Chinese Dolly

On the up: Travel
On the down: The crass attitude of Chinese people

Just so you don't miss me too much: a dolly is off to China tonight for nine days to have tea with the Buddhas and steal a couple of very precious leaves from a very precious tree when no one is looking.

Also, at some point, I'm really gonna have to get over my phobia of Chinese people and if I do, I will have totally accomplished and attained the 8 Verses of Transforming the Mind

Domestic Dolly

On the up: Cooking
On the down: Ingesting all those extra calories from food-tasting

I have been cooking

and cooking

and cooking

and cooking.

Guru devotion makes you do the strangest things you didn't even think you could do before.

When Ben and I were put in charge of preparing Rinpoche's meals, we decided that the most efficient thing to do would be to spend just one day a week cooking enough meals to last the whole week.

So this means cooking

and cooking

and cooking

until your feet feel like they're going to drop off from standing at the stove all day.

So today it's all been about salads and stews and casseroles and soups and everything that makes you so want to stuff your face with food all day long.

And they're all super healthy, super-low-fat and so delicious you wouldn't believe.

Suddenly, Ben and I have discovered untapped domestic potential within ourselves. We are domestic angels - we've found that our new place in the world is in the Kitchen: Spirituality Through a Wooden Spoon and Saucepan.

And I tell you what - I am SO marriage quality now. I have met the Kitchen Time Requirements needed to ensure that a girl of Marriageable Age is domesticated and knows her place in the Home.

I love this 1950s-Casseroles-and-Kitchen-Glove thing. It's so becoming!

Bonus: Rinpoche actually likes what we cook, and hasn't gotten any sort of stomach illness yet.

Guilty Dolly

On the up: 24 hour play time
On the down: Guilt

All the playtime and holiday has finally caught up with me and now I'm feeling incredibly guilt, underachieved and pathetically self-indulgent.... which maybe explains why I am still up at 3am writing an article when I have to be up very early tomorrow to go see a house.

Suddenly, it really dawned on me how Very Much I have to do and realised that I have got to stop just talking about it and bloody do something already.


Retro Dolly

On the up: Going retro
On the down: The distinct lack of social skills

After toiling (blood sweat tears) over the final edits for a book (well okay, it wasn't that much work) I decided that it was Very Important that I go out to play.

Ben was idling on MSN so I insisted we go out. So nice to have all these lovely friends to layan me stomping up and down with my demands.

He said we should go to Zouk.

So I panicked. I'm Never Ever glamourous or thin enough to go to Velvet. And I haven't been there for, like, ever so am very, very unprepared for what's cool, what's hot and what's not. And my hair is growing out so it looks like a Wig-Gone-Wrong. I am SO not Velvet-Zouk material.

But okay, never mind. We went.

They wouldn't let Ben in the door because he wasn't wearing sleeves. Like gee, want to show off biceps also cannot.

But Organised Ben had a tshirt in his car so we trekked back to the dodgy carpark to go change. Getting rejected from a club - how glamourous! I love it when things are tacky like that. And what d'you know, Ben looked hotter in the tshirt than in the Other Thing anyway. (I am such a sucker for unironed shirts - it looks so ruffled and Indie Boy)

It was Mambo Jambo night, which I have been trying to avoid Like The Plague since Forever. Like, 80s music, ewwww. And old ugly men, Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

But they had these fantastic pink heart-shaped helium balloons everywhere which made me like it a little bit happier. I took two with me when I left, and then forgot to take them home so now Ben has to drive around with two heart-shaped balloons in his back seat. That, or feed them to his manic dog who keeps chewing up his apartment.

Also, there is vodka of course, which makes a Dolly very happy.... enough to dance to Wham and Rick Astley and the Jason Donavan anyway and made me feel like a young girl of 8 again! Oh my god what is happening to me.


I need to get out more.

Afterwards, just to be real Retro, we went to A&W for rootbeer floats. No more drive through thing though - you actually have to get out of your damn car and order from the counter now. Cheh. So we sat on the bar tops instead and tried to pretend that it was 1963.

And now, after all that retro overdose, I feel very old indeed.

