Sunday, June 28, 2020

Musical journey (118)

I've always wanted to busk especially when here in Melbourne, the busking culture is strong, pre-COVID of course. Unfortunately I'm too lazy to go through the license-application process so ever since I was aware that my sister started to busk in Singapore, I knew I had to get to one of her sessions.

I'm so glad I had the chance to do that during my Singapore trip earlier this year before I lost my voice due to a cough and overeating of "heaty" food over the Chinese New Year period. I was originally meant to be a "guest star" doing only three songs but I ended up doing about four times that number, including duets with my sister. In addition to the exhilaration I got from performing live in front of an audience, it was also very good family bonding time.

The location where we busked was next to a Chinese New Year market in the heart of Chinatown so there were massive crowds (which I loved because of the attention) and festive music all around (which I disliked as it was distracting). COVID was just getting into the news at that time with no lock-down and it feels really strange now looking back at how un-socially distant people were back then. I had my sister help film me and at times she was chatted up by members of the audience during the recording, so I apologise for the oft-jarring background noise (as well as unsavoury-looking characters in the shot) but it does give you the correct feel of that location that night.

This month's musical post features "囚鸟", a Mandarin song released in 1996 by Hong Kong singer 彭羚 which I like a lot for the melody and hence chosen as one of my busking pieces. It's best to do older songs as more people in the audience can identify with them (especially when the crowd at Chinatown tends to be older). Singing in the original key, my falsetto naturally impressed the crowd and hopefully you guys will also be equally pleased with my performance.

Oh, and happy PRIDE everyone (and congratulations for a successful first-ever digital Pink Dot Singapore)!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Bangkok Ⅱ through Facebook (part 2)

Looks like I spoke too soon. Due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases (25 more only mind you, and they're not directly related to the Black Lives Matter protests which are theoretically illegal due to health reasons), the Victorian government decided to wind back some of the planned easing of restrictions. So from tomorrow, instead of more freedom, social gatherings will be curbed once again but fortunately the re-opening of gyms will not get affected.

Talking about gyms, mine will take bookings at peak hours and impose a 45-minute limit so I have to scrap my gymming-when-it-opens-at-6am idea (as 6am to 9am is the morning peak period). My new plan is to schedule work meetings such that I can start my routine at the off-peak time of 2pm. I'm curious to see how it all pans out tomorrow but I'm so glad I can go back to the gym to lose my lock-down gains (0.5kg to 1kg of weight) and gain back the loss (leanness and definition).

I've also been totally immersed in "The Last of Us: Part II" since yesterday. Having played the first two chapters, I'm so far not impressed as much as the level of anticipation for the R18 game's release (I waited for a few years!). Before I head back to the blood and gore, here's part two (part one is here) of my recent Bangkok trip's itinerary, along with the pictures that bring back so many fond memories.

Day 3 (Part 2)
- Shopping at Mixt Chatuchak
- Catching up with an old Sydney friend (now living back in Malaysia) who's also in Bangkok
- Visiting Babylon Sauna (one of the places I HAVE to go to every trip 😈)
- Catching up with more Sydney friends
- Clubbing with Sydney friend at DJ Station

Day 4
- R & R in hotel
- Shopping and dinner at Amphawan Floating Market 

Day 5
- Shopping at MBK
- Free & easy (wandering in the city, which is something I really love to do)
- Full body oil massage near hotel before heading off to the airport

Look who I bumped into in Bangkok, of all places! Nice to catch up with you again Yujin. It's been way too long!

This message also greets us via highway billboards from the airport to the city. I'm not sure if this is a serious issue in Thailand but don't the authorities know that nothing can trump the laws of demand and supply? Either outlaw it in an enforceable way or keep the status quo I say.

PS: Not only motorcycle cabs are cheap, they weave through notorious Bangkok traffic with absolute ease and will always be my preferred mode of transport when I'm pressed for time.

Pre-DJ Station catch-up with Sydney/Malaysian friends Adrian and Yujin. I wonder when we'll see each other again so let's make the best of tonight!

