The Singapore Night Festival 2017.

I just gave myself a new project.

Tentatively it’s being called Project I-should-stop-sulking-just-because-I’m-not-in-London. Sometimes I also refer to it as Project Self-reminder-that-Singapore-is-actually-an-awesome-place. (If anyone can come up with a better name, I welcome any suggestions).

Perhaps I also secretly/not-so-secretly want to lure some people into visiting me from the other side of the world. Hence, I have decided that I will blog more about my life in Singapore and what this tiny island has to offer.

(Also, I have a spare bedroom at my flat at the moment, and the public transportation here is a quarter of the price in Denmark, the UK and the US. AND, we have some awesome food in this side of the world. Practically a dream for travellers on a budget. Just saying.)

Ahem, but I digress.

When I returned to Singapore after my two-year stint all over the place, I was swept by a weird sensation of being back at a place that is both familiar and strange. I felt disoriented – small things that I had taken for granted would simply work did not. My transportation card that had never failed me for the past seven years didn’t work because it had expired. My mobile phone data did not work properly. I forgot that thunderstorms are permanently imminent and did not have my umbrella with me on my first night – I got caught in the rain as I was stepping out of my flat for dinner. I behaved like an awkward tourist while trying to order some food. And I got some stares when I ate by myself – I forgot how much of a taboo it is here to be seen having a meal on your own in public.

But as time goes on, I’m slowly tracing my old steps and a sense of familiarity starts to take over. After all, I still live in the same flat, and I am working in the same business district as I was before I left. It is taking a while but at least I can feel some progress in fitting back in.

The first time I felt that I found some of my footing was when I went to the Singapore Night Festival with these two friends who have not changed a single bit since I first knew them a few years ago.

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The Singapore Night Festival dates back a decade to the time when I was studying for my Bachelor’s in SMU. Being a student at a university with a campus smacked right at the city centre meant that we were at the heart of the festival that lit up the whole Bras Basah area. Visiting the festival also brought back memories from my Singapore university days which had ended, ahem, seven years ago.

The festival’s flagship display has always been the light show at the facade of the National Museum. This year’s performance boasted a fascinating 3D effect that certainly felt a notch above the previous editions’.

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10 photos from Marina Bay, Singapore.

Sometimes you wander all over the world and forget what you have at your doorstep.

Almost two months ago, I came back to Singapore (not for good) after living abroad for over 10 months. Over that period of time, I saw many sights that left me in awe and took countless pictures of landscape and architecture in other countries.

I was so absorbed by the beauty of faraway land that I almost forgot the breathtaking views that Singapore has to offer. One of Singapore’s most prided sights is Marina Bay, a waterfront enclave made of reclaimed land and surrounded by an impressive line of skyscrapers. And honestly, it is way up there among the world’s most beautiful.

It of course took two friends visiting Singapore for me to remember and appreciate what I used to have literally at my doorstep for the three years I was working at Marina Bay. While showing them around Singapore, I took the opportunity to retrace the steps that I took hundreds of times previously, sometimes walking on my own, sometimes jogging or sometimes strolling around the Bay while chatting for hours with a friend.

And of course, this time round, I brought my camera with me to try and capture the lovely walk we had. The weather was great that day, albeit very warm and stuffy, with clear night sky and the moon shining brightly.

So here are 10 photos from that evening.

We started with the Gardens by the Bay in the late afternoon.

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And I was quite taken by these heart-shaped leaves.

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Avocado coffee float by Macehat in Medan.

No offence to the creator of guacamole, but when it comes to creating an excellent culinary out of avocado, Indonesians win hands down.

Whenever I went out to eat at an Indonesian restaurant as a child, there was a default drink that I, and many other people who shared the same happy childhood as I did, always ordered: avocado juice (or jus alpukat in Indonesian).

Avocado juice sounds healthy and odd to those who have never tried it before, but it is seriously anything but. A juice may be a misnomer – it is after all more of a smoothie made out of the fruit mixed with milk and sugar. And no jus alpukat in Indonesia is ever complete without a generous dollop of chocolate condensed milk.

