wanderlust busted

The last time I went overseas for a vacation was in November 2019. It isn’t that long ago, since it is March now so it has been about 4 months since. But in the foreseeable months ahead, it does not appear likely that there will be any travel plans because of the unpredictability of the situation that has resulted from the virus outbreak.

I don’t think I can profess to have worked so hard that I am badly in need of a break and vacation because to be very honest, my work isn’t that… tough? As much as I struggle with it a lot, compared to the kind of tough jobs and long hours that some others put in, I don’t think I am in any position to complain that I NEED A BREAK! But, when we are creatures who crave for the novelty of a change in scenery, vacations are a good way of doing so. I once told my friend that my vacations are considered wastes of money because I pretty much do what I do when I am in Singapore, other than the fact that I do not need to do any housekeeping and I do not need to work.

I go for yoga (as much as I possibly and practically can) and then have breakfasts/brunch/whatever, at cafes. I do not really indulge much in local foods, but am happy sticking to cafe food, local-style. Mostly however, since I usually only go to Tokyo or Hong Kong, it isn’t hard to find cafes that serve coffees and sandwiches/pastries. Hong Kong fares better in this aspect, because I can find so many cafes that serve my favourite – Avocado Toast. Tokyo is a little behind on this, but then their pastries and cakes are amaze balls; which of course isn’t that great for me if I am looking to quit my sweet tooth.

That said, it is still a good change. Despite that the routine is almost the same, the differences in the surrounding environment, the bed that I sleep in, the people I see and interact with, the differences in climate, etc., all make for a break of sorts.

Yet…. it all seems quite bleak now because of all the current and potential travel restrictions, border closes imposed by more and more countries globally in a bid to stop the spread and importation of the virus. It almost seems like we are on a regression curve, anti-globalisation if you would call it?

Some people have suggested that I could do a stay-cation, which many are planning to do since we can’t travel abroad – not even to Malaysia now – and the idea of staying in a hotel is kind of like taking a holiday. But to me, it makes no difference. The fact that I will be in Singapore, means that I will do exactly as I do on weekends. The same routine. The only difference is that at the end of the day, the place I return to would be to a hotel, and not my own home. Perhaps I can get a better night’s sleep away from the cacophony created by all the surrounding neighbouring units of my flat, and then I can wake up to a hearty hotel buffet breakfast (which I absolutely ADORE) but I don’t really think that is something I would pay, not yet anyway.

Plus, I am not sure if it’s safer in the hotels, even if they are cleaning the premises thoroughly. Since we have so many imported cases, who knows if someone who has checked in may have the virus but is not displaying any symptoms yet, then the virus would be circulating courtesy of the central air-conditioning system and we would all be none the wiser, breathing in the same air for a good 1 or 2 nights. It’s an exaggeration I know, but it is a possibility anyhow.

So… I don’t know. Let’s see how things pan out.

Happy Friday!

I really wish to rediscover my love for and interest in writing. I feel sad when I visit the blog sometimes and after logging in, just proceed to log out because I just don’t feel the inclination to write and I am just not inspired to write anything. Writing used to feel so easy and effortless and nowadays it seems to be one of the furthest things from my mind. Focus is hard to grasp with apparent brain fog most of the times, and I just feel that whatever is typed out is somehow just meaningless banter.

But still, it is a Friday after all! Best day of the week because there is no work tomorrow. Isn’t it sad when on a day-to-day basis, the only thing worth looking forward to is the lunch break and end-of-workday, and then to Friday? When Friday comes around, there is already that impending dread that the weekend, though here, is too short and Monday already seems to loom around the corner. Well, I know this is all negative talk that I should refrain from and instead learn to ‘live in the moment’, enjoy each day for what it is rather than look ahead to something that we can’t control, or that only seem to make us feel bad. There really isn’t a point to be at this moment now, harbouring regrets about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow. And ok, I know that most people would say that everyone is exactly the same, in looking ahead to the meal breaks and then the going home part. We are all alike in that aspect but we all react and respond differently because of how differently we are wired internally. It’s just like how eating a humongous sandwich can make me experience heavenly bliss but to another it is just… food.

So anyway… with 8 months of 2016 gone and the last third of the year to go, I was thinking if I should, scratch that, I was thinking of where else I should visit. The last few years have seen me taking quite a number of vacations in the span of a year, at least 4 or more. This year, I have been on just 2 holidays.

