Wanderlust: Australia

Exploring Carlton, Melbourne 👢

04:56

My first official day in Melbourne was super relaxing.

I didn't even go into the city - I just wandered around the suburb of Carlton, which is located directly above the CBD.

I wanted to go to Melbourne to sightsee, certainly. Yet, above all, I just wanted to relax. I am not too fond of the method of travel where you have to squeeze in EVERYTHING in a matter of a few hours or so - I like to linger and enjoy.

It is the allure of being able to do WHAT I want, WHENEVER I want, WHEREVER I want that makes me love solo travelling so much.

There is no need to consider other people's schedules, no need to consider what those people want to do, no need to wait for people to get ready, no need to compromise on what to do. Whatever I feel like doing that day... I just do it 😉 (terms and conditions, like not being obscenely rich, applies).

On 20th April 2017, my heart moved me to explore the suburb of Carlton, and so I did.



It's simple, and simply amazing, to get around Melbourne by foot. The sun was shining brightly that day (something I learned would quickly disappear by the very next day itself), I had Google Maps with me, and all I had to do was to walk towards my destination.

Even if I didn't feel like walking, I could always just wait for a tram - oh my gosh I LOVED ❤️ those trams - but Melbourne was a great place to get around on foot. There were wide pavements, the cutest dogs would randomly pass by with their owners, and cars will literally STOP for you to cross the smaller roads.

😊😊😊

Coming from a city where most roads don't have a clearly defined pavement, and cars are more prone to run into you than to STOP AND LET YOU CROSS, I really enjoyed this aspect of Melbourne. This is apparently how much I've walked on my first day in Melbourne.


That's about 10 times more than I walk in a day in Kuala Lumpur. 😶

First up in my itinerary was the Melbourne Museum.



This is not the Melbourne Museum.

This is part of the Royal Exhibition Building, which is directly opposite the Melbourne Museum.

Now *I* didn't know that, because this looked more like a museum than the Melbourne Museum (which was more futuristic with ceiling-to-floor glass). I know now that I am a museum-ist, and I expect them to look a certain way.

Anyway.

I spent 5 minutes wondering why a huge bunch of middle-aged women kept going into the "Melbourne Museum", and walked closer to realise there was a Quilt Convention going on inside this building. 😂

If only I could have stayed for a month instead of just the one week, because a Dog Lovers Show took place in this building on the 5th of May.

I did, however, see a couple in running gear, and each had one large malamute on a leash as they all leisurely walked around the museum grounds.

Hello #couplegoals. 😍

Eventually I found my way into the Melbourne Museum, and walked around for two hours getting educated, before walking out and promptly forgetting everything I was educated about.

I am a disgrace to my primary and secondary Science teachers. Not that they really cared about me, so I guess it's even.

In the Museum, there was the usual array of exhibitions about dinosaurs, animals, the geography and history of Victoria, and the like. I purposely avoided the bugs exhibition (nope nope nope), but plucked up the courage to go to the "The Human Body" exhibition.

One note of warning: don't simply press any button in this exhibition.

Otherwise, you may suddenly see a lighted-up, extremely graphic illustration of the human stomach from the inside. Ever want to know how your bowels, intestines, and gut look like in lighted-up glory, all pink and slimy? This is the place to go.

Another thing that made my stomach churn (hur hur) was the little snippet of information I read about how all the human body exhibits on display were taken from ACTUAL humans, and preserved for authenticity purposes.

Okay.

I'm just really glad the whole display on how food looks like in each stage didn't involve actual poop (which is the final stage, as I assume you know).

After such an exciting and educating session about the human body and how we literally turn food into poop in a matter of hours, I finally walked out of the museum...

... to go to Tank Fish and Chips along Lygon Street in Carlton.

Nope, the exhibition didn't put me off completely.


*sighs with happiness*

I ordered the "Old School Fish and Chips", and chewed slowly, savouring each bite. I scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest while enjoying the fresh fish, and looking up at intervals to see the lunch crowd come in and out.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what simple happiness is like. 🌞

Afterwards, I went back to the Melbourne Museum again, this time for *drumrolls* Lego!

*cues Everything is Awesome*



Now that that's stuck in your head, let me tell you what's not so awesome.

I paid AUD20 (RM70!!!) to see Lego buildings. Sure, they're wonders of the world, like this...



I'm duly amazed that people had the time to make Lego sculptures based on real-world architecture, famous paintings and objects, and events but also...

RM70... for a Lego exhibition.

Yes yes, I know you're not supposed to convert money back to your home currency when you're travelling, but I seriously cannot recommend parting with RM70 for this. It's cool and all, but maybe it'll be even cooler if I earned AUD60,000 a year instead of the amount I do now (not AUD60,000, clearly).



Someone also made a Lego sculpture out of the Tokyo subway system, because why ever the heck not, right?

(I will still stick to my Google Maps in Tokyo when I'm there - all hail GPS!)

After the Lego exhibition in which I took lots of Instagram stories and pictures to make it worth the RM70 price tag, I started meandering around the neighbourhood.

I meandered over to hipster Fitzroy, and somehow found myself here.


The gorgeous St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The surroundings was surprisingly more quiet than I expected. I really liked its Gothic exterior (and interior), and the part I liked most was the cathedral's small pockets of gardens, like this one.


"If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a beast?"

