Bamford, In the High Peak

…was literally what was written on the signboard welcoming us to Bamford. I mean, no judging, but you could tell me that’s the name of a posh English movie and I wouldn’t be surprised.

Weeks before reading week, the phrase “peak district” had already been hurled around multiple times among my friends, but because third year has been hell for most of us, we had no choice but to postpone plans until the opportunity arose again in the form of celebrating CC’s birthday by going on a birthday day trip.

Only to be ditched by the birthday boy himself the very morning we boarded a train to Bamford. (Haha just kidding, GWS CC)

And per tradition, what’s a day trip if Michelle doesn’t fail to fall asleep at a normal hour the night prior? I got two hours of sleep that night and maybe 30 minutes of uncomfortable shut-eye on the one-hour train journey from Piccadilly.

But also per tradition, all traces of weariness and sleep-deprived crankiness vanished the moment we reached Bamford, replaced instead with surprising bouts of energy which translated into seemingly endless streams of bullshitting about anything and everything until we started our ascent upon Bamford Edge and I had to explicitly assert out loud my silence from then onwards (in between breathless pants) in order to conserve stamina (which I already severely lack) to finish climbing the peak.

Praying for the blessings of any nearby mountainous deity to not be a wuss and finish climbing the peak in one piece

The first thing that I thought of when I saw the peak was: wow, this looks so post-apocalyptic and dystopian

We didn’t really realise what we had signed up for until we left the blissfully tarred road and properly commenced our actual climb up the mountain. Challengingly steep muddy terrains, omnipresent sheep poop and blisteringly cold winds. That’s what we’d signed up for.

But we made it! After what felt like multiple boss fight levels, a rock-terrain platform game, and dog-petting sidequests, we reached Bamford Edge and was rewarded with a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the English countryside as well as the Ladybower Reservoir. And by breathtaking I mean from the beauty but also from the vertigo of being so high up that it felt like I could be blown off the edge by high-altitude winds at any moment.

We were pretty much already half-dead by the time we reached flat land again and had late lunch at a pub before rushing to the station and reaching the platform merely two minutes away from the arrival of our train. That night’s sleep was a soundless one from extreme exhaustion, accompanied by the pleasant echoes of Bonfire Night fireworks in the distance.

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花樣年華 #EPILOGUEinBKK (and other stories in Bangkok)

It all started five months ago, in my tiny room in Weston during the first week of Easter Break. I was horribly sick and cooped up in my room for days on end when Sakina started sending me links to BTS’ Youtube videos and, confined in my room by my illness, I had nothing at all to do except dive deeper into what I would soon realise to be a K-pop hell in which I now inhabit.

And then in June, Bangtan announced Epilogue tour dates for South East Asia and one of them was in Bangkok, Thailand. Against all odds, and indeed there were many, Sakina got us tickets to watch Bangtan live in Bangkok for real.

It didn’t really feel real then and the feeling persisted even on the day I was to fly to Bangkok.

5th August, Friday

My parents fetched me to Penang on Friday morning where I met up with Sin Ming before flying to KLIA2 together. There, we met up with Zhi Ting who would be flying with us to Bangkok as well. By the time we reached Bangkok, it was 6PM but we only actually left Don Mueang Airport two hours later due to the ridiculously long queue at passport control. We took the bus to Chatuchak Park MRT station, being able to only make uncertain guesses as to when we’d reached our intended destination due to the lack of English interpretations on signboards. There, we queued 30 minutes to get our MRT tickets from a ticket machine, realised the machine only accepted coins which we didn’t have, and then joined another 30-minute-long queue at the ticket counter. So you can more or less hazard a guess as to how ready I was for the day to end by the time we got out of the Thailand Cultural Centre station and found out it was pouring. The last meal I had was six hours ago so I gave in and bought some snacks from a roadside stall, waited for the rain to subside a little before setting off on foot to find where Sin Ming and Zhi Ting’s airbnb were. I was staying with Sakina for two nights, but because no one was around at her airbnb, I followed Sin Ming in the meantime while waiting for Sakina and her friends to get back.

Searching Sin Ming’s airbnb itself took more than an hour, the location of the apartment being so elusive and secluded. We got lost as well, and had to resort to asking the people in a 7-Eleven for directions after Sin Ming’s Thai sim credit ran out and couldn’t be used to contact the airbnb host. At that moment, Sakina texted me saying they were back at their airbnb, so I told Sin Ming and Zhi Ting to text me once they’d reached their airbnb before calling an Uber.

Imagine my utmost relief when I found out my Uber driver was a woman. It was late, and I was alone and tired but I was granted the chance to feel a hint of safety by this minor detail. After giving her the address I got from the airbnb website, I laid back and allowed myself to relax, tracking our journey on Google maps as a precaution. And it was fortunate that I did that, because half an hour later, I realised we were entirely off track from the location Sakina had just sent me and I started to panic. I asked the driver to stop by the side before showing her the address Sakina had sent in Thai, only to be told that it was in the complete opposite direction from where we had been heading towards for the past 30 minutes. I apologised profusely as she took a U-turn while I felt dread slowly consume me because 1) this was going to be be a very expensive car ride and 2) the day felt like it could never end from the physical and mental exhaustion and hunger and uncertainty of having a place to stay at for the night.

About 15 minutes later, the car pulled into the driveway in front of a building, and it seemed like my driver didn’t know exactly where the building of the airbnb address was. Despite that, we must have been within the vicinity of the address and searching by foot would be easier so I told the driver that it was okay, I could get off here. She stared at me ridiculously and said, “No, no” and got out of the car to ask the guards stationed outside the building we were in front of for the precise location of the address. At this point I was overwhelmed by everything, mood-sensitive to every single thing that was happening around me because I’d been travelling the whole day and was tired and hungry and alone in a foreign country, which explained the surging feeling of gratitude that swelled in my chest after that, because my driver, who was practically a stranger and just doing a job she was obliged to do, didn’t have to go to such lengths to make sure I got to my destination but still did anyway. It turned out the airbnb was across the street so she made a U-turn and I informed her that Sakina was coming to get me at the entrance and as I was getting out of the car, she asked me “Really??” repeatedly and didn’t drive away until Sakina appeared.

It just astounds me that someone I don’t know, a literal stranger, would help me so nicely without asking anything in return. It made the night so much better after the turmoil I’d been through for the past few hours.

And Sakina!!!! The moment I saw her I just went in straight for a hug, whispering “Oh my God, oh my God” ceaselessly because 1) I’d finally reached where I needed to be in one piece and that meant that the day was coming to an end 2) the last time I saw Sakina was three years ago in Bristol and we’d been talking about this day, Bangtan Day in Bangkok, for weeks and seeing her in the flesh made the notion realer by the second 3) the addition of factors 1) and 2) made me quite literally sag in relief as I allowed myself to let my guard down for the first time that day.

