Reunion with the in-laws

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Exactly a month ago, Mum-in-law returned with her 2 lovely sisters, Auntie Nyong, Auntie “Cookie” Fong and cousin Carrine! All 4 of them have visited us separately in the past. Auntie Fong and Carrine were here in 2010 while Auntie Nyong and mum-in-law last visited in 2009. It was memorable as she arrived on the same day as Typhoon 8. That was in August 2009! Also that year, she celebrated her 60th birthday in Hong Kong with us.

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Unfortunately, due to failing memory, Felicia and I couldn’t recall many details about their last visits. Auntie Fong and Carrine were excitedly reciting what they did during their last Hong Kong trip. Half the time, Felicia and I listened in disbelief. Thankfully, I kept a blog (my most reliable memory vault) and after a few simple searches, I managed to refresh my memory with the help of the old photos and posts.

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Out of the short “4-day shopcation”, we spent 3 days shopping in Shenzhen. The ladies shopped tirelessly from dawn to dusk. Like my mum and Auntie Amy, they came fully-equipped. Every morning, they left the hotel with an empty suitcase and returned with hoards of bargained treasures. Most of the time, Elkan and I took refuge inside our hotel room, making appearance strategically during meal times.

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Age caught up with the old folks. They weren’t as energetic as before. They took more short breaks between their shopping sprees. On their last day in Hong Kong, I took them to shop at Sai Kung Weekend Flea Markets by the Pier. There, we took a 45-min boat ride out and visited a small UNESCO Geopark island, Sharp Island. We didn’t have time to attempt the 2-hour hike across the island as the ladies were flying back in the evening. It was more of a touch-&-go short tour.

Great to have you ladies here. Please do not wait for another 9 years to visit us again!

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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!)

The Last Entry

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Ever since I have embarked my hectic start-up adventure, I have very little time for blogging and vlogging. Looking at the declining number of postings for the past 2 years, my blog has been quiet for a while. Haha, I am still well alive and kicking. It is just that I have little time (and too lazy) to sort out the weekly photos and videos. (Again, never a good excuse not to record all those beautiful and precious moments.)

This morning, I was couch/bed-surfing when I bumped into Jeanette Aw’s latest post on Instagram. It was an awakening reminder that dragged me out of the bed to relook at the important people and things that I may have forgotten or neglected.

 

Based on many true stories, Jeanette Aw’s 25-minute short film, The Last Entry narrates the relationship between a loving mother who was suffering from Alzheimer and her doting daughter, and the bonds that will not break under the most trying of conditions. Simple and beautiful with little dialogues between the mother and daughter, The Last Entry is a very meaningful and touching short film. And it is very real.

This story unlocked something very deep inside my heart – my relationship with my late Ah Mah who lost her remembrance of those around her during her final days. It was 1999, I left Perth for a 2-month holiday. Before I left, Ah Mah chatted with me and asked me to come back soon. When I returned 2 months later, she has completely forgotten me.

Despite suffering from dementia (and forgotten everyone), my granny kept reciting a small trace of memory of her young adulthood days on Kinmen Island where she and grandfather dug clams by the beach house. I did not know why she only remembered this particular memory and not the rest. Was it love or was it her happiest moment that etched so deeply that can’t be erased?

Losing Ah Mah plays out a very important chapter of my life and it taught me to place family above all. Nothing else matters. That’s why I have been spending all my time and money to bring families and friends together. And that’s the reason why I started blogging in the first place – to record every precious and important moment. There will be times in life when we may get distracted and lost in our pursuit of monetary goals, statuses or love. This blog is my memory vault, an important anchor that prevents me from drifting too far away from those that matters to me. And I should start filling it with more colorful and personal stories before I forgotten all.

Cherish those who love you. Life is short, don’t wait. 珍惜眼前人。

Thanks Jeanette for producing and directing this beautiful film. A good timely reminder. Go watch and support this wonderful film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2WwjhDie0w

Eulogy – 金煜良言 (1973-2018)

Yei Book

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Titled “Just Do Yei – 金煜良言” – This book is dedicated to Qianqian and all who love Yei. 5 weeks ago, I lost a very dear and annoying brother, Yei (煜). Extracted faithfully, unadulterated from his Wechat Moments, this memorial book comprises of all Yei’s moments and words of wisdom. While combing through all the materials on Yei’s microblog, I saw a very different side of him. He was a good photographer, a good life-preacher and someone who lived life to the fullest.

Thanks brother Leslie and friends for all their contribution and help to make this book possible. This book is printed in USA, traveled to meet Yei’s loved ones in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and finally Singapore. This is Yei (pun intended). His journeys, his words, his moments.

