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Preview: Nicole Chocoa Heaven

Nicolekiss - Travel & Lifestyle Blogger


Updated: 2018-04-22T18:18:44.252+08:00


Club Med Tomamu: Ski-in Ski-out Resort


When a friend suggested to try out the new Club Med Tomamu in Hokkaido, I jumped at it. It's unlimited skiing at a ski resort surrounded by snow and good food and comes with an indoor heated pool. All paired with Japan's hospitality. Sounds like a dream? Oh yes. The room was divine. And unusually spacious (given that it's club med). The once a week king crab buffer dinner was one of the many highlights on the trip. My only complain was the lack of snow in late March, and since they were new (it was their first season), there were hiccups in the bookings which meant we missed flying in together with our friends. In return they did shower us with more king crabs for 3 days in a row. I am done with king crabs for a long time. The ice bar nearby was already closed for the season by the time we flew in which was really a  shame. But the wave pool was fun, and indoor spa (non-natural hot spring) came in handy after a long day on the slope. I was particularly in love with the Nest Bar's cosy environment, I could visit this bar every day. And having toasted marshmallow on the top of the snow mountain was quite a unique and yummy experience. I just wish I had gotten more time on the slope. [...]

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Photojournal


The poncho cardigan in this photo series has a significant sentimental meaning to me. It was a gift my late mom persuaded my elder brother to purchase for me. In a way, it was the last material gift she ever gave me. The piece was one of the two winter wear I had been eyeing on but the price deterred the purchase. You could imagine the shock and surprise I had when my ever thrifty brother agreed to the suggestion. It was also the first real presents my brother ever got for me (aside from a tiny palm size teddy bear he threw my way on my birthday years ago, I sometimes wondered if it was something he won in a lucky draw).  [...]

Grief: 4.5 Months Later


Last night was hard.

I was in pain. And loneliness was flooding my soul. I wanted to hear her voice, so bad, even for a little while, a little bit.

No amount of screaming could mend the tear in my heart, tears flowed and I could no longer hear my own thoughts. I remember walking into the pool fully clothed, and sinking my head beneath the water didn't really clear my mind. But the cold did, slowly, as I sat in the water while the time ticked away.

I don't know how much time has passed but I remembered the lights were switched off at one point, and there I was, sitting in silence in the dark, half head emerged. Before I knew it, I stopped shivering, the water surrounding my body has warmed up to my temperature. The surface has cleared of its ripples and soon it was mirroring the buildings across.

"Get over it"
"Move on already"
"This is not how she wanted you to live"

These were actual words from the mouths of people who meant well.

"Time will heal"
Yes but when? When does this stop? Why does it feel like it's never stopping? Is there a timeline to these things? Why does the pain feel so real? And the loneliness so unbearable?

"It's time to move on"
How?! How do I 'move on' from this? What's the guide on this?
Do I wake up one day feeling the world at my feet and everything is in the past? Is there a 'grief stops here' deadline that I missed somewhere between 4.5 months ago and now? Or a happiness switch that I forgot to flick?  Please show me the way to move on. Because every moment I'm reminded of her kindness, her love, and her comforting words; and every step moving forward is a step taken without her; and each future envisioned is a future envisioned without her. And each second spent with these thoughts is joy, drive and motivation stripped off of me. I lost interests in everything I do, even things I used to enjoy doing.

Google tells me that a grief timeline can stretch anywhere from 6 months to 4 years, and I'm in stage 4 of a grieving process. Yet all these are uncertain and merely encouraged. It doesn't tell me how long it's gonna take to get me to stage 5 or how to get through this period.

It doesn't get easier. You just learn to live with it. And I'm still learning how to live with it.


Ash, Growth, Tumor and Blood (inc photo collection of Seoul, South Korea)


Life has always been good to me, but it has also been harsh on me.I grew up in a loving home with two very loving parents, dominated by introverts that were understood by few.Sheltered at birth, I knew very little of the outside world and socialising was hard for me.It took travelling and many travellers to obtain my personality today, most days I still find myself housesitting because it's where my comfort zone is, it's where I get my "me time" and I need a lot of that, and often.Before the internet, my family kind of personality was not well perceived or received in society. People can be cruel towards those which they don't understand. It made me a very angry child, I didn't understand the emotion I was building up inside, so I cried a lot, and then I raged a lot. Which made people distance themselves further.I was fortunate in the sense that I was always surrounded by people who love me, there weren't a lot of them at any given time, but they were there. I was never in an abusive relationship, and I had parents who were there for me all the time. I didn't come from money but I never really needed to worry about money, not really, no. I had the privilege to see the world at a young age and to continue that passion till today. I count my blessings everyday.Then my mom left us November last year. Too young. Too soon. In an instant, everything I ever knew changed. I saw many things in a new perspective. Few things matter. In a nutshell, my world dimmed. I no longer see colors in the things I do. I stopped being friends with people who didn't matter or bother. I lost the drive to thrive in life. My sole motivation in life now lies in ashes in an urn 100 miles away.I spent many nights sobbing following her death. My body eventually gave in and I started experiencing severe hair fall in January. Huge chunks would come out when I swept through my hair with my hand or when I was in the shower. Half my hair volume must've come off in that single month. So I had my hair cut in February to help my visually thinning hair.A month ago bf's sister discovered a 20cm size fibroid growth in her, following that a close friend was recently diagnosed with stage 3 thymic cancer and is going through chemotherapy. Then yesterday my dad told me he found blood in his stool, they'll be performing scope on him tomorrow. It felt like I was barely catching my breath before being thrown back into the fire pit.I'm taking each day as it comes, and it's been my words of encouragement to those suffering around me. Cause sometimes, that is all you could manage.Ending this post with a collection of photos of my recent trip to Seoul, South Korea.PS// just realised it's my birthday tomorrow. [...]

