You have a lucky face

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“You have a lucky face.”

The man pointed at me as I walked past him and smiled. In my head, I was already thinking, “I do have a lucky face. I am very lucky. Remember that one time…”

But then again, wait a minute. Who is this guy and how does he think I have a lucky face?

If you’ve been in Kuala Lumpur for a while, then you’ve probably come across this guy (or someone with the same ‘pickup’ line) at some point. They’re usually at the malls but they’ve approached me and I’ve seen them approach people almost everywhere else. From all indications, they target foreigners or people who look like they’re not Malaysian.

So how do they know that you have a lucky face? And what do they want? For the longest time, as soon as they said that, I’d just smile and wave, and say thanks, I already knew that. But what did they really want? I knew it was clearly some way to get money out of people but how do they play their cards?

This time, the guy clearly operating by himself (at least at that time) switched it up.

Kedu?” he said. In Igbo, that means “How are you?”

Even though I planned to feign interest, I was definitely curious after that. Like, how many Nigerians did he have to go through to learn that? His next words brought me back to the present. They were what I was expecting.

“You have a very lucky face. I can see it. You’ll be getting three (pieces of) very good news soon.” That’s more like it.

“Really? How?” Back to feigned interest.

He talked about the stars aligning in the heavens and how he could see 2018 would be a great year for me (Amen!). I only needed to release the power trapped inside me.

“Let me see your right palm,” he motioned. He had pulled out a pen and notebook from his man purse. He tore off one sheet and started scribbling on it. “I see so much power and success in your future.” In my mind, the automatic Amen! went off again. I knew this was a confidence game but I couldn’t help it.

He rolled up the sheet of paper into a tiny ball, handed it to me, opened the notebook and started writing. All the while he was talking about how I needed to believe that he is a holy man. And he could help me draw out that success.

“Okay, but how do we do that?”

“First, I want to prove to you that I am indeed a holy man.”

“What’s your favourite colour?” I thought for a few seconds. I didn’t want to mention the colour of the shirt I was wearing. That would be too obvious. What was a colour that was nowhere on my person now?

“Purple!”

“Okay,” he nodded and scribbled in the notebook. “What’s your favourite number?”

The most random number I could think of was nine. How old am I—wrong age. Am I married? I lied, yes. Kids? Hmnmn, the truth wouldn’t hurt now, so no. “Not yet,” he corrected smiling somehow creepily. “You’re going to have three wonderful kids.”

“Wow, that’s great!” He took the rolled-up paper from me, touched it to his forehead, chest and both shoulders—making the sign of the cross. Then as an extra, he reached for the back of his neck. That seemed too obvious. But, what do I know?

Handing me ‘a’ balled up paper, he asked me to repeat the same motions he just did. I politely said I’d pass. “If you open the paper and it has all the same information you gave me earlier, would you believe that I’m a man of god and can change your life? Remember, I gave you that paper before you told me about you.”

I mumbled something I can’t remember now. Nodding, he muttered some additional gibberish and asked me to open the paper. Of course, it was the information I had given him—purple, 9, 27, yes, 0. “See? I told you.”

Without waiting for confirmation or rejection, he opened his murse, flipped to one of the compartments that had a picture of a group of children. He pointed at it and said that all I had to do was some good for those children and his god will return the favour to me a hundred-fold. Who were the kids? “They need financial help” is all he offered.

That was clearly the entire show, so I told him I didn’t have any cash. “Anything at all, brother. Anything.” I checked, and I really didn’t have any cash, as I was heading back to the office after my lunch break.

There was an ATM on the corner, but there was no way I was giving him RM10 to take a photo. Yeah, the only reason I wanted to give something “to the poor kids” was so that he’d be more willing to take a selfie with me for this post since I didn’t see that happening free of charge.

While the conversation was going on, I made sure to avoid as much physical contact with him. Some people don’t believe in the supernatural but in Nigeria, it takes one touch for the juju (let’s call it Nigerian magic to differentiate it from the Harry Potter kind) to take effect and you won’t know what you’re doing afterwards.

I’d love to call bullshit too but I’d rather play it extra safe and have something to write about than risk being an unconscious test subject.

As I walked away, I couldn’t help wondering how many people have fallen prey to these stories of lucky faces.

