My Love Affair

Couple of things you need to know about me.

I am visual, I view the world through my eyes and if I were to lose my sight, that darkness will be something I can never overcome. That is also why I take pictures, to capture moments that will remind me of memories and stories when I need something to fall back on. My personal safety net of adventures to spur me on in my darkest times.

I lose interest in the snap of a finger and once a decision has been made, there’s no looking back. So, fascinate me, teach me something new everyday. Feed my curiosity, quench my thirst for knowledge and you’ll have me wrapped around your little finger.

The easiest way to win my heart – feed me. Literally. A hungry man is an angry man and the same applies for me. Always ask if I’d like some chow aka food, offer me a variety and always eat with me… because sharing is caring.

So, the question is – who has won my heart?

Well, its not so much a who, really, but a what. And since the first encounter, the very first experience, I was smitten. Head over heels, electrifying sparks, you name it, I felt it. So when did it all begin? 2008. Close to home, a bus ride away. I took my first trip without my folks to Genting and thus began my Love Affair with Travel.

Genting may not seem like much to the well-travelled but back in 2008, taking my first trip out of the country, passport in hand, without the parents, I felt empowered and charged. The weather up in the Highlands unlike the heat and humidity of Singapore, I felt as if I had been teleported to a far-off land. For the next 3 days, I held a foreign currency, gambled in the casinos, ate all the junk food I could lay my hands on, rode the rides in the theme park and played dress up. The smile on those pictures clearly exemplifies the sheer state of joy I was in.

And then, in the later part of 2008, upon graduation, I took a larger leap. Korea for a month. This was huge for me. Absolutely foreign land, did not speak the native tongue and in the bitter cold of winter. I was at once excited and scared. The day of lift off, it was one of teary farewells as we took off to the land of kimchi and hanboks. PS. Even back then I was a social media addict.

The travel distance was excruciating long because as students and with no part of the trip funded, we logically chose some of the cheapest tickets which meant long-ish transits [SG-BKK-HK-KR] but we did arrive in Korea safe and sound in the dead of the night. Which, if you ask me, is pretty daunting as there’s nothing worse than arriving in a foreign land, with no knowledge of local tongue in the dead of night. Evidently, we survived, or I wouldn’t be able to share my experience now.

A month long stay in Seoul saw us coping with the winter cold with our tropical bodies, visiting all the museums, galleries, palaces, shopping districts and even working with an agency to test a potential Visit Seoul advertisement for the Singapore market! We got paid USD100 just to watch 3 adverts and the one we taught would work best for our markets. Now, how many people can say they had an experience quite like that?

Since then, I’ve visited many more countries, exposed myself to various new cultures and made many new friends. This love affair for travel is one that has fed my visual eye, curiosity and gut. I’ve also made a commitment to make time and money to travel every year. You see, commitments work like that. You need to invest in it and never, ever regret. That is how I’ve learnt to live my life since 2008. In 2010, as a further investment to the self, I started this blog to document my travels, eats and adventures so that one day if I ever do lose my memory, I hope that this blog will help me regain that consciousness.

Now, that is my Love! for travel expressed as part of my entry for the Love! Tasmania campaign where YOU, YES YOU! can also enter to stand a chance to win an 8 Days 6 Nights trip to Tasmania for 2!

How to participate?

In 100 words or less Express Your Love for what you love in life

  • It could be in the form of a poem, a passage, a song or video – Be as creative as you like.
  • If you can include Tasmania it would help!
  • Entries can include a photo* or video* (30 seconds to 1 minute in length)
  • Note: Image should be sent in jpeg format with less than 1MB. Video should be uploaded to youtube and limit to 30 second to one minute. Please submit your video link only but not the actual video. Please ensure the copyright is solely owned by submitted participant, or copyright is cleared. All images and videos submitted are automatically giving Tourism Tasmania free rights to use for their own marketing purposes.

Entries will be loaded from 13 to 23 February 2012

After approval by Tourism Tasmania administrator the entry will be loaded onto Tourism Tasmania’s DiscoverTasmania facebook page.

Get your friends and family to ‘like’ your entry from 14 to 27 February 2012.

Judging will be undertaken by the following criteria

    * 30% Number of ‘Likes’ received

    * 30% Creativeness of entry

    * 40% Overall Presentation

There will be four sets of winners – one each from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China and the winners will be announced on 29 February 2012.

