Photo of the Day: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Photo of the Day: Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire

Yeah, so it’s Christmas time.  Thought this one was appropriate.  I turned a corner in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur and there they were roasting chestnuts on an open fire.  It was like 90′ out but luckily photos don’t have a heat component so you can only imagine the heat or the snow, your choice.

Never had them before.  I know I’m late, but eating what we used to play conkers with just didn’t seem too appetizing.  In fact they are quite delicious.  A mild, sweet potato taste.  More than a little difficult to get out of the shell.  I’m sure there is a knack.  If you know how please let me know.

24 Hours in Singapore

24 Hours in Singapore

Singapore Skyline
Singapore Skyline

Continuing the “24 hours in…” series, Singapore is a destination that ranks high on my list of places to return to. I found enough free things to do after 10 days here that I thought it worth sharing. Yes, Free! In a place that is known for being expensive (and it very much can be) it is possible to jam pack a visit for several days at very low cost if you know how. Here are some places to visit and things to see and do that can help you achieve this.

Marina Bay

It’s no accident that most of the things that happen in Singapore happen around the Marina Bay. It is the hub of the city and brims with skyscrapers, art, live performances, shops, etc. It also happens to be a great place to start for our free visit to Singapore.

Marina Bay Complex
Marina Bay Complex

Singapore Metro System

The Singapore MRT is clean, safe and provides several different ways to get to downtown if you are staying out in the surrounding areas of Singapore.  I was staying in Little India, not least for the food! It was a short 2 to 3 station jaunt to most of the downtown stations.

Several subway lines diverge on the bay, City Hall, Marina Bay, Esplanade, Bayfront etc. There’s a free iPhone app I used to quickly find my way around the metro lines. It’s called Explore Singapore MRT Map. They have several apps for various cities.  For me it was just the right amount of info, and I used it several times a day to find out which line and station I needed to get to and how best to get there.

Marina Bay Sands

Starting at the Bayfront station we can work our way around to all the various things to see.  This would include a starting point at the most expensive building in the world. It’s like looking at a Daliesque version of cricket stumps. The hotel is not much to look at from the inside and I didn’t want to spend the nearly S$30 to get to the roof, where professional cameras are not allowed. This is the free tour after all. But from the ground and outside it is very impressive. Great during the day and even better at night. We’ll get a better view later. Hang in there.

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay

From the Bayfront station head east and cross over Sheares Avenue. Be aware that there are only a few places to cross, but it’s worth it because just east of the Marina Bay Sands is the free Gardens by the Bay. You can see from a distance the massive “Supertrees” as they are called. They are enormous tree like structures which also act as climbing frames for real plants and so they end up being this semi-organic almost surreal mesh of architecture and plant life. On the ground the tropical plant life is everywhere. In the midst of it all is the Flower Dome building which from the outside is also a visually exciting structure. Visually exciting structures seem to be the hallmark of Singapore in general.

Shoppes and Waterfront

Lets head back westward toward the Marina Bay Sands again not forgetting to have our cameras ready because even from the back side the Sands is awesome. Pass on through to the Shoppes at Marina Bay which is home to a lot of very high-end stores including Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and surprisingly a 7-Eleven right in the middle of it all (there’s a non-conformist vibe about Singapore also). There are several restaurants and coffee shops here too if you are feeling peckish. If the weather is cooperating, just the other side of the palm trees of Olympic Walk you can sit out right at the water front with it’s spectacular view of the skyscrapers on the opposing side of the bay. 8pm each evening this very spot explodes into action with water fountains, fireballs and laser lights.

Art Science Museum

As you face the water, just to your right is the Art Science Museum. From Wikipedia “The architecture is said be a form reminiscent of a lotus flower. It is designed by the architect Moshe Safdie.” Unique both inside and out. Sitting right outside the front door to the museum is a small structure by renowned architect Anish Kapoor (he of Cloud Gate fame). It’s called “Sky Mirror” and reflects the museums unique flower like structure from various angles as you walk past it.

Ritz Carlton, Mao Figures
Ritz Carlton, Mao Figures

The Ritz Carlton Hotel, Art

From here lets go north (the Art Science Museum to our left and the Shoppes to our right) and walk over the Helix Bridge. This will get us to the north side of the bay. At the end of the bridge you should continue north to Raffles Boulevard and cross over. Our next stop is the home to S$5m of art by various renowned names in the art world such as David Hockney, Henry Moore and even a couple of Andy Warhols, the Ritz Carlton Millenia hotel has artwork spread all over the building.  At the Concierge desk (ask where) they have a completely free iPod tour available to you. They will ask to hold an ID of some kind if you are not a guest, as collateral. This tour takes you all over the hotel for about 45 minutes.

