#2145 | Rollin with the Reindeers

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Nuuksio National Park, Finalnd
All photos taken with the Nikon D750 on a 85f1.8mm lens

Just showing some love to one of my favorite lenses, the 85mm/f1.8 from Nikon. I borrow it occasionally on my travels because it’s such a gorgeous portrait lens. It’s one of those lenses that you dont get to use often because of how tight the crop is, and it’s heavy too, so for much of the trip I carry it around in my bag like a rock, waiting for the chance to bust it out. Often I go days without seeing an opportunity to use it – but when I do get to pull it out, bam. Totally worth it.

We were in Nuuksio National Park one of the days of our Helsinki trip, where we got to feed the roaming reindeers by hand with hay, but were ultimately separated by a wooden gate. It makes sense – you dont want to let random tourists harass the reindeers, I’ve seen terrible examples of what happens when people are allowed to do whatever they want (imagine: a child hanging off the neck of a poor deer in Nara deer park, the mother cooing how cute! and taking pictures instead of disciplining her child). So I respect the need for a barrier, but I did wish I could get closer to the reindeers, especially when they were full of hay and no longer enticed to come near. That’s when I realised – I couldn’t physcially get closer, but my lens could. Out came the 85.

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That shoulder ache i had, carrying the lens around all trip?

Totally worth it.

x
Jem

#2144 | The Broke Student’s sort-of Guide to Christchurch

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Amazing sunset along the streets in Christchurch, taken on my Samsung S9 in Pro mode
All photos in this post were either taken with the Samsung S9 or Note8

Hey guys,

I’m just going to preface this with the disclaimer that Christchurch was a solo trip for me that I wanted to do totally on my own – meaning not just a solitary trip, but one without the trappings of (admittedly self imposed) obligations to my web platforms. That’s why I didn’t bring a camera on the trip – I wasnt expecting to take photos for anything other than keepsake so a phone would do (though come to think of it the ones that my phone takes are actually very good) and I also didnt consciously plan to pen any guides or anything like that on the trip. All that is to say that if this seems a little sparse compared to my normal BSGs, forgive me. I didn’t plan for this! Something i also say when my phone runs out of battery when i’m out and about, but nevermind. Think of this, then, more as notes from a broke student rather than a full on guide. Alright? Alright, then we are aligned, and without the pressure of expectations, here I go.

Getting to Christchurch

Most people will see Christchurch as sort of an entry point to the South Island of New Zealand, which is one of the most beautiful regions in the world, I think, if you’re a scenery sort of person. Consequently most people dont stay for more than a couple of days in the city – they’re trying to get to the mountains, the lakes, the gorgeous Milford Sound. I had no car and the purpose of my trip wasnt really to see scenery, so I was happy to stay based in Christchurch. But either way, Christchurch serves as a gateway, and one where you’ll probably want to stay a night or two to stock up on groceries and stuff before moving on.

Flying into Christchurch International Airport is easy enough – Singapore has a few carriers that fly that route, though most of them feature a stopover somewhere. I did my stopover in Brisbane via Qantas. (A mild digression: Qantas has surprisingly good in-flight entertainment options – not a huge movie library, but very curated, very recent. I flew in early March and already The Shape of Water and Red Sparrow on the movie list, both of which had just been released in Singapore cinemas)

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movie selection on qantas. super recent releases!

If you book a couple of months in advance it should be easy to get an economy flight for about a thousand singapore dollars, and there’s also the budget carrier Jetstar that goes to NZ. I think its currently the only budget carrier that does that route.

A note if youre flying out of Christchurch as well – if you have an early morning flight, it’s good to know that unlike most major airports, the Chirstchurch airport does not allow sleeping overnight. You’re going to have to get there at 3am in the morning the normal way, like by taxi or shuttle or something. Which brings me to my next point:

Getting to and fro the Christchurch Airport

Christchurch is (I ran a search) the most expensive city in the world for airport taxi transfers. Seriously. The city center is about 20 minutes drive from the airport and that’s a cool 60-70 bucks and beyond. I nearly choked blood when I saw it – I have disposable income now but the broke student in me refuses to pay for that purely based on principle. That was ok going from Christchurch to the city center when I arrived – there are a number of buses that take you to the city, and it’s NZ8.50 cash or NZ2.50 if you’ve got a Metro card.

It’s getting from the city to the airport thats the problem.