Who’s Down for some Trippin’?

Trippin’ [defined] – taking a trip/ break/ holiday outside of one’s home country. If you thought I meant getting heady and losing your mind, you’re mistaken and I’ve clarified.

That said, I don’t know a single soul who would shy away from an offer like that, unless, of course, that person suffers from Pteromerhanophobia. Big word. No fear. It actually just means the fear of being on an airplane or other flying vehicle.

What if I tell you that all you need to do to win yourself such a trip is to write? Better yet, write about anything under the sun, write about the things you love. You’re sitting up in your chair now aren’t you? I mean how difficult is that? The things you love, you could gush on and on about it and your pals will probably have to shut your trap for over sharing.  So now that you’re interested, take a good hard look at the picture below. Whistling yet?

That, my friends, is Wineglass Bay, Tasmania, Australia [picture from Fancy]. If you’re not mesmerized yet, I really don’t know what to say. When I first saw this image, I was already picturing myself buried in the soft white sand with the cool surf crashing against my body, the sea spray a relief from the white hot sun beating on my face. If you’re having the same visual of yourself in that setting, boy do I have news for you.

In conjunction with Valentine’s Day, Tourism Tasmania is running a contest for you, yes YOU, to submit your words on things you love. On the theme of ‘Express Your Love,’ tell the folks at TourismTasmania about the object of your affection and move them. If you make them laugh, or shed a few tears, you may be well on your way toTasmania for, wait for it, a whopping 8 days and 6 nights! Better yet, you get to bring that special someone or a pal with you. Aren’t you glad you read this post now? Lucky you.

I know you want the full down low now and I shall not keep you waiting any further. Head over to the LOVE! Tasmania microsite now to get all the details you need and start writing and sharing TODAY!

PS. The banner on the right or pictured below [yep, just roll your eyes over a tad rightwards] also takes you to the microsite. Good luck folks!!!

Ben’s, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Found myself in the state of Kuala Lumpur for business back in November and it was one of those trips where I had some time on my hands, a free spot in the schedule. Delighted but uncertain of the scene in Kuala Lumpur, I enlisted the help of a friend via BBM and found myself in Pavilion mall, enroute to Ben’s.

Ben’s concept is that “great memories are shared over meals, thus to eat is to love.” Eating and love is a concept I identify with and perhaps that is why I felt immediately at home setting foot into Ben’s. Staring at the frames installed through the cafe, one feels an immediate connection to the space and a wave of relaxation washed over me as I sank into the couch. In fact, the overall aesthetic is something I could see myself applying in my future home – raw whitewashed walls, memories enclosed in frames… You get the drift.

Arriving at tea time, I noticed the lack of a crowd but it suited me all the better as I’m not one for people in my face. Without lunch, I was definitely famished but oddly enough I was craving only the sweets. Didn’t help that the ‘help’ I enlisted via BBM had been raving about the red velvet cake since his return from KL and enlisting his help that day, the rave continued and probably even peaked.
Settling myself along the stretch of sofas, flipping through the handwritten menu which I absolutely adore cos it feels so personal, I envisioned the writer in my mind’s eye whose cursive hand is absolutely sexy. If anyone knows whose hand penned those words on the menu, please share. I’d love to drop that person a note of compliment for that impressive hand.

Back to the orders, I obviously settled on the much raved about Red Velvet Cake although I would typically have selected a Toffee Date Pudding as featured in the menu above and a   piping hot pot of tea. Sadly, the Red Velvet Cake failed to live up to the raves. It was not bad but I guess my expectations were sky high from the raves and it fell flat on its face. The cream cheese had too much of a dairy flavour for my liking and the cake lacked the moistness which I guess was due to the overexposure in the fridge. The icing between the layers however, do get the thumbs up from me.

Unsatisfied, I requested for the menu because, as the card reads and I answer – I live to eat. Still hooked on my tarte au citron addiction post Paris I ordered naturally, the lemon meringue tart, psyching myself out for the flavors I would expect. Wrong move. When you’ve tasted something so divine and the impression has never left you, it sets you up for disappointment. We all know this feeling, we’ve experienced it in our daily lives and here I was, experiencing it on a plate. Not that this particular lemon tart was god awful but it just lacked that x-factor from the one at Le Loir Dans la Théière.

