This time around it was in Penang, a place that holds a lot of our fondest childhood memories. Centred around food, it's no wonder everyone thoroughly enjoyed the weekend!
It seems to be a growing trend now for me... a long weekend means another impulsive and last-minuted planned trip to another part of Southeast Asia that I hadn't explored yet. This time around, we were off to Hanoi for 4 days!
If there was one place where Paris meets Chinatown in the chaotically organised way possible, this was it. The colonial European architecture of the buildings with its terraced patios and trellis-walled foliage set the scene, only to be filled with bowls of pho, crazy traffic that only Asians are able to achieve, and humidity out the wazoo.
We bounced back and forth between the two extremes; from brunch at the chic Sofitel-Legend Hotel Metropole Hanoi (where we were greeted with a demure "bonjour!") to Vietnamese coffee and condensed milk at a road-and-lakeside stall, from browsing a made-to-order French perfumery, to walking the grounds of the Temple of Literature.
But my goodness... the food? I'll let the photos do the talking!
Being able to work for such a global company is an opportunity that I'm very grateful for, especially in that it hasn't forced me to suppress my desire to constantly explore and travel. In fact, with John Hardy, I am encouraged to be inspired by new surroundings everyday. My business trips to Bali enable me to use the weekends to plan a get-together with friends for a mini-vacation, and this time around, we decided to go to Gili Air, a small island off the east coast of Bali, as none of us had been before. Gili Air is one of 3 islands that are car and motor free - the only way to get to the island is via boat, and around the island, by foot, bike or horse-drawn cart.
Last minute planning and booking ensued, and we embarked early on Saturday morning to Padang Bai to catch the highspeed boat. Amidst miscommunication, delays, confusion and general hullaballoo, we ended up actually missing our 9am boat ride to Gili, and were told the next one would be at 1pm. Disappointed and cranky, we marched over to the head office of the boat company we booked with to file a general complaint on lack of organisation and to our surprise, received a free brunch at a chic beach-side cafe as compensation.
The design team was given the amazing opportunity to organise a weekend trip to explore the east and west coast of Bali, areas that have not been overpopulated with tourists and that still maintain a large part of its heritage and culture relatively intact.
We jam-packed as many places to go, things to see (and most importantly, food to eat!) as we could in the span of 3 days. Needless to say, we were completely exhausted by the end of the trip, but it was an experience that we would not trade for anything... except maybe to go back again!
Having one whole week off from work mid-April was the perfect time for me to embark on a crazy jetsetting adventure of meeting up with friends scattered all across Europe. It was simple, really - buy a return flight from Bangkok to London, and then use the high-speed train to get to the different cities on my list. My insane itinerary went something along the lines of:
Bangkok >> London >> Geneva >> Milan >> Paris >> Avignon >> London >> Bangkok
Words and pictures alone cannot describe how amazing this trip was... and how utterly knackered I was once I touched back down in Bangkok on Monday morning at 6am, only to have to trudge my zombie butt to work directly after!
I couldn't help but smile as I put together this little roadmovie... I am really fortunate to have such beautiful, glorious friends - my Jayarezee, Bino, Oli & Keun Woo - thank you so much for hosting me, whether it was just for a 2-hour lunch in Paris, or a night at the house of the Elliot's, ochre boots and all !
(An added bonus being that I'd be able to enjoy all my favourite foods at the hawker centres in Singapore as well!)
Not to sound like a pyromaniac, but a festival about sending lanterns on fire into the sky was something I did not intend to miss while living in Thailand. Known as Yi Peng in Thai, it is a Lanna (northern Thai) festival, which meant travelling up north to Chiang Mai, once the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom.
Upon arrival in Chiang Mai, we went on the hunt for the famous Khao Soi, a specialty of the region. It is a Burmese-influenced dish, but instead of using rice noodles, our bowl was filled with crispy egg noodles... not that I'm complaining! Appetite sated, a visit to the Doi Suthep temple was in order, before heading back downtown for an afternoon siesta - or in our case, a massage.
When the sun set, we ventured back out into the city in time for the lantern lighting. Hordes and hordes of people (mostly tourists) filled the streets, lighting, carrying and lifting the lanterns high into the sky (or dodging them if it got astray, which was not uncommon). It was the reality version of the scene from Tangled - simply replace the romantic duet with all-rounded chaos and hullaballoo... you get the idea.
We ducked into a temple to escape from the noise and risk of getting hit by a paper lantern already ablaze, and it was as if we had stepped into another world. There were lights floating on the water, lights hanging from the trees and lights floating in the sky... it was absolutely breathtaking.
Work aside, my brother and sister-in-law are now living in HK with their hyperactive maltese, Caesar, and I was able to spend a couple of days over the weekend couch surfing at their apartment, much to Caesar's delight. Getting together in the Kee family always involves eating, eating and well, more eating, and this was no different. From Peking duck, to good ol' fashioned Dim Sum, to Napoli-syle pizza, to fro-yo... it is probably a good thing I don't live in the same country as my brother or we would have a serious problem.
To top it all off, a Seattle friend that I used to work at Taphandles coincidentally was in Hong Kong that same weekend as me. Ryan was en route to China to visit a factory, and through a friend of his, Christian, who works in Hong Kong, we somehow ended up on a junkboat, spending a lazy Sunday afternoon out on the waters by the island. Pure bliss~
I caught the red-eye flight back to Bangkok on Sunday night; arrived Monday at 2am, crashed for 4 hours before heading to work... seems like the best times to be had are always associated with lack of sleep!
Prior to me starting work in Bangkok, I went on a 4-day trip to Bali to visit the compound of John Hardy to better understand the company's dream, their values, and their mission as handcrafted luxury.
Founded by John Hardy, a Canadian designer & artist, in 1975, the company applies new design concepts to Balinese artisanal techniques inspired by nature and ancient East Asian art styles and themes, creating luxurious pieces that are not only intricately made, but detailed in the story that goes behind each item.
The compound in Bali is not only the design centre, it also serves as a living and gathering space with an organic farm and low impact buildings. One of the company's biggest focus is to be environmentally and socially conscious of its carbon footprint - the ultimate goal being to become carbon neutral.
As I explored Bali, I did not realise how much it had to offer in terms of culture, heritage and tradition, and returned back to Bangkok truly inspired, ready to begin applying all that I saw into jewellery!
Post-graduation was a time of both relaxation and frustration as my job-hunt began, and I went through the application process of interviews and mini-projects.
But persistence paid off, and I received a job offer from Taphandles, a Seattle-based company that develops and designs brands, merchandise and yes, taphandles, for breweries worldwide. Without hesitation, I jumped on the first flight out from the east coast, to the west, and started work the very next day.
Moving out to Seattle has been a wonderful transition. The people from work are fun, easy-going and we get along well. The projects are fast-paced and keep me on my toes, which guarantees I'm never bored. The weather has been beautiful of late, although I've constantly been told it won't last long.
And so begins a new chapter in my life! An added bonus being that I've started climbing again... blistered hands have never felt so good :)