#2065 | Focaccia in Folgujemy, Wroclaw

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Wroclaw, Poland

Hello from the obscure highways of Poland, with names i cannot hope to pronounce, all grass and wire, somewhere in between the town of Wroclaw, where I am coming from, and Krakow, where I am headed to on this 5.90Eur flixbus. I have literally had, just two hours ago, the most incredible focaccia, and i felt it my civic duty to open up my chromebook and wax lyrical about the wonders of carbohydrates once the bus had been settled into and was well on its way. And it is. So here we are.

Right across the street from where I stayed there was a tiny cafe called Folgujemy, recommended by my Airbnb hosts via a little printed note I found on my rented desk upon check in – please be quiet from 2200 to 0800, laundry machine is in the adjacent building, folgujemy has wonderful food. Listed like yet another fact of their listing. I briefly considered checking it out yesterday but I was distracted by the rest of the city, I thought, so what if I dont check out one cafe in a sea of many, no big deal. But this morning I woke up, lazed around in bed for a bit (a luxury!), and after packing my bags, realised that i had too little time to venture back to the Old Town for one last stroll, and too much time to do nothing at all before catching my bus back to Krakow. This and that and somehow I ended up dragging my luggage with me 200m across the road to the cafe in search of sustenance and coffee.

I was on the phone with Shane when the waitress came over to take my order, so i just pointed at one of the only things i recognized on the menu – shakshouka with grilled halloumi and toasted focaccia. When it arrived I was still on the phone and so i absentmindedly broke off a piece of the focaccia for dipping and put it in my mouth. Then it registered. Hold up, I told Shane, I gotta go. I gotta eat. Talk to you later. He was used to it; we exchanged affections, and returned to our own lives.

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Shakshouka with added Halloumi (additional 6ZLT), as well as an iced cold brew. Total: 35Zlt/ 12SGD

How good, you must be thinking, can a piece of bread be, to compel one to hang up on one’s partner? After all it’s just bread. The simplest of carbohydrates, tying with the potato for Most Basic Carb. But this bread was not just bread. It was crumbly crust, fragrant, denser than regular bread, yet lighter than cake. Obviously freshly made. I swooned. I am not a fan of bread in general becuse it has such a high propensity to disappoint, but I have been known to sniff the air around bakeries furiously, like some kind of beagle, also, do you know how amazing freshly made bread is, of course you do, when it’s done well it is a revelation.

The main point of the dish was the shakshouka, not the focaccia, but the focaccia stole the show for me. The shakshouka was very good though, one of the better ones i’ve had in recent years. I love eggs so it stands to reason that I would naturally take to shashuka. It’s not that prevalent in Singapore, for some reason we prefer eggs benedict as a nation, which i roll my eyes at, because most places don’t even poach their eggs ben right. Give me shakshouka any day. For those of you unfamiliar with the dish, it varies from place to place but generally means poached eggs in tomato sauce and various spices/herbs for flavor, and it’s usually served in a hot pan. The dish originates from Tunisia and is popular in the Middle east, which is where most of my favorite brunch foods are from, and in recent years I’ve noticed it as an option in many European cafes, finally finally finally. This particular variation was served with grilled zucchini and chopped spring onions, all of which i love. LOVE. The pan fried halloumi was excellent as well, which I think is partly because the chefs just really know how to handle their halloumi (it can go both ways, I’ve had really dry and tough halloumi in places), and partly because poland as a country produces lots of cheese, and enjoys having it as part of their culinary repertoire, so in general you wont go wrong ordering a cheese dish in Poland.

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The mythical focaccia, dipped in shakshouka

So yes, what I mean to assert is, the shakshouka was superb. But I have come to expect excellence from eggs. Bread, though, bread is a wildcard. And this bread, ugh. It was like striking the bread lottery.

Later on as I got up to pay I tried to send my compliments to the kitchen, miming delight since I couldn’t speak Polish. The cashier replied in perfect English: Glad you liked it, we make our own focaccia in house. Ah. In more ways than one, I was enlightened.

Getting on the bus and penning this post I wondered at the point of writing a whole post about a tiny cafe in a corner of a far away city nestled 4 hours out from Krakow. But it is a city worth visiting, and a cafe worth hunting down for its bread. My faith in the carb is renewed, and for what? 35Zloty? A small price to pay for such delight. Thank you, Folgujemy. You will now forever be the standard to which I hold all bread to.

Kniaziewicza 16, 11-400 Wrocław


#2064 | things i did in london

Hey guys,

I was in london for a week in May, chasing certain ideas and chancing instead upon other things that make you go, well, life, whatddaya know? A good trip, in other words. I recognize how blessed I am to be able to say: it’s my fifth time in london now, so i felt no compulsion to rush around aggressively sightseeing. (You should have seen me my first time in london, i hung around chinatown, wept at imitation laksa, hyperventilated during phantom of the opera, was dazzled by leicester square and pronounced it lei-ches-ter the way all tourists do, a sure sign of naivete: the assumption that england is bound to the phonetic rules the rest of the world holds. I was publicly embarrassing, in other words.) No, no. This time I crashed on a friend’s couch, read compulsively, crossed lengths of london alone, caught up with old friends. It was so great.

Life has been rushing ahead without any consideration for the part of me that struggles to catch my breath, and I was afraid that if I left it too long I’d never get around to documenting my london trip. Already it’s June, and I have so much i still want to say from my trips to helsinki (jan), chiang mai (march), and so on.. Hell, I have thoughts backlogged all the way from when I was in san francisco last october. So I’d better get started now. Here we go..


trishna: come stay with me, offering my couch because friendship
me: are you sure
me: because im not going to say no to free accomodation
trishna: yes
me: do you want anything from sg
trishna: salted egg fish skin chips
me: shake

Donald, this is the art of the deal.


day one

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fresh pasta, burrata, wine.

Perhaps it is because i rarely have pasta (my noodle cravings are mostly of the asian variety), but i was so easily – too easily, even – blown away by how fresh and straight up yum this was.

