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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Touch Sala Bai

Meet Socheat (it's a real name, not cheating!), her father left her to marry her mother's cousin when she was a baby. The new wife, though family, forbids her father from keeping in touch with his child nor former wife. So near yet so far,the father and his new family remains residing in the same village. Her mum,the sole bread winner,soon fell ill with heart problems.

Socheat was destitute.

Meet Sok, her dad also left her when she was a baby. Her mother later remarried a man younger than her and also abandoned her.
Sok on the extreme right.
Sok was destitute.
I asked him to pose like Ong Bak because of the missing Buddha head behind.
Meet South Chanta, he was given away by his parents to his Uncle to be a slave. At 5, he served the Uncle's family by cooking,cleaning and working on the fields. In return,he gets food, shelter and clothes. He had a yearning to study, only to meet strong objections from his Uncle. His Uncle said harshly to Chanta," if you want to study, u need to leave my family for good." Later, Chanta did leave but was labelled as an ingrate.

We do not get to choose to be born poor or rich,but we do have a choice to choose how we live.

These 3 Cambodians heard about Sala Bai and chose not to give up. To make their way to get an application form, some travel 7 days and 6 nights.
Meet Sam, my friend who followed that actual journey of a recent graduate of Sala Bai by running, cycling and swimming. He did so to raise awareness of the Cambodian's plight (50% live on less than USD 50 per month). Knowledge hungry, determined, ambitious but limited because of poverty. Worse, they are highly vulnerable to sex and labour trafficking.

Singapore's citizens might have alot of gripe about our senior minister mentor LKY,but if there's anything to be grateful for is that he provided education & made it compulsory in Singapore.

For anyone who have met the students of Sala Bai, look into their earnest eyes, hear their passion about wanting to improve themselves, one would feel ashamed how we hated homework & the start of school after the holidays (which happens to be this week).

I spent my weekend discovering Sala Bai and Siem Reap.

Siem Reap wasn't made famous until Angelina Jolie (for adopting a child) and Tomb Raider (which Angelia Jolie starred in too).
The Angkor Wat

I was in awe the moment i stepped into the temple grounds. Little did i know that Cambodia, home to the largest religious structure was forced not too long ago to give up their religion during the largest genocide in history.
Everything was so majestic, full of details and textures.  While you may roam the temples on your own, it's better to get a guide because he can tell you the stories and point out things you wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

Like this carving, where a Stegosauraus was found! If the 12th century civilization had carved this into stone, does this mean that dinosaurs existed?
 No modern architecture can beat the Ang Kor Wat. These incredulous trees add to the mysteriousness and enchantment of the temple grounds.

Only in the 1999 then was there clam after the Khmer Rouge regime. But by then, 2 million have already died, from starvation, disease and slaughter. That's 21% of Cambodians and almost anyone with an education. Urban dwellers were evacuated from their homes and moved to rural areas.

Moving from the city to the country side was already bad enough, but imagine if you had to live in the Meachrey river.

And Singaporeans complain about flash floods?

Tourists may take a river boat ride down this stream, peep into the poor homes, intruding and invasive. Taking photos of everything, we may find the entire experience touristy.
Like a curious tourist, i really did peep into the poor homes. Most are empty, the owners gone fishing or work. There is no need to 'lock up' because there is literally nothing to steal. Most homes are SO SPARSE, they merely provide a roof.

A chicken coop on water.
It's hard to imagine an urban dweller like us to move to live in such conditions, but these people make do. It is after all, a way of life.
A pig sty on water.
I teared twice on the hour long river cruise. It brought back the thought where we don't get to choose to be born rich or poor, in Singapore or in Cambodia. I am guilty of wishing i can be born a celebrity's daughter, wishing i can have bigger breasts or wishing i have a better life.

I obviously already do.

Sala Bai is a non-profit organization whose mission is to fight poverty and human trafficking in Cambodia by providing education and employment in the hospitality. By having a model solution for a program that provides practical education and then guaranteeing employment will support the economic growth of Cambodia and also eliminate the risk of trafficking for individuals.

