Checking in with an Ang Moh

I had a big jump in my blog stats yesterday, which was quite surprising considering how much I’ve been slacking on the blogging. Turns out, starting your own business is really time consuming! I’ve been pretty dang busy lining up new clients, keeping existing ones happy, invoicing, paying taxes, etc., etc. I also have a major project/contract that is due in a couple of weeks, so it’s definitely been crunch time here at Poe Communications and Landscape Design Consultants (we don’t actually do any landscape or design consulting, fyi. But I do take care of our tiny little garden every day, thus, I am a gardening expert. And, I’m pretty opinionated, so if you really wanted a consultant, I could probably be down for that).

Also, I have something very weird and annoying going on with WordPress where my text box is short and squatty and it’s really annoying. It used to be a normal full size text box and now it’s all abbreviated unless I make it a full screen which I LITERALLY just figured out that I could do by hitting the square with the little x-arrow in it. 

I did recently redesign the blog. Now that I’m a proper freelancer/small business owner, I thought it was time to transition the site to a business website, with the blog as an added feature instead of the primary one. You can still reach thePoeLog, but we’re also Poe Communications (www.poecommunications.com). Like, properly. Meeting all your writing/editing/content marketing/brand journalism/social media management needs since late 2014.

So I thought that maybe the uptick in page views had something to do with that. But it turns out, folks were coming directly in to this post I did on Singapore. Turns out, someone posted it on a forum called Singapore Hardware Zone, which seems odd, but o.k. The title of the forum post was “THIS ANG MOH BU makes INTELLIGENT sentences about SINGAPORE!!!!??I AGREE WITH HER!!!!!MUST SEEEEE.” 

Sorry about the bold and all caps and exclamation points. But I do appreciate the sentiment. It actually perked me up and had me convinced that vVovoVersace was a genius. Clearly.

Of course, I had to look up what a Ang Moh Bu was. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know:

Ang mo is a racial epithet describing white people, mainly in Malaysia, Riau Islands and Singapore, and sometimes in Taiwan and Thailand. It literally means “red-haired” and originates from Hokkien (Min Nan).

Hilarious. And true. I am “red-haired.” Never figured out the Bu part, (probably means “girl,” or maybe like, “my boo?”) but Wikipedia did add another word to my vocabulary:

In Singapore and Malaysia, the term ang mo sai  (literally: “red-haired shit”) is a derogatory term used within the Chinese community for mocking other Chinese who are not able to read Chinese.

Don’t you just love languages?

Eight Incredible Things We Ate in Singapore and Cambodia (and New York)

The last two weeks have involved super fun, almost vacation-like visits to a new dentist for my third round of scaling and root planing procedures. If you don’t know what this is, you are extremely fortunate.

I’ve actually had it done twice before, but my new dentist (and my x-rays) suggested that I had not had it done properly, and there was significant plaque buildup. So back in I went for a couple of two-hour sessions involving lots of numbing shots to the mouth and ultrasonic instruments that make your eardrums buzz for ages afterwards.

All of which is to say, I’m glad I did not get this done before our trip to Singapore, Cambodia and Hong Kong. Because this trip was all about the food and the eating. A lot of eating. So much eating, of so much good food. The memories of all that great food helped me get through the two-hour dentist appointments.

Here’s a list of my favorite things we ate this trip, starting with New York, Singapore and Cambodia (Hong Kong is getting its own post. IT WAS JUST THAT GOOD.)

Birthday at Le Bernardin
Me with the first of SEVERAL birthday desserts this trip. This one at Le Bernardin.

Kingfish caviar at Le Bernardin, New York

We started the super awesome around-the-world birthday extravaganza in New York. We went up to the city the night before our Singapore flight, and lucked out on getting reservations at Le Bernardin. It cost a small fortune, but we had the Chef’s tasting menu. My perennial dining companion XFE pointed out that it was pretty unlikely we’d ever be there again, so why not splash out? (He’s a very good boyfriend).