Pastaio London
19 Ganton St, Soho, London W1F 9BN, UK
(Carnaby, Soho)

Fresh pasta followed by a very girly night at home, painting our nails, trying on outfits together for each other to rate, googling (and then trishna actually succeeding at) ‘how to make scented candles’, me picking out the copy of Americanah i gave her a year ago lying untouched on her shelf and going WHY THE HELL HAVENT YOU FINISHED THIS YET? Bahaha. More or less an early night, I was exhausted from the flight.

day two and beyond: things i did alone

Opened Forgotten Country on the tube and promptly cancelled all my morning appointments, found a cafe, and sat down to finish it. Forced myself not to cry in public – a feat of pure discipline. Raved about it while also being aware of how flawed the technical aspects of the book were, thought about the ways we weigh up emotional impact vs skill when it comes to books, film, art, et al. Decided that i still liked the book very much but it may not hold up to a second re reading.

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nude espresso makes very good coffee, for anyone wondering.

Read Octavia Butler’s Kindred in three hours while sitting in a nook in Libreria, then purchased Ponti by Sharlene Teo to go. Bought tickets to The Writer at Almedia Theater over the phone, was very nervous, it was like my first time buying something over the phone and i am very paranoid in general of things like that. I suppose this means i will be obsessively checking my credit card bill for strange purchases over the next six months or something. The nice girl at the counter told me i like your coat and I just stammered. Shame on me, I make a living talking nonstop and i cannot even reply to something like that. To be honest, at that moment i had thought of saying thanks but then also thought: but i didn’t make the coat, i shouldn’t take credit for it. Of course that is a stupid thing to think, but anyway, by the time those thoughts had passed through my head it would have been awkward to say anything because too much time had passed so i just smiled (i hope), bought myself a glass of red wine and hid inside the theater.

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at 39 pounds this was probably the most lavish thing i did in london

The play was very good. I thought to myself at multiple points in the play that there was something truly wrong with me because i was literally brimming the entire time, threatening to cry. I thought: why the heck am i being so emotional, i nearly cried on the tube reading forgotten country, i nearly cried in libreria reading kindred, and now im going to cry in this theater where im sitting all alone and give the old woman next to me a heart attack, she’s already glanced at me four times suspiciously. But then after the play ended I thought, well, probably it was just really good and that is my response to performances that i feel are good. Major callback to phantom of the opera 2014. As we were walking out, the guy behind me said: what a pretentious play, seriously, this whole feminism thing has gone totally bonkers.

Ran in the rain to catch a bus, not by choice.

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you always think getting caught in torrential rain is the kind of thing that happens to other people, not you

Wanted to go to church the next day but it was cancelled (who cancels church?!) so i went to catch a comedy show instead at top secret comedy club. My friend had actually asked me to go to a housewarming party with him and i briefly considered it but it was freaking 50 minutes from london and when i heard that i just laughed at him and said i’d do my own thing instead. So, the comedy show. Because i was being cheap, i bought tickets to a work-in-progress show, and it turned out to be super interesting – the comics tested out new material for upcoming performances, and there was a lot of live audience feedback. I watched two shows, one was free, one was 7pounds, I drank cheap beer, I laughed like a crazy person.

Read Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter on my phone’s NLB app in between the two shows and it was so amazing, i finished the book feeling this small sorrow at having been privy to such a compact form of perfection, having had accessed the interior life of this lonely italian mother. It was very strange, fluctuating between the two extremes, laughing till i had to pee, then feeling this immense gravity within me from starting and completing the book (it’s pretty short, and i’m a fast reader), then immediately transitioning to side-stitch laughter again. I texted my friend: how’s the party? I went to a comedy show instead and he replied: i didnt know london HAD comedy shows. He lives in london.

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I took an overwhelming number of mirror selfies this trip

The Top Secret Comedy Club
170 Drury Ln, London WC2B 5PD, UK

The next day was the only morning in my 2 week trip to europe that i had specifically dedicated to taking photos on my instagram, or had you forgotten that i live out a large part of my life participating as a cog in the commercial capitalist system? I spent two hours in the morning shooting with a photographer from sweet escape, then met trish for brunch at the built-for-instagram elan cafe. After that she went home to study (omg, i said, student life!!! And she rolled her eyes on me because i had graduated less than a year before hahaha and there i was talking like an old person) and i went to daunt books, another independent bookseller, and took photos of all the books i knew i wanted to read. I purchased han kang’s the white book and ayobami adebayo’s stay with me, i would have purchased more, but i was trying to be conscious of my luggage restrictions. Turns out my estimation skills suck and i was stopped at the airline counter anyway, they made me take out all my books and hand carry them to singapore. Ah well. A small price to pay.

I really liked daunt books – i tend to really like all independent booksellers, to be honest – because they organized their fiction by region, so a shelf for Southeast Asia, Middle East, America, Italy, India, etcetera. Obviously they had more space dedicated to european fiction but still there were a good number of books from the rest of the world, and this made it easy to locate them. Idea!

Then I bought day-of tickets to The Comedy about a Bank Robbery and it was not my kind of funny but still very enjoyable. The main female lead was so talented and assured in her role, and i googled her after and it turned out this was her first gig out of school??? Then I felt sorry for myself for a bit because i was intimidated and jealous, i suppose. But i only indulged for a short moment, then told myself what kind of unhelpful reaction to any sort of talent is that you goon, and got over myself soon after. My seat was in the second row and it only cost me 10 pounds fifty on lastminute.com, the moral of the story is it’s easy to get cheap seats when youre travelling alone and your plans are very flexible.

I went to The Ordinary and bought a ton of their caffeine solution 5% + EGCG as gifts for my friends in singapore because i knew they wouldnt take offense at my extremely accurate diagnosis of the state of the standard singapore working professional’s eyebags. I was right.


