TERRIFYING TIGER BALM & OTHER ADVENTURES // Singapore

Finally, the second day of holidays. I promise from now on I will tone down the photos (spoiler: I probably won’t).

Despite our best intentions we admittedly did not have an extensive plan regarding what sights to see in Singapore. Not to mention, we clocked up over 24kms of walking on our first day and saw far more than we anticipated! As such, a morning research session over a hipster coffee (at the criminal price of $5 AUD plus taxes) was required. Somehow, I stumbled upon Haw Par Villa.

After a stressful morning trying to hunt down a sim card, we eventually jumped on the metro and alighted at Haw Par Villa station. The park was located directly out the front of the metro.

What is Haw Par Villa? Loosely, it is described as a ‘theme park’, though it is more educational, with a focus on Chinese mythology. The park was built in 1937 by the wealthy family who created Tiger Balm ointment – see below for some subtle/terrifying product placement.

The park was popular in its early years for school trips, but has since been taken over by the Singapore Tourism Board. It is free to enter to park and explore.

The most well known sight to see at the park is the Ten Courts of Hell – you can see the entrance above, and the interior below. Essentially, it graphically depicts the punishment an individual will receive in the after life for crimes and sins committed. And I mean graphically – if you look closely at the below photo you can probably make out some people drowning in vats of oil and being impaled on trees. Seriously, leave the kids outside!

The remainder of the park was an odd mix of colourful temples and large displays depicting stories from Chinese folklore. There was even a random section which featured Australian animals.

After fulfilling all our wildest nightmares at Haw Par Villa we jumped back on the metro and headed to the Botanic Gardens stations. Our morning research session had revealed a hawker market was nearby, so we made a quick stop for some delicious satay lunch.

The Botanic Gardens were beautiful and expansive. It was getting fairly hot by this point, so we were more than happy to find a place in the shade and rest.

Chris: “You are probably getting so sunburnt, we should just stay in the shade.”

Me: “I must see everything.”

Once we made it through the park we somehow navigated Singapore Uber and went back to our hotel for a much needed rest under the air conditioner. We reemerged in the evening the check out the famed Orchard Road. Neither of us are big shoppers, so we quickly left and wandered back towards Chinatown for dinner.

After having experienced a couple of hawker halls by now, we were feeling like seasoned professionals and game enough to try the hawker hall at the Chinatown Complex. As expected, it was absolutely delicious and a million times cheaper than any meal you would have in a restaurant.

I was eager to see the city at night, so we walked back towards Marina Bay.

You can get some great views of the city from the top of the Marina Bay Shoppes. We spent awhile up here just taking it in and escaping from the hordes of tourists heading towards the light show at the Gardens.

All in all, it was another wonderful day exploring Singapore. I think we clocked up another 20+km of walking, so we were sleeping well.

But that is all for Singapore for now – as it was onwards to Indonesia!

– Reanna

DO AS THE LOCALS DO // Singapore

I am fairly confident I took over 200 photos on our first day in Singapore. A combination of the excitement of a new city and a new camera had me snap happy, and Chris rolling his eyes as I stopped every fifty metres to take another photo. One day he will appreciate all these memories!

After ticking off all the tourist must-sees around Marina Bay, we set off towards Chinatown, which was much closer than we thought. Singapore turned out to be far more walk-able than anticipated – we only used the metro a couple of times!

Thanks to a random tourist map from the airport and some handy street signs, we toured a few temples and religious sites. The above and below temples were from Thian Hock Keng temples.

Chinatown also included a number of Hindu temples and Islamic mosques. We were able to enter to above Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman Temple, on the condition I borrow one of the communal saris. Given the 30 degree beating sun, I was quickly sweating under the cheap fabric!

The largest and most popular temples was the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. We innocently wandered into the main room, but I was quickly yelled at to leave for wearing a dress. The halls leading to the upstairs museum were inundated with other tourists, so we made the decision to leave and instead admire the architecture from outside.

