Memoirs: Traveling

“PLEASE be aware that Singapore is a country of strict legislation. You are expected to know the laws before arriving. The penalty of trafficking drugs is punishable by death,” the pilot announced when we began our descent after an 18-hour direct flight from New York.

Whilst I was still reeling from the severity of his words, the passenger next to me added to my chagrin, “Littering is a fine of up to S$1,000 (US$650) and no smoking in public spaces! The police wear plain clothes to catch offenders unaware. Chewing gum used to be banned too, right up till Jan 2005!”

Thank God, I had quit smoking two years ago. And what was that about chewing gum, I wondered. I felt stupid not reading up on the laws before. It was not that I did not do sufficient research on the things to do, what to see and eat. I had it all planned. After wowing all my friends and colleagues telling them how I would storm Southeast Asia all on my own, it seemed foolish now that I had overlooked the basics that could get me into serious trouble. Hopefully, nothing would go wrong.

My holiday plans were to spend an initial three days exploring Singapore and finish with a four-day-three-night-cruise on the Superstar Virgo to Phuket (Thailand) and Langkawi (Malaysia).

The biggest draw point was the advantageous exchange rate of our strong US currency in all of South East Asia. Everything would become cheaper and cheaper as I traveled, from Singapore, to Malaysia, and finally, Thailand.

Singapore was often mistaken to be part of China, or Vietnam, but really, it is an independent nation no more the size of Austin, Texas (or 682 square km), and had a population of about 4 million. Commercial skyscrapers and residential homes expounding on vertical expansion were the norm. The average household lived in 30-storey flats housing approximately 180 apartments, or pigeon holes’, as the locals coined it.

Geographically situated at the tip of Malaysia just above the equator, and surrounded by Indonesia, the climate was warm, humid, with no natural disasters, not even the tsunamis, thanks to the protective circumvention of the two neighboring countries.

I stayed in a hostel in Singapore’s Chinatown, where the rates went from S$55 (USD 35) per night for a standard double room. The location was ideal being near the Outram Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train station, where the two (and only two!), cross-directional, train lines by-passed as they ran across the entire island.

Turned out

Singapore Food and Local Delights

No journey in Singapore is complete without tasting some of the best local delights and foods that this country has to offer. Instead of just writing a normal article about Singapore food and local delights and rattle of some of the local restaurants and their local foods, I shall give you our signature local foods and some of the favourites – some of the best our local culinary skills has to offer. The list starts and ends with the familiar for anyone that is local and will bring great memories of good tasting food.

Hainanese Chicken Rice Chicken rice is one of the popular dishes in Singapore. The rich flavour of the rice comes from the grains that have been pre-fried in chicken fat and then cooked in chicken broth. The chicken is steamed until it is just cooked with a little pink remaining on the flesh near the bones. It is usually accompanied with a chilli sauce made up of chillies, chicken broth, garlic and ginger. Diners can enjoy an accompanying soup or consommé with stock of chicken and some herbs added lightly to its mixture.

Satay Satay is small bite-sized pieces of chicken, mutton and beef steeped in a sweet piquant preserve. These chunky pieces of mouth watering meat are skewered on giant toothpicks and fanned over a large flame. Side dishes include cut cucumbers, rice dumplings, onions and a peanut sauce.

Roti Prata This dish is like a fried croissant or pancake, originating from South India. The pancake is fried on a hot, oily griddle until it’s cooked, and marked with brown spots, then served with curry gravy. Prata is a popular choice for breakfast and supper.

Chilli Crab Singapore’s unofficial “national dish” and a favourite at seafood restaurants! It has a sauce that is drawn from the strengths of great chillies, the freshest eggs, tomatoes and other hers and ingredients. It can be eaten on its own, scooping great dollops of chilli or soaked in bread for a spicy serving.

Laksa Laksa is an exciting concoction of noodles made from flour in a curry like gravy made of spices, herbs, dried shrimp, coconut milk and chilli. It is served with slices of fishcakes, prawns and cockles. What began as a spicy peanut based gravy evolved into today’s version, combination of Chinese, Malay and mostly Peranakan influences.

Nasi Lemak is a breakfast concoction of the Peranakan and some say are the threshold of the Malays in Singapore. Coconut rice served with anchovies, fresh fried frish, special sambal and egg plus cucumber combo, it is a signature kampong dish that you cannot miss.

So there is a list of some of the best and greatest food that we can offer. Although this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are so many more you can eat and choose from. Just walk along the local streets and pop into anyone of the coffee shops you find – you will be sure to find a local savoury hit!

