Perhaps one of the easiest and most convenient cities to visit if you’re coming from Singapore, is Bangkok. And probably the most versatile as well, because you simply won’t run out of things to do and places to discover in and around this densely-populated city. Temples, check. Shopping, check. Food, ohmygoodness check! Clubs and restaurants, check. River cruise, check. Great massage, check. And why not sex and booze while we’re at it. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or you’ve visited many a time, Bangkok will always have something special in store for you.

We were in Bangkok for one week last month and though it wasn’t totally for vacation as Hubby had to run some business type of errands (and I was his perpetually-hungry-because-heavily-pregnant assistant!), we still managed to get some touristy things done and scored heaps of pampering points in the food and massage departments.

So, you know that there are a few things Bangkok can never go wrong with. And these are some of those things, as far as we are concerned.

1. FOOD. Thailand is considered a certified heavyweight when it comes to food. In Bangkok, every visitor is spoilt for choice, both in local and international cuisines. Among those that we’ve tried and thoroughly enjoyed were:

Chapter 31. Chapter 31 is one of those happy places we go to each time we’re in Bangkok and in need of a good foodie treat at a great value. Located along Soi 31 in Sukhumvit, Chapter 31 stands out against all the other restaurants in the area (some of which are also fantastic in their own specialties) in its simplicity, yet packs a wallop in taste especially in their homemade cakes and pastries. They serve mostly local food with a twist and some western-style dishes as well. On our first visit during this trip, we ordered rib stew with red sauce and this northern Thai chicken dish which came with small bowl of cut up tropical fruits and a delicious traditional sauce and they were both insanely tasty! And because this restaurant is even more famous for its cakes, we tried out their Café Latte cake and as usual, we walked back to our place incredibly satisfied! Whatever dish you order, you can always complement it with any of their refreshing drinks – my favourites are tamarind juice and lemongrass juice. I noticed that they now serve wine as well, but we didn’t try them. When it comes to price, Chapter 31 is very, very reasonable. Not stump change, but definitely well worth the food and more. They also have some of the nicest staff who will take your order and serve them to you with a gleeful smile.

Pork spareribs in red sauce.

Pork spareribs in red sauce.

Jones the Grocer. Located at the swanky new EMQuartier along Sukhumvit, Jones the Grocer aims to wow foodies not only with its delectable range of cakes and pastries, but also with a lot of delicious dishes – from pasta, to burgers, to pizza and then some. We ordered the Superfood salad (lentils, pumpkin purée, quinoa, etc) and seafood risotto for our healthy late lunch and we thought that the serving looked small at first glance, but really just enough for a normal adult appetite. The risotto was perfectly creamy and cheesy and really delicious! There was enough prawns and squid in there as well to satisfy your seafood craving, but the highlight of our lunch was the dessert. However, once in front of the counter display with all those colourful and desserts and pastries staring back at you, making a choice – or two – gets a little bit tougher. I was so tempted to order so many because they all looked mouth-watering, but I managed to restrain myself and just settle with their lemon tart and rainbow cake. The lemon tart was so good and has just the right amount of lemon tartiness and sweet to it. The rainbow cake, I have to say, was a little dry (could use some good ol’ moist in its texture) and a bit too sweet for my taste – but would’ve blended nicely with a cup of tea. It was my first time to dine at Jones the Grocer and overall, I think the experience was good (service is commendable, too) and price was okay/mid-range.

Rainbow Cake.

Rainbow Cake.

Mezzaluna. Mezzaluna seems to have taken the concept of fine dining to a whole new level of fabulosity – from its top-notch location at the 65th Tower Club of the legendary Lebua State Tower in Silom Road, to the opulent décor of the restaurant and all the way down to the exquisitely decadent cuisine prepared by world-renowned Chef Ryuki Kawasaki. To celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I had an amazing dinner at Mezzaluna, which turned out to be a beautiful symphony of flavours, aromas and textures. We even got a bonus serenade by their lovely violinist and served a special anniversary cake. Of course, the overall experience would not have been as magical without the outstanding service of the restaurant staff who pampered us with their hospitality and warm smiles as they took us through a wonderful gastronomic journey with each course served. As if the wondrous food isn’t glorious enough, try looking out of the glass window for an unobstructed view of Bangkok City laid out below in a blanket of lights and cacophony of sounds you know no other place in the world can give you as intensely – and you’ll know what I mean. Mezzaluna is an expensive restaurant but after the top-rated dining experience we were served with, I’d say it’s worth every single Baht.

Amadei Toscano chocolate light mousse with caramelized hazelnuts and Madagascar vanilla ice cream.

Amadei Toscano chocolate light mousse with caramelized hazelnuts and Madagascar vanilla ice cream.

