Thursday, August 24, 2017

California Summer

With summer quickly coming to an end I find myself by the water more and more, determined not to miss out on a single beach day before fall arrives.

Luckily for me and Gloria, a friend of ours lives on Coronado and had some beach cruisers for us to wobble around on while we waited for her to get off work so that we could get to the real summer pastime of Californians -- drinking mimosas and lounging by the pool.

 After being fueled with coffee from our lovely bike benefactor, we roamed around stopping every time we found a spot that demanded a photo - and on Coronado that happens pretty often.


The view of downtown San Diego really can't be beat, so we plunked ourselves down on a sandy little beach to take it all in.

I swear we didn't plan to wear matching outfits, it's just a thing that happens when you've been best friends as long as we have. At this point, we just laugh when we see each other and don't bother changing.

As our friend's shift came to an end, we rode off into the sunshine -- ready for mimosas and poolside gossip with the girls, the perfect summer day in Southern California. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Singapore City Tour

The day I went on the City Tour of Singapore was one of my favorites while I was there, despite the fact that I don't generally enjoy predetermined, group-type outings. 

Our first stop of the morning was to Little India, which was as colorful and intriguing as you would imagine it to be. It's probably a good thing I didn't have more time or space because I probably would have bought more food than my belly could hold and more decorative items than my suitcase could bear. 

There were so many incredible handmade items here, and the shop tenders were lovely about telling you all about the items, where the materials were sourced from what different symbols meant, just very friendly in general.

After our quick tour of Little India, we found ourselves at Merlion park, home to a statue of the country's national animal, the Merlion, as well as home to some rather spectacular views. There were stalls selling all kinds of delicious foods and drinks but I was most impressed by the man making sugar cane juice by literally juicing stalks of sugar cane.

I probably looked rather silly staring like a fool as they juiced as fast as they could and still couldn't keep up with customer demand.

That giant building that looks like a spaceship is the Marina Bay Sands hotel and an architectural marvel.

Our next stop was Chinatown, where this gorgeous Hindu Temple resides. Right next to it you'll find stall after stall of souvenirs; full of everything from pocket watches to faux silk robes as well as plenty of food and drink.

You might think that after a day at the Gardens By the Bay, it wouldn't be high on my list to find myself at the Botanical Gardens. But you'd be sorely mistaken, it was 100% worth the trip.

I only got to see a small portion of the extensive gardens as our time with the tour was limited, but what I did get to see was so calming and beautiful that I didn't want to leave.

A Few Notes From One Traveler to Another

- I would absolutely recommend the City Tour but if you have more than a few days to explore, it's a good idea to start with this tour to give you an idea of where you'd like to spend more time later in your trip since you only get 20-30 minutes of time to explore each stop

- The flower wreaths that you see in Little India are made for taking to the temple. As such they are not to be touched by women because a woman gets a menstrual cycle, which they consider to be "unclean". So if a woman touches them, the flower wreaths (made by men) are no longer fit for the temple. Even if you don't agree with this, please be respectful and aware of their beliefs and customs. 

- Haggling over prices in Little India is acceptable --- as long as you are inside the shop. Prices will not be discussed outside the storefront, even if the item you wish to buy is displayed outside.

-Haggling in Chinatown is not acceptable. The prices listed are the prices they will accept. Most things here are cheaply priced anyway so there is no need to haggle anyway.  

-Pay attention to the time that your guide tells you to meet back with the group, we left quite a few people in various locations around the city as they couldn't make it back when they were supposed to. If you want to stay at one of the stops longer than the tour allows, simply tell your driver so that they know not to wait on you, they're very used to this.

- Lastly, this is a rather strange one but something that might help fellow travelers. If you decide to return to the Little India area at night and need to arrange a ride home afterwards, it's best to do this beforehand. Many Indian taxi drivers, for whatever reason, will not pick you up if you are not Indian. Uber is available and there are many Metro stations in the area so you're not short of options. This might save you from wandering the streets unsuccessfully trying to hail down cabs like my companions and I had to do before we realized what was happening. 

As this is the last of my (rather drawn out) Singapore posts, I hope you enjoyed them or at least learned something useful for your future travels!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Singapore - Gardens By the Bay

On the first day of my one full weekend in Singapore, I had booked myself a solo trip to the Gardens By the Bay. The hotel offered coach service to the gardens as well as the tickets into the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome, but I had to find my own way home which was fine by me.

With the whole day ahead of me, I was determined to see everything that I could see. I strolled past the magnificent Super Trees and headed down a path at random.

I couldn't believe the number of Plumerias here! They thrived so well! It made me a little sad to think of my pathetic attempts to grow them back home in California. Spoiler Alert; they died rather rapidly.

I found myself walking past such an array of plants and trees that I would've never thought could grow together. There were tropical plumerias and orchids, next to ponds full of water lilies, around the corner from pine trees and even a cactus forest! These plants all growing next to each other  reminded me a lot of Singapore itself, with it plethora of cultures living happily side by side.

The man made elements were almost as beautiful as the ones provided by nature. Plus the views weren't half bad.

After exploring for a while, I couldn't wait any longer to find out what, exactly, a Cloud Forest was. 

I was not disappointed.

Everything about this place made me want to stay forever. The sound of waterfalls, the smell of greenery and flowers and the cool air filled with water mist made this one of my favorite places.

Dispersed throughout was artwork so beautiful that it managed to actually add to the beauty of the flowers around them, which is a pretty rare occurrence. 

Each level held something different than the last and there were helpful signs describing what was growing nearby.

The view from the top was so lovely that I completely forgot about my fear of heights. 

Once I finally forced myself to leave the cloud forest, I headed over to the Flower Dome. It was a lot busier in here than it was in the Cloud Forest, but I wasn't surprised considering it was Orchid Extravaganza. Who could turn down seeing the ground blanketed in orchids of every color?! Not me, that's for sure.

If it weren't for the crowds, one could mistake this place for a fairy wonderland. Even with people everywhere, I was still thoroughly enchanted.

I decided to purchase myself just one more ticket before leaving. Facing my fears again, I made my way to the skywalk that's constructed between some of the supertrees.

For this view alone it was 100% worth the 8SGD that I spent on the ticket.

Honestly, you could spend days wandering all the gardens and discovering the different plants of the world. But my feet had had enough and I still had to figure out the bus system and make my way home so I headed out, back towards the bridge that would take me across the bay.

And thank goodness I left when I did! I ran right into a practice performance for Singapore's National Day and had the most amazing view of it from the footpath of the bridge.

There were helicopter, fighter jet and naval boat demonstrations as well as arms and fireworks displays. It was a thrilling sight to see and a misadventure I won't soon forget.

And by misadventure, I mean that I ran into the teeny tiny problem of not being able to get to my bus stop because I found myself right where a line of tanks was. I WOULD be the awkward foreign girl that has to ask the armed military members - who are assisting a tank procession - for directions. 

To their credit, they helped me with directions without batting an eye and redirected me to the train (really it's a subway but for some reason they don't call it that there). I made it home safe and sound, still laughing at myself and at the places I wind up in. 

If you want know more about Gardens By the Bay this website is a good place to start; Gardens By the Bay. If you're ever in Singapore you really should go! The best part is that tickets are extremely reasonable, and the outside gardens cost you absolutely nothing!