black!

On a quiet and peaceful Sunday morning, I woke up at the usual time that I would on weekdays (yes I can imagine all the drop-jaw expressions on your faces) and headed for yoga class. Unsurprisingly, the class at 8am was not empty. It wasn’t packed to the brim like weekday peak hour classes but I would estimate attendance to be more than 50 percent, and that is a conservative estimate. Yogis, or I would think exercise/fitness enthusiasts, can be people who don’t mind foregoing some sleep for an early rush of endorphines.

I had another reason that morning though. That 8am class wasn’t the usual class I went for, but I needed to be there early and leave early, as I had to then shuttle to the airport. My sis-in-law was jetting off for 3 months with my little baby nephew, to visit her sister and as well as to take a break abroad perhaps. I could only wish that I could also take a long break somewhere, but I guess it will happen if I want it to. I just need to stop thinking so much.

It started to pour really heavily while we were at the airport. And it felt a little strange, being there and not being the traveller. My usual routine of stepping into the airport terminal would be to head to the check-in counter, then immediately proceed to the departure gates straight into the passport control area. I don’t hang around outside because there was never a need to and I’d much rather be checking out DFS.

After her check-in was done, the family went to have breakfast/brunch at Toast Box, and this was what I ordered:

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Kopi-O with a cupcake (or also known as 鸡蛋糕). I had wanted to try Kopi-O for the longest time and see if there is any difference between this and black coffee (western-style). I know there shouldn’t be too much differences yet there should be because of the types of beans used and how the beans are prepared. I don’t know too much about the mechanics of bean-roasting in Asian/Chinese-style versus Western-style, but the coffee does taste a little different. The next time I try Kopi-O I will try to remember how it is like, but will request for siew-dai (less sugar) or maybe kosong (no sugar) to really be able to decipher the taste of the coffee. I was worried it’ll be too bitter and acidic so I had just ordered a normal Kopi-O. Even my dad drinks Kopi-O and not kosong. Haha.

But well it was drinkable and in fact not as acidic as I’d imagined! In fact, I’ve had much more black coffee or Americanos elsewhere that turned out to be way more acidic than this. Or maybe the sugar made the difference, because on the other occasions I hadn’t added much sugar, or used brown sugar instead.

On the other hand, the 鸡蛋糕 that I ordered wasn’t that great. It was on Instagram that I saw someone posting a picture of the soft fluffy traditional cupcake that she bought from a confectionery, and she mentioned that Crystal Jade’s cupcakes are good. So when I saw it at Toast Box I decided to order it and it wasn’t fantastic. It’s just like a normal sponge cake that was pretty spongey/airy and it lacked the fragrance that I generally associated with these cupcakes that I also used to enjoy when I was a kid.   20130917-092322.jpg

The good thing about it though, was that it was not really sweet and it went well with the coffee. I think I will drop by Crystal Jade one of these days to buy one of their 鸡蛋糕 to try!

Hands of Hope

The best thing to do at the airport is to shop. I don’t shop much actually, but as I usually go to the airport fairly early ahead of my flight out of Singapore, I have some time to spare which I spend along the aisles of the Duty Free shops. I check out other shops too, but since I am on an austerity drive, sort of, I can’t afford luxurious big-ticket items. Skincare and toiletries are necessities that I try to get from Duty Free shops because they are slightly cheaper, and this is a good time to buy and save time in Singapore for other things.

