Review of Korean Drama “Defendant”

Just finished watching hit Korean drama “Defendant” and I am truly blown away by this gripping and intense thriller which made me suffer from anxiety attacks at time cos it was just so exciting!

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The concept of this drama is quite interesting, basically it is about a prosecutor who wakes up one day and discovers that he is suddenly in jail with a death sentence for murdering his wife and child. Unfortunately he has no memory of it as he suffered from amnesia, and it is a drama of him trying to make sense of his situation and escaping from this nightmare bit by bit.

I thought the first 20 minutes was quite blah, as it just featured the main lead being a prosecutor catching criminals, but thankfully I persevered on because after that it was a total rollercoaster ride.

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The show showed things from the defendant’s point of view so viewers were kept in the dark together with him when he was suffering from memory loss, and as a result it makes things very interesting for viewers, piquing our curiosity as to what exactly happened. Did the defendant really murder his wife and child even though he loves them so much? But all evidence points towards him, and he even admitted to the murder before he got his amnesia. So what truly happened? Can the defendant really be trusted? And how is he going to get out of this situation? All these questions were answered bit by bit throughout the episodes and all episodes were fast-paced and action-packed.

It helped that there was a formidable opponent/antagonist in the drama who happened to be a total pyscho, but a rich and powerful one, which means he can get away with anything, thereby always preventing the protagonist from truly escaping from the nightmarish reality.

Focused Plotline

This is a drama with zero romance, and is very much focused on the defendant trying to prove his innocence, and the antagonist trying his best to prevent him from proving his innocence. I like that the storyline is very focused, and every single one in the show acted quite well. I also like the moments of camaraderie among the prisoners, and the occasional comic relief they provided which alleviated the very intense mood of the whole drama.

10/10 drama

I watched “Defendant” after watching “Voice”. I thought “Voice” was good enough, but “Defendant” blew me away. I feel that “Defendant” is still a tad more intense and gripping. And I think it is a drama worthy of getting 10/10. It is just how good it is.

 

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3-Day Itinerary in Washington DC

Just came back from a 3-day trip from Washington DC! It was supposed to be the cherry blossoms’ peak blossom season, but alas, half of them were damaged due to a sudden snowstorm just a few days before I arrived. -____-

Day 1: Alexandria Old Town, Holocaust Museum, Tidal Basin, H street 

  • Arrived at Ronald Reagan Airport
  • Took Uber to Alexandria Old Town, VA which was just about 15 minutes away
  • Shopped and ate along King Street in Alexandria which was touted as a must-visit in many reviews I read online, all waxing lyrical about its lovely cobblestone street and European vibe
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King Street in Alexandria VA. 

  • Took metro train from King Street station to Smithsonian station
  • Visited the Holocaust Museum.Was pleasantly surprised at how interesting the museum was. I was afraid that it would be too educational and boring, but it turned out to be pretty emotional, with great videos of interviews with survivors sharing their personal stories. Very touching and definitely worth visiting.
  • Walked to Tidal Basin to check out the supposedly blossoming cherry blossoms
  • Felt underwhelmed by the lack of flowers and was too lazy to check out the memorials around Tidal Basin, therefore I only looked at Jefferson Memorial from afar haha
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Jefferson Memorial at Tidal Basin.

  • Finally checked into our AirBnb accommodation near Noma metro station, and walked to H Street which was supposed to be a hip street with loads of dining choices
  • Specially went to the famous Maketto which serves Taiwanese and Cambodian cuisine but was deterred by the lack of Asians dining there, and the overall edgy vibe of the place. Left to find the equally famous Toki Underground for ramen. But was once again deterred by the extremely noisy and edgy vibe of the place. All I want is just a hot piping soup of ramen!! Finally settled on this Chipotle-style Asian cuisine fast-casual restaurant called Pow Pow which tasted surprisingly good!

Day 2: Capitol Building, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Union Market

  • Woke up bright and early to visit the famous Capitol Building which I had booked a free tour of but unfortunately still reached late and missed the tour -__-

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  • Toured the exhibitions and thought it was pretty boring. Heng that I missed the tour.
  • Went to the Library of Congress which was connected to the Capitol Building via an underground tunnel
  • Basically a place with good architecture and nice to take pictures of, but still kinda boring in my opinion.
  • Walked to the National Gallery of Art which was a total must-see in my opinion and one of the few attractions that I actually had interest in.
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Even saw an artist copying the Master works in National Gallery of Art.

