A Special Gift for a Special Friend

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For years, this great friend of ours has been faithfully sending us all her handmade gifts. And every of her gift was personalized to the most incredible level of craftsmanship. She spoils us with so much love that we look forward to every Christmas and birthday. There is always something unique, surprising and special. We love her so much but we have never given her anything handmade by us.

We chanced upon a Christmas stall by Starology (click to see her facebook) while shopping at PMQ last weekend. We instantly fell in love with Starology’s multi-dimensional light boxes. Just when we wanted to buy one of the “Galaxy Boxes” for our dear friend, Felicia said we could actually DIY the lightbox on the spot. At first, I was worried about the complexity of making one but the teacher convinced us that it was easy to make. So, Tracy and Elkan sat down to learn how to make the gifts.

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Assembling the parts required precision and good craftsmanship. The teacher (and our very own Master of Craft-cum-wife, Felicia) guided them along. It was a fun exercise and it took them slightly longer to complete the gifts. What a sense of satisfaction!

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Just hope our mysterious dear friend likes this little gift. May your dreams and love be as sparkling & lasting as the stars in the box. (Disclaimer: LED “Stars” last over 15,000 hours. Powerbank not included).

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For those who have no idea what to give to your special one, head down to Starology or FLorat (click the link) to make your own. (It takes less than 2 hours.) A handmade gift is more meaningful and special than those you buy in the store.

Seasons of Joyful Reunions

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As one age, time flies faster.
And we find ourselves keep saying this “Wow, another year has passed”. Yes, we are winding down to another unusual and dramatic year when World War III erupted quietly (trade & cyberspace), Neymar’s superb acting at the World Cup should have won him several awards at the Golden Globe, Singapore’s very very old nemesis returned with his former nemesis, cash notes fell from the sky in Hong Kong, bitcoin crashed, 50% of Avengers vapourised and a horde of infamous people mysteriously disappeared and reappeared in the land of the dragon. So just before we say “another year has passed”, I say, this isn’t just “another year”. In fact, it has been quite a strange year not just for the Crazy Rich Asians but also for the bromance between Rocket Boy and Dotard too. 

Finally, this crazy year is winding down. November and December are my favorite months of the year. There is always something lovely in the air and the cooling weather brings out the best in people. Streets are decorated with colorful Christmas lightings and every dimension filled with delightful jingles. I see more smiles and happy photos on social media. It is no doubt the Season of Love and the Season of Joyful Reunions. 

I had many wonderful reunions with my family and friends over the past 6 weeks. I was in Singapore early November to pay an overdue respect to my late beloved cousin Yei who passed away in Tokyo suddenly late September. There wasn’t any sadness or tears, just our joyful, deepest last respect to Yei who loved and enjoyed life to the fullest. And we were all so happy to see Qian again after almost a decade. 

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It was a very tight hectic 4-day work/personal trip (with Harshad and CP) to Singapore. I managed to meet up with all my old friends and relatives. Thanks to my childhood buddy, Joakim who spent a lot of time and effort to help organize a primary school reunion dinner. There were friends (Weifen, Shanbin, Huili) whom I haven’t met in person for over a decade! Just for all these friends, I have decided to re-activate my old Whatsapp account. (Yes, you heard it, I am finally back into Whatsapp after banning it for more than 7 years!). 

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I will never leave Singapore without meeting my closest Wahbiang Clan friends and dearest family. It was at the family dining dinner (Confession: I arrived at the family dinner tipsy after 1.5 hours of aggressive drinks with some “I-cannot-reveal” friends) when sister and I made the most incredible decision! Thanks to the young talented Didi, my sister and I decided a last-minute family trip to Ho Chi Minh in December!

