Glico Pocky trip in Japan: Day 1 in Tokyo

My trip to Japan for Pocky was one of the best media trips i’d taken in my life.

I actually feel nervous writing about this, cos there’s so much to cover – things i learnt, information i was enamoured with, freaking amazing food, the loveliest people i got acquainted with, and endless new sights and sounds that contributed to my experience in Japan.

When i told some girl friends that i was going to Japan for Pocky, two excitable responses distinctly stood out.

Cammy said, “Pocky!? Oh my god i love Pocky! Are you bringing back Pocky? Bring back loads of Pocky! I once had a Pocky phase… where i ate so much Pocky every day, i had to stop!”

Before my trip to Tokyo, i was in London for a week where Yishyene was, and she said, “Pocky. It’s POCKY Joyce! That’s it. You’ve reached the highest point in life. There’ll be nothing for you after.”

Damn drama right.

I mean, *i* love Pocky. I even remember it being called Rocky when i was a kid, and always choosing the strawberry over the chocolate one when i was 5 years old and allowed it as a treat. I discovered on this trip that Rocky = Pocky! Malaysia is the only country where its name was officially changed to Rocky when it was first imported here in the 80s because market research showed that Pocky might not be a suitable name… (take a wild guess why).

Pocky has been around since the 60s… 1966 to be exact. Isn’t that insane? That’s how established the brand is!

If you think that’s long, wait till you hear how long the mothership company has been around for: Pocky was invented by Glico, one of the top confectionary brands in Japan. You may recognise other popular products under the Glico umbrella like Pretz, Caplico and Collon, to name a few (do you remember Collon? I LOVE IT!!!). Glico has been around since 1922. That’s older than my grandmother.

Today, Glico is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and has almost 10,000 employees. Glico and Pocky are such a phenomenon that you just have to search the hashtags #pocky or #glico on Instagram to see for yourself how much they’re loved!

But before i run off on a spiel, let’s start from the beginning… when i was on the plane to touch down in Narita airport.

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There was a glimmering spot in the distance where the morning sunlight hit the top of some clouds in the most spellbinding way.

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My view from my hotel room in Shinagawa, where the Glico Tokyo headquarters is at.

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The first few members of the Glico team i met: Hiroyuki Okamoto, Takuya Ichida, and Osamu Nakahara, and Bettina Gasser.
Little did i know how attached we were all gonna get!

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Pocky and Pretz to greet me! Packaging i’ve never seen in my life… and such CUTE ones too! It was almost a shame to eat them cos the packaging was too delectable itself to tear open.

The one with the cute yellow face on the top right is pear-flavoured Pretz, which i just shared with Baby/Faridah last Saturday. Or rather, i had one stick while she quietly kidnapped the rest…

The choc Pocky on the lower left is a special edition one for Christmas, with chocolate that would never make it to Malaysia cos it’s too hot here to last; and the remaining three on the bottom row are 2014 Halloween editions of strawberry, pumpkin, and i’m guessing white chocolate flavour. I whacked the strawberry and pumpkin ones myself, but gave the panda one away to either Tai Yong or Claudia cos they’re crazy about pandas.

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Oh my, THIS was such a delightful discovery. You have to eat this when you go to Japan. YOU MUST.

It’s called Pucchin Pudding and is officially recognised by Guinness World Records as the world’s best-selling pudding, with sales surpassing the 5.1 billion mark in 2012. (< I only knew all these facts AFTER i’d eaten the pudding and loved it so much i asked the Glico team whether it was possible for me to bring some home for my friends in Malaysia to try and they said it’s impossible due to our weather conditions and how it won’t last in transit/taste the same. #cry)

Pucchin Pudding was launched in 1972 after the Glico development team devised an ingenious method to serve this product similar to how Japanese pastry chefs do it in stores – whereby the container is turned upside-down over a plate and poked with an icepick so that the contents slide out smoothly with the soft caramel that’s at the bottom still intact and beautiful on the top.

After much thought, effort and time; an unassuming tiny stick is made just on the base of the Pucchin Pudding, so when it’s snapped off (that makes the sound ‘pucchin!, hence its name), the air that flows above the caramel area allows the whole dessert to slide effortlessly out in one gliding motion. That cool function, and the fact it’s got an amazing texture and taste just did it for me.