If you’ve got a midday or night flight, you dont have anything to worry about since the airport bus will probably still be running. But my flight was 650am, meaning i had to get there at 450am, and no buses are running. Uber is new in CC so there were NO UBERS on the road at that time also – I had a heads up because a few days into my trip, two japanese girls started knocking on my door at 3am in panic because they had assumed they could get an uber to the airport and freaked out when they realised there were none available. I didn’t want to risk waiting on an Uber after that, and I refused to pay for a taxi, so I started looking for other options.

I finally settled on a shared shuttle service. A shuttle (which most major cities have) is a shared minivan or private bus that you pre book, and they come pick you up on the way to the airport. I didnt dare take it before because I’ve heard so many bad things about shuttle services, like how they run late because there are so many people to pick, theyre uncomfortable and stuffy, they dont show up, etc.. so I figured i just had to find a good one. I found a small boutique one called Steve’s Shuttles which was a small company with mainly 5 star reviews on facebook. I felt safer going with a small / boutique company because I felt bigger organizations (like supershuttle) would be prone to inefficiency or messing up, and also cos Steve’s Shuttle had a free phone number I could call up, and I thought the dude on the phone sounded like a decent bloke. Yes I judge people based on their voice tonality!! It’s a side effect of being a choirgirl. Anyway, tt cost me $25 bucks cash, and the shuttle came exactly at 4am to pick me up from my door! Score!! Super happy with this, would definitely recommend. Here’s the link if youre keen: http://www.steveshuttle.co.nz/

Also, plan to get to the airport early. Both the Christchurch and Brisbane airports I passed through were crowded despite the odd hours I kept. The Brisbane airport was also very inefficient in it’s security checks with only one line open both times I phased through, so you might want to make sure your connecting flights arent too close together.

Data/ SIM cards

There are service provider booths just by the airport gates. I went with Spark’s data lover bundle, meaning no calls or texts, but 4.5GB of data with an additional 1GB for purely social data (FB and the like). It was great. NZ40! Connection was super good and never dropped. There was also a 1.5GB option for 20 bucks but .. the math didnt compute. Haha.

If youre travelling solo you probably want to look at getting a Sim card. Otherwise, if youre in a group of 3 and above, a wifi egg might be more worth it, depending on the duration of your trip. Do the sums on your own based on your trip!

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basically took a lot of selfies on the trip because i was alone

Accommodation in Christchurch

There are lots of hostels in Christchurch but I think getting an Airbnb is the best option AND ITS NOT BECAUSE I WORK WITH THEM OK.

A bed in a mixed dorm is anywhere from NZ25 to NZ50. Which means you share a bunk bed with like five to eight other strangers, male and female. I’ve done this a lot, and while I’m happy to stay in hostels, the prices of airbnbs in Christchurch give hostels a total run for their money. I paid SGD26.8 per night for a private room in an Airbnb, which is basically the price of the cheapest hostel bed in a shared dorm. NO BRAINER. I didnt take photos because I was living in someone’s house and didnt think it was very nice for privacy reasons, but just run a search on Airbnb if youre coming to Christchurch, it’s a very good alternative to hostels!

If you’re a first time Airbnb user kindly sign up with my link so I get referral credit and can do more budget solo trips and bring you more broke student guides thank you! Airbnb.com/Jemma

Transport in Christchurch

There are no trains in Christchurch. I know, right? Weird. But they do have a very extensive bus system which is not very reliable nor on time, but at least it tries. That’s the theme of the city i think, because it’s still finding its feet after the earthquakes. But anyway, the bus system is called the Metro, and I took it everywhere.

The metro card is a non refundable ten bucks and this is where you need to decide whether it’s worth it for you. If you pay cash on the bus it’s NZ4. If you use the metro card, it’s NZ2.50 valid for 2 hours (So if you get off and do groceries and take a bus back within 2 hours its free), and total limit for one day is NZ5, so max you pay is NZ5 a day anyway. The bus network extends pretty far out though, and I took the bus to neighbouring towns/beaches/ports just to look see, all for NZ2.50 a trip.

This made a lot of sense for me because I was in Christchurch for 10 days, so the number of times I would take the bus (and thus the discounts I would have via the bus card) was enough to justify the 10 bucks spent on the nonrefundable card. If youre only in town for one or two days, it may not be worth it. Do the math on your end. For reference, I spent NZ10 on the card, and topped up a total of NZ30, which I used to the last penny. Then I gave the empty card to my airbnb host so other guests can top it up and use it in the future, because I am a good person. That is all.

