Ning and I have been invited to be speakers at the inaugural Women in Travel conference in Bangkok, and today is the day I fly up to the Thai capital! *woohoo*

For a brief intro of us by the Web in Travel team, click HERE. Very nicely written!

It would’ve been great if the BFF and I could be heading up together to share our amazing 9-month trip around the world but she’s in Rome filming for a TV special and will only be back in Singapore next month.

I’m not someone to not do something just because I have no one to do it with!

So yeaaahh, I’m flying up and sharing on our behalf! It will be a good break too after starting work at Channel NewsAsia in March, and being on a steep learning curve! I am loving my new job, but this restless girl can’t resist any excuse to travel, travel, travel. *grin*

I’m looking forward to meeting the other women speakers at the conference, listening to them, and being part of this amazing vision.

The organizer of the conference, Yeoh Siew Hoon, pointed me to this article. I just read it and even watched the little video at the end. I realize that I’m part of something much bigger, of someone’s vision, that I realize is also my own.

Have a read by clicking here. Women travelers rock!

If you’d like to find out more about Web in Travel and their events, “LIKE” them on Facebook like we’ve already done. Real cool stuff :)

OK, I gotta run! Don’t forget to “LIKE” Ning & me on our FACEBOOK page too.

We’re also on Twitter & Instagram. Find us at @magicbabening and @pamela_ho

Ciao for now! — PAM

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Common Threads

The BFF Ning calls me a Facebook Addict. Actually I’m not *shifty eyes* I just own an iPhone. And those of you who own iPhones and leave ‘em by your bedside when you sleep, will empathize with me when I say that it’s instinctive to wake up and check Facebook, right? *shifty eyes* Right???

Well, since coming back to Singapore 12 days ago, I’ve been making up for lost time (for the many times we’ve had no wifi!). I’ve been back on Facebook with a vengeance. Those of you who are my personal Facebook friends, will know. And those of you who are on our Adventures of 2 Girls Facebook page will know too! *LOL* If you’re not on our A2G page, why ah? Why? Click here now!

The thing is, we have made many new friends in our travels. Friends from Spain, Hawaii, Paris, Adelaide, Cape Town, Oudtshoorn, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Madagascar, Taiwan, Nepal, India, Kashmir, Bali, New York City, Boston, New Orleans… oh, the list goes on! And I ♥ waking up to their FB updates each day!

My classmates from around the world at Alliance Francaise in Paris.

Chillaxing to drinks in Paris with classmates from my French class.

Home-cooked meals for homesick girls... hanging out with Denise, Cindy & E-lin in Paris, Ning's Le Cordon Bleu classmates.

Meeting our Spanish friend Rosa from Barcelona was one of the highlights of our adventures in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. Our favourite Desert Child!

The odds of meeting a Singaporean & Malaysian in the middle of the Sahara Desert. But they were traveling, just like us. Hello, Cindy & Gary!!!

Catching an awesome sunset with Anita & Des from Adelaide at Tanah Lot in Bali. We met at Bliss Sanctuary for Women, and Anita was traveling alone to Bali to celebrate her 50th birthday!

These Facebook status updates help me see these friends from around the world anew, in the context of their lives. And it’s made me realize that the pocket of time we spent together, in whatever continent, was precious time that we each needed to get away from the craziness of our daily lives. And that no matter what nationality we are, we aren’t all that different.

I’m thankful today for the crossing of paths, and for friendships. ♥

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK!!! 

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Home is where the Heart is…

It’s been 10 days since we’ve touched down in Singapore and I’m feeling unusually down today. Partly because I know I need to write, and the words are just not flowing. Partly because I know, too, that my heart is restless and it wants to be somewhere else.

Somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight...

During our many months of traveling, people constantly ask us, “Do you miss home?”

Well, yah… I miss my kids, my family, my friends, the food in Singapore, but I never felt homesick in the way people living or studying overseas feel homesick. To be honest, I was happy and contented being on the road, and it felt like the journey was home.

Home is where the Heart is. And although I’m back to the familiar, my heart has expanded, and Home is much further & wider than it used to be.. and I don’t think it can ever shrink back to the confines of my lil’ island country.

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I Expect to Pass this Way but Once…

“I expect to pass this way but once; any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

~ Etienne de Grellet

I stuck a poster with this exact same quote on the back of my school file, back in those glorious IJ days, when I was still clad in a blue & white pinafore and had a bouncy ponytail. I must’ve been (what) 14 or 15 years old?

When the poster was eventually replaced by one of Australian tennis sensation Pat Cash, I stuck it up on my bedroom wall, facing my bed. Right beside the one that said, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it is yours; if it doesn’t, it never was.” Yup, those were two wise quotes I carried in my heart all through my growing-up years, into adulthood.

