Singapore fling………

Although autumn, that lovely transition from summer to winter is here, small pockets of heat and sunshine linger.   I have to admit, I wasn’t quite ready to let go of summer just yet so the past week of wonderful weather has been welcomed.  Early mornings have been spent in the surf on and under glorious waves big, slow and rolling.   My playlist has been warmth and sun, cornflower blue skies, perfect waves, sandy hair, good company and pods of dolphins.  It really doesn’t get much better than this.

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These past months have been busy with nary a moment to spare.  Set to a feverish pace which sometimes sees me time poor to do that which I love most such as just watching the ocean, creating, losing myself in the pages of a good book or baking from scratch.

We all have the same amount of hours in our days but it really is up to us how we spend that time.  I have a list of things which make me happiest and a list of that which must be done.  I recently compared those lists and with mindful gratitude, adjusted accordingly.

Singapore:  So strict yet so sophisticated

It seems like a lifetime ago that our trip began in Hong Kong and finally ended here in Singapore, that fastidiously clean yet flawlessly beautiful melting pot of culture.  The Lion City can also boast of having THE best airport in the world and it is natural disaster free.

I think anytime you travel to another country you should always read up on their customs, laws and culture and although Singapore is a contemporary and sophisticated city, there are a couple of little quirks (aka laws) you will need to respect:

  1. Gum control – I have absolutely no issue with this law and its hefty fine as I dislike chewing gum immensely.  I don’t think anyone looks hip nor intelligent while chowing down on gum so when in Singapore, fair warning – don’t buy it, don’t import it, don’t chew it and above all do not leave it stuck anywhere!
  2. Flush – and I am not referring to the literary ‘blush’.  Failure to flush a public toilet  in Singapore will result in a $150 US fine.  And a word of warning – they do random spot checks.
  3. Nuding it up – it is illegal to walk around in your home naked.  Close your curtains otherwise you will be hit with a $2,000 fine or 3 months jail time.
  4. It is also illegal to feed the pigeons or to smoke in public.  Don’t jaywalk, litter or spit and do not annoy someone with a musical instrument…..Nickelback, take note!!  Again, these acts will result in a fine which is perfectly fine by me.

We have been to Singapore prior to this trip and worn out the soles of our shoes en route to Raffles, along Orchard Road, on the Quay, in Chinatown and through the history, landmarks and stunning architecture of this beautiful island state.  This time around however, we decided to spend our down time in one of Singapore’s most vibrant districts…….

The warm, wonderful and boldly colourful Little India.  And why Little India you ask?  Well that is because simply being here makes me happy AND their fish head curries are the stuff of legends 🙂

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I am smitten with Little India.  It is exotic and strikingly vibrant with its arcade’s of tiny spaces filled with silks and saris, spices and sweets along with the gold shops, beautiful flower garlands and Hindu temples.

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From the ram-shackled food halls and hawker stalls to the open street restaurants, the air is filled with the spicy aromas of curries laced with turmeric, coal black cardamom, cinnamon buds, nigella and garlic.  The neighbourhood really is a riot of smells, colours, sights and sounds and it truly is as Indian as India itself……but without the Ganges and sacred cows.

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We were also incredibly fortunate enough to be in Little India at the tail end of  Deepavali, also known as Diwali the festival of lights.  This is the most important of all Hindu celebrations and it commemorates the triumph of light over darkness, hope over despair and knowledge over ignorance.

Packed with thousands of Hindu families who descended on the district, Little India was transformed with beautifully decorated statues of elephants and peacocks and one million and one lights.  And there is nothing more fabulous than to be caught up in the human crush of love, festivity and happiness.

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This for me, is one of the prettiest of temples and I have photographed it many times.  Standing in the heart of Little India on Serangoon Road and seeing it again during Deepavali just seemed to bring a little more joy to my heart.  The temple is dedicated to the goddess and destroyer of evil, Sri Veeramakaliamman and it is one of Singapore’s oldest Hindu temples.

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And don’t be put off by the severed heads, the eating of intestines and the necklaces of skulls – although I am assured each victim deserved their fate – as that is only part of her story and as we all well know, there are always two sides to every narrative.  Macabre to some perhaps, I still think it is a most beautiful temple……..

