Sunday, November 28, 2010

Out of the middle of the jungle

Growing up and staying in a place your whole life doesn't mean you know all about it, esp since you've been away for the past 3 years. I found a little piece of rustic charm of Indochina in KL, situated in a place quietly and discreetly tucked away in the corner of Ampang, called Tamarind Springs.

I came here for my belated birthday celebration...thoroughly enjoyed it. The food was delicious (and do expect hefty price tags) but most importantly, the ambience was unique, befitting of special occassions.

Starters consist of a variety of fish cakes, rice-rolls (Vietnamese popiah), prawns and savoury little spoons of mixed vegetable. Cue the cameras flashing away on the big platter of aromatic & tasty delicacies. Quite a good start to the meal ahead.

We've decided on a meal of 'seafood'. My favourite is the soft-shell crab in coconut was neither spicy nor overpowering, just yummy & crunchy. How I wish portions were bigger as there were only 4 little crabs for the two of us (remember, this ain't Sri Lankan crabs) least we had more to come.

The next 2 dish were typical Thai fare - mixed vegetable in fish sauce and grilled salmon with spinach in savoury sauce. Nothing much to shout about, but at least these are healthy alternatives to typical fried and super-spicy Chinese food.

Dessert was different from the theme of the night, as we ordered from Il Tempio, the Italian restaurant on the floor below. When the tiramisu and durian cheesecake arrived, I would say that the tiramisu was forgettable although the durian cheesecake was quite unique.

The entire place was fully booked but you could see (from the pic below) that it's far from full. Ambience was perfect but I would say that it's pricey and the place was inaccessible to anyone without a car. Anyhow, this is still a pretty unforgettable and magical-looking place.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gooood week

Wow…what an inspiring week! The whole week represent a series of events that threw big spanners in my descent towards mediocre spirit and lackluster, demotivated living. I’m back to my hype-whatever, motivated and optimistic self all thanks to the following events….

Since I begin to blog enthusiastically again, guess I am back to being CPD again. I always feel better towards the end of the year, especially as thanksgiving,my birthday, Christmas and new year approach. Maybe the end of the year bonus helps (HAHA, I wish)

So, started the week in a new posting – adult cardiac surgery work means a lot of excitement and long hours in the OT. ..some of the things I LURVE most in practicing medicine. The other perks are of course, numerous, i.e getting medicine whenever I want, knowing when to stop and also to start running, wearing the amorphous, monochromatic ‘pyjamas’ in the workplace (a.k.a scrubs) and the list goes on. But I digress.

Anyway, spent some time cutting up, uh, I mean operating on people and literally giving them a new life is really fascinating. When we put people on bypass machine, we are inducing death. Modern-Lazarus- work per se is not everyone’s cup of tea. Every case involves extremely long hours and super steep, unforgiving learning curve. Guess there are pros and cons to everything in life, ain’t it?

Other than spending time in the OT, of course I see patients in the clinic. For the first time since medical school, I actually learnt lots while sitting in with the chief himself. Never knew I could work and learn in a fun way before.

The biggest inspiration of the year came in the form of an emergency case that only the most courageous team will think of going in. I mean, the patient has already seen the light at the end of the tunnel once. That being said, we still bit the bullet, went ahead with a life-saving decision and with everyone’s full consent and knowledge, gave the family a final hope, with the only possible effort.

Although the patient has passed on a few days later, this experience left an indelible mark on my life – something clicked in the jigsaw puzzle and I rediscovered the meaning of why I am here. It’s to do our best under fire, even when all hope is gone. God gave us the skills and talents, it’s up to us whether we are good stewards, whether we leave a legacy behind, should we perish. Incredible enlightenment.

Then, I read this book called ‘BORN TO RUN’ by Christopher McDougall. I recommend it to any runners and anyone wanting to change their life. It was such an empowering and exciting tome. The Tarahumara people are downright wonderful that I felt like picking up a backpack and joining them for a year or two. I will no longer look at running the same way again. We are truly bio-designed to run…our feet are wonderful engineering feat that propels us at long distances….extremely long distances. So much so that I started running again the past few days 

If there is one book that any runner is born to read, its BORN TO RUN...the book that triggered the wildly-popular barefoot running craze nowadays and the extreme ultra-distance runners like my dear fren, AYPS. (Unsponsored Promotion, courtesy of the National Library Board of Singapore)

After feeling really inspired mentally, professionally and physically, the final icing on the cake is the spiritual blessing that I encountered today as we celebrated Thanksgiving – a massive gathering of a family of 5000 people at our Paya Lebar complex.

