Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to celebrate my dear friends Amy and Renee who are expecting baby boys a couple of weeks apart. Both of these wonderful ladies are actually the first within my New York City friend group to be entering parenthood, and I couldn't be more delighted for them. The item I loved the most (besides the gorgeous cake and ridiculously delicious monkey bread) was the hanging twine with "favors" for after the baby was born. Ideas ranged from bringing over a movie for a girls night to doing a sink full of dishes to holding a real adult conversation! As more and more of my friends have entered into different life stages than me, I've wondered how I can love and serve them best when I have absolutely no clue what they might be going through. I loved these tangible ideas and can't wait to see how amazing of mothers Amy & Renee will both become!
Taste: 5 / 5 Ambience: 4 / 5 Would you want to eat there again?: I'm already trying to organize my friends to come back! Was the price worth it?: Surprisingly, yes!
A few months ago, my dear dear "niece" Olivia asked me to be one of her bridesmaid and I was simultaneously ecstatic and panicked. Ecstatic because I couldn't wait to help Olivia celebrate a new life and journey with her hilarious fiance Kyle, but also completely panicked because I had no idea what being a bridesmaid even began to entail. Luckily for all of us, Olivia is probably as far away from a bridezilla you can get (but seriously, could you please force some more of your opinions on us?), and she's given us all considerable amounts of freedom. Olivia and her sisters came down to New York City to meet Audrey and I for the bachelorette weekend, and our "main" event was a tea service at Bosie Tea Parlor in West Village.
I had originally found Bosie through their amazing reviews on Yelp. While there are (surprisingly) a lot of places in the city with afternoon tea service, many of them only serve during certain afternoon hours or charge $50-60/person. While Bosie's tea service is definitely more expensive than your average brunch, the $30/person price tag is certainly affordable and perfect for a special occasion. Each person was given their own tea pot, 3 types of tea sandwiches (cut in half, so 6 each), 2 macarons, 2 mini scones with jam and clotted cream and 2 tea cakes. I was originally worried that the restaurant stayed popular due to the "cuteness" of the concept but that the food would be subpar - I was so incredibly happy to be proven wrong! The food was phenomenal and even better, extremely plentiful. We left with 3 boxes of leftovers which were perfect for snacking on during the rest of our day, and all of us raved over each item. I was particularly impressed by the fine details that Bosie included - from the small garnishes on the tea cakes to the tiny glass jars for the jam and clotted cream, it truly made the event feel elegant and special. The display is beautiful enough to suit the sophisticated lady in you, and the ambiance was quaint and adorable. I am not giving the ambiance a full 5/5 because it wasn't quite on-point with the charm you would hope for in a tea parlor. Nevertheless, we were incredibly happy with the venue and I think the bride-to-be was just as pleased.
The most difficult part of the process was that they do not take reservations for groups smaller than 6 and don't have many tables to begin with. However, the woman I spoke to on the phone recommended that I called an hour in advance to get our names on the list which we did. When I explained my situation the day-of, our extremely sweet waitress (who was phenomenal all throughout) made sure to save us a table that could comfortably fit all of us. I highly recommend Bosie Tea Parlor - it's perfect for those special occasions with friends, sisters and mothers!
Not to be outdone by my post-graduation trip, my family insisted on taking a Caribbean cruise before I moved to New York. This trip was actually the last time our entire family would be able to do a vacation together since I was starting work and my brother was going to law school. So with only 5 days in San Diego after getting back from Malaysia, we were jetting off to a Carnival cruise boat in the Caribbean to start our adventures! Stop 11: St. Thomas Magen's Bay - frequently voted as one of the Top 10 Beaches in the World! Still not sure it was as good as Sihanoukville, Cambodia though!
Stop 12: Barbados - Had a chance to do a trip throughout the island to see all the various farms and plantations! The island was lush beyond belief and green for miles
Stop 13: St. Lucia - Probably my favorite port of call on the cruise. We hopped off our boat onto another to do a catamaran ride around the island. I fell in love with the cities hidden in the hills - the colors of the houses popped brightly against the foliage
Stop 14: St. Kitts - We had the opportunity to ride on an old sugar train where we ate sugar cake as we took in the island
Stop 15: St. Maarten - I had the chance to bust out my waterproof camera yet again and couldn't believe what a clear aqua-like color the water was! Even though both my dad and I look hilarious in the picture below, I love how happy we look
Stop 16: San Juan, Puerto Rico - Our final stop on the cruise where we stayed an extra day to explore the city. Partially because of the extra time and partially because of the city itself, this was my favorite part of the entire trip. I loved how there was a historical aspect embedded in the entire city - every street carried such a story with it!
It was also a great opportunity to try some delicious food at local restaurants. The cruise provided 5 meals a day of ridiculously decadent food, but it was nice to break away and try something authentic! We went to La Boveda de Triana and had an amazing seafood paella during our dinner along with other dishes of charizo, squid, eggplant and manchengo cheese, and more! The next morning we went to Cafeteria & Rest. Mallorca to get pastries - some filled with raspberry and some filled with cheese. Nomz all around!
