Log in

Time to Say Goodbye...

After about 6 years, it's time to say goodbye to Livejournal. Celebrate Life! has moved to a new site - celebratelah.wordpress.com. It is now called Celebrate Life Lah!

It was not an easy decision to move and a lot of time was spent on migrating the blog, but as my blogging requirements have changed, I needed a blog service that provides me with more tools and flexibility in creating contents.

I've enjoyed the community aspect that Livejournal provides, a function I love to exploit because it broadcasts my entries on all the friends' pages linked to me. In a way, that 'forces' people to read my blog no matter how boring or long it is. That reign of terror shall now end! This will be my last post on Livejournal. I hope you will continue to support and follow my entries at the new site.


So what can be expected at Celebrate Life!'s new home? What are the special features there?

SPICE OF LIFE - The 'SPICE OF LIFE' page found on the new site's menu bar lists Competitions & Contests in Singapore which you can take part. It includes descriptions, registration ending dates, prizes and links to contests that spices up our daily life! Do check the page frequently for additions of new competitions to join. It also lists events, concerts, trips, etc coming up for me and perhaps our paths may cross.

FEATURED ALBUMS - Throughout the years, you've given me very good feedbacks and encouragements on my passion in photography. Thank you very much! At the new site, I've created 'Featured Albums' links so that you can easily access the albums that complement a series of posts, or instead of reading, you can just view a photo-story.

CATEGORIES - Entries are now tagged and categorised so that they can be easily accessed and searched. The 'Categories' section can be found on the right column of the blog.

More links, easier navigation

With this change, I hope the blog will also be more pleasing aesthetically and dynamic in updates. It is my wish that the blog can be more than just a place that record my thoughts, but also a place where you can find useful information and interesting things to do in Singapore.

Thank you all so very much for reading all these years, leaving me comments, suggestions and openning up my world through your blog posts. May our sharing continue... See you over at Celebrate Life Lah!

WE 2010 : ASEAN Pavilions

Of the more than 200 country pavilions and themed pavilions, I visited only 30 of them. That’s less than a quarter of this phenomenal event, but it was still plenty to experience, record and learn from. So since I started talking about the country pavilions with Singapore’s participation, I thought I’d follow up with a review of the pavilions by the other 9 members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

As with the thoughts about the Singapore Pavilion and all subsequent posts about pavilions, I have to qualify that the opinions expressed are merely based on my personal experiences as a visitor. Just as we all have a different vision of what a perfect world should be, so will opinions vary on what makes a pavilion worthy of visit.

While some pavilions left a lasting impression on me, others failed to pique my interest. And having seen 30 of them, my basis of comparison while limited, draws on after-thoughts about what was interesting and what was as interesting as watching paint dry.

But one thing I do keep a look out for is the feel of a pavilion’s character and personality. That X-factor. Its gusto. Its voice. Does it read me a fascinating and unforgettable tale of the country it represents, or is it a textbook narration of its history, sociology, economy, anthropology, political ideology… zzzZZZzzz… zzzzzz…

In other words, is the pavilion a Nerd? A Stud? A Plain Jane, or a Beauty Queen? Well, here are 9 Asian pavilions I shall attempt to characterize and they are arranged in the order from Z to X…

Brunei Pavilion

My very first step on the pavilion arena on the very first morning was at Zone B’s Asian Square. The Singapore Pavilion was directly across and I was next to the Brunei Pavilion. While I was standing there, stopped in my tracks by encountering the larger-than-life pavilions for the first time, trying to comprehend the awesomeness of size and space all around, forgetting to breathe… and my reverie got interrupted by a female voice hawking a pavilion.

         Brunei Pavilion

Sounded almost like a lelong at a pasar malam. In all my 3.5 days visiting the Expo, I didn’t hear any other pavilion being touted this way. I didn’t succumb to the tempting invitation of ‘no queue’ and visited Singapore first. When I returned to visit Brunei after lunch, there was still no queue. And the female staff was still advertising.

I walked right in to Brunei Pavilion and I liked it. It was a burning 38°C outside and I liked that the spaciousness and lack of crowd kept the air-conditioning cold. Yup, that’s about it. The pavilion was good only for enjoying some air-con.

         Standard fare

After I went one round of its exhibits, I understood why there was no queue. There wasn’t anything much to see. The pavilion was bright and neat with the deployment of standard exhibition panels, shelves and plasma TVs to loop touristy videos. The one eye-catching thing was the blue-lighted floor designs that I assume represented water since the pavilion’s theme was something to do with nature.

         Brunei 3

Brunei is a pretty rich country so it’s kinda surprising that the pavilion looked like it didn’t require much financial effort. Moreover, the choice of exhibition topics such as the plain listing of the 8 national strategies of development was too academic.

Character : Nerd married to Plain Jane

Laos Pavilion

Laos shared a pavilion with Myanmar in Zone B's Asia Joint Pavilion III. I was there around 9:00 pm and it was closed by then. I hadn't planned to visit the 2 pavilions but wandered into their shared space unwittingly.

         Laos Pavilion

Though I didn't get to see what's inside, the attempt to dress-up and represent its culture at the entrance even though it's just a very small exhibition area seemed to hold a promise of not too shabby contents inside.

Character : Jock (potentially)

Myanmar Pavilion

I popped by Myanmar's section on the way out of AJPIII and it was really plain. It felt more like an exhibition booth rather than to be classified as a pavilion. I always have a soft spot for Myanmar because of the controversy surrounding Aung San Suu Kyi's 14 years of house arrest imposed by the Burmese military junta. I hope to visit the home country of this moder-day freedom fighter one day.

         Myanmar Pavilion

One of the 4 Southeast Asian nations with the unsavoury association to the Golden Triangle (an illegal opium-producing area that spans Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar), the country's culture is greatly influenced by its surrounding neighbours, especially in religion.

         Myanmar scene

One of the most interesting things to see at the pavilion was the intricate wood carvings of celestial beings and Taoist deities such as Nuwa (女媧), who's believed to have made mankind from clay. However, their display couldn't have been more inappropriate. They were really beautiful works of art crowded unceremoniously together on shelves and on the floor.

But the most atonishing exhibit of all would be the brutal honesty in presenting the nation's health program. I can't hear what was being said but the uncomfortable images depicting surgery and various stages of eye diseases really stood out at the World Expo where only beauty has a place in the sun.

Character : Plain Jane

Malaysia Pavilion

When contemplating the Malaysia Pavilion, this saying kept flashing in my mind… “Good from far, far from good.” In a distance, its arches bit an impressive crescent against the skyline. But the closer I got, the more it loses its magic. And once inside, I kept having the urge to look for a shopping basket or trolley. Felt like I entered Carrefour.

         Malaysia Pavilion

Being a bridge away from Singapore, Malaysia is my most visited country. And I like going there for its eclectic conglomeration of urban built-ups dipping their feet in the rooted heritage of colonial structures, old shophouses and five-foot ways. Of course Singapore has this kind of scene too, but in Malaysia, it just feels more authentic. Besides, our neighbour has lots of natural, untamed reserves to explore.

         Pavilion set-up

I can see that the pavilion tried to capture Malaysia's multi-faceted charm. Unfortunately, it turned out to be nasi lemak without the coconut milk; it had the look, but not the flavor. There’re too many prints and not enough real artefacts. Even the ‘forest’ was made up of plastic trees and plants which made it look more of a handicrafts store, less of a tropical rainforest paradise.

         Supermarket interior

When visiting the pavilion, one of the interior plan that made me scratch my head was a staircase linking the first floor to the second. It’s one staircase for going up and down so it got pretty crowded and I was stuck in the human traffic for a while half-way up the steps. Such a smart design. Or maybe the creators didn’t anticipate such a huge crowd.

         Malaysia scene

The 2nd level was somewhat of a cocoa showroom with some half-baked exhibit to explain the cocoa-making process and a cocoa drink sampling counter. Sales was brisk. Moving from the supermarket section of the pavilion, we come to the home and décor section with a stylishly designed modern-Malaysian living room, bedroom and bathroom.

There was another small exhibition of art and craft that seem like an afterthought, and more retail and souvenir counters around. The pavilion’s theme was 1 Malaysia. Well, it sure was the 1 place to shop.

Character : Nerd

Cambodia Pavilion

Here’s a diamond in the rough. The pavilion’s exterior was nothing to shout about but the interior was lavish with the cream of what put Cambodia on the tourist map. Perhaps that’s the strategy of the pavilion, to trick visitors into having low expectations and then wow them.

         Cmmbodia Pavilion

Although more could have been done to hide the exposed ceiling to create a more engrossing feeling of being Lara Croft, but the thrill of seeing partial replicas of the famous architectural relics in Siem Reap made up for it.

         Siem Reap replicas

There was the Cambodian Naga, the smiling face from the Bayon, the gigantic roots of a strangler fig at Ta Prohm, and a model of Angkor Wat. It momentarily brought back memories of Siem Reap through the excitement of recognizing what was being replicated. If you would like to know about my Siem Reap adventures, please click here.

         Cambodia scene

While the Cambodia Pavilion wasn’t very big, it really gave visitors a glimpse of what’s it like to visit its many UNESCO World Heritage sites of towering temples and ancient carvings.

Even the small space within the pavilion worked to its advantage because that’s how it felt within the walls of the ancient structures. The pavilion was a time capsule.

Character : Jock in drag as Plain Jane

Philippines Pavilion

When I first glanced around the Asian Square, I thought the Philippines Pavilion was actually an administrative centre for deaf and mute visitors because of the hands printed on the walls. I mistook them for sign language.

Then I realised it was Philippines' pavilion to the theme of Performing Cities. The pavilion design looked rather bland during the day. Even when it was lighted up at night, it didn't have any jaw-dropping effect.

         Philippines Pavilion

There wasn't a queue so I got in pretty quickly and it immediately felt like I entered a club or live band lounge of some kind. Serve up some alcoholic concoctions and the whole experience would be perfect!

         Club scene

There was a main stage where dance and musical performances took place and other performing platforms for the showcasing of the Filipinos' innate talent in singing. Apart from watching liveshows, the pavilion offered a collection of Filipino art laid out in a casual and accessible manner. If only there was an open bar in there...

Character : Jock

Vietnam Pavilion

Sitting next to the AJPIII (which housed Laos and Myanmar's pavilions) in zone B, Vietnam's pavilion was easily the most impressive in terms of building material. The quaint little pavilion made up of bamboo and rattan incites a sort of calm without the use of minimalism, a visual style that often personifies Zen.

         Vietnam Pavilion

I hadn't planned on visiting Vietnam Pavilion but it turned out to be a very pleasant and delightful encounter. I simply love the way it looked on the outside and inside (although the interior did remind me of a prayer hall).

         Inside the pavilion

There was practically nothing to read in the pavilion about Vietnam except for the interpretative messages about its culture from the many huge vases and art sculptures.

         Art & decor

Somehow, I can't help but feel that the Vietnamese preferred not to pen down a definition of what is life, but to let it be an open exploration with each visitor forming his/her own meaning through the country's pieces of art. But one thing's for sure, religion plays a big part.

Character : Beauty Queen

Indonesia Pavilion

My first impression was that the Indonesian pavilion looked kinda bare with a whole lot of empty space. The open concept defied my early preconceived image of what a pavilion should look like... that it should have 4 walls enclosing all exhibits and design elements. But the pavilion was hollowed out for outsiders to look into its various levels and layout.

         Indonesia Pavilion

With so much 'empty space', I imagined that the pavilion won't have much to showcase, but the pavilion was one of the more interesting ones to visit in terms of the richness of content and variety of exhibitory techniques. There was a surprise at every turn!

         Natural texture

At 4-storeys, the pavilion was the tallest at the Asian Square and was really effective in communicating its environmental leanings. An interesting feature was the combination of various natural building materials such as bamboo, palm leaves, and wood chips for the pavilion's walls, flooring and some fixtures.

         Nature & technology

         Bamboo all the way

Of all the pavilions, I thought Indonesia was the most successful in synthesizing nature with technology to create a seamless journey in discovering Indonesia's native natural-scapes as well as digital edge.

Character : Jock best friends with Nerd

Thailand Pavilion

The Thai pavilion was my favourite amongst the ASEAN gathering in terms of entertainment value, ability to wow, and leaving a lasting impression. A guided visit with 3 shows in 3 different theatrical format, the pavilion was definitely worth the 2-hours queue time.

Once visitors entered the pavilion, they were greeted by an animation of the pavilion's mascot, Tai, while waiting for the first theatre doors to open. It endeared itself to the visitors through a very lively but brief introduction about Thailand and the pavilion. Tai appeared again later in another show segment about Thai history and diplomatic ties with China.

         Thailand Pavilion

When I stepped into the first theatre, I could hear grasps. Before us was a large water curtain cascading into a pool below. The sound of water splashing filled the room. The show was projected onto 4 screens shaped like jigsaw pieces (although I felt the odd shape wasn't necessary) in the middle and onto the pool.

         Vertical fountain

After the show, we were directed to a second theatre that featured projection on 3 sides and a huge, animatronic puppet Indrajit, the mythological warrior that stands guard at the entrances of many Thai temples.

The interesting part about this second show was the interaction between the puppet with the projected animation of Tai and what looked like Guan Gong, the Chinese god of war. The 3 characters talked to each other and created a multi-textured presentation.

         Great watch

The last theatre played a 4D show. We're all familiar with 3D by now and the fourth D is the addition of real physical experiences that complimented a show's content. In Thailand's case, I felt wind blowing in my face when the show talked about beaches, sprinkles of water when the scene showed rain, and the smell of fragrant jasmines when a basket of the flower was tossed into the air. Amazing experience! Love the pavilion as much as I love visiting Thailand.

Character : Jock married to Beauty Queen

WE 2010 : Singapore Pavilion

The unconscious spirit of patriotism marched me to the Singapore Pavilion. This was my very first stop at the Shanghai World Expo. I’ve heard bad reviews and that it is not worth the effort, but being Singaporean, I’ll still support. I’d like to find out what worked, and why it was slammed by critics.

Forming a square in Zone B with 7 other pavilions (Malaysia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand, and Australia), my first impression of the Singapore Pavilion was that it was compact and cut a rather interesting silhouette as compared to the surrounding pavilions. It reminded me of a hi-tech, futuristic durian; its circular design seeming to sit as a small silver disc at this huge world fair (a reflection of Singapore’s position as a little red dot on the world map perhaps?).

         Futuristic & cool

Urban Symphony is the central theme of Singapore’s message at this year’s Expo to encapsulate the harmonious success of our multi-cultural, multi-talent society. The pavilion design is a “Smart Musicbox” (instead of the silver durian I thought it was) and is divided into 3 levels – interactive multimedia stations on the ground floor, a video presentation on the 2nd level, and a rooftop “Hanging Garden”. Click here for more about the Singapore Pavilion.

If you’re a Singaporean passport holder, bring it along to the pavilion for priority entry. Apart from skipping the queue, you can also get your passport stamped with the pavilion’s emblem. My colleague got the stamp on page 45 of her passport to mark Singapore’s 45th birthday. I thought that’s pretty meaningful. Didn’t bring my travel document along so I missed getting stamped.

         Things to expect

Of all the pavilions I’ve visited, Singapore had the most interactive features such as using an oval card collected at the entrance to ‘capture’ projected images (symbolizes capturing the Singapore dream), a series of 4 drums that activated projections of food, designs and icons of Singapore when hit at the same time (symbolizes unity of 4 races), an arcade-style F1 driving game, and some bo liao 3D animations which I had no idea what they do.

