The Singapore Way

Sunset from Little India

Sunset from Little India

Living in Singapore for almost a year now, i have decided that i couldn’t possibly skip a blog on my little experience here and the little things i have noticed that can only be called Singaporean. When i started out here, cant say it wasn’t difficult especially coming from Bhutan to adjust to the lifestyle here, but day by day i find myself becoming more Singapore like. 😛 How?, you might ask.

The language off course.  Now even though English is the national language here and is spoken by everyone, the Singapore English way (Singlish) is to convey as much as possible in as short a phrase as possible. These days i can even catch myself saying “can ah?” meaning “can you do it?” to which one would reply “can lah” meaning “yes off course”. Sometimes you can also hear a mix of lingo along with the English like “Alama” to indicate amazement at something. It is similar to the Bhutanese “Yalama” but with an “A”. And another thing i find here is that all old folks are referred to as “Aunties” and “Uncles”. 😛 Well I am yet to master Singlish but am on my way there.

The centre in everybody’s life here i believe is food. I was always amazed at first to see people eating everywhere i went and any time of the day. There is usually a hawker centre nearby any blocks of apartments to make it easy for people as cooking at home is rare. These places provide a wide variety of food ranging from noodles, roti prata, biryani, chicken rice, nasi lemak, western food, japanese and korean dishes etc. etc. all at very reasonable prices. Off course there are many restaurants and fine dining in singapore if you choose to go there also. I would say you name a food and you could find it in Singapore. These days i am not quite as amazed as i used to be as i have found out that i have become quite the foodie myself. There are days when i have actually decided on my next three meals or the place i want to go for a weekend treat. But there is one mystery though that i haven’t been able to figure out is how do people here remain so skinny. How? How? after all the food. 😛

After food, the next big thing that binds everyone would be the love for Shopping and for

Bugis Junction

Bugis Junction

Malls. Yes, it is like a sport. 😛 Kidding, but you can imagine when Malls aren’t just anywhere, they are everywhere. Especially during the weekends if you go to a mall, you will have to criss cross and do a bit of fancy footwork so as not to bump into anyone in the mall. Especially this season as the GSS (Great Singapore Sale) is on and most stores offer a lot of discounts going up to 50% to some even up to 70% , i find people going crazy shopping including yes me. Hey its on sale.. LOL

But the places i really enjoy are the little heritage places by little India, China Town, Arab street, Katong and maybe more which i haven’t explored. Each of these places are a little cultural alcove in the modern Singapore, where one can see the beautiful colourful architectures with intricate designs and each place in their own cultural setting. These two storied buildings now serve as shops and restaurants and for me it is always fun to take it in by walking along the streets and breaking for some delicious traditional food that these places will surely offer. Yumm.. 🙂

Well, more on my favorite places next time. Thank you for reading….

 

 

 

 

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Food Trail From Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh

 When food and friendship come together, there cannot be anything better. This was our meeting after eight years and of all the places at Kuala Lumpur (KL). But i have to say off course that it was planned. 🙂 Because in this fast paced world today, nothing happens if you do not make an effort; accidental meetings are a thing of the past. When my friend called me to see if we could meet up during her visit to KL, I jumped at the opportunity to see my childhood friend. During our small time, we decided to do a food blog on all the delicacies we could try as she happens to be a foodie and as for me, cant complain when i get to try so many food. So here it is. Please read on for a mouth watering experience. 🙂

KL is where you can see a mix of ethnic groups. That is what makes it so interesting that all these come together to make the true culture of Malaysia. And it also means that you can get a variety of good food. The majority of these are Chinese, Indians and Malays.

Lucky for us, we also had the good fortune to be taken around by two very generous locals (Mei and Ng). A well organised food trip by lovely people driving from KL to Ipoh, stopping on the way at various places to try scrumptious local food. Ipoh is about two and a half hours drive from KL but for us, we took longer as we were taking food breaks all the way. The city used to be one of the main cities for Malaysia in the 19th century due to its booming tin industry. Now there are a lot of shop houses, restaurants and famous confectionaries where you can try the local products. Ipoh is also famous for its “coffee/ white coffee”; the coffee beans are roasted with palm oil and served with condensed milk. You can also see remnants of British colonial era from the architectures around the city.

