[THAILAND] o17. AYUTTHAYA – OF RECLINING BUDDHAS AND WISHING WELLS

Following a seafood-induced food coma and a brief exposure to Thai Buddhist rituals at renowned Wat Phanan Choeng, our local Thai friends took us on yet another cultural tour – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, also known as Wat Lokkayasutharam. At this point it would be useful to note there are more than 2 Temples with Reclining/Sleeping Buddhas in Ayutthaya – one of which is indoors at Wat Pho, and 2 others are documented below.

In good faith, devotees typically purchase incense sticks for prayers, which came with flowers, candles, joss-sticks and 2x2cm flecks of gold paper for ‘dressing’ the Buddha. A huge test of devotion often involved patience for adhering the flimsy pieces of gold, bound to escape like seeds of the dandelion in the wind.

The first thing about ‘Sleeping Buddha’ at Wat Lokkayasutharam that amazed me was its absolute size, followed by the sense of peace upon seeing the gentle unassuming smile of the sacred giant. Putting aside fatigue of travel and accumulated stress, an aura of serenity took precedence as all else fell into the background. Away from the bustling city was this figure of faith on which many troubles were unloaded, to which hopes and dreams were articulated.

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Gold Flecks on the Reclining Buddha

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It suffices to say that the Kingdom was wealthy, to be in possession of enough to construct multiple such shrines in praise of its gods. IMG_6665

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Within the shrine more surprises were in store. Wishing wells, treacherous stairs, relics from another life. To make a wish at this particular wishing well, you have to conquer a tough flight of stairs.

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Wishing well for the weary – only by conquering a treacherous flight of stairs could you be deemed eligible to cast your wish

If one reclining Buddha wasn’t enough, we visited and prayed to yet another, this one albeit with a much brighter smile in my opinion! Don’t you feel instantly cheered up by this mega-watt beam? For a truly cultural experience this part of Ayutthaya is definitely not to be missed. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing the the local customs of praying and showing respects to local monks, as well as learning to different eacf part of the city from another by events that went down post Burmese-invasion. I don’t think there was any other way I could have learnt more from the trip.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[TAIPEI] oo4. FAST & FURIOUS

Sometime at the end of last year, I took a fast, furious and fulfilling trip to Taipei with Elizabeth, one of 2 people I’m so thankful to have met at Singapore Airlines, both of whom are no longer there but are always ‘there’ with me. Taipei is all about the night markets, shopping and foodie-hunts whilst making friends with new exciting people with so much to share! Hence Taipei always comes with an “OMG I NEED TO DIET” aftermath (which is never followed through).

It’s no secret – Taiwanese are very welcoming people. Step into any boutique, pharmacy or restaurant and you’re likely to be greeted loudly with choruses of “歡迎光臨!” (lit. Welcome) in bright chirpy tones. Even if you’re the last customer of the day, stepping into Watsons one minute before they’re scheduled to close for the day, you won’t be left to roam the aisles alone with nobody to guide you along. This is why I love Taiwan.

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We did so much on this trip, it’s not even funny. Today I’m just gonna tell you about food. There is this glorious buffet style steamboat place at Ximending – Tian Wai Tian Mala Hotpot – with a selection is sooooo vast and good I could feel my waistline expanding just thinking about it. Desserts are an endless selection of Häagen-Dazs ice-cream, completely all-you-can-eat.

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JUST LOOK AT THE SELECTION! You can take anything, as much as you want, buffet-style.Hotpot selection P1060637 Taiwanese Mala Hotpot Hotpot Ingredients  Taipei Icecream

And of course the ice-cream is for spamming.Ximending Taiwan Ximending Hotpot Taipei Haagen Dazs Taiwanese Hotpot Tian Wai Tian Hotpot Ximending Mala Hotpot Taipei Mala Hotpot Taipei Steamboat

The dizzying selection of soup bases will make you wanna try every single one of them. We tried the non-spicy ones which tasted not too bad.
I think the company was better than the food.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[PARIS] oo2.NOTRE DAME DE PARIS

