Daytrip to Melaka

On Saturday afternoon, while sitting on the bus to Johor Bahru, I wondered out loud if it was possible to go on a day trip to Melaka.

Turns out we can.

Except because we left Singapore in the mid-afternoon, our day trip was going to involve spending a night in Melaka. Which, really, isn’t a big deal.

So how did we do it? Simple. First, take a train to Bugis station and get on the express bus to Johor Bahru. There are many options but we chose the yellow express bus on Queen Street. When you buy a ticket to Johor Bahru, you are actually buying a ticket to Larkin bus terminal. Which, we later found out, is not the terminal at the Malaysian Immigration.

After you have cleared immigration, most people would turn right to go to the City Sq mall. Walk straight until the end where there are escalators and on Platform B, there will be buses taking you to Larkin Bus Terminal. Its located about 15 mins away from Johor Bahru center.

After alighting from the bus, walk to where the ticket counters are (you will pass by a few clothing stores, and some hawker stores). We basically got tickets for the bus that was leaving in 5 mins and hustled on over after forking over RM 20.90 per person.

Once we were on the bus, it was smooth sailing all the way (no restroom break, no jam!) and arrived in Melaka at 5.30pm. At this point, I was panicking a bit because we didn’t pack anything other than our passports and some cash. There was no change of clothes, no PLAN on where to stay for the night. After arriving at Melaka Sentral, we hopped on a taxi to Jonker St for RM20. Luckily, there was free wifi around the area where the church was. I whipped out the expedia app and swipped on the Holiday Inn because I desperately needed access to a computer for work purposes. It was a bit more expensive than I hoped and there were certainly cheaper options. But well. A business center was something that could not be compromised on. After that, we walked along Jonker street looking for food. I started off with some gula melaka iced latte at this hipster coffee joint belting out some old jazz classics.20170617_143813[1]

The coffee is super sweet but so refreshing on such a hot humid day. After the drink, we wandered around Jonker Walk, buying random kueh from the various food stores, and tried on a few cheongsams. I almost bought a

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I almost bought a kua but realised that my figure would probably change by the time I’m ready for my traditional wedding ceremony. And then we realised that we really needed to buy something to wear the next day. I was already wearing my green elephant pants so we bought 2 t-shirts from a store for the next day. Then we headed to Mahkota where there was a Uniqlo for the other neccessities.

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We checked into the hotel and took a quick shower before heading out to Jonker walk again for the night market.

There were lots of quick accessories and more clothing stores. And a lot more food. We got more street food and a coconut jelly. I briefly considered getting a Henna but didn’t think my workplace would appreciate such impulsive behavior.

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By the time we finished the walk, I was exhausted, and it was 9.30pm. So we headed back to the hotel where I proceeded to check my email. BIG mistake. I finished up my assigned tasks before heading back to the room to sleep for a few hours.

The next morning, we feasted on the buffet breakfast at the hotel before heading out again.  We climbed up Bukit St. Paul. Only the outer shell of the church remains.

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After the brisk climb, we headed back to Jonker walk for a second breakfast. We found a chendol place that served quadruple duty as a currency, gem museum and tribute to Mao. They also had some nonya laksa. The chendol and laksa were both very good.

After getting our second wind, we proceeded to walk around the area again. We found one of the oldest mosque in Melaka, an old kwan im temple and more food stores.

But we were completely stuffed. So we settled for some curacao coffee instead.

After that, we headed back to the hotel, took another quick shower and checked out. Got a taxi back to Melaka Sentral and took another bus back to JB where we stopped for a quick dinner. Unfortunately, we were part of the unfortunate crowd that got stuck in JB immigration around 5pm. Took about 2 hours to clear immigration, another hour to finally board a bus back across the causeway. Luckily, clearing Singapore immigration was much quicker (30 mins) and we caught the first causeway link out of Woodlands. We then took a train from Kranji back home. The journey from JB to Simei took 5 hours. Maybe we should stayed another night in Melaka?

Prague

So I haven’t updated the blog in a while. I want to say that it’s because I’ve been busier than usual. But that’s a lie. I’ve kinda entered this weird lull in my life where nothing much has changed and I’m bored. I’m not as anxious as I normally am but the pressures are still there. I think I’ve just tuned it out. Or I’m burned out. Not sure which.

