Home Yummy Home

28 hours to be exact. This was my shortest home trip ever. I was so proud that I was able to attend 5 special “yummy gatherings (including celebrating 3 advanced birthdays)” with my closest friends and families.

As usual, I wanted to give my dear folks a sweet surprise with my presence. Trust me, it was priceless to watch their expression every time I appeared out of the blue. They did that a couple of times to me in Hong Kong too. Those surprise appearances are the most memorable. Until now, I remember all of them – how Felicia appeared outside my bedroom door during her Perth university days, how my mum and aunties “ambushed” me at the garden below my office late one night and how cousin Chester and auntie walked into my office on my actual birthday. Those are the most special moments of my life.

This time, my sister and Auntie Amy planned everything for me. My sister tricked everyone to a late lunch at Tampines while Auntie Amy and Uncle Benny picked me from the airport. My mother even thought about organising a “surprise birthday celebration for Elkan”. What she didn’t know was I was going to surprise her later.

Surprise, surprise. I was the victim of my own surprise. I managed to surprise everyone in the family with my sudden presence except the smartest woman in my life – that is my wife! I made one of the most stupid mistakes by making a tele-booking at Jumbo Seafood. I totally forgot that I have transferred the membership contact number to hers. So, when my dear buddy Jimmy helped me with the restaurant booking, Felicia received an auto SMS alert 2 days before I arrived! She knew it all along. The minute I stepped into the cafe to surprise my family, Felicia gave me that sly look on her face.  She handed me her mobile phone and I saw the SMS. At the moment, I knew I was exposed. My sister and auntie shook their heads, clearly very disappointed with my careless blunder. Sigh….Can’t beat my wife in such game.

We had a great 2-hour lunch gathering. It took my family a little while to get used to my new rugged look. We celebrated 3 birthdays in advance for my mum, brother-in-law and Elkan. When we were lighting up the birthday cake, my mother took out a carton of eggs. Most of us thought those were the traditional birthday egg. It was only when we put the eggs in our mouth, we realised they weren’t real eggs! My gosh! My mother mastered the same imitation skills like the Chinese. Her egg-jelly really looked like the real egg! They were so real that my sister-in-law Chups thought they were salted eggs!

Right after my late lunch, I went to visit my in-laws. Later that evening, we planned to have dinner at my favourite Japanese restaurant, Watami at The Central, Clark Quay. When we were at The Central Shopping Mall, I went to fulfil a promise that I made to a friend a year ago. It was one of the top “must-do” items on my list. One of my ex-interns at VOXmedia, Gin Oh (who won 3 consecutive years of Best Singapore E-Commerce Blogger Awards) has opened her own retail outlet “Shinnpark” last year. And I have promised to visit her shop since last Sept. I came by this May but the shop wasn’t open. Fate was kind to us this time. Gin happened to be at the shop and we finally met – after 10 long years since 2003. We chatted like old friends and I was very proud of her success. Best of all, I found something I wanted at her shop! For those who love designer’s goods and Singapore Designs, please go visit her shop at The Central!

Next Stop – Gareth came by my hotel and drove me to Mustafa where I bought new earphones to replace the one that I stupidly damaged on my flight to Singapore (I plug my earphones into the seat socket and the high voltage burnt the earpieces). It was so good to reunite with my Brother Feng! We were taking shortcuts to Mustafa and accidentally discovered some extraordinary colourful vices behind the back alleys. Later that night, we dragged Lionnel out to have a short midnight supper at Boon Keng Hawker Center. Thanks Gareth for the supper treats and ferrying me around!

The next day, I went to accomplished the work that brought me to Singapore. Just before I headed out to the airport, I went to visit my dear old-&-pretty friend Joanne at Ogilvy Singapore. Just like my family, it took Joanne quite a while to get used to my new rugged look. Anyway, who cares. I was there for the free lunch treat!

Finally, time’s up! I spent my last 3 hours at the airport, ferrying my little boy around the airport on the trolley. I made a couple of calls to a couple of good friends who I couldn’t meet up. When it was time for me to depart, Felicia and Elkan gave me a cheeky farewell at the viewing gallery on the 2nd storey. No goodbye tears this time as they knew they will see me again in another 4 weeks.

This was a very fulfilling and meaningful trip. I left with so much love and happiness. It was as warm and beautiful as the departing shot I took up in the air.

