Fast Answer: Backpacking in Laos, the country that stole my heart ❤
I can’t believe it’s been a full ten years since our adventures in Laos. I travelled to Laos with my then-partner and our two friends. To this date, that must’ve been “the trip of a lifetime” for me. Why? Because it was one surprise after another. The landlocked Southeast Asian country was a treasure trove. It’s like slipping fifty years into the past where people are kind, generous, and simple. The backbreaking bus ride up to Luang Prabang. The karst landscapes in Vang Vieng. The coffee shops that dot Vientiane. It’s sad to imagine that maybe in 2021, Laos might have already changed. But it’ll always hold a very special memory in my heart from 2011.
To fully answer this question, there are more adventures than I can count. But we can save those for another time.
(This question is part of a 30-day Q&A challenge using the “365 & me” app)
I’ll stay with my current job if the mantra “always be learning” continues to apply. I’m in my mid-30s, hungry for experiences. Since there’s a pandemic, I feel fortunate to (1) have a job, and (2), have a job where the stress level is surprisingly manageable.
The people I’ve met at the company I work for are kind and thoughtful. It’s also a win-win right now. I’m in a position where I can help establish our future Manila office. I’d also love to be in a job where I can learn new skills (in my case: networking with people, updating a database, people research) while being able to sharpen old ones (like video editing, interviewing, proofreading).
(This question is part of a 30-day Q&A challenge using the “365 & me” app)
I’ve been slightly sensitive (okay, maybe like 10%) when conversations with new people I meet revolve around age. The most common reaction is “Woah, you don’t look 30-something!” – I don’t know how to react. It’s flattering they might think I’m in my 20s. I guess it’s a compliment. Not that there’s anything to feel differently about being in our 30s, 40s…
But if I didn’t know my age, I’d think I’d be 27. I seem to be fixated with that age. In your late 20s, you’d be probably be progressing in your career. Probably getting burnt out from that “first job” and thinking about what else is out there. When I was 27, I wanted to move to a different city. I wanted to pursue a new thrill.
I also think being in your late 20s, your skin looks and feels better.
Fast Answer: I’m looking forward to my tenth anniversary in Singapore in March 2022.
I don’t know if it’s silly to be excited about these things. I think it’s a reminder of why I moved here in the first place. I wanted to scratch an itch. I wanted to see if there was such a thing as following one’s dreams.
It was simple in 2005. I was on a family holiday to Singapore while my dad was stationed at Sembawang. I remember I was an incoming fourth year student at La Salle Dasma and that I had to skip one week of summer classes. I remember visiting the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari. I remember we ate at Seoul Garden and that it was so special. It was so family-oriented. (You wouldn’t see me at a Seoul Garden today, it’s… well…)
One particular memory stands out during that first trip to Singapore in 2005.
My dad booked us a three-star hotel somewhere in Orchard. My dad had to go to work on that particular day. So it was just my mom, myself, and my brother. We went downstairs to the hotel buffet. Apparently, the room only included breakfast for two. I don’t recall how we ended up trying to sneak three of us into the hotel buffet. Maybe back then we thought we could get away with, I don’t remember.
But what I remember is that one of the staff approached us and told us that only two of us could join that buffet service. I forgot if they offered us to pay for the third seat. If I recall correctly, we didn’t do anything else. We didn’t “top up” for a third seat. I have this memory of my mom refusing to get a plate. So we only had two plates, one for myself and my brother. I remember feeling a sense of embarrassment.
As I built my career in Singapore in the years that followed, I never scrimp when it comes to travel. It’s not that I splurge on holidays I can’t afford yet. What I mean is… whenever our family would have its annual trip to some destination in Southeast Asia, I would ALWAYS insist on booking full and complete meals for everyone. If the room would come with “breakfast for two” I’d make sure to top-up and PAY for the third and fourth seat. Or better, I’d plan for breakfast to be nearby. I’d have options prepared. We can eat at XYZ… X has the view, Y has the cuisine, Z has something my dad might like.
Maybe our family was having a tough time financially in 2005. I won’t understand the way my dad plans things. But that one memory of having to “sneak” a third family member to a “breakfast for two” is something I don’t EVER want to experience again. I won’t allow it. I won’t allow my family or future family to experience the same.
The milestone I’m looking forward to is my tenth year in Singapore in March 2022. It’s because of the opportunities this city has given me in my career and ~mY LoVe LiFe~ … I’m grateful for it.
Without this pandemic, I’m also sure my brother and I could afford to treat the family to holidays in Bali, Hanoi, Seoul, Tokyo, or Taipei. We could share the bill and never have to experience scrimping. Not with family, not ever.
This is a question prompt from “365 & me” for September 1.
It’s not that I wasn’t doing anything in August. Quite the opposite!
Returned to evening “WODs” (workout of the day) with my Philippines-based fit fam.
Moderated a webinar for work. (I’ve never moderated a webinar before.)
Continued producing weekly “Saturday Uncut” videos on YouTube.
Managed work load after some sudden changes at work.
