My Story So Far
Teluk Batu, Lenggong, Perak
Hi there! I’m Alexandra Wong. Just call me Alex 🙂
Like most nerdy convent girls of my generation, I dreamt of becoming the next Enid Blyton. If you fly Malaysia Airlines, get your dose of daily Malaysian news from The Star, or turn to Women’s Weekly for interviews with inspirational women, you might have spotted my byline. Check out my published works here.
How I ended up as a writer
After graduating with a degree in English Language and Literature Studies from Universiti Sains Malaysia, I wound up in a Fortune 500 Company, selling computers to large corporations.
Before I stepped into Dell, I thought I would find corporate life dull as dishwater. Boy was I wrong! I enjoyed the wheeling and dealing, made lots of good friends, and gained valuable experience in people and business management.
While I was making good money, deep down, I sensed I was destined for a different kind of life.
Following a life-changing accident in 2005, I quit my job and embarked on a long-overdue bout of soul searching.
I began by visiting all those places on my bucket list, something I didn’t have the luxury to do during my Dell days. I backpacked solo in Kuching, travelled with buddies in Cambodia and Turkey and went on a memorable seven-week journey through USA (with my mum!) that included an exclusive interview with a Chippendales dancer!
With no other intention than recording memorable bits for posterity, I documented my experiences in a blog. Little did I know that my lively anecdotes would attract a modest following, which in turn, sparked an idea about fleshing those blog posts into full-fledged articles. Ok, let’s take a crack at freelance writing, I thought. Back then, the gig economy was practically unheard of.
With nothing except my own life experiences to draw from, I wrote about salt-of-the-earth characters I met along my travels, cosy mom-and-pop eateries I found along the way, charming small towns that make up the real Malaysia. I found rich stories in everyday folk, and these serendipitous encounters eventually became material for Navel Gazer, my column in The Star that ran for 10 years.
If you’re a follower of my work, you’d know that food figures largely in my repertoire. I have an editor in The Star to thank for this: he told me that newspapers were always looking for food stories. “Why don’t you write about those offbeat hole-in-the-walls & stalls you always stumble into? We don’t get enough of such heartwarming and humorous stories!”
Humour and heart. Ingredients that make us human.
To me, the most interesting thing was never the food. It was the human element. The battles that F & B operators fought daily, the prejudice they had to overcome, their colourful backgrounds. I once met a talented chef who was a former body builder. With tears in his eyes, a restaurant owner told me how, after many years of ignoring him, his brother in law FINALLY walked in to try his food when my article came out in The Star. One grateful couple shared, after struggling to attract customers for months, the day my article was published, a crowd like a “tsunami” descended on their shop.
These stories gave me my first taste of making real impact through my work.
Making my mark
Over time, I began to build a name as a writer with a fresh, original voice.
My growing reputation was reflected in the quality of assignments I was getting: attending the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End in Beverly Hills where I interviewed Chow Yun Fatt; an eight-day wine-and-dine media trip through Australia; a BMW-test drive which included a stay in Langkawi’s Four Seasons Resort.
Media work wasn’t enough to pay the bills though, so I diversified to copywriting for international events, government organisations and corporate bodies. Coming full circle, my earlier sales and people management experiences turned out to be an asset. My corporate clients liked how I understood their unique issues and spoke their lingo, without too much hand-holding or crossed wires.
Other highlights of my career include winning national writing awards twice. In 2014, I fulfilled a longtime dream when MPH published my first book, Made in Malaysia: Hometown Heroes and Hidden Gems.
But honestly, what I love most about my job, and the reason I keep returning to it, is knowing that my work has the potential to make another person’s life better in some small way.
A new journey (updated May 2021)
Food is a topic I’m familiar with: my parents, my grandparents and many of my relatives are phenomenal cooks. Needless to say, we’re also hardcore foodies with palates that are extremely hard to please.
When I was younger, I had no interest in cooking, but as I got to interview many chefs and restaurateurs during the course of my career, it was a matter of time before I started wielding a wok and spatula
With time on my hands during the start of the COVID19 pandemic, I began actively documenting my kitchen experiments online.
I created the website Cook with Ipohbunny to be an archive for my recipes as well as my family recipes. I was previously writing them as captions in Instagram and Facebook posts – very inefficient and disorganised!
Along the way, it occurred to me that I could do more with it. I could collect recipes from other friends and give them a permanent home that they can easily refer and share. Then I thought, hey I have interviewed so many chefs for the media – why not ask them to share recipes too? With the onset of COVID19, I learned more about the tremendous challenges that F & B operators face daily and thought their stories would inspire other small businesses to carry on.
Since then, I’ve also ventured into creating cooking videos, which I share on Youtube and Instagram.
I have no idea where this creative path will take me next, but you’re most welcome to stay for the journey. I promise it will be fun