One month ago, I did my first TED Talk. As some of you know, there was a bit of a situation that arose that weekend. That aside, I'd like to thank Kym Goh for helping me bring my slides to life with his artistic talent; I'm sharing some of those photos here. We're both big kids at heart, so speaking to youths in Singapore that day was quite meaningful for me.
Even as adults, so many of us are afraid to be our own kind of weird, to be seen as different. As kids growing up and encountering rejection for the first time, we all know how hard it can be to have the courage to just be yourself – especially when others make your life harder because of it. The TED Talk's event theme was You vs You–our inner struggles, so I shared a bit about my journey as a kid who was harassed and picked on in America and how I reacted (anger mistaken for strength, actually). And what I had learned from my mistakes. Someone who hadn't seen the whole talk commented on a previous IG post, in disbelief that anyone could be struggling growing up in the US. It was a naive comment; every single one of us has our own battles with being ourselves. Any country, any one, any time.
Of course, I also felt the need to be myself and inject some weird humor into it. Out of context, but here are the questions the slides were referring to:
WOULD YOU RATHER (feel free to answer in the comments).
Would you rather: be stuck in a room with one giant spider, or chased by hundreds of flying little spiders.
Would you rather: have t-rex baby arms... or have feet for hands.
Would you rather: be reborn as a man or a woman?
Lastly, thank you Kym for being you. My relationship with you reaffirms that in being yourself, it allows you to attract or find others who are the same kind of weird as you. It's the best thing ever.
"Have you ever been rejected for no other reason than being you? Maybe because you’re a girl. Or not the right ethnicity. Or because you don’t look a certain way, or because you love a certain way.
One of the opening speakers today is no longer speaking, because the organizers were pressured to not include any discussion about homosexuality. Given that today’s very theme is about our inner struggles, I was disappointed to hear that someone had been denied to speak from the heart. I thought hard about whether or not I should speak today.
My scheduled talk is about being a misfit, growing up against certain adversities in America. For me, I eventually found my place, but there are many who have not, even right here in Singapore. I’d like to dedicate this moment to these people. I hope to see the day where we all truly get the freedom to love."
- Victoria Cheng
I added a new cue card to my TED Talk and sprung an unscheduled introduction as I walked onto stage. As you'd might expect, it won't be uploaded on any official platforms. The backstory to this: Joshua Simon announced the night before our TEDx Talks that he suddenly wasn't speaking anymore. He wouldn't say why, because he didn't want to take away from the rest of our moments on stage.. That's just the kind of guy he is. But something felt wrong; he and I were sharing our stories with a mutual mix of excitement and stress leading up to this Talk, until just hours before this announcement. I prodded other sources untilI found out why. How do I explain the kind of rage you feel when an injustice has occurred before your very eyes. How could I continue to give my talk about misfits, about facing bullies and shame, about having courage.. when this was happening right here, right now? What had gone from a predictable night of resting before an ordinary TED Talk turned into something else. I saw only two options: Drop out in solidarity... Or once the mic was on me, to speak up. I chose the latter. For various reasons, including that the organizers who invited us to speak WANTED us to share these stories. But they were pressured, and caved. Someone needed to speak up and tell the truth. I believe in the freedom to love, especially the freedom to express this love. But honestly, when the moment came to speak, I was scared. It's crazy that I was scared to say a simple statement about basic human rights. But thanks to the support of confidants who also share this anti-bullying sentiment (Rozz Lee, Paul Foster, Mark, Laibond, Athalie, Kym and others).. These are people who I know who would do the same. This call to truth and freedom to love isn't about me, but I also feel it's important to share the process of speaking up. It isn't always easy, and indeed there are consequences over seemingly small things. Do I think that risk is worth it? Yes. Absolutely. Never underestimate the power of your voice for the right cause. Speak Up, Singapore. Lastly, thank you Josh for not allowing anyone to censor your story, even if it meant giving up (for now) your dream of giving a TED Talk. I think what you're saying now is infinitely more important.
You're in the dairy section of the supermarket: what brand of butter do you pick up? There I was, asking my partner which brand I should get for the house this time, Kerrygold or Echiré? "Get the cheapest one," he replied. Glancing at the prices first, TO MY HORROR HE REACHED FOR MARGARINE.
Like quality of eggs, brand of butter is of supreme importance to me. It's a daily staple, whether in cooking or slathered over a piece of toast. But to some people, like my boyfriend, "What's the big deal? It's all the same."
His point really had me thinking...
...do I actually love this man?
Nevertheless, I'm convinced people of this nature just need to try the best even just once, to appreciate why it matters.
