singapore | the national gallery

Thursday, November 30, 2017


A bright afternoon and a large, beautiful dome. Staircases made of wood and glass ceilings that give way to sunlight. Walls that stretch upward and make you feel incredibly small. The National Gallery of Singapore; a grand art museum showing us the best of Southeast Asia.

The large gallery shows many pieces of Singaporean and Southeast Asian modern art, all a part of Singapore's National Collection. It serves a free entry for Singaporeans, but for foreigners, general tickets are $20 each (with some discounts available). The visual artistry is undeniably astounding; not just in the paintings, but in their architecture as well. With over 1.5 million visitors in a year, the institution's aim is not only to make the art accessible, but also shared and redefined in a global context.

Upon entering, the first thing we actually looked at was the gift shop to our left. One of the things I'm a total sucker for, other than large art galleries, are creative gift shops. It was your typical museum souvenir store; well conceptualized, colorfully displayed, and somewhat overpriced. But I loved examining them; artsy bits and bobs that you want but don't actually need. 

Do I want these pretty illustrated children's books despite the fact that I'm 18? Yes. Do I want a stack of postcards decorated with random Mexican paintings? Yes. Do I want an oversized print T-shirt matched with a tote bag with some clever words on it? Yes(In my head I successfully purchase all of these things but in reality I walk away after looking at the price tags.)


First advice is to never enter the gallery without taking a map. When I said it was a large gallery, I meant it was gigantic. It's housed inside two restored buildings (the City Hall and former Supreme Court) serving as the gallery's two separate wings. Six floors each, dozens of rooms, and an additional basement that connects the two. 

I never get tired walking around art museums but this time, I was completely overwhelmed by how big it was. The insides were so spacious, the hallways so mystical, that I nearly got lost a couple of times, even with a map in hand from the start. It was like a sanctuary that swallows you up in its largeness. Despite spending many hours inside, I still (sadly) didn't get to see all of the artwork or sections of the place. As beautiful as it was, you probably needed to spend at least a whole day inside to experience the entirety of it.

So second advice (which I apparently only knew of after my visit to the gallery) is to make use of their Gallery Explorer app for free audio guides and to help you with navigation. (You're gonna need it, I swear.) If you think I'm going to come back to this place a second time to explore more of it and this time with a self-guided tour, you are absolutely right.

Bananas in a Basket (a) and Still Life - Flowers (b)
Abstract pieces titled Gamelan Orchestra (a) and Skyline of New York (b).
Above: Scenery painting of East Java. Below: The famous Water Lily Pond by Claude Monet.
Right: Merapi (At Day) and Merapi (At Night).

Within that time, I did catch a glimpse of the most beautiful artworks shipped in from many different locations in Southeast Asia. There were objects and portraits collected from the colonial era (as most countries here were ruled by several different European nations for years before claiming independence), with paintings that show the people in revolution, and themes varying from hope, to despair. Other than that, there was also a wide range of more modern work to enjoy; abstract pieces, geometric sculptures, and more.

The ones that really caught my attention were paintings of my own home country, Indonesia. Done by various artists, the pieces portrayed incredibly detailed local sceneries, such as local farmers at work in the afternoon with a mountain overlooking them from a distance. Looking into them, especially the ones labeled "East Java", touched me in a way no other painting in the gallery did. I was fascinated at first, but after a while, it gave a sense of– calm. It was like looking at home; the views of sunsets and rice fields were imageries that my heart recognized all too well. Big cities are pretty, but home speaks to you in a different way.


The institution has many partners and often works with international museums to hold special exhibitions. Fortunately, I came while they had just started holding a SingTel special exhibition called the Century of Light

The section I was most eager to see from that was Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musee D'orsay. I've always been a big fan of Impressionism, so when there was a special exhibition dedicated to specifically that, I knew I had to see it. I grew even more excited knowing that among the works of 19th century European artists included in the collection, Monet was one of them. I was in awe from the second I walked in.

I'm no art history major, but I will say this was my most favorite collection to ever see for myself. There are really no words for it; the widest range of colors and settings and moods and all of it encapsulated so elegantly in this exhibition. From winters in the suburbs of France to individual subjects each with different emotions and stories to tell, I just loved every bit of it.

