Monday, December 28, 2009

Kuala Lumpur: Nature in the City!

Have you ever been to a forest? If you're a real KLite and haven't, you don't know what you're missing! But don't complain, I will take you to one. This might come as a surprise, but it's right here in the middle of our beloved Kuala Lumpur! Taman Tasik Perdana (also known as the Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens) is a great spot to check out Malaysia's forests without having to travel too far away from home.

The next weekend you're free, put on your caps and sneakers and head towards Jalan Parliament. Turn right at the Tugu Negara's traffic lights and you can easily enter and park for free at the Taman Tasik Perdana car park. Now you're ready to face beautiful butterflies, monitor lizards and maybe even monkeys, but don't worry about facing tigers or bears in this jungle!

Upon parking, you would face the great playground located right in the middle of a beautiful clearing, surrounded by beautiful plants and shrubs. You'll see children of all races and religions jumping, running and giggling as they play with one another happily. Seeing the smiling faces and hearing the delighted laughter of the children makes it a great place to sit and relax... What a sight to see, a truly 1Malaysia scene!

Across the playground is a trail leading you straight into the Taman Tasik Perdana's 'jungle'! Soon you'll be staring at breathtaking flora and fauna the teachers were telling you about in Malaysia's great rainforests. Don't just stand and stare, grab the giant tree trunk with the hanging roots and marvel at its sheer size. Look up at the sky and you'll see the large canopy of leaves obscuring the sunlight from view, leaving the trail cool and fresh.

Of course, a trip to Taman Perdana won't be satisfactiory without a detour to its Taman Herba! Here you'll see our local plants and trees--see if you can recognize them in its natural setting. I saw many fruit trees like pineapples, vegetable plants like chilies and flowers like the bunga raya, which is our national flower.

Didn't think that bananas have flowers? And pink flowers, at that! You know what they say, seeing is believing! Imagine my delight and surprise to see a banana tree's pink flower, right here in Taman Tasik Perdana. Of course, I had to take a picture to remember it by.

Aside from fruit trees, there are a lot of herbal plants which has medicinal value. Not only are the flora in the park are visually pleasing, we can also learn about its history and uses! In front of every plant, a small white sign gives information about the particular plant--which I think is a great way to educate the public about Malaysia's rich ecosystem.

Next, you won't miss the sea of blooming flowers that'll keep your camera busy clicking away! While you're mesmerized by the nature that surrounds you, be careful not to bump into the other forest visitors. I noticed many families of at least three generations enjoying themselves in the tropical paradise of KL. Its also a great spot to have lunch, as many tables are strategically placed under shady trees for the perfect picnic setting.

If you believe in fairytales, I almost crashed into Cinderella hurrying home from the ball! Many newlyweds come to take pictures in the peacefully natural settings of the park. During the morning I was there, I spotted three newlyweds posing for pictures in all their wedding finery. They looked amazingly happy to be with their partners in such a beautiful setting.

Finally, gasping for breath and dying for a drink, you can rest your body at a delightful cafe located at the far end of the carpark. After all, what is nicer than a cool ice lemon tea after getting lost in a tropical forest and surviving to tell the tale? ;)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kuala Lumpur: The Lost Art of The "Serunai Burung"

A trip to Taman Tasik Perdana brought me more than I can imagine! Lush greenery surrounded us and a delightful scene of children running around at its playground provided a peaceful ambience. It certainly was the perfect place to rest and relax! That day, I certainly didn't expect to make a new friend--but this shows you how friends appear in the most unlikely of places :)

I first noticed a cheerful Chinese man talking to two women wearing tudung while my father was trying to park the car. The Chinese man handed the women two long things that resembled a chopstick from afar. He lifted the chopstick to his lips and blew--and it emitted a lovely shrill sound like a bird's song.

I realized what it was--a serunai burung! Or rather, a bird-whistle! I quickly snapped a picture through the side window, curiosity getting the better of me. My dad parked the car at the side of the road and I went to check out the whistle, marveling at the melodic sounds that were produced just by effortlessly blowing into the whistle.

Reaching him, the cheerful man introduced himself as Uncle Cheng. He was selling the bird-whistles at RM4 each. He told me that for every whistle sold, RM1 would be given to Charity for the Handicapped. Uncle Cheng pointed to his leg, and I was shocked for a moment to see that his right leg ended at his knee. He just smiled and said, "I wanted to give back to them somehow."

Uncle Cheng's words really made me feel touched. Imagine his strength going from place to place not only to earn his bread, but also to collect funds for charity! This was truly a hero--he had no medals and no recognition by our society, but to me Uncle Cheng would always be a hero in his own right.