Interviewed potential candidates to fill in an opening at work.
Studied Katakana and more Japanese conversational phrases.
Spoke with a few insurance brokers to shop around for a plan that works for me.
Recorded a podcast episode with someone in London.
Took the first steps in a real estate investment.
Stayed safely at home.
They announced that 80% of the country is fully vaccinated as of today. Great news for the country.
I share more of “what’s happening” in my most recent “Saturday Uncut” (August 28, 2021):
How do I feel right now?
The tides are changing quickly as we head towards the end of the year.
A situation at work which would make me anxious or stressed might not be so bad at all. First, I’m getting the support I need from internal stakeholders. Second, we might be hiring two people to take up the space of one backfill. That means more teammates! Third, I feel this confidence that I can emerge from this.
Randomly, I’ve also started to feel better about my age. “It’s all downhill from here” was what I secretly thought about turning 36. But a few weeks after my birthday in July and now I’m fine. I’m invested in learning. It makes me feel like I can still do most of the things I want.
$$$ is something on my mind more often these days. I’m starting to think about retirement. What age do I want to retire? Where do I want my money to go? What investment should I start? Is my insurance enough? What can I do to earn more? Should I be studying UI/UX to make myself competitive? Will I be able to manage renting a whole apartment with PJ in the near future? How can I build my emergency fund? Am I spending too much at the dentist?
It’d be stupid to end this post talking about a mortgage. So I’ll give you a BTS song I fell in love with today.
Great job again, Singapore… for vaccinating 80% of the country’s residents.
When a former colleague told me that she and her fiancé wanted to make one for me on my birthday… I couldn’t say no. You might remember I previously wrote an embarrassing list of birthday gifts I’d like to receive. I mentioned that experiences trump actual gifts. I love uniqueness. I love newexperiences.
Well, here it is. A watermelon rose cake! Baked by the two lovely ladies of My Bake Shoppe.
I can double confirm plus chop that this cake was devoured within a minute by myself, my housemates, and two guests. I don’t have a clue how it was possibly made. How can one plant the juiciest slices of watermelon within the inner layers of this cake… and NOT crush the delicate watermelon. It’s not too sweet, not too sour… it’s like April 25. A perfect date. It has strawberries. It has bits of rose petals. It has pistachios for some added crunch. It’s made with LOVE.
I had picked it up at Jo and Co’s void deck together with my other former colleague, Ge. Ge is my neighbour here in Pasir Ris Grove. So she picked me up so we could both collect our watermelon rose cakes.
As a bonus, I got to see Jo and Co’s dog Fendi. ❤
I can’t thank you both enough for the cake. I highly recommend it to friends who want to try an icy dessert treat!
That same afternoon I invited two good gay friends to join me for a prayer circle a simple pre-birthday celebration. The pandemic protocol at the moment is to limit house guests to two.
I didn’t want to trouble my housemate-chefs to cook. But I couldn’t help it. Bother them I did.
I REALLY WANTED LUMPIA.
What is a Filipino birthday gathering without lumpia? Housemate D also prepared his signature belly-chon, pork sisig, and leche flan. Housemate G added aglio olio pasta. PJ helped tremendously with preparation, the canapés (these were bacon-wrapped mushrooms, fried chicken)… and of course the lumpia.
Guests J and G brought apple cider and pink Magnum ice cream. J brought Mario Party too. G gave me a bag of my favourite Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies.
I love Mario Party btw. Oh, to be 16 again… far from the need to adulting.
We played several rounds of Mario Party before I had to understand I couldn’t kidnap my friends on a Sunday night. Like my housemates, they had work the next day. Adulting.
Happy to picture these two with plates of Filipino leche flan. I can’t think of the Singapore equivalent.
My housemates also gave me a chocolate cake from Awfully Chocolate. I can’t believe I’ve turned 36. It’s sinking in. It isn’t sinking in. I don’t know why the days, months, and years… are starting to blend into each other. Damay-damay na ‘to… also turning 36 this year is Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars, Carly Rae Jepson, and Ciara. I’m a year older than Lady Gaga. I’m now twice the age of Olivia Rodrigo.
I didn’t want to move into August without catching up on pending stories from July. This birthday gathering preceded an entire week off from work. I’ll share my birthday staycation story next.
Since I moved to the eastern part of Singapore, I’ve always wanted to grab a beer and take in the ambiance at Little Island Brewers. It’s a self-service brewery and restaurant located in Changi Village.
When we arrived on a weeknight, the setting was comfortable. There were barely any people here due to this pandemic. I remember seeing their Facebook page and the place was normally PACKED pre-pandemic.
Since I made reservations and we arrived 15 minutes early, we were given options to choose whichever table has a “Reserved” card on it. We picked a table right around the center of the outdoor area. I loved the string of lights and thought it’d be perfect.
P and I ordered the Animal Farm (SGD 48.00) platter:
It has beef brisket, pork belly, tikka chicken thigh, beer sausages, served with mashed potato, mixed greens, and sauces. I’m a sucker for everything tossed into a platter like that. I was happy with everything on the platter. The pork belly was crispy and juicy. The beef was tender. The chicken tikka was definitely grilled. And I can never get enough of mashed potato.