Despite not having enough time to explore each and every corner of the institution, The National Gallery of Singapore is a place I'm definitely willing to go back to someday. Providing a different feel of seeing art that belongs closer to home, somehow the National Gallery has become a modern attraction, that celebrates history and heritage. A globally acclaimed centerpiece, that highlights roots and tradition. So if any of you fellow art enthusiasts happen to find yourselves in Singapore, it's definitely worth the visit.


More posts from my trip in Singapore coming soon. I know I haven't been writing much lately but some things have been keeping me pretty occupied, inside and out. Nevertheless, there are still so many photos stored from my trip, so I can't wait to share my experiences with you soon.

See you around.

compliments that aren't compliments

Sunday, November 19, 2017

If there's one tool anyone can use to brighten up someone's day, it's a compliment. Compliments evoke positive feelings and interactions, they add sparks to the conversation. Even though I'm  horridly incapable of accepting them, sometimes a few nice words, when said genuinely, can truly lift our mood.

However, as flattering as they may be, we also need to be cautious in expressing them. A compliment might be delivered with good intentions, but the "kind" string of words might also include a specific remark that doesn't carry a good message. Or other times, the compliment sounds a little too backhanded, sounding more like a pat-on-the-back insult.

1. "You're brave, for a girl."
The same problem applies if you call her "smart, for a girl", or saying she "drives good, for a girl." It's 2017; girls find jobs and speak for themselves and are not always the fearful weaklings you identify us to be. Be careful in your flattery. You may not have meant to insult anyone but congratulations, you just stereotyped the entire female population.

2. "You lost weight!"
Living in a world that worships "skinny", we tend to overlook how there are some circumstances that can make a person lose weight. Sure, they might've worked for it (in which case, do commend them for their efforts!), but what if they fell ill? What if they're under a lot of stress? What if they're stuck in a horrendous eating pattern? Does "looking amazing" seem to be on their agenda?

And call me crazy, but I still think that beauty comes in different shapes and sizes. In glorifying supermodel-type bodies and praising someone for "losing weight", we're reinforcing the "thin equals pretty" idea, which can sometimes be more harmful than it is rewarding. (I'll speak more about social perceptions of body image some other day.)

3. "You look different with makeup on!"
Did you think we bought that $30 mascara and spent 20 minutes getting ready just to look the same??

4. "How on earth are you still single?"
"You're so funny, gosh, why are you single!" "You're such a great person, I always wonder why you're still single." Ah yes, it's such a surprise in this modern era to be a fully functioning person without being in a relationship! Such magic!

We take it lightly, but is it really that hard to compliment our sense of humor without reminding us yet again that we are still single? And how are we even supposed to react to your "compliment"? "You're so funny" gee thanks "why are you single" man, I don't know???? 

Point is, if you have something nice to say, say it. But if you plan on following that statement by questioning the status of our love life, do consider stopping. :)

5. "You look better without glasses on!"
I know I took them off for this party, but unless I asked for your opinion, please don't tell me I look better without the one object in this world that I wear everyday......... 

6. "You're pretty, for an Asian."
Last but definitely not least, I cannot describe enough how cringeworthy these words actually are. Despite your "nice"ness, what are you actually saying about the entire Asian race? Or are we continuing to promote that Western beauty standards are "ideal" and just handpicking from anywhere else?

This basically applies for every sentence that goes: "You're (insert positive adjective), for a (insert specific race)." It's not a pleasant gesture. Similar to #1, your honeyed words are served with a side of prejudice. Honestly, it doesn't take that much to be a decent person; just think of compliments that don't make you sound a little racist. 


I'll end by saying that by no means am I trying to shade anyone in this writing. Do take it lightly, dear friends, and besides, let's be honest, many of us have probably said at least one of these things before.  But nevertheless, let us all try to become more considerate in the ways we communicate.

Just a short, playful reading for today, 
only to entertain you guys shortly before I leave for a trip tomorrow morning.

Wish to stay updated? You can find me on Instagram.

See you around!

you can do anything, but not everything.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Whether you're a laid-back person who doesn't stress too much, or an overachieving perfectionist like myself, at one point in your life, you've probably been told to do as much as you can. You're young! Make the most of it! Be good at as many things as possible, just keep going!

