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Weekend In Singapore

Much like Dubai, I had never been excited enough to visit Singapore, although I knew I’d like to make trip there someday. Most people that visited it spoke wonderfully about the quality of life, the food, and of course the shopping. However, as a traveller none of those mattered, except for the food of course. Some of the key things that attract me to a destination are food, nature, art and history, and so I’m naturally less attracted to global business centres.

My weekend in Singapore, however, was like a breath of fresh air. While the island state tends to be extremely humid with downpours happening unexpectedly, I was extremely impressed by how clean and efficient their infrastructure remains. Getting around is easy and the obvious choices for transport are busses since cabs are exorbitant. With limited time at hand, I knew there were certain places I definitely had to see and rest would depend on how I survived the ruthless summer weather conditions.

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First stop, Universal Studios. Obviously!

I love amusement parks. LOVE them. Universal Studios located on Sentosa Island is delightful and packed with tourists all year round. One really can’t plan any other activity on the same day as a visit here since you need at least five to six hours to do justice to it, with a lot of the time going into waiting in queue to get to the various rides.

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Shrek’s blushing 😉
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Loooove these vintage beauties.

Evenings are for Speakeasies – 28 Hong Kong Street

To be honest, I’d not have left the bed after eight hours of non-stop walking in the heat. But the thought of exquisite cocktails in places frequented by only a limited, informed set of patrons can make the most lethargic of us get up, dress up and get out!

Hidden in plain sight, like Speakeasies are, 28 Hong Kong Street is cozy and sophisticated. The vibe is relaxed and the service, exquisite.

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A day at the Marina Bay Sands, Jurong Bay Park, Gardens By The Bay and Clarke Quay

There’s no escaping a visit to the Marina Bay Sands, a luxury hotel with the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool that overlooks Singapore’s stunning skyline. A quick breakfast here with a casual stroll around its shopping complex had us ready for a day lazing around Jurong Bay Park, another feather in the state’s cap that houses over 400 species of birds. While this area wasn’t as crowded as some of the other local favourites, its an amazing place to introduce yourself to birds you’d otherwise only see in documentaries. Some even speak to you!

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The final halt before a casual dinner is at the Gardens By The Way where we stayed to see the ‘super trees’ come alive though a sound & light show that takes place every evening. While this area has a lot to offer in terms of exhibits, paucity of time didn’t permit us to explore the space in its entirety.

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These vertical gardens look more like giant martini glasses.

 

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The Marina Bay Sands

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And a fine finish to the weekend was a casual stroll at Clarke Quay that houses several cafes offering delectable world cuisines and a great vibe. Best to hop around trying out signature drinks & cocktails at pubs rather than parking in one spot.

 

 

 

 

Cooking Experiments

Italian Cooking In Bali

On a recent solo trip to Bali, an opportunity to learn authentic Italian fare presented itself to me, which I grabbed without batting an eyelid. Chef Luigi, who owns Zibiru, a high-end Italian restaurant with the most happy and fresh vibe, has lived in Bali for over a decade now. Along with his head chef, Andrea, Luigi set out the perfect and exclusive open kitchen on a sunny morning in Bali’s most stylish and uptown area, Seminyak.

What followed was a session that started with the basics – kneading dough and making pasta! Yep, hand-crafted pasta in various shapes made from scratch with love and a lot of patience. The restaurant itself uses about a thousand kilos worth of flour each day to make fresh pasta along with all the sauces, and the best time to visit is only when you have a reservation.

Scroll down for a quick ingredients check that you too can toss together to make a delicious Italian feast.

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Seminyak offers a variety of upscale fashion and lifestyle stores along with an array of cafes offering global cuisine. While it tends to be less crowded when compared to other Bali favourites like Ubud owning to its steep prices, a two-day visit here should be on every travellers wish-list.

PASTA ALL’UOVO
Flour 00, 300g
Eggs, 3 (medium size)
PASTA BIANCA
Flour 00, 300g
Water, 150ml

PESTO GENOVESE
Basil leaves, 50g
Garlic, 10g
Extravirgin Olive Oil, 40ml
Parmigiano, 20g
Pine nuts, 10g
Salt, 5g
+
Potatoes, 20g
Green beans, 20g
POMODORINO E STRACCIATELLA
To make stracciatella:
Mozzarella fior di latte, 90g
Heavy cream, 20ml
+
Cherry tomatoes, 100g
Basil, 10g
Garlic, 10g
Extravirgin Olive Oil, 20ml
Salt, 5g

GRAZIE! Buon appetito!

