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Lost in translation | Osaka

Growing up in a small cityscape like Singapore, and in between cultures, like most Singaporeans, I’ve always had a sense of wanderlust. Travel is an addictive thing, and I’ve always looked forward to it becoming a meaningful part of my life. Honestly, it’s easy to feel depressed about the many awful things that are happening but at the same time, when you get out there, you realize how awesome the planet is. There are much to discover, that is both wonderful and humbling.

Curiosity is a definite travel essential – to understand the culture, the people and to ask questions to better understand. It’s like a good book that you can’t wait to read, yet, it also requires patience and the attitude of letting everything takes its natural course.

When I travel, I usually do my fair share of research and with time, I came to realize that the best moments are not engineered, and it those serendipitous encounters makes people fall in love with travel.

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Traveling with an open mind and no expectations is important because it allows for wonder. Wonder is a truly valuable and rare thing.

My recent trip to Osaka, Japan was so impromptu that we simply booked our tickets, Airbnb, tickets for Universal Studios and nothing else. I had little expectations due to the lack of research so that I wouldn’t form a certain impression of it. Perhaps, it was the wisest decision I’ve made since it turned out to be one of the best holidays I’ve had in years.

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Our very first stop after landing at Kansai International Airport was the Kuromon Fish Market. The food was just absolutely mind-blowing, and the variety of food available was great especially since both S and I don’t really take raw food and prefer cooked fishes or beef anytime.

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Osaka is often known as the kitchen of Japan, and it’s vast varieties of food has left us wanting more. Let’s take the famous Takoyaki for a great example, we are no stranger to these balls topped with yummy flakes. These are relatively common place in Singapore, and whilst we expected it to differ only slightly from the ones we are used to, these were beyond comprehension. They melt in your mouth and the freshness of the octopus used can’t be rivalled with.

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One constant throughout the trip was Ichiran Ramen. We would usually end up at Ichiran for supper before heading back to the apartment. I love the broth and it keeps me constantly wanting more. Coming back after our trip to Osaka, I’ve often find myself at Ippudo, the closest alternative for Ichiran for my ramen fix.

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Traveling with friends is tough, and add a kid into the combo really meant that we have no basis for comparison for what we were up against. Prior to this trip, we have only taken trips with friends, but surprisingly, never one with Clem in the 16 years I’ve known her. When Clem knew that we were flying out to meet them in Japan, she expressed her concern about how friendships are destroyed because of incompatibilities in travel habits.

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It was an adventure for the 5 of us, navigating the streets of Japan with Cas in tow. Attempting to time his sleep cycles to train rides, feeding him as much food as he would take whilst sneaking in forbidden food without him noticing, taking turns riding the rollercoasters in Universal Studios and carrying him around took an entire “village”. Compromising on the number of attractions you can see, and just simply slowing down is what was essential for us on this trip.


Captured by S. Benjamin with his beautiful Sony A7M2
 

Currently: Feb Edition

Listening: Music from La La Land and other renditions of the songs from the album. Honestly, music helps to lift my spirits when I think about the tough work day I am about to deal with. My latest favourite rendition is an advanced jazz cover, and I am totally in love.

Watching: Riverdale! OMG, watching my favourite comic in a totally different medium has became my latest obsession. Not forgetting my all time favourite, Grey’s Anatomy.

Reading: The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen. I’ve always been a huge fan of magical and fantasy books. This book is a great read, as is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. However, if you’ve read books by Terry Brooks or Raymond E. Feist, these would not be able to match up to their well developed writing styles.

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Amazed: by the beautiful wedding at the S.E.A Aquarium. Having the fishes swim around while dinner was served is truly a treat.

Looking: to restart Yoga classes. Since I changed jobs, I’ve really neglected my health a fair bit and when I chanced upon a yoga studio near the office, I am considering the option to restart.

Surprised: at how time is flying by in an instance. February is almost over and I am not ready to face March yet.

img_4521Grateful: That I’ve managed to spend a few days with my godson, Cas. He lives 2427 miles across the ocean from me and when I do get to spend time with him, it constantly feels like it’s never enough.

Planning: a small getaway before Ben starts a new job. Perhaps, we would head down to Perth, but wouldn’t have the opportunity to spend time with Cas. Alternatively, we can head off to some other Asian countries that we’ve never explored.