Things to do in Kuala Lumpur in November

Photo by MARIE PLANEILLE

Here are a few things to do in Kuala Lumpur over the next few weeks. In future, we’ll list events, things to do and happenings in and around Kuala Lumpur in our Events section. Go check it out.

World Vegan Day Malaysia 2017 – 4 & 5 November 2017 (Free)

Malaysia’s first World Vegan Day will be celebrated on 4-5 November 2017 at Publika, The Square, Kuala Lumpur.

The event is organised by the Malaysian Vegetarian Society and will feature food (of course), health and fitness tips, an exhibition and gifts for attendees.

RSVP on the organiser’s Facebook page

 

Tinariwen concert – 13 November 2017 (RM120 – RM250)

The Grammy Award-winning group of Tuareg musicians from Mali will be performing live for the first time in November at the KL Live Life Centre.

Ticket prices range from RM120 (standing) to RM250 (VIP). The Tinariwen sound is considered primarily guitar-driven in the style known as assouf with its roots in West African music.

The group has 7 albums that have sold millions worldwide and a Grammy Award for Tassili – Best World Music Album in 2012

You can get tickets from Ticketpro

 

Two-day fried chicken festival – 18 & 19 November 2017 (RM48 – RM68)

Another first in Malaysia, the Ayam Legen Fried Chicken Festival is organised by FriedChillies.com and will be at the Ara Damansara LRT in Petaling Jaya. It is expected to feature the top 8 fried chicken legends in the Klang Valley including

  • Broasted Chicken King – Keramat (Arabic spicy fried chicken)
  • Gerai Ah Kow – Kuala Lumpur (sesame Horlicks fried chicken)
  • Nasi Lemak Khora-Khora Ayam/Goreng Wak Kentut – Johor Bahru (fried chicken nasi lemak)
  • Sweetree – Ampang (spicy Korean fried chicken)
  • Nomms – Subang Jaya (freestyle fried chicken popcorns)
  • KGB – Bangsar (jalapeno salted duck egg buffalo wings)
  • Zainul Nasi Kandar – Petaling Jaya (curry-styled fried chicken)
  • myBurgerLab – Seapark (special fried chicken sliders)

You pay between RM48 (early bird smiley) and RM68 that entitles you to eight taste-portions of fried chicken, and a “super fun goodie bag.”

Get tickets from Peatix 

 

Amanda Bates of The Black Expat talks how you expat

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We recently caught up with Amanda Bates, founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Expat, which highlights the international experiences of black people in diaspora around the world. Amanda, who is also a high education and student affairs counsellor, talks about her inspiration for The Black Expat and some of the community’s plans for the future. We’ll let her tell you:

Tell us about Amanda Bates. Who is she and what is The Black Expat about?

Well, I am the founder of The Black Expat, a digital platform that focuses on the experiences of black expatriates/immigrants and international living. Much of the concept was influenced by own upbringing and experiences.

I was born in Washington, DC but spent my formative years in Cameroon, where my family is originally from. For me in both societies had such an immense impact in a positive way. And that’s partially how The Black Expat was born.

I move in and out of expat circles quite a bit and I wasn’t really seeing the experiences of black people be represented. In addition, I was preparing for my own move and had specific questions that pertain to black women that I wanted to be answered.

That’s when I really noticed how little information was available about pertained particularly to black people moving and I wanted to remedy that.

Other expats are those of us who are typically not considered professionals, more like immigrants. What was it like being an expat in the Middle East? What was one memorable experience you had as a black expat there?

Yeah. there’s an assumption that if you’re from the Global South, you’re an immigrant as if the term expat couldn’t apply. Yet, I know quite a few people who move to a location for a specific reason — education, job opportunity, etc, with the intention of returning home.

In many ways, there was much of the Middle East that didn’t surprise me. I have been fortunate to travel to quite a few places and I always try to do my research before I go somewhere new.

There were aspects that reminded me of places I’ve been. Qatar is family- and community-oriented. I appreciated that. I love that the fact that many the collective is considered and not just the individuals. That reminded me a lot of being in West Africa.

It’s also a really diverse place. The vast majority of the population is from somewhere else, so you’re constantly meeting people from all walks of life. It is a pretty diverse place and you meet people from all walks of life.

One of my favourite experiences was participating in a majilis, which is an Arabic term for council. Usually, it is when men or women gather to discuss issues. It can be political, social or just for fun.

