Sunday, August 28, 2005

Let Darren be the new Koolhaas

C'est une réunion! Me/Darren.

Macaroons in a trio of flavours: pistachio, chocolate, hazelnut.

ACM: The rich glory of the Vatican world as staged at our Asian Civilisations Museum/Singapore.

Kien, Yaokang, Kevin, Zhiwei partake of a smattering of crème brulée et les autres. Vive le sucre!

Delightful: check out the hazelnut flava!

D, Darren, Chris

Ivan, Sunny, Ron Tan, Jeffrey, Kien

I miss my macaroons. Last time I had them was at Lenôtre Cafe (Lang Suan/Chidlom) in Bangkok.

Saturday was a rushed day. I actually managed to squeeze in quite a bit today: visit my grandmamma in hospital (to wish her strength and that she continues to be in great health. Ps: how does one face death? Is life insurance the new ritual in contemporary society?), a trip to the supermarket to replenish groceries with my mamma and even a visit to the Asian Civilisations Museum.

A certain acquaintance I know dissed the ACM as being total crap, rationalizing that in terms of curating, the permanent displays aren’t amazing and that some of them are simply scoured from homes of the rich in Singapore (case in point: the Sulawesian jewellery that we see sitting in all their atas glory in the museum are but cheap nothings of a certain Mr Tatler who bought them for next to nothing in Indonesia). Whatever. I didn’t take very kindly to what he said, especially with the understanding that the ACM is a good effort.

This time, I was there for the VaticanJourney of Faith’ exhibition with Ron, Kien and Yaokang. Granted it was religiosity in your face, it was still a worthy exercise at getting a sense of the cultural milieu in which the architecture belongs. During my 5hour transit in Fiumicino, I only had the chance to have a quick lunch of selected antipasti e prosecco, plus a quick hello to the Colosseo and Piazza di Spagna as well as made off with two Italian shirts of the (2002)-moment--no time to see the Vatican! FYI, I’m reading a module called Theory and History of Western Architecture at the School of Architecture now and my professor Li Shiqiao suggested it would be useful to have a look at the exhibition. And so, half the time, Ron and I were making sense of the types of columns in buildings, use of entasis in columns, and relating to the bodies of theories which we have been exposed to. I’ve got lots more reading to do in this largely new field and I’m seriously warning myself that it's beyond name-dropping Corbusier, van der Rohe, and Hadid.

Finally, I got to meet Darren this evening together with the boys. Happy! He’s been back from New York for a week and is staying through coming Sunday; school at Columbia doesn’t start till early September. I know his mind is still on architecture even as he catches up with us over bites of nasi lemak and popiah, or macaroon(s) at Bakerzin for that matter. His ex-schoolmate, Mark, also just back in Singapore (for a break from college in Ontario), was also present to join for us for our evening passegiata from Esplanade to One Fullerton, where we lingered over a really long conversation: talking about night-outs in Manhattan’s clubs like XL, Hell’s Kitchen, Roxy, drinks at MEPA’s Hotel Ganservoort and Maritime Hotel; exchanging views on how cultural context shape buildings, and in turn how people as audience give shape, form and meaning to buildings, both being sort of mutually constitutive; Haussmann's Paris; Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi's fabulous project, Commune by the Great Wall; and Darren citing the Koolhaas-ian notion of organic, non-Eurocentric urban planning theories for Asian cities (to which I give an anti-Orientalist thumbs up).

Saturday, August 27, 2005

La Bibliothèque Nationale

Une Bibliothèque: Sédate, calme, inspiré

Une vue de la core de la bibliotheque: quelle luminosité.

Has anyone been to the newly-opened National Library lately? Academia just got a major shot in the arm with this spanking new, high-rise edificio. Look how the face of the urban Civic District’s about to change as National Library opens, accompanied by the new compounds of the Singapore Management University. I’m hoping for a new spirit to spice up the scene in Singapore.

