Usher In The Lunar New Year On An Auspicious Note

It has been a busy start to the new year and in less than 15 days’ time, it will be the Lunar New Year and I’m pretty excited because according to multiple Fengshui Masters’ prediction, the 2017 outlook for those born in the year of the Dragon seems quite promising.

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Image Credit: Mediacock Singapore

I must admit that getting ready for the Lunar New Year is a tedious yearly affair as there are so many things to do and prepare; but it is also a good opportunity to do some spring cleaning, get some new clothes, shoes, accessories, and even a new hairdo.

Prices for Bak Kwa (barbecued sweet meat), New Year goodies, reunion dinners and even hairstyling services tend to inflate during this season and it is no surprise why most Singaporeans will choose to go to Malaysia to do their shopping since the exchange rate is rather favourable at 1 Singapore Dollars to 3 Malaysian Ringgit.

Image Credit: Whattaworld

If going across the causeway is too much of a hassle (yes, do expect long queues and traffic jams), some shopping malls like Marina Square do have special promotions and offers too.

From now till 22 January, discover some hidden pampering treats that are handpicked for you and your loved ones. Just sign up with your Facebook account and you will be given 4 sure-win scratch cards to chose from participating merchants such as Kimage, Salon Orient, Posh Wellness, Zoom Salon, Phiten, and Kenko Wellness.

Do note that you can login only once a day to try your luck and it is free to participate!

Also, you can redeem a set of Red Packets at the Customer Service Counters with a minimum spend of $80 and a $10 Marine Square Gift Voucher with a minimum spend of $150!

For more information and details, check out Marina Square’s Official Website and do like Marina Square Facebook Page for some exciting promotions and updates coming your way!

Are you ready to usher in the Year of the Rooster?

Here’s wishing all our readers a Happy and Prosperous Lunar New Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Healthy Eating Tips For 2017

As we step into 2017, I’m sure many of you are busy cracking your heads on some worthy New Year resolutions. Wealth, happiness, travel, and many more along those lines could very well top your list but let’s be real here – we’re not accomplishing anything without health.

2016 was a year plagued by newborn diseases like MERS, Zika and strains of the Avian Influenza so it is no understatement to say our health is constantly threatened. While we put our faith in the hands of scientists and doctors to develop vaccines and cures, there is much we can do to safeguard our health.

If you’ve been exercising regularly, good on you! BUT – healthy living is not just about working out regularly.

It is a lifestyle that’s all about balance. I know it can be a real challenge to switch up your current lifestyle when you are so used to living this way. (We’re all creatures of habit after all.)

No one is expecting you to make a 360degree change overnight but we got to start somewhere and, fortunately, that somewhere starts with these simple steps. Here are some tips endorsed by dietitian Wong Hui Xin from Mount Elizabeth Hospital, to help you fulfil that 2017 resolution of eating healthy!

Spice Up Your Water

Now, we know water is great for us. But it’s tasteless, and it can sometimes be a chore to drink water. (I feel you, mate.) What do you say about spicing up that boring cup of water with a slice of lemon?

Image Credit: Paleo Hacks

Lemon water is definitely more flavourful than regular water. But it’s also beneficial in several other ways, including raising antioxidant levels, which in turns lowers the risk of several diseases, improving digestion leaving you less bloated, and helping with detoxification so you potentially save big bucks you might have spent on a detox programme elsewhere.

Lemon is just one way you can spice up your water. If you find it too much of a hassle to carry a lemon around (because it honestly can be quite the weight), teabags are a much more viable option. Apart from increasing antioxidant levels, teas like green tea also boost metabolism and kill bacteria.

Choose The Healthier Snacks

Less ice-cream and chocolate bars, more fruits.

I’m guessing you’ve heard this one too many times but fruits definitely make a much more healthier choice of sugary snacks. They’re a great source of vitamins and nutrients that help strengthen your immune system to keep viruses at bay. So the old saying that goes “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is kind of true.

That being said, we all would appreciate some variation too, right?

Bring those nuts and seeds on!

Image Credit: Michelin Guide Singapore

Instead of munching on chips and biscuits (especially during office hours when you’re desk-bound for 8 hours – let’s not even get started on how detrimental that can be for your health!), go for almonds! Almonds are loaded with all the good nutrients you need to keep maintain healthy levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. If nuts aren’t your favourite, go for sunflower seeds! They are as beneficial as almonds.

Not to mention they’re easy to buy from any convenient store!

Have A Salad

You already know you should aim to consume 2 servings of vegetables and fruits a day yet many of us don’t. Salads are the easiest way to work those into your meals.

Image Credit: Resilience Fitness

As a general guide to deciding what goes into your salad, you should always aim for a colourful bowl of vegetables to get a wide range of nutrients. As for proteins, opt for grilled options, or tofu for vegans. Finally, don’t forget some carbohydrates! Foods like corns, beans, and potatoes make for a balanced meal.

Remember that not all salads are created equal – creamy dressings are a major no-no. For healthier dressings, opt for vinaigrettes or olive oil.

