Sentimental.

I started listening to Kodaline’s “Follow Your Fire” repeatedly lately, and it’s a beautiful song about reminiscing that young love and thinking abut them, wondering where they are and if they’re happy.

We all have that one person (or maybe more) that you still think about from time to time, usually triggered by a song, or a place – that just takes you back to that time and place that you shared something special.

For someone as sentimental as me who can’t even bear to throw away old letters from old friends and lovers, and a girl who would cry after listening to a sad, sappy music – ah yes, you bet that the lyrics gets me like a little girl longing for a candy.

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“Rum and Coke”

Last month, one of my best friends came to town to attend our mutual friend’s wedding. She’s probably the second friend I made when I first came to Singapore. I still remember going to the class not knowing anyone and she sat behind me, and we started talking animatedly as soon as we knew that we both were Indonesians.

Yes, Indonesians are very loud, especially us!

One of the funny stories I would always remember was when we went to Ayam Penyet after school one day. I think it was four of us, all Indonesians, and we were chatting as usual, having fun and being silly teenagers (I probably talked about boys, what else?) As we were talking, suddenly the shop manager came over to us and said,

“Wah! Only four of you?! I THOUGHT there were so many people!”

We bursted out laughing and it was so hilarious how she was upset that we made so much noise in the restaurant which wasn’t even packed at that time! Isn’t it better for the place to be more lively with our laughter, rather than being dead quiet? Isn’t that bad for business?

Hahahaha! Anyway it’s still one of our funniest running joke until now, whenever we see each other. But you get the gist about how much fun we’ve always had when we got together.

It’s been almost a decade since we graduated and my friend actually went back to Indonesia for work. But we kept in touch all this while and always made a point to visit each other whenever we could. Anyway, see I got distracted again as I was about to tell a recent story!

So she came around and we met during the wedding and as usual, we made a lot of havoc and I felt bad for the family that sat in the same table as us because we kept gossiping and they were like, errrr.

At one point (actually, it’s more like as soon as I reached), we wanted to grab some drinks. (It’s right after work on a weekday, a girl needs her drink!) So she and I made our way to the bar, and my friend kept telling me that she wanted gin and tonic, or rum and coke.

Me: Err.. Weddings typically only have beer or wine.. Sometimes maybe vodka, but not gin and tonic, or rum and coke..

But she wouldn’t have it! She wants her rum and coke, or else!

Us (to the waiter): Can we get some drinks?

Waiter: Sure, what would you like?

My friend (while batting her eyelashes) : What do YOU have? 

Waiter: Beer, white wine, or red wine..

As expected, we asked for beers.

As the waiter made his way to the beer to take our drinks, my friend immediately saw a row of already-prepared drinks at the counter. The drink was dark-colored, and she moved closer and asked the waiter loudly,

“Is this rum and coke?” while pointing at the drinks.

The waiter blinked for a second before answering, “That’s Coke.”

Hahahahaha! I laughed loudly and my friend kinda masked her embarrassment before saying, “oh…”

Actually no, I don’t think she was embarrassed at all, hahahaha!

From then on, the same waiter kept coming over to our table and replacing our beer with new glasses before we even asked for a new one. He probably thought we were a bunch of drunkards haha!

Another funny story happened at the same night when the live band at the wedding was asking for song requests from the guests. We decided to dedicate “When You Say Nothing At All” to the bride.

My friend grabbed the song request paper that was in our table and she scribbled down the song title along with the singer. Once she finished, she handed me the paper to pass to the waiter.

After I saw what she wrote, I almost fell off my chair!

She has written,

Song title: “Nothing Hill” by Ronan Keating,

Simiiiiii Nothing Hill?!!!! Hahahahahahaha.

First of all, yes this song is the soundtrack of the movie Notting Hill, but… HAHAHAHAHA! She was like, “Oh yaaaaaaaaaa..”, slightly embarrassed.

Again, I don’t think she was really embarrassed..

Good thing I caught the paper and it hasn’t made its way to the band!

There’s never a dull moment with my friend around and that night we had so much fun catching up and relieving good ol’ days!

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How to unleash your creativity

I’m saying this as if I’m an expert, but trust me, I’m not.

I’m still very much lost and I struggle with ‘writer’s block’ all the freaking time, as you can see from a sporadic schedule and huge gaps in timeline of my writing and blogging over the years.

But I’ve been writing for as long as I could remember – as a kid, publishing my own internal newsletters and creating stories as we draw and play games; as a teenager, writing short stories and sending them to local tabloids and magazines, and of course throughout my adult life – aspiring to be a journalist one day and writing as much as I could to expand my portfolio.

But there are times when we just get stuck in a rut and no matter how long you sit, trying to write something, you just don’t know what to do.

