Untitled Journal

What's the story, morning glory?

Category: Travel

When in London

The clock’s showing 5.16am. I’d never been up this early, even in Malaysia. My feet are still aching from yesterday’s long walk. The light has started to come into the room that is so silent it makes me feel like my ears have gone deaf. Quite honestly, I’d never thought I would come here again, let alone stepping on the pavements in 23 degrees, sunny with cool breeze. The weather on Monday was so brilliant, that Nizam decided to take a day off from work and took us lunch at Hampstead. But not before visiting the Olympic Village under construction and playing the street piano at One Canada Square in Canary Wharf.

Fakhrul especially was so excited there was the four of us again. I think I share the same feeling, it definitely was like the old times. Half through the day, Amer joined us to Hyde Park, where we all cycled on rented bikes. My perception on London was totally changed afterwards with this new Barclays Bicycle Hire scheme. The attractions are more accessible, getting through London town is not as tiring compared going through on foot and doing that especially on one of the best day during summer 2011 was just fantastic. And also being a non resident this time helped too.

We stretched our legs to Covent Garden Market next where Amer insisted we tried on the best tasting ice cream. Mixed the chocolate with raspberry flavor he said, exactly what we did and it was delicious exactly like he said. While we were busy licking and scooping the ice cream, Nizam went on and on about this fabulous Moroccan restaurant nearby and off we went for dinner. We ordered tajines and it tasted as good as the ones we had in Morocco years ago. The most hilarious part of dinner was Nizam’s attempt to try the non-alcoholic margarita. He ordered one that was made of tomato juice, mixed with celery, Worcestershire sauce and tabasco, which is called Virgin Mary. Amer kept calling it Bloody Mary but to me, it tasted like bloody hell. It was even more hilarious to learn that its a drink for people to recover from drunkenness, and when the waiter delivered the drink she was actually confused and then we knew why.

We were like a bunch of stoned people afterwards, knackered, sleepy and dizzy. Took a bus from Tottenham Court Road straight back to Paddington and slept early. I know I’m here for work, but as of yesterday I just couldn’t help feeling like I had such a satisfying day. It was definitely not what I expected from a business trip, but when I’m with my three guys, nothing is business I guess.

When in Pulau Sayak






Excerpt From Dream

I guess the news was already spreading when I was on my journey to Sungai Petani for the weekend. As soon as we stopped our car in front of my mother-in-law’s gate, Ewa ranged me. She sounded serious which was very unlike her. She was the one who delivered the news about the tsunami in Japan. I wasn’t terribly shocked at first as I thought it might not be as serious as the Boxing Day 2004, until I login to the BBC and saw videos. One of the video showed some buildings in Shibuya swaying for few minutes as if they were made out of papers being blown by the wind. It was truly a horrific sight. And honestly, as much as my heart goes for the people, I hope all those beautiful buildings I saw are not affected too.

The more I read about the news, the more I couldn’t imagine what would’ve happened if our trip was planned only two weeks after. I mean, geez, I was with my baby, we don’t speak the language, we were staying in an converted old house that ages at least one hundred years old, etc. Things could’ve blown out to the proportions I don’t even want to imagine. I couldn’t thank Allah enough for saving me, my family and my friends. The thought of I was just there two weeks ago gives me chills. Just look at this blog, it is as if I still haven’t even finished writing about it. Almost every latest entries associated to that trip.

Despite all that, I strongly feel that Japan will get back on its feet in no time. They’ll clean the place and rebuild it shiny and new as if it has never happened. And even in a chaos like this, there will be an order that only Japanese can execute. Let me share an interesting link with you, that made my amazement for Japan continues. Please take your time to read it, and you’ll see why there is no stopping in being astound over a country called Japan and all the people inhabiting it. And why instead of highlighting the lessons Japan could’ve learned over this catastrophe, we are the ones that must learn from them first. Quoting my favourite tweets:

BBC Reports

The words of BBC’s reports are so moving they make me cry.  They were praising us with words of admiration!  “One of the worst earthquakes in recorded history has hit the world’s most well-prepared, well-trained nations.  The strength of its government and its people are put to the test.  While there have been casualties, in no other country could the government and the people have worked together in such an accurate and coordinated way in the face of such tragedy.  The Japanese people have shown their cultural ability to remain calm in the face of adversity.”

