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September 29, 2017

“When was the last time you had alone time and felt euphoria from it?” & “Which part of work do you enjoy the most now?”

A friend of mine asked me some thought-provoking questions a few days ago and it got me thinking a lot. Just these two questions threw me off and made me reflect hard, because I could barely answer him. Both times. I don’t know if you guys ever noticed but I’m someone who loves spending alone time and I used to do that so often. I’d hit up a cafe along Duxton before my dental appointment and have an avocado lemon zest toast with caffe latte at 10am with just a book and my earphones. Or I’d have lunches alone in a salad bar while I typed down my emotions, dreams and goals in my notepad app. When I felt like I couldn’t deal with life or if I just wanted to run away to be alone, I’d be on a jet plane to some coordinates on the map, just me and my trusty luggage. Some of my friends knew me as the girl who ate alone and sometimes they would even jokingly comment “no friends ah?” but I never once felt the need to be conscious about it. If any, it was and is one of my favourite ways to watch the world go by and self-explore.

It saddens me a little when I realised I haven’t done this alone time thing in a long long while, and a peek at my schedule doesn’t allow it to happen anytime soon either. Life and work are zooming past me or at me like a train wreck. If you see me getting a manicure or getting my lashes fixed, it’s probably cos I have a shoot/trip coming up, or possibly my nails have reached a point of no return. Every morning I get up at 8/9am thinking hell yea I’m up early I think I can grab a coffee or catch up on Game Of Thrones but that work whatsapp comes in, that email I gotta send, that batch of photos I have to edit before this weekend, that backorder I have to liase with suppliers, that business trip I gotta find dates for, that photo draft I have to submit, that cafe I have to visit to do my shoots, or that plane ride I gotta catch, that luggage that I’m unpacking and packing consecutively, and possibly the worst way I hate to start the morning, that argument I gotta have with my supplier just to make sure everything runs smoothly on the operation side. 

I like being busy but I guess I didn’t realise how busy I’ve been of late (NZ aside, cos I really want to make time for my bf given the nature of our relationship) until my friend asked that question and how I noticed the number of friends I haven’t met in a long time, the ups and downs of their lives which I’m missing out on, and how setting a badminton session with Kirk and Vera was so difficult cos I’m hardly in Singapore anymore. And how even my own boyfriend can’t keep track of which country I’m in today. How I’m watching my dog grow older on the cctv linked to my phone, how dinners with my family mean a lot more to me, and how little I visit my grandpa now 🙁 how I didn’t even have time to personally find a new office space when my lease was up and the “me” whom I haven’t had a coffee with or allow to have some time to breathe. I have even more ambitions and exciting plans up my sleeves, and after everything I’ve just typed…I’m still thinking how I should squeeze these grand plans in. I want to believe that I can have a work life balance, but maybe I need to restart somewhere.

I think as a whole, I can still say I enjoy what I’m doing now. But if I were to dissect them into parts, I can’t quite put a finger to a favourite part of my job cos I’ve grown quite routined to it. I thought long and hard about it. I wouldn’t say I get excited at work trips, photo shoots or even “shopping” for new clothes anymore. At the end of the day, I think what I appreciate and enjoy most from this job is the learning process of it all. And this is what keeps me going everyday ; being someone who knows how to solve a new problem and someone who comes out a wiser person from yesterday.



Kyushu Part II

September 6, 2017

I’m back with the remaining bits of my Kyushu Summer trip with Donna!

Having been to countless shrines in Tokyo (namely Meiji-jingu being my favourite), I wanted to check out the shrines in Kyushu too so we went to Udo Shrine which is dedicated to Yamasachihiko, the grandfather of Emperor Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan! The brightly painted shrine is set in a cave on the side of a cliff overlooking the ocean and with a spectacular view kinda reminded me of Kyoto’s famous Fushimi Inari shrine. You’ll know what I mean after looking at the photos!

Since it was relatively nearby, we also drove alone the Nichinan Coast drive which is a famous sightseeing road of Miyazaki. Think Los Angeles palm trees and sea view!

Not forgetting some soft-serve ice cream! I got Hyuga Natsu citrus soft ice cream and Donna had mango soft ice cream.
I’d recommend getting the Yuzu soft serve if you’re at Horikiri Pass & Roadside Station “Pheonix” (:

We stayed at ANA Holiday Day Inn Resort for its close proximity and the hotel staff recommended this Japanese seafood restaurant which I have no absolute regret trying! SO GOOD!!!

If you know me personally, you’d know I’m a big fan of sushi, sashimi, Japanese-cooked fishes and crabs so this was such a feast for me! The fun part about this restaurant is that you can actually fish for your own lobster as they are “swimming” around you. The sashimi is sooooo fresh and the sushi is just perfect!

1-5-5 Aoshima Miyazaki Miyazaki

One of the biggest highlights of my trip has got to be this AMAZING ryokan-villa I’ve stayed in. I’ve been blessed this life to have stayed in many nice hotels/villas but this just takes the cake, HANDS DOWN. It’s the best villa I’ve stayed in Asia, with the best service and facilities possibly throughout my whole life. If you saw my Instagram story during my stay, you would have seen how humongous the space was, how we had our own movie and music room with Bang & Olufsen sound system, our private indoor and outdoor onsen, Hermes toiletries, personal chef and in-room BBQ, free flow ice cream, both alcoholic and non-alcohol drinks. Let the pictures do the talking!
Our private outdoor onsen which we spent the night stargazing.

