#2091 | a stream of consciousness aboard the cx635

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Hey guys,

So I want to tell you guys about that time I got upgraded at the gate for a flight, which was approximately two hours ago. I always find that I feel the immense need to write about my air journeys and possibly it’s because of the bubbly solitude of flights that creates more space in my head to fill with thoughts and random observations which sometimes includes the throwaway musing that actually i am the most talkative person in the world, except usually 90% of it sits in my cranium and doesn’t leak down to my mouth. And that was a thought that also occured to me today as I was sipping on my house red wine in premium economy which was chilled although red wine shouldn’t really be chilled, but which was very sweet anyway because it had been enhanced with the delicious knowledge that it was premium economy wine which i had done absolutely nothing to deserve but was being given anyway.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was walking to the gate in a sort of grumpy mood because our flight had been delayed and the grumpiness was equal parts because it had been delayed and because i was not surprised that it had. Indeed, I have taken more delayed than undelayed flights on Cathay, for a Cathay flight to be delayed has become sort of routine. In fact, the last time I was in hong kong, the flight home was cancelled and it was because they had misplaced their aircraft and it never arrived. So I had to stay in the airport hotel unable to sleep because I was anxious about being bumped to the morning flight which of course led to me oversleeping and almost missing my morning flight. Also, when I was 18, I had taken a Cathay flight which had been delayed five hours because there had been a security threat on board and they had to get the police to come escort him off and this was right after I had seen a documentary on 911 so it was very dramatic and I was sure that would have been the end of me. Which it wasnt, but all this is to say that my impression of Cathay Pacific has been less than stellar.

I thought about whether to include that whole spiel as it seems ungrateful to rag on an airline that had upgraded (spoiler!) me to premium economy but then I thought, it’s all true what I feel about cathay and anyway even people can do both great and annoying things, what more airplane carriers. So they’d not be mutually exclusive. Anyway as I appraoched the gate and scanned my boarding pass, the machine emitted an alarming bleep and the stewardess took my passport and struck out my pass and gave me another one. And I couldnt help noticing that the new boarding pass she gave me had been pre printed already and was lying on the gate counter so this all seemed very premeditated.

why are you giving me a new pass? I asked her, and she was all like, so your seat has been changed. And this made me even grumpier because it seemed to me evidence of an overbooked flight, but then she raised her very perfectly manicured eyebrow and pointed at my new boarding pass which now said premium economy and suddenly all my grumpy feelings evaporated from my being and floated up to who knows where.

!!!

It seems prudent to contextualise my excitement: being randomly upgraded has always been one of my life dreams. People dream of buying cars and houses, but not I. I just want to be the subject of a random airline upgrade and also to watch Sierra Boggess and Ramin Karimloo do the live duet from The Point of No Return at least once in my lifetime. The second will never happen it seems, since Sierra has gone on to greater things, and who knows where Ramin is now, probably fronting Jesus Christ Superstar on some stage in Osaka. And the first has stubbornly refused to happen. Until now.

I have been upgraded once, just once before. This happened on ANA on the way back from Tokyo some years ago, where I’d been sent for work. My sister had come along with me on that trip, and the system hadn’t registered that we were passengers so it had given our seats away. The woman at the counter had looked very stressed about this and apologised so many times, she was the picture of Japanese Anxiety which if you’ve read Amelie Nothomb’s Fear and Trembling you’ll know exactly what I mean. Her anxiety was creating anxiety in me so to calm her down I pretended to be ~super calm~ and I said: please dont worry about it at all to which she said I’m SO SORRY and I said dont worry please and we seemed to be caught in this endless loop of mutual reassurance until she went aha! and put us on Premium Economy. And I was so excited I wanted to pee myself. She seemed really pleased to have found a solution too. In fact the only person who didn’t seem pleased was my sister who didnt understand how significant this was for me, to have been upgraded, even if it weren’t a random upgrade but rather, a sort of very luxurious apology for a minor inconveneince. She just went, so it’s like the same, but with bigger seats? which made me wonder seriously how we could have been related at all.

But no, this was my first time being truly randomly upgraded and I felt the very precient click of things falling into place and my life dreams being held gently and allowed to take flight. I got to my seat and there was so much space in it I could actually cross my legs and read my book quite comfortably. And of course, there was this wonderful sunset throwing golden dusty light into the cabin and it all seemed very cinematic and beautiful.

