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Western Australia, you have my heart.

It’s always nice to be back in Perth, no matter how many times I’ve been to this little city. I think of it something like my second home.

I finally made it to this quaint little boat house along Crawley’s Edge and snapped a few photos. Too bad it was nearing winter when I was there, else the skies would’ve been painted more dramatically.

Probably my favorite part of it would be the life that runs through the very center of the city. The Swan River carries your sorrow away.

Perth is the half city, half countryside break I need from Singapore when life gets too hectic or mundane around here. Every time I go to Perth, I get slightly confused and intrigued people asking me… “What did you do in Perth? I hear it’s a boring place! And you always go back.” Well, Singapore can be pretty damn boring to a lot of us locals as well. Sp why do people from faraway European countries still fly halfway across the world to visit our little overpopulated, cramped up city?

Because it’s different. And there is beauty in uniqueness.

In Perth, I do everything and nothing, really. I experience good sleeps, nice weather that isn’t constantly sweltering, long walks in the park, sunsets on the beach, a lot of good food & I caught up with friends & family. Doesn’t sound like an epic adventure to most people, but doesn’t that sound like a jolly good time? To me, it always is. I haven’t been to a whole lot of places in the world yet, but here are the reasons why I somehow keep ending up back in Perth (and Australia).

My mum has a house in Perth. Saving on accommodation is saving the bulk cost of the trip. She also takes me out to nice dinners almost every night! Yay for affordable holidays.

It’s also not too far from Singapore. A 4 hours+ flight is something I can deal with, without getting all claustrophobic on the plane. I really hate plane rides. I used to have a huge phobia, but I had to get over it because my hunger to experience new things was stronger.

I like how it has different seasons to switch things up a bit, yet, they’re not too drastic such that they become overwhelmingly difficult to deal with. I’m not a big fan of snow and I’m quite pleased that Australia doesn’t get near that cold. Their summers aren’t that different from the usual weather in Singapore either (less humid, too!)

My boyfriend’s Australian, and I’m quite familiar with the Aussie lifestyle and accent. I was quite taken aback when I went to the States. I thought I would be comfortable in USA, considering how many American movies I’ve watched (?!?) but I still, I hard a hard time adjusting to the cultural shock. Australia has an extremely diverse ethnicity crowd which makes me feel more at home, or rather.. not so out of place. Racism is less present than in other largely white-dominated-countries. I can walk on the streets at night and still feel quite safe, and I don’t have to be on my guard 100% of the time.

Western Australia truly is beautiful. Australia, on the whole is great… but Western Australia has my heart.

Somebody once asked me if I’m being paid by The Australian Tourism Board to always talk about Australia over the years on my blog, because I’m doing a good job, if that’s so. Hah, I wish! Wouldn’t that be awesome, though? I don’t care to be paid, just whisk me off for new adventures.

The clear blue skies, the pristine beaches and waters…. the vast countryside… it feels so untouched. I mean… I get such a happy high just driving down an expressway admiring how there are no tall buildings in sight, just farms and greenery as far as the eye can see. Coming from a girl who lives in a country that spans 50km at its widest point… do you get what I’m saying?

Do you know I am STILL fascinated by seeing horses & cows on the side of the country road? Maybe I don’t get out of my little urban country barely often enough. But sometimes I pride myself in finding joy in the littlest things.

Never lose that child-like wonder in yourself.

Be grateful for every sunset, every opportunity, marvel at every new sight.

Traveling does not always need to be done in an extravagant way. You do not always need to go to the most extraordinary places on earth to find beauty. Sometimes, the joy of traveling is finding beauty in everyday, extraordinarily normal things. Live a little, breathe a little. I was told that a group of bloggers from China had recently gone to Perth on a sponsored tourism trip, and when asked by the tour guide what they’d wanted to see the most.. Their response was simply, “the sunset”. Apparently, in their hometown, the air is so polluted and the atmosphere so choked with smog, they don’t have many opportunities to witness a clear, vibrant and un-distorted sunset in their own country. They were happy just to breathe in the fresh air and to look up in the skies at the end of every day.

Isn’t that amazing?

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves, and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”

xoxo,
Jess

Sofitel So Bangkok! So FABULOUS.

When people think of Bangkok, luxury does not necessarily come straight to mind.

Most would think of the crowded, rowdy streets, bustling night markets, delicious and affordable Thai food – but at the mention of Bangkok these days, the FIRST thing that comes to MY mind is Sofitel So Bangkok.

I’ve had the utmost pleasure of staying at Sofitel So Bangkok twice in less than half a year, and I have to tell you, the second experience wasn’t any less impressive or awe-inspiring as the first one! It is, without a doubt, one of the best hotels I’ve ever had the good fortune to step foot into.

“Let your imagination run wild in a world of visionary expression and multi-sensory indulgence. Situated on the corner of Sathorn and Rama IV Roads Sofitel So Bangkok is an intrigue-steeped 5-star hotel with a resolutely contemporary outlook.

At the heart of it all The Tree of Life – an emblem designed by famed couturier and design legend Mr. Christian Lacroix – combines the five elements of Water Earth Wood Metal and Fire into uniting icon.
Discover these elements reflected in the design themes of the hotels luxury rooms and suites. Four leading Thai interior designers each bring to life Water Earth Wood and Metal with their own inspired vision.
Sensual experiences celebrate the French art de vivre in lavishly creative restaurants and bars So Spa and a variety of unique spaces – from the infinity pool to solarium to Club Signature to one-of-a-kind meeting wedding and event venues.

Overlook sparkling cityscapes and Lumphini Park from a very luxe perch. Captivate your senses. Live a high-tech lifestyle in a sky-high suite. Dine and wine. Work and play. Explore the elements in a stylishly modern Bangkok design hotel.”

