Faith, Love, Musings

Being the Shams

The past three months has been nothing but exciting and adventurous. I ended 2013 with a crazy trip to Europe and the possibility of a new start in life – a new job, a new love and a new Shams.

But 2014 began and it was just a new Shams.

I ditched the idea of getting full-time employment and got ditched by the almost new love. But there I was, standing alone as the new Shams. A Shams who embraces change and the fluidity of life. A Shams who understands whatever she plans is only subject to the plans of her Creator. A Shams who has only faith and faith alone to live her life. A Shams who is patient when she is being tested. And a Shams who tries her best to see the good in people – even those who had hurt her.

And everyday, I am learning more about this new Shams inside of me.

In life, you are either Rumi waiting for Shams to make an appearance in your life, or you are the Shams to someone else’s life.

That was what I learnt during the book club reading of Forty Rules of Love. I guess it’s just timely that I embody the true meaning of my name – Sun in the House. I’ll be the sun to someone else’s life even though at times I really wish I could seek shelter for myself.

Standard
Cafe Hopping, Food, Love, Musings

Cafe Hopping: Wheeler’s Yard

Wheeler’s Yard is the new kid on the block with regards to Singapore’s new hipster cafe scene. I’m not too sure when this cafe opened but when I first stepped afoot there last month, I was blown away by its size, location and comfort. It’s actually a huge warehouse and the cafe functions as a bicycle shop as well. There’s plenty of space, so you don’t have to worry about not getting a seat or having to be on a waiting list. Parking lots, however, is limited so you might have to park your cars at the HDB parking nearby.

The first time I was at Wheeler’s Yard, I had the espresso shot. They didn’t have Americano (beats me why they didn’t have it on the menu), so I couldn’t judge the quality of the coffee fairly. When I cafe hop, I use the Americano as quality control. I do have to admit, the espresso was strong enough to keep me up a bit later than my usual bed time.

1781914_10152200953516445_1893848330_n

The menu, however, was very limited. You would think that a cafe with such an enormous space would have fancy and unique things on the menu, but not so for Wheeler’s Yard. The coffee menu was limited to espresso shots, latte and cappuccino. They do have umm a $4 milk on the menu, as well as hot chocolate and sodas and teas – oh not forgetting beers. The only food I had was the nachos, and I must say they do a darn good nacho.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

 

As for the latte, I cannot say much because I have never been a fan of lattes, although latte art is beautiful. I didn’t want the espresso this time round so my friends and I went for the latte.

photo 2
photo 4

 

Did I mention the place is exceptionally beautiful for a pre-wedding or wedding photo shoot? The space, high ceilings and warehouse vibes certainly did inspire me.

photo 3

Overall, I think Wheeler’s Yard is a great place for hanging out with friends, and just let the day pass by. I wouldn’t go back for coffee unless my friends do want to pay the place a visit.

Wheeler’s Yard

28 Lorong Ampas Singapore 328781
Phone: 62549128
Mon: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Wed – Sat: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sun: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Website: https://www.facebook.com/wheelersyard
Standard
Adventure, Musings, Travel

Part 2: A Month in 11 Cities in Afro-Europe for $2100

Three weeks ago, I landed in (not so sunny) Singapore after a month of being away from home. I was miles away in Europe, getting lost and finding myself in countries I could not hold a decent conversation in. My Arabic was very rusty, I only knew 5 Spanish words, pretended to be able to speak French and pretty much got away with speaking any German. On top of that, I was traveling alone, meeting up with old friends and new friends along the way.

Before I procrastinate any further, I reckon it’s best I write this entry to help any of you wondering souls who are keen to take a giant leap of faith to travel solo. I’ve had the pleasure of being inspired by my fellow solo female travellers, mainly Atikah, Jumaiyah (a close friend and advisor) and Swani, my first couchsurfer back in August. Atikah and Jumaiyah travelled while on exchange and Swani stopped over in Singapore before she embarked on a 3 month backpacking trip in Indonesia. I never had the chance to go on exchange, so I asked myself, if not now, then when? I decided to leave my job, buy myself the tickets and went forth with the biggest adventure I’ve ever had. I started thinking about the trip in May, but only got around to actually planning it in late July and early August.

I decided on Morocco, Spain, France and Germany. 5 countries, 10 cities. I had a few friends asking me why didn’t I go to the Scandinavian countries or London. Well, I simply didn’t want to. That’s the fun in traveling alone. You get to make decisions without having to wait on other people. You get to learn how to make the best decisions based on advice you get. Best of all, you are anonymous when you’re traveling alone. I decided not to include the amount I spent on travel insurance, the baking courses I attended in Paris and the ridiculous amount I spent on food, or rather, desserts. It’s really amazing how my weight didn’t increase as much as I thought it would, but don’t get me started on my gym routine. I’m basically a weakling right now.

