Spices in a small glass container This is how the Ikan Goreng spice mix looks up close!

Spice haul from Borough Market’s Spice Mountain

Spices! They are the spice in the spice of life! What would we do without spices? Like many foodies, this is a major weakness for me when I go food shopping, especially in specialty markets. I went to Borough Market for the first time and came away with 20+ GBP worth of spices. So many great food stalls, produce, cheese, olives, everything food related you could want.

We entered the market from the narrow staircase by the main road coming off the London Bridge. There is a tapas restaurant with lots of seating in this area, but if you go in further there are many more food stalls to choose from though without any seating.

It turns into a bit of a maze from there. The coolest part is that this is all underneath the railway, so you get a cool feeling from being under this big structure. Check out this map for an idea of the layout. The Green Market is where all the food stalls are. Three Crown Square has cheese, beer, wine, olives, dairy, produce, and, yes, spices!

When I happened upon Spice Mountain, I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk away empty handed. This is what I came away with: pink Himalayan sea salt, Spanish paprika, Ikan Goreng, and Dukkah. My sister got Nega chilli flakes and Korean chilli flakes. They were all in small plastic containers containing between 20-40 grams except for the salt which was a larger zipped package with 300 grams in it.

Lastly:

Nasi Goreng for fried rice and Ikan Goreng for spicy fish

Nasi Goreng for fried rice and Ikan Goreng for spicy fish

Spices in a small glass container

This is how the Ikan Goreng spice mix looks up close!

Which I used to make these:

The two chilli flakes are gifts my sister brought back to New York with her, but all the rest are mine now! The Nasi Goreng fried rice mix was a little of an indulgence because I think I could have put the dish together without buying the special packet of herbs and spices. The fish was good, though the flavors didn’t come out as well as I thought they would. I will try again and maybe it’ll look and taste a bit better. The Himalayan salt is quite nice. The grains aren’t too large that they feel bulky, but they are larger than normal table salt so you do get a bit of texture from it.

Future plans? I’m going to make some paella with the Spanish paprika.

I would live inside Borough Market if I could! I think I might make it a goal to eat my way through the whole market this year. Have you been to Borough Market? What was your favorite?

Grandstands at World U23

Volunteering at a huge week long sporting event #volunteerlife

What is it like to be an insider at a big sporting event? I had my first taste of that last month when I was a volunteer for the World U23 Ultimate Championships. Need an excuse to travel? This could be it!

Ultimate is a great sport, full of people ranging from your stereotypical hippie to your nearly semi-pro elite athlete. You can find leagues, pickup, and tournaments for all levels of players and seriousness. That’s what I love about this sport, everyone just loves to play and meet other people who also love to play.

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The arena field, the day before the action started!

This tournament was for players under 23, meaning all the team members on the roster had to be under 23 years old. There were 40 teams there, from around 20 different countries. There were three divisions: Mixed, Open, and Women. All in all, there were a few thousand athletes and spectators during the week. Though not the biggest tournament I’ve been to, it was still a pretty big operation to be a part of. It was pretty cool to see that ultimate has gotten so big that all these different countries were able to send teams for this championship!

There was one team from India which was pretty inspiring to see. I happened to meet one of the coaches who was also from New York and knew some people I know. He told me about how they had a tryout process in 8 cities, and that they had issues with visas to get into the UK but eventually made it. By chance, there was a guy coaching the team who was also from New York and knew a lot of people I knew. There were teams from other parts of Asia too: Chinese Taipei, Japan, and the Philippines. I was glad to see that there were some teams from Asia there. Hopefully this means that they’ll send teams to the World Ultimate and Guts Championship next year, also to be held in the UK at these same fields.

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All the Mixed teams from Asia

So how was it like to be a volunteer for a full week? It was at times really awesome, but also at times annoying.

