Sunday, October 19, 2014

Taipei Throwback: First Night in Taipei

My travel posts kept being thrown back. Some of you might recall that I had a few photo story posts on winter in London, summer in Venice and Florence and then they simply stopped. Then, I flew to Taipei in May this year and you saw pictures of the trip from my Instagram feed with no other mention here on my blog. Well instead of trying to keep up with my travels in Europe, I decided that perhaps I should shorten the throwback time and blog about Taipei which is more current (5 months ago! o_O) instead. The Europe travels could be thrown back further.

[Photo credit]

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~*At Changi Airport*~

I do love our airport so much. Changi Airport has a reputation for setting standards in airport service quality, being the world's best airport in 2014, 2013, 2010 and 2006. Before flying, we visited the Butterfly Garden which is located at the Departure Transit Lounge in Terminal 3. The Butterfly Garden officially opened in 2008 and but May 2014 was our first visit there. I'm so glad that I dragged the hubby in. I felt like my holiday had already begun in this fascinating world of butterflies prior to our holiday.

My favourite butterfly of all is this black and blue one. But wait, is this a butterfly or moth? Do you know how to differentiate? This is actually a moth. *Gasp* Now who says moths are ugly and scary?

Even though this is called Butterfly Garden, there are both butterflies and moths in there. I guess many people's perception of moths is that they are dull-coloured and just not so pretty. Whoever heard of a moth garden? All these pictured in this collage are actually moths. They are quite beautiful, aren't they? It was easier for me to capture pictures of moths than butterflies. Moths tend to be still at rest whereas butterflies love to flutter their wings, resulting in many blurred shots which couldn't be featured in the collage.

How about this collage? Could you tell which are butterflies and which are moths?
Ans: All are butterflies except the last one (bottom right). It is amazing how the insects at the bottom have similar wing patterns but the one on the left is a butterfly and the one on the right is a moth.

Still confused about the difference?
♥ Wings - When at rest, butterflies tend to fold their wings vertically up over their backs. Moths tend to hold their wings flat.
♥ Body - Butterflies have thin and smooth bodies while moths have thick and fuzzy bodies.
♥ Antennae - Butterflies have club-shaped antennae while moths have feathery antennae.
♥ Colour - Well we have been taught in primary school Science that butterflies are brightly-coloured while moths are dull-coloured. However after that day at the Butterfly Garden, I now know that some moths could be so pretty too.
♥ Pupa stage - Butterflies typically form a chrysalis while moths form a cocoon. See if you could spot the difference in the collage below.

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~*Rainy Night in Taipei*~

It was a rainy evening when we touched down at Taipei. It was 10+ °C with strong winds; we were wearing thin summery clothes. When we finally hopped onto a cab and told the driver where our hotel was, he told us that there had been street protests along the street of our hotel the past few days. I braced myself for an adventure which never came.

On a cold rainy evening, I had craving for hot soupy food for dinner. After checking in, we walked around the vicinity of our hotel and ended up in a stall selling steaming hot beef noodles. Despite staying in Asia, we haven't been travelling to Asian countries for a while and was surprised at how cheap the food was. The price of our noodles converted to about SGD$2.30 and SGD$4.80. You could never get a bowl of noodles for $2.30 in Singapore except in school canteens.

I was expecting 红烧牛肉 (braised beef) noodles but mine tasted nothing like that. It was a tad bland. The hubz was very satisfied with his 麻辣 (ma la: numbing spicy) noodles though and insisted that I could not always dislike something just because it isn't the taste that I expect. Well, he's right but isn't it human nature to expect and be disappointed (especially when it comes to food for me)?

There were Asian and Western shops around our hotel. You could see from the 2nd picture in the collage the reminiscence of the street protest.

Beauty Hotels Taipei -- Hotel B7 was where we put up for our stay in Taipei. There were several positive reviews online ranging from 3.5 to 4 stars but we hadn't quite expected the room to be so TINY. Well I guess the price was good for its accessible location.

