I’m Back Home Now

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It seems like ever since I landed back in Singapore on the 10th of August, I haven’t quite had the energy or motivation to be back here on this site.

I’ve been wanting to write, I missed the feeling of typing (note: it’s quite a different feeling typing at work and writing this) and this morning, with a Saturday drizzle I decide to return with some words and emotions.

As usual being inspired by Daven Wu’s words on the SilverKris magazine, he always seems to be able to read my mind, or not quite that because probably many in this world feel like this too. Following this, I know…

Having travelled to several countries and cities for the past 2 years and spending it mostly in Switzerland, I have nosed around the traditional shops every destination offered, climbed up and walked down to see green valleys and the glorious Swiss Alps, wandered along alleys, rues and quartiers of French towns. Oh yes and the culinary delights of Europe too.

And yet… There’s always a great sense of a homecoming whenever the plane arrives in Singapore. The minute the door swings open and I step out onto the aerobridge; when I sniff the first waft of the tropical warmth and the ever present emerald scent of lush vegetation. I know that all is good with the world. And after you’ve had to deal with the long lines at immigration and the chaos of the luggage carousel of many an international airport out there, it’s difficult to express the calm, almost dream-like relief you get from sailing through Changi Airport. From the moment the plane touches down on the tarmac, I can literally clear immigration, collect my bags, hop into a cab and be at the front door of my home in half an hour. Trust me, this doesn’t happen anywhere else.

Indeed, being back home with the airport which flaunts its efficiency, orchids and amazing array of food and shopping – I nod my head with agreement.

Back home here, I have stuffed myself with my favourite Nasi Lemak weekly and with decently priced Singaporean, Malaysian, Indian, Korean, Japanese cuisines & etc that I have been missing and craving for since my days in Europe. I certainly am avoiding Western or European cuisines at all cost though a corner of my taste buds misses some cheese from Switzerland.

I’ve met up with family and friends within the week since I landed, before Ig embarked on another phase in life. Though a little tricky to arrange, lunches and dinners were possible all thanks to their patience and matching schedules with mine!

There was the dinner with Peter Draw & Bush at Tiong Bahru which I was eager to share prawn noodles, fish head curry, tau kwa pok, chwee kueh, gras jelly drink with the Bush the Taiwanese friend I met in Japan on the Project Yume trip. It always makes me smile knowing that my international friends are finally visiting Singapore and that we get to meet here in my homeland while I busy myself with revising
Singapore history in case they ask (oops!)
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The Shanghainese colleague I got to know from my last internship in Shanghai, China got out of China for the first time and she was here in Singapore! Seeing her again reminded how the passion for HR in me grew ever since.20131109-091957.jpg

Before Bestie returns to Manchester to enjoy the clinical contacts and whatnots, dim sum at Victor’s Kitchen with her and mum!
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Cheers to the friends I’ve known through livejournal, we’re friends till today though we don’t manage to meet up often, we always have such fun yakking away, drinking Koi and eating cheap and good food!20131109-092037.jpg

Still keeping in touch with my form teacher/ tutor from primary school days, dinner at Royal China @ Raffles Hotel offered a Tiffany & Co blue environment for us to catch up and reminisce.20131109-092100.jpg

Friends and seniors from Temasek Polytechnic HTM, PACEsetters and Changi Youth Ambassadors days remind me about how and why I entered the hospitality industry in the first place. Topics we talk about ranges but it never fails to end with ‘Hospitality’, I know, the ‘hospitality’ in us lives on!20131109-092115.jpg

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Bidding goodbye to #1 for 6 months as she goes on exchange in Munich. Just as I left Europe, she had her chance to go there. We always say it’s like we exchanged places. When it’s morning here in Singapore, she might just be almost falling asleep or working on her models and school work.20131109-092129.jpg

They were the reasons why French classes before I went to EHL were so much fun! Meeting up before my petit ami left for UK to further his studies.20131109-092153.jpg

Monthly EHL Alumni meetings allow chances for networking and catching up with friends who are doing their internship in Singapore (or by now, have completed) or back home working.20131109-094523.jpg

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Having occasional meals and meet ups with friends always helps to pull my brain away from work, give it a rest and think of the past. Sometimes it sparks some ideas about Future too…

In case you may not have gotten the hint, yes I’m now back in Singapore, at least it’s going to be a while that I’ll be here. Let’s catch up when we can, friends :)

Till the next post as I talk about myself embarking onto another phase in life – work.