“Paris is always a good idea.”
― Audrey Hepburn

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, which inspired Victor Hugo’s 1831 French Romantic/Gothic novel, stands resolute in the Parisian city center unscathed by ruining tides of time. The state of damnation of the Cathedral is the single most significant aspect of Hugo’s novel, influencing the ebb and flow of Notre-Dame de Paris’ main plot setting and focus of the story’s themes. For anyone who’s ever read the actual novel sans watching the Disney adaptation would understand that the original focus was not on the Quasimodo-Esmeralda-Phoebus love struggle but on the importance of reviving significant Gothic architecture that had served as silent witnesses of history.

The towering 13th Century architecture is regally flanked on both sides by the river La Seine. Blessed by good autumn weather, we had arrived at the Notre-Dame by taking a good long walk from Bastille whilst enjoying the amazing view of La Seine’s banks, cruising yachts, and river diners. Here are some shots I took with my Panasonic Lumix GF6! Please enjoy as much as I did the beauty of Paris’s very own Notre-Dame.

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With loads of love, from Paris!

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Inside the Cathedral: it is really dark and flash photography is (thankfully) not allowed. The stained-glass windows of Notre-Dame highlights Parisian heights of architecture and craftsmanship.

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The South Rose Window:

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Interesting to note: in the near vicinity lies the Crypte archéologique du Parvis de Notre-Dame which displays ancient, medieval as well as recent remains recovered under Notre Dame during preservation works! My colleague introduced me to an amazing documentary – Cities of the Underworld – that “peels away the layers of time-often literally hundreds of feet thick-to expose the incredible pasts lurking beneath some of the most populous cities on earth”. Paris is one of those cities with more than a couple of layers of intriguing histories buried in construction and time.

Notre Dame Cathedral
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Place Jean-Paul II
75004 Paris

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

SEOUL DIARIES 038: CAFE BELLA PRAHA

One truly amazing (albeit solitary) afternoon at Sinchon and Ewha Women’s University (Edae), I chanced upon Cafe Bella Praha, one of those down-to-earth coffee places tucked away in an alley off the beaten track like a well-hidden secret. Had my craving for ice-cold desserts satiated with a matcha green tea bingsoo topped with red bean paste, and was pleasantly surprised that the toppings thoughtfully came in a separate dish, so you could actually control how much to drown out your ice-matcha. Might I add, the matcha did not taste syrupy – it had that fragrant taste of fresh brewed matcha in an ice-cold bowl. You know how much I love matcha desserts? This one really exceeded my expectations!

Bella Praha only hires the best. The barista (or was he the boss?) was so soft-spoken, gentle and thoughtful. Seeing as I was alone, he personally took my order, at the table, and ensured I had a cup of water with sufficient napkins. Only in Seoul, baristas get my heart aflutter!

Well, expect only the best of coffees from Bella Praha. To the barista’s credit, I overheard his lengthy, patient explanation to an elderly couple on the difference between coffee beans from different regions of the world. To tip the scale, you get to choose the brewing method for your coffee: espresso, hand drip, cotton-flannel drip, syphon, or Dutch style. Plus, there’s no lack of pastry choices from the cafe’s hand-made selection. This place is so worth a second visit, just to feel like a princess in a sweet homely coffeehouse.

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벨라프라하
56-63 Daehyeon-dong Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
02-363-3559

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

SEOUL DIARIES 037: SHOPPING AND CAFE CULTURE ON EWHA WOMEN’S UNIVERSITY STREET

Sinchon and Ewha Women’s University (also known as Edae) is a district bursting with youthful vigour. You will love this place if, like me, you have a thing for affordable vintage labels, understated hairpieces, independently designed jewellery, and in general quirky finds. That aside, if you’re looking for loud colourful accessories, branded and no-label patent leather bags, or even rock-chick and gothic outfits, there’s also a healthy range of specialty stores catering to very unique requests and needs!

