Sunday, 13 October 2013

Singapore, Esplanade

I had not been to anywhere interesting since my last Bangkok trip. It was an extremely busy period and I was working around the clock. But, I do feel that I am seriously in need of a break, something that could give me a sense of balance to armour me through this hectic life. 

An example of my sweet retreat is usually comfort food. I tried to prolong the retreat for as long as I could by savouring the taste of these marinated charcoal-grilled chicken satay. Don't forget to eat these with some rice cake dipped in peanut sauce and the feeling that comes out of it? Pure ecstasy... 

Another outlet for retreat is to go out with colleagues after work. We went to TWG at Marina Bay Sand and we ordered tea. There were various selection of teas for us to choose from - some with really mushy names. I had 'The Grand Wedding' on that day because I like my tea to be fruity. 

As this was my first time in TWG, I actually didn't expect that the price for tea here could be so steep. Buy hey, I'm already comfortably seated there, so I kept reminding myself to go for something cheaper tomorrow. But seriously, I felt the pinch. Ouch...

And while I'm still in the topic of self-indulgence, I also ordered myself dessert. Here's my chocolate fondue, topped with ginger ice cream. Nice, and I'll skip the part when I saw the bills. 

After that, we took a walk around the Esplanade. Singapore is perhaps the fastest changing city in the world. The skyline too keeps on changing as new buildings were built and the old ones refurbished.

There is a saying, "those who can't wed, plan". 
Well, those who can't travel, stay... and be a tourist in their own country. 

I took the Singapore River Cruise for the first time on that day. It costs $20 per person and here I go on the bum boat, aka Singapore River Cruise.

The Singapore Flyer, the Singapore Art Museum and the Marina Bay Sands are important structural icons in Singapore. They depict modernity and innovation; and that's where Singapore is heading towards.

The boat glided along the Singapore River, where you could view the charms of the old Central Business District. There are prominent buildings in Singapore that show Singapore's British heritage. An example is the building below.

Built in 1826 by the First Governor of the Straits Settlement, Robert Fullerton, the building was once used as a fort to defend Singapore from any naval attacks. After that, it became the General Post Office, the Exchange, the Singapore Club, the Marine Department, and the Import and Export Department - in those particular order. 

Yep... I find the rich history attached to this building fascinating, but I didn't have the time to read further, but today, the building had again served another purpose. It is now a 5-star hotel, whereby a one night accommodation can cost up to $600.

I like the lightings that decorate the Singapore River. The rows of shop-houses that cover the length of the Singapore River looks really vibrant. By night time, the shop-houses were transformed into restaurants and clubs and the crowd will come to enjoy dinner and drinks.

Overall, the cruise is a great way to enjoy the day for me. It took about 40 min, which is a brief, short retreat.


Friday, 21 June 2013

Thailand, Bangkok

There was a hitch in my June holiday plans. I was already set to go to Sydney but my friend pulled out at the last minute. I had done all the travel research and it had came to nothing. Thank god, I had not booked any accommodation! I couldn't explain how pissed off I am right now. 

Sometimes, friendship really sucks but this episode had made me realized that nothing could stop my passion for travelling. I decided to go on a solo trip and change my itinerary to Bangkok, instead of Sydney. After researching on Bangkok, I mustered all my courage to book a flight via the Singapore Airlines (SIA). 

Absolutely, not going on a budget this time because I think I deserved a real break. And yeah, finally... I'm off to a great escapade.

My lunch on-board SIA. Ta-daa... 

This will at least keep me full for the next 5 hours. 

From the Suvarnabhumi Airport, I took the airport railway and transferred to the BTS train to get to the hotel. I love Bangkok. It was fun getting around on foot, and scanned the vendor carts lining up the streets. When tired, I found myself a nice bench or sat at a cafe and do some people watching. 

Here's the surrounding neighbourhood at Ratchathewi. I didn't take many photos as I wanted to blend with the Thais. I even passed off as a Thai because each time I came into contact with anyone, I was spoken to in Thai first. Unfortunately, my inadequacy in their language gave me away.

The intersection towards MBK was always busy with traffic. The reason why there was not much traffic in this photo is because it was taken at 9 am. I am an early riser, even when I am on holiday. I woke up automatically at 5.30 in the morning and couldn't go back to sleep. So I gave up sleeping and began my day. Well, the shops were still closed but it actually felt good to take a walk along the quiet streets.

I had quite an adrenaline rush on Sunday as I came face to face with an anti-government demonstration. Loud speakers were blaring political slogans. The large crowds which had gathered on the ground and on the bridge cheered whenever the political activists fired some powerful speech.  I just came out from MBK and my heart was drumming its own rapid tune. 

Every now and then, a patriotic song was played. The atmosphere was "electric". A couple of policemen were around as crowd control, but when the National song was played, they sang with the crowd.


Photo credit to
I didn't take this photo, but it's exactly the location where it happened on that day.

I crossed my fingers and prayed that it's not the Red Shirts. Fortunately, it's not. Their shirts were pink. Funny, how colour made a difference here. But what was more amusing was how my mind managed to convince me that these pink activists were less 'dangerous' than the reds! How ridiculous was that?!

