Saigon shenanigans

This post is kind of overdue. I had been wanting to write about my 2nd trip to Vietnam as soon as I got back but never managed to get around to it.

The plan to visit Saigon city was made quite hastily and me being me, I thought I could sort the things I have to do as I go along, whatever they are, only to realise nearing the trip that I have 2 wedding invitations to go. The 2nd wedding was on the same day I was to aboard the flight to Vietnam and it was in Sekinchan, some driving distance from the airport. I ended up not going to the wedding and joined my friends who went first much later. Bad, bad planning on my part.

It was Sunday evening by the time I reached our hotel and met the girls. We had pho’ and spring rolls for dinner (been craving for authentic pho’ since my last trip there!). After dinner we walked past a travel agency outlet and decided to buy a half day tour package. Reasonable price I’d say.

img_20161225_233436_765

Next, we went shopping at the night market right outside Ben Thanh market. It helps that the sellers accept Ringgits as I had trouble converting into the local currency haha! Bought a fake Nike slip-on shoes which was very comfortable (pretty sure it was fake lah considering how much I paid for it). One thing people will always tell you if you shop here, and I agree – you can haggle for lower prices, but they would not like it if you eventually decide not to buy once they do lower down their prices.  So think many many times before you bargain!

The next day we took the cab to Binh Tay market which was a huge market selling stuff in bulks at cheap prices. Everything you want is probably there, you name it. The walking paths from one seller to the next were very narrow we kept having to stop to give way or squeeze ourselves past.

After a quick lunch, we went shopping at Ben Thanh market (I know they sound alike,we almost got our cabbies confused!). This market had more breathing and walking space, though still easy to get lost if ever you get separated from your group. Bought a few fabrics and pretty pouches to give as souvenirs. Ain bought boxes of coffees (Vietnam is famous for their coffees).

IMG_20161226_142911.jpg

Walking back from the market to the hotel, we decided to take a breather at a park nearby. The weather was warm but still quite nice to stroll around. We could see a few people chilling at the park while we were there too.

Our travel agent picked us up from the hotel in the evening. First activity on the list was a water puppet show. There was no translation provided so we could only roughly guess what the performance was about. I admit I nodded off a bit during the show because I was tired from our day adventure. But overall, it was an enjoyable show about the life and culture of the Vietnamese people.

Next, we were taken on a cruise where we will be having dinner. We were first quite sceptical that it would be merely dinner on a ship that will not set sail, but the ship did sail as food was served hehe. Quite a lovely experience having dinner with the slow sea breeze as well as live music and dance performances. That really made a nice end to our short trip in Vietnam.

Such nice view of the sea and the city from the cruise.

img_20161226_200128img_20161226_224152_642

Although the trip was short (I had effectively only one day to enjoy Saigon), I was glad it turned out well. It probably helped that that was my 2nd trip to Vietnam and so I had a little clue of what to expect. It is also useful to buy a phone data once you get there. When interacting with the locals, expect limited English, though passable. And oh, one important thing, if you are exploring on foot, you need to have a strong heart and mind to cross the roads. Nobody will really stop for you. Nobody!

Ah well, all for the experience =)

 

Happy 2017!

I have not been writing for some time. Things have been pretty crazy. 2016 passed by before you know it and with 2017 rolling in, few things hit you. Few I can think of right now:-

  • I do not have an abundance of energy as I used to have in my 20s especially (yes, yes I have passed the big 3-0). I get tired easily, and it shows on my face! I try to be more consistent in taking supplements, exercising and just taking better care of myself generally.
  • I have a lot to be thankful for if I just take a moment to reflect. I know there are people who are looking out for me, from random texts, calls or invites. I tell myself to do the same for others as much as I can. Everyone appreciates small, random but thoughtful gestures.
qotd
#throwback to Clapham Common (2015)
  • My workload and responsibilities are not getting any lesser. It’s a constant battle trying to tick them off the list of things-to-do one by one. I tell myself it’s okay to take a break once in a while, but don’t get too lazy! And find a smarter way to manage everything.
  • Ooh almost forgot, one more thing, this year I resolve to be less hesitant to say NO. Not a good idea to say YES to everything and not deliver your best (and “kill” yourself in the process).