Fortuitously, a week later, we dined at the newly opened Table65 in Singapore, serving a menu which consisted of a bunch of things he normally doesn't care for: mackerel, herring, oysters, and of course, his indifference towards butter. Served in a glass bowl, the creamy, smoky, salted French butter blew his mind. He requested for multiple mini-sourdough loaves til dessert, so he could continue to eat the butter at a 1:1 ratio.
(side note, it was also one of the first times he enjoyed aforementioned seafood as well. Bravo and thank you, Table65. More about Table65's butter in the article ahead.)
So I thought to share some opinions from cooks and chef friends around Singapore. We've got a range of nationalities and personalities here, who've been so kind as to share their thoughts on butter. It's particularly interesting, since it turns out not every chef is a butter snob:
“Butter from Devonshire, south west of England, world famous for dairy production. Especially butter and clotted cream served with scones (“Devon” cream tea). It’s famously rich from free grazing cows on the rolling Devon hills.”
Chef Kirk then sent me this exact screenshot. Thanks for the visual.
1) Best all-around butter: Kerrygold - best balance of flavour, great colour, tasty to eat with pancakes (salted) and to sear and make pastries with (sweet).
2) Best butter for toast vs cooking:
Echiré for toast. That slight funk is incomparable for straight eating on toast, where you want a robust salting to complement whatever base carb you have: potatoes, brioche, sourdough, pancakes, noodles.
Kerrygold for cooking. The funk of fermented butter found in French types doesn't sit well with me. I prefer a straight nuttiness when the milk solids brown and caramelise.
3. Other thoughts on butter: I hate it when restaurants serve unsalted butter with bread. Where's the joy in eating something that hasn't been seasoned? A bland dinner roll with unsalted butter is like eating a napkin with margarine.
One of life's greatest joys is eating salted butter and bread. Fresh, crispetty baguette, just-toasted brioche or a crusty sourdough hunk. Appropriate with honey and kaya for breakfast, foie and jam for lunch, mopping jus and sauces during dinner.
KF Seetoh, Founder (Makansutra) "I'm ol school Costolee (SCS) salted butter man, from Cold Storage. Love the sinful ones. I will add truffle oils or shavings, and blend it in when I can. Spread that toasted brioche or local baguette, and I'm a happy man.
I have even had 6 butters from 6 cows at French Laundry, none memorable la. Still my Costolee is best!"
“Usually for cooking, I think it’s all down to price. But when butter is used for eating with bread, then it gets a bit more interesting.” Chef Bob, Walking Fridge and Founder www.Krush.sg(also a co-host on Kitchen Invasion)
1. Golden Churn 2. Golden Churn 3. Golden Churn Wholesome, nutty, and for the caramelized colour it adds to the steak when basted with it. It’s amazing. Chef Anthony Yeoh, Chef-Owner (Summerhill) Chef Ant knows a thing or two about fried chicken. 1. Favorite all-around butter: Kerrygold or President. 2. Échiré for toast and unsalted President for cooking. 3. Other thoughts on butter: It’s so good on Fried Chicken. Chef Chris Martin, not the Coldplay guy, (Summerhill) 1. Beurre D'Isigny is my all-round fave, for the nutty flavour and slight tang. It's really good on its own or with a sprinkle of salt flakes. 2. Fave butter for toast: I would have to say simple good old margarine. It's not the healthiest, but eh! I grew up on it, to me it's nostalgia. Fave cooking butter: President unsalted butter. It's got that really creamy rich flavour, which is what you're looking for in all those French dishes (damn fine for mash potatoes). 3. Other thoughts on butter: Butter is good fried meats too. Ha! Basting it over a nice piece of breaded veal chop tastes pretty damn fine. Chef Steven Snowdon, Executive Chef (Subrosa Private Dining), Finalist (Eat, List, Star) 1. My favourite butter would have to be Vermont creamery cultured butter with sea salt crystals. It's really good, like OMG good! It's tangy, creamy and over the top buttery butter. It's strong, reminds me of a very good homemade butter made from strong full fat farmed cream left to culture for a while. It's not for everyone, because it's strong. But if you're a butter person, it's a must try. Take it from a chef. 2. Fave butter for toast vs fave butter for cooking: President butter for cooking! It's a pretty strong butter, all around great saltiness and foams nicely when needing to baste meats or monte butter/burn noisette. It's also great for toast or adding flavourings to it, it holds up very well. Also great for baking. For toast, President or Kerrygold pure Irish butter, very creamy, you can taste the Irish meadows. The Salted version is also very good. Quite an underdog in the the butter world. 