A Birthday Thank You Post

A certain number of years ago, I was born on this day. The heavens didn't burst into brilliance, the earth didn't tremble and people still went on with their normal lives. All in all, a very normal birth day.

Since that day, I would like to say that I have impacted lives, made a difference and that people will remember me when I'm gone. The truth is, I don't really know. I suppose nobody really does until they are truly gone, by which point they won't be able to know.

Nevertheless, I know that there have been people who have impacted my life, made a difference to me and these are people I will remember even when they are gone. For these people, I am thankful. Without them, I wouldn't be the same person I am today. Some of them don't even know that I exist, while others are closely familiar with me.

To you who have changed me, shaped me and forged me, thank you. This post is dedicated to you. May your influence over my life extend to the influence I had, have and will have on others in the years to come.

Why such a strange post? It's not a complicated answer. I do not revel in birthday parties, feasts and presents. They are but by-products of a culture that holds little meaning to me. I enjoy thinking and today, as I took time to think about the significance of another birthday, I thought about who I am and why I am who I am. I remember that a large part of who I am, though sculpted from my choices and decisions, have been influenced by those around me, positively or negatively.

So, again, to you by whom I was influenced, thank you for influencing me. 

I don't have birthday-ish pictures to post, so I thought I'd post the picture of a place that I have many fond memories of: The canteen (close to present-day) of my secondary school, Chung Cheng High School (Main).

cchs canteen

Missing the Gems and Jewellery Show in Bangkok

A year ago, on this date, I was in Bangkok for the gems and jewellery show. This year, unfortunately, due to the immense number of projects and assignments, I cannot be there.

One of the things I miss about the show is the sheer diversity of people and products that it brings together. Although Singapore has its own gem show, it is tiny compared to the one in Thailand.

It was through that show that I started getting ideas to start my own projects in gems. I saw the possibilities and opportunities that the industry holds and how much it could improve in Singapore.

If the gemstone industry takes off in Singapore, it could be a highly lucrative one. That's what I want to work towards!

Well, even though I can't be there this time, I'd like to be around next year.

Here's to a great year ahead!

Market Research on Gems and Jewellery is Tough

I recently started writing down my thoughts on the market for gems and jewellery in Singapore and I found how difficult it is to do market research properly.

One way would be to look for statistics and consumer data. There are those who say that numbers do not lie, but numbers make my brain hurt, so I'm trying to use as few numbers as possible in my research. 

That would automatically mean that my "report" will be poorly-received by "official" sources because I'm not referencing numbers.

Then again, these are still my own thoughts and observations. I learned what I wrote down by talking to dealers and jewellers, observing customers when they buy and a good deal of internet articles.

So all I'm trying to do is to string these thoughts together in a coherent fashion and study them so I can make some headway in the direction of what I want to do about the jewellery scene in Singapore.

Yeah, it's been pending an update for ages, and I'm nearly ready for the unveiling. It'll take a little while more. Stay tuned!

rhodolite garnet

Back from Hanoi!

I've just returned from a short trip to Hanoi, Vietnam!

Because the trip was so short, there was no time to go to Ha Long Bay or any further north, so we stayed in the city itself, within the Old Quarter.

Nevertheless, it was quite a remarkable experience. The streets are chaotic but, once you get the hang of it, quite navigable. The key, we learned, is to always walk at a constant, not-too-quick pace, and not make sudden dashes or stops. The motorists are well-aware of your presence and will avoid you.

The temperature there was a cool 12 to maybe 18 degrees (Celsius, of course), nothing like the sweltering heat of Singapore. The only issue we faced while there was the constant rain, though it didn't beat down in torrents like it does in Singapore. The rain there was more like snowfall - very small droplets that were easily moved by the wind. 

The food was magnificent. With only a few days to try the local cuisine, it didn't feel like there was enough time. To bring back a taste of Hanoi, we attended a cooking class on our second day there, where we learned to make Vietnamese spring rolls and Bun Cha - rice noodles in a sauce with barbecued pork. We learned that the dish itself didn't take long to cook, but the preparation takes quite a bit of time due to the myriad of different ingredients. Definitely can't wait to try it out in Singapore.

On this trip, we learned that there was a price for locals and a price for foreigners (like us). This was alluded to by the host of our homestay, who was very friendly, helpful, and willing to please. The residence was not quite what we expected. Buildings in the Old Quarter were tall, generally about 3 to 4 storeys high, but they were narrow. Perhaps we have become too used to buildings in Singapore and other highly developed nations.

Though it seems rather unfair, the difference in price amounts to a few cents to a couple of dollars. If we had aggressively disputed every price we were given, we would've saved perhaps 25 dollars or so for the four of us combined - not really worth making a bad impression over.

Of course, when the prices were ridiculously high, we had to push them down or walk away, simply because it didn't make sense to deal with an unscrupulous merchant. We were willing to overpay a little, to give the local merchants an easier time, but we weren't suckers.

Hanoi is a beautiful city, charming and eye-opening. I definitely hope to return soon and, if possible, visit the northern reaches of Vietnam.