On the side, Jeffrey and I have discovered great deals to Manila on L’aviation Tigre and we are thinking of going there during the NTU/NUS’ September school holidays to pay Bryanboy a visit and live it up in the excellent restaurants, bars and clubs that Bryan mentions ever so often: Embassy, Cuisine, La Embajada, Manila DJ Club, Godskitchen. Manila appears to be more gentrified and parles more Anglais than we thought. It could be a fun place. Could Manila be the new Bangkok?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Raqie Returns (and goes West)

des vrais jumeaus Raqie (qui a rentré de Melbourne) et Zakie; avec moi entre les deux.
trois fois le trouble: Zakie, Sidique, Raqie

It’s not very common that I go to Holland Village twice in 3 days. I go to school and I lead a real life. Late last week, I had friends, Zakie and Sidique coming from the East. Long sick of Siglap, they are finally wheeling it here to the West by way of ECP. Friday after school was a lazy evening spent picking at seafood glass noodle salads at Thai Express (still as sparkling and cheerful as ever, albeit way more expensive than what I would pay on Soi Convent or even Greyhound Café/Emporium Shopping Centre. Grr.) and then coffee at TCC, a lepak manner of easing ourselves into the weekend. Come Sunday, the addiction just got more intense. Raqie, Zakie’s twin, was fresh from his Melbourne high and feeling more St Kilda’s than Siglap. After one month spent frolicking under the cushy duvet with his girlfriend, Teresia, in wintry-Melbourne (so cold he had this thermals on), he’s probably not quite ready to leave. So back in Singapore, he sped to Holland Village (looking for Melbourne perhaps), armed with his twin and Sidique, to have coffee with me and dinner yet again at Thai Express.

So lazy was this weekend I accomplished very little before Monday came.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Tolerance is a Virtue

Today there was one person with little capacity for tolerance, flaring up in its insides and projecting its (not unreasonable) grievances subtly yet pointedly--in a calculated fashion-- at some others. Was it a volcanic eruption or trèmble de terre à la scale de 8.5? No clue.

I am not happy.

Guest: Le Deuxième

William et moi: nous nous sentons comme des garçons de la ville

Gary et William: un certain regarde/amour dans l'atmosphère

Last weekend, I had guests in town again, this time from Kuala Lumpur. William, my fabulous KL party pal was here with a very good friend, Gary, and major close pal, Cass. There was no strict itinerary to follow, this being a leisure trip, except for a quick visit to Men’s Folio Singapore to say hello. Dodging the rain last rainy Saturday afternoon, we went indoors to have coffee, shopped in the day, taking it very easy before our night out. Thanks to Ron’s excellent company, I found it effortless playing the gracious and effervescent host as we headed to Mox for drinks.

It was then I felt as clueless as my guests—I knew no one in the bar, I was going to lit up my cigarette in the non-smoking bar, and almost forgot where the boys’ rooms were. I have been going out too infrequently in Singapore to have a good grip of the scene. As an aside, I have had little reason to go to the bars and clubs in a Singapore where places aren’t reinventing ingeniously fast enough (there’s word about a MOS at the AlsopArchitects-designed Cannery, but I am not holding my breath)—same place, same music, same people, from 1998 (when I was seventeen) till 2005, ad nauseum. A night out in another city in any bar is far more exciting, greater variety, and a major change of scene; and so I find myself going out more often when I am out of the country. Back in Singapore, my only motivation comes from my guests in town or some major occasion like a friend’s birthday.

Adjourning to Happy, we found our experience going up quite a few notches as we downed jugs of vodka cranberry and Bacardi orange sodas. Looks like we were not the only ones there: I ran into Markus, Ryan and Paul, as well as Thomas, a friend I last partied with at DJ Station/Bangkok (and has been coming to Singapore so incred often~) who didn’t tell me he’s in town! Dancing with good o’, up-for-it Ron was probably the greatest thing: a throwback to our partying days during which we were in the military, but such high spirits are extremely hard to replicate and reproduce as we get older, savvier and also more jaded. We ended up at Maxwell for supper (so that our guests could have a more complete experience) before sending them back to Gallery Hotel. Judging from their happy faces, I believe they will be back soon.

Markus’ Homecoming.

Francis, Markus, Ryan.

D, Jeffrey, Ron: Violent Happy.

