Still in Singapore

Wow it’s been super long since I updated. I’ve been meaning to update here and there but I guess I’m the type that goes through phases.  Sometimes when I travel to somewhere exciting, receive a meaningful gift, add a new addition to my whatever collections, had a memorable moment and/or find new amusing subjects to talk about, I want to flip out my notebook and start typing away. It’s pretty interesting to read back on your old journals/entries. BUT. I also go through my semi anti-social phase, where I start wanting to take down any of the pictures that includes our faces and writings that contain my personal thoughts, for fear of- publicity? being known? being found? I’m not too sure- and shutting down my little site that I put so much effort into. It’s the introvert in me- I think I’m pretty sociable or come off as pretty approachable when people first meet me, but once I start to relax and feel they don’t need my 100%, I usually stay quiet or shy away in my own corner. I am a recluse. But give me the space and time I need, and I come right back to being the normal outgoing self. :)

Why I’m this way- beats me. It’s an on-going conundrum of my life. But I think it has something to do with a person’s childhood personality remaining in you throughout- no matter how many people you meet and what experiences you go through, you are who you are. deep within. I was super shy when I was little, and I guess still kind of shy now, though some of my friends may not agree, bc i’m outgoing as everyone else is in front of people they’re comfortable with. But it does take me a longggg time- longer it seems as i get older- to open up to a new friend and really get comfortable. I still dread public speaking, networking, and any type of scenarios where the attention is all on me- I start blushing and looking around for the nearest exit. Now, I learned to look uninterested or show no facial emotion (aka boring, or looking bored?) to hide all my anti-socialness and nervousness. As funny as that sounds,  that’s my only way of trying to look “as normal” as I can and looking confident (since a girl’s gotta always look confident, right?). I always beat myself up for it later and hope that I didn’t come off the wrong way.

I also don’t express myself very well. I’d like to show my condolences to someone that’s suffering from a loss, but I feel I’m being rude or nosy in their personal affairs, so I remain quiet and hope that they reach out so I can be there. I’d like to lend a helping hand, but don’t know the right words to be more inviting. I probably think too much, noticeably more as I near late 20s, but… I also like that trait about me. That I take the time to think in other persons shoes, whether they acknowledge, care, or appreciate it. I don’t intrude into other’s space and I like to give people their space, let them come, go, whatever they like, though I do retract if they take advantage or are generally a selfish person. But I’m always forgiving. As awkward and passive as I seem, I’m also funny,  talkative at times, feisty (sorry hubby) and love girls night outs. how i got to this topic, i don’t know. I guess this is one of those jot-down-my-thoughts kinda entries.

I love Mille Cakes @ Lady M. Especially the green tea. We go there quite often.

I love Mille Cakes @ Lady M. Especially the green tea. We go there quite often after work.

I’ve traveled to Hong kong and Korea and back a several times, went to Hochiminh, Vietnam with our friend couple, and am going to Taiwan this May. wooot! I’d like to update posts on this soon, but as stated above, it depends on if I’m feeling outgoing and can mimic an extrovert. haha

RIP Grandma.. love you always.

RIP Grandma.. love you always.

My grandma passed away. I’ve become even more attached to her in my early 20s when I’d go to Korea often, and I can’t believe she’s no longer there to pick up my calls. But I know she’s at a better place now, and I feel really blessed that I have a great family. Didn’t really learn to appreciate this till I was older. Wow, do I have an amazing family!

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I’ve been wanting a hermes scarf and my hubby picked one out for me :)

I also have a super exciting news I’d like to post,  but I’d like to dedicate a post of it’s own. soon!

