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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How I cope with homesickness.


Today marks day 65 of my UK life.

I'm less homesick now than I was when I wrote my previous blogpost in a crying fit, but I know that the wave of homesickness will happen again. And again. And again and again. Especially with the festive season coming up.

I've read somewhere that when someone close to you dies, you need 365 days to properly grieve. Now geez noone died and I'm not trying to be melodramatic (at least not yet), but the theory was that you have to celebrate every festivity and every birthday and miscellaneous event without that person by your side. You have to learn to be without that person; to stop relying on that presence through the ups and downs.

I think that theory applies to every transfer student too. I think for the whole first year, everything is rediscovered through the eyes of the newly-independent. Be it doing domestic chores or having a night out, suddenly you don't have your parents there to nag you or help you or yell at you if you go out the door dressed like a tramp.

You don't have your family with you for Christmas either. Or your friends for New Year's Eve. Or them both plus your crazy extended family for Chinese New Year, and so it goes. And until you experience all typical special dates in a year in your new surroundings, it'll probably always feel weird and depressing to be so far away. I'm fully expecting to cry during Christmas and all other special events.


But then again, I can't keep going through life here in a downtrodden state. And I guess that's the main idea to hold on to.

It started out with a lot of crying, and a shitload of binge eating. Like seriously. The number of biscuits I have freaking devoured since I've got here is likely 10 times the amount I've eaten the first 9 months of the year. It was so strange and terrifying; the cycle begins when a wave of homesickness hits and I'd reach for a digestive so I'd focus on something else, any bloody thing else other than sobbing my eyes out again.

Half a packet later I'd finally come to my senses and put the cookies away, but not without feeling disgusted and hating myself for the binge. Didn't I know how bloody fattening it all was? So I'd just go to the gym the next day and make sure the machines tell me I've burned 500 calories before I was allowed to leave. But then the homesickness would strike again that same night and then the cycle would repeat.

I was depressed and self-loathing. The worst part was that I also became more selfish and self-absorbed. I kept telling my family and closest friends how much I missed home and wanted to go back. I even cried once whilst skyping the family, even though I usually always try not to in front of people.

I forgot that it couldn't be easy for them too. Even though they weren't displaced from their home, I didn't once think about how hard it was for people back home that I wasn't there, especially of course the family. I just wanted to whine and be comforted by people who love me.

And then my mother told me a few days back that she wasn't sure if she wanted to skype me sometimes. Because I was always in such a bad state, and she never knew if having contact would be a good thing or bad thing, and she wondered if constantly seeing the family over the computer so many times a week was making it harder to cope with being away, not to mention how much she hated seeing me sad.

Which was when it hit me: I'm making my problem everyone else's problem to solve.


I'm not that kind of person. Noone likes that kind of person. It's not that I didn't want anyone's help, it was just that I didn't want to get better at all. I just wanted to wallow in sadness until by some miracle I woke up and found myself home. It's just time I accepted that it isn't bloody going to happen, and no amount of cookies are ever going to change things.

I recently dreamt that my mom and sister (easily my most missed people) were for some reason stopping by the UK for a day before heading home, and my mother asked my in the end if I wanted to go back with them for a week. And even in my dream, I said that I couldn't go back home, because if I did so I would never be able to bring myself to come back to finish my studies here.

Even in my dream I was practical about my situation. Like it or not, I'm stuck here until July. So, might as well work on finding ways to cope with homesickness other than whining.


#1: I just have to keep my eye on the prize. I may have come here to have a life-changing experience and all, but the only reason I'm here in the first place is to study my ass off, so hopefully my grades will fit my Asian stereotype. Then maybe my parents won't say they wasted a huge chunk of money sending me here.

Never thought I'd be thankful for my workload, but it has been keeping me really busy, as we're heading into the end of the term now. As I'm typing this, at the end of a week where I've had freaking three tutorials to prep for, I'm worrying about having my first language assessment next week as well as a non-assessed essay I fully intend to hand in. And the week after that, I have another three tutorials as well as two non-assessed essays to hand in.

Safe to say I am insanely inundated by work now. And there is nothing like the pushing force of raw kiasuness to make you forget about all else.


#2: Remember that I'm responsible for my own emotions. If I try hard enough to keep myself otherwise occupied, I'll be more able to keep my negative emotions under control.

Inevitably there'll be bad days where things just spiral out of control, but for the most part, I can find ways to lift my mood, or at least vent my frustration. Music helps a lot, and so does exercising. And watching movies and tv shows, usually while snacking on something I shouldn't be having. So much for all my UK diet plans.


#3: Know that I'm not alone, in the physical sense where I have many dear friends here, and in the emotional sense where many, if not all, of them are missing home just as much as I am. When things feel too much to handle, I know I can talk to them, because of course they'd understand, and it doesn't hurt that misery loves company.

Sometimes when I feel an onslaught of homesickness is going to hit, I call up a friend and ask if I can study or just hang out with them. Because there's nothing worse than being alone in your room when that onslaught arrives. So its just better to remove yourself entirely from that possible vulnerable situation.

I know I've already mentioned this in my previous post, but I'm just so immeasurably grateful that the collegemates here have formed an amazing family and have allowed me to be a part of it. We meet up practically every week now just for the heck of it, and even if I'm bum exhausted and too lazy to move from my spot on the couch, there's just something so comforting about being in the midst of good-natured bickering chatter in your native tongue.


#4: Give myself a break. Stop hating myself every second I feel unable to cope with things.

The transition hasn't been easy, but it was never meant to be easy in the first place. If I don't find myself missing home at all after never having left it all my life, it would be a complete abnormality. So some days I just tell myself its okay to whinge and binge and cry when nothing's going right.


#5: Count weeks. Not days or months, but weeks. The time will seem to fly faster that way. I have 25 weeks to go till the end of May and the end of my finals, which seems so much closer than 135 days or 6 months.

It tricks myself, if only momentarily, into mentally shortening the period of separation between me and everyone at home. This small little trick has been a huge help to me, and I highly recommend it.


#6: Pray. I have faith He can give me strength and comfort, and will provide for all my needs. I just have to be more patient and pragmatic about it.


But time here really is fleeting. I can't believe its already been two months, and the end of the term and all its promises of fun and freedom is so tantalisingly close, you can feel it zinging in the air.

When I arrived here, the average temperature was a delightful 14-16 degrees, and now there's no such thing as a double digit temperature reading. Soon enough snow will come! And people like me will happily frolic in it for a week before making incessant complaints about the wet and cold mush. Then hopefully, spring won't be late, bringing about warmth and sunshine to lift our drooping spirits.

Am I getting ahead of myself now? Sorry; am just hoping the cold weather will zip by as quick as possible. For a person with zero affinity with low temperatures, I sure have picked myself a lovely country to study in.


I just want to feel at home again. And I hope that soon, eventually, I'll manage to find it here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

39 days down.

(I'm aware that my last post ends with a pinky promise to not go on hiatus again. Err, oops.)

The original plan was to have this blogpost up 30 days ago, but its unsurprising how my procrastination has followed me to a different time zone. Even as I'm typing this, I'm well aware that time is ticking on my assignments' deadline as well. But that's just how I've always done things I guess, with an inevitable blog post  upcoming next month complaining about my incurable procrastination.

"How are you Jules? How's UK treating you?"

I get that type of question a lot nowadays, and I always answer positively. Yes, I'm adjusting well. Yes, I'm eating lots of fruits and veggies. Yes, I'm getting along with the locals. Yes, my classes are fine. Yes, I'm freezing my ass off here.