This is what I'm talking about! Partying without a care! Adrian you missed out! #AllEyesOnMe #CanSeeCanAlsoTouch

Just what the doctor prescribed... A sleep-in followed by a nice hearty (complimentary I might add) hotel buffet breakfast after a late night out. #NoLunchNeeded

And off we go to the Amphawa Floating Market via a 90-min minivan ride!

This floating market is much better than Taling Chan. Too bad there wasn't time to visit the Railway Market as well. Well there's always next trip.

The quirkier bits of the floating market. From top left going clockwise - the only dunking game stall, grilled crocodile skewer, the ugliest cushions shaped like raw seafood, a cafe with nice decor, an uncle blasting his off-key karaoke singing as entertainment for the entire market, and horseshoe crab offered as a delicacy. Fun!

Didn't know we had complimentary breakfast everyday so I'm back with a vengeance this morning on my final day in Bangkok, this time with the view that accompanied the most important meal of the day! And now it's on to some last minute shopping!

Not exactly starstruck because he's far from being a star in my books but here's 陈汉玮 (Chen Hanwei) I chanced upon (on the right) here in Bangkok with a "mate". #LowKeyButHighKey #CouldNotTakeAFrontalShot

PrEP-uptake in Australia has been great due to its inclusion in the PBS but in countries where there's no government subsidy, ads for the wonder drug inevitably have to rely on shoo-in visuals most appealing to gay men like this. That being said, I think we should still have such head-turning billboards plastered all over Australia. #SexSells

PS: It's just like females usually only opt for female masseuses. Of course there are other nuances around this preference for gay males (*wink wink*).

How can I leave Bangkok without having mango with sticky rice? Yums. #FinalAchievementUnlocked #SoGoodButSoBad

No matter how intensively I tried to expend my phone data for the trip, I've barely cracked 1.5Gb and have 13.8Gb left! Anyway I'm boarding now. Bangkok it's been great seeing you again after 5 years and thankfully you weren't humid. See you all back in Singapore!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Bangkok Ⅱ through Facebook (part 1)

With COVID-19 still stubbornly omnipresent, life is not going back to normal anytime soon, not without a vaccine. Of course that includes international travel and many reports are saying that it will not return to its former glory till at least 2023.

I'm not an avid traveller nor have I lots of exotic places in my (very short) bucket list (it does include cruising though, which is such an odd thing to like in this new coronavirus landscape). But once in a while I do like to tour familiar cities that I have fond memories of from my previous visits.

One of these cities is Bangkok and at the start of this year I was there for 5 days when it was still not a pandemic. I was with a not-so-familiar friend which was a big risk as you never know how it'd turn out. My time with him wasn't good at all, in fact it was disastrous and we ended up spending all of our time separately (but still had to share the same hotel room—awkward!). Suffice to say this was a big lesson learnt and from now I'll only be with people I know I'll enjoy travelling with.

This post is not to whinge about how this person ruined my trip but about how much comfort it brought. Bangkok is like a old pal who never really changes and every time I visit, I do the same things and go to the same few spots. My last visit was in November 2014 and I've documented that trip here (parts 1 2 3). Comparing those posts and this new two-part series, how much a creature of habit I am becomes really apparent.

Here's the first half of this Bangkok trip's itinerary (the second half is covered in my next post here):

Day 1
- Lunch at Siam Paragon
- Shopping at Siam Centre, Siam Discovery, MBK, Siam Square One, Centrepoint and Terminal 21
- Dinner and shopping at Talad Neon Night Market
- Shopping at Silom Road Night Market

Day 2
- Lunch and shopping at Platinum Mall
- Shopping at Big-C Supacentre
- Dinner and shopping at Ratchadan Rot Fai Night Market
- Foot massage at Sukhumvit

Day 3 (Part 1)
- Lunch and shopping at Chatuchak Weekend Market

They say pictures paint a lot of words so here goes.

