Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ahn Ji Hwan (안지환) If I Were

I fell in love with it when I heard Song Seung Hun’s voice singing this song.  If I Were had been sung by others but Black and Song Seung Hun were what it took for me to notice it. After some searching I finally found the original singer. 

Please ejoy. 

For those who love flower boys and KPop, this is the newest version by JJY Band:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Welcome to Paradise: Maratua Island

This would be my first time writing a recommendation for a place to visit. But in my own defence travelling is not one of my hobbies. My love for hustle and bustle of the big cities is simply too enormous. Going to far flung places are not my thing. 

But there is always an exception for everything. Hence, I’m going to sing the praises of this incredibly beautiful remote island to high heaven. I would even like to put this place in ‘a place you have to visit before you die’ category.

Am I being excessive? Not even a little. Maratua Island took my breath away with its out of this world beauty at the first sight. If there is heaven on earth then Maratua Island deserves to be considered as one.

Its pristine white sand beaches and turquoise crystal clear waters are the best prize to get after our very long trip from Jakarta.

Situated at the border between Indonesia and the Philippines Maratua Island necessitates us to wake up at the wee hour to catch the 5 am flight from Jakarta to Balikpapan (East Kalimantan/East Borneo).

After 2 hours flight from Jakarta to Balikpapan, we continued with another 45 minutes flight from Balikpapan to Berau. From Berau we drove about 3 hours to Tanjung Batu harbour to take a small boat and ride the waves for 90 minutes to our final destination.

It was only on our last day when we were about to leave for Balikpapan from Berau that we learned that we could fly directly to Maratua Island every Wednesday with a small plane.

I’m not fond of flying and I certainly have no craving for sailing. However, although deep waters always give me chills I have a huge love for water. So, despite rather anxious about our safety, the boat ride to Maratua Island was actually quite fun.

We stayed at Paradise Hotel which was the best hotel to choose if you wanted to have not merely an ocean view but direct access to turtles, stingrays and other fishes as well.

Despite the rather salty water and challenging TV channels the room itself has a spectacular view to boast. If we are lucky we could see a stingray or turtles from our living room or even from our bed when we lie down with prop up pillows.

If you want to leave civilization behind and experience what it feels like to own a private island, Maratua Island is a perfect getaway. You won’t be bothered by phone calls or perfect strangers particularly if you visit on weekdays.

Its terrible food aside, Paradise Hotel is the best hotel to stay in Maratua Island. When it’s high tide you will get turquoise crystal clear waters in front of your porch and when it’s low tide you will get perfect white sand beaches at your backyard. At night you will get to see twinkling stars in the sky.

Maratua Island also has a rather charming little pond in the middle of the forest which gave us a different experience. We had a lot of fun in this spot prodding one another to see who had the bigger guts to jump into that pond.

Due to weather condition we couldn’t have our planned trip to see the famous jelly fish and stingrays in nearby islands. However, on our way back home we got an unexpected bonus.  Being on a boat we got a first row seat to watch the sun rose from the bottom of the sea.

I don’t have enough words to describe my feelings when I saw that giant red ball slowly ascending towards the heaven. If I have to use only one word, that word is perfect.

If you love traveling you have to come to Maratua Island. You simply have to. You don’t have to book the whole island for yourself, chances are that when you come to Paradise Hotel you would be the only person in this heaven on earth.

This is the most worthwhile trip that I’ve ever had.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Review: Black

I don’t keep it a secret that I love Song Seung Hun. The proof is Song Seung Hun the Hand Towel and Don’t Call Me Mr. Hand Towel’s post which you could also read in this blog.

Whenever I look at Song Seung Hun’s perfect features my heart automatically screams ‘His Gorgeousness!’

When he closes his eyes I want to say His Gorgeousness may I have your eye lashes please! When he smiles I pray His Gorgeousness may you always smile like that. When he appears on screen I humbly say His Gorgeousness thank you for gracing us with your presence!

Black was a God sent for my sore eyes. The only reason I watched this drama was for Song Seung Hun. I didn’t have any expectation but to drool over my man. So, it’s quite a surprise for me to find that although it’s not perfect Black is actually a rare gem.