Theatres by the Bay

After the Ritz Carlton lets go west young man. Along Raffles Boulevard and again we will need to cross over but there is a walkway that will take you under the road. Look for signs for the Theatres by the Bay. In particular if you are Googling things search for Esplanade, Theatres, Outdoors and Concourse. They have an abundant selection of free events every week, especially weekends.

Theatres by the Bay
Theatres by the Bay

Merlion Statue

From the stunning outdoor theater head west along the waterfront. Off in the distance you will see the cornerstone of Singapore icons, the water gushing Merlion statue. There is a new footbridge under construction which looks like it will be finished soon but the existing one is just as good. Up the steps the footpath runs alongside Esplanade Drive and back down the steps on the other side. From here you can not only see the Merlion up close but the view of the Marina Bay Sands/Art Science Museum and the Singapore Flyer backdrop is spectacular.

Rodin’s The Thinker

One more stop around the bay. Head south back up the steps and follow Esplanade Drive which just becomes Fullerton Road. It’s a good 7-8 minute walk to the steps beneath the Oue Bayfront. But hidden just outside the Fullerton Bay Hotel (Not the Fullerton Hotel) is one of the truly great art pieces of our time. It’s there but it is not the easiest place to find. You know a city loves it’s art when they have so much that it spills onto the streets. Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker sits tucked between buildings in a covered open area for all to see. When I first saw it I thought, oh they have a copy of The Thinker sitting out on the street. I couldn’t imagine they would have the real one on a street, but as I got closer I realized this was the real thing!

Rodin's The Thinker
Rodin’s The Thinker

Raffles Hotel, Orchard Road, Kranji, Etc.

This is a tiring walk, but walking really is the best way to see all of these things.  Bear in mind that this was just the Marina Bay area.  We didn’t touch the iconic Raffles Hotel which is still there in all it’s glory just a few streets away, Orchard Road is a wonderful shopping area and Kranji Racecourse is just another place where you can get great entertainment for next to nothing. Plus there’s Chinatown and Little India.

Chinatown and Little India

If you are hungry both Chinatown and Little India are great places to go and within 3-4 Metro Stops of Raffles Place, which is the nearest station to The Thinker.  Head up over the footbridge crossing Fullerton Drive.

Also both Chinatown and Little India have great market areas and Chinatown has Lion Dance performances for free to see in Kreta Ayer Square on the weekends. I also saw about 60 people line dancing to country music in Kreta Ayer Square one weekend I was there! There were cowboy hats and boots a plenty. But when I think about it Singapore is a place that prides itself on not conforming. Stand on any street corner in Singapore and the diversity of peoples will hit you in the face, Indian, North East Asians, some Africans and more than a few Europeans, and that makes no mention of the smattering of tourists everywhere.

It’s a great place. So good they named it twice. Wait, I think that tag line has been taken. Have fun!

Travel Tips: British Foods I Love. No Really!

British Foods I Love
British Foods I Love. No Really!

I think there may be some people out there who have shied away from British food because they are afraid of what is inside. Too much bad information and not enough tasting going on if you ask me. Well let me stop you right there because when you look at the ingredients of all of the items below you will soon realize that they are made of the very basic elements of a good meal, meat, various crusts, onions, eggs and potatoes. What could be more mainstream than that? Jump in with both feet I can promise you your mouth and stomach will thank you.

Pork Pie

Hearty! A solid handful of a pie. The exterior is a beautiful mixture of soft and hard which is officially called a “water crust pastry”. It requires a substantial bite but barely resists once it knows who is in charge. The crust is definitely the best part of the pie. They have started to sell smaller almost bite sized versions of these pies now and I must say I like ‘em! Primarily because they have a larger crust to filling ratio. The interior has a pork filling that really lets you know that is is no pie to be messed with, surrounded by a pork jelly that just adds to the overall flavor. Hot or cold, delish.

Scotch Egg

Thank You Scotland! Whoever it was up there that decided they could bake a hard-boiled egg that was wrapped in meat and coated in breadcrumbs should be knighted. A mouthful provides a scrumptious melding of flavors and textures, and when you pull back you will be visually greeted by a beautiful selection of complimentary colors, yellow, white, brown and orange. Feast your eyes and your stomach.

Cornish Pasty

It looks much like a Calzone from the outside. But when you get inside a good one they are head and shoulders above a Calzone, and to be honest the Calzone is no slouch in the taste department.  I said earlier that the Pork Pie has a great crust. The Cornish Pasty gives it a run for it’s money. Completely different, the Pasty crust is light, flaky and flavorful. Packed with a magnificent combination of meat, onions, potato and swede. Just exquisite! Egon Ronay eat your heart out.