Budget Hotels Singapore are Nature Friendly

 

The name Singapore simply reminds you the place which offers amazing mixture of age old civilization, beliefs and the perfect amalgamation of modern and contemporary styles. The most important aspect lies in its balancing act between nature and progressive achievement. Here, one can experience wealthy and diverse style of architecture in terms of a lot of museums, houses, shopping complexes, and huge office buildings. These are finely depicting the sincerity of the country towards the implementation of the best with the flavor of the orient. Budget hotels Singapore makes the tour easier even for the first time visitors. Hence the huge tourist inflow can be experience here all around the year.

 

The most enjoyable experience in Singapore is to explore three ethnic groups at one destination; these are the Chinese, the Malays and the Indians. Truly the descendants of Asian migrants have made it a melting point of cultures. This is the place where age old traditions still hold sway. For instance, just visit the china town which retains a rock solid blend of Chinese-ness in form of shops of Chinese calligraphy, antiques and traditional costumes. Similarly, Kampong Glam is the main Malay region. Singapore’s Malays converges here because of their Sultan’s Mosque which is the largest mosque of Singapore. This mosque has a very fascinating history. Little India is another distinctly known destination for the visitors. Serangoon Road is main centre of little India which is located near Tekka centre. One can easily taste here the overwhelming aroma of myriad spices and jasmine garlands. Baffling assortment de-husked coconuts, limes, clay receptacles and the like, all the things are available here which can be used for worship at the temples nearby. These areas are also known as the prominent centre of budget hotels in Singapore.

 

The country Singapore has been prominently managed in disciplined way. Singapore streets plan are the best in the world. You can not get narrow or congested streets here. The whole country has very cool and temperate weather beside the fact that it is almost exactly on the equator. This mystery lies in the method of planting and sculpting of trees in the country. Perhaps, this magnificence is so grand that it can not be covered in the words.

 

Singapore budget hotels are normally those good quality hotels which are available with discounted packages or deals. These hotels are nature friendly and offer perfect relaxation and nutrition especially for your inner senses. If, you are a business travelers then you will simply love these hotels as these offer the best business facilities for the business travelers. Special discount may be offered to students and senior citizens.

One on one Ccie Security 18 day Combo Training C se 18d

This package is designed for CCIE Security Training exam candidates who would like to strengthen their weakness areas by studying on customized scenarios as well as obtain in-depth understand on the full-scale labs which highly reflect the actual lab exam. http://www.cathayschool.com

You will study with your instructor one-on-one during the CCIE Training. Our highly skilled instructors will step-by-step show you the best way to configure each scenario and full-scale lab.

Before you finish this course, you will be provided a full set of our full-scale lab materials which highly reflect the most current lab exam. The materials contain CCIE Security Lab Bootcamp Training questions, requirements and solutions, which can be comfortably studied and practiced during the gap between your course finishing date and the lab exam date.

Location: Guangzhou, China
Price: $10,800.00 USD

What is included:

18 days’ One-on-one classroom study
Day 1 ~ Day 4:
Complete several advanced, technology-focused scenarios accompanied by your personal CCIE instructors. These scenarios cover most lab exam content and are especially focused on your weakness areas. In addition, a detailed explanation will be provided about the technologies covered, interpretations of the questions, and common mistakes that students have made with relation to each topic.
Day 5 ~ Day 11:
Complete all the full-scale labs step-by-step together with your instructor. You will be given the best solution and detailed explanation on each lab question. Also, your instructor will show you how to avoid the easily made mistakes based on the testing experience of hundreds of our previous students.
Day 12 ~ Day 18:
You are required to go over and complete all the labs once again by yourself. Your instructor will sit next to you and provide assistance only when necessary. At the end of each date, he/she will grade and correct your configurations and summarize your daily works and give you helpful suggestions on your future exam

1 month after class support (could be upgraded to 3 months)
On the last date of your course, you will be provided with the study materials which contain the most updated full-scale labs which have not been practiced during the course. These materials reflect the latest update of the real lab exam and come with complete solutions.
Along with this, we will update your study materials free of charge and provide email support (48 hours response guarantee) for 1 month. Not enough? You can buy our Material update and technical support extension service (E-MUTS) at an affordable price. For detailed information, please check with your training advisor.

FREE 100 hours remote rack access
After the course, you will be provided FREE 100 hours remote access time so that you can practice the labs by connecting to our rack. Simply drop an email to rackschedule@cathayschool.com to reserve your rack and we will make necessary arrangement.

Location
This boot camp is held in Guangzhou, which is the biggest and the most developed city in South China. Learn more about Guangzhou

Traval & Transportation
It is very convenient to travel to Guangzhou.
You can either fly into Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN) or Hong Kong International Airport (HKG). There are direct flights from the following major cities to Guangzhou every week: Europe: Frankfurt, Helsinki, Paris North America: Los Angles, San Francisco, New York, Toronto Australia: Sydney, Melbourne Asia: Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai, Singapore
Also, there are over a hundred international flights to Hong Kong. You can fly to Hong Kong first and then transfer to Guangzhou by train (duration: 2 hours and the expense is covered by CathaySchool).