At the Singapore Pavilion, there are very few stand-and-see exhibits. Visitors must do some work in order to fully enjoy the pavilion experience; just as how we have to constantly work in order to survive in Singapore.

         Catch the Singapore dream

While I thought the symbolic intentions embedded into the design of the various interactive stations were clever, I felt their meaning may have been lost. A lot of people, including some of my colleagues, didn’t understand why there’s a need for 4 drummers and those who couldn’t find enough people to play, couldn’t activate the projections.

Moreover, the static projections were kinda small so they lacked that boomz factor. Coupled with the very ‘National Day’ feel of the permanent graphic displays and dull dressing of the pavilion, no wonder the Urban Symphony sounded more like a lullaby rather than a masterpiece.

And to add a bad chord to the sleepy orchestra, the show presentation on the 2nd level could put any chronic insomniacs into coma. The show featured an interview with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Singapore's water issues. With all due respect, MM Lee is an interesting speaker to listen to especially on the lessons and reasons behind his decisions made for Singapore. But to devote an entire show to talk about our early sewage problem and how we solved the water problem fitted better in a lecture hall for urban planning. Definitely not in tune with Urban Symphony. While I was there, half the audience left before the show even ended.

         Good intention, bad execution

I guess at an event like the World Expo, there isn’t enough time to appreciate meaning. People just want to be entertained and wow-ed visually. Then again, the scale and method of execution for the exhibits are inextricably determined by budget.

Costing S$30 million in construction and operations, Singapore’s budget paled in comparison to its neighbouring Australia Pavilion which cost US$75 million in construction cost alone. I’ll post about the Australian pavilion later. It is my favourite from all that I’d seen. (Just as a point of reference, the superhot Japan Pavilion cost US$140 million). Perhaps Singapore’s modest sum was due to a lack of sponsorship interest from local companies at a time of economic recession and uncertainty.

         Mediocre overall

So what’s the best feature of the Singapore Pavilion? I would say it’s the “Hanging Garden”. I didn’t find it interesting at the point of visit but after having seen how some countries attempted to create a garden landscape at their pavilions, Singapore’s very lush and flowery rooftop oasis trumped them all.

On the whole, I wouldn’t say that the Singapore Pavilion is bad, just a tad too intellectual. The pavilion design is unique, but the lack of imagination in interior décor and air-conditioning (only the theatre was air-conditioned) couldn’t sustain visitors’ interest. The addition of a mascot, Liu Lian Xiao Xing (榴莲小星), didn’t help elevate interest and I pitied the person inside the costume during the Shanghai heatwave. (I find that creating a mascot when the product doesn’t need it to be a trait of lazy marketers.)

Nevertheless, even though the Singapore Pavilion didn’t take my breath away, I still take pride in its symbolic message of achieving greatness when people work together; when the different instruments in an orchestra cooperate, we can play a soothing lullaby or an uplifting allegro anytime!

And here’s a musical rojak of a theme song for Singapore’s participation in this year’s World Expo.

For more photos of the Expo and Singapore Pavilion, please visit my album Shanghai World Expo 2010.

WE 2010 : Texture & Architecture

The gigantic Expo venue spans both banks of a section of the Huang Pu River. Divided into Pu Xi and Pu Dong, the Expo has a total of 5 zones (A to E) that group the pavilions according to their continents or function.

Pu Dong holds the country pavilions whereas Pu Xi holds the corporate pavilions (eg. China Aviation Pavilion, Information & Communication Pavilion, Coca-Cola Pavilion, etc). I didn’t get to visit any of the corporate pavilions and spent all my time at Pu Dong where the national pavilions are (Zone A – Oceanic and Middle-Eastern countries; Zone B – ASEAN countries; Zone C – European countries). Click here for a listing of all the pavilions and their zones.

     Map of Expo venue
Click here for the online interactive map.

But more than just being a huge playground for nifty multimedia exhibitory techniques, the World Expo also brought together a collection of innovative building texture, displays, interior décor and architecture.

In addition to the razzle-dazzle of design, it is equally interesting to see how the different countries craft their representative message to the world… whether it deals with the sharing of one’s cultures, a call for global teamwork or an emphasis on environmental responsiveness, the masterful construct, or lack of it, of communicating ideas through the look-and-feel of the pavilions to the exhibits is an art unto itself.

I shall share the takeaway messages and impressions I had from the pavilions I visited in upcoming posts, but for now, here’s a peek at some of the architectural genius…

         Good-looking venue

         Harnessing natural light

         Vietnam's rattan hall

         Varied building materials

         Is it an UFO?

         Pavilions during the day

         Snail-shaped balloon

         Pavilions at night

I Survived World Expo 2010!

29 countries across 6 continents in 3.5 days on foot... a feat made possible only because of the World Expo.

Once every few years, the nations of the world come together to celebrate their differences and give every man, woman and child a rare opportunity to experience the rich diversity of humanity (and body odour), all in one place.

         Welcome to the world

I’m very grateful to be one such person given the chance to come to this playground of cultures… the World Expo 2010 held in Shanghai, China. Although this was a training cum learning trip paid for by the company, DigiMagic Communications Pte Ltd, where I part-time as a copywriter, I totally cherish every moment of this bitter-sweet experience.

It was bitter because exploring the more than 200 pavilions was daunting with the huge crowd and searing heat, yet it was sweet because going into each pavilion was like opening a treasure chest, I didn’t know what gems I would find.

         Larger than life experience

Of course not all pavilions were great and worth the queue time, but even from these nondescript pavilions, there’re things to learn about the countries and cultures, and what not to do if you want to put up an engaging, interesting exhibition.

Needless to say, the most rewarding would be experiencing some of the cutting-edge exhibitory techniques used such as large format projections on irregular screens of varied materials, 3D and 4D filmlets, and the creative use of interactive media to helm a complete experiential journey. Even encountering the distinctive architectural style of each pavilion was a sight to behold. Some of these pavilions were so huge, the sheer grandeur of them were mind-blowing.

         Not enough time

World Expo Quick Facts :

• The term ‘World Expo’ was a recent conception. The first such gathering of the world’s cultures, economic, scientific and technological showcase was the Great Exhibition of Industries of All Nations held in London in 1851.

• The World Expo is likened to the Olympics of cultural exchanges, but unlike the Olympics that’s held once every 4 years, there’s no fixed timeframe for the expo to happen. Currently, the prescribed timeline is a period of at least 5 years between 2 expos. This made the opportunity to attend the Shanghai World Expo even more precious.

• The Shanghai World Expo is the biggest, most expensive, and most attended to date in the roughly 160 years of the expo’s history. The theme for this expo is “Better City, Better Life” and runs from 1 May to 31 Oct 2010 (6 months).

• Ticket prices fluctuate but the benchmark is RMB160.00 (approx. S$32.00) for a single day pass.

         Feel the rush

World Expo Queue Times :

Popular Pavilions : Although the expo is open daily from 9:00 am to 12:00 midnight, last entry into the venue is 9:00 pm. By the last entry time, queue duration for the popular pavilions would’ve been much shortened or no queue at all. The average queue time for the popular pavilions such as Australia, Germany, South Korea, USA, etc is about 2 or more hours.

Super Popular Pavilions : For super hot pavilions like Saudi Arabia and Japan, the average queue time can be 6 hours or more and the queue cut-off time is 7:00 pm. People queuing at these pavilions tend to be more kiasu and pushy so be prepared. I missed seeing these pavilions but I was told they are worth the wait.

Uber Popular Pavilion : Unless you’re prepared to start queuing at the venue at 4:00 am, you can forget about visiting the China Pavilion. For this pavilion, you have to queue to get a reservation ticket (预约券), which will be distributed at all the gates to the expo. The tickets are snapped up within 5 minutes of the gates opening.

         Turn up the heat

Surviving the World Expo :

Dressing : A lot of time is spent queuing so comfortable footwear is a must. Shoes are better than slippers to protect the feet when being stepped on. As the weather was very hot during my visit, the natural inclination is to dress in singlets and bermudas. However, I find that cotton long sleeved tees and light long pants provided more comfort. For one, it covered the skin from the stinging sun and you feel cooler; and secondly, when you come into contact with other sweaty bodies in the queue, you don’t have to rub skin-to-skin with them.

Essential Accessories : Umbrella, fan, wet paper towels, water bottle, mobile entertainment (mp3 player, portable games), and sunglasses. Sunglasses are important because it not only for cutting out the flare of bright weather, but to protect the eyes from being poked out by the umbrellas when queuing. Also bring along medicated oil to rub behind the neck for a cooling feeling, and below the nose to mask the body odours around you.

         Bring in the rain

Load and Release :

I’m talking about food, drinks and toilet facilities. There is no lack of F&B outlets at the Expo and you can try the local cuisines of the country pavilions, or the foodcourts and eateries offering Chinese fare. A meal at the pavilions will cost more than the Chinese eateries.

Maybe I didn’t eat at the right places because I find all the noodles, rice and pavilion food that I tried to be tasteless and of poor quality. Even the KFC there had their meals pre-packed so by the time I bought mine, it was cold and the Pepsi was flat with all the ice already melted. The best time to have a meal is after 2:00 pm as the lunchtime crowd would have thinned and it’s easier to get a seat.

         Pangs of basic desires

It’s easy to stay hydrated at the Expo. The queue lines come with misting sprays and there’re many drink carts around. A bottle of mineral water costs RMB5:00 (approx. S$1.00), while carbonated and isotonic drinks go for RMB15.00 (approx. S$3.00). I had water most of the time because the sweet drinks were always not cold. I had a warm Sprite and to this day, my tongue still shudders at the thought of it.

There’re also many drinking fountains and water dispensers to fill the bottle with. The water tastes somewhat different from what I’m used to but it is not unpleasant. With putting some many things in, my next worry is the ease of letting them out.

As it turned out, I have nothing to worry about. There’re many toilets at the Expo and the thing that impresses me was that despite the hoards of people using them, they were kept very clean, neat and smell-free. It was really amazing! And the public toilets outside the Expo, lining the perimeter of the venue, even came with speakers that played classical music!

         Evolution to civilisation

Overall Thoughts about the Shanghai World Expo

Even though I titled this post “I Survived…” which has a kind of negative connotation about the whole Shanghai World Expo experience. But the truth is, yes, the crowd, queues, and hot weather may be a bother, but the wow-factors in many of the pavilions, especially the European ones, made the inconveniences all seem minor.

I went alone on all days to the Expo, but I never once felt bored. There were so much to observe about people and so many visual excitements. I had a chance to hear myself think and evaluate some of the preconceived notions I had of the different nations.

It felt really great to come to this realization that no matter which country we are from, no matter where we stay, no matter what differences we may have, we are all the same. We share common challenges and aspirations, we share the same sky, the same oceans, tha same needs… and the best way to achieve a successful, meaningful life is by working together, embracing peace, celebrating differences and helping each other fulfill our potential. Well, easier said than done, but I felt the expo provided a platform for this spark of realization to ignite.

         Very extremely tired

Before I arrived at the Expo, I’ve heard countless horror stories about the torture that awaits in terms of long queues and the uncouth behavior of the Chinese visitors. Well, the stories were true, but they weren’t as bad as I imagined.

And once I got over the initial shock of the amount of people there and accepted the long queue time, I began to really enjoy what the Expo had to offer – the splendid colours, the stunning lights, the awesome designs. I must say that the Chinese authorities have done a really great job in the organization and execution of this mammoth event.

         I will do it again

At the end of spending almost 12 hours a day at the Expo for a few consecutive days, I was really tired. But if I had I more time, I would still keep going back. This is really a world event not to be missed. And more than just seeing what the different countries exposed about themselves, let’s see what the Expo exposes about you!

Here’s a listing of all the pavilions I went to in the order of visitation, which I’ll also be sharing more about in upcoming posts :

           The World, My Playground

For more photos, please visit my album Shanghai World Expo 2010. The album will be updated progressively in tandem with the blog topics here. Hope you’ll have a better idea about the Expo through the stories here and the photos.

I Heart Singapore!

Every so often, I’m a closet patriot. I’d more readily jump on the bandwagon to criticise Singapore than to vehemently state what I feel about my motherland. And I think this is a pretty darn great place to call home.

So this year, with the inauguration of the Youth Olympics Games close on the heels of Singapore’s 45th National Day Parade, it’s an unprecedented opportunity to hold five stars and be over the crescent moon with pride!

My nationalistic high began with the 4th full-dress rehearsal of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games on 7 Aug, heightened by the spirit of unity at the Kaki Bukit NDP celebrations the next day, and climaxed like the NDP fireworks I could see from my room on 9 Aug 2010. I even carried Joy and Rainbow to see the dazzling sparks though they were more interested in the booming sounds than the atmospheric bling.

         Lyo and Merly

I was pretty slow to catch the SYOG fever. Maybe because I have a natural immune system against sports. I think most Singaporeans possess this immunity because I hardly felt any excitement in the air regarding this historic occurrence. This is the FIRST TIME the Youth Olympics is ever held and Singapore is its birth place! Surely this once in a lifetime honour is worth blowing our horns about?

Perhaps when the youth edition comes of age like its big brother, The Olympics, and sister, The Winter Olympics, a world event like this will finally receive the fanfare it deserves at its host countries. Just as the first recorded Games held at Olympia, Greece in 776 BCE had only one event – a 192 meters sprint, and the later revival of the Games in 1896 had the commitment of only nine countries, the YOG may need to go through a long puberty before gaining the muscle power needed to move people.

         Put your hands up in the air!

On hindsight, I am mightily glad I attended the rehearsal of the SYOG Opening Ceremony. Even though it was just a rehearsal, I was pretty wowed by it. I’m sure the actual show is going to be even more awesome. Then again, I could have been easily impressed because I don’t attend much of outdoor parades or clocked enough ‘live’ show mileage. But well, I was pretty impressed by the show and the animation of Lyo and Merly, the SYOG mascots inspired by our national icon the Merlion, was rather unexpected of stiff-shirted Singapore. I didn’t think much about the mascots before, but I heart them now!

The SYOG Organising Committee had requested that no photos be posted about the show so I shan’t spoil the surprises here. But I will say this, it’s a visual feast! The show weaved various elements and media together to tell the story of Singapore aplomb with pop culture… something the youth, and the young at heart (like me!) can appreciate and enjoy.

         Spectacular show

To commemorate the historical significance of the SYOG, I got my hands on a pair of the DBS Visa Prepaid cards, Mascots Edition. It acts like a store-value card where I can load in a certain amount and use it to pay for purchases anywhere. What a great way to control my finances! And it’s convenient too, just a tap to pay my bills. Guess card-tapping would be my Olympic sport!

These cards specially designed for the SYOG also doubles as an ez-link card. However, it seems such a waste to use these beautiful cards. Think I’ll keep them for the purpose of collection and who knows, maybe it’s value will appreciate in the future! Ka-ching!

Each card costs S$28.00, but a set goes for S$50.00. You can get them online or at any POSB/DBS branches.

         A great way to commemorate SYOG

Still fresh from the SYOG Opening Ceremony rehearsal, I attended the Kaki Bukit National Day community celebrations event as a designated ‘photographer’! Sounds so pro hor?

Actually, I have no idea what I signed up for. Siow Har asked me to accompany her to take part in the photography of the event and so I went along. Again, on hindsight, I’m glad I did. Not only did I learn by observing how the seasoned photographers take their shots at an event like this, I learnt to appreciate the racial harmony that makes Singapore so fantastic.