Gareth’s Farewell Dinner at Hong Kong’s Shun Kee Floating Restaurant

CNN headlined this place as Hong Kong’s most buoyant dinner and The Guardian Post rated it as one of the top 10 seafood restaurants in Hong Kong. Thanks to Chowpo’s recommendation, we celebrated Gareth’s farewell dinner at one of the most unusual dining spots in Hong Kong! Extinct for more than a decade and returned in 2011, Shun Kee Floating Restaurant offers an authentic and rustic dining experience! Best of all, it serves great tasty sumptuous seafood! Even the most picky and harshest food critic like Gareth, enjoyed the dishes.

Hidden at the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter, we took an underground tunnel below Excelsior hotel to the pier. A cluster of tiny floating dining boats were docked less than 20m away from the pier. Each boat can carry up to 12 diners. There is no need to share boat with different people so you get complete privacy with your guests. There is a minimum spending of HKD1080/boat for a set dinner for 2 and it can easily triple up to a few couple thousands for a bigger group. Diners must make reservation before coming as there are limited boats.

While at the pier, we waited for our own exclusive dining boat. 2 boat-women rowed the boat by the pier and we were seated on the dinning table. The boat-women rowed our boat to the floating kitchen where all the other dining boats were tied to. There, we met the chefs and watched them in action! Surprisingly, the boat wasn’t rocking or swaying too badly. The only time when the boat swayed violently was when I walked around to take photos of the surrounding. The dining boat offered a great view of Victoria Harbour. Breezy, dim and quiet, we had a great time on the boat. I had a great time watching the chefs in action on the floating kitchen and saw how the waitresses served the dishes crossing from boat to boat.

The verdict? If you do not suffer from any sea-sickness and a seafood lover, I would strongly recommend you to try out at this unique rustic floating restaurant! Forget about the touristic, not-so-authentic and pricy Jumbo Floating Palace at Aberdeen, Shun Kee’s seafoods are just so irresistible fresh and tasty. You must certainly try its iconic dish, the 避风塘 crabs! I bet this blog is going to generate lots of dinner requests from my friends and families! Yes, as long as you treat me, I am always happy to bring you there and be your best dining photographer!

Phone reservation: +852 8112 0075 (Cash only). Website: http://www.shunkeeseafood.com/

Short Reunion in Shanghai

Right after I bid farewell to Elkan and Felicia at the gate, I hopped on the next flight to Shanghai with Chowpo. It was a very short business trip. I was glad that I was able to juggle my time between work and leisure. With only a couple of hours free, I managed to meet up with some of my close friends (Calvin, Echo, Johnny, Ming, Francis & Doreen) and cousin Yei. Thank you all for squeezing some free time to meet up dine and drink with me. It was certainly a very fulfilling reunion (I gained another 2 sinful kilograms)! I guess we have to think of new “gathering activity” the next time we meet. I cannot eat and drink at every gathering. Nevertheless, thanks for showing me all the new attractions of Shanghai. Special thanks to Johnny and Ming who treated me to such a beautiful scenic dining place. Hope to see you guys soon! It is always good to be back!

Wahbiang is here!

My best friends from Singapore flew in last week! 6 days, 4 adults and 3.3 kids (plus 6 heavy packs of grass jelly from home), we had so much fun together! It was food, food and more food! These Singaporean visitors can really eat, walk and shop! My happiness index went up and so was my weight.

Arrived 3 days earlier before Juliana and family,  Tracy and I greeted Joey and Lionnel (with a little baby inside) at Zhuhai last Saturday. I gave them a “brother-forbidding”, intimate, fulfilling, mind-blowing and stimulating delta-cities tour (Shopping in Zhuhai, circus-watching in Guangzhou and clubbing in Dongguan). 3 days, 3 cities, 3 hotels – it was indeed a crash-course tour for the couple.

On Tuesday, Juliana and Duuk arrived with their princes. The young boys were so captivating and disrupting! It was fun seeing how Juliana and Duuk parenting their 2 active boys. The young kids brought so much joy, noise and mess to the gathering! They are so much fun to be with and I started to miss my boy Elkan at this tender age. It was so comical to see Duuk walking the little boy on a leash along Causeway Bay (the Hongkies gave Duuk that disgusted stare). And not to mention how grumbly and demanding shopper-Juliana can be. Enjoy the instagram moments.

Market “Beautiful” – PasarBella

If you miss the buzz and mishmash of Australia’s marketplace, pop by to Singapore’s latest shopping concept space – PasarBella at the Singapore Turf City.

Newly opens less than 4 weeks ago, PasarBella is an European-themed marketplace with lots of interesting stall concepts. Here you find Singapore’s largest community of fresh food traders, crafts retailers, bakers, connoisseurs and niche concept shops. From the second we stepped into the space, PasarBella reminded Felicia and me of Perth’s Fremantle Markets. The diversity of offers and the way the stalls are decorated made this place a colorful treasure trove of multi-sensorial discoveries. If you are a novelty-hunter like my Auntie Amy, you must pop by this “beautiful” rustic market!