Street stalls and independent shops open for business as early as 9:30am, while students from neighbouring universities begin their daily pilgrimage to their campus. Snacks and all kinds of knick knacks are sold from cubicle sized push-carts, mostly to tourists and youngsters bypassing on their way to school. With no lack of mani-pedi boutiques, salons, beauty clinics and pampering studios, I could spend a leisurely week living in this area if I had the luxury of time. There’s just so much to do and see! Contrary to popular belief, Ewha is not strictly a women-only zone – more than a handful shops do cater to fashion and retail for men.

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The famous Gigantic Pink Shoe outside Top Ten @ Ewha: tourists scramble to take photos with this
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Singapore Toast is gaining some fame: this place was jam-packed!
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I liked the fact that big brands are slotted in with independent labels and designer couture – a refreshing mix of high end with retail stores that doesn’t burn a hole in the pockets of poor university students (I know that life).

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You know you’re in a hippie place when cutesy stores sell everything and anything – hairclips, incense burners, furniture, desk organizers, placemats, braded rugs, coffee mugs, bookends, laptop covers and passport holders. All done while maintaining its cutesy demeanour.

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Cafe culture in Korea generally thrives in university districts – Hongdae and Edae are very prominent examples of coffee paradise. Edae’s collection of indie coffee houses feeds throngs of students needing their daily caffeine fix. On this day I happened to chance across Caffe Zudy, a large scale Westernized coffee house with a couple of franchises across Seoul. My iced latte was more bitter than any coffees I’ve had in Korea, meaning they used a darker roast and also zero syrup in their drinks. Pure coffee and milk. I think my tired body enjoyed the shot of caffeine. I liked it.

Caffe Zudy Ewha University

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No lack of cafes in the area: see what I mean?

Caffe Zudy 카페쥬디 이대본점

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

SEOUL DIARIES 036: ROYAL MILKTEA ICE @ A TWOSOME PLACE 투썸플레이스

My kind of breakfast in Korea tends to swing towards unconventional. On this particular morning, I happened to be in a mood for an ice-cold treat. During the summer / fall season, Koreans love their patbingsu – shaved ice desserts with toppings such as chopped fruit and nuts, mint leaves, coffee or milk tea, condensed milk, fruit syrup, and red bean paste. A Twosome Place 투썸플레이스 offers the Royal Milk Tea Ice which is basically a mountain of ice in a fish-bowl, drenched in milk tea, condensed milk, and topped with cereal, granola bits, and a scoop of milk-tea ice cream. My fish-bowl sized happiness looks like this:

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To say I have a sweet-tooth is an understatement. I mean, who eats this for breakfast?! I spent my morning (before heading to work) with Jane Green’s old book (Bookends) and my icy companion.

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You’ve got to try this, everybody.

A TWOSOME PLACE | 투썸플레이스 @ D-CUBE CITY (SINDORIM)

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[MELBOURNE] oo6. 65. DEGREES CAFE

65 Degrees Cafe is a retail outlet for Gridlock Coffee specialty coffee roasters – masters of latte art and which offers a vast range of blends and single origin coffee beans. I wasn’t there for coffee, though, as I’ve only recently experienced some nasty side effects of caffeine overdose.

Winter in Melbourne has its way of chilling right to the bone, and a bowl of 65’s soup of the day with fresh baked bread and buttered toast warmed me right up. This place was actually recommended to me by an old Australian couple I spoke to on the flight to Melbourne, whose favourite pastime includes sipping cappucinos alfresco-style. I’m not entirely sure of what 65 is famous for. If you ask me, the interior’s not exactly pretty and the menu has nothing special at all. The spinach, potato and zucchini soup was great (a tad on the greasy side in my opinion), and its toast was crunchy with hints of asian spice. If you aren’t too particular, the food’s not too bad for a cosy sidewalk cafe in Melbourne’s busiest district. That aside, the cafe is run by a couple of Asian ladies with very ready smiles and quick nimble hands. Their hospitality was fantastic and I figured that is what makes 65 Degrees an incredible place.

