Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters.

Finally visited Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters after so long. The pictures of the space and food are always taken under such great lighting and their eggs benedict just look so good. The café is located at the end of the street, residing in a small corner. It's full white - white walls, white tiles, white furniture.. The full-length windows welcome the sunlight and the space was beautifully lit up by the natural light.

I wasn't disappointed by the food as well, their Salmon Royale and Truffle Benedict were great. My friend had a Quinoa Salad and I think it was okay. I'm not a huge fan of salads so I'm not in the position to judge haha. I think Pacamara stands out from other local cafés in the sense that they don't just make do. The ingredients used were really good. I got the Salmon Royale and my poached eggs weren't covered in vinegar and the brioche was perfectly toasted. The toast was still slightly crisp after I poked the yolk! If the whole dish was less salty, I think it would have been perfect. The Hollandaise sauce of my friend's Truffle Benedict was the best, there was really a generous taste of truffle. We also ordered Chilli Beef Fries to share which I think was okay though not the best. They were really generous with the chilli beef though. Coffee wasn't too bad as well. I got the White 5 oz and it tasted like a flat white.

Café | Pacamara Boutique Coffee Roasters
185 Upper Thomson Road, Singapore 574333
10 minutes walk from Marymount MRT
Mon-Sun 9.00am to 11.00pm

Monday, August 10, 2015

For those who hate exercising.

I can't believe I'm actually going to write a post about exercising, and it's not about how much I dislike it but writing with the intent to motivate others like me to exercise. Before you dismiss this post with "Ah, another 'fitness guru' offering some 'useful' tips to exercising", I'm so not a fitness guru. I'm pathetic when it comes to exercising. I start walking after running 1km. Hahaha. Actually, I started on my 3 times per week exercise regime just last week. I've tried setting regimes like that for so many times but I've always failed. This is the second week and I'm actually starting to have a little more confidence and faith in myself. I'm writing this post not just to encourage you, but also to remind myself, on what makes me feel like running, and what motivates me to step out of my house just to exercise for an hour, 3 times a week.

I'm 22 this year, female, and I'm not starting on this regime so that I can wear cropped tops, have a thigh gap and attract a lot of boys. I hate that the posts I find on the Internet to motivate myself to run are about the idealised beauty. Okay, some posts do advocate exercising for health. But... the workouts recommended are just so unattainable, expensive (I have no money to purchase weird equipment), or difficult to follow. They are simply not for beginners, especially for those who hate exercising. I'm going to exercise simply because I'm 22 and I've this problem of not being able to walk properly after 5-6 days of intense walking. Sounds weird but it's a big problem when I travel free and easy. At the end of the trip, I find myself limping. My feet hurts and I don't know why. It started a year ago but I know that it can't go on like this forever. I'm guessing it might have to do with my posture and maybe my weight, so I told myself that I really need to start exercising. I'm not overweight but my BMI has been rising (seriously, don't always harp on your weight, calculate your BMI instead) and I really can't gain another kg. I love my fashionable trousers too so I want to wear them comfortably and not feel like it's gonna burst after a full meal haha.

So, (again, I'm no pro) here are some tips to get your body moving. I'm going to focus more specifically on running but most of the points do apply to other sports as well. Find a sport that you don't hate that much and start moving! Swimming actually looks so cool and refreshing, if only I know how to swim! But in any case, here goes:

1. Play with your mind
Exercising starts with the mind. I'm not a fan of exercising so my brain often goes "Ew running!". If you always feel the same, that's ok! Continue to dread running, haha. But walking... that sounds okay right? If you are also okay with the thought of walking, the next step will be to set a distance. Set a distance that takes at least 20-30 minutes to complete and one that can make you sweat, e.g. 3km (screw you if you can finish 3km in 10-15 minutes, this is not a post for you haha). This distance is the only thing that you will need determination for. Then go out and start walking 3km! What I realised is that miraculously, your body might react in a different way. As for me, I started to dread walking and I just wanted to cover the distance as quickly as possible. So my legs started to move a little faster, and I was jogging! Continue jogging or running until you feel that it's getting a little too hard, but don't stop there, you have to cover the 3km no matter what. Return to walking, but you will realise that you would start running after taking a little break by walking. Find your momentum and keep to it till the end. And taadaa, you've exercised! Increase your distance after you feel more comfortable. I usually set the distance to 3.2km but realised that I can end up walking 0.8-1km more every time. The next few points are what motivate me to keep to a longer distance.

p.s. If you still find yourself walking for the whole distance, that's okay too! You made the effort to step out of the house and you covered quite a distance there! The key idea is to just implant the thought that you are going to walk so that you won't dread it and you will actually get away from your damn computer and move. Think of running as an added bonus. Don't think from the perspective that you are lying to yourself, i.e. I'm going to walk but I know it's just a way to make myself run. That won't work. Genuinely tell yourself that you are just going to walk, then see what happens.

