Seoul 2018

This year, my family and I finally went back to Seoul after not doing so for 2 years. My side of the family are without doubt, creatures of habit and once we find something we like, we do it all the time.

Hongkong used to be the destination of choice as it’s somewhere my mom was familiar with. But after we went to Seoul, it became clear which city was more enjoyable for us.

For the past 2 trips, my dad was able to come with us for the holiday. While that should be the way it is, and is good family time… the burden of finding good and cheap food naturally fell on me.

I also recommended some of the food to my friend and she is bringing her family around as I’m writing this post. All good food places from this trip can be found on my instastoriesΒ and this map.

Here are some of the ones I dream about daily:

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Phuket

We decided to head to Phuket for a short trip, instead of Bangkok – and it didn’t disappoint. Apart from huge savings on accommodation and airfare, we had really good meals, cafe experiences and massage.

I logged our experiences on myΒ instastories.

 

December Bangkok Trip: Thonglo & Ekkamai

As of all my trips, my December Bangkok trip was centred around food.

It turned out that my hotel, IR-ON Hotel, was just a short walk away from my planned dinner place so we could drop our things off before heading for our early dinner. The hotel is pretty cool – industrial design, basic amenities and convenient location. It can’t beat Cabochon in experience but was available at a good price. 3 nights here was less than a night at Cabochon and we thoroughly enjoyed. Even though I whined about walking in the narrow, dark road with many passing cars and bikes, it was only a few minutes and very bearable.

We admired our well-designed hotel for a bit then went off for dinner.

Gyuma BBQ got me when I did my research on good places to have bbq meats in Bangkok.

Charcoal grill and all.

Lovely meats πŸ™‚

As it was our first meal after touching down, we weren’t quite prepared to think too much, so I just ordered a portion of all the beef and pork varieties. The marbled beef was good, pork loin and vegetables were good and entire meal was pleasant though not mindblowing. If ever we craved freeflow bbq meats again, we’d come back.

Wattana Panich, on the other hand, was pretty mindblowing. I chanced upon a beef-lover friend’s feed and saw her photos there. We came on the first morning and loved it! We mistakenly ordered 2 portions of herbal soup – one beef and one mutton.

We actually wanted the beef noodle soup so we added a third order after our herbal soups arrived. After having a taste of the rich herbal soup, the beef soup paled in comparison. It was good but the herbal soup was better.

We got 1, 2 (by mistake but best mistake ever this trip, 200B each) and 6 (80B?). Best food on the trip!

Asia Herb Association

Before we came over, I got a recommendation from a friend to try Asia Herb for massage.

For someone who was contented with Healthland as it was the most value-for-money, I loved the experience here. The quality was superb. I loved the interior for what we paid and their technique was pretty good too. We opted for the foot+head+shoulder oil massage (500B) for the first day, and the aroma oil + herbal ball body massage (1700B) for the second day.

After our massage, we had a tomyam goong and oyster egg at the nearby Sukhumvit Soi 38. Both were delicious; the oyster egg was so much better than the one at Platinum that we tried at the previous trip.

There was a Mango Sticky Rice recommended by Misstamchiak in the same row but I’m not a fan of sticky rice.

The Commons

2 friends recommended this place for brunch but I fell in love with the philosophy before I even consumed anything here.

It’s all about community and the mineral water initiative raises money to help someone they know. I love how the concept is so simple but so needful. No need for permits, for licenses, for complicated accountability processes. But just help for those who need it within their community.

Husband and I were so inspired by this concept that we just soaked in the awesomeness of the place. I always believed that profit making is essential – but of the brand could be successful enough, it could lend its name to raise awareness to many things and alleviate some issues that its community faces. Such a wonderful thing – naysayers can say what they want, slackivists can ride on it, but the tangible help rendered speaks for itself.

I don’t know why the lights are dotting our faces.

Dream doors and kitchen.

We went back on our last day to have brunch at Roast.

Such good design for a menu.

“how you grow.”

“What inspires and drives me to get up every morning?” – a recurrent question in the books I’m reading and even the menu I’m flipping.

