Saturday, 29 December 2007

突然很想回家 Suddenly miss home (Shanghai Day 4)

I've been betrayed by the weather forecast! Before I left for Shanghai, I checked on the internet the weather forecast for the following week. The average temperature was not lower than 5dc and I have packed exactly enough clothes for that weather.

However, on the 2nd day after I arrived in Shanghai, I was told that the temperature over the weekend will drop to zero and even negative on New Year's day! And sure, I felt it today. As I was leaving office at 8pm tonight, I felt the cold wind rushed towards me (cold current from Siberia as I was told). It was about 3dc although it felt colder than that. Suddenly, I missed the sunshine and the heat back home. I promised myself that one of the first things I will do when I return home is to bathe myself in the sun and enjoy the warm, damp air.

When will it be a better time to have a hotpot than a cold day like this?

My colleagues and I had dinner at this hotpot place (shop's name is 豆捞, which is literal translation from the English word "Dollar"). We ordered a plate of assorted meat and I said okay even though I probably won't eat much. They were meant for my colleagues to "nourish" themselves (补一补)after eating only veggie, tofu and fish with me in the last couple of days.

I love having steamboat, particularly with friends; crowding around a hot steaming pot and discussing about practically anything under the sun while we wait patiently for our food to cook. As I was leaving the restaurant, I saw a group of Shanghainese, about a party of 10, having a great time. Suddenly, I miss the laughters, miss the chit chat, miss the company of my friends back at home.

I hardly feel home sick when I travel. Most of the time, I would wish that my friends were there to share with me the beautiful scenery and other spectacular sights. This time however, I'd rather be at home than to form new memories of beautiful Huang Pu Jiang with myself in it, all alone.

Suddenly, I miss home....

Friday, 28 December 2007

Freezing me slowly (Shanghai Day 3)

The temperature in Shanghai has been plunging. It is unfortunate that my heater in the office is behaving cranky. For some reason, it shuts down on its own at a fixed hour during the day and it never restart again.

Everyday, a different pair of technicians will come to repair the heater. At first, I was told that the heater was spoilt which they fixed. Then, it was the remote control that has a problem and had to be replaced. Finally, when the new remote control arrived, the heater broke down again! OMG, how am I going to survive the winter in the next couple of days?

Thursday, 27 December 2007

谎言的世界 My world of lies (Shanghai Day 2)

Travel is made for liars. Or liars are made by travel. I read this in a book recently. Is that why people love traveling? The deception, indulgence and perhaps also an element of ambiguity… especially when our definitions of right and wrong are constantly being challenged by different cultures and expectations.

In some ways, I become a different person when I travel: do what I can’t do, eat what I don’t eat and buy what I won’t buy. I’d like to think that it is the circumstances that require me to change and that I am only embracing the local cultures. However, the reality is that this merely reflects my lack of self-discipline and negligence.

Durian Pastry and 香煎包. You won’t believe it but I ate them all! I circum to peer pressure! So, who’s the one who never eat bao and hates durian?

After returning home with nothing from Shanghai on my previous visit in October, I have decided that shopping will be a “must do” in this trip. My colleagues and I went to Bu Xing Jie (步行街) in Xu Jia Hui (徐家汇) tonight, with a mission which I call “contribute to China’s economy”, i.e. buy DVDs lah! I felt my moral running really low tonight as I was unable to resist the temptations of those rock bottom prices and it certainly didn’t help to have 2 locals around who didn’t feel the slightest wrong-doing about this whole thing. So what happened to my concepts about IP? I think I might have locked them inside my hotel safe this morning.

We saw Christmas tree, Santa and other Xmas décor along the way. It was as if Christmas day has not yet arrived. I was told by my colleague that Christmas is celebrated on 29th December in China. Haha… why shouldn’t I believe that? I’m living in a world of lies anyway.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

I'm flying... again (Singapore --> Shanghai) Day 1

Gosh, I've never tried blogging on multiply. The thing about China is that blogspot is almost always inaccessible.

Just a short flight of 5 hours and I have left home and travelled over 3800km to a city, which I am slowly getting familiar with.

The season changed like magic, departing from a summer isle to arrive in a winter city, I have skipped the autumn in between. When I stepped out of the airport, a gust of cold wind blew into my face and I was totally unprepared for it. Instantaneously, I thought I was going to freeze, even though it was just 13dc in Shanghai today.

