Haaa…CHOO

My dad is in general a quiet person, but he has one heck of a sneeze. While other people’s sneezes are usually fast and quiet and somtimes can even be mistaken for a cough or a squeak, my dad’s sneezes always make me shudder. It is especially jarring when we are both quietly doing our own things and then suddenly BOOM.

It starts with two seconds of an almost indistinct “Haaaaa..” as he draws in his breathe (the signal for me to brace myself). This is followed by a very loud and resounding CHOOO.” There is then either one or two more abbreviated versions of the same in equally earth shattering volumes. He does this no matter where he is.

My mom and I have repeatedly asked him why he cannot control himself and sneeze more quietly (kind of like how one controls themselves to fart more quietly in public). But each time, he just shrugs in confusion as if he doesn’t know what we are talking about.

A Comprehensive Review: Rimba Jimbaran Bali, Part 1

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What better thing to do on a rainy night than to recall more sunny ones? Oh Bali, it has only been a few weeks, but how I’ve missed you.

The Rationale

A few months ago, my friends and I decided to go to Bali over easter break. Sunshine, blue skies, white clouds, clear water and a massage was exactly what we needed. Being the nerds that we are, we naturally proceeded to create an Excel Spreadsheet to highlight all the pros and cons of each resort (which we gathered through critical analysis of Tripadvisor reviews). We then created a ranking system to decide the absolute best one (in terms of value, quality, convenience etc.) for our holiday. Rimba Jimbaran came out number one because of the following reasons:

  1. Distance to airport: It is a short half hour ride from the airport, which is a major plus. A year ago when I went to Bali for the first time, I discovered that they do not have any highways, and ended up stuck in traffic for more than an hour before arriving at my resort (near the Tanah Lot temple). So this time I wanted to be as close to the airport as possible to minimize travel time. Though I’m told by the driver that they recently did indeed built a highway and traffic is slightly better. Incidentally, Seminyak is about 30-45 minutes away depending on traffic. Oh and on a side note, the airport is MUCH improved since a year ago. All shiny and new!! On a side note to the side note, did the immigration officer ask anyone else for tips? We thought it was highly unusual.
  2. Shiny and new: Speaking of shiny and new, the Rimba is shiny and new as of last November. We figured that April is a good time to go. It gives the hotel time to work out the kinks, but still allows you to enjoy the newness.
  3. Multiple pools: Travelling in easter, we were worried that the pools would be overly crowded and noisy with children. The fact that the Rimba had multiple pools (and access to the Ayana pools) was a major plus.
  4. Access to the Ayana: One major minus for the Rimba is that it does not have a sea view. This is important because.. well its Bali. It is one of Bali’s key selling points. Instead, the Rimba is located on top of a mountain (or hill?), overlooking a forest (the name means forest I think). Luckily for Rimba, guests also have access to its sister hotel, the Ayana, which is located right next to the sea, and has a private beach. There’s even priority access to the infamous Rock Bar (even though we did not end up going)! Ayana also has a world renown spa and lots of restaurant choices (the Rimba only has 2 restaurants). There is a tram that goes back and forth the hotels, which is very frequent. The two hotels are literally 3 minutes away from each other.
  5. Great reviews: To be fair, the Rimba does not have that many Tripadvisor reviews yet. But the majority of them were great, commenting on the excellent service and helpfulness of the staff, and what a great hotel it is in general. Compared to some of the other reviews I’ve read during my research (i.e. Sofitel, which is also a new hotel), Rimba’s reviews were encouraging.
  6. Value: Compared to the W Hotel, the Seminyak, Le Meridien, Conrad and the Sofitel , the Rimba (being a newly hotel I guess?) is also relatively affordable. It came out to be in the high/mid-range in terms of pricing out of all the hotels we considered.

Taking all these things into consideration, the Rimba Jimbaran presented the best value in all areas for us – and we were not disappointed. We had an absolutely fabulous time, and only wished that we could stay longer. I would definitely recommend it to friends! There are so many things to say about the Rimba that I don’t even know where to start. So I figured I will go chronologically.

Arrival

Airport: Our flight arrived in the late afternoon. We debated whether to use the VIP pick up service (because of possible crowds/lines over easter), but in the end elected not to use it. We were not sure how much added value it would be, besides possibly avoid being asked for tips by the immigration officer (and potential repercussions). Besides, don’t they need to match our faces to our passports? As it turns out, the lines were not that bad, even though I had to get on the ground visa (perhaps about 20 minutes in total?). Once we got out, we easily spotted the staff from Ayana/Rimba, and were escorted to our car. The drive to the resort was a smooth 30 minute ride.

