△ BASTILLE, THE BESTILLE △

Two years ago, in the middle of June, Fly FM had a radio contest where listeners who managed to call in and give the right answers to Bastille’s lyrics read on air would win tickets to watch Bastille live in Australia. I remember vividly, sitting in front of the laptop with 20 AZlyrics tabs pulled out, listening intently to the cue to call, and then frantically calling the station with my fingers crossed that they would pick me, please pick me, oh god please. However, predictably, they never did, but I did learn a lot from that experience, such as realising how difficult it is to actually get through the line to a radio station and learning how to google lyrics at the speed of light, as well as building a rapport with the DJ in charge by spam tweeting them out of frustration to the point that when I actually called through (but not during the cue to call), he knew who I was and there was nothing for me to do except scream internally from watching the last shred of my dignity break into pieces.

Two years later found me at the exact same position in the living room of my house, laptop in front of me again, but this time I was clicking into the news that was announcing Bastille’s UK tour for their new album, and despite there being no standing tickets left, I went ahead and bought a seating one anyway. Two-years-ago-Michelle would be proud.

It turned out that getting seat tickets was a good idea because the show was at Manchester Arena, and I didn’t particularly feel like wrestling through the crowd at the pit of a venue so big. I had luck with me when I bought tickets, honestly, because my view was actually perfect, directly facing the stage. Probably the only downside of being in seats was everyone else around me being too chill that me shouting and dancing in my seat made me feel a little out of place. But eh, that’s more of my own problem than anything else isn’t it

Rationale was one of the opening acts - they were pretty good
Rationale was one of the opening acts – they were pretty good

This was during Oblivion – there were no flashes and bright lights, only Dan’s voice ringing through the arena and amazingly, a sea of white light among the crowds as everyone held up their phone torches. It was really beautiful.

If you want to know what it feels like to experience something trippy, attend a Bastille concert. I particularly loved a concept they did where the onstage screen split into multiple small screens and played real life newscasts from all over the world in various languages, followed by more splitting into smaller screens showing scenes of retro TV shows (they incorporated a lot of TV dialogues -that they’d inserted into songs in their Other People’s Heartaches series- into their new album so this worked out very well for them) cut so jumpily that I don’t really know how to describe it besides – trippy. Couple that with the strobe lights that flashed in sync with the beats of the songs and you get an otherworldly experience of being somewhere you’re not. Unfortunately, the strobe lights gave me a bit of a headache for a while that I had to shield my eyes while singing and jumping so that was quite funny. But during Pompeii, despite the lights and everything I gave in and went all out, a good encore to round the show up with.

And oh boy, Dan’s voice was absolutely magnificent, so powerful as it echoed throughout the arena. Bastille really knows how to put on a wonderful show.

Michelle’s People I’ve Watched Live List, updated:

Destinations – November ’16 (Part II)

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

The gap between my last Destinations post and this post is actually longer than the gap between my reaching Manchester from Scotland and then flying off from Manchester to Amsterdam, which was a mere four hours or so during which I swiftly replaced my luggage with fresh new clothes and had homecooked lunch at Q3 courtesy of Yee Lin and Nicole.

And then the five of us, Ash, Ernie, Jia Yang, CC and I took an Uber to Manchester Airport for our 8PM flight to Amsterdam.

It must be emphasised, before I continue, that the conception of this trip literally appeared out of nowhere. I still remember it was the evening before we went to Old Trafford to watch a football match; it was exactly the five of us having dinner at a Chinese restaurant when Ash suddenly said, out of the blue, “Let’s go to Amsterdam next week” and I actually entertained the idea, because I responded by saying “Let’s go” albeit not expecting a legitimate end result, and definitely not expecting the instantaneous formation of a Whatsapp group and then actually buying flight tickets and booking an Airbnb on the next day itself.

So that…was that. And less than a week later, we were off to Amsterdam.

White wine is the breakfast for champions.

This wasn’t my first time in Amsterdam; I’d been here during spring three years ago and I had nothing but fond memories of this picturesque European city that doesn’t give me pressure and stress the way a lot of cities do (see: London, KL). The city of Amsterdam by day boasted uniquely beautiful Dutch architecture and quaint canals, as well as confusing streets accessible by vehicular contraptions in the forms of bicycles, cars and trams.

    

Forget spring, fall is literally the loveliest and most scenic season. Not to sound fake deep but the yellow-orange hues of autumn leaves tell better relatable stories of a person’s aged experiences than the vivid multi-colours of spring’s floral blooming.