2. Find a good place to exercise
No, not the gym for me. I always feel embarrassed and depressed when I visit one. Perhaps, start exercising at an outdoor stadium or park in your neighbourhood, i.e. somewhere more encouraging, a place where the young and old visit. These are great locations in my opinion, because you can get motivated by the other people who are exercising. Watch the elderly brisk walk, watch the kids run and laugh. Run with them. It's not a downward comparison, it's thinking about 'why do they run' that helps motivate me to run further and longer. Obviously the old lady is not walking to be as curvy as Kim Kardashian, obviously little boys are not running to turn muscular. They are exercising to stay healthy, they exercise because they have fun with it. I feel so much more encouraged with these thoughts and with the people around me.

3. Figure out the immediate benefits of exercising
Screw all those 'I feel so good after a run/work-out' posts on social media. I don't. I feel hot and sticky. But my brain really clears up after a run. I'm typing this right after a 45-minute run. I always have new ideas after exercising. Also, my skin condition improved after a week of running. Actually, don't listen to what others have gotten out of exercising. You might feel disappointed that after trying your best, you don't achieve the same results. Motivating yourself to exercise again might then become even harder. Figure out what benefits are unique to you and think of them as reinforcements after a run.

4. Wear the proper gear
Change out of your pyjamas. It might not apply for all but wearing the right clothes may put you in the right mood. I was reading this book 'Where They Create' published by Frame and there's this guy who said that he wears t-shirts when he's doing creative work and will actually make the effort to change into a proper shirt when he's clearing the administrative stuff. Or else, invest in a pair of good running shoes that look so pretty you want to wear them all the time. Maybe that can help you find the motivation to run.

5. Reward yourself at the end
I don't mean a bacon sandwich at the end of a run but I think a refreshing cold beverage (a can of ice milo for me) is a good treat. Or, make yourself a good meal after the workout. I can't say this for everyone but since it takes so much more mental power and determination for people who hate exercising to actually exercise, treating yourself to something greasy and fatty seems like a waste of your precious effort. Your treat should still be worthy though, sometimes when the run gets difficult I actually chant 'Ice milo, ice milo' in my head and it miraculously gets easier hahaha. (But I don't take pictures of milo haha so here's a random picture of a refreshing drink.)

6. Run with music
Music at 130 bpm doesn't work for me. I hate all those playlists on Spotify. My head starts to throb and I feel like puking when I'm listening to those while I run. It takes a while to find the right music to run with. I realised that I prefer songs that are slower at the start but has an upbeat and catchy chorus later, e.g. Hyukoh's Comes and Goes, Big Bang's Sober. Again, I can't run well, I always end up walking. But when the chorus is playing, I feel the motivation to run or even sprint. This is just for me really, so who knows, maybe music at 130 bpm is the right kind for you. Go figure out!

(At the Jurong Bird Park yesterday, walked for 3 whole hours!)

7. Alternate between different venues
I realised that I dread running because if I've ran a 3km at the stadium today, I'll remember how dreadful it was when tomorrow comes. But a 3km at the park might feel different, I won't know since I can't gauge how far and tedious a 3km at the park feels like. I can then get myself to start running since I don't know what to expect. My memory can't remember the experience at each location after a few days, so alternating between a few locations allow me to start my run at a new location without thinking "Huh, 3km here so far leh!".

8. Set a system, not a goal
I came across this quote while doing a project for school and I really think that this applies to everything in life. Goals are easier to set because it marks the end of a process, e.g. losing 1kg. It's easier and more achievable since you are able to see the finishing line. However, that's actually the fatal point. You stop after losing 1kg because you need to find so much more motivation to start losing the next kg. It's like, after receiving my tuition fees at the end of the month (I teach little kids to earn extra pocket money), I dread going to the first lesson of the new month. They call this the fixed interval schedule effect in psychology. So, work to build a system. Goals are the little joys, still worth celebrating, but they are not the end. To me, finishing a 4km run/walk is my goal, but a regime of 3 times a week is my system.

