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I love to explore new areas and neighborhoods, and one of my favorite companions on these mini-expeditions is my 3-year old son. It's one of the ways I like to spend quality one-on-one time with him. It's also my way of encouraging him to observe and be curious about the world outside. Not too long ago, we set out to visit the Everton Murals, located on Everton Road in the Tanjong Pagar district. They were painted by Singaporean artist Yip Yew Chong who wanted to depict scenes from his childhood days. Although his murals portray simple scenes from everyday life, they manage to evoke a sense of nostalgia about the "kampong" (meaning village or small community) feel of Singapore from decades ago. There are three sets of his paintings on Everton Road, titled "Amah", "Provision Shop", and "Barber".

My little kiddo loved walking around and looking at the murals! He asked questions about what he saw on the walls and we weaved stories about them. He excitedly pointed out details of the paintings that caught his eye. He playfully touched the animals painted on the walls. And the cutest part? He willingly obliged me by posing in front of the murals for pictures. It was an evening well-spent...and the best part was that this open-air museum experience was all for free!

In case you're interested to explore more, there are many places around Singapore where you'll find murals or graffiti. Certain areas are known for them, such as Haji Lane with its bright, eye-popping paints (my post about it here). But you'll also find them in unexpected, hidden corners or quiet residential neighborhoods. I'm talking about places like Tiong Bahru (post here), Somerset Park (post here), Kampong Glam area (picture here), and lastly the Everton Murals. For more information on Yip's paintings in different locations around Singapore, check out his website yipyc.com.
While my son was smitten by the lazy cat sitting on the chair, I couldn't help but notice the colorful bowls sitting on the cupboard, which are very characteristic of the Perenakan design
Pretending to feed the chickens
"Amah" mural showing a domestic helper with a washboard doing laundry
Mural portraying a street vendor handing a schoolboy a bowl of noodles and chopsticks
 "Provision Shop" showing an old-school convenience store of the kinds you barely see anymore
"Barber"
The artist putting his stamp on his paintings with his name, date, and website


Well, folks...the dust is only now starting to settle from the shocking news we were dealt with today. It's a historic day indeed...I never believed that I would actually see Donald Trump being elected as president. But the American people have spoken and he did get elected. I'm still grappling with the news. I and many others were not Trump supporters but now, the American people and the world have to accept this result. I can only hope that Donald Trump the President is different from Donald Trump the bigot who spewed hateful rhetoric during the campaign these last few months. I can only wish that he works to bring the country and its people together and rule the country with a rational mind and a noble heart, with dignity and grace. Fast forward four years from now, I hope that we can all look back and say, "Well, it wasn't so bad. He did alright!" Fingers crossed (tightly).

On a lighter note, I wore this navy blue jumpsuit with a floppy hat on a recent outing to Marina Barrage. It's a wide clearing on a slope near the oceanfront in Singapore where lots of people come to fly kites and have picnics. I took Krishnav there with the intent to show him the kites and to give him open space to run around and play. Unfortunately, it started raining that afternoon so we had to cut things short. Nevertheless, it's a great location to visit because you get an outstanding view of the ocean on one side and the Singapore skyline on the other!

Navy Blue Jumpsuit from Lulu's | Atalanta sandals and rope bangles frrom Ammos Accessories | Hat from Bankgok street shopping | Purse from Nine West | Double heart tag pendant from Tiffany's and stained glass necklace from Venice, Italy | Belt from Target

Sapa is located in northern Vietnam, a hippy-dippy town nestled between mountain tops and low-hanging clouds. The gorgeous vistas here take your breath away! If you’re looking for cultural immersion and a leisurely pace of travel, you could choose to explore Sapa over several days. But from a things-to-do perspective, 2-4 days is a sufficient amount of time in this sleepy little town.