  • Had a good time checking out the different paintings, including gorgeous vibrant Impressionist works by Monet and Renoir. Loved the museum shop with interesting trinkets and pretty souvenirs.
  • Walked to the nearby Museum of Natural History. The exhibitions will probably interest someone with a curious eye for everything. For me? I just felt kinda bored. To me, the saving grace was the National Geographic Exhibition which displayed award-winning photographs of animals in the wild.
  • Visited the Union Market which was supposedly a must-visit for foodies. Thankfully the market met my expectations and had about 20 stalls of different cuisine. A ramen stall in particular really stuck out cos it just looks kind of out of place there with the owner displaying a lot of Asian seasoning on the shelves. In spite of its nondescript exterior, the ramen was pretty good! It was a tad oily, in fact the broth was covered with a film of oil 0.5 cm thick, but the broth was really tasty and addictive.

Day 3: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Chinatown, Smithsonian Postal Museum, Union Station, U Street

  • By the third day, I already felt quite bored. There is just this many museums I could visit and I’m not that keen in outdoor activities when it is just so unbelievably sunny, with the sun scorching on my sensitive skin.
  • Decided to head to the National Portrait Gallery located at Chinatown metro station. Actually it is a bit boring because not everyone with a portrait there is famous to me. In fact I don’t know a lot of them. To me, the biggest draw were the portraits of all the US Presidents.
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Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Edward Hopper’s work on the left.

  • The American Art section was in another wing and I enjoyed this a lot more than the Portrait Gallery because there is a bigger variation of paintings. I mean it gets old after a while if you just see faces one after another in the entire gallery. After I started taking art classes, I really enjoyed visiting art museums a lot more. My husband said I’m pretentious, but I really hope to learn something out of looking at the brushstrokes and painting styles of the Masters.  I still don’t think I really digested anything, LOL, but one can always hope.
  • Headed to Daikaya another famous ramen shop in the vicinity. I really love ramen! Very comforting food. It was pretty tasty, and the serving was big but somehow I preferred the one I ate in Union Market.
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Some miso ramen from Daikaya.

  • Boarded train to Union Station and visited the lesser known Postal Museum which was right beside the station.
  • The museum is quite quiet but well-curated. In fact I think it is quite miraculous how the curators can put together so much content and artefacts all revolving around the postal service. My favourite part was making my own stamp using the stamp-making booth that allows you to take a selfie and design it. Oooh, there were also free postcards where you can write on it and mail it out at the post office in the basement.

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  • Walked around Union Station. Meh.
  • Boarded metro to U street for the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl that every single DC website recommends. Had the famous half-smoke Chili Dog and it was indeed juicy and flavorful.

Having spent 3 days in DC, I will say it is actually quite a boring vacation destination if you are not someone who is into culture or educational stuff. And I really am not such a person. Most of the attractions are along the National Mall, which means one museum after another. For me, I only selected museums and monuments which I think I will have a higher chance of enjoying, and I think this is the way it should be. It is quite impossible to just cover all the museums within 3 days. I didn’t even visit the White House! Haha. Simply cos I just have no interest and energy to make my way to the White House just to snap a picture in front of it.

Till my next trip then!~

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Review: 三生三世十里桃花 Eternal Love

After binge-watching on the latest hit Chinese period drama 三生三世十里桃花Once Upon A Time, I’m finally done with it!!!

Omg, this is seriously such a surprisingly captivating and addictive drama, with good leads, good acting, acceptable special effects, good script and good cinematography!

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Beautiful stills of the drama.

This is essentially a drama about deities and their love lives whereby the story is adapted from a book, with the female and male lead fated to be together as their paths cross in different lifetimes, though of course with a lot of heart wrenching mishaps along the way.

First and foremost, I must totally gush about the male lead Mark Zhao who acted in two roles namely the Warrior God Mo Yuan and Prince Ye Hua. I’ve never seen him act before and never found him especially good-looking, but he totally blew me off with his superb yet subtle acting in his rendition of the two characters in this drama.

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Mark Zhao acting as Ye Hua. Look at that pair of eyes!

