Welcome to our website !
Kauai is known as the Garden Isle of Hawaii. True to its name, the island is surrounded with scenic beauty that is lush and pristine. It's one of the more quiet of the Hawaiian islands where everything flows at a slower pace. But don't mistake this for an island that is boring. Far from it! Last December, my husband and I made a week-long escape to Kauai. Surprisingly, it was a bit chillier than I expected but that didn't stop us from doing the requisite lounging by beach. Kauai has numerous beaches and among the popular ones that we checked out were Poipu Beach, Donkey Beach, and Maha'ulepu Beach (this last beach is actually very secluded and difficult to get to so be warned!). We were also lucky enough to catch an up-close sighting of an endangered monk seal basking in the sun at Poipu Beach.

You can make your trip to Hawaii as relaxed or as active as you want. We opted for a balance of both. So besides beach bumming, our itinerary included an ATV tour through a private ranch/jungle where we got to see where movies like Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones were filmed. Also memorable was our helicopter tour of the entire island and a visit to a chocolate plantation where we got learn about the process of chocolate-making and sampled different varieties of dark chocolate (scroll to the bottom of the post for names of these tours).

Of course, no trip to Kauai is complete without seeing the rugged Napali Coast, the Fern Grotto, and the Weimea Canyon (labeled the "Grand Canyon of the West"), whether it's by boat, helicopter, or car.

We were also going to do mountain tubing down a river passing through an old cotton plantation. It sounded super fun but unfortunately, I fell sick towards the end of the trip. So it was a bummer that we couldn't go. Ah well! As they say, always leave something for next time...

Frolicking on the beach!

A contemplative moment with a friendly stray dog

Sampling local fruits at the Steelgrass Plantation

I finally got to see what a cacao tree looks like. These cacao fruits are the source of chocolate!
All set for a rough, tough and muddy ATV ride through a private ranch and jungle 
This scenic backdrop is where movies like The Descendants and Jurassic Park were filmed

This is a part of the road called the Tunnel of Trees
Breathtaking vistas from the helicopter tour
A view of the rugged Napali Coastline from above
ATV Tour: Kipu Ranch Tours (www.kiputours.com/waterfalltour.php)

Chocolate plantation: Steelgrass Plantation (www.steelgrass.org/chocolate)

Helicopter ride: There are plenty of different companies that offer this but we loved the Blue Hawaii Helicopter tour company

Tip: You can't get around the island without a car as public transport is limited. So a car rental is highly recommended.
It's great to be able to see how Chinese New Year is truly celebrated...or at least how it's done in Singapore. Weeks before the actual holiday, decorations were put up, storefronts got a facelift with new displays, Chinese New Year goodies hit the shelves everywhere, and anything and everything red popped up! I've really enjoyed being able to experience it and learning about how this festival is celebrated. For example, did you know that among the rituals to usher in the new year is to do a thorough cleaning of the house, change the bedding to red-colored bedsheets, and decorate the house with prosperity oranges to invite good luck and positive energy?

Just a few days before the long CNY weekend, I took a stroll around Chinatown and soaked in the festivities and colorful decorations. If you go in the evenings, it's even more beautiful with all the Chinese lanterns lit up along the streets.

As the year of the goat/ram comes upon us, I wish you all a very Happy Chinese New Year!
Street intersection at Chinatown with rams leaping into the new lunar year
Chinese lanterns sweep above the city streets. When lit up at night, they are even more striking
Prosperity oranges
Baked goods, cookies, and candies that take over the shops for Chinese New Year
Decorative lanterns
Walk through the crowded lanes of Chinatown and you're sure to catch a glimpse of the shophouse facades
A close-up of the charming vintage shophouses of Chinatown

You're traveling to Cambodia, a hot destination in Southeast Asia. And I mean literally hot! What are some useful tips on what to carry for your travels? Recently, I visited Siem Reap in Cambodia to tour the Angkor temples, ancient ruins from a Khmer empire that flourished centuries ago. As excited as I was about the trip, I braced myself. The fact that most of my time would be spent outdoors sight-seeing around the Angkor temples meant long periods of sun exposure and heat discomfort. Accordingly, I prepared well in anticipation for this sort of weather and managed to keep the heat situation bearable. Below are some simple tips on what to wear and how to prepare for a visit to Siem Reap that can go a long way to making a big difference:

1. You want to wear light, minimal clothing while remaining moderately conservative. Keep your cultural sensitivities in check while entering what many consider holy ground (despite the fact that many of these temples are in ruins) by avoiding clothing that bares too much. I stuck to light-colored clothing, airy tops, and comfortable flip-flops.