The Capital by Water Library. On our last night hanging out in Bangkok with friends, we made plans to try out The Capital as recommended by one of our friends who only had the greatest things to say about the food and service in this restaurant. It was a Saturday night and the building where the restaurant’s located was almost deserted. Except for a few, we had the place almost to ourselves – which was more than a welcome change as we’ve already spent much time moving through an ocean of people out in the streets, the malls, etc in the last 7 days that we were in the city. The Capital has a classy interior, provides amazing service (restaurant staff were very attentive and no faux pas at all with our orders), delectable food and a good selection of wine/cocktails at a quite reasonable price.

Friends at The Capital.

Friends at The Capital.

2. MASSAGE. Because we are too stingy to pay 60 SGD for a decent foot massage in Singapore, we racked up on massage points by getting a foot massage every night before heading back, for only 150 Bht for 30 minutes. That’s almost a tenth of what it would’ve cost us in SG!

3. CULTURAL DISCOVERY. With the exception of Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (which I’ve been to once before), I visited Bang Pa-In and Ayutthaya for the first time.

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). It’s my second time to visit this phenomenal Buddhist attraction and yet again, I found myself in awe of it. Located adjacent to the Grand Palace, the Reclining Buddha has been drawing thousands, if not millions, of visitors for many years and when you stand before the massive 46-meter long reclining buddha sculpture, it’s not so difficult to understand why. Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and considered one of the largest temple complexes in the city. It is a definite must-visit for both first-time visitors and Bangkok travel veterans. There is a fee of 100Bht to enter the complex and you get a small bottle of water for free. Don’t worry if you are wearing sleeveless tops or shorts for they will provide you with a robe to cover yourself up before entering the temple. This place is so popular that there’s always a ton of tourists roaming around at almost any given time of the day. So if you don’t particularly relish the thought of snaking your way through crowds in the debilitating Bangkok afternoon heat, try to come in the morning, just as the temple opens. When there, don’t content yourself with just taking photos of the reclining buddha. Instead, spend some time exploring the temple complex as there are plenty of beautiful things to see and admire around there. Word of caution, if you are fond of taking taxis, flagging one in this area will cost you a few more extra Baht for taxis here normally don’t go for meter charges, but will instead charge you a fixed rate to your destination.

Obligatory shot at the Wat Pho.

Obligatory shot at the Wat Pho.

Bang Pa-In (Royal Summer Palace). The Bang Pai-In or the Summer Palace as it stands today is largely the work of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who is credited with the expansion of the area into a Versaillesque garden filled with trademark European-style buildings. Last restored in the early 2000s, the palace and its grounds are still being used on special occasions by the present King and his royal family for holding grand receptions and banquets. We came here as part of the full-day tour package of the Ayutthaya and Bang Pa-In was our first stop. The palace grounds are kept immaculately clean and beautiful that you are almost tempted to just pick out a spot on the manicured lawn, or perhaps near the lake/pond, to just sit for hours to ruminate or have a picnic (neither is allowed, by the way). The grounds are not too large to be covered on foot, but they have golf carts to rent if you are too lazy to walk. There is a small convenience store adjacent to the royal mansion where you can buy cold drinks and ice cream to cool off from the intense heat. There is a much bigger shop at the entrance/exit where you have more snacks and drinks selection, as well as, souvenir items for friends and family back home. There is an entrance fee of 100 Bht for visitors but it’s already included in our tour fees. As at all royal sites, proper dressing is required/observed, but you can you can borrow a wraparound skirt or button-down polo at the entrance with a deposit of 200 Baht, which will be given back to you when you return the clothing item after your tour. One thing you will also enjoy, apart from the leisurely walk around the palace grounds, is feeding the fishes and turtles in the pond which serves as the marker separating the outer and inner courts of the palace. In the middle of this pond is where you will see the elegant Thai-style pavilion which they call “The divine seat of personal freedom” built by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) which now houses a statue of him built by his son. Another interesting building in the inner complex is the Chinese-style temple residence given by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to then King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). This place is open to the public but you must remove your shoes to enter and enjoy the ebony and red lacquer interior. You can look at the living room/bedroom chambers from outside but taking photographs is strictly prohibited.

At the Summer Palace.

At the Summer Palace.