At the end of the day, don't feel bad about under-perfoming when you're doing sports. Stay realistic and optimistic. If you realised, I've scattered lots of 'rewards' to motivate myself to move. I think the problem I have is that long term reinforcement feels so far away so I need all the short term rewards that I can get. I attribute my better skin to the run, I wear my pretty Nike shoes that makes me run, I owe my run to a can of ice milo haha. After my internship at a user experience company, I realised that some of us may hate exercising due to the bad experiences we had and bad experiences are caused by problems we've yet to correctly identify. The problem, is often not your stamina, your weight or your inability. It's the environment, the reinforcement and your mentality on what exactly is exercising. List down how you define exercising, your expectations and lower them slightly e.g. from running to walking, so that it's more bearable for a beginner and easier to follow even when you're lazy. List down why you don't want to start exercising and find ways, even the simplest ones (like my favourite ice milo treat haha), to correct your problems and improve your experience. When the experience turns good, you may realise that you want to start it all over again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Day 6 and 7 of #seoulstylo.

We spent the last two days of our trip soaking up every bit of what Seoul has to offer. We tried it all - live octopus sashimi, spicy fish stew, ganjang gejang i.e. raw marinated crab, chimaek i.e. chicken + beer in the afternoon, Garosugil and finally, the greatest hurdle, an all female jjimjilbang i.e. Korean spa + sauna. You just have to not think so much when attempting some of the more challenging items in this list. Haha. It was fun!

We visited the famous fish market, Noryangjin, in the morning of Day 6. If you are a seafood fan, like me, this is a must-visit. I won't say the prices are affordable, I don't even know if we were ripped off since I don't know the market price, but the fresh seafood was worth it. You may also find other seafood products like anchovies while you're there.

Be sure to leave your best shoes in the hotel since Noryangjin is a wet market. If you are thinking of having a meal there, select your seafood first at the market. There are websites that offer you suggestions on what you should choose according to the season so be sure to check! We visited Seoul in May and it seems like flounder was in season. This is Korea so make sure you try white fish (e.g. flounder) instead of oily types like salmon which are more Japanese. They taste really different so I shan't spoil it for you by describing how our flounder sashimi tasted like! After selecting a stall and choosing your seafood, the kind fishmonger would usually slice up the fish for you if you inform him that you want it sashimi-style. Actually, instead of sashimi, they call the dish 'hoe' in Korean. If you want to try a fish stew as well, make sure you remind the fishmonger to keep the bones in a bag for you because it would make a good broth.

After making your payment, look around to find restaurants at the basement or at the second floor. There are actually a lot of restaurant staff standing around at the market waiting to bring you to their restaurant. It's okay, haha, you can go with either of them if there's no specific restaurant you want to visit. I was a little intimidated when a staff immediately took our purchases from the fishmonger and led us to this quiet restaurant at the basement, but I later realised that this is just a way to get hold of customers. Lots of Koreans streamed in later so we knew we were in safe hands.

People at the restaurant would take the seafood you purchased and suggest ways to cook it. It's likely that there are Chinese working there so you can communicate with them comfortably if you know Chinese. We had flounder sashimi, spicy fish stew (maeuntang) and live octopus sashimi (sannakji)! The live octopus was a challenge but I liked it haha. Dip it in sesame oil, throw it in your mouth and chew really quickly! It gets a little scary when the suction caps on its tentacles get stuck to your tongue.

After a full meal, we visited Hangang Park at Yeouido. Many Koreans were having a picnic there and it made us regret not bringing a mat along with us. We sat along the river eating super sweet Korean strawberries while enjoying the light breeze. Kings of Convenience was playing in the background.

After Hangang, we visited a nearby Lotte Mart and then another touristy spot - Namsam Tower - which wasn't in our itinerary. My sister suggested that we should visit the tower and we headed there after having a set of directions. Climbing up with hands full of bags of snacks we got at Lotte Mart was a torture, but the fine weather, cable car ride and beautiful view compensated for the hike. I thought the view outside the tower, at the deck with all the cheesy love locks, was most breathtaking. We stayed till sunset. It was nice to see the whole landscape changing in shades and colours.

Then it was time for dinner! We actually visited Gwangjang Market at the second or third day of our trip, but my mum liked it so much so we headed there again for dinner on day 6. We tried the famous ganjang gejang, i.e. raw crab marinated in soy sauce, while we were there. A small one costs S$12 approximately! I loved the crab roe but it was so so salty. I think my lips swelled up after eating one. It's still worth a try and I think it will go well with rice! We tried another version of the dish, yangnyeom gejang, crab marinated in spicy chilli paste, as a side dish for lunch at Insadong and we really loved that one.

Gwangjang market is also known for lots of other affordable and yummy Korean foods like the mungbean pancake (bindaetteok), spicy rice cake (tteokbokki), sesame oil noodle (japchae), fish cake soup (eomukguk), Korean mixed rice (bibimbap)... These can also be found at the market. We also bought 2 bags of kimchi while we were there. But be careful when bringing kimchi home! I heard of a story where someone's bag of kimchi 'exploded' in her luggage and... you can guess the rest of it.

