The Proposal,

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This year has been a year of many changes for me. This year, Taufiq and I decided to take the next step in our relationship. We have been together for almost 3 years. That’s not a very long time but to be honest, from the very first time we met, I knew he was ‘the one’. It might have taken me awhile to fully comprehend it, but deep down in my gut, I just knew, no matter how cliche it sounds. He is exactly how I envision my future husband to be – smart, caring, kind, patient. His good looks are just a plus point (haha!).

Our engagement is not something I did not see coming at all. Early last year, we had applied for a BTO together, the process some might call the ‘typical Singaporean way of getting engaged’. So all along, we both knew that we had an end goal in mind, which was marriage, a home, a future and a family together.

While some might say the entire BTO process takes away the ‘romance’ from the engagement and proposal, I beg to differ. To me, I see it simply as a form of commitment that both of us had made. Plus, I have to give props to this guy. While our engagement is something I expected would come eventually, I had zero clue on the proposal. Heck, I didn’t even know how or when it was going to happen. And I did not even choose my own ring!

I’m typing this all down at 1.05am on a Saturday night just for my own memories sake. The proposal was such a special moment, a memory I hope to remember forever. While I am not exactly the most active on this blog, I have made it a point to jot down all the major milestones in my life. And of course, this proposal as a majoooorrrrr one. So here is how it all went down.

A couple of weeks before the 10th of February, Taufiq told me to keep myself free on this day because he was taking me out on a date. He said it was a surprise…and naturally, I was a tad bit suspicious. It was not our anniversary and although it was close to Valentine’s Day, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. I tried to ask him what the special occasion was but he simply said we hadn’t been out on a proper date for so long, so I left it as that.

On that day, he picked me up at my place and said we were going for high tea. He didn’t tell me where we were going, but I figured it out in the cab as the driver’s screen basically said ‘GARDENS BY THE BAY’ hahahah. He took me to Pollen, my first time at this beautiful place, and the perfect setting for high tea in the afternoon.

Diners at Pollen can actually walk around the Flower Dome after for free, so that’s basically what we did after. I still had no clue whatsoever on what was happening, but Taufiq told me he wanted to go for a photography exhibition at St. Regis after. We hopped into a cab and I quizzed him on why the exhibition was at the hotel and he came up with a (very convincing) story of how St. Regis supports the arts and they have a couple of galleries in the hotel bla bla. He even asked me why I didn’t notice the art hanging at the lobby when I was there a couple of days ago (I was there for a work meeting).

When we got to the hotel I said I needed the toilet. And proceeded to take my time fixing my hair hahahah. At this point he must have been totally anxious but his clueless girlfriend was just whiling time away in the toilet. (P.S St. Regis’ toilet is NEXT LEVEL)

FINALLY when I was done we headed into the lift. Suddenly he whipped out a room key card and started fumbling with it. This was when I got suspicious. I was not supposed to see the key card but he was having some trouble getting it to work. So I asked him, “Why do you have a key card?” I mean, why on earth would he have a key card to enter a gallery?!?! He started laughing, and the door opened to the floor we were supposed to exit on and he began leading me through the hallway while I was bugging him the whole way with “What is happening?” “Why do you have a card??!!”

We got to the door of a room and he stopped to say, “Because we’re not going to an exhibition.” My heart started POUNDING. He opened the door and I was greeted by the sight of balloons, candles etc. etc. Realisation began to set in and Taufiq began his speech and revealed the most beautiful ring…I’ll keep what he said private for just the two of us.

He got down on one knee, and of course I said yes! The hilarious bit was when I took the ring out by myself and asked him “So which hand is it supposed to be on?” He was like “I don’t know you’re supposed to know better!” And I answered with “Hmm I think it should be left” and proceeded to put the ring on my own finger hahahhahhaha.

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I love my ring so much. To be honest, I don’t have a dream wedding ring in mind. But Taufiq could not have chosen a design so perfectly. ❤

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The decor was done by one of my best friends, Ann. I am so grateful to have so much love surrounding me. And to have such a wonderful friend to put in 110% into this once in a lifetime moment.