We had authentic sushi for lunch. Humans are such predictable creatures
We had authentic sushi for lunch. Humans are such predictable creatures

Churros is only one of the many things Ash likes about Amsterdam
Churros is only one of the many things Ash likes about Amsterdam

The one at Rijkmuseum was crowded so
The one at Rijkmuseum was crowded so

We had bottomless spare ribs at a “sports satellite” cafe near Centraal for dinner before exploring Amsterdam at night in search for the famous The Fault in Our Stars bench.

Alright, here’s the thing: I don’t think it’s entirely irrational to have high expectations for a landmark bench of a well-known young adult romance movie. After all, they shot a movie here. Here’s another thing, two things, in fact: 1) it may not look like it in the photo, but amazingly, it started pouring when we found the bench, so this photo was taken in a literal hurry 2) the bench faces the canal which means that in order to take a full frontal shot of the bench, you probably need to cross to the other side and be equipped with a camera of rather good quality so all this added up to a not-so-good impression of the TFiOS bench but really, am I qualified to make a statement like that? At least there wasn’t a single dull moment at Amsterdam, and that I can appreciate whole-heartedly.

I've been here twice and twice the most I've ventured is past the front entrance
I’ve been here twice and twice the most I’ve ventured is past the front entrance

    

Amsterdam at night is an antithesis of its day counterpart. You think you know what I’m about to say but I really love how different the canals look at night; when it’s bright out they’re cosy little streams of water but at night, the reflections of streetlights and the glow of signboards off the surface of the canals give off a distinctive vibe of being somewhere else completely different.

I fell in love with Amsterdam three years ago and I fell in love with it again, with different memories and experiences this time around to attribute to one of my favourite cities.

And alright, the city wasn’t the only thing that I fell in love with; I learned that by discovering the addictiveness of adventures and adrenaline, even right to the root of the spontaneous foundation of this trip itself. My default position in life has always been within the range of my comfort zone, and taking chances like this always reminds myself of how rewarding the act of not overthinking things and just doing it can be.

Anyway, verdict: 10/10 would do it again.

(Multiple photo credits to CC and Jia Yang, tq)

Oh No, Anxiety Arising

a messy poem (?) by an anxious person at 4:38am

it’s almost 5am

the fifth night i’ve seen that digit on my phone screen before i fall asleep

maybe it’s because of this

or maybe it’s because of being in my head for too long from essay solitude

because oh no! 

my stomach is sour, my tongue bitter

my thoughts race, my fears roar

lying in the dark i suddenly feel the world against me

dip my toes back into the vat of diesel tangled together with the rusty anxieties and doubts i’d left on the shelf for so long

so familiar, so unwanted

the viscosity pulls me down and i’m reminded of everything i predominantly dislike about myself

that everyone sees it too and it’s only a matter of time before…

my failures and mistakes all stand before me like regrettable phantoms that i never want to set eyes upon again

but i’m tired, i’m so exhausted

my mental fort has crumbled to the ground

all systems of security have failed

all that’s been protecting me from myself all this while

has been grinded to dust in the face of fatigue and loneliness

and it feels like a relapse everytime

worse than being in a perpetual state of misery

because you’ve tasted a life you want to lead

free of your own mental chains

only to wonder if it was bound to come to an end anyway

it’s too easy to be your own mortal enemy again

when you have nothing but the flashes of white in your vision from staring at a screen for too long

i don’t know how to write poems

this is not metaphorical enough! you scream from the void

and yet words are all i’ve ever known to alleviate any affliction

Destinations – October ’16 (Part I)

i. GLASGOW, SCOTLAND

I was already supposed to pay Scotland a visit the first week I got back to Manchester, but because there was just so much stuff to do, the tentative prospect of a trip up north had to be postponed until a week before reading week when Ken Fui asked when was I ever going to go to Scotland and I promptly checked my reading week timetable and said, “next week”. So I went on Trainline and bought tickets and that was the first half of my reading week done.

That Friday, I only had a bowl of cereal after coming back from my seminar that ended at 2PM, and then I had to rush through packing before boarding the 5PM train to Glasgow. Hence, my 4-hour journey to Glasgow was spent 1) ignoring the consistent growl in my stomach 2) staring off into space because I couldn’t do any work on my laptop without feeling like I might puke 3) wondering how bulletpoints 1 & 2 even work when they clearly contradict each other in terms of the contents of my stomach (or rather, lack thereof).

But I did reach Glasgow eventually after what felt like eternity and Ken Fui was there to bring me to his place where he had cooked spaghetti for dinner and I was so hungry that I had seconds. MVP of the day, honestly.

We also watched Ao Haru Ride in the spirit of cheesy sappy Japanese teen movies after being inspired by Orange. Definitely laughed at the drama and ridiculousness more than anything else.

