Friday, April 18, 2014

Dayre

In case you're missing my updates, I'm on dayre (@lynnnnn) and Instagram (@lynntoes)! 

See you on the otherside!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Tassie Tales #10

Alot has happened since my last Tassie Tales update, and this will be my last one:( 10 does seem like a nice number to end it anyway!
We'll be headed to Melbourne for the Aussie open before returning home, then we'll be jetting to Europe for a family holiday before finally settling in to our new home in February:) And I'll probably start work right away :(

In the meantime, to recap the last few months:
1) Visits: My parents + sister in Nov, Darren & Lixin in Dec, and Wallace & Liz in Jan
2) We sold the place! And most of our furniture! Thank you Lord!


I thought this would be a good time to share some picture of this apartment. Elvine took these for the sale of the apartment but the sale went so smoothly we didn't even spend a single cent on marketing/advertising!

Full story of the sale after the pictures!

Living/Dining/Kitchen
From the other side. Behind the glass door is a small study/room, and the entrance is on the right after a corridor.

Master - our room

Our walk-in wardrobe. This side is mine, that side's his. To the left of the aisle is the toilet and the right is the bedroom.

The only part of the house I really hate? The marble top. Why!!

Balcony with my sad plants. The tall building's the hospital, which is blocking Mount Wellie.

Junior room - Janice's for the year. 

Another view of it. 
And no the house isn't this neat most of the time. We've just become really good at hiding stuff away the night before the property agent comes!


Ok so the story of the sale of the place. Its a long story, so get a cuppa and sit back:)

We actually had the place listed since May with the first agent. He was the guy Elvine's mum bought the place from, so she contacted him again to sell the place. He came in with his camera, took a few (not great) photos and listed it on the internet. Over the next few months, he had one, maybe two viewings. No offers, no indication of interest at all.

After his sole agency contract ended, I decided not to renew it because he didn't give me great vibes. Ok that was very generous of me, lets try again. I really didn't like him. He reminded me of the dad in Matilda, the movie (who was a dodgy used car salesman haha), and had very heavily accented English (someone told me he was Dutch). He couldn't take simple instructions, like, call me on my mobile instead of the landline, and when he couldn't get me on the landline, he would call/email Elvine's mum. Lets just say, I would have been really surprised if he had landed a sale. But his plus point was that his fees were really low at 3%, and since he took the photos himself, there was no charge.

Not renewing his contract proved to be a good move because we heard from other agents later that he really was a dodgy character (bad rep in the industry), and gave me the chance to explore other agents, who ultimately sold my property. As if to further drive home the point, he continued to text /call /leave me messages asking me to buy other properties. Like uh, I was selling the property because we were leaving Hobart, why would I want to buy another! It was a mass message to his database, but he took pains to personalise each message with a name, only in my case, he continued to refer to me as my mother in law's name despite me telling him countless times that this was my number not hers. HAIX.

Ok so moving on to the main point!

When I was taking the sewing classes, I asked one of my lovely classmates who was an accountant with a property agency to recommend an agent. She recommended one of her friends, lets call her P. P had been an agent for more than 20 years, and you could definitely tell by her demeanor. The first time she came to our place, I had just woken up haha so I was wearing my robe, and the house was still messy from the night before. She basically just shot her mouth off, ie get a cleaner, or else. And when you're done tidying, we'll bring in the Interior Decorator and professional photographer (I told her Elvine could take photos but she was like, no. we need a professional.. these photos by Elvine are really not too bad right? She shot them down /boo)

In addition, she left me her pack with her rates/fees. Almost $3k in marketing fees to list the property in the local newspaper, websites etc. And.. her agent fees of 3.8% plus 10% of that (so 0.38%) for GST. She said that was not negotiable, and it was a Tasmanian scale that she abides by for all clients.

So all the fees, along with the professional cleaning, photography etc, added up to alot. And this was all before she even started selling! But I had a gut feel about her, though I didn't like that she was slightly rude to me and kinda dissed my housewifey skills in cleaning, she had an air of confidence and just.. zai-ness that I trusted.


At the same time, we received a flyer from another agent, L (from yet another company) who said she had just sold a unit in our property and would like to help us sell ours. No harm meeting yet another, Elvine said, so I got her to come to our place one morning. Now L was very pleasant, ex teacher, been an agent for 6 years.. but when I asked her things like, which other units are for sale here, she stammered abit and was basically just trying to smoke me. P had told me not only which other units ours was up against, but the prices they were going for, then she advised us on the price to list it. L showed us the same rate scale P had showed us, but immediately offered to give a discount, so her rate was 3%, same as agent 1.

We were now in a dilemma, agents all like having sole agency for a 3 month period, by now it was October and we were leaving in Jan so we only had one chance and had to pick the right one. P was obviously my first choice but with all the fees and her higher agent fees, we would incur a loss on the property if we didn't manage to sell it above the list price (never happens). L had the better rate and was pleasant to deal with, but she didn't give me the confidence.

In the end, Elvine picked L but we put conditions like 2 months instead of 3 that sorta thing, so that if she didn't manage to sell in the 2 months, we could go with P for the last shot.

But.. the day before signing L's contract, P suddenly called me to say she was bringing clients to another unit next door and would I like her to just show them our unit too? Since shunbian. I was like sure, why not! So I texted L to say we would like to hold off the contract signing.

Now this other unit for sale with P is only 3 doors down, has a better view, and 2 carpark lots instead of 1 (the owner purchased it from management, and carpark lots are worth about $50K). Their list price was less than $50K more than ours, so..you do the math. But working against them, was the fact that it was tenanted to 3 girls who haven't left the place in the best condition.

