Saturday, March 28, 2015

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

I am writing today to express my disconsolation on the demise of our former prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. It has been almost a week since his passing and I had to hold my grief and gather myself before publishing this.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew is someone I really look up to for his vision and dedication to Singapore. He has tremendously transformed my country, Singapore, from a third world, to first. For his vision and contribution, I am utterly grateful to live here. There are so many aspects of life as a Singaporean to be thankful for any no credit can match his contribution for our modern history. While there are so many thank you's and goodbyes sent in memory of him, I think the best way we can ever thank him is to live and continue his legacy. That's what he would have wanted for us Singaporeans, to be integrated, fair, uncorrupted, and ever prosperous.

His depart left us with many things. He may not have left us with a huge fortune to be divided amongst those who voted for him, but his principles, teachings and conviction is something that is immeasurable that we could learn from.

He was a visionary man. He plans well, and found resolution to Singapore's problems since its independence; although there were no right formula. His vision encompasses not only on the minute details of Singaporean's personal life on education, jobs, housing, transport and food (because we have no natural resources), but also the bigger things in life like having trees along the roads for shade, clearing the streets and rivers off trash, well lit roads to drive at night and the most odd of all which no other ministers would have ever imposed: enforcing haircut before entering Singapore in 1960's.

His outstanding vision is something we should examplify for the better good of our sovereignty.

"His (Mr Lee Kwan Yew) vision and dedication to the service of his country helped to make Singapore the successful country it is today." - Queen Elizabeth II

If it had not been for his strong character, we would not have succeeded in having a thriving and safe metropolis we live in today. It was because of his dedication and undying spirit to lead Singapore, we are here today, proud of our country's achievements. I am personally fond of his iron fist ruling which was much needed in his time to clear the mess on the land we used to know by the name of Temasek.

“I am not here to play somebody else's game. I have a few million people's lives to account for. Singapore will survive.” - Mr Lee Kwan Yew

Despite being criticized for his authoritarian leadership, it has actually made Singapore an ideal country to live in where we can walk in the middle of the night with no fear of being robbed, and breath in fresh air as a result of his green efforts to keep the streets clean and sheltered by planting of more trees. Our roads have never been so cooling to drive on this tropical island.

Under his leadership too that our country's GDP has grown from pittance to plenty. We were even labelled by some as Monaco of the East and why not? During Mr Lee Kwan Yew's statesmanship, our GDP rose 30-fold surpassing big countries like United States and Japan. Yet, his success in making this little red dot globally known does not sway him to arrogance and complacency which we Singaporeans, should learn from.

On personal side of him, I admire his advocacy for bilingualism and healthy lifestyle. Ever since his investiture as prime minister, has has never stopped brushing up his Mandarin and at the age of 89 then, his healthy routine includes walking on treadmill three times a day. It was because of him I practice bilingualism.

"When I had a heart attack in 1989 and required open heart surgery, he cared enough to ring up my wife to ask her to delay the operation as he had arranged for the best heart surgeon, a Singaporean living in Australia, to do the operation." - Former Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad

There are so many things to look up to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Ever since his departing, I learnt more about what he had done in his lifetime. I learnt more than what was penned in any of his books. For that, I my fortified respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

My undying salute to you, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dubai 2015 - Best Place for Countdown

Hey all! Gonna spend some time sharing with you the best place for countdown in Dubai because there can be so many things going on there you will be literally spoilt for choice.

Where is the best place to go? Is it the Palm Island partying all night at Atlantis? Or celebration by Burj Al-Arab, one of the most expensive hotels in town? (Taking photos on the beach posing with Al-Arab can be very passe) Or just by the world's tallest building yet; Burj Khalifa? Firework displays are extravagant there at the expense of their oil money so if you think you're not going to visit Dubai for quite some time after that, it's always safe to toast at the most prominent landmark in the city!

Where else if not Downtown Dubai?