Japan is a wonderful nation! 

Both the government and the people, everyone is helping one another today.  There are truck drivers helping evacuees move.  I even heard that the “yakuza” (gangsters, organized crime groups) are helping to direct traffic in the Tohoku region!  There have been many recent developments that have made me lose my sense of pride in my country, but not anymore.  Japan is an amazing place!  I’m just simply touched.  Go Japan!

A strong voice

Yesterday, I was impressed and touched by the actions of my neighbor’s 13-year-old-boy.  He was home alone when the earthquake hit.  But instead of hiding, as soon as the earthquake quieted down, he jumped on his bicycle and road around the block repeatedly shouting at the top of his voice, “Is everyone alright?  Is everyone okay?”  At the time, there were only women and children and the elderly in the homes.  I cannot describe how comforting it was just to hear a strong voice asking if I was okay.  Thank you!

Rest here!

Last night, I decided, rather than stay at the office, I should try walking home.  So I slowly made my way west on Koshu freeway on foot.  It was around 9PM when I saw an office building that had a sign that said “Please use our office’s bathrooms! Please rest here!”  The employees of the office were loudly shouting out the same to all the people trying to walk home.  I was so touch I felt like crying.  Well, I guess I was too tense yesterday to cry, but now the tension is wearing off and am very much in tears. 

I just have a bike

I’m so touched!  My colleague at my part time job, wanting to help even just one extra person, wrote a sign saying “I just have a bike, but if you don’t mind hop on!”, rode out on his motorbike, picked up a stranded construction worker and took him all the way to Tokorozawa!  Respect!  I have never felt so strongly that I want to do something helpful for others. 

Gotenba traffic

Japan is really something!  Yesterday, not a single traffic light was functioning in Gotenba City.  But drivers knew to take turns at intersections and give way to others when needed.  Local people were using flags to direct traffic at intersections.  I drove for 9 hours but never saw a single car trying to get in front of another.  Every single driver on the road contributed to the traffic situation and as a result there was no confusion at all. 

Japanese people don’t shove

I’m looking at Yurakucho station from above.  I see people standing in line, not pushing or shoving to get onto the Yamanote Line (probably the busiest line in central Tokyo), even at a time like this! 

A big, kind voice

I’ve been walking for many hours now.  I’m touched at how everywhere I turn, there are shops open with people shouting “Please use our bathroom!” or “Please rest here!” There were also office buildings where people with access to information were voluntarily shouting out helpful tips, like “**** line is now operational!”  Seeing things like this after walking for hours and hours made me feel like weeping with gratitude.  Seriously, there is still hope for this country!


Japan, you could’ve been a nightmare but didn’t. Instead you became a dream I didn’t want to wake up from.

When in Tokyo in Pictures

It was a trip with my husband, a trip with my daughter, a trip with my girlfriends, a trip meeting old friends, an architectural, educational trip and a shopping trip. Its a trip to the biggest and most modern city in the world, yet its not crazy, hectic and a freaked one either. I could go on about amazing things of this trip, but for now, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking. 

Day One

In the morning, trying to find Asakusa

D loving her time in front of Tokyo National Museum

Strolling around Ueno Park

Asakusa at last

Ueno at night

While waiting to get food

Day Two

While you were sleeping

This is Odaiba

Little girl happy

This is Ginza – ready for an architectural trip!

Not Hermes, but Renzo Piano!

Not Makimoto, but Toyo Ito!

Not Dior, but Fuksas!