Because it's all true. I have somewhat adapted myself to life here. I haven't settled into a definite routine yet though, and I'm hoping that will come soon so I'll feel a little less disorientated. 


I really miss home though. 

There's absolutely nothing I want now more than to wake up and find myself in my own bed, finding again that my sister has snatched all the covers, having my parents in the room next to me, and a fluffy dog that gets more and more spoilt every day. To complain about the hot weather that makes you sweat even whilst standing still.

Homesickness has struck me particularly badly this week. All the excitement of being in a new place has now worn off, and it has really hit me that I'll have to be here for over half a year still, with weather that's only going to get increasingly worse. 

I miss marble/tiled floors. I know carpeted floors are better for warmth, but I hate not being able to go barefooted in my own room. I mean I could, but it just feels far too icky.

I miss my maid. To have to do all my cleaning and cooking myself is a completely new experience for me, and while it hasn't been too much of a hassle, it would be nice to not have to worry about what to cook everyday. And it wouldn't hurt to come back to a hot meal on the table too.

I miss Malaysian food. Well, not really, I don't think I've been here long enough to miss local tastes, and I've never been terribly fond of our oily local dishes. But I miss the convenience of being able to drive out in my own car with good company, for a meal anytime and anywhere I please.

I miss mamak stalls. SO BADLY. It's not about the food, it's about the norm of being there once or twice a week for chitchat sessions with the usual bunch. Even though the atmosphere pales in comparison to a coffee place, we've always felt more comfortable there anyway, and I'll pretend its not because we're cheapskates. Going to a mamak at night just seems like the most Malaysian practice in the world now.

I miss the regular bunch. I miss just chilling out and poking fun at everyone. I miss the gossip sessions where we find out the guys are far worse gossips than the girls; and the relationship counselling sessions. I miss the completely random conversations; I even miss the times where we'd just go out and stare at each other or our phones and not say much the whole night.

I miss the bestf. I've never told her how much I freaking appreciate everything she's done for me, especially the days running up to my departure where she was helping me with every single detail, up to the point of literally packing my entire luggage for me and sleeping over every night. We always see too much of each other 'till we complain that we're sick of the other, but a few days later we'll say we miss each other again. I wish you were here with me so we could explore this new world together babe. Don't replace me k?

I miss the slave. Even though he regularly checks up on me because he's just that kind of wonderful person, sometimes it just isn't enough. We used to be 100% updated on each others' lives and still have a million things to talk about. I miss having one of my strongest supporting pillars/punching bag near me, with all his hyper happy energy. Miss you so much bubu. 

I miss my family. The second I was truly allowed to spread my wings and fly, I wanted to turn tail and hide in the nest. I miss the house I grew up in; with all the memories and hopes and dreams and fantasies it houses, especially knowing that it won't look the same when I get back after the renovation works. I miss my parents; for all I complain about them and take them for granted, not having them (especially my mom) near me, sucks. And all the Skype calls in the world just isn't enough.

Most of all, I miss my sister. I already knew I would miss her; I cried even back home thinking that I'd have to be apart from her for so long. Noone else has seen more sides of me, heard more of my horrible jokes, or been bugged by me more than her. I miss my partner in crime. I miss our weekly sushi lunches and sporadic baking sessions. I hate that I won't be there for her transition from high school to college. And I especially hate that I can't come back everyday and jump on her/smack her bum and speak embarrassing baby talk I only use with her.


I miss home.

I flew halfway around the world, to a country I've always dreamed of living in. I've taken in the rolling countryside and crisp autumn air and British accents, I've happily adopted the sweater-jeans-boots uniform, and I've even finally joined a gym.

But home is where the heart is; and my Malaysian heart is already clamouring to return to its roots. The grass may be a lot greener in England, but it has nothing on the icky, smelly mud patches we call fields. Suddenly, all the ridiculous politics and rampant street crime has evaporated into near nothingness, and the two main reasons I've ever wanted to migrate don't seem to matter anymore.

I've even started planning things to do when I get back. I want all my time abroad to race by so I'll finally be back in my hot and humid country again, hopefully with me not having too badly screwed up my exams.


But I am grateful for the good things here too. That I've managed to find a solid group of friends in our small little college bunch. For people that have practically never talked to each other before, we've managed to get along amazingly well, and I'm so happy to have found a family here. And of course, it doesn't hurt to have a childhood friend living upstairs to guide me along my way in adapting to foreign life.

I'm grateful for good shopping and excellent return policies, and grateful for the freedom to experiment with any cooking ingredients I want. I'm grateful for the freedom to furnish my barren living space however I please so it feels most like home (just by adding nauseating amounts of pink). 

I'm grateful for this opportunity I've been given to have a life-changing experience, and I plan to make the most of it. But all the same, I'm grateful that I'm only doing one year abroad, because I don't think you could drag me back here for another year once I go home next July.


From day one, the two most important polaroids from my departure flight have been placed on eye level in front of my computer. I miss every single one of you; including those that couldn't be there to send me off but have otherwise bade bon voyage.

I'll try to become the best possible person I can be. I hope I'll make you all proud of me. 


I can't wait to come home, Malaysia.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I has no life.

I hate long holidays.

No really, I genuinely do.

I've been on a holiday since mid-May, and it's only going to end at the tail end of September when I fly off to UK for my final year of studies. Even after cancelling out my heavily-blogged about trip to the US, I'm still left with near 4 months of pure vegetating. When I try to think back to what I did to fill up all the 2 month end-of-the-year holidays during public education, I draw a complete blank, so I'm assuming it was also spent fruitlessly.

At this point in time, I can feel my brain degenerating into mush. And for reasons unknown, I feel like I should make clear the consistency of this mush. Its not in any way watery, or like chunky mashed potatoes; its kind of like really heavy cake batter, not without its occasional lumps of chocolate chips, that where if you lift up your spoon halfway while mixing it you'd count 3 seconds before the batter on it falls off.

If you can't already tell, I've spent a short spell baking, and catching up on my novels so my descriptive skills don't fall flat. I've also finished watching a new series called Greek which I loved, and spent an unhealthy portion of time playing games on my phone (hello Minion Rush!) and a certain online game which is far too embarrassing to admit out loud. No, it isn't Candy Crush, I readily admit to wasting a whole lot of time on that.

But above all, I've been heading out almost everyday, nearly everytime for food. Over half my meals the past few months have been eaten outside, which of course means extra jiggle on my thighs and less jingle in my purse.

We're going to digress a little here so I can randomly insert pictures of food I've taken at mostly upscale new places I've tried lately, because I didn't bother to Instagram almost any of them and I don't want them to go to waste. I don't photograph every meal I have, especially where it doesn't look appetising or the lighting sucks or I'm too hungry, but here's the majority of available food photos from June till now, which I've grouped according to preference.

Places I'd definitely recommend:


Anti-clockwise from top left:

1. Caffe mocha and blueberry cheesecake at Coffea Coffee, ss15.
I really enjoyed the food and the ambience, even though the service was absolutely atrocious.

2 & 3. Burger and sea salt chocolate cake at The Daily Grind, Bangsar Village.
Warning: A little on the pricey side, but it was for my birthday! 

4. Mee goreng at Bangkok Lane, Penang.
The only foreign entry here, which I repeatedly had whilst on a trip with friends. I have yet to find good mee or maggi goreng in Subang yet!

