Archive for the Travels and Adventure Category

Design Studio

Posted in Grunt,groan,sigh, Photography, Travels and Adventure on October 3, 2008 by shiying86

One of the exciting highlights of my semester is doing a design studio with Glenn Murcutt, arguably THE most famous architect in Australia. The course entails a trip up North to Goolawah Reserve, part of a national park. The site is 3km down south from the famous surfing site, Crescent Head Beach.

As a testament to his influence, Murcutt was awarded the Pritzker Prize. In the words of the Pritzker Jury: “In an age obsessed with celebrity, the glitz of our ‘starchitects’, backed by large staffs and copious public relations support, dominate the headlines. As a total contrast, [Murcutt] works in a one-person office on the other side of the world … yet has a waiting list of clients, so intent is he to give each project his personal best. He is an innovative architectural technician who is capable of turning his sensitivity to the environment and to locality into forthright, totally honest, non-showy works of art.”

Pritzker Prize is like an architecture nobel prize if I’m to describe it. Murcutt is the only Australian architect to have ever won it. But he is also awfully down-to-earth and genuine compared to the stereotypical snobbish architects in the industry.

We’re designing a research lab on swamp. We went on a 3 day camp for a site visit, it was tiring but a great chance to bond with my course mates. Another first this sem, is that I actually get to know them better. I realized that no one ever puts a barrier between you and another person, only yourself. As a friend said, I always looked like an ice queen and so others are afraid to approach. While I on the other hand, thought they never ever want to make friend with someone like me. 



There is so much good memories to it. Working in the swamp by day; poker by night. Some of the highlights was watching the Olympics with a whole crowd and waking up early to watch sunrise with 3 boys. It was fun, exciting and inspirational. 

I’m more than half-way through the course, so the initial inspiring excitement has given way to a whole lot of stress and tears. Learning from the best comes at high price, believe me. Having the best tutors, long studio ours (read:8 hours), and yet I am afraid, a lot of fear between me and my work. High expectation which I feel suffocated by. From who? Myself, and I know that. Complicated is not easy, but its easy complicating things. Learning to let go and simplifying things, and yet retaining that singular concept consistently and masterfully is something I have yet able to comprehend and perform.



Posted in Architecture, Art/Inspiration/Creativity, Reflections, Travels and Adventure on June 27, 2008 by shiying86

Sunnataram Pagoda

Photograph by Cheng Tuck Lim

I have always been awed that it took inexperience monks a total of 5 years to built this monument from scratch. It is indeed a building thats stands for greatness, time and strength. Like an architect I met there said, “Even if you laid one bloody stone up there, you will still feel proud to be able to say that ‘I helped built that.'” To be able to built an ancient pagoda with today technological advances gives no suprise to anyone. But to understand that this came by with limited funds, inexperienced designers and monks as builders, is enough to make any person swoon. Not to forget this pagoda is not a off-the-shelf copy. In order words, its is unique.

However, my recent trip there, I learned from a monk with no prior design experience that architectural design like everything else, begins with a pure and good intention.


Photograph by Cheng Tuck Lim


The intention of wanting to do good.

Sounds too simple to be true, but every single detail, idea concepts is about the intention you have and the action you make, the steps you take and the end results produced.

All determined simply by that sheer power of intention. Certainly, I have no intention to say that, once the intention to built something great is there, hocus-pocus it happens- but rather, the importance of this intention. I have often complain how hard architecture is, and sometimes its not about the amount of work involved, but rather how it messes up your head.

All the intentions that one may have, not necessarily, it can be realized. Adjustments to be made, expectations to be crushed. It drives me crazy when I start pondering the purpose of me doing this, changing that, altering this, and designing that. Why? How? What? There are so many paths to reach the same goal, which one am I choosing? but before that, how do I even determine my goal?