Welcome: We arrived at the hotel at around 6pm, and were greeted by staff with our welcome orchid necklaces. Upon stepping foot in the lobby, we were momentarily distracted by the modern decor and the amazing view of the last of the sunset. There are two front desks on either side of the lobby, and to this day I’m still not sure if they are the concierge or reception (or both?). All the staff were busy with guests though, and we waited around for more than 10 minutes before we were able to check-in (there are no clear lines as to where one should line up). It was only when we were checking in that they realized that they had forgotten our welcome drinks and towels. Having said that, the drink was delicious and very refreshing. Some kind of rosemary lemonade.

The Jimaran Bay Room

We selected the Jimbaran Bay Rooms, because we hear that the regular rooms face parking lots, and worried that there will be no privacy at the pool access rooms (we would probably have to keep our blinds down all the time).

Sound proofing: Our rooms are conveniently located a few doors down from the lobby. I thought it was great – less walking! But I quickly learnt that night that it was also its downfall. I have read similar reviews before, and I can now confirm that they are indeed true. The walls are paper-thin. You can hear EVERYTHING – people walking past at night, talking and laughing. Children shrieking.  I can even hear my friend laughing next door! Needless to say, sleep was not exactly restful – and my beauty sleep is important! This is a major minus. But to be fair, this is already the biggest complaint of just a few other nit picky things about the room.

Room design: Back to the room, it is modern, clean and chic, designed in neutral earth tones. Slightly on the smaller side (given that it is in the middle of a forest, you would think they could be more generous with sizing), but still comfortable with a small sofa/sitting area, a desk and a balcony. There’s even a neat bench on one wall, which I thought was perfect for suitcases. I thought that the marble floor (vs. carpet) was also very appropriate given that we will likely be coming in from the pool a lot.

Technology: Technology wise, it was well equipped with iphone docks, flat screens etc. On the other hand, the lighting was a bit on the dark side. Indeed, the whole resort was on the dark side at night. We ended up sleeping very early every night, which I guess is a good thing. My friends also had trouble with their TV, which apparently took forever to fix (I never tried mine). Oh and the phones are kind of old school.

Bathroom: Having examined many tourist pictures prior to the trip, I was slightly surprised by the bathroom. It is much smaller than I expected. No wonder everyone always post pictures of the circular tube. It literally dominates the room! Having said that it is very nice, it serves as both a bath and a shower, with a lovely rain shower overhead. But the rest of the bathroom is minimal, with barely enough counter space. There were also random chinks in the sink and bathtub, even though the hotel is new (perhaps ceramic is not the best idea after all). The hairdryer was also dismal. It took forever for my hair to dry, and many nights I just left it half-dried.

Miscellaneous: Just to be nitpicky, I would also like to comment on the hotel provided slippers and robes. I love hotel slippers (my favourite being from MO Paris!), and love the feeling of the lush robes. Sadly the ones provided by the Rimba fell below expectations. They are both made in a black and brown Balinese print. This is fine and all, but it makes me wonder if they are clean. The robes are thin and not lush at all. But most shocking was that I swear the slippers are re-used! They felt somewhat damp. I ended up wearing my flip-flops indoor instead.

The next morning, we were also happy to find that we have a spacious balcony with a great view of the pool! If the pool side wasn’t so nice, this would’ve definitely been an ideal option to sit and read at.

Conclusion and tips: I would give the rooms a 4.5/5 stars, and suggest anyone going to request a pool facing room that is on the upper floors. It was overall great, with the exception of a few kinks and the noise issue.

I have more to say about the hotel facilities, restaurants and the spa. But I think I will save that for another post.

Trapeze – I love and hate you

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I’ve never liked the Celine Luggage bag. I’ve always thought that it looks like an ugly robot. The handle is too short to carry on your shoulder, and the shape is too long to comfortably carry on your arm without making you look short. But when I first saw the Celine Trapeze, I instantly loved it. It is different, and it looks great both on your arms and hanging on your shoulders from the long strap. And as I started to see more and more of it on the streets of Central, it was like calling to me, and I really really wanted one! So I got one last year for my birthday.