I sat out in the gardens for far longer than I did inside the cathedral itself, impressive as it was. It felt less impressive to see the Chinese tourists take pictures inside, especially with Jesus on the cross in their pictures, but you do you, Chinese tourists.

My favourite part of St. Patrick's Cathedral's interior was the stained glass.


Impressive. It also gave me a slight neck crick, as I stood below staring up at it for quite sometime.

It felt more serene outside the building. I sat on a bench near where a steady stream of water kept flowing, and watched birds flap around in that shallow stream.

HELLO PEACE AND QUIET. 

I fell even more in love ❤️ with Melbourne at that point, for the ability to just sit outside in a quiet garden for half an hour or so, and watch the sky turn from a baby blue to a slightly darker one that is streaked with the rays of the setting sun.

I love autumn.

Once again, I walked all the way back to Carlton again (I definitely burned all the calories from that fish and chips), this time for...


Black Star Pastry Melbourne!

When I was still relatively active on Dayre (hello if you're reading this and you're from Dayre!), I kept seeing all the Australia-based Dayreans rave about Black Star Pastry in Newtown, Sydney.

The strawberry and watermelon cake was THE BOMB, they said. They loved going back to Black Star Pastry to have pastry, they said. It's a must-have, they said.

Then I went on Time Out Melbourne, and saw that Black Star Pastry opened a branch in Melbourne. Specifically, they opened a branch in CARLTON, where I was staying.

Okay then, universe.

I TOOK YOUR SIGN... and it was delicious.

I actually wanted to have more, but at AUD8.50 a slice, I regretfully bade Black Star Pastry and left.

Is it a must-have?

Well, if you're looking for some quiet time, good cake, AND a nice courtyard to sit in, Black Star Pastry Melbourne's not bad.

To cap off my day, I wandered to Woolworths and bought dinner and snacks.

"Ah, I missed this." I thought to myself as I went from aisle to aisle. If you told me ten years ago that I'd miss a grocery store chain, I'd have laughed. Now I'm even missing convenience store food, it's amazing what a decade can do to you.

I'll be back soon, my Japan Family Mart fried chicken!!!

Was my first designated day of leisure indeed leisurely?

Yes, yes it was.

Thank you, Carlton. It was much needed. 🍰  Thank you for restoring a sense of calm and normalcy to me after months of work with no leave.

Wanderlust: Australia

Hello Melbourne (Finally)!

12:34

Back when I was a student in Australia, from time to time people would ask me:

"Hey, you're in Australia! Why haven't you visited South Australia/ Victoria/ Queensland/ *insert Australian state or city here*?"

To which I have to reply:

"I. Am. A. Broke. International. University. Student." 😢

I would definitely have LOVED to travel around Australia, but I could barely make it down south to Pemberton in Western Australia. My monthly expenses came up to an average of AUD1,000 - AUD1,200, and THAT, includes rent.

I was on penny-pinching mode, and travel is not conducive to such modes.

Fast-forward some years later, I finally made it to one of the Australian cities I've always wanted to visit, but never had the chance to - Melbourne. 👩🏼‍✈️

To be honest, what convinced me to go to Melbourne was because my Perth friends who recently moved to Melbourne invited me to STAY with them if I was ever in Melbourne. The prospect of FREE ACCOMMODATION lured me more than my own desire to visit Melbourne.

Yep. When you're from a country where the currency is SUPER WEAK (with AUD1 equivalent to MYR3.45 when I exchanged money for this trip) globally, FREE ACCOMMODATION is a God-sent gift when it comes to travelling.

Thank you, friends. Thanks to them, from 19th April 2017 to 26th April 2017, I experienced what it was like to stay in Melbourne for a little bit... AND I LOVED EVERY MOMENT OF IT. ❤️

I love that Melbourne is secular, and also allows people to profess their faith (without forcing anyone else into it). I love that it's well-structured and easy to get from Point A to Point B in the city without having to drive. I love that it's considerably laidback, and people still care enough to dress up well and be considerate to each other. I love that people are friendly AND not intrusive.

I've felt all these and more in the short time I was in Melbourne, and I can finally see why it's The World's Most Liveable City since 2011 (according to the Economist Intelligence Unit).


I also love Australian fish and chips, since British fish and chips are a bit unaffordable for me at this time. 

8D7N Melbourne Trip Budget 💸

I planned to spend a maximum of RM6,500 (AUD2,000~) for eight days and seven nights in Melbourne (with FREE ACCOMMODATION).

In the end, I spent around RM6,000.00, and was under budget.

WOOHOO.

In fact, I would have spent less if it wasn't for the souvenirs I had to tote home for The Important People (aka parents, other relatives who have given me money over the years, work colleagues, and closest friends), all of which cost me around 10% of my total expenditure.

I was happy enough to do this for a trip from Australia, since "shopping for myself" wasn't high on my list. In fact, I bought nothing for myself except an Aladdin musical programme, as that was one of the points of my trip.


I consider the musical money well-spent.

Here's my total Melbourne expenditure, as below -

Flight Tickets: RM1,605.00
Musical Ticket (Aladdin): RM729.00
Musical Ticket (Book of Mormon): RM569.00
AUD750 (exchanged at a rate of RM3.45 to AUD1): RM2,587.50
Rental Pocket Wifi: RM225.00
Transportation to/ from KLIA: RM130.00
Transportation to Southern Cross Station from Melbourne Airport (and vice-versa): RM120.00 (Thank you SkyBus :3)

Total: RM5,965.50

This is not meant to be a guideline on how you can save money while travelling to Melbourne from Kuala Lumpur, by the way.