You must know that I love travelling, but you probably can never guess that I dislike flying on an aeroplane. The baggage, the check-in, the immigration clearance, waiting for boarding.. oh my god, they drive me crazy! But why am I complaining? Isn't flying suppose to be a luxury? Personal entertainment system (with movie marathon), 3 course set meal served by friendly stewardess, breath-taking scenery... practically sit back and relax.

The flight to Shanghai today was rough. I think my captain may be a speed monster! During take off, the plane was shaking like hell and when we were landing, I had to hold on tight since my bum lost contact with the seat for 1 second. Call it a phobia if you like, but ever since I've watched the film "Alive" with I was 19, flying on an aeroplane has never been easy for me. If you don't know what I am talking about, go watch this movie... I assure you that your flying experience will never be the same again... haha!

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

I think I've fallen out of love with Shopping

This is an interesting article from Straits Times on 24 December 2007.

To a certain extent, I share the same sentiments. Am I not glad that Christmas is finally over... no more shopping for Christmas gifts! But don't get me wrong, I love to see the smiles on my friends' faces when they open up the Christmas gifts I have got for them.... those are priceless!

But I think I'm only having a tiff with Shopping. Falling out of love with it? Never!

By Tessa Wong

'TIS not the season to be thrifty, and these past few weekends, I have been joining my fellow Singaporeans in the annual ritual of Christmas shopping on Orchard Road.

But while most are savouring the headlong plunge into this festive orgy of consumerism, I have been feeling repulsed by its excesses. Worse, I think I have fallen out of love with our national hobby.

I am not sure how it happened.

After all, I have always been a steadfast sucker for Orchard Road at Christmas, and not just because of the traditional season for great bargains.

Something about its bright lights, rain-slicked streets, and tinselled glamour had always entranced me. I had always found the bustle of the crowd romantic and convivial, even while getting painfully elbowed in the ribs by over-zealous aunties rummaging around Tangs' handbag section.

This year, after several frustrating shopping expeditions, I was consumed by a wave of irrational hatred of all things shopping - the baying, jostling crowds spending mindlessly, the over-the-top decorations and sale promotions aimed at coaxing every last dollar from shoppers.

The whole spectacle just seems crass, tawdry and manipulative.

But I wonder if betraying my shopaholic roots means I have somehow betrayed my national identity too.

After all, bragging about our love for snagging great bargains is part of our national psyche; so much so that we have elevated it to a kind of spiritual experience.

I used to feel strangely patriotic doing Christmas shopping on Orchard Road - it almost felt like I was doing my duty as a citizen, by helping to boost my country's economy while communing with my fellow Singaporeans.

But I have since realised that shopping per se is just a worthless vessel of my cultural identity.
Even if I am buying gifts for others, how does purchasing products make me a better, truer Singaporean? Why should I be proud of a love-to-shop and love-to-eat mentality? Is wanton consumerism and gluttony all I am capable of as a Singaporean?

I seriously hope not.

So this Christmas, I am trying something new.

I will still accept gifts because I do not want to insult anyone by refusing. But I will estimate the cost of each one, and donate that amount to charity. The same goes for presents I have already bought.

I have also been raiding my home for items to donate to the less fortunate, along with corporate gifts I have received. Most importantly, I have vowed to cut down on shopping for non-essentials by half next year.

If less is more, then I hope to make room for an abundant life, free of clutter, in the coming year.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

We are ALSO the world (Part 2)

Bear Farming

When I first learnt about the cruelty of bear farming and watched a video presentation on it, I was left speechless. I heard the bears whined and the sound of their heads banging against the metal cages... I grabbed my chest as my heart felt pain beyond words.

From You Tube. Only 2 mins, view it!

I found another clip on You Tube today, and after watching it, I literally had tears in my eyes. Can you see that the bears are suffering? Can you feel the sorrow in their eyes? Can you hear their cries of distress? If the bears could only speak, how could we as human beings live to face these? The bears have done nothing to deserve such cruelty.

It is beyond my comprehension how some human beings have the heart to resort to such means. Bears kept in tiny cages, with tubes inserted into their bladders PERMANENTLY and dripping their lives away. And for how long? Many many years, probably a whole lifetime of the bear. Alas, what do all these mean?! I... I... do not know how to continue.