Best Restaurant in Pai: Silhouette Bar


Set in the early 20th century, the furnishings of Silhouette Bar reminded me of post-war jazz bands and cocktail hours, heavy with British influence buried in the depths of the exotic tropics.Overlooking a pond and an empty pavilion, you'd find yourself comfortably seated in restored furnitures flown in from Britain, that meant well built and comfy armchairs and sofas. In the evening you'll be transported back in time as music from a 100-year old restored piano flowed through the dining area, while you'd be served drinks from imported beers to creative cocktails, or have your own selection of wines and hand-crafted liquors from their collection. If you're ever in Pai, you have to drop by this restaurant. It is located in Reverie Siam Resort but it sure didn't feel nor priced like hotel food. I dined here almost every night because I kept finding myself coming back to this place. Seldom have I come across food so fantastically prepared and well priced. Not only was Silhouette Bar serving the best food in Pai, in my humblest opinion, it was beating even some of the best mid-tier restaurants in Thailand. I couldn't remember the last time I enjoy meals so much. It could be the holiday spirit, the interior, the ambience, the music and the wonderfully crafted drinks speaking, but I strongly vouch for this restaurant. Even writing about this now had me fantasising about their succulent pork belly (and juicy pork ribs).Silhouette by Reverie Siam476 Moo 8, Vieng TaiPai, Mae Hong SonThailand 58130TelephoneTel: +66 (0)53699870EmailBookingsReservations@ReverieSiam.comGeneral[...]

Best Hotel in Pai: Reverie Siam Resort


My visit to Pai was made perfect by my stay here. Even with the promising excellent reviews I read online from TripAdvisor, various booking sites like Agoda and; Reverie Siam managed to exceed my expectation.Imagine realistic Alice in Wonderland and you get Reverie Siam resort. Founded by an English and two Thai siblings, Reverie Siam is the epitome of vintage English with a hinge of Thai. I'll admit, it's hard to pick a bone with this place.After 3 hours of windy journey to this secluded hipster village of Pai, I was rewarded with the best stay on my two weeks long trip across northern Thailand, triumphing over many 5 star resorts I came across and stayed throughout the rural northern Thailand. My villa was furnished with a luscious king size bed and fluffy pillows. Chandelier and drapes on the ceilings gave the room its luxurious ambience. Wooden vintage door to the right opened up to an unnecessary spacious bathroom with a garden view and separated shower room and toilet. Next to the window was a man-made bathtub big enough to fit two. Order a bottle of champagne, connect your spotify to the in-room music player and you're good to go.Walked out the glass door in front of the bed and you'd find a private small pavilion with a table where you could have afternoon tea in front of a garden. Oh the garden. Seldom have I walked in a private compound with such a fantastical garden, while not in size, the landscape was comparable with the castle ground gardens I've come across in Scotland and other parts of Europe. And yes, it came with a central maze. Get lose in the maze and find yourself wandering inside a secret garden. Only guests were allowed to enter this section, and what a privilege it was. Within the walls you would find two salt pools (a plus for me): infinity pool and stone pool. The latter of which was accessible via the balconies of Deluxe pool rooms and has had a shallow zone for toddlers. The hotel provided shuttle bus to various drop off locations in Pai. You can find the map and time table here. Which is plenty convenient. But if you need something more private, you can always charter a private ride/tour with the resort and you get a personal chauffeur for half the day/full day. (Tip: ask them bring you to this secret location)As if all these were not enough, the restaurant Silhouette Bar was the cherry on top of the magnificent cake. Easily the best Western and Western fusion food you could find within 100km of vicinity of Pai.  But I think that deserves another post of its own, especially when this is where I had the best pork belly of my life. Reverie Siam Resort476 Moo 8, Vieng TaiPai, Mae Hong SonThailand 58130TelephoneTel: +66 (0)53699870EmailBookingsReservations@ReverieSiam.comGeneral[...]

Giant Brown in Seoul


Seoul was a lot different from what I remembered 16 years ago. For one, K-pop trend was just emerging, a far cry from the global phenomenon it is today. There was no such thing as k-beauty and most of South Korea felt like China in the 1900. Food was boring and blunt but mostly cheap. Heck, the whole of South Korea was cheap. It is no longer the case today.Travellers have told me the food here can be and is more expensive than Singapore, and I agree. Last night I walked down to the food court in a departmental store and ate two plates of sushi taken off a conveyer belt, the bill came up to 17,000 won (that's USD16 or RM64). Then I walked over to a random food stall and ordered 250g of fried seasoned chicken cubes as after-dinner snacks, the small bowl of chicken cost me 10,000 won (USD9.50 or RM38). My dinner had cost me more than RM100 and I barely felt that I've eaten anything, and this was from a food court! I spent an hour around Myeong Dong and was visually flooded by the sheer volume of Korean beauty products available for purchase. Thankfully I wasn't into Korean beauty products, but I could imagine how easily someone can get sucked into this world, and has her wallet emptied in one afternoon. It's a shopping heaven, and shopping I wasn't not interested in. Which brings me to my final point, aside from the endless fried chickens, mom and pop's korean food joints, and BBQs, Seoul doesn't have a lot to offer, at least not to me. It felt just like another big metropolitan city with too much shopping and food to offer and nothing else. Bars and drinks here aren't as good as Japan, and clubs and nightlife aren't as posh as Shanghai's. Everything else fell short when in comparison with another big city out there, and the price tag made it all the less attractive. I have to give them this though, Korean Fried Chickens, hands down, the best there is. I will miss this when I leave. And who can resist a photo op with the biggest line bear (Mr Brown). Taken at Myeong Dong's Line Friends store. [...]

First Trip of 2018 (After Shanghai)


note: check out imotorbike if you want to buy or sell motorcycles and accessories. Sellers get to post for free. 

It's three hours till I have to wake up to get ready to head to the airport, yet I can't sleep. I can't help but feel that I'm running away, it's three days till your birthday after all. You would have been seventy by then. I had planned to celebrate elaborately for you this year, especially when I was too financially strapped to celebrate your sixtieth. You couldn't wait, and left all but too soon.

