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WMBW Travels

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This is the blog post that nearly didn’t happen, because this was the trip that nearly didn’t happen. However, after one botched booking, 1 tropical cyclone (upgraded to a Typhoon I just might add) 2 canceled flights and one ‘touch and go‘ landing, we made it to Mauritius!

See, after a really busy 2016, Elzaan and I really needed a break. We needed to go somewhere, where doing nothing was pretty much all they expected you to do. Somewhere, where drinks magically arrived at your pool lounger and your toughest decision was wether your eggs should be fried or scrambled at breakfast! We decided on the turquoise waters of Mauritius. Neither of us had been, but it was nice and close and well priced so we dived right in. No pun intended.

After all the afore mentioned drama we arrived at the 5 star Radisson Blu Azuri Resort and Spa on the north east coast of the island and were ready to (finally) let the holiday begin! After a super quick and friendly check in we arrived at our room, a garden view room…with a view of the ocean! YES!! The rooms are massive, with even bigger en-suite bathrooms and our personal favorite, the day bed on the balcony. There’s nothing that beats coming back to a nice room after a day at the beach, so this was perfect!

The hotel is set in super lush and tropical gardens with loads of little nooks and crannies giving you the ability to get away from it all and enjoy your own piece of paradise. The resort has 2 pools, but we mostly spent our time at the main pool (pictured above and below) as it was the closest to the bar. That’s right, the bar. We had lost 2 days and weren’t going to loose a second more. The pool is surrounded by loungers and day beds, as is the hotel’s private beach just meters from the pool. When it comes to relaxing in the sun, there was always somewhere to go.

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Now, Elzaan and I love nothing more than exploring the streets and alley ways of our neighborhood when we’re abroad.We live for those hidden gems and little culinary experiences that bring soul to our trip. This wasn’t going to be one of those trips! This was a forced relaxation trip and so we didn’t want to think about where our next meal was coming from and how much it may cost us – I don’t mean financially either, I mean, I once had a meal in Thailand that cost me a week of toilet hugging and it so wasn’t worth it!

With that being said we opted for the all inclusive option. This meant that all our meals and most of our drinks were included in the booking price. We did ‘oooh and ahhh’ over this for a couple of days when booking, but in the end we’re super glad we went all in.

The hotel has its main restaurant called Le Comptoir that offers buffet style meals 3 times a day with a themed dinner every night, as well as 2 a’la carte restaurants offering something a little different. In the end we made our way through them all but really loved our night at L’Azuli with a little fine dining and Ocean One for some lunch time  pizza and pasta! Was the food good? Well, I picked up 5kg’s in one week so you do the math!

Part of the all inclusive package are selected drinks. Yeah, I know, ‘selected’ was worrying to us too, but there is such a large amount of wine, beer and cocktails to choose from that we never got bored. Trust me, nothing beats working your way through the cocktail menu at the pool without worrying about the resulting bill. I even created my own speciality called the WMBW, it’s made with lemongrass ice tea, simple syrup, lemon juice and a double shot of local coconut rum. Mmmm Mmmm!!

 

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The hotel offers a lot of free excursions and activities during your stay so everyday we would try something new. Between paddle boating, sea kayaking, snorkeling and a bike trip we pretty much managed to fill up all the empty time between eating and relaxing.

However, as a break from our relaxation (oh the irony) we decided to take in one outside excursion while we were there. Everyone we had spoken to went on about how amazing swimming with the dolphins is. Neither of us are particularly big into swimming in the middle of the ocean, but decided to take the plunge none the less (I mean, these puns just write themselves sometimes!)

Now, just to clear it up, this isn’t a massive swimming pool with 2 or 3 dolphins that are trained to play nicely with humans. This is you swimming with wild dolphins in the middle of the ocean as they go about their daily lives. And it’s not a hand full of dolphins either, we’re talking hundreds of them. Your speedboat races out to where the dolphins have been spotted and you basically jump out and intersect them as they come swimming around, over and under you. The moment you put your head under water all you hear is dolphin chatter and all you see are dolphins. The experience is nothing short of incredible and the team at Dol Swim ensured that.

