Melaka, Malaysia

Monday, December 19, 2016

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My family has never gone on an overseas trip together, as a whole family, before. Of course, heading abroad is a privilege in itself, and it wasn't that I was deprived of it. Growing up, I got to visit several beautiful countries, but my dad would always stay in Singapore because he needed to fulfill his duties as a son. I definitely understood the importance of that, although a part of me would wish that we'd be able to travel together. 

And last weekend, it actually did happen. We decided to head to Malacca for a short retreat. I know that Malaysia wouldn't be considered "overseas" for many, and perhaps I wouldn't either if I were heading there with a couple of friends. But this trip meant a lot to me personally, and I was glad that we got to do it together. 

While there was quite a lot of unhappiness throughout the trip, stemmed from unnecessary worry, broken air-conditioning in our car (golly gosh, the HEAT), and the constantly opposing mindsets of my parents (although in actual fact they have the same type of thinking), I don't regret travelling with them. Afterall, I still had the company of my brother, and I really enjoy going on trips with him. His patience and rationality never ceases to amaze me. And we were both extremely amused by the way our parents were behaving, in hindsight. Of course, I love them a lot and they are top notch parents but travelling together can really amplify negative feelings. 

With all that said, the sights and sounds and most importantly, the taste of Malacca was truly worth driving a couple of hours in the blistering heat. Here's some of my highlights and top picks in photograph form! This time, we mainly traveled like tourists, queuing up for famous, over-hyped food because hey, why not right?  

MAMEE! What my childhood (and high sodium intake) was made of. I actually took a photo with the actual Mamee monster (well, someone dressed up in a suit) but I look terrible and the photo is blur. 

The famous Jonker Walk. We went there for the night market - which gave the vibes of equal parts Taiwan street markets and local pasar malams. 

Handcrafted Italian gelato ice cream - I wanted to get some after dinner but when I went back, only the uglier designs were left. 

Pretty sunset on the way to dinner. I don't want to sound ignorant but really, all the Southeast Asian countries I've visited, apart from Singapore, look extremely similar, with their large land space, exposed telephone wires, and colonial inspired architecture. 

Yo brooooooo. 

Hi mummm.

Hey dad heyyy. 

We had dinner at a tze char eatery frequented by locals (yaaas), which my bro visited the last time he was backpacking around the region. We sat on stools in the open air, and our bellies were filled with hotplate tofu, salted egg pork ribs, 小白菜 (which I did not eat), and nyonya stingray. Unfortunately, I didn't get to capture the meal because the sun set, and my fam gang was way too hungry to wait for me. Despite eating so much, I still had a lot of space for snacks and desserts at the night market. 

Warm, molten, cheese oozed from the middle. Crust was fresh and buttery. 

Art was literally everywhere. 

Sungai Melaka (the Malacca river)! No one entertained my request to "sit the river cruise like tourists". 

Traditional pastries. 

We headed to a strange "cafe" and my bro and I got ourselves some drinks. (On a sidenote, Somersby's Blackberry was pretty good). 

Night lights. 

Couple durian ice creams for Mama and Papa Yap! Both of them actually already took a lick, but re-shaped the tips very skillfully with their tongues. I don't know how they managed that either.

Morning sunshine.

Jonker Walk was still bustling in the mornings - there was a whole ton of vintage items on sale. 

We headed to a famous Dim Sum place for breakfast - Low Yong Moh Restaurant. The queue was pretty long, but moved really fast too. 

In the queue - with a cute Japanese family behind us. 

AW YES. Dim Sum ranks high on my (long) list of favourite foods. 

There wasn't exactly a menu - they'd just bring the food items that were ready from table-to-table, and we'd pick the ones we wanted. 

Definitely the best liu sha bun I've had. The bun was soft and fluffy, and the salted egg filling was sweet, savoury, creamy and just the right molten consistency. Plus, it wasn't overly oily. I liked the cute yellow colour too, and the bun was just the right size. So good. 

More buildings. 

Spotted the Monkey King!

We queued up for another eatery popular amongst tourists. This time, for chicken rice balls at Kedai Kopi Chung Wah. The queue took more than an hour, and I don't think it was worth it at all. 

