To start off the week, I thought I’d do a post that I’ve been wanting to do for a while (but also DREADING!). I’m sure most of you already know that I love to travel and explore the beautiful world we live in. I’ve been blessed with a life that has allowed me to experience so many new cultures and wander through the beautiful landscapes of so many places. So, as you can probably already tell, today’s post is going to be my 4 favorite places in the world. I’m just going to preface this by saying that it was nearly impossible to come up with a list of only 5 places (also this is in no particular order); every place I’ve ever visited could have a place on this list, but I did it, so here it is!
I’m just going to start out with an obvious one, my beautiful little tropical city/state/island/country of a home (I think I got everything, haha!). To be 100% honest, growing up in SG I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have. I went through so many stages where I was so bored and just couldn’t wait to get out of there. But as I got older and reality began to set in that my time was running out, I began to realize how much beauty there was all around. I’m not going to ramble on for too long (trust me, I could write pages), but I will link some of my past SG blog posts below. All I’m going to say is that SG is one of my most special, unique, and colorful countries in the world, and I have been beyond blessed to be raised and shaped by this place that will always be in my heart.
2. Lake Nojiri, Japan
Every summer, my family and I travel to Lake Nojiri in Northern Japan where we own a lake cabin/house. The cabin has been in my family for over 50 years (my dad also grew up going there in the summers), and is a very special place for us. There’s nothing fancy about it at all (we just got running water and a flushing toilet 2 years ago), but it’s the most magical place in the world. It’s one of those places where reality just takes a back seat and you spend your days swimming, boating, cooking and eating. On a typical day, we usually wake up fairly early, eat breakfast together, spend time by the lake either swimming, lifeguarding or tanning, and then spend our afternoons shopping and getting everything ready for dinner. Our cabin is on a hill looking down on the lake, so the sunrises and sunsets are absolutely stunning. One of my favorite days of the year is はなびたいかい (hanabi taikai- the firework festival); we drive down to sit on the docks, bundled up in sweatshirts and blankets while we watch the beautiful hour-long fireworks that reflect alluring fireworks on the calm waters of the lake. Just being able to sit there with my family with nothing else to worry about is such a special thing, making this place so near and dear to my heart.
3. Phuket, Thailand
Phuket has appeared a lot in my photos, but I don’t think I’ve ever explained why we go to Phuket so often or why I love it. The flight between Singapore and Phuket is only about an hour and 40 minutes (and super affordable!), making it the perfect destination for a quick beach getaway. Phuket is filled with gorgeous beaches, shimmery turquoise water and amazing food (most importantly, haha). We typically wake at around 8 (that’s late for us!) and have a leisurely breakfast before we head down to the beach for the day. Then in the late afternoon, we head back to the room to shower and get ready for happy hour and dinner. We almost never eat dinners at the hotel (since the prices are usually marked up), so we catch a tuk-tuk (a motorcycle-driven taxi) and head to some of our favorite local places for some really good Thai food. All we need is 3-4 days in Phuket to feel re-energized and ready to go. Once my family leaves South East Asia, quick little Phuket trips is one of the things I’ll miss the most!
Favorite restaurant: http://www.eatbargrill.com/welcome/
Favorite hotel: http://www.lemeridienphuketbeachresort.com/
4. Paris, France
When I was a freshman in high school, I had an amazing opportunity to go on a week-long trip of a lifetime to Paris for a language immersion program. We paired up and home-stayed with families who opened up their homes for this purpose. We were expected to get from the house to the school (or wherever else we were meeting) by ourselves on the metro (and again on the way home). The mornings were spent at a language school working on our French, and the afternoons were spent walking around the city and doing everything you would do in Paris. Some of my favorite things we did were going up the Eiffel Tower, taking a boat ride down the Seine, walking through Montmartre up to the Sacre Coeur, attending a Macaroon baking class, and shopping on the Champs Elysees (and of course the incredible amounts of cheese, pastries and bread that was consumed). What stuck with me the most about this trip was that the further away I got from being in Paris (afterwards), the more I appreciated it. While I did absolutely LOVE it while I was there, I was amazed with how much stuck with me. It’s been four years to the day since I was there, and cannot wait to get the chance to go back! (Disclaimer: this was before I took infinite amounts of photos everywhere I go, so enjoy this one of me by the Eiffel Tower eating some cotton candy:)
Singapore Blog Posts:
Top 10 Travel Tips post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/03/18/top-10-travel-tips/
QQ Kopitiam is a small Singaporean cafe/restaurant located across from the Pasadena City College on Colorado Blvd. A Kopitiam (Kopi for short) is a traditional coffee shop found in many South East Asian countries, including Singapore. As most of you know, I’ve lived my whole life (up until now) in Singapore, and was in serious need of some comfort food.
The restaurant is located on fairly quiet street, but stands out from the big, red sign. Staying true to traditional Kopi style, before getting seated at your table, you order your food at the counter and pay right there. There was an older couple, the wife running the cashier and the husband running the kitchen, who owned the place. As soon as we walked in, the lady quickly welcomed us and starting listing off suggestions. She suggested the Laksa (rice noodles in a coconut, curry soup) and Hainanese Chicken Rice (steamed rice with chicken boiled in a ginger broth), both of which are famous Singaporean dishes. Once we ordered (I ordered the Laksa), I started up a brief conversation with the couple and found out that they were both Singaporean and had only been in business for around four years. We chatted for a little bit about where in Singapore we lived and what our favorite Singaporean dishes were.
