Monday, December 14, 2009

Magical Bali - View from Kintamani

I took a day trip and went all the way to the popular tourist spot Kintamani to catch the view of the volcano within Mt Batur. The trip took almost 3 hours but I must admit the view was breathtaking. The pic shows a volcano within a volcano. heh. The next time I visit Bali, I intend to do the trek to the top of the volcano which apparently takes only about an hour or two. Already planning my next trip. :)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Magical Bali

I spent the last week in Bali, kinda like my present to myself for completing the 10km run. It's my first time there and I wasn't really expecting much. But after 5 days, I must say that I quite like Bali and it might just become a reasonably cheap short holiday destination for me in the near future.

This trip had many 'firsts'. The 1st First was that this was the first flight to Bali for KLM after more than 10 years! So there was a mini-reception of sorts when we arrived at Bali airport. So here's a pic of a 'chee-ko' me with the 3 beautifully dressed ladies who welcomed the passengers from the flight.

This time, I decided to stay at Tanjung Benoa beach because I'd read that it was one of the better beaches and not as overcrowded as Kuta beach. The good thing is that the beach was certainly better than Kuta's and I could just relax away from the crowds. When I visited Kuta, the beach was filled with people and definitely not a place to just chill. However, the bad thing about staying in Tanjung Benoa was that it was kinda far away from the city centre where the shopping and 'excitement' is. It took about 30min by the hotel shuttle or about S$12 for a one-way taxi ride. I guess the next time, I might decide to stay in Kuta for the food and shopping and then move to a beach resort for a day or two to chill. Here's a pic of the beach just next to Aston Bali, the hotel where I stayed. Not bad, but the water was certainly not crystal clear and the sand was still kinda rough.

I took a day-trip to Lembongan Island, about 1hr away by fast-ferry or 2hr away by Sailboat. I of course chose the sail boat for the experience. Lembongan's beach and water was really wonderful. Clear blue waters and soft white sand beaches. This is definitely one place I'll consider staying at purely for the beach and activities.

At Lembongan Island, I attempted my 2nd and 3rd 'Firsts' of the trip. The 2nd First was I decided to try parasailing! It cost about US$20 and well.. this was one activity I never considered trying due to previous weight considerations. This time round, I threw caution to the wind and decided to give it a try. It was really exhilarating to be released into the sky with a parachute, being flown like a kite from the speedboat.

The 3rd First came about because I was still recovering from the high of the parasailing experience. When I returned to the pontoon where most of the activities were based, I saw a diving lesson being conducted. So I thought.. what-the-heck... I've already tried parasailing, so why not diving! So I paid my US$50, went through a quick 45min orientation and then went for my first ever diving experience. It was really quite unbelievable. The corals and fish were really beautiful and I've never had such an experience before. The diving instructor had bread hidden up his sleeve and he periodically sprinkled the bread in the water, attracting the fish to swim around us. Simply magical. I must say that I am tempted to pick up diving as a hobby but I know it's a pretty expensive past-time. Will think about that a little more. Here's a pic of me and my cheery instructor.

The last First isn't really a first coz I vaguely trying something like this maybe 15 to 20 years ago. But I certainly don't remember it being so fun. Heh. I decided to try Whitewater rafting. There were a few rapids to choose from so being a bit of a wimp, I decided to try the class 2/3 one first instead of the class 4 rapids. I shared the raft with a young couple from Shanghai and we had a great time rafting through about 10km of the river. My only regret after the experience was that I didn't choose the class 4 rapid for more excitement! Well, the good thing is that this leaves me with something new to try the next time round. :) Along the river there were many small water falls and here's one where the rafting guide let us off to take some pics.

The 5 days in Bali went by pretty fast. But it was most definitely a very memorable experience for me. The magic of Bali lies in the fact that the people are really very friendly and that there are really so many different things to do whether you want to just laze or go on some active experiences. The cost, while not cheap, is not prohibitively expensive and well, in comparison to places like Bintan, I think it's more value for money.

