Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Angels to fly...

This evening, I went for a run around my neighborhood. Usually, I just do my running on the treadmill - but I felt rather non-hamsterish today. As I ran past the nature park, the loss of ToTo hit me. It has been more than a year, yet my heart.. Oh my heart. It hurts. It is like someone crushing it so hard till it is hard to breathe. 

Angels to fly...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Staycation Weekend

We decided on a little staycation to celebrate our getting-together anniversary, having just returned from our splendid vacation in the United States. I googled around for places to stay in Pulau Ubin, and was surprised to observe that the prices at the only resort on the island (which gave the impression that it was rustic and less comfortable than a regular hotel) were similar to the more luxurious hotel near the Changi Jetty. As such, we chose the latter and were quite pleased with our choice. 

We started the Saturday taking advantage of the complimentary one-hour bicycle rentals provided by the hotel. Peter was a little nervous, since the last time he rode a bike was apparently fifteen years ago.  He did pretty well, but was wobbly when he noticed incoming cyclists or pedestrians. It might probably be challenging to cycle at Pulau Ubin since he was not quite confident, so we limited the cycling time to just within Changi Beach Park. 

After returning the bikes, we took the bum boat to the island and started our trek to the Chek Jawa wetlands. Along the way, we observed cyclists harvesting durios zibethinus (that is durian) which Peter has since affectionately nicknamed "the garbage fruit". Curious, we started looking at the trees to try to spot the fruit. To our horror, we spotted the thorny fruit hanging from a height of at least thirty metres.

Can you imagine if a two-kilo thorny sphere fell on your head from about five-storey? Methinks it is an accident waiting to occur! Cyclists and trekkers at Pulau Ubin, please beware of falling durians!

After about three kilometres, we arrived at the entrance of Chek Jawa and were greeted by fuzzy little baby boars. 

I was a little wary that a huge mother boar would be lingering around the corner. We hastily moved on to the coastal boardwalk. Unfortunately, it started to rain and the tide was high. Not much could be seen on the wetlands when the area was swollen with waters. The mangrove swamps were more interesting - with scurrying shellfish and needle-like fishy. We finally sought shelter at a quiet tower.

When we thought the rain had subsided a little, we trekked back to the jetty. The trek back seemed shorter as we entertained ourselves playing taboo on my iPhone. We rewarded ourselves with a plate of fried squid - which Peter likened to fried pork rind - and dough fritters.

The bum boat ride back to mainland Singapore was uneventful. Although exhausted, we cleaned up and set out to explore dinner options. My colleague who lived in the east once recommended Etna, a quaint little Italian restaurant. We didn't have any reservations, but they managed to find a table for us even though the restaurant was bustling. My main course was linguine with scallops in prawn cream - palate pleasing indeed. Service was less than desired - our bread and beverages took 15-20 minutes to arrive. I guess they were overwhelmed on a Saturday evening. 

I woke up a grumpy Peter early Sunday morning for a 10-km run. He became noticeably chirpier after the initial grouchiness to marvel at the beauty of the sunrise.

It was wonderful to laze at the rooftop pool after the running, soaking up the sun rays and chatting about random issues of life. Feeling that we have sufficiently worked out for the day, we decided to binge on a huge brunch at the nearby Coastal Settlement. We settled at a cosy corner to enjoy our large meal at a leisurely pace while competing on Jenga on the iPad. 

Ah, weekends. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Perfect Sunday

Someone once observed that I seemed to have a morbid obsession with reading up on stories of catastrophes such as the holocaust, or drilling into details of individuals who suffered serious ailments and wrote blogs to document their journeys. I pondered upon the observation for a while and decided the reasons for such interests are (i) my admiration for the human spirit in times of dire setbacks and duress; and (ii) how the accounts help serve as reminders for me to be grateful for the simple blessings in my life.

As such, I decided to write about my perfectly happy Sunday. 