6th August, Saturday

The exhaustion hadn’t quite left my bones the next morning but it was Bangtan Day, and remembering so was capable of erasing all traces of weariness (even if temporarily) as the whole house (and by that I mean four of us – Sakina, Aizzah, Amal and I) woke up that morning in various states of frenzy. What to wear. What to bring. How to deal with actually seeing Bangtan in real life. We knew we were going to be spending literally the whole day at the stadium so that meant bringing along essentials to stay alive such as water, food, fully charged powerbanks and makeup. And then finally, we were off to the stadium.

We took two trains and along the way, we already knew to notice other people around us who were also going to the concert. It didn’t start out that obvious, just teenage girls moving in groups and you could just as easily reason that they were going to the mall or something (except it was eight in the morning) until we started seeing people wearing shirts with Bangtan names on the back and yup, we were definitely heading in the right direction.

It was 9AM when we reached Huamark Stadium and already there were SO MANY PEOPLE. People loitering around in shaded areas, lining up in queues as fansites distributed freebies, taking photos with the giant poster that had seven of their faces on it, and –the queue we were looking for– queuing in front of the merch booth waiting for it to open at 11AM. There were already around 100+ people in front of us as we sat down to mark our place in line. Amal and I went around getting some fansite freebies for a while –I got some photocards– before most of them ran out and we returned to the queue.

 

  

Okay so here’s the thing: none of my previous concert experiences ever has really prepared me for this one.  I think the longest I’d had to queue for a concert was probably Paramore in KL in 2010 for four hours, but I remember that being in a relatively shaded area. And then recent gigs in UK saw me queuing at most two hours in the cold, which, to be honest, was relatively tamer compared to queuing in the South East Asian heat for the same amount of time. Aizzah had a heatstroke halfway through and had to be brought inside into an air-conditioned room while Sakina and I queued for ticket and hitouch registration after we got merch. By the time we had everything that needed to be sorted out done with, it was 2PM and all we could do was — wait. Those two hours of suspense and anticipation until 4PM in the relentless heat felt like the longest hours in history but the situation was slightly alleviated when I scrolled through Twitter and found out Pokemon Go had just been released in SEA on that day itself so the first Pokemons I caught at Huamark were Weedle and Gastly.

(Much later on after the concert, I found out [to my amusement] through photos people posted on Twitter that there were people standing right next to the stage who were catching Pokemon right in the standing pit itself.)

  

And then at 4PM the doors were opened. Sakina and I headed for Section O of seating while Aizzah and Amal (and Sin Ming too) had standing tickets. I still couldn’t actually believe this was real even as I walked into the stadium that was gradually being filled up. On the stage there was a giant banner on stage with the words “HYYH ON STAGE: EPILOGUE” and Bangtan’s MVs were playing on the screens on both sides of the stage and still I thought, it couldn’t be. This couldn’t be real. I didn’t realise I was yelling (and some degree of whimpering) “OHHHHHHH MY GOD OH MYYYYYYYY GODDDDDDDDD” while Sakina just kept saying “DON’T EVEN START” because we were INSIDE and this can’t be REAL we’re actually GONNA SEE BANGTAN

It was an hour until the show actually started and the entire time we were singing (see: screaming) along aggressively to the MVs as if it was the actual concert itself but I would soon discover that that was hardly “aggressive” compared to What Would Come Later.

  

SAKINA AND YOURS TRULY

At 5PM the stage went dark and everyone screamed, and by everyone I mean I definitely screamed for about 10 minutes straight. Was I even screaming coherent words? Who knows. All I knew was I still refused to believe they were actually there, right in the flesh in front of me until the sheer cloth separating us shrieking folk from the actual Seven Gods fell away and Run started playing.

AND THERE THEY WERE. MY BOYS. IT MUST’VE BEEN A COMPETITION TO SEE WHO COULD SCREAM THE LOUDEST TO BE HEARD BY THEM BECAUSE I WAS RUNNING LOW ON FOOD AND WATER BUT STILL FORCING MY VOCAL CHORDS TO PRODUCE THE LOUDEST, HIGHEST PITCH SOUND A HUMAN BEING COULD POSSIBLE MUSTER

The whole time I was just thinking, all my karaoke sessions alone in my room in Weston have really paid off because I didn’t even know the exact Hangul lyrics but that wasn’t stopping me from belting them out in Romaji, entirely off-pitch but also entirely shamelessly. I told Sakina this after the show, that usually when I go to gigs, it still takes a while for me to “”””””let loose”””””” but probably because Sakina was a great concert companion or probably because I really, really, REALLY LOVE BANGTAN OR PROBABLY BOTH I found myself not caring about the tendrils of self-consciousness that crept in each time I scream-sang and danced ridiculously in my seat and it felt absolutely, out-of-worldly amazing. I mean, I was still wary about standing up when everyone else wasn’t so I wasn’t that revolutionarily brave, but I loved the concept of screaming and dancing and not pausing to think what other people would think if they saw me in my current state and purely not giving a shit. It was incredible.

But you know what’s even more incredible? Do I even need to say it because of course Bangtan. To this day I’m still so HHHHHHHHHH each time I think about it that I don’t even know how to put it into words but I’ll attempt to for the sake of this blogpost

We weren’t allowed to record anything during the show and security was pretty strict and I didn’t want to risk anything so I didn’t. Here is where I draw another comparison with previous gigs I’d attended: I always, always try to record at least a few songs at gigs for the sake of posterity but it comes at the cost of perpetually watching the entire concert through a phone screen. Not having the self-imposed obligation to put my phone up to record (and make sure everything was within frame the whole time) felt really liberating, and I could immerse myself completely in my surroundings. Like actually focus 500% of my attention on the people on stage and what they were doing and saying, what they were wearing, how their facial expressions looked like and even how the crowd was. Of course, this also came at the price of not being able to rewatch the concert after it ended but I guess there’s also Youtube for that despite it not being as firsthand an experience as it otherwise would have been. But honestly? That was a small price to pay in exchange for the experience I had.

AND OF COURSE JUNGKOOK DID SO MUCH AT THIS SHOW!!!!!!!! Each time I see him I just? scream but I wasn’t even screaming anything that’s the thing while everytime Yoongi opened his mouth Sakina beside me would literally stand up and scream so you can honestly gauge our situation for the whole two hours of the show. I even made a thread of a comprehensive list of my favourite things that happened at #EPILOGUEinBKK:

One thing definitely worth mentioning is the Thai ARMY fan project during Fire and Young Forever. When we took our seats in the stadium, there was a bag on each of our seats and in it were two light-up rings and a piece of paper with instructions on it, telling us when to switch on which ring light. When Bangtan performed Fire, the crowd lit up in vibrant, multicoloured stars, contrasted with the usual white dotted lights of ARMY bombs.

