Next stop: New York!

Credit: Ray Gasnick / Google Images

The girl on the go is going to be dazzled by the bright lights of the Big Apple!

I’ve always aspired to work and live in this metropolitan state — a hub for financial activity and a vibrant creative scene with food, fun and fashion; the origins of advertising’s Golden Age, any many more.

It’ll be a nice (read: long) road-trip circuit with stops in Philly, DC, Niagara Falls (we’ll be touring both the US and Canadian sides!), Boston, Montreal, Quebec City and others.

Keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t max out my credit cards on on the first day with Woodbury Commons being the second stop on the first day – I shall make every effort to resist the allures of shopping. Hum hum!

Ooh! And I’ll definitely have to start a regime to accommodate the calories during the trip. Cheesecake, cheeseburgers, cronuts, cupcakes, Shake Shack, Boston lobsters, pizzas and everything in between, here I come!

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Beautiful Krabi – Koh Phi Phi Don and other islands; Day Two

Day two of our trip was the day that I looked forward to the most! Koh Phi Phi Don was the stuff my island dreams and screensavers were made of – white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters and heaps of marine life.

Here's a picture of Phi Phi Island - gorgeous, ainnit?
Here’s a picture of Phi Phi Island – gorgeous, ainnit?

(Fun fact: much as I love the great outdoors and am quite the strong swimmer, I have an irrational and inexplicable fear of depths; not quite bathophobia where you fear the unknown depths, but when I look up and see a ton of water vertically above me… a friend’s termed it reverse vertigo – which has prevented me from taking up the diving certification.)

Prelude: getting the tour package
While my friend, M, and I were walking to the beach on the first day, we stumbled upon quite a number of shops in town, including massage parlours as well as travel agents.

We must have been really blessed because we managed to strike up a conversation with a lady who recommended the most beautiful tour of islands which suited our tight timings best, and the best part? We didn’t have to haggle – she gave us a 30% discount without us having to ask, seeing that it was the off-peak season (we went in late September!).

Our friendly tour operator (whose name eludes me now) booked us for a multi-island day tour at approximately S$40pp for a 5-motor speedboat Orchid Aonang – the largest, fastest ride which meant for the least amount of bumpiness and seasickness.

The itinerary (weather permitting – every travel agent’s most common caveat) included a visit to:
– Bamboo Island
– Monkey Bay
– Maya Bay
– Koh Phi Phi Don

It didn’t take much convincing for me to take up this tour v. the others available (Tiger Caves, hot springs and elephant treks etc.). It helped that it was well within the budget I’d allocated for the day tour – I was sold and out of the store within 10 minutes.

Day two!

After we’d had our fill at breakfast (we opted for a la carte as the buffet line wasn’t set up for that day  – turns out the resort was hosting a mere 5 – 7 guests at the time we were around!), we got dressed and a jeep came round to pick us up promptly at 9am, before collecting a few other fellow tour groupies, and we were off to the jetty!

I could hardly contain my excitement – was the boat gonna be semi-filled and were we going to have a somewhat private tour? Yep, a girl can dream! Our boat was packed with about 30 of us and indeed, the ride was like a dream!
(I don’t think M would agree, seeing how she is a tad motion-sensitive when it comes to watercraft.)

First stop: Bamboo Island

M and I did what most excited tourists would do – trekked for 5 minutes around the island before excitedly removing our cover-ups and jumping into the water! Boy, was it… salty. There were heaps of water twigs, vines and branches which I mistook for… water snakes. Needless to say, I wasn’t the happiest swimmer of the lot and got out very quickly. Didn’t help that my snorkel mask was ill-fitting! Our tour guide told us that there wasn’t much to do at Bamboo Island, except admire the view really. So, it was a really quick pit-stop before we moved on to… Monkey Bay!

Monkey Bay

Expecting to see the Island of the Apes from the name, I was quite let down when our tour guide told us the isle was quite devoid of monkeys because the monkeys were too crowd-shy for that day. Riiiiight. Moving along.

Maya Bay

Gorgeous Maya Bay

Okay, we didn’t quite make it to Maya Bay either – the tides and currents didn’t permit our entry so we stopped our boat in a quiet area outside the bay. But, that development didn’t mean that we couldn’t have fun jumping ship (quite literally!)!