Beach Dolly

On the up: Lazy beach holidays
On the down: When work starts tomorrow....
After all the traipsing about in heat, humidity and grime, we bloody well deserved to just go sit on a beach for a day and do absolutely nothing.
We'd decided on Pangkor Laut Resort just to be spoilt and pampered and indulgent. Should have realised that it would be one of those uber romantic places that's made for honeymooning so we ended up just being surrounded by heaps and heaps and heaps of sickeningly loved up couples.
We did, however, bump into a close friend of the DollyMummy's, Sal and her mother Sue, who are just enormous fun and full of funny stories all the time. I swear, we were the only four people on that whole island who were not married or having an affair haha.
Eleni and I got one of those hill villas, which involved climbing up 100 steps just to get to the bloody thing but the room and view were gorgeous.
The famous huts over the water were for people who Could Pay More so cheapskate us got relegated to the hilltop among the monkeys instead. We figured all the walking up those stairs would do us good while we were doing nothing but eat and lounge.
We took pictures of it anyway, to remind ourselves of what we can aspire to come back to one day when we're Happily-Ever-After married to some extremely rich man who can afford to bring us there for a holiday for a whole month.
Just so idyllic and prettee and isolated
The pool bunny in me was real disappointed in the teensy weensy pool and how all the sundecks around it looks squashed up and claustrophobic. So I spent all my time reading, sunning and taking photos to try to be artistic instead.
Quite clever hor? How the pool blends into the sea?...
The main beachy bit, Emerald Bay, which gets mentioned a lot on travel programmes was on the other side of the island so we had to take a shuttle bus. But once there, it BLISS! The fact that it was well on the other side of the island made it somehow feel like you were further away from the whole wide world and could block them (and all the work and nagging) forever and ever.

Lots of sun, sand, sea - no wonder Gilligan looked so damn happy all the time...

We decided to spent the whole of the second day there - from about 11am to 7pm - doing Sweet Fuck All. Thank god for good books like Alan Hollinghurst to keep you feeling indolent, lazy, lolling and decadent.

Just because I'm immature and nasty like that, I made the extra effor to take my phone down to the beach with me, snapped a photo and mass MMSed it out to everybody who I knew would be at work (it was a Monday - which made feeling smug all the more sweet). I sent it off with a message that I hoped they were "having a nice monday because I know I am!"

Ben texted back, "You know, you really are a prick" which made me almost want to go "neh neh neh neh neh."

Our little home for the next 8 hours under a big leafy tree, and right in front of lots of sea and sunshine!

This beach has this excellent Just-Right combo between sun and shade so you can pretend to be a bit of a lizard and mooch in and out of the sun, depending on how much you can bear the sun and/or how deteremined you are to get a tan... which meant I was there pretty much all the time, determined to bake.

Sun oil and a good book is all you need to sizzle and fry and ignore the fact that you're actually killing off all your skin cells with harmful UV rays.

Eleni doesn't bother with the hassle of those weird tippy white loungers. She gets right out there with the sundeck mattresses - comfy cosy!

The only thing we bothered to do was to eat lunch which was at a cafe two steps away from our sun loungers so that didn't involve much hard work at all. In fact, we were both feeling like very happy beach bunnies...

We stuck around until sunset, when all the loved up couples started to drizzle in to eat dinner by the beach. Sickening.

Then again, the sunset sure was pretty!

A couple sitting near our sun loungers asked me to take a photo of them with the sunset (so sweet it makes me want to vomit - arg!). One of the very helpful resort staff ended up taking over to take the pix (he would know all the best angles after all these years). So after that, Eleni and I thought we'd ask him to take a photo of us too.

We're well smiley, sunkissed and real smappy.

It occured to me later that people might have thought we were a lesbian couple. I wouldn't be surprised since everyone I meet already thinks I'm a lesbian, gee. As it is, someone already asked me at my birthday party is Eleni was "just a friend? or a girlfriend?" aiyoooo. (If you hang out with a guy a lot, people think you're dating him; if you hang out with a girl a lot, they think you're a lesbian - what happened to good old friendships?)

We only got to stay for 2 nights though, so we were back on that ferry waaaay too soon and shuttling back on a crappy bus to KL.

Maybe that's a good thing though. I think the longer I stayed, the harder it would be to get back to reali life. Thing is no matter how long you stay on an island, it's never enough. I'm already scheming of ways to get away to another beach as soon as possible and am sooooooooo sooooo dreading having to start work again (this sudden explosion of blogposts is just another tactic to delay having to work...)

But well, it's Monday (much too) soon and my big nasty SMS mail out has come to bite me on the ass because now it's time for me to get my nose back on the grindstone and meet all those deadlines while lots of other people are out there sitting on that nice beach arggggg!!!