Credit: BillboardThai

During Young Forever, the stadium lit up in a sea of bright blue light instead, with white lights in the upper rows showing the zodiac signs of each member.

Credit: @nxnoey

I mean. This was my first ever K-pop concert. The first time I actually even liked a K-pop group happened mere five months ago. And here I was feeling so overwhelmed by the events that had transpired. I was Truly Blessed™.

I Need U was the last song and before they started singing, they held their mics out for the crowd to sing the entire first verse and chorus and it was then I was hit by a giant slab of Emotions because 1) the screens were showing each of their individual expressions as they listened to the crowd sing, and I couldn’t help but feel??? I don’t even know how to say this but can you imagine standing in front of thousands of people while they sing perfectly in Korean to your song??? and then there was also 2) the show was ending. It was already ending when it didn’t even feel like 2+ hours had passed.

In the end, they still left the stage after our screams of “DON’T GO” relented into reluctant “Goodbye”s.

Sakina had hitouch after the show (can you IMAGINE) so we waited for her outside while going through what had actually just happened for the past three hours. Aizzah’d forgotten she had heatstroke earlier that day and Amal and I, desperate for water, just took two unopened water bottles from the massive heap of confiscated bottles at the entrance of the stadium. After Sakina appeared (and was bombarded with questions of how the hitouch went), we left to find a taxi to get back to Asoke. It was raining outside but I honestly couldn’t be bothered with an umbrella or anything because now that the show had ended, I could feel the grotesqueness of my whole being from sweating the whole day in its entirety. We had 7-Eleven ramen that night and I pretty much also passed out that night too, still somewhat hung up in remnants of disbelief of what I’d just experienced.

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

7th August, Sunday

I’d thought I’d wake up that morning feeling awfully drained but I surprised myself by waking up naturally at 9AM feeling not completely dead. Getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom didn’t make my limbs feel like falling off like I thought it would. So that was a good start to the day.

Aizzah and Amal decided to stay in so I followed Sakina shopping at Siam Paragon and Central World Festival where I spent half the time thinking about last night and the other half catching Pokemon.

  

At lunchtime, Aizzah and Amal called to tell us they were having lunch at a Korean restaurant near Asoke so Sakina and I went to meet them. It was the first time in two days that I had a proper meal and it felt so satisfying.

Jal meokkesseumnida

We had to leave the airbnb by 3PM and Sakina, Aizzah and Amal were flying back home that day so after checking out, we each said our goodbyes before they left for the airport in a taxi. I’d only seen Sakina for about two days yet it felt like a really long time and saying bye carried more reluctance than I’d thought. Saying goodbye meant that this Bangkok trip was almost coming to an end, and I didn’t know when I would be seeing her again.

After their taxi drove off, I started making my way to the Sukhumvit MRT station where I was going to take the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System, not Bangtan Sonyeondan sadly) to Siam Paragon to meet up with Sin Ming and Zhi Ting, luggage in tow.

In retrospect, if I’d been more wary of the dark clouds in the sky and the low rumbling among them, I probably would’ve taken active action by walking faster but as it was, I was still thinking about, well, everything that had happened in Bangkok so far, like meeting Sakina and watching Bangtan etc that I was completely caught offguard when it began to rain. Like actual pouring rain. Rain bullets you couldn’t dodge no matter how you ran. That was exactly what I did though, pulling my luggage along with me at that, and I thought to just run the entire way to the station since I was already semi-soaked but I couldn’t. I gave up and halted in my footsteps right in front of a Thai food stall where several other tourists were also taking shelter. A Thai man standing next to me was putting on his raincoat before getting on his motorbike and noticing my state of distress, he asked me something in Thai which I took to assume was a question about where I was headed to so I told him Sukhumvit station. I then asked (or rather, gestured) if it was still far and he nodded and I just weak laughed, jokingly saying (gesturing) that I could only run to the station once the rain subsided a little (but was I really joking). Before leaving though, he gave me a plastic bag and pointed at my phone that I was clutching in my left hand, indicating that I could use it to protect it from the rain and I thanked him, grateful for his small but incredibly kind gesture.

The rain somehow got heavier and I moved inside the building, wondering how long I had to wait for the rain to stop or at least subside so I could make a reasonable run for it. The other tourists had hailed a cab and left, so it was just me, my damp luggage and my dripping hair waiting pathetically in front of someone’s shop. At the back of my mind I told myself I could always call an Uber but I was already so near to the station and taking an Uber in a guaranteed rain-induced traffic jam didn’t sound appealing at all. It was just a matter of time before the shopkeeper approached me and spoke to me in Thai. Again, I assumed she was asking where I wanted to go to and I gave the same reply, after which she made an umbrella gesture with her hands and I shook my head saying no, I didn’t have an umbrella with me. It turned out that she wasn’t asking me whether I had an umbrella or not because moments later, a teenage guy (whom I assumed to be her son) emerged from the back with one of those giant ass umbrellas you put over tables in hawker stalls when it was raining, and then it clicked. He was going to walk me to the station with the giant ass umbrella so I didn’t get wet in the rain. I was SO OVERWHELMED by this sudden act of extreme kindness from a literal stranger that my first instinct was to reject the offer because it would be such a hassle for him, but I wasn’t exactly in a position to do that and I did indeed wanted to get to the station as soon as possible.

It was a five-minute walk to the station and the entire time I was just in awe at how recent events had unfolded and when we reached the station, I couldn’t stop thanking him profusely, heart bursting with gratitude because they didn’t have to do that, didn’t have to offer help to a stranger like me who doesn’t even speak their language. Same goes for the Uber driver two nights ago who made sure I got to my airbnb safely. These people have gotten me out of sticky situations and they didn’t even know me, and for that I was just so stunned and immensely grateful that if it weren’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get to where I needed to be in a city so big and foreign.

I got to Siam Paragon, still intact and drier than before, and continued to hunt for Pokemon on the way to where Sin Ming and Zhi Ting were. It was still such an amusing and amazing experience for me, seeing clusters of people in the mall with their phones out, grouping around Pokestops. Since that morning, I’d developed a habit of peeking at the screens of passing people who I suspected were playing Pokemon Go and 1) I quite literally suspected everyone who had their phones out 2) I was right every single time. It was so bizarre, somewhat like a running inside joke that didn’t need to be spoken out loud. I still feel that way whenever I’m out Pokehunting in Alor Setar.

