Tag Archives: authentic

Singapore, 2012: Part 1

When I was 5 months pregnant, my husband and I took a trip to Singapore and Malaysia. It was my first trip back since the 1990’s and my husband’s first time there at all. He had recently acquired a job with an international company, so we were fitting the trip in before his work trip in Singapore.

Singapore had modernised over the last 18 years, the Chinatown had shrunk and big sleek high-rise had popped up everywhere. We stayed in the Riverview Hotel where there were lots of lovely old buildings, most which had now been given a fresh coat of paint and a face-lift. Necessary, I suppose, but sad that it also meant a loss of authenticity.

I started our tour of Singapore with the iconic Raffles Hotel. The Indian doorman I remembered, but not the fancy expensive shops. The Singapore slings also seemed a bit out of reach expensive this time around.

We headed for the waterfront, past the futuristic looking Esplanade Theatre, to my favourite white Merlion fountain. It was now overlooked by the new Marina Bay Sands which was three towers with a curved cruise boat shaped roof, shimmering in the sunlight.

Passing the Fullerton Hotel, we walked to Clarke Quay with all the bronzed statues of buffalo’s and children jumping into the river. We had lunch at one of the many riverfront restaurants boasting fresh seafood and good beer. Here it felt a bit more like the Singapore I remembered.

My husband is a bit of a fan of markets, so we headed to Bugis Street markets to see what we could find. We also stumbled upon Chijmes, a church surrounded by a new courtyard complex of restaurants, including a very nice Tapas restaurant. Chijmes was one of the nicer new developments where I could see improvements to the old.

That night, the bus picked us up from the hotel to take us out to the Singapore Zoo for a night safari. I love zoo, but had never heard of a night safari before and was quite excited to be embarking on a new experience. We sat in a jeep vehicle train with zebra stripes for the safari.

The light was not good enough for my camera to be able to take photos in the dark, which turned out to be a good thing as it forced me to sit back and enjoy the animals rather than concentrate on recording them all. There were Indian wolves, elephants and Himalayan Tahr.

Some of the animals were not naturally nocturnal which was a bit worrying, but I guess animals are adaptable, just like humans. After the drive, we got out of the jeeps and took one of the walks to see the bizarre fishing cats which I had never seen before. They became a new favourite of mine.

Related posts: It’s an Asia Thing,  Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Malaysia and Singapore, 1988

Oaxaca, 2011

It was a long bus trip to Oaxaca, distance was a factor I hadn’t thought of fully when we decided to come to Mexico- everything was a little further than I thought. It’s hard to pick a favorite place in in the country, but Oaxaca definitely made the top three, so it was worth it when we got there.

My husband and I stayed in an authentic hotel with gothic style rooms and courtyard gardens. Perhaps it was a mistake to try the local mescal- a moonshine version of tequila- after such a long trip. One shot in the Alice in Wonderland themed bar and it was down the rabbit hole for me.

The next day, we wandered down the Alcala, a closed off walking street lined with buildings, to the main square with the usual Cathedral and state Government palace. The iconic Hotel Monte Alban also overlooked the square that was filled with the sounds of musicians and the sights of the market.

I bought a pair of earrings from a local mountain tribe seller and an Alebrijes lizard. Alebrijes are wooden painted animals, originally made as toys for children, that are unique to Mexico. They were so colourful and beautiful that I wish we had the foresight and luggage space to buy more.

We went to an authentic mole restaurant in the house of a local woman to try mole, as Oaxaca claims to be the originator of the popular Mexican sauce. First time around, I thought it tasted like dirt. Another evening, we had mole with duck in a fine dining restaurant called Los Danazantez that had a lovely open air courtyard of water features and a large wooden bar. It was better second time around, so I can see how the locals have acquired a taste for it.

Oaxaca is a town of colour, flowers, black pottery and pushed tin. At times, I felt like I was on the set of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. It is also a town of churches and temples, so we visited Iglesia de Santa Domingo.

Inside was plethora of gold with the Santa Domingo family tree on the roof. In the grounds of the monastery next door there was elaborate courtyards with marble pillars and lots of painting of monks on the walls.

The view over the cactus garden to the mountains from one of the arched windows was beautiful. Also housed here the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca with many statues, gold painted balconies and saints on cornices.

That evening we visited a rooftop bar overlooking Iglesia de Santa Domingo and felt like we were on top of the world.

Related posts: Mexico City, 2011