#2062 | life buoy


Male, Maldives

The new semester has begun, as has my rubber-band launch back into the seesaw balance between my academic and professional life. Writing my thesis on a liveaboard in my head was one of the many ways one doubles up social and work life, an efficient use of time, if you will. Dive by day, write by night. I’m sure this wasnt what Papa Hemmingway had in mind but it works, for now. Surprisingly it’s been wonderfully productive. You’d think that an arrangement like that would never work, and it probably wouldn’t long term, but something about the mix of sea air, waves with a chance of dolphin, and literature, makes for a fantastic combination. The beer doesn’t hurt too, nor the dozen Blackmores Travel Calm pills I take per day. What’s a girl to do when she loves to travel but is deathly afraid of plane rides and gets sea sick at the slightest rock of the boat? Not sure if this question were ever asked, but if so, the answer is right here.


#2061 | #LAdiaries – Airbnb Trips: The Adventureman


Malibu, Los Angeles

Following the announcement that caused a tizzy the world over, I signed up for my own Airbnb Trip Experience. More accurately, I got signed up – two weeks before I boarded for Los Angeles, I got a text from Elaine (from Airbnb) asking: So.. what are your thoughts on surfing?

If you’ve been a reader for awhile now you’ll remember that I learnt to surf on the Gold Coast, which I promptly realised that I both a. Loved and b. Sucked at. But you know me – just because I cant do it well dont mean i wont like trying. So obviously I replied LOVE IT without realising (in retrospect, a bit stupid – should have suspected it) that it meant that I would be going surfing. I was booked for The Adventureman by Quinn Carson in Malibu Los Angeles, a half-day version of the 3 day lifestyle immersion that he actually offers on the Airbnb app. I knew none of this till much later: all I knew was a time, date, and meeting point + notes on appropriate attire and a general idea regarding the nature of my activity. So an eighty dollar uber ride from Downtown LA later, and hola Malibu!


Malibu is gorgeous and also where the rich and famous live. “That’s Jessica Simpson’s house,” my uber driver pointed out, gesturing vaguely at a huge white structure as we sped past. Not remembering what Jessica Simpson actually did, I nodded and rearranged my face to look impressed. Finally he deposited me along a private looking beach, which i was genuinely impressed at, and drove off.

And here came my first fun fact, courtesy of my Airbnb Experience Host – all beaches in Cal State are public. This of course annoys to no end the rich people who want to think that their beachfront houses come with, well, private beaches. And it is hilarious because all I could imagine while trying to surf was the picture of a rich old man sipping his tea and trying to enjoy his 6 billion dollar view while determinedly trying to block out the fact that some noob looking asian tourist is crashing into waves right before him. Ha!

(Yet another example of the weird things you find out when you hang out with locals that differentiate your experience from the typical tourbook one. The knowledge that you’re the bane of some rich dude’s existence thanks to Cal State law. We must all rebel in the small ways that we can.)

Previously mentioned Airbnb Experience Host was called Quinn, and he and his friend took us for the day. We were a strange, assorted group from all over – there was a tv presenter from Auckland, a fashion editor from Germany, two journalists from Italy, a tv-writer from New York. And then me, the postgrad student blogger? instagrammer? online presenter? bookworm??? Even I dont know what I am. English majors, you will quickly find, have big philosophical struggles with issues of identity. But we were all level at that point, facing the waves, and going oh shit.


Even to a total newbie, surfing is a bucketload of fun. Most of the people in the group hadnt surfed before, so Quinn brought us through an on-ground (on-sand?) lesson on the theory of the thing, and told us that we’d probably forget it all once in the water anyway. Spoiler: we did.

The actual surfing lasted over an hour, by the end of which we were all wiped out. Update: half a year later, I still suck at surfing. Half a year later, I still enjoy it immensely. And what better ice breaker than watching each other wipe out in the face of a monster wave? I must tell you that literally nobody looks good wiping out. Everyone makes an incredibly hilarious and stupid face. The hope is that as you go on you wipe out less and less, and so the frequency of people seeing you look ridiculous is diminished manyfold.

Seven tan lines and a head of copiously salt-drenched hair later, I dried off with the rest of them and we drove to a spot in the mountains to have a picnic bench lunch. Happily chomping on my sandwich, I looked around and realised that I would literally never get to sit around and lunch with so many varied people from different cultures and backgrounds otherwise. Those of you who’ve been long term readers know that a big part of why I love Airbnb (and travel, in general) is the opportunity to meet and understand new people, mostly in the form of my live-in hosts. And with this new Airbnb Experience feature, it seems that group has expanded to other travellers who have similar interests – or at least, similar attitudes when facing new experiences that could potentially be very embarrassing. Ha! See above: re wiping out.


The second half of the Adventureman experience was hiking – something which I definitely did not realise beforehand. I actually hate hiking because I am terrified of falling down and breaking my face. In case you haven’t realised, I am extremely clumsy. But 2016 was all about pushing boundaries, and so despite fleetingly considering making a run for it, I chumped up and attempted the Malibu Creek State Park hike to the soundtrack of Quinn rattling off his favourite spots and memories from place to place.

