Here it is, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Monday, 17 October 2011
Here it is, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Monday, 10 October 2011
- Hone your negotiating skills and ask for complimentary spa treatments and activities available at the resort, beforehand. It's that much harder to get freebies once you're already there, duh!
- Buy that book you've been meaning to read in advance, don't wait to find it at the airport bookstore.
- Make sure you have a fresh holiday playlist on your iPod.
- Leave the check lists, mental notes and other worries behind(yes, you did shut that bedroom window and the gas is turned off as well!)
Saturday, 1 October 2011
Singapore could very well have been Singhapur, an extension of India (without the dirt and character of course) - it's practically in the neighbourhood, there are a whole bunch of Indians living there and Tamil is one of their four official languages. I have more friends living there than I have in Delhi, and have certainly attended more workshops and conferences there as part of my erstwhile corporate life.
Well, even if you do not know any one in Singapore it's a decent enough getaway. It's got a great party scene, fabulous food and tons of shopping if you are into those malls mushrooming everywhere. And for those of you with kids, there's the usual bird park, night safari, seaworld etc. It's also a convenient stopover en route to other destinations such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, so if you're not satified with Singapore alone, you could always make a bigger vacation out of it.
Here's what I like to do best in Singapore...
1. EAT. EAT. EAT.
Breakfast by the River
|Bak Kut Teh lunch at Songfa|
|Meal at Madam Siagon, Bugis|
You can't go to Singapore and not have the famous Chilli Crab. You have to have it simply because the next time two people are arguing about whether it's worth trying or not, you have something to say! I had it at the popular seafood chain, Jumbo. It's nothing like the name suggests and is actually drenched in a sweet and savoury sauce. I've had better crabs before, but I wouldn't write it off either. Coupled with the soft steamed buns, I managed to polish off a fair bit of the pot below.
|Chilli crab with steamed buns at Jumbo, Clarke Quay|
There is always a party on somewhere so after you've tucked in a good meal, the only thing to do is to hit the bars. The riverside is the most popular destination simply because of the number of choices you have there and Clarke Quay is definitely the most action packed. Go to Highlander and The Pump Room for some great drinks and live music. If you are into hardcore clubbing then head to Attica, and in case you're missing some desi style Bollywood dancing, there's always the Rupee Room.
|Chinatown, a splash of colour against the usual gray skyline|
|Sunday morning bustle|
|Colourful shutters and lanterns from the mid autumn festival|
Sentosa has a bunch of beaches so even if you're not up to the Merlion sighting and seaworld tour, you can just head to one of the beach clubs and hang there all day. Cafe del Mar has a decent stretch with plenty of day beds and cabanas. Tanjong Beach Club also has it's own pool, so when you get tired of the sea, you can sit by the pool and check out the bikini bodies. These places typically have families and sun bathers during the day, but as the sun begins to set the mood changes completely, and you have yourself a rocking bar on the beach with lanterns, fire shows, club music, the works!
Lets start at Orchard Road, there was a time I used to love hanging out here but now it's so overcrowded that once you enter a mall you'll need a GPS device to find your way back out on the same street. Nevertheless, it's still the number one shopping destination if you are a first timer. You'll find all the brands in the world on this single stretch. Mind you, it's an expensive destination, but it's something you want to tick off your list anyway.
Vivo City is the largest mall in Singapore and one of my favourites with a good mix of international and local brands. It's pretty well located at Harbourfront and you can also find an easy connect to Sentosa via a cable car from here.
Another old favourite is Suntec City Mall. After a point, you'll find the same shops everywhere but this one is relatively less crowded. Start at Galleria and Tropics in Tower 5.
For cheaper shopping destinations, there are the more local places like the Bugis Street Market and the Far East Mall near Orchard. I didn't much care for them but it really depends on what you're looking for, if it's just trinkets and souvenirs to carry back home, then it's not a bad option.