The next day, Ken Fui had a group project during the first half of the day so I got to hung out with Ming! The story behind how I knew Ming is a rather interesting one: we come from the same college albeit different batches but I only properly got to know her after accidentally coming across her on the Internet. I’d talked more to her on the Internet than in real life prior to that day, which may seem odd to many but not surprisingly, is how most of my friendships have transpired to be.

Our first Glaswegian destination is The Lighthouse, a quirky 7-storey arts centre with salty Brexit-themed modern art, trippy strobe flash videography and an overview of the rooftops of Glasgow at the topmost floor.

And then we went to visit Ming’s university, University of Glasgow, where some of the Harry Potter film scenes were allegedly shot at.

You're not really in Scotland until you see a Scottish man wearing a kilt playing the bagpipes
You’re not really in Scotland until you see a Scottish man wearing a kilt playing the bagpipes

After that, we went to the Kelvingrove Museum to look and appreciate fine art like the civilised and cultured international students we are by coming up with captions for medieval portraits and uploading them on Snapchat.

We had doughnuts outside the museum while waiting for Ken Fui
We had doughnuts outside the museum while waiting for Ken Fui

Ming had to leave after 4PM so Ken Fui came over after that and he had no idea where else to go so he said, “Why don’t we go see the big ship at the Transport Museum” even though the museum closed at 5. It wasn’t like I knew what else to do either so I said okay, and then halfway through the 20-minute walk to the museum and the ship, it started raining. But we were already halfway there so there really wasn’t anything to do but continue moving forward.

We did get there in the end in one piece. The ship was pretty big, I guess.

My legs were already half dead by that time so I suggested getting an Uber back but the price surge was 2.0x so in the end I managed to drag my legs and torso all the way back home anyway.

ii. EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

We bought train tickets to Edinburgh the next morning and after getting off the hour long ride, I bought a chai latte from a small vendor next to Edinburgh Waverley because it was one of my favourite drinks at that moment and also because it wouldn’t hurt to have some taste sensory enjoyment to go along with the sight sensory one, because Edinburgh is so beautiful.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

    

We walked the Royal Mile all the way to the Palace, took photos of the Scottish Parliament and (half of) Arthur’s Seat, walked around city centre and ended up at the Scottish National Gallery to resume my cultured escapade.

And then it was already 4PM, which also meant sunset was upon us, so what more suitable time to go up Calton Hill than that

Every minute spent on top of the hill was so breathtakingly beautiful.

Aaron invited us for dinner after that and conveniently enough, Daryl also knew Aaron so it was a reunion of different friends from different stages of my life. Frankly, it was pretty bizarre, but the really good kind.

Early the next morning, I said goodbye to Ken Fui before departing for Manchester, where I would have a brief respite before embarking on my next adventure in Amsterdam.

 

a little courage to say yes

long hours of travelling without anything substantial to do and being in a foreign country with no fixed comfort home to go back to at the end of the day have always been triggers for my anxiety, making the notion of travelling unappealing in every aspect (even more so if it involves flying).

but i’m really glad i did not let this fear stop me. i’m really glad i flew to all the places i did during summer with family and friends. i’m also really glad that despite the tight schedule of squeezing multiple destinations within one reading week coupled with little to almost no rest in between, i agreed to go on two 4-hour train rides by myself to scotland to meet up with friends from various periods of my life (and then feeling bizarre seeing them together but amazingly so) and pay visits to picturesque scottish cities that made me fall in love with them at first sight, as well as saying yes to impulsively hopping onto a plane to amsterdam with my friends the very same day i came back from scotland, falling in love with the breathtakingly beautiful city of amsterdam all over again after three years and creating brand new experiences and stories that will last a lifetime with my bunch of friends.

i could’ve said no so many times. i could’ve backed out like i usually did whenever i was tired. but i didn’t, and i’m really, really glad about that. i’m so overwhelmed with the power the word “yes” can afford to bring, with a little courage and optimism, after such a long time of sheltering myself from everything.

now, lying on my bed back in manchester, i can only say that the past week felt so surreal. it felt like the events of last week were leaps upon leaps upon leaps and the view from the top was more gratifying than i’d expected, despite my fear of heights. was i really on a cruise through the dutch canals just last night? did i really go out and do all those things, visit all those places, meet all those people?

this is one of those rare moments where i find myself cornily falling in love with the world and what it has to offer.

Destinations – June ’16

Some photos of some places I’ve been to for the past few months that I never got around to posting.

i. MADRID, SPAIN

    

ii. SEVILLE, SPAIN

    

    

    

    

    

    

iii. BARCELONA, SPAIN

    

    

    

    

    

    

iv. PORTO, PORTUGAL

    

    

iv. LISBON, PORTUGAL

    

    

SPAIN + PORTUGAL JUNIO 2016: EL FIN