Hola Barcelona!

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Walking along the streets of Barcelona, I always enjoy looking up at their residences. I spot the people suntanning at their balconies, I see the hardworking immigrants with their laundry hung out on the railings… Hi to Barcelona!

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When we mention about ‘Barcelona’, we are reminded about Gaudí’s designs. The inner architect in us gets unleashed, we start appreciating and learning about architecture, something that has probably been a major part of our lives but may not be an aspect most take great notice of. We look at things in different perspectives… “Colours in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic” as Gaudí said.

To the UNESCO heritage sites that triggered my interest to come to Barcelona:

Casa Batlló

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Casa Mila (La Pedrera)

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Parc Güell

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Sagrada Familia
When objections were raised as to the extended completion date of the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí said: “Don´t worry, my client isn’t in a hurry.”

I am amazed at the mathematics and geometry behind everything in this place. It’s incredible that the calculations behind everything is thought out by the same man. Systematic and imaginative at the same time.

I love those frames around the windows. Everything seems curved and soft, stone and glass floating seamlessly into each other. When the sun starts streaming in through the stained glass windows, it’s like an explosion of colours.

The intricacies of the ceiling, where everyone is mostly looking up, wondering how this cathedral can be so strangely whimsical.

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El Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona – “Let yourself be seduced by The Boqueria, let yourself fall in love with its streets of special flavours, the mosaic of colours of its exotic fruits, the aromatic message of its strawberries or the strong smell of its salted fish, the bull recently butchered, the Mediterranean jewel with its great display of silver fishes… As someone once said, if the unicorn existed, it would be sold here.” A visit to the market will definitely be incomplete without having breakfast made of fresh local produce, the baby squids freshly caught this morning and Iberian ham from the neighbouring stall of the cafe!

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Walking along the beaches, looking at how the young and old, ladies and gentlemen are clad in their bikinis or swimming briefs (or maybe not at all dressed), I am still amazed at how much confidence, comfort and enjoyment they seek in suntanning under the scorching sun that I as a Singaporean could not bear with a second longer.

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Not sure when I’ll see you again, Spain… But till then!

À Bientôt, Suisse!

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It was in 2011 Switzerland that I saw snowflakes falling from the sky for the first time. Now in July 2013, I finish off my snowy Switzerland journey with looking at the Swiss Alps in awe.

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On my last day in Switzerland, I thank dear Dad & Mum once again for making all things possible – For supporting my decision in applying for EHL 2 years ago, for me to be exposed to learning experiences of living & studying abroad alone, for me to treasure our family even more and for me to sum up my 2 years in Switzerland beautifully as we reunite to visit the Swiss Alps. I am really glad that I could bring both of you around Switzerland and that we could always be reminded of the country’s postcard-perfect scenery from now on.

I know I will always remember Switzerland as that “small, steep country, much more up and down than sideways, stuck over with large brown hotels built on the cuckoo clock style of architecture.” I know I will always remember the friendships forged, things learnt, knowledge gained, language picked up, food savoured, wines drunk, snowballs thrown and scenery captured – all in Switzerland.

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The charming historic cities of Bern and Lucerne I shall bid goodbye to, they have the bluest water lakes with humongous white swans and beautiful ducks eager to munch off the baguette humans are generous to share.