From the moment you enter their doors, you’ll be immediately overcome with the realization that this. is. a. swanky. place. Although it is very much luxurious, Sofitel So Bangkok maintained a cosy and almost homely sort of atmosphere because the service was genuine and personal!

The entire hotel has contemporary artistic designs and fixtures that will leave you breathless, even their welcome drink was a lemongrass magical potion that consisted of three differently colored liquids – when mixed together, they turn into a bright purple shade!

Taking a quick hotel tour…

Their Club Signature lets you enjoy perks such as having high tea in the lounge during the afternoon and cocktails in the evening!

A display of the super intricately detailed staff uniform in the lounge, designed by Christian Lacroix, which the staff all proudly wear. There’s something to look or marvel at in every inch and corner around here.

Their infinity pool is absolutely gorgeous, with a sight like Lumphini Park to behold! They have a knack for allowing you to leave the rest of hectic far behind. The water is very welcoming because Bangkok’s weather is so humid and warm!

I was hopping excited to check out the hotel room we picked because Sofitel So Bangkok’s concept is unlike any other. The hotel has five elements which it is themed around – Water, Earth, Wood, Metal and Fire. Each type of room is completely different from the other, and they all sounded exceptionally inviting when I was reading through the description on their website.. I had a hard time deciding which beautiful room I wanted to call home for 3 days!


Earth Element {Wonder & Enrichment)
An enfolding haven adorned by Thai primeval wall paintings – mythical creatures, shadows flickering in the light.


Wood Element {Elegance & Tranquility}
Enter a calming oasis, murals sketched on silk evoking old Siam, alive with colour and the touch of a master.

Metal Element {Purity & Modernity} 
Frenetic Bangkok comes to a halt. A collage of metal, whites and glass. A transcendence of time and space.
Metal is actually my second favorite room after Water! It’s very clean and minimalist looking. Very white-centered. In my opinion, I feel like the Water room is best for couples, Metal for friends traveling together, Wood for business travelers and Earth for families!
My photos don’t do enough justice to the rooms.. they’re way more stunning in real life when your eyes and mind can actually conceptualize the widths, sights and angles of the whole carefully put-together room!


Water Element {Sophistication & Calm)
Organic curves like flowing water, onyx glowing against cool dark marble. Drink in skyline panoramas from every vantage point.

Check out that sexy tub!!!!!!!!! ♥_♥ The entire room oozes futuristic sexiness, and it’s the ideal couple hideaway!

Part of the Water theming was two fighting fishes placed on the desk! Love the attention to detail. It’s very, very endearing.

The magnificent view from our room. Who knew Bangkok could look so serene? Every morning we would look at people rowing their boats on the lake or jogging around the park!

Talk about state of the art – I was delighted to find that the TV came hooked up to a mac mini, which allowed me access to the internet (free wifi) & social media easily – you don’t need to lug your laptop with you!

With a room like this…. I don’t need to leave the hotel at all.

In fact, we didn’t.

Couldn’t resist jumping right in for a hot soak with overflowing bubbles. What would life be without bubble baths, really? The tub was so big, I could literally float around, spread out like a starfish. All while having views of Lumphini Park and listening to the music from the built in stereo system. My favorite part of the room!

We booked the So Comfy suite FYI. And yes it was really freakin’ c-o-m-f-y. I look a little cross eyed in this picture because I was struggling to keep my eyes open for this shot…..

..Usually, my trips to Bangkok are jam packed with activities and I’d spend most of the time walking and shopping until my feet ached, then frantically search for the nearest massage place.

This time, however, we decided to take it real slow and easy, spent our entire first day just fully discovering what this lovely place has to offer!

I was massaged into a pile of butter at So Spa.. as the therapist slowly worked my muscles, I felt all my aches and troubles melting away. I highly recommend the So Signature treatment which was nothing short of AMAZINGGGGGGGGGG. Worth every single cent. It wasn’t too hard or painful to endure, it was absolutely relaxing and invigorating at the same time. My idea of a perfect spa. The last thing I want during a massage is to experience discomfort and have my muscles ache even more afterwards so I avoided going for Thai massages.

So Spa had everything from the zen ambience, extensive range of pampering treatments to professional & skillful masseurs! It would be impossible to feel any sense of unhappiness in a place like this.

It’s not a proper holiday for me until I’ve got some good spa lovin’!

Don’t feel like facing Bangkok’s rush hour at night, or the terrifying jams?
The hotel’s got us covered with evening cocktails at their Club Signature, and a romantic candlelit dinner for two at their rooftop restaurant, Park Society!

Spoilt for choice. It’s been super long since the mister and I had gone to a fancy dinner like this. Dress up for a 2.5 hour at a nice place, just the two of us, drink wine, order lots of food, stare into Bangkok’s skyline, with little serious chatter in between but a lot of comfortable silences and gazing at each other… Just appreciating the food & company. I had the greatest time ever.

We ended up ordering what seemed like 1/3 of the whole delicious menu, because we just couldn’t decide what NOT to stuff our faces with!

Seared scallops with creamy chestnut puree, sauteed green veggie and chestnut foam

Pan seared foie gras with toasted brioche, fresh cherry, almost and cherry sauce

Snow fish, prawn ravioli, prawn & squid, sauteed veggies and bisque foam

Roasted beef tenderloin, more foie gras, sauteed asparagus & truffle sauce

Canadian lobster, asparagus, baby veggies and angel hair pasta in bisque foam

“Indulgence” would be a secere understatement. If I could use one word to describe our meal, I’d have to say it was gastronomic. We had originally intended to order desserts, but needless to say… we were overly stuffed. In the best possible way. Every calorie was gleefully devoured!