Chinatown itself was a bustling maze of market streets, food vendors, and haggling stalls. We weren’t in any mood for shopping, but stumbled across the Chinatown Hawker Centre. For the uninitiated, the sight of a local Singaporean food hall was quite overwhelming! We took note of the location, but decided to try another nearby food street. Once again, we were victims of an overpriced meal (prices often exclusive of tax and service – look for the ++ on the menu!).

By this time we had already clocked up over 10kms of walking, so we wandered back to our hotel for a swim in the pool and a rest in our air conditioned room.

For the later half of the afternoon, we decided to mix things up with some more walking. We wandered up towards Fort Canning Park, but not before I found another temple to admire – the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.

Another cute animal? I am so predictable.

Fort Canning is a small park near the CBD of Singapore that has a long history of palaces, settlements, and (strangely enough) forts. These days it is full of lush greenery and some peaceful paths that wind around a reservoir.

You can just imagine how much Chris is rolling his eyes behind the camera as I posed for this photo.

Eventually it was time for more food, so after another pit stop at the hotel for a quick research session, we decided to take the step of trying hawker food. On our walk we stumbled across the below graveyard, strangely located on the side of a busy road!

A quick Google session had revealed that Tiong Bahru Market was a clean and welcoming hawker hall, which we took to mean friendlier to those of us who have no idea what they are doing.

Hawker halls are essentially a mix between food courts and market stalls. Except the food is excellent, local and dirt cheap. After draining half our savings on our previous two meals, we were more than happy to spend a grand total of $10 AUD on three savoury dishes and a dessert!

Don’t ask what our dessert was, as we have no idea. It was called ‘Special Dream’ our something equally as terrifying, and was covered in a suspicious amount of unknown fruit jellies.

That night we sat along Clarke Quay and paid a ridiculous amount of money for a ‘craft’ beer. Despite only being in the country for 24 hours, we had our usual conversation of ‘would we live here’ – a common topic when moving overseas is on the mind.

Answer: I am skeptical of the hot and humid weather, but we probably would!

– Reanna.

ANNUAL LEAVE // Singapore

Last weekend Chris and I were sweating in the South-East Asian sun, and this weekend it is back to the questionably cold weather of Melbourne. Our ten day holiday flew by, but it was also the perfect amount of time to get in both a thorough exploration of Singapore and spend some time relaxing in Indonesia.

As the title of this post alludes to, this holiday is my first overseas holiday using my annual leave since I began working full time in December last year! I haven’t accrued a great deal of leave yet, but with the help of weekends and a public holiday, we managed to stretch out our trip for ten days, with one day recovery.

We admittedly chose Singapore due to cheap flights that worked well with our timing! Though typically considered a stop over destination, we found it a great place to explore for a few days.

Our flight arrived in Singapore in the late afternoon, so our first night involved a quick walk, accidentally spending $100 on an average dinner, and sleeping ten hours. We were up bright and early the next day for what was probably our most action packed day. Our hotel was in Robertson Quay, so we followed the river to Marina Bay.

In full tourist style, our first major stop was the Merlion. Despite my (joking) requests, Chris did not want to pose for a photo where it looked like the lion was squirting water into his mouth.

The CBD was a million times more modern than the area we were staying in, and was quite desolate as we had arrived in time for the weekend. However, we stumbled straight into a giant dragon boating festival along the bay, which provided some entertainment.

After gawking at Marina Bay Sands (and cooling off in the shops – Singapore was hot!) we wandering towards Gardens by the Bay. Chris noticed a group of people looking at something by the water, so we curiously followed suit. Turns out it was the most glorious group of otters! I honestly was not expecting to see any wildlife in Singapore, so I was more than happy to watch these cuties snuggle up to each other in the sun.

By this time it was still only around 9am in the morning (we set off early!) so the Gardens were largely empty. We skipped the greenhouses and wandered towards the epic Supertree Grove.

