A Travellerspoint blog

I heart Singapore

Not just a stopover destination!

semi-overcast 26 °C

What can I say? Singapore has taken our breath away! We actually thought we’d only have one night in the city- but so glad it turned out to be two! We thought there wouldn’t be much to do since we don’t know many people that have actually been here for a holiday- only stopovers between flights, but we were very wrong!

First though, you can’t talk about the city without talking about the fines. You can be fined a huge amount for almost anything that could harm the appearance of Singapore: gum chewing, smoking, spitting, graffiti-i ng (although you get the cane for that), not flushing a public toilet (yup) or peeing anywhere actually, cycling under a bridge, jay walking... I could go on! But because of these laws, Singapore is probably the cleanest, most pleasant city we’ve ever visited- it really is fantastic. Another contributing factor is that the public transportation system is so fantastic (timed to the minute in the case of the metro that covers the whole city) there’s not many cars at all- I think this is the first city we’ve visited in a long time where we’ve not even used a taxi from the airport.

Singapore Island is about 20 miles long, it’s tiny- and the actual centre is much smaller, we were able to see an awful lot in the short time we were here. We spent time going through China Town where they are preparing for the Lunar New Year- there are lanterns everywhere, lots of red decorations (which signifies luck) and lots of rabbit toys , pictures and statues, which is what year it will be in a few weeks.

Shopping_f..rations.jpgSweet_stalls.jpgChinatown_by_night.jpgDried_whol..r__nice.jpg

We were even lucky enough to see some teams from all over Asia doing a lion dance on huge stilts which were so far apart- looking like the Chinese dragons, but with only two people. Amazing!

The waterfront is also fantastic- it’s so nice to go for a stroll and see the candy coloured buildings everywhere. It’s easy to take it easy here- despite everything running like clockwork and being so efficient- they even sell ready mixed Jack Daniels and Coke in bottles (at ice cream stalls, woop woop) to save some time, and don’t get me started on the breakneck speed of the escalators here! And the fact that there are lots of gorgeous restaurants and bars right on the river that serve towers of beer- you can’t help but feel relaxed.

Colourful_streets.jpgJumping_in..e_river.jpgBuildings_..e_river.jpgView_from_the_harbour.jpgTemple_in_..he_city.jpgModel_of_Singapore.jpg

Now, I have to admit- we did plan to go to Raffles- to the bar that invented the Singapore Sling, and find out what one actually tastes like, but it turns out it would cost £20 each so we’re happy to stick to Tiger beer in the cafe across the road for now!

We also took a quick jaunt down to Sentosa Island to the south (still, only about 4kms from the city centre) which is basically a fun island- full of rides, attractions, beaches, 4D cinemas... I could go on and on!

I think Singapore will definitely be a place that, if we ever have a stopover between flights, we’ll make sure we extend it by a few days- really one of our most favourite cities.

Posted by lesleymw 09:44 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Our brief stop in Mumbai

semi-overcast 30 °C

The highlight of our visit to Mumbai was, of course, the lovely wedding of Melissa and Lester Fernandes! The bride was absolutely beautiful and the groom looked so happy! It was really amazing for us to be able to make it to their special day and see all of the little traditions that a modern Indian wedding involves. And the women in the most beautiful saris I have ever seen were just jaw dropping! I’m not going to give a step by step account of the day- but just to say a huge congratulations to the new Mr. and Mrs. Fernandes!

Newly_weds_at_church.jpgEntering_t..ception.jpgDancing_un..e_stars.jpg

The actual island of Mumbai, separate from where we are staying is really beautiful- the buildings make you feel like you’re in Paris or London, and the skyline from the bridge is amazing, more so at sunset.

India_Gate.jpgFountain.jpg1.jpg

Posted by lesleymw 11:32 Archived in India Comments (0)

Delhi and Agra

Our first few days in India

overcast 6 °C

So just now we are in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, and it is freeeeeeezing! Bit of a shock to the system, having to endure temperatures of 6 degrees... especially when visiting a Sikh temple and not only having to take socks and shoes off, but having to rinse feet in cold water! Brrrrrrrr...