It has been a long while since I’ve been impressed by anyone’s acting, and he really really engaged me and captivated me with his acting. He emoted the feelings of the character so well, that you really feel pain for him when he feels pain, happiness when he feels happiness. Sometimes when actors cry you do feel sad for them, but when Ye Hua cries, you feel agony for him. He is able to just really pull at the audience’ heartstrings with every small twitch of his facial expression. Did I just say how impressed I was by him?

Apparently many netizens were initially disapproving of him being chosen for this role, and criticized how ugly he is with his long hair. But he totally won the audience over with his acting and there is now this newly-coined term “plastic-surgery acting” to describe his acting which is so miraculous that it can transform how you perceive his looks. To say the truth, I also thought he looks pretty weird with long flowy silky black hair with his rather gruff and manly face, but after a while I just got used to it.

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Oh no! Stop crying Ye Hua!

I really love reading netizens’ comments after I finished each video, and I realized that about 70% of the comments were all about how superb his acting was. So it is official. He really acted darn well in it, so well that I still can’t stop gushing about it after so many paragraphs.

Actually the female lead Yang Mi also acted pretty well, but it is just that Mark Zhao’s performance is more stirring. But at least Yang Mi managed to hold her own against him.

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Yang Mi acting as a high-ranking fox deity.

I have to give kudos to Yang Mi for her portrayal of the different personalities of her role: during her youth when she was impetuous and cheerful and crossdressed as a guy; when she lost her memory and became a meek mortal; when she became the formidable high- ranking deity.

This drama’s success is definitely in part due to the chemistry between the two leads. I mean, for any love drama, you definitely need to have the audience root for the two leads to get together, to overcome the challenges for a happily-ever-after. I’m always afraid of dramas being destroyed just because of weird choices of the couple pairings because it is hard to root for the protagonists when you don’t even like them!

Thankfully, this wasn’t the case for 三生三世. I do enjoy seeing the male and female lead together, and my favorite scenes always involve both of them together in the camera. Their love scenes when they first met were very cute cos it is the first time the audience got to see the sombre Prince Ye Hua loosening up in front of a girl that he likes for the first time in his life. Of course after that things got complicated and involved lots of misunderstandings and tragedy but it was still very engaging.

In fact I felt quite impatient when I see subplots on Bai Feng Jiu and the Dong Hua Di Jun cos they are just not very important to me, though judging from the comments I read, there were many people who really love their love storyline too.

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To me, the part about Bai Feng jiu trying to replay Dong Hua’s help in saving her life through serving him and trying all sorts of ways to get into his good books, in which her idea of 报恩 (repaying one’s debt) is to chase after him and fall in love with him is a bit ridiculous in my eyes.

But all in all, the drama is quite fast-paced; there is always something happening to push the plot forward, there are enough antagonists who cause trouble and make you want to root for the protagonist while cursing the antagonists, enough lovey-dovey sweet moments that make you want to giggle and smile to yourself, enough heart-wrenching moments to make you feel sorry for the obstacles the male and female leads have to go through.

After watching so many period dramas, I think this definitely ranks as the top 3! In fact, I think I like it even more than 琅琊榜 maybe because this is a lot more romantic, and maybe cos I’m won over more by Mark Zhao than Hu Ge. Haha.

Verdict: 9/10

This drama is a MUST-WATCH! And be prepared to go gaga over Mark Zhao after you see his portrayal of Ye Hua and Mo Yuan.

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Drama Review of Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu 月薪娇妻

Recently, I’ve been reading about this manga inspired Japanese drama Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu that apparently took Japan and Taiwan by storm. The premise sounded interesting – paying for a “wife” who does all the housewife chores. Given how many housewives generally seem to feel resentful about doing so many chores that take up so much time and effort, but never being compensated for it, I guess this is a rather interesting topic and probably hit a nerve, thereby resulting in its popularity.

Storyline

The story basically revolves around the female lead Mikuri Moriyama who has good educational attainment but couldn’t get employed, ending up as a part-time cleaner for a stoic single man Hiramasa Tsuzaki  who’s never had a girlfriend before. The female lead ended up proposing entering a marriage contract with her employer, leading to a win-win situation for both whereby he could finally appear “attached” while having someone trustworthy to do the chores for him, and her landing a full-time job and getting paid for doing housecleaning and cooking which she does pretty well.

