December 2014

 

December 2014 was and is a good month. It is always the best time of the year for me, whether in terms of how I feel with the festive vibes reverberating all around or the gradual cooling off of the temperatures albeit with a greater volume of rainfall that could cause some inconveniences on and off. It is also the time of the year when activity at work tends to slow down as many people choose this time to clear their annual leave and jet somewhere for year-end breaks, vacations and holidays, leaving the activity to those of celebration and mirth, shopping and gifting. Gifts have become somewhat of a rarity these days since gatherings and the likes have taken a backseat, as friends whom meet-ups are done tend to be a small select number, and larger group gatherings and gift-exchanging have become a thing of the past for me. Maybe it is just a phase that I have morphed into and whether it will be something to stay remains to be seen. After all, we never say never about anything, because changes do happen all the time, expected or otherwise.

Nevertheless, today being the last day of December and also the last day of the year, it probably calls for a sort of look-back and review. I did not make any conscious resolution for 2014 because I find it pointless that year after year my resolutions tended to be similar and there are always some that I always fail to keep or just roll forward to the next year. I just wanted to stay happy and contented with life, but the simplest of resolutions are the hardest to keep, and it is with a heavy heart that I have to admit that I was not very successful in this area. I have not been the happiest person in 2014 due to a variety of reasons, known or not to me. Sometimes it is weird that we don’t feel happy but somehow we don’t really grasp the cause.

In 2015, I still want to work towards being a happy, peaceful and contented person. It is tiring to feel unhappy. And it must be tiring for the people around me who care and who often have to sit by and listen to my incessant whining and lamentations. I am thankful for the few friends who have stuck by despite the apparent toxicity in me from these frequent gripes and I do hope as well that as I become a lighter and happier person, I will be able to bring a brand of sunshine and cheer to their lives too. Friendship is a two-way traffic and I want to be a good friend too.

Visited Hong Kong twice during the year, once in April and another time this month. April was a hectic 3-day trip that was mainly about eating and shopping (not so much for me as for my travel mates) and the weather was a little erratic, being the change of seasons between spring and perhaps summer. December was a much slower and relaxed trip, with a cooler climate. It was all about coffee and indulging, and I really enjoyed the long chat sessions over coffee and cakes, the long walks from one eating place to the next. Holidays do not have to be about rushing from location to location and ticking off to-do lists and to-visit places, for me, they are about relaxing and breathing in the sights and sounds, doing what we would usually do in our own home cities but in a different locale. At least that holds true for me.  /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1047.jpg

Latte and Piccolo Latte at Coco Espresso in Sheung Wan, a tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe that I noticed last December when I visited Hong Kong and stayed with my friend in her service apartment in the area. Coffee was decent and as usual pricey (as compared to Starbucks) but my friend seemed to feel that the quality has deteriorated slightly from before. I wouldn’t know but I think it’s an ok place to hang out for a bit, if it doesn’t get crowded. We sat on counter seats, since there were probably just a couple of small tables within the cosy cafe. There were other places we visited, such as 18 grams in Sheung Wan, Coffee Academy in Causeway Bay, Fuel Espresso at the Landmark, Elephant Grounds at Gough Street… with many more that I would love to check out the next time I am in the busy city.

After returning from Hong Kong, another couple of weeks thereafter, it was off to Bangkok for the Christmas break. It didn’t really feel like Christmas in Bangkok despite the numerous Christmas trees decorating the malls, the festive lights and yuletide tunes. Even the slightly cooler weather on some days didn’t seem to inject that Christmas vibe that I felt in Hong Kong. I don’t know why, because even with the warmer temperature as compared to what I could ever remember of Bangkok particularly with the freezing cold malls, I just felt like it was a normal vacation at any other time of the year. This was yet another relaxing, chilling out trip, more so than Hong Kong perhaps, because we did not even do much walking around. It was just sitting from place to place, drinking coffee or eating and I felt like I had eaten so much in just those 4 days that I was there. But it is always about the time that we spend with people that counts more, and it was an enjoyable holiday over Christmas for me. We didn’t do any countdown, and we also did not wish each other Merry Christmas, but we all know that we are thankful for some things in our lives. Yes, even as we complain about many things, we also give thanks and appreciate the good things that some other people may take for granted./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1048.jpgFor the angels in my life, Thank You all for being there. I love you all and I wish you a very Happy 2015 ahead. Have an enjoyable New Year’s Eve tonight and Best Wishes!