On that note, it’s not too late to wish, Happy 2017!

IMG_20160330_103951.jpg
2017, bring it on! #throwback to Riverfront, Port Detroit (2016)

Have a good Friday and a great weekend everyone!

 

 

Women of the Future

The UK women delegate from the Women of the Future (WoF) Initiative was in Malaysia last week. This was the same programme I had attended in London last year as part of the Malaysian delegate. I was invited to join them for welcome cocktails and dinner at the residence of the British High Commissioner on Monday. I was super excited and of course really privileged to meet the WoF founder herself, Pinky Lilani as I did not have the chance to meet her in person when I was in London. This was a woman who has dedicated a big part of her life to support and recognise the force of young women.

uk1
Photo credit: UK in Malaysia – British High Commission KL FB page

The next night, I hosted dinner for a small group of the delegate including Pinky. I decided to bring them to Rebung Restaurant, which turned out to be quite far from their hotel I feel so bad for their hungry tummy! I got to say, service at the restaurant wasn’t that great, even though the place wasn’t very busy when we were there. One thing that made up for it was the mix of oldies and traditional Malay songs sung by the restaurant staffs from a karaoke machine. Some of us had a whale of time dancing along to the songs (me included!).

uk3.jpg

On Friday was the gala dinner at the ritzy Ritz-Carlton to launch the Women of the Future Global network in Malaysia. It was quite tricky for me as I had a speaking engagement at a forum right before the gala dinner. In the end, I decided to throw a black jacket over my glamorous dinner dress (Really, the dress code was that – glamorous). I was late to the forum (very bad time management on my part as I overlooked that it was Friday after work =_____=), and had to leave quite soon after the forum as the gala dinner was already starting.

uk4.jpg
Photo credit: Angela Yap

Dinner was lovely and everyone looked their best. Midway through the courses, I went to the loo. On the way back into the ballroom, I heard the emcee talking about someone “…young lawyer something something campaign something democracy yada yada the constitution…”

And I thought to myself, “Hmm… who is this young lawyer? I need to network with this young lawyer after this!” Then…

uk2.jpg

They deliberately kept it a surprise. Well, it really was.

uk6.jpg
Photo credit: Honey Tan

This definitely goes on the list of the bestest moments of my life. That week, that particular week had been such a crazy, tiring week. And so being announced as among the recipient of the Women of the Future award was indeed a good feeling. Definitely makes me want to be better and do more =) It also makes me feel truly grateful for the wonderful support I have gotten from family, friends, colleagues right from the beginning of the my journey as lawyer and a member of the Malaysian Bar.

uk5.jpg
With Rozana (SIS strongwoman) and Honey Tan (another superwoman) (Photo credit: Honey Tan)

Thank you Women of the Future program and the British High Commission! The support and recognition truly means a lot, more than I can say.

Work in progress

I was driving to a meeting earlier in the afternoon when I had a moment of self-reflection while behind the wheels (while still paying attention to the road, don’t you worry). I have been feeling constantly edgy, anxious and panicky, like something bad is looming, threatening to pounce on me big time. I had quite a productive time over the weekend. And some downtime too.

But that feeling of uneasiness was always there.

It’s compounded with a feeling of self-doubt too. Whether I am doing the right thing, or not doing the right thing. Whether I am saying the right thing, or not saying the right thing. Whether I am doing too much, or should have done more. Whether I should have taken a different route out of the many options presented in life. Whether I should live up to expectation (imagined or otherwise), and keep mum about the sick feeling in my stomach.

It hit me, while navigating my way through the traffic today, that I may be experiencing a near nervous breakdown. That’s not good. I even Googled existential crisis. Let’s hope displaying the signs they say you would have does not necessarily mean you do have one.

Whatever it is, I think surrounding yourself with the right people makes a whole lot of difference.

Today I met a group of people who have with them an incredible amount of wisdom having the benefit of years and experience life has to offer. No, we did not actually talk about ourselves. No heart to heart session or anything like that. But to be around people who had obviously been through a lot and seen a lot, but still turn out the kind, respected and dignified persons they are, with boundless energy and selfless heart to better things for others, it is so humbling and empowering. I came out of the meeting feeling a little better than I was before the meeting started.