On my trip to Tokyo in December, I got these from Duty Free, a 30 ml tube of hand and cuticle cream from Philosophy, a special Karl Lagerfeld-edition eyelash curler from Shu Uemura, and Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Loose Powder. The last item was a replenishment of something that I am already using, the eyelash curler is more of a purchase-on-a-wimp item because of the cute-looking doll charm attached to it, and the hand cream, well, it is something that I am quite open to trying different types and brands. Skincare is not something that I am adventurous with because of my sensitive acne-prone skin condition, and also because I use mainly products from my dermatologist, but where body lotions and hand lotions are concerned, I like checking out new stuff when I can. 20130123-153331.jpg

Philosophy is a brand that hails from the US, which made its way to our shores only last year. The “Hope” series is a moisturising range of products, and I picked this up actually because I had heard of this brand, and mainly because it comes in a very handy 30ml size that I can bring around all the time, whether for travel or even in Singapore. Besides, this was priced affordably at $12 at Duty Free, so I think it’s quite a good price. 20130123-153521.jpg

Based on the SG website, this hand and cuticle cream is said to “provide long-lasting moisture for softer hands”, “soften and help protect hands and cuticles” and is a “non-greasy formula that absorbs quickly”. So I have used this for a while since December, in Tokyo (forgot to bring it to Istanbul), then in Helsinki recently and now in Singapore.

It is kind of fragrance-free, but it does have a smell to it, as my friend described it, “plasticky”, if there is such a word. Other brands of hand creams tend to have a fragrance, whether it’s lavender, rose, or something, but this doesn’t have such scents, it just has a lotion smell to it. It absorbs fairly well, but I wouldn’t say that it is non-greasy. Compared to some other brands I have used before, it is definitely less greasy, but it still leaves traces of grease-like marks when my hands/fingers touch surfaces like my phone’s screen, my laptop, etc. Other than that, my hands don’t retain the general greasy-feel that I get with some other brands.

I can’t yet comment if it really does protect and provide long-lasting moisture, because probably I wash my hands too much to determine if it lasts long enough, but I looked at my hands after I applied the cream to one hand, and compared it to the other, and it really does look softer and even fairer. Sorry, no pictures of this because I forgot, but if I can get a picture of it next time, I will try to post it here. It does feel softer too, of course. For the price, I think it’s pretty worth it, although maybe if you intend to use it regularly on a daily basis then a larger-sized tube (i.e. 120ml) would make more economical sense. For me, I like travel-sized products because it also mean that I can try more different items within a shorter period of time!

The “Hope” series have several other items that make the “Fan Favourites” list per their website. My friend has tried their Hope in a jar oil-free gel and posted a review here, so you can check out what her comments are. I might consider trying out some of their products in this range too in future, to see if they would work for my skin condition, or at least the other next thing that I am always open to try would be eye creams/gels, because dark circles, puffy eyes and fine lines… that’s another problem that I would like to tackle, the woes of ageing and how best to do so gracefully.

Christmas that came late

Finally back from the land of Santa Claus! Again. Visited Finland in September last year and then, it was already chilly despite that it was supposed to be autumn, or so I thought. Well, by some twist of fate I was to return again, and while I was lamenting to some extent that I don’t think I’ll be seeing snow in 2013, well well, you never know. So never say never.

It was a Sunday morning when I arrived in Helsinki, taking a flight from Singapore on Saturday night and flying a long way to Paris. I was honestly quite apprehensive about the transit stop because it had a window of 1.5 hours. Seems like a long time, but actually it’s pretty short, considering that you can never factor enough time for possible flight delays on the inbound, and then foreign airports are sometimes quite confusing, to say the least. Besides, I had one transit experience at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle, and it wasn’t a good one because I missed my flight then due to the extremely tedious process of getting from one terminal to the other, clearing passport control and security checkpoints. It was just a nightmare. Thank God everything went fairly smoothly and I landed rather on time, and by some rushing and running about at 7am in the morning in terminals that don’t feel like they had any heating on, I managed to reach the designated gate in about 50 minutes.

