Thursday, September 28, 2017

Love Letters to Friends and Strangers

Kindness is not dead, yet. Unlike the old Taylor (you knew that joke was coming, right?). I'd like to think that generosity is still alive and kicking, floating around maybe in small organs – your spleen, your toes and fingers, and that we are more than capable of being compassionate to one another.

As a storyteller and a non-fan of listicles, I'm here to tell you stories about the people and strangers I love online, in a non-creepy way (I hope) and that you are able to reciprocate some of that love to them too. It's strange (but wonderful) to think where blogging has brought me: many friends, funny stories and great fun; but most importantly the people that continue inspire me to curate tales that you seem to, for some bizarre reason, enjoy in my humble space...

Geez, there seems to be a lot of love going around on the blog this week, eh?


In the playing field of influencers and faaah-mes bloggahs, it's easy to forget that we're still ultimately, flesh and bones. A bus ride I'd taken to one of of my first blogger meet ups was with Vicky, and we talked like normal people. OK, it included the occasional flat-lay woes but there was largely normal conversation about life, politics, dating, and it's something I've always been grateful for.

Simple acts of sending messages, tweets, comments (you guys!) have always allayed my fears that no one wants to be my friend, and in a universe where we speak about the importance of the support we get from around us - there is no better time to shower your girl/guy blog crushes some loving. And I try, to leave thoughtful comments/suggestions, reply to tweets, and just... talk.

I don't want to make this about me (ha) but I've sent letters, cards, books over the years and it just makes me that bit happier to know we're not ghosts at different ends of the internet connection, and that keeps me going.

I always find that I bond with so many people talking about random things like Neopets. And who knew y'all took up my offer on getting a k-hiphop playlist (it's in the making, I've just been busy!) so definitely stay around for that ;-)

And although someone will always have better and prettier photos, some people who knows what to say to elicit a better response; all we need is one, one person to say hi to or send Brooklyn Nine Nine gifs too.

We can't solve the world's problems but at least I can try to make this small slice of online community a less daunting place.


Constructive criticism can be a hard pill to swallow, but it's often necessary. Leaving comments and having conversations doesn't always have to be x's and o's or even 'I love it I agree 100%'  because you can't always agree and that's okay, but when you do disagree, they should be well-informed. I talked about how it's okay to disagree with me, and a lot of you said you tend to shy away from getting involved, particularly if it comes to a more trivial topic.

Here it where I tend to be more critical - we are not all the same and we are not made up of some ideas. It's ok to disagree, and when I give my take on a topic, I usually reason with why I believe so and understand that my beliefs can also be subject to attack and counter-ideas. But that's how I learn about new things, and that's how I think bloggers can interact in order to open up their minds to something new, where they'd previously think differently. The art of persuasion has never been so constructive in such an innovative space.

But hate is the cyanide in the Pandora box that should never be opened. There's a difference between criticism to engage and inform versus blind words that are biased and unsubstantiated. The moment that line is crossed, is when the blogging community becomes less welcoming and why we (I say we liberally here) are sometimes seen as catty, judgmental, privileged and other such related Not So Nice words. 

Want to argue? I'm with you on that, it's great, do it. But do it with restrain and knowledge of your facts, and not when you know you're going in to set the house of fire deliberately. That's just self-serving and petty. I feel like my use of metaphors are becoming a bit stale but you get my point - blind hate is bad in all context, and brings out the worst in the community. 

Bottom line: critical thinking and feedback is part of self-development and the larger narrative of self-love, but what I don't believe is baseless thoughts which serve to harm or injure for some inane purpose. 


I see ya slight-roll your eyes: I say we should be loving everyone but then say it's okay if we disagree and give criticism, which makes me slightly condescending.

Like I say, I believe you can be supportive in ways that doesn't equate to 100% agreement. Whether it's offering suggestions, brainstorming for a project, I believe support comes in different shapes and forms and isn't always nice, but gives us the space to grow.

But above all, pay people you love with every inch of kindness you can muster.

I see Michelle's incredible forte at running her own business and her online shop, drool over Hanh's talent at videography and Becky's handmade interior pieces wishing I could do even one. I hope I do them justice by saying how great they've been doing, and know how much further they can go!

Start with hello, and hopefully end as friends. (Yes I know this is too much sentiment, even for me, but it has to be said.)


So, what now?

It's the moment y'all been waiting for, my embarrassing declarations of love to those I consider near and dear, some of whom I only adore from afar because that's all you can do because you're weird and scared like me, sometimes.