Ok, that's day 6. I'm going to cover day 7 in this post as well since I didn't take any good pictures on that day and lest I procrastinate again, haha. Can't believe that I took 2 months to post about a 8-day trip. Day 7 was spent exploring Garosugil, Gangnam. We ended the day with a bang at a women-only jjimjilbang. More on that later, haha.

Garosugil in Gangnam is a popular shopping district for the trendy and artsy, and I should add - for those with deeeeeep pockets. I love the street but it was more window shopping and people-watching for me. We spotted Hong Seok-cheon filming a show with some models and there were also lots of streetstyle bloggers and blogshop models using Garosugil as backdrop for their photoshoots. Cafes also line the streets and we visited one for waffles and bingsu (Korean shaved ice). I remember that Åland has a huge outlet there so be sure to drop by if you're a fan. Otherwise, I think I was disappointed because of my high expectations.

At a friend's recommendation, we also headed to Kyochon Chicken at Gangnam for chimaek (chicken and beer). It was so good - my sister and mum agreed that it was their best meal there. (I had so much good food, I couldn't make up my mind.) 4 Fingers, Choo Choo Chicken or whatsoever in Singapore just can't beat it. Kyochon Chicken already has outlets in Southeast Asia so I hope they come to Singapore real soon. We tried the honey glaze fried chicken if I'm not wrong and we finished it in what, fifteen minutes?! The serving was very generous and with beer for my mum and I, we only paid approximately S$8 each. I'm craving for those drumettes while I'm typing this.

After the fried chicken, we headed back to the apartment to change for a trip to the jjimjilbang. Jjimjilbang is a Korean public bathhouse cum spa and you have to go commando when you are there. Because we visited a women-only jjimjilbang, the ladies were all undressed even when they were out of the shower and hot tub area. Everyone was just semi or stark naked while watching tv and sipping their sikhye (Korean sweet rice malt drink). It was an ultimate culture shock. It wasn't like we weren't mentally prepared though, I've watched a funny video of Conan O'Brien visiting a jjimjilbang before and I was pretty mind blown. But it took more guts to take it all off in front of strangers and also to not express any form of emotion when you see the other ladies. Hahaha. I knew I had to give it a try because I was with my family, I would never dare to go commando in front of my friends. My mum was so embarrassed it was funny to watch, but she later fell in love with the hot tub and sauna and after a while, she was totally relaxed. My sister is a fan of the sauna too. Ironically, I didn't have a good experience. I couldn't stand the heat in the hot sauna and ran out after maybe 30 seconds, and I had a migraine shortly after. It was still a crazy cultural experience though, and I enjoyed feeling insecure about absolutely nothing at all. Every lady in there was just strutting their stuff, scrubbing each others' back and laughing at one another's jokes. They were confident and comfortable with their bodies. I started to like my body a little more after a visit there. If you would like to visit a jjimjilbang, I would recommend asking the staff at the hotel counter or your apartment's host for the address to the nearest one. It feels really good to just chill at the jjimjilbang, shower then head back to your lodging for bed.

*Subway Station | Venue

Noryangjin | Noryangjin Fish Market
Exit 1. Walk 100m over the bridge.

Yeouinaru | Hangang Park
Exit 2 or 3.

Myeongdong | N Seoul Tower (Namsam Tower)
Detailed directions here.
We chose to alight at Myeongdong station, and walked out of Exit 3 to find Pacific Hotel. Upon finding the hotel, walk along the right side and walk straight for 15-20 minutes to find the boarding area. Reminder that it's an uphill slope!

Seoul Station | Lotte Mart
Exit 1.
Visit the mart to get all your Korean foods like dried seaweed, Choco Pie, instant ramen, chilli paste etc. We even got a pot often seen in Korean dramas - the small gold one used to cook ramen. I use it often to prepare soup for one!

Jongno 5-ga | Gwangjang Market
Exit 8.

Sinsa | Garosugil
Exit 8. Walk straight for 3 blocks (approx 250m) and turn left into Garosugil.

Gangnam | Kyochon Chicken
Exit 9. Detailed directions with image here.

So, this brings me to the end of #seoulstylo series! (Day 8 was spent rushing to the airport with the help of a friendly Korean man so there isn't anything I can share haha.) I really applaud bloggers with the determination to churn out posts like these because it wasn't easy at all. Phew! I started on these posts to remind myself on how great the trip was. It surprised me that I could actually recall the experience of locating the places when I was typing out the directions. There are so many places that I want to travel to in the near future and this #seoulstylo trip gave me greater confidence in planning a trip and navigating in a foreign land. I really hope that in return, these guides can build confidence in someone out there! Have fun while you are in Seoul!