It is a constant work in progress, but we should try to focus less on the negativity in life and look at the big picture and what life is also trying to tell you through the little things.

 

Sri Lanka says, “Would you like a hopper?”

I just got back from a 6 days trip to Colombo, Sri Lanka for LAWASIA conference. I’ve never been to that part of the world, so naturally I was pretty excited when I got the news that I will be joining the Malaysian Bar delegation to the conference. They told me that they were putting my name up to be a speaker to feature a young face of the Malaysian Bar, or something along that line.

Sometime later they said that I were to speak at the session on Business and Human Rights (BHR). I had given talks on human rights several times before, but never on a specific topic on BHR. So that was quiet nerve wracking. In the course of my research, I realised the topic is so, so wide! On top of that, I had quite a busy week in the days leading up to the conference. And so I did something I always promise myself to never do again, but always end up doing it, again. I finished work at the office at 2.00am, rushed home to pack until 4.00am, took a 2 hour nap, then rushed back to office to catch the transport to the airport at 7.30am. Thank God I was going with Karen who arranged our transport.

p2.jpg
Just before boarding

After all that, once we touched down and got to the hotel, I was completely worn out. It was impossible to prepare for my session. I woke up early the next day and started typing up until it was time to catch the chartered bus for the opening ceremony.

My session was scheduled to be the last session for the day so that gave me a bit of time to prepare. I decided to skip the breakout sessions right after the plenary session the next day to go through the presentation paper. My stomach was already upset from before the flight to Sri Lanka, so I decided to stay away from fully sampling Sri Lankan curries and other delicacies =( Lest I had to pull some dramatic exit while on the panel!

But thank God the presentation went alright, I think lah! I went about a minute overtime, but I managed to present all my points and even slotted in a shameless promotion of how great the Malaysian Bar is haha! Bar President and Bar secretary came into the room just as I was ending. Steven came up right after and was all “Well done, well done!” Yeah yeah… =_______=

IMG-20160813-WA0014
On the panel

Karen took pictures and it was quite clear from the photos that I was just immensely relieved the presentation was over haha!

A few people came up afterwards to introduce themselves and said they enjoyed the presentation. I got a smile permanently plastered on my face the entire night because of that. I’m glad I decided to write a full presentation paper instead of bullet points on a powerpoint presentation. When you don’t have much time to prepare, writing it out helps to arrange your thoughts better I feel.

With the presentation out of the way, I decided to enjoy the rest of the conference, and Sri Lanka! We had Sri Lanka Cultural Night on Saturday right by the sea. I love it! Although they could use more tables to accommodate everyone as it was a standing room. I think I was pretty worn out from the session earlier and that Sri Lanka is behind Malaysia by 3 hours. I was exhausted and decided to head back to hotel when it was only about 9pm!

IMG-20160813-WA0016.jpg

Grand Colombo was certainly a grand hotel. The room was fantastic. The building was attached to a mall so that was convenient if you need to get something quick. I love that the hotel location is very near the seaside of the Indian Ocean.

The staff and waitress were very attentive. Ooh I discovered that an apom is called a hopper here, and it’s like their national dish. Hopper this, hopper that. And they have sambal too, all kinds of sambal! Too bad my upset stomach kept me from really experiencing Sri Lankan food. Although there were times I simply ploughed on. They have fresh seafood and the best curries!

p1.jpg
Would you like a hopper?

We had few hours on the last day to do some shopping and checked out Colombo town. It’s a different kind of heat in Colombo during the day, but at night the weather was quite nice I must say. I got on their 3 wheeler tuk-tuk, which if you’re not careful, they might not use meter and over charge you.

2016811230200
Independence Square
2016811205523
Independence Square
IMG-20160815-WA0002
Colombo Lighthouse
2016815144442
Seen outside Paradise Road, a shopping place

I didn’t actually think I was going to enjoy attending the conference as much as I did, as I was under the impression that it will be attended by only important, serious people discussing important, serious issues. While the issues were important and serious, the people I met were very nice, supportive and passionate about the issues discussed (there were a few interesting characters too haha!).