Oh Pucchin Pudding, i miss you so.

…. Wow three paragraphs on a pudding. Back to the story.

It was approaching lunch time when we were in the office, so the team packed us salads and sandwiches (i couldn’t eat anything more then cos i’d had so many snacks!) and we were chauffeured to the Glico Pia East factory in Kitamoto.

I was really excited about visiting the factory cos it was one of the highlights of the trip and i felt like i’d won a Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

When i told friends i was going to the Pocky factory, it was one of the occurrences in my life where more than five people commented, “I wish i had your job.”

I couldn’t believe it too!
Me, going all the way to the Pocky factory!
To see how POCKY IS MADE.
Seriously, just bringing myself back to that moment and how i felt is so joyous.
It was such a happy day!!!

When we first arrived at the factory entrance, i spotted some signs stating you can’t take photographs so i didn’t get a picture of a group of female Glico tour guides all smiling and bowing simultaneously to greet us. It was such a cartoonish sight, i felt like i was truly entering a magical factory. It was only after that, i was told i *could* take pictures (darn it, but it’s okay. Some things are more precious left in the mind’s memory).

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We were brought through the history of Glico which i found absolutely riveting based on the true story of its founder Mr. Ri-ichi Ezaki.

Born in 1882, he worked in his family’s pharmaceutical business at the tender age of 14 while continuing his studies with borrowed lecture notes. During this phase in his life, he also learnt various subjects by visiting a teacher living in his neighbourhood called Mr. Sayokichi Naramura.

One of the many topics he learnt included business, with invaluable lessons being:
“Business is not only for oneself, but also for society.”
“A seller profits from selling goods, while a buyer profits as a result of obtaining a product that is worth the money spent.”

What brilliant things to learn as a boy!

Those phrases were combined to become “Business is equivalent to service” – an ideal that Mr. Ezaki practiced throughout his illustrious career.

In 1919, Mr. Ezaki put two and two together when he encountered a fisherman boiling oysters on the bank of a river. He recalled a newspaper article stating that glycogen in oysters is a source of energy and good health, and got Kyushu Imperial University to confirm it via a sample he took to them.

While the glycogen was in research stage, Mr. Ezaki’s son got terribly ill with typhoid fever. When all hope seemed lost, Mr. Ezaki fed his son the glycogen and he regained his health much to everyone’s surprise. As a result of that experience, Mr. Ezaki wanted to turn glycogen into a pharmaceutical product, but he was advised by a doctor that it was better to build a body that was resistant to sickness rather than curing a sick one, and that growing children were most in need of glycogen. Why not merge glycogen with caramel so kids would love eating it?

With that, the efforts to create a nourishing confection kicked off… and the birth of Glico came to be. (The name Glico is short for glycogen, and was chosen because it was short, catchy and pleasing to hear.)

I don’t want you to think that all he did was *stumble* upon this idea and everything happened like magic. There’s so much more to the story than that!

Mr. Ezaki delved into Glico’s naming, form, trademark, marketing, manufacturing… down to the colour of the packaging.

He was adamant that the candy to be in a heart shape, and pretty much invented the first ever heart shape candy in the world in 1922. I was stupefied when i saw a video of the special machinery they invented to make HEART SHAPED SWEETS. “This guy is nuts!” i thought. But then again, its the crazy inventors and dreamers that push evolution ey?

Mr. Ezaki even cracked his head over the logo, which is now a cult pose in Japan. It’s like, everyone in Japan knows the pose. Everyone. I made the pose to exemplify to some new friends in a bar why i was in Tokyo for, and they immediately said, “Oh Glico!!”

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Me doing the Glico trademark pose with Ruba Nackeeran from Cleo Malaysia and William Lim from Sisters magazine. (I had such a great time being around these two… i felt like they were my adopted brother and sister during the trip.)

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A guitar signed by famous Japanese rock band Glay in the shape of the Glico trademark.

Mr. Ezaki came up with this concept as he was pondering over the trademark for Glico and saw some children racing each other. Their joyful pose as they crossed the finish line with raised arms inspired him and he included it into his sketches. When he showed his selection of possible logos to some elementary school kids, the picture of the runner turned out to be the most popular and that was how the Glico trademark came to be.

