5 Days in Dubrovnik

Tuesday, 14 March 2017
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I've become somewhat addicted to Korean variety shows, particularly ones that involve food and travel. It was through one of the programs, Noonas Over Flowers (older sister over flowers) that I fell in love with Dubrovnik and vowed to visit one day. The only problem was flights are scarce from November till late April. A tour guide divulged that it was because of the strong winds that pound the coastal town during the colder months making it difficult for planes to land.


Airfares tend to soar during the warmer months and tourists would be packed like sardines within the walled city in 35˚C heat. Another local told me that UNESCO will be placing a restriction soon, allowing only 8000 people in the Old Town at any one time in order to protect the oldest buildings.

Many residents were quick to tell me that while their sole income lies in tourism, the summer months mean overcrowding where even the locals struggle to get to work due to the sheer number of people in the Old Town.


I was lucky to nab fairly cheap flights from London Heathrow to Dubrovnik with British Airways considering it was the school term break. I booked an apartment via AirBnB smack in the Old Town where everywhere was a mere 2 to 3 minute walk for a measly sum of £35 per night. Catching the airport shuttle to the Pile (pronounced pee-lay) Gate was a breeze after figuring where to buy the ticket from the counter (turn right as you come out of the departure hall).

Just be aware that outside of the peak season, getting the airport bus from Cable Car stop in the Old Town to the airport (30 mins away) may be tricky. Our bus never arrived despite having paid for the return journey, double checked at the information desk and made numerous calls to the customer service. We ended up having to sprint to catch a cab (thankfully, one pulled in as we dashed to the empty taxi stand) to the airport while nervously biting our nails hoping we made it there on time to catch our flight home. One the plus side, since it was February and rather quiet, checking in was quick and easy - all done in 10 minutes because there's only a few flights a day to Dubrovnik.

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The wonderful thing about visiting Dubrovnik during the off peak season is that the entire Old Town is a little like a ghost town albeit every now and then, there will be a throng of extremely stylish Korean tour group that surge through Stradun (main street) before all is quiet again.

The one thing I really wanted to do in Dubrovnik was walk along the city walls. The interesting thing was I ran around trying to buy the tickets as the office was shut and even inquired at the information desk only to find out that yes, you just buy the darned thing at the entrance of the city walk trail on your left just as you walk through the Pile Gates into Stradun.

It's a pleasant 2 km walk along the city wall that circles around the Old Town with a 360 degree panoramic view. You can catch a glimpse of the islands and the sparkling Adriatic sea beyond.

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The surface of the limestone paving on the pedestrian promenade had become so smooth and slippery from centuries of feet that had pounded these streets.We were in Dubrovnik during the filming of yet another Hollywood big budget movie - Robin Hood. Stradun and the gates were transformed into Nottingham and extras in costume were dashing about. Thick cables snaked around the city walls, huge spotlights hung from above while stressed out painters, carpenters and tradespeople were frantically building the movie set.

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Our host at the Airbnb apartment suggested Kamenice which is literally around the corner from the restaurant. A 2 minute stroll if we took it reeeeeal slow. It's a popular local haunt where we were very quickly treated like a friend after paying a few visits there. The restaurant is just a skip and a hop from the stairs that supplied the backdrop to King's Landing on Game of Thrones. Just so you know, I know zilch about Game of Thrones or the new Star Wars movies...... One of the locals corrected me - Game of Thrones is a series, not movie. Yeah....I know..... *facepalm*

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While out at lunch at Kamenice, I was discreetly eavesdropping the next table of movie people having a serious discussion about the script. Apparently, Jamie Foxx was in town but all the locals appeared rather nonchalant about Hollywood, having seen Games of Thrones and a couple of Star Wars movies being filmed right in front of their doorstep.

By the way, the scampi stew at Kaminece is unbelievably scrumptious. Make sure you order it if you ever made it there. Also, be aware that their pasta dishes, particularly risotto is humongous!