One of the mother’s of one of my students hosted it in their house for all the new female students and staff. It was great. We got to experience so much of the local food and learn about the culture. It was just a really wonderful introduction to the local culture.

I understand that The Black Expat is exploring going digital. Can you tell us more about that?

We are already digital in the sense that The Black Expat is a website. What we are doing is strategically diversifying how we are delivering content.

We recently launched a new YouTube series called The Black Expat Presents: The Journey to underscore how black individuals and families have been impacted by international and cross-cultural living.

I think that’s big for us because people want to see and hear honest stories about other black experiences that both provide representation and inspiration.

Is it going to be considered a dating app/platform?

Nah. no plans, for that. However, if someone finds love through all the mechanisms we have to connect black expats, good for them!

You have, and continue to connect with expats from around the world. With your experience, how would you describe the global ‘other expat’ situation, and what’s your one advice for black expats in a foreign country?

Well, there is a reason why our websites exist — The Black Expat, Other Expats. So much of the expat literature out there doesn’t quite discuss the diversity of expatriate experiences.

Very much of it is written from a Western, often white perspective. The truth is no one group has a monopoly on what it means to be an expat. And no individual experiences are the same.

And the truth is much of our experiences are influenced by our passports, in some circumstances. The experiences of an American expat can be very different from a Togolese one or a Filipino one.

In addition, “How you expat” is also at play. Moving to a country as a diplomat can be a very different experience and expectations than if you move as an economic migrant or an international student.

That being said, I think it is super important to learn as much as you can from those who have experience with your new host culture. Talk to locals and learn the customs and get a feel for how they embrace their world. Also, talk to peers, or other contacts, who have experience can give you the information on how to survive.

The search for a healthy eba alternative

As a Nigerian, I love my eba/garri. Whether it is eba or pounded yam or starch or amala, as long as the soup comes correct, then I’m in.

But as someone who’s trying to be conscious about his health, I understood earlier on that the components used in traditional swallows are not exactly the healthiest. It’s all death by carbs all the way.

Eba is fermented cassava, pounded yam is obviously yam that is pounded, and starch is also clearly starch. What’s not so clear is that the starch is also from cassava. The healthiest option in the list (sometimes) is amala.

Sometimes. Because it can be made from dried unripe plantains, which also contain good amounts of fibre and potassium in addition to carbohydrates. However, the more popular form of amala is made from dried yams. It’s like the yam was tortured by drying first and then still made into almost the same amala. Also, heavy carb source.

So, for several months I abstained from all forms of swallows. I depended on beans, lentils, peanuts, plantains, fruits and meat for my survival. I shunned carbohydrates like the plague that uncertain physicians and unsure scientists say it almost is.

However, I still and will always love my swallow.

You know how they say if you can think it, it exists on the internet? I decided to test that. I searched for healthy alternatives to eba and pounded yam.

Voila! Alternatives exist! The good news is that you can make amala-looking swallows from eggplants (garden eggs), cabbages and others. The bad news (like for almost everything else that is supposedly good for you), it is expensive. I didn’t comprehend that fully until I tried.

To test the internet swallow conspiracy theory I just discovered, I headed to Chow Kit wet market to get all my traditional Nigerian ingredients for egusi (melon—not watermelon, stop thinking that) soup. I got everything including eggplants except one ingredient that was crucial to making the swallow, psyllium husks.

If you read that and went “psyllium hu-waht?!”, you have some company. Until a few weeks ago I didn’t know what it was. Apparently, it’s a healthy fibre from the seed of the Plantago plant and a popular ingredient in colon cleansing and detox regimens. Okay.

I couldn’t find psyllium husks at Chow Kit market, and an internet search suggested pharmacies. I didn’t find the husks in any of the pharmacies I went to; Guardian and Watsons. Giant, Lulu and Tesco supermarkets didn’t have them either.

An entire week passed before I found jars of it at Village Grocer. A 300gram jar costs rm26.

That’s not including the rm6 for 1kg of eggplants (about 6 pieces depending on the size). In comparison, a 250-gram bag of pounded yam costs rm5, Suji (semolina) costs rm4. For one person, each of those bags is good for at least 4 meals. The healthy eggplant version? I could squeeze two of the same sized meals out of 1kg of eggplants.

So, yes, it is expensive. But if you’re more committed to healthy swallows than the cost, here’s how you turn your eggplants to swallow. My years of interviewing chefs and writing about them are about to pay off.