As he taught me how to use the whistle, Uncle Cheng mentioned that he had made the whistle himself! I was amazed and asked him more and more about the serunai burung.

Friendly and courteous, Uncle Cheng's voice was animated as he told me about the art of his forefathers. "I learnt this from the olden people," he said with a smile. "Now seventy years and I'm the only one who bikin [make] by hand. Gone is this practice..."

The bird whistle in my hand felt light, smooth and an intricate design decorated around the bamboo in a spiralling pattern. It's fully handmade, Uncle tells me. He cuts the 'body' of the whistle from the bamboo tree until a suitable length is met. Then he rubs it with sandpaper, ensuring its smoothness.

After that, Uncle cuts its 'mouth' with a sharp knife, making sure that there is no sharp edges to hurt the mouth of the whistler. He makes the intricate markings on the whistle carefully with a brush to make the whistle more visually pleasing, finishing the art by painting it with syelek to ensure its sturdiness.

"Nowadays, noone bikin [make] anymore. That's why I usually sell to tourists." He smiles impishly "I charge them RM5, RM6. More bussiness over at Sungai Way where I came."

When I asked uncle why noone makes it anymore, he sighs. Whistle-blowing is an art! And so he launches into an interesting story. Back then when Orang Asli (indigenous people) ruled the land, they hunted for animals for their nourishment. They made simple bird-whistles from the bark of trees to attract wild birds to be caught and bred. It soon became an art to them, even when bows and arrows were more successful in catching birds.

"This should be a heritage." Rueful was his expression. He blows air into the whistle in rhythm, making a shrill hooting sound not unlike a raven's call. "It's great fun, especially for children. Now, they use the internet and tweet there. Where's the fun in that? Let's use the serunai to make real bird songs!"

...and so we did :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kuala Lumpur: Its Colourful Portrait!

In Kuala Lumpur, the streets are bustling with people. The citizens of Malaysia throng the streets to shop, to grab a bite to eat, on their way to work--carrying out their lives easily and naturally. Why shouldn't they? Fifty-two years after our country's proud independence day, the spirit of 1Malaysia is truly portrayed in the streets of KL, our federal territory.

When I went there recently, I witnessed everything Kuala Lumpur had to offer. Kids ran about, excitedly pulling their [tired] parents along. In shopping areas such as Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (popularly known as Jalan TAR amongst us locals), hawkers do a brisk trade on the streets as they busily cater to the needs of their customers. Smells of pisang goreng and keropok permeate the air, catching the attention of passers-by. It really is a happening place to shop!

Malaysian flags flag proudly in the air, flapping in the slight breeze of noon. Small flags decorated the small shoplots of Jalan TAR, while the Jalur Gemilang flag was hung on the side of several buildings.

Everywhere I turned I could see colourful 1Malaysia posters decorating the buildings,
adding colour to the walls just as our multi-racial nation adds colour to its portrait! :)

Even a trip to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman portrays the colourful side of Kuala Lumpur. Enter a mamak stall and you'll see Malaysians regardless of race or colour sit down to catch their breath and enjoy a cup of teh tarik. Friends of all races chat animatedly, tucking into freshly-tossed roti canai with sambal, hot nasi lemak and tasty char kuey teow. In my opinion, the spirit of 1Malaysia is best reflected in these sort of places. :)

Other than the mamak stalls galore, there are always activity on the streets! Busy shoppers browse through displays in the numerous shops dotting Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. Name it, you have it: supermarkets, clothes shops, handicraft shops, boutiques, carpet shops--everything is sold on Jalan TAR!

Since most of the stock is acquired by the shopkeepers in bulk, it's generally cheaper than the normal market prices. Moreover, its easy to reach by car or public transportation. No wonder it's so popular with foreigners and the locals.

Speaking of which, a note [or a warning, really!] to all men: If you let your wives and daughters shop there, resign yourself to waiting in the nearest mamak for hours! :P Clothes and cloth are
the main attraction of Jalan TAR.

Next to this famous road lies Jalan Masjid India, which is famous for its Indian apparel. No wonder it's nickname by the locals is 'Little India'! People of all races shop there to get the best deals on colourful patterned clothes, bangles of all sizes and colours and brightly-hued sarees.

On a side note, well-known fabric store JAKEL is also located on this road. Now, who could resist shopping there when there is more than four floors of fabrics to browse through? Certainly not
my mom! ;)

Due to my ethusiastic mother and sister, my father and I had to wait for hours while they shopped for new curtains in the JAKEL building. Thankfully, we could rest and have a cuppa while waiting. Many restaurants, food stalls and foodcourts were located along Jalan TAR and Jalan Masjid India, so no worries for the husbands! Granted, most of the people enjoying their teh tarik were men. :)

I've shopped at Jalan TAR numerous times over the years. However, it never failed to amaze me what I saw there each time. The harmonious atmosphere, the great ambience, the delicious food, the friendly people and of course the satisfying shopping--you can bet that Jalan TAR will be my preferred shopping destinations for years to come!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Kuala Lumpur: National Science Centre!

