Merchant’s Lane, KL

Merchant’s Lane has been a popular haunt for local hipsters since it first opened a couple of years ago. I went there for the first time in 2015, and I wasn’t impressed by the limited brunch selection and the lacklustre quality (I still remember how dry the salmon that I ordered tasted).

Yesterday I decided to give the place another go for brunch. The place still looks as charming as the first time I saw it, and the menu has improved significantly. There are now more items to choose from, ranging from the classic big breakfast to the rendang fusion pasta.

The restaurant’s interior is tastefully designed to preserve the charming features of the traditional Chinese shophouse that it occupies. The main dining hall is spacious, with a vaulted ceiling and a thin sunroof pane that allows ample natural light to come in. Antique decorations, bottles and old cans decorate the clean, empty walls, and little flowers provide some colours to the space. Outside the air-conditioned dining hall is the inner courtyard, which is sheltered from the scorching heat by a large shady tree.

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The food has improved substantially since I last went there. I ordered a beef burger set (RM24), which is served with satay (peanut) sauce dressing. The patty is fairly tender, and the charcoal bun is nicely toasted. My friend ordered a rice dish that comes with a large fried chicken (RM22) – and it’s pretty delicious too. We washed down our meals with a refreshing cold-pressed juice each (RM15).

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Verdict:

While the brunch selection has improved tremendously since I last went, it still falls short compared to the likes of Tray, Birch and Yeast. Merchant’s Lane biggest draw is still the superb interior aesthetics and the charming, Straits Chinese ambiance. It’s a perfect place for photo taking with some highly Instagrammable walls – including a rattan swing, which is a hit amongst the shutterbugs (yours truly included). Merchant’s Lane location in Chinatown further adds to its intrigue; it’s nice to spend some time at the historic quarter of town, away from the predictable scenes in Bangsar and Bukit Bintang.

KL 2017 SEA Games Opening: A Journal

The SEA Games opening last Saturday is an excellent spectacle, a visually stunning display of the colours that make up Malaysia – and who we are as a nation.

The event had a wet start – spectators were drenched as they lined up to get in. There were also no clear signboards indicating where the queues were formed or where the lines began, so it was quite confusing. All we knew was, the gate we were supposed to get it, which did not really help, as the queue extended more than 500 m from the main stadium.

Pretty chaotic. People were getting frustrated. The organiser could’ve managed the crowd better.

The pedestrian plaza that stretches between the Bukit Jalil LRT station with the main stadium was a party ground. Plenty of food trucks filled the space, selling yummy stuff from mango juices to buttermilk chicken. I wish I could try all of them, but the queues were really long, so I didn’t really bother. The foodtrucks will be there until the end of the Games, so you should probably check them out.

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Anyway, once I got in and took my seat, I was in awe. The team behind the refurbishment of the two-decade-old stadium clearly did a good job. The stadium looked fantastic, with brand new seats and brilliant purple roof lighting. Very elegant and classy. We have a world-class national stadium, indeed.

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The rest of the evening happened smoothly – Aznil came out with a campy rendition of a Sudirman’s song, complete with some colourful rickshaws (very fabulous).

Dayang Nurfaizah performed the Games’ theme song – she delivered a rousing vocal performance, but the song sounds like it belongs to AJL, not a regional games. I’m a fan of her ensemble, though – the crystal headgear is definitely a highlight. Very glamorous.

MonoloQue Ft Lan & MaliQue delivered a strong performance of another song for the Games, Tunjuk Belang, which is a much better tune for the purpose.

The rest of the evening was filled with cultural performances – a spectacular show that displayed our nation’s diversity and long history of tolerance. It was aptly opened by the orang asli (recognising their status as pioneer of this land), the Malay, Chinese and Indian segments would only follow after. There were also caravels traversing the ocean – a homage of the Malay’s renowned seafaring capability way before the Portuguese discovered the Nusantara.

The different ethnics in East Malaysia were also amply represented in the show. There was even a scene of bajau laut horsemen traversing the water, a reminder of the forgotten history of the bajau people.

Good job to Saw Teong Hin for the very visually stunning show that encapsulated the very essence of Malaysia’s diverse culture and traditions.

18-year-old diver Dhabitah Sabri had the honour of lighting the Games’ torch. The ceremony ended with a 3-minute firework show – that we, at the stadium, couldn’t see as clearly as the people outside the venue lol.

I posted below a compilation of some photos that I took throughout the opening ceremony. There’s also a timelapse video that I took during the event here.