I'm sure there are other far more qualified travellers who will be able to tell you how to get the CHEAPEST flights, the CHEAPEST seats in the musicals (or not go to a musical at all), the CHEAPEST food, how to survive on FREE wifi, and think of all the money you can save by walking along the Great Ocean Road instead of going on a tour (joking).

As much as I try to save money in certain ways, there are definitely things I would splash out for, like the 7th row of a Broadway musical. I like to see every facial change up close as the show commences, and feel like I'm in the middle of it all.

I'm also fortunate that my friends in Melbourne insisted on treating me to several meals, so I saved a few more dollars that way. ;_;

Before this trip, I asked myself what were the important "must-dos" that I had in Melbourne. I came up with 3 answers -

1) Musicals,
2) Leisurely Sightseeing, and
3) Food.

I am of the opinion that for some experiences, it's better to get the best seats money can buy, or not have that experience at all. To me, musicals are part of that (it's also why I don't go to no-seating concerts - pay over RM1,000 to stand and have people's sweat on me? No thanks) . When I saw that Book of Mormon and Aladdin would cost me RM569.00 and RM729.00 respectively for premier seats... I winced a bit, and went ahead to get those tickets anyway.

I adore musicals, especially Broadway productions, and they don't come to Malaysia often. In Melbourne, where musicals rotate often in their theatres, I JUST had to go to the ones that would be playing when I was there.

A+ decision, if I do say so myself. Book of Mormon was hilariously tongue-in-cheek, and Aladdin was colourful and fun... but I'll save the gushing for another day.

My First Few Hours in Melbourne

When I flew on AirAsia to Melbourne, I spent the 8 hours or so watching Scarlet Heart on my tablet. There I was, happily sitting in the Quiet Zone, listening to the audio via my earphones, when I noticed... something.

Someone else was playing a video in the seat across the aisle, and THAT someone didn't see the need for earphones.

Yes, in a zone of the plane designated as QUIET, someone decided playing videos on LOUD was also an act allowable in the QUIET ZONE.

I wonder why people wonder why I don't like people in general. I didn't pay the extra money to hear snippets of your video. 😤

I got to Melbourne Airport, and I was already internally bracing myself for how the airport staff would treat me. Do I look like a suspicious person to you, dear reader?



Maybe I do. 

Apparently, young foreign Asian women are totally suspicious in Australia. Every Australian airport I've been in (which is a grand total of two, Sydney and Perth), I've had airport staff stop me after Immigration to ask me a bunch of questions, ranging from what I'm doing in Australia, where I'm staying, who are the friends I'm meeting in Australia, what do I do for a living, blah blah blah.

When I was a student in Perth, I had THREE of them stop me along the same corridor, one right after the other, asking the same questions... and "friendly" is not an adjective I'd use to describe them.

My inner self then was snapping fingers left and right and being like: "EXCUSE ME, I AM SPENDING A LOT OF MONEY AND PAYING THREE TIMES MORE THAN WHAT YOUR STUDENTS DO FOR A TERTIARY COURSE, AT LEAST STOP TREATING ME LIKE A CRIMINAL."

So far, the only airport I ever feel like voluntarily spending time in is Kansai International Airport. The Japanese may be firm, but at least they still look at me like I'm *human*.

But I digress.

I was totally - TOTALLY - prepared to get the same kind of treatment in Melbourne Airport when I arrived. Go through Immigration, get grilled by a string of officers, have Customs make me describe what's in my bag, take two hours just to get out, the usual.

What actually happened: 

I got through Immigration, and five seconds later a woman stopped me to talk to me. In my head I went: "oh here we go again". I answered her questions pleasantly enough (she was nice enough, but I couldn't help but notice her smiles/ laughs didn't reach her eyes), left after five minutes, got my luggage, and then...

I got out.

LESS THAN AN HOUR AFTER I LEFT THE PLANE, I WAS OUT OF THE AIRPORT.

Was I in a state of shock?

Um, YES.

"Wait, NO ONE WANTED TO CHECK MY LUGGAGE?"
"I was just waved through?"
"They smiled at me?!?!"
"What is the Melbourne equivalent of a lottery?"

May all my experiences at Australian airports be like this from now on. Ohm.

I'd like to think that that set the tone for my Melbourne trip. Things I thought might inconvenience me went perfectly well in the end.

Apart from that, my first few hours in Melbourne weren't exactly memorable. Five hours after I stepped off the plane, I lost consciousness and drifted into sleep, preparing for my first official day in Melbourne... which will be another blog post.  Here are some pictorial snippets of my journey Down Under in Victoria:







In the span of six full days, I covered two musicals, some of the suburbs, the city itself, the Great Ocean Road 🌊, Phillip Island, and some excellent food.

Hello Melbourne (Victoria), indeed. I miss you already. 😘



MichHappenings

The 5 Stages of Lunar New Year Celebrations in Malaysia

22:58

The first 15 days of the Lunar New Year, the year of the Rooster, has come and gone in the past 15 days.

Phew. 

As a young adult from a large extended family, the Lunar New Year celebrations is both a joyful and scary process at the same time.