         National Day 2010 celebrations at Kaki Bukit

It was really amazing to be surrounded by so many people who love Singapore. Children, adults, teensters, senior folks… all of them waving the national flag, wearing white and red, placing their right hand across their chest while reciting the national pledge… it filled me with many goose-pimples moments.

The most memorable incident for me during the carnival was these two kindergarten schoolgirls. One was Indian, the other Chinese. A group of the children were huddled together at a corner while waiting for the guest-of-honour, Dr. Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, to arrive.

         More dreams ahead

It was a terribly hot day and despite the efforts by teachers and parents to keep the group cool, the children were dripping. And there were these two girls taking turns to fan each other with a piece of thin cardboard. This went on for a while. Them fanning each other. It was so heartwarming. Then one of them took the cardboard, tore it into half and shared. They started to fan themselves but occasionally, still fanned each other.

Truly, those two kids exemplified what the Singapore spirit is about – selfless care and concern for each other regardless of background and colour. We’ve spent 45 years to get here. May we continue to grow in cohesion and together, achieve greater things to come. Create our dreams!

         Singapore pledges
         Unity in diversity
         A caring nation

One of the top highlights during the Hong Kong trip was the Media Bathtub Race at the Summer Spectacular’s Dragon Boat Carnival. Even though I had previous dragon boating experience and took part in a couple of races, the Bathtub Race rendered years of training null.

Prior to the race, I gey kiang (smart alec) and shared with Aussie Pete, Priscilla, and Violet dragon boat rowing techniques and tips. “Dip the paddle in the water, and pull by rotating your trunk. Dip, pull, dip, pull… one, two, one, two… that’s the rhythm…” I said. And that was the advice that sank the boat of Aussie Pete and model, Priscilla.

         This is serious. Don't play play!

According to Pete, Priscilla followed my advice with strict determination and persisted with the one-two routine. But we’ve neglected one crucial factor that led to their Titanic exit from the race – their very apparent disparity in size and weight. One Pete is equivalent to at least two Priscillas.

With the Aussie sitting at the back and the model in front, the ‘bathtub’ tilted like a speedboat, hence displacing their centre of balance to the back. Poor Priscilla’s paddle couldn’t even reach the water! Any slight bodily manifestation of gan cheong-ness (anxiety) would be enough to topple the boat.

         They're safe!

Then it happened. Their tub capsized. Both of them got a real taste of Victoria Harbour. “Very salty,” was Pete’s verdict.

The bathtub was really just a rectangular plastic box with two seats. More like a soap dish to me. And the first thing I realized when Violet and I got on was that it was extremely buoyant. Forget about rowing technique, balancing the tub was top priority.

On top of that, the tub was really sensitive to every stroke of the paddle so steering required utmost concentration. Thankfully, Violet and I managed to stay afloat and came in 2nd out of 5 teams (2 from Singapore, 1 from Malaysia, 1 from India, 1 from Philippines). The Filipino team won the race.

         The Dream Team

What really amazes me about the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival was that it is such an important event with celebrities and stars taking part in the races. There were TVB actors and actresses, and members from the South Korean boyband, U-KISS. I have no idea who they are but judging from the number of screaming fans present, they must be pretty popular. Here’s a song by them :


After the Dragon Boat Carnival experience in Hong Kong, I kinda miss my dragon boating days… the camaraderie, the rush during a race, the rigourous workouts, the perpetually tanned look, the improved level of fitness… I wonder if I’ll ever get back into the game again.

But thanks to this special arrangement by omy.sg and the Hong Kong Tourism Board, I got a chance to rekindle that not-so-long-ago past and get a hard-to-come-by feel (but not the taste) of paddling down Victoria Harbour.

         Let's triumph over cancer!

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

It was 10:30 pm on Saturday, 24 July 2010… The night I met the rose of shopping districts in Hong Kong. And realized what sharp thorns it has.

After the sensory buffet onboard The Bounty, Sze Ping, Lawrence and I headed down to Mong Kok for some shopping. I wanted to go to this particular complex which houses a beehive of novelty shops selling apparels, accessories, bags and knick-knacks of all kinds.

I chanced upon it in my last visit to Hong Kong two years ago so I had only a sketchy idea of its location. I remembered it was along Fa Yuen Street (花园街), which is near to the famous Ladies’ Market. But with so many shops and buildings packed together like carpet grass, it was hard to spot the damselfly amongst the dragonflies.

We couldn’t find the complex and ended up at the Ladies’ Market instead. Running the section of Tung Choi Street (通菜街) that is between Argyle Street and Dundas Street, the open-air market is a well-known hunting ground for bargains. It is also a great place to shop for insults.

         Prices are not the only things that get slashed

Open daily from noon till around 11:00 pm, Ladies’ Market is notorious for having stallholders with some of the most acidic tongues! I’ve learnt about these street vendors from hell through online sources and accounts by friends, but nothing beats experiencing it firsthand.

Here’re some incidences of what I witnessed in my less than half an hour walk there…

(Scenario 1: In the midst of price haggling)

Tourist : HK$100 and I’ll buy from you.

Vendor : Go away, go away! If you can find HK$100, you buy from there! Zhan hai suey, yu dou dee ko-ong gwai (Such bad luck to meet this poor demon).

(Scenario 2 : After some haggling, non-Chinese tourists decided not to take up the vendor’s price counter-offer and started to walk away. Vendor called them back.)

Vendor : Okay, okay, that price okay. Ji-in yarn (Cheapskates).

Tourists : Good. Thank you.

Have you learnt those Cantonese names for “poor demon” and “cheapskate” yet? I bet if I stayed there longer, I could pick up more phrases to share with you!

I had a personal encounter of these rude behaviours too. I walked past a stall and saw those bendy toys where you can twist to form certain shapes. In my early teens, I used to keep one of those on hand and always try to think of different shapes to form with it. Yet no matter what shaped I formed, I was twist it back to my favourite shape… that of a cross.

Having met that ‘old friend’, I couldn’t help but took out my camera to snap a photo before asking the price. The photo didn’t turn out well so I aimed my camera again. The stall-owner promptly came over, told me to stop taking photos and waved his hand in front of my cam to spoil the shot. Felt like I was a fly being shoo-ed off. Well, that’s good in a way, helped me save the money I was going to spend. Heh heh…

         Finding pleasantness in stinky tofu

Yet, the name-calling and photo disturbances were mild compared to what one tourist experienced. The vendor physically blocked the way to stop that person from leaving the stall. I find that both shocking and amusing.

Bullying should not be tolerated. I’m appalled by that act of intimidation, but at the same time, I’m amused to find that such plain disregard of mutual respect existed. In a developed place like Hong Kong.

For the most part, my encounters with Hong Kongers during the trip have been very pleasant ones. So those bad eggs presented themselves as an anomaly and became a stark contrast for me.

So here’re some observations for shopping at Ladies’ Market… Just smile and walk away if things are getting venomous because you can always find a friendlier stall that sells almost the same things. It is best not to take the rudeness personally.

If you bargain, do so only if you really want to buy that item and you can slash the price by as much as 50% and let the negotiating start. If the price isn’t right, walk away and sometimes, the vendors will relent. If they don’t, then just be prepared to learn some ‘colourful’ use of the Cantonese language! :o)

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

HK Day 2 : Listen with Thy Eyes

香港… its name translates directly into Fragrant Harbour. That goes to say that if one hasn’t toured its famed harbour, one cannot rightfully be considered to have been to Hong Kong. It’s like going to Disneyland without seeing Mickey, or having hamburgers without ham.

While the Star Ferry provides an opportunity to experience the bustling energy of the harbour, nothing beats the cruise experience we had onboard The Bounty. With the gentle wind as our constant hairstylist, a sumptuous buffet spread, booze, and a spectacular 360° view of Victoria Harbour, we watched the buildings come alive in a neon technicoat as dusk faded to night. And at 8:00 pm, we watched the largest permanent multimedia light show, A Symphony of Lights, right at the heart of the action!

         Bounty Rock!

The Bounty is a full-scale replica of the European H.M.A.V. Bounty where the most famous mutiny in British naval history took place. Here’s a quick historical timeline of legend and facts about this ancient maritime marvel :

• 1784 – The original Bounty was built for the purpose of trading.

• 1787 – Renamed “His Majesty’s Armed Vessel” Bounty and used to ship breadfruit plants. Captain William Bligh appointed as Commander of the ship and left for expedition to Tahiti.

• 1789 – Departed from Tahiti but a mutiny ensued. Captain Bligh was cast adrift and Acting Lieutenant Fletcher Christian took over The Bounty. Captain Bligh survived and became Governor of New South Wales while Christian settled on Norfolk Islands.

• 1978 – Replica of The Bounty was built for the film “The Bounty” starring Mel Gibson and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

With so much history, standing on the deck of the ship gave me a somewhat surreal feeling. I thought to myself, “So this is how a time machine looks.” And it stirred a sense of romanticism, a somewhat poetic experience of being at the crossroad where old world charm meets a modern voyage of the senses.

         The muntiny of bloggers

Ahoy, Ahoy!

The 18th century beast awaketh for fresh deploy
As the stars envied of Poseidon’s magnificent toy
That replicated Bounty lusts for mortal joy

         The Bounty Crew?

Onboard, all Aboard!

Its polished ancient skin glistens smooth and taut
Where on whence Captain Bligh a mutiny fought
But once again its sail-wings pregnant with the blowing knots

         Delightful dusk to night

Aye, Aye!

What is this sight before our eyes?
These dancing lights and laser beams by our isles
‘Tis like songless sirens enchanting the sky

Heave-ho! Heave-ho!

Expanding bellies the pants no longer could hold
Filled not just by harvests but candour by the watering hole
And ten bloggers sailed this friend-ship far and bold

         Seamless blend of old & new

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

An electronic ringing tone resounded persistently in the distance. It got closer and closer, I opened my eyes. It’s 7:00 am and the morning call was right on time. It was Day 2 in Hong Kong, and I’m going to the Wetland Park. I pulled the curtains open and bright sunlight immediately saturated the room. It was a glorious day to be embraced by Mother Nature!


Getting There : From Tin Shui Wai MTR Station, use Exit E and board the Light Rail nos. 705 or 706 and alight at Wetland Park Station.

I made my way there from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR Station, transited at Mei Foo Station to reach Tin Shui Wai Station. The whole journey to Wetland Park took me approximately 1 hr 20 mins and costs HK$22.50.

         A glorious sight

Located at New Territories, the Hong Kong Wetland Park was created to preserve and study the diversity of Hong Kong’s wetlands as such natural landscapes are rapidly lost to urban developments.

The park sprawls over 60-hectres of natural swamps and indigenous vegetation and is home to many species of birds, insects and aquatic animals. It is also affiliated with Singapore’s Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and London’s Wetland Centre. They are kind of like hotels for migratory birds. And I reckon the Hong Kong one would be the equivalent of staying at The Mira.

         Remaining patches of nature

Opening Hours : The park is closed every Tuesday (except Public Holidays). For all other days, it is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Entrance Fee : HK$30 (Adult), HK$15 (Child)

The Hong Kong Wetland park is very well-kept and encompasses a Visitor Centre, interactive exhibitions, themed galleries, a theatre, a souvenir shop, an children’s playground that even I want to play in, a fastfood restaurant (大家乐) and of course the main attraction, the wetland reserve.

         Hong Kong's green lungs

There are various zones at the reserve such as the Stream Walk, Succession Walk, Mangrove Boardwalk and three Bird Hides, situated next to a fish pond, mudflat and riverside. This allows visitors to see different species of birds in their habitats. The whole morning I was there, I only saw a white heron.

Clear sign-posts points the way to the various attractions and there’re park guides (in yellow uniform) within the wetland reserve area whom you can approach for a guided tour. They come equipped with binoculars so you can get a magnified view of dragonflies, birds, lotuses, etc.

The guide who approached me was very enthusiastic in sharing information despite a basic command of the English language. The staff at Wetland Park were all very friendly and welcoming. Even when I ‘accidently’ went on the prohibited balcony area at the Visitor Centre to snap photos of the scenery, I was asked to leave politely.

         Battling the sun

Hot Tips :

• If you don’t want handbag makers to lust after your skin, be sure to cover up, protect your skin with sunblock, bring umbrella, wear a hat, neck towels, etc.

• There’re no drinking fountains in the wetland reserve so be sure to fill up your water-bottle at the water cooler in the fastfood restaurant.

• Always stay on the designated paths and walkways as there may be snakes or other hidden defenses of nature. A salt water crocodile was found in at the nearby Shan Pui River in 2003. It now lives in an enclosure within the park and given the name, Pui Pui. The park is safe, but do take precautions to avoid ending up as something’s lunch.

         Wetland in the heartland

For me, the most striking thing about the park is its close proximity to residential developments. Views from the park looked as if it is located at some ulu faraway boondocks, but it’s closer to home than you think. Well, at least to the homes of people living there. The view up in those flats must be breathtaking.

         Choose your path

As I’ve just started learning nature macro photography, one of my main purpose was to photograph wildlife species not found in Singapore. During my time at the Wetland Park, I didn’t see any animals, didn’t see many birds, and the insects were just too active to photograph.

Usually I would go really early in the morning between 7 am to 8 am to shoot the bugs because that’s when they’re just waking up and not too active yet. But Wetland Park opens at 10 am. By then, my skill and equipments are inadequate to capture them well.

         My only macro shot

But what the place had no lack of was dragonflies. Lots of them around in a wide variety of colours and designs. Woohoo! Belonging to the insect order known as Odonata (which means ‘toothed jaws’ in Greek), dragonflies undergo incomplete metamorphosis as their life stages all revolve around bodies of water and are carnivorous from young to adulthood.

Dragonfly Facts :

• They can fly forward, backward, upward, downward or sideways and preys on mosquitoes, flies, and aphids.

• Male dragonflies frequently perch on eye-catching points to show-off their bright bodies to attract females.

• Tropical dragonflies can live a few months up to a year, while those living in temperate climates have a lifespan averaging only one to six weeks.

         Jewels of nature

Other than dragonflies, there’re also a few lotus and waterlily ponds. I saw some yellow and pink variegated lotuses for the first time and they were beautiful!

         Shy lotus

Having baked under the hot sun for half a day, the air-con at the Visitor Centre was more than comforting. There, I browsed through the “Fantastic World of Insects” exhibition and visited a gallery that showcased life at the different types of wetlands – mangrove swamps, tropical rivers, and continental marshes.

The exhibits were pretty interesting with lots of info about the secret life of insects and wetland dwellers. My favourite was this very colourful tortoise. I’ve not seen anything like it ‘live’ before!


It was a good thing I got back to the Visitor Centre because the earlier sunny weather was replaced by a rainstorm. Since I was stuck there, I went into the theatre for a performance about insects thinking I just want to sit and rest.

But I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stage performance! It was funny, creative and highly educational. I really learnt a lot about the insects in a fun and easy to digest manner. The only grouse was that the show was in Cantonese and I couldn’t understand some of the phrases.

         Parting shots

Overall, I find the Wetland Park a very enjoyable and educational experience. My plan was to stay there till 1:00 pm but by the time I left, it was almost 4:00 pm, being stuck in the rain notwithstanding. If I go Hong Kong again, I will definitely come back again and hopefully the next time, I’ll get more photos of bugs!

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

After delighting my eyes with the sparkling skyline of Hong Kong at night, I headed three floors down from the Sky Terrace to Madame Tussauds (MT). I got the 3-in-1 Combo which included a 2-way Peak Tram ride and entrances to the Sky Terrace and MT for HK$200.

