Start the Year with a Bang

There’s an old saying that goes “start the year with a bang,” and so I did.

Fortunately, moving to a new role at work made it easier to start my January with fireworks – a 2 week orientation in Stamford, a 1 week conference in New York City, and a mandatory 1 week vacation after.

Before intense works starts tomorrow, here’s a summary of my January in case I don’t get a chance to write about each experience individually.

1. My Tummy Loves Malaysia – Farewell KL (Kuala Lumpur) and Ipoh, Malaysia Food Trip

Village Park

Revisiting Village Park. Nasi Lemak still the best!

If you’re reading this blog for the first time, you should know that I’m into food trips that have nothing on the itinerary but breakfast, snack, lunch, teatime and dinner (read food trip part 1, part 2 and part 3)!

Since my new role involves 100% travel and I won’t be in Singapore for some time, the gang planned a farewell food trip for me. We went back to KL to revisit some of my favorite food (Village Park, O&S etc) and discovered new ones that we missed previously. We also took a trip up to the land of the famous hor-fun and white coffee, Ipoh, as an extension of our food search. I fell in love with a new KL dish this trip – the chili ban mee! Malaysia never fails to satisfy my tummy.

Chilli ban mee

See all the chili?

2. Are you ready for the next chapter of your life? – CAS Orientation in Stamford, Connecticut

Entering in the new role necessitated me to attend a 2 week orientation in the US with my “batchmates” from over 20 different cities. We went through so many training sessions – policies, technical matter, soft skills etc. What struck me the most was the session on work-life balance, which was a video of the talk James Lafferty gave to our colleagues 3 or 4 years ago about his philosophy on priorities – specifically on how one person can only have 5 at a certain point in his or her life. The implications of this on my relationships and planned activities this year surprised me.

CAS

My group mates in the CAS Orientation!

3. Brunching NYC – CAS Conference in Times Square, New York City

Sheraton Times Square

Every 4 months as every engagement ends, CAS holds a one-week conference in a special location for its 400 over auditors with different GE leaders sharing to us their thoughts on the company. This year was right at the heart of New York City – Times Square. Despite the extremely cold weather (just the word “polar vortex” makes me shiver) which made walking unbearable, New York did not fail to disappoint.

All my free time in the Big Apple saw me doing what New Yorkers do – brunching. A trend that has definitely caught up to Asia and which Li Ning and I have took to heart in Singapore, I discovered that brunching in NYC is pretty much what I’ve experienced back home – long lines and good hearty food.

Peels, NYC

Peels, NYC

Peels, NYC

Brunch at Peels, NYC

4. The Road Less Traveled (Toured) – Paris, France

Merci, Paris

Merci, Paris

I decided to spend my one week off before work starts in Europe, a short stop in Paris before exploring a more fair-weathered Lisbon. Since it was my second time to the City of Lights, I wasn’t gung-ho about seeing any of the usual tourist spots. In fact, I only saw the Opera among the usual sites. Instead, I bought a “genuine parisian experience map” from the creative concept store Merci and decided to explore the less-travelled original spots of Paris.

Paris map

Bonjour Paris map from Merci

This took me to old quaint shops, local cafes, historic bakeries, specialty stores, which made me feel like a local. It felt like walking the neighborhood of Tiong Bahru in Singapore or Tian Zi Fang in Shanghai, but scattered in different areas of such a romantic city. I regretted not staying longer, at the same time it provided me a reason to be excited to be back. If you’re traveling to Paris the 2nd, 3rd etc time, I highly recommend doing this.

Saint Germain des Pres, Paris

Streets of Paris

5. Loving Lisboa – Lisbon, Portugal

Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon

Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon

Lisbon from Castelo Sao Jorge

Lisbon

If you follow me on Instagram, you already have an idea of the beauty that this city has to offer. Being one of the great world empires at one point in history, it’s not surprising that Lisbon has so much historic sites. The sheer amount of art, artifacts, cathedrals, castles, monasteries, cobblestone roads, museums, emotional music, palaces etc that the city has is already amazing, but what won me over this city is the people.

Palacio da Pena

Palacio da Pena

Everyone in the city was very polite and genuinely nice that you would forget that this is a country under recession. As what Rui, a local we met up with said, “unemployment is up to 17% yet crime rates haven’t gone up. We are a peaceful people”. From the taxi driver to the service staff in different establishments and locals we met up with, I felt a general sense of warmness from the Lisboetas. If you are still not convinced about visiting Portugal, consider that prices here are much cheaper than in Paris or other parts of Europe.

Start the year with a bang, and so I did. But now the problem is, how am I gonna top January?

It’s gonna be a challenge in Lufkin…

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