In yet another of our Saturday night dinners with the boys, this time we were meeting for a cause. Markus, the boys’ good pal from their Chinese High/Hwa Chong days had just returned to Singapore for a breather from a cushy two year job in Shanghai. Brief as the evening was, the rather bland dining experience (what would you expect from cuisine allemande??) at Werner’s Oven was spiced up by Markus’ anecdotes and time well-spent in Shanghai (even Jeffrey had his two cents’ worth on his recent six-month internship in Shanghai, heh). The best bit was when he talked about him throwing house parties in his apartment not far from Plaza 66, doing the 北上广circuit, and going to Shangri-la, quite a beautiful spot within reasonable distance from Chengdu. Even if my maincourse of schmorbraten wasn’t making me salivate, Markus’ experiences were. In fact, I should be redeeming my Krisflyer miles soon and hightail it to Shanghai.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Over at Sunny and Ivan’s

Spoofing, but with all due respect: Photography is His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s favourite past time and I can’t help but feel that picture alludes to that, presenting a very royal moment. Me, surrounded by my esteemed royalties. Ron, Chris, Kien à ma gauche, et Yaokang à ma droite.
Photo: Winston Leong.
Ivan and Sunny, slicin’ in motion

Yaokang messes around with Kien's fashionable crowning glory


Zhiwei, Kevin; fatigué à la fin.

Ron looks on intently while Francis gives the background form and shape.

The National Day weekend may long be over, but memories steeped in high spirits endure. Armed with tubs of ice-cream and an array of great chips like Natural Flavours (Honey Dijon), I cabbed over to Sunny and Ivan’s place with Chris. It’s a nice pad high on the ethnic chic quotient, but unfortunately, I haven’t taken any pictures that will do the owners justice! The pair carved out a nice, plush and understated interior from a nondescript shop house unit in Geylang, ethnic-accenting it with pieces of furniture (like beds, cupboards) custom-made in Chiang Mai. There’s even a weathered, old-school, winding staircase that brought guests to the rooftop where we barbecued wings and partook of limoncello and chips with Yaokang’s addictive dip (a mayo-wasabi concoction). We also shared stories (Chris’ recent talent-scouting work trip in Bangalore, my unpleasant bout of sickness post-Pekin, Ryan recalling LAX, Zhiwei just back from KL with Kevin…) while picking at fried vermicelli and mee goreng doggy packed by the hosts from No Sign Board eatery, claypot rice from Geylang Lorong 33, Sunny’s potato-egg salad which was a little on the sweet side, but made a luscious dessert nonetheless. Ron bought us Katong’s famous otah and a chocolate cake from home; paired with Winston’s lychee liquor, there was very little room for anything else after that except for free-flowing conversations.

We were very happy.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Cupple, Propaganda store, Bangkok

Forgive me, but I had to be in Kuala Lumpur for work and had to miss Kevin’s birthday dinner. I’ve not forgotten about the gift nonetheless. A Cupple set of cup and saucer I picked up from the Propaganda store in Bangkok in June. This cute ensemble is an ornamental treasure if you don’t do hot drinks. Oh Propaganda is such a treasure—does anyone remember the legendary Saltepper (sic) Salt and Pepper Shaker (1999) designed by Chaiyut P and his team at Propaganda? Flip the saucer over, lodge the cup’s ear firmly in the rubber depression, and there you have it, a symbolic stereo. Happy Birthday Kevin!

Un Moment Luxueux

You know I am quite the Bangkok aficionado.

While pouring through a spate of wonderful and well-written English blogs by the denizens of Bangkok, I pounced upon Pipsy and her wonderful weekend villa-stays in Hua Hin/Pranburi. How was I to know that upon passing on the link to good friend Ron, he discovered magic under one of Pipsy's links.

Welcome to Bryanboy's blog, as Ron would happily declare.

Agreed. Bryan is luxury embodied, blogs about his life in Manila with great wit and has a deft grip of the English language, all while casually peppering a smattering of Français beyond the usual limited pool of [excusez-moi, (qu'est que c'est) du jour, très (adjectif mis en place)]--putting many yawn-worthy and carelessly-crafted blogs from our heartland to shame: a worthy personnage indeed. He is clued-in and exhibits great taste as far as words are concerned, even if some are on the blasé side:

Le Superstar Fabuleux

Adventures of the new-moneyed classess bitch from hell. Vulgarity is the new discreet. Trash is the new exclusivity. Third world has never been this *burp* chic. You just have to scroll down as in down!

Oh, did I mention that his clique also appears with-it enough to rival Bangkok's hiso(s)?

Say hello to Bryan this side of Makati City!

sexy-do-nothing routine

Il n’y a pas un meilleur moment que maintenant: armchair travelling et pour le mieux.