I think I left enough activities undone to warrant at least another one or two trips to Bali. :) Next time round, I'll want to try the tougher rafting, do the trek up to the volcano peak (Mt Batur) as well as maybe learn kiteboarding... :P

Well, it's back to work tomorrow. Surprisingly not dreading it. Maybe that's the mark of a good holiday.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

My First Ever 10km Run - 1h 17min 34sec

:D -

Friday, December 04, 2009

Surabaya - Epilogue

Been really busy since returning from Surabaya. There was a staff retreat to attend and then it was down to doing the admin for the selection of the next batch of participants for the programme I'm running in school.

As a closure to my Surabaya trip, I think I must mention my host family who took care of me for two weeks. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the first time I've stayed so long with a host family. It was a really interesting learning experience for me. The one thing which really impressed me was how hospitable they were and how willing they were to let me stay with them. I wonder why we don't have that culture in Singapore. It's usually extremely difficult to find host families in Singapore for our visiting students. Most cite that their homes are too small. In some way, I think it's kinda like insecurity on the part of the Singaporeans. It's really not about how big or small our houses are but about how willing we are to welcome another person into our homes. Someone mentioned to me that the reason she stopped hosting overseas students is because she had done it once and although the experience was very good, she was disillusioned when the student left and ceased all contact with her suddenly. She felt that such an insincere act really caused her to reconsider hosting future students. Personally, I guess I think it shouldn't really about what I can get out of it but what I can do to share my life with the exchange student.

Well, anyway, here's the happy family which hosted me! The Kusuma family!

From left, we have Fonita, Ming, Me, Mr Chen, Luci and Mrs Chen. The pic below shows the eldest daughter Susan and her husband Christian. Really friendly people. It's also interesting to see how the family unit is so strong within the family.

Here's the huge sitting room where I spent many evenings watching tv and chatting with the family.
Here's the all important kitchen where we had our breakfast and dinner. There was always plenty of food and I had to try very politely to tell Mrs Chen there was no need to prepare so much, especially fried rice for breakfast! I was constantly blowing my diet the first few days I was there. Speaking about food, I really enjoyed the Lemper and the Bak Pau... But I'm also glad to be back in Singapore.. no need to struggle with eating too much! In the pic is Chuan Kai, the RI student who was staying with the host family together with me.

Here's the bedroom with a large King-sized bed which I shared with Chuan Kai for two weeks. It was again a first for me to be sharing beds with anyone! Given my previous size, I've always had the luxury of being given a single bed since anyone who shared a bed with me would be seriously disadvantaged. heh.

One problem I had was the serious lack of vegetables in almost all meals (in school and at home). Most of the food that was served was fried or deep fried and I was really glad that at least for dinner, Mrs Chen would make sure there was a plate of vegetables. I was elated to be introduced to Hokka Hokka Bento which is a Japanese fast food restaurant. On top of their fried stuff, they had really good salad and soup! (see below).

On my second last day, I really indulged in two bowls of salad and two bowls of soup. The salad only cost 5000 rupiah each which is only about S$0.90 and the soups cost about 8000 rupiah which is barely S$1.50!! You don't know how satisfied i was downing the two bowls of salad...

And finally, we have the Atlas Sports Club... this was really a godsend. I was really happy to know that the gym was only about 30m from the house where I was staying. Although it cost me about S$18 each time I went, I was glad that I could keep up with some physical training while I was in Surabaya. It was near impossible to jog outdoors (I didn't feel safe and the roads weren't very wide and frequently had potholes) so I depended on the elliptical machines in the gym. Managed to visit the place about 4 times while I was in Surabaya. Seriously, it sounds weird, but I've never been so glad to find a gym. lolz.