I met up with Sin Ming and Zhi Ting and we took the MRT to Dindaeng, where their airbnb was. After dropping off my luggage, we headed for a nearby food market where, yet again, I kept a conscious lookout for Pokemon Go players and bought pad thai for dinner. It started raining again so we left before it could get too heavy, and once we reached the airbnb, we had our pad thai dinner on the bed while watching Sin Ming’s video recordings of last night’s concert (because she was in the standing pit) and reliving everything once again to our hearts’ content.

It was already past midnight by the time we watched almost an hour’s worth of footage and felt nostalgic for something that had only happened the night before. Our flight was 10AM the next morning so I tried to calm my suddenly hyped brain to fall asleep and soon enough, physical exhaustion took over and I did doze off.

8th August, Monday

We woke up at 4AM and got an Uber to Don Mueang at 5.30AM. I was half-asleep during the entire car ride, but I managed to take one last snap of the Bangkok sunrise before I left this city.

During both BKK-KUL and KUL-PEN flights I had the concert setlist on repeat while reading the HYYH programme book. By the time I reached Penang, it was already 5PM and I used airport wifi to call an Uber to Bellyn’s house.

I was surprised when the Uber that arrived was a small Viva driven by a Chinese uncle, who had his grandson in the passenger seat navigating on Google maps while playing Pokemon Go simultaneously. All along whenever I used Uber in Manchester (and even in Bangkok), it always seemed like a premium car service but this was only my second time using the app in Malaysia. Thus this prompted me to ask the uncle whether this car was his and he said yes, he was a part-time Uber driver looking for a side income now that he was in his seventies. He was really nice, and we talked during the entire hour-long journey during which I found out he was born in Alor Setar as well. I was so physically worn out from travelling the whole day and functioning on only four hours of sleep but maybe because I was back in a familiar town, or because being able to strike up a conversation with a kind stranger was really nice, but I allowed myself to relax instead of being on edge even though I was alone. And then when I reached Bellyn’s house I thanked him, said goodbye and wished him a good life.

I was pretty much already at home at Bellyn’s house, and I told her, amidst her one-man audience cello revival show, that I absolutely enjoyed doing nothing after the past few days that had felt like a few million years. At night, we went to Gurney Paragon for a while and those few hours since touching down at Penang have been the most relaxed and chill moments that I’d craved for after such a tiring and fulfilling trip.

9th August, Tuesday

That morning, we revisited Kong Thai Lai, a tiny quaint coffee shop in Georgetown that Bellyn had brought me to ever since our second semester at Sunway. Breakfast kaya toast and soft-boiled egg will always have a special fond place in my heart.

I was supposed to take a 1.30PM bus from Sungai Nibong back to Alor Setar but after getting into the car, Bellyn suddenly said, “I half feel like driving you back to Alor Setar right now” and that was exactly what we did. We went to pick Mei Huey up and then commenced the impromptu journey back home.

The journey took an hour and when we reached Alor Setar, we went to Caffe Diem and had meatballs with a strange mash-potato gravy thing and then Bellyn wanted to find cello strings so I drove us to Sze Chan who didn’t have them and then Rhythm who also didn’t have them but instead directed us to Symphony at some hidden, obscure taman at Telok Wanjah. We were quite literally going round in circles but we found it in the end and after Bellyn triumphantly acquired said strings, we headed home.

Bellyn and Mei Huey were introduced to our newly adopted dog, Ah Boy (who took an immense liking to Mei Huey) and then I was influenced to pull out my violin which I hadn’t touched since leaving Sunway (a Schrodinger’s violin, like Harris said, because I was afraid to open the case to see if my strings and bow were still intact) (they were) and I surprised myself by still being able to read musical notes, to be honest.

And then at around 6.30PM, Bellyn and Mei Huey left, our last words to each other bidding of farewells shouted through rolled-down car windows at the road junction leading to the highway.

Blackpool-ed

This is probably by far the least appealing title I’ve come up with but even after days of contemplating in the shower, I still cannot think of a witty or clever title to do with the word “Blackpool”. Accepting ideas and submissions from anyone possessing the creative brain juices to replace this title with a better one.

My last paper, and thus by default, the last day of my first year in uni, was last Wednesday, and the sweet taste of liberation that I’d been craving and harping on since a month ago was as climactic as I’d wanted it to be. Which in this case meant splurging on Grade A Japanese food with my friends and then going home to binge watch Fullmetal Alchemist until the accumulated deep-seated exhaustion from exams took over and I surrendered to it willingly for the first time in a very long time.

But this was not before my friends spontaneously suggested a day trip to Blackpool the very next day and, still riding on the fresh fumes of freedom, I had every reason to say yes and bought train tickets right then and there.

Our train the next morning left at 8:46AM and we reached the seaside town of Blackpool at around 10AM. The weather was ideal, as English weather has generally been for the past few days with its optimal temperature range within the 20s, so we immediately headed for the beach which was a 15-minute walk from the train station.

After being cooped up in the city for so long, the mere sight of the sea admittedly made me more excited than I thought I would be. It was a welcomed fresh change of scenery appropriate for post-exams therapy.

We didn’t hang around for very long because we still had other places to go and empty stomachs to fill. On the way to lunch, we passed by an arcade and spent a good few minutes (and pounds) in it because, well, just because we could.

Lunch was, stereotypically, fish and chips, and then we headed for the Sea Life aquarium (reminiscent of KLCC’s Aquaria) where, stereotypically again, we spent more time pointing at sea creatures in the tanks, exclaiming where the best hawker place to eat sambal sting rays is and debating whether a spotted fish is kam bong hu or peh chiao than actually reading facts off the plastic boards mounted next to the tanks and marvelling at exotic sea life.

We bought a joint-attraction ticket with the Blackpool Tower Dungeon so that was where we headed to next. What was initially thought to be a haunted house turned out to be just creepy (and smelly in particular areas) where we were educated rather sinisterly about England’s history filled with macabre plagues and gory witch-burnings. Theatrics and scare tactics were things I could stomach, but what I did not expect at the end of the tour was an approximately 20-feet free fall ride. I keep getting deceived into getting on roller coaster rides. This needs to stop.

When we came out, it was almost 3PM and none of us were very hungry yet so we went to Poundland and Starbucks to get some snacks and drinks and subsequently chill by the beach (a real beach, this time) for the next four hours or so, basking in the sunlight and lack of obligation to do anything while playing Contact.