Because I was so excitable I spent a lot of time poking around which greatly annoyed the lady next to me who had obviously paid actual money to be there. I guess my behavior was what you’d associate with someone who’s soul truly belongs in Economy. I made my chair go up and down and messed with the drink holder and asked for blankets and water and looked through all the movie selections even though I dont watch movies on flights. I was a little bit too obvious staring at my row mate’s tv screen because she spent an hour watching the advertisement for the Hong Kong Airport over and over again!!!! Instead of an actual movie! Like, lady, you just came from the airport. It was alright. Wait till you see Changi Airport.

Perhaps the most amazing thing even to myself was what transpired when mealtime rolled around. For reasons like nausea and stuff I dont really eat on airplanes, I find it an awful experience. Firstly, motion sickness. Secondly, the food’s always very whatever. Thirdly, if you say yes to a meal, it stays in front of you for hours and they dont take back the tray for what feels like forever and you cant really do anything else with the space being occupied in front of you, not even get up and go to the toilet or reach for your bags, and all you can do is regret saying yes to the meal. But when the stewardess asked me about my meal choice I actually said, without hesitation, that yes I’d like the lobster sauce pasta please, which amazed even me.

It’s funny that they called it lobster sauce pasta because obviously there was nothing in there that was even pretending to be lobster meat, it was just pasta with prawns covered in lobster flavored sauce. But it was delicious. I was doing a lot of thinking while eating, I was thinking things like i cant believe im eating on a plane! and this stuff is delicious! and is this really delicious or am i just thinking it is because I am happy about being upgraded? And I also asked for a glass of red wine and felt very fancy about the whole thing. I finished the pasta even though I wasnt hungry, it felt only right. And then the stewardess gave me some strawberry ice cream and I was like do you have the adult flavors? and she looked at me and she was like, this is the adult flavor. Anyway it was very good.

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Good.

It was so good that as I was eating my meal one of the thoughts that flashed in my head was I should write all these things down before I forget so once they took my tray away I got my laptop out and started tap tap tapping away. So in the present, the present of writing this post, I am actually still in the air, hovering somewhere above Indonesia or Malaysia. I’ve probably ruined dinner for myself but I feel no regret whatsoever. In fact, I think I may have another glass of red. This entire business of sitting in 32A when I belonged in 42C has greatly improved my outlook on the airline, even though (or perhaps especially because) it happened so randomly, with no expectations, no obligations, and probably occured due to a mistake on someone’s part when doling out seat allocations behind a computer screen. And yet it has revealed so much not just about the airline, but about me, to myself. More and more thoughts are bubbling in the forefront of my mind, about the lady next to me, the seat recline, the ingredients in that overwhelmingly orange lobster sauce. But the loudest one is this: how amenable I am, how easily I sway once shown the tiniest bit of kindness. I am perhaps not as firmly rooted in my opinions as I assumed I was before.

X
Jem

#2090 | Shari Shari Kakigori will change your dessert life

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Hong Kong
All photos taken on the Nikon Z6, 35f1.8

Hey guys,

Kakigori is a sort of Japanese shaved ice dessert, in essence the Japanese counterpart to Singapore’s ice kachang, korea’s bingsu. And yet the Japanese do it better. I say this not lightly: Shari Shari Kakigori is, like, life changing.

I tried it for the first time last June when Hong Kong was at the peak of its relentless humidity, and thought it quite magical. I second guessed myself though, I thought possibly that could have been attributed to the consumption of anything cold in that weather. And this year, again, I went back in the dead of winter. Still incredible, and this time, my two girlfriends reflected the delight on my face, confirming Shari Shari as straight up ah-mazing across the board.

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Ahmaaaaazing!

There are several Kakigori stalls around Hong Kong, but Shari Shari is indisputably the best. Shari Shari only has two outlets, one in Central and one in Causeway Bay, and I’ve been to both. They’re both tiny, and there’s always a queue snaking around the outside of the store. The one in Haven Road on Causeway Bay, which is where I’m at this time, is surrounded by other dessert stores, some of which also serve kakigori. But Shari Shari is notably the most popular – the rest are always only half full. Expect to queue for at least half an hour, but know that it’s worth the wait!

