Saturday, August 25, 2018

Not Crazy, Not Rich, Just Proudly Malaysian

I don't usually go to the movies (can't even remember the last time I went to a movie theater), but Crazy Rich Asians was one that I've been wanting to watch since I saw the trailer few months back. I've always enjoyed rom-com so this one is right up my alley. Coincidentally, the movie was released around our birthdays so the opening weekend was a perfect timing for a movie date. 

I didn't read the book and and went into the movie theater with zero expectations. No doubt there was a lot of hype about it, but we both really enjoyed the movie. The director, Jon Chu definitely did a great job incorporating a lot of unique aspects about that part of the world in the movie - the food, heritage, culture, language, architecture, scenery, etc. 

To me, this movie isn't about representation or an all-Asian cast. Like what Henry Golding said, "Growing up in Malaysia, there wasn't really a problem with representation. We saw faces like ours on screen." For me, it's about Malaysian pride. I'm just very proud to see Singapore Malaysia and Malaysians being portrayed on the big screen in Hollywood (in a good way). P.S. Majority of the filming took place in Malaysia and two of the main casts, Michelle Yeoh and Henry Golding are from Malaysia. 

In a way (minus the crazy rich part), we could totally relate to Nick and Rachel's experience when hubby traveled to Malaysia to "see where I grew up, meet my family, my Ah Ma", for the first time in 2010. Now that hubby has traveled to Malaysia for a few times, there are even more in the movie that he could relate to.

I thought this movie was fitting to celebrate our 10th year of knowing each other and gave us the opportunity to walk down memory lane. Here are a 10 things in the movie that we enjoyed and could absolutely relate to:

1. Manglish/Singlish

Screenshot: Warner Bros. Pictures

The movie subtly and brilliantly used a number of jargons that only M'sians/Singaporeans can relate to without overdoing it. The movie started off with the text message sequence...featuring Lah, Walao, Alamak. Even hubby knows most of these terms now. =P Another Mandarin term that hubby recognized (thanks to me) was during the last scene in the plane, where the auntie asked Rachel to "kuai dian kuai dian (faster faster)"! Other languages that made it into the movie included Hokkien (including the slightly inappropriate "ku ku jiao"), Cantonese, and Malay.

2. Changi vs. JFK airport

Dec 2010: Hubby's first time in Changi airport

I'm sure a lot of people agree with Rachel's comparison of Changi airport and JFK airport. Changi's butterfly garden and movie theater (and free massage chairs) makes JFK "salmonella and despair". That's hubby's impression of Changi (or Asian airports in general) too...haha!!

3. It's HOT (and humid) there

Dec 2010: Hubby's first experience of what hot and humid!! Someone needs the air-con.

When Rachel arrived at Peik Lin's home for the first time, Peik Lin's mother said something about it being hot outside, and invited her into the house to "enjoy the air-con", I thought that was a good one. Hubby agrees 100% too...hahaha!!

4. Singapore's skyline

Screenshot: Warner Bros. Pictures. 
Dec 2010: Counting down to 2011 in Singapore.

We visited Singapore together for the first time during hubby's first visit to Asia and it was quite a special one as we counted down for 2011 overlooking Singapore's spectacular skyline with fireworks, just like in the movie. =P

5. Eat eat eat

When in Malaysia, Ah Ma will make sure you eat all day every day.

The hawker scene is going to make you hungry. As hubby knows best, we take pride in our food (especially hawker food) and eating is a must-do in Malaysia. Pretty sure hubby was overwhelmed during his first visit because Ah Ma was constantly asking him to eat, even when he wasn't hungry...haha!! In fact, he was very impressed with my dad and bro's ability to eat non-stop all day. =P

6. Langkawi Island

Dec 2012: Proposal in Langkawi Island.
Screenshot: Warner Bros. Pictures. 

