Hola Cuba! Day 8: Havana last look

On our eight and last day in Cuba Luxy, Ciara, and I took one last look at Havana. We had spent two days in the capital exploring Old Havana by foot, and toured Miramar, The Revolution Plaza, and The Malecón seafront in a 1950s classic car. Our first proper day in Havana was a Sunday and it so happened that our last chapter in Cuba would too close on a Sunday. But what a beautiful day to bid farewell to Cuba too! There is nothing so colourful, chaotic, and cacophonous as Havana on a Sunday. 

June 17, 2014

Hola Cuba! Day 8: Havana last look

On our eight and last day in Cuba  Luxy , Ciara, and I took one last look at Havana. We had spent  two days in the capital exploring Old H...

Vamos! Forca Boteco Brasil!

Well, the World Cup 2014 opening match was certainly controversial! And that penalty wasn't the only divisive point of debate---my English friends think it's scandalous I'm not supporting England, Henry insists on supporting Netherlands because his grannie is Dutch, and I'm supporting Brazil (I'd support Malaysia if only they ever qualified). "You're not even Brazilian! The closest you are to being Brazilian is your wax!" Well, I like green and yellow, so there! I love a lot about Brazil; their passion,  energy, party spirit, and hope...I find it heartening that even in the depths of abject poverty, children kick around footballs and dream of being the next Pel é or Maradona. The image of Brazil to me is a riot of colour, heat, music, dance, and an entire nation rising to cheer in solidarity. Which essentially is what the rest of the month is going to be, but multiplied by as many nations playing in the World Cup!*

*I might be an absolute twat, go into a bar or pub when England are playing and scream Go London Olympics! 

On Wednesday The Brazilian Ambassador, HE Roberto Jaguaribe, Hamish Jenkinson and Constantin Bjerke very kindly invited us to the exclusive opening night of Boteco Brasil Soho, in association with Crane.tv, The Anglo-Brazilian Society, The Embassy of Brazil, The Department and The Gallery Soho.

Boteco Brasil Soho, a pop up in Soho Gallery, is set to be summer’s ultimate official culinary and cultural World Cup experience in London. We immersed ourselves in Boteco culture with a bountiful feast of inspirational Brazilian dishes created by culinary designer Simone Mattar and a preview of art and design from some of Brazil’s hottest creative talent. 
June 13, 2014

Vamos! Forca Boteco Brasil!

Well, the World Cup 2014 opening match was certainly controversial! And that penalty wasn't the only divisive point of debate---my Eng...

Hola Cuba! Day 7: Fábrica de Arte Cubano

The sixth instalment of my (shamefully backlogged) Cuba blog posts. Cuba was over, like, two weeks ago.

On our seventh day in Cuba, Luxy, Ciara, and I bid goodbye to the paradise that is Cayo Largo Del Sur and flew back to Havana in the evening. Our plan of attack was to have a proper night out as our Cuban trip so far was less 'gals on tour' and more 'family friendly'. Even the old people staying in Sol Cayo Lago were partying harder than us, they were thumping away to the beats of...I don't know, disco bingo? while we lay in our beds at midnight wondering if we had put on enough organic anti-mosquito body cream. 

We had some serious catching up to do, and what better an opportunity than a Saturday night in Havana? A gorgeous Cuban local we met, who we shall just call Alejandro (don't call mah name, don't call mah name, Ale-ale-ale-jandro! I'm notcha babe I'm notcha babe) valiantly volunteered himself as our guide to the real Havana and not the tourist traps (Buena Vista Social Club? Casa de la Musica? Ptuiii! *spits in your chips*). 

Enter Fábrica de Arte Cubano, the only place to be seen in Havana on a Saturday night. Or Friday night. Or better still Thursday night. Saturday is when all the 'kids' (anyone under the age of 23. I'm old) show up to poster and peacock.

Interestingly, on the one night I intended to disengage from any real 'learning' ie. take a break from historical outings and instead get trollied on £1 mojitos was the night I learnt the most I ever did about 'the real Cuba'. That night we spoke to many Cubans mostly our age who were wealthier or from more well to do families, which was the only way one could afford to frequent Fábrica de Arte Cubano. From speaking to these locals we learnt the truth about the class system, the government, how (sadly) affluence go hand in hand with being well-informed and educated about 'the outside world', and the dissonance among those who believe that a socialist, communist paradise is nothing but a fallacy. It just doesn't work. The only other place where this is more apparent is China, ironically the consumer capital of the world.


