Five Lessons Learned from Taking on a Fitness Challenge

In keeping in line with my workout goals for the year, it only seemed appropriate to pick up a fun fitness challenge that would kick things into full swing.

Out of the many gym studios offering weight loss or body transformation programmes, I decided to try out the Ministry of Burn’s 6-Weeks Challenge. Not only was the studio quite new, but they offered rhythm cycling classes, or spin, a type of workout that I enjoy a lot.

The challenge conditions were simple: attend classes five times per week for six weeks. But was it as easy to get myself to the gym that many times within a week?

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Touring Phang Nga Bay in Phuket with Simba Sea Trips

Mention “Phuket” and eyes light up at the thought of shimmering beaches and aquamarine sea waters. The island has been immortalised in movies and regarded as the perfect destination for an “exotic” beach getaway. Google images depicting day cruises, sunbathers and picnics on the beach convince you that yes, this is paradise on earth.

The allure is slightly diminished with the volume of tourists in Phuket during busy seasons, but with the right tour company, you can still have a sandy-beach perfect vacation. I was struck when I came across rave review after rave review for this tour company called Simba Sea Trips, when scouting for a good tour of Phang Nga Bay. So I booked, with confidence, albeit with a tiny sliver of too-good-to-be-true doubt at the back of my mind. Plonking down mucho money for two (4,200 Baht per person) via PayPal can make you a bit nervous.

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Riding the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls

The massive volume of swirling, gushing water at Niagara Falls will immediately captivate any onlooker’s attention.

It sure captured the imagination of Annie Taylor, a 63-year-old American schoolteacher and, of all things, an amateur daredevil stunter who became inspired to secure her notoriety by being the first person to ever go over the Falls. As if that wasn’t enough, she was to do it riding inside a wooden barrel.

Racing towards the cliffs at high speed, water exiting the Niagara River tumbles off the crestline, covering 10 metres in a second and creates a heavy mist towards the end of its’ downward trip into the gorge. Niagara Falls, a series of three waterfalls (Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil) that sit between the border of New York, United States and Ontario, Canada, is approximately 50 meters in height, allowing the water just about five seconds to hit the bottom.

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How to Order Drinks at a Kopitiam

kopitiam drink in a takeout packet Shermian Lim
You would think that ordering a coffee, tea or juice would be just that simple. It is, at a modern eatery or cafe, but in a traditional coffeeshop, also known as kopitiam in Malaysia, a novice will almost certainly need time to get used to the terms. If Starbucks wasn’t established thousands of miles away in Seattle about 40 years ago, I’d have thought they took the idea of custom-made drinks from our kopitiams, which have been around for almost twice as long as Starbucks. (You know how they are with their drinks. Care for a tall, iced, no whip cream, no sugar, half soy milk, half low-fat milk, green tea frappuccino, anyone?) Continue reading

The Day I Caused Traffic On Sprint Highway

A decade of driving on the right side of the road had my parents worried about me getting behind the wheel in Malaysia. Here, we drive on the left.

“Can still remember the roads ah? Will you be disoriented or not? Later drive on the wrong side then kena accident, then how? And do you know how to drive Dad’s old Volvo?”

Valid questions. But my pride wouldn’t let them know that. I’m a grown woman now, for goodness sake.

“I’ll be fine, I learned how to drive here in Malaysia,” I said with a tone of exasperation. “Of course I know how to handle a car, been driving for over ten years. I’ve even driven a full-size SUV in America, something none of you have ever done.”

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Ancient Taoist Rituals of Ching Ming in Modern Malaysia

Tires crunched under the car as we drove slowly onto uneven parts of the worn, tar road. Riding alongside on her motorbike was Aunty, a private caretaker at the cemetery. One hand steered the bike whilst the other held a broom that she pumped upwards in acknowledgement upon seeing us. Aunty stopped when we parked on the side of the road, dismounted with broom still in hand and began chattering happily to my dad and uncle.

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The Highlights of Seoul: A Three-Hour Guided Tour

Dongdaemun plaza shermian lim

The hotel room was quiet, except for the unobtrusive, low-volume Korean voices drifting from the flat-screen television. I peeked out the window and down towards the lit empty streets with resignation — it was 4:00 a.m. on Friday here in Korea after all.

Earlier in the evening on Thursday, I arrived in Incheon Airport, excited that I could take advantage of a 24-hour layover to explore the highlights of Seoul. I’d made big plans and plotted out what I wanted to see. After unloading my bags at the hotel, I would ask the front desk for directions to the famous Dongdaemun, set out on an evening walk to the city’s vibrant shopping district and stay there till the wee hours of the night to leisurely browse all the goods. The next morning could be spent taking in the city’s popular sights before heading back to the airport. Continue reading

What to Pack When Moving Long-Term to Another Country

After 11 years of living abroad in the United States, I’m packing up my life (and the cat) for my move back to Malaysia.

Eleven years worth of belongings. Deciding what to bring back, what to sell, give away or simply leave behind — it’s a bit of a nightmare.

I’ve mailed about 118 kilograms (260 pounds) of items back, spread out over about 10 medium-sized boxes. On my flight, I’ll be carrying a total of about 45 kilos (100 pounds) in carry-on and checked luggage. And the cat.

“It’s just STUFF! Just throw EVERYTHING away,” one of my older lady friends practically screamed. Continue reading

See What Washington D.C. Looks Like at Night

Every night when dark settles over the District, bright lights around the city’s famous landmarks power on, creating a magnificent glowing aura around it. Even if you had traipsed around the city snapping shots of yourself in front of memorials and monuments earlier in the day, it’s worth the trip to come back out at night and see them again in a, well — different light. A thinner volume of visitors and cool night air makes the walk all the more pleasant. Not to mention a creative, romantic date idea! Continue reading

What to Expect from a Tour of the United States Capitol Building

Heading up to the U.S. Capitol Building

I love the architecture of the Capitol Building, inside and out. If you love it as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that you can tour the Capitol Building for free, provided they aren’t closed for special events. During off-peak season, it’s easy to just walk in and join a tour slot. I suggest advance online booking if you’re visiting in the summer.

Headsets, which are handed out after the obligatory welcome film, is how your tour guide will talk to you about the Capitol Building’s standout features, (as well as call to group members who straggle a little too long at one spot for the tour guide’s comfort.)

During the tour, don’t be surprised to find your gaze focused upwards more than half the time.

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