Journey to Sapa
Getting to Sapa is a bit of an adventure in itself! You can choose to take either a 5-hour bus ride or a 7-hour overnight train journey from Hanoi to Lao Cai (sorry, there are no daytime train rides). After much deliberation, we opted for the train ride. The main reason was to maintain a manageable pace of travel with a young child in tow. But it was also a good way to optimize our time. You may as well travel while you sleep, right? We quite enjoyed our private, cozy cabin in the train which included clean bedding and complimentary water and snacks. It was a comfortable sleep with the gentle rocking of the train. Once we reached Lao Cai, it was another hour long car ride to the top of the mountain where Sapa is located. Along the way, we were treated to a dreamy landscape of lush green rice terraces against the cool morning fog.

Things to do in Sapa
We were charmed by the easy smiles of the locals, the rustic setting of the town, and the authenticity of Sapa. No chain restaurants or touristy, man-made attractions staring you in the face. The town is simplistic, offering only the beauty of nature for you to admire. The rice terraces of Sapa are a must-visit! Unlike southern Vietnam which produces rice for export, Sapa’s bread and butter is rice production for the surrounding region. August is a great time to visit because that is when the rice fields are ripe for harvesting and resplendent with shades of yellow and gold. By the time we had arrived, harvesting season was just over. But the sight of the rice terraces was still beautiful.

You can also check out the villages inhabited by ethnic minorities. We took a walking tour through some of these local villages where we got to see how the different tribes live. They were all so friendly and welcoming to us! I loved seeing the local hand-woven clothes of the Black Hmong, Red Dao, and Giay tribes, each with its own unique features and trademark colors. For example, the Black Hmong wear dark blue clothing dyed in indigo while the Giay tribes wear pink tartan headscarves. These are all farming communities with very basic modes of living. I couldn’t help but imagine what they would think of the highly urbanized, fast-paced lifestyle we live in.

Lastly, take time out to do some hiking and nature walks to the waterfalls. We did quite the trek up some hills to visit Silver Waterfall and Love Waterfall. With a 3-year old, it was no easy task. There was quite a lot of walking and climbing of steps involved. If you have to pick between the two, I would recommend skipping Love Waterfall and visiting Silver Waterfall only because it has a better view.

Tips:
· Some recommended private sleeper trains from Hanoi to Lao Cai are Fanxipan Express (this is the one we took) and Orient Express (tickets are about USD $74-86). They are of similar quality and have similar arrival and departure schedules.

· The drive from Lao Cai to Sapa is quite steep and uphill. If you’re prone to car sickness, be sure to take some medication with you.

· The hotels are nice but don’t expect any 5-star hotels as Sapa itself is quite rustic. We stayed at the Paradise View Hotel which was rated well on TripAdvisor. We had a very comfortable stay there and the staff provided excellent service. Topas EcoLodge is another recommended place to stay.

· Sapa starts to get chilly from September onwards so be sure to check the weather and bring appropriate clothing.

· The timing of the trip was centered around a race I had wanted to participate in for a long time. This race, the Vietnam Mountain Marathon, takes place in Sapa every year in September (read about my incredible race experience here!).

A local Hmong villager selling her wares in central Sapa town
During this time of year with cooler weather, low hanging clouds and fog obscures what would otherwise be a spectacular view at this elevation!
Having a little bit of goofy fun with my kiddo at Love Waterfall
Taking a dip in the icy waters of Silver Waterfall - it was a bit of trek through numerous stone steps to get to this place
The little poser on our way to Silver Waterfall
During our visit to the local ethnic villages, we came upon this sweet lady who was making these animal figures. She couldn't speak much English but the warm and gentle smile on her face was so charming that I had to ask her for a photo together

Many people find Singapore as a country to be too sanitized and too structured. To a certain degree, I agree with that assessment. It’s true that Singapore is probably the most Westernized and developed of the Southeast Asian countries. The streets are perfectly clean, systems run efficiently like clock-work, there are clear-cut rules and regulations on everything, and there is an air of predictability around most things here. But what’s wrong with that??? I for one like living in a society that runs like a well-oiled machine. It makes life easier and less stressful. 