I read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng on the Libby app, it was much better than her first book, Everything I Never Told You. I have a funny story about Everything I Never Told You actually, i had gone to Kinokuniya in Singapore two years back looking for singaporean writers and their works, wanting to familiarise myself with the local literary canon. Celeste Ng was stashed under Singaporean Literature so i bought it and started reading it immediately. I remember thinking wow she writes the asian american immigrant experience so clearly, how did she know and i even wanted to email her to ask her about her writing and research process. Then I googled her and turns out she has NO AFFILIATION WITH SINGAPORE and the moral of the story is kinokuniya can really be freakin country-ist sometimes, surname Ng means singaporean ah. The end.

I also bought last minute tickets to Everybody’s Talking about Jamie which was SUCH a great show!! I got super lucky with the tickets too, i got dress circle box tickets for 20 pounds, and the other two people in my box had bought them for 50, LOL. The man in my box asked me how i got them so cheap and i said: have you heard of the broke student’s guide on jemmawei.com? It was more suave in my head than when i said it, he just went, er, no. Then I chickened out and said: ha ha er yea well you can book it for good prices on last minute.com if you want to buy on the day of or day before and just shrunk back into myself in utter mortification. Anyway, good show. I’m glad it was good because it was between that and Phantom for the 6th time and if it wasnt good i would have wanted to die even more than i already did from that whole thing with the man in my box.

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in my super awesome velvet and gold box

After these shows that happened over a span of nights i also had many meals alone, i had chinese noodles and japanese ramen and ten-pound steak and wine, i also went for drinks at bars by myself and read books off my phone. In the daytimes when i was by myself i had beer and snacks and coffee and actual lunches as well. I have actually always enjoyed eating alone – but i dont get to do it much in singapore because i try to double duty my eating times with my social times so i can meet friends and stuff. Someone asked me once, arent you lonely? And i realised i hadnt felt lonely since i was, say, 14. I texted this revelation to my girlfriend, i said to her: i dont need company but i choose it anyway when im with you/ shane/ my other close friends, and later, she sent me this article on eating alone which i thought was relevant, you can read it here. This felt newly relevant to me again when meeting friends in london to lunch/coffee with, i actually did meet a lot of old friends here and there, jian wen, tash, charis, rachel, hayley, and of course, trish, but i felt like i had actively wanted to meet them all, which was a good way to feel.

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Dim sum with hayley, my airbnb-host-turned-friend from 4 years ago!

My last morning in london i went to have oysters for breakfast at borough market, when i was having them i texted my girlfriend: i feel your absence most keenly when im at the markets, no one to freak out over the communal goodness of straight up yummy food, and she sent me a telegram bunny sticker with an egg yolk as a reply. Then i was still hungry so i queued for a supposedly famous grilled cheese sandwich which was so oily it just reminded me of why i think asian food is the best food in the world. I didnt finish the sandwich: to be honest, my mind was on the book i had in my bag. I get into this state when im reading where real life is simply an interruption to the immersiveness of a fictional world, i just wander around in a perfunctory daze. One of my friends told me london is wasted on me since all i did was try to get to places which would allow me to sit and read, but i had a good time, so that’s that.

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the average grilled cheese sandwich

the end?

I was momentarily torn between making the most of my last few hours in london and reading, but in the end reading won out. I went back to the apartment early and sat at the cafe opposite, had banana cake and a coffee, marvelling at how all coffee is good in the uk, and finished Stay with me by Ayobami Adebayo.

Then, draining the last of my cortado, i stood, packed my bags and left.

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#2061 | That Amazing Omakase – Sushi Nakamura, Otaru

Sushi Nakamura
Otaru, Hokkaido
All photos taken on the Samsung Note 8

I was in Otaru for one night in January, passing through to Sapporo Chitose Airport after a week of falling on my face in Niseko. Whilst I was there, I had one of the best meals of my life, as recommended by a chef friend of Roz’s (Chef Petrina Loh of Morsels Singapore, also a very good restaurant!). I hesitate to use the phrase life-changing but, yknw, it was a phenomenal meal. I documented it at length on instagram stories, but after it expired many people wrote to me to ask about the place, so I decided to export the commentary from that night wholesale and post it here:


After the omakase, we were greedy and just wanted more. Everything was so good thus far that we figured we would regret it forever if we didnt get more. Turns out that was the right sentiment – here we go: BONUS ROUNDS!



Sushi Nakamura
Japan, 〒047-0025 北海道小樽市山田町 一番二十一号
+81 134-26-6566
Reservations required

The best japanese meal of my life. I dream about this meal: I cant wait to go back some day.


#2158 | The Broke Student’s Guide to Los Angeles


Hey guys,

So I spent two and a half weeks in Los Angeles last December/this Jan, a grad trip of sorts for Shane and I after having just completed our Masters. I feel a bit funny saying that cos the rest of my batch has moved on with their adult lives and here we are still using terms like ‘grad trip’ at the age of twenty five. Ho ho.

Anyway, first things first: LA is an expensive city. I must say that this wasn’t a budget trip per se for me, in the sense that I wasn’t scrimping and I did have a couple of nice meals and all, but I also wasnt living lavishly because I think the broke student spirit residing in me will never allow me to splurge unnecessarily without feeling an insane amount of guilt. But yes, after two and a half weeks there I’m just going to say that Los Angeles is an expensive city, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone on a tight budget to travel there because it’s just too pricey. It’s also a lot less budget-able than New York, where you can essentially walk everywhere or take the extensive metro network, and scrimp on things like museum entries which are mostly donation based, etcetera. But if you’re still determined to go, here’s some notes on how you can make it a more cost efficient trip!

Getting to LA

The only airline that flies direct from SG to LA is United.
It’s a 15 hour flight there and an 18 hour flight back (different routes i think?), and no matter what airline you fly it’s going to cost you upwards of a thousand dollars.