5. Arrabiata pasta at Decanter, section 17.
Do not let the plain exterior fool you! This dish was bursting with flavour and everything good! It even smelt so good that the family seated next to us that ordered after our food came decided to order it too! 
Note: The aglio olio pasta was like the ugly, deformed stepsister of the arrabiata though, which should be locked up in a tower and never rescued.

6 & 7. Eggs benedict w/ smoked salmon and big breakfast (which turned out to be a burger) at Nosh, Jalan Telawi 3.
Again slightly pricey, as with all things in Bangsar, but I promise you that the food was amazing! Especially the beef patty that literally melts in your mouth! And the eggs were so good we found ourselves mopping up every bit of sauce on the plate!

8. Chicken club sandwich at Plan B, Paradigm Mall.
Okay on hindsight (this post has been in draft for about a month), this wouldn't have made it on the list because it wasn't outstanding enough. But it was definitely delicious and had good value for money! Super generous helping of grilled chicken and avocado, and it was so filling I couldn't finish my meal.


Places I'll never visit again:


Anti-clockwise from top left:

1. Chocolate cupcake with peanut butter frosting at Wondermilk, Publika.
I know Wondermilk cupcakes are a cult favourite, but I found the texture of the cake overly dry, and that was without trying the icing, which would have made it even drier. Honestly, I can bake much better cupcakes than this, and I have no idea what the fuss around this place is about.

2. Bacon pasta at Three Little Pigs & The Big Bad Wolf, Bangsar Village.
We also tried their big breakfast and a Caesar salad. Everything just failed to impress any of us, and we wrote it off as an overpriced dining experience. Seriously, don't even bother.

3. Seafood Crepe at Milk and Butter, Jalan Telawi 2.
Presentation is a huge deal for me if I'm paying a higher amount for food. So lacklustre presentation on top of so-so tasting food makes for instant dislike.

4 & 5. Salmon sandwich, deep fried cempedak, and sago pudding w gula melaka ice cream at Fat Spoon, Damansara Utama.
I read numerous glowing reviews about the dessert here, but was bitterly let down. That tiny salmon sandwich cost rm17 and was not the tiniest bit filling, and present company were unhappy with their mains too. The deep fried cempedak was too tiny to feel gloriously sinful. The only standout was the gula melaka ice cream, which I hear is from The Last Polka and readily available elsewhere, so I guess there really is no reason to ever step into this place again.

6. Burger at The Bee, Publika.
Yet again, highly overpriced and unimpressive. The location was lovely for catching up though, so maybe next time I'll come back for coffee and The Last Polka ice cream!

7. Macarons at Le Deux Garcons, Jalan Telawi.
Even after putting feelings about the infamous Facebook posting aside, I did not think the macarons were all that great. We had a salted caramel one and a vanilla truffle one, and both were just average to my humble tastes, so I can't imagine a sophisticated Parisian loving them either. Try those from Chocolat World instead! I was treated to a chocolate hazelnut one before and absolutely loved it!

8. Antipasto Di Mare at Michelangelo's, Pavillion KL.
We also had the sizzling marinara pasta and a beef pizza. The beef was so salty it was inedible, and everything else just didn't live up to the hype. Your money is far better spent at Decanter, or one of my all time favourite places, Pizza Uno.


Places worth trying out: (aka neither loved nor hated)


Anti clockwise from top left:

1. Chilli chicken wings at Chilli Rush, Jaya One.
Worth one try with a bunch of friends to compete and find out who can take the highest spice level. After one bite of Level 10, I literally couldn't eat anything else. Nothing to recommend tastewise though.

2. Big breakfast at Mr and Ms Cafe, Ara Damansara.
A pleasant breakfast nook that isn't located in Bangsar. The food won't blow your mind, but it's not bad either. It's a really nice chilling spot that even provides you with props to camwhore with. Yay!

3. A++ beef burger (its actual name, not my rating, which would be more like a B+) at Burger Lab, Seapark.
Of course. This place. I absolutely hated that you had to eat with people standing behind you like vultures waiting for your table, but the meal did live up to the constant hype. Next time though, I'm going to opt for takeaway.

4. Red velvet cupcake at Upstairs Cafe, ss 15.
Again, another pleasant coffee spot that serves good coffee and cake. But I do think I would choose Coffea Coffee over this place for ambience, though its equally difficult to find parking near both places.

5. Mango sundae crepe at Arnor Crepes, Sunway Pyramid.
Absolutely delicious treat that's relatively affordable; I've already had this twice!

__

I haven't been blogging lately, and I do feel pretty bad about it. Though I've been going out a lot, even when I have free time I'm too lazy and/or tired to manage to smash through the latest writers block.

It's that damn Max problem. As much as she'd love to be, Jules isn't as tough as Rhiannon, and therefore it's taking her far longer to get to the point where Rhiannon had already passed over a month ago. And I feel too embarrassed unleashing a barrage of lovesick posts about a guy I'm supposedly over, so I just refuse to write at all, also hoping blocking out my thoughts will make them disappear. 

But then again, its already been so many weeks since I've written something, and its getting pretty inexcusable. So here's my umpteenth attempt at resurrecting the ol' blog, and here's hoping it sticks this time.

Writers block has been giving me the runaround lately, as usual. I mean, you give a hormonal female unlimited time to her own undisturbed thoughts, and you can bet that they will revolve around things like desserts, sparkly things, and cute boys. Life has just been easy and uncomplicated lately, and I haven't been riled up by anything substantial enough for a fleshed out blog post.

I have no idea where to draw inspiration from now. Days just tend to blend together seamlessly, a casual routine of sleeping at 4 or 5am and waking up at noon, and filling the hours in between sleep with electronics, books, food, and daydreaming.


If I'm really honest with myself, I'm going through a bit of an existential crisis.

It's been so long that I've actually done anything remotely useful, that now I'm actively avoiding doing productive things. I'd rather do nothing than begin organising my belongings or documents or learn how to bloody cook, and this is somewhat scaring me.

I'm bloody terrified by the thought of finishing my studies and having to get a job. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up (let's just pretend I'm not old), and as such have chosen the most versatile of all fields to get my degree in. I'm afraid of ending up in a dead-end job which I abhor but cannot leave because I have bills to pay.

I'm afraid of leaving behind the safety net of an education. It means you can't make mistakes, you can't slack off, and you can't conveniently blame your crappy lecturer for your failures. It means you can't ignore social politics anymore, despite having spent your life trying to ignore it. It means you're entering an ugly working world where everyone is out to get you and noone can protect you from things selfish people will do.

I'm afraid to grow up. I finally understand how Peter Pan feels. But unlike him, I don't have the luxury of remaining in Neverland and thus, denial.


I have little over a month before going abroad. When I went for my university's pre-departure briefing, the first thing the speaker asked us to write down was what we hoped to accomplish while being overseas.

When I was sitting there, I thought the question was a whole lot of hooey. I'm basically a hick going to spend 9 months in a big city, so obviously all I want is for it to be a truly life-changing, eye-opening experience. Which shouldn't be too hard to accomplish, considering all the culture shock and sudden independence and drastic weather changes.

But right now, I'm thinking what the hey, because I've already spent this whole post ranting about nothing and everything.

I hope to travel Europe. Specifically, Italy and all its beautiful cities of Rome and Paris and Venice, but I'm also excited to travel anywhere else, because I know it'll be crazy exciting and amazing nonetheless. I hope to soak in as many sights and sounds and smells as I can, so I'll forever carry a little beauty of the world in the back of my mind.

