The Indulgence of Slowing Down

Bogor1_wmEarlier last week, I found myself getting slower and slower, albeit not deliberately. After 3 weeks of taking on more to-dos, spending more late nights in the office and way too many business dinner meetings, I noticed that I was no longer performing at my optimal speed. Hard as I try to be “in the zone,” it was becoming a challenge for me to focus. What took an hour’s worth of preparation for presentation slides became two. My already-short attention span became nil. I became restless and unproductive.

It was time to take a break. Slow down. For real.

Here’s the thing: I just got used to doing things on hyperspeed that I feel uncomfortable slowing down.  Worse, I feel guilty slowing down. 

On the first point: whenever I try to take a day off, telling myself that I need to learn “the art of doing nothing,” I end up getting fidgety, restless…and depressed. My hands get clammy and shaky because they’re itching to tap the keyboards of my Macbook to answer emails.

Arshad can attest to this. When I was left at home for a day, barely after lunch, he already got a message from me: “I’m feeling depressed.”

I was hard-wired to have a disciplined routine. I wake up early, I work out everyday and I always have a checklist of my things to do, sub-categorized into projects, both personal and for work. 

When I need to take a break, I feel guilty leaving my to-do list and projects behind. It was as if it was a mortal sin for me to.

I’m aware it’s not healthy to not slow down, to not learn HOW to. I knew I was running myself to the ground and I needed to stop.

Or at least take a pause. And so I did.

With last week’s holiday because of Indonesia’s 72nd Independence Day, I decided to file a day off and take advantage of a longer weekend. I needed to space out and unload my brain as I was draining out.

So off I went to Bogor (which I will blog about soon) to just do some of my favorite things that always get interrupted because of a long to-do list.

Work out. Run. Read. Write. Get a massage. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. 

For 3 days, I did all of those. I didn’t even dare go out of the resort.

I made a dent in my book. I slept a complete 7 hours for 2 consecutive nights. I still wokeBogor2_wm up early to see the sun rise and complete my day’s run. I still peeped at some of my emails (just a peep, promise).

But I deliberately slowed my pace down.

I enjoyed my coffee and my fruit plate for breakfast. I savored the pages of my book. I made time to breathe properly. I sat in a corner and stared at the horizon to just really notice the things around me.

At the end of the second day, I felt completely recharged. My shoulders were not as tight (thanks to the messages as well), I had a clearer perspective and there was lightness in every step that I took.

After 2 days, I had more vivid dreams, a better memory recall and a happier, lighter disposition. Heck, I think I even solved a strategy dilemma that I’m currently grappling with at work while I was on the massage table. If that is not clarity enough, then I don’t know what else to call it.

I literally felt so much better. Lighter. Even happier.

After I went back to Jakarta, I realized that I should give myself more credit and more leeway to take small breaks because it makes me so much more productive.

Bogor4_wmIt’s a healthy pause to save my sanity, my health, my wellness of being.

I also realized that I have a lot of women friends and colleagues like me who just won’t stop, no matter the awareness that it’s counter-intuitive to just trudge ahead.

 

I wrote this because I want it to be a reminder to myself when I’m doing it again- slowly killing my joie’ de vivre for not stopping- that the pause is very much needed and well-deserved. 

At the same time, I want others like me to read this and to know that it’s okay. We deserve the pause. There should be neither guilt nor shame in it.

And after the pause, am I ready to begin again?

You bet.

 

Other articles on on productivity and slowing down to be more productive that I found helpful:

Sometimes, not working is work, too

Five Ways Working More Slowly Can Boost Your Productivity

 

Fujin Teppanyaki and Japanese Whisky in Senopati: number 1 on my list of restos in Jakarta

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The Arshads at Fujin : I love sitting at the bar while eating, drinking and watching bartenders concoct my favorite whisky-based cocktails

One of my most favorite things to do in Jakartown is to hunt for good restaurants in the city. Luckily, there is no shortage of them.

Most of my friends would rather meet me in Bali because, well, it’s the most popular place in Indonesia. I always ask them to come and visit Jakarta and I will be more than glad to host them. However, Bali always wins.