=) Service was good, or maybe expected from most hotels. The lady counter staff for the afternoon shift resembled Cyndi Wang, A Taiwanese singer. I don't like Cyndi Wang but that's some eye candy for us.

=( The room only had a few feet of floor space around the queen-sized bed. There was no wardrobe, only a clothes rack at the corner. We were perfectly fine with that as we usually live out of our luggage when travelling. Meanwhile, our luggage were stashed under the bed to keep out of the way. This room is definitely not for big-sized people or claustrophobes. Even tiny Asians and non claustrophobes like us found the room too small.

=( The room had no windows at all... which was BAD! It was the rainy season and I needed a window to plan the itinerary for the day. We woke up every day in the dark wondering how the weather was. Google wasn't always accurate and sometimes we did not plan and dress appropriately for the weather.

=) The room was really clean. The tiles were shiny and smooth and we didn't get those dusty feet feeling. There was a day when we headed back to our room after breakfast and we saw a kindly old lady getting down to her knees to wipe the floor with a wet cloth. So that's how they mopped such a small room.

To see how small the room is, view my 15 sec instagram videos here:
Hotel B7
Hotel B7's room
Hotel B7's toilet

=) The ratio of the toilet to the room is 1:2. They could probably allocate more space for the room but I do appreciate a spacious toilet. I love the heater function most.

=) Everything was free at the mini bar which really wasn't anything much but that was fine as Taiwan is well-known for its cheap and good street food. We were issued breakfast coupon which could be redeemed at the bakery next door every morning.

I hope that I could keep up with my Taiwan photo story posts. Stay tuned for more Taiwan adventures!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Instagram Snapshots ~*September 2014*~

Thank you all for your sweetest comments on my previous post and for sharing with me your insights on the controversy of animals kept in captivity. I really enjoyed reading all your thoughts. Do check back on my replies here.


Here's September instasummary. Instagram videos are better viewed on iamjolene Instagram page itself for sound and image quality, as well as full streaming.

~1 September 2014~
I've been pigging out way too much this weekend with all the celebrations and gatherings. I thought I was so full from the sumptuous dinner at my family home just now that I could not eat anymore for the day but I was so wrong... Seafood pie and steak pie from Little Britain SG and Four Seasons Mao Shan Wang durian Mooncake for supper. Now I could continue working through my draft poster designs for work which is getting nowhere.

~4 September 2014~
Staycation at the Tree Top Lofts Part 1 - Virtual Tour up on my blog. Here's a flipagram of us using my favorite multiple shots function.

~5 September 2014~
The most nostalgic part about Teachers' Day would be those sweet little things that students wrote. During my first 2 years of being a teacher, my gifts were a paper bag full that everywhere I walked, students would go "Wah. That teacher got a lot of presents." Over the years as my young little students became teenagers and as I kept repeating to the kids year after year not to buy any presents for me but to write me notes if they wished, my presents got lesser but my notes got more. The notes came on any occasion and not just on Teachers' Day. How I miss those days... Before the clock strikes 12, here's wishing all great teachers out there a very Happy Teachers' Day! ❤❤❤

~6 September 2014~
Nautical theme wedding with cookies made by the couple themselves. In case you're wondering how a corgi could be nautical, the couple has a corgi. Pic 4 are the desserts from the hotel.

~6 September 2014~
Top L: Hubby got a new hair style-- longer hair on top over shaved sides. He isn't used to it, think it is punky and dislikes styling with wax. ❤ Top R: Hubby sulking at me trying to take a photo. ❤ Bottom L-R: I like it coz it reminds me of how the make-up artist styled his hair during our wedding photoshoot and 2nd march in. ❤

~7 September 2014~
Sitting next to the fruit stall eating breakfast will make me deaf soon. The fruit stall holders hawk their fruits by shouting nonstop. The funniest line? "来啊来!买柚子回去今晚可以看到嫦娥姐姐!" (Loosely translated for my non Chinese readers: Come ah come! Buy a pomelo home and see Sister Chang'e tonight!") It's Mid Autumn Festival tomorrow so happy Lantern Day, Happy Mooncake Day and 中秋节快乐!