So stuffed in fact, that we had to take a picture from the back where you wouldn’t see our bulging tummies. LOL. Or maybe we just wanted a romantic picture. You decide which is the truth :P

Don’t miss out on a classy dinner date at Park Society when you stay at Sofitel So Bangkok!

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All in all, Sam and I had an utterly unforgettable experience at Sofitel So Bangkok!

We are endlessly thankful to the So wonderful team for making our time there So darn enjoyable. So awesome!!!! SO FABULOUS. ;)

We honestly didn’t want to leave at all, and were very to go. Special thanks to Germaine for bringing us around on a tour of the premises and arranging everything  for us. We’ve recommended this hotel to all our friends, and I can’t wait till the next opportunity I have to return again.

Interested in booking Sofitel So Bangkok for your next trip? Check out their website for more details. You won’t regret it… You have my word.

xoxo,
Jess

Bangkok Baby!

As a belated 21st Birthday gift, my mum took me (and my elder brother who shares the same birthday) on a trip to Bangkok. All our respective partners came along with, so it was a big gay family affair!

At first I wasn’t all THAT excited to go Bangkok. I was bound for Europe (that woman swore for my 21st she’d take me on my first trip to Europe) but because my brother is going to have a kid realllyyy soon early next year and doesn’t like to fly to places too far away, we settled for Bangkok in the end. She’s all like, “think for your korkor, for many years he will not be able to travel anymore when committed to a kid, this will be our last trip as a family for a long time” so that was that. At the risk of sounding like a spoilt brat….. Boo. I mean, sure I was excited as anyone would be before any sort of trip, but as I’d already been to Bangkok before, I was sure it wouldn’t blow me away again. Not like it really did the first time. The last trip I made there was merely 4 years ago or so, so how much could it have changed since then?

As it turns out…. Life has proven me wrong, once again

No matter how many times you read a book, you’ll always look at it from a different perspective. I concur that A LOT has changed about Bangkok. Or at least, who I am when I visited it both times!

I guess when I last came here at 16 years old, I didn’t realize what a buzzing urban city this was. All I can reallyy remember is my feet aching as I walked through chatuchak and strange little alley ways.

I didn’t have the spending power back then, that I now possess, so a lot of things were left undiscovered in my previous trip. Bangkok is both third world and first world all at once.

 Step into the malls and you’re surrounded by big labels such as Chanel, McQueen, Prada, and soo many other brands… take one step out of the mall and you’ll see sunken faced raggedy clothed people selling dubious looking food under the bridge in completely unsanitary conditions, making absolutely no money. It’s such a stark contrast.

What I do love about it: You have all these cute little artistic cafes everywhere, the food is AMAZING everywhere you go, everything’s so damn cheap and you can seriously buy everything in Bangkok… A dream for people who love cheap thrills, and people who enjoy roughing it out a little, but not too much. The down side to this place is despite how many tourists visit each year, it’s still not that safe (or clean). Traffic is absolutely shit, and everyone is trying to scam you.

 Glamorous luxury is not really what Bangkok is about, good food and cheap buys = where the money at. But still, despite it all, we managed to find a little piece of luxury and extravagance in the heart of Bangkok at Hua Chang Heritage Hotel.

Actually, all credits go to my mum for discovering this gem, I had no idea about it until she chose it.

And she could not have picked another hotel that screamed me more than this one!!!!! Picture spam of one of the prettiest hotels I’ve ever stayed in coming rigghtttt up!

The moment you step into the hotel, you know what the rest of it is going to be like.

Statement pieces of furniture boasting loud colors.

Quilted stuff & rhinestones everywhere (which I adore!) It’s fancy but remains relatively minimalist in other aspects. Modern and contemporary, don’t expect no wooden Traditional Thai vibes here. Everything in this hotel sparkles.

I LOVED IT.

I mean please, check out the dream of a room I stayed in for 4 awesome nights. Fit for a princess!

 The room was brightly lit, spacious, very clean, chic as hell (I don’t care if it’s too girly for a hotel room in general, it’s perfect to me!)

Grabbed this pic from my Instagram (@shiberty)

For the record, not a single part of this trip was sponsored. My opinions are completely my own! :) The service and experience at Hua Chang Heritage Hotel was always top notch, so I highly recommend this hotel if you’d like to indulge a little in Bangkok the next time you go. I know Bangkok is known for cost friendly accommodations all over the city, but just look at the pictures!!!! I believe I make a convincing salesperson! :P I reiterate my point with pictorial evidence, not just words.

I couldn’t resist taking a few (or a lot) of shots around this pretty place…

Don’t let the greenery fool you, it’s not quite as serene as it appears to be.

It IS Bangkok, and it is located right next to the Siam district (10 mins walk to major malls & train, fab location!) so how could it possibly be anywhere near quiet? The loud fountains try to drown out the noise of the traffic, but they’re no match to the massive amounts of zooming cars driving past the swimming pool. You can’t see them, but you can hear them right next to you. So I didn’t bother taking a dip in the pool, despite it being a pretty feature, the ambience just didn’t feel right. I spent every night in the glorious en-suite hot tub instead!

One of my favorite parts of the trip was waking up to a buffet breakfast everyday with my family.

How many of us get to wake up and enjoy a slow breakfast in the morning with the ones we love? They’re either not even there in the morning, or always rushing about…

Not that the hotel’s breakfast was an impressive spread (it was actually relatively disappointing compared to all the other yummies in Bangkok) but it was nice knowing I’d wake up to a gorgeous morning, fill my anticipating belly with food, mull over how to spend a long day ahead with my family, without any work interruptions or other stressful commitments. Just us, and the world to explore.

 That’s the great thing about any holiday, innit? You feel like a free soaring bird. You feel like your work doesn’t own you, and you own your life. That you’re ready for ADVENTURE. The older I get, the more I realize quality family time is extremely precious. I could go to Europe anytime I want to now that I’m financially independent, however, precious family time like this doesn’t come by too often and it doesn’t even matter where in the world we are, as long as we’re together.