It's a celebration and holiday that I do enjoy for various reasons. Yet, over the years, the Lunar New Year is also something that provokes this pondering: "can I just pack my bags and go on an extended trip overseas for some rest and relaxation?"

Often, I find myself needing a break from the Lunar New Year celebrations that usually goes on for 4 - 7 days with different segments of my family, before the celebrating peters out slowly until the 15th day.

I know this sounds like fun, but you know what does fun require?

Work.

Lots and lots of work. Basically, the older you get, the more you work for the Lunar New Year.

These are the 5 stages I go through pre, during, and after the Lunar New Year celebrations each year.


Stage 1: The D/T/F Stage


Yes. You know, the Dread/ Terror/ Fear stage that starts at least a month before the Lunar New Year. Apart from the usual household frenzy (and subsequent nagging, if you live with your parents or in-laws), there is also dreading the questions and statements you will get during the Lunar New Year.

Every thing that you have done within the past year will be up for discussion as well-meaning relatives question you about what you've been up to.

This is enough to fill me, a person who does not like the spotlight, with dread, terror, and fear.

No topic is off-limits, starting from statements on your appearance, to questions about your career, to observations about your love life and family plans ("when are you bringing a boyfriend home?", "when are you getting married?", "when are you having a kid"? etc).

God bless the soul that gained visible weight in the past year.

God bless me. 

This year, in preparation for comments I knew were forthcoming about my weight, I set about buying new clothes that were loose tops, and also bought dark tights to wear despite THIS being Malaysia, a tropical country.


"Oh no. It's not hot at all." 

I wore my new autumn-suited tops on a daily basis during the Lunar New Year, even when there was no air-conditioning available.

I would much rather perspire underneath my clothes than to hear "you gained weight!".

Yes, thank you. I noticed, myself.

Stage 2: The Overeat Stage

During the first week of the Lunar New Year, it is inevitable that I gain even more weight anyway, thus necessitating the need for loose tops.

Each day is filled with food, food, and more food.

Apart from the snacks that pop up (I've tried my best to avoid them this year), like prawn crackers and arrowroot chips, there's also the endless breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that I have to attend.

On average in real life, I eat two meals a day, a big one for breakfast, and a small one for dinner.

During the Lunar New Year, this average gets thrown out of whack. People often tell me that I "eat so little!". These are also usually the very same people that tell me that I've gained weight.

Gee, I wonder why I eat so little.

That being said, I've always been on the "stop eating when I feel moderately full" team (SO WHY DID I GAIN WEIGHT IN THE PAST YEAR?). I fully believe that mankind isn't made to eat 8-course heavy meals on a daily basis.

Still, I make like I am a competitive eater during the Lunar New Year, because

a) I have to "give face" to the host/ person who is treating, and
b) I hate food wastage.



It is both a blessing and a curse that I have to keep reassuring the elders in the family that I am not starving myself, and that I have to stop them from ordering/ cooking more because I LITERALLY CANNOT EAT ANYMORE, unless I want to puke.

With dim sum breakfasts, rice lunches accompanied by 5 dishes, and 10-course dinners for almost a week, I returned to my regular simple meals with pleasure after the main celebrations were done.

I love Eating, but I am not much for Mindless Eating, when the taste is not as appreciated because I am physically incapable of having more food without feeling like I will throw up.

Stage 3: The "I Am So Over It" Stage

Family's great.

Usually, it's great from afar.

2 - 3 hours in each other's presence? No problem.

A few days of having to see different members every few hours, without having time to yourself for long stretches of time? Not so great.

There were many moments this Lunar New Year when I daydreamed that I could be in bed, reading a book, listening to music, putting on a facial sheet mask, and sipping tea in silence.

It didn't happen until the 8th day of the Lunar New Year, when it was a Saturday and I had no plans for the evening.


It was blissful.

Perhaps this "I am so over the Lunar New Year celebrations" mindset is a problem unique to introverts? Being in most people's presence drains me of energy, and there was no place for me to rest in the manner and method I wanted to.

It was all, take out plates to serve, make sure everyone's seated, watch the kids, wash the dishes, etc, etc. Even my nights did not feel restful enough.

It's no wonder, then, that I always go through Stage 4 every year, without fail.

 Stage 4: The "I Feel Sick" Stage 


Even as I type this, I'm nursing a running nose that has been plaguing me since ten days ago.

I also felt the beginnings of a sore throat, but LUCKILY it did not develop further into a cough, the way it had in past years.

The human body, or at least, my body, is not designed to do nothing but eat and socialise all day.

Mine is designed to eat (moderately) and sleep (in a room of my own) all day.



Oh, and also reading in silence, of course. I am currently reading the second book in this series, "The Invasion of the Tearling". It's addictive.

My body has once again readjusted to my usual lifestyle, except for my nose that just refuses to stop sniffling. Many a tissue has  been sacrificed for my nose in the past 10 days.

Finally, as the Lunar New Year reaches its ending, I get to enjoy Stage 5.

Stage 5: The "Moneyed"* Stage

*Only applicable to unmarried individuals, while married individuals are probably out-moneyed.

One of the good things about the Lunar New Year is having other people feed me with food that is of a higher "class" than the food I usually feed myself.

It's not that they are more delicious (I happen to think simple dishes are super delicious), but it's that the food I get to have is more expensive than my usual fare.

Take, for example, this dish of glorious cheese-baked prawns.


This is definitely only something I get to see during festivities, and would rarely order if I was paying.