Please do not think that this is a problem far away from us, which only happens in China, Vietnam or Korea. In 2006, the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) found that 20% of the 115 Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shops surveyed in Singapore were selling bear bile and other bear products. Outrageous!

I like to think that people who consume bear products are unaware of the process they are being obtained, the utmost cruelty associated with bear bile farming, because who can still swallow these things after seeing how the moon bears are suffering? Maybe we can do something to raise the awareness: Tell your family and friends, tell your friends' friends, never never buy bear bile or other bear products. Why? Because it is illegal and the process of obtaining them is extremely cruel.

We can also do our part by not patronising TCM shops which offers such products. Look out for this label when you next visit a TCM shop. ACRES and the Singapore TCM Organisation Committee (STOC) have developed a scheme whereby TCM shops which have committed not to sell products from endangered species will be awarded this label to be displayed in their shops.

Here is a list of TCM shops who have signed up for the scheme:

Together, we can make a difference, because "when the buying stops, the cruelty stops too"!

Am I being naive? No, I believe that there will be a day when bear farming will completely vanish. Afterall, there are only 10,000+ more bears to be rescued and if we work hard enough, we'll all live to see this day comes.

The moon bears are part of our world, we can love them like one of us, if only we try! Spread love, love the moon bears, love our world!

* Ring is also against testing on animals. Read my previous post here.

Friday, 21 December 2007

We are ALSO the world (Part 1)

The Polar Bears

On the last day of 2006, when I read in the papers that our very own polar bear, Inuka, will be leaving us for a zoo in Germany, I felt really sad. At that time, I had a lot of misgivings about the decision as I could not understand why we would want to give up our little precious, the only polar bear born in the tropics! In fact, I was even a bit angry with the animal welfare organisation, which lobby hard to get our bear to move... and that is so unlike me.

Inuka (meaning "Silent Stalker") less than a year old, with mother Sheba (from The Straits Times). Inuka was borned on 26 Dec 1990.

For almost 17 years, Inuka has been the pride of the Singapore Zoo. I remembered the polar bears were my favourite when I visited the zoo as a kid; the big white belly, the giantic paws and eyes and nose which are too small in proportion.... I was almost sure that they were smiling at me.

I went back to the zoo a few months ago, more than 10 years since my last visit, to bid Inuka farewell. Has Inuka grown too big? Or his enclosure shrunk? It looks like a place too small for him to feel comfortable. Though it was a cloudy day, I could still feel the intense heat and humidity of the tropical weather. I cannot imgaine how an animal meant to live in sub-zero climate can ever get used to this weather. What have we been doing to our bear?

Photo courtesy of Stanly on Multiply

Inuka looks brilliant in this picture. I love the way he splashes out of the water... so refreshing! But you should also notice the black patches on his skin, which are caused by absorbing heat from the tropic climate. It has also been reported that Inuka suffers from heat stress, is inactive half the time and developed abnormal behaviours.

When I compare Inuka to those white majestic creatures I saw on Discovery Channel, I realise that Inuka is in a pathetic state. It is obvious to me now that we are unable to provide Inuka with a home he deserves and moving him to a zoo in temperate zone is only in his best interest. An online poll of the Singapore zoo suggests that almost 65% of the participants did not want Inuka to leave. Why? Maybe it's time for them to pay a visit to the zoo and see for themselves how Inuka is suffering. So what if we have one less fuzzy creature to call our own, if Inuka will have a better life after he leaves us, we should gladly let him go.

While we may be able to save Inuka today, there is a bigger problem for the polar bears as a whole. Scientists believe that if the global warming trend continues, the north pole will have no snow in summer by 2040. When that happens, not only will the polar bears gradually become extinct, it will also pose a great threat to the human population from the flood resulting...

"Imagine the North Pole without snow, only barren land and vacant space remain. Imagine there is only one season in this world, when summer seems like eternity. And Venice becomes a myth in history, like the lost city of Atlantis. These, we may no longer have to imagine, when they become reality by 2040."

Be it the polar bears or our gentle mother nature, they are part of the world we live in. Men need to stop being selfish and start thinking about the other inhabitants of our planet and not just of ourselves, not about how to feel comfortable at the expense of our environment and the weaker species.