Yee Lin, Nicole, Jia Yang and CC were the only ones who took their shoes off to play around in the water but the rest of us didn’t, preferring instead to just observe and stand guard for everyone’s stuff on the beach. I still went ahead periodically to paw at the tide with my shoes, but I had to keep on retracting my footsteps because the ocean tide kept inching forward at an incredible speed that in mere minutes, the size of the beach was halved. It wasn’t until Siow Le suddenly turned around and exclaimed that the sea tide wasn’t just rising from the direction of the sea itself, but large puddles were also forming behind us, right at the base of the stairs, trapping us on island that was rapidly being consumed by the waves by the second, that we began to panic. Ash, Siow Le and Xue Wen attempted to make a run for the shrinking strip of dry land between two approaching puddles but I was terrified (and extremely lazy) at the prospect of having to clean my shoes back in my halls were they submerged in sea water and would rather run across barefooted at the expense of guaranteed discomfort and exposing my toe corn to sea water (which was #1 reason why I decided to remain full-footed in the first place). I was competing with the rising tide to take off my shoes and socks and roll up my pants (I won) but unfortunately, the sea seemed to be taking our competition too seriously that by the time I was halfway across the stretch of puddle to the stairs, the water level had already risen up to my thighs, wetting my pants anyway (I lost).

We all made it to the dry stairs in varying degrees of dampness and I couldn’t stop laughing (though there was a hint of laugh-crying in there too), wondering how amusing we must have looked like, screaming and complaining all the way from the beach (which was now absolutely submerged) to the stairs. We tried our best to clean up with Yee Lin’s supply of wet tissues but there was no getting rid of the ickiness either way, so we could only make the best of the situation (which in this case meant walking in squelching wet shoes for some) and head to the train station for our train leaving at 8:40PM.

And then of course, the night ended with a late night dinner at Pearl City. Stereotypically.

8 Things You Should Do on A Cambridge Trip

1. Take a 4.30AM coach to London

There is a saying that goes, go big or go for the cheapest option that requires you to stay up till four in the morning and then attempt to get sufficient sleep on a moving coach before you reach your destination the next day with the expectation of being a fully functional human being. But hey, at least we got to witness the 5AM spring sunrise.

Also, if you’re worried about getting bored on the five-hour journey, here’s a brand new interesting game called Don’t Fill Up the Plastic Bag. Rules are simple. Bring along a plastic bag. Try not to fill up the plastic bag, particularly with any form of liquid substance. And if you manage to do that by the end of the journey, you win! It’s fun, I play it every time I get on a coach.

Tip: bring Broccoli on a well-deserved vacation!

   

2. Go sightseeing around the town of Cambridge in a semi-zombie mode while attempting to absorb the surrounding intellectualness by osmosis

If the first thought that comes to mind when you step on Cambridge soil is, “Oh god, I am quite literally surrounded by people who are brilliant enough to get into Cambridge” accompanied by a festering feeling of intimidation, don’t worry, you are entirely not alone! The town itself is a neverending knowledge hub, always has and probably always will be. Every single college building and/or structure has its own story, all of them involving students and scholars from the past (some even the present) and their quirky endeavours, like taking apart a bridge to see how it works and fighting among each other for the erection of a clock tower. We even walked past a pub with a plaque on its outside wall stating that that pub was the exact location where the discovery of how DNA carries genetic information was announced at in 1953. An incredibly large portion of knowledge that we’ve learned since primary school was actually (figuratively) outsourced from this intellectual English town. And then you can’t help but compare that the stories that you tell your friends when they visit Manchester are along the lines of “yes, that’s the Tower where they have this thing called the Tower Challenge where people basically race to drink alcohol to the top”. Gotta love Manchester.

And when we were done visiting the various colleges scattered all around campus, convinced that I’d definitely walked down the same alley more than twice, it was time for Ee Min, Yee Lin, Ash and I to pay our respects to our English law overlord that was the Cambridge University law faculty. It was to us as Google is to the Internet.

Other activities you can do include: roleplay as if you’re in The Theory of Everything if you’re into that sort of thing, marvel at the strict rules the university imposes on grass-stepping (and learn the methods to decipher which patch of grass is steppable-on [hint: benches]), take selfies with a marble statue of Isaac Newton

    

3. Play extreme dress up to attend a Cambridge Formal Dinner™

Only to be served Indian food. But it was certainly the precise ambience for our outfits and one-hour of pretending we were important people, especially so sitting opposite our robe-clad Cambridge friends.

    

4. And then, clad in the very same formal garments and adornments, escape the cold by entering a random common room and play Cards Against Humanity

We learned a thing or two playing this game. Or three. We all had slightly traumatic Google histories on our phones that night.

5. Squeeze six people into a room, three in another and two in the smallest one

And at the same time, seize the opportunity to educate a fellow friend on the comprehensive list of everyone’s birthdates until one in the morning.

6. PUNTING!!!!!!!!!

Here is a non-exhaustive list of things to expect when going punting for your first time:

  • A lot of initial panicked shrieks of boat instability
  • Getting rare close-up views of ducks in their natural habitat
  • Having a death-like grip on your phone/camera when taking photos after hearing recounts of friends of friends’ gadgets vanishing into the depths of Cambridge’s scholarly canal
  • Bumping into other boats with intensities ranging from saying hi and waving to strangers from a different boat to reflexed cursing and punters squatting down to brace for the impact
  • Which led to several canal congestions along the way
  • Realising the next scaled-up activity to do is, of course, attempt to punt ourselves and temporarily relieve Yi Chao of his skilled punting duties
  • Also realising moments later that maybe that wasn’t such a good idea and punting was actually a lot harder than it looked
  • More bumper car situations
  • More canal traffic jams
  • Taking selfies at the end to commemorate a moist and exhausting day of punting and paddling

    

7. Eat diabetic waffles and attend a busking concert at Market Square to reward yourself

Pretty self-explanatory.

8. Eat sushi on the train back home

Fully utilise the table seats you booked beforehand by buying a gigantic sushi set to share with your friend. And then for the next two hours back to Manchester, sporadically play Contact with your friends while also simultaneously playing Don’t Fill Up the Plastic Bag.

*

Photo credits to respective owners. Special thanks to Ze Kai and Yi Chao for bringing us around despite being so busy. As a token of appreciation, here’s £20 from us. Just kidding. See, this is why you should always read the fine print. 

A is for Adrenaline at Alton Towers

Ernie, KY, Jia Yang, yours truly, Rumin and Pui Jen

The last time I went on a legitimate roller coaster thrill ride was when I was eight years old at Lotte World in Korea. Since then, I found little joy or desire to go on roller coasters, attributing this aversion to my fear(s) of a) adrenaline itself (a hormone that I am more familiar with in states of anxiety rather than excitement and thus has left a bad taste in my mouth), b) heights, c) losing control of my own body movements (which in this case refers to being jolted around aggressively at very high speeds) and d) involuntary paranoia of something going wrong.

