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Jeju: MINT Restaurant

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^ Photo from Happy Mize Travel

I came across this restaurant while surfing the Internet for Western restaurants to feed TBH when we are in Jeju. 

Any Korean drama addict would be able to recognize this restaurant.  I saw it in Boys Before Flowers and Life Is Beautiful. I have always thought it would be a gorgeous place to dine in because of the dramatic views of the ocean and cliffs offered through its floor-to-ceiling windows.

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It is the MINT restaurant in the Phoenix Island Resort  situated in the eastern part of Jeju Island. 

I checked out the resort’s website and the entire place shouts F-A-B-U-L-O-S-I-T-Y.  Great views of the ocean.  Waking up to a beautiful sunrise.  Sipping a cocktail and watching the sun go down.  Taking slow walks through the fields of yellow rapeseed flowers and along the cliffs.  Breathing in the fresh ocean air every morning. 

Drools.

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Singapore Garden Festival #3

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I saw this Paphio at the Singapore Garden Festival and liked it ALOT.  But I exercised self-control (which is usually non-existent) and didn’t buy one.

I call it ‘The Sotong‘ because the markings on the orchid reminds me of a squid’s skin.  Also, the shape is very unique and its petals make me think of an elephant’s flappy ears.

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Whoa.  This is what I call a “MASS ORGY”.  LOL.

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Singapore Garden Festival #2

I grew up in my grandparents’ home which had a garden full of plants – pots and pots of orchids and bougainvilleas, rows of sunflowers, periwinkles, ixora, curry leaf plants, etc. 

For some reason, I never inherited my grandfather’s green thumbs for growing plants or his artistic fingers for painting pictures.  If anything, I am a disaster at both.

My grandfather loved growing Vandas but these orchids freaked me out as a child.  I thought they were ugly and I found the long, wiry roots frightening.  My hyperactive mind used to imagine the roots of the Vanda growing longer and longer, creeping into our house, wrapping themselves around our necks and strangling us to death in the middle of the night.  It is perhaps this ridiculous childhood bias that I never appreciated orchids beyond seeing them as being just another flower.

With the husband’s growing interest in orchids, I have been introduced to a wider variety of orchids and am no longer the ignoramus, thinking of orchids as being just “those ugly Vandas”.  I have a little more appreciation of the beauty and diversity of orchids, but sadly to say, I will never be as enthusiastic about orchids as he is.  But I am happy to be the chauffeur for his orchid nursery and exhibition trips. 

It is suffice to say that we had a spanking good time at the Singapore Garden Festival orchid show over the weekend and lugged home 5 orchids.  Except for the Paphio right at the bottom, the rest of the blooms emit beautiful fragrances.

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^ A bellina with symmetrically-shaped petals.

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^Phal. Hos Michogeorge

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^ Left: Phal. Joy Micholudde  Right: Phal. Tsay’s Ever Green x Phal. Nobby’s Green Eagle The orchid on the left is my favourite of the lot. I like the pink dots.

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^ Paph. Delenatii x Chamber One of the blooms fell off right after I took the pictures. 🙁

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Singapore Garden Festival #1

Today, I left the Singapore Garden Festival with two items that I really WANT.

1. A macro lens which I can use to take sharper and more detailed pictures of flowers and other flora.

2. This orchid.

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I love the shape of the orchid, the different shades of purplish-black colours blended together and how the colours look like they have been painted onto the petal with a brush which contrast beautifully against the white edges of the petals.

Unfortunately, the husband doesn’t share the same sentiments with regards to this orchid so that is the end of the story.

Well, we bought two orchids at the Festival today and he bought three yesterday. Our tiny balcony is getting to be a bit of a squeeze now.

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Surrounded By Pine Trees

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Eversince we returned from Bhutan, we have been asked by a number of people if we would recommend Bhutan as a holiday destination. 

I get the sense that many people I know associate Bhutan with “the so-romantic wedding of Tony Leung and Carina Lau” because the next question (after the one asking about the place being a good holiday destination) that I inevitably get is: “So did you stay in the hotel where Tony Leung and Carina Lau held their wedding?”  

Or if someone gives me the ‘Huh-Bhutan-is-where’ look when they hear that we have just returned from Bhutan, all I have to say is “You know, the kingdom where Tony Leung and Carina Lau went to get married…?” and bingo, you immediately see the light in their eyes. 

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Well, yes, we did stay at the Tony-Carina-Got-Married hotel – the Uma Paro.  We loved the hotel for its charming Bhutanese architecture and idyllic, peaceful, and calming ambience.  By the way, all buildings in Bhutan have to be constructed using traditional Bhutanese designs and architecture otherwise the owners will suffer the government’s wrath.

