Friday, November 28, 2014

Tales from the Borderlands: Gosh I miss the shooting

welcome back to pandora!

When I first saw the trailer to the new upcoming game to the Borderlands franchise, I was ecstatic. Not the prequel one though with Handsome Jack, but rather the one happening after his death, revolving around two new characters. One the Hyperion hotshot wannabe Phys, and the other a Pandorian con artist Fiona. 

The trailer promised something ala Mass Effect style of gameplay, where your choices matter, rather than the old shoot everything without question gameplay. Being someone who loves open ended gameplay, I was curious. So I bought the game just when it was released.

meet the two characters you will be playing

While the game stays true to the details that make Borderlands, Borderlands, from the music, sarcasm, dialogue and visual, it is a far throw away from the traditional Borderlands game that you would expect. If you are expecting a face paced and adrenaline inducing style that is commonly associated with Borderlands, this is not the game for you.

Rather than having to control anything, the whole game boils down to a more story focused type of gameplay, where the only thing that you get to control is the dialogue choices that you make in game.

there's a timer for you to make a choice too

So basically it's really a lot like Mass Effect. You can either be a dick or saint to those around you, and the choices you make do have consequences, such as a friend remembering a promise you make or if a character stays alive. Other than that, it is really much a point and adventure game, with the occasional quick time events, which really does not change the gameplay much. In a way that if you miss a button, you end up dead. Simple as that.

press the down arrow to avoid the oncoming axe attack!!

Other that that, the gameplay gets dull really quickly. From what I've experienced, the dialogue choices sometimes do not change things really much, for example if you said A happened, another NPC will pop in and say in fact B really did happen, if the story wants to move in that way. Though I've played only Episode 1 so far, with four more to go, so I've not really seen a lot yet. But I would not expect anything to change much.

It's really like watching a Borderlands 2: Post Handsome Jack short film or an interactive comic, rather than a game.

you get to meet some old characters too

But despite the lack of action or the ability to wield the awesome guns that define Borderlands, the game still feels pretty neat. It expands on the Borderlands story in a very unique way, giving us the ability to see Pandora from both the eyes of a Hyperion executive and a Pandorian native, in addition to building the story of other characters as well. There was even a vault hunter appearance in the first episode, and it was pretty amusing to actually interact with a vault hunter, when you have really been playing a vault hunter all along.

So far I'm loving the story, and am definitely going to replay again to see how a change of choices would affect the game. And like the usual Borderlands story, it is pretty amazing as well to see the development of the characters. Particular in this game. I would give it a 3 out of 5, for the story sake.

Pros: Good story, fresh new perspective
Cons: No guns!!!!! :(

Monday, November 24, 2014

At the End of Everything #15

The road upwards to Bukit Timah was certainly far from what I had expected. Touted as the highest point in Singapore, I expected a route that offered more of a challenge. Something that would test our limits. But 30 minutes after starting our trek, I was already at the summit, wondering if I had climbed the correct hill. There was a radio tower next to me and yet another rock nearby, congratulating us for reaching the top of Bukit Timah, along with the amount of distance that I had climbed.

To be honest, I had envisioned the whole process to have been much tougher, and the view from the top to be slightly more breathtaking. But a scenic view was hardly what greeted us. Aside from the radio tower and the rock, there was another hut located nearby, in which Jenny was resting. A vending machine offering different types of cold drinks sat in it, silently called out to us, asking us to buy its wares. It was strategically placed though, the vending machine, and before I knew it a cold bottle of 100 Plus was already wrapped in my hands.

There were a few other people besides us, but aside from that, all that was left to see were trees. We were able to catch a glimpse of the view that laid behind the trees through the small cracks in between them, but trying to get through those trees was just well not worth the effort.

I walked back to Jenny, who was leaning against the bench in the hut. “So much for the top of Singapore uh.”

She looked back at me, still catching her breath. “Hey Monkey King, just because you’re okay with the trek doesn’t mean that others are too. The path was pretty steep alright.”

I thought about our ascent. She was right, in a way. While the main path was tarred all the way to the summit, there were places where the angle upwards was pretty steep indeed. You could feel your back and legs straining to keep up with the slope. There was not as much bend and curves that you would expect from a roading leading up a hill. Still, the entire path itself felt too short, too fast. I was not satisfied.

I passed the can of 100 Plus that I bought to Jenny. “Say, would you want to try out the other paths that are around here? Just so that our trip is worth the effort?” 

Jenny took the can and held it in her hands, her eyebrows raised and her mouth tilted sideways for a moment. She stared blankly at the ground, perhaps contemplating my suggestion. After a while she turned back to me, and shrugged. “Why not? I have already told myself that I’m going to spend the entire day here today, so might as well. And I bet it’ll be exciting too!” 

She then drank a quarter of the 100 Plus, before standing up and handing me back the drink. “So, shall we?” She walked gingerly down the path. I chuckled to myself, before running a few steps to catch up to her.

We retraced our journey through the main path down but stopped immediately near the first dirt path that greeted us. It branched off into the jungle, downwards into the colelction of trees. A signboard nearby with an arrow painted on it pointed down, with the words ‘Kampung Trail’ emblazoned on it. A slightly smaller signboard sat beneath the first signboard, which showed the map of the entire Bukit Timah reserve, and where we were supposed to me. 

Both Jenny and I tried to study the map to determine where we were going, or at least to have a rough idea of the surrounding area. But there were only a collection of different wriggly lines that snaked around randomly in different colours, which made absolutely no sense to me. I turned to Jenny, who shrugged back at me. I guessed she was as equally lost as I was.

“So… how about we step into the unknown then?” I gestured with both my hands, like how waiters normally welcomed customers into their restaurants.

Jenny took a glance at the path that led away from the main road, standing on tip toes while doing so. The path led downwards in an endless series of steps that go as far as our eyes could see. Slabs of cement gave the steps a makeshift look of a staircase, while leaves from the nearby trees branched over the path. The entire path itself felt more rugged, kind of like the trail that I had pictured when I first thought about hiking. Before I made a decision, she shouted “Let’s go!” and ran down the cement slabs.

“Hey!” I shouted back when I noticed her dashing past me. She was one spontaneous girl, I thought. I hurried down along the steps as well, eager to catch up. The cool forest air brushed against my face as I made my way down. It did not take me really long to catch up to Jenny, who was now standing next to a tree in the middle of our path. “It seems to be quite steep down from here on, doesn’t it?”

