#LondonIsOpen

#1 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I was thrilled to be in London a week after its 30th July premiere. Alas, I was not able to get a ticket to the play as they were all sold out for the next 12 months or more. Nonetheless, I bought the book and loitered around the Palace Theatre – just in case I catch a glimpse of the famous trio. I did not. But I bonded with many doppelgangers.

#2 West End is mind-blowingly inspiring

Catch The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. West End reminded me of my lifelong ambition – a theatre usher. More importantly, it showed me how “sometimes when things do not go your way, you find something beautiful.” #CaroleKing

#3 The Breakfast Club at Soho is awesome

Order the blueberry pancakes and chicken waffles. And while you are at it, try the Sloppy Cow too – you will not regret the food coma after. Goodbye Size 34, and hello Happiness!

#4 The British Museum

I spent the whole afternoon peering over mummies, false doors and ancient stones. At the end of the day, I decided I needed to see Egypt and the Nile with my own eyes.

#5 Spuntino

Please make sure you stop there for lunch, tea or supper. The sharing concept enables greedy people like me to try everything that sounds yummy, and I mean everything. For people who wish to exercise more self-control, do not miss the pulled pork slider, truffle egg toast and key lime pot.

#6 Covent Garden

Sit in the courtyard, sip your wine and listen – or even better, dance – to live music. It’ll connect, heal, and bridge the distance between you and the musicians. In that instant, you’ll resist the trap of growing up, when you no longer have fun.

#7 Liberty

Not the statue, but the institution – my favourite shopping mall. It has class. It has space. It isn’t cluttered, nor does it over-sell its goods. Sad to say, I have not found its equal anywhere else in the world.

#8 Design studios by talented fashion graduates

I was never schooled in arts. I am a science student through and through. Yet my obsession with a word, an image, a story, a romance, makes me a tad too dramatic for my travelling companions. But I do think the world needs more people like these artistic young adults, who express their passion through art. More art, less violence.

#9 Monmouth Coffee Company

Who says you can’t find good coffee in London? ‘Nuff said.

#10 London is open

There are many doors. You just need to have the courage to open and walk through them – opportunities are waiting. Seize them.

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Nothing Matters 

Life is too unpredictable. If you don’t laugh now, when? Celebrate a life well spent, some gave their all to public service some gave their all to nurturing their families. Some changed the world. Some made people laugh. Do whatever you can. That’s all. In the end, #nothingreallymatters #cestlavie #prayforhumanity (📷#leicastoresg)

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If You Only Have One Night In Budapest

“If all they were meant for was to teach you how to love again, then it was worth it. Some of the best adventures are meant to end” –Erin Van Vuren.

Many people told me they went to Budapest for a day trip, enroute to Vienna or Prague. So I thought to myself, I will just spend a relaxing night there. Big mistake. Not only did I extend another night in Budapest, I cried when it was time to leave. Here, I found my castle in the air. At the end of 48 hours, it had overtaken Paris and Amsterdam to become my favourite city in Europe. Some things, like love, you just cannot explain. Everything in this Hungarian capital agrees with me, but most of all, its quietude soothes even the most battered of souls, and its informality makes one feel right at home. I think this is why art exists. Suddenly you are reminded to love yourself again.

The best way to explore this city of surprises and wonder is by walking. So abandon your pretty but impractical summer sandals, and throw on your most comfortable sneakers, unless you want to have blisters as big as your toes. If you only have a day in Budapest, here are my top three recommendations.

1. Stay at Hotel Moments

Collect your beautiful moments here at this stylish boutique hotel situated on the iconic Andrassy Avenue. In all my years of travelling, I don’t think I’ve seen hotel bathrooms as spacious as theirs. And as their name suggests, the staff seems bent on making every moment of your stay Instagrammable — you will find yourself enveloped by their warmth and gracious hospitality. Take a left turn and stroll along Andrassy Avenue. It’s a pretty long stretch, and you may just find plenty of reasons to make Budapest one of your fave cities too.

2. Eat at VakVarju (Blind Crow)

You have to order the BBQ pork ribs (Hungarian-style of course). You will never eat another anywhere else again. And if you love a red wine with strong character, you must savour a bottle of Ordogarak 2011.

3. See the whole of Budapest from Castle Hill

Explore Buda Castle. And then watch the city transforms into magic, as the day turns into night. From the top of the hill, you hear the melancholic strings of the violins, you see Baroque beauty, you drink in the sunset, you exhale love. You would not want to leave. I sat there from 8pm to just a little past midnight, lost in Middle Ages dreams.

I Know What I Did This Summer.

 

I spent half a day wandering in the old and new towns of Zurich. I could not recall the steps I took as a young girl, but I remember the Town Cuckoo Clock vividly and its minute of fairytale chimes. It interested me more than the Rolex watches my colleagues were oohing and aahing over. I didn’t manage to find it this time, but such is life. I strolled to the lake and saw 20-year-old me flash before my eyes – cycling gleefully, and stopping halfway round the lake when my short legs gave way to fatigue. I had given up on my quest to cycle a full round. It amuses me how aware I am of the limits of my body.