After all the recent controversy with United (and Asian passengers!) the guys were a bit hesitant to take the flight. But pragmatism won out in the end. United’s flight is the only direct flight, as I’ve said before, and they have very good timings. You depart from SG at 11am and land 10:15am the same day in LA, meaning you start the day once touching down, and the flight back departs LA at 8:55pm, which is a nice safe hour that gives you a comfortable amount of time to meander from the city to the airport without having a crazy rush, if you time it right. Time not wasted on flying and transiting means money saved, especially if you had to take leave from work or something. Also, I’d flown United to San Francisco in October, and it was a pretty good experience, so I wasn’t super paranoid about the flight.

There were four of us on this trip, and I firmly believe that this is the ideal number for group travel to LA because so much of your cost savings is going to be predicated on splitting the bill. The regular flight price for United from SG to LA was 1.8k, but because we booked it in a group, the fee somehow went down to 1.3k. I dont know why for sure, but I suspect it’s because United charges a different fee for group bookings. Anyway, we ended up paying 1.3k to fly there.

brunch with all my boyfriends ✌🏻

A post shared by Jemimah James Wei (@jemmawei) on


Note: This was also high season cos we flew in December. If you’re flexible on dates, I think you might find it much, much cheaper to fly in March or something. It’s good to plan early so you can keep monitoring the price. But we were kind of stuck with Dec cos the other two boys were also limited by their EOY leave at work, so I think we did pretty well given these dates.

In comparison, the only other airlines that will give you a comparable price is China airlines and Philippine Airlines with one or two transits, a total flight time of approx 20-24 hours. . Everything else – ANA, SQ, etc, all cost about 1,600 and above for our dates.

Cash or Card


At some point in the trip I started trying to pay for my coffee in cash instead of card (it’s sooo natural for me to just tap my card, damn it paywave!!) just so I wouldnt be left with USD

LA is very credit card friendly. I could have done the entire trip with only 100 bucks cash, but i was paranoid and changed 500USD. Turns out I had 400 left by the end of the trip because EVERYTHING WAS PAID FOR WITH MY CARD. Oh well.

I think this depends on your comfort level – I prefer paying with card because I earn more miles per dollar for overseas spend, which I then use to redeem flights (makes sense for me because I’m a frequent traveller). Also, I dont have to try and guesstimate how much I’ll spend then risk ending up with not enough/ too much foreign currency at the end of the trip.

But this is also contingent on the fact that i am not a spendthrift. I am extremely cautious with money in general, and I dont get trigger happy in stores. Sure, I like looking at shops, but I very, very rarely actually buy something unless I have had my eye on it for awhile (like the google home) or unless I have thought about it for a long time/ know i will get maximum utility from it. If you are trigger happy in stores and cannot handle a credit card, do NOT plan to use your credit card for anything except emergencies.

Getting Around in LA

Los Angeles is super spread out, which means you cant really walk anywhere. Their public transportation is slowly improving, but it isn’t great either. This means that a lot of cost is going to go to taking Ubers and Lyfts everywhere. Their Uber/Lyfts actually arent expensive compared to Singapore, if you consider the distance taken. Plus if you split it four ways, sometimes it can end up cheaper than taking public transport, and you get a lot of time saved. So do your calculations based on your group size.

I do suggest that once you get a US number, you download Lyft (I assume you already have uber). Lyft is kind of like the Grab of LA, in that it’s an uber competitor, it has frequent promo codes, and it’s often marginally cheaper. First timers to Lyft will get a certain amount of credit, I think it’s two five dollar rides. So just get everyone in your group to sign up for it, and you’ll get eight rides discounted. There are also promo codes like if you take Lyft from the airport to the city, that kinda thing, and they’re usually advertised in LAX once you touch down. On the other hand, I didn’t get a single uber promo whilst I was in LA.

So what we did was, whenever we had to head somewhere, one person in our group would check Lyft and one would check Uber. We’d just take whichever was cheaper. We stayed in LA city (as opposed to LA county), so most of our rides were like seven to ten dollars. When you divide that by four, that’s like two to four dollars each. Compared to the metro, which is $1,75 per ride and takes much longer, you can see how this is a good compromise.

All the two dollar four dollar rides do add up though, so you see how LA becomes expensive really quick.

If you’re wanting to head out to somewhere further, like Venice beach or Santa Monica, you can take the metro which goes straight there. It’s still $1,75 for the base tap-on ride but takes about an hour plus. A car will take half an hour from central LA but cost twenty to thirty dollars. So it’s really dependent on the needs of your group, but as a general rule taking a mix of long distance metros and short distance ubers should work out well. Otherwise, a day pass for the metro is about $7.

Car or No Car?

I used to labour under the impression that one was useless without a car in LA. Its all those damn books about the place, I tell you. Anyway. The long and short of it is, no, you dont need a car if youre only staying in central LA. You can just take the metro or uber/lyfts. And parking is a nightmare anyway, plus what they say about LA traffic being horrendous? Yep. That’s all true.

If you want to leave central LA for, say, palm springs or Joshua Tree, you’ll probably need a car. We rented one from Hertz for a road trip to palm springs and joshua tree!

Getting a number

You’ll need a US phone number to sign up for Lyft, and it’s generally useful to have a sim card in the states because you can call ahead to check on availability of museum spots, dining reservations, opening hours, that kinda thing. I recommend T Mobile for tourists, which I’ve been using the past 4 trips to the states.

Tmobile has a tourist sim which lasts 3 weeks if I’m not wrong. Prices are as follows:

30USD – 2GB, unlimited texting, 1000 mins.
45USD – 3GB, unlimited texting, 1000 mins.
50USD – 10GB, unlimited texting, 1000 mins.
75USD – Unlimited data, unlimited texting, 1000 mins.

IMO the toss up is really between the 2gb and 10gb plans. If you’re looking at the 3gb plan you might as well top up 5 bucks and get the 10gb. When I went to San Fran I only got the 2gb plan because I was there for only 4 days. But this time I got the 10GB because it was two and a half weeks. I used about 9 out of the 10GB this trip, so I think it was a pretty safe estimate!