Where Singapore’s ice kachang is icy and Korea’s bingsu is packed powder, the Japanese kakigori is fresh snow that melts in your mouth. The ingredients they favor are different too, all sakura and matcha and tea. We went for their best seller, the Earl Grey shaved ice, which comes with mochi on top and milk pudding + peanut powder in the middle. It’s very fluffy – and the earl grey flavor is evenly spread out so you dont end up with a melting puddle of flavorless ice at the end of the affair. And, most importantly, the flavor is delightful. The secret, apparently, is in the water – they claim to import their ice from hokkaido, the water giving the kakigori a cleaner, silkier taste. This also creates the illusion that your dessert is light, guilt-free, and almost healthy, which of course is exactly that: an illusion. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that it’s so damned good. Literally redefining the standards of an ideal dessert, actually.

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Earl Grey Kakigori

Because they’re made to order, each Kakigori’s shelf life is pretty short. There are rules to kakigori enjoyment – you have to finish taking whatever photos you want in 20seconds before it start to melt, you cant divide the mountain of ice into smaller bowls (it ruins the integrity of the ice apparently), and there’s a minimum order of HKD35/perpax. The three of us shared one kakigori and also ordered a delicious chocolate souffle to make the min. order. Everything was excellent.

Other flavors available include Hojicha, Mango, Raspberry, so on and so forth. I tried their seasonal flavors the last time and the Earl Grey this time, and the earl grey is still my favorite. It’s now a staple on my Hong Kong itinerary, and a strong recommendation to anyone headed to HK. And if you’re in Hong Kong over the summer, note this down as a compulsory activity. Stat.

SHARI SHARI KAKIGORI HOUSE ( 氷屋 )
Address: G/F 14 Haven Street,
Causeway Bay Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2529 1223
Opening Hours: 1:00PM – 12:00AM Daily
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShariShari.Kakigori
Direction: 7 mins walk from Exit F1 of Causeway Bay MTR Station.’

or

Address: 47 Staunton St, Central
Hours: Varying, normally about 1-11pm

Prices: Approx 70-80HKD/kakigori⋅

x
Jem

#2089 | Singapore Snack Series – Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim Mee Pok aka The Art of Mee Pok

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All pictures taken on the Nikon Z6, with a 35 f 1.8 lens

Hey guys,

Something I wanted to start doing last year but put off because Reasons (aka work) was to start talking more about the great spots we have back home. I travel so much that I’m always populating my feeds with recommendations for destinations far and wide.. when in reality, Singaporean food is like, the best. Obviously.

Singaporean food is a bit of a culinary convergence of the Straits, with influence from cultures all around the region. We have fantastic dining options from most asian cultures — Chinese, Malay, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc etc etc, which makes eating your way through the Lion City basically the overarching goal around which tourists plan their itinerary. We also have dining situations that cater to vasty varying budgets, from the mega high end to our beloved heartland hawkers. Actually, I’ll do up the breakdown of what kind of dining options we have in a different post as that’s a whole other story, but today, fresh off brunch at one of my favorite meepok stalls, I’m here with the first of my Singapore Snacccccc Series recommendations: Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim Mee Pok, Aka The Art of Mee Pok.

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I’m not bullshitting, it’s in the name

This family run meepok stall sits right outside the Simpang Bedok food area, and is something of a mainstay for Eastsiders. I’m from Anglican High School which is about five minutes walk from here, so Simpang and Bedok 85 Food Market are familiar haunts for me, but even outside the immediate radius of Tanah Merah heartlanders and Anglican Alumni, the entire area is a hit for morning Kopis and late night suppers. It’s also the site of the informal War of the Mee Poks, with three famous meepok stalls triangulating the area – Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim, Ming Fa Fishball and Jalan Tua Kong Ah Lim.

Who knows why you pick one over the other? To be honest, us Azns remain loyal to the stalls our parents grew up loving, and most of us have fond memories of breakfast at Lau Lim with our parents post wet-market shopping. The fab thing about this place is, they don’t just serve (admittedly excellent) meepok. They also serve a bevy of other breakfasty options, which makes it a great place to bring out-of-towners so they can try a whole bunch of traditional Singaporean dishes.

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French toast with Kaya

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Dripping Peanut butter bread

Unsung hero of the hour – the peanut butter bread. The bread they serve here isn’t what they’re known for but it should be. It’s soft and fluffy with the right amount of ‘outside crisp’. The fact that the peanut butter is served warm and dripping just makes it all kinds of amazing.