Its not the Prada, its the building! Ok, maybe a little Prada won’t hurt

Day Three

Went to Yokohama with some nice Japanese speaking people, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get there. It was purposely just for the sake to see the Osanbashi Pier, designed by Foreign Office Architects. I drooled at the pictures of the project when I was a student, so it was quite thrilling to step on those timber deckings.

Yokohama Terminal, baybee!

Would’ve been a sin as an architect not to go there since it was just an hour away!

One favorite pix with favorite girl I knew since I was six!

With my other favorite girl that I knew since she was born

With my guy

Inside the column-less space

With the rest of the gang

Cherishing our youths

I had to stock Chuppa Chups like apocalypse just to make sure she’s quiet

Day Four & Five

Had some Japanese breakfast, just for 300 yen

My girl in the morning

The garden

Crossing the famous crossings at Shibuya

In front of Meiji-jingumae entrance

Herzog & De Meuron’s Prada in Aoyama

D is getting some hand warming lessons from D

This is where we spent our leftover yens

OK, at this point I’m already tired of uploading pictures. There are lots more but I hope you can sum up of what an amazing holiday I just had. I’m trying to think the things I might’ve left in previous entry, if I missed something great to say about the city, but I guess I’m no travel writer. I just write from my experience, a very personal experience, between me and Tokyo.

When in Tokyo

I have survived Tokyo. 

But I’m having a bit of trouble to write about my whole experience and adventure – because I don’t know where to start! Where do I start really? The part where it is the cleanest city in the world with no rubbish bins at sight? Or the part where everybody else seems like a robot, greeting, bowing the same way and even on the busiest street of Ginza, could walk in the right lanes without bumping onto each other? Or even their construction workers look so bloody cool in their tobi pants and ninja shoes?

Amer told me, that his friend told him, the Japanese got something right. Its actually amazing how they got things right. Even Kaoru couldn’t explain it. I wasn’t there long enough to understand it, apart from all the Japanese disciplined, polite and respectful nature we all kept hearing about, I sensed that it has got something to do with their attributes of reminding each other.

I was staying at this fantastic ryokan, which is a traditional Japanese house with paper walls and doors. By the way, it wasn’t exactly the most brilliant decision I’ve ever made in my travels, considering it was in winter and I had a baby with me.

Little view from our room.

Whenever I put on a Barney song to shut Daisy up, one of these Japs will ask me to keep it down, even though the volume was already at the lowest. And when I forgot to close the living room’s door, immediately they said, “Please be careful and don’t forget to close the door. We use the heater here and it will get cold.” There was also one time when I was about to bring a butter knife into the room and they were like, “If you want to eat please do it in the kitchen.” Well, that one was OK because I intended to eat those nasi impits in the room. Hahaha. I could easily be offended by these strict rules and constant reminders as if I was the guest from hell, but I guess in a foreign land its only a logical to be flexible so that you can adjust easily to the culture. I assume they probably do that a lot to each other, hence the fantastic city I think all big cities should take an example from. I mean, urban designers, architects or whoever who can design and decide how a city should be can do all they want, but if the people inhabiting doesn’t follow, it doesn’t really bring much meaning to it. Just to make sure their modern city works, they have this sign all over the place:

Do not I said!

Tokyo is like a heaven for someone who is so gay about architecture like me. They seem to disregard the context when it comes to individual buildings, but as a whole the area, it still looks serene and everything is in harmony. There could be a strikingly designed Prada boutique next to a house, or in a neighborhood with housings, the most unexpected thing you can imagine. It feels like Tokyo opens to new ideas, that every boutique or shop or house has its own stories, its own brief, its own personality and uniqueness. I swear, Tokyo gave me a lot of orgasms – not sexually, but architecturally. Seems like every few steps is just another sheer intense excitement of seeing another great designed building. All of star architects that I read and drooled on like Ando, Piano, Herzog & De Meuron, Ito, and many more are gathered in Omotesando Hills, Ginza and Ayoama. There could be the most modern, simplified box next to a shrine for example, just like an Ando’s building in Omotesando Hill. You should understand that I spent most of my architectural career so far in UK, where everything is restricted to its context and everything you design, even if you’re a star architect, ended up the same or similar to the building next to yours, which quite honestly could be so dauntingly and discouragingly B.O.R.I.N.G. Here in Tokyo, they did it at their best, expressed the way they wanted and the Tokyoites embraced it!