The bachelorette party and the scene between Nick and Colin on a wooden pontoon was actually filmed in Langkawi. Langkawi island is another special place for us as that was where hubby proposed in 2012. =)

7. Mahjong scene

Screenshot: Warner Bros. Pictures. 
Dec 2013: Pre-wedding photoshoot at Blue Mansion, Penang.

The symbolic mahjong scene between Rachel and Eleanor was filmed in Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (Blue Mansion) in Penang. This was one of the locations for our pre-wedding photoshoot in 2013. =)

8. Soundtracks

Dec 2013: Tian Mi Mi Karaoke session during our wedding ceremony

Several classic Mandarin/Cantonese songs made it into the movie and soundtrack. Even though the song 甜蜜蜜 wasn't included in the official soundtrack, a small part of it appeared in the movie and hubby was able to recognize it right away, thanks to the 'training' during our!

9. Michelle Yeoh

Screenshot: Warner Bros. Pictures. 
Proud to be shame! =P

Interestingly, hubby's favorite Asian actress was Michelle Yeoh and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was one of his favorite movies. This was before we even knew each other. In fact, he didn't even know that Michelle Yeoh is also a Malaysian until I told him. As for me, I 'thick-faced-ly' answered Michelle Yeoh as the famous person who reminds me of myself in the questionnaire I submitted for our Amazing Race application...haha! She definitely makes us Malaysians proud, and perfectly carried the role of Eleanor Young. I'm glad my MIL was not like Eleanor...hahaha! 

10. "Pursuing one's American"

This classic line by Eleanor was sarcastic, but yet so true. I may be generalizing but most Asian parents expect their children to study medicine, law, engineering, or accounting. That's because they know you're pretty much secured a job upon graduating. Hubby was given the freedom to study what he liked ('passion') but he wished he studied something that's easier to find a job, like me. =P Based on my personal experience, I certainly prefer the realistic Asian approach, get a degree that will secure you a job first, pursue your passion later. A good example is Gemma Chan (Astrid), she graduated with a law degree from University of Oxford, but chose to pursue an acting career after. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Spring 2018

Finally completed all trip reports from our 8D7N Iceland camper van adventure...phew!! Took 2 months but that's with all GoPro videos edited, not too bad actually. 

So what have we been up to since we got back from Iceland? Back to the grind, work hard and plan for the next adventure, rinse repeat. =P Hubby was down with shingles over the July 4th break so that wasn't a good break for him, but glad he has recovered. 

Here's a quick recap of our boring spring 2018:

We rarely eat out, so I could easily list out the places we went in the last 2 months...haha!

May 27 (Sun): Lunch at Logan's steakhouse before our flight to Iceland

June 25 (Mon): Thai food for dinner at Birmingham
July 22 (Sun): Father's day lunch at Red Lobster

July 30 (Mon): Dinner date at PF Changs to celebrate 10 years. Had our 1st date here. =P

Sunday meal prep routine...I'd rather spend 3 hours in the kitchen on Sunday and save time (and money) the rest of the week. 4th year doing this and still going strong...haha! I'm nowhere near a good chef, but I'm on a 'mission' to keep records of all my Sunday meal preps for the future. =P

June 10 (Sun): Campbell's wicked Thai-style soup is actually pretty good, just add in more rice and veggies and it's makes a lazy meal for two. Made my version of beef & broccoli, stir-fry veggies, and stir-fry egg with onion and mushrooms.

July 1 (Sun): Healthy immune-boosting food for the sick boy.

July 8 & 15 (Sun): Same same but different. :P

July 22 (Sun): Before, during, after. Bakuteh soup, stir-fry veggies, stir-fry egg with spinach, tom-ka soup with noodles.

July 29 (Sun): Stir-fry veggies, beef stew with potatoes, stir-fry eggs and spinach.

Aug 5 & 12 (Sun): Chicken rice, egg sandwich, pan-fried potatoes, stir-fry veggies, seafood curry with mussels, beef stew, pasta with white sauce.