We chose Downtown Dubai where Burj Khalifa is for several reasons. The building is so tall I don't really have to worry if I can't see it (especially because I am vertically challenged) and their firework display is always record breaking. We gave Atlantis and Burj Al-Arab a miss because we can't be certain if it was going to be as huge and as hyped as compared to what we were going to watch.

Besides, after all those days exploring the city, I was not really in the mood for hardcore party, neither was I in the mood to stand amongst the crowd and wait for the fireworks to start. I just want to sit, eat, wait peacefully and just enjoy the cosmic edifice that defines the city skyline.

We got back from Abu Dhabi the night before and I was really beat from all the fun I had. I was all excited before the trip but halfway I was so worn out; all I wanted was pizza to be delivered into my room, wash up and sleep!

Although there was a convenience store down at our hotel, I was too tired to even walk to the lift.

I was glad that the following day was countdown, which was one of the most exciting things I wanted to do. I love fireworks! Watching them brighten up the night sky can always make my evening.

So here's a bit about the hotel I stayed; Yassat Gloria Hotel Apartments. We chose this luxurious hotel apartment because we needed it to be away from all the crowd at Downtown Dubai - knowing how massive it could be, and we needed space to pack our luggages before going home too.

The hotel comes with a kitchen and laundry room which makes it so convenient because first, all the food leftovers can be kept in the fridge and reheated using the microwave and second, I managed to do all my laundry there so that when I come back I don't have much to do. Best of all, it comes with this marvellous refreshing view and from the level I was at, I can see the massive Palm Island (the bridge can be seen in the background on the right of this picture)

We were really lucky because there was no development going on on the next plot of land, we don't really need the air-con although it can be warm in the afternoon but we were not in. My leg was all wobbly whenever I stood on the balcony. A part of me was grateful for being fun-sized!

So here's me all ready for countdown. My outfit was designed by Hubert Hoon, designer for his label TSHUBIE. What do you think? His exclusive collection here is a collaboration of traditional batik prints on modern piece. It's not easy to pull off batik without looking shabby but he made it work!

We headed to Downtown early because we were anticipating some major screw ups from all the jam and all but fret not because all the alfresco dining cafes were cordoned off to public, only patrons were allowed to enter. So if you would like to avoid the crowd during countdown, the best way to enjoy the towering fireworks without obstruction is to get a seat at one of these cafes or restaurants. Each offers a different menu ranging from $200-$600 per head, depending on your appetite, and the type of food that you want.

Here's a clue for a wonderful countdown - expensive restaurant does not necessarily mean the best view. I cross my heart!

When it comes to revelling in the Dubai Fountain, I even told my friend let's not to spend so much time around Downtown Dubai on other days because on New Year's Eve, we probably saw the entire series of the Dubai Fountain show because it's on the loop from evening till midnight. We sat there, enjoyed our four course meal, indulged in idle banter and the dancing waters from Dubai Fountain. It was so peaceful away from the crowd; the serenity was indescribable until 10 seconds before the clock strikes midnight.

I have never felt so lepak in my life, really. 

Procession into the new year is important for me because each second of our life should matter. It should be spent doing the things that is significant to us. So I am grateful beyond words to be able to celebrate it there! Some might say new year is just another day. If so, why celebrate birthdays?

The celebration was amazing because at where I was, people were all poise and handshaking and hugs wishing happy new year and on the other side where a hotel was having a party, it was all loud music and booze and then on the other end were a crowd busy popping confettis. I probably saw more parties in one night that in a lifetime then. Haha!

You know what I hate about countdown? The part after it. There were millions of visitors around Downtown Dubai celebrating New Year there it was really hard to get a transport back. The jam was so crazy even cab drivers do not wish to take in passengers, and it takes more than 2 hours to get from one point to another on a short distance.

The best way to get back to our hotel? By foot. Yes, we were that adventurous because on our remaining days in Dubai we wanted to see like, everything. We walked from Downtown to two train stations after, which was close a three hour walk (because we realized half way it was actually very far), almost hitched a ride but we already walked too far to not complete the journey. Yet, we reached before anyone else who travelled by car. That was how massive the crowd was, and that's how bad we want to avoid it. Unfortunately, heli ride wasn't an option.