It was an Air France flight that I took to Paris, which I never had a great impression of. You see, I am quite the fan of SQ, even if its standards may have slid much over the years, but Asian carriers generally pamper their customers more than the European or American ones. Surprisingly, the AF flight that took me to CDG was ok, maybe because the aircraft was an A380, which should be relatively new, and perhaps because I was sick (again), I did manage a little sleep. The inflight entertainment was quite limited, in my opinion at least, or I just was not interested in what they had. Food was ok, and during the long haul flight they actually don’t have much water service. I found out that they had, albeit infrequently, and there was a cart filled with some drinks outside the toilets that we could help ourselves to. Ok, self service I suppose? I was routed through Amsterdam on my return flight on KLM, which was pretty similar to AF but the plane was older, a 777-300ER (I think) but luckily they do have VOD, which however did not have too many films I wanted to watch. Overall, I think I only caught 2 or 3 shows on the whole trip.

So then I got to Helsinki, and my hotel, just before noon, then decided to head out to the city for a short walk about since I didn’t want to start sleeping the day away. It was gloomy, and honestly, quite depressing. It was really cold, like what I had always been told by my colleagues about the Scandinavian winters. By about an hour of being outside, despite wearing gloves (which probably didn’t work) when I was not trying to take pictures, my fingers were already numb, and afterward indoors they swelled so much that it was so painful. 😦

Even the sea was frozen. Or from what I could see, it seemed like it was frozen. 20130120-222935.jpgIt was just a short one week trip this time, and then on Wednesday evening it started snowing, and it didn’t stop until Thursday. This was taken on Thursday morning when I was having breakfast. I typically wake up really early when I am in Europe due to the time difference, or maybe I just prefer to have a slow leisurely breakfast when the place still isn’t too busy.

20130120-223021.jpgFeels very Christmas-like? Wished I was here really around Christmas time, although there probably wouldn’t have been any activity, and I was told it was even colder then. I can’t imagine.

It was sub-zero everyday of the week that I was there in Helsinki, but usually single digit minus, or sometimes in the nights or early mornings while I am still in the hotel, perhaps -10 to -15. But one morning when I woke…

20130120-223046.jpgHonestly? There seemed to be some cold snap that went through Europe that day, because from the news channels, the weather forecasts for all the nearby European cities showed a large drop in temperatures continent-wide. Strangely, this happened last year too, in February when I was in Italy. It was cold, but because I stayed in most of the time, it was still bearable, although in the office, the heating didn’t work that well so mostly I will still have my thick sweater and scarf on as much as I can. I don’t know how my colleagues could just wear normal clothes like we do. Perhaps they have really great thermal wear beneath or they are just used to it.

Oh but the scenery in the Nordic countries is really amazing. The colours in the sky were so pretty when the sun finally made its appearance towards the end of the week, but of course the iPhone camera is quite hopeless there. It’s a pity I could only visit Helsinki and not the other Nordic countries/cities. But I guess it would have been better to be there for holidays rather than work.

20130120-223105.jpgSeriously, I need to think about putting a stop to the business trips someday. Maybe at least not in this same line and not in such conditions. I just pray for the right door(s) to be opened soon, this year.

helsinki vantaa airport

No, this post isn’t really about the main airport of Helsinki in Finland. I just thought of using it as the post title for today, that’s all. But in my defense, I do have one picture of the departure hall of the airport when I was flying out from there one night, one cold, rainy night.

When I got to the airport just before 9pm, I was wondering if the airport was even opened because it was deserted and appeared devoid of any activity. It was after looking around briefly that I spotted one open check-in counter to deposit my luggage, then prospected around again to look for where I could scan my handheld stuff. It was that empty. With the airport staff working at that time, including one open convenience kiosk and one cafe, I presume that there must have been less than 20 persons around in the whole outside area of the airport.

Anyway, the inside wasn’t any much better. There are plenty of shops inside, but they were almost all closed by the time I was inside. I had a short dinner/night snack at one lonely little cafeteria, before proceeding to the passport control, after which there were slightly more shops that stayed open for the benefit of passengers on the international flights but it was still sad. I guess a lot of airports in the West are like that, because I don’t recall ever feeling this way in Asian airports. Or maybe it was just the timing, if I had been at the, say Siem Reap International Airport at odd timings, there could also jolly well be just a handful persons around.

