian look, without much fuss.

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A turtle neck black sleeveless top, paired with jeans and gladiator sandals for my meeting. Switched it up for the fashion show by using a depot to wrap around from hip, one turn and shawl over shoulder for pallu effect.

It really is that easy;

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Added on some chunky gold jewellery. I love the classic kaasu-malai (long coin necklace) and plain gold bangles on one hand. To give it more of a wow factor, the anklets were added on.

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Simple, fuss free and easy to transform. Absolutely love easy styles like this and hope this inspired you 🙂

Contemporary stylin’
Harmini Asokumar