Our friendly staff will meet you at the airport or train station when you arrive and then transfer you to the hotel. This is free of charge.

Hotels
Students will be accommodated at the 4-star luxury hotel (President Hotel or same grade hotel), which is across the road from our training center. Each hotel room has king-size bed, air condition, internet access (free of charge), tub, flat screen television, 24-hour room service and more. You also have the option to upgrade to a 5-star hotel (Royal Mediterranean Hotel, The Westin Guangzhou or Shangri-La Hotel GuangZhou). All these hotels are within 10 minutes driving distance from the school.

Meals
All meals are included.
Breakfast is provided in the hotel restaurant. For lunch and dinner, you will receive cash to be used at the wide variety of sit-down restaurants, cafes and buffets. MacDonald, KFC, PizzaHut and StarBuck are all within walking distance.
Drinks and snacks through out the date are also included.

After class activites
You will never feel boring in Guangzhou. After class, we can arrange the following activities at a reasonable cost:
Culture tour, Shopping tour, Zoo, Fun park, Hot springs, Disco bar, Show bar, B.Y.O party, Chinese traditional massage, etc.
You can choose all these options when you are signing up with us.

Advanced Upgrade Package

Training PLUS:
6 hours (per day) one-on- one guaranteed
Two month after training support (Materials update + Email support by instructor)
Accommodation & Meals PLUS:
Hotel accommodation (5 stars premium room)
Lunch and Dinner standard – 150 RMB / per day
Free unlimited laundry service
Unlimited access to the gym in the hotel
Add-on Service (complimentary) PLUS:
Chinese traditional massage/spa at one of the biggest spa in Asia (1 time)
A big entertainment show, including Chinese dancing, magic show and acrobatics (3 hours)
Car hire with driver (4 hours)
Price: $3,250.00 USD

Deluxe Upgrade Package

Training PLUS:
8 hours (per day) one-on- one guaranteed
Three month after training support (Materials update + Email support by instructor)
Accommodation & Meals PLUS:
Hotel accommodation (5 stars executive room)
Lunch and Dinner standard – 200 RMB / per day
Free unlimited laundry service
Unlimited access to the gym in the hotel
Add-on Service (complimentary) PLUS:
Airport pick up and drop off by Mercedes-Benz
Chinese traditional massage/spa at one of the biggest spa in Asia (2 times)
A big entertainment show, including Chinese dancing, magic show and acrobatics (3 hours)
Car hire with driver (8 hours)
Price: $6,500.00 USD

I. Bridging and Switching
A. Frame relay
B. Catalyst configuration: VLANs, VTP, STP, MSTP, RSTP, Trunk, Etherchannel, management, features, advanced configuration, Layer 3
C. Tunneling
II. IP IGP Routing
A. OSPF
B. EIGRP
C. RIPv2
D. IPv6: Addressing, RIPng, OSPFv3
E. GRE
F. ODR
G. Filtering, redistribution, summarization and other advanced features
III. BGP
A. IBGP
B. EBGP
C. Filtering, redistribution, summarization, synchronization, attributes and other advanced features
IV. IP and IOS Features
A. IP addressing
B. DHCP
C. HSRP
D. IP services
E. IOS user interfaces
F. System management
G. NAT
H. NTP
I. SNMP
J. RMON
K. Accounting
L. SLA
V. IP Multicast
A. PIM-SM, bi-directional PIM
B. MSDP
C. Multicast tools, source specific multicast
D. DVMRP
E. Anycast
VI. QoS
A. Quality of service solutions
B. Classification
C. Congestion management, congestion avoidance
D. Policing and shaping
E. Signaling
F. Link efficiency mechanisms
G. Modular QoS command line
VII. Security
A. AAA
B. Security server protocols
C. Traffic filtering and firewalls
D. Access lists
E. Routing protocols security, catalyst security
F. CBAC
G. Other security features
R&S Equipment List: and IOS Version:
The lab exam tests any feature that can be configured on the equipment and the IOS versions indicated below. You may see more recent IOS versions installed in the lab, but you will not be tested on the new features of a release unless indicated below.
3725 series routers – IOS 12.4 mainline – Advanced Enterprise Services
3825 series routers – IOS 12.4 mainline – Advanced Enterprise Services
Catalyst 3550 series switches running IOS version 12.2 – IP Services
Catalyst 3560 Series switches running IOS version 12.2 – Advanced IP Services