Few more things I’ve noticed interesting about Singapore to end this post on a not-so-philosophical note:

  1. Where the heck are the napkins? I’m a forgetful person and Singapore is not a welcoming place for a forgetful soul. I’ve eaten my hot noodles with runny noses many times bc food centers here don’t carry napkins.  I wouldn’t mind paying a bit more for each plate just to have napkins provided at an eatery.
  2. Taxi drivers here BLAST air-conditioning as if their skin lost its senses. I get in a hot, sweaty person and come out as a snow woman.  So is my work or Singapore buildings in general. but taxis (oh and movie theatres where I lug around my parka that I thought I’d never need in Singapore) are the coldest.
  3. Yet many Singaporeans live without air-conditioning at their home. what the? I can’t even survive without one in less-hot climates like Los Angeles.
  4. I am a Korean-American and do not get offended if someone calls me Korean. Singaporean Chinese (or chinese singaporean?) gets offended, or so i hear, if one calls them “Chinese.” Yet they speak better Mandarin than English. Why? As an Asian myself I do not understand this whole ordeal. same with someone calling a Malaysian-Singaporean, Malaysian.

 

Bali, Indonesia (South Bali)

Because we wanted to have some cultural fun as well, we decided to go on a short one-day tour around South Bali before we head to our next destination in Seminyak. I’ve contacted several of the top tour agencies with the best reviews prior to going and found one that seemed decent in which the email read:

Our day tour services rates
halfday trip up to 5hours IDR 400k/car
fullday trip up to 10hours IDR 550k/car
extra hours IDR 50k/hours
included
- air conditioned car
- fuel
- English speaking driver
- car parking fee
not included
- your meal
- entrance ticket to the sites we visit

I guess I hadn’t thought too much behind the words “English speaking driver” though because our driver was also our tour guide. I don’t know why it hadn’t crossed my mind that this may not really work- I think I had assumed we would be in good hands based on the great reviews I’ve read. But lesson learned, it ended up being the least favorite out of the private tours we’ve done because it just wasn’t professional. The tour guide spent majority of the time parking the car and concentrating on driving that he wasn’t able to actually guide us as normal tour guides would do, missing out on some of the important points of the tour that I actually found out AFTER we’ve returned home as I researched on the internet. So please check to make sure that you’re getting a separate driver when booking a tour agency!

Nevertheless, our itinerary well suited our tight schedule and the sites we were taken to were great! Here is the list of places we’ve visited:

Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park
Padang Padang Beach

Karma Kandara Private Beach
Uluwatu Temple
Drop off at our hotel in Seminyak at the end of the day

at the entrance of the cultural center

at the entrance of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana cultural Park

Our first stop was the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, situated on a limestone plateau in south Bali, high on the Bukit Peninsula. It was our first cultural experience and we had a great time! It offers a great view of the Jimbaran Bay and Kuta to the west, and Tanjung Benoa and Sanur to the east.  Below are some silly couple pictures of us :)

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We also were lucky enough to make it to a show just in time. interesting performance!

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Our next stop was Padang Padang Beach, the place where the movie Eat, Pray, Love was shot at. We had gone on the WRONG day though because there was a surfing tournament was going on and it was way too overcrowded. It also had a long flight of stairs down in between rocks which we weren’t prepared for. We’ll never forget the bride we saw here going down these narrow steps, sweating away her makeup and looking miserable- it was almost 100 degrees that day and her beautiful white dress had been ruined due to the long flights of stairs going down. hopefully the photos turned out okay though to make up for the situation..

Finally made it down to the bottom..

Finally made it down to the bottom..

just too many people! we couldn't find an area to relax.

just too many people! we couldn’t find an area to relax.

what it looks like from the top..

view from the top!

but the beach was beautiful indeed!

the beach itself was beautiful indeed! but again, similar to beautiful beaches in los angeles.

We stopped by another beach for a short bit, which was similar to Padang, and headed to the Uluwatu temple situated on the top of the cliff. The view here was amazing! If you wait till 6pm, you’d be able to watch the famous Kecak Fire Dance which was highly recommended in the reviews I’ve read, but we decided to skip it due to lack of time. This temple is known to have aggressive monkeys that literally snatch your bags and anything easy to grab so our tour guide made us put away our sunglasses. poor hubby! he forgot to wear contacts so he had to walk without his glasses on…

Following our tour guide..

Following our tour guide..

breathtaking!!

and finally reached the famous view.. breathtaking!!285A5869

Taking in the scenery and the vast blue ocean..

