Bus No. 11

10 Things I Like About You Pt 4: Bus No. 11

“Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R.Tolkien

I’ve been looking forward to this one. Between being from Singapore and living in NYC for 2 years, walking everywhere is no more odd than breathing. My general rule of a good meander is lights and sound. If something catches my eye, off I potter. Guess the rest of the world caught on too and walking tours are now the new Cronut.

My first stroll was during a tour of Paris and London with my parents. It was my first time abroad and we were part of THE stereotypical tour. Ladies with umbrellas, hell bent on finding the most expensive perfumes on the Champs-Elysees, hijacking unsuspecting Frenchmen and forcing them into photos, and the children, so many children… Thank goodness my parents had better sense and we legged it off to the Lourve on our “free” day, while the rest of our group proceeded to empty the shelves of Galleries Lafayette. As we walked along the Seine, passing by the street vendors and the famous Shakespeare and Co., I fell in love with traveling.

So I’ve done the same in the places that I’ve lived in and got some pretty good stories out of it.

Upstate NY

Located in downtown Syracuse, Freedom of Expresso is a local roaster right across the street from a Starbucks. Came across it when I had class nearby. Got the milk steamers there: hot milk with Italian syrup. (ps: fruit syrups means split milk except raspberry. we tried them all)

Located in downtown Syracuse, Freedom of Expresso is a local roaster right across the street from a Starbucks. Came across it when I had class nearby. Got the milk steamers there: hot milk with Italian syrup. (P.S: Fruit syrups means split milk except raspberry. We tried them all.)

The Boys of Syracuse. The Orange is one of the best US College Basketball teams. The whole city is in love with the sport. Basketball here is like football in Spain. Downtown Syracuse is also home to the 24 sec "shot clock" monument, a turning point in NBA history.

The Boys of Syracuse. The Orange is one of the best US College Basketball teams. The whole city is in love with the sport. Basketball here is like football in Spain. Downtown Syracuse is also home to the 24 sec “shot clock” monument, a turning point in NBA history.

Prop 8 protest in downtown Syracuse in 2008. It expressed the discontent for California making same sex marriage illegal. Prop 8 was overturned in 2013 :)

Prop 8 protest in downtown Syracuse in 2008. It expressed the discontent for California supporting the proposition to make same sex marriage illegal. Prop 8 was overturned in 2013 🙂

On a whim, my roommate in college drove the 45 mins from Syracuse to Skaneateles. The whole place looks like something out of an Enid Blyton book, complete with little candy store. We also went hiking to the nearby Carpenter Falls. Dang, I miss Upstate.

On a whim, my then roommate and I drove the 45 mins from Syracuse to Skaneateles. The whole place looks like something out of an Enid Blyton book, complete with little candy store. We also went hiking to the nearby Carpenter Falls. Dang, I miss Upstate! The apple is even from Beak and Skiff. 

Since it worked out so well in Syracuse, where buses run every 45 mins and trains are non-existent, I figured that it would be a perfect method in Singapore.

Singapore

We'll start with my second love, food! In search of the illusive ah balling (dessert riceballs with filling), my friend F introduced us to the wonders of Mei Hong Yuan Dessert. It serves all kinds of traditional Chinese desserts. So much deliciousness! They're so good that they don't even open on Mondays!

We’ll start with my second love, food! In search of the illusive ah balling (dessert riceballs with filling), my friend F introduced us to the wonders of Mei Hong Yuan Dessert. It serves all kinds of traditional Chinese desserts. So much deliciousness! They’re so good that they don’t even open on Mondays!

The Local People is a Singapore collective for budding designers and artists. Every month they do a market of some sort and their most recent was at the Singapore Art Museum. A friend and I wandered past and was very well fed. They also have great jewelry and crafts. Think if Etsy had a fair :)

The Local People is a Singapore collective for budding designers and artists. Every month they do a market of some sort and their most recent was at the Singapore Art Museum. A friend and I wandered past and was very well fed. They also have great jewelry and crafts. Think if Etsy had a fair 🙂

And there was live music

And there was live music

This was perhaps less of a wander... but I use to ride horses. Yes, I was one of those girls that wanted a pony for her birthday. Except I still want one and it's not to braid his tail. This is at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre. Gorgeous facilities and they're hosting the SEA Games. So wander there now!

This was perhaps less of a wander… but I use to ride horses. Yes, I was one of those girls who wanted a pony for her birthday. Except I still want one and it’s not to braid his tail. This is at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre. My friend S (she’s the one without the wings) also started a blog about all things equestrian so check it out. Gorgeous facilities,a tasty cafe on premises and they’re hosting the SEA Games. So wander there now!