Thank you for always giving me the best whenever you can. ♥ Trust me when I say you don’t know how much a difference parents make to your life, until you move out.

Bangkok was a great idea. I miss it already.

xoxo,
Jess

Thailand Young Explorer Project: Chiang Mai

A few weeks ago, I went on an exploratory trip to Chiang Mai. It is an assignment given to me by Chan Brothers and Tourism Authority of Thailand, part of the Young Explorer Project!

From the official Thailand Young Explorer website, featuring 5 other bloggers besides myself:

“The ‘Young Explorer Project’ is a joint collaboration by Chan Brothers Travel and the Tourism Authority of Thailand; it’s all about travelling in Thailand from a foreigner’s opinion. This joint project aims to introduce Thailand’s attractions and culture in a fun and engaging way through the eyes of our local bloggers; to introduce free and easy travel in Thailand; to emphasize it isn’t THAT difficult to plan a free and easy trip to Thailand.”

Me, just off the plane and in my hotel room in Chiang Mai!

When I was first informed that I was supposed to go explore Chiang Mai, I have to admit that initially I wasn’t very excited. I’d thought Bangkok or Phuket seemed like more entertaining choices of destination, having been to both of those places before I knew I would enjoy it again. However, a part of me was also longing to find out what Chiang Mai was all about. My first impression upon googling information about the place was that it has a lot of elephants and culture… which sounded boring. But, now that I’m back from my 4 day trip to Chiang Mai I would love to tell you guys all about how it was ANYTHING but boring!!! My partner in crime was Maureen aka MissTamChiak and although we didn’t know each other prior to the trip, we hit it off pretty well and had no problems traveling together. I am actually really thankful to have been sent there on an assignment trip because I probably would not have chosen to explore Chiang Mai on my accord, and would’ve missed out on all the beauty and fun this city had to offer. It is plenty in riches and I’m not talking about things you buy materialistic items with. I’m talking about things money can’t buy. I wish I had more time to indulge in their culture, food and experiences a little bit more, but I think I’ve covered quite a bit of things in the amount of time designated so here we go…

Shiberty’s List of 10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai!!!

1) Embark on a religious adventure by visiting one of Chiang Mai’s many Buddhist temples!


Religion is a big deal in Thailand. In Chiang Mai, Theravada Buddhism is the main religion. The whole city is dotted with beautiful and intricate places of worship with long dated history you can visit to pay your respects to the gods at, or even if you don’t quite believe in a higher being like me, you will still find their strong beliefs utterly fascinating.

Our choice temple to visit is one of Chiang Mai’s most famous, Doi Suthep. Some people say you haven’t been to Chiang Mai if you haven’t been to Doi Suthep. Unfortunately for me, the temple was located at the peak of an alarming amount of stairs…

When I eventually made it up, I was captivated by the intense atmosphere of worship. I can’t bring myself to be a religious person because I need to see things to believe in it. In other words, I don’t quite have the ability to open my heart and believe in blind (or guided? as some may say) faith. It inspires me that these people can.

You just can’t not be wowed by these details!

You’re meant to make a wish, try to lift the elephant up with one finger, then put it down. Make the same wish again, and if you’re still able to lift it up the second time it means your wish will not come true. If you try your darnest but you still somehow seem unable to lift the elephant up when it was easy to do so before, then only will your wish be granted by the gods.

For the record, both times I managed to lift the elephant up…. either I have really big hulk arms (which I do) or the gods hate me. I wished for good health & happiness for myself and the people I love. Ironically, when I stood up after putting down the elephant, I somehow broke my nail on the floorboard and it immediately bled. I don’t know how I broke my nail on a perfectly flat surface and managed to injure myself right there and then…..

According to your different birth dates, you ladle oil onto different parts of this… erm… thingy. I have no word for it. I am bad at describing religious stuff.

Went to get a blessing bracelet from the local monks…

Here’s our Thai / Taiwanese friend, Toto, tying it on for me. I had the bracelet on for a couple of days before untying it and laying it under a tree :)

Toto is sucha sweet guy and I am so happy that we had a local friend who could introduce us to the most authentic places to visit in Chiang Mai! If not for him, my trip definitely would not have been so epic. If you would like Toto and his friends to bring you around amazing places in Chiang Mai too, hit them up here! Or if you’re having trouble contacting him, you can email me and I’ll get you in touch with him. Toto heads a Chiang Mai tourism company but he took us around without charges on a friendly basis, as he’s a friend of a friend’s. But I would highly recommend his services to anyone visiting Thailand soon, he’s the most thoughtful and kindest person you’d meet.

We only had time for one temple because our itinerary was jam packed with other exciting stuff, off to our next destination we go!!!

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2) Eat Khao Soy, a traditional dish originating from Northen Thailand most famous in Chiang Mai!

Our first meal in Chiang Mai was lunch at this eatery called “Just Khao Soy.” We incidentally passed by this shop while we were hungry and roaming around the streets, and found ourselves wandering in.

It had air conditioning…. score!!!!! That’s quite a rarity in Chiang Mai! And much appreciated in the heat.

We were first served Thai appetizers such as sundried beef strips, sausages, spring rolls and crispy fish slices… which were pretty good! It built up my appetite for the main course:

Khao Soy!!!! 

When I first had the soup without adding all the little condiments pictured above, I thought it tasted like our local laksa (coconut curry soup) but a little blander. But as soon as I poured in most of the ingredients I realized it was nothing like laksa and actually very very tasty!!! (and spicy) but I LOVED it. Khao Soy is normally served with beef / chicken / pork pieces and has ingredients such as pickles, sugar (quite a bit of it), lime, shallots, fish sauce…. and more items I couldn’t figure out.

