My 2014 in review


Certainly not my banner year in blogging with merely 15 posts, but it’s nice to know that I did not allow 2014 to just sail on by without documenting some of my adventures in longform. Shoutout to the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys who prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

In less than 48 hours, we will be turning a brand new year and just like everyone else, I am looking forward to more adventures, breakthroughs and amazing discoveries in 2015. Cheers to living a supersized life!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Another year in blogging, checked! See you all in 2015!
Another year in blogging. See you all in 2015!

TRAVEL: Packing For A Winter Holiday


I am going on my first-ever ski holiday in February so I have been trawling the internet reading up on winter travel tips. Based on what I have seen so far, packing for a winter holiday is much more complex than packing for a summer holiday – in terms of logistics and pretty much everything else. After all, some bikinis come in a size much smaller than a winter glove. Those who have done a fair amount of skiing (or winter traveling) will have already known this by heart. But for the ski virgins like me, here are some tips I have curated to help us pack efficiently for our trip:

Avoriaz, France. See you in February! (Photo source: http://www.powderbeds.com/blog/france/the-best-family-ski-resorts-in-france)
Avoriaz, France. See you in February! (Photo source: http://www.powderbeds.com/blog/france/the-best-family-ski-resorts-in-france)
  1. Thermal underwear – In order to keep warm and cozy under extremely cold weather conditions, it is advisable to wear thermal underwear, before putting on your normal winter clothes. Unsure which brand to pick? Take your pick from the list of options here.
  2. Boots – When choosing a pair of winter boots, make sure that it’s sturdy enough to hike through snow in, but also, stylish enough to be worn with different types of winter outfit you are planning to take. It’s best to take dark-coloured boots so it’s easy to mix and match with your outfit. For inspiration, check out these winter boots.
  3. Gloves – When it comes to gloves, you only need to make sure that what you have is thin and light enough to stuff in your pockets or bag, breathable,and also waterproof.
  4. Hats – Put simply, your hat should be able to cover your ears and also part of your nape. Hats come in many forms and designs but you should always go with one that will give you the maximum warmth for that specific part of your body.
  5. Polarized sunglasses – Winter sunlight may not be as intense, but when reflected off snow, it can be quite painful on the eyes and very distracting especially when you’re driving. Check out the coolest winter sunglasses in 2015 and pick the one you like best.
  6. Scarf – In most cases, simply covering your ears won’t be enough. You also need to protect your neck from the biting cold and a good quality scarf will take care of that. As scarves are generally small and light, you can have several in different colours and designs to brighten up your dark winter clothing.
  7. Sunscreen, lip balm and your favourite moisturiser – Definitely a MUST! Windburn can be just as painful as the summer sunburn. In fact, it is quite possible to get sunburn from reflection off snow or ice. So keep your skin and lips protected and heavily moisturised especially when going out in the snow.

Travel Thoughts Of The Girl With The Case Of The Elsewheres


Red Dune Safari in Dubai
Red Dune Safari in Dubai

Before my husband and I got married, we were often told to enjoy life as a couple; go on adventures together and travel as much and as often as we can afford before adding a new member to the family. We never sought to question the wisdom of those words because deep down, we have always known that the results are almost always worth the costs.

Travel while you have the advantage of youth and the friskiness of your feet, we were told, because as you get older and your responsibilities get bigger – family, education, mortgage and financial obligations especially – you will find it harder to pack up your bags and go on random trips. So. very. true.

Whether it’s a random overnight trip to the beach in Bintan, a weekend getaway in Phuket, Boracay or Bali, a rendezvous in the Middle East or even a carefully planned trip to Maldives, Australia or Europe, we have certainly revelled in the joys of traveling together as a couple. Traveling strengthens our bond in ways that perhaps no other activity could. Of course there’s the S word, but you know what I mean. And soon, when we have our little people, they will be taught to embrace travel and adventure because…