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For dinner that night, Taufiq brought me to P.S Cafe, where we had our first date. Things have really come full circle for us.

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When Taufiq said we were staying the night, the first question that popped into my mind was “WHAT ABOUT MY CLOTHES?!” Being the masterful planner that he is, Taufiq already arranged for my sister to come down with an overnight bag for me. Thank God!

Of course, we understand that this proposal is not a norm in our culture. Little did I know, Taufiq had already planned out everything. He had asked my parents for permission to propose to me, and unknown to me, they had already planned a date for the traditional engagement ceremony to happen where his mum would officially put the ring on my hand. So technically, everyone was making preparations for this without my knowledge! Here are some shots from the day.

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So, that is how it all went down. Taufiq and I are officially engaged and are ready to embark on this path towards marriage. Do pray for us and hopefully, this journey will be a smooth one.

I can’t wait!

xx,

Mel

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Closing Chapters, Starting Afresh

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It has been awhile since I’ve written on this space (again). But I thought I would just come here to jot down some life updates, the biggest being I left my job to start a new one! Of course there was a long thought process before finally coming to the decision. Recalling it all is probably going to take some time, so I’ll just post a little something I wrote on my Instagram which I feel aptly captures it all:

Progress is only made when you are uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable when I first came in here 3 years ago, knowing nothing much about the real world except that I wanted to be a ‘writer’. What followed was 3 years of trying to find my footing. Amidst the endless deadlines, the hectic day to days, the juggling of different projects at one go, and the need to meet, if not surpass, clients’ expectations, I found it. Eventually, I found a comfort zone. And just when I thought I had it all figured out, the time has come to move on to the next chapter. And so, I am uncomfortable again. Not knowing if I made the right decision. Not knowing what lies ahead. Not knowing if things will work out. Not knowing if I will work with people who are really, truly passionate about what they do again. But I find comfort in the fact that things will fall into place eventually. If there’s one thing I learnt here, it is to always try. There are always going to be challenges. All we need is the courage to face them. So here’s to accepting that all things come to an end eventually. Both the good and the bad. And here’s to taking the lessons I have learnt with me as I embark on a new beginning.

Since I left my previous job, I’ve had two weeks of break and it has been incredibly relaxing and liberating. What I’ve managed to do:

-Finally threaded my brows (haha)

-Went for a facial (good skin finally!!!)

-Netflixed for hours (I do not recommend the movie Elizabethtown)

-Shopped for new work wardrobe (goodbye agency life and hello stricter dress code, also I finally own a blazer!)

-Hung out with friends

-Headed to the beach with my boyfriend

-Took a trip to KL with my mum

-Slept in (MY ABSOLUTELY FAVOURITE THING)

That’s about it really! I foresee busy days ahead so it was good to cater some downtime to just rest and spend time with family/friends/boyfriend. Nervous is an understatement to describe how I feel about starting a new job. A part of me is also excited about all the new possibilities. I just hope that I can deliver what is expected of me, and hopefully more. So fingers crossed, everything works out fine. ‘Till next time!

xx,

Mel

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The Crippling Self-doubt,

“The content is okay but maybe you might want to read the article again to check your grammar”

Not the exact words. But you get the gist. To be honest, I was having a pretty good work week until I got the email. I’d like to think that I can take criticism, but I admit sometimes it cuts a bit too deep.

I wish I could say this comment came from en editor, or any writer by profession. Then perhaps it would be an easier pill to swallow. But it didn’t so you can imagine how badly I took it. Was my work really that bad to have garnered such a comment, from someone doesn’t even write professionally?

It threw me off my game the entire week. I kept having these nagging thoughts at the back of my mind: “Why am I even writing as a career” “Whoever told me I was a good writer?” “What made me think I’m a good writer” “Maybe I’m really not cut out for this” “I need a career switch”.

After all, “Writer” is probably not the occupation my peers or ex-teachers would have expected of me. (Side-story: I had a teacher laugh when I said writing was something I intended to pursue, but that’s a story for another day). I’m not an openly passionate person so I tend to hide the things I love doing. Plus, being in an institution with so many other wonderful writers who practically shout their talents out loud tends to make you just want to hide in the crowd.

