[Myanmar] The Yangon Skyline

If history is anything to go by, this scene won’t remain there for long.

20150611200512The Yangon Skyline from FMI Centre, 8 June 2015.

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New Beginnings

I should perhaps confess, quitting from the first job that I started in after my graduation didn’t come easy.

It took me three attempts, before I finally succeeded in signing out. I guess, like your first love, your first job remains special. Faults and all.

So after three and a half years, tomorrow, I am finally taking the train to a different station, walking down a different street at 8.30 a.m. in the morning. Just this week, I will stay in Singapore. Next Monday, we are starting off… in a new country.

If there is one thing I promised myself for this year, it is that, work isn’t just work. I refuse to be jaded. Life is, and should be, breathed, absorbed, enjoyed and savoured. Every moment of it. So, let tomorrow begin.

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[Food] Serenity @ Vivo City

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We had dinner at Serenity because I was craving Spanish Food. This wasn’t the first time I passed by the shop but it took a while to finally try it. I decided on it since A said he was giving me a birthday treat (a few of months early), and it was near where we were headed to.

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We went slightly early so the dinner crowd had not come in yet. That would be Sentosa that you see in the distance. It’s half alfresco. I think there was air conditioning but the dining area leads directly to the terrace outside. On the whole a pretty nice location.

Food:

The Paella was decent but normal.

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I much preferred the crispy pork knuckle. The crispy skin was dededelicious… The meat could be slightly dry though. And the portions are humongous. It’s enough for sharing.

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Warm water was $2 per cup (free refill). We didn’t have any stomach space left for dessert, and didn’t dare to take the risk given that we were going to Universal Studio after that.

I enjoyed the birthday treat. And the non-date was a little strange and a lot fun.

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[Singapore] Botanic Gardens

Carpet of LeavesNear the Tanglin Gate entrance.

Website: https://www.sbg.org.sg/

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Wang Feng – Cun Zai [ 汪峰《存在》]

This is an awesome Chinese rock song. The song title is “Existence” (“存在”) by Wang Feng who is a famous Chinese singer/composer. He was one of the judges in China’s version of “The Voice”. It was on that show that I first heard this song. I fell in love with it immediately.

I’ll give a loose translation of some parts. My translation probably does little credit to the lyrics. But I’m trying because I truly want to share this song. To be honest, I’ve always found Mandarin to be such a poetic and beautiful language. A few simple words can mean so much which I cannot wholly express in a paragraph in English.

多少人走着却困在原地

Many people keep walking but remain on the spot

多少人活着却如同死去

Many people are alive but living as though they are dead

多少人爱着却好似分离

Many people express their loves, but are loving as though apart

多少人笑着却满含泪滴

Many people are smiling but have suppressed their tears

谁知道我们该去向何处

Who knows where we should be going

谁明白生命已变为何物

Who would understand what life has become

是否找个借口继续苟活

Should we just find an excuse to continue making a living

或是展翅高飞保持愤怒

Or should we spread our wings and fly, and maintain our anger/passion

我该如何存在

How should I live

多少次荣耀却感觉屈辱

Even with so many honours bestowed upon me, I feel humiliated

多少次狂喜却倍受痛楚

Even with so much happiness, I suffer many times the pain

多少次幸福却心如刀绞

Even enjoying such good fortune, I feel as though my heart was sliced by knives

多少次灿烂却失魂落魄

Even in the glory/ brilliance, I feel asl though I lost my soul /[was defeated]

谁知道我们该去向何处

Who knows where we should be going

谁明白生命已变为何物

Who would understand what life has become

是否找个理由随波逐流

Should we find a reason to go with the flow

或是勇敢前行挣脱牢笼

Or should we bravely step forward to fight free of the chains/ cages

我该如何存在

How should I live

***

P.S.: I’ve found a full translation from this website.

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[Myanmar] Road Trip

The traffic can be unexpected.

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But the view is always awesome. As is the journey.

Riding pillion.

Riding pillion.

The bike was driven by my Uncle, whom I had not seen in over 14 years. He was both as charming and awesome as I remembered, and flawed in ways that I never realised before. That’s probably the main change that you experience – in your interactions with other people – as you grow old. No one seemed perfect any more. Even the adults. And no body had all the answers, even for their own lives.

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[Myanmar] Taukkyan War Cemetery

28 November 2014. It wasn’t a planned trip.

Taukkyan War Cemetery Entrance

Taukkyan War Cemetery Entrance

We were driving out from Yangon to Pyay to Kyangin Town (Irrawady Delta Region) on Pyay Road, and I happened to pass by it. Dad pointed it out to me that this was the war cemetery. We didn’t stop then, but I told my Dad that I’d like to visit it on our way back – which was  one week later.

To all the lost men.

To all the lost men.