Jakarta seems to be an acquired taste, what with the traffic and its inevitable comparison to Bali, at least for foreigners. For those who discover the city, they’d soon happily find out that apart from art and culture, Jakarta boasts of a plenitude of restaurants specializing in different kinds of cuisine.

One time, when Arshad and I were chatting over lunch, we were debating about our ranking of our favorite restaurants here in Jakarta. We came to a similar conclusion when it comes to our number one: Fujin Teppanyaki and Japanese Whisky in Senopati.

Why Fujin? For everything that I want in a restaurant-bar, Fujin checks out:

  1.  Great alcohol – Japanese whisky! 
  2.  Good food
  3. Awesome customer service 
  4. Bar area where I can comfortably eat and drink 
  5. Cozy ambience

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Ume crush (left) and Black Nikka (right) with edamame with black truffle oil

We’ve been to Fujin so many times that we’ve also managed to try a lot of the food on the menu.

While waiting for our main course, I normally like to start with edamame with black truffle oil and some crunchy fried garlic on top. I pair it with Ume Crush, my go-to high ball cocktail: whisky based with choya classic, ume fruit, toppped with ginger ale. I eat the ume fruit after downing the glass! 😀

Arshad, on the other hand, favors the Horse Neck more: whisky with fresh lemon juice topped with ginger ale. Honestly, I don’t mind having both. They’re refreshing and light.

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Horse Neck and Ume Crush: our favorite high ball from Fujin

Apparently, high ball was created after the end of World War II during the economic recovery of Japan. Whisky based with soda water is bang for the buck if you want to save money and if you want your whisky to go a long way. Eventually, high ball became an art from to the Japanese. It’s a refreshing drink best paired with appetizers as the subtle alcohol and light flavor open up the palate before the main course.

The average high ball in Fujin is priced around Rp90k, with Rp130k as the most expensive. Not bad, if you ask me.

When we are with friends or we are up for some celebration, the lineup of Japanese whisky in Fujin is something to look forward to! Ever since I got introduced to whiskey, I did favor the Japanese ones and Fujin allowed me to sample several of them. I normally default to Yamazaki and Hibiki, but thanks to Fujin, I got to sample more variety and got introduced to Suntory whisky, Black Nikka and Nikka Coffee Grain, which are also now ensconced comfortably in our whisky library at home.

 

Okay, now I have to talk about the food. Although the creature of habit in me defaults to my usual favorites, I managed to try a lot in the menu, considering our frequency of visit.

For salad and appetizers, I recommend the Japanese mushroom salad (Rp65k) with grilled enoki, shimeji and shiitake mushrooms served on mixed salad and vegetable dressing paired with salmon carpaccio (Rp90k), which are fresh salmon slices with onions and garlic soy dressing. Salmon carpaccio is part of the Japanese tapas menu and there’s a long list of them that I admittedly have not tried. More reasons to visit again!

In another one of our high ball sessions, we also ordered the mentaiko potato cheese pizza (Rp75k for small, Rp150k for large), again part of the tapas menu. It’s a bed of savory crepes topped with shrimp, mentaiko, potato and melted mozzarella cheese. It was okay but I wasn’t a big fan of the potatoes – they were too big and chunky for my liking – but this is a matter of preference.

The age tofu mentaiko salad (Rp65k) is also a good choice, which I alternate with the Japanese mushroom salad. With fried tofu and seaweed, it has the same base of mixed salad with mentaiko dressing.

My comfort food in Fujin is the seafood okonomiyaki : Japanese savory pancake with seafood, topped with a drizzle of mayonnaise and bonito flakes. At Rp95k, this one alone with my edamame appetizer fills me up already.

Arshad has also come up with his favorite lunch-dinner combination: medium rare Meltique Saikoro steak (Rp260k) which are beef cube steak with assorted vegetables and mushrooms on top flavored with Fujin’s signature sauce and Teppanyaki garlic rice (Rp35k for small, Rp60k for large), which is a simple Teppan-fried rice with garlic chips and butter sho-yu.

Although I don’t eat a lot of rice, the Teppan-fried rice is so garlicky and flavorful that I actually steal some of it from Arshad, paired with my mushrooms and vegetables.

