day 724 | May 24, 2015 | Langkawi

A pure escape trip with two beautiful souls, equal parts strong and confident, soft and vulnerable. My first girly trip in a long long while -- and it was really brought on by fabulous chemistry with my companions. Feel blessed having met them when I did, and continually fortunate to get to know them on a daily basis.

The Danna was gorgeous. A view of the docked boats (which don't seem to be moving) at the Marina, lush greens in the backdrop, regular call to prayer from the nearby mosque, cows moo-ing whenever they felt like it. We drafted plans a few days before the trip, alpha-females unite. Yoga mornings, rainforest after dark, cable car, jungle trek, mangrove cruise, and of course, massages. 

Arrived at the Danna, welcomed with a shoulder massage, and at that first contact, the activity plan went downhill. Still did a lot of things, just not what we originally thought we would do -- a three-day intensive conversation which were punctuated by nibbles and cocktails, ice cream service by the beach, enviously watching couples make out by the water, long walks looking for a reggae bar we never got to, massages, taking our sweet time enjoying really good Lebanese food while enjoying the equally good view, bedtime music swapping, beers by/in the pool, and learning to float and let go. 

Good energy, recharge and leaning back on good advice, every time I think of Langkawi. And in this case, the company defined the destination. Thank you, ladies!

"this is the first thing that comes to mind when you asked for something good. my most simplest of days. here are some other things: that feeling you get when you're with your favorite people -- it feels a lot like belonging, like you're understood, like for a moment nothing is or could go wrong. how, for some reason, you can never hide happiness. this song. crossed fingers of hope. when you get to see and touch the person you've been missing; how your heart bursts with colour.

my love, no matter how long it takes, you're always going to make your way back to the found. sometimes it might just take the compass you have in your heart a bit longer to find its way again. remember the love; remember the light; remember the warmth. take care of yourself."
- Anthea Yang, Constellations from Home

day 723 | June 4, 2015 | Bintan

Cannonballs! :)
Exclusive mommy-time with my little ones in a nearby island escape. Roo's calendar has been busier than mine (a mean feat!), and these were the only three days I could steal her away without missing any of her commitments. I've been tied up with so many things, and the girls have been so good, that I haven't really given them due attention. This trip was partly payback, but primarily a recalibration -- to remind them that I'm always just here for them, as well as to remind myself to be mindfully present.

The young travellers impressed. They created our joint packing list, and were partners throughout the trip.

We loved exclusivity at Bintan SpaVilla. Because we were there on weekdays, we were one of four groups in a resort that had about 20+ villas. Mostly cannonballs in the pool, giggles in the jacuzzi, lounging at the bar/resto, picnics in the balcony, watching the tides come and go, and sipping on giant coconuts. I felt for that couple who couldn't properly make out al fresco because my kids were all over the pool and the jacuzzi. The little ones did give me permission to scoot off for an hour at the spa (bliss!), and I managed to convince them to go to the Mangrove Forest and Fishing Village for a sunset tour.

Always been fascinated with mangroves -- biologically complex ecosystem, a crossroad where ocean, freshwater, and land meet. It is earth's nursery ground for fishes, and houses an assortment of things that include crabs that can climb trees, and sea apples that are not quite edible to humans.

Our tour guide was Aidil, a storyteller at heart. He spoke of the hard life of fisherfolk, of $3 a day living, unless you can get an education. A way of life, where the men fish, and the women do everything else -- including gather drinking water by paddling their boats, jars and buckets in hand, to a freshwater well. He shared his fondness for 'kelongs,' and I loved the tidbit about how the best catch is always on moonless nights. Local freedivers can hold their breath for more than 3 minutes and come up with fish in hand. They are virtually humanoid fish themselves.

Beyond the privileged lifestyle of resort holidays, I hope some of the stories from that afternoon resonated with my little companions. The stories are not new, and are quite similar to those of my birthplace. They serve as a reminder of how fortunate we are, as well as a call to action. While I'm happy with the time to connect, I kept on thinking I should sign us up for a child-friendly volunteer trip soon.
Gosh. Life's tough for a 4 year old...

day 722 | March 19, 2015 | Imaginarium

Imaginarium has become one of our favorite spots whenever we're in the general area of the Singapore Art Museum. Worth a stop for this year's Children's Season, if you haven't gone to explore yet. There are also tandem swing sets, stuff from my youth, parked in front of the 8Q entrance. Snaps from when my younger brother was in town. Combined with my Roo and Red, they were a trio of trouble. :)

The doodles throughout the 8Q staircase set the playful tone to the exhibits. A mix of happy and bizarre, like stepping into a 6 year old's dream.

My personal favorite is an interactive called Green Room, Interstellar Overdrive by Vincent Twardzik Ching -- It allowed us to pedal on stationary bikes. From our efforts, came stars, music, or words on a lightbox. Intent is to inspire thought on how alternative energy sources might change our lives. Had to explain a little bit of how human kinetic energy translates into electric energy. I must have simply been white noise to the kids, as they were focused on expending said energy perched on the bikes.

