So I’ve made it, like millions of others. Yup, “ik ben gevaccineerd.” (I am vaccinated)
My 1st shot was scheduled for Monday 7th June, 2021 at 16:14. I arrived at the Vaccination Centre earlier than my slotted time as I gathered the hour was not the trigger but the date was. By the way, the e-Ticket or QR code was not even necessary, however, before entering the building my temperature was taken. It went very quickly and I was inside waiting in line for my turn at the reception. My ID card was the key pass document and main tracker. A guy behind the plexiglass handed me a card with the number 3. There were 4 numbers and 3 was the red line.
The coloured lines immediately reminded me of the London Underground. Red Line being the Central Line and one of my favourite lines to commute 😉
There were 4 mysterious looking cabins 1, 2, 3 and 4. No vaccine name appeared anywhere, however, a lady sitting behind me was curious and asked one of the frontline assistants if the 4 cabins were for different vaccines. I overheard her reply “Today’s vaccine is only xxx”. Phew! What a relief!
When the light bulb turned green in front of me, it was my turn to get in. The doctor on duty was sanitising the chair before I was seated.
She asked me a few questions as part of the standard Covid-19 pre vaccination screening.
Do you have any allergies?
Have you been tested positive for Covid-19 the last 14 days?
Did you have an operation/ surgery the last 4 months?
Do you have long term health problem with your heart, lung or kidney?
Are you having an operation/surgery soon?
Do you have breast cancer or any other form of cancer or family history of cancer?
Do you have bleeding disorder or have you taken any blood thinning medication?
I was wondering if I had answered yes to one of the questions, could I still get the vaccination?
A nurse came towards me with a closed carton kit in her hand. The first and only question she asked was, “which is your dominant arm?”. Being a right hander, I rolled up my sleeve on my left arm. The nurse said, “ breathe in and out and relax”. I didn’t feel any sharp needle but I felt a quick warm spurt of something getting into my left arm. And DONE! It was so quick, I didn’t feel anything. “That’s the idea”, said the nurse.
The doctor passed me a card with the date of my 1st dose and my next appointment.
A second card had the time of when I’m allowed to leave the building. It’s the standard 15 minutes waiting time.
I got up and followed the arrows on the floor leading to a cordoned waiting bay. There were already several people waiting there facing in the same direction towards a digital clock.
Fast forward 12th July, 2021
As with my 1st appointment, I arrived at the Vaccination Centre earlier than scheduled. Exactly the same process applied: my temperature was taken, my ID card controlled and a card with a number was given. I got my number 3 and red line again. Hmmmm… was that a fluke or a controlled process? Then again, I didn’t mind “commuting” on the Central Line one more time 😉
And there I was (again) waiting for my turn when the light bulb turned green.
It was a different doctor from the one I had during my 1st vax but I was interrogated with almost exactly the same questions, akin to the sound of an old gramophone playing over and over again. Ha ha…
I asked her if it was okay for me to take a “selfie” of my injection in action.
“Don’t forget to smile” was her friendly reply.
Yeah, yeah … behind my mask. Lol! 😷
And prick went the needle in my arm for the 2nd time. Again, I didn’t feel anything or should I? I don’t know 🤷🏻♀️
I was told by the doctor if I didn’t have any side effect after my 1st vax, chances of having one would be higher after the 2nd dose that would usually last for 2 days.
And the verdict is …
It has been a bit more than 2 days since my vax. So far so good, except for the sore arm that deterred me from sleeping on my left side for 2 nights. That’s about it!
I have heard from some friends who had experienced rather bad symptoms even after the 1st dose: fever, diarrhoea, vomiting, migraine, loss of appetite, fatigue, swollen arm etc.
And me? I think my biggest symptom is my sudden good appetite, rummaging the fridge and cupboards for something to eat every now and then. It must be a very hungry variant that was injected in me 😬
So, I have been vaccinated, and what now? More people have had at least 1 dose and/or fully vaccinated, but sadly, cases are again increasing in several countries, as I write this post.
As we sang the Auld Lang Syne, clinked champagne flutes with the sounds and flares of the fireworks in the skies and bade farewell to 31st December, 2019, we had zero notion what would await us all at the turn of the year. Looking back to my 2020, my 365-day page was devoted almost entirely to the big C word that has drifted by with the passing of the 4 seasons (and counting …?)
In retrospect, there is probably one magic word that befits anno 2020: resilience. It is amazing how in the course of a few months we have been tested on our bouncebackability. Our ability of being adaptive and creative have been phenomenal.
Here is a snapshot of my diary of the year 2020 like no other.
Wedding of the Year
2020 could have been the year with a record number of weddings. Without a doubt, it was truly a blessing in disguise when my brother in Canada sent out early wedding invitations in 2019 to meet in Kuching for the wedding of his eldest son. The matrimonial vows were exchanged on 30th January, where families and friends hugged, laughed, shook hands and cried tears of joy. Here’s the write up of the wedding of my nephew and Nanako: Wedding
And then, the invincible invisible enemy crushed all hopes of all planned weddings in 2020. No church weddings, no banquets, no friends or families allowed. It’s gloomy days ahead for a long time.