Malibu Creek State Park is actually absurdly beautiful, and I found myself grateful that I’d been brought here because I don’t think I’d choose to go of my own volition. Lots of movies were filmed there – like Tarzan Escapes, Love me Tender, and Planet of the Apes. You can actually see the rock wall thats so heavily featured in Planet of the Apes, and the number of people taking selfies with it was actually pretty hilarious! Strangely enough, I never saw LA as much of a nature place – I knew they had a huge beach culture, of course, but my impression of LA had always been pop-culture based: griffith, DTLA, urban lights.. very curated, very specific. Never would I imagine going to LA, putting on some boots, and just going for a hike, though come to think of it, my American friends are very outdoorsy. Is this what being a local is like, then? In that hour long hike I saw everything I never had the option of doing. Back home, in the city grid and grind that I love and live off, the option to just get in a car and go frolic in some nature an hour out from the city was never really possible. Not that I’m complaining – different cities lead different lives. But experiencing the adventure man life for a day was pretty great, for a change.


And that’s what Airbnb’s Experiences represented to me, I think. Going one step further and not just living in another person’s home, but experiencing life in their boots. I wrote a piece on a different Airbnb Experience last month, one with a south african author who uses the Experience feature as a vehicle on social commentary. That, to me, was something you’d never be able to do on your own, and something innately valuable to understanding the cultural and deep seated political issues embedded in a country’s history. This one is more straightforward, and doesn’t try to impart any moral lessons. But both do similar things in allowing you to live out the life of another person in a slightly being-john-malkovitch way. And both promise to be extremely unique and immensely enjoyable.

I speak from personal experience when I say that I hundred percent recommend The Adventureman to anyone headed the LA way. From what I understand, Experiences will be rolling out to cities all over the world soon too, so perhaps one day I’ll see you guys in a Hainanese Chicken Rice cooking class in Singapore? Who knows. But till then, surfs up. x

Airbnb Experiences is now available on the updated Airbnb app.


#2060 | Cafe (waiting love?)


Starbucks Singapore, Tanglin Mall

Singapore, you were pretty exhausting today.

It is a perpetual struggle to accept that it’s okay to be both fulfilled and exhausted. To love what you do but also want to give everything up for five more minutes in bed. A horse a horse my kingdom for a horse and all that. There are easier routes but none in my head. Life has become a giant check list and my brain, cotton candied mush. How can you ache for something you’ve never had? How can your chest pang for something you know you wouldn’t want if offered? We are walking ironies stitched together by the kindness and love of others. We all hope they will accept us for the ridiculousness that we are.


#2059 | The Broke Student’s Guide to the Pre-Trip Checklist


Aloha guys!

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done my last BSG, so I thought I’d ease into 2017 with a generic (read: non destination specific) one that all of you could potentially use and hopefully find useful. One thing that crops up quite a lot in my BSGs is seeing an influx of emails and questions from you guys asking if I can pen a 1. packing guide and 2. planning guide. As I am a messy human being, I don’t think anyone wants to see what my packing guide is like (ie. nonexistent, lots of hair pulling, stress crying), but as an accused OCD person (guilty as charged), I do think I’ll be more useful to everyone talking about the second option. Because lets face it guys – the key to saving money on anything, not just travel, is having a game plan. Spontaneity is great for tumblr overlay quotes, but if your bank account aint having none of that, then time to get over the hipster aesthetic and start getting down to planning your trip beforehand!

A couple of years ago when planning my own backpacking trip across Italy, I came across this lady’s travel planning website. Essentially, you told her how many people you had, what your budget was, and interests were, and then you paid her to plan your trip for you. I thought to myself, I could do that! And make a living out of it! But instead I wrote BSGs for free on my blog. Oh well. And ever since penning the BSG series (seriously, its getting out of hand, just look at the BSG sidebar), I’ve had a lot of friends come up to me and ask me to help them with their trip itinerary too. So I compiled the questions that I ask them that’s frequently the most useful things to know, and wrote them here for you guys:

PS. This is NOT an end-all guide. You’re meant to take these questions/points, fill them in for yourself before every trip, then base your itinerary off that!

The BSG Pre Trip Checklist


1. What are your key trip details?

Date/ Time/ Number of days/ Number of people on the trip/ Time of Arrival/ Time of Departure/

2. Is everyone on the trip on the same kind of budget/ financial capacity?

This may seem like an inane question because friendship should technically transcend all materialistic barriers etc etc etc. But I guarantee you, this will make a difference. Someone who’s earning 3k a month is going to want to do different things from someone earning 6k a month. Someone who is a broke student is going to be way more willing to hobo it out in a backpackers hostel than someone who’s a working adult and prioritises having a comfortable sleeping place. And neither option is wrong – you should be able to make the choices you want to make on a holiday you’re paying for. But it’s not great to stress each other out when this is happening – if 3/4 the people in the group want to go somewhere nice to eat and 1/4 doesn’t really want to spend that kind of money, you’re going to cause a lot of tension and resentment thats totally unnecessary. Just watch FRIENDS season 2 episode 5!