Ayutthaya Historical Park. Founded in the 13th century, the historic city of Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. Once considered among the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce, Ayutthaya enjoyed its golden period from the 14th century before the city was attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767 who burned the city to the ground and forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. Today, Ayutthaya is an archaeological ruin, conferred with a UNESCO World Heritage status, characterised by the remains of tall towers and Buddhist monasteries of monumental proportions, clearly giving visitors an idea of how massive and prosperous the city was before. We came here a few weeks ago on a whole-day tour which we booked through our hotel. We first stopped at Bang Pa-In, another important attraction in the province. If you have visited the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, you will most likely find Ayutthaya much smaller and a little less elaborate/opulent but it doesn’t take away from Ayutthaya the distinction of being among the most cosmopolitan area during its time. One of first things that you will notice as you walk around the area are the headless buddha statues, which again, was the result of the attack of the Burmese army. A few of the buddhas have had their arms and heads reconstructed recently. One very famous landmark here is what they call the buddha tree. It’s some several hundred years old tree with the face of buddha embedded on its trunk. And if there’s one selfie photo you’d like to have in Ayutthaya, it would have to be this one.:) We went to Ayutthaya around noon and let me tell you, the heat can easily drive you mental! My advice is that you wear super comfortable clothes – shorts, tank tops, etc are allowed as the old city is mere ruins now so you don’t have to be donning a sarong or anything to cover arms and legs. A pair of comfortable shoes or flip-flops would be ideal as well for all the walking that you will be doing. The area is not as massive as the Angkor Wat so you need not spend so much hours around here. There is an entrance fee, of course, but ours was prepaid through the tour that we booked. Make sure to bring a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated. Apply sunscreen and use an umbrella over your head if you cannot stand the heat. There are a few food and souvenir stalls just by the entrance where you can grab some water and munchies if you ever feel hungry. There are toilets for your use as well. Make sure to visit this amazing historical park next time you’re in Bangkok.

At the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

At the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

4. LUMPINI PARK. I love parks and living so close to Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, I’d say it’s a little tough to find something so dramatically beautiful, even if man-made, elsewhere in Asia. Having said that, I must admit I wasn’t completely taken with Lumpini Park. Although I think it does a good job of providing a lovely patch of greenery to residents and visitors in Bangkok, for when pollution and crowd fatigue syndrome gets a little too overwhelming. The park itself is quite big and nice enough for a stroll, jog, or leisure cycling. We particularly like the lake in the middle of the park and you can rent a small boat/duck boat for 40 Bht for a 30-minute spin around the lake. It’s very relaxing to just be floating away in the water, especially on a hot day/afternoon. Look out for the big lizards lazing on the banks or swimming across the water. I was a bit scared because some of them look like baby crocodiles! There are drinks/snack stalls just outside the park so make sure you buy a bottle of water – or two – if you intend to stay in the park for more than an hour. The park can get pretty crowded in the late afternoon towards early evening so picking out a spot to just sit and ruminate might be challenging. In this case, you’re better off taking a stroll or a slow jog – both good exercises for the heart.

Ducks in a row.

Ducks in a row.

Congratulations, You’re Pregnant! So What’s Next?

So you’re having a baby. Isn’t that wonderful? I know exactly how unreal that feels! But once you and your husband or partner are done jumping up and down for joy, you may need to sit down and start the ‘family’ talk – if you haven’t done already. Being pregnant is just the beginning of a lifetime commitment to put someone else’s needs, wants, convenience, happiness well ahead of yours. As a first time soon-to-be parent like me, you may also be wondering what exactly needs to be done next. Well, besides getting your husband/partner involved every step of the way, here are some of the most important things to tick-off your pregnancy checklist.

Before Getting Pregnant

1. Get a comprehensive health insurance. Actually, this is something that you and your partner should have already planned for even before getting pregnant. If possible, get one that covers pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal in full – especially if you live in an expensive country like Singapore. Hubby and I decided to go for Bupa Health Coverage, on the advice of some friends, sometime in July/August last year. At that time, the holding period was only around 10 months and any pregnancy-related expenses, including delivery, and post-natal, after the 10th month will be covered 100%. Shortly after we took the policy, the maturity period was changed to 24 months, so it really was a good call when get insured at the time that we did. Bupa has an excellent health coverage program and even if you have to pay a slightly higher premium, you know that you will not be left out cold when you need it the most – especially when the bills start piling up during the course of your pregnancy.

2. Find a great OB-Gyne with whom you can entrust your body and your baby. Just like in number 1, it would have been ideal if you already have an OB for your regular non-pregnancy related check-ups even before getting pregnant. In my case, I had to find an OB shortly after moving to Singapore because of my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which needs to be monitored regularly. And once Hubby and I decided to get pregnant and I had to get off the hormonal pills I was taking, he was also the one we consulted about it.

During Pregnancy

3. Keep fit and healthy. If you’ve been living a healthy lifestyle even before deciding to get pregnant, then props to you! Making sure that your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals for yourself and your growing baby is a very important task. Start with having more vegetables, fruits and meat/fish in your diet. Also, ask your OB about prenatal multivitamin supplements as these can help fill in the nutritional gaps in your diet.

When it comes to fitness, continue with whatever workout regimen you already have prior to pregnancy, but make sure to adjust the intensity according to the stage of your pregnancy. Remember, we are not created equal – so whatever works for other pregnant women may not necessarily be your cup of tea. In my case, I was doing a lot of running and yoga before I got pregnant, but I had to stop running at some stage and I also switched to prenatal yoga when I entered the second month of my pregnancy. In large part due to my age-related paranoia that I might end up causing harm to my growing bub if I get too intense with any of my workouts. Instead of running, I have been doing a lot of walking these days, averaging about 8,000 steps daily.

