Of Indoor Forests and Urban Landscapes

On a vivid Tuesday morning in June, as our plane descended into this gorgeous city of Singapore, my heart yelped a jubilant scream inside. Singapore has always been in my to-travel list since my childhood. The glamorously tall urban landscapes have always fascinated me. This trip was more special to me as I was travelling with my Mum and Dad after a very long time. I was very much looking forward to it.

Where I stayed:

Our stay was booked with Hotel Ramada Zhongshan Park in Baleister road. The hotel was pretty inviting and well done with interiors. Albeit the rooms being a tad bit small, it never compromised on our comfort. If you are travelling on a budget along with the family and you don’t wanna stay in any backpacker hostels, then this place would be a pretty good choice. The hotel offered a wide breakfast spread including Indian cuisine which was more than fulfilling.

Places I visited:

Gardens By the Bay:

Tall man made tree like structures stand aloft in the midst of the city near Mariana Reservoir. These vertical gardens are famously called as the Super-tree Groves. When in the night these groves shine bright with the luminous lighting and music, which is such a bewitching spectacle called as Garden Rhapsody.

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Super Tree Grove

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Flower Dome:

There are two conservatories for which the visitors must buy tickets to visit and it costs around $28 per person. Even though it is a bit over-priced it is absolutely worth it.One such beauty is the Flower Dome. This conservatory comprises of thousands of different plants from Mediterranean and other regions like Australia, South America and South Africa. My favourite part in this dome was the Succulent Garden where variegated Succulents were at display. This was indisputably a Succulent lover’s delight.

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Succulents at display
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Beautiful!

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Is she singing?

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Wow!

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Cloud Forest:

I indubitably have no words to correlate the ardor and exuberance that I experienced when I entered this conservatory. It is an intricate waterfall like structure camouflaged with Orchids,Ferns, club mosses and many other epiphytes. It consists of different levels each with their own unique themes such as The lost World, Crystal Mountain, Waterfall View, The Cloud forest Gallery, Cloud Forest Theatre and The Secret Garden.

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This was when my eyes went wide in amazement!
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Just look at that!
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Crystal Mountain

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Secret Garden

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Laser display at the Marina Bay Waterfront invites many tourists at night. But Garden Rhapsody was an absolute stunner for me.

Universal Studios at Sentosa Island:

This place is for all the adventure and thrill seekers. The only theme park were I managed to try most of rides except for two(Topsy-turvy ones) was here. Revenge of the Mummy was indeed the best ride I have ever been on. Other few rides were Enchanted Airways, Puss In Boot’s Giant Journey, Rapids, canopy Flyer etc.,

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Jurassic World at Universal Studios

Sentosa Island:

Mount Faber line took us to this beauteous island filled with activities and sight-seeing.  Sentosa can be reached through other means of transport as well. Faber line is most popular, as it allows you to admire the beauty of Singapore from a bird’s eye view. Our ticket allowed us to visit 5 attractions on this island. We chose Madam Tussaud’s, S.E.A aquarium with Royal Albatross, Tiger Sky Tower. We were very keen to get onto Mega Adventure Park, GoGreen Segway and the Wings of Time Show. But time played the villain in our case. Also just a day at Sentosa is not really enough to cover all of it, as the time to get to each attraction is determined by how quickly one can decode the map of the island(Sigh).

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Bird’s Eye View in Mount Faber line

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Hard Coral Reef

 

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Glowing Night Reef

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Astounding, isn’t it?

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He is smiling at me!

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Merlion

Little India:

When in Singapore, be an Indian(I just rephrased the famous saying, how clever!). That is exactly how I felt when I entered this tiny town called the Little India. Predominantly inhabited by Tamil speaking locals, here one can find arrays of Jewellery shops, restaurants with people waiting outside to invite you in, lined along either side of the road. As we walked through the street we were amazed at how strikingly similar it was to any other streets in India. Thronged only by Indians who have migrated to Singapore, here one can find all kinds of Indian food from Idlies(Rice cakes) at Murugan Idly kadai(shop) to Kailash Parbat, Anjappar and many more. As suggested by my Sister-in-Law’s friend we decided to have our dinner at  Khansama Tandoori Restaurant. Delicious North Indian Curries and Rotis were served and we loved every bite of it. Definitely worth a visit.

