Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No Good With Faces

I have to fess up: Sometimes, I can be terrible at remembering people’s names and faces. I can’t help it. I try my best but sometimes, I just can’t place a name to a face or vice versa.

Having just written up a blog about an unexpected detour in Melaka, Malaysia, for work (“Not According to Plan”) got me to thinking, though … about all of the people I’ve met through each of my trips. I might not always remember their names, but I’ve certainly remembered their faces and the experiences I’ve shared with them.

If you happen to be one of my Facebook friends, your news feed has probably been inundated lately with photo albums of all the food that I ate while recently in Singapore and Malaysia. And not just once, but twice. And while I certainly savored all of the many—emphasis on many—amazing meals that I had, I think that what I really loved most were all of the experiences that I shared with friends, both new and old, and family, many of them over a good meal, too. Just take a look …

When you travel on a press trip, it's crucial that you have a good group of fellow journalists. Otherwise, it could easily wind up being a press trip from hell—or at least one with a lot of funny stories to tell afterward, I suppose. Lucky for me, our group was great, and we bonded easily over pints of Tiger Beer.

Another group bonding experience took place when we traveled to Singapore's Geylang district to try the ultra-pungent durian. Much props to Nick (below) and Kim who braved the smell to give it a taste, even if they didn't become fans of the "King of Fruits" afterward, like I did.

Taking care of us throughout our trip was our guide, Toon Hee, who also happens to be a busker on Orchard Road in Singapore. His speciality? Juggling.

Sometimes, just the smallest encounter can leave a big impression, too. Like when this little boy ran up to me as soon as I sat down to eat lunch one day in Kampong Glam, in Singapore. I think he might've been enamored with my food or my camera but, either way, my unexpected dining companion didn't leave my side until his parents dragged him home.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: dancing kids are adorable. These kids in Melaka, Malaysia, were performing for the Deepavali holiday at a local mall. So cute, aren't they?

What's even better than dancing kids? It might be senior citizens who like to rock out, like this man who literally stole the show at the Chinatown Night Market in Melaka. True rock star status, I tell you.

No matter where you go, nothing compares to reconnecting with family and friends that you haven't seen in quite some time. Seeing my cousin Christina again, following her whirlwind travels around the globe for English First's Marco Polo Project, was so much fun. I'd forgotten how much I missed traveling with her ...

... and with her boyfriend, Coco. Together, the three of us basically ate a lot—and often.

We even got to meet the chef who prepared an elaborate, five-course dinner for us at Suntec Singapore's Pearl River Palace restaurant.

While in Melaka, we literally stumbled onto Villa Sentosa during a long walk. Abdul Rahim Haji Hashim (below left), the owner of the house, was nice enough to give us a tour, and to analyze my handwriting (and personality) in the process. 

I've also realized that, whether or not you travel with family, you eventually learn to make your own along the way. At least that's how I felt with Christina and Coco's dear friends, Li Sun and Christophe and their daughter, Sahra, at their Old Town Guesthouse in Melaka. They were so kind, and so welcoming, that I truly felt at home. And isn't that exactly the kind of hospitality you hope to find when you're so far from home?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Wonderful Town

As much as I travel to seek out new places and to try new things, there are a few spots that I’ll gladly return to time and again. New York City is just that place.

Just the other day, a business acquaintance told me she was headed to New York, asked me if I’d been before, and if I had any suggestions for what to see and do. I spent the next 45 minutes, over an endless hotel breakfast buffet of nasi lemak and kaya toast, describing in detail all the things I loved about New York.

For one thing, the food’s amazing—no argument there. Secondly, some of my closest friends are there and, thirdly, the city never fails to surprise me with something new and different.

Leslie and I take in The Frying Pan.
Take my most recent trip this past September: As much as I felt at home strolling through the East Village or visiting my favorite museums, I still found myself feeling like a first-time visitor when I discovered new spots and sights. Thanks, in large part, to the suggestions of my dear friend (and converted New Yorker/devoted blogger) Leslie, I stumbled onto two new favorites:

Taking The High Line
On a long walk from my hotel on 29th and Park Avenue to the Meatpacking District, I took some time to explore The High Line. At first, when my friend Leslie described it, I had no idea what to really expect from it—a formerly derelict railroad track with a park on it.

Well, it is just that—and a lot more. I didn’t think I’d be totally bowled over by The High Line but I was. Maybe it was the perfect end-of-summer weather, or the fact that I was so exhausted and slightly dehydrated that The High Line seemed like some magical oasis in the middle of an urban jungle. Whatever the reason—I just loved it.

I love that you can literally walk right under this building.

If You Can’t Take the Heat, Head to The Frying Pan
A dingy, craggy, formerly sunken ship docked off Pier 66 Maritime near New York’s Chelsea Piers might not sound like the most appealing of venues, but the Lightship #115 Frying Pan more than makes up for its outward appearance with plenty of free-flowing draft beers, burgers and amazing sunsets.

According to its website, the ship spent three years stuck at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay before being restored in 1989. What’s even better is that the Frying Pan doesn’t even try to hide its previous rough-and-tumble history—it practically basks in it. Even the interior of the ship boasts barnacles, and musty, salt-tinged smells infuse every nook and cranny on the inside. I mean, who doesn’t love a dive bar that has literally taken a dive before?

A really outdated photo of The Frying Pan, but I think it (sorta) captures it charm. Guess you just have to see it for yourself. // (c) The Frying Pan/NYMag.com

Now, that’s my kind of bar—and my kind of New York. What’s yours?