Bhutan Afterthoughts

(This is not a travel itinerary, just my personal musings you are welcome to read)

Dear friends,

I had always seen Bhutan as a dreamy, fairytale destination I would be unlikely to experience first hand. Whenever I hear of someone holidaying in Bhutan, I would gush with envy. After all, it is widely known to be the happiest place on earth. And that carina Lau and tony Leung chose to wed there must mean it is exclusive, sophisticated, romantic and beautiful. Right?

Seven years after that high profile wedding, Bhutan remains an uncommon choice for holiday goers. I wonder why? Could the daily tariff (USD 250) and troublesome visa procedure imposed on tourists be barriers of entry? While that certainly filters out some types of holiday goers, I don’t think it is that unreasonable.

When I chanced upon the opportunity to visit Bhutan, I jumped at it. Having spent the past week or so there, here’s what I now think:

1) As a huge country (it takes about a week to travel from one end to the other end), it is surprising that population is below 700,000. What’s even more amazing is that 90% of the country is forested. Nature is truly untouched here, and the natural beauty is evident everywhere you turn, in the most magnificent scale. There could be miles of forestry and mountains, and one lone house. How do people live like that? How did they build the house? How do they get electricity? What about food and shopping?

2) It is easy to see how this place is seen as spiritual. The natural beauty is so grand and overwhelming that you can’t help but feel serene and tranquil in its midst. I kept a slow pace throughout my holiday, stopping intermittently to admire my surroundings, and letting the calmness wash over me. Bhutanese are fiercely devoted to their religion. More than 99% of them are Buddhist and it is common for boys/girls to choose the monastic route, even a life of meditation. Almost all attractions in Bhutan are centuries-old temples, deeply entrenched in the history of Buddhism.

3) Yet, it constantly amazed me how such isolated people in seemingly basic conditions could have access to iPhones and Samsung Notes. For a place where most roads are unpaved, it’s ridiculous how I would be in the middle of a forest and hear the silly sound effects of Facebook messenger. Even monks in the temples would be typing away on their phones. I am at the same time confused and amused!

4) It isn’t easy to get around Bhutan. With population numbers so low, a transportation network wouldn’t make sense. Cars drive on unpaved roads, and when you hit a mountain, you have to climb over it. Even for tourists, we had to hike for hours everyday to see the attractions. I think this is part of the charm of Bhutan. Most tourists are game for it. Curious Caucasians and spiritual Asians brought out their best hiking gear and challenged the slippery slopes, rocky terrain, occasional rain showers, to emerge happier, accomplished and it’s all part of the experience.

5) the beauty of Bhutan is unforgettable. It still moves me when I recall it. I hope it continues to protect and sustain its environment – and may it prosper to greater heights under the new king and his beautiful bride.

I know bhutan will start fading from my memory, when I start getting caught up in work and city life. So I will post a few pictures here soon.

Chew doma and bye bys

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Seoul Afterthoughts

Throw a stone in the air and it will probably land on a Singaporean blogger’s 5d4n Seoul itinerary. So I won’t dwell much, just noting some afterthoughts for future reference.

Best place to stay: Myeongdong hotels are where all the action is. More interesting boutique hotels can be found further away, but I would not trade in my convenience. Skypark, Ninetree and Pacific hotel are safe bets.

Things to buy: Korean cosmetics are *arguably* the country’s biggest draw. Do note that Laneige there is about the same price as Singapore though. MUST BUY: IOPE Air Cushion XP. You can’t get it in Singapore and it is definitely the best cushion make up around. Perfectly natural looking dewy finish!

Definitely buy a pair of sunglasses from homegrown brand Gentle Monster. They are the one big thing in Korea and the next big thing worldwide. Their mind blowing flagship store at Garosugil is a MUST VISIT.

Where to shop: Underground shopping at almost every metro station is kinda already shopping heaven. For cheap street shopping, people enjoy going to Ewha and Hongdae. If you prefer something more modern contemporary (like urban outfitters concept), do check out Korea’s pride and glory – Stylenanda and A Land. For high end Korean designs and international designers, Lotte Department store. There is also a Lotte Young Plaza beside it that’s more affordable.

Word of caution; shopping in korea isn’t cheap… BUT if you like cheap, I discovered the gem that is Star 101, a shop at Myeongdong that has nice stuff at nice prices. It is near A Land Myeongdong branch and Spicy Color.

Things to do: Korean perms originated from Korea, duh! Get one here @ Juno Hair Salon.

Spend a day doing the JSA (Panmunjom) tour to see the mysterious North Korea. Highly informative, and now I want to know more! Remember to book the tour through a tour agent online, and provide your passport information a week before. This is very important.

Things to skip: Nami Island, Gangchon Rail Park and Petite France. Trust me on this please.

Time to go: Anytime but summer. There have been Korean dramas like “Winter Sonata”, “Autumn In My Heart”. I’m sure there’s one about spring too. But I bet there aren’t any about Korea’s hot hot summer.

What to eat: Uh where do I start?? I love Korean food so much! My fave was Maple Tree BBQ (MUST VISIT) for a more posh and modern take on Korean bbq. I had fried chicken at Two Two. Andong chicken at Yeolbong Jjimbak. Ginseng chicken at Toksokchon. Seafood at Noryangjin Wholesale market. Dumplings at Myeongdong gyoja. Korean porridge at bonjuk. Chicken galbi. Army stew. Cold noodles. And all the street food!! Never not eating.

Transport: Just take a cab. It’s cheap.

Steph’s Notes on Paris Part 2: The New Favourites

This recent trip to Paris has introduced me to new spots in the city, the following which are my favourites.

