Impressions of Ho Chi Minh (Photo Series).

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Our cozy hotel setup at the Silverland Sakyo Hotel. While I appreciated the japanese inspired designs, our room had no windows. We had a really hard time getting up in the mornings without natural daylight.

 

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Despite its allure, I never actually got to bathe in this thing.

 

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A man earning his keep by selling pastries, all precariously balanced on his head. He placed the tray on my head for a short second and had it not had been for the support of his hands, my neck may have snapped. That thing was HEAVY.

 

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Exploring local markets, all of which were selling plenty of fake goods. Kenzo jumpers, Michael Kors bags and Ray ban knock offs.

 

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Being overwhelmed, yet super excited about the array of local food offered at the stalls, all for an average price of 2 Euros.

 

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Incase you weren’t drooling already. This was at Ben Thanh Market. The perfect place to get some souvenirs and food.

 

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As you can tell, I’m pretty darn happy. Pictured are classic vietnamese spring rolls and a wonton noodle soup.

 

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A Banh Mi stand sheltering under a tree.

 

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Next to the famous post office, there was a sort of “book-road” filled with cute cafés and book shops. A great place to come drink a delicious iced-coffee while getting away from the afternoon heat.

 

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Stacks and stacks of second-hand books. I don’t know what it is about them but I have to hold myself back from taking bags of them back home.

 

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This cute little display was located right next to the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral.

 

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We also visited the Trung Ngyuen Café which is well known for it’s coffee. I loved the originality of the sand floors. I took of my shoes straight away and dug my toes into the sand.

 

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Trung Nguyen coffee beans available for sale. Did you know that Vietnam is famous for its Weasel Coffee? Weasels can pick out the sweetest and ripest coffee berries. They eat them and once the berries are pooped out (still intact) , they are used to make a very aromatic and expensive brand of coffee.

 

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After bad service and much anticipation , I was disappointed that the coffee tasted like bitter medicine and the glass of water which was flavoured with some tea to help cleanse the palate tasted like pee water, or what I would imagine that would taste like. I think i’ll stick to my european coffee from now on haha.

 

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This picture was taken at the War Remnants Museum, which was not for the faint of heart. I knew the Vietnam war had been devastating, but upon visiting the museum, I was left teary-eyed  and speechless. After learning about the horrible torture that civilians were subject to as well as the rape and killing of innocent children and the long-term effects of “Agent Orange”, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness for humanity. This photo hit a chord with me because here were these children, who were unknowingly posing with weapons of war, without a care in the world, while other just as innocent children are still victims of war today.

 

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This handsome fella was sticking his tongue out at us as we passed.

As a side note, as you can see , I am no professional photographer nor do I claim to be. I’m just as clueless with a camera as I am with my life but I’m hoping you still get the overall picture (pun intended because I’m such a master of the written word).

– A Pearl of the Orient.

Good morning, Vietnam!

For the first leg of the trip to Vietnam in February, Benny and I decided we wanted to head to the beach before exploring the city so we headed to Nha Trang via Ho Chi Minh and let me tell you, I have never had a more stressful connecting flight. As we checked in for our first flight to Ho Chi Minh from Bangkok, the counter assistant informed us that they would not be able to transfer our baggage directly to Nha Trang. Instead, we would, upon arrival, have to pick up our luggage, leave the arrival hall and walk to the departure hall and check in all over again to catch our next flight, with a mere 90 mins in-between. Normally, I would’ve been easy but knowing that we had applied for VOA’S (Visas on Arrival) which were subject to inspection and approval after handing over an official letter from the Embassy which was applied for weeks in advance, I had a bad feeling in my stomach since the moment we took off , which ofcourse, was not on time.  Upon arrival, I was ready to pounce like a tiger, till I realised our plane had not directly parked at the terminal. So, we had to catch a bus. After being dropped off at the terminal, we rushed to the office which was responsible for handing us our visas; There were atleast another 50 people waiting, and a bunch of tourists loudly trying to communicate with the officer who on his part, was choosing to ignore their flailing arms and wads of cash. When I did manage to fight my way through, I, half panicked, tried to explain the situation that our flight was due to depart in 50 minutes. While the other officers stood in the background chatting and checking their phones, he cooly told me to take a seat and that it’d be fine. With 35 mins left, our names were finally called. Not only did Benny and I have to jump the immigration queue whilst I was apologising like a crazy person, our luggage had not even arrived at the carousel. How we managed to make that plane is still questionable.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about my impressions of Nha Trang. We stayed at the Alana Nha Trang Beach Hotel, which was (suprisingly) next to a….beach. The first thing that I noticed on the drive from the airport was the vasts amount of ongoing construction of mostly hotels and resorts. Any space that wasn’t occupied looked pretty desolate. Despite the 45 minute drive to where all the action was at, Nha Trang seemed really small. One thing you’ll also notice when visiting are the Russians. I’m assuming Nha Trang is their “go to ” place because there were definitely more Russians than locals . In addition, pretty much everything was written in russian, as well at the menus and the staff were more likely to speak russian than english , which I found amusing. This was only somewhat disappointing in the sense that we didn’t feel like we were experiencing much of the ‘local culture’ and that everything was geared towards tourists. It was only when taking a late night walk towards the “inner city” where the tourists began to disappear and you began to see actual homes and locals riding on their mopeds. Speaking of mopeds, the traffic was crazy. Not only did I really notice the absence of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, no one actually stopped for you when trying to cross the road unless you were literally in their face. You know that scene in Mulan where the old lady claims to have a “lucky cricket” which will protect her? So to prove her point, she crosses the road blindfolded? Thats basically how you felt, because if you gave a driver eye contact or hesitated in the middle of the road, well, it might not have been pretty.

