New Year Fireworks 2015 in Singapore

Time seems to fly faster as you grow older. So many things to do, so little time. It’s not about being busy or a question of priorities – it’s the bucket list. Let’s see how many items I can strike off that list in 2015.

Here it is – the fireworks to keep the sparks of inspiration going for the rest of the year.

Happy New Year!


What To Do When You Are Being Stalked


Stalkers are easy to spot. Even if you are busy going about your business in a crowded mall, sooner or later, you will sense that you are being watched and followed. That is because they are so enamored of you that they cannot help getting closer, and are eventually spotted again and again in your line of sight.

Sometimes, I wonder whether they are simply too dumb to keep out of sight or intentionally moving closer in order to get lucky. You will know that you have hit the jackpot when he comes close enough to tell you that he is captivated by you.

Sweet, if he is your crush, the one you have been eyeing across the room. Creepy to the bones, when it is uninvited company.

How do you shake him off? Depending on how serious a nutcase you are dealing with, try the following sequence:

Step 1 – Stop what you are doing and look at him with a straight face. He will either be taken aback that you have caught him in the act and move away or be pleased that you have finally noticed him. Shudder.

Step 2 – Stare at him. The timid ones will back off and disappear. The bolder ones will come hither to test the waters. Stay put and do not be afraid.

Step 3 – Take pictures or videos of him and make sure he sees you doing it. This will send most stalkers off in the opposite direction and, very soon, out of sight.

Step 4 – Make a phone call, to anyone. Again, make sure he sees you doing it. He will be scared stiff by the prospect of having to deal with your furious father, brother or boyfriend, and disappear in no time.

Step 5 – Threaten to call the police and, if all else fails, actually call the police.

Unless you are silly enough to wander alone into a dark alley in the middle of the night as stalker bait, Steps 1 or 2 will usually do the trick. You may be tempted to call the police right away but you will need to gather evidence first, that you are actually being stalked.

Stay safe.

When Honesty Is Not The Best Policy

barcode I am speechless.

It used to be that honesty was appreciated as a virtue. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case anymore.

You see, I went shopping in the mall just now. It happened that the item I was looking for was on sale, so I was happy to pay for it at the cashier’s counter. There, I was charged less than the expected discounted price.

Thinking that it was too good to be true, I clarified with the cashier if that was indeed the correct amount to pay because it did not tally with the discounted price that was tagged on the item.

To my surprise, she asked, “Why?” as if to say, “Why, aren’t you getting a better deal?” to which I answered, “I just want to make sure that no one is short-changed.”

After a few moments of fumbling and checking with the supervisor, the cashier was still not able to decide on the correct price. At that point, another staff came along and exclaimed, “Why is this girl making it so difficult? Since she wants to pay more, then charge her more!”

Here are the words that struck me:

‘Girl’? Thanks for the compliment!

‘Difficult’? Me? Being honest and fair is being, ahem, ‘difficult’?

‘More’? So, I will be penalized for seeking clarification.

But I did not see the point in articulating my thoughts and left them to figure it out themselves.

In the end, it was determined that the price listed in their system database was lower than that written on the placard, so they had to give me the larger discount since they had scanned the bar code on the item.

After staring at me momentarily, perhaps bewildered at my ‘weird’ sense of fairness, the finger-pointing began…who did what wrongly and whose fault it was, etc. The blame finally landed the one who did the placard.

As I was leaving, I could hear somebody mumbling, “What’s the fuss? She paid less, right?”

Sigh, “Yes, I paid less,” and that would be the last time I was going to do something as stupid as trying to be fair to people who would rather be short-changed than admit that they had made a mistake.

But then again, they were only employees. It was not their money at stake.

Whatever happened to professionalism?


On another occasion…

A similar case happened a few months ago. It was not a mistake but I was unaware of the discount I was entitled to. Hence, when I was charged less than expected, I tried to clarify the right amount to pay.

The cashier was so surprised that she exclaimed, ” Wow, this customer has integrity!”

The implications…need I say more?

5 Things I Like About South Korea

I have figured out why I keep coming back to South Korea. There are at least 5 things I like about this country.

#1 Food, especially seafood jambong and Busan’s fish cake. Among the stalls in Dongdaemun, Yeongdeungpo and Sindorim, the last one kept me going back for more seafood jambong. The shellfish is fresh and juicy; the soup piping hot. There is more seafood than noodles in that bowl. Busan’s fish cake at Jagalchi Fish Market beats the ones I have tried in Seoul in price and taste. A fair amount of emphasis is placed on healthy food too, judging from the kinds of merchandise available such as the numerous brands of bottled 100% tea with no sugar content. There is an interesting tea with oriental raisins which is supposed to be good for the liver and hangovers. And I have yet to come across another place with as many 24/7 convenience stores so far.