Sala Bai hand-picks only 100 students a year to provide full board, meals and studies for free. The social workers at Sala Bai conducts home visits to ensure that the 100 students they give come from absolutely impoverished homes (if you have a rice field, pig or scooter, you will not be accepted into Sala Bai). There is also a stringent selection process so only the most determined students with a good attitude will be selected.
Getting English lessons.
I strongly encourage you to travel with a cause, follow my footsteps in a weekend to discover Sala Bai. It's not realistic to make a donation without fully understanding Sala Bai. I urge that you consider staying at the training hotel to experience the students' hunger to learn.
Outside Sala Bai
There are only 4 rooms available starting from USD 20 a night. It's awesome value-for-money. Almost centrally located, the mosquito net and warm bedside lamp gives the room a romantic feel. Toilets are equipped with towels.
Sala Bai students get trained for roles in housekeeping, receptionist, waiters and chefs. Book Sala Bai for accommodation if you plan to visit Siem Reap!
 However, if you prefer a fancy hotel, try boutique hotel Heritage Suites.
They are strong supporters of Sala Bai by offering internships and employing graduates.
Graduates from Sala Bai may now earn as much as USD 400 a month.
The board members of Sala Bai fund the organization's operating expenses, 100% of the donations goes towards the school and students (medical insurance, USD 20 allowance a month, lessons and lodging).

If you're still not certain about making a donation, or prefer to stay in a luxury hotel, at least pay Sala Bai a visit for a meal! Training restaurant and bar is closed on Sundays and school holidays.

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of food served. I was expecting to go easy on taste expectations because it's cooked by students.

Cambodian food is very similar to Thai, but without the chilli padi and spice. I love the breakfast sets that starts at USD 2. Try the traditional Cambodian porridge for breakfast.
Mango salad with shrimp
Mince pork with eggplant rice
Singapore ranked 90th out of 151 countries in a 2012 study on Happiness. We are not happy and i wonder why. Not enough iPhones, iPads perhaps? Not enough fine wine and dine?

The highest ranked Asian country is Vietnam (2nd) and Hong Kong in position 102 is the only Asian nation ranked lower than Singapore.

How then can young Cambodians smile so genuinely considering the extraordinary challenges they face?
Rowing to school.

Perhaps they've long known what we're still trying to find, happiness.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Get a Facial

Every time I schedule a trip, I will also pre-book a facial. I'm kiasu like that because I like to get a facial as soon as I touch down, get a through cleansing because I am now home.

Also all that travelling and change in climates may also wreck up skin conditions.
I was so desperate in Europe because my skin was getting very dry & uneven that I started considering Europe spas! Only to know they don't do extraction yet charge an exorbitant $300! If it's just a scrub and a mask,I can do it myself at home right?

I end up paying $8 for a tiny 15ml tube of scrub at Boots which didn't help clear up the roughness much.

So it was heaven when I checked into my favourite face spa.
 The ambience is right, the lights are welcoming.

 The right jazz tunes lulls me into bliss.
Want to extend that holiday feeling alittle longer? Check into a face spa.
Call 6227 9692 for appointment booking. Porcelain, The Face Spa is located at 31A Cantonment Road (3 mins walk from Outram MRT, Exit H) Alternatively, you may visit their website at

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Epitome of a woman

It has always been the saying "behind every successful man, there is a woman." However, in light of the CHC scandal, i think women are like rocks.

Get a good one and a man steps up better. Get a bad one, a man can trip and falls. I won't comment on the sensational news, for at times like this Christians should do what is right: not judge.

On a seperate note, 2 of my girlfriends are facing marital problems. The wife thinks its the husband who caused disharmony but the husband thinks vice versa. It is very human to think bad of someone else than to reflect on ourselves first.

One driven by rage with the disharmony and fueled with insecurity, sought help from monks to cast spells ($1500). This stops her husband from getting an errection besides when with her during this trying time of their marriage.

I disapproved and advised her to not meddle with the supernatural.