Trying to catch my breath, I looked down at where Jenny was staring at. It has been a while since I last exercised, and the short sprint taxed me. 

The slabs of cement that had formed an artificial staircase for us ended where we stood. We were standing on what looked like a mini cliff, with a drop down to the ground below. I took a step down to the brown dirt path that continued from ours, holding on to a nearby tree trunk for support. The root of the tree held the ground in place, creating a difference in height between the two places. My feet landed with a soft thud. The ground felt damp and mushy, which I guessed must have been a result from the rain yesterday.

Jenny eyed me warily from where she stood, unsure if she would follow me. I held out one of my hands to her. “Here, hold on to my hand.” Only after saying that did my brain suddenly realized the significance of offering my hand to her. Or rather began to overthink it. In the split seconds that my hand was in air, different thoughts raced quickly through my head. Was I dropping too big a hint? Will she misunderstand my intention? I held my breath in anticipation.

Jenny took a look at my outstretched arm, before holding on to my hand and using it to support herself while she navigated down the steep incline. I kept a straight face while she did that, but deep inside my heart let out a little holler of joy. She muttered a quick “Thanks” when she reached down.

Jenny scanned our surroundings. “This is certainly not what you would expect to see in Singapore uh,” she mused. 

I followed her gaze, taking in the sight that surrounded us now. “Yeah.” It was complete change in scenery. The last object that reminded us of civilization, the cement slab pseudo staircase, was no longer visible from where we stood. A sense of awe crept over me. 

The both of us stood there for a period of time, admiring the part of Singapore that we usually do not see. The trail in front of us was covered in foliage, adorned by bushes and shrubs on both sides. Tall trees stood not far away, their canopy blocked out the sky, only letting in patches of sunlight occasionally. Finally Jenny turned towards me, her face beaming with excitement. “Oh my gosh, I can’t to see what we can find!” And she began walking off again, along the narrow dirt path. 

“Hey, wait for me!” I yelled, as I quickly followed suit.

Our path this time reminded me of the time when I went for a camping trip in a forest back in my home country. Jenny and I were the only two humans walking along the trail, accompanied by the sound of different insects and animals. There were several steep ascents and descents along the way, which required us to hold on to something as we attempted to find a solid footing on the ground. I would go first every time, planting myself firmly on a spot, and offering my hands to help support Jenny. And she would take the offer every time. I was elated.

Occasionally one or two runners would pass by us, and we would usually stand at a side, allowing them to pass. You know that they were the seasoned runners along the trail because how they looked while running. They seemed so focused and serious, and some of them would be holding something in their hands as well. Either two dumbbells or filled water bottles. To train their arm strength, I guessed. The both of us looked so out of place in comparison to them, with our backpacks that made us looked like schoolkids. 

Before long we found ourselves standing at a small clearing, a small concrete structure stood solitarily amongst dead brown leaves on the ground. Jenny leaned against what seemed to be the buildings pillar, catching her breath. It was supposed to be a downhill journey, but the entire path was far from a straight downhill trail. It twisted and turned in different directions, and made us climbed and go downwards as well. Almost as if we were walking in a big giant circle. 

Except for the trail that we were on, every around us looked almost the same. Covered in similar trees, shrubs and plants, it was hard to make out our position or to recognize any landmarks.

“What do you think this is for? And why is it doing out here alone in the jungle?” Jenny broke her silence, putting one of her palm on the wall. 

I studied the structure, grey in colour. Green moss covered lower parts of the walls, and a rusted ladder perched against one side of it. It seemed as if the structure has been built on that piece of land since forever. The way it stood there, against a backdrop of tropical greenery, gave off an eerie and mysterious aura to it. I wondered about the history that was hidden in the time forgotten walls of the building.

Turning back to Jenny, I shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe it was build during the second world war?” She nodded at my explanation. 

We continued our hike soon after that, going straight according to our path. While the hike up to Bukit Timah took only a mere 30 minutes, we were still walking along the jungle path almost one hour and fifteen minutes after we started. 

The clock on my phone told me that it was already close to 5 pm, which worried me somewhat. The pessimistic part of me was afraid that we might get lost. Worst case scenarios that could happen started popping in my head. What if this path is one of the super long ones? The last thing that I want was to get stuck overnight lost in a forest. 

“We have to turn back if we cannot reach the exit by 5.30 pm,” I voiced to Jenny, as we trudged down a similar set of landscape, still no sign of civilization. 

She turned back to me, with a hint of concern on her face. “Why? What’s wrong?”

I looked at the sky, and back to my phone. “Cause I’m scared that we will not be out from here by nightfall.” 

Jenny followed my gaze to sky, draped in a bright orange hue by now, and then back to the trail. Tilting her head back to me, she gave a cheeky smile, before shouting “Which means we need to go faster!” and darting off again. I sighed reluctantly with a smile. Her enthusiasm was infectious, as I found myself to be constantly amused by her actions. 

My concern seemed to have dropped somewhat seeing her like this. I reassured myself that no matter what happens, we were still in the middle of the most developed island in Southeast Asia. Besides, according to the park’s website, the last tiger in Singapore was seen quite a number of years ago. The most that we have to deal with was most probably monkeys, or hungry mosquitoes. I picked up my pace to join her.

Another 15 minutes passed before we were forced to stop. We found ourselves standing in front of a striped red white tape, tied between two trees. It was the type of tape that people use to cordon off an area when accidents occur. A white paper, wrapped in clear plastic, was stuck near the middle of the tape. It had the ominous message of “Danger!” written on it, along with smaller message below that explained that there were ongoing renovation work in the area.

Jenny and I looked at each other. I felt a sudden sense of dread crawled over me. What if we really ended up trapped in this forest?

“What are going to do now?” Jenny asked. She walked in front to the tape, and tried to look beyond the barrier. “Don’t see what’s wrong, but I think let’s not doubt Mr Red Tape eh?” 

I chucked in response, somewhat amazed by her sense of humour, even though I was already growing nervous. I looked at the my phone’s clock again, and then back at the path where we walked from. It would take us roughly the same time for us to retrace our steps, about an hour or so, which meant that it would be close to 6.30 pm when we reach the main path back. I walked to where Jenny was standing, and tried to take a look at the path that laid behind. It stretches on like the path that we were on, with no indication of where it leads to.