Another place we went back twice because we loved it so much - Taj Mahal. Despite their Indian namesake, it's a traditional Bosnian restaurant. Maybe it's because it was freezing at night but their veal stew topped with soured cream cheese was so satisfying and hit all the right spots that I came back to England and tried to recreate the dish.


One of the must see places in the Old Town is Buza bar. I went to the original Buza bar. There are actually two now. It is literally a hole in the wall. Go through the hole, down the steps and voila, a bar perched on the rocks with a view to die for. It was particularly quiet when we went to check out the spectacular violet sunset.

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I've been on a lookout for a durable AND stylish carry-on that won't require me to empty out my savings account. I was given an Away Bigger Carry-On to try out and I'm absolutely thrilled by its performance. I travel quite a bit and I pack light - very light as friends can attest to this. I wanted a suitcase with 4 wheels that can rotate 360 degrees with ease and navigate the bumpy paved streets of Europe easily. It's got to be strong enough to take a pounding but light enough for me to lift it up and not use up my hand luggage weight allowance.


The Bigger Away Carry-On fits into British Airways and most major airlines' hand-carry luggage measurement. I didn't want to bring along two hand carry luggages for Lil L and I since I had to take the train to the airport. It's unpleasant having to lug suitcases up and down the stairs particularly if you have kids traveling with you. The larger of the two Away carry-on is big enough for me to pack both of our clothes with room to spare (by the way, just so you know, I managed to squeeze in packets of crisps too!).

The people over at Away are obviously seasoned travelers because they've thought of everything. There's a compression pad which you buckle up at both ends that presses down the clothes and gives you more much needed space. It also has a zipped mesh pocket large enough for me to store my MacBook Air and external hard drive. I keep all electrical devices and toiletry clear pouches in my handbag until they've been x-rayed and then I re-pack them into the mesh pocket inside my carry-on. It has saved me a lot of shoulder pains. The other thing about the compression pad (genius idea!) is that your things don't topple down when you open up your suitcase. It keeps everything neat, tidy and exactly as I packed it.


There's also this nifty washable laundry bag that's rolled up and stored inside a zipped side pocket. I often forget to bring a spare plastic bag for dirty clothes so to have one ready at all times is brilliant!


May I just say that I adore having a phone/tablet charger on my suitcase? Brilliant idea! It gives approximately 4 full charges on my iPhone 6S plus. It's also removable if security at the airport requires you to. All you have to do is get to your destination and recharge it overnight. You can find out more about Away suitcases here.

Disclosure: I was given a set of 2 Away Suitcases to review but all opinions are my own.

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My 2016 journey. The good and the bad

Thursday, 5 January 2017


The Journey

I was moaning to the husband recently about my lack of progress in my professional life when he stopped me. He reminded me that I started out in October 2015 with 5,000 followers on Instagram. By January 2016, my numbers were over 10K. Exactly a year later, it stands at 44,900. I was so focussed on nitpicking my faults and lack-ofs that I forgot to see the big picture.

The growth happened organically, albeit with a few strategies put in place by me to improve my entire feed. I learned as much as I could about Instagram. Literally whatever I can get my hands on including putting myself out there to network. The latter wasn't as easy as I'm not exactly the most sociable person. It also grew by leaps and bounds, thanks to a lovely lady called Siobhan who founded the famous Instagram account called Pretty City London and featured my work on many occasions (Thank you, Siobhan. I'm eternally grateful!). It was mind-boggling to think a couple of my images drew more than 10,000 likes each.

I started collaborating with Hero to run Smartphone Photography workshops. A huge thank you to all who'd participated. More feedback were relayed to me so we decided that the final workshop was to cater specifically to businesses who wanted to incorporate Instagram efficiently as a marketing tool. I was blown away by the enthusiasm of all the participants who were so keen to learn that they happily stayed back for an additional 45 minutes.

Some clients wanted one on one customized sessions so one thing led to another, I started a small consulting business. Again, it wasn't something I'd set out to do beginning of the year. I took on more photography projects working with some of the most inspirational women (check out Online Stylist and Lois Avery) and brands that I personally like.

