Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Nexus Retrospective: A Look Back Through My Phone's Photo Gallery

KL Tower and the surrounding cityscape
bathed in a golden sunset, from Marini's on 57
There's a saying in photography that the best camera is the one you have with you. There's a lot of truth to that. It doesn't matter how fancy or expensive your camera is; if it's sitting at home in a corner of your bedroom when the right moment presents itself, it's useless.

While I sometimes bemoan the proliferation of cameras in seemingly every gadget we carry nowadays – making everyone think they're a photographer and fueling a generation of vapid narcissists – there is admittedly a handy side of virtually always having a camera with you. Beyond Instagramming your latest meal, you can capture those neat moments that would have likely otherwise gone by unrecorded. And, of course, if you live in the U.S., there's always the opportunity to film a cop shooting someone. (Kidding! Well, sort of.)

When I started this blog almost seven years ago, the idea was to chronicle my life in Kuala Lumpur. It was all very new to me back then, of course, and as even the most trivial things were fresh and unfamiliar, they somehow merited (in my mind, at least) dedicated blog entries.

Unsurprisingly, as time went by, the new and novel became the routine and common. A trip to Tesco was no longer a blog-worthy event, and over the years, my blog had longer periods of inactivity and eventually evolved into more of a compendium of my various travels and less of a series of snapshots of my day-to-day life here in Malaysia.

The other day, though, I was backing up a bunch of photos from my Nexus 4 smartphone, which I've had for about a year and a half now, I guess, and many of them brought back memories – some more worthwhile than others. Amid the special events, traveling, and nice dinners that got photographed, there were also some more pedestrian things, too – that daily dose of life in KL that my blog has been missing for a long time. So I thought I'd share some of them on here... they're from all over, and many are not really recent, so though the photos will be mostly chronological, I doubt most will really need a clear mention of the specific date. Nearly all these photos are from my phone, but a couple are from my compact camera, too, which also gets carried with me when I don't feel like heaving the Nikon and its parade of lenses around. And there are of course a fair few from the trips I've taken, as well, so some of those will pop up here, too! Needless to say, the little cameras found in smartphones, even the best ones, really shine only in good lighting conditions. Once the light levels fall off, the quality of the photos plummets, as you'll see here. But sometimes, as a spin around Facebook will show you, the images from even the lowliest of cameras really are quite amazing, proving the truth of the adage, "Cameras don't take pictures, photographers do."

So away we go... unless specifically noted otherwise, all the photos are from my phone, and the description will of course be found in the caption of each picture... enjoy!

This was taken in Nov. 2013 and actually marked
 my introduction to the wonderful world
of Japanese whisky. I have no idea why the
whisky appears so yellow in the glass, yet
normal amber-colored in the bottle.

Even when I'm driving, I'm still an editor...
this error was on a HUGE billboard at a major
intersection in Bangsar... it was there for a
couple of weeks before it got noticed and
a "c" was hastily pasted over that final
"s" in "essense"!

One fine night towards the end of 2013,
my friend and I ate at Mandarin Oriental
and got to enjoy the world's most storied
dessert wine, Chateau d'Yquem from
the Sauternes region of France... not a
legendary vintage, but still a great treat

The great view from one of the beach villas at the
Four Seasons Langkawi, among Malaysia's finest resorts

Tropical luxury at the Four Seasons in
Langkawi... a favorite place of mine
and always a nice, nearby escape from KL

This was my first of two visits to the
awesome Siam Kempinski in Bangkok...
snapped this one morning from the terrace
on the club floor lounge – not a cloud!
Ah, the pain of fashion. This was at one of the photo shoots
for the luxury lifestyle magazine I edit. The poor model
had to lie on the cold bathroom floor for nearly an
hour while everyone did their thing – hair, makeup,
jewelry, photographers, lighting. I was up on a ladder
to shoot this... and this was with my Nikon and a
super wide-angle lens, by the way! (Dec. 2013)

I love introducing different foods to my local
friends here, and my chicken nachos have
happily been a unanimous hit every time

This was from my second trip to Nepal
over the New Year holiday 2013/2014;
it's particularly special now because this
view from a rooftop cafe in Kathmandu
Durbar Square looks sadly different today
after the recent earthquake there

Back to Langkawi! This is at the Westin Resort on the
southeast coast of the island. I was there for the 12th Royal
Langkawi International Regatta... this was my first
time (January 2014) and I went again the following year

A stunning sunset over the pool at the Westin
Resort, with the Andaman Sea beyond

This is at one of my very favorite restaurants,
Awet Thai Cafe. Every year, they jack up
their prices for three weeks in the run-up to
Chinese New Year, conveniently coinciding
with a "price hike" that happens to have an
amazingly well-defined start and stop date :)

As a boy, I was wildly infatuated with airplanes, few more
so than the supersonic Concorde, which I frequently got in
trouble for drawing during math class. Getting to see one of
the now-retired planes on display at Charles de Gaulle airport in
Paris was a big thrill for me

And this was my first glimpse of Paris upon
emerging from the underground metro train
there, disoriented, cold, and adrift in a sea
of cluelessness. I eventually found my hotel.