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So that’s the trip.  Done and dusted from beginning to end.  I found during the writing of these eleven blog posts, there were at times a difficulty in describing a place or an experience simply because it had been far too wonderful to just whittle down into mere words.  I found too that travel for me is a necessity, not a luxury.  That a big world awaits and I never want to feel the disappointment of that which I did not do.

It seems too with each trip my backpack gets a little more frayed and my camera, a little more battered yet I have no issue with that as the memories they have held far outweigh the well-worn.  Catch you all on the flipside soon………x

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Hell Yeah……xx

 

‘If you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your own way’…..Nichiren

The road to Hoi An, the beautifully charming UNESCO World Heritage-listed town, is well travelled.  Wrapped in exquisite layers of grace and tradition the town is essentially a living breathing museum with its whimsical mustard-yellow Japanese merchant houses, crumbling buildings, tea-houses, lanterns, Chinese temples, lovely Vietnamese tube houses and stunning French colonial buildings.

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With its cut-through canals and water-ways this lovely town, a labyrinth of alleyways and lanes, dates back to the 15th century and it was once a thriving Southeast Asian trading port.

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Centrally located in Hoi An, this graceful and very pretty little wooden bridge was constructed by the Japanese in the 1590’s.  Centuries may have passed yet little has changed on this gently arching span which has become a major tourist attraction for the town.

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Whilst in Hoi An, you can leave the traffic snarls behind as cars and motorbikes are banned from the central part of town.  There is a welcomed pace here and apart from the rickshaw and push-bikes, the good old foot falcon is the best mode of transport.

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On almost every corner, little charcoal burners heave under the weight of pork and chicken skewers.  The smell of cooking meat is amazing and their accompanying salads are to die for.  You know how sometimes you think ‘that was a pretty rough day.  I won’t make it worse by having salad for dinner’ .  Well that is not the case in Vietnam as the salads are just divine.  Fresh, light and incredibly moreish with their coriander, mint and Vietnamese basil.  Nom du du bo kho is a favorite with its green papaya, dried beef, roasted peanuts and fish sauce dressing.

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The local beer is cold and it is cheap and it best accompanies the inexpensive hawker food on offer and of course you always know what I always say about street food……..EAT IT!   So hunker down on those tiny plastic squat chairs and enjoy.

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This elegant town does have its touristy side such as the rustic and over-crowded market stalls.  Everything and anything is sold under low slung awnings but just go with the flow and enjoy it all for what it truly is.

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The lovely lanterns of Hoi An…….

I find lanterns breathtakingly romantic and in Hoi An, I fell in love with the way they adorn the cities’ alley-ways and lanes.  Traditionally hung on the full moon, it is said lanterns bring good luck to a home.  How could such serendipitous warm beauty not soften the coldest of hearts.

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There is often a good tired which comes from travel and I was, after my time in Hoi An, in sleeping swan pose before I knew it.  Unfortunately I was still on the bus at the time!   Headed for our next destination, I dozed on and off during the 3 hour long ride occasionally waking to watch for the comfort the acres and acres of green rice fields seemed to bring.  I watched for the locals with their flocks of runner ducks and buffalo and I waited for the motion of the bus to dip beside forests so I could see the tops of the tallest of trees and glimpse the ocean occasionally.

Sometimes my thoughts strayed to ‘home’, but where is home for me.  I have always believed it is that place where I live at that moment.  The place where I unpack my life and where I lay my head and where I can enjoy the serenity of just standing still.  It is where I am always willing to meet myself and where I often fail spectacularly especially on the journey of looking after myself.  It is a place where I always fall in love with something.  Where I am trying to live my best life by having less and having more – less friends, less possessions, more kindness, more compassion and to be more rich in the time I devote to something I love.  It is the luxury of a moment alone in the ocean, finding a book at my local library, finding a piece of sea glass along with a perfect coffee and the joy of a late season summers day.  Most of all, when fortunate enough, it is the place where I am able to hang my lantern…….xx

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