Circumstance like this harshly reminds me that time waits for no one. I wished I celebrated your living on earth like it was your sixtieth everyday. I always thought I had at least till the next year, or maybe I just refused to believe you could go. But you could, and you did.

We always said we would visit brother on one of his work trips, and you said a few months ago you wished you had gone while you had the chance. 

So I'm going.

And maybe, on the day of your birthday, we will finally get a buy you a cake and celebrate in South Korea together.


Welcoming the New Year 2018 in Shanghai


Shanghai was a nice getaway from everything back home. It provided solitude in a foreign territory, away from everything I knew. The feelings was still raw, but somehow the distance helped, and the absence of constant physical reminders helped. The nights in the spacious hotel room, however emotional, were therapeutic in a certain way. It reminded me of a time I used to travel, just my thoughts and I, disconnected from the life back home.The modern city provided enough distractions in the day time and occasionally in the night time. I strolled the tourist hot spots that were crowded by local tourists from other parts of China, stood in queue at popular eateries, fought through the wave of crowds in Yu Yuan, and walked the evening streets of central Shanghai city.On my last night I visited a well reviewed speakeasy bar "Speak Low" and had a great chat with a Japanese bartender while I watched as he prepared cocktail after cocktail. The drinks were expensive, but wonderfully crafted; paired with good company, it was an enjoyable an evening. It's been a while since I've enjoyed anything at all.I have already dyed my hair dark at Hareta, I thought the vibrant colours didn't reflect what I've been feeling inside, being a brunette suits me better now. Despite the growing length, it was a lot more manageable than being a blonde; my hair hasn't felt healthier in years.[...]

Rainy Shanghai


Woke up with a face full of make up and in my day clothes, it’s 12am and I’m in bed in a hotel room in Shanghai. I got up to wash my face and changed into my pyjamas.

You filled my head as I routinely cleansed my eyes and then face. It’s the last day of the year 2017, and tomorrow I will begin a year and a life without you. Everyday I counted the days since you’ve left us, it’s been exactly 50 days.

Shanghai, a city I had not visited in 10 years. Much hasn’t changed and much has, like the rest of China, the city progresses fast, and things have became more expensive since my last visit. I thought about the times you said you wanted to visit Shanghai. I was always the first to deter you, it wasn’t an interesting city you would like, I decided. I wish I’d brought you, and showed you where to have the best “xiao long bao” in the city, you would’ve like that.

Shanghai has been raining since I landed. The cold winter rain made it difficult to walk around the city. I stood by my judgement that it’s not an interesting city for someone who doesn’t like partying, night life, shopping or hunting for the best food. But I had to admit I’m glad to be away. There’s no where in the world where I could run to without thinking of you, that’s a norm, and a given, but I appreciate the little distraction being in a distant city provided.

Dad misses you, he doesn’t say much of it but he gets really lonely, but you already knew that. He still goes to the shop everyday, but he understands it is a lot harder to manage now with your absence. Brother took up the role of taking care of the household rather well despite living in Singapore. He paid for most of the expenses that’s incurred since your passing, took up the responsibility of handling your will and your wishes. But there are late nights, on his visits back, while on my toilet break in between my sleep, I would see him sitting in dad’s rocking chair, red-eyed, in deep thoughts. As you have predicted, I handled your passing the worst. There are still moments where I lost it, my mind, my voice and my sanity. And I have lost count how many times I have cried, most times without intending to. It’s as if my tear glands have a mind of their own.

I became angry, at everyone, at the world, at myself. I shut myself out to a lot of people who cared. In my mind, they didn’t care enough, even though I knew it’s not their fault. It’s only recently I started talking to my best friend, whose wedding I missed because I was still trying to handle your passing. I was angry at her the most for not being there for me when you took your last breath, despite knowing she had a wedding to plan and that it was ‘pantang’ to attend the wake and cremation service. In my mind, all I thought was I would have been there for her in a heart beat if our roles were reversed; I couldn’t be less emphatic during those times. My irrationality was driven wild by my emotions. The pain was raw and real. Guess I have a lot of growing up to do.

It’s late. I should be getting back to bed.

Mom, I miss you.
Till we speak again. 

Coping in a world without your presence


I will miss you in my free time, so I occupy myself with work, and more work. Diving myself into a world where I am forbidden to miss you is like taking drugs, it only lasts till I sober up. So I sank deeper.

Few days ago I received an amount banked into my account, it was from a small trust fund you had set up for me years ago. Even in death, you were taking care of me. Clutching to my phone, I stared at the numbers in my bank account and bawled.

So many things mean so little to me now. I'll trade everything I have in a whim to have you back in my life, yet not all the wealth in the world could bring you back.

If there is a word to describe what I'm feeling, I haven't found it yet.

