Sunday, September 25, 2005

After Chiang Mai

Venerdi: D&G Verano/Inverno 2005/6 collezioni par Club 21 à Hilton.

It was a good holiday, but I came back more tired and less rejuvenated than one would expect. The moment I returned, there were emails and texts to revert and things to be done. One might even argue that going on a break during the Sept (or March) hols is considered punishing. Dening, just back from Bali, shares a similar view.

Architecture meeting on Thursday, followed by Urban Anthropology meeting on Friday. Plus lots of thinking in between. I continued to take more time off than I deserved: taking in bubbly at Park Infinia’s launch on Thursday with Kien, and then the Baccarat and D&G party on Friday. Surprise surprise, Colin and Serene were back in town to give form to D&G’s Fall/Winter collections on the catwalk. Just as the flow of bubbly ended, I walked out to see Valerie on her way out from Harbour Grill, all dressed to kill and looking fashionably wicked with her big hair.

Wrapped up Friday nicely with an evening of salsa with Prof Chee Kiong and classmates—Crystal, Elizabeth, Mabel, Serene—at Union Square.

Today is Saturday. I had myself imprisoned to get some real work done.

中秋赏月,2e Partie

Lanterns in a splendour of colours

Winston and I
Trad chic lanterns
Yaokang and I

At Sunny and Ivan’s, we had take-out from
Old Airport Road and Keong Saik Road to share—三捞,虾酱鸡,新洲米粉,炒饭。。。--followed by a mid-autumn evening session of Raffles Hotel’s champagne-, cognac-flavoured mooncakes, 大中国 双蛋黄 月饼。 How chinois the experience was.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

中秋赏月,1er Partie

Staking out in the Honors Seminar Room. For once, the intellectually-charged space lends itself to some much-deserved revelry. Me & Shaun in the background, together with some of the friendliest in our cohort: Zonghan, Valerie, Serene.

Yeong Chong brings on the bubbly. Shafaa, still on her high from her pictionary-victory!! ;)

Serene matches her dress cleverly with a pout and a lantern in a similar shade of yellow. Siti appears chinois with her cheongsam top.

Zonghan offers a generous dose of bubbly to Jiawei.

Sociology (students) brings (bring) beacons of light to NUS.

Yunshan points to a gaping hole in her lantern

Rooftop of xxx building: We made it that far. Valarie, Yeong Chong, Serene, Eugene (Dili), Cheryl, with Yunshan and Siti in the foreground.

Sociology Honours' pupils do it again. In the name of Mid-Autumn Festival, we threw a party in our Honors Room with lots of mooncakes, angkukway (s), and chips to share. We watched videos feat. Chee, played pictionary (the boys lost and had to mimic the dancing queens in the Idiot Boyfriends music video, quite a laugh~), popped the bubbly (which i happened to buy from a 24hr supermarket in Causeway Bay after an inebriated night out, bleargh), and brought beacons of light to NUS by way of old-school paper lanterns. Along the way, we lost a couple of lanterns to mini-bonfires, but we were cool. Watching the paper lanterns go up in flames, literally, was after all, extremely cathartic.

Driven to exile by the lack of any chilled and fresh air in our room, we decided to hightail it to Fong Seng where we had dinner and a pretty juicy conversation.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Arrivederci: Addio à Signore Darren

Darren and I: northern chinese flavours for lunch

Manarola, Cinque Terre: Darren contemplates, prosecco in hand.

Me, London: at the balcony of our roomy unit at Maddox No.5

Manarola, Cinque Terre: inviting azure waters, where many a moments were spent and etched in our minds.

Me, Largo di Garda: Lunching by Lake Garda, taking it ohsoeasy.

Milan: DSquared's show at a warehouse hangar in the Naviglio district during the menswear shows. A pair of Dean/Dan-spoofs came out a-sweeping to drive home the theme of the sixties American diner.

Monterosso, Cinque Terre: the harmony of umbrellas.

Kino, Ost Berlin, an der Karl Marx Allee/Avenue: A cinema called cinema. rich and austere interiors fit for Stalin's entourage in town to assess Ost Berlin's Five Year Plans during the Cold War era.

