Taipei – Standard Chartered Marathon 2015

It was a cold, windy 5 o’clock in the morning with a drizzle plunging the already chilly Taipei pre-spring temperature to around 10 degrees. I missed the warmth of my hotel bed and chided myself for being gungho to take part in a marathon while on vacation.

Then again, I’ve been to Taipei a couple of times and seen most of the attractions so I figured that the next best way to experience one of my favourite Asian cities is to become one with the locals in the nation’s favourite sport — running. In 2012, there were only close to a hundred running events in Taiwan. Today, more than 300 marathons happen year-round in the country! This is one holiday where my luggage packed on the kilos but not me.

Starting of point of the Taipei Standard Chartered Marathon 2015 was in front of the Presidential Office Building. I was fighting goosebumps from the cold but unbelievably, some of the runners were clad in just a singlet and short shorts (see the couple in blue tank-top and black shorts behind me). I shiver for them.

I signed up for the 8km run. It’s not an eye-popping distance but for someone with asthma, a bad knee and who runs as often as the moon is blue, this felt like I’m going on a mission to Mars. I began training a month prior to the marathon but due to a couple of long-haul travels, I was never able to complete 8km during my practice sessions. I seriously doubted I could reach the finish point without being delivered on a stretcher.

Flag off and my heartbeat was synchronised with the pulse of the Taiwanese. I’m no longer a tourist.

In most marathons, anything under 10km is considered a fun run but the Taipei participants were very serious during the 8km run. I felt delinquent skiving off to make frequent photo stops.

When breathing became laborious and my knees started to tingle and the temptation to just stop running and walk the rest of the distance was strong, I looked to the blind and paraplegic participants for strength. If they can do it, so can I!

I’m terrible at taking selfies but can’t resist snapping a memento of this rare scene in the middle of a Taipei highway with a horde behind me.

One of the great things about running an overseas marathon is you get to act like it’s your grandfather’s road in a foreign country.

I wasn’t the only one running a marathon. It was a snap-a-thon for my handphone too. Love the photo opportunities :)

The adrenaline of the masses was fuel to complete the marathon.

Finally reached the finishing point at Da-Jia Riverside Park. I didn’t think I could complete the marathon unscathed since I haven’t ran such a long distance in a long time but I made it! Having so many ‘companions’ on the route really helped made completing the run much easier.

8km conquered! I actually didn’t feel the distance because of the cold and the freshness in scenery of a foreign route. Felt great after the run knowing I’ll return home fitter! This is definitely a holiday off the beaten track :)

This post has been made possible by CTC Travel (Singapore) who can help plan and realise a sporting vacation in Taiwan.

命运的傀儡

我们是命运的傀儡还是动画幕后的遥控师?

The future is in our hands or the predestined outcome of destiny? I feel like a puppet of fate no matter how much I try to cut the invisible strings.

Photo shot on 1 December 2014 at a weekend market on Inle Lake, Myanmar.

Shot this while visiting Yangon’s religious heart, Shwedagon Pagoda, on 5th December 2014.

I was taken by the contrast of the scene where the foreigners are consulting the maps to make sense of where they are while the local is seeking guidance on his path ahead.

We are constantly on a journey to either make sense of our physical world, or to grapple with our spiritual landscape.

When we search, hopefully we’ll find. Sometimes the answers are obvious, but more often than not, they are dubious.

I’ve been to many places. But I’ve never been more lost than before.

You Are Richest When You Smile

笑,是你最富有的时刻。

首次游访高雄,在高铁站旁,远远的看到了这对卖手工香皂的残疾人士。因为是午饭时间,男的喂着女的吃泡面,一口接一口,虽然他的右手残扭,但还是贴心的挣扎着把面递到伴侣的唇前。女的两手弯残,提不起东西。

目睹了感人的这一段感人的《喂饭录》,喜与泪在我怀中交加,万分感动。于是我走向前要求拍下他们的合照,把他们俩互顾互维,残而不废的精神记下来。

我把手机举起,他们立即就对着镜头展露了笑颜。一般的人身其他们的处境,往往很难拥有笑的理由。但这对伴笑得非常豪爽,灿烂。

拍完照后,我买了两块香皂,虽然不便宜(小小一块大概要新币S$5.00)不过这是我为他们打气的小心意,感谢他们给了我真诚的笑容。

简单的一笑却是我收到的一份珍贵礼物。我每次看到这张照片,总是觉得很温心、安慰、快乐。他们不自觉的给了我很多。

During my first visit to Kaohsiung, by the side of the city’s High Speed Rail station, I saw this disabled pair who were selling handmade sopas from afar. As it was lunch time, the man was feeding instant noodles to the woman. Mouthful by mouthful he fed her, struggling with getting the stringy noodles onto a spoon with his left hand as his right was deformed. Both the woman’s hand were crippled.

Witnessing this touching display of one handicap taking care of another, my heart cried and smiled at the same time. I wanted to capture how touched they made me felt and their indomitable spirit so I went up to them to request for a portrait shot.

When I raised my mobile phone, they broke into a smile immediately. Most people in their situation would probably have very little reasons to smile. But they smiled freely and brilliantly.

After taking their photo, I bought two pieces of soap. Costing about S$5.00 for each small piece, they weren’t exactly cheap but it was my little way of showing them support. To thank them for their generous smiles.

A simple smile became a precious gift I received on this trip. Each time I look at this photo, my heart is filled with warmth, comfort and joy. They may not have a lot going for them, but unbeknownst to them, they had given me a lot.