Nestled in a bamboo forest, so blissful.

For honeymooners or if you just wanna spoil yourself, Takefue is a MUST-STAY in kyushu. I’d totally stay here again if I return to Kyushu and trust me, it’s worth every cent.

Headed back to Fukuoka city for a night via my favourite Japanese mode of transport ; Shinkansen!

We ended the last night feasting at roadside stalls and hours in Don-Quijote buying random cosmetic products and cup noodles. Such a short trip but proud of us for accomplishing so much! If you wanna follow our itinerary, you can check it out here. However, I’d recommend to do extra 1-2 more days if you wanna fully bask into the beautiful nature of Kyushu.

Thank you JNTO, Japan National Tourism Organization for having us! Can’t wait to return to Japan again (:

Sophia Chong


Kyushu Part I

August 17, 2017

I’ve always loved Japan since my first visit to Tokyo when I was 21, like it’s literally one of my favourite countries in the world. But I’ve never travelled extensively across Japan except for that few major/popular cities like Tokyo and Kyoto so stepping foot and exploring Kyushu last month really opened up a fresh new perspective.

Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island, located southwest of the main island Honshu is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. As an early  centre of Japanese civilisation, Kyushu offers many historic treasures, modern cities and natural beauty. My trip was only 4 full days, and I wish I had more time to fully explore and bask into the nature (think active volcanoes, beaches and natural hot springs) and slow pace life in Kyushu.

Checked into our first ryokan; Yama no hotel Musouen after 1.5 hr drive from Fukuoka airport.

  1. a traditional Japanese inn.

After a quick wash up and rest, we took the chance to explore Yufuin area which is…beautiful. It’s one of my favourite parts of the trip with its quaint shops lining the streets and walking around in a yukata! Mouth-watering cheesecake at Yufuin Milch! I’m so excited that they are opening a store in Singapore soon! It’s so fluffy and it just melts in your mouth yumsss~

Sorry for using the word favourite again but this is one of my fav meals in Kyushu. I had the beef mabushi and the beef was cooked to perfection along with the fragrance of the charred rice. And when you’ve enough of it, you can pour some soup over to make it into beef congee which tasted as good or even better!

Appetizers!You gotta try this place if you’re in Yufuin for their famed local cuisine!!

Yufu Mabushi Shin

2F 5-3 Kawakita Yufuincho Yufushi, Oita Prefecture

+81 977-84-5825

The Traditional Japanese Rickshaw was just a few minutes drive away and it’s surrounded by incredible sceneries. For that moment, I felt like a chinese princess being escorted to meet my prince hahah

Just look at the view, will you?

The iconic Japanese vending machines.

A much needed onsen sesh within our ryokan with a view after a long day!Followed by a massive dinner spread in the ryokan restaurant! Life’s good~~~

We woke up really early the next day for a long day of adventure ;

  1. Kokonoe Dream Bridge
    1208, Tano, Oaza, Kokonoe-machi, Kusu-gun, Oita Prefecture
  2. Kuju Flower Park
    Kuju Oaza, Kujucho, Takedashi, Oita Prefecture
  3. Mt Aso Helicopter Tour
    2163 Kurokawa Asoshi, Kumamoto Prefecture

There were so many scenic pitstops along our drive in Kyushu Kokonoe Yume Grand Suspension bridge is 390 meters long, 173 meters high and is the highest suspension for walkway in Japan. It’s nice to enjoy a cone of milk soft-serve while enjoying a full view of 2 waterfalls when you’re standing in the middle of the bridge. 

We stopped by another Hanabishi for another round of local cuisine on the way to Kuju Flower park to try their renowned beef bento set

If you’re big on flowers and you’re in Kyushu then you have to visit Kuju Flower park! The spacious park covers 49 acres of land and has many different flower fields such as lavender, sunflower, poppies, blue berries etc. On a clear day, you can enjoy the gram-worthy view with Mount Kuju as the backdrop!
Note that it’s closed from Dec-Feb tho!

Aside from coastal and mountainous views, I’d recommend you to take in the vast beauty of Kyushu from an aerial view. I’m glad we took the helicopter ride cos we saw so many things we could never see just by driving/taking public transports.

Helicopter tour in Aso was very comprehensive and our guide was very detailed in explaining every landmarks. Another good thing about it is that it’s located in Cuddy Dominion which is an animal park so I got to see ponies, alpacas and other cute furries as well. 

Lo and Behold, this was the most fun part of the trip ; rowing a boat to a waterfall.

Takachiho Gorge is a narrow chasm cut through the rock by the Gokase River and the cliff columns remind me of the scales of a dragon. It was so therapeutic to experience the cascading waterfall, green foliage and majestic surrounding cliffs. There are 2 ways to enjoy the gorge. First is by rowing a rental boat which was what we did, another was to walk on the paved paths along the gorge. 

Just a few mins walk away, there’s a very interesting somen stall which serves somen (very thin wheat noodles, similar to soba) through a bamboo trough and doused with boiling water. I’m sure some of you caught that on my IG story! It’s known as flying as somen so you’ll have to catch as much somen as possible with your chopsticks as it passes you through the bamboo trough. Super fun!!

I forgot to take pictures there so I took this from Google to show you!

Pic creds here.

That’s all I have for you for the first part of my trip! I’ll be back for the second part soon. Meanwhile, you can check out our itinerary at this link here!

(Stay tuned!

Sophia Chong