The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March and lockdowns began in countries around the world. I would not have imagined that the colours of the traffic lights would dictate our way of living, but it had .… uptil now! Teleworking had been the new norm. I have been working from home since mid-March and it has been almost 10 months down the road. It was good at first as I hated the morning rush hours. When the days turned to weeks and then months, WFH seemed like an added chore, a drudgery of sorts. I don’t hate it but I don’t love it either. Let’s just say, it’s growing on me.
I did go back to my office 3 times since our first lockdown in mid-March. Although my office is prepared to have the employees back to the building, however, with the protocol of measures in line with the Fed Government’s, return to office is still not recommended.
For many people, looking back at 2020 is painful and frustrating. Keeping our distance from loved ones, friends and colleagues or not being able to attend a funeral, reunion party, potlucks, film, concert, workshop, meetings all led to isolation, hence a new word is born, “social distancing”. The introverts did not mind that, but definitely not the extroverts!
The corona virus might have taken the centre stage, but 2020 was also a year full of NEW ideas, NEW initiatives, fun and loving moments.
By the way, a surgical mask that cost a few cents became the most sought after item in 2020. When masks were nowhere to be found or sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, people were forced to get creative. YouTube Channels were exploded with tutorials and ideas of “how to make your own mask”. Millions made DIY masks. I was intrigued by the idea but the execution never got off the ground. I still have a bagful of cotton towels, mini sewing kit, filters, elastic band spools, untouched. When I wanted to start making my own mask, we received free masks from our commune, my company and from some friends. Not long after that, surgical masks were once again, allowed to be sold in pharmacies and supermarkets, but no longer at the price we knew pre-Covid.
We were told during the lockdown to stay healthy, to move around the house every so often despite the movement restriction order outdoors. It ain’t easy for the outdoor types, the extroverts. While swimming pools and gyms were closed, the free outdoors became the new ‘fitness centres’ of our world. There’s no stopping walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists working out in the woods and parks daily or weekly. Mind you, bicycles, sports suits, walking/running shoes and dumbbells were hot items in 2020, and pets, Netflix and Airfryer, too!!
And I just had to jump on the bandwagon!
How creative can a human mind be with a bad hair day during lockdown become a norm? When nonessential shops like a hair salon are closed for months, my hair was growing in all directions. YouTube seemed to have read my mind like an open book. Suddenly a video of an interview with George Clooney by Jimmy Kimmel appeared on my recommended feed. It was not just an interview but a surprising confession from the actor that he cuts his own hair … with a vacuum cleaner, aka Flowbee! After checking out all the Flowbee videos, I told my boys, “I want a Flowbee!, too!” Unfortunately, it’s an American product and it’s only available in the States, and they’re all sold out! Helaas!
Instead, I watched my boys having fun cutting each others’ hair while I snipped mine myself blindly …
Short and Crisp
Speaking of YouTube channels, I noticed so many new accounts created since March: all for the sake of entertaining the lockdowners. Some channels made it big in such a short span of time. I love watching musicals, singers and songwriters and one that stood out is a father-and-daughter vocal duo, Mat and Savanna Shaw. Their debut video cover of Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer” published in March, garnered 8 million views (and counting), as I write. They have since published global livestream concerts and made their debut Christmas album in less than 10 months of owning a YouTube Channel. And I’m still watching them uploading perfectly harmonious songs. That makes me absolutely happy during this lockdown.
I’m afraid I am not one who has the patience to watch a lengthy movie in one sitting. Give me a good short story of 30 minutes or less at one sitting and I´d binge watch the videos in one night. Omeleto is my favourite pitstop and CGI animated short films is another. JinnyboyTV and Wong Fu Productions published quality videos with great acting and stories that are relatable with Asian values.
Summer 2020 was unlike any other summer. Airports were deserted. Commercial Planes were not flying, trains were sporadic. Many opted for a trip close to home, famously coined as “Staycation”. It was a hard decision for us, too, cancelling our trip to London via Eurostar. Infact, for ALL of us in these difficult times. We did, however, make a mini trip in September by car. We were very careful, maintaining our distance and adhering to the corona protocol and measures during our entire stay in South France.
Once a popular destination, all were quiet and almost deserted, but it was a much needed break for us. In hindsight, I’m glad we made it…
A picture is worth a thousand words.
The Pass that Failed
When the Belgian railway company launched the free pass “Hello Belgium” by promoting travel within the country, valid from 5th Oct 2020 for 6 months, I was thrilled. I had bookmarked a trip to Bruges with my son, but hey-ho, it was not meant to be. Belgium was flagged ‘red’ and entered into a stricter 2nd lockdown on 1st Nov when cases surged. There goes my free pass. It failed!