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Sigh… I put on another 3kg when I was in Singapore. Thanks for spoiling me with so much local high-carbs delicacies, liquors, and the very very sinful durians! I should have done up this blog a long time ago but I wasn’t in the right mood. Perhaps I was just plain lazy or busily (putting on more weight) indulging in the sinful yummy durians. The truth is I have been procrastinating on my personal stuff. It is time to put the priorities back on track. These (family, friends and loved ones) matter more than anything else. 

Enjoy the magic of the Season while it lasts before we start the new year with another list of “self-justified-&-feel-good” resolutions/goals/targets/ambitions that occupy our lives with meaningless missions. Not forgetting a new dramatic crazy year when 50% of Avengers will be miraculously revived, more disappearance of infamous characters and the return of the White Walkers. Sadly, we won’t get to see Neymar at the Oscars in 2019.

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(Thanks Kalinda for another beautiful handmade Christmas gift!)

600km of Fun, Joy & … er … No hotel?

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Since 2012, it has been an annual ritual when dad and friends (Uncle Bok and Uncle Tan) will fly over to visit me every summer in Hong Kong. This year was a little bit different, Dad and friends knew about my business trip to Taiwan and they decided to hijack join our party there. It was dad’s first flight after his eye-operation. He was grounded by his doctors for over the past 6 months and this “escape” meant a lot to him.

 

This is my first Taiwan trip with my old dad and I was worried about mixing 2 different groups of people together. Afterall, it was an odd assembly of people from different countries, backgrounds, and generations. My worries were unnecessary, within the first hour, everyone blended in wonderfully! The chemistry amongst them was perfect!

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The original plan was to spend 4 relaxing days in Taipei with the old folks. Thanks to the insistence and great hospitality of my Taiwanese buddy, Chen, he planned an incredible 5D4N road trip for all of us. It was an intense 600km loop around the northern island of Taiwan. We started our journey from metropolis Taipei to the eastern coast of Yilan, through the mountainous roads along Hualien Taroko National Park and made our final stop at the old night market street in Taizhong.

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After a long day and late night of meetings in Taipei, we started our “workcation” right in the midst of my overseas teleconference. 7 of us barely fit inside Chen’s 7-seater car. Getting in and out of the car was a challenge for everyone. Not to mention how we managed to co-exist with all the bulky travel souvenirs that we accumulated along the journey.  Especially towards the end of the journey, there wasn’t any much legroom and lap-room. The entire car was packed like a can of sardine.

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First stop – we made our way to Kavalan Whisky Distillery. I was here with Felicia, Elkan, and Tracy 18 months ago. It was the perfect tourist destination for Dad and friends as they were whiskey lovers. We arrived just before the distillery closed and the entire place was so empty. Dad and friends signed up for the whiskey blending experience to blend their own whiskey. Unlike Tracy and me who did the same activity in the most chaotic manner, my dad and friends were very “serious” and “precise” in their engagements.

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Later that evening, we had our dinner at an interesting bunnies-themed restaurant. No, it wasn’t a Playboy Mansion. It was a romantic happy land with furry rabbits and giant heart-shaped air cushions. Located on top of a valley, the restaurant offered a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

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Just when the group was enjoying the beautiful evening and scenery, they were startled by my dialogue with Chen.

“Joe, where is the location of the hotel?” Chen asked.

“I don’t know. You booked the hotel. You didn’t tell me” I answered.

“No, I didn’t book the hotel, I thought you did,” Chen replied. That was the uncomfortable and hilarious moment when everyone stared at us with wide unbelieving eyes.

“Huh? No, didn’t you mentioned that you will settle all the hotels outside Taiwan?” I asked.

“Yes, I did. I sent you the photos over Wechat and you said okay” Chen answered.

“Yah, I said okay and proceed. You never give me the names and links, how the hell I know how or where to book?” I replied.

“Don’t worry, it should be fine. We just missed one night,” I assured everyone. “Right?”

“No Joe, it wasn’t just tonight. I didn’t book any hotel for the entire trip”. Chen exclaimed. This was the moment when everyone nearly fainted. There was a long eerie silence before all of us broke into waves of laughter! The old folks clearly didn’t really enjoy our impromptu and our state of confusion.