This is where I learn how important intention is. The strength of a good intention lies in how bloody badly u want that intention to be good. Sounds wrong? Case in point is the Gratitude Pagoda. There could have been many ways to built it-they could have raise enough money to get builders to do it, they could have just copied off some pagoda in Thailand (Who would care anyway?) or simply, build an easier, simpler one-like the usual concrete cement ones coated in brilliant gold paint. BUT it is a self-designed sandstone pagoda. Something you can only find in NSW with its abundance of sandstone, a signature that this monument will stand against time and tide. 

Photograph by Cheng Tuck Lim

The intention to give something back to the Buddhist community produced a masterpiece. The greatness does not merely lie in the aesthetically pleasing monument, as the outcome of wanting to built a pagoda to house the Buddha Relics; but it is also to bring people together to help built this monument. When a visitor approaches it, His ears pleased by the chiming of the bells when blown by wind; His eyes marvel the timeless stone structure; His heart feels peace with it sitting among nature, both palms just naturally come together as he breathes in the essence of spirituality. This is the effect that how architecture can effect one person. But to deepen on that concept, to understand that the number of bells were used not only for that reason but it is also etched with blessings on it. Every single one of them, so when the wind blows, may the blessings fall upon everyone. The eight turning corners to represent the noble eight fold path. And much much more. This is one building that people want to study, to admire, not just for its beauty, the multiple meaning it embodies.

Not one to appreciate architecture? Well, that intention to spread goodness is in every stone, sweat, and time invested in the building. What proves to be great, is not the greatness itself, but the ability to inspire others to do great things. 

“When others look at the building, they see how beautiful it is. But I see the beauty in it because of the Metta (love and kindness) and willingness of many different people coming together to help built it.” 

This strikes me that-it is for the simple intention of spreading goodness to building a pagoda that one realizes that it all clicks. The determination of staying true to the right intention, allows the building to inspire others to actually help realize the goal and also inspire them to have similar intentions. The intention slowly unfolds into inspiration and has a domino effect and many different people-to when it is being built extending to the future to when it becomes a ruin. If you are able to see and understand the underlying workings of buildings as such, or create that inspiration in others, the satisfaction is indescribable.

Architect’s Perspective Drawing

Getting good marks on a project I work my ass off one whole semester definitely did not give me as much satisfaction as help throwing gravels down to form the foundation/mixing cement knowing that my efforts would actually make a difference in someone else’s life.


My architecture tour destination:Copenhagen

Posted in Architecture, Photography, Travels and Adventure on February 28, 2008 by shiying86

If I were to rate the most photogenic building it would be this:

Tietgenkollegiet,  Student accommodation at Universitetet

A circular building, with a centralised garden square in the centre and each storeys jutting in and out like LEGO boxes.

It’s beautiful to capture,


whether it’s closed up;


from far;




or out.

Architecture walks are made extremely convenient in copenhagen. With websites like and even the main tourist website, Of course, it would be great help if one could understand Danish, with their more extensive books and sites in their language.

These websites provide convenient instructions and even architectural ‘podwalks’ around the city. SO all you have to do, is download, print a map and your good to go.


Information Boards

More convenient is the fact that new architecture are just lines a long the metro stations. And description of these buildings, architects etc. are even ‘advertised’ at the station itself. Talk about media coverage.

Kongens Nytorv (pronounced as Kon’s Nov-something to that effect)Metro Station, it means King’s New Square

Not to forget, The Scandinavians are extremely proud of their designs with architects like Jørn Utzon(The Sydney Opera), von Sprechelsen, La Grande Arche at La Defence in Paris and the very popular Henning Larsen all hailing from Denmark(The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Riyadh).

I do not intend anyway to describe the buildings that I have saw. Maybe I lack the guts to, or maybe I’m just too lazy. Guess mostly it’s because I forgot even how to pronounce their names and my architecture books from Denmark are still somewhere in the Pacific Ocean making its way to me. But it certainsly has made a big impact top me and I wish to document them before I I forget how they even look like.

This is the ‘Walk along Metro’ or rather for me: the ride on Metro, weather was so cold+rain prevents me from going up close to the building.