On of the many #yolo moments was to cross a slip road down a six lane highway. We were not a jaywalker expert, but those Pakistani workers taught us well! Since it was really cold, walking for three hours felt nothing. Not even a drip of sweat!

I was really looking forward to sunrise because I thought I needed to be sunkissed at one of the best beaches in Dubai. Stay tuned and I will talk about that in a bit! Ta!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fred Perry S/S 2015 Launch Party

Hi guys! Last week I was glad to grace the launch of Fred Perry x Raf Simons latest S/S 2015 collection at Mandarin Gallery! Hosted by luxury lifestyle publisher Heart Media, the latest designs feature trademark of Fred Perry's lined collar shirts with unique geometric graphics fixed on the shirts and sweatshirts that are symbolic to the Raf Simons brand.

The minimalist assortment of polo shirts and sweatshirts meets Raf Simons’ affinity for bold color blocking and playful cutout graphics, altogether making a wearable, yet distinctive range. Simons’ iconic parka silhouette is also included in the selection of outerwear.

Enjoy the photos!

On me is one of Fred Perry's polka dot scarf from the latest collection. The silky scarf is so soft and defines the outline of the lapel!

A we-fie before we-go because memories last forever. From the left, Kim-Lan, myself, Jen, Olivier, and Amin.

Fred Perry gave me wings! Okay, do you guys think it look like wings? It's more of like a creative moment kind of thing for me.

I am in love with this bag really! It's big, it's sturdy and best of all, it's light despite the size. Perfect duffel for weekend getaways.

Of all the beautiful designs available, there are several pieces which are handpick by Men's Folio - which they highly recommend if you want to make a statement.

For me, I have not bought anything from Fred Perry for quite some time because there's no time for me to go shopping; so I got to thank Men's Folio for making life so, so much easier.

They have good taste which I can be confident of!

The store was filled with attendees wanting to know more about their latest collection. You know, I had no idea that Fred Perry was a famous tennis player! I have been wearing Fred Perry all my life, just wearing and not knowing made me feel like a total noob!

All these while I only knew the business is Japanese owned though. Haha!

After all those eye treat, it's always nice to have games as simple as this. What is party without games? Thank you Men's Folio for the invite!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Abu Dhabi 2015 - 5 Places for Adventure

Abu Dhabi is definitely not short of places of interest, if you think now it's a handful, there's more to come in 2-5 years time and I am really excited for it! As for now, if you are going to Abu Dhabi within these 2 years, here are the places that I think you should really, really visit and get some culture.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was initiated by the late president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who wanted to establish a structure which unites the cultural diversity of Islamic world, the historical and modern values of architecture and art. Following his passing, his mausoleum is located on the grounds beside the mosque. The intricate mosque was constructed in 12 years. It is by far the largest mosque in the UAE!

The mosque can fit 40,000 worshipers. Attracting visitors from all over the world, it plays a pivotal role in putting Abu Dhabi on the tourist map.

The concept of diversity is personified in Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a majestic marvel that reveals a spectrum of architectural splendors formulating a harmonious unity between different Islamic architectural schools. The mosque also includes a variety of post-modern architectural designs enriching its historical Islamic tastes.

This is amplified through its architecture that was inspired by Persian, Mughal and Moorish designs, and uses building materials that came from all over the globe. The mosque seeks to highlight the heritage of late Sheikh Zayed and to commemorate his memory, his qualities and his contributions to the Emirates.

We were very fortunate to be able to see the mosque in three different setting. The one time we went it was really sunny in the evening, and then another trip in the morning it was really foggy and cold, and we went again at night to see the mosque beautifully lit in my favorite color!