A Cancelled Concert: Despair vs Hope
Perhaps the most disappointing news was the cancelled live tour of my newfound favourite singers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Josh Lee Turner, Carson McKee, Reina del Cid and Toni Lindgren. Their live concert in Belgium in November where my husband and I were supposed to go, was cancelled. So we are reliving their music in our home and keeping our ears and eyes opened for new dates of their live concerts. Fingers crossed!
To keep the live musical theme alive in our home, we are listening to our 2 boys making music, yes, making and singing. Feeling blessed
“Bubble” during this pandemic means social contacts. How many contacts we could have were decided by the Government in alignment with the number of cases locally and regionally. Currently, Belgium allows only 1 cuddle contact (“knuffelcontact”) who does not belong to our own household. This “close contact” implies contact that lasts more than 15 minutes without having to maintain the social distance and wearing a face mask.
As far as I could remember, the number of bubbles in Belgium have been fluctuating like a yo-yo between March to December: from 2 to 4 to 15 and down to 10 and then to 4 and currently, to one lone ranger.
My kitchen has never been used so much the past 10 months. I was on my toes daily, balancing kitchen activities and office work. It was doable in the initial stage. I was like a duracell bunny hopping around the house with my daily chores and prepping daily meals for my menfolk. It was exhausting, so I thought the right way was to slow down and leave the cooking to either my older son and/or order takeaways.
Here were some snapshots of the memories of my bustling kitchen ideas, savouries and sweets
When I was weary, down and out, I passed the baton on to my older son. Here’s the outcome …
While I am not in the mood to cook, and the older son flashes his white flag, I had to resort to ordering takeaways. Here are the results …
Time will tell
A year in review might suggest that the moments are behind us, but what anno 2020 has shown is the events that will last a lifetime
Both my boys had to follow their University courses online. With lots of patience and determination, my older son graduated with his MSc degree last year. My younger son, on the other hand, is showing signs of losing hope. Hang on there, son. Hope works with Time and Time is capable of understanding how valuable Hope is.
The UK finally exits the EU and Time will tell how and what the future will be
The world stood still, but Time is catching up with us. We experienced a lockdown, felt vulnerable while the virus made a major impact on our daily lives. We had to get used to the new normal and the universal 1.5m social distancing, a word we had never used pre-Covid days. Shaking hands, attending a party, travelling and grabbing a shopping cart have not been the same and Time will tell if we will (ever) get back to our previous norm.
Following a public vote, “Knuffelcontact” has been named Word of the Year by the Van Dale Dutch language experts. The word literally translates to “cuddle contact” or “hug buddy” and refers to a close contact outside of one’s household in alignment to COVID-19 regulations.
The world stood still, but many have enriched their lives by staying healthy, eating right and being closer to their loved ones who are staying apart. It’s just a ZOOM away.
I look forward to the prospect of a new year in which we can see each other in person, give a hug and pass one another in the hallway with a visible smile on our face and a simple “Good Morning”
The fact that our freedom was limited the past year did not make it easy for all of us. But I know, we’ll come out of the rut year stronger than ever before!
Here’s to a Healthy, Happy, Stronger and Safer 2021 and to all Mothers-to-be and Grannies-to-be, enjoy a new Life in your lives. 2021 is one hell of a baby boom year. The Stork is working overtime in the Year of the Metal Ox.
In hindsight, life seemed like a bed of roses until a virus crushed our beds. It has been 8 long roller-coaster months (and counting??) of anxiety, akin to a Mother carrying a child in her belly. My beloved late Mum used to say with precision, “I carried you for 9 months 10 days”. Does that mean there’s hope after Christmas? In 2021….?
It’s a long dark tunnel we’re travelling in, but I have to believe there’s redemption in the darkest of circumstances.
Guess what? I’m going to paint the tunnel with the colours of the Rainbow! We need happy stories more than ever in this oppressively bleak moments.
Shall we play a game then?
It was Sunday, 11th Oct. G, the last person I know in our group chat who would be sharing photos of food dishes, suddenly bombarded our chat group with her amazing platters. She confessed, “I really wanted something that reminds me of home kopitiam food”. 5 other charbors couldn’t agree more especially so when G is now with 2. Et voilà! 😉)
The prolonged lockdown or house-confinement has magically transformed many noob cooks to unsung heroes with their unimaginable sleight-of-hands in the kitchen. Colourful platters were virtually shared. THAT is the Rainbow I was referring to.
