10 Things I Did In Taipei

Taipei offered me the best of Chinese culture; I have never been so enthralled by the Chinese history and language. 

Throughout the trip, my sister and I were speaking Mandarin and learning to read traditional characters.

At a pet conference. This photo was taken by the dog’s very friendly owner. He told me that the dog is sniffing my pineapple tarts so I tries to hide it!

We were so impressed with Taiwanese’s cleanliness, efficiency and politeness. 

People were so helpful and cultured; many go out of the way to help us get around  and spoke so tenderly to us. For example, they explained that we don’t look like Taiwanese because we look ‘healthy’ (read: dark).

Taiwan is a pet-friendly nation too. We saw people carrying dogs everywhere! I really don’t mind living in Taiwan. Here’s 10 things we did:

1. Climbed to the highest peak in Taipei, QiSing Shan (7 Stars Mountain)
My goal is to visit every national park in the world! So we checked out Taiwan National Park. Went to Yang Ming Shan, and hiked for a few hours to the highest peak in Taiwan: Qising Shan. We braved the rain, sulfurous gas and uneven rocks – to be rewarded a mountainous view of the national park and Taipei city.

mountain

2. Eat street food at markets and everywhere else
We went to Shilin Market, Raohe Market and Shida market for street food. We had stinky tofu, mee sua, papaya milk, grilled mushroom with wasabi powder, fried cuttle fish, xiao long bao at the first Ding Tai Fun branch, pork bun at Raohe Market, fried chicken at Shilin Market, beef noodles etc. We heard that there’s plenty of good Japanese restaurant, perhaps next time.

img_5004.jpg

3. Learn about Chiang and Soong May-Ling at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall
Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, probably my favourite site in Taipei. Enjoyed learning about his life story immensely, and seeing the everyday things he used eg multipurpose clock, bulletproof car.

Actually my interest in him is solely because of his wife, Soong May-Ling. Read Wild Swans then watched The Soong Sisters as a teen. Thought the sisters were so cool; they got an education and played important roles in society when women were not encouraged/ expected to.

But it was Soong May-Ling’s speech at the US parliament that made me a fan: http://www.history.com/speeches/madame-chiang-kai-shek-addresses-congress

memorialhall

4. Appreciate Chinese artefacts at National Palace Museum
So glad Chiang Kai Sek took a lot of Chinese artefact to Taiwan hence not destroyed by the communists. I think my favourite section is the first floor about nature and the calligraphy section.

My favourite piece says: “Do not cultivate arrogance, do not indulge in desires, do not leave ambitions unchecked, do not let pleasures go to the extreme”


5. Walk around Jiufen
It was like a trip up to Genting Highlands. We had tea and Chinese dessert, and admired the scenery. More: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiufen


6. Party at Barcode
Night out with the sister at bar recommended by the hotel. It seems that celebrities are sighted here, but we saw none (maybe because we the only celebrity we can recognise is Jay Chou)

7. Checked out the Grand Hotel
This building is commissioned by Chiang Kai Shek and Soong May Ling to accommodate foreign ambassadors. This place has really good feng shui – its backed by mountains at Yang Ming Shan and facing a river.
img_2204.jpg


8. Visited Eslite

Checked out the biggest bookstore in Taipei. It spans five floors and it opens till 12 midnight! I was browsing at the language/literature section, hoping I can enjoy Chinese poetry one day…

The only one I know:

Quiet Night Thought (靜夜思)
床前明月光
疑是地上霜
舉頭望明月
低頭思故鄉
-Li Bo

Perhaps I shall start with reading common Chinese characters (its kanji too so its inline with my Japanese speaking goal). Or not.

有那么多时间吗?

9. Watched Changing of Guards at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall

10. Checked out Beitou Hotspring
The Japanese bought to Taiwan their hot spring culture (My absolute favourite thing to do!). Oh, so much to write. Perhaps I’ll talk about it more the next time. In the meantime, read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beitou


For me, the point of this whole trip is to spend quality time with my sister. What random things we did: take pictures of Jay Chou everywhere, talk nonsense etc. Fun!

=:D

To do in Taiwan next:

  • Visit Taroko National Park
  • Get on Ubike
  • Book a private hot spring pool at Beitou
  • Spend more time browsing through books in Eslite

The perks of living with family

Since I moved out from my parents home, I do everything on my own: grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning etc. While I do not regret my decision (I would never have learned so much and would not have found my passion), today is one of the very rare days I miss living with my siblings (I suspect the culprit is Inside Out). Then, I remember a blogpost that I wrote years ago…

apple

The perks of living with family is that you’ll be fed with unexpected food and lame jokes.

=:)

p/s: In case you don’t know  Prince Charming

Miss Universe 2015 Gala Dinner + Thoughts

Oh, I can write an essay about pageants, beauty and a little about my secondhand experience with Miss Universe contest. But I probably wouldn’t have time to. So I’ll put my thoughts in point form:

1. Pageant takes a lot of guts. After seeing how the entire thing work, I have a new found respect for each and every contestant.