Though I personally didn’t feel that Nha Trang was the type of place where you had a checklist of a million things to do, I did enjoy lounging on the beach, and visiting the mudbaths at I-resort. If you’re planning on taking a trip there, I would recommend that you go early to avoid the large numbers of people arriving at noon. The street food was also pretty great. Writing this post is making me crave a Banh Mi. What I loved was that each stand had their own unique way of making the sandwich. My favourite one had slabs of butter, pork belly, vegetables and a ridiculous amount of chilli. Hurts so bad, but tastes so good. Seeing as I feel like I have said everything there is to say about my stay, I’ll let some pictures do the rest of the talking!

– A Pearl of the Orient.

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View from the rooftop pool at our hotel.

 

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Enjoying happy hour upon arrival.

 

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Our first meal: Pho.

 

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After pushing through a crowd to see what all the fuss was about, I realised it was because they were about to serve up a massive snake and alligator for lunch.

 

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Taken shortly before high-tide resulting in this poor couple getting everything wet. On a side note, the waves were crazy strong and I got rolled around real good on my first attempt at a swim. There was sand in places it shouldn’t have been.

 

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I- Resort pool.

 

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Trying to figure out if I like the mud, which I decided, I really do. Also you naturally float in it so you can lie on your back and pretend to be an otter… it’s actually pretty fun. Don’t judge me.

 

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Fresh fish, anyone?

 

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Now this was where the action was at. This picture to me, was what what I imagined Vietnam to be.

 

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Had to get some Durian while I had the chance. The hotel would’t allow me past the lobby because of the smell though. Woops.

Bangkok 2017

Over the semester break in February, which yes, was almost four months ago (I’m a little behind on my writing) , Benny and I took a hiatus to go back to continent of culinary delights…Asia! With the intention of exploring a new destination, we opted to visit Vietnam but no trip to Asia would be complete without a cheeky stopover in Bangkok. After our wonderful experience in 2016, we had to go back .

This time around we opted to stay at a Hotel near Khao San Road to be near to the hustle and bustle. Casa Nithra was the perfect option as it was within walking distance as well as super clean, affordable and had the friendliest staff!

Having done all the “touristy things ” the year before we could focus on the one thing we came to do: Eat. I came to Asia prepared to pack on the pounds because it would be a crime to not take advantage of Bangkok’s street food culture. Every meal/snack was a new adventure. Though simple in appearance, I find thai street-food to be as comforting as mum’s home-made chicken noodle soup and packed with flavour and I’d pick it over a fancy five-course meal any day.

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Shrimp fried rice
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Crispy pork belly, pickled vegetables and rice drizzled in soy
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Chicken fried rice

 

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Spicy soup noodles with pork dumplings
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Pad Thai and Fried Banana Springrolls

 

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4 Euros for a bucket of alcohol? Yes, what you save in money you pay for in headaches.