3. Any other commentary on butter: Butter is super diverse once you understand it and how many butters vary in tastes, from creaminess to very tangy, sour, how long it's cultured for. There are so many butters on the market that are great. I've always loved French or British butters simply because in Europe we have great cream and milk, but any home made cultured butter from great cream I'm all for! Some butters are made from super strong full fat creams to very light single creams. It also depends on how the cattle is bred, what it's fed, diet, etc. A little experiment for the not-so-buttery peoples, would be to get three different creams, a commercial version full fat, a single cream and an Artisan farmers fresh full fat cream and make three different butters yourself, leave them to culture for different times and then test the flavors, and you'll see how diverse butter can be. Chef Bjorn Shen, Judge (MasterChef Singapore), Chef-Owner (Artichoke) "I don't have a preferred butter actually. I'll grab what's in front of me. I'm ghetto like that." "At a grocery store, I'll take whatever is on special... 2-for-1. Best." But not margarine, since he recalls someone mentioning that margarine is bad cholesterol. Chef Drew Nocente, Executive Chef (Salted and Hung) 1. Bordier has to be my all time favourite, amazing flavour and a really smooth texture. 2. For both cooking and toast, I like Kerrygold Irish Butter. It's really tasty with high fat content and rich flavour, with just a slight acidity to it. I use salted to toast, unsalted for cooking. Chef Dayal Kesha, Jr Sous Chef (table65) 1. Favourite brand of butter would be Lescure (which is the brand we use at the restaurant). My love of butter started with Anchor, a common dairy brand in New Zealand. But I can strongly remember when and where I was the first time I tasted Lescure, and how it took me to a new level of appreciation for butter – which is kinda cool. I wouldn’t be surprised if later in life when I have my own restaurant where we make our own butter that we have a small supply of this for the guests to take home, so i can see this answer changing from being lescure to our own butter. 2. I make my own butter at home for the sole purpose of spreading on our sourdough that we also make. I don’t use so much butter at home for cooking, but i always have a block of Anchor in the fridge mainly because of the cost, but I do like using Lescure for pastries as it caramelises nicely while also working wonders for the texture of these items. 3. Making butter is quite simple and also very rewarding. It can get messy but playing around with various methods, cultures, cream varieties as well as adding various flavours can lead to some great results. The possibilities are only confined by your desire for experimentation. ---- As you can see, there's no one true butter to rule them all. Generally, we can all agree that butter makes eating bread a million times better. For anyone who's never considered butter options before, I encourage you to experiment and taste test this affordable luxury. PS. My current personal preference is Echiré and Kerrygold for bread, President butter for cooking at home. However, my butter quest is always active and open.
Here's my October article for Esquire, a piece on what goes on behind the scenes of a boutique travel company. We did a recce trip together with Blue Sky Escapes founders, Krystal Tan and Chervin Chow up to the one of the most remote villages in the world, Laya Village atop the Himalayas in Bhutan. There, the Layap people herd yak and harvest the prized Chinese herb, cordyceps.
I'm currently in the Barcelona airport, and a lady came up to me asking my Chinese-American face if I speak French (a little, incidentally!). Then, if I can help her connect her wifi registration on an all French language phone.
Ah the beauty of #omgineedinternet togetherness.
Good thing I eat a lot of French Fries. Improves my French.
Thanks Channel 8 for covering Nespresso's efforts together with The Food Bank, an NGO focused on feeding the needy in Singapore. You can catch what I had to say from 14:10 onwards (or 18:20 onwards to get straight to it).
Doing my Nutritionist studies now. I'm sick and tired of false nutritional information being spread on the internet, or articles that simply have no real research behind it, and are recommending nonsense super foods or fad diets.
I'm logging some theories that are being confirmed along the way as I research more. Figuring I should just share them publicly, in case anyone's curious!
- Good nutrition isn't about a particular diet or food choices, as much as it is about simply paying better attention to what you eat. Be mindful of what you're eating.
- One thing every decent diet plan has in common is not adding processed foods to your diet. Rather, whole, minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods. Better quality food = better health.
- Diets help you get started, but there's no one size fits all program.
- I don't like calorie counting. I stopped calorie counting (unless I have a very specific sport/health goal). And really, if you are aware of what you're eating, and eat good quality food/produce, you don't need to calorie count. Listen to what your body needs. The better the food is (nutritionally), your body will be fuller longer and perform better.
- It's not just about eating chicken and broccoli for days. Most whole foods are great to eat! In fact, the average grocery store chicken has so many hormones and chemicals in and on it, I wouldn't recommend a diet exclusive to this one bird.