I’m reflecting on this partly because on my bedside table now is a book which I started reading in Kathmandu, Nepal. It’s called The Time Traveler’s Wife, and it tells of how a man named Henry travels back & forth in time, to visit his one true love Clare, and to live & relive various aspects of his life, especially the traumatic ones (like seeing his mother killed in a car crash).

I sometimes wish I could. Time travel, that is. To go back to moments in my life that I could savour again and again, to undo wrongs, to once again spend time with people I didn’t cherish before and who are now out of my life… I don’t like regrets. I don’t like living with “what if’s” and “if only’s”. That’s why Ning & I decided to put an unexpected pause on our successful careers to tick big, fat items off our Bucket Lists.

But that aside, the truth is that we only go ONE WAY. And that is, forward… forward… forward… There is no turning back, no rewinds, no replays. If you’re walking along a road and see someone who needs help… if you hesitate for just a brief moment, you’re likely to walk on by, and that opportunity is gone forever. You may think about it the rest of the day, but you can never go back to that moment.

When Ning & I were in Bhutan, we had a guide called Sonam. He is devoutly  Buddhist, and always sharing with us about the rich history & culture of Tibetan Buddhism. Most Bhutanese are Buddhists, and the whole country is bursting with colourful prayer flags, giant prayer wheels, temples, monks, and Buddhist thangkas, paintings & sculptures.

Colourful prayer flags flapping in the wing at Tiger's Nest (Paro, Bhutan).

Once, when we were strolling through the beautiful Bhutanese countryside at Punakha, heading to the Temple of the Divine Madman…

Sonam walking ahead of us in the countryside, when a flock of birds take to the skies with a grand flutter of wings.

… Sonam stopped by a barbed-wire fence to help free a child who was stuck there. She was a farm child, quietly struggling to untangle her clothes caught in the wire.

Our devoutly Buddhist guide, Sonam, stops along the way to free a child stuck in a barbed wire fence, Bhutan.

Sonam did not hesitate at all. He gently approached her, said something to her in his deep soothing voice, and she stopped struggling. He leaned over and tugged her jacket off the barbed wire, and she scurried off to join her lil’ friends down the field.

The Buddhists believe in Karma. You do good, good comes back to you. You go bad, bad comes back to you. It’s the law of the universe. And I’m sure we’ve all seen that principle operating in our lives…

This reminds me of something I heard on Channel NewsAsia, when Melissa Hyak was interviewing a panel of speakers for Singapore Kindness Movement 2011. I really liked what the Deputy Principal of Raffles Girls’ School said on that episode of  Talking Point. To make something part of your life, it’s as simple as: KNOW, DO, BE.

You KNOW you should do good, to go beyond your comfort zone and help another human being in need, we all KNOW it. Well then, don’t hesitate. Just DO it, when the opportunity presents itself. And when you DO it again and again, until it becomes instinctive, spontaneous, automatic, you BE it. You become that person who is wise and compassionate.

I think one thing I’ve learnt from my travels to the Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet is this. And although I’m brought up Catholic, I think there is a strong pull for me to understand the precepts of Buddhism better, because there is just so much wisdom and compassion in those teachings.

May you take this quote with you, as you start your Sunday. Here’s wishing you courage and boldness (as I wish myself, too!) to do good or show kindness, without deferring or neglecting any opportunity that presents itself to you today. We do, after all, pass this way but once.

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Come with us to Club Med’s annual party……..

G’day, A2G’ers! (my newly-minted name for you!). Wanna come with us to the exclusive Club Med party at Avalon @ Marina Bay Sands? *LOL*

It was really fun to dress up & put on makeup, and party with the BFF after 9 months of not doing so. Don’t get me wrong, we love going through the day without makeup… dressing down to shorts & slippers (Singaporean) or “flip flops” (American) or “thongs” (Australian) and just being ourselves, incognito… but there are days we just wanna glam it up a bit. Girls will be girls. :)

Anyway, here are some pics we took at Club Med Night 2011, and which our friends from Club Med Singapore sent us after the event. Come re-experience that evening with us…

The right place at the right time. What a venue!

Avalon @ Marina Bay Sands is built right on the water! Great choice of venue, guys!

Greeted by our friends from Club Med Singapore at the door. Hello, Naaz! Lookin' good, babe!!!

The staff of Club Med Singapore. Well done on the achievements of 2011, guys!

Adventures of 2 Girls celebrating with CM Singapore. Thanks for the unforgettable birthday experience at La Plantation d'Albion in Mauritius in Oct!

What an evening! Heading off with goodie bags, but wishing we had won those all-expenses-paid trips to Kani and Sahoro!

You can visit Club Med Singapore‘s website for the best deals & latest promotions here, or join their Facebook page & interact with them here.