I honestly don't even remember what this
gorgeous little display of food was, but it
was the lead plate at my first
Michelin-star dining experience at
Sur Mesure par Thierry Marx

I'm no fan of selfies (for me, at least), but
this was almost obligatory to show I was
there... Jan. 29, 2014

I snapped this at a supermarket near my
apartment in Barcelona mostly just to
later gawk at the cheap prices for
Catalonian table wine

The perils of handing your camera (in this
case, a phone) to someone else to shoot with;
I had to do plenty of editing and even then
still convert this to grayscale to make it
even remotely passable. This is me at the
awards ceremony in KLCC where one of
our magazines was named the country's
best tourism publication
by Tourism Malaysia for 2012/2013

Back at the Siam Kempinski in Bangkok,
at their fine dining venue, Sru Bua. I could
not resist getting this bottle, the legendary
Chateau Montelena from Napa Valley.
This is the winery that beat France's best
at the 1976 Judgment of Paris and changed
the wine industry forever – and yes,
though this wasn't the same vintage,
obviously, it was still an outstanding,
incredible Chardonnay

Well, there was no damn way THIS photo wasn't going in
here: Look at this nonsense. This is an actual SIDEWALK
in Bangsar, not far from where I work. There's no big
event, nothing special going on, this is just how
Malaysians park. It's not bad enough they park any
old way they want on the streets; they actually park
on the sidewalks, too. *facepalm*

At the airport in Queenstown,
Zealand... a great trip, to be sure

Driving in New Zealand... somewhere
between Queenstown and Christchurch.
April 2014

Now THIS gorgeous thing isn't commonly
available in the States, but here, any German
restaurant worth its lederhosen serves a
big, crispy pork knuckle... and they are
absolutely delicious!

This is as good an example of Malaysian
English as any. It's not awful, and it's
perfectly understandable. It's just... off.
Seldom does a year go by that my condo
doesn't have some drama with its water
tanks, so this was the 2014 edition.

I was invited to attend the Malaysian launch of a new
line of yachts down at Simpson Marine in fabulous
Port Dickson. Just kidding. Everyone in Malaysia knows
Port Dickson isn't really even a little bit fabulous.

Champagne, a spread of canapés, and a
pretty fun little group on board once we
all got comfortable... was a fun time

We spent about an hour or so out at sea, but eventually,
the menacing clouds hastened our return to port

Looking out towards Ampang from around the KLCC area

This was pretty cool... my pals at Etihad
Airways' PR firm delivered these red,
white, and blue Jelly Belly candies to my office
for the Fourth of July in 2014, a very
kind gesture for any American living abroad!

In the world of sparkling and still wines,
Dom Pérignon and Chateau Margaux are two
powerhouse names... so this was a pretty
memorable evening!

Tuscan wine and a great platter of starters at one of my
favorite Italian eateries, Vineria in Bangsar

I snapped this from high atop First Avenue, a 25-story
building near my neighborhood. The top of the building is
a spacious, grass-covered helipad that doubles as an
open space – one of the most amazing venues in the
city. The massive building in the foreground is just half
of 1 Utama, the world's fourth-largest shopping mall, and
the little black arrow in the background indicates
where my nearby Damansara Perdana condo is!

At a house party in Damansara Heights with
friends Patrice and Cheng Yi... good food and
good company. And of course, a liberal flow of
good wine and whisky, too.

I think there were more people there than this, but we
managed to get this group assembled for a quick photo

This is at my favorite hotel in Malacca, the
Mediterranean-styled Casa del Rio

I was invited to a swanky jewelry preview
down in Singapore, and this photo is from
Orchard ION Sky on level 56

A ridiculously creative cappuccino at
one of my favorite Bangsar eateries,
Yeast Bistronomy. In actual fact,
drinking a beverage that looks like
a face was a bit disconcerting in a way

My Indonesian friend Dendy, who I've known
since 2006, was in town doing the styling
for one of my magazine's photo shoots and
I took him to my favorite Thai restaurant...
the one with the Chinese New Year
price hike.. fortunately, we were there
outside of that timeframe!