These principles aren't wrong. In fact, if it weren't for such optimistic motivation, we couldn't have gotten to where we are today. But in our efforts to "live life to the fullest" by constantly trying and doing as much as we can, are we setting ourselves up for success in the long run, or just failure to reach all our unrealistic expectations?


The best way to identify myself is that I always feel like a jack-of-all-trades; I'm okay at a lot of things, but I'm not really really great at anything. So even if people consider my skills commendable, I'd still end up feeling unimpressed.

There is also something about establishing ourselves, as someone who's flourishing in all aspects of their life, that places us on a higher ground. We cannot ignore how there is some kind of a social approval that comes with being able to do multiple things simultaneously. 

"You're working on so many things! You're so gifted, it's amazing how you manage to do them all!" 

While many people seem to worship the idea of multitasking (or multi-skilledness) though, I find myself increasingly hating it. See, the more things you focus on, the less meaning they eventually carry. Your life grows busy, but not always productive. Reason strays further, and not closer to where you are.

Despite being raised to believe that the more we can do, the better we are, and as admirable as it seems to "do as many things as you can", it is widely irrational to think that we can be everything we want ourselves to be. Because the truth is, we can't.

"You can do anything, but not everything."

Yes, you, an invincible force, a treasurer of many hidden potentials. Hear the countless pursuits that are calling your name. Go for it, the world is yours! Indeed, we must always believe that we are capable of more than we think.

But despite our endless room for possibilities, we also have our limitations. We're not superheroes, and our willpower isn't always made of gold. We set sail on broken boats. We make goals and we fall short.

That's how the first and second parts of this David Allen quote go hand in hand. It's why we should push against our boundaries but also acknowledge them. It's how we embrace that part of being human; being a mix of both prospect and capacity. Possibility and impossibility.


Everyone is on the search for Life's Grand Purpose. Their profound reason to live. Yet often, the search becomes counter-productive. As a student, for example, the more college pamphlets they give you, the further you are from making a decision. For the young couple, the more houses they look at, the more agitated they become on choosing the right one.

The same happens to us when we constantly ask ourselves, what do I wish to become? Which path do I pursue? We try and try to give our life meaning. And during the earlier stages of our lives, in this world of a thousand maybes, it's easy to be somewhat misguided.

The key, my friends, is not to find more things to do, but to do less things with more focus. 

Life is too short to do too many things that don't excite you. Whether it's trying a new skill, or finding your "true passion", aim for wholeheartedness instead of expertise. Think of this as a reminder that you don't need to master as many things as you can. You don't need to be good at everything. Let go of the idea that investing in 10 different skills can somehow add value to your life. Let go of anything that just ends up blurring your sense of direction. 

On that note, forget multitasking. Forget appearing more competent than everyone else. Forget the idea that juggling many skills can make you seem like an awesome human being. 

Outside of your education or work, find the activities that make you happy, find the paths that help you grow, then eliminate everything else. The world tells you to "be the best version of yourself", but that doesn't necessarily mean desperately trying to prove to yourself that you're capable of doing everything on earth. We first need to know ourselves in order to become the best version of it. And that includes fixing our eyes on just the few things that make us glad to be alive.


Reminding myself of this quote was a life-saving act, and I hope it impacts you the same. Lately, I'm also learning to apply this to how we spend our time. I used to think that "I shouldn't waste my time, therefore I should fill it with as many activities as possible." However, now I'm learning to spend most hours of my day for one specific thing, instead of spending 2 hours each on countless other things for me to "try." It gets more things done, and it gives my life a lot more clarity.

Being an idealist often shows through my ambitious nature. My mind always sets on a constant pursuit. As much as I wanted to, though, I know I couldn't paint every weekend and write everyday and work a freelance job and learn a new language and read more books, all at once.

We can't all be child prodigies. Regardless of how much time I have on my hands, or how much "practice" I put into it, no human being can excel in 10 different things within a lifetime. 

So do I already know what I was born to do? Do I write? Do I paint? Do I go out into the world, feed the hungry and help the poor? Who the hell knows? I still don't have my packet of answers, and neither does anyone. But at least it's clear to me that with these two hands, and just enough dreams, I only need to trust more in time. I can do anything in the world. Just not everything, and not all at once.

I guess my real triumph isn't in being exceptionally gifted, because I'm not. But the real achievement is that I'm no longer so hard on myself. The constant pursuit begins to slow down, and the areas of my life where I lack no longer make me think that my world is falling apart. Rather, it's building up,

and it finally knows where to go.