The other good thing is that people literally give me money in red packets, alternatively known as "ang pao".


The idea of "ang pao" is that once you're considered an adult (in Malaysia, it's when you're married), you have to start handing out these red packets during the Lunar New Year as blessings for the next generation as they become adults themselves.

Yes, the book "Adulthood is a Myth" is purposely placed in the photo.

Apparently the only way to be considered eligible to hand out these red packets is when you're bona fide married, or have a child.

Essentially, I suppose, it's a form of saying that you can be truly considered an adult only when you are married.

Ha.

These red packet blessings make my life a little bit easier each year, as they help pay off bills like insurance and the Internet.

Apart from my travelling, this is one of those rare times where I get to treat myself a little better, instead of having to constantly penny-pinch to achieve my dreams of travelling more /owning my own home.

I guess you can say that I feel slightly more moneyed at the moment.

This is a brief moment, of course, but I definitely enjoy these blessings from my elders before I use them all up. ;)

I will miss this stage when I am considered an adult by Lunar New Year standards, if that is to happen (hur). The love of my husband better be worth missing this stage...

*

As the firecrackers stop, as family members return to the places where they live and work, and as life goes back to its normal routine (before the next big occasion), I heave a sigh of relief as the Year of the Rooster begins in earnest.

Like dishes, a life lived simply each day is a form of joy that I take much pleasure in too.

Whatever the Year of the Rooster may bring, I  hope that it's always filled with good health, safe journeys, and that each day brings me a step closer to having my dreams fulfilled.

MichMusings

6 Ways to Save Money When You're a Malaysian Young Adult

22:06

Sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle against the ringgit (Malaysian currency) when it comes to fulfilling my dreams of travelling overseas for at least 15 days each year.

Wanting to rest, relax, and take in the sights of another country in 15 out of 356 days isn't such a big deal, right?

Right?

While my salary has gone up in the past few years since I started working (thank you Universe), the ringgit has also taken quite the beating. This is how the ringgit currently stacks up against 5 other countries.



*deep sigh*

The worsening ringgit is good for Malaysian tourism, but it's not so good for my preferred kind of travelling. While my username may say michxwanderlust, it's only because michxfirstworldcountries isn't as easy to type.

So, what do first world countries have in common? Well, mainly currency that is much stronger than the Malaysian ringgit.

Some say the solution to this is to prefer travelling in countries that are much more affordable, for example, such as my own country, Malaysia, or the surrounding South-East Asian countries (apart from Singapore, because if I'm going to go to Singapore, I might as well pay a bit more to go to Australia instead).


Others say this is a millennial whining and why, back in the day, they didn't even get to travel to the next state in Malaysia at my age, and so on.

Me, I say that I am determined to overcome this ringgit problem to STILL be able to afford to travel to countries like Japan, and so this year I've come up with EVEN more ways to save money than I used to before.

Here are 6 of those ways, and may you, dear reader, find this useful.

1. Consume Less (Outside) Food and Non-Water Drinks



Apart from Writing, Reading, Sleeping, and Travelling, Eating is one of my Five Greatest Loves.

Yet out of all the five, food is the one that takes the least importance, if I have to budget my time and money that way.

Since 2017 began, my weekday meals have been, in the middle-class sense, quite sad. I'm not starving or anything, but I have been eating the same weekday late tea meal for almost three weeks now.

You see, I decided to invest in a sandwich press last month. I've been making full use of that sandwich press almost every weekday now, to make myself a late tea/ dinner meal.

I've basically cut down my food expenses to less than RM10.00 per week (sometimes I am weak and crave snacks ahem) on average thanks to the sandwich press, so yes, it's done its part in helping me save money.

Of course, this means I'm having a sandwich for dinner from Monday to Friday with no changes, but beggars can't be choosers.

I'll just munch on my sandwich and pretend it's this, or some other similar coping mechanism.


T_____________T

This whole having a sandwich for dinner on weekdays makes me really look forward to the weekends. Even if I'm just cooking at home to save money (and to be healthy!), at least it's something different to a sandwich for dinner, two evenings a week.

It is lucky I like sandwiches, and do not mind eating them daily (if a bit wistfully while thinking of other food products).

Then there is my preferred beverage of choice, which is usually water, or tea. Lucky I like these two too. Water is the best. Ain't nobody got too much extra cash (or metabolism) to spend on soda, alcohol, milkshakes, and the like right now, because THE GOAL IS TO TRAVEL!!!

Alternatively I suppose you can still have nice food if you have someone who is willing to pay for you, but apart from being a money-saving measure, this money-saving tip number one is also a weight-maintaining measure.

Win-win for me, I guess...?


2. Get Experiences, Not Things 

This tip was also mentioned in my resolutions I made for this year, but it's being repeated here now in a money-saving sense.

Naturally, I think, some experiences are way more expensive than the things you buy. A trip to a good hair salon can set you back by a good RM300 - RM500. You could get three quality outfits out of that!

In the money-saving sense, however, I am referring to experiences that are free, or at least cheap-ish.

Yes, people, there are experiences to be had for free! It's what all those "free things to do in *insert city here*" guides are for, after all.

In my personal life, the kind of experiences I give myself on the weekends doesn't usually involve going out. Instead, I tend to stay at home to stream dramas, read books, clean, exercise, listen to Spotify, play games, blog, write, and so on.



