Even if they won’t admit it out loud, every mother dreams of getting away from their daily grind to recharge their sleep-deprived body, mind and soul. Take a cue from Elizabeth Gilbert who travelled the world alone to find herself in the book Eat, Pray and Love, (played by Julia Roberts in the film of the same name) and challenge yourself to do the same, if only for a few days.
That’s exactly what I did. I love being a wife and mother of one and I’ve made it a goal every year to plan one family trip together, and one solo trip for solid me-time. I have a demanding day job as a Fashion and Street Style Photographer so I find it important to be constantly inspired by new surroundings to remain fresh and creative. Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who totally gets what I’m all about, so far I’ve already travelled on my own to London, New York and Kuala Lumpur.
I stayed at The Gardens – A St Giles Signature Hotel & Residences, a 5 star hotel in the heart of Mid Valley City, Kuala Lumpur for two days, three nights because I wanted to hit as many places as I could within walking distance (tip: make sure you get a Malaysian sim card so you can call a taxi or use Google Maps to get around).
My first day in Kuala Lumpur was all about experiencing the Malaysian-Chinese culture by exploring the Central Market street stalls, and happily devouring a variety of traditional sweet and savory food.
I ate deep fried whole fish covered in spicy sauces, custard vanilla and durian puffs, bowls of prawn mee, curry laksa, nasi lemak, milk pearl tea and even drank an icy cold passionfruit drink from a bag.
After I fulfilled my foodie hit list, I found myself spending hours in the heat scouting and photographing the pastel blue textured walls with simple white stained glass windows and palm trees, Moroccan tiles, rows of bold pink and orange colonial buildings, and my favourite being the wall to floor covered of well-preserved street art on Jalan Tun H.S Lee road. I honestly believe the hidden gem in this city is its rustic street art, which is spread all over the city’s buildings and walls.
The photo opportunities were endless, and I’m glad I wore a cute orange camisole top with tiger patterns on it and matching floral pants which contrasted nicely against the pastel blue walls (tip: plan your outfits to match the places you want to visit).
As I ventured a little further down Jalan Tun H.S Lee road to China Town I was greeted with a beautiful array of red Chinese lanterns hanging above the market stalls, and once again I was itching to take another photo. I recalled the stallholders trying to lure me into their stall to show me their latest “Gucci” bag but I was too preoccupied getting my walk right in camera.
Of course, I couldn’t have claimed to have visited Kuala Lumpur without visiting the grand Petronas Twin Towers. The towers were so popular that I couldn’t even get a ticket to experience the walkway between the two towers (tip: pre-book your tickets at least 5 days in advance), instead I took a selfie with the twin towers glistening in the background.
Although for me the highlight was in the gardens below where a magical little forest of ancient looking trees with roots exposed and dangling, provided a nice resting place for a little picnic and another fabulous photo opportunity.
On day two, I enjoyed what the hotel had to offer. I woke up early and treated myself to in-room service, breakfast in bed and read the last ever edition of InStyle Malaysian fashion magazine. Then I worked on my tan by the poolside which had breathtaking views of modern city buildings and shopping at the Gardens Mall. It is a Fashionista’s paradise of high-end fashion brands such as Gucci, Hermes, Balenciaga, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, DKNY, to name a few; and their local designer brands and food markets. I was overwhelmed by their immaculate presentation of shopfronts, fit-outs and individual marketing campaign images which gave me so much photography inspiration. Luckily I was able to score myself a beautiful Kimono coat with navy, red and white patterns from Mango and till this day, I still get strangers coming up to me asking where I got the coat.
That night I booked a table at the hotel’s award-winning, Sage Restaurant & Wine Bar and it did not disappoint either. Well of course since it is consistently voted among the Top 5 restaurants in Kuala Lumpur! The elegant dining room and attentive service set the table for Chef Daniel’s creative take on French & Japanese classics. You can choose between sitting at the open kitchen table and watch the Chef and his team prepare the food before your eyes, or like me, sit by the window overlooking the majestic sunset and city views.
I started the evening with a generous plate of carpaccio of wagyu rump with plum infused konbu sauce which melted in my mouth, for main I had the smoked duck breast with watermelon and foie gras and finished the night with French chocolate fondant with a good hint of earl grey tea ice. I’m still salivating as I’m reliving my foodie experience.
I left Kuala Lumpur with a very satisfied stomach, 1000s of images to edit, and a wealth of knowledge and experience which I took home to share with my family and friends. I came home feeling more confident, independent and being more appreciative of my family and the little things in life. As the saying goes, “traveling alone is the single best gift you can give yourself.” Now go see the world, solo!
Karen Woo is a savant creative talent who is fast becoming one of Australia’s sought after street style, lifestyle and fashion photographer. Karen is passionate not only about photography but about family life, muay thai, food and travelling; always seeking to capture stories of people’s lives and experiences through imagery in a stylistic way. Instagram: @HeyKarenWoo