C: I miss Yong Tau Fu and Pan Mee G: We should all come up with ideas on what Asian food challenge to cook next A: Good idea! D: I’m in! O, you’re also included in the challenge, ya 😉 X: OK. Let’s do it but first I need to buy Kway Teow 😅
And then, silence prevailed for a few days and suddenly, one message popped up in our group chat. X texted, “The best 007 has left us” *sob*
From Food to Bond. Very intriguing combo, indeed. Ha ha ha …
Wait a minute! Was it not exactly 5 years ago today when 6 girls met in Antwerp, had Cantonese-style yin yang rice noodles at Da Jia Le and coming out of the cinema humming to the tune of Sam Smith’s Writing on the Wall (aka Spectre with Daniel Craig as 007)?
Well, well, well…. History has repeated itself, albeit in an extraordinarily different way. On this 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, 6 “Bond” charbors could not meet physically, but shared their moments virtually, a reminder of the delectable lunch they had in Antwerp on 11th November, 2015
And so the story goes … 5 very determined ladies showed off their take on a noodle dish (with a story to tell) that any 007 would swoon over. But little did they know that their dishes would be judged from North, South, East and West by the mysterious “M”
5 entries were submitted, in no particular order …
Huh? It didn’t add up innit? There’re 6 charbors, but only 5 entries? Hmmmmm where’s entry number 6??
Well, somebody had to play “M” and that’s moi! Sorry, charbors 😜
While the 5 “Bond” girls slogged away with their prized platter, the mysterious “M” carried out a secret Mission. She had to pick the winning platter.
Which of the “Bond” girls won, you think?
Drum roll please….. and the winner is …..
Damn, that’s NOT easy. “M” knows the girls too well. Not fair lah! So the mysterious “M” called upon 18 Secret Agents from Europe, Asia, North America and Oceania to co-judge the winning plate.
Drum roll (again) please… And the WINNER is …
Erm … hidden in the comments from the 18 judges, hereunder …
Can you decipher? 🧐🤔
“All look so yummy, how to judge? Especially when they are dished up differently” “See photos only and not tasting, difficult lah. Maybe it doesn’t look nice but taste nice?” “If I’m not saying right, no hard feelings ok. It’s just the presentation” “Well, if you ask me to judge on which dish I’ll go and grab first based on the look, I would say this picture. Based on presentation, I would say the top right photo. Looks clean and decent” “How the dish is presented, can be deceiving. Let me taste all first, lah …” “I feel that I must have a criteria to judge” “I am sure many will choose their favourite dishes” “I base my judgement on photo presentation” “I’m not a very noodle person” “Oh dear, I’m very bad at this.. ” “I don’t really like all the wet, wet noodles. Only the curly kolo mee” “This one is always my favourite” “I ranked them in order of how they looked and the seasonings in the noodles” “Give me 1 and 2 anytime. Yum “ “How to judge? In terms of presentation or which one looks appetizing?” “I’m not a good cook so I really can’t decide. All looked yummy. Anyway, the best is the 1st photo” “Wait, since this is based on presentation only, I will have to look closer.” “The plating for E is not pretty, but I bet the bee hoon and pork tasted superb” “This plate is missing some greens, otherwise, it will be my no 1” “Dry mee always comes first for me, except laksa ” “I prefer bee hoon, mee pok, finer and thinner type noodles” “If this was kway teow, automatically no 1”
“Looks delish ‘cause of the veg, fresh coriander, crispy shallots and meat” “I like bee hoon with bean sprouts, carrots, omelette strips, spring onions or chives for colours” “Looks delish, but noodle looks bland” “This colour is not enticing. Meat looks ok but again the presentation and colour not attractive” “My ranking depends on the season. In these cold days, I would say …” “Looks like Thai dish, interesting!” “Cantonese kway teow! My favourite!” “3rd picture looks like dry foochow noodle? Looks great! Sweet black sauce, yums!” “Toppings look amazing, but noodles look plain” “Minus points for no greens. Noodles look too plain but meat looks perfectly cooked” “This looks ok, but too dry and colour not attractive”
By the way, did you manage to de-crypt the winner and the winning entry? 🧐 For now, my lips are sealed …🤐
As a bonus, 2 early birds sent the Mysterious “M” the best virtual desserts ever imaginable. Both entries deserved the highest accolades. Without being able to taste the desserts de facto, M made the conclusive decision that both plates were EQUAL winners. Period!
The journey of Life is a perfectly surprising CIRCLE; you never know when the BEST PART comes back to you because the end of one journey is the beginning of the next. We are all connected in the great circle of life – FRIENDS!
The magic of the the 11th day of the 11th month was re-visited when 5 girls sent their VIRTUAL LOVE in sync 💞
Well, it takes a virus to bring us back together, stronger than ever before 💪
When my brother in Canada announced that his eldest of 4 sons was getting married, we felt elated at hearing the news. That was Nov 2018. With the cold and dreary Canadian winter (ahem … Alberta to be precise), the low-keyed garden wedding was beautifully executed.
Since the garden prenuptial was purely a Canadian family affair, families from afar did not get the feel of the joys of that matrimony. Knowing this brother of mine, he’s not one to fall short for such plan. Let’s put it this way … he’s not an ‘alang-alang’ guy. LOL!