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With that, Switzerland, I’ll see you when I see you. Au revoir, Suisse or maybe it’s à bientôt!

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You’ve shown me what’s nature at its best, it’s what you have that you can be certainly proud of.

I hope all my friends get the chance to visit Switzerland at least once in their lifetime!

End of my EHL journey, I have YOU to thank

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How I ended up in Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne, Switzerland – the story goes way back to those days I had the opportunity to do my overseas internship (with Temasek Polytechnic then) in Seychelles. Meeting an alumni member who started off her conversation with “If you go to EHL, you’d be able to get this cool hoodie!”, thank you LJ McBain for striking this idea in me and encouraging me to apply for EHL. Seeing how LJ was as a person, as a receptionist, as a resort assistant manager and most importantly as an EHL alumni, I wanted to be like her, I wanted a career development like hers. Not forgetting LJ’s kind words in the recommendation letter that further supported my application for EHL, I now own the “cool EHL hoodie” which you showed off to me.

It was Mum who reminded me to start with my university application early in case I miss the application deadline so I struggled with the tortoise Internet speed in Seychelles and tried to visit websites of universities, whether local or overseas. I was certain I’d continue with Hospitality, so the choices were limited locally. I never really thought of pursuing my further studies overseas actually, I guess I just trusted in Singapore’s education thinking that it could bring me far, but again my results from TP though decent enough, was unable to allow me to enter the highly ranked NUS or NTU (which also did not offer Hospitality). Finally, Mum gave me the courage to apply for EHL and I did. It was a pity that I missed the deadline of attending the Selection Day held in Singapore and there, in May 2011, my journey all the way to Switzerland from Singapore began. Arranging to be part of a tour package prior to Selection Day with the back-up plan that if I did not manage to secure a seat in EHL, I have at least visited Switzerland. I spent almost a day in City Hotel preparing for my Selection Day which was held the next day. It was also my first experience in a European hotel which had no air-conditioning but only a fan for guests to survive the Summer heat.

Arriving in (Route de Cojonnex 18, 1000 Lausanne 25, Switzerland) with TL Bus 45 (direction towards Croisettes), I was greeted with the well-known EHL dress code. All suited up, gentlemen with their neatly pressed suits and ladies with their 10cm high heels. A series of computer tests followed by an interview which I felt was the main determining factor as to whether I could see myself in this school and setting the path for future TP juniors to possibly follow. I was the first case the Admissions department received, a fresh Temasek Polytechnic graduate attempting to enter EHL as a direct entry into the Bachelor of Science in International Hospitality Management programme year 1 or 2. I enjoyed sharing my teamwork experiences from poly days with the interviewers, explaining to them how I felt I could fit into EHL with what I have learnt for the past 3 years in TP. I was recommended to take up a French beginners/ conversational course in any way so that I could get myself around in Switzerland, if I were to be accepted into EHL. The role play was the ‘most fun part of the Selection Day’ and it was true indeed, if not for Naomi Soleil who was a school ambassador acting together with me.

Receiving the decision e-mail 10 days in advance gave me a total shock, I was squealing in excitement at home and Mum teared upon knowing that I’d be off for an exciting journey in Switzerland for 2 years, from September 2011 onwards. Time to buy winter clothes, household necessities, blazers and dresses for school, stationery, asian food packs, photos of loved ones to print and etc…

The journey in EHL for 2 years… the story could go on and on, I’d probably have told you about all I’ve done in school through e-mail or whatsapp (who are reading this) or you’d have seen it visually on Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram! I have a list of people to thank, like most graduates usually do and I shall begin:

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6398 miles away, I have Dad & Mum back home. Thank you Dad for working hard, forking out a massive sum of school fees for me to continue receiving the education I’ve been longing for. As for Mum, you know I have too much to thank you for. Thank you Mum for first settling me down in my Building E Room 901 when I first came, it was difficult for us to part, you teared and I tried not to. Next, let us thank Skype and Whatsapp for keeping us close (thank you for always being so updated with technology and learning things fast), for making our almost daily video calls and whatsapp conversations possible… which we could maybe actually film a drama or write a novel about when put together. Thank you for listening to the minute details of my life here in the foreign Cheese & Chocolate country, giving me the advice I’d love to heed though sometimes they may be rather too detailed for my preference, ensuring that I do not get too greedy with my travels in Europe, sending me boxes of warmth and food that were extremely crucial for the Asian in me.