Naturally both of them fell in love with each other as time passes and the drama chronicles the misunderstandings and challenges they faced in light of coming to terms with their own feelings.

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Review

As in the case with most Japanese dramas, I feel that they handled the emotions of the character quite subtly. Yet, I was able to comprehend all the feelings of the characters even without them having very in-your-face dialogues or exaggerated expressions. In fact I felt that the characters had depth to their personalities, and there was a complexity to each’s character.

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The female lead Mikuri Moriyama is someone who’s never had much success in work in spite of a good education background. She’s the one that is let go of when the company she worked at needed to retrench someone. In love life, she was rejected by her first boyfriend for being smart-alecky and liking to assume how people behave. As such, she is someone who really hopes to be appreciated and wanted by others. And probably someone who hopes for security. That’s why she fell for the incredibly stoic but reliable Hiramasa Tsuzaki who was observant enough to praise her for her housekeeping abilities and who gave her the acknowledgement that she had probably always craved.

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As for Hiramasa Tsuzaki, he is a “professional single male” who always knew that he wasn’t the most popular guy, and had come to terms with being single forever. He has self esteem issues and so he escapes from love by telling himself that he doesn’t need love and doesn’t need a partner. So when Mikuri Moriyama, someone so kawaii appears to be attracted to him, he chooses to avoid it, and tell himself that she actually doesn’t like him, just so as not to get his hopes up and ends up getting disappointed for being rejected.

Wow…I’m amazed at how much I understand the characters. Haha.

I think Japanese dramas are such that they aren’t exactly the most entertaining, there are times when there are laugh-out-loud moments, like when Hiramasa Tsuzaki is being totally clueless, but it could be pretty subtle, and even slightly boring at times.

To me,  the male lead is the one who captured more of my attention, cos although he is not at all good-looking, and probably because he is not at all good-looking, I find him quite believable as this rather uncool single man who gets nervous easily when around a girl whom he is attracted to. His rendition of the character is pretty funny. As for Yui Aragaki who acted as Mikuri Moriyama, I personally couldn’t quite see anything particularly good about her acting, but I have to say she really does look cute and pretty.

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The whole premise of the show is pretty much dependent on the chemistry and development between the two leads. And then them trying their best to hide from friends and family that they are in a sham marriage. I would actually prefer it if it was slightly more obvious as to why the female lead fell for the male lead though, cos it was kind of sudden for me.

Frankly speaking, the whole entering into a marriage just so that you can legitimately pay someone to do your household chores isn’t very logical to me either. But then again, it is inspired by a manga. And so of course, anything can happen.

This live-action adaptation does have a rather strong manga/anime feel to it, with typical wacky funny scenes which i think only Japanese can pull off without being cringeworthy.

I think the first few episodes were quite interesting because it is based on a rather novel idea. In the middle, it became quite funny, due to the interactions between the lead,but it got slightly boring towards the end.

I don’t find the drama addictive, but it is still quite an interesting drama to watch if you have time, or if you want to know what exactly is the hype all about.

I will say 7/10.

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The Helplessness of Living In U.S. with no English skills

Why will anyone in the right frame of mind move to the U.S. when they obviously do not know English? This is one big question that I often ask myself when I see the older Chinese immigrants in Chicago. Because of a lack of English skills, there is no way to communicate with Americans. And because of the lack of ability to communicate, there is obviously no way they can get any job except for those that are more menial in nature.

The weirdest thing is, they came when they are no longer young, meaning they left their comfortable lives in eg. China, Hong Kong where they have no problem communicating with anyone, to a foreign country where they cannot communicate and have to try to find a job, most likely accepting a job that doesn’t pay that well, and is way tougher than their original job in their homeland.

Of course people say that they come to America to chase the American dream. But is it considered a dream life when you have to leave your comfortable job in your homeland to work as a cleaner in the U.S. albeit with a slightly higher pay, also with a higher cost of living?

I have spoken to these Chinese immigrants, and many a time the feeling I gathered when I spoke to them was that they are not happy in the U.S. Naturally. They cannot communicate; they cannot even express themselves when they were treated unfairly!

There was a janitor I spoke to who actually worked as a factory’s department head when he was in China. But when he came to Chicago about 10 years ago, he had to work from the bottom, settling for temporary jobs such as factory packer, Panda Express cook, janitor etc.

