last day, lasting memories

by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysiaby Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Clare Barker Wells shot in KLCC Park, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It's Wednesday morning in KL and I'm writing this as we zip up our luggage and get ready to go to the airport. Though one and a half years flew by in a blink of an eye, I leave feeling 100% fulfilled with our experience. It was quite the adventure with its many ups and downs but man did this place steal my heart.

London was a good teacher but in this jungle town I feel like I've really grown into the person that I'm meant to be for the next chapter of my life. That goes for us as a couple, too. There's nothing like experiencing changes, challenges, and moments of joy together to keep you on your toes and ready to take on the world.

I also leave with a very happy heart when I think about the beautiful friendships we made with locals and other expats who call KL home. They are wanderlust and adventurous just like us and I know that this is not goodbye, rather a 'see you later'.

One of those friends is the witty and talented Clare, who took the amazing photos above. I'm so thankful that she was able to capture these moments of Joe and me at KLCC park by our apartment just before we left. We don't have any photos like this as the ones we take ourselves usually only feature our heads and an outstretched arm in the frame! Such great keepsakes, thank you Clare!!!

Alright it's time to go ... see you later, KL. You were a treat.

a temporary home to love

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Hi guys, I hope you had a nice weekend! We spent ours doing a major Fall Cleaning in preparation for the move today. It went well - a little off schedule but everything is ready to go until we meet again.

But before we gave away the plants, removed art from the walls, and sorted everything for the movers to pack into boxes, I made sure to take a few snaps of the living area that we made home for one and a half years. Do you remember this post when we just moved in and this one with our decor plan? I hate to say it - because it's an annoying cliche - but it feels just like yesterday. I can still remember Joe saying "let's get stuff up on the walls, it won't feel like home until we do" and little by little we did. Little by little we filled our home with pieces that made us smile and gave us comfort. You really can create a home that you love wherever you are.

With just some light cleaning and the final walk-through to do tomorrow, we're almost home-free! Not homeless though as we're staying at a hotel in the city until we depart on Wednesday. It's already proving to be a great idea, having a 'break' from moving before the long flights home. A big pat on the back for that one ;)

Okay KL, last few nights -  let's make them ones to remember!

show & tell (japan part III)

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Just as we prepare for movers to pack everything on Monday morning, I'm admiring all of the new pieces we've added to our home. Japan turned out to be quite the haul of goodies even though we knew we'd be boxing it all up for at least two months. It was so hard to say no!

Looking at each piece I realize why we couldn't help ourselves ... they're all made out of natural materials. Paper, wood, ceramic, glass, enameled cast iron, cotton, and wool - the type of goods that when held feel familiar, comforting, genuine, and that much more special.

I've added descriptions to the caption 'dots' on each image so make sure to check those out. I also searched for websites to share in case you were interested in doing some shopping of your own but the only product I could find sites for was the Noda Horo Tea Kettle. And wow, what a price difference between buying it from Japan and from the US! Luckily there are plenty of Japanese-made treasures worth browsing through this weekend, too. Here are my fave sites to find them:

Analogue Life

Claska

Plam

Fog Linen

Okay it's time to pack these babies up! Have a great weekend!

 

taking tokyo (japan part II)

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Tokyo: expansive, bustling, organized, efficient, clean, convenient ... I could go on. What an impressive city!

With so many different neighborhoods each with their own character and things to do, I feel like we needed at least two weeks to really see what Tokyo is all about. Kinda like when people tell me they've visited LA but only hung out in one or two neighborhoods - it's simply not enough.

We had three days to work with so we spent them taking on some of the busiest train stations in the world, enjoying some sun at the Imperial Palace Park, and shopping at one of the newest malls in town filled with awesome Japanese brands and products.