The truth is, the process of curating articles, or any form of copy for that matter, day after day gets really draining. Some articles are easier than others. Sometimes words flow out naturally. Sometimes it takes a lot of staring at my screen, tapping my mouse, getting up to get a drink, pacing up and down, sitting on the toilet just to get some inspiration. This particular work was something I found more difficult to complete. I had no idea where I was going with it. I pondered over it for days. I beat myself up for not doing it justice. I always want to do justice to the work I am tasked with. Who wouldn’t?

Then there’s managing so many other deadlines. You want to give something your 100%, but reality needs you to spread your energy across so many different projects.

But in the end I thought I had produced something I thought was worthy, even though it wasn’t my best. But I was wrong.

“You can’t expect all your work to be your best”

That’s what my boyfriend told me. At first I didn’t pay his words any attention. I was too stuck in a self-degrading frame of mind. But the more I reflected on it, the more I realised it’s true.

I am human. I am flawed. And yes, I have imperfect grammar. Just listen to me speak and you’ll know what I mean. I use lahs and lors frequently. I don’t speak in proper Queen’s English. My friends say “And you’re a writer?!?!” to me on a frequent basis, more than I’d like them too. And I guess, once in awhile, my imperfect grammar creeps into my writing.

There are two kinds of people – those who pick themselves up in the face of failure, and those who let failure get the most of them. I hope I’ll never be one of the latter.

So I’ll do better. I’ll work harder. But once in awhile, I will cut myself some slack. We all should.

 

xx,

Mel

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Deconstructing a Dream,

I dream on a regular basis. When I say I dream I actually mean I wake up and almost 90% of the time I actually remember that dream. (I heard that’s not good, means you’re waking up at the wrong sleep pattern or something). These dreams are usually unusual ones.

It’s 1.43 am and I have no idea why I’m still up trying to make sense of one I just had last night. It went something like this…

I’m due to take a test. A history test. I have no idea why it’s history, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that history was one of my favourite subjects in school. For some odd reason, the test was supposed to occur in my car. I was seated at the back seat with the test paper in my hands. And the front doors open and two invigilators sit at the driver and front passenger seat. They’re supposed to watch over me as I do the test. But suddenly one of the invigilators tells me that my car is out of fuel and we need to top it up. So she drives out to the nearest petrol station and we end up running late. The test had already started and I was getting worried that I wouldn’t have time to complete it once we get back to the “examination area” (which was really a carpark where everyone was taking the test). But the invigilators assured me that they will give me extra time to complete the test. Long story cut short, we drove back to the carpark and I was about to start on the test when…my 6.54 am alarm rang and I woke up.

At first I thought nothing of the dream. Just some random nonsense my brain was probably conjuring up, maybe out of exhaustion. But I kept thinking about it the whole day and maybe my brain was trying to tell me something…

Lately I’ve been feeling down and unmotivated. And worried about my future and what holds for me. Maybe this dream was a reflection of my thoughts.

The “history test” symbolise something I really love and enjoy doing, but now need to prove my aptitude. I think it means my writing. The fact that my car was out of fuel could mean that maybe I’m running out of steam to press on. I didn’t even realise until the “invigilators” pointed it out to me. Maybe they symbolise the people in my life who are looking out for me? And the fact that I was so worried about the time I had…

These days I’ve been feeling like I need a break to recollect myself and restart all over again. Like I really need fuel to carry on. But I’ve been unwilling to let myself unwind because I keep thinking that I just need to go, go, go. If I stop, there’s no way I can move forward.

But the invigilators in my dream were really assuring me that I’d have more time to complete the test. Maybe they were trying to tell me that I really just need to stop, get the fuel I need, then carry on. There’s still time.

Food for thought.

So yeah…those are just my thoughts. Just babbling on and getting them out of my head by typing them down..

What I really need to do is head to bed. Maybe I’ll have another unusual dream tonight. Maybe I’ll sleep soundly.

Hopefully it’s the latter.

xx,

Mel

 

 

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Into a New Year,

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Hello February.