We started our food journey from KL at 7 am in the morning with a steamed red wine rice pau with chicken filling. This is a bit like the Bhutanese momo but the skin is made from rice flour and red wine and the result is absolutely delicious. This is a must try cuisine.

Our next stop takes us to a restaurant, Pun Chun that serves the best duck soup ever, served with a side of mee, noodles. The soup contains lots of herbs and the flavour is beyond description! The meat is tender and it melts in your mouth. We had a bit of yam friend paw as appetizer as well.

On the way, just into the edge of Ipoh, is also the famous Tuck Kee restaurant, where locals swear they get the best smoked duck breasts. By midday, the place is already closing because by the time, it has already run out of food. Can you believe it? Thank god, we were lucky to get in just a few minutes before. This is definitely a must try. But before we gave the smoked duck breast a try, we also stopped for some fried snacks with fish paste filling and for some fruit rojak. The fruit rojak is a dish made from variety of fruits put together (mango, cucumber, pineapple) topped with black bean sauce and peanuts. Its is delicious!

We must then take a break from food, oh, glorious food. Our stomach can only take so

Kellie's Castle

The tower of Kellie’s Castle

much and a much needed break is made interesting as well by a visit at Kellie’s Castle. It is located by Batu Gajah, just 20 minutes away from Ipoh. The castle is an incomplete ruin, a memoir of an ambitious man, William Kellie Smith. The architecture is Indian and the bricks used as well as the labourers to build it are said to have been imported from India. The Castle was supposed to be a gift to his son, a much awaited heir to his estate. Today there are also ghost stories of the castle being haunted by the spirits of William and his wife Helen. Good thing, we ventured during the day.

Finally at Ipoh, our destination and final food stop. All this travel has been worth it and now it is desert time. We go straight to try the tofufa (soya bean curd) at the Funny Mountain Place said to serve the smoothest bean curd and grab some kaya puffs at the famous Sin Eng Heong. The bean curd is served with sugar syrup and it is silky and sweet. The kaya puff is really a puff with kaya (coconut jam) filling. If you have not tried the coconut jam, you have not been to south east asia.

Ipoh was our last stop and we head back to KL with our tummy full and by this time, our taste buds have had the fullest experience of a range of delicious Malay and Chinese foods. It was great meeting your childhood friend and making new friends on an incredible journey of eating and catching up on old stories and making new ones. We shall do this again.

Our ingenious selfie

Our ingenious selfie; We can hardly see each other 😛

 

 

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Living in the Present

It has been long since i have caught up with my blog. Life has been busy and adapting to the many changes does take time, i think the time between your effort to catch up to the changes and the time before it starts becoming a routine again, that was me till now. I finally feel a bit of normality return to my life again. I am working now and i just realised how lazy i had become when going to work made me tired to my bones everyday and the funny thing is i used to imagine i was fitter than most. I am getting back though.

Just a few days it has also been, that the earth quake hit Nepal. I sit here and imagine the terror and crisis that the country is going through. We worry about friends we know there and thankfully all are safe but many have not been so lucky. Nepal has truly been tested. It is very sad to see so many lives lost and in such a way. Though it is heartening to see the world come together in times of need. Says much for humanity.

20130929_163102This reminds me how fleeting life can be. A second more and a second more is all that matters. Although i tend to forget sometimes that i am a mere mortal being and i have no choice but to submit to a range of circumstances. Things will be what they will be. Thinking of the past, of the future are but mere luxury i cannot afford anymore. I will embrace the present and live fully in it while i can. Prayers for the people in Nepal and may no one go through such pain and loss again.

 

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Deceived

Why do we do the things we do when we do the things we do?

Can you feel the darkness1
Thats within my soul
Can you see the things
That i know for sure
Can you feel the shadow
Behind the light
Could you read the thoughts
Behind my words

For the years have left me skilled
To change and morph which way
For years have i perceived
Things i did not say
And life if little has included
Its lessons the hard way
A choice sometimes cannot be made
To deceive and be deceived
Must be the way

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Freedom

Freedom. What does it mean to you? Here are some things i put in my list. What is in yours?