I hope to come out of my shell more. I know I've already come a long way from the painfully shy person I once was, but I want to try a whole lot of new things and meet a whole lot of new people. Off the top of my head, I would love to attempt skiing.

I hope to become self-independent, although this one's not really an option. I've been blessed with the privilege of having domestic help all my life, and thus have never had to wash my own clothes or cook my own food, much less clean my own room. I have no idea how I'm going to survive complete independence for so many months without contracting some disease from unhygienic surroundings or malnutrition.

Nerd alert! I hope to do well in my studies. I've never been satisfied with being anything less than an overbearing overachiever, and I hope I can still maintain my priorities, especially since this final grade will affect all future jobhunts for the rest of my life.

This one's a stretch, but I hope to fall in love. Because a sweeping overseas romance is everything my chic-lit core yearns for, preferably combined with the whole travel Italy thing.

Who knows, maybe this time next year when I'm done with my stint abroad, I'll actually re-read this and have a think of everything I've done in the UK. And maybe I'll have the "ta-dah" epiphany and magically realise what I want to do with my life.

Grr, back off existential crisis. Stop interfering with my numbing buzz.


And I suppose that's basically everything going on in my life right now in a nutshell. I guess I just had to sit down and force myself to start writing again just to break through the layer of ice that has formed over my writing spirit. To think I actually wanted to start working on my novel this holiday, tsk tsk.

I promise I'll at least try to keep the crap posts to a minimum after this. And try not to disappear again on an unacceptably long hiatus for no reason at all. Pinky promise.

Now back to wasting my days away!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

To Mr Right

"No?! But, but why?"

Maxwell stared imploringly at Rhiannon in disbelief. He had been so sure that she'd go out with him; hadn't they spent the past few weeks being practically joined at the hip anyway? They went for meals and movies and chatted all the time on the phone, which made him believe they were already unofficially an item. 

"I think of you as just a friend, Max. You're amazing, you really are, but I'm sorry, I don't feel the same way."


Though dejected, Maxwell had a sudden revelation. The real reason for her rejection was a sentence he dimly remembered her mentioning a gazillion conversations ago, but he honestly had never taken her seriously, because it had just seemed so crazy. 

"Is it because I'm not Catholic?"

She froze momentarily, then composed herself to reply, but he'd got his answer already and didn't want to hear it. Muttering "Jesus freak", he turned to leave. 

She caught up with him. Of course she would've and he knew it. He never thought that religion was capable of being an obstacle, and despite his pride, he wanted to know why. Wasn't it enough that he cared about her and they had a great time together?

"Well?" He rounded on her, taking her by surprise. 


Rhiannon braced herself for her mini-speech. She wanted him to understand that some things were just non-negotiable to her, and this one went right on top of that list. 

"You're right, things might've been different if you were Catholic. I don't want to waste any time on a relationship with someone I can't see myself ending up with, and I know I can't have a family with someone that doesn't share my beliefs. I want someone I can teach my kids with about God, someone I can pray with and pray for, and someone I can grow with spiritually.

"So yes, despite a guy fulfilling every other item on my checklist; being good-looking, kind-hearted, ambitious, intelligent, and sharing or at least understanding my unorthodox sense of humour, it wouldn't be enough if he couldn't share this important part of my life. If someone's going to be my soulmate, his soul has to yearn for the same things mine does.

"Max, like I said, you're amazing. But we don't want the same things, and being with you wouldn't be fair to you or my future partner."


"That seems like a lot of pressure to put on a new relationship." Max commented.

"I'm not saying I'll marry the next guy I date, but I don't want to get into anything with a visible expiry date stamped all over it. I don't think that's an unfair expectation to have." 

"Wait," he interjected, "So what happens if this perfect future husband ever decides to renounce Catholicism and all your white picket dreams come crashing down?"

"That would suck I guess," she admitted, "But I'm not going to force anyone into professing a religion they don't believe in anymore, as long as he doesn't mess with the kids' minds until they're old enough to choose for themselves. I would hope he remains fundamentally a good person and not a closet sociopath, but that's just life, and I can't control how a person changes in the future."


Max knew when he couldn't win, and with Rhiannon having clearly mapped out her entire life plan, this was one battle that was lost before it ever began. Still, the bitch had been leading him on, and now had humiliated him when he decided to make his move, and he wasn't feeling particularly gracious about the rejection.

"I hope you're ready for a long, lonely wait. You might want to start liking cats."

__

Despite her emotional state, Rhiannon couldn't help but stifle a giggle at Max's parting shot - he never had been good with scathing insults, and it was his inherent good nature that made her want to be closer to him in the first place.

A nigging voice in the back of her head told her that she could've been really happy with Max, and that she was letting a good thing pass her by. If she was being honest with herself, she knew she had feelings for him too, and she'd let herself get too comfortable and forgot to pull away before things got serious.

Was it worth it? Giving up on relationships with wonderful guys (or meaningless hook-ups) just because she didn't want to head to rest stops before her destination? To go even more years of having noone to call late at night when she was scared or lonely? To end up a lonely cat lady because she was too picky?


Rhiannon rallied. It just had to be worth it, she scolded herself. If she allowed herself to indulge in these fleeting relationships just for the comfortable companionship, she ran the risk of letting Mr Right slip by, and that would really suck because - she winced at the cliché - he would be her other half in every aspect and would make her whole.

She just had to hold on to that other cliché, that good things come to those who wait. And considering how long she'd been waiting, he'd better damned well be the best knight in shining armour ever. Raising her eyes heavenward, she asked for patience until he showed up, hopefully in a sleek, sexy car.

And snuck in a request that he wouldn't be bald, or into all that ridiculous K-wave nonsense.


(p/s: I hope this post doesn't come off as preachy, because that was never my intention, and I fully respect everyone's freedom to choose how to lead their lives.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Great American Adventure: An Afterword

Malaysia Again, Naturally

HEAT.

Heat once you descend from the plane, once you enter the airport, once you exit the airport. It suddenly feels like you're in a bloody sauna once you land. The heat just seems to envelop you and get under your clothes and your skin, making it impossible to ignore. It doesn't help that Malaysia is going through a scorching heat wave.

I forgot how humid the Malaysian weather gets, because even with hot places in the US it was all dry heat. And after two weeks of complete absence, I think me and my old buddy "sweat" is gonna get re-acquainted real soon. 

That, and the overwhelming smelliness of Malaysian public toilets, beginning with the KLIA toilets. Near all the public restrooms we used in US were clean and stench-free. So the first two things that greeted us when we touched down were completely unpleasant sensations. 


But they were familiar. And they meant we were home. After a long, hectic, exciting journey, we were finally back on native soil. 

Flying in at 4am allowed us the unprecedented ability to clear imigrations in 10 seconds flat. Which cleared our path to a slow baggage claim, and finally to the airport taxi. Who of course speeds back as the roads are all clear; something no taxi had ever done in the US.

But noone cares, because we are finally home. 

Home to a house that we've lived in for over 10 years, with a silly dog that went crazy with excitement to finally see us again. Home to amazing local food, my own bed, and people whom I've missed and can't wait to meet up with. Home to the most important device in the world: that spray thing we use to clean our asses after taking a dump; the US needs to know that mere toilet paper is NOT ENOUGH!