It’s the second month of the year. Not the first. But the second. February is always a welcomed month. For those who didn’t get a good start to the year in January, February represents the ability to try again.

I have been meaning to reflect on the past year that I had but never really got down to it. So here goes. The biggest occurrence that marked my 2016 was this – I didn’t get my dream job. I came close to it, but I didn’t get it. I spent the rest of the months in the year feeling stagnant, as though I wasn’t going anywhere. I watched people around me moving forward in their careers and I just felt stuck.

Ever since then, I have been feeling a little confused. Lots of people think that only fresh graduates feel a little lost, but the truth is, even after two almost three years, I still wonder if I’m on the right track. Do we ever stop feeling lost?

I’m not sure if my dream job is even my dream job anymore. I’m not sure if staying in this path is the right thing to do, or if a brighter future lies somewhere else. I’m not sure if I’m even as good at what I do as I think I am.

Every year, I feel like I need to accomplish something great. Nothing great happened to me in 2016. But I did have some small moments that I should celebrate:

  1. I was given the opportunity to dabble in freelance writing. Of course, this isn’t where the money pot lies as of yet. But it has given me a little bit of pocket money t to shop a bit without as much guilt. It also means I can expand my portfolio.
  2. I finally got the good news I was waiting for at work. Not going to go into details on this, but typing it down so that I can look back and be thankful for it.
  3. And then there was that Thought Catalog article. The reflection article I wrote on my 2015 that I actually posted on this space was published on Thought Catalog. I resubmitted it to the platform not expecting anything, but a writer who took a look at it felt it was worthy to be on the platform. For that, I am extremely grateful. You can read it here. Of course, it has been made heaps better by the writer’s edits. I hope it has resonated in people. Let me know if it did with you!

So maybe my year wasn’t as bad as I thought it was in my head. Even though a months has passed, it’s not too late to make a wish is it?

This 2017, I hope to be hungry for more. To stop doubting myself. To push myself beyond being just okay to being great. But even as I reach higher, I hope to remember to stop every once in awhile to smell the roses. I believe that it’s good to be ambitious and determined, but we shouldn’t be too focused on achieving the great that we forget the little things that make life worthwhile.

That’s what 2016 taught me. And I hope that in 2017, I take that lesson with me.

 

xx,

Mel

 

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Timely reminder,

The key is this: Meet today’s problems with today’s strength. Don’t start tackling tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow. You do not have tomorrow’s strength yet. You simply have enough for today.

– Max Lucado, Traveling Light: Releasing the Burdens You Were Never Meant to Bear

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Yogyakarta Diary,

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Mt. Merapi in the distance

(This post is super late because we took the trip in February 2016. But better late than never I always say!)

Photos: Taufiq Salehoodin www.tfiqsaleh.tumblr.com

And some by my iPhone 6!

The decision to holiday in Yogyakarta, or commonly called Jogja, was quite an on the spur of the moment one. I had an office closure for the entire CNY week, and since I have quite a limited number of leaves, I decided to go for a short trip. Due to budget constraints (saving up for a Euro trip hopefully in October!), the trip had to be around the region.

I had previously read The Smart Local’s guide to Jogja (yes, I am a sucker for what influencers recommend). If it wasn’t for TSL, I would probably never have considered going to Jogja. The activities and places recommended seemed pretty interesting! So Taufiq and I decided to go on adventure/nature-filled trip to Indonesia’s cultural capital!

DAY 1

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The best shot I could get what with the terrible weather!

Prambanan Temple

One thing I hadn’t realised about going on a nature trip – we are all subject to the forces of nature. When we landed around early afternoon, there was a slight drizzle. We disembarked off the plane and had to walk a short distance from the runway to the airport and it was drizzling slightly. Taufiq had warned me that it was the monsoon season at the time that we scheduled our trip but I thought nothing much of it. After all, nature is so unpredicatable! It couldn’t be raining all the time right…..

WRONG.