So there are a couple of ways to get around this. Firstly, and the most obvious – choose to travel with people who are similar to you in terms of budget. Secondly – if you’re in a group where the finances of each person is very varied, then either agree that it’s ok to split up at times, or make your trip budget clear to everyone in the group. And this goes the other way too – if you’re the well to do one in the group, then be considerate of the ones who aren’t as free with their finances. Or travel with people who are.

3. What’s the aim of the trip?

Do you want to experience things, like go hiking and surfing? Do you want to cafe hop? Do you want to shop? Are you the type that wants to instagram everything and therefore hunt down photogenic places? These are things you need to establish before going, because again, it’s going to be very frustrating if half the people in the group want to run off and shop and the other half want to shoot an OOTD at every corner. Again, this boils down to both understanding the travel style of people in your group, and also being considerate of what each individual wants.

Travel Specific


4. Are there any hidden costs you need to look out for when booking your plane ride?

Some airlines will charge you an extra fee at the gate if you don’t print your own boarding pass (ie. Ryanair). Some are ridiculously strict with baggage and will only allow ONE carry on – not one carry on + one handbag (ie. EasyJet). You should definitely google your airline before flying, just to be aware of what flight terms and conditions you should be looking out for. Travel forums are really handy here. And yes, this applies mainly to budget flights, but this is a budget guide after all 🙂

5. How long is your plane ride and what might you need?

Again, another budget flight specific point. You can fly budget to pretty far off destinations, like Japan, Korea, and even Greece. So you’re talking a good 7-8 hours in air. What might you need that you don’t want to pay for inflight? I always carry an onigiri in my bag so i can snack if I’m hungry instead of purchasing the oft ridiculously overpriced inflight meals. You can also bring in an empty water bottle and fill it up at the water dispensers after bag-check and before boarding, if you’re flying from Changi Airport. This varies from airport to airport, so again, google is your best friend here.

If you need in-flight wifi to do work on the plane, then check if your airline offers that before flying. This is not necessarily budget specific. Scoot, a budget carrier, does in flight wifi. Cathay, supposedly one of the world’s leading airlines, does not. Emirates offers you in flight data for a dollar. SQ offers it for about fourteen times that amount. So, check!

Either / Or

6. Change money locally or overseas?

As a general rule, I find that changing money at your destination is cheaper. This goes against everything people advise online, but it is what has been true for me. So I like changing a little before I go so I won’t be stranded when I touchdown, then changing the rest there. However, this varies from country to country, so make your own decisions based on research before you go.

7. Cash or Card?

Logically, if you have a card that gives you interest free or no foreign conversion fee benefits, or a card that gives you great offline spending rebates, then carding more purchases might make sense. But you need to do your research as to which countries are more card/cash friendly. The US, for example, is very big on card culture. You card nearly everything. In Hong Kong, however, many places accept CASH ONLY. So my idiot american friends who met me in Hong Kong were wandering around the whole day with no money because they assumed you could just live on your credit card wherever you went.

And of course, as a general rule, always pay in the local currency on your card. Here’s an article explaining why.

For someone on a budget, however, what I would recommend is not bringing your card and only putting a certain amount of cash into your travel wallet for the day. Reason being, the minute you mentally commit to signing off on your purchases, you become so much more willing to buy frivolous things. But if you carry around the idea of your cash budget in your head all day, you’ll naturally spend less. When I was backpacking in Europe, I gave myself 100Euros cash per country, averaging 4 days each. Per country, mind you, not per day. And guess what? I stuck to it! Without much difficulty too, I should add. So it is possible, and I would definitely recommend this if you’re hoping to keep your total trip budget low.

8. Data card or Wifi Egg?

I must say from the get go that I absolutely hate roaming services. I have never been able to make sense of them, and they have traditionally always been more expensive than getting a new local sim. Sorry, Singtel! Even the 1GB/Month malaysian roaming plan for $10 which makes a lot of sense on paper is a headache, because IT IS A NIGHTMARE TO CANCEL and you get all kinds of administrative fees slapped on you for trying to cancel the AUTOMATICALLY RECURRING ROAMING PLAN. Headache!

Some countries you can get by with no data because theres wifi virtually everywhere. See: Korea. But this is just one of the things that i’ve come to terms with as a necessary luxury for me – now that I work, and so much of my work is online, I must get data whenever I travel. I’d rather spend the money and have access to my email, my text groups, my MAPS (very impt for me cos my sense of direction is nil) and my city guides (Yelp/Foursquare).


So which makes the most sense? I’d say this comes down to how many people you’re traveling with. If you’re solo, a data card probably makes the most sense from the local 7-11 or telco. But if you’re in a group, a wifi egg from your home country can prove very cost effective since you all split the cost of the egg and everyone can use it. You can also turn it on the minute you touch down even before you disembark, which I’ve always found to be very useful. Wifi eggs generally charge by the day, so do your math and figure out which makes the most sense for you!