Thanks Juliana for recommending this new place to me. (Enjoy the Photos!)

BayDay! Diving with the Sharks!

Never judge a lady by her cover. For those who don’t know Tracy well may find her bubbly and sweet. The truth is, Tracy is a gutsy lady. She has more guts than most “macho-looking men” in my circle. I am very selective whenever we pick a holiday destination. She would “pressure” me to accompany for some dare-devil stunts. She is one person who doesn’t know the concept of fear.

Tracy’s birthday is here again. 4 birthdays ago, I gave her a “Reverse-Bungie” experience at Clark Quay. This year, I decided to give her a gift of “unusual-experience” – Diving with the Sharks at Sentosa. Unfortunately, Uncle Bay (her dad) disliked this dare-devil stunt gift and tried to dissuade her from accepting this gift. Tracy hated me for spilling the beans about her South Africa Bungie Jump to her old folks 3 years ago. (Wait till I tell them about her Skyfall at Macao Tower…)

Tracy’s dive with the sharks attracted my entire clan. My mum, dad and wife came specially to see the “show”. We were expecting to see her diving with the big white sharks. Luckily for Tracy, the great whites were in the other tank. What a shame, no drama.

Bradly, our business associate from Hong Kong also joined in the fun. I told him just in case if there is any shark attack, shield my colleague and buddy from harm. After all, I will be answerable to Tracy’s dad if anything bad happens to her.

The dive took place at the Singapore Underwater World where an experienced diver guided them for the 30-min dive. I had a back door access to go behind the scene where the water tanks are. There, both of them wore their diving gears and a quick crash course on “dos and don’ts”. It was more “don’ts” than “dos”. “Don’t catch the sharks, don’t wave your fingers at the sharks, don’t wander elsewhere and don’t take photographs here, sir!” The last “don’t” was for me. I was snapping the backstage of the underwater tunnels and the guide stopped me.

In the end, Tracy and Bradly had fun but struggled a little with the dive. Tracy made a couple of bumps. She wasn’t heavy enough to dive and the guide had to add more weight. We, the audience, were standing inside the tube under the water watching them. For a few minutes, Tracy and Bradly were enclosure attractions. Tourists snapped photos of their clumsy moves. It was certainly fun for the watchers (the children were wild when they saw them walking in the water). For Tracy, this is another different birthday experience she will remember for a while.

Wahbiang Wedding Shots by Phooth!

Thanks to Phooth Photo Services – Great props and superb instant photo printing! All of us had so much fun at the Lionnel & Joey’s Wedding Photo Booth last night! Many guests were so engrossed in the photo shoots and the wedding helpers had a tough time to get them into the banquet hall. Check out all the funny shots at Phooth’s Facebook Page!

Where love begins for Lionnel and Joey (Updated)

Every wedding, I learnt new inspiring “Words of Wisdoms” on marriage and love. At Franics-Echo wedding, Juliana taught us the difference between a promise and a vow. “A promise is a pact you make with a person. A vow is a holy pact you made with God”, she said. Last night at Lionnel & Joey’s post wedding dinner, Jimmy reminded us the difference between wedding and marriage. “Wedding lasted only a day but Marriage lasted a lifetime. A lot of young people dreamt of a perfect wedding, they forgotten about the lifelong journey of a marriage.”

Last Friday, I flew back specially to attend the most important wedding celebration of the year – as one of the Men of Honor (aka “the brothers) for the matrimony of my best brother/friend Lionnel and Joey!  This is one wedding all of us have been waiting for a long long time! Lionnel possesses the best traits in our clan – he is without any doubt the noblest one within the band of brothers. He is humorous, selfless, attentive and most importantly, Lionnel is a man of filial devotion towards his loved ones. And he is possibly the richest golden bachelor in our group with all the thick hongbao collections he shamelessly collected over the decade.

It was a long tiring for all the old boys. At 7:45am, the brothers arrived at Lionnel’s home. All of us were already in our gears and he was still in his pyjamas! Lionnel’s mother and sister served us well. They prepared breakfasts and meals for us. While the brothers were discussing the strategies of “gate crashing”, Lionnel’s mother and sister were giving him their blessings and “Words of Wisdom”. It was a heart-warming moment. No matter how old Lionnel is, he is still the little boy in their eyes.