Jeffrey. Une sourire perfectionnée

There’s nothing better than waking up late on Saturday morning and doing brunches at Marmalade Pantry and rounding it off with their cute limonata cupcakes.

Going to the beach comes a close second. Taking inspiration from Christopher Petkanas’s story, Siren Song, in Travel + Leisure, Jeffrey and I drove to Sentosa’s Siloso beach to indulge in our sexy-do-nothing routine; we made like it was Pantellaria, feeling more Sicilia than Singapura. Petkanas wrote, “In no time, we settled into the sexy-do-nothing routine the island is prized for. The rhythm of our days was dictated by the sun. After lunch, we’d lie about waiting for the temperature to creep down”. While there were no sexy pasticceria(s), flutes of prosecco and ricotta cakes to lull us into believing we were truly on Pantellaria, there was the sun, sand, random hot bodies and National Geographic Traveler (China edition from Peking) to put us in such a mood.

We promptly laid out our to-go beach mat from Krabi and eased into the routine.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Shanghai Baby.

Huiling et moi, à Zouk

les garçons à la plage: Samuel, Lenco, Gilson

Huiling et moi, encore, à la plage de Siloso

les filles Patricia, Huiling, Christina: celibataire, confiant et disponible

It’s been a good one week since Huiling left for Shanghai. Thanks to National University of Singapore/ NUS’ Overseas College (NOC) program, she’s spending a year attached to Hewlett Packett as a Purchasing Executive, and also spending some time on the side reading modules pertaining to technopreneurship, business and Chinese culture at the esteemed Fudan University where the crème de la crème of China participates in intellectual exchange; preparing to take on the world.

During the weeks leading up to her departure, we had a series of farewell parties held in her honour. She threw a party at her house a week before leaving, inviting forty of her closest friends for an intimate soirée, bonding over sweet and sour pork, lasagna, bruschetta with marinated and diced tomatoes, otah, macaroni salad, kebabs and the like. My pals—from LAF1201/Elementary French class, 4 semesters back—and I bought her a chic notebook from style-savvy stationary shop, Prints, so that she can put her thoughts on paper (thank you Edmund!), but it looks like she may not need it now with her new Xanga blog ;) A sizeable entourage then adjourned to Phuture/Wednesday with Huiling where we carved out our own space downing lambourghinis, sour apple shooters, e33s and other mixes; lapping up the great company and forgetting for a moment that Huiling’s leaving. Later on we moved on to Zouk to take in the cheese; and as the sound systems belted out familiar crowd-pleasing favourites to the tune of “oh plea--ase… won’t you stay a little longer…”, I felt a mild pang of grief, and it suddenly hit me that Huiling was really, really leaving. The final goodbye came that Friday when our lot went to Sentosa for a spot of tanning and a round of beach volleyball…

And sure, we would miss her for her youthful vigour and spirit, and flavourful presence when we go to parties together, tanning at NUS’ pool, lunches at Arts Canteen, French lessons with the Francophiles.

Can she take on Shanghai? Even though she expresses great ambivalence towards adapting in so chinois a city, I think frequent visits to more cosmo spots like Bund 18, Three on the Bund, or even MoGanShan (an art district like Beijing’s Dashanzi, where art galleries are housed in old factories) should sooth her senses comfortably in a city in transition like Shanghai. Thankfully, I also managed to tap on some old contacts, and soon, they’d be bringing Huiling out for coffee, and hopefully, even dinner in their homes! My friend, Bill, an ex-editor of a Chinese daily is now studying Deutsch in Berlin, but has managed to activate his friends to get them in touch with Huiling, one of them being Monica, an ex-intern at his daily. My other Singapore friend Ginny knows a Shanghainese (Vicky/Huifen) in her school, Melbourne University, and Vicky has been kind to introduce some really local Shanghainese contacts to Huiling. Finally, my Bangkok friend, Chad, has a well-heeled Thai friend, Chong, studying Chinese in Shanghai—let’s hope he shows Huiling how to have a good time in Shanghai. =)

What better way to make Huiling feel comfortable than to pay her a visit the next (school) holiday? If everything goes according to plan, I shall redeem my miles on Krisflyer and make a trip to Shanghai and ask the girl to show me the town. We’ll eat xiaolongbaos, drink tea and speak Shanghainese. What a great way to spend winter.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Kuala Lumpur’s Underrated Beauty

C'est Moi encore; in the reflection of an elaborately-carved, wood-framed mirror at the Kuala Lumpur Crafts Complex.

