Tag Archives: solo trips

Singapore: the last 48 hours

25 Oct

On Monday morning, I shouldn’t have bothered to set my alarm. A huge thunderstorm woke me up at 7am. I am convinced that the building physically shook, or maybe that was just tiredness.

I had planned to go to Sentosa Island for the day. It’s home to 3 beautiful beaches and resorts like Madam Tussaud’s. Despite the weather not being great, I decided to go anyway. By the time I left the hotel, the weather was looking better and it had finally stopped raining.

Sentosa is easy to reach. I took the MRT and then the Sentosa Express. The train was packed with people going to the resorts. If I wasn’t on my own I definitely would have gone to at least one of them. But it’s not much fun queuing on your own. Furthermore I know from experience that if the weather is bad the outside rides are closed down and with the forecast being mixed, it could have been a waste of money. (Incidentally this happened to me in Florida last year and in Hong Kong when a typhoon warning 4 was given part way through the day).

I found out by chance that Sentosa Island is the Southernmost point of intercontinental Asia. So, I had to visit the sign to say I had been there!

The weather was holding out but it still wasn’t great; definitely not lying on a beach weather. So I had a wander round and then decided to go on the Skyline Luge, which is basically a cross between a go kart and a toboggan. Undoubtedly this would have been more fun with other people to race against but it was still fun to do it.

You go up on a ski lift type thing and then collect the cart at the top. You don’t end up coming down all that fast and it is easy to brake. The marketing strap line was “Once is never enough”. The reason for this being is because it takes you longer to get up to the start than it does for you to ride back down if you go at any pace at all.

For lunch I headed to Chinatown for the illusive Michelin starred Hawker Stall which I had tried to find the previous day. I found it this time. Incredibly cheap and incredibly delicious!

To carry on with the theme of enjoying internationally renowned culinary experiences, I went in search of the original Singapore Sling that was invented at Raffles Hotel over 100 years ago.

This was a tough challenge as the Raffles Hotel and the Long Bar were both shut for renovations and these are the only places where the drink is served. I had found out that the service of the drink had been moved to the Bar and Billiards Room (part of the Raffles Hotel) while work was continuing.

The surroundings were impressive and the place was full of people drinking the famous pink cocktail. This is by far the most expensive drink I have ever had. One glass costs 36.50 Singapore dollars (or 27 SFr. or 20 GBP). I licked that glass clean as if my life depended on it and enjoyed every last drop!

I headed back to the hotel for a swim to cool off and to have a relax before heading out again. I also had a pedicure which cost more than I expected due to a “misunderstanding” but as I very really indulge in that sort of thing, I decided not to be too annoyed and take it as a sign that I needed a treat.

In the evening I went to Gardens by the Bay. The Gardens are full of many different species of plants but the crowning glory is the huge tree-like structures that support and sustain yet more plant varieties. At night these structures are lit up and twice nightly you can see a fantastic light and music display, as the trees change colour to the music. The performance I saw was called Moon Symphonies. All of the songs had a Moon theme: Moon River, Fly Me to The Moon and Blue Moon. You can’t beat a bit of Sinatra, Mercer and Bublé on a Monday night with a choreographed light display.

The following day, after going to the gym, doing some shopping, getting myself ready to check out and having a nice healthy lunch, I headed back to the Gardens by the Bay to see them in the day. You could spend hours walking around the gardens. They are so well maintained and well thought out. I paid to see the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. I thought it was a bit pricey (locals get a reduced rate) but, on balance, it was worth it.

The Flower Dome had species from all over the world and there was a special exhibition of pumpkins because of autumn. This was one of the display items. It was unbelievable!

The Cloud Forest was a replica of a Cloud Forest, a specific type of rainforest which approximately 1.1% is destroyed every year. As you enter the doors, you are faced with a huge, cascading waterfall and a forest of flowers. You can go to the top of the waterfall and then do the Tree Top Walk back to the bottom.