At 8am, the boys set off. Felicia came to provide videography support and Elkan was our secret weapon to woo the young bridesmaids at the other side. Lionnel and Joey picked a nice tall jeep for their wedding car. It is certainly the perfect vehicle to take them through all terrains in their new life.

8:40am – The Men of Honor arrived at Joey’s home. We did made our presence felt as the boys woke up the whole neighbourhood with loud horns at 8:40am on a Sunday morning. Many people stood by their windows looking down at us. We waited for 10 minutes… no one came down to fetch the groom. We horned again and this time, some of the neighbours responded with loud vulgarities and angry faces. Yifu reminded us to be mindful that some watchers may secretly taped and “stomped” us on social media. Hahah.. apparently, Stomp (the local citizen’s online news portal) has successfully instilled fear in Singaporeans. No one wants to be “stomped”.

8:57am – Time to attack the Bridesmaids! We sent our secret weapon, Elkan to woo, whine and tackle the ladies. Our strategy was to let Elkan dragged time closer to the auspicious hour so the old boys suffered lesser on those gate-crashing pranks. However, those heartless b**** destroyed our little boy effortlessly. Elkan walked back sobbing in tears.

In the end, the boys sweated it out. We have no choice because Joey put one tigress inside the door. The boys were abused and commanded to consume 4 standard items (Sweet, Sour, Bitter and Spicy dishes). Gareth and I weren’t push-overs too. We put the hong baos at the most inconvenient parts of Gareth’s body (the chest and the you-know-where) and dared the girls to take the packets out. In the end, the keys to the door were hidden in a bucket of worms. It didn’t shock the boys as  we were too seasoned for such pranks. Gareth grabbed the keys out of the bucket and we opened the gate. There was another door between Lionnel and Joey. Lionnel was compelled to pledge his life for Joey with a long matrimony contract of poo-clearing tasks, long-haul holiday trips and branded-handbag-pampering. Oh dear, my poor brother signed his life / freedom / rights away at that moment.

4:05pm – After a short 2-hour break, we arrived at the hotel where Lionnel and Joey held their wedding dinner. Joanne, Tracy and Kalinda were there since 3pm to dress up the space. Kalinda and Felicia spent weeks to make the props and decorations. The theme colours were in blue and white. Even Elkan’s Lego parts came into play! The girls constructed a Lego Ring Stand for the couple. It is so creative and cute!

6:13pm – Lionnel and Joey officially formalised their marriage in the presence of the Peace of Justice, families and friends.

8:10pm – The wedding reception was a great success! Instead of the conventional sign-in book, guests took instant photos and hanged their greetings and wishes on the branches (a great idea by Kalinda). The couple also engaged an onsite photo-taking services, Phooth (see next blog posting). The guests were so engrossed in taking the photos that I have to terminate the service in order to help the wedding helpers to usher the guests into the ballroom.

9:45pm – Dinner went on well smoothly. 2 perfect walkin and a powerful energy-charged Yam-Seng toasting. Walking though the tables was a breeze for the couple. Lionnel and Joey’s friends were pretty tamed – there were not much sabotaging or spiking of drinks.

The Wahbiang Clan were having a great time – photo taking and catching up with one another. Kalinda was snapping photographs for her port-folio.

By 10:25pm, the wedding dinner ended and most of the guests left. The Wahbiang Clan presented our wedding gift to the couple. It is a handmade photo-frame of little drawers filled with goodies and hong bao money. In the middle of the frame, it holds a printed book (produced in Australia) of our wishes and photos. A priceless and precious gift indeed as it has taken Felicia and Kalinda many months to produce. This may be the last Wahbiang Wedding Gift we made, unless we hear more wedding bells from the last 1 or 2 remaining members of the clan.

Thanks to Lionnel and Joey they connected the brothers and sisters on their special day. Years of separations have eroded the bonds and ties of the clan. On this special day, the brothers and sisters spent lots of hours together – mending bad ties, laughing, gossiping and sharing. This is the perfect reunion we always wanted but ever have the time or commitment to make it happen. Thanks for this great night where new friends and family portraits were captured and printed! Those were precious keepers!

And thanks for making the brothers “feel young” again with the quirky pink-shorts-pink-bow-ties attire. We looked terribly attractive – surely defines the meaning of Ah Men to Boys! Congrats Lionnel and Joey – always live well, respect each other, protect each other and be happy in the long course of marriage. Always keep a healthy balance – work, life and love. Both have to be giving and forgiving.  This will be the sole longest journey you ever embarked together as friends, lovers, spouses and soon to be parents. The marriage path is never easy but it promises tons of rewards and happiness if you walk well together. Hand in hand, heart to heart.