Those clients actually offered the very next day, and P called us to tell us the news. But their offer was ridiculously low (almost 10-20% below market rate) so we knew they were just trying their luck. In the meantime, Elvine decided to tell P, that you know hey we like you, but your rates are just too high for us, other agents are all offering 3%. So she had a think, and said, ok I'm happy to match theirs!! HOORAY!! Best of both worlds! But even then we didn't sign a contract haha.

Over the next 2 weeks, everytime P showed clients the other unit, she would bring them to ours. She also partnered with a colleague, S, and everytime he showed his clients the other unit, he would bring them to ours too. So without a contract with either of them, they had brought at least 4 to 5 groups of people to our place!

One fine day, I remember it was a Friday morning, she called me to say that she had an offer. I asked her how much it was (because if it was ridiculous like the last time, I didn't want to waste my time) but she refused to tell me and instead said I had to get Elvine to her office right away. I'm abit scared of her remember? So I didn't argue/insist and instead told her meekly that Elvine was probably in theatre and couldn't pick up his phone so could we come over after work instead. She said she had an appointment at 6 but "I'd have to reschedule that because this is more important" erm..ok..
Elvine finally had a moment to call her, and told her he would go down right after work, but the earliest was 5.30pm.

My parents were here during that period (they take alot of credit for the sale because my dad helped to clean the windows hahaha my mum likes to say this is the first time in 30 years she's seen him clean windows), and I remember we had driven down south to eat sushi where there was poor reception. On the way in to Hobart, Elvine called to say quick come home, he had ended work and was waiting for the car to drive down to P's office. That was the first time I encountered traffic in Hobart.

Elvine went in first while I went to park since we were late. When I arrived, P, S, and Elvine were in a room, and P quickly explained to me that Elvine had just signed the agency contract (haha finally) at the very very good rate of 3% including GST. (Really?? I wanted to say but thankfully I had the wisdom to shut my mouth!)

On the table were 3 sealed envelopes. P started by saying.. that this is what they call a 'Golden Goose' in property retail. She can't remember the last time she received 3 offers in one single morning! WHAT?? From no offers for half a year to 3 offers in one morning??

And she explained that under Tasmanian law, if we get one offer, we can negotiate with the client. If we get 2, we will know both sides and can negotiate with both sides. But if we get 3 and above, we enter into something like a silent auction. Each party will put their absolute highest offer, sign a document that says that they understand the multiple offer ruling, and seal it in an envelope. Then we have to choose one to say ok to, no negotiation, and the rest will be rejected.

So we now had the multiple offer situation. 3 envelopes in front of us. 1 was P's, 2 were S's.
They opened each envelope in the most dramatic fashion, as if they were about to tell us how much we won in the lottery!
First offer was P's client, not bad, matched what we listed it for, but had some conditions to settle (ie finance approval sort of thing). By now, both Elvine and I were grinning from ear to ear. Thank you Lord! I would have accepted happily if that was the only one but nope, it gets better, I sit back in my chair.
2nd offer was S's fist client, only $1K less than the first offer, but no conditions, immediate cash payment. Woah tempting.
3rd offer was S's second client, the most out of 3 offers, but also conditional on finance.

It was between offer 2 & 3, so they told us briefly that #2 was an elderly couple who wanted to sell their big house and move to the city, understandable, since our place was near the hospital and was smaller and easier to manage.
#3 was a young couple who own a 'successful restaurant' by the wharf and want a place near enough to walk home from the restaurant after dark. Also a very good reason. The reason we were told the restaurant was doing well was so we had confidence their finance would be approved.

Then we were left in the little room to discuss and tell him which offer we chose.

S had been hardselling the 3rd couple "I had a talk with him just before this and he is very confident the finance will approve etc" so we bit down hard and said ok we'll go with the highest offer.

Very happy, shook hands on the offer, and he proceeded to tear up the 2 rejected offers. Told you it was all very theatrical.

Then he told us that the restaurant was XXX, I could see Elvine's face drop too, because we had just dined there and hated it (I ermmm quickly came home and retracted my negative blog post hahahahhhaha so childish), and that "between you and me, you have unit XX (the other unit for sale) to thank for the sale". Ok la since its supposedly secret (though I'm sure he was just being dramatic, and I'm sure P would already have told the owners that see, you didn't sell because you didn't cleanup as I told you to) I won't say too much, but its along the lines of the contrast between the cleanliness of our place vs theirs.. Sad for their misfortune because they still haven't sold their place but really really thankful we managed to sell ours! Can only be God's grace!

Finance actually ran into some problems, but P told me it was normal over the Christmas break, "I wouldn't worry about it" but it finally got approved which is why I'm talking about it:) We are really so so so blessed. From not being able to sell, to having 3 offers that matched our list price! And.. the best part, no marketing spend, and lowest agent fees ever! I was feeling abit bad coz the agents really earned very little from our place (almost 1% less!) but it was very little extra work to them, it wasn't really meant to be their unit to sell in the first place and they made an extra sale before Christmas, which is always a nice way to end off the year.

As for the low agent fees, after leaving the office, I asked Elvine how come it was 3% agent fees including GST and he chuckled and told me the story of how it went down:

P: So the fees, as we spoke, is 3% plus GST. (this is actually what we all understood to be the case)
Elv: Plus GST? *raised eyebrow*
long pause
long awkward pause
P: Ok fine 3% including GST.
Elv: (calmly) right thanks.

If you know Elvine, this is completely out of character for him! First he shocked me by actually 'bargaining' about the rate with her, then he pulled off this stunt to again lower the rate further? Just goes to show how bold you can be when theres nothing to lose! Getting so cheeky ah this husband!

So after taking away the fees and legal fees etc, we managed to just breakeven, which is considered very good for Hobart I think! I guess that could be why people here don't feel the need to buy houses.. though it isn't expensive because prices never really go up! Property prices in SG may be exorbitant, but at least you can treat it as kind of a long term investment, because even if you don't profit on it, it'll still be more worthwhile than paying rent. So lets try to see the positive aspects of it!