Granted, the chicken was really succulent and tasty, but the chicken rice balls were off-putting. I can't fault them though as it's really a matter of personal preference. I mean, although I've always wanted to try chicken rice balls, I know that having to shape the rice means that the rice has to be/ becomes extremely mushy. And one of my biggest pet peeves is soggy rice - I like my grains separated! 

Still a novel concept to me, and I'm happy we tried it. 

Of course, we had to try cendol! We settled for a random stall, and were really satisfied by the one we were served. Generous drizzle of Gula Melaka and coconut milk atop shaved ice, and fat green jellies - what more can I ask for? So refreshing. I didn't care for the kidney beans though - never been a fan. 

There were so many strays around - both dogs and cats. Somehow, the mongrels in Malaysia seem to have softer and "cuter" features compared to Singapore Specials. 

We ate a lot more (okay, mostly drank as needed to replenish all the fluids we were sweating out), but these are mainly the more photogenic things I managed to catch on camera and wanted to share. 

All in all, I did enjoy stuffing myself silly and I definitely appreciate that we got to do this together. But what I'm really thankful for is the amazing exchange rate we have with our Singapore currency - the weak ringgit made everything so insanely cheap. Feels real good man. 
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December Bakin'

Sunday, December 4, 2016

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I can't believe it's already December. 

Where did 2016 go? I'm not too sure, but one thing's for sure - 2016 is definitely one of the craziest years I've experienced ever. It's been so eventful and so much has changed. There were highs - I welcomed the year in Sydney, had a blast at my internship, traveled to Burma. And there were lows - my grandma passed, my friends started leaving me for schools abroad (though I'd consider these happy occasions as well!), and I struggled for a while in university - questioning my decision, feeling like I don't belong, and being... not happy (Using the word 'unhappy' would mean sadness, but what I felt was merely the absence of happiness, if that makes any sense at all). 

All of these lows did translate into lessons, or morphed into blessings in disguise. For that, I'm incredibly grateful. I really am. 

And the most ridiculous thing is that the insanity isn't even about to stop - my December is jam-packed with exciting events such as O'Week photo shoots/ filming plus a Taiwan trip with the O'Week committee as well. (Ah yes, I know. This space is way behind all that's happening in my life but I suppose that's a good thing - more living, less archiving - although I really value both equally.) 

December is usually the month where I consolidate all my thoughts regarding all that's happened throughout the last eleven months but the really strange way how semesters in university work is impeding my ability to do so. I mean, I'm just halfway through Year One, and it does seem like it isn't "case closed" yet. 

To psych myself into believing that it really is December, and that the Christmas lights I'm seeing at Orchard Road isn't a fragment of my imagination, I decided to engage in my favourite December past-time - baking! I think I've mentioned this before, but I shall say it again. Baking really does help take my mind away from the stresses of reality (not that I get stressed easily - but more about that in another post). 

Today though, I decided to challenge myself and film the process! I mean, I've always wanted to dabble in film-making as a story-telling medium and for a couple of years now I've been capturing moving images on my DSLR whenever I bring it out but never had the chance to compile them into anything concrete. Video-editing is also something I feel is a pretty important skill in this Internet age and I definitely hope to master it sometime in the near future. So here's my amateur attempt at filming and editing. It isn't a recipe video, but more of a watch-this-if-you-like-to-see-people-roll-cookie-dough-and-melt-chocolate. 

I do feel that the music puts me in a really calm mood (it's an instrumental of my favourite Christmas song!), and I hope it finds you well too. 

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Just Be

Monday, October 31, 2016

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Initially published this piece on the day of writing (31 October), but took it down a while later because I thought it was way too convoluted for something with no real purpose. But I actually really like this... and I need to stop thinking that others will judge me for my writing so here it is again. Also just realized that my hesitation is completely going against the concept of "just being". How ironic. 

Today played out strangely well. 

Oh, and please be warned that this post is not going to be very coherent... as of now I don't actually have any clear purpose for being here and writing this. I simply want to. 

It's 11.51pm as I type this sentence, and who knows what time it'd be when I'm done with this blog post. (I'll be sure to include it at the end, if anyone's even... well, interested) I have an 8am class tomorrow so being here is probably not the smartest move either. But sometimes the worst ideas you form in your head - the ones you constantly dismiss - end up being the best ones in reality, if you actually muster enough courage to carry them out. 