4. Get a good anti-stretchmark cream. Trust me, your body will thank you later for it. I started using this product called Elancyl, which I discovered when I Googled “Top anti-stretchmark creams for pregnant women” days after I found out that I’m pregnant. I started applying the product on my 8th week, even before the bump became pronounced. It is essential to keep the skin around your tummy, thighs, buttocks and breasts supple and elastic especially when they start expanding and stretching to accommodate the growing baby in your belly.

An amazing product like Elancyl will help keep those stretchies at bay.

An amazing product like Elancyl will help keep those stretchies at bay.

Another product that has mothers raving about is Bio Oil, which is a much cheaper alternative to the branded stretchmark creams available in the market. In order to stretch the life of the slightly pricey Elancyl, what I normally do is alternate the use of both. I apply a generous quantity of Bio Oil on prescribed areas at night before bed time, and use Elancyl during daytime, after my morning shower.

Another alternative is the ubiquitous Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Anti-Stretchmarks Massage Cream. Slightly more expensive than Bio Oil but cheaper than Elancyl or Clarins, this product is also endorsed by a lot of pregnant women. I forgot to bring my Elancyl when we left for Bangkok and for some weird reason, we couldn’t find it in Boots or Watson’s so I bought Palmer’s instead. I love the buttery scent of the cream but I still prefer Elancyl. Will definitely stock up on the latter when we’re back in Singapore.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Anti-stretchmarks cream

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Anti-stretchmarks cream

5. Get educated. Read up on pregnancy but try not to get so obsessive about it that it causes you to be super scared and paranoid about your condition. I tend to fall prey to Googling weird stuff about pregnancy that I sometimes get so scared of stepping out of the house for fear that I might harm my baby. There are books and resource materials aplenty but in my case, I have found some of the best tips and information from this book called What To Expect When You’re Expecting, which was loaned to me by Yats, and this goldmine of a novel by an American writer living in Paris called Bringing Up Bébé, which essentially extolls the virtues of raising your children the French way.

Expect the best and the worst.:)

Expect the best, prepare for the worst.:)

Explore the joys of French parenting

Explore the joys of French parenting.

6. Pamper Yourself. As our body goes through a plethora of hormonal changes, so does our mood. Pregnant women tend to become overly sensitive, not only about their surroundings but especially about their bodies. At the beginning, I was also a bit alarmed by the weight gain, the appearance of cellulites on my thighs, the thickening of my arms and thighs, etc. And if you are every bit as vain as the woman sitting next to you, it’s not very difficult to feel fat or unkempt. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. By all means, get a haircut, a Brazilian wax (a word of caution: Your skin actually becomes more sensitive especially around the pubic area so if you can’t take the pain of getting the hair pulled, then feel free to skip this), mani-pedi treatment, antenatal massage, etc. You may be losing your hourglass shape, but that doesn’t mean you need to let go completely.

First thing I did when we arrived in Bangkok was to get a haircut, hair treatment,  gel mani-pedi, and a foot massage.

First thing I did when we arrived in Bangkok was to get a haircut, hair treatment, gel mani-pedi, and a foot massage.

7. Invest in fashionable yet durable maternity clothes. But don’t go on a rampage when you’re not even showing yet. I suggest you start buying only during your second trimester when your bump is already visible. And even then, go for pants or skirts that have elastic waistbands or those beautiful tunic dresses that you can keep until the the last trimester. Maternity clothes are not the easiest to find, I know, and are often more expensive than normal casual clothes, but with a little bit of patience in going through online shopping websites, you’ll soon be turning heads with your radiant pregnant look.

Can you believe that I found this dress online for only 20 SGD?!

Can you believe that I found this dress online for only sgd 20?!

8. Schedule maternity visits and pick your hospital (for delivery) soon. In a way, I feel very lucky to be living in Singapore for a multitude of reasons, including having so many great maternity hospitals to choose from. From Mount Elizabeth, Mount Alvernia, Thomson Medical, Gleneagles, KK Hospital, etc., you can have your pick of a great hospital to deliver your baby. Deciding on the hospital early is very important as it will also help you and your partner to figure out the finances. Having a baby in Singapore is such an expensive business which is why, I cannot emphasise more on the importance of securing a top-of-the-line insurance coverage earlier on.

9. Get your husband/partner involved. Always remember that it’s not only you who’s probably scared and overwhelmed about having a baby. Make it a point to have regular open and sincere discussions about the baby and starting a family as this will also bring both of you closer than ever. Discuss parenting decisions, religious faith, child education, etc. all throughout this magical journey so you are both on the same page and the foundation of marriage and family life is more fortified than ever before.

