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Kuala Lumpur Photo Diary

So, I have some big news - this week, B and I moved in together! Slowly but surely, we have begun the process of creating a home, unfurling our lives from infinite boxes and suitcases into our little flat, perched on the edge of the City. It's been a funny few days - I've been wandering around in a permanent happy daze, buying the most mundane items, like dish racks and bath mats. A lengthy to-do list is steadily being conquered; one box triumphantly ticked was moving files from my laptop to my hard drive. In doing so, I rediscovered hundreds of photos from Kuala Lumpur as well as Penang from my last trip over Christmas and New Year: time really does fly.

Then I wanted to write, because Kuala Lumpur ('KL') is like a second home to me. This sticky, bustling capital city in southwest Malaysia is plagued by thunderstorms and heavy rain, but blessed with some of the best food in the world. My mum was born in the satellite town of Petaling Jaya, just outside KL, and most of my family still lives there. It is a place that will always be dear to my heart. Here are a few pictures and memories from my short time there.

Fighting off jetlag with a swim at the local outdoor pool in the cool early morning, quickly followed by a hearty breakfast of pillowy roti canai with yellow dhal and spicy kari ayam served on a tin tray , accompanied by an iced Milo. Roti canai is only available at the local mamak, where you can also buy pyramids of rice wrapped in sweet-smelling banana leaf. There's Roti King to assuage my cravings when back in London, but it stings when the roti in Malaysia is priced at 20p per plate... Navigating our way back to the house across crumbling pavements, we spot this gargantuan black fly, looking like it's buzzed straight out of Jurassic Park. I want to scream, but am also fascinated by the black body, gigantic and gleaming.

My grandparents' house in PJ, where I take a seat at the long glass table in the dining room, soundtracked by the familiar buzz of the air conditioning unit and the Chinese dramas on the TV in the background. This table has been the site of a hundred meals from a fantastic takeaway restaurant which I know only as 'Fatty's': it's become somewhat of a tradition for our trips to be bookended by Fatty's plastic bags of soupy wat tan hor, sticky, smoky char kway teow and slippery black noodles. In the kitchen I attempt conversations in broken English with Ah Mah, my grandmother. Usually these revolve around the subject of why I haven't secured a Chinese boyfriend yet, although sometimes she takes my hand and presses it between hers, papery and warm, and tells me that she's proud of me. Once I compliment her on her ring, coconut wood with a thin strip of gold, and she immediately insists that I keep it. On Christmas morning I sit in the suspended rattan swing chair on the porch, looking out on to the garden, where bougainvillea cascades down the walls and tropical birds emit a distinctive ascending two-note melody, so unlike the peeps and trills of the birdsong of home.

Speaking of Christmas Day, it's a world away from Christmas in the UK, consisting of a few presents under a plastic tree plus a steaming Milo sipped in stifling 30ÂșC heat. We spend the rest of the day with my grandparents at their members' club, a KL institution that truly feels like travelling back in time. Founded in the 1980s, the club feels a little like a resort hotel, equipped with bars, restaurants and a gym. However, the design and facilities don't seem to have been updated since the 1980s (which of course suits my grandparents just fine) and the place, sadly past its best, is practically deserted, which we discover as we stroll around giant echoing squash and netball courts. It's reminiscent of visiting the Overlook Hotel - if The Shining were set in Malaysia.

And as usual, food figures most prominently in my memories. On day one and throughout our trip we return time and time again to a beloved hawker centre in State Town which has been going strong for decades. Here, we order bright red watermelon juice, thick toast with kaya (coconut jam) and butter, chicken rice, char siu noodles, crunchy rojak and my favourite drink, cendol. Hawker centres are the best. You'll be able to get the same sorts of dishes from shopping centres, though generally they're much more expensive and nowhere near as good. However, if you do venture mallwards I recommend the cendol from Little Penang Kafe at Mid Valley Megamall, sweet and salty with a generous helping of red beans. Also, don't miss the dumplings from Din Tai Fung (also available at Megamall), expertly rolled out and assembled before your eyes. I await their London debut impatiently.

Hope you enjoyed these snapshots of my Kuala Lumpur trip! Next time I'll be writing about the beautiful island of Penang, home to colourful Nyonya mansions, amazing street food and golden beaches that play host to fiery sunsets.

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