A Hop, A Skip and A Wander

10 Things I Like About You Pt 4: Geocaching

tiny space shuttle hidden in a rock under a bench in Miami. There is actually a cache on the International Space Station so if anyone is inspired after this, we would love to hear about it :)

a tiny space shuttle hidden in a rock under a bench in Miami.

First of all: Sorry for disappearing for an extended period of time. Ece just got a new job in Turkey and I have been dealing with the wonderful world of visas and government red tape. Joy and a half. However, no excuses.

Back to what we we left off: Geocaching 🙂

Geocaching is a real world outdoor treasure hunt using GPS coordinates. Log into geocaching.com, set up an account and start! Participants are tasked to navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. Logistically a little tricky if you think of the elements but I did a couple of runs in Miami and they led me to some pretty cool spots.

There’s even one on the International Space Station, soI figured why not in Singapore?

so the adventure begins...

so the adventure begins…

Step one is to get a good GPS navigator programme. It’s pretty easy, just scootle around the App or Play Store and you should be able to find one. I used C:geo which syncs with your Geocache account and provides feedback from other geocachers, which DEFINITELY helps.

I sourced for one that was near home, figuring that if I got lost I would at least recognise some landmarks.

Geocaches also have varying levels of difficulty, so you can go for the ones that are tiny to sizable ones that are easy to find. Picked a nice midlevel one (with 3 checkpoints) and verified with the feedback to make sure that it was still available.

IMG_9557Landmark one was a fig tree. Urbanite that I am, I had to look up what a fig tree would look like. With the help of Google Images I found the tree without too much trouble, the cache, not so much. To the confusion of nearby picnickers, I literally poked around the underbrush with a stick but to no avail.

Undeterred, I decided to potter on. There were some hints to the next location, a tunnel under one of Singapore’s busiest highways, the CTE. Bedecked in graffiti, it was to be the highlight of my little trek. If you’ve read anything about Singapore, you’ve probably heard about Michael Fay so you know we don’t take graffiti lightly. With the photo clues provided, I decided to go for it. After several false starts, I came across the entrance to the tunnel.

I felt like a modern day Indiana Jones as I walked into the entrance. As I wandered through, faded images began to emerge in the dim light. It seemed like the tunnel had been flooded recently so much of the work was covered in mud. Despite the grim, I was still able to make out some of the featured pieces. Quite a feat since things don’t last very long here (we are no 5Pointz, that’s for sure.) The cool inside was also a pleasant respite from the heat.

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Emerging on the other side, I came face to face with the electrified fence of the Bishan train depot. Time to turn to Google Maps. Though it appeared that I was in the middle of nowhere, I was apparently right next to a main road. Setting off in what I could only assume was the right direction, I soon saw the busy road ahead. I also probably had 70 different CCTV cameras documenting that 10 min hop, skip and stumble. Security must have been epically confused to see a 5-foot girl wandering past at 4 in the afternoon.

Before long I came to the entrance of a canal. All that separated me from civilization was a steep incline. Spying a step drain that led into the main storm canal, I scrambled up, using the cuts in the drain as steps. Hopping over a short fence, I found myself about 2 train stops from where I started. Not too bad for a noob.

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While my Singapore Geocache didn’t turn out quite the way I expected, I still got some good exploring in. Definitely didn’t mean to end up in half those places so got to ditch the Dora the Explorer and work on my Indiana Jones.

Tips for Geocaching:

  1. Check the weather before you head out. The weather could really put a damper on things
  2. Look up the status of the cache. There is usually feedback if the cache is gone or inaccessible
  3. Start with the simple stuff. Geocaching is meant to be fun so don’t kill yourself the first time round
  4. Water and sunblock. Well, depending where you are. You get the idea
  5. Don’t be afraid to get lost. Think it’s honestly part of the fun

    "two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference."

    “two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference.”

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 🙂

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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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 🙂

Hawkers = Home

Many say the best way to get perspective on a country is through its taxi drivers. They are the all seeing eyes and ears of any nation. Though I’ve had my fair share of colourful cabbies (there was one who sang Waltzing Matilda and waxed lyrical about British colonisation throughout our half an hour journey), this post is not about them. This one’s about the humble hawker centre.

If you’ve never been to Singapore, hawker centres are a little piece of foodie heaven. Whatever your poison, be it seafood, pasta, chicken wings or noodles, they’ve got it! These are not quaint little restaurants with romantic ambiance. These places are laid out in a noisy, oily, rambunctious circle of little stores. Think of a grubbier high school canteen with better food and a slimmer chance of people chucking food at you (no promises). They even have the Antony Bourdain seal of approval.

nom, nom, nom!

nom, nom, nom! photo courtesy of the straits times

Now hawker centres are no easy undertaking. A simple visit could result in you waddling away, stuffed to the gills with your body weight in edibles. So here’s a simple instructional to make sure you come out of your first experience with your BMI intact.

  1. There is strength in numbers.
so much food, so little time

so much food, so little time

This is definitely a time where the more the merrier. Hawker centres are a great place to eat family style where everyone gets to pick whatever catches their fancy. The more people you bring, the more options you have. A budget of $10-$12SGD per person should more than feed a group of 4 or more (if you get seafood, it could be a little more). Great time to make a couple of new friends at the hostel and take them over.

 

  1. The fanciest places doesn’t mean the best food

Yup, this is one those instances that make social media invaluable. The best hawker centres are not the ones that are the poshest or the ones that are raved about in guidebooks. Not that they are all wrong. Places like Newton Circus, Makkansutra at the Esplanade and Lau Pa Sat have good food; they’re just not very good on your wallet. It may seem like all food is the same but there are subtle differences and there are some places that are just better than. So ask the locals at your hostel or hotel or be a child of the 21st Century and just Google it!

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Returning Home

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our new skyline

Home is where the heart is…
Or where the passport’s from…
Or where you keep your stuff…

Interesting question come to think of it. At this point, I’ve different answers to these questions. Over the past few years, I’ve been hopping around from location to location. The latest in my long list of passport stamps has lead me home to Singapore.

It’s been a grand total of 5 years since I’ve been home. Dang, that’s weird to say out loud. If you’re Singaporean, ever been to Singapore or know anyone from there, it’s an eternity in the evolution of this tiny little island. 2015 will officially mark 50 years of independence. Things have gotten a lot more interesting since I left.

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