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Inspired by this buzzfeed list of questions Indians are sick of answering (its super hilarious btw, if you haven't read it you must check it out), I have compiled a list of things Tasmanians have said to us with regards to our motherland.

1) Oh Singapore. Is that the capital of China?

2) I was just there 5 years ago! We loved Raffles Hotel, have you visited Raffles Hotel? You MUST visit Raffles Hotel.
(umm yea, I had my wedding reception there. But I don't tell them that because I don't feel enough for Raffles Hotel to have a discussion about it)

3) And that little island? We loved it! I can't remember the name but it was so lovely.
(They're referring to Sentosa btw)

4) Your.. English.. is.. so.. good! Or, so you're in Australia to learn English?
(Which is funny, because I have watched many many seasons of Beauty and the Geek Australia, and I now know one new country that I don't want to learn English from. Yes 5 seasons of 8-10 girls each is a good sample size)

5) Do you have tall buildings there?
(HAHA coming from the city where the tallest building is all of 19 storeys high. The next one is 14 storeys high.)

6) I love Singapore! You have the best airport!
(ie they've never stepped out of the airport)

7) Oh I heard chewing gum is banned over there!
(yes get over it already. same to canning etc)

8) Is it like Bali?
(The people here love Bali like its part of Australia. I read a satire article on the Onion about how the Indonesian government threatened to shut Bali to get Australians to comply hahah)

To be honest, at least a majority of Australians have heard of Singapore and even traveled through Singapore while on their way to visit relatives in Britain. If we were living in America, I'm sure this list would have been twice as long and pistol-to-the-head worthy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 in pictures

Haven't done one of these in a while so I thought I'd recap briefly from 2009, which is about the time I stopped updating properly before reviving the blog this year:)

So 2009 saw me graduate from SMU after a fabulous second last term on exchange in Dublin, Ireland. Joined Yahoo! while in my final term of school but decided that market research wasn't for me and left shortly after. My heart was still in marketing but I decided I wanted a 'break' before re-joining the 'big bad corporate world'. My "break" came in the form of an opportunity with Wing Tai's fashion wing, which I joined in March 2010 under a partnership program with Spring Singapore. Complicated arrangement, but it basically meant I had a training stint with Wing Tai instead of a full fledged employee contract since I had no fashion experience/education. That sat well with me, since I never intended it to be a long term career. Well guess what, 3 years on I am still well and truly an employee!


When they say you need passion to survive in the fashion industry, they really mean it. While I wouldn't say I have suffered (in any way), I did have to learn to be content with much less (financially). I was constantly fighting an internal battle and having to defend my choice of chasing happiness over a 'real' career. It was particularly sobering that peers from Uni, who unlike me, had been busy climbing the corporate (and financial) ladder were purchasing their own cars or plonking down apartment downpayments, while I was still struggling to even save any of my salary.


Working in retail also meant I had minimal leave, and plenty of restrictions, eg black out periods over the festives or season launches or sale periods. In August 2011, after plenty of missed budget airline promotions because I could never confirm my availability, Jean finally got irritated enough and went ahead to book our family a holiday trip to New Zealand. "If you can't make it we'll just forfeit your ticket", she said. Thankfully my leave was approved just in time and off we went for our first family holiday in a really, really long time.

Elvine flew half a day from Tassie to NZ (total transit time doubling total travel time, thanks airline schedules) to surprise me, and yes, proposed :) It was a long time coming so I was obviously overjoyed.

But my excitement was short-lived, the start of wedding planning was also the start of possibly my most trying year yet. People often say the year they got married was the best year of their lives.. but I did get married on the 9th last day of the year, which meant I spent the other 356 days stressing over wedding plans, so no I don't look back on 2012 quite so positively. 2012 was also the year Elvine earned his wings, or rather his "Dr." title, but he missed his graduation ceremony because it was delayed to 3 days before the wedding. Well I'm glad wedding>>graduation ceremony in his books!


Enter 2013, after a really, really, really short getaway to Bali on boxing day 2012 (also termed "the honeymoon" but according to only Elvine), I joined him here in Tassie, where he started on his internship. It has been an amazing year by any measure, and I can only say that

1) We have been so blessed
2) A right attitude makes all the difference
3) God really does know better:)



1. Our "honeymoon" at Bvlgari Bali. I'm not trying to be a spoilt brat and denying it was a honeymoon so I can have a proper one *cough*or maybe I am *cough*, but really, it was all of 3D2N long and was really for us to getaway from Singapore and everyone after our really stressful wedding. This was the 3rd day and we still look incredibly tired so it wasn't even a restful holiday, are you sure you still wanna call this a honeymoon?



2. Ushered in the New Year at Elaine's.. because she was too heavily pregnant to go out! Baby Luke arrived the very next day :)

Then Elvine went back to start work on the 7th, while I finished up my last month of work.



3. Aihui's wedding on the 2 & 3rd of Feb! This was one of the reasons I delayed going over to Australia. Right after her wedding banquet, my dad picked me to send me to the airport! But before that.. he made a detour to the hospital, because my mum admitted herself (again) due to suspected stroke. I won't talk much about it because it'll be a grandmother story, but not to worry, my mum just happens to be one of those aunties who reads too many chain mails and self-diagnosed her stroke. It wasn't. Again. Not that I ever wish it upon her but you know the story of the boy who cried wolf? That's a really sad story. just saying.