Travel times with Starbucks

Christmas, or the end of the year, is my favourite time of the year. The weather has typically been cooler around this period and marked with the dual Christmas and New Year holidays, the festive vibe just reverberates throughout the entire city. It also coincides with the time when most people would be on leave or travel for vacation, so most would be in a relaxed mood, winding down the year and perhaps gearing themselves up for the new year (if we ever can get ourselves to do that).

And as with all enjoyable times, they just pass way too fast and somehow it seems like in the blink of an eye, we are almost at the edge of it. The year will be over in just about 2 days and Christmas has come and gone. Although I had griped to those around me, incessantly (and I really send my heartfelt apologies for the constant whining), about some of my follies and their consequences, I am still thankful for several things that happened this year. We cannot bemoan the quick passage of time because it doesn’t recoup anything, lost time is irrecoverable and that is why we are always told to look forward.

Maybe the year-end also put me in a strong festive mood and in October I took a last minute decision to fly to Bangkok. It was supposed to be a planned trip somewhere else, but plans change when people’s minds change. Then in December, it was again another last minute trip to Hong Kong, which was supposed to something I wanted to do for a friend but ended up otherwise. It was then that I appreciate the spontaneity of one of my friends, someone whom stepped into my life unexpectedly.

So to get on with things proper, this is a Starbucks post after all! I am no ambassador of the coffee chain with the ubiquitous green mermaid logo, heck they don’t need ambassadors when they are almost everywhere, but I do indulge in their Christmas delights all too often, each year without fail. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1027.jpg

Last year we had the Cranberry Orange Loaf in Singapore which I really liked. Unfortunately, it did not make a reappearance this year, yet I was really excited when I saw that something similar was available in Starbucks Hong Kong! So of course I would order it and it was good! I think as compared to what we had locally last year, this felt more ‘bread’ than cake/loaf as it was a little drier and lighter. Only managed to have it once due to the limited stomach space and number of meals. Sigh./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1028.jpg

In Hong Kong, they also had the Gingerbread Latte which is my best-loved Christmas drink after I discovered it last year in Manila and had it pretty often there and even Shanghai. Somehow I don’t know why Singapore doesn’t have this. Had it in a cute short-sized beverage to lessen the guilt, as I ordered a huge cranberry scone that morning. Haha. Was also surprised to see they were selling gingerbread man cookies so I bought one for my friend who was joining me for the trip. 🙂/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1029.jpg

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A couple of weeks after returning from Hong Kong, it was off to Bangkok to celebrate Christmas! It was another impromptu trip but not as last minute as the Hong Kong one. To say that I was celebrating Christmas in Bangkok is a little bit of an exaggeration as we didn’t really do much when we were there; it was more of a trip to chill out and eat, relax and do nothing in particular.

As fans of Starbucks, we won’t fail to check ourselves in once in a while for a cup of coffee and some sweet treats. So at Bangkok’s Starbucks, these were what we found.

There was no Gingerbread Latte here so the focus was more on food. Carrot, walnut and raisin muffin anyone? It’s almost like having a carrot cake sans the cream cheese frosting baked in a muffin cup, nice and moist and at just the right size for a muffin. Aside from that, the muffins here are baked a little different from the ones we typically see in Singapore. There isn’t the ‘muffin top’ that we often see, spilling out of the cup that has somehow caused the term to morph into a derogatory description of people who probably consumed too many muffins and ended up with fats hanging out over the waistbands of their jeans or skirts. And that made us wonder if that was the reason for the names of their muffin; the other one we ordered was a Skinny Banana muffin. Lol. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1032.jpg

And on another day, we had a Chocolate muffin, which surprisingly wasn’t as sweet as I expected. I had always steered away from ordering a similar version in Singapore whether in Starbucks or elsewhere but this perhaps will cause me to give it a try the next time. Notice the lack of that ‘over-hanging’ bit I mentioned before. /home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/452/2193806/files/2014/12/img_1031.jpgAnd the Cranberry Bliss bar, which is another Christmas item that we didn’t have this year. Actually I cannot recall if we had it last year but I remembered having it in Tokyo some time ago. This year I raised this question to my friends or rather mused rhetorically if the widespread use of dried cranberries in food products is a real Christmas tradition or just by virtue of the fact of it bearing the Christmas-y red colour. Most people felt it would be the latter but who knows right maybe there really is some link between Christmas and dried cranberries just like how log cakes, gingerbread cookies and Christmas stollens are always associated with this festive period?

flying solo in 2011

This is probably my most image-heavy post ever in my history of blogging. I can’t remember if I have ever posted anything else with as many pictures as this… though by standards of the online community, this isn’t much. But by my standards it is a record. I would rather write than post pictures simply because it takes less effort to write than to crop my pictures, choose which ones to post and then upload them here. It is a little tedious and I am very lazy, even if I know everyone prefers visuals. But tonight I don’t feel like ‘talking’ as much.