Ok, enough of Helsinki Vantaa. Let’s move on already.

I had a wonderful weekend, I think it kind of depleted me of every single ounce of energy I could ever have in me! Weekend started with drinks that began at Kandahar Street all the way to Sentosa! It wasn’t the volume of alcohol but the distance covered. We were looking for a place that was recommended by a friend’s friend but then ended up feeling the place to be too ‘hippy’ for us. So we trooped along Haji Lane, Arab Street, before finally going to WitBier at Kandahar Street. It isn’t a bad place to chill at, a tiny little pub chock full of whom I guess are regulars, and they serve a really wide variety of European (mostly Belgium I think) beer, with a small selection of bar food, but if you are into fries and luncheon meat fries (called Porky Fries), here’s where you might want to check out!

Was a little miffed though because we were served by a new waitress who was on her first day, and she wasn’t able to be very helpful in answering the questions we had, and then she got our orders wrong. We ordered a bucket of 5 bottles and she served us two pints (in glasses) and said yes when we asked her to confirm that was what we ordered. It even went as far as us asking if the bottled beer were poured into the mugs and she still said yes. We should already have picked up on that and asked another waitress but we didn’t and it was when a second waitress asked if we wanted another round that we realised the mistake.

After that we went to SkyLoft, which I talked about in the previous post.

Then Saturday! The day I had been waiting for for a really long while… Big Bang Alive Concert in Singapore! I was out during the day, so by the time I went to queue to get into the standing pen area, just before 6pm I think, I was already exhausted. Consider the weather and us having to queue more than 3/4 way around the second level of the SIS, before we were slowly being led down the steps and finally into the arena. It wasn’t a long wait though, as the concert started just 15 minutes after its supposed start time. For 2 and a half hours from there, I never stopped screaming and jumping, and of course gawking at the boys. It sounds really cougarish, but I don’t really care, because that was just how great they were and they were so close, in such proximity with us that we were just about two arm lengths’ away. I wished of course I could then have limbs like Mr. Fantastic and reach out to grab them! More on the concert later.

Sunday was another concert day. This has been two hectic weekends for me, a far cry from the languid days I was having while on the business trip in Finland; of course work wasn’t slow but the pace there generally seems so much more relaxed. Attenedd Keane’s concert at the Max Pavilion at Expo, and recalled that the last time I watched a concert in that area was Lee Hom’s Evolution concert, way back in… I don’t even remember anymore! The sound system was crap but the concert was fabulous, even if this time I was so far from the stage and there were a number of songs I was unfamiliar with. Besides, I spent about half the time sitting down, and another half standing because they were performing my favourite songs, or because my view was blocked by the person in front.

Two very different concerts on two different days but I totally enjoyed myself on both occasions, I love the sound of Keane, like how I like some UK acts, like Suede and Coldplay. They have this quality in their songs that just distinguishes them from American bands somehow, maybe it is the way they sing i.e. the accent? I don’t really know but all in all, they were great that night and I silently berated myself for not taking the effort to ‘revise’ the songs before I attended the concert. I would have enjoyed it even more if I could sing along with them all the time!

stranded

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What originally started out as a flight with this coding SIN-NRT-SFO-AUS became SIN-NRT-SFO-IAH-AUS.

I know the above looks really confusing but since my days working at an airline (in an administrative capacity sadly, in case anyone thinks highly enough of me to qualify as a flight attendant!), I like talking about cities by their three-letter airport codes. It’s not to show off or anything, but it’s just my Singaporean penchant for TLAs, a.k.a. Three Letter Acronyms. One of many idiosyncrasies I have.

I have grown to not enjoy flights anymore, which may attract many I-told-you-so comments all over but I still love travelling; it’s just these days I get tired so easily and after all these trips I get a bit more selective as to where I’d like to visit for a vacation.