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SHENZHENI was on a train back from a long day of work when I heard the shocking news. I have been looking for you for days and I knew something was wrong. But never expect you left us so suddenly.

I was very pissed because you left without saying goodbye. I was very heartbroken because I have one person lesser to share my brotherly tales and secrets.

Yei, I just want to say Thank You. You have been a great big brother. Annoying at times but no doubt, a very very caring one.

I saw a big positive and remarkable change in you after the passing of your dad. You were more relaxed and benevolent in your way of life. Your days in Japan opened up your life. You started your microblog on WeChat Moments and filled it with so many colorful moments of good food and travel.

“Live & leave life with no regrets” – That’s your mantra. Family comes first, anything else comes second. Since the day we spoke about the fragility of life, I cherish every single moment I had with my family and loved ones. Over the past 12 years, I had many priceless, wonderful and memorable moments with them, including the one with you in Tokyo last year. Looking back, that was an awesome “bromance” trip!

It is still so unreal Yei, losing you. It is going to take me a long while to get used to your absence and silence. No more wee hours WeChatting or karaoke.

I always knew you are ready to leave. Cos you told me so many times about this day. You said when it is your time to go, you will leave with no regrets… After all, the greatness of one’s life can never be measured by its length but by its volume.

Life is short. Don’t wait. Just do Yei (pun intended).
I love you, bro. And we will always miss you.

– Peng. 25th September 2018

She got me a ballroom for my birthday!

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Surprise after surprise, I had a wonderful birthday weekend with my family and good friends. The first surprise happened 8 hours before my birthday. I came back from Shenzhen to an apartment filled with colorful helium balloons! There is something magical about floating balloons, no matter how old one is, balloons never failed to delight. It levitates happiness.


(Not a sponsored blog – The entire vlog was shot with Huawei P20 Pro)Joe's Birthday 201810

At the struck of midnight, Elkan and Felicia brought out a cake and a present from the kitchen. It was my favorite black-forest cake! Felicia and Elkan presented me with a very special and priceless handmade gift – it was a unique photo book made of fabric, imprinted and sewn with all our past holiday photos.

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Harshad, Tracy and Chowpo contributed their parts too. Knowing I love to sing and drink, they organized a small karaoke buffet for me at Causeway Bay. Christin arrived 15 minutes before midnight. Thanks to her, we sang till 3am.

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Just when I thought my birthday was over. I received a photographic message from Felicia at 4am. The photo showed “Pit Stop 1” and we were asked to arrive at the mysterious location in our sportswear before 10:30am the next morning. That was it, there wasn’t any more clue. Is this another amazing race, I wondered.

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The next morning, Elkan woke me up. He said Felicia had left the house early in the morning. Still recovering from last night’s drinks, I wasn’t in my best form. Felicia sent more photographic clues about the mysterious meeting point. The message also said, “Penalties for Late Comers”.

With the clock ticking away, Harshad, Tracy, Elkan and I took a cab. Tracy was the one who solved the mystery. She told the cabbie our location and off we went. Thankfully, we had a very knowledgeable cabbie who shared with us about the place. It sounded pretty physical and brutal.

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We arrived at D2 Place where we went searching for Felicia. After a quick breakfast, we arrived at an activity space by the name of Crossfire Arena. There, we saw many human-sized balloons or commonly known as Zorb Balls. Felicia signed us up for an hour of strenuous games. Never underestimate the harmless looking games, most of us weren’t physically prepared for it. (All of us suffered 2 days of intense muscle cramps).

We had 30 minutes of bow-&-arrow and another 30 minutes of Zorb Ball Soccer. Just 45 minutes into the games, all of us were super exhausted and we canceled the last game. It was very fun but just too intense for a fat man like me. Until now, my body hasn’t really fully recovered.

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Just when we left Crossfire Arena, all of us received new photographic messages from Felicia. It was only then when we realized she had disappeared again.  It was a clue directing us to the second and final pitstop. Unable to decipher, Harshad, Elkan and I roamed the mall aimlessly 3 times! Tracy disappeared too and we had no idea where she went.

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Just when we were to give up, Tracy disclosed the answer to us. We exit the building and made our way to the final pitstop. Thankfully, it was nothing physical but a nice cozy cafe with good food and drink to rest our tiring bodies.

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Thanks for organizing this special post-birthday activity for me and our dearest friends. My wife, Felicia is no doubt more than meets the eye. She is a meticulous planner and life is never boring with her and Elkan around. Mmmm….. What’s next?

Who brings a shopping trolley to Mekong River? They did.