9. Public Transport or Cab/Uber?

The obvious answer is public transport right?

Well, not always.

If you’re traveling in groups of 4 (or 5 for hongkong) then you might find that your cab fare per person might work out less than your train ride. Bangkok cabs for me have always been cheaper split than their trains, for example. In LA, some places can be really tough to get to unless you Uber it. And so your decision should be based on not just cost, but also time spent trying to get to a place. Because time is money, especially when you’re paying to be in a new place! Here are some bits and bobs you should know:

TO CHECK: whats the best way from airport to your accommodation?
In many places you might wanna cab, but in places like HK, Seoul, and Japan, the airport express trains are actually really efficient!

TO CHECK: do trains run all night, and if not, what are their hours?
Trains in NYC are 24 hours, with frequencies slowed after a certain time. Trains in Tokyo and Hong Kong generally end at 1am. Trains in London run till midnight. This varies according to the lines on that train, but it’s good to know.) It’s important to know what the hours of public transport are, especially since you might have to factor in time to get home after your late dinner/drinks/show etc. In cities like Seoul, the trains stop at midnight, no matter where you are. So if you’re three stops from home when it stops, you’re just gonna have to get off and cab it.

Countries never to take a flagged cab in: London, Japan, Australia
Countries where Uber > Cabs: London
Countries where Uber > Public Transport: Malaysia, Australia (some parts), LA
Countries where public transport makes the most sense: Hong Kong, New York, London, Seoul, Paris, Actually – most European cities.

*Note: in HK, there is no midnight surcharge for cabs. It’s not ridiculously expensive to cab, but public transport is really affordable, so I would generally take that instead. Not a hard and fast rule, but just useful to know!



10. How much money are you willing to spend?

This seems like the entire point of the blogpost, yes, I know. But at the end of the day it really boils down to this. How much are you willing to put down on a trip? I am of the belief that you can always make your budget work for you as long as you’re willing to be flexible on certain things. Can’t afford to go to Paris? Don’t go. Always wanted to see Egypt but don’t have the cash right now? Save it for when you can afford it, and make a weekend getaway to somewhere within your budget. Want to do Bangkok on as cheap as possible? Easy. Eat street food, don’t go cafe hopping, don’t drink too much. Really want to do a trip anywhere on just three hundred bucks? Read my Budget guide to Phuket. (HAHA #selfpromo).

Obviously you’re going to be very depressed if you insist on going to Istanbul and you only have five hundred bucks in your bank account. For the record, if you have five hundred bucks in the bank, I highly recommend that you don’t go anywhere and focus on working hard and saving up instead because the hand to mouth lifestyle is only romantic in the movies you guys. But the point is, decide whats important to you, and understand that everything else is flexible. And it really helps to make a mental decision on how much you’re willing to spend on the entire trip, because it gives you a limit subconsciously and you won’t just be guesstimating at your total cost during the trip itself.


Alright guys, I hope that was helpful! Scrap that, it better be. Given how many of you have been asking for this post. Ha.

I’ll add to this as and when I think of something that will be relevant, but other than that, all the best with your trip planning, and may you all go places figuratively and literally in 2017 🙂


#2058 | the year of learning


Hey guys,

Oh boy. I’ve been working on this post all year.

So, when the year started I asked myself what it was about the previous year that I regretted – or is regret too strong a word? What it was that I felt could have been different. For some reason the idea of 2015 being a year, a full year of my time hit me harder than any preceding year, the sense of time slipping away like sand through my fingers sparking a dull panic behind my ears – surely, a sign that I’m growing old.

In twenty fifteen I flew the coup every month, compulsively country hopping, face turned out towards the world with my hands outstretched … and I saw so much, sure, but at the end of the year I wondered what I had done in practical terms to improve myself. I know, I know, everyone says that you learn so much from travel, and you do, but what of quantifiable skill or knowledge? It’s hard to say, really. All you’re left with is a vague sense of mooring, a notion that you’re older and therefore wiser, though how, youre not too sure.. or maybe that’s just me.


When 2016 rolled around, I scrapped 2015’s resolution of traveling every month and produced something else: a resolution to try something new every month. Learn a skill. Pick up something I’d never done before. Read a new book. Whatever.

The rules:
1. I didn’t have to master it, but I had to try.
2. It had to be something I’d never even attempted before.

Time was slipping by! I couldnt let another year slide past without having tried at least twelve new things. And so the year commenced.

January: Skiing/Snowboarding

Alright, this one was a bit of a cheat since I did it on shoot. But hey! It’s new! We went to this place in Millenia Walk called Urban Ski, where you can learn to ski or practice on their simulation slopes. Perfect, because I’ve always wanted to learn to ski, and I didn’t want to go all the way to Japan or whatever only to fall down for three days straight. Better to get acquainted with it first.