Our one-on-one CCIE boot camp produces the No.1 one time passing rate in the industry. In the last 3 years, 90% of our international students pass the lab exam at the first attempt. At CathaySchool, We help you secure your investment by providing each student the unbeatable and practical triple insurance:

First guarantee – What happen if I am not satisfied with your training?
Each student has 2 days to evaluate our course. If you find our boot camp is not the one which will definitely help you pass your lab exam at first attempt, simply notify your instructor before the 3rd day to withdraw from the course and get your money back.
* For more information, please refer to our course cancellation policy.
Second guarantee – What happen if I failed the lab exam at the 1st attempt?
You will be provided an extended 2 months material update (including the lab questions, requirements and solutions), 2 months technical email support (guarantee 48 hours response) and 150 hours rack access time.
Third guarantee – What happened if I fail the lab exam again?
Come back and re-attend our one-on-one course again. This is free of charge, including 4-star hotel accommodation and meals (this definitely beats all our competitors again!!!). At CathaySchool, we believe that there is no reason to have students pay for anything when they need to re-take the course.

We want you to pass… so we are committed more than others
Comparing training vendors? Nobody is committed to your success like CathaySchool. Ask the other companies…
Do they have a similar pass guarantee program?
How long are you covered by it?
When you retake their class, do you get full access to a dedicated rack of equipment again?
Are the materials updates offered at no charge?
Do you have to pay for your meals, hotel and rack access when you re-take the course?
Do they provide one-on-one training?

1. We accept bank wire transfer, Western Union and major credit cards (1) .
2. To make a reservation, you are required to send a $1,000 USD deposit (2) (3).
3. The balance needs to be paid in full one week before your course starting date (4).

(1) Credit card payment will incur a surcharge of 8%.
(2) Deposit amount may be subject to change without notice.
(3) Your deposit is refundable. Cancel the course 60 days prior to the starting date will receive 100% of your deposit; A $500 administration fee will apply if you cancel the course within 30 – 59 days before the course starting date; Deposit is non-refundable if you cancel the course within 30 days before the course starting date.
(4) Balance is preferred to be paid by bank wire transfer. For credit card payment, you will need to afford 8% processing fee and provide scanned copies of both sides of your credit card when you arrive China.

Early bird – Save 5% by registering and funding full payment 30 days ahead.
Multi-student – Save 10% for 2 participants; 15% for 3 participants.
Group training – For four or more participants, please contact us for a substantial discount..
* Only one discount is allowed at a time.

Flights to Sydney – Journeying to the Far Side of the World Part Two

In the previous part of this article I covered what steps you can take to ensure your long haul flight to Australia is a stress-free and comfortable experience. As I mentioned, I am shortly going to be planning a holiday to visit family in Sydney and so I’ve got a lot of planning and preparing to do, in doing so I’ve come across a bunch of helpful tips to make sure your long haul journey isn’t going to make your trip regrettable, this next part continues with how to spend time whilst on the plane.

Assuming there’s no delays or cancellations I’ll be boarding the plane and in no time I’ll be on the flight heading east, this is probably the worst part of the trip, having to stay seated for the good part of a day, I’m not an overly active person normally but I still appreciate being able to get up and take a stroll outside. This is obviously not an option unless I sprout wings, although there’s a list of smaller exercises you can do whilst sat on a plane in order to keep the circulation going and reducing the risk of a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).

As well as this the pressurised cabin is going to really make me uncomfortable due to my contact lenses, the air is really dry in a plane so I think I’ll be taking them out before the flight, the dryness of the air will also mean that you’re left dehydrated. Being dehydrated is the greatest problem on a plane, it is not unknown for people to not realise and end up fainting or passing out. Although drinks like coffee and alcohol are free it isn’t advisable since these drinks are considered as diuretics, meaning you’re going to be up and down going to the toilet all through the flight.

Going to the toilet is obviously an expected occurrence but if you’ve ever had to endure an airplane’s toilet in the past you’ll know they’re not the most pleasant facility in the world, so the less I need to go the better, it is advised that drinking plenty of water prior to flying keeps you hydrated and having some water in a bottle during your flights is a good idea especially since you’ll be on the plane for a long time.

Aside from the in-flight entertainment which always seems to involve an episode of Only Fools and Horses that I’ve seen a thousand times and a film that I probably would have never seen if given the choice there’s not much else on offer. Luckily I’ve got a few options since I plan to bring my PSP and iPod to while away the time, some flights even have electrical outlets in the seat but this tends to be a feature of business or first class travel, so if the flight has sockets then I won’t need to worry about batteries running out. I’ve always got a book which I’ve been meaning to work my way through so I’m a bit spoiled for choice in the entertainment department.

