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Finding Ipoh

May 18, 2015

An easy getaway out of KL lies 2 hours north in the city of Ipoh. With beautiful limestone hills framing its horizon, the city is rich in both natural beauty and tangible history.   Where else can one explore a castle, feed turtles in a secluded garden, peek inside a haunted house, wander around a ghost town, and spot clever street art?Kellie's Castle

Kellie's Castle

With aged walls and bricks and tiles imported from India, Kellie’s Castle is a truly unique place to spend some time.  Built by the wealthy Scotsman William Kellie Smith in the early 1900’s, the home features many interesting rooms and tunnels.  Though never completed (due to Kellie’s unexpected demise), Kellie intended for the structure to include an indoor tennis court and rooftop courtyard.  What remains today is the ideal place to take in Ipoh’s signiture vista of limestone hills while getting a history lesson along the way.

Ghost Town Perak

Residents of Ipoh's "Ghost Town"

Residents of Ipoh’s “Ghost Town”

Papan, Perak is another place you must visit if you’re heading to Ipoh.  Referred to as a ghost town (though people still live here), this quiet neighborhood was once a vibrant tin mining town.  Visually captivating, the streets and alleyways present a sort of dilapidated time capsule.

Papan Perak Ipoh

Sybil Kathigasu’s clinic still stands at 74 Main Road.

Papan was home to Sybil Kathigasu, Malaya’s war heroine, and incredibly you can still spot the clinic where she aided the resistance during the Japanese occupation.

The facade of a mysterious and purportedly haunted house.

The facade of a mysterious and purportedly haunted house.

What ghost town would be complete without an actual haunted house?  If you are brave enough you may venture off the main road to Istana Billah.  Locals report that much paranormal activity takes place on the palace grounds, including the eerie sound of drums and call to prayer.

Istana Billah up close.

Up close, Istana Billah looks like just the kind of overgrown, architecturally interesting backdrop you’d find in a spooky film.  I peeked through the window and found an unexpectedly charming sight; A table set with a pristine white table cloth indicated that the place isn’t completely abandoned…

Inside Istana Billah

Inside Istana Billah

Another scenic venue can be enjoyed at Sam Poh Tong Temple.  This Buddhist temple located 5km south of Ipoh is said to be the largest cave temple in the country.  After walking though the limestone cave visitors will find a natural atrium.  It’s an alluring site and thus easy to see why in 1890 a monk from China made the cave into his home and place for spiritual practice.

The courtyard feels like a quiet oasis.

The courtyard feels like a quiet oasis.

One of the things I love about Ipoh is how visually layered the landscapes are.  In Old Town Ipoh, you will find accidental gardens around every corner.

Old Town Ipoh

Secret Gardens abound in Old Town Ipoh.

Secret Gardens abound in Old Town Ipoh.

And, just like Penang, Ipoh too has inventive street art.

Subtle street art at its best.

Subtle street art at its best.

Ipoh Street Art

Street Art in Old Town IpohIpoh is such a historically rich, naturally diverse, and culturally dynamic city, that it makes for the perfect quick sojourn out of Kuala Lumpur.

Concubine Street Old Town Ipoh

Click here for a printable map of Old Town Ipoh.  Happy exploring!

A Hug in the Right Direction

April 13, 2015
It was a beautiful day to meet Amma.

It was a beautiful day to meet Amma.

If someone offers you the chance to hug a Saint, you take it. That’s my advice anyway. Thus, we arrived at the Malaysia International Exhibition & Convention Centre at 4:00 pm hoping to receive a token for a hug from Mata Amritanandamayi, better known as Amma, the hugging Saint.

Magazine from the free event.

Magazine from the free event.

We were in a line thousands of people long. But, we were told once you received a token you had secured your place to receive an embrace from the revered guru. Amma’s stamina is remarkable. She has been known to embrace devotees for up to 22 hours without taking a break or rest of any kind. It’s easy to see why her hugs are so desirable as according to, “When Amma holds someone it can help to awaken the dormant spiritual energy within them, which will eventually take them to the ultimate goal of Self-realization.”

The first of two tokens received that night.

The first of two tokens received that night.

When it comes to spiritual practice, I don’t pretend to know much. I try to proceed with an open mind and heart and leave the skepticism to others. Would her hug change my life? Certainly there is always room for improvement!

The line to enter the Convention Centre was long, but calm.

The line to enter the Convention Centre was long, but calm.

