Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tourists at Home in Kuala Lumpur

With Vicki and Gil in town for two of our last three weeks in Malaysia, we became KL tourists. This turned out to be a fun way to wind down our time in KL. We hit some of our favorite spots and introduced them to the cast of characters that colored our lives here this year. And we also said our goodbyes...

Mary and Rosie at TTDI market
As you might expect from reading our blog this year, much of the year centered around food. Ana and Sue from LaZat put together a special family Malaysian Chinese cooking class for us. In addition to the adult student cooks, Monique's daughter, Aimee, and Violet joined us. Mary has been looking forward to this for the entire year since the focus of the class was her favorite Chinese dish, char kuey tao (CKT). The morning began with a tour of the TTDI wet market to learn about the ingredients we would be using in the class. Mary of course stopped by to see her resident spice lady Rosie, who as usual was delightfully cheerful and even put together a special snack pack for Gil. We then we headed over to LaZat for 4 hours of cooking and gorging! We started off by making fried wantons with shrimp and prawns. Next up, a delicious crab salad followed by the CKT. The trick to a flavorful CKT is frying the ingredients in a wok at incredibly high heat. After nearly choking to death on the the thick black smoke of frying chili (ok, maybe Violet and Brian burned them a little) it was amazing to us that anyone survives long enough to become an expert Chinese Malaysian cook! The Malay cooking class next to us nearly had to be evacuated. Sue of course was un-phased and found the whole scene somewhat amusing. Overall the food was delicious (of course!) and Violet and Aimee represented the next generation of chefs well.

Sue in her element at the TTDI market

We were glad to be in town to go to LaZat's Hari Raya open house
and say farewell to Ana, LaZat's owner. 
We also had to continue the Pohl tradition of Korean barbeque so we took everyone to our favorite Korean restaurant, Dao Rae. This also doubled as a farewell dinner for Nicole. We were so happy that she met Gil and Vicki since Nicole has been such an important part of our life this year. (Violet is still asking when she and Nicole are going out for another foot massage.)

No visit to KL would be complete without a trip to Restoran Lim Kee on the food street Jalan Alor. As usual, Lillian did not disappoint. The salt and pepper squid is still the best dish we have had in KL (sorry duck curry from My Elephant - you're close but not quite there!) and Lillian made a special noodle dish for Gil that was one of his favorite dinners of the trip. Lillian and Simon are simply wonderful hosts. Our friend has celiac disease and Lillian prepared separate dishes for her using gluten-free ingredients our friend brought from home. We have convinced all of our Mont Kiara friends that Lillian's is the place to go on Jalan Alor and we hope they continue the tradition of eating there at least once a month (remember guys, she is closed on Thursdays).

Our final dinner with Lillian on Jalan Alor
Gil loves malls and tall buildings so we spent an evening in KLCC at the Petronas Towers. We started off by exploring Suria KLCC mall and then headed over to the Sky Bar at the Traders hotel to watch the sunset over the backdrop of the Towers. Patrick took us here in July 2013 to introduce us to the city so it was a fitting goodbye to one of the most gorgeous architectural structures in the world. The view at night is simply spectacular and it is a wonderful place to spend an evening with family and friends.

Are they drums, are they stools? Brian can't tell...
In addition to loving malls, Gil and Vicki also love to shop, and shopping we did. We have officially dubbed Vicki and Gil "the great shopping enablers." Mary went to Jim Moore's to buy two stools and ended up with 4. She went to IPC to buy 1 Thai pillow and came home with 2. Brian went to get 1 instrument in Hanoi and came home with 3.  You get the idea...

Brian however wins the award for the most ridiculous shopping adventure. Whenever we go to a new country he tries to learn about the local music with a particular focus on stringed instruments. For the past few months he has been looking for a traditional Malaysian stringed instrument called a sape' but they have been impossible to find anywhere outside of a few towns in Borneo. He briefly talked about going to Kuching with Gil for a 12 hour trip but we had too much to do in KL to get ready for our move. So he did the next best thing - he brought the sape' store to our apartment. Brian found a sape' teacher and musician who commissions sape's from local makers in Sarawak, Borneo. After discussing things over Facebook, Saufi agreed to bring a traditional 4-string sape' to KL from Borneo the weekend  before we moved. It is solid wood, handcrafted, heavy and beautiful. It is by far the coolest instrument that Brian acquired from Southeast Asia. Saufi stayed for over an hour teaching Brian how to care for, tune and even play the sape' and then he gave us a ton of both traditional and contemporary sape' tunes to download. Check him out at

Tyler and his swim coach, Michelle (or as Ty called her
for months -- "Miss Shell") at the kids' final swim lesson. 
A heartfelt goodbye to Mr. Madu Tapa, our wonderful apartment guard
Brian and Saufi with the sape'
In addition to being tourists, we also started the unappealing task of packing our apartment and preparing to move back home. Our apologies to Gil and Vicki that their last day was spent changing lightbulbs and sorting pictures.

While Gil and Vicki were incredibly helpful, we simply could not have gotten through the last few weeks (or quite honestly, the last 8 months) without the help of Anita. Anita has been our helper around the apartment since the beginning of the new year. She has been a god-send. She is thoughtful, organized, generous and caring. She is wonderful with Violet and Tyler and just knows how to get things done. Need to find the obscure downtown office to pay your parking ticket? My favorite weekend market is right there - I'll handle it. Craving some fresh Indonesian tempeh wrapped in banana leaf? I know where to get the authentic stuff. Need someone to watch the kids for a date night? I'm free tonight on short notice. Need someone to sew country patches onto Brian's guitar case? I'll do it without you even asking. Anita, we have been so blessed to have you in our lives this year. Thank you for bringing fresh flowers to the apartment every morning, keeping us organized and sane, and being an overall force for good in the world! We will miss you more than words can express.

Anita, we miss you already!

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