When we weren’t eating (which was almost never) we just took the time to relax by the pool, get a massage or drink a cold Chang at one of Bangkok’s many street bars/ restaurants. Though this post isn’t filled with useful tips or adrenaline-filled tales, I just felt the need to convey my love for the city. The bright people, the dusty streets, suicidal tuk tuk drivers and of course countless food stands make Bangkok a breath of metaphorical fresh air.

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That’s all for now, Folks! Look out for my next post on Vietnam.
– A Pearl of the Orient.

 

London calling

I’ve always wanted to visit London and two weeks ago I finally had the chance to go in combination with a visit to the Warner Brothers Universal Studios to experience the making of Harry Potter and watch the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I guess you could say it was more or less a pretty nerdy trip.

We arrived in London early in the evening, got out of the airport, purchased an Oyster card, took the Tube and bus and arrived at our Airbnb pretty smoothly and swiftly, or so I thought. Turns out that my boyfriend and I miraculously managed to end up on the opposite side of town due to a certain misreading of street names. After a much lighter wallet and a cab driver as a new friend, we made it to our apartment as our stomachs were already ingesting themselves. We dropped off our things and headed to the nearest Restaurant (which happened to be pretty authentic Hong Kong cuisine) and I helped myself to a portion of chicken wings and char siu fan (Chinese bbq pork with rice). Too tired to explore much else, we turned in for the night so we could get an early start the next day.

The following morning we headed to Watford Junction to catch a train to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. According to Google Maps, what should have taken twenty minutes from Watford junction, ended up taking sixty. I have since then come to learn that there are actually two trains (one of them being an express one with fewer stops) and we OBVIOUSLY went and got on the slower one. Sometimes, I question my intelligence… sometimes! We however, did get a chance to have a look at our surroundings on the journey and the stark contrast between the flashy cars and shine and glamour of Central London and the outlying areas was pretty shocking. The neighbourhoods looked desolate in combination with the grey backdrop of a sky. The homes looked broken and the gardens untended with piles of rubbish and junk scattered everywhere, a sight one does not naturally associate with London.

Upon arriving at the studios, I felt like a seven year old again. Not only did we get a glimpse of some of the real sets used during filming, such as the great dining hall or the Gryffindor Common room, we got a close look at all the props and costumes used. We boarded the iconic Hogwarts train, posed for pictures in Hogwarts robes and got our first taste of Butterbeer (which is pretty much like Cream Soda topped with Ice-cream) and it was magical. I grew a new appreciation for the series and the amount of work and effort that must’ve been put in by the whole production team. If you’re an avid fan as I am, I highly recommend a visit, if you haven’t already been. I also read somewhere that the Forbidden Forrest will be a new addition to the studios in March.

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Welcome to a new semester at Hogwarts.
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Prof. Snape’s Potions Classroom. For the films, each individual bottle was filled with various items such as herbs and dried fruit and labels were all individually handwritten.
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If only Quidditch was real.
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This model was used to film the scenes of the castle with the backdrop of a green screen. There is so much detail in the model that I unfortunately cannot convey with a picture.
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Butterbeer-stache.

For once, thanks to what little self-control I have, I managed not to spend a fortune at the gift shop. I got myself a mug and the boyfriend came away with Voldemort’s wand. In the evening, we finally headed to the Palace Theatre ( a year and a half after booking the actual tickets) to watch the first part of the play.  I must admit, after giving up on reading the book, I was concerned that the play would not not live up to my expectations but J.K.Rowling had our backs all along and I couldn’t have been happier to be plunged back into a world of wizardry. The plot was gripping, the acting was wonderful and the production was effortless and well…for the lack of a better word, magical, a feat which evidently took a lot of time , practice and funding. For fear of spoiling someone else’s’ experience, I’m going to stop there.

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The next day was spent visiting the British Museum which is much larger than I had imagined and is very overwhelming to try fit in a day so we stuck to the areas such as “Ancient Egypt” which interested us the most. I must also acknowledge that I was pleasantly surprised that there is no entrance fee.

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“The Throne of Weapons” made of decommissioned weapons since the end of the Civil war in 1992, Mozambique.
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Part of the Rothschild’s collection: A reliquary supposedly made to contain a thorn (seen centered) originating from the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Christ’s head before Crucifixion.
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Ancient Greek Architecture.
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The Rosetta Stone, which features writing in Egyptian and Greek with three writing systems: Hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek and was historical in helping to decipher the Ancient Egyptian language.

