Tell us about your childhood dreams. And how does that compare to what you do now?
As a child, I probably wanted to be everything except what I ended up pursuing - lawyer, graphic designer, photographer, dentist - but I finally ended up in architecture. And I photograph for fun in my spare time. It’s interesting how life turns out. That said, I now cannot imagine myself doing anything else. Architecture has taken me on a big journey - it challenges me daily, but has also allowed me to expand into the person I am today.
Who were your influences growing up?
Born and raised in Malaysia, I grew up with a strong family influence - my mum left her job to care for my siblings and I. Both my parents and our (huge) extended families were naturally some of my biggest early influences.
You lived for a while in Melbourne and now reside in Kuala Lumpur. In what ways are the cities similar, or different?
I spent most of my years in the Melbourne inner city, so my take on it was largely intimate and very exciting - it’s amazing how many good secrets (coffee, restaurants, rooftop bars, shops, comedy, theatre!) a city grid and its surrounding neighbourhoods can hold.
In contrast, I find Kuala Lumpur far more organic and as a result, places of interest can be quite spread out. It’s probably fair to say that cafes and specialty coffee were only just budding in Kuala Lumpur when I moved back, so it has been wonderful watching the scene grow and unfold over the last decade. They certainly helped provide a soft landing when I returned and in a way, helped me feel connected to the Melbourne cafe scene from a distance.
Your Instagram is an ode to space and light. In particular, you photograph a lot of coffee shops! What is it about these spaces that captivate you?
As a student living in Melbourne, coffee and brunch quickly became second nature. Instagram didn’t exist until around the time I graduated, but my friends and I would trawl The Breakfast Blog for a new place to visit, eat at and photograph every weekend. I fondly remember our visits to Tom Phat for roti omelettes, Replete Providore for ricotta hotcakes and Mart 130 for corn fritters. We loved The League of Honest Coffee, the cakes at Beatrix and brunch at The Duchess of Spotswood. The Melbourne cafe scene has come an incredible way since then.
But to answer the question, I love that the cafe scene unites three things I enjoy - food, coffee and spatial design. I especially adore (and get a real kick when I can catch) the full five minutes of stillness when the morning light shines into a considered, beautifully-designed space. This looks different in every city I visit, and has become the part of my travels I look forward to most.
In a busy metropolis like Kuala Lumpur, where do you find your version of calm?
Traffic here in KL is back to pre-pandemic times (a major pain point), but Sunday mornings remain slow, quiet and almost sacred - I relish in my drives to the coffee shop on Sunday, and further beyond when time permits. My favourite road trips to take are Sekinchan for the paddy fields, Cameron Highlands for the tea plantations and Penang for a combination of sun, sea and a great cultural scene.
Share your go-to rituals to find calm and stillness when you have:
2 minutes - Making a cup of tea
15 minutes - Lighting a Kin incense stick - my favourite is Home, closely followed by Baby Angel. They each help me ground and refocus in their own ways
An hour - An on-demand yoga session with Humming Puppy online, I especially enjoy Will’s Yin sessions - his energy is beautiful. The one thing I’m thankful for in this pandemic is how the internet brought the world a little closer virtually.
Reading - ‘How to Do the Work’ by Dr Nicole Lepera
Smelling - Kin North incense
Drinking - Coffee from my local, @onehalf_coffee