Anyway I just returned from a 7 day trip to Prague. Prague is a lovely city and I chose to go during the ‘off’ season in the first week of May which was supposed to have a smaller crowd but if that was the off season, I’m sure the ‘on’ season crowd would have been terrible because there were a lot of tourists when I went. Now 7 days in Prague is a lot. Most people would have planned day or overnight trips to Dresden or something like that. But I’ve been off my game and didn’t plan anythijg except buy my air tickets because i wanted to go to the andre reiu concert and it so happened that the joseph strauss orchestra was going to be in Prague during my designated vacation days. Yea. So this free and easy holiday emphasizes the easy part. Anything that required more effort wasn’t going to happen. Based on this trip i would say a full 3 days in Prague would be more than enough to see the major sights and catch at least 2 operas or see a couple of shows.

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All of the museums and most churches require an entry fee in Prague but a majority of the fees are quite low. If the church required a fee and you are into classical music, i suggest you buy a concert ticket instead. I didn’t bother with the castle. I went to the grounds and walked outside (that’s free) but didn’t bother with the inside.

20170509_075435.jpgTo see the big cathedral with the beautiful stained glass, I recommend buying circuit b. Otherwise just walk in and see a bit of the front parts of the church. If that bit already draws your attention and you MUST view the rest of it then go get the ticket.

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Interior of the st. Vitus cathedral with the beautiful stained glass windows.

I prefer the solitude so I walked up to the castle grounds early morning. I recommend catching the train elevator things across from Most Legii (the bridge that isn’t Charles Bridge) up before strolling to the castle. Less painful on the legs. The Starhov monastry is at the top of the elevator and its a more pleasant walk then climbing up to the Castle.

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In the wee hours of the morning the Charles Bridge is a lovely place to take photographs but in May the sun was already rising at 5.30am. The people that were there had gigantic lenses poking out from their DSLRs and large tripods. A few only had cellphone cameras but were mostly drunk teens/20ish kids on the tail end of their night out.

Another major Prague attraction is the astronomical clock which is super popular with tourists. The show goes from 8am to 11pm. I never bothered to stick around for one but did snap a few pictures at random times.

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Now I know it sounds like I didn’t have a good time in Prague. I did. I REALLY did. I took a tour with Tour4Charity where the 400czk fee goes towards a charity that helps children in foster care adapt to life after they are out. I also did a food tour with Taste of Prague (point of note, the staff at Taste of Prague were incredibly helpful. Helped me obtain a last minute reservation with DeGustation, gave lots of helpful pointers on things to do, where to eat, etc EVEN after the tour was over. Totally worth it. LOVE their service). So I learnt about the history of the Czech Republic as well as their food history so I wasn’t a complete failure as a tourist. But if I’m honest about it, i walked around a lot, saw the interior of a few churches and one synagogue, ate quite a bit and dinned at some rather nice establishments.

I had a grand time watching the opera and it was so affordable I had to pinch myself.

But yep. That pretty much sums it up! At some point i will probably blog about some specific sights. But for now this is just a quick hello! And what have you been up to lately?

Copenhenmark, Denmark

Have you heard? The Danes are the happiest people on Earth! I guess they’ve moved on quite dramatically from their depressed schizophrenic Prince of Denmark after their primary residence was changed from Elsinore to Amalienborg Palace.

That said, my latest vacation to Copenhagen was something that I had been looking forward to for weeks, and yet, surprisingly (or not surprisingly), I barely planned for it. And as my sister would say, when you fail to plan, plan to fail. And I sort of did, sort of. I mean, I probably spent more than what I should have, and had I spent some time planning, I might have saved some money. Still, even though I did overspend, a little, I did have a good time. And I think, if I had known, that everything was going to close at 4 or 5 pm, I might have planned my sightseeing a little better too.

But there’s a lot to see in Copenhagen. And there’s also not much to see in Copenhagen. If that makes sense. I think a lot of it has to do with what sort of sightseeing you like to do. I spent a bit of time going to the modern art museums, only to find that I’m still not a super big fan of a lot of modern art. At the same time, I don’t really think that Copenhagen is a big haven for a lot of the Classics. They did have a Golden Age in the 17th century (I think) but I’ve seen a lot of the more classical pieces of art in the past and these days, instead of trying to see everything all at once, I tend to see what catches my eye whenever I enter a room and kind of just zoom in on it. Copenhagen also has a thing for their sculptors, and there are a lot of them everywhere but that’s not necessarily what I’m into either. I do, however, like architecture (that’s a recent thing), and I love old churches (but apparently only the Renaissance and the Gothic ones). So I guess what I’m saying is that if I had done my homework, I could have been a lot more focused in my sightseeing, and saved myself some dough, and perhaps not have been as rushed even though I was there for a week, which is a lot of time to spend in such a small city.