One thing I don’t want to do when I get there is feel like I need to take a nap, by then I should be wide awake and ready to do some sightseeing, especially in Singapore so I don’t think I’ll spend too much time playing music and games and get some shut eye. I’ve heard from some travel tipsters that setting your watch to the local time of where you’re going and sleeping according to that time is a great way to avoid jetlag; this is something I’m going to try out since I don’t want to get into Singapore and end up sleeping whilst my connecting flight takes off.

So if I follow the advice I’ve found out about and do some preparation then hopefully I’ll have a fairly pleasant flight. Contrary to popular belief it’s possible to get cheap flights to Sydney these days and coupled with the fact that I won’t need to pay accommodation this should work out as a pretty thrifty holiday.

Sparkling Singapore & Ancient Vietnam Trip Journal

I have always loved aircrafts and long haul flights. We boarded award winning Singapore Airlines in LAX with about 30 hours of travel time ahead of us. With 8 magazines, 6 movies, 4 meals and a sleeping pill, the time went quickly and I arrived relaxed and ready to explore. American airports are not very people friendly. Singapore’s ultra-modern airport invites you to linger with free internet terminals, a cinema, rooftop swimming pool, aromatherapy spas, oxygen bars, indoor nature garden with waterfalls and koi pond.

I’m part of a group of 28 singles. This was a smaller group than expected, but I understand several people dropped out claiming fear of bird flu. I could sense I was part of a quality entourage of seasoned culture-vultures.

We began with an orientation tour at the top of Mt. Farber and its spectacular views. The group was impressed by this sparkling metropolis located between Malaysia and Indonesia. Singapore is the leader of S.E. Asia, a bustling port that was modernized by the East India Trading Company and the British Empire. It’s called the Lion City and inhabited by 4 million souls. 76% are Chinese and the other minorities all blend harmoniously. Singapore is a city, state, capital and country all in one and draws 8 million visitors per year, yet few Americans have yet discovered it.

We checked into the opulent Regent Hotel of The Four Seasons. I’m given a suite and swear this hotel wins the award for the most gracious staff on the planet. We’ve arrived at a perfect time with the “Great Shopping Festival” on full swing. There’s nothing like “retail therapy” to soothe our jet lag minds. Orchard Road, like a tree lined Fifth Avenue, was only a block away and center of all life. Shopping is the national obsession here and bargain hunting a blood sport.

There are 150 mega-malls with some that never close. I’m a label slave and purchased a used authentic Rolex with documents, for a fraction of its original cost. We had only 4 days here. So I had much to do, it’s like Hong Kong on steroids. The Arts Festival was on with many venues from painting and sculpture to music and dance. At night Clarke Quay on the river became party central with its trendy clubs rocking until dawn.
We had an astute and friendly guide named Farida who showed us all the sights with a wonderful sense of humor.

We visited the lush National Orchard Gardens with its 60,000 orchids, China Town with its markets and temples and Little India with its intense aromas and vibrant colors. Then we went to the ultra-contemporary financial district, Merlion Park with its landmark fountain and the historic colonial area that was established by Sir Stanford Raffles.

We stopped to sip a Singapore Sling at the famous Long Bar of Raffles Hotel where rooms start at $700 per night. Our other tours included Jurong Bird Park and the Night Safari at the zoo, considered the best in the world with its free roaming enclosures for 2500 animals.

In our free time, we rode rickshaws around town and took the cable car over to Sentosa Island.
Some of us opted to head back to the zoo for a Jungle Breakfast with the Orangutans. At night Terry & I dinned on jumbo chili crabs and rice cakes.

This vibrant island-state of Singapore is glistening clean with purple bougainvillea bushes lining the highways. All cars are equipped with alarms to sound if one exceeds the speed limit. No graffiti, no gangs and in this tightly “controlled democracy”, it’s the death penalty for drug traffickers. We all made jokes about getting caned for chewing gum or jay-walking.

It was a nice leisurely visit here. I usually feel like Jack Bauer on the TV series “24″ on my trips with non-stop itineraries. Here I felt well rested as I boarded for our 3 hour flight to Vietnam.

Arriving in Hanoi is like stepping into another world with rice paddies, sampans, lotus blossoms, coconut milk and noodle soups. It’s like a time machine dropped us back to the 15th century in this graceful land steeped in history. It was far poorer than I anticipated. There was however, an alluring charm which was found in the gentility of the people with the sincerest of smiles.

I’ve always been a fan of the Third World. Whereas Singapore was dynamic, Hanoi was culturally stimulating. The city was studded with lakes and shaded by tamarind trees. It was a dichotomy that bustled with Chi-energy and yet was tranquil at the same time.