So below is my route. I started in Morocco and went north, so basically I was preparing my body for the climate adjustment. Morocco was aircon weather, not too cold and not too hot, but as I went further north, the cold was excruciating. Okay I may be exaggerating, but -3 degrees is bloody cold for someone who is named after the sun (Shams = sun in Arabic, get it? okay you don’t have to laugh).

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 7.29.33 pm

Countries covered: Morocco, Spain, France, and Germany

Cities covered: Casablanca, Fez, Meknes, Chefchaouen, Tangiers, Marrakech, Seville, Granada, Paris, Berlin and Munich

Airfares and Transfers

Flight numero uno (SIN – DOH, DOH – CMN) – Qatar Airways $1565.20

So anyways, I decided to land and take a multi-city option with Qatar Airways. Yes, it is a bit pricey, almost twice the amount another blogger spent on her airfare. But I landed in Morocco. How many people can say that they’ve been to Africa? Okay so Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia aren’t really considered Africa, but they are in the African continent! I may have not fulfilled my lifetime ambition of living with a pride of lions but I did step my foot there, and I was a step (okay maybe millions of steps) closer to the big cats. Of course, I digress.

I bought my flight ticket in September during the NATAS travel fair from Chan Brothers. I could have bought my ticket directly from Qatar but the website was throwing a sissy fit. I went to NATAS to check out the deals and steal some ideas for my itinerary but I ended up making my own one. So I had the pleasure of Rachel from Chan Brothers to settle the tickets for me. She even made sure my layover in Doha was only 2 hours, since Doha has a reputation for long layovers.

The reason why my ticket was more expensive than usual is because I chose to land and leave at two different cities. Also, only two airlines landed in Casablanca – Emirates and Qatar. I landed in Casablanca and left Europe from Munich. I did not want to waste time and keep going back to the same city to transit to other cities. I was very OCD in that sense. Even my traveling route has to be organised. I would recommend you to think through where you want to land. Remember that some airport taxes are higher than others. It might be cheaper to land in a less desirable city if you really want to cut costs.

Flight numero dos (MAR – SVQ) – Ryanair $61.46

Yeap, your eyes do not deceive you. I spent that amount on my flight from Marrakech to Sevilla, Spain, inclusive of a checked in 15kg bag. Book early. I bought the ticket in September, right after I booked my flight to Casablanca.

Flight numero tres (SVQ – BVA) – Ryanair $77.36

I booked this ticket a day after I booked the previous one. Once again, book early. Ryanair tickets are cheap, you just have to make sure you don’t do a last minute booking.

1465315_10152052169771445_1556053315_nTook this shot when I landed in Paris

Flight numero cuatro (CDG – TXL) – Lufthansa $88.37 This ticket was a flash deal! I was randomly going through Zuji and checking out the prices and decided that it’s the best deal as yet.

Miscellaneous costs – $150

This included train tickets in between cities in Morocco, bus fares from airports to city centres (which aren’t cheap by the way), metro tickets and bus tickets in between cities in Spain.

1450049_10152038748726445_2045268601_nThe sleeper train from Tangiers to Marrakech

Accommodation

Find friends living abroad

In the midst of planning my trip, I found out that a few of my friends were going to be on exchange. I had the pleasure of their hospitality while traveling, and even managed to squeeze time to travel with Jannah, who was on exchange in Morocco. This certainly helped me in saving accommodation costs. To be honest, the friends I stayed with aren’t really the close ones, but they are the ones I would keep in contact with in years to come.

1459721_10152028624856445_928336013_nThank you Jannah for being an awesome host and travel buddy!

Couchsurfing

Need I tell you more about how awesome Couchsurfing is? I set up a profile sometime back and only became active when I welcomed Swani, my first Couchsurfer in August. I could have stayed with Swani in Paris since she moved there in November, but I decided to stay with another friend instead.

When I put up an ‘ad’ about going to Berlin, I received numerous invites but Mirjam and Martin’s invite was the most welcoming. They even mentioned that they live with their 2 cats, Leo and Krumel! Cats! Of course I had to say yes! I will write about my first couchsurfing experience later on so watch out for that.

1497490_10152064700906445_193574507_nI can never thank Mirjam and Martin enough for their wonderful hospitality.

Backpackers Hostels – $130

I was a lone traveller, so backpackers hostels were the best way for me to socialise and meet new people. I only stayed in hostels in Fez, Sevilla and Granada since I had a place to stay in the rest of the cities. I paid on average about SGD15 per night on the hostels, with breakfast included as well.

1453552_10152026199436445_546945313_nI met Ariel from Argentina in the backpackers hostel I was staying in while in Fez!

GRAND TOTAL = $2072.39

So there you go. It is possible to experience a trip of a lifetime on your own, for less than what you think you need. I have prepared an itinerary so if you’re keen on taking a look just drop me an email and I’ll send it over. For now, I need to sort my photos.

