6 highlights of the Taiwan trip (and then some)

Because I regret not doing the wonderful trip to Korea any justice by writing a more elaborate post about it, I shall now do a proper one for the Taiwan trip.

On hindsight, the trip wasn’t too bad. There were several enjoyable moments that came in the form of:

1. Lanterns!

There was the sky lantern

on which we wrote our wishes, then lit up and sent to the heavens.

The shop is run by the old lady (left, in the picture below) who lives alone. Her kids come back on weekends to help out. Look at those pretty paper lanterns! ❤

And then there were more lanterns, like these at the place where we had barbequed meat and steamboat for dinner in Hualien:

And these in a temple next to Raohe Street Night Market in Taipei:

And even more lanterns at the Raohe Street night market itself:

Well, it is an Asian country, after all. I went completely shutter crazy. Thanks for satisfying my lantern obsession, Taiwan!

 

2. The scenery

The sea, the sea! The Pacific Ocean was right there before me! If I squint hard enough, I might even see California. Ha.

SO gorgeous. The perfect mood-lifter to start the day.

The beach was filled with pebbles rather than sand, and it’s literally a crime to take them back – well okay, get all precious about your beautiful beach, why don’t you?

 

This is the look of someone in love with the beach

 

Also, the mountains. Taiwan came about when two tectonic plates, the Philippine Sea plate and the Eurasian plate, collided, and a mountain range was formed right in the middle of the island. So everywhere we went, we were treated to the sight of misty mountains

 

and fresh air. Taiwan has been hopping on the green track in recent years, by implementing little things like narrowing down smoking spaces, fining drivers who leave their engine running for longer than 3 minutes and creating wider paths for cyclists.

Finally, there was this:

The view from our hotel room at Fleur de Chine

 

The largest lake in Taiwan, the Sun Moon Lake was so named because it is made up of the Sun Lake (the shape of which resembles the sun’s) and the Moon Lake (which is curved like the crescent moon). It is 27 metres (89 feet!) deep and has a surface area of about 7.93 square kilometres, and that tiny island in the middle of the lake is called Lalu.

We took a boat out to the corners of the lake
 

My attempt at an emo shot. Ha.

 

3. Flowers

Well, of course this would be one of the highlights. Anything is better with flowers in or on it.

SO dreamy

 

What’s that? Petal-crazy, you say? Sorry, can’t hear you over the song of flowers.

 

4. The hotels

Oh, man. THAT was good. We stayed in 7 hotels in all, 2 of which came with a hot spring in the bathroom.

Our room at the Luminous Resort Hot Spring and Spa

 

That area in the left is where the hot spring is
 

At the lobby of Luminous

 

Dining hall of Luminous
 

Our room at Fleur de Chine, which overlooks the Sun Moon Lake

 

Lobby of Fleur de Chine

The view from the dining hall at the Fleur de Chine

 

Our room at Chateau de Chine, not to be confused with Fleur de Chine

 

Aside from the hot springs and the lovely rooms, there’s also the food. Breakfast and dinner buffets – yay!

There was this dinner at Luminous:

And breakfasts of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, fresh fruits … of which I forgot to take a picture of because I was too busy stuffing my face.

There were also some meals provided for that were good, like this one at a cosy little restaurant by Sun Moon Lake:

Bamboo rice

 

 

And the meal we had at the 85th floor of Taipei 101:

And this meal in a Japanese restaurant Dad and I found on one of the nights we were supposed to settle our own dinner:

Their soup came in a teapot! Too cute.

 

All that for less than S$15!

Okay, I’m starting to sound like a glutton now. Moving on!

 

5.  The streets

 

 

6. The amusement park

It was a Greek-themed amusement park. Hence:

The kiddies came out to play after their exams!

This thing spins you around 360 degrees in your seat, and then another 360 degrees in the air. See that huge spinning arm? And believe me when I say it goes fast. Dad and I decided to give it miss since we came straight after breakfast. (Did I mention how awesome hotel breakfasts are?)

