#2103 | An airplane is a stateless place

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In the air, the best and worst of people surface. Shoes come off and toes are splayed. 32,000 feet above sea level, people don’t believe that they are bound to the authority of any land, and it shows. Does the person in front of me and really believe I cannot see him pick his nose and wipe it on the plush of the airplane seat, I don’t know. I turn to the window, wanting to nap, but someone’s toes are propped up, wedged between the tall edge of my seat and the airplane wall. In the air, I am almost a person who can poke at these oblivious toes with a pen, nudge them hard off the seat so they go back to their rightful place on the floor and not beside my face. But I don’t. I pull a book out of my bag and read instead.

The first meal is served as we’re passing over Puerto Princesa. There is always a queue for the restroom after the meals are served. Meals on board are curious – you see people tell themselves carbs don’t count while in the air while they scarfe down mediocre pasta, you see people drink too much because it’s free. And then there’s the queue for the restroom. People standing around in close proximity pretending the other doesn’t exist, which is fine, I guess, and then I see a kid trying to pry open the door to the crew quarters. I think: people behave so badly in the air. But maybe kids dont have a sense of personal boundaries even when they’re grounded.

I end up sleeping after all. I am woken by a bumpy landing and find myself in Taipei. For a moment we are both in a new state and not, half bound still by the communal bubble of stale airplane air. The seat belt sign is still on and the plane is still moving when a man stands and starts pulling his bag out of the overhead compartment. Immediately the stewardesses erupt into a chorus of Kindly sit down sir Please sit down Kindly but they are still belted to their crew landing positions and don’t (can’t?) get up. The man, incredibly, acts like he cannot hear them. The hint of a pause doesn’t even register in his movements, he continues yanking things from above, duty free shopping bags and the like. The refrain from the stewardesses continue. He stays vertical. Kindly sit down please be seated kindly kindly kindly. We all stare. Then the plane grinds to a halt and although the seat belt signs are still lit, more people get up. Kindly sit down please please. You have to give it to the stewardesses for persevering in the face of such humiliation. They keep on going until the seat belt sign clicks off and then they have to get up and help. You really have to give it to them. For smiling and nodding at each passenger as we disembark, despite their in flight authority being completely and publically dismissed. I absentmindedly nod goodbye to the one closest to me. Thank you see you again thank you for flying with us.

Later on I see the same man who started it all stride out of immigration, brimming, and kiss his wife hello in the arrival hall. It’s the kiss of confidence and for a hot minute you can kind of see how he’d have charmed her back in the day. In that moment I feel communal in this charm. I walk past them and think to myself how an airplane is a stateless place.

x
Jem

#2096 | Tales from Tokyo: Snack city

Heya guys,

Just a log of the different things I snacked on in Tokyo. Seriously that place is just full of wonder! You can also read my post on weird things I consumed in Tokyo’s vending machine/conveneince stores here.
Remember – the trick to trying a lot of different things is to SHARE EVERYTHING! Otherwise you’ll be full by 1pm and that’s it for the day.

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These mozzarella cheese sticks from Lotteria are the real MVP. They’re only like a dollar each or something, I cant remember, and come in a pair. Super yummy if you’re a cheese fan. Just look at that cheese pull! Mmmmmm.

You have to specifically ask for the cheese sticks. Because if you randomly point at anything that LOOKS like a cheese stick, you might end up with a chicken nugget instead, which to be fair, is pretty damned good too…

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Chicken nugget? Chicken finger? I dunno what this is. But it’s really amazing. Japanese nuggets are really better – though I’d always though Lotteria was a korean chain, thanks to Lotte world in Seoul. It was only when I googled it that I realised it’s actually originated from Shinjuku?? And even funnier – the wikipedia page throws a heckload of shade on McDonalds because it says that Lotteria invented the shrimp burger which MCD COPIED. HAHAHAH. Hilarious.

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Pablo’s cheese tarts! The original cheese tarts I think. Its my fourth time in Japan but first time trying the tarts because the queues are always so damned long. But for some reason it was super empty this time – maybe it was the hour that i went? The Pablo cafe in the tiny streets of Harajuku is a really pretty one too, all wood and natural light. But we’re not here to talk about interior design.

