Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Happy 21st, obnoxious self.

Conversation starters for a newcomer in the office, 'So, what are you going to do for Christmas?" or "Are you going anywhere this holiday?" put things into perspective once again. I found these two recurring questions really difficult to answer and at the same time, deal-breaking, when I realised I travelled for my past three birthdays. This, I am just really happy to get a full day off from work, and to be seated churning out this chunky junk. 

Now that we are on the brink of December – the concluding month of the calendar year and debatably the new beginnings in some aspects – I’ve spent noticeable amount of time flipping through my not-so-little Red Book (no, I am not a communist) and reflecting on the past 12 months.

Hitting the societal milestone of adulthood was rather nerve-wrecking yet plain. My 21st year started long ago – on a freezing train ride from Sapa to Hanoi, waking up in the middle of the night and sharing my last Milo Bar with Ping before going back to our wintry slumber.

The days are long but the year is fast. This 21st year has been a paradoxical journey and I am thankful to experience both sides of the coin in many instances – going through the motions of my daily routine mindlessly while bitterly fighting and working towards the intricacies of life that I now call achievements.

I promised to work hard for Honours right after getting my result slip in Hanoi but saw myself bailing out on school and now on my second internship since Leave of Absence (LOA) I took during summer. I made Vietnamese Spring Rolls and had Eel Noodles with my Couch Host last birthday but here I am now, rooted in Singapore, literally.

But it doesn’t matter what circumstances I am put in or the predicament that I find myself in sometimes, I learned to live in and for the moment. They are the negligible happenings that define me as a person; that moulded my 2014.

Being really annoyed at the snoozeable alarms and grumpy with the cold water before I prepare for school and work. Hating every single lecture and going to school just for my German classes. Thankful that mama wakes up every morning to make sure I am fed before my day starts and being so ever supportive even though I mock her for Candy Crush. Not seeing Dad for days if I come home too late because he’s just too busy providing for us. Meeting and leaving the greatest heartache of my life during my backpacking trip and labelling him as the favourite blob of blonde mess to cutting his existence out of my life entirely. Constantly in a desperate, occasionally audacious, attempt to pack my bags and leave for an adventure. Overly obsessed with working out and getting a toned body because that is the way I love myself. Judging people who play with Tinder and getting too serious about it myself; and at certain point wanted to be an ambassador. Wow, how do I go on?

It’s a year I’ve known a distinct degree of heartbreaks, devastations, appreciation, and grown through them. Glad, nonetheless, no less.

The most significant change in 2014 would be LOA. 2 years back, I started my degree in NUS with a bad foot in and have never liked school since. But I was lucky enough to be doing something I really liked – History – though often than not, I do roll my eyes really hard at substance-less questions like, “Gonna go into teaching or work at a museum?”

17 years into Singapore’s education, my dislike for the system only aggravated as I gained further knowledge (of it). I felt more than just physically and mentally sapped from the stale and meaningless pursuit in academics. LOA is one of the best decisions I’ve made and one that has taught me so much thus far. I explored the opportunities in the oxymoronic enjoyable corporate world; how it doesn’t have to deskbound in suit and tie.

And because I did not conform to the paper chase, I’ve found a pre-career that aligns with my interests.

I went through a corporate rollercoaster in terms of sideway progression and management understanding. I ventured into lifestyle “blogging” to freelancing, and back to lifestyle “writing”. Despite the transient 7 months of attending events, dealing with a bitch-of-a-boss, working from anywhere at anytime, and under the best management, there is only one line I will take. “Compromise but do not settle.”

Because of the parallel between my work and interest, travelling that is, I have had met many like-minded inspirations along the way and it’s just so rewarding; definitely not something that would’ve happened should I stay rooted in school for another energy-sapping semester. (Disclaimer, as much as I shame school, I do admire and respect people who pull through and are already on their way to graduation.)

From work travel with colleagues, leisure traveling with friends to solo wandering, I’ve come to accept that travelling is not about ticking off bucket list. For me at least, it has become a lifestyle. The moments where I push myself out of comfort zones and conquer fears are when I learn the most. In my most recent Lombok-Sumbawa trip, I saw myself waddling through the beauty of the endless blue hues and in awe with the undisturbed part of the world. I had the chance to snorkel through the raw beauty of corals and be close to the subtle empowerment of the blue starfishes and neon creatures. I befriended living inspirations and everyone had a backstory. They made everything seemed possible and concretised my thought of living in the moment; that now is the only right time to start living.

The lack of love dictates your life as much as one filled with. It has been a tumultuous year with regards to matters of the heart. Many have seen me crumble and fleeting to dating apps to get over. But outside these tangible grieving moments, I was soiling my bed with thoughts of betrayal and a very bruised ego.

