Thursday, September 14, 2017

Living in Malaysia ... A Reflection on Our 11th Year

As anniversaries arise, one cannot help but reflect back on the journey. December 2016 when we moved to Kuala Lumpur, I had no idea what to expect. People told me their own views about the country and what limitations I would face in finding a job. Fast forward 11 years later, I could not have imagined that it would be this ... good. I didn't say perfect, but I said good because of the following...

1. As an expatriate, it was easy to get around, most people spoke English or would smile to me politely even if they didn't understand me.

2. Buying property is not impossible. You can own a piece of Kuala Lumpur if you intend to invest and stay here for a while. The banking system here is also amazing with the lending schemes they have as compared to back home in Manila.

3. Cost of living has gone higher since that fateful year 2006 when we arrived, but even as things have gone up, it's still better than most South East Asian neighboring countries -- especially if I compare it back home to Manila. Electricity, water, petrol, energy and infrastructure is way better... at this point in time of my writing.

4. Foreigners have equal opportunity to own and run a business.

5. I arrived Malaysia newly married. I had two kids here in Kuala Lumpur and the experience was great. I am grateful that there are opportunities here -- the chance to have good health coverage, the infrastructure of good hospitals and the friendly staff and people which makes it a wonderful country.

6. Competitiveness & aiming to be better and better - I learned many great things from working alongside Malaysians and that is to STRIVE TO BE BETTER every day. They have this spirit of wanting to be better and achieve great heights, and I appreciate that rubbing off on me. They try to achieve better infrastructure, which is the backbone for efficiency and businesses to flourish. The new MRT was recently completed with the forward thinking of the growing population. The roads are widened and increased, to accommodate more cars of the future. I appreciate these especially when I am STUCK IN TRAFFIC in Manila, which can be in a standstill for hours, due to the lack of planning, the lack of will of the past governments to grow or simply the lack of focus.

7. In my 11 years here in Kuala Lumpur, I look back and not a single typhoon... I was born in Manila and witnessed yearly calamities especially how typhoons destroy lives. 11 years here has been peaceful, yes with some incidences (e.g. flooding due to heavy rains) but never like the devastating things that have happened back home. I pray that it continues.

8. Growing number of expatriates and Filipino community -- it makes me feel darn right at home! Throughout the years in KL, I have never seen this much FILIPINOS around! They are everywhere, mostly in the service sectors. And it feels like home hearing their Tag-lish and Tagalog.

9. The government of Malaysia grants Resident Passes to people who are qualified. I am glad that they made it easier for expatriates, as compared to when I just arrived in 2006.

10. Highly connected, good internet and mobile infrastructure. I appreciate it even more after suffering through the snail-paced internet back home in Manila during my visits. Malaysia feels like heaven with the connectivity infrastructure. This allows individuals to discover the world out there, discover brands and what's new... it drives new businesses and faster adoption. This helps the economy and the people move forward.

I'm ending here with just 10 reasons, despite that I have a bagful of other things. I haven't posted for a long while due to a myriad of things that have sprung up since 2016. Meanwhile, as we celebrate 11 years soon ... there is only that feeling of content and happiness -- having left Manila, moved to Singapore and now Kuala Lumpur. Our city, our home.

Leap. Dare to Dream. You only live once.

Four years ago in my small apartment kitchen, heavily pregnant, I dared to dream. I created a few juice flavors, pondered on several names for the brand, lost sleep over the logo design and told myself "I'm going to do it. I don't know how, but I will do it." The unknown was major scary, yet exciting at the same time. I just had to find out if I could make it out there, just being me, Anabelle, without the fancy corporate brands that used to back me up when I worked for the big boys of the tech world.

Today, September 2017 marks the fourth year of La Juiceria. And looking back at my journey, it brings a mix of emotions all at the same time : gratitude, disbelief, awe, happiness, and fear. Sometimes I wake up wondering if I really did what I did. Most days, extremely happy when we achieve new heights or simply seeing customers supporting our brand. Fearful days, when uncertainties arise. Then excitement follows because every day is different.

Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster ride, and you better have the stomach for it, or at least get ready for it, else you will 'throw up' along the way. I knew in my mind what kind of hard work was coming my way when I started. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that if you LOVE what you do, it barely feels heavy or burdensome.