One fine morning we all got up to reading a pleasant message from my brother via WhatsApp
We’re going to Kyoto for the wedding!
So desu ka?
So desu ne!
I was over the moon with that news …
If you’re wondering, why Japan? Well, my brother has embraced a new addition to the family. His daughter-in-law-to-be is a stunning Japanese 😉
By the way, Japan has always been one of the countries I have bookmarked. Coincidentally, it’s also the destination I have promised my younger son with a sworn statement, swearing my promise to bring him to the Land of the Rising Sun, one fine day… Here’s the story if you missed it : My ‘Japanese’ Boy
Just as we were feeling euphoric with the news, our ecstasy suddenly fell flat southward. Alas, the cruel force of gravity! Our joys were short-lived because there was not going to be a trip to Japan. Sob! Sob! Instead, the Japanese contingent preferred to travel to the Land of the Hornbills! So much for my Japanese dream … sigh!
Another stumbling block was the Wedding date: 30th January! It’s the month-end close and coupled with the unceasingly intense news coverage of the pandemic Covid-19. Ai yai yai! So how?
Well, I could choose not to make the trip, but the thought of missing such event that occurs once in a lifetime was just unendurable. So, geared with my laptop et al, I booked my flight and hotel. Hubs and BIL booked theirs separately.
Exit Miss Piggy, Enter Stuart Little
We touched down Kuching International Airport exactly on the first day of the Lunar New Year. While the family were enjoying scrumptious Chinese New Year Eve reunion dinner, we had to make do with the mediocre Emirates meals on air. The 24-hour flight and transits covering 4 airports and 3 continents had left me feeling absolutely knackered and groggy. To add salt to injury, 3 of 4 of our check-in luggage went missing, or rather, they did not arrive in the same plane as our ETA, therefore, we had to go through the hassle of filing reports of our missing baggage. At that point, I could not wait to have a nice warm shower and jump into a comfortable bed. Luckily the hotel shower was excellent and the bed was very clean and comfortable. I was in slumberland in no time at all.
Oh by the way, the 3 luggage arrived the next day.
In between working and delivering my reports, I thought some free moments could be spent with my family or friends, but I was wrong. The time zone difference of 7 hours was the most challenging factor. When I was free, it was already midnight M’sia time and time to hit the sack. This was the mode I had to endure for the next 2 weeks …
I must thank my hubs and especially my younger sis for being the protector of my tummy while I was on “lockdown” in my hotel room
All I needed to tell them was what I craved and hocus-pocus, my wish was granted. Ha ha …
Wedding Day: Morning
The day arrived when the Lands of the Hornbills and the Rising Sun became ONE.
The beautiful bride and the handsome groom exchanged their Holy Matrimonial vows with their unyielding “I do” and promised to be true to each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for they will love and honour each other until death do them part.
Amen to that!
With teary eyes of joy, families from near and far flocked together and rejoiced in jubilation.
Wedding Day: Afternoon
While the melodic morning bells chimed and made way for the fiery afternoon crackers, we adjourned for the traditional Tea Ceremony at the groom’s uncle’s house with a “light” brunch.
A Wedding tea ceremony is the epitome of respect and gratitude by the newlyweds towards their parents and elders by serving them tea. It also symbolizes that the bride and groom officially belong into a new and extended family.
Wedding Day: Evening
My sisters, a niece and I were the first to arrive and therefore we had the first glimpse of the banquet hall without any mortal in sight.
Oh no, we were not trying to be prying “kaypo“, but we were there early as ‘duty managers’. Lol!
Once upon a moment, very immaculate, absolutely quiet and empty … Sssh… ssshh..
The empty banquet hall was slowly filled with guests, one by one, filling each table to the brim, and zing, boom, bam, the roof caved in and the noise began! Forget whispering to your neighbour because you would never get your message across to the recipient correctly 🙂
The party began with the clamourous and deafening Yuuuuuummmm Seng!
The Prosperity Toss
What an appropriate dish to serve as we were still in Chinese New Year mood.
The higher the better, the messier the table means you have done your part in shouting at the top of your lungs, the blessings of good luck, fortune and happiness. Toss High!Lo Hei!
Reunion of Family and Friends
Although it’s the Bride and Groom’s day, it was, without a doubt, an opportune day of reuniting with long lost relatives and friends. My brother must have invited his entire year school mates that evening. Buddies whom he had not met for more than 30 decades came from near and far! It was practically a class reunion. I bet the boys felt 17 again …
Likewise, it was great meeting cousins and relatives whom we have not met in donkeys years!
Only an event as such, could bring us together.
Andby the way, I shared my fair share of reuniting with long lost friends whom I have not met since Primary school, since Form 5 and since Form 6. They have evolved to be successful ‘towkay’ and ‘towkay neos’. One owns the chain of Curry House restaurants throughout Sarawak, one an acclaimed Music teacher and one ‘Superman’ in the person of the Most Hallowed, His Grace, the Archbishop of Sarawak! I was so thrilled and blessed to have met them all in one evening!