While Chen and I were in this morbid state of last-minute salvation and desperation to search for all the hotels at one end of the long dining table, my dad and Uncle Tan were celebrating joyously at the other end. Guess what, both of them just found out that they won Singapore lottery.  What an eventful night of surprises! And that was just the beginning of our joyous road trip.

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We spent the next few days on the road, visiting many attractions from Yilan to Taichung. Driving along the winding valley roads and through narrow mountain tunnels, we experienced 2 different seasons within hours – both summer and winter. We hiked through the majestic Taroko Gorge (太魯閣) under the scorching humid heat at 36°C and ascended the foggy 3,275m-peak of Hehuanshan (合歡山) at 12°C.

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Certainly, a good son never fails to give his old dad a good party at the karaoke. For the first time ever, dad and I experienced Taiwanese-styled karaoke. There wasn’t much difference (be it deco, hostesses or services) between the joints in China and Taiwan except we were able to bring in our own liquors without any corkage fees in Taichung. Within 2 short hours, we drank over 3 bottles of single-malt whiskey and two dozen of beers. As usual, I was too tipsy to remember my way back to the hotel. All I remembered was we all had a great time together.

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So, this was it. A long workcation of work, fun, laughter, bonding, and love! A very special thank to Chen for his awesome hospitality and friendship. It was no small feat taking the wheel all by himself throughout this 600km long road trip. Thanks to all my business-cum-friends for the great companionship to my dad and his friends. I am blessed to have all of you around me, throughout my life, my work and my family.

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I am very sure my old dad felt the same way too. Who knows, he may be secretly planning his next hijack.

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Coming up next, I will be flying down south for another annual reunion ritual with my mum and our infamous Rain-Goddess, Auntie Amy. Time to pack (with an umbrella of course).

Missing the Rain Goddess this CNY

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Never underestimate the rain-power of my Auntie Amy. Wherever she goes, rain follows. She is indeed very powerful, she even brought typhoon to Hong Kong in May when she visited me 2 years ago. It wasn’t even the typhoon season. Yes, strange weather occurrence happened with her around. (We went having BBQ that night and every time she walked over to the BBQ pit, cats and dogs pour! In the end, her own sons commanded her back into the room.)

So, you can imagine our joy when Auntie Amy announced that she will not be able to join us this CNY. Finally, after so many years of rainy CNYs, we were going to enjoy our first sunny (rainless) lunar new year! It was a mixed feeling of joy and sadness. Auntie Amy’s absence brought out the sun but dampen the festive atmosphere. Without the usual noisy Cheng Clan, we had a very quiet CNY reunion gathering this year.


Worst of all, it didn’t help to make plans early. 5 months ago, I booked a big 745m²-ocean villa at Montigo Batam (that can house up to 6-8 pax) for this year’s CNY gathering. In end, only 4 of us went – just mum, wife, son and me. The Cheng Clan had relatives visiting from the US while Dad recently underwent an eye operation 2 weeks ago and he was unable to travel.

It wasn’t that bad. Afterall, we have all the big space to ourselves. And yes, we had plenty of sun and great weather. Just a little quiet for such a big villa. Guess this is the price we have to pay to send the Rain Goddess away.

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Mum & Elkan were so excited the minute we arrived at the villa. As usual, mum, son, and wife love taking selfies. We realized we had 2 outdoor private swimming pools instead of 1! The 3-bedroom villa also comes with a big indoor spa pool that is big enough to house 2-3 adults. It provided all the comfort and privacy I needed. It was so quiet, peaceful and relaxing out here. I finally have all the time and private space (plus the sun) to tan up my superwhite body.