The Healthier Choice Label

It’s easy to miss but products endorsed by the Health Promotion Board are lower in fat, sodium, and sugar, and some are also higher in calcium and dietary fibre compared to other options within the same food category.

Image Credit: Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital

If you absolutely have to get your sugared drinks fix, although I’d highly suggest you skip the midday bubble tea, the least you could do is to purchase those with lower sugar content. That way, you can have the cake and eat it too!

Order Only What You Can Eat

We’re all guilty of it – over-ordering. We walk into a fancy café and everything on the menu suddenly looks mouth-watering so we make a pact to order a dish each and share. But we don’t forget to pile on the dessert and appetisers as well. More often than not, we end up with more than enough food.

Over-ordering, and then over-eating, can lead to indigestion and bloat. More importantly, if you do finish all that food, you are bound to exceed your recommended daily calorie intake and all the suggested nutrients levels as well.

The best way to not do so is to opt for smaller servings. It can be as simple as asking for a smaller serving of rice or just holding off orders until you’ve cleared all the food on the table.

Now that wasn’t so difficult, was it? These are some handy tips that will make changing your lifestyle a tad easier.

So before we dive into how we want to embark on a month-long tour around Europe, or scoot on a beach holiday to Boracay, let us go forth and create a healthier us!

Happy New Year 2017!

Today is the first day of 2017 and I am really looking forward to what life has in stored for me in the next 17 months before I hit the big 3.

Personally, I have set a couple of goals that I want to achieve before I turn 30 and they are:

1. To obtain a Powered Pleasured Craft Driving License by January 2017
2. To complete a half marathon by April 2017
3. To slim down and achieve a weight of 70KG by May 2017
4. To get certified as a Level 1 Kayaking Instructor by June 2017
5. To get certified as a Day Skipper by September 2017
6. To complete an Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment by December 2017
7. To finish reading 4 books on leadership and team building by December 2017
8. To save up enough money for a Private Pilot License by May 2018

I am aware that some of the goals which I have set might be unobtainable in such a short period of time but I am determined to achieve them because turning 30 is such a big thing to me. This is why in the next 17 months, I will be like a ‘sponge’ and I will absorb as much life lessons as I can to equip myself and be ready for what life will throw at me when I turn 30.

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What about my relationship goals with my spouse, family, and friends? Are there spiritual goals that I have also set for myself?

Yes, I have set some relationship goals and some of them are to spend more quality time with my spouse and family and to be around for them when they need me. I also hope to be more filial to my parents and more loving to my spouse.

As for spiritual goals, I just hope to keep an open mind and be consistent in my belief that there’s a higher power that serves to make the world a better place and in turn being more mindful of the things that are happening around me.

For some, 2016 may have been an eventful year while for others, it may have been a trying year. There are certainly times throughout the year when we all felt busy, stressed and even downright frazzled.

When things aren’t going the way we intended it to be, what could be some of our responses to the problem or issue?

Could we have been more open and more receptive to new ideas? Could we have done things in a different manner? Or how about learning a new skill to develop a personal interest?

To get myself through 2017, I have gotten hold of Lonely Planet’s 101 Ways To Live Well and the wellness tips certainly provide tangible solutions to the stresses and strains of everyday life.

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I have an inkling that you might be having this thought in your head right now, “Are you saying that Lonely Planet, the world’s leading travel guidebook publisher and travel media company has actually published a non-travel related book?!”.

Yes, I kid you not. Even for me personally, I always had the impression that Lonely Planet only publishes inspiring and trustworthy travel content.

Anyway, I enjoy reading Lonely Planet’s 101 Ways To Live Well and if you are interested to find out more about this book, you can preview it here.

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For added convenience and portability, you can also purchase Lonely Planet’s 101 Ways To Live Well as an eBook on Apple iTunes Store or Google Play Store.

So, what are your goals for 2017? Come and share it with me in the comments section below.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful and Happy New Year 2017 and here’s wishing everyone a year of good health, peace, and prosperity!

5 Reasons Why Hokkaido Is Asia’s Top Winter Destination

Winter isn’t just about celebrating Christmas. It’s also about having fun on the snow, with various fun activities that make people flock to the mountain resorts. One of the best places to go during this season is Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island.

Image Credit: Kiroro

Although we haven’t been to Hokkaido yet, here are 5 best reasons why we think Hokkaido is Asia’s best winter destination.

1. Tons of resorts to choose from

Image Credit: Kiroro

Japan is a mountainous region with more than a hundred resorts to choose from and the best ones are located in Hokkaido, since it has a cold climate that is longer in duration. Hence, it’s no surprise why many foreigners are also frequent visitors to this part of the country. This is also the reason why most of these retreats, such as the five-star Kiroro Ski Resort, have English-speaking staff. Don’t let the language barrier intimidate and stop you from booking a vacation in Hokkaido.

2. Consistent level of powder snow

Image Credit: Kiroro

Japan is known for its high quality powder snow, which falls in great amounts and has a perfect texture for skiing. This is thanks to the cold winds coming from Siberia which picks up moisture from the sea and falls as snow on the mountains. Since Hokkaido is in the archipelago’s northern area, it is one of the first islands to receive this much snowfall, especially during December and January. This means you won’t have to wait long to see a fresh patch of powder snow on the ground as it’s always there for eager skiers and snowboarders.