Talk about giving power to the consumer, Mr. Ezaki was practicing it almost 100 years ago. Amazing.

Once the product with its full packaging was ready, Mr. Ezaki was determined for the most credible store at the time to sell it. After trying lots of times without giving up, Glico caramel was finally sold at Mitsukoshi Department Store in Osaka on February 11, 1922.

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Mr. Ezaki was concerned that healthy bodies should come with healthy hearts, and believed that both nourishment and playtime are essential for a wholesome childhood. This is why he implemented the insertion of a small toy with the Glico caramel since its inception. Glico ALWAYS comes with a toy.

Over 20,000 pieces were designed from 1927 till present; with 1,500 pieces displayed where i was that day. See all the rows of little perspex boxes above? Each one contained a little toy from ages ago up till recent times!

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Look how tiny and delicate some of the old toys are! Absolutely incredible how they made them like they used to – out of metal, wood and paper! I wish they would make more toys like these again…

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Teeny tiny pop up cards!

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This was a newer toy, as you can tell from its make in plastic. My finger is there to show you how miniscule ALL of them are!

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Ahhh i wanted to study them all a lot longer but the group was waiting for me so i had to go…

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We moved on to a replica of vending machines that sold Glico candy back in 1931.

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I found this yet another fascinating part of the Glico history. They had vending machines that were each fitted with a projector to show parts of a black and white action ‘movie’. Every time a Glico caramel candy was purchased, a 20-second film would play. There were 5 parts to a whole show (bear in mind this is in 1931) so if someone bought 5 candies, they’d be able to enjoy the whole reel!

How clever is that? (I need to stop sounding so impressed… but it’s hard because i am!!)

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Pretz went on sale under Glico in 1962, and 4 years later, Pocky (the chocolate-covered version of Pretz) was launched.

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I never knew how global Glico is. The company established factories in Thailand in 1970, referred to as Thai Glico, making it possible for Pocky (or rather, Rocky) to enter Malaysia. The Glico brand then extended its arm into Europe in 1982, selling Pocky under the name “Mikado”. Shanghai Glico Foods was established in 1995, and Glico opened in Malaysia and Indonesia in 2014.

This is proper world domination right here.

Then came the part where we got to see how Pretz and Pocky gets made!!!

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I should have guessed that being as hygienic as they are, we were allowed to observe from behind wide panes of glass.

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Long strips of flour are created, before they’re cut into equal lengths and baked for 4 minutes in a 300°C oven that’s 45m in length. If you’ve ever noticed how Pretz has texture on one side of it, it’s from the net it lies on while baking! :D

The factory uses 9 tonnes of flour to make over 55,000 packets of Pretz daily! It never shuts. It is open 24 hours a day with 600 people working in there. Regulations are stringent, with examples being how uniforms are checked every hour, and only spectacles are allowed to be worn (to avoid contact lenses falling in by accident).

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Machines with vendor belts can tell whether sticks are too light or heavy, and automatically chucks those that are of imperfect weight. The sticks are also randomly weighed in groups of ten as part of tests.

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When it came to how the chocolate is applied onto the stick, we had to walk through a corridor instead cos this is their manufacturing secret. I must say, even the corridor was something. It was made to look like you were walking through a giant Pocky stick..!

Choc info-wise, i was told that 7 tonnes of chocolate is used to make over 70,000 packets of Pocky daily.

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Cameras and screen capture ensure that no stick gets broken once it’s in the box, and each box is weighed to confirm the right number of sticks is encased. There are 17 sticks in every packet of Pocky, and 30 sticks in every packet of Pretz.

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It was such a beautiful day!

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There was a small Glico shop outside the factory and i went a bit mental.

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Giant Pocky! They were a hit at my Christmas party… people kept on stealing each others’.

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Glico lollipops

I bought two bags of souvenirs to take home… i couldn’t help it! How could i go to the Pocky factory and not buy all the cool stuff!?

Pix from the rest of the day, when the team took us for a lavish Japanese dinner at sky tower in Tokyo:

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UNIQLO Paris SS15 Press Preview: Interview with Ines de la Fressange & Naoki Takizawa

Inès de la Fressange is a name you must store in the fashion drawer(s) of your head.