I love contrasting colors, but because light suede gets dirty, and plain leather gets scratched, I ended up with this black duck pressed leather trapeze, with black suede on the side. It looks lovely and classic, doesn’t it?

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I don’t change bags very often (i’m lazy), and when I like something I use it everyday for months. So far, in the last year, I’ve used the Trapeze for approximately 5-10% of my time. Why? Because I secretly hate it. It is the most ungainly, heavy (second only to my Chloe Paraty bag), uncomfortable and annoying bag I’ve ever owned. To begin with, I prefer carrying it on my shoulder using the long strap, and because the shape is so wide, I almost always bumping into someone or something. When I’m not bumping into things, the edge of the Trapeze constantly bumps my thighs – and after a while it actually hurts! But the most annoying thing of all? If you do not keep the buttons on the sides constantly closed, there’s not enough support and the buckle in the front will automatically pop open after a few steps. Frankly, if you carry anything marginally too heavy, the front buckle pop open anyway. And you do have to constantly open and close it. Given the design of the bag, that is the only way to have easy and quick access to your phone and transport card, without going through the whole process of unbuckling and lifting the front flap, and unzipping the bag (did i mention that the zip also needs to be always closed to avoid the popping?). While we are on the topic of the buttons on the side, mine is wrapped in black suede. And because I have to constantly open and close it, the black suede wrapping is already coming off to reveal cold grey metal underneath.

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So yes, while the Trapeze looks great, you should definitely think twice before getting it.

Childhood dreams

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Another year, another birthday. It occurred to me that where I am now, is far from where I thought I would be now. Along the way, I learnt to compromise and prioritize what is truly important. And while it hasn’t quite worked out the way I’d envisioned, it hasn’t really been too bad either. I’m far from religious, but I do believe that I’m blessed.

One thing I’m starting to believe in more is that if one is going to do something, one should always put their heart into it and try to do it right. You only live once. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day if you make a fool of yourself. So this year for my birthday, I decided to make my childhood dreams come true. And with the right planning, the help of Taobao and an incredibly supportive group of friends, I finally did, and I did it right. It was the best birthday yet.

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Finally Defrizzed!

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After reading up on “hair detox” and the many benefits of it (after the dry, tangly and straw-like detoxing phase), I decided to give non-silicone based, organic hair products a try. Lighter, less oily and non toxic hair sounds good to me. At my colleague’s recommendation (and she has an excellent track record so far), I bought the Intelligent Nutrients Harmonic Hair Care shampoo and conditioner.

32 fl oz / 946 ml32 fl oz / 946 ml

To be honest, having tried almost every hair product brand I can think of over the years, from Kerastase, Bedhead, Redken, Matrix, Aveda to Garnier, I wasn’t expecting too much. Just a detox phase, before getting back to normal, with perhaps psychologically a lighter and healthier feeling. I was not expecting any significant and visible improvements. At this point, I’ve pretty much given up on finding hair product that actually does what it claims.

So imagine my surprise when two days after I started using the shampoo, I get an email from a work acquaintance (who saw me the evening before), asking if I’d done something different with my hair recently. And this is coming from the more unobservant half of our species!! I think what he was trying to say was that my hair looks much smoother and sleeker than usual. I replied saying that it is probably because I’ve finally successfully de-frizzed my hair – and I have!!! While I did not experience any detox phase, I have noticed that my hair is much less frizzier than before. I don’t believe I’ve ever been so excited about a shampoo before!

Book of the month: July & August

Despite my lack of updates, I actually read a lot in July. I was on a roll. I devoured The Bet (Rachel van Dyken), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) and Bossy Pants (Tina Fey) all within a few weeks. Suddenly I found myself with my nose in my Kindle all the time; in the morning when I wake up; on my way to work, over lunch; during a lull at work; waiting for the bus on my way home; after dinner; before bed. The problem, I soon realized (and to to some extent recalled from my high school days), is that reality almost always pales in comparison to a good book. When a book is finished, you suddenly feel empty and bored; and quickly scramble to find the next story to immerse yourself into. It is almost like an addiction.

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Book of the month: May 2013

I almost thought I’d have to wait til June to read my May book, but then I started Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls earlier last week, and absolutely could not put it down. I almost wanted to slow down my reading, to properly savor each line, but then I couldn’t resist and finished it before the week was out.

