September 28, 2012

A Samui story

I flew to Koh Samui on Sep 22-23, 2012, making the trip my maiden visit to Thailand. It was also my first time flying alone—and the experience is amazing; liberating; independent. It set a precedent. Here on, I want fly solo.

From KLIA, I boarded Bangkok Airways’ Airbus 319 to Samui International Airport. And I noted the pronounced difference of my emotions in reaction to the distinct atmospheres of the two airports. In KLIA I was feeling like a lost little girl in a big, big world. But in Samui, the sun’s smile was imprinted on my cheek, the breeze tugged at my hair and tickled my face, and the coconut trees—there were so many of them—waved their leaves in welcome.

Speaking of inaugural events, I never had to meet a stranger at an airport holding up my name on a placard. But there it was…‘Ms. Jolyn New’, written with blue marker on a folded piece of white paper. I was tickled and all buttered up at the funny, flattering gesture. No one thinks twice about this method of announcement and rolls on the floor in hysterics (or in my case, hysterics breeaking loose internally, while  the face remains stoic outside), do they? But then no one is as self-amused about silly things in life's ordinary routines as I am...and can get.

That was Krit. Then we were picked up by his colleague Passapong and headed out on a top-to-bottom Samui exploration. It was an eye-opener watching them interact with other people. Complete strangers; yet so amiable, good-natured, and sincere. Our party received an ample helping of the humble wai—the traditional Thai greeting of head slightly bowed towards clasped palms clasped—and dulcet “Sawadee ka/krap”. It's incredible; a culture shock, to me at least, because in Malaysia no one is that friendly. You could try pulling your lips open towards both sides of the ears but all people deliver in return (usually) are cold stares and turned heads. Maybe I'm dipping into unfair sweeping generalisation, but I've lived in Malaysia long enough... Anyway, I guess that's why they call Thailand the Land of a Thousand Smiles.

I only stayed for a night and two days and that’s not enough to comb the island. My opinion: if you want to get to know this beautiful tropical paradise, please stay longer. I wish I had extended my stay now.

I’ve written a fuller piece on Expatriate Lifestyle’s website.

I truly miss Samui—the sights, the charming little shops, Chaweng’s activity, the seafood, and of course my two new friends. Hopefully someday I will be able to plant more footprints on the island’s coconut-fringed paths.
Samui International Airport. Where it all began and ended

Lamai Fresh Coconut Ice-cream.
A mobile kiosk that either parks in Lamai or Chaweng beaches

Coconut ice-cream with sticky rice and pineapple toppings

Me at Lamai lookout point. Deb's said I looked like a happy camper

A coconut candy seller. At the Hin Ta-Hin Yai site

Grandfather Rock

That's Great-grandfather Rock at the back

We stayed at InterContinental Baan Taling Ngam. It's gorgeous

My room at InterContinental. Room 421

Thai vermicelli noodles with fish curry

Same as above, but a variation. And spicier

Vegetables for the vermicelli
Thai iced tea. It's fragrant and sweet.
Tastes different to our own because of use of a different kind of leaves

Bakubung Cafe. Heard the coconut cake here is good

Passapong + Krit. But only their backs

September 26, 2012

This is the story about trees

that grow in the unlikeliest of places.

I do not know how I got to be so high up. It is not the undertaking of humans. I have been birthed instead, by the birds; unbeknownst to them, in the innate acts of their existence.

I have a distant memory of hanging off the groundnot so high as I do now. I hung from one of the thin, but loving boughs of my mother as she stroked my head tenderly with the tips her vigilant leaves. And the birds would come. As my surrogate parent flocked with his a-feathered friends, I fell to the ground; it did not hurt. My pecking surrogate hopped close and I am wedged in his beakhe swallows.

It is dark, but only for awhile. I feel myself riding the air and think, my surrogate must have taken flight. I silently bid my biological mother goodbye.

Suddenly a storm rocked me back and forth, and I am carried as if down a stream. It was a narrow passage and I descended toward bright light. It was the sunI could feel its heat again. Everything was still. I sensed the wind brush against me as I did when I was back in my mother’s cradle.

Strange. My head split as I opened the eyes of my cotyledon for the first time. One foot curled forth in hunger and took root of something solid. It was clay, somenot earth as was my mother’s home. I could trace the difference from smell and taste. This house had not the musk flavour I was so accustomed to while feeding off mother. I was disappointed; does it mean I am not my mother’s child?

A little time after, I began to show colour. Green leaves, thin as film gently unfolded. I began to feed. And that is what I recall from the distant memory of my conception.

I am now older, though not much wiser. I know my home; it is called roof. It rests atop building, far away from ground. I say not much wiser because our kind that were conceived on clayon walls and roofsdo not go through the same circle of life as our kin born in ground. I can only see what they can actually touch. Creatures gather round them; humans reach out their limbs to them, trim them, keep them; they are tended to, more so than I.

I fret about something. Uncertain about how big I am able to growI hope though, not a great deal more.

My roof home appears incapable of sustaining any grave weight and what’s more I have neighbours. We do not speak of it but there lingers the stench of disquiet. This unease we skirt in language, though we find other ways of articulating. With irritable whispers and rustling of our foliage we gesticulate in agony.

The humans err. They think we natter by swishing our leaves and knocking wooded limbs together. They do not know these resemble only a human’s fleshly gestures like a sigh, a smile, wink… Our discourse is indiscernible to their ears.

In a squall, our terror rears its ugly head. We are whipped into frenzy. The rain beats down upon her and thunders make her groan and shudder. We shake and scream at every tremor, fearing the day has come that she will give.

Only when droplets diminish and black clouds roll away do we halt our furybut the foreboding remains. We know the horror dies down only to rekindle next storm. This consternation brings us to the brink of our wits, but we hold our branches high and carry on. Roof home must have seen an arduous life and between tempests and our tempers, she is longsuffering.

Today dawns bright. Not a sign of a storm and we are in good spirits. I nod plenty to my neighbours and look across to the train station. No train approaches yet and the humans shuffle their feet impatiently as they wait on the platforms. A figure moves towards the fence. She looks straight at me. In vanity I brush down my bark, clumsy. She brings a square out of her bag and raises it to her face. What is that apparatus, I wonder.

She holds a finger down and the single eye on the square shutsand the human continues looking at me for a season. Then and walks away. What curious beings, these humans. What a life it is…

for trees that grow in the funniest places.
Taken at the Klang KTM station

September 21, 2012

Ed-static over kwon chef’s genius

Chef Edward Kwon demonstrating the preparation of Samgyetang

LI TV's Korean celebrity chef, Edward Kwon, cooked for a special gala dinner which I attended with Rebecca as media guests under Expatriate Lifestyle. Special thanks to Sook Ping, Hwei and Akmal, the lovely ladies from Roots Asia Pacific who invited us. Here's an excerpt of my piece below and a link to the full story on EL's website.

Food either makes you happy or leaves you wanting. But guests at Korean celebrity chef, Edward Kwon’s six-course gala dinner on Sept 14, were rendered thoroughly impressed over his masterpieces. Inspired by the 13-episode production of EdVentures in Asia starring Chef Kwon, the feast was presented by Life Inspired TV and Maybank at the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur.
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Photos, videos and information on EdVentures in Asia.