Hostels in LA are like, nearly non existent. And they’re not cheap anyway cos you pay per person per bed. Hotels are insane. So we booked an Airbnb for the majority of the time we were in LA central, and then when we did road trips we booked cheap motels that could house the four of us. The key is to book early – because all the cheap places will be taken fast. We literally saw an airbnb booking disappear from under our eyes when we were considering a couple of options, then experienced major fomo afterwards!

Again, when you travel in a group of four, it’s easier to get a whole apartment then split the cost, whereas if youre alone or with just one other person, it might be more economical to book a private room in someones house.


Things that you can do in LA aren’t expensive per se. Many things are free, and even more things are cheap. But it’s the getting to those places that will rack up the bills, cos of all your ubers and lyfts. It is not the kind of place where you expect to walk around and stumble onto hidden gems because of how spread out it is, you’ll have to roughly know where youre goin – your trip will greatly benefit from having a plan, basically!

In Central LA, here’s what I suggest:

Museums – The Broad

Start your day by queuing for museum tickets to The Broad. The Broad is my favorite museum in the world, and I honestly think they have one of the best permanent collections ever, as well as a great curatiorial team. They also offer free tours within the museum, which is worth taking if you have the time. All museum staff are mandatorily trained regarding all permanent and travelling exhibitions, so if you ask them about anything they’ll be happy to explain to you the pieces and exhibitions youre interested in.

Entry to the Broad is free. You just have to queue for it, and it’s often a long queue. Yayoi Kusama’s exhibiton was in town the week we were there, and that was ticketed at $30, which meant the queue would be mad no matter what. We made use of our jet lag and went on day two of our trip – meaning we were awake super early and started queueing at 630. There are a couple of breakfast places open nearby catered to the working crowds, so one or two people in your group can be runners and go get coffee and breakfast for the rest while you queue.


The famous infinity room, part of the Yayoi Kusama exhibition

A useful thing to do is follow @TheBroadStandby on twitter for updates on the queue situation – they will update regularly on how long the standby queue is, and also if the queue is closed for the day.

There is another trick to getting into the Broad fast – they do media passes. So if youre in town on a conference, or if you write for a magazine, or if you have a sizeable social media following lol, just write in and request one. It’ll take a couple of days, but they’ll give you one. I got lucky last year – I had a media pass for the airbnb conference, and they just waved me in. Woohoo!


(Very) tired faces in the queue at 6am – the sun hadnt even risen yet

Architectural Wonders – The Walt Disney Concert Hall

Entry to the broad is based on timed tickets, so you probably wont get it right away. Take your time while waiting to head to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is literally right next to the broad. It’s designed by Frank Gehry, and it’s really a gorgeous structure. You can either walk around the outside of the structure – there are stairs taking you to the top – or take a free tour of the museum during opening hours! Just ask the staff at the front desk. Unfortunately, no free passes or student tickets to the actual LA Philharmonic performances. Those are mad expensive. Sorry, broke students – just do the free tour, then youtube the performance once you’re home.


Other architectural wonders that are walkable from here: The Bradbury Building, just down the Angel’s Flight (more on that later). It’s the oldest commercial building in LA, and where scenes in Blade Runner were staged, as well as where the last scene in 500 days of summer was filmed. People actually work in this building now, but the building itself is such an architectural star that visitors are allowed to wander up till the first landing but not beyond it.


At the bradbury building! It’s free to enter, but you’re restricted to the first landing

Also: The Eastern Columbia Building, which is a great remnant from the Art Deco period. It’s very recognizable because of its iconic blue and green structure as well as the giant EASTERN text and clock sitting atop the building. It’s such a visual landmark that no one is allowed to build structures that will block the top of the building! It’s also appeared in many movies, and Johnny Depp has like, five penthouses in it. However, despite hanging around the lobby cafe for like, half an hour, Depp did not appear, so that remains as just a fun fact and nothing more..

One more: The Orpheum Theater. It holds a special place in my heart because this is where the Airbnb Open conference was held last year, and it’s such a beautiful building! It’s a historic theater with a beaux arts facade,

Lunch – Food Trucks or the Lemonade

The Broad is also surrounded by some nice lawns, so you can grab lunch at the food trucks nearby and picnic off the grass. But FOOD TRUCKS ARE EXPENSIVE IN LOS ANGELES!

This was such a shock to me because in New York you can get Halal guys for like six bucks?? Here they have this fake version of the Halal guys and it’s FIFTEEN BUCKS for a gyro. No thx.

The guys got a korean rice bowl from this food truck (also about 17 bucks) but I walked a little further to MOCA, which is across the Broad.Hot tip: The Museum of Contemporary Art is free after 5pm on Thursdays, for those of you interested in visiting. It’s not as good as the broad though. They do have a great eatery at the basement called Lemonade, which does poke bowls or marketplace salads. It’s about twelve bucks, and much healthier than most of the fare you’ll get in America.

Iconic Attraction – The Angel’s Flight


We got SO lucky with this because the iconic Angel’s flight that you see in the La La Land montage only reopened in late 2017! It’s been closed for years, and technically they weren’t even supposed to be able to film La La Land there but someone in the film team convinced the metro team. Later on the authorities were like, it never should have happened. LOL.

But anyway I super recommend taking it because theres nothing like this in Singapore, it’s only 50 cents (as compared to in San Fran where it’s an actual tourist attraction and so, costs 7 bucks), and also, it’s literally up the major flight of stairs connecting you from the MOCA/Broad area to Downtown LA. Which is a pain in the ass (literally) to climb up and down from. So yeah!! I took this three times cos I loved it so much!!

It drops you right at Grand Central Market, which is where you can get a great (and cheap) dinner. Another good to know is that Grand Central Market is one of the only places you can use a free restroom in that area, so if you need to pee, mark that in your map. Coincidentally, there’s also a Tmobile located not far off from the bottom of the Angel’s Flight, so you can get your sim card if you havent already done so. Also, the Bradbury building is only two blocks down – as mentioned above.


