Sunday, September 28, 2014

Great articles I read this week


1. This one shares a simple, straightforward and seemingly effective way of combating the habit of worry. (as shared by Bawanie on FB)

2. This one has a very attractive writing style which I immensely enjoyed reading, although I strongly disagree with a few points made. Warning: Content may piss off Malaysians who think Malaysian food is superior to Singapore food all the time, anywhere, anytime.

3. Wall Street Journal featured rising fashion designer Yiqing Yin in their article, and I found this refreshing and inspiring. No matter what industry you're in or what you're doing, I feel like hard work and a desire to see your vision come to pass is one of the tenements of success.

*Tried to find the source of this image, cannot find. Now not even sure if this is Yiqing Yin :/
Originally found on Pinterest

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Where we stayed in Nepal: Hotel Bougainvillaea

On our mission trip to Nepal, we set aside a couple of days to discover the beauty of this nation. #blessedlife. From Kathmandu, we took a 6-hour minibus ride up north to Pokhara. Yes, it is gruelling, your butt is gonna split, but the views are unforgettable - you'll cross ravines and valleys inundated with small villages, orderly terraces of vegetation rising on the face of a hill, rapid-flowing rivers and (my personal favourite), hand-painted "billboards" on rocks!

The mirror-like Fewa Lake, Pokhara

In the town of Pokhara itself, and its surrounding, is where you'll experience the best of Nepal's natural beauty. There are mountain treks and kayaking and adventure sports like paragliding to be had, but most people who head here use Pokhara as the spring board to Annapurna base camp (which is where people head to if they want to see the ranges of the Himalayan, including the Everest).

We stayed at Hotel Bougainvillaea, which is located about 250m away from the main road in Pokhara town. It's a nice walk on a rocky road (which may be tarred the next time we go there, judging by the rising popularity of Nepal as a destination). You'll pass by about four or five similar-looking hotels on your way in. The 7 Continents Hotel, pictured below, seemed quite cute with two cottage-looking villas in front!

Our room in Hotel Bougainvillaea was on the first floor of the five-storey hotel, the one facing the road. There are no lifts, so you'll have to climb up the marble staircases with ebony banisters to your rooms.

Load sharing is common in the whole of Nepal because of some socio-political scarce resource issue, so you will be getting only intermittent electricity (fan, lights, etc). You can ask the front desk for candles and matches. If you crave a breeze, sit in the balcony (like we did to dry our hair) or climb up to the rooftop for spectacular views. On very clear days, you might even catch a glimpse of the tips of the snow-capped mountains. We saw it on our last morning, and it was life-changing, even though it was just a tiny glimpse :D

The hotel has a small dining area at the back, but do ask for an alfresco seat if you happen to be having breakfast here - they open tables on the front lawn if it's not raining. Speaking of raining...walking back from the town one night, it started pouring, so I snuggled myself tight in the raincoat we all brought. I didn't know why Monica was laughing at me until she said I looked like a pao! hehehehee

At the hotel lobby

The hotel staff are accommodating, and I particularly remember the front desk receptionist dressed in a pretty saree, who was always smiling and on the last day told me that I looked like a popular Nepalese actress. 

Other important information: 
- Money changers widely available
- English widely spoken
- Eat lots of momos and puri panees, if you can find it

If you are going to Nepal, let me know! I'd love to hear about your experience there. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Visiting Laduree Singapore

Known as one of the world's best macaron makers, French luxury sweets company Laduree is every girly girl's dream. I had the opportunity to check out the only store in Southeast Asia in Singapore last year, and it was a delightful experience! 

The celadon green storefront calls out to shoppers at Ngee Ann City, where the boutique is located. Stepping in, you enter a world of enchanting Parisian sophistication - a world in its own, truly! Spend as much time as you like browsing through their sweets and merchandise (Laduree scented candles, anyone?) and take plenty of photos - it's a pre-requisite to step into the shop. LOL jk. 