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That said, there are a couple of ways to lower the costs of your stay. Most of the State museums are free. The Hirshsprung museum (a really cool small art museum) is free on Wednesday, along with the Thorvald Museum (mostly scupltures). The Carlsberg art museum is free on Tuesday. The castles and palaces all have an admission fee, and that includes the Christanborg Palace, The Amalienborg Palace, Krongberg and Rosenberg castle and Roskilde Cathedral. Climbing up the Tarnet at Christanborg is free. But to see the Round Tower, it will cost 25dkr, and so does climbing up the round spire at the Sankt Anne church. Freetown Christiana was an interesting experience. I’m not sure what I should have expected. I was expecting happy hippies? But it wasn’t as pleasant as my imagination would lead me to believe. Paper Island has good and fairly affordable food. 7Eleven, surprisingly, has great coffee and some of the best tasting croissants in the city.

I had gotten a 48hour Copenhagen card. I think it released a bit of the pressure on trying to figure out what I wanted to see, and I felt freer about taking public transport. That said, I think I might have saved a bit of money by just getting a 24hour city pass or 24 hour transit pass and using my student card to get cheaper admission prices at the castles. Or getting a Parkmusernee. Unless if you really plan your time really really well, the 48hr Copenhagen Card might not be as worth the price you are paying for.

 

So here’s a big picture summary:

the Copenhagen card which comes in 24hrs, 48, 72 and 120 hours allows you to go to MOST of the attractions in Copenhagen (and some out of it) and also comes with free transportation on all modes of public transport (water taxis, bus, metro, subway) to all the zones (as far as Roskilde and Helsingor). May be worth it if you are short on time and cannot go to the free museum days.

There’s a combined ticket for Kronberg and Amalianborg (but there’s no student ticket price for that). Kronberg also offers a separate student ticket price.

There’s a combined ticket for all 4 sites at Christanborg palace (but if you are only interested in the reception rooms…just get the reception room ticket. Bonus if you have a student pass on you).

All the palaces and castles have student ticket pricing.

There’s a 24hr City Pass that allows unlimited travel on public transport.

The Museum Park Pass (Parkmusernee) will cover the The David Collection, The Filmhouse, The Hirschsprung Collection, SMK (National Gallery of Denmark), The Natural History Museum of Denmark and Rosenborg Castle.

Free Museums:

The David collection

Staten Museum for Kunst (its next to Kronberg castle)

The Botanical gardens (but you’ll have to pay for the greenhouses)

Free Museum days:

Thovald museum is free on Wed

Hirshsprung museum is also free on Wed

The Glyptoteck (that’s the art museum that was built by the founder of Carlsberg) is free on Tues.

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Afternoon at the Wolseley…then off to Melaka

Breakfast at the Wolseley

My last day in London finally arrived and I decided to bid adieu to the city by having afternoon tea at the Wolseley. Given that I had only recently had high tea at Fortnum and Mason’s, I thought that it was only right that I try having tea at the Wolseley’s as well. The decor there was very different from that of Fortnum and Masons. While Fortnum and Mason’s was very blue, Fortnum and Mason’s was very … black. Luxury black. And there was a lot of chinese furnishings. They even had a stamp dispensing machine made with chinese etchings. I was quite impressed. Although their tea was slightly cheaper than that of Fortnum’s, I wasn’t as impressed with their tea (even though their concierage was really really nice and treated us to some macaroons since it was also SuperMeg’s birthday). Still, I suppose you get what you paid for. Plus I would never have been able to afford a champagne tea anywhere else…

Piccadilly Circus

 

And so it came to pass that I finally came back home to Singapore. I bet my parents were hoping that this would be it. Unfortunately for them (and even for me), I made the decision to complete my residency in LA. Yes, I know. I can’t quite seem to keep still. I’m technically supposed to be preparing for my last year by studying. But I haven’t really quite gotten down to it. I’m putting it down to the fact that I’m still trying to recover from my final exams. But that’s probably a lie since even though I know I studied for it, I probably did not mug for it either so I still have plenty of mugging power left in me.

