Singapore – A Pearl in the Ocean

Singapore was a little gem that I had a taster of back in 1989 with my Mother and a group of travelling companions who we met back in Egypt – sadly I lost the batch of photos that I took.

To get to Singapore from the UK you can either take a flight from Heathrow airport, Singapore Airlines do direct flights which take around 13 hours, I would opt for this rather than a change over as that just adds to the length of time.

The other way to do it is as a stop over from another destination and we went from Hong Kong to Singapore, then Malaysia Kuala Lumper then on to Thailand, this short piece concentrates on Singapore.

Singapore remains one of my favourite places, it was extremely hot, I remember the air being thick and scented with flowers, the heat hits you as you get off the plane like stepping into a sauna and there is warning nowadays of pollution in the air due to the overcrowding, June to September is best avoided, a better time to go is in May.

One of the first things I also noticed was how clean it was, every street, road, park was free of litter, it looked spotlessly clean and the reason why is that the fines are incredibly high here for dropping litter so nobody does it. Simple.

GMT + 8 Hours’ time difference

Currency – SGD Singapore Dollar

No Visa is required for Singapore from the UK unless you are staying beyond 30 days then you will need to provide one.

Vaccinations for Singapore from the UK include:
Combined Diphtheria, Tetanus & Polio Vaccination – 2 weeks before travel
Hepatitis B Vaccination – 2 months before travel
Tuberculosis (BCG) – 3 months before travel
Typhoid Vaccination – 2 weeks before travel

You cannot go to Singapore without trying the famous drink The Singapore Sling, head to the Raffles Hotel for one 1 Beach Rd, Singapore 189673), if you are going to try one anywhere then it should be Raffles, named after British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore and opened in 1887.

Here is the recipe from Raffles menu:
• 30ml Gin
• 15 ml Cherry Brandy
• 120 ml Pineapple Juice
• 15 ml Lime Juice
• 7.5 ml Cointreau
• 7.5 ml Dom Benedictine
• 10 ml Grenadine
• A Dash of Angostura Bitters
• Garnish with a slice of Pineapple and Cherry

Places to go

One of the best memories I have of my visit to Singapore is the Gardens by the Bay light and sound show, it is called the Garden Rhapsody and on every evening at 7:45pm when it is dark.
The park itself it beautiful and you can sit with a glass of wine and watch the spectacular coloured light over the water with the sounds of classical music, it will take you away to another place entirely.

Barbados

Pirates, caves and haunted tombs

When I was a little girl my mother gave me a book that was full of adventure with black and white illustrations of pirates, parrots, ships and treasure, it caught my imagination by storm, that book was called Treasure Island.

As a child I was given a soft toy monkey, a soft toy parrot and a huge book about Rain forests, all of which further planted an adventurous seed in a young girl’s mind of visiting these distant lands and so when I was a teenager I set off on a trip to experience 11 beautiful Caribbean Islands, this piece gives a little taster of Barbados.

Barbados was my first experience of a Tropical Island and stepping onto the Island was like a dream from that first breath of air spiced with vanilla, ginger, cinnamon and aromatic flowers and the sky was blue, just blue, with no cloud at all and the melodic happy sound of steel drums rang out across the harbour, which was dotted with stalls of locals selling giant conch shells and natural sponges.

The Island of Barbados was formed during some volcanic activity when it emerged at the surface of the sea, it is a coral island with fine white sands and clear blue, warm waters and at just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, this island is a tiny, independent British Commonwealth Nation where nowadays the locals enjoy afternoon tea, cricket and vanilla rum and coconut spiced foods.

Although small, this island is rich in interesting history, most notably that of pirates, the two famous ones being Sam Lord and Stede Bonnet.

Sam Lord was one of the more creative Pirates in gaining treasure, avoiding the discomfort and risk of taking to the seas, instead he took to hanging lanterns on coconut trees, the lights of these lanterns would attract ships that were out at sea passing by, whose crew would mistake the lanterns for lights of the capital and consequently get ship wrecked on the coral reefs, Sam and his men would then attack the ships and take all of the possessions that were on board.

They did very well out of it too, Sam did not live poorly, instead he lived in a lavish castle by the beach, the Georgian mansion was built by Sam Lord himself in 1820 and years later it became a landmark tourist hotel, however the castle was destroyed in a fire in 2010 and now lays in ruins, I think that somehow it is more befitting and mysterious as a ruin, being a hotel stole away the intrigue of the story, as a ruin it has been restored.

The castle ruins

The other well-known Pirate of Barbados was called Stede Bonnet and nicknamed ‘the gentleman’ he also had an unusual way about him, he had been a former well respected plantation owner and British Army Major but then one day he turned a different corner in his life and ‘bought’ a Pirate ship in 1717 naming it ‘Revenge.’

Copenhagen

Copenhagen

A Harbour of many colours

I went to Copenhagen with two of my best and closest friends, my cousin Cathie and Tracey for a short break of 4 days, perfect to see some of the main sites and get a feel of the city.

Flights from the UK are direct and approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, we flew with British Airways and it was a quick, easy and comfortable flight.

This is a place that I have wanted to visit since I was a child as, like many other people, I was captivated by the magic of Hans Christian Anderson’s stories, The Little Mermaid being one of my favourites, but first lets talk about the city itself.

