there’s somethin in the water.

submerged.

At rest. 

neatly tucked away.

the ebb and flow of each wave, a passive current moving, warding away stagnancy. 

the velvet seabed moist and soft, so fine grains of sand moulded into mellow streaks, curving and winding uniformly with the water.

Tufts of dark green, red, brown puffs, dancing along, seaweed rocking to the rhythm of the gleaming water. 

Two purple tinged arms, mischievously peeking out from under a tangled bundle of green, its silhouette unclear, blurred by the ripples of the water.

There was a huge prod.

It shoved me a couple of inches, startling me from my rest. 

The seaweed I strategically rested under now lay in the wrong position, limp and flat.

There it was again!! Another prod, stronger, more curious this time.

A grip on my arm dragged me away from my little cove- I was suddenly and unpleasantly exposed. 

Was it poisonous? 

Does it bite? 

A cautious tug on the purple arm revealed the rest-the exotic blend of yellow colour and purple dots of its rough, star shaped body. 

How rare of an occurrence! How pretty a creature! Let’s pick it up.

I felt another grip, tighter around my body now.

I felt the pressure drop and the sensation of ascension.. I was cruelly lifted, up, up and out.

The air stung me, the wind hit me painfully, the sun burned, its unforgiving rays no longer softened by the water. Breathing was not an option.

I scooped myself in, conserving as much water as possible, desperately sucking on the nearest object that was remotely moist. I was running out of time.

My body was tossed and turned, and I was becoming deliriously dry. I was running out of time.

The tangled bundle of green looked especially empty without its inhabitant underneath.

Gently but firmly, three purple tinged arms tucked back underneath the seaweed, leaving two peeking mischievously out. Its silhouette began to blur once again with the ripples of the water.

*no starfish were harmed in the taking of this photo and the making of this blog post. She was returned back to her original hiding place, still alive and sucking after a few minutes of photo taking. Animal cruelty and removal from habitat is not recommended.

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Little India

Little India is the heart of Singapore’s Indian community. The concept is similar to Chinatown, except instead of your mainstream chinese restaurants and red paper lanterns, the streets are decorated with floral garlands, filled with traditional indian spice shops, and restaurants dishing out servings of aromatic curry and thosai.
I’d decided to make the walk down from Farrer Park train station to the next stop, Little India station, which was located towards the end of Serangoon Road.

It was a short-ish walk along the main road of Little India, and i’ll say it literally- at some point, I found myself in the middle of an intersection, dodging cars while walking on the road itself.

I arrived at a large corner of the intersection, where a medium coffee shop sat, complete with flimsy ceiling fans and red plastic chairs, and of course, filled with people (mostly Indian families and workers)

As I crept closer, I saw patrons hunched over eagerly, feeding off large, flat trays lined with pieces of light brown takeaway paper.

Every corner I glanced made me salivate, and the wafting aromas lured me in. Every tray held a different combination- half charred naan with chicken tikka, rice with fish curry, mutton curry, thosai with masala, chickpea curry, dahl, lentil curry, the list was as endless as the supply of authentic Northern Indian food this shop seems to be dishing out to the looooong line of people. It was too crowded in the shop, so I opted for a takeaway.

I eventually stumbled upon an outdoor sitting area which was loosely barricaded off with a thin plastic banner. There were heaps of Indian men and women sitting in there enjoying snacks and drinks however, and no one seemed to be stopping them- I didn’t see why I had to be stopped either.

Ducking under the tape and securing myself a seat, I happily tucked into a serve of naan and hot chickpea (gotta get those proteins) curry, garnering a few surprised (but not contemptuous) looks from the group of male Indians sitting around.

It didn’t matter that I couldn’t really understand the nice lady who took my order (language barrier) or read the menu properly, and it didn’t matter that I, a naive, yellow-faced Chinese ignorantly sat smack in the middle of what I now realise was most probably an all Indian-only zone (I cant be sure if it was an exclusive zone, but im pretty sure I had just broken the social norm they had going on there oops).

I enjoyed my curry and naan, thoroughly savouring and appreciating the warm flavours of this exotic culture in my mouth, letting it seep straight into my heart.