4. Sydney in March 
My depression/anger/boredom etc have all been well documented on this blog, but so has Elvine's patience and love. In the first half of the year, everytime I started to go abit mad, he would book us a weekend trip to Melbourne or Sydney. aww:)



5. Flew home mid march to attend Toni's wedding



6. And stayed on for Bethany's church camp in Malaysia


7. Melbourne and NZ over Easter break


8. Catered for a Pastor's breakfast - I don't know where all this false courage comes from sometimes!


9. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally began to see Tassie for the beautiful natural land she is, instead of constantly comparing her to other state capitals. Each weekend we'd explore a new place or eat at a new restaurant. This was taken at a shot tower. In a way, blogging helped, because its a two way thing. I blogged so that I had something to do, but to have content to blog about, I had to go out to do something.



10. Everyone here seems to at least have a little herb garden, so I decided I wanted one too. Unfortunately it was a bad investment (planter boxes are so expensive!) because I don't have green fingers so the only resilient plant that could withstand days of forgotten watering was the spring onion.



11. After resisting for as long as I could, I finally started going on walks - its kinda like a national past-time. Everyone (or every fit person anyway) seems to love bushwalking, hiking or camping. I mostly did easy ones, but quite enjoyed this Mount Wellington one because it was snowing!


12. Trip home for Wallace + Liz's wedding


13. We got to travel abit too! Oh Bangkok I have missed you so. 



14. Tokyo was a trip almost 7 years in the making. I'm so glad I finally made it there, and it exceeded expectations in so many ways. Above, possibly the most epic meal in my life! (its in part 2) 



15. Back in Hobart, knowing we were down to our last days, we started going to just about every single event that was happening. Some were cool, like the Royal Hobart show where I got to pet alpacas, some were ok, like the Beer Fest, and some were plain odd, like the sustainable living fair. We spent our time avoiding green advocates. I'm sorry, I really love my aluminium foil.



16. And even more 'rural' activities - plucked lemons at a friends' house, and picked berries at a fruit farm!


17. Made some good friends along the way, and yes this is more proof that I did some walking in my time here.


18. Speaking of friends, we had a housemate this year! Lots of people were not fans of that idea, but I think it worked out pretty well. At the very least, when Elvine was spending long hours at work, I had company at home. Thanks Janice:)



19. We had no lack of visitors, the Neokims visited us in April, my parents visited first in July, then again with Jean in Nov, and we had some friends' visits sprinkled throughout the year.



20. Because my birthday is special, I had 2 cakes:) Once an early celebration with my folks, and then again with the bible study.


21. Attended Dave & Beth's wedding




22. Because there is a first for everything, Christmas lunch was Mcdonalds on a mountain (everywhere except Macs was closed!) Then we hosted a Christmas party for the lonely hearts, but had overflowing warmth from everyone who came instead:)



23. And finally, because instagram can't be wrong, 3 out of my top 5 'liked' posts have to do with my sewing, so I guess my biggest achievement for 2013 has been learning to sew! I have a final post on school to come, but here's the very first one!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Anniversary to us!

I actually prepared this post for weeks, but somehow still managed to only complete it past our actual anniversary date. I can only say that I wish I could write/articulate my thoughts better. I've rewritten this post a couple of times but its still doesn't accurately convey my current emotions/feelings. Ohwells this is my best shot.

This picture set is from a random afternoon lunch at Frogmore Creek Wineries. We love the good food there, but the view is what keeps us going back. This afternoon, after lunch, we decided to laze around on the vineyard fields for abit before heading home. The sun was really glaring so I was squinting when he was taking my picture, but he only understood what a challenge it was when he lay down on the grass too. In the subsequent photos, we would shield our faces with our hand before uncovering right before the timer goes! I was probably significantly more successful than he was heehee:) 


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We have been married for a whole year now and my time in Hobart is coming to an end. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that the year started out rocky for me - I was depressed and upset at having been plucked out of my comfort zone that was Singapore And a job I loved. But the moment I opened my heart to embrace change, that's when my life did a 360, and I can proudly say now, that this has been the best year of my life.

But even without Hobart, even without all the holidays and the newfound freedom of living alone (ie away from parents), I'm pretty sure this would still have been a kickass year, and that is only because I married the most perfect man for me.



Elvine is the sweetest guy I've ever met in my life (though when I say it now I can only recall our super cringey wedding video), but I truly mean it! And I wholeheartedly believe that getting married has been the best decision of my life.

Having been together with him for more than 7 years at the time we got married, I really didn't expect to learn anything more about him. But oh boy did he continue to (pleasantly) surprise me.

On top of being the sole breadwinner, he helps me with housework and cooking, he takes care of family matters such as renovations and bills, and he listens to my whining patiently. Its embarrassingly obvious who has fulfilled their duty of husband/wife better.



I've always known he was generous, caring and kind to everyone and not just me, but I've learnt this year that his niceness really has no limits. Even when he is tired after a 12h day at work, he would come home and make polite small talk with my friend And send her home after, when all he probably wanted was to just go straight to bed and crash.

When I'm in the shower he would come in and help me hang up my towel on the hook next to the shower glass door. I don't normally bother because the towel rack is only 1m away!

No matter how tired he is, if I'm hungry in the middle of the night he would get up to go make me supper.

Instead of whining that I should just learnt to swallow pills, he automatically goes out to crush 2 panadol tablets for me when I complain of a headache.

And 99% of the time, if we're both in bed, he would be the one to get up to go switch off the lights. When I was sharing a room with Jean when we were little, we fought over who should get the lights almost every single night so though it may seem like a small gesture, I really appreciate it. And really, when you're snug and warm in bed, who likes to walk in the cold again to get the lights! Every master bedroom should have a master switch next to the bed!



"I give up"

And to make me even more undeserving of all his goodness, I'm not even the easiest person to love. I'm mean and impatient, and when I'm not watching my tongue, I do say some pretty horrible things. (In my defense, most of the time I don't actually mean it but I do have a horrible way of phrasing things. Or what is humour to me could be something vile to others. And I... kinda bitch, alot.. but its more a bad habit or love of complaining than anything, I may not necessarily hate the thing/person but it obviously comes out that way since.. I'm bitching about it..)