The first two flights were relatively ok, I got to SFO alright but the nightmare started there. After a quick clearance if the customs, as I proceeded to recheck my baggage, I was told that my flight connecting to AUS has been cancelled due to bad weather. There won’t be any direct flights as it isn’t a big city with many connections. After crossing several time zones and about 20 hours later, I was quite ready to crumple from helplessness and desperation together with exhaustion.

Fast forward. I got booked on two more flights, and a standby for the first flight to IAH, with the second due to arrive in AUS at 10pm. Actually from the moment I cleared the standby list to IAH, things went rather smoothly and I did get safely to the hotel by 11pm. It was a very long Tuesday I went through, starting from 7am in SIN and ending at 11pm in AUS, with 13 hours in between.

Out of all these bad things, there were still moments that made me feel a little better even though I thought at one point I was going to snap anytime from the stress. Perhaps from all these, I can learn to be stronger and more independent, and to take things in stride instead of bowing down to circumstances.

Hope you all had a great mid week, and look forward to the weekend! So far the weather in Austin has been rather nice, it’s warm like in Singapore but it’s a few degrees cooler generally so together with the sun, it’s nice to be outdoors for a while.

airports

The airport, as we know it, is a place filled with various emotions. From tear-filled separations due to work or school commitments, to joyous reunions of home-bound friends, lovers and families, almost the entire spectrum of human emotions could be witnessed in an airport at some point.

Transience is the one word that comes to my mind when I think of the airport; it being a place where travellers converge for a short period of time before departing for their various destinations or heading home. I used to enjoy the transience that the airport brings, especially at a time when for work purposes, I had to be at the airport for an extended period of time, and even on consecutive days. I relished the feeling of walking the carpeted floors while watching all sorts of travellers milling about in the lounges, rushing between terminals or to their gates, or taking happy steps on their homeward journey.

At some point, I think I got a little weary of the transience, which I attributed to age. There are numerous times when I travel to the airport alone, and continue a solo journey through the customs checkpoint onto the plane. While waiting to board the plane, there can be this indescribable but overwhelming sense of emptiness that can be too much to bear. It goes away when I finally step onto the plane and get seated as I busy myself with in-flight movies and such, or make a concerted attempt towards pushing those thoughts to the back of my mind.

So there are days when I wonder if I would continue the pursuit of an interest that has invoked such strong yet negative feelings within, although I doubt it can curb the passion that I feel towards travelling to the various destinations around the world. As much as I loathe that emptiness I think the want to visit the many beautiful cities I have yet to set foot on beckons more.

before i can login to post on wordpress

I have been meaning to blog but wordpress is failing me; I don’t think it’s a connection thing because I can go to most sites and actually I can login to my wordpress account but the dashboard just doesn’t load. So this is gonna be posted on wordpress after-the-fact, and it will reside on blogspot for now.

Did I ever mention that I love the airport? For the endless possibilities that it brings, even though there are people who associate the airport with transitions and departures. Given a chance, I think that’s one of the places I wouldn’t mind travelling to for work.

I touched down in Shanghai, at Pudong Airport at about 3pm, and took a taxi to the hotel. No pictures of the airport or the way there, because there isn’t much. And I almost got duped to taking an illegal taxi. O_o

So I was pleasantly surprised when I reached Intercontinental Pudong at ZhangYang Road, and because I had checked with reservations earlier about my room booking and given them my PC number, I was informed that they had upgraded my room…

So this is the rooms layout on the floor that I was staying at:

The room doesn’t have much of a view but at least I am not blocked by buildings in front of me. Probably the rooms on the opposite side will have a better view of the city nearer to the river.


And this is the room…
And part 2.
You can see why I am quite reluctant to get out of the room each day, because as usual, the bed looks so darn comfortable, I could just snuggle under the duvet and watch TV. Will do more updates later if I can.