The very cool VM Husen (VM housing) by Plot. Photos from:, for more please visit the website.


Bella Centre

Field’s Shopping mall; Will you just look at those glass columns?

Description on Fields

An apartment right next to Tietgenkollegiet

Of course I must not leave out the architecture icons of Copenhagen:

Operaen (The Royal Opera House) by Henning Larsen Architects

The Operaen from oposite the Canal

The Playhouse/Royal Theatre by Lundgaard & Tranberg

Royal Library, more commonly known as the Black Diamond: The older building is encased inside the black granites, thus giving its name. The interior was cery dynamic as old and new coexist inside the ‘diamond’.

Directly opposite is the Nordea Bank by Henning Larsens Architects. More would be described in other post ;), as I’m getting lazy.

The Dansk Jødisk Museum(The Danish Jewish Museum) exterior

The interior of the museum was redeisgn to reflect the dynamism of the Jewish life for 400 years in Denmark. Interestingly, the way the modern interior, with strips of lights, juxtaposed against the arched ceilings and walls was fascinating to the amatuer eyes of mine. I think I spent more time examining how the new installations were constructed without causing damage to the old walls and trying hard to figure out the complicated planning of the exhibition, rather than appreciating the Jewish inheritence.

Interior view of exhibition space. Photo from:

Exhibition design: Kvorning design & communication

The Danish Architecture Centre

This building sits right next to it, which I can’s remember its name as I just happen to chance upon it. It was a timber structure ‘inner box’ enveloped by a glass exterior, connected between two existing buildings. I remember entering it asking to go in and have a look, and found out that many architects’ offices are located in it but I was declined. I thought of begging them, claiming that I’m a poor archi student flew all the way from Aus to have a glimpse of it(trust me, sometimes it works); but the high-powered, very busy architects scared me away.Ha! Reminder to oneself: Never be mean to archi students when working. You were once one of them.  

But it figures, since we’re considered to be the know-nothing-in-the-industry-at-all brats, inspiring to be them-the great-O-Ones. Oh, well.

I had absolute fun just stumbling upon new, old, ancient architecture. Being one part of their urban fabric and trying to figure my way around their maps, my very broken Danish and awful winter weather… Guess that’s one of the greatest advantage being an archi student: the ability to appreciate the built environment and what makes up of it, be it the past, current or future trends, culture and social state.


Sometimes, it’s just good enough to know that the world out there is so big, that our worries are hardly significant at all. We try to make something big, beautiful, memorable and of course, important: to us and we hope others as well. But it will soon become just part of the place, part of the culture, or just part of everyday things. So, try not to worry as much, and enjoy that every present moment we are blessed with. Good, Bad, Ups and Downs, it’s all about the journey and, hardly the destination. Because if your not careful, that very precious monumental, iconic moment of life, might just slip and go by.

My cute cousins

Posted in It's my life, Life's simple pleasures, Travels and Adventure on February 8, 2008 by shiying86

Part of my travel to Europe was to see my two cute little cousins which I miss dearly, since I left for Australia.

After a week in London, I head over to Denmark to see my aunt and her family.

Meet Silvia and Daniel

I love my cousins. I just have a soft spot for them. I will forever remember Daniel’s face when he slept on my laps when I was having a pedicure(mind u it was like a 2 hour long one). They are just sweet, lovely and innocent.

I love them…

when they stick to me like a glue.

They chat with me and tell me stories about anything, everything.

Kids never lies and they speak right from their heart. Their laughters are like loud and clear making me smile along at their pure innocence. Sometimes, I love being around kids than adults; life is uncomplicated. No lies, no gossip, no nonsense. It reminds me of simply, just living the moment. 

I missed the times when… 


They made sure I have the best when I stayed with them.

They fought to hold my hands when we strolled on Copenhagen streets.


Daniel insisted I play with him everynight before bed.


Silvia brings back things that she made in school as gifts for me.


We sit in the living room watching TV and eating dinner.