Thoughts of You


Copied these post from my FB wall so I have a record of these thoughts. Written om 10/11/2017I don't know how people do it, still have a life while their love one is bed ridden waiting for death to knock on door. I can't bring myself to be happy, or to enjoy a moment. I envy those who can, even for a bit. My life stopped the moment I knew my mom was slipping away right before my eyes, even before she entered a coma, even while she was still conscious. It's been a hustle of switching from hospital to hospital, doctor to doctor, emails and phone calls to various treatment centres around the world. And then it was too late, before I knew it, I have been back in Melaka for more than a month taking care of her round the clock. My whole world is lying on a bed, a tube down her throat, lifeless-like aside from the warmth on her skin and the irregular breathing through her mouth. She is here and yet she is no longer here. I still tell her I love her every day, then planting a kiss on her forehead, even when she can't hear or feel my presence. Every inch of this house is shrouded with my memory of her. I miss her every day, but especially so every night. Often I would roam the dark living room, the hall, the rooms, chasing memories in my head. Last night while sitting alone in the dark, I realised I haven't spoken to her in weeks, or say 'mom' the way I would usually call my mom. So I called her out and pretended to be talking to her like I used to, before I knew it my face was soaked in tears.  11/11/2017Mom passed away today at 5:29pm in her own home surrounded by family and relatives. In loving memory of Mdm Ong Him, wake services will be from 12 Nov - 14 Nov. Cremation on Wednesday, 15th November at 2pm.17/11/2017I will miss you till the day I breathe my last breath.29/11/2017Today marks the 18th day since you left me. It felt like an eternity has passed. Yet your scent, the feel of your skin, the shape of your nails and fingers that I came to know so well sitting by your bed through all those weeks, your pain and sufferings, the sound of your breath and so much more still vibrantly etched on my mind like it was yesterday. I can't sleep, like many nights before; this night (or morning) I'm plagued by your groans when you're in pain, the sound of phlegm stuck in your throat which I had to help perform suction to extract, the wounds and open sores I helped mend throughout your body, the twitches in your hands, then your arms, followed by your entire body, the theme defines this to be one of the harsher nights to get by. I'm no longer certain if chasing after your memories is torture or healing, maybe I am desperately clinging onto whatever connection I have with you, perhaps reliving old memories I had with you, or forming new ones. A week ago I found photos of you in your teens, photos I have never seen before, a side of you I never met, knew or heard of. I couldn't pry myself away from the photo albums trying to discover more hidden sides of you. I was getting to know you all over again, it gave me comfort. But it was followed by an immediate sadness knowing I will never find out where you were in those photos, who were those friends you're with, was it a fun day at the waterfall because in the picture you looked happy. Mom, do you know what is the hardest part? There are times I still can't believe that you are gone. The reality of it would hit me so hard, and swift, I would literally grasp for air. It could happen anytime, on sleepless nights like this, in the afternoon while I'm reading, when I'm thinking of you, or worse, when I woke up from a dream. Those days are especially challenging.5/12/2017You last words rang loud in my heart. "Be strong". You knew life can be harsh, cruel, difficult and filled with all kin[...]

Don't Say "Get Well Soon" to a Dying Patient


There's a little girl (13 yo) across our bed that's aneroxic looking. She has been waiting for a liver transplant for the last three years, and she lives in agony every single day. Her heart rate is a constant 110-120. She has a swollen belly and stick arms and legs. She suffers perpetual diarrhea (sometimes with blood) and she has lost the ability to recognize people, not even her own mother who sits by her side every day.

She's always sitting alone, and rarely receives a visitor. No one talks to this mom, not even the nurse unless it was necessary. And she just went about her day caring for this child of hers. Cleaning her up, watching over her, attending to her pain and needs. And when people do talk to the mom, they ask about her daughter's condition and then you could see they shift their eyes away because they felt pity, and they are at a lost for words.

On my side, my mom was taking a disturbed sleep in her bed. And I thought about the visitors we have received the past few days and the words of concern that flowed in.

It baffled me just how much people don't know what to say to a cancer/dying patient. Most of the time, albeit unintentionally, these words can do more harm than good.

No, we don't need some miracle treatments you read online/heard from a friend or referral of an uncredentialed doctor.

Please don't say 'how are you feeling?'. Same as yesterday, same as the day before and the day before that. There are going to be good days and there are going to be bad days. But they are generally all bad. So if you are expecting to hear good news from asking "how are you" on repeat, don't ask.

And please, for the love of God, don't say "get well soon". No, it's not going to get better. It's always going to get a little worse everyday/week/month. That's how it works. Saying get well soon just shows your indifference and insensitivity. Instead, say I'm here for you. And mean it.

Offer help. Bring food, offer to clean, lend a ride, offer a shoulder or just be there.
If you don't know what to say, say nothing, your presence is good enough. Don't stay away or avoid contact just because you don't know what to say, that's just going to hurt more. Offer a prayer, regardless of religion. Kindness and compassion know no bound.

One evening, as this mom was talking to my brother and friend over the condition of her daughter, I could see she was getting emotional. So I walked up, opened my arms wide and embraced her. I held her for a long time, and whispered "I know" (because I sincerely do) repeatedly. I didn't let go. She cried into my shoulder as I held the back of her tudung as she clung onto me. I don't know how long I held her for, but I hugged her hard and could feel her pain vibrated through every vessel of me. By the time I released her, my eyes were wet and I know none of the pain has been reduced, but it got its release that evening.

I don't know this woman, I have never spoken to her, I don't know her daughter nor the full extend of her condition. But I know her pain. And while words are lost, all she needed/wanted was a hug.


The Morning We Had Japanese Pear


Grieve comes in levels and in waves. I don't know how to stop it or when it will come. When it comes, there are moments I feel that I can no longer breath on my own.

I remember so clearly the last meal I shared with you two mornings ago. You haven't been eating much and has little to no appetite to almost everything. Most of your days were spent in bed, and whenever you were awake (however little), you would sit on the chair next to the bed. You were never awake for more than half an hour at a time. I asked if you would like to eat some food, you said no. Then I asked if you would like to eat the Japanese pear we bought, you agreed. I brought the whole fruit in, sat on the floor and cut it in the room while you sat on a chair watching. I passed the first slice to you, you held it with your right hand and ate it. Then I cut a slice for myself and ate it. It was the nicest pear I've had. But it would taste nicer without the skin, so I sliced another piece and removed the skin, and passed it to you. You took it, then you wanted another, and another one. It was the most I've seen you eaten in a week. The final two slices of that 3/4 pear, you said you had enough but I mentioned just one more slice to finish this half, I popped a slice in my mouth, you extended your hand and said the longest sentence you said to me all morning :"you said you would pass me a piece but you ate it". I handed you the last slice smiling. After you finished that slice, I stood up and got some wet tissues to wipe your fingers. The moment I was done, you asked for some wet tissues and I told you your fingers were already wiped. You accepted the answer and sat there for a while before declaring you want to lie down.