I turned back to study our options, to see if there is an alternative path that we could take. Only the forest greeted us all around. There was not much options for us except than to turn back, if we do not want to risk getting caught by the night. Jenny walked up to me, and perhaps thinking the same thing. I took out my phone, and opened up Google maps. Perhaps technology could provide us with an answer. I stretched out the phone to Jenny as well, so the both of us could see the screen.

The map did pick up our location, to my relief. We were marked by a familiar blue dot on the screen. But other than a road that laid quite far away, which I assume to be the main path up the hill, we were surrounded by greyness. Which meant there was not much information that Google could give. I gave a sigh, before closing the phone.


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P/s: I have been writing! Just that I have not been posting. My internal editor just would not let me do it :/

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

So McDonalds Learned Nothing

You would think that after the Hello Kitty fiasco a few years back, McDonalds would have been smarter to not try to bring back any of the limited edition toy promotion again. Because it just encourages and brings out the worst in Singaporeans. But nope, seems like they did not, with this latest One Piece promotion.

Yes, you read it right. Only 100 pieces per store. Somehow I have a feeling that they would want to see scenes like this happening all over again:

I mean I don't understand the logic behind the whole move. I mean McDonalds is supposed to be a fast food restaurant, not a toy collectors supplier. What do you hope to possibly get by selling limited edition items again? So that greedy people will take and sell it online while true One Piece fans will not be able to get it? Why do you want to introduce long queues that seek to bore and irritate your potential customers? Are you looking to be an Apple Store?

At least the figurines are not limited edition, I guess.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Twenty Random Thoughts #161114: Not the end, but in the midst of it

1. I am still here. Though I have been extremely caught up with Nanowrimo. Missing a few days could really mean the end of you, which was why I went on a hermit writing mode. I managed to vomit out the words needed to be back on track, but do give me a while to spell check and edit before posting them out

2. One thing good that I found out from this year's Nanowrimo was the amount of people who actually read my story. And the amount of people who come to me and tell me that they enjoyed reading it. To all of you who encouraged me, thank you. Especially to a friend who said that it was like reading Nicholas Sparks 

3. And to everyone who asked whether the novel that I am writing now is real, I must apologize first for disappointing you. My life could never be as action packed as how the novel portrayed

4. It's nearing 2015 already, and I will be 25 next year. Quarter life crisis, here I come

5. Day X of Dota All Hero Challenge: I have no idea what I am doing anymore. I am at hero 83 now, but am somehow getting a little stressed out by everything

6. Dota games are very interesting, despite having a very basic gameplay. While not boasting any impressive graphics or storyline, it's the randomness that hooks people unto it. It's just such a shame that there are so many bullies in game. I mean I know a friend who is very mild mannered in real life, but when he plays Dota, fuh, a completely different person. Fierce and condescending and what nots

7. To all girls out there, if you really want to see the real side of your boyfriend or a guy you're interested in, see him play Dota. Or any multiplayer games, like Call or Duty or Battlefield. It's under the hood of anonymity that you get to see a person's true face

8. Why on earth did I decide to name this Twenty Random Thoughts instead of Ten?

9. Am I the only one here who is worried about the current developments around the world? I mean there's Russia and ISIS, and it seemed that US is the only country who is worried about all these. One wrong step and it could be World War 3 man

10. I told myself that I would never let myself get myself stuck in a work routine, but adulthood has a way of killing and sucking away your passion

11. Malaysia: The land of no more possibilities

12. 12am: The time where I can never sleep at, despite telling myself numerous times that I have to

13. Applying for a masters programme, when criteria states that you need an academic referee (ie a prof) and immediately regretting not being close with any profs during my schooling years

14. I have literally abandoned my Tinder and OKC account :)

15. Watched Interstellar and was like why is everyone so hyped out about this movie?

16. True I agree that while some effects and themes were quite cool, but the plot holes are way too jarring. Like super. Who the heck introduces a paradox at the end of the movie? Or some wishy washy magic tesseract. So disappointing

17. Interstellar also felt a lot like the movie Gravity, except this one has blackhole and wormhole. A lot of holes. Heh. If you get what I mean

18. Things I never get myself to do despite the urgency: Buy a micro SD card. Update resume. Make a video

19. Sunday: The day where you have dilemma whether to like it or to hate it

20. Point 20! Time to sleep

Thursday, November 13, 2014

At the End of Everything #14

The sun that was shining on us that day reminded me of the day which I went out with Phoebe, almost four months ago. It was fierce, bright and unforgiving. Already my skin glistened with sweat. 

It was surprising how fast time passed, and how faster things change with time. Just four months ago, me and Phoebe seemed like an inseparable couple, sending hundreds of messages each day, sharing almost anything with each other. Back then, it seemed as if we were going to be friends with each other for a long time. We even made plans to visit the outlying islands around Singapore together. 

But somehow I managed to screw everything up, and we reverted to being strangers. Just like before we knew each other. The mere thought of that still makes me sad of myself. I got too far ahead, and let the fear of something that was not real overwhelm me. And I chickened out. A part of me cannot help but wondered how Phoebe was doing. Will she ever remember me? 

A slap from behind startled me from my thoughts. The palm of a girl landed on my left shoulder, like the friendly pat that my buddies used to give. “Hey, what are you standing there for?” came the voice, half sarcastic, half teasing.

I turned to see Jenny, her hands on her backpack strap, a towel around her neck. She has been talking about our trip today for days now, our first attempt to scale the highest natural point in Singapore, Bukit Timah. It was our first date together too, and already we’re doing something so un-ordinary. At first I was afraid that the whole thing might turned out to be one big joke at the end. But here we were, the hill in our sight.

“Uh, nothing. Just looking at how high we need to climb later,” I said, as I turned my attention to the piece of greenery that jutted up from the landscape. Standing 164 meters tall, Bukit Timah is hardly considered one of the taller mountains around the region. 

In fact, the name itself, which meant hill in Malay, is already a good indication as any other. One could easily find higher mountains in Malaysia and Indonesia. I thought about the hill that I hiked with my father back at home. Taller than Bukit Timah as well, I thought.