After a few hours at the museum, we were already off to watch part two of the play, which filled me with sadness once it was over but I will be back when it heads to Broadway!
Now as much as I’d like to get into all the other fun touristy things we did on the remainder of our trip, well, we didn’t.

With Benny catching a cold and the freezing and gloomy weather, we couldn’t bring ourselves to do much else than walk by the Tower Bridge and Big Ben and visit a cozy little market in the evening. How local Londoner’s manage to walk around in shorts and mini- skirts while it’s snowing outside is beyond me. Really.

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Little Josie, Big Ben.
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Me clearly taking in the sights.
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A lovely market we happened to stumble upon.
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One of my favourite stores – It’s like waking into a fairytale.

And that was pretty much my trip in a nutshell. Before getting on our plane home, we popped into a a local diner for a proper english breakfast ( which in my opinion should be an everyday thing) featuring beans, eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and hash browns . I felt that we left a lot out on this trip and didn’t get to do as much as I would’ve liked but on the other hand, the two extra days there would’ve cost a fortune! I had heard that London was expensive, but the prices were bordering on insanity. On most occasions I had found that i’d be able to get two full meals in Austria for the price of one in London and when I was told my small beer cost about six euros, all I could do was stare like an Idiot. Nonetheless, I plan to come back for another adventure in London, perhaps when the weather is more suiting.

– A Pearl of the Orient.

PBJ Sandwiches and what?

Like most other foodies, I’m always open to trying new things. It just so happens that I’ve come across a few comments this month about Grilled Peanut Butter, Jam and Brie Sandwiches. Apparently they are the shit. So after coming home starving from Uni today, I popped my head into the fridge and realised I had all the ingredients available so I thought, why not?

Now I know for a fact that oven-melted camembert and cranberry jam go together like Barbie and Ken so I figured, this wouldn’t be much different, except for the addition of peanut butter.

So how did I do it? Simple.
I took out some bread, slabbed a bunch of peanut butter and strawberry jam on each side, stuck thin slices of brie on the top, formed a sandwich and grilled them in a pan.

My verdict?
Meh.
I mean it’s alright… but after reading about how AMAZING this combination tastes, I was left a little disappointed. My mind was not blown. As a result, I’m going to rate this dish a 5/10.

Have you got any weird (but tasty) food combinations for me to try? If so, do let me know!
Hope you all have a great week!

-A Pearl of the Orient.

How to handle that hangover.

The weekend has arrived and with it, the promise of another night out spent dancing your troubles away. That, and perhaps one tequila shot too many. So how do you handle that hangover from hell you ask? Here’s the biggest secret of all: Just don’t drink.

I got you didn’t I. Don’t be alarmed, I am not here to convince you to give up your ways or face eternal damnation. I’m just here to help you be more responsible about them.
I’m sure some are thinking: “Well, I don’t need alcohol to have fun!” and I salute you. To those who believe otherwise, a comforting quote:

I hate when people say you don’t need alcohol to have fun. Well you don’t need running shoes to run but it sure helps“.- Unknown (but genius).

I’m going to start the show with some preventative measures:

It’s common knowledge to not mix your drinks throughout the night. However, in the case of an open bar or that one friend handing you different shots left, right and centre it’s easier said than done but your future self will kiss your feet for it. In addition, I’d highly recommend a glass of water between every drink. Yes, EVERY drink. I’ve done this many times and it’ll make a world of difference. The fact that you may need to pee like a water buffalo is only a minor inconvenience in comparison. Those trips to the bathroom are also a great way to gage your state of mind. If you’re sitting on the toilet/ leaning on the wall and giggling to yourself or are beginning to talk to your reflection in the mirror, you should probably slow down a tad.

Now, if you’re in the cab home realising the damage has been done, you’ve got to have a plan of action for the next 24 hours.

First of all, eat. Pizza, chinese noodles, kebaps, the world is your oyster. In the case of nausea, I would skip this step. You can however order a meal online (if you’re able) and set the delivery time for around noon the next day so you’ll firstly, be forced to get out of bed and secondly, have a steaming hot meal to cure you of your misery. Then, force yourself to drink at least a litre of water and have a Panadol at the ready on your night stand. I would remind you to go brush your teeth but you know you won’t because by this time you will have already dived into bed. Should the world be rotating too fast for your liking as you lay down, leaving one leg to hang off the bed and touch the floor apparently helps to reduce the spinning.