With all of that, I bid my family goodbye and flew directly from Puerto Rico to JFK airport to move into my new home! What a trip. What an adventure.
And finally, finally (a casual 6 months later...) Malaysia! I suppose it's fitting because in this case, I really did save the best for last. Malaysia was by far my favorite country in my entire post-grad trip for a multitude of reasons. The obvious reason being my heritage. My father was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur with one older brother and nine sisters in between. Can you even imagine growing up in that large of a family? Due to the distance, the last and only time I went to Malaysia was when I was one years old. Since then, I've been able to see my various aunts and cousins who live in the US and Australia, but never the ones in Malaysia. As I've gotten older, I've begun relying even less on my dad to get in contact with family. Two years ago, I reconnected with Christine who is Australian but living in London (and actually a London blogger herself!), who then coordinated a series of meet ups with my amazing cousin, Benita, and then I met the rest of her family at Thanksgiving! Getting reconnected with so many members of my family served as a main motivator in planning my entire post-grad trip. I realized how many other relatives I had out there and how little I knew about my Chinese-Malaysian background. I was fortunate in that Madeline/Mallika/Amy were all willing to plan our trip to include Malaysia and spend time meeting my family with me for the first time. Our trip from Ho Chi Minh to Kuala Lumpur was rough to say the least. Long story short, never ever take Air Asia. Hypothetically speaking, they might change your flight time to one hour earlier without notifying you and then ask you to wait 12 hours at the airport and then let your plane free fall for a good 10 seconds while you're in the air. Was pretty convinced I was going to die... Once we finally got there, though, we got settled and explored the next day on our own. Malaysia is an Islamic country and I was absolutely blown away by the way Islamic art influenced the architecture in the country. The Petronas Towers were absolutely mindblowing at night.
We also took the opportunity to go to the Islamic Arts Museum which was stunningly curated and the perfect balance of beauty and education. They had an entire exhibit on textiles, and I thought it was fascinating to learn that cardboard can be used to create the raised surface on embroidery.
I loved this quote in the museum about the way geometry is used in art:
"The repetition, symmetry and the continuous generation of geometric patterns thus became the sacred language in Islamic art, affirming and reflecting the unfolding of God's creation."
I've always been really fascinated with different forms of expressing worship even if I share different religious beliefs. I wrote about Losang Samtem's mandala and how he viewed his art as an active conversation with God since not everybody is able to sit in stillness and meditate.
The first cousin I met was Tony and his amazing wife, Jian. Tony somehow has all of Kuala Lumpur's history stored in his brain and gave us a historical tour around the city. Fun fact, Kuala Lumpur's name means the "mouth of the muddy town." The history of the city is interesting since it was created during the British colonization. The river that runs through literally separated the British side (which literally had a Commons) and Malaysian side (which was a mix of Malays, Chinese, and Indians). The three Asian cultures are still present in the Malaysian population today, but I didn't realize how vast the divide was between them in terms of laws, incorporating businesses, educational opportunities, etc. For the longest time, I never understood why my dad would distinguish his background by saying "I'm Chinese, not Malay," when he was a third generation Malaysian, but now the cultural identification makes a little more sense contextually.
Tony helped organize a family reunion of sorts for me! I got to meet my other cousins Joyce and Emily along with Emily's adorable daughters and four of my Aunties! It was such a blessing to meet them in person.
Before we left Kuala Lumpur, we went on the MM Adventure's tour to see the Batu caves, fireflies, and monkey sanctuary. We weren't sure it was worth the cost, but again, it was an excellent decision that I highly recommend!
Finally, we left Kuala Lumpur for our last stop in Penang. It was a short 24 hour trip, but filled with good food and...a freak storm. We had some very specific recommendations from our friend Nicole and made sure to hit up the Gurney Drive hawker stalls.
Unfortunately, after we finished satiating ourselves, the wind starts to pick up. Next thing I know, I look up and see a giant metal tin roof hurting 40 feet up in the air above the other stands heading straight toward our section. Fortunately we were all able to duck or hide in nooks and crannies until the storm passed. Trees collapsed on top of cars left and right, and as freaked out as we were, we thought maybe this was a standard tropical storm in South East Asia. Once we got in a taxi though, our taxi driver was visibly shaken and told us he hadn't seen anything like it in years. What luck!
The next day we wrapped up our morning with a visit to Batu Ferringhi beach and found our way to two must-visits: a roti canai restaurant (my favorite Malaysian food!) and a famous Cendol stand (which may or may not have made Mallika and I very sick...)
It was finally time to begin our 30 hour journey back to the United States, and though I had some err medical hiccups on the way back, the entire three week journey was possibly the most amazing trip of my life. Now that I've been working for so a while, I'm more grateful than ever that I had the opportunity to travel extensively in between graduation and New York.