Pastor reminded us of our role and existence in Singapore – to be leaders, to go where no one has gone before, to create a model when there aren’t any. This is what we call strategic leadership. Other than a power-packed sermon, we had a performance and a free dinner for the massive crowd. Logistics were impeccable as everyone was stuffed, happy and comfortable.

The lesson of the week : Reading can be a dangerous activity - it can change the way you live, forever :-)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Transformed! Part 1

I'm home and already I miss the happy, friendly people, the delicious bryani of Hyderabad and the van-rides everyday:-P.....Seriously speaking, I have never been so grateful for everything in my life. How can I begin to describe the things I have witnessed in India, the heart-breaking testimonies of the orphans and the slums dwellers there? It ain't how Hollywood painted it to be, in case you begin to visualize Slumdog Millionaire (although it is a very good movie, nothing beat the real life experience). This is faith in motion, reaching out to the needy and giving what we can to those with open hearts.

There are no pictures, except for those in my mind, and no proper words to describe how I felt when I first saw the squalid dwelling tents that these people inhabit. No sanitation, no proper electricity, no walls, no doors, no beds, no kitchens...I couldn't believe it at first that families actually fight for survival on a daily basis in such a condition. After an initial few hours of denial, I accepted what I see before me. God removed the sense of hopelessness that filled my heart in the beginning,and gradually I see the fighting spirit and the hunger for self-actualization, love and medical care among these people.

As we played with the orphans and children in the slums, I could sense the love and light of Christ permeates through their lives. So many abandoned and lonely little children began to emerge from their former shells and blossomed into sweet, well-behaved and loving kids.

The cute munchkins have no Internet, television, Toys R Us...just donated clothes, simple food and each other. Yet, with their beaming smile and huge, intelligent eyes, they welcomed us as we sang songs of praise together, played games, learned various skills and acted Bible stories together. When we as temporary sojourners in their lives prayed for them, I could sense the covering of God's protection and grace upon their lives.

Some of the children told me that they want to be medical doctor, software engineer, artists as they gave me huge hugs. What I hope for is that the children could sense the love we have for them although we could only spend a few days with them. I hope that they will grow up strong and healthy, that they could achieve their dreams for I see so much potential and hope in each of them.

When we were at the medical camps, again there is this powerful atmosphere that swept across the village as we set up camp. The first camp was in this hot, dry village that seemed so remote. The 2 local doctors told us that this is the first time the organization has gone into this village. I was overwhelmed, not with the amount of patients...hehe, I felt like a mini-celebrity for the day :-) but with the reception and how much of honour and gratitude the villagers accorded to us. I saw all the women who needed medical attention while my colleagues saw the men. As the village is very far away from the nearest hospital, I am not sure whether they can go for further investigation but we gave our best and referred some to further care.

At the same time, the rest of my team-mates were busy doing a lot of things...playing with the children in the courtyard in front us on our verandah, under the bright sun and deep blue sky. Some of us were speaking to the villagers, praying and releasing blessing upon the villagers who came to us. When we left at sunset, although many of us were sunburnt and exhausted (all of us dozed off in the long, bumpy and warm journey back to Hyderabad) awashed with the afterglow of a precious and soul-enriching experience.

The next medical camp was an equally amazing experience as we saw patients in the city slums, under the shelter of a half-finished building (a.k.a. construction site). The spectrum of patients were different but the crowd came despite heavy rain and strong winds. We saw more babies and mothers this time as the adult men seemed to be out working. After the strong heat of the first camp, indeed the cool weather was a huge blessing to us as we see patients after patients non-stop.

To be continued.....

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lookin' forward

Heya...been a while since we last chatted. Well, it's been a crazy month for me as I fully had this baptism of fire in my new department. The good news is: I'm leavin on a jetplane. Up, up and away! I'm going to the ancient land of (drum-rolls please)....INDIA!

What's more, I am going with a team of like-minded people who are really making a difference in our community and in other communities beyond our shores. The past few months has been very demanding as we trained and prepared for this trip amidst all our work, family, social commitments even as we pray that we'll fully shine for Christ in all that we do.