From their stories (though not enough to be a study), i've found that women tend to speak without thinking while men tend to hold back from communicating. Male chauvinists also prefer to sweep things under the carpet and avoid acknowledging there IS a problem.

Arguing shouldn't take place over text messages. However, a woman have no qalms sending one laden with accusations. We need to understand men do not respond to accusations over text messages well. So we only set ourselves up for much distraught when we don't get a reply.

Instead, i feel that whenever there is a need for a verbal release (as women, we love lashing out) but the man is avoiding it, write a letter instead.

Taking a moment to write helps you think better and rephrase to sound less hurtful. Always remember that words once said can't be withdrawn and the hurt can't be reversed and may remain etched in memory forever. This letter can carry the hurt you're feeling and your expectations from your partner.

This can then be given to your man in an unconfrontational way. I've released my hurt many times by pouring out over physical writing. Its effectiveness may not be confirmed but i do know that it contains my anger and refrained my tongue from poisonous words. I believe in keeping myself in check than taking it out on someone.

I've read the book Why Men Marry Bitches. I find the book heavily misinterpreted from the girls around me. They believe they keep their men on their toes by keeping them wondering when they're going to leave with other suitors by behaving mysteriously.

I don't believe keeping or building a relationship based on mistrust and insecurities. But what do i know? Despite trusting and not possessing my boyfriends, i still got cheated on.

So i can't say which strategy is right or wrong! Rather,its about finding one who holds the right values.

Love is like a lorikeet. The more you chase it, the more it hops away. The moment you care less, it comes to stay.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The posh wine & dine guide in Gold Coast

This is a media trip made possible by Scoot and Tourism Queensland.

A ticket to the USA starts from at least $2000. What if you can sample a taste of Miami with airfares starting at $300? has started their flights to Gold Coast since June 12 from Singapore. I was on her inaugural flight with live inflight entertainment, The Noose.

Gold Coast, touted to be the Miami closer to Asia, is all glitz and glamour.

They have underground cultures like the Meter Mates.
The meter mates are usually bikini cladded babes who trawl the streets of Gold Coast topping up quarters for parked cars which are about to expire. They are supported by local businesses to put in quarters for drivers when the State declared parking to be charged. It's such a community driven initiative!

But other than the leggy tanned girls, Gold Coast offers some of the freshest foods, finest dining with stunning views (not leggy tanned girls).

Bazaar at QT Hotel
beats any buffet in Singapore hands down, well almost (I like Straits Cafe).
An interactive markeplace, Bazaar offers an enticing international mosaic of foods. I returned to the seafood section thrice, eating oysters like there's no tomorrow or like there's a hunk waiting for me in bed. I normally wouldn't touch an oyster, but when it's so fresh like Bazaar's, once i pop i can't stop.

The crabs are even caught by QT's own trawler!

Wood fired pizzas, classic pot roasts, premium meats and refreshing organic salads, it's an ABSOLUTE steal at only AUD 69 for adults and AUD 21 for children under 12. The value hunter Singaporean in me will DEFINITELY return if i visit Gold Coast again.

I particularly like how at one corner, they displayed their meats for diners to see which includes a whole piglet (dead of course). Remaining true to QT's tastefully kitschy hotel design, it was definitely a shocker but fun to spot! Reservations recommended.



☎ ph:07 5584 1200

Lauxes Champagne Dining Lounge
Spelt backwards is Sexual and was done on purpose. Lauxes specializes in champagne so it is ideal for a pre-dinner drink.
Sleek, chic and luxe is the theme of interior.
A multi-talented musician who plays the piano, saxophone and sings provides entertainment while you sip like a rich man.
Song request coasters.
Starting from 19 AUD for a champagne cocktail, the champagne prices are very reasonable to be chi chi.
A cheeky find in the bathroom. It's a nice sight if you pee standing.

