Thursday, July 28, 2011

Musical journey (15)

One really happy thing that happened during my trip back home was the chance to meet my best girlfriend’s love-of-her-life. More importantly, I got to feel how happy she was because of him and the relationship. Cliché as this may sound, I am really very happy for her (of course, it gets even better when he really likes me too). Have you realised that I have used the word "happy" three times in the previous three sentences? That surely must say something especially when I so rarely do that!

Anyway I predict wedding bells will ring soon for those two and so I have already told my girlfriend in advance what the dates are to avoid because I would not be able to take leave due to work commitments (do you think I would lack the foresight to not think of that?). I am going to be the best man you know–my first-ever opportunity and I absolutely cannot miss it (and screw that up)! I know I am so jumping the gun right now but there is no stopping something that is so right and so meant-to-be (you should see them together!).

Another big reason why I am so happy for my dear friend is that she has gone through several shitty relationships and so it’s high time she gets the bliss she deserves. Ancient dead-and-buried history it might be now, it did bring some hardship back then and this month’s musical journey documents part of that. I shall not go into those private details here so I will just let you get a feel through this song.

[爱 。感冒]

/ 词 : 美莲 / 曲 : 锦泉 /





[Love. Sick]

The cold air permeates the streets that have just been showered upon
As our passionless silence spreads in this cafe
The cup of coffee in my hands slowly grows cold
Our hearts can no longer depend on each other

I didn’t know that love can actually fall sick
Being overly-sensitive is an incurable illness
Everyone can see that trying to rekindle what’s been lost is not the cure
Because there can only be a full recuperation if we quarantine ourselves from each other

Lost in the hustle and bustle of love
We forgot to consider how little we knew each other
A fleeting taste of romance
Is not the same as a ticket to happiness

Our ailing love is worsening
As I can no longer feel anything holding your hand
Instead of wasting each other’s time
It would be for the best if we both let go

PS: I wonder if she will do the same thing for me and take a trip down under when the time comes...

Friday, July 22, 2011

The month away (part 4)

What makes my trips trip back home worth the time and money is always the people–my close friends and family. I have always asserted that one does not need many friends in life and indeed I do not have many friends. The cliché “it is the quality that counts” rings especially true in this regard–I have a handful of close friends and that is all I need. I would rather have an in-depth knowledge of all of them than having a bunch of hi-and-bye drinking buddies whom I do not care much about. If that makes me anti-social then I sure am.

In this post, I will share with you some (not all) of the people that mean a lot to me–they are the ones whom I will not fail to catch up with whenever I make the trip back home. If you are not in these pictures, it is only because I was not organised enough to take a picture with you.

Friends and Family

The effort (arduous as always!) to organise such a large outing was worth it to see my faithful group of friends from my days singing at Ark again. It was really the love for music and performing that brought us together but when the Ark stints ended, we still kept the friendship warm and fuzzy. I think we should get together for a reunion concert!

Either that's a bread roll or these two guys were really doing it for me...

I met up with another friend from Ark separately–it was difficult to ask a married-with-kids woman out for more reasons than one.

My dear friend with me at Universal Studios. We had such a fun-filled day! Love you girl!

My housemate for one and a half years when we were living in New Jersey back in 2003 - 2004. She is getting married later this year.

My ex-colleagues and their significant others. It was a shame I did not get to catch up with the rest–we used to have SO much fun together driving around in a small car–those were the days.

I finally got to meet my sister’s boyfriend. We originally planned to meet up in Bangkok but things did not work out timing-wise. My niece is all grown-up now–I still remember when she was a chubby baby! And isn’t my mum pretty?

Having a relaxed coffee and spending some quality time with my mum, which was something we did quite a lot when I was back. Now that we are living apart, we have grown so much closer (no more petty squabbling). I am glad that she is coping well with diabetes–my mum is an ultra-strong woman! This picture was a DIY-shot taken during our regretful day trip to Johore Bahru.

