Friday, 29 June 2007

Bushwalking in the outback

On a chilly September morning last year, we headed out to Western Australia’s outback to seek out the famous spring wildflowers.

We drove past carpets of wildflowers, walked through bushes and shrub, off the granite soils to the sand plain. Travelling through rolling farmland, we sought out forest alive with wildflowers, both under the trees and along the roadside; overwhelmed by the diverse range of rare, strange and exquisite wildflowers and plant species.

With the help of the experienced guide, we identified delicate wildflowers including renowned everlastings, orchids, red and green kangaroo paw, banksias, bottle brush and Western Australia’s famous orange flowering christmas trees.

We stopped at Aboriginal settlements, wandered around an abandoned mine, munched on Anzac biscuits at an unused train station and lunched at the camping grounds in the outback while gazing at kangaroos.
We saw a hedgehog too!

Our backyard

I'm always feel like I'm one of the luckiest girls in Singapore to live in such a lovely farming estate. We have a reservoir right in our backyard! This is such a rarity in our extremely land-scarce Singapore where every square inch of land is put to good use.
View of the reservoir.
You lucky dogs!

Don't rock my boat!

The boys having fun with dead fishes on the deck while mummy was lying below, half-dead...

When the kids were younger, we used to spend our weekends on a friend's yacht, jiggling for fish or frolicking in the sea all day long. Before you conjure fanciful images of me basking in the sun, or posing on the deck in my bathing suit.... let me tell you this.. you'd find me curled up on the bed below, face white as chalk, tummy churning.... feeling like a fish out of water!

Being seasick is probably the worst punishment anyone can get. I love the sea but I've had such bad experiences with seasickness. My first trip to the beautiful island of Tioman 22 years ago on a little bumboat was the worst! I was so sick throughout the rocky 5-hour journey on the choppy waters, I thought I was going to die. Lying on the deck with the diesel fumes swirling around me, I started worrying about the journey back and even fantasized (though at that point, I was probably hallucinating) about staying on the island forever.

When I was younger, long car rides made me sick. Mum wondered how I was going to survive that 1.5 hour bus journey to my secondary school but somehow I made it. Today, I still feel nauseous on long car journeys unless I am at the wheel. Don't ask me to be the navigator though. Map reading in the car is a big no no!

I think it all boils down to having a weak stomach. Maybe that's why stomach-churning activities like roller coaster rides, bungee jumping and sky diving don't go down well with me at all.

Loola Land

I stumbled upon LooLa Adventure Resort when I was surfing around for our next travel destination… Fun, sun, sea, sand, relax, grow, action, adventure!

Loola… how whimsical! Well, it is the brainchild of Dr. Marc van Loo and Ms. Isabelle Lacoste who have taught at schools and universities in Singapore since 1991.

Why not? It’s only 2 hours away from home. It didn’t take much to convince CH. We left for Loola that very weekend. After a ferry ride, we were greeted at the pier and whisked away to Loola Land. The bumpy road journey took us through tiny villages and coconut plantations and viola… looming ahead was Loola, a unique resort above the water!

Apart from the friendly British couple who had been there for several days, we had the entire resort to ourselves that night. Dinner was served in the little restaurant above the water. We spent the night under the stars, mesmerized by the gentle sounds of water and the stillness of the night.

A gaggle of people arrived the next day, breaking the tranquility. But thanks to them, the resort took the entire group, including us, out on the boat to do some ‘boom-netting’. What’s that? Check out the pictures below….

The boom-net is connected to the sides of the boat. You jump into the net, hang on and get towed around...
...enjoying natural jacuzzi in the sea!

We did other things too....
We passed time looking at fishes ...
sunbathing on the boat...
enjoying the tranquility...
taking photographs...
keeping quiet...
shooting arrows under the coconut trees...
wading in water during low tide...
climbing up the tower....and coming down on the flying fox... looking at decrepit objects along the shore...
admiring wild flowers...
and counting starfishes in the sea!

Thursday, 28 June 2007


Woo hoo! It’s Friday! School holidays ended last week. The boys are back in school and life is getting humdrum… so weekend is the only thing to look forward to for now.