Grand Central Market! Tacos are awesome, also, if youre there in the morning, try Egg Slut

Highly recommended – Two hours at The Last Bookstore

I already wrote a post about The Last Bookstore, which is one of my favorite bookstores in the world, last year after my trip to LA. Here it is for those of you who are interested: http://jemmawei.com/2017/05/10/2083-ladiaries-airbnb-walks-the-last-bookstore/

I spent quite a lot of time here this trip – both bringing the boys to see it as well as spending an evening there during my solo days. They’ve got couches around so they’re happy for you to sit and read, the music playlist they have on is always ace, and they even have a graphic novel section where you can peruse copies of the latest Xmen issue or whatever. The second floor is also wonderful, and is full of photo spots for the instagrammer in you. There are also cute pop up stores and an artist collective on the second floor, where you can buy aesthetically pleasing and pricey kitsch items. Either way, it’s an amazing place, and I cant imagine a trip to LA wtihout dropping by here at least once.

Late night entertainment:


I was freezing when I took this photo. Heads up – there’s also a cafe with wifi inside serving Stumptown coffee, you can go there and get some work done. But you still have to come out and queue for your show

One of my favorite things about LA is its comedy scene – it’s mostly improv, as opposed to New York’s stand up scene. I went to at least three shows per week when I was there – that’s how much I love it!!

Upright Cititzens Brigade had the best show I watched in LA, but there are lots of comedy clubs, and I spent the most time at the now closed (!! :c ) iO West hollywood. But if youre in the market for comedy, The Groundlings, Nerdist School (now called The Ruby), and Second stage are also all good ones to go to.

If you’re trying to hit Upright Citizen – they do have free shows, but theyre mad popular and you just gotta get there early to queue. Paid shows arent that expensive, they can be five or ten dollars, but they sell out fast so either go early and put your name down on the waitlist (lots of people buy tickets then just dont show up to various shows all over town, not just UCB), or reserve a seat online.

Outside Downtown LA

Fun and free things to do include heading down to the beaches – Santa Monica and Venice beach are both really nice, and if youre in Venice, walk down their famous canals! It’s surprisingly fun to just stare at houses.


It’s about half an hour by car from central LA.

Nearer to the city center, Griffith Observatory of La La Land fame (ok i kid, it’s always been iconic) is also free to enter and offers some of the best views of the sunset. I wrote a whole post on it when i went two years ago, here: Funny Stories from Griffith Observatory.

There are also free museums and free museum days in LA, here is a complete list from Time Out for your handy referral 😀 If you have a limited amount of time in LA and cant afford to wait for the free days, bring your student ID as many places have discounted student prices.


Urban Lights, outside LACMA. Free, but the museum is by paid admission – unless its the second tuesday of the month!

Tipping and taxes

One thing that drives me crazy about America is their resistance to being straight up about how much something costs. For the life of me I cannot understand why they dont just tell me how much a pair of shoes cost!!! How hard is it to display the tax-included cost of an item? Instead, if the advertised price is ten bucks for a lipstick or something, it’ll inevitably ring up to about eleven dollars at the counter once they include tax. This is mega irritating, but theres nothing you can do about it, so.

Tipping is also huge in the States. It’s a whole debate, so lets not get into that, only know that you have to tip. Here are some general rules of tipping:

– Cab drivers need to be tipped, but it’s optional if you take Uber/Lyft.
– You need to tip for table service. So if you sit down to eat, it’s gonna cost you an additional 15 to 20 percent.
– Service staff are paid really badly in the States (I have a couple of american friends who worked as waitresses for a long time, so I’m not just talking out of my ass) so they really do rely on your tip to make ends meet. So dont be cheap and not tip if youre sitting down for dinner. Generally you tip more if youre impressed by the service, otherwise it’s a standard 15percent. If its a fancy place like a hotel dinner or something, probably twenty percent.
– If youre purchasing from a cafe to go, pay with cash. Things like buying coffee, etc, it’s always better to just pay in cash because then youre just paying for your cup of coffee. There’s usually a tip jar at the side but my theory is if I’m taking it to go, I’m not technically being served, so I’m just gonna pay for my coffee and that’s it. If you pay with card, they’ll give you this little iPad thing and ask you how much you want to tip right in front of them: No Tip, 15, 17, or 20 percent, and it’s embarrassing to say no tip lol. So it’s usually just easier to pay in cash.


If you’re staying in LA for long, figure out where the nearest laundromat is to your apartment and if they have any deals. The one near our place was pretty great, it’s called Aroma Laundry & Water and had old school arcade games. Also, free laundry on certain days of the month – see sign above my head.


wash wash wash wash

Otherwise, bring detergent and wash your clothes in a sink or something in your apartment. We did laundry as a group because there were 4 of us (again, it only cost us like two bucks each cos we split the price of two big machines) and also because we were there for 3 weeks and that’s too much to be washing in a sink.

Wrapping up

Hokay, this post is long enough as is, and I hope the info was useful to you guys headed the LA way!

You can see why heading to America is expensive – all these small additional costs add up real quick. But well, if you wanna go, you wanna go. So best be mentally prepared 😀 LA is a really iconic place, but I still maintain that lots of what’s great about LA lies outside the city center (Disneyland, Joshua Tree, Palm springs..) so if you have the chance to do an extended trip, you wont regret a little change in scenery by renting a car and heading out of town!

If any of you have additional tips for saving money in LA, please send them my way and I’ll compile a list. Otherwise, happy trails, yall. Till next time:


#2155 | The Korean Demilitarised Zone and the case for visiting landscapes of trauma


Wandering around a controlled area in the DMZ during my lunch break

Hey guys,

So I was in Seoul recently and finally visited the DMZ, which I’ve wanted to do for years but never found the chance to. It started out mainly as idle interest in seeing history’s physical manifestation, but over the years, my desire to see the place became inseparable from my growing interest in the relationship between tourism and remembrance, especially with regards to landscapes of trauma. This duality of public and private is something that I’ve been preoccupied with for many years, in academia this manifests amongst other things in my study of traumatic landscapes (via geographical disasters, physical warfare, medical warfare, and how this affects the people linked to these places), in real life, it is the source of my perpetual wrestle with the commercialisation of the public self. You know how it is.