~8 September 2014~
Had a great dinner, dessert and chat with dear @xtinaong. It is always great to catch up with friends one to one, ❤ to ❤.

~9 September 2014~
So some time has passed since the big maelstrom on social media about Hello Kitty not being a cat. Meanwhile in Cartoonland...

~13 September 2014~
Got this anti-static band from Daiso. I'm easily zapped by static electricity. Not sure if it works but no harm trying for $2. Its elasticity reminds me of my hair rubber band though. Wonder if I could tie my hair with this.

~13 September 2014~
Throwback 2 weeks ago 全家福.

~14 September 2014~
Blog comments DOs and DON'Ts up on my blog. I'm sure all my blog friends on Instagram would nod your heads vehemently in agreement since if we are following each other here, we are definitely on the same page when it comes to these comments we receive on our blogs. ��

~14 September 2014~
Came all the way to Suntec City like hungry pack of wolves for the legendary crab broth Keisuke ramen but it was sold out!!! We settled for Mad for Garlic instead. Ordered mussels in garlic sauce which was really good. For mains we had the garlic steak and lobster cream pasta. I'm not sure if it was diminishing marginal utility but I couldn't finish such creamy pasta and had to pass to the hub. The steak was way too sweet and I absolutely hate it when salty food turns out too sweet. We are officially full. BURP!

~18 September 2014~
Palms and feet get cold easily so I got myself feet warmers. The stripes remind me of Cheshire Cat! When Simba was still around, she was my feet warmer. She would sleep under my desk as I rolled my feet over her body.

~21 September 2014~
Getting more and more compliments for this pair of Tangerine sandals from Tangs. ❤❤❤ It looks like those pretty but uncomfy shoes that cost thrice the price at Nine West, Aldo and the likes. The hubz asked, "Did you buy these sandals just to match your toe nails?!" (Aside: Left toes are scrunched coz my sprained ankle from weeks back is still hurting. Left foot and calf are thicker than the right now. �� T_T

~21 September 2014~
We are finally here for the legendary crab broth ramen! Taste just like seafood bisque. It had since become a VIOS tradition to take photo of the empty bowl so here's Kh with the empty bowl feeling very satisfied. I didn't finish my broth and a few strands of ramen so I broke the empty bowl tradition. I ate 2/3 of the jar of the appetizing tau gey (bean sprouts). The deep fried prawns with mayo were good too.

~21 September 2014~
Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno-- A must watch movie for all fans of the manga and anime. Wonderfully executed fighting sequences peppered with comic relief made the 139 min movie seem not at all long. I only wished the finale came all together so I don't have to wrack my brains 3 times trying to recall the characters and scenes from the anime I watched more than 10 years ago. The whole series of manga is in the hubby's comics cupboard but I'm too lazy to flip.

~25 September 2014~
What's the link between a Swiss Army knife and a key holder? ��The Keystone Holder�� The Keystone Holder is compact and looks classy with its minimalist clean lines and choice of finishes. It's unique design and innovative concept would be the topic of conversation each time you whipped out your keys. Best of all, your keys would never jingle. My cousin is the genius behind this simple yet innovative concept and his his project is currently up on Kickstarter. Read more about the Keystone from: • my blog (link in bio) • •

~27 September 2014~
September Saturday Selfie... Just coz I don't have a selfie photo on Instagram this month and it is abnormal. >_<

~28 September 2014~
Spent a lovely Saturday afternoon with lovely gal pals and 2 sweet little girls. April and I are beginning to me more receptive to selfie sticks. Viv got a good deal for her selfie stick and remote which Talya had so much fun playing with! Meanwhile, Taïsa continues to snooze...

~28 September 2014~
Sometimes we have to take a step back in order to see a clearer picture. How many of you did?