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Some seagulls i saw when taking the bus around to the beaches out of the city

Food in Christchurch

I spent a lot of time in Auckland as a kid because my dad’s a pastor and our founding church is Emmanuel Church in New Zealand. In addition to that, in recent years, my family did a trip to NZ again – both north and south island, to visit family friends and the such. So it is from experience that I confess: food is really not New Zealand’s strong point, and it’s expensive to boot.

You’d be much better off cooking, because groceries are decently priced and fresh because they have their own produce. That’s another benefit to staying in an Airbnb – you might have access to cooking pans, oil, spices, etc, that your host lets you use, whereas in a hostel you might need to buy everything. Groceries in New Zealand aren’t cheap either, but at least you get to control the food you make and it’s still way cheaper than eating out. I cooked every single day in Christchurch, and only ate out a couple of times – when I was meeting someone for dinner, and when I felt like having unagi, which I couldnt make. (Samurai Bowl, Christchurch. Cheap for NZ standards and good food. Check it out.)

An example – I bought pork sirloin at the discount section of the grocery store, it was NZ4.50 for 3 slices, and I had it for three days with a fried egg and sautéed kale. GOOD OR WHAT.

Things I cooked:

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I used a lot of kale because it was cheap. Salmon is not cheaper than in SG, but its way fresher, so i was happy to pay for it!

Oh another thing. There are several grocery chains in Christchurch. I went to poke my head in all of them. The cheapest is Pak n Save, followed closely by New World, followed not-so-closely by Fresh Choice.

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Said Pak n Save

Coffee in Christchurch

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Photos of my coffee lol

Coffee anywhere in NZ is very good and I think this is because their milk is so damned fresh. Cows everywhere. This was my one regular indulgence in Christchurch. Fine. One of two regular indulgences. The second was..

Entertainment in Christchurch

I fell in love with independent movie theater Alice cinemas in Christchurch. It’s a DVD rental store that has been remodelled to fit two theaters, and they screen modern and retro curated films. The whole place is themed like Alice in Wonderland, and you can bring wine into the theater!!!!!

I watched three films there: The Square, Ladybird, and A Fantastic Woman. I didnt know what any of them were before going in, and they were all very good. A good parallel to this is those indie bookstores that stock curated reads as opposed to chain bookstores that stock mass titles.

If you have a student card, it’s NZ12. Otherwise its NZ17 per show. More expensive than Singapore but it’s also not like a regular theater so I guess you’re paying in part for the experience.

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Love this place

Alice Cinemas
209 Tuam St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand

Payment Modes in Christchurch

Oh yes, one last point. I only changed NZD100 for my trip and I had money left over. This is because most places in NZ accept card – not just card, but paywave, so it’s incredibly easy to just use your credit card, especially if you have a travel card with miles tied to your overseas dollar spend. I only used cash for a couple of things:

1. One ice cream cone on the beach
2. Second hand books at some random bookstore
3. Airport transfer
4. Some coffee place that didnt accept card

That’s it! Otherwise most places take card, so you can just keep a bit of cash on you for safety. Otherwise it’s all good.

Okay that’s all I have that is relevant to notes for a guide. Hope this was helpful to anyone gathering notes on a New Zealand trip via Christchurch. 🙂 Goodbye, now.

x
Jem

#2142 | A Weekend at Sea / Genting Dream from Dream Cruises

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On board the Genting Dream

A weekend at sea thawing out after a month of cold. I have to say, my first time on a cruise in what, ten years? was pretty unexpected, and mega fulfilling. I’m not going to say that I nailed the whole how to do a cruise thing best, but I think given the fun we had, I did it pretty damned well. See below for: our recipe for a superb weekend..

– a group that has the capacity to be totally ridiculous
– a willingness to make new friends
– 2-3 day cruise
– ability to source out GOOD DEALZ aka unlimited fine wine, thank you very much!

Lemme elaborate. You see, after my weekend on the Genting Dream, I realised that a cruise holiday is totally different from a normal holiday. When you fly to Phuket for the weekend, for example, you’re looking for a break, yes, but also to see somewhere new, to explore, etcetera. More likely than not you already have an itinerary or something vaguely resembling that. So yes, there is a sense of relaxation, but also a sense of adventure and agenda. Whereas on a cruise, you’re 100% there to relax. The only exploring you’re going to be doing happens within the confines of the (admittedly very large) ship, and there’s really very little that can go off plan when the plan is just to relax. It’s for this same reason that I suggest taking a 2-3 day cruise which can be easily slotted into a weekend – over the 3d2n cruise-to-nowhere we had (literally, the ship sailed out to open waters, then turned around and went back to Singapore), all I did was live my best life at a mega leisurely pace, to the tune of crashing waves and lime-fizzled corona. It was just the right amount of time too, for us to relax and yet disembark at the end of the weekend feeling as though we had not yet exhausted all the permutations of relaxation methods on the ship yet.