At 4:00 am it was my turn to approach the Guru. Shoes off, I nervously stepped up to her. Her volunteers pushed me forward and placed my arms around her. The process has been filed down to an exact science, which was a relief as my nerves were beginning to get the best of me. In an instant I was in her arms. She lovingly held me and whispered something in my left ear. I couldn’t understand what exactly she said, but then she turned and whispered something in English in my other ear. I looked up and met her eyes. She looked incredibly kind. I would have loved to have said something profound or meaningful to her but all I managed to say was, “Thank you” before stepping down the ramp.

Meeting Amma

The scene inside the Convention Centre

The scene inside the Convention Centre

Her words touched me. And I will carry them in my heart forever. Am I a changed person? I think so. Sometimes when we think we need a push to move us forward, a hug will do the trick.

These two little packets (containing a candy and vermilion powder) were pressed into my palm as I left Amma's embrace.

These two little packets (containing a candy and vermilion powder) were pressed into my palm as I left Amma’s embrace.

☞ For more information on Amma and her charitable works please visit:

Field Notes to My Daughter

January 29, 2015

Field Notes to my Daughter

Yesterday she came to me with a dilemma. After having a fight with her friend concerning a school project they were working on, my daughter messaged her an apology but hadn’t received a response back.  Instead of moving past their disagreement, this friend continued to say unkind things behind her back. Now my daughter was feeling angry and wanted to quit speaking to the friend in question altogether.

Field Notes to my Daughter

As I thought about her situation I realized she was grappling with one of the hardest parts of being human: remaining true to our highest self when feeling entitled to act harshly.  This is not a circumstance that ever goes away.  It’s one that we find ongoing within our relationships with our friends, partner, children, and even within ourselves.

Field Notes to my Daughter

The lesson hidden therein is at once hard-won and ever evolving.  Perhaps it’s best rendered with the question,  “What kind of person do you aspire to be?” Once answered, follow through accordingly. Trust me, I know it’s difficult to let go of bitterness. You may be “right” to treat your betrayer harshly, but you aren’t obligated to do so.  So to my daughter, and all the daughters who may read this, I would urge you to make an empowering choice—proceed with kindness.  It may be the harder path to walk, but it has way better scenery.

Deeply Rooted: Adhyatmika Talks New Projects and Old Heroes

December 2, 2014

Indonesian filmmaker Adhyatmika has once again captured our imaginations in his latest film Akar Dari Enam (Roots of Six) with his signature mix of raw emotion and quiet angst.  Roots of Six stars Banjo Tasning (who you may recognize from Adhyatmika’s previous short film It Could Have Been a Perfect World) who inexplicably wakes up to find his friends bewildered as to how/why he is still alive.  It’s an eerie pretense that’s layered with great music and haunting visuals.  Never one to tie things up neatly, Roots of Six is an homage to Adhyatmika’s film idols and a treat for those of us who love a good mystery.

Recently I chatted with Mika about his latest short film and what he has in the works for his fans.

Roots of Six Poster What was the inspiration for this film?

The film began as a discussion between me and the lead actor, Banjo Tasning, back in 2011.  As we hit our mid 20’s we wondered, what are we going to do to with our lives?  This discussion was sparked by the death of a talented young musician, Gendra Aldyasa Pasaman, better known as Noises by GAP.  He had tragically jumped out of an apartment building… while having a mushroom session.  He was just 18 years old, yet his music reminded me of someone older.  Then I wondered, so young so talented, what would have happened if he survived? Would he have gone on to produce more great music?

My discussion with Banjo grew into insanity.  We became fixated on notions of  youth, life, death, and eventually our preoccupation evolved into a script titled “Null.”  The themes of existentialism and nihilism were there early on.  Then a year later, I was working on a shoot that ran all night.  I went to bed around 4pm.  At around 11PM I woke up, and somehow I wanted to hear this song ‘Setengah Lima’ by SORE.  The words “Mati suri di taman” were ringing in my ears, and it just hit me. What would happen if someone asked you “How come you’re still alive?”

It took me 3 years to slowly gather ideas for Roots of Six.  Long story short, the trigger as to why I decided to do this film, like other art works… a relationship. A broken one to be exact. In the end I just needed 4 hours to write it.  3 months after that, we were shooting the film.

Banjo Tasning in Roots of Six

Banjo Tasning in Roots of Six

Ambiguity is so skillfully used in your work, is it your intention to always keep the viewer wondering/wanting more, or is it a byproduct of your style?