10. Embrace the journey. The next nine months and the years after that are going to change your life in ways that you’ve probably never imagined. My husband and I are still befuddled by the changes and the coming responsibilities but we both love where we are now and where we’re headed for. That, to me, is just as important as all the other tips I have shared. There must be, first and foremost, an overflowing supply of love and respect in the home for you wouldn’t want to bring forth a child in a chaotic, stressful environment. Make time, as a couple, to sit back, relax and just bask in the joys of pregnancy even as you get ready for the next phase of becoming les parents.

Aye, The Stork Has Landed!

Today, I take a break from travel writing (Okay, let’s get real here. I am far from a celebrated travel writer/blogger. I just happen to travel quite a bit and occasionally write about my trips.) to talk about something personal, yet incredibly magical. The proverbial stork has paid our home a visit and I am now 17 weeks and 4 days into my pregnancy. I have been meaning to blog about it since the day we found out five weeks into my pregnancy, but Hubby and I decided we would wait until we’ve done the First Trimester Pregnancy Test (FTPT) and are assured of our baby’s health and normal development. Weeks have gone by and somehow, I can’t seem to find the right words to describe just how unrestrainedly excited I am – WE ARE – for the coming of our baby.

What I’m about to say is totalement cliché but I will say it anyway: What I am experiencing now is simply too beautiful for words. That pregnancy in itself is a life-altering event in a woman’s life – especially this woman – is a universally-accepted truth, but nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming joy and occasional bouts of trepidation (Am I really ready to become a mother? Am I going to be a great Mom? What’s going to happen to my career after this? Will I be able to get rid of my pregnancy weight and how soon?) of actually going though it myself. The physical changes that my body goes through week after week is just one thing. The mental and emotional tumult (in a good way), is another.

It’s not because Hubby and I are worried for any particular reason. Deep in our hearts we know that we are both ready for the big picture responsibility of parenthood. Although we have been a couple for more than seven years (married for nearly three years out of those seven), we mutually-agreed at the beginning that we will not be rushing into parenthood for a handful of reasons. Some of those, I admit, were decidedly selfish but necessary in the way that they helped us become more prepared for what’s to come. Not to say that we already know exactly what to do – no one can possibly be that deluded – but we are trying and learning day by day. Do we regret having a baby quite late as opposed to getting right down to it at the early stage of our relationship? Not really, no. There are merits to spending a good amount of time as husband and wife, first, considering we spent much of our boyfriend-girlfriend years trying to make our long distance relationship work. We took time in nurturing our relationship and now that we have built a pretty solid foundation, we both felt it was time to bring in a new member to love and care for as much as we have done for each other all these years. Or perhaps even more. For isn’t it that children can bring out the selflessness you never even knew existed in you?

It was late last year when we started having serious baby talks and I won’t lie to you: I was starting to worry about my ovaries ageing faster than I could even perfect a pincha mayurasana (which I still haven’t learned to do unassisted, by the way) pose. I am 35 and I am not one to age-shame, but that sounds pretty advanced to me. Unfortunately for us women, our ovaries simply don’t decide to stop ageing at 21. Besides that, there’s also the late pregnancy risks to consider, i.e., the increased risk of Down’s Syndrome for the baby and also the potential risk on the mother’s wellbeing – if the mother is not very healthy to begin with. Thankfully, I have been living a somewhat healthy lifestyle for many years now. Yes, I do binge occasionally like any other human being with natural urges, but I try to compensate for it with a lot of weird exercises and then some.

To make things a little bit more compliqué, I had been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which means, my hormones are completely out of whack and I’ve been told that getting pregnant may not be as easy as boiling eggs on a kettle with a timer. And because of my hormonal imbalance, I had to take hormonal pills for several years. So when we decided to have a baby, I prayed that I won’t have wait too long because, again, ageing ovaries, and well, we thought it would be really lovely to deliver our baby in Singapore, just as the nation celebrates its 50th year. After all, we did get married in Singapore on 12-12-12. Why not take the number play a notch higher and go for a Jubilee baby as well? LOL.

We may have been over enthusiastic about the whole let’s-start-a-family thing when we were in Europe last February (oh yes!) that I had the highest hopes of seeing those two blue lines when we got back from our winter holiday. But instead of two, I saw only one blue line, and I could feel myself slowly sinking into the abyss of sadness, that gnawing feeling of inadequacy, and aching worry. Weeks passed and my period still hasn’t come but at the same time, I was feeling these weird symptoms that were terrifying me because they were raising my hopes so far up – and I was afraid of crashing down in a pile of rubble. Hubby saw how distraught I was with the result of the first HPT and it was affecting him, too. The week before my second appointment with my OB, I took one of those HPTs and again, no two lines. By this time, I was oscillating from sadness to frustration and some other wild emotions in between, that it was pretty hard to play catch-up with my mood swings. Poor Hubby.