Ingredients:
6 eggplants (medium-large sized)
Psyllium husk (2 tablespoons)

1. Assemble your eggplants
2. Wash and cut them into small pieces, ready for blending (I bet you didn’t see this coming). Don’t blend yet.
3. Place in a pot and cook for about 8-10 minutes
4. Remove from pot and sieve out extra liquid, then allow to cool slightly (around 20 minutes)
5. Now blend until smooth
6. Pour blended eggplant into a pot, add the 2 tablespoons of psyllium husk, and mix thoroughly
7. Place a pot on medium heat and cook until the mixture reaches your desired consistency (feel free to add more husks, just be aware of the price with every spoonful you add)

You can allow to cool slightly before you eat. It becomes slightly more solid when cooled. You can also wrap and store any remaining eggplant swallow for the next meal, or the one after that (your choice).

If you were expecting me to also show you how to make egusi soup, you’ll be so disappointed right about now. That’s what Google or 9jafoodie is for.

A few things you should know

Highlights from the last month in news from around the world that we can relate to. With our ratings.

The new Black Panther trailer (Good—I hope)

That’s the second trailer for the movie Black Panther if you haven’t already seen it. If you have already seen it, watch it again. I don’t think it can get blacker than that. I can’t help fearing for the movie though. From here, the action scenes look too much.

Too much like, I’m going to be expecting a lot more than what I have seen now when the movie comes out next year. We all saw what happened to Batman vs Superman. Yes, I know it’s DC vs Marvel. But, these things happen. Am I the only one thinking this?

African residents in Flora Damansara (Not good)

Sometime in the last month, a video made the rounds about a guy—identified as the resident’s rep—issuing living terms and conditions to some Africans in Flora Damansara. He alleged that the “African residents in Flora Damansara” he was referring were misbehaving, consuming alcohol in public, taking drugs, while the women wear revealing clothes.

If the people he was referring to do those things, then they’re embarrassing themselves and they deserve what they get. Drinking in public and taking (illegal) drugs are illegal almost everywhere in the world where there’s a working legal system. Malaysia should not be different.

However, I don’t understand the part about revealing clothes. The country is indeed a secular country with more than one ethnic group, like the former police officer, SN Nair pointed out. Show respect for everyone, but also understand that you should not bend everyone to see everything from your perspective.

Art exhibit in China compares Africans to animals (Horrible)

 

I really don’t know what to say to this. The Hubei Provincial Museum’s This Is Africa exhibition in Wuhan city, China, paired the face of an animal with that of a person. Like how do you decide that you want to celebrate the relationship between your country and African nations, and their cultural heritage by comparing an entire race of people to animals?

How did that play out in the artists heads? Like, “Africans’ minds are going to be blown by this shit right here! See this one? He’s like a cheetah! GRRRRAAAAWWWLLLL!” (I’m not sure that’s the sound a cheetah makes, but it’ll have to do)

Dove’s racist ad. Again (Bad)

 

It’s not the first time Dove has done something like this. I’m not sure if it’s the same person or if whoever they replace that person with doesn’t go through the old ads and ask, “Did anyone get fired for this?” Perhaps, the problem then is that no one got fired for any of the racist ads they’ve made so far.

Lola Ogunyemi, the African model in the recent Dove ad, explained that the ad was supposed to “use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness.” Clearly, they missed the mark on their portrayal by a wide margin.

Dealing with other expat challenges

So, you’re an Other Expat and considering moving to Malaysia for work. Here are a few things you should know.

First, you need to understand that whatever country you go to, you’ll have your share of challenges that you need to overcome. Secondly, everyone has their own unique challenges and experiences. Just ask the expats we talked to.

And thirdly, we deal with each of these experiences and challenges in our own ways.

There might be several similarities because we may be trying to reach the same goal. However, our methods might differ considerably.

Our goal on Other Expats is to create a platform where you can share your experiences and challenges, and how you’re dealing with it. And others can learn from them. We can take something from these experiences to make better decisions now or in the future.

We asked a few other expats about what their biggest Other Expat challenges are in Malaysia, and how they deal with them. This is what they said.

Steffan Anere, Rally—Powered by Students

“In general, communication and housing (cheap and clean place), but the challenge ends as soon as you find a place.