Most of the volunteers camped on site, so that meant we were literally 1 minute away from the playing fields. This was great because we often had shifts starting as early as 6 AM. I had my first shift starting at 7:30 AM on most days. We also got to bond with other volunteers after hours at the campsite and in a big marquee tent just for us. A few volunteers did have to stay off-site to help out with the athlete dorms, but the majority were camping at the fields in our little village. The fairy lights that outlined the rows of tents at night made it feel like we were entering another land. It was super cute!

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I had a great time helping people while at the reception desk. Many of my shifts were there, but sometimes I had other shifts like manning the recycling and trash bins in the catering tent and stewarding the grandstand area. The volunteers in general did a really great job, partly because of the foresight of the lead volunteers to make sure that we all had a diversity of job types to do during the week. It did take a long time for the schedule of our shifts to come out for the next day, but they really put effort into it. I think I had really boring shifts twice during the week, but it really made it tolerable to have more interesting jobs the same day or the following day.

We did sometimes get some insider info, and we got to interact with some really important people in the Ultimate scene. There were a few moments of crisis and drama, but overall nothing that crazy. There were some conflicts between one of the coaches and one of the volunteers, so at least I got to hear it straight from the person involved rather than through the grapevine. Overall, it was a great experience for me because I really don’t know anyone or anything about the Ultimate scene in Europe at all. I’m sure I’ll see these people around and I hope to get more involved in general!

The week ended with USA winning 2 of the finals, Japan winning in the Women’s Division. I felt sad to come to the end of a great week and have to go back to my normal routine. Although I was one of the oldest volunteers, I still could say that I connected with the other volunteers and I would do it again. The WUGC is here again next year, and since I live so near I think I’ll sign up to be a volunteer again. The ultimate will be even better, there will be tons more teams to meet, and hopefully a lot more spectators!

Reasons I’d do this again:

  1. It could be a great reason to travel in the future. World and European championships are held in a different country each time, so I would have every excuse to travel somewhere to help out in the future!
  2. Meeting new people in the ultimate community
  3. Feeling like an insider at a big event for a sport that I really care about (and spreading the love)
  4. Last but not least, free swag! We also got a discount on all the merchandise at the VC tent.

I’m a volunteer this week for Worlds! #worldu23 #wfdf #ultimate

A photo posted by chewy travels (@chewbear62) on

I’m taking some of these home… Please let me stick to my budget… #vcultimate #ultimate #wu23uc #volunteerlife A photo posted by chewy travels (@chewbear62) on

AND, now the International Olympic Committee has officially recognized ultimate as a sport!! Though it may not be all it’s cracked up to be, I’ll still celebrate this as me getting a little closer to achieving my dream of being an Olympic athlete or at least attending to watch a sport I care about.

If you love a sport, why not try to find out if you can be a volunteer for the next big event? If I could, I would travel the world playing or volunteering in tournaments.

Cantabria coast

[Photo Journal] Adventures in Cantabria, Spain (Cantábria, España)

Back in April this year (I know, this is way late!), I was in Cantabria, Spain, and it was a gorgeous time to be there! Being in the north, it was green and lush and wonderful.

I spent about 2 weeks in Spain, mostly in Cantábria and Basque Country. We did a multitude of things, ranging from playing in the snow in the mountaintops, to basking in the sun next to a river, to hanging out by the ocean.

Sitges in the Spring

I was in Spain for a conference in Sitges, which is a beach town near Barcelona. The conference itself was a great experience, but I also had my first real experience with pinchos aka tapas. Then I was off to Cantabria!

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I met up with two friends to go to a friend’s family cottage in Cantabria. In the span of about 3 or 4 days, I played in the snow in the mountaintops, soaked in the sun to the sounds of rushing river nearly overflowing with melted snow from the mountains, and basked on a beach on a warm day. If someone had told me that I would be doing all of these things in such a short span of time, I would have asked them how and where is this possible.

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Running around in the snow, I felt like a kid again. The views were truly amazing. I wish we could have done the short hike from the teleferic (cable car) point to a hotel where there was supposedly a nice cafe with a killer view, but the snow was a bit too deep and none of us had the right footgear.