         Scenes at MT

Here’s the adult price if you buy them separately : Return Tram ticket – HK$36; Sky Terrance – HK$25; MT – HK$160. Total price – HK$221. You save about S$4.00, which is not much, but you save on the queue time to get the tickets separately.

Hot Tip :

• Buy the Combo ticket from the MT ticketing booth at the Peak Tram Terminus. This booth is across from the Peak Tram ticketing booth which sells Tram ride tickets or Tram ride with entry to Sky Terrace only. I was queuing at the Peak Tram line for a long time before I realized the 3-in1 MT Combo was not sold there! *gua gua gua…*

         Getting some stardust

If you have not heard of Madame Tussauds, it is an exhibition where you can get really up-close and personal with wax figures of celebrities, sport stars, politicians, and historical personalities.

The stars are made with an almost 100% likeness so it is as good as seeing them for real. Even though there are so many ‘people’ there, I’d never felt more alone. I was there by myself so there’s no one to take photos of me with the stars! Even if I did ask someone to help take a photo for me, I was too embarrassed to do wacky poses. If a friend was taking the photos, they would’ve been very different.

         Pioneers of talents

It’s so much fun watching people posing with the famous personalities. Some of the poses were, well, let’s just say I’d seen obasans come out of menopause, young girls misplacing their chastity, and guys exploring every part of the female figures as if they’re curators making sure the wax statues were not damaged.

Out of curiosity, I did a little checking of my own and confirmed that the wax dudes have no ‘wicks’, and except for the raisins on Aaron Kwok’s exposed chest, there’re no chocolate coins on the chests of other male and female figurines. I didn’t check every one but from those that I can see, I generalized.

Lest you think I’m a pervert, I did it to see how far the replicas would go because more than 200 measurements (including the crotch and breasts area) are taken to make each figurine. And it takes more than 800 hours to complete each one. The bulk of the time is spent on inserting hair, strand by strand onto the wax scalps.

So, let’s test your knowledge of the Asian stars… how many can you recognise and name?

                     Asian Stars

What about the following Hollywood movers and shakers?

                     Hollywood Stars

Or these famous politicians and cultural icons?

                     Famous one way or another

For personalities who are still alive, they’ll be invited for a Sitting where their measurements are taken. But for the long-deceased such as William Shakespeare, the figures are constructed based on paintings and photos.

Of all the wax celebrities, I thought the one that looked most ‘fake’ and unlike the star it should resemble was that of Cecilia Cheung (张伯芝). I thought it was a younger Maggie Cheung (张曼玉). Well, maybe I didn’t recognise Cecilia because she wasn’t wearing a policewoman uniform. Oops!

But my main target at Madame Tussauds was to take a photo with Anita Mui (梅艳芳). Among all the Hong Kong celebrities, she’s one of my favourite because she’s a great performer and actress. I grew up listening to her during her 妖女 (vixen) days and loved her comic performance in the movie 钟无艳. So I was pretty saddened when she passed on due to cancer in 2003. But thankfully for Madame Tussauds, the likeness of her is preserved and made immortal…

         Tribute to Anita Mui

Here’s my favouritest song from her. It is a duet with Jacky Cheung called 相爱很难 (Love is Difficult). Enjoy… :o)

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

Hong Kong Day 1 : Peak Peeks

Upon arriving in Hong Kong, the first thing on my mind was taking a photo of Hong Kong’s aerial skyline from Victoria Peak. It is the view of Hong Kong that must not be missed. No wonder there’re throngs of people going up and down the hilltop at any given time.

Getting There : From Central MTR Station, take Exit J2, and turn right once you come out of the exit. Walk in the direction of the iconic Bank of China building. Along the way, there’re many signposts to point you to the Peak Tram Terminus on Garden Road. It is pretty straightforward.

         Three peaks before The Peak

There’re a few ticketing options available such as a single trip or return trip on the Tram. And you can choose to include the entrance fee to The Peak’s Sky Terrace as a package as well. I bought the 3-in-1 combo from the Madame Tussauds ticketing counter by the side. That includes a 2-way Tram transfer + entrance fee to The Peak Sky Terrace + entrance to Madame Tussauds (HK$200). MT is located inside The Peak Tower.

         Well-connected & sign-posted

Hot Tips :

• Sit on the right-hand side when going up and left when coming down. That way, you can see the skyline of HK unfold by the window. The slope is rather steep and at some points, the angle of elevation is about 45 degrees so it’s kinda bizarre to see the surrounding residential blocks slanting at that angle. The effect is more dramatic when coming down as it looks as if the buildings are ‘falling’ towards you.

• When planning a visit, do allocate extra waiting time for the Tram. I waited about 30 mins to board on the way up (about 5 pm), and almost an hour on the way down at 9 pm.

• Frequency and duration of Tram ride : 10 – 15 mins

There’re two shopping complexes at the top – The Peak Tower and The Peak Galleria. Both offer lookout points on their roofs. The Peak Galleria is free but since it’s behind The Peak Tower, the view is slightly blocked. But it offers a great view of the surrounding islands.

         Around the summit

The Peak Tower’s Sky Terrace offers an unobstructed view of the skyline for a fee of HK$25 (adult) and HK$12 (child and senior). A short walk in the downhill direction will bring you to a lookout point called the Lions View Point Pavilion which is also free. My photo of the skyline taken during the day was at Lions while the night view was taken at the Sky Terrace.

         Day view of HK skyline

Hot Tips :

• In summer, the sky starts getting dark around 7 pm. That’s when the lights on the buildings start coming on too. I was there at about 6.30 pm to stake out a front row spot for the view.

• At 7.30 pm, there’s a photo service that charges HK$120 to have your photo taken with the night skyline. Choose a spot just out of the camera range so as not to be chased away.

Apart from taking in the aerial view, you can also shop at the two Peak complexes and visit Madame Tussauds. It was really magical watching the Hong Kong skyline transit from day to night… almost as if it took off its business suit and donned on a Technicolour coat to party!

         Night view of HK skyline

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

Hong Kong Day 1 : Not a MIRAge

For the trip, we are put up at The Mira Hong Kong. Other than the destination, I think the hotel is the next most important factor that makes or breaks a vacation. I think many of us put a lot of time into finding the best hotel that’ll meet our budget, needs and be at an easily accessible location.

Price-wise, The Mira commands a premium with rates starting from HK$1,600 (approx. S$280) a night. But after checking into it, I would say it’s worth every penny! Located at a prime area along Nathan Road, the hotel’s visage doesn’t seem like much. But it beguiles the avant-garde design and luxury within. Ok, I’m easily satisfied and impress.

Well, here’re some pics for you to decide…

         An oasis within

When I entered the room, I was jumping literally jumping up and down in joy! First or all, the room isn’t a sardine jacket that most hotels are in Hong Kong. Secondly, it comes equipped with a full range of hi-tech gadgets – web surfing with the TV and a wireless keyboard, iPod dock with speakers, and a multimedia player (DVD, USB, memory stick, etc). There’s even a handphone provided in the room although I have no idea what it is for.

Next, there is quite some cool designer stuff in the room… silver packed sundries, specially designed water bottles, and we’re using Salavatore Ferragamo toiletries! My hair and skin feels expensive already.

         Room interior

On top of that, the service was impeccable and the staff are really courteous and friendly, Walk out the doors of The Mira and it’s a different world out there. I would only say that the services I’ve experienced so far from places I visited today is that the Hong Kongers treat you like family. So it’s a ‘get the job done’ kind of attitude.

But the thing that delighted me the most was the welcome treats they left in our rooms. Designer sweets, black truffles chocolate and fresh, juicy strawberries and lychees. I almost didn’t want to go sightseeing. Such a waste to leave the room empty.

         Sweet handcuffs

Before coming here, I checked out the hotel from its website and the photos made the place looked really good. Now that I’m here, the photos weren’t a smokescreen or a mirage. The place does look as good as the pics make it out to be.

And I’ve yet to visit the gym and swimming pool, which are supposed to be another ‘wow’ in the waiting…

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

Countdown to Hong Kong : 0 Day


We’ve arrived in Hong Kong! Follow us as we explore the island and bring to you different perspectives and experiences!

The journey begins...

For more photos, please visit my album A Lingering Fragrance.

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 1 Day


Finally it is the night before the trip! Less than 12 hours to lift-off! I wonder what adventures I will have.

My luggage is all packed and sitting in a corner of my room… passport checked, wallet filled, NSman overseas trip notified, travel insurance incepted… now all there is to do is hope I can fall asleep amidst all the excitement. Our flight is departing at 8:00 am and by noon, we can blow a kiss to Hong Kong’s bay area lips!

However, one thing unsettles me. It is the weather. Looks like the island is not spared the wrath of Typhoon Chanthu.

Hopefully, good weather will be restored soon. Think I better make wet weather plans and have an alternative indoor itinerary. Instead of all that outdoor sightseeing, I should plan one that visits the museums, temples and malls just in case. The good thing with a destination like Hong Kong is that there is no lack of things to do.

Well, I better get to making plans for a rainy day and pack an umbrella into my luggage before I forget…

Wait a minute. Where’s my luggage?! It’s not at the corner where I left it?

         All set to go!

I found it in the living room, staring longingly at the open door. Not yet, my eager friend. Not yet. We still have the night to pull through. There, there… be patient and come back to the room. (Gosh… I’m starting to talk to my luggage. I better be in Hong Kong soon before I go completely bonkers!)

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 2 Days


Two more days to the trip and it’s time to play Ken doll. Or in my case, Chucky needs a few clothing changes while in Hong Kong.

Usually, I don’t start packing my luggage until the night before and normally, I bring only half of what I’m bringing on this trip. I brought more this time round because the Omy camera crew will be following us on some of our activities. I better make sure I don’t look shaggy and my armpits smell like a flowering valley in spring.

Well, it’s summer now in Hong Kong. It’ll probably be burning but according to the Hong Kong Observatory 7-day weather forecast, this weekend is going to be rather wet. I hope the forecast is wrong. Maybe we should get Paul the psychic octopus to predict the weather.

         Weather forecast 22-28 Jul 10

I really hope it will be bright sunshine on Saturday as I’m going to the Wetland Park. I’ve even prepared my nature photography outfit :

White T-shirt – To keep cool and reflect light onto the insects’ eyes to create catchlight. Catchlight is the reflective highlights in a subject’s eyes that adds life and makes the photo more interesting.

Long Pants – To protect from insect and snake bites.

Half Sleeves – To deflect UV rays and protect arms from sunburn.

Neckerchief – To keep back of neck from getting sunburnt.

Fisherman’s Hat – To protect face from sunburn and cut out sun flare.

Sounds like I’m a wuss when it comes to shooting nature. Well, I used to be all macho-dory and don’t bother with sunblock and covering up during shoots. But after getting terribly burnt from shoots each time, I finally surrendered to Mother Nature and let her dictate what I should wear.

And I pray she’ll let me have a chance to model my outfit this weekend.


Countdown to Hong Kong : – 3 Days


There are two kinds of travellers – the type who wants to see everything, and the kind who just want to relax and take it slow. I’m the third kind. I want to see it all and chill out to the max at the same time.

Call me greedy. I call it ‘punishing money’. Since I work so hard for it, it must work hard in return to ‘buy’ me these life experiences. My tourist dollar is hard to earn.

What about a free trip like this HKTB sponsored tour of Hong Kong? Air-ticket and accommodation are free so surely I can stop sodomising my wallet. Well, there’re still the expenses on transportation, attractions’ entrance fees and food.

So when taken in the totality of a travelling budget, I’m still paying. And I shall continue to slave drive my finances during this trip.

HKTB has some activities arranged for us and released the itinerary to us today. Apart from the Bath Tub race which Aussie Pete and I have been going on and on about, I’m scheduled for a Chinese Sauce Making class with a celebrity chef! Wow! Experiencing Hong Kong doesn’t get more exquisitely unusual than that. I’ll definitely share the recipes here. But that is provided I learnt well and didn’t turn sweet-plum sauce into sour-grape mousse.

In my itinerary, I plan to visit some of the must-see sights (aerial view of Hong Kong at The Peak, Symphony of Lights show), get into a little culture (Cultural Plaza, Nan Lian Garden), embrace nature (Wetland Park), sample the cuisine (The Bounty, Yin Yang Restaurant) and nightlife (Lan Kwai Fong), and just chill at our ultra posh hotel, The Mira Hong Kong.

When I visited the hotel’s website, the ambience, gym and swimming pool seemed almost too good to be true! Especially the pool. Well, photos have a way of distorting reality so I shall see when I get there.

I’ve kinda planned myself into a frenzy now. Uber excited about the upcoming trip. If only tomorrow is Friday. But well, three more days to go and all I have is to fine-tune my itinerary and salivate over photos of the places I’m going to visit. My itinerary contains some additional info about the places I’m going to visit and I hope they could be of use to you.

Meanwhile, please get a bucket and drool with me…

         Hong Kong to be seen 1

         Hong Kong to be seen 2

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 4 Days


I’m a techno idiot. Chimpanzees would’ve built a rocket before I could figure out where the ‘ON’ button is on an electronic devise. Especially a new one.

So I’ve delayed opening the box to my new ASUS Eee PC T101MT until today. The netbook is one of the prizes from the Singapore Blog Awards 2010 and it’s been almost 10 days since I had it.

Touch me, baby!Contrary to most who would probably tear through the packaging, eager to explore the computing power within, having a new gadget is sort of an inconvenience to me because while I’m in the matrix generation, I still don’t speak binary.

That’s needless to say that when I own a piece of teckie thingamajig, I hold on to it till the National Heritage Board knock on my doors.

Hence, you can understand my dread when I touched the netbook for the first time and it struck me straightaway how light it is. Okay, that’s a good start. Since it’s so light, it would be great to travel with and I can use it to blog about the Hong Kong trip while there.

However, the small screen does take a bit of getting used to. Other than that, it is pretty nifty and comes with an adequate ecosystem for creating and utilising web content.

For a digitally-challenged user like me, so long as it can do what my current laptop does without fussing a whole lot about settings, updates and upgrades, I’m happy. And it’s touchscreen! Woohoo!

Other than test-driving the netbook today, I thought about the other teckie gadgets I want to bring on the trip in order to get all angles covered. I was wondering whether or not to bring my tripod along coz that thing alone weighs about 2.2kg. But I’ve decided to bring it along. I’m planning to try taking some sunset and night shots. That is if I can resist the lure of shopping at the night markets. Heh.

Well, hopefully all the investment in dollar and strength will be worth it to bring home some lasting memories of Hong Kong. Just pray I don’t forget how to use those high-tech dials when I’m there!

           In focus : Hong Kong

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 5 Days


Friends who’d travelled with me know I’m a super kiasu (‘afraid to lose’) traveller who’s also a control freak. I will always try to cover as many places as possible and plan my itinerary with a time schedule stating what time for morning call, activity allocation, and what time to sleep. Is this a holiday or some tourist bootcamp they ask me. My answer is : “Let’s work hard at relaxing!”

Be your own Hong Kong travel guide.Although I’ve been to Hong Kong previously, I hadn’t really researched nor find out more about the place.

To me, Hong Kong is always about shopping, Ocean Park, Lantau Island, and exercising dietary indiscretion. So I was really surprised to find so many things to see and do while preparing for this upcoming trip.

The thoughtful folks at the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) assembled a very comprehensive info kit for us so it was real easy to find places of interest, what to expect, and how to get there.