So that's it for my Surabaya experience. For my host family, if you do visit this blog, let me say again a sincere word of thanks for taking care of me for the two weeks I was there. I can only hope I can reciprocate it in some way when you visit Singapore.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Surabaya Adventures

Spent the last three days at an eco-tourism place called PPLH in Trawas. Admittedly, I went with the impression that I would be roughing it out for the three days… ie. Trekking to a campsite/dormitory, bathing in make-shift toilets and eating from a little camping stove. I couldn’t have been more wrong. PPLH, while not exactly 4-star, far exceeded my expectations. Our host school was really considerate and put us up in the supposedly VIP bungalow chalets while their own students stayed in maybe 10-20 bed bungalows/rooms which were actually also pretty nice.

While I had expected to be also having plenty of physical activities, it ended up more leisurely and fun. There was a leisurely 30min walk (not really a trek) to a local Javanese village to observe their lifestyle and another fun walk along a river which was already ‘modernized’ cause the government had already build a concrete river bank. That walk ended up with some water splashing fun in the river and eating plain rish with grilled fish using only our hands. The last activity was slightly more physical.. involving a 45-60min long trek through forest path up a reasonably steep mountain to visit Jolotunda, an old Hindu Temple.

On the whole, it was a pretty interesting experience. While comfortable, we were always on the look out for frogs and lizards and other strange insects and creatures creeping into our room. On the first night, I woke up to find a frog on top of my mosquito net! I have no idea how it got there. Thank God I decided to use the mosquito net.

4 more days before going home to Singapore. Barely 17 days to the 10km StanChart run. I’m cautiously worried cause I’d kicked my toe against the bed when I first arrived and till now, while it’s gotten better, it’s still hurting. Hope it recovers in time. Will probably get it checked out when I get home. Hope it’s nothing more serious.

Sunrise at PPLH. But couldn't find out what these two mountains were. :P

Terrace padi fields along the river where we walked

View of a canyon from the river

Gateway to Jolotunda Temple

Tomb of Airlangga at Jolotunda Temple

Monday, November 16, 2009

From Sydney to Surabaya

The last couple of weeks have been a real whirlwind. Started off with an official school trip to Sydney to visit 3 local schools to learn more about their leadership and boarding programmes. Then, it was the last week of school and there were so many meetings and dinners and farewells that I could barely catch my breath. Immediately after the last farewell party on Saturday (which incidentally was also the first time in a long time that I actually stayed up all night!), I had to prepare for the overseas immersion programme in Surabaya. Phew. (Deep breath…)

I’m in Surabaya now and have been here for about 6 days. Although I have been involved in many overseas programmes and arranging for homestays, I must admit this is the first time that I will be staying with a host family for so long – almost 2 weeks! Of course, at times, it does feel like I am intruding on the family’s privacy but at the same time, the family members are very warm and friendly and do go out of the way to make my stay pleasant. Another student is also attached to this same host family so I also get to enjoy sharing the same bed with another student! Don’t think I’ve ever done that….. EVER….

Surabaya is really hot. I mean 37 degree Celsius hot. We went to the beach today and took a boat out to some sand isle and wow… the sun was burning at my skin through my long pants! It’s my first time in Surabaya and if memory serves me right, not counting Bintan, this is the fourth Indonesian city I’ve visited, the other three being Jakarta, Medan and Jogjakarta. There really isn’t much to see in Surabaya as far as tourist sights are concerned. It’s pretty much a financial/business/port city. But the malls here are quite incredible. I’ve visited Tunjungan Plaza, a mall which is about 3 times that of Ngee Ann City. You can try to imagine Suntec City… but multiplied three times in terms of the number of floors. Lolz.

I’m off for an outdoor experience for the next two nights. Again, it’s been almost 8 years since I last went for such an outdoor trek. Thank God I understand we will be staying in dorms and not tents. Sorry for sounding a little spoilt, but it’s really been a long time and I don’t know if my body can take the shock. Heh.

Will try to blog about it when I return on Thursday night… provided I am not like half/completely dead.

Until then, here are some pics. The first was taken when I was in Sydney, when I took my first ever outdoor jog around the Sydney Opera House! The others were taken in Surabaya - one taken in a cave where there was beam of light shining from the ceiling, so I couldn’t resist having a ‘Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus’ moment (google it if you don’t know what that is) and the other is me at the jetty at Kenjeran Beach. The last was taken at the Suramadu bridge, supposedly Indonesia’s longest bridge (about 5.4km long).

