Singapore + Bali (Part 1/3)

Note: This is a super late post! I’ve been gathering my thoughts and photos.

With Clint’s return came the holiday we both desperately needed. He deserved an oasis to contrast the desert he just came from; and I deserved a break from the Tokyo winter. We’d been planning our trip to Singapore and Bali for a few months, and the wait was worth it.

Singapore Days 1-4

Our HOP out of Yokota came a couple of days earlier than expected, so we had more time than initially planned. But we weren’t complaining! Singapore is immaculately clean and architecturally developed. We could tell the port city has a lot of pride in its image. It’s also clear they’re heavily invested in tourism considering the abundance of taxis and outrageous costs of everything.

We hit the ground running the first afternoon – well, more like leisurely walking. It was so nice to let go of restrictive curfews and pressure to sleep at an early hour. We walked all along the Clarke Quay river walk searching for food. There’s an ample selection – one more expensive than the next. We were well aware of how expensive Singapore can be, but were still sticker shocked nonetheless. Upon seeing a Hooters, the savory flavor of their famous wings lured me in. I know, you’re thinking, “You went to Singapore and ate Hooters?” Well, yes. I hadn’t had access to it in over two and a half years. The craving was too strong. Our bill came out to be much higher than it would’ve back in the States, but the wings were delicious. I can’t say the same for the special items on their menu.

We spent the rest of the evening just soaking in the quiet weekday nightlife along the quay. Then Clint had a spontaneous idea to walk towards the Marina Bay Sands hotel. “You’re crazy. It’s miles away,” I said. “It’s not like we have to go to bed early,” he retorted. This was true. And so we ventured on our way. It was actually a two-mi walk; and it was lovely. We walked across many beautiful buildings, clubs and food stalls. It gave us a chance to see the city in a way we wouldn’t have in a car.

The next day, Clint was feeling extra energetic, so he wanted to walk from our hotel to the Gardens by the Bay. It ended up being an eight-hour walk with all the detours! Kallang Road has an overwhelming number of restaurants and shops. What started as a quick errand for sunglasses escalated into a two-hour shopping diversion.

Before the Gardens is the lotus-shaped ArtScience Museum – naturally, we had to stop in. There was a photography exhibit covering various political movements around the world. It was simultaneously somber and inspiring. Since the museum is attached to The Shoppes, we had to do some window shopping. And inside the mall is the casino. Clint couldn’t not try his luck – so in we went.

After all that time, we finally made it to the Gardens. It was a scene straight out of Avatar – both extraterrestrial and organic. Just mesmerizing! Clint somehow talked me into going up to the Skyway – a bridge 72 feet high! He tried convincing me it would help me get over my fear of heights. Nope. Despite almost dying of fear, it was a lovely place.

We finished off the night with seafood from the nearby food stalls. What a day!

Our last full day turned out to be a wet one. We went out in search of some Vietnamese food and Starbucks. We ended up at MRS PHO, a charming restaurant on Beach Rd. The bun bo hue was exactly what I was looking for, but the marketing was what really sold me. With cheeky phrases like, “School of pholosophy” and “You never phoget your first,” I was enamored. I wish we could’ve taken the posters home as memorabilia.

We also checked out Funan Digitalife Mall, Singapore’s tech haven. Anything electronics item you need can be found here. Clint was sold the minute the saleslady pitched him the “multi-functional charger.” While in the taxi, I saw a cathedral and had to check it out. It turned out to be The Church Of Our Lady Of Lourdes. I don’t know why, but it took me back to when I was a kid at our church in Houston, TX. It had sentimental meaning, even though I’d never been there before. I suppose cathedrals just have that effect on me.

That evening, we met up with my cousin from Vietnam. Serendipitously, she was there on business. We got some Chinese food, rummaged through the fruit market stands and went for drinks at Clark Quay. It was the most wonderful surprise to see her there. I can’t wait ’til she visits me in Japan!


The Snow of Myōkō, Niigata

Last weekend, a group of us packed up two vans with snowboarding equipment and snacks and headed towards Niigata. This area is known for its glorious snow, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I hadn’t seen this much snow since Pennsylvania!

We got lost in Hakuba trying to find our hotel, but the views were so spectacular we didn’t mind. It was a mystical blanket of white in all directions.

We finally found our hotel in Myōkō, Niigata. A few got to test the slopes, while the rest of us relaxed at Morino Lodge Myoko. The lodge has a fantastic common area (with an eating area, lounge area and a bar). It was always open and made us feel at home. And the free breakfast spread was a wonderful surprise.