Firstly, I am still basking from the contentment of my recent vacation to the United States. I woke up from a deep snooze on my first Sunday back to bright sunny skies, and spent a good part of the morning with my favourite people lazing at Peter's pool. Sam brought her baby boy and Michelle brought her baby girl. We lazed by the pool, splashed around, fussed the babies, danced like monkeys to entertain the kiddies, and whatsnot. At one point as I took a break from the babies with Peter at the side of the pool, I sighed with happiness at my favourite people around me and took a mental note to remember how blessed I am. 

We had Thai Express after our pool session, and it seemed like a really big lunch. Food really tastes a lot more delicious when I am with good company. Although I had planned to have a healthier diet after my vacation, my plan hasn't work so well because it is the time of the year where my friends and family show their love by treating me to my favourite foods. For the past week, I had three sessions of Itacho sushi and four sessions of crabmeat pasta. I have more sessions of food treats for the next two weeks, but I am really running out of favourite food options!

In the evening, my brother arranged for dinner at Da Paolo at Rochester Park. The company was, of course, excellent, but the food was rather pricey for the quality and service. As we sat waiting for our food to arrived (it took almost thirty minutes!), we reminisced about life growing up. We talked about Toto quite a bit in one part of our family conversation. There were pangs of pains as I talked about my wonderful dog, but I am glad I am able to talk about my memories of him without bursting into tears. A year ago, this would have be an entirely different picture.

As we clinked our glasses and wished one other well, I made another mental note to memorise the scene - Mummy and Daddy chatting about how salty the green pea soup was, Bro and sis-in-law complaining about how terrible the movie "Pacific Rim" was to Peter... Me tucking into my palatable creamy crabmeat tagialletta......Maybe one day, I will want to dig into my archives of such happy and completely contented snapshots of my life, and remember I am a blessed, blessed girl.

(I miss you, ToTo!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

More Than 3 Decades Old

My birthday this year was spent with the people I least expect to be with, and far away from the shores of home. I was on a work trip with my Director, and a colleague Mel who isn't even directly in my team. Nevertheless, I was immensely touched by the efforts they put in to give it a bit of celebratory mood.

After a tiring trip in Jerusalem (which deserves an entry by itself), my Director headed straight to the reception to book a restaurant for dinner. Good company, coupled with the Mediterranean sea breeze, the stunning sunset and delectable seafood dinner, was strangely enjoyable. My colleague requested a surprise cake with a mini firework displays, with enthusiastic Jewish waiters bursting into a birthday song. It was a truly memorable evening.

On my actual birthday, Mel and I booked a day trip to Masada and the Dead Sea. Our tour guide, Zahid, was the same one that took us to Jerusalem the day before. We drove out into the Judean desert, and I commenced the adventure with my first ride on the camel.

Whoopsy-hoo. Careful now, Missy Camel.

Riding amidst the sweltering heat of the desert

We adjourned to a hike along the archaelogical site in Masada. It is located on top of an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. We saw amazing architecture carved out from the rocky mountains, and learnt about the Roman siege of the Jews in Masada.

After the scorching tour of Masada, we were looking forward to float in the waters of the Dead Sea, the lowest point in the world.

To the dead sea and beyond!

Look Ma, no life vest required!

We had tonnes of fun floating in the waters, exploring even deep waters without the need for life vests. The water was so salty I was instantly aware of all the little cuts and injuries on my body since they would start to smart tremendously. We also slammed on the black mineral mud which is supposed to make our skin a lot smoother. All in all, it was great fun. More pics when I upload them from my iPhone.

Not a bad way to feel a year older!

Monday, July 18, 2011


After a horrendous 16 hour flight, where three out of the five toilets were not working, we finally made it to Tel Aviv.

How on earth does a red-eye flight operate with faulty toilets? You see long queues of passengers forming in the plane to use the precious two working toilets and frankly, I have no desire to use the bathrooms after a group of men have utilised them.

Luckily, we were greeted by a friendly sight on arrival. My hotel is smacked right next to a fancy beach. It's summer and everyone is out to party!