Sheikh Zayed mosque even has a library of more than 5,000 scientific and cultural titles in more than a dozen languages, including a collection of precious and rare books dating back from 200 years ago. It is equipped with modern facilities for the development of research and knowledge that can facilitate the public understanding of Islamic civilization, arts and architecture.

If you are visiting in groups, you can always arrange for a special tour here because going there by yourself without knowledge about Arab-Islam civilisation and culture may hamper your appreciation towards the architecture. It may be too big beyond your comprehension on the significance of its existence.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features four minarets and eighty-two domes, representing different Islamic styles, in support of Islamic cultural values, and to express its religious concepts and values.

Tiles of white marble clads the external walls and columns and features relief carving of verses from Holy Quran and Islamic ornamentation.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs is sponsored and supported by His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.

Falcon Hospital
The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the first public institution in the UAE providing comprehensive veterinary health care services exclusively for falcons. Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the largest falcon hospital in the UAE and in the world with an influx of more than 75,000 patients in the first fourteen years of existence.

It's funny that when I got back, people kept asking why the hell would I visit hospital for animals? Like there's not enough animals here back home?

UAE's national bird, the falcon, is a symbol of strength, courage, pride, grace, and force. It is prominent it UAE's emblem as falconry goes way back to more than 2000 years ago which centres around the bedouin life of Arabs.

So it's always good to learn about how birds can be politicised in one's everyday life!

The falcons are blindfolded like Ana from Fifty Shades so that they do not see their surroundings. It prevents them from preying or attacking anyone. They were really obedient blindfolded!

They are really special because every part of their feather is important. They would be vulnerable if any part of it is damaged. From our tour, we learnt that falcons too have feather "extensions" like some of you girls do for your hair!

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital play spa for these falcons too because as pets (legal in UAE), they need to be maintained but in a way that raises my eyebrow because usually for pets, you would groom them sober. For falcons ironically, they are temporarily put to sleep to be groomed.

So many funny things happened in that hospital. Falcons getting surgery in a real surgery room (with all the surgery light), getting groomed and to see the waiting area for falcons. It's just something new that you would probably laugh about and appreciate. May be dramatic to some!

Animals have a life too!

So after all the grooming, the bird will gain its consciousness slowly. Still needs to be controlled as they may be instinctively violent.

After which you can carry them, and give them a peck! Urgh, it's so cute I feel like bringing one home! Can I please, please have one?

If you are visiting Abu Dhabi, it's definitely a must go. You can make advance bookings here. Get to see falcons up close, if you're lucky you get to feed them, see them getting groomed, and of course, give them a kiss before leaving!

Just remember to note your timing because we were so engrossed with the gigantic mosque, we forgot our tour at falcon hospital. Thank God they were nice enough to help us reschedule!

Falcons are so fabulous. Love them!

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital
Sweihan Road - Near the Abu Dhabi International Airport

Al-Matbakh Al-Saudi Restaurant (Saudi Kitchen)
Biryani is a famous cuisine in the Arab world. Biryani is not only famous in the Indian world of cuisine, the Gulf variety of biryani is not lack of culture too. When it comes to biryani, there is no other place than the famous Saudi Kitchen - which brand has been patronised by Abu Dhabi royalties too.

Many flocked to this little joint be it locals or tourists because the food is really good! Although the restaurant lacks in ambience in terms of fancy decor, it really brings you back to the early times of Arabian dining. It has this authentic vintage feeling, like you're in the 60's.

To get that old, vintage feeling in Abu Dhabi is not easy at all because everywhere is so modern and poise, so I daresay Saudi Kitchen that I patronised is Abu Dhabi's best kept secret!

The place is really hidden. You have to go up this narrow staircase in Gava Hotel and it does not have a website. If you hadn't read this, you would never know this place exists!

The restaurant has partitions to give a private majlis (assembly) setting. Majlis seating simply means everyone sits on the floor around the food and eat together from the same tray.

The restaurant has many types of biryani and the one you should really try is the mandi bukhari biryani; Saudi Arabian specialty!