No pics yet, as I intend to post up lotsa pictures from this trip in 1-2 weeks' time. So, in the meantime, do pray for us as we go do some good. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

An oasis of peace in the Orchard

Hi...I'm back! After weeks of crazy activities, I can finally blog about something which means I have a day off. Phew, a hectic start to a very interesting posting.

This time I choose to blog about a beautiful place in the middle of Orchard...smack in the centre of the O road (mid point) at the rooftop of Orchard Central, there is this Vietnamese place called Nuoc.

Nuoc is one of those upmarket Vietnamese joints that people take their dates on, to impress some clients or just to chill out. Ambience is absolutely superb and tranquil, although I bet it'll look very different at night as you gaze across the skyline.

We were the first people to arrive, thus it appeared really exclusive initially. However, groups of diners trickled in as we began eating. Being situated at the rooftop, it's not in the middle of pedestrian traffic, thus it takes very discerning diners to search and locate this place.

My favourite dish is the appetizer, which is the deep fried vietnamese chicken spring rolls. The spring rolls has this amazingly thin and crispy skin and this dish was accompanied with some fresh and fragrant fish sauce. I'm very picky when it comes to fried food as I often get bad throat from eating food fried in poor-quality recycled oil, but not a trace of that from the spring rolls offered here. Quite a good start, eh?

My next favourite dish is this tantalizing scrumptious chicken that was sauteed with lotsa lemongrass, ginger and onions. M said that this is her favourite dish. I think it went very well with the perfectly cooked fluffy white rice.

The vegetable stew, on the other hand, it's a hit and miss thing. It can be considered a hit because it's so healthy and simple, but a miss because the dish doesn't justify the price. Hardly any skills needed, although the portion is relatively big.

We ended the meal with a yam, coconut milk and glutinous rice dessert that really makes you feel like dozing off straight away. It's so high-carb and high loaded in simple sugar that I could only take 2 spoonfuls. I've never liked any desserts so I shall not comment on it.

What's the major plus point? Ambience and location. I love the garden and the decor. The service is superb and the people helping us were very attentive and prompt. As for the food, I think the standard of food is upper average and the cost, well, it's Orchard Road, I guess this is what I expected (which is on the high-ish range). I think I will come again, but not on a regular basis...just to experience this place at night. In the meantime, I think the bosses should expand on the menu and offer a bigger selection.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Warning: Extreme Gluttony ahead!

Do not read this post with an empty stomach…you’ll be heading to the fridge in a very short while. In my quest for good food near and far, I’ve ‘researched’ on 2 restaurants : Sushi Tei in Holland and Ivins, a Peranakan place in Upper Thomson Road.

I wonder if I should really write about the omnipresent Japanese franchise stores (the ranks of Sakae Sushi, Sushi Kin, etc) but I’ve been to ST only twice and I liked the fuss-free food so far.

My theme of the day was raw food, a.k.a sashimi and I wasn’t disappointed. I had salmon with tapioca, followed by a platter of sushi and more sashimi. However, not long after that, I remembered this idea of mercury poisoning and how we are supposed to avoid most seafood, especially oily fish and shellfish.

So, my days with salmon, cod, halibut, haddock are (almost) over. Although I think grouper and pomfret are supposed to be ok..time to find out more. Anyhow, low level of mercury in our body is not too bad…until unless u find that you have poor memory in what we call ‘mercury fog’. That’s when we have to take action and go for massive reduction of all possible mercury-contaminated foodstuff.

In the meantime, time to sample more goodies as we head to Upper Thomson Road for some big-time, authentic Peranakan food. Aside from the must-have Ayam Buah Keluak, we had a lot of other goodies.

By the way, if you are not from this part of the world, you must try this buah keluak thingy. The hard, somehow ugly fruit with black shells belies the most ‘meaty’ and flavoursome fruit ever, to the point that we use skewers to force the soft ‘innards’ out of the fruit, after we gobbled up the chicken and the accompanying gravy.

The prawns are least they were fresh. The gravy is tasty but pales in comparison to the other dish.On the other hand, I love the fried, stuffed tofu. I have this fixation for soft snow-white tofu. Apparently, it’s the secret why some Japanese women never have menopausal symptoms and it’s good for the skin. But I digress. Back to the aromatic world of Peranakan cuisine.