So how does someone so sweet natured and polite put up with someone so rude? He teaches me by being even kinder.

me: tsk I reminded you just before leaving to bring the grocery bags how could you forget!
elv: haha sorry i also dunno how i managed to get distracted!
me: hey there are some empty boxes there go get one
elv: happily bounces off to go get one and returns with an empty box and smile on his face.
"so clever my wife!"

Just.. put an arrow through my heart already.




Sometimes on the drive home after having dinner with his friends, I reflect on my behaviour (when I get too comfortable with people I get carried away and say the wrong things) and when I'm pretty sure I said some things I shouldn't have, my heart beats super fast worried that he would reprimand me when we get home, but he never does (his reaction is almost always the opposite, eg "we had a great time huh!") and I breathe a huge sigh of relief and tell myself to be more careful the next time. So though he hardly ever tells me of my flaws, I'm pretty sure I'm slowly improving (at least in terms of speech) because of him. Maybe one fine day we can become the nicest couple around instead of... most disgusting hahhaha (ok you can go guess why I don't really want to write it here).


And though I am showering praise on him in this post, I'm actually more generous with my suannings, complainings and scoldings:(:(:( while he is the exact opposite:
Everytime I bake/cook something new, or make someone a card, or redecorate our house, or anything really, his responds with the most genuine "my wife so talented!!"

trying to 'levitate' rather unsuccessfully! 

My camera skills obviously suck


And as a final cherry on top (yes really theres more!), he surprised me by what he wrote in our special diary (I decided to start a tradition of writing our anniversary cards in a diary so we can keep everything together. Apart from the normal note/letter if we wish, we have to write down 3 things we are thankful for and 3 things we/the other person needs to work on). I really don't have much to complain about him (that would be purely ungrateful!) but I fully expected him to use this chance to point out 3 out of my gazillion flaws. Like I said, he surprised me. Instead of unleashing his pent up annoyance at me (which I'm sure he will insist doesn't exist), he instead wrote that we should:

1) read our bible together more (that's fair, I had it as one of mine too)

2) lead a healthier lifestyle ie more exercise (?!)

3) that I should be less afraid of spending money and trust him more with it (?!?!??!?!)

so 2 of my top 3 'flaws', according to him are that I don't exercise and that I'm thrifty?!?!


Really! What did I do to deserve someone like him?




I could really go on and on, but I will probably end here and really just thank God for his immense blessings, not just for me but for us.
All marriages are made in heaven, but I'm convinced God has a special eye on us:)

And with that, 1 year down, I look forward to another 69 years of marriage:)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tokyo (9-16 Sept 2013) Part 4: Harajuku and Asakusa

Finally the last part! You can click on the travels-japan label at the end of this post if you missed the last 3 posts!

As kids, when we first got our hands on a film camera then later a digital camera (all 1.3mega pixels of it), we would excitedly go around taking pictures of all the sights we saw. My mum would then say.. no kids you need to be in the photo otherwise it'll be like you bought a postcard (since pictures back then were all developed into print). Now we can take unlimited photos with high storage digi cams, but I think the habit stuck, everytime Elvine takes a picture of whatever attraction we're at, I'd go stand in front of his camera hahaha fhl. 


As an estimate, Elvine took 900 photos while I took about 400!! In these 4 posts, there are 150-200 photos in each one (this post has the most at 200+) and I took more than the whole length of our trip to finish my 4 posts! Whaaat? 



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Ok! Last 2 days of our trip: 

We moved to a hotel in Shibuya, if you ask me now, I'd say the only reason was for Elvine to go eat Ichiran ramen day and night. I can't even remember the name of the place, but I know we moved there so it'd be easier to go shopping (till late) in Shibuya. Though it looked really near to the main shopping belt/Shibuya station, the map doesn't tell you that it is also on a hill. My feet were already in pain before starting the day, that by the time I got back to the hotel at night I was ready to collapse by the roadside. (so dramatic but really. If I had watched this clip of Gabriela Anderson limping to the finish line in the 1984 olympics marathon before this I'd compare my pain to hers hahaha. Only her body was legit shutting down due to dehydration :( and she did run 42km while all I did was shop. In really bad shoes)




Trying to take photos against the cityscape but failing quite miserably. 


First stop, the train station where we tried to book some train tickets to Hakone the next day. The poor girl couldn't
speak a word of english and we couldn't speak any Jap as well, so a simple ticketing request took an hour:( And in the
end we didn't even go because the fast train "Romance Car" was canceled due to bad weather.

And no, the 'romance car' wasn't a high speed roller coaster! This was just some brochure we picked up at the office.



After that, breakfast! Ichiran ramen wasn't very hard to find, it was a 5min walk from Shibuya station.
See Elvine getting so excited about his ramen:




After purchasing your meal tickets, you can circe your ramen preference. eg slightly tough noodles, alot of garlic etc.
Seating was in individual booths.

I opted to add an egg and it came like that.. must peel it yourself haha. 

The dividers can actually be folded back.. but this elvine wanted to be antisocial!
Such that when he later did want to befriend me again I ignored him hahaha so childish! 

Elvine kept telling everyone that all you saw was the servers' crotches hahahaha so sad but true.
They would come, say something to you in Jap (all the time we can't see their faces), take your meal stubs and ramen
preference forms, then return very quickly with your meal and shut the blinds. So you now have a 3 way box haha. 

There is also a corresponding lighted button for each booth outside, so you'd know which booth inside wasn't taken.
Totally brings self service to a whole new level. 

Elvine's first ramen of the day.

It was super super super tasty, like you really couldn't have asked for a more satisfying bowl of ramen.
I don't even like noodles but I find myself craving this sometimes. All the raving reviews and recommendations
for this place have been well deserved. And despite the popularity, the prices remain similar to other ramen stores.

