Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Five things to do in Pattaya ranked from meh to OMFG

AirAsia: whitehot_surfer, Pattaya needs someone who is not white, not hot, not a surfer, and we think you'd be the perfect fit.
Le me: Sure, but only if I get food on the plane.
AirAsia: Here are your flight details.  
That wasn't exactly how it went down, but that doesn't matter cos I went, I'm back, and here are five things you can check out in Pattaya, because everyone has been to Bangkok and Phuket more times than I have fingers:

5. Pattaya Floating Market - meh

The interesting thing about Pattaya Floating Market, from what I heard, is that it's totally man-made. They've decided to come up with a floating market and BAM, they made it happen. There you go. A floating market.

One of the highlights is that the market sells goods from the four major regions of Thailand. I wasn't discerning enough to tell the difference, but they've got a lot going on. I would say that it isn't as exciting as Bangkok's Damneon Saduak Floating Market, but go there on an empty stomach and it could be worth your time.

4. A La Campagne - hey

A La Campagne is a newly-opened area, kind of like an Alice-in-Wonderland place, with western-styled architecture, a pretty neat garden, and when I snuck around, I even found a small farm.

The gorgeous place boasts restaurant Somtum Villa and cafe Tea Factory, good places to hide away from the searing heat especially if you want to spend the afternoon chilling.

There's this pork dish in Somtum Villa that gets my mouth watering each time I think of it, and the tea at Tea Factory is really special. They've got great variety and aren't afraid to up the zestiness with citrus fruit. Amazing.

3. Walking Street - Ooh

This is where the party's at! Flanked by seemingly endless bars and pubs, Walking Street is totally up my alley. For SGD$2 I got a bottle of Heineken from 7-11, and we walked down the bustling street that really came alive with its touts, and very strangely, Russian establishments. I was told that there used to be way more Russian businesses here, but they packed up and left after a drop in currency. Their influence is still strong. You don't need to look hard to find bars with Caucasian pole dancers.

It's busy during the week days but I think it hits level cray cray during the weekends. If anything, plan for a Friday night there and challenge yourself to take a shot at every bar/club you enter.

I'm betting you won't make it out alive.

2. Tiffany Show - OMG

You have to see it to believe it.

Granted, I've never been to a ladyboy show, ever, but the Tiffany Show is known as the premium show out of the three in Pattaya, and probably the most famous in Asia. (Lots of PRC tourists there.) It's been entertaining crowds for 40 years, and we were entertained as hell from beginning to end.

The lip-sync performances spanned eras and cultures, borrowing everything from ancient Chinese and Korean tunes and props, to popular Indian music, then craftily sneaking in a scene from Moulin Rouge. I cheered like crazy especially at the Jolin Tsai mashup!

Just, really, be prepared to be blown away. The magnitude of the production was incredible - they must have had an entire stadium backstage to accommodate everything they were throwing on stage.

One of the acts that blew me away was this two-faced actor, singing a duet about how the man was cheating. Yes. One person. Two personalities. Left face, a poised lady, blonde hair, dress. Right face, man, macho, egoistical. Etched in my memory.

There are men, there are women and then they are ladyboys. The beauty, the confidence, the style, the dance, the grace. I cannot.

1. Cartoon Network Amazone - OMFG

If I had only one day, I would just spend it here.

Go in a group. A group of four would be perfect. If the group of four looks this good, even better.

I didn't expect much from Cartoon Network Amazone, but it has (almost) everything. It was thrilling without being too scary, it was fun, it was relaxing. There was almost no queue when we were there (on a weekday).

It's different from Adventure Cove. There were hell a lot more steps to climb for the slides. It was quite insane.

One of the highlights was this capsule that you had to enter, and then the trapdoor opens from under you and you slide all the way out... Epic.


