I write & shoot (photographs) occasionally

Month: December, 2015


the sky has more cloud than blue in it, skyscrapers nestling in a fluffy whiteness. we float on the water and try to paddle in tandem, left right left, constant motivation, trying to escape splash wars and fish attacks. enjoyable quiet conversation about nothing much really, trying to fit 3 kayaks in a selfie, half-hearted races, blasting music and rapping enthusiastically, resting on the water and letting the wind and currents push us when we get tired (i think we’re moving/ the wind is blowing us/ is it just the float moving?), sudden burst of adrenaline and racing to retrieve a friend’s hat that had fallen into the water- fishing in some sense. carefree but arms aching, things that just happened a few months ago but have now inherited the quality of a faraway time and memory (remember that time when…?). sitting in popeye’s being raucous and talking about strange unspeakable things as teenagers are expected to be.

the sky is so clear the ambient light cannot eradicate the shine of the stars (there are so many stars tonight!/ they’re just satellites… at least i always say that.), the moon so bright its glow cannot be contained and spills onto us. i didn’t properly register this until a friend pointed out that it is somehow always the night with its special elements, mood, power that eases the flow of conversation, makes topics that cannot typically be breached more easy, breathable and everything is released- in an unlikely corner of carl’s jr.’s before we are chased out and find our new place in an asymmetrical circle on the rooftop. i wonder: does common knowledge, the act of sharing something that once mattered to you and held great emotional power somehow stitch the separated pieces of different lives closer together? this knowledge that is clearly not applicable to many matters but somehow flows within you and between the hearers like a new understanding and connection, and perhaps eases the outlets that were once blocked, gives you a greater reach into someone else’s life.



it’s hard not to get caught up in wanting to preserve every moment, when the silent sublimity of nature is all that surrounds you. it’s a break from the common sights that greet our eyes, twin peaks rising over fine greens, deep gullies coloured by light and shadow. we are so near but somehow it is unreal, as if we are the only reality in focus and it is but a faraway painting, faded edges and all. we capture the moments because we want to remember them, but I’m afraid of becoming overly obsessed with documenting every shift and experience. when i look at photographs months after the sight is crystal clear but the feeling may be irretrievable. and so this is my likely illogical rationale for climbing out onto the open-air deck of the ferry to catch my last sight of mt. sakurajima as we leave the island in a trail of bubbles and foam. we may all be of different ages and walks of life but i’d like to believe nature evokes in us a universal sense of awe; i watched an apple-cheeked little boy and girl come out onto the deck repeatedly to lean by the railing and gaze buoyantly at the volcano; a father and son share silent moments looking out to sea. the ferry is moving slowly but the wind whips harshly against bare faces; still the sight fixes us. and i know my human memory is much more fallible than a camera but this is my feeble attempt at trying to absorb nature in its pure unadulterated glory, to let go of technology for a little bit and remember the preliminary purposes of travel; to see the world in its natural state rather than through a pixelated screen.

busan impressions

unbelievably bumpy bus rides up steep slopes, us stumbling left and right like bendy trees in biting winter winds. comfort food of kimchi broth and pork slices by day and fried chicken paradise by night- cheese, soya sauce, bulgogi takeouts abounding. supermarket shopping for exotic korean tidbits, queues and street food of fishcake and fried sesame buns, steam streaming into cold air, well-fed pigeons picking boldly at the crumbs falling at our feet. fussy machines rejecting crumpled  tickets, classical music coming on to mark the onset of the train. scrambling for the lifts to avoid climbing huge flights of stairs, 8 people pressed against the walls. some unpleasant encounters of impoliteness but also many many kind souls which override these: the beautiful lady who paid for one of our tickets when it was rejected and refused to accept money back, the man who led us to our apartment on the first day, the chinese-speaking cafe owner who took a lot of effort to converse with us and take our orders in a familiar language. when i see passion it strikes me, and it strikes me pretty hard. we were wondering why this man was taking so long, when he came out with a plate of waffles drizzled with sweet sauces and whipped cream, ice cream bunny with two almond ears and chocolate eyes, bananas for paws, and i know there is probably no need for him to make food so beautiful when it ends up a melted mess in our stomachs. when we thanked him for putting so much heart into it he said that he enjoyed doing it. i will remember that cozy cafe with post-its all over the walls and the bright sincere owner who gave us a brownie free.

familiar korean faces endorsing all sorts of products, very well-dressed people, huge fish markets and octopus wriggling out of basins before being put back in their place, cold sand and beaches at night where firecrackers explode like mini fireworks. our apartment on the 47th storey, ears blocking on the ride up every time, the night view so, so beautiful, orange faraway lights on the right like a trail of fireflies as my mum described. after seeing the same view for a couple nights and getting used to it/ taking it for granted it made me question if beauty does fade away with habit. but i have to conclude no; if i were to live there i’m sure the beauty of the city would strike me anew every now and then, a sort of revelation again and again. utensils (much heavier on one end) that my clumsy hands are somehow unable to handle, meals dropping spoons multiple times and food stains on jeans. seaside temple and azure blue waters, models having a photoshoot, high heels on jagged rocks which appeared to me a dangerous combination. every day a parka day, freezing legs with too-thin pants, hands shoved in pockets and gloves, quickly excitable when the temperature falls low enough for our breath to gain visibility.

fukuoka day 2

today’s dinner is at 10.30pm, served by our mums scurrying around the little apartment. i can’t remember a time when it has rained as much as this, but it has rained for the whole of today and the streets are shiny and golden, water seeping into shoes, bus windows frosted over through which traffic lights look like soft paintings. the supermarket was one of the last stalls open in the mall as early as 8.30 in the evening, and we left laden with fresh groceries and tired feet. the way back to the station takes us through the underground shopping street again, the shaded arcade alive and warmed with golden fairy lights for what seems like miles, shuttered up shop faces greeting us, mannequins donning pretty winter coats unfamiliar to residents of a tropical country. ave maria is playing overhead, familiar rich tune easing our fatigue and sweeping us into the magical christmas mood that comes only once a year. it is comforting to have a homecooked meal in a foreign country and we watch succulent pork and beef strips bring churned out with hot miso soup and sweet spicy chicken, singaporean take on japanese produce.

we are enclosed in this strange little bomb shelter-like house in which the power trips if you use the microwave and the stove together; vanguard sheets serve as curtains; the tv plays only one channel which happened to be a horror movie. but we are here in this little home where there is steaming dinner served on the little table, two families eating together, and i feel warm and homely, satisfied and very full.

ho chi minh stopover

i always wonder about how we used to wait when technology had not been so advanced and accessible. we always wait: sometimes for negligible split-seconds of time; other times for intolerable stretches when the moments unfurl excruciatingly slowly. it is such a natural and accepted part of life yet it is spent so differently for all of us. perhaps it is much easier now, given that technology wedges itself into these blank seconds; yet i can’t help feeling that we have lost something important.

if i never knew technology, i would probably gaze out reflective windows on long bus rides, juggle between my thoughts of the day and admiration of the scenery outside. maybe i would realise that  nature is not just green, that there are many types of green, watch pedestrians along the streets from the protected vista of the bus interior. look at other commuters more, notice that their bags are torn along the zip, realise that two of them are wearing the same shoes. at airport transfers i would probably speak much more like my parents and the enthusiastic Koreans behind me, instead of asking ‘is there WiFi?’ and retreating into reticence, typing this.