Because I needed a picture with Hachiko!
If you're wondering why my photog so weird chop off my legs at my ankles,
errrm actually I cropped the pic myself because my slippers very unglam!

Then we were off to Harajuku/Meiji Shrine!




The very pretty/cooling footpath to the shrine
Donated barrels of Sake





Ok before I start I first have to apologise (to whoever might feel upset) for being disrespectful to the place. See, shrines aren't really my thing, but I was happy to view it as a tourist attraction. Besides, the gardens were really pretty and the large spaces were a welcome respite in crowded Tokyo.
But, because of my shoe/foot problem, I had to swap them out for havaianas, which is possibly the worst footwear choice in a place of respect. Secondly.. there were few wedding ceremonies going on on that day which got me really excited! Which meant that I learnt nothing about the place because I got carried away looking at the bride/wedding party outfits etc. So yea, Meiji Shrine to me = weddings! oops!



Gah wrinkles begone!





Little wedding guests. Look at his blazer + shorts + high socks + trainers outfit!










Almost all the wedding guests had their hair/makeup professionally done!


I believe that hall is a ceremonial hall (or at least a hall of importance) because the brides would walk out from there
towards the shrine (I think?!) before going to another area for a family photo. 






Tourists were barricaded at this point, but Elvine zoomzoom his lens to be secondary wedding photographer haha. 


yes another slippers photo that I chopped off.
Elvine always says cannot chop the photo at the joints but this photo was
chopped at my calves but it still looks odd. 

Super hot and sweaty, can you tell?




I was walking around reading the wishes.. and realised that almost every chinese girl wished for a good man to marry!
HAHAHA is that the life goal of a chinese girl? Thats why I don't need my own plague la, my wish already came true!



HAHAHAH this elvine go and stand beside the wedding photographer
and snap photos of the bride also. The bride must've been like
urgh stupid tourists I'm not a car model ok! 

She had to look at him coyly haha I also felt shy for her.. so many eyes staring at them! 

Be rich, be a taitai. Great life goals my fellow women! What happened to feminism?! 

They'd pray then clap their hands a couple of times. 



We also paid a little bit to go into this little garden reserve. Ummmm waste money? 

I'm just making this up but maybe someone important used to live in this little house and the surrounding garden was
his private garden? But the highlight of the place, ie the house, was not for viewing! cheh! 

Beside the lake there were these little raccoons that came out to play.. and suddenly all the tourists shifted their
cameras to them haha. (they're raccoons.. right? I'm so bad at naming wild animals)


All the little japanese ladies were fussing to each other but I couldn't ask them whether these were raccoons haha.



How cute are the pill-like shrubs!




Then we headed opposite to the Harajuku/Omotosando area. Harajuku is the teens street style shopping area and Omotosando Hills is more upmarket with branded shopping malls.

First stop, a cold drink!

Here I'm trying to take picture outside the service door but I know you're
too distracted by my weird face/eyes. I don't know whassup with it also!
I asked elvine and he said it looked normal? Ah? I have crazy eyes! 

Anyway whatever try not to look anymore. I'm showing you how small the
door is! Actually the whole cafe/drinks stand was so narrow its like a natural
deterrent for fat staff!

See the outside door is already smaller than regular doors,
but the service door is almost half the size of it! 


A nice new mall we came across with a super nice rooftop garden!





Jap display is number 1 seriously. This was a store in store concept. 


Candy coloured luggages - looks good enough to be eaten! If it wasn't sooo expensive I would have bought one!

HAHAHA this was hilarious. We walked past this lingerie shop which had a augmented reality TV outside. 

It could tell that I was a girl and would put lingerie on me. Elvine would have little speech bubbles above his head.

And thumbs up or heart emoticons. 

BUT THE BEST OF ALL! Heart shapes on his eyes and a 'so cute' caption! 
My hair was tied up and I was wearing a pinafore dress (equals I have no curves) so I don't know how the machine could tell I was a girl! John says it uses facial recognition features hmm. lemme put lynntan in front of it hahah.


The super nice roof top garden! 

They had machines blowing out this cool mist.

We wanted to get Starbucks like the rest of them but the queue was too long.
So we sat there to enjoy the cool breeze for abit before continuing. 


These are sloths. Right? 


SO CUTE (and ugly!) 



Super popular cafe



with a queue that went on forever. If I have time on my next trip I also want to queue! Queues are good, right!

This was a queue to buy a bracelet?!

Hahaha I also want ridiculous adidas shoes!





I brought Elvine into a few 'cool' stores like Supreme, Neighborhood etc but he hated them hahaha.
but the stores were honestly quite crude and very.. black street style. as in like hiphop not.. the colour. 






Takeshita street - I was literally bursting with excitement when we got there
because... I wanted to see cosplayers! But we didn't see a single one?!
What?!?! Feel super cheated :( 



We saw some mascots though. But no cosplayers :(:(:(
After that it was just way too crowded for us to take anymore so we headed off.

Using google maps, I insisted on walking thru some back alley. He was very annoyed with me and basically being
super untrusting of google maps haha but his annoyance subsided when he spotted this Hasselblad store!
"Its Hasselblad!" "umm.. so?" "Its Hasselblad its like the rolls royce of cameras!!!!" "oh.. okay" Moving on. 

And yes, ramen for lunch. 
He had read online recommendations for this place but it was so-so only la. 

Elvine's #2 ramen bowl for the day.

Then it was Shibuya for shopping!! We walked underground so this is the basement entrance to 109. 

I decided I wanted to do selfies with the 109 logo in it but..... we failed so terribly!
"Eh you never look in the camera!"

"Your head is blocking the sign!"

Haha fail on a new level.

I was telling him to move his head when the camera snapped

Now we not only don't have the logo, we also look like unfamiliar friends who stand at a distance.