2. Beauty is subjective. But true beauty is all-encompasssing. Most people can’t see beyond looks because a truly beautiful person is so rare, many never experienced it to understand. Beauty is in their thoughts and movements, not just appearance. You have to see them speak, move and respond to situations and questions. Now that I think of it, I’ve met many attractive females but only a handful of beautiful women (Click for a possible definition)

3. When one of the judges (Gilliang Hung, I think) was asked what she’s looking for, she said “Drop dead presence”. Notice she didn’t say drop dead gorgeous. All girls are gorgeous. They are looking for something more (and I truly believed Vanessa has it)

On a lighter note, here are some photos from the event!Processed with VSCOcam with a5 presetAmber Chia and Sara KhongProcessed with VSCOcam with a5 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with a5 presetamandaProcessed with VSCOcam with a5 preset

Amanda did very well. She’s not one who vie for attention nor dominate conversations. She listens attentively and gives quietly. She’s gentle, thoughtful and hardworking. To be chosen from amongst thousands of Malaysian girls and make it to the finals is a feat, for pageant is about flaunting yourself. I always believe I can do anything, but I have serious doubts if I can gather the guts to strut on the stage in itsy bits tiny bikini. So proud of my Lil Sista!

=:D

When you’re beside a Miss Universe finalist….

I grew up with my brother calling me ‘hodoh’. It’s how he shows affection. So, when my siblings told me I look like Ronald MacDonald beside my Lil Sista, I l pursed my lips and laugh. I went home in my horizontal striped top and drew this:

IMG_2381.JPG

=/

p/s: When I told my good friend about this, she tried to console me. But don’t worry about me. Words – especially relating to my appearance – don’t trouble me. Think I look funny. So? Think I’m lazy. Are you crazy? Think I’m boring. Oh, you don’t know me Mister. Man, I really like the confidence than comes along with age; so much that I’m worried that it will turn into conceit! #stillfeelawesomebeingbesideahotgirl #overconfidence? #imahappymeal

12 things I did in Penang

This might be my best trip to Penang! Three reasons: 1) I went with my favourite people in the whole world and 2) It’s for my Mommy’s 60th birthday 3) I started my journey at the right place…a bookshop!

1. Visit a local bookstore
We drove directly from KL to Gerak Budaya. I can talk a lot about this place, but I’m trying to complete this series quickly (work involves a lot of writing and I am trying to record my personal journey as quick as I can…). All I can say is I’ve bought more books that I should and, on top of opening my eyes to a whole new Penang, they led me to #2 and #3

IMG_9310books

2. Bought handcrafted mahjong
Very much into culture, I’ve found a book about dying trades in Penang. Since I’ve always wanted to get my own set of mahjong for Chinese New Year, I thought I’ll support a local artisan and got a set of handcrafted mahjong. It’s not cheap though – RM 310 for a set!

IMG_9462.JPG
IMG_9460.JPG

3. Go on a tour at the Tropical Spice Garden
Ah, this is the highlight of my journey. There exist a beautiful tropical garden in Penang. It’s so secluded, you will probably miss it but you shouldn’t! I learned so much from Cikgu, our tour guide. I used a kacip, a traditional tool, to break open a betel fruit for it’s nut! 😀 Oh, and I so wish I have an edible garden at home. What will I plant? Sawtooth coriander, misai kucing and even cinnamon tree!

Read: Asia’s Hidden Eden

tropical spice garden penang

4. Discovered nutmeg drink!
My brother introduced me to my a unique drink in penang: nutmeg drink! Nutmeg is grown in Penang since the spice trade era and still exist today. Can’t believe I didn’t bother to know this before. I love this drink so much I bought bottle of nutmeg cordial for RM 8.
IMG_9463.JPGIMG_9448.JPG

5. Had local tea/coffee and toast at an alley
I had wanted asam laksa for breakfast but Penangnites rarely open their restaurant on time. So we went to a little alley for local toast, tea and coffee. Toh Soon is a good place to go when you’re in Penang. You will have to wait though. It’s crowded!

food 2coffeefood

 

6. Ate the real Penang white laksa (nope, not from the packet!)
I like my kerang cooked, but the owner of the store always refuse me. He say it’s “Penang style”. But I loved it anyway!

laksaIMG_9457.JPG

7. Devour my favourite asam laksa!
I have no words for the most delicious dish in the world (can you see that smile on my face?!). Ah, I need to experiment to cook asam laksa as good as this. Ok, I shall do it this April!penang laksa

8. Eat at Nasi Kandar Line Clear
Unfortunately, I don’t understand the popularity of this place. All I know is the men in my life pile up heaps of calories and cholesterol on their plate *trying not to be a wet blanket*

line clear

9. Explore Georgetown
A UNESCO World Heritage site in Malaysia, but most Malaysian only go there for food. What a pity! I need to go back to explore more museums, old shops and artisans. It’s such a unique town!
georgetowngeorgetown 2IMG_9465.JPGgeorgetown 3

9. Buy some tau sar peah
My family love this. I can at most take a few pieces. Isn’t it too sweet? But I love their sesame oil.