Twelve months in a year, fourteen cities including home, which I am sure you can spot from the pictures. It is that obvious.

Je suis fatigué.

flight path

The loveliest part about a flight is cloud-surfing. That was the hobby that an ex-colleague-turned-commercial-pilot named as one of his interests. I wonder if they ever get used to all those breath-taking views they see all the time when they fly. I only tried once when I was in a flight simulator at the training facility of one of my ex-companies, and it was already amazing enough (ok maybe I’m just easily impressed) with a simulated take-off and landing (in various simulated weather settings) from the vantage point of a cockpit.

I can only make do with looking out from the tiny cabin windows at the side, and usually I don’t get a window seat because I don’t really like being crammed right on the inside of a row of seats unless of course the flight is empty and I get the whole row to myself so it’s easy to move in and out. Or when I am seated in the emergency exit row where I don’t have to go about “excusing me” to get out over two other persons.

On the most recent flight back from Bangkok, I was seated along the aisle on a 2-seater row towards the back of the plane, so the window was nearer to me and I could just glance out and get some pictures at the same time.

It was a late afternoon flight and the sun was just beginning to set a little as I said goodbye to Bangkok. I don’t know if I will return in the near term, be it work or holidays, but I don’t have a very strong motivation to go back. It’s just too warm there somehow, unless I can get past that first. Phuket or Krabi, maybe, if and when that happens, since being at the beach, I am fine with perspiring but aside from that, hmm nope.

As we neared Singapore twilight descended and this was the striking cobalt blue sky that I had mentioned before. The almost-full moon was beaming brightly enough to catch a tiny picture of it.

And as the plane finally touched down on the runway at Changi, the sun was just disappearing beyond the horizon. During the flight, I was on the east-facing side of the plane, if not I guess I could have caught some sunset view from the plane too.

On this trip, I was booked on TG and although the plane was not too bad, I think their service definitely wasn’t fantastic. A rather new plane was used on the return flight, a 777-300ER-alike (if I’m comparing it to the SQ fleet, which I think should apply across airlines) and it had VOD which was really useful for such a short flight that I was on. But the flight attendants… they were not even professionally polite. I suppose such short flights usually meant it’s a turnaround, which often equates to a negligible amount of allowance and perhaps that’s why the sour faces, but it’s a job still and the least they could do is to display some professionalism? The way they went about serving meals and handing out amenities to passengers was as though they were doing it so grudgingly.

Thailand is marketed as the Land of Smiles but apparently their flagship carrier is lacking in the smiles department.

contradictions

This was a very short business trip, the shortest by far I think, since the last time I had a shorter-than-2-weeks trip was to Taipei in June, and that still took about 8 days.

My friend mentioned one day that the frequency of me blogging drops drastically when I travel, which is true. When I am not in Singapore is when I am kept busier at work, which explains the lack of posts since usually I spent an inordinate amount of time in the office slogging away and by the time I return to the hotel I am sometimes too tired and as well lazy, to actually post a proper entry. I am not very fond of reading blogs with chunks of words on end so I always try my best to add some visual. But it’s not always possible and I am not always that conscientious. I know this is really a very random blog that I keep to just ramble about a very ordinary life that I’m sure isn’t very interesting to read about, but I like to write and so… you just get a lot of words from me.

Well, in the short 6 days or maybe 5-odd days in Bangkok I had tom yum soup 4 times. I like Thai food for its unique taste, and very much adore the tom yum soup for its mixture of spicy and sour. I contradict myself frequently because I am always giving people around me hell with the incessant whining on wanting to lose weight (which has never really taken place since talking about it is much easier than actually doing it), but yet because I visit foreign cities rather frequently, I feel that it’s a waste if I do not take the opportunity to try the local food and revel in eating the various types of cuisine available. I’m thankful for colleagues/team mates who like trying local food because the last thing I need are people who only want to have “safe” food and stay clear of nice and interesting food that can however be a little suspect where upsetting of tummies is concerned. So far, we haven’t encountered any of such situations yet, so let’s continue to keep our fingers crossed.