I'm still a long way from achieving my goals but I've learned that it's the journey, not the destination that matters. I remember hearing a talk by Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter who drew a graph of her path to success. It was nothing like what everyone has imagined, a slow but definite upward trend. It was a scribbled mess with no definitive pattern. Yet, if you looked from afar at its 10 year performance, you'll see how many milestones it has reached.


Harsh words and dealing with difficult people

In the past year and a half, I've heard my share of harsh words, from raging obscenities, torrents of abuse to outright disbelief that I'd amount to anything. It's even more difficult when they're from a family member and close friends because you take their rants to heart.

What upset me was their sense of entitlement. Their "I'm more important than you"mentality.  They take no responsibility over their verbal diarrhea. The fact that others have had to deal with the emotional scars from their many tactless tirades. That it's ok to throw tantrums when things don't go their way and screw anyone who happened to stand in their path. Because they're ALWAYS the victim. The words thank you and I'm sorry aren't even part of their vocabulary.

The very act of tearing another person down is often a sign of deeply rooted insecurities hidden behind a veil of arrogance.

The thing is I hate confrontations and I deal with them very badly. My first reaction tends to be flight rather than fight. I go mute and then tears start to form. And then I hide in my she-cave for weeks to recover. It's taken me this long to finally grow a thicker skin, to stand my ground calmly and apply a little wisdom. I had to make the tough decision to not let the toxic relationship continue. That's a difficult thing to do if you're a people pleaser, which basically means you're everyone's dogsbody.

It's normal to disagree. After all, we're all made differently. There are ways to compromise and work together without belittling the other.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly."  - Proverbs 14:15.


Health Issues

I've been blighted with a number of severe IBS episodes (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It's been a year of adjusting and readjusting my diet, sometimes on a daily basis. I've re-introduced some food types back into my diet carefully with some success. However, a few slices of dried mango brought me to my knees followed by a 12 hour non-stop of pain, vomiting and being close to passing out cold on the floor. It took another week of bland congee diet (and barely anything else) before the low level pain was just about tolerable.

I am thankful that it's IBS, not cancer. I've had a friend who succumbed to cancer unexpectedly and another who has just been diagnosed a couple of weeks ago. My health issues, in comparison, are minuscule and controllable with careful dieting. In fact, thanks to IBS, I'm even more careful with what I put into my mouth and my diet has improved tremendously as a result.

What did your 2016 journey look like?

**All photos taken with iPhone 6S Plus

Favorite things during the Christmas season

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

I'm a late adopter of Christmas traditions in the U.K but I'm making up for lost time. I'm still not used to the excessive gift buying as we've never really exchanged presents during Christmas. The idea was rather foreign in my early years in Borneo. I see the immense stress and financial strain some of my friends have to deal with here. That was enough to confirm that it wasn't something I'd ever want to emulate.


However, I'm obsessed with Christmas tree decorations. Each and every single decoration on my tree represents an experience my family and I have had in the past. Say, the Eiffel tower encased in a snow globe. I've had many precious memories on my numerous trips to Paris. Ditto with the handmade embroidery of Winchester Cathedral in town.

There's nothing more enchanting than sitting on the sofa on a cold winter's night with the candles lit, Christmas carols playing in the background and lights twinkling on my Christmas tree. Simple pleasures.


I picked up this handmade nutcracker from the Christmas market. The word art and craft make me break out in hives so I wasn't going to say no when my friend, Eileen, a talented florist asked if she could make a wreath for me.

I rarely bake these days. No baking means no eating. Hence, little weight gain. Yup, vanity. I decided to take the easiest route by just buying gingerbread cookies, all perfectly iced so that I don't have to deal with the mess. Chowing these beauties down takes a minute but it takes hours just to ice the darned things. I've noticed that the pricing at Biscuiteer is a little different at the store than online. The nutcracker and ballerina set cost £7 in the store but £10.95 plus shipping online. They're expensive but it's worth the cost just to see happy faces when they open the box to see the unexpected gift within.

What are your favorite things during the Christmas season?