As I ventured further in, the scene began to bustle with even more life and activity.

It was noisy, it was crowded, it was humid, it was hot, but it was awesome. (Such a stark contrast from the still streets due to Chinese New Year)

Shops were open in full force left and right on each side of the road, particularly Indian grocers and spice shops.

People squeezed and shoved their way through the tiiiiny little pathway (behind the little concrete step that demarcated the asphalt road), bags of groceries hitting each other, sweaty shoulders brushing, a few grumpy looks and mouthfuls of “excuse me”s.

I stepped out of the flow of bodies along the cramped path and darted into a small shop lit only by sunlight spilling in from the entrance.

I immediately caught a whiff of a musty, earthy smell, boldy accentuated by Singapore’s good ol’ humidity and heat.

It was the smell of dried lentils, chickpeas, mhong dahl and nuts, the jumbled scent of tumeric, coriander powder, ragi, curry powders and chilli.

And as if the pathway wasnt cramped enough already, this store also managed to place rough sacks and plastic buckets of dried chilli, coriander seeds and herbs along its front entrance, which somehow managed to remain upright amidst the crowds, contents intact without a horrendous spillage.

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…so this was the beginning of every dahl, curry and tikka. The depth and body of flavour, the spicy hit all boils down to the harmonious melding of all these traditional Indian spices over a stove into a luscious, satisfying curry.

First came the spice shops, then the grocers where all sorts of tropical fruit and veg were sold

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then I stepped into flowerland- a stretch full of floral garland artists, standing at their stalls with chrysanthemum, rose, and about 10 other type of flowers that I can’t name, all segregated into separate containers like beads in a jewel box. It was refreshing to see such vibrant colour all in one place.

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Of course, there were also jewellery and textile shops, newspaper stands, postcard shops, Indian painting and statue shops- it was unstoppable.

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Feeling a little overwhelmed by the crowd again, i’d decided to try and find a nice cold drink. And I just walked, letting the suburb take me wherever.
…and it sure did.

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Perhaps not having enough cellular data for google maps navigation (I just walked and prayed for the best really), wasnt entirely bad, for it enabled me to saunter into  little back lanes, to see a whole different side of Little India.

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I turned a couple of corners here and there, not bothering to look at the street signs. By now I really just needed a cold drink, but no such luck- i’d found myself in the underbelly of little India. I sauntered through a seedy little alleyway where I seemed to be in the attention of many middle aged Indian men, having a midday drink in a crusty, claustrophobic pub.

I eventually wound up near racecourse road, where a corner of colour enveloped between two buildings caught my eye.

My throat was now scratching for a cold drink, and it was starting to drizzle- but my good friend Curiosity certainly didn’t let this one slide. I walked towards yet another back alley to be pleasantly rewarded with realistic wall murals, and a little bit of history about Racecourse Road.

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(in case you were wondering, Racecourse road gets its name from being an actual racing course, about 174 ago. In 1842, Racecouse road was home to a robust Indian commuity, and also the nerve of European social life in Singapore back then. On days where there were no horse races, the land doubled as a grazing pasture for cattle.)

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I exited the alleyway, and very thankfully arrived at Little India Arcade, where I knew the train station would be. There were more shops, stands and moveable shelves sprawled all along the court yard. People were everywhere.

As I walked along the main court, cheerful Indian music blasted loudly from speakers in every shop, warranting little dances from several tourists. Young Indian women inked intricate hennas on their female customers, and shopowners touted noisily for business.

It was crowded, it was somewhat mess.

But it was awesome.

Chinese Gardens

It was an overcast, muggy sort of Saturday afternoon. The sun was trying, its rays muffled, reduced to just a dull,warm sensation by light grey clouds. 

There wasn’t much to do; I was just idling around the heartlands, mindlessly browsing through the Chinese new year bazaars.

“What awesome weather for a walk,” as you’d hear quite a few Singaporeans comment, relieved to take a break from the usual beating hot sun.

And that’s exactly what happened. It was a spontaneous decision, and now a race against time to explore the Chinese Gardens before the sky begins to pour. 