 

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There was one last thing we did in Mauritius that is definitely worth mentioning, something I’ve had up my sleeve for a while now.

Together with the great team at Radisson blue I arranged a surprise beach dinner at the Azuri’s sister hotel the Radisson Blu Poste Lafayette. We literally sat with our feet in the sand and the lunar eclipse hanging so low over the ocean it nearly made the surrounding candle lit lanterns obsolete. The meal was a 4 course seafood feast complete with scallops, prawns and lobster Thermidor. The final ‘course’ however was served only to Elzaan and the smile on her face when she lifted the cloche was almost as big as the smile on my face when she said ‘yes’.

Looks like we might need to change the name of the blog…’What My Fiancé Wore’ does have a nice ring to it don’t you think?

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So, what started as a nightmare really did end as a dream. Mauritius is an incredible place that far outweighed our expectations. The Radisson Blu Azuri is a truly spectacular hotel, the service and staff are unmatched by anywhere else we have ever visited, nothing seems too much to ask and all requests are met with a smile. The hotel manager walks around constantly checking in with all the guests as if they’re long lost friends. Its awesome!

If you’re looking for a little down time and just need a quick break, this is definitely the best place to do it. My only advice would be, don’t go in cyclone season and if you only buy one thing for your holiday, make sure it’s travel insurance.

Okay. Stay Fancy!

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This has been one of the longest blog posts in the making – since July to be exact. So it stands to reason that it may be one of the longest blog posts of all time. I’ve really struggled to cut down the images on such an amazing experience, so I really hope you enjoy it. Settle in, you may be here a while.

Japan, is one of those few places in the world that lives up to everything its meant to be, yet still manages to exceed your highest expectations. The only other place in the world I have ever been to that had the same effect on me was France, well, Paris to be exact, it just refused to disappoint, it was everything it ever promised to be!

To be honest, there is no particular story about to follow, just a barrage of different pictures and stories that sum up the trip as best they can. Ironically – or possibly not ironically…I’m never sure after Alanis Morissette – it depicts the trip perfectly. A lot of late nights, a lot of delicious drinks, even more delicious food and the most amazing people I have ever met.

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Where do I even begin.

A good friend of mine was turning 40 (you’ll catch a glimpse of him below) and decided his birthday would be held in Japan. Now as I’m not one to miss a party, I decided I would make the 20 something hour journey and share a beer or a bowl of Ramen with him on this momentous occasion. Truth is Ive always wanted to go to Japan, and this just became the perfect excuse, a boys trip to one of the craziest places I’ve ever been. How crazy? Well, keep scrolling, you’ll see.

We spent most of our time in Tokyo and were based in Nishi-shinjuko, just a couple of subway stops from the centre of town, or at least what felt like the centre of town. Tokyo is so sprawling it doesn’t really feel like it has a centre, or if it does, you never really find the end of it. With over 35 Million people in the greater Tokyo area it is the largest metropolitan city in the world and you certainly feel it!

I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on what it was that made Tokyo (Or Japan for that matter) so special. It has all the makings of a great city, great public transport system, amazing restaurants, bars and hotels, tourists attractions galore and is so clean you can eat off the streets – well, depends what you’re eating I guess. There are however 2 major things that stood out for me, the people and the culture. Come to think of it, that may be one thing. Despite its super modern state, the culture remains strong and you see it in the warmth of the people. Well, I mean you see it in the temples and stuff too, but the people mostly. Something that absolutely fascinated me, was how many people wore traditional dress on a Sunday, and I don’t mean the old folks desperately trying to hold on to tradition, I mean young ladies walking round proudly dressed in a kimono on there way to lunch with girls. Amazing!

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So what is there to do in Tokyo? Well, pretty much anything if you go looking for it. We spent our time eating and drinking mostly. Shopping is okay, but you need the time to explore and find the gems, time that we simply didn’t have.