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The same day, we went down into a nearby town and basked in the warm sun next to the stream.

Though it was the end of winter there, we did get a few days of great sunshine. It was even too warm for a jacket on our walk along the river.

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We later went to a nearby cafe to have some of these pastries called corbatas because they look like ties, with large cups of hot chocolate. This version looks like a bow tie! The chocolate was so thick that it was nearly pure melted chocolate. I couldn’t finish the entire mug and I think my limit is two of the pastries in one sitting.

Food on this trip was delicious and more scrumptious than I had anticipated. There was not one thing that I ate that I regretted eating. It also helped that I could see the tapas and know what was in it before choosing it. Anyhow, I think I ate more bread in those 2 weeks than in the whole year prior (which was also kind of a bad thing). But the tapas were wonderful! But pretty much anything will taste great when you can eat with friends with a view like this:

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I also found it interesting to stay with a Spanish family, who often had friends or other family to visit. Growing up, our immediate family unit was the main family that we spent our time with. We did do occasional gatherings for holidays, but those lessened as we got older. It was different to be around people who are constantly visiting and hanging out with other family members. Coming from a family that doesn’t talk that much, just being a spectator of the lively home life of this family felt new and different to me.

Part of why I loved Spain so much was because I was able to spend time with friends. I was lucky enough to be a guest in my friend’s family home in a small village and then with another friend in a beach town near Bilbao (I’ll post about that soon hopefully), so it doesn’t get more authentic than that. Maybe this trip was bound to be amazing because I got to spend most of it with some good friends. I didn’t have to deal with planning all that much, and I didn’t have to feel like a tourist. All I know is, I need to go back to Spain to eat more of their food and see more of its wonders!

I hope to go back to Spain again some time, and this time with my Spanish phrasebooks. I have two, and forgot both of them on this trip! I didn’t have to speak much Spanish, but I want to learn to speak it better because I feel it’ll be useful. Strangely, I feel that it has similarities to Japanese, and so I had the urge to say something in Japanese a few times while on this trip.

I truly feel like it was a once in a lifetime trip! Have you been to Spain? What would you recommend to check out on my next trip?

Ocean with large rock formation

One year post operation: Tiny scar and a numb face

A year ago last month, I had surgery for some facial fractures that included some nerve damage on the right side of my face. I wrote about when it had just happened, and in the last year have had to change some of my expectations for recovery.

The downsides (which were mostly pretty manageable, though some were a little more scary than others)
  • For one, I thought that my nerve damage would heal more quickly. The doctors couldn’t say that it would heal completely for sure, only that it should heal properly. Much of my upper gums, lip, nose and part of the cheek are numb or have limited sensory reception. The muscles that I use to smile feel strange and stiff on the right side as well. When I run my finger across the skin, it feels somewhat tingly rather than just the normal feeling of touching the skin. The strangest thing is that I can’t really feel when I have food stuck between my gums and my cheek on the right side, so I have to check with my tongue to know just how much food is stuck there.
  • Second, I thought that the double vision would be completely gone by now. I still have slight double vision to the extreme right, but it is mostly better now. This was something that resulted directly from the surgery, whereas the nerve damage was there before the surgery although maybe not to this extent.
  • Third, my right eye still doesn’t move completely normally, and I sometimes feel that it can’t open as widely as the left one. I also feel that the right half of my upper lip had gotten much thinner within 2-3 months the surgery, although I haven’t checked old photos if this is true.
Closed eyelid with small scar
The upside
  • On the positive side, one thing that I think I’ve taken for granted was that I was able to play ultimate as soon as I was off of medication and was feeling normal again. I couldn’t see well for several weeks and had to wear my glasses while playing, but that was better than not being able to play at all or having to rehab for months before getting back on the field. Yes, it was annoying to not have been at my best for Worlds, but I think I’m over it now.
  • I also took for granted the amazing work by the surgeons. I had hoped that the scar would be smaller than it is, but I really should be happy that it isn’t bigger. They did everything they needed to do with one tiny cut on the eyelid, and a small cut on the inside of my mouth along the gums. The scans show the titanium plate under the eye, and it is actually pretty long. It goes the length of the underside from the front of the eyeball to the back. I’ll try to post some stills from the CT scan, but they are on a DVD back home in New York.
Me one year after my operation