If you want to know more about Peranakan cuisine, there are actually lotsa books about the Baba and Nyonya culture. The longest lineage of Peranakan people are found in Malacca, followed by Penang and Singapore. Do you know why they are different from the rest of the races in Malaysian and Singapore?

Their origins dated back to the era of the great Malaccan sultanate when some Chinese people that accompanied Princess Hang Li Poh settled in, these people from China are here the longest, among the many dialects, some of them marrying the local Malays and adopting their culture. That’s why most Nyonya wear traditional Malay sarongs and speak only Malay, although they look like Chinese. They prefer to populate the Straits Settlement and at one time, they were the richest and most influential overseas Chinese around. Alright, history lesson's over!

Therefore, the Peranakan food a.k.a Nyonya food is a type of fusion culinary experience…spicy Malay mixed with Chinese ingredients. Like the tofu and vege amidst the rendangs and the curries. I’ve always liked Nyonya cooking.

Oh, back to food in front of me in real-time. I really relished the experience in this place…loved the meatballs and bamboo soup soup, beef rendang, ayam buah keluak and tofu while as usual, I really don’t fancy the extremely soft vegetable boiled for hours..reminding of the another famous ‘national’ dish – boiled cabbage. I realized that we didn’t order the babi pongteh…next time then.

So, what’s the shiok-o-meter of Ivins? Will I come again? I would say, I give it a 7/10. And I will definitely come again. Proof: the long queue outside the restaurant as we left the place. Boy, we are glad that we are early :-)

As for ST, I give it a 6/10 and I will go again as it’s near enough and the food is actually better than a lot of other Japanese chain store,i.e mass-produced eateries found in Singapore and Malaysia.

However, discovered that running is better after good food. Ran with extra vigour today (maybe it's my regenerated body, mind and spirit). That' how I know that I am back to my usual self again.

So, what's up for the rest of this long National Day weekend? More work in store as the A & E is running at full strength while a lot of clinics are closed. The saving grace is that most people are out of town, thus we could actually have a proper lunch break alas. Hallelujah!

So, looking forward to more post from me in the near future? You betcha! Hang on for more pictures of good food from this CPD :-) Travel safely wherever you go and...

Take care!

By the way, dinner courtesy of M and her ever-hospitable and welcoming family members. I am indeed blessed to know them!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My degeneration

I've fallen down this dark, slippery slope of...non-running. Oh goodness, I didn't run for 2 weeks and it's scary. To think I have 2 races coming up in 1 month's time. Aaaah!

It all began on the crazy week last month when I had to fly back KL to and fro, my sister came and then my good friend came. Since they all took turns coming one by one, I was busy the entire week, bringing them around.

We consumed some tried and tested delicacies but there were some interesting discoveries as well.

For once, I discovered that the Merlion looks really small compared to pictures. And the Marina bay area is really clean and atmospheric at night, especially when we cannot see the dust and exhaust fumes from the nearby vehicles :-P

Another discovery: I didn't know that there was a pasar malam at Bugis, highly reminiscent of Petaling Street in KL, albeit sanitized and quieter. And without the ladies of the night! Or their 'managers'! And without the ubiquitous fake Rolexes and Tag Heuers. :-)

We stumbled upon this food stall that was packed with people but we couldn't read the signboard. Because it was all in Mandarin..and this two completely Chinese girls cannot really read Mandarin...sigh....The food looked yummy though. WW and I decided to give it a try (feeling very adventurous that night). After all, we could speak the language therefore, nothing stopping us from ordering something we are completely clueless about.

For less than $5 a person, we both gotten very good deals. We each have this little 'basin' of noodles and condiments from a lot of ingredients that we can choose from. It's like d-i-y noodles. The best part was the chicken-based broth.

It was spicy, but not to the point of tongue-numbing. There is this deepy meaty and savoury taste to it, reminding me of the original soup-noodles I have tasted in Yunnan, China. It's a toned down, Singaporeanized version of Szechuan food. And we adored it!

On the same night, we decided to pay Butter Factory a visit. Now to those non-happening people out there, basically BF is THE night-spot to go to nowadays. The crowd was suspiciously young-looking, barely old enough to tie shoe-laces type.