I’ve got it all thought out. We’re heading to Ramen Ramen at Rail Mall after work to have a slurping big bowl of Japanese ramen. Ah! The joy of eating smooth wheat noodles in a rich soup stock, and biting into chunks of juicy deep-fried chicken and seaweed. I like my ramen extra spicy. So a good dose of chilli powder and garlic oil is a must!

We’ll walk over to the cosy Italian restaurant next door to indulge in the velvety rich tiramisu and a good cup of coffee cos we need to recharge our energy for bar-hopping.

I asked my friend to join us. “Sure!” she said, “But I’m not going to SJ! My customers wanted me to join them last night but I refused to go after what I read in the papers. It was Ladies Night!”

Of course we’re not going to St James! We’ll find somewhere else to chill out…

Guess what's in store this weekend? We received an invitation "to celebrate the founding of the United States with the American Association of Singapore’s annual 4th of July festivities featuring food, fireworks and family fun.” There will be formal ceremonies, color guard, speeches and national anthem too. With bands like MidLife Crisis, The Crude Oil Cowboys and The Stratomasters playing all afternoon, it sure sounds like fun!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Vroom vroom

I like to expose the kids to new experiences. So we went on our first motoring holiday to Malaysia in 2005. Let me tell you I’m terrified of driving in Malaysia. I’ve heard too many horror stories... but seduced by the charm and beauty of Malaysia and the promise of a holiday marked heavily with enjoyment, we found ourselves driving across the border in a large convoy to Cameron Highlands, a hilltop retreat 700km away.

Indeed, it was a holiday with a difference… packed with a challenging treasure hunt, eating sessions and a themed party! I was at the wheel with YK as my navigator. Clutching a map and guidebook, YK's precise instructions took us across the Malaysian peninsula and up the meandering road to our hotel, tucked away amidst the clouds, without a hitch!

First discovered in 1885 by a British surveyor William Cameron, the fame of Cameron Highlands grew during the colonial era when British Planters realised the potential of its fertile mountain slopes for growing tea, then a prized commodity among the colonies. Situated 1,829 metres above sea level, the cool, frost free climate makes it an excellent location for the cultivation of vegetables, fruits and flowers too.

Today, Cameron Highlands has developed into a favoured getaway as the beauty and tranquility of this captivating plateau continue to cast its spell of enchantment over locals and tourists.
The profusion of colourful flowers helps to attract exotic butterflies.
Fresh and cool morning mist permeating the hillside. Our hotel building in colonial style.
Verdant green hillsides planted with young tea plants.
The cool climate is ideal for growing strawberries.
Hanging around, enjoying the cool air.
If you really want to know, we walked away with a prize for coming in third in the treasure hunt!

More on weddings...

Still on the subject of wedding traditions, the Chinese have some interesting rituals. Mooiness explains it so well here in his cousin's wedding in Malaysia.

The Chinese Wedding Tea Ceremony is an important ceremony for all Chinese newlyweds. On the wedding day, the bride serves tea (holding the teacup with both hands) to her parents at home before the groom arrives. She does this out of respect and to thank her parents for raising her. After the wedding ceremony, the newlyweds serve tea to their elders. In return, the newlyweds receive lucky red envelops stuffed with money or jewelry.

Bitter pill

Three years ago, a prominent Singaporean man died in a tragic car accident, leaving behind two teenage sons. He was already in the final stages of divorcing his wife. We all know this man as the grandson of a Singapore pioneer and philanthropist.

The family sued the insurance company for S$4.8m but was awarded $1.9m, the bulk of which went to his sons which was very fair. Before his death, he had plans to support his sons through university education abroad as well as the family’s expected maintenance expenses.

His wife, who had sought $2.4m, was awarded $211,000. Now this is the part that made me sit up. Why was she asking for so much in the first place? According to the court, the wife was ‘merely a step away’ from getting the divorce when the accident happened. She could only reasonably claim to be dependent on the deceased for four more years and not the 25 years projected in her claim.

I can only say, please let the dead man rest in peace. Obviously the marriage wasn’t working out but he’s already dead. Isn’t that the worst thing that can happen to anyone?