I know, avocado + chocolate, who would ever think that the equation = heavenly?

I don’t know when I stopped drinking jus alpukat, but I suspect it was around the time when I started not being able to fit into most of my clothes. So enjoying the drink was only reserved for special occasions in a bid to stop myself from expanding too quickly.

A visit to Medan, my parents’ hometown, after more than fifteen years certainly qualifies as a special occasion. This was why I was looking forward to visiting Macehat, a coffee joint at Jalan Karo no. 20, that was famous for its coffee based drinks as well as avocado coffee float – the Indonesian jus alpukat with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, a big spoon of Milo powder and a single espresso shot, a modern twist to the classic jus alpukat that Indonesians love so much.

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The interior of the ‘cafe’.

One thing that you have to know about me: I hate coffee. It makes me dizzy and sleepy. People have served me different types of coffee drinks, but all they got from me was a disgusted look after one sip.

Continue reading “Avocado coffee float by Macehat in Medan.”

Kuala Lumpur, this time.

Kuala Lumpur, we often rubbed each other the wrong way.

Five years ago, we met after a very long time and I was frustrated by the chaos of your traffic and the craziness of your city. Which was ironic because I came from the city with probably the worst traffic condition in the world. Needless to say, it was partly my fault – I was too pampered after living in the orderly Singapore for a year, where everything works the way it should.

Last year, I travelled far for you, for a festival that got cancelled the moment I arrived after a six-hour bus ride. Not to mention that my bus broke down for three hours in the middle of nowhere on my way back to Singapore. If not for my company at the time, it was probably my worst trip ever.

So I have to be honest. I was not looking forward to seeing you again last week.

But this time, you surprised me. This time, you were gorgeous.

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The best food we ate in Taiwan.

I love to eat. A LOT.

So does my friend JY who went to Taiwan together with me (she is slightly taller than me but only half my width which goes to show that the world can be very unfair, but let’s ignore that fact for the purpose of this post).

We also don’t plan a lot when we travel. Hence it is no surprise that we did not have a list of tourist attractions to visit.

But still, we did have a list of food we needed to try. That is simply how much we love to eat.

After eating our way through Cingjing, Sun Moon Lake and Taipei, we had several hits and misses when looking for awesome must-try dishes. So in order to do the world a service and turn the wasted calories into something useful, I have decided to create the list of food we had there that was absolutely worth trying, with occasional notes of which food turned out to be disappointment.

Fried salty mini fish (Cingjing Farm, Cingjing)

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I honestly did not expect much out of the eatery at Cingjing Farm, but this mini fried fish was a nice surprise! It was served hot and crispy with just the right amount of salt, but be careful of lurking fish bones!

Vanilla Roast Chicken (Lao Ji Po, Cingjing)

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This fragrant roast chicken was recommended by our driver from Taichung to Cingjing. I was half surprised and half glad that the main dish of the mountain with the famous sheep farm is not, well, sheep meat. (I find it morally wrong to be eating any animals that I have pet previously. I may have deliberately not pet any pigs in my life because pork).

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perBED Hostel, Sun Moon Lake.

Before we went for our trip to Taiwan, my friend and I made a pact. We would each pick a city in Taiwan that we were going to visit and book an accommodation there without consulting each other.

Naturally, we both got slightly nervous, mainly because we did not want to disappoint each other with our surprises. To be honest, I am generally pretty easy with where I spend the night while travelling, as long as there are no cockroaches, demons or poltergeist present. But I have to say, not only was I fine with the hostel my friend chose in the end, I was actually very pleased with our accommodation at Sun Moon Lake.

Once she had established that I did not mind staying in dorms, she decided to research into a few places and found this new undiscovered gem called perBED Hostel. It sounded very backpacker-ish, and it did live up to its name, only with an interesting twist. Instead of having the backpackers sleep on normal bunk beds in separate rooms, the hostel has decided to convert cargo boxes and other industrial things into beds and put them all in one big room. perbed1 Continue reading “perBED Hostel, Sun Moon Lake.”