Evil Joe has been leaving me subtle messages on MSN to remind me about work. And then he follows up by sending an email as well. It is all punishment for that one tiny MMS.

I so hate him at the moment. Pffft.

Birthday Dolly

On the up: Birthdays!
On the down: Getting older and older and older...

There are birthday pictures! Lots of them! Go seeeeeee

I would post them up here, but I can't be bothered. I'm all photo-ed out after all this marathon blogging.

Suffice to say it was absolutely Lo-ver-ly. So many of my favourite people couldn't come because of an urgent last-minute meeting and many others got struck down by evil head colds, but it turned out okay anyway - it meant I had more time to spend with the people who were there.

Damnit, I was ill too but I muddled through it with the aid of my pink antibiotics and lots of tea (drinking old lady tea on your birthday - how wild and exciting).

Eric Choong made me a Most Enormous Skirt which took up like the Whole Sofa everytime I sat down, but heck, I can get away with it because I think I'm obnoxious enough. And Mei Ann and Reta even bought me a fluffy tiara to go with it (even though they didn't even know what I'd be wearing - those girls just know me way too well. Thanks darlings, I loved it! muaks!)

And then because I was so excited about everything and kept talking all night, I lost my voice... And still haven't got it back, two weeks later. But oh well, it was worth it for the loveliness of the whole party night :)

When I was planning the party, I suddenly realised that hey, I do actually know heaps of people after all! This was the first time since I'd come back from England 4 years ago, that I've had all my friends from all different parts of my life come together in the same place - oooh it made me feel rather popular!

And hell that's what birthday parties should be about right? Attention seeking, feeling adored and being the biggest spoilt princessy bitch you could possibly be for a few hours hah!

Bangkok Dolly

On the up: Thailand
On the down: The chaos and pollution of Bangkok

From the sterilised vacuum that is Singapore, we then found ourselves in the hazy smog of Bangkok...

First stop, our kitsch hotel, which was decked out like a very old crumbling European mansion, which was pretty dumb considering it was called the Mandarin and was, well, quite far away from Europe. Never mind, what do you get for USD30 a night!

After almost 4 days of being there, I think we'd seen enough of Bangkok to keep us going for awhile. Eleni had the biggest shock of her life when she encountered all that smog in the air and I finally discovered the truth of Bangkok traffic jams. I don't think you could sit complete sit in a traffic jam for 30 whole minutes without moving anywhere else in the world. It was royally pissing me off and there was nothing we could do about it.

Tuktuks are always the cheaper though much dustier, lung-infecting alternative. And we soon realised that we were being totally ripped off because we didn't know how to bargain properly. So we got dirty AND cheated.

Pick: sit in a traffic jam all day, or take a tuktuk and infest your lungs?

On the first day we got there, we decided to take it easy and go shopping. We ended up MBK...

... which was 4 enormous floors of nothing much in particular. Really, how could there be so much crap in one place?!?! Eleni and I were seriously not impressed. So we decided to do the boring tourist thing and stop by a donut place to rest our fed-up feet and we discovered Holethings...

What the hell are Holethings?! Well, exactly. The Thais invent a whole new world full of things you never see anywhere else. Like Thai Ronalds and Thai Geoffreys...

I'll bet you've never seen such polite, welcoming American trademark characters.

We also did an enormous amount of sightseeing and managed to cram 7 temples into half a day. We even tried to walk half of it before we got totally sick of how the map we were using didn't have about 90% of the roads. It says on the map that there's only two roads from Here and There but it ends up being a whole other labryinth a la David Bowie. We eventually resorted to putting our precious facial pores in the fury of Bangkok pollution and took tuktuks.

The thing about Bangkok though, is that when you step off a grotty street and into a temple, you kind of totally forget just how damn frazzled you were just a few minutes ago. Everything becomes still and beautiful and the Buddhas remind you how nice it is just to be chilled out.

First off though, I dragged Eleni out of bed at 6am and headed down to Banglarpur (spelling?) to give dana to the monks. We got majorly lost because I was convinced that the road we were supposed to go to was just next to Khaosan Road. But Bangkok being what it is had put about 3 other streets in between, and I'd forgotten that the roads never go straight up and down but curve all over the place to confuse you.