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While wife and mum were chatting in the large family hall, son and I spent a lot of time playing mobile games + suntanning together by the poolside. I had a spare bedroom just to house all my toys and gears! Mum tried the virtual goggles (streamed real-time from the camera of my drone) while I flew the drone around the resort. We didn’t see a lot of people around the resort except during breakfast when we saw hundreds of guests. There was such a big crowd and long queue at the restaurant during breakfast that we had to travel out to the nearby town center to get our meal.

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It was a short 3D2N stay at Montigo. Quality and happy time flew really fast. We went back to Singapore, just in time to spend a short CNY reunion with the Cheng & Pohs clans and an early birthday celebration with my dearest dad!

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This was a short home trip for me too. I didn’t manage to meet up with all the usual CNY groups (missing Hovman, Kendrick and the Katong boys). Just a handful of dear Wahbaing buddies and lovely cousins.

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Despite having all the sun and great weather this CNY, I do miss the usual big noisy rainy gathering. It was all too quiet this year. It was so un-CNY. Okay, Auntie Amy, you are welcomed to bring rain to all our parties and gatherings from now on. Guess no rain no gain, the more the merrier. Looking forward to your presence (with more people) next CNY.

Time to go back to Hong Kong for more work and meetings. More gatherings with my buddies in China next week.

旺旺。

Wahbiang Melaka Trip (Blog by Felicia)

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BLOG BY FELICIA. VLOG BY ELKAN (31st Dec 2016)

Wahbiang have been planning for many years (at least 10 years!) to go for an overseas trip together. But it was never fulfilled due to work and family commitment. Timing was an issue as we needed to plan way before for applying leaves and making sure our kids could join us too. And we also needed to make sure it fits everyone’s budget.

Finally during Sam’s birthday gathering, just a comment from Joanne who missed the chendol in Melaka, we decided we should just all go to Melaka! With a long weekend, favourable currency exchange for Malaysia Ringgit, and such a nearby destination, it was the perfect short getaway. We were all planning to have lots of yummy food. There were requests for chendol, Peranakan food, chicken rice balls, Hokkien mee, wonton noodles, chilli crab, etc. Basically it was all about food!

Gareth, Sam and Lionnel came alone with no kids, no hassle. Joanne, Karen, me and our two boys, Alston and Elkan. Thanks to Sam who gave us a morning call at 5:48am which was way too early for a 9:15am coach. He was really excited about this trip!

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Many travelers were taking the coaches to Malaysia. There were almost 1-2 coaches arriving at the deport every 15 minutes. Our coach was delayed. By the time we cleared the long queues at both the customs, it was already 12 noon. We were all very hungry by then and it made us look forward to our dinner! Gareth was drooling at the thought of food.

Finally, we arrived at Melaka at around 4:30pm. After checking in and dropping our bags, we headed out to find the dinner place (Restoran Tong Sheng) which was very popular in Melaka. Indeed, there was already a queue by the time we made our way there. From the Singlish we picked up from the conversations around us, it was obvious that the queue was mostly made up of Singaporeans. So typical to see Singaporeans in long queues especially for great food! And we were part of it too. Haha… 😀

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It was a long one hour queue before we could get our seats. Our tummies were rumbling, our legs were sore and tired, and the boys were bored waiting. But the spirits were high! We had in mind what we wanted to eat, mostly imagining the satisfaction after this mouth-watering meal. I must say the food was really tasty, especially the cheese bee hoon with prawns and the dark soya sauce hokkien mee. The otah with steamed egg and fried sotong were our favourites too. We were so bloated after the heavy dinner but it was satisfying! Especially the bill was way below what we expected. Worth coming back again, definitely.

After such a heavy meal we still couldn’t resist the temptation of desserts…. we had to have waffles with chocolate, chocolate molten cake, hot chocolate drinks, coffees and teas. Simply sinful!