Me with my Khao Soy set! I love trying new food.

 My contact lens tore when I tried to put them on so I had to make do with glasses the first day. I had the appetizer to share with Maureen + my khao soy set + a refreshing lemon drink for less than 10 SGD. Thailand’s food is seriously WAY too good and cheap…. unlike Singapore’s food which sees its quality dipping but prices rising!

We had Khao Soy another time at a hawker centre of sorts and it was less than $2 for a bowl! Tasted different, but very good as well. I really wish I had some right now!

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3) Visit a native village tribe in Chiang Mai to take a peek into a life so different from yours!

If Bangkok is all about the shopping and Phuket is all about the beach, then Chiang Mai is definitely all about the culture & food.

We drove up a hill to visit the Miao tribe and for an hour, experienced the tranquility of their relatively carefree lives. They may not have much in terms of monetary value but they are living simply, happy & free.

The Miao tribe (also known as Hmong tribe I was told) are known for their delicate embroidery.

This is one of their forms of entertainment.. trying to get a bullseye on a dangling fruit on a crossbow! I wanted to buy a crossbow back for Sam coz he would’ve loved it so much but you can’t take weapons onto planes, lol.

I got a bullseye on my second shot!!!

Other forms of entertainment included jumping again and again into a reservoir…

Sweet little girl! She gamely posed for a photo when I asked her to!

There was something precious about rustic living like this. It’s so close to nature, and even though it’s not the glamorous life we’re used to, it sure is beautiful in its own way.

Happy to be frolicking around in Chiang Mai :)

Spotted a man selling Thai ice cream – yes please!!!! Coconut ice cream (SOOO GOOD) wrapped with white bread, filled with glutinous rice and peanuts.

Loved everything but the peanuts. Not a fan of nuts.

Know why there are so many standing sticks on top of this rock? Apparently if you pick up a fallen stick and place it standing upright on that platform, you’ll turn all your bad luck into good luck!

There was a shop that sold and rented their traditional embroidered attires… and for a brief moment in time, we had a chance to be one of them tribal people!!!

My #ootd is pretty spiffy, don’t cha think?

Those hand sewn details are out of this world. So much tender loving care and long hours went into making a piece like this, probably one of each in the entire world ♥

Sawadeeka!!! The true Thailand experience. Now I’m REALLY in Chiang Mai.

I love going into the country side to see the REAL “country” when I travel, staying in the city is so boring! Sightseeing is always my number one priority when traveling.

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4) Visit an elephant sanctuary / camp to learn more about Thailand’s sacred animal!

Maesa Elephant Camp came as a really nice surprise.

The last time I blogged about riding an elephant in Phuket, a blog reader informed me that riding on elephants is unethical because they often get mistreated while training to be humanized and that the living conditions tend to be terrible. So I was quite conflicted inside about riding an elephant even though it was planned to be part of our itinerary.

To my relief, Maesa Elephant Camp didn’t seem like one of those places that ignored the welfare of their elephants. It appeared to me, as far as I could tell, like a nice sanctuary for elephants. I mean, just look at the forest that they live in!!!! It’s SO gorgeous and wild and free. They get to roam around (spot the ellie in the distance!) like they would in the wild, and not worry about starvation, poachers or harsh elements..

Maesa elephant camp houses over 70 beautiful elephants!

It takes a lot to feed a creature like that. Now imagine more than 70 of them. I can’t imagine how much funding and resources this place needs.

They have a natural river to bathe and play in that runs across the compound! Visitors can also ride on rafts that will along this river and they can choose to play with the elephants if they want.

The trekking path was amazing! A much more pleasant than my previous experience. We had to go up and down steps and slopes which made it all the more fun.

 Maureen was squirming and dying from anxiety next to me, it was hilarious to watch. I was relieved that there were not any huge insects flying around the elephant and landing on our legs (happened to me last time and I freaked out more about the insects than the elephant) and the mahout didn’t whack the elephant repeatedly in disrespect…. he talked to it nicely and gently and it obeyed him obligingly! I looked out for any puncture wounds or stab marks from the hooks that mahouts use to control elephants with, but I could find none on the elephants I saw in this camp. I was told they do not tolerate any form of abuse of mistreatment here. So glad to hear that – makes me feel happy for them.

Ethical elephant riding - possible?

After our 30 minutes trek through the jungle, we were seated down for the elephant show of a lifetime!

I didn’t really think elephants could be trained to do much but these guys could PLAY SOCCER, basketball, paint and throw darts!!!!! I would never have guessed!!! 

The elephant paints better than I do. Ridiculous. You have to see the show to really understand how mischievous and intelligent these gentle giants were. Another reason for me to believe that these animals are treated kindly is due to their behavior. You can force an animal to perform a trick begrudgingly, but you cannot force an animal to be happy while doing it. If its behaving so naturally playfully, it has to like the attention!

Awww!!!! Friendly ellies!

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5) Learn how to cook delicious Thai food at one of Chiang Mai’s aplenty cooking schools!

We chose Baan Thai Cooking School for their competitive prices and for their hotel pick up service!

Rode from our hotel to the cooking school in a tuk tuk Chiang Mai style.

The set up was extremely homely. I felt like I was going to a Thai’s friend’s house to cook!

Before the cooking begun, we set off to the markets to buy fresh produce for our dishes..

You don’t wanna know how that smelled :P

Apparently these are baby eggplants (?!?)

Bought a mango smoothie from this nice lady to cool off, then back to the cooking school!

Spot Maureen and her huge camera as the group learns how to whip up delectable Thai dishes from a friendly and patient local cook.