When it comes to eating, i’m gonna start off by saying, you haven’t had ramen, till you’ve had ramen in Japan. That’s a fact. I was lucky, I had saved myself…for 38 years to have my first bowl of ramen. It was at 2am at a hole in the wall in Shinjuku on the night we arrived and it was worth the wait. Can I explain the deliciousness of it? I certainly can not. We ate a lot of ramen, some better than others but none disappointing. We even had fresh udon noodles at a place so tiny it went from empty to  full when the 4 of us walked in. True story.

But Tokyo isn’t just about ramen, you can literally get anything you want to eat if you know where to find it. I know this, because I found myself munching on horse tartar and bovine heart tubes one night at a Korean barbecue – To be fair I wasn’t particularly looking for that, but the experience was worth it. If you want to try anything new, get in the queue, yep, the Japanese love them a queue. Lobster rolls, soufflé pancakes, octopus balls (it’s not what you think) we queued for them all, sometimes for 2 hours. None of them were as good as the ramen. Man did I love that ramen.

Now, if you enjoy a little drink every now and then, you’ll be in good company. The Japanese love a drink (in a good way of course) and you’ll find them dressed in a suit and tie, arm in arm singing in the streets at 4am. It’s awesome! We drank a lot of beer, mostly because the beer is good, but also because its kinda cheap, or cheap enough that you can have a few. Our top drinking experience was however at the New York bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo – you may remember it from the movie Lost in Translation – It’s considered one of the best rooftop bars in the world, and I totally get why. The view is incredible, the service world class, and really, nothing beats sipping an old fashioned while listening to a live jazz band.

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Japan really seems to comes alive at night, and we had some pretty late nights so trust me on this one. At some point we were eating donuts at 2am while watching a street fight and discussing where to go next. So, like I said, trust me.

Between the bars, the batting cages and the only Japanese onsen that allowed tattoos we had some pretty wild nights, come to think of it on one night we managed to squeeze all of the above in, I think. There was however one thing that topped everything we did during our entire trip, its called the Robot Restaurant and if you go to Japan and only do 1 thing, make this it! It’s impossible to explain and the pictures don’t do it justice, but it is a dinner theatre the likes of which you have never experienced in your life. I went from…‘meh…what a tourist trap’ as I sat watching a Daft Punk type robot playing a guitar in a room filled with mirrors, to ‘holy shit, my mind is blown and my life is complete’ as I watched a horse in a dress giving a zebra a piggy back. Yep. Best. Thing. Ever.

We also visited Shinjukus famous Golden Gai district for 1 last drink one night and I was simply blown away by the 100’s of tiny bars packed in amongst a maze of alleys. When i say 100’s I’m not exaggerating, and when I say tiny, I mean, some bars hold a maximum of 4 people! It’s definitely worth a visit!

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Thats the birthday boy up there, dressed the part while tucking into a little saki as we took on the Golden Gai one alley at a time.

I’m gonna have to stop there or I’ll never stop. I have endless stories and even more photos to share, but I think you get the picture. If you got this far in the post, arigato. I hope you enjoyed it.

Japan, is amazing, there really is nothing more that needs to be said. If you ever get the chance to visit, grab it with both hands.

Okay. Stay Fancy.

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Elzaan and I have just come back from another little trip in the east, it seems to be our destination de jour lately. After 3 non stop days in Hong Kong we were ready for a little R&R in Phuket.

We wanted to stay away from the drunken crowds and total commercialism that is Patong beach and Kata. If you’ve ever been to any of those you’ll know the only R&R you’re gonna get is rum and redbull! Boom! We decided to stay on the souther most tip of Phuket island on a quite little beach called Nai Harn at a hotel called…wait for it…The Nai Harn. The reviews seemed excellent and it had a bunch of little local eateries within in walking distance so we could get a taste of the local flavour. Pun intended.

Now,most of our Thailand trip was rained out (ARGH….yes yes I know…monsoon season…shuddup!!) but luckily our first few days at The Nai Harn gave us a little sun and plenty of pool time. The hotel is built on a cliff giving you endless views over the Andaman sea from pretty much everywhere, it’s pretty sweet.

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Yeah, I know right! WOW! We thought the exact same thing when we arrived!