I don't want to play favourites, but here are snippets of love that I think should be said to people I have admired for some time now, for their personality and to thank them for allowing another stranger on the interwebs into their lives.



You are the wunderkind that I hoped I was when I was 22 but could not muster the courage to. Your spirit and incredibly talented soul brings me to tears and it's astounding how magical you are. I sometimes feel like I am you; your words carry a weight so heavy it drowns me . In a mystical way I believe we are sisters through words, and one day I would very much hope to meet you.


Your email last week was greatly needed in my time of stress (lol). Thank you for saying hi and asking about my life problems, and it feels good to be able to talk abut blogging and real life woes with you because I was getting into a bit of a self-pity rut last week. Just wait till the day you find an essay from me dropping in your inbox.


The very first photo I liked on your Instagram was your snap of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Then I stalked all your bunny photos, and read your so very beautiful words. Your words swayed me and I always leave profoundly content. Thank you for your soulful writing, and glimpses into your life.


Girl you watch too many movies. But goddamn I love you, you have the bestest comments and the funniest things to say. I remember telling you that I used to go to Jakarta quite frequently when I was still living in Asia, and it's sad that our paths didn't cross earlier. But I'm so glad we met, and that you are a part of this wonderful group of people I get to talk to! Thanks bbgirlz.


And I would go on and on but I ain't writing a dissertation here you guys. I probably should revive my You Whom I love series, where I share even more great reads. Let me know what you think. 

This week is another manic one, I can't even begin to describe it. Tell me about your days/week/life, go!

This is Week 3 of #TheBlogRace by Vix and Laila, you can send your vote if you've loved my posts so far and keep an eye out on Twitter when the polls open. Kindness was this week's theme, and I hope you enjoy my cheesiness and affection that I have for these lovely people, and of course, you! 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Scents of Those Who Love You

This is a paid for post

This week I learnt that the world's most expensive luxury perfume in 2001 was on sale for £143,000. A legacy of the Crown Perfumery, Clive Christian's No 1 Passant Guardant is a decorated in 24-carat golden latticed bottle and has precisely 2003 diamonds. The scent is supposedly boastful of plum and peaches in its initial layers, before descending into a playful, olfactory dream of cardamom and ylang ylang.

I could write about it as if I knew all about the art-making of perfumes, but who am I kidding? I am painfully limited in that area.

But you and I are fortunate enough to cling to the scents that stay with us for lifetimes to come. Warm souls who linger with an electrifying enthusiasm, in deep depths of the darkness, such howling of madness and affection, and then suddenly, a twinkle of hope: where land finally kisses the tumultuous sea in a sunny but stormy embrace. 

The most gratifying moments in life are often soul-wrenching: remember with half-aches and quarter-nostalgia the scents of those who leave you even before you part, but stained in your mind with the most clarity are those who love you most ferociously, and without pity. 

These are the scents of those who love you –

Top notes 

Sweet, faint Jasmine in pearls of beaded sweat,  many early days of running around in tall, itchy grass in a tropical country. The kitchen of spices: white grounded pepper, cumin, anise star! The love from braised beef and daikon with fluffy rice... Barley drinks, iced chocolate.

Heart notes

and the most important - kindness and more; full measures of honesty when you need it the most, the feelings that binds and unwinds your heart, in the deep summer with a garden of honeysuckle and roses, foolish mistakes made not once, not twice, but thrice; regrets which also smells like strong gin and forgiveness (maybe) but makes you a Better Person who loves and will be loved

Base notes 

A small but strong hero - the audacity of warmth on a harsh wintery day, sickly cinnamon and tangerines and surprisingly eggs (!), almost like a decade ago at an Indonesian volcano at dawn, like you were there with me before we even met. Deep and rich wine that makes perfect beef bourgingon, we intertwine 

This post is in collaboration with Clive Christian's new Private Collection of 10 perfumes, a celebration and inspiration of life's moments, personified in frames of time: the rhythm of ballet, royal mews and simply, the city of London. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Autumn means Mooncakes

Remember Neopets? Well, I was obsessed with it as a tween, and my username was sophisticatedly called 'autumnwine' (never mind that I was underage and I thought wine was poetic and ~cool~) and my mother had to pull me away to take mandated breaks.

And that was pretty much my only link to autumn growing up, and 99% of the time I led a pretty privileged life in air-conditioned rooms listening to Avril Lavigne on my CD player...