Also, do join Ning & yours truly on our very own Facebook page! We’ve uploaded lots of pics of our travels there, and there will be more being uploaded in the coming weeks, once we settle down a bit. Stay tuned!!! :)

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK!!! 

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It’s CLUB MED Night Tonight!!!

I must be excited because there is no good reason why I should be awake at this unearthly hour! I only slept at about 2.30am last night, and I know the BFF Ning was also awake cos we were whatsapp-ing each other till 2-ish… The difference though, is that she was working, which is a pretty good excuse. As for me, I can only attribute it to premature excitement.

Yup, yup, tonight is Club Med Night!!! *woohoo*

For those of you who have been following our 9-month adventure around the world, you’ll know that we  did a blissful birthday break in the beautiful island of Mauritius in the second week of October. That’s cos, uncanny as it may be, my birthday is on 12 Oct, and Ning’s is on 16 Oct. Just 4 days apart!

Since we’ve been friends, we’ve been celebrating our birthdays together every year. But this year was special cos we were traveling the world together and we could pick any destination in the world we wanted to pamper ourselves silly!

We were in Madagascar just before that, off the Southeastern coast of the continent of Africa, and spending 2 weeks roughing it out. Yes, we’re talking camping in the wild with no running water, no electricity, no toilets, peeing & pooping behind bushes, no phone reception, no wifi, just rowing on a muddy river under the scorching sun, trekking and climbing, with just a tent over our heads and a canopy of stars.

All we knew was that we wanted to pamper ourselves after Madagascar before moving on to India, and that one week chillaxing at Club Med’s 5-trident resort La Plantation d’Albion was pure, pure bliss.

A 5-Trident resort... Club Med's first such village. No better better place for serious pampering! *LOL*

Sunny sails at La Plantation d'Albion in Mauritius, where we celebrated our birthdays this year -- a blissful break in our round-the-world tour!

Sorry for reminiscing but I’m in a sentimental mood today. Our good friends at Club Med Singapore invited us to their annual Club Med Night tonight, and we are thrilled to be celebrating with the Club Med family after our whirlwind round-the-world trip!

It’s just been 4 days since we touched down in Singapore, and I have to admit that we’re already missing those blissful, carefree days of soaking in the sun & sea… sinking our toes into the soft Mauritian sand… lazing by the beach…

Kayaking!

we love chillaxing at the beachside cabanas reading a book or just talking cock!

… honing our archery skills (Ning had 3 bull’s eye in a row!)…

Ning is a natural at archery!

I wasn't a natural, but I do look good with a bow & arrow and I just had fun!

… running around the clay tennis court at sundown, picking up balls more than hitting them across the net… playing lazy ping pong after lunch (we were both naturals, I’ve to say, because we are Chinese)… stuffing our faces with food, food, and more food…. enjoying the best Virgin Mojitos in the world at the Zen area of the village… playing Scrabble (Ning won!) and Checkers (I won!)….

We played many rounds of Scrabbles at Club Med, at the Zen area, in our room... I'm peeved that even though I'm the published writer, Ning won!

… pampering ourselves at the Cinq Monde spa on Ning’s birthday… oh man, that was the best… massages in private open-air rooms by the sea…

I found Ning in this position at the waiting area after her Shiatsu massage... I had just finished my Taoist massage and she looked so blissful and at peace that I had to take this pic! *LOL*

But what was most special for us was celebrating our dual birthdays at La Plantation d’Albion. We booked a table at the La Phare restaurant at the quieter Zen area and actually dressed up (as best as we could, from our limited backpacker’s garb!) for the occasion. OK, Ning cheated. She bought a new dress/top (it can be both, I swear!) while I made do with what I had in my backpack!

And after months of no make-up, we finally put on a little colour for the special occasion. Hey, girls will be girls! :)

Celebrating our birthdays at La Phare Restaurant at La Plantation d'Albion, Mauritius (16 Oct 2011).

The food was excellent, to say the least!

After dinner, we were surprised to hear a chorus of voices coming our way. When we looked up, we saw all the G.O.s coming towards our table with a cake, singing “happy birthday”! I think the whole restaurant was watching us and beaming at us. It was very special indeed, and I think we were both smiling from ear to ear! :) :)

A birthday cake..... OR SO WE THOUGHT!

The Club Med official photographer was going from table to table taking pictures of the guests. And when all the fuss was happening around our table, he came over to take pictures of our birthday celebration. We, of course, flashed him our best smiles because our photos would be pinned up on the noticeboard the following day!

After all, it was our birthday celebration, we were all dressed up and made up, and we thought something to commemorate this A2G round-the-world adventure would be neat.. a nice picture we could perhaps frame up for our desks at work.