- Eat foods you enjoy, even if it's processed. In moderation. It'll prevent monster bingeing.
Huge thanks to WTA for inviting me and friends down to the Racquet Club, and to do my first tennis Coin Toss!
Together with my buddies Felicia, Alex, and Hoirul, we witnessed WTA Singapore's longest match in history since 2014. The Venus Williams v Jelena Ostapenko match witnessed 21 breaks of serve in total with Williams finally getting over the line after three hours and 13 minutes on court with a 7-5, 6-7, 7-5 victory.
Following that, a relatively quick 1-hour match between Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza, two of the top three players in the world (. But to kickstart the match, I had the pleasure of doing the coin toss! It was a few minutes of feeling incredibly intimidated to standing between these Amazonian sized athletes (I always get girl crushes on women athletes, much respect and awe).
Food. Beauty. Drink. Travel. Hotels. Services. Are you sick of bloggers and influencers and instagrammers only putting up sponsored biased reviews? Bloggers used to be the go to source for common person to common person's opinion instead of relying only on mass media, whom is sometimes influenced by advertisers or restrictions from the government or house guidelines.
Myself, I've done negative reviews, but seldom as I do feel a sense of responsibility before bashing a place. I need to have tangible reasons, and not just personal preference issues. With all this said, I have now sent in my opinion to this beauty clinic at least twice now. I'll show you what I've written now for the third time on their Feedback form.
Why? Because I hope some of you find an honest review useful, and consider more thoroughly how painless this SHR actually is.
Location: O Medical Clinic at Capitol Piazza / also known as ONLY Aesthetics Service: Originally Brazilian IPL, but was convinced to get the Brazilian SHR (Super Hair Removal) package instead. Feedback:
The last visit was fine, and in fact that particular therapist was the first one in a year who fully explained the whole process properly, which I appreciated.
Few things, which I've pointed out on this form before:
1- Charging $10 (or is it $20 now?) to shave is ridiculous. Especially when all that's provided is a throwaway 50c razer. Considering you're located in a place like Capitol Piazza, I expect better service and not penny pinching over little things that puts a bad taste in the customer's mouth. At less premium locations, other clinics provide shaving free since the customer is suggested to shave 2 days BEFORE coming in (which at O Medical, I was not informed until yesterday). It's a minor thing but very irritating since this isn't the standard at other clinics.
2- I upgraded my package from normal IPL to this other supposedly better and painless technique, SHR. I trusted the sales pitch and trial session which was made to imply this (it was painless and quick during the trial), but it's been anything but painless AFTER I paid for a package. It's been extremely painful each time, quite frankly I'd rather get waxed at this point but I have this package I'm stuck with now. It's been a year now and results are barely minimal.
I can't recommend this service to anyone. All in all, I regret signing on a package way too quickly at O Medical, and this ridiculous shaving charge just makes me hate it even more.
PS. I've tried the laser facial once at O Medical Clinic (Capitol Piazza), and wasn't a fan. It didn't change much, my skin felt drier after in fact. But that might just be personal preference for my skin type.
Likewise at The Wellness Clinic (Paragon), while the rest of the facial services were amazing, the laser facial made my skin react badly (lumps on my face!). So far, the only place that I've left feeling really great about the laser results is at DERMACARE Aesthetic & Laser Clinic (ION). Otherwise I highly recommend the Hydrafacial at The Wellness Clinic for something gentler but very effective for clear, dewy skin.
What happens when you put a bunch of gals on a bus that takes you around Singapore Food Festival 2017? Here's a vlog below on some of the highlights of the festival along with Bella Koh, Jemma Wei, Aarika Lee, Roz Pho!
Standing majestically at 4,095m (13,435 feet above sea level), Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Mount Kinabalu derives its name from the Kadazan word, ‘Aki Nabalu’, meaning ‘the revered place of the dead’. It is also Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site declared by UNESCO.
Watch the video about our trip
Travel: We traveled in early May, hoping to avoid the rainy season.
2am at Summit Base Camp, ready to finish the ascent.
Shoes: You'll see some locals dashing from bottom to top in just crocs or slippers. I wore Merrell trail running shoes, Jeff wore his Asic sneakers, Adam wore supportive running sneakers, Celine and David wore trekking shoes... In summation, don't fuss over expensive trail shoes unless you want to spend; and boots will be overkill.