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Right after my 600km-road trip with Dad and friends, Felicia, Elkan and I flew to Saigon to meet my mum and Auntie Amy for another annual birthday reunion. Our trip to Vietnam was a very last minute impromptu decision that I made while I was on the road with my dad in Taiwan. Dad was having such a great time with me in Taiwan and I thought I should plan something special for my mum too. Thanks to my cousin Chester, we managed to book and settled everything within 24 hours.

I always wanted to bring my mum and Auntie Amy to Vietnam since my last family vacation in Saigon with Felicia and Elkan in 2013. (Mum and Auntie Amy have never been to Vietnam.) Knowing their travel preference, I am sure they will enjoy shopping in Ho Chi Minh City. My only worry was the “rain spell” of Auntie Amy (aka Rain Goddess) who was infamously responsible for all our past stormy trips. I was telling my dad and friends in Taiwan how Auntie Amy miraculously brought typhoon to Hong Kong when she visited me in May 2 years ago.


(Not a sponsored blog – The entire vlog was shot with Huawei P20 Pro)

True enough. On the day when I flew out to Ho Chi Minh City, typhoon III hit Hong Kong. When our flight was delayed for over 2 hours, we were so calm about it. We have been mentally trained by Auntie Amy to expect the worst-weather scenario.

Felicia, Elkan and I arrived at the hotel late in the night. My mum and Auntie Amy popped by our room with a sweet surprise – a specially-baked birthday cake plus a surprise guest! It was Auntie Zhu! For some strange reasons, they held on to the cake and waited for Felicia to appear before they made their presence known. Mmmm, I thought I was the birthday boy, wasn’t I?

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Many friends asked me why my mum and dad didn’t travel together with me. The reason is simply that my mum and dad have different travel preference. Dad is more active and loves roaming the streets while mum likes shopping and taking it slowly. Moreover, by traveling with them separately, it gives me more 1-2-1 interaction time with each of them. And with Elkan around, I am no longer in their center of attraction. They now harassed my boy instead of me.

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Never underestimate the power of 3 shopaholics. For 4 days, they shopped fearlessly and tirelessly. They bought so many things on the first day that they bought a new luggage bag to house all the items. The grannies weren’t even affected by the rude, infamous Saigon’s “Don’t-Buy-Don’t-Ask” attitude displayed by some of its most unfriendly shop staffs. The witty trio simply counter-attacked with their “No-Happy, No-Buy” response. Their tactics won them great discounts against the savvy, greedy sellers.

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Their shopping addiction was so extreme that they decided to bring an empty shopping luggage to our Mekong tour. My god, I cannot imagine how they are going to drag the luggage along the muddy rocky unpaved paths and onto the sampan boat. It was such a hilarious moment when I saw them with the luggage just before we boarded the tour bus. When I banned them from bringing the luggage, Auntie Amy and mum displayed the most unbelievable protest. Good thing that I captured their expressions on video!

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Rain Goddess was unexceptionally nice this time. There were a couple of rain showers but nothing upsetting. In fact, the short rain showers cooled down the heat. It was really comfortable and breezy.

Our visit to Mekong Delta was nothing new for the grannies. To them, it was like a visit to their past. The old swampy village reminded them of their childhood in Malaysia. We visited an old brick factory, a small straw-weaving mat hut, and a makeshift coconut workshop where we bought some locally-produced souvenirs. We rode on an open-top modified tuk-tuk along a long narrow winding road through the rustic village where it led us to the sampan boats. For once it was good to see the grannies relaxing on the boat. Simply, there was nothing here to shop, hunt or bargain.

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On the last day, I decided to pamper the ladies and brought them to Ann Dong Markets – the unofficial distribution markets where prices were much lower than the shops in District 1. I confessed to them that I should have brought them here on the first day instead of the last day. They were really mad because I could have saved them from all the unnecessary hustles and dreadful bargainings. When they found out the asking price at Ann Dong Markets was so much lower than what they paid before, I ran into hiding. That’s how I pranked the grannies, it was priceless. Afterall, what’s the fun of shopping when there isn’t any hard bargaining or hustling, right?

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Beyond shopping, we also visited all the usual “touristy iconic attractions”, took a 360-wefie at the Saigon Sky Deck and even watched a movie, “Jurassic World” at Bitexco Financial Tower. Later in the evening, the grannies pampered themselves with relaxing hair-wash and body massage right beside the hotel. What a pleasant holiday trip with the grannies.

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Just before we flew off to Hong Kong, I gave them more shopping tips at the airport. I wasn’t worried about leaving them alone in the city. Based on how they crossed the chaotic roads, they were pretty tough and solid. Good to see you all here in Ho Chi Minh City. Thanks for the birthday cake surprise! Till we meet again in CNY! Or sooner!

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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).

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