I believe these brochures, flyers and maps are available at the Hong Kong airport so do pick up a copy. They are REALLY very helpful. I also supplemented my research with HKTB’s website at discoverhongkong.com.

My favourite is the blue coloured Hong Kong – A Traveller’s Guide. It acts like a quick tourist reference bible and very handy.

From the booklet, I got a quick history lesson about how Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. Hence, the proper name to refer to the island destination is actually Hong Kong SAR.

• Pre-1842 – Hong Kong was a ‘barren rock’ with a collection of fishing villages

• 1842 – Britain claimed Hong Kong Island after the First Opium War with China under the Treaty of Nanking

• 1860 – Britain claimed Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutters Island

• 1898 – Britain granted a 99-year lease of the New Territories and 235 outlying islands

• 1997 – Hong Kong was returned to China

So with 150 years of colonial influence embroidered into China’s 5,000 years of rich traditions, the resulting tapestry is a fabric I’m tailoring to fit my vacation whims and fancy! I’ve formed a rough idea of the places I want to visit and will be planning a full itinerary soon… with what time to wake up, play, eat, and sleep!

Meanwhile, here’s a map I find really useful as it clearly puts into geographical perspective the places to go in Hong Kong, Kowloon, Lantau Island and New Territories. I’m visiting some of these places next week. Don’t be jealous… :D

         Overview of attractions in HK

Countdown to Hong Kong : – 6 Days


I read Aussie Pete’s post about his ‘secret training’ with much admiration. More than the post being hilarious, he is really taking the bathtub race seriously! So I better not slack and spend the 6 days that’s left till the race to do some training.

I don’t expect to get back in top physical form in just 7 days, but at least to start getting the body used to sweat again and don’t turn blue at the 100m finishing mark. I used to be a dragon boater and had taken part in 500m and 800m races so 100m should be sup sup sui (Cantonese. Direct translation as ‘wet wet water’, meaning no sweat!). But that’s years ago. Now I just hope I don’t lose face for my country!

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival 2010 has 191 dragon boat teams from 12 countries and regions competing. Considering that a small boat has 10 paddlers, a drummer and coxswain (12 people) and a big boat has 20 paddlers, a drummer and coxswain (22 people), there would be a lot of people for laughing at a Singaporean buffoon.

Dragon boating has a long tradition as a celebratory folk ritual, but it is in Hong Kong that the sport has evolved into what it is today. So Hong Kong can be considered the birthplace of modern dragon boating. I wonder where is the birthplace for bathtub boating?

         Dragon Boat Daze

I took up dragon boating in 2005 but stopped in 2008 after my lasik surgery. My wooden paddle is chucked somewhere in the storeroom and I haven’t touched it in more than 2 years. It must feel like Woody in Toy Story. May be it is plotting its escape with all the other forgotten things in the store now. Should I bring it to Hong Kong for some play time?

Before I think about that, I shall try to rehash the exercise routine from my former boating days. So I’ll be practically be living in the gym for the next few days with cardio workouts, weight training, and yoga.

Yes yoga. Dragon boating is not a brute sport. It requires technique and true rowing power comes from the trunk, not arms and shoulders. Hence, flexibility and core muscle strength would be very helpful during a race and can delay the onset of lactic acid build-up and muscle fatigue. Even though this is a just-for-fun 100m bathtub race, I’ll do my best!

And the best tune to accompany any gym time at the moment is…

Pete is thinking of wearing something outrageous for the event. I wonder what my other fellow bathtub racers – Violet, Geck Geck and Alvin would wear. Should we have a boomz team outfit with leopard preens and khaki green (including a rad bigini for the ladies)? That would be Uniquely Singapore! :D

No Gout About It

If you do follow my blog and wonder why I missed a day in posting about my countdown to the Hong Kong trip, it’s been moved to a combined blog site specially created for all the award winners to share about the trip.

Please do follow my Hong Kong experience at Omy’s My Hong Kong Travel Blog. You can also vote for your favourite travel blogger there. (I hope you’ll vote for me!)

So instead of duplicating contents on both blogs, although there will be overlaps in talking points, I’m going back to the original intent of Celebrate Life!, and that is to record some of the major milestones in my life.

And yesterday marked another ‘milestone’. It is not a happy one, but something that will hopefully serve as a reminder for me to take better care of myself and as a cautionary tale that health is a privilege.

Yesterday, I’m diagnosed with the possibility of having gout. Although the doctor was cautious to confirm the diagnosis without a blood test, I have all the classic gout symptoms at the classic part of the body to have gout.

       Right foot got bigger than the left.


• Painful inflammation of joints (most often at the base of the big toe although other parts of the body such as knees, heels, fingers, etc).

• The swelling is usually red as opposed to the purplish blue inflammations caused by sprains or external bodily accidents.

• The swelling develop during the night (when the body temperature is lower).

I went to bed on Thursday night (15 Jul 10) and woke up with Ronald McDonald’s right foot the next day. It was sooooooooo painful! So I guess there’s no doubt about it. I got gout.

The pain was really biting and I could hardly walk. When I did, it took 5 times the amount of time to get from one place to another – from home to office, to first clinic (closed), to another clinic, to market and finally home. And the worst thing was, when I was at the doc, it rained heavily and I was stuck there for almost an hour. 祸不单行。Misery sure loves company.

But the pain and rain were not the most swuey of it all. The worst was the doctor of Chua Clinic, Whampoa Drive. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation…

Excerpt 1 :

Me : So this is gout huh?
Doc : Did I say it is gout? Without a blood test, it cannot be confirmed that it is.
Me : *frustrated* Okay, then based on your experience, is this gout?
Doc : Your swelling is the classic joint for gout inflammation.
Me : So it is gout?
Doc : Without blood test, cannot confirm.
Me : *speechless*

But in my consultation record, he wrote down… “gout arthritis”. What the %&$*!

Excerpt 2 :

Me : How long do you think it takes to recover because I’m going on a trip next Friday.
Doc : You going to the North Pole?
Me : *baffled* Huh? North Pole? No, I’m going on an overseas trip.
Doc : Are you going climbing?
Me : *lagi confused!* Huh?
Doc : You said going on a trip what. Going to the North Pole is going on a trip. Going to Orchard Road is also making a trip.
Me : *balls twisting!!* If someone says going on a trip, common sense would tell you that it means going overseas. And that doesn’t mean North Pole. But if I’m concerned about how long it takes to heal, naturally it means there’s going to be a considerable amount of walking! I’m going to Hong Kong.
Doc : It will take 2 to 3 days with medication.

I need an aspirin for the headache he gave me. No wait, I’m allergic to it. But compared to dealing with him again, I’d rather take the aspirin.


Known as the ‘rich man disease’ (then I shouldn’t get it since I’m not rich!), gout happens when the body is unable to process uric acid efficiently or the level of uric acid in the body is too high.

Consistently high levels of uric acid can lead to the formation of needle-like crystals in the joint area and when the hard crystals rub against the surrounding muscles tissues, the abrasion causes the area to swell. The crystals can also be deposited in the kidneys and leads to kidney stones.

Gout can be a recurring condition and has a strong causal relationship with alcohol, sugar, meat and seafood consumption. These foods lead to the production of purine which feeds the uric acid. So the sensible thing to do with the onset of gout is to modify the diet. Here’s a list of foods to avoid or eat in moderation :

• Alcohol
• Meat and meat products (especially internal organs such as liver and kidney)
• Meat extracts (eg. Bovril)
• Anchovies, sardines, herring, mackarel, scallops

It is commonly believed that beans and bean products, which also causes high purine levels should be avoided. However, that myth has been dispelled. Plant-based purine and animal-based purine are different.

I’m not sure how true is that so here’s a list of vegetables high in purine : asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms, green peas, lentils, dried peas, beans, oatmeal, wheat bran, and wheat germ.

Looks like there’s nothing left to eat!!!! But it is maintained that a plant-based diet is generally low in purine. The doc said that his friend who suffers from gout turned vegetarian and since then, the symptoms never came back. Hmm… maybe it’s time to go moo?


About 2 weeks ago, I blogged about wanting to quit alcohol but I still drank, abet less frequently and in lesser quantities. I even prayed about it. I asked God to help me curb my drinking. I guess my prayer has been answered.

God, can help me in a positive manner or not? How come each time ask You for help, the solution is another problem so that it distracts from the other problem huh? But if it is Your will, then give me the strength to go through it and the words to blog about it! Haha.

Gout is no joke as it can be an indication of latent health problems. I just hope it is not too late to reverse the wheel. Next week, I’m going to Hong Kong and then to Bangkok and Hua Hin. I’m already thinking about how I’m going to miss some of the foods I love at those places.

       Swelling became red on the second day.

For now, I’m keeping to a strict diet so that hopefully I can still indulge with moderation by then. Or should I not risk it?

Countdown to Hong Kong : - 7 Days


To take part in the Media Bathtub Race during the Dragon Boat Carnival, we had to sign a form declaring that we can swim at least 100m with light clothing. Safety is paramount. So I guess that’s why I was asked to participate. My waist has a natural float. It is the size of a bicycle tyre now with the potential of growing into a Michelin.

And going to Hong Kong isn’t going to help since there are as many restaurants there as there are shopping districts. So I guess that sort of cancels each other out, right? You eat, and then get trim shopping. No wonder so many Hong Kongers are so slim despite their penchant for siu ngaap (roast duck), char siew (roast pork) and dim sum.

         Saving for later

For me, chow dao fu (smelly beancurd) with a steaming hot bowl of cow’s heart and pig intestine is a must when in Hong Kong. I know they don’t sound very appetizing, and the stinky tofu smells like the sewage, but once you get past the stench, they’re really tasty.

Never judge a book by its cover. Never judge a food by its odour.

But of course, those street foods are gonna jam up the bad cholesterol level. So I’m taking the save-now-spend-later approach. I’m watching what I eat for every meal at the moment so as to calm the body before the storm.

Breakfast is a delicious and nutritious meal of oatmeal and raisins with soya milk, lunch is an appetising and mouthwatering bowl of fish soup (with no rice or noodles), and dinner… Well, it’s the last meal of the day so I spoil myself. I do housework with my tongue. I eat dust.

That, of course, is a fast diet to lose the float in a week. But who am I kidding? No matter how much I psyche myself up, when mealtime comes, my mind says eat fit food, my legs say go to the gym, while my hands pays the char kway teow hawker.

“Today is the day I’m starting and sticking to my diet.” Problem is, I say this every day. So I shall put it in words now, and the world as my witness, that for the next 8 days, I’m going to eat healthily. This morning I had the oatmeal breakfast, lunch I had seafood soup with noodles, and dinner I cooked brown rice and this…

         Easy recipe

Hong Kong-style Steamed Fish is my favouritest way of cooking fish because it is relatively fuss-free and it’s very appetizing with rice. Here’s my recipe for this simple yet looks-like-it-took-a-lot-of-effort dish.

Ingredients :

Serves 2 – 3 people

Fish – 300g (I used White Threadfin here but you can also use Garoupa or Sea Bass)
Light Soya Sauce – 2 tablespoons
Water – 6 tablespoons (3:1 ratio between soya sauce and water)
Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon
Sugar – 1 teaspoon
Chinese Cooking Wine (Hua Diao Jiu) – 3 tablespoon
Spring Onions, Chinese Parsley, Young Ginger (amounts according to preference)

Cooking Method :

1. Have the fishmonger gut the fish and ask for a ‘butterfly cut’ (slices both sides of the fish so that the flesh opens up like wings). Asked for it to be lightly scored too.

2. Wash the fish thoroughly with water, then rinse it with the Chinese Cooking Wine to coat it. The idea is not to soak or marinate it in the wine.

3. Slice ginger into fine strips and stuff them into the scores of the fish.

4. Finely slice Spring Onions and break Parsley into segments. Leave aside.

5. Heat up the wok and when the water is boiling, put the fish in to steam at high heat. A fish this size takes about 10 mins.

6. At the meantime, pour Soya Sauce, Water, Olive Oil, and Sugar and bring to boil. This is the sauce.

7. Remove the cooked fish and put it on a flat plate. Pour sauce over the fish and garnish with Spring Onions and Parsley.

         Tip for steaming

Here’s a tip for steaming fish so that you get the nice butterfly form. If you just steam it on a flat plate, sometimes the fish meat gets stuck to the plate and disintegrates when you attempt to move it.

Now enjoy your Hong Kong-style Steamed Fish… while I look forward to the dinner aboard a traditional Chinese Junk in Hong Kong next week! Ha. :o)

Countdown to Hong Kong : - 8 Days


Nine more days to go before the Hong Kong trip and I began thinking about where to go and what to do. So I went in search of photos of my previous trips there and I have one conclusion... some photos are better left forgotten!

My very first visit to Hong Kong was in 1988 with my family. When I was 14. When I thought it was cool to wear a cap with a stuffed tiger (I'm born in the year of the Tiger)! OMG... it's super duper obiang! I threw the photo out after I scanned it.

Travel while ableThe canary that looks like Lei Heong Kum (a famous veteran Hong Kong actress) is my maternal grandmother. I am very close to her as she is the one who brought me up with lots of leng tong (directly translated as 'beautiful soup'), love, and hand-holding.

But she suffered a stroke that left her paralysed more than 10 years ago. Subsequently, she suffered another stroke of the throat and she could no longer eat. She loves to eat. But now, she gets her fill from a tube through her nose and directly to her stomach. Life has lost its taste.

Unable to care for her constantly, she now lives in a nursing home and I'm so guilty for not visiting her often enough. Maybe because it rips my heart to see her lying there, waiting for 'that' time to come. It must be such a terrible feeling to have all your senses, but you can't move and just lie there and watch the world go by. Day after day. Year after year. It's like being entombed alive.

I teared slightly when I saw the pic. It was taken atop Victoria Peak, overlooking the urban skyline of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is probably the place she loved to go most because I don't remember any other place that she talked about. When she could still talk.

So this trip, I would like to go to Victoria Peak again. To take a photo and show it to po po (grandmother). While she could still see. I don't know if I can identify the exact spot (and I sure won't do that exact pose!), but I'll bring her back images of the place she loves.

Where to next?

Oh well, enough of all that emo stuff. I'm sure po po would be happy to know that I'm getting a FREE trip to Hong Kong! From previous trips there, I've been to Ocean Park, cruise past the iconic Jumbo Seafood Restaurant, and in 2008, to Lantau Island to see the huge Buddha statue. If you're there, don't miss the trail called the Path of Wisdom by the side of the temple. It is very scenic, expecially in the late afternoon as the sun begins to set.

I wonder where I should go this time round, but wherever that could be, I sure don't want to bump into a tai tai like this...

That's Lei Heong Kum by the way. :o)

Countdown to Hong Kong : - 9 Days


As one of the prizes from the Singapore Blog Awards 2010, all winners get to go on a 4D3N trip to Hong Kong. So today, the 10 of us attended a briefing by representatives from the Hong Kong Tourism Board at SPH. This is the first time all of us met but somehow, they didn't feel like strangers to me.

I guess that's the side effect of having a blog. We sort of know each other before we know each other. I have a feeling this is going to be a trip like no other!

We've yet to receive the full itinerary but sounds like there's going to be some serious fun getting to feel a side of Hong Kong by doing what the locals do. For me, that's taking part in the International Media Race at the HK Dragon Boat Carnival on 24 Jul 10.