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This beauty welcomed us into Khansama!

Chinatown:

One of the other important place to be never missed in Singapore is the renowned Chinatown. It comprises of multitude of historical elements which we could not visit due to time constraints. Albeit, we decided to visit the Food street here for dinner. This place comes to life mostly in nights, where thousands of tourists as well as the locals horde the many restaurants and the food stalls sprawled across the street. There are tables and chairs laid out in open air and food is cooked live in front of us. As few members in my family preferred vegetarian, we ended up going to a restaurant which served veg fried rice. I got to try the most famous Singapore Chilli Crab. Honestly I am not a big crab fan and hence I did not find it as delectable as it was hyped. This was altogether a very dandy experience.

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A stroll through the chinese streets!

Zouk Singapore:

My first ever clubbing experience I would say. My little brother, not so little anymore, wanted to go clubbing in SG(Singapore). Most of the clubs here have a strict age limit of 21+. We had to trawl through the Internet to find one with 18+ age limit. Zouk is one such club. The best thing was it being Ladies night that day and hence the men in our crowd enjoyed free drinks in our name. We danced for sometime, were I got to watch my Husband;s moves for the first time. Even though I had a good time, clubbing is not in my particular interests as the loud thudding of music deters me. For all the young club lovers out there this pub is a must visit as it comes to life only after 12 am.

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Hey DJ! Play some good music! Will you?

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It is absolutely wondrous and incredible on how such a small city can hold such luring attractions which are mostly man-made, and how well disciplined and strict they are about their country’s rules and  cleanliness. It is stupefying on  how they have evolved themselves from a country solely used for trading by British to such a huge technology and financial hub that they are now. Singapore, you marvellous wonder! I am coming back for more.

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A Weekend in Bali (Part 2)

After a punch packed first day, both me and Dev decided to take it light the next day. Also the hideous traffic did not let us to do much this time

Being the thrill seekers we are, something more quirky and fun was on the agenda. What more could we ask for when there was a quad biking tour available through the rice fields. We  readily agreed .

Our driver took us to the quad biking facility near Ubud of which I don’t remember the name. But there are ‘n’ number of quad biking tours available in Bali offering the same service.One must trawl through online sources to find what suits you the best. Upon our arrival, the supervising guy took us through the different type of available tours which is mostly based on number of hours that you want to cruise through the rice fields on the bike. We took the shortest drive as we had other plans.

As I told in my previous post, bargaining is a key in Bali. Do not go by the prices on the menu. They come by a lot more cheaper than the actual price. Dev even got a decent discount for our tour, I might say.

After the payment process, the guys there will teach you on how to drive a quad bike. There is both manual and auto quad bikes and I chose the latter. We were provided with wellington boots as this tour involved us driving through muddy fields which means there are certain chances that one can get themselves dirty.

Upon finishing the bike teaching lessons, we were asked to follow a guy who took us through a hour long tour. There in the streets of Bali as we were away from all the hustle and bustle of the city ,a strange sense of tranquility took over us. The sun blazed like a big ball of fire high up in the sky blinding us with its intensity. Beauteous rice paddies that arrayed both the sides of the road swayed to the sound of wind . The green pastures melted our hearts  leaving us gaping for more.

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The quad biking tour

It was well past mid day when we wounded up with the quad biking tour.It was almost lunch time and our stomachs started grumbling like a volcano. Mee- Goreng was my life time partner and we ended up hogging them like pigs at a decent restaurant that our driver suggested. When in Bali, trust the locals. I swear by this mantra.

Once our stomach’s prayers were answered, we set off to our next destination which was the famous Uluwatu temple. This is one of the ancient temple perched atop a cliff overlooking the sea where the waves breaks into the cliffs and then ebbs away. The actual temple is closed for the visitors/tourists, but we are allowed to roam around and click pictures and take in its enthralling beauty. The famous Kecak fire dance is held everyday in the temple around 6:30 in the evening. A group of 70 male members descend onto the stage with theirs arms extended in the air and incessantly chanting Kecak. Their depiction was about a few scenes from Ramayana. It was absolutely entrancing to watch the people in wonderful costumes enacting as Rama, Sita , Ravana and Hanuman.