We finally moved all the way to beside the sign hahaha this photographer totally angle fail lah.
I was still not happy with this but we were so hot and sticky so he walked off and refused to entertain me anymore:(

Once in Shibuya he realised it was all girls stuff so he left me and went across the road to the coffee shop hahaha.
#longsufferinghusband

Actually not really my kind of fashion la so I only went to the bra store Jenn said I "HAD TO" check out.
It turned out to be a whole store of erm.. lacy stuff which is really not my kinda thing la! But I had brought one
set of clothes too little (because we changed mid day on one day) so I had to buy a set. It took so long because
of the language barrier and I wanted something lace-less in a store drowned in lace (and their sizing was
completely off from my normal so I bought 3 sizes up in the end?!)


Men's is in another building







Fake flowers in francfranc. I really hope the singapore branch has some because I wanna get some for our home!

Some street parade which we're guessing is in celebration of Tokyo's 2020 bid!



Yuwen said I'd shop at F21 but I was all.. huh Singapore also got why go Japan to buy F21? But I really did buy
a bunch of stuff from there. On two days haha!

Wanted a picture with the busy shibuya crossing but fail until...
Looks familiar? Its Ippudo Ramen, only in Japan its nothing like the atas ramen store we have a Mandarin Gallery.. 

We went to the Ebisu Garden place branch because it looked to be the nearest branch from where we were (Shibuya). I don't know if we should have walked directly or taken a bus, but we walked to Shibuya station to take one stop down to Ebisu Garden station, then walked about 15mins from the station.

Now when no one recommends Ippudo in Japan, there really is a reason. Because they've somehow taken the franchise and improved it so much that it hardly resembles the original. No fancy side dishes, no queues, just a simple menu with a few ramen choices.










Gyoza was good though! I think the Chinese must be beating themselves up. 

First they invent la mien, then the japanese take it away and perfect it as ramen. 

Then they make jiao zi, and the japanese take it away and call it gyoza. 

Even xiaolongbaos, which is a Shanghainese delicacy, is much nicer over in Ding Tai Fung Taiwan!
Thats what happens when you don't put 100% pride in your work. 
Do you know even Kiwi fruit is from China? 





And tada Ramen #3 of the day for him. 

Still trying to find Supa Panda candy! 


Final day, we woke up bright and early to catch our train to Hakone. 
It was pouring but we were like *whatever it can rain in Tokyo but we're going to spend the day in Hakone! 

Then... lightning struck (literally), our fast train got cancelled due to the typhoon. Typhoon?!?! 

They very efficiently refunded us our tickets so we spent some time around Shinjuku (where the train station was) before heading to Asakusa. 

from ig. I've had this trusty polka dot umbrella since a London trip a while back, and its served me really well!
But..  while at asakusa, I realised I was still getting wet and found to my horror, a hole in the roof :(
So I had to replace it with a transparent one, which is a story for later. 

Lots of beauty salons at train station basements. 

The price lists had 2 prices, which we guessed to be makeup/updos and makeup lessons.
This elvine kept asking me go for makeup lessons =_= my makeup got so terrible meh?
Their version of Soup spoon, only classier and pricier haha.
We had some corn soup here - have you been to angus house at Taka? Tastes abit like that! 

After we painfully got to Asakusa (some train stations weren't connected and we had
to walk above ground!) we realised the tourist tours were cancelled!! gah typhoon!!

In the visitor centre

The shopping street which leads up to the shrine /temple (sorry I don't know the difference!)

Couldn't visit Skytree also because.. wheres the fun in looking at fog?

Still insist my makeup doesn't need help ok! (though I look kinda odd here!)
Oh! This was the full outfit I bought from Japan!
Top from GU, shorts from F21, undergarments from Peach John wtf






Food to fill our tummies first! 

An excolleague recommended this tempura place (but at the harajuku branch). We didn't find it there, but
when we came across the chain store at Asakusa we decided to go in.
But we should have just gone with our gut feel and left as soon as the tour group came in:( 

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't mind-blowing. We've heard of super super good tempura places eg the Michelin starred
Tenichi which offer life-changing tempura so this was pretty disappointing :( 


Should have just tried the giant prawns from the takeaway counter! 

Ok back to the tourist trap street! Thats my replacement brolly.








I feel bad for taking pics of the uncle like that but really?!? 

If there weren't the guys walking past in my pic above, you'll see his wife who was quite the poser! 




On the one hand, people were paying for these paper wishes - They'd shake the can and find the corresponding
drawer with the chopstick that was shaken out. Then they'd tie the paper (which had some good luck stuff on it)
on this rail above. And on the other hand, the workers would come and just slide all the knotted paper down into
their cartons to be taken away to burn. I guess people believe what they want to believe especially when it comes to
religion, but I can only see a money making venture right there. 


There was this smoking pit in front of the temple, and people were waving the smoke into their hair.
This was pretty interesting to me because.. from where I come from, girls/women run away from BBQ smoke.
Sorry I think I'm being disrespectful again!






Haha er not nice :( Still don't know what I ate either. 

Had matcha ice at a random dessert cafe. I picked it out from a window
display of fake foods! It tasted like flavoured sugar syrup.

He really, like really wanted to try puffer fish! 

Hey there scary fish!

But we decided against it in the end because the restaurant looked dodgy!
I know licenses for puffer fish chefs are very strict but we were in this rather dodgy alley!


Another beauty salon offering makeup lessons!

I think this was the Taka food hall.


You know the Mr Bean pancake thing we have? This was similar except instead of soybean, it was matcha batter,
and the filling was a red bean macaron! 


Unfortunately it didn't taste very good sigh. 

This green tea biscuit tasted sooo good though! We got a box of 12 for 1500 yen ($23)?! Ridiculously expensive!
Have you had Hokkaido choc biscuits before? The blue and white packaging that people always buy as gifts?
This tasted like that with the white chocolate in the middle and melty biscuit on the outside! 