This place, which in case you didn’t know, has three Michelin stars, is freaking amazing. Like, really, really nice. Far too nice for the likes of me. My voice is too loud, I hunch over my food, I eat and drink too fast, I gush a lot, and I wasn’t even sure what the small stool next to my chair was (to hold your purse, naturally). So, quite naturally, I started our dinner by knocking over my amuse bouche of soup. I swear, XFE can’t take me anywhere nice.

At Le Bernardin, the focus is on fish and there were several simply prepared all-stars, but my favorite was the kingfish caviar–a warm “sashimi” of kingfish, topped with Osetra caviar and a light butter broth. It was luxurious and briny and melted in your mouth. The seared wagyu beef with fresh kimchi was also amazing – fatty and unctuous – and I don’t even like kimchi.

Two sidenotes: my favorite thing about Le Bernardin (next to the purse stool) was that the huge round chairs swiveled out so you didn’t have to scoot your chair away from the table to get up. You merely turned to the side and gently lifted up and out of the seat. Classy. Oh, and we saw Eric Ripert peak his head into the dining room at one point. I was star-struck.

Continue reading Eight Incredible Things We Ate in Singapore and Cambodia (and New York)

Singapore: First Impressions

Hey there! I’m back.

Actually, I’ve been back for about a week or so, but between jet lag, and digging out of email/work/laundry, I haven’t even had a minute to start going through my photos and trip notes and coming up with some blog fodder.

But, this morning’s news is reporting on the death of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. So I better get my ass in gear and write something about my recent first visit to Singapore.

Marina Bay Sands
Things to know about Singapore: it’s really, really hot.

My travel-buddy/man-panion for life (XFE) and I actually learned a bit about Lee Kuan Yew at the very excellent National Museum of Singapore. We had gone to the museum primarily to escape the pervasive, bone-soaking, spirit-wilting heat and humidity that is Singapore in early March. The museum is in a blended building, half white colonial stucco, half modern cubist wonder surrounded by rolling green hills and landscaped trees. The important thing and main draw for us was the existence of the blasting, government-subsidized air conditioning.

Disappointingly, the majority of the museum and its exhibits were closed for renovations. But, they did have a condensed, Clif Notes version of the museum’s contents in the basement. It was a really great exhibit. The first part was a bit confusing, something about five kings and a boy who fought a giant swordfish and then was killed by the Sultan who feared him. Anyway, a big mix of legends and facts.

But things really picked up with some great exhibits on the different ethnic groups and immigrants that had come to Singapore when it was a colonial entrepot and trading post. The museum also had a great exhibit on Singapore’s occupation by Japan in World War II, and a brief exhibit on Singapore’s separation from Britain, the city-state’s internal struggle to become independent and self-governed, and it’s brief stint as part of the Federation of Malaysia.

A big player in Singapore was Lee, who was elected as the country’s first Prime Minister in 1959, and served in that capacity until 1990 (He remained a “senior minister” in the Cabinet until 2004, and “minister mentor” till 2011.) Quartz describes Lee’s ruling style best:

Lee led Singapore from a colonial backwater under British control to one of the world’s most thriving financial centers, and he did so with a tight grip on power. He has been criticized for instituting wide-reaching censorship, limiting civil rights, discriminating against gays and migrant workers, and generally maintaining a one-party autocracy for almost half a century.

That’s because Lee engineered one of the world’s most impressive growth stories—one that everyone from American Republicans to Chinese communists have both openly envied. (“Benevolent dictatorship has never looked so good” one columnist wrote of the Singapore in 2012.)

The tiny, resource-poor country’s GDP per capita skyrocketed under Lee to one of the highest in the world, behind just oil-rich Qatar and private banking center Luxembourg, according to the IMF.

We actually got a bit of a glimpse into the general public’s discontent with this one-party autocracy situation. We were in a cab one evening on our way to the Supertree Grove at Gardens by the Bay, a Las Vegas-worthy light and music show involving these tree-like structures that soar up to 160 feet.