They calling me ‘Jie Jie'(sounds more like chie chie) in a cute accent.


Asking them to teach me Danish and then letting them laugh at the way I speak.

A candid shot taken by Silvia

Thank you Uncle Las, Aunt Kim, Silvia and Daniel. For a luxurious stay in Denmark and comfy PJ nights with the family =)

A Weekend in England Countryside

Posted in Life's simple pleasures, Reflections, Travels and Adventure on January 29, 2008 by shiying86

One of the main highlights of my Europe trip was spending a quality weekend with an English family.

It was just refreshing to escape the hustle bustle of London for a weekend to the beautiful, peaceful and lovely countryside of Cornwall.

I stayed with the Parsons family in Truro, Cornwall, South of England. It’s a small, but important town because of the existence of its monumental cathedral.

From left:Paul, Catie, Elaine and Jack

I don’t know if they know this: but I really enjoyed my weekend there. Not only did Elaine accommodate me in her Notting Hill apartment, the family invited me to stay for a weekend with them, paid for my transport travelling down there (and it cost a bomb) AND paid for the expensive meal on the train so I could travel first class.

Not to mention, I was given my own room, wonderful food and most importantly an invaluable experience of just chillin’, not doing anything (a great break for planning any trips!) and relaxing with the family.

The weekend was the last days of Christmas so I was lucky enough to see their elaborately decorated Xmas tree cute socks hanging above the chimney hole.(sorry, no pics, told u, I was chillin’ and lazing that weekend.)

Xmas Deco:Edible Ginger Bread House

The amazing thing was that the house used to be an old folks home, now, converted to a house and it’s aged more than 50 years old. It has Old English Victorian windows, doors and the stairs creaks when u walk on it. An absolute old English charm that was just too cosy for me to resist.

Paul cooking pasta for dinner. Yum!

I can just recall the warm and cosy feeling at the pit of my stomach, as we watch the dad cook dinner, singing along to oldies while we chatted, laughed at nothing in particular. The warmth of the cooking and the Elgar or maybe it was more of the great family time that they spend together. I don’t think I had a terrible childhood, but somehow, I wished I had these sort of moments with my family. I guess in Malaysia it’s just too hot to stay in the kitchen and the maid is the one cooking most of the time. The whole evening was framed and imprinted in my memories forever, for this is what I think family means as we sat together on the dinner table watching Whose line is it anyway? laughing hard, sipping red wine.

Catie in the living room

Oh, and I nearly forgot a very important member of the family! Who lies under the table when we eat dinner, jumps and lick my face in the morning, taps the kitchen door to ask me to open it and nearly knocking me down when we first met. He understands human language so well, he’s like a 8 year old kid. Puts my dogs to shame. Maybe i should start schooling them in the UK. Heard education there is pretty good.

Please meet Rex, the uber-smart collie!

I am touched by how they embrace me with open arms after not seeing them for almost 10 years. Elaine is a close family friend and we don’t even have real blood relations, yet, when living there, they treat me exactly like one of their kids-no extra special guest or any of those pretentious sort of nonsense nor did I feel left out in anyway.

Catie and Jack at Falmouth harbour

The last time I saw Jack and Catie, they were just babies. Now 13 years old Jack is a com whiz and churns out special effects videos on you tube like a pro. He had no qualms showing it to me and elaborating all that he knows about Adobe After Effects and showing me his light-saber projects. The little Star Wars fan is really a com-whiz, earning him a scholarship in school and used to be a chorister in the cathedral, and it’s not easy entering the cathedral’s choir. In fact, it is very prestigious.

Catie’s doll house

Catie was absolutely adorable, a little shy with me in the beginning but not long after we were sharing secrets and exploring her gorgeous doll house. She just have this beautifully innocent and melodic soul that i can’t help liking her. She’s young yet matured and lovingly trustable. She would tell me stories about schooling in England, what she does with her free time and I was dying to hear about Christmas and Christmas gifts (she loves dragons, ponies and her doll house is AMAZING).

