Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Takako Tsurumi

Two years ago on this day, we performed with ESO at Esplanade Concert Hall for Beautiful Sunday (Dance Dance Dance). This photograph showed up on my Facebook memories.

Even though you spoke little and soft, you were a hardworking cellist. You have shown many people how you lived your life happily and to the fullest, cherishing everybody and everything.

Takako Tsurumi (1st from the left)
20th October 2016

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Bangkok Gem Scam

On my first trip to Bangkok from 5th to 8th September, I met with a scam! Before I flew, J told me to be aware of tuk tuk drivers and never take tuk tuks there. But everything happened too smoothly to be thinking right on the spot. Here I shall write down the whole experience, hoping to become one of the search results for "orange sapphire", "gem scam", "bangkok gem", etc.

This day, 6th September 2016, a lovely Tuesday morning after finishing breakfast from our hotel (The Berkeley Hotel Pratunam), we stepped out wanting to walk to the nearest BTS to go to the flower market. Then, a guy dressed in long pants and black jacket saw us walking past and became friendly with us. He asked where we wanted to go and then said that the BTS station that we wanted to go was very far. He then offered to bring us to the nearer BTS. Dad and him walked in front of mum and I, and I couldn't hear what they were talking about. After walking for about 200m, they stopped and looked at the map that my dad was holding. The man looked at the map and said the tuk tuk could bring us there for 30 Baht. We were elated upon hearing this as that could save us from the heat of walking to the BTS! So we agreed unanimously. The man added that we were very lucky as it was a special lucky day in Thailand that day! He said we must go visit this feng shui temple as it is only opened once a year! Furthermore, it was on the way to the flower market, and the tuk tuk will wait for us at the temple. He added that all the Thais went early in the morning to pray and have left for work already. So we won't be meeting the crowd.

We got up the tuk tuk happily and in a short while, we cut through a quiet alley and reached the temple. There was nobody and we offered our incenses. My dad even asked the person from the temple and confirmed that the temple opens everyday, and was the pagoda at the back that opens once a year. We walked over to the pagoda (~30 m) and mum immediately commented about the unglam scaffoldings outside the pagoda. We were told to go up the pagoda to pray. So we went up the second floor and immediately saw a well-dressed man, age about 40 plus, standing there.

He was in a white long shirt with black pants, an iPad and a business black pouch. Soon, he was introducing himself as the relative of Hong Leong Group Finances and his name was Eric Kwek, residing in Singapore. He said he was there to pray for his business as well as pray that to win the bid for the building of railway from Singapore to KL. He then showed us the video clips from the morning's praying procession on his iPad and then told us the history of the three buddha statues on the second level. The picture below showed a bejeweled "nine hundred year old pendant". He turned on the torch on his phone, shone on the pendant and told us to get a closer look at the gems.

My dad asked him if the pendant was placed there permanently and if anyone had tried to steal it? The man replied that those people who has stolen it, would sit at the bus stop the next day with the stolen buddha placed beside them on the bench, looking dazed and stoned and unable to move. The police will then come for them and the buddha will be returned.

He also said he has been living in the US for a long time and has been in ill health a few years ago but after coming to pray there, he recovered and met a man who introduced a feng shui gem to him. He has worn that ever since and his health and business has been good and smooth. My mum asked why wasn't he wearing his ring at that time. He replied he just bought a six carat orange sapphire in the morning and had left it at the shop for resize. He then wrote down the "address"  for us to go buy the gem too. Mum even commented it was all fated that we had such good luck to meet up with him!

We showed the tuk tuk driver the "address" and he brought us there. It was a very short distance. We entered the shop Color Gems and immediately asked for orange sapphire. The salesman showed us a few rings and my mum offered to buy me one. She said it was to bring luck for me. So mum paid 23 000 Baht and I was very happy with the pretty ring.

We left the jewelry shop and the tuk tuk driver told us that the weather was too hot and the flower market was very small and not worth to visit. He suggested we go to MBK instead. Hence we didn't go to our flower market as planned and took up his suggestion. Later in the day, we went ASIATIQUE. Throughout the day, we picked up more and more suspicious points about our morning.

Suspicious pointers:
1. He grew up in the US, but did not speak English with any US accent.
2. He was not dressed in tailored shirt or pants. (I mean he is a rich business man, relative of Hong Leong Group chairman Kwek Leng Beng.)
3. He was using a non-smart phone.
4. He was not wearing a branded expensive watch.
5. Address given to us was only a word "CHAANG", meaning "elephant". How did the tuk tuk driver understand where to bring us?
6. He was not wearing his ring and probably gave a convenient excuse that it was undergoing resizing.
7. It was such a hot weather but he insisted to be stationed in the pagoda the whole day to pray for his business.
8. No decorations or any other visitors in the temple for this special occasion that happens only once a year.
9. The pagoda only had two accessible levels. The third level was dirty, filled with cob webs and cigarette butts.