Ah. My trusty photographer whom I always have a date with whenever I go home. He is now in Hong Kong shooting more hot guys I bet. I can’t wait to see my new pictures from him!

My Vietnam travelling-buddy whom I knew way back in high school (more than 16 years ago now. Gosh!). We organised this last minute trip when catching up over tea one night. This picture was taken during our trip to Mekong Delta–I will be blogging about my entire Vietnam trip very soon.

This is an anatomically-correct replica so he (not my friend of course) is indeed not very tall. This was taken at Madame Tussauds in Bangkok.

The love of my dear friend’s life. She formally changed her relationship status on Facebook this week so the hots she has for this guy must be huge. I am so happy for both of them that I know this will not be the last you’ll hear from me waxing lyrical over how this match was made in heaven.

The friends who sent me off at the airport. I had another two buddies (a couple) who were there too but pity I didn’t take a picture with them (why oh why). It was so nice catching up with those lovebirds too.

So it is another one or two years before I see all of you again, my friends and family. Take care of yourselves and each other in the meantime and we shall make a date soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The month away (part 3)

The last time I was back in Singapore was in January last year and since then, things have apparently gotten so much more expensive and with the worsening overcrowding problem and the weather that I am no longer used to after staying in Sydney for some time, I really felt like I had enough towards the end of my stay. But still there were many enjoyable bits and I encountered many new things, which is always a nice thing. Here is a slice of that experience I call home.

Uniquely Singapore

Using a standard can drink for comparison, here is an idea of the small portion-sizes available for snacks in Singapore. I always believe that one of the biggest culprits of Western obesity is the huge food portions (the more unhealthy the food is, the larger the portion!). If smaller portions were available, perhaps we will have more BMI-compliant inhabitants on this planet.

This is a curious liqueur store I came across during one of my aimless wanderings in the shopping district. It is funny that in a country like Australia with one of the highest alcohol-abuse rates in the world, there isn’t a shop like this here in Sydney. I guess alcohol is marketed here not so much as a specialty product but more as a common necessity like any other grocery item.

There is nothing too interesting in this picture except for the blatant nature of it all. FYI, this street is famous for its many transvestite prostitutes and brothels. I am also assuming that here they understand what is meant by "hookers".

I had to capture this shot as one of the guys on the banner is my friend. This supermarket is famous for its cheap-because-you-buy-in-bulk feature ie. a chain that tends to not evoke a sense of sophistication in people. In that regard, I feel a little sorry for my friend.

The label says it all. These meringues are twice as large as a fist–who eats those? A single bite would already be too sweet and too much for me. By the way, I was not allowed to take that picture but I am not one who follows stupid rules.

The former French Embassy abandoned only for a few years, which was all it took to degrade a perfect historically-significant building to such a state in the wet hellish Singaporean climate. This would be SUCH a good shoot location but alas my photographer didn’t like the “haunted house” notoriety that came along with it.

For the first time in my life, I visited the Raffles Hotel museum (one of those touristy things that you only do when friends come to visit–in this case, I was accompanying my Sydney friends visiting Singapore–so was I a host or a tourist?) and this circa 1933 letter caught my attention. In case you are unaware, when I was living in the States back in 2004, people thought that Singapore was part of China as well so this is an alive-and-kicking phenomenon of at least 70 years old.

Dumplings in 8 flavours and colours–a visual and gastronomical orgasm even for the lay person. I can only imagine what this menu item would do to Ision, a dumpling connoisseur and fanatic. They should bring this to Australia–I want to see his expression when the dumplings are brought to the table and his mouth!

Singapore is well-known for its many fines and signs but this is the first time I have seen this one. I guess the dog-rearing culture is maturing thus making dog poo a problem only now. I see many inconsiderate people not cleaning after their pets even in Sydney so this problem is indeed a pesky and global one.