We checked into the deluxe Sheraton Resort, an oasis of calm amidst the chaos. Our fabulous guide named Hong was with us for 6 glorious days.

His first lesson was to teach us how to cross the streets. The traffic here is horrendously busy with 7 lanes packed with 2.4 million motor scooters. “It’s called the Chicken Game” he explained. “Don’t run, don’t stop, just walk slowly so the drivers can predict your direction. They will miss you!” That afternoon I stood in fear stranded 20 minutes curbside realizing this “lesson” went against every one of my survival instincts. Entire families passed by on a single scooter; I understand this is called the “Vietnamese sandwich.” Everything was transported by these mopeds, 8 piglets, a dozen chickens upside down, a TV, a tree and more. The pollution was thick and heavy. The inner city looked tired and worn. Suddenly there was a monsoon downpour. People draped ponchos and it became raincoat city. The traffic never slowed. I ducked for cover. It dissipated as quickly as it began, life went on and the air was temporarily washed clean. I finally crossed the street by walking slowly at an even pace. Everyone missed me.

The sun shined every day on our tours which included the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, the French Quarter and the Ho Chi Mihn memorial. We lined up with hundreds of people and entered the tomb where Ho Chi Mihn’s preserved body is visibly encased just like Lennon in Moscow. Armed communist soldiers commanded us to remain in silent reverence, no cameras, umbrellas, sunglasses allowed and arms at our sides at all times.

Later we visited Hoa Lo Prison, or the Fiery Furnace. Built by the French in 1896, thousands of political prisoners were tortured here until 1954. We viewed the dungeons with leg irons, torture equipment and “head cutting machines.”

In the 1960′s the Vietcong used it as a prisoner of war detention center for American pilots shot down during the Vietnam War. It was our captive pilots that sardonically named this place “The Hanoi Hilton.” We also did a walking tour through the Old Quarter where each narrow lane was named for its ancient craft: Silk St., Coffin St., Grilled Fish St., etc. Hong led us to a food market with turtles, sea slugs, pig heads and other unmentionable creatures for sale. “Thit Chow” is dog stew which is considered peasant food here and “country rat” is ceremoniously served at all birthday parties. They say it’s much healthier than “city rat.”

Most of our meals were included and thankfully rodents were never offered. We enjoyed elaborate American and Japanese breakfast buffets and 10 coarse lunches. Every restaurant was affordable. One evening my dinner menu presented salad of jellyfish, deep fried eel, ginger crickets and sticky rice with tender roasted pigeon. It seems the Vietnamese will eat anything that moves because it all “tastes like chicken.”

We attended the Water Puppet Show, an ancient art form unique to Hanoi. This blend of music and dance on water was has been the source of entertainment of villagers for centuries.

We then scattered to explore the city, Asia’s oldest capital. Some went for massages and pedicures at prices that couldn’t be resisted. Some shopped for souvenirs while others had clothes tailor made for them. I had an embroidered silk dress cut to my body in 4 hours for only $45. We also visited the handicraft villages for bargains in art. Want a “Monet?” No problem, just $25. Be careful, it’s wet. There were also ceramics and beautiful lacquerware. The currency was a great challenge for us as $10,500 Dong equals 65 cents. We felt like millionaires, yet it was disheartening to learn that the annual per capita income is just $320! We tipped generously throughout.

Vietnam’s pulse is found in its cities whereas its decorous grace is found in its villages. We headed out through the countryside for a full day cruise on Halong Bay. The air was fresh as we passed rice paddies, duck and prawn farms. It was rice harvest time and hundreds of rice farmers were laboriously bent over their ponds. Timid children smiled and waved as we drove by.

We arrived at this natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and boarded our private wooden junk boat. Quietly we sailed into a peaceful dreamscape that looked surreal with 3,000 islands of sheer limestone cliffs emerging from the calm emerald sea. There was a timeless, haunting quality to this scenery. Nat. Geo. called it “magic in stone and water.” We enjoyed a fantastic seafood lunch with fresh caught crab and prawns. It was a perfect day in the sun in the land of escapism and serenity.

The highlight of the trip for me was our group’s cyclo-tour through Old Hanoi on the last day. We turned a corner downtown to find 28 bicycle-rickshaws lined up to peddle us individually for an hour through the narrow scooter filled lanes of oncoming traffic. There were some near-misses at the red lights which were always ignored. We all laughed as the locals stared. Terry at 6’4” is considered huge even in America. Here he looked like King Tut seated on a throne as his 90lb. driver peddled him effortlessly in line with our group.