Suphattra Land Fruit Garden - Rayong

I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I did. It's a bit of a drive from Pattaya, but Rayong is beautiful and Suphattra Land Fruit Garden is less like a garden and more like an enormous farm. For city-folk, the experience of looking at various fruit trees and better still, plucking and eating them is one of life's great pleasures that we've been deprived of.

The best part was gobbling everything in sight. There's more than one area that you can get to taste the produce. Some of the fruits and vegetables even get made into salad so you can shove a variety of fresh goodness into your mouth all at once.

For more pics of this place, click here.

There's definitely a lot more in Pattaya to discover, such as The Sanctuary of Truth and Silverlake Winery. The province is shaping up to become a great destination that's slightly off-the-beaten-path, and showcasing a different side of Thailand that might surprise you.

It was an awesome trip and here's a shoutout to my three companions. THANKS FOR BEING SO GORGEOUS AND MAKING ME FEEL BAD ABOUT MYSELF

All this would not have been possible without the awesome, incredible AirAsia. I mean, just look at the in-flight entertainment:

I'm not being sarcastic. It. Was. So. Good.

I don't need a movies or wifi. I can just read or watch shows on my tablet. BUT I cannot live without food on the plane. Time passes faster when I'm eating. I feel less nauseous, airsick, and I don't even need to remind myself to stay hydrated. This, is everything.

Also a huge thank you to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Singapore.

The last time I counted, this is my tenth trip to Thailand.

1 time in Junior College for OCIP to BKK and Chiang Mai;
4 times to BKK with my army friends, my family, and two Songkrans;
1 time to BKK and Rayong for company cohesion;
3 times to Phuket - JC friend, secondary school friend, ex-date...

Which makes this trip to Pattaya MY TENTH TIME TO THAILAND.

As you can tell. I'm a huge fan.

Can't wait to be back.

Friday, March 04, 2016

What I think of this whole Zexun vs AIA nonsense

So this happened:

If you need the full thing the Facebook post is here and mothership got it too.

I would like to congratulate him for pushing the self-destruct button.

Firstly, it's not like they were asking him to be a photographer for a campaign for free. He had already taken the photo. They saw that it tied in to their brand messages. They asked nicely if he would mind if they used it.

It was also a huge missed opportunity for him to state how much you would like to charge for that photo. How about "Hi AIA. I'm delighted that you think highly of me and my Instagram feed. I charge $500 per picture. Hope to hear from you soon."

He decided, instead, that going full-on bitch mode was the best way to respond.

Corporations with money to spend on creatives are never going to go near him, ever.

His disgusting attitude is not going to help the creative community, and he would've never gotten such public attention had he not had this epic meltdown

I could take a selfie and get more likes than you on Instagram. Your insta-game is not that strong brah.

His stand is that "companies should not ask for free photos with only credit and perceived exposure being given". I don't see what's wrong with this. What if the content creator was looking for a chance for his work to travel, to be seen by more people? What if it's just for fun, like collaborations usually are? What if it was by chance, the coincidental, magical fit of the same aesthetic?

It shouldn't be the case but in the creative community, we sometimes work for free, even for commercial projects. I've taken part in a government video by a creative agency - for free. I've done photoshoots for free, for no reason other than the creative team behind it was my friend, the project was interesting and I believed in the vision. I collaborated with a photographer this morning on a rooftop under the hot sun. His work ethic was amazing. If I had a paid gig, I'd look for him to work with him again.

Sure, it's not going to put food on the table. As if you're the only one with that problem.

Creatives, comms, PR, marketing, we are all part of the same ecosystem. We work together. We practically depend on the same things to make a living, all of us. Now he has thrown the people working alongside him under the bus. On a fucking Friday evening, he forced Dstnct, who handles social media for AIA, to come up with a reply, and probably riled up AIA's entire marketing and comms team, and their management, to do crisis handling.

Are you kidding me?!

I have great respect for great photographers.

But I have more respect for people who aren't bitches.