After a little confusion with our booking  we finally ended up at our ‘Grand Ocean View Room’ – now, all the hotels in Thailand give themselves fancy room names, you can easily find yourself in the Superior Deluxe room wondering where that smell comes from or when they last changed the bedding, lucky for us, this was not the case.

We specifically chose this room because of the massive balcony and day bed. We had visions of lying outside sipping G&T’s, chatting and reading our books, in the end…we never read our books! The rooms are massive and honestly have everything you need, the bathrooms open on to the room via sliding walls and the shower is an entire room the size of my apartment. It’s pretty fancy. I didn’t take many pics of the room, cause I figure you can see all that on the website right?

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The hotel has recently been renovated and in fact some things we’re still being finished off during our stay – It didn’t ever bother us and I’m pretty sure it’s done now. They’ve managed to capture this super contemporary beachy villa feel throughout the whole place, I’m a sucker for aesthetics and nothing felt out of place here. Well done guys!

Our stay included a buffet breakfast and if all the trip advisor and hotel.com reviews were anything to go by, it was meant to be epic. It was. It wasn’t only the best buffet breakfast we had in Thailand, I’m sure it’s one of the best Ive had anywhere in the world. They bake their own bread, get cheese from a frenchman somewhere up in the hills (I overheard) and serve what is arguably the worlds best bacon. Look I know I’m really making a meal of this breakfast (Heyyyooooo) but it was truly the highlight of our day!

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Overall we were super happy with our stay here and really it was the benchmark to which we measured every other hotel we stayed in for the rest of our trip. There were however just a handful of negatives.

Our biggest gripe is that the hotel restaurant is incredibly expensive, so much so that we didn’t even bother trying it but instead stuck to the local eateries down the road (mama seafood being our favourite) this is of course all budget dependant and your budget will more than likely be bigger than ours. The bar – of which there are 2 – is also on the pricier side does offer a happier hour where the 2 for 1 deal makes the drinks go down a lot easier.

The pool area is also a little small, well, small for the size of the hotel. We were there in the off  season so really it had zero impact on us and we had no problem getting a lounger or enjoying the pool This is just a warning for those of you planning a visit during peak season. The beach however is literally a stone throw away and although we didn’t get to use it (monsoon season!!!!) it really looked beautiful and may be the perfect option when the pool get’s busy!

Lastly, the Nai Harn is pretty remote. Beside the handful of local stores and restaurants nothing else is really in walking distance. The hotel does have 2 bicycles you can book and use to explore the near bye towns, but they do work on a first come basis and it’s literally 2 bikes for the entire resort. Lame guys.

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That’s it folks. If you’re looking at visiting Thailand anytime soon and want to stay away from the crowds I highly recommend The Nai Harn. We generally book all our hotels on hotels.com mostly because they have the best deals going far in advance so maybe start there if you’re keen.

Okay. Stay fancy.

Hey…I just realised “stay fancy” now has a double meaning…like “stay somewhere fancy” GENIUS!!!

 

HeaderReviewing hotels isn’t easy! Taking pictures of hotel’s is even harder. Well, the picture taking part is easy. Point and click. Getting nice pictures that convey the feeling of the hotel beyond that of a brochure, can be difficult!

On our recent trip to Bali, we treated ourselves to the TS Suites for part of our 1 week stay – don’t worry, the Bali post is coming. It was by far the most fancy hotel I had ever stayed in, well, at least according to the pics on hotels.comI was amped!

Turns out, the pics weren’t wrong and it was actually going to be the fanciest place Ive ever stayed in. The place is super modern but with a bit of a Balinese edge to it (all be it a cheesy edge) in some places. The lobby is grand and the rooms are massive, but I guess for an all suite hotel, the rooms would have to be. The decor, as stated earlier, could maybe do with a slight update. I kinda wished they had picked a side, because the pseudo modern rustic vibe made me feel a little itchy. In saying that I’m hyper critical of aesthetics, but you decide for yourself. These arent the most amazing pics, but they give you a good sense for the place!