Conveniently located 5 minutes away from the train station (literally Chinese Gardens on the east-west line), I was able to arrive at the gardens in half an hour flat from the heartland of Serangoon.

As the train, which travelled above ground along a sky track, ventured out to further east of the island, tall buildings became fewer, broader, and land became more abundant. 

By the time I’d arrived at Chinese Gardens station, I was standing in the middle of a spaciously large, green field. Feeling a little bit disorientated, I followed the sign and headed towards the gardens, thunder very softly clapping behind me.

The Chinese Garden is a precious, 13- hectare piece of land, filled with intricate replica of Chinese architecture from the Sung dynasty (960-1279AD). Cleverly  designed by Taiwanese architect, professor Yuen Che Yu, this peaceful place allows one to be utterly whisked away to the Sung dynasty times- that is, the little corners of high rise HDB (government) flats peeking out behind picturesque scenery serving as the only reminder of reality and the 21st century.

I was greeted at the entrance by a long, wooden bridge lined with bright red railings, connecting civilised land and the other side over a large body of water, where the gardens lay. 

(Now this bridge really resembled the one in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, where Chihiro crosses the bridge to the bathhouse. I also made the mistake of attempting to hold my breath while crossing the bridge as she did, and sputtering, gasping for air in front of the stall vendor selling drinks on the other side really wasn’t the best way to announce my arrival at the Chinese Gardens I tell ya)

I’d crossed the bridge into serenity. A 7 -storey pagoda stood  majestically in the middle of the garden, a standing emblem surrounded by lucious greenery.

 There was just something about this place that made your footsteps slow to a relaxing stroll, and your racing thoughts halt to a calm. 

I was slowly sucked in, feet carrying me further. Along my left was Ixora Land, also home to statues of the 8 great heros of ancient Chinese culture.

 I saluted Zheng He (郑和), navigator of the sea, whose wanderlust led to harmonious relationships between China and the West.

I observed Yue Fei (岳飞), loyally kneeled over in submission before the war, his mother burning words into the small of his back, a mark of courage on a soldier before his battle to come.

I smiled at MuLan (花木兰), the look of feminine determination and bravery in her eyes, her taut body disguised in bulky, masculine armour,  arms equipped with a sword that would lead her people to safety.

Behind me, the clouds were darkening, and thunder protested, a louder clap this time. The breeze blew a little bit stronger behind me now, rebelliously urging me further in its direction. 

I found myself wandering into an open door and into a courtyard of a wealthy, ancient Chinese teahouse. Its simple looking exterior was actually a maze on the inside; i’d crossed large holes in the walls into section after section, each showing me a different slice of Sung dynasty life- bonsais, plants, stone tables and chairs, ornaments.

I hadn’t realised how long it’d been since I had walked into the teahouse (was this how it was living in the past with little means of time keeping?) and it wasn’t until later that I came across what I assumed to be the main courtyard, holding a large pagoda suspended atop a stone waterfall. 

I could smell the wet scent of a threatening thunderstorm, and felt the first few dots of drizzle from the sky. Unwilling to submit to natural elements, I took cover under a little side shelter that over looked the languid courtyard, resting myself on a small seat. 

I watched as the clouds tinted the entire scene grey, powdered moisture beginning to fall thinly from the sky, leaving miniscule dark stains on the stone ground. 

From the safety of my little seat, I watched as photographers and cosplay models scuttled into shelter, annoyed at the disturbance of their outdoor shoot. 

Leaves rustled roughly in the background, huskily voicing the growing strength of the wind. The stone waterfall trickled rhythmically, it’s small, green bed of water rippling with drizzle from the rain. 

I absorbed tranquil in the cool air, savouring every rare moment of peace I had to myself. Every now and again a lone bird would chirp; a warning of the storm to come. The sombre scene was strangely splendid. 

I started awake, still perched on the little bench. The sky was angry now, turning darker with indignance. I was alone; everyone left to find escape from the oncoming storm. Feeling a tinge of sadness, I jumped onto my feet, finally deciding it was time to leave. 