In May, I visited my favourite city, Tokyo, once again. I already lost count of the number of times I have been there but yet there is always that desire to visit. There never really is an itinerary or reason for visiting each time but somehow I just look forward to going there. This time, I revisited Gotemba Premium Outlets. It’s the second time I’m going there and it’s so different from the first. Weather-wise it definitely felt different and also in terms of the crowd. It was so empty when I first went in 2009 and freezing cold. This time, it still wasn’t too hot because the seasons were changing, but the crowd size was visibly larger. Also, the people I went with on this trip, to Gotemba at least, were avid shopaholics.

tokyo_may2016

This was the situation at Gotemba, where we were crossing from one part to the other, after having a very un-Thai version of basil chicken rice at the food court. Personally, as I don’t shop as much these days, I only bought some casual clothing from GAP (the typical go-to shop for most people at these outlets I think). My Gotemba companions scored big though, with one of the most value-for-money buys from Loewe for most of them.

Just recently at the end of July, I took a short trip to nearby Hong Kong, another of my favourite cities, but which is starting to lose its shine somewhat. I still enjoy it for its familiarity and proximity to Singapore that is such a boon in terms of the relatively short flight time, but circumstances seem to have began to cast shadows on these. Nevertheless, I tried something new this time! Craved for char siew and my friend brought me to this Michelin-starred eatery. We actually queued (albeit a short while) to enter even though it was past lunch hour. Verdict? I think it’s ok, not bad but not fantastic that I would want to queue for again. It’s the same as Tin Ho Wan, not bad but not worth the kinds of queue that we see.
hongkong_aug2016

Other than this, the only other local thing I had on this trip was a small cup of Hong Kong milk tea from Tsui Wah that I ordered at the airport while waiting for my flight that was delayed for a couple of hours due to the the typhoon that set off the island on a Signal 8 Typhoon alert the night before I was due to depart. I also chanced upon a Gerard Dubois patisserie in Causeway Bay and tried the lemon curd tart that was pretty nice and zesty!

passion_lemon_tart_aug2016

There were so many things there that I would have liked to order to try but I could only choose one because I think that’s the maximum sugar load I could take at any one time. Or so I would like to trick myself into believing.

So if I take Hong Kong and Tokyo out of the equation, what are the other plausible choices? Should I venture a revisit of either?

Merry (belated) Christmas!

This post concludes the series of posts of the Hong Kong trip, which spanned a week until Christmas day. I flew back in the afternoon, which usually wouldn’t be the case for HK because it doesn’t make sense if it were a 4D3N trip, but since this was a week and because I had originally thought that I would have shifted to a new place by December, I had planned to arrive in SIN in the early evening to allow myself time to… well, settle in and get home.

Anyway, short post with fewer pictures since there wasn’t as much eating done as compared to the past days.

Headed out early in the morning to get a box of biscuits from Kee Wah for mum, even though I know she isn’t that big on all those traditional biscuits. She finds them too sweet, and will usually complain that they are too much to finish (on her own). I guess that’s also where I inherited my calibrated sweet tooth from, because I admit that I have a sweet tooth, but it isn’t all sweet things that I like and can take. So I just bought a box of their 老婆饼, which she kept only 2 and gave the rest away to my aunt, which was really fine. I am trying to not sweat this; if it’s bought for her, she can decide who she wants to gift them to.

After buying the biscuits, I headed back to the hotel, and after our last minute packing, we went to a nearby local cafe for a last local breakfast. This was what my friend ordered, which seemed like the full works – macaroni soup with ham, luncheon meat, sausage, fried egg and spiced beef! Oh wow, this would have been perfect, though if I were ordering it would be instant CQYD noodles instead because I am not a macaroni fan.I think I ordered yuan-yang. But I can’t remember.
Close up of all that awesomeness in a bowl.

This was mine – which as an after-thought, reminds me of McDonald’s big breakfast. It’s a breakfast platter of sausage, ham, fried egg, sausage patty, and a slice of toasted thick toast. I LOVE this thick toast, because even though it’s white bread, it was pretty well toasted so that the bread was nicely-crisp and crunchy to the bite!
Not so keen on the sausage, ham and patty though. They are not bad, but just not ideal because I do hope to cut down on processed stuff. If I can!

That kind of concludes the eating in Hong Kong, for a week. On our flight back, since it’s Christmas day, SQ actually served up a mini log cake as part of the meal, a nice gesture! 

Christmas Eve.