La La Land

https://youtu.be/HvCcbkgC15s

“Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish, as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make”

When I watch a movie, I usually do minimal research and try to avoid reviews. I try not to form a certain impression of a movie, and I fear nothing more than spoilers. So when I caught “La La Land” a couple of weeks ago, I was honestly surprised to learn that it was a musical just moments before the movie started.

Throughout the movie, I found myself tapping along with the music and being captivated by the beautifully composed music. Emma Stone, oh boy, where do I even start with her? Who knew that her chemistry with Ryan Gosling would be so awesome? Also, Ryan had me mesmerized by his piano skills. For someone who doesn’t play the piano to pick up skills and be convincing over the duration of a film is truly commendable.

The film tells a lot of truths about romantic relationships. There are always a million possibilities about how relationships may turn out, however, if it pans out the way we want, we might never attain what we are meant to do. Fate might play a cruel joke on the star-crossed lovers, but sometimes, it is for the best.

Sidenote: I’m still tapping to the catchy tunes whenever the album pops up on my playlist. Totally in love with the album and the show, catch it if you can! 

 

The Solitude in Words

The rays of the golden hour gently warming up my skin, frosted from the wintery cold of the office, as I strolled towards the nearest train station. Guilty of the act of simply scrolling through my social media channels, I took the chance to look up from my screen to take in the urban landscape before me.

Jazz music playing softly through my earphones as I stumbled through the crowds across 2 varying train lines to make my way back to home. It’s been a tough couple of months at work, and my spirits has been really worn thin. The shroud of negative energy from my team rubs off easily on me and all I could do was seek solace in words. Words I’ve written years ago when I was equally worn out, they proved to be a timely reminder that things would eventually get better once we are well adjusted.

“If you’re feeling frightened about what comes next, don’t be. Embrace the uncertainty. Allow it to lead you places. Be brave as it challenges you to exercise both your heart and mind as you create your own path towards happiness; don’t waste time with regret. Spin wildly into your next action. Enjoy the present, each moment, as it comes, because you’ll never get another one quite like it. And if you should ever look up and find yourself lost, simply take a breathe and start over. Retrace your steps and go back to the purest place in your heart… where your hope lives. You’ll find your way again.”

– Everwood

As I retraced the steps I’ve taken thousands of times home, to the place where I spent 15 years of my life. To the home where I’ve spent countless hours by the pool staring up into the light polluted sky to seek out the stars, the endless swim sessions with my neighbors, long study sessions at the Guttensohn’s, midnight conversations and the long walks to the bus stop with Wiam.

My mum used to ask me what is the definition of a home, and for years, I’ve pondered over it, never truly contemplating the real reason for her questions. Until recently, when my home of 15 years went onto the market for sale, did it hit me hard. Home is where you’re comfortable and feel safe. It is a place where you could cry freely without any concern, it holds a fortress of memories built overtime, and most importantly, it is where you would want your kids to grow up in.

Over the years, I’ve traveled throughout the world in search of answers. Seeking solitude in the foreign environment, moving on when familiarity / hardship sinks in and never wanting to look back. Yet, I’ve always gone home, to recover, renew my spirits and start again. This is where the purest place my heart has, where my hope lives, and where I begin the journey of finding my way again.

 

Let’s Eat | Open Farm Community

The daily habits of scrolling through Instagram has seen me flicking through countless beautiful Instagram photos of the “new kid on the block”, Open Farm Community. Being slow to the cafe hunting game, due to the lack of private transportation, I’ve never really headed down to the new joint until recently.

Since I’ve joined a new firm, it’s became a ritual for me to catch up with XT over delicious food, usually on Fridays. Dashing into her car one Friday afternoon to escape the choking haze, I was met with an exclaimation “Let’s try Open Farm Community! It looks delicious!”. We took a short drive to Demsey Hill with our fingers crossed, in hopes that the restuarant isn’t full.

As the car’s tyres met with the sounds of gravel, we were transported to an Urban Farm. The concept of the Open Farm Community (OFC) meant that the cafe uses farm-to-table herbs and vegetables, and it’s as close to the “country-side” as we can get, just a couple of minutes from the city.

We greeted warmly at the door and promptly shown to the communal table situated in front of the kitchen. As we sat down, the indoor sittings were promptly filled as conversations peppered through the air.