The three tarts I tried were matcha, original, and chocolate. Matcha was the best of the lot, really impressive although I’m not the hugest matcha fan! Original wasn’t too bad too. Chocolate was just.. chocolatey.

And don’t bother with the shakes. This is banana chocolate which I would NEVER order on my own cos it sounds way sweet, but my sister bought it and immediately regretted it. So super sweet.

I tried the Hokkaido BAKE cheese tarts in Tokyo too, out of this stand at the Shinjuku train station, but didn’t take a picture of it. Not bad! But wouldnt queue an hour for it, thats a bit nuts i think.

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I don’t think this is really considered a snack but Sushizanmai is open 24 hours and there is one smack in the middle of Shibuya! So if you have a midnight sushi craving…

When in Sushizanmai, order the Chutoro. Don’t ask, just do it. That shit it amazing. It melts in your mouth like butter. I got the tuna set (five types of tuna) and although everything was good, I actually whimpered when I tried the Chutoro. Then I went back and ordered another four more because I couldn’t get over it. SO AMAZING. SO AMAZING!!!!

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This is the 100YEN egg stick that I love to get form Tsukiji market! You can get it near the entrance of the market, and you’ll know which it is cos its at the corner of a line of shops and theres a whole set up where they’re flipping eggs in front of you.

This is the sushi egg that you get, tamago, but on a stick. You can get it plain or with toppings, but I always get it plain because it’s fantastic just the way it is!

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Quite like this coffee. It’s from this little stand in Shinjuku, part of the BEAMS TOKYO department store. Their specialised coffee sells out pretty quick though, but after that sells out you can still get regular coffee.

Doesn’t hurt that the packaging is so pretty!

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I also always try the seasonal starbucks flavours whenever I’m in Japan because somehow they always get all the cool flavours that we don’t get anywhere else. Here’s the cherry pie frap – it was pretty yum, especially if you like cherry. It comes with this crusty top as well. But the cream tea frap (which isn’t a japan exclusive) was better – just more caffeine, I guess. I’m still a coffee girl at the end of the day so my favourite thing to get at Starbucks is the cold brew. It follows that all flavoured drinks gain favour with me if I can taste the coffee in it. x

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And obviously, onigiri. I love all Japanese onigiris cos the rice they use is so damned fresh and yum! Love. Tuna is still my favourite because I’m super basic but other than that I quite like the fried rice variant and the ones with eggs in the middle heh.

Ok thats it for now. More to come!

x
Jem

#2092 | #JemmaRecommends live in Changi Airport Times Bookstores

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Hey guys,

So this is something that’s been in the works for ages now, and something that’s very close to my heart. A year ago, after I was named as the Changi Airport social media ambassador, I pitched a passion project to Changi Airport Group that revolved around my two big loves – reading and travelling. I’m someone who travels a lot, both for work and leisure, and it is both a blessing and a privilege. Much of who I am today has been influenced both by the places I’ve been to (hence: the cultures I’ve been exposed to, the conversations with people halfway across the world that help shape my understanding that there is no one way to see a subject) and by the books I’ve read (for who’s first trip wasn’t through the mesmerising turn of the page?).

The one big thing both books and travel have in common is the ability to afford us perspective and subsequently, empathy, for the world that extends beyond the confines of our individual being. This empathy is ever more crucial in today’s world – a world that is quick to condemn and point fingers, a world that is quick to dismiss another person as wrong and thus, erase everything they are trying to say as irrelevant. No. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt, growing up, it’s that the black and white of our childhood rarely remains so clearly demarcated. There is a heck load of grey, and there are two sides to any given issue – often, more than two. In a world that has become so far extreme, it is a good thing to learn that two opposing ideals can co-exist and each be valid and justified without completely erasing the other. It helps us see people who are different from us as an individual, not a statistic. This thing? It is called balance. And it is a balance that springs up from empathy.