When it first arrived, my heart sang. Beautifully browned meringue, rich looking lemony tart with a gorgeous crust. I was seduced… until I sank my fork in. That’s when the melody stopped and my face crumbled. The meringue immediately separated from the tart revealing a glossy almost wax-like appearance on the surface of the lemon tart. That was the first major turn-off. But not wanting to judge a book by its cover, I pierced into the tart and scooped up the separated components for a taste. The flavors were there. The lemon tart had that citrus flavor and complemented the sweetness of the meringue but it lacked the freshness and vibrancy of a dessert as such. You can say this tongue has been spoilt  by Le Loir Dans la Théière and woe is me for my hunt for the same, or an even better version of the lemon meringue tart in this part of our world.

That said, if you ever find yourself in KL do visit Ben’s for some easy downtime and good treats. I may have been a little too harsh in this particular write-up but its because my expectations were wayyyyyyyy up there and its not a fair judgement in my opinion. So have two pots of tea, two desserts or more, just like I did and enjoy a good read if you are alone or a good conversation if you’re with friends.

GETTING THERE

Le Loir Dans la Théière, 4ème arr, Paris, France

Here’s my confession. Me and sweets, we go a long way back but Maze by Ramsay in London introduced me to the wonder that is citrus based desserts. You see, I’m under the impression I’m a compartmentalised eater. Savoury for mains, sweets for desserts and no room for anything in between. I now know I am wrong. That oft chance that was the lemon combo comprising a lemon refresher, lemon tart, confit lemons, Jersey ripple ice cream at Maze by Ramsay in London changed by compartmentalised eating ways BUT was nothing compared to the experience that was the tarte au citron at Le Loir Dans la Théière.

After shopping the lanes of Rue du Roi de Sicille and circling back to complete Rue des Rosiers in my hunt for vintage goods, it hit me that it was a little after 3pm and we hadn’t had lunch. Referring to my bible of research print outs we decided to check out Le Loir Dans la Théière to hang up our wearied limbs for a rest and to refuel for the day that remained to be unfolded.

I still remain undecided whether my research yield an inaccurate address or the shop had relocated several shopfronts down the street but my word is, as long as you’re on Rue des Rosiers, keep walking until you chance upon a maroon red door close to the intersection that is Rue Pavée.

TIDBIT – translated, Le Loir Dans la Théière is ‘Dormouse in the Teapot’

The cafe is inspired by the fantasy that is Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland and once through, you’ll see and experience the whimsical and the quirky as you pass in the enclosed space.

The touch I was really captivated by was the presentation of the tea time specials in white marker on mirror. We’ve all seen the chalk on board raw presentation but trust the French to bring a touch of elegance, class as well as hygiene to the regular chalk on board write-up.

So, how can you tell the popularity of a place? Easy. The rate at which items sell-out. Arriving at the tail-end of tea meant that there were no mains for us to choose from, lunch service is over ma’am [you should totally know that] and desserts are on display at the counter. We turn, empty plates on display with few to spare. We despaired but wearied and famished as we were, we buckled down and placed our orders. Despite the limited choices, it was a sweet reward. So imagine if you had options.

Starting with beverage, and I know this may come as a surprise to many but a good cuppa of hot chocolate, or au chocolat chaud in French, is a rare find in this capital. From day one, I’ve been on the hunt for that molten richness that would slide down my throat and invigorate my entire system but I had been repeatedly disappointed by cup upon cup of thin, over-creamed versions of hot chocolate. Persevered I did and Le Loir Dans la Théière answered my prayer with a jug so rich it can serve as a meal for an individual with enough to spare. This is a must order if you’re a hot chocolate fan.

The star of the place, the dessert that would make me propose to anyone at all – the famed tarte au citron. Many, I know will say this dessert is overkill. Too sweet, sugar rush, dental troubles and dare I say it? – THE CALORIES. But hey, you and I, we both live once and if you’re gonna count miserable numbers for the rest of your life I feel for you and I’ll eat on your behalf. The meringue on this lemon tart is “c’est magnifique,”  and the sweetness is balanced by the tartness of the lemon tart. Très bien.

The other  treats we had at Le Loir Dans la Théière did not disappoint either. The peach tart and citrus sponge with glaze were good by most standards but stacked against the winsome  tarte au citron, there is no comparison.

Oh! Word of caution. The servings are giganormous so please do order in moderation.

HOW TO GET THERE

Address: 3 Rue des Rosiers, 4ème , 75004 Paris

Reservations: +33 1 42 72 90 61

By tube: Stop at Saint-Paul, Le  Marais.