At night, between dinner and drinks, we people-watched in Shibuya.  The sushi was as amazing as expected but surprisingly harder to find than Italian and hamburger joints. I'm sure it was just our location but the Japanese restaurants we did see seemed to be mostly grilled meats and veggies, not the sushi and ramen we were so desperately craving. I guess that the Hida Beef in Takayama had satisfied that end of the protein spectrum! I think the reason we were so surprised at the quantity of western dining options is because when living and traveling in South East Asia it's easy to forget just how western Japan is by comparison. Not that I'm complaining - next to our hotel was a Tribeca, NY sister restaurant called Bubby's and OMG did I relish a proper American pancake for breakfast!!! Not one place we've tried in KL has come close.

A typhoon during our last full day and night messed with our plans to check out the architecture in Omotesando and visit a few temples. So, back indoors we went, to Tokyu Hands, a long-standing DIY store that we had heard a lot about. Though small in square footage, it has everything you could need from laundry detergent to leather hides and supplies for making purses. It was a plentiful but well curated one-stop-shop dream for someone who's been without a Target and Michael's Craft Store for some time (don't ever take those two for granted, US readers).

Abundance of stuff aside, the other things we experienced were very neat. Heated toilet seats in nearly every public and private restroom (don't knock it 'till you've tried it), easy traveling with Japan Rail Pass, and generally very gracious and pleasant shop keepers, bartenders, and restaurant servers, despite communicating in sign language half the time. Even the taxis were great.  Drivers wore ties and white gloves, and their car doors...they're automatic!  So don't you dare try to open or close them yourself - it's taken care of for you.

With a service-minded culture, delicious food, and incredibly clean and organized streets and transit, Joe and I left feeling like we had to add Tokyo to our "cities to live in" list. Or at the very least return to spend some quality time immersing ourselves. We'll be back, Japan!

words worth repeating / 42

words worth repeating 42 by ana maria munoz--anamu Next week will mark our third international move and when I stop to think of what the universe has given us in the past three years, I still can't believe that it's all happened. Moving to London, South East Asia, and all the travels in between - it all began by getting out of my comfort zone.

Leaving that comfort zone of my hometown was the best thing I could have ever done. No matter how hard I may cry at times because I miss my family, or how many things get lost in translation when trying to live in a new environment, every day and moment has absolutely been worth it.

Leaving my comfort zone repeatedly has led to feeling more open and confident to taking news risks and seeking new experiences. Open to making life happen rather than waiting for it to show itself. For example, if you had told me three years ago that I'd be living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia I would have said "Kuala wha???" - I had no idea that the city even existed! But once you start opening doors more and more tend to appear. At that point the decision is between turning the doorknob to see what's on the other side or choosing to ignore it and stay in the same hallway you're standing in.

I've been stretched so far out of my comfort zone that it's hard to imagine going back to my original shape. I like the new irregular shape that's been molded by everything I've seen and experienced, both the good and the not-so-great. There's a lot of life to be lived so whenever I start to feel anxious or worried about what's next I remember this: the rewards for letting yourself feel uncomfortable, awkward, or scared are worth gold. Just step out and keep going.

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? Took a new job, started a new business or hobby, moved homes, or traveled somewhere unfamiliar?

taking takayama (japan part I)

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We've all heard that sometimes it's not about the destination, but about the journey. In this case, visiting Takayama, Japan was about both. The high-speed train ride up the mountains showed glimpses of rice paddy fields, communal and family farm plots, homes with traditional glazed clay tile roofs, and some mountain scenery to rival anything we've seen in places like Alaska. I could have just done the train ride and been happy!

We chose Takayama by accident. Finding an available ryokan in Kyoto proved challenging (and grossly overpriced) so we expanded our horizon and looked for a similar, culturally charming town with easy rail access. Takayama fit the bill perfectly on paper and exceeded expectations in experience.

