budapest & vienna

our first foray into multi-city reading week trips, which i am now inspired to replicate for all my future travels! we spent two days in budapest, hungary, and one in vienna, austria. our itinerary is at the bottom of the post!

day 1: london – budapest
visited dohány street synagogue on the way to our airbnb / had lunch at vakvarjú restaurant / coffee break at the blue bird cafe, an independent roastery / visited st. stephen’s basilica, the largest church in the capital / snacked on a chimney cake (kürtőskalács) from a roadside stall / took a cruise along the danube river, on which we spotted the hungarian parliament building among other attractions / had dinner at menza étterem és kávéház, where we got to try the traditional hungarian dishes such as fried bread (lángos) with garlic cream soup, savoury meat pancakes (hortobágyi palacsinta), pork medallions (szűzérme) and tyrolean apple strudel (which is native to austria).

day 2: budapest
woke up early to get a panoramic view of the city from fisherman’s bastion, where we also hung around the buda castle, st. stephen’s statue, havas boldogasszony church and matthias church / got coffee from coffee stand kazinczy specialty coffeeshop, of which there are a few scattered across budapest. such good coffee for a little more than a pound! / walked a disproportionately long distance to see the chief warm mini statue by kolodko along the banks of the danube / had brunch at central market hall, where we tried many traditional hungarian dishes such as chicken paprikash (csirke paprikás), dumplings (nokedli) and stuffed cabbage leaves (töltött káposzta) / walked across the liberty bridge / window-shopped at vörösmarty tér / afternoon tea at the grand new york café / spotted the shoes on the danube bank / dinner at mazel tov, a gorgeous garden-themed restaurant serving israeli or mediterranean fare / dessert at karavan food market.

day 3: budapest – vienna
took a three-hour long train ride to austria because we’re insane / visited the belvedere palace / walked to karlskirche / got some snacks at naschmarkt, an outdoor market. we got bratwurst with sauerkraut from george am / had lunch at the famous griechenbeisl, where we tried several traditional austrian dishes such as viennese boiled beef (wiener tafelspitz) and roast pig leg (stelze vom jungschwein) / coffee break at fenster cafe, one of the top 50 cafes in the world and a unique coffee-in-a-cone offering (fensterccino) / travelled to schönbrunn palace / went back to the city centre where we walked past attractions such as the kunsthistorisches museum, rathaus, volksgarten and the hofburg / travelled to st. stephen’s cathedral / visited kleines café, where before sunrise was filmed / travelled back to hungary and had dinner at the michelin-featured stand 25 bistro.

day 4: budapest
had breakfast at à table and did some souvenir shopping.

lake district, uk

took a weekend off to drive up to the famed lake district—a great reset button on life i needed.
our itinerary is listed at the bottom of the post!

day 1: (london – cambridge – windermere)
rode to ealing to collect our car / drove to cambridge for lunch at baan thai, where pardeep claims serves the best green curry / got some ice cream and hot chocolate from jack’s gelato / we drove until we reached windermere, cumbria, at night / had a huge dinner at cafe italia and turned in early.

day 2: (bowness – ullswater – keswick – ambleside)
drove up to the lakeside at rayrigg meadow where we walked down a long wooden deck / had breakfast at the magic roundabout in bowness / took a cruise on the windermere lake from bowness pier / drove through the mountains via kirkstone pass and stopped by a few times to roam around the hilly grass patches along the highway / stopped by ullswater lake to skip a couple of stones / we continued our drive to the town of keswick where we enjoyed nice tapas dishes and pizza at the square orange cafe and bought chocolates from friars / drove down to ambleside and watched a football match at ambleside tavern / had another italian dinner at dodds restaurant.

day 3: (orrest head – bowness – kendal)
woke up at 6am to hike up orrest head where we watched the sunrise / left our airbnb and ate a really good brunch at homeground coffee / drove to bowness again where we visited the world of beatrix potter, a museum featuring the world of peter rabbit, after which we had an amazing cup of hot chocolate and churros from choccobar / we ended our lake district tour by visiting holehird gardens and levens hall in kendal / our last dinner was in cambridge at yim wah.

road trip in france

here are some snippets of my week-long road trip with my family in paris and northwestern france! our full itinerary is included at the bottom of this post.

day 1 (london – paris):
arrived on the eurostar / had lunch at bouillon chartier, a casual and authentic eatery recommended by our french neighbour in singapore / visited the palais garnier, a famous opera house / went to the louvre museum mainly to see mona lisa / strolled along the seine across pont du carrousel and pont des arts. lots of street shops selling vintage posters / took a cruise down the seine and spotted notre dame, louvre palace, pavillon de flore, the conciergerie, and the pont des arts / had supper at cafe le brebant

day 2 (paris)
breakfast at le valentin jouffroy / hopped onto big bus paris / made a stop at the champs-elysées and the iconic arc de triomphe / lunch at l’alsace where i had a humongous serving of beef tartare / walked to the petit palais / rode on the bus to trocadero square and walked through the trocadero gardens / crossed the bridge to the eiffel tower and relaxed at the champ de mars / shopped at the galeries lafayette, a grand department store

day 3 (paris – versailles – giverny – rouen – caen)
breakfast at au cadet de gascogne in the hilly neighbourhood of montmartre, where one can catch a panoramic view of the city / entered the sacré-cœur basilica / drove to the palace of versailles and went on a guided tour of the palace and its gardens / drove to the house of claude monet in giverny, the source of many of his paintings / drove to rouen, the capital of normandy / spotted the cathédrale notre-dame de rouen / had dinner at le reverbere, a restaurant in this year’s michelin guide / spent the night in caen

day 4 (caen – bayeux – mont saint-michel – saint-malo – rennes)
breakfast at cafe henri, followed by a boulangerie run at talemelerie guillaume / walked around the city and spotted st peter’s catholic church, st peter’s gate and caen castle / drove to bayeux / visited the museum of the battle of normandy / drove to omaha beach to see the memorials / visited the normandy american cemetery, the burial site of fallen american soldies in ww2 / travelled beyond the coast to the famous tidal island of mont saint-michel. we went during the low tide, so we were able to walk around the commune / drove to the port city of saint-malo / had really good seafood dishes for dinner at l’ancrage, a friendly and cosy restaurant featured in the michelin guide 2019 / drove to rennes, the capital city of brittany, to spend the night.