IMG-20160815-WA0010

I remember during Steven’s session when he spoke about the Malaysian government’s proposed amendments that threaten the independence of the Malaysian Bar. He got a standing ovation by the end of it. That was a moving show of solidarity I must say that I can’t help feeling proud to be a member of the Malaysian Bar.

IMG-20160814-WA0001

Thank you LAWASIA for showing how important it is for Bar associations around the world to support each other in maintaining the integrity and independence of the profession.

IMG-20160815-WA0011.jpg

 

IMG_6023.JPG

Thank you Sri Lanka for the memories!

Penang aku datang!

Last week I attended a 5-day workshop on women, freedom and religion co-organised by Malaysian Centre for Constitution and Human Rights (MCCHR) and Sisters in Islam (SIS). The workshop was held in Penang at Golden Sands Resort, a 4 star hotel (I think it used to be 5 star. Not sure why it was downgraded).

The resort was right by the Feringgi beach (I always love beaches). I remember back in 2010 when I joined my firm for a trip to Rasa Sayang Resort. People were saying, “Oh you know, Golden Sands Resort next door is actually a much better hotel. Too bad we are not going there.” Or something along that line. And 6 years later, here was my chance to experience the Resort!

OK let me explain. Of course the real reason I participated in the workshop was because the topic is very important (no really I’m serious! And more on this later), but a great workshop venue is always a bonus kan? Teehehe!

Ah, the sun, sea, sand and the sky above…

We were given a room to ourselves. Very spacious and nicely decorated – a blend of modern and traditional elements. My only issue is that the floor was not carpeted (but the hallway was carpeted, tak ke pelik tuh…). I think it would make a much cosier room if it was fitted with carpets.

My room for 5 days 4 nights.
My room for 5 days 4 nights.

The buffet down at the cafe was fantastic. I would have loved to spend more time sampling all the food they had to offer (who wouldn’t?) if not for our packed schedule. One thing you cannot help but notice is that most of the hotel guests are from the Middle East. The hotel even included Middle Eastern dishes in the buffet mix. When you go for a walkabout outside the hotel, you will see Middle Eastern restaurants and other places also catering to them. I guess they form the bulk of the tourists in the area.

The workshop was pretty intense, so there wasn’t much time to go gallivanting around as much as we all would have loved to. We were given 2 thick bundles for reading and references. Some of us were given reading task where we then need to present a summary of the reading to the rest the next day. My reading task was a chapter about gender stereotyping by Rebecca J Cook and Simone Cusack. Oh man, it was not exactly an easy reading and it hits me how rarely I read academic materials. I had to read the article out loud to myself to better understand.

8b7b2043-be0a-4325-a894-13c100c6905f 5bf41b10-e550-4da7-9e10-adb2b09391f8

I was teamed up with Dorian and Adriene. We thought, hmm… let’s not be boring. Let’s present our summary in a moot court style. After some discussions, we did just that and everyone seemed to love it, so I think it was a job well done. Yayy! (Cue: masuk bakul angkat sendiri).

Court is in session.
Court is in session.
See how passionate I was. Haha!
See the passion. Wows!

I am glad to have participated in the workshop because I think it is so important and crucial to get your foundation right. The workshop brought together 20 or so participants who were either from legal or NGO background, and everyone I think are involved or had done some work on issues related to the focus of the workshop. Often whenever I was asked to speak or comment on related issues, there are times I feel I could have conceptualised my points better but I feel somewhat limited in my knowledge and the “correct language” to use on issues concerning women, freedom and religion.

I am also glad to have joined the workshop as I met many wonderful people who are very dedicated to activism and passionate to make a change. I appreciate sharing knowledge and enjoy trading stories with them. Cliché but really, meeting them is a humbling experience and inspires me to do more. Very happy that we are all still keeping in touch with each other after the workshop (thank God for WhatsApp group!).