Growing up in a country near the equator meant that we had one see-sawing season: hot, sweltering days with Paddle Pops or heavy torrential rain during the monsoon season which always smells like wet grass and stale dewdrops.


But what my hot and humid autumns did mean were mooncakes. Round shaped, red bean-paste filled, sugary and savoury, (from the salted egg yolks if you had one!) and coated with tangy and thick-skinned pasty goodness. 

Matt had no clue what mooncakes were when we got together but found the name extremely cute, so I have a handy Google image link of what an actual mooncake is for you here! You may recoil at my description of it but think of it as an eccentric doughnut, but much more decadent and filling. My favourite is the one with a modern twist, and it's called the snow-skinned mooncake.

In school, much like the Western world, there was a lot of mythology in storytelling – the power to beguile and mystify young children with tales beyond imagination and excitement. And magic, always magic.

So I'm here to tell you that one story...


A chilling tale and so the story goes: of Chang'Er whose beauty was beyond ordinary and her husband Hou Yi, a skilled archer. They were mortals on earth, but one day the gods raged and 10 scorching suns appeared in the sky. Being the talented man he is, Hou Yi shot down 9 of the suns, and the crops soon returned to abundances, rivers started to flow once more and the earth kept giving. 

The emperor presented Hou Yi a pill of immortality as a reward for saving the people. But plot twist, Chang'Er was jealous of the possibility of her husband living forever without her and took the pill for her own. 

Unbeknownst to both, she began to drift towards the heavens, where she was destined to live forever as a moon goddess as punishment for her greed. Separated from his wife, the mortal Hou Yi was left behind on earth alone. 

The gods were slightly sympathetic, and let them meet once year, where they reunite on the fullest of moon, looking back at earth where their lives could have been. 

Moral of the story: sharing and caring is the way to go and don't try to take immortality on by yourself, I guess. As a child however, we were fascinated by these tales – they depicted surreal images that were far more interesting than our maths and proverbs homework (yes I had to memorise Chinese proverbs). It also symbolised an important turning point every year, that harvest, was here.

Gather, foray and harvest, and ultimately the final homecoming of loved ones under the brightest and roundest of moons. A season of familial and romantic love, where lovers stroll the street to wish for a good future and families come together to moongaze (赏月) and eat mooncakes. And that was my version of autumn between the ages of 5 and 15, greedily eyeing up the varieties of mooncakes that were on display and wanting them all.

And then I'd end up with a tummy ache because it was too sweet and I ate too much...

I hope you enjoyed this small capsule of my childhood and the exciting season that is mid-autumn festival, may you be round and happy because how else would you want to be?


Here, so far away from home, we decided to do some harvesting of our own. I'd never been to a pick-your-own before and thanks to my last-minute Googling 'farms near London' we hopped on a train to to charming Esher where Garsons calls themselves the largest PYO farm in the UK with 150 acres of crops. They are, it seems, open all year round too. 

We were there at the end of season so most of the crops were gone by then, but the maize field were golden and marvellously ablaze and that's where we shot most of these wonderful photos as a little memento :-) 

I spent the rest of our time picking fresh veg: courgettes, French beans, some apples and corn of course! They were all delicious for the dinners we made for the week. 

Winterdown Road
Esher KT10 8LS

There's something to be said about being in the fields and getting your own crops, and it was something that I treasured a lot. It was fun, but it was also meaningful - it was a closure of sleepy summer finally dozing off, and into the swing of sienna leaves and homemade squash soup.

I'm a big believer of things coming full circle and the inkling of rust on the trees is no clearer reminder. As these colder and wetter days keep knocking on our doors, I remember the hearty and handsome harvest; and most importantly, the warmth of those surrounding us who makes us feel immortal without the need of immortality.

Now, pass me the mooncake!

Needless to say, work is keeping me busy but there may be a light at the end of the tunnel soon. I've got some exciting weekends lined up with some of old friends, and new ones (!) so the change of season in a country other than my own doesn't seem so bad :-) how have you been? Have you tried mooncake? Talk to me!

PS - more Japan travel posts to come soon, and you can catch up on all the existing ones here.

(I wrote this post as part of this week's #TheBlogRace project brought to you by Laila and Vix and guest judge Helen; and I hope it filled you with good memories of autumn as it did with me. If you loved this, and all my genius storytelling so far (c'mon guys hehe), keep your eyes peeled on the weekend for Laila and Vix's twitter where you can vote for me, and share your love for the other equally lovely people taking part in it)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

3 days in Osaka: Our Leisurely Itinerary

what to do in osaka japan

Before Matt & I got together, I found out the only 'Japanese' food he's ever had in his life was a chicken ramen from Wagamama (big sigh). Call it sheer determination or true love, but the last three years have been spent well teaching him the wonders of Japanese cuisine. Now, he's a total (real) ramen convert and loves tonkatsu. Not a big fan of sushi or sashimi but that's just a seafood thing... Baby steps, my friends.