1. To not seek validations874b5c78e6094c40b8750fad1e17bde0
2. To not form negative opinions of oneself and others
3. To not work for money
4. To be confident but not overly
5. To pack up and go without looking back
6. To give without expectation
7. To let go of relations that bring you sorrow
8. To go without make up everyday
9. To drink 10 cups of Cappuccino a day (who cares about sleeping :P)
10. To try as much cakes as possible

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Hello Cambodia

I love stories and Cambodia has plenty of them. Some of amazing feats, some of horror and some; miracles. Among the millions of tourist that visit every year, I was one.

These two lovely kids are ready for a picture with me.

These two lovely kids are ready for a picture with me.

Cambodia boasts an average of 1 million tourist every year. I could definitely understand why. It is unique in every way, the art, the culture, the tradition and definitely the architecture. Buddhism is the state religion but you can see influences in it also drawn from Hinduism and therefore its unique architecture and culture. At first i was mainly attracted by the opportunity to see the temples of Angkor (mainly Angkor Wat, considered one of the wonders of the world) but it has much more to offer. People are warm with ready smiles, there are lots of stories to absorb everywhere, food is available in every corner in various ranges of budget (beer is the cheapest though, $.50 for a glass of local draught beer :P) and you can feast on all the beautiful structures there. Some from the french colonial times, some traditional and the best of all, the temples.

The royal palace

The royal palace

We could get in 3 nights at Phnom Penh. It is understanding that Cambodia is still developing and has a lot of potential in future given their history of wars with neighbouring countries, colonisation and civil war under the Khmer Rouge. However their architecture has been amazing right from the Angkorian times. In Phnom Phen, the Royal Palace sets an example with its traditional design, its glittering golden roofs, the murals on the wall telling us stories of the ancient. Visitors are only allowed to the Throne Hall but you will get to see the temple of Emerald Buddha (also called the silver pagoda after its silver tiled floor) in the compound.

Yet another amazing thing i found out was the Tonle

Sunset by Tonle Sap

Sunset by Tonle Sap

Sap river. They tell us that the Mekong river that starts from the Tibetan Plateau flows backwards into the Tonle Sap river and up to form the lake at Siem Reap. During the dry season it drains back into the Mekong. We could sit by the bank watching the beautiful sunset after a day of excitement.

When its time for dinner, the night market here is an interesting experience. You get served on the floor. The eating area is covered with mats on which you can relax and eat. There are no tables and chairs. Its back to the basics. 😛

Off course again, you cannot understand Cambodia

The killing tree against which babies where struck.

The killing tree against which babies were struck.

if you do not visit the killing fields. The Choeung Ek killing filed has now become a tourist attraction. The place holds a beautiful tower just in front but inside it, lies the bones of many dead. The place looks serene today but has been a witness to gruesome and most inhuman killings. Mass graves of some 8000 people lie here. Nobody was spared, not women, not children. It is indeed a very sad story and to think that this was not really that long ago (1975-1979). Imagine.

From Phnom Penh, we took the Mekong Express to Seam Reap. It took around 8 hours including the stops. Tickets were $12 per person. There are options of more comfortable buses and also mini vans but we decided to take this one as it has toilet. It takes care of my worry of having to pee often. (:P)

Seam Reap is again quite something. There are rows of pubs along the pub street and restaurants serving a range of food from around the world. There is the night market just nearby selling handicrafts, lots of restaurants to choose your meal from and when you are tired, you can even get fish massages.

And finally, the most famous temples of Angkor. This is the finest example of Khmer

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

architecture. Angkor called the city of temples and was the ancient capital of the empire. Most of the temples are in ruins today but restoration is ongoing. The place is around 5 kms from Siem Reap. So we hired a tuk tuk for the day to take us around Angkor. There are many amazing temples but the most famous being Angkor Wat which was built by king Suryavarman II for his eventual mausoleum. It is said to have been designed to represent mount meru from the hindu mythology.

All of us are loaded into this truck to be dropped off by the mini van station

All of us are loaded into this truck to be dropped off by the mini van station

Its the end of our trip but we have room for more adventure. We decided to take the bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok. It cost us $8 each for the ticket. The bus dropped us to Poipet, the border of Cambodia. Before we alighted, the driver stuck a red sticker onto our shirt so that our transfer from Thailand could recognise us. And all the time i am in fear of this sticker falling out and us being left at Poipet. Crazy.