I don’t take selfies often, so bear with me, but at least my face isn’t puffy anymore! It felt a little bloated for the few months after the surgery. I do feel like my jaw on my left side feels bigger because I’ve been chewing on that side more, but it doesn’t seem noticeable. I don’t mind having the scar anymore. The nerve damage is hopefully still on the mend, though it is hard to note progress in this area.

There isn’t much I can do about it, and it’s a part of my history now. Even though it was caused by a silly accident, it is what it is. At least now my 3 metal plates are a point of conversation with strangers and potential dates!

Photo credit: Featured image above by Andrew Phillips

Blue coffee mug Coffee at Rocket cafe in Bangkok

Bangkok in contrasts

Bangkok is changing very rapidly, just like any other major city in Asia. The interesting thing about Bangkok is that you’ll find areas that have become something entirely cosmopolitan overnight next to others that aren’t changing at the same rate (or at all).

Two sides of a lightrail train station in central Bangkok
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Indoor eating
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Outdoor eating
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New school transportation
BTS Sky Train in Bangkok, Thailand
Old school transportation
Bus in Bangkok, Thailand

The new BTS trains ran really smoothly and were very convenient to get around. I never ventured to take a bus, and was honestly a little intimidated by them. You have to know what you’re doing to take those, and generally only locals took the buses. Taxis are pretty cheap, but if you get stuck in traffic, you’ll be there for ages!

Low rise living / High rise living
Apartments near the BTS station in Bangkok, Thailand
Park in Bangkok

I hope to understand more about Thailand, but from what I’ve seen in Bangkok it is not so simple as what can be seen as a short term visitor!

Meow Parlour shopfront

Inside the Meow Parlour cat cafe in New York City

Back in December, I wrote about going to the first official cat cafe in New York City as being one of the things on my to do list when I visited home. This past May, I finally made it there…for about half an hour.

I thought I would want to stay for hours. But I didn’t. The cats were beautiful and cute enough, but it just didn’t feel like the cat cafe that I’ve been waiting for. (And maybe this cat feels the same way).

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Cat looking out at Meow Parlour in NYC

All of the cats are up for adoption and looked really healthy, which is great! They had 2 binders jammed full with information about the cats and you could browse the wall that also included info on what types of personalities each of the cats had. There were plenty of toys and playthings.

The seating and play area itself, though, was really small. The seating was either high stools, or low cushions on the ground, which made it a little awkward to transition from if you got something to eat or drink. We didn’t get anything to drink, but did order a few baked goods that were made at the sister bakery around the corner. The problem was that if you didn’t physically go over to look at them, you didn’t know how big things were. I ordered a cat shaped cookie (see below) and it turned out to be smaller than I expected. It was about 2 inches in width, and very thin. I can’t believe I paid so much for it, even though the flavor was an interesting one.

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Interesting flavor, but not worth the $2! This was tiny!

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I wouldn’t recommend expecting much of a cafe experience here. If you like to cat-watch, then you’ll have a good time. Considering that it seemd many of the cats couldn’t care less that you were there, plus the people to cats ratio in a small space, the experience didn’t really impress me. It started to feel crowded inside, so my sister and I ended up mostly hanging out by the front with one or two cats who didn’t really care for us all that much.

I know cats aren’t always friendly and up for playing, but I was hoping for more. The seating area could be better laid out, even though it is small. I’m not claustrophobic, but I was starting to feel that way just by looking at how many people were in the back trying to play with cats. I would suggest getting rid of the high tables and stools, and just making it one big play area. It’s not much of a cafe, and that’s ok. They should refocus and just do one thing really well if they can’t do both!