The dishes they taught us to cook were relatively simple (but yummy!) – the most common ingredients being lime, chilli, fish sauce… And since I cook often at home I found the whole class very enjoyable and easy to follow.

The instructors spoke pretty good English and gave very simple instructions, so even if you’re not familiar with kitchen tools and preparation work at all, this should be a breeze!

This…..

Turned into this, after 15 minutes! Spicy coconut seafood soup!

Most of the class participants were white people. In fact we were the only Chinese / Asian people out of like 20 attendees.


Other food I prepared that day:

Crispy Thai Spring Rolls

Pad Thai

Pork Red Curry

Feasting at our table!!! After cooking our dishes, the attendees would gather around a table and share their dishes with one another.. we cooked different stuff and it was fun sampling everyone’s cooking attempts while exchanging stories from where we’re from :D

We made new friends with lovely ladies from USA and Ireland!

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6) Get your adrenaline pumping with extreme sports in Chiang Mai!

One of the coolest things I’ve done in my life… We went to The Shooting Club and fired real guns like true badasses!!!!!!! I can’t believe I can say I’ve used a gun before, coming from a super sheltered and safe country like Singapore where owning a gun or even firing one is often unheard of.

It was my Left 4 Dead fantasies coming true!!! I love FPS games! Except I totally hated how loud shooting a gun was, even with my ear plugs on. I get frightened by loud noises easily.

The instructor teaching us how to properly handle a loaded pistol. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous….. I was getting cold sweat just knowing that I was about to operate something so deadly in my hands and actually fire a bullet at a target. A bullet, that could potentially take or save a life, given the circumstances. All my life I have grown up casually watching shows with thousands of different guns in them and never thought much of the whole thing but to actually hold a loaded gun in your very own hands is an overwhelmingly powerful and intimidating feeling.

We chose to shoot with the Glock 19, which was nice and light for girls like us!

So I may have a cute fluffy bunny and my hair is purple and I make rainbow cakes for a living but I’m decently accurate with a gun so don’t screw around with me. :P

We also did indoor drift karting that day… Which was like go-karting but more fun, because these were modified for you to drift easily. The whole time I was drifting (like a noob) through the tracks, the annoying song Tokyo Drift repeated through my head. Du du du du du du~ I wonder if you know, *the rest of the song is gibberish I can’t understand*

I wanted to go zip lining through the forests but Maureen doesn’t do too well with heights so we opted for a milder option instead! Chiang Mai has other exhilarating extreme sports such as zorbing, bungee jumping, ATV riding through the jungle if you’re keen on more thrilling outdoor activities. Definitely give their ziplining mazes a go, it’s one of Chiang Mai’s most popular tourist attractions and I heard it is a TON of fun flying through the forests in the air on a cable!!! I’m dying to go back and try some day!

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7) Have a meal among the Thai mountains & heavens in Chiang Mai!

Atop a mountain 45 minutes from the city called Mon Jam, nests a little home-style restaurant serving you delectable food. But it wasn’t the food that enticed us.

This is what we came to the top of the mountain for:


To have a private little picnic in adorable wooden huts in the clouds. To have lunch at one of the most serene and stunning places I’ve ever had the privilege of sitting down & enjoying a meal at.

Maureen & I couldn’t stop gushing about how perfect our lunch spot was. This was definitely the highlight of my trip. All of Chiang Mai was great, but this literally tops it all.

The weather was warm in the city but enjoyable where we were – as we were higher up in the mountain, cool breezes came along every now and then and generally we didn’t perspire at all. Chiang Mai gets quite chilly during winter, about 15 degrees in the city during morning and nights!

And the food…. :’) Oh, what more can I say about authentic Thai food??? Really? Can I do it justice with mere words?

Toto, you are SOOOO awesome for bringing us to places like these which aren’t usual tourist spots! Thank you for allowing us to see the real Chiang Mai!

We sat there for a long, slow lunch, popping juicy sweet strawberries from nearby farms into our mouths while enjoying every second of the peacefulness that surrounded us. Just breathing in the fresh air, pondering over life and being happy.

If you ever come to Chiang Mai there is no way you can miss out on this place. You will leave with a happier, lighter heart :)

I did.

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8) Get up close with dangerous exotic animals with crazy people who risk their lives for your entertainment in Chiang Mai!

I’m not that afraid of reptiles. I am a lot more scared of insects like butterflies & moths than I am of lizards and snakes!

Praying, I assume, for their safety as everyday they face huge job hazards (hint: its brown & green & sitting right behind them!!!)

These boys make Steve Irwin look like a wimp.

Maureen & I screamed a few times during this show. AKDAJIWERWFUKSjskasdal;qr3 WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!




Another insane man toying around with a king cobra at another show. I don’t mean insane in a bad way. But let’s face it, you gotta be insane to a certain extent to work at a job with these sorta animals right?!?!?

Them demonstrating releasing the venom of a poisonous snake into a cup right in front of my face. O_O

Ok I know I said I’m not that scared of snakes but I still don’t like them around my neck and it was so heavy and warm but cold at some parts and just “WTF WTF WTF” the expression says it all.

Eventually I managed to compose myself for a few seconds for this shot. The snake looks like it’s gonna bite my…

A cuteeee baby hedgehog (also found at the King Cobra Show) to balance out the evurl creatures overload. It reminded me of my old hamster Pudding! So small ♥

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9) Watch pretty Thai girls dance & perform as you feast on a traditional Khantoke dinner show!

At the Old Chiangmai Cultural Center!

Sitting around a low round table on the floor in front of the stage enjoying our drinks and waiting for the show to start

“What makes the traditional Lanna Khantoke dinner so special is the music and dance accompanying the mouth-watering food. Thai Classical Dance is a matchless piece of performance art that cannot be described in words. However, it could be compared to a group of dancers performing in the field of wheat, or sunflower dancing together in the evening breeze. The dancing resembles poetry in motion. This informal style of dinning with different style of cooking and gentle slow-tempo dance makes the Khantoke dinner a remarkable experience.