Sausage Roll

I usually only find myself with a plate of sausage rolls when I’m at some kind of function, wedding, funeral, fête, etc. They are the polite side-plate food. Somewhere above lightly warmed and yet not blisteringly hot they are mouth wateringly delicious.

Steak Pie

Some like their steak pie with a little kidney. Personally I like it without. Kidney is just one of those things that has never done it for me. In or out of a pie. These are especially tasty when served in yesterday’s edition of The Sun and with a bunch of nicely vinegared and salted Chips. Geez! Had to check myself there I was about to say French Fries.

These are the British foods that you can hold in your hand. There are many more that look great on a plate. Clearly I’m no food snob but I’ve tasted my way around the food globe a few times and still have a hankering for all of the above every now and again. You are missing out if you don’t try all of these at least once.

It’s been over a year since i was in the U.K. and so I have very few photos of my own for this post. However please check out my British Foods Pinterest Board right here for some mouth watering photos of everything mentioned here.

Tuck in!

Boar Pie

 

 

 

Photo of the Day: Vietnam and the Art of Motorcycle Safety

Photo of the Day: Vietnam and the Art of Motorcycle Safety

 

Ladder!

There was some controversy recently over a photo Athlete David Beckham posted showing a woman fan in Vietnam riding her motorcycle and snapping a photo of Mr. Beckham all while her child clings to her legs.  I spent some time myself recently in Vietnam and while it is definitely a place to keeps your wits about you while crossing the road, the locals seem to take it all in stride.  A future Evel Knievel is surely among them.  Here are a few of the photos I took that had me doing a double-take.  Hope you enjoy!

This one shocked me the most.  The baby is perched on the mother’s thigh, but it seems like the baby is totally digging the view!

My first step
My first step

In Vietnam the motorcycle is THE mode of transportation.  So at one point or another if you wait long enough you are going to see all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff fly by on two wheels.

A Leg Man
A Leg Man

and…

Party Bike!
Party Bike!

I call this one “Bringing home the bacon”

Bringing Home the Bacon
Bringing Home the Bacon

I must say that with all of the concerns about motorcycle safety, in nearly 3 weeks in Vietnam I only saw 1 motorcycle clip another in Hanoi and witnessed a couple of minor scrapes in Ho Chi Minh City.  Just 3 in literally thousands upon thousands of motorcycles.

Photo of the Day: Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Photo of the Day: Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

 

The most expensive building in the world is in Singapore.  It sits off Marina Bay, which if you are visiting Singapore for the first time, should very definitely be on your list of places to visit.  It combines various must-see things, like the Art & Science Museum, Merlion Park, The Singapore skyline and of course the Marina Bay Sands complete with rooftop infinity pool.

Photo of the Day: Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore 1974

Mount Rushmore

Forty eight years since it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Mount Rushmore is one of the coolest places most people have never been too!  Nestled in the South Dakota hills near the Badlands, Mount Rushmore was originally intended to show the four presidents from head to waist but money ran out in 1941.  The four presidents are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  The mountain side is granite and is constantly being preserved.   Harsh temperatures, rain and snow can cause major cracks if left unmaintained.  It was featured in the Alfred Hitchcock movie North By Northwest starring Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant.  Gutzon Borglum was the original sculptor on the  project and it was he who chose which presidents would be represented.  It is said that he chose these four presidents in particular because they were instrumental in preserving the republic and expanding it.  When Gutzon Borglum died in March of 1941 his son “Lincoln” Borglum took over the work until it’s completion.  The sculptures stand 60′ high.  As I mentioned at the beginning Mount Rushmore begins it’s 49th year on October 15th.  Happy anniversary guys!

Although I have not been there, only 17 miles away is another mountain-side sculpture, it’s of Crazy Horse, in the Black Hills.  If you are going to make the trek to Mount Rushmore then the Crazy Horse sculpture seems like it would make it a good two-for.

 

Photo of the Day: Namsan Tower, Seoul, South Korea

Photo of the Day: Namsan Tower, Seoul, South Korea

Namsan Tower is the highest point in Seoul.  A communications tower built in 1969 it is now open to the public.  After a quick trek up a very steep hill and a short cable car ride; you will arrive at a park, gift shops, and a great hill top view of the Seoul Skyline.

Be aware that the wait for the cable car on nights and weekends can top an hour or more.  There is also a physically demanding foot path for the real hard core foot travelers.

Namsan Tower
Namsan Tower

Photo of the Day: Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo

Photo of the Day: Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo, Japan.  An expert delicately slices into a Yellow Fin Tuna fresh from the ocean.

Yellow Fin
Yellow Fin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you visit Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo be aware that you have to arrange in advance for special admission to be there during the main morning auction.  Otherwise they will not let you in the market until 9am.  At 9am the intermediary market comes alive because the fish have moved into their hands and the slicing and dicing begins.

Travel Photography Blog by MACH

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