I also wanted to do the Skywalk which is a walkway which links some of the trees that I saw the night before. You get more of a bird’s eye view of the park and the surrounding city. Unfortunately because of the unpredictability of the weather, it was closed for safety reasons. It is completely exposed and they probably don’t have the public liability insurance in case anything did go wrong.

I headed to the Arab Quarter, which I had visited on the Bike Tour. A really quirky cafe called Juice Clinic had caught my eye because of the amazing artwork outside. It had been closed on Sunday but I wanted to visit it before I left. I was so glad I did. It had jazz music playing, freshly squeezed juices and… drum roll please… Rainbow Cheesecake! After all the walking, I feel like I deserved it.

The cafe was on a crossroads and it was a great place to people watch. I could have sat there all day. Unfortunately, it was time to collect my bag, catch the bus and head to the airport.

96 hours in Singapore already over. After a dodgy start, I have enjoy myself thoroughly. Singapore is definitely not how I expected it to be and I hope to come back again to experience more of what it has to offer. I need to get saving for another Singapore Sling!

What a week!

20 Oct

What a week it has been! I had no German lessons this week because of half term, so I was looking forward to a bit of relaxing. Not a chance! I don’t mind a hectic week when you know it’s going to be a hectic week but when it creeps up on you to surprise you, it’s not good at all.

On Monday I really didn’t feel like doing much apart from going to bed early. I didn’t even achieve that after I had finished faffing around and getting a few small jobs that I have been trying to do for a while out of the way.

On Tuesday I seemed to be quite busy at work and I headed to the gym at lunchtime. In the evening I met up with some friends who I haven’t seen in a while. It was in actual fact a year or so but I was determined to get everyone together at least once in 2017. I almost made it; one of the group was sick.

We went to a really good burger place, where the burgers are so large that I didn’t even finish mine. We have already got a date sorted for a meeting in early December. I actually think this is cheating a bit. The next organiser doesn’t have to go through the pain of sending dates after dates and agonising about what time and where we meet. I’m saying I have more brownie points for my efforts.

Wednesday was the last outdoor hockey practice before we start playing the indoor season. Boo! I’m not a huge fan of indoor hockey, mainly because the ball never really goes out and you have to run and run until your lungs burn and your face looks like a beef tomato, which for me is about 2.5 minutes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling to well and I decided after the warm-up that it might be best to leave early and get an early night.

Thursday I was busy getting organised and tidying the house before leaving for a long weekend away in Singapore!

I only booked this trip in February because it was 460 Francs return in a Swiss International airlines sale. I have paid more to go home for Christmas before so forgive my impulse buying. Because the week was so hectic I have no idea if I have packed the right clothes etc etc. But who cares? I’m sure it’s a case of “I think I left the oven one” and everything will be ok. If not, I am sure I will manage.

So, by the time you read this, I will be there. Probably sweating, moaning about humidity and dying of thirst but hey that’s the beauty of Asia. Let the adventure begin!

A Norwegian Getaway

2 Apr

After having the first BBQ of the season on Thursday evening, I was ready for holidaying to start. On the Friday, I jetted off early to Oslo in the hope that the weather forecasts were completely wrong. Up above the clouds and seeing the sun, I was thinking that the weather was going to be a lot better than predicted. My hopes were shattered when we descended under the clouds and I could see a coating of snow on the ground! I was glad my gut instinct of bring layers and hat and gloves had been correct.

The train from the airport to the City centre was quick and I had arrived by 10am. Although there was no snow in the city, it was foggy and grey but at least not the rain that was forecast. As the weather was not great and I had bought the Oslo Pass which includes entrance into 30 museums, I decided to be a culture vulture.