Would recommend for people who are already working, or at least doing some kind of part time work, because of the price. It’s about 70+++/hour, which, while reasonably cheap compared to the cost of skiing abroad, is still pricey for a regular activity in Singapore. BUT! It’s mad fun, and very unique. I came away with a huge bruise from my fall (see video) that didn’t go away for three weeks. Souvenir! Recommend!!

Urban Ski Singapore
9 Raffles Boulevard Millenia Walk Unit 01- 46 to, 49
Singapore, 039596
Phone: 6238 0575
Hours: 10AM–10PM

In January I read:

Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
Shame by Salman Rushdie
Gentlemen prefer Blondes by Anita Loos

I also started on Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, which is a damned long book. I’m still working on it.

February: Boxing, Cat Yoga, and Handlettering

For some reason I did lots of things during this very short month.



I got a personal trainer who used to be a junior boxer (unsure what the official term is) and asked him to teach me boxing. Both hand-to-hand combat and the type where you hit a sandbag.

It was mad tiring, and I started out extremely lousy at it, and to add to that, after a month I still don’t think I could have actually taken down an assailant in a dark alley, but I generally enjoyed it. I like it because it feels like I’m actually doing something, even if that something is just punching another person, and also because under no other circumstance would it be socially acceptable to hit another human being. Very cathartic. And more accessible than skiing, because you can do it in a gym near you or get a PT to come to wherever you are, depending on how much you want to spend. I think the greatest point in its favour is, I liked it so much I actually continued with my boxing lessons past February. Would recommend!

Cat Yoga:


Again, I did this on shoot. Well, a disclaimer: I’ve done actual yoga before, once – I suck at it. And in New York I did acro-yoga a couple of times because my neighbour was a yogi who is very hard to say no to. But Cat Yoga? Never! And despite sucking at Yoga, for anything with cats, I’m down.


It’s hard not to get distracted by the cats (maybe just for me, because I’m a crazy cat person), but it’s still a decent workout. Being near the cats though, gives you a strange sense of calm.. and I’m starting to sound like a hippie. But yes, would recommend. It costs $40/session, which means that you get one hour of yoga and one hour of playing with cats – this is pricey to me because you can get walk in yoga classes at $25. But it comes with an hour’s access to the cat cafe after your class, and it’s quite a unique experience. So I’d say it’s worth it for certain types of people, like, you know. Me.

Hand Lettering:


So, one thing I noticed about making this resolution – everytime I pass an advertisement for some class, or some activity, instead of ignoring it I actually pause for a moment and think about it properly. Someone on my Facebook feed posted a link to this one-off hand lettering course, and my own handwriting is actually disgusting, so without allowing myself to sit on this for too long, I signed up for it almost immediately. It cost $10/person and $15 for 2.


Turns out the reason it was so cheap (normal hand lettering classes are $100 and above) was because it was a student project, organised in conjunction with MCYS! So in exchange for the class, we had to sit through a two hour sharing session on foster care. Well, the more you know..

Hand lettering class itself was pretty fun, with a couple of pointers and facts that I wouldnt have known myself. Generally a therapeutic sort of activity. I dont know if I’d pay over a hundred bucks for it, but it was definitely worth the seven bucks I paid – probably a little underpriced, even! Unfortunately, my own handwriting didn’t seem to improve.. but at least now I kind of know a bit more about fancy lettering. Ha.

In Feb I read:

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, my review here.
In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
Madam Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeline Thien
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (terrible)
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw, short review here.
After the Fire by Boey Kim Cheng [poetry collection]
Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (couldnt finish, hated it)




This is something I’ve never had the opportunity to try before because, well, Singapore has no waves. Ha. But we did a trip to the Gold Coast and surfing is sixty bucks for a two hour lesson, so WHY NOT?


Turns out I suck at surfing, am absolutely hopeless, but I adore it. It’s a total workout and it’s very fun, plus it sounds cool when you tell people you’ve been surfing before/ know how to do it. And you can do it nearer home too, in Bali, instead of having to fly all the way to Australia overtime you want to try it. WOULD RECOMMEND!

Go Ride A Wave
Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club
Address: Cavill Ave, Surfers Paradise QLD 4217, Australia
Phone:+61 7 5526 7077
9am – 5pm

In March I read:

The Enigma of Arrival by VS Naipaul
Love and Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Ministry of Moral Panic by Amanda Lee Koe
The Face: Strangers on a pier by Tash Aw


April really stressed me out. Firstly, I had two major submissions that month, both were upwards of 5,000 words each. I had just moved into my new office and was basically devoting all my time to trying to work on my essays. I also pulled together the first cohesive draft of a collection I was writing. So I did not get to do a new activity, but I read a lot… and does renting my first ever office space count as something new? 😀


In April I read:

Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
We were always eating expired things by Cheryl Julia Lee [poetry collection]
The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay (re-read)
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (re-read)
The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich (did not like.)
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
We Rose up Slowly by Jon Gresham
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara




In May I passed my driving, which counts as my something new because it is a new skill, checked off the list. I’d been learning driving for awhile by then, and it was such a relief to finally pass it – not that I’d be driving a ton in Singapore, but I really wanted to be able to road trip when I go abroad. But as I started learning to drive, I realised that I actually really enjoyed it, so there’s that too. It’s been great!!!


