In defence of Birmingham.

The weekend I got dragged to appear live on the television.

“You are going to Birmingham this weekend? I’m sorry.” – Informant #1

“There is not much to do there and it’s not the nicest place.” – Informant #2

“Birmingham is certainly not the prettiest city. Haha, even without knowing which area you were talking about I would say yes, it’s likely to be dodgy.” – Informant #3

No one I spoke to had anything good to say about Birmingham.

Having been at the receiving end of such comments from three people who didn’t know each other, I was understandably not thrilled about visiting Birmingham.

The city was in the spotlight a couple of months ago after the horrid attack at Westminster in London. The police raided a flat at Hagley Road in Birmingham and arrested three men there who were allegedly related to the atrocity. When I looked up the address, it was just a few blocks away from the Airbnb that I had stayed in a couple of weeks prior.

So what brought me to Birmingham you asked?

The All England, the oldest badminton tournament in the world (or the Wimbledon of badminton for those of you who have made a grave mistake in your choice of racquet sports), was held there in March. As a testament of how little the city has to offer, apparently the badminton tournament no one outside the badminton world had really heard of constitutes what would be “the busiest week in Birmingham” in the whole year. Hotel and accommodation prices skyrocketed as tourists flocked to the city from all over the world to witness the battle for one of the most prestigious badminton tournaments.

Had I not been a student, I would have jumped at the opportunity. But having almost no income at the time, I just had to be prudent with my spending; taking a train ride up north and staying at an overpriced Airbnb (I’ll come to this later) seemed to be rather… imprudent.

After a thorough deliberation, I still went anyway. Because badminton.

But I clearly wasn’t as excited as someone who had once travelled all the way to Copenhagen from Singapore to watch her favourite badminton shuttler retire should have been.

I booked a 7AM train on a Saturday morning – that alone had made me slightly grumpy. Add to the fact that my Airbnb host was giving me a lot of problems, asking for 20 quids extra for that one night I was staying because it being the busiest weekend of the year meant that he could have easily found someone who would be willing to pay much more than 30 quid a night for a room in a dodgy location – I started to question my sanity for deciding to go in the first place.

But after my week-long rant to my flatmate and anyone else who would listen, Birmingham, bless the city, was really pulling all stops to prove me wrong.

First, they impressed me right away with their breakfast. Or rather, how cheap their amazing breakfast was.

This plateful of goodness for 3.55 quid.

Although to be fair, before the food even arrived I already knew that the trip was worth it when I was greeted by this awesome friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in 3 years.


And if there is anything that I should know about myself by now, badminton tournaments excite me to no end. Just being in the stadium, surrounded by like-minded dorks who actually care about the sport, is exhilarating in its own right. Let alone the adrenaline rush of trying to interview the athletes after their matches, running up and down the steps of the stadium to reach the press room in time – the motion was all too familiar and reminded me so much about all those years reporting at the Singapore Open.

Continue reading “In defence of Birmingham.”

SEA Games 2015 Opening Ceremony, a consolation.

I should be in San Francisco right now, getting ready to witness one of my best friends getting married to the love of her life. I should be hanging my dress in the wardrobe of my room at an ‘Amazing Apartment by the Seaside’ (according to my Airbnb description), rehearsing what I’m going to say during the wedding dinner tomorrow as part of the bridal party, and generally looking forward to an extraordinary day in a beautiful city with my beautiful friend.

But life has to deny me all that, because I have no means to travel. I shall not go into detail because it would simply upset me even more, but let’s just say this time, I have to begrudgingly bow down to limitations of rules and not travel.

Which I have to say is very unlike me. I don’t let rules tie me down from doing what I want, especially if I have set my mind to it. I mean I wouldn’t necessarily break the rules, but I would push pretty darn near the edge of doing so to get what I want (as long as the possibility of going to jail or getting deported is nowhere in sight).

Like that one time when my family was in NYC for New Year’s Eve and we were planning to watch the ball drop at Times Square. My mom, having a true blue tropical blood, can’t stand the cold, so we were not able to simply stand at Times Square from 7pm in 0 degrees waiting for midnight. So we decided to take our chance, and rushed to Times Square from our hotel 15 minutes into midnight and understandably, all the roads to Times Square have already been closed and guarded by burly NYPD officers. We tried street after street to no avail, and I was on the verge of giving up

Until I saw a group of girls being let in because they danced to the officer.