A waterpark on top of a shopping centre!?! Where was this when I was a kid.

A waterpark on top of a shopping centre!?! Where was this when I was a kid.

Well, enough from me. Time to lace up those shoes and get out of the house 🙂

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Old Skool

quentinblake“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all around he world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

Roald Dahl, Matilda.

10 Things I Like about You Pt 3: Old Skool

Roald Dahl had the right idea. There’s something visceral about holding a book and disappearing into the dusty pages. Every year thousands of travelogues are published, documenting everything from the Northern Lights to hiking the Appalachian, so there is no lack of people to live through vicariously. Chancing across Context, a tour company that curates walking tours for the historically savvy traveller, it seemed almost natural to contemplate the more historical aspects of my own country.

There are a ton of travel books. Skipping past all the Lonely Planets, Fodors and Rick Steves, I wander into the section marked history by the Dewey Decimal System. First thing that hits you is how many ways you can travel: Crowdfunding, Twitter, Instagram, even a guy who bartered his way across the world and ended up with a house in Hawaii. So no excuses now…

I pottered through a couple of them, enjoying the roller coaster ride as they met general odd bodies around the world. A lot of them were focused on travel as a task, ie: we’ll high five this monument and move on. However, when I lack inspiration, I look for the storytellers. When I was little, my dad used to say if you can write a thousand words about a blank wall, you’re a writer (I have yet to understand the correlation). While it didn’t turn me into a writer per se, I still enjoy a good tale: ones that inspire a good case of wanderlust and a hankering for more airplane miles.

But I digress. We were talking about how to rediscover the island and what not. So here are my top 5 books to keep you a-moseying.

1. The Neil Humphreys Island series

photo courtesy of goal.com

photo courtesy of goal.com

Okay, random ang moh explores Singapore. Real original. Despite the cliché, Humphreys is hilarious. The series of 4 takes you a hop, skip and sweaty jump though Singapore with the clueless kid from Dagenham. Thrown into the deep end in Toa Payoh (my backyard!), his quirky perspective and tongue-in-cheek style is enough to bring tears to anyone’s eyes. Reading on the MRT, I proceeded to terrify the people around me as I laughed out loud about how he came across the aunties who hoard plastic bags in their bras and uncles cleaning their nails in the station. His last book, Return to a Sexy Island, was the perfect coming home book. He hits up all the new locations in Singapore. Some like Marina Bay Sands and our Avatar-esque Gardens by the Bay are pretty typical, while others, like the new art storage at the airport I had never heard of.

Aside from providing more info about places to wander to any guidebook, I also vowed that an ang moh couldn’t know more about Singapore than me. Sometimes when the sun’s at full scorch mode, I need a little incentive to leave the aircon. Unfortunately, unlike the intrepid Caucasian, I did not see any version of Mas Selamat. There was a limping man but wrong leg.

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10 Things I Remember from Berlin

During my recent trip to Paris, I’ve also visited Berlin. It was for only 2 days, and it was my first time in Germany, but I still want to write a little something about it because I LOVED it.