Wahbiang’s “Gathering of the Year”

Today – We had one of the largest Wahbiang gatherings ever! A total of  33.5 pax (14.5 kids and 19 adults)! We were just short of Joanne (away in Batam) and Tracy (away in Cebu) to complete this gathering! Why 14.5 kids? Well, we just found out that Jimmy and Serene are expecting their 2nd child! Congrats to both of them! Just like what Karen said on WeChat, this may be Wahbiang’s “Photo of the Year”! (We should switch off the TV – the kids were all looking at the screen instead of the camera. Hahahah…)

Thanks to Duuk and Juliana who played such great host to our growing clan, we had such an enjoyable time together! Food (steamboat and the side dishes) was excellent! The Lo-Hei tossing moment was unforgettable! Zach and Juliana were sprinkled with good fortune sesame seeds! This was also a very special CNY gathering, we celebrated MC and Yifu’s birthday. Meijie and Joey received their last pre-wedding hongbaos. For one very rare occasion  the children didn’t give the adults any headache. Unlike the last Eunos gathering, the kids drove the parents crazy! This time, the kids played in an orderly manner – all thanks to mountains of toys at our host’s house. What a huge difference it made!

From the post-gathering messages on Wechat, everyone enjoyed themselves. Hopefully, we didn’t trash up our host’s home too badly. Now, the clan is looking forward to Meijie and Joey‘s wedding on 17th March! Surely, this will be the last Wahbiang Golden Bachelor’s matrimony of our generation. Time to plan a big B-Party for both Joey and Meijie!

Missing All of You This Christmas

Maybe we have been away for a long time. Christmas is so different without the company of friends and family. It is so much quieter this year without the presence of my wahbiang buddies, Singapore family and that noisy HK indian buddy. So many of them are away on holidays (Joanne in Phuket, Cousin Yei & Echo in Shanghai, Chester in Japan, Leon and family in Xiamen, Harshad and Tracy in Bhutan, Yifu & Family in Hong Kong) with their friends and families. I guess this is a pretty lonely and quiet Christmas season for many. I received more “I miss you” messages than “Merry Christmas”. Just finished my late wee-hour greeting chats with Echo and Aunty Amy, we certainly need to organise a big gathering next year. For them, too, it has been a very quiet Christmas.

On Christmas’ Eve, I tried to connect everyone to gather some noise and “festive moods” on mobile through WeChat. Not ideal but this helps to connect the whole clan together. Thankfully, I managed to gather all my family and a handful of my friends. (I shouldn’t have deleted my Whatsapp but I won’t bow down to intrusion of privacy! So, Chester, Kalinda, Karen and Juliana – please install WeChat!). I asked everyone to send me their Christmas moments (be it a card, photo or even a voice memo!) Thanks to all, I managed to receive lots of amusing voice memos and many beautiful happy photos. It is always a great joy to see Wahbiang’s Annual Christmas Gathering (since 1992!). While the adults are away and mellowing down, our kids are making the gathering bigger and filling the void with their laughters and noise. Like what Felicia said “Someday when the kids are going for their own Christmas parties, will leave us the same old Wahbiang gang.”

It is becoming a tradition in our household. Thanks to Felicia, she put up a new “Christmas Tree-Wall” at my tiny apartment this year. It reminded me of our wonderful Europe trip – a Eiffel Tower Christmas Tree! It blinks every night. Another special mention – I got her to design this year’s OgilvyAction’s DIY 3D Christmas Card (and big thanks to an old friend Timmy for sponsoring the production!). Thanks to all my lovely clients and friends for taking the effort to make the cards and sent me those photos! (I am so glad that my friends received the cards on time – sorry, we have been away for our tour.. we sent them out late!). 

While this is the season to get together with your loved ones and spread laughters, joys and love, it is also the time of the year when we reflect on what we accomplished and learnt for the past year. While we are celebrating this special day, do remember there are so many more unfortunate people out there who need our constant attention and help. Do spend some time and teach our children the origins of this special day. It is more than “gifting”. It is all above giving. That is the best gift we gave as parents. It is a tradition and values we must build in our children. Be thoughtful, be kind, be selfless and be good.

Now, we are looking forward to the return of Aunty Bay and Uncle Harshad. It is no fun celebrating and unwrapping our Christmas gifts without them. For the least, Elkan can wait till their return. After all, there are 12 days of Christmas and we have a brand new world to celebrate! It will be a happier 2013. I can hear wedding bells and birthday songs.

Merry Christmas to all of you. I miss you guys so much.

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