PS: His friend replied -  I think they confused "photographers" with photographers. With the rise of smartphone cameras and Instagram, the ordinary man can create supposedly beautiful pictures without much experience. They become "photographers". 

From what I understand, AIA is trying to reach out to these ordinary people who don't mind sharing their photos because they don't place a high implicit value on their own pictures. You are different because your work is of true value. I think they failed to understand the distinction

Elitist fucks, the lot of them. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Five Reasons to Catch Cirque Eloize

I've always been inspired by the literary. This is probably the first time I was so entertained, shocked, surprised and inspired by movement. The stunts were given context by the ever-changing projected backdrop. We were transported to construction sites, back alleys, the grittiest of urban landscapes, kicking the traditional art of juggling and acrobatics into more modern, darker, tougher times.

The energy was also on point, and every single one of the cast was just radiating passion. Their teamwork evident when there were moments that they had to put their lives in each others' hands.

Here's Five Reasons why you should catch Cirque Eloize:

1. Contrast, Combinations, Collaborations

In isolation, some of the acts like b-boying and bicycle stunts are not unlike what you would see on the streets. But together, they are unbelievable. They were not afraid to feature their talents alongside each other, and side-by-side that really brought out the tension between the acts. B-Boy alongside a contortionist? Cloth aerial alongside in-line skating?

The mid-show finale was a power-packed rope-skipping free-for-all, where every one injected their skills to produce a unique spectacle only the 16 of them could put up, together.

2. Heart-stopping, Death-defying Stunts

The show had quieter, slower moments. Gentler moments. Humorous moments even. (The juggler segment was really amusing.)

But it was the heart-stopping death-defying moments that stole the show, and the air from our lungs. The sudden dropping from a three-storey high pole and the ascension of multiple chairs by this superhero gymnast (pictures above) did it for me. Mind-blown.

3. Urban costumes on a Ridiculously Good Looking Cast

Mmm. Yes, yes and yes.

The lightning tank, green pants and black open jacket looks do it for me.

Why can't we wear such things every day in real life?

4. What are human limits?

Wah. The flexibility. The strength. The precision. It seemed that nothing was impossible for this troupe. It got me questioning - WHAT ARE LIMITS? IT WAS LIKE - THERE WERE NONE. What am I doing with my life. Why can't I do this. Am I an underperforming human?

Where's the nearest gymnastics, handstand, b-boy, acrobatics class, yoga, stretching thingamajig? Sign me up now.

5. The Grand Finale - Walking on Air

Already bowled over, with no idea what could top everything that came before, the grand finale was an absolute stunner. Flouting the laws of gravity, one of the performers bounced with his back, a good four metres into the air and stepped up onto a platform... like fucking reverse bungee jumping. And before we knew it 4-5 of them started doing the same and it was like a huge human-as-balls juggling trick that was just too much for my brain to comprehend.


A preview:

If I could, I would definitely watch it again.

Inspired to move. 
Cirque Eloize ends its run on 6 Mar (Sunday). Get your Cat A and B tickets are 50% off here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dolphin Adventure on Dolphin Island, Adventure Cove Waterpark

There aren't many things that beat seeing dolphins in the flesh for the first time. After queuing for rides and keeping warm in the torrential rain by hiding in the lazy river at Adventure Cove Waterpark, it was 3.30pm.

It was time to interact with the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.

The staff, who have seen about a gazillion excited guests, were nice and understanding as they ushered us to to put on our wetsuits and rib-cage-crushing life-vests. I exaggerate, but it made me feel like an ancient Roman warrior wearing an armour. I felt buff.

After outlining the dos and don'ts, the trainers split us into groups of 4-5. The dolphins were curious as we walked by, swimming close to the edge of the pool.

Our trainer took great care to introduce us slowly to the dolphin, for her to get used to us and for us to get used to her. She was huge, smooth (apparently they exfoliate every two hours), powerful and gentle.

If I were to name an animal closest to her personality it would be that of a dog. She would be a huge sea dog.