Spent Christmas eve and part of Christmas day in Hong Kong. I shall just let the pictures do the talking, most of it anyway, because I am lazy to write. 🙂

Met the cousin early for local breakfast near his apartment. This is the Hong Kong milk tea, which I find is so much nicer than what we have locally, i.e. teh-c.

The standard breakfast fare, to me at least – soupy instant noodles topped with some ingredients like pork / chicken chop, sausages, eggs, or the likes. Or maybe everything! Order a noodle and add-on the other stuff you fancy, sunny-side up, sausages…
Yummy.
Problem with Hong Kong’s local cafes is that they don’t usually do bread the way I like it. Mostly, when I order a sandwich or toast, it is just 2 slices of plain white bread that is of the soft variety, totally not how I like my bread to be. Even when this is toasted, at an additional charge (!), it still doesn’t cut anywhere close. The smooth, creamy scrambled eggs help to make it a bit better though, but then the processed meat in the form of ham probably isn’t too great an idea.
After we had the milk tea and the breakfast, we still went for the next round of caffeine at a hole-in-the-wall cafe near Jaffe Street.  After parting with my cousin, I went to meet my friend and we decided to check out this soft-serve that was highly-recommended by the cousin. I really love this, because the matcha flavour was very distinctive and strong! And best of all is that it doesn’t feel like it’s too sweet. They have a few outlets, but we went to the one at Fashion Walk. There’s one in the basement food hall of SOGO at Causeway Bay too and if I’m not wrong, near City Super in Harbour City in TST.
Went to meet another friend thereafter, who halted her gym-time to accompany me for the Christmas eve afternoon. We popped into a random cafe where she decided to have lunch, and I ordered a salad which was a total disappointment. Where’s the ‘salad’? This looks more like dessert than salad.  It’s actually a few slices of apple cooked in some sauce I presume, topped with egg mayo and a sprinkling of some powder (don’t ask me what because I forgot), plus 2 sticks of buttered toast, very lightly-toasted might I add. I was then busy scraping away the egg yolk and mayo obviously, and left it in a mess.
After the decidedly-unsatisfying meal (for me at least), we proceeded to Lee Gardens’ Starbucks, which was also very crowded despite that the mall was almost devoid of other customers. Either everyone is out and about in their last minute rush for Christmas gifts, or this mall is just too high-classed to see many patrons. We dropped by the supermarket at Hysan Place first though, to get ourselves a pot of yogurt each to go with our coffee (my third caffeine for the day). Love the variety that is available overseas but again, I’d think this is from the vantage point of being a foreigner and seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes.  Last year, when I met my friend in Hong Kong, we ordered the Christmas orange cranberry loaf cake/bread and since they have it this year again, we ordered it again! We enjoyed this because it’s more bread than cake, meaning it’s a bit drier and crumblier,and not so oily to boot. Wished they had this on our local menu too but so far, it has only made an appearance in 2014.
Headed back for a short run at the gym thereafter, before heading out for Christmas eve dinner. We settled in at an Italian eatery in SOHO, which somehow felt like we were obligated to dine at, because the host-cum-owner was rather pushy and we felt bad walking away after reading the menu. It was probably a wrong choice, because we ended up not ordering the huge Christmas meal that came with 6 courses per person (at quite a reasonable price actually). We didn’t think we could have finished all that food so we opted for a-la-carte, which to them meant ‘budget menu’, and we were being treated as ‘budget customers’. They changed the table setting, removing the napkin and replacing it with a paper serviette!? It wasn’t even like the eatery was some fine-dining place because each table was within an elbow’s width away, even if you are paying for the so-called Christmas set menu. Bleah. What a big downer.

The food was pretty decent though, to be fair to them. It’s just that service sucks, or rather it’s dependent on how much you pay for your food.
  After dinner, we took a short walk to PMQ, where most shops were already packing up. But they had pretty interesting Christmas decor, including a holographic Christmas tree instead of a real physical tree.
  And finished off the evening with dessert near our hotel, sweet soup with lotus seeds! 🙂

Enjoying. Holidaying. Eating!

Planned to meet my friend for an early breakfast at Cupping Room but got into a bit of delay due to a miscommunication. I thought there were only 2 Cupping Rooms, but apparently not so. She went to the one at Wan Chai, and realised I wasn’t there, and after a while, we found out that we were at different outlets – I was at the original Cupping Room in Sheung Wan. My bad.