Yes lah get your driving license it’s very useful, ok.

In May I read:

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
The Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson


You know how they say that you have to learn to walk before you can run?

Well, I may have jumped the gun a bit…

In June, barely a couple of weeks after passing my driving test, I learnt to fly.


A pipe dream I had as a kid was being a pilot when I grew up. I dont think it’s so much because I wanted to be a pilot per se, it was just that as a kid I associated it with opportunity, the opportunity to travel, to see things.. but I thought it’d be that always, a pipe dream. Pilots had to have 20/20 vision, I heard, and I started wearing glasses by the age of ten.

But then I got lasik last year, and when I went to New York it suddenly became apparent that you could learn to fly, and for not as exorbitant a rate as one would imagine…




Flying is one of the most exhilarating experiences ever. I recommend this so hard. It’s really one of those once in a lifetime experiences, and it’s something you never imagine possible when you’re younger, but the world has really just opened up in such a way that nearly anything is possible now..

The private plane that i learnt to pilot was a Piper Warrior. I would actually say that flying a plane is in some ways easier than driving a car because there’s basically nothing to bang into in the air, whereas you have traffic to deal with on the roads. Lots of it. Ha!

People don’t know this, but you dont need any prior flight experience to take a flying lesson in the states. You just need guts and a couple hundred bucks. You can even get a groupon for it. I took my lesson with Ventura Aero and it was just the best experience ever, with a super patient instructor, and it was totally safe. Can I pilot a plane by myself now? Well, no. I still need a few hundred hours of experience before I actually get a license. And who knows? Maybe one day if I move to the States it’ll be possible for me, time and money wise, to take it. But for now, this will do 🙂

Ventura Aero
8100 Republic Airport, Farmingdale, NY 11735
Phone: 800.597.0866
Groupon here.

In June I also ran my first ever marathon.

Though I will have to say that this was not by my design. G called me up before I came to New York and said: Hey, keep June 3rd free. I bought us tickets to a marathon. It’ll be fun. And I yelled: FUN AND MARATHON DONT GO IN THE SAME SENTENCE! But of course she had already hung up.

Seriously though. Growing up I never understood why anyone would pay to go and run a marathon. I wasn’t likely to volunteer for a marathon even if I were being paid. But, you know, sometimes your friends do things like pay for your damned marathon so you have no choice but to show up.



Of course, I was completely wrong. And happy to be wrong, actually. It was mad fun, although tiring. I suspect New York marathons are a little different from regular marathons (do normal marathons involve DJs and glow in the dark paint??) but nevertheless, it’s a marathon, and I did it, so I’m counting it as a new experience. Kapish?

In June I read:

What Belongs to You by Gareth Greenwell
On Booze by F Scott Fitzgerald
Disgrace by J M Coetzee
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (Awful)


I barely had any time in July at all: I’d only just gotten back from New York, and I was headed the other direction to London with just a few weeks in between. It is a ridiculously first world problem to have, and I am not complaining. I recognise my privilege fully, and am aware that it does not discount the amount of hard work I do. Look at me being all self aware and actualised! Does that count as my something new?

Of course not.

In July I took the easy way out, the one that required me to leave my seat the least. I told myself I have to be able to introduce myself in ten languages by the end of 2016. I already know English and Chinese, so I picked eight other languages, googled and learnt how to pronounce that shit on youtube. So here you are:

These are translated from google translate, and I memorised them and learnt to pronounce the words online.

1 German: Gutentag! Mein Name ist Jemimah. Ich komme aus Singapur. Wie Gehts?
2 Spanish: Hola! Mi Nombre es Jemimah. Vengo De Singapur. Como Estas?
3 French: Bonjour! Mon Nome est Jemimah. Je Viens De Singapur. Comment Allez Vous?
4 Japanese: Konnichiwa, watashinonamaeha jemaimadesu. Watashi wa shingapōru kara kite imasu. Ogenkidesuka?
5 Malay: Hello , nama saya Jemimah . i datang dari singapore . apa khabar?
6 Thai: S̄wạs̄dī chụ̄̀x k̄hxng c̄hạn khụ̄x Jemimah p̄hm mā cāk s̄ingkhpor̒ pĕn xỳāngrị b̂āng?
7 Korean: Annyeonghaseyo , je ileum-eun jemimah ibnida. naneun sing-gapoleu eseo wassseubnida. eotteohge dangsin-eun?
8 Italian: Ciao , mi chiamo Jemimah . Vengo da Singapore. come va?


This was harder than expected. German was okay, french was okay, I took those in school. In fact, I dedicated eight months of my life to learning German, so I should be more than okay, but I’m not, cos I suck at languages. Seriously! That’s part of the reason why I wanted to do this in July – because I am ridiculously bad at languages, and I want to be better.