There could be hardly a better plate than the traditional Thai meals. Thai dishes are completely different from Western concept. Generally, a traditional Khantoke dinner starts with fried pumpkin. Then you can proceed to the mildly spicy red chili, tomato and minced pork dip. The alternate options are mouth-watering Burmese pork curry, so delectable that you wouldn’t wait to have it twice and the luscious fried chicken.        
 
The Hangleh (pork curry) with stir-fried cabbage and sticky or plain cooked rice would be etched in your mind forever. Further, the bowl of crispy fried noodles goes well with the rice. At the end, the scrumptious deserts with fried rice crispies await your tongue. Certainly, the Khantoke dinner would surely be the fantastic experience that will keep you craving for a second coming.” – credit source

The food was beyond delectable. The best part was the waitresses would come around every now and then to top up any dishes you’ve greedily devoured. Like a buffet brought to your table with classy dancing girls included. Loved the concept of sitting on the floor, it was extremely casual and laid-back, I don’t fancy fine dining settings too much – too formal for me and I sit cross legged 90% of the time, even in a lot of restaurants! Another must-do in Chiang Mai and a perfect way to spend the evening. Toto told me this was what kings / emperors used to eat! I wouldn’t mind having this once a week as a staple in my life. Honestly.

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10) Shop to your heart’s content for handicrafts and cheap bargains at the night market!

The weekend night market is the most happening place to be on a Saturday night in Chiang Mai. It’s bustling with people, food and merchandises. I LOVE night bazaars & markets in any country.. this one is the best one I’ve been to hands down! Just so much to see, smell and buy! All at the most affordable prices you can get.

I believe these are pandan leaves folded in roses. Mad!

A popsicle is always a good idea in Thailand

Real candies coated with lacquer and turned into hair accessories. Say whaaat? I was so tempted to buy one back home for the heck of it but realized it has no real use. Like, at all. Would you wear a candy clip out?

My favorite Thai dessert! Love Thai honey mangoes and glutinous rice!

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And that sums up our trip the last thing we did in Chiang Mai before flying back to Singapore the next morning. I bought a floral sun hat, a weaved bag, and some accessories for myself & friends not pictured here! I love bargains. $_$ Thailand is full of them. There you have it, my list of 10 things to do in Chiang Mai!!!! Or at least the main 10 things I went through there!

All in all, I absolutely loved exploring Chiang Mai and its hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

It proved to be a delightful new age city in Thailand that has won a new found special place in my heart. I feel like I came back to Singapore a slightly renewed person from all the experiences. Some of which I did not even blog about but stays known only to Maureen & I!

I think Chiang Mai is a severely underrated holiday destination that more people need to sit up and take notice of, but now that you guys have read this post, hopefully it will change your minds! Most of the Thai people I met in Chiang Mai were nice, and kind. I didn’t feel unsafe there or that I had to be wary and watch my bag or belongings all the time (as I’m sure we have all experienced when traveling at some point or another) I had the best 4 days ever and brought home with me memories to last a long time. Our time there was far too short, 5 days to a week would be perfect to tour all around this city. I will definitely recommend Chiang Mai to anyone who’s looking for a little bit of everything – food, culture, sports and more! It’s a world of discovery and adventure out there. Thailand just keeps on surprising me. Every trip I’ve made there has been so different and unique in its own way!

Thankful for the new friendships found, the generosity and kindness shown to me during this trip and.. just.. thankful in general.

A shout out to Chan Brothers and Tourism Authority of Thailand for the opportunity to embark on this trip!!! ♥ Thailand, it’s always a pleasure!

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VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE T.Y.E BLOGGER!

There’s an ongoing contest among the 3 groups of bloggers who visited different parts of Thailand on this Young Explorer Project, and we all created video diaries and blog posts based on our unique experiences….  Now we’re competing to see who will walk away as the ultimate winner! If you wanna see a video of me looking ridiculous while riding an elephant and firing a real badass gun, CLICK HERE and vote for Maureen & I! Of course, if you think the other teams did better than us, feel free to vote for them instead…  but I’m watching you. I will know who you vote for, and I will hunt you down.

Just kidding. :D Or, am I? But honestly, I reckon Maureen did a GREAT job at video editing, she made the video highly entertaining to watch and it must have taken her so many hours to do up something like that!!! So vote for us and stand a chance to win $100 Chan Brothers Travel Vouchers! Voting ends 2nd of June. Thanks in advance!

For more information about the Thailand Young Explorer Project: www.chanbrothers.com/tye/index.cfm

xoxo,
Jess

Christmas in Bali

Can you believe Christmas is over already?!

It went as quickly as it came. I don’t even know how my family and I ended up spending our Christmas in Bali. *scratches head*

When we were discussing Christmas plans, someone said something, someday, along the lines of “The Christmas atmosphere in Bali is great! There’s lots of white tourists here so there will be plenty of Christmas lights and atmosphere.” It would be fun, they said…. It would be a good place to spend Christmas, they said……. *shakes fist in the air*

All I felt was sweltering heat and intolerable humidity about three times worse than Singapore!! It was my first time there so I can’t say I wasn’t totally taken aback and surprised by how different it was from the way Bali is always portrayed in movies and in marketing advertisements. I thought it would be serene, peaceful, beautiful… On the contrary, people there were actually rather rude and rowdy, and the tourist area was anything but peaceful! To be fair, when we drove into the country side (at least an hour away from the city) it WAS a lot quieter and greener.. so maybe next time I visit, I’ll go stay around Ubud, to see “the real Bali”. I thought the touristy part of Bali (Kuta, Seminyak, Nusa Dua etc) would be like Phuket, boy was I wrong.. Phuket is in fact, a lot milder! Bali was really something else. A real eye opener. There was pretty much zero Christmassy atmosphere in the whole of Bali because most of the locals there at Hindus. People all around couldn’t even be bothered it was Christmas.