It came across as trying to capitalize on his misfortune doesn’t it? The marriage’s over but they must have been in love at some point in time. It usually takes two to make a marriage work anyway. Besides, she chose to marry him. After all, something good did come out of the marriage....the kids. He was 52 and she expected him to support her for another 25 years after the divorce? That doesn’t sound realistic. At 47, it shouldn’t be difficult for an educated and influential lady to survive or even remarry, especially after inheriting his assets. Well lady, it’s time to move on…

It upsets me to see women fighting tooth and nail over assets with their wealthy ex-husbands. We have seen too many high-profile cases here, sometime ridiculous ones that drag for years. I shall not go into details but really, would having so much money make a bitter person a better one?

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Mirror, mirror

While I was out for lunch today, 2 young ladies, engaged in animated conversation and joyous laughter caught my eye. What rapport and camaraderie they have!

Looking at them, I realize they were mirroring each other. When one waved her hand, the other followed suit. One brushed her hair, the other did the same. Their gestures were synchronizing so well, it’s not difficult to see why they’re such good friends.

According to relationship experts, nothing will bond you more effectively than mirroring someone's behaviour. It makes the person feel like they are looking at a subconscious mirror of themselves. People tend to trust other people who are like them and mistrust people who seem different. If someone is doing what we're doing, we feel they're on the same level as us and in the same mood as we are.

Wanna make someone feel you're "in sync" with them? Try mirroring to create that magic connection but do so with care, and be sincere about it.

Trying too hard to mirror someone may sometimes backfire. If you're using it as a "technique" to build rapport, chances are the person you're talking with will intuitively know that you are using a "technique" on them. They will also conclude you are not authentic, can't be trusted and are probably trying to manipulate them.

Good luck!

Swallow a live octopus?

The Koreans are big believers of eating the freshest seafood. I know this may not go down well with some of you but they even eat live octopus! Try swallowing an octopus that’s wriggling inside your mouth, its tentacles trying to pry open your jaws and those little suckle thingy sticking to your tongue. Gulp! I find it hard to swallow, not that I would ever try of course….

Then again, I love eating seafood but I baulk at the idea of selecting live animals to be slaughtered for my dining pleasure. Yet I gamely followed our friends to the seafood center in Seoul to check out the huge array of fish and crustacean for sale. This is not an aquarium! The poor creatures you see will end up on someone's dining table....

Overview of the seafood centre which opens until late at night. You can pick any creature and the restaurant there will cook it for you.
Bag of live clams. These are often cooked in the Korean spicy hot pot.
Did you know the Koreans make kimchi out of everything, including anchovies and fish roe?
Never knew baby hammerhead sharks can be eaten...
Octopus and snails.
Live crabs in all shapes and sizes.
Dried stingrays!
Attention! Don't they look like toy soldiers?

Traditional Korean wedding

I love attending weddings! We were so thrilled to be invited to our friends’ wedding in Korea last November. The Korean wedding ceremony, replete with traditional musicians, gorgeous gowns and finery, was held at the beautifully constructed Korea House, a building that exemplifies the traditional Korean lifestyle and culture.
The ceremony started with the groom, wearing a jacket (chigori), trousers (paji), an overcoat (turumagi) and a black hat (moja), presenting the wedding chest for the bride's family.
Here comes the bride...
The bride's attire includes a chogori (short jacket with long sleeves) with 2 long ribbons which are tied to form the otkorum. A chima, a full length, high waisted wrap around skirt is worn. Boat shaped shoes made of silk, are worn with white cotton socks.
The elaborate ritual, led by traditional wedding planners, culminated in the bride and groom exchanging ceremonial bows and drinking a ceremony wine served in a gourd dipper. The traditional wedding feast (kyorhon p'iroyon) comprised tasty ritual snacks, bulgolgi (marinated barbeque beef strips), kalbi (marinated short ribs), a variety of kimchee, dumplings, soup, rice cakes, seaweed, and many accompanying dishes of condiments and sauce for dipping.

After the wedding, the bride and groom paid their respects to the groom's family in the pavilion. The mother-in-law threw jujubes into the bride's skirt giving them the blessing of having many children. Jujubes signify riches, honor, and male heirs in Korea. With the beautiful bride.