Black is supposed to be dark. I think. But I couldn’t keep myself from smiling during all of Song Seung Hun’s scenes. His face alone is enough to make me happy. When he starts to play that guitar in episode 15 and sings, I melt. Not only does he has the face but he also has the voice!

I expect a drama with a grim reaper as the main character to be grim or at the very least solemn. But there is no ominous darkness in Black despite its piles of corpses. The only darkness in this drama is the black shadows on those who are about to die.

Although Black is full of killers and mysteries it feels light hearted and speedy. Nevertheless, deep underneath lies a substance that offers us food for thought. It provokes us to think about human nature. And most importantly it forces us to think about what it means to love.

Instead of being scary Black our male lead, the cold hearted and legendary Grim Reaper Number 444 is actually very amusing. He is such a cutie pie. He looks adorable even when he is being rude and cocky.

Although I don’t like how this drama ends, for the first time ever in my long career of watching Korean drama, I couldn’t bring myself to swear at its ending.

I love love that conquers all obstacles. I love love that triumphs against all odds. Naturally, I hate ending that ends the relationship between the male and the female lead with a passion.    

If you love someone, you would want nothing more than to be together with that person for as long as possible. But, if you can’t have that, if you’re completely powerless to make that happens, what would you do?

Black’s choice is to receive the severest punishment given to grim reaper because that punishment allows the woman he loves to lead a normal life that she has never had. It allows Kang Haram to love another man and live her life to the fullest.

My heart hurts for him. It feels like a betrayal.

I can’t accept the fact that Haram completely forgets Black and falls in love with another man. I can’t accept that she has a happily ever after with a man who is not Black. Not when she never loves any man but him. Not when she has loved him her whole life. Especially because when she finally finds out that he is not who she thought he was she loves him still. She loves him when she thinks he is Kim Jun and she loves him when she thinks he is not Kim Jun. She loves him regardless of who or what he is.

I’m unhappy but the fact is if you love someone, if you sincerely love that person, all that you would ever want is for that person to be happy.

Even if that happiness means your extinction from their memories.

Black who is always jealous when Haram pays even the slightest attention to another man willingly lets Haram to marry another, has his children and spend the rest of her life with him.

His greatest parting gift to Haram is her happiness. Even if that happiness is given to her by another man, it’s okay because he couldn’t personally give it to her. He also leaves her another grim reaper in the form of a famous movie star who is tasked to always protect her as long as she lives.

Black breaks so many rules for Kang Haram fully aware of the heavy consequences that he has to bear in the end.

This drama tells us that we all have that special someone. The problem is we have no idea where that special someone is. We don’t even know whether that special someone lives in the same world with us.

If we already have a special someone, the destined one, is it okay to love someone else? Is it okay to spend the rest of our lives with that other person? What if the person that we have in our lives is actually that special someone?

The original Kim Jun who is loved by Kang Haram has always been in love with Yun Suwan. Even when he dies and his heart ends up in Han Mugang’s body, he is still in love with Yun Suwan. It is only after Hang Mugang dies and he returns to Han Mugang’s body that he falls for Kang Haram.

His loves for Yun Suwan doesn’t stop with his death. Because although he lost all of his memories as Kim Jun and Han Mugang, his heart remembers her.

The thing is, the cold and emotionless Grim Reaper 444, who looks down on mere mortals is only curious why his heart reacts to Yun Suwan, because he himself feels nothing for this human.

On the other hand the girl called Kang Haram makes him feels and does thing that no sane and respectable grim reaper would do.

Black is in quite a shock when he finally learns that the symptom that he has is what human calls love. It is hard for him to accept the fact that he falls in love with Kang Haram. But, even when his memories return, and he realizes how much he loved Yun Suwan both as Kim Jun and Han Mugang, his feelings for Haram remain.

The only thing that changes is his indifference towards Yun Suwan turns into a warm appreciation of her.

That’s how the drama explains the ending of Kim Jun and Han Mugang’s love for Yun Suwan, which I find rather unacceptable. Of course I’m happy that Black’s love for Kang Haram is that great, but the ending of his love for Yun Suwan is a little bit hard to swallow.