Getting about

Cycling is huge in Copenhagen, there are more bikes than cars, which makes makes for a healthy environment and the roads are so wide and straight, no potholes, a joy to cycle or drive on, bicycles are so symbolic to Copenhagen that in 1997 when American President Bill Clinton visited the city, he was presented with a City Bike as a gift.

You will see the City Bikes parked up in rows all around the city and if you want to hire one, then get on a bike, go to the touch screen tablet to pay for it via credit card then you can unlock the bike with a code, next select the built in GPS map to tell it where you want to go, yes it will even guide you, these bikes are very high tech. The tablet will even guide you to special tourist attractions in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg, once you are finished with the bike you can return it to any bike station or wherever you see them parked up.

To register online it is quicker and will save you some time, although it really is user friendly to just do it by the tablet, here are the details though if you wish to book ahead:

Web Email Phone
www.bycyklen.dk info@bycyklen.dk +45 8988 3910

Rent a bike

Bicycles everywhere!

Public transport in Copenhagen is superb, everything was on time to the second, the train and bus stations were spotlessly clean and there were no barriers or ticket attendants to check the tickets we bought, when I asked a local why no one was checking our tickets he shrugged and simply said “This Copenhagen, it is done on trust”

Although on occasion a ticket may be checked and the fine is very high if you have not paid, this system seems to work extremely well saving time and stress by cutting out those queues at the barriers, it cuts out the chaos.

Copenhagen Central

Explorers Guide 2. How to travel safely in Ice and Snow

Nowadays remote destinations that just a few years ago were unobtainable are far more accessible to travellers, trips and expeditions in cold areas are fast becoming popular for sports, photography and adventure travel, by far the coldest place I have ever been to is Antarctica and I would have struggled had I not been well prepared for the trip with the correct clothing and kit, so it is essential to plan it out.

North wall of the Eiger

Below is a kit list and some travel tips which I hope will be a useful guide for you.

Kit List

If you are going to a very remote area and stepping on land, such as Antarctica, aim for new kit, this is so that you do not contaminate the area, before you are permitted to step on Antarctic land you will be instructed to have hoovered zips and pockets to ensure no seeds are stuck there and any boots are soaked in a special detergent to kill any potential germs off, then you step on land. Therefore, if you go for new clothes, you will not have to go through this procedure out there.

*In cold places you will wear the same layers daily, go for Merino for your inner layers every time, it will stay fresh without the need for washing the garments and it will keep you insulated.
Merino wool cleverly regulates your body temperature, so that you neither get too hot or too cold, it also wicks away any sweat from your body and has antibacterial properties allowing you to wear it long term, which is handy if camping or doing longer treks or climbs.

Wear your clothing loose and in layers.

Footwear
Make sure that you have a decent, waterproof pair of gortex hiking boots that are comfortable and slip proof, you can get boots which have a thermal tread in to keep feet warm and some boots will protect feet in up to – 30 in extreme cold, handy if you will be standing still for long periods.

Rubber Wellington Boots
Good quality wellington boots are useful to have for short walks in icy conditions as they are rubber with a good tread, if you prefer walking boots, ensure that you have some protective spray to keep them sealed and waterproof throughout the trip.

Gaiters
These are waterproof leggings which are great for waterproof protection if you are wearing hiking boots in areas of deep snow or slush and strap on over your boots and can be pulled up to about calf height, light and easy to pack.

Merino wool Layers
You need to wear layers in cold weather as they insulate your body trapping heat, layering for a cold trip consists of base layers, mid layers and an outer waterproof shell.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

Incense galore

Hong Kong is an intoxicating, exotic, exciting, fun place with plenty to see and do, it is really easy to get around this city of sky risers which never seems to sleep.

This was a holiday from a few years back in 1990 with my Mum and our friends who we met in Egypt – Barbara, Jo, Terry and Peter, my memories of this trip are still there after many years as this was one of the original trips that really got me into travelling.

I had a very basic camera back then and these photos are not great, so please forgive the blurs.

We got to experience the crazy airstrip runway landing of Kai Tak Hong Kong International Airport which stretches out across Victoria Harbour waters, as you land you are so close to the buildings that you can see through peoples windows. It was considered to be the 6th most dangerous landing strip in the World, 1998 was the last year that this runway could be experienced, I think all of us on that plane held our breath as it landed.

Hong Kong makes an instant impact on the traveller, the city is striking with its tall buildings all slotted in and rising up like huge jagged teeth with the glistening waters of the bay as a backdrop.

Getting around is fun as you have a choice of bicycles, trams, taxis, star ferry’s and junk sail boats, I enjoyed walking around the city as the maps were easy to read and the people were all very friendly, it felt like a safe place and easy to navigate around.

The trams are really easy to hop on and off, I loved these, they came in all colours white, pink, red, green, blue, yellow and glided about the city effortlessly.

Tram

The Star Ferry is a brilliant way to get across the bay and is really cheap to ride on, just a couple of dollars, or it was when we went, I have been told it is still reasonable and they leave every few minutes so you do not need to worry about getting tickets in advance.

Junk Sail boats can be seen crossing the bay, these are like looking into the past, they are romantic looking vessels with their huge impressive sails, they sail gracefully like ghost ships and remain an iconic image of Hong Kong.

We were so close to the equator that in the midday sun you could barely see your own shadow, it was eerie seeing it so faint in comparison with the dark strong shadows we get in the UK.