Morbid and downer facts aside, I paid heed to none of those antipathies and said yes almost immediately upon hearing that Weston Hall was organising a trip to the renowned Alton Towers theme park, mainly because it was free for us residents and also because my friends were going. I mean, had nothing to lose even if I chickened out of all the rides.

The coach ride to Stoke-on-Trent took about two hours and my motion sickness didn’t fail to pay me a visit, so I spent a good deal of time clutching onto a plastic bag as placebo and trying to ignore the tendrils of nausea curling nastily within my guts. We reached Alton Towers at around 10AM, vomit-free, but I was greeted with another calamity upon alighting from the coach in the form of unexpectedly cold weather. But there was still warm morning sunlight in sporadic places if you stood at a correct angle unblocked by the clouds so that helped alleviate my nausea and coldness a lot in the queue to enter the theme park.

The first place we headed to after acquiring a map was The Smiler, one of the more, if not the most, infamous rides at Alton Towers for an accident that occurred a year ago that led to victims suffering from crippling injuries and leg amputations. But that wasn’t the first thing that I thought of when I saw the roller coaster tracks; what I thought of was leaning more towards variations of holy shit.

It was just loops upon loops of 360-degree loop tracks. The eerie laughter sound effects and flashing static screens of distorted human laughter expressions that played up to its thematic attraction was nothing short of disturbing. If this ride had a theme song, it would be a jarring melody weaved from the screams of human beings. Which was why I was truly so in awe when my friends all immediately went “Let’s go” and proceeded to head for the entrance while I adamantly posited myself before it, unmoving, out of fear, volunteering to take care of my friends’ stuff in the safety of two feet placed firmly on the ground with my body the right side up.

I had a 20-minute live viewing session of the ride and it remains to this day the scariest roller coaster ride I’ve seen. Just seeing the cart go upside down repeatedly at speeds that made even the metal tracks echo in their vibrations sent additional goosebumps all over my skin. When my friends emerged from the ride in whole pieces, I honestly could not have admired their guts and dauntlessness more. I have amazing daredevils as friends.

And so this group of daredevils proceeded to the next terrifying ride: a 90-degree vertical drop into, well, Oblivion. Jia Yang stayed with me on the ground for this one, but I have to admit that I had tiny impulses to go on it because this didn’t look as bad as The Smiler and I didn’t want to be such a bad sport so early into the trip. But as always, I refrained from subjecting myself to fear-incurring situations and instead laughed and took videos of my friends on the ride.

It was already noon when Rumin, Pui Jen, Ernie and KY returned so we decided to have lunch at The Burger Kitchen. After that, because it would be the worst idea of all the ideas in the world to go on a thrill ride immediately after a meal, we decided to watch a 4D Ice Age movie at the area where all the kids’ rides were. We had to wait an hour for the next movie viewing, so what better to do than embarrass ourselves among Caucasian toddlers by going on the merry-go-round.

And so it was to be remembered in the history books that my first ride at Alton Towers was the merry-go-round.

    

We also went on the 80% children-populated Spinner-style ride with swings that get rotated continuously (which I was also not a fan of because of the heights and speed and dizziness) and then watched the 4D Ice Age movie (the other D in this circumstance materialised in the form of artificial snowflakes raining on us and quick, sharp gas releases aimed at our legs).

Our next stop was the Dark Forest (Alton Towers really play their intriguing concepts well), home of the Rita and Th13teen rides. We bumped into Puru and the other RA members prior to that and they’d recommended Th13teen, so that was where we headed first.

At this point, I was starting to feel tired of being a bad sport by refusing to go on rides, but at the same time also feeling terrified beyond belief at the mere notion of going on one. Regardless, I didn’t want to wait outside anymore so I joined the queue with my friends, reasoning that I could still get out of here if I chickened out in the end. I told myself that, then told my friends that, and then got the same reassuring response from them but truly I knew I had to do it, in a “now or never” debacle I waged within myself during the entire queue. We got up to the bag counter where I deposited my bag. There was no going back now. And so I tried to console myself by asking my friends rhetorical questions like, “It’s not going to be as bad as The Smiler right?” “This is probably more of a scarehouse than a thrill ride right??” “There are no over-the-shoulder harnesses so there shouldn’t be a 360-degree loop right???”

Indeed, those were the truths I’d chosen to believe in (maybe not 100% but a convincing 60%) due to the way the ride was publicised (green lights and an ominous dried-up clawed hand on the poster, making it seem like a haunted house more than anything) and the fact that the only restraints we had were lap bars. I could do haunted houses. And as long as there weren’t any loop-the-loop tracks, I should be okay. I thought.

And then our cart was deployed into the unknown.

Here’s the thing about Th13teen: unlike all other rides at Alton Towers, Th13teen’s tracks were hidden from view, mostly blocked by Rita’s tracks. You couldn’t see anything from the queue, or anywhere at all, rendering my initial excuse of “I’ll decide whether I want to go on the ride after I see the tracks” useless. Anyone’s guess was as good as mine when it came to what was to be expected on this ride.

And so I expected very little. Way lesser than what was actually in store for us.

I was already beginning to laugh-cry a little when the roller coaster left the sheltered station into the chilly open and Jia Yang started apologising profusely for convincing me that the ride wouldn’t go very high because the cart was slowly and painfully crawling up a rather steep slope. At the pinnacle, I sent an arbitrary prayer for this ride to Not Go As Fast As I Am Beginning To Think It Will but I was interrupted once the descent commenced and there was nothing I could do but close my eyes and scream and cling onto the meagre lap bar for dear life, the only glaring thought that stood out among all other thoughts in my head at that time being PLEASE GOD DON’T LET ME FALL OFF BECAUSE THE ONLY THING I’M FEELING RIGHT NOW IS THE FEELING OF FALLING OFF

Halfway through, the cart slowed down and I allowed myself to open my eyes in relief but that relief was short-lived when I noticed the cart entering a shoddy off-white warehouse-looking structure and I thought, okay, this is where the scarehouse part begins. No more screaming my ass off while feeling the very same screams being forcefully dashed by the rapid winds as I try to regain a feeble semblance of control over my motions.

We entered the building and green lights lit all around us — and then the cart stopped. After regaining senses of my surroundings, I realised why that was. There was a wall right in front of us where the track ended. I was allowed the luxury of confusion for a while before the cart jolted and dropped a bit. Paused for two seconds. And then FREE-FALL DROPPED BEFORE IT STARTED MOVING BACKWARDS IN PITCH BLACK DARKNESS AS FAST AS IT CAME FORWARD

I honestly don’t remember much in the panic of that moment because I wasn’t expecting it to move backwards and the horror at the beginning of the ride was amplified that much more. Until we finally emerged into the bright open and the cart stopped for a while before moving forward again.