And so with this in mind, the project pitched to Changi Airport and their tenant, Times Bookstores, had one clear goal – to recommend books to readers, browsers, and travellers that would bring them places, not just physically, but in terms of perspective and ideas. Thus the #jemmarecommends shelf was born (a play on Changi’s existing Changi Recommends service).

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With my Jemma Recommends shelf in one of the Times Travel stores in Changi Airport

The airport made perfect sense for this collaboration – airports have always been a place of transit, a place where we long to go somewhere new, find out new things about ourselves and the world, and I wanted my little shelf to reflect that same sentiment as well. Changi Airport, in particular, has always been one to push boundaries and outdo itself – I mean, what other airport in the world has drawn such love from their local community that entire families go to the airport as a family outing for dinner or to play? I myself grew up at the airport, long before I started to travel, spending hours each weekend studying in their cafes or public areas – in fact, one of my earliest childhood memories involve my parents taking me there as a treat to watch planes take off and have Swensens ice cream. The point is, Singaporeans love Changi Airport, and it is not a love that is taken for granted – the Changi of my childhood and the Changi of my now is so vastly different, it is often hard to imagine how it can improve further from here on. But it does, and continually impresses us.

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The point of bringing that up wasnt to debate the varied joys of Changi’s many innovations (sunflower garden?? Raindrop installation?? Butterfly garden??) but to illustrate the kind of spirit Changi has always espoused – one that is always changing, innovating, and cementing its place as a leader in the travel industry. It is equal parts my project pitch and that spirit that allowed for the birth of this collaboration. I will tell you first hand that it is incredibly difficult to pitch new ideas that have not been tried and tested by other markets to any big brand, especially multi billion dollar corporations like so. People like to err on the safe side, and as a freelancer, I am perpetually trying to convince my clients to try new things. If you don’t try new things, I argue, you’re always going to be following behind other brands. It is an argument that has had moderate success. But Changi’s ethos of perpetual innovation has allowed for this collaboration to happen, because they could understand the benefits of trying something that had no quantifiable precedence, and it is a hopeful sign to me that this will pave the way for more meaningful collaborations in time to come 🙂

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My shelf in one of the Relay stores, part of the TIMES family

As you all know, books have been my life since I was sentient, and I really hope to bring the joy of reading to all of you – not just joy, but new ideas, world views, and a better understanding of privilege and empathy. After multiple rounds of curation and discussion with Changi and Times Bookstores, we soft-launched our travel shelf at the end of last year, with ten books segregated by long and short haul flight recommendations. The ten books were books that not only inspired me, but that I deem culturally significant, and at a very basic level, are ten damned good books purely in terms of writing, style, and storytelling. Times Bookstores has been an invaluable part of this process, not just in the obvious way of being the bookstore involved in the collaboration, but also in helping me understand so much about how the publishing industry works, and being available for me to bounce ideas off for curation. Which brings me to the next part..

Earlier this year, Times proposed a new element to phase two of our collaboration – stickering the books with our #JemmaRecommends label. This not only allows us to recommend more books than one shelf can hold, it’s also a really nice way for people to immediately identify the recommended titles around the stores in Changi.

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The stickers are designed by my talented friend Warren Tey, who is kind of like a superstar in the graphic design world ◡̈

Now, obviously logistics dictate that we can’t sticker every book that I recommend because then firstly we will not have enough stickers and secondly what if people want to buy books that dont have stickers on them? So what we did was sticker selected titles from within my recommended list (trust me, that list goes on and on and on…) in each Times Travel/Relay bookstore, and so the recommended books vary from bookstore to bookstore but they’re all still good reads. So the next time you’re in Changi airport, try to spot the stickered titles in each store! 🙂 And the shelves are still live in one bookstore per terminal, which you can visit if you’d like to see a bigger selection of recommendations.

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As you can tell, I’m very proud of my shelf..

I have also been extremely heartened by the response to the shelf so far. Besides the news coverage we’ve received, I’m perpetually getting little dings on my phone notifying me that a new person has visited the shelf and uploaded a picture of it on instagram stories or snapchat, and people have been emailing me about the book recommendations, taking it upon themselves to either recommend me more books or giving me their reviews of the books i’ve recommended. It’s been amazing.