At this point, you're probably do we eat the same thing over and over again and not get bored?? Answer: We're easily satisfied (at least we have food to eat). Besides, it's healthy and tasty, what's wrong with that? We're also trying very hard not to contribute to a higher rate on this chart. =P

Other random stuffs

June 18 (Mon): Absolutely honored to have my 'rookie' podcast interview with my favorite podcast - ChooseFI to talk about the Amazing Race, travels, and FI!! Big thanks to Jonathan and Brad for having me on!! Full disclosure: I refuse to listen to my own episode.

The power of ChooseFI...thanks for the traffic boost!! 

June 25 (Mon): Aloft Birmingham

Decided to move things around the house and turned our master room into the game room+hangout room+workstation. Using the smaller room as our bedroom instead. Spent an entire Saturday evening moving and organizing. =P

Game boy's prized possessions. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Iceland Road Trip 2018 ✈ Golden Circle & Blue Lagoon

2,850 kms (1,770 miles), 8 days, and a camper van. We spent 8 days driving around Iceland, feasted our eyes with spectacular scenery at every turn, fed our soul with solitude, and indulged in so many unique experiences within such a short period of time. Iceland is definitely a unique country like no other.

Iceland 8D7N Road Trip:

2 June 2018 (Sat): Þingvellir National Park - Bruarfoss Waterfall - Geysir - Gullfoss Falls - Kerid Crater Lake

After spending the day chilling at Akranes campsite doing absolutely nothing and slowly adjusting back to US time, we finally left the campsite at 5.30pm for our last stretch of sightseeing on this trip around the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is one of the most popular tourist routes due to its proximity to Reykjavik. I didn't think it was a good idea for us to drive the Golden Circle at the tail end of our trip because the sights along Golden Circle was lackluster in comparison to what we've seen over the last few days, apart from the Geysir.

En route to Þingvellir National Park. Dude...what are you doing in the middle of nowhere??

Þingvellir National Park used to be the national parliament of Iceland. This is also where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, and you could swim between the two continents. This was just a quick stop for us, took some photos and done.

No cars at 8pm

Our next stop was Bruarfoss Waterfall. This is not a popular stop along the Golden Circle, but I wanted to see the milky blue waterfall so we decided to be 'adventurous' and took a detour into this private summer house complex and attempted to find it. It's not a clearly marked path and we tried following the instructions I found online.

This was all we saw after walking for about 15 minutes. =.= Not sure what we missed, but here's a link to better 'instruction' and how the waterfall was supposed to look. Our mission failed, but good luck to you!

Next stop was the Strokkur geysir. This was my first time seeing a geysir so it was definitely an interesting stop. This area is full of geysers but the one that constantly 'explodes' and steals all the attention is this Strokkur. It erupts pretty frequently at an interval of 8-10 minutes. We didn't get a good photo the first time it erupted so we waited for the 2nd one with cameras and videos on standby. =P We got there around 9.15pm and there were still some other people visiting late as well.

And another waterfall!! The viewpoint for Gullfoss Falls was a very short walk from the parking lot. We didn't walk around much here because it was cold!!

Final stop along the Golden Circle was Kerid Crater Lake. This definitely looks very similar to the Viti Crater we saw at Myvatn. Another benefit of visiting off hours (at 11pm) was the 'free' entry as there was nobody collecting entrance fees at that hour. =)

We completed our sightseeing along the Golden Circle earlier than expected at 12am, but didn't want to 'waste' 1 night at the campsite, so we found this place to park for the night near Selfoss. There was no porta-potty here but we used the bathroom at the 24hr Olis gas station in Selfoss town beforehand. =P Made some light dinner then went to bed.