  1. People! I always had the stupid impression that the Germans are cold and unfriendly. Man, was I wrong! Berliners are super nice and almost all of them can speak English really well. All the problems I experienced in Paris vanished when I went to Berlin. Oh, how happy I was when I was ordering in English and not dying.
  2. Speaking of people, as much as I loved Berliners, I wasn’t fond of the amount of Turkish people there was. This may sound strange, but when I’m away from home, I like to be immersed with the local culture. I don’t like to come across with other Turks, it makes me nervous somehow. I don’t know why. So yeah, I knew Berlin was sort of Little Turkey, but I was NOT expecting THAT.
  3. parkI said the same thing for Paris – and maybe this is a general thing about Europe – but I loved the parks in Berlin. My favorite was Tempelhofer Park (pictured on the left). It used to be an airport, and now they’ve turned it into a park. What an amazing idea! It’s this vast, green, beautiful space that just gives you… piece.
  4. The public transportation, man. Coming from Istanbul, I’m always a fan of a good, organized public transportation and Berlin does great on that. And I probably wasn’t the only one doing that so I don’t feel bad saying this. It’s sort of… free. I mean not really. But really. Wink wink. So you don’t have to go through a turnstile or swipe a card to open the doors or something, they just trust you to buy the ticket and hope for the best. For two days, I used U-Bahn several times, didn’t pay once, got lucky. But I heard stories that other people got caught. So you didn’t hear this from me.
  5. Speaking of trains, careful with where you want to go and which train you jump on. We were going to Alexanderplatz from somewhere in the city, we asked the guy there which train to take, and he showed us. We jumped on it, nobody stopped us, and yes, it was passing through Alexanderplatz but it was also going to Hanover. Thankfully, we realized it before it had moved so we got off the train on time, but had they asked us a ticket, we would’ve been screwed.IMG_7184
  6. The bars were really cool. Very hipstery but not as douchy. People are fun, too! I especially liked Klunkerkranich Rooftop Beergarten (pictured above). It’s on top of a mall – basically the last place I would expect a cool bar – and has great view, great vibe and great environment.
  7. Which reminds me. To me, Berlin had this New York vibe to it. Specifically Brooklyn. The streets, the hole in the wall type bars, the way people act, everything. I felt like I was back in New York – a cheap and close-to-home New York. Like a dream come true.berlin
  8. And yeah, can you believe how cheap Berlin is?! Not just the food, the drinks, everything! We went to Primark in Alexanderplatz (yes, I am a tourist, thank you very much) and went NUTS. You would, too.
  9. Street art. Berlin is like a big canvas; the buildings, the bridges, the trash cans, the walls – you can find art anywhere!street art
  10. Well, this part is not specific to Berlin, but it’s the first and only place I’ve tried it. Couchsurfing! I was pretty glad we did it; it was free, the person we stayed with was not only not creepy, but also super helpful. He showed us around, kept us company. (Well, the strangest part was that he was a French guy living in Berlin who can speak Turkish! Unreal.) I was happy that we went with Couchsurfing and not a cheap hostel type of situation.

I’ve also visited Amsterdam for 2 days as well on this trip, but I can’t seem to remember that part well, because reasons. I shall write it as soon as it comes back to me.

Meeting Strangers

10 Things I Like about You Pt 2: Meeting Strangers

Ah, yes. Yet another techie option. However, this one actually involves meeting real people. There are quite a few of them floating out there. Your first reaction is probably the same as mine. These are some souped up, well decorated dating Web site and perhaps a 10 foot distance is too close to be to it. If I was a purist, I should sit in a hostel bar and talk to backpackers and other nomads. But what the who, I am a child of the 21st Century and what not, so I hit the sign up button.

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I stuck with Meetup.com. Simple, no personal info required and no one wanting a testimony about how I met my one true love. Ka-ching! Stuff’s pretty simple, you indicate your interests and off you go. I connected with one about meeting international people in Singapore. It was a huge group so I figured that I could get lost in the crowd.

After several sessions of talking myself into not going, I finally got around to attending an event. Feeling socially awkward, I had the stand-at-the-corner-and-pretend-the-person-I-am-meeting-is-on-the-phone moment. Yup, got to love technology.

Thank goodness the event was for people who were Meetup noobs and they kindly singled us out with a gold star to encourage people to take us under their social wing. Which helped. As did the glass of wine that the event included.

photo courtesy of Meetup.com. Too dark and felt like a creep if I took photos...

photo courtesy of Meetup.com. It was too dim at the event and felt like a creep if I took photos…

By the end of the night I had learnt where in Little India to buy spices to make a mouth-watering lechon (Cuban roast pork that is a little piece of heaven), figured out how to travel though South America from a Russian interior designer and argued extensively with the bartender about how Barton’s gin shouldn’t be anywhere that served $15 beer. (that stuff tastes like rubbing alcohol).

All in all, not a bad night.

Simple takeaways:

  • It’s a nice way to meet people if talking to them online is not your thing
  • You got to put yourself out there and actually talk. People are generally pretty nice.
  • Even if you don’t attend, the locations that the groups meet at are a nice travel itinerary. No one wants to meet at a terrible venue.
  • People might still hit on you but I didn’t say you couldn’t hit them (okay, please don’t actually. I feel there is some kind of liability involved in saying that)

Side note: Couchsurfing.com is also a good option. Checking it out and I’ll let you guys know 🙂

Domo Arigato Mr Roboto

10 Things I Like About You Pt 1: Applications

If you just joined us half-way, refer to this post to start from the beginning 🙂

It’s the first thing that we think of when we’re trying to start something new. YouTube, Google, and TripAdvisor whatever it may be… Also (cue shameless plug) because I’m working to do social media stuffs for a startup that helps travelers socially source their itineraries and have looked up all the competing apps (the app is pretty cool but I’ll share that later).

2 quick parameters:

First, I must shout out to Apple. A quick scan of any app list will show that them sprinting past the Google Play store. However, since this is my blog, we will play by Android rules.