So thank you, guys.

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And thank you, Changi Airport and Times.

To the rest of you – we will be continually updating the recommended list of books (honestly, i dont think I’ve gone through so many books so quickly in my life… so, so many) and as always, I welcome your suggestions. And one more thing – if you enjoy the books, if you like the idea of these collaborations – please buy the books. Collaborations like these are difficult to implement and even more difficult to justify because they are not traditional campaigns which are sales driven or meant to highlight a particular marketing imperative. I think it is obvious that this is a passion project on all ends – but we have come to a point, I believe, where collaborations with social media personalities need to go beyond just telling you what the best lipstick to buy is (though girl, we all know we love our lipsticks). And many people are happy to stay with the existing mode of collaborations, which makes it very difficult to push the boundaries towards collaborations which may not be the most sales-driven, but weigh in heavily on being more meaningful. So when you purchase a book from the collaboration, what youre signalling to everyone is that you support the messaging and idea behind the entire collaborations. I think it is as good a time as any to clarify that I dont earn a cent from this collaboration – that all the time and effort put in curating, reading, curating, promoting the books collaboration is purely of my own volition. But if you would like to see more collaborations of this kind, not just from me but throughout the industry, you enable the industry taking a small step in this direction by buying the books. You enable it by creating chatter around the collaboration, by always showing me and people around you that you are interested in seeing content like this. And you force everyone – brands, influencers, the industry – to step it up.

Thanks again guys, for reading, generally, and then specifically here. I’ll see you at the turn of the page. x

x
Jem

#2091 | Tales from Tokyo – All the weird things I consumed in Tokyo Convenience Stores

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To be precise, Tokyo Convenience stores AND vending machines. But the title was getting too long.

Tokyo is so well known for its convenience stores, which are amazing, but it’s my fourth trip to Japan this time round and I still haven’t tried most of the offerings instore because I don’t understand them. So I thought I would start a log of my trip eats from the stores…

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Refreshing and zero calories. Tastes just like what it says – jasmine tea, with a slightly flowery aftertaste thats not unpleasant.
Would recommend if you want to try something new but you don’t want to take in additional sugars. I felt very healthy drinking this HAHA.

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Really good. Sour and refreshing. Made in Hong Kong tho, dunno if it counts as a Japan eat?

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Good stuff because I love eggs. The egg was actually still runny, which was incredible to me! The rice was pretty flavourful too. Would recommend this.

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My number one favourite thing to get from convenience stores in Japan. Buy to eat alone or pop in your instant ramen. You can get onsen eggs, japanese ramen eggs, etcetera etcetera.

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Just tastes like lemon tea. The best thing about this was the packaging.

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STAY AWAY FROM THIS. WORST DRINK IN THE WORLD. I TEARED UP.

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Ippudo Instant Ramen! Probably the best instant noodles you will eat in your life. This is a Japan 7-11 exclusive, so you cant get it at Family Mart or Lawsons. Would definitely recommend. They have this in box form which is easier to bring home in your luggage, but TBH this individually packed one is significantly better.

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Very underwhelming. Just tastes like sliced cheese. Would recommend buying to pop in your noodle pot when cooking, so the cheese melts over your noodles and you get cheesy ramen. Mmmmmmm…

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I really like this milk tea. It’s not too sweet, you can taste the brewed leaves, and it has a weirdly floral aftertaste which isn’t bad.

Alright, that’s it.

I told y’all it be a straightforward post. More to come!
x
Jem

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#2087 | Mel’s Bali Engagement :)

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Hey guys,

So I was in Bali in end-April for Mel’s engagement party, which I keep accidentally saying is her wedding. The thing about Singaporean weddings, I think, is that they’re such a huge affair that it becomes pretty hard to have quality time with the bride and groom, and it is based on this rationale that Mel decided to throw a much smaller scale engagement party for family and close friends. 🙂

My first time attending a destination wedding – sorry, engagement party/ wedding related activity – and so I was visibly excited at everything going down!! The party was held on this cliffside villa, and it felt like everything was coming together just for this one night – the most perfect sunset of our entire trip we witnessed there, and not gonna lie, it felt like it happened specifically for her engagement. It also rained half the nights we were in Bali, but the weather was perfect that night. 🙂 🙂 🙂 All the smiley faces because what the hell it was amazing!