I was happy to slowly walk through the park to find the best vantage point for a sweeping view of the Supertrees and Marina Bay Sands. Admittedly I still have zero idea what I am doing with my new DSLR camera, but thankfully ‘auto’ mode still takes a pretty good shot.

After a good hour or so of garden explorations I was positive I was getting sunburnt, despite being covered in sunscreen, so we began a desperate search for iced coffee.

In order to over photo overload, I think I am going to divide this day in to two posts! Admittedly the rest of the trip isn’t as photo heavy (I think), plus I am getting more lenient in how many photos I don’t delete these days. I was far more ruthless in Europe!

– Reanna

 

RESTLESS // Organ Pipes National Park, Australia

Tonight is one of those wonderful those wonderful nights when you knock off work knowing you have an exciting few days ahead – and even more so tonight as I am heading on my first holiday since starting full time work! Although we are only venturing overseas for ten days, the novelty of getting paid whilst I relax on a beach somewhere has not worn off on me yet.

Working full time these past six months has also motivated me to indulge in far more ‘treat yourself moments’, and last week such a mindset blew out into my spontaneous purchasing of a DSLR camera. Sure, I had been dreaming about the prospect of owning a half decent camera one day. But for some reason two weeks before going on holidays seemed like the perfect time to blow my savings.

However, I have approximately zero idea how to operate such a camera, so in an effort to learn I announced a spontaneous trip on the weekend to Organ Pipes National Park on the weekend. We had been here a few years ago, and I remembered it as being a beautiful piece of nature a stones throw from the city – it was about a half an hour drive from our place in South Melbourne.

The park itself is a small valley nestled beside a busy freeway and underneath one of the flight paths for Melbourne airport. However silence ensues once you descend into the small valley of the park. A small 1km track runs around the valley floor, taking you past three main features, all of which arose from volcanic activity in the area many a millennia ago.

The main feature, surprising enough, are the ‘organ pipes’. The pipes are hexagonal basalt columns, that have formed over thousands and thousands of year as the creek at the base has slowly worn away at the basalt lava.

The ‘Rosette Rock’ is a spectacular formation, with a similar history. I won’t attempt to pretend I know anything about volcanic rock formations here, because I really have no clue!

The final stop was the ‘Tessellated Pavement’, again of similar origins. Chris is obviously in deep thought about the construction of volcanic baltic rock formations. Or merely enjoying the serenity…

Climbing out of the valley after our small circuit of the park had me feeling like I had merely walked around the block. But on the other hand, the simple act of being outside and stretching my legs in the outdoors provided as much to me as going for a 10km hike. Sometimes, being outside is all you need.

And with that, I am signing off the technological world (well, not really, I love instagram too much) for our ten day holiday!

– Reanna

THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES // Bendigo, Australia

Groovin’ the Moo – a day of excellent music, food vans, questionable fashion sense, and all around good times. But posting these measly few photos from a couple of weekends ago has spontaneously gotten me thinking of far deeper themes then a carefree day at a music festival!

The fact that Chris and I were able to have a weekend away (albeit, camping in a caravan park with numerous other festival goers) to attend such a festival is one of those memories that makes me so appreciative of where my life is at right now. Chris and I both work full time in respectable jobs that we managed to get straight out of university. We live in an adorable cottage in a wonderful city. In three weeks we are going off overseas for a short holiday, and we have so many wonderful memories from other trips. Our families are supportive. I feel really quite content.

I am fully aware of our privilege within society, and I am truly appreciative and grateful for all the support and opportunities I have had. I have been working on expressing my gratitude more, and writing it down seems to make it more solid – even if it is on the internet on my little blog!

So apologies for the random *feelings* contrasted with photos of a music festival.

But exciting news – Chris and I are off to Singapore and Indonesia in two weeks for a short trip AND I just bought myself a new camera. Expect an overload of photos after the trip. Stay tuned!