In the morning, you’ve just got to accept that you’re a disaster and will not have a productive day. You already feel like crap, no need to pile on the guilt. When you’ve gathered the courage to leave the bed, go and shower! You’ll no longer reek of last nights decisions and you’ll feel much fresher afterwards. Then, grab a bottle of pop ( Pepsi is my personal favourite), assume the fetal position on the couch and switch to Netflix even if  you’re going to fall into a coma anyway. Should you manage to wake up before 7PM, go for a walk. I know it sounds absurd, but fresh air in your system will do wonders.

There you have it. The true guide to handle a hangover like a BOSS.
After having passed on such “wisdom” I wish you all a wonderful weekend. Happy hangovers!

– A Pearl of the Orient.

 

 

 

 

Am I a clean freak?

I have been holding back from writing this post for a LONG time in hopes of finding my inner-peace but when I came home today to find MULTIPLE snot stains on my couch I thought I was going to turn green, rip my clothes off and start beating on my chest. So here it is, another rant. Grab a cookie, a glass of milk, take your socks off and bask in my anger, apparently it’s entertaining.

I’ll acknowledge that I’m probably not the easiest person to live with. I’m incredibly protective of my food and am prepared to suffocate anyone who takes the last slice of pizza without permission. Do you even know the pain of waking up first thing in the morning, thinking to yourself: “Great, I’ll have some Pizza for breakfast (eaten cold because i’m hardcore)”, only to open a greasy box which has evidently been put back into the fridge due to the fact that it contains nothing but a measly piece of salami in it? Additionally, I’m pretty much a grandma on weekdays and don’t have much tolerance for large groups of people and noise when I’m planning to catch my Z’s at ten pm. My eighteen year old self would hate me. However, the thing I’m most particular about is cleanliness.You’re picturing me as the crazy asian version of Monk now, aren’t you? Well in that case, picture this.

You’ve come home after an extended weekend away.The apartment is empty so your roommates must to be out. You hang up your keys and run to the toilet because as per usual, you got the urge to pee as you were in the lift. You slam the door shut and just as you’re about to sit down , what do you see?  A toilet bowl which has clearly been violated. A person (or a bear) has clearly taken a ‘big one’, flushed and decided to leave a huge stain for the next person to clean up as a nice little bonding activity. Tasty.

Then, on the way to kitchen, a dull stench wafts down the hallway. Its source is a rubbish can, filled to the top and overflowing on to the floor. Juices and all. Someone was definitely going to take that out today, no cause for a commotion. You navigate around the trash pile only to notice your stocks are sticking to the floor. It appears as if an unidentified brown sticky substance has coated the floor and been left to dry. Pepsi? Barbecue Sauce? You’re not going to taste and find out.

You open the fridge which is covered in ketchup stains and are caught off guard by the cheesy aroma which drifts out. You poke around to find the culprit, an old, open mozzarella packet, with it’s juices leaking out. You push it to the side because you are strong and refuse to clean up someones mess again and continue loading in your groceries.

You then proceed to cook your dinner, ignoring the stove which has become slightly crusty and the various remnants of whatever meal was put together before on the kitchen counter. With the intentions of putting away your own mess, you open the dishwasher to find that it is curiously full though there are a total of maybe five items inside. “Somebody didn’t play Tetris as a child” , you mumble to yourself. You go about reorganizing the dishwasher to fit in your pan,plate and glass. Before you can escape to your room, you decide to take a nice relaxing shower.

You grab a towel, strip yourself down and hop into the tub. There appears to be a fluffy hairball in the drain. You swallow hard, take a cotton pad and attempt to remove it slowly. It catches. It’s stuck in there pretty good. You pull and pull until finally, your hand is free! You shudder and toss it all in the bin. It is done.

You feel yourself relax as the hot stream of water beats down on your tired muscles. The smell of your shampoo calms you. After you reluctantly step out, your fogged up reflection greets you in the mirror. You take the corner of your towel and quickly wipe over it. For some reason, you still don’t clearly see yourself. It dawns on you that this is due to the fact that the mirror is actually covered in toothpaste stains. You feel your head get hot. The vein in your neck begins to pulse and then…you black out.

When you open your eyes, you are standing in a spotless apartment with a fresh sheen of sweat on your forehead, a bottle of CIF in one hand and a washcloth in the other. You’ve lost the battle.

Disclaimer: The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this post are fictitious. No identification with actual persons, places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.
*Not.

– A Pearl of the Orient.