Here’s my date for the night:

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Amanda wong everybody. Don’t know why she pretends she’s so normal on her instagram when actually she’s the craziest of the lot.

Anyway we kind of hung around upstairs waiting for the party to officially start. We were kinda early cos we expected the Bali jam to be insane but traffic was surprisingly smooth sailing (see above re: perfect conditions). So we arrived when the bridal party and co were still getting ready. When everything was done we headed down to the grassy area where the outdoor party was and basically screamed when she came out because LOOK AT THIS!

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I’ve known Mel for about four years now and I’ve legit never seen her so radiant – she was literally beaming. There was this once I did a bridal themed shoot for a local designer, about two years ago, and when I sent the photo to a friend of mine he replied and said that he nearly cried when he saw it.

You crazy ah cry for what it’s just a shoot I’m not really getting married.
DON’T KNOW LAH its very touching okay??
What???
Very touching to see a friend in a wedding gown what NO MEH
You’re mad. Next time dont show you already.

BUT NOW I TOTALLY GET IT. I nearly teared up when I saw Mel walk out! But of course I didn’t because then everyone would laugh at me. I cried later on, when they were doing the speech, and when the sun had set so no one could see me weeping like a lame person. HAHA.

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With Tara who flew in from Aussie for the wedding!

How much u wanna bet flower crowns are going to be the new bridal trend from here on? Hahaha! Anyway. So we were taking a picture together and hugs were being exchanged and in between photos I found myself alone with James, the man of the hour, who I quite like but don’t know as well as Mel because I kind of know him through her. But he is mega sweet and also possibly the happiest guy on earth and the new hero of all nice guys in the world because he has definitively proved that yes, nice guys finish last, as in, the last one because there will be no more guys after him since he’s marrying the girl!! This is something I joke about a lot with him, but it was not really the occasion to be joking around I suppose so when I found us two standing there I couldnt help but blurt out how happy I was for him.


You know
, I said, I dont think I’ve told you this but when I congratulated Mel after you proposed to her, she said she was so happy and it was all she’s ever wanted ..

And he looked like he was about to tear up right there and then. Don’t make me cry! he said, and I was like, damn. Nearly. So close.

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I wanna freak out a bit over the table setting also because I felt like I was legit living in a pinterest board just for one night. These outdoor weddings have never been very possible in Singapore (or perhaps Ive just never been invited to one?!) because of how humid it is, but in the dry crispness of other countries these fairytale like weddings seem totally achievable. Bali isn’t exactly cooling, but they held the party on a cliff so the constant sea breeze was something of a plus. All of us were soaked through by the end of the night regardless, but that was more because of all the wedding dancing than anything else. This was also one of the first times I’ve seen a real benefit in getting a wedding planner because it takes the burden off worrying about the big day and you can just sit back and actually enjoy the day, and let someone else worry about what could go wrong! HAHA. Mel’s wedding planner was from The Bride Story, judging from how well everything went, I think they did a pretty swell job.

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I’m like mega blonde here cos I went swimming in the sea and it washed all my color out. Haha! Oh yeah and wearing a hat cos they gave out His and Hers straw hats as party favors as we walked in. A pretty cute touch!

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First dance at sundown.

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Here you can see how the night got progressively more ratchet. HAHAHAHA. Because she kept the party small – about fifty people – everyone was jumping around and dancing after dinner, and eventually half of us ended up in the pool. It was mega fun!!!! But I think no one had as much fun as the couple themselves – Mel was practically delirious from happiness at the end, she was hugging everyone and making declarations of love. Aint those the best nights. x

So happy for you Mel. Many blessed years to come. x

x
Jem