As someone who travels a lot, I believe strongly in the importance of tourism, but I’ve also seen my fair share of very badly behaved tourists. When you’re being rudely shoved at Disneyland you can, on some level, roll your eyes and shrug it off, but there are cases that sit in a far greyer zone – when tourists obliviously disrespect the cultural customs of a place, when they cause disturbances through ignorance, when they feel entitled to certain modes of behaviour because they’d put their dollar down to access a destination. Things like this give rise to the widely concurred cliche that tourism is often a negative force. But the alternative option isn’t feasible either – no country is going to close up against tourism, not in the age of wanderlust and slashed airfares, not in the age where it’s such a major economic driving force, and so most people just accept it as something that’s a necessary irritant with a sort of grumpy tolerance.

I do think, however, that there is a case to be made for the necessity of tourism in relation to landscapes of war and trauma, and it’s something that my recent trip to the DMZ confirmed.

We can see the coexisting relationship between tourism and landscapes of trauma globally (auschwitz) and closer to home (fort canning/siloso), but the DMZ is unique in the sense that the two sides are still at war. The DMZ currently wraps around one of the most dangerous borders in the world, and that alone draws curious tourists to it by the droves. It’s mad hard to get tickets to visit the DMZ, you have to book way in advance. I got my tickets on Klook, but due to fluctuations and security concerns from the UN, the operator checked back with us several times to update us on the situation and confirm that we were still interested in taking the tour given the UN’s stance. Any illusions I had about the DMZ’s political issues being simply a chapter in a history textbook dissolved then, and yet, this didnt deter tourists in the least: when we finally got on the bus to go to the DMZ, it was full.

Visiting the DMZ is so strict that you’re not allowed to drive in by yourself or anything like that. It’s the safest and currently the only option to go with a tour bus because the DMZ has now restricted civilian access and requires mandatory military clearance and escort. But with a tour, everything is arranged for you, and you can actually ask the guide when you dont understand something (I was constantly running after my guide to ask her stuff, I think she was starting to feel guilty for neglecting the others). The DMZ isn’t like a regular tourist destination where you can just wander off by yourself, you’re not allowed to, first and foremost, and don’t think you can sneak off and go look for the actual border because it’s prohibited for a reason – it’s one of the most dangerous borders in the world and the most heavily militarised, so there actually have been several terrible instances with civilians and soldiers on both sides of the border, and I’m surprised (and thankful) that we’re allowed to visit at all.


In we go.. past a million of these military lookouts throughout the entire journey

Being in the DMZ was a strange and eerie experience. Nothing less, I suppose, from the place Bill Clinton once labelled as the scariest place on earth. The bus went on and on, and I stared out of the window for miles without seeing anyone. We drove by security checkpoints and armed guards stared back at us. At intervals, a soldier would come up and check all our passports. I got nervous the first time this happened, until the soldier came up close and looked at my passport. He was so young. And he looked even more nervous than me.


The military checkpoint and soldier who comes on board multiple times during the day to check everyone’s identities
Most photos in this post are taken on my phone, it felt too conspicuous to be using my DSLR

Later the guide told me that these soldiers were mostly serving as part of their mandatory military service. It’s a two year service here, she said, then nodded somewhere in the general direction of North Korea, but over there? It’s ten years.

The soldier got off, we trundled on.

Once we got into the heart of the DMZ, we started the tour off by being hustled into a dark theatre where we were shown a film on the history between the North and South. It consisted of a very intense five minutes of telling us that North Korea ruined life for Koreans as they knew it with their penchant for warfare and bombs, and ended off by totally changing track, informing us that the DMZ was a haven of peace and nature, where flora flourished and animals roamed freely. This is true – I did some research later and found out that the DMZ is a kind of accidental nature park – it’s so dangerous for humans that no one can live there, so nature has taken over and it’s now one of the most world’s most well-preserved areas of temperate habitat. They wanted to turn it into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because so many endangered plant and animal species live there, but this was eventually blocked by North Korea because it violated their Armistice agreement. A pity. But none of this was apparent when we were actually in the DMZ – partially because of the Spring-Summer transition and partially because of the mood, the entire place looked moody and deserted, and nothing like the land of life and freedom that the film purported.


The Film

The actual DMZ, as seen via the bus windows

This sense of hopelessness persisted throughout the rest of the tour, nestling in the disconnect between the determined cheerfulness and optimism of the DMZ’s narrative and the reality of the situation. We visited the Third Tunnel of Aggression, a tunnel extending from North Korea under the DMZ which, when discovered, was passed off as a coal mine tunnel rather than an infiltration tunnel. We were shown the dynamite holes and ushered down the tunnel, where we walked in a straight and claustrophobic line to see the third barricade between the tunnel and the actual Military Demarcation Line. I thought to myself, if this tunnel collapses now I will literally die. I felt a heat rise up from within me and I batted it away. The tour guide said, We’ve only discovered four tunnels so far. Who knows how many more there are! and I felt her despair infect me.

Later a friend related what his South Korean friend described to him as the essence of his lived experience: sea legs, always feeling like his internal balance was off, trying perpetually to regain balance while knowing that at any time the ground below them could explode upwards and they’d be back in the heart of the war. Desperate anger, in other words. And espousing an intimate fear so different from the technicolored face korea typically showed to the world.


Outside the entrance to the Third Infiltration Tunnel


At the Dorasan Station, the northernmost stop on South Korea’s railway line and part of the Civilian Control Zone. The unused track leads to North Korea and you can buy a train ticket … which remains a symbol, because in spite of hopes otherwise, the train never leaves for pyeongyang


Sold at the train station. Guess you can’t escape the concept of the tourism dollar anywhere!