The Rigatoni cooked with local mushrooms, smoked pancetta, stilton in balsamic reduction. The balsamic reduction was almost a perfection and the meal left me wanting more.

Side order of the 3 in 1 Sweet Corn platter consists of the deliciously juicy grilled corn, baby corn and popcorn.

Coconut laksa barramundi, crushed potato cake, bok choy

Chicken katsu burger, carrot spaghetti, white cabbage chiffonade, curly fries, lime & Japanese mayo – a truly interesting combination.

Our post-lunch routine usually includes a trip to the Common Man Coffee next door.


Open Farm Community
130E Minden Rd, Singapore 248819

Happy 1st Bee-day, C!

Dear C,

It’s been almost 1.5 years since your mum told me that she was expecting you. That moment when she told me about you was one filled with mixed emotions, especially since we’ve lost your older siblings previously. Your arrival took a huge rock off my chest and it was being replaced by pride and joy. Baby boy, you did well.


The last year was tough, spending most of my time an ocean away from you meant that I couldn’t cuddle you, spend time with your parents or be there when your mummy needed help. Yet, I am glad that even from afar, I’ve always been kept up to date with your progress with the daily photo / video. 


As you turn ONE, I wanted to let you know that we want to celebrate all those moments – The first time I saw you and snuggled up with you, the first time I heard you cry when you were separated from mummy, to the first few steps that you took unassisted right in front of me. We are celebrating the nights you kept mum and dad up, the days that you spent at the park with your parents, the falls you had while trying to walk and the new adventures to the aquarium.


Happy Birthday my beloved busy bee! It has been an honor to be your godmother. I am looking forward to spending more time with you and being there when you need me both physically (if possible) and electronically.

Lots of Love,
Godma


Captured by S. Benjamin with his beautiful Sony A7M2 and myself on the iPhone 7

Island Living – Seminyak Style

As the cloud of gloom settles over the post-nuptial bliss of my wedding, I sat at my desk confronted by the triple-digit email inbox that awaited my attention, I decided, I needed a break and a change of environment. Coincidentally, my husband had decided that we should pack our bags and head away to Bali for a vacation over my birthday weekend. Tickets were booked 2 months in advance and the countdown towards our trip started ticking.

We left Singapore on a rainy Friday afternoon, happy to be escaping the harsh reality of the working world. Despite arriving 3 hours earlier for our flight, we’ve managed to be royally late for our flight. (Blame it on Changi’s wealth of duty-free shopping and our pre-flight ritual of alcohol dosage)

Two hours later, we land in the light of the beautiful full moon with the evening breeze gently blowing on our skin. We were met with our drive who drove us through town, braving through the evening to get our Mobile Data card. We drive past familiar landscapes and our favourite restuarants to Seminyak, where we pulled up to the newly opened Ibis Styles Petitenget.

The latest hotel on the Ibis Styles chain, Petitenget was in a great location for the budget travellers. Just 10 minutes away from Seminyak Central, it has a wide variety of restuarants within walking distance that is worthy of a visit.

After a good night’s rest, we find ourselves, strolling along the streets of Seminyak  in thick 35 degree heat, the sun blazing down relentlessly on our faces. The delight of finding new alleyways and rediscovering old favourites was not lost on us as we basked in the joy of being back on the beautiful island.


We break for a short reprieve from the relentless sun, at one of Seminyak’s best coffee house, Revolver Espresso. The cafe was packed to the brim with tourist who found the gem that is located just off the main Seminyak area, the coffee tastes exactly the way we’ve remembered it.

After a session at a spa and a facial session that was underwhelming at best, we decided to devote our time to being on the beach since it was almost time for sunset. Crowds of people flock to the sea, digging their toes into the sand to feel it’s warmth and simply enjoying the breeze in their faces, we aren’t so different afterall.

With the final salutation to the non-existent sunset, we dusted our feet after an hour, and made our way to our dinner reservation at La Lucciola, under the gloomy cloudy sky.

The selection of food available was great, and I really appreciated the availability of gluten free options. We shared conversations over dinner and simply watched the world go by. It was one of those rare wonderful, authentic moments that can’t be scripted.


Captured by S. Benjamin with his beautiful Sony A7M2