India (well, what we’ve seen so far) is unexpectedly nothing like Sri Lanka. It is much more crowded, much more poverty and there is a constant haze, which might just be a fog for this time of year, or dirt- not sure which.

When we arrived we had a white knuckle ride to the hotel in Delhi- which, if you thought driving in Abu Dhabi was bad- you ain’t seen nothing yet! Not only does no one even check before changing lanes, or drifting across three lanes, and in the three lanes, there are always five lines of traffic... try getting your head around that one! There are also small fires literally everywhere on the side of the street- I’d imagine, not only for the homeless but for shop and stall vendors who don’t have heating where they work. It’s quite a surreal thing to witness.
Streets_in_Old_Delhi.jpgSpice_stall_in_Delhi.jpgIn_Delhi.jpg

Yesterday we went around Delhi, visited the Jama Mosque (where we didn’t have to take socks off, but did have to walk over marble which was almost as cold!), India’s largest mosque and to the Sisganj Sikh temple, which is not only a house of prayer, but it is also a place where anyone can come to eat some food, heat up, and lend a hand in the kitchens, regardless of wealth or caste. After a wander through some of the markets in Old Delhi, we made the 5 hour drive to Agra.

Jama_Mosque.jpgPreparing_.._temple.jpgStreets_of_Delhi.jpg

Today we visited the Red Fort of Agra, and then to the Taj Mahal- and I can see why it became the man made wonder of the world! To see it in pictures is one thing, from afar another, but up close (with red booties on) it is phenomenal. Some might even say magical. Every aspect of it is amazing, and, considering it was built 400 years ago, is perfect in every way- right down to the engineering, symmetry, the optical illusions, and the gorgeous marble carvings. Sheer perfection.

Red_Fort__Agra.jpgAt_the_Taj_Mahal.jpgFreezing_a.._s_Tomb.jpg

So for now, we are sitting in the hotel, sipping some Chai tea, and watching a dozen or so skinny cows, dogs, monkeys, squirrels and pigeons go about their daily business uninterrupted by anyone.

Awesome_red_booties_.jpgClose_up_of_Taj_Mahal.jpgPutting_on..touches.jpg

Posted by lesleymw 17:05 Archived in India Comments (0)

Sri Lanka in a Nutshell

What we've been up to in the last week

rain 27 °C

Ayubowan (may you live long)!

We’ve been doing so much and not had any internet access but Sri Lanka is truly amazing!

In the short time we were there, we’ve learned and seen plenty of things:

  • The most common sound in Colombo and Kandy (and up in the hills, only not so frequent) is the honking of tuk tuks which are more common than cars and mopeds together. I say honking, but they sound more like road runner “meep meep!”, you’d think it might be irritating but the slogans on the back window of these three wheeled little metal boxes and the fact that at the moment they are blaring out jingle bells make them completely bearable.
  • It takes an especially qualified person to pluck coconuts from palm trees, this is

a. To ensure they know exactly when to pluck them to then sell them for a good price
b. So they can balance while holding, what amounts to 4m long bamboo tweezers
c. To make sure that when the coconuts fall they don’t land on the pickers head and most likely cause permanent damage.