We walked in through the Cambodian immigration and then walked another 10 minutes till the Thailand border to its immigration. The whole process took us around 3 hours. Its best by air if you want to avoid the hassel. After the immigration, we walk to Aryanaprathet (Thailand border town) where we are loaded into a truck with our luggage to be taken to the mini van station. Finally this is where we catch the minivan for our final leg of the journey to Bangkok. It was quite daunting. We started at 7.30 from Siem Reap and when we were at Bangkok, it was around 11.00 pm. I am not sure i will do this again but for $8, I cant complain.

An adventurous and an eye opening trip. Not all people are as fortunate, not everyone has a peaceful life, some struggle to find their calling, some just to live and all glories are mired with shadows.

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Journey to Manas

Travel i feel is not about reaching your destination, it is about the experience of the journey. What you see, what you do, what you learn along the way. And that was how it was when I made a trip to Manas last, along with my family. I made this promise to document my journey for those who would like to travel the same and to reach out to people about this wonderful route and its possibilities. Bhutan is an amazing place. Even for me, born and bred there; i have come to appreciate its beauty and uniqueness from the rest of the world as i grow and learn.

The last time when i was in Thimphu, it was in December. You cannot do much trekking during this time as all the mountain passes remain closed with snow but you can definitely go south. Thats what we did. A family trip towards Manas, with lots of stops, short day hikes ranging from 2 to 4 hours and stories and laughter along the way.

This guy shares our lunch

This guy shares our lunch

 

Day 1: Thimphu to Trongsa. We started at around 7.00 am from Thimphu as we had to make it past various road closures along this way. Usually if you have time you may stop at Dochula to see the mountains beyond but we raced by to make it in time to Trongsa. We had picnic lunch on the way by the river side. When we reached the view point at Trongsa, we were left with enough time in our hands to do a small 2 1/2 hour hike down and up the old trade route for Trongsa Dzong.

 

Day 2: Trongsa to Gomphu. We spent here at an Eco

View of Trongsa Dzong from Yangkhil

View of Trongsa Dzong from Yangkhil

Lodge. These are two small log cabins in the woods, not exactly woods but almost (:P) with one kitchen and 2 toilets. It is actually located just above Gomphu Park range office but it does give you a feeling of being in the wild. You can build camp fire at night and entertain your team with ghost stories.

If you are a bird watcher, then this is the place known for spotting honey guides.

If you are a bird watcher, then this cliff on the way from Trongsa is well known for spotting honey guides

Day 3: Gomphu to Silangtey. Another Eco Lodge for this day as well. If you want to experience the local community, i would recommend staying at eco-lodges as these are built close to the villages. It is cheaper than hotels and the money goes to the community. These eco lodges were built as part of a pilot eco tourism project to promote community stewardship and involvement in preservation of the parks. The people here are very friendly. They come and visit you at the lodge with gifts from their homes and entertain you with stories.

 

Day 4 : Silangtey to Panbang. Pangbang is a very small town but different from rest of the small towns in Bhutan, probably because of its proximity with India. When we were there, it was short on fresh vegetables because of strikes in neighbouring India from where most of the food and commodities were brought. We spent two nights at the Eco Lodge here as well.

Scare crow to fend crops from wild animals

Scare crow to fend crops from wild animals

The kitchen shed at Silangtey

The kitchen shed at Silangtey eco-lodge here as well.

The lodge is situated beside the river at the junction where Mangde chuu meets Drangme Chuu. If you are bold enough, there is a small natural pool in an enclosure of rocks adjoining the river. In the morning and evenings, you could keep watch from the balcony of your cabin in anticipation of catching animals who come to drink and bathe in the river. You can also find birds; we did catch some water starts and lots of monkeys off course.

Day 5: Manas. Manas National Park is roughly about an hour drive from Pangbang. So we could explore Manas and drive back to Panbang in the evening. You could choose to do some river rafting and take elephant rides, but we decided to drive further to the Indian part of the Park. Along the way we caught sight of some fish eagles and deers.

Day 6 and 7: Back to Trongsa and Thimphu. We spent a night at Trongsa and head to Thimphu the next day.

This brings an end to our adventure sadly, but hopefully there will be another time again. I loved the entire assortment of small things along this route. The wilderness, the villages, the rope bridges, the rivers, the people and even the dust along the still un made roads. This route definitely screams adventure and is a must for anyone seeking one.

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