November 24, 2015

River Wild

It was about a month ago when I was tipped off about a hotel stay giveaway along the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. I gave it a try and didn't think much of it, until I was given the call that I had won. It didn't take me long to get my flight booked and itinerary planned because the trip was certainly a highlight of what has been a tough semester.

I spent a little over 3 days travelling by boat from pier to pier along Chao Phraya soaking in all the sights and sounds at 2x the speed of a normal tourist. Armed with camera in hand, I sought to give a go at street photography and the Land of Smiles did not disappoint.

I was met with mostly curious looks which made for very compelling subjects in some of my photos. But the Thais were generally happy to oblige for a photo when I asked nicely. I only knew how to say a couple of Thai words thanks to the help of a school mate. The rest was all a game of charades whenever I needed something I didn't have the words to describe.

Travelling solo took a while getting used to but once I got onto the boat on the first day there was no turning back. I enjoyed the freedom to roam around in a place where no one knew who you were. It was liberating as all I had was a list of places I wanted to see and that was it. Bearing in mind that I was also armed with Google Maps and a data plan to help me navigate. In the end it was the stuff that was not planned on my itinerary that was most fulfilling. 

Along the way I met with a fellow backpacker from France. Paul and I met on a chance encounter while taking shelter from the rain in a Burger King. He was interested in my camera and soon we started talking about our travels and exchanged details about our lives. It was such a magical moment in the middle of such a bustling city, to be able to make friends with someone from halfway across the world.

Let's not forget about the food I had there. Everything from the street fare to the dishes in shophouses was pure heaven. You've never tasted real green curry until you've been to Bangkok. All the dishes I've ever had are lies - the Thais truly do it best. And you could easily find milk tea vendors at every corner of the street you turn without fail. This was something I was really impressed by.

I spent one early morning visiting a few major temples which really wasn't my thing because the swarms of tourists ruined the experience. While I wasn't on some 'Eat, Pray, Love' adventure, I have to say I was awestruck by the architecture all around. It helped that I arrived early and beat the crowds to the ticketing counter. I was able to walk around the Grand Palace right while it was still empty and admired the level of detail in all the structures inside.

Being able to travel and see the world on my own is in itself a great privilege I am so grateful for. Prior to this experience, I had read countless articles telling me how important it is to travel and I've had endless debates with myself about how that could never be possible because of time and money. But looking back I realised how I was only making excuses for myself. The world is out there  waiting to be explored and it doesn't really care if you choose to or not. 

I made the decision to go on this trip and it came at the time right after the end of my semester and before a paper. I could easily have tabled the entire plan citing having to study as a main concern but I'm glad I didn't. If anything this whole experience has taught me to enjoy my own company, to step out of my comfort zone and to keep an open mind. I really do hope I get more opportunities like this in the near future because there's just so much more I would like to explore.

November 01, 2015

There Are No Final Drafts In Life

I have a weakness for posts in listicle form, especially those motivational ones, but this is not one of them.

There are a whole lot of drafts that have piled up here and will never see the light of day. Most of them were from my many attempts to write something worth publishing. Somewhere along the way I was led to think that what I wrote had to interest readers and be of some use to them. But then I realised how wrong I was.

What became clear to me was that this was the exact space I needed to confront my fears, celebrate my victories and hope for the future. I wouldn't be honest with myself by denying this luxury of penning down exactly how I felt. Our lives are constantly being written as we live and breathe and we should be excited, not crippled into inaction as a result.

The ability to look towards infinite possibilities is something that I've learned to balance against the limited resource of time. It's safe to say that there isn't much meaning in trying to do everything all at once by living closely to the "Live each day like it's your last" mantra. But what I do is close enough.

That balance between putting your honest, truest self out there and holding back is a dilemna I've faced on more than one occasion. But what helped me most was to have a consistent set of values. I've come to realise over the course of the past few months that time is one of the significant things I prioritise and making the best use of it is something I highly value.