House owners used to discriminate against letting their houses to Africans, but the situation seems to have changed positively this year.

Yes, there are houses everywhere but the ones close to work are not cheap. The ones that are cheap are not comfortable. The idea is to keep searching until you find one.”

 

 

Samar Almontser, When I Danced in my Mind

“Salary and long term living issues are not stable. But everything else I say leads back to challenges with engaging in the community and not being able to scale up much in organisations.

There’s also the lack of equality and trust, engaging and communicating.

Small victories happen in the workplace that helps Malaysians to understand the foreign perspective instead of avoiding it because they don’t understand.

I also act dumb many times, because it helps to avoid conflict.

People expect u to react recklessly to childish and petty situations. I act like it never happened. It saves you mental energy to focus on more important issues in your life.”

 

Ahlam Adam, Writer

“Well, there’s always micro-aggressions. And there’s being black and a woman. But I haven’t had crazy challenges so far.

It’s about taking advantage of what you can and moving on. I used to be sensitive about it all but I’ve learned that if someone says something offensive, I’ll school them quickly and be blunt.

I don’t bother with small stuff because it takes time for people to change. Life is beautiful. Enjoy it when you can and work things in your favour.

Being black is challenging but the more you focus on what’s going wrong, you will not be able to move forward. So, make your own lemonade and chill.”

 

Kristen Noelle, LITT Nomads, travel, Expatriate, African Expatriate, Black Expatriate, Expatriate Community, Black Expatriate Community, Expats, Black Expats, Other Expats, African Expats Community, Black Expat Community, Running, Expat Health, Expat Fitness, African Community Malaysia, Expat Community Malaysia, Nigerians Malaysia, Black People Community, Black People Malaysia, African Workers Malaysia, Black Workers Malaysia, MalaysiaKristen Noelle, LITTNomads

“My biggest challenge living in Malaysia is a lack of connection with fellow African American expats. For most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by really talented, really vibrant, and really loving people who look like and can relate to me culturally.

I knew that I’d miss that moving across the world, and it does get difficult—I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the void.

However, I’ve helped develop a community of travelers of color based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and since it’s only a quick flight away, often some of those friends come down and we get a chance to hang out while they’re here.

I’ve fortunately had friends from home visit as well. It gives me life to reconnect with my people, even if it’s every few weeks.”

 

Chukwudi Barrah, Other Expats

“Getting a job as a black guy is crazy hard. Of course, there’s the racism—both deliberate and otherwise. Recently, a colleague asked me when next I’ll be visiting my home country and if I miss all the animals there, like I’m from a zoo. Stuff happens⁠.

You can only change people’s perception of you and where you’re from a tiny bit at a time—what we’re doing with Other Expats. And we’ve talked about getting a job as an Other Expat in Malaysia before. Ensuring that you’re the best at what you do helps improve your chances of getting and keeping a job.”

 

What are some of the challenges that you encounter as a POC expat in Malaysia? How do you deal with these expat challenges? Let us know in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share this page with your friends and colleagues.

Precious Nnabuike – meeting and engaging new people

This week on Other Expats, we visited the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation’s IdeaLab 2017 in Kuala Lumpur on 2 and 3 August. The event creates a platform for investors and innovative startups in ASEAN to connect, and for businesses to network.

Sign up for The Memo, the Other Expats weekly newsletter with exclusive content—just for subscribers—to know more about events like the WIEF Youngleaders Network (WYN) IdeaLab 2017, and what we’re up to.

We also reached out to Precious Nnabuike—featured in the Vulcan Post last year—co-founder at Ditto Malaysia. Ditto is a mobile app that helps you find activity partners on demand.

According to Precious, “It was inspired by years of hanging out with friends and noticing the social trend in KL. It was either you’re a cool kid who has friends to always hang out with or you’re the guy/girl who doesn’t have friends to hang out with for activities.”

To motivate higher participation and get people to meet in real life, the app offers cash bonus incentives for online-to-offline connections.

1. Tell us about yourself: who is Precious?

Precious is just another quirky dude from Nigeria who works for a digital marketing agency in Kl and loves to talk.

2. The question everyone asks is “Why Malaysia”?

I always get this question. Didn’t plan on coming to Malaysia. As a matter of fact, didn’t know it was a country until I saw it on CNN.