If you’re interested, you can book your first half hour slot online with their booking system and then pay more depending on how long you stay. In the end, Meow Parlour is really just a Manhattan sized space to hang out with cats who may or may not be interested in hanging out with you.

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Cat towers over buildings!

Girl holding sparkler

HOoray, I’m thirty! Let’s make shit happen!

Last week…it happened…I turned 30 years of age.

Nothing special happened, and the next day my country recognized same-sex marriage as a right, so my birthday became even more of a non-event. I don’t mind.

If my Facebook feed could be this full of people celebrating something this wonderful all the time, I would be happy forever.

I’ve never really celebrated my birthday, and I generally don’t like being the center of attention. I even felt somewhat of a twinge of selfishness when planning a small outing for my 30th birthday with a handful of friends and my sister.

I think this is because I don’t believe in asking other people to celebrate me (and my birth). Why should they care to? I know it is a fun excuse to get together, have some drinks, etc. But a part of me feels self conscious about it still.

I’m 30. Ok, I’m getting older. No one cares, except for maybe my mom and the guys on Tinder and OkCupid who may now exclude me from their age ranges.

I’d rather celebrate each day, trying to be the truest me that I can be. I don’t want to hear about other people’s insecurities about turning thirty anymore. I don’t want to read another article trying to justify to 30-something women that they should feel good about themselves.

We shouldn’t need to hear that from someone else. We should hear that from ourselves.

So, let’s spend our time trying make more stuff happen like what went down on June 26th, 2015. Let’s go!

Image credit: Morgan Sessions

Sunset over the ocean

Young white male asks me for money. Thoughts on #whiteprivilege from a tropical island

I feel like I almost got scammed. I was waiting to get on the ferry off of the island in Thailand to make my way back to Bangkok to catch a flight.

While sitting on a bench, a young white male comes up to me and starts talking to me. At first I don’t understand what he saying, partly because he has an accent and partly maybe because he was speaking quickly. He repeated himself, “Could you give me 100 baht for the ferry…”

My gut immediately refused him. I said I’m sorry but I don’t have any change. Sure, 100 Thai baht is little more than 3 US dollars, but I didn’t feel compelled to give this young white guy my money. Why should I when this person, just by luck of birth, has all the advantages in the world. Why should I, a young, poor, female, minority (in my country) student, give him, a young, seemingly healthy, white, man, my money?

I saw him ask other people for money. Two different older, white men, and two white girls who looked like they were traveling together. Then he grabbed his bag and walked off in the opposite direction of the ferry.

Was he scamming people?

This thought crossed my mind, but I wasn’t sure. I didn’t see him come back to the ticket window. Maybe he didn’t get enough in the end to buy a ticket. Who knows?

What pissed me off the most was his attitude in response to me. I guess maybe I would have responded in a similar way, but he seemed to know that I was making up an excuse because I just didn’t want to give him any of my money. He had a tone of knowing. And he said “whatever.” That word alone in this tone and context made me angry.

Maybe my tone was part of the problem. I can’t tell because I was just saying what I felt like saying on impulse, but maybe I had a slight condescending tone. I said I didn’t have change, but I didn’t check for any either. Maybe I just know very well what money I do have on my person, and also I just didn’t want to give him money.

In any case, that interaction lasted all of 20 seconds and he walked off without any money from me. I don’t know what happened to him, and I don’t think he remembers me for a second.

Bottle Beach on Koh Phangan, your typical touristy beach in Thailand

Bottle Beach on Koh Phangan, your typical touristy beach, white males included

I left this post a bit half done because I accomplished what I meant to do already. I let off some steam and put down some thoughts.

I’m letting this go now. It’s done. I may have been wrong, maybe I was right. It doesn’t matter.

I’ve been reading a bit about Buddhism, and mindfulness, and meditation, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that these types of things are transient. So I’m letting it go!