The #KL2017 opening ceremony is a visually stunning affair. . It's a display of Malaysia's cultural heterogeneity and diversity, the colourful spirit of our people and the nation's history of openness and tolerance – there's a part that shows the locals welcoming foreign vessels with open arms, a homage to pre-colonial Malaya's status as a cosmopolitan civilisation. The cultural performances, which chronicled Malaysia's journey, were kickstarted by the orang asli – a fitting gesture, considering their role as the pioneer on this land. . Dayang Nurfaizah was also there – while her singing was on point, the song fell short – KL1998 did a much better job with Ella, back in the day. . I had a good time. Made a compilation video of the #timelapse that I took just now, so enjoy!

A post shared by Faizal Hamssin (@faizalhamssin) on

Good luck to our boys and girls competing in the Games!

FH

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Selamat Hari Raya

Wishing you all a very joyous Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration.

Let the period of festivities herald a new chapter of closer ties between us and our families, friends, and of course, loved ones too.

What’s amazing about Hari Raya in our local context is the ability of the festive season to bring the Malays of different ideological standpoints, spectrum of conservative-liberal stance, and to a certain extent, faith structures, to come together to celebrate the beauty of our culture, customs, fashion and food.

While Hari Raya has an undeniably Islamic origin, the modern day interpretation of the festivity varies, from cultural to religious.

Well, whatever it is, just enjoy lah.

Take care.

Selamat Hari Raya!

Photo Story: London, May 2017.

I was in London for a 3-day visit last month. It was a pretty much a standard jaunt, filled with lunches and catch-ups with friends, pleasant strolls along the city’s thriving streets (the weather surprisingly happened to be gorgeous for the large part of the visit), gallery visits, and the obligatory nights-out in Soho.

Museums and Galleries

I got to visit the new London Design Museum, housed in a formerly derelict structure in Kensington for the first time. Everything in the museum smacks of brand new, it opened its doors in December 2016. There was an interesting ‘Imagine Moscow’ exhibition going on – it basically chronicled the Soviets’ use of grandiose architectural statements to propagate communist propaganda, especially during the era of Stalin. Interesting stuff.

I also spent some time at Tate. It’s a huge modern art museum, and one of the exhibitions highlighted the use of arts as means of anti-Nazi resistance during the earlier days of the Third Reich. John Heartfield defied threats of arrests by creating satirical pieces and photomontages that exposed the follies of Hitler’s propaganda. One of the pioneers in using art as a political weapon, Heartfield, facing an imminent deportation threat to Czechoslovakia, fled to the UK in 1938.

If you’re looking for a good time to visit London, now is probably the best time to do so.

Nothing much has changed in the city, except for the fact that things have become slightly more affordable (albeit still fairly expensive, it’s London after all), thanks to the post-Brexit vote GBP depreciation.

Food markets, as usual?

I also spent some time at the Portobello Market, which has grown far too crowded to my liking – there is still an interesting array of shops selling quirky collectibles and antiques, so if you’ve never been there, it’s worth checking out. The street food scene there is still as vibrant as usual, however, except for the fact that at Portobello, everything is at least 20% more expensive than in other parts of London. If you’re into food markets, Borough Market is definitely a much better option.

Danke, Syafiq!

Major shoutout to Syafiq, for lending me his room throughout my stay in London this time (last year it was at Izuan’s, also shoutout to him!). His apartment is located just next to the Bayswater tube station, so getting around is tremendously easy. Bayswater is traditionally a popular area for Malaysians, with its high concentration of halal eateries and shopping options – Malaysians love shopping after all.

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Snapshots of Melbourne (Part 1)

Hello from Melbourne!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 5 years I last left this city that I called home for three of the most formative years in my life.

It feels great to be back. Melbourne hasn’t changed as much as I feared that it would; Swanston St. has been fully pedestrianised, creating a very vibrant street scene in central Melbourne. New restaurants have popped up across town, and the food truck craze has arrived here too! No longer is there the little Es Teler on Cardigan St. that I used to go to often during the uni days; a shame indeed, I still remember how great their spicy kuayteow goreng was!

Here are some snapshots of Melbourne that I took over the past two days.

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Cafes of the Flinders Lane
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The tram, the CBD skyline and the solid blue skies. Quintessentially Melbourne.
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H&M has taken over the GPO building!
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Bourke Street Mall at night
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A homeless man sitting amidst the revellers at the Hosier Lane graffiti gallery.
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Yours truly at the Hosier Lane.
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Twisted elegance.
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Spring is in the air.
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Royal Arcade, soaked in the Christmas mood.
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Among the quirky skyscrapers popping up all over Melbourne over the last couple of years

Alright, that’s it for now. Looking forward to a weekend of reconnecting with some dear friends. Feels good to be back in Melbourne, albeit for a few days only.

Speak soon,

FH.