Finally, I went to see my doctor, primarily to complain about my period taking an extended break and the two happy lines not showing meanwhile. It turns out, I got false negatives on my HPTs! I was alone at that time as Hubby had a meeting he couldn’t get out of and anyway, we didn’t really expect anything different other than the singular line during that particular visit, so I didn’t really push him to go with me. So when I called him immediately after I stepped out of the clinic to break the news of my pregnancy, we were both so overcome with joy that’s unlike anything we’ve ever felt before. So freakin’ intense! I mean, if I thought having raclette and an undisclosed amount of wine up in the snowy French Alps in winter with was pure bliss, knowing that I have this beautiful seed blossoming into life inside of me is about a million times blissful! God has heard our prayers and we are going to become parents!

So for the last few weeks, Hubby and I have been quite busy making all the preparations for the little one’s arrival. And since I will most likely be blogging about pregnancy, motherhood, and the whole shebang far more frequently in the coming weeks, I should probably end my post right about here. On my next post, I will have tips and funny stories to share, so I hope you’ll stick around for that as well.:)

Oh, did I tell you that we are having a baby boy? Mais oui, c’est un garçon!


My 17-week old bumpie.

My 17-week old bumpie.

TRAVEL: Top Things To Do in ARCACHON and La TESTE-de-BUCH

Located some 55kms from Bordeaux is another arrondissement called Arcachon which sits on the banks of the Atlantic coast. Compared with most towns in France, our friends at Wikipedia say Arcachon is fairly young at around 150 years old. Prior to it being officially acknowledged by Emperor Napoleon III as a town, Arcachon is said to be just a sprawling forest of pine, oaks, and strawberry trees with almost zero road links. Today, however, Arcachon is fast becoming famous for its fine beaches, the remarkable Arcachon houses so unique in architecture, great seafood, while neighbouring La Teste-de-Buch is home to the famous Grande Dune du Pilat. After spending the previous day gallivanting around Sauternes, my In-Laws took us on a road trip to these two arrondissements and what we have seen there certainly confirmed raves by tourists.

1. Arcachon Beaches. In Arcachon, you will find a long stretch of fine sandy beaches that has become so popular with beachcombers and surfers, too, especially during summer. As it was winter when we came here, we saw only a handful of people braving the icy cold temperature. There are restaurants and bars along Boulevard de l’Ocean, as well as private properties lucky (or wealthy) enough to hog a slice of this natural beauty.

I love the beach, even in winter.

I love the beach, even in winter.

From here, you can also take the boat for a tour around the Birds Island.

Up for some bird watching? You wouldn't want to skip this one!

Up for some bird watching? You wouldn’t want to skip this one!

Or simply roam around the city centre and take photos.

Fresh fruits at the local marché

Fresh fruits at the local marché

Picturesque Arcachon.

Picturesque Arcachon.

Walk the world one city at a time.

Walk the world one city at a time.

2. Grande Dune du Pilat. When my in-laws told us that we will pass by the Grande Dune du Pilat after our trip to Arcachon beach, it didn’t really occur to me that it would be as astonishing as the one that greeted us when we arrived at the site. First of all (and pardon me for my ignorance), I didn’t really think that there could be a sand dune in Europe and one as tall as this one in Pilat. My husband and I have been to the Red Dune in Dubai, and though Le Grande Dune du Pilat is nowhere near it in terms of size and the fine quality of the sand, it more than made up for its lack with the fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean and Arcachon Bay from the top and the verdant forest in surrounding areas. They say that the dune is about 118m above sea level and stretches up to nearly 3kms, making it the highest sand dune in Europe.

The largest sand dune in Europe.

The largest sand dune in Europe.

Dune du Pilat offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, Arcachon Bay and the surrounding verdant forest.

Dune du Pilat offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean, Arcachon Bay and the surrounding verdant forest.

The climb up can be a little challenging but like I said, totally worth the spectacular view from the top. It was very cold the afternoon that we visited with the wind occasionally blowing in freezing gusts, making the climb all the more fun. I can only imagine how even more beautiful it can be up there during summer! There is no fee charged for visitors and there’s one or two snack shops at the base of the dune if you ever feel the need to snack or hydrate before and after the climb. There are toilets and souvenir shops as well. This is definitely a great place to visit when in the region.

The Atlantic Ocean down below.

The Atlantic Ocean below.

3.  (Sea)Food trip. Arcachon takes pride in being recognised as one of the top four places for best oysters in France, alongside Normandy, Brittany and Marennes-Oléron. I must confess that we didn’t exactly have our seafood trip in Arcachon but rather, at this port-side restaurant in La Teste-de-Buch called Restaurant du Port.  Which, if my non-existent geographical knowledge is to be trusted, is really just next to Arcachon. It was still low tide when we got to the restaurant but the water quickly rose to cradle the little colourful sailboats up in its arms, lending the whole scene a slight touch of romance (because we all know France really goes hand-in-hand with romance).

View from Restaurant du Port.

View from Restaurant du Port.