Back in the older days when Myanmar was still very much a regional outcast in terms of investments, this was one of the rare places that was beautifully maintained (as I understood, with funds from the British). So, it seemed that many wedding photos, dating photos, movies and music videos were taken/filmed here due to the scenic location. I didn’t quite know what to feel about it. If I had just heard of it, I would have thought this to be  highly disrespectful and vulgar. And I did, initially, as I walked into the compounds – feeling indignant for the dead. But having seen the young couples taking photos in the area, sitting in the shades and just walking in the gardens – there was an odd sense of peacefulness. It wasn’t wholly jarring with the spirit of the place. In some ways, if I were the family of these lost men, I might have been more at peace that they were not left alone in a neglected and solemn graveyard. This was no tourist destination – these were people finding peace, beauty and living life, in a land that these men have fought to defend. DSC02997 This is what Wikipedia told me:

The cemetery contains the graves of 6,374 soldiers who died in the Second World War, the graves of 52 soldiers who died in Burma during the First World War, and memorial pillars (The Rangoon Memorial) with the names of over 27,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died in Burma during the Second World War but who have no known grave. There are 867 graves that contain the remains of unidentified soldiers.

In terms of location, it’s perhaps a 2-3 hours drive out from central Yangon. I can’t be too certain as the traffic conditions can be absolutely horrible depending on the time of the day. But this is located just beside the Pyay Highway Road, and one can’t miss it.

"They died for all free men" - The inscription was made in the different languages of the Commonwealth men who rested there.

“They died for all free men” – The inscription was made in the different languages of the Commonwealth men who rested there.

You may be able to see the inscription in the arches on top of the columns. DSC02996 For the lost soldiers who could be identified – they had inscribed the insignia, ranks, name, date of birth/death,  regiment details etc. They came from all over the world – Scotland’s Army/ Egypt’s army/ UK and so on. For the rest, it was just a solider – one and many, all at the same time.

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The memorial plaque with the names of more soldiers: DSC03006 20141128_161327 One could not help but feel the solemnity of the place as you walk down the rows and rows of graves. There were flowers on some of them. And I guess, their families still visit. This is but just two generations back. Someone’s grandfather – and a young man who went off to war in his twenties –  probably lay here. This too bring brings to mind Dixie Chick’s Travelling Soldier, which was always one of my favourite songs. Imagine all the stories of the people who rested there…

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[Myanmar] On the way back… home.

21 November 2014.

It was a trip that waited 14 years to come about.

Silkair.

Silkair.

And the Obligatory wings in the sky shot.

Which I did not take. I prefer to sleep/read/eat/people-watch on plane. In that order. You will probably realise I’m quite the cheer to sit beside, if you happen to get the seat beside me on the plane. Daddy took this. It’s been two years since our last family trip to Korea. This time, it’s a trip back home. It means a lot… And it is at the same time very unsettling. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know what the world and the family that I had left behind would expect of me. The plane was filled with businessmen and many curious visitors to Myanmar. Not wholly a surprise. It is the new exotic destination, I guess. It’s just both more familiar and more exotic to me – because I am not a stranger, and because it may no longer be the place in my memories.

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[Finland] Part 1 Turku (April 2014)

To Finland, with love. Yes, I loved you.

First trip out of Asia... Finnair stewardesses were really old. Not that I had an issue, but it's really different from Asian airlines. Couldn't help noticing.

First trip out of Asia… Finnair stewardesses were really old. Not that I had an issue, but it’s really different from Asian airlines. Couldn’t help noticing.


I sat beside a German lecturer/tutor and post graduate student. He was probably my age, if not early thirties. Specialises in international economics or something. One irrelevant fact keeps popping up in my mind though. He was rather huge for the economy seat, and his thigh were held at an acute angle from his upper body. Let’s just say… I’m glad for my size. And oh yes, he threw up from food in Little India. Yes, on the plane, if you were wondering. Within 15 minutes of take-off. He was very considerate though, and asked me very calmly if I had a paper bag in my seat pocket as he couldn’t find his. I thought it was for a possible emergency. I didn’t expect it to be for an immediate and actual emergency. And, oh, it wasn’t that bad, if again, you were wondering. He was really considerate. Even though I bet he felt downright miserable.

Been touring South East Asia I heard, and despite all the food in Cambodia and Vietnam, Singapore was the first place to have given him his stomach upset on that trip. Missed a number of connecting flights too. It sounded like a horrible flight experience, especially for someone like me who has never missed flights.

During my 6 hours transit waiting at the Helsinki airport for the connecting flight to Turku, I spent some time with a Taiwanese girl who was on her way to visit her boyfriend in Norway. When I told her I was single, she reminded me very emphatically that I needed to find a boyfriend. She found hers because she loved the Norwegian language and wanted to learn it. She was caught in a flight delay and missed her transfer flight. So they gave her some food voucher, which she shared with me, and we had a meal (sandwiches, fruits and water) at one of the airport cafes. Then, feeling tired, we went to find a long bench beside a charging station to charge our phones while we napped. Actually, the charger was the reason why we started talking to each other. I lent her my charger because she sounded very flustered  on her phone speaking to her friend (in Chinese) about her flight booking. Her battery was dying. I have already forgotten her name now. And we didn’t leave any contact details.