We ordered our respective dosages of coffee, and a portion of egg white scrambled on sour dough to share. It was amazing! I love egg white scrambled, even if they are probably not as protein-packed as regular scrambled eggs, but as I don’t really like the ‘eggy’ taste of egg yolk that much, I find egg white scrambled easier on the palate somewhat. But it comes at a premium, always.After breakfast, we took a slow, long walk, and ended up at Pacific Place, where we each bought a pot of yogurt (which has become something we do all the time now) and looked for a next place to plonk ourselves at. We settled at Pret-A-Manger at a mall linked to Pacific Place, where my friend got herself a second coffee and I ordered a log cake, just because it’s Christmas and I have not had a single slice of log cake!
We didn’t finish this eventually because she didn’t seem to really like it and I certainly did not want to have it alone, so unfortunately it went to the wastelands.

We walked a lot more after that, strolling all the way to Wan Chai, where I spotted the Cupping Room she was at this morning, some other interesting cafes that I could consider visiting in the next trip perhaps, a local bakery that she frequents where we bought some buns and had it at the seating gallery overlooking a track and field, the Joel Buchon bistro where she bought some breads, and which had such a delectable array of baked stuff that I would totally want to have… then she had to leave, and I went to meet up with my friend, who had sadly, fallen ill. I walked back to Pacific Place where she was at, and we went to Simply Life bistro for a late lunch or early tea-break. One tea-time set costs about HKD58, which is pretty decent and value-for-money, because it was a rather substantial sandwich and coffee/tea. I got myself a long black and an open-faced sandwich, that also came with a serving of cajun fries! *big love* Check out that layer of melted cheese draped over the grilled mushrooms and spinach, on a slice of very chewy multi-grain/seed toast. I love this and finished every single thing, yes I know it’s a lot of carbohydrates and what I see is that females having the same thing just left the bread there or a good part of it. But! That’s the whole essence of this open-faced right? To me at least, the bread (and maybe the fries) were the highlights!
My friend had the quesadilla or flat-bread; I can’t remember what’s on the inside, but it came with the same cajun fries too.After so much eating, of course we need to do some walking right? So we hopped over to Kowloon for a small spot of sightseeing. I’m sorry to Kowloon dwellers, but I really do not enjoy being there. Although Hong Kong is known for being an overcrowded city not unlike Singapore, Kowloon seems to be more so than say, Central. Causeway Bay can also be a big mess of people, especially tourists who usually walk in haphazard fashion, but being in Kowloon never fails to give me a headache at some point and it makes me feel claustrophobic and frustrated.

We visited the heritage place in Tsim Sha Tsui, where not surprisingly, tonnes of tourists were packing the place and taking selfies.
It wasn’t dark enough for the lights to look pretty but then since it would probably take a while more for it to become dark, we went over to the harbour front area.  It was cloudy or foggy day despite that it didn’t start out as being very cold. In fact, it was a considerably warmer day as compared to the day before (i.e. winter solstice). We couldn’t even see much across to the other side.
The laser show was only scheduled to come on at about 8pm, which was really a bit too much waiting for us to do, so we headed back to Hong Kong island, and decided to have dinner at the Ukrainian restaurant that we spotted on Sunday near the Lebanese place we had dinner at that rainy night.

Our drinks – kefir. I totally love this because it’s a yogurt drink and it reminded me of the milky drink I had in Helsinki years back when I was there on a business trip. It was really quite filling but I could almost just bottoms-up the glass!We ordered a soup to share, a pumpkin soup that seemed a little too salty.
My friend ordered a stew – with lots of meat (chicken I think), mushrooms and carrots. It doesn’t seem like a huge pot but the serving was again quite substantial, and it came with a puff pastry covering it!  Close-up.
Compared to Sunday, this weekday night seemed so much busier. Perhaps we couldn’t really tell from the outside, but I suspected that Sundays are generally quieter in SOHO, or perhaps it was raining that night so the crowd was thin. We were lucky to get the last available table, as others had to wait, and the wait time for food to be served was also pretty long. However, the food quality was relatively good and looking at the menu, it resembled what I saw when I was in Moscow, which makes sense since they are so near to each other. But I remembered having the borscht soup and didn’t like it. But stuff like skewered meats (whites please) are ok with me!

This was the plate of grilled vegetables that I ordered, which were a little oily but on the whole, I really liked it too because it’s such a generous portion!We were totally stuffed by the end of the night that we couldn’t finish every single thing on the plates. Almost did. I guessed the kefir filled us up, at least for me it did, but it was quite a good meal and maybe in future I could consider coming again!