If my writing is a little dry today, it's because I'm in the midst of an identity crisis. This took me a week to finish, and my brain now feels like a squeezed lemon. So I'm sorry if this is a little sour. 
(Cue the dry laughter.)

I hope I see you around.

life in october

Friday, November 3, 2017

A street glistened by a recent rainfall. Warm evenings decorated with flickering candles with the sound of  laughter and acoustic guitars. Colors that remind you of autumn. Time seems to move quicker, as if it's eager to reach the year's end. The month of October, and how it ended much too soon.

A newfound love for Wes Anderson films. Not only for his twist-and-turn plots and fascinating characters, but also his unique visual and narrative style. I'm obsessed with his work; peculiar stories that tug at your heartstrings even if they make very little sense. Earlier this month I watched The Royal Tenenbaums and it became one of my most favorite films of all time.

Other movies I'd recommend are Amelie–a sweet classic French movie following the steps of a curious young lady and how she radiates life to the people around her, and The Zookeeper's Wife–based on a real story from Poland 1939, it's about a couple who hid dozens of Jews inside their zoo and helped them escape to safety during the WWII.

My recent obsessions include this fun tune by Parcels and a talented soul named Renee Dominique. Her voice is angelic, and I'm in love with her style of videos. Queen of ukulele covers, I tell you. Also, I've been immersing myself in basically everything from Hillsong United's Of Dirt and Grace album (especially Prince of Peace and Heaven Knows.) 

Last but not least, Nicole Zefanya; a gifted and young singer/songwriter who creates some of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. She writes lyrics that are beyond me. I'd recommend Anaheim to anyone who hasn't heard it already. A final word: a best friend who always gives amazing music recommendations is a best friend to keep.

Earlier this month I went on an exciting book haul that you can read about here. So I have spent many mornings mindlessly finishing a cup of tea while paying attention to the pages of my novel, or laying on the couch with a book over my head. This October, I finished reading: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, It by Alexa Chung, and The Daughter by Jane Shemilt. Also, I'd filled the last pages of my journal; my fourth completed Moleskine notebook to add to the stack of completed journals in my bedroom.

social media revamp
"Digital makeovers" is what I call them. Changing the blog's name and URL (cheers to finally purchasing a domain!), deleting my old Facebook account and replacing it with a new one (because the previous one had been there since 2008 and remained untouched for years), and giving a new URL and look to my Tumblr page. (My Tumblr is basically how the inside of my head would probably look like; the words I resonate with, the daydreams I visualize. The main reason I still use it is for visual inspiration.)

Making some much needed changes to your social media platforms can be very beneficial. "Personal branding" sounds like an arrogant term, but having all your pages appear as cohesive as possible is really helpful for networking and sharing your work.

The strangest thing that happened this month was that I finally started to learn how to cook. Second strangest thing was feeling like I'm beginning to enjoy it.

I've been spending more time in the kitchen, and I'm starting to like that sense of preparing something for other people to enjoy. Now I understand why people can love doing it; around the kitchen there are little joys, like the sound of grilling something on a pan, or the rich smell of spices and freshly cooked meals. By no means am I any good at it (yet?), but it's always good to try something new.

& elaine
On the 29th day of October, Sunday night, we heard the news that my sister finally gave birth to her baby daughter. So on Monday morning, we were already gathered in the hospital room, anxious to see the little angel that has become the newest addition to our family.  

Being an aunt gives you the experience of loving a child that isn't your own, and it's a special, touching memory in itself. When I finally saw her pink cheeks and little hands, it was literally like feeling my heart melt. Giving us a new set of eyes to look into, this year, she has become one of my favorite things. Our new reason for joy; the ray of light we've awaited to descend.


This month the blog posts I wrote include this travel post from Bali, a list of 100 things I love, my views on the words "broken home", and an article on how to politically disagree. I also made this small narrative about the stuff I'd written in the past, and published a Bali travel vlog on YouTube.

A light post today, just to give a few updates on how life had been in October.
Time is moving by so quickly these days that it feels like I couldn't even get a grip on anything. Trying to balance productivity and passion and people all at the same time can be pretty overwhelming.

Anyway, wishing you all a lovely month ahead.

I'll write again soon.

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