The Faces of Clementine

Just like the fruit, Clementine can be filled with sweetness. She’ll follow me around the house and all she wants is a good petting. She’ll snuggle up to me when I’m watching TV or working on the computer. She always runs out to greet me when I come home. She’s Tristan’s best friend, and shows him all the time.

But there are also times when she’s a little sour. She’s not afraid to let people know she’s not in the mood to be picked up. If Tristan is getting a little rambunctious, she’ll give him a confident swat on the cheek.

Clementine Isabella Do. She’s a lady and she knows it.

Here are the many faces of Clementine. My favorite is the squinty-eyed pout.

Beef Flat Noodles

One of my favorite takeout dishes back in Texas is the delightfully simple beef flat noodles. I had it at least once a week in college (I miss you, Hoa Hoa!) and probably twice as much after. To me, it was the Chinese restaurant staple. So when I came to Korea, and now Japan, I figured every Chinese restaurant would have it. Well I was wrong. Apparently, it’s an “American Chinese” thing. I don’t know if that’s true; but either way, I wasn’t getting any.

It’s taken me a couple of years, but I was finally brave enough to try it today. I must say, I’m much more confident in my cooking skills lately. I followed an easy recipe online and got some Kobe beef so I wouldn’t have to play guessing games on whether the beef would come out too chewy or not. The entire process took an hour to prep and cook, but below is my final product. It was pretty tasty! Not late-night, guilty-pleasure Hoa Hoa tasty, but my tummy is pretty pleased.



Tyty Visits Japan!

Finally! A fellow Do comes to visit our humble abode here in Tokyo. In transit to Vietnam, my sister stopped by for a quick tour. I chose the best spots I could think of for proximity and weather limitations.

We started with the Shiofune Kannon temple in Ome. The winter had a sepia effect on the landscape, but the impressive space and view still mesmerized Tyty. There was shabu shabu, yakiniku, gyoza and, of course, sushi involved. We then took her through downtown Tokyo: Harajuku, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Roppongi. There was an indulgent stop at Burberry on Tyty’s part, but she needed a scarf and we needed shelter from the gusty winter’s eve. The orderly chaos of Tokyo is something I’ve often tried describing to family members, but it’s so hard to express in words. She finally got to experience it for herself. We rounded off the visit with a drive by Mt. Fuji, tried the locally famous hoto soup and introduced her to a traditional Japanese onsen.

It was a “quick-guide to Japan” kind of pitstop, but I got her curious about her kids coming here for the summer. I can’t wait!

Tori no Iru – Owl Cafe

With yet another friend visiting Tokyo, I had to think of a fun place to take her that didn’t include another touristy spot or one we’d been to before. And then it hit me! I’d been wanting to go to an owl cafe since I first saw someone post about it months ago. There are several in our area, but I liked the idea of a cafe with a variety of birds so Tori no Iru Cafe it was.

As we’d been warned by other bloggers, there was a standard 20-30 minute wait. But it wasn’t a bad one since we could entertain ourselves with a cluster of bird-themed gashapon (toy vending machines) just outside.The cafe was all glass, so we could ooh and ahh freely at the birds from outside as well.

While we waited, a couple pulled up on their bikes – and I had to do a double take because I couldn’t believe my eyes. They had baby owls perched on their handlebars. Baby owls! They were just nonchalantly riding around the city with baby-freakin-owls with them. They couldn’t be bothered with, but all I wanted to do was steal them. Really, the owners didn’t even blink at our inquisitiveness. And so we just stood by like groveling puppies as they went into the cafe.

We were soon seated and offered the drink/snack menu. I already knew I wanted the adorable owl cheesecake (that turned out to not be an owl, but based off their famous cockatoo.) The rest didn’t matter. We quickly devoured our drinks and cake and proceeded to the petting/photo-taking. The owls were much softer than I expected. The feathers were impossibly smooth. A part of my anti-animal-captivity side protested, “I’m not sure about these birds being restricted to this room;” but the other part knew they were being well cared for by the owners. The birds didn’t seem miserable, so I left with no qualms.

It was a cute experience, and certainly a novel one. I’d take other visitors there.


FSS Christmas Party 2014

My first squadron holiday party! Every year, we attend Clint’s LRS holiday parties; but this year, I have my own. Our illustrious party-planners decided on an ’80s theme. I was skeptical at first, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. They put in so much work to make sure there was always something going on. It was neat seeing members of leadership let loose and have a good time. The “Shake it Out” routine was the best!

Welcome Home, Clint!

After five and a half months of anxiety, lonely holiday celebrations, loooots of time with the cats and daily I-miss-yous, Clint has finally made it home!

I prepared a sign, took a two-hour shuttle to the airport and surprised him. He was thinner, a stranger almost. But underneath all the gruff and grime of war and travel, it was still the sweet man I love. And he’s home.