It was always a battle between going to the UK (parents’ plan) or going to Asia (personal plan). My plan ever since I came across martial arts movies as a kid, was to somehow embed myself into the Asian culture.

The kid in me played a huge part in the decision that led to me coming to Malaysia. Summarizing, parents got tired of me ranting about going to Asia.

Yes, I am aware Asia is not a country. But I didn’t have a firm choice of an Asian country and decided to find an agent to get me admission into a college in Malaysia. That’s how I ended up here.

3. You are a co-founder of Ditto Malaysia. Tell us about that: what inspired the company, and where you are now?

Ditto is a social activity app that connects people with shared activities on demand and we organize house parties every other month.

It was inspired by years of hanging out with friends and noticing the social trend in KL. It was either you’re a cool kid who has friends to always hang out with or you’re the guy/girl who doesn’t have friends to hang out with for activities.

My co-founder and I noticed that trend and decided to create something that could help connect people on demand, that’s how Ditto was born.

We are currently putting all that we’ve learned into practice and on the other hand analyzing all the data we have, to approach our growth in a data-driven manner.

4. What’s your favourite thing to do in your leisure time? Perhaps to de-stress.

Over the weekend, I’m either playing soccer with the lads, out somewhere in KL being a low-key social butterfly or just catching up TV series with my girlfriend. I have only one thing I do to de-stress, which is travelling out KL.

5. What good and bad habits have you picked up since you’ve been in Malaysia?

A good habit would be cooking, now I spend a good amount of time in the kitchen. The bad habit I picked up is becoming a workaholic, thus sleeping late at night.

6. What advice would you give to Other Expats out there about being positive reps of themselves and their countries?

Would want to thank those repping their countries the right way. My advice to other expats would be to persistently work towards their goals and keep making those good connections.

Those would take you to the next level. There is nothing more rewarding than repping your country in the right way. If you need guidance, reach out to the Other Expats community.

6 pro tips for hiking in Kuala Lumpur

As an Other Expat living in Kuala Lumpur, whenever there is an opportunity to try something new, there are a few things we have to consider, and unfortunately, the reality of it is that they’re not all pleasant.

Will I be able to afford it? How about transportation, and who can I go with? And the most unpleasant one: Is my race or skin colour going to be an issue?

When hiking in Kuala Lumpur, fortunately, your race is very rarely an issue. It’s one of our favourite pastimes here at Other Expats because not only is it mostly cheap/affordable (free), it is also a physically invigorating activity that gives us a good workout and it allows us to connect with nature, something that isn’t so common when living in the metro. Put it down as one of those things to do in Kuala Lumpur for expats or foreigners.

Whether you’re a first-time hiker or a seasoned one, here are some tips to get you on that trail!

Bukit Wawasan, Puchong forest hiking trail, hiking
On the trail – Bukit Wawasan, Puchong

DO SOME RESEARCH

There are some great spots for hiking in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor if you’re thinking of doing a quick one within the city. You can check out this article for some information about hiking trails in Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring areas.

If you want to venture farther out, this article provides information on other hiking spots around Malaysia, as well as useful details such as pricing (a lot are free) and hours.

BE SAFE

Many people who have gone hiking might tell you it’s easy and simple, but it’s still better to be safe. This article provides some tips on how to keep safe when hiking.

SAY HELLO

You’ll find other hikers on the trail you will bump into, and they’re all usually very courteous and helpful. Don’t be afraid to greet them good morning, too!

HAVE AN EARLY START

Bukit Wawasan, Puchong forest hiking trail, hiking
Be out before the sun. Hiking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

It’s best to get to the location by 7 am so you can do good time before the sun is at its hottest. Don’t forget to check the weather – rain will make your hike very slippery and very difficult!

WEAR THE RIGHT SHOES

We learned this the hard way. Your regular running shoes or sneakers won’t do – they’d just be slippery and slow you down, or worse! You need shoes that have grip and can withstand the sometimes muddy trail.

PACK WATER

You’ll get thirsty. Just don’t litter or throw out empty bottles in the forest – that’s not cool!

Check out our Instagram for pictures from our latest hike in Kuala Lumpur. Don’t forget to like, comment and follow. If you’d like to join us on one of our hiking trips, just drop us an email!