Her mum used to be a model and beauty queen, and I can see that beauty emerging in her as well.

A dose of all these Makes me understand why Enid Blyton wrote those stories, why Asian kids can dream about acorns(I saw so many double the size of my fist!), snow and bushy tailed squirrels but we can never relate to their existence. And here, the kids are living my childhood dreams. I would describe it as lyrical, like a lullaby… a melody so familiar that it cradles my soul, the lyrics so clear as the sun shines down on the fields. Now, I’m craving for more…

The Penair back garden: the post in the centre is bird food, with a pond, bridge and stone steps leading to the front porch.

This lovely view is just a lookout from the kitchen door.

Kitchen view

I especially love it when Paul starts explaining to me about places, Oxford, Paris, England and the travels he has been to. No, he doesn’t do it in a grandfather-ly sort of way. He just shares his knowledge, while I listen attentively(trying to absorb as much as my pea-sized brains could); his life as a student in Oxford University, Cornwall, the house and just their life. I never expected it to be so fun, but it was. It gave me a taste of having an Ang Mo “dad”.

They brought me out to town for grocery shopping-one of my absolute favourite way to explore a place. While they buy ingredients to prepare the yummy-licious food I had the whole weekend.

The butcher and his pheasants “Here, hold it up and you’ll get better pictures!”

Truro Cathedral

Wet and Rainy in Truro Town

Despite the grey weather, it did not dampen my spirits there. Though when I was shown the gardens, apples trees, blueberries etc., it looked really bleak and I secretly wished it could turn spring for one moment to let me see it flower and fruit. Guess I have a reason to return.

Reflected view of countryside on train

My heart felt heavy as I hugged and kiss the family goodbye before boarding my 4 and a half hour train to return to London.

Do you see me?

THANK YOU Parsons family for the absolutely wonderful weekend. Truly, madly, deeply. The whole experience enriches my life, brought out the little child in me, and I am thankful for this opportunity. You all may think it’s just an ordinary weekend, but to me, it was the ordinary-that made it extraordinary. I miss all of you, and will definitely return again and hopefully in a few years time, it would be me returning the favor when Jack or Catie comes to visit.


Pont de Neuf

Posted in Art/Inspiration/Creativity, Photography, Thoughts and Musings, Travels and Adventure on January 27, 2008 by shiying86

Paris is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been, and my experience there was incredibly romantic and unforgettable.

I thought of many ways to capture those moments in my post but haven’t come close to producing one.

My dear friend agreed to write a fictional short story, which gives a whiff of taste of Paris’s beautiful night; illustrated by photographs taken while I strolled the city of lights’ night by Siene River.

The story below is purely fictional and any resemblance to real life, could only be, well a coincident. 😉

It made me feel all warm inside, just like how one would feel after taking a warm, relaxing bath; despite it being a still, chilly winter’s night. I recalled those surreal moments, and it felt like it never happened… Funny how the more things seem to have changed, the more they have actually stayed the same.  

It all started with a restless streak of wanting to explore Paris in its full glory of being beautifully lit at night. The air was strangely calm and the city seemed to be imploring me to allow myself to be swept up by euphoria that only Paris could offer. I silently took on the challenge, and decided that tonight; I was ready for an experience that I would never forget. 

I walked by myself, drowning in the dreamy atmosphere of the city of love; barely noticing the echoes of the sounds of my heels against the cobblestone road, bouncing off the stone walls of the surrounding buildings; which under the illumination of the streetlights, looked extraordinarily silent and regal.  


I felt the chilly winter wind against my face, slowly turning my cheeks into a slight flush as my breath was quickened with my pace, as I thought to myself at that moment. Thinking back, it probably wasn’t my pace; rather it was an instinct, an expectation of an oncoming event that I felt deep in my stomach. 