There were a couple of Guy Fawkes masked men on the bridge too. They were dancing and teasing some people, who were watching the demonstration. I did not like the way they were acting so I hurriedly walked away. I didn't want to get myself involved in this political turmoil. 

Instead, I took the train and went to Chatuchak, where the atmosphere was more amicable and calm. I was looking forever for this clock tower because there were many Muslim food stalls around the area. But, I ended up not eating at any of the stalls. I bought some fruits to snack on since they looked more appetizing.

I bought this coconut ice cream too as it seemed like it was the latest craze if you go to Bangkok. This was one of the best presentation I found in one of the stalls. The stall owner also gave me a free cup of coconut drink to quench my thirst. The ice cream was a delightful treat. 

My trip to Thailand feels incomplete if I leave without eating the glutinous rice with mangoes. It's yummy and definitely one of my favourite Thai food.

On the whole, I find my solo trip liberating and reflective. A lot of times, I found myself ruminating about things that I wouldn't have given a second thought. I had been living in a fast paced life all along and it suddenly felt awkward to walk unhurriedly, chew my food properly, and enjoy my day without having any plans ahead. This must be amusing to some people but hey, you have got to try solo travelling to understand what I am trying to say.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Thailand, Krabi Outdoor Adventure

We spent most of our trip on outdoor adventures. In fact, this was the first time I did so many different phsyical activities consecutively.

On our third day, we went to Phang Nga, which was around 3 hours away from Krabi, for white river rafting, all terrain vehicle (ATV) tour and elephant trekking. Pheww.. Even saying them in one breath was tiring.

The rainfall on that day made it more thrilling during the rafting. It was cold as rain water soaked my clothes and the chills got into my skin, but I did not mind a teeny bit. For me, it was a fine trade-off to the hot, humid weather that I am accustomed to.

The great company of the raft guides also made it extremely fun as they purposely splashed water on everyone in the rafts. And all of us returned the splash in good spirit. I realised that to be able to splash lots of water with the paddle required a technique, which sadly, I wasn't able to master, so in the end I was wet from head to toe. Grrr.. but our clothes got dried pretty fast once the rain stopped and the sun came out again.

The battle of the ATVs. I wish I could own one of them but the ATV wasn't as great as the river rafting though. I guess I was hoping for more, like what the brochure picture showed when we bought the full day tour.

Elephant trekking was kind of scary for me at first, because of the swaggering movement of the elephant and the position where I was seated. It was a bit lopsided because I'm heavier than Cp so I felt like the whole carriage was going to fall on my side.  

I kind of suspect I also had a fear of height although I don't feel anything close to nausea or light headedness. I only had this weird feeling like I was going to fell off and hit the ground every minute, so could this really be a minor state of acrophobia?

Our big, strong elephant brought us into the jungle and stepped along the river bed. Everthing about the landscape was surreal and beautiful. It could have been better if I could have just curbed that creeping fear of falling off from the elephant.

On the next day, we went kayaking at Ao Thalene. I've never known that kayaking through the soaring limestone cliffs could be so therapeutic. It was so peaceful and cooling that it's almost meditative.

This was me in one of the hidden caves. I didn't dare to venture deeper because it's dark.

And one of the monkeys greeted us as we kayak through the maze of mangroves.

Overall, the kayaking activity was the most valuable experience in my Krabi trip to me. This was a part of nature that I felt was becoming more rare to see as a city dweller. And so I hoped I could kayak again and witness the same natural beauty.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Thailand. Krabi Island Hopping

One can never run out of activities while in Krabi. There's just so many interesting things to choose from

We went to quite a number of islands around Krabi on our 2nd day.

Our mode of transport was this small boat, which sped across the sea like a charm.

Our first destination was Bamboo Island. The island is the most beautiful beach I've ever been to. The sandy beach was white and powdery. The water was crystal clear. Even the rocks on the island looked very pleasing to my eyes.

Basically, the whole landscape provided a good opportunity for cameras to start clicking. We were definitely more interested in capturing images than going swimming in the sea like most people in the tour group did.

There were several more islands which we went to but I couldn't remember the names. On our way to Maya Bay (the island made famous in the movie 'The Beach'), we stopped for a while at Viking Cave. This cave is where bird nests are being harvested. We can't enter the place because it was high tide at that time and I think it was out of bounds too. For me, it's better to look from far to preserve the cave as tourists' footsteps can damage the bird nests.

According to the tour guide, there are dwellers living in the cave and their livelihood is to harvest and protect the bird nests from being stolen. Every now and then, the dwellers will go to the mainland to stock up their food supplies and other necessities. 

The highlight of Maya Bay is its entrance. The place was really picturesque and breathtaking. If not for the sheer number of tourists, the bay would have been a calm and serene place on Earth, with the 2 cliffs acting as its fortress and guarding its secrets.

Snorkelling was fun at the bay, but it was rather short.

The last island we went to is Koh Phi Phi. It was ok. I guess because I've been to so many islands on that day, I was not able to appreciate Phi Phi as much as other people did.

This is the island hospital, but it looks more like a clinic to me.

Overall, our day had been a fulfilling one.