KL is so near yet so far.

I could coach there in six hours, or fly there and spend a good four hours from point to point. But either way, it’s quite a chore so I end up going to Bangkok more often.

The lure of friends is what keeps me going back, however. William, a journalist whom I met on a junket to Ancona/Italy, is one person I hang out with pretty often in KL. We managed to touch base on Friday night at Liquid’s relaunch party, after which we drove off to Frangipani with his friend Ken (self-professed mediawhore who happens to own the Apothecary at Lot 10; Annick Goutal, Aesop!) and Melvin (ex-Publisher of V Magazine). The vibe’s great as usual, chilled and upbeat all at the same time. Like a fabulous host, William introduced me to more than a dozen faces that night, of which, Brian/Bryan seemed most agreeable—and dare I say it—stunning. I didn’t even get to say hello to my Fashion Editor, Brian, until the end of the night. We met for coffee again on Sunday afternoon together with Kelvin at San Francisco Coffee/Lot 10 (which is the all-time Boys’ Central), and even had time to drop by at Low Yat Plaza to grab a few DVDs.

I also met Kin, who picked me up at my lobby at Nikko Hotel, and we had tea at Aseana Café. I’ve come to realize that it’s a really beautiful place with great clothes, homewares, and even food and crowd to boot! (Hats off to Farah Khan. Does good friend Lorraine Hahn get many goodies and private viewing when new collections come in?) As Kin laboured over his lunch of rojak and porridge, he took pains to tell me about his new concept for his soon-to-be-revamped Igewels jewellery store. Thanks to the tight schedule, we didn’t get to make it to Klang for seafood, nor the drool-worthy bakuteh done in a dry fashion—the soup comes on the side while the main portion of pork is piqued with spices and jiuhuchar. We both felt it was a shame that we didn’t get to see his new, beautiful home in Bangsar (an area which is burgled quite often unfortunately; Kin lost RM 6000 and audio equipment from his car in a wink), which would surely be what my editors at V Magazine are looking for. So small is KL, that I ran into Kin and his friend Robert (just back from the warzone that is London) at a really popular eatery on Jalan Alor on the night before my departure. But no matter, I’ll come back again in a few months, and also catch Wai Kit, former Chief Editor at V Magazine, with whom I work closely with. I’m also waiting for William to send me an invite to the Malaysian International Fashion Awards come November. =)

Oh and did I mention that I was in KL for work?

As a guest of Tourism Malaysian, we were hosted in Kuala Lumpur for a six-day media junket at the service-driven Nikko Hotel, and were brought on a whirlwind tour of the malls (Curve, Starhill Gallery, KLCC), shows during Utusan Melayu’s Fashion Week (featuring batik and bumiputra splendour) and various other touristy sights. What was very beautiful about this trip was that I saw a very beautiful side of KL that I’ve never seen. And how apt that I should see it only ten years after my first trip to KL when I was fourteen, and with my Klangite friend.

At the touristy Saloma restaurant with its uninspired buffet selection, I saw the richness and great colours of a (Malay) culture that I previously knew little about. The costumes on the bodies of the abled dancers came alive under the spotlight, and for once, I was rooted to my chair. Equally mesmerizing was the wedding ceremony exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Crafts complex where I saw displays, ornaments, costumes and the works in pink, gold and light green—refreshing and pompous at the same time, creative and inspiring all the same. On the fashion front, trad-chic Noor Arfa and recently (and in an even greater way) Tom Abang Saufi have been bringing batik and ethnic wear to more fashionable frontiers—even Jimmy Choo would be proud.

Over the years since Putrajaya came into being, very little publicity has been done for the extremely, unjustly underrated township, which I rate the best attraction of the Selangor state, ever. As an A-list sight, it is calm, stately and magnificent with a hint of Islamia in its government offices and edifices, broad and grand boulevards, the modern Vision bridge and the sight of the awesome mosque in the distance. If this is the new face of KL, I am relocating and first in line! I highly recommend a day devoted to a close study of the buildings in the area; I wonder if Cyberjaya is as breathtaking. The well-designed and informative Royal Selangor Pewter Gallery has also been bypassed in favour of shopping in Bintang; apart from plugging pewter creatively, there is also a School of Hard Knocks where I learnt to knock characters (essentially just my name and date) into a pewter bowl; it then becomes a visitor’s souvenir afterwards.