You can find me on Instagram by clicking the button below. If you like my pictures, do follow and drop me a message so that I could check out your page too! I really love it when my blog friends and I are connected on other social media platforms too since I know many of them don't blog as often yet have got a lot more updates on their Instagram page. If you're a newcomer asking for follow in exchange, I don't entertain follow for follow requests. However if we have enough meaningful exchanges here, I would naturally follow you back. Have a great week ahead!

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Monday, October 06, 2014

Staycation at the Tree Top Lofts Part 3 - Interacting with Dolphins for the 1st Time

The bulk of the final instalment is a pictorial walk through our maiden interaction with the dolphins (just one in particular) at Sentosa. I will keep the text in this post short and sweet but if you're interested to read about my mixed feelings on dolphins in captivity and the RWS dolphin controversy, those chunks of paragraphs in between are the ones to look out for. =)

In you're interested in my previous instalments, click on the following links:
Staycation at the Tree Top Lofts Part 1 - Virtual Tour
Staycation at the Tree Top Lofts Part 2 - Anniversary Dinner at Forest 森

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~*Dolphin Discover Programme*~

As mentioned in this post, our 2D1N package for the Tree Top Lofts included 2 Adventure Cove Waterpark day passes and 2 adult tickets to Dolphin Discovery. I've read compelling stories about the way marine animals are treated in some water parks around the world. As for Singapore, Sentosa RWS is the first organization to bring dolphins into our country. Surrounding the controversy of the six dolphins which died during the process of being brought here and also the death of one dolphin during its stay at Dolphin Island a few months back, animal activists have since termed Sentosa RWS's dolphins as the "world's saddest dolphins". =(

Prior to the programme, I had mixed feelings about our dolphin interaction. I wondered if I was in any way increasing the demand for dolphins in captivity and also perpetuating the cruelty to them by going for such dolphin interaction programmes. Many people believe that animals thrive in the wild and should not be trained for human entertainment. Other than the cruelty in confining these free-spirited animals, many believe that keeping dolphins in captivity is exploitative.

Before going for our individual dolphin interaction, it was compulsory for the group of 10 to 15 of us to watch an informative video on what to and what not to do during the dolphin interaction. The bubbly trainers also reiterated the dos and don'ts in language simple enough for the kids to understand. I could tell how much they cared for their dolphins. After the video, everyone broke into groups of couples and families with a dolphin trainer and a dolphin assigned to each group. Our dolphin is a male called Sheng Guo; I asked if he was from China and why the Chinese name. Needless to say, my instiable curiosity and candid questions are often the bane to my husband. He felt that these were bimbotic questions. -_-|||

Sheng Guo was such a friendly and playful dolphin. BTW, he is the largest dolphin the group.

We were shown by the trainer how to properly treat the dolphin with care and respect, how and where were fine to touch and stroke.

Sheng Guo performed every single task he was told to do readily and happily.

He even listened to our commands. Of course it was really the trainer giving some hand signals.

It was fun to see the blow hole opening and closing at whim.

Our trainer told us that the air ejected from the blow hole could be so forceful, it might cause pain.

We tried putting our cheek there and true enough, the small sprays of water and air pierced my delicate cheek like smithereens of microscopic glass.

Inspecting the mouth and teeth at close range, we learnt lots of facts about dolphins that we never knew. Since I taught Science at primary level for a few years, there were lots of facts about dolphins that I already knew so I was glad to take home new knowledge from this programme.

We even saw how the fish and jelly slid into Sheng Guo's throat. So cute!

Only trainers were allowed to massage the dolphin's tongue while I looked on longingly.

It was time to dance with Sheng Guo. He was such a gentle little boy.

Kh said it was weird for a boy to dance with a boy.

Even weirder for a boy to kiss a boy. Look at his weird expression.

Kh wanted to look like he was not kissing but kissing Sheng Guo because that's gay.

I, on the other hand, was so eager to be kissed by a dolphin.

And to kiss him back. Muax!

It took a while for the trainer to get Sheng Guo into this position and to hold it there for the photo-taking.