But what is best about the hotel is not the interior but the exterior – it is surrounded by beautiful pine trees that guests can enjoy from the window of their room or by taking a stroll around the estate.  I could spend all day wandering around the estate drinking tea, picking pine cones, watching birds and taking archery lessons (which unfortunately, I didn’t have the time for).  If only.

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The dining room in Uma Paro is my favourite place in the hotel because of its unique circular design, beautiful wooden beams and the expansive view of the surrounding pine trees.  But due to our tight schedule, we hardly had time to enjoy the hotel.  Pity.

Back to the question of whether we would recommend Bhutan as a holiday destination.  Definitely.  Although to be honest, I don’t think Bhutan is everyone’s cup of tea.  I feel that Bhutan will be a great destination for mainly 3 types of people: (1) those who love nature and rugged mountainous landscapes; (2) avid trekkers or mountain bikers; and (3) very serious bird-watchers. 

Bhutan is very rustic and the people live off the land that they till.  There are hardly any modern facilities such as shopping malls, restaurants or cafes.  No Starbucks.  No McDonalds.  No winebars.   There are cinemas in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, which screen Hindu movies and nothing else.   So it can be quite challenging for people who need some form of modern-day entertainment such as shopping.

According to our guide, watching Bhutan Idol on television is something that the Bhutanese is very fond of.  But seriously, most of the Bhutanese men I have seen have Idol-like looks. 

Men in skirts.  Dishy!

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The First Time I Saw Autumn

I am in the process of re-organizing all my digital photos taken over the years which are stored in various external storage mediums.  I haven’t been labelling the folders containing my photos diligently and they are now in a complete mess.  Quite a number of the folders have only a ‘date description’ which means that I have to open them up one by one to see what photos are stored in them.

When I opened this folder labelled as “101_PANA”, I realise that it contains photos of our trip to Japan in November 2006.  BUT.  I see only photos of the second half of our trip and I have no idea where I kept the photos of the first half of the trip.   (TBH always wonders aloud that he is amazed I haven’t been sacked from my job, given how awfully disorganised I am most of the time.)

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Browsing through the folder, I see photos of maple leaves in brilliant autumn colours, which I had taken in the island of Miyajima.  Experiencing the beauty of autumn for the first time in my life (and on my birthday), I recall being stunned by the breathtakingly beautiful red, orange and yellow hues in front of me.  I did not want to leave Miyajima.

I remember reading this lovely quote by Albert Camus, the French philosopher:

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

I wanted to bring some autumn leaves home as a momento.  I could always use the dried leaves as bookmarks.  The funny thing was that I simply could not find a nice maple leaf on the ground that had not yet turned brown or did not have holes in them.  And TBH wouldn’t let me pluck any leaves from the trees.  No momentos for me.

Sometimes, I wish we had different seasons in Singapore.  I could do without spring and winter but having autumn would be perfect. 

Enough of reminiscing.  Now, I have to hunt for the missing photos.  Like the ones taken in Seoul during the summer of 2008.

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Photocopying Hell and Birds of Paradise

Photocopying.  Don’t ask why I am doing this.  Stuff of nightmares.  I don’t even dare to ask myself why.  Because the truth hurts.

Thinking about happy things. 

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Like pretty flowers with a lovely scent of jasmine, cocoa and vanilla.

A bird with feathers in jewelled shades of blue and green, looking like an evil high priest wearing a magic cloak.

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Multi-coloured parrots screeching away.   Another little bird in glorious shades of blue, whose fish-scale patterns on its body, I love.

Too bad I didn’t get to see the Birds of Paradise at the Birdpark because they were busy mating…and cannot be distracted.

Yay, it is the last working day of the week tomorrow.  A short blistering week.

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Hornbills, Toucans, Storks, etc

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We spent half-a-day at the Jurong Birdpark today and enjoyed ourselves tremendously.  Didn’t expect to spend such a long time at the park.

The last time we visited the park was in 2005 or 2006 and I don’t remember seeing as many beautiful birds like we did today.

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I loved the hornbill, toucan, pelican and stork exhibits – their beaks are so gorgeous.  It was too bad that the toucans were kept in cages and I couldn’t take photos of any of them. 

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We also liked the enclosed South American and South-east Asian aviaries where the birds were able to wander around freely within the enclosures.

And we ended the day with a yummy Korean lunch.

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Meeeeow

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The Changi Village princess (erm, this cat is female right?) has the cutest sleeping positions!  This is my third photo of this cat.  I think I might just end up with a photo collection of her in various sleeping positions.  The other pictures of her are here and here.

I was chasing cats at Changi Village with my camera last weekend and they all refused to oblige me with a picture. 

Some turned their heads and started licking themselves the minute I took out my camera, and stopped the moment I put it down. 

Others scooted off in double-quick time. 

