Monthly Archives: February 2016

Paris, France

Three highlights of the trip:

1. Disneyland

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Look! Chip and Dale behind me in clothes!!!! HAHAHAHA! I was so amused.

I visited Japan’s Disneyland in 2003, Hong Kong’s Disneyland in 2010, and now I’m at Paris’s Disneyland. I took the Space Mountain ride on all these 3 occasions (yes I was tall enough in 2003), but only in Paris was I so excited about phototaking with the Disney characters. Maybe because I had Weixuan and Dilys with me, who were so thrilled about Chip and Dale, thrilled about a Stitch that never appeared, and getting excited looking at so many things in the Disney store.

Timeline of our day for memory keepsake:

0630 Woke up (to thoughts of: am I still a soldier? just kidding hahaha)
0700 Left the Airbnb to set off to Disneyland
0800 Arrival at Paris Disneyland really excitedly!!!!!!!! To find out that we did not qualify for the Extra Magic Hours because we were not guests of the Disneyland Hotel…. 😦
0915 Started queuing with our tickets at the Paris Disneyland entrance to enter!!!!! Seriously, were we that excited?
0930 Finally managed to get in, took pictures with Chip and Dale, took turns to check out the Disney store, ran for rides…
1200 Left the Airbnb to head to La Vallee Village to eat llao llao (and take pictures with snow hahahaha)
1400 Returned to Walt Disney Studios and took a few rides
1715 Ran at top speed back to Disneyland Park (seriously, what a workout in 0 degrees) to catch the Disney Parade
1800 Ran for Space Mountain since everyone was so pre-occupied with the Disney Parade
1900 Disney store shopping (where I bought 2 Chips and 2 Dales influenced by Dilys and Weixuan)
2000 Fireworks :’)
2100 Dilys found out she lost her wallet…………….
2200 Dilys found her wallet………….

2. Snow

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and llao llao. Need I say more? 😥 It’s my second sighting of such heavy snow since Korea in 2008. Loved it so much, I was so cool with my camera lens cover getting wet… the frequent rain would irritate me though HAHAHA.

llao llao was €5.90 though which is SGD $9, now this is pricey compared to Rome and Barcelona…

3. Sights

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Eiffel Tower: self-explanatory. I remember seeing it on Ratatouille in primary school with Nida jiejie and my sister… definitely much more breathtaking in real life and not at all underwhelming, to me at least. It was literally gigantic 🙂

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Louvre (where we met Mona Lisa ;))

Paris was not really the magical city of love as you’d have read about on Tumblr, after all, small things like the train station…. it smelt like pee. I also wasn’t too used to the idea of people evading transport fares, there would always be a couple of people waiting by the exit for us to “tap out”, and they’d rush to follow closely behind us to exit from the station (even with rather elaborate ticketing infrastructure, they still couldn’t curb this fare-evading problem). Encounters at the historic sights were also far from romantic, there were probably more street peddlers selling keychains of Eiffel Towers than couples kissing with Eiffel Tower in the background. I remember I used to chance upon images that were captioned things like not understanding why anyone would choose to live anywhere other than Paris… even Instagram accounts (eg. “parisinfourmonths”, an account I have actually been following since a few years back) glamorise the city so much. I learnt a lot about city branding in Year 5 under Urbanisation and I can totally see what that chapter was trying to teach me now. It’s all about the branding.

But Paris was a good experience, and I honestly liked it. I’d go back for the pastries 🙂

Europe: I, II, III

I: Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin, Prague, Vienna
II: Milan, Venice, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Pompeii
III: Paris

Maybe I am doing a tad too much travelling — but nevertheless, here’s at least a picture of every city I went to for memory keepsake: there are many details I have already forgotten, and I don’t want to lose even more memories.

In order:

Brussels

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This square was known as the Cinquantenaire; I actually had to look back at TripAdvisor to remember the name of this place. I remember tons of tourists here, along with the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and AutoWorld, where we leeched FreeWifi by cracking into the locked WiFi with the password “Autoworld”.