Seriously guys, who knew what a luxury that water hose had been all this while! All of us began longing for that seemingly insignificant contraption soon after reaching the US, and I'm so happy to literally have it within reach again!

I can't deny it. I am a Malaysian at heart. And no matter how far I travel, I will always love coming back, because there are just too many things I hold dear here.


But there is a form of sadness when coming home, because we now know that one has left it for good, to seek greener pastures on the other side of the world.

It makes me wistful to think that we're all growing up now, and we're all heading to different places, and soon enough we'll have our own families that'll make our original family less important. Everytime we meet up, years will have passed, and things just won't ever be the same again now that we're all reaching adulthood and have to enter the working world.

But fears of growing up must be faced, because time waits for no man, so I will have to man up (so to speak) and stop holding on to the past carefree life. I will miss us being a team, but I guess we'll soon have to find new ways to stay together, that can withstand time and distance.


I know I may seem like a spoilt brat from the way I complain about places we visit, and I suppose in some ways I might be, but don't make the mistake of thinking I didn't enjoy every moment of travelling the land of the free. 

I mean, experiencing living in America, even if just for under two weeks, was a really amazing adventure. Different laws and social rules, being out of place and sometimes discriminated against, is all part and parcel of the trip. Even so, I am still extremely grateful for this opportunity, and I know I will cherish it forever. 

Because as cliché as is sounds, you really do broaden your perspectives and horizons by travelling. So after gaining some much needed fresh inspiration and insight, its now back to the stark reality of the daily grind. 


...Oh wait. I'M ON A THREE MONTH BREAK BABY!! Time to sleep all day and party all night!

Or more likely, read books and catch up on my soaps. Life's good for this introvert!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Great American Adventure: Part Five

(Note: I've now realised that the pictures in my previous posts were extremely blurry, which I guess is a result of drafting all my blog posts in offline mode. I've re-uploaded all of them to original iPhone 4 quality, which isn't high res but still better than before. Happy reading!)

Los Angeles: Ain't no City of Angels!

Day One:

I'll just start out with saying day one was a bust, as we wasted the entire day travelling. From Vegas, we took a bus at 11+am, which was scheduled to only reach our stop in Downtown LA after 4.45pm.


The bus was noisy and smelly and so were the passengers. It was just so unpleasant and felt like it was taking forever. I mean everyone hates taking the bus, so having to take a crap bus for 5 hours was pure torture. To add insult to the injury, where we were dropped off was practically deserted, and it was too far to walk there with our many luggage bags.

And let me tell you, the streets of LA are scary. I'm talking completely deserted pavements because absolutely noone ever walks anywhere, except crazy people that look like hobos and flashers. A lot of times in LA, we were the only folks on the streets, and every single time I feared for my life. Things were just that scary, and I'm not exaggerating at all when I say noone else is ever seen walking, so you already stick out, and in addition to being an Asian family, we were freaking moving targets. 

So anyway, after waiting for the longest and scariest 20 minutes ever on a street corner, the taxi we called finally showed up. Our hotel was The Ramada, located on the edge of Korea Street. You'd be surprised at how many buildings with Korean signboards we saw all throughout LA!


After settling in, we decided we would check out the standard of LA's Korea town. So we hopped over to Seoul Garden, which was literally right beside our hotel, for a Korean dinner. We had chicken and beef steamboat, BBQ beef, and jap chae, which is clearly yet again another example of daddy's tendency to over-order, because just look at the giant portions!

But the food was really good! I've never tried any of the Malaysian branches so I can't compare, but this branch was fully run by Koreans who don't speak good English, which is enough to convince me of authenticity!

The time after dinner was spent trying to figure out how to spend time the next day, which we had no plans for. The initial idea was to go to Universal Studios, but in the end everyone decided we'd rather do some sightseeing than waste time in queues at a theme park during summer break. To which I am really grateful, because cowardly me is a huge wet blanket at theme parks; I don't mind going and sitting out half the time, but I can't stand the inevitable disappointment/annoyance of my companions who attempt to get me to join them on more exhilarating rides.


Day Two:



First order of business was to rent a car for the day. And hey yo, we got (were swindled into getting) a Chrysler 300!


How sexy is that baby! It was such a badass (nigga) car, that made you think of driving with the windows down and blasting old skool hip hop beats. 

I absolutely loved it! Guess there's a part in all of us that loves Need for Speed.


Breakfast was another dim sum meal at Golden Dragon Seafood Restaurant (another absolutely creatively-named American Chinese restaurant).

Food was all right I guess. It was really cheap, so I suppose it was worth the money. I have now come to the conclusion that you really shouldn't bother having Asian food in America, because it will not be satisfying at all. Eat like the Americans do, eat a cheeseburger!


First tourist stop of the day: the Getty Center! It's on top of a hill, so you actually have to take a tram from the carpark to reach the museum, which I thought was pretty cool.

This would turn out to be my absolute FAVOURITE museum we visited throughout our whole trip! The collection of artwork on display is supposedly founder J. Paul Getty's personal amassed collection, and I was pretty impressed with his taste. Every piece had its own story to tell, and I was particularly moved by the Christian-themed paintings from previous centuries.

The artwork was all amazing, and the museum also had other artifacts, such as old books and exhibitions of old interior design in foreign mansions.


This was one of the many bible stories books on display from long long ago, and I was just so impressed with the workmanship at the time! Shiny gold leaf edges looked much prettier in real life!


I was probably supposed to be more focused on the full sets of furniture displays they had instead. But settees and abattoirs can't hold a candle to a gorgeous ornate golden mantelpiece clock! Like seriously, I was obsessed with that thing and just stood there staring at it for the longest time. 

I want something like that for my future house too! Better than those noisy yokes that annoy you at the beginning of every hour.


The Getty Center has a gorgeous panoramic view of the LA valley! They had a full wall of windows and even a seating area to enjoy this view! 


From one of the wings, we managed to snap a picture of the centre court, which is just a gigantic courtyard with lotsa tables and chairs, and also one of the other wings on the left. 

There were four wings in total, and at least two floors of displays per wing. Suffice to say there was a lot of things to see! 


A bird's eye view of the outdoor garden. All gorgeous and lush and trimmed to perfection! Spot the not-so-hidden Mickey!

The Getty Center, if you can't already tell, is in itself a really beautiful place, and it's so huge that you never feel claustrophobic because of accessibility to all its wide open spaces. Add to that the most interesting collection of artwork I've ever seen, as well as its spectacular views, and it becomes no wonder that this place is #1 on TripAdvisor. I absolutely enjoyed my visit, and I cannot stress how much I loved this museum!


After spending a good amount of hours immersing ourselves in culture, it was time to feed our tummies at the Farmers Market! It's supposedly a historic location, but don't be alarmed if you don't see any farm produce being sold at all! 

Instead, the place was mostly food stalls, peppered with some souvenir shops. Think of it as one big food court. 


After looking at everything the market had to offer, the sister and I decided to get a crêpe with fruits from The French Crépe Company, because it looked extremely promising and it had a lot of customers. 

I didn't end up liking it though. The fruits and crêpe did not taste nice together at all. However, the brother got a beef stroganoff crêpe, and I really enjoyed that one! Guess crêpes should be eaten with savoury fillings for maximum enjoyment!


Spotted about 20 different types of candy apples! Was so tempted to get a caramel apple for the first time, but apparently it's just a gimmicky thing because its merely a regular apple coated with a layer of caramel? Pity though because it looks so mouthwatering!