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Amanda, our coronas, and meeee

We were invited on a girlfriends weekend aboard the Genting Dream from Dream Cruises, so full disclosure, we didn’t have to pay for our trip (except for expenses, which i’ll talk more about later). I know people who have done full on stag parties on cruise trips, and my last cruise experience (>10 years ago?) was a family vacation, so I think as a vessel for holidaying cruises are pretty versatile. See what I did there? Ha, ha. Anyway, I checked the prices and the two night cruise that we did starts at about 400 bucks per person, although we got a nicer room that had a sea view so that goes up to 600/pp. This price doesn’t seem to be super fixed though, because there’s also a bunch of credit card promos I’ve seen for the ship online prior to my trip, and right now if you sail during your birthday month you get 30% off as well as free wifi for the duration of the cruise. I got all my information from the website, so if you want to double confirm the prices for your dates, check here: dreamcruiseline.com/

Anyway! We boarded, checked in to our room, and did a quick ship tour. After which we were free to explore the place and basically relax. Melissa and James were on the ship too, which was a nice surprise, because that totally played into my theory that group cruise trips are the ideal permutation because you can PLAY PING PONG AND GIANT CHESS TOGETHER! Okay, if you laugh at that, then you obviously havent lounged around in your swimsuit with a beer in hand all afternoon while meditating upon whether to move your Queen or Bishop, okay??

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Checking in to our room

A quick aside regarding our room: I was pretty impressed by how similar it was to a hotel room. It was super spacious, which I guess makes sense given that Dream Cruises brands itself as a luxury cruise. The cruise itself is only about a year old, so everything in our room was very new. I was particularly impressed by the fact that there were two USB charging ports next to each side of the bed, because I am practical about what I need and what I need is power!

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Didn’t need to use the main powerpoint at all – all I needed were the USB ports

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Also, cant believe there was a bath tub in our room?!?!?!

Note: The bathroom’s tap water is drinkable, and there’s a sign telling you so as well. The cruise provides bottled water per day/room, and anything above that is chargeable, so just refill your bottle at the tap if you need.

Okay, so. On to the rest of the ship!

Amanda and I are particularly proud of how we spotted this great deal. Fine, we didn’t spot it, it was pointed out to us by a bartender on one of the decks when we tried to buy a beer. But whatever. Basically, there was a two day drinks pass available which meant that you could have unlimited selected drinks at any of the ship’s many bars, like coffees, teas, juices, soft drinks, any beer, and the super yummy house red and white wines. I mean, score!! There are several tiers of this drink package, but we got the cheapest because all the higher tiers included like whiskey and gin and all that.. and we’re happy with coffee, beer, and wine. Hoho. That’s 70 bucks each for two days of unlimited drinks, and I say with some sense of pride and amusement that we broke even within the first two hours. Everything after that? We counted as profit.

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Cheers!

We were so amused at our own bargain that we started wondering if the ship would raise prices after we disembarked, citing two azn girls who helped them realise how they might be making a loss on drinks.. But at the same time, we were also impressed by how the bartender happily pointed out this deal when he overheard us discussing what drinks to get. It kind of fit in to our later realisation that all the staff on this ship are mega friendly – at least the ones we ran into. Amanda and I made friends with some of the pool staff (who then delayed closing the particular hot tub we were in, hoho) and she even made plans to play ping pong with one of the other deckhands after he knocked off at ten. And speaking of staff – the ship is full of them. There’s literally personnel at every corner, which I suppose is mainly to enforce safety measures and facilitate check in and out processes, since we didn’t have to queue for a single thing the entire weekend. The Singaporeans in us didn’t know what to do with ourselves!

We spent a majority of the first day roaming the ship and watching the live deck band from the hot tub. This is mainly because the ship only started boarding at 4pm, so when we got on there was just over an hour of sunlight left. After checking in and having dinner, we basically went straight to the pool and didn’t move for 2 hours. It was hilarious, actually, because at some point the ship was leaning heavily on the right, and all the water in the pool swished to that side, leaving me sitting on the shallow end of the pool wondering where all the water had gone. The pool staff actually convinced me that they’d been pranking me by pressing some control system, but halfway through I figured out that it was the ship’s movement. NICE TRY!

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Hot tub! Plus there’s a main stage on the deck where a band performs at night, so if you time it right, you could watch them play while in the tub.