We took turns to interact with her individually, doing tricks, from which we got to witness how dolphins communicate, how they move, how they eat. It was a very personal experience. Brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

Two dolphins powering WK 
The highlight was having a pair of dolphins push you through the water. You get to experience how strong they are. That and their ability to do multiple flips in the air were a treat to watch. Also enjoyed the stories from the trainers about how the dolphins interacted and "felt" about each other, and how they have sexy times for fun.

The only thing that annoyed me was that the photographers weren't very professional. Our trainer had to get his attention. You weren't allowed cameras in there and the prints and digital copies came at an exorbitant price. For that amount of money, I expected way, way better.

When I was making the booking a couple of weeks prior, the number of programmes that I had to choose from literally made my head spin. The one I've written about here is the Dolphin Adventure ($128), which allows you to experience all these, and lasts for about 50 mins.

The package also includes a one-day pass to Adventure Cove Waterpark, which was pretty fun (except for the queues which were still too long IMO).

It was raining like crazy that day, and at times, downright freezing, but the low visibility, and how everything became more slippery made the rides more thrilling. Win-win.

Was a pretty memorable one-time experience hanging out with the cool kids of the sea, and a great way to kick off 2016!

Monday, January 11, 2016

7 Dishes You Must Whack at Shinkei's Ala Carte Buffet

Just like having pre-drinks before you hit the clubs, you've got to have a pre-game ritual when you know you're about to hit the clubs Shinkei Japanese Restaurant for their Ala Carte buffet. Because I was going for lunch, I had to wake up earlier than I would like to and go for a run around Punggol Waterway.

After having clocked the miles and working up an appetite, I burst through the doors, with the knowledge that I was going to eat my weight in raw fish goodness.

(If you're a gym freak and you need to bulk, you may do the same. My alternate plan was to hit Energyone at SAFRA Toa Payoh and after a 5 mins walk, promptly plop my butt down at Shinkei, and order.)

To save you time, stomach space, and stretch your dollar, here's my guide of the 7 items that stood out in the 2 hours I spent stuffing my face.

1. Assorted Sashimi Platter

Sashimi Moriwase
In my professional Japanese buffet-eating opinion, you should just start off with two of these. It's legit power-packed, most worth it on the menu, and by far the most impressive of the what must've been over 20-plus dishes we tried. I lost count.

But this. This is king. This is love. This is Jap food heaven.

2. Sweet Potato Roll

Satsuma Imo Roll
This satisfied my sweet tooth. In contrast to the fresh, smooth, cold, chewy sashimi, this crispy, cracking, warm, sweet sweet potato roll was fun to chomp down on.

3. Zucchini wrapped with Bacon

Zukkini Be-Kon
The bacon was crispy and when you bite into the juicy zucchini, it bursts just like an XLB! The contrast of textures made this super memorable. However, the second time round, it was not as boomz, because the bacon wasn't as cooked and it wasn't as crispy. They've got to work on the consistency a little.

4. Fried Tofu

Agedashi Tofu

5. Roasted Salmon

Shake Abuei Maki
This is A++. Get ten of these and maybe one of each of the rest. Or don't have the rest at all. This was the one that stood out and had us asking for more.

6. Yuzu Sake

If we had the chance we would've gone back and do this properly. We made the mistake of filling our cups from the soft-drinks station with green tea and peach tea. Skip that. Drink this. Drink only this. Punctuate your entire course with a shot of sake. It's sold separately though and goes for $22 for 250ml bottle.

7. Red Bean Soup with Mochi

Shiratama Zenzai
The best part about any buffet is that your choices are never either or. It's always the best of both worlds. Why have just ice cream when you can get red bean soup with mochi AND top it up with scoops of your favourite ice cream? The lychee flavoured one seemed to go well with this. I'm not sure if choclate chip mint would, but please try and let me know.

The Ala Carte Buffet is $45++ for adults and 2nd diner gets 50% off this January. Check their website for info here.