And so I bade farewell to Zurich and embarked on my train ride to Bregenz – my first Austrian foray – the land of Mozart, Strauss and Sigmund Freud. Allow me to share three insights from my trip.

#1 You don’t have to be an opera virtuoso to enjoy opera

I strongly recommend including the annual summer Bregenz Festival (Bregenzer Festspiele) in your bucket list of things to do. Here, I caught the famous opera-on-the-lake performance of Turandot. In the face of awe-inspiring beauty, there were twelve times when I experienced a tear-filled, overwhelming surge of emotions. Notably, the sun setting behind the stage, those cinematic moments when the stage transformed itself, and when the water merged into play. For fear of spoiling the experience for you, I will share no more. You have to see it for yourself.

#2 You don’t have to love The Sound Of Music

I was all too prepared to annoy the hell out of my travelling companions as I “doe, a deer, a female deer” into “the hills are alive~~~” on the 12 hr 20 mins plane ride from Singapore. Surprisingly, it was the last thing on my mind during my time in Salzburg. I was completely distracted by the ubiquitous musicians – I bump into one at every turn of the corner, every platz, every street. Young students, old souls. I drowned in their concertos of love and longing, of pain and suffering, of hopes and dreams. You do not need to go on a touristy Julie Andrews’ tour. All you have to do is have an open heart and listen.

#3 You don’t have to love skiing

Snowcapped alpine terrains are splendid on postcards and even more in person. But for someone who doesn’t ski or suffer from acrophobia, summer lovin’ in Innsbruck and its laidback vibes proved to be a lot more relaxing for a workaholic like me.  I spent my afternoons downing Aperol Spritz (my new BFF), chatting with friendly locals, and laughing at how we tourists must have annoyed the locals with our boisterous chatter and clicking cameras. It was then when something stirred inside of me. We are all human, and we have the same needs. Why can’t we just get along?

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Mabuhay, Cebu!

#1 Smile. It Is Free Therapy.

I was greeted with warm smiles and kind eyes the moment our Silkair plane landed in Mactan Cebu International Airport. And this continued on for the rest of our trip – from the ground staff at the airport, to the driver who came to pick us, to the welcoming entourage waiting for us at the hotel entrance. It was a different sort of smile – a refreshing change from the tired ones I see daily at work, nor the pained versions from stressed-out friends in their 40s who are juggling their work, babies and spouses. What a difference a short 4-hour flight has made. I left a city that complained too much about what it did not have, to an island that celebrates even the little things. Singaporeans do not need therapy. We need to change our perspectives.

 

#2 Give Hope. Give Now.

During my trip, I got to know Mr. Manny Osmena, the owner of hotel Mövenpick Hotel, Mactan Island, Cebu (where I stayed. Mr. Osmena is not only an established hotelier and exporter – he is also an acute mobiliser of disaster and social response for social good. I was moved to discover a foundation he had set up, Hope Now Foundation, which has been funding medical responses such as Hospitals On Wheels (HOW) to reach affected rural areas in calamities, as well as lobbying for sustainable development and the end of poverty. Mr Osmena had set Hope Now up after witnessing the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda. Since then, he has been regularly involved in disaster relief and is truly my big friend with an even bigger heart. #EndPoverty

#3 Mabuhay (a Filipino phrase that means “Live life.”)

You only have one life. Live it.

5 Things Snorkeling In Maldives Taught Me

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#1 Desire and live life according to your own appetites

Stop mourning and start living. Your bad situation is never going to get better unless you get over yourself, move on and do something about it.

#2 We aren’t saints

You do not have to love everyone. Homophobes and racists are horrible people. There you go, I said it.

#3 Love the world, not your agenda of the world

Take each day as it comes and live it through. Do not problematise emptiness. Things are never going to go as planned. So stop planning, and keep swimming. Just do not be so stupid as to swim against the current mindlessly.

#4 Choose your battles wisely

Say this more often: “I prefer not to”. Take your individuation and run.  Fear not. If we all lose in life anyway, (so laments Unamuno), then what else is one afraid of losing?

#5 Find your Dory

Never lose yourself. Ever. Again.

 

Good Enough.

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My whole life I was never good enough.

You always wanted me to be wiser, prettier, livelier, quieter, funnier, sweeter, quicker, wittier, lovelier, fatter, thinner, taller, stronger, calmer, thriftier, bigger, louder, richer, sexier, smarter.

I am never good enough for you.

Is this an Asian thing? Where putting someone down is deemed good education, so that we do not get too certain of ourselves? We are often obligated to say “I am humbled…I don’t deserve this…I am so blessed…I am so grateful…”. Until these words no longer mean a thing.

One day if I am a parent, a teacher, a leader, a friend, a wife, a partner, I will tell you, you may not be good enough. But you are good enough for me. I just want you to be happy.

Don’t apologize for who you are and how you work.

We only have one life. Celebrate it. Please.

 

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