Finally, it's Ikea time! For us Indians who are severely deprived, any trip to an Ikea enabled country is incomplete without a visit to this Swedish temple. For me its like going to Disneyland! So if you feel the same way, I suggest before you shop anywhere else, head to Ikea in Tampines which houses the larger of the two outlets in Singapore. While you are at it, just remember that you did not come into the country on a boat and that no amount of sweet talking is going to make a those extra 100 kilos disappear at baggage check, so choose wisely. And remind me to take my own advise next time...that way I won't have to leave the salad spinner behind at a friend's place!
I hope this was enough to get you started. I could go on and on but I don't want to turn this post into the Lonely Planet Singapore edition, so I'll stop here.
Thursday, 1 September 2011
Before I share the recipes with you, a couple of things to note:
- Usually Tibetans do not use any spice powders, but coriander, turmeric and red chili powder as well as ready made meat-masala powders can be added as per choice and taste.
- These are very basic and easy to cook recipes, and have actually been written by a Tibetan cook. Once you start preparing it, you may need to adjust certain proportions as per your liking. Increase or decrease the quantity of water depending on the consistency you want.
- You can also use your choice of meat for these recipes. What I had was Yak meat but it can easily be substituted with either mutton, lamb or even chicken.
- A vegetarian version of the Thukpa can be made by just omitting the mutton from it, the rest of the process remains same.
- Most of these recipes have 'ajinomoto' or mono sodium glutamate listed in the ingredients. There are certain health scares related to the use of this flavouring, although there are certain groups that would disagree. However, in case you want to avoid using it just substitute it with either Oyster sauce or Worcester sauce.
Here are my top tips for you if you ever plan to go to Ladakh:
|Rezang La war memorial|
2. Acclimatise. Esp if you are flying directly into Leh. Do not exert yourself on the first two days at least. Just get familiar with your acco on day one, and gradually start doing less strenuous things like browsing the local market and visiting sites that are on the same altitude. Here are some things that i did...
|Head to the magnetic hill and watch your vehicle 'drive itself'|
|Sit by the spot where the Indus river meets Zanskar river|
Stakna from a distance
Hemis - the largest and richest one
Photang Palace - Dalai Lama's summer retreat
Shey Palace - chortens at the entrance
4. Go with a sense of adventure if you really want to max out your trip to Ladakh. If all you want to do is drive around in the comfort of your car and take photos next to the lake where ‘Three Idiots’ was shot then don’t bother with Ladakh, there are a lot more easier and cheaper destinations for that.
Pangong Tso - people say you can see seven shades of blue in it, and it's true!
|A dried out river en route to Chang La from Pangong Tso|
6. Try and plan a trip around some of the popular festivals. Each monastery has it's own celebration, the most spectacular one being at Hemis in June. Most festivities usually take place in peak season so make your bookings in advance to avoid paying exorbitant rates.
7. If you like shopping then go for the local stuff. Silver and pearls can be bought anywhere in the world now, so what you really want to focus on is the fabulous pashminas, tankhas and local Tibetan artifacts. You’ll also get amazing jams and fruit preserves, which make a cheap and wonderful gift for friends back home.
8. Taste the local cuisine. There are plenty of cafes these days selling things like pizzas and chop sueys, but please don’t waste your time eating that! If you do not have a very adventurous palate, at least have the Thukpa and Momos. Yak meat is overrated but if you are a non-vegetarian, go for it anyway! Also the butter tea is wonderful in the cold weather...think of it as a soup rather than tea, and you may be able to savour it better. Here are a few of my favourites, look out for their recipes in my next post!
I'll sign off with some of my favourite shots from the trip...
|Spending an afternoon at Thicksey|
|My fishing spot at Kiari|
|Bad luck, near Chang La|
|Winged visitors at Pangong Tso|
|Little lamas at lunch, Thicksey|
|Prayer wheels at Hemis|
|Pit stop at Upshi|