Bathtub Race

Yup, I will be racing... In a bathtub! I can't imagine what that would be like but I smell a Charlie Chaplin act coming. Hmm... Shall I bring my shampoo and sap boon along? I wonder who's my partner in the tub. The future of Singapore's bath culture is in our hands. Hope we will do Singapore proud!

There're other special programmes being planned but they're pending confirmation so I will share more once they're confirmed. But I am starting to get quite excited because for one, I would like to see if this trip can change my perception of Hong Kong as a tourism spot.

I've been there 3 times in the past - as a teenager, in my 20s, and in November 2008. My first trip there, a huge misunderstanding happened between me and one of the girls. Our parents had to 'sit down' and talk to settle it. The visit during my 20s wasn't amusing and my last trip there, I lost my passport and wallet and was stuck there for 2 days before I could come home.

So you know how I feel about Hong Kong right? Will this 4th visit be jinxed, or will the Fragrant Harbour henceforth leave a lingering sweetness in my memory... ?

Singapore Blog Awards 2010 winners

First and foremost, a big THANK YOU for visiting this blog and if you’ve voted for it in this year’s Singapore Blog Awards, my deepest and most sincere appreciation for your support. Celebrate Life! won Best Lifestyle Blog at the awards.

I shan’t attempt to describe how I’m feeling because words would only castrate the magnitude of emotions that I felt before, during, and two days after the award ceremony. I wanted to post my thoughts and experience about the whole SAB2010 experience and wrote a colossal post. But I caught a cold from my long-windedness and decided to rewrite.

That’s the responsibility of winning. It’s an encouragement to be more critical and do better. More stress!

So after going through some dieting in vocabulary and topics, here’s Version 2. It offers a glimpse of the awards event and ceremony held at Movida last Saturday (10 Jul 10) from 4 – 6:30pm.

All the award winners

It is not because I won the award that I thought the event was pretty well organized, fun and definitely had a glam factor! Maybe I haven’t clocked enough mileage at such events so I’m easily impressed, but it did exceed my expectations. The organizer, Omy.sg really did a great job in my limited opinion and I’m not sucking up.

Before taking part, I’ve not heard of the Singapore Blog Awards or Omy.sg although this is the third year the contest has been held. I am very sua ku one. The news portal’s name sounds like what I would use at a coffeeshop… “Li ai lim kopi-O MAI? Teh-O MAI? Ah Oh, ai jiak siew MAI boh?”

So I thought SBA2010 would be some just some housefly trying to be a butterfly. But oh my, how very wrong I am! The polished bloggers and event left me with so much to reflect and ponder upon. It was a real eye-opener and here’s a record of some of the more candid moments for me.


I didn’t give much thought about what to wear to the event initially. I planned to go in just a black t-shirt and black jeans. Can’t go wrong with that right?

Then I received the event’s invite and I almost blacked-out when I saw words such as ‘Oscar night’, ‘glamourous’, ‘Bling’, ‘Paparazzi’… I was screwed. I have no super-glam outfit except for a business suit. That’s a surefire paparazzi anesthesia.

Wardrobe must function.“Eh, Celebrate Life! has been one of the top 3 most voted blogs leh, at least go in something with more thought than that tranquilising suit lah!” said the voice in my head.

It continued to coax me. Fine, I will go in something out of character then! A dire decision called for a desperate solution. It was time I release something I bought some time ago but don’t have the guts to wear.

With a handkerchief tied around my nose, I battled dust bunnies and mites, hunted all shelves and drawers, searched through bags of clothes, until I came face-to-face with it… the beast. Leopard-Face. Now that's fashion with a bite! Meow...

I bought the singlet with a friend at Platinum Mall, a wholesale shopping centre in Bangkok. He wanted to buy 2 pieces but if we bought 3 pieces, each singlet cost only 150 bht (approx. S$6.00). So I ‘sacrificed’ and got this translucent singlet with a silvery print. It’s so boomz. And my nipples can be seen through it. Thankfully my nips are not the size of dinner plates. And furry.

To top off the look and hide the obscene nips, I threw on a brown suede jacket I bought 2 years ago but worn only once. I also took the advice of someone to wear red underwear for luck!

     Thrift glamour?          Hollywood next top red carpet pose

Red briefs, leopard preens and 3 crosses… that’s what I call feng-shui for your wardrobe. And it worked! Haha… Siow Har was very cooperative too. She wore a rad dress to multiply the luck factor. She’s lady luck!

And her pose is sure to be the de facto Hollywood red carpet posture to adopt at the next Oscars. I’m immensely grateful to her for attending the awards event with me and helping me photograph the happenings.


The awards ceremony was very fast and we did not get a chance to say a few words of thanks. So here’s what I would say if given time to have a Thank You speech… (then again, if I was really given time on stage, I would not know what to say!)

Lip serviceI would like to thank all the main sponsors, sponsors, media support and event partners. Sounds like I’m paying lip service but well, it is a commercial world. If the participating merchants don’t make money, there won’t be prizes or this award.

If there are no prizes, I doubt it would be as attractive for bloggers to take part. So yeah, I seldom name brands in my blog, but my gratitude to all the contributors who made this event possible. (I typed out each of their names instead of using their logos to show sincerity hor.)

I would also like to thank Omy.sg for giving us bloggers a platform to gather and be recognized, and all the judges for shortlisting my blog as one of the finalists and deciding that it’s good enough to win. (I wonder what are the winning factor/s of this rather unfanciful and technologically primitive blog.) A special thank you too to Alvin Lim from Omy who’s been liaising with me and keeping me in the loop of things.

Next, I want to thank all my friends and family who have knowingly or unknowingly provided inspiration willingly or unwillingly. Ha. (If I’ve offended you in any way, please pardon me and be prepared to pardon me for future posts as well.)

And most importantly, I want to thank all readers. This blog was started as an outlet for me to vent but over the course of the contest, I began to write with a mindfulness of an audience. I’m still amazed that people read my blog because unless you know me personally, what’s so interesting to follow what’s happening to a stranger? So thank you for reading.


Winning was definitely the icing on the cake. Truth be told, I’ve thought all along that Bing would win the Best Lifestyle Blog category because her blog was visually appealing, she’s got a great sense of humour, a very accessible writing-style, and a way of turning mundane everyday happenings into a talking point.

Meeting the finalistsHers is the blog I followed the most because well, you have to know your competition right(?) and I can identify with some of her issues, such as giving up an addiction. And I should blame her for getting me addicted to her blog!

Meeting her in person was something I looked forward to at the awards because I wanted to grill her about blogging tips. When I finally saw her, it was like meeting an idol (plus she looks like one of my favourite local singers, 孙燕姿)!

I was also looking out to meet the other 8 finalists in the category but I failed to sight or recognize them. Lifestyle is a very broad category in terms of subject matters and I would like to thank my fellow finalists for the ideas I’ve gotten from their blogs :

Miss Glitzy Monologue, PassportChop Travel Blog, Trishalavittae, Emma - $30 date Night, Fidgety Fingers, Holly Jean, Alafista, and Muiee.

I also had the privilege of meeting some of the winners from other categories such as Pete, Priscilla and Hendra. I didn’t have a chance to visit their blogs before the awards coz I was busy creating blog contents after work, but I popped by their sites to browse around after I met them in person. They’re definitely worth the mouseclicks!

Because of youThe awards event was quite a blast. Some of the bloggers were invited to perform and I’m awed by the fact that these people were not only good bloggers, they can sing and dance too! So multi-talented. And my only talent that night was drinking 5 bottles of Tiger beer.

I know, I said I wanted to stop being an alcolwhore in a previous post not too far down. But it’s a happy occasion mah... To be surrounded by so many people brimming with creativity and a casual atmosphere of fun!

And I needed the drinks to calm me down. I was soooo nervous when I went on stage to get the award coz I was caught by what I call the Surprise Fallacy. This is how it works… I WANT to win but have to prepare myself emotionally if I don’t win. In order to manage emotional disappointments, I had to inflate the bubble of nonchalance and indifference to ‘failure’.

So when my name was called, it acts like a pin that punctured the bubble and the amount of time taken to go from exaggerated self-consolation (with such headtalk as “It’s ok to not win, it’s good enough to have come this far”, “You’ve done your best”, etc) to actually letting the WANT to take over, is the Surprise Fallacy. I am prepared for surprise but pretended I’m not.

I love Omy!And the nervousness is the vacuum that exists before the full acceptance of having won sets in. Yes, when faced with bad things, we have to stop denying that it has happened and accept the reality in order to move on. It is the same when good things happen. It takes time to accept.

I haven’t felt a nervousness of such epic proportions in a long time. I could actually feel my face twitching and jaw quivering when I received the award from Mr Teo Ser Luck (Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Ministry of Transport). He’s also the Mayor of the North East Community Development Council. My fingers went sore typing his titles. So many portfolios and yet he looks so young! I don’t believe he’s 42 years-old.

From the moment I received my trophy to all the media interviews afterwards, it was a blur. With all the flashes and spotlights, it scared the soul right out of my body. It felt surreal to be interviewed and I was so awkward with all the attention.

I was so busy being a wreck of nerves, my thoughts didn’t have the chance to catch up with me and I free-wheeled during the interviews. I don’t understand what I’m saying most of the time, acted silly and I was unusually fidgety. I hope the reporters and public will be forgiving towards a newbie like me.


After all the excitements leading up to and during the ceremony, I must say I’m relieved. I was pretty exhausted from all the late nights spent blogging after work during the voting period.

Some of the blogs were completed close to 6am in the morning but posted at a later time when I could get some rest and rethink what was being said.

Bye bye waistlineEven those posts with just a photo and some thoughts about what the image says to me can take hours to find the words that I felt captured the spirit of it.

I think as far as blogging goes, I'm a pretty hardworking blogger! Ha.

So I am rather worn out. But the award changes things. It is a booster. I can foresee that there will be many more nights of overnight blogging during the weekends. This is only the beginning!

But for the time being, I will take things a little easy, chill out more, spend time with friends, go back to the lifestyle I had before, get back in shape and along the way, if something screams “Blog Me!”, I will share it with you.

To mark the new journey ahead for this blog, I’m offering a toast to you in the photo. Cheers! :o) Next time I will toast with tea. I don’t know when that will be!


First of all, everyone who’s been asking me for a treat, know this… there are no cash prizes. I already very pok gai (broke) from paying bills at home so may just being happy for my triumph be your best treat! :o) Wahahaha…

Of the prizes, I think the most interesting item amongst them would be the trophy designed by one of Singapore’s artistic treasures, Mr Tan Swie Hian. I read a book about him, ‘To Paint a Smile: Insights of One Artist’s Approach to Happiness’, and have been filled with admiration since for how meaningful messages and symbols are imbibed into his works. The colourful wall mural at the Chinatown’s MRT Station is a work of Mr Tan.

     Can't wait to get home          A fusion of new and old

So to receive a trophy designed by him was an honour above honours! And I got to shake his hand and he gave me a personal explanation of his inspiration for the trophy!

We spoke in Mandarin so I’m not sure if I got his explanation accurately in English but here’s a gist of it :

•  It is in the shape of the ancient drinking cup used by royalties known as 鼎 and it has 3 legs. ‘鼎’ also means ‘top’ in Chinese.

•  1 of the 3 legs is in its traditional form while the other 2 are of different shapes to represent new media forms such as the internet. It represented the fusion of tradition with technology.

When I brought home all the prizes and my mum was going through the bags, she lifted the trophy and asked, “What is this? Why you bring home an incense burner?” Another *gua gua gua...* moment.

Personally, I felt Mr Tan understands bloggers very well. We spend a lot of time to spread information about things but don’t get paid. I can now use the trophy to go 化缘 (the bowl used by monks to ask for alms)! Haha.

Greedy meInitially I thought the trophy was odd because it is not the usual types we’re used to. I think it is sculptured in cast iron coz it’s very heavy. I placed it on the top shelf in front of my bed and each time I see it, I have a certain sense of calm. I guess true art changes you.

The next big prizes are of course the ASUS Eee-PC Touch netbook and a 4D3N trip sponsored by the Hong Kong Tourism Board. So I’ll be joining the other category winners to Hong Kong from 23 – 26 July 10. I will also be taking part in the dragon boat festival there! Now my years of dragon boat training can come into use. Except, I’ll be rowing a bathtub in the media race.

Another ‘substantial’ prize is a 3D2N accommodation at Baramee Resortel at Phuket, Thailand. There are other small souvenirs and memorabilia given by sponsors but the free passes given by the Singapore National Heritage Board (NHB) made me rub my eyes a few times to read.

The Best Lifestyle Blog category, the category I won in, is sponsored by NHB. I got 3 museum passes – 2 passes to visit the National Museum (ONE VISIT. ADMITS 1 EACH), and 1 pass to visit the Asian Civilisations Museum (ONE VISIT. ADMITS 2.). I thought I saw wrongly that it is NOT a 1-year free entry pass for 2 to all the museums and boutique galleries in Singapore.


I guess whether it is 1 visit, or unlimited visits, it’s still better than no visits. I have learnt to count every blessing and be grateful for everything big or small. For whether we want to nick pick or just not sweat over the small stuff, life goes on.

Why Celebrate Life?And that is the spirit behind the title of this blog – Celebrate Life!. It is a common phrase that a group of my friends use a lot in the past. Even now. Each time someone gets flustered or unhappy over something, we’ll just say, “Celebrate life… tomorrow will come with or without you.”

I like this saying because it has a dual feel to it. There is the uplifting first part (celebrate life), and the cold comfort that follows (you don’t live forever). It struck a deep chord for me so when I was thinking for a name for this blog about 5 years ago, I decided to call it Celebrate Life!. I wanted it to be a celebration that life has to offer.

The good. The bad. The beautiful. The ugly. The happiness. The sorrows. 人生的酸甜苦辣,喜怒哀乐,悲欢离合。And the exclamation mark adds a sense of urgency to celebrate now. Today. Because tomorrow may or may not come.

To win, or lose, it doesn’t matter. Winning may not be a blessing, losing may be a blessing in disguise. 欢乐无长在,悲痛需简短。

For all the 1,000 over bloggers who submitted entries for the Singapore Blog Awards 2010, and the number of us who made it into the finals but didn’t win, I may not know you, I may not have read your blogs, and I’m a nobody and in no position to encourage you, but if I may, I would like to urge you to be not discouraged.

Continue to blog and while we may put ourselves out for criticism, there is only one way to truly celebrate life… and that is to live out our true colours.

Thank you once again for reading. It is my pleasure writing for you.

Thoughts Because of the Blog Awards

In less than 15 hours, the Singapore Blog Awards 2010 ceremony will be on! I’ve been thinking about what to wear for the whole week because sad to say, I don’t have an imaginative wardrobe. The theme is ‘Oscar glamourous’ and ‘Paparazzi-worthy’. That means it is either sharp suits or drag as Lady Gaga. I don’t have the moolah or the bola to do either.

Oscar glam?And adding weight to a drowning man, I saw some of what the bloggers are going in. The designer-sponsored clothes, the who’s who of make-up, the famous stylists… guess I’ll be paparazzi-worthy after all since I’ll be the only one in rags. Maybe I’ll inspire the next fashion trend – Darrags (Darren’s rags)!

But I really look forward to the event. I want to meet all the bloggers running for the awards to get tips on how to make my blog more attractive and to thank them for the inspiration some of their blogs have given me. I’ve always been writing my blog for an audience of one… me. It was a place for me to insure against forgetting some of the major moods and events in my life and a place of reference for some facts I want to remember.