Running around Sydney Opera House

'Road-to-Damascus' Moment

On the jetty at Kenjeran Beach

Suramadu Bridge - Indonesia's Longest Bridge

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


This is really unbelievable... creating a pop-up model of Japan's Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto using Lego bricks!

Monday, October 19, 2009

My Other Blog -

In the last year, I've actually been maintaining a second blog. The purpose of that blog is for me to capture my thoughts and experiences while tried to lose all the extra weight. It isn't a very exciting blog because the beginning parts were just a documentation of the food I ate and the exercise I did, pretty much my baby steps in my weight loss. Right now, as I work towards the 10km Standard Chartered run, it's become more of my exercise/training log.

Take a look at it if you are interested:

My Current Favourite Restaurant - Cedele

I've recently fallen in love with the breads at Cedele. I first ate there a couple of months ago and basically found the food interesting but a little expensive. What got me hooked was the bread. It tasted really good and it is supposedly very healthy. I was able to find bread like the 100% wholemeal loaf made with 100% wholewheat and is sugarless and eggless! I just buy a loaf, freeze it and slowly enjoy it for the next c
ouple of days. The breads are a little expensive. The wholemeal loaf costs about $5.30, almost twice what a Gardenia/Sunshine multi-grain loaf costs. So, Cedele breads are more a treat then a regular bread for me.

I enjoy eating at their restaurants but the meals can be pretty expensive. A full salad with side soup can cost almost $30. But last Saturday, I discovered that I could eat at their cafe-like restaurants where a small soup and sandwich/salad costs jsut under $10!! And for $1 more, I could get to enjoy the different breads! I think I have discovered my new favourite lunch!

If you are a bread lover, you need to give Ce
dele a try. You can find their stores here.

As much as I love their breads.. need to watch it so I don't take in too much carbo! Still want to hit my personal targets. :)

I don't think this is their 100% wholemeal boule, but I can't find the exact pic on their site so I'm posting this pic which I think it pretty close to what I like.

I just discovered the yumminess of their nine-grain loaf. It's made of 50% wholegrain and is also egg and sugar free.
And here's the one that's the diet-breaker... despite all the yummy healthy food... there's the deliciously sinful selection of cakes. Yeah.. I'm sure they are made with the healthiest of ingredients but I don't think there's any way I can justify stuffing myself with this slice of heaven... this one's my favourite, the Chocolate Banana Expresso Cake. And yes, it's as delicious as it looks. :P

Friday, October 16, 2009

Movie Review: Pandorum

Haven't done one of these in quite a while. Might restart with the reviews....

Pandorum is a pretty ho-hum show. Tries to be a scary sci-fi but ends up being very blah. There are some interesting ideas but generally, the whole execution is very boring. It's not the worst movie I've seen. Some movies, I really want to just leave the cinema halfway through. With Pandorum, I didn't mind sitting through it (although some parts were painfully pointless) because it seemed to indicate the possibility of something better.

As far as I'm concerned though, give this movie a miss. Your $8 is better spent wiping your butt. LOL.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Star Struck

Ever since I was introduced to Xing Guang Da Dao by a friend, I've been pretty hooked to the show. In addition to unearthing some pretty good singers, I've also been introduced to many Taiwanese singers. Last weekend, I was at Bugis when I discovered that Xu Jia Ying, the winner from Season 3 was there for an autograph session. I almost flipped! She's one of my favourite winners of the show and her CD is probably the one I'm listening to most this year. My heart melted when she sang her hit song: 失落沙洲.
When I got home, I found out that she, together with another of my favourites, Lu Guang Zong would be performing at IMM on Sunday as a publicity event for this year's Singapore Hit Awards... I know this sounds embarrassing but I actually made time to go down to IMM, resorting to even carrying my laptop so I could do some work on the train since it was a long journey there.