It was moving slower this time but the sluggishness was reminiscent of the suspenseful build before a fall so I still kept my eyes closed, until I was told that it was over. The ride was finally over. I could see the station where we had set off from and it was filled with people but I was still afraid of more unexpected things happening, like an extra track pulling us sideways or the cart speeding ahead past the station without stopping, launching into another alternative track route. But this time, none of my fears happened and I got out of the cart with shaking legs, amazed that I was still alive and breathing.

It turned out that none of us expected the things that happened to happen either, and we collectively exchanged shocked exclamations of the unexpected on the way to the Skyride cable cars to get to the other side of the park.

We saved the best ride (subjective, but objective in terms of newness and specialness) for last, which in this case was Galactica, the first virtual reality roller coaster in the world (apparently). I was quite excited for this because my first experience with VR at the Nottingham National Videogame Arcade with a HTC Vive was AMAZING and coupled together with a roller coaster ride should be pretty mind-blowingly impressive. I was still nervous of course, but going on Th13teen lent me some courage (more accurately adrenaline, probably) and this time, I could see the tracks and they looked okay, not too much loops and not much screaming either. Plus, the VR would probably make things less scary as opposed to seeing myself actually being whirled around in real life.

The queue took up to almost two hours because it was a new ride and let’s face it, VR gets all the hype it deserves. It was cold and I gradually needed to pee as the queue continuously moved forward but it didn’t really feel that long with my friends around.

Galactica’s immersion was really well done; they had monitor screens displaying departure “destinations” and “times” narrated by an AI ala a real space station situated where the queue was. When we got to the front of the line, the set-up itself looked like a space station. We deposited our bags and got into our seats before putting the VR headsets on. Before departing, our seats were turned 90-degrees upwards into a crouching position facing the ground, except in the VR, it wasn’t the ground I was facing, but a white bottomless pit surrounded by suspended robots that were preparing for my departure into outer space.

The ride started speeding up at the first “wormhole”, which brought me out into space and if I looked down, I could see Earth. I suddenly realised that, VR or not, this 3D illusion of me floating in space was actually also still very frightening. The next couple of minutes quite literally flew by, as I was brought through multiple other wormholes at increasing speeds, soaring over different planets constituting both hot and cold terrains. There were even parts where the seats turned around so I was facing skywards while moving backwards. The speed of it all still made me scream, and there were moments when I was more concerned about the headset falling off than immersing myself in space, but it truly was an experience like no other. I can’t say that it’s something I’d willingly go on again and again because it is after all, a roller coaster, but it’s definitely something worth trying out at least once in your life. I doubt you’d find the same experience anywhere else with anything else.

It was already half past four when we left Galactica and we had to get to the coach by five so we took the cable car back to the main entrance, where we had some doughnuts before sauntering back to the coach park. I was asleep throughout the whole coach ride, thankfully, and after reaching Weston, we had Mala steamboat dinner at a Chinese restaurant at Princess Street for three hours.

It was one of the best and most fulfilling days I’d had in Manchester so far, and I fell asleep that night cherishing that.

Winding Up at Windermere

KY was the one who suggested pre-Easter break that we should go to Lake District, one of the more renowned northern destinations to travel to on vacation. Two weeks into Easter break, it was getting obvious that if we didn’t just up and go, we would probably end up never making the trip a reality. So, on Wednesday, I received texts from my friends saying they were buying train tickets to Lake District for tomorrow. So I did the same. And the next morning, at 9:16AM, we were heading for Windermere, Lake District.

The night before, I came home at 3AM after spending the day with Rumin at Trafford Centre after picking up my US Visa from Moseley Road. Then, as per my daily pre-sleeping ritual, I spent an hour on my phone before realising it was 4:30AM and started to panic and in turn, the panic made it even more difficult to fall asleep. By the time my alarm rang the next morning, I was pretty certain I’d barely slept for more than two hours.

Rumin, KY and I headed for Manchester Piccadilly first the next morning since we live nearest to the station and waited for the remaining seven (Yee Lin, Nicole, Ash, Jia Yang, CC, Ernie and Ze Kai) to turn up before heading for Platform 14. It was already past 9AM so we started rushing — and it was exactly this rushing that led to me hearing yells of “NO THIS IS THE WRONG TRAIN” as soon as I stepped on the platform and seeing CC attempting to stop the closing doors of the train with his hands. And failed. Still in my half-asleep state, I turned to look at the sign next to the railway track which announced that the train that had just left, the train that CC and also, I later on found out, Ernie, had wrongly boarded, was a 9:06AM train to London Euston. The Piccadilly station workers noticed our shocked, and quite frankly, amusing, predicament and advised us to call CC and Ernie to get off at the next Oxford Road station and board the right train heading towards the direction of Glasgow.

We couldn’t really stop cracking up with laughter after that, all the way to Oxford Road station. The trip hadn’t even started and we’d already lost two of our members.

We were reunited at Oxford Road, after which the two-hour journey to Windermere commenced. I forced myself to take a nap despite being in a rather unideal position for napping because I knew I would probably be filled with regret if I didn’t once we reached Windermere. I barely caught a few winks from the discomfort and okay, maybe also excitement at going on a trip with my friends for the first time in the UK, and before I knew it, we had reached Oxenhulme where we had to change trains to Windermere. Half an hour later, we finally reached our coveted destination.

The first thing to remark once we got off was the weather. I was highly apprehensive the previous day when I checked the weather app and was told that the lowest temperature would be a negative integral. However, it didn’t seem to be the case in reality as we were, thankfully, greeted by a clear, azure blue sky, glorious sunshine and warm heat against our skin.

KY, designated tour guide of the day despite his repeated protests that it wasn’t like he had been to Windermere before, devised a route for us to take that involved ferry rides and AN 8 KILOMETER WALK, something I paled considerably after hearing about. But I refused to be a bad sport and was convinced that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I imagined it would be with my friends around. And so it began.

It was a roughly one-hour walk from the train station to Bowness-on-Pier, which was exactly what its name suggested, a pier. We bought 10 ferry tickets to Ambleside and had the opportunity to sit at the very front of the upper deck of the ferry.

The view was breathtakingly spectacular.

Our initial plan upon reaching Ambleside was to have lunch before going on the next ferry. So we entered a posh-looking hotel restaurant complete with a bar with golden-lighting, embroidered sofa sets and framed paintings hung on walls and was led to a waiting room to wait as they set out a table for 10 of us. Halfway through waiting and looking through the menu, it was brought to our attention that the last ferry to Wray Castle was leaving at 2:40PM, which was 40 minutes from now. Deciding we didn’t have enough time for a proper lunch meal, we quickly and sheepishly informed the waitress that we had a boat to catch and then quite literally bolted out of the restaurant. It was comforting to know that we would probably never step into the same premises again.