We broke for lunch after visiting the Dora Observatory (the part of South Korea closest to the North, you can put in a coin to have a peek at bits of North Korea through a binoculars) and the Freedom Bridge. At lunch we were seated next to some Canadians who were very excited about the Joint Security Area portion which was to come after lunch – the father had done the exact same tour a couple of years ago and was now bringing his son to see the same. He tried to describe to us what it was like: the difference between tagline and reality with the JSA purporting to be a supposedly neutral zone in times of war yet in his experience being the most tense place he’d ever visited in his life. He was explaining it to us halfway before visibly realizing he’d never be able to fully share the experience with us verbally, so he leaned back, had some beef soup, then said you know what? You’ll see.

After lunch we wandered back to the bus and waited for the JSA portion of the tour to start, all hyped up by the Canadian dad. We got on the bus and it started moving. Less than five meters later it stopped and someone got on the bus, muttering to the tour guide. We were all staring at her at this point, kind of because there was nowhere else to look. And then she said into a mic:

Very bad news sorry. The UN has closed the JSA indefinitely. You need to go back to South Korea now. Very sorry.

Someone else on the bus started protesting, asking if they could reschedule. She shook her head.

We dont know if it’s going to open again. You’re going back to South Korea now sorry. You can get a refund for the JSA portion later.

We had no choice in the matter, back we went. And so the physical experience of our tour concluded.

But the lingering effects of the tour moved forward with us. Later on, while walking back to our hotel, Martin and I mused over the strange sense of insecurity we harboured throughout the tour. It was clear that despite being marketed as a tourist attraction, we were expected to be more like observers than active participants in the tourist activity, and the sense of tense anticipation that had cumulated in being blindsided by a UN order to close the JSA only released us when we’d been deposited back in the city center. I couldn’t imagine living under the thumb of such situational uncertainty, I realised then that despite my previous belief that everyone more or less feels uncertainty regarding their future, there was an invisible privilege in feeling that uncertainty only because of an individual conundrum re: one’s career/life path/ choices. When it was a situational uncertainty that pervaded the entire nation, the uncertainty became a low level humming that you carried everywhere with you, that you didn’t want but had no way to be rid of. I suddenly remembered the glances my korean friends had exchanged when I had cheerfully told them several days prior at dinner that I’d be visiting the DMZ, and I felt embarrassed.

It seems timely that I am now in April 2018 recounting my experiences there – just a couple of weeks ago, rumours surfaced that the North and South Korea might finally be putting an end to their 65 year war. The South Korea speakers that blast propaganda nonstop across the borders have just been silenced for the first time in 2 years. And with the Trump-Kim talks on the table, every major news outlet is convinced that the demilitarisation is either on its way or going to stay exactly as status quo. A time of flux, in other words, with the future’s uncertainty taking on a more optimistic tone than it has in ages. But even so, what comes ahead does not negate what came before. And so remembrance is more important than ever.

Which brings me back to my initial point – that tourism has its unique place in the ecosystem of remembrance, especially in relation to landscapes of trauma and war. Tourism is certainly not the only thing mediating memories of war, there is already an existing framework in place that plays out in many ways throughout pop culture – we have movies (pearl harbour, die leben der anderen), books (pachinko, a dictionary of mutual understanding, the book thief), songs (dixie chicks’ travelin soldier), poetry (Julia Vinograd’s GINSBERG), and so on. All of it comes together to form a web of myth that mimics the tradition of verbal storytelling, and the cumulative effect creates an empathetic acknowledgement of traumatic historical events.

And this is also where tourism fits in. When done properly, the tourist experience creates a cognitive phenomenon by manufacturing an emotional and spatial proximity to war (Geoffrey Bird, University of Brighton). It acknowledges, on an individual level, the traumatic experiences lived by people past. And it goes on to become part of the continual negotiation between the country’s representation of their memories of war and an international recognition of the nation’s culture.

Additionally, the act of tourism and remembrance is especially important with regards to the DMZ in light of recent developments and movements towards peace. When I began this post I spoke about landscapes of trauma generally, but intrinsic to the very definition of trauma is the fact that all discussion of trauma is past. In the same way that the term “survivor” is only used in context of an incident that is now over, trauma at an individual level is also only discussed after the event because the traumatic incident is incomprehensible when happening. The DMZ differs from the traditional landscapes of trauma because the act of visiting it is the tourism of a landscape of trauma that hasnt been fully created yet and therefore is still being lived and experienced. As compared to auschwitz, which has passed and therefore is indelible, the DMZ represents the present struggle between two sides of Korea, the effects of which leak into the everyday lives of koreans. We have not yet reached a point where the dialogue around the DMZ has been romanticised and coloured by the lens of nostalgia as so many historical sites often are, but we soon may, which is why now is precisely the time to see it, talk about it, and remember it for what it is. Which is, essentially, to become the witness – part of the process of the creation of history.

One last note on tourism. The active engagement with a place’s history as it is being created and lived allows you, the tourist, to fully appreciate the delicacy of the situation in present tense. But with that comes a responsibility to engage thoughtfully and respectfully, which entails a code of conduct whilst there (basic sensitivity, an awareness of language used, and respectful dressing). There is much of tourism and travel that can be taken at face value: the visual splendour of foreign scenery, the childlike excitement at seeing first snow, the first bite of an incredible meal.. but we would do well to remember that there are also some forms of tourism that can literally take us further, that can broaden our perspectives, our capacity for empathy, and help us appreciate our humanity on a deeper level. Herein we find the mythical quality of travel that modern wanderlust culture frequently touts, the type of tourism that catalyses personal development and eye opening experiences. The DMZ tour is one of them. And that alone renders the trip totally worth it.

This post was written in collaboration with Klook Singapore

You can book your tour to the DMZ on Klook here
There is also a $10 off Korea activities promo on Klook, running till the end of May
T&Cs apply, obviously