But first, an introduction to Fábrica de Arte Cubano, or Cuban Art Factory in English. 
June 11, 2014

Hola Cuba! Day 7: Fábrica de Arte Cubano

The sixth instalment of my (shamefully backlogged) Cuba blog posts. Cuba was over, like, two weeks ago. On our seventh day in Cuba, Lu...

Horsing around - Polo In The Park

I was invited to Polo In The Park at Hurlingham Park on Sunday. I first sat among the spectators in a valiant (but futile) attempt to catch the spark of excitement, unity, the spirit of and the love for the sport. After about five minutes I gave up and moved back to the comforting familiarity of the Mahiki  tent. 

I did try to get into polo, I really did, but a) I got told off for shouting "Go, (Prince) Harry! Show us your crown jewels!", b) pointing at the horses and exclaiming in a thick South London accent "Eh blud, 'ow come these zebras ain't got no stripes? Someone gone and rubbed them stripes off innit? What is you man, messed up zebras?", and c) trying to catch a flying ball with my mouth. They said, "Madam, you don't want to do that, you could seriously injure yourself" to which I replied "Don't worry, I'm quite accustomed to balls flying at my face."

Jess: "Polo is a sport? I thought it was a fashion line. We were invited for this? Rip off! I want my fashion!"
Me: "I thought polo was a sweet! I want our candy and polo tees! I shall write a strongly worded letter. Dear Mr. Polo..."

It must sicken the average polo lover that they have to pay for tickets and/or stand in line to witness   and enjoy the sport, when bumbling buffoons like us strut right through the guest list to go to the polo just to horse around.

Pictures...!

June 09, 2014

Horsing around - Polo In The Park

I was invited to Polo In The Park at Hurlingham Park on Sunday. I first sat among the spectators in a valiant (but futile) attempt to catc...

Distracted by dinner / Oscar Wilde bar, Cafe Royal

Last night was meant to be an early one devoted to writing an insightful blog post about the darker side of Cuba. The plan was to see my ladies Jessica, Hannah, and Mary over a quick dinner at Cafe Royal, Piccadilly and then politely decline the after-dinner invitation to the sort of semi-scandalous Guy Pelly-owned nightclub that the Daily Mail like to titter over. At ten sharp I summoned an Uber to pick me up from Regent Street, and by half ten I turned the key in the lock of my Shoreditch flat loudly so as to announce my presence to Henry who should rightfully run to the door and smother me with kisses. Instead he shouts, loudly, for my benefit, "Oh no, Jasiminne's home! Quick, hide the turnips!" and when I asked him 'turnips?' he said "What turnips? There are no turnips. It's just me and Mr. Jingles (his nickname for my hamster, Coolio). I've been bonding with him. I took a photo of us, look!" *Hands me his phone, the wallpaper is a picture of Del and Mr Jingles from Green Mile * . Yes, I get that sort of entertainment on a daily basis. It's improvisation meets performance art meets surrealism. Anyway, I was going to write a blog post about the less than rosy aspects of Cuban life based on the anecdotes I've heard from more affluent (and therefore more informed) Cubans, told to me over many mojitos in a fashionable art factory in Havana. Was. I got distracted because of something more serious than Henry's turnips. I want to do that blog post justice and sit down and write it properly rather than rush it in time for my 'antsy readers distracted at the office on a Friday', so to make up for it here are some photos from yesterday's dinner. 

June 06, 2014

Distracted by dinner / Oscar Wilde bar, Cafe Royal

Last night was meant to be an early one devoted to writing an insightful blog post about the darker side of Cuba. The plan was to see my l...