And you know what? I love my weekends indoors, and don't think I'm depriving myself of anything this way just to be able to travel to the countries I want to travel to. Perhaps this is related to tip three?

3. Be an Introvert

If I have to force myself to be extroverted in order to move up the social/ career ladder, people can definitely learn to be more introverted for the sake of their wallets.

I have had people asking me if I ever get bored not having anything to do on Friday nights, because my answers to the "what are you doing on Friday night?" question are usually around the same theme.

"I AM GOING HOME TO SLEEP." 


I say this with as much excitement as someone saying "I'm going out on a date!" or "I'm going to go clubbing with my friends!".


This^ over clubs any day for me... and I don't have to pay a cover charge, pay for drinks, or pay for the Uber to take me home when I'm too tipsy to drive.

Money-saving win? Money-saving win.

I honestly don't get people who say they get "soooooooooooooo bored" just staying at home. I love staying at home. I pay rent, I SHOULD utilise that rent as much as I can in person.

4. Have Less "Friends"

It seems like my tips to saving money means being an asocial, misanthropic, and homebound nerd, also an alternative title for my blog name. Being all those things can certainly be kind to your wallet (unless you order a lot of things online for the things you nerd out for, then good luck to you), but I don't mean that you should purge ALL your friends.

I don't have a lot of friends. 

I say this not with sadness, but as a statement.

No, the friends I choose to keep company with ARE ~friends~, the kind that I already know would be willing to support my dreams, are not judgmental of my lifestyle behaviour or choices (but will totally offer much-needed advice without beating around the bush), and would be willing to text me past their bedtime if I really need them to.

Bedtime is really important, so I appreciate those who do.


Most of all, have the kind of friends who do not judge you for not going out to meet them every week (once a month are how often my friends and I actually meet each other), who do not judge you for being "poor", who do not laugh at your phone that is now three years old, who do not ask you why you always wear the same clothes, and who understand that you are saving money for something that is important to you.

These... are friends.

5. Use Electronic Devices for as Long as You Can 


I feel like some people cannot see that constantly upgrading their electronic devices will take a major toll on their wallet. Maybe they're just so financially fabulous that they don't have to worry about changing their phones/ laptops/ cameras every year or so, but... the people I know who like to upgrade every year or so aren't actually that financially fabulous.

My current phone is 3 years old, the laptop I am typing this on is 7 years old, and my camera is also 3 years old.

I have no intention of changing my phone, no matter how fast the battery drains. My home laptop is extremely slow, but also useable. My camera still works; it may not take the best pictures compared to, say, the Sony A7, but it serves its purpose.

I mean, I won the camera in a lucky draw, so no complaints there.

Of course, if you must have the best equipment due to work purposes, this is unavoidable. However, for the average person, there is really no need to upgrade your phone. Even if you decide to join one of those annual upgrade programs to get a new phone every year, you're still paying more to get a mildly better version of a device that was working perfectly in the first place.

I'm quite fond of my iPhone 5s, and will probably use it until it is complete obsolete. One of my friends used an iPhone 3Gs for almost 6 years - I guess we're the sort to be attached to our devices once we get them.

This, as you can tell, has been doing wonders in terms of saving money, and I intend to continue. To me, travelling triumphs over acquiring new electronic devices anytime, but if it's the opposite for you, feel free to continue (and cut back on travelling instead).

6. Before You Buy Anything, Ask Yourself: "Will I Use This a Year (*insert other appropriate time amount*) From Now?"



Nowadays, I try to maximise value out of the products I buy. Let's take makeup as an example. For makeup, I just wear the same brands over and over again, making sure I buy the ones that I know I will use constantly.

As a result, I guess I am not adventurous in terms of makeup at all, but hey, I don't have to be adventurous. I'm not a beauty blogger or writer.

In the past year or two, every time I've been attracted to buy something,  I've tried asking myself if the product will see continued usage for a long amount of time. I'm happy to report that what I bought is still being used, whether it's bags, accessories, clothes, and whatnot.

This style of asking myself several times if I really do ~need~ something has probably helped me survived through the brief four months of unemployment I went through last year. I was forced to use whatever was left of my savings to pay for bills, and luckily, I did not have to ask anyone to lend me cash for my commitments.

It is also the uncertain economic times that necessitates this sort of behaviour in young adults earning the ringgit. For someone who magically lost a job last year just because the company decided it did not need a writer anymore, it has only pointed out to me the necessity of being more prudent in my spending, and to prioritise exactly what I want to spend most on.

This year, I have decided travelling is my first priority out of my Five Greatest Loves, tying with Writing at first spot (since it is Writing that gets me an income). I can buy less books, sleep less in order to write more, and even starve myself to save on money, if it means that I can travel to the places I want to go to.


I guess there'll be no more Kobe beef-like meals purchased by myself for a while...

I don't recommend totally depriving yourself in your day-to-day life just to save money(I certainly don't), but if you have something to save up for, these 6 tips may come in handy, just as practicing them have been useful for me.

Here's to being able to travel overseas safely and securely (physically, financially, and otherwise) in the countries I want to go to for at least 15 days this year.

x
Mich

MichMusings

7 Resolutions for 2017

20:17

It's been 7 days since 2017 started.


To be honest, I've gotten over the whole concept of "new year, new me" a long time ago. In fact, attitude-wise, I'm more of a "different year, same crap" kind of person, which is also why I don't feel an urge to go out and celebrate New Year's Eve.