IMG_9458

10. Visit Chao Rasta market
A market you can get all kinds of snacks and other things like nutmeg oil. I need to create a shopping list when I go back next.rasta

11. Have cendol!
Of course, this cannot be missed.
cendol

 

12. Babysit and Do yoga with Mommy
I am elated to find our hotel offer complimentary yoga class on Sunday morning. So I took Mom for her first yoga class. So funny to see a 60 years old bending into weird position. She’s good for a first-timer though – probably thanks to her frequent practice of qigong.

Yen is a wonderful yoga instructor. She taught me some new moves and tips to improve my wheel pose  (Read: bending by the beach). I also ask how I can do headstand without the support of a wall. She told me I need to improve my core strength and I’m getting there!

Ah, Mom is so playful. She wants to climb up the little rocky hill near the beach. I was so afraid she will slip and break her bones! Sometimes, I feel like I’m babysitting her 😛

yoga with mommyMommy

***

To-do next

  • Discover galleries and museums
  • Visit a nutmeg plantation
  • Buy local produce: nutmeg oil, nutmeg cordial, pickled nutmeg, etc.
  • Have asam laksa at Ayer Itam
  • Attend a cooking class
  • Check out more books at Gerak Budaya and get Gareth to answer my questions (e.g One book that changed his life)
  • Visit: Colonial Penang musuem, the Church along Lorong Maktab and Peranakan museum

Oh, can’t wait to return. Hope Sam will be back then!

=:D

Promoting cold-pressed juices is a Miss Universe kinda activity

If you’re wondering what Miss Universe finalists do besides looking pretty, well they promote cold press juices. As you might have known, my sister, Amanda Khong, is one of the finalists in Miss Universe Malaysia 2015.

Amanda Khong promotes La Juiceria

When she told me that Miss Universe Malaysia Organisation (MUMO) organised a Meet & Greet Session at La Juiceria, I know I had to go! That’s especially I knew Anabella, the founder of La Juiceria from a show at Bella NTV 7 and had been wanting to visit her shop.

la juiceria

Ever since she beat thousands of girls and became a Miss Universe finalist, I’m so proud to share the same genes with my sister. Though nobody agrees that we look alike (?!). Many people told Amanda that she looks like Carey Ng, Miss Universe Malaysia 2013, instead.

sara amanda khong and carey ng

Amanda told me a funny story. When she stayed under one roof with the other finalists, whenever she walks in and out, she gave many of them a shock; they thought Carey Ng came in for a surprise visit! haha.

Amanda Khong serving juice

Here are some of her good friends: Vanessa, Pauline, Ashley, Jenny and Meera. When she left for the camp, I was not worry at all if she’ll fit in. She has always been well loved by her friends. The other finalists told me that she’s the fashion guru in the camp! (I’ll like to think that she got her fashion sense from me. haha!).

Miss Universe Malaysia 2015

***

With Sabrina Bennett, Miss Universe Malaysia 2014 | Amanda being recorded by Charles from MUMO
With Sabrina Bennett, Miss Universe Malaysia 2014 | Amanda being recorded by Charles from MUMO

Yup. That’s one of the many things a Miss Universe do. She has been so busy with all the activities on top of her work. To find out more about her Miss Universe journey, follow her at her Facebook page now! 

=:)

p/s: Standing at 5 feet 6, I had never felt short in my life. Today, I felt like a dwarf. All of them wear six inches high heels! Though I’m sure they wish they are in my shoes (pun unintended).

My sister might be the next Miss Universe Malaysia 2015!

My talented, thoughtful and gentle sister is a Miss Universe Malaysia 2015 finalist! Amanda Khong

Last week, together with other girls, she was moved into an unknown location. We sent her off with a a few bags.  The required packing list given by Malaysia Miss Universe Organisation is really long. Do you know contestants are required to bring heaps to things like gowns and high heels of at least 4.5 inches high?

Amanda KhongMommy, elder sis and I were there to give our final moral support to Manda. She will be away from home for one whole month and we are not able to contact her. We saw her mingling with other girls, and got to know a very sweet girl called Ashley. I could tell that Amanda is going to have a lot of fun with them!

busNow, I have no idea where my lil sister is and been stalking MUMO Facebook page hoping to get an idea what she might be up to. So far, looks like she learned about social media, had a photoshoot and faced the media.

Sara and amanda

While everyone seem to wish their favourite contestant luck to win the pageant, our family told her to just enjoy the process and I know she will!

=:D