Best Days

What Was The Best Day of Your Life?

What was the best day of your life?

The question popped out on my phone. Sent by Jik. It got me thinking. The thing is, I have many.

The days I spent with my cousins, driving around Jakarta to buy the best road-side food.

The weekend I went to Malaka with my Uni friends and made more friends by the time we went back to Singapore.

Our three weeks honeymoon in Japan.

The weekend I went to Goa to attend my cousin’s wedding.

The first time I saw the Autumn colours IRL.

The many moments I shared with Cheryl when we worked together.

The day I went to the theme park as a kid with just my parents. I was wearing a red dress, and they let me do water rafting. It was so fun. I felt so happy and excited, and a bit of a grown-up.

The day I got a salary hike.

The day I got approval to move to Australia.

The day I stood in front of the sixteen floors National Library in Singapore.

The day I noticed Vi entering the classroom wearing her purple pyjamas.

The days I spent in Phi Phi Island, wearing a bikini for the first time and learning to be confident in it.

The day I bought my first MacBook.

Birthdays.

The hours I spent in the bookstores. And the hours I spent in Spellbox.

The night of the New Year’s Eve when I met Fafa.

The drunken night walk with my cousins in Copenhagen.

The day I ate MSG ridden fried-rice in a Chinese restaurant in Italy after not having rice for more than a week for the first time in my life.

Japan days.

My first snowfall day.

The days where Fafa kindness was the only support I had.

The weekend in Uluru.

The hours Jik and I spent in coffee shops in Hong Kong.

The time with LOL memories.

Quality times I spent with Amma and the moments of hugging her.

The day my Amma complimented me on my cousin’s engagement day.

Drinking Karak Chai in Dubai.

The nights I sat on the beach.

The hours I spent in the kitchen with my workmates – having lunch or just taking breaks.

The days I spent with Erwin and Vivi, rediscovering Jakarta.

The days and nights I spent with Thu just messing around while trying to figure out life.

My days in Singapore.

First dates. Second dates.

The days where I do very little but don’t feel guilty at all. The days when I do so much and feel a sense of accomplishment.

My post-grad days.

Sleepover nights.

My wedding days.

The day I realised I had all the support I needed in life.

The afternoon in Brisbane when we took an hour Uber-ride to eat good Indo food.

The day I discovered Serial podcast while travelling in Europe, which led into the true-crime rabbit hole.

The day I took Shinkansen for the first time, the second time and every single time after that.

The day I set up my blogs excitedly.

My last working day in Singapore.

Those are some of my best days—the ones I would love to redo. I realised now that most of them involve being surrounded by my loved ones, travelling and discovering myself. Here is to creating space in my life for more of those kinds of days.

Tin Recipe Box Full Of Fleeting Taste

I looked at the caller ID on the phone. Amma. “What do you want me to cook for you?

I smiled even though I knew she wouldn’t be able to see it from across the ocean. She had asked the same question a hundred times before. To which I gave the same answer, my favorite has always been the same, a famous local dish from the region she grew up in: “prawn curry“. Then I added, “but, let’s cook it together this time“. I anticipated a “Why?” but it never came. Good. The answer to that particular why weighs heavily on my world and I rather put it in writing here than explain it to her.

It all started when a friend, who lost her mother, shared her regrets. One of them was her struggle to “cook like mom” for her grieving family. How, even though she could remember some of the ingredients, some of the recipes and some of the methods, none of them was enough. Enough to bring the same taste to the same plates, served at the same dining table to the same people.

Her words woke up my own demon who whispered into my ear as I lay in the bed, asking me “what would my regrets be?

The answer? Infinite.

One of them, the same as my friend, would be the fleeting taste of Amma’s cooking. Even though she had given enough advice to last me seven reincarnated lives, Amma had never taught me to cook, because I was never interested. That night, unable to sleep, I decided that it needed to change when I flew home next.

The day I reached home, I was greeted by the smell of exotic spices filling the air and a warm bowl of prawn curry on the table. I half-heartedly complained that I wanted to learn to cook it, but was secretly glad I didn’t have to right after the long flight.

The next day I used a different approach in the effort to capture the fleeting taste: I made her write the complete recipe with foolproof detail.

Why don’t I dictate it for you so you can write it in English?” she complained. “No, Bahasa Indonesia is fine, but I want you to write it” I replied. She complied and passed me the paper with “make sure you cook it otherwise you just wasted my time!

Putting her note in the recipe box, I promised her I would. In fact, I told her, I plan to fill the box with other recipes from her, my friends, and even my own. It will be a sort of artifact to summon love and support from women in my life, including myself. She laughed and air-quoted “cooking rice” is not a recipe.

Ha! She doesn’t know that I can boil pasta too!

The day I flew back to Melbourne she hugged me tightly, enveloping me with the warmth of her love. How I wish I could put that motherly love into the recipe box and keep it with me forever.

That’s when I realized it wouldn’t be her cooking that I would truly miss, but the love she put into cooking the food for me. That, even though I have the original blueprint inside my recipe box, it will still be a fleeting taste.