Thank you Shinkei Japanese Buffet for inviting us for the tasting! We had so much, it was not even funny. Really deserving of the "buffet" in the name, you guys were hospitable and we left, stuffed and satisfied. 

Leaving you with Shinkei's instagram post of us going nuts at their gorgeous creations:

Friday, January 08, 2016

Cosy up to the great outdoors with Nature's Paradise of Lazy-Bone

Making my way down to the see the sea, a 15-min walk from Nature's Paradise
Ten days in Taiwan, four different accommodations, and this emerged the absolute favourite! A view of the sea, up on the hills, a big patio and an outdoor toilet - incredible! I wanted something that was adventurous, outdoors, a bit off-the-beaten-track kind of living and I most certainly found that in Nature's Paradise of Lazy-Bone.

First of all, it isn't easy to get to. It's situated at Chenggong Township and you've got to take a train to Yuli from Taipei, followed by NTD 800 cab ride.

You wouldn't want to get out of the woods after living here
When we arrived, we were in for a bit of a shock - there was no one! The owners were both out! So, please, let them know what time you'll arrive. If they are in town, you can make arrangements for them to drive you up the hill to Nature's Paradise!

Lazy-Bone was one of the few properties they had. The room was spacious, with the window facing the sea. The bed was incredibly comfortable. Sank deep into it, with thick sheets perfect for the winter. That made waking up to witness the sunrise a little tough!

The bed faces a fireplace and a book shelf full of Taiwanese literature.

One of the two stunning highlights of this place was the patio.

Views of the Pacific Ocean on a patio with somewhat peculiar-looking furniture.

We spent a considerable amount of time just chilling out, reading, chatting, enjoying the view and the cool breeze, as well as the whispering of the leaves as the wind took off into the hills. Loved taking a closer look at the small details of the furniture. The owner made most of them himself. They were surprisingly sturdy and comfortable.

It even looks cool at night! Everything else was in total darkness.
The next highlight - the outdoor toilet!

It's cleverly built so that no one can look in. Doing your business in nature is surprisingly enjoyable. One thing that we overlooked was the fact that it was was a bit cold at night, which makes one rather reluctant to whip out your junk to pee, or to take a shower.

And of course, the water from the shower doesn't heat itself.

There were three small furnaces that heated the water supply to our gorgeous outdoor bathroom. David, the owner, would help us light one for the shower after dinner. What about the other two, you ask. They are meant for guests to light should they want to have enough hot water for a bath.

On the second night of our stay we felt adventurous and decided to heat water for a bath. We started off by chopping firewood and unsurprisingly, failed miserably. It was tough. Probably lacked the strength and technique to wield an ax properly. We then moved on to lighting the furnaces with matches, a blow torch, a fan and some wood. This we were better at, no doubt thanks to having some BBQ experience. Then, just as we thought that was it, the output of the tap for the bath was so slow that it took an hour for the water to get to a decent level!

Most people stay there for a night. I would recommend staying there for two, so you get to really experience living in the hills, especially if you're used to city-dwelling. Also there aren't restaurants around. You'll have to rely on the hosts' cooking, which they did for our breakfast and dinner. Bringing your own snacks would be helpful. There was also no reception nor wifi in our room, which was fine by me! The perfect opportunity to curl up with a book or HTHT. (There is, however, wifi in the living room, which served as the lobby for guests.)

Breakfast - we got to grind the coffee beans for it
You can check out the property on Airbnb here. The owners have got more than one house. There's also Nature's Paradise of Happy Heart and Nature's Paradise Spirit Castle, each with its unique characteristics.

If you've never used Airbnb, or even if you have you can try, here's SGD $29 to get you started!

I'll leave you with a video tour of Nature's Paradise of Lazy-Bone, which also has a bit of our cycling adventures (the owners were kind enough to lend us bicycles) where we checked out the nearby sights in Taitung.