But it was the tallest natural point in the whole of Singapore, with recommended hiking trails, so I guessed it was as good a choice as I could get. Besides, visiting every single popular place in Singapore was something that I have always wanted to do, and the hill happened to be on the list for nature lovers. 

Jenny and I walked along the pathway that led us to the foot of the hill, about 15 minutes away from the bus stop. Along the way we encountered some monkeys prowling on top of the roofs of some nearby houses, while others were searching a nearby rubbish bin. The internet had warned us about the presence of our furry cousins, but I never expected to see so many of them in person. Not especially in Singapore. Monkeys prowling about seemed like a far cry from the sprawling metropolis of the city center. It felt as if I have taken a step back into my home country.

“I wonder how the people deal with the presence of monkeys, given how they live in such a close proximity to them,” I wondered out aloud to Jenny. We were the only two person walking near the place at that time, while the rest of the residential area looked strangely quiet. The monkeys did not pay much heed to us though, going about their own business. They were used to human presence already, I guessed. A huge banner that hung nearby warned against giving food to them.

Jenny tugged at the sleeve of my shirt. “I just hope that they don’t come close to me.” Her eyes were fixed at a group of monkeys nearby as we walked. I sensed that she was feeling a little afraid.

I gently tapped on the back of her hand, the one that was on my sleeve, somewhat elated that she was holding on to me. “Don’t worry. You have the money king beside you. I’m sure they won’t dare to come over.” She looked at me and giggled,. My heart to beam in pride.

We made small talk to distract ourselves during the walk, discussing about the latest movies in town. Jenny mentioned about wanting to watch the sequel to the movie ‘How To Train A Dragon’ and we both squealed in delight when I told her that I absolutely loved the first movie as well. We spent the rest of our journey sharing about the dragons that we would liked to own, and she decided that the big one at the end of the first movie was her favorite.

“Can you imagine what I can do with a dragon that big?” Her hands were wide open to illustrate her point, and she was practically jumping on her spot while explaining. “It’s gonna terrorize the whole Singapore!”

I was right in my guess when I read her profile. She was indeed a cheerful girl who was full with energy. And it was infectious too, her enthusiasm. I looked at how her face lit up when talking about the movie, and immediately got an idea. I stopped in my tracks and looked at her. “How about we watch the movie straight after this?”

Without even thinking for long, she immediately shouted “Yes!” on the spot. She even jumped a little. “OMG I can’t believe that I am watching Dragons 2 later!” she loudly exclaimed, all the while raising her hands in a celebratory fashion, bouncing all around. I smiled in response, happy that I made someone’s day today. I liked how she was straightforward as well. I told her that I will buy the ticket straight away.

We continued our path towards the foot of the hill, she humming a tune to song, while I tried to book the tickets to the movie on my phone. I recognized the song as one of the song from Rapunzel, another animated movie. The sounds of birds and crickets played along to her tune as our path began to get narrower. She must love animated movies, I thought, as I squinted my eyes to choose the seats in the movie theatre.

“So movie later at 8?” I asked, when the screen on my phone asked for a confirmation. She enthusiastically nodded, and I pressed the confirm button. A email was then sent to my inbox, telling me that I have successfully booked two tickets to the movie, and 24 dollars has been charged to my card. Sometimes we really have technology to thank for making our lives so much easier. 

Our path soon cut through a car park before we finally arrived at a gateway with the sign reading “Welcome to Bukit Timah” written largely on top. The path then considerably narrowed and far ahead, I could see it to begin slowly snake upwards. Trees that were much taller and bigger adorned the sides of the road. There were more people around us now too, each minding their own business. Most of them had either gray hair and wrinkled skin, or came together in family. Only me and Jenny seemed to be the boy girl couple there.

Not far from us stood a lonely building, standing guard at the bottom of the hill, just like what I saw from the various pictures found on Google. Built to resemble a traditional Malay village house, the house boast of wooden walls, attap roof and was slightly elevated from the ground. The building housed the information center of Bukit Timah. 

There were several souvenirs and memorabilia sold there, as well as facilities such as lockers and toilets. At the bottom of the building was a huge rock painted with the exact same words that greeted us at the entrance. ‘Welcome to Bukit Timah.’ Seemed like the people here were really eager to welcome us, and afraid that we would forget the name of the place as well.

Jenny and I decided that we would not keep our bags at the visitor center, because we were not sure if we would came back the same path, and we were too scared to leave our water bottles behind. In the end, we carried our backpacks with us, which made us look very odd as compared to those who were around us. Jenny did not seemed to care though, as she happily strutted along the trail that lead to the summit.

There was one main trail that connects the main road to the top of the hill, and because we have never been to Bukit Timah before, we concluded that the best option was to try the main path first before attempting other more difficult trails. The forums on the web mentioned that there were a lot more trails surrounding the entire area, which were marked as moderately challenging to highly challenging. Not sure how they were classified, I thought it was not good to take a risk. Best was to start small.

Looking at the path that led upwards, I turned towards Jenny. “So, shall we start?”


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P/s: I told myself that I will not play DOTA until I caught up with my word count. I played DOTA :/

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Entertainer Dinner at Papasan, Dorsett Hotel

So last week I had the chance to be treated a scrumptious dinner at PappaSan, a modern contemporary restaurant located at Dorsett Hotel, just outside of Outram Park MRT station. 

le entrance to PappaSan

The dinner was a courtesy of the good people from The Entertainer, an awesome company that offers great one-for-one deals at more than 770 different locations in Singapore. From dining treats to spa experiences to even attractions tickets, it's quite a niche app/thing to have, if you are an adventurous person who enjoys good deals. Or if you're looking for new places or experiences to explore.

It was one of my first few experiences at such a high end restaurant, being a poor working salaryman myself, and I must say, it was quite an exciting dinner outing. PappaSan is one of the many participating merchants that are featured in The Entertainer publication, which means that you can enjoy deals at the restaurant too if you're able to obtain the app or the publication. 