After a jam packed week and a half in Tokyo and Kyoto with pit stops to Arashiyama and the likes, I had planned for a leisurely three days in Osaka. I'd figure we would be tired from the traveling and eating through the remainder of our holiday seemed perfect for that – where better than the foodie capital of Japan?

Presenting to you our very lazy and leisurely itinerary in Osaka, filled with street-strolling and plenty of food.


We hopped on the inter-city train from Kyoto which took only 40 minutes, after the morning was spent watching the second wave of the Gion Matsuri (more on that in a later post but it's a yearly procession and considered one of Japan's largest and most celebrated festival!), we arrived in the evening just in time for some feasting.

what to do in osaka japan

見る• SEE

Namba & Dotonbori - you may have seen this on my Instagram already, the equivalent to Kyoto's Gion Matsuri was Osaka's 天神祭 / Tenjin Matsuri, famous for its river procession whereas Kyoto is known for the main land processions. We caught the very end of it while walking to dinner and it was really fun seeing the lights and the buzz along the river.

Namba and Dotonbori are made up of a web of streets lined with restaurants, shopping and nightlife. The atmosphere doesn't rival Tokyo, but is still amazing with some places open till 3am and walking through it smells amazing.

what to do in osaka japanwhat to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

食べる • EAT 

Home to takoyaki and okonomiyaki, we stopped by the nearest street food stall for some appetisers. These are affordable, coming at around ¥200-400 for 6 takoyaki and slightly more for a huge okonomiyaki. You can literally find these anywhere along the main roads and they're all equally good! 

Osaka is also close to Kobe, where of course Kobe beef is from. But we weren't making a day trip there, so I was searching for places in Osaka and found out about Matsusaka beef, alongside wagyu, kobe and hida, which is supposed to be one of the best cuts in the country. 

Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku M - this had rave reviews on Google (lol), and some of our friends have been there so we decided to try it out. Admittedly it's more catered towards tourists but I was very impressed by the food, no compromise there! They have many different sets to choose from, including tasting platters, full cuts of meat etc. We chose a few bits (more affordable!) to sample along with their famous garlic rice, and found that sitting well with our takoyaki earlier. The beef had amazing marbling, and melted amazingly on the tongue... like meat candy. 

It's not the cheapest place but how often would you come to Japan, right? Our bill came up to around ¥10,000 which I thought wasn't too bad considering the tasting set was more than double that! 

Book online for a reservation as it fills up pretty quickly: 

2F, Inaka kaikan Bldg. 7-17 Soemoncho, Chuo-ku, Osaka-city

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

The Glico Running Man sign - a smaller version of NYC's Times Square, the heart of Namba and Dotonbori displays sky-high billboards with this one has lasted longest (over 70 years). My favourite one was the giant spinning beer cans adjacent to it... very fun to walk around at night, taking in the lights that seemed to illuminate endlessly.

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

2日目 • DAY TWO

what to do in osaka japan

Another famous shop-front with a giant crab - there's two on Namba and I just wanted a picture of it. It moves as well!

Day two was all about food and I made it my mission to eat as much udon as I could stomach (I am the #1 udon fan amongst family and friends and eat udon for breakfast.)...

what to do in osaka japan

食べる • EAT 

We got up pretty early which meant not a lot of eateries weren't open just yet, and I need more than a cup of coffee to sustain me. There were also 24h restaurants to choose from but mornings don't feel particularly great when you're starting with a huge bowl of rice and fried chicken, ya know?

Hanamaru Udon - This was actually a fast food chain udon restaurant. How amazing is that? Pick your basic udon bowl (plain) and add any toppings you like for extra... I had a very basic udon with a simple soup, and tempura at the side. Fills the tummy for about ¥600, which is amazing value considering everything else in Japan is pretty pricey. 

what to do in osaka japan

I loved walking through the side streets to get to the city centre. This was an area with lots of love hotels, which was.... interesting.

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

遊ぶ • VISIT 

It was a very relaxing day because we booked tickets to Universal Studios (!) the next day so I knew I wanted to do something that wasn't physically taxing because I ain't fit, y'all. Matt is an animal lover (he truly is) so off to the Osaka Aquarium we went!