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Hubby taking a break from the long hike. We were made to wear the purple cloth when entering:

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beautiful vegetation/forest inhabitated by wild monkeys:

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This was the last stop of our trip, which was an hour or two away from Banyan Tree. Seminyak is known for its high-end restaurants, bars, and spa and we thought it’d be great to spend a night here as it was on the way to the Depansar airport. We arrived here late at night and were surprised to find such vibrant night life.. it was a total tourist area but it was nice to have a night out in a modern city, grabbing delicious dinner and drinks. Not to mention the great couple hot stone massage the next day… we had booked one through katok (yes, they use katok here!) and it was 1/4 the US/Singapore price for more than two hours. We were pampered! After our walk around the small strip of various areas around the town afterwards, it was already time to head back. Hopefully we’ll return soon to experience Ubud, the cultural center of Bali. :)

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Bali, Indonesia (Banyan Tree)

Us in Bali :)

Our favorite pic from Bali :)

We went to bali for a weekend for a friend’s wedding. It’s been on top of my list of places for years (bc of one of my fav krn dramas “what happened in bali”), and I was so excited that I finally was able to visit for the weekend. and it was only two and half hours away! We stayed for three nights and four days, which we def felt it was toooo short. Before I started my research I had assumed that Bali was a small island, but to my surprise it actually turned out to be seven times bigger than Singapore. It has five different regions that are around 10 hours apart by car from one end to another: South Bali, Central Bali, West Bali, North Bali, and East Bali. Because of its size, I recommend spending at least two days per region, and even that may not be enough. Because a friend’s wedding was to be held in Nusa Dua, South Bali, we decided to stick to the southern part of Bali and see what it had to offer. I had really wanted to visit Ubud (central), the cultural, historical, and arts center of Bali, but being around four hours away from us in the opposite direction of the airport, we decided that’ll be our area to visit next time we’re back!

As always in our travels to Southeast Asia (bc they’re cheap), we hired a reputable private tour guide to take us around. But we found that the tour guide concept here is a bit different than other SE cities, it’s more of a “taxi” concept rather than a tour guide. There was no separate guide that came with the driver, our guide was the taxi driver that asked us what we wanted to do and would take us around town. So instead of guiding us around attractions, a lot of the times he said he’d just wait in the car. Though less professional, we didn’t mind as much since we were there mainly for the wedding and to enjoy our stay at the pool villa.

As South Bali is known for its resorts and beaches more so than the cultural sites, we decided to stay in pool villas at Banyan Tree pool villa to relax and recoup.  We were excited that it’d be more like a second honeymoon for us; I had assumed Bali’s beaches would be warm and clear like the ones in Maldives, as I had seen beautiful pictures of beaches in Bali and Phuket. Though we fairly enjoyed our stay, it seemed similar to any other ‘nice beach’ you’d see in Los Angeles, and the pool villa didn’t provide the ultimate “private” experience like what we had at Maldives. The complementary breakfast buffet was great, but nothing like the top notch delicacies sent to our own villas every morning at Maldives. I guess it’s an unfair comparison given that Maldives pool villa cost us nearly twice as much (and it’s Maldives! how did I not realize there’s not many beaches that can dare compare to it?), but for $$$$/night we thought it’d be a similar “once-in-a-lifetime” experience as a lot of couples ponder between Bali and Maldives for their honeymoon. Perhaps we needed to visit St. Regis? In any event, we still had a great time releaxing and the pool is amazing. here are some pictures of our time there:

pool at banyan tree!

pool at the banyan tree, overlooking the beach!

Playing around with our lens to make our legs look extra long: :D

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Skipping down the walkway. My mood was like this the whole time. :D

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Our private pool villa:

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hubby trying out the pool, but we rarely got to use it because we were too busy using the bigger one outside and going to the beach.. private pool would be great for families with kids!:

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bad quality pic, but this is our spacious bedroom with king-size bed and the bathroom- and this is just HALF of our villa. the other half is the beautiful living room & kitchen (the reviews were right. the villas here are huge!):

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We went down to check out Banyan’s private beach. loved the beach- i’ll take what I can get, most beaches in Asia (Korea, Singapore) are pretty bad- but the ones we visited in Bali were just ‘as great’ as the ones I’m used to back home in Los Angeles. Missed Maldives!:

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I think my photography skills is finally improving.  love these two shots: :)
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and lastly, my hubby’s pic of me:

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to upate our travels around South Bali next.