I helped you up, then sat down on the bed, lifted your swollen legs onto the bed. You flipped on your side and closed your eyes to rest. I touched your hair and watched your rest for a bit before leaving the room.

Never in my wildest dreams that this scene would haunt me even in my waking hours.

You deteriorated fast that day, by afternoon I knew something was wrong and called for the ambulance, you refused to get on it. My brother arrived back from Singapore then, and even he wasn't able to get you on the ambulance. It took us till midnight before you were wheeled through the emergency door. I stayed by your side the whole night while you physically struggled, I watched as you mentally slipped away from me each hour. By morning, you no longer had your conscious and could not recognize me or my brother, but you still had the ability to recognize our voice. By afternoon, you lost that too.

As I watch you now, you can no longer swallow water nor spit out phlegm. I don't know if you can hear the  "I love you's" I whispered in your ear, or feel the kisses I planted in your hair, or notice the tears on your clothes. Mom, I don't know what I'll do when I can no longer feel this warmth emanating from your hand.

You have walked through every pain in my life. I have never felt pain this lonely.


Why I Switched to Android from iPhone and Now Want to Switch Back


Ever since switching from iPhone to Samsung two years ago, I have been loving and hating this new change. But more love than hate.Love (for samsung) in descending order:removable storage sd card (photo arranging is a dream) *google drive (most convenient file sharing) *deleting & sharing multiple photos is a simple drag and delete/shareautomatic photo album sortingnicer night shotsnicer selfiecharging cable can be used for power bank and camera (travel convenience) no scratches or lens crack after two years (rough usage with no lens protector)Hate (for samsung):loud speaker function when calling is CRAP *buggy and slow (gets worse over time)Love (for iPhone): amazing day shots (depth effect omg) *more photo editing apps available (more apps, period) *video recording is superiorauto bluetooth sync to AirPods and beats headphone can use front camera as mirror (no auto filter)Hate (for iPhone):back up and sync (this is the MAIN reason I'm hating iPhone, it's a smart feature but at times it's a bit too smarty pants, like jumbling up aka arranging my photos according to its own preference and making my life a living hell). *** or ** key reasons where I place the upmost importance You would see that a lot of my loves and hates revolves around photo sorting and taking. It is the core usage of my phone, so it places an important element in my mobile phone purchase decision. Now that Google Drive is going to be dead soon (they are switching to 'back up and sync' like WTF). By doing that, you remove the key reason I love about my Samsung and add it into the hate list. Yes I am inclined to switching back to iPhone just because. Because it means I will have more key reasons to love iPhone than I do for Samsung, and more key reasons to hate for Samsung as well.It is also perfect timing because iPhone 8 will be launched soon and while Note 8 will be available soon, since the last disaster (exploding) I have to lie if i'm not skeptical to sticking to Samsung. [...]

It's Going To Be EBC (Everest Base Camp)


Me: Where do you want to go or what do you want to do on your birthday?
C: I don't know. Let me think about it. 

Two weeks later. 

C: I'm thinking to trek Everest Base Camp on my birthday. 
Me: (eyes widening)... Alright. Let's go. 

Sometimes when I think about it, it's tough finding friends who can be spontaneous like that, let alone a partner. I suppose I'm incredibly blessed in that way. 

6 years ago I embarked on a 6-day Langtang trek in Nepal after deciding the trek of Everest Base Camp (EBC) would take far too many days. I ended the trip in the hospital for 5 days vowing I was never going to do it again. 

Only to tell myself a year later that one day I would return to conquer EBC. 

Years gone by and as more commitments came and went, EBC remained an elusive goal. 

You know, those things you said you would eventually get around to do but never did because there are other priorities in life and places to visit that ranked higher in your list. And since I already did Langtang, which meant I have climbed the Himalayas; EBC naturally just crawled down my list. 

But it was always at the back of my head, the epic adventure that got away. The 14-day journey up one of the highest places you can climb on earth. 

The trip is to be less than two months away, which means what followed was days of planning and plenty of research. It dawned on me how much there is to prepare and plan and train for, and how unprepared and reckless I was in my previous endeavour to the Himalayas. Served me right for getting altitude sickness and food poisoning, but the view on the chopper ride down was magnificent so it wasn't all bad. 

So far I bought a pair of hiking boots, ordered solar panelled power banks and did 50 squats. 

In that order. 

I don't know what's more worrying, the fact I attempted 20 floors of steps today and almost died, or that I'm fussing over insulated drinking tube more than I should.  

Yellow Flower Field @ Pai


The best things in life always come at the most unexpected moments. While on a private tour with Reverie Siam in Pai, Thailand, we drove pass this gorgeous yellow flower field on the way to see a monk bridge. I ran down from the car and into the field. Like a kid in candy land, I had the whole place to myself. Acres of yellow flowers and not a soul in sight, I was thrilled beyond belief.The land was actually a paddy field in between harvest and planting season, and during this blank period, the farmers would plant these tall yellow flower plants to fertilise its soil. At the point these photographs were taken, this gorgeous yellow flower field would be chopped off to get ready for paddy planting in a month's time. If you're ever in Pai during the month of July, do contact Review Siam (ask for Pira) for a private tour for Pai, and ask them to drop you off at this secret place nobody else knows. It's 2500 baht for half day tour in a van (up to 4 people) and they will bring you to all the touristy and some not so touristy places and activities. Time to VisitLate June - Mid JulyPrivate TourReverie Siam Resort476 Moo 8, Vieng TaiPai, Mae Hong SonThailand 58130TelephoneTel: +66 (0)53699870[...]