Bars

Mary Celeste – Blown away by this two-storey cornershop bar/resto. It is a grossly popular cocktail bar, but to me the star of the night was definitely their devilled eggs. I know you’re thinking, you can make devilled eggs at home. Trust me these are like no devilled eggs you have ever tasted. If I had to guess, the eggs were cooked in a broth, and they seasoned it with sesame. Place gets very crowded.

Artisan – While Mary Celeste was grungy, Artisan was arty farty. The space was open and well lit, looked more like a perfume lab than a cocktail bar. Chic!

Sherry Butt – Surprisingly it isn’t all sherry at Sherry Butt. But in a similar vein because the focus is on old man drinks, aka all my fave brown coloured liquids. The decor is very plush and manly like a cigar den but it’s actually a very friendly place and good for groups, cuz there are sofa seats.

Restaurants

Heimat – I cannot tell you how many “neo French”, “modern French”, “contemporary French” restaurants I have been to. But I just can’t find any bad with the cuisine, as pretentious as it sounds. I always manage to find a better one every time. Heimat is a blend of Italian and French cuisines. I thoroughly enjoyed every dish. Example: a strip of mackerel with ricotta and citrus cream and some sprouts. Linguine with a light cream and fish bits that tastes like udon.

David Toutain – I waited 9 months to try this restaurant! He loves to play on seasonable vegetables, and there were plenty of roots I couldn’t recognize during the meal sadly. But it’s not vegetarian! One dish had squid cut up like kway teow and served as a carb. You will find twigs and rocks on your plates. Service was stellar, they even let me choose my own knife from their collection of very quirky knives!

Le Dauphin – By the same people who brought us Le Chateaubriand, and is right next door to it. The main difference is, at Le Dauphin you can order a la carte, while Le Chateaubriand offers only set menus in two seatings. Le Dauphin places strong emphasis on drinking, and is a very vibrant restaurant. The food was sharing plates. I love paris!

Birthday Wishlist

Honestly, there is no need for presents. There is nothing I want/need and having people I love around me is more than I can ask for. But some friends have been insisting that I make a wishlist and I will make one but just so you know, I appreciate the gesture a lot and ALSO, I am the least picky person ever so don’t bother with brands or anything. ❤

1. A beer bottle opener. Open secret: Degenning is a favorite pastime of mine. A handy/cute beer bottle opener (keychain?) would be nice.

2. I love scarves! Preferably non-silk because they don’t keep me warm and I deem them impractical. Large and long ones are favored. These below are from Zara.

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3) A t-shirt: Easiest thing to get and something I am guaranteed to use!

4) A book. But a short book is preferable – about the length of Perks of being a Wallflower. My attention span is terribly short. I’ve picked out a book below but it’ll be even better if there’s something you think I’ll like.

5) Quite impossible, but I fear my current ipod is dying. Need a new one soon. (Just putting it out there)

6) If all else fails, alcohol will not.

Tiger Crystal, Stella Artois, Kronenbourg Blanc, Erdinger.

Thank you!

Exactly why I don’t listen to dubstep

I think the dubstep that has come over to the US, and certain producers — who I can’t even be bothered naming — have definitely hit upon a sort of frat-boy market where there’s this macho-ism being reflected in the sounds and the way the music makes you feel. And to me, that is a million miles away from where dubstep started. It’s a million miles away from the ethos of it. It’s been influenced so much by electro and rave, into who can make the dirtiest, filthiest bass sound, almost like a pissing competition, and that’s not really necessary. And I just think that largely that is not going to appeal to women. I find that whole side of things to be pretty frustrating, because that is a direct misrepresentation of the sound as far as I’m concerned. – James Blake

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/127478-interview-james-blakes-dub-soft-shoe/#ixzz1dlQViGDt

I don’t listen to dubstep so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, but James Blake sufficiently covered my thoughts on it with the last bit of his quote. When I listen to dubstep all I hear is noise and piercing technologic sounds and I really cannot learn to appreciate it as much as I try.

 

What’s your fragrance?

I’m not big on perfume. It chokes me, especially when I’m in a crowded confined space (ie. public bus) real early in the morning and the person beside me has just sprayed on the entire bottle of whatever cheap perfume she bought from the discount shop. The smell is not only disgusting but in the most piercing way. If you’re like me, body lotion is such a godsend. Firstly because it is actually healthy for your skin. Alcohol in perfume gives me rashes sometimes. My facialist also tells me never to directly spray perfume onto your skin. I’m surprised so many people do that. If you google “how to apply perfume” it is highly recommended.

Sure, body lotion doesn’t leave a lingering fragrance but perfume fragrance fades as well. anyway I think it’s the process of putting on the product that makes you feel good before heading out, so from body lotion you definitely get that same kick.

Of course when I’m out with friends and they smell nice, I’d think I should put in more effort into using perfume from time to time…

Saw this ad in Glamour today. (sidetrack: reading magazines on the iPad is the best way to read. No more magazine clutter on my bookshelves forever more!)

I love the whole preppy look. The classic and simple designs in solid regal colors. When I saw this Tommy Hilfiger ad I knew I wanted this perfume… The advertising is damn good, they successfully created a Tommy Hilfiger image and have hooked people like me in cuz we want the Tommy Hilfiger lifestyle.

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Anyway I’m into really specific smells, I don’t like perfume to begin with so I’m not gonna spend my money on just anything. The one and only perfume I’ve fallen in love with and have actually gone through bottles of despite my slow rate of use, is viva la juicy. Um what? Think perfume and juicy couture definitely does not come to mind. But it’s the best I’ve smelt. It’s sweet and creamy yet fruity and young! You can choose to buy the body lotion too which is great as the fragrance is quite lasting.

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I also love Chanel no 5 but who doesn’t? It’s a sure way to feel sexy and confident.