Pistoletto. Serpentine. Kensington. London.

What do you do when you find yourself caught in the drops of London’s perpetual gloom and you’re in a garden, vulnerable to the elements, to be more specific, Kensington Gardens?

Here’s what we did. We ducked into the next available roofed shelter we saw and we found ourselves at the doorstep of the Serpentine Gallery. The unacquainted, I was excited. I mean, what do you expect when you chance upon a place so named the Serpentine Gallery. In my mind’s eye, I saw multi-media presentation of serpents… you get my drift. Yes, I took it literally and yes, I was wrong.

The Serpentine Gallery is a modern and contemporary art lover’s hideaway and as we chanced upon the place fairly late in the day, we only had time for one exhibit – Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Mirror of Judgement.

I’m no connoisseur in the appreciation of modern and contemporary art but I loved Pistoletto’s use of raw materials [i.e. corrugated cardboards] to create an accessible maze of individual carved out spaces that is at once whole and separate entities reflective of the distinct point of views he tries to convey in his work.

The experience is almost one of self-discovery as you navigate the maze and approach each new space with hopefully, an open mind. Each space pays homage to a different religion – Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, beckoning the viewer to explore the depths of their reflection beyond their religious views. At least that’s what I got out of it.

Watch The Telegraph’s interview with the artist for more insights.

The feature that still haunts my memory is the one in the entrance/ exit – a well-shaft with a mirror placed at the bottom of the installation reflecting the circular skylight from the structure of the Serpentine Gallery. The sense of depth and wonderment hits you all at once and when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the reflection against the wide sky, the sense of insignificance and yet, a strange empowerment hits you. I walked away from that first instillation somewhat bewildered, in awe and curious.

Since my return from London, I’ve had the time to work on some background research and learn more about the exhibition I chanced upon as well as the man behind the work. Pistoletto has been referred to as the poet of the mirror, sage of the arte povera movement, both elements markedly distinct at the Mirror of Judgement exhibit. I am humbled at having had the honour of being exposed to his work and I do hope more Singaporeans get to be exposed to such exhibitions – on this dot of ours or when they’re out there exploring the wide world and all it has to offer.

Just for fun, while Googling information on the Serpentine Gallery, I chanced upon this Youtube video titled – Peggy Sue: Lover Gone [live @ Serpentine Sessions, Hyde Park]. Had to throw this in for the sentimental value of the nickname Peggy Sue which the Director at my ex-agency bestowed on me.

Break the Routine

Instead of the everyday – ‘How are you?’ and the routine reply of ‘Good,’ I’d better appreciate a different way of making your presence felt. Break the routine before everything else falls into pieces.

Shot: Postcard, Serpentine Gallery Bookshop, Kensington Garden, London, United Kingdom

Bonjour from the land of baguettes and macarons

So I’ve always gotten my macaron fix from TWG in SG. Now that I’ve hopped off the Eurostar from London, I can’t wait to hit Ladurée for that sugar rush, observe Parisan chic, lose myself at the Lourve, have a picnic at the Tuileries Garden and just knock back whites all week long. Till the return, au revoir!

SIN – DXB – LHR

As you’re reading this, I should be plain knocked out on the plane bound for Heathrow via Dubai or doing some stretches/ trying to pop my ears/ annoying the shit out of my travel companion on this European leg/ just reading a plain ol’ book.

From London to Bakewell, Manchester, back to London, I can hardly wait to sample at Maze, one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, capture memories at Trafalgar Square, visit the Westminster Cathedral and Palace, thrift at Camden Market and perhaps catch a play or two in our almost week long time there before hopping on the choo-choo to Paris.

So now you know why I can hardly keep a straight face. See you in 2.

Phu Qoc, Vietnam – Resort Side

Because its a Sunday and the sun is a-blazing, I’m fantasizing about an island surrounded by crystal blue-green water, foaming with each tidal crash. I searched for a memory, a place where I can relive the moment and the experience of Phú Quốc just earlier this year floats to mind.

The largest island in Vietnam, it occupies approximately 574 square kilometers with a permanent population of about 85, 000. In the lead-up to our Vietnam-ventures, the pal sent me links to this getaway and it was love at first image, I knew I was hooked and it was immediately shortlisted and worked into our itinerary.