Thank you Grandma, Yima, Jiujiu and Jiuma for always being concerned about my happenings. The annual Chinese New Year cards (filled with cut-outs of roasted duck, nasi lemak and all other Asian dishes) were pleasantly funny, birthday cards and gifts were really greatly appreciated. Thank you Skyler for coming out from Jiuma’s womb right before I left for Switzerland so that I could have a look at your pretty face. Though I missed out the first 2 years of your growth to being a toddler, Jie jie is coming back now!

Thank you Rachel Yang, my #1 for keeping me sane. Our whatsapp conversations, filled with complaints of our lives and how much we thank and miss each other. Your ‘Vanity Fair’ postcards can now finally be put to a halt, thanks for sending them. I remember you were the last pair of eyes I looked at before I turned my head towards the departure gate, sobbing a little. I’m coming back now!

Thank you Bestie Vera Nakata for always cheering me on, believing in me. Your random skype calls which consisted mostly of my voice since you preferred me updating you about life than the other way around as much as I was curious about yours. The point in time when you got a smart phone was a turnpoint in our bestfriendship as well. Our favourite memory must have been the possibility of us travelling for the first time together, in Scotland and its highlands in May 2013.

Thank you Job Ang, Joel Tay and Ruiyang Monico, my favourite ‘gor-gors’ for taking care of me. When I say I want Nasi Lemak for my birthday, I get Nasi Lemak for my birthday feast. When I say I don’t want truffle with my meals, I get a special truffle-free menu for our meals. When I say I don’t want to drink wine, no one insists that I should drink. When I say ‘wait, take photos first’, I get to have the photos taken first before all of you dig in. Three of you were the ones I started my Michelin Starred restaurants journey with – Chef Paul Bocuse, Philippe Rochat, Emmanuel Renaut & Christophe Michalak and finally my favourite, Louis XV by Chef Alain Ducasse. Thank you for always asking me along for such experiences even though I do not eat foie gras, dislike truffle and cannot drink wine with seafood. Although all three of you always bully me by sending me photos of Asian food when I’m still in Switzerland and saying that you guys miss me because there’s no one to wash the dishes for you all, I still thank you – Job, Joel and Ruiyang for the memorable and belly happy 2 years. Une Tablée Particulière, shall we make it happen again in Singapore/ Malaysia sometime soon?

Thank you Kelsen Chong for ensuring I have meat on my dinner table, listening to me when I have things to say, not disturbing me when I feel like being alone.

Thank you my dear Singaporeans in EHL for keeping my singlish alive and satisfying my Singaporean food cravings! Joshua Gan, Hui Hui Yang, Bryant Cho, Emma Yap (for Shanghai internship too), Huiqi Lim, Beatrice Wee, Joan Alexis Cher, Johanna Lindenstruth.

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Thank you Unnie Lisa Rho! We met at the bulletin board with my conversational starter as “Are you Korean?”, we worked hard hand in hand for the past 2 years, we gave each other advice and exam tips, we encouraged each other when we found it challenging, we taught each other Hangul and Singlish, we helped each other take pretty photos in beautiful Switzerland… I’ll be there for you when you come to Singapore, just like how you were there to bring me around in Seoul ;)

To you who knew me before we knew each other. Madeofballoons was how we met, was our conversational starter at the red chairs by reception. Your words never never never fail to make me smile, make me strive harder in life, knowing that you’d be there for me. Your words are of such power, they gave me so much strength throughout my journey in EHL. Who else, but Charlotte Dwars.