Our earth is sick! Let us all resolute to go green from 2008 and save the only planet we can call "home". If not, we can start counting down to the number of sunrise and sunset we will see... maybe not in this lifetime or the next, but eventually, our earth will go into complete destruction, and there will be no home, no trees, no polar bears, no children, no human beings...

Friday, 14 December 2007

I love driving in Singapore because...

I love driving in Singapore,
Because I can listen to my favaourite CD,
From beginning till ending,
Just to travel 20km from home to the office.

I love driving in Singapore,
Because people drive leisurely on the overtaking lanes,
And they remind me that life can be so carefree,
Even though I am already terribly late that morning.

When I signal left,
Drivers beside me will get up to speed,
To close up the gap so that I end up missing the exit,
Which may not be such a bad thing,
For I can enjoy more of the scenery on AYE.

In the car park where there are no vacancies,
Some patient ones can wait at ease,
Doesn't matter that they cause a big traffic;
And maybe that's the way it should be,
To make the parking fees value for money.

Wait a minute, I am not critising!
Just making the best out of my misery.
So whenever you are caught in bad traffic,
Think of why we love driving in this city.

Monday, 10 December 2007

A day to remember 10 December

2 years ago on 10 Dec, it was Mayday's Final Home Concert. Why do I remember this so clearly? Not because I am an ardent fan, but because it is a memorable day for my friend Kanning.

Some time in June 2005, when me and my friends knew that Mayday was coming in that same December to hold their concert, it got us all excited. Immediately, we counted the number of people who would go to the concert together and even decided on the price of tickets that we were going to get.

A couple of weeks passed and Kanning came to us with an uneasy look. She asked... would we go to her wedding or Mayday's concert because it would be on the same day. Lightning strikes on a fair weather day (晴天霹雳), immediately our plans to become crazy fans for a night shattered into pieces. Yet, I did not hesitate any minute to give my answer to Kanning, of course it's her wedding that I will choose.

On the wedding evening, Kanning and hubby looked gorgeous. What really moved me is that during her thank you speech, Kannning thanked us all for sacrificing Mayday's concert to attend her wedding. Now, as I think of this day, I can't help but to smile. Such a meaningful and touching day, I will definitely remember for a long long time.

Here's an extract of what I wrote after the wedding 2 years ago... From My Space

"Attended a few weddings lately.... all of different themes and set up. Favourite one has got to be kanning's. Why? In her speech, she expressed her appreciation to us for sacrificing Mayday's concert....... that is so "cunning"! I am very touched!

But I'll be the one who'll regret if I missed this special evening. I really felt happy for both of them..... It seems like forever before Kanning and hubby finally tie the nuptial knot. I still remember the time when she had to endure the long distance relationship, how she saved up for her Europe trip, how she waited in anticipatioin for her then boyfren to return for good........ And of course her more recent "endurance" of the fish soup diets, and to abstain from her favourite "kong ba bao", kopi, and blah blah. This is really a perfect way to embark on a new journey and I hope they will always remain happy. "

On hindsight, I probably have made up for missing the Final Home concert in 2005. Haha... I attended Mayday's Singapore and Shanghai concerts this year! Oh and I forgot to mention, the same group of people who wanted to go to the concert back in 2005 finally made it this time.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

The little girl from Summer Island

There is a girl who has a dream, she dreams of becoming a teacher one day. What seems like a simple wish to most, yet to live it up may not be that simple afterall. How many of us really became what we had wanted to be as a child?

I tried hard to remember what my childhood ambition was but I just could not recall. Certainly not becoming an accountant, come on, which kid would aspire a life so dull and boring like that of an accountant? I asked myself, what happened to those forgotten childhood dreams that I once had. Maybe they were lost when I was struggling to grow up, maybe it was because I made compromises along the way, or maybe I just stopped believing in dreams....

This little girl lives in "Summer Island", Sri Lanka. Summer Island is the name World Vision has gaven to this particular aide project, which I am one of the child sponsor. I do not know, however, if the village is really as exotic as the name suggests. My little girl has painted me pictures over the years, which I believe is her vision of home. Sometimes, she painted herself inside and I certainly hope she is as happy as she seems in the drawings.