Hong Kong, New Zealand and Indonesia in 6 weeks

Thursday, 22 September 2016


3 countries in 6 weeks was madness when you equate that to a total of 8 flights and 62 hours up in the air. I'm going to condense all that in.......a single blog post.


Onboard the Aqua Luna. Probably the most relaxing thing we did in Hong Kong. They have these day beds on the upper deck where you could kick back and chill out with a glass of complimentary tipple. The light breeze and gentle rocking of the boat as it sailed from Tsim Sha Tsui pier to Central was enough to put my jet lagged self to sleep.


The real Hong Kong.


The make believe Hong Kong........I mean Disneyland. The girls (Lil L and her cousin) LOVED it while their mothers looked like death warmed over. 36˚C heat and high humidity are a killer combination. Not to mention lots of strategic maneuvers to deter a few fierce mainland Chinese tourists from jumping the queue MULTIPLE times and pushing our kids away from us. Scary.


I can't help but heap mega compliments on the amazing Crystal Lotus restaurant at Disneyland Hotel. The service, setting and beautiful chandelier...... I had to make a reservation and pre-order these special character dim sum. Not cheap but definitely worth the splurge. The character dim sum weren't only beautiful to look at, they were absolutely scrumptious. Just don't get the jellies...... They were kind of meh....

The staff really went out of their way to ensure that certain ingredients weren't added into my food. This is a lifesaver for those of us with severe food allergies or intolerances.

Next up.............New Zealand

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It'd been 5 years since I've been back home to New Zealand. There were lots of catch-ups with family members and old friends, some of whom I haven't seen in 20 years.

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I decided to take my parents and Lil L on a road trip, traversing through the Mackenzie Country on the alpine route to Queenstown. The journey took an extra 2 hours (a total of 8 hours) because we HAD to stop here and there to gawk at the stupendous landscape with snow capped mountains in the background. My parents and Lil L had just discover photography so all three disappeared in a flash the minute I stopped the car. Okay, okay.....so did I.

A quick flight from Christchurch to Auckland and then onwards to Hong Kong with an overnight stay before yet another flight to Jakarta AND a shuttle to Bandung. Yes, I'm feeling exhausted just reading this too.


A makeshift cafe utilizing recycled metal containers as stools. European style cafes are only just beginning to become increasingly trendy in Indonesia even though the country is ranked 4th in the world for coffee production. Surprisingly, the figure doesn't translate to actually having a coffee drinking culture like we do here in the west but that's starting to change now.


Traditional kue (Indonesian spelling) or kuih, as they're called in Malaysia. I made my poor cousin drive me back to Sari Sari twice because I couldn't get enough of their delectable snacks.

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Dusun Bambu directly translates to bamboo village. The architecture and interior have an undeniably bamboo theme which made the place so unique. It has a resort feel where you can hire a bamboo hut or a suspended bamboo pod (no, I'm not kidding!) for a meal and a snooze fest.

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The floating market in Bandung was a little gimmicky. There weren't many operating food sampans when we were there. Food hygiene wasn't high on their list either. Having had a 24 hour fever and an upset tummy from suspected food poisoning, I wasn't particularly keen to risk another episode of pain.

6 weeks of traveling came and went in a blur. Before I knew it, we were back in the U.K. As you can tell, I'd completely forgotten about outfit photos while I was away.


Wearing a 5 (or was it 6?) year old Karen Walker dress, panama hat, K.Jacques St Tropez sandals and CLUSE watch (available in the U.K here).

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This Isabel Marant parka has been featured so often on this blog that you're all probably sick of it. I managed to nab this Isabel Marant dress on eBay from a reader. Lucky coincidence, I should add! Did you notice my blinged out Miu Miu sunglasses? A bling or two doesn't cut it so I might as well go all out.

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Isabel Marant jacket, T by Alexander Wang t-shirt and R13 crossover waxed jeans.

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My "can't be arsed to dress up" outfit which consists of The Kooples hoodie, The Kooples sweatpants, Golden Goose sneakers, Miu Miu sunglasses and ASOS t-shirt (amazing tee for only £6!!)


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