How To Travel To Pai, Thailand


Pai used to be a backpacker's best hidden find. A hipster's trove. An artist's sanctuary. Over the years it has attracted more and many international tourists. But you can still find many creative elements in this small township located far from any major city. Getting here is no straight forward affair, but given the appeal of this place (more on that later), it has not stopped visitors from flocking here all year round. There are three ways to get to Pai: 1. Drive to Pai2. Fly, then Drive to Pai 3. FlySounds simple enough? Here's the deal. Pai is located at least 100km from the nearest city with an airport. And that's not all, the road to Pai is filled with many twisted turns, sharp corners and sometimes steep roads through rolling hills. 762 turns to be exact. It's the perfect recipe for motion sickness. Let's talk about Option 1: 762 turns. That's the amount of turns you need to go through if you were to drive from Chiang Mai to Pai. You can find vans/mini-buses from tour operators that will bring you from Chiang Mai to Pai, the rate is a reasonable 150 baht (one way), but can you imagine being crammed up at the back of the a van going through all those turns with a Thai driver up front? The smartest decision is to rent a car, be the one to drive, and have motion sickness pills ready for your passengers. It's a 3 hours 150km drive with the first hour being a smooth straight expressway, and then you make a left turn into route 1095 to begin your hellish topsy turvy journey into Pai. Second Option: Fly, Then Drive This option only makes sense if: one, you want to explore the township of Mae Hong Son; two, you enjoy a good drive. Because by choosing this route, you only cut off 50km of driving distance. And while the route is also filled with windy roads, there are parts of the drive where the turns are not as sharp and can be rather enjoyable going up and down the mountains. The weather can also be rather pleasant when you reach a certain altitude. Taken on the way from Pai to Mae Hong SonThird Option: FlyThere are no commercial flights getting into Pai, but there is a small airport here. Why? Because there used to be flights coming into Pai, however at the time of writing, that flight route is no longer available. But there is a way, if you have 8 people in your group and are willing to splurge a little, charter a plane (probably a fokker) from Chiang Mai at approximately 20,000 baht (~ USD600, one way), that's 2500 baht (USD75 or RM320) per person. Not a bad deal if you ask me. Disclaimer: I have not tried this option but I was told this information by one of the owners of Reverie Siam. [...]

Best Cheesecake in Kuala Lumpur


After reading Wilson's post on best cheesecake in KL, I had to try it for myself. So on a free weekend, I shimmy my way to Lot 10 to get a taste of this cheesecake. Located on the 4th floor of Isetan, Lot 10, The Tokyo Restaurant Bar & Cafe was crowded around lunch hour. There was a small queue that took 10 mins to clear. Not too bad. The seatings were small to fit more people, unless you're able to get seated at the outdoor sofa chairs next to the escalators, be prepared to sit in close proximity with strangers.It took a while to call for the waiters as they were busy allocating seats to incoming patrons. But once ordered, my cake came fairly quickly. First off, the cheesecake was really good. Easily the best I had in KL. Despite it being called a 'cake', it tasted more like very dense cream compacted into a mould. It's sweet but not cloying (yet), the dollop of cream on the side was sweeter and you could combine it if you prefer an even sweeter note on your cake. I found it better to just eat to cake on its own. At RM18 per slice, I was given a table fork to eat this with, which in my opinion, would be better if a dessert fork was provided. 60% in and I was slowing down. It was proving to be too rich for my stomach to handle or consume. It was still delicious no less, but indigestion (lactose intolerant, I know I know, I can't stay away from dairy alright) was making me stop. So I abandoned the cheesecake 85% in. It was the best I could do. See how disporportionate and awkward the table fork was (to be used) on a delicate dessert such as this? Looking around, I was the only solo patron who ordered the cheesecake, everyone else had a slice in pairs. Probably a wiser decision. Would I come back again? Yes, but only with a friend. The menu looked fairly interesting, would like to try the beef curry with omelette rice, and the happy hour buy 1 free 1 cocktail (before 7pm) was tantalising enough to lure me back. Tokyo Restaurant Bar & Cafe4th floor, Isetan Mall, Lot 10, Bukit Bintang, 50250, Kuala LumpurOpening: 11am - 11pm Contact: +603 2119 2622[...]

How Gardens Mall Butchered Our Malaysian Flags and Got Away With It?


There I was standing at the West Entrance of Gardens Mall waiting for my uber ride who decided to miss a turn and was making his way round the mall to get to me. I idled for a while before planting my bottom down at the nearest support next to Fresco and let my gaze wandered. That's when I moved my sight upward and saw this. 5 Malaysian flags (plus minus) hanging at an awkward angle in equal distance apart. But wait, only it wasn't an awkward angle, the flags seemed to have been cut (to fit the shape of the roof, no doubt). I squinted just to make sure it wasn't the actual design of the flags.Nope. It was cut alright. The edges looked stringy and unrefined. Is this illegal?"It has to be illegal?" I heard myself say. Only that, it is not. A quick search showed that while there is an extensive guideline on how to treat, display and care for our flags (here's a 30-page data and guidelines on our Jalur Gemilang, aka flag of Malaysia), there is no law against defiling/burning/cutting our national flags. (reference 1)Guidelines aren't laws. According to CILISOS lawyer Fahri Azzat in regards to the incidents where 9 Australians wore Malaysia flag underpants in public: "There is no specific offence of flag burning per se. I imagine they would have to rely on a more general law like Section 504." - Fahri Azzat. (Section 504 - Intentionally insulting or provoking someone to break the public peace. Punishment is up to 2 years and/or a fine.)So while you can get arrested for not standing up when the National Anthem is played (under the National Anthem Act), you can get away with burning the Malaysian flags. "This can't be right.""There must be some consequences. "I heard you say.  Yes well, it is deemed highly disrespectful. But you're not against the law. So Gardens Mall might just be able to get away with ripping our National Flags to create a better architectural visual flow. What do you think? Is this acceptable? Or do you think it's time we change our law? [...]