It was the thick of the election season and I was in the nation's favourite constituency (on the side of the opposition). The huge permanent banner-attaching fixture in the background was reserved only for the ruling party and the opposition was relegated to whatever space available. But as predicted, despite the odds of dirty politics stacked against them, the opposition emerged victorious and left two ministers out of a job (YAY). We need as many opposing voices as we can garner in the government in order to keep the increasingly-complacent and -arrogant ruling party in check. The inset shows the aftermath of the elections–propaganda posters taken down from the abundant notice boards littered throughout the housing estate meant only for the ruling party. By the way the opposition won without my help at all as I was in Bangkok on polling day (well I tried and went to the Embassy but Thailand is too small to have an overseas polling station).

This is the first time I have seen something like that–wake-boarding without a boat pulling the boarder. I think it is rather ingenious to use motorised cables as the required pulling force.

To randomly run into a vehicle with such a bumper sticker ad, there must be a huge-enough demand and market for such services. We all know that cheating cuts across all ethnicities and geographical areas but maybe Singaporean spouses are more bitter than the rest and want to catch their cheating counterparts in action more desperately? Well go on to that website to find out more (it looks really professional and globally-connected)!

This was taken at a small wine bar in the posh district of Singapore where the rich (and the wannabes) congregate. I was so shocked that they could actually find a wine to pair with food as strong and overpowering in taste as rojak. Anyway all menu items have their accompanying wines so I am not sure how much thought had been put into the recommendations.

The pride of joy of money-hungry Singapore masked by a veneer of posh interiors and upmarket shops. Though over-the-top at times, there are easily-observable typical traits all casinos in the world have–ATMs just outside of the entrance (and I bet plenty more inside). Incidentally there is only a Chinese translation for the word “casino” on all the signages–no prizes here for guessing where the major clientele comes from.

The rules of entry into the casino. Singapore must insist on being the first in everything–I think this is the first casino in the world where the local citizenry has to pay a $100 entrance fee (to curb gambling problems in the country) whilst the poorest-of-the-poor foreign labourers can (and they do) go in at no charge. Social engineering a la Singapore at its best!

I stupidly went north of the border with my Mum for a day-trip over the Vesak Day long weekend only to discover that the Malaysian customs even more stupidly chose that peak period to introduce their new biometric passport system. As a result of this brainless decision, the checkpoint saw unprecedented queues–we had to stand in line for more than three hours! Luckily there was air-conditioning but still it was bad enough that someone actually went into a seizure (!) just from queuing. Never again would I go there without an assurance that this will never happen again–what one can find there is just not worth it!

I am sure Japan and many other Asian countries have more high-tech toilets but this is yet another thing that I have seen for the first time in my home country! How great is technology?! The video below shows how the wash-your-anus stick shoots out when a button is pressed. Amazing!

The next video below shows how a long and heavy flexible pipe section was craned up more than 13 storeys in such a tight space. I must say that I am quite impressed with how clever people can get when faced with unique challenges.

On the last night in Singapore at the airport, I had a nasty shock when I learnt that "00:30 21 May 2011" on a flight itinerary means that you had to check in on the night of 20 May, not on the night after! I actually had missed my flight! I must thank my lucky stars that there were still vacant seats on the flight that very night and that I was offered one at no extra charge! Everyone gets a lucky break like that from time to time so I wonder after cashing that in, when will I next get something as great as that?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The month away (part 2)

I used to make annual or at least bi-annual pilgrimages to Bangkok (the last trip being more than four years ago when the greatly-convenient airport-express train service was still non-existent) because of how much I love that place. The oh-so-delicious street food, the very cheap and good massages as well the chance to buy to my heart's delight tons of unique clothes that sell in Sydney (imported from Thailand) at a 600% mark-up. Although it is summer clothing and I cannot wear it now, come summer at the end of this year I will have a rocking new wardrobe.