Think of the best chocolate eclair you've ever had. Now imagine what a matcha eclair would taste like.
It tastes better than your imagination. The japanese are genius! 

Couldn't sneak a good enough picture, but this was at one of the Taka top floors. (Taka has something crazy like 15
floors btw!) Anyway they specialise in selling fake roses, and it is so so so expensive but looks 10times nicer than
the most perfect real rose you've seen. You've really gotta see it to believe it. You can google Claude Quinquaud too!


Then it was an early dinner at Imahan (人形町今半)

Established in 1895, this is the go-to sukiyaki restaurant. We went to the Shinjuku Takashimaya branch, but there are plenty more branches. I'm abit confused as to which Imahan branches are the same, because there are plenty that use the Imahan name (same ancestor but developed as independent stores) but I guess these 12 should be.

This was a pretty interesting fact on their FAQ page:
During the Meiji period, Japanese people began cooking with beef and many cows were brought to the Tokyo market. However, many of these cows were not fit for consumption as they were often sick or old. The Japanese government owned a slaughterhouse in Imasato village (now, Shiba Shirokane, Minato ku, Tokyo) "Ima" means only uses the good beef from Imasato village and "han" is from Imahan's founder's name "Han taro".






The meal was really expensive - for an individual serving of sukiyaki or shabushabu beef its 4515 yen, for top quality its 6090 yen. I can't see it on the online menu, but I think there was an even more superior option for even more!! And you can also choose to add beef to your meal. There is a lunch menu which is slightly cheaper at 3990, and I'm sure you'll get the same thing so thats definitely the better option, we missed it by a short while.

Elvine doesn't like sweet sauce, though the restaurant is famous for sukiyaki, so he got the shabushabu instead. It basically came as a clear pot of water (we doubt its soup because it was so clear), but the ingredients made the soup tasty by the end of the meal, and the waitress served it up with some noodles.

Individual serve of premium beef






As you'd expect me to say - this was the best shabu shabu I've had in my life. Really lah. Though it was more the thin sliced fatty beef than anything, no secret! I think I can afford a 3990 yen lunch so I'll definitely be back, at least to try the sukiyaki!


Ningyocho Imahan
Times Square Bldg 14F (Shinjuku Takashimaya)
5-24-2 Sendagaya Shibuya-ku, Tokyo



Then it was back to Tokyu Hands to pick up more rubbish.. There is a 8 or 9 storey Tokyu Hands next to Taka.
Pictured above is a self ear digger - you can look at what you're digging hahaha.

We were at the right platform getting the train back to our hotel, but when this sleeper came along, Elvine thought
we were at the right platform and didn't get on! Turns out, this particular train happened to come from the outskirts
so it had more comfy seats that the rest.. aiyah could have had the best train ride ever, wasted! 

100 yen shop to buy more nonsense! 

All my shopping just.. hanging out on the windowsill.
I really really didn't think I'd buy anything at all! I knew stuff was expensive, and the fashion really wasn't my style,
so I expected to buy food but no clothes. OHwells. these things happen hahaha! 

Food! 
And even after all that, we managed to come home with just one shared luggage between us (medium sized Crumpler), and a longchamp travel bag! (you know those nylon ones that can fold up?)
See.. totally possible to travel light to/from Tokyo! Though I think I will listen to the old man (elvine's dad haha) and just bring a larger luggage next time!



By night, I started to get hungry, so Elvine went out to dabao food for me because... he wanted to eat his Ichiran Ramen, again. So he got me this sushi platter from Sushi zanmai! I think its called sushi zanmai, its a chain store and there was branch in Shibuya near our hotel. Pretty decent quality at fairly cheap prices! Surpisingly this was the first time I'd had salmon my whole trip! All the other sushi restaurants didn't serve salmon hahaha I think too non-atas for them!




And on the last morning, because it was raining, Elvine told me to stay in the hotel while he went down to Takashimaya to collect the beef he had ordered. His dad asked us to buy Kobe/Matsuzaka beef and a melon on our way back, so we'd been going to every food hall to look for the best beef we could find on our whole trip! Elvine decided he liked the one from Taka's food hall best, which was why we kept returning to Shinjuku.


Almost 5 minutes after he left the hotel, he sent me this pic:

Typhoon spoilt my umbrella!!!! Gah mad scary! But on one hand, really thankful that the weather was quite good (if not a little too hot) for our whole trip, it was only when we were leaving that the typhoon/rains started.

When we got back home, we read on the news that the typhoons were a little more serious than we had thought! Thank God for His protection!


So he da baoed lunch for me from Taka's food hall, a wagyu beef yakiniku don! So yummy! So maybe Taka's food hall is the best!
And because he walked through Shibuya to get back to our hotel, you can guess where he had his lunch?

Yup... Ichiran Ramen. We also bought back the ready made pack to try to recreate the experience at home.. Nope nowhere near!



When we got to the airport, we found that our flight was delayed yet again - they had previously sent a message/email to inform about the first delay.

Handwritten note! 

So we walked around the airport and bought too many 'souveniers' like Tokyo Banana and Hokkaido cookies, and a few packs of Kitkat etc. Its like a mobhouse at the DFS lor people buy by the cartons! And its not even cheap!!

See all the red carrier bags?


This is the Scoot queue for our flight.. every flight was delayed (for an indefinite time with little news) so you can imagine one tightly packed room with angry people :(

Our flight was finally given the go ahead (some others like Air Asiana continued to be delayed) so I guess.. good job Scoot?

Aiyah whatever the case I'm very thankful to Scoot for bringing me to Tokyo for the first time in my life! And at an extremely reasonable $171 for 2 people including taxes heeheee:)

Can't wait to go again!