Beat homesickness – 10 tips make the most of Kuala Lumpur

Feeling homesick, lonely or just bored in Kuala Lumpur? Whether you’re new in town or have been here for a while, these are all common “ailments” of Other Expats like us. If you’re feeling this way, here are a few reminders and tips to make your stay here a little more enjoyable and comfortable.

GET TO KNOW YOUR HOSTS

Still one of the best things about Malaysia is the diversity – there are three main ethnic groups here: Malay, Indian, and Chinese. That means at least three different kinds of culture, people, food, customs and traditions, languages, music, religions, and holiday celebrations throughout the country that you can learn about!

LOW-COST TRAVEL

Can’t afford to make fancy travel plans? No problem. Thanks to the many holiday celebrations (mentioned above), if you work for a company in Malaysia, you also get to enjoy give-or-take 19 paid public holiday leaves, at which time you can take advantage of the many low-cost travel deals on offer by Air Asia and a few other low-cost airlines. Plan a trip to one of the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, or just stay and take a trip to one of the many interesting destinations in different Malaysian states.

USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

While yes, it’s just so much more convenient – and at times, cheaper – to get an Uber or Grab to get around (if you don’t drive), taking the train or the bus is one of the cheaper ways to get to know the city. Pick a day when you have time on your hands and explore the city while at the same time learning how to take public transportation, as that’s a tricky thing to do all on its own! Get off at several train or bus stops and walk around, just don’t forget to find your way back home!

PRO-TIP: Learn some basic words in Bahasa Melayu so you can at least read the signs even if they’re not in English.

Homesick, Expat holiday, expat homesickness, black expat, african expat, expatriate,
PRO-TIP: Study the bus and train routes (online) before heading out to explore.

FOOD TRUCKS AND HAWKER STALLS

Take a break from your usual lunch or dinner spot and try the local food trucks or hawker stalls at least once, if you haven’t already.

PRO-TIP: The best time to go is just a little before lunch time when the food is freshly prepared. It’s also right before the onslaught of people trying to get grub. Food truck and stall owners are also friendlier at this time and more accommodating with any questions you might have about the food and its ingredients.

Food buffet, Homesick, expat homesickness, expat, african expat, black expat
Food trucks are found everywhere in the city between 12 pm and 2 pm

BUKIT BINTANG AND CHOW KIT

If you’re really jonesing for some home cooking, you might as well head on over to Bukit Bintang and Chow Kit. You’ll find imported foodstuffs and ingredients, especially for African or Arab fares. Keep in mind, though, that since these are imported, prices will be higher than what you’re used to, and there might not be a variety to choose from.

GO FOR THE FRUITS!

Try the fruits, especially if they’re unavailable or usually expensive in your home country. There’s a huge variety to choose from, and each season brings in new kinds you can try.

TAKE UP SOME PHOTOGRAPHY

It’s probably time to take your selfie game to the next level and try some real photography. Do a photo walk and take pictures that capture the spirit of Malaysia for you. Learn some composition and photography tricks so you can really play around with your photos and tell good stories with them.

PRO-TIP: If you’re taking photos of people, don’t be intrusive, especially if they are busy or occupied. Most people are okay being photographed, especially by foreigners or tourists, as long as you don’t creep on them – smile and gesture towards your camera if you feel you need to ask permission. If you’re going to take photos of a food stall or shop, pick one that you purchase something from as well, as goodwill.

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Grab some friends and go on a photo walk like Other Expats did!

SIGN UP FOR A MARATHON

Dust off those running shoes and get your cardio on! There are tons of marathons you can sign up for throughout the year, as it is very popular in Malaysia. It’s also a different way to take in the sights of the city, and to learn routes.

GO ON A ROAD TRIP

Drive or get on a bus and go to the next town to try something different, if you haven’t already! You can visit the local museums, and check out their most popular dishes or restaurants. Cameron Highlands, Melaka, Ipoh, and Johor are just some of the places you can visit.

ATTEND FREE CREATIVE AND NETWORKING EVENTS

There are so many, like the popular Cooler Lumpur festival that happens every year. You can check the listings on Eventbrite or even Facebook Events, attend and make a friend or ten!

DON’T FORGET…

  • It’s can be very hot and humid almost everywhere you go. And it rains often, too, so pack an umbrella and dress comfortably.
  • Learn to use a squat toilet! Most public bathrooms only have squat toilets, so brace yourself (if you’ve never used one).
  • People will stare. It’s a thing. Try not to pick a fight or be offended – sometimes, people just have never been exposed to cultures and races outside of their own.