  1. Traveling is an awesome way to learn about other people’s culture and be seduced by languages apart from your own. Reading about cultural practices and quirks is easy, what with the plethora of available materials, but being present is a priceless experience you must never pass on, especially when you are young and fully capable of embracing people and cultures with wild abandon.
  2. Traveling makes an adventurer out of you. Being in a strange country or city brings out that side of you you never knew existed. One day you are riding a camel or an elephant and eating deep-fried crickets, the next day you could be cuddling a koala, petting a baby tiger, taking a selfie with a napping boa constrictor or swimming with the whale sharks. Or, you could be sipping a cup of coffee at a quaint little bistro one minute and dancing samba in the middle of the plaza the next.
  3. Traveling cultivates a deeper sense of love and compassion for Mother Earth and fellow human beings. The more you travel, the more you will learn that it is not simply about being mere tourists lugging around selfie sticks, although that’s how most of us start out as, but it is about knowing that there is a bigger world out of our comfort zones, with bigger issues to get involved in and confront.

So don’t always wait for the ‘perfect time to travel’ because you may end up not being able to leave your cocoon at all. Sometimes we don’t always know what a perfect travel is until we set foot in our destination and find ourselves wowed by little things we didn’t prepare for. You know, the physics of randomness and such. And if you are not traveling solo, it is best to travel with people you love and with whom you share a common lust for wandering and learning. Otherwise, you could be wasting so much time negotiating on your itinerary instead of feeling, seeing and tasting a luscious slice of the world.

Three Ways I Could’ve Rocked SCMS 2014 But Didn’t


SCMS 2014_vickyras

 

I barely made it to the 6-hour cut-off time of the recent Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore (SCMS 2014) and I had just as much to do with the disappointing result as the inconveniences experienced during the race. Rather, my absolute lack of motivation and indisputable passivity did a number on me. The fact that it was my third time doing SCMS should have already prepared me mentally and physically for the 42 kilometres’ worth of torture, on foot. I assumed it was going to rain as it had been raining wildly almost everyday for several weeks before the race, and therefore I was counting on a cooler and more comfortable run. But instead, the sun came out all guns blazing and the heat was almost incomprehensible! Runners were dropping like flies and the long march of runners started as soon as we entered the long stretch of the East Coast garden. Seeing a handful of very fit-looking runners collapsing on the ground, noticeably exhausted from the heat, and being attended to by first aid volunteers, also creates a sense of foreboding. A kind of mindfucking, pardon my French.

So I’ve had some time to think about my cataclysmic performance and played out some scenarios where I could’ve done better. And I’m putting out this list so aspiring marathoners would know better than to get complacent or lazy – or both.

1. I could’ve done what any sensible runner preparing for a marathon would do: Train. It was rather obtuse of me to think that my experiences of running long distance in the past will overcome the limitations of my ageing body.

2. I could’ve watched my diet and favoured more healthy foods instead of stuffing my face with high-calorie desserts and occasionally going overboard with le vin et les fromages. I have seen some of my marathon photos and boy, did I look like an overstuffed burrito! Delicious to eat but a fat burrito just the same. haha.

SCMS2014_vickyras

3. I could’ve prepared better by keeping myself hydrated days leading to the marathon. Although, this is one area that I have always struggled with. I just don’t drink enough water.

Seven marathons in the bag (and a few ultramarathons I don’t think I will ever have the chutzpah to do again, anyway) and here I am, contemplating if I still have enough drive in me to shoot for three, or maybe even more. Somewhere, somehow, may passion for running fizzled out dramatically and it’s somewhat disconcerting because I used to really love the sport. Perhaps it’s because I don’t join enough races here in Singapore, unlike when I was still living in the Philippines. And then I got lazy and became fat as a result. I know the love is still there – these things never go away permanently anyway – I just need to find ways to rekindle the fire. And running more frequently from here on in is just as good a place to start as updating my running outfit. (Oh boy, my husband is not going to like this bit. LOL.) Besides, there is Phuket to get toned for and I only have two weeks to transform my body. Bonne chance la Vicky!