We FINALLY got there but it was a bit late and we only managed to catch up to a few monks. Still, giving dana to even just one monk is such a lovely thing to do.

I love how it's such a normal part of life there that monks wander around the city and people hop off on their way to work to give dana.

And monks, wherever they are in the world, have the best sense of humour. This lovely little old monk stopped to chat, even if it was in minimal English, and to find out where I was from.

Then it was off for a marathon route around all the temples by the river, where flexed our photography skills and tried to freeze all those lovely moments of being among the Three Jewels. Even the weather was in our favour - though it's supposed to be the hot season now, our whole trip was just cloudy enough for us to walk about all day without melting into jelly.

Then there are the Buddhas inside all the bejewelled temples and stupas.

Lots and lots as far as the eye can see!

And real live walking, talking, moving Sangha to match..

I decided after seeing so many golden Buddhas that they all looked like you could eat them....

There were Buddhas that looked like they were made of butter:

others which looked like they were coated with honeycomb:

and one of Thailand's most famous Buddhas at Wat Pho, looks like a giant block of caramel. Yum!

Outside Wat Pho, Eleni noticed these statues, which look like Willy Wonka:

She asked, "What's Willy Wonka doing here!"

So I said, "It's to guard all the Caramel Buddhas!" (corny I know, but I thought that was quite clever...)

And then of course, the obligatory tourist photos, where we pose and look pretty and try very much to be as Thai as all the Buddhas there...

I really like how this picture captures the two monks walking from behind - a bit like how Dharma steps across a bridge into Eleni's life for the few days we're there.

Making sound offerings (of emptiness and beyond!). I look so YSH here... but I do like that I look thinner (all is more magical in the hallowed spaces of temples!)
On the way from one temple to another, we spotted a couple of travelling Buddhas - totally cute how they really look like they're hitching a ride across the city, just hanging out on the back of a jeep.

Thanks to the Case of the Disappearing FlipFlops at Batu Caves, Eleni got real paranoid about losing the new Melissa Campana cheery-patterned ones she bought as a replacement. So the whole trip saw her carrying around a plastic bag to hide her shoes in before entering a temple. So you can imagine how thrilled she was to see this sign...

... it sure made her feel better about not being the only one who'd had her slippers nicked.

And speaking of signs, I spotted this at a toilet in the Grand Palace. I couldn't figure out what the hell it meant at first (I thought to myself, "no way, it couldn't be that! The audacity and grossness....!") So I snapped a pic and went to confer with Eleni...

So is it really what I might have thought it was? A sign telling people not to wash their butts in the sink?!?!?!

Eleni pointed out that if they had to put a sign up, then it must mean that people were actually washing their arses in the sink. So charming, especially in the grounds of the king and Thailand's most revered Emerald Buddha.

Finally, after all the seriousness and being cultural, we hit the shops! We discovered the Most Delicious Ice Cream In The Whole World in Bangkok, and ended up eating it three days in a row. I think that was probably the biggest highlight for me.

As usual, I was the one who ended up going mad at the markets even though I'm the one who lives only 2 hours away from Bangkok and can go back anytime I want.

I was just so damn happy to get onto KhaoSan road with all its tourist tack and loud, gaudy camp.

We also did the Suan Lum night market and got pampered at a lot of massage places (just because we could - and I don't even like massages that much actually...)

On our second last day there, we found ourselves stuck in traffic with a very talkative cab driver. We arranged with him to take us to the airport on the last day, and then decided later that we also wanted to squeeze in a few hours of Chatuchat market in the morning before flying off.

Then we did something very unlike our cautious, safe selves which was to ask him to pick us up from the hotel, take us to Chatuchat, wait for us with our bags in the boot while we shopped and then go to the airport.

But like, what if he runs off with our bags forever and sells all our clothes!!!!

We ended up spending only two hours at Chatuchat because we felt totally paranoid that we'd lose everything. But he was of the very honest kind and everything was in place. He really did just wait around the corner with our bags in the boot. Thai people are like that I guess - they just don't mess about the way people back home would. Funny how honesty becomes a bonus rather than a necessity.

Bangkok is always fun in that kind of chaotic sort of way because you never really know where you are... but we had to admit that we sure were glad to be flying out after the fourth day. The dust and traffic volume and that general stickiness you feel from being out and about in the city makes you really just want to go home and have a proper shower.