Tuesday after Emotions lecture. There was Darren to meet for the very last time before he returned to New York. At Holland Village, we settled for an afternoon of grazing at Crystal Jade’s La Mian Xiao Long Bao. The predictable selection was well-done, in my opinion. What surprised me was the mindblowing 凉菜 of cubes of marinated tofu with bits of century eggs mixed in. Why didn’t I see that in Beijing? Aww.

Somehow rather inevitably, we ended up talking about European holiday--i call(ed) it la petite euro voyage--together back in 2003. Under a month, we went east from London to Praha, then west to take in Berlin, Hamburg and then further south to Italy, with me winding up in Glasgow and Paris eventually while Darren trudged on to see Firenze and Venezia. What was really memorable for him was the lovely visit to Lake Garda/Largo di Garda where we stayed at Villa Feltrinelli. There was an open bar in our quaint and old school room, which meant we had bubbly quite readily everyday while picnicking and swimming in the lake! It was straight out of Talented Mr Ripley in Napoli, Amalfi, Roma e San Remo.

I remember Cinque Terre, off La Spezia and Genoa, for its excellent beaches where we swam, tanned and downed copious amounts of prosecco without giving heed to the heat. We had dinner at La Lanterna, a smallish restaurant perched on a tiny cliff, awash with the sounds of gently lapping waves of the Mediterranean; and it’s run by an effervescent Italian papa who speaks a smattering of English in an Italiano accent. We were so charmed by the fresh starter of steamed mussels that we ordered take-out the next evening, had it wrapped in aluminum foil, and snacked on it on a higher range of cliffs off the town of Riomaggiore.

There were other great moments. Ost Berlin for its edgy feel (esp Friedrichshain und Kreuzberg districts) and Milano for the explosive fashion sense and wicked aperitivo hours. Hmm, I wonder when I will be back.

And then I was jolted back to my senses again when, after the meal , Darren ran into his ex-RJ friends at the news stand, Shien and xxx who were back in Singapore for the hols from London and Stanford.

Me. I couldn’t resist smelling like 2003 again; I walked into Sasa and promptly paid for a 100 millimeters of Chanel Allure Pour Homme.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Take Five.

The September term break will be here soon and ought to pose as a brief symbolic break away from school. I have been putting in knee-jerk effort since Week One and it’s a little tiring. But Ron is having a harder time, juggling with an average of two presentations per module (and there are five).

I managed to get S$3.98 tickets on Tiger Airways to Chiang Mai, so I will be off this Sunday for a getaway. The recent flood of 15th August left the city centre more than knee-deep in water; I’m praying for more forgiving weather. Having done Chiang Mai previously in March (and having taken it so easy), I have plans to take things up a few notches this time and visit this really nice lodge and restaurant opened by a British-Thai couple in Chiang Dao, just an hour and a half away from Chiang Mai. If I have time, I’m certainly looking forward to cooking lessons and visits to (sadly commercialized) hill tribes and practice amateur anthropology. Of course, I meant to visit Pon and hang out, taking in the city’s languid charms, relaxing dinners along the Ping River, insouciant afternoons spent in cafes…

Sunday, September 11, 2005

My First Summer in Hong Kong.

Me: au train/MTR de Causeway Bay à Sheung Wan à 1240h.

Lin Heung: fragrant as hell, chicken steamed in walnut leaves. hou-sek!

Harvey Nicks has arrived at Landmark!

Lin Heung: beef siew mai

SecondFloorRetail: In land-scarce Hong Kong, the only way to go is up!

Causeway Bay: circular logic

Central: clash of the old and the new

Lin Heung: Ngau/Beef Cheong Fun

It’s my first time being in Hong Kong in summer. And boy was it hot. I was absolutely dripping with perspiration making my way from Sheung Wan to Central one rainy evening past midnight. During the long trek I took in sights like Wellington Street and Wyndham Street and quite a few chic florists worthy of being transplanted onto Avenue Montaigne at the Four Seasons George V/Paris. I had myself a whirl wind tour that brought back memories of old Hong Kong experiences at Rice Bar, Works, still-hip Dragon-I, eventually winding up at Propaganda/PP for quiet drinks. I ran into Raymond the Lou-Yeh with his boys again, and we did a bit of catching up. Barring the last time we saw each other in Happy/Singapore, our first and last time was way back in Xmas/2003 in Hong Kong, where a big group of us like Dennis, Singaporean residing in HK, Maggie Q (who threw a Xmas [Eve] dinner at Gaia/Sheung Wan, thanks to Pino, and baked us a cheese cake which we shared at Dennis’ spacious Midlevels apartment) went partying at Dragon-I and PP on Boxing Day after happy hour drinks at Post 97 and dinner at Indochine. We made a note to meet again the next time I was in Hong Kong and I slowly made my way out of SoHo. I descended into Central where I actually managed to catch a Mongkok-bound (by way of the Causeway Bay tunnel) minibus back to my hotel in Causeway Bay. On the way, 2 other gwai-mui (s) (white girls) hopped on the mini to take advantage of the HKD5 ride!

