Monday, July 7, 2014

Brioni Southeast Asian World Tour: Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur

Welcome to another installment of the Brioni Southeast Asian World Tour! :) This post is going to talk about our two day stay in Kuala Lumpur!

After our overnight train left Singapore, we arrived in Kuala Lumpur bright and early. Luckily the hotel that we were staying at (the Aloft Sentral) was right across the street from the train station, and they even let us check in early too!

The hazy sunrise view from our hotel room...

Another shot from our hotel room from a different angle...

Because we were still a little tired from traveling, we didn't do much during the day.  This left us with enough energy to go out that night for dinner and drinks.  We went to Bukit Bintanga popular area full of bars and restaurants.

For dinner, we at the Steakhouse KL. Here's a dim shot of my refreshing cocktail!

This particular restaurant allowed you to choose your starch, your sauce and of course your cut of steak. I opted for the baked potato and chimmichuri sauce with the strip!

Dinner is served!

Justin thought the restaurant was just okay, but it's hard to beat the steak we had for our anniversary dinner at CUT.

After dinner, we strolled around the nearby bars. A lot of the bars had different themes (e.g.: Irish pub, English ale house, etc.), which was very interesting. It appeared that these places were probably catering to the expats and tourists. Below is a sign for a pig knuckle eating challenge. Don't even even get me started...but for us having just ate dinner, you know Justin wanted to do it. 

Cool reggae bar signage that changed color!

Crowded streets...

This bar made us think of our friend/former roommate, McCarthy...

The next day was our big sightseeing day. Before we got productive, we took advantage of our hotel's complementary breakfast, which provided a variety of delicacies.

Sarawak Laksa is a spicy noodle soup from Peranakan cuisine. Pernakan food is a type of cuisine that combines Chinese and Malay food. I liked it because I love spicy food!

Below on the left is Chee Cheong Fun, which are steamed rice rolls with shrimp paste. I noticed a lot of Malaysian food had a lot of shrimp paste/fish sauce, which Justin wasn't a huge fan of. On the right was Nasi Lemak, which is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk.

Nasi Lemak is served with peanuts, cucumber and chili sauce, which you're supposed to put on top (in the picture below to the left, you can see it on my plate below next to some chicken curry). As you can see in my facial expression in the picture below to the right, you can't beat the fresh Asian fruit! I fully took advantage of the rambutan, yellow watermelon, and dragonfruit!

After such a hearty breakfast it was time for our tour of the city!

Here is a picture that I took of the home of the royal family.  Yes, you can't see much because I was scrambling to get into position, and the tour bus driver didn't stop. Would it have killed the driver to have stopped for a few minutes so that we could take one picture? Geez!

The National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara Malaysia)

I think this was a Catholic church, which was neat to see, considering that Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country

A cute sign that we saw while on our bus tour

The Malaysian version of the Ruff Ryders, LOL. Just kidding. Motorbikes and scooters are very popular in Southeast Asia for their ability to go between cars, and weave in and out of traffic.

Dataran Merdeka or Independence Square

Medan MARA. I'm not sure what kind of building this is (I know it was a government building), but I really liked the interesting tilework.

The Palace of Culture (which is a performance venue (I think) like the Kennedy Center)

And of course, the Petronas Twin Towers. Unfortunately we went on on Monday and their observatory was closed for the day.  Fortunately, there wasn't much to see from that height because it was a really foggy day!

Although we didn't see it, it looks really pretty when it's lit up at night

photo taken from flickr

The lovely fountains in front of the Petronas Towers

A picture in front of the towers, as well as a peak inside the tower. I would have never expected that inside the tower was a huge mall. Asians love malls. It's interesting to note that while malls are falling out of practice in the DC area (for more urban-style storefronts/town centers), malls will always be popular in Southeast Asia, if anything for their air conditioning!


Petronas is the sponsor of the Malaysia Grand Prix, so they had two Formula One racing cars in the entryway.

Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown. There were a lot of vendors selling food, but most of the stalls were selling clothing or knock-offs. Of course you have the fake purses, but did you know they make fake Beats by Dre headphones? I wonder what the sounds quality is like?

Justin and I thought that these signs were funny. The fact that they are placed together shows that this places of business believe durian eating is just as offensive as smoking a cigarette, LOL! Justin actually had durian for the first time while on this trip (you'll see it in a later post :).

After a long day of sightseeing, we needed to head back to train station for the next leg of our trip, Ko Samui. We stopped by the mall near the train station and grabbed a bite to eat! The Malaysian version of Korean food! I thought it was pretty good!

And by the looks of the sign it looked like they were hiring too! Even the hiring ads reflected the Muslim culture with the women wearing hijabs. Our stay in Kuala Lumpur was really cool in that we got to experience a predominantly Muslim culture in Asia! With that in mind, businesses closed early for Ramadan and there were no pork products to be found (no bacon!)