Ahhh, a thin slice of paradise... poolside at Amanpulo on
a private island in the Palawan province of the Philippines,
under blue skies and fluffy clouds.

And with a lovely welcome like this in
the villa, what's not to like??

Now this admittedly isn't a great photo,
but take a look at that TV. Here I was on
a tiny island in the Philippine archipelago,
and my college football team's game
was being broadcast from the other
side of the planet... not even a playoff
game, I don't think. It was surreal. And
yeah, Auburn won, so even better!

Nice, right? On a sunny day, even my
weak little phone camera can produce
impressive colors and sharpness

I can't recall if this was a selfie or if I handed
my phone to someone... I was at the
Amanpulo lounge in Manila, after a few
days of sun and sea, and was about to head
into the city to do a little exploring

I'm generally not a fan of Aussie Shiraz, but
Penfolds Grange isn't just some run-of-the-mill
Aussie Shiraz. This is truly one of the world's
great wines, and the 2008 is among its most
celebrated vintages – an uncommon and
expensive bottle of wine, to say the very
least. I was invited to a Penfolds winemaker's
dinner at the Mandarin Oriental and got to
drink both the 2008 and 2006, both rated
from 97-100 points by the experts. Amazing!

One fine day when I went to lunch in Bangsar,
a wild storm blew through and broke a huge
section out of a massive tree, literally
blocking the entire street

A very kind invitation to an exclusive
surprise event at the Ritz-Carlton gave me
not only the chance to enjoy these huge Maine
lobsters flown in from the States, but also
the fun of teaching a dozen Malaysians
how to crack them open!

Another house party... more food, more fun!

In the course of my job, I get invited to
plenty of whisky and wine events, but this
one was special, as it was hosted by the
chairman of Glenfarclas distillery himself,
and I got to sample a whole range of their
whiskies, including this treat, nearly as
old as me! They also unveiled the Glenfarclas
60 year old at this event, but at some
US$16,700 per bottle, it goes without
saying we didn't get to open one of those!

November 2014, this was as I was getting
settled in on my Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi,
then on to New York... was going home
for the Thanksgiving holiday

This magnificent creature (no, not me!)
is a hyacinth macaw, the world's largest
parrot (and one of staggering value, too).
This guy was exceptionally friendly
and I spent about half an hour with
him while Shiloh, my considerably
smaller and greener parrot, was
being groomed at the bird store
in my Englewood, Colorado

Despite the sign, this is actually at a newly opened Quizno's
sub shop in Damansara Perdana. I was so excited to see this
(Quizno's is a Denver-based company), and was pointing and
telling the guys behind the counter, "That's my home city,
that's where I'm from." They were completely unimpressed.
Indeed, they could have hardly been any more
nonplussed by my proclamation.... ah well

On the OCBC Skyway at the Gardens by the
Bay in Singapore, with the triple towers
of the Marina Bay Sands, the world's
second-most expensive building ever
constructed, estimated at some US$6 billion

Another trip to Langkawi, this time for the
13th annual Langkawi regatta. Snapped this
picture at the evening cocktail event
on the beach by the Westin Resort

Apart from nice beaches and luxury resorts, Langkawi has
a lot of appeal as a duty-free island, indeed one of the
world's cheapest markets for booze (usually considerably
cheaper than airports). Note the RM10 bottle of
Creme de Cacao on the right. That's less than US$3.
At restaurants in Langkawi, it's not uncommon for
cans of beer to be cheaper than soda

About two weeks after the regatta, I went
back to Langkawi again for a mangrove
planting project. This odd-looking little guy,
snapped hanging out on a playground at Berjaya
Langkawi Resort with some of his pals
is a dusky leaf monkey, the more docile
counterpoint to the more common and far
naughtier long-tailed macaques seen there

And here's part of our group on the mudflats of Kuala Teriang
in Langkawi. The area was wiped clean by the 2004
tsunami, so we planted hundreds of mangrove saplings
in a bid to rebuild the coastal defenses of this part of the island

Following two nights at Berjaya Langkawi
Resort, working with the mangrove project,
I took another two nights (it was a long
weekend) and stayed at the Four Seasons
once again for some pure R&R...
 always a great place to visit