Oh – a note on safety. For safety reasons you cant bring alcohol into the pools. And also, the floors around the pool are made of this totally awesome weird material which felt slightly absorbent and bouncy. I couldnt figure out what it was, but amanda and I bounced on it a lot, trying to figure it out. It’s also super anti slip, but the staff are always on hand to wipe up any water so that puddles dont form and lead to accidents. There are seriously a lot of staff, we timed it and if you bring a beer into the tub, you have about two seconds before someone blows a whistle at you. Oh well. At least we know we’re being watched over, safety wise!

After that we headed to the outdoor movie night, which was quite nice – all these day beds in front of a huge screen. However, they were playing Annabel Creation, so after about fifteen minutes we gave up watching and went back to our rooms to turn in. The in-room TV is pretty awesome I think, because unlike in a hotel, it has free movies. The selection isnt huge but I liked the movies that they had on show – the entire harry potter series, some of the star wars films, and I cant really remember what else because I was freaking out over the harry potter and star wars series!! I tried to watch Star Wars Rogue One, but unforch I was too tired from the day of, yknw, relaxing, so I fell asleep. Hoho.

I dont know what to tell you – the next day was spent in a way that can only be described as frolicking in the sun. Perhaps pictures will explain what can only be interpreted one way. See:

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Here i am, just after waking up, enjoying my unlimited white wine on the private pool deck

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Here i am, confidently challenging JamesBabsChen to an hour long game of chess because he said he hadnt played since primary school which led me to be stupidly cocky, when that was actually a MIND GAME and he was actually A PRO! Aka he won, okay, end of story, i dont wanna talk about it anymore

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Here I am, corona in hand, watching Mel and James play ping pong because I have no sense of coordination and so did not deign to try my hand at ping pong. This was pretty funny also because sometimes the ship tilted and the ball rolled off the table, and I did not get up to help, and just sat there and laughed. The life!

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Here is a rock climbing wall, which i did not try because i did not want to go back to my room and put on proper shoes. Anyway, it’s there if you want to try it.

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Here is the ziplining area, which I also did not try, because of above reasons. You need to wear proper shoes for this, and have proper clothes too, the ship personnel are super serious about safety and dont want you to get roper burns or anything. Anyway, this is the first zipline at sea AND part of the 35m zipline goes out of the ship and over the sea so that’s pretty hard core!

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This is Amanda being weird on the sundeck, apparently it gives you a better tan? Who knows.

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Here are the butts of Amanda, Melissa, and I, also known as the super basic I’m on a ship! pose.

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Here I am, being totally extra under the water slides. Again on safety: no jewellery or handphones or go pros or whatever on the water slide, they dont want you to bump it and hurt yourself, and when you get on the slide you will understand why.

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Here is the top view of the ship, which I took from the viewing deck on the 19th floor.

Sorry I just need to also point out that the water slides are intense!! I thought they were for kids because all these children were just flinging themselves down like it was no big deal, but now I realise that is because kids are crazy. There are two types of slides, the longer kind (stripes, on the right) and the shorter ones (solid colours, on the left), and the longer ones actually have a transparent portion that goes out of the ship and over the sea because, yolo, I guess???? And the shorter slides are EXTREMELY STEEP. Look at that purple slide!!! I sat down, looked in, and wanted to chicken out, but couldnt because I did not want to be embarrassed. And then i was like yeah okay, here goes nothing, and pushed off, and gave out a slight oh! squeal, and basically had all the air robbed from me. GOODNESS. THEY SHOULD PUT A WARNING SIGN ON THOSE THINGS: EXTREME THRILL OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

Okay, moment over.

Onwards.

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Here I am with a sign that warns you not to eat the fruits on display. Hur Hur.

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Here is a mini performance area, where they have performances and screen movies. The performances are pretty good, mainly western hits. And then there’s another performance area at the Bar 360 that’s mainly chinese hits. And there was also a pool party during our cruise that was all Bollywood hits. So I’d say they got their audiences pretty thoroughly covered?

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Late night menu! Just had to put this here because I made a mental note of it (i love soya bean milk) and wanted to come.. however I showed up at 230am when the special menu was over :(( So this photo is in memory of my non-soya-bean-moment. Melissa had the $2 porridge though, and said it was GREAT.

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Here’s one of the shows we caught on our second night. It’s called The Voyage of a Lover’s Dream. It’s basically an acrobatics show loosely tied together with a storyline, although I’d call it more a thematic show than anything else. The idea is that an astronaut and mermaid fall in love, aka the sky meets the sea, aka the Genting Dream. Get it??? Haha. I think it’s their origin story but basically the entire show is fancy acrobatics that are extremely intense. This show is free to watch, just make sure you reserve a seat first.