The mandi bukhari is a giant portion of deliciously savoury rice topped with the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth pieces of lamb and chicken. The meat it served on the bone and is accompanied by yoghurt and a bowl of watery, but hot, chilli sauce.

It's a much needed meal to keep ourselves warm that day.

A word of warning though; the portions are really generous. Depending on your appetite, it is safe to order biryani for three if there are four diners (especially for Asians). We really had a lot of leftovers. I wished I was able to stomach it all! Mind you, I was really starving when I was there.

So there you go, Saudi Kitchen - not for the faint hearted! Haha, it ranked 160th place out of a list of 1600 Abu Dhabi restaurants on TripAdvisor. So for an old-fashioned restaurant, it says a lot about how the food makes up for the ambience.

Saudi Kitchen
Gava Hotel
Haza Bin Zayed the 1st Street (Defence Road)
Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates

Mina Port
It is unconventional to recommend visiting a port of a modern concrete jungle but yes, their ports are still bustling with life and has always been!

I visited the Mina Port to find out what's there. The port is really huge! To go from one section of the port market to the other side is only convenient by wheel! There they have all sorts of groceries like freshly caught fish, vegetables, carpets, and even dried fruits like the famous dried dates!

Since I was not done getting souvenirs for my loved ones, I decided to get traditional and all-time popular Arab dates. It's the one special thing that is close to Emiratis heart. Dates are notably popular in the Muslim and Arab world because it has high carbohydrate and fructose that really helps you to get energy for the day. Which explains why it's very popular during fasting month of Ramadan.

The dates and dried fruits section is a must go when visiting the port. Here you will find piles and trays of the finest dates from around the region, in many different product forms!

They are usually displayed outside their shops but if you enter, there's more than just dried dates. The Arab world has diversified its date products to more than just that. They have products like date syrup, date juice, date chocolates (really nice), and many more.

Take your time and try everything before you buy. Be warned of sugar rush! Haha! Sometimes you are even offered tea while you're sampling. These goods will be much cheaper and and fresher quality than those sold in the local stores. As usual, bulk purchase gets you the best price! Just don't be rude by being a freeloader!

The Mina Port is one of the jewels of Abu Dhabi for tourists and locals. It's so huge, there is likely enough for you to do for an entire day. So, enjoy the hospitality and the bargaining while you're there!

Al Raiqa Date Fruit Trading Co.
Zayed Port

Cycling By The Corniche
Okay, blame all the fattening food we had. The cheap kebabs we had at the souks, the sumptuous room service, and the massive, massive mandi bukhari we had. We really needed to shake those calories off because I don't want to pay for extra baggage.

I felt really fat, and worst at one point, I even thought I might be obese with all those food fiesta. I have never been fat so I don't really know when's the turning point. They say life starts at 40 and getting fat starts every December. Shrugs. I was just being cautious!

Besides, the weather there was really cold and foggy and we did not sweat a drip throughout our trip so we decided to get ourselves heated up and sweaty by cycling by the corniche called The Corniche (like seriously).

The Corniche extends up to 8km, starting from the port side where the local fishermen dock their boats, and takes in the full length of the Corniche all the way up to Marina Mall. I don't think we completed the full track because I don't remember seeing Marina Mall!

With its awe-inspiring views, the Corniche is one of the oldest landmarks in the city, and regularly being renovated to be a hub for all sorts of active people, as well as those simply looking to get outdoors and soak up the long stretch of scenic seaside trail.

Renting one out is easy, you just need an ID or leave behind a AED100 deposit. Depending on who's the bicycle provider.

Be careful when you're speeding though. As a biker, I like to cycle long distance and fast. Sometimes I go really fast; especially in this cold weather, you don't really feel that tired easily. Almost skidded because the pavement was slippery due to the cold weather and dew.

Don't judge me for being clad in jeans and shirt and a scarf. It was really cold. Even after an hour of speeding through the Corniche, I did not sweat. Not a drip! I was panting though!

That's all for now, hope you're entertained! See you guys soon!