I came to a conclusion that love is a game for the brave souls. I am taking back my presumed statement that relationships are for needy people because they are merely lonely. It’s not. It’s putting yourself out there at the expense of having your feelings trampled with. A mission I am not capable of.

I continue to cling on to self-doubt as I emptied myself out in pieces. On the way, I met a few lovely people, which morphed me into yet another mould when put back together. I finally found peace, (still) seeking closure, and giving myself another chance.

Relationship to me now, is just like gardening. Very much voluntary and illusive where you know everything is just temporary. My heart is insecure and to be robbed off the power of vulnerability once again is just impossible. Because I am egoistic; I am scared. I will stay trapped in the vicious vortex of being vulnerably powerful. (Power of vulnerability; because it is courageous to expose yourself to another.)

WOW. When you are going through 365 days, you can’t really see around them, you cannot get a physical measure of it. It was impossible to see how such long days and months, so miraculous and unfathomable, can actually fit into one penned out post; in such a concise manner yet so lacking.

Now fuck out, time for a new year.

Happy Birthday, obnoxiously narcissistic self.

Birthday dinner @ Masons with lovely family <3

Sunday, 14 December 2014

16 cafes to hop in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

It isn’t the weekend if you don’t get to sleep in. But what exactly marks the start of a good weekend? There are days where you just want to lie in bed till late evening before heading out for dinner but others when you can’t wait to get out of your comfort zone and do some exploring. My favourite thing about the weekends is that you can have coffee at any time of the day.
Have you visited every single hipster café in Singapore? Well, you can also start your exploration across the borders to Johor Bahru. Though the cafes aren’t like Singapore’s, all lined up on the same street, it is always a joy to cruise around before settling down in one. These are a few cafes you will never want to miss out on:

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Giving off varying vibes throughout the day, to get some warmth with occasional breezes, do visit the cafe when the sun is still up. For a chill out starry night, head there when the sun sets.
Chaiwalla & Co. is an open air cafe with no air conditioning but simple and honest designs. As can be inferred from its name, you will definitely get some decent Chai here!
To get some warmth with occasional breezes, visit in the day. For a chill out starry night, head there when the sun sets.
Address: Lot 2810, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru 80000, Johor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 930am - 630pm | Fri - Sun: 930am - 630pm, 8pm - 1am


Inspired by French culinary and architecture, Coffee Valley is a quaint cafe with freshly grounded coffee and soft music playing in the background. Besides its aromatic coffee, there is a wide range of tea and bites that you can choose from.
Address: 12A Jalan Trus, Bandar Johor Bahru 80000, Johor, Malaysia | L2-550A, Sutera Mall
Opening hours: 8 am - 9 pm | 1030 am - 1030 pm


Wake up to a double-shots cuppa at HeadMost Cafe’s espresso bar as you choose from the range of coffee blends around the world. Its cosy ambience promises a warm and relaxing experience for its customers, guaranteeing a rejuvenating hangout.
After your caffeine fix, there is HeadMost Boutique on the second level, selling men’s apparels, for retail therapy.
Address: G07, Plaza Mentari (SunCity) Jalan Kuning, Taman Pelangi, 80400 Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 1230 pm - 1030 pm | Closed on Monday

Roost Cafe (Salad & Bar)



The place is of rustic ambience as wood and old timbre is used for most of its exterior designs and interior furniture. All furniture is intricately picked and designed, each with its own character.
Roost café serves a range of food, from salads to heavier meals. With a book in hand, a productive yet soothing day is sorted.
Address: 9 Jalan Dhoby 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 12 pm - 4 pm, 6 pm - 12 mn | Sun: 6 pm - 12 mn.

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Subtly hidden away on the hipster street with an interesting signboard, Bev C is two storey brainchild of Beverly Bee - a boutique and cafe at the second level. The boutique holds true to Beverly Bee’s mantra “own your style or stay naked” - sporting a unique sense of concept with international recognition.
As you get lured by the scent of grinded coffee to the second level, you will find a haven to get inspired while sipping on coffee.
Address: 54 Jalan Tan Hiok Nee 80000 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Tue - Fri: 1 pm - 11 pm | Sat & Sun: 12 pm - 11pm

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The first of its kind in Johor Bahru to bring in premium quality apparels from overseas such as American Apparel, Bellroy, Nudie Jeans Co, and Commes Des Garcon. Not just a platform to extend the concept of exclusive yet sustainable fashion items, it is also a space for hairstyling and mid-day beverages.
Atop the boutique is a café named Ambiguous. It is named ‘Ambiguous’ as it celebrates the ambiguous nature of coffee consistency, where every cup of coffee tastes different.
Address: 7 Jalan Serampang, Taman Sri Tebrau, Johor Bahru 80050, Malaysia
Opening hours: Daily 12 pm - 10 pm


