Oh. Be still my heart. I never wanted to do the trekking thing again, but I’m secretly glad I let sam drag me out on a grueling journey over the mountains and through the terraces. Never mind how your legs begin to tremble at the 3 hour mark. I could stare at these valleys forever.
Visiting a city the second time around means you get to cut to the chase. No more obligatory tourist areas, long lines, museum fees. Our agenda was simple:-
1. barbecued beef & pork patties (bun cha). this famous establishment on hang da was literally a minute away from our accomodation. perfectly salty, sour and sweet, wrapped in a cloud of barbecue smoke. how is it that i typed that out and just tasted it in my mouth?!
3. learning how far we’d go just to feast our eyes on more bolts of cottons, linen, silks and denim than we could ever imagine. took a ridiculously long cab ride out of the city and got greeted with more fabric stalls stretching out as far as the eye could see (and then some!)
4. learn to love in this city for the second time around. we did good.
on our first proper day in the city we sat in the planetarium at the museum of natural history, staring upward at a domed imax ceiling for a show about the stars, and it was the most beautiful thing i’ve ever seen. every time the sky swirled around and we danced across galaxies, i flinched from the vertigo, but also because i kept my eyes wide open to take it all in. the push and pull of magnetic waves, a star burning bright, slow and fierce, leaving a legacy of light that travels millions of miles even after it ceases to exist. did you know that by some evolutionary marvel, we each have one teaspoon’s worth of star-matter in us?
my first time in new york was selfish, all about firsts, thrills and broadway dreams coming true. it’s the kind of place that puts you on top of the world and in the centre of the universe.
this time though, i loved the city because it made me feel tiny too. you are: one light in the distance, one more set of ears for the underground platform jazz to wrap itself around, one-fiftieth the size of a tree. we are humble and small, but only because our world is so big, and so unbelievably beautiful. a tradeoff in our favour, really.
so flinch, be overwhelmed, but take your place and take it all!
from april 2011: marathon 13 hour train journey. fell asleep to sacramento steel and amber street lights burning against the night, but when i next opened my eyes, tree fronds were brushing against the glass against my cheek, and all was black, white and untouched. another nap later and suddenly we were racing against the willamette river in a warmer world!
When suppertime in Singapore rolls around, my thoughts always go back to 3am dim sum nights in Hong Kong — stealing out of the HKU dorms past the sleeping receptionist, dizzying cab rides down the slopes of Hong Kong island, and into the fray of Sun Hing at 10 Hau Wo St to gobble down salted egg yolk custard buns glinting with so much goodness. I can taste it in my mouth just looking at that photo!!
Sorry I haven’t been here in a while, school and thesis work has kicked off hard and heavy! I spend most of my days staring at ‘Reply Email’ text boxes, so the wordpress post editor is not high on my list of preferred sights, but rest assured I am still alive, thinking and feeling, loving and enjoying life intensely, as always ;) Please accept these photos of Malaysian culinary treasures as penance?
These pictures were collected as my family and I ate our way through Malaysia, starting from Penang, up to my dad’s hometown, Alor Setar. I loved every bite, but if you’re ever in Penang, you need to go to the hawker centre on Lebuh Presgrave and hunt down the ice kacang and hokkien prawn noodles in the last two photos. Ask for frozen-peanut-butter-flecked vanilla ice cream on your shaved ice and pink syrup, and extra pork ribs in your noodles, and you’ll be on your way to happy rumbly tummy days.
On my mind, in between notes and writing: crystal waters and blue houses, pavements and a salty breeze. These pictures are from Hong Kong, but these feelings have no time and location. We could be thirteen and dancing by the foamy waters of the east, twenty-two and drifting down a Chinese river, or bundled in scarves in San Francisco. Don’t want to be there now (because I need to pass my exams!) but I want to hold these visions close, the same way girls clutch at their skirts in the wind, desperately protect youth and beauty for as long as they’ll last.