In place, we had a mini picnic at the tables by the lake, snacking on sandwiches and fruits we’d bought prior to the trip.

We didn’t actually end up dining at the luxurious posh-ass restaurant but at least we took a selfie in the mirror and that’s all that matters
#minimalistic picnic

The trip continued: a 15-minute ferry ride to Wray Castle.

It was getting sunnier and hotter when we found an ideal spot for a photography session by the road that lasted for at least an hour, living up to our Asian tourist stereotype of being obsessed with taking vacation photos. It was quite the literal materialisation of Best Coast’s song The Sun Was High (And So Was I).

After that, it was time to finally, reluctantly, embark on our 8km journey along the lake.

We even stopped for a while to hurl pebbles into the lake

The commencement of our embarkment was a lie. At the beginning of the trail, we stopped so many times to take photos, throw pebbles and climb stray boulders that overlooked the lake because it was just so beautiful. I am no good at describing sceneries and frankly, I usually can’t care less about sceneries but I think it was probably the fact that this was my first time on a trip out of Manchester with so many friends, and it’d been a long time since I was out of the predictable and monotonous hustle and bustle that the city of Manchester constantly provided us with. The sun was out, there wasn’t even any need for coats. The sights before me were sights that could previously only be seen on postcards or National Geography documentaries. Or maybe it was even the fact that I was kind of delirious from lack of sleep. But I felt so happy and contented, being able to take in this picturesque place with my own two eyes and be there with my friends. There was barely anyone around either, so it felt like the entire place belonged to us. It felt like we were in an insulated bubble, a world of our own, untainted by anything foreign or unbelonging. The recurring theme of that day was perhaps the word “~feel~”, complete with the tildes, implying that we were all like-minded when it came to basking in the ambience we were in. At one point I told Ash that I felt like we were in a music video.

It was, in all the true sense of the word, a getaway.

    

In the running spirit of movie-inspired photoshoots, I guess this would be Twilight

Once we got past the initial excitement of being in a setting that looked fitted for a medieval movie shoot, the 8km loomed ahead of us more glaringly. All too sudden, the scenery got repetitive to the extent that I was starting to feel more trapped in the aforementioned bubble than I was enjoying it. The pathways became sporadically interposed with muddy puddles that did damage to our shoes. Every few meters, we would chance upon a wooden sign that informed us of how much distance we had left. When we reached the sign with “2 1/2 miles” (of 4 miles/8km) carved on it it felt like the highest form of mockery towards my feeble stamina. We hadn’t even been halfway through the forest yet and I was already starting to feel all my cultivated energy from the previous high-ness dissipate at an alarming rate, as it usually does whenever I participate in marathons, rendering me with a guaranteed title of top five from the last place. But I could still feel consolation and gratitude for the fact that at least it wasn’t freezing cold, and at least it wasn’t as windy as the name of the district might have suggested.

As the sky began to darken slightly, Jia Yang suggested we might as well play a game to create an illusion of time passing by faster, and it worked. We played Contact until the pier where we were supposed to take a ferry back to Bowness came into a sight, and I had never felt more relieved. Our chance of survival wasn’t yet guaranteed, as Ze Kai reminded, but I was still elated to see ugly, concrete buildings and tar roads. It felt like a return to civilisation.

The ferry was a short ride and upon reaching the other end of the lake, we were told that we still had to walk another 2km to reach Bowness. My feet were screaming and frothing at the metaphorical mouth but in light of the 8km we had somehow managed to successfully conquer, 2km almost seemed welcomed.

Upon reaching Bowness, we hailed two taxis (after Ash and Yee Lin were unsuccessful in their attempts to hitchhike a ride for 10 of us) to the train station and the prospect of being able to be stationary and not having to walk was so blissful. Our train departed at around 7PM and everything after that, the two train changes we had to take etc was a huge blur as accumulated fatigue finally caught up with me. The night ended ideally though; as I like to always say, every good day ends with a dim sum dinner/supper.

I pretty much passed out the moment my head hit the pillow that night but it wasn’t without a heart bursting with good spirits and gratification from an enjoyable trip with lovely company.

 

*Photo credits to their respective owners among the 10 of us

V-Day Stands For Very, Very Cold Day

This Valentine’s Day, Evelyn suggested that all of us, who weren’t busy for obvious reasons, had a pot luck picnic at Whitworth Park in the morning and somehow, subconsciously, the night before turned into a subtle cooking/baking competition evident by how both Rumin and I stayed up till past midnight preparing sushi (her) and baking cupcakes (me). It’s one thing if I feel inadequate about myself but to clearly demonstrate my inadequacy in front of everyone else is another, so I, with Rumin’s help, spent hours decorating each cupcakes differently and subsequently labelled each cupcake individually with unique symbols drawn on heart-shaped papers to indicate which cupcakes belonged to who. It also didn’t help that my first batch from the oven pretty much flopped because the recipe I’d followed was a flop, something I’d only found out after I took one bite, realised something was wrong, and then scrolled down to the numerous criticisms in the comments about how “this recipe is absolutely not worth your time” and I could only mutter curse word after curse word as I attempted to salvage blunder by adding more sugar.

The next morning, I woke up tired and nervous, like I was presenting my dish to Gordon Ramsay in Masterchef.

When we got to Whitworth Park, Evelyn and Brian were already there laying down light pink polka dotted picnic mats on the grass underneath a white faux sakura tree, setting the ideal scene for a pleasant Valentine’s day picnic.

People gradually started turning up after that with their own food dishes and soon enough, a feast of assorted food was laid right before us, completing the whole picnic aesthetic.

Cheeseballs (Nicole), cake with cherries (Jia Yang), heart-shaped strawberry and cream-filled tarts (Evelyn), banana and nutella rolls (Yee Lin), vegetarian pizza (Brian), fried rice and cucumber juice (CC), tomyam fried bihun (Ee Min), pork casserole (Khai Jieq), a six-pack diet coke (Faris), sushi (Rumin), cupcakes (yours truly)
My cupcakes with individual symbols drawn on heart-shaped labels

Unfortunately, despite the ideal setting for the occasion, it was also 3 freaking Celsius and I was quickly losing senses in my toes and fingertips so we all moved to Evelyn’s Denmark Road hall common room to continue eating and subsequently played games and chatted until six in the evening. I was already all out of energy as Rumin and I walked back to Weston after that, but I had a lovely time spending Valentine’s with my friends and why only emphasise on the annual celebration of romantic love when platonic affection and gratitude is just as, if not more, important and significant in one’s life? I wouldn’t have wished to spend the day any other way.