Husband’s espresso and my earl grey lychee tea.

Lamb ragout gnocchi

Truffle alfredo tagliatelle

Grapefruit sorbet and nutella tart

We went down for coffee after Roast.

On our last day we went for another foot, head and shoulder massage at Asia Herb. Dinner was at Sit and Wonder, and eatery I mapped the previous trip but didn’t get to go to.

It turned out to be a stylish cafe offering traditional Thai food.

Taken in a rush, I didn’t even check.

Bangkok’s such a relaxing place for us that we hope to go back at least once a year. Wishing it could be more than just recreation, but that would a whole load of guts and divine appointment.

Listen

Hear the voices of the non-words.

I had an interesting conversation with Immanuel on our last day in Bangkok and I’m thankful to be able to engage in such spoken words with him.

My mind always ventures into arenas that my hands don’t dare to go. Sitting at Roast on our last day of the trip, I observed our surroundings:

  • Local staff working at a hipster joint
  • Blonde lady with her very adorable blonde baby
  • Thai couple with their equally cute baby
  • Fellow Singaporeans just like me, taking photos of their stylish brunch dishes
  • Thai lady with impeccable English with her Singaporean friend, talking about work matters and life
  • Japanese ladies with a little child
  • Thai lady eating alone

Many other patrons there, but these are just some specific ones.

It’s easy to dismiss them as just fellow patrons of Roast, there for a good meal. But we all have our stories. Some to tell, some to alter, and some to survive.

In my short life on this side of heaven, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, but I would call myself extremely blessed. Many others live lives far tougher than I can imagine and far more horrific than I can empathise.

I admitted, quite sadly to Imm that I find it difficult to empathise with the lives of the food sellers, motorbike taxi drivers and masseuses in the land. I try to define each profession because there’s something belittling about generalising a people as the typical person from a place.

Would the young lady stall owner at Soi 38 dream of a life bigger than her stall? Would she want to travel the world? Is she even from Bangkok? Or what did she have to leave behind to come here to prepare food for others?

Do the bike taxi drivers hope to put on better shoes than the Onitsukas that we saw a group of friends admiring as we walked through the streets to get to brunch? Are they married? Do they have children and what do they hope for their children to have?

Do the ladies helped by Alingon, mentioned by Erwin McManus in The Last Arrow want to see a better future for their daughters? Or have they resigned to the route of prostitution? Every time foreign hands touch them, do they still shiver in fear and cringe in disgust? Or have they grown numb to the abuses?

Immanuel comfortingly put that perhaps empathy can be done without necessarily understanding someone else’s shoes. Perhaps empathy can be simply admitting that – there’s no way I can understand what you have been through.

I know I was made for more than this, all my comforts, my blessed life, my good days – but my hands feel so small. Where can I overflow to?

December Bangkok Trip: Some food and finds

After You

I finally tried it and fell in love. All the butter soaked up in between the cuts of the toast. Savoury heaven in a dessert. Just the way I like it.

Somtan Nua

I brought Imm here after my visit with Cherlynn around 4 years ago.

We tried a salted crab salad and wondered how could better appreciate the raw crabs…

Box Space Ratchayothin

Don’t believe the blogs which say that the place is open daily from 10am. Only a few food joints were opened when we went over at around 3pm on a Wednesday. It felt like a dead space. The one eatery we visited (amongst the 3 that looked open) had the ‘egg soup’ which was like a steamboat steamed egg, and the ultra savoury spicy pork salad, so our entire visit was redeemed.

Changi Airport / Staying the Path

I love this place. Changi Airport has been a huge part of my life. My memories of it as a child aren’t that clear. But the memories I have of it when I was still in Anglican remain vivid.

I remember dashing into the train after school at Tanah Merah, and doing silly things at quiet areas with my friends. Lying on the stairs, pretending we were mannequins are among the many things we did there as teenagers. Many of those spots and now gone but I’ve kept some in photos for my personal viewing pleasure. Camera phones had just come out then and though the quality isn’t good, it’s at least a preservation of the stupid things we did.