Luckily, I was not the one getting married. A wedding day is a very exhausting affair akin to a full time job with full-blown overtime albeit for a day! Been there, done that. Ha ha …
It was a BIG relief when the party’s over and we’re back on the normal track.
Although I was physically in Kuching for 3 weeks, it was a working ‘holiday’ for me for 2 weeks . I had only one week of ‘me-time’, therefore, it was very precious. I had consciously chosen to spend more time with my siblings, reminiscing the good old days. There were too many stories to share in too short a time. We knew Mum and Dad were with us throughout because we could not stop talking and thinking about them. How else could we be here without them, right?
As we grow older, we’ll find the only things we regret are the things we didn’t do, and one of the things is making the most out of visits to our elderly relatives.
They’re not getting any younger and so are we.
Life is too short so let’s make the most out of it.
The truth is, a family is what you make it. It is made strong, not by the headcount at dinner table, but by the tradition you help family members create; the memories you share, the commitment of time, cares and love you show to one another.
Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as ONE.
After returning from any trip, I would often reflect and browse through my photos. Goodness gracious me, or rather, shame on me … I have loads !!! If a photo has a tangible weight, seriously, I would not be able to carry my iPhone around with me anymore. It would bemucho grandeheavy. Every time I browse through my photos, I usually feel an outburst of guilt. Why did I have to take so many photos and then, having to keep them to myself? To moulder and to fade into oblivion? No way, Jose! It just doesn’t make any sense. A photo is taken to be shared. In my own vocabulary, every photo I take tells a story. And so it goes, sharing is caring😉
Timestamp: July 2018
Phew! How time flies!
Has it been a year ago since my trip to the Far East? Gosh! I needed another far-away getaway so badly…
I wish I could take a year long sabbatical leave and backpack to places I have not been to, but I’m notthatbold and agile 25-year old anymore. Instead, I feel more secure with my travel sidekicks in thepersonsof my younger sister and younger son. We did Saigon last year. Saigon is not just about the touristy Ben Tanhmarkets and the noisy streets inundated with motorcycles. I’m amazed there’s so much to see and experience off the beaten tracks. We had an awesome experience exploring the Tunnels ofCu Chi, cruising down the Saigon river on the Bonsai River Cruise, taking the Sampan and cruising the many canal ways of the Mekong Delta, cycling in the rain and taking thetuk-tukon narrow backroads around the Mekong villages and feasting on one of the most memorable home style lunches ever with Vietnam’s famous Elephant ear fish as centrepiece! UnlikeBen Tanh Market, theBen TreFloatingMarketson the Mekong Deltaaremagically special. And then there’s Saigon’s yummyBanh Miand the moreish Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sua dá).
Memories are made of these …
Vietnam came and went and remained a sweet memory in my mind’s eye. Could our next holiday destination beat Saigon?
Okay … Bali, here we come!
Timestamp: July 2019
Ifelt like a millionaireall over againin Baliafter Saigon
Oh man, it’s the unending zeroes on the Bank Notes. LOL!
A million Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) is only ca EUR 65 or MYR 300! There’s no wonder why there are more touriststhan the local Balinese on the island of Bali!
Ngurah Rai International Airport
My son and I met my sister in Kuala Lumpur and we flew together with Air Asia to Bali. I was quite impressed when we touched down I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport Bali,akaDenpasar International Airport. What more could I say if it’s the second busiest airport in Indonesia after Soekarno-Hatta International Airportin Jakarta? The first thing we did upon arrival at the airport was buying SIM cards for our mobile phones during the period of our stay in Bali. Seriously, it’s so convenient, as we were out and about most of the time on the island! Who would want to coop up in the hotel room 24/7 ona not very cheap long-haultrip all the way from Europe, right? Thanks to my sister with her in-depth knowledge of the telecommunicationworld andlingo, we were not easily deceived by seller(s) at the booths. Uh-uh!
Next (and a must), I bought some IDR. The rates were quite OK at the airport, and of course, better but varying rates could be found in every nook and cranny of Bali. Be warned, though, of dodgy money changers!
By the way, my holiday to Bali was the maiden trip for my son and I, and the third for my sister. She made it even easier for us with arranged pick-up from the airport to our hotel in Ubud. The drive though the busy roads of Denpasar to the narrow roads of Ubud took almost 2 hours in the heavy traffic. Jun, our guide and his cousin (driver) made our journey flawless with on point pick up from location to destination.
Originally, I had planned a 10-day stay in Ubud only, however, my Indonesian colleagues said “there’s nothing to see in Ubud” (really??), hence, Kuta was included at the last moment in our itinerary, hence we shortened our stay in Ubud to 7 dayswhile including 3 days in Kuta. We shall see …
Luckily for us, I told my sister to pre-book some arranged tours with Jun.