IMG_4123IMG_4486lobbyIMG_4399IMG_4382IMG_4374BedroomWeird decoration aside the place is spotless and the amenities are amazing. Our favourite in room perk was the complimentary mini bar. Yep! COMP LA’MENTARY! This simply means that everyday when you get back from your day out you feast on mini bar snacks and booze! It’s a pretty sweet deal!

There is however no sweeter deal, than what awaits you on the roof.

IMG_4090IMG_4442IMG_4095IMG_4456IMG_4427IMG_4434We spent almost all our time at this hotel up here. It truly is spectacular.

The pool is massive! Big enough that you can get away from the screaming kids when they gather. It’s also surrounded by pool loungers and we never had to search for a place to sit. Of course, it also has a pool bar with the obligatory Balinese happy hour of 2 for 1 cocktails. Watching the sunset over this pool with a Pina Colada in your hand is really what holidays are all about!

What else can I tell you that you wont find in the brochure or on a trip advisor review? Well, I can confirm that the staff are incredibly friendly and immensely helpful! They even go as far as checking you in to your room…while you’re in your room. Yep! They make sure you are entirely happy, then sit with you on the couch and let you check in! It really is the best service I have ever experienced.

Breakfast is good. Not great, but a good hotel buffet breakfast. We ate ours out by the pool, because, in case you missed it…the pool is EPIC!

The surrounding area is a little rough round the edges, but that seems to be most of Bali to be honest. The views aren’t terrific, or at least our weren’t but again, unless you’re on the beach looking at the ocean, then thats what you get in Bali. Oh, speaking of the ocean, you’re about a 15min walk away, but it’s a pleasant 15minutes surrounded by hawker stores and lots of great eateries.

Besides that, they really do everything they can to make the stay a good one, lots of things to do at the hotel, even a tiny little gym to workout in if thats your vibe. It was mine for a few days, but then I chose beer instead.

If you’re heading to Bali and are on a tightish budget I definitely recommend the TS Suites.

Okay. Stay Fancy.

 

exteriorThis is the entrance to one of the most amazing places Ive ever been.

Pretty epic uh?

I didn’t quite know wether this post fell under travel, drinking or eating (so I tagged all 3) But I knew it was an experience definitely worth sharing.

During our recent trip to Bali (that post is on it’s way) we were told by more than a couple of friends to visit Potato Head for a sundowner or two. Now the name ‘Potato head’ really doesn’t conjure up visions of the coolest of the cool lounging around with nothing to do but soak in the sun and sip on cocktails does it? Strangely enough, it was exactly that.

entrancehalwaytiki-drinkswallPool-ViewThis place is more than impressive and it is definitely worth the trip out, depending where you’re staying in Bali of course. No, wait the sheer site of the “Colosseum” (A tower of mismatched wooden Balinese shutters surrounding the building) makes the trip worth it no matter where you’re staying.

It’s everything you expect from a beach club. Beautiful people and beautiful views all enjoyed to the combined sounds of chilled tunes and laughter – WOW! Did I just wright that? Shcmaltz alert right!? This place does have a way of making you feel pretty schmaltzy though I must be honest.

Now of course beautiful people aside, a beach bar is only as good as its drinks right? Well, this placed nailed those!

drinkssunsetme-sittingbedsunset-2e-sippingfinal-sunsetThe cocktail menu is vast, filled with everything from your classic Mai Tai to Tiki drinks and even some shareable jugs of punch. Elzaan and I decided we would get stuck into the Three Berry Margarita (for me) and the Matahari (for her) as we sat and watched the sun disappear behind the indian ocean. The drinks were strong and well made, and definitely the best cocktails we had in Bali, they’re not cheap but as we had quickly learnt in Asia, you definitely get what you pay for.

When the sun fell and we finally put away our camera we tucked into a chicken burger and the most delicious pulled pork I’ve ever had in my life! (Well, at least the best pulled pork I had on my trip) We switched to our staple of Bintang Beer and just sat back talking about what an epic day we had just had. There’s the schmaltz again!

As I said above, if you find yourself in Bali, definitely don’t give this place a miss!

Okay. Stay Fancy.