But that didn’t stop us from having a jolly good time! Having said all of this, the trip was still super fun and a great experience, despite being different from my expectations.

We spent our days stuffing our faces with traditional Balinese food and Western fine dining cuisine, doing massages and spa treatments, and shopped till we dropped. For the first time, I wasn’t snapping photos of every single thing I was doing when I was traveling. It was difficult to resist the urge, but I wanted to lay off my camera and phone as much as possible, to soak up all the precious time I had with my loved ones. It’s not everyday we get to bond overseas like this! Disconnect to connect, y’know?! Only really snapped pics when we visited the tourist hot spots like Ku De Ta, Potato Head, Tanah Lot… The rest, I only managed to take mental photos of, and they will be mine to keep.

When people talk about Bali, they will either mention the temples, food or beaches. However, my favorite thing about Bali happens to be the shopping. I never thought I would ever say this, but the shopping in Bali is COMPLETELY out of this world!! It definitely has the most amount of beautiful boutiques I have ever seen clustered together!!!! Streets after street of non-stop shopping is what you’ll find in the Seminyak area. I can’t believe I forgot to snap a picture of the shopping district to show y’all!!! I was too busy trying on clothes every second I spent there. I would go back to Bali again just to shop there until I’m broke. Bangkok, please step aside. The type of clothing you’ll find in Bali was a match made in heaven for a girl like me… summery, unique, bright colored stunning pieces from independent designers at decent to cheap prices (depending where you shop at). I came back with like 20 new pieces of pretty clothing – needless to say my bank account took a hit. But it was all worth it!!!! I can’t say “I’ve got nothing to wear” for at least another few more months now. :)

Most importantly, the best thing that happened in Bali was having the luxury of spending quality time with my family, creating unforgettable memories together. Food, presents and family is everything I love about Christmas and I’m glad I got to indulge in those things every day. I have so much to be thankful for this year. Thank you mummy & UJ for buying me so many pretty things to make me happy and also for taking me on this vacation for Christmas!! ♥

Here’s a photo diary of my vacation to Bali below!

Bali from the clouds. Takes about 3 hours to fly there from SG!

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Checking into our lush accommodation – Padma Resort!

 We’d originally booked a three room villa to stay in, but that turned out to be THE worst hotel experience I’ve had in my life. You won’t even believe how bad that was. That story will be for another post. Today’s post is meant to be a happy, carefree one. Thank god Padma Resort was top notch and made us feel so much better.

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Hello, Janice and Jeremy. My brother and his gf makes a rare appearance on my blog, lol.

Getting them to take pictures is really difficult. I had to lie to them that I wasn’t going to post them on my blog. Woops!

Our first dinner was alfresco dining at Warisan!

Crab, pomelo, avocado and tomato roulade

Red capcisum & lobster linguine

Lost count of the number of foie gras we ate in Bali. Working to lose weight now after all the festive feasting damage done over the past month!!!

Panna cotta is one of my all time favorite desserts!

Gorgeous set up, isn’t it? All the places we had dinner at were great. Bali is full of cafes & restaurants serving up good food at reasonable prices!

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Next day’s lunch next to a rice field.

Bali is so strange some times.

You get fancy boutiques selling designer clothes with each item costing at least $100 SGD and rightttt next to it you’ll find a rice paddy field. I guess that’s what people like about it – a commercialized place they can visit that still has its old cultural charms?

An hour’s drive out of the city into the countryside, we were surrounded by rice paddy fields stretching as far as the eye could see!!! Made for a very scenic drive indeed.

Thank you for taking care of me and being so nice throughout the trip! :) xx

Spot one of Bali’s most photogenic icons, Tanah Lot Temple behind me!!!

All those people (tiny figures in the background) standing at the base of the temple are crazyyy. They risk being drenched by crashing sea waves any time! In fact I saw a couple of people get really wet, with their DSLRs in hand. The whole area is covered with sea water when its high tide.

It looks so rustic and majestic, perched right at the water’s edge. I wish we could’ve gone in and taken a look around… but entrance to the temple is sacred, and reserved for local Balinese Hindus only!

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Best thing I bought that trip were these SGD $1 fans that kept me from dying.

Sunset seaside dining at Potato Head, which everyone says is the place to be seen and to be in Bali!

Crab cake with avocados and caramelized pineapples

Cajun prawns

Halfway through our meal, we ran out onto the beach to snap these mandatory sunset shots..

My ice cream on my creme brulee melted as a consequence but I reckon these shots are well worth it!!! I like runny ice cream anyway. :P

This was supposed to be “RAWR I BREATHE FIRE” kinda photo but I think I failed. I look like I’m letting out a ginormous burp.

The Balinese sunset in its full glory ♥

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Christmas dinner!!! Best meal of the trip award goes to Metis restaurant, hands down.

If you’re wondering why there are so many pictures of meal times and what else we were doing in Bali inbetween, you’d find us in changing rooms in boutiques or half asleep on massage beds.

Uh-huh more foie gras! I felt like a foie gras duck by the end of every meal.

My angus rib eye steak was melt-in-your-mouth-juices-bursting-with-every-bite kinda fantastic. It was so good, I almost wanted to cry. Really.

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The end of my rather brief photo diary! See you next time for shopping, Bali.

I hope everyone else had a wonderful Christmas with your family / friends as well!!! Happy New Year everyone! Wishing you all the mostest of love, luck, wealth and happiness.

 Love.

xoxo,
Jess
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