Anyways, one of the first thing that really caught my eye during the night was the ambience of the restaurant itself, which felt very relaxing and cosy.  It's a good place to just chill and talk with your friends, over a couple of drinks or meal.

the interior of the place

Of course, as bloggers for the day, we were treated to something really special as well, which happened to be the few signature dishes of the restaurant itself. Best of all, we got to see the special unveiling of the respective dishes as well. First up on the menu was the Italian Mountain Baked Fish!

le italian mountain baked fish

I was not able to catch the unveiling of the baked fish itself, which was quite an explosive experience, literally, according to the other bloggers. But I was able to sample some of the meat, and I must say that the fish was quite fresh and baked to a juicy perfection. I'm not quite good with describing food, forgive me, as I am not a full fledged food blogger but it was suffice to say that the dish was delicious. Kinda awesome, how you can taste the different flavours that blended together with the fish.

Our second helping of the night, after the fish, was the eye catching Portuguese Whole Roast Suckling Pig. There were two whole suckling pigs, to be exact. 

hi, my name is pig

I was able to catch the unveiling ceremony for this dish, which was quite interesting, to say the least. It involves the breaking of the pig using a plate, and two lucky bloggers were chosen to be the ones smashing cutting(?) the pig for us, so we can eat it later.

our emcee explaining to the blogger about the whole process

and there we go with the breaking of the pig!

I never knew that you could cut up a roasted pig using just a plate. The whole process seemed quite thrilling as well, judging from how the two bloggers were enjoying themselves as they were bringing down the plate on the pig. And at the end of it, as a token for good luck, they were required to smash the plate that they used on the floor. Who knew cutting up suckling pigs could be so destressing?

one suckling pig, ready for serving

the plates which were smashed into a dozen pieces

Served together with mantou, the suckling pig was delicious as well, especially if you eat both of them together. The skin was crispy and the meat juicy, though like any other roasted pigs, you might want to avoid areas of the pig that are too oily or fatty. Still it was nice, especially since the meat is not as tough as some roasted meat, and you can taste the fragrance of the meat itself.

But of course, my favorite dish for the day was the dessert that was served right at the very end. The chocolate lava cake, topped with slices of mango. We had a live demonstration by the chef who prepared a hot steaming mango sauce for the cake itself, and you could feel your mouth water as you observe the entire process.

the sugar was melted and the mango slices were added in

The end product, however, was even more mouth watering.

how can one not go goey from the sight of this?

I have eaten chocolate lava cake countless of times before, but never had I tried it with mango. Being a mango fan as well as a chocolate lover, you could say that this is my kind of best of both worlds. The sourness of the mango mixed together with the warm chocolate sauce in the cake, that's the closest you can get to food heaven, at least for me. In fact, I took two helpings of the cake just because I could not get enough of one.

I'm a happy man, though i don't seemed quite happy here

The cake can get a bit sweet though, with all the sugar around, but if you have a sweet tooth like me, it's quite the treat.

All in all it was quite an awesome experience, being treated to an awesome dinner by The Entertainer and PappaSan. Of course, PappaSan is not participating merchant in The Entertainer, so you might want to check out their website or Facebook page for more information. The 2015 version of the Entertainer will be launched soon as well, where you can get an all year round one-for-one deal around Singapore just through one medium. Quite a deal, if you ask me, so be sure to keep an eye for it.

As for PappaSan, they offer different items in their menu as well in addition to what we sampled for the night, and if you're looking for a place to just drink and chill, it's a good place to be considered too. In addition to that, they also have different types of promotion that you can check on their website

Do make sure to check them out!

Monday, November 10, 2014

At the End of Everything #13

“Omg I love watching South Park too!” A new message greeted me in the app the next morning. Curious, I fired up the app to see whom was it from. In my half sleepy state, like I always do during the early morning commute, I saw that the message was from a girl called Jenny. She was probably commenting on a part of my profile that mentioned that one of my favorite cartoons was South Park.

It was unusual for a girl to drop a guy a message, so I found myself looking at her profile soon after. Aged 25, she was two years younger than me, and currently studying for a masters degree in a local university. Masters in science communication, her profile states. She seemed quite a cheerful person from the way she described herself. 

Life is like a box of sunshine, full of happiness if you know where to find them. That was what she wrote. The key to life was to just keep smiling, another line read. On a typical Friday night, she talked about exploring the sights and sounds of the island, uncovering any hidden gem that people might miss.

I clicked on her photos, to see how she looked like. She was certainly not as pretty or eye catching like Phoebe. but she had this smile that glowed. Slim figured and tall, at least that was what the photo showed, she has the everyday girl look. The one that you would call your buddy, or fist bump her on the shoulder. Looking at her photos and her profile, something inside of me stirred. It felt as if an invisible connection was formed. That connection reached out and pulled me in.

A part of me grew excited at the possibility of getting to know someone again. I hastily typed out a reply for her. “Yeah, South Park is like the most awesome show ever! Who is your favorite character?” I re-read the message again, just to make that it sounded alright. That I would not sound too disinterested, or too eager at the same time. Satisfied, I hit the send button, and hoped for the best.

Her reply came soon after, as I was reaching my school. Seeing that blinking notification light on my phone, I found myself suddenly becoming nervous. What her reply was going to be like? Would it be a good one, or an aloof one? Suddenly, I found myself caring again.

“Amen to that! I like Butters a lot! I think he is a very cute character, with a naive and simple perspective of the world. And he loves his friends too, though they always bully him! :(

How about you? Which character do you like most? And you mentioned you liked the outdoors a lot in your profile. What’s your favorite activity?”

I read the message several times over, crafting the reply that I had in my head. Reading her replies gave me a weird tingling sensation inside. I would describe it as happy, like the kind of feeling that makes your heart beat faster.

Before entering my class, I found myself standing near the staffroom corridor, hands hastily typing away. I replied her saying that I loved Kenny a lot, because he always seemed so cool, and he has the superpower of coming back from the dead. I tapped send, and watched the message get uploaded unto the small chat space that we were sharing.

Sliding the phone into my breast pocket, I wondered when she would reply. I actually found myself looking forward to it. A big smile plastered my face as I entered class that day, suddenly undeterred by the noisy students that welcomed me. It was strange, how a simple message from a complete stranger could affect my day that much.

Lunch that day was spent alone in the staff room, as I continued to exchange messages with Jenny. She told me that I was lucky because it was her free day and hence she was able to reply faster. I replied her saying that I should be considered lucky already because she chose to message me. She laughed in her next reply, saying that I am indeed a rare case, because normally she would not make the first move. But something in my profile caught her eye.