 

final-drinksIn case you missed it, Elzaan and I got back from a mini vacation a couple of weeks ago. Singapore was one of our destinations and the Singapore Sling sat pretty high up on our to do list.

As far as cocktails go, this one is pretty old (well, not this exact one. These were made fresh. 🙂 ) in fact, it was celebrating its 100th anniversary at the Raffles Hotel. The supposed home of the Singapore Sling.

Now, my research has proven that the true origins of this drink, together with the original recipe, have all but disappeared in the mist of time, so for the purpose of this post I’m going with the story I liked best and share with you the version of the drink I enjoyed at the Long Bar.

In a classic story of boy meets girl, a young officer buys the youngest daughter of a silk merchant a drink at the bar. Playing it cool, as all gentleman should, he requests that the barman send a drink over, but not just any drink, a special drink, one that would match the colour of her beautiful red lips. The obliging barman Ngiam Tong Boon, whips up a a gin based cocktail  with all the exotics notes of Singapore. So? Did it work, or did the officer just end up with a pink pineapple juice concoction on his freshly pressed khakis? Lets just say, if it’s happily ever after you want, have your barman invent a drink for a lady.

Long-Bar-signageinside-barchairsnutsbag-of-nutsNow, the Raffles Hotel has its fair share of bars and restaurants, but the Long Bar is the legendary home of the Singapore Sling, and as we quickly found out, a MAJOR tourist destination. When we arrived we were met with a massive queue at the door and a packed bar, thankfully the queue moves at a rapid pace and once inside, it’s worth every minute spent waiting outside.

The feel is typically colonial, with a long dark teakwood bar and a beautiful spiral staircase going up the middle. The only thing distracting you from its colonial beauty is the crunching sound under your feet, something we would later discover to be empty peanut shells. We sat down on two wicker chairs as the waiter brought us a fresh bag of peanuts and we ordered our Singapore Sling together with a Tiger beer – but no one wants THAT story.

The reason I decided to write and share this post was that we had read a lot of bad reviews on the Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel. Tales of pre mixed drinks and sugary sweet concoctions being pushed across the bar, the original drink lost to the barrage of tourists flooding the place daily. I am happy to report, this wasn’t true.

Every drink is made fresh. It’s made in mass, but it’s made fresh!

glassesIngredientsGin-pourpouring-fina-drinkDrink-on-tableThe bartenders here don’t have much downtime because the one thing that is true, is that this place is a massive tourist destination and almost everyone there is ordering a Singapore Sling. So how do they do it?

They have specially designed trays holding rows and rows of shakers filled with ice and individually filled (all be it at a rapid speed) with the individual ingredients:

30 ml (1 oz) gin
15 ml (1/2 oz) cherry brandy
120 ml (4 oz) pineapple juice
15 ml (1/2 oz) lime juice
7.5 ml (1/4 oz) Cointreau
7.5 ml (1/4 oz) DOM Benedictine
10 ml (1/3 oz) grenadine
A dash of Angostura bitters

The shakers are then individually shaken and poured, leaving each pre chilled glass to be finished off with a slice of pineapple and cherry.

Is it the best drink I tried in Singapore? Certainly not. And at a little under R350 (about $30) it certainly wasn’t the cheapest. But after a long hot day of walking around town, it certainly hits the spot. I didn’t find it overly sweet either and the pineapple and lime really stand out amongst the mess of flavours. I don’t know if I would of had another one or even ordered one at a different bar had I been given the chance, but not because there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just not really my kind of drink.

Was it worth it? Absolutely! The experience alone is totally worth it. The bar is spectacular and youve never eaten a more delicious peanut in your life. If you find yourself thirsty in Singapore, do yourself a favour and stop at the Long Bar will you.

Okay. Stay fancy.

titleMan this has been a difficult post to get up!

See, Elzaan and I have just returned from a little vacation in South East Asia, well, South East Asia and Dubai…really it was only Singapore, Bali and Dubai. So yeah, we’ve just come back from those places.