White Rice and White Wine

If you were on the death row, what would your last meal be?

I reread the Skyped message that popped on my desktop screen.

It was from Pedro.

If it was anyone else, my reaction would either be “WTF” or “hu?”.

But coming from him, the question was as normal as a “Good morning“.

That’s how he usually greets me every day; with a question, more often than not, with bizarre ones. After all, our friendship is strongly based on life’s morbidness. We celebrate death, worship Kali, discuss heartbreaks, and quiz each other on serial killers trivia.

This is not an easy question to digest first thing in the morning.

I know that my last meal needs to be epic.

The thing is, I have way too many dishes I love so much; from Singaporean chicken rice, Indonesian nasi Padang to Indian dosa.

After wasting a good chunk of the working hour, I typed my answer.

I told him that if I were to face the death penalty (hopefully for doing something semi-heroic) my last meal would be a South Indian crab masala thali meal.

Then, I asked what would his last meal be. He replied almost immediately. Looked like he had put enough thoughts on this beforehand. “Vatapa”.

I remember Vatapa.

Pedro told me about Vatapa in the first week we were introduced. That time, out of sudden, he declared that he was missing his favorite Brazilian food and then proceed to show me this Vatapa picture.

I also remember thinking how it looked like my favorite prawn sambal, a widely loved Indonesian dish originated from the Sumatra region. I told him to bring back something next time he goes back to Brazil.

The last meal question lingers in my mind.

I wonder what would others choose, so I texted Fafa. Thankfully, he, too, is well versed with my cuckoo side, no explanation required.

At first, he said anything that his mom cooks. Well, that’s not how this works my friend! Otherwise, we all would choose our mom’s cooking. I told him his mom wouldn’t want to visit him after he committed such a heinous crime. He then settled with meen pollicithu with Kerala rice thali meal. Yum! I wouldn’t mind sharing his last meal.

Aww, the thought of couple’s last meals, how romantic.

With some more minutes to kill before home time, I pinged Manda, and asked her the same question. After giving a few judgy remarks, she replied with: sashimi for entree, hawker food as the main course, creme brulee for dessert, and a glass of mojito to wash it all off.

Damn, she is fancy! Especially when I thought she would settle for just laksa.

Then again, she had a point, why would I deprive myself of the pleasure of dessert and alcohol, my two life vices (among many), if it’s going to be my last meal?!

I pinged Pedro back to clarify that I would also have mango sticky rice for dessert and a bottle of Moscato as my last meal’s drink.

Loads of white rice and copious amount of wine. Yep. Seemed legit both for epic last meal and as the title of my memoir.

Amma in Aussie

Amma’s is here!

It’s her first trip to Australia. The whole week was filled with lots of hugs, pampering, and fun time Including us flying to Sydney to spend the weekend there where we took a million pictures in front of the Opera House and enjoyed the stroll around the Jacaranda filled park.

In Sydney, we stayed in an Airbnb warehouse with spiders crawling around the bed, before moving out to a hotel immediately the morning after. This time Airbnb immensely disappointed me and that says something since I am not easily disappointed, not even when we stayed in a stamp-sized apartment in Hong Kong.

We also chilled with Jik, the birthday girl, in Sydney. Happy birthday Jik! And once again, thank you for spending time with us and for the hot pot meal at Chinatown. Speaking of hot pot, she made me realize that hot pot is one of my favorite cuisines. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise really, I have had three hot pot birthday dinners in the past five years. Ha!

On our last night in Sydney, we chilled at the hotel bar, not unlike middle-aged men, and talked about Hygge. We went through the google image search for Hygge and pointed out which ones we could relate to. We even made a vow to apply Hygge in our lives and to keep each other accountable by sending a Hygge snap each week. Yep, we were pretty drunk that night.

Jik kept her words, so much so by adapting Hygge to her birthday theme. Me? Nah, I didn’t get Hygge tattooed on my skin or anything like that, but let’s just say ever since our conversation there were a couple of trips to IKEA and the number of candles in our apartment has multiplied. Also, I may or may not have downloaded the Coffee Shop Acoustic Guitar album from iTunes.

For The Love of Tupperware

You have too many plastic boxes, Fafa complained. I raised one eyebrow as I reply. Boy, firstly, these plastic boxes are called Tupperware; it was a cultural icon. Also, it’s what’s keeping your food fresh much longer.

Man, I tell you! And mine doesn’t get my Tupperware obsession.

Though I will never admit it to him, Fafa is right. I do have too many “plastic boxes” as he called it. Yes, I am a wee bit obsessed with Tuperware. Kinda like Amma, who insisted that I bring back her Tupperware food containers from school or if I bring food to my friends or family member. Including the ones to her side of the family.

I never understand that until I realized that Tupperware is magical, with its microwaveable frozen thingy. Even though we never use the microwave at my parents’ after Appa read once that someone’s kidney got cooked by standing in front of the microwave.