Fake Happiness VS. Real Joy

假开心与真快乐。

某天游台北时,闲步来到了西门町。商杂区内有许多优秀的音乐达人与表演者。毫无目地的逛着,耳边在众多的旋律中,熟悉了一首陈芬兰的《月亮代表我的心》。于是便跟着歌声来到了Watsons 店旁,遇上了这位献声的视障街艺。

他的歌声算不上是能出耳油的那一种,但带有一股真实的诚恳。看他演唱时常会露出笑容,自我陶醉,似乎很快乐。

顿时我视觉到了他背后的橱窗海报。漂亮的女郎笑得很开心灿烂,虽然发自内心,但难免虚假。

相比之下,拥有一切的美女与欠福的盲人;反而少了一点的,却多了一份真心的快乐。

一笑能化少为多。

While on a vacay in Taipei, my aimless footsteps brought me to Ximending with record-grade musicians and excellent street performers entertaining shoppers. As I wandered through the labyrinth of sounds, shops and smells, my ears picked up a familiar Chen Fen Lan tune “The Moon Represents My Heart”.  The vocals brought me to the side of a Watsons shop where I met this blind singer.

His voice wasn’t spectacular but there’s a timbre of vulnerable honesty. I was rooted to his performance not so much by the music, but by the smiles be broke into while singing. He seemed genuinely lost in the enjoyment of what he was doing.

At some point, I became aware of the window poster behind him. The pretty girl has a brilliant smile, it seems to come from her heart, but nevertheless faked for her job as a model.

In comparison between the girl who has everything going with the unfortunate blind, I felt that although he had ‘less’, he experienced ‘more’ of the simplicity in being joyful.

A grateful smile bridges us from ‘what little’ to ‘how much’ we have :)

Same Road, Different Load

同样的路,不同样的苦。

某次游高雄市旗津岛时,在路上遇见了这一幕。看着足败的中年残疾推着轮椅苦步,重行车、货车、摩托车、脚踏车则从身旁匆匆奔过,不经想起了在人生的旅途,大家都处同一条路上,但速度却不同。要到达的目的地不同,承担的苦也不同。

工作的苦、念书的苦 、疾病的苦,我们多为责任,欲望与希望受苦。那如果哪里都不去,什么都不做,那就不苦了吗?但,一场毫无成就与贡献的空白人生,何尝不是一种精神上的折磨 ?

人活着,总需要觉得有意义。了解了这一点,其实苦不再是苦,而是自我肯定和伸展的挑战。因此,哪怕路再难行,负担再重,步伐比人家慢,推着轮椅,我们也会往前走。

加油,志昂的轮椅先生!

While visiting Qijin, an island off Taiwan’s Kaohsiung city, I came across this scene of a man with infirmities pushing his wheelchair. Next to him, trucks, vans, motorcycles and bicycles whizzed by. This scene got me thinking about life’s journey… our road is shared but our speeds and destinations are different. Hence, the load we carry is also different.

Work load, academic pursuits, struggles with diseases, we suffer for our responsibilities, ambitions and the hope that things will get better. So what if we don’t aspire to get anywhere or do anything, won’t life be that much easier? However, isn’t an existence empty of personal achievements and contributions a mental torture?

Being alive, there needs to be a sense of self-worth and purpose. Realising this need for self-actualisation, suffering ceases to be a pain, but a rite of affirmation for one’s abilities and growth. There is no need to fear a tough road ahead, or a heavy load, or if our pace is much slower than others, even when being bounded by a wheelchair, we’ll get where we want to be so long as we keep going.

Ganbatte, Mr Willpower! :)

Fangtastic Halloween at Singapore Turf Club

Halloween is a golden opportunity to horse around and I got a chance to literally do just that at Singapore Turf Club to celebrate this year’s hallow’s night. What an unusual venue for a heart-pounding Halloween party!

A good time up for grabs.

I’ve never stepped foot on Singapore Turf Club before this visit. Neither at its former racecourse located at Bukit Timah built in 1933 nor its current home at Kranji from 1999. The old race track has since been transformed into a dining and lifestyle venue known as The Grandstand while the Kranji club evolved to be more than just a horse-racing club but an exotic haunt for major events such as Singapore Symphony Orchestra concerts, lawn parties, ringside entertainment and holding private functions.

With the bubbly Fadilah who invited me to the Fangtastic Halloween party held in one of the Corporate Boxes with a 180-degree view of the race track.

马到功成,一马当先!Although I didn’t place any bets, it was quite a rush watching the horses and their jockeys try to out gallop each other.

Creative eats at the event… coffin-shaped salmon wiches that brings the carbo crave to the grave, crawlie sweets and spooktato mousse in beef stew.

The party’s theme was Halloween Glam and I don’t know how to mix glam and gore together, I was thankful make-up artists were on hand to add that spook factor.

Let me in!

Part of our night’s activities included a tour of the race arena and getting a close-up of the riders and stallions. I thought the ring would whiff of horse manure and wastes like most places that offer horse-drawn carriage or pony rides but it was thankfully stench-free.

Horse power on parade.

I’ve read that jockeys have a small stature so as to minimise load on the horses and maximise speed. It’s true!

一见发财!Looks like there’s an audition for sugar daddies going on. LOL.

We became the unofficial half-time entertainment for guests at the turf with our personas.

Halloween is the only time you can say that a horrific party is actually the best ever.

Having a fangtastic and ghoul time with new and old friends.

The thoughtful party was a cozy and intimate catching up session away from crowded clubs downtown and transportation was convenient as Singapore Turf Club is a short walk to Kranji MRT Station.

On the train, I finally revealed what had been hidden throughout the party…

Everyone can see the make-up outside, but only we know the devil within. Don’t let it eat you alive.

Happy Halloween!

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