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Ngoh Hiang – five spice

Ngoh Hiang is new to me, I never had it growing up so I had to google this. It’s a unique Hokkien and Teochew dish originating in China but widely adopted in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. It’s a spiced (not spicy) pork roll wrapped in tofu skin, and it gets its name from the Chinese five spice powder that gives it a unique flavor. You eat it with sweet sauce or chilli. It’s very much a sharing dish, delicious but not really something you can have too much of at one go.

White Carrot Cake

This is new too – they never used to serve carrot cake! This white carrot cake served with their famous spicy chilli is really good, it’s crisp and not too oily. If you have it on its own like i do, it feels less guilty than having regular carrot cake. I can’t take spicy food because I am Weak Asian ™, but everyone else swears it complements the chilli sauce perfectly.

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Mee Pok!!!

And the star of the hour!!! Mee Pok!!!!

The Mee Pok here is served al dente, and you have it with either chilli or ketchup. A small bowl has fish balls, fishcake, lean pork, and minced pork, and the larger bowls have prawns as well. The real star of this bowl is the fish ball – in chinese slang we refer to this as qq, which approximately means squishy or bouncy. Man, singlish is weird. But yeah. It’s immensely satisfying to bite into, and I think this is because the fish balls are handmade, not machine made. Anyone raised on Singaporean food will tell you there’s a marked difference, which is why people devote themselves so religiously to family stalls instead of food court chains. The noodles are super springy too, and the noodle-to-gravy ratio is somehow always perfect, whether you order a big bowl or one with less noodles.

Happy Food Faces:

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This place is literally always crowded, so go early, or expect to queue!

Jalan Tua Kong Lau Lim
306 Bedok Rd, Singapore 469466
Open till 5pm but usually sells out about 4. Go for breakfast.

x
Jem

#2088 | Freelance Fridays – best office gifts for you/ your newly minted tax paying friend

Hey guys,

As I am now easing into my, what, fourth year of freelancing after three years working in Advertising, the ratio of freelance to not freelance years in my life has shifted firmly into the first category. It is the gig economy is what it is. So I’m starting a new series on my blog called Freelance Fridays, where I’ll talk about different aspects of freelance life as and when they come up, and try to field common questions I’ve been getting about work life in general.

Aaaaand obviously the first post is more a generic one for all new working professionals.. not just freelancers. Hmm. Lets try to stick to the topical boundaries next time girl, but since we’ve already begun… Here are some decidedly awesome office gifts for a friend who’s just gotten a new job, a friend who’s just shifted office, or a friend who you just feel like buying something for. In all cases above, that friend can be you. Lets go.

The super practical gift

I work most visibly as a host, which requires a lot of on set time, but when I’m not shooting, about 90% of my work sees me holed up in my office space at The Hive Carpenter. So as someone who works at a desk all day, I can testify that two of the biggest non-job related concerns any deskbound person has is keeping track of their hydration and movement. There have been so many solutions offered up online, like setting an vibrating alarm on your smartwatch to get up and move (which requires a smartwatch that costs hundreds of dollars to begin with anyway), downloading apps that gameify the hydration narration (though I have to admit, Plant Nanny is pretty fun), or purchasing a standing desk/ replacing your office chair with an exercise ball (IDK about you but the asian in me quails at the potential awkward conversations and unnecessary attention this inevitably will trigger). But my absolute favourite solution is to just leverage the God given bladder we all have sitting in the vague regions of our lower abdomen.

A giant water bottle or water canister is my current office desk mainstay. I used to use cups, but getting up and down to refill them gets cumbersome, and it gets easy to forget or brush it aside especially when work gets more intense over the course of the day. The sweet spot, I think, is a bottle which is about 750ml. Fill it up first thing in the morning, and because it’s right there, it’s easy to form the habit of reaching for it everytime you pause your work. Because it’s quite a bit of water, you’ll inevitably have to go pee every hour or so, forcing you to get up and move. Fill your bottle again on the way to/ back from the restroom. Seriously, this problem just solves itself.

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My girlfriend Xiaoqi got me the one pictured here which is my new fav.

This is from Daiso, and you know what that means! TWO DOLLAH! You can get as fancy as you want with the bottle but remember, the most important thing is the volume of water it can hold.