The next day, most of us got up early for breakfast at the hotel. The food was good but we were still hoping to get out for more local food. Unfortunately, Gareth was not feeling too well. He was disappointed that he couldn’t seem to eat too much now. So much food, not enough time to digest. His mind wanted… But he’s stomach didn’t allow! We had to give him a boo as he was the one who excited us with plans to eat, eat & eat!

Right after breakfast, we took a stroll to Jonker Street. Surprisingly, the weather was quite cooling and windy too. The azure blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds and the trees swayed gently. Very unlikely to be so pleasant. Usually it was very hot and humid in Melaka. We were definitely enjoying the good weather. As we arrived at our destination, we see long queues at the chendol hawker stall by the river and the chicken rice balls. The street was busy and bustling with food vendors and the colourful trishaws.

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Our first stop – wonton mee. At 12 noon, they have already sold out their noodles! Thankfully the stall aunite said she could buy some kuay teoh from the neighbouring stall if we were ok with that. We were more than happy. The wontons were very yummy!

Next stop – Chendol. This chendol stall was what brought us here on this trip. Joanne was looking forward to it. As usual, there were long queues in the shophouse. We managed to get a small table and ordered 4 bowls to share. Standard not as good as before, probably due to the overwhelming orders from the customers. Some of the diners had to stand outside the shophouse to eat.

Along the way back, we were still munching Nonya kueh, Chinese cookies, cheese tarts and egg tarts. Bought lots of goodies for our families back home.

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After a long day of walking and eating, time to rest. While some of us went for a massage, Lionnel & me bought the boys back to the hotel for a relaxing swim. The boys had lots of fun at the pool and in the hotel room too. Sorry Auntie Karen they destroyed your whole bathroom 😛

Dinner time! My Melaka Auntie recommended a more home-cooked style dining place to us. It was a small shophouse near a bridge over the Melaka river. Very friendly folks. The elderly lady boss was very kind to help us save cost, afraid that we might over ordered our food. A boy who looks barely 12 years old was helping serving dishes to us. Needless to say, our boys are so fortunate.

The oyster omelette was not up to expectation as it was a slightly different style from our Singapore version. But the rest of the dishes are very good. The boys loved the dark soya sauce hokkien mee. The steam pomfret was very fresh. Another happy meal for our tummies with couple glasses of beer for Sam, Joanne, Karen & Lionnel. Unfortunately, Gareth was starting to feel unwell again. He was feeling heaty and feverish. But he was still determined to have his Corny Dog and root beer at A&W after dinner! Way to go! Buuuuurp…..

And yes, we all did had a quick meal at A&W. We were so full that we had to walk around the mall to help with the digestion. We took a long walk across the mall and went to a snack store and bought more goodies for the folks back home. After that Sam spotted a Bak Kut Teh store and suggested we go for it. But we were too full, so we decided to add that into the next day’s food itinerary.

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It was indeed challenging to have a hotel breakfast and Bak Kut Teh and a Peranakan lunch, as planned before we board the Coach that travels back to Singapore at 2:30pm. We managed the first 2 but had to forgo the Peranakan lunch as there was a long queue and we didn’t have that much time left. So we headed back to our hotel for a simple meal at the cafe. Bought lots of egg tarts and bread for the long journey. Afraid there might be long queues at the customs again. But thankfully, it was a smooth ride back home and no traffic jams or queues too!

By now, Gareth is feeling much better after a good night’s rest. And since we returned back to Singapore early, he suggested that we should have dinner before we go home. Haha… not letting go any chance for a good meal! And we were happy to have Charlie, Lusia, Jacob & Christy join us for dinner! It was another nice steamboat meal. Feels like a Lunar New Year dinner.

Such a joyful and fun food trip! Thanks for all the spontaneous response and fun jokes we had throughout the trip. We missed our other Wahbiang friends. Looking forward to another trip soon! Enjoy the Video! 😛

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Wahbiang birthday bash @ Hotel 25 (Blog by Felicia)

Our monthly gatherings for Wahbiang birthday buddies has always been a great get-together and catching up with everyone in the clan. It gets tougher each month as we are constantly looking for suitable venues. From a small group of secondary school friends, we have multiplied to a big clan!! At the moment, we have about 17 kids and one more on the way, coming in Sep!