Our strategy was to visit the cities and have a rest pit in the middle of our journey to ensure we return to our hectic lives well-rested and a-glow. So here’s what we did – Sinapore – Ho Chi Minh – Phú Quốc – Ho Chi Minh – Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh – Singapore. You’ll realise that the only flight operating to Phú Quốc is Air Mekong, a domestic carrier, from the Ho Chi Minh airport. That left us perplexed as it was not cost effective to return to Ho Chi Minh repeatedly but after exhausting all alternatives, it was the best plan we could come up with. It was frustrating, no less, but once we had all the tickets booked, we tossed all frustrations aside and settled in for the ride.

After 3 days in Ho Chi Minh, we were ready and eager to soak up some sun and we arrived at the airport to be greeted by this…

… snaking long queues, barely there facilities, bus shuttles form the terminal to the aircraft etc. We were somewhat deflated but envisioning the end destination – Phú Quốc, we soldiered on.

While waiting for our plane, we goofed around at the waiting area and that was the proof of our ‘sanity’ while travelers seated around us offered looks of amusement and puzzlement.

The promise land closer, the waiting bay behind us, we approached Air Mekong which I have since dubbed the ‘flying school bus’. Its tight, just like the school buses back in the 1990s which we rode to school on. Compact and fucntional with wings, that’s what the Air Mekong is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mocking it but I found the experience quaint and refreshing, bringing back fond memories of innocence and that sense of wonderment at every little thing. In fact, if I were to do a quick comparison between the two domestic flights we flew, I’d give Air Mekong  a 7/10 for experience and Jet Star Vietnam a 1/10. It was that bad but that’s a story for another time.

Buckled in, we landed in Phú Quốc in the blink of an eye and the airport experience there came as another shocker for us city girls.

First, we made our way by foot along the runway to the airport that laid mere metres away. Next we watched as crew unloaded our bags onto trolleys and wheeled it to the conveyor belt that was so small that I found the idea of even having one ridiculous. Seriously, just place the bags on the ground and we could have easily picked our bags up. But hey, perhaps they’re attempting to modernise and eliminate physical manpower and until the process is completed, they’ll remain in limbo.

Picking up our bags, we looked for our driver and were immediately bundled up in the car and transported to our resort. Things can’t get any worse right?

We checked in at our resort which was rustic, laid-back and as we meandered through the garden of our resort, I felt that peace returning to be and I thought to myself – I am going to be so rejuvenated at the end of the next 3 days. Until we opened the door to our room. My jaw literally dropped.

This was the sight that greeted me. There I was expecting an air-conditioned room, lust soft beds that I could melt into after a long day under the sun. But no, I was greeted by mosquito nets, bare furnishing and a flat ass bed. I laughed. I laughed a deep, exasperated laugh and said to my pal – ‘Welcome to the kampong.’ We kept laughing. I think we were in shock, but we kept laughing – in an attempt to keep the mood light, or an attempt to console ourselves or the other, I don’t know. But we kept laughing as we unpacked, as we explored the bare essentials available in our room, we kept laughing. Deciding to hunt down what we came here for, we pulled on our swimwear, locked up our kampong resort and made a beeline for the beach.

There, everything changed. We gasped at the blueness of the ocean that greeted us, the fineness of the sand below our feet. It was beautiful, magical even, and we tossed all our tragic experiences of the day at the foot of our resort and embraced the beach.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach, beer bottles by our side.

We tanned,  read, fell asleep..

We cooled down in the ocean and splashed around like kids..

We buried our feet in the cool sand, a respite under the scorching sun…

And we goofed around some more..

The sunset captured my heart and I will never forget it.

And oh young love, that smooch against the setting sun. Romantic as hell, perfect getaway for a spot of romance indeed. Didn’t mean to be stalker-ish but it was a really beautiful scene, don’t you agree?

We concluded our first day on Phu Qoc with a garden dinner by the sea at the La Veranda Hotel, specifically the Le Jardin restaurant. We had Vietnamese spring roll to start, a seafood platter to share and fancy chocolate dessert to end the night on a beautiful note.

That concludes day #1 on the island, stay tuned for day #2 for hidden gems.

Taking Flight

On the road yet again, this time 3 cities in 4 days – namely Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur. I’ll miss you, miss me too.

For now, enjoy the silly shots of me ‘taking flight’ under the scorching heat of Thailand.

And oh, I do think I look like a Cheshire cat in this shot. Not very flattering eh?