The unforgettable Sun Moon Lake.

I just came back from a trip to Taiwan with a friend, and it was wonderful. Lots of interesting things happened, mainly because of our lack of planning. Most of them were great, and I will have a few accommodation places to recommend if you are looking for something affordable and interesting in different parts of Taiwan.

But before all that, I have to talk about Sun Moon Lake, the main highlight of our trip. Which is ironic because if you have asked me about Sun Moon Lake before this trip, I would have told you that there was nothing too memorable about the place, save for a giant lake and a few temples.

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My first visit to Sun Moon Lake in 2011.

But this time round, Sun Moon Lake was determined to make itself memorable. It has definitely surged up to become the highlight of my trip, although not necessarily in a very conventional way.

We arrived at the Shui She Pier, the main pier of Sun Moon Lake, from Puli some time in the late afternoon and realised that our hostel was at the other side of the lake, at a village called Ita Thao, which was away from all the main attractions and the walking trails.

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Making the most of Devil’s Tears Bay, Nusa Lembongan.

I have been distracted and somewhat grim, judging from my past few posts (or lack thereof). There was work, my badminton journalism stint, being wheeled around on a hospital bed, a boy, and just lots of things that kept me away most of the time from my laptop to write.

But I just came back from Bali, one of the most amazing places in this region, and it would be a travesty not to at least drop by and say hello at my so-called travel blog. Truth to be told, I have lost a little bit of that overflowing ideas on my writing angle on my travel stories due to lack of practice, which is ironic since I’m about to move myself a few thousand miles north to pursue something writing-related (more about that in the coming weeks :)).

So I looked into one of my main sources of writing inspiration – my travel photos (the other one is my favourite travel blog Everywhereist). Apart from finding lots and lots of pictures of food, one place that really stood out was Devil’s Tears Bay at Nusa Lembongan, an island just one hour ferry ride off the the southeast of main island Bali.

It's looked promising since arriving.
It’s looked promising since arriving.

If you think that the name Devil’s Tears Bay sounds intimidating, wait until you are actually at the place.

Continue reading “Making the most of Devil’s Tears Bay, Nusa Lembongan.”

Header of the Month: What the kids in Nepal taught me.

When it comes to procrastination, I think I’m the queen.

I have been wanting to write this post for a while, and it took me two YEARS to finally get around to it.

I think part of me wanted to make this post perfect, since I felt that this travel story that I’m about to write deserves the best. Everything that had thus far come to my head never sounded good enough – I don’t even know if this post is going to cut it.

It took a terrible earthquake that practically damages Kathmandu to shake me out of this mentality, and I decided to write this post about the kids in Nepal, because I’m thinking of them, and I’m praying for their safety.

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The historical tower built in 1832 that collapsed because of the earthquake.

I went to Nepal exactly two years ago on a mission. I had never been much of a charitable person, and definitely not someone who would proactively make time in the weekend to help people in need. And for that, I felt genuinely horrible, as if I were a very evil person. So I decided that perhaps a trip to the poorest country in Asia would make me more charitable.

I expected the living conditions and the tough terrain of Nepalese mountains would teach me a thing or two. And I did learn something from them. But the credit for the best lessons learned should go to the kids, really – I went there to teach them some Mathematics and English, but I came home feeling that I have learned so much more from them.

Here are some life lessons that I had the privilege to be taught by the wonderful kids:

Go the extra mile (or two) to learn

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I remember complaining in my head when I arrived at the mountains and found out that we had to wake up at 6 AM the next morning to prepare for the materials because the kids are scheduled to start their class at 6 30 AM. Grudgingly I set my alarm, only to be woken up the next day before my alarm went off by the chirpy noise of the kids outside! The kids were there an hour early! What made me feel even more ashamed of myself afterwards was that I found out that some of them lived two hours’ walk away, which means they woke up at 4 AM, just to attend the classes that we were going to teach! I never recalled having so much motivation to learn, even though I had all the access to education right at my doorstep…

Continue reading “Header of the Month: What the kids in Nepal taught me.”