The salmon teriyaki with mushrooms (Rp140k) and creamy mentaiko angel hair pasta with foie gras (Rp195k) are also to-die-for, although I’ve stopped eating poultry a long time ago so I content myself with the angel hair pasta.

A few months ago, we got an invitation from Fujin to a Sunday brunch event, wherein they partnered with Common Ground coffee to offer a one-time brunch menu. Apart from the reliable goodness of Common Ground coffee, Fujin concocted several brunch cokctails and created a special brunch menu for the occasion.

Arshad ordered the fried chicken with waffles and I ordered breakfast toast with salmon and salad, both of which were absolutely amazing!

I definitely hope Fujin will host another one of its Sunday brunches as I do want to try more the food (and drinks!) on their brunch menu.

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As pathetic as it may sound, despite the long list of food that we tasted in Fujin, we’ve only managed to try one dessert: matcha creme brulee (Rp55k). Solid glazed sugar on top meets creamy green tea creme brulee inside when you crack it. So yes, definitely coming back for more.

Aside from the food and alcohol, what sets Fujin apart is the customer service. All the waiters and bartenders are friendly and accommodating. It’s been a habit of mine to sit on bar stools and eat at the bar because I love watching bartenders mix and prepare the drinks. The bartenders engage us with the usual banter (in Bahasa!) but at the same time, they’re very attentive with what the customers need: additional napkins, hand towels, chili powder, what have you.

Arshad and I actually concurred that it’s one of the main reasons why we keep on coming back: good, personalized customer service.

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The bartender at Fujin preparing my brunch cocktail. Check out our personalized reservation card on the right side!

Considering that Fujin is our number one restaurant, it definitely deserves a 5-star rating. It’s one of the places that we highly recommend to friends and visitors in Jakarta. At the same time, it’s where we bring our guests whenever they visit us in the city.

Fujin location and contact details:

Address: No., Jl. Gunawarman No.21, RT.4/RW.3, Selong, Kby. Baru, DKI Jakarta, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12110

 

Spending one chill day in Singapore

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Bella in Sentosa, Singapore

Singapore is an hour and a half away from Jakarta. For a quick weekend trip, Singapore is one of the top-of-mind choices for Jakartans, considering the distance and the plethora of things to do. In my case, Arshad needs to regularly fly off to his Singapore office and I usually follow by Friday night to spend the weekend there. I am definitely not complaining!

There’s a lot of things to do in Singapore. It’s small in size but jam-packed in terms of places to visit and things to do.

In my last trip, I just wanted a chill day. No rush. No pressure. I wanted to enjoy a relaxing day just doing “chill stuff.” At the same time, my friends always ask me if I ever go anywhere WITHOUT shopping for clothes, bags and shoes. As unbelievable as it may sound, I actually do.

Here’s a list of my recommended things to do and places to visit, if you have limited time in the Lion City, sans the shopping. Yes, it can be done!

1. Have lunch in a food court offering a lot of choices. What better way to experience Singapore than to sample its array of sumptuous food. In my case, I normally crave for curry laksa or young tau foo. This time around,  we found a shop in Vivo City’s Food Republic that served young tau foo in spicy curry sauce! It was a cross between my favorite curry laksa soup and my young tau foo obsession. Needless to say, I had it twice in one weekend! I highly recommend this if you like the curry soup of the laksa noodle dish, without the carbs from the noodles.

Arshad was happy to sample the stir-fried frog legs in sze chuan sauce, which according to him, was surprisingly good with just the right hint of spice.

The Food Republic offers a lot of food choices and fresh drinks: the usual Singaporean go-to dishes,  Chinese food, street food and snacks. They also have vegetarian options, courtesy of the Indian food stalls. They also had Indonesian food serving nasi uduk, Javanese and Padang dishes.