We continued to learn more about each other during that short one hour break that I had. Our messages were long and elaborate. In one, she talked about why she chose her field of study. “I have always been interested in teaching students, hence my major in science communication. I want to impart the knowledge of science to the the next generation, and to cultivate a better interest in science among them.” 

I told her that English language, especially the artistic expression of it, has always fascinated me. Which was why I took up English Literature. When she asked about my work, I told her that one could not possibly feed oneself by becoming a poet in Singapore, which was why I chose the path of teacher instead.

Before I knew it, my one hour break was already ending. After I told her that I had to leave, she said okay but not before sending a message that got me jumping in joy. It had a line that read,. “Speaking of which, you mentioned about hiking right? Have you tried Bukit Timah before? As a Singaporean, I have never been there. Why don’t we try going there as our first date?”

“Why not?” I tried to sound cool, but I was already looking forward to it. It was the first time everything happened so quickly, where a date was arranged on the first day we exchanged messages itself. A part of me felt thrilled by the thought of everything, while another part felt strangely suspicious. It seemed too easy, in a way. I suppose that when there is this bond that reaches out for two individuals, things will naturally get accelerated. It made me nervous.

“Just take everything slowly, and don’t overthink things,” Lucas sternly reminded me, when I told him about Jenny. “Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, but at the same time don’t let the past pull you too far down. Just take each moment as it goes, and see how things turn out.”

He certainly has the best quotes sometimes. 


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P/s: Huzzah! That's 4 or 5 posts in one day? And I am back on track!

At the End of Everything #12

“So I heard you’ve been trying out online dating huh? How is it?” I smiled awkwardly at the question, unsure of what to answer. The sound of people talking and eating filled the air, fueled by the dinner peak hour. Utensils scraped against plates and bowls around me.

I looked around the table, studying the faces of the people who were sitting on it. It was a gathering of university friends that evening, as we came together to celebrate the birthday of a mutual friend. Birthday gatherings were normally opportunities for friends to meet up and to catch up with one another, given how difficult it is to keep in touch after leaving school. A couple of them I have not met since graduating. It was good to see each other again. 

The guy who asked the question was seated in front of me, a glass of water in his hands. His name was Kevin, and we had been friends in university ever since our freshman year. Coming from the same country as me, we both stayed in the same hostel, along with rest of the people on the table. There were almost ten of us, all seated along the long wooden table in Marche, a popular western restaurant on top of Vivocity.

Kevin and I were good friends, having been neighbours for several term. He was a good friend, never hesitating to help those around him. We were updating each other about our relationship status, having talked about work and what we were currently doing. The both of us were still single, and hence the topic naturally drifted to relationships. It was a constant topic that everyone talks about when one enters the young adult phase.

“Yeah, I heard that too! Did you find anyone from there?” Another friend popped her head over, having heard the conversation between me and Kevin. She smiled cheekily at me, her eyebrows raised in a questioning manner. By now the section of my table fell silent, as I could feel several pair of eyes staring at me, waiting for my answer. I gulped uncomfortably, as I searched for an answer.

I scratched my head, even though there was no itch. “Err… Well I think it’s not bad?” Even after several times of answering the same question, I was still not used to it.

“What’s not bad? You gotta elaborate more please,” my female friend quipped, leaning her head towards me. I cast a annoyed look at her, sticking my tongue out. 

She shrugged back at me. “You still need to tell us more, you know.”

“Yeah, tell us more about your online dating story!” Another friend from the far side of the table suddenly chimed in. By now I was the center of attention on the table, with everyone focused on me. I shifted uncomfortably in my chair and let me face turn into a grimace.

“Are you all really sure you want to hear what I have to say? It’s really boring, to be honest.” I tried to divert them. A not very successful attempt, judging from the loud “Yes” from almost everyone on the table. I gave a defeated sigh, and thought about what to say. It has been more than two months since I first joined the online dating site in hopes of finding someone new. By now most of my friends had already heard about it, and considered me a rare species of some sort, being the only person among our cliques who used it.

I thought about the first girl that I have met, about my drama with Phoebe, and the several girls that I was still chatting with currently. There was another two girls whom I went out with for dinner post Phoebe, but none of them lasted after the initial date. It was amusing, to see the speed at which online dating works. If the first date did not work out, there was this unwritten custom to not contact each other after that again. I changed my hand to scratch my chin this time, as I carefully chose the words.

“Well… it’s kinda different to be honest. Online dating gives you the ability to meet people that you otherwise you would not be able to meet in real life, and I think that is kinda awesome itself, because it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. With that being said however, there are so many choices available to you, to a point where it is tough to weed out those who are really worth your time. It can get pretty tiring sometimes.” The first sentence I quoted from a website that reviewed online dating providers, while the rest of it was how I truly felt as of now. Some of friends gave a knowing nod to what I said, while others continued to fix their eyes on me. 

They had not asked enough, I felt. And sure enough, the next question came immediately after. “So have you found anyone yet from there?” the girl next to me asked. It was not the first time someone asked me questions about my online dating experience, and every time someone does, the single most important question that they wanted to know was if I had found anyone yet.

I guessed it was because people wanted to see if online dating really worked, despite all the negative stereotypes that were attached to it. I looked at my friend and simply answered, “No,” before quickly adding, “But we’ll see how things turn out.” That was my standard answer to the question. It kills off the conversation, and is vague enough to not provide any materials for people to gossip on. Satisfied, the rest of the group turned their attention away from me. It did not take long long before the conversation drifted away from me, something which I was happy for. 

Even though I could already be considered as an experienced user of the dating site by then, it was still not something that I would talk freely about to my other friends. There is still this certain stigma attached to online dating, and I felt that whenever people ask, they were not really asking out of concern, but rather to judge you. There was this look from them that said, “Oh, you’re using online dating sites, what a loser.” It was something that I did not really enjoy.

Aside from the small interrogation, he rest of the evening went on smoothly without much incident, like any birthday celebration would. We brought out the cake, sang the birthday song, ate our dinner, exchanged any latest happenings and soon we were saying goodbye to each other, and promised that we will meet again. Perhaps during the next birthday dinner. 