  • Here, religion is extremely important, but the specific religion doesn’t seem to be too relevant- we have seen a 200 year old church, beside which is a mosque, beside that is a Buddhist shrine. Likewise we saw a large stupa, where a couple was preparing to be married, and right next to it was a nativity scene.
  • The airport is the best place to buy cheap white goods, you can see lots of people coming back from holiday, with a shopping list, carting out fridges, washing machines, irons, everything!
  • Smoking is banned in every public area- inside and outside... fingers crossed this is picked up back home soon!
  • Christmas is everywhere! We haven’t seen so many decorations, trees, santas, heard so much music since we lived in the UK! We’d almost forgotten what Christmas mania was really like!
  • Lion Lager is yummy. Enough said on that one.
  • Despite the war being over, there are armed officers (with guns longer than my legs) everywhere in Colombo...literally three every 30 metres, just to make sure everyone stays safe... bit daunting if you ask me.
  • People here drive on the left side of the road... but this is just a suggestion. They also should turn left into roundabouts (of which there are many)... but this is just a suggestion. They also have traffic lights... and when they turn red, it’s only to suggest that you may want to stop your tuk tuk/ bike/ car/ bus crammed full of people.
  • Speaking of crammed with people - train seems to be the best way to travel, especially if you are going a long distance. Unfortunately everyone else knows this too and this is exactly why these trains don’t have doors people have to hang out of them, stand on the ridge on the side of the train, or scale the roof for a suitable resting place.
  • Elephants are extremely resilient - today we met one who was shot in the eyes and so is completely blind, one whose foot was blown off by a land mine, and one who was in a full body sling to keep pressure off his front legs after badly dislocating his shoulder, and had been like that for 4 weeks so far. The Elephant Orphanage helps rehabilitate these wild elephants before taking them back to their herd, if/ when they’re well enough.
  • On the up side, despite all of their problems, which they treat as minor annoyances, they are still sneaky, especially at bath time- we watched about 30 being released into the river for a bath and promptly lost at least 5 in all different directions!
  • The style of writing in Sri Lanka is probably the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life, reminds me of bubble gum somehow!
  • There is an old palace, that isn’t quite protected by a moat, but by a muddy swamp, so that the royal enemies would almost get to the palace, get stuck then munched on by crocodiles- quite an awesome defence system!
  • When you hear the national anthem, no matter where you are, you must stand still and not move- unless you are driving, in which case you stop the car/ bus/ tuk tuk immediately and stand up.
  • Fruit bats are kind of eerie when you see them all hanging from a tree during the day - more so when they are rudely awakened and there is literally hundreds flying in a big swarm... like a plaque of massive mossies!
  • Colombo (and indeed every other place we were) is a funny mixture of colonial houses (from the 1800’s most with all the original fittings, and even glass), brick houses, the size of a standard bathroom with tin roofs and a shop at the front, and modern glass buildings (though these are mainly in the city)
  • Pineapples grow from a plant in the ground... I really didn’t know that!
  • Never take what you see here at face value - we were looking at a green field, until a bus went by, turns out it was a brown field with dozens of parrots feeding!
  • The skull and cross bone can be seen on ancient catholic graves to warn people not to open the graves as the people had died of an infectious disease. An egg timer can be seen if the person died young... whatever that might be.
  • A local man will find it incredibly amusing when he sees a goat eating a political poster off the side of a church... what does that tell ya?
  • If you have a fear of birds, when a large bat is flying overhead while you’re having dinner in a restaurant you will be petrified... and Mike trying to figure out what bat it is won’t help.
  • To get to the top of Sigirya Rock it takes 1,200 steep steps to get to the top, where there was once a monastery, and a lot of closing your eyes as you teeter on the steps (which were soaking and slippy from the rain) at the edge of the rock. It’s even less fun on the way down... there are 1,200 steps that way too.
  • When you notice that the bathroom floor is flooded with water, it doesn’t mean that there’s a leak somewhere, it means your bathroom doesn’t have a roof- and only some gauze between you and all of the elements.
  • There is a traditional Sri Lankan desert, the name escapes me, which is a sweet filling wrapped in some sort of dough- looking like a spring roll. The filling tastes exactly like mince meat pie filling! Nom nom nom!
  • When people realise that you are loving the monsoon style rain - even when you’re knee deep by the time you’ve walked to get breakfast, they will think you’re weird, more so when they realise you’re from Scotland.