If you haven't been to the National Science Centre, or more popularly known as Pusat Sains Negara, then you're missing out on some fun! Last week, my school organized a trip and I had a great time checking out the exhibitions at Pusat Sains Negara. Granted, the place hasn't changed much since my last visit there a few years ago, but it's still a great place to check out if you have a spare hour or two! :D

The un-official entrance of Pusat Sains Negara, located at the western side of the dome-shaped building. The metal hand seems to beckon everyone to enter its doors.

Upon entering the entrance, you'll straightaway see the main souvenir shop right ahead and another smaller shop to your right. Since we came too early, we took the time to check out the knick-knacks within, which were really interesting. Maybe as interesting as the exhibition itself? ;)

Once Pusat Sains Negara officially opened at 9am, we entered its doors and stared in awe at overhead aquarium. There were hundreds of fish swimming around us! To our fascination, they swam near us every time we touched the glass barrier, making it hard to continue on our 'journey'. But it was only beginning!

There were many exhibits to go to, so we chose the ones that seemed most interesting. There was a section labeled 'Animal World', which contained many glass displays of insects, life-sized statues of tigers and even a small theater showing animal documentaries.

The staff at Pusat Sains Negara (there were many) were very friendly and cheerful.The weekly Science Show that was held every Friday was really fun! They took some volunteers from our school for the show's activities. (as you can see from the pictures below.) After the show, the staff who we called Abang 'H' even took pictures with us! :)

Next, it was an exibition about Science in our Daily Life. Aside from various mechanical displays such as pulleys, levers and cranes, there was also many electrical games, such as the ones below:

There most interesting exhibition was on the human body! There were several life-sized models of human organs that were placed with sign cards, telling funny and informative things about our body. There was even a spooky skeleton! Most of us couldn't resist taking a picture with Mr. Skeleton and saying hello. :)

Last but not least, we managed to enter the Astronomy section before we headed back to school. Aside from displays and exhibitions, there were many informative articles on how to save our earth from further damage, such as global warming. The walls of the Astronomy section were painted with colourful murals of our earth and the solar system, which I think was a great way to show young children how our solar system is arranged. There were also several models of the solar system and the stars (not life-sized, though), and my friend managed to snap a picture of us there!

Alas, all great trips must come to an end. Still, it was a great experience coming here again! :D There was so many things to do there, we never got bored. And I've only told you about the first level of the Pusat Sains Negara. (we never did have time to explore the second floor thoroughly!)

On a side note, now is the best time to go there! 'Davinci the Genius' Exhibition is taking place from 1 October 2009 to 12th January 2010, at a price of only RM20 each. So what are you waiting for? Have fun! :)

Picture credits to my digital camera and my two good friends Ira and Ira. You know who you are! ;)

Kuala Lumpur: Events during the Hols!

"Mum, I'm so bored!" has got to be the most spoken-of sentence every holiday for a teen with nothing to do. I know I've spoken it more than my fair share! ;)

Every holiday, my mum would draw up a list of things to do in order to fill up my days. This time, I'm going to list down the events and exibitions that we can go to these holidays, so that mum won't hear the dreaded phrase yet again!

Book-lovers, take note! The Big Bad Book Sale is baaaack! I went today to check out on the books and believe me, all of them were discounted at really low prices. No wonder I bought a whole stack of novels but the total was only under a hundred ringgit! I'm stocking the books for reading these holidays :)

The sale starts today (26th November) until the second of December, held at Amcorp Mall from 10am to 9pm. It was full of people eager for a bargain, so go as soon as you can! Its definitely a must go for book lovers. Believe me, you won't regret it! ;)

One play that I've been dying to watch is Teater Natrah after reading her life story in the newspapers. It tells the tragic tale of Natrah Maarof, who was a Malaysian by heart. She was raised in Malaysia by her Malay foster mother and experienced a heated custody dispute between her foster parents and her Dutch birth parents.

I hope I can get tickets when it's staged next week! It's staging at the Istana Budaya from the 30th of November to the 9th of December. All of them are starting at 8.30pm and its a play that can be enjoyed by the whole family. So book your tickets now to enjoy the play! ;)

Now to a more serious event, let's take part in the Red Carnival for World AIDS Day! World Aids Day is a global event where society takes time to recognize the issues relating to HIV/AIDS. It's really a reminder to us how we can all do our part to combat HIV/AIDS!