And off I go to Bangkok! Spicy food, spicy weather and spicy men, here I come!

Arrived! It's not as hot as I thought but maybe it's still early. Yes yes yes, I'm wearing that thin revealing singlet again.

Checked in! It's quite a nice hotel I must say. 5-star no less. And the view is awesome!

First meal in Bangkok and it has to be quintessentially Thai! Green curry, papaya salad and sticky rice. Can't get any more Thai than this!

It has finally happened - a crossover between PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and fashion. #Why #Ugly

Anyone seen free bakery cake tasting samples displayed for all like that before? #NoIDontWant

All this food shared between 2 people at SGD24 each. Good value or not?

PS: The name of the massage parlour is "Rapee Massage"

Better than any Pepper Lunch you can find and at a fraction of the cost with quality seafood. Where else but Bangkok? Now on to more shopping at the wholesale mall. #SeafoodPancake

Notwithstanding the weather (and traffic if you're on the roads), Bangkok is a really nice place. Rivers with traditional boats meandering through busy city thoroughfares. The old and new in perfect harmony.

Only in gay party fashion is where you'll find the price of clothes being inversely proportional to the amount of fabric. #TooExpensiveToBuy

Fancy whole BBQ croc, raw salmon displayed in tropical heat, grilled durian or eating a seafood smorgasbord right off the table? Come to Bangkok then!

The scary scene of hoards of tourists from China in tour groups descending on the night market en masse. All local vendors basically learn Mandarin for them yet they are as demanding (bordering on rude) as ever.

Last agenda item of the day. Can you believe this is the first time I'm having a foot massage?

Complimentary snack from the hotel. How sweet. #Macaron #ChocolateSoil

In Thai colours, Chatuchak Market is crazy as always but this time more expensive compared to my last visit. I got what I wanted so it's all good.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Musical journey (117)

The wait is finally (almost) over as Victoria and Singapore both ease lockdown restrictions from tomorrow and the day after tomorrow respectively. The most important thing to me about this first stage of relaxation here is the ability to dine out again. To make it worth their while with the 20-person maximum rule, restaurateurs will inevitably have to introduce things like a dine-in duration limit, pre-payment, reduced menus, minimum spend, leaving of credit card details in case of no-shows in addition to having all patrons provide their particulars for contact-tracing purposes. This is a new world we're all living in and I don't know how well these rules will or can be enforced (especially observing the 1.5m-distancing) but until there's a vaccine, I guess this is the only way to survive the virus.

I've also been working out at home since my gym closed on 23-Mar with a suspension in membership. In Victoria, gyms will only re-open from 22-Jun. If I don't see a huge difference in my body from not doing weights in a gym for three months (which is likely the case), does this mean that I don't need gyms in my life? That's such an outrageous thought right?

On the work front, there's a rumour that my company will only allow people back in the office from mid-July and even then it'll be at a reduced 25% capacity. I'm sure in their never-ending pursuit to cut cost, management will very likely consolidate office space and convince themselves that this working-from-home experiment has been a great success no matter how much it bombed (I've been doing it since 19-Mar). The bottom line is I'm not going to go back to the office if not 100% of the people are allowed back because to me, that lack of cross-team face-to-face collaboration is what's killing productivity.

On the eve of lockdown restrictions being relaxed (which means we've been cooped up at home for the maximum possible duration), how sick and tired everyone is feeling must be at a peak level. Hence it's the perfect day to release a new composition about my time during lockdown. Many of you will be able to identify with the lyrics as my experience is surely not unique. This song was not only fun to write, the process of creating it also gave me an avenue to vent my frustrations.

This piece is ultimately a story about two lovebirds separated by COVID-19 coping with their desperate need to see each other again. Having the proper tools to thrive in the digital world has certainly made life during isolation much more bearable and thus the clip features a digital tunnel. Unfortunately the light at the end of tunnel however doesn't seem to get any closer as you move forward. Tell me how can one not grow impatient with it all.