Fuming mad, I did the only thing I could think of. I went up to the police officer and showed our hotel key and said that our hotel is located along the street and he should let us in. And he did. I got in to Times Square by LYING TO AN NYPD OFFICER. We got in just in time when the song ‘What a Wonderful World’ was playing, and the tune had never sounded more welcome.

And here is a picture to prove our achievement!

Continue reading “SEA Games 2015 Opening Ceremony, a consolation.”

Singapore Formula 1 weekend.

Once a year Singapore gets a major influx of tourists. There is no prize for guessing why.


While half of me is really glad that I do not have to shove through with the crowd and spend the whole night in an unbearable humid and warm weather, as I’m looking at the eager-eyed tourists wearing the passes, the other half of me does miss the fantastic weekend I had almost exactly a year ago, being pushed around, getting all sweaty and sticky but at the same time be part of the heart-racing and deafening night race excitement.

So here is me joining the hype by reminiscing my favourite moments at Formula 1 weekend exactly one year ago. And hopefully you will see why you should go to the Formula 1 at least once, especially if you live in Singapore.

Continue reading “Singapore Formula 1 weekend.”

In the spirit of Rio 2014: Cupcakes.

It’s funny I’m writing this post the day after my face was smacked by a ball during my football game, but I have been trying to show the world that football can be girly. And since World Cup is going to start tomorrow very early morning (in this part of the world at least), there is no better time wager on this belief.

After my bold statement of shocking pink football shoes (what can be more girly than pink, seriously?), last weekend I decided to combine football with another thing that is as girly as it can be – baking cupcakes.

Okay, I wouldn’t lie and say that I did the whole baking because no one would ever buy that. My role for the day was more of a cupcake decorator, using whatever limited knowledge I had on football and even more limited knowledge on cupcake decorating to whip up something that people could tell was related to football, Team England and worthy to enter a contest. It was all a trial and error process and stay with me till the very end to see the result!

Let me start with less appealing pictures. Shaky photos were the result of me attempting to take photos with my icing-covered hands.

Cupcakes, before they were.
Cupcakes, before they were.
The state of the kitchen while the work was in progress.
The state of the kitchen while the work was in progress.

Continue reading “In the spirit of Rio 2014: Cupcakes.”

Just in case you are wondering.

I haven’t gone missing. I haven’t been travelling this week either. Instead, I was busy with this.

My favourite use of the Singapore Indoor Stadium
My favourite use of the Singapore Indoor Stadium

My annual sports journalism stint at Singapore Open Superseries was brought forward this year from the usual timing in June to April. Lots and lots of fun as usual and I always find this to be the perfect marriage between my passion for writing and badminton.

It was a week-long of endless speed writing, so much so that sometimes I felt that I ran out of words to use! But as always, words will magically appear, even though after hours of staring at the same paragraph or getting distracted by Facebook every now and then.

One discovery I made last week was that too much pork could cause writer’s block! I had steamboat with some friends on Saturday and after that I could not write a single word for the longest time.

Anyway, here is a little glimpse into how my badminton journalism life is like.

Continue reading “Just in case you are wondering.”

Singapore on two wheels.

Aaand I did it – the 50 km cycle around Singapore. Something I have dreaded and looked forward to at the same time.

Tour de Singapore has been an exhausting journey, both physically and emotionally. While the physical tiredness from having to attend weekly spinning classes in preparation was very much expected, the emotional part came as a surprise. The pressure only came in much later, closer to the race – I was growing nervous and restless, unsure about the road safety and whether I would be fit enough to complete the distance. It was amplified by the fact that one of my friends who was joining the ride with me was no longer joining. It felt like I lost a bit of emotional support. It also did not help that half of the time I was wishing I had decided to forget about this whole cycling thing and join my friend on a 3-day football charity trip to Cambodia from 14th-16th Feb. (The title of this post at one point in time was dangerously close to be “Cambodia: Of Football, Happy Pizza and Fried Tarantulas” had I chosen to go.) But I had too much of a sense of commitment in me to quit halfway as tempting as the Cambodia trip sounded.

And I’m really I happy I went through with it. It was a well-spent 5 hours of my journey and looking back at all the preparation that I had done, it was the only right thing to do, really.

(Although after hearing the exciting stories from Cambodia, I did have a sliight regret, but hey, you can’t have everything).

So read on, if you want to find out more about what happened before, during and some observations that I reflected upon completing.

Continue reading “Singapore on two wheels.”