St. Paul’s ruins

But the Portugese do seem to enjoy living certain souvenirs like ruins of churches named St. Paul (in case you don’t know…they left the ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Macau in their wake as well). However, I did manage to persuade my mom to go to Malacca (or Melaka) with me. If I am not wrong, Georgetown (in Penang) and Melaka are Malaysia’s two UNESCO sites. Which, if anyone is keeping score in this (un)friendly rivalry between Singapore and Malaysia, is two more than Singapore. Anyway, since I visited Penang last year, I thought I would pay a visit to Melaka. Both used to be Portugese colonies. I think the British exchanged Melaka for another colony, like Ceylon for access to their spices.

Effigies of their Colonial Masters
Cock currency
Using Malaysian Rubber

Somewhere along the way, Melaka also used to be a Dutch colony. They’ve also had a long history of having Chinese ties. One of their Queens (at least I think she was a queen) was a Chinese princess. The Sultan of Melaka married her and gave her a palace on a hill known as China Hill that has a well that has never ever dried up. By the way, China in malay is pronounced as “Chi-na”. The currency in the past was also quite unique. It was in the shape of crocodiles and cock. Seriously. Different currencies differed by size. Can you imagine what their business transaction is like? How much cock would you like for that apple sir? *ROFL* And while I had expected Penang to be more of an artist colony, it turns out that the Melakans had an even funnier sense of humor.

Tin-Tin man

And Melaka is also famous for their chicken rice balls, of which I had more than a few. One of the charms of Melaka is their ability to preserve certain aspects of their past like the ‘ting-ting’ man (he chips hard candy into edible portions and makes a ting ting noise), and their durian chendol (which I wasn’t particularly enamoured with).

Chicken Rice Balls
Durian Chendol

Well, that pretty much sums up my Melaka trip. Well, other than visiting the ruins of St. Paul, seeing the rock that Fr Francis Xavier cursed, visiting the Stadhury and well, generally shopping. I do think I have to make it more of a habit to explore SEA a little bit more. I’ve spent half my life in the Northern Hemisphere and I’ve neglected the South for way too long.

Stonehenge and Bath

Season of Stones

Last weekend, I went with some of the girls in my class on a tour bus trip to the Stonehenge and Bath. Naturally, being nutrition students, all of us showed up armed with snacks and coffee. After a rather long 1.5hr journey, we made it to the Stonehenge. Don’t get me wrong. I know that its one of the 8 wonders of the world, and I also know that it took a whole bunch of Oxford students 2 weeks to haul similar rocks up to Stonehenge, but if you ask me, I think the Oxford students also need to account for the fact that they are probably not as stocky or as muscular as the beings from the Stonehenge, so their study was flawed. Just saying. That said, we were also told by the guide that the best time to visit the Stonehenge is during the Spring solstice and the Winter solstice. Or during sunrise or sunset. Erm, as interesting as I find a bunch of rocks in a wide open (potentially ancient burial ground), being there when its dark is not particularly appealing to me.

City Map
yummy!
Kiss on the cheek
Rainbows!
yes, I love my boobs too

After being given only 20 mins (we walked really fast) we had to get on the bus again so that we could make it to Bath on time. Once we were in Bath, we were given only 3 hours! 3 hours to explore an entire city! What a challange! Could we do it? Well….first we had to settle on lunch. We wandered around aimlessly for about 20 mins before we finally found a pub that we could all agree on. Of course, having been so reliant on the Barclay ride a bike maps around London, it took us all a while to find our way using Bath’s city maps. Once we were in the pub, it didn’t take us long to decide on the food. And because we are all foodies, we took a lot of pictures with food. And of us eating the food.And not content with having found some good pub food, we had to look around for sweet snacks as well. We definitely hit jackpot when we found Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shop.

Bath fountain
Only Royal Mineral Water gets a hospital! Special treatment!
Bath Abbey

But it really wasn’t all about the food. We did hit a couple of the sights as well. I think that Bath is a very picturesque town and hopefully one of these days, I’ll get to return, on my own time, without some grumpy old Brit telling me that I need to get a move on!

Hello Dragon!

Happy Year of the Water Dragon!

I took this picture when I went to Hong Kong in 2010. That was my first trip there as an adult. It was a relatively calm period for me, that year. How much has changed in a span of just a year and a half! I can only hope that the Year of the Dragon will be a better year than the Year of the Rabbit had been!

Happy New Year everyone!

Cambridge, England

Sometime in the beginning of Fall, ViralBoy invited me to go to Cambridge where he is currently in his last year of his PhD project because it was the beginning of term and all the different colleges were having their first formal dinner of the school year. I had already been in the City for a couple of weeks and was looking for some time out so I accepted the invitation readily. But then again, the fashion-anxious side of me got me all into a frenzy on that thursday afternoon before going because I spent pretty much the whole day looking for an appropriate dress to buy. I searched all the thrift stores, and finally ended up with two dresses from Oasis and Accessorize. Which I promptly returned when I got back from Cambridge. Honestly, £100 for a dress. *faint* It was just the rush though, of looking for a dress and buying it. But my bank account can’t afford it, and so back it goes.