Singapore at 10-months

This is a long overdue post. I had spent too much time at work being in front of the computer screen… that I wanted away from any social media for a bit. But here goes another post before it gets any more delayed! thanks for some of you readers who’ve pushed me to update again. :)  random thoughts:

  • feels good to commute with hubby to work since we work at the same area and have similar work hours
  • joined yoga right across the street from work so I can go during lunch/after work. It’s way more expensive than the centers i’ve attended in New York and Los Angeles and the teacher quality is worse.. & ended up paying two years up front to save a bit on high monthly costs. fml
  • found my hubby a personal trainer that comes to our condo. hoping to see some results!
  • attended intensive Mandarin course in City hall after work every Monday/Wednesdays from 7~10pm.. but we got too tired too fast and decided to go private. We laughed to ourselves that we need everyone to have to come to our condo in order for us to accomplish anything…
  • finally found decent online organic market that sells grass-fed meat/certified organic veggies. I was so used to eating mostly organic back in America at home.. but it’s hard to find decent stores here and the prices are outrageous. I guess it’s not a Singapore thing?
  • still haven’t found a good spa for facials as the ones I get in Korea. tried three spas and still looking…
  • We are traveling to Hong Kong, Hochiminh, and Phuket later this year!
us fooling around in our Mandarin class... hubby wrote "wo ai ni" in Korean haha

hubby wrote “wo ai ni” in Korean haha.. we’re too tired to concentrate in class!

I’ve spent majority of the time since my last post looking for life-necessities in Singapore: fitness, organic groceries, language center, hair, skin care, etc. Everything was as expected 1.5~2x the cost back in LA/NY/Seoul, and sadly, the quality was worse. We had essentially downgraded a lot of aspects in our lives (car, house size and quality, retail service, groceries, fitness/skin care/salon quality and price) being here, but I am still thankful that I’m having the opportunity to live in yet another city. my daily motto is: think positive (or at least try)!

plants i bought for our home :)

plants i bought for our home :)

From what I’ve observed thus far, Singapore isn’t as foreigner-friendly as we’ve been told though, with introduction of new government measures that further restrict foreigners, high expat living cost (to enjoy even a little of what we’ve had back at home), difficult education enrollment for expat’s children, to name a few. and I wonder at times if the government really made the right choice in pushing Singapore to become an international hub. If they hadn’t- yes, there wouldn’t be as many MNCs, which created jobs for the locals, which partly lead to the tremendous economic growth that it enjoyed, which created the highest number of millionaires per capita, blah blah blah- but perhaps the majority of locals who weren’t so lucky to ride up with the rest would’ve been happier living in a country that they can afford? The local salaries are surprisingly low (I’m on local pay) and I feel it’s unfair to locals that their salaries are much lower than those with the same positions in America, when the cost of living is much higher here- just an opinion. American expats have to get paid almost double to even match a small bit the lifestyle they’ve lead back at home, and I understand that Korean expats usually mostly get their children’s education fees and housing covered by company, in order to consider relocating.

One thing that’s cheaper in Singapore is food at hawker centers. I’ve noticed that most locals eat at a hawker during work lunch, where everything is mostly under $5. As a lover of trying new delicacies, I’ve also happily joined in with my coworkers and now frequent hawkers during work lunch, eating dishes including but not limited to: fish soup, chicken rice, pig organ soup, and yong tau foo. It grew on me after awhile and they’re delish! At first, the place seemed a bit unsanitary (truthfully speaking- no offense. will change the view setting to private, if asked), it’s kind of like run down food shops you’d see in scary neighborhoods in the states that are in need of renovation. but i think it’s all part of the culture here. I wouldn’t mind paying more for better quality ingredients and new sets of bowls/utensils/trays though.