The reason why he came to U.S.was actually quite noble. He came for his son’s sake. He thought that his son would want to move to the U.S. in search of a better life. And according to him, the parents of the child have to live in the U.S. for 10 years before they can sponsor their child over. So he toiled over the years, waiting for the day that his son will join him in Chicago.

Yet the ironic thing is, when his son finally attained approval to move to the U.S, his son had already settled into his job in China and formed a family, therefore with no more intention to move to the U.S.

When I spoke to the janitor, something I felt strongly was his resignation to his fate in the U.S. That he will just have to keep toiling to make ends’ meet and hopefully one day save enough to head back to China to reunite with his family.

Recently, I also witnessed two Chinese immigrants being spoken to very condescendingly by their boss due to their subpar English skills. The boss’s behavior was absolutely appalling.It was downright demeaning. And it was humiliating. Yet the two immigrants could not rebut him or defend their rights, simply because if they did, they might lose their jobs, and if they lose their jobs, they might not be able to find another one. And this is incredibly sad.

It is a loss of dignity for the sake of their rice bowl.

Which begets my question again: Why don’t they go back to their original country?!!!

Is such a life really better?!

It has always been my view that one should go where one is wanted. The standard of living might be slightly lower in their original country, but one’s dignity is still way more important. I also hope that people can have a more caring heart. I mean, we are all humans,there is no need to treat others so condescendingly!!

 

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Interesting or should I say weird people you see on Chicago’s CTA Train

People who skimp on train fares

This morning, as I was scanning my Ventra card to pass through the train gantry, I spotted a man squatting down and squeezing through the gantry so that he did not have to pay the train fare. Interesting. That guy probably did this all the time, cos he looked very at ease doing it, and it took place all in less than 5 seconds.Such behaviors probably happen all the time in Chicago, but it was my first time witnessing it today.

If this were to happen in Singapore, I bet the staff in the control station will do all they can to stop you and nearby commuters will all stare at you. Whereas this morning in Chicago, no one batted an eyelid.

People who pee on the train/platform

Just a few days ago, while I was waiting for the train on the platform, I heard the sound of water dripping. I thought it was the ceiling that was leaking water and turned around to check it out. And oh man, what I saw instead was a man standing right beside me, with water “spraying out” from his pants. Thank goodness his bottom was partially blocked by a pillar, and all I saw was water spraying out. I immediately turned and walked away as quickly as possible.

One thing about boarding Chicago’s CTA train is that there is often a strong stench of pee in the cabins which is really pretty disgusting. But it was my first time witnessing someone peeing in broad daylight, when there were so many other passengers around.

People who ask for money

In Chicago, (or perhaps in the whole of the US?), it is pretty common to see panhandlers and I have had my fair share of meeting these lovely people who have absolutely no qualms about asking for money from strangers. I’ve seen panhandlers walking from one carriage to another, asking for money along the way. I’ve seen a panhandler who launched into a monologue about his state of despair and why he needed money. I’ve also had people asking me to help sign for some petition?(I think), before telling me that after signing it, I need to pay. So far, I’ve never seen any commuter dish out money to them before though.

Talented Musicians

Well, although it all sounded quite bad so far, there are still some positive experiences in taking the CTA train. For me, I really like entering the train platform to be greeted with soothing live music from the buskers. I remember the sense of calm that washed over me when I heard the melodious notes of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” on the quiet train platform on a particular Sunday morning. For some reason, that scene really stayed with me, and it became one of the strangely poignant moments that I will remember about Chicago.

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Chinese New Year Mood in Chicago

It is just a few more days to Chinese New Year, and if not for the fact that I am aware that it is Chinese New Year, the day would have just passed me by since I cannot feel any festive mood in the air.

While I understand that I am now in the U.S, not China, I still can’t help feeling slightly dismayed that there is absolutely no sign of Chinese New Year here! After all, CNY is such a major celebration in Singapore. By now, all shops should be blasting cheesy Chinese New Year songs, and bakeries racking up huge sales from the pineapple tarts and other CNY goodies. Yet over here, people just go on with their daily lives.

I mean there are a few celebrations in museums and participating stores, but there is nothing really wow about it. It just isn’t the same.