Frankfurt

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This definitely wasn’t a sight exclusive to Frankfurt- but I think we spent quite a bit of time hanging around watching these public performances. Violinists (cellists?), pianists, never seemed to get tired of seeing them around. I silently appreciate the generosity of people around (not me) who paid for these street performances by purchasing their covers, the audience (and money) are why these performances exist. 🙂

Munich

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The Dachau Concentration Camp was definitely the highlight — we had to take a train there, followed by the bus, but the inconvenience was quite worth it. We bumped into Singaporeans, and being there felt like a walk in a history textbook. “Learning outside the classroom”, they say. Frankly though, it was a really pleasant day and the sky was evidently really beautiful, which may have downplayed the atrocities conducted in that very place. It is honestly hard to think of something horribly when you see streaks of sunlight peeking in. It was a true eye-opener though, and I’d love to go to other concentration camps too, especially the Auschwitz camp in Poland where Dachau prisoners were “deported” to for mass killing. Mass killings did not take place in the gas chambers in Dachau, despite that it was quite nerve-wrecking to actually walk into one… small room, congested… It’s so chilling how they were told lies about “taking a shower” to make them walk into their deaths.

Berlin

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This was where I spent Christmas, honestly, very unfortunately. The highlight of this place has got to be the Berlin Wall: it was interesting to stand at where H2 Geography notes spoke about the East’s cheap labour being unable to enter the West after the enactment of the wall. However, the wall was terribly vandalised (even the signs directing you around the exhibits!) which honestly shows a lot about the city’s culture. The spread of vandalism literally greeted you upon entering the city, and every wall in the train stations, the trains, were vandalised. Not beautiful artwork, but vandalism. Of mobile phone numbers. Of rage in German that I probably couldn’t comprehend. Of course, how dangerously I (we) had to live. We were avoiding drunkards, street beggars and muggers at every cost. It did not help that PLUS Berlin, where we stayed, was located in an extremely shady area (even though the place was beautiful).

I think this city, while rich in history, is one I will never want to return to again.

Prague

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The best thing about Prague was that it was 18 degrees upon arrival, I remembered being able to shed my outermost coat! It was beautiful walking into the city centre, and I was so extremely glad to arrive here from (dangerous) Berlin. The Charles bridge, with the calming effects from watching the waters, the bustling city centre with Christmas markets, killed all my negative feelings from earlier. I actually love crowded areas, I feel that it is an indication that the economy is doing spectacularly. I managed to visit the Salvador Dali Museum too, which was concurrently held with the Andy Warhol exhibition. We caught a ballet concert on Romeo and Juliet the next day too, and we had excellent seats for the price we paid. Well-spent, well-fed and happy. Prague was amazing.

Vienna

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We were really bored, and I was pretty burnt out from travel fatigue. Honestly, doing touristy things for 10 days straight really took a toll on me and I was craving for some adventure by the time of it, and not the routine cathedral museum gardens that started to look the same to me after a while. So we decided to hit the “Adventure” option on TripAdvisor or something and ended up here, an activity that was similar to the “Escape The Room” in Singapore. I never played it in Singapore, but this was an extremely enjoyable experience. I was honestly freaked out by the realism of the crime scene and how they used music, annoying noises, beautiful graphics and even real crime scene details to re-enact the entire scene. It was pretty pricey at €75 in total for both of us — but I enjoyed it completely despite the fact that we didn’t manage to crack the code (we were ONE lock away, even the organisers looking through the CCTV told us we made it really really far for a team of two!)

I’d definitely go to more Escape The Room themed games in the future 🙂

Milan

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The Duomo Cathedral was always cited as a must-go in Milan, especially with its strategic location right beside the shopping haven. Regardless, the travel fatigue probably got to me too much, I wasn’t really too interested in the intricacies of the architectural work nor the “breathtaking bird-eye’s view over Milan” by then. So here’s me excitedly sighting a spot where the Duomo Cathedral and a random street store shared the limelight.