3 June 2018 (Sun): Grindavik Campsite

Woke up the next morning with one last day to do whatever we wanted. As I mentioned in my previous posts, we were a day ahead of our original schedule since day 3, so our travel pace definitely slowed down significantly the last few days of our trip. It wasn't until after the trip that I realized we actually slept one extra 'night' one this trip to the crazy schedule, and it proves I didn't sleep-deprived anybody with my 'intense' tour.

MIL wanted to visit a museum, but it was closed when we got there. We knew we were supposed to clean the van before returning (to avoid being charged extra cleaning fee), so we gave our little 'home' for the week a good scrub. This camper had been good to us throughout the trip so it deserved a 'spa'...haha! One thing we liked about the gas stations in Iceland was their brush+hose thingy to clean the vehicle...for free!

Final call to enjoy Iceland's scenery!

Arrived Grindavik campsite at 1pm. We chose to come to this campsite because it was close to the airport, which would be more convenient for us to leave early the next morning for the airport. The total cost for the three of us was ISK 4800 ($48), and hot shower is free. =)

The place was packed with locals when we first arrived. We realized it was 1pm on a Sunday afternoon so a lot of families drove their camper here to camp over the weekend. Fortunately, majority of the campers left by 3pm. The bathrooms were clean and nice!

I was very impressed by the kitchen/dining area!! This campsite was hands down the best campsite we stayed in Iceland. Very well-equipped and clean. =)

Even better, they had this entire area filled with free food and gas!!!! Due to its proximity to the airport, this is the final stop for many people (like us). It's great that they had this #campersforcampers corner for people to leave leftovers for others. Ugh we should have totally stopped by here before starting our journey. 

We did a pretty good job depleting most of the food we brought, especially the canned food. Used up our last can of Campbell's Wicked Thai Style chicken & rice soup for lunch....yummsss!!! Another group of Canadians gave us their extra can of beer. =P

4 June 2018 (Mon): Blue Lagoon - Keflavik Airport - New York - Detroit - Huntsville

We couldn't leave Iceland without at least seeing the 'overpriced' Blue Lagoon right? It was 7.30am and there were people there already...crazy.

Instead of taking photos of the Blue Lagoon, I took more photos of this blue 'pool' beside the Blue Lagoon building instead. =P

Filled up the camper van before returning it at the rental office. The process of returning the camper was easy and quick. Of course, we did a good job cleaning the van before returning which make the inspection quicker. The rental company then dropped us off at the airport with their free shuttle. 

We came with 4 luggage, left with 3 luggage...successfully depleted one luggage of food. Obviously we over-packed for this trip but baggage was free so it didn't matter.

Goodbye to Iceland!! Thank you for the amazing scenery and experience!!

First row of Delta Comfort seats again for our flight to New York! Plenty of leg room. =)

From Iceland to Greenland to Americaland. =P

Going through immigration took forever, and on top of that, we had a big hiccup at the baggage claim. Apparently one whole cart of bags didn't make it to the carousel for our flight. We ended up wasting almost 1.5 hours standing there waiting for our bags. To compensate for our inconvenience, Delta gave us 5K points each...I'm happy with it. =P

 Fortunately, our transit at JFK was long enough and we still had some time to visit the Delta SkyClub at Terminal 4 before catching our next flight to Detroit.

The food at the lounge was actually pretty good, even better because it's free...haha! This is how we avoid spending money for overpriced food at airports. =P

Was upgraded to first class for our JFK - DTW flight. =)

Visited the Delta SkyClub at Detroit airport with MIL....more free food. =P Those meatballs were good!!

6 blog posts and it's finally a wrap for our awesome 8D7N Iceland trip!! Thanks for following along!!! If you haven't been to Iceland, you should start planning a trip there. Iceland is such a beautiful and unique country like no other!! I would definitely recommend driving around the Ring Road in a camper van, best way to see this country!

As a token of appreciation for scrolling through this long post, here's our map to help you plan for your Iceland adventure! Click on the top right 'square' to open in Google Maps.

Bonus giveaway - Our Iceland itinerary!