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Except this one, perched comfortably on a hedge, and didn’t look camera-shy or irritated by irritating human beings.  Like me.

Snapped many pictures of the cat in various positions and this one is my favourite, because she is looking directly at the camera.

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When The Bacon Turns Bad

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…..and the fridge has only tomatoes, celery and nothing else (not even eggs)….! 

Looking at the plate set before him, TBH mutters that he is reminded of cattle grazing in Bhutan, eating nothing but grass and hay.  (I am quite sure pasta isn’t part of the cattle’s diet.)

I am happy to go without meat once in a while.  And I like celery.

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Hermès Is Calling My Name

Not the Birkin.  Or the Kelly.  Or any bag for the matter.

But THIS…! 

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A fabulous Leica M7 limited Edition Hermès – in the distinctive Hermès burnt orange colour.

I love how sleek the camera looks. It comes with a 35mm, f/1.4 wide angle lens and a Hermès leather casing.  This is a compact camera with gravitas. 

And there are only 200 pieces available.  I am afraid to even know how much it costs.

I’ve played with a similar Leica before. Not the Hermès one but the Leica M8.2 “Safari” Special Edition below.

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My colleague bought the “Safari” and showed it to me.  Oh, it was beautiful to hold and produces very sharp images.  I could understand why he invested in one instead of a similarly priced DSLR.

The limited “White Edition” is also gorgeous.

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I am so tempted to get a Limited Edition Leica for myself, except that the price of one could get me a really good pair of Nikkor lens, or another DSLR, or both.  

*Gulps* I just saw the price of the Edition Hermès on a website.  A heart-stopping sum of USD14,000.  It was nice to dream for a very short while about owning one.

All pictures are from http://en.leica-camera.com

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CF #007: Hi Seoul, Rain


Credits: scorpiolabibi

Myeh.  This commercial to promote Seoul, featuring Rain, is quite badly produced, in my view.  I doubt watching this CF will whet the appetite of the uninitiated to visit the city at all.  For me, watching this clip made me revisit the photos I took during my last trip in October 2009.

Listening to Rain go “Seoul makes you happy…” makes one doubt if it is the case because he looked so glum saying it.  And why is he holding that tacky whiteboard with the word ‘Seoul’ on it…?!  It looks so lame.

I thought this eye-catching building located somewhere in City Hall displays the word ‘Seoul’ perfectly. The Korean characters shown on the building are the Korean consonants and vowels corresponding to the alphabets ‘S-E-O-U-L’.

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When he said that Hangang makes one happy, I was nodding away because I felt that way when I spent time at the river.  I hung out at the river for 4 hours one afternoon enjoying the peace, the crisp, fresh air and the quiet beauty of the surroundings.  I think the Hangang is now one of my favourite places in Seoul. 

Hangang River

In the clip, he also said that the “skies at the Hangang are so blue”.  Ironically, he was filmed saying this against a backdrop of the river when the sky was all foggy and gloomy!  Aiyoh. 

This was the very clear, blue sky which I saw at the Hangang (and likely to be what he was referring to). 

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And this is the Hangang at dusk, when the numerous bridges spanning the river light up one by one.

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I notice that the bulk of the CF was filmed at night so it showcases the city’s nightscape – and less of the day scenes. I guess Rain is only available to shoot this CF in the middle of the night (and also, shooting during the day might create a stampede).   I must say that the city looks pretty amazing at night too, full of life, glittery lights and buzz.

It is a pity that some of the lovely night scenes were shown fleetingly in the CF. Like the 12.23 water fountain display at the Gwanghwamun Plaza.

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This makes me want to rush out and buy an air-ticket right now.

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Seafood Paella, et al.

Seafood Paella, et al.

I made seafood paella for dinner last night. Or what I think is seafood paella because I can’t quite remember how paella tastes like. It didn’t turn out so well.

I didn’t cook the carnaroli rice long enough before adding the seafood, resulting in us having to eat wet paella and over-cooked seafood. Orso, I burnt the rice at the bottom of the pan so the poor pan is undergoing a major soaking exercise. 

As part of the prep work for the paella, I roasted red peppers in the oven (which I forgot to use in the end…*darn*).  I now know that red peppers roasting in the oven produce delightful smells.

For starters, we had insalata caprese. The plum tomatoes were good but the buffalo mozzarella that I bought this time didn’t seem to have much flavour to it. (According to Wiki, insalata caprese is also  known as a Tricolore salad due to its three colors, which mimic the Italian flag).

Thinking that we needed more vegetables, I also made a mesclun salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Chocolate Mousse

The chocolate mousse turned out decently. Light and not-too-sweet as it was made with mostly bittersweet chocolate and egg white – the recipe didn’t call for heavy cream.

Have to try making the paella again someday.  Can’t expect to get it right the first time.

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