My boss, colleague and I eventually adjourned to a nearby supermarket to stock up on supplies. As I searched fervently for the elusive bottle of mineral water amongst the hebrew-labelled grocries, a guy turned to me.

Guy: Do you speak English?
Me: Yes.
Guy: Great! I was wondering if you can help me. I'm looking for something.
Me: You're kidding me. I can't even read Hebrew. I can't find what I'm looking for too.
Guy: Oh I can help! What're you looking for?
Me: (Puzzled by the change in attitude) Er, minerable water.
Guy: I know where that is!

He enthusiastically started off towards an aisle and eyeballed the rows of beverages sitting on the shelves. 'Nah, they are not mineral water,' he muttered and strode determinedly towards the cashier. In Hebrew, he asked the cashier about the location of mineral water, and victoriously returned with a bottle of mineral water. Duh, he can speak Hebrew. Why the hell did he ask me for help?

Nevertheless, I thanked him for his assistance. He began to try to speak in incomprehensible chinese, as if in an attempt to impress. After acting amused for a bit, I strolled off to join my colleague.

A while later, as I was queuing to pay, he cut the queue and came up to me.

Him: Are you free for dinner tonight?
Me: Nope.
Him: Tomorrow night?
Me: Nope, sorry.
Him: I'll give you my number. You can call me when you are free.
Me: Er, sure.

He took my handphone and keyed in his number, while my colleagued looked on, amused. At this time, someone behind me said something in Hebrew. Again, I presumed the person was complaining he was cutting queue. The guy turned around and retorted,"She's my friend!"

At this point, my boss who was queuing behind looked distinctly unamused. Anyway, in my haste to saunter away, I actually forgot my change from the cashier. The guy called me back, reminded me to take my change before winking "Call me, I know where to have fun in Tel Aviv."

Right. Men.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kayaking in Ubin

We had a great time kayaking around the mangroves of Pulau Ubin, avoiding low hanging branches and colliding into the muddy roots.

We're cruising along, baby!

The instructors will first guide you on your paddling skills, and there will be practices in the open sea to raft up as a group.

Rafting up for a group pic!

Showing the instructors our paddling skills

The waters in Pulau Ubin is alot chalkier. It is almost opaque, unlike in Krabi where I could see loads of jellyfish, starfish and other aquatic life from the kayak. Well, still, it's pretty fun dodging all those mangrove branches!

We then adjourned to the coffee-shops at Pulau Ubin for a well-deserved dinner.

Feeling accomplished!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

We Made It!

We made it to the top of Mount Kinabalu, the 20th tallest mountain in the world!

Top of the world

The feeling at the top was indescribable. It was not an easy feat getting up to the summit. The air was thin with oxygen. I had to take calculated steps and stops to catch my breath. However, it was all worth it. Words cannot sufficiently articulate the breath-taking landscape - the view of the world below, the peaks rising above the clouds, the vast alphine meadows, and the awfully beautiful and stunning sunrise.

The climb lasted two days. The first day was a 6km trek up 3,270m to Pendant Hut where we would stop for the night before an early morning bid for the summit at 3:00am. The hike up to Pendant Hut was uneventful until the last 2km when it started raining. My poncho was with the porter who was following the rest of us behind me, so I was throughly soaked. I arrived at Pendant Hut after a 5-hour hike, shivering terribly with cold.

The goal of the first day trek - Laban Rata

After an unfitful sleep, we started our bid for the summit at 3:00am. In darkness.

Thank God for headlamps.

We finally arrived at the summit (4,092m) at around 7:00am. Some of my favorite shots along the way.

We literally ran down to Sayat Sayat Hut at 3,680m in an hour to meet the deadline for our Via Ferrata journey back to base camp. Out of our group, three opted to drop out of Via Ferrata from sheer exhaustion. Only four of us continued. It was a decision I would never regret. The view was simply spectacular and the experience was unforgettable. It was pure adrenaline rush.

For more pictures, click here.