But for the languages that I completely dont know – Spanish, Thai, Italian – I would get words mixed up. So what I did was just listen to the different translations over and over again, then repeat the words to myself before I went to sleep each night. By the end of the month I could introduce myself in all eight, which is great, but if I ever want to ask how to go to the toilet, I’m in trouble. Ha!

I would recommend this if you have the time. It’s interesting, and at least you learn something new, right? The languages I picked are languages I felt would become relevant to me in the future. And now I want to take Spanish.

Revised opinion in December: I do not recommend this. I forgot nearly everything because there was no one to practice with me. Haha. The only ones I properly remember are German and Malay. I could remember the “My name is” part a lot better in most languages but for the rest I forgot them really quickly. So I dont really recommend this unless you have a lot of free time.

In July I read:

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, Edited by Sari Botton
The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch (Re-read)
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (Re-read)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Re-read)
Google Translating Tokyo, published by HOLYCRAP
Why I Write by George Orwell
How Should A Person Be? by Shelia Heti
The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw
Lord of the Flies by William Golding


August. Oh August. Does it count if the new thing I did was more by contractual obligation than choice? Ah well. Still, it is new, so it must count. In August, I started teaching my first class in University.


Speaking on a panel as a social influencer at the university where I teach

Part of my scholarship with NTU entails a teaching component, so the start of the academic year saw me taking on two classes of fresh faced undergraduates while I waxed lyrical about the compelling nature of literature. On the other hand (or maybe because?), I attended my first ever cocktail making workshop.

Cocktail Masterclass

I signed up for a cocktail masterclass by Fit Green Lean Nutrition in the middle of August, but not just any cocktail workshop – a healthy one. There is so much unnecessary sugar that goes into bar drinks we get at bars, which is a big reason why I tend not to get cocktails at all – I prefer my drinks neat, like whiskey or wine, and sugar gives me a bad crash later on. But I’ve always wanted to know how to make my own cocktails because it seemed like a neat party trick, so when my office at The Hive held a masterclass for making healthy juice cocktails, I just knew I had to sign up!!!! I brought my sister along too, and she had a ton of fun. You’re so wretched, jie, she told me, nobody starts drinking at 2 in the afternoon! I looked at her. Oh, honey I said, then I had nothing else to say to her because my mouth was full of DELICIOUS COCKTAILS.



TOTALLY WORTH IT. I paid $25 for the workshop, which included the hands on making of three drinks. I mean, twenty five dollars cant even get you one cocktail in some bars. And they were delicious!


Here’s one of the cocktails I made. It’s gin based, with sugar-free berry jam, blueberries, grated ginger, lemon, stevia, and gluten free beer poured over crushed ice. I added mint for an extra kick and it was amazing. Other cocktails I made included a tequila based carrot+cucumber+mint one, and a rum based coffee and coconut milk one. Everything was delicious!!!! And then I got to try a matcha one someone else made. Definitely a great way to spend an afternoon.

Some of you will be asking how I got it so cheap. After all, cocktail masterclasses normally start at sixty bucks and go all the way up to two hundred depending on who’s holding it. But the key, as with anything, is to keep your eyes peeled for deals and special events. This only cost me twenty five bucks because it was part of my office space’s weekend festival activities, but it was open to public so we got lots of random people walking in and signing up for yoga classes, meditation classes, and this cocktail class!


Of course I’d be the one hugging the bottle of gin in a corner..

In August I read:

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Brief interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakasuki Houston
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (re-read)
One Day by David Nicols (re-read)
The Tempest by Shakespeare (play)



I got my PADI Open Water in September and nearly drowned, but it was amazing.



There’s a long blogpost I wrote on the experience here, but in short, I recommend it conditionally. You have to be:

1. Able to swim
You dont have to have the swimming skill set specifically for diving. It’s just that if youre able to swim, youre less likely to panic because youre more familiar with your body being in the water.
2. Not afraid of open water
Claustrophobia underwater is a real, scary thing.

But it’s definitely a new skill that pushes and challenges your boundaries at every turn, and something I would recommend pretty hard.

Watercolor Painting

This is a bit of a cheat because I was asked by Cointreau to host a party my birthday week and I’d always wanted to learn watercolor painting, so I got Damien from AmienCreatives to come down and teach a class. The only prior experience I’d had was playing with faber castell water color pencils when I was a kid. The class revolved around still life painting, and it lasted a couple of hours of learning to mix color, interpret dimension, and express your own style.



Would recommend for a special occasion. Workshops are very trendy this year, but they’re not cheap – regular workshops run anywhere from 80-200$, depending on what you want to learn (terrarium building, leather craft, etcetera). This one cost $150 per person, materials and all included. But it’s definitely a fun way to spend an afternoon, and very different from just the normal grabbing of brunch and chit chatting. So perhaps for someone’s birthday or an office bonding event?