day 5 (rennes – chenonceaux – amboise)
breakfast at boulangerie ange / spent a few hours at château de chenonceau, a 16th-century castle / went for wine tasting at the caves of pere auguste, where we ended up buying nine bottles of wine / classic french dinner at chez bruno in amboise / spent the night in château des arpentis, a 12th-century chateau repurposed as a hotel.

day 6 (amboise – la vallee)
spent the whole day shopping at la vallee outlet mall. i was mostly just reading at pret for hours on end as my family shopped… / had dinner at italian queen

day 7 (paris – le havre):
hopped on a bus to visit my friends in sciences po at the le havre campus / bought a quiche from de saint nicolas bakery / had dinner at grace’s

day 8 (le havre):
rode on a lime scooter to the sciences po campus / browsed books at la galerne / walked around le volcan / went inside st joseph’s church / bought some chorizo bread from boulangerie au fournil de pascal / walked down the le havre beach / bought some art magazines from les yeux d’elsa, a vintage shop

The Intersection of a Flare

Today, I finally spat out your name,
single syllables starting pointed and steely, harsh
at their tips but meander gently into curves—the
seed of a fruit, one ripened last season.

But last season was just yesterday, and I am

a miser in love. The melody of her name plays 
as a maddening strum of your tongue—
the way you stretch it across a lovesick sigh,
have you noticed? Cocooning it with such tenderness, 
awaiting her metamorphosis about which you 
narrate predictions to me—the fool
who wishes those 
elegant, confident, poised 
wings of your dreams will 

Guillotine my gaze, like the way they cleave the air.
I wish them to sweep into a distant world 
your reflection,
the one that is dancing and falling off the
rim of a martini glass, a treacherous caldera…
the one I can’t save from being
entranced by the spotlights, from being
kissed and devoured by the intersection of a flare.

The jazz in the lounge is swollen with my passion and
I’m still the fool, and still the miser, 
suspending a pointless hypothetical in the air, 
its pendulous swing lunging my words out, 
then in, then out again.
Perhaps it’s the alcohol and the scent of the stars—
they press me dangerously close to honesty,
brandishing a candour so bold it would 
cement every plot hole I skirt around, 
undo every reef knot you said, more than a sextant,
would save a seaman’s life. 

Deeper into the night, the wine softens my edges and 
your faults trickle away, with wine legs that
seem to mock my tear-streaked face. 

You ask me of the plague in my mind,
the pensive swarm that shrouds my routine smile,

and I want to tell you that her beautiful wings did nothing for me, 
but also
that love makes me a miser, a fool, a girl who
hopes that for you, one day those wings open wide.

bali, indonesia

full itinerary is at the bottom of this post!

day 1 (ubud):
went white water rafting in ayung river, ubud with red paddle bali adventures, where lunch was provided after our 2-hour ride / went to aloha ubud to go on multiple bali swings / drove to ubud palace / explored the ubud market where we bought a few crochet tops / had an indonesian dinner at ibu rai / clubbed at la favela

day 2 (kuta – uluwatu):
ordered breakfast from mannaka bali (i loved the charcoal latte), which we ate on a beach chair in kuta beach / visited garuda wisnu kencana cultural park / had lunch at single fin, a cliffside bar popular among surfers / visited the uluwatu temple in the evening / had dinner at finn’s beach club

day 3 (mount batur – canggu):
woke up at 1am to hike up mount batur / watched the sunrise from the summit and had breakfast afterwards (a banana sandwich and eggs) / took an afternoon nap before having lunch at potato head / strolled along the beach / had a japanese buffet dinner at shishi / clubbed at motel mexicola

For as long as I write

We existed there—roving through time like the
party boats adrift, whimpering away their last song.
Rooted against every instinct, we stubbornly are,
though even the river shivers under the 
midnight blue skin of space.
I have stranded reason in the daylight, 
forgetting how the moon’s crescent cradles
my secrets, nearly tipping them in your ear.

Courting this memory like a fool—
a dream that evaporates upon waking, 
fraying more at the seams with every 
attempt at recollection. In a better world,
I would transform into portal of truth,
mapping the blueprints of this night
in every way but the fabled fashion I desire.

Would I still remember your gaze, 
so arresting that it confounds mine?
A fugitive, I leap from the cathedral to the city’s eye, 
then melt with the amber strokes under Blackfriars.
Could I still let you draw my hair back to
pick a misery, one that beckons softly
and glistens tenderly, eager to trust
like a lily from the earth?

As credulous as Gloucester, my fictions
a solvent for my facts. The walls with which
you say I banish you keep my brimming inkwells 
as still as the discontent of winter, yet
they remain as leaden as the Thames below,
Because when you say things like 
“The city was mine like never before”,
I can’t help but raise my quill,

and I am a lover for as long as I write.