Walls are closing on me here
What are all these voices that I hear
Am I going crazy
Tell me will they disappear

Day and night become a blur
A single second passes like a fucking year
Trapped and spinning round in boundless boredom
In a lifeless world where nothing spreads like fear

Baby I want you near
And I know it doesn't get easier
Patience running low
Why can't I come right now to see you dear

These empty shelves
These empty streets
This empty life
Away from your kiss
Let me go so I can breathe
And set me free from shackles of !nsanity

Endless tedium deepens
And I'm getting delirious
There's no immunity 'gainst this numbing experience

Restless, madness, fatness
Working in my pyjamas
There's only so much my right hand can deliver

Running out of loo paper
Twenty seconds of soap and water
A social butterfly now a social distancer

Lockdown rules so damn unclear
Isolation tantamount to torture
Boozing up just doesn't cut it anymore
It's time to try something much harder

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Miscellany through Facebook (part 2)

As the other states in Australia ease lockdown restrictions ahead of Victoria, the worst-hit state with the highest number of cases and tightest rules, and the state I'm in, time continues to pass. This "time" post-pandemic however, is not the same as time before the global crisis. The world now living in a new normal looks back to a mere few months ago and realises life back then was like from a different era.

In this second part of my "Miscellany through Facebook" series (part one is here), you can see a map showing COVID19 cases in Singapore. The screenshot of that map was taken on 7-Feb when there were only 33 confirmed cases and Singapore had the second highest number of cases in the world. Contrast that with the more than 31,000 cases as of yesterday, you can better grasp how quickly this virus and time moves. This is a scary and highly-contagious enemy we're facing.

That being said, I look forward when restrictions ease from next month. I just hope a new cluster doesn't emerge before then and throw Victoria's recovery into disarray, shoving us back to square one.

A typical prop for the first scene of a pandemic disaster movie. #NoticeSeenAtPharmaciesNationWide #SadlyThisIsNotAMovie

PS: That being said, the experience was totally different when I explored the same malls with Mummy.

PS: That young Asian is totally not cute by the way.

Feel free to tag anyone whom you think would love shopping here.

So it has finally happened. The virus has hit Grindr.

How freaking complicated can arcade games get nowadays? Jeez.

This ad should be one that sells the services of a photo editor. In this day and age how can anyone still not think such ads are nothing but a simple photoshopping exercise?!

Who says there's nothing much at Turf City? I'm pleasantly surprised by this Thai night market today! I came during dusk so it was still bright and now the queues for food are so long - glad I arrived early completely by chance! #ExtraLongFriesWithTruffleMayo #FriedPorkBelly #SweetPotatoCakeWithDurianFilling

 PS: There are a LOT of hot guys here, don't ask me why 'cos I don't care, I simply enjoy!

With my favourite macadamia nut ice-cream in hand, it's time to explore somewhere I've not been to for a really long time to see how much it has changed. #HaagenDazs #ILoveWanderingByMyself #FreeWithoutACare

Crazily expensive produce imported from Australia which I can enjoy soon again at a fraction of these inflated prices!

Accurate as of today... I think I should be fine. That being said, you're never far away enough from fear if you let that overwhelm you in the country outside of China with the second most number of infected. #TheMoreYouKnowTheMoreYouWorryAbout #TuneOutNegativity

PSA. In case you're unaware, you might find this constantly-updated coronavirus infection map of Singapore useful. #DontLetItControlYouThough #ParanoiaSpreadsFasterThanTheVirus

Wise words, though I can't say I'm not glad leaving Singapore tomorrow. #MelbourneIsTheLesserOfTwoEvils

Old (left) and new (right) passport photos. I like the new one better and I rarely like my passport/ID pictures.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Miscellany through Facebook (part 1)

OK, the Victorian state of emergency has now been extended to the end of May with no relaxation of any restrictions. That being said, as new clusters emerge, testing has also been stepped up, and it's this high testing rate that will enable the restrictions to be eased. Excitingly, it's just been announced this morning that cafés, restaurants and the dining area of pubs will be allowed to have a maximum of 20 patrons for each enclosed area (1 person per m²) from 1-Jun. This will then be increased to 50 from 22-Jun and to 100 from mid-July. Contact details (name, number and address) need to be provided though for contact-tracing purposes and 1.5m social distancing needs to be observed. Finally I can eat out again from next month and I can't say I'm not missing that even as a not-very-social person.