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Uluwatu Temple overlooking the sea
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Uluwatu temple( closed for visitors)

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Kecak fire dance

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At the end of that delightful play, we were jaded and famished all together. On the way back to Nusa Dua, we stopped for a short while at an Italian restaurant to treat our satiated stomachs as they were going wild at that time. Sleep overtook our languid bodies as soon as we hit the bed.

Next day was our last day in Bali. Melancholy started playing with my mind right when I woke up. We had done enough sightseeing in the previous two days and we decided to laze off our tired selves  in the resort by enjoying their amenities. Right next our resort, there was a tiny shack which offered exclusive water sport activities which piqued our interests.

On bartering with the tout, we ended up choosing three activities that were banana boat, Jet-ski and Fly-boarding( Husband’s choice). Jet skiing was an absolutely enthralling experience which fed my expeditiously fast soul. Initially I was about to try fly-boarding as well. But after finding the husband struggle with it , I decided otherwise, which resulted in me getting an extra half an hour with Jet-Ski.

The resort had an amazing pool, where the husband dived in for a good swim. I ended up going for a foot massage that was offered at massage centre in the hotel. I can say it was absolutely refreshing and my taut legs felt so good after the treatment.

As we checked out from our resort, we went on to do some souvenir shopping at one of the biggest malls famously known as Beachwalk Bali at Kuta. All exclusive brands was found in this mall. Getting there was bit of a task due to the traffic and Kuta is usually packed with people. I would suggest to avoid staying in Kuta if someone wants a relaxed holiday. Ubud or Nusa Dua would be good choice.

Even though our trip to this magnificient Island of Gods was short, we bit adieu with a baggage full of memories. I definitely want to go back to Bali, not just for Mee-Goreng, but also for it’s marvellous cultural values and the stunning beauty. If you haven’t been to Bali yet, it’s time to pack your bags. Now!

 

A Weekend in Bali(Part 1)

Hot humid air, streets swamped with vehicles and tourists, broken English and Mee Goreng, this was how we were welcomed in Bali.  Months of improper planning led us to this enchanting island that thrives. Though we arrived in the wee hours of the night, the city  was still brimming with life.

It was my first overseas trip together with my husband and I was very much looking forward to it. Keen to stay in a luxurious beach resort we had booked our stay with Hotel Nikko Bali, benoa beach. And the resort very much lived up to the expectations. Sprawled along the beach side, it had all the facilities available on board. Name it, you have it.

Hiring a taxi driver always comes in handy in Bali, because the traffic there is humongous and it takes nearly 2 hours to reach anywhere and everywhere. It should not cost more than 500,000 IDR for a taxi/day(with petrol).

Day 1

Our hotel offered an enormous spread for breakfast which was fulfilling. After devouring our meal, we set out for sightseeing. A short,petite man was waiting for us in the lobby. After the initial introductions, I showed him a list of places that we liked to visit and he sorted our trip for the rest of the day. See, I told ya!

Batuan Temple

This is one of the oldest temples in Bali. Men and women are asked to wrap a Kamben around their waist to enter the temple(pretty much in every temple in Bali). Inspite of the fact that the sun was splitting stones, we were in awe of the place. The intricate carvings and the thatched roofs that is made of coconut fibre made the place a marvellous wonder.

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Intricate carvings

 

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Coffee plantation and Tasting

Our next stop, was to taste coffee(I hate coffee BTW, so I ended up tasting tea). There are many coffee plantations across Ubud and our driver drove us to one of the absolutely beautiful plantation. Initially we were taken through the details about different type of coffee seeds ,distinguishing them and also a special type of coffee called as Luwak. It is one of the finest coffees which is processed from faeces of Asian palm civet, which feeds only on selected coffee cherries and fruits like papaya and others. Fermentation takes place in the intestines of the civet. As weird as it sounds, it is also come at an exorbitant price tag. Then they sun dry the coffee seeds, and roast them until a nice aroma emanates from them. It is then grinded using traditional method and tools followed by sieving. I saw two Asian civets caged and I felt a bit sorry for them.