Located near Osaka bay, the aquarium houses 15 tanks within an 8-storey building, and you spiral down each floor around the central tank with two whale sharks!

(Osakaku Station on Chuo Line) 1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka

what to do in osaka japanwhat to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

The highlight of the aquarium is the lookout window in the café, and it was golden hour when we were there:

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

Nearby is the Osaka ferris wheel, which was such a sight to behold when we emerged from the aquarium.

An early night as we needed to be up for the big day...


what to do in osaka japan

I made it to Hogwarts! Basically the main reason I needed wanted to visit Universal Studios Japan. We bought Express Pass tickets too, which lets you jump the queue for certain rides: Harry Potter, Spider-Man... they have different options available on the site but it definitely is a pricey day - our tickets came out to around ¥12000 per person so choose wisely, I suppose? You'll have to buy tickets either through the official website or an authorised reseller, and apparently they got very strict about it recently.

I would say skip USJ if you're not a big fan of theme parks or rides, and you could be off to a nearby city for a day trip. But being the Potterhead I am, I really enjoyed it.

I won't spoil the rides but I loved all of the ones in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - I'll save this day for another post if anyone wants to read all about how I was The Chosen One at Ollivanders too ;-)

what to do in osaka japan

what to do in osaka japan

Slytherin reppin', according to Pottermore. I wanted to get robes but nearly fainted at the merch prices. They were insane! I left with a very cool mug of the Maurauder's Map though...

The rest of the time was spent hopping on rides: avoid Backdraft and Terminator (lol honestly) though. I went on a rollercoaster alone because Matt isn't a fan of coasters, and I sat next to a 7 year old kid who loved life and had her hands up the whole life. She knows YOLO like no other.

The park opens at 10am (times usually vary between 9-10 for crowd control), and the best days to go are apparently Wednesday and Thursdays! We went on a Thursday and I think the crowd was bearable. The heat was crazy though...

Universal Studios Japan
Universal City Station on JR Yumesaki Line 

what to do in osaka japan

食べる • EAT 

Universal Studios was not the greatest in terms of food choices, as you can imagine. In search for a good curry rice, we found one right near our AirBnB and holy moly it was amazing. Like most small eateries, you purchase your food from the vending machines and pass over the ticket stubs at the counter, and you'll be served with a piping hot plate of flavoursome curry. 

It wasn't too spicy or salty, which seemed the case in a lot of restaurants so I would highly recommend this place. The tonkatsu batter was light and crisp, and the meat was tender to taste and came in bite-sized pieces. Mmmmm. Simple but so wholesome to the tummy. 

A typical diner with only 10 counter seats and is also cash only, we were lucky it was pretty empty and they gave me extra curry because I finished it all (told you it was good). This was one of our cheaper forays too, at about ¥700 including meat. 

Koji Labo 俺たちのカレー家×ラーメン
14-13 Nanbasennichimae 542-0075 Ōsaka-fu

what to do in osaka japan

Other great places we visited:

Don Quixote - A mega-storey all purpose store selling souvenirs, snacks, household goods and everything you can think of with a ferris wheel on the top of the roof (!?! I know) where I got most of my matcha snacks
Kasuya Hozenji - Another small udon diner famous for kitsune udon
Pokémon Center in Daimaru department store - Matt loved it and so did a crowd of people
Kuromon Ichiba market - This was 5 mins away from where we stayed, lots of restaurants, seafood stalls, eateries

what to do in osaka japan

A lot of our time was spent walking, so bring your comfiest shoes and stomp around the ground. I gave Osaka Castle a miss because we had seen so many temples and shrines in Tokyo and Kyoto already and found it less time-pressured this way. We also enjoyed the food more because we didn't have to rush off to the next place on our list...

Shopping in the pharmacies was something else too, if you were following me on Instagram stories, you would've seen the photo where these girls piled their shopping trolley like they were curing famine, except with face masks, foot masks, all sorts of potions and lotions... Japan is great for skincare and I did do my share of looting too but I'll save that for a rainy day :-)

what to do in osaka japan

Work has kept me busy for the past two weeks and I have oodles of to catch up on, so let me know how y'all been? It's gradually getting colder and I'm scared already! Don't leave me, summer...

PS I'm part of a cool project Laila & Vix (I'll call them the dynamic duo) are doing called #TheBlogRace which Laila wrote about here if you want to read about it, so stay tune for some cool content - I'm hoping this will bring some respite on my busy work days! 
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