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Here we are posing for a photo. After this we had to scramble out of the tub to actually drink the wine, due to aforementioned pool rules.

Fun times. So that was day two, basically, and we stayed up till 3am – Amanda just could not stop playing ping pong with every single person she met, stranger or not, and I went swimming then headed off to look for a sauna. Then we reconvened for drinks and chit chatted for awhile before falling asleep. The next morning we woke up for breakfast then had to disembark in Singapore already! So it was literally a weekend trip – which I can imagine works pretty well for corporate adults/ families, since this place is also a wonderland for children.

Final points to note:

– I dont think I would pay for wifi because no ship in the world is going to have strong wifi in the middle of the ocean. At least, not to my knowledge. So if your cruise package includes free wifi (like the birthday one), then good for you. Otherwise, I’d say just take the chance to disconnect and unwind! If you really need to contact your other friends on the ship, the Dream Cruises app (which I suggest you download before getting on the ship) has an in-app chatting function so you can contact other people on the ship. You can use the app for other things too, like keeping track of your bookings and the day’s schedule on the ship

– When in doubt, always choose the chinese restaurant! It’s included in the list of free restaurants. Maybe I’m biased because I think Chinese food is the bomb, but it’s really quite a good one. It’s not buffet style, it’s more like a set meal you get, and the dim sum breakfast we had was pretty yum. Really nice setting too.

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Chinese restaurant breakfast is included in your stay

– If you like having a drink with your meal and the option of having it anytime from morning till, well, 3am, get the select drinks package. 70SGD for 2 days is super worth it for unlimited drinks, and if you frequent restaurants and bars in Singapore, you’ll agree! The house wines they serve are pretty good too, and light enough for easy drinking, so its not like they serve bad stuff on the cheap packages. Overall I think this is fab and would super recommend this haha.

– Electronics like travel irons, multiplugs, etcetera, are not allowed on the ship. I think its because they’re all subject to Marine safety standards. My hair curler was fine though.. Anyway, just be safe, and dont bring it unless you absolutely need it. All staterooms have a kettle and hairdryer anyway!

– There are extra activities you can pay for, like bowling, karaoke, arcade games, and a spa. But I do think that for a 3D2N cruise, there are more than enough free activities to occupy your time. Perhaps if we’d stayed longer we might have tried it out, but as it was, I think we didn’t even have enough time to finish the free activities!

– In the middle of the afternoon they hold free dance classes on the pool deck. This is actually pretty cute, they teach latin dance and all that, and a lot of the older folk on the ship join this enthusiastically, which is nice.

– Another thing you can do is head to Zouk – they actually have a Zouk nightclub on board. But I only just peeked in. Tts really not my scene, and I think its funny to dance with people youre going to share a ship with for the next couple of days. So ping pong and giant chess it is!

– The ship is huge, 19 decks in total, and it was running at full capacity when we were on it. Despite this, it never felt over crowded, so that’s nice. There’s definitely a healthy number of people everywhere you go, but it’s not overwhelming, probably because the ship has so many spread out things to do.

– I really think the best things to do on a cruise is be on a cruise, so if I were to do it again, I’d probably still pick the weekend cruise to nowhere. I basically like being at sea, and I think if I wanted to get to a destination I would just fly there – when a ship docks, they’re bound to the laws of the land, which means that many things on the ship probably would close while the ship was docked. So my preference is still purely spending time at sea, in a group.

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Lastly: the ship is mega grammable.

Haha! What a weekend. Thanks for having us, Genting Dream! Till next time.

Dream Cruises:
www.dreamcruiseline.com/en-sg
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x
Jem

#2140 | Random things I’ve learnt from a week doing Snow Sports

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1. Lessons are expensive

2. Take a lesson anyway. It is more expensive to waste time during your extremely pricey trip trying to figure out how to stand on a snowboard, just because you wanna save a hundred bucks.

3. Waterproof clothing – so important

4. You eat snow a lot when you first start learning to ski/board

5. Bring muscle ache patches – whiplash in your neck from falling on your face is REAL and PAINFUL

6. Actually, scrap that. Your whole body will be in pain.

7. Snowboarding is more of a cardio workout than Skiing

8. Everyone says skiing is easier but I find the opposite to be true

9. You eat like a monster when you do snow sports. You get so so so hungry everyday. Give up any no/low carb diet youre thinking of embarking on before the trip.