Jun,by the way, is a freelanced guide for private tours around the island of Bali. As we all know, Bali thrives on tourism and Bali tour planners are mega BIG over there. If tours are not pre-booked, there are booths almost everywhere and one could make day trip arrangements on the spur of the moment. Initially, we were being audacious with our choices of tours and wanted to do and see almost everything, so from a selection of so many different tour packages offered, we decided on 2 full-day packages and 2 activity packages as following –
FULLDAY BTO 01. Kintamani – Waterfall tour
FULLDAY BTO 03. Marine sport – Uluwatu – Spa – Dinner tour
ACTIVITY BTO 02. White water rafting.
ACTIVITY BTO 07. Mount Batur sunrise trekking.
However, as time drew near for our ETD from BRU, I told my sister that the activity packages were too physical for our seemingly short stay in Bali. Furthermore, I needed a relaxing break away from my already hectic day job …
So from 4, it was down to the final 2. We confirmed with Jun the full-day tours of Kintamani – Waterfall and the Marine Sport – Uluwatu – Spa and Dinner. As much as I wanted to experience the beautiful Mount Batur sunrise, the idea of trekking as early as 2 or 3 am in the morning puts me off, actually it puts all 3 of us off😏. Why is it so hard to get up in the wee hours of the morning when one is on holiday? Hmmm… me think we’re not the only ones 😅
Not that Ubud is plagued with dirty ducks; infact I have not seen a single duck while we were there!
It was our first day in Ubud and the much talked-aboutBebek Bengil(Dirty Duck Diner) became our first dining stop in Ubud.
Be warned! Yours truly is a foodie, hence be prepared to read some honest verdicts after a slap-up meal 😜
According to the site’s write up,Bebek Bengilwas opened in 1990 in Ubud. It soon became an iconic restaurant branching out to other locations in Bali. The Original Crispy Duck Diner is so popular that local politicians likeIbu Megawatiand PresidentsSusilo Bambang YudhoyonoandJokowihavewaddledtheir way toBebek Bengil😉
Why ducks? Why dirty ducks and not dirty monkeys (there are LOTS of monkeys in Ubud,by the way!). Well, it’s even explained on their menu book!
So the story goes, in the words of the owners (husband and wife team) …“Many people have asked us how we got the name Bebek Bengil … When we were building the restaurant, we thought long and hard of a name. Many suggestions came from our friends, but none seemed right; we knew we wanted a Balinese name that translated well into English. However, for a long time, the metaphor eluded us. One tropical monsoon morning, when the restaurant was very close to being finished, a flock of ducks from the rice fields across the road ran quacking and squawking into the restaurant and across the floor and tables. They left their muddy, webbed footprints all over the place. They were our first guest .. these Dirty Ducks !
OK, got it!
Ohby the waythe rice fields across the road are no longer in sight. There are shops burgeoning everywhere now. The restaurant itself has become a sight to behold!
To live up to the ducky name, there were several duck dishes on the menu. We hadBebek Bakar Sambal Hijauserved with sweet potato rice and vegetable and Grilled Duck served with Balinese sauces and steamed rice, and of course fresh Coconut water
We were told by Jun that a proper and fancy restaurant in Baliwith a certain pricetagis where a small portion of nicely presented rice is served. Yup, we noticed the neatly presented small rice portion on our plates 😀
My verdict? Great location with a gorgeous and comfortable ambience. Friendly staff with surprisingly very fast service. Now the taste? To be very honest, our dinner was so-so. Nothing special. The duck meat portions were rather small too. The grilled duck was rather dry and bland if not for the sambal or Balinese sauces. And the price is somewhat steep, even for non-Balinese standard. For me, a one-time experience in this iconic restaurant was enough.
Healing, Royal, Holy andSacred
Ubud is the cultural hub of Bali and home to one of Bali’s royal families. My first visual glimpse of Ubud is the innumerable sight of royal palaces and ancient temples. Pharmacies are easily available in Ubud as well.
And that’s how I would define Ubud : Healing, Royal, Holy and Sacred
Jun told us how Ubud got its name. I thought it was interesting. The confluence of the 2 rivers, West Wos River meeting East Wos River is called Campuhan by Balinese (or Bahasa Indonesia). The meeting point of the 2 rivers serves as a source of holy water with peculiar property to heal sickness. This healing water is called ubad (medicine), hence the word ubad has been transformed and coined into ubud …
The hotel where we stayed was a walking distance to the Royal Palace of Ubud.
Puri Saren Agung is the palace of the Ubud royal family. It hallmarks well-kept Balinese architecture with charming garden setting. The palace is best known among Balinese art lovers as one of the main sites to view traditional Balinese dance performances. We were there a wee bit late and had missed the performances. Anyway walking on our own within the palace compound was already a blessing.