Uncategorized

Here & There In The Andamans

 

My trip to the most stunning Andaman & Nicobar Islands started off with the idea of being a quick getaway, although it’s something I later regretted not having planned for a longer stay. Situated in the east of India in the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman & Nicobar islands, popularly referred to as the ‘Andamans’ consist of 572 islands, only 36 of which are inhabited. A visit to this part of India needs more than just a couple of days as a significant time may get spent traveling between destinations. My journey originated in Mumbai, with a flight to Kolkatta that takes about two and a half hours. Kolkatta to Port Blair, the capital of the Andamans is another two-hour flight. Direct flights are available from Kolkatta and Chennai only. An interesting option for those that have the time is to go via the sea. Ships are available from Vishakapatnam, Kolkatta and Chennai; however the frequency of the same is not very good and the voyage lasts four to five days. A word of caution to those exploring this option though, is that the ship is not a cruise liner and comes without any entertainment facilities. Also, the ship schedules are usually announced only a month in advance so this option may not be conducive for impromptu plans.

I reached Port Blair mid-afternoon with the plan to stay one night before moving to Havelock, one of the popular islands in the Andamans, the next morning. Port Blair itself is a small city that sleeps early. While there are a few places that tourists usually visit, I stuck to my routine of exploring the city on foot, to the best that I could. The city is safe and the people, warm. Port Blair to Havelock is another ferry ride that takes about two and a half hours. I traveled by Makruzz, a very clean and comfortable luxury cruise. Havelock is a corridor-like island and is great for scuba diving. There are quite a few comfortable hotels with very basic facilities. If you’re looking for facilities like wifi, forget it, you’ll barely get any network on your cell phones. So, as long as you find a hotel with good breakfast and clean, hygienic rooms; you’re good; since most of the day would be spent outdoors.

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Havelock has clean beaches with pristine, turquoise waters. While most beaches are known by numbers, beaches like Radhanagar and Elephant beach are also quite popular. You won’t find many stalls in these beaches and the only things available are coconut water, bottled water and very few snacks. Diving is perhaps the biggest pull in this part of the world. There are several diving centers that offer courses for beginners as well as advanced ones that grant you a license to dive anywhere globally. Since our visit was a short one and the advanced course takes at least three days, I opted for a single scuba diving session. Traveling within the island is best done on a two-wheeler as the roads are nice and a ride to areas like Radhanagar are stunning, providing great opportunities to explore the flora and fauna. 

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I had my maiden diving experience in Elephant beach, which at one time used to see herds of elephants swim in these waters. There are two ways to get to this beach – one is a boat-ride and the other is partly by road, followed by a half-hour trek. The latter is a more fun, active option. It’s important to plan your visit here as the beach closes at 3:00 pm owing to sea conditions for return journeys. There’s a high likelihood that you’ll have to waddle through knee-deep water towards the end of the trek due to high tide.

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For my diving, I had to undergo ten minutes of training in shallow waters to acclimatise myself to underwater conditions and get familiar with all the equipment. While some of it can look intimidating, especially to someone like me with a little breathlessness, the training itself puts you completely at ease. The instructors are nice and once down, the ocean world is like a parallel universe. A typical diving session lasts about forty-five minutes, however, I had the opportunity to stay down as long as I liked given that there were few other takers that day. My experience in the deep is one of my most cherished ones to date. The corals are stunning, the variety of fish is huge, and the colours you get to see are vibrant and almost unimaginable. One doesn’t need to know how to swim and the feeling one gets once down is often that of floating. There are other water-sports like snorkeling and ocean walk as well. The 2004 tsunami left these areas devastated and a lot of the natural elements have still not recovered, even a decade later.

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The two days at Havelock were also largely spent walking and tucking in some great food. The temperatures were on the higher side and the air, humid. With little time and the rush to have to get back, I opted for a government-operated ferry back to Port Blair. No air-conditioning, no luggage support, untidy and overcrowded. This was still a breathtaking ride back nonetheless, what with me having secured metals steps as our seats along the side decks of the boat, have clear views of the ocean and a cool breeze throughout. Another overnighter at Port Blair with a heavy sea-food dinner was the final leg of this visit. Then the same routine back to Kolkatta and from there, finally back home to the baycity.

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Andaman & Nicobar Islands – Quick tips

  • Good time to visit – Jan to May with clear, sunny skies and great diving conditions
  • Carry cash. There are only a few ATMs and most placed don’t accept card
  • Plan your travel dates to ensure you account for time spent getting to various destinations
  • Carry lots of sunblock and a hat
  • Try to keep at least a week to ten days for a visit here

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