Well, after the G.O.s left, and the photographer left, and we were left on our own to enjoy our very large dessert… we looked at the cake, we looked at each other, and burst out laughing!!!

Happy Anniversary?!!

The cake said “Happy Anniversary!!!” OMG.

What will the people think when they see our pictures on the noticeboard the next day?!! Two girls all glammed up celebrating their anniversary at Club Med?! *gasp* I tell you, Ning and I were so tickled we couldn’t stop giggling the whole evening. It’s incredulous!

But what made the situation even more hilarious was when the G.O. who organized this for us (she shall not be named!) came out again with another cake, a “Happy Birthday!” cake, and quietly brought it to another table…..

There was a couple sitting there having a quiet dinner. She brought the cake to them and laid it on the table, quietly wishing them. We didn’t hear what she said, but it was curious  because they didn’t get the same lavish birthday fanfare from the team of G.O.s as we did!

“Do you suppose they are celebrating their anniversary, and there was a mix-up, and they got our cake?” The BFF speculated, gasping in realization. We looked at each other, and burst out laughing again!!!

I looked over at the couple, and I really didn’t know whether to laugh or cry…

The couple at the other table who got our birthday cake! Oh dear.....

But the unexpected goof-up is all part of the adventure, part of the fun, part of the memories, part of this wonderful curious thing we call LIFE. We wouldn’t have it ANY OTHER WAY. It has made our birthday celebration the most fun, hilarious, and memorable one we’ve shared through the years. Thank you, Club Med!!!

And so, back to tonight….

Do you see why we’re both so excited about today? We’ll be celebrating with our friends at Club Med Singapore, and sharing our stories, memories & adventures with everyone we meet at Avalon @ Marina Bay Sands. It will be such a blast!!!

Club Med Singapore, you better brace yourself for Adventures of 2 Girls being there tonight! It’s party time, BFF!!! *woohoo*

And one more thing: Club Med Singapore, if you ever wanna invite us to any of your other villages, in any other part of the world, you know without a doubt that Ning & Pam are more than ready to pack our bags and GO!!!

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While We Were Away… Missing TWO Elections!

I was having dinner with my family last night and my sister Des said, “You missed so much while you were away!”

My bestie Gen concurred, and the two gushed on about the two very exciting elections Ning and I missed between the months of March and November 2011. Yup, the General Elections and the Presidential Elections…

It has been so quiet in Singapore for the last (what) 4 years? And then BAM! Two elections within a span of 9 months! And while we were away! What are the odds of that, seriously?

“Wait, I got something for you…” Des says, digging into her bag and pulling out a gift-wrapped present for me. “Open it! It’s to commemorate what you missed!” She giggles.

My sister got this "Yam Ah Mee" tank top for me to remind me of the exciting elections I missed in 2011.

Upclose & personal with Mr Yam Ah Mee... apparently he became quite a "rap star" on social media during the Presidential Elections!

Of course I had no idea what the whole fuss about Yam Ah Mee was, so I googled him… To truly appreciate Singapore humour (especially with regards to politics), you need to watch this YouTube vid. That’s what small peaceful countries, with usually little excitement, do in their spare time! *LOL*

Apparently, elections here in Singapore are compulsory for every citizen. If you do not turn up for voting, you can be banned from voting in future elections. So when I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was to log on to the Singapore Elections website with my SingPass to check my status……..

This is what I found:

We've been "expunged" from the voting register... OMG.

EXPUNGED?!! What the….

My friend Jo looked up the definition, and it read: “To strike or blot out; erase; obliterate”.

OMG lor.

I followed the steps on the website, and was led to a page where I had to declare WHY I didn’t turn up for voting. I scanned the options, and picked the most obvious one: Vacation.

The reason for missing two elections... will they believe us?

A vacation long enough to not come back to Singapore for two elections? That would be interesting to explain. And we do need to provide documentary evidence, it seems.

I SMS-ed Ning to ask if she had reinstated herself to the voting register. The poor BFF had just woken up and was already heading out of the house for work. “What do I have to do?” She asked. I SMS-ed her step-by-details regarding the online procedure. Her response: “Er… can you do for me?”

Granted, she’s been having intensive rehearsals and late nights for an upcoming overseas gig, not to mention filming for season 2 of “M is for Magic” with Sinema. So, I gladly obliged since I am the freer one (she owes me one).

Surprisingly, it was easy-peasy. No fuss. That’s one thing I love about the Singapore governmental websites — from filing Income Tax, to applying for passport, to paying fines, to reinstating yourself as a member of the voting electorate. IT’S ALL VERY EFFICIENT.

I think it took traveling the world and surviving a myriad of inefficient and corrupt governments to truly appreciate this about Singapore.

And so, we’ve sent in our appeal. Let’s see what they say………

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