This was the first tom yum soup I had, at Central World in Siam area, in this eatery called Yum Saap. On first try it was good, with that mixture that has to be tom yum soup, but towards a certain part of it, the soup just got really salty and at some point we had to stop drinking it. However, for the price we paid (a soup, a noodle and a salad for two at about 200 Baht), I suppose we couldn’t really complain.

The second time I had it was during lunch with the local colleagues, where they brought us to this cafe/restaurant called Kalaprapuek that was about 20 minutes away from the office. I liked how the place looked indoors, rather cosy and a little country-style with white-washed walls and lots of wooden furniture. It didn’t really feel like Bangkok city on the outside, but it was a very warm afternoon when we walked there and then back again to the office, so that was the drawback. Otherwise, the food was great and the soup wasn’t salty like the first one I had. Perhaps it’s because there were lots of us sharing the food and I only had a bowl of the soup so there was no chance for it to get to that salty stage.

On the final night after we closed the project, we went for dinner at a place called Bua Restaurant near Sala Daeng BTS station, where another colleague from Singapore who was in Bangkok brought us to. He said this was where he always went to when he visited Bangkok, and highly recommended the food and various dishes. The food was decent and actually I kind of quite liked some of the chicken dishes, but I thought the price tag wasn’t as friendly as the other places that I had been to. Maybe because they cater to a different crowd, since I saw many foreigners in the restaurant on the night that I was there, whereas for the other places that I went on other nights, they were more localised with almost no other tourists in sight. We had 2 different tom yum soups, a chicken and a seafood. This chicken tom yum soup isn’t as harmless as it looks. It isn’t too spicy to render my taste buds numb so it was ok especially since I don’t count myself among those who can take very spicy stuff. But with a colour like that, you’d probably have thought it was mild and not spicy at all.

The other one we had was seafood, which I think I liked better. I am still not a seafood-lover if I am comparing myself to my family and a lot of my friends who seem to have some not-so-secret love affair with all things seafood, especially the shell stuff like crabs, mussels, clams, and the likes. I usually just eat fish and prawns, and even though I admit that I am that lazy so I don’t like having to de-shell prawns so I don’t eat them, it’s mostly because the taste to me isn’t all that great. Crabs… they are ok sometimes, but not always. I know, I must be weird or mad to not like crabs but I think chilli or black pepper crabs are fine (because I like the fried bun that comes with it, not the crab haha), but my family loves crabs that are just steamed, no chilli or black pepper flavouring is required. You see, they told me that fresh crabs are best to just steam them and eat so you can taste the goodness of it but to me it’s just quite blah. My brothers used to go crab-“fishing” so we get all these really fresh ones but sorry I am not a fan so I just sit out on their crab session. :p

I’m really hoping for the month of August to be over soon. Just by the looks of it, August is not going to be an easy month for me and there are things that I am really dreading. Let me just look forward to October first.

sawadee ka

I was back in town for two weeks, and then it was off to Thailand, Land of Smiles. Or whatever it’s called now.

This time, the company booked me on Thai Airways, so no SQ for me. Actually I’m ok with it for this trip, since it isn’t such a long flight from SIN to BKK, and honestly, most Asian airlines are fine. There was this TG flight attendant whom I encountered onboard who wasn’t so friendly, so maybe she wasn’t having such a great day. But thankfully the flight attendant serving my aisle was really friendly and the meal served was good. Of course, in-flight meals in Y class is never really excellent but it’s edible and sometimes, can be above average. Besides, my favourite part of the whole meal is the bread bun (yes go ahead and laugh) so it isn’t that hard to fulfil.

There was no inflight entertainment since the flight was so short at slightly more than 2 hours, plus I didn’t really feel the 2 hours that much.

The company put us up at an apartment that’s relatively near to the office and it’s nothing short of great for me. Went out on Sunday evening upon arrival and it’s just hot through and through. Even though Singapore is pretty much as warm as Bangkok can be, it seems to feel more unbearable here. Perhaps it’s the congestion of traffic that leads to a whole build-up of hot air in the atmosphere that makes it so bad. But luckily it’s much cooler now, since during the day I’m in office, which is intolerably cold, and the air wasn’t so still at night when I was out. And last night it was raining so the mood to head out was totally dampened.

I really don’t mind staying in a nice apartment like what I have now, but definitely not here. It’s too hot, and not enough air-conditioned places around to make it better. But Bangkok is still quite a good city, with delicious and yet affordable food, though the last time I remembered being here was probably 5 years ago.