The next stop on our trip would be a brief stop in the town of Butterworth. There we visited the island of Penang. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Brioni Southeast Asian World Tour: Singapore

Well, it’s a miracle!  A new blog post for you all to read after an unexpected hiatus; the first installment of our international trip to three Southeast Asian countries; and a blog post written through the words of my darling Justin. 
At the special request of my beautiful wife, I promised to help in the retelling of our long fourteen day journey through Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.  First stop – Singapore.
Some towering views from the top of our hotel and the view from our hotel room...

After two days of flying from DC to Dallas, and then to Japan, we finally arrived in Singapore.  We stayed at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which offered a gorgeous view of Marina Bay and an Infinity Pool on the rooftop.  Despite the cloudy weather, we decided to take advantage of the awesome pool. 

Like many of the other visitors to the hotel, Joanne and I did the quintessential pool photo poses that one would take in such a pool:

 The “I’m gazing out into the city, thinking about life” pose.

The “I’m falling off the edge of the building” pose.

In between our time taking obscene and clever photos in the hotel’s pool, Joanne and I ate a lot of awesome food.  One of the first meals we had was dim sum at Din Tang Fung Dumpling House which was in the mall connected to our resort.  To the West Coast readers out there, we know they have these out in California; however, we don’t have them in DC and we figured why not.  The food was just as good as we remembered it on our first trip to their Arcadia, Ca location.  We ordered the usual (dumplings, dumplings, and dumplings), but were cautioned by our waitress that we “ordered too much”.  Considering the fact that we were jet lagged and really hungry, we really didn’t care and told the waitress to mind her damn business!  Just kidding, we were nice and may have ordered another dish, possibly misunderstanding what she was communicating to us at the time.
Hard at work making the dumplings by hand, yum!

One common theme that you're going to see in our Asia vacation blog posts is food. Hawker stalls (they are like food carts in a more organized/building setting--kind of like a food court but with more personality :) like in the picture below were common.

Joanne has always been the more adventurous eater so it was no surprise to me that she dove right into trying the local cuisine. While strolling around on our tour of the city we stopped in a mall for a bite and she tried the dish below. According to the menu it is: "Nasi Kerabu with Ayam Percik served with raw ulam, salted egg and kerapak." I had no clue what that meant, but it was basically chicken covered in a curry sauce with a side of fish chips.  
We also ate at a bunch of different price points, but in Singapore everything was really expensive (even more than London!). So for our (very, very) high-end dining experience we ate at Wolfgang Puck’s steakhouse which was conveniently located in our hotel.  Like Las Vegas and Beverly Hills, Singapore also had a CUT.  Because we anticipated spending our four year wedding anniversary in Narita Airport, we figured CUT would be the perfect place to celebrate our wedding anniversary in style.
Some pre-dinner selfies...

For starters, we had the Bone Marrow Flan because it’s too hard to turn down bone marrow…

And the Maple Glazed Pork Belly, Fuiji Apple-Yali Pear Salad. Excuse the dark photography, I didn't want to ruin the ambiance ;)

We each ordered a steak, with Joanne settling with the Filet Mignon. I went with a Rib Eye.

For desert, we enjoyed a soufflĂ©.  The wait staff really made our dining experience memorable with their hospitality and attentiveness.  Our wine glasses were never empty and we never felt neglected.

After dinner, we decided to go watch the Germany v. France World Cup match.  As recommended by the concierge, we made our way to Clarke Quay (which the locals pronounced "quackie quay"), which was similar to Fourth Street Live in Louisville, Ky, or Power Plant Live up in Baltimore, Md.  Bottom line, there’s about five blocks of bars all clustered together. 

The atmosphere was pretty crazy when we got there, considering the combination of soccer fans, alcohol, and it being a Saturday night.  Overall, it was a pretty good time drinking Tiger Beers and doing some prime people watching on the outdoor patios.  There were plenty of people puking and falling down all over the place, which is the only way to enjoy the Singapore nightlife.

Our first stop on our “Brioni Southeast Asian World Tour” was merely a warm up for the next couple of days.  After two days of eating, drinking, and taking in the sights (yes, we did some sightseeing although we took very little pictures in Singapore, darn you jet lag!), we made our way to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

We were lucky enough to navigate through Singapore’s Woodlands Train Station safely to make it to our next destination.  That little experience was another memorable story..basically we entered customs though the bus line, not the train line like we were supposed to. After discovering our mistake, they invalidated our stamp of entry and we were then escorted by a customs agent to the right area. That's what I get when I choose to follow my wife who opts to walk first then look later.

See the guard rail below? We walked through on the right when we were supposed to wait in line on the left. Whoops.

From Singapore were were going to be traveling via overnight train through Malaysia. A shot of me in front of my "bed." There were curtains you could draw for more privacy.

A view from inside Joanne's sleeping "nook." They didn't have anywhere to store the luggage so Joanne opted to put our suitcase in her nook since it fit!

The train traveled to the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, while we slept. At this point in our trip, Joanne and I still hadn’t killed each other – yet another miracle!