It reminds me of Oh My Ghostess wherein the romantic lines as to which girl the male lead really loves leave a bad taste in my mouth. Black isn’t as bad as Oh My Ghostess since it is pretty clear that Black only loves Kang Haram. Still….

If this drama makes Kim Jun’s love for Yun Suwan more trivial like ordinary puppy love or less intense, it would be easier for me to accept the fact that he left her just like that for Kang Haram.

Or the drama shows or gives hints that although Kim Jun was in love with Yun Suwan, the little Kang Haram was someone extremely special for him, so special that despite his love for Yun Suwan he still put her as his priority.

Like I said before Black is not perfect. There are things that could be done better. But overall, I love it.

The ending is not a plus but I have no grudge against it. It’s extremely difficult to make a happy ending between two creatures of different races who come from two different worlds.

Unlike 49 Days which deserves the wrath of its audiences for brazenly cheating them out of their happy ending, Black’s ending is not unexpected. It won’t make you happy but at least you would understand and feel sorry for Black. Hence, forgive the drama for even more.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Review: The Imperial Doctress

I’ve told myself over and over again not to watch any historical dramas when the male lead is the Emperor. Unfortunately, I have an extremely soft spot for Wallace Huo and zero immunity against his good looks. Thus I ended up watching The Imperial Doctress.

The result was except for Wallace Huo and the last minute of the final episode, the whole drama made me felt nothing but anger at myself. That one minute in the finale which was designed to console the audience didn’t work for me. It failed to compensate for how depressed I was while watching this 50 episodes drama.

Although I love romance, watching a man who has a perfectly good wife falls in love with another woman is not my idea of fun. With how much I love the undying and unconditional love, I loathe both the homewrecker and cheater.

I know it’s not fair to call Liu Shi Shi (Tan Yuan Xian) and Wallace Huo (Zhu Qi Zhen) a homewrecker and a cheater for technically neither Tan Yuan Xian nor Zhu Qi Zhen blatantly act on their feelings. Nevertheless, I just can’t bring myself to root for them.

I can’t condone a romance that destroys a perfectly good marriage. Nor could I love a man who lets himself falling for another woman when he is already married and there is absolutely nothing wrong with his marriage. It goes without saying that I’m extremely allergic to anything remotely related to adultery and polygamy.

When I waste my precious and limited time to watch something, I want that thing to make me feel happy and not to raise my blood pressure. But there are so many things in The Imperial Doctress that suffocate me. One of those things is the plight of Empress Qian, Zhu Qi Zhen’s wife.

Let’s try to put ourselves in Empress Qian’s shoe first.

How would you feel when your husband is in love with another woman? Yes, he doesn’t leave you, but not because he doesn’t want to. He spends every minute and every second he is with you thinking about the other woman. And you have to pretend that everything is perfectly fine when you know for sure that his heart doesn’t belong to you anymore.

Of course being an Empress we should not forget that we have no problem sharing our husband with a bunch of other women. So, knowing our husband is sleeping with other women is actually not that big of deal because we know when he sleeps with them at least the only thing that involves is his body. The intimacy between them would at most only enable those women to get some of his favours. We could still console and fooling ourselves by saying that it’s us that he loves.

But that’s not the case with this particular girl Tan Yun Xian. Although they are not being physically intimate she already owns the very heart and soul of your husband. You can see that when he is sitting right next to you, his mind is miles away with her. And when he is away he doesn’t even remember to go home, you have to send people to look for him and ask him to come back. 

To make thing worse in the most intimate moment you can’t stop wondering whether you have finally become one of those women he casually sleeps with.

All that you have now is the mere shadow of the man that he used to be. All that he gives you are no longer enough to make you happy because you are no longer sure whether they are heart felt. But all that you can do is to pretend that everything is perfectly fine, because you have no other choice.

Simply horrible.

Women have to stay in a relationship without a way out. They are forced to share their husband with other women just to have a husband. They are seen as nothing but a tool to be used either to form a political alliance or as a baby factory.

I’m not saying that being a wife and a mother is the worst thing that could happen to a woman. On the contrary, I have nothing but admiration for women who decide to choose to forsake their independence and freedom to be someone else’s wife and mother. But the key word is ‘choose’.