Tucked away on a quiet slope in SoHo is Bang Bang! 70s — a warm, homey space filled with vintage dresses, bags, shoes and other paraphernalia, as well as two resident cats, lovingly named Bang Bang and Miu Miu. Stepping into the store feels like walking into an authentic shrine for all things old and beautiful. It is deliciously cluttered with racks of clothing, shelves of shoes, jewelry cases and bags hanging from every corner of the ceiling.
Sam gave me a vintage leather bucket bag from this store for my birthday this year, and since then, we’ve made it a point to stop by on my subsequent visits to Hong Kong. We look around for treasures to scoop up, and say hi to the kitties and the two brothers who own this second-floor walk-up shop.
Vintage/consignment stores can often seem intimidating, with surly hipster staff protecting (rather than selling) their overpriced, sometimes merely “retro-inspired” goods. Bang Bang! 70s is the complete opposite! You are welcome to fondle the dresses, try them on and take your time. Not only are there two luxurious leather loveseats for humans and kitties alike to relax, the owners – Parker and Michael – are welcoming and full of smiles, ever-ready with advice on what to see in Hong Kong, styling tips, and stories of their beloved collector’s items, like a little model car scored from ebay that has shot up nearly hundredfold in value!
A printed cotton sundress I picked up on sunday that somehow makes me feel like a Japanese housewife (and I mean that in a good way!). I tried it on in the bathroom of the store, where Bang Bang and Miu Miu’s baby kittens were resting. Lucky they had their eyes closed!! The label on this dress says ‘Cousine Dehors’ which turns up nothing on Google, but we also spied Maxmara and Chanel. I like that there’s no label elitism in this store. All vintage is good vintage.
Gold Chanel studs from a 70s Japanese collection. Saw these during my first visit, but regretfully left without them. Sam went back and picked them up for me as a surprise gift! I want to wear them every day now.
The bag that started it all.
Miu Miu taking a break from motherly duties to peer out into the street.
What a life! I want to be a Bang Bang 70s store cat.
We spied this cute little guy in the jewelry case just before leaving. Not wanting to fall hard in love with another purchase, I cringed a little when he was taken out of the case for us to see. Surprisingly, it was simply thrust into sam’s palm — “just take it, i want you to have it!” What a sweet, perfect end to our time in a vintage lover’s paradise.
Bang Bang! 70s is located in SoHo. 16A Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong.
2011 is becoming the year of packing & plane rides. I am never good with airports, fingers forever crossed for a good day at the luggage weighing scales, hands clenching boarding passes stuck in my passport, always checking and double checking for letters and numbers telling me where to go, where to wait. I am even worse with goodbyes. This time though, there are plenty of hellos to be had! Could not be happier to be back in the streets of Hong Kong with sam, and the sweet people I met in Davis. I can taste the salted egg yolk custard buns already!!
Here’s a confession: while I dream of holidays that consist of slow afternoons and going wherever our feet take us, a Kiasu Traveller alter ego takes over as soon as I get on the plane. I obsess about hitting the must-see tourist spots and I am equally determined to cover ground, find nooks and alleys that travel books and blogs have missed and stake my claim. This requires strategic (albeit last minute) planning, lining up districts and road names, sorting them in-between meals. Throw food planning into the mix, and it’s a whole other ballgame.
On the other hand, Sam is a world apart. He spends his pre-trip time scanning travel forums and blogs, gets his claws on every possible mainstream/locally written guidebook, and internalises all this information to perfection. When he gets to his destination though, stressing out about following a fixed itinerary is the last thing he wants to do. With all that handy know-how locked in, he prefers to let things fall into place in a very subconscious, zen-like manner, and he will walk down any photogenic side alley he stumbles across, while I calm my butterflies and tell myself that we are not lost. It all works out because in the end, I get the vacations I dream of right from the start!
These customised leather luggage tags came in the mail today after a couple short weeks of waiting. I saw these on All Things Stylish and immediately made a beeline to place an order for a slightly modified version — in a pair! I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the travels and lessons we’ve learnt on the road. The Tolkien quote is a perfect representation of Sam’s travel philosophy, and is a reminder for me to rest my worries, and let my heart + mind wander where they please for all of life’s journeys, not just those on planes or trains!