I wanted this trip to be totally free-and-easy with a planned-but-not-strict itinerary (the only requirement was to have a different kind of massage every day). I wanted to do absolutely nothing that stresses me. Of course there were elements that did not work that way namely the reverse-racism at the gay saunas (hot Thais going straight for the below-average Caucasians just because they were so rare and totally ignoring and rejecting the hottest Asians around like me), the humidly-scorching weather (which gave me heat rashes at places where more post-shoot Photoshop would be required, not to mention the much-worse itch and irritation) and a bout of stomach upset at the end of the trip (which I never had in my previous visits even with the street food and tap water). But all in all, it was a greatly-satisfying 8-day stay and I hope the pictures can convey some of the reasons why I keep going back to this wonderful city.

The Land of Smiles

This shot was taken on board the Chao Phraya River Express. I don’t know whether you would call this a slum area but the living condition in some of these places did look rather squalid from the outside.

The markets at Chinatown. It sounded interesting when I researched the place online but when I got there, it wasn’t really so but still it was one of the less touristy places in Bangkok where I could get a slice of the more authentic Thai way of living.

My first shopping stop was Khaosan Road. Though not as cheap as the claustrophobic Chatuchak Weekend Market (another must-visit pit-stop), it does sell some things that you don’t get there. It was a hellishly-hot day and in case you need to know, I wasn’t the only topless one there (but certainly one of the better bodies around, hehe).

What do you think the first icon meant? No rams or some kind of imaginary creature on board the cab? And look at the third one–surely it must have happened so many times that a rule must be set to curb that. Well, Thais are ultimately still conservatives who "tolerate" liberal tourist-behaviour because not only are they a friendly people, they are also acutely-aware of the importance of tourist dollars.

“Miss Puke”? Can’t this massage parlour get a better name? Or is “puke” Thai for “pretty” or something? I don’t think so.

One of the Thai-est places I visited was the Taling Chan Floating Market as I purposely avoided the larger and shamelessly more touristy Damnoen Saduak. On the right you can see this strange fruit on sale that I cannot identify (some kind of apple-plum cross-breed?).

Food cooked right in front of you on boats–it is something everyone should experience. I was there early in the morning when it was not as crowded but people started pouring in from 11am onwards.

Here was where I had my sumptuous lunch at Taling Chan. I placed my bag on the visibly dry floor only to discover that it got soaked as the wave beneath the “floor” pushed water up the cracks between the metal plates. Well, it is a floating market after all.

A very common sight in Bangkok is monks and of course you will see signs like this on public transport. One other thing that I rediscovered during this trip was the fact that a song celebrating the king is always played before the start of a show in the cinema (I wonder if this happens in plays and musicals as well) and everyone must stand up. The king is an extremely well-liked and -respected figure in the country (and lèse majesté immediately springs into mind).

This messy wire phenomenon is something I consistently see in developing countries. I am surprised they don’t cause any electrical or signalling problems. But who am I to say anything bad about this when Bangkok is getting better and faster broadband than in Sydney!

It was another hot and humid night in Bangkok at 33ºC or so and I was street-dining, something I love to death. Sitting in front of me was this woman wearing three layers in this deadly heat (T-shirt, polo shirt, long-sleeved denim jacket). Three?! Was she crazy or what? This never fails to amaze me.

The most touristy thing I did in this trip was to drop by the Grand Palace, which surprisingly was my first time ever. As palaces go, everything had to be over-the-top. From a distance, I thought the gold walls were indeed made of gold but on closer inspection, I realised I was really silly to think that in the first place.

There is this Buddha statue where visitors pay a fee to stick a small piece of gold foil on it most likely to receive blessing or good fortune in return. There was a lot of loose foils that fell onto the ground–pity I couldn’t amass more…

Another avenue people had to seek blessing–dipping a lotus bud in a large vat of water and then then placing it on the head. I thought it was an interesting sight.

There was very strict uniform-policing at the palace where a guard very alertly barked at dress code-violators as they entered the grounds. I knew this beforehand but still wore forbidden clothes friendlier to the unholy weather and only later put on more conservative clothing which was available for hire at the entrance. I thought the sign was really effective in communicating its intended message.