There will be more government announcements to come regarding another thing I'm very concerned about, which is the re-opening of gyms. Whilst I'm surviving for now with my home workouts using an exercise band as well as my regular jogs around the neighbourhood, the yearning to resume this love-hate relationship of going-to-the-gym-versus-procrastination is growing rapidly. Good news from the government is predicated on the results from the recent tests becoming available (and of course coming back as negative) and so my fingers are crossed.

In the mean time, here's the next post of my "Through Facebook" series. In my trips back to Singapore, I spend most of the time wandering around alone listening to music which is something that gives me peace. I do that a lot also because my friends are all working during business hours and so I'm left on my own. While exploring the new parts (e.g. shopping centres) and re-connecting with the old and familiar (e.g. my favourite eateries), I document what I feel on Facebook and below is part one of those posts (part two is here). The most significant one is the witnessing of a solar eclipse for the first time in my life but alas both my phone camera and vantage point weren't good enough to do it justice.

It wasn't as dramatic as I expected because the halo was too bright and obscured the moon's shadow but here you go, a solar eclipse for your viewing pleasure. I guess there's a first time (and likely last time) for everything.

I always get a tinge of sadness when I'm here. The brazen opulence barely within the reach of most locals yet is what these rats running on their wheels are constantly striving for. And the just-legal models sporting the crazy-expensive gear are totally not in the age group of those actually buying the stuff. Alas in this ultra-unrealistic setting festers the very real issue of rising income disparity between the rich and the poor.

PS: For those unaware back in Australia, Marina Bay Sands is The Crown on steroids.

Wow. For those who are into everything Japanese, this place must give them orgasms. #JapanInSingapore

Only in Asia I guess where spam is considered "normal" food. #SeenInSevenEleven

PS: Thank goodness I had my beauty sleep that night.

Topped up $30 on my Singtel prepaid to buy 5GB of data without knowing that a $30 top-up entitles me to 35GB of free data!!! Now I have 40GB of data for the rest of my 19 days in Singapore!!! How am I going to finish using it up?!?!

I feel great every time I manage to avoid spending money but holding a bag containing a freshly-shopped non-essential purchase while walking in public makes me happy too. This happiness has nothing to do with material-ownership and everything to do with the fact that I can finally fit in with the rest of the materialistic populace.

"Best" Grindr message ever. #LeftWasProfilePic #RightWasTongueInCheekIHope

PS: At this rate, maybe in 20 years' time, Singapore might be a good place to retire in? I hardly doubt so though.

PS: Nothing in Singapore will take off without government support and of course that applies to PrEP-education as well.

"Giving old folks no choice but to continue working past retirement in the face of rising cost of living" repackaged in a feel-good campaign poster. #EverywhereInSingapore #IsThisEvilOrTheBestWayToDealWithAnAgeingPopulation

I'm in multiple long beaureaucratic lines now to renew my passport. I know I can do it online and save $10 but I'm old fashioned and prefer to do it over the counter and get it within the same day. #IGotTimeToBurnButThisIsStillAPain

I was at Jurong Point yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at their Mongkok section and Japan Street which are both new to me.

PS: I was so thankful I did all the required recordings before this happened. It took me quite a while to recover my voice fully (it's still not 100% recovered even now!).

I'm very impressed by these new public buses with the charging ports (only on the lower deck though), stop display screens and two wheelchair spots. Strangely there is minimal advertising on the bodies of these new models which means the company is consciously forgoing advertising revenue and this doesn't seem right. Anyone knows why?