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Different types of coffee seed

 

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The infamous Luwak taking a nap

 

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Roasting of coffee beans

 

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Next step:Grinding

 

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Sieving

After going through this coffee making process, we were then led further into the plantation. There among the serenity of green trees we were surrounded by calmness. Wooden tables were set up, and people were tasting different kinds of coffee and tea. We trudged towards a table further down in the corner and were waiting for our platter to arrive. An array of different coffees and teas were served to us along with banana fries. Dev (hubster) loved the luwak coffee, he said that it gave him an instant hit. I personally loved the cardamom and spice tea.

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Coffee and tea platter
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Coffee tasting underway

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

If there is one place that I would love to go back to in Bali, it definitely would be this. Surrounded by green rice field terraces, this place is a treat to eyes. I simply could not take my eyes of this beckoning beauty. After an hour long trek up and down the terraces(we lost our way,duh!), we finally made it to the exit. Our legs were tired from all the intense walking, but eyes don’t lie. It indeed was the best part of this trip. I will let the pictures speak for itself.

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Beauty personified!

 

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The postcard picture

 

Our hungry bellies prayers were then answered at this cozy and classy restaurant called d’alas. Snuggled  between the mountains, this place was perfect to relax after our onerous walk through the rice terraces. Perfectly spiced mi goreng, banana shake and banana fritters were ordered,  and our tummies found it’s place in heaven.

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Love!

 

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Absolute decadence!

 

Ubud Art Market

Bargain! Bargain! Bargain! Only key to buy some good artwork from this place. They place their products at preposterous prices believing that people would blindly buy them. Beware people, they are not worth it for such inordinate prices. Me and Dev were very conscious on what we were buying and how much we were paying them as well. So think wisely before you buy.

Puri Saren palace

Close to the art market, you can find this beauty of intricate details and architecture. Once a palace, now a touristy sight, even though this place has come a long way, the buildings are still intact and well maintained. Definitely worth a visit.

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The architecture!

 

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Happy poser!

Jimbaran

Our harrowed bodies and vivacious minds did not want to retire to bedroom just yet. we wanted to make one last stop before we call it a day. So we decided to enjoy a seafood dinner along the beachside in Jimbaran. Here you can find an array of restaurants lined along the beaches, inviting people in. In one such restaurant we ordered our seafood platter and waited patiently while the guy sitting next to me smoked his night away. After a good half an hour, our food arrived only to disappoint us. The food was pathetic and definitely  appalling. On top of the shaggy ambience a swift downpour of rain caused chaos in the restaurant as people were fleeing their tables on the beach and coming inside for refuge. Verdict: not going there again. Sadly, I do not have any pictures from Jimbaran, as I was too knackered.

At the end of a very long day, we resumed to our lovely room with hearts that were content and overflowing with memories from the day.

To be continued…..

 

 

A Beach lover’s Delight!

Huskisson, Jervis bay

I love long weekends. I mean who doesn’t? Whenever there is one such coming up, my insides hollers a silent joyous scream. Well, this weekend happened to be one and I simply couldn’t wait to break free from the usual Monday-Friday life. On the advent of Canberra day a public holiday for Australian capital Territory, we had the Monday off and hence me and my husband started making plans the week before. At first, we thought of going to Jenolan caves which was two and half hour drive from Canberra. We started searching for accommodations and our plans went in vain. Conspicuously we were late and all of the good ones were booked out and the other ones were extremely pricey. Few days later, one of my colleagues was talking about a beach near Jervis Bay, which was also one of the world’s best beach. I immediately phoned my husband and checked with him if he was up for it. He said yes without any counter-argument.