I write this entry with only one purpose in mind. To remind everyone that we have one life to live. Don't be stuck in a job that doesn't fulfill your passion or if doesn't bring you closer to what you achieve to be. Working as a marketing employee for different companies, I cherished everyday because I knew it's what I wanted to do. I didn't feel burdened nor bored. I just knew in my guts that it's part of where I want to go. The hardest part was leaving. Leaving a comfortable job that provided security and some sort of contentment. Letting go was DIFFICULT. Because I feared the unknown. But the I did it anyway, because the bigger fear was NOT KNOWING AT ALL. Not knowing if I can make it as an entrepreneur in a foreign land. I had to know. So I left.

Begin with the end in mind. Have a meaningful purpose. Dare to dream. I wanted to make Malaysians healthy. That was the simple fact why I started. From producing bottled cold-pressed juices to opening cafes, the journey has been exhilarating. A chain of coincidences and happenstance came my way ... and I embraced it all, with positivity and the naive belief that I have an equal chance at it.

I still have a long, long journey ahead, full of uncertainties and challenges. The contentment I have in my heart is that at least I tried it, I gave it my all. Whatever happens along the way is part of the journey. As Steve Jobs had said, "the journey is the reward". I often share with people that if I, a non-Malaysian could create something in Kuala Lumpur, what more Malaysians. You have every opportunity to make it. Take the chance. Leap.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Praying for Gold!

It was a heart-wrenching battle last night as I watched the badminton match of Malaysia vs China. Malaysia emerged as winner in the oh-so-close fight and we are praying for GOLD in tonight's match. 

Meanwhile, as we hope for gold, we want to make people healthier and celebrate at the same time. 

So we will be raising our glasses, I mean juices, as we make a toast to LCW and all the achievements that malaysia has earned in the recent Rio Olympics 2016.

Juice on! 

Friday, April 15, 2016

La Juiceria on Bernama Today

April 13, 2016 - La Juiceria's founder Anabelle Co-Martinent interviewed on Bernama Today Malaysia's TV News Channel

I went on TV to share our story on how we grew La Juiceria, why you should start drinking cold-pressed juices and how it can help you stay healthy. Also shared a little about our new ventures, which aims to help people stay on the healthy path: Goodness Greens Cafe at Taman Tun TTDI and The Honest Treat raw vegan cakes.

Malaysia Entrepreneur Convention on May 28, 2016

Excited to be part of the upcoming Malaysia Entrepreneur Convention where I will be sharing our story and meeting fellow like-minded entrepreneurs. It's a place where I can learn new things and also share back to society the challenges I have gone through the past 2.5 years as we grew our own brand.

For more information:

See you there!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Beauty Product Review: On Turning 40 Years Old!

Turning 40 years old this year 2016, it makes you reflect on a lot of things. From the life that I have lived, to the places I have gone, to the things I would like to yet achieve. Along with turning older comes with taking care of yourself... and lately with the busy lifestyle, I haven't had much time to indulge on the usual things that I treated myself to back in the 30's -- like a proper facial!

To keep skin good, there are 2 things, in my own experience, which are effective.

1. From the inside out - means you need a lot of veggies and fruits, which for me the easiest way is through fresh vegetable and fruit juices. Regular exercise and sweat.

2. Cleaning well & moisturizing - whatever it is, however is my day, no matter where I am, one thing I always do is to clean my face well before hitting the sack at night. Since my days in corporate to today, whatever time I get home or no matter how late I sleep, I would see to it that I remove all make-up completely and do some proper cleaning before the shut eye. Fast forward to my 40's, I still do the same thing.

This is my 10th year in Malaysia, and I can say that the ladies here are blessed with a lot of brands and products to choose from. Some of the products that I am enjoying at the moment (which I find effective) are the following:

Kiehl's Daily Reviving Concentrate in Oil Form
A delicately scented oil which has a nice texture when placed on the face. Not too oily. I put on the oil before any cream. I only use it at night though, to avoid any shiny look during daytime.

Clean up with Caudalie Water which helps to remove any dirt that may be remaining after washing your face. This ensures that extra cleanliness and very gentle to the skin.
Iris Extract Essence by Kiehl's is also something light and easy to use for day and night, just an extra layer of moisture.
Kiehl's Herbal Extract Toner to also help clean out anything that is left  behind after washing. I alternately use Caudalie Water or Kiehl's Toner as a regime after washing my face.

The scent of Sulwhasoo may take getting used to, as you can smell the ginseng inside their products. After using it a few times, I quite enjoy the smell and I would say it's extremely moisturizing and effective.