  • When you attempt to hike up to see some caves, your legs will not thank you, particularly after the steps you climbed the day before.
  • When you are staying in a hotel called Swiss Residence, that actually looks like it’s been plucked out of Switzerland, and their restaurant is called Edelweiss, you will be singing Sound of Music until you check out. Fact.
  • King coconut water is amazing, despite the fact that you have to literally attack it with a sword to get the top off.
  • Squirrels like to steal people’s religious offerings, especially if they’re food.
  • The Hill Country is not named so because it is flat, the steepness of the hills put any in Scotland to shame, as does the old frail ladies walking up them at breakneck speed.
  • Somehow, when you see someone (well, two people one over 60 and one younger than 20) run across lit coals, somehow the flames licking their legs do not ignite their clothes.
  • Monkeys like ancient cities even more than people, and will try to steal any food you have as punishment.
  • When you ask someone if a particular curry is spicy “little spicy” means not at all, “not spicy” means that you’ll soon be feeling like your face is going to blow off!
  • A sari might be one of the most beautiful things I’ve worn, and hats off to the ladies who wear one every day- they’re so complicated to put on!
  • There is a quaint little place in the Hill Country called Little England, right slap bang in the middle of acres of tea fields, there’s loads of huge colonial houses and even a horse race track!
  • When going to a temple, the offerings that people bring in (for the ceremony we attended it was for pregnant women and babies) can range from home cooking to gorgeous flowers that are more beautiful and colourful than any we’ve ever seen.
  • All tea companies and plantations (hundreds, literally) were founded be Scots.
  • In a whole tea bush, only the top three (yes, three) leaves are actually used to make tea... no wonder the place is literally covered in tea plantations!
  • The Hill Country is also full of glorious waterfalls- larger than life and truly amazing.
  • Arrack is the national tipple and tastes very much like whiskey, but with a nice coconutty aftertaste.
  • Sri Lankans celebrate Hogmanay with as much energy as the Scottish- there were still fireworks going off this morning at 7am...
  • Which brings me to another point, it seems to be perfectly possible to wake up after a decent night’s sleep at 6.30 on January 1st... who knew that even existed?
  • When a boozy man is setting off firecrackers, and forgets to throw one down before it explodes in his hand, you will shit yourself, even though he starts to giggle while looking at his fingers that were almost blown off.
  • Sri Lanka has a lot of monuments showing how they beat the British- including a paddy field called “Blood Field” because of the hundreds of Brits slaughtered there, after being tricked into crossing and getting stuck in mud. Nice.
  • Pythons look really quite civilised when they are in the process of swallowing a fully grown deer. Whole.
  • Going on a safari in a national park in the south is very exciting and you can see lots of cool things, but somewhat sobering when you get to a monument which represents all of the locals and tourists, in that very spot that were killed by this massive (I know it’s bigger than that, but can’t summon the word) wave of destruction 6 years ago, almost exactly to the day.
  • Driving up the south coast, you can see the original foundations of houses which were ruined by the tsunami... and monuments and grave stones along the whole coast. Over 200 towns were hit and 50,000 people killed in Sri Lanka alone.
  • When you see a massive cockroach, it’s the most disgusting thing ever. But don’t call for Mike to help, he’ll let it run between his legs and out the door!
  • If a beggar comes up singing happy new year to you, if you don’t give him money, he will shout “Bastard Tourist!” after you in the street. Lovely.
  • Stilt fishermen have an amazing sense of balance, even when we would have been knocked down by the waves, not only do they stay perched on their stilts... but they even catch some fair sized fish!
  • New hotels should ensure they are complete before letting guests in...

I have to say, Sri Lanka has stolen both of our hearts- an amazing place with wonderful people- be sure to put it on your Bucket List!

PC270266.jpgPC270296.jpgP1010647.jpgPC280316.jpgPC280335.jpgPC280358.jpgPC280344.jpgPC280357.jpgPC290388.jpgPC290379.jpgPC290402.jpgPC300507.jpgPC300522.jpgPC290480.jpgPC300527.jpgPC300558.jpgPC300542.jpgPC310586.jpgPC300560.jpgPC310583.jpgPC310591.jpgPC310598.jpgP1010623.jpg
PC280320.jpg

Posted by lesleymw 21:25 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Mike's underwater snaps

Fish and other less savory things!

sunny 30 °C

Here's some underwater snaps of our wee snorkeling trips from the water villa....

PC240157.jpgPC230098.jpgPC240196.jpgPC250257.jpgPC250231.jpgPC240212.jpgPC230093.jpgPC240219.jpg

Posted by mikemw 19:05 Archived in Maldives Republic Tagged fish Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 19) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 »