Venice

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Venice was such a dreamy, beautiful place. Frankly I hadn’t expected much from Italy so it was easy to exceed expectations over here. Gelato was inexpensive, waking up to the quaint little colourful buildings made my mornings so easily, and manoeuvreing through the little alleyways and small streets made me happier than anything else. I thought about my childhood and how I went to The Venetian in Macau twice, and I was so happy that I actually was able to stand here 5 years later. :’) Oh, and given that the casino was 19+, I entered the casino too… without bringing my wallet. I looked like a little kid walking around in the casino man, they were just short of chasing me out.

And this was where I got the Triangel dolls (thanks for the gift!): Triumph in the Skies is such a lie. Rome was not the only filming site, they went to Venice and Florence to film certain scenes too. My life is a lie…

Pisa

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There’s nothing else in Pisa other than this and cheap gelato: and here’s a different pose from my leg kick since I was in gloomy Pisa that day. We spent about an hour catching good photos and good poses, which was basically the only thing we could do there anyway.

Rome

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“Backpack to Europe: Rome” sounds really silly- when I was younger I never could grasp the concept of “Europe” in its entirety and I never knew what Europe was referring to. I just knew Rome and Europe were sort of related, and I wanted to go to Rome. Finally a dream I’d always been harbouring since young (since Triumph in the Skies!!!) came true, and I could even follow their tracks to the filming sites, where Belle dropped her bracelet, where he asked where he could seek for his mother, and where he chased Belle (Flora Chan) down the entire street :’) In my childhood I dreamt, during my teenage years I relived them, and as a young adult I was finally able to realise them.

I was really excited about going to Italy for this and this alone, and am still really glad 🙂

Naples

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In the city of pizza and I did not eat pizza. 10/10 for how amazing I am. Anyway, Naples was one relatively underdeveloped city in Italy, and I could see from the infrastructure, peeling paint and just the general vibe of the city. Loved the contrast in urban environments here, right before entering this narrow street there was a modern glassy building (parliamentary building?), and you see this next: a residential area with shophouses, a neighbourhood with everything and everyone you’ll ever need and meet. Urbanisation, an uneven one at that, is extremely real here.

Pompeii

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Still amused from the knowledge I remembered from the H2 Lithosphere notes. “The AD79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius dumped 3m of ash on Pompeii, causing over 3000 deaths” was something I memorised so religiously. Never thought I’ll be here in Pompeii one day, in the land where my sister’s comprehension passages spawned from, in the land where my Geography examples stem from. Really glad we took the day trip to Pompeii to check out this old city.

Paris in the next post because I am getting too sleepy, but am finally recalling some details of my trip back during the winter break 2 months back!!! An extremely fulfilling one at that. 🙂

Emptiness

What was 24 hours ago: sprawling about on the floor of the Airbnb apartment amid my Dad’s chatter (and calculating the probability that you would get 2 different ice-cream flavours from 12 sticks in 3 colours, i.e. 4 in each colour), annoying my brother and getting him to wake up (he was asleep at 9pm!), looking through the photos from the entire trip and deciding that I had to upload it NOW or I’d never be able to look through them myself when I’m alone.

What was 12 hours ago: silently sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Airbnb apartment, alone. I was afraid I’d forget how the place looked like and the memories I have created here the past 5 days, so I sat there to absorb everything and just cried. I felt everything so intensely at the same time. I never wanted to forget how my brother and I burnt the pizza the first time we used their oven, how my cousin and I struggled turning on the AEG electric hob because I never dealt with a touch-screen hob. This place held so much memories from home for the past 5 days: of my noisy family that annoyingly wakes me up at 7am to disturb me, of my Dad’s snoring that I never got used to at home, of my noisy siblings and accusing one another of being stingier than ourselves, of my cousin who was always scrolling through Instagram feeds of pretty girls and catching up with his female friends. In a way this was everything I had always been looking forward to- living with my family in such a relaxed setting, talking about life until we got tired. It reminded me of the family holidays we used to have going on (and escaping from) tours, like Korea in 2008 and Hong Kong in 2010 where we went to each other’s rooms to talk the night away. People would earnestly ask why I made the choice not to returnhome for Christmas but I’d excitedly add in that my parents were arriving in 1.5 months after that to celebrate Chinese New Year with me. It was worth it, I was more than willing to wait for the week when my family didn’t need to work for us to really have a proper holiday. They would be working anyway if I return during Christmas. So quickly, all the anticipation I had in these 5 months in London is gone, and it’s all over.