I remember studying at the airport. McDonalds, TCC, viewing galleries, Burger King, staff canteens, and I’ve lost count. All the food options made it so convenient. Students in Singapore study here all the time. It’s the one airport that I’ve seen people actually come all the time to do non-airport things. As an adult, I spent countless nights here marking assignments at Krispy Kreme and again, the viewing gallery.

I remember all the flights in and out of the country. The several short trips with my friends and the rare long one to Italy. I remember crying the entire flight back from Paris, and leaving with joy in my heart for my honeymoon in Japan. Trips are always something I look forward to but coming home to the warmth of Changi Airport cushioned the disappointment of coming back to real life in Singapore.

I remember all the good meals I’ve had with my family at the airport – from fast food, to cafes, to ramen, sushi and tonkatsu, to hawker fare, to Penang cuisine, and our ever delightful Aston’s. It’s the one activity that we all enjoy and living near the airport made it our favourite ‘mall’ to go to.

As I write this, there are countless families hanging out here, children running around or scooting while parents watch them knit these memories into their childhood.

Today, the airport has served as my place of refuge again. I come here whenever I don’t know what to do (both in the lost and bored sense). I brought a book that Immanuel got for me from Hillsong. Bobbie Houston’s Stay the Path. I listened to the audiobook before but as I’m reading it now, it seems pretty fresh to me. Which should be a sure sign that I should terminate my audible subscription.

I love how Ps Bobbie talks about being convicted of who I am, where I’m headed, and what I am about. Because these are the exact questions I’m trying to answer in this season. Through journaling and blogging, I’m hoping to pick up the many pieces of my life – scattered thoughts, rushing too much too fast in my career, and the next transition I’m facing. By no means do I consider myself a leader, but I do desire to be a servant. Many times I’ve struggled with pride and self-righteousness, and beating myself hard over things that don’t even matter to others. With 90 years left, I want to live my life clearly. I may not always have clarity, but I want to be clear about the person I am about.

And that bit on ‘what compels you’ got me. To know the things I stand for and care about, and know the things that I can let go. Not everything is meant to be put in such deep focus, and for me in this season I know my focus isn’t working in a school and teaching large classes, and handling all the responsibility that they zap my energy, drain my mind and take time away from my family. Did I do exceptionally well? No. I’m not on that track. If I wanted it, I guess I could slog even harder to get it. No guarantees though. But I think I did a fairly good job, considering that my rankings were decent. I genuinely cared for some students, got along well with my colleagues, and did many things for the school. But none of what I did compelled me.

I enjoyed parts of my job but rather than energise me, I was perpetually drained. One can get drained on a job but I couldn’t deal with being drained and being in front of my students. What a role model I would’ve been if I continued next year?

I made the decision to leave now so I wouldn’t have to find out.

So many thoughts on just the first 2 chapters. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it.

Kuala Lumpur

The last time I was at KL was in 2011. With a bunch of 10 fellow CNM honours friends, most of whom I’m no longer in contact with. And another trip just a few weeks or months down with a group of girlfriends whom I fondly call the MSG/HDL girls because of our common memories made over food.

This time, its with my NIE batchmates, an amazing group of foodies who are a great support in this difficult profession.

Three noteworthy food places to visit if you’re there:

1. The breakfast thieves

2. Shin Kee beef noodle specialist

So good, I had 2, while the friends shared a 2nd bowl of beef ball soup.

3. Village Park Restaurant Nasi Lemak

So glad I announced that I was” not gonna share”

Others worth noting:

4. The eatery our Grab driver recommended when we asked him what was good at Jalan Alor. Turned out really yummy but not special nor mind blowing like the others above. It was a typical good zichar. We scrambled for seats and sat precariously under a tree. Witnessed bird droppings landing right on our table but was quickly cleared away by their excellently efficient cleaning staff. We waited about an hour for our food and while it didn’t disappoint, we don’t think we’d wait for it again

5. The view from our Airbnb apartment at Platinum Suites (The Face)

We didn’t manage to swim as we fiercely went about having good food, but it sure was a well needed time of relaxation.

Back to work tomorrow though its the September holidays, and I hope it all pays off with this batch of students.