Also saw a crazy variety of giant cookies, about 20cm in diameter! Now obviously these proved irresistible, so we got a few kinds to try, and they were delicious! My favourite one was the red velvet soft cookie with white chocolate chips, which is the most sugar rush-inducing thing ever!


For dinner, we hopped over the The Cheesecake Factory at The Grove! The Grove is an outdoor-concept shopping mall, right beside the Farmer's Market, which was really pleasant to window shop at because the weather was lovely and cool in the evening. The Cheesecake Factory is a huge chain restaurant in America that I've always wanted to try, because who doesn't love cheesecake?

They have a really wide variety of food, but we decided to ditch the usual ribs/hamburger/pasta, and go for Mexican food in true Downtown LA spirit! In the picture above, from left, we had eggrolls, tacos, and chicken quesadillas. It was a much lighter dinner than our regular fare, which was greatly welcomed, and the food was also really tasty! In particular, I loved the guacamole dip, which puts my normal Chilli's guacamole to high shame. 


And of course, who comes to The Cheesecake Factory and leaves without eating cheesecake? We had the "Ultimate Red Velvet Cake Cheesecake" and the "Chris' Outrageous Cheesecake". 

We initially hadn't wanted the red velvet, but the brother insisted it was a must-try, so we did, and we turned out really liking it! Could've done without the cream on top though, because there was plenty of cream cheese already sandwiched between the cake layers. 

The "outrageous" cake which we'd been looking more forward to ended up being the downer. It supposedly had contained brownies and chocolate chips, but all we got was an overwhelming coconut taste. The whole cake basically tasted like a Bounty bar in cake form. Which is all fine and dandy if you like Bounty bars (I don't), but it just wasn't cheesecake.

Nonetheless, there were still over 20 other cheesecakes to try, and maybe we'll have better luck on our next visit. I really did enjoy dinner, and this place did live up to all expectations!


The sun had obviously set after dinner, and The Grove was all lit up with pretty twinkling fairy lights!


There was even a fountain show! Obviously on a much smaller scale compared to The Bellagio, but I ended up actually liking this one better!

The Bellagio's was very grand, and focused on showing elegance and power to classical music. The Grove on the other hand, had a playful, cheeky and more engaging fountain show to "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang. You know, the song everyone knows that goes "Celebrate good times, come on!"

Overall, the Farmers Market/The Grove duo was also really fun to explore, and definitely not to be missed by LA tourists!



The last stop of the day was the Griffith Observatory, where you could supposedly use this tank-sized telescope to see sky and space. Unfortunately though, it closes at 10pm, and we had reached close to 10pm, when visitors were seen being ushered out of the building. 

But even if it was closed, the observatory was still on a hill, and offered us amazing night views of LA! I don't know how well you can tell from the picture above, but LA buildings are extremely segregated, which I thought was really impressive. Towards the left were sparse lights from residential homes, towards the right were all lit up buildings in the commercial district, and only in the middle-ish could you see skyscrapers in the financial district!

You can see the famous giant Hollywood sign from the observatory. Curiously though, it wasn't lit up at night, so there was no photo-op, which was kinda disappointing. 

Anyway at this point, we were cold and tired, so it was back to the hotel for some yearned-for shuteye. 


Day Three:

For today, we had signed up for an LA tour with ADayinLA.com. So we boarded a Rastabus, which is a van filled with all kinds of hippie slogans and posters, pretended we were Jamaican weed smokers, and headed off to explore LA! 


First stop: the Malibu Sport Fishing Pier!

...Which is quite literally, a pier. A big wooden platform over the ocean, that some people were (sport) fishing on. There weren't even any big waves to see, because apparently there's this concrete wall built on the ocean bed which prevents strong waves from reaching anywhere close.

And it smelt like a fish market. Like seriously, I have no idea why we had to stop here for 15 minutes. 


I suppose you manage to get a faraway view of all the beachfront property. Which by the way, according to our guide, costs upwards of 10 million dollars each! Lots of celebrity owned homes, because obviously noone else could afford it.

But the pier itself was nothing memorable at all. And when we re-boarded the Rastabus, our tour guide said that was "one out of two of my favourite locations", which I hope is sufficient to give you a sense of foreboding about how thrilling the tour would turn out to be.

We were later driven slowly around Beverly Hills, with our tour guide pointing out houses that celebrities supposedly live in, from Brangelina to Matt Damon to Whoopi Goldberg.

Ok, I don't know how fun this was supposed to be. Literally, we were looking at a whole bunch of walls and foliage, and sprawling mansion after sprawling mansion. They were all beautiful houses, but not too different from beautiful houses we saw at Washington. Also, I'm pretty sure the actors do not stay there full time, if at all, so I'm sorry if I'm not particularly susceptible to breathless excitement from discovering a celebrity home.


I was pretty happy to finally be done with the silly celebrity homes "tour", and we were off for a brief stop at of course, Rodeo Drive!


Now Rodeo Drive is gorgeous to stroll through and window shop, but I was far too intimidated to attempt walking into any store. Not that I could afford to purchase things in those stores with names I couldn't pronounce anyway! It's not a large place, and you can be done with window shopping within 20 minutes. 

I would totally challenge someone to dress up, put on a posh accent, and just stride into stores like they own the place. Totally wanna see how sales assistants fawn over customers in such high end stores!


After that short stopover, we were taken to the Farmers Market for lunch. And I know we've already been here, but we had somehow managed to miss one of the rows, which included this adorable dog bakery!


Check out the actual baked goods made specially for dogs! They look exactly like regular baked goods!

Too bad I couldn't buy one back for my furry pal back home. But he eats everything anyway so he couldn't be a good connoisseur of taste. 


We then realised we hadn't had fish and chips (but onion rings are better) yet! How could we not have our most typical Western fare the first time we visit a Western country?

So we did, along with some clam chowder. It was decent food for its price, but honestly, with our experience I wouldn't go to the farmers market expecting a good hot meal.


Another familiar face after lunch: we were again brought to the Griffith Observatory. So we were able to enjoy both day and night views!


And of course, the obligatory picture of the Hollywood sign. It's pretty far away though, so it doesn't look very impressive in pictures that aren't zoomed in, which doesn't really bode well for people attempting to take pictures with it. 

But fret not, you still get a pretty city view! Not to mention, you get a lovely hilltop breeze that makes the hot LA summer a lot easier to bear. 

Other than seeing the Hollywood sign though, I don't think there's anything worth a daytime visit, and its far more interesting at night. The building itself is filled with all sorts of displays on earth and space, but all of them are dreadfully boring. 


Up next was the Hollywood Walk of Fame! After all, you haven't visited LA if you haven't been to Hollywood Boulevard!

Ok this place was insane. There were scores of foreign tourists, scam artists trying to give you a free cd, people in costumes trying to get you to take a picture with them (then pay up), and of course souvenir store touts that kept yelling about their discounts. 

Anyway, the walk of fame is obviously super long, and we didn't go out of our way trying to finish walking through it, but we still managed to spot many familiar names, like Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee, and even Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and Shrek. Seriously, how did animated fictional characters manage to get a star?


But this was my absolute favourite. Muhammad Ali apparently paid extra to have his star mounted at the entrance of the Dolby Theatre, instead of placed on the ground, because he didn't like the idea of his name being stepped on by everyone. And I thought that was the most brilliant idea ever! To think that it came from a guy that took so many hits to the head! I mean, after the first fifty stars, you don't even bother checking who you're stepping on anymore. 