Looking at the group of friends, I find what the review website was saying was indeed really true. There was no chance that I would get attached to any of the girls in my current circle of friends. It was either that they were attached or we were friends for so long that the mere thought of getting together sounded downright strange and weird. Some of us knew that we were not meant to be together. And therefore the best choice was to reach out from the circle that we had, and what online dating offered was the easiest and fastest choice available.

But it was true too what I said about being tired. While waiting for the bus home later that night, I found myself looking at my phone again, browsing through all the conversations that I had. The app tells me that there are hundreds of girls online near my area right now, but I could just not find the energy to go through all the introductions and small talk again. There are times where I wished I could be straight to the point, message the girl and tell them that I was looking for a girlfriend, and would like to meet up with them to see if we were compatible.

Sadly things never work this way. Call it sentimental or culture, but we humans still enjoyed the nuances that come together with dating. The slow chase period, the flowers giving, expression of love, all for the sake of finding someone to settle down together. It is inefficient, wastes time and not entirely effective as well. The high rates of divorce in our society is a testament to that, despite how our society has romanticized this idea of love. Could it be that love is only an illusion, just as how some scientist claim that it is? A feeling that trick us into reproducing?

My thoughts went back to the conversation that I had earlier with the friend who was sitting next to me during the birthday dinner. While talking about our work, she mentioned that she was currently working in a family service center, handling cases of domestic abuse, child abuse or any issues that involve family problems. Out of all the friends who were at the dinner that night, she was the only one working in a social service sector.

“Sometimes you don’t even know why or how on earth these people get married,” she quipped, when I asked her about the clients that she would serve. “It’s like they got married just for the sake of getting married, without even a single thought about their future children or even about growing old together.” 

It was a feeling that I well understood, being a teacher myself. There were parents that constantly gave you headache, whom you have no idea why they chose to become parents. It feels that the last thing that they were well equipped for was to be responsible for another person’s life, which in their case, was the lives of their children. 

The family service center friend made a very apt observation when she mentioned that, “If we are required to have license to own a vehicle, I don’t see why not we are required to own a license just to have children.” I could only laugh at her statement. Dealing with parents is not one easy thing, that I have to concur. And working with parents taught me the single most important life lesson that not many people seem to understand. That finding the mother (or father) to your future children was not a decision to be taken lightly. Screw that up and you screw up the rest of your life.

It was funny how much my brain could muse on a single bus ride, as a jerk on the bus broke me from my thoughts. A tiny beep on my phone made me pull it out, just to see what news my phone had to deliver. There was a message for me on the dating app, left behind by a girl whom I had messaged  earlier.

“That’s right! I am currently working as an accountant right now, which is quite a stressful job. How about you?” It was a reply to a question that I had asked a few days before, about her profile picture of her standing in front of the logo of a well known auditing firm. She had changed her picture since then, this time in a smart office wear with a slight hint of eyeliner and lipstick. If she had replied a few days before, I would have been excited and immediately show back a reply. But not tonight.

I closed the the app, and tapped on the folder that read “Games”. 


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P/s: It feels like I'm on writer's steroid. Lets see if I can post another chapter by tonight

At the End of Everything #11

“What on earth were you thinking?!” That was Lucas’s first reaction when I told him about what I have done to Phoebe. The goodbye message and my bouts of insecurity. His eyes widened in an unbelieved shock as he raised both his hands at me.

“Why would you…?!” He could not finish the sentence. I could tell that he was furious, perplexed. I have never seen Lucas so angry before. I guessed I never expected him to have such a huge reaction to this as well. His hands rubbed against his forehead, as he gave a really loud sigh. I twitched uncomfortably, trying to divert my sight away from him. A part of me wanted to just run away. 

He shot me another exasperated look. “Everything was going so well, why did you went and sabotage yourself, for goodness sake?” I did not know how to respond. In fact, I could not answer the question myself too. I looked down instead, studying the number of cracks that I could find on the floor’s tilling, not knowing what to answer Lucas.

To be honest, I wished I knew the answer. A part of me was furious at myself too, just like how Lucas was scolding me now. Why? That was the question that I kept asking myself. Why was I so stupid? So impulsive? Why did I choose to give up before anything even happened? Everything was going well, at least in the eyes of every logical human being. But yet I convinced myself that something was amiss, and something was bound to go wrong sooner or later. I took the easy way out. Coward, was what Lucas called me.

We both just sat there in silence. “I wish I knew too,” was all I could answer. The air felt heavy. “I wish I knew too,” I repeated. Something tugged inside of me, as my emotions boiled inside of me. Before I knew it, tears were already gushing out from my eyes. It felt as if a switch was flipped inside of me. For the first time in years, I actually broke down and cried. Everything that I had pent up in me all these months were suddenly unleashed.

“I wish I knew…. I wish I knew too!” I repeated the sentence again and again, in between my sobs. I felt ashamed of myself that I had to crumble like this. But the feeling just poured out on itself, and overwhelmed every single bit of myself. Lucas stared dumbfounded at me, unsure of what to do. He must have not expected this to happen. I buried my face in my arms, as I continued to heave. I wanted to stop, I wanted to argue back, but my body seemed to have taken a life of its own. I did not even know where this feeling of grief came from.

In the end, Lucas just sat beside me, and put his arms across my shoulders. He pressed tightly against it and just kept quiet. We just sat there, on the curb of the street, under the orange glow of the street lamp.

“You still cannot forget about her, is it?” Lucas gave a knowing guess. I could only nod weakly. I missed her. Of what we used to have. I longed for the feeling where I could be myself, and still be loved. With Phoebe, I felt stressed. There was this constant need to put on my best front, because she just seemed too perfect. I felt that there was this constant need to match up to her standards, that I needed to be this successful person for her. There was this invisible bar that I strived to touch, I mould that I had to fill. In a way, everything that I said, every action that I made, I had to weigh the consequence of each of them. It felt tiring and energy sapping, and I could not really be myself. With Phoebe, it seemed as if my self-confidence was non-existent.

I missed the eight years relationship. Where we had grown so comfortable with each other that there was no more guard up, no more acting. We knew the most embarrassing side of each other, and loved ourselves equally as much. Being loved deeply gives you strength, someone once said, and when that love was gone, suddenly that pillar of strength was gone too. You are suddenly caught off guard, unsure of what to do. Life was suddenly unstable again. You had to find a way to love yourself again, to accept yourself for who you are.