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10. Fleece is water resistant, kinda

11. Snow sports are a really expensive hobby so pick it up only if you have a stable job
Eg. A daily ski pass is about 50 bucks. Then you pay for gear rental. Then you pay for jacked up food prices. Then you pay for beer, because you think you deserve it everyday.

12. Snow sport attire – turtleneck heat tech, water resistant hoodie, waterproof ski jacket, heat tech leggings, waterproof ski pants, face mask, ski goggles, beanie, snoot.

13. A big appeal of snowboarding is the fact that your board doesnt pop out when you fall down. It is a pain to retrieve and put your skis back on, especially on a slope.

14. A big con of skiing is the fear of snapping your leg, which apparnetly happens a lot to people who fall on their skis or ski into trees

15. However, a big appeal of skiing is many people can stand and kind of move immediately, whereas a lot of time on the snowboard is spent on one’s ass

16. However however, snowboarding is cooler, lol

17. Skincare is so important on the slopes

18. Sunscreen is even more important on the slopes

19. Metal is kind of sticky to your skin at very cold temperatures, and painful to touch, and I learnt this the hard way trying to grab my ski poles without gloves on

20. Normal gloves wont do, you need water resistant gloves

21. Actually, the term ‘water resistant’ will be your best friend in the snow

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22. There is no better feeling than soaking in an onsen after a day on the slopes

23. The sooner you embrace that you’ll fall on your face a lot, the happier you’ll be. Everyone falls down when learning. It’s fine.

24. You learn to appreciate pockets a lot

25. It’s almost impossible to look good when learning to ski/board, no matter how many photos of instagrammers looking glamorous on the slopes you see

26. Dont bother bringing your camera, you’ll break it. Use your phone for photos if need be, otherwise, just enjoy the view.

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x
Jem

#2139 | Mocha Mondays: Graph Cafe, Chiang Mai

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Graph Cafe, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hey guys,

I must say, for all my food / cafe related posts on the blog, I’m not particularly a cafe person, which comes as a surprise to most people. I’m just not that kinda girl – I dont see the point of cafe hopping, your stomach fills up so fast, especially with coffee, it’s expensive, and I just dont get how you can see five cafes in an afternoon; it seems like a very practical exercise in the law of diminishing returns. But when I do find something I like, I never just like it, I love it – as seen from my affectionate odes to cafes and bars in Melbourne, Taipei, etcetera. And in Chiang Mai, the place that really hit the spot for me was an eleven seater hole in the wall called Graph cafe.

I was in Chiang Mai filming a travel video for Klook and Tourism Authority of Thailand, and part of the itinerary necessitated exploring cafes. Cafe culture is huge in Chiang mai city, and it’s only getting bigger. A lot of this, I think, is linked to the growing expat population in Chiang mai, and when I tried running searches online, I realised that said expat population had a huge hand in writing overly enthusiastic reviews for multiple places on Google and Tripadvisor. One could tell by the number of times the words “quaint” and “authentic” were used. As it was, I visited three extremely highly rated cafes in Chiang Mai, two of which I thought were disappointingly average. So much so that I nearly gave up – Chiang Mai has so many other things to offer, I thought, that it didnt need to have great cafes to stand out as a bucket list destination. But my flight back home was delayed, so onward we walked to the last cafe – it was in the area, no harm having an extra cuppa, at the very least it’d make for a nice break from walking in the hot sun.

On a tiny side alley sat Graph cafe, and it was full. I was super close to giving up and going back, but we were too tired to walk on, and really wanted to rest. So we perched on the little seats outside the cafe, waiting for a table to free up inside, and looked through the menu. This entire time there was a steady stream of people coming up to the cafe and being turned away due to a lack of space, but the sustained interest seemed a good omen to me. Also, another hopeful sign – the fact that there was no food on the menu, just different permutations of coffee. Good, I thought, grumpy from disappointments earlier in the day, coffee places should just focus on coffee.

The menu was fascinating – it read like a cocktail menu, but with coffee instead of alcohol. Between the three of us we ordered two coffees and one iced chocolate (Mabel doesnt take coffee), and then I got an extra to takeaway. I usually go straight for an Americano or cold brew if they have it, but I was so intruiged by the other options that I opted for something called a Monochrome, which is a short of espresso with activated charcoal, vanilla, and milk.

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135 BHT – 5.60SGD. Pretty standard coffee price for a cuppa in Singapore.