After a wander round to get my bearings, the first stop was the Nobel Peace Centre. Last year I went to the Nobel Centre in Stockholm, Sweden so I thought it would be nice to see the exhibition about the Peace Prize. The museum itself was quite small and, in my opinion, not as good as the museum in Stockholm. The main display was an exhibition of all the winners of the prize on iPads. When you walk up past the iPads, it activates the screens and gives more information about the prize winner. It took me a while to realise that when a screen is activated a musical note plays, so that when there are more people in the room looking at parts of the installation it produces a, well, for want of a better word, a peaceful atmosphere.

I moved next to the Munch museum (which is apparently is pronounced “Monk”). I was expecting to see The Scream, which seems like a reasonable assumption but it wasn’t there. In fact, the museum doesn’t have a permanent exhibition. The paintings are changed regularly so it could happened that it’s hit or miss what you see. I personally wasn’t a fan of what I saw.

The Natural History Museum was the next stop and I came face to face with a T-rex. I had no idea that the museum had a T-rex so it was a nice surprise. I always found Natural History Museums a bit macabre as a child and I guess I still do. But the stuff about dinosaurs and fossils are pretty cool.

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I had already booked a Fjord cruise but by the time I left the museums, it was rain. The weather forecast was right. It was bucketing it down. The boat had no sides and the only roof was a canvas. Luckily there were blankets provided but it didn’t do too much to keep me warm. My idea of what a cruise on the Fjords would be like was not what I expected. Because of the foggy and the mist, there wasn’t anything to see. It was just grey. The only way I can describe it is that if Manchester was on the sea and they put on cruises it would be exactly like that: Raining, cold and grey. I can imagine that in the summer when you can see all the islands with their greenery, with the sun beating down that it has a certain majesty about it. By the time, I disembarked I wasn’t able to feel my feet. I was glad to go for something to eat to warm up.

The weather on Saturday was unfortunately much the same. So, it was time for more museums. On the Fjord cruise an American family had told me that they had been to the Fram museum and highly recommended it. I headed there first. The Fram museum houses the Fram, a boat that was used in Polar exploration. There was lots of information about the race to get to the North Pole between Scott and Amundsen, who was Norwegian. It was even possible to board the Fram and go into all the cabins and see how the ships worked. I have no idea how it must have been to go into the unchartered territory with limited provisions, nevermind having to cope with the cold all those years ago without the technology that we have today.

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Next to the Fram museum are also the National Maritime Museum and the Kon-tiki Museum. I’m not all that interested in martime history and I only really went because it was free. I am sure that it would be really interesting if boats through the ages was your thing. The Kon-tiki musuem was dedicated to the work of Thor Heyerdahl who in 1947 made an expedition from South America to French Polynesia because he wanted to prove that the people of Polynesia had a link to Peruvians. To prove it, he took 5 other friends on a raft, called Kon-tiki made out of wood across 4,000 miles of ocean. The original vessel that they sailed on was in the museum. It’s an incredible story – not least when Heyerdahl not only had a fear of water and wasn’t able to swim. One of his most famous quotes is: “Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard they exist in the minds of some people” Perhaps if more people had this view of life that there would be less conflict in the world.

Next I headed to The National Gallery because, after a bit of research, I had found out that this was where The Scream was kept. It’s quite bizarre that it is just housed in a normal room with no additional security when it had been stolen about 3 times in the past. It was a surprise just to come across it in one of the side rooms. I only realised it must be there because so many people were sitting looking at it.

After a small stop for lunch, I went to the Ibsen museum. I had heard of Ibsen before and I could name a few of his works but after visiting the museum, which is on the site of where he last lived, I will make a conserted effort to read some of the things he has written. It seems like a man who was ahead of his time, writing about women’s role in society, for example. Some of the details of his private life are not so pleasant but that doesn’t stop his plays from being good.

There was just enough time to look around the Akershus Castle and to go to the Opera House where I was treated to an incredible sunset over the city (by now, the weather was improving and I even saw some blue sky). It is possible to climb up to the roof of the Opera House and the view from the top is something to behold.

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Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Norway. The weather was the major disappointment. It meant the weekend was more of a damp than I was hoping but I made the most of it.