Gardens by the Bay

Anyway, our cab driver asked us where we were from, and then launched into a grumbling monologue of discontent with his government’s structure. He told us that they’d had the same ruler/ruling party for six decades (Lee’s son is the current Prime Minister), and that wasn’t democracy, and how the people of Singapore have suffered under this dictatorship. He said the rich were getting richer while the poor were getting poorer.

I have to admit: I was shocked and more than a little annoyed. I was in the middle of reading a book about Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge — a book about a horrific history in which real humanitarian atrocities were perpetrated by a real political wackjob dictator. Meanwhile, everywhere I looked in Singapore was prosperous and new and shiny and so technologically advanced.

But that cab driver’s rant is not unfamiliar to me. Not at all. You hear it in the U.S. all the time, especially the phrase, “the rich are getting richer while the rest of us get poorer.” I’m sure if I’d dug a little deeper, he would have blamed immigrants, or corporations, or the educational system, or real estate prices, or whatever other boogeyman he was currently facing or competing against.

Perspective is a luxury, I guess. I understand that on a random Tuesday a cab driver in Singapore is not likely to think about how there are people in other parts of the world, say, Cambodia for example, who are just trying to recover from brutal histories and get to somewhere even remotely as economically advanced as Singapore. We all grumble and bemoan our own political systems, and don’t care or think about who our audience is or what perspectives they bring to the table. It’s practically a human trait to complain about other people doing better than we perceive ourselves to be doing.

I don’t know if Lee was a horrible leader. I don’t know if that cab driver in Singapore might have been richer if a new, completely different party was elected every four years. There are certainly some people in the U.S. who would say that no, a new party doesn’t necessarily mean prosperity, or even anything remotely like it. But it does seem to me, an outsider, that Singapore–a small island nation with no natural resources that was practically decimated in World War II–did alright at the end of the day. It’s a good legacy to have.

Singapore night view

(Here’s another really good Quartz article on the rise of Singapore under Lee’s policies.)

No Golden Fetuses Were Used in the Making of this Non-Travel Post

Fun fact: my favorite travel buddy and I were supposed to be leaving for a long weekend in Singapore.

Singapore
I’m sure it’s not as nice as the pictures make it out to be.

My travel agent/boyfriend had found a great deal on tickets to Singapore a couple of months ago. He, of course, jumped on it. We were supposed to leave Thursday night and fly back on Tuesday. Just a short little weekend jaunt halfway around the world.

But eventually we came to the decision that it wasn’t a good time or a great idea (especially since I’m still paying for my greatly reduced, but still substantial portion of the Australian-Thailand extravaganza), so we swallowed the cancellation fee and cancelled the tickets.

Koala and Poe

It turns out that it was a very good decision, for several reasons. For one thing, we’re ramping up the whole house-hunting thing. And by ramping up, I mean going from zero to intense. XFE does not fool around when he makes a decision. His absolute decisiveness is one of the things I really love about him and stands in stark contrast to my decision paralysis. (Paper or plastic? Can I have both? Red or white wine? What about a rose? Chicken or steak? Ummmm, which do you recommend? — Except for ranch dressing. Then the answer is always, always yes.)

Good thing we’re not house hunting in Singapore. From Bloomberg Businessweek:

Singapore should curb the increasing trend of so-called shoebox apartments because they are “almost inhuman,” CapitaLand Ltd. (CAPL) Chief Executive Officer Liew Mun Leong said.

Shoebox apartments? I love shoes, but I would not want to live in something referred to as a shoebox.

The government last week said it’s concerned that shoebox apartments are mushrooming in the city-state as private home sales surged to a three-year high with record purchases of units that are smaller than 50 square meters (538 square feet).

shoebox dollhouse

538 square feet??? That sounds like the efficiency I lived in when I was in college. I wouldn’t call it luxurious, but it’s hardly inhumane.

The island-state’s population growth, scarce land and surging property values have prompted developers to shrink apartment space. Home prices surged to a record at the end of 2011 in a city that’s about half the size of Los Angeles.

So, uh, how much are we talking here?