A muse to Karl Lagerfeld and other top designers around the world; Inès was the first ever model signed exclusively to Chanel in the 80s and more recently walked for the fashion house again in 2011. She’s also been the ambassador for Roger Vivier, and served as the model of Marianne – the symbol of France. That’s just crazy. Imagine the image of yourself being used to represent your country!

The French model/fashion designer/perfumer was born an aristocrat in 1957 to a French stockbroker and Argentine model. I found her age terribly surprising as her exquisite features belie its figure (as you will see in the pictures below).

Inès has been featured by the likes of VogueNY MagTelegraph, and ELLE. One of her quotes that cracked me up can be found in an article on The Guardian, regarding her essential wardrobe items to being chic.

She declared the navy sweater being a definitive item, ”This is universal – for men, women and children. Every one has a black one and thinks they look like Juliette Gréco but they look like a rat. Navy will always be beautiful – whether you buy it at Uniqlo or Céline.”

I will never be able to look at a person wearing a black sweater without dispelling images of a rat in my head ever again. (I’m glad to say that i DO own a navy sweater, and from Uniqlo too, so yay me!)

Due to Inès’ authority as a fashion legend and being the quintessence of French chic, UNIQLO has collaborated with her for a third collection for Spring Summer 2015.

I had the immense pleasure of being flown to Paris by Uniqlo for their SS15 press preview to speak to Inès, and Naoki Takizawa – UNIQLO Design Director whom Inès worked closely with for the collection.

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The press preview was held at Atelier Richelieu and spanned two floors. A large airy room on the ground floor was decorated specifically to show off the SS15 Inès de la Fressange x UNIQLO collection; complete with plentiful of interior props for a Southern French ambience and style inspirations on the walls.

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New items in this collection include sports jackets and sweat shirts in vintage styles, each added with subtle yet distinctive feminine accents that is emblematic of Inès. Her signature use of indigo is broadened with the inclusion of caramels and delicate grays.

I love how many cotton and linen pieces there are, making me think of how i’m going to be needing them on my holidays in Asia or summer trips in Europe. Also watch out for a concurrent theme of playful and feminine touches as can be seen in neckline openings, fit and slim silhouettes.

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Parts of my Interview with Naoki Takizawa & Ines de la Fressange

Naoki: We’re all naturally inspired by something. By each other.

Inès: Naoki shows me vintage things that he has, I show him vintage things that I found at a flea market. And then we discuss about fabrics. We don’t have the work feeling that much but don’t tell Mr. Yanai. It’s like seeing a friend and showing them what you’ve found at the flea market and saying ‘let’s do a jacket that is similar’. We have great fun. Fashion is done by crazy people who are finally the most reasonable because we are the ones doing the business in the end. But there’s no planning, he’s much more French than I am, I’m the Japanese one, the serious one. That’s how fashion should be done, with desire and happiness and enthusiasm. It’s not something for intellectual people.

Naoki: I think for a brand like Uniqlo, we don’t follow the trends. We try to think about what the customer needs.

Inès: A lot of down-to-earth things. I don’t find a real raincoat that I want. So I say ‘let’s do it’. We don’t even have a list of things to do. Usually when you design a collection you need two shapes of pants, two shapes of shirts, one coat. It’s done like this nowadays in all the studios. But we never thought of those, we had such freedom, I must say.

Naoki: Also the model and how to show the clothes. With high profile designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Jean-Paul Gaultier, we see what are the good clothes for women. This is a good thing for us, we don’t need to talk a lot, I don’t need to explain to her about the fabric – ‘this is wool, this is the front, this is the back.’

Inès: We work a lot like in the 80’s. It was all about ‘let’s do the things we want’. Now in the studios it’s no longer like that. The fact that there are a thousand shops in the world means that (there is) a lot of fabric and we cannot afford to have good quality fabric because of that. I didn’t expect that (for this collection), having such good quality. I noticed that the pieces that we prefer in the first collection (became the greatest hits in the shops) and this gives us a certain power now. We’ve been showing what we like and what we believe in, and it was disappearing very quickly in the shops.

Which are personally your favourite pieces?