Of course the immediate associations with being result-oriented and brash would disguise the more truthful reasons why time matters so much to me. For one I do believe that the simple act of giving someone else your time ought to be respected. This goes for everything right down to all the precious friendships I have.

For this reason, there are obvious sacrifices to be made. Time spent on A can no longer be used for B and vice versa. Key to this is an immediate fear of losing out. That there could be something better for us out there. But trust me when I say that you are right where you need to be.

In every sadness there is a seed of strength within you that is waiting to be unearthed. In hopelessness there lies a compass needle ready to point you in the right direction. And in all pain there is a scar to remind you of all that you have triumphed over. You can only perceive this when you let yourself experience the full range of human emotions, including the unpleasant ones.

Don't worry about the full-stop at the end of your story. You know it will come. What matters are the sentences between that when weaved into beautiful stories give meaning to a life worthy of ending on a high note.

October 22, 2015

Dealing With Love And Loss Past Midnight

Where do you find the answers to questions you don't want to ask?

There are 5 stages of grief. I became acutely aware of this as we sat around the table identifying which stages we all were in. It was both self-aware and strangely comforting, to be able to share in a collective feeling. Perhaps this was what AA meetings felt like.

It's difficult to articulate a feeling you experience for the first time. You stumble upon words and familiar phrases but none can quite capture the full weight of the emotions that wash over you. That's how it's been like over the past few weeks. All at once cold, afraid, nervous and apathetic.

The trouble now is that I fear I'd forget. That I'll be caught up in the rushing current and be pulled so far downstream until I don't remember how the initial jolt of shock felt like. I don't want to forget. Neither do I want to remember. It's a terrible conundrum that I can't fully form my words to describe.

I've been staying up past 12 for 3 nights in a row now and I think at the back of my head I know why. In some ways it's a small consolation that I've made it to another day. That time is still on my side. This is just me playing tricks on myself and so I play along. But something's different this time.

I say how I feel just as I would do, but with more intention. I let small grievances slide. I think a lot more before I speak. I try.

Living on borrowed time has sharpened the senses. Yet the startling construct of our reality becomes the wet cement beneath our feet. So I take comfort in the small conversations, the thoughtful messages and a timetabled routine. That's all I can be sure of and I take it day by day.

September 16, 2015

Where Heroes And Villains Collide

Last Sunday I dipped my toes into the weird and wonderful world of comics, toys and games at the STGCC held at the Marina Bay Expo. It was truly an eye-opening experience to say the least.

All sorts of Japanese anime and superhero cosplayers were present in full regalia and it was quite a sight. There were parents game enough to bring their children dressed as Batman and Jedis as well which I felt was sweet as the 'geek culture' still lives on through them. 

I was there to cover the event with a friend and I daresay I would definitely return for another dose of character spotting and soaking in the creativity all around. In between interviewing characters like Jigsaw and Homer Simpson, I shot a couple of clips and here they are to chronicle my first convention experience.

September 08, 2015

Every Vote Counts

Nothing says election fever like a good rally. I took the chance to attend one last weekend that was in the area but not in my constituency because I'm a rebel like that.

I didn't need any signs to help me find my way to the rally site. There was a steady stream of human traffic to the grounds that led me there. The opposition supporters are truly an exciting bunch to behold. The groundswell support was palpable as the field was packed when I arrived and tons of heads popped out from the overlooking HDB flats nearby.

I stayed for the early part of the rally and heard speeches in different languages, a lot of rhetorical questions and a whole lot more of jeering in response. It was quite a scene to hear Singaporeans collectively 'Boo' at something in public.

"This shouldn't be allowed right?

Won't we get arrested?" 

These thoughts would naturally come to any government-fearing citizen. But we were at a rally and all codes of decent conduct were thrown out in the name of being one with the masses.

It's only right that in getting to vote for the first time I go check out what the other side is offering. Here's a short clip of the sights and sounds at the rally.