Interesting question. I just realised that after you asked it.  As a young (well I’m not sure I’m young anymore) filmmaker, I always try to learn new things, do new a project, try a new challenge.  I’m not sure that I have a certain style already.  Perhaps there are a couple of traits in my films that I’m not aware of, but that the audience has realized.  I believe the style and mood must serve the script.  It can vary depending on the script. For Akar Dari Enam, I wanted the audience to feel a sense of ambiguity. Because that’s what life is about, right?

Strange creatures in Adhyatmika's  Roots of Six

Strange creatures in Adhyatmika’s Roots of Six

I’m a fan of Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg.  So those two filmmakers are in my DNA.  For this film a few names ran though my head: Fincher, Nolan, Aronofsky, Polanski, Lynch, and Winding Refn. It was important to me that Roots of Six didn’t look like an “Indonesian Film” but like “American Indie Cinema.”

What’s up next for you?  Will there be a sequel to this short film?

I did write a script that has a similar tone, mood, and theme as Akar Dari Enam titled, In Somnis.  This film is about a man who is stuck in his nightmare and can’t wake up.  The script was selected to be produced as an Omnibus feature film, but there seems to be a problem with the production company, so the project has been halted.  Perhaps if there’s a chance I want to do that as well.

For my next project, I’m going to do something different.  As I mentioned before I like to do genre-hopping to challenge myself as filmmaker.  The next project is a drama titled Lomba Puisi about a woman who never talks to her father finding herself waiting in a hospital room as her father is dying.

It’s actually the first proper drama that I’m going to do (I never did drama, even back in film school!), so I’m quite excited about that.

Still from Roots of Six

Still from Roots of Six

We’ll look forward to that Mika! 

☞ Stay tuned for upcoming screenings of Akar Dari Enam by liking the Vakansi Visual Facebook Page.

Ten Questions with Rebecca Viveash

November 14, 2014
Rebecca Viveash

All Photos Courtesy of Rebecca Viveash

It is rare to find a photographer who can capture the subtlety of a relationship or the quiet vibrancy of a city as poignantly as Rebecca Viveash.  Her photographs are as much steeped in color as they are rich with emotion.  Recently I chatted with Rebecca hoping to delve into her creative mind and glean a little photographic insight along the way.

Rebecca Viveash Photography

1)  Color is such a poignant component to your photographs.  It’s almost like a character itself in your prints.  Tell us how you view/incorporate color in your work.

I love colour!  If you love light you have to love colour.  Colour draws you in, adds narrative to a story.  It inspires emotion, it can make us happy or sad, confident or uncomfortable.  It can increase heart rates and stir passions.  But to be honest it’s also hard to get right. It is important to realise that the human brain requires a sense of order or it will not take in a message from the image it sees.  If too many colours are used, the viewer can become visually confused and may reject an image. So as much as I love it, it’s also my nemesis.

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Viveash

2)  Your work captures spontaneity in the most beautiful ways.  Is it challenging to make this look so effortless?

Spontaneity is a tricky thing to pin down.  With everyone, including myself, it comes and goes.  The first thing to always remember is that people are only spontaneous if they are happy in their surroundings and amongst people that they trust.  Which is why, as a photographer, it’s important  to establish personal relationships as quickly as possible.

There is a fine line that most photographers try to tread between observation/documentary photography and engineering these moments.  Sometimes you do need to give the situation a little light push in the right direction.  This is fairly easy, it’s just a matter of gauging people and knowing what they will respond to.  For example, telling people to look lovingly into each other eyes will normally cause an eruption of giggles.  Telling children NOT to smile results in lots of cheeky grins.  When taking one-on-one portraits with clients who are shy in front of the camera you need to get creative.  Once, when shooting for an editorial I pretended to be making a quick phone call, but really I was phoning the client’s mobile.  I got the shot when she just looked up from her magazine  and heard her phone.  It was the best one of the afternoon.

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Viveash

3)  What are your personal favorite things to photograph?

Faces, moments, and music gigs.  I answer that very quickly without much thought but now I can’t think of anything else so it must be true.  Faces, of course, for all the obvious reasons, moments for the hidden voyeur inside me, and music gigs as I love predicting where the lights are going to be.  It’s like a game, a war in my head with the lighting technician.  Oh and of course my children :o)

Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Viveash

4)  Who inspires you as an artist {and why}?

I have a habit of getting ‘stuck’ on photographers on a monthly basis.  These last few months have all about Marta Bevacqua, Katharina Jung, and Leila & Damien.  These are young photographers (directors)  and I mean young young.  But this is how it should be, talented, unconventional, innovative and most importantly unafraid.  Swoon!  Eek I think I’m feeling my age.