Sheng Guo was really obedient. I heard that there were some dolphins who would simply swim away when they didn't feel like doing certain acts. The fact that they would not be forced to do so if they continued to refuse after coaxing them made me feel that the dolphins here were indeed treated with respect.

Sheng Guo opened his mouth at the trainer's hand command.

I was so afraid of hurting Sheng Guo while he was holding his pose. You know? Like aching muscles or something.

After that, we splashed water at each other. My my, Sheng Guo could splash. I could almost see a twinkle in his cheeky eyes. There were couple of shots of the water being splashed more wildly but we had weird expressions in those.

Sheng Guo twirled and danced with us too.

Next it was time to play "Fetch". Kh tossed the rugby ball for Sheng Guo to retrieve.

I chose the frisbee. It was thrilling to receive our thrown items with a dolphin's beak.

A round of applause to encourage Sheng Guo.

A final massage and tickle for Sheng Guo. The trainer even turned Sheng Guo around to let us rub his belly. After which, we pat him and waved goodbye. Sheng Guo waved his flippers back at us and swam back to his enclosure.

Throughout the whole Dolphin Discovery experience, I felt that the trainers were doing their very best to treat the dolphins well and to also impart these acts and values to their visitors. However as I've mentioned earlier on, me being me, I simply had to fire all the burning questions in my mind to the trainer. As we walked out of the dolphin pool, we had a short discourse on the whole RWS controversy and keeping dolphins in captivity in general. The trainer recommended some YouTube documentaries for better understanding. I won't be revealing much here but I must say that the trainer gave a very balanced answer and satisfied my curiosity. Without my first-hand experience here, I would actually still be sitting on the fence about the RWS controversy. I wish that those activists could also understand how dolphins are very sociable and really love interacting with humans. The dolphins here arrived shaken initially like how all living things would but have very soon settled down and enjoyed the human interaction. I came across this blog post on RWS Dolphin Discovery written by a really cool Singaporean dad with 3 lovely kids. For those who are still half the mind about animal rights and cruelty to the dolphins, you should head over there now.

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~*Exploring the Rest of Adventure Cove*~

Adventure Cove Waterpark was not exactly that big and did not actually have much food choices for hungry hamsters like us.

To fill our cow bellies before the Dolphin Discovery, we had a hot dog bun and mashed potato from a stall shaped like a hot dog bun.

This was heavenly for our growling tummies.

For lunch, we used our free coupons to redeem for chicken and pasta, coke and apple juice. I could cook better than this but we were hungry.

A childhood lime with vanilla cream ice lolly which I loved a lot back then.

By the time we finished our Dolphin Discovery session, the water theme park would close in an hour's time. I used to be thrilled by all these water rides and slides but somehow there wasn't any urge to play that day.

We simply wasted our free tickets.

Fake stalagmite added on to the adventure feel?

The hubz and I felt that these reminded us of some alien beings.

Interaction with the rays.

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~*Relaxing Bath with ESPA*~

So the 2D1N was really too short but I simply had to squeeze time in for a relaxing bath just to make sure we made full use of the facilities.

All the bath products in theTree Top Loft bathroom are from ESPA.

It is nice to know that I''m using products against animal testing.

While soaking in the bath tub, I savoured on one of my favourite Indian snack -- Muruki.

I once took a legs in bath tub shot once in Maldives shot and I'm horrified to see the difference in skin tone. I very much prefer my legs to be tanned.

All refreshed!

Outfit of the day:
♥ FleurFaerie Layered Stripe Dress in Mocha worn as a top
♥ Cotton On denim shorts
♥ COACH Park Signature Swingpack in gold
♥ Mimosa studded floral slippers

Outfit of the day:
♥ TEZENiS Italy striped bikini
♥ Cotton On denim shorts

I'm typing this post with half my eyes closed and nodding off to sleep. Proofreading and phases of edits would come after everyone has spotted my grammatical error, spelling error and weird sentence expression. It is close to 5am now and if you are in Singapore and countries that celebrate, Selamat Hari Raya! Enjoy the last day of the long weekend.


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