Even Starhill Gallery is shaping up as the new Gaysorn Plaza (Chitlom, Bangkok) as it opens its newly-refurbished doors. Gaysorn Plaza, formerly a quiet shopping mall in the late nineties, has rejuvenated itself and wrestled excellent tenants and shoppers from worthy competitor, Emporium Shopping Centre. And at the hopeful Starhill Gallery, pots of lengthy twigs as well as sprigs of fresh green slender leaves have been placed in calculated positions to evoke a certain sense of luxury in the interiors, while Francis Yeoh’s YTL management has lured even the likes of Asprey to set up a store there. The Feast level in the basement plays host to a varied mix of restaurants, of which the most promising are Singaporean-owned Vansh, a North Indian restaurant, the newly-chic, Hong Kong-owned Luk Yu Tea House, and Bangkok-owned My Thai by Jim Thompson eatery which was playing contemporary Thai pop at lunch hour. A very beautiful mirrored passage way punctuated by gleaming lights has been tastefully constructed to link Starhill Gallery to Marriott Hotel; remember the Swarovski-studded interiors of the washrooms in London's Sketch? (Marriott Hotel, however, is not scoring points with me for its small and overpriced rooms at RM360, compared to generously big ones at Shangri-la at RM225.) Perhaps I might also add that Arabs would soon become a permanent mobile fixture at the Starhill Gallery as their spending power is unsurpassed; of late, Arab has become KL’s unofficial third language, appearing in tourist publications, maps and even entry/exit signs at key tourist sights; halal food, kebabs and doses of shisha are all aplenty in the Bintang district.

As the trip wound to an end, I was surprised to find Ron in KL. I came back one evening from a late-night dinner and there he was sitting in the lobby of Nikko Hotel nursing a mock mojito. We talked for the next four hours before turning in, and spent the next morning browsing the heartlander Ampang Mall, where I packed off a box of baklava for my family, with fellow journo, Shazna. If only Ron had arrived a few days before, we could have gone out to see the town together, but oh well. And before long, we found ourselves in the hotel’s car bound for KLIA for the cumbersome one-hour flight (but four hour journey) back to Singapore.

It’s an Honour.

Ohla! Today’s the first day of school and it’s a 5K module. Titled SC 5201 Concept Formation and Theory Building, it does sound a little daunting. But I was sold right away when my professor Alatas did the sales pitch when I was in school. He cited that it’d draw from works discussed in previous modules like Religion (chiefly conceptual issues like the Problem of Defining Religion) and Interpretive Sociology (Weber’s Protestant Ethic, Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia). Understanding how concepts come to be formed in Sociology is a very interesting and necessary intellectual exercise. We’d also be tackling marginal concepts (those introduced by marginalized groups like women/gays), Sociology as Sorcery, and the Sociology of Concepts (how the similar concepts could be more different than we think, when they are conceptualized and understood in different societies, time frame and milieu).

Glad to see that there are more people than I thought. 13 is a comfortable. I saw only two persons bidding earlier—not exactly conducive an environment for bouncing ideas off each other. There are familiar students from last year’s Honours class who are now Masters students. I have two other fellow Honours level classmates, as well as a whole host of graduate students from varying backgrounds: working adults, one Danish, one Filipino, a few Chinese nationals. And Monsieur Alatas himself to add to the cosmo mix. Délicieux.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Johor Bahru

C'est Moi
et Ron
Chilli Crabs
Malcolm, le bon gentilhomme taking a dig at the calamari!

Cheap. What good does it do for us when the element of good taste is sorely lacking? How cheap is JB anyway? But get away we will. Living in tiny Singapore—I cant emphasize this enough—it’s imperative that we take off every now and then to shake off the feeling of claustrophobia. I think the denizens of teeny-weeny Macau and Monaco share similar sentiments as they make the under-15minute short hop to Zhuhai and Nice (or Grasse/Banlieu Sur Mer if they so fancy) respectively to get a feel of the greater world out there.