TRAVEL: BINTAN Lagoon Resort


Perhaps Bintan Lagoon Resort‘s biggest appeal for me is its close proximity to Singapore, which makes it an ideal destination for random overnight beach adventure on a weekend. One minute you’re in Singapore and one-hour ferry ride later, you’re basking in Bintan, with the sand on your feet and the warm sun on your face. Or the pouring rain on your skin, if you aren’t so lucky – like we were this past weekend. It rained the whole Saturday so we were reduced to merely sleeping the day away. But thankfully, Sunday brought the sun out and we actually managed to get a good tan before catching our ferry back to Singapore.

IMG_9049
Bintan Lagoon Resort’s beach looks inviting.

 

When we first came to Bintan Lagoon eighteen months ago, I was instantly taken by the beach that boasts of a clean white sand, tepid water temperature and the conspicuous absence of those sharp rocks that often threaten to mangle your feet as soon as you get in the water.

On our recent visit just over the weekend, I was happy to see things remain almost unaltered. We were even given the very same room we occupied the last time (I’m guessing it wasn’t just a coincidence), located on one of the higher floors with a nice view of the pool and the manicured lawn below from the balcony. Given that we’ve been to this island more than once, I thought I’d put together a list of likes and dislikes for my avid readers. Yes, all five of them and perhaps two more will be added once this post goes live. haha.

Team Altaie_Bintan2014
The weekend warriors. 

Pros:

1. Beach. White sand, no rocks, warm water, relatively quiet. What’s not to love? It’s certainly better than the ‘beaches’ of Singapore or even Batam.

2. Close proximity to Singapore. Like I said, a mere one hour ferry ride away. We took the 8am ferry and reached Bintan at 8am local time! It’s even shorter than our usual weekend cycling adventure from home to Changi Village and back.

IMG_9119
Pinkythetravelingpig loving her view of the sea.

 

3. Friendly staff. From the ladies at the reception/check-in to the housekeeping crew and restaurant staff, these people will instantly disarm you with their warm and friendly smiles.

4. Spacious room. There’s more than enough space for yoga and maybe two cartwheels. The rooms are a bit dated and the bathroom even more so, but they’re very well maintained and the bed is comfortable. On our recent stay though, the section of floor just outside the bathroom was moist the whole time and we couldn’t really tell if the bathroom was leaking or it was coming from the ceiling which was also damp.

IMG_9018
Bintan Lagoon Resort pool.

 

5. Nice pool and garden area. Bintan Lagoon Resort is a huge property and you get treated to a visual feast of abundant flora and plant species from the moment your vehicle crosses the gate and all the way to the resort grounds with its manicured lawns and coconut trees. Incidentally, the resort also boasts of a beautiful golf course.

6. Free wifi connection at the Terrace Bar which extends to some parts of the resort lobby. Unfortunately, you need to pay to get wifi access in the room.

7. Great massage. Look for Devi and Maya, they give a mean Javanese massage. When we arrived, I was suffering from a very nasty lower back pain which caused me to hobble and wince in pain each time I would so much as bend over a little. After a good massage and some yoga stretching, I was back to my old crazy-and-often-upside-down self. One hour massage costs 60 sgd.

#inveryoself
#inveryoself

Cons:

1. Food can be better. The lunch buffet at the Kopi-O restaurant was nothing spectacular and it was quite pricey at nearly 45 SGD per person, taxes included. The Rice restaurant located right on the beach is no better. But if you must eat, I suggest you order the local fare and skip the western dishes. I ordered this chicken dish cooked in coconut milk with a hint of spice and it was pretty good and the portion was big enough for sharing.

2. Expensive food and drinks. A bottle of water could set you back around 3 to 4 SGD including taxes and the alcoholic beverages certainly a  lot more. My suggestion: Pick up a bottle or two of your favourite wine or poison of choice before boarding the ferry in Singapore and save yourself a lot of money on drinks. Good thing we were on a self-imposed alco embargo due to the upcoming SCMS 2014 in which Hubs and I are both doing full-mary.

So there you go, 7 vs. 2. All things considered, Bintan Lagoon Resort is still a great travel option when you’re starting to go bonkers living an ultra fast-paced life in Singapore and you think a day spent on a decent private beach is going to help save your sanity. It certainly works for us.:)