Well, I'm glad to say there are absolutely no regrets for making the time to go all the way down to Jurong East. Lu Guang Zong was really good. He was really charismatic and really does his 'every-man' act very well. Makes you feel that he is just one of the normal people singing his songs. Xu Jia Ying was jsut as good and she sang a couple of other songs which she hadn't sung the night before. Another person who performed was Singapore's very own Tanya Chua. I've never been a fan but after hearing her, I must say I am somewhat impressed by her songs as well.

I was a wonderful evening chasing the stars. :)

Lu Guang Zong belting out his 'rock' hits.

Xu Jia Ying melting my heart... again!

Tanya Chua sharing a really heartfelt song.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Somehow or rather... today is a moody day. sigh.

Monday, September 07, 2009

My First Run :D - RUN Singapore

Today was the big day... my first 5km run. There was a great sense of personal achievement for me to finally cross the finishing line without stopping/walking any part of the route. Don't think I could ever have imagined doing this one year ago. Now, I've crossed my first checkpoint in my journey to the 10km run at the end of the year. :)

The starting/finishing point

RUN Singapore... my first run... ever!

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Today, I went down to The Central to collect my first ever Race Pack for next week's Run Singapore. The pack itself wasn't too exciting, a T-shirt, 2 water bottles and a number tag. But the thought that I will be taking part in my first ever 5km run is quite unebelievable. I think the latest is that the organizers had to change it to about 4.5km for some safety reasons but what the heck, as far as I'm concerned, it's still a 5km run :).

I know a 5km run for most of you will probably be no big deal, but for me, it really is a HUGE deal. I think the last serious thing I ever ran successfully was my 2.4km in JC and that was XX years ago. Some of you know that I have been working hard to achieve my fitness goal and I decided to sign up for the Run Singapore coz I thought it would be an affirmation that I am on the right track. Additionally, I thought it would be really cool to let my first every run to be along the Singapore F1 circuit.

My real goal is the 10km run at the Singapore Marathon at the end of the year. I can't imagine every running 10km... but hey, a year ago, I wouldn't even think of taking part in a 5km. I've been doing regular runs in the last 2 months and I think I should be able to complete the 5km run without having to walk/stop.

I'm pretty excited about next Sunday and a little apprehensive as well. But I think it's going to be memorable and a personal achievement to be able to complete my first every 5km run event. 12490. Sounds like a nice enough number to begin with. :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Just take a look at the newly announced Playstation 3 Slim....

There goes my US$300..... enuff said. :P

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Shopping at Mustafa

Last night, I was at Vivocity looking for some stuff. Shopped till 10pm when the shops closed and I was a little bummed out coz I didn't feel like going home and I had not found everything I needed. So as I was waiting at the Harbourfront MRT for the train, a thought popped into my mind - why not try Mustafa Centre (MC)? It's open 24hours after all....

So, I hopped on the train and got off at Farrer Park MRT station and began my adventure.

As far as I can understand, there are 3 buildings that make up the whole place (sound bigger than Macy's in New York City). There's a more high-class (ie. atas) MC that faces Serangoon Road. Stuff there are organized fairly neatly like a supermarket/mall. And there's the really massive, cramped, generally messy MC located behind the atas-MC that's made up of two buildings. I found out last nite, that atas-MC is not 24hours... only the messy-MC.

You can really find everything under the sun here. From obsure products of popular brands to obscure brands with wide range of products. If you are shopping for something, you better be prepared to (1) brave the crowds and (2) hunt for the item. It almost feels like a scavenger hunt at times. The layout of the messy-MC is quite confusing. More than once, I had to ask for directions to find out how to get to the basement floors or where to find a certain section. Everything is packed onto the shelves with very little regard for visibility or aesthetics. Essentially, it's a fill-the-shelf-and-let-you-hunt-for-it-yourself system. For eg. shoes are stacked in pairs on top of each other and if you want to find you size... happy digging.

I guess the two big questions are: is there variety and are the goods cheap?