I then googled and typed in "orange sapphire bangkok" and saw that the first few search results were all about gem scams. Our hearts sank and affected our night. This search result particularly helped us in getting back our money. We followed the steps written by him.

The next morning, we googled for the address of the Tourist Police. I called them to double check on their address.

Address: Khwaeng Wat Sommanat, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand (Same building as the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, beside Ratchadamnoen Boxing Stadium)
Tel: 1155

We tried a couple of taxis, some didn't want to bring us there, some quoted exorbitant fares. In the end we paid 350 Baht. When we stepped in, we were greeted by a police woman. "How can I help you?"

"I want to make a complain," I said.

"Oh, did you buy a gem?"

Oh my! We prepared what to tell the tourist police the night before, phrasing in such a way that we bought the ring in an unsound mind, and we didn't have to even explain anything! The police woman asked for the receipt, the gem and my mum's ID. They called the manager of the jewelry shop and everything was settled in less than ten minutes. The police woman flagged a taxi for us to go back to the shop and the same salesman was friendly and gave us our refund without any grumbles. We were lucky the whole process was so smooth!

The whole thing started from the man who offered to bring us to a nearer BTS station, to the tuk tuk driver, to the man in the temple and finally the man in the pagoda. He even dared to lie in front of the three buddha statues. All these effort put in just to get more customers to buy their gems. *clap clap*

Lesson learnt. Do not be so cheapskate!! We should always read up on scams to the places that we'll be visiting so that we are more informed and not fall into traps. Before one goes to Bangkok, you may want to check up this website: Bangkok Scams.

It was the strongest feeling ever that I realised that Singapore is really a safe country. I wanted to go back to Singapore so much on the second day right after the incident happened. I'm thankful I can walk on the Singapore streets, even late at night, feeling safe.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Singapore Southern Islands Trip

After years of talking about going to Lazarus Island, cousin and I finally made it there today!

I came up with a list of things we need to bring aka packing list:

Casual bag
Tissue paper
Bottles of water
Wet wipes
Food, chips, snacks and apples
Sunblock lotion
Mosquito patches
Waterproof bag
Picnic mat
Plastic bags for rubbish

And an itinerary to follow so that we don't get stranded on the island:

645 am
Rise and shine. Prepare breakfast and pack lunch.
730 am
Leave house and walk to MRT. Take MRT to Marina South Pier station and take Exit B, 600m or a 10 min walk to the pier.
830 am
Reach pier and buy tickets $18 from Singapore Island Cruise ticket booth.
9 am
Take ferry to St. John Island. Reach at 930am.
Take pictures around the island.
From the jetty, take a left turn to Lazarus Island. Follow the tarmac path and walk through the palm trees to the beach.
1030 am
Sea and sand time! Picnic!
1245 am
Take ferry to Kusu Island
1 pm
Visit Tua Pek Kong temple where it houses Da Bo Gong and Guan Yin.
Visit the Tortoise Sanctuary that houses hundreds of tortoises.
Walk along the beach.
230 pm
Take ferry back to mainland.

We were there on a Saturday, so make sure you check out the ferry timings for that day! 

The day started heating up food we prepared the night earlier - chicken wings, luncheon meat, bread, fruits, hard boiled egg, tuna and chips.

Make sure to check the destination of the MRT to Marina South Pier. We wasted twenty minutes cos of boarding the wrong MRT and alighting on the right one. -_- 

Upon reaching, we made a dash to buy our tickets and ran towards our ferry! We almost couldn't make it for the 9 am ferry!

Thirty minutes later, we reached St. John Island. We were greeted by the ever sunny hot sun and put on our caps, sunglasses and cousin whipped out her umbrella. Scorching hot!!! However, the sky was blue and the island was very serene! Such peace!

The water was clean and clear. After taking some OOTD, we proceeded to Lazarus Island which we had to walk westwards. We came to this long "bridge" that links St. John Island to Lazarus Island. There were some people fishing and under the hot sun, the journey seemed long.

After about fifteen minutes of walking, we finally reached the beach we wanted to go.

There were also two private yatch anchored and we saw young ang mohs having fun in the clear waters. We found a shady area to lay our picnic mats for food. We were already hungry! Hot and killing ants that kept crawling up and biting my legs. 

It was so so so hot that we left the beach after eating and walked back to the jetty. We decided to go back to Marina South Pier and all we wanted was icy cold drinks. We took the 1245 pm ferry out and the ferry would stop at Kusu Island and not leave till its next departure at 230 pm! Luckily, there were drinks on sale and we had no choice but to buy a few as we already finished all the water we brought.

Since we had to wait for the ferry, we might as well walk around the island.

The island was small but clean. Finally it was 230 pm and the ferry took us back to main land. We were so exhausted we fell asleep during the twenty minute ride. 

This is the ferry we took. We were glad to be back and headed for air-con places and looked for cold food immediately. Will we revisit the islands? Probably not in a long long time. We can't forget the heat!! Haha!!