2. Wear a hat to protect your head from overexposure from the heat. Oh and sunglasses, of course!


3. Bring a comfortable bag in which to hold your stuff - either a backpack or a crossbody bag (I chose the later). Now is not the time to bring the sort of purses you sling in the crook of your arm. You want to be comfortable and have your arms available for lots of climbing and walking up stairs. Trust me.


4. Carry a parasol/umbrella if you're so inclined (I did and it made a huge difference).


5. Wear light makeup - a tinted moisturizer, eyeliner, and a lipstick. Done! Anything more and the makeup will start to run in this sauna and that never looks good.


6. Bring cool, moist towelettes - they are a great way to stay refreshed during a full day of active walking and physical activity.


7. This is a no-brainer but do remember to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated with lots of water.


8. Most importantly, wear a camera around your neck so that you're ready to capture the unique visions around you!

A delicious lotus pau (image via)
Moving to a new country means experiencing a new culture, cuisine and customs. It means having to adapt to a different set of rules and regulations. It means learning a new language (in this case, Singlish) and your way around a completely unfamiliar place. It’s exciting and daunting at the same time. Luckily, my transition to Singapore has been like sinking your teeth into a steamed lotus pau bun (a local snack I’ve grown to love) – sweet and satisfying. Of course, there are still some adjustments and new learnings I face everyday, many of which are utterly mundane, everyday things. Like the following…

1. Having to write the date in reverse. I’m so used to writing the month, day, and year (e.g., 1/2/2015). Here and in the rest of Asia, it’s written as day, followed by month and year (i.e., 2/1/2015). Argh! It’s a total change in mindset and I always have to think twice before writing the date now.

2. Learning that the monosyllabic word “can” can be a response to everything. “Can we go for lunch?...Can!” or “I was thinking of buying this dress. What do you think?...Can!” It’s like the meaning of sureyes, or go for it all rolled into one.

3. Having to get used to British English as opposed to American English. Lift instead of elevatorpram instead of strollerqueue instead of linealight instead of get off/disembark. Or seeing words spelled the British way – like colourfavouriteplagiarisedmonetised, etc. I'm still sticking to my American English...for the time being!

4. Realizing the power of a pack of tissues. Here in Singapore, if someone wants to reserve a table for themselves at a public place or food court, they place a pack of tissues. It means “Back off, this table's mine!”.

5. Having to forgo the American traditions and big events that I’m so familiar with…yet embracing new ones which are also cool. For example, Halloween and Thanksgiving came and went last year, and it just felt weird not to celebrate it the way I’ve always done in the U.S. Similarly, the Super Bowl and Oscars which always get so much fanfare and coverage barely get a buzz here. At the same time, it’s great to see Chinese New Year, Eid, and Diwali being celebrated in a big way and getting public holidays for these occasions!

6. The inexplicable penchant for 90's hit songs playing on the radio. I’m talking Lisa Loeb, Natalie Imbruglia, Toni Braxton, Michael Learns to Rock, and even some obscure UK boy bands (S Club 7, remember them?!). Every time I sit in a taxi, it feels like a trip down memory lane...LITERALLY.

What are differences you have experienced between the East and West? Would love to hear your thoughts!
 It's been a whirlwind past 10 days - I've traveled to the US and back in a span of 4 days, followed by a one-day trip to Bangkok, and then a 2 day trip to Hong Kong. None of this was planned. All these trips popped up out of nowhere at the last minute for some urgent reason or the other and I had to go. It sounds crazy but I kind of enjoyed it all. For now though, I'm back in Singapore and enjoying some stable ground.

I wanted to share this online jewelry store called 31Bits that I discovered it a while back. The store sells fashionable jewelry designs using beads made from recycled paper, funky fabrics, and other local materials. I especially love their intricate beaded necklaces. 31Bits has a unique business model. All the jewelry is handcrafted by artisans in Uganda and the money earned goes towards helping people rise above poverty. That's fashion for a good cause. 
Top, skirt, and necklace from Bangkok street shopping; shoes from VNC (Bangkok store); necklace: 31Bits