Monthly Archives: June 2011

Week 24/11: Catching up

Been catching up on my reading for the past week:

  • 4 weeks worth of Newsweek and Businessweek;
  • June issue of  Havard Business Review;
  • S. Jayakumar’s “Diplomacy” (a farewell gift from my colleagues);
  • Gerald Giam’s “Singapore Version 2.0” (I was rather surprised that the Museum Shop carried this title so I bought a copy)
  • The 1st of Inspector Singh’s Series titled “A most peculiar Malaysian murder” (I chanced upon this series in the Singapore Collection in the National Library. Sure, it’s not as sophisticated as the “western thrillers”, but it’s written with a distinct Singapore flair. Will probably pick up the other books in the series.)

Also picked up another 8 books from the library, including the ever-favorites thrillers from John Grisham and Tess Gerritsen and my favorite Aussie chick-lit writer Maggie Alderson.

That should keep me away from the DVD shop for a while. Too much TV kills the brain cells…

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Week 23/11: On Bargaining

Ms. P: “The trick to get the upper hand is not to like (or appear to like) whatever you are buying too much.”

Ms. J: “And doesn’t that apply to most things in life?”

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Week 22/11: Seoul Searching

  • Complicated in a beautiful package. Full of contradictions in a single space – it’s both the land of the morning calm and land of the midnight rush. I don’t think I really got to know its soul after a short 3 days. I’m still figuring it out.
  • I got giddy shopping in Seoul. The alleys and alleys of endless shops in Myeong-Dong and floors and floors of merchandise in Dongdaemun markets (I love Doota Tower). But the funny thing about shopping in Seoul is that all shops tend to sell similar-styled clothes. It’s all about pastel blouses and floaty dreamy skirts this season. They look so beautiful that I spent at least half of my total budget for Seoul within the first 2 hours of setting foot in the city. Maybe that’s the thing about Seoul, it makes you want to conform. I’m not sure if I’m going to actually wear those pretty blouses and cute skirts in Singapore. They now stand in stark contrast to the rest of my wardrobe.
  • My vocabulary for Korean food has expanded beyond pacheon (Korean pancakes), sundubu jjigae (soft tofu stew), doenjiang jjigae (soy bean paste stew) to include juk (porridge) and naeng myun (cold buckwheat noodles). The naeng myun is a god-send for warm summer nights. I also discovered a love for Makgeolli (Korean rice wine), served in a brass kettle and drunk from a brass bowl. Best enjoyed with kimchi and blanched tofu, in a smoky cigarette-smoked filled alley bar playing soppy ballards.
  • It’s almost mandatory to wear the hanbok, pose and take a photo. Yes, I have one. No, not showing it. I think the hanbok-wearing craze was perpetuated by the bevy of Korean beauties parading around the streets. So artfully made up and tastefully dressed. I feel gauche walking around in my jeans and tank-tops, complete with sneakers and a backpack.
  • The first question that most people ask me is, “Oh, you watch Korean dramas? Who is your favorite actor?”. I have a ready answer. He is Lee Sun Gyun – that guy in the coffee-shop prince drama show. Not the main lead though nor a teeny-bopper star (hey, I’m trying to maintain a semblance of credibility by going for character actors than young men who look like women). I tried looking for that coffee-shop in Hongdae, but the addresses are so difficult to decipher and navigate that I gave up.
Credits: Etsy

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Week 21/11: Northern Capital, Beijing

  • It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by Beijing. The wide boulevards, the majestic in-your-face buildings and structures, both traditional and modern. All of them are designed to impress, to project the air of stately confidence.
  • The daily hustle and bustle of Beijing however, are not on those wide boulevards, nor in those impressive structures. It’s in the old hutongs. The hutongs are a maze. There were a number of times I got lost just walking in the winding alleyways. It can get frustrating and rather unsettling. One wrong turn and you find yourself walking for the next 10 minutes amongst disused houses, and the right turn brings you right into the daily life of the residents. The maps are useless, you follow only your instinct.
  • But what I like about hutongs and mazes are chancing upon the unexpected. A converted courtyard serving a 5-course degustation Szechuan lunch (so yum!), a teahouse where I sat for 2 hours resting my tired legs, sipping tea and listening to chants of Buddhist scriptures. Heavenly.
  • When traveling on my own, it is absolutely crucial to have good meals. Good food more than makes up for no company. The thing about Chinese food though, is that they are usually meant for communal dining. Whenever I say “Table for 1”, the response from the waiters/waitresses is usually one of disbelief and awkwardness. “Table for 1? Just 1?” And so I ordered as if I was ordering for 2, and ate the whole lot.
  • I OD-ed on duck in Beijing. I tried “Quanjude”, “Da Dong” and “Made in China” restaurants. My favorite Peking duck dish is from Da Dong restaurant. I had this dish all the time in Singapore, but the Da Dong version reminded me of the first time I had my first piece of crispy roasted pork skin. Oh the taste! Succulent, with that bit of duck fat, combined with that crisp that instantly melts in your mouth. I can have it again and again.
Credits: Etsy

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