Thus, after two days we started our jaunt to Jervis bay. The weather was perfect for a beach day. After 3 hours and 3 wrong turns leading to wrong places, we ended up in Huskisson. Jervis bay is famous for it’s tantalizing white sand beaches. The deep shades of turquoise blue sea complimented the white sands and it was an alluring sight to behold. We meandered through the Voyager Memorial Park for sometime. We stood  atop the beach rocks and breathed in the salty air and wind gushing through the hair.

Soon our stomachs started gurgling and we went in search for some decadence. We ended up in a cafe called Nutmeg. The insides of this cafe was painted in a tinge of yellow, with beautiful portraits hanging down the walls. We ordered Crab chilli sandwich and smoked salmon bruschetta. We sulked down in our seat near the windows where we had the beautiful view facing the ocean. Our lunch arrived after a good ten minutes and we gorged down the food in no time.

 

Nutmeg Cafe

White Sands Huskisson

After loitering in Huskisson for some time and taking in all the beckoning beauty of the beach, we left for our next stop which was Hyams Beach. God, no adjectives would be deemed enough for the breathtaking beauty of this beach. No wonder it is called one of the world’s best beaches. And this one is what I referred to in my title,”A Beach lover’s delight”. I am sure my pictures would do no justice to how enthralling the beach was.

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This made me go “Awww”
Different shades of turquoise

Our eyes bedazzled, feet wet from the ice cold waters, it was truly enticing.The waves were thrashing the shores as if there is no tomorrow. We trudged towards our car without taking the eyes off the beach. Our next stop was blenheim beach, which was further few kilometres from Hyams.

The placidity of the beach astounded me. How just a few kilometers of distance can bring such a marvelous difference in the characteristics of the beach. When the waves at the Hyams were irascible, the waves at Blenheim were unperturbed. This proves the ambiguity of life. After sinking in the calmness for sometime, we realized that it was our time to head back home. We stopped at Main Deck Cafe in Huskisson for a nibble. The Apple and Berry Cake with whipped cream was nothing but delectable. We swigged down our drinks merrily and left home reminiscing our day.

Blenheim Beach

Main deck cafe

“A beach is not only a sweep of sand, but shells of sea creatures, the sea glass, the seaweed, the incongruous objects washed up by the ocean” – Henry Grunwald

The Floor update

Time gallops so quickly that we are already across 5 days into march. February glided by without much chaos than I expected, because January was a total wreck. Instead it was quiescent which also left me lingering in melancholy. I just named it as my period mood swings, but was it really just a mood swing? I don’t know. There was this quaint feeling of self-doubt. I quivered in this emotion for a quiet a long time until I reached a vantage point that was yesterday, which led to an emotional breakdown. It all harrowed down on my husband. I feel sorry for him, because he had to go through  hell along with me.

I vented out all those feelings through tears until there was no more left, i mean both the feeling and the tears. At the end of the day, I just realized one thing, no matter how lousy you feel, never give up on your loved ones, because they are the ones who would stand with you through thick and thin. Also I have advised myself to stay positive even at my gloomiest of times.

As for the House, we have finally reinstalled our floors. No, the insurance did not cover the expenses, but it was us who were on pins and needles and wanted our floors back as quickly as possible which led to a sharp pinch in our pockets.

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We still have tiny bit of work left, but our living room is usable now. Sigh.

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Also, the bookworm in me could just dip into one book , “The truth about the Harry Quebert Affair” last month. It was a long read, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. My current read is “Bombay Stories” by Manto .

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I am looking forward to reading more books this month and also staying sane!

Hey February!

I couldn’t wait for January to get over. I swear. i just couldn’t. I was worried if it was gonna get any worse than being floorless. Thankfully it is over. Just to give a heads up on what happened with our floors, we are still floorless, and we are almost close to giving up on fighting with the strata and the insurance. We are ready to burn our pockets a huge whole and get it over with. What else can we do? We are getting impatient day by day.

Meanwhile, I finished three books(patting my own back) Yes, finally after almost one and half year , i am getting back with my reading routine. The hubster still complains that i am with the books(he hates books) all the time. But i couldn’t help it. I want to read as much as i can.

Here’s to looking forward to February, and hoping that i read more books and get our floors fixed. Also, it is my birthday month. Woohoo, time to party!!