I do, however, like the concept of resolutions for myself. Reflecting and making new resolves are two things I do all the time, but the urge to do so get stronger around December and January. 

New Year's resolutions are a calendar-easy way to keep track of your resolutions... as long as you ARE keeping track. Here's my first blog post of 2017 to keep track of those resolutions, and may I not wince when I read this again on 31st December 2017.

7. Buy More Experiences, Spend Less on (Material) Things

In my early 20s, I adored shopping on blogshops. I was ALSO cheated of money on blogshops, but when I found the trustworthy ones, I was a loyal customer, and easily spent RM150 a month on average in these shops - shoes, clothes, accessories, bags, the whole shebang.

Then one day, I stopped.

I unfollowed all the blogshops on Instagram, got rid of them from my tabs, and occasionally visited their websites without buying.

What happened? 

Well, I had to pay more bills, for one thing. It turns out that in the grand scheme of things, data plans, Internet, running water, and the like are more important to me than accumulating my favourite non-essential fashion items.

Also, the Malaysian currency grew weaker every year #thanksNajib, and my desire to be able to travel to countries where the currency was much stronger than the Malaysian one outgrew my retail therapy needs.

I found myself throwing out a huge amount of stuff I accumulated during my annual spring-cleaning... and consciously or subconsciously, I decided that spending on experiences was much more worth it than accumulating things I either used only once or twice, OR had to spend my time moving about to make room for more things.



When I talk about experiences, I mean experiences where you may not necessarily get a material thing out of it, but you feel satisfied or enlightened afterwards anyway.

Trips to aquariums. Pampering yourself at hair/ nail salons. Sitting in a park and breathing in fresh air. Visiting dog/ cat cafes. Cooking/ language/ calligraphy lessons (well, okay, arguably you'll have something material to bring back from cooking/ calligraphy lessons). Having photoshoots with friends.

These are the experiences I want more of, which I will look back fondly on and remember, instead of things that I've purchased and then forget about soon after.

6. Blog More Posts 



I've been blogging sporadically on Dayre last year, but this year, I hope to write more on this platform, where it's easier to upload and keep images, as well as to type out longer stories, and to ruminate over most topics.

5. Travel (to) More Places



My preferred username on the Internet is a pretty good indicator of why I hope this is so. Last year, due to a year of not working full-time in 2015, I only went to Singapore for a weekend as part of my travel plans. I hope to travel and see more different sights in 2017, and from now onwards. Wait for me, my travels!

4. Read More Books


In 2016, I read a surprisingly low amount of books, and gave up on more books halfway than I dare to count. T_T

That did not stop me from buying more books, though... and now my TBR pile is overwhelming to me (at 30+ or so).

It's not that I stopped liking to read - I still do. Yet I always seem to find something else to do, than to sit down and quietly read, even though I know I love the art of reading (I read Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones in one sitting last year, for example ^).

I must fix this strange habit of "buying books but not reading them" that appeared in 2016.

This year, I will read 50 books, at least!

3. Write More Fiction



For someone who wants to be a published novelist, I also did too little writing for my personal projects, having given all my writing juices to my full-time job instead.

This year, I WILL squeeze out more writing juices for my personal projects, and come up with passages that will thrill readers, just as the above made me happy.

Someday, I will sign my own copies of my published novels for my readers too, as Sarah Maas has signed hers for me last year. Hopefully in a few years' time?


For now, I will just stick to the small goal of actually writing 500 words a day for my stories. This, I hope, is an achievable goal.

2. Stay Healthy and Safe All Year Long



In 2017, just as I have every other year before this, I hope I remember that my good health is paramount to everything else I want to have.

Therefore, I hope I remember to exercise, to eat good healthy food, to make sure that it's not just my physical health that is important but also my mental health, and that I remember to take time for myself every day and just... rest and relax in peace.

I also wish for good health for everyone I know, so that they may healthily chase the dreams they have.

1. Decide to Rise



I was looking for a new phone wallpaper on Line Deco, when this caught my eye. I downloaded the image, and it is now my phone's wallpaper.

These three little words spoke to me, and I decided that it would be my motto for 2017.

2016 has been a whirlwind year for quite a few things, including my career, certain friendships, and my bank account.

I have been despondent over certain issues that happened in 2016, but I tried to pick myself up after I was done feeling sorry for myself.

Somehow, I must have succeeded, because I'm quite satisfied with where I am now - though I will not remain so if I remain stagnant like this throughout the year. There are many things to be improved on still.

Therefore, this year, I hope that I am up to the task of fulfilling all the resolutions I wrote out today, including this one. I hope I greet 2018 knowing that I rose up to the challenges and goals I set for myself throughout 2017.

May you, reader, also rise up to the challenges that 2017 will have, that negative people don't get a rise out of you, and that you will rise up in the world.

Happy New Year.

Bring it.

x
Mich

Wanderlust: Singapore

Van Cleef & Arpels Exhibition, ArtScience Museum

16:09

Perhaps, instead of calling it a birthday trip to Singapore, I should really call it a birthday trip to Marina Bay Sands.

For most of the four days I spent in Singapore this year, I was in the Marina Bay Sands area. I visited yet another attraction at Marina Bay Sands on my last day in Singapore before flying back home - the ArtScience Museum.