It was a quiet time in Takayama: mid-week, after the popular autumn festival, and before the colourful fall foliage. I can only imagine how gorgeous the city looks when the leaves turn to bright reds and yellows. The backdrop of Edo Period homes and shops, all in shades brown and black, would really make those autumnal colors pop. But even lacking the seasonal changes, Takayama was breathtaking. During our first walk in town we went to the main temple, but got sidetracked on an older, obscured stone stairway.  It led to a smaller and more modest temple perched on a hill surrounded by tall cedar trees and peek-a-boo views of the city. After reaching the top, the wind started blowing, leaves started bustling, and music started playing on loudspeakers mounted in the trees. It sounds silly but it felt like such a magical spot. I know that the music was for the ceremonial performances happening down below but it felt like it was meant just for us to hear at the top of that path. From that moment on we knew that we were in for a great couple of days.

We spent the rest of our time strolling the streets stopping to indulge in local specialties like Hida beef, sweet dumplings (mitarashi dango), buckwheat soba noodles, and lots of locally brewed sake. We drank sake like water and it was wonderful. Also wonderful were all of the shops filled with locally produced goods in wood, ceramic, and paper. We didn't hold back in buying souvenirs as we're big fans of the Japanese design aesthetic. Okay, we did hold back a little because there were plenty of hand-crafted chairs that I would have liked to take home with us. It's amazing how they work natural materials so beautifully, everything is treated with the utmost respect and love.

That's the way the entire area felt. The locals were proud of their heritage town and treated it with respect and love. Everyone from our ryokan hosts to the cashier at the riverfront snack shop showed genuine interest in, and gratitude for, our patronage, offering nothing but smiles and good cheer. The streets were pristine and clean, centuries old homes and shops were well maintained and revered, and every effort was made so that visitors had all the info they needed for a positive visit (i.e. directional signposts, tourist info desks among the shops). Even with all the helping hands, Takayama didn't feel overly touristy. It was just right. Just the right amount of traditional charm, ease, and comfort.

At the end of our trip I couldn't help but think "Thanks, Kyoto, for being so popular that we couldn't book ya'". Takayama, may have been a second choice but it sure came out on top.

 

 

 

and we're...

going back to cali Happy Monday, guys. I've been waiting to make a proper 'move' announcement and with one and a half weeks left, it's safe to say that LA will be our next stop! A temporary stop, that is. We have two weddings to attend, a storage unit to sort out, and I could use some time on the ground for Ring Cozy. We love LA but we're not ready to actually move back. Maybe we will one day, maybe we wont ... we're still itching to experience new places. It'll be great while we plan for the next adventure because being close to familiar faces and things is always helpful during a transition. Who knows where we'll be in a few months, but for now, I'm excited to make my first home home again!

 

let the countdown begin

In Tokyo How is it Friday again?! This past week flew by with half of it spent in Tokyo (felt like LA in the photo above) and the other playing catch-up at home. We're officially in countdown mode for the move and I'm trying my best to not feel overwhelmed. I'll write more about that later, but now I'm looking forward to a fun and productive weekend, doing what needs to get done, and enjoying one of our last 'free' days as KL residents.

Today we're sorting what we're keeping from what we're donating, and I'm making dates with friends so we can have a proper goodbye. There's plenty of work ahead, but as I like to tell the procrastinator in me: everything eventually gets done. With the clock ticking away, I'm just going to have to believe that.

I hope you have a great weekend. I'll be back next week to share highlights from our trip to Japan!

happy friday

ryokan We arrived in Takayama yesterday. Tired from the red-eye flight and multiple train rides but happy to find a peaceful, friendly, and charming town. Our Ryokan is perfectly traditional and modern with everything we need for a Japanese home stay experience, low door frames and all. I don't know how Joe has managed to go this long without a few bumps on his head, old Japan just wasn't built for a man of his stature (he's 6'3")!

We just finished a traditional breakfast of fish, miso, and local veggies in the room, while sitting on tatami mats and wearing our yukatas. It's all been pretty great so far so I can't wait to have a full day of exploring. Maybe we'll even wear our yukatas out as the locals do ... or save them for a sake pub crawl tonight ;)

Have a great weekend!