Now while going through the hundreds of pictures we captured I realised 3 things. 1. Most of our funnest moments weren’t actually captured, which I guess is a good thing cause we were experiencing them rather than shooting them. 2. I have a lot to learn when it comes to taking pictures of anything that isnt a bow tie. 3. Elzaan has a much better eye than me – so much for my graphic design diploma and 16 years as an art director.

So the 3 points above have made it very hard to choose just what I wanted to share with you guys when it came to the Singapore sights. I mean, truth is, for the most part, if you want to see the sights you can hop on to google and it will spit out way better pics than anything I can take. So I’m sharing with you the stuff that we saw and thought, “oooo, thats cool”. It also feels like it gives a broader view than just shiny buildings and shiny buildings, though, truth be told, I couldn’t resist some shiny buildings.

colourfull-shutterswheelOCBC-walkwaytemplebright-buildingsSingapore’s story is both a long and short one and I’ll do my best to not make this a history lesson but you need some context in order to make sense of all these buildings above, because to me its the perfect encapsulation of this little City States history.

I’ll leave out the complicated Malay/Chinese occupation of the 13 century and move straight into its more modern colonial history, namely its occupation by the British (after fighting off the Portuguese and Dutch) and more importantly Sir Stamford Raffles who established it as a major shipping port along the route to China. Don’t get bored, this is interesting stuff I promise you. Anyway, the british eventually lost Singapore in the second world war to the Japanese only to regain it a couple years later. The place was a mess with high unemployment, slow economic growth, inadequate housing, decaying infrastructure, labor strikes and social unrest. Like I said, a mess.

Enter  Lee Kuan Yew, the man to take Singapore into the future as it established independence in 1965. This was a man with a plan, opening its doors to foreign investment and skill, creating jobs, providing government housing for it’s citizens and of course paving the way for the modern financial and manufacturing hub it is today!

History lesson over, but at least now the melting pot of colonial buildings, Chinese temples, government housing and architecturally stunning skyscrapers all make sense, and its not just the buildings, its everywhere, its in the food it’s in the neighbourhoods it’s in the shopping malls. You really feel the eclectic past of this great city.

trinketsE-Orchard-roadfruit-and-vegfoodtaximerchantincenseLV-storeS-TrainSo What did we think?

We ABSOLUTELY loved it! This was a stopover for us on the way to our beach holiday in Bali and it just completely took us by surprise. We were lucky enough to be hosted by a friend from home who happens to live in Singapore, and nothing better than a local expat to take your hand and show you what you need to see and boy did he show us.

Under the careful guidance and generosity of our friend Drew, we got to experience some of Singapore’s finest high and low end experiences. There are honestly too may highlights to mention, but these are the ones you must try:

Maison Ikkoku for incredible cocktails and the best oysters Ive ever eaten in my life. Simply tell the barman what base spirit you want and what flavour you feel like and they never disappoint, trust me, we had enough cocktails to make sure they weren’t just ‘getting lucky’ every time.

Long Beach Seafood at Dempsey Hill for the iconic Singaporean seafood dish of chilli crab. Bring wet wipes, you’re gonna need them, in fact, always carry wet wipes on you, there seems to be a general shortage of napkins in Singapore cause they’re pretty stingy with those things.

Brunch at the Fullerton hotel‘s Town Restaurant on the marina. Hands down the most opulent and indulgent thing I have ever done in my life. Save up, it aint cheap. Don’t eat breakfast, maybe run a marathon before, get there early (It starts at 1) and always, always start on the seafood. Maybe leave the wet wipes at home here, they’ll bring you as many napkins as you need.

Hainanese chicken rice (which kinda seems to be Singapore’s national dish) at Chin Chin on Purvis Road was amazing, don’t expect much in terms of decor and style, its a local eatery with amazing ambience and excellent food. Don’t forget your wet wipes.

Lastly, take some time to walk around Tiong Bahru, one of Singapore’s oldest and now coolest neighbourhoods filled with quirky coffee shops, eateries and shop houses selling all kinds of speciality goods. It’s a hipsters paradise.