I had a great time being a tourist in London, with all my virgin buys of “Sainsbury Taste the Difference” items because they were more expensive than the usual buy. I enjoyed devouring duck after duck at Gold Mine and Four Seasons, and I loved all the expensive meals that I’d never bring myself to eat, namely Duck and Waffle and Poppies (expecting above £100 when the check came was never normal). I came close to living like a tourist settling in initially but never as extravagant as when they were here- my family believes in the “Live like a King” philosophy on your travels and I enjoyed every bit of it. My neighbouring Sainsbury held a different meaning when they were here because I found myself walking to sections I never used to walk to, and buying the (more) expensive items I never used to. What kills me most right now was how my family bought items and food so excessively because they were afraid I’d be stingy with my purchases if I were to be left alone, and spoilt me so much in the week they were here. My mother got terribly disgusted when I told her how people here (including myself) reused jeans for a week, and she made me walk to the jeans section to buy myself new pairs. They bought so much instant noodles and 优乐美奶茶 without sparing a thought because they thought I’d be too stingy to buy these “slightly-more-expensive” products, and bought so much clothes for me because they knew I was never the type to shop.

But what tops it all was how familiar things felt when we finally got home at the end of a long day with all the walking. It felt like things never changed, every single day just felt like any other Sunday when we sat in the living room and just talked about life and what made sense. I’d be enriched by my father and brother’s conversations about business and the stock market, and his ingenious comments from his silent observations about things. I found myself learning much more about London and seeing things from the perspective of a foreigner so much more when they were here, despite having so much spare time and so many months here I never was able to make these (easily) deductible conclusions like him. UK helped its citizens in small ways: not the celebrated (yet debated) free healthcare through NHS, but how they locked up their tobacco in cupboards that you could only access when you paid by the counter which greatly increases the inconvenience of smoking, or how daily necessities like bread and milk are priced so affordably that a family would find it easy to survive with the littlest means. It makes me happy because my family dynamics remain the same, with us being all noisy and annoying yet occasionally wise, but at the same time recreating memories in a different place and space makes me terribly afraid. I’m afraid that with the years passing, while I continue living in my bubble that things haven’t seemingly changed, everything will slowly change. Afterall I am no longer in what I deem my safe sanctuary for 19 years of my life, and the conversations with my siblings edge me towards sadness even more as I slowly realise that we are growing up all too quickly. How much time am I left with- yet, once again how much time am I sacrificing with my family as I give away these 3, 4 years of undergraduate and postgraduate studies?

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捞鱼生 with my family on Day 2 of Chinese New Year this year, something I never escaped every single Chinese New Year, something I always looked forward. My dad and his long string of nonsense 成语s whether or not they make sense, and the snatching for salmon after that. 10 years on and this has still not changed. :’)

The incessant chatter for the past week makes this current silence deafening. I woke up from my nap an hour earlier to find myself crying endlessly and fetching tissue after tissue, at the same time getting annoyed with myself because tissues are expensive here. I never felt this level of homesickness because I stepped away from the SAF to so much more family time with my family even after I left. Notably I had the chance to FaceTime my family every single day, and sailing would not grant me that opportunity as frequently. But having them here for a week, living through all the familiarity and noise and having it taken away from me so quickly kills me so much again. I remember heading back to my hall to shower because I forgot my undergarments, showering at full speed unlike my usual slow hot shower because I wanted to spend as much waking moments as I could with them. I lived for the nights they were here, because they created a different meaning to the nights I have always been leading here in London. Family truly makes everything different, and they can make any environment pleasant.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve already felt all the emotions that ever “exist”, and whatever I feel from this point is just milder versions of what I have ever felt before. These extreme emotions hit me so much at many points of my teenhood, but feeling them again makes it so fresh and painful still. I’ve been too emotionally unstable the entire day to do anything concrete, but I hope the following weeks studying, catching up on work and revising for the examinations will make time fly faster. 到时间回家了.