The super luxurious gift

Well, luxurious by my standards. Refer to picture above to behold my absolutely unnecessary obsession – wireless charging. I spoke about this in my 2018 Things I was Impressed By post as well. A wire will perform the same function just as well, but just not as… delightfully? Honestly, I dont know. It’s one of those kind of extra things you dont need but will definitely love. I like the Samsung Fast Charge Stand because it props my phone up so I can quickly see the time/popup notifications and calls. I have a traditional Anker charging pad, but trust me, the experience is significantly different when the phone has to be placed lying flat vs just propped up on a stand. You know, I’ll just call it what it is: it’s varying levels of extra, and I love it, and I’m not even sorry.

The guaranteed hit

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Messy desk situation

My sister bought me this mini desktop aroma diffuser from MINISO for christmas last year after I started burning candles all around our home and my office, and I am absolutely loving it. I’ve kind of had diffusers on my radar for awhile, because my parents have one from MUJI which makes their room smell like a spa, and I’d also bought my boyfriend one of the MUJI ones that he uses quite often. The only thing is, MUJI items are so pricey and I’m just not willing to spend that kind of money on me.

I ended up buying a cheaper one on Lazada, but it’s bulky and lights up blue, which is very odd. And after that I kind of stopped searching for alternatives to Muji and resigned myself to just inhaling deeply whenever I go into my parents room.

Enter the MINISO diffuser! It’s such a cute little size, it’s USB powered, and it makes my desk smell great. The white design is so minimalistic that it can probably blend nicely into any interior style, and the little warm light it emits when active isn’t jarring at all. Diffusers are also such a smart gift because they make future present buying easy. This christmas, a diffuser. Next christmas, a new bottle of essential oils. And because diffusers are just vessels, the gift recipient can just buy whatever scent they like so it’s not like committing to a $100 candle that they may find odd-smelling. In fact, having it on is such a mood elevator, that I cant imagine anyone who wouldnt be happy with this gift. Someone who doesn’t like being happy, perhaps.

The gift with lots of utility

This is another one you can go affordable or high end with, but who doesn’t need a wireless mouse? A good wireless mouse can make a huge difference to your workflow, and it’s just nice not to have to deal with wires and such. Nowadays, most wireless mouse… mice? are also USB charged, which means you don’t have to keep buying new batteries for them.

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Please dont ask me where I got my mousepad from as it was a gift from my boyfriend so I have no idea

Here you have a prime example of high end, low end. My pink wireless mouse is from Taobao, I think I paid $8 for it and have been using it for almost two years now. My black Logitech mouse (the MX Anywhere 2) is far more ergonomic and a joy to use, and depending on where you purchase it, it can cost anywhere from 70 to 100 dollars. Honestly, both are totally functional and I’m happy with both. It’s far preferable to using a wired mouse, and to be honest, in a day and age where you can get a perfectly decent wireless mouse for less than ten bucks, there’s no reason not to switch over.

The slightly indulgent decorative gift

I quite like decorating any sort of space I have ownership over, which explains the state of my desk (a total affront to our darling Marie Kondo, I’m sure). One thing I tend to do is affix post-it notes, printed photos, polaroid pictures, so on and so forth to various parts of my desk. I have a small notice board, two dollars from Daiso, where I pin various memorabilia to, but I also use washi tape to stick pictures to my desk walls. Having one consistent tape color theme gives your desk an overall more coordinated, planned feel, even if the actual items are pretty haphazardly stuck on. Haha. This copper foil washi tape I bought from Lazada for SGD$2 per roll, and I have gold glitter tape from Kikki.k which my friend Martin gave me a few years back as part of a stationery set for Christmas.

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The gift that sugarcoats your workload, because why not?

I’m very much still a pen and paper girl at the end of the day, and although I’d experimented with Stickies (an electronic post-it app for your computer) and the like, I find it easier to keep my mind focused and on top of all the work i have to do when I can see it handwritten in front of me. I use a yearly planner from Starbucks x Moleskine on the go, but instead of flipping back and forth my calendar and to-do page, I have a paper to-do list from TYPO propped up with a clipboard against the side of my desk with a list of things I have to do. I refresh this list every other day or so, and it’s very satisfying to slowly check things off my list as I go along!

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This is what mine looks like. I have a lot of random make up on my desk because I wait till I get to the office to do my make up (my face is too warm after my morning gym session to really apply makeup.)