So here are just some of the things that I force myself to do just to try getting something out of this weird little bubble..

Try and write about anything and everything.

Even when it sounds stupid, and even when you don’t think anybody would want to read them. Sometimes, you just gotta get out of the rut and write something. You don’t have to publish them – you can just keep it for your own archive. But the fact that you’ve written a complete piece – counts for something.

Recall your past experience

“Isn’t everything autobiographical?”

Just like what Jesse said in Before Sunset, when he was answering a question on his book signing at the beginning of the movie.

The only person who could share about what you have gone through – is you. So don’t be afraid to go back and recall your past experience – whether it’s something funny, memorable, sad, heartbreaking, or even random moments that you wouldn’t think important.

And usually, when you start to relieve your past experience, you can go to the next point..

Learn something new

As you write and relive your experiences, sometimes you would find yourself discovering a lesson that you didn’t think of before – and isn’t that amazing? To me, writing it down on paper helps with giving me clarity and better perspective on things. I can stop myself in between – and ponder on things, before I learn something new that I could then, add on to my story.

Read more books, and watch more shows

Of course, if you never expose yourself to anything new, you would never experience anything new either. And you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your couch to experience something new. Write about the book you just read, or the show you just saw. While at it, you could also share about how those stories relate to you personally, or how that makes you feel. And that is something original!

Get yourself in a new environment

Sometimes, it’s good to take yourself out and go to another place that is different. I remember loving going to the library when I was still in school. Not to just study for exams or do my assignments, but just to sit there and write, or read a book. The quiet, peaceful environment, surrounded by the smell of books just does something, doesn’t it?

Do you have more tips? Do share them with me too, I’d love to know!

One Havoc Night in Batam!

It was one of those times when we were just randomly talking about going away for a short trip, and the next thing we knew.. whoa! We were going to Batam!

Okay, maybe not exactly like that.

We have been talking about it for weeks but we were procrastinating until the very last day when we had to be like HEY GUYS ARE STILL GOING THIS WEEKEND OR WHAT? It’s like.. 2 days away!

Anyway, I always say, what matters is the result, not the process.

Oh wait, isn’t it the other way around? Don’t people say ‘it’s not the destination; it’s the journey that matters’? Wait, WHAT?!

Ah, I’m getting distracted.

Where was I? Ah yes, I was talking about how much of procrastinators we were.. But who knew, on a Sunday morning the three of us showed up bleary eyed at the train station while saying, “I need coffee.”

It was a great, albeit short getaway! I felt like we were just boarding the ferry and just like that, it was time to head back. Well, I guess, time flies when you’re having fun, right?

We came back with many stories; mostly funny.

Uhm, yes mostly.

The not so funny (read: horrible, awkward) moment happened during a foot massage in one of the random massage places we chose opposite the mall.

The guy masseur tried to massage me in inappropriate places and I was super horrified to the point that I just didn’t know how to react.

Wait, is this PUNKED? Am I on candid camera? This can’t be real life?

I have had many foot massages with guy masseur but this was the first time such situation happened. It was also my sore luck that I was separated from my 2 friends as there were no more spots in the public area so I had to sit inside a private room.

THANKS, LUCK!

Other than having massage (which we had 3), we mostly ate and being typical tourists, we ate A&W and being typical Tina, I had KFC. Hooray.

At night we went to karaoke and sang our hearts out! My 2 friends happily did their own Jay Chou concert and we attempted to sing some Big Bang songs. Ambitious.

I’m pretty sure we butchered the Korean songs.. WHY IS KOREAN PRONUNCIATION SO COMPLICATED?!

URISARANGHAJIMARAYOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

From dancing, singing, yelling, rapping to full-on dorking out, it was already 11pm by the time we finished and we finally checked-in to our hotel.

Funnily, even at my own country, I was still being haunted by Chinese language as the hotel concierge asked me if I could help him translate what this Chinese tourist was saying to him.

“Sorry I don’t speak Chinese,” was all I could say – my most-repeated line ever.

Before we knew it, the next day came and we were on our way back to the ferry terminal. Another funny thing happened at the baggage check.

As people were lining up and dropping their bags at the conveyor belt, I noticed that there was no one even looking at the monitor! These people were actually putting their bags down for nothing, bruhhh. I somehow found the whole thing really funny, I started laughing hysterically.

Also during the immigration queue, someone actually stood on the line where there was NO officer working at that counter.

A guard came over and tapped him on the shoulder, “Why are you standing here? Nobody’s there.” 

Cue: laugh guys, LAUGH. It’s funny right?

Why is the trip so short?!

Ehm.. because it is? After all, it’s just 1 night!

(Stop with the internal dialogue Tina.)