– Reanna

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE // Melbourne, Australia

Despite living in Melbourne for well over four years now, I still find myself playing tourist on a regular basis. Sure, Chris might roll his eyes when I stop to take photos of something novel in the city, but it is refreshing to see the place where you live through a new light.

Last weekend we ventured down to the strange, yet beautiful, Docklands precinct, to indulge in a dinner cruise. We received a voucher for Christmas, and we were 99% sure we were the only Melbourne locals on the boat.

The dinner and drinks on the cruise were as expected, but the highlight was definitely seeing Melbourne from the water – something we had never done before. The boat left Docklands and went under both the Bolte and West Gate Bridge, before emerging into Port Phillip Bay and heading towards St Kilda.

The views from the Bay were absolutely stunning, even the clouds that were hanging overhead didn’t impact the beauty of it.

Not featured – the dance floor directly behind our table.

Turns out my phone takes a pretty average night time photo – you will just have to imagine how wonderful the city looked at night.

One of the unexpectedly interesting parts of the cruise was going through the sea ports. There were a few container ships pulled up, and they are just as big in person as you would imagine.

Melbourne, I love you.

– Reanna

NOSTALGIA 101 // Cape Otway, Australia

About five years ago, around Valentines Day, Chris and I packed up Chris’ 20-odd year old Saab convertible and drove from Leongatha to the Great Ocean Road. I think this was our first proper holiday together (other than the odd night in Melbourne or a family holiday), and it was full of so many fun and spontaneous memories. Every night we picked a random town and decided to stay there, hoping a cabin or room would be available. We put the roof down on the car every time we drove, even though we were stopping every 10 minutes to look at a beach or explore a walking track.

They seem like such distant memories now, and we always laugh when we think back to how young, innocent and naive we were as 18 year olds.

Driving along the Great Ocean Road from Torquay to Cape Otway the other weekend had us reminiscing about the trip once again. It really is such a spectacular part of Australia, let alone the world.

I was lucky enough to have Chris driving during this section of the road, and subsequently spent most of my time trying to capture photos of the landscape. Not easy when you are a terrible photographer in a car on a winding road!

Inspired by our original trip all those years ago, we booked into Bimbi Park, a caravan park on Cape Otway that we stayed at on a whim last time. The park seemed to have updated slightly in the previous five years (a mini golf course?), but it definitely still looked exactly as we remembered it.

One of our absolute favourite memories from our first trip down the Great Ocean Road was staying at this caravan park on Cape Otway and befriending the resident dog, Jak. Having nothing to do (Cape Otway is about half an hour from any towns), we innocently began to follow the dog along a track leading out of the caravan park. We had no idea where we were going, but Jak the dog continued to lead us along to track for half an hour or so, and eventually we arrived at the most amazing beach, which was empty as far as we could see. From memory, we played fetch with Jak for awhile and eventually followed the dog back to the caravan park. It was such a random, beautiful adventure and we always bring it up when talk about the trip.

Since we had returned to the same caravan park, Chris and I were determined to find the same beach. Sadly, there was no sign of Jak, but we eventually managed to find the track and found that it now included some modern looking signs (turns out the beach has a name – Station Beach).

The beach was just as amazing and empty as we remembered. This time we came prepared with a picnic dinner, and spent a few hours relishing having this stunning corner of the world to ourselves.

The next morning was far less eventful, featuring a short hike to the Cape Otway light station. Again, we found ourselves alone.

The walk also included a somewhat creepy detour to a small graveyard, mostly featuring the final resting place of the young children of former lighthouse keepers.

As amazing as it would have been to keep driving down the Great Ocean Road, we packed up our car again and hit the road back the Melbourne.

I cannot recommend the Great Ocean Road enough as a roadtrip to have from Melbourne. There is so much to see and do, and is the perfect weekend getaway. I’m sure there will be further trips there on our horizon!

– Reanna