Being a wife and a mother carry huge consequences and responsibilities therefore they have to do it on their own freewill. Women need to choose that they want to give up creating their own happiness and success and instead letting their husband and their children to determine them.

A woman who chooses to be a wife could never be truly happy or considered to be successful unless she is being loved by her husband and succeeded in making her children worthy to be admired.

What if a woman decides she doesn’t want to let her happiness and success to be determined by other people? Too bad for her, men create a system which makes it impossible for women to be independent. Throughout history it is easy to see that inequality has been systematically built by men to oppress women.

Even now in this 21st century women are still used as a sex object. If they want to be successful they are still required to use their beauty to please men. Women are competing to be the most beautiful in a beauty pageant by showing off their assets to win with not even the slightest sense of how degrading that is.

Why don’t we have a beauty pageant for men so we could see them parading on stage wearing only a pink speedo for our pleasure? Well, because we don’t rule the world. But even if we women rule the world I don’t think we would want to demean our men into a sex object. Women don’t lust after men like men lust after women, therefore women never see men as an object to be collected and used for their own pleasure.

We would never think to brainwash our men into thinking that using their body by parading half naked in front of us to gain our favours is actually an honour and a sign of how powerful they are. No men would buy that argument. Only women would believe that by giving men what they wanted for free is a good bargain and an honour.

Men might not want to admit it but their oppression of women is driven partly by their lustful nature. If they want to treat women as a sex toy then it is in their interest that those women stay stupid and powerless. Stupid women would never realize that they have lost their human rights and that men have turned them into objects. Powerless women could do nothing even if they are smart enough to realise that they have been robbed off of their rights and have become a second class citizen if not even worse.    

Now, let’s take a look at Tan Yun Xian the female lead. 

This is the first time that I don’t get jealous of the female lead who gets the love of all the male characters in the drama because I would find it extremely offensive if a married man who already have numerous wives and children confessing his love for me or wanting me to be a member of his harem. 

But men are blessed with thick skin or incredible sense of entitlement that make them feel that there is nothing wrong in wanting another woman to add into their collection.

Zhu Qi Zhen the Emperor of Ming Dynasty already has an Empress that he loves. No matter how much he loves Tan Yun Xian he can’t make her his Empress. She could only be one of his concubines, sharing the man she loves with other women. And he feels no shame in admitting that he already has a wife.

Zhu Qi Yu who loves her marry another woman in order to replace Zhu Qi Zhen as the Emperor. Not only he marries her for power, he also intentionally uses their intimacy as a tool to hurt Tan Yun Xian. He puts other woman as his Empress and gives Tan Yuan Xian no option but to be his lowly concubine. She becomes nothing but an outlet to vent his lust and temper. And a punching bag for both his Empress and mother.

Ye Xian the ruler of Northern Yuan who also wants Tan Yun Xian already has his own Empress as well as numerous concubines, again, the female lead could be nothing but another lowly concubine.

I feel nothing but pity for Tan Yun Xian. She is without a doubt one of the most pitiful female leads in drama land. Other male leads in other dramas compete to make the female lead their one and only true love, but her male leads only want her to be one of their women. Not only they couldn’t give her their full heart they couldn’t even give her the exclusive right to their bodies.

What makes thing more ironic is that she actually doesn’t need to depend on men to live. She is capable enough to support herself with an admirable profession. Unfortunately, the world she lives in doesn’t treat women of her profession kindly.

The same thing still happens in the 21st century. Women who try to work in the field which traditionally belongs to men face more hardship and challenges than men themselves.

The Imperial Doctress has royally screwed up in the romance department. Therefore they should have at least tried to be good enough in other department, for example in building the female lead character into a carrier oriented one. They should have expanded more effort in showing how she builds her carrier to become one of the best female physicians in the Ming Dynasty. Unfortunately, The Imperial Doctress also fails to do so.

I might be a little bit too harsh in my assessment because of how disappointed I’m with this drama’s romance but at least for people who look either for romance or another Dai Jang Geum I could say that this one would not satisfy you.