Through the many blogs I’ve come across because of the awards, I realized it is okay to say what I really feel. In the capacity of a personal blog, this is an unsafe place to be who we are but we can’t be somebody else if we expect to be heard.

I’ve also come to observe that my blog is somewhat bi-polar. One post could be all fun and humour and the next is all emo and soul-searching. Like now. But I guess, this is my style. And I have to learn to grow comfortable with it. If I’ve learnt well from the blogs I’ve read, this is who I am. This is a window for what I’ve gone through and what I’m experiencing to soar.

Paparazzi worthy?It is beyond my wildest imagination that Celebrate Life! could make it as a Top 10 finalist and I’m really thankful for each and every vote that placed it in the top 3 voted blogs for the Best Lifestyle Blog category. I took part just for fun but my eyes are really opened to the possibilities that blogging presents.

The past couple of weeks had seen an unusually high number of posts from me. Many were postings I wanted to put up but couldn’t make the time previously, but as a result of running for the awards, I took extra efforts to put them up. Some of the blogs were completed at 4 or 5 am in the morning and I’m a zombie at work the next day. But it showed me how much I can actually push myself and I’m very glad that my backlog of posts has been cleared!

I hope that this blog has been more than just a guy ranting about his life and provided some information that you could use. Thank you all so very much for reading and for the comments and mails you’ve sent me. They are the fuel that keeps me going.

Even if I do not win at the awards, I’ve already gained many invaluable lessons through this journey and made some new friends along the way. Thank you for walking with me.

And later, I will be walking around the awards venue, Movida at St James Powerstation, in a suede jacket bought in Singapore (S$100), blue jeans bought in Bangkok (S$25), white singlet with silvery leopard preens from Thailand (S$6.00), brown shades from Malaysia (S$6.50), khaki duckbill cap from Hong Kong (S$7.00), and an assortment of chains to try and look cool.

Will I be fashion Frankenstein or will I successfully mimic budget couture debonair… watch this space for the outcome... :o)

Ah Lian Vs. Lily

Ah Beng and Ah Lian went on a date at Singapore Botanic Gardens. At the spur of romance, Ah Beng plucked a jubilantly blossomed water lily from a nearby pond and gave it to his sweetheart.

Wa diam diam kua dio jit aey huey, wa dio siong ki li (Every time I see this flower, I think about you),” he said lovingly.

Ah Lian looked at the beautiful flower and cupped her lover’s face in her hands. She looked deep into Ah Beng’s eyes, tears brimming from hers. She started to cry.

“This flower is salah (wrong)!” she wailed. “I am lian huey (lotus flower), not water leelee!”

For the uninitiated, Ah Lian is a derogatory nickname given to a subculture of Singaporean girls, typically teenagers, who are characterized by loud, uncouth behavior and mismatched fashion sense. They’re also associated with gangsterism in the early days. But I think they’re kinda cool!

‘Lian’ is derived from 莲花, which is Chinese for lotus flower. I can’t trace the etymology of why this word was used to represent this group but presumably, it’s due to the common usage of 莲 ‘lian’ in girl’s name.

Are you like Ah Beng and can’t tell the difference between a lotus and a water lily? Well, not that being able to identify them correctly is crucial to survival, but I thought it is rather interesting how these two aquatic plants are same same but different!

A friend recently went to Pulau Ubin and knowing that I like taking photos of lotuses, tagged me in a photo showing a lotus pond there. But it was a water lily pond, not lotus. To her, the difference is negligible and I totally agree that the point is not in identifying the flowers correctly, but to enjoy the great outdoors.

               These are water lilies

But would you put salt in your coffee and sugar on your French fries? Both seasoning without labels can look the same, yet what a difference they make in taste! I wouldn’t go all the way to Changi and take a boat to Pulau Ubin just to photograph water lilies because great pictures can come from them even in a small pot. Lotuses on the other hand, in my preference, look best when photographed in a big open pond.

But for a change from the concrete jungle on mainland to the rustic, back to nature appeal of Pulau Ubin, I would still make the trip. Some day. When I’m not lazy. And I think it’s soon.

Seems like I’m distracted from what I want to talk about again… and that’s how to tell the difference between a lotus from a water lily. Actually, it’s very obvious. The easiest way to differentiate them is their leaves.

               These are lotuses

Lotuses have leaves that extend out and above the water whereas lilies have leaves that float or sit on the water surface. The other difference is that the lotus has a fruiting body in the middle that gives us lotus pods, whereas water lily produces nectar.

For me, I differentiate between lotus and lily simply from the shape of their petals. Lilies have petals shaped like the fingers, and lotuses have petals that are shaped like a closed palm.

       Pointed lily petals        Rounded lotus petals

Knowing the difference between a lotus and water lily now, Ah Beng scoured all 63.7 hectares of the botanic gardens in search of the flower that befitted his darling’s name. His eyes descended on a bril莲t bloom in a lotus pond and swiftly plucked it for Ah Lian.

Just then, a park ranger came up to him and handed him a S$500 fine for plucking flowers in the garden. *gua gua gua…*

眼忙心不盲 The Invisible Cloak

Colour his heart

In a colourless world,
A red dollar finds no recognition.
When we don't leave a trace,
The heart forms its deepest impression.

Butt-Face & the Pest

Face black black

If this spider was found at home, it would be a pest. But when it was found in its natural habitat at Fort Canning Park, it’s a very welcomed guest for my camera!

Not sure if this is a species of the orb-weaver spiders but it sure is beautiful. To get this shot, well, I gave nature a little help... Okay, let’s say nudge... Alright, it’s a push!

Beh song si bo?Not something I’m proud of and definitely against the ethics of nature photography, but I ensured that the spider was not hurt in any way and its web remained unbroken.

Since I got a new tripod and haven’t returned my friend his macro lens, I thought I’d squeeze in a few more macro nature shoots last week. I was so glad I wasn’t lazy and got my butt out to shoot! And I got this bug with an almost human-faced butt!

I didn’t get many shots at Fort Canning that day because I went in the late afternoon and after about 2 hours of shooting nothing, I decided to pack up and go. As I was leaving, I saw a thin veil of web whispering between two leaves. A spider must be nearby.

Next to the web was a leaf held slightly curved with a thick mesh of webbing. The spider was in its leaf ‘burrow’ underneath the web. I tried blowing at it. It didn’t move. I took a leaf and gently tap the thick web. I was ignored.

So I picked up a twig and pushed it through one opening of the burrow to get the spider out. It fought me for a while but finally scurried out. And I was like, ‘Wow!’ After a few failed shots, I decided to set up my tripod. That was the first time my new tripod opened its legs. I’m glad its virginity wasn’t wasted!

I thought the spider’s back looked like a Japanese kabuki mask. I wanted to reset my tripod to get a more face-on shot of its back but it ran back into its home. I must be a pest to it. I’m sure it wished it had human Baygon.

Hung Up About Hangovers

*hic!* So I’ve decided to renovate my bod starting from 1 Jul 2010; and in 3 months, hopefully I can go from uncle flab to mid-age fab. But the renovation can’t start unless I discard some old habits. My drinking problem is the biggest thing that must go before there can be ample room for improvements.

Or rather, to cut my drinking so that I won’t be 2 steps back with each step forward since alcohol contains empty calories and blocks the body’s ability to burn fat. If I’m determined to change, I can’t be doing the same things and expect to get different results. I won’t get melons if I keep planting peanuts. Neither do I raise a bull with hamburgers.

I never used to drink at all. I hated alcohol because it dissolved my family. My earliest recalled encounter with alcohol was when I went to Pulau Besar, Malaysia, with some friends more than a dozen years back. It was an island resort so there’s nothing else to do at night but park by the beach bar.

I had 2 shots – Test-Tube Baby and Grasshopper, and I was down. I couldn’t remember what happened after the drinks but friends told me I was on the floor, talking to the village cat. They promptly piggybacked me to the chalet.

Then another time, I passed out in a Bangkok club from having some whiskey with Coke. Again, my friends quickly carried me out of the club and into the cab. According to my friends, along the way back to the hotel, I kept chai chai-ing the taxi driver. Chai means ‘yes’ in Thai. Each time my friends gave directions to the driver and he replied ‘yes’, I would apparently chai non-stop. To this day, that group of friends still calls me Chai Chai. Some of them used that nickname so much, they forgot my real name.

That was how bad I am at drinking and I drank only at rarely necessary occasions. But now, I can out-drink any of those friends any time. There is a rule that we shouldn’t mix different kinds of alcohol. I don’t observe that rule. I am not an alcoholic, I’m an alco-whore-lic.

Started drinking in uni days

I don’t discern between my drinks and the higher the alcohol content, the better. Vodka, gin, rum, Jim Beam, red wine, white wine, shooters, cocktails, beer… I drink ‘em all! Where it used to take only 2 mild shots to knock me out, now it takes about 1.5 bottles of wine or 4 cans of 500ml beer at 8.8% each to get me started.

I won’t even want to talk about the vodkas, rums and gins with 40% or higher alcohol content because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging. I used to tell friends that if I got a cut, they get Bloody Mary.

For a period of time, the most expensive thing I possessed was my urine. It was liquid gold. Sometimes platinum. I was spending about S$2,000 a month on clubbing and booze alone. Thankfully, that has stopped. But I continue to drink. At home. Almost nightly.

So more than just improving my muscle tone, this whole physique remodeling period is about re-wiring my brain off alcohol dependency and other bad habits. I didn’t think it was going to be hard, but it is. I wanted to not drink last night but like clockwork, I had a can of beer and a glass of gin with blueberry juice. The consolation was, I consciously stopped at that. I don't want to 'chase' alcohol no more.

Tonight, I’m attending a wedding dinner. First thing my friend told me about his dinner was there’s going to be a lot of whiskey. I swallowed my saliva. I’m already feeling thirsty.

It's just so hard to quit being an Alcowhore!

From Feather to Leather

Numbers can lie

Yesterday was the third time this week that someone said I shrunk. The people in white coats said that as we age, we lose bone mass and muscles and our bodies shrink. Is it happening to me already?!

Well, to begin with, I’ve never been big. Photos made me look taller and bigger than I really am so when some online friends see me in real life, they’re surprised to find Tom Thumb rather than Goliath.

Since young, I’ve always been skinny and scrawny. I can gorge like a pig, yet look like a bamboo, and weigh like a feather. But oh how times have changed! Now I peck like a bird, look like Shrek, and weigh like leather! Perhaps it is time to accept that I’m a luggage bag, and not a wallet anymore. The consolation is that the luggage can hold more experiences inside.

When I tell friends I used to be Kate Moss instead of the Kate Winslet now, they never believed me. Here’s proof…

Twice the age, twice the size.

Being a paper kite was no fun when I was growing up. I wanted to be muscular. Not quite Schwarzenegger, but at least those cover dudes of fitness magazines (without the digital touch-ups!).

I tried exercising but no mountains came out of my molehills. I tried eating 3 bowls of rice, yet I’m no heavier than a lice. Then came army. Still skinny. Then I went into polytechnic and started to gym seriously. I was at the gym almost every day and also began taking supplements.

Creatine, whey protein, mass gainers, amino acids in capsule form, amino acids in liquid form… the whole gamut. But no one told me that to gain weight, all I had to do was wait! Middle age is the best brand of weight gainer.

I went from being 48kgs in my teens, to 68kgs now. At a height of 1.71m, these stats seem proportionate. But the problem is, the weight no longer stays at other parts of the body and gathers at one place. I think there is something wrong with gravity. Shouldn’t the weight be pulled to the lower body? How come I’m still having chicken legs and a growing belly?

No weigh out

Parts are getting smaller where they should be big, and places where they’re supposed to be small are ballooning. I guess this is my welcome party to mid-life. With age, the dilemma and challenge is pumping up the rest of the body without inflating the waist; but the difficulty of preventing the ‘V’ from retracting in one alphabet space to ‘U’ takes a much longer mile on the treadmill at 36.

But, I’m not going down without a fight! Even if it is not to regain the former glory or better, at least I get back on track to feel healthier and collect back the tolls of drinking, partying and smoking. If I had the determination before to make the change, I can find back that commitment to make a comeback despite of age.

To achieve my goal, I must up my gym time, do more cardio exercise, cut out binge-drinking, and choose fit foods over fat ones! I must put a workout schedule in place, be disciplined and stick to it; and record everything I ate and the exercises I did as motivation!

It has been found that when people kept a daily journal of what they ate and the exercises they did, they’re more likely to stick to a diet and workout plan.

Today is 1 Jul 2010. I give myself 3 months, till 30 Sep 2010 to concentrate on renovating my exterior. Will I succeed?

For today’s record, I did a spinning class in the afternoon and trained my back at night. For breakfast, I had oatmeal with raisins and soya milk. Lunch was tofu vegetable soup and porridge for dinner.

Now, I’m writing this blog and into my third can of Tiger Classic beer. I’m also munching on NTUC brand fish crackers… Hmm... so much for determination!

蜻蜓效应 Dragonfly Effect

Of one body

The oneness of life...

无定意 Without Prejudice

Everything Shall Pass...

See without viewing
Listen without hearing
Understand without learning

A Secret About Secrets

Getting under the skin

“I’m going to tell you something. But you must promise you will not tell anyone,” a friend said to me recently. If it is going to be a secret, why tell me? Especially me. My dear friend, you know I’m a blogger right? How does putting my life out like an open blog convince you I have a high integrity with discretion? *Puzzled*

When people tell you a secret, they are essentially placing their skeletons in your closet; something which then becomes your responsibility to carry. It is a privilege when someone opens up and shares a fact that nobody knows, but when too many friends have too many secrets, it gets heavy. The closet becomes very full. And sometimes, leaks happen.

People talk...I respect people’s right to privacy and very often a time, when friends confide in me, I’ll forget what was being said. This is a guarantee that I won’t be a tattletale. But I’ve seen many incidences when the teller went around telling others the ‘secret’ and when it spreads in the grapevine, the originator holds the first person being told responsible.

The first hearer becomes the teller’s surrogate for shame. Usually, secrets are about something we’re not proud of… a despicable act, or stigmatic occurrences. So when the teller had gone through some time of not accepting or coping with that ‘secret’ well, the person who first heard it from the horse’s mouth would have to bear the brunt of accusation for betrayal when it explodes.

So who’s the victim now?

Is it a big deal?The interesting thing is, people hardly get shocked easily nowadays. So frankly, is the secret a big deal? Yes, sometimes it really is. But most often, it is hardly headline news. Even if it is shocking, someone else will 'rise up' and take over soon enough.

Bizarre trappings and people with a life less ordinary are really not uncommon. Sometimes, rather than keep the sh*t we’re going through under wraps, it may be cathartic to share the experience. Someone who’s facing the same situation may gain from it and feel less alone.

But being open about a ‘secret’ acts as a sift that separates the good friends from the fair weather ones. It is not the responsibility of the person you told your secret not to tell others, but your determination to lessen the load of skeletons so the weight is easier for us to bear.

Having thought-out-aloud this much, I hope you can keep the secret that my friend told me a secret. I pray yours is a walk-in closet and not a coffin like mine!

Clothing Optional Weekend?

Could this be a premonition that I'll have a clothing optional weekend?

This morning, I saw the MTV for Kylie Minogue's latest single, All the Lovers. Last night, I saw the music video of 脱掉 (Strip) by 杜德伟 (Alex To) at a KTV bar. Both show almost nakedness. Is it a sign for a notti weekend? ;o)

Caucasian Vs. Asian Strip-Off... who's gonna melt your computer screen?!