In the day, I was back in Central again to yum cha at the legendary Lin Heung near Chin Huat’s apartment, which Jeffrey and I so fancy. It’s dripping with old world charm, and authentic to the extent that its rough edges, uncommon dishes like beef siew mai(s) and take-no-nonsense staff all allude to a past era. I had a quick brunch of beef siew mai, chicken steamed in walnut leaves and beef fun cheong and a pot of heong pin to wash everything down.

I dropped by at Thye Cheong bakery at Lyndhurst Terrace, which sells Chris Patten’s and my fave daan taat in Hong Kong—but unfortunately, it’s closed down, or probably relocated. By then, beads of perspiration were already forming profusely. Eventually I settled for pineapple, honeydew, mandarin tarts at Kee Wah, another famous bakery. I triple-jumped into the store to get some air-conditioning when I saw its slick façade!

In typical Singaporean fashion, I was off to the next airconditioned mall, this time, the Landmark. Finally, Harvey Nicks has arrived in Hong Kong and occupies a small space in the Landmark Shopping Centre. It sure has a very, very refined air about it, just like Joyce/HK but better than HarveyNicks/London. Unfortunately, it suffers the misfortune of crammed conditions and lack of variety. Given more time, I’d eat at Fourth (or Fifth?) floor. I didn’t plan on lunching there because I was not sure if Harvey Nicks had already opened its doors to Hongkongers. Then, there’s the swanky Mandarin Oriental Landmark next door which is super cool with its Adam Tihany-designed restaurant, Amber, and bar, MO. Definitely worth a stop next trip.

This trip, however pleasant, to Hong Kong reminded me of unfriendly Hanoi. There’s a general cruel unfriendliness in the air, a certain lack of warmth (even in this 31 degree heat) in this city. Hongkongers can be ethnocentric to the extent that you, as a tourist, are expected to know how things work—any sort of hesitation or inability to make quick decisions when ordering at a restaurant for instance, like at Lin Heung, is not tolerated because it’s a plain waste of the staff’s time. Service personnel at the airport, Airport Express station or MTR stations will only dispense smiles at a cost, it seems. There is also a lack of eye contact and willingness to engage in this city.

Hanoians, like Hongkongers, work very hard for a living in societies dictated by the capitalist mode of production, imbued by a ‘Chinese’, work ethic which I would loosely term ‘Confucianist’. They, like Hong Kongers, are proud (perhaps to the point of being conceited) of their hard work and hard-earned money, and are unlikely to slow down a step to let emotions rear its head—unless you are their friend. On the façade, Hanoians present status is too humble to be compared to their affluent Pearl River Delta counterpart, but I have a feeling, based on the fact that Hanoi has been influenced by the Chinese culture for centuries and is geographically a Southern Chinese city after all (if not for the territorial demarcation introduced by Westerners), Hanoians are actually very similar to Hongkongers in their persuasions and will most likely come to have socio-economic trajectories similar to Hong Kong’s.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Room Warming Party

Zonghan, Serene, Gana (front to back)

Amos, Yunshan and Eugene, with Nadia and Shafaa in a friendly embrace.

Prof Chua Beng Huat makes an appearance

Who made konnyaku?

Nurul's creamy confection

Nadia's salad of fusili and tuna, very healthy and light.

My favourite! Pineapple Tarts from Kee Wah, Central, Hong Kong

Me, still sober after copious amounts of drinks at Guild House/NUS.