For variety, I guess you can find different brands but I won't say that it's exhaustive. Like I mentioned, there are strange little obscure brands, but not all main popular brands can be found. I looked around for a knee brace and found brands from nike to kettler to something called 90mins. They also had the more 'medical' brands like Futura and 3 or 4 others in their pharmacy section. But when it came to MP3 players, I only found the usual Appele, Samsung, Creative and Philips. Not a bad selection, but being the pseudo-techie that I am, I was hoping for more.

For prices, sure, there are a couple of good buys, but by and large, I don't think they can be considered much cheaper than our super/hyper markets like NTUC, Carrefour, Giant, etc. One great buy I found was almonds... I found a 1kg pack for around $12. It's some strange brand, but since I was looking for raw almonds, I decided to give it a try. Looked fresh anyway. In the usual supermarkets, raw almonds can cost about $3.50 for 100grams. I've not opened the bag, but hope it tastes decent. When I was there, there was also a midnight special for a 42inch 720p Panasonic LCD TV. It was only $999 with another $300 in vouchers! Wow... bloody cheap! At the recent Escapades Fair in Suntec, the same model was going for about S$1200 (without vouchers!) at their hourly special. Clothes and sports goods on the other hand, were quite normally priced, I think. My general impression is that you can get cheaper stuff and better variety in Queensway.

As far as I can guess, Mustafa Centre (MC) is able to be so popular because (1) it's open 24-hours so you can shop any time and (2) it's so massive and messy that after a while, you just buy stuff (not knowing if it's cheap or not) coz... you're so confused. You just lose all inhibition when you are surrounded by so many things. It makes for a good late night shopping but I don't think I will specially go there to get stuff coz I do prefer my supermarkets neater so that the shopping is more relaxing.

When I left MC, I realized it was already 1am. Ended up taking a cab back to Bishan coz there were no night buses that I could find that would bring me home. (Another irritation I have with Singapore.... no night transport!! Trains should be 24hours!). I spent 9 bucks on my taxi fare which almost wiped out the savings I made on the items I bought! So in the end, not that cheap after all...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Back in RI

Yep, after a 2.5 year break, I've rejoined RI. This time round, I'm taking on a pretty specific duty as compared to the numerous roles I was playing the last time. I will be helping to run the Raffles Leadership Programme (RLP), the leadership development programme based in the boarding school. I've not updated this blog as I've been busy adjusting to life back in RI and living in boarding. Of course, there were the disruptions due to the H1N1 situation.

Starting off in late June, I was busy moving back into RI Boarding School. My new lodge is quite nice - 2 bedrooms, a sitting room and a kitchen.. on the 10th floor! The view's pretty nice, it's facing the RI pool and the Rafflesia Condo, much better than facing the columbarium. heh. Will post some pics ONLY when I've managed to clean up my lodge a little.

On top of running the RLP, I'm also teaching a couple of CLE classes (CLE = Character and Leadership Education... a but like CME lessons in other schools). It's good to be able to get back into some classroom teaching as well.

Will blog more as I get more settled back in RI.

Some Pics of Ho Chi Minh City

Some pics of Ho Chi Minh City from my trip. We spent two nights in Mui Ne, my favourite beach resort and one night in Ho Chi Minh City. I woke up kinda early and took a quick trip to Ben Thanh market, just as the tourist shops were setting up stall. So this time round, had a chance to look at the wet market in all it's gory glory.

Let's start with pig's innards... :)

Here are the tourist shops just setting up shop. It's amazing that they pack up everything in the evening and then set it up again in the mornings. As far as I can tell, some of these shops even move out their wares into the night market in the evenings. The other interesting thing is that the shop assistants barely took a look at me as I walked past, very unlike 'working hours' when you get drowned in 'sir... cheap cheap! buy t-shirt? good price!'. It's like there is an official office hour for selling to tourists.

It was a nice short getaway. Only small issue was the super long ride back to Ho Chi Minh from Mui Ne coz of the weekend traffic. But I am sure I will return to the wonderful beach again.

Now to plan my next getaway....