Do you have any tried-and-tested ways to beat homesickness? Let us know in the comments below, or email us a story we can share here! Or even better, just connect with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and let’s meet up!

Ready, set, cycling in Kuala Lumpur!

Kuala Lumpur is a great destination for many things—the wide variety of local food, the amazing Petronas twin towers, the sights and many more. It is not the best place to be if you’re an avid cyclist.

The number of cyclists has grown in the last couple of years as more people recognize the health benefits of riding, without putting excessive strain on your body. It hasn’t reached the point where a lot of people ride to work, however.

Many people I have talked with cite the hot weather and the lack of showering/changing facilities in their offices. You’ll also be sharing the road with rush-hour traffic and high levels of carbon monoxide pollution from the cars and motorcycles.

The Malaysian government even created a dedicated cycling path in 2015—a 5.5km route linking Merdeka Square to Mid Valley, with plans for more routes—and made the first and third Sundays of every month car-free days in Kuala Lumpur city.

The car-free days are still effective now, but the bike path and plans for future routes seem to have disappeared. As of March 2017, the entrance to the bike path at Merdeka Square was closed for what the security guards there said were “construction works.”

It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever ride in the city or to neighbouring areas. It just means you do so at higher risk—competing against four-wheeled vehicles for road space will not play to your advantage on a two-wheeler. Here are some of the options you currently have for cycling in KL.

Cycling route map, KL car-free morning, health and fitness
Go for one or several loops around the 7km route to gain some distance without leaving the city

Car-free Sundays

You have those two days in the month when cyclists are allowed free roaming—technically, it’s a 7km predetermined route—around Kuala Lumpur city between 7 AM and 9 AM. Mind you, ‘car-free’ does not mean there are no cars at all. It just means that some roads are closed off for cyclists only, and some other essentials routes have to be shared by cars and cyclists.

One of the sponsors of the car-free days, OCBC Bank, also offers 140 bicycles for rent free of charge in case you’re interested in riding and don’t have a bike yet.  You can continue cycling past 9 AM, but you’ll be back to sharing the roads with cars. The traffic is usually still light till around 10 AM, so it’s manageable.

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Tiny cones to demarcate cycling routes. There are also police officers and an ambulance nearby in case of emergencies

Early mornings

You might want to try riding in the early hours of the day if two days in a month don’t seem like enough exercise for you—think 5 AM to 7 AM—before the traffic gets extra crazy and the sun gets out (if it does). I’ll recommend doing this, especially on weekends, as the traffic does not build up as early as on weekdays.

Group rides

Riding in a group is safer than riding alone. Find a group that knows great routes around the city—I’m still looking for a group—and join them on rides. If you’re in or around Damansara Perdana, then you’ll want to check out Cyclery, they run the best cycling shop or group I’ve ever met—friendly and welcoming.

Cycling in KL: Head to a park

Several parks allow cyclists to ride around—mostly leisurely. If you have a car, just head to any of them and cycle. You can also get to the parks on a train. Train operators now allow cyclists to bring their bikes on board, with a few terms and conditions. Putrajaya is also a famous cycling destination. However, that’s out of the city and defeats the purpose.

Either way, if you want to get more out of cycling in Kuala Lumpur city (or to neighbouring areas), plan your ride ahead. There are many websites and apps available to help with that. On the web, I use Strava and Map My Ride to plan and create my routes.

Just set them to avoid highways, and you may be able to go cross country on back roads alone. If you plan on riding inter-city, getting on a highway may be inevitable. The time spent on those will be limited to a minimum if you plan correctly.

On mobile, I use MAPS.ME and OsmAnd. If you already have a route planned and mapped out, upload the .gpx file to OsmAnd and it will give you directions to where you’re going. For days when you want to be adventurous, just set your destination on either of them and go. As with all GPS devices, always be cautious when following directions. Both apps are great but they have the tendency to create routes in closed and blocked roads, parks and private properties.

Make sure you follow road rules and regulations, have adequate lighting (especially rear lights) whether riding in the daytime or at night, have some money in case you get lost and need to hail an Uber or Grab back to civilization (happened to me), have spare tubes, water, and all the other necessities.

You’re ready. Go forth and discover Kuala Lumpur city. And let us know how it goes.