And heck, we'd worked hard enough what with all the walking and walking, and seeing and seeing, and worrying about tuktuk drivers ripping us off. It was time to go lounge by a big fat happy beach.

Fatness Dolly

On the up: Health
On the down: Fatness

I had a little health epiphany after hearing some sad news about someone who has cancer, which is that I really should just value the good health that I have and stop being so damn neurotic and chronically obssessed/depressed with losing another 3 kilos.

While at the doctors' today (trying to figure out why I have been talking like a frog for two weeks), I checked this "healthy weight" chart thing he's got pinned up on his door. I check it everytime I go because I'm neurotic like that and just want to make sure but firmly decided today that I'm in the nice green "Healthy Weight" range.

Sure, I ain't as svelte and darling as I would like to be and I know this doesn't give me the license to scoff cupcakes on a Regular Basis, but heck, I got health, I can run around, I can do things and I don't have to live in a hospital. That's good enough. Anyone who thinks I'm fat can kiss my grits!

Things to do before you get old

I have decided that it is imperative that I own a painting by Audrey Kawasaki Very SOON. I haven't figured out how yet, but it Will Happen. If you want to be my most favourite person in the world, you could buy me a pink painting for Christmas.

Singaporean Dolly

On the up: Chocolate treats in the middle of an anal city
On the down: The anal city

Next leg of the trip was to Singapore, which I was convinced Eleni would love just because it's all about cleanliness and Things Looking Pretty (even if it's in a fake kind of way).

Still, at some point in the few days were there, she said she still thought KL was nicer. YAY! Instant best best friend For Life whenever someone says that. She did still like the cleanliness thing though, but then even Malaysians like being able to pee in a clean dry toilet.

Man, I still can't get over how anal and Disneyland everything looks in Singapore. It's like the city developers had a chronic case of OCD and had to make sure everything was at right angles.

Yah yah it's quite pretty but only in a kind of Disneyland way where everything looks like a kind of Planned Pretty.

Despite that thought, I do quite like going down the river and through parts of the city, so we put on our walking shoes and walked all the way from Clarke Quay to Bugis Junction. And heck that is pretty damn bloody far in the heat okaaaaaaaaay.

And all the old colonial type buildings really are beautiful. You gotta give them that - the restoration work is ace.

I swear everytime I walk past this bridge some married couple is taking pictures on it. I stood on it to prove a point that you can be photo-worthy if you're single too!!!!

The Asian Civilisations museum along the river. This is probably the only part of Singapore that makes me not dislike it cos it' really is a gorgeous building (and it sort of looks like it's made entirely of icing)

Clarke Quay was a total tourist dump when I was at school there but now look what a coat of Mentos pastel paint can do to the whole place. Suddenly it's trendy again because it looks so damn fake (Singaporeans like order, I guess). It's cute but so damn sickeningly arranged like a mathematical equation. Where's the spontaneity.

The Merlion is the cutest thing in the whole of Singapore, mythical characters always are.

I stamped my foot and insisted we go shopping at Far East and Chinatown for tacky Ah Lian clothes. Again, I ended up buying heaps and Eleni didn't get anything (such strong will!). In line with the theme park theme of the trip, we had to pose for pictures against the Most Perfect Chinatown In The World. Seriously, have you ever seen a Chinatown this quiet, this clean, this ordered and this lacking in character?! Still, the sky looks pretty cool (and that's the only part that's natural!)

Of course, food in Singapore is never as good as back home (not that that needs to be repeated) so I decided I wouldn't even bother trying to intro Eleni to Singaporean food that is actually Malaysian food. So we pigged out on what Singapore does do well - posh nosh and evil desserts.

Max Brenner was a most necessary pit stop along our walk of the river.... and the reward for walking ages was super sweeeeeet! That chocolate shakey thing I had was the closest thing you could get to what we refer to as "undefiled elixir" in Buddhist prayers.

Among other random noteworthy things, we spotted these cute staircases which almost makes you want to live in a super old, narrow multi-multi-multi-storey house, just so you can traipse up and down pink spiral stairs.

Also, this:

which had Eleni laughing so hard she couldn't even take the photo, so I had to take it for her. The thing is, I didn't even find it that funny because I've seen it so much and don't even think twice about it anymore. But Eleni went into total hysterics, which was probably funnier than the picture itself.

It did make us both think though, who the hell pees like that?!!?! See, I knew Singaporeans weren't all as put-together as they portray themselves to be!


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