In September I read:

Foe by J M Coetzee
Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk


Hot Yoga

Signed up for 1. a fight club and 2. a yoga studio near my office in a bid to bring some balance to my life, which by October seemed to revolve mainly around my office desk. The fighting is not new, the yoga is. I discovered the extents of my inflexibility extended past just the opinions of my youth (ha) and to my body, I hate this bendy bendy business and I hate it even more when doing it in a 40 degree room. But it’s a good kind of hate (if that makes sense), the kind that you love to hate (?) maybe? The coherence has obviously worn thin as the year trudges on, and so here’s me just saying that yes, October’s thing was hot yoga.


I would do it again regularly but i wouldnt recommend it to everyone because the hot room can be pretty unbearable, plus some of my friends get short on breath or chest pains. So it’s definitely not for everyone! You can try it once and see if you like it, but otherwise, normal/cat yoga is the way to go ..

In October I read:

Trauma Fiction by Anne Whitehead
The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Endgame by Samuel Beckett
We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


NOVEMBER! The month of reading, books, and pushing my ideologies regarding the above obnoxiously onto everyone else. I spent two weekends at the start of November reading and writing at Singapore Writer’s Festival – attended two Masterclasses (Joanne Harris, How to improve your dialogue in fiction, and Lionel Shriver, Melding Fact and Fiction) and a whole bunch of panels exporting the literary to the real world. Illuminating? Yes. Recommended? Definitely.



I consider this my something new because I’ve actually never attended a full literary festival nor an actual Masterclass before. The literary festival is definitely something I’d recommend, but masterclasses can be a tad expensive, so that I’d reserve recommendation on unless youre a very serious writer or have a spare eighty bucks to throw.

And speaking of recommendations…

November was also the month I launched my own bookshelf in Times Bookstore, in collaboration with Changi Airport Group! The shelf is called #jemmarecommends, a play on #changirecommends.


This was months in the works, and it is a really big deal for me, so I was obviously thrilled! No need to say whether I recommend it or not because duh.

In November I read:

The Ground I Stand on is Not My Ground by Collier Nogues
Runaway bt Alice Munroe
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Kappa Quartet by Daryl Qilin Yam
Natural Subjects by Divya Victor
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
What is not yours is not yours by Helen Oyeyemi


Most people dont know this, but December is peak period for everyone who does campaign based work. All clients have leftover budget and want to run one million campaigns! So despite initially committing to rejecting all media work and just focusing on my research work in December, it somehow didn’t pan out that way..

First Major Banner Ad

Screenshot 2016-12-09 15.53.26Screenshot 2016-12-09 15.52.58

In December I did my first large scale web ad. I’ve done campaign based social media ads before, and commercials, but somehow I’d never done web banner work before. And so Martin and I got down to creating visuals for the Paypal homepage that was used across the entire asia-geotargeted pages. You can see the final thing live here and here.


When I was actually doing it it seemed like a regular shoot, but when it went live I was actually pretty excited because IM ON THE PAYPAL HOMEPAGE!! I dont think it really hit me until it went live. But it was definitely a cool project to be on. I got messages from friends and family telling me they saw me on the Paypal site, which was kind of great too because so much of what I do is relatively niche so people outside certain interest groups wouldnt see it. But everyone uses money, right? 😀

In December I read:

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
The Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie



And here we are on the first day of 2017.

Whew. That post took me a year to write – it sat in drafts for months, and I would pull it up everytime i read a new book or tried something new. The commitment I took to doing something new every month is something that definitely added some kind of dimension to my year. Every month I found myself pushing my limits and looking for new things to learn and try, and fail at, and fail better at.

That said, my hardheadedness and refusal to give up on the resolution was disastrous for me in terms of stress levels. The resolution sounded great on paper and everyone I told got really excited for me and agreed that it was a fantastic idea. But my anxiety was off the charts in the second half of the year – I was perpetually tired, and stressed, and moody. In addition to my regular work, filming, and teaching, and, yknw, trying to have a social life, I was still preoccupied with my commitment to finding new things to do, and so many times I just wanted to retreat under my covers and never come out. A friend told me she was adopting my 2016 resolution for 2017, and I paused for a moment before congratulating her on her commitment.

“Maybe.. one new thing every two months instead of one?” I finally said. “Otherwise during your busy months it might kill you.”

She laughed, and I followed even though I wasnt actually joking. I must remember to follow up with her on that.

Overall, the year was so varied for me. I was so happy and motivated at the start of 2016, but towards the third quarter of the year I was incredibly, incredibly depressed and exhausted. I believe the technical term is a burn out. I regret nothing of course – when all is said and done what I have on my hands is chalked up to experience, and amazing experience at that. Without my resolution I would have never pushed myself to learn to dive and fly and drive and box. But moving into 2017, perhaps learning to take it easy on myself, and synthesise the idea of moderation a little bit better? Who knows, who knows.

At the end of it all, 2016 was the most challenging year for me yet, and the most fulfilling. And every year that passes I grow more aware of the people around me, and am grateful. I love, and am well loved in return. There’s little more a girl could ask for.

So, that’s it. My year in one blog post. Thank you for reading – I know its lengthier than the usual – and thank you all for sticking around.

2016, you big weirdo. Bye bye. 2017, come at us. Do your best. We’re ready.