Singapore in a Day

11 Jul

Singapore is a bit like Hainanese Chicken Rice. It looks plain and sterile with its MRTs and skyscrapers but the second you take a bite and scratch below the surface a little you realise it’s packed through of flavour and a lot more than meets the eye. It is a city which appeals to me immensely. The parts of Asia that I love combined with efficiency and cleanliness- I’d move there in a second if given a chance.

Raffles- founder of modern day Singapore

I had one full day in Singapore on my way to Indonesia and planned it to try and get as much out of it as possible and realistically in the end spent most of the day getting lost. The morning started with Kaya toast and some delicious coffee and condensed milk, you definitely have to go for the sweet and milky option here and not expect Roasters quality. Then the walking began- I walked around Raffles City and saw Raffles Hotel while on a quest to find sunscreen (which was harder than expected seeing nothing opened until 11). Then I headed on over to Little India and walked up and down Seragoon Road taking photos and experiencing the colours and smells of the sub-continent. Tekka Market on a Sunday is a pungent assault on the senses, packed with people and every fruit or meat under the sun. I also got my foot all henna-ed and walked over to Sim Lim Square to look at some headphones while resisting the temptation to buy camera gear.

I then had an idea that seeing I couldn’t be bothered walking up to Little India MRT so I decided to walk until I found another one. I explored some more markets and found some temples then realised that there hadn’t really been any MRT stations. About half an hour later I found one after walking what turned out to be a fairly long way in ridiculous humidity. Afterwards I headed back to Clarke Quay, wandered around the mall and jumped on another train up to Chinatown.

Shop houses in Little India

I had a pretty good idea where the food centre was so sort of just walked in its general direction through streets upon streets of market stalls and then found it. I love Maxwell Food Centre. Unfortunately the pancake stall I really like has appeared to have closed in the last 18 months so it was time to try something new so I did the logical thing and jumped on the end of the longest line of locals and was rewarded with a plate of Chicken Rice for the low price of $3. It was pretty much one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten, like some kind of epiphany.

Hawker Centre Heaven

After lunch I headed off walking along the river to the Asian Civilisations Museum which I was quite impressed by. They had some really interesting stuff from Southeast Asia and their SE Asian Islamic artifacts exhibit was particularly interesting. As the afternoon went on I took a stroll along Clarke Quay in the cool breeze and hang out before heading back to Chinatown to eat amazingly delicious meal number 2 for the day- bratwurst. Yep as strange as it sounds in the middle of the stalls of Chinatown is Erich’s Wuerstelstand, an Austrian setup where you can get some delicious smoked pork and cheese wurst (as well as other varieties), sauerkraut and giant pretzels. It was incredibly good food and so cheap.

Bratwurst in Chinatown? Delicious

After walking around a bit and heading back to eat dinner in a bar in Clarke Quay and watch the F1 it was time to head home before the early flight.

Singapore is great. Lots of people don’t particularly like the place but I beg to differ. It definitely isn’t cheap but I don’t think I’ve ever failed to have a good time there if I’ve taken the time to go exploring. I’ll definitely back (in fact I will be going back twice in the next 3 weeks).

Gear Guide: First Aid for travellers

4 Jul

Having ended up in hospital twice while overseas and dealing with a number of annoying (minor) injuries and illnesses I’ve always made an effort to take some form of first aid kit overseas with me. The difficult part is finding a balance between too little and too much with the constant need to try to keep traveling as light as possible. I’ve heard a lot of people argue that most first aid stuff you can generally buy overseas- true but when you have a bruised, swollen foot from falling down a staircase it is not particularly enjoyable to try and mime anti-inflammatories to the chemist in Indonesia (true story and they gave me caffeine tablets?). On the other hand the first time I travelled to Asia my doctor gave me a whole goody bag of every type of sample medication under the sun most of which I never used.

So what is in my first aid kit? I have a small one which comes everywhere and mostly has wound care stuff in it. Band aids, gauze, splinter probes and antiseptic wipes. It’s always in my daypack even when I’m at home and is very useful for everyday problems.

First Aid Kit sans medication

I also travel with

–          Adhesive sports strapping tape- good for supporting twisted fingers, knees, ankles etc. Also has many other uses like taping up windows and fixing broken back packs. Versatile stuff

–          Conforming bandage

–          Anti-inflammatories (see story above), paracetamol for headaches or after a night tasting too much of the local beverages and immodium because sometime your stomach just doesn’t agree with that nasi goreng

–          Betadine- After winding up in hospital with a tropical infection this stuff is a really good idea, keep wounds clean and disinfected in the tropics to avoid the hospital trip.