Korean Seafood Jambong

#2 Environmental responsibility. This is most evident in the way Koreans sort their trash into different categories such as plastics/recyclables, food waste and general non-perishables in bags before discarding them. Apparently, that is required by law. Nami Island is so far my favorite tourist attraction, not only for the scenery or filming sites but in the way nature is preserved while meeting human needs using natural materials such as wood and stone. Synthetics, if used, are recyled items like glass bottles and plastic caps.

Organised waste disposal

Organized waste disposal

#3 Creativity. I like the fact that Nami Island supports UNICEF. There, everyone including foreigners is a Naminarian. They make a conscious effort to promote creativity on a global scale, as in the children’s book writing competition and inviting world-reknown personalities to their events to share insights from their creative experience. Even visitors to Seoul are encouraged to submit their videos in a competition. I have noticed that many buildings have sculptures gracing their entrances, from the elegant to the quirky. There is also a sense of humor in some of these creations, many of them on Nami Island, even in the case of the public toilets there.

Elegance in simplicity

Elegance in simplicity

#4 Cleanliness. This is where I get an extra kick out of my travels just because there are clean toilets around. The cleaning workers do a great job. I am impressed by the lady patiently cleaning pipes lining the curbs outside Busan station, digging into gaps to clear debris instead of simply flushing the pavement with a water jet. That’s taking pride and showing integrity in one’s work. Cool. You go girl!

Public square outside Busan station

Public square outside Busan station

#5 The railway system. It connects to many cities of interest. Seoul connects to cities as near as Incheon and as far as Busan. The network is complex enough so there is flexibility to customize your itinerary and reduce costs. Fares are reasonable and transits are smooth once you get the hang of it. The trains announce the name of every station in Korean and English while it is being flashed on screen in every car. Station staff are helpful and proactive. One in Busan came to change my W5000 note into W1000 ones when I was about to slot a W5000 note into a machine that accepts only W1000 ones. Smile, Big Brother’s watching.

Seoul subway map

Seoul subway map

The list may change or get longer but, for now, it’s good.

Day Trip To Macau

I had always wondered about the lure of a single stone wall standing at the end of a seemingly endless flight of steps, that is the remains of St Paul’s Cathedral in Macau.

GZ 115

When I got there on a day trip from Guangzhou, I could not immediately recognize it because I had expected a monumental landmark but it was smaller than envisaged. That, and also because I had alighted from the taxi on one of its sides instead of the front, not to mention that the remnant was surrounded by a dense entourage of ornate buildings and structures that are vying for attention at the same time.

GZ 116

When I finally got to walk around the area behind the wall, which was once the premises of a church that was destroyed by fire, and climbed up the metal decking behind the wall, although it was not quite an epiphany, the sense of history and panoramic views made it a worthwhile visit.

GZ 122

This plan shows the location of the front facade (top) and the crypt in the church (bottom):

GZ 119

I wonder if the martyrs would prefer to rest in peace than be superstars under the glare of the public eye day in and out, everyday of the year…

Suzhou Express

I took the high speed train to Suzhou three days before the Chinese New Year. A one-way ticket from Shanghai cost 41 yuan. I had narrowly missed the train and with one and a half hours to kill before the next departure, I decided to have lunch at, ahem, McDonalds which was packed with travelers.

It’s pretty impressive, the train. It could travel at up to 350 km/h and arrive at Suzhou Station in just 25 minutes from Shanghai’s Hongqiao Station. The ride was smooth and comfortable too.

When I stepped out of the train station, there were old ladies waiting at the exit, selling maps to tourists. One approached me with two maps – one cost 6 yuan, the other 3. Fortunately, I bought them because I got lost later.

I wandered around the bus depot searching for the bus that would take me to Modern Avenue and when I finally found it, the driver did not know where it was because he was new on the job. Nevertheless, I hopped on. After about half an hour’s ride, I realized that I was lost and found myself stranded in the middle of nowhere.

As it was getting dark, I decided to hail a taxi in order to save time and finally arrived at IN CITY. I was thankful for the warm reception in offered  compared to the  cold outside. One unique feature of the mall was the layout of the escalators although it proved to be quite confusing for someone  new to move from one level to another.

There was only enough time for me to explore WalMart and take couple of pictures before reluctantly rushing back to the station to catch the 8 p.m. train back to Shanghai.

Suzhou express indeed.

The next day, I decided to leave home earlier for my trip to Hangzhou.