That is, I think, one of the interesting things about meeting strangers on travel. Sometimes you share many good conversations and events with no expectation of catching up again or even getting anything out of that encounter. And it can be liberating… and very refreshing. But without that awkwardness that came from sharing your contact details and eventually finding out from subsequent communications that there’s no further commonalities between the two of you, and that magical 4-5 hours that you both shared with such abandon sort of faded away amidst socially obligatory words of, how are you and how have you been.

Finally, I appreciate what Jesse and Céline did. Because I totally understand that feeling now and why the best meetings need not have ended with a line for further communication. (ref: Before Sunrise)

In Turku

Walking along the river, behind my hotel in Turku

Walking along the river, behind my hotel in Turku

Stayed in Radisson Blu, Turku. It was a pleasure to stroll around the city. Very cool, nice pace of life. I went to check out their shops and super market.

Empty streets. Weather was perfect though. Cool. 10 degree thereabout.

Empty streets. Weather was perfect though. Cool. 10 degrees thereabout.

Left my luggage in the hotel and sneaked out immediately to take a stroll and to find a supermarket to buy fruits and water, and to explore the life in town. My favourite past time in any city.

Really nice flowers. I love the shop. It's rather quaint.

Really nice flowers. I love the shop. It’s rather quaint.

The supermarket was another 5 mins walk from this I believe. There’s something rather strange about Finland’s bottled water industry though! Everyone buys and sells soda water/carbonated water. Every time I bought back bottles expecting it to be simple mineral water, it ends up being carbonated. They serve the same thing in restaurants and in meeting rooms. Being my first time in Europe, I can’t say if that experience is the same elsewhere. The Finnish are generally very pleasant people though. No fuss, simple guys who are direct and to the point. Pretty good English generally, so there was no difficulty getting around.

300 hectares of personal farm

300 hectares of personal farm

One of the client’s business partners. We had dinner at his farm. A table of say 20 people, with a full formal three course dinner and at least 6 different types of alcohol ranging from champagne, sparking wine, white, red, dessert to whisky. Served by two uniformed attendants in a 100 years old wood-built house. One of the more curious things I remembered was that one of the owner’s daughters, during her wedding, was given a wedding present of 3 cows by her neighbours.

Wine culture

Wine culture

I do have to admit, walking into a restaurant at any corner of the street and finding that every place serves a decent selection of wine to accompany your meal at a very affordable price is a really nice feeling. It’s not something I would typically do in Singapore, and I’m not sure if it’s the pace of life there, or just the weather and the people… but something makes you feel like slowing down your pace, just sipping the wine and enjoying every bite of the food you eat. There is a heightened sense of awareness of living, of people and of the place.

It could also just be the thing about travelling alone and being in a new place. I love that feeling. Turku was peaceful and calm and very much appreciated. I’ll update on Helsinki another day…

Spot the red glove...

Spot the red glove…

Nights, people. Flying out of Turku. (Oh yes, flight was in the afternoon. However, daylight lasted until 8-9 pm when I was there in April.)

My mini plane out of Turku.

My mini plane out of Turku.

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Been a long while

Life has a habit of flowing by.

Dreams have a habit of… being left behind when you open your eyes to the bustle of life.

Things have a way of working in a way you did not pan out for them.

And so I stayed behind. I need to reconsider now if I should be making my graduate school applications again. And I’m starting to have my doubts, whether this is the best time for it. It’s hard to express myself, but I feel that finding a good place to learn may be more worthwhile than going abroad to study at this moment in time. Three years into work. I’m starting to be comfortable. To be confident of what I have achieved. And to know my own failings. I am not ready to leave it behind and disrupt this momentum. I have the suspicion that I might be able to learn more in certain work environments than if I had gone abroad to study. I want to be looking for exciting work opportunities. Not to go back to a sheltered school environment at this stage.

I think I should put more effort into finding a good place to work. School was an escape I wanted NOW partly because of parental pressure. While I always wanted to go graduate school, timing wise… it’s probably not now yet. Yet, my worry is would I be too old one day when I decide to do that? Next year I’ll be 28.

I’m also starting to know what I’m missing out on. What areas I wish to develop myself in. But I need to take time to figure out how to best achieve this. I’ll be back, tomorrow. To put my thoughts into words. Take time out for the first time this year to explore and realign my 5 year life plan again.

I would also like to take up blogging again. This time, looking outwards, rather than inwards. Sometimes, one can be slightly too involved with oneself. I met DB today. For someone younger than me, I’m very impressed by her and her potential. And her engagement and interest with so many other relevant things in the world. She has a broader picture to things… a perspective and approach I need to develop. It was an enriching dinner.

– ❤ isoelation no more.

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