–          Malaria medication- depends where you are going and you really should consult a doctor. Sadly Doxycycline makes me sick so I have to go for the more expensive Malarone which luckily has very few side effects except some really weird vivid dreams.

–          Any prescriptions you might take at home- pretty self-explanatory.

I was always told the 6 Ps “perfect preparation prevents piss poor performance” this is particularly relevant when traveling, take risks and have adventures but look after yourself! It’s always much more enjoyable to be healthy when you’re on the road.

Photo of the Week #16- Snowgums in the Snowys

1 Jul

Where- Perisher, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW

While I don’t particularly like the cold, I love going to the snow and skiing. A quick trip to Perisher (only 2 hours drive from my house) gave me the chance to muck around in the snow on toboggans with my cousins and snap some photos. The snowgums really are beautiful this time of year and really set a wonderful backdrop.

Here We Go Again!

29 Jun

Alright so I have 1 more week until I’m off to the airport and on my way back to Southeast Asia for 3 weeks. I’ve finally managed to get all of my accommodation booked after deciding it was probably easier to have everything booked with my tight schedule and so far it is all quite exciting.

So what’s the plan? I’ll be heading to Singapore, Indonesia and Borneo- a week traveling through Java doing some work and catching up with friends, finally after 4 trips to Indonesia I’ll be going to Bali for some fun and relaxation before heading off to Malaysian Borneo to see some orangutans, explore some jungle and discover a new culture. Also I’ll have a few days in Singapore which will mostly consist of visiting a few of my favourite places and eating of course!

With a week to go you would think I would be more organised with the next week packed full of work and meetings but alas there still is a lot to do, haven’t even thought about what I’ll pack yet! Really looking forward to escaping these freezing winter mornings and getting back out there, discovering new places, seeing old friends and eating some delicious food! There will be a whole heap of new blogs on their way from updates on what I’ve been doing, destination and hotel reviews and plenty of photos!

Courts xx

Photo of the Week #15- Sunset in the Village

25 Jun

Where- Bantul, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

It was a lovely day in Jogja and the city was packed with Maulid celebrations so one of my friends invited me to come out to her village with her family and friends. It was the perfect day with blue sky bringing out all of the rich colours of the beautiful landscape around us. I was taking one last photo of the gorgeous sunset when a motorbike whizzed past making for a fun photo.

What to read before going to… Indonesia

20 Jun

Title- The Year of Living Dangerously

Author- Christopher Koch

Plot- It’s 1965 and Sukarno is nearing the end of his rule in Indonesia. Poverty is rife as the economy is in decline while the nation draws closer to the communists in Peking and begins to denounce the West.  Meanwhile a group of foreign correspondents indulge in the expat life in Jakarta, following the drama and watching the country disintegrate around them.

I love this book; it’s possibly one of my favourites. When I’m at home I read it to take me back to Indonesia through its rich imagery and try to imagine what it would have been like to be in Indonesia at that turbulent point of time.  In fact I love reading about this period in Indonesian history, the drama and conspiracy of the events of the 30th September 1965 and the effect that they had on the country is just so interesting and this book is a wonderful combination of the factual historical events of that time with the complex story of Guy Hamilton in his dealings with other expats. I probably read this book at least once a year, it paints a realistic picture of Indonesia in the way it describes simple things like the scent of clove cigarettes wafting and the simple life of the becak man. A really well written novel about Indonesia.

There was also a movie made based on the book. To be honest it’s a pretty good movie, Linda Hunt playing Billy Kwan was definitely worthy of the Oscar and Mel Gibson does a good job as he did in most of his early films. Do yourself a favour however and read the book first. In fact also do some reading about the 30th September Movement and the overthrow of Sukarno. The history of Indonesia will provide a whole new insight into the country when you visit and really helps understand how Indonesia has developed into the country it is today.

Photo of the Week #14- Tomb Raider’s Ta Prohm

15 Jun

Where- Ta Prohm, Angkor, Cambodia

When I was a kid I love Lara Croft. I had all of the Tomb Raider games and was very disappointed to find out that being a tomb raider wasn’t a particularly realistic career choice in this day and age. For many years I wanted to see Angkor Wat and was most excited about the Ta Prohm temple complex. Sure the obvious Tomb Raider connection was a key draw card but the idea of an overgrown, half ruined temple was even more exciting. This place is amazing to explore especially if you manage to escape some of the crowds which flock to it. There is some work on to restore the temples but I really hope they leave them mostly as they are now as that is what is particularly enticing about them.