What was a slight drizzle turned to a full-blown storm by the time we met our driver and climbed into the car. We were due to head straight to Prambanan Temple as we were told checking in to the hotel would be wasting time and we wouldn’t have time to head to Prangtitis Beach for the sunset. Unfortunately, the rain was wayyyy to heavy when we got to the temple. I told Taufiq we should wait for awhile as the rain would most likely subside. WRONG AGAIN. After around 20 mins we decided to just brave the rain and explore Prambanan. Our driver very kindly gave me a poncho and loaned us umbrellas. Taufiq had his waterproof jacket he bought at UNIQLO’s duty free airport outlet before we left Singapore (best buy of the trip most definitely).

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Just a little fun fact – Prambanan Temple was built in the 10th century and is the largest Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva in Indonesia. Once the temple compounds came to sight, I realised just how very majestic it is. Tall, grandiose and definitely beautiful structures fill the area. Sadly, due to the super heavy rain, we didn’t manage to capture good pictures.

At one point, Taufiq remarked how even more majestic it appeared to be if I looked up at the top of the structures. I did so, and with the rain and dark skies surrounding the structure, there was still ominous and dark feel that actually enhanced the grandness of Prambanan. One good thing that came out of the gloomy weather I guess?

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After we were done, we concluded that it would be a waste of time to head to Prangtitis Beach to catch the sunset as the rain didn’t show any signs of letting up. So we headed to check in to our hotel, had a shower, and simply headed to a mall for dinner and some light shopping.

DAY 2

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Borobudur Temple

Day 2 was actually the day I was most excited about. We were heading to Borobodur Temple, the sight I was most eager to see! I had googled Borobodur extensively prior to the trip and all the pictures simply blew me away. Our initial plan was to catch the sunrise here, but we felt that waking up early would be too much of a chore. Plus, the purpose of a holiday was for us to get much-needed rest as well and we didn’t want to be too exhausted by the time we got back to work.

We were worried that the bad weather would continue to plague us. Thankfully, the skies were bright that morning and we made our way to Borobodur around 10am. When we got there, it was super hot!! But we were so grateful that the weather was good.

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Borobodur is a 9th century Buddhist temple. As opposed to the majestic structures at Prambanan, the ones here are stupas, or in simpler terms, bell-shaped shrines. A Buddhist statue sits in each stupa. Since we had good weather, Taufiq managed to snap quite good shots here. Safe to say I was a very happy girl – I don’t know why historical monuments tend to intrigue me so much.

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Our plan for the later half of the day was to go to Mt. Merapi, if the weather permitted. Thus we made our way there (quite a far drive) but even before we reached the top, I noticed how the skies were getting dark. We asked our driver and he said the rain wouldn’t come anytime soon so we continued the drive to the top. Unfortunately, the skies decided to unleash its wrath again and it started raining again. The Merapi tour consists of a ride on a jeep and you would be able to see areas the 2010 eruption affected. But we were not up to riding on a jeep (without a hood) in the rain. Then exploring and walking in the rain again. Not forgetting, the scenery would be affected by the heavy, dark clouds anyways. So we gave it a pass and got our driver to drive us down Merapi so we can just head to lunch.

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We got him to recommend a masakan padang restaurant. Which is basically like the nasi padang we have here. Only difference is they place all the plates of food in front of you and then you pay for what you eat. We had a spa appointment at SARAH Spa at 4pm, but we decided to bring it forward since we had nothing to do.

If you’re in Jogja, you definitely have to go to SARAH Spa. Not only was the massage good and affordable, the place is extremely relaxing (it’s basically like a bungalow on a quiet street with a lush garden behind), and the personal touch made it ten times better. After your treatment, your masseuse would actually write you a card and give you a complimentary small bar of natural soap. Definitely scores points in my books. It was so good that we decided to book a 3 hour treatment (massage plus pedicure) on our last day.

DAY 3

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Jomplang Cave

We woke up super early on this day – 5.30am!!! But we had a super adventurous day planned. Our driver was due to pick us up at 7am for a two-hour plus drive to Jomplang. We were going to abseil 6 storeys down into Jomplang Cave! No idea what’s up with us, first we did a sunrise trek up Mt. Batur in Bali and now we were going to abseil into Jomplang Cave in Jogja.