So, hello. Somehow, I have this strong, compelling urge to describe how my day went. "Oh, Li Yin, nobody cares," my left brain - the sleepy one - is trying to tell me. While it's probably right, hey, what's the point of an urge if you don't satisfy it? 

Just like tomorrow, I had an 8am lesson today, with a graded presentation to boot. Truth be told, I'm a morning person (yes, I'm not really nineteen... I'm a granny) and don't actually dread early classes unlike most of my peers - in fact, I find myself a lot more energetic for these lessons as opposed to the mid-afternoon ones. 

That aside, my groupmates and I decided to meet at 7.45am to practice our presentation. We chanced upon the perfect quiet spot - a tiny room located beside the stairwell, reminiscent of a janitor's closet (not that I've seen one myself, and not that Singapore calls our janitors janitors). This strange room was labelled "fire exit" but if it was really up to me, I'd call it the Room of Requirement (cue Harry Potter music). It was just right for what we needed at that point in time. 

As we were rehearsing, I decided to pull the door shut... without realizing that there wasn't a door handle from the inside of the room. (Seriously, what kind of strange room were we in?) That meant we - or I -  basically locked ourselves in this claustrophobia-inducing place. I couldn't stop laughing at my own stupidity... although right now I can't remember and desperately would like to know if my groupmates were laughing with me then. Thankfully, one of our classmates walked past the room, spotted us, and saved us all. The whole situation was hilarious and I couldn't stop smiling throughout the lesson at the sheer thought of what just occurred.

The lesson, and our presentation went by quickly. Quick and painless. As did the lecture that followed. 

Then, I headed to the arts canteen to meet my long-time best friend for lunch together. Despite being in the same school, it took us three whole months to realize we should take advantage of our geographical proximity to meet. We talked and laughed before making our way to YIH to grab Starbucks. I'm not that huge a fan of Bux, but if they are marketing one-for-one promotions, accompanying Christmas vibes and cosy wood furniture, I'd gladly order a Peppermint Mocha. 

We spent the next four hours there and I'm not sure if it was the caffeine (that I usually try to abstain from) but I was being surprisingly productive and accomplished more than I did over the past weekend, workload wise. 

The happy vibes lasted through my very smooth journey home (the peak hour was over by then!), and I was really looking forward to not needing to do any more work for today. As I walked home, I was struck by the calming quality of the night and made the unlikely decision to go for a late-night jog. For anyone who doesn't know me personally, note that this is extremely out of character, and I have actually not gone jogging since A Levels ended.

"Jog? Am I hearing things?" my brother laughed.  

"Eh, someone say you fat ah?" my mother expressed the same disbelief, not convinced I would do it on my own accord. 

I took the same route as I did during a period of time in J2 when I actually made the effort to exercise daily. It felt familiar yet distant - I've actually missed jogging. Or maybe I was just missing that particular period of my life. Halfway through, my path was obstructed by the appearance of a pasar malam, which got me very excited. Do allow me to contextualize this. After moving to my new neighbourhood, a relatively young estate, more than two years ago, I've never seen any pasar malams around. And I have actually lamented about its absence from my life more than once. 

There's just something about pasar malams that appeal strongly to me. The primitive concept of a completely random pop-up of carnival rides, food stalls and shops hawking mattresses and bolsters is so novel. (Also, come on, don't you wonder who actually buys those mattresses considering they are always a permanent feature at night markets? Well, I do.) Pasar malams are always bustling with life and activity, and never fail to bring out the kid in me (I still enjoy eating cotton candy... just something about its texture). 

I diverted from my usual jogging route, not before making a mental note to properly visit the night market sometime this week. And of course, I ended my short session at a little exercise corner with a couple of sit-ups, as I used to do. After every set of twenty, I'd lie flat and stare into the sky. It's such an amazing feeling staring into the vast, open darkness (occasionally dotted with twinkling stars... or more possibly their more unromantic cousin - satellites) and feeling so awfully small... yet so present. Being aware of my own existence in this huge world is something that I don't think about often enough, but whenever I do, I'd usually find a newfound appreciation of life, and I'd marvel at it.  

It was a great day.   