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[MELBOURNE] oo5. THE LEAGUE OF HONEST COFFEE

Darned long walk in the cold but all’s good after a cuppa flat white from Melbourne’s very own The League of Honest Coffee. Waking up from a 3 hour nap straight off a flight from Singapore to Melbourne (during which there’s no rest at all), the caffeine hit was my fire-place in subzero winter. Australia has indeed amazing coffee brewers, as a Kiwi acquaintance once told me on a brief exchange of words onboard another flight. A warm mixed berries muffin later, I was convinced that League was way too underrated.

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Big enough for social gatherings, yet cosy and subtle in its choice of furnishing, League proved to be just as great a place for coffee runs, brunch or tea break, as well as collecting your personal thoughts if you ever should need a quiet space.

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We all know that orgasmic taste of moist, warm muffins…this one’s unbeatable! The mixed berries exploded on my tongue while the melt-in-your-mouth muffin dough was just the right level of softness. So. Good.

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Coffee is life, that’s all I’ve gotta say.

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The League of Honest Coffee
8 Exploration Ln
Melbourne VIC 3000

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[MELBOURNE] oo4. WINTER SNAPSHOTS

What’s great in Melbourne, besides taking photos with koala bears and trying not to get ass-kicked by kangaroos in their local zoos? . Just walk around the central business district and you’ll be surprised by all kinds of quirky finds. Hipster cafes, graffitied streets, an alley dedicated to pub-crawlers, giant chess pieces for challenging an opponent you’ve never met…the list goes on. Winter does not stop Melbourne from being still one of the best places to be.
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I have a confession to make: I’m into grocery shopping. Australia is my favourite place for stocking up big-time on coffee and cereals. Their supermarts boasts the craziest selection of bottled juices and smoothies (that effectively kills snacking urges, because it’s just too damn hard to say no to one of the world’s yummiest gummies (Starburst!) and chocolates (Haigh’s), both of which are classic buys when you’re in this part of the world. Unless of course, you’re a Special K Addict and your luggage is jam-packed with boxes of these stuff.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] INNER TRIMMINGS OF THE VATICAN CITY

Be amazed at what human beings have achieved. Some dedicate their lives to creating art – intricate gold and bronze details adorn every inch of the ceiling at the St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. How did they get there, you ask. How did the people of the past achieve incredible feats like these. Patience, loads and loads of personal devotion to their craft. In short, people lived and breathed their art.

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[ROME] THE VATICAN CITY

We arrived, early summer morning, at the smallest internationally recognised independent state in the world! Dan Brown aficionados would undoubtedly link Vatican City to Angels and Demons, in which our all-time favourite Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon fights to stop the Illuminati from destroying Vatican City with the newly discovered antimatter. I loved every sequel, but Angels and Demons is by far my favourite Langdon novel. I was extremely psyched about seeing the Vatican with my own eyes!

The exterior was breathtaking – the pristine white columns, striking obelisk, and hordes of tourists snapping photos at every single picture-worthy monument. Summer is the best time for touring Rome. Sharing some of them lovely shots I took outside of the Basilica. Enjoy!

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] IN ALL ITS RUINED BEAUTY

What everyone should love about Rome: its historic ruins and scatters of exquisite shambles. Much of this city appears discarded – as if picked apart by fickle historians and deemed unworthy of more than an afterthought. Centuries of time gone by lay preserved in these archived sites, untouched by restoration, that are as common in central Rome as trees are in Hyde Park. Charmed by relics as old as the gladiators, we stopped to appreciate a seemingly forgotten piece of land. Sometimes we forget how beautiful things are, if we just let them be.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] PIAZZA DEL POPOLO

Flanked by the Via Flaminia, Piazza del Popolo was an important entry point to Rome’s city centre for travellers entering the city via the Adriatic Coast. Today, the piazza still hums with a steady stream of travellers eager to check this off their travel itinerary. We took mandatory shots with Rome’s iconic obelisk which was initially erected to commemorate the conquest of Egypt, thereafter in 1815 the renowned Giuseppe Valadier redesigned by adding walls around the square, giving the piazza its current oval shape. The piazza’s church, Santa Maria del Popolo, located near the Porta del Popolo, contains many impressive works of art, including Rome’s oldest stained-glass windows and two famous paintings by Caravaggio.