Inès: I think the jacket and jeans is perfection because it is well cut. And that first jacket there, it is very light and with no lining. I could fold it quite small and put it in my case. Wrinkle is beautiful and it will fit with the shirt, T-shirts, it would be easy. This has a classic cut, the colour is great the detail is there.

This is a very strong collection. I can imagine the lifestyle for it. 

Naoki: This collection is much bigger than the last collection.

Inès: And it is also exclusive fabric. Design exclusive. Like this print, it is just for us. We had more time to work and I hope they (Uniqlo) will order more clothes in the shops. I have my friends complaining that they can’t find something in their size. Just today I received a text saying ‘I can’t find the pants in my size.’

Better be quicker next time!

Inès: Haha yeah maybe!

Naoki: What is the temperature during winter time in Malaysia?

We don’t have winter, so it’s 30 degrees all year round.

Naoki: Oh, so quite constant?

Yes quite constant tropical weather. 

Inès: Oh that’s good. Because in France when you go outside you can’t go in a swimming suit into the city. But you don’t want to carry something heavy. And these for instance, they are not shirts and jackets but they are light like shirts. When it’s very heavy, humid and warm you have to dress up a little bit but you don’t want anything. I have the same problem, because sometimes during summer in France it is very very warm but I have to dress very chic so I can’t go just in a T-shirt. I would love to but I have to be a bit dressy because some personality or journalist is arriving. Linen is a dream when it’s very warm, even wrinkle is very beautiful. Cotton is perfection too.

+ + + + + + +

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I had such a great chat with the both of them. It was comfortable as they were jesting and laughing, yet would sit upright when excitedly defending a point. What struck me most was their undeniable passion and devotion to fashion and style, yet not losing their zest for happiness and a fulfilling life.

And i think, no, i don’t think, i KNOW why i feel more connected to the brand after that day. I could see and feel so apparently that their core value is happiness, and it’s so strongly my own too, which is why i’ve felt more of an affinity thereafter.

During another part of our conversation, Inès went off into a passionate spiel. Read it, you can just feel her words spilling out of her soul:

“I prefer not to be that selfish and talk about myself, my image. But I really trust that if I sincerely like something, the others are going to like it. I always notice that things left during sales, left in the shops are the less good things. I trust the customer, even more than the professional people.

The customers are the best, they recognise the best immediately. I don’t think I’m such an example but I trust my desires. And if I think I’m gonna wear it, for the others it will be the same.

I do lots of interviews explaining the Parisian style, on how to mix up things. Most of my life I explain what is the Parisian style. But at the end I know that in a shop, it’s not style that you sell, it’s items.

If there’s a really nice white jacket, people are not going to buy the whole collection they are just going to buy a few items. The whole atmosphere has to be in that one item. They have to be happy even buying just one item.

Each of the things in the collection, we like it. If we didn’t like something it’s out of the collection. Everyone has been asking us which one we prefer, but we like everything. There are many people in Malaysia who have bought our clothes who haven’t even heard of me, they’ve never seen a picture of me and sometimes they don’t even understand that the girl in the picture in the shop is the designer. They just think it’s an old mother. And I don’t care about this, I had all the luck in my life, been famous, been modelling, working with all the best photographers. So my ego is fine.

I’m now much happier if people tell me that they bought a jacket that I did than if they told me they saw my picture in a magazine. It’s like when you have children, people tell you ‘Oh they’re so polite they’re so sweet.’ You’re happy from that much more than if people told you ‘Your skin looks great.’

I’m happy with the success whether they do or don’t put my name in it, it’s not important to me. The rest of the collection of Uniqlo are things that could have been done by me, could have been inspired, and I’m quite proud of it. I know some people are going to wear these clothes in a way that I didn’t expect and mix them up with other clothes that I didn’t do and that’s the game of it.

Finally to answer you shortly, I don’t care if there’s some of me in it or not. I just want people to be happy and I want them not to make a mistake. When they buy something it’s something that they will actually wear and be happy that they bought it. I want them think “Uh oh I only took the white one. I should have also taken the navy blue.” It’s possible at Uniqlo to buy two.”

To view the Ines x Uniqlo collection, visit: www.uniqlo.com/my/ines/

Good luck. I already want half the collection after touching and feeling them all in person.