We saw provision shops selling all sort of foods, even pre-packed food that one can buy to the islands. There were also necessities such as sunblock and caps. If one has forgotten anything, no worries at all to get it at the jetty. Just make sure you don't reach at the last minute!

Monday, November 30, 2015

2015 is a Painful Year

The year started out quite well other than nursing a really broken heart. Then I got very sick with cough and sore throat and it took almost two months to get well. Almost every week I was taking MC. I was coughing so badly that I visited three different doctors and the last doctor said if I was still coughing for another week, I would have to get my X-ray done for suspected pneumonia. 

I have also been getting frequent cramps in my legs when I sleep at night. They are so painful I can scream in the middle of the night. Hence, I started to go for frequent leg massages and looking for the best value-for-money place. So far, it has helped significantly and the frequency of leg cramps have reduced.

Then in March, I twisted my ankle while walking. It was a flat road but I had no idea why and how on earth could I get it twisted. It became swollen quite instantly and the pain was throbbing. I quickly went to the nearby acupuncturist after my event. 

And ended up with a bandaged ankle. It was just so painful and impossible to walk. I was rolling on my chair in the house. It didn't get better. So a few days later, I visited another TCM and got bandaged again.

In July, I met with a car accident and the back of my car was crashed into. It gave me a shock but I was glad I was fine. The other party was luckily kind not to give me too much headache.

And in November, I visited the TCM again for my hand as it has been feeling weak and limp and my wrist cracked easily. The sinseh rubbed so hard and it was so painful I was tearing/crying inside the room. 

I hope this is the end of painful TCM visits for this year.

Updated: 1st Dec 2015 8pm

Just after posting this at 6:51pm yesterday, I went over to my brother's place in the evening and while cutting the onion, I cut myself on my thumb. The knife sliced through my nail into the flesh. It was painful and till now it is still numb.

It hasn't ended I guess... sigh

Sunday, November 08, 2015

阿桑 [葉子]

Re-posting this song again:

葉子 是不會飛翔的翅膀             翅膀 是落在天上的葉子
天堂 原來應該不是妄想             只是我早已經遺忘

孤單 是一個人的狂歡                 狂歡 是一群人的孤單
愛情 原來的開始是陪伴             但我也漸漸地遺忘

我一個人吃飯 旅行 到處走走停停
也一個人看書 寫信 自己對話談心

I deserve someone better than you.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore

Another staycation at a privileged rate of $225++ with a late checkout at 6pm the next day! Think still quite worth it! It is conveniently linked to Tanglin Mall through level 2 which has many cafes, food, supermarket, swim wear, sports attire, children and dress shops!!! 

Cute fonts to indicate your rooms:

Why didn't the room have some cups, teaspoons or complimentary tea and coffee?

The iron and ironing board is tucked neatly underneath the sofa.

Love the flower wallpaper!

A movable side table!

What I found so cool about this alarm clock is that it is light-sensitive! When I switched off all the lights, it dimly lit up displaying the time. I wished I could bring this home! Now I need to find where can I buy this!

A well-designed bathroom that saved space while not compromising comfort, table and storage spaces. I should design my future bathroom in this manner - lights shining into the mirror to enhance brightness; sink with ample table space; shelves under the sink; shelves beside the sink; handles to hand towels; black tiles.

The wardrobe.

My view from my window. There were floats that you can lie on at the pools!

A pity that there were limited cable channels. 

Choose from 2000 papers and eco-friendly reading!

A really good spread of Asian buffet breakfast!!

Really liked their laksa!

And their chicken rice! Love the ginger and chilli! There was also bryani, bak kut teh, a variety of bread, cereals, fruits, eggs station, dim sum, etc.

Address: 1A Cuscaden Rd, 249716
Phone: 6738 2222

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fort Canning Hotel Singapore

A staycation treat from my friend over the weekend! The location was a little inaccessible and was quite a distance to walk. However, the hotel is far from the crowd and if you need a serene place, this is it. The downside is that there are no nearby convenience shops or restaurants that you can go to.

The room was big with a large cupboard with mirror sliding doors. 

The smart TV could control the lights and blinds in the room!  

This large white door opens into the large bathroom. Feels so colonial! 

The view from the bathroom. A pity there was only ONE hook to hang like a hundred clothes and towels. Oh ya, you have to call the reception to ask for bath robes.

The luxurious bath tub!

Standing shower with big rain head!

Bath tub with bubbles... hehe...

Toilet accessories placed neatly in a nice box.

An iPod speaker but was with the old port. 

A Nespresso machine.

Complimentary Nespresso pods together with TWG teabags.

Free light snacks at the lobby.

Colonial stairs.

Relaxing pool. There is another lap pool at the side for serious swimmers. Their swimming pools are filled with mineral water treated by a system from NASA used for the astronauts' drinking water and a system developed for European Aerospace. So you don't smell of chlorine after swimming.

Buffet breakfast is of intercontinental spread:

    Address: 11 Canning Walk, Singapore 178881
    Phone:6559 6769