Nasi Lemak Burger (Malaysian Version) by myBurgerLab


myBurgerLab is launching the controversial Nasi Lemak Burger tomorrow in all their outlets. So I shamelessly texted Renyi for a taste of the burger because I really really really don't want to queue we're best friends like that.Why controversial? Because of this post.It was in response to the viral Nasi Lemak Burger by McDonald Singapore. Because you know, Nasi Lemak originated from Malaysia and no one does Nasi Lemak better than us. DUH. Naturally many people got insulted by this and when Channel News Asia picked up the news, it went out of control and the rest is viral history. At the end of the day, I really just wanted to eat Nasi Lemak Burger and Singapore was too far to travel for a burger, so for two whole weeks I drooled over photos of this blasted burger all my Singaporean friends were posting. When myBurgerLab introduced their version, you could imagine my elation. The burger was the biggest I've seen of myBurgerLab's burgers and the fried chicken stood out the most.How was it?This video sums it up. allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">The fried chicken was crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, perfectly cooked.The base was the peanut butter mix with crunchy Ikan Bilis (anchovies) spread on the bottom bun, it was the perfect balance to the whole burger.(you would notice a strong peanut butter taste if your first bite was directed at the bottom bun, so try to fit the whole burger as your first bite if that's possible, considering how large this burger was).The rendang was rich, aromatic and thick, on its own it's nothing extraordinary, but paired with their sambal, a runny egg yolk that burst when you take your first bite, the crispy succulent and tender fried chicken resting on tangy pickled cucumbers, it's like a raving music festival. No, nothing about this was elegant. The whole experience was raw, rugged, and screamed umami-ness. It was messy, loud and ugly, but oh so good in every sense.(after I wiped my burger clean)Me:     Can I be honest about something?Renyi: Yea, sure.Me:      I have never liked myBurgerLab burgers until now.Renyi: Well, that's why we always create new burgers.Good answer.Here are more photos for your pleasure.[...]

Holiday Inn Chiang Mai Review


Chiang Mai has never really struck me as an appealing city to travel to, sure there are plenty of hipster cafes, night markets, and cool temples in town to explore, but there seems to be a missing element of allure that made me want to go back for more. Though I admit the last time I was here, I had tons of fun (granted, it was Songkran Festival); and given that 9 years have established since I last set foot here, it was high time I gave this much beloved city another chance. After spending a week in the countryside of North Eastern Thailand (read my list of 9 road less taken places in Thailand), all I really wanted was a no-fuss well facilitated hotel with proper service to recharge before moving on my journey up North. Holiday Inn came highly recommended to me, and I was connected to the extremely friendly manager Mayy; who in her director's blessed heart, upgraded me to the executive room.One thing I really appreciate about staying in Holiday Inn Chiang Mai was this: upon arriving at the airport, I didn't need to fret about addresses, I only need to mention "Holiday Inn" and everyone from information to taxi driver knew instantly where to bring me. The affair was pretty straightforward. Got my luggage, got in a taxi, bam, I am ready for check in (didn't even need to carry my own bags). Bliss. I'm sure flash packers can relate to this. Back to the hotel. Walking into the room took me by surprise. The room was massive, a rarity in modern Chiang Mai given the increasing land value in recent years. Holiday Inn is an old but well maintained establishment with 45 sqm of space in each room (85sqm for their suites, 526 rooms in total), that includes a long wardrobe corridor, office desk, toilet with separate shower room and bath tub, all from the price of RM240 or 1850 baht after tax (~USD56) per room per night on Agoda. That's insanely affordable if you ask me. Breakfast for two and room with river view will require an additional RM110.At 25th floor, best sunset view in Chiang Mai. Strong water pressure with constant stream of hot water meant I took my opportunity to properly wash my hair. My king-sized bed was clean, soft and came with soft and firm pillows. I had the best sleep in over a week. Swimming pool was basic at best, the gym looked more promising though I didn't utilise it either. I did, however, take a shuttle from the hotel to the night market located few minutes away in the evening, which was really convenient. And provided me with enough entertainment for my first day of arrival. You could easily spend several hours just walking from end to end at the night market. The next morning I got down to have breakfast. Holiday Inn serves an international buffet spread, which meant you get the basic sushi, pancakes, rice and noodles, pastries and jams, salad and fruits; the highlight was of course, the bacons. And kudos to the chef for making scramble eggs on point. The ups: Very spacious, clean and comfortable room at a great price. It can't get better. It also has the best view of Chiang Mai from their executive river view rooms. The name of the hotel is well known throughout the city so you don't need to worry about getting lost in Chiang Mai, just ask any local and anyone can direct you back to your hotel. Concierge and receptions were both very helpful and spoke sufficient English that allowed easy adjustment for any first time visitors to the country. There's parking for anyon[...]

Wat Phu Tok: Monks Living on Thailand Hilltop


"Wat" means temple in Thai. The name translates to "Temple of the Table Mountain".Yet Wat Phu Tok is no ordinary temple. It doesn't even look like a temple to begin with.It's a stone hill. Stood majestically away in the rural countryside of Bueng Kan, around 3 hours drive from the nearest city of Nong Khai or 4 hours from Udon Thani.The drive here can be difficult to manoeuvre for foreigners as road signs in this region of Thailand are all written in Thai, it doesn't help that almost no one speaks English so asking for direction will almost always end in frustration. But if you're determined, you will be rewarded. For Phu Tok is quite a spectacular place to explore.Monks live atop this hill, maintaining the peace and cleanliness of the place. To imagine they scale the hill on a daily basis is daunting, however the monks here have accustomed their life to the habitat of Phu Tok. Living among trees, birds and monkeys. I even spotted a huge pail where they collected rainwater that dripped through rock cracks to use for shower and basic laundry.It was said a monk by the name of Ajahn Juan thought of the idea of building wooden ladders and steps up Phu Tok without damaging the hill. The construction itself is a marvel. He died in a plane crash in 1980.Brace yourself for a 7-level ascent to the top (which signifies the 7 levels of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhist Philosophy), skip the 7th level if you do not fancy jungle treks as it can be challenging for the inexperienced. You will stumble across many meditation huts and deity statues around and along the way up Phu Tok. Prepare for quite a hike, each level averages at 80-100 steps, so some sort of fitness level is expected.While many locals and monks from all over Isan come here to meditate and pray, tourists come here for the view. Make sure you get to level 5 and 6 to experience the highlights of Wat Phu Tok.local nun scaling Phu Tok for prayers Phu Tok was the highlight of my Thailand North Eastern leg. If you ever make your way out this far, don't forget to include Phu Tok into your itinerary, just remember to allocate a full day for it. Operation hour: 6:30am - 5pm daily. (close during Songkran festival 10th -16th April)[...]