Rebecca Viveash Photography

 5)  I love how you manipulate natural light in your photographs.  What is your favorite type of light to work with?

Not polluted light that’s for sure!  But I’ve been living in Asian cities for so long that I’ve almost forgotten what clear light looks like!  I LOVE pre and post storm light.  When everything looks like it’s singing with colour.  When shooting in the tropics, for natural light it’s best to shoot before 9am or after 3pm.

Rebecca Viveash Photography

6)  What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to photography trends today?

Newborn babies in baskets/ buckets or flower pots.  Sorry but it’s not for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the skill that goes into this form of photography, there are some amazing baby photographers out there who do this, but it’s not for me.  I LOVE taking baby photos, but in the home, cuddling up to mum and dad, where they should be.

rebecca Viveash Photography

Rebecca Viveash Photography

7)  Do you have any shows coming up?  Where can we find your work?

Earlier this year I had  a show called ‘Ladies of Jakarta’ which was about depicting Jakarta in a humane way, to try to show its vulnerable side.  Overlaying streets scenes with a human female figure.  I have to say it was a great success (blush) and I would love to do it again.  I have been approached by two small galleries in KL but after some correspondence they are not too keen to show any ‘naked’ images.  Humph.  Not really the done thing here I believe.  So sadly I shan’t be exhibiting this again until I return to England, or find some kind of private exhibiting  space.  There are only a handful of the prints left for sale though as there was limited print run and the images can be seen here.

I do have a few things on the go, which I’m trying to manipulate to fit in with Kuala Lumpur, so fingers crossed!
I also try to keep all news about upcoming works on my Facebook page

Rebecca Viveash Photograhy

8)  What’s your favorite camera to work with?

I’m a Nikon girl. Film or Digital.  Always have been.  I shoot with prime lens as I like to move my feet rather than zoom.  It makes me work for the shoot a lot more which in turn helps me slow down and think.  (I’m not very good at slowing down) Oh and I’m new to the world of ‘instagram’ so there’s nothing wrong with a quick phone shot :o)

Rebecca Viveash Photography


9)  So many family portraits focus wholly on capturing time, but you also place great emphasis on place.  Has being an expat influenced your perspective/what you value in a portrait?

I think there is definitely room for the ‘expat family shoot’ for sure. Many families who travel abroad for work very often go to countries/cultures that are far removed from their lives back at home. After a few months it’s easy to get blasé about the changes.  As we rush to work or take the kids to school we no longer notice the brightly coloured shop doorways, the palm-tree shadow across the path, the incense smoke coming out the temples, the hawkers carts or the textures on the monsoon drenched walls.  But when we leave these are the things that we will remember, that will stick in our heads.

If I can capture these small details in a family shoot– the memories of the smells/the sound of morning prayer and the textures will all come flooding back when viewed 20 years later.  I believe that each place we live in leaves, or should be allowed to leave, an imprint on us and it’s important to acknowledge this.  I’m not saying that each shoot has to be a Condé Nast Traveller’s guide, it’s just important to capture life, how it is in that moment, as it will never be the same again.

Rebecca Viveash Photography

10)  Speaking of place, what are some of the most photogenic places you’ve found in KL?

I’ve been in KL 9 weeks and counting now – so ask me in 9 months ;o) Ha, no I have got around quite a bit, and been to places that I probably shouldn’t (including down flood drains to photograph some amazing graffiti outside Pasar Seni train station).  China town / Little India is of course great to photograph, as it’s a jungle.  Don’t forget to look through cracks of doors, it’s amazing what you see!  But I think my favourite is going out, in my neighbourhood, SS2 PJ, at 7am around my back streets and market, people are walking their dogs, breakfast is being delivered, kids are arguing on the way to the school bus, incense is being lit and there is a lovely pinkish (pollution?!) light reflected on the sides of houses.  I’m a sucker for ‘beginnings’, hence the constant moving around, so this is my favourite part of the day. I also love around Port Dickson as I’ve a strange fascination with slightly crumbling seaside towns, no matter what country!  This time next year the favourite places to photograph will be as long as my arm, promise!

Rebecca Viveash Photography

That’s a promise I hope you keep {and come back to share}!
{ Viveash Photography }

Breakout of Your Routine

August 27, 2014


A mysterious looking place...