But I was not able to do that yet. Somehow I never realize how important was the love that had supported me until I lost it. Without it, I was suddenly made aware of all my shortcomings and areas in which I lacked. Any self-confidence and self-respect that I once had were all blown away. And in the midst of my sudden insecurity, I panicked. I freaked out. I bailed. A pointless and stupid action. And in the process, I might have hurt a totally innocent party as well. Phoebe. 

A ton of emotion swirled and twisted inside me. It made me feel terrible. Tears continued to pour out as I struggled to control my emotions. I hated every part of this love thing back there on the curb. Everything felt so pointless. Why do we need to constantly put up this show anyway? Why couldn’t we just love for being ourselves, but instead we have to put on this fake mask to make other love us? I grew angry at myself. I cursed at myself. And I bawled, letting all my emotions take control of me that night. Everything just flowed out, like a dam that broke.

We continued to sit there on the pavement, just the two of us. Cars and people passed us by, some throwing us strange looks, perhaps confused over why a grown man was weeping at the side of the road. But I did not care about anything. 

Lucas sat beside me for the whole night. “Slowly take your time alright. We’ll start again.” He gently tapped on my shoulder. His voice sounded much calmer now. At least I still had him. Someone who understood. I nodded weakly, as I started to quiet down. There is still a long journey to ahead, I thought sadly.


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P/s: Third update for the day! Don't forget to read #10 first!

At the End of Everything #10

I need someone to be there for when I am weak too. The sentence stared back at me, sitting alone on a white page.

The thought of dating Phoebe, and actually going long term with her, freaked me out all of a sudden. While things have been going on fine so far, a part of me was afraid. I sat there in my room, looking at the words that I have written on my diary. Somehow, how the thought came so naturally to me scared me. There I was, pen in my hand, looking to write something nice about what has been happening. The first dinner, the subsequent boat trip. Even the trip to the ice cream shop went smoothly. 

Everything looked as if they were lifted out from a Hollywood romance drama. We would go out on subsequent more dates, get to know each other better and ultimately be together. That was how things usually work.

But as I sat there, thinking about our relationship, the first sentence that popped into my mind was of fear, not a happy one. Fear that I was not adequate. Sure, we may both share the same course of study and other smaller traits, but that was as far as our similarity goes. 

She was way more prettier, her future much more brighter. Her dating prospects were much more better than me. That was something that she admitted as well. She has engineers, lawyers, doctors and even CEOs all waiting for her. While I was only a teacher. A lowly teacher in a neighbourhood school. A teacher who lacked the status nor the future that many other guys who were after her held. I was nowhere as buffed nor good looking, nowhere as rich or successful. 

The sudden realization of it all affected me. It was all a sweet dream, the initial two dates. That someone of a supposed lower status like me could get a girl of a higher status like Phoebe. But sweet dreams always come to an end. The more I thought about it, the more worried I became. What if suddenly she wakes up and decide that her future with me was not as bright as a future with all the other guys?

When one comes to think about it, it is not entirely illogical. Her family owned a business. In fact she lived in a landed property, along with three cars that her family owned. In Singapore, the number of cars you owned and the type of house live in says a lot about the wealth of your family. Her brother worked as a high flier in the civil service, earning a paycheck that was equivalent to three of mine. She took trips yearly to different continents. The only trips that I could take was back to my hometown.

Both of us were of a huge mismatch if one were to simply compare. Sure, the initial honeymoon period may seem great, but from how I look at it, it was a downhill path. I was sure to not be able to provide her with a level of comfort that her family did if we do settle down. I felt sorely ill equipped. And I was afraid of the future.

In the end, I called it off, scared of what may laid ahead. I was scared only disappointment would greet me should I continue down this path, and decided that the best way to not get hurt was to not try at all. 

It was precisely one night after the boating trip in which I began to craft the message. My roommate was deep in sleep behind me, perhaps enjoying the cool breeze that the rain brought. But I was too preoccupied with all the thoughts that were running in my head. I felt that I had to get it out. So much so that I let my feelings take control of me. Only the bright glow of my monitor accompanied me as my fingers began to furiously type on the keyboard, led on only by my emotions.

“Dear Phoebe, the past two dates has been a great experience to me. I had a great time with you, and to be honest, I had never expected you to agree to go out with me on both occasions. You are the prettiest girl that I have met so far, and I am sure that the scores of people that go after you is a proof to that. You shared that with me before, and it is really not surprising, since you have the looks that reminded me of a model. You have the brains the looks and the elegance that brings about this aura of perfection around you. You were like a dream come true to me, someone whom I would never imagine to be together with. 

But somehow, around you, I just felt stressed. Intimidated by you. You’re like a dream too good to be true, and somehow, I cannot help but feel constantly insecure and paranoid around you. I mean after all, I am a no one. I am not rich, not good looking nor half as successful as the guys that you have around you. I don’t even know which part of me is better than them. Compared to those guys, I am worried that I could not give you the sense of security and love that they would be able to provide you with. All I could give is love, and sadly we could not solely survive on love in our world. And I am worried about what would happen in the future as well too. What if one day you suddenly decide that I am not good enough? That I could not provide? I could not even bear the thought of suddenly losing you.

I know all these talk is too soon to say only after the second date, but a part of me tells me that this is not a battle I could win. I am not sure if I even have the ability to fight fairly, to be honest. You could say that I am giving up the fight even before I start it. But I wanted to pull myself out before I fall in any deeper. The last thing that I wanted was to get hurt again, and with you, it seemed to be a very likely scenario. As for now, I think that best way is not to contact each other anymore. It’s the best way, I suppose. And I’m sorry. For being so selfish and immature. And for being the biggest coward in the history of mankind. Goodbye Phoebe.” 

I did not even bother to re-read the message. I hit send, before adding her number to my blocked list. “Are you sure you want to add Phoebe to the list of blocked numbers?” the confirmation message tried to dissuade me. 

‘Press no, you fool!’ I could hear Lucas saying. I gave another heavy sigh, pressed yes, and went back to my bed. Perhaps I would well better now, I told myself, even though my heart ached badly. It was for the better, I tried to convince myself, although it felt like I have committed the stupidest mistake in mankind history.


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P/s: Mega update, coming right up~


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