I waited at the doors of the museum by myself at 9.45AM on a Sunday morning. The museum stated it would open at 10AM, and I was third in line outside the door. There were plenty of families sitting around outside waiting for the museum to open too.

It was sweltering, and toting a luggage bag, I thought I would melt into a puddle of my own heat. My makeup certainly protested by running down my face, which was fast becoming an oil slick.

I stared pleadingly into the building, but the ticket-sellers ignored my gaze. My one small consolation was that the museum offered FREE WI-FI, which I could get even by standing outside the door.

As soon as they unlocked the door, I burst in and asked for double tickets to both exhibitions at the ArtScience Museum. One was the Future World exhibition, and the other, the titular exhibition: Van Cleef & Arpels.

With the tickets being timed tickets, the ticket-seller advised me to go to the Future World exhibition first, before going to the Van Cleef & Arpels exhibition later. She eyed the surrounding families with their tiny toddlers and children knowingly.

"The Future World exhibition will only get more crowded later on." She murmured as her gaze flickered back towards me.

I took her advice.

They also had a luggage-holding area (actually, pretty much just a chucking area behind the ticketing counters, so let the museum hold onto your luggage at your own risk), so I left my luggage behind and started exploring the exhibitions.

I have nothing much to say about the Future World exhibition - it was certainly a pretty exhibition, but it felt too small and just about barely tolerable with the crowds of families and young children that came in shrieking and running around. My favourite room was the last room, and when I left that room, my first thought was literally: "Wait, that's it?"

I liked the Van Cleef & Arpels Exhibition a lot better compared to the Future World exhibition, mostly because there were less people visiting it. I could linger over the exhibits, admire the jewellery, read the descriptions, and just generally spend more time taking it all in in gorgeous, lovely silence.



The first room I ventured into had these transparent posts, each with Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery in the center of the posts. The jewellery pieces sparkled even more underneath the orange spotlights. It was truly bling bling central.



Look at all that shiny gold bling! #nofilter

I love to look at jewellery pieces like this, as I consider them works of art. Plus I am like a raven - I like looking at shiny things. I am not fond of wearing heavy bling, but to look at? They are positively pleasing to the eye.

I must say I would be terrified to wear them in a place like Malaysia too, where snatch thefts are common, and human life is secondary to the thieves who are already dreaming of what the expensive-looking jewellery will fetch them.


The exhibition claims that the zip necklace/ jewellery was invented by Van Cleef & Arpels. According to this New York Times article, it took more than ten years for artisans to perfect a fully functioning zipper coated in precious gems.

It certainly looks eye-catching, but the plebeian side of me cannot help but whisper that zippers seem more suited to clothing items like jeans, pants, and hoodies. To see it on such a glamourous-looking bracelet/ necklace convertible jewellery is a bit jarring.

Yes, yes, I am a plebeian peasant.

The exhibition also showed gems in their fairly natural state, as well as their jewellery "themes" throughout the years, from the mythical to the Oriental.



I find it slightly humourous that the largest ever crystal found in the Alps was named after General Napoleon Bonaparte, who was given the nickname "le petit caporal".

Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibition were the ones that took its inspiration from myths around the world, such as the ones with griffins. The ones that took their inspiration from China were also lovely - I liked the scent bottle, carved with the image of a bird.

As expected, the pieces looked almost new in their exhibit cases, though they were made many years ago.




There was a noticeable security presence in each room as they watched us museum visitors look at each exhibit. I would be terrified if I were the museum curator, should one piecec get stolen, be lost, or irrevocably damaged. Some of the pieces were slightly more than a hundred years old, with the company founded in 1896.

I found my favourite semi-precious gemstone, by the way.




It is the obvious crystallisation aspect of tourmaline that I enjoy looking at, as though there is something else hidden deep within the layers of patterns, something not visible to the naked eye.

Also, the description uses both the words "crystallization" and "crystallisation". They should really make up their minds if they want to use American English or British English.


So pearly.


I... do not particularly enjoy jewellery that looks like this. They may be made of expensive materials, but the design does not appeal to me in the slightest. Some designs and materials do not seem to mix well, such as a gold pair of Hello Kitty earrings.

Is it snobbish to feel like precious materials deserve prettier designs?

This is truly beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I do like the little Scottish Terrier one in the above picture, I just think that gold seems wasted on it.

Then there's my favourite piece out of all my favourite pieces in the Van Cleef & Arpels Exhibition.

Tadah.


Perhaps to some, THIS is the tacky/ cheap-looking design.

Oh well.

I can totally see myself wearing this with a little black dress.

There were also Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery pieces on loan from royalty, nobility, and celebrity for the exhibitions. Probably the closest I will ever get to some of the people mentioned, really.

"Look! I am a feet away from a jewellery piece that adorned the neck of the Duchess of some place or another!"

....Yeah.

All in all, I would not say it was educating for me. It CAN be educating, but I am afraid all the words I read about gems and semi-precious stones and the history of the jewellery pieces have faded by now. What I do remember is that I got a precious, quiet one hour or so in a museum, looking at some of my favourite things in the world.

Jewellery lovers, or even those with a passing interest in jewellery, should enjoy this exhibition. I believe it ends sometime in August, so get yourself there while you can.

And with that, Singapore marked the start of yet another of my 2x years, complete with my hopes and dreams for the year.

May my dreams continue to shine brightly as I work my way towards making them come true.