Also, Tupperware is not cheap! And it comes with different sets and pretty seasonal colour and model wise (good strategy Tupperware company), so if you lost one, you wouldn’t have a complete set again. Not unlike a collector item.

That’s also made me wonder whether it would be ultimate accomplishment in my Amma’s eyes if I work in the Tupperware company? Or it would backfire as she would expect me to bring a new Tupperware home every month.

Valentine with Amma

Happy Valentine. What did you do on today? I spent my Valentine’s day with Amma and Fafa celebrated his with his mother.

I booked a table at a fancy-smancy restaurant in Jakarta.

To be honest, I am not the fancy dining type of a person. I like my plate full with food not a tiny piece of meat in the middle with decorative sauces surrounding it. I also don’t like to sniff the wine and I can’t eat when someone stands nearby and wait for me.

But I thought Amma would appreciate it just because we had never done it before. She did. So all in all, my Valentine’s day has been a winner.

Scary Movies and Sugar Rush

This year, I am keeping my Halloween celebration pretty low key.

As low as raiding Amma’s secret stash of candies (yes, she really has it and no, I don’t know who she is hiding it from) and eating it in front of the TV.

Scary movies marathon accompanied with sugar rush is the theme. It’s okay, I am good, this will do for this year.

In House Hotel Taipei

I went to Taipei Taiwan with Amma last month, just the two of us. I had to arrange and book everything by myself because she just wanted to follow me. A typical parent’s behavior, which I appreciate because I love making decisions. A control freak here.

This time I chose the Taipei hotel based on an Agoda review score because I had never been to Taiwan before, I didn’t know how to speak the local language, and, from what I learned, not everyone could speak English. To be on the safe side, since I was bringing only my mother, I chose a well-known-well-reviewed-but-affordable hotel.

My favorite part of our Taipei hotel, Taipei Inhouse Hotel, besides its room, was the lobby. Every night, I snuck out after my Amma fell asleep and spent many hours there. Apart from being decorated with red sleazy pub lighting, there were comfortable sofas and a pair of MacBooks for guest use. I read books, wrote postcards, drafted blog posts (which are still in the draft folder, gaah…), replied to Facebook messages, and tweeted “I am in Taipei! I can’t believe it!!” every fifteen minutes.

Another part that I like about the hotel? Yep, you guessed it right. It was WAKA WAKA, the restaurant, where we had a sumptuous breakfast every morning. I loved the spread of choices they had. It was mainly Western; no complaint from me. I don’t eat a western breakfast at home, so it was still a treat.

What I most loved about this restaurant, though, was the quality time I spent with my mama. We would choose a table by the window, pile on our buffet breakfast, and spend a good hour there talking and taking selfies together. Until today, I can still recall what she wore on a particular morning in that restaurant. The sweet memory stuck with me.

The room was a bargain; it came with a flat-screen TV with many channels, including HBO and Star World, my lifelong companions. The bed was a 5-star hotel’s standard (disclosure: I never stayed in a 5-star hotel before, but I assumed the bed would be this awesome!). My mama always takes extra-long hours to shower and get ready; I spent them wisely on the bed watching back to back episodes of ANTM. One of the lessons I learned from it was that there is that a model look and a movie star look and you can’t be a model if you have a movie star look. Now don’t give me a confused look because those words come from Tyra herself.

The bathroom was my favorite part of the room because of the amenities. Their bath items are L’occitane people! I never even bought L’occitane before because it was not within my budget, so my pampering bathing goods stop at Bodyshop’s Honeymania. So, I did what Ross did. After using it, I kept it away each morning and yes, they topped it up. Everything! Except for the toothbrush because I didn’t keep it in the first place. I am not that cheap, and it wasn’t L’occitane in the first place.

There was a unique thing in the bathroom. A blowfish-shaped box on top of the toilet. I first thought it was a tissue box, but nope, it was a coin box. What did they expect us to do with it? To develop a saving habit by putting a coin before using the toilet? Weird. Speaking of the toilet, you know how much I love high-tech Japanese toilets. I wish I could buy one but no because: It was too darned expensive It would be hard to fit in my luggage, and I don’t have a home to put it in.

I bid a sad goodbye to them on my last day in Japan only to find out that I got to see them again in the Inhouse Taipei hotel!

The staff here spoke fluent English and were friendly, helpful, and generally good looking. Overall, I enjoyed their service.

Lastly, the main reason I chose the Inhouse hotel was that of the location. It’s right smack in the middle ofXimeding. It is one of the busiest, liveliest, and most happening places in Taipei.  We could roam around and shop until late at night without worrying about taking a cab or train back. Any tour guide knows where the Inhouse hotel is, and we always get picked up there instead of meeting at a train station or somewhere else. Also, the bubble tea counter was a minute away from the hotel.

It suddenly crossed my mind that I should have written a review to Agoda about it and earned their 500 points. Do they still accept almost a year late review?

Anyway, the next time you are in Taipei consider staying at the Inhouse hotel and get ready to explore Ximending.

For food choices in Taipei, check out uncle Tehpeng’s Taipei food adventure.