Developers sold 1,764 shoebox units in the first quarter, or 27 percent of all home sales, the most since the Urban Redevelopment Authority began collating the data in 2007. Apartments that cost less than S$750,000 ($587,000) made up 42 percent of new home sales in the first quarter, up from 25 percent in the previous three months, the data showed.

What the What?? $587,000 American?? Dang! That price is a crime against humanity. We need to get Amnesty International in on this.

The trend of shoebox units may not be unique to the city- state, said Pratik Burman Ray, an analyst at HSBC Holdings Plc in Singapore. Philippine developers have built homes smaller than 20 square meters, while those in Thailand and Indonesia are less than 35 square meters, he said. In Hong Kong, apartments smaller than 500 square feet house two or three people, he said.

Makes house-hunting in Alexandria seem like a freaking bargain.

The cancelled trip to Singapore made me a bit nostalgic about our recent vacations. Especially when I saw this item in the Wall Street Journal:

Australia is living up to its nickname of “the lucky country,” with a new survey marking it as the happiest industrialized nation in the world based on criteria such as jobs, income and health.

Yep, I would definitely agree with that. Just getting to go to Australia made me luckier than catching a drunk leprechaun holding a four leaf clover sitting on a pot of gold.

Having sidestepped the economic malaise gripping much of Europe and with near-full employment owing to a once-in-a-century resources boom, Australia has come out on top ahead of Norway and the U.S. in the annual Better Life Index compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Speaking of lucky, Lady Gaga is in Thailand as part of her world tour and she’s staying at perhaps the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at, the St. Regis Bangkok. According to fans on Twitter, she’s staying in the Royal Suite. I seriously can’t imagine it being much nicer than the Caroline Astor suite we stayed in when we were there. But whatever, if she feels like slumming it, that’s her deal.

Gaga via fan instagram
I wore the exact same thing when we checked in to the St. Regis.

Gaga will be in Singapore June 3, so we would have just missed her. And you know how I love to hang out with my pop singers.

Perhaps the Royal Suite at the St. Regis is decorated with golden fetuses. From Huffington Post:

British citizen Chow Hok Kuen, 28, was arrested in Thailand on Friday after police found six fetal corpses in his luggage, according to the IndependentThe bodies, which belonged to fetuses between two and seven months old, had been roasted, and some were covered in gold leaf.

OK, what?? You roast cauliflower. You roast potatoes. Some places even roast chestnuts. You roast a lot of things, but you DO NOT roast fetuses. I don’t care how lucky that might be.

gold statues
Me, with gold buddhas, in sepia. No golden fetuses though.

Thai police made the discovery after receiving a tip that a black magic services website was offering fetuses for sale, according to the New York Daily News. Roasting fetuses and covering them in gold is part of a black magic ritual called Kuman thong, which means “golden child” in Thai. The preserved bodies are thought to bring good fortune to the owner, according to the International Business Times.

Authorities believe that Chow was planning to smuggle the fetuses to his native Taiwan, where one corpse could sell for up to $200,000 Thai baht, or $6,376, WCVB reports.

Chow faces up to a year in prison on charges of hiding and covering dead bodies, according to CNN.

Investigators say it’s unclear where the fetuses came from, though forensic tests are currently being conducted on the bodies.

I mean, honestly. That’s some really, really weird crap, pardon my Italian.

Which brings me to my last travel update. This came in the mail today:

Milan ticket

Milan ticket 2

Here’s the story: We went to Milan as part of a 14-day trip to Northern Italy and Switzerland in March 2011. Milan was our first stop and was also where we got a horrible case of food poisoning from some salami. We were sick (seriously, seriously, disgustingly sick) for 10 days. That’s no exaggeration. 10. Days. Wave after wave of disgusting symptom and discomfort for 10. Whole. Days.

So not only was Milan terribly expensive. Not only did Milan try to poison and kill us. Now Milan wants us to pay a traffic ticket that we think comes out to around $133 dollars.

Look for us on the Interpol Most Wanted list because we are not paying that nonsense.

Milan, I am currently giving you the Italian backhanded brush under the chin.

Italian style