The trio enjoyed Kumkum Fernando's magical storytelling, particularly the puzzle pieces to complete the Saari fish of Manik, as well as spent a chunk of time weaving bracelets and creating pompoms at Izziyana Suhaimi's Let's Make Studio.

A particularly thought-provoking piece is Trees by Takashi Kuribayashi. Parts of a tree were neatly arranged into glass boxes. Roo and Red were both concerned about the brutality of the piece -- "What did the tree ever do wrong for it to be chopped down?" I tried to reassure them that perhaps the artist took an already felled tree. The intent for the piece is transformation. "His work reminds us how nature often exists in very controlled environments in cities such as Singapore. Over time, the sections of the tree trunk will decay, and in the process give life to new organisms and ecosystems, so that each glass box will hold a tiny new world of its own." The question then is, whether or not we like what we transform into?

Will continue to go back to SAM to revisit Imaginarium, which will run until 19th July. Need to do more googling, and be open to meaningful conversations with the little ones. In these kinds of exhibits, we're all growing and learning after all.

day 721 | January 31, 2015 | Litmus Test

LEARNING PRIORITIES FOR ROO & RED: 
Get unstuck, Ask the right questions. 
Break down intimidating problems into bite-sized puzzles.
One thing at a time.
Learning as play. 
Encourage her to drive herself.

This happened quite a while back -- and I continue to struggle with keeping to the spirit of my parenting aspirations. Every time I struggle with patience and empathy, I think back to this, and feel the anger sucked away. Hope this helps other parents who have made the commitment not to yell at and hit their children as well...

day 718 | December 28, 2014 | Penang Roadtrip

The great thing about having a long-time group of amazing friends you and your kids click with, is that even the craziest ideas can easily morph into bizarre reality. I've driven from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur before -- and taken a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Penang. But never did I imagine that we would do the whole stretch in one go.

6-7 hours, the boys said. They were driving, so figured, they would know what they're talking about. Each way ended up being 12-13 hours. Thankfully, the little ones were some of the easiest kids to travel with. Non-stop rain on the day we arrived, but blessed with a couple of days of lovely sunshine. 5 giddily happy kids, who sang an endless stream of Taylor Swift. Yummy sinful food galore. Uncountable calories which translated to at least 2 kgs of weight gain. (Spot the belly!) Any regrets? None at all. Okay, maybe that I should have gobbled more! Oh, and next time, we're gonna fly!

What the little ones enjoyed:
Pillow fight in the hotel room
G Hotel swimming pool
Bouncing on top of beds and couches
Adventure Zone Indoor Playground (Escape Eco-Adventure Park, if it wasn't raining)
Sing-alongs to Taylor Swift's top hits! Here's a cover/mash-up I actually don't mind.

For the grown-ups:
Gurney Drive Hawker Food (better as take-away and dine picnic-style in room)
Hunting down good food
Penang Heritage Trail
Cheong Fatt Sze (Blue Mansion) Guided Tour
Beach massage

What we're going back for:
Malihom Retreat
Durian Season at a Durian farm!

Driving through clouds...
Ipoh stop-over

day 720 | December 15, 2014 | Bangkok Bliss

Mostly Iphone snaps from quick escapes to Bangkok. Some work, some play, always fun. I've been to Bangkok so many times that the usual tourist sites don't appeal much. This year, I feel blessed to have been able to visit twice, and at junctures when I didn't even know I needed it. It's all about good company and old friends, feel-good catch-ups, stuffed silly with good food (Nahm, Baan Khanitha), and soaking up orgasmic zen under the skilled hands of Oasis Spa's masterful masseuses. Still enthralled by Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). Floating around the Chao Phraya to find hole-in-the-wall riverside cafes is a form of therapy.

One day, maybe after tons of beer, I may think about going back to Muay Thai class.

Happy snaps!
Art everywhere, Four Seasons Hotel

day 715 | november 21, 2014 | Sumilon Island, Philippines

Closest airport to Sumilon Island is Mactan-Cebu (est 3-4 hours)
A quick recharge trip with the girls in an idyllic island paradise. Managed to check off a few things in the bucket list too -- sleep by the beach underneath uncountable stars, and swim with the whale sharks. Let the images tell the story...
Tucked in for the long ride
Mainland jetty

day 719 | November 18, 2014 | Cagayan de Oro and Marawi

A simple life that follows the consistent rhythm of the call to prayer, sustained by fruit trees, roots and vegetables in the backyard. River, mountains, rice fields, 30 minutes away from Marawi city, it feels like we've stepped 30 years back in time. These are the stuff of my dreams, pleasant and otherwise. A backdrop to running, tripping, and falling headlong into the unknown, to sinking immobility, and flights of fancy. More flowing words, and more images. So much beauty -- from a far-away, little-known place, even less understood.

Our dreams disturb us 
because they refuse to pander 
to our fondest notions of ourselves.  
The closer one looks, 
the more they seem to 
insist upon a challenging proposition: 
You must live truthfully.  
Right now.  
And always.  
Few forces in life present, 
with an equal sense of inevitability, 
the bare-knuckle facts of who we are, 
and the demands of what we might become.  
~Marc Ian Barasch

Lake Lanao

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