Later we went our separate ways for independent exploration. After several hours, I found myself lost in an area of town with no taxis. I had to get back to join others for dinner. I had no choice but to hire a ride on a scooter. Dressed in a skirt with my arms full of bags, I mounted the tiny seat and off we went. On the highway, I wrapped my arms and legs around my driver like an octopus. He laughed the entire way to the Sheraton.

We flew back to Singapore for a good nights rest at the Le Meridian before our long flight home to Los Angeles via Tokyo. I reflected on journey well done with new insights gained on history and culture. It was like visiting two different planets within one vacation. The contrast of this trip is evident in our photos from the contemporary garden paradise of Singapore, to the new renaissance of traditional Vietnam. This is certainly an Asian affair to be remembered.

Sightseeing in Singapore

Many people would say that Singapore is clean and safe but very few know that lying within the concrete jungle, are interesting places off the beaten track to visit.

Here are some of the off beaten tracks sightseeing ideas in Singapore:

Farms

There are over 200 working farms in land scarce Singapore. Most of these farms are located in the north western part of Singapore. There farms that rear fish and goats, grow hydroponic vegetables, fruits and ornamental plants. It could be an interesting day out to explore how farming is done in this land scarce country.

One of the farm is Bollywood Veggies which is a 10 acre farm filled with tropical fruits such as mango, banana and papaya, various types of vegetables and herbs that are unique in the region.There are guided tours which introduces the different types of tropical plants and their uses. After a walk in the farm, visitors can enjoy a refreshing glass of cold Aloe Vera drink and indulged in their popular organic banana curry.

Another farm which would interest many is Orchidville, the largest orchid farm in Singapore. Located near the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, the farm has over 2 million orchid plants. Besides immersing in the splendour of the orchids, visitors can also participate in their workshop that teaches creative learning with orchids, hybridization and cultivation and orchid craft.

Nature Reserve

There is a significant area of primary rainforest in this modern city. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is located 6 miles from the city and is a good place to get away from the busy city sights into the world of exotic birds, monkeys, squirrels and flying lemurs. Visitors can hike up the Bukit Timah Hill, the trail is easy and all you need is stamina to reach the top.

There many other nature reserves in different part of the country ranging from mangroves reserves to wetlands. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is located in northwest of Singapore and it is a stopover point for migratory birds. There are several viewpoints in the wetland enabling visitors to observe the behaviour of the birds without disturbing them. There is a diverse collection of flora and fauna ranging from mangroves to rare tropical flowers and plants.

Isle around Singapore

There are several islands around Singapore where you can do a day trip. Beside Sentosa Island which is a theme and tropical resort, there are also lesser known islands such as Kusu Island, St. John island and Pulau Ubin which are unspoilt and still retained

A guide to shopping in Singapore

The Great Singapore Sale (GSS): an annual shopping event co-organized by the Singapore Tourism Board and various retail companies together with shopping malls and stores, all in a bid to promote tourism in Singapore. The participating malls and stores are mostly usually located along Orchard Road, dubbed the “town” area – the heartbeat of Singapore – all the way to Marina Bay. It is usually lasts between May and July. This extravaganza started in 2005 and has since stayed on to be one of the tourism attractions of Singapore.

During this period, the participating malls and stores will extend their shopping hours all the way till 12 midnight and beyond on selected weekends. Tourists would be able to have access to special privileges specifically created for them during this period – enjoying a range of exclusive lifestyle promotions such as gourmet dining, wellness, nightlife, and entertainment options.

Discounts would be given out during this season as well, with prices being reduced as much as 50% or more. So it attracts even the local Singapore shopaholics to shop endlessly, simply a most for any shopaholic!

To fully enjoy this event and get the most out of it, tourists are also able to apply for a “Tourist Privilege Card” in any Singapore Visitor Center: allowing tourists to enjoy special discounts for items ranging from fashion accessories, apparel, jewellery, watches, cosmetics, fragrances, electronic goods, children toys to Singapore souvenirs. There will also be discounted prices to local attractions such as the DHL Balloon, Singapore DUCKtours and the Singapore Zoo. All tourists need to do to be able to enjoy these special offers is to simply present the Tourist Privilege Card, along with their passport during this season of sales.

Besides the “Tourist Privilege Card”, there are also partner promotions made available to tourists, to get the most out of their shopping experience at the Great Singapore Sale (GSS).

Singaporeans also take the opportunity during this season to shop more, as they feel that buying items during this period is worth it with all the discounts that are available. Thus, this makes it one of the most profitable seasons for shopping malls and retailers.

