Saturday, 25 October 2014

London Calling

"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
- Samuel Johnson 
London, the city I grew up in since I arrived here at the age of 3. It's where I've seen as home ever since and I can't imagine being anywhere else. Most of the people I know feel the same way to. A lot of my school friends did not even want to consider a university outside of London and many of my university friends who were from different towns managed to find jobs (or phD) straight after graduating. There's the one or two friends who have had to leave but I know for sure they're trying to come back. I can't speak as a tourist, but London has a lot to offer for people who live here or just travelling through. London has an undeniable force that attracts men and women, the young and the old, the adventure seekers and those who want a home.  
Canary Wharf at a distance. How many do economists do you estimate were slaving away when this photo was taken?
The infamous Walkie-Talkie building standing tall and proud (with its protective cover).

London at Night

London is replete with photogenic scenery. My favourite would be the evening view from the top deck of a bus as it crosses the Westminster Bridge. In my final year of sixth form, just before leaving Cambridge, I was travelling between UCL (for Friday science lectures which I went for fun) Elephant & Castle. I never got bored of the journey. I'll have to admit that London Eye has an aesthetic appeal. No one can deny the detailed architecture of the prestigious buildings in the city Centre. Lets not forget to credit the bridges of London too, most which add to the London Charm. Alright, this list is going to get too long if I start to mention everything that contribute to the stunning view of the city. 
Others enjoying the view
Looking right above - open roof!

The Shard 

I tell people that when I travel, the two things I look forward to the most are the polar opposites: spectacular natural beauty and dramatic skylines especially in a city. When there's a city, there's likely to be an observation deck and I like observation decks. Not sure why I enjoy them so much: Maybe its in the fun of finding where your home (or hostel is) is, running to see all the local attractions in under a minute or having such a busy city scaled down to a manageable size. You're the one that's towering over all that hustle and bustle.    

Actually, before the Shard opened, I'm not sure if London had an observation deck. I do remember going to the (rooftop) bar in the Hilton Hotel with a few friends but I don't remember being as taken away by the view. There are other rooftop bars in London which are suppose to give spectacular views, which as the Peckham Multiplex Bar. However, I don't think any is high enough to give such a wide view of the city (or so I think).
My favourite view from the Shard at sunset... 
... And how it looks at night
The Shard has a domineering presence in London. Its height looks astronomical, but sure, compared to other London structures, it has nothing against the skyscrapers in Asia. Taking a quick (and definitely not inexpensive) trip absolute top floor was worth my whole evening. Suddenly the place where I am always towered by giant structures, where I'm constantly dodging the traffic or the huge crowds of people... somewhere that I have more recently becoming lost in... looked peaceful. Away from the constant hustle and bustle, London turned into another kind of novelty. And it looked more beautiful than ever.

I never had the time to enjoy the sunset over my city, or at least I don't remember I time I have. I'm constantly moving when I'm in the centre, that I've never taken the time to see the city light up. That's something I've enjoyed on my trips abroad. Up, up and above on the 100th floor, you see how colourful, how serene the sky looks as the sun is going down.
TOWER Bridge
One of the best features of London at night

The one and only city?

I've been to observation decks in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Malaysia and a couple of rooftop bars, including the two in Bangkok. While Shanghai and Hong Kong closely comes to the top, I think the view of London is unbeatable. You can walk the Shard, have a 360 view of London and there will be something exciting to see in every direction. I could have spent the whole day at the roof and not get bored. Or maybe I am just biased (hmm, dat view of Pudong and the Bund). There's still more cities to see, more views to take my breath away. Is there another city that can knock London off the top spot?

Can't leave the Shard without taking a...


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

A little bit of Malaysia in London

On 26th September, Trafalgar Square hosted Malaysia Night for the forth consecutive year. I first heard of MN in 2012, the year I went to Malaysia itself. In fact, I loved Malaysia so much on that trip, that I was eager to get a taste of it again, but for reasons I can't remember... I didn't end up going. I soon forgot about this event, would have had the chance to go last year if I remembered, but I stumbled on it on the TIME London event section when I was looking for what to do for James' birthday this year.

So what is this Malaysia Night event, you ask? Well, it's all about the...

Finger-licking good food

The best part of Malaysia is the food, hands down. Three different ethnic groups live side by side in Malaysia: The Malays, the (South) Indians and the Chinese. Having three cultures with deliciously famous cuisine means you'll never get tired of eating in the country. We started the day with roti canai, filled the day with assortments of noodle or rice dishes. One day we had char keow teow, another day it was Masala Dosas. We tried Laksa, Singaporean Noodles and Rendang Beef. My stomach was always happy. 

I've only been to a Malaysian restaurant once after my trip in 2012, they're not so common in London. MN gives you a chance to try the best dishes from Malaysia while giving you a glimpse at what Malaysian restaurants are available.
We started the evening the way we started our Malaysian Days... with roti canai

Prawn Sambal on Coconut Rice

Laksa! Cream soup with prawns, noodles and egg

Satay chicken burgers (so tiny!)

 Colourful Performances

From Indian Bollywood moves, to Chinese dragon dance and performances of dikir barat, which is a type of Malaysian dance. The performances weren't limited to just dancing, many solo singers and musicians took the stage as well. I won't lie that I enjoyed the "Whole New World" duet but my favourite would be the performance of "One Malaysia". The patriotism shown among the crowd was amazing, I had goosebumps!

Get Cooking with Ping Coombes

Okay, I admit I didn't stay long to watch Ping Coombes. The stall was very busy (too many Malay food enthusiasts in the way) and the disadvantage of being short is that even if you are in the second row of a standing crowd, you can say zilch. However, if I had a convincing culinary skill, I would have been taking notes. Coombes won Master Chef for her Nasi Lemak, which I was surprised by as it seems like a relatively simple dish, but I don't doubt that her own twist that won the judges over. There were also interactive cooking lessons, which you would have been accompanied by with a chef's hat!

If that wasn't enough, there were little supermarkets set up so that you can take ingredients home so that you can master the art of Malaysian food in your own kitchen. And if you're one of those people... there was even jackfruit and durian to take home with you (no, thank you). Frozen paratas, chilli oil and rendang paste... would have felt like I was back in a muslim coffee shop!

I loved every minute of it and I can't wait til next year's event!