I kinda regret bringing WW, my guest from KL, waiting in the line. We spent 40 bloody minutes (pardon my explicit language!) waiting in a long, snaking queue trying to get into a small place. I figured out it was hopeless.

Guess who was the first one to give up? Me! Yeah, probably I feel my age catching up as I see many nubile young creatures with the smallest amount of fabric, tottering on high-heels getting in the fastest way possible (via the VIP line) while we were standing on guard. I mean, people waited longer to see me in the hospital.

I had enough. Being extremely dehydrated and marginally grumpy, we decided a few good (and feel-good) drinks at the nearby watering hole (i.e Speakeasy). I love my 'white rabbit' drink, although God knows what they put in there in view of the dark bar. It's eons better than waiting in the line in this humid, hot island.

My gals didn't give up. They wanted to head to CQ, (not the custom quarantine offices) but deep inside, I was getting a bit reluctant bcoz I was the only one about to work at 9am the next day.

As we bundled ourselves into the taxi, I have a feeling that things are about to get really complicated. I wanted to go out with my friends but I don't want to be dead during working hours. I deal with life and death situations after all.

When it boils down to common sense vs fun quotient, I guess I'm already struck by the early signs of ageing. When we reach CQ, I told them I really need to go back home to sleep. Therefore, there goes my night of partying.

Anyway, as a compensation, I promised them that we will definitely go out when my 'treatment' is over...which is in 2 months' time. Yay!

So, to end the story, I still need to motivate myself to run. Therefore, I had this good cheese platter and the Purple plate at this place called 2 a.m dessert bar near my house. Oh, by the way, this is a few days after...when I have gotten enough beauty sleep.

You may ask, what's so special about this place? Other than the laidback atmosphere and the extremely small servings (they must be specializing in the molecular gastronomy thingy), I didn't find the menu extremely appealing. At least the music is good!

Will I come again? Just like BF, I'll probably visit this place only if I have no other choice. Sorry to those BF and DB fans out there! Once bitten, twice shy :-D

Monday, August 2, 2010

A night at the museum

People don't go to museums much nowadays. It's really a waste because museums are treasure troves of culture, knowledge and history, recording important events, things, art, etc for the future generation.

Thoroughly enjoyed myself at a recent event at the Singapore National Museum and Singapore Art Museum. The entire Bras Basah area was packed with human sardines as everything is free. Now Singaporeans love their free stuff, don't they? There was this funny " World Slowest SMS Message" in front of the art museum where ppl SMS in their message and the living billboards will broadcast the message. Realllly slllloooowwww stuffff....

I was infinitely more interested in something fast and furious. Headed to the kickboxing ring in hope of viewing some 'Ong Bak' style action. On the way, encountered this weird graffiti which I don't understand.

Ong Bak or not..I feel like a real lobak waiting for a few scrawny kids going up on this stage doing the muay thai. Not much to shout about, neither was there any blood and gore. Really exemplified the 'cleanliness' this island is so famous about.

Gave up on the free performances as it was really hot and humid (yes, although I grew up in this weather, I have a right to complain on my own blog k?) I find the aerial acrobat quite interesting but it was near the ending so we walked on to this colonial building...the Singapore National Museum.

Very well lighted up indeed. I wish the museums in KL are this cool...

Nice right? I think the museum looks really classy at night. I like the antenna
dish which forms the backdrop the last performance for the night.

It wasn't that packed inside as most people are outside watching the shows. We went into the galleries and it was quite fun. Saw a lot of different clothes from various generations in the past, old movies, art posters,etc.

There was free screening of P Ramlee movies, fashion shows of the 60s and 70s, etc. The whole place was really atmospheric. I found old gramophones, records, photographs of really retro glammed-up movie stars and even magazine covers like Vogue!

There was even an old bicycle, which depicted the old ice cream hawker that goes house to house in the seventies and eighties. Reminded me when I was very very young (like under 5 year old). After that, the ice cream vendor used motorcycles and this thing was phased out.

Our last stop was the Singaporean food section, which displayed a lot of spices and food from the past. I thought there was free food but unfortunately, everything was plastic! What happened to good old Asian hospitality? Hehehe...

I went home feeling very satisfied with my day, chalking up another museum in my list of places to visit in Singapore. Now onto the Zoo, the Barrage and other parks!