Thick drops of rain began to pelt urgently as I tried to navigate my way out. The walls no longer worked to my favour, and the corridors became confusing. I moved as quickly as i could like a thief through the house, refusing to get drenched in rain.

I’d arrived at the mouth of the long wooden bridge lined with red railings again, only to find waterproof tarp and string covered across the mini fridge and stands of the small stall selling drinks. The vendor was busy slipping his arms into a plastic rain jacket.

I glanced over my shoulder for a last glimpse. Behind the tip of the 7 storey pagoda, a bolt of lightning flashed, boldly contorted. It was still beautiful.

Serotonin (not the neurotransmitter)

Serotonin (n.)- A phenolic amine neurotransmitter C10H12N2O that is a powerful vasoconstrictor and is found especially in the brain, blood serum and mucous membranes of mammals.

I’m surprised the dictionary definition lacks one of the most vital functions of Serotonin- a hormone used to regulate sleep, appetite + digestion, memory, and most importantly, MOOD.

It’s the happy hormones! (aside from the ones that you get after some hard core chest presses or HIIT cardio or something up in the gym, that’s another different story).

Pretty sure many of us (or at least I do, fo’ surree) need a HUGE jab of this hormone, at least for sleep and mood purposes anyway (something to whisk away the hanger and these massive Gucci eye bags on my face right about now).

Now before you click away thinking this is yet another Chemistry tutorial, please don’t, because this has nothing to do with Chemistry.

Serotonin is a biological hormone, but it IS also a pretty dang cool name for a hip, contemporary cafe tucked away neatly in the surburban streets of Burnley (subtly in Richmond, but it’s literally next to Burnley Station).

This cafe oozes molecules of chic and simple style, adorned with elegant indoor lighting and floral, plant-y centerpieces.

Yet it’s not just your typical minimalistic, Ikea catalogue look-the cafe also holds its own little quirks- tiled tessellations for walls, conical flasks and beakers for water and sugar storage, and my personal favourite- every table has its own specie of cacti nestled snugly in its own geometrical pot.

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After alighting the train and getting a little bit lost  (as with my sense of direction, i’m sorry Surina for making you walk under the blazing sun too), boy were we glad to finally step into Serotonin.

What made us even MORE glad was the fact that we were offered places at the cafe’s swing seats- the next defining feature aside from its menu.

That’s right, my two girlfriends and I were seated on large, gentle, wooden swings, suspended cleanly from the ceiling. We overlooked the street, facing a large open window that allowed natural elements to seep in. One could feel the nostalgia of outdoor childhood play, just minus the pinching, chafing feeling of a harsh rubber seat and the strange metallic smells of the playground chains.

And just like a little child on the swings, I was hit with a thrill- a thrill of finding something that belonged outside so organically and wittily placed indoors, complementing and somewhat revolutionising my cafe experience.

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Today we just ordered drinks- a gingerbread latte, a green bluice and a fruit bluice.

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I’d dare say Serotonin could be the only place in Melbourne where your coffee graces you with a smile that you unconciously give it on first glance.

The menu offers a wide variety of plant based dishes and drinks, all carefully crafted with wholesome, nutritious ingredients to leave your serotonin levels peakin’ and your intestines smiling (clean, unprocessed eating is always key).

Today’s bluice (a blended juice) for me was Green- complete with kale, banana, mint, granny smith (apples) and lemon, topped with slices of chia coated apple, large dessiccated coconut flakes, a hunk of lemon, and a velvety piece of raw kale.

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Chia-seed coated apple slices securely strung through a smoothie straw? HELL YEAH!
For all a smoothie mason jar/glass, this is actually a really good idea. Away with precarious floating of extra fruit and toppings on the surface of a painfully cramped little opening and goodbye messy spills all over the table before that perfect Instagram shot can be taken.

The only thing I wasn’t so sure about was the piece raw kale- was I meant to eat that? (ate it anyway)

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A mellow, cool wind caressed our faces like a new kabuki brush as we swung lightly, sipping on our beverages. The sunlight lit the cafe softly, exuding authentic summer vibes.