In fact, I can’t even feel the joyful CNY mood in Chinatown! And I thought Chicago has the second largest Chinatown in the US?! I thought of watching some Chinese New Year贺岁电影to sort of celebrate CNY, but I can’t find 贺岁电影too! This is really quite sian.

When I was in Singapore, the Chinese New Year songs do get a bit on my nerves after hearing it being played repeatedly everywhere. But recently I got into a habit of playing some CNY songs while I was working, and it helped in making me feel that it is Chinese New Year. haha.

Recently I have been watching some cooking videos on making pen cai for CNY. Hopefully I will be able to whip up something not too mediocre on Chinese New Year Eve. After all, it is the New Year, I definitely need to eat something good!!!

 

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San Francisco Trip Day 1 & 2

I booked my SF trip in October, thinking that I can’t possibly be this suay to meet with a winter storm in mid-December which could get my flight cancelled, and yet this was precisely what happened on the day I was supposed to fly out of Chicago.

Chicago was hit with a few days of snow storm and that last day of snow landed exactly on the day I was supposed to fly out. And dear Virgin America did not bother to notify me. I only knew of it when I tried to do online check in the night before.

Which led to me having to rebook my flight for another day, change my dates for my accommodation and upcoming cruise in SF. Thankfully I did not incur any monetary loss. Very thankful to AirBnB for refunding me my first night of stay although I only informed them half a day in advance!

Due to the last minute rebooking, I could only get a late afternoon flight, meaning I arrived SF at about 6pm. My whole day wasted -__-

Took the BART train from the airport to my accommodation in Union Square, and the train was spoilt halfway. Mega -__-

But I finally reached!

Dinner in Kin Khao – Michelin star restaurant in Union Square

And quickly proceeded for dinner at 1-star Michelin Thai restaurant Kin Khao. Based on my elementary Thai knowledge, I know it means ‘eat rice’ haha.

Given that I read rave reviews about it on Yelp, I expected it to be mind-blowing. Well, it was pretty good, but it didn’t make me extremely satisfied or eager to go back.

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All I ordered was beef cheeks in massaman curry (great reviews online, made it sound like it is the best food on earth) and veggies, and it cost about 50 USD already! Sobs.

They definitely tasted good, but I guess the problem with me that I like to compare food I find in the US, to food I ate in their country of origin. Hence I couldn’t help thinking that I could eat food of equal standard or of even higher quality at 10% of the price in Thailand.

And then after that, all I did was walk around in Union Square and a nearby shopping mall called Westfield Plaza.

Another problem with living in the US for too long is that, I seem to have lost my sense of wonder here. I remember that I was very excited about Union Square when I visited 6 years ago. But now, because I visit Macy’s, Uniqlo and Nordstrom Rack etc all the time in Chicago, naturally I don’t feel excited about seeing such stores in SF.

Chinatown in SF

But my second day was considerably better. Woke up early in the morning and walked to Chinatown for breakfast.

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Randomly popped into a store and the breakfast there was pretty cheap. The congee was just about 2 USD!

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Not super-duper fantastic or anything, but cheap and decent and gave me energy to start my day!

I originally intended to head straight to Pier 33 to board my ferry to Alcatraz right after breakfast, but I realised that I still had about 1.5 hours after my breakfast.

Lombard Street

And hence I walked to Lombard Street next to check off another must-do activity off my list!

I just followed google map and passed by North Beach before walking up a slope ( nearly died) and finally seeing the famous crooked street. Well, actually I’ve seen it before, but it was my first time there with my husband. No harm seeing it together again!

20161214_111429_resized Glad that I went in the morning so there weren’t many tourists around and I could snap pics of Lombard Street without random people inside.

And then, I continued walking to Pier 33, which took about 30 minutes! What an active morning I had! So much walking all before 10am!

Alcatraz – High security prison

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It was my first time visiting Alcatraz and I originally thought that it might be kind of boring. But I was wrong! My 2 hours there was spent rather fruitfully since I did manage to digest the information ( quite surprising given that I space out easily during ‘educational tours’) about the prisoners, the condition they lived in, how a few of them tried to escape etc.

The audio tour was pretty well-done and was quite an immersive experience since we got to hear soundbites from the ex-prisoners themselves. And if you hear their voices when you are stepping into the cell, it really offers an added dimension to the experience.