However, I had custom insoles that saved me a LOT of potential injuries or additional pain. Highly recommend that you see a podiatrist to get insoles made if you're often on your feet or going on long runs and treks; the Dr. Scholls stuff off the shelf isn't going to help. (I get mine done at East Coast Podiatry with Georgina Callahan-Tay. They also do insoles for high heels, which is just amazing).
Weather: We were fortunate. It was misty during the first half of our climb, so it was breezy and pleasant. You can see I'm wearing a sleeveless top and my friends are wearing short sleeved shirts. As we neared the summit base, it got cooler and only drizzled for a moment, which is when I put on a light Adidas windbreaker and a cap to block any light rain. Typically, you can expect it to be hot and humid at the bottom, and sudden gusts of unpredictable rain. Bring a small towel to wipe that sweat!
At the basecamp, it can get chilly especially after sunset. I wore a Lululemon fleece (so light and warm!), and a North Face windbreaker (also light, warm, and quick to dry!). I was a little cold, but was fine wearing light hiking pants, fresh socks, a buff/scarf, gloves, and a beanie. If you don't like the cold, consider wearing a much warmer jacket, and have leggings under your pants. The extreme wind at the top gets merciless at times.
The climb: Approx 4-7 hours. Stairs, so many stairs of all shapes and sizes. Keep your backpack light! You don't need to carry much, especially if you end up hiring a porter. Water, some snacks, toilet paper, face towel is all you need besides clothes.
Starts to get a tad cooler with each kilometer up.
Our path was lit by moonlight luckily.
Summit climb: Approx 4-6 hours. The top is a very different challenge in the dark, in the cold, and at higher altitude. There are vast flat granite slopes that can be slippery if wet. There are steeper inclines where you will need to use the rope to climb up short distances. We were also fortunate this night to have full moon lighting our paths – thankfully because my headlamp was not very bright.
Toilet breaks: There is a sheltered modern western style (no squatty potties) toilet and sink every 1-2 kilometers. Bring toilet paper. There are no toilets during the final summit climb, but honestly, you'll be too cold and tired to even want to pull down your trousers.
Summit Base camp
Camping overnight: It's not glamping, but it's not camping either. In a multi-story shelter, you get a room, a bed with sheets and a pillow (bunk beds if you share a room), clean toilets and showers, and a dinner (6pm) & breakfast (2am) & brunch (6am) buffet spread. They provide you with towels, slippers too. The heaters are solar powered though, so if you need motivation, remember that hot water is in limited supply. First ones there get more, last ones might not get any! I had the ice cold shower option.
Our view from the window
The showers (heaters are solar powered)
It's basic accommodations, but I was happy with it – it's much better than sleeping outside on granite ground in a tent with no bathroom. Some friends however have complained about it not being comfortable enough, the bunk beds being rickety, or the mattress being too short if you're a tall person. Bring extra cash here if you need to refill on bottled drinking water or a cuppa hot Milo; food is included if you are on the Amazing Borneo package (worth it).
Bugs, leeches, mosquitoes: We had no issues with any of these critters! If seen, Mosquitoes and leeches are usually around base level, the latter of which loves to show up during rainfall. It gets cooler and less humid as you ascend, so you don't see them much as you climb. I got mosquito bites only when I was boarding the van to leave the mountain base.
Descending after sunrise, you realize how steep it all actually was.
When locals zoom past you holding giant beams, wearing simple shoes.
Emergencies: There is a helipad for emergency evacuations at several points, and a few measures to minimize casualties in case of natural disasters (presumably in response to the earthquake a few years ago). On the way up, we saw a young woman being carried down the mountain on someone's back because she sprained her ankle at the summit. The experience didn't look particularly comfortable for anyone involved.
The Summit trail starts from the Timpohon Gate (1,800m; 5,906 ft) which is located near the Kinabalu Park Headquarters. Before reaching Panalaban (3,273m; 10,738 ft), climbers will encounter a series of trail shelters (pondok)—Pondok Kandis (1,981m; 6,499 ft), Pondok Ubah (2,095m; 6,873 ft), Pondok Lowii (2,286m; 7,500 ft), Layang-Layang (2,702m; 8,865 ft), Pondok Villosa (2,690m; 8,825 ft), and Pondok Paka (3,080m; 10,105 ft). The climb from Timpohon Gate to Panalaban takes approximately 6 to 8 hours.
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Terms & Conditions for Promo: - Promo rates are Exclusive for Mount Kinabalu Climbers only (International and Malaysian). - Applicable for all Mount Kinabalu Climb packages. - Cruise dates are subject to availability and schedule. - Promo rates are not applicable for the following Peak Season Dates: 24, 25, 31 December 2017 01 January 2018 14-17 February 2018