We ordered from the menu escale and got a plate of oysters each for starters and they were truly fresh and delicious! We tried Loubine à la plancha, Pavé de Boeuf and Parillada plus crême brulée and tarte aux noix for desserts – all top-notch in terms of taste and portion.

Les huitres!

Les huitres!

Loubine à la plancha

Loubine à la plancha

Tarte aux Noix

Tarte aux Noix

If I’m not mistaken, the set meal costs around 20 euros, which is quite reasonable given the quality and taste of the food. Overall, this is a great restaurant to visit and you must not leave without sampling their seafood dishes (oysters, especially), which is what they are mainly known for. C’est très delicieux!

TRAVEL: Tailor-made fun in the sun in PHUKET

The party island of Phuket is officially our most-visited place, having just concluded our long weekend Christmas getaway there. It was our third time to celebrate Christmas on the island, an every-other-year holiday tradition Hubby and I started back in 2010, and our fourth trip overall. While that hardly qualifies us as experts, we have certainly seen and experienced more of this island than perhaps any average holiday-maker.

I have loved Phuket from the first moment I set foot on the island. It certainly isn’t the best island there is but there is just something about Phuket that draws us in and keeps us coming back for more – no matter how many times I keep telling Hubby that we should probably give Phuket a rest and go somewhere else next time. A little digression, if I may: We were in the same speedboat as this young French couple when we did the Phan Nga Bay tour and the guy, who himself is an intrepid traveler, said that among all the islands that he has visited in Asia he liked El Nido the most. He said not even James Bond Island or Koh Phi Phi comes close. It’s a shame that I have not been to El Nido myself, but I have seen enough photos and videos and heard first-hand account from friends to know that this cannot possibly be a fib. So yes, El Nido is definitely in our future travel plans. Now back to Phuket. You see, it’s not so easy to write-off this gem of an island given that it’s only a mere 1.5 hours air travel time from Singapore and there are flights galore! Besides, when you only have one long weekend to scratch the beach-itch, you really wouldn’t want to spend several hours cramped in the whatever-happened-to-leg-room budget airline seats when you could already be sampling pad thai or tom kha gai in one of the restaurants in Kamala, in your sexy swimsuits and with your toes buried in the soft white sand, for example. If you have been to Phuket, chances are, you probably love it for some of the reasons that we do. If you don’t like it, however, then it’s just too bad.

So here’s our definitive list of things to do in Phuket. I will be using photos from both our recent and older trips so don’t get too shocked by the weight gain and more pronounced appearances of crow’s feet, age spots and flab because sweetheart, we aren’t so young and so tight anymore.

1. Explore Patong on foot. This place certainly makes no apologies for what it is: tacky, sultry, campy, hot, crowded, boisterous, sexy, delicious, morally-bent, cheap, expensive, delightful, relaxing, capricious…all that and much more coming at you all at the same time! It can get a little too much but once you get used to the cacophony of noise, colour, taste, scent and feel of Phuket, trust me, it will grow on you.

Walking around Patong. December 2010.

…is all you need. Patong, December 2014.

2. Rent a motorbike and visit the more pleasant and less congested beaches of Surin, Karon, Kamala and Kata. Of the four, Surin is our favourite and this place just keeps changing each time we visit so it never gets old or boring.

Rent a motorbike to get around Phuket. August 2014.

3. Eat as much of your favourite Thai dishes and dare to discover a few others (deep-fried bugs, for example) because you know as well as I do that these delicious authentic Thai cooking is terribly hard to find in other countries. And even if you’re lucky enough to find a good one, you can bet it’s not going to be as cheap.

My all-time favourite, Tom Kha Kai.

4. Book a trip to see the Koh Phi Phi island. You’ve seen the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, I presume? This area here is where some scenes of the movie were supposed to have been shot. Gorgeous island but just overly crowded especially during peak season.

Koh Phi Phi Island tour. December 2012.

Just wow.

Just wow.

5. Experience the Phang Nga 7-island Tour at least once. They say if you have a choice between Phi Phi and Phang Nga, you pick the latter because there are more activities and views to enjoy. The Phang Nga Tour includes the famous James Bond Island as one of the stops. We don’t dare play favourites because we like both (Phi Phi and Phang Nga), but yes, the 30-minute canoe experience at Koh Hong and the small cave exploration before that were quite nice. Koh Hong is one of the seven islands in Phang Nga.

James Bond Island tour. December 2014.

Canoeing at Koh Hong Island. December 2014.

6. Go elephant trekking and enjoy traversing the tropical jungle paths while comfortably seated on the back of these gentle giants. Afterwards, you can pay extra Baht to buy bananas to feed the elephants with, at the observation kiosk. They even have baby elephants dancing and doing tricks that will make you go awww and turn your heart into a big puddle of mush inside your chest.

Our second time to go elephant trekking and this time, we caught the beautiful sunset on our way back and it nearly brought tears to my eyes, I remember. December 2012.