A mysterious looking place…

When date night with my better half rolled around, we were both in the mood for something adventurous.  We had seen the mysterious Breakout corner in Avenue K, and wanted to see what it was all about.  Breakout (advertised as a “Real Escape Game'”) has 5 games to choose from.  Since we were beginners we opted for the Infinity room, which was rated a 3 out of 5 for difficulty.  I don’t want to give too much away as the mystery is a big part of the fun, so I will just say that for this exercise your team will be separated, but you still have to find ways to work together.  If you don’t work together you will fail miserably. (We may have failed miserably but at least we had a great time doing so!)


There were several points where both of us became stuck on task.  Fortunately the staff at Breakout was very kind and helpful, so eventually we did make our way out.  It was a lot of fun and really challenged us, so we signed up to do it again.

Breakout Project Fallout

 For round two  we brought along good friends who also have an adventurous spirit.  We decided to try Project Fallout which was rated as the least difficult game.  This time we were scientists (complete with new names and lab coats) who had to breakout of captivity.  With our team working together I am happy to report that we did escape and each of us earned a pin (which we are perhaps overly proud of).

This picture will make sense once you start a game.

This picture will make sense once you start a game.

Both times we went we had a great experience.  Working with your partner or good friend is very entertaining!  I would definitely recommend Breakout to anyone looking for something creative and fun to do.  *Be sure to book online to get the time slot you want (each game takes about 45 minutes).

Happy Gaming!

We escaped : )

We escaped : )

L2-16 (Level 2) Avenue K Shopping Mall
Mon-Sun (10am-10pm)
(603) 2128-1835
RM 38 per person/per room (opening promotion)
Cash only

Retail Cravings: Snackfood Hits the Spot

June 18, 2014

Located on the second floor along one of Bangsar’s trendy shopping streets {17 A, Jalan Telawi 3Snackfood is like walking into a cool collector’s loft. With a genius mix of vintage treasures nestled among modern finds, it’s the perfect spot to find something memorable.

Snackfood is a treasure trove of modern and vintage finds from around the globe.

Snackfood is a treasure trove of modern and vintage finds from around the globe.

The eclectic mix of clothing and home accessories is perfectly paired with a soundtrack that invites you to linger and spend some time examining the items on display.

 Snackfood Shopping Kuala Lumpur

Turn your desktop into a landscape with a cool terrarium.

Shopping at Snackfood is a real pleasure. Above the bustling street below, it becomes easy to lose track of time.

Snackfood features a great selection of books and indie magazines.

Snackfood features a great selection of books and indie magazines.

Since first discovering this little shop, I’ve been back at least three times.  It’s the first place I think of when I need a gift for someone special.

Gifts for the young, and young at heart are easy to come by here.

Gifts for the young, and young at heart, are easy to come by here.

I especially love that they carry one of my personal favorite brands, Jewel Rocks.  This is a brand I came to love in Jakarta, and was able to visit their flagship store in Bali–which is a magical little place in itself.

A sampling of  armcandy by Jewel Rocks.

A sampling of armcandy by Jewel Rocks.

There is something interesting around every corner at Snackfood.

There is something interesting around every corner at Snackfood.

If you happen to love vintage typewriters, the folks at Snackfood will help procure one for you and will do their best to make it functional again. You can even have one customized.  Personalized service like that is hard to beat.

An example of a customized vintage typewriter.  How cool is this?

An example of a customized vintage typewriter. How cool is this?

Whimsical home accents are something of a specialty here.  These ceramic pieces are cute and functional.

Esmay, Snackfood, Malaysia, 2014 112


Snackfood also carries hard to find brands like Tokyo Milk.  I get compliments every time I wear Tainted Love.

Snackfood also carries hard to find brands like Tokyo Milk. I get compliments every time I wear Tainted Love.

These little dishes would be perfect ring holders by the sink.  Items with such personality help turn a living space into a home.

 Snackfood Shopping Kuala Lumpur

This is Tara. She may come out, if she feels like it.

This is Tara. She may come out, if she feels like it.

If the assortment of quirky goodness isn’t enough to convince you to drop by, then the fact that Snackfood has two feline permanent residents, should do the trick.   Tara and Black Jack are great shopping companions (but a little camera shy).

Erica Choy and Chip will help you find something great to take home.

Erica Choy and Chip will help you find something great to take home.

Snackfood is a beautifully curated  shop and with many great restaurants nearby, it becomes easy to make heading there into a great afternoon. The friendly staff and perfect mix of old and new items makes Snackfood completely satisfying.

Closed Mondays.  Open Tuesday-Sunday 12:00-7:00
17 A (Second floor) Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru
Ph:   019-267-3296


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