Unfortunately, as stated above, not a picture of any of these things, but here are some other fun touristy stuff!

cloudgatefish-in-bushreading-the-mapshrineSG50Of course, we also filled our days with all the touristy things, you kinda have to I guess – to get the best of both worlds. I’ll tell you what I thought was worth doing and what I wish I had skipped, but remember its just my opinion.

The Hop On Hop Off Bus tour is always a good idea in any new city you visit, it gives you a good sense of where everything is and helps you orientate yourself for the rest of your stay. We took a two day tour because there were 3 different lines, but quickly realised it was far too long and one day is more than enough to cover all the major sights.

The Gardens by the bay, is definitely worth a stop, but this I guess depends what your propensity for looking at plants and flowers is. Mine isn’t incredibly high, I mean it’s interesting and stuff, but meh! Drew told us to only visit one of the 2 twin conservatories (Cloud Gate) as it’s the most impressive, and he was right, it is pretty impressive (pictured above) but really it’s just a giant greenhouse. Same applies for the botanical gardens, if you like plants and flowers then you’re in for one heck of a crazy time! We didn’t manage the Orchid gardens as we were running out of time and started getting green fever! Singapore for the most part is incredibly green so you’ll definitely be constantly exposed to the local flora, its one of the things we loved most about the place. Ironically!

China town is definitely worth a stop, just to walk around looking at all the fun stuff, grab a beer and a bite from one of the street food carts and definitely pop into the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, the entrance is free and the museum is packed wall to wall and ceiling to ceiling with the most magnificent shrines!

I’m not sure Little India is quite as interesting. The most interesting part for us was walking into a dodgy backpackers and having 2 pear ciders in their courtyard next to the washing machines! Maybe we had a bad experience, but the people were rude and the place was just a little too unkept for what we had become used to.

Orchard road is also worth a walk, but really, it is what it is, one massive shopping strip filled with multiple multi storey malls. You’ll never get through all of it, hell you wont even get through a quarter, there’s just too much! Great if you can afford to shop but a little depressing when all you do is browse! Damn budget travellers!

The last of the big tourist treats was Singapore’s very own Universal Studios, having been lucky enough to visit Universal Studios in Orlando, I cant help but feel a little disappointed by this place, its a little too kiddy focused. Elzaan and I were both ready to get into the danger zone or the thrill zone, or any kind of zone that made us laugh with nervousness. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen often enough, You basically have Revenge of the Mummy and Battlestar Galactica to sink your teeth into and for both those rides we queued for well over an hour…in 40 deg heat. We thought going on a Monday was a good idea and that we would smash the entire place 3 times over but it wasn’t the case, the lines for rides got longer as the day went on and by the time we reached the thrill rides the wait was over 2 hours. They do offer a ‘fast pass’ allowing you to stand in the express queue once on every ride but by the time we decided to buy one, it had doubled in price. Theme parks are generally expensive, but I believe the excitement often outweighs the cost, this one just didn’t.

That’s about it for the touristy attractions, but before I finish up I thought I would leave you with some tips and nuggets of information worth knowing. Singapore is expensive, I mean it’s crazy expensive, traveling from the third world to the first is tricky and you really need to budget for it – a beer is gonna cost you about $10 and coffee in the region of $5 (thats generally my scale for measuring costs). The truth is, you cant go half way around the world only to count your pennies when you get there, so give yourself a daily budget and decide in advance where you’re going to splurge, then suck it up and get on with it. The good news is, there is also lots of value to be had, taxis are cheap and i mean really cheap, they’re subsidised by the government and all the drivers are local and honest so you’ll never get taken for a ride, well, other than your destination of course ( LOL alert) ! The subway or MRT is even cheaper and can take you pretty much anywhere you need to go, get a card, load it with about $10 and you’re set! Last bit of advice, get yourself a Singtel tourist sim card, it’s incredible value with a massive amount of blindingly fast data as well as local and international calls and messages.

That’s it folks, thats my view on Singapore, its an incredible place! I loved it! I loved it so much I want to move there, and thats never happened before so its a good sign!

Okay. Stay fancy!

PS: If any of the facts or historical details above are incorrect, I have no doubt you will find their corrections in the comments section below 🙂