7. Visit Wat Chalong, arguably the most visited Buddhist temple in Phuket. Thais offer flowers and light candles at the central temple by way of making merit or showing gratitude for wishes granted. You will also hear firecrackers exploding loudly which generally comes from this brick oven-like dome close opposite the main temple.

The Wat Chalong. December 2014.

One of the temples at Wat Chalong.

8. Drive up north to see the Big Buddha. This is probably one of the most recognisable structures in the northern part of Phuket, In fact, you will see the Buddha from any vantage point on this side of the island. Ladies who are wearing shorts and sleeveless tops will be given sarongs to cover up bare extremities. Entrance is free and the view is spectacular from here.

Behold the Big Buddha in Phuket. December 2014.

Big Buddha Phuket_vickyras

9. Take the most awesome sunset photos at Phromthep Cape. Or just about any panoramic photo and selfie shot, in case you’re there before sunset. Been here twice before and yes, the view is just spectacular, especially on a bright and sunny day.

Fantastic view from Phromtep Cape on a sunny day. December 2010.

Elephant sculptures of different sizes at the Phromtep Cape.

Elephant sculptures of different sizes at the Phromtep Cape. August 2014.

10. Catch the fascinating nighttime Thai cultural show at Fantasea. Be mesmerised by Thailand’s rich and exotic heritage and ancient traditions with some of the coolest technology and special effects. Watch out for the elephants. They will bring you to tears with their cuteness.

The Thai cultural show at Fantasea is a must-see when you’re in Phuket. The elephants were sensational!

11. Try the famous Phuket banana-nutella pancake and other flavours available. You are bound to feel that all-too-familiar tightening on your pant’s waistband after eating copious amount of this dangerous concoction but trust me, it’s worth the calories my friend.

I must always have my banana-nutella pancake when in Phuket. Try and I bet you’ll love it!

Banana-Nutella  pancake at  Surin Beach. December 2010.

Banana-Nutella pancake at Surin Beach. December 2010.

12. Dine at MK Gold (the duck with green noodles is an absolute must-try!) and watch a movie (or two) at Jungceylon Mall. On our recent trip alone, we watched Exodus and The Hobbit, and all because we love the cinemas here. The seats are perfectly plush and comfortable and the screen is huge!

Go for the duck dish, dimsum and steamboat ala carte. YUM! December 2014.

13. Get a facial treatment in any one of the facial centres in Jungceylon and get rid of those hard-to-eliminate blackheads and other skin impurities. They usually have a treatment package that already includes facial cleansing, blackheads and whiteheads removal, facial scrub and mask and a few minutes of soothing facial massage, ranging from 500 to 900 Bht.

14. Get all your skin and beauty swag at Boots. I love going to this shop because somehow I feel like I am getting a good deal when I buy my moisturisers, creams, oils, etc from here.

I can’t believe all these cost me only 56sgd! Boots loot, December 2014.

15. Try any one of the fish spas scattered all over Patong and get those dead skin and dirt nibbled away by these hungry little suckers. A caveat: If you are too sensitive to aggressive nibbling and gets tickled easily, you may want to rethink your decision. But try anyway ‘coz YOLO, right?

Ça chatouille! December 2012.

16. Indulge in a one-hour Thai massage on the beach. And a foot scrub, too, while you’re at it. The price has gone up a bit now to around 400-500 Bht for a one-hour session but still well worth it. Tips are not mandatory but encouraged.

Foot scrub and massage on the beach is always a great idea. Surin Beach, December 2014.

17. Explore Phuket City. Though there isn’t much here based on what we have experienced when we drove out to the city in the morning (the weekend night market seems to be a crowd-drawer from what we have read on the internet), we did, however, discover this quaint little café called The Circle Coffee Boutique where they serve delicious homemade cakes and pastries. Look it up when in town.

#Foodporn. December 2014.

18. Yoga anywhere but especially on the beach.

Surin Beach, August 2014.

Heart opener. Karon Beach, December 2014.

19. Soak in the sun. But don’t forget to slap on generous layers of sunblock for protection. Your skin will thank you for it later.

#Pinkythetravelingpig likes it hot. As do I. Surin Beach, December 2014.

20. And get one last massage at Let’s Relax. There’s a plethora of massage centres to choose from (dodgy or otherwise) but personally, we like going to Let’s Relax.

Nothing quite like a fantastic Thai message to cap our holiday. Let’s Relax Phuket, December 2014.

I’m fairly certain that even with these 20-odd things I have listed down, I (probably) barely scratched the surface because Phuket is just…larger-than-life, in many ways. And that’s probably why we can’t stay away for a long period of time. We may not be going back to Phuket anytime soon but we have Krabi on our March travel calendar. That’s going to be another epic beach trip for sure. Abangan!

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 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:

Avoriaz, France. See you in February! (Photo source:

  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.