Then there are naysayers who complain that Singapore is too dull to live in. Not enough culture and personality, they say. My take is that it’s all about perspective. Your experience is what you make of it, anywhere you go. I find that there are plenty of pockets of culture stashed all over Singapore, some obvious, some more hidden. It’s just a matter of you venturing out and discovering what lies beyond your front door. For example, I love the murals you’ll find around Tanjong Pagar and Tiong Bahru, the hustle & bustle and temples of Little India, the pastel colors and unrestrained use of colors of Perenakarn shophouses, the crazy graffiti-covered walls of Haji Lane, the undulating Henderson Waves Bridge, and the list goes on...

Then there are complainers who say that Singapore is too small. It’s claustrophobic, they say. Well, I consider myself immensely fortunate to live in a country where travel to surrounding countries is only a short distance away. If ever I want to break the monotony of daily life, I can easily hop on a plane to places in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Cambodia – all within 3-4 hours of flying time. Isn’t that great?

Clearly I like living in Singapore. But I also loved living in other places in my life, such as New York City, Austin, and Bangkok. My bottom line is basically this: Embrace the city (even the world) you live in! There’s so much to see and discover and learn, no matter the place. Never stop being curious. Always keep that sense of wonder. Do things that excite you. You’ll be so much happier in life!

Dress by Morning Lavender | Purse by Ammos Accessories |
Shoes by Charles & Keith | Bracelet by Accessory Concierge


Travel to new destinations offers us a mental escape from the everyday routine we have in our lives. Why not break free and do something daring in the physical sense too?

With so many great places and unique locales to explore in the world, I have become a big fan of combining sight-seeing with fitness challenges. This, my friends, is my new hobby. It’s exciting, it’s adventurous, it’s fun!  I’ve been doing it for the past 3 years now and I love it.

It all started when I did the vertical race, climbing over 86 flights of stairs up the Empire State Building in New York (read here). I got such a high from taking part in a unique fitness challenge such as that. It was so atypical from the usual races one does. From them on, I was hooked! The next one I did was a run through an ancient archeological site steeped in history, the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Soon after, it was a run through the Singapore Zoo where we got to whiz by wild animals. The most recent one I did was the Vietnam Mountain Run.

The Vietnam Mountain Run is no ordinary race. It takes place in Sapa, a small town that sits among mountains in northern Vietnam. You might imagine that a race in a mountainous region might include lots of rocky dirt roads, winding trails, and steep inclines. You’re not mistaken.

My 10K race started at central Sapa town with the rest of the race taking me past local minority villages, through scenic ricefields, jungles, and streams. I had trained on flat, pavement roads in urban Singapore. In rural Sapa, I was greeted with the rocky-studded dirt paths, dangerously narrow trails, slippery muddy paths, and steep slopes along the way. I had prepared for a tough race, this was even tougher than I expected. I realized early on that this race was going to be a test of endurance and agility. I had to keep going through a combination of running, climbing, and walking. It was no doubt the hardest race I’d done until now. The first 3 km were essentially downhill but the last 7km were entirely uphill to a height of 1500 meters. Talk about pushing yourself against gravity!

Despite all of that, I made sure to pause every now and then to taken in the incredible scenery in front of me. Yes, I had a race to complete but that didn’t stop me from taking my iPhone out multiple times during the run to take gratuitous selfies and panoramic shots of the gorgeous landscape. I also felt lucky to have gotten the chance to see the quieter, hidden corners of Sapa and access some of the more remote parts of this locality through this run. As I crossed the finish line, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I had pushed myself to complete a very strenuous race but the journey had been incredible. Now, I’m already thinking about where my next destination and race will be. 
Only the beginning of the run. All easy downhill turns at this point. 
Quick photo to capture myself along this side cliff, and then getting on with the run!
"What's up with these foreigners wanting to run through our village? We do it every day,
it's no big deal."

In case you're wondering - yes, I stopped a fellow runner to ask if he could take a picture of me as I stood panting like a dog...against this backdrop.
Waving the Indian flag at the finish line! Oh, so victorious! Haha!