And then there’s this fellow:

And his friend:

And THAT wooden horse:

I’ll take you to the candy shop

E-da wasn’t huge like Everland, but man it’s been too long since I stepped into an amusement park. With their cheery music and candy colours, it’s a place of happy things and the safe, comforting memories of childhood. Call it commercialised fun if you want, but amusement parks still hold that special allure for me. Guess that’s why so many of my novels take place in one.

 

Other notable moments of the trip:

 

1. A pretty face!

Well, hello there! ❤

 

Of course I took a photo!

 

I am inordinately in love with this shop

 

2. The subway ride

Taipei was a lot more similar to Singapore than the other cities were. I particularly liked their train station, for some reason. Their trains were a lot spacier, which made me rue our crowded trains where everyone’s packed like sardines in a can.

At Taoyuan station

 

This scene reminds me of some J-drama starring Takuya Kimura

 

Here comes the bullet train!

 

The prerequisite tourist selfie

 

See how orderly and neat everything is in the train? Plenty of leg room, too

 

 

3. Temples

I’m not big on religion, but their temples were pretty postcard-worthy.

The temple overlooking Sun Moon Lake

 

 

3. Views

There. Taiwan wasn’t so bad now, was it?

sun, sea, sky, and other happy things

Busy busy week ahead, not least because I’m aiming to write at least 30 more pages (7,500 words) for Neverland by the end of this month! So here’s some photo-dumping* before I’m on my way.

*I kid: I don’t dump them, I stick them here very nicely, just like how I used to colour neatly within the lines when I was little.**

**Snort.

Anyway, since our travel plans for this month fell through (Taiwan will be postponed to the end of next month instead) and Dad had the weekend off, we went looking for places that would satisfy our shutter cravings. And where better to snap some pretty pictures than at the beach?

Hello, blue lovely. Thanks for making the weekend beautiful.

EVERYONE is happier at the beach.

The ground was a little parched due to the dry spell that’s beset us since the start of the year. But look, blue skies!

Ah, the sea. I love it so painfully much I might just set my next story here. (Red December Skies doesn’t count.)

Saturday’s weather was glorious. The sky was blue with a vengeance, but the sea breeze kept the heat from encroaching.

Easties really have the loveliest view. (Easties, by the way, are those who live on the East Coast of the island. They are supremely smug – and understandably so – about the fact that they’ve got an unobstructed view of the sea, an entire boardwalk of cafes and quirky seaside joints, and near-immediate access to the beach. They are also supposedly more mellow than people living elsewhere on the island.)

After cycling, it was still too lovely to leave, so Dad and I just sat on the beach and talked. But we eventually left when dusk fell, with sand between our toes and sea salt in our hair.

Even the view on the way home was gorgeous. The weather was obviously showing off that day, doing little pirouettes in its tulle dress. Look what I can do! Look how pretty I can be!

You glorious, glorious day.

Sunday turned out to be just as serendipitous, with cool north-easterly winds and more cerulean skies. So after brunch, Dad and I played tourists for the day and went to Gardens by the Bay.

Dad and his giant chocolate ice-cream waffle

Enjoy the lovely weather while it lasts, guys, before the haze sets in!

On a different note, can you believe February is coming to an end already? How did that happen? Feels like I’m still spinning on the remnant excitement over New Year’s. Still, it’s not too late to make things happen! You still have 10 more months to make 2014 your best year yet! Get cracking and be amazing!***

***That’s a lot of exclamation marks. Might need to tone down the chirpiness.

And since it’s the start of the week (again, where did all that time go?!), keep happy with these mood-lifters!

Kos Island, Greece
Paper lanterns
I have a strange, sudden obsession with lamps and lanterns these days. Something to work into a story, perhaps?
Hello, little thing

And hello, pretty thing

I hope you find that magic in your week! ❤

Bring on 2014!

The quote above is from author Margaret Peterson Haddix’s German ski instructor, Horst, when she was learning how to ski. And it seems so simple but true. This shall be my mantra  for 2014. Now I just need to decide where I’m looking.

And how are we on the New Year’s goals front? I’m still working on mine. But the basic gist is smile more, write more, live more and worry less. The specifics I shall flesh out here and now.