I think P was unaware of the large serving size. He also ordered the Chicken Tikka Burger (SGD 18.00):
This came with fries and mixed greens. Knowing P, he would ignore the greens. He loved his burger and I took some of his french fries.
Of course, Little Island Brewers is a… brewery. I was excited to check out the craft beers. Because of the pandemic, the staff will do the “self-service” for you. Here’s what the craft beers section looked like.
They let you sample the draft beers. I easily get tipsy when I start mixing different types of alcohol. I picked out the Hefeweizen since it’s their wheat beer. Golden Ale was the recommendation as well as the Double Trouble.
You can choose different types of serving size. We went for the smaller sized “Stem” so we could sample more. Here’s how the Stem glasses look like at Little Island Brewers:
I think I’ll stick to my wheat beer. It was my favorite among the ones we tried. After three glasses, I started to feel a little tipsy. I think my alcohol tolerance has changed in this pandemic. I’m actually cutting back on beer. But I thought this was an occasion anyway. 🙂
Plus, I was enjoying myself! Beers, a meat platter, and celebrating an anniversary. It was also a cool evening. New dining restrictions were about to be enforced so we managed to enjoy an anniversary dinner outside the house.
I think the place is popular amongst cyclists who find themselves having a pitstop at Changi Village. The area is in a slightly more remote part of Singapore which is inaccessible by MRT. I think that adds to the charm of the place. You have restaurants lined up within the parallel buildings that line Changi Village. There’s a nearby park and a nearby jetty for those going for a day trip to Pulau Ubin.
Little Island Brewers bills itself as self-service – with exception of this pandemic, there are some measures like letting the staff get your beer for you. I try to imagine how this place looked like pre-pandemic. It must’ve been packed and featured bands perhaps.
I’ll add this place as a recommended drinking spot in Singapore.
Little Island Brewers is at 6 Changi Village Road, Singapore, 509907. There is no MRT station near this location. But there is the Changi Village Bus Interchange which is two minutes away by foot. (Learn more on their Facebook page.)
Tell me about your favourite drinking spot in your city.
July 25. The day of my 2nd vaccine appointment. I was LESS anxious this time. Probably because the first experience was breezy and painless. Plus, I had a cute guy inject me!
Like the first time, I didn’t take public transport since Pasir Ris Elias Community Club is a nice 15-minute walk away. I know that GoJek has some type of free transpo promotion for those getting their vaccination. But I didn’t want the fuss of downloading the app and being subscribed to some marketing mailing list. I’m fine walking since it’s good to get some sunshine.
I reached the community club on the dot. As soon as you arrive, you get asked if you’ve experienced fever or anything of that sort in the past 24 (or was it 48) hours. Then you get led up the stairs to a waiting area.
I can say I got my jab within 10 minutes after arriving on my assigned schedule. Lol no cute guy this time but instead a very friendly young lady in a hijab. I wanted to get a selfie with her for this blog but I was too shy.
The waiting area was filled with people! Must be a good thing. People are getting vaccinated here.
TED Talk Time: I checked that as of today, 50% of Singapore’s population is fully vaccinated. The country’s goal is to have two-thirds of the population vaccinated before National Day in August. I think they’re making great headway to reach their goal despite the spike in community cases. The cases the past few days are in the triple-digits.
Like last time, they give out masks to those who get vaccinated at this community club.
I walked home afterwards andwalked home without listening to Blackpink. I don’t know. I think I was emo underneath the sunny weather. I feel lucky and grateful. But I think about things like… how about our friends in Malaysia? Indonesia? Thailand? And of course, how about my family and friends back home in the Philippines. The Delta variant has started to spread back home.
When I got home, I checked my TraceTogether app and the “In Progress” vaccine status changed to “Waiting to take effect”. Tapping it brings you to another page which tells you which date you’ll be fully vaccinated. My 14th day will be 8th August, right in time for Singapore’s National Day.
Wherever you are in the world, please be safe. Please get vaccinated. Sending love. ❤
Earlier this month, I started a YouTube weekly video blog where I record 5-minute videos talking about what I’m watching, what I’m listening to, and some tidbits of each passing week. I also warm up by answering questions from a “365 & Me” app. What’s new about this (for me) is that the videos are unedited. There’s no music bed. There’s no b-roll. It’s raw and unfiltered.
My goal is to improve my ad-libbing and my confidence to communicate ideas. I want to improve in pace and clarity. I also want to build up on substance. I want to be better at doing interviews for both my podcast and my work with journalists and media professionals.
I’m calling it “Saturday Uncut” since… well… the goal is to publish a recording every Saturday. My KPI (wow, KPI) is 50 of these “episodes”. I want to run this series until mid-2022.
Here’s the fourth episode I recorded earlier using Zoom:
If you’re able to watch, do let me know your thoughts where I can improve. ❤