Laksa is a dish that Singaporeans feel very close to, as it’s served at every Kopi and Hawker stall (Singaporean style outdoor food courts). It is loaded with pungent ingredients including curry leaves, lemongrass, and sambal (a type of chili sauce), making it an acquired taste. Foreigners (or tourists) often have a hard time handling the aroma and flavor of laska, but for Singaporeans it’s a bowl of comfort.
I would 100% recommend QQ Kopitiam for anyone in the area, whether you’re Singaporean or not (the friend I went with wasn’t Singaporean and she loved it!). If you stop by QQ Kopitiam, let me know in the comments below and tell me what you think.
Website (Yelp): https://www.yelp.com/biz/qq-kopitiam-pasadena
Number: (626) 696-3179
Address: 1491 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106
Hours: Mon-Fri: 11am to 7pm
As the 2017 year comes to a close, I wanted to stop and reflect on the year that has passed. While there is so much hate and negativity going around in the world, when you stop to think about life, you really only remember the good things. Just like anyone, my year had ups and downs, but at this time I am realizing how small and trivial the downs were, and how uplifting and exciting the ups were. These are my top ten moments (in chronological order) of 2017. I hope this inspires you all to think back on your year to remember all the amazing times.
1. February 2017- The last meet of varsity high school swim career was everything and more that I could have asked for. I was the captain of the team and we were in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for our conference championships. We had all trained super hard the whole season and were excited to see what we could do as a team. To be honest, I was not confident that we would be able to pull out a win, simply because we had a fairly young and new team. The gold medal came down to the very last relay, in which I was swimming. All we had to do was beat one relay team to snag the championship. As nerve-wracking as it was, it was the most amazing race of my life, full of nothing but excitement and adrenaline. As the anchor of our team touched the wall ahead of the other team, we broke out in tears of immense joy. The absolute highlight of my high school swimming career.
2. February 2017- I always knew that I wanted to travel to New Zealand before I graduated high school, and I got the opportunity to visit the beautiful country on a school trip in February. We spent 8 days doing everything from hiking, camping, luging, white water rafting, and visiting and staying in traditional Maori housing. It was a beyond incredible experience (though I have to admit, mentally challenging at times, especially during the hiking) and I am so lucky to have visited the country. I hope I can visit this amazing country again soon!
3. March 2017- One of my favorite parts about living in South East Asia is being able to travel around easily at a fairly low cost. At least once a year, my family goes on a quick vacation to a SEA beach destination. This year we went back to Phuket, Thailand for spring break and stayed at the Meridien. As usual, the beach was clean and beautiful, perfect for a little getaway. We spent our days lounging on the sand and spent our evenings exploring restaurants throughout the town. This five day trip with my family definitely made it into the top ten moments of this year.
4. June 2017- Of course one of the highlights of this year was this milestone, Graduation! It was a crazy and hectic time of the year, but I was so unbelievably lucky to have so many family and friends around me to celebrate. I was one of those people who just loved high school, so this moment was sad as I was saying goodbye to so many people and places, but also exciting as I started a new journey.
Graduation blog post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/07/09/a-goodbye-to-high-school/
5. July 2017- Instead of coming back to the US for the summer (like we normally do), my family stayed in Asia and I was able to travel around a bit. My mom had a business trip to Seoul, and since I had never been I decided to tag along. Although we were only there for 3 days, we saw and did so much. From exploring the local malls to going to the Korean spa and eating lots of yummy Korean food, it was a blast.
6. July 2017- Every summer my family and I go to our lake cabin in Northern Japan for a few weeks to hang and spend time with family. Last year, we discovered what I like to call a hidden gem of the Tokyo area, Karuizawa. Mainly known for it’s outlet shopping mall, the beautiful suburb is filled with secret spots that are amazing. This year we took a day off from lake life and spent the day shopping, going to the hot springs, and visiting the cutest little vintage shops. Definitely a day well spent.
7. July 2017- Although this was an extremely sad time, it was also a very memorable time. After 18 years of living in Singapore, it was time for me to say goodbye (more like see you soon!) to my beautiful little island. As most of you probably know, I have so much love in my heart for this country. It was fun for me to spend time really appreciating all the things I love about Singapore and doing a little bit of exploring at home. The last week spend at home was full of family, friends, laughs and of course some Din Tai Fung and a Tiger beer for the road:)
8. August 2017- One of my biggest dreams came true this year not only as I started college in LA, but also as I began my career as a collegiate athlete. There have been so many “pinch me” moments these last few months as I’ve experienced things I’ve never dreamed of doing. From my first collegiate swim practice and swim meet to living the LA life, college has been everything and more I ever wished for.
9. October 2017- While being away from home was hard, I was lucky enough to have my dad visit me for a week in early October. We spent the weekend hanging around Downtown LA and Santa Monica, eating to our hearts content. As a foodie, it was a much needed break from the college food scene (though I have to admit, our school has really good food). We found amazing eateries everywhere from Santa Monica Boulevard to Sunset. It was such a fun weekend with my dad, and I was lucky to have him with me.
10. December 2017- After the first semester in college, it was so nice to be home with my family for the holidays. I had counted down the days, and it was definitely one of the best holiday seasons yet. I was lucky to have 2 1/2 weeks at home and spent so much of that time with my mom, dad, little sister and doggy. There was lot’s of Christmas shopping, yummy food, cooking, cheers-ing and laughter. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the year.
Here’s to an amazing 2017 and an even better 2018!
Happy new year!