GOALS FOR 2014 (this sounds so officious it will be a crime to not achieve these goals!):

1. Get a literary agent already. It’s been too many rejection letters – generic ones and kind ones – and near-misses. 

Despite the daunting odds (approximately 0.2% of aspiring writers actually score a literary agent and/or a publishing contract), it’s time to get someone interested in my stories already. To do so, I would need to


2. Write the best damn novel I have ever written, even if it means hours and days and months of tweaking and tinkering and obsessive perfecting of my manuscript. The process is not fun for someone who prefers jumping on an idea to working out the details. First drafts may be painful, but at least they’re exhilarating. Everything that comes after, i.e. editing, is torturous.

Still, I’m in too deep to pull out now. So with all or nothing, I’m going for all. Be it Blood Promise or Until Morning, I WILL get an agent on board for 2014. No more pining and wishing and envying; more doing and getting and having.


3. Be happy. An entire year has just passed, and more of them are just going to whiz by as quickly. Why mope? Why waste time and effort on being sad or angry with people and things that make us sad or angry?

For someone who cries when someone gets snappish with me, you can see why I’ve been struggling with this goal for ages. I can’t help it. People’s emotions rub off very easily on me (have I mentioned that I’m weird and sensitive?), and any negative mood from others can make my mood plummet faster than my colleagues can attack the packet of Tim Tams in the office.

So what I do now – and plan to keep doing – is think of a happy song, or a pretty face, whenever I feel my spirits start to flag.

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Besides, if you’re happy, people around you are happy. I swear, it works. 

Often, the ones we are closest to bear the brunt of our emotions because we’re so used to having them around and being showered with their love and concern that we take them for granted. So I shall smile more at my family, talk to them more often and always be patient with them so they’ll never doubt how much I love them.

(Okay, getting too maudlin for my liking. Moving on.)


4. Believe in myself more. I realise that sounds very vague, a resolution just begging to to be broken, so to be more specific, my first response to every bit of self-doubt would be 

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 photo workbitch_zps3b8d22a1.gif 

And no, this is not being narcissistic or egoistical. This is an attempt at confidence. You fake it to make it, as they say. And I say, hey whatever works. I am so done with putting myself down and worrying about not meeting people’s expectations and letting them down.

That applies to bad hair days, daunting writing tasks and everything else.

5. Set a proper schedule to learn Korean and French proper, instead of just visiting my notes and videos when I feel like it.

 photo joeyspeakingfrench_zps9c299d92.gif 

6. Finish No Room in Neverland and write the sequel to Blood Promise OR get started on Indigo Tides. Either way, COMPLETE ANOTHER NOVEL.

(On a side note, I learnt a new term today! Introducing the “newt”, also known as a New Weird Thing, according to Laini Taylor.

That is, a writing project that is usurping the place of another writing project. Also known as a “slutty new idea”. Newts are to be discouraged, despite their unfailing awesomeness.

Here’s hoping newts don’t come attacking in 2014! More COOL THRILLING IDEAS – cooties? Right. So more cooties, fewer newts. Although really, any idea is welcome. I’m not discriminating. Newts have the potential to turn into cooties, after all.*

*Taken out of context, the above paragraph can probably certify my sanity level.)

That’s all I can think of for now. It always seems a little pointless to plan too far ahead since you never know what can happen two months down the road. But for now, this is my road map for the year ahead.

I hope 2014 treats you well! :0)

random snapshots of the week

View on the way home from work on Friday evening

 

Flying horses, anyone?

 

The above was taken at Chinatown, which my dad and I visited on Christmas Day. It was one of those days where everything was agreeable, the weather, the mood. Maybe because it was Christmas and everything felt lovely and peaceful. I woke up to a beautiful morning with skies like this:

Christmas morning

 

Where the wind was crisp and cool as it settled on your skin, and the blue sky was flecked with gold and pink. It’s impossible to be cranky on a day like this.

And it’s funny: the better mood you’re in, the happier you are, the more smiles you receive. It’s like people can sense your good mood and they become happier themselves. What you get in the end is a bunch of Happy Shiny people. And that’s a lovely crowd to be among. It’s so easy to fold in on ourselves and shut out everything around us, but in the end all we really need to do is:

 

In this feel-good streak, I went for my facial appointment and subjected myself to the same process of kneading, prodding, poking, squeezing, steaming. But my skin feels renewed now, so I guess all that discomfort was worth it?