Our Jomplang Cave adventure consisted of abseiling, following which we would trek a short distance into Grubug cave. It is said that at 12pm, sunlight would spill through the roof of Grubug cave to create an incredibly magical view. When we got to Jomplang, we had to change into boots. Then we walked to the edge of the cave and I have to admit I got a tad bit nervous. Looking down, it was actually pretty high. And I don’t even have a fear of heights! Nonetheless, we put on our gear. The guides strapped us onto safety ropes and before I knew it, we were being hoisted down. It actually wasn’t that scary!

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When we reached the bottom, we had to wait for others before we proceeded to trek. It was a steep, downward route. All you have to balance is a rope at the side. And it was really muddy! I was soon covered in mud. Once we were done climbing down, we entered the cave and walked in the dark. It was so dark I actually had to use my iPhone torchlight to see where I was going.

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We got to our destination and this was the view that greeted us.

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Unfortunately, the monsoon season meant that the clouds were shielding the sunlight so not much light spilled through. Still a good view and experience nonetheless. I totally recommend it for those who want to do something different in Jogja. After taking pictures, we made our way back up the same muddy steep route, and we were pulled back up again. Lunch was provided so we ate there before going back to our hotel.

DAY 4

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Taman Sari

After a tiring day, we decided to take it slow on Day 4. We visited Taman Sari, a waster castle known for its ancient architecture. Taman Sari is the royal garden of the former Sultan of Jogja. I didn’t know much prior to the trip but Taufiq told me that the sultan’s concubines would bathe in the pool and the Sultan would throw a flower to the one he chose to spend time with.

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I would give this place a miss if you don’t fancy listening to little historical facts about the place. Granted, the pool area was pretty nice, but overall I don’t think the architecture is well maintained. A certain part of castle that we wanted to go to was also closed. Either it’s being renovated or it’s only open for wedding photography. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t want to take my wedding pictures at a place where a sultan used to hanky panky with so many concubines hahaha.

For lunch, we decided to check out Roaster & Bear café, as recommended by TSL. We had a huge problem getting a cab from Taman Sari. So we had no choice but to ride a trishaw. It’s pretty scary actually, since the trishaw driver (or cyclist) would literally cycle on the road along with cars, bikes, etc. So basically, you’re right smack in the middle of traffic in a….trishaw. Not very safe, but made for a good experience. I felt kind of bad as well. The cyclist was around 60 plus. Despite his age, he still had to do manual labour just to earn money. I found myself wishing I was lighter. Haha.

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The food at Roaster & Bear is pretty much like the food served up by cafes in Singapore, only way way cheaper. It’s quite a big café as well (2-storeys) and the décor is super adorable. Since Valentine’s Day was the next day, the place also had little hearts dangling from the ceiling. It was a satisfying meal and worth a visit if you want a break from Indonesian food.

After our lunch, we headed back to our hotel for a short rest before being picked up for our spa treatment at SAARAH Day Spa. The good thing about this spa is that they offer free pick-up and drive back if you spend more 3 hours or more there. The co-owner was the one who drove us back and we managed to have a pleasant chat with him. He told us that the rationale behind the free pick-up is that it’s all part of the spa experience – he doesn’t want his customers stressing or worrying about getting to the spa for their treatments. He would rather have them relax and enjoy a free ride.

Due to the infamous Indonesian traffic, we were picked up late and hence were late for our appointment. The co-owner was so apologetic. He even scheduled a free foot massage for us while we waited, and gave us a free bottle of natural lip balm. Service definitely top-notch! I’m not surprised that they’re rated as the top spa in Jogja and Java.

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(The reception of SARAH Spa)

I think the whole spa experience capped off our entire trip wonderfully. Despite the little adventures we embarked on that took a toll on our muscles and energy, we managed to schedule in some time for rest and relaxation.

And that concludes our entire trip! We flew home early the next morning. I would definitely come back to Jogja again, but perhaps this time I’ll be sure to trust the weather experts and avoid the monsoon season. We didn’t get to do some things we planned to do, both a result of the weather and at times just sheer laziness. Nonetheless, I’m glad we made the trip and I can now cross Yogyakarta off my list!

xx,

Mel

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