The Road Less Travelled: 9 Less-Travelled Destinations in Thailand


So you thought you have visited every possible nook and cranny of Thailand.You've visited all the temples, ate all the local dishes, and claim Thailand your second home.But have you really explored it all?Are you looking for non-touristy travel destinations?Do you want to go somewhere few can claim they've been to?Straying away from major cities such as Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hua Hin, and the likes, I've wandered into the lesser-known realms of Thailand. Here are my 9 alternate destinations in Thailand you have never been to:1. Udon ThaniBaby steps. You're unsure you're ready to dive into the unknown realm that is "road less travelled". Why not start with a big but less popular city in Thailand?Gaining traction in its Asian tourists in recent years, I had an airport lady asked me at Bangkok airport during my transit:"Why are there so many Malaysians flying to Udon Thani?"I don't know. Could be any of these reasons:Peaceful, friendlier Thai people (if that's possible), a lake with cycling and walking pavements on which you can take your morning strolls.Som Tum - no one does papaya salad better than where it originates from, Isan Province.Attractive hipster cafes found all over the city.A night market that's comparable in size and choices to Asiatique in Bangkok.Clean, less crowded, cheaper2. Bueng KanWhen you get to this far up north and this rural of a place (right at the Thai-Laos border), expect no English to be spoken nor written everywhere. It's time to buck up some basic Thai, download a translating app, or hire a guide. Even buying things from 7-eleven will prove difficult if you are looking for something that's not blatantly obvious, every label will be written in Thai, believe it (that is, if you find a 7-eleven). What you get in return is a true insight to real Thai living with little to no tourists all around, cheaper price tags and wholesome food from the freshest ingredients. It is the true essence of road less travelled.With that, there aren't a lot of tourist sights in Bueng Kan, but there is a highlight:Two words: Phu Tok.Imagine a rock hill made of ascending wooden stairs, where monks live at the top and make their livelihood with the hill and nature, i.e. collecting rainwater through cracks for shower. It's a temple, made from nature. (Will blog about it next and link it here)3. Nong KhaiNong Khai has a bigger township than Bueng Kan, and similarly to Bueng Kan, it is located right next to Laos, separated by Mekhong River.Looking into Laos from Nong Khai's lookout point.  Here you find better hotel stays, equally affordable, and maybe stock up on your basic necessity from the nearest 24-hour mart before moving on to the next location. Visit a few temples, walk along Mekhong River, explore the town, etc. Check out the Thai-Lao friendship bridge and ponder if you want to visit Laos for a day.Stop by any morning market if you see one, because pineapples produced in this region are legendary. Sarawak crystal pineapple and Bangkok/Southern Thailand small pineapples have nothing on the pineapples here. It is still, to date, the best pineapples I have ever eaten, and I used to be in the fruit business. You can also buy pineapples from Nong Khai's farms all across North-Eastern region like Udon Thani. Just keep your eyes peeled. It's big, fat, juicy, orange color and appear almost crystal-like.4. LoeiWhile not that high in elevation, the weather in Loei can be quite cooling in the right se[...]

I Dived in The Most Dangerous Place in the World: Diving into a Sink Hole (Blue Hole, Dahab)


or so it was argued.I never knew I would be diving in what was arguably the deadliest dive spot in the world, so much so that there are careers formed around people retrieving bodies from the sea bed. The Big Blue has claimed an estimate 130-150 lives in the last 10-15 years (or link here). That's more than one diver's life per month on average.So why dive here?The thrill. Of course. And the novelty to claim that you have done it.Aside from that, "The Bell" (coral reef along the drop off wall outside the sink hole) has abundance of corals and small marine lives, the site itself is worth diving for. (But wait, is that all there is to it?)The real allure is hidden within the Blue Hole, a secret that has most people flocking here. Frankly, a sink hole underwater is generally, quite simply put, boring. There is no coral life beneath the surface reef zone, it's completely dark underneath, and diving too deep is, a no brainer, risky. Even for experienced diver, every deep diving poses a threat to a certain level. Well, don't dive that deep then, I hear you say. That's not what Blue Hole is all about. The secret is this. At 60 meters beneath the sea level, there is a narrow cave-like tunnel that connects the Blue Hole to the Bell (outside sea world), and while most of the time it is completely dark, during a specific small window time frame of the day, the light shines through from outside, lighting up the inside of the tunnel and reaching the Blue Hole. Just like this photo. (Thank you whoever took this shot, so the rest of us humans don't have to risk our lives knowing what it's like down there)Diving the Blue Hole is like discovering a hidden passage in a forbidden tomb and finding treasures very few can claim. You heard about it, now you want to see it for yourself, and then conquer it. Why is it so dangerous? You see, the recreational depth limit is 40 meters. At 60 meters, you're on your own. No recreational dive guide will bring you down. Most people who die there also starts drowning at that depth. Because as you go deeper, your sink faster; it doesn't help that in the red sea, you need more weights to dive due to the water density and the thick wetsuit you'll be wearing; while the weights aid in your descend, after a certain depth, it can work against you and pull you down faster than you realise; narcosis hits, you drown. That's how buoyancy works. (Read my post on the difference between diving in tropical waters vs the red sea) The Blue Hole is 110-150 meters deep, while the sea bed just outside of the sink hole is more than 400 meters deep. While I didn't have the courage to visit that tunnel, I would have in my more careless and adventurous youth. I will post a video at a later time once I compile the footages showcasing my dive at the bell and into the sink hole. What do you think? Given the chance, would you dive into the Blue Hole? [...]