A chandelier with rows of lights I'm...gonna swing...

A New Yorker’s bucket list for the holiday season in New York

New York is less smelly this time of year, and generally happier. You might still witness a cranky commuter or two (or a few million), but the overall atmosphere quietly shifts during the holiday season. Maybe it is the shopping high that everyone is on.

My toes tell me it’s cold, but my hair couldn’t be happier to escape the humidity of Singapore. I’m back in New York, and I have a few things I’m looking forward to this holiday season.

Thanksgiving

The radio station playing in the kitchen has already started with the Christmas carols. The sales have started. I’m in the mood for hot chocolate. But first, my favorite holiday of the year is Thanksgiving, which is in less than one week! The best part is definitely the sticky rice stuffing that my dad puts in the turkey. It isn’t like your usual bread stuffing! I’ll get some photos this year and post a recipe sometime after, but the gist of it is sticky rice with celery, chestnuts, and onions.

The tree at Rockefeller Center

It is always a bit sad to know that a tree was sacrificed to be placed at Rockefeller Center each year, but it is still nice to see once in a while. They also usually have a light show on one of the buildings nearby, and then there are the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue which can’t be beat. You can’t help but smile when you are surrounded by people who are just as happy to be alive as you are. Even the tourists are less annoying, except when it is packed and you can’t get through the crowd. I think I’ll go at a non-peak time.

Those other lights, on Broadway

I would like to see Pippin if possible. I still need to see the Lion King, but anything else that might be affordable would do as well. If you are looking at my track record, you might be ashamed for me for not taking advantage of all the good shows that go on in New York. I’ve seen 2 shows this year so far, and that is more than the past 10 years combined already…

Stage with map curtain and green lights

Wicked the Musical stage before the show

Cat cafe

Finally! There will be a cat cafe in NYC, opening on December 15th. I’ve got a browser tab open waiting for the moment I can book my half hour slot (who am I kidding, probably more than just that…). I probably post too many cat photos already, but it can’t be helped. You can fork out $4 for half an hour, or $30 for 5 hours. The cost effective approach would suggest that I opt for the latter…

Long walks with Sidney

Two of my close friends in New York have a dog, the one you see in the photo. I went on a long, snowy walk with them earlier this year. She is not only stunning, but fun to be around. The humans are pretty cool, too. 😉

If you haven’t done much exploring of Upper Manhattan (which you should), I would suggest checking out Inwood Hill Park and the Cloisters. It is much less crowded than Central Park and apparently has caves, and the Cloister are basically a castle by the river. Yeah, it’s that cool, and you can get there within 40 minutes from Midtown!

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Sidney in Inwood Park, Manhattan, New York

Visit my favorite restaurant

Pisticci has been my favorite restaurant in New York since about 6 years ago. It is proudly one of the few green restaurants, sourcing things locally. It also happens to make delicious Italian food, and conveniently hidden in my neighborhood.

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Fresh handmade pasta at Pisticci



Ok, so this might be a pretty short bucket list, but I don’t want to get my expectations too high and then not deliver. I still have loads of friend and family time that need to get squeezed in somehow.

Wherever you are this season, what is on your list?


#TravelTuesday

Pizza with bacon, cheese shavings, arugula or rocket, and egg in the middle The English Breakfast, $24 SGD

Skinny Pizza Review (Westgate Mall, Jurong East, Singapore)

I shared a pizza at Skinny Pizza in Singapore (Westgate Mall, Jurong East), and thought I’d do a quick review. Its style of pizza uses a crunchy, cracker like base instead of the doughy base that pizza is known for. This is probably what makes it so “skinny,” because it will have fewer calories than a traditional pizza crust (even thinner than thin crust).

Skinny Pizza restaurant sign

Skinny Pizza in Westgate Mall in Jurong East, Singapore

There were lots of options for pizzas, and other items too, but we only focused on the pizza. Most ranged from $23 to $30. Continue Reading