Hola Cuba! Day 6: Playa Sirena

By our fourth day in Cayo Largo Del Sur we had experienced a few beaches. Not including the one by our hotel, Sol Cayo Largo (the temperamental waves stirred up the sand and made for murky waters which held, according to the increasing paranoia of one getting on in age as I am, things imaginary and unseen so therefore were scary and dangerous) we had enjoyed ourselves at the secluded Playa Paraiso, frolicked on the sandbank of the natural swimming pool, and left footprints in the powdery limestone beach of Cayo Las Iguana. We were told of nearby (just fifteen minutes drive) Playa Sirena, the watersport centre of all the hotels in Cayo Largo and their complimentary water activities. Crowds, commercialism, and naff overpriced souvenir stalls be damned! I would never forgive myself if I left paradise without first displaying my shameful ineptitude at rowing plastic boats that look like children's toys.

June 05, 2014

Hola Cuba! Day 6: Playa Sirena

By our fourth day in Cayo Largo Del Sur we had experienced a few beaches. Not including the one by our hotel, Sol Cayo Largo (the  temper...

Happy Birthday, Nuffnang UK!

I've been waiting a long time for Nuffnang to spread their wings to the UK.

I stopped writing my first blog when I moved to London to study at St. Martins so that I could focus my (considerably scattered) attention and time on, well, living my life instead of writing about it. This was in 2006. Back then the only real superstar bloggers in South East Asia were Xiaxue and Kenny Sia (who put my blog on the radar just by mentioning me in passing). Nobody foresaw that in the not-so-distant future, pretty twenty-something year old college girls would make five figures just by attending events and writing about face creams from the comfort of their home. Ming and Tim, those visionaries, dreamt it and made it happen. But of course I had to pick that time to move away from Malaysia to England and stop blogging for five years.

As sweet as it is that my best friend is a Nuffnang talent and that I've met some really lovely people at the Nuffnang birthday parties as well as seen old friends really blossom through blogging, I've felt just a little left out that I wasn't part of this little club. I couldn't, I can't be! I don't live in Malaysia anymore, I spend maybe three months a year in K.L.? I pay taxes in England for fish sake. So, when Nuffnang expanded to the far West a year ago and invited me to join their happy UK family, it was a no-brainer. I answered with a resounding yes.

And now, Nuffnang UK is one...! Happy Birthday, Nuffnang UK, and here's to many more happy returns to come.

Original photo from Angela 'The Awkward Blog'  Instagram.

June 04, 2014

Happy Birthday, Nuffnang UK!

I've been waiting a long time for Nuffnang to spread their wings to the UK. I stopped writing my first blog when I moved to London ...

Hola Cuba! Day 5: Cayo Largo Del Sur

Having had enough of staying in the same spot (day three was spent luxuriating by the hotel pool, day four we barely budged from our sandbank on paradise beach) we decided to shake things up just a little on our and third day in Cayo Largo Del Sur. We threw some Cuban money at the problem and paid 44 CUC a for half-day excursion by boat to three locations; Cayo Las Iguanas (iguana island), a natural swimming pool, and snorkelling near some coral reefs.

When the sky meets the sea. Yet another sandbank by the 'natural swimming pool'. Photo by Luxy
June 03, 2014

Hola Cuba! Day 5: Cayo Largo Del Sur

Having had enough of staying in the same spot (day three was spent luxuriating by the hotel pool, day four we barely budged from our sandb...

Hola Cuba! Day 3 & 4: Playa Paraiso

On our third day in Cuba, the girls and I woke up at the crack of dawn (four...! How obscene, that's my usual bedtime). We heaved our bags down the stairs of the casa, rolled down the dusty, ripped-up streets of Havana to our waiting taxi (no seat belts, and miles of pitch-black road en route to the airport, what could possibly go wrong?), and headed to the airport for our morning flight to Cayo Largo Del Sur. 

When we got to our resort, the 4* all-inclusive Sol Cayo Largo (there are no 5* hotels on the island. This was as good as it gets) we decided to spend our first day in Cayo Largo lying by the pool, sampling the cocktails (free, strong, and unlimited, that's a potent cocktail for trouble haha), getting a 'base tan', and fantasising about all the different ways we were going to lie around doing sweet nothing. 

On day four, Ciara, Luxy, and I went down to Playa Paraiso to see for ourselves if it lived up to its name.


'Paradise beach' didn't disappoint.
June 02, 2014

Hola Cuba! Day 3 & 4: Playa Paraiso

On our third day in Cuba, the girls and I woke up at the crack of dawn (four...! How obscene, that's my usual bedtime). We heaved our ...