Ahh, yee sang. This is a celebratory ritual
unique to Chinese Malaysians during Chinese
New Year. Sliced sashimi is presented with
colorful dried noodles and veggies, a
flavorful sauce is poured over it, then everyone
digs in with chopsticks, tossing the yee sang
riotously. The higher and messier, the more
good luck you'll have in the coming year.
Snapped this at a CNY celebration at
Marini's on 57 in February 2015

KL's famous "eat street," Jalan Alor. Wildly popular with
tourists and locals alike, this street in the heart of the
city is the place to go for a cross-section of Malaysia's
best street food, with most of the emphasis being
on Malaysian Chinese cuisine

This gorgeous presentation is an
incredible roasted lobster and king crab
salad at the Shangri-La's fine French
dining outlet Lafite, truly one of KL's
oldest and best French restaurants

Getting a trim! I've been going to the same
stylist at the well-known Ish Salon in
Bangsar for a couple of years

Another popular street food scene, this one
near the Ampang Park LRT station by
KLCC; sweet corn, freshly steamed,
served with butter, sugar, and salt

Another trip to Langkawi, this one in mid-April
2015; my third trip to the island in three
months' time. This shot was taken at the
stunning new Els Golf Course up on Datai Bay
in the northwestern part of the island. I don't
actually golf, but was in attendance for a
charity fundraising event held there

Once again taking advantage of the duty-free happiness
Langkawi offers... even the excellent Calphalon pan
was a mere US$13, less than half of what it would
cost elsewhere in Malaysia

It wouldn't be proper to have a blog entry like this without
a dim sum photo; I visit my favorite place in
Damansara Jaya at least twice a month, usually,
and their succulent fresh-steamed siew mai is
consistently fantastic. Snapped this shot with my
little Sony compact camera on a recent outing there

Satay is a popular food here, and this is
typically how it's served – with cucumbers,
red onions, and cubes of sticky rice... and
of course plenty of spicy peanut sauce!

I'm not an alcoholic, I just love a good deal! This
was at Tokyo's Narita airport en route to the States
at the tail end of April. This 17-year-old
Taketsuru goes for US$140 in Denver, and even
more here in KL. This bottle? A scant ¥3500,
which is only about US$29. I need hardly
mention that I grabbed a bottle to purchase
immediately after snapping this pic :)

This was pretty fun. As the second meal service on the Japan Airlines
flight from Tokyo to Chicago, we got our "assemble it yourself"
burger from Japan's wildly popular fast food chain MOS
(second only to McDonald's there), hence the "AirMOS"
moniker. It was really quite delicious!

Ahhh, Mexican food and yummy
margaritas, always a highlight of any
trip back to Colorado!

And here's Shiloh, posing on a plate
in my mother's cupboard, likely while
I was making breakfast one morning

Along with Japanese whiskies, the crazy flavors of KitKats
in Japan is another fun thing to seek out. Sadly, I didn't
find any of the really unusual ones, but this strawberry
one was one of four flavors I purchased

I love this photo... so sharp and clean. I found
a nice sushi restaurant called Ginzo near my hotel
in Tokyo, where I stayed for a couple of nights
on the return trip back from the U.S.

Sushi! This was my dinner... 10 different
types of sushi and a tuna maki roll

Breakfast at Aman Tokyo, Japanese style.
I had a more international-style breakfast
the next morning, but wanted at least one
very Japanese brekkie to start a day

And yep, I went right back to Ginzo the next day for more
sushi... this was all part of their set lunch, which came
with the chawan mushi and miso soup. Excellent!

The impressive sky lobby of Aman Tokyo,
on the 33rd floor of the Otemachi Tower

The following morning at Aman Tokyo,
 a more classically European breakfast, I suppose, with
Norwegian salmon, a selection of Italian meats, and an
excellent French croissant

And a lovely eggs Benedict with frankly a bit
too much wilted spinach, but still a nice photo

I snapped this because I was comparing prices for micro SD
cards and couldn't remember all these numbers, but it also
highlights a very new development in Malaysia: the
rollout of GST (goods and services tax), which has
caused a whole lot of frustration and hand-wringing

A nice view of the Petronas Twin Towers
taken from Nobu restaurant, on the 56th floor of
the adjacent Petronas Tower 3; I was there
for the official grand opening on May 20, 2015

And here's Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa himself, along with
Nobu partner Robert De Niro (who has also apparently dabbled
in a wee bit of acting here and there) and his wife
Grace Hightower (snapped this with my Nikon, not
my phone, as the lighting was quite dim)

So that's a tour through my phone over the last year and a half... just some of the highlights. The next entry, which I'm working on now, will have more details and photos from my trip back to the States and my stopover in Japan on the way back!