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Kamandalu Resort & Spa in Ubud, Bali

Now that things seem to be easing up, i’m going to be blogging a lot more about the many trips i took in the past few months! I’d been saying for years that i needed to take my parents to one of my favourite places in the world, and we’ve finally struck that off the list – Bali!

I planned a trip for us to stay in three main areas across the island – Ubud, Lovina, and Seminyak. Our first stop was Ubud, famed for its gleaming green rice terraces, traditional arts, colourful markets, babi guling, and many-a yoga/meditative practices and raw food movements.

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Via Agoda, we stayed at Kamandalu, one of Bali’s pioneering 5-star luxury resorts that stretches across 3.5 hectares of private land. The beautiful property is inspired by Panglipuran village (one of the oldest and most traditional settlements in Bali) and is surrounded by lush rice paddies.

In Sanskrit, ‘Kamandalu’ refers to ‘the vessel that contains the water of life’, and the resort prides itself on carrying out its philosophy by providing life-enhancing rejuvenation. Just looking back at the photographs and rekindling how i felt when i was there is rejuvenating enough for me. It was such a beautiful relaxing place to just immerse myself into for days – one of those premises where you really don’t have to leave at all (nor want to).

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Having been around for many years, the already beautiful resort recently saw a huge makeover to cater to the demands of today’s discerning traveller while preserving its heritage and timeless serenity. Kamandalu’s main facilities have just been redesigned by Grahacipta Hadiprana, a renowned architect and design firm in Indonesia.

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The resort is built on curving ridges above the Petanu River and is a mere 10-minute drive from the centre of Ubud.

Each chalet or villa in Kamandalu comes with a view of either terraced rice paddies or plunging valleys. There are 1 to 3 bedroom villas, some with private landscaped gardens, private pools, or large living rooms, depending on each guest’s desires.

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We could choose to dine between the award-winning Petulu Restaurant or Aira Cafe. Petulu, a spacious restaurant overlooking the glorious rice terraces, serves authentic Indonesian cuisine from a menu designed by leading culinary expert William Wongso. Aira Cafe is an open air affair by the swimming pool.

One could also opt to have a special Kamandalu Afternoon Tea, simply dine in the privacy of one’s villa, or have a picnic lunch prepared to enjoy with the view of Ubud’s tropical forest.

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They have all sorts of activities and excursions organised, i wish i could have stayed longer to try them all!

There are guided walks/bicycle tours through the rice paddies, bird watching in the evenings, morning strolls through Tampak Siring village and Gunung Kawi Temple, Balinese cooking classes, village trekking, visits to the Peliatan Palace and Elephant Cave Temple… They can even help arrange white-water rafting, golfing, canoeing, surfing, diving, etc.

If you have children (so many of my friends have children so i need to write this down!), you’d be relieved to know there are baby cots and babysitter services, and lots of activities for the kiddies like Bali Junior Chef classes (for ages 4-5, and 5-10), Balinese egg decorating/painting, ceramic molding lessons, gebogan (learn the Balinese way of life by making offerings), canang (weaving with coconut leaves), and gamelan (Balinese dance). A lot right! Tire them out proper so they’ll pass out by bedtime, i say!

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Despite all the many activities provided for the restless and adventurous, Kamandalu is ultimately a getaway that effortlessly excels in providing the atmosphere for relaxation. You can’t avoid feeling that; what with all the lush nature, singing birds and gentle breeze tickling you constantly.

One of my favourite features in the resort and something that makes me want to return… is their magnificent yoga and meditation teak pavilion set amidst the treetops of Ubud.

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It was here that i had a kismet one-on-one meditation session with their resident yogi Arif (story to come n a separate post). He holds complimentary yoga sessions daily too.

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More pix after the jump from my entire stay there!

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NYE 2015 in Manila & Boracay

It was kinda weird how i ended up in the Philippines for New Year’s Eve. It was a completely impulsive move that felt right when i agreed to it. Having recently been single, i found my regular New Year’s Eve plans up in the air. All my couple friends had their families and babies to take care of, and some single friends invited me here and there for NYE, but i wasn’t feeling it. So i said no.

During a random lunch at Ben’s @ Publika with Lexie, she invited me to join her in Manila and Boracay with two other single girl friends. The moment i heard it, something in my mind went, “YES!” So i booked my flights to spend a week in the Philippines. It was great. By being so far away, and New Year’s Eve week; i could keep my phone and laptop at bay without feeling guilty.