An Ocean of Love & Hope

Absolutely love this song 我心是海洋 by 蔡琴 from her album 爱像一首歌 (Love is
Like a Song). I find the melody soothing and the lyrics very uplifting and inspirational.

I've been trying to search for its music video on Youtube for a long time but couldn't find it. So here's sharing the song clip with you. If it's too loud, adjust the volume bar to the right of the player. Hope you'ii enjoy it :o)

Let hope flow作词:陈桂珠 /  作曲:梁弘志

有一种光亮小小的, 却能为人指引方向
有一种力量微微的, 却能让人变得坚强

有一种歌唱轻轻的, 却能使人打开心房
有一种爱啊淡淡的, 却能给人无限希望

我的心是一盏烛光, 虽然只能微微发亮
为迷失的人指引方向, 让脆弱的人不再迷茫

我的心是一片海洋, 可以温柔却有力量
让鱼儿可以随波逐浪, 使帆船可以顺利归航

有一种歌唱轻轻的, 却能使人打开心房
有一种爱啊淡淡的, 却能给人无限希望

我想要大声歌唱, 任何人都不能阻挡

我的爱会一直成长, 不停付出不再隐藏

Family Man Day

Another Father’s Day came and gone unceremoniously. Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever celebrating this day. Quite simply because my birth father hadn’t given me a reason to celebrate, or was around much to coincide with such a celebration. My father passed away about 2½ years ago and I really don’t want to bring up the past. I mean, that poor guy is dead, let his shadow rest.

But this blog entry was calling out for me to be written since Sunday. It is not as a sob story of how I never felt the love of a father, but I guess a coming to terms that I’ll never have the chance to truly appreciate Father’s Day.

I come from a broken home. My parents divorced when I was in my mid-teens and I supported my mum’s decision because I was sick of being in constant fear that he’ll beat up my mum. Every so often, quarrels will come from their room followed by loud slaps and the sound when knuckle meets forehead. I’ll never forget that sound. Then mum will be crying, sometimes bleeding, and almost always with a black eye or bruises.

To get me through school and pay for my father’s drinking and gambling debts, my mother worked 2 jobs – as a wine promoter at the basement of Yaohan (now Plaza Singapura), and a beer promoter at Satay Club (now the Esplanade). So I could imagine how it would feel going to work with bruises on her face.

I was also sick of having to rush-pack and move to my grandmother’s place each time they fought and to move back again after a few days. I just didn’t want to be terrified any longer. And my father hadn’t done anything that earned my respect. I had to deal with his loansharks even though I’m barely 10-years-old, and every year during Chinese New Year, I have to find new places to hide my ang pow money.

When we celebrate the existence of a father, we remember the sacrifices that he has made for the family. More importantly, it’s his sacrificial acts that made us feel special; that in the years where we need guidance and protection, we were provided for and protected. My mum assumed those roles. I remember I used to make a big deal out of Mother’s Day, and I would do something nice for her on Father’s Day too.

So my parents separated and after a few years, my mum remarried. I lost contact with my father but we got in touch again 2 years before he passed away. He had settled in Batu Pahat, Malaysia, and married a woman who had 2 kids from her previous marriage.

I used to have their contacts but an unfortunate incident made me lose touch with them after my father’s death. To this day, his ashes remain somewhere in Batu Pahat. Chinese doctrine on filial piety would frown on my apparent lack of interest to possess his remains. But to me, everything shall pass... Happiness shall pass, sadness shall pass. Especially sadness. The sooner it passes, the better.

By the time of mum’s second marriage, I was in my early twenties. He came at a time when the appeal of a provider-protector had been greatly diminished so our relationship is more of 2 adults living under one roof than a real father-son type. But it still felt good to have another person in the family to depend on since I’m an only child. Well, wrong.

My stepfather created a whole lot of gambling-related problems for us too and to cut the long story short, he fell ill later and could no longer meet the demands of regular work. He is dependent on us financially. In a way, I’m the sole-breadwinner for the family and, as much as I hate to admit it, having an ‘extra’ mouth to feed, is something to bear.

But my mum needs him to be around. Even though there’re squabbles, she has the companionship. Kinda like keeping a pet to keep the important person happy. Gosh, I’m such a terrible person to have an analogy like that. Yet, that’s the way it is. There’s no one to blame for whatever cards we’re dealt, but to play to win with whatever we got.

And so lies my disdain with Father’s Day. Rather than it being a day of love and celebration, it felt more like a memorial. A memorial, like a war memorial, is something created to remember the good out of a bad situation. No wonder Father’s Day always slips past me because I’ve celebrated it a month ago… on Mother’s Day.

Still, I would like to have this opportunity to let the child in me call out this word I’ve never had the chance to use… “Daddy”.

May every child find a hero in his/her father, and may every father give his child a reason to celebrate… every day!


6:00 am. The birds have yet to start their morning song but I’m already all set to head out to Singapore Botanic Gardens. With today’s photo-shoot outing, I can finally put the Nature Macro Photography course assignment behind. I really can’t wait!

Took up the macro photography course in March and kinda regretted it. This mode of photography is just too much hard work! Shooting nature in macro is really a test of skill and a lot of patience. And that’s not even adding on the cost of specialized equipments such as a macro lens, extension tube, remote control, reflector, and a sturdy tripod. Can’t afford the full set of specialized equipments, I invested only in a Kenko extension tube (S$195) which is basically a set of rings to be attached between the lens and camera body.

Compared to an actual macro lens, focusing with the extension tube is more difficult and somehow, the photos aren’t as sharp (borrowed a friend’s 90mm marco lens to try today and can tell the difference in ease of use and image quality compared to my earlier shots taken with extension tubes).

The submission for my assignment is this coming Thursday and I’ve yet to select my 6 photos because most of them would be too pixilated when printed in 8R. Moreover, my shots are nondescript in subject matter and kinda boring. Hopefully I can pass the strict eyes of the instructor.

Anyway, here’s to share the places I went to for the macro shoots and may it be of help for those of you interested in Nature Macro Photography, or just to spend a morning or day with the jewels of Mother Nature.

Address : HortPark, 33 Hyderabad Road (off Alexandra Road)
Opening Hours : 9:00 am – 11:00 am (every last Saturday of the month)
Entrance Fee : Free

Rush RushFound within the premises of HortPark, the butterfly enclosure is open only once every month for 2 hours only. To confirm the enclosure’s opening, call HortPark’s Visitor Services at 6471 5601.

Due to its limited visiting schedule, expect to see quite a crowd there. And it doesn’t help that the conservatory is very small so you’ll have to jostle for space for some serious photo-taking. But frame and take your shots quickly because you’ll be asked to leave once you’ve stayed there for a while. To take my shots, I entered and exited the enclosure 4 times.

There are quite a few species of butterflies there but most notably would be the large, white-winged Paper Kites. The other common butterfly would be the Lacewings. The big butterflies are pretty stationary so it is possible to get great shots of them

Caterpillars, larvae and butterfly eggs can also be found if you look closely enough amongst the plants. The enclosures volunteer curators are also helpful in pointing them out and giving some brief facts about the butterfly species.

The place is very well-kept, neat and well-landscaped. It is a really nice place to bring kids and get up-close and personal with the gentle wings, but don’t encourage them to touch the butterflies. Saw a parent stroke a butterfly’s wing in front of his kid and the next thing you know, the child reached out and grabbed the poor insect!

Oh Farm
Address : 14A, Bah Soon Pah Road (near Yishun)
Opening Hours : 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily
Entrance Fee : S$3.00 for the Oh Farm Butterfly Lodge

Another place to photograph butterflies easily is the Oh Farm. Located off a slip road between an army camp and the Yishun Bottle Tree Park, the Oh Chin Huat Hydroponics Farm has a small butterfly enclosure tucked in corner within its premises.

It looked more like a forgotten garden in someone’s backyard than something that’s worth S$3.00 to see. The place was not well-kept with could-be beautiful plants gone stray, and the neglect in landscaping was awfully apparent.

Small & Unkept

But thankfully, the butterflies found here were varied enough and you can take your time to set up your shots for macro-ing them. However, the lighting condition wasn’t too ideal as only half the lodge gets the morning sun while the other half seemed perpetually shadowed. So it is useful to bring along a reflector to bounce light onto a butterfly subject.

Again, the Paper Kites and Lacewings are common here, but I also saw Monarch butterflies and a couple of other species I’ve yet to learn their names. For photography enthusiasts, this place has good potential for macro shots; but for a leisurely visit, I would give it a miss.

Mandai Orchid Garden
Address : 200, Mandai Lake Road (before Mandai Zoo)
Opening Hours : 8:00 am – 6:00 pm daily
Entrance Fee : Adult – S$3.50, Senior Citizen – S$1.50, Child – S$1.00

Somewhat RusticI heard that the Mandai Orchid Garden is going to close soon. I hope this rumour is untrue because it seemed quite a waste to close an interesting place like this.

It may not be as well-manicured as some of the specialty gardens in Singapore, but I personally found it quite charming both for photography and also a day trip for the family.

It has got quite a lot of plant species, a herbs and spices garden, a delightful spread of Torch Gingers, a pond filled with dragonflies and of course, rows of orchids.

I didn't manage to cover the whole place when we had our photo outing there and stayed mostly around the pond area. Apart from dragonflies, I also caught some shots of a grasshopper and garden snail. I bet there would be more species of insects to shoot there if I looked hard enough.

Oh, and if you say you're photographer (of course must show you have the gears lah!) and you've been there before, you can get in for S$1.50 instead of paying S$3.50. But, this preferential pricing is subjected to the cashier’s ‘assessment’.

Before the actual shoot, we arrived at about 7:00 am to a lake diagonally across the MOG to catch the sunrise. It was well-worth the early wake as the water body and forest terrain created a nice frame for the rising sun.

Address : 1, Cluny Road
Opening Hours : 5:00 am – 12 midnight daily
Entrance Fee : Free

I believe that anyone learning photography in Singapore would have been to this ‘national’ garden at one point or another. When I took up my Basic Digital Photography course in October 2009, we had a photo outing here.

Then for this Nature Macro Photography course, one of our planned outings was to SBG too but was later changed to a smaller location so that it’s easier for the instructor to coach us. And I can see why. SBG is huge and offers lots of plant and insect life to zoom in on.

Colourful Wandering

But that’s also the problem. Because the subjects were so scattered, I tended to be frugal with what I wanted to shoot and in the end, shot very little. Compared to the number of shots I had today (28) with the other smaller locations (50 – 100), small is actually more.

On top of that, walking from one bush to another takes quite a bit of time as they’re a distance away and that’s losing precious shoot time in the soft morning light. So I think it’s useful to identify a feature there (eg. pond, cactus garden, orchid garden, etc) that catches the light and just stick to it and shoot.

Although the bugs were harder to find and the place huge, I preferred shooting at SBG because it is accessible and has lots of amenities. For a beginner like me, the array of flora and fauna is also a sort of guarantee that I’ll go home with some decent shots.

Admiralty Park
Address : Riverside Road (15-minutes walk from Woodlands MRT)
Opening Hours : All day (Lighting hours from 7:00 pm – 7:00 am)
Entrance Fee : Free

For seasoned nature macro photographers, Admiralty Park is like a second home. On most mornings, and even at night, you can find photographers with their power gears and 2 ‘paperbag lights’ poking into bushes.

Shooting here is very rewarding because of the extremely wide variety of bugs and catching them in their natural habitats. But I find Admiralty Park to be the best place to photograph spiders.

Photographers' Choice Location

I’ve seen lots of great spider photos taken by my friends and even encountered a pretty huge and colourful St Andrew Cross Spider during my outing there. This is one saint I sure don’t want to bump into. Yikes!

I understand why Admiralty Park keeps nature photographers coming back again and again, and I would too if I’m not staying so far away.

But who am I kidding? I can’t wait to stop shooting in macro. Maybe my interest will be ignited in future when I get a good tripod, invest in a macro lens and flash. For now, I’m just happy if I can find 6 photos and pass the course…

Furry Saturday

    White Chilli

This is Snow. She may be small, fluffy and cute, but she's a total 小辣椒 (si beh chia)! She belongs to my friend and is staying with me this weekend while the family goes on a vacation.

Joy and Rainbow went ballistic when Snow came. Felt like Christmas in June with all that boisterousness around the house in the last 2 days. Curious about the new addition, Joy and Rainbow were very enthusiastic about their new friend, but Snow was cold (no pun intended) and refused to let them get close. Can't blame her too coz she's in a new environment with 2 larger dogs eager to sniff her behind. Even I would be defensive.

So I'm staying this whole weekend with Snow in my room while Joy and Rainbow stand 'guard' at my door. I wonder how do I get them to socialise. Probably too short a time too so better just keep the small dog safe. And as it turns out, Snow is really fun to play with!


The other 'snow' problem we had was Rainbow's terrible fur shedding and my family was contemplating to give her away. But after considering the pain between having to clean up after her constantly and not having her with us, we chose the lesser of the two pains.

From kykydiary and Jeanne's suggestion, we got Rainbow a fur brush and have been brushing her daily for the past few days. It's working wonders! Thanks for the advice. So I guess there's a merit in sharing our problems, we gain from the experience of others.

Air is Not Free

Health TollToday is Wednesday. A very, very wet day.

Woke up this morning and couldn’t see the sky… the heavy downpour washed out every colour. Haven’t seen rain like today’s for a very long time. Felt like heaven was trying to flush earth away.

Perhaps due to the cold and wet weather in the past few days, my asthma began acting up. I wasn’t totally out of breath, but constantly felt I couldn’t draw in enough air. So today, I decided not to put up with it any longer and went to the docs for an inhaler.

I thought an inhaler was all I’m getting but woah… look at the whole lot of medicine I was given! If I’m not suffocated by asthma, then I’ll be asphyxiated from chugging those tablets. I wasn’t expecting it to be serious… just a little breathlessness and the feeling of a thin mucus film over the throat only. Hey doc, are you overreacting or not?

Apparently, my throat had gotten a little infected so I was given antibiotics for that; was also prescribed Piriton to numb allergies, 2 oral medications for asthma, a cough syrup and the purple puffer, Seretide. And guess what accompanied the arsenal of medication? Two days’ MC! All complaints of overreaction ended there.

But I really dislike putting synthetic drugs in my body. So like the countless unopened blisters of medicine in my drawer, this will be another batch that’ll live to their expiry dates. Except for the Seretide. That one I’ll use although I’d read some reports that it could actually worsen the severity of an asthma attack in the long-term.

I’m unsure about the accuracy or validity of those researches but since Seretide is very expensive (around S$60), I better not waste it. Thankfully I’m under group medical insurance; else, I can’t imagine the size of the bill. But I still had to pay S$5.00 since our coverage is under the co-pay scheme. Air is not free.

Well, the bad-ass weather may have caused my wheezing, but it definitely caused a major flooding down at Orchard Road. Took a photo at 10:25am and the visibility was so bad because of the heavy rainfall. When the storm calmed to a drizzle at about 1:00pm, the view from my room re-appeared.

Beyond cats & dogs

The skyline of Orchard Road can be seen in the misty background, but look what’s happening on its ground level! The flood was knee-deep and many of the underground shops were submerged. My mum told me she saw McDonald’s buns floating all around.

Although it subsided within an hour, this was the worst flooding of the prime downtown area in 26 years. Looks like I’m not the only one with a mucus-filled lung today.

Orchard Road or canal?

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Gilbert Rizo