That's why I think it is a very important event to attend, especially for teens like me. I myself will be going this Saturday with my family. It's time we understand and take preventive measures so we don't get caught up in the dark web that's HIV/AIDS. So remember: The Red Carnival is taking place over this weekend (27 and 28th November) at Sungei Wang Plaza! Over the weekend, volunteers and performers will distribute HIV/AIDS-informative newsletters and leaflets to the public.

Informative and educational yet fun. These are the events that I'm going to partake in these holidays! What about you? :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Kuala Lumpur: Culture and Art!

Other than the National Museum that I've mentioned in my earlier post, Kuala Lumpur is truly the place for cultural activities and events in Malaysia. It is the home to most of Malaysia's major museums, as you can read below! :P

The National Theater of Malaysia! Or as it is more popularly known, Malaysia's Istana Budaya. It is our country's main venue for all types of theater--musical theater, operetta, classical concert and opera from international and local performances. Istana Budaya has staged many international productions accompanied by our very own National Symphony Orchestra and Choir.

The most succesful local production staged here was certainly Puteri Gunung Ledang: The Musical, which opened to full house on almost all nights! I certainly hope that in the future, our Istana Budaya will be home to many other local productions such as this one. :)

Next up: The Islamic Arts Museum! It's a place where tourists flock to, even if they are non-Muslims. Housing more than seven thousand Islamic artifacts, people come there to marvel and observe ancient artifacts that can't be found anywhere else. Not only does the museum's collection consist of works from the Middle East, where Islam originated, but it also displays Southeast Asia's artifacts as well.

The museum itself shows culture by the magnificently decorated domes and intricate design of the building, inspired by Middle East designs. Located at Jalan Lembah Perdana, it resides next to the National Mosque. So if you have a day to spare, head to both these places. Not only is it educational, we can re-acquaint ourselves with our history. :)

The National Art Gallery on the other hand is located on Jalan Temerloh, neighboring the National Theater (Istana Budaya). Managed by the Ministry of Culture, Arts, and Tourism of Malaysia, it was established by our very first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman himself! The picture above was taken from here. :)

The National Art Gallery showcases our artists's works in form of paintings, pottery and handicrafts. Not only is it a place where Malaysia's finest artworks are displayed, it is also a platform where aspiring and veteran artists can meet and discuss about their art. Besides Malaysian art collections, several other countries have displayed their artwork in the National Art Gallery, the most notable being the Contemporary Cuban Art and Korean Artists' Collection held this year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kuala Lumpur: Shopping!

Lucky enough to be living in Selangor, I've been to Kuala Lumpur many, many times before. One thing I can tell you: Kuala Lumpur is THE place to go for shopping, no matter what age you are.

There is something for everybody! From kain batik to handmade bags, paintings to embroidered cloth, everything you wish for could be found in the numerous shops dotting the streets of Kuala Lumpur. Albeit at a higher price than the norm, as it is a tourist destination after all. ;) Every time I go to KL, more often than not I'd go home with way too many shopping bags (as my dear dad would say!)

After reading up at Wikipedia (hehe) Kuala Lumpur is the retail and fashion hub for Malaysia as it has a total of 66 shopping centers! Simply, that means: Take a day off to explore the many shops in KL! You'll need the whole day just to check out Suria KLCC though. ;)

Suria KLCC is one of the most famous shopping destination in Kuala Lumpur for tourists. Even people from Selangor like me love to go there! If not for its location directly below the Petronas Twin Towers, then for its international branches of branded shops, such as Jimmy Choo, Marc Jacobs, Gap and Calvin Klein.

Oh, don't forget the food at Suria KLCC! It has many restaurants serving different cuisine--Al Marjan serves Arabian food, Spring Garden which serves Chinese food, House of Sundanese, Spice of India and our very own Malaysian dining experience at the Little Penang Cafe! :)

Central Market on the other hand is located at Jalan Hang Kasturi, a few minutes away from Petaling Street. Central Market: Malaysian Heritage was the topic for my form three Sejarah project, and I really loved going there to shop for handicrafts. :) It's really a must-go destination for tourists, as it's a landmark for Malaysian culture and heritage. The first floor mostly sells Malaysian memorablia, such as key-chains, shirts, artwork and cultural items.

When I went to Central Market, I discovered that it consists of 3 lanes: namely the Lorong Melayu, Straits Chinese and Lorong India. The purpose of these three lanes is to let the visitors have an insight of the cultural difference of the various races in Malaysia. The second floor consists of boutiques selling Malaysian batik, boasting colourful designs of the highest-quality cloth. It's really the place to go if you wish to buy gifts for friends and family. :)