Juxtaposition yo! Context who??

Enough architecture! As I wrote previously, this trip was more fulfilling and meaningful because I got to meet Kaoru again!

Say hello to Kaoru Tada!

Honestly it was a bit like the old times in Oxford. Conversing with her in my broken English, telling her how lucky she is got to call Japan her homeland. She told me how her Spanish-British fiance proposed in the ferris wheel and spent the whole time hating her for getting to live in Kensington once she’s back in London. She was like, “It is sooo central neee… more central than Paddington neee..” *LOL*. That was some personal joke, but yeah Kaoru, you won’t get any central than that! On the second night, she cooked her famous okonomiyaki, and it was delicious as ever!

Okonomiyaki party!

Finely decorated okonomiyaki by me.

And also one thing I survived was venturing Tokyo in Xplory. This was one of the thing I feared most, but I braved myself with it. Honestly, I wouldn’t be able to travel conveniently without it. People kept telling me to bring the umbrella stroller but I really didn’t want to spend another RM400-500 just to use for 6 days! Plus, with an Xplory, Daisy could sleep, drink, high-chaired it in restaurants and went on escalators without having to take her off. Plus, it sort of became my trolley, so I didn’t have to carry anything and dumped all of Daisy’s things and my shoppings into the large bag. Most of the stations have elevators and if not, I had few strong, helpful hands to lift up for few steps. Even when we were stucked in a peak hour, all we had to do was said “Sumimasen!” loud and clearly and they would make rooms for you to get out. I had the hardest time Googling Stokke Xplory in Tokyo, trying to find out whether anyone has ever experienced it. So now I’m saying, not necessarily an Xplory, any strollers – bring it! It will save your travel.

On escalators

Drinking on the go

Drinking on the train

Sleeping in bustling Harajuku

All in all travelling in Tokyo was such an experience. And it became an adventure when you bring your baby along. I’m so glad Daisy didn’t catch a cold and seemed to be enjoying herself throughout the trip. But I personally feel it would’ve been difficult for us if Kaoru and Fakhrul’s old friend from high school, Eja, who also happens to be a Tokyoite, wasn’t around. On our first day, we decided to go to Asakusa, which was the nearest attraction from where we were staying. None of us really studied the map except from getting there with the Metro. When we arrived, we didn’t come out from the right exit and I went to try my luck and asked this middle aged lady who happened to be next to me. I didn’t even ask any questions, I just showed her this famous shrine we were trying to get to from the Lonely Planet book and oh my God – she looked terrified! She sort of waved her hand saying no, assuming trying to tell me she doesn’t speak English and ran off! I didn’t really expect her to give me a lengthy explanation, just point her finger north or south would’ve been suffice.  I was like oh, OK. We were sooo gonna get lost! Communication was the hardest. Trying to tell the taxi driver to turn the heater off was also such a struggle. We had to find the button ourselves. So really, I’m so thankful Kaoru came down from Nagoya to join us and Eja, who honestly is the nicest guy ever, for someone we just met. Not even he paid for our lunches, he even dropped by our hotel after work on the last night.

Tokyo went on like a dream – quick and wonderful. It will be a dream to step foot there again. I usually don’t really wanna go to the same place twice, but I think for Tokyo, it becomes an exception. And if you’re wondering about the photos – wait for it. It isn’t exactly easy to filter and edit photos from a dream. But meanwhile, you can enjoy this video of my little snowgirl moving to Edith Piaf:

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