2685 Gold Coast Highway

Broadbeach QLD 4218

☎ ph:07 5531 5555

Moo Moo The Wine Bar & Grill

is a stone's throw away from Lauxes. If you dine here, you have to order a steak because that's what Moo Moo won awards for. You can also tell from its name right?
Since opening its doors in 2005, Moo Moo has won Queensland's Best Steak 2008, then Gold Coast's Best Steak Restaurant 2006,07,08 and 09.
With an interior decor of natural stone finishes, sleek curves and state of art lighting system, while it isn't good for food photography, it is good for putting the sexy back into steak.

The selection includes grass or grain fed beef, otherwise organic. I had the grain fed wagyu beef for AUD 55. Sides all come at an additional of AUD 8.

While the wagyu did not melt in my mouth like in some Japanese restaurants, it was tender and juicy enough to be a good piece of meat.
The desserts however is to-die-for while the service of Moo Moo is first class.

If you only have space for one, go for the brownie (AUD 12). It comes out freshly baked, with the center gooey and moist, like lava cake! Topped with a scoop of vanilla, the best brownie i had in my entire life!
Reservations are also recommended as it is packed when i got there at 8pm on a weekday night.



☎ ph:07 5539 9952

While Moo Moo unique selling point is in a good piece of meat without bells and whistles, Seaduction gives premium ingredients that excites 3/5 senses. Taste, smell and sight.
Tuna steak at AUD 36
Scallops with black pudding at AUD 16
The scallops were succulent, and even though black pudding is cow's blood, i licked up every drop. It was grilled at the right amount of time, making it a little crispy.
Lemon tart at AUD 14
Located right at the coast, every table provides uninterrupted ocean views.

8 The Esplanade

surfers paradise

Sky Point
Like almost every city that now has a tall building to be proud of, Gold Coast doesn't lose. Sip a cocktail 230 meters in the sky.
However, there is an admission charge of AUD 21. Drinks not included. You may also do a Sky Point climb. See
Osteria Vivo
Jupiters Hotel & Casino offers a SUPER good dinner and show packages. It's only AUD 89 for both! Considering how divine the Italian food is and how entertaining MUS.I.C is. A MUST-DO!

You don't even have to go Las Vegas with Scoot's low fares.

If you can't decide what to pick, you won't regret the risottos.

I highly recommend the asparagus risotto (AUD 24).
Herb roasted scallop risotto (AUD 28)
Quite a show for it to come out as an overflowing cup, then voila.
The grilled pear, Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma ham salad (AUD 19) will make any person who won't eat greens wallop this.
The capellini comes with generous serving of herb garlic prawns. The choice of pasta is angel hair which makes my stomach fit more in!
Don't forget to try the authentic Italian carbonara as well. Not drenched in a creamy sauce, the Osteria Vivo's carbonara is clear and cooked with pork lard. It's almost Asian! It's my first time trying an authentic Italian carbonara, i'll close one eye with the calories because it's worth it! I won't want to eat another creamy carbonara after this.

While there is all that glitz and glamour, you can also dine in nature!

O'reillys Vineyard requires compulsory reservations.

Lamington national park rd

canugra valley qlsd 4275

☎ ph:07 5543 4011

The Polish Place

on Mount Tamborine is another unique dining experience of its own.
Outfitted like an authentic Polish place with an AMAZING view of the valleys,  The Polish Place is a 20 minute drive from the city and is certainly worth it.
The winter soup with barley, chicken, carrots and potatoes is good enough for a light meal.
A generous portion of salmon, the home made potato mash was yummy and the lemon sauce had a buttery finish.
The highlight of the place are the friendly lorikeets who come say hello.
You don't even need to visit the Currumbin Wildlife Park! If you are afraid of birds, there is indoor seating available.
but to eat outside with stunning views of the plunging valley? Well worth the risk of bird poop. Surprisingly, these lorikeets really don't poop! There isn't ANY bird poop on the table nor floors despite the family of lorikeets.
Mountain cabin lodging outfitted the Polish way are also available, but if you're there for a meal, be sure to also check out the mini museum! Privately owned, it is a space for owners Ania & Phil Sowter's prized collections.

Entirely made of leather.
Gold Coast, famous for fun night and day.

This is a picture caught at dawn, the moon still visible but the sun is rising.
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