And even after all these activities I did, it was just only lunchtime! So I spent the rest of my day just exploring Fisherman’s Wharf as it was quite close to where we landed from the ferry.

 

 

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Surviving Chicago’s Brutal Winter

Winters have always held a special place in my heart, not because I grew up in a cold country, but rather because I grew up in hot and humid Singapore so winters just seemed so magical and far away from me.

My love for winter grew again after I watched korean drama Winter Sonata, which reaffirmed my belief that winters are romantic and beautiful. There is just something so peaceful about seeing white snowflakes fluttering down, caking the pavement in white.

Last year, Chicago had a supposedly mild winter ( still quite like a typical winter to me but somehow considered warm to Chicagoans) but this year it is back to its usual harshness. Which meant up to negative 18 degree celsius ( about 20 degree fahrenheit?) in December, when it is not even in the thick of winter yet!

Such temperatures are really quite shocking to me, and until now I couldn’t quite comprehend how such temperatures are supposed to feel like, and I have no such intention to experience it. I am just going to stick to indoor places or stay at home if it will be freezing that day.

Even so, I’ve been very well-prepared, channelling the inner Kiasu Singaporean in me since December.

When most Chicagoans are still wearing normal sweaters and a jacket ( just like that for about 5 degree celsius!), I had been wearing thermal layers, sweaters, boots, and down coats.

Now that temperatures had dropped to the negative, I have even started wearing two layers of pants. So warm that I even feel like perspiring in winter. LOL. This is just how prepared I am. Better safe than sorry after all!

Recently I bought a fleece neck warmer, and boy it was really a great purchase. Basically I pulled it up to cover up my face everyday, so essentially all people could see when they spot me on the streets is a dumpy-looking person all bundled up in thick clothes with just two eyes revealed. And my two eyes are even covered up by fog on my glasses, as my nose is covered by my neck warmer. HAHA. In fact, because of the stupid mist on my glasses, half the time I can’t quite see where I am going. lol.

As of now, I am fortunate enough not to feel cold, because of my multiple layers. But apparently it is still not the coldest in Chicago. I sure hope I can survive it in one piece and hopefully not gain too much weight as I am prone to taking afternoon naps after eating on a cold day haha.

 

 

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The Existence Of Chinatown In The USA

When I first went to Chinatown in Chicago, I was really surprised and dismayed by how old and run-down it looks. Granted, it really does feel like China, but it looks and feels like how I imagine a village to look like in China, or maybe China in the 1960s. There is nothing modern about it, and even souvenirs sold in the so-called souvenir shops are old and dusty.

The only other time I’ve been to Chinatown in the USA was in San Francisco, and perhaps because I was only there over the weekend or I was just in a great mood, somehow the Chinatown I remembered in SF was bustling and cheery. Nothing like the somehow kinda drab Chinatown in Chicago.

Recently, with work bringing me to Chinatown, I have a lot more opportunities to observe Chicago’s Chinatown and I have come to appreciate it more.

I realized that if you are a Chinese who do not know a single English word, you will still be in a complete comfort zone in Chinatown because there is absolutely no need for English to be spoken there. It is possible to have lived in Chicago for many years, not learn English, but still survive and be able to go about with your daily life if you just live and work in Chinatown.

While I am still slightly dismayed by the overall drab feel of Chicago’s Chinatown, I have grown to appreciate that this is instead an authentic Chinatown.

Having grown used to the extremely touristy Chinatown in Singapore, with lots of cool and cheap souvenirs everywhere, I have come to expect all Chinatowns to be equally bustling and touristy. In my heart, Chinatown is supposed to be a “tourist attraction” rather than an enclave really meant for the Chinese community to work and live in.

Sometimes I feel slightly sorry for the Chinese living in Chinatown who probably cannot venture out of Chinatown since they speak little English. This means they are essentially cooping themselves up in a small area, and the only USA they see is a Chinese-speaking one. In fact, if you just hang around Chinatown all the time, you can’t even feel that you are living in the US!

I know they would also love to explore other parts of the US, or try out different cuisine, but how is it possible when you can’t quite speak the language? And to say the truth, it is not easy to learn a brand new language i.e.English if you are already not young.

Therefore I now see Chinatown as a rather important place in each US city. It is truly a sanctuary for Chinese-speaking foreigners where they won’t feel alone and out of place.

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