Usually I’m not a fan of memoirs. Not that I’ve read many, but from what I can remember, they are definitely not page turners. They tend to be slow and full of deep reflections, which, while fine when I’m the one reflecting, is kind of dull for readers. But Jeanette Walls does an amazing job. Her childhood was by no means idyllic (and was in fact quite rough!), but she puts a very matter of fact and humorous spin to it, which makes it more like a fun and exciting adventure. Definitely in a class of its own in terms of memoirs (indeed, sometimes it was actually hard to imagine that the stories were true)! Along the same lines as this essay, but even better.

Time for my next adventure. I’m looking for something fun to read on my vacation next week – ideally with reference to Russia!

Book of the Month: April 2013

This is a bit late. I read it in late March, and when i didn’t read anything new in April, only just now decided to pass it off as my April book, just to keep the flow going.

I practically devoured The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier in record speed. I absolutely loved it. I felt carried back into time. When I told HG this, she asked me what it was about. I said it was about the making of a the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry, and the stories of the people involved in it. So what happened? Nothing and everything. The protagonist, who is also the villain, did not get the girl in the end. And no one exactly lives happily ever after. But everyone’s lives change before and after the making of the tapestry.

So what did I love about it? I guess the way it was written. I usually don’t like lengthy descriptions, but Chevalier did it just right. It was enough for me to come up with an image in my head, but not so long and confusing that it bore me. I also loved that the story was written from different character’s perspectives, so you understand where everyone is coming from, and how this story came to be. It feels real. Of course, I also got a thorough understanding of the tapestry in question. I looked it up. It’s in the Musee National du Moyen Age in Paris. I can’t wait to look it up the next time I’m in town!

Next up, maybe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls?

Neighbours

I’m done with Life Writing class! It has been both awesome and disappointing. Awesome because I got to meet some amazing ladies with incredible stories to tell, and  got myself to start writing again. Disappointing because I realized that not all writing classes are equal, and if not for my awesome classmates, the class would be for naught. Next, I’m thinking of taking either an interior designing course, or a computer programming course. And hopefully continue writing on this blog.

One thing I did learn during this course is that apparently writing related segments, and then putting it together really does work. Here is my finish product for the course. Hope you enjoy, and constructive comments are welcome.

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While my brother, Ocean and I still live at home together, we’re really more like neighbors.

Every morning my brother leaves the house at 6am. He’s a chef, and needs to get into work early to make preparations for the day, working odd hours (including weekends and public holidays). I have an office job, and barely leave the house before 9:30am. Sometimes when I have a late night out on weekends, or cannot sleep, I’d hear him in the bathroom going through his morning routine. Not long after that, I’d hear the front door banging shut. Once I woke up at an ungodly hour early on a Sunday morning for a marathon and we left home together. In the evenings, I get home at around 8pm, just in time to say goodnight to him. That is pretty much the extent I see my brother in daily life. Otherwise his presence is only felt in the slippery bathroom floor and the empty freezer where my ice cream is supposed to be.

Once in a blue moon, when he and I are both home for the evening, and he’s in a good mood, he’d come over to tell me about his latest girlfriend, or all the planning he has done for his upcoming trip to Japan. I am always amazed by the diligence he applies to planning for Japan (if only he were half as diligent at school!). This occurs every few months, whenever he has saved enough money to go. Personally, I don’t get this earn it and spend it concept (I’m more of a save for a rainy day kind of girl), but over the years, I’ve learnt to be encouraging and non-judgmental. Behind his gruff I-am-too-cool-to-care exterior, is a sensitive soul. Besides, I leave the censorship to to my parents.

But even on that front he gets off easy, and pretty much does whatever he wants. He brings random girls he meets on the internet home, never cleans up after himself, never shows up for family events and is in general downright rude. It is not because he’s a boy, and my parents are typical Asian parents who favour boys. But (I suspect) because they feel guilty about his traumatizing childhood (he was academically challenged, and spent his childhood either at school or after-school school), which culminated to what we thought was anorexia when he came back from studying in Canada after a year, looking like a skeleton (being a huge McDonalds fan, he was borderline obese when he went!). That, and because my parents just don’t know what they can do with him. After so many years, he’s pretty much immune to any parental rebuke (and he’s much too old for the stick).

As for me, you know what they say; you can choose your friends, but not your family. We are so different, that under normal circumstances, we probably would never have even spoken. But yet, here we are. He is the only other person in the world who has both my mother and father’s blood running through him. There has got to be some love in there somewhere.

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