Back when I was in my 30's I use a lot of Clarins products. I find that brand effective and reasonably priced. At 40, I decided to change it up a bit... and perhaps will change and try more of other things after my stash is finished. I always find that the brands who give out samples wins -- because you get to test it before committing to it.

Lately there have been many brands that have opened their own shops -- for facials, for explaining products, knowledgeable staff for a better experience for customers. Some notable places that I like are:

Caudalie in Bangsar Shopping Centre - they are very generous with samples and have a nice shop (which also does facials)

Kiehl's at Bangsar Shopping Centre - they have many outlets. However this one that I visited was kind enough to give out eye sample, as I wanted to test before making any purchases.

Clarins at Isetan KLCC - this was few years ago, however I just thought I should bring it up. They give out samples on what's available... there was a staff there who was nice, especially whenever I buy something she would give me needed samples which I used for traveling.

Always remember, beauty does not mean just the outside. You need to take care of your insides to maintain good skin.

Don't smoke. That's rule number 1 for me.

Drink tons of vegetable juice. Either you make it at home or buy cold-pressed vegetables and fruit juices. It made a difference for me. Years back, I was going to Sothy's in Publika for my monthly facials... after changing my diet and drinking tons of juices, the facial lady noticed a change in my skin. She used to complain a lot about my dry skin, how I need masks, etc -- and I did notice my skin was on the dry side (for the longest time). I told her that I changed my diet, ate more veggies and fruits, gave up red meat completely (yes, no more beef for me, forever). I felt lighter and better. And my skin showed that.

Beauty comes from inside out. A healthy liver will contribute to healthier skin.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Legoland Theme Park & Waterpark 2016 Johor

Back when Legoland just opened in 2012, we went to visit with my daughter and we couldn't finish the place in one day due to the heat (and rain) plus the long queues. Now that she is 6 years old, we find that the trip is more enjoyable and worthwhile because she is able to try out most of the rides. There is a height limit to most of the rides, and my poor 2-year old son couldn't get on some of the rides while big sister fully enjoyed all -- including multiple times on roller coaster rides and more.

To sum up our 2016 experience:

1. Definitely you must try to go on a weekday. It's awesome to be able to hop on any ride you want and go multiple times. No queue, no crowd. Just utter enjoyment of a huge theme park or water park all to yourself! It was also an easy drive from Mont Kiara KL to Johor. 

2. Stay at Legoland hotel - the easy access to the hotel is wonderful especially for the kids. The room could fit up to 5 people! We brought our helper along with the 2 kids. The room had a king bed with sliding door. The kids had their own little corner bunk bed, and at the bottom it has a pull out. They also have their own TV entertainment. They literally jumped for joy when they saw the room. Of course, there was a box of lego in the room for kids to enjoy. And also we found it interesting that there was a treasure hunt map which we had to solve, and when we were able to open the magic chest, there was a gift for the kids! WOW. They also enjoyed the disco lights inside the elevator, and of course the giant lego castle and ship (at the lobby of Legoland).

3. Take one full day for the Theme Park and another full day for the Water Park. If you have young children with you, you will not be able to finish off both locations in one day, though they do sell combo tickets which allows you access to both parks in a day.

4. Book early to get discounts online!

5. For something to eat nearby at Legoland (and you don't want to eat at the hotel on certain days), I know you will have kids with you so you won't want to drive far... so my best recommendation will be:

Chinese Food (non-halal) : HOOK SANG HOME COOKING 
38 Jalan Indah 15/1, Taman Bukit Indah, 81200 Johor
Tel. 07-2341781

We found this place by accident -- and we were so happy and satisfied that we ate there twice. The place is air-conditioned, well-lighted and clean. Good service. Some of the staff speaks English (in case you're an expat like me, that comes in handy). And best of all -- food is great! We utterly enjoyed all the dishes we ordered with special highlight on the Shrimp Sweet and Sour, the salted fish fried rice, and the bitter gourd soup with some meat inside. Families will surely enjoy eating at this place -- whether you like meat or seafood. 

Pork-Free, Pizza-Pasta Place : MARCO POLO CAFE
35 Jalan Indah 15/2, Taman Bukit Indah, 81200 Johor (very near by Hook Sang, lots of parking space)

It's a typical cafe that serves up lots of options for coffee and tea. They also had some cold-pressed juices. The highlight for us (and the kids) were the quality pizza that they served. I can't comment on the pasta dish as we tried the ravioli (which was ok, plain, could be better). The pizza were awesome. Service was good, too, mostly Filipino staff around). It's super nearby the Chinese restaurant. In fact there is a pool of F&B around that area, but these two places will be the one that we will go back to if ever we will be back to Legoland with the kids.