 

 

words worth repeating / 41

words worth repeating 41 by ana maria munoz--anamu How often do we worry about the littlest things when in the grand scheme of the world they hardly matter? I can't remember what I fretted over a year ago but I do remember that our KL must-see/do list looked pretty much the same. It's the experiences we have that create the memories we keep, not the spilled milk.

Keeping that in mind, we're squeezing in something not so local just before we leave this part of the world - we're going to Japan!!!

Are we crazy for taking a holiday just two weeks before we pack up our lives for the third time? Maybe. Did Christmas come early? Absolutely. I'm beyond excited but also a little worried. Japan has been top on my list for as long as I can remember and I wonder if I've over-hyped it in my mind. If all else fails (this is what I'm telling myself) there will be plenty of sushi and sake to be had. Can't go wrong with that.

If you've been to Tokyo or Takayama (or live there) I'd love to hear your suggestions for design spots (shops, architecture, etc) and cultural gems. I'll be on Instagram so come along!

 

reminiscing rio

Old Rio De Janeiro Centro Back from Rio and major jet lag aside, it was a great trip. We went for Joe's work so we stayed in a business hotel in the old part of Centro, far from the more recognizable beach side spots like Copacabana and Ipanema. I was hoping to be by the water - not gonna lie - but our location ended up being perfect. Had we stayed in a tourist hotel by the beach I might have never been forced to use my Google translator app to speak Portuguese with the staff.  I might have never had lunch with local office workers in a tiny well-kept restaurant overlooking a building facade of decorative hand painted tiles. And on Joe's day off, we probably wouldn't have spent an entire morning walking around the downtown city streets discovering little alleyways full of old European charm. It was quite the surprise. We never expected to come across such a neighborhood in Rio since all we've ever been shown are the parts of Zona Sul that look more like Miami Beach with a tropical backdrop. We went back for dinner and what a different scene it was from the morning...tables and chairs filling the alleys, office workers enjoying beers and baskets of fries, and every other restaurant blasting their stereo or showcasing a local band - we opted for the spot with live samba music. As we ate, I danced in my chair, shoulders shaking, making elaborate plans to be in Carnaval one day (I did say elaborate). It was a short and sweet trip but I'm already longing to spend more time there exploring its many facets. What an interesting little big city...I'm sure it's full of surprises.

 

melaka

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Hello from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil! Can't believe that we're on the other side of the world. It was a twenty four hour trip but all things considered, it's freaking amazing that it's possible.

These are some pics from our recent overnight in Melaka, Malaysia, just a two hour drive from KL. Melaka is a World Heritage City so all of the touristy things you'd expect were present: loads of tour groups and buses, souvenir shops, and of course, a Hard Rock Cafe (we skipped the t-shirt).

From a local's standpoint, we've heard that you only really go to Melaka to eat Nyonya food (a mix of Straits Chinese and Chinese/Malay cuisine) but we thought it would be interesting to see what a World Heritage City in Malaysia looked like. The food was as amazing as promised (we went to Riverine, a Nyonya kitchen, twice!) but the architecture was what stood out for me.

In KL there are sadly far too many beautiful old buildings rotting away or being torn down to make room for new luxury malls or condos. The condo we live in is on a street where there used to be traditional homes and I can imagine how gorgeous they must have been based on the last remaining structure on the street. I feel like such an a-hole for lamenting the past while living in modern KL but if I ran the city, I would find a way to do it all better.

In Melaka, the heritage buildings seem to be a priority. Not all of course but a decent amount. It was awesome to see the different influences in design based on the location and date that the structures were built. Being the key port city of the Straits way back when, Melaka has buildings that reflect the Chinese, Dutch, Portuguese, British and of course, Malay aesthetics. I loved the colonial stuff but my favorite was seeing the mid-century modern influences in their Chinatown and government buildings. It made this LA girl very happy.

Now here in Rio, I've already spotted a ton of cool old buildings that I can't wait to check out. I'm not sure I'll take my camera out too much since I'll be exploring solo most of the time but I'll capture and share what I can. Have a great week!