In the background, small chatter of affluent cafe visitors and sizzles from the kitchen window gently overlaid the whimsical zen soundtrack that played. Time seemed to slow to a calming speed as the swing I was perched on moved rhythmically in time with the light breeze.

People came in groups, pairs and singulars, relaxed with drink in hand, leisurely reading and holding casual conversations.  I couldn’t have asked for better company- basking in the unique atmosphere of this cafe in the presence of my two beloved gal pals, speaking about anything under the sun (after cute snapchats and photos) was the true highlight of my Serotonin experience (thank you for tolerating me and taking photos for this).

As far pricing goes, well, it is your typical Melbournian brunch place after all. Do be prepared to cut into your dollars a little bit, but hey, swing seats and nerdy decor!

Not a bad place to swing by for a dose of happy hormones.

Visit Serotonin at 52 Madden Grove, Burnley VIC 3121 😀

Oh yeah they were also filming an episode of Postcards, a travel/lifestyle (?) series on Channel 9. I believe that’s Shane Crawford there with his back to us.

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Sun shines Brighton the beach (a photostory)

So fine was this Thursday morning.

Waking up to the mellow glow of the rising sun, air soft, cool, and refreshing like a spritz of minty body mist.

…Aaand nope. That only lasted about 2 hours, and by 12pm I wasn’t sure if I was sitting on my chair or on the top wire rack of an active 250 degree oven.

I’d had enough. No more sweltering at home and complaining about the heat (and wishing we had some AC around here), I had to get out.

Now it comes to my attention that there has been incidents of human faeces tainting the pristine shores of many renowned Melbournian beaches, but trust me, when you’re suffocated by the pressing, tyrannic heat wave in a relatively poorly ventilated house, human faeces suddenly become the least of any concerns.

So off to Brighton beach my best friend and I set off for. What I really love about this beach are its clean sands, clear waters, cute beach houses, and candid blue skies. It’s about a 30 minute train ride from Richmond station (Sandringham line), and the train station (Brighton Beach) is literally on the beach (okay maybe its a road crossing away in reality, but one can smell the sea and feel the sand immediately).

Recommend/10! It’s less populated than the other city beaches! ;D

It was idyll. The sun shone strong, and the wind complemented his heat, cooling our skins down with her gentle sea breezes.
The sand was spotted with little specks and spicules of treasures from the sea-  oddly shaped pebbles weathered smooth by the water, seashells streaked with colourful, idiosyncratic marks and sticks of dried algae and coral, strewn lazily across the sand.

In the distance from our funky little picnic blanket makeshift (a disposable Christmas tablecloth- believe me, this was practicality at its best), people lazed, baking to a golden brown under the sun, and children darted energetically in and out of the water. We watched as the wind got a little too excited, uprooting a lady’s beach umbrella and taking it some distance away from its frazzled and rather shocked owner.

The water hugged the shore extra tightly today, each and every wave rolling boldly toward land before crashing vigorously, leaving our feet sinking in the crumbly sand, submerged in a mound of icy white sea foam.

There was not much to see, but heaps to observe- repetitive waves lapping the shore, incessantly collecting loose little pebbles and stringy seaweed,
skinny little sea birds leaving footprints across the firm, moistened sand,
fluffy clouds urged by the sea breeze, moving in slow motion across the blue sky. Families uniting, mothers and fathers overjoyed, trying to electronically document their children’s momentuous first dip in the sea.

My best friend and I usually never stop talking- yet we needn’t say anything today, the crisp, audacious sound of the water hitting the shore filled all silence.

Today was a breath of fresh air (very much in a literal sense), and there’s nothing better than basking in God’s amazing creation with quality company.

Massive thank you to my best friend for your company, for your laughs, snapchats, photos and many more! Happy 1 year and 1 month since the last time we’ve come to Brighton beach! (it’s like a mini anniversary in this 9 year and running friendship yes) There’s no one i’d rather share these awesome experiences with than you.

There’s enough description from me for today, now to some photos (and some aloe vera vasaline for my skin that’s the colour of a slice of burnt strawberry jam toast)