I finally reached the Pont de Neuf of the Seine River. I drew in a quick breath of cold air as my eyes indulged themselves in amazement at the beauty of the Seine River by night. The water was still, yet its surface was lightly quivering; as if it was in anticipation, as if it was reflecting my emotions… 


Mesmerized by the serene play of light between the streetlights and the water, I was caught unaware when he put a hand on my shoulder. I whirled around instantly and wondered who was sharing this beautiful moment and scenery with me. My hair was lightly blowing with the night breeze against my face as I stared into a pair of blue eyes filled with intrigue and mystery. On normal circumstances I would have been wary of this midnight stranger; but that night, all I could manage were three smiles- from my eyes, my lips and my soul.  

Some would claim my behavior was due to the danger of meeting a stranger in a lonely place; some would insist it was his strong built and boyish good looks. However, deep down I knew what it was, it was none other than the magic of Paris, enveloping you while you gently succumb to your deepest yearning.  

We talked; or rather we spoke, to each others’ souls. It felt so right and peaceful, it was as beautiful as the flowers of spring time; and, just as spring flowers fade away, we both knew that this magical night would end. Parting is such sweet sorrow; but somehow, this parting was more sweet than sorrow. His kiss was lingering, as if never wanting the night to end. I gently pulled away so that I could look deep into his eyes, and they said it all.  

As I walked away, I could still feel a slight sensation on my lips, and an image of his evocative eyes searing its mark in my memory. I felt a change within myself, isn’t it odd that no one else can see it? 

-Jo Ann Kok

Postcards from London

Posted in Photography, Thoughts and Musings, Travels and Adventure on January 25, 2008 by shiying86

View from Tate Modern: St Paul’s Cathedral (The Blue Dome building) and Millennium Bridge over Thames River, London

Tower Bridge, London

Yes, it’s call Tower Bridge, not London Bridge contrary to the popular “London Bridge is falling down...” song.

P/S: when Jo ann pointed out London bridge to me, I saw an ugly ugly fly over for vehicles.ha!

St. James Park Lake

It all seems like a scene out of fairy tales and Enid Blyton stories…

The Big Ben and Parliament Square, the epitome of London’s political power

British Airway’s London Eye

Dear All,

I’m now in England, standing in front of the famed red telephone booths with the  Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the whole parliament square behind me! It’s been a cold day but today is one of those rare days with sunshine! the Brits are obsessed with weather, tube and coffee! Usually grey, wet and cold, it’s not surprising that people easily get depressed here. London’s major transport, the tube (underground trains) are completely insane! It’s super complicated and travelling at peak hours nearly suffocated me to death. It is one of the most metropolitan city in the world, and based on my people-watching observations, you get all kinds of people here-any skin colour, all speaking different languages, tourist, citizens, PRs, to travellers (and most of the time unable to differentiate between them) all just strutting along the streets never giving a damn about any thing; every person is a person with mission.

View from top deck of Double-Decker Bus at Piccadilly Circus Stop

 Understandably, the city is fast-paced, up-tight, extremely congested, polluted and I always find an undescrible “high-and-mighty” air about it. However, on a grey day, I still find  a melancholic beauty; the essence of supremacy tasted just by watching high-powered executives walking past with their black suits on the phone with a British accent, Ladies in their killer heels, one hand with a fag another with a coffee and important business on their mind.

The city is a potpourri of everybody, everything, and every-state-of-being. A little of everything, plus its own rich monarch history and gloriously powerful past(arguably still is) makes it hard for me to succinctly describe it. Did I like it? Yes and No. As with everything-there are great(Art, Architecture and theatres!), okay, not-so-great and down-right sucky issues($$$ and jam-packed tube!!!)

But for now, I’ll just sit back, relax, sip my cup of tea and continue my people watch.

P/S: Miss U all!! did U miss me?

PP/S:A Belated Happy 2008! It’s my 1st post of the year!

Yours truly,

Shi Ying


(p/s: someone complained i have too little photos so here’s more)

View of London City from Tower Bridge overlooking Thames River

Tower of London and open ice-skating rink

British National Gallery and fountain at Trafalgar Square

Me freezing in front of Tower Bridge