M and I (along with the other passengers, of course) took turns jumping into the clear blue waters and snapping lots of photos of our stunning surroundings. Friends have said that nature’s one of the ways God speaks to us… and I agree – oh how awesome and majestic these creations art!

Apart from the snorkeling activity that was to come later, this was the highlight of our whole trip – jumping over and over and over again into the pristine, blue waters of the bay. Here’re two of my favourite photos in this area below, courtesy of Lady M : )

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Goofing off with the boat and posing before the series of jumps – I even jumped off the roof of the boat!

(FYI I got the bathers on the cheap at the beach town market for about S$10 – score!)

Koh Phi Phi Don
(Phi Phi’s main island)

Rounding up the day’s activities,  we stopped at the main island of Koh Phi Phi Don for lunch before we set off for some snorkelling – the highlight of our day trip!

There were so many things to see, taste and experience but I’ll just let the pictures do the talking instead for this bit! : )

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Some fruit to cheer up tired snorkellers!
Sweetest. Pineapples. Ever.
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Boat buddy having a quiet, pensive moment here.
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These are round starfish!
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Sea urchin – prickly creatures and I was too much of a wuss to try holding them!
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Sea urchin – up close and personal!
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The back side of the starfish from before and an unidentified shellfish. Hello!
Where I hung out for most of the journey – feeling the breeze in my face and the ocean spray on my feet… I got QUITE the burn. Sunblock up, my friends!
You can’t quite tell here, but I was both intrigued and frightened by the school of fish that swam to my face underwater. (The boat crew tossed bread chunks to attract them over!)

Closing thoughts

Krabi is a lovely place with great natural land- and sea-scapes. The people are nice, warm and things are affordable too! I’ll definitely return again, seeing the proximity to my country and the other islands yet unseen.

What I learned from this trip:
The importance of the Dry- Bag, SPF, Aloe Vera Gel and please,  invest in an underwater camera too.

More so than the hard facts, I learned more about the people of this world and the simple things.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, here goes –
If you keep an open mind and immerse yourself in the experience of being in a new environment, are open to making small talk with strangers and then establishing new friendships, you will find yourself having an enriching an full trip.

You will find also, that the key to happiness could lie in contentment, when you see that a lot of people around you are much happier with a lot less.

And, it costs you nothing to be kind and smile nor hurts to be nice to people! Even if you don’t speak the same language, y’all know “Hi!” (in the words of my intern’s mate).

Have fun – I know I always do! Too much, sometimes. : p

’til the next time,

C

Beautiful Krabi – Aonang; Day One

In the midst of the heaps of parties planned, I managed to squeeze a short get-away to quaint Krabi with a like-minded friend from school who’d also really liked the idea of a beach vacation! (Hurrah – ‘twas my 2nd trip to the land of smiles this year!)

Right after we had gone past the immigration clearance, we were whisked away by our friendly driver, Ost, in a roomy MPV for 10, though there was just the 2 of us.

During the 20-minute commute from the airport, we drove past quite a number of resorts that could have made the cut – but the minute we got out of the van, we were so glad that we’d went with our decision to stay at Aonang Phu Petra Resort:

Aonang Phu Petra
Serenity, peace & tranquillity epitomized.

With the warm hospitality, clean and comfy villa and of course the breath-taking hill-side view, I was more than happy to be lost in this little tropical paradise for the weekend.

Right after we’d unpacked and settled in, we got really hungry and opted to dine at the resort’s restaurant – Pad Thai (the quintessential savoury flat rice noodle dish) for her and Gai Pad Krapow (Holy basil and chicken stir-fry) with rice for me!

Gai Pad Krapow
This was really tasty.

And with our stomachs filled, we were set to explore the touristy town area on foot! It was nice that the resort has hourly shuttles scheduled to town and we happily bounced in though I suspect the both of us secretly feared that a sudden stop could’ve just tossed us both out of the truck…
I kid – the Thais are really careful and courteous drivers!  : )

Our first stop: 7-11 to grab some bottled water!

I embarrass myself at the amount of joy I derive from browsing supermarket racks back home in Singapore (Imagine a girl in her twenties getting into her zone; turning super quiet and wide-eyed as she takes the visual and copy information in of cookies, milk and whatnots).