Thank you Mariana Possari Goncalves for being the awesome travel partner for Amsterdam, Champagne, Nice, Lugano. Thank you for having The Sims 3 on your computer so that I could play whenever I felt like. Thank you for living just behind the train station so that I could pop by for a meal or for fun whenever I was in town. I’m thankful that our friendship shall now relocate from Lausanne to Singapore, at least for a month till you find a job in your favourite China to practise your Mandarin. Time for some street food in Singapore, Brazilian!

Thank you Queeney, Gaby and Marie for being the ‘Brasseurs’ hangout gang, for laughing at the slightest things together ;)

Thank you Cherie for giving me an interesting crazy start to EHL life. Thank you for opening your house to us for yummilicious Asian meals/ hotpots. Thank you Zi Guan Chiu for being such a good consolidator when it comes to project work, for cooking willingly when I pop by for a meal. Thank you Steph Yum for the wonderful 5 months in Shanghai, understanding me when I preferred studying for my exams than to dine out as much as I’d love to. Thank you Wei for being that thoughtful neighbour, always delivering food to my door.

Thank you Steph Dhima, Susie Thapa, Roman Hassler and Matt Lillywhite for being the most awesome group members, we made it! I will never forget your warmest welcome for me to join in the group as a direct entry student back in 2011 :’)

Thank you Trish for the lovely birthday gifts and postcards you’d not forget to send all the way from Singapore. Thank you Sindy who would occasionally send some love by mail or whatsapp. Thank you Junshen and Celest for being that lovely couple, concerned about how I’m always doing. Thank you Alex for always welcoming me with open arms and eager to bring me out for foodie outings once I get back.

Thank you Quent for your surprise appearance on the day I left for Switzerland. Thank you for initiating the Skype video calls, even though if you might be doing your models till the morning (which possibly mean night for me here in GMT+1) and I might just be rambling on and on. Thank you for typing the emoticons I love. We still have our Skydiving to do together and North Korea to travel to!

Thank you Lipeng, Stephanie Ng, Pei Wen Kwan and all other Loyalties for meeting up before I left for Switzerland. Thank you for saying you were proud of me to enter EHL, Peng. Thank you for asking me how I’m doing, Steph. Thank you Pei for the meet-ups in Shanghai during our internships.

Thank you Jasmine Toh for always attempting to sell your clothes to me via whatsapp, keeping me updated about fashion and definitely asking me “When are you coming back?” so that we can meet up not because of a buyer/seller transaction but as friends we’ve been since the blogshop days.

Thank you Calista for keeping me warm with the Deakin University coral hoodie you sent. Your words often encourage me and keep me going when times are difficult.

Thank you Bernard Sin, Kim Kian, Pauline Lim Smith, Lynn Lim, Genevieve Tang for the wonderful time in Temasek Club Switzerland. It has been a great time working with all of you, our efforts in pulling Singaporeans together for events and occasions have been worthwhile. To all Singaporeans in Switzerland, sorry we did not manage to meet before I left but shall we meet in Singapore if any of you return?

Thank you Cherry Cao and Woon Jiun for always giving me advice about the working society which I’m about to enter soon.

Thank you Im Seulong for always making me reflect about life through your tweets, cheer me up with your voice and for your smile that would definitely make my day.

Thank you dear friends on Twitter who are always keeping a look out for my tweets and the simple ‘Are you okay?’ tweets always make my heart warm. Thank you dear friends on Instagram for loving the idea that I’ve been sharing my travels with all and ‘brought’ you all to countries, cities and places you’ve always wanted to go through photos. I look forward to the day when I see the photos on your Instagram instead!

Thank you to ALL my friends who are always asking me “When are you coming back?” and suggesting that we should definitely meet up when I return :-) It’s time for us to meet up from August onwards!