And I feel like I should attribute this to my unconscious adoption of the state of just being. I didn't intend to have such a mindset, it just happened to be the best way I found to describe the way I lived today. 

No doubt, it's an abstract concept. But in my own personal understanding, I see it as a way of living in the moment and making the most out of that single moment, without fear or excessive concern over what's to come next. And I hope to keep this in mind. 

It's exactly 1.30am now and somehow my entire family has been awoken by the heavy rain. Snooze time for me though. Goodnight. 
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July on Film

Saturday, September 10, 2016

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Moments are fleeting, and humans always have this desire to keep the good ones (to save them for later, and to replay them over and over and over again), and leave the bad ones behind (straight to the trash bin, no questions asked). Unfortunately, that's not possible. 

I've always held the belief though, that photos come the closest to freezing a particular moment in time. It's just so magical, and I still can't wrap my head around this amazing technology. (Seriously, what in the world?!?! I can't...) The more I think about it, the more awed I am. Sure, science can probably explain it but please just let me continue to marvel at the greatness that is the nifty camera. 

Of course, then comes the dichotomy of living in the moment as opposed to capturing it. 

Taking great photos is really satisfying, but a lot of times it doesn't come at first shot. At least for me, I fiddle with the buttons and lenses a lot, which really kills moments. Not being able to capture someone's laughter in focus, having your ice cream melt before you take a shot, the list could go on. I hated that I was putting such pressure on myself - plus, lugging a DSLR around does no good to my spinal health either. 

For the month of July this year, I thus decided to live my life with a disposable film camera. I felt like this old-school option offered a good balance of both living and capturing moments. Because of how simple it was to take a photo, I wasn't going to be caught up with adjusting settings: all I needed to decide was 'flash or no flash'. The fact that I had a limited number of shots in the camera, and not being able to see the photos there and then, also meant I wouldn't be caught up with perfection. All I needed was something that'll allow me to remember the moment, and then go back to living it. 

Bonus: it's insanely light, and comes with an automatic 'filter'. 

Another reason for getting the camera was really to motivate myself to create memories I wanted to keep with me. July, being the only completely free month I had after A Levels and before university started, meant a lot to me. I knew that if I didn't find myself something to do, I'd probably stay in bed for most of the month, which I will definitely regret. So the camera gave me reason to get my lazy self out of the house. I told myself to use up all the film by 31 July, and to do so I had to make the effort to ask friends out, as well as go solo doing some things that I love. 

I can safely say that getting the camera was a great decision, and I strongly encourage everyone to give it a shot. Here are some of the moments I captured with my Kodak HD Powerflash disposable camera. :-) 

The park opposite Ang Mo Kio Public Library. The bus stop here is always very tranquil, and I love it. I was here alone after spending time at the library I frequent most often as a child, and being here always brings back lovely memories. It's crazy how physical places can be so meaningful to some but mean nothing to others. 

Timbre +, one of my favourite places to spend the night at with good company. Really, it's lovely. Live music, good food, and a wide (and I mean wide) variety of craft beers to pick from. 

Sent Dom off at the airport! She's pursuing university education in Australia. :-) She's been there for a while now (I mean, it is September already...) but nonetheless I know she'll do great. 

This doesn't look like much, but I personally love the meaning behind this shot. Going to visit my maternal grandparents always leaves me feeling so happy (and full, because my grandma would cook up a feast for us - and she's the best chef I know). I'm very lucky. 

Another GFD (Get Fat Day) with Christina. :-) Les Patisseries at Upper Thomson is worth a visit. We had the entire place to ourselves.  

Jordan and Sarah at the Singapore Art Museum! :-) We didn't manage to check out all of the exhibitions there, but SAM has always been very well-curated (not that I know anything about museum curation). 

My mum said she liked this photograph. :-) 

Well, we thought that we had to take two photos for two physical copies to be developed from a film camera... turns out I was given the negatives anyway and could actually develop the same photo multiple times. 

Ben and Tiff with lots of food in front of them. 

Ailica and I with lots of food in front of us, plus a guy in the background who is really enjoying his chicken wing. 

Selfie with a disposable camera? Surprisingly focused - good job Shermaine, you've got skills. 