Next weekend I am back in the UK to go to the Grand National for the first time. The weather can’t be as bad as the weekend in Norway, can it?

 

Wanderlust

12 Dec
noun
  1. a strong desire to travel.
    “a man consumed by wanderlust”
Before I moved to Switzerland, I made a list of the Pros and Cons of moving. One of the reasons in the Pro column was the opportunity to travel. Being centred right in the middle of Europe is a huge advantage for a wannabe explorer.

So far, I have travelled to 36 countries which doesn’t seem like a lot. The US should count for more because I have been to at 15 states which is about 30% of the whole thing. I was thinking about doing all of the states but an American once told me that Hawaii is a pain to get to (around a five hour flight from US) and I am not really that much of a beach person anyway.

This year I have travelled to 5 new countries. My “big” holiday this year was to South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. I have wanted to visited South Africa for such a long time. I have heard so many good things about it from so many different people but I always found an excuse not to go. So this year I thought, let’s do it!

People were keen to tell me how dangerous Africa is and to ask why I was travelling alone. I have travelled alone many times and I never feel so scared or nervous about it. I do my research in advance and don’t put myself in situations where I would be uncomfortable or at risk. I never encountered any problems while I was on this trip or on previous trips. I was surprised by how friendly the people were (also in Zimbabwe and Botswana) and of course it takes a lot of stress out of travelling when everyone speaks English.

My whole African experience was unforgettable. I saw the Big 5 while I was there which was incredible and got some amazing pictures of all sorts of wildlife and landscapes. I hiked down Table Mountain (a lot easier than going UP in 25 degree heat). I walked with Rhinos in Zimbabwe. When I say walked I literally mean walked. The photo below shows how close we got to them. Amazing creatures! And it is desperately sad that people hunt these lovely, docile creatures to steal their horns for medicine or to place on the mantelpiece as a status symbol.

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I swam with sharks. OK, I was in a cage but they were there in the water with me. We saw a total of 12 Great Whites in the space of 3 hours. This was another item ticked off the bucket list. The next day I went to a place just outside Cape Town to do a zipline. Here is what I actually did. It looks terrifying and it was to begin with but it was an incredible experience and I wanted to do it again as soon as I had finished it.

The holiday was relatively cheap. The South African Rand was weak when I was over there and with the Swiss Franc being such a strong currency, the exchange rate really worked to my favour. It’s always cheap travel when you live in Switzerland because everyone else is cheap to eat, drink and travel in comparison.

I went to Copenhagen for the first time in July. I had heard good things about Copenhagen and Denmark and I wasn’t disappointed. The weather was cold but, thankfully, it was not raining so it was ok to walk around and explore the city.

There is a street food market located at Papier Island which is incredible. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven at one point. There was so much choice of offer and the place was really buzzing with people and things going on. It was also nice to “do what the locals do” and buy some cheap beer from the supermarket and chill by the harbour and do some people-watching.

One of the things that I was really looking forward to seeing was the statue of the Little Mermaid which is located in Copenhagen harbour. Everyone says that it is really disappointing because it is so small but it was a lot bigger than I imagined it to be… but still a little disappointing.

I also made a solo trip to Prague. I have never been to surprisingly because it is where beer was first invented. It was a lovely place and I was very fortunate with the weather. And the beer was good. And very, very cheap. In the supermarket, the beer was literally cheaper than the water.

Is it a bit wrong that I feel a little bit disappointed that the list of the new countries that I have been to this year is only five? I had the feeling that I had been to a lot more. I guess I was making so many new memories that it felt like there was a lot more. The problem is that they all seem like they happen years ago and not just a matter of months ago.

Next year, I already have some travel booked in the diary. I am excited to go back to Asa and visit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam for the first time as well as Norway (the last of the Scandinavian countries to tick off my list).

I’m hoping these places will bring new interesting experiences in 2017 and great memories to look back on in the future.