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(6 September 2011 – 13 July 2013)

With that, I graduate today
on the 13 July 2013 with
a BSc in Intl Hospitality Management
from Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne.

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Because having graduation robe’s too mainstream, EHL has this graduation scarf to offer us as a souvenir from Switzerland!

NICE Holiday!

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The whole pun of how nice Nice is just wouldn’t end, it kept going on and on during our NICE holiday! (pun intended)

A 5 days trip to Nice, France with the ladies!

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The beauty of Italian architecture in the French Riviera, I found myself chancing upon every possible angle to snap a photo of. The laundry hanging out of the windows, reminding me of the sight I always enjoying in our HDB neighbourhoods.

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The fragrance of Nicois salad, French baguettes, Italian pizzas and seafood.. It has been an enjoyable foodie trip as well I must say! We have almost enjoyed every meal of ours, usually filled with seafood, seafood and more seafood!

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Been a while since I slipped on the swimsuit, head for the beach and frolicked in the waters! Oh and how rare of me to paint those toenails with vibrant colours, our nail parties at night!

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Walking along the promenade.. That was such a long stretch of 70s beauty and of course, the bikini-clad ladies and muscle men in board shorts lying flat on the pebbled beach, hoping to get a tan on their bodies or if things go wrong, turning into lobsters.

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We often hop onto the much-difficult-to-flag-for taxis and end up with the same conversations with the taxi drivers. “Where are you from?” is always the conversation starter. All four of us give one another a glance and inhaled a deep breath, “Well, we have a Filipino here, I’m from Singapour, she’s Hollandaise and there’s also Brésil!” “Wow! C’est international!” is always what makes us smile and be grateful of the friendships we’ve forged here in EHL since 2 years ago :)

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The thing about being in an international school with more than 70 nationalities is that.. you never know when you will meet these friends again. Even when we are so well travelled today, our paths may cross especially since that we are all studying the same field of studies, possibly ending up in the hospitality industry.. It still saddens me a little that my 2 years here have just ended like that.

I had to bid goodbye to my favourite Amsterdam canal girl, but I promised I’ll be back in Amsterdam (one of my favourite cities) again and I look forward to you coming to Singapore, C!

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Thank you once again ladies for this memorable ‘mini graduation’ trip! Thank you C for having us in this wonderful beach destination I never thought of coming!

Zurich Old Town & Abbey of St Gall

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A weekend on my own, roaming the old town of Zurich and Abbey in St Gallen.

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I had the pleasure of staying in Hotel Europe, the family hotel of S. Having heard so much about it, there was finally this chance to stay in one of the individually styled rooms. Certainly recommending this hotel for the lovely European rooms and its location in the old town is perfectly convenient!

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A personalised note from S which I found upon my arrival made the stay even more memorable. A small hotel certainly has its plus point of being able to offer personalisation much more conveniently and easily as compared to larger city hotels!

Second last time visiting Zurich and it certainly looks much more amazing in Summer. A pity the pitter patter of the rain made the sky abit cloudy and gloomy, but the old town of Zurich is still charming in a way.

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Second time visiting St Gallen. I told myself I needed to visit the Abbey once more because the previous time I went, it was too late to pop by the well known library.

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The library of Abbey of St Gall – a UNESCO Heritage site is one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.. In fact possibly the one that stood out most out of all built in Rococo style. A library that left me in the state of much surprise, shock and definitely in awe at its beauty.

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Exploring Switzerland on my own… Visiting all that i’ve always wanted but never got to… All these right before my graduation!

First Paragliding Experience

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First Paragliding Experience

When I was in mid air, this photo was snapped with the help of a camera stick. Every shot taken, I remember I was truly happy, my smile was genuine. Flying made me release my mind from the tyranny of petty things. This spiritual experience, I won’t forget.

Happy (unofficial) graduation gift to myself: /ˈparəˌglīdiNG/ in Interlaken