Speaking of cheap, Bangkok is way cheaper. And (good) taste is guaranteed—if you know where to look. Follow the cheesed out set, oh bollocks, don’t blame it on Bangkok when you end up at MBK, in Patpong or on Khao San Road (and whining there ain’t no cool Bangkok), you did yourself in on this one. On a positive note, if anyone’s paying any attention to Thonglor’s rise, you’d know there’s H1, J Avenue, Playground, and Noble Developmentt is even thinking of upping the ante by building a more upmarket version of H1. Ooh, bling it on~

But to its credit, the food in Johor Bahru is not bad. Jeffrey and Malcolm bought Ron and I dinner at Taman Sentosa (not bad, even if it’s not the best; and more parking space needed, really) where we had succulent Johorean calamaris, chilli crab, stir-fried kailan, jiaohuaji and more.

Let me set for the record that what we enjoyed more was the excellent company more so than the food (doggybagged matisus and shaobaos) or shopping (managed to get Yon’s Colour Blossoms, Tsai’s Wayward Cloud, Tsui’s Seven Swords yay!)

Pair that with the major change of scene, and you could be feeling, well, you aren’t in Singapore.

ps: Jeff, did you like the MarcNewson-green ashtray from Loft/Bangkok? ^^

Thursday, August 04, 2005


V Tea Room, Esplanade, Singapore.

Vanilla Room, Playground, Bangkok.

Playground, Sukhumvit Soi 55, Thonglor 18/20, Bangkok.

Last weekend, Wisnu sprang a surprise on me when he text--while I was having a game of beach volleyball at Siloso Beach--to say he was boarding the next TG flight to Singapore. Coming from a wedding in Jakarta, he was in town for just two nights before zipping off to Bangkok. I decided to play the gracious host since his good friend, Hata, gave me a fabulous tour and even greater memories of Yogyakarta last summer. (Bali was magic.) Trapped in the rain, we ended up lunching at Harbourfront instead of going to Sentosa. I ordered yongtaufoo and fried carrot cake, which turned out to be more than we could finish, since he already had a serving of chicken rice. No idea if he liked it. ;)

Exasperated by my inability to speak Bahasa Indonesia, I thought it wise to bring him on a visually-stimulating tour rather than one steeped in conversations and personal experience/anecdotes. Orchard Road was the obvious choice, where he piled on kitschy souvenirs screaming Singapore. Esplanade’s durian glory was another Kodak moment; so I helped him snap lots. We finally wound up at the V Tea Room, which reminded me of a Sunday afternoon back in April. At the wicked multi-label store called Playground in Bangkok, I brought my host, Chad, and his British guests to brunch at its ground floor café called Vanilla Room, which was not only charmingly Victorian (old school design and attendants in matron uniforms blew me away) but also deliciously chocolate. Back at the V Tea Room/Esplanade, I ran through the Bangkok images in the deep recesses of my memory as we sipped our caffé(s) in relative silence, watching the rain beat down the streets of One Raffles Boulevard.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ron’s Birthday Do.



Yay. It’s Ron’s 24th. We walked into Lao Beijing at Plaza Singapura and ordered more than we could finish. huiguorou, Slivers of pork to be fed into tofu layers (and later to be transformed into wantons in the magic hands of the birthday boy), Double-boiled soup of lingzhi and pork, Beijing-style noodles, sanbeiji (a stew of chicken infused with a portion of vinegar, another of wine and yet another of sugar). Thankfully portions were smaller than the agrarian/humongous ones that Ron was fed during his many trips (six) to Beijing previously. Needless to say, I thank Lao Beijing for not stuffing me to the gills even before I finish my Xidan dandanmian. A few weeks ago, I didn’t even get to try the roubing(s) in a particular hutong after I was done with my zhajiangmian.

At Lao Beijing, something nasty happened on our way to bliss. We had a family (not Singaporean, I'm sure) of four next to us. There were these two boisterous teenage sons (eighteen looking sixteen)—ugly boys with bad taste—who took off their lousy shoes to try on their cheap Adidases and treated us to a round of Hongkong feet on the house. As if that wasn’t enough, they also spewed bad English and evoked even more bad English from their parents as the latter was keen to demonstrate to our table some semblance of linguistic ability. They were better off speaking Cantonese as they do in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

At the Twin Towers Sky Bridge, Kuala Lumpur

photo: Rosli, commissioned by Tourism Malaysia.
The Journalists and I