Emily said she wanted to try out parasailing. Of course, I jumped at the idea! I had never try it before and it looks so fun! So we went on the 4th Day of the workshop. Man, I was nervous. I don’t know how to swim, you know. They gave us life jackets to wear, but still… They strapped you on some safety harness so you are basically hanging in the air flying one big round depending where the speed boat down below wants to take you. The feeling of hanging high up on air only by that safety harness was quite unnerving, but the view from up there was simply breathtaking. I saw the sea and beyond on one side, and the green mountains on the other. Too bad I didn’t think of taking any photos from up there, but Andi was such a sport she helped take photos from the ground. Thanks Andi! Although my landing was less than graceful, and she took photographic evidence of that too T_T

IMG-20160723-WA0018

IMG-20160723-WA0012

IMG-20160723-WA0017

The next day (and the few days after) my whole body ached and my back was hurting too. It didn’t help that Aneera was telling about all kinds of injury one could suffer from parasailing =_____=

Well, I am happy to report the aches and pain are no more =)

Falling sick is no fun

I have been feeling sick since last week. It started with a sore throat, which I did not think was unusual since we are in the month of Ramadhan and the weather can be super warm. But then I started to get chills, muscle aches all over and headache. I thought I would be fine after a weekend at home, but there doesn’t seem to be much improvement.

Yesterday in office I was blowing my nose the whole time (and I think I wasted a tree worth of tissues in the process sigh…).

Had buka puasa buffet with colleagues at Rebung restaurant yesterday. Tried my best to savour as much food there. I’m generally a small eater and what with being sick and all, there’s a very likely chance I wasn’t able to eat my money’s worth. Buffets are definitely not my forte.

Anyway, I went home, downed some panadols for cold and tried to sleep early. I couldn’t! Constant tossing and turning, and stretching to relieve muscle aches. Sigh…

I have few Bar Council stuff I need to get done by today. Or else, I will be stuck doing them in the office. In my haste packing up from office yesterday, I had forgotten to save a piece of work onto my pendrive. You know the feeling when you really wanted to get something done off your checklist, and then you realise you can’t? Yeah, that feeling…

Falling sick is no fun. You are constantly tired. Your mind is tired too. Soon you will be thinking sad, unhappy thoughts. Basically, you will be a drama queen lah, the sappy kind. I hate that. I think happiness is a choice you make. But it can be quite challenging when your body feels like it is dragging everything down, including your spirit.

I feel like resting in bed all day, but I had promised to meet a friend for dinner later, which I had already rescheduled twice. So it is not nice to bail.

This Ramadhan, somewhat expected, I have lots of buka puasa invitations, mostly from friends. I appreciate that I have many good friends out there. Makes me want to appreciate my friends more. At the same time, it can be quite challenging trying to do as much ibadah as I can at the same time to get the special Ramadhan rewards. It is all in the mind really. If I truly set my mind to it, there is no reason why I cannot do my own terawih prayers at home for example. Also, since I cannot fast now, I should really start reading either the Quran translations, or religious books. Just to ensure there is consistent spiritual nourishment during this holy month.

Anyway, if I still don’t feel better after dinner, I will go to the usual clinic at Sentul boulevard to get checked. I feel quite reluctant actually, because medical fees are very pricey nowadays! Thank God the office has a medical insurance for that.

I shall alternate between resting and getting some work done. Pray that I will get better soon.

These are my best friends for the moment.

photo

P/s: On an unrelated note, I am pretty excited to be selected to speak at LawAsia conference this August in Sri Lanka woohoo! The topic, business and human rights, is not a focus I usually speak on, but I really want to do it right, so I will need to read as much as I can and prepare early. Will definitely blog about my trip there!

 

 

Heart breaking stories of Aceh

Just got back from a 4 days 3 nights holiday trip in Aceh. Most of the stories there were about the 2004 tsunami. Plenty of times I felt a lump in my throat whenever we hear stories of lost lives and survival, and see reminders of the catastrophic event.

Our first stop was a mass graves where thousands of tsunami victims were buried there. These were bodies which could not be identified and therefore nobody came to collect them. Our tour guide says in the aftermath of the event, hundreds of lifeless bodies could be seen strewn along the street or drifting away on the river. We heard accounts of some survivors who lost their loved ones while trying to escape and till today do not know where their bodies are. Good God…

There is a dome that got separated from the rest of the mosque building, drifted and smacked right in the middle of another village.

Phone 8 June 16 1257Phone 8 June 16 1258

I guess it is only natural that in moments of such colossal disaster, people turn to God for solace, protection and to move on. Everywhere in Aceh you will see mosques.