Malebonding: Yeong Chong and Yong Li the birthday boy

__, Shantini, Cherylynne, Eliss

Thanks to the great effort of our fellow sociologists, we’ve managed to get our Honours Room together. Let me shout out a big thank you to the key ‘movers and shakers’ who contributed to the beauty and newfound character of the room and those who provided us with great food and good company for the Room Warming Party tonight. Our professors also bought us rounds of drinks, accompanied by hot-off-the-oven chicken wings and satay, at the Guild House to round off a night of banter (and intellectual exchange on the side).

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mandala meets Medan upcloseandpersonal.

Me. circa July 2004. At Soekarno-Hatta in Jakarta, waiting to board Mandala Airlines to Yogyakarta

Holy shit. Mandala crashed into a Medan(Sumatra) town just moments after take-off. This happens just nine months after the Lion Air accident in which, if I didn’t recall wrongly, the aircraft split into two and caught fire after it skidded off from the runway and into the bushes in Solo(Java).

I have every reason to be jittery. I was a happy passenger on Mandala Air last July, flying from Jakarta to Yogyakarta to visit my friend Hata, and back on Bouraq Airlines. Sure I was thrilled—I paid a pittance for the one-hour flight. At just Rp.195,000., S$40 one way (tax—and only domestic airport tax, Rp20,000, S$4), the ticket that Hata bought and paid on my behalf was a steal. On board, there was assigned seating and they even threw in a sandwich and mineral water. With close to a hundred flights a day shuttling between the two cities, there was intense competition among the various airlines (nine, ten?)—new start ups then like Adam Air, Jatayu Airlines etc—these regular airlines were beginning to look like budget airlines with their cutthroat pricing system.

My point is: the aviation record seems rather questionable. I don’t have solid evidence but I don’t have a very good feeling, especially after the two recent incidents. So never mind the low fares, I would be abstaining from Indonesia's homegrown airlines.


I feel so dogged after a busy weekend.
Today there was one Contemporary Social Theory lesson, one Concept Formation presentation and 3 V Mag deadlines for October 2005. I want to get the stories in by tomorrow by hook or by crook. You go grrl.

But let's not forget there's good news. My friend handling the International Delegates and Media, William, called from KL today to invite me to cover the KLAFW in Kuala Lumpur come November. As expected, it'd be a cushy trip, zipping off to KL on a shuttle flight after my third paper (at the height of exam season, Semester 1 of 2005/2006) for 3 nights, check out the KL Six (Tom Abang Saufi and Bernard Chandan the wonder(s)!), attend the gala awards, and then rush back to NUS/Singapore for my fourth and fifth back-to-back papers-- I should come back very inspired to contribute to the body of knowledge in Contemporary Social Theory and Concept Formation, I'm sure.

Close to two Mondays ago, I ran into Lionel Seah outside the Sociology Seminar Room and I said hello. Turns out he was in NUS to assess the style quotient of our students. I happily obliged and offered my two cents worth.

Fast forward to September the Fifth.

Over the past week leading from Thursday, I have had classmates coming up to me to double-check if I was that certain Dennis She that Lionel Seah quoted in Undergrads Underdressed?, a story that appeared in the Urban pullout section of The Straits Times. I was quoted as saying "Law and Arts are well-dressed but the medical and engineering people dress as if their clothes are bought from a pasar malam". Erm. Darling, I understand that Lionel is quite the busy fashion editor, but I am not sure if I really did mention 'pasar malam'. (May I check the transcript please?) Second, I did comment on how the undergrads from the Science faculty are comparatively sartorially-challenged, but the reporter understood 'Science faculty' as a catch-all term denoting the likes of Engineering and Medicine faculties--that does not reflect my exact sentiment. Finally, let me add as a final remark that it's possible to appear chic and clued-in even in a seemingly casual albeit extremely instrumental (think, in this heat~) getup of berms and tees/shirts: it's a matter of pulling the right pieces together in a studied look that alludes more to a post-CinqueTerre afternoon in La Spezia than a slimy morning spent trawling the wet market.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Social Immortality

Our Lady, in Xinhui County/Guangdong Province, Décembre 2004.

Our Lady with my Third Uncle/ Zhuhai.

Our Lady's 故居,Xinhui County

Our Lady catches up with the folks.

My grandmamma left today at 0610; no one caught her at her very last breath. She may not have lived beyond eighty-three, but her spirit lives.


I have to leave. It's tiring. Even if there's no ICN/ORD this time round, there'd be more next.