The night before leaving, I worked till some stupid time like 5am, slept for 1 hour, then woke up at 6 to catch our morning flight. I figured i could sleep when i’s on holiday. The moment we arrived in Manila, the driver took us straight to a hair appointment Lexie’s mum so kindly booked for us. I don’t have much hair to style so… i got a wash and blow instead. I succumbed to Burger King cos i was starving and if i didn’t feed myself, i would have slipped into angry fairy mode. It was okay, i told myself. It’s New Year’s Eve after all.

Went back to hers, and while we were getting ready for dinner, i wished i had a drink while doing my make up. Lexie walks into the bathroom, and hands me a large wine glass with sangria in it, “My dad made it.” The timing was impeccable.

I thought Buster (their mum’s chihuahua) was cute when he ran off with one of my flower headbands to hide with his other toys in the living room. Cuteness factor decreased a bit when i spotted him about to pee in my Rimowa and managed to fling carry him off in a split second.

Got ready, bla bla, made Enrique (Lexie’s brother) wait, then us three headed out to the City of Dreams for dinner before partying.

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It’s a brand new casino resort which also holds the Hyatt, restaurants, Pangaea club, and god knows what other facilities i have no idea about.

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Lexie and i looking up at the fascinating ceiling work. I’m wearing a white romper from Love Bonito, clutch from Brisbane, shoes from Kurt Geiger.

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We had dinner at Prego. The steak tartare was divine. I wish it was a bigger portion!

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Sambuca shots

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We hit it pretty hard with champagne and coffee patron the moment we arrived…

I was SO excited for it to turn into New Year’s tho! I can’t remember the last time i felt so excited… i just FEEL like 2015 is gonna be such a great year. 2014 brought so many changes and self-discoveries, i feel like i’m more ready to explode in 2015. Amazing things are gonna happen, i just KNOW it! When the date turned to a new year, i felt a shift in me (well, i thought i did). Like a new chapter is starting. I was just so excited about LIFE.

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Lexie, Sabrina, me, Enrique

We partied till lateeeee. The next day Lexie and i died trying to wake up to head to the airport for our flight to Boracay. It sounded like such a great idea at the time – spend New Year’s Eve in Manila! Then New Year’s Day in Boracay!

Reason it’s stupid is cos i didn’t think of how much suffering it takes to get oneself to the airport hungover.

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I noticed it was 1:11 on 1st January and took a screenshot.
Lexie in hungover mode.

Anyway to make a long story short: we waited for our flight which was delayed for hours. HOURS. When we finally got onto the shuttle that was taking us from our gate to the plane, we were told the flight was cancelled. Lexie and i headed back home cos we got ourselves on the next morning’s flight at 6am. Went home, gave sad faces, ate a meal, got a shower, felt happier, watched The Interview, and hung out.

NEXT DAY WE finally get to Boracay!

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We arrived in time to catch breakfast with Saira and Hajar at the Strand, where we were all staying.

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Before going to Boracay, we saw how the weather forecast said it was most likely to rain every day we were there. But i was just so adamant it wouldn’t. Like, it’s NOT possible. Every time people told Lex and i that, we’d be like, “No… it’s not gonna rain.” And you know what? It didn’t rain a single day we were there. (Well, not when we were out anyway.) It was kinda cloudy on the first day we were there… but it kept on getting better and better throughout the trip! #sopositiveyoucan’teven

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My sunnies are from Mouet, Italian sunglasses handmade with 100% acetate.

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Durian Runtuh @ Awanmulan

Some time in December, my friend Edward from Singapore was visiting KL for the first time ever, and i told him that i’d try to take him to Awanmulan so he could get a taste of Malaysian nature. I’m adamant that if visitors come to KL, they can’t just explore the city… you gotta get out and see how beautiful it is a mere hour away too!

I was having a crazy busy time at work… and it wasn’t the best time to go away, but i felt like i needed to shut off for just a day. (The thing about running your own show is there IS no break. And as long as i’m within a whatsapp message or email away… i can’t seem to run away.) But hey, Edward around was a great reason to: 1) be a great host. 2) get away myself.