In concordance with the Great Singapore Sale, is the Singapore Food Festival, which is held in the month of July annually. This enables tourists not only have a great shopping experience, but they also get to enjoy the wonderful delicacies this event has to offer – a taste of Singapore; Singaporean cuisine. With local foods such as Hainanese Chicken Rice to the famous Chilli Crab, it is one of the best seasons to try out local Singaporean favourites and experience Singapore food and culture in its fullest.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G reat_Singapore_Sale

http://www.greatsingaporesale. com.sg/english/

Food: What we live for

MY view is life is too short to eat bad food and drink bad wine. Therefore, I felt really delighted when I was invited to the grand opening luncheon of Singapore’s newest gourmet restaurant on May 25, 2007. I relished really superb food and matched the dishes with nice glass of Chilean cabernet sauvignon. The latest beautiful baby on the gourmet scene is called Spring JuChunYuan restaurant with a chef from Fuzhou in China. The only other JuChunYuan restaurant is in China.

Specialising in Fuzhou cuisine, one of the 8 imperial cuisines of China, the young bespectacled chef explained to me how he braised the big chunky cuttlefish block in the signature “Buddha Jumps Over The Wall” tonic soup for 5 hours! Served in a special brown porcelain bowl with a lid adorned by a fat and happy cherubic Buddha, this dish is to live life for. Sweet, rich, tasty soup with a whole mushroom, tendon, big scallops, fish maw, cttlefish plus an abalone as big as a lion cub’s paw. Simply mmmmm…yummy! The lobster too is another super delight. Fuzhou cuisine is very unlike ubiquitous Cantonese and its light sauces full of the natural flavour of the food imporeted from China makes the dining experience delightful and yet one is not bloated and overfull at the end of the meal. No soy sauce or oyster sauce is used, instead dishes like the vegtarian dish with gingko nuts is so energising and clean tasting. Try too Duck’s tongue and the refreshing Winetermelon in a zangy orange and lemon essence. Housed in the old Chui Eng Free School building at 130, Amoy Street, Singapore 049959, you enter a serene and tranquil world through a bamboo courtyard. By Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet, Enjoy!

Visiting Singapore: Great scenery and food

Singapore is a travel destination not to be missed! There are many places of interests, shopping centers and delicacies in Singapore. Plus traveling in Singapore is very convenient.

Traveling around Singapore is made convenient by the public transport that is available. Visitors can travel from one place to another by taking the bus, Mass Rapid Transport(MRT) or taxi.

The places of interests in Singapore are:

Singapore Zoo

http://www.zoo.com.sg

There are three white tigers there , two polar bears, three giraffes and many other different types of animals there. Be sure to catch the animal shows.

Night Safari

http://www.nightsafari.com.sg

Experience the pleasure of viewing nocturnal animals at the night safari.

Bird Park

http://www.birdpark.com.sg

Many species of birds there.

Esplanade

http://www.esplanade.com.sg

It’s also known as the theater of arts. There are many different kinds of musicals staged there.

Wild Wild Wet

http://www.wildwildwet.com.sg

One of the newest attractions. Many wet activities awaits you!

Escape Theme Park

http://www.escapethemepark.com .sg

Be sure to try the inverter plus the many other park attractions.

Sentosa

http://www.sentosa.com.sg

There are many attractions on this island. Do visit the underwater world and dolphin lagoon and catch live shows at the dolphin lagoon.

There are many shopping centers in Singapore. The largest so far is Vivo City. It is located just next to Harbourfront. The largest Golden Village cinema is also located at Vivo City. There are many shopping centers located along the famous Orchard Road where light ups are present during festive occasions like Christmas and Chinese New Year. Shopping centers along Orchard Road includes Plaza Singapura, Centrepoint, Paragon, Tangs and Takashimaya.

Lastly, Singapore is a food paradise! There are many delicacies that can be found in every part of Singapore.

Here are some delicious food to try in Singapore:

-Carrot Cake( Not the western carrot cake. It’s made of flour fried with eggs. Available in white or black. Black carrot cake is fried with sweet sauce.)

-Chilli Crabs

-Chicken Rice

-Fish head bee hoon( Pieces of fish with bee hoon and soup( either with or without condensed milk))

-Ice Kachang( Ice with sweet sauce and condensed milk. A simply delicious dessert.)

-Kaya Toast( Toast with kaya. A must try for breakfast.)

-Lor Mee( Noodles with starchy sauce.)

-Popiah( Spring rolls that are not fried. Turnip ,eggs peanuts wrapped in rice skin.)

-Mee Rebus( Noodles with a special sauce. Served with half a piece of egg and a lime.)

-Mee Siam( Bee hoon with spicy/sweet/sour sauce. Served with half a piece of egg and a lime.)

-Nasi Lemak( Rice cooked with coconut and served with a banana leaf as base. Choose from a variety of ingredients to go with the rice.)

That is all the information I have for you guys out there! Enjoy your stay in Singapore!