3. Wide range of winter activities

Image Credit: Kiroro

If you’re looking for something other than skiing and snowboarding, you can take a walk around the slopes and mountains of Japan. Forest tours, snowmobile rides, and snow park games are just some of the top winter activities in Hokkaido that you can enjoy. The frozen landscape is a treat for the eyes, especially for nature lovers. These tours are done in groups too, so it’s advisable to bring your friends along for a fun-filled experience in exploring Japan’s winter scenes.

4. Hot springs

These geothermal baths are a point of pride for the Japanese, especially in Hokkaido, which has several of them. For one, these waters have a high mineral content. No wonder people believe that these springs can heal a number of illnesses, such as hypertension and rheumatism. That’s why these natural hot springs are perfect for soothing tired muscles after a long day at the slopes and make Hokkaido a top wellness destination even for locals.

5. Japanese food

Since the resorts in Hokkaido cater to an international clientele, you can expect them to serve a fusion of Western and Asian dishes. However, trying the local fare is always a good experience. Ramen, seafood and sushi are some of the island’s must-try eats. Hokkaido is known for its miso ramen, which is composed of wheat noodles and pork slices. This is completed with a soybean-based broth to give the dish its distinctive flavor. You can even pair it with a mug of local beer for a great dining experience.

If you’re looking to visit a place with interesting activities and good food, Hokkaido is your best option. The quality of snow, the different kinds of food, and the famous hot springs all contribute to a complete winter experience that anybody young or old will appreciate.

Make Good Merit When Travelling To Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is a city in Thailand that’s frequently visited by Singaporeans and most of us would usually go there to shop, eat, and sightsee.

During my recent trip to Bangkok, we wanted to make merit and do some good; hence, we went to Yi De Tang (otherwise informally known as the Coffin Temple where Ruamkatanyu Foundation is based) to donate money so that coffins can be purchased to help in the burial of dead bodies that are found and unclaimed by family members.

Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation) in Bangkok, Thailand for Coffin Donation and Merit Making.

When a death occurs at an accident scene, the rescue team from the Ruamkatanyu Foundation will help to clear and clean up the site. For victims who are without relatives, coffins will be provided from the funds that are donated by donors. Most of the people working at Ruamkatanyu Foundation are voluntary workers and although the devotees are mostly Thai people, there are also a sizeable number of devotees that come from Malaysia, Singapore and many other places.

Many Thai people believe that coffin donation for the dead is the act of making merit because the coffin is meant for the unclaimed or unidentified bodies so as to give them a proper burial. The amount of monetary contribution is according to one’s free will and it is said that the expenses required for burial or cremation and rituals with a piece of white cloth amount to 500 Thai Baht.

If you’re travelling to Bangkok and you would like to do some good merit by donating money out of goodwill; do visit Ruamkatanyu Foundation at Yi De Tang. They are open 24 hours a day although most people would prefer to visit during the day.

How To Get There

You can take the Metro and alight at Sam Yan station. Thereafter, head towards exit 1. Another famous temple among local Thai, Wat Hua Lamphong is located next to Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation).

Step-By-Step Guide To Making Merit at Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation)

Step 1:

Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation) in Bangkok, Thailand for Coffin Donation and Merit Making.

Upon arrival at the temple, head to the counters on the left and wait in line if there’s a queue. At the counter, tell the person attending to you that you wish to donate money for the purchasing of coffins and let him/her know of the amount that you wish to donate. When making the monetary contribution, a pink colour merit slip will be provided to you to fill up your name and signature, together with a duplicate of the official receipt.

Step 2:

Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation) in Bangkok, Thailand for Coffin Donation and Merit Making.

Enter the passage on the right of the donation counter where the wooden coffins are displayed and at the stationery counter where you see glues, apply glue on the back of the pink colour merit slip. Once done, make your requests and wishes by prayer before the coffins and then paste the pink colour merit slip onto any coffin.

Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation) in Bangkok, Thailand for Coffin Donation and Merit Making.

Step 3:

Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation) in Bangkok, Thailand for Coffin Donation and Merit Making.

Hold onto the duplicate official receipt and pick 20 incense sticks from the incense rack to offer prayers to the deities inside the temple at the right side of the donation hall.

Step 4:

Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation) in Bangkok, Thailand for Coffin Donation and Merit Making.

Offer 1 incense stick each at the left and right side of the temple’s main entrance, and then offer 3 incense sticks to all the deities inside the temple according to the number sequence in ascending order.

Step 5:

Yi De Tang (Ruamkatanyu Foundation) in Bangkok, Thailand for Coffin Donation and Merit Making.

Once all the joss sticks have been offered, burn the duplicate official receipt into the incense bowl that is placed at the right side of the altar. If you cannot find the incense bowl, you may ask someone from the temple. Finally, strike the 3 hanging bells 3 times each followed by the drum and then end your prayer.

Since you’re at Yi De Tang making merit, you might as well seize the opportunity to visit Wat Hua Lamphong as they are located adjacent to one another.