… and alas, I had unwittingly lost myself in the aisles of Thai toiletries, snacks, foods and other items at this convenience store – the merchandise mix and package designs were so interesting! When she finally caught up with me, I was in disbelief when I was looking at a tower of cultured milk drinks – Yakult! In larger formats and more flavours! And they were priced so reasonably, I was positively addicted. (Well, more so coconuts than the cultured milk drink in this trip, really but heh!)

Cultured milk drinks galore!
That’s quite the variety of cultured milk drinks, wouldn’t you agree?

Being the spontaneous travel birds, we hadn’t planned an itinerary – so we relished the process of discovering Krabi town at our own pace – the little art galleries in the alleys, the beach, massage parlours (we went to one for a good THB200 massage where we both fell asleep!), souvenir stores and boutiques. We also managed to book ourselves an amazing day trip to some neighbouring islands.

More on that in the next post! In the meantime, I leave you with some pictures of our moments at the beach : )

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My Nanny

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All my life, I’ve been blessed with two moms – both of whom love me in equal ways and measure, more than I could ever deserve or expect. Besides my mother, there’s also the lady who attended to every need since I’ve met her as a not-so tiny (I was a 7-pounder newborn!) infant – my nanny.

You see, my mom made a conscious choice to return to work about 2 months after birth, and babycare options were rather limited in the ’80s; she had aging parents/in-laws, live-in domestic help was a rather new age option and my aunts had their own grandchildren to look after. She did the next best thing and approached the then Ministry of Children Services — to look for a nanny in their directory! She was introduced to this kindly lady who has cared for over 20 children in her career and her family (husband, daughter and son) who lived close by, and they hit it off! They were a close-knit family who lived simply and were also Cantonese- and English-speaking, like my family!

With my mom’s hectic work schedules, it meant that I’d be dropped off at Auntie’s after sunrise and picked up at dinner time. This continued for 2 years — during which, I had many firsts in their household; words, laughs, trips, falls, steps. Some of these were also captured on film, and my
“foster” family members still remember how I used to be as a child! 🙂

When the time came for me to be enrolled in pre-school, a live-in helper (we were also blessed with an angel, Sally! But that story’s for another time.) was engaged and the routine was disrupted. Naturally, I didn’t enjoy it immediately. But, with time, the hankering after Auntie gave way as school and other distractions eased the transition.

I’m glad Auntie and her family grew to be a part of my family; to keep the bond going strong, I’d sleep over at her place for a few days at the end of every school term — it was a lovely holiday where I’d be fussed over and pampered.

I could really see through this shared experience that it takes a village to raise a child!

Now, I find myself thinking of Auntie much, and though we do have catch-ups at family events, I realise I’m so caught up with other things that I’ve hardly more than a few moments with her, before I am whisked off to attend to something or someone else.

My conscience is pricked when I think of how my sense of wonderment as an infant; the joy of seeing her as a child is mirrored more from her responses to me these days – she really relishes our engagement opportunities, however scant or brief.

I realize through piecing fragments of conversations, that what I cannot deny any further, is happening: that the people we love will age for sure.

With the passage of time, I notice a few more grey hairs appear, the lines on faces start showing (as an effect of too many laughs and happy moments) and gradually, the physiology begins to fade.

It is also apparent that windows of conversation are limited – so I did what I should’ve done long ago: I picked up the phone and we talked – and oh how we talked, laughed, mused, reflected and reminisced about life and she also shared nuggets of wisdom through stories.

Of course, this conversation had to include questions from a concerned, well-meaning elder:

“Are you seeing anyone? Bring him to me so I can have a look…!”
(Too many to count serious; you’ll see him when it’s the right one.)

“Are you attending church regularly, and have you been saved?”
(Yes I am, don’t you worry!)

“Have you finally gotten round to getting your driver’s license?”
(Welllll. It’s always a work in progress… We’ll get there someday!)

When we had to end the call, she thanked me for calling and repeatedly (and genuinely meant this!) said that it was very lovely and nice speaking to me. She noted that there was a quality or way of speech that was different from just a few years before; that I’ve grown up. 🙂

I promised to make time for lunch and I know I will be making good on my word soon.

Make these special moments count, folks – the ones you love are worth every bit the time and effort. 🙂