We visit in March of 2016 -- and the weather is awesome. Hot, no rain, pure sun and sky. We will definitely recommend this to everyone. Again, go on a weekday!

Now, it's time to let the photos speak for itself. 

Legoland Hotel - a grand and colorful welcome as you drive in 

A giant ship greets you at the reception counter -- filled with Lego!

The happy faces when they discovered they had a bunk bed for the rest of the stay!

Easy access to the hotel -- you can enter / exit at your convenience and easy to reach the theme park or water park

Super yum coconuts  at Hook Sang Home Cooking 

Awesome place -- must really visit this clean restaurant with delicious food. Good price too!

Hook Sang Home Cooking interiors

Lotus Root Soup and Stewed Pork

We loved, loved, loved the Salted Fish Fried Rice

More of the salted fish fried rice please!!!

I really enjoyed this Sweet and Sour Shrimp

Bitter-gourd soup with pork -- clear soup which is oh-so-yum!

Little one enjoying the soup as well!

Black Pepper Crab -- not too spicy. Just right for us!

Evenings - outside Hook Sang Home Cooking, they started to set up tables for al-fresco dining.

Marco Polo Kitchen

Cozy Cafe at the Nusajaya Johor - The Marco Polo Kitchen

Lots of options to choose from -- bread, soup, risotto and more...

A lot of pasta choices!

The pizza we ordered were all very good - thin crust. The way we like it!

Date pudding with Ice Cream

The rides - thoroughly enjoyed by 6-year olds and above!

Legoland Visit 2016 --- expats from KL!

Enjoyed building a raft using Lego to move around our kids in their giant pool!

The end of a wonderful 3-nights stay at Legoland Hotel. Adios!

Legoland Malaysia
    Address: 7, Jalan Legoland, Medini, 79100 Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia

Sunday, March 06, 2016

The Midnight Baker Cafe at Seni Mont Kiara

Mont Kiara residents (like myself) will surely be happy to hear that a new cafe has emerged at the lovely corner of Seni Mont Kiara. Especially the residents around that Seni / Kiaraville area, as they will delight in the fact of freshly-baked bread & brownies, as well as child-friendly area where they can grab a cuppa!

The Midnight Baker Cafe, launched by talented husband-and-wife team, created a cozy place where you can hang out -- whether with your friends, your kids or perhaps a bit of alone time with your perfect cup of coffee. Their wholemeal bread and oh-so-delicious brownies will surely win your hearts -- so make sure that's part of your agenda when you do visit the place. Today we enjoyed their Pesto Sandwich and their plain brownies and of course a few rounds of latte and hot tea (earl grey lavender). Too greedy, we also tried the decadent brownies which had pecans and caramel on top.

A great place to catch up on your social media or reading, you will find the place friendly and approachable especially with their head barista who's hip and happening -- Neil Ng, formerly from Podgy and the Banker Cafe. The nice couple Jason and Cheryl will also make you feel right at home should you catch either of them there.

Easy to park on weekends. Surely it will become a favorite of expats who are looking to grab some decent coffee, bread, sandwiches and brownies. There's more selection than what I have mentioned. Perhaps go check it out yourself if you're around Mont Kiara.

Sinful and decadent -- brownies with caramel and pecan topping. Definitely a must for dessert lovers!

New cafe at Mont Kiara -- all expats will surely rejoice!

Perfect cup of latte -- by their talented, hip barista Neil 

Superb Brownies by Cheryl -- a must try when you visit The Midnight Baker cafe

My son obviously enjoying the kids area while watching the action in the kitchen

Cozy little children's area to keep the little ones occupied

Open Concept Kitchen where it allows you to see through -- you get to see where they make their creations.

A place to chill and catch up at Mont Kiara area

Delicious Whole Meal Bread with Fresh Pesto, Cheese and Aragula
Myself and Cheryl (the baker!) attempting a selfie!

The Midnight Baker Cafe
LG 1-3 Seni Mont Kiara, Changkat Duta Kiara
Mont Kiara KL 50480
OPENING HOURS: Tuesday - Sunday 8am - 5:30pm

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