R.I.P. slippers (15/06/2007 – 10/05/2011). We had some really comfortable times but I finally had to let you go because you got too old and I got a new sexier pair. I will miss you dearly and you will always be fondly remembered…

The video below was taken on board a tuk tuk at night when traffic laws could be bent a bit more than usual. I have ridden on tuk tuks before but never at night so this was a new experience. With the wind in my hair in the relentless summer heat, it certainly was the perfect way to end the night.

I barely missed Songkran because of work commitments, which was something I really wanted to do (next trip perhaps) but judging from what others told me, I think the constantly-getting-wet-without-people-leaving-you-alone-even-for-a-single-minute feature of the festival would get a little tiring a little too quickly. But hey, that would give me the perfect reason to be in nothing more than a tiny pair of hot shorts everywhere I go–that would certainly add a cherry to any cake of a trip.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The month away (part 1)

In the second half of April, I took a break from the frustrations of work and spent a month away from Sydney and it is only now that I finally got around to tidying up all the pictures. I will not write a lot of words telling you how those 31 days flew by as I know people like pictures and ultimately they still beat words 1000 to 1.

Universal Studios

I got to be a total tourist with two of my girlfriends for a day at Singapore's Universal Studios. It was surprisngly well done-up and with a 20% credit card-discounted entrance fee and only one ride (Madagascar) not opened, I thought it was a really good day trip!

Universal Studio had many cash cows under its name and Jurassic Park was one of them. The rides in this section of the theme park were the most boring (one of which thoroughly drenched me from head to toe) but of course a photo-op like this makes up for all the inadequacies.

One of my friends did not dare to go on the more thrilling rides (ie. the majority of them) and so we did some of those meant more for children who failed minimum height requirements. I really appreciated her for accompanying me as she had to sit out the reason why people go to Universal Studios in the first place.

The best ride of all. This ride was split into two lines, one suspended and one not. The suspended one was so much more exhilarating especially the double-revese-loop-through-thick-mist part. Fortunately I had a special pass that allowed me to cut the queue altogether. Boy! The queues were long and it wasn't even the weekend or school holidays!

The top picture features the sound stage where a special effect scene of a category 5 storm in Manhattan was simulated whilst a musical containing all the favourite movie monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula is shown in the bottom picture. Well no photography was permitted in both locations but...

This was "The Mummy" theme park which had the most entertaining (ie. scary) indoor roller-coaster ride of all. Ision said I would grab all opportunities to show my biceps off. Yes, I unashamedly admit to that.

I am not sure what the proper name of this pose is (if anyone knows please kindly tell me) but it sure is popular. This picture was not taken within Universal Studios but outside of it (in front of a huge candy shop).

A repeat of the same pose. I cannot remember what the theme was for this part of Sentosa's biggest tourist attraction but I thought it called for such a pose.

My best girlfriend told me that this both-hands-in-the-pocket pose made me look very straight and I shall take that as a compliment. This picture best showed the theme park in all its touristy glory.

"Far Far Away" as in Shrek, another cash cow of Universal Studios. Pity the movie lost all its appeal from the second sequel onwards. And like all cash cows, it had to be wrung till no more juice came out of it (the last installment truly sucked). By the way it was really hard to avoid other people in all of these pictures so kudos to the photographer (after many tries of course).

One of the stationary "rides". Well, sort of.

Universal Studios from different angles. The top right picture was the sci-fi section of the theme park. The best ride I mentioned above is from this section and it featured the Battlestar Galactica storyline.

Do you really think that I would miss out on baring my body in a crowded public place? You must be out of your mind. At least there were two good reasons for doing that (the ultra hot and humid weather being one of them).

And so this concludes part one of a series of posts detailing my 31 days of rest, fun and catching up with friends and family which included 2 overseas trips and 7 photo shoots. So stay tuned for more!