Along the walk of fame was also the Grauman Chinese Theatre, where things were much more exclusive. It was a fairly small courtyard filled with celebrity handprints and shoeprints.

And looky what I found! A huge slab dedicated to the three main characters in Harry Potter! I mean, I loved the books but hated the dreary movies, but it was still so exciting! Interestingly, Daniel Radcliffe had the smallest hands of the lot, which was pretty funny.


Ongoing filming of a gladiator with Adidas footwear! 

Surprisingly, there were quite a few cameramen around, just filming tourists walking around and crossing the street. I might be on screen for a split second one day and not even know it! 

So anyway, that concludes our LA tour. We actually were meant to end at the next stop, the Santa Monica pier, which I was really looking forward to, but the parents decided they didn't want to waste an hour getting back from Santa Monica when we were much closer to Downtown LA here, so that was a bummer. 


Dinner was at Unique Thai Restaurant, this nondescript place at a shophouse block opposite the hotel, which I was actually really sceptical about going to because it looked so shady. 

But the place turned out to be run by an actual Thai woman, and the food was actually pretty decent, and I ended up really enjoying my last meal in America.



LA feels...like a tourist trap. The people seem menacing and plasticky, which I guess suits a state famously populated by scores of plasticky celebrities. I just didn't feel particularly safe or comfortable here, I couldn't get past all the deserted sidewalks, and this is probably last on my list of American states visited. After being done with the Getty Center, I honestly don't think any other points of interest are worth revisiting. 

And with that, I conclude my great American adventure. Now time to bear with the 14 hour flight back home!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Great American Adventure: Part Four

Las Vegas: Sober in Sin City (What?!)

Day One:

To get to Sin City from New York, we were catching a 5 hour flight at 9.50am. It would be my virgin flight with Virgin America.


I was pretty impressed at first, because the personal computer thingy in front of you had a chat feature!! You could chat with anyone on the plane during the flight! Which was pretty awesome because the whole family was scattered throughout the plane, so at least we could have someone to talk to.

Was seated in between a black woman and relatively good looking guy, that both didn't hog the arm rests or cross my personal space, so that was good enough for me. Sucks that the plane wifi didn't work though.

Didn't watch any movies or tv shows, because I productively used the time to blog instead. You are welcome!

The people on the plane were all pretty rowdy, and the flight announcements by both the captain and crew sounded like they were addressing a party crowd. Excitement abounded in the air, and before you knew it, we were landing in Viva Las Vigas!



Vegas is exactly like how you would imagine it. It's like walking in a living MTV music video, where no regular law applies.

Boom! Girls in bikinis laying at the pool sipping cocktails. Boom! Guys in suits strutting out. Boom! Close up slowmo on a black girl coming out of the pool. Boom! Screaming party scene commences.

It's a party everywhere you turn! Even at the airport, almost all the girls at the taxi stand were in bikinis and heels. When you reach the hotel, almost everyone that walks past you is half naked; guys shirtless and girls in bikinis, usually holding a 50cm tall, skinny glass filled with booze. Most are insanely good looking, like they walked straight out of a fashion shoot, but even those who do not have ripped bodies are not the slightest bit shy about showing some serious skin.

There is no question about it: we have arrived in the party capital of the world. Everyone here is serious about partying till they drop or go broke.

Or gamble. Every hotel has a hugeass casino with hundreds of slot machines, roulette and poker/blackjack tables, and even a station for sports betting with at least 20 screens showing every kind of game you can imagine. The casinos are strongly scented with the most sickeningly sweet vanilla smell, to cover the cigarette smoke from the many people freely smoking.

We had arrived on Memorial Day weekend, which means a long weekend for Americans, hence there were probably more people than there would have been in other circumstances. Great for party animals, but not so much for our little Asian nerdy, geeky, party-phobe family.

I know I know, why go to Vegas if not to party? Well read on and find out!


We got in around at around 1pm local time, and were really hungry, so for lunch we simply headed to the hotel's buffet lunch.

Food was alright, mostly cream-filled salads and pastas, but we were hungry enough to wolf a huge amount of food down. And after stuffing ourselves silly, it was time to go walk around the many giant hotels in Vegas.

We only made it to New York, New York and MGM Grand, where the pool picture was taken (looks like Miami, no?), before getting too uncomfortable with the clear aura of sin emanating from the scantily clad partygoers surrounding us. It seemed like we were the only people not there to hook up or gamble, so we decided to hightail it out of there to go shopping at the Los Vegas Premier Outlet (South).

Shopping at Vegas premier outlets is practically dirt cheap! Everything is on at least a 50% discount, so it was the freaking perfect place to shop designer brands! Even though the selection was limited, every one of us managed to do quite a bit of damage before heading back.



This is our hotel, The Excalibur, all lit up at night. Kinda looks like a Disneyland spinoff, but I guarantee you it is not as amazing as it looks. It was one of the cheaper Vegas options, and didn't even provide wifi in hotel rooms.

Anyway, once we got back and dumped all our purchases in the hotel room, it was time to go check out The Strip! Which is basically a strip of near all the hotels in Vegas standing side by side, with everything all bright and lit up at night.


Ok this was the best picture I could take at the beginning of The Strip with my crappy iPhone 4 (sorry). We passed by over 10 hotels and admired all the bright lights; striding amidst other tourists, and partygoers heading to the next hotel club. Pimps and strip show touts were everywhere, and were not shy about handing cards to every unaccompanied male. It was a party on the streets too!


My favourite sight was The Bellagio, because it just looks so classy amongst its gimmicky neighbours, and mostly for its famous dancing fountain!


Snapshot from one of the videos I took of the fountain show which happens every 15 minutes.

Spouts of water shot at least 50 feet high, and curved and wound around, in accompaniment with classical music for about 3 minutes or so. YouTube videos make it look much more magical than it really is, but its still really pretty to watch. Definitely something not to miss on The Strip!

Had a very late dinner/supper at The Sugar Factory restaurant at The Flamingo, where the father over-ordered as usual. At this point, it was past midnight local time, but 3+am New York time, so we were beyond exhausted, and had to drag our feet back up the long Strip again on bursting stomachs. Everything looks deceivingly close by on The Strip, but in actuality is a long way off, like a bloody mirage in the desert Vegas is.


Day Two:

Ok, so I'll admit Day One was one of the most boring days so far. I am not cut out the party scene, so the only thing I can do in Vegas is go shopping!


An old car and vintage Harley; at a quick stopoff at Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, where they film the show "Pawn Stars", just to take a brief look because it was on the way. We were literally in and out within 10 minutes, because 99.9% of things there are crap. Major tourist trap everyone should avoid!

Ok now on to the serious business: shopping at Los Vegas Premier Outlet (North)! Which is a completely different place than the older south outlet, and is also a much bigger, outdoor-style mall.


Behold our giant Coach store bag, that is literally full of Coach bags/pouches! Everything was ridiculously cheap, so we kinda went a little crazy.


Midway through the shopping spree, we stopped by Makimo Seafood and Sushi Buffet, and had yet another buffet lunch. Sushi here was just average, but was very satisfying for our rumbling tummies, as the first meal of the day.

Highlight for me was having both big strawberries and a chocolate fountain! I've never had strawberries from outside of Cameron Highlands, nor have I ever tried chocolate fondue despite constantly bugging my friends to go together. So I was very excited to see both!