First impressions – IT WAS DELICIOUS. I actually am a huge fan of goma, and I personally think charcoal comes pretty close when it’s done right. The coffee was creamy but not too sweet, with a mild sweetness that came from the milk used. It wasn’t super strong too – I’m used to very, very strong coffee, so at first I couldnt taste the coffee in this, but it prevailed in the form of a lingering aftertaste. The best way I can describe it is it tasted like a very yummy melted ice cream without being cloying, and it was extremely drinkable. I downed nearly half of it in one go, and had to pace myself after that so I wouldnt be left with no drink whilst the rest sipped at theirs!

I also asked the other two to let me try their drinks so I could include them in my review. Aka an excuse to steal some of theirs. Well, it worked, so here we go!

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130BHT – 5.40SGD.

Lock, our videographer, got a GRAPH No. 29. It’s nitro cold brew mixed with pineapple and lime, mixed and served like a cocktail with a sugar-salt mix on the glass rim. Nitro cold brew features quite heavily in the GRAPH menu, and I think it’s a specialty of sorts. I love nitro because I think of it as the beer of the coffee world when done properly – smooth and golden, with a real kick. (The nitro cold brew from Starbucks is my to-go drink in Singapore.) And GRAPH is really on to something here, using Nitro as a base for a cocktail styled coffee! The drink was incredibly refreshing, and you had to have it with the salt rim and a mouth of coffee foam to really taste the different elements of the coffee harmonise. Yum. The cold brew method also shaved off the bitter edge of coffee that many non-coffee drinkers dislike, so I think even non habitual coffee drinkers would enjoy this!

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100BHT – 4.20SGD

Mabel doesnt drink coffee at all, so she went straight to the non-coffee section of the menu. There’s basically four things you can get – a matcha latte, a chocolate, a redberry secret, and a yellow glass weekend. Dont ask me what those last two things are because I dont know. She got an iced chocolate, and I had a sip of it. Theres not much I can say about iced chocolate – it’s either totally horrible and watery, or it’s really great, thick and frothy, like the ones from specialty chocolate shops. This one was a solid iced chocolate, definitely more towards the great end of the spectrum. Undiluted, chocolatey, and not so thick that you’d get sick of it in a couple of mouths. For a place that doesnt specialize in non-coffee drinks, I think this was a pretty damned solid iced chocolate!

I was so impressed by the quality of the drinks that I decided to get another drink to go, just so I could try more. It had taken me a ridiculously long time to settle on the Monochrome when I was ordering because there were just so many interesting things on the menu, so just as I was leaving I ordered something else I’d been considering – a cold brew coffee.

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This is the No. 8, Roses Stuff Coldbrew Coffee. 220BHT – 9.20SGD. Pricey, even by Singaporean standards.

It came in a little glass bottle that you could keep, I’m suspecting that adds to the cost. The cold brew’s claim to fame is a slow drip 24 hour brew, and it was very, very smooth, at a super low acidity. It had an incredible kick too, I was feeling the caffiene long after I’d finished the drink. I think the low acidity made it feel like there wasnt very much caffiene in it, which was the total opposite of reality because the cold brewing method creates an extra caffienated cup of coffee.

And the floral flavor really elevated the drink to a whole different level!! I know this is going to sound very, very weird, but it reminded me of my toner from Laneige’s calming skin range. The skincare line has litchi extract which calms the skin down and gives it a wonderful smell, and this rose cold brew was almost like someone bottled up the smell and gave it a taste.

I told you it would sound weird. It didn’t taste like roses, per se, more like a light lychee drink, and it left a pleasant cooling aftertaste on the tongue. It was so drinkable that I downed it in one go, which gave Mabel and Lock a huge shock because they were like, isn’t that too much coffee at a go? To which I replied, THERES NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH COFFEE! In retrospect I think the caffiene had already kicked in. Ah well.

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Pretty exterior!
Wearing: Her Velvet Vase dress, Fitflop sandals

The cafe is cash only, and has a few outlets around Chiang Mai city. The particular one we went to was tiny, I think the total combined capacity couldnt have been more than 15 pax with both indoor and outdoor seating, and it was pretty crammed inside. But I adored it! I only wish I had the chance to try more of the coffee combinations – I would have gotten more to go, but I was limited by the amount of cash I had left. Next time, next time. For now, I think: if you’re a coffee lover and visit Chiang Mai, you’ve got to check out Graph. You’re welcome.

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Haha self awareness level very high

Graph Cafe
25/1 ถนน ราชวิถี แยก 1 ตำบล ศรีภูมิ อำเภอ เมือง
Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Recommended: 10/10
WIFI: Yes
Payment: Cash only

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Jem