I forgot to update my bali trip and that’ll be my next post. Our next destination is Vietnam :)

My Late 20s Birthday

It’s been an eventful last two months bc of my new job. I appreciate that a good career tames you and matures you as a professional. I used to think that a job is just a job, and would get annoyed at myself for thinking that way… I’m glad I had the chance to be without a job so that I can appreciate it when I have one.  when you appreciate life = you’re happy. In any event, I gave myself a deadline after graduating from my masters program that I am to work at my ideal job before I reach 30 (past jobs didn’t give me that satisfaction), and finally, here it is :) It feels good when life goes as you’ve planned it, bc most of the time it sidetracks.

But because I was busy at work, I couldn’t follow my husband back to America as planned (2 weeks for his work) and that sucked. I had missed three of my friend’s weddings just this year alone and it’s upsetting that I can’t just drive or fly over for the weekend due to 15~17 hour distance… every trip requires strategic planning with his work, my work, calls back and forth with our flight agency and Milk’s dogsitter, etc.

Anyway, so hubby came back just in time for my 20 something birthday, and brought back loads of goodies he and my mom bought for me (pretty work clothes I wanted to buy plus other necessities).  I’ve been eyeing Prada bn2412 for awhile to carry to work but couldn’t dare to make the purchase because I was quoted SGD $3800 at Orchard for a Prada bag. I love Prada, but Prada is no Chanel and it just shocks me how Singapore retailers inflate everything beyond the normal price.  I refuse to overpay for something I think I could get for cheap elsewhere, whether it be a $5 water bottle or a $30~60 yoga class across the street from my work (yoga classes I went to in NY and LA were from $5~20 at the most). So after few calls to other regions, my hubby bought the same bag for USD $2000 at Korea’s duty free on his way to America. (there is no direct flight to US so we stop by Korea on the way).  I originally wanted it in the white color (Talco), but I thought the beige looked more classy:

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I love that there is a middle pocket that separates the space into two, because my older Ferragamo work bag didn’t have enough pockets and my keys would scratch my Chanel leather purse. Fast way to ruin your luxury items.

Because my husband is awesome, we celebrated my second birthday together four times.  I think it may be the first time I haven’t spend with my friends in years, but I guess things change once you’re married (and since I’m far from home..)

Bday celebration #1:

Lawry’s

We are both a big fan of Lawry’s back in LA so we decided to go last minute for Saturday lunch.

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Love the spinning salad and my Lawry’s cut! It tasted exactly the same as the original branch in LA. As expected, price was about 2~3x higher.  While it’s a normal fam style dining in LA, it’s almost a fine dining here.

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They took a picture for us to take home, plus 50% discount for my dish for my birthday. We didn’t even know about it so that was a pleasant surprise!

Bday celebration #2:

Brasserie Les Saveurs Champagne brunch at the St. Regis hotel

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This is probably the most expensive hotel brunch we’ve tried.  $180 per person + tax! We made sure to eat as much foie gras and caviar as possible. ;) Not to mention endless champagne we drank..

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caviar literally LOADED on top

caviar literally LOADED on top

Yummy foie gras!

Yummy foie gras!

My second bday cake hehe

My second bday cake hehe

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Bday celebration #3:

The REAL celebration dinner on my actual bday @ JAAN

Hubby tried to look for a Michelin star-ed restaurant and JAAN was up to par. It didn’t disappoint! The atmosphere was gorgeous with an amazing view on the 70th floor, and our course meal was as delish as fine dining we’ve had in Manhattan and SF. Thank you hubby!

IMG_1444The restaurant is very private with only 8 tables. We went after work so I’m in my work clothes

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our table with an amazing view

our table with an amazing view

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Love fine dining and its lovely decor

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Bday celebration #4:

Balloon surprise awaiting at home :)

We work right across from each other w/ same hours so we commute together.  So he said he came back home during lunch without me knowing so that he can set up a surprise balloon/candle decor for my bday, with (another) bday cake. It was so sweet! It was dark with candles so couldn’t take any pics, but here’s a few that he bought that totally cracked me up bc he always calls me the “little one” and it IS my first bday after we got married.

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