Hello, I am a writer-photographer, researcher and editor for hire.
I am deeply curious about people and the world, and there is nothing else I like better than to travel off the beaten track and talk to strangers, learn something new, and tell all about it.
My favourite stories are those that exude a strong sense of place and history and capture something of the sentiment of our human existence—through the lens of culture, politics or food. In particular, I am drawn to stories that explore the connections between conflict, memory and identity. Those are also the kinds of stories I try to seek out and tell.
My writing and photographs have been published at CNN, Slate, Roads and Kingdoms, The Guardian, Vice, Esquire Malaysia, and The Malaysian Insider, among others. I also have work forthcoming in the Virginia Quarterly Review.
As a researcher, I am working on a series of political documentaries about Malaysia, produced by Rack Focus Films in Kuala Lumpur. The first, Journey to Independence, covers the years 1941-1957 and was broadcast on the History Asia channel in September 2016. The second, Formation of Malaysia, covers the years 1957 to 1965 and was broadcast in September 2017. More are forthcoming.
I am also available for editing work, bringing former experience from Esquire Malaysia as Associate Editor.
Professionally, I write only in English, which is my first language. I also speak Spanish, Malay, and Mandarin Chinese—enough to have a conversation.
My legal background sometimes comes in handy while reporting stories. I hold a Bachelor of Laws from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a Master of Laws from the City Law School, and passed the English bar as a member of Middle Temple.
I am currently based in Kuala Lumpur and am taking commissions and collaborations.
Previous Editing & Writing Experience
I've had about seven years of professional experience writing news and features for various publications.
Aside from my freelance work, I’ve done internships at The Star (Malaysia’s highest-circulating English daily) and The Guardian. Later, I spent a stint at The Malaysian Insider (a now-defunct leading online news outfit, replaced by The Malaysian Insight) covering the 2013 Malaysian general elections. Most recently, I was the Associate Editor, Features Writer and Books Columnist at Esquire Malaysia, for which I’ve also written news, cultural and personality features.
I’ve also written travel blogs and guides for the likes of Tripadvisor and Expedia, and provided copywriting and translating services to other publications and companies.
Early experiments include a time at Ogilvy Malaysia as a copywriter and at Litro, a London-based literary magazine, as the online editor.
Previous Research Experience
In 2016, I did research for a Malaysian feature film set during the Japanese invasion of Malaya in WWII, focusing on the Malayan Volunteer Air Force and the British and Japanese military forces.
In 2010-11, I helped in researching a background paper outlining the UK’s approach to anti-terror legislation for the Malaysian Bar Council Human Rights Committee, to provide a comparative analysis for the Malaysian government.
That same year, I also wrote a thesis on the practice of sharia law in the UK as part of my Masters of Laws.
Where I'm Coming From
I was born in a little town called Sitiawan and grew up in a little city called Ipoh, both in the Malaysian state of Perak, before my family moved to Kuala Lumpur when I turned thirteen. You could say that travel started early for me: I was weaned and conditioned on frequent interstate family road trips around Malaysia and across the causeway to Singapore, where half my relatives live.
I went to university in London, and living in the global city must have put into motion my desire to see the rest of the world, to become unmoored in it. Then, it was when I went backpacking on my own in Central America that I realised I could travel alone without feeling lonely, live on seven dollars a day if I had to, speak the Spanish language without butchering it, and learn to salsa without inflicting bodily harm on the locals. It’s hard to overstate how those months changed the idea of travel for me. It was no longer about escapism but a closer communion with the world, which, for me, always goes hand in hand with writing.
Still, I'm not a perpetual traveller. Because of work commitments and often inexplicable ties that still bind, I’m usually based in Malaysia. Occasionally, I play at living for some months in another country to better explore it: I was in Peru two years ago, and I've been back to the UK. But Malaysia still feels like my emotional home, even when I resist it. What was that line from Gone Baby Gone? Something about how it's the things you don't choose that make you who you are? I have the traveller's eternal problem of here versus there, no matter where I am.
But before I ever travelled physical distances, I wandered, even further, between the pages of books: The Secret Garden, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Last of The Mohicans, The Call of the Wild, Moby Dick, Gulliver's Travels, Great Expectations… Did any child ever read these books and not grow up wanting to be out in the world?