I stepped into the bar – unusually quiet – late in the evening.
It might sound a bit cliche as I tell the bartender that I ‘drink to forget’. Sometimes it’s stress, most of the time it’s more of a tongue-in-cheek thing.
Halfway through the night, the entrance creaked open. It was exceptionally loud and clear as there were only six of us in such a small space. We all turned and stared as the door swung open. As if it wasn’t dramatic enough, the music stopped playing in my ears and I waited in anticipation.
A middle-aged lady with short bob and glasses peeked in. She squealed, froze and ran back out.
By the time the bartender ran to the door, she was nowhere to be seen.
Maybe she was surprised to find a room full of liquor, dimly lit behind an unassuming door.
And it is here, when I need a break from the chaos, bright lights in this city, that I can forget.
There are things that I can’t forget and when compared to other similar things, they all pale in comparison. My experiences in the last few weeks of 2014 and the first few weeks of 2015 has probably taught me more, and probably are things that I don’t want to remember. But the lessons that I have learned, stood out more (probably also the reason why I crave for a drink at 2pm). Speaking of things that I cannot forget, the two cups of Amaretto Sour that I had in Tainan – the best that I have had so far. I probably spent half of my time in Tainan either thinking about drinks, or drinking. I don’t even remember the conversations that I had in that bar, but I do remember the Amaretto Sour. Even after two months, I crave for it and long to return. At this point, I’m not sure if I miss the drink more or Tainan more. :p The right amount of tanginess, sweetness and slight amount of sourness, the aromatic smell of almonds, the right amount of fuzz/foam on top, yum yums. The moment I drank it, I fell in love with Amaretto Sour again and again. All the other drinks that I have up until that point, pales in comparison. The Apple pie shots, Jameson, El Dorado, Long island Iced Teas, Patron, Hendrick’s, all went to the back of my mind. All that mattered was that Amaretto Sour. That Amaretto Sour is still on my mind. I really need to find its equivalent in KL. I know in the back of my mind even if I do find an equivalent of it, it’ll probably still be pale in comparison because what I’m truly looking for will only exist that one time, that first time I tasted it in TCRC.
On my last day being a 24-year-old, I felt relieved.
I wish I could tell my past-self not to fret on the little details.
I thought about all the relationships in my life – family, friends, partners, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers.
I thought about all those time I spent doubting myself; all those time I didn’t try because I didn’t even think trying was worth it; ask those time I cried myself to sleep because I was tired; and the time I finally accepted things the way they are.
One step at a time. There’s still plenty to learn about life.
A lot of my thoughts these days are circled around age and growing old.
It is rather surprising how much my thoughts have changed in a span of five years.
When I was younger, I thought of nothing but success. My mind and body were driven by ambitions coupled with a few daydreams here and there.
If you sat down and asked me questions about my parents, I probably won’t have much to say. Simply because I have taken them for granted.
I think a lot of us have. Maybe we didn’t use to, but at some point, we all change.
I have a vivid memory of my eldest brother sitting in the living room with me when I was 16/17. It was probably late at night because at that age I have the tendency to stay up all night living in the fantasy world created by JK Rowling, rereading the books again and again.
More than once, while my eldest brother came back during the weekends from college, he would sit with me and talk about our parents. Most of the time, I appeared uninterested and annoyed. I just wanted to read my books. But what he said stayed with me. He told me to be grateful of my parents. Despite arguments and attempted runaways from me, they have been through a lot to put us through school and support us financially for any endeavors we wish to take on.
But none of us can go against time and old age. We all grow old one day, and whether it’s going to be graceful or heart-breaking, we never know. I just hope it’s not going to be like the nightmares I used to have as a kid.
I used to cry myself to sleep knowing my parents will one day no longer be around when I was 7/8. I think that was when I began to understand life and death.
The traffic light at every single intersection made me recalled my days in Washington, D.C. Back then, I would walk around avoiding stop lights. I hated them. I did the same in Tainan but different from WDC, there are many surprises hidden in the alleyways.
When we were in KenTing, the pace of life was painfully slow. Not much cultural or historical spots to lose yourself. It was a place to spend time with nature. It was in some ways, quaint. KenTing is like the old neighbor you see everyday watering her flowers in the yard exactly at 9am when you leave for work and she would greet you again when you’re getting home in the evening. Predictable.
Tainan is a city full with artists, makers interested in preserving its culture. So everywhere you go you’ll find shops cramped with interesting products made by local craftsmen.
Modern art and design is booming but a lot of the older traditions has survive as well. We stayed next door to this famous wood-carving shop. The shop is now survived by its third generation master. I wish Malaysia is on the same page at preserving its history and culture, there would be a lot of things to talk about!
It’s a city so lively and at the same time filled with treasure. There is always something at every corner if you just look closely enough.
Getting lost in the plethora of temples was enjoyable. There’s so many temples that I have lost count of how many incense sticks I have lit. There are a lot of historical spots in Tainan and most of them are very well preserved. The government takes preservation of its culture and history seriously by turning centuries old building into shops, community centers, galleries, etc. This also opened up a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs.
The two weeks I spent there were comfortable. I forgot all about my worries and truly focused on discovering the city, peeling its many layers one by one.
Secondhand bookshops, cafes, hawker stalls, temples, any alley that looks remotely interesting and I will take that path.
In the midst of this bustling airport in Busan, I am missing many things. As travelers from all over the world crowd over me and share food with each other while I sit there idly, all I can think about is home. I miss my family, my loved ones, my dogs, my normalcy.
There was one point in my life that I thought life was about seeking the next adventure and battling the next challenge. Little did I know that maintaining the normalcy in life and accepting it is a challenge in itself.