I got the paper to-do list on sale for $5 (it was one of those year end clearance sales that TYPO often has) and the clipboard was also about $5 from a random shop, which has served me well for almost 7 years now. If you want something fancier, there are many fantastic paper companies that do paper planners, like Kikki.k and Rifle Paper Co. Even brands like Kate Spade have their toes dipped into the stationery business. It can get pricey fast though, and as with all paper products you kind of burn through them quick, so just think about how much youre wiling to spend before going crazy in the planners department.

The gift you never knew you really needed

Let’s cut to the chase: get a foot rest. If youre sitting at your desk for hours and hours, it can really mess with your posture. Besides, the ability to put your feet up gives you an absurdly wonderful feeling. There are so many foot rest options – but what I did was buy a small DIY shelf off Ezbuy for about fifteen dollars, fix it up to about mid-shin height, and install it under my desk. Now throughout the day I can sporadically put my feet up while reading, typing, or just when trying to take a break. It really is all kinds of amazing.


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These are all things that have served me well throughout the last few years of cozy office life, and over half of them were gifts. This is me paying it forward and recommending it to more people – may we all have beautiful, productive workspaces, even when the work itself is driving us insane. Till next time. x

x
Jem

#2087 | Sleeping alone in a foreign city; a love letter to solitude, safety.

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Shoreditch, London

As someone who’s shared not only a room but a bed with two sisters her whole life I can tell you the peculiar feeling of having a room to yourself is a sort of quiet wonder. I was in London for a month and a half during the tail end of 2018, completing my editorial traineeships with Aitken Alexander Associates and 4th Estate Harper Collins London, and during that time formed an intense emotional attachment to my proverbial room of one’s own.

And what of this particular room? A month and a half was too long for any self respecting adult to reasonably impose on a London based friend, and hotels were out of the question (too expensive, too.. cold) and so short term apartment rentals were the way to go. I spent months prior scouring Airbnb for options and eventually settled on a studio apartment in Shoreditch for several reasons – proximity to both my workplaces, familiarity with the area (my best friend used to live on Liverpool Street), box-ticking all my requirements, and also just the fact that I really, really like Shoreditch for its buzzy vibe.

Over the last year in particular I’ve received many variations on the same email, asking how I ensure safety when travelling alone. That’s a post for another day, but here’s a little starter. Even though I’ve written a guide to picking Airbnb listings prior, the requirements obviously shift slightly when you’re travelling as a single woman, so some of the features that were especially important to me were:

double lock: one at the entrance to the building and the other being my actual door
corner room (so it’s harder for me to be followed even if someone else enters the building with me)
first floor room (so only one flight of stairs to tackle with my luggages)
bustling nightlife – I was actually living above a nightclub (so I would never, under any circumstances, be walking home in a totally quiet street)
washer and dryer (so I could do laundry frequently without having to leave my apartment at weird hours unnecessarily)

It was also important to me to have a place with some natural lighting because I’m a tropical plant who flourishes under the sun, much to the chagrin of my dermatologist, so the corner apartment was perfect for me. I rearranged the furniture once I checked in to create a little sunlit corner where I could get my work done, and the amount of love I have for it is kind of ridiculous:

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And thus I was all set! Many mornings I spent having a coffee there before work, shooting off Singapore bound emails, many evenings spent tap tap tapping off the keyboard whilst working on something or the other.

The kind of peace of mind one gets when living alone is unique in how all consuming it is, how it creates a kind of excitement that hums in your belly as you move about your new space. I read 29 books in London and hauled home another 65. With unprecedented space, both physically and mentally, I confronted a lot of work that had to be done. I signed up for two gyms – a 2 week F45 trial (20 pounds/week) a 13 minute walk from my apartment, and BLOK London (100pounds/30day trial), a 5 minute walk – and worked out from 630-730am every morning before work. I bought groceries from the co-op a 5 minute walk away, I cooked the same thing everyday and felt happy to have some kind of routine to hold on to. I set up my chromecast on the wall-mounted TV and used it only once, I set up my google home mini and spent most evenings reading to the background lull of sleep time jazz. I bought candles, I bought flowers (the columbia flower market a fifteen minute walk from me). I existed, happily.