(Below) This is a ship that weighed a mighty 2.6K tonne, got drifted inland by the giant waves and landed in the middle of a residential area.

Phone 8 June 16 1298

(Below) Taking a selfie in front of the entrance to Kampung Jackie Chan (the village was actually sponsored by the China government, and Jackie Chan only sponsored the kenduri haha!)

Phone 8 June 16 1402

(Below) This is a boat which landed right on top of someone’s house, saving 59 lives in the process. It was heartbreaking hearing the account of the survivor first hand, especially how she lost her mother and one child trying to escape, and how they held on to a coconut tree for hours until her smallest child turned blue T_T

Phone 8 June 16 1445

Phone 8 June 16 1495

(Above) Behind us used to be dry land, before it was wiped out by the tsunami.

Phone 8 June 16 1496

(Above) Mom, Amin and I in the Tsunami Museum. Pretty impressive museum I’d say. If we look up the short bridge, there are flags of countries who had offered their assistance to Aceh, including Malaysia.

Another thing we note, and the tour guide says this too, is that the tsunami also brought positive changes to Aceh. Because of the international attention and aid pouring in, Aceh recovered quite well and in some aspect the development today in terms of economy and infrastructure is even better than it was before the tsunami. It was also largely due to the peace agreement reached by the factions fighting within Aceh, and it is believed the tsunami was the turning point for parties to agree to end conflicts in the area which had been going on for so many years. Alhamdulillah for this.

It truly was a humbling experience for me to hear about the power and wisdom of Allah. It was also inspiring to hear their stories of resilience, renewed faith and hope for peace and progress for Aceh.

I pray Aceh will continue to prosper. Amin…

(Below) Dad took this blurred photo just before our plane home took off. It was my 3rd day replacing my fasting T_T

Phone 8 June 16 1475

 

Note: Woke up late for sahur this morning just in time for some dates and mineral water. Haihh… Ramadhan kareem everyone! May our prayer and our efforts to be a better Muslim be well rewarded. Amin…

 

Washington DC is not Washington

Someone on my FB feed is posting updates about his trip to the US of A under the IVLP program. The same exchange program I went a month or 2 back but with a different focus. Makes me green with envy, because I think I missed the US! I missed the people (I think the Americans are friendlier than the Brits, but that’s just me), I missed the weather, I missed the scenery, and their love of history. Not so much the food though. I missed walking about in the different towns and cities. I should really write about what I learned before I started to forget. Soon, soon…

For now I’ll post some of the shots I took in Washington DC. I’ll share photos of other cities in other posts. I remember feeling confused when I was planning for the trip and looking at the US map thinking, why is Washington DC in 2 places? East and West. Then, ohhhh… *slaps head*

The White House. The fine looking Canadian President J.T. a.k.a Justin Trudell was in the house. Hence Canadian flags were everywhere too.

IMG_20160313_102439

The US Supreme Court (so majestic eh).

IMG_20160317_161025

Washington Monument (breathtaking view at dusk!)

IMG_20160315_193932

 

World War II Memorial (they are big on war memorials here).IMG_20160315_202753IMG_20160315_202600

 

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool at night (makes me think of that end scene in Forest Gump).IMG_20160315_205243

We were in DC for a week but packed schedule didn’t allow us to do much exploring. If I had few extra free days, I would have definitely explored ALL the Smithsonian museums there, and checked out other memorials too.

It was only sometime after I got back that I remembered that I have a friend working in DC, and I had completely forgotten to check in to see if we could catch up. Haihhh!

Thanks for the memories, DC.

Guys & girls

Today as per usual I was running late to get to work. It has become my daily struggle really, to get to office as early as I can. If I wake up too early, I will go back to sleep and then get to office late, again T_T

In my bid to be early not be late (there’s a difference haha), I will decide what to wear and iron my clothes the night before. And half the time it still doesn’t work sigh…

And I wonder why do guys take much much shorter time to get ready than the girls??

Well, obvious answers really. Just this morning it took me forever to apply my eyeliner. And if it’s not eyeliner, it can be my shawl, or my foundation that needs reworked WTH…..

That’s all the rant for today. Have a great Friday everyone!