Expectation vs Reality ;)

At the end of the work day on Friday, my colleagues would pose me this question, “So, what are you going to do this weekend?” In fact, that’s probably the first thing they would ask on a Monday morning as well, and I always wish I could reply them with a list of the amazing things I did over the weekend which would leave them speechless.

This is what I would like to happen:

“Oh, you know, I just flew to Bangkok for a shopping spree. It was FAB! You have to see how many pairs of shoes I bought!”

Or

“Funny you should ask! On Saturday I went to Breadstreet Kitchen and dined with Gordon Ramsay.. He cooked the dishes personally for us, we had champagne.. ah it was lovely!”

I’m sure THAT would make a wonderful story. But instead, this is what actually happens on most occasions:

“Er. Nothing, really. Slept the whole weekend away.”

Or

“Oh, you know, really glamorous, thanks. I stayed home, ate instant noodles while watching reruns of Gilmore Girls..”

Nope. Not glamorous at all.

Road Trip Series: Flashing Lights and New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas

(If you miss what happened when I was lost in LA trying to get to Disneyland, read the story here, or when we left to San Diego and encountered some very nice stranger and few scary ones on the train, read here.)

This story will be the next installment of my graduation trip to the States back in 2009!

Vegas is something else. It’s a city full of energy, of excitement, of contagious wildness. It was intoxicating just being there, in the midst of crowds on the evening of December 31st.

We weren’t ready to leave San Diego yet at that point, so we were pretty sullen in the Greyhound bus to Vegas. It wasn’t a short ride, either, and the bus was full that we had to sit separately. I had a black kid sitting beside me during the first half of the drive, and the next half to this gigantic, talkative elder man who wouldn’t shut up. He just wouldn’t. 

I was still slightly hungover (excessive drinking!), so I spent almost the whole ride sleeping. We stopped at this small town called Barstow, which consists of nothing more than open land and short-buildings and a transit centre where we grabbed a bite. I was this close to fainting, and seeing the faces of the girls, I was sure they weren’t far behind me either. By the time we reached Vegas, it must have been at least 8 pm at night. I was disoriented, tired, and feeling sick to my stomach, literally.

The first thing that greeted us when we alighted at this sin city wasn’t the dirty smell of cigar, or the sexy sight of roulette tables, but a full-packed bus station. People were everywhere, their asses at the big risk of dropping down due to their low-waist pants they were wearing.

What is it with this desire to show off piece of cheap underwears?

Oh, I can make a whole new entry on this subject itself, I need to stop myself now.

Our hotel was out in the boulder area, it was a typical casino-hotel. The casino was always full with middle-aged people playing slots machines. My friend called it a ‘retirement hotel’.

We were the hottest people there, yeah, because we were the only ones under sixty!

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We spent the next four days exploring the Strip. With the new year looming in, Vegas was at its most crowded state.

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The three of us didn’t love Vegas as much as we thought we would. Looking at the pictures now though, I thought, “What didn’t you like it?” and I came up empty. I didn’t know why we weren’t loving it as much as we were San Diego or San Francisco!

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It could be the fact that we couldn’t watch any shows because everything was sold out, and it could be because we weren’t swimming with money that we couldn’t simply spend a hundred bucks to get inside a club for new year’s eve countdown. It could be because our hotel was far away from the Strip that it took us 2 bus rides and at least forty five minutes to go back and forth between the two. It could be because walking around in the Strip with heels was tiring and waiting for cab for two hours at 3 am on a cold, chilly night wasn’t much fun either.

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Normal sighting in Vegas..
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Why would you name your hotel that, hmm..

But I guess that’s just the circumstances. The city itself is crazy beautiful and only there I have seen a beer bottle so big!!!

We certainly had eventful time there, that’s for sure. Everyone was in a good mood, it’s easy to make friends wherever we go, or even as we were walking on the streets.

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Most buildings in Vegas have this painted roof – I guess so you wouldn’t know the time of day so you could continue partying and gambling?

Every day we had to take this bus from our hotel to the Strip.. The view sure looks different during the day light!

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Seeing Vegas pictures leaves me feeling the most nostalgic! I wish we could have given the city more credit, I hope we can go back there one day and re-experience it again.

Bangkok Adventure!

After coming back from a 5-days-4-nights trip in Bangkok, I came up with a conclusion: Bangkok, you’re giving Jakarta a run for its money! 

Even on the way from the airport to our apartment in the city centre, I couldn’t help but thinking how much the city reminded me of my own hometown. The street signs, the highway, the countless billboards with actors smiling widely, each showcasing different products from mobile phones to cosmetics.

The only thing missing was the traffic jam. Or so I thought. 

But of course I spoke too soon because on our last day, we were trapped in a bad traffic jam that made us almost miss our flight.

But I had a memorable and wonderful time in Bangkok, and here’s why!