A child's world is full of colours, beautiful flowers and lovely trees. The harsh reality of life may be totally unknown to the child, or maybe not in the case of this little girl who lives in Summer Island. She told me that her father has died, but what does that mean to her since her father has abandoned her when she was just a toddler. The truth is, some people just have a bigger share of misery in life than others do.

So to this little girl who still have dreams, where the mystery of life is awaiting for her to uncover, I could only wish for her the best. May she always keep her dreams alive and have constant faith and strength to live a beautiful life, exactly the way she wants it to be!

I believe in Shangri-La

The mountain roads were curvy and it was a bumpy ride. On the back seat of the jeep, I was swung left and right and it was almost impossible to hold my camera still for a shot of the magnificent mountains.

The Gandan Monastry was on the top of my travel itinerary to Tibet. Although I had never been there previously nor seen pictures of it, I had a strong desire to visit this place as I believed that could be where a dream would turn into reality. Such is the strange affinity between the Gandan Monastry and me.

As the jeep drove into the high mountains, I caught a glimpse of the Gandan Monastry, hanging on the mountain cliff. I exclaimed softly, "Oh my god, it really exist.... this is Shangri-La!".

Nothing could ever prepare me for what I was going to see. As I set foot on the mountain at 4,200m altitude, I was breathless. Yes, the air was thin high up there, but it was the sight of the Gandan Monastry, in front of my eyes, that took my breath away.

17 years ago, when I laid my hands on the book "The Lost Horizon", I never knew it was going to become my pursuit for many years that followed. The Blue Moon Valley, a place secluded from the rest of the world, where people do not grow old and monks are wise, where magnificent mountains stood and sacred rivers flow, that is a paradise described in the book. For years, I had an image of Blue Moon Valley deeply entrenched in my mind, though I was never so sure if it really exist.

If only I could make you understand the intense emotions inside of me when I saw the Gandan Monastry. A dream became reality, and in fact much better than I had imagined. Suddenly, I lost track of time... it was as if I became the teenage girl once again, reading "The Lost Horizon" and losing myself in my own imaginations.

Going to the Gandan Monastry is like putting a closure to something which once seemed like a lifelong pursuit to me. I feel peace as I have finally found my paradise, my Shangri-La! The images of Blue Moon Valley that I once had are now replaced by the memory and photographs of the astonishingly beautiful Gandan Monastry. And I can finally say this... Shangri-La really does exist!

Symbol of Shangri-La

Friday, 7 December 2007

My soon to be new home!

This week, I am on a fruit diet for lunch in an attempt to detox from the week long feasting one week ago. Since I am stuck in the office, I might as well blog!

This is my soon to be new home, making good progress.... Friends, time to save up for the house warming gift!

Photos courtesy of a kind neigbhour

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Holiness (Updated)

I found this as I was sorting my pictures.

Somewhat difficult to explain, but this picture gives me a lot of "feel". It's serenity, calmness and balance written all over the pilgrim's face. I'm touched.


It is probably hard for you to understand why this picture meant so much to me without sharing with you the story behind the prayer wheel and the pilgrim's journey.

While in Tibet, I saw many of the pilgrims carrying prayer wheels of different sizes and spinning them in clockwise direction every now and then. The prayer wheel (转经轮)has a sacred meaning as Buddhist scriptures are inscripted on it. By spinning the wheel once, it is as if you have recited the Buddhist scripture one time and accumulated good karma.

A pilgrimage is never easy. Those pilgrims I saw in Lhasa have probably travelled miles on foot, just to get to holy Potala Palace. Sometimes, on the deserted roads in Tibet, I saw pilgrims resting by the road, drinking butter tea from their thermos flask before they continue with their journey. And this journey would probably last many months. Very often, the whole family will be travelling together and it is not unusual to see children and babies, wrapped in arms, in the party.

The pilgrims are mostly nomads who will embark on their pilgrimage trip only during the winter season. This is because when the weather is still good (spring & summer), they will be busy farming, harvesting and grazing their sheeps and yaks. It is only during winter time, when farming activities have stopped that they will leave home to come on this religious journey.