The view on the way to Body Contours:

 

This has just been a post about nothing. Whatever. I’m off to catch up on Nichkhun/Victoria’s We Got Married episodes. Have a great weekend, everyone! :0)

on fresh slates and pretty horses

It feels like forever since I last spent a day with my dad. Ever since he got transferred over to Westgate Mall, we’ve been seeing less of each other, and most of our conversations take place over the phone or via Whatsapp.

But he finally had Sunday off, and we were determined to make good of the day! We’d originally intended to catch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, but because of a couple errands to run we decided to just chill and not rush to the theatre. There’ll be plenty of time to watch it.

Instead, we had a long, lazy brunch, after which we took yet another selfie in the same lift. Ha, call us creatures of habit.

Yes, it’s a horribly grainy photo, because I was trying to press the shutter before more brunch-goers could enter the lift and wonder what the hell these two vainpots are doing.

Later, we went shopping for 2014 calendars and stationery at Bras Basah’s Popular bookstore. Simple pleasures :0)

There’s something about shopping for calendars – it sort of symbolises the expectations we have for the coming year, like by getting something to organise ourselves for the coming year we can make it our best year yet.

And since 2014 is the Chinese year of the horse, my Chinese zodiac (plus, I just can’t get enough of horses – so powerful yet graceful, how can you NOT love them?), I’m having high hopes for 2014. I know, I know, I shouldn’t build up my expectations and wait for things to happen but go and make them happen instead blah blah blah, but sometimes you just want to believe that the next year will treat you good, that you’re in safe hands no matter what you do.

Then we cruised around Chinatown (another perk of spending the day with my dad, I finally got to drive again! How I’ve missed driving!), where the decorations for Chinese New Year were halfway up. I didn’t manage to take photos because I was driving, but it was all golden horses galloping down the entire stretch of Chinatown, cresting and dipping, while gold coins are strung across the street from lamppost to lamppost. The coins looked a little messy, but the horses were pretty.

Ooh, pretty horses! Now I need to look for images of those on Pinterest.

by Marcia Baldwin

horse art 2

Carousel horses! Something so magical about them, don’t you think? That may be why so many of my stories take place in an amusement part, and the important scenes take place at or around the carousel.

Anyway. I’m actually more excited for Chinese New Year than Christmas. Probably because Christmas means the year is coming to a close, while Chinese New Year, which marks the beginning of spring, is the start of All Things New.

I’m a sucker for new things. It’s why I love dawn, and – weirdly – Mondays, and the New Year, the writing the first chapter of a novel, more than dusk, Sunday evenings, and Christmas and writing The End. There’s just something about the start of a new day, a new week, a new year, that is so … invigorating. Like it’s brimming with so much potential, so much room for something wonderful  and serendipitous to happen.

If you ever do wake up at dawn, when first light is just beginning to pervade the sky, smell the air. Smell it. Then look up at the sky.

Don’t you feel happier already? Instant mood-lifter, and all you have to do is wake up early! (Okay, now I sound like one of those annoying morning larks.)

So yeah, Christmas what? I’m all about Chinese New Year. New beginnings, fresh slates! Always welcome.

Which do YOU prefer?

*

An update on the “too many books, too little time” situation: I charged down to Kinokuniya last Friday on my lunch break and bought Fangirl and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

Such adorable covers! How could I resist?! I’m getting excited thinking about reading them already. Whee!

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Yup, Jeremy Renner conveys it pretty well.

In fact, so infatuated with the pretty pastel-y covers was I that I did this:

Because we all need some colour in our lives.

RELEASE DAY!

I am BEYOND STOKED. I’ve dreamed of this for so long and finally I get to publish my very first book. And it’s a book I actually like and don’t wish to stash away in the darkest corner of my drawer.

LAMBS FOR DINNER is a young adult contemporary romance about a girl whose imaginary childhood friend is reappearing in her life after she meets a mysterious boy with a dark and violent past.

Those in Singapore, do grab a copy from any leading bookstore after today! The e-book will be released sometime next year (watch this space for updates). Hope you’ll enjoy Drew and Skye’s story!