The chocolate was obviously not the highest quality, but I loved the strawberries! All the berries I've eaten in America so far have surpassed my expectations! All sweet and tart and juicy and yummyyyy.


Hello Consumerism!

That is almost everything we bought in the 2 days during outlet mall shopping! Though most of it isn't mine, because as usual I'm picky picky picky.

Our Asian family never spends so extravagantly, so this is considered an insane amount of shopping for us! All made possible because again, everything is dirt cheap! So if you don't mind shopping off-season items, Vegas would really be a haven of ridiculously cheap designer goods! I love Vegas shopping!

After a whole day of walking about and spending money, it was time to head back to the hotel and freshen up to catch a show. Because you cannot come to Vegas without catching a show in one of the hotels!


One of the few family-friendly performances, with the majority being strip shows, even though numerous mature jokes were still made. We had bought tickets to David Copperfield live in MGM Grand!

Err, no doubt that his tricks were very impressive, and we were all left thinking how the hell did he do all those things? But his buildup took forever, and I think in the 1 hour 45 minutes show, he only performed less than 10 illusions. Which if you break it down, is at least 9 minutes of just talking before every damn 2 minute trick, which was boring as hell. Not long after the show started, the sister and I were nudging each other and saying "why the hell is he talking so much?"

I'd rather see a barrage of card tricks than sit through the show of another cocky illusionist that never picks anyone but tall, skinny blondes wearing a skimpy minidress (he did so everytime he chose an audience member). Did not like it, would not recommend it.

You're in Vegas people. Just go for a damn strip show.


Anyway, headed back to the hotel right after the show. We had to get an early night's sleep, because it was going to be a long day tomorrow!


Day Three:

Today is tour Grand Canyon day! Yay! It was super exciting to think we were about to see one of the natural wonders of the world in person!

We were picked up from the hotel at 6+, and first headed to the Hoover Dam.


We passed far more impressive views of the dam that would show its massive size much more accurately, but our tour bus stopped us at that sad little perch for phototaking.

Nothing much to do here though. Very soon after, we were back on the road to the Grand Canyon!


These trees lining the whole drive are "Joshua trees", named so because the natives thought the tree looked like prophet Joshua waving his arms. I can also tell you that it is actually a cactus, that you count its age by counting its branches and multiplying it by 10, and that it has no economic value because it cannot be burned or used for construction, but you can't cut it down because they're protected by state ordinance due to their age.

Behold the little botany lesson by our intrepid bus driver/tour guide Thomas. He talked a lot. A lot.

Which was fine because it actually helps me sleep if someone is talking, otherwise I almost never sleep on buses. So with me happily snoozing away, before you knew it, we were finally there!


Behold the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon. Which we were allowed to roam unrestricted.

Unrestricted. As in there were no harnesses or netting or security wardens or any form of safety precautions at all. You can sit and play and jump and do whatever you like, but there's a huge risk of falling into that giant hole.



Sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon!

This was the safest place we could find to do this, because obviously the other edge provided some form of security, at least in our heads. If I lose a shoe though, I'll never see it ever again. But seriously guys, it was that dangerous, and it was a little crazy to imagine we were completely free to play about on top of the Grand Canyon..

(As it would turn out, this very night my mother saw the news stating a high school student on a trip with friends had fallen to his death at the canyon. Life ain't all fun and games. Stay safe everyone.)


This is Eagle Rock. Named so because you can see the back of an eagle with its wings spread out, as if it were soaring. Cool formation huh.

Originally, the sky bridge was supposed to be built overlooking Eagle Rock, but because the rock was too unstable, it was built 100ft away instead.


Ok, I'm deathly afraid of heights, and the idea of a glass-bottomed walkway on top of the Grand Canyon had seemed like the most scary and dangerous thing ever in my head. I thought it would be like the Sky Bridge in Langkawi, which kept going on and on with no end in sight, and its constant swaying literally left me shaking the whole way.

But first of all, the bridge here was ridiculously short. It was a U-shaped bridge that would have taken me less than 20 seconds to walk through. The glass bottom was also too thick for there to be any fear of falling, because there were 5 layers of glass in total.

And then there was the issue of the photographer than accompanies you for all your 5 minutes. All your time is spent taking professional pictures. And laughing at other people when the photographer makes them do funny poses. You don't really have the time to feel frightened by being perched over a cavernous hole.

At any rate, the view from the short bridge does not differ at all from that you would get from just standing on the edge of the cliff. So, the bridge is completely a tourist trap, because you can't bring any personal belongings at all on it, including your phone and camera (they make you go through a metal scanner), so you have no choice but to buy their pictures.

My least favourite bit of Grand Canyon was the sky bridge, no doubt.


Inserting random picture of a cacti in bloom! I've never seen one before, and its so prettyyyyy.


After a quick lunch, which was provided by the tour, it was time for a short little hike up Guano Point, to see 360 degree views of the Grand Canyon.

I thought the hike would be a breeze because it was such a short vertical height, but the "path" up there is actually really treacherous. There was no steps or hewn walkway, and you really just have to climb over or weave through the rocks. Some more daring guys were parkouring their way up, which was pretty cool to watch.


We were walking really close to the edge of the cliff, and I was so scared of falling off my legs started shaking. One little slip would mean certain death, and I was far from ready to meet my maker. I literally froze in place and couldn't take another step for a few minutes because I was just so damn scared of slipping. Bloody morbid imagination took hold of me entirely.

But it was impossible to turn back, because I'd have to climb down the same dangerous path I came from, which I couldn't bear to face again. So I decided to climb on, and finally managed to reach the top of the rock formation! You have no idea how proud I was of myself that day!


Yayyy there's me sitting in the middle! Didn't dare to stand because the winds were blowing and it would've increased my fear of falling off. I'd conquered my fear of heights enough for the day!


Grand Canyon is definitely a beautiful place. And I'd love to come back next time, and take the other tour package that offers horseback riding along the cliff. Or the expensive ($200 per person) helicopter ride that descends into the canyon and flies around, which is sooo freaking cool!

Definitely a pretty darn amazing place, and a gorgeous natural wonder. Well worth the entire day spent!


We were dead tired after getting back, but the brother insisted on having yet another buffet on our last night in Vegas. So we headed over to the Mandalay Bay, and we reached little over an hour before the buffet closes.


The star of the buffet was definitely the steamed crab legs, which were about 20cm long at least!

I only managed one, because it was too difficult for me to have to use my hands to snap the shell. I'm too used to the smaller varieties we normally eat in Malaysia that either come with broken shells or a hammer. But my father and brother ate like 20 each, so I'm assuming its really good for the more seasoned travellers' perspective.


And so concludes my time in Vegas! Honestly, I think that once you visit the Grand Canyon and shop both outlet malls, there's nothing else for the non-partier to do. So luckily we left when we did, lest we be bored to death.

There's no good food in Vegas, though you end up eating a lot. We had a buffet meal every single day, and I know for sure that we're going to regret it after the holiday. It was just to easy to justify eating another dessert by saying there was no such thing as calories during holiday o'clock.

So that folks, is how you still manage to have an enjoyable time in Vegas without a drop of alcohol or casino token!

...Yikes. I know right I'm so lifeless it's pathetic sometimes.


Next stop: Los Angeles! More palm trees and sunny skies, disgustingly health-conscious people, and Universal Studios! Yayyyy!


P/s: I found Sunway Pyramid in Vegas! Not that it's the Luxor Hotel or anything!
 

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