What really moves me is the firm religious belief and peserverance of the Tibetian pilgrims. They could travel so far, and some kneeling and praying along the way, just to get to some monastry in a distance place. In life, they have already so little and yet the pilgrims will bring home made yak butter to add to the oil lamps in the monastry and offer tokens in cash to paint gold on the Buddha statues. I don't know what the Christians will say about this, but I am deeply moved by their actions and faith.

The Tibetians believe in after life and reincarnation. This is their motivation to do good and pray religiously, so that they can be reincarnated into a better life form in the next life. For a simple wish like this, there are so much to give. While I may not fully understand the meaning of all these, I have certainly been touched by the Tibetians.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Say "Yes"...

What would it take for you to say "Yes"?

100 red roses?
1 carat diamond ring?
A romantic marriage proposal on top of Eiffel Tower?

This is a video clip of a very touching proposal. Give yourself 10 min to finish the clip, I hope you will enjoy it. Ming(冠佑)is the drummer of 五月天 and the proposal took place during the band's concert in Beijing. His wife is really a lucky woman.

Then, after the most perfect marriage proposal and the grandest wedding, what lies ahead is a long and diffcult journey that no one can foretell. Like I always say, marriage is a lifelong battle, I have never thought it to be easy, yet I did not imagine it could be so tough at times. At the altar, when you say "I do", do you really understand what you have got yourself into? And this sacred vow that has been broken time and time again by so many, does it still count? Well, doesn't matter what I think, life is a struggle anyway. Nothing is easy in life.


Monday, 26 November 2007

A summer's night Christmas

I have a friend who lives in Shanghai and she has always requested for her friends to send her pictures of the Christmas lightings at home. This year, to pre-empt her request, I went down to Orchard yesterday and took these photos. However, what I did not expect is that I will be hand delivering these to her over the weekend.

It is a warm summer's night, no different from the other 364 days in the year. Some may think it is a blessing to have weather like this all year round but yet at times, the heat and humidity can really drive people mad. Just 1 hour roaming the streets of Orchard, I think I have sweat as much as one morning at the beach.

In this night, there are no snowflakes, no sign of frosty the snowman (with a pipe), no chimneys churning out smoke from the warm fire place. But there are angels, who sing the familiar tunes of the Christmas carols and stars, which decorated the busy streets of Orchard. Though I do not believe that this is the best Christmas lightings we ever had, but I am just as thrilled and delighted to see them. Maybe, it is the festive atmosphere that makes all these more beautiful than what they appear to be to the naked eyes.

I like Christmas because it is a season of joy, hope and love. While we are cracking our brains choosing gifts for family and friends, selecting the best menu for Christmas dinners and busy decorating the Christmas trees at the comfort of our own home, there are others who do not share the same good fortune that you and I enjoy. Beneath the same dark sky, while I can hear the angels' sing and watch the stars glow so bright, someone out there maybe looking at the same sky, only that what he/she can see are hunger and destitution. I wonder, how many hungry children are falling asleep tonight, with no idea when they are going to have their next meal or how many sleepless soldiers are there, holding on to their rifles, ready to protect a home that is so dear to them? If this is the season of hope, let joy and love spread to where they are needed most. And all I could do is continue to pray......

This Christmas, I have given a winter jacket and pair of boots to 2 kids in Mongolia, donated through World Vision. Have you thought about what you will be giving to the needys this Christmas too?

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Manila, swiftly there and back

Was on a 3 day business trip to Manila.

Finally, I have found another city which I dislike, after Paris. I've never thought Philippines is so backward and most part of Manila is congested and messy. Probably only Makati city is somewhat close to what we have at home.

The only thing I have enjoyed during this trip is probably the journey flying into Manila.

Blue sky, fancy clouds, I love them!

There are 4,000 islands in this country. Here's a sneak peek.

The city looks so grey and congested

I stayed in a junior suite in Hotel Richmonde. It has everything I don't need, a big sitting area, toaster and microwave. And what I needed most, it did not have... the internet!

It is a strange hotel anyway. For some reason, the "Do not Disturb" light did not get switched off even after I pulled out my card key and cut the power supply! And for that reason, no one made my room for a day because I forgot to turn the D&D off when I left for work. I'm speechless....

See how "dark" the city is? You can barely see anything in this photo.

The same view from the hotel in the morning. Everything is so grey.

Glad to be home!