In the good days, hangouts were often at the coffee shops along East Coast Rd, Dunman food center or prata along Changi Rd. As we all settled down and started our families, our Eunos flat eventually become and weekly gathering venue. Simple activities of potluck dinners, gaming, mahjong session and most of our guest also stayed overnight on our sofa! That’s how eventually we called our flat, Hotel 25 (our block number). The good old times!

After we moved out of our flat, we catch up more often outside our homes. This month, since our flat was empty, being our usual haunt way back almost 20 years ago, I tot would be a great place for the Wahbiang clan and the kids too! Thanks Joanne for kick-starting and helping to organize July’s birthday gathering! The date was set, venue picked and food delivery ordered and the party starts!!

Elkan and me were excited about the party and that we were staying over for a night! It’s like a staycation for Elkan. He gathered some toys, clothes and his sleeping bag while I prepared the cutleries, snacks and toiletries. All packed in a luggage and off we head to Hotel 25!

With the convenience of online food delivery, everything happens in a click! We had DIY popiah and kueh pie tee, laksa, the famous Golden Pillow and side dishes. The clan came and the whole house was blasted with activities! Our kids were running around, lots of laughter, petty quarrels among them and our strict Auntie Karen at the top of her voice to keep the kids well behaved! Guess Hotel 25 is too small for the kids to play.

Good to have Erny to join us. We have occasional guests who often due to work or taking care of the younger kids, couldn’t make it to our gatherings. She mentioned that the last time she came, I was just pregnant with Elkan! How time flies! We were boys and girls, turned man and woman and now daddies and mummies.

Goodbyes at the end of the party was reluctant for Elkan. As we walked out with Lionnel & Joey, Duuk & Juliana, and the kids, he was looking a little upset. At the carpark, he kept sneaking into Duuk’s car so that he could hold up a few more minutes and play with the boys.

It was a great evening and a big thank you to all that came and made our home so cozy and filled with life and energy again!

Happy Birthday to the July babes, Juliana, Joey and Edelynn (MC’s younger girl)! Joanne, we missed you!!

The annual Chinese Feasting Festival is back!

I am finally off for Chinese New Year! No more work and meeting, just having great reunion time with my family and good friends in Singapore! This year is a little bit special, I get to stay in Singapore for over 20 days!

Fate has been very kind to me too. Over the last 3 days, I bumped into 2 very old friends – Stella and Rosline (aka Baoxuan) who were coincidently my secondary school friends! I also managed to gather all my dear Katong friends for a small reunion breakfast at my favourite joint. I really miss the old days when we ran our small boutique agency. Time flies, Caffeine has been in Katong for over 1 decade! Amazing!

I would like to thank Karen and Charlie for hosting such a wonderful Wahbiang Gathering! It was nice to meet a couple of friends who I haven’t seen for over a year – Duuk, Yifu, Charlie, Ivy and Kalinda! It was a great party but the reunion time was too short for me to connect with every single one of you! We miss the presence of Lusia & Sam (who are now recovering in USA), Mannc, Joey, Lilian, Serene, Tracy (in KL with family) and Joanne! Despite the heavy downpour, we had a great time! The kids were pretty well-behaved too!

While I enjoy all the reunion with my families and friends, I don’t really like the ritual of eating/drinking at every CNY meeting. It does seem awkward and rude if we do not offer or accept any food/drinks during the gathering. It is really difficult to keep my weight down during this fattening feasting season. Perhaps I should just restrict myself to 3 gatherings per day. It is not even CNY yet and I felt my tummy bloated already!

I wonder, how many more Yusheng (鱼生) I have to consume before the end of this feasting season?

Enjoy the Vlog below:

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