Somehow, I remember this day quite vividly. Shermaine and I went for one of our shared favourite activities - museum visiting! There was an toy exhibit on display at the National Museum, and I was really excited. We spent a good fifteen minutes identifying our childhood playthings... and Shermaine called Ernie "Elmo" (unforgivable!!! Sesame Street characters each have their own identities). We then went to Fabulous Baker Boy for cake. 

Priya and I tried the freakshakes from Patissez, but before that we got caught in the heaviest, craziest rain. Definitely made the shakes taste a lot sweeter than they already are. They were super expensive though, I don't really recommend getting them. 

After Camp Win 3 with Minglu, who is now in the U.S. studying liberal arts, and I can't be more proud of her. We had a lovely chat while walking to the MRT station together (and I'm glad it was located so far away as the distance gave us time to catch up after so long... except that I ended up see her for the next three consecutive days... some days by coincidence can you believe it). We also shared a chocolate waffle from a neighbourhood bakery because the smell of freshly made waffles was way too enticing for us to pass up. I remember this day being one of the best ones in July. In fact, I had wanted to blog about Camp Win for the longest time ever but school happened. 

Visited RJ with some of my class (pictured here we have Wilson and Josiah). Finally came around to collecting our school graduation certificates, and we sat in the canteen for a good six hours catching up with each other and the teachers that came by the canteen. It felt really nice. 

At NDP Preview 1! (So yes, this happened in July). It was a great show and I was genuinely impressed by the use of technology- I think even my brother was too. Maybe I'm just biased because the creative director was Beatrice Chia-Richmond and hey, RG pride. Time spent with family is always precious too, no matter what the occasion. We got a St John boy to help us take this photo, and he was very amused by my film camera. 

He offered to take another photo... and I'm not sure why I said yes since this isn't digital. But anyway I had to wind the film for him to take another shot and he laughed and said "that's new". I couldn't help but respond with, "well, actually more like old". 

Went back to my favourite school with some of my favourite people. We had a great catch-up session with Mr Faizal, whom we've been blessed to have as our form teacher in Year Four. Left with my heart so full, and I'll forever be grateful to this place for shaping a great deal of who I am today. After our visit to RG, we also met up with the rest of my Year Four class at Cathay where we had such a good time reminiscing about the old days. 

Lady M with Gaby J! One of my biggest photog inspirations and one of the reasons why I even decided to get a film camera in the first place. 

Had to get my photo taken by the legendary Gaby, of course. (The lighting at Lady M is really good by the way). 

And I met Mudassar! We had Korean food at Bugis before taking a night stroll from there to Esplanade. The night sky, cold breeze and conversation was so comforting. I brought him to the rooftop of Esplanade, where we admired the gorgeous skyline, and he brought me to the mouth of the Singapore River where we sat and talked. 

Caught the gorgeous sunset from the rooftop of RJ with Tiffany. It's funny but I never really got to admire many sunsets when I was studying last year even though I really wanted to. Anyway, we were back to support the Habitat juniors for their fundraising at Film Soc's showcase (and I was also there to watch Priya act on the big screen hehe). 

With Melvina at the Film Soc Showcase. :-) All the best for prelims and A Levels, but most of all, take care of yourself. 

Empty buses and long rides, I loveeeeeeeeeeeeeee. (Just kidding, there was another lady with me on the upper deck... and when my flash went off she stared at me like I was a ghost. Sunk down into my seat for the rest of the journey). 

Asanoya bakery with Sarah. :-) Always a good time with you. 

The burger was way too much for me. 

Another physical space that holds so many great memories of mine. I used to frequent this hawker centre in Ang Mo Kio a lot as a kid, and the food here holds a special place in my heart (especially the tomato-sauce based bak chor mee, and the super famous yong tau foo). 

Hello, sky. 

IKEA Alexandra with Priya - I was so happy to find out that we have an IKEA relatively near NUS. :-)

We both look so happy. Well, this was before school started officially. 

And shot this on the way to developing the photos in my film camera. Surprisingly, this was the only photo with a light leak - I expected way more. 

That concludes how I spent my July (or rather, the moments with slightly more presentable photos). As for the ones that didn't get immortalized on the Internet, at least I have physical copies of them and I know that it's always the meaning behind each photo that I should be more concerned about. 

I must say, looking back, I'm a terribly fortunate person to have people who love me, and to have people I love spending time with. 

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