The Food

This has got to be the first on the list simply because… well, do I need to say more? Everything we ate were delicious, even when we just ordered from a random food court or an eatery we’ve never tried before.

On out first night out, we went to Siam Paragon to have the notorious dinner from Greyhound Cafe. When I say notorious – it’s simply because 2 of my girlfriends couldn’t stop talking about it! So of course we’ve got to give it a try.

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The amazingly tasty Thai Milk Tea!
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Ahem! It certainly did not disappoint!

Plus, it was super affordable and we only spent less than $100 for a full meal for 4 of us, including drinks for all!

We wanted to continue on to drink, but soon found out that on that weekend that we were there, Thailand was celebrating Buddhist Day so no alcohol was to be served anywhere in the country! Even when we visited Big C (a local supermarket chain), they had to barricade the whole alcohol section haha!

Oh well – I guess the alcoholics have to wait til Monday to quench their thirst..

The following days, we tried another restaurant highly recommended called Roast – for brunch, After You for dessert and a lot, and I mean, a lot of tomyum soup. In fact, I think we ate tomyum soup every day for each of our meal. I love it, what can I say?!

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Lychee Milk Tea from Roast
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Brunch for champs! My fave was the scrambled eggs – too good!
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Matcha Toast from After You

Another highlight when you visit Thailand is – their Mango Sticky Rice!

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Oh hello there, see me on the top right hand corner? I’m Mango Sticky Rice, nice to meet you.

I feel like such a noob saying this – but I don’t think I have ever tried mango sticky rice before. At least none that made an impression – so the first time my friend suggested buying mango sticky rice, I couldn’t have been less enthusiastic.

“Oh…” – that’s probably all I said.

20 minutes later…

“OH MY GOODNESS! THIS IS SOOOOOOO NICE!!!!!!” I said in disbelief. The combination of the mango (which is very sweet!) and the slightly salty, flavorful sticky rice and the coconut sauce.. I think I have just been reborn.

Okay, that’s a tad exaggeration, but no joke, it was so good I insisted we have that for every meal from then on!

We also went for a nice mookata dinner in this very huge, spacious restaurant by the street. It was only S$8 for all-you-can-eat food! My tummy rejoices!

The Shopping

Everyone who have gone to Bangkok have praised it as a shopping heaven and I had no expectation prior. The last time I’ve been to Bangkok was when I was a tiny cute little girl (I still am!), and the only recollection I had was watching a singing show performed by transgenders. (I couldn’t believe those women were previously men – they were so beautiful!)

But yes! Now I can testify that it’s a great place for shopping! I love it as much as shopping for clothes in Seoul. The styles were plentiful and the prices were cheap!

I ended up getting a few off-shoulder tops, pants and dresses! It was great!

We mainly shopped at Platinum Mall and Union Mall. Although we went to Chatuchak Market and another night market, we didn’t really buy anything much there.

The Massage

Another thing you must certainly do in Thailand is get a massage! Massages are cheap – 1 hour body massage was only 300 Baht (which is around S$12?) OHMY! TAKE MY MONEY!

I can’t emphasise enough how much I love getting a massage. I love it as much as sleeping – and boy, don’t I love sleeping.

We went to the massage place in Platinum Mall because it was very convenient (our apartment was just on top of the mall itself). It was pretty good – the only downside was that the surroundings were noisy!

Okay, what am I talking about, the masseur themselves were noisy!

They were talking to each other while massaging us and even answering phone calls during the massage. Haha!

I thought massage places should be tranquil and super quiet – with only soft instrumental music behind.

But oh well – beggars can’t be choosers. The massage shop itself is quite small – it had just 3 small mini rooms with beds for the body massage.

On our second visit in the evening, the neighbouring stalls were closing down so it got even noisier with the sound of the metal doors being pulled down and locked.

There goes my quiet, peaceful ZEN state.

HOWEVER! I still enjoyed it – after the hour massage I felt so refreshed and pampered my body turned into jello.

Bless you whoever invented massage!

The Drinking

Beer is ridiculously cheap in Bangkok as well! A big bottle of beer only costs S$3! We did check out a rooftop bar called Wanderlust and had this really awesome apple cider, and a bar which supposedly had an open mic called The Iron Fairies.

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Cheers!
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Good vibes at Wanderlust Rooftop Bar

However, there were no open mic that night that we were in – instead, the band was playing full-on jazz music!

I’m sorry guys, but I just can’t appreciate jazz!

We ended up mostly nibbling on buffalo wings and chugging down Hoegaarden while chatting away about our celebrity crushes.

I wish we had more time to explore other bars in the area but time was not on our side! Soon enough, our 5 days were up and we had to fly back very soon.

See you again Bangkok!

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My fellow Bangkok-travellers!