Off we go to Vote!

Anyway, I took a train on Fri morning (guess who skipped stats?) and was in Cambridge by early Fri afternoon. The good doctor was still in his lab working on his gels so I walked around Cambridge by myself. I believe that was the weekend that they were holding elections for the Chancellor seat so all the different faculty members were walking into some kind of holding area, in their Cambridge robes, just to vote! It was eye opening. I’m going to guess that if any of the institutions that I have been a part of allowed their faculty to choose their board of directors, or the President of the college, no one would be wearing their robes. Those robes only come out once a year for graduation, if even. The number of faculty attending graduation is rather shameful.

Market Square

And like most parts of London, there was an open air market in the square. This aspect of English life most closely resembles life back home for me, I think. All the various flea markets, open air markets with the stalls selling various produce. I was expecting them to close once the cold air set in, but the store owners are very resilient. I’m sure that there must be some form of licensing to regulate the stall owners like they do in Singapore but I never did see the license displayed anywhere so sometimes I feel a little weird-ed out to be buying food from them. Thankfully, I have the infamous Asian Iron Stomach and my stomach can take quite a bit of abuse. Sometimes I think that is possibly one of the reasons why Asians have a higher rate of stomach cancer than other racial groups!

King;s College

One of the key differences between american universities and the UK universities is that the UK universities are divided up into different colleges. From what I can gather, that determines the tutorial groups that you are in, as well as your academic advisor. Most of the colleges will offer the same major but each college functions as its own unit. I know, it boggles my mind too. At first I thought maybe its an institutionalized form of a fraternity house. But according to the ViralBoy, he says that the college you are in can also determine which dormitories you end up in. And in the past, some of the colleges were single-sexed, and I think Clare college was the first one in Cambridge to be co-ed. I think college in the US has taken on the universal meaning of university. After 13 years of being there, I don’t call university uni, I call it college. It always causes some confusion at home because when we say college in Singapore, people automatically assume that you are talking about junior college. Culture headache anyone?

Henry and Anne

Oh, and get this; because every college is its own entity, they all have their own chapels and the biggest and most impressive of them all is the one in King’s College. Its the one where Henry VIII had his initials carved into chapel organ with those of Anne Boleyn! Talk about everlasting love *cough* Or perhaps an everlasting memory of the mistakes you’ve made in life!

King's Organ

Jokes aside, one of the favorite parts of the chapel, for me anyway, is the organ. Its massive. And gorgeous. And magnificent. I can alsmost imagine the gorgeous music that comes from it. I only wish I had enough time to stay one more night to attend evensong on Sunday. And just look at the amazing arches on the roof top. Its absolutely beautiful. It boggles my mind everytime I visit these old chapels and churches at how they managed to build such magnificent places with the technology that they had. Given the knowledge and the resources that we have now, one would think that we would be able to create beautiful buildings too. Instead, we are all focused on building the next tallest building, with, in my opinion, very little attention paid to the beauty of the building, and how it will change the landscape that it will belong to once it is built.

I know its been a couple of months since I was there, so this post is definitely a bit late. But I do remember it as being one of my favorite weekends here in the UK. The weather was beautiful, and I managed to meet up with a new friend. I discovered more about him that weekend, then in the months that we had spent together living in the same building. The formal dinner went well, and it was as “Harry Potter Style” as he had promised. The one thing I regret was not taking a picture of him in his Cambridge finery! Or even of the proceedings. There were a lot of guests there, but an equally impressive number of students who showed up for dinner in their robes. And prayers were said in Latin before the start of dinner. I don’t even think the nuns in my school say prayers before lunch. I think we used to have to stand at attention in the field after lunch for prayers before heading back to class. But it was a Hail Mary and said in English. It kind of almost made me wish I had learnt Latin in school.

Praying Mantis

One of the strangest sights I had the pleasure of seeing was that of a praying mantis on a clock. I’m not sure exactly what the significance of it was, other than that it was cool. Maybe its a statement relating to Kafka? ViralBoy also took me to the bar where the structure of DNA was worked out. Going there was as gratifying as trying to find the John Snow pub. Its paying tribute to the History of Science.