Stop!! Do not step on them! That’s what we’ve been told.
For many years, Balinese families have passed down the ritual of daily offerings. Each day, Balinese women create little hand-pleated baskets or trays made from coconut leaves. The little tray is adorned with colourful flowers, fruits, rice and edibles as daily devotional gifts meant to appease and please the various Dieties and Demons of Balinese Hinduism. These little baskets of offerings are perched all over the city, temples, sidewalks, shops and private house’s doorway and shrines. That’s right, theCanang Sari(as it is called in Balinese) can be found ineverynook and cranny of Bali.
I asked Jun what would happen if we accidentally stepped on one of theCanang Saris. He said, if it is not done intentionally or if we stepped on one accidentally, that’s OK. A word of caution: out of respect, it is not allowed to step on theCanang Sariwhen the incense stick is still burning. The locals believe that the Dieties are feasting while theCanang Sariis freshly offered and by stepping on one, would mean that the spirits might enter your body and possess you as it is simply translated to mean that you have abruptly disturbed their meal.
The monkey and its folklore are key elements in Balinese art tradition. This is appearing in some of the traditional Balinese dances, such asKecak andRamayana, where the monkey is a notable figure in the story.
The type of monkeys that dwell in the Monkey Forest is known as the Balinese long-tailed monkeyakamacaques. I understood there are about 900 monkeys in the forest and they are divided into 6 groups, ie, the group that dwells in front of the main temple, the Michelin group (not sure what or where this is), the Central point group, Cemeteries group, Eastern group and Southern or the forest conservation group of monkeys. Each group consists of 100-150 primates ranging from infants to adults. Because of the considerable population, conflicts between groups of monkeys are unavoidable. The common thing about macaques is that they are active by day and will rest as nightfall. In other words, pretty much like Homo sapiens 😉
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a leisurely 15-minute walk from our hotel.
Why a Monkey Forest in the heart of the city? The mission of the Monkey Forest is built as a sacred sanctuary based on the concept ofTri Hita Karana which is one of the philosophies in Hinduism.Tri Hita Karanameans “Three ways to reach spiritual and physical wellbeing”
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is not just a tourist attraction or an important component in the spiritual and economic well being of the local community, but it is also a paramount location for research and conservation programs
What not to do (in case you didn’t know …)
In general, the monkeys will not come to you if you do not bring bananas or any other foods 😉
By the way, I noticed the monkeys’ daily diet include sweet potatoes, corns, bananas and coconuts
While Fish & Chips are synonymous to England, Nasi Lemak to Malaysia and Waffles to Belgium, Babi Guling(suckling roasted pig) is a must-have dish in Bali. We vowed not to leave Ubud without having a taste of the infamousbabi gulingatWarung Babi Guling Ibu Oka 1.
The restaurant we went to is the first and main restaurant, located just opposite the Royal Palace of Ubud while Warung Ibu Oka is one of the branches where the late Anthony Bourdain’s loving coverage of thebabi gulingmade the restaurant virally famous.
My verdict? Simple and honest homestyle dishes. We ordered a portion ofthecomplete babi guling dish with soup and an extra portion of meat with crispy pork skin. The complete meal comprised a portion of steamed white rice, vegetables, deep fried crispy pork nuggets, black sausage, meat from the suckling roasted pig and a piece of the prized crispy pork skin. The price quoted on the menu list is pre 10% tax, so be warned. Either you like it or not, the star item on the platter, ie the crispy pork skin was not my son’s favourite at all, so my sis and I had a piece from each plate. To be honest, the suckling roasted pork and skin were just okay, however, the star dish that stole our heart was the deep fried crispy pork nuggets. We really enjoyed the crispy, tasty and a bit chewy nuggets. I noticed we were not the only table ordering the extra crispy pork nuggets. Several tables around us did the same.Warung Babi Guling Ibu Okashould be renamed toWarung Babi Gorengan Ibu Oka😉 . Total spend (after tax) was 253k IDR (ca Eur 17) for 3 pax including fresh juices. Not bad at all.
Would I go back? Without a doubt …
The Day Unfolds …
With a good pair of shoes or slippers, walking around Ubud on our own was not difficult at all. While there was a bout of heatwave in Europe in July with a record high of > 40 deg C for a few consecutive days, the weather in Ubud or Bali for that matter, was surprisingly, crisp and cool at a max of 28 deg C! I did not remember sweating profusely at all even with the long walks down Jalan Raya Ubud, Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanoman … all done on foot!
After the long and winding walks through the narrow streets of Ubud, we returned to our bungalow and spa, feeling knackered and dead beat from the day’s galivanting. We hit the sack but only to get up early the next morning as a new day unfolded. As we finished our brekkie in a jiffy, Jun, our tour guide for the entire day was waiting for us.
A new day unfolded with unexpected tsunami of adventures in store ~ mythical, breathtaking, nerve-racking, impressive, disappointing, addictive…