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My queen sized bed (mine, mine, all mine!!) meant I could read on one end and sleep on the other: by the end of the month I was bed-sharing with about twenty books. The small bedside table was incredibly useful (i dont have one at home); I bought a little lavender packet from the flower market and left it there, I perched my night time skincare there on the table, lit a candle before bed each night. Tea, I drank a lot of tea in London. It was edging winter during my time there, so take the fuzzy feeling you get when imagining cozying up with a book with a mug of tea and a candle burning, and triple it.


I mentioned earlier living above a nightclub, which I was fully aware of before touchdown thanks to the multitude of airbnb reviews that you should definitely look at before booking any listing. I wanted to live above a nightclub: on one hand perhaps it provided a romantic grittiness, a sense of being in the hub of a city, on the other, it was a safety-related concern, which I know seems counter intuitive on first glance but actually made sense for me.

Having travelled both alone and in groups, I can confirm that one of the most terrifying things weaved into the female experience when travelling is a quiet walk home.. worse when it’s quiet and dark. I could more or less triangulate the location of my airbnb (they normally dont give you the exact location till you book) and prior to my trip had mapped the possible transport routes (for work, for socialising, for points of interest) outwards. There were two major busstops near my place (Great Eastern Street and Shoreditch High Street) which had brightly lit paths to my apartment, they also serviced so many buses that I could essentially get all around London without having to descend into the tube network more than cursorily if I so chose. This was a huge plus point for me budget wise because buses are significantly cheaper than tube rides, and it adds up. Same goes for tube lines – I was in between Old Street, Shoreditch High Street, and Liverpool Street stations, and had already determined that the paths from all of them to my apartment were main streets. Obviously nothing would guarantee safety, but all one can do is minimise opportunities for danger. Being a bit of an obsessive planner myself, these were all things I sorted compulsively before my trip, despite the slightly ditzy aura I know I carry with my person, leading to perpetual looks of surprise whenever I unfold my pre-travel mind maps..

The fact that I was above a nightclub (with another three or so in the area) meant it would always be noisy because in my experience, the concept of a weeknight has no bearing on a Londoner’s capacity to get turnt. This meant I would never have to walk home alone, there would always be security personnel outside the clubs (which is something people dont think about, ever), and even though I might have to sidestep vomit more often than I’d like, if anything serious ever happened, the sisterhood of tipsy partygoers would probably always come to my aid.

So at night: the chorus of partygoers formed my white noise, in the day: I got into podcasts, especially after discovering they could be casted to my Google Home. I listened to countless podcast episodes whilst making breakfasts and dinners, and then happily settled down to eat with a book.

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ingredients, tea, home made lemon water

It was a nice surprise that my studio came with an oven in addition to a microwave, washer, and stovetop, meaning I could bake salmon without having the smell linger in the room for days afterwards. I remembered thinking that this place was so perfect for one, and I remember with some embarrassment how I congratulated myself heartily on having located this place.

Really, there was very little of the studio that I think I could have improved upon. It was essentially self sufficient, meaning I was never forced out by necessity, and each time I had to leave it was because of something I chose to do – go to the gym, to work, grocery shopping, to catch a musical. Amenity wise I think it had all a girl would need in a tiny, compact space – a huge wardrobe with ample drawers, a mini couch for pre-shower eveningtimes, lots of power points, fast wifi, a very space efficient toilet.

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cold weather favs: laneige’s water bank series, elizabeth arden’s probiotic and retinol series, and the supergoop sunscreen which i now swear by!

(I’d always wanted one of those toilet cabinets that hide things behind a mirror!)

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And of course, also how damn well located it was.

Perhaps the most unexpected yet amusing part of my life above a nightclub were the one sided conversations I partook in, the fly on the wall persona I adopted. In the middle of the night (usually thursdays or saturdays), fragments of conversation would waft up to me in my half-asleep state. Once I heard a girl scream she’s not interested you asshole which made me smile because girls backing girls will always make me smile. Another time: Nah, man, I’m not tired, are you tired, which was so clearly a lie. Once a fight broke out downstairs and I rushed to my window to peep through the blinds, it was a lot of posturing on the streets, like a cockfight that attempted to impress the girls looking horrified. But my favourite was the one time I woke up to the distraught sounds of an alcohol addled voice: I wanna call him man, I wanna call him and the responding chorus no girl – take her phone – what’s her passcode – dont give it back – give it back!

Lying in bed, I shook my head, half smiled, and said: Don’t call him, girl.

No one heard me. I went back to sleep.

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x
Jem