Sex and Vanity

It was 9:52 on a Sunday morning, fair but a bit cloudy outside. I was feeling quite tired despite of having been able to sleep for eight hours. I reached for my Kindle and decided to go for some light novel instead of a heavy read, and let myself be carried into the world of extravagance by Kevin Kwan in his new book Sex and Vanity.

The first part of the story revolves around another crazy expensive wedding, but this time set in the beautiful island of Capri and an adventure of a nineteen year-old Lucie Tang Churchill, our protagonist with Eurasian beauty that she seemed to be completely unaware of and born of old American money, and her love interest George Zao from Hong Kong, also born from a ridiculously rich family who kept his mysterious character together in the first act. It centered on Lucie and finding herself being drawn to yet also appalled by the young lad in the cobbled streets, ancient mansions, upscale hotels and historical beauty of the island only to be separated by a heated and passionate albeit unfortunate incident on the wedding day itself.

Reading the first part of the book really made me search for the tourist and some historical spots mentioned. What more can I say? Kevin Kwan has the ability to captivate us in the world of the crazy rich and yearn to see or experience it someday. For me, the first part captured the youth of Lucie perfectly while setting up the foundation for the other characters too, who would be later seen or mentioned in the story. While reading about the wedding week in Capri, I could almost immediately picture this novel in the big screen. That’s how Kwan delivered his storytelling – another chic story waiting to be adapted.

The second part of the book takes five years later from the incident involving drones and on to Lucie’s life back in New York where she says yes to the exorbitant wedding proposal of New York’s most eligible bachelor, Cecil Pike. Most of the chapters take place in the Hamptons but also takes us to an even more elite circle in the Upper East Side than Gossip Girl did. The extravagance of these characters quipped with satirizing them was what made me stick to finishing the whole book in a day despite (for me, at least ) the story not being able to pull off the romance part, at all. I simply find the young “love” of Lucie and George in the wedding week a little too weak to practically make that of an impact on the later part of the story, and Lucie and Cecil’s relationship doesn’t make sense to me (or to anyone probably, I mean really, how did these two even got together??)

I’d hand it to Kwan still for not only delivering a romcom but throughout the story, topics such as racism, the feeling and experiences of being multi-racial, and even the new vs. old money issue (probably being a problem only for the upper 10 percent of the world’s population) are being tackled. However, these were not deeply dealt with but was just a recurring theme and can be easily shied away from. Given these shortcomings, I would still recommend reading this book now. Why? Because I’d rather be transported to the enchanting landscape and dramatic scenery of Capri than be cooped up in front of my T.V. again for a whole new day in this quarantined life.

Singapore: Why I Keep Coming Back

It’s been 109 days since the lockdown has started in our country – due to this quarantine, a lot of travel plans are postponed or cancelled. Nobody saw this coming, and no one has dreamed of going through 2020 like this, for sure. I know, traveling is not the biggest problem everyone’s facing but there’s also some therapeutic magic to it that alleviates stress that people dearly misses, especially having been cooped up for months. So, to satisfy my thirst for it, I decided to revisit my old photos and memories from my past travels and realized why I keep coming back to this one country – Singapore.

First time I went to SG was when I was 18 years old with my grandmother. The minute I stepped inside Changi Airport, my mind was blown by its look and feel. It was something else – from the interior design, the well spaced walkalators, plush carpeted flooring, the lounge, and even its spacious comfort room. No wonder why it was dubbed as the best airport in the world, and that’s even before they had The Jewel. But there’s also one thing obviously evident from their airport to the rest of the country – it screams of being digitally competitive. How they utilized the continuous growth of technology to improve is something I want to happen as well at home.

Initially, we planned for just a 4-day trip thinking to hit only the tourist spots of this well known small country, but it has its magic and we ended up staying for 2 weeks! On the first few days, we already went to check most of the destinations it was known for – Sentosa Island (where Universal Studios Singapore is loacted), Shoppes at Marina Bay, the Merlion, and even the Night Safari. One thing I noticed going to all these places was even if it was crowded with a lot of people – it did not feel overwhelming. In the train stations, it wasn’t unruly at all even during rush hour. There was this feeling that in the sea of a multiracial crowd, you still get to have your own safe bubble, your own personal space. It was because of this, and the country’s low crime rate that when my cousin turned 18, she and I decided to go to Singapore and celebrate her birthday, without any grownup supervision. In fact, during this trip, I must have forgotten my wallet in one of the lockers (all my money and card was inside) in Universal Studios only to remember it the next day. I simply called the USS hotline, asked if they saw it, and the lady only had to ask me what my name is and bring my passport to claim it. That’s one thing you can’t deny when you’re in Singapore – you feel safe.

The next thing I’ve always liked about Singapore is how clean and orderly it is! Some says that it’s because Singaporeans are well disciplined people or simply because they have nationwide cleaning processes and strict laws, but no matter what the reason behind is, in all times I’ve wandered in the streets, shopping malls, food communes, and did my commute – it’s cleanliness and orderliness is always a welcome sight to my eyes. There’s something relaxing when you ride through the city in the morning and see the streets clean, then stroll through Marina Bay Sands Boardwalk with a boba tea in hand on a sunny afternoon with the same comforting vibe, and still the same streets being kept at midnight after a few drinks at Clarke Quay.

What’s a better way to know a place than through its food? If you’ve seen the film Crazy Rich Asians, or read the trilogy, you’d know that Singaporeans are foodies. There are quite a number of Michelin star approved chefs and restaurants in the country – from Hawkwer Centres to an old church converted into a food complex. Yes, that’s where the wedding in the Crazy Rich Asians took place. I just love how welcoming their food scene is, it shows racial diversity and the combined culture of its inhabitants. Whenever I go there, it’s always a must to have some char siew meat, hainanese chicken rice, chilli crab, and bak kut teh.

Okay, I have to stop writing. Just by coming up with this post makes me want to go to Singapore for technically uhm… the 6th time.