Second, there are apps that do everything from fold your socks to calculate, to the millisecond, what you can do in-between transits. This list will focus on how to rediscover Singapore. Asia is a tough nut to crack. Most apps are geared towards our Western counterparts so this is my Asia friendly list.

 

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  1. Triposo

This one is one of my favourites. Probably because the backstory is pretty cool. Founded by a pair of Dutch brothers, Douwe and Richard Osinga and their friend, Jon Tirsen, the app was born out of their love for travel. Their entire team is part of the effort, travelling the world (with nothing but Triposo and cash) and adding their experiences to the application.

The app is pretty comprehensive. The home page for each country gives you a breakdown of the typical stuff that you’re looking for as a traveller: sightseeing, nightlife, tours, etc. The highlights for me were the locally sourced mini guides (I was a cheapo and didn’t pay for premium) and if you’re a tourist, their practicalities section is invaluable! Discovered the lovely Singapore Pub Crawl here 🙂

 “We are wanderers and adventurers and we believe the best way to build a travel guide is to spend as much time as possible traveling to strange lands and discovering new places.” –Triposo.com

 

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O, Astoria!

In the light of Lonely Planet’s recent pick for #1 destination to travel within the US, I shall talk about how much I loved Queens – specifically Astoria, home to the Ranch – when I lived in New York.

photo courtesy of New York Times

photo courtesy of New York Times

Let the hipsters in Brooklyn condescend Queens and let Manhattanites act like the civilization ends with the Queensboro Bridge and you need to commute with donkeys after. I’m a proud former Astorian.

Yes, Brooklyn may have the hippest, coolest places, can it compare to the niceness of Queens people? And the commute… The places you can actually afford now in Brooklyn are so far that it’s really difficult for people who work in the city. Don’t even get me started on the L or the G train… I love the N train! Commute is so convenient to the city if you live on the N line that you start planning your social life based on whether or not where you’re going is close to N,Q line. Both Central Park and Prospect Park are on the N or Q line, I worked in Midtown, and Herald Sq Stop was 20 min. away, Union Sq, East Village, Soho, Chinatown… And it’s on the major transfer hubs, so if you do need to transfer, it’s not difficult.

When I lived at the Ranch, it was at the last stop (Ditmars) of the N/Q trains, so if and when I fall asleep on the train, kind strangers would gently wake me up so I wouldn’t find myself going back and forth and finally at a strange & bad neighborhood (I’m not saying it didn’t happen anyway at 4 AM one night, but it happened much less than any other places).

30th Ave after Greece's win of a game in the FIFA '14

30th Ave after Greece’s win of a game in the FIFA ’14

Astoria has the nicest, friendliest people. There is this shared feeling of ‘I know I live in the coolest neighborhood, but it’s hard for other people to understand’. The local bodegas, laundromat people, coffee shops, waiters and bartenders are always so friendly and give you some slack if you are short on money by dimes or nickles.

And Astoria Park? Just pretty!

Don’t even get me started on the food! Ah, the food. So so delicious. I may be partial to the food because I’m Turkish, and it’s a Greek neighborhood, which is basically the same food (sorry Turks and Greeks, we gotta just admit we eat the same stuff and get on with our lives without caring who came up with what).

Not just the Greek food, almost everything is more delicious there. So here are some of my humble recommendations if you go to Astoria (and you should).

 

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10 things I like about you…

20141003_185257Being home and waiting for a visa means there’s not much to do. Not working for 3 months also means not exactly a fortune in spending money. My first thought when I came back was to find a job and just plug away at work. The only thing is that it’s hard to find too many people excited to train you for time unknown. Can’t really blame them. So what does a broke stuck adventurer do? You got it, potter around my own backyard.

For years, people have always asked me why I didn’t want to go home to Singapore. I never really had an answer for why not. Yet, other than family and friends, there was no magnetically compelling reason to either. So now seemed like a good a time as any to see what all the fuss is about. Inspired by Neil Humphreys, (Singapore’s equivalent of Bill Bryson) I wanted to see what I could discover about this revamped Singapore. And because I like lists, I made one of all the tools I used to figure out what the 10 things I like the most about home.

 In no particular order:

  1. Applications (I have an Android so we know that everything crosses over)
  2. Meeting strangers
  3. Old Skool
  4. The Number 11 Bus (ie: on foot)
  5. Geocaching
  6. Asking locals

For the sake of not sounding like a windbag, I’ll post them in installments so stay tuned for the breakdown 🙂