But don't leave empty handed! People have travelled far and wide to taste these mini sugar-burger confections, even famously hand-carrying them all the way from Paris back home (wherever home may be). Or am I confusing them with Pierre Herme? Hmmm. 

Okay back to normal talk. Pretty ex lah these tiny bombs of sugar. SGD4 for one I think? One of the more expensive ones in Singapore! But it's different from other macarons. I love the generous ganache filling, and the tops and bottoms (what do you call them LOL) are chewy, but not overly chewy until it gets stuck in your teeth. There were so many people in the store as well, a lot of people just coming in and going out with what they want. 

Are you a fan of macarons? 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reads: The Ghost Bride

Since I discovered the genre of "Asian literature" (i.e. melodic literature romanticizing Asian culture and civilisation through the use of a fictional plot by an Asian-born writer, in my opinion heh heh), I have made it my goal to read all popular books that fall in this category.

So far, I've read The Harmony Silk Factory and Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw, Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan and The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (final two reviews pending). All of these books have been shortlisted or longlisted for more than one prestigious, international book award.

The main similarity between these books is that each author, having been born and raised in Malaysia (or Malaya) have inculcated a love for the poetic life in Malaysia during the pre-war or pre-Independence period.

Some critics say that there is more than enough of these rose-glassed historical fiction that paints a too-beautiful picture of Malaysia to readers around the world, and that if you've read one of them, you've read them all (!). I think these critics fear that the charm of the setting provides an unfair advantage for the stories to bloom, but I'm not sure where I read this from, so I cannot vouch for the validity. Nevertheless, this is an interesting point to ponder on, the next time you find yourself falling in love with a story set like this.

(Side note: I recommend any of the books I listed out to everyone who likes to read. Some parts of it are historically accurate, so it may even help you paint a clearer picture when you're studying Sejarah)

Last week, I finished reading The Ghost Bride by first time novelist Yangsze Choo. Like many others, she was Malaysian born also, now based in the U.S. Many of these writers find fame outside of Malaysia and set up base outside of Malaysia. This is a feat I take pride in because I take a very long time to read a book, considering that work and commuting rarely takes less than 12 hours a day.

I've been wanting to read The Ghost Bride since I read of its debut and review last year, so when I saw it at the Times book sale, I bought it quickly.

The story's introduction is mellow, with uncommonly used words scattered throughout. These words were so unusual to me that it distracted me from reading as quickly as I could, because I had to pause and think of the possible synonyms for it. I had a tough time pinpointing the exact date of the story, but if I could guess, maybe the early or mid 1900s.

When the spirit realm in the book was revealed, and our protagonist entered it, I couldn't gel with it at all. I think I read it with the expectation that it would not go this way, so when it did, I had a tough time grasping or understanding why. In fact, most of the time reading it, I was silently questioning the protagonist "Why are you doing this? Why are you doing that!".

To the end of the book, I deduced that it was a Twilight, lightly veiled as a historical fiction. I'm sorry, but despite her fierce independence, I did not and could not take a liking to Li Lan and her selfish (mis)adventures in the spirit world. It was tough enough that very few girls in that day and time had no jobs to purposefully work at, but she didn't even like the womanly stuff that was due her - like craftsmanship and homemaking.

Her romance with both characters (Tian Bai and Er Lang) was so flip flop, it felt like a Team Edward/Team Jacob thing going on. At times, I couldn't even decide if the author wanted Er Lang to be a good guy or a bad guy, but I guess that was the point - to make you decide yourself if you wanted him to be a good or bad guy. And to me, the person she ended up with had no chemistry with her whatsoever. It was merely a culmination of infatuation and short meet-ups. I was even reminded of Spirited Away at some points of their budding relationship.

I found myself expecting the cowardly ending that Li Lan explained. To me, that would have been selfless of her - sacrificing her own needs for the good of her family. So when she did otherwise, I relegated her to "just another Bella".

No regrets reading this though, at least I found out what the story is about!