You might miss this cup of smoky heaven if not for its nostalgia-able swing on the synthetic grass against its dark grey walls.
All ice creams are made on the spot with liquid nitrogen and you’ll witness the freezing smogs brimming from the counter before you get yours. The creamy, flavourful ice cream justifies for the crowd.
Address: 31 Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru 80000, Johor, Malaysia.
Opening hours: Sun, Tue -Thu: 1 pm - 10 pm | Fri - Sat: 1pm - 12mn


Where coffee meets art to bring people together, this three storey warehouse-like cafe is one of the popular spots for weekend brunch; creating a buzz amongst the cafe goers in Johor Bahru.
The clean white walls are adorned with bright and colourful paintings, inviting you to stay for the afternoon.
Address: 29 Jalan Molek 1/12, Taman Molek 81100, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 12pm - 11pm | Fri - Sun: 12pm - 12mn


Creation of the couple who co-founded architecture firm EHKA Studio, they brought the musical concept to its name and interior furbishing. An award winning cafe for its designs, it features a centrepiece long table with the pretty lamps hanging above like a harp. This unpretentious space caters to everyone - bar seats for coffee lovers to watch the baristas prepare their drink, wide range of food from waffles to all-day breakfasts for foodies, and even interior designers.
Address: 1 Jalan Molek 3/19, Taman Molek 81100, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11 am - 1130 pm | Sat & Sun: 10 am - 1130 pm

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Like its name suggests, this is a coffee joint nestled in a factory, in the industrial area of Mount Austin. Influenced and inspired by the industrial style, the cafe sports a high ceiling with hanging coffee beanbags, dim lighting, copper, steel, and wood. Exuding a tinge of seriousness and romantic vibes.
Address: No. 30 Jalan Mutiara Emas 5/3, Taman Mount Austin, 81100 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Opening hours: Daily 2pm - 12 mn


Following the Korean cafe culture of coffees in the garden, JWC The Garden has the same trendy concept. Using simple and vibrant colours, it brings out the friendliness of the cafe, allowing customers to relax and catch up in the homely space that was previously a showhouse.
Address: 3/27 Jalan Persiaran Jaya Putra, Taman JP Perdana, 81100 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Opening hours: Tue - Thu: 2 pm - 10 pm | Fri & Sat: 2 pm - 12 mn | Sun: 10 am - 7 pm | Closed on Mondays


No one is too cool or old for a fairy-tale, happily-ever-after cafe. With an indoor and outdoor seating, it feels like coming home on a dreamy afternoon. Serving drinks in gold pleated cups against the falling flowers and leaves, everyone can be a royal here.
Address: 7A Showhouse, Jalan Persiaran Jaya Putra 1, Bandar Jaya Putra 81100 Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Opening hours: Daily 1pm - 11pm | Closed on Wednesday.



Some might know it by its former name Cestino Patisserie, but Insomnia retains its good food and coffee. Towering full length windows around the cafe gives off an honest and engaging ambience, with one entrance facing the children’s playground and the other a pedestrian pavement.
With plenty of books stacked on the wall shelves, you can spend a warm afternoon indoors, slouching on the cushioned chairs.
Address: CH 0107/08 Jalan Skudai, Country Garden Danga Bay, 80200 Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Daily 10 am - 10 pm

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The interior will be the first thing that captures patrons’ attention. Sporting a vintage sports outlook, customers get to dine at tennis tables while the walls are adorned with old-school racquets.
Barista Chye Yuan Feng who has belted a few awards is also the brainchild of co-owned Monsta Café. Here, you will get the best of both worlds as he combines espresso and slow brewing methods with Japanese-French fusion cuisines.
Address: CS01-12 Jalan Skudai, Country Garden Danga Bay, Johor Bahru 80200, Johor, Malaysia
Opening hours: Daily 10 am - 11 pm


Not a place you will miss out. Located by the roadside, occupying a corner lot, its vibrant billboard will beg for your attention. The interior of the cafe caters to all, with casual take-and-go tall seats or fully cushioned sofas where you just want to laze and spend your day watching the world go by through the windows.
Address: 157 Jalan Bestari ⅕ Taman Nusa Bestari Skudai. 81300 Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 10 am - 12 mn | Fri - Sun: 11 am - 1 am.


A traditional French pastry and coffee house with a dessert bar, Maco Cafe’s mille crepe is raved about for its creamy yet distinct layers. Also a gallery space for art and design pieces, this place promotes socialising in comfort, basking in the aroma of brewing coffee and freshly baked pastries.
Address: 65 Jalan Sutera Tanjung 8/2, Taman Sutera Utama, Skudai, Johor Bahru 81300 Malaysia
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 12 pm - 10 pm | Fri & Sat: 12 pm - 1am