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I’ve stayed in every single room in Awanmulan, save for Durian Runtuh and Rahsia – their latest addition to the nature retreat. It’s built on a slope facing West so you can watch the sun set over the distant hills.

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There are two floors – on top is Durian Runtuh, and below is Rahsiah. If you book only Durian Runtuh (2 bedrooms that sleep 4 pax) it will be RM1330; Rahsiah below sleeps 5 for RM1140. If you take BOTH rooms, you sleep 9 pax for RM2100.

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The words on their door sign are formed from nails being hammered into it!

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Kitchen with full amenities and living area

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Love the pink and mint wooden window panes that complement the colours of the sunset rays so the whole room will glow in those tones in the evening!

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BECAUSE I HAVE NO SHAME that i love Frozen.

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SWS

You know of SOS. But have you heard of SWS?

I’m just about getting over SWS (Ship Withdrawal Symptoms). I don’t even think the team is over it yet. This morning they were all still talking about stuff that happened on the ship and after 30 minutes, i piped up, “OK ENOUGH! I’m gonna separate you all if you don’t stop talking, i can’t do my work!”

After that, silence.
And i felt like the mean schoolteacher.  -_-

OK fine, the ship was really awesome. Some ppl asked whether it was as awesome as the pix depicted.
And i was like, “Yezzzzz”

The vibe on the boat was so awesome cos everyone basically had to be a community for 5 days. Everything was within walking (or stumbling) distance – restaurants, pool, clubs, bars, rooms, sports amenities, casino. Because getting on the ship costs a certain amount of money, i felt that it got a crowd that was slightly better behaved. I only met two people that made me feel negative, out of hundreds of amazing beings i made friends and hung out with. Everyone was smiley, saying hi in the corridors, it was easy to go up to anyone and strike a conversation (cos we’re all in the same boat har har). When i got off the ship and continued smiling at strangers on land, i realised i was back to ‘reality’ when noone returned my smiles. #sad

Everyone on the ship was just in such a good mood cos it was a holiday!

Signs of SWS:

1. You eat a lot.

I’ve been eating like a horse during and after the ship. On the day we disembarked; i had breakfast at 6am, a huge lunch in Singapore at 1pm, char siew pau at 4pm, and two dinners in one sitting at 7pm. For the first time in my fanship at Fat Spoon, i ordered two main dishes and walloped both by myself after coming straight from the airport cos i couldn’t take it. I felt like passing out from hunger.

2. You surf #itstheship on IG constantly.

The first night i got back, i couldn’t help checking out IG to see all the pictures and get links of people i’d met on board. After a few hours, i decided i HAD TO STOP.

3. You’re messaging people you met on the ship, when you’re home.

I’ve been messaging and voice-noting all these people i met during those 5 days. It’s like we can’t get enough of each other. It even applies to old friends. Aaron asked to meet up tomorrow, and i was like, “Seriously?? We just saw each other for FIVE days on the ship! Not enough issit?” Deep asked me to come out to 42 today; i was at a pre-wedding dinner so noooo.

4. You have to get used to reality around you.

Like the smiling i mentioned earlier on in this post, i had to get used to the fact that not everyone smiles. It felt so weird to be back on land, not have food of all types at your disposal at any given hour, people around to play with, laughing and running around all day, talking to people and having fun, dancing, drinking. Aaron said he was in starbucks getting a coffee on the way to work and imagined the guy next to him was shirtless and holding a beer. Said guy was actually wearing a shirt and tie.

5. Bodily dysfunctions.

I lost my voice on the 3rd day at the ship. By the 5th day i was barely comprehensible if i didn’t try hard enough. I wasn’t the only one. EVERYONE in our group of 12 lost their voices, except Danny and Deep. Something about their genes. And then there are the bruises and urm allergies. My allergies came back with a vengeance cos i drank too much (aughhhh).

6. You’re still not unpacked.

Packing to check out of the ship constituted chucking all my belongings hilly billy into my white rimowa. I usually separate my accessories, chargers and bikinis by packing them in separate pouches; but that didn’t happen this time. Because it’s such a royal mess, i just about got over getting the tangle of stuff out of my bag, and haven’t finished placing all items back in its proper place yet.

 

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