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So much beauty and history in one place!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Tous Les Jours | 뚜레쥬르

A shot of caramel macchiato before heading off to Yeouido Park for a long long afternoon! Tous Les Jours is this French-Asian bakery in South Korea that’s wildly popular as breakfast-to-go for the young adults. Coffee on the go!! ^^ 20140324-011559.jpg

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The cakes are so pretty, I had to sneak a few shots!

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The photos from my long walk with nature at Yeouido is hogging all my laptop space. I’ll need a few days to sort out the amount of pictures taken on this trip. Help me out here! >< give me some time and I’ll update as soon as possible. Till then!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Cafe Organic | 카페오가닉

Junk and instant food is the bane of my existence and yet I’m a sucker for anything that’s quick, ready-to-eat and hence highly-preserved. In a bid to have something less artery-clogging for a change, I had been eyeing this beautiful cafe at its Hongdae location all afternoon. Cafe Organic is a double-storeyed healthy alternative to cafe-style waffles, honeyed bread and fresh-cream pancakes.

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Love these quotes ^^

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With its all-organic coffees and freshly-squeezed juices, its beverages range from 7000KRW to 13000KRW – slightly pricier than the other coffeehouses. The service was excellent though – as I’ve also noticed of most stand-alone cafes as opposed to chain-store coffeehouses.

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My fresh shrimp salad with orange dressing! A really yummy mix of tasty fresh greens and zesty tangerine. It was pretty filling considering the huge portion (but as usual I got hungry pretty quickly again afterwards).

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The salad costs 16000KRW – pretty affordable considering its portions. Would definitely LOVE to come back to try their almond nuts and chicken caesar salad (it was soldout that evening!)

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카페오가닉
마포구 서교동 339-1
339-1 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Tel: 02-332-4650

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Cafe Da Vinci Coffee | 다빈치 커피

Nestled in the artsy-fartsy district of Hongdae (my favourite place in Seoul) is Cafe Da Vinci Coffee, where works of the celebrated artist come alive within these four walls. In this area, there’s practically a coffee-house at every turn. Cafe Da Vinci’s intricate wall art and clear polystyrene sheltered patio caught my attention. The primacy of coffeehouses as a social space in South Korea has pushed cafes towards extreme creativity in a bid to create outstanding concepts. Da Vinci’s coffeehouse retains its customers by being a chainstore semi-giant that produces good coffee and a solid menu of honey breads, bagels, waffles, sandwiches and cakes.

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Just me and my latte on a cold late-winter Thursday afternoon ^^

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마포구 서교동345-17
Mapo-Gu Seogyo-Dong 345-17

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

Day Zero – Panopolis

For two weeks away from home, I’m not usually such a light packer, although this time round I did forgo many physical possessions and settled for my old trusty cabin-sized Polo trolley-bag. Currently chilling at Panopolis, a classy open-spaced cafe at my most-frequented place for the past year (Singapore Changi Airport). It’s quiet, spacious and not only do they make a fine iced caramel macchiato, their baristas are seriously kinda cute too 🙂 Rarely do I compliment any guys on their physical appearance (close to never, actually) but these baristas have got killer smiles.

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This deserves a spot here.It’s thy first selfie with my GF6.20140319-193709.jpg

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Loving the serenity at the airport’s departure hall. Not being here for work feels incredibly liberating. Usually I’m rushing through the terminal, my head filled with thoughts of getting my job done and sleeping in the hotel after landing. I forget this excitement that comes from the process of traveling. I hope I never lose this sense of wonder at touching down on a place that I’ve never been to before. Note to self: Treasure this opportunity, the here and now, and never throw away any chance to discover something new about myself and the world.

Day Zero: awaiting my flight to be allotted a slot to check-in my bags. Incheon, here I come!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean