by Peng Ong

It’s funny; even though I grew up there, Kuala Lumpur is still my favorite place to visit—and my favorite place to eat. With the country’s mix of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cuisines, Malaysia offers a multitude of international cuisines to tantalize your taste buds. When I’m away, I miss nasi lemak (coconut rice with red hot sambal and ikan bilis), curry laksa, and Hainan chicken rice.

On my last week-long visit, I sat at an open-air restaurant with a circle of friends enjoying a variety of dishes, including an excellent tisu, an Indian fried bread shaped into a white hat. Tisu is sweet, slightly salty, and melts in your mouth in a thin crisp. Top it with a cup of teh tarik, a “tea-pulled” drink for a light midnight snack. (It’s called “tea pulling” because the liquid is being tossed high from one cup to another. Not one drop is spilled.)

My favorite mall is Kuala Lumpur’s Twin Towers, also known as KLCC. The shopping centers in Kuala Lumpur are huge, from Sunway Pyramid to Midvalley, with a huge variety of shops from which to choose. Among the tallest buildings in the world, the Twin Towers look like two jagong (corns on a cob), pointing straight up towards the sky. Tours are open to the public daily from ten a.m. to three p.m.; from the top, you get a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur and the intricate geometric patterns below.

After a tour of the Twin Towers, my friends and I headed to Chicken on the Rocks, where we ordered a hotplate of sizzling chicken and shrimp. Lunch was followed by a shopping trip to outlets such as Topshop, Guess, G2000, Tower Records, and Kinokuniya, where you can find anything from manga to novels in Chinese and English. I could browse for hours!

At the ground level, we took the LRT (Longest Railway Train) to Pasar Seni or Petaling Street, a night market crawling with bargain DVDs, fake Louis Vuitton bags, and other brand-name knockoffs. The styles are unique and the prices super cheap. I loaded my two nearly empty suitcases with a new wardrobe!

After all the hustle and bustle, I needed to get away from it all. We called a Genting cab (a green taxicab), and for about eighteen dollars the driver took us up the winding road to the misty mountain of Genting Highlands Resort. A little world greeted us at the top. There were casino resorts, golf courses, outdoor and indoor theme parks, restaurants, and a shopping center. My body welcomed the clean air, lush greenery, and assorted Asian cuisines, including fresh homegrown vegetables.

More than anything, I wanted a dip in the spacious jet-stream spa pool, located on the top floor of the resort. The windows surrounding the pool opened to fog, making me feel like I was floating in the sky, far away from all my cares and worries. One week in Malaysia is a short time. But it felt like I lived a lifetime.