 

The Food Republic details
Located in: VivoCity
Address: 1 HarbourFront Walk, VivoCity #3, Singapore 098585
Hours: 10AM–10PM

 

2.  Spend hours and hours on end at Kinokuya Bookstore. I live and breathe books, from fiction to self-help. After stuffing myself silly with young tau foo, we headed to the Takashimaya Center in Orchard Road to check out what’s on the Bestseller shelf. I was also hunting down a good hardbound copy of Neil Gaiman’s The American Gods so Kinokuniya was in my to-do list.

I said no shopping, but books are excluded from that list! I also ended up just browsing around since American Gods in hard bound cover was out of stock. I ended up buying my Kindle a cute cover casing.

 

I can spend half a day inside Kinokuniya just browsing through books. The bookstore also sells a lot of cute novelty items and beautiful notebooks — to beautiful that you sometimes don’t want to write on them!

Kinokuya details
Located in: Ngee Ann City
Address: 391 Orchard Road, Takashimaya Shopping Centre Ngee Ann City, #04-20/20B/20C/20E, Singapore 238872

Hours: 10AM–9:30PM

3. High tea in TWG, Ion Orchard. Although both Jakarta and Manila have TWG, it is still cheaper to buy the teas from Singapore. Quick tip if you love TWG: hoard from Singapore, it’s a lot cheaper. I always buy boxes of vanilla bourbon tea. It doesn’t have caffeine and the whiff of vanilla whenever you brew a cup is divine!

 

Since I was still full from my young tau foo lunch, we opted to have some tea, macarons and dessert. We tried the sakura vacherin – vanilla bourbon tea ice cream and sakura tea sorbet encased in frozen meringue topped with fresh berries, raspberry coulis and get this: slivers of edible gold flakes.

 

4.  Indian food dinner at Kinara.  For dinner, we headed off to Boat Quay to try Kinara which was serving North Indian cuisine. I love Indian food and my default favorites are the paneer dishes. I will not bat an eyelash and satisfy my sweet cravings for kulfi (traditional Indian ice cream), too!

 

Kinara Contemporary Indian Cuisine details
Address: 164 Upper East Coast Rd, Singapore 455265

Singapore_MI_wm5.  Drink bespoke cocktails at Maison Ikkoku. Finally, drinks! This is my favorite part of the day. Generally, I’m not a cocktails person. I don’t like my poison too sweet and sugary. For my alcohol, I stick to my wine and whiskey.

But I make an exemption whenever I visit Singapore because of Maison Ikkoku, as this restaurant-bar specializes in bespoke, craft cocktails. For bespoke cocktails, the bartender will just ask you how you like your drink: sweet, spicy (you read that right: spicy), sour, fruity, strong,  creamy, herb-y – and he will do the rest. He will also ask you for your preferred base: whiskey, vodka, tequila, rum, champagne, etc.  I normally go for a whiskey or champagne base. So far, I have not been disappointed with any of the cocktails mixed for me.

Their presentation of the cocktails are also quite spectacular, which makes the cocktails preparation an entertainment in itself.

 

Maison Ikkoku details

Address: 20 Kandahar St, Singapore 198885
Despite my frequent visit to Singapore, I don’t think I will ever grow tired of it. There’s always something new and there’s a lot of things to do, new restaurants and bars to check out and tried-and-tested places which are always pleasant to come back to. At the same time, the Lion City is always a safe haven so for solo travels, I will always highly recommend it. Until my next weekend visit!

Incredible things to do in Bali in 6 days

A good account on things to do in Bali from Life in Trips.

Life in Trips

Things to do in Bali for your first trip

A perfect sunrise, best beaches, mountains, heritage, temples, adventure, beautiful sunsets, shopping destinations, culture, pubs, cafes, resorts, hotels, spas. One place but so much to do, anything you think of, Bali has it.

Who are you?

A silent admirer of scenic beauty, a party animal, crazy explorer, dreamer, beach addict or enthusiast. Whether it’s the beauty or serenity, silence or music, Bali is the perfect destination.

You might be thinking if it is so beautiful, it will way out of my budget. The answer is “No”, anyone can plan a Bali trip fitting to their pocket.

My bucket list

First timers, I would suggest, spend at least a week in Bali. We had a 6 day trip, one of the most memorable trip ever.

I am going to share my bucket list with you, if you like it, pick up spots…

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