Standard
Musings, Travel

A Prelude

It’s less than 30 days till I embark on the craziest adventure I’ve ever taken. I’m nervous, excited and feeling pretty overwhelmed as of now. So many things to do but there’s nothing I can do now.

People ask me why I decided to do this trip alone. I often ask myself the same question as well. Every time I make a decision, I make sure my intentions are clear so that I don’t do it for the wrong reasons.

I’ve been told not to run away – never take travel as a means of running away from the life you have back home. Never take it as a way for you to escape the problems you’re facing. To travel is to learn, and dive into a world unknown.

I have plenty of reasons to escape this place I call home, but I shall not discredit my intentions for travel. I genuinely want to see the world, on my own. I really want to experience the Moroccan souqs and see The Alhambra. I want to taste the Parisian air and take a jump shot next to the Eiffel Tower. I want to touch and feel the remnants of the Berlin Wall. I don’t have a bigger reason for wanting to do all these, all I know is that I really want to do them.

I’ve learnt many things about myself since I graduated one and a half years ago. The three years in university flew by too quickly, I couldn’t sit down and breathe. I went right into my first job a month after I graduated. I was too eager to start earning my own income. I was too quick to decide on what’s best for me. I just wanted to move on to the next stage of my life.

Why, you may ask, was I adamant on moving to the next stage of my life? I really can’t give an answer either.

I’ve since learnt to relax and accept whatever that comes my way. I know that upon my return from this trip, I will be a different person. Inshallah, I will be a better person – as a Muslim, a daughter, a sister and a photographer.

As much as I will return home broke, jobless and pieces of my heart being left in all the places I will be heading to, I trust God that He has other plans for me. I trust that I do not need what I don’t have now, and what I have is all I need.

I can’t promise a proper travelogue. I’m such an introvert that I really filter what I choose to share with the world. (Yes, believe me, I AM an introvert.) but of course, I will guarantee you there will be photos!

PS: Although a 85mm f/s 1.8 would be nice.

PPS: Okay fine. I don’t need that now.

Standard
Faith, Musings

Color Run, Planning for Europe and Life

It’s been an emotional Syawal for me last week, but then again, since when hasn’t it been emotional, right? Now that I started a semi full-time job and earning my own income, family and friends, as usual, as me what’s next.

1098481_605589796151600_854720828_n

We both have an obsession for unicorns.

1097066_605588072818439_1493707922_o

Supposed What-Are-You-Looking-At look

1149157_605587782818468_1058163883_o

At the start line

I never had a proper answer for them. My answer depends on who is asking the question, or whoever is interested to listen. It gets awkward when relatives who are of the same age as I am tell me they are engaged, or planning their wedding when here I am running marathons, running around like a maniac and making travel plans alone.

1097725_605587742818472_61815634_o

I can never take a proper photo.

1119810_605588262818420_1235006878_o

Artifact #1: Crazy tudong girl attempts to dance through the powders (my point exactly about my priorities in life)


1149679_605588522818394_1017183607_o

Lalalala

As I enter my mid-twenties (oh gosh how weird does that sound!!), I can’t help but reflect on what’s in store for me in the future. I’ve been reading many articles online about how people in their twenties aren’t exactly sure of what they’d like to do for a living and other quarter-life crisis articles. I’m not even 24 but I feel so much pressure to do well in whatever I do!

 

1095111_605589799484933_1824262627_n

 

And the aftermath

Truth is, I don’t even feel pressurized by my family. Be it my extended family or my siblings, we each know we have to create our own paths to success. However, the fact that I did study in a local tertiary institution and having many friends graduating with better results has made me so hard on myself. I set high expectations so that I won’t ever be called mediocre. And this flaw of mine has bitten myself in the butt more often than not.

My plans for a delayed solo graduation trip is set in stone. Tickets bought. No turning back. I need to get my s*** together.

Standard
Faith, Love, Musings, Travel

Blessed

It’s halfway through Ramadhan and I haven’t had a chance to write anything here. I’ve been rather busy with work, managing the house and other external commitments. It’s my first Ramadhan as a working adult, but I’m thankful for everything that has been bestowed upon me.

Ramadhan started with me finding out a friend of mine began fasting. And I think our friendship is slowly turning into a beautiful relationship. I’m pretty thankful for that.

My travel plans for December is almost concrete. I just need to wait for a few more kaching to be in before I purchase my flight out. I’m rather nervous because I will be traveling alone for pretty much